Snow is frustratingly supportive, Charming is friendly- as though they've been family for forever, family, as though that had meant anything when they were taking her son away from her and doubting her every step of the way (alright, she might have deserved some of it)- and she feels tears rise in the back of her throat, her weary body convulsing on the bed as she struggles to make sense of this new reality. How many hours has it been now, how long since she'd undergone new penance? Is this another kind of penance, where she can't hide her face from the reality of inexplicable kindness?

Eventually they're gone, drifted up to bed with promises that they'll all talk in the morning, when everything goes to hell. And only then can she shift to stare at the figure who's been sitting silently in a chair by the bed for hours, lost in thought. "Emma," she croaks out.

Emma doesn't respond, her eyes still distant, but a hand slides over to rest upon her own, almost unconsciously. It's the Charming way, Regina supposes, to find affection at another's vulnerability, and while it confuses her on a level she can't describe when it comes to Snow, it's comforting from Snow's daughter.

And perhaps that's why it feels necessary for her to murmur, "I'm sorry. About..." She isn't sorry, hasn't wanted the man in Henry's life and is relieved to know he's gone, but her own heart twinges unpleasantly at the thought of Emma's heart right now, of someone she's come to...respect (through the loathing, always loathing, because Emma has been her downfall in so many ways) (but sometimes she can look past that and wonder if she might be her salvation, too) so torn apart by loss.

It comes as a surprise when Emma shifts in her chair, movement at last after that stunned stillness of the past few hours, and her hand tightens almost imperceptibly on Regina's for a moment before she finally murmurs, "Do you believe in all that crap?"


"True love, falling in love for forever," Emma says, and she's dry-eyed and intent on Regina's face. "That that's it."

"Ah." Her parents certainly do- they've built their lives and the lives of their whole kingdom around that fairy tale. Two noble souls, hopelessly enamored with their own nobility together. And it's too easy to get caught up in the sacred myth oftrue love, to lose all hope when love is lost. Regina has, for far too long.

But she has more recent memories in a world bereft of magic but ultimately more tempting without the dream of a happy ending that will never come. She has the image of Daniel burned into her mind, struggling and loving and whispering words she'd never conceived of before. Then love again.

"No," she whispers, and shackles more confining that anything she'd worn in Owen's captivity fall apart with a burst of melodious clarity. "No, I don't believe that."

Emma's eyes glitter- they're so blue, have they always been that blue, like oceans of crashing waves and cacophonous contradictions?- with something Regina can't quite conceive of. She stands, jerky and as lacking of composure as always, and then she's bending down to Regina, her hand still soft against Regina's.

Her lips brush Regina's forehead, so gentle and tentative that it could have been a breath of wind against her face had Emma not remained a moment too long, sending Regina's abused nerve endings into a far more pleasant spiral than earlier. She closes her eyes, drinking in the sensation of cool lips against her fevered forehead until she can't think of anything but Emma and this contact and Daniel's voice, echoing in her mind.

But it's Emma's voice that cuts through it clearly, even though her words are anything but cutting. "Get some rest. We have a long day tomorrow." And then she's walking away, and Regina feels the loss of her touch as keenly as she had felt her lips.

But there's an understanding in Emma's eyes as she heads for the couch that scorches Regina all the same.