A/N: We have reached the end. Thanks for all the kind words and I hope that this bit of emotional tie-up with our three ladies satisfies.
Warnings: Eh, not so much for this. Maybe a spicy word or two.
There's a curtain of fire in front of her. It's bright and blazing red, and she's terrified nearly out of her damned mind because this might be the end of things and that terrible inferno in front of her might really be the horrific afterlife that some in the world that she'd cursed everyone to believe in.
Eternal damnation and punishment, those from that world had believed this place called Hell to be. Well, if anyone would be worthy of such, it'd certainly be the Evil Queen, she thinks with a surge of nearly paralyzing fear.
Panic setting in, she desperately tries to pull back and away from the fire, but it's like there's an invisible rope cinched tight around her waist, and struggle though she does, it's yanking her closer and closer to the inferno.
Closer to the unknown.
It is peace or punishment? All she'd wanted was for the pain to be over. All she'd wanted was to feel…nothing. To simply cease hurting and if that had meant no longer existing, well then so be it. But this…perhaps she's owed it, but that doesn't mean she has to walk into it willingly.
She whispers her son's name like a prayer.
She pleads for forgiveness that she doesn't believe she deserves.
She cries for a future that's she's just now realizing how much she wants.
She asks for another chance.
Hope. Love. Redemption.
The magic starts out feeling pretty damned good. It's crisp and clean and so goddamned pure that it almost burns her from the inside out. It's strange to think of light magic as being violently corrosive, but it is and Emma feels it.
All magic – even the pure white light stuff - apparently, comes with a cost.
Her cost, which she learns quickly enough, is pain. Burning and intense, it feels a bit like what hot coals being shoved through her bloodstream might.
It's manageable, though, and so she keeps her hands on Regina's face, a glowing palm on each cheek. Regina's head is craned backwards, the gash from Mendell's pistol-whipping standing out brightly against her unusually pale skin. Blood seeps down, slower now, though. Her dark eyes are closed – she'd lost consciousness at some point right after the magical energy transference or healing or whatever this is had begun a few minutes earlier - but fluttering wildly, like maybe she's caught in some kind of dream.
Like maybe she's trapped in some kind of awful nightmare.
Maybe the last one she'll ever have if this doesn't work.
"Heal," Gold had said, and so she is. Or at least she's trying to. Emma's not terribly sure just how successful she's really being; she's tired and growing more so by the moment, but she keeps trying because Regina still isn't moving, still isn't showing any signs of life, and Emma can feel the agitation from those around her. She can feel – almost even taste - their fear.
Especially from Henry and Mary Margaret.
And from herself.
She's afraid that she won't be able to stop this.
She's terrified that this will be the one time that she won't be able to be the Savior that destiny and fate and a selfish madman had set her up to be.
She's never really desired such a role, never really embraced it (and doesn't think she ever will completely), but at this moment in time, it's all she wants to be. She needs to be the Savior. For Henry, for her mother, for herself and for Regina who had saved her life and her sanity only a short time ago.
For Regina, whom she so very desperately believes has earned the right to fight for her redemption through the act of living instead of that of dying.
Almost absently, the thumb of Emma's left hand rubs against the soft skin of Regina's cheek. To the sheriff's relief, the former queen is still warm, and well, that's something. "Come on, Regina," she whispers. "Don't do this."
As if she can actually hear Emma, Regina's mouth suddenly rips open and a pained cry spills forth. "Henry," she says, her voice broken, "I'm so sorry."
Henry – who's had his head rested against his mother's chest since almost the moment that she'd crumpled to the ground after Pan had been forced out of her – lifts it up now and looks Regina, his bright eyes wide and afraid.
"Mom?" he says. "Mom, I'm here. I forgive you. Please don't leave me." He scrambles to try to touch her, to feel her warmth beneath his palms, and perhaps even – morbidly – to remember the feel in case this is all he has left of the woman who had raised him for the first ten years of his life.
Despite the way Henry's shuddering and devastatingly vulnerable words break her already fragile heart, Emma tries to push all thought of him away; she tries to force herself to ignore him, and instead, she focuses on the other thing that Gold has continuously told her: magic is emotion.
She closes her eyes and presses her thumbs against Regina's cheekbones.
She thinks of a hospital room and holding a newborn child in her arms.
She thinks of meeting that boy not long after he'd turned ten.
She thinks of the woman who'd raised him. Not always well, but always with as much love as she'd been capable of at the time. And when Regina had been capable of more – capable of dying for her son – she'd humbled herself willingly for him; she'd surrendered her own life so that he could live.
Emma thinks of a mine and a diamond and magic flowing back and forth.
She thinks of the end of everything and how they'd stopped it together.
She exhales as the bright white magic inside of her blooms and explodes.
She feels the energy circle her and Regina, extending out from her hands and Regina's face. It surrounds both of them and Henry, too. She thinks to push him away, but something inside of her says that his presence within this strange bubble can only help – it can only make them all stronger.
Maybe it can even help her to save his mother's life.
"Emma," Snow gasps out as the bright white light begins to surround the threesome on the ground. She can still make out their positions – Henry draped over Regina's unconscious and horizontal frame and Emma bent forward, her glowing hands rested against the former queen's face.
It's not their positions that frighten Snow; it's the magic flowing around them like waves on the ocean that terrifies her. It's bright and explosive, and the power she feels radiating off the little family makes her knees feel weak and her head pound. It's vibrant like the smell of fresh cut flowers and it's as deeply intoxicating as the strongest glass of Regina's apple cider.
"Are they all right?" she hears David ask, and she knows he's demanding it of Gold and not her. She can feel Hook stirring to her side, seeming anxious and on-edge, as if to suggest that he's waiting for another attack.
"Possibly," Gold says in that dismissive tone that makes her want to strike him dead where he stands. A part of her – the same part that wonders if she should have let Regina be executed so many years ago – wonders what would have happened if she had allowed Gold to die in the far back room of his little Pawn shop. Would they be here now? Would things be better?
There's no way to know and perhaps it's best not to dwell there, anyway.
She's finally beginning to understand that there are no such things as do-overs. They can't just pretend like the past never occurred, but maybe they can start anew.
Maybe they can start over.
Assuming Regina lives – and right now Snow won't even humor the idea that Regina might not (how very strange to feel this way about the woman who'd nearly destroyed her life and played a principle role in the separation of her from her child, a voice in her mind muses) – the only real path left to any of them is forward together.
Hopefully towards forgiveness and redemption.
"What does that mean?" Snow demands as she turns to face Gold, her jaw set into a line of determination. "Is my daughter in danger? Do I need to –"
"Pull her away and stop her from saving the Queen?" Gold chuckles, the sound cold and cruel. "Well now, dearie, I believe that you had that chance before and you didn't then; we both know you won't stop her now, either."
"Is Emma in danger?" David repeats, looking like he's about to slug Gold.
"No," the imp sighs. "At least not fatally so. She's giving Regina almost all of the energy that she has, but not enough to kill her. Emma's not nearly strong enough in magic yet to be able to pull from the bottom of the well."
"So what do we do?" Snow asks, her eyes returning the bizarre light show occurring in front of her. She can see that Regina's body appears to have lifted several inches off the ground now, Henry's arms still wrapped tight.
"We wait," Hook rumbles. Following her eyes. "Either you daughter will be successful and thus able to bring the Queen back or she won't be."
"Either way," Gold assures them. "Miss Swan will be returning to us soon."
The former Evil Queen is just about touching the wall of fire, and everything around her is fading away into sheets of bright red when she feels the pull against her mid-section, and then another stronger one against her chest.
Against her heart.
There's a flood of energy, then. Strong and brilliant and full of emotion.
It's so very Emma Swan.
She knows the touch of magic well, and though Emma's magic has only merged with hers three times before now – once in City Hall, once in the mines and then once a few minutes ago when she'd jumped into Emma's mind – she knows exactly who it is that is pushing life back into her.
Apparently, the Savior never gives up.
She feels the crackling electricity in the air; the magic being fed into her might be enough to pull her back from the edge if that's what Regina wants.
It feels a bit like a dare.
It feels a whole lot like a challenge.
Live. Fight. Love.
Maybe, it's time to finally answer the challenge.
Maybe, just maybe, it's time to live again.
And yes, perhaps even eventually love again, too.
Emma can actually feel the moment when Regina starts fighting back in her blood; she can feel the way the former queen begins to push against whatever endgame forces are trying to drag her down and under. She can feel the way Regina is accepting the energy transference – not greedily, but hungrily as if she's famished. Her body arches and her eyes open, and then she's staring upwards, at the ebony sky above, seemingly sightless.
Which is when Emma begins to understand that what she's giving Regina is still not enough to alter either of their fates. Regina's fighting and trying to answer the challenge given, but she's been through so much and she's been hurt so very badly – both physically and mentally - and Emma thinks that perhaps she's just not skilled enough to turn the clock completely back.
She hears Henry call for Regina, and then she watches in surprise as a blue bolt jumps forth from him. He has magic, too, she realizes with a sharp start.
"Henry," she whispers, not sure if she should stop him or encourage him.
He looks up at her, his green eyes frightened, and she starts to pull her hand away from Regina to touch him – and yes, now to stop him because Regina would never want her son to suffer for her even if it meant her life – but he's shaking his head, and then he's reaching for her and slamming his hand over hers atop Regina's cheek; like he knows exactly what to do.
Like he's always known.
Magic is emotion.
Emotion is magic.
Who are you trying to protect?
Who are you trying to save?
She feels the warmth surge forward from Henry's hand and into hers. His eyes are on her and he's smiling like he's figured it all out. "It's okay," he says, his voice barely a whisper. "This is going to work."
She remembers this particular tone all too well; Henry had used it on her the day they'd met; the day he'd told her that she'd been in his book of fairytales. He'd been right back then, and so she prays that he is today, too.
Luckily for all of them, he is.
It's just seconds after her magic has merged with that which exists within Henry when she hears Regina gasp, and then mother and son watch with matching relieved smiles as the former queen's eyes snap to awareness.
Time moves slowly – if at all - here in Neverland; it creeps and crawls but never really goes anywhere at all. It's a lot like Storybrooke in that regard.
Still, Snow thinks that at least an hour and perhaps even two must have passed since Regina had lost consciousness due to her injuries and Emma had begun her attempt at saving her life. More realistically, though, she suspects that little more than a few minutes have eclipsed since then.
She's growing restless and anxious and afraid, and even the parts of her that so desperately want the chance at forgiveness and reconciliation with Regina are beginning to consider ending this simply so she can prevent Emma and Henry from being pulled down by the deathly undertow as well.
Something strange is happening within the bubble; if she didn't know better, she'd think that Henry was using magic as well. That's impossible, though. It's already bizarre – and upsetting – enough that Emma can, but it makes absolutely no sense that Henry would be able to as well. Right?
The truth is that she just doesn't know. She's never really understood magic and how it works. She knows that some can be taught to weld it via books of magic or given it thanks to cursed objects, but apparently there's the third category which includes those like Emma and Regina who just have it swimming around in their bloodstreams. It's elemental to them.
Perhaps to Henry as well.
She tries not to think about this because she doesn't want magic touching her life and her family anymore than it already has. She understands that what Emma has can't be ignored; it'll have to be controlled and tempered and she'd hoped that Regina would be the one to provide such skills to her daughter – a form of redemption mixed with trust and faith.
She still hopes that this will come to pass, but that doesn't mean that she actually wants to accept the reality that magic is a part of all of them now.
Especially if it's within Henry, too.
"We should stop this," David says, his voice shaking.
She thinks to confirm this, to do exactly that, but then her head is shaking without permission and she's saying, "No, give them…it's almost over."
And she's right because a moment later, Regina's stirring and moving.
Like she's alive.
Like she's come back from the edge.
The energy field around the three of the blazes hot for a moment before blinking and floating away like pollen caught by a cool breeze.
"Emma?" Snow asks as she watches Emma tumble away from Regina, Henry wrapped up tight in the sheriff's arms. He's shaking from the exertion of it all, but he's also almost giggling in relief as he leans into his blonde mother.
"I'm here," Emma replies softly as she drops a kiss down onto Henry's crown, holding it there a moment and giving him a squeeze. "We all are."
Snow turns and confirms Emma's words with her own eyes; Regina is sitting up, her legs splayed out in front of her and her head rested in her shaking hands. She's trembling fiercely – almost looking like she's convulsing beneath the weight of her tremors - but she's breathing all the same.
Snow closes her eyes and lets out a breath.
"Welcome back, Your Majesty," she hears Hook say with what sounds like a warm chuckle. "Had a good sleep did you?"
"Shut up, Hook," Regina growls back.
And there it is; that – Regina being Regina; cranky, snarky and sassy – is enough to make Snow laugh.
Because they're in Neverland and twenty-eight years ago she'd been cursed by her vengeful former stepmother to the life of a schoolteacher and her daughter is the same age as she and David are and they've just defeated Peter Pan and dear God, she wonders if life can get any stranger than this.
But then she sees the way Emma and Henry are watching Regina – with large smiles of relief and happiness – and she thinks that yes, it can.
"Henry," Regina says, looking right back up at then. She doesn't exactly understand the joyful looks they're giving her – the way her son seems to almost be bubbling with excitement and happiness – but she accepts it.
And then he accepts her by rushing her and wrapping his arms around her.
That's when she feels it: the magic still sliding through his body. She pulls back and looks at him, fear shining vividly in her dark eyes, but he just smiles at her. "It's okay," he assures her. "I don't want it. I just wanted you."
The words are so young and innocent and naïve and simple, and he just doesn't understand how terrifying magic is and what it can do to all of the good inside of him, but a look up at Emma promises her that they will deal with this later –together – and that yes, it will be okay.
Regina sighs and holds her son tighter. His arms squeeze around her, like he's trying to be her brave strong boy, like he's trying to pull all of the hurt and pain out of her. It doesn't work like that and he can't stop the way she shakes, but he does make her feel warm and alive. And loved.
Gods, he makes her feel loved.
Finally, reluctantly, she allows him to slide away from her. She feels the discomfort of everyone watching her, and tries to sit up straighter.
"Need a hand up?" Hook asks with a grin.
"Actually, Captain, I need both." She punctuates her words with a large smile that doesn't reach her eyes (he shrugs, of course, because such jokes no longer bother him) and turns to Emma. Her left hand shoots out, but before a very stunned Emma Swan can react – and she looks like she's about to sputter in protest – Regina is stubbornly pushing herself to her feet.
Or trying to do so, at least.
The thing about having been mostly dead – and then being brought back to life by the inexperienced yet still bizarrely strong healing magic of the Savior – is that your body isn't quite right afterward. And hers isn't.
Fatigued and weak doesn't even begin to cover it. Her jaw hurts, though she can tell that the possible break there has been significantly mended. All of her injuries have been, and that alone is damned impressive indeed.
Because twenty minutes ago, Emma hadn't known how to heal a butterfly with broken wings much less an almost dead former Evil Queen.
Regina's envious, but only because every magical lesson that she'd ever learned had come painfully hard to her. Magic is elemental within her, and yet she'd resisted succumbing to it until she had done so completely.
Until she'd fallen and then kept on falling.
She vows that she won't let that happen to Emma.
She sure as hell won't let that happen to Henry.
"Regina," Emma says, her warm hand closing around the brunette's much cooler one. "Hang on a sec, would you, please? You just -"
"I need to see him," Regina snaps back, ignoring Emma's warning.
"Who?" David asks, stepping forward. He's wearing an expression of extreme confusion, and Regina for once doesn't actually blame him; the last several days have been absolute insanity, but the last hour has been madness. Between both she and Emma get body-snatched and then Rumple murdering Owen, things have gone decidedly upside down in a hurry.
Not that they were ever exactly right side up to begin with.
Things have been so very wrong so very long now, she's not entirely sure what she's supposed to think or say when they're not. What is she supposed to do when she's still alive and her son is watching her with an expression that she can only identify – and hope she's right about – as love.
What comes next?
She exhales and blinks because thinking of the future has always been a sport of pain for her. It's never brought her happiness because aside from the few months when she'd been with Daniel, the future has always looked decidedly dark and horrible to her.
Full of heartbreak and betrayal.
But Henry is looking at her, and yes that is love.
And Snow is looking at her, and she thinks that's forgiveness.
And Emma, well she has no idea what the expression that the sheriff is currently wearing is. Understanding and empathy perhaps?
Or something more.
Something that she's not even close to ready to deal with.
In fact, may never be ready to deal with.
Regina extends her hand once more, this time in the direction of Owen's destroyed body. "Owen," she says softly. "That's who he was."
"There's not much left of him now," Rumple tells her, and though his voice is soft and almost gentle, she can hear the mocking tone beneath his words.
He was in her mind and saw everything; he's always been able to do such, and this time was no different. He knows exactly who Owen is to her. He knows exactly what she'd done to him, and how deeply those sins hurt. But then she also knows his sins - what he'd been thinking of doing to his grandson, to her son. They exchange a look that says everything between them: there are no new beginnings for them; there are some destroyed bonds that can never be mended. There are some that shouldn't be.
They hold their gaze for a moment longer; having a full conversation with their eyes. She asks him to let her go and he simply blinks and looks away.
"I need to bury Owen," Regina says finally as she turns away from Rumple. She gazes up at Emma and then Snow and swallowing back all of the pride within herself, she says, "Please."
Because she doesn't have the strength to do this alone.
And she has to do this.
For the child she'd hurt so badly.
For the boy she loves so much.
For the girl still inside of her that never wanted for any of this to happen.
"Of course," Snow says.
"Yeah," Emma agrees. Then, "We bury everyone. Even Tamara."
Regina tilts her head at this; it's probably more than she would have offered to do considering that the woman had murdered Henry's father for no reason other than because she could, but that fierce light that she's come to recognize in Emma's eyes as being her conscience is burning bright, and Regina understands that this is about Emma trying to do the right thing.
Even if maybe she doesn't want to.
"Respect for the dead," David agrees.
Emma's eyes find her and she inclines her head in agreement. Because this nightmare is over and she's alive and she's so damned tired of being angry.
"I think I saw a shovel or two back up at the camp," Hook offers.
"I'll go with you," David says.
Regina thinks to offer her thanks for all of their assistance, but she simply nods her head instead. She can feel the strength within her ebbing again; Emma had brought her back from the edge but she's still so very weak.
She wants to close her eyes and sleep.
But not until this is done.
Not until she's buried her dead.
They end up burying the bodies in a heavily wooded area about a mile from the Lost Ones' camp. With assistance from Gold's magic, Hook and David dig the fairly shallow graves quickly, and then each of the fallen souls is put into the ground with a blanket wrapped tight around them as if to keep the chill of the night away. The affair is suitably somber; no one says a word.
That is until the men head back towards the camp to finish cleaning it up; Hook wants to remove all traces of the Shadow lest someone else try to assume his mantle, and it's just Regina and Mary Margaret and Emma standing together over Greg's grave, the dirt packed tight over his badly destroyed body.
Emma thinks that maybe as awful as this day has been, maybe this is how it was always supposed to end.
Her eyes flicker towards Tamara's grave. The woman buried there (next to Greg) had murdered August and Neal, tortured Regina and then kidnapped Henry and brought him to this horrible island for no other reason than because she had wanted power. She should hate Tamara, but she doesn't; she doesn't feel anything but sadness.
No, that's not quite accurate; Emma feels guilt as well because Tamara's blood is on her hands, and that's a stain she'll never be able to rub away. Her magic had exploded out of her and cost Tamara her again, Emma tells herself. Whatever it takes, she'll stay in control.
She won't let the magic within her do what it had done to the woman who she now watches kneeling down in front of Greg's's grave, Regina's stance an uncomfortable reminder of her very recent surrender to him.
She won't let it break her as it had broken Regina.
And, though Regina is fighting back now, she is broken; bent down over Greg's grave, whispering apologies to him that he can't respond to , she shakes beneath the weight of this particular sin – one which even she can't find a suitable justifying explanation for. Her words are inaudible, but that's okay because they're between Regina and Greg, anyway. They're a final plea for forgiveness, Emma imagines; a confession and promise for amends.
Her face contorting into a frown of worry and concern when she thinks she sees tears dropping down into the dirt, she's surprised when she feels her mother's hand slide into hers and squeeze. She turns and looks at Mary Margaret, her unspoken question being answered with a warm smile and another squeeze that seems to say that it's going to be okay. She's not completely sure that she believes this, but it's damned hard to fight against the confidence she sees in her mother's eyes.
Finally, she sees Regina start to push herself up from the ground. Emma moves almost as if on instinct to help her, but Regina puts up a hand and waves her off.
"I have to do this myself," she says.
"Okay," Emma answers, stepping back.
Emma watches as Regina reaches into her pocket and extracts a small plastic keychain. It is twisted and multicolored and the former queen looks at it wistfully. She holds it up for a moment, rubs a thumb over it, and then places it against the grave. "I'm sorry," Regina whispers, her voice catching.
She tries to stand again after this, but her legs refuse her and she tumbles back to the dirt, her hands out to brace herself, her head bowed.
This time, it's Mary Margaret that steps forward.
Her arms slide around Regina's torso, and the two women exchange a look that Emma reads as pure heartbreak. Like they're both wondering how they got to the place where there's this much broken history between them. For a moment, Regina's body relaxes completely and she rests her head against Mary Margaret's shoulder, allowing the younger woman to give her support and comfort. "I'm fine," Regina finally says. "I can stand on my own."
"I know," Mary Margaret answers, but she doesn't let go just yet. When she finally does, it's reluctantly, but with a smile. She moves a few feet, back over to where Emma is and then says, "Let's get the hell off this island."
For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, the former Evil Queen comes to her waking senses beneath the covers of Killian Jones's bed. She's wrapped tight, the heavy blankets pulled up over her still leather clad chest. Beneath her, she can feel the back and forth almost rhythmic rocking of what she presumes to be the Jolly Roger, and the part of her mind that snaps to the quickest understands that that means that they're at sea.
The rest of her mind, though, well it's a hazy blur of confusion and pain.
A nauseatingly hazy blur at that.
The moment she tries to sit up in the bed, she feels her stomach roll, and then she's pitching forward, her mouth wrenched open as if to gag. Her eyes seal tightly closed so as to try and force back the agonizing tears, which threaten to spill out, as her slim frame shakes and shudders.
Thankfully, there's absolutely nothing in her belly, and all she does is dry heave for a few long painful moments before her trembling body resets.
"Well, I guess that answers that question," she hears from somewhere around her. She forces her eyes open and sees Emma sitting in a wooden chair not far away from the bed. Emma looks pale and tired, but her green eyes are aware and concerned. She offers Regina a slightly awkward smile.
"What question is that, dear?" Regina manages to push out, the half-gasped words fitting uncomfortably around her oddly thick tongue. She can feel the sweat on her brow and her hands are clammy. She runs them across her pants to try and dry them off but it's likely just a wasted motion.
"How you're feeling," Emma says as she stands up. She stretches her body, wincing a bit as she moves. Regina doesn't miss the way Emma's legs shake, like she's just a bit unsteady upon them. How very odd, she thinks.
The last thing she can recall is standing over Owen's grave with Snow and Emma. Apparently, she'd lost consciousness sometime after that.
"Regina," Emma says softly, drawing the former queen's eyes back up towards the sheriff. "Hey are you all right?" She's holding a ceramic cup now, and Regina wonders where it'd come from and then quickly dismisses this question as utterly unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
"I'm not," Regina admits, and yes, it hurts her pride to confess such, but the words spill out before she can stop them. She's tired of hiding behind high walls and bitter pain.
She's done with bleeding every moment of every day.
She wants peace and happiness and love and she wants to start again and feel like maybe there is something on the other side of all of this for her.
The truth will set you free? Well all right, then; let's see about it, she thinks.
"That's not a surprise," Emma tells her. She offers her the ceramic cup; there's water inside, Regina notes with bemusement. This feels a bit like a circle to her. Just yesterday, she'd collapsed in Emma's arms and awoken to finding Hook above her with a cup of water and now it's Emma in his place.
Offering support that she so desperately wants, but doesn't believe she really deserves. And yet for the second time in two days, she accepts it.
"Thank you," she murmurs as she brings the cup to her mouth. Then, "What happened on the island? How did we get back here? Is Henry all right?"
"He is. He's over there," Emma replies, pointing to a bundle lying wrapped up inside of a heap of thick wooly blankets on the ground. "He tried to stay up with me, but it's been a long day; he was dragging serious ass."
"Dragging ass; lovely phrasing as always, my dear. And my other questions? How do we get back to the ship? They burned the dinghy, didn't they?"
"Magic," Emma answers with a smirk and a dramatic wave of her hand that is supposed to mirror Rumple but actually reminds Regina more that woman that she had once watched turning letters around on some insipid TV game show or another during the former queen's first few weeks in Storybrooke.
"Rumple brought us back here?" Regina presses, looking vaguely ill again.
"To the ship, yes," Emma nods. Then, curiously, "Is that a problem? I thought he transported you across the island earlier in the night."
"He did, and no, it's not a problem. I just…I don't like the feel of his magic."
She says the words like someone might confess their deepest and most uncomfortable secret, and perhaps for her it is exactly that. She has no real desire to think about the sickening nature of her relationship with Rumple; he'd damaged her as a child might break a toy, but she'd been culpable, too for she had allowed him to do so with the song of vengeance in her heart.
"His or any at all?" Emma queries.
"If you're asking me if I can tolerate yours, the answer is…complicated."
"Because you can't stand me?"
Regina chuckles. "I'm pretty sure those days are in our past."
"They are?" Emma asks, eyebrow up.
"Are you planning on replying to everything I say with a question?"
"No. Sorry. I just…you saved me and…"
"And you saved me," Regina finishes for her. "Rumple may have brought us back to the ship, but you brought me back to life, didn't you?"
"I helped," Emma answers, frowning slightly. "I tried, anyway."
"I'm alive," Regina notes. "So I think you did more than try."
"Yeah, but…you're still injured." She motions towards the cut on Regina's forehead. She offers up an awkward smile. "So credit for half a save?"
Regina actually laughs at this. It hurts to do so because right now everything inside of her – both physical and mental - hurts, but the young almost innocent look on Emma's face is enough to inspire the mirth.
"Healing isn't an all or nothing kind of thing, Emma," the former queen states. "I was never taught how to do it well enough to heal more than a papercut, but you, my dear, you brought me back from…" she stops then, her face contorting into something painful and almost frightened.
"It doesn't matter from where," she states, waving her hand in a way that's entirely dismissive of the matter. "It just matters that I'm back. Because of you. So no, I don't have an issue with your magic touching me."
"But you said it was complicated so…"
"My relationship with magic as a whole is complicated and our relationship is complicated," Regina reminds her.
"Right. Obviously." She shakes her head as if disgusted with herself for missing such an obvious answer. When she does, she winces and her hand lifts up to scratch at her temple as if to rub away a pounding headache.
"Emma, you don't look well," Regina notes, changing the subject.
"I've felt better," the blonde admits. "But we're on our way home now."
Regina wrinkles her brow at this. "Are we now? I wasn't aware that we were aware of the existence of another portal that would return us to Storybrooke. My understanding was that this little trip of ours would be a one-way adventure absent us finding a jumper or another bean. Have we?"
"No, but apparently there is another way out of this place; it's the one that our friend Peter Pan had been using to get back to my world for the last…well, however the hell long he's been going there. Hook said that we just have to find the opening. Something about a seam in the wall."
"Care to explain what that means, Your Majesty?"
Regina offers her a small smile in appreciation of the title; it's no longer an insult spilling from Emma's lips, but almost something oddly affectionate.
"Portal jumping is its own strange debate full of theories and mathematics. Jefferson understood it better than anyone else that I've ever met; even without his hat he was capable of finding seams in the thin walls between worlds. Perhaps Hook shares such a talent," she murmurs.
"And if he doesn't?"
"If he doesn't, I guess we'd better hope that Neverland has a place for us to settle down on," the former queen answers with a wry chuckle. "Because I have absolutely no intention of staying on this damned ship indefinitely."
"Yeah, I have to agree with you there," Emma admits before suddenly yawning, her hand abruptly jumping out to try and disguise the undignified sound. "I guess I should probably let you get back to sleep."
"And maybe turn in yourself?"
"Yeah. Maybe." She glances over at Henry, frowning slightly.
"I want to bring him over here," Regina says suddenly as she throws the blankets back.
"What? What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I don't want my – our – son on the floor. He should be here in the bed."
Seeming surprised by her words, Emma looks at her for a long moment, their eyes meeting and Regina has the feeling like she's being probed; like Emma is searching her for any sign of a trick or some kind of deception. Her reaction is understandable, of course, because until this exact moment in town, Regina's never really offered to share their son. When she'd believed that she'd be sacrificing herself for Henry – once in Storybrooke and once on the island – she'd given him over to the blonde, but that had been different. This is about co-parenting. This is about cooperation.
Perhaps it's even about some odd form of friendship. Maybe even more .
Assuming Emma would even allow for that.
Finally, with a dramatic sigh, Emma protests with, "You need to be in the bed, not him. In case you forgot, Regina, you've lost consciousness like half a dozen times over the last twenty-four hours. I probably should not be letting you sleep at all considering how scrambled your head is."
"Yeah, well, you have so let's not worry about that," Regina drawls. "Now help me get Henry back over here, will you please?"
"I'm not going to talk to you out of this, am I?"
"I hope by now you'd know better than to even try."
"I do," Emma admits with a chuckle as she steps aside and allows for Regina to move in front of her and lead the way towards Henry.
It's a cold morning and the feel of David's arms around her are more welcome now than they've ever been. His chin is rested atop her head, and they're both just staring out at the bright blue water.
Henry is safe and sound and Regina is alive and well enough (for her, anyway) and both of them are sleeping in the captain's cabin. Both of them are resting and recuperating and both of them will be all right.
Emma, unfortunately, is another matter entirely.
She should be knocked out in her own bunk after all she'd gone through over the last few days; first losing Henry's father, then having a malevolent creature trying to destroy her mind and then finally giving up almost all of her energy in order to bring Regina back to life on the island.
She should be resting, but she's not.
Ever since Gold had returned them all to the ship in a blur of purple magic (Regina collapsed in Hook's arms and Emma leaning heavily – if reluctantly - against her father), Emma's been moving around as if possessed.
Taking care of everyone but herself.
"She's okay," David says softly, reading her mind as he always seems to be able to do. He presses a light kiss to Snow's hair, and holds her tighter.
"We need to get her to sleep," Snow answers, turning around to face him. She runs a hand across his cheek, her thumb scratching at a spot just below his left eye. He smiles at this as he always does and she feels her heart pound as hers always does when he offers her that particular expression.
She wonders how she ever got so damned lucky.
And then wonders how Regina got the other side of the coin flip.
Oh, but it wasn't a flip at all.
A flip suggests at least a somewhat random nature to the dark twists and turns that had occurred within their often-turbulent lives, and that's just not how it had all gone down. No, the truth is that they'd had unwanted help in getting to the many painful and desperate places that they'd gotten to.
Snow's green eyes track across the ship – past Hook who is at the wheel staring almost vacantly ahead – and over to where Gold is standing at the rail. He's gazing out at the water, his expression one of unhappy conflict.
She wonders if he's turning his past over in his mind. She wonders if he's counting everything up and realizing that after all he'd done and all the lives he'd twisted and turned, he'd still come out on the losing side of things.
He'd still lost his son, and this time, there isn't anything he can do to fix that. Dead is dead. Bae isn't coming back and Gold now has to find a way to move ahead with his life without the hope of ever seeing his boy again.
She feels for him even though she knows she shouldn't. This is a man whose gross and varied manipulations had drastically altered the course of so many lives. Regina had been his most accomplished and successful pawn, but both she and Emma had been puppets in his circus act as well.
Sometimes willingly if not always knowingly.
She should hate the man and part of her even does, but the other part of her sees his pain and his loss and dammit if she doesn't understands exactly what flavor of hell he's going through and she empathizes.
Because if she had actually been aware – and not in a curse induced stupor for twenty-eight years - that her daughter had been lost to her and yet somewhere out there, there would have been nothing in this world or any other that would have stood in the way of her trying to get Emma back.
"She'll rest when she's ready to," David tells her. "Until then, well she's your daughter and trying to get her to do something she doesn't want to do…"
Snow laughs and swats at his chest. "I'm not that bad."
"You're impossible," he answers, his tone fond. His fingers curl into her short hair and he draws her close and presses a kiss to her forehead, his lips warm and soft against the skin there. She closes her eyes, and breathes in his heat and his comfort and the love that just radiates from him like fire.
Finally, in an almost inaudible tone, she says, "I'm worried about her."
"Emma or Regina?" he asks as he pulls away from her and allows enough distance between them for them to see each other fully.
"Both of them," she admits.
"Together or apart?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"You know," David says, "Before we went ashore, Gold told me that they had a connection to one another but I didn't believe it until I saw what they did for each other over there on the island. I didn't believe him until I saw the way the two of them fought for each other to live."
"They're bound by Henry," Snow says.
"Yes," David agrees. "But I think there's more to it than that."
"More to it…how?"
"I think that at the very least, they're something of friends now," David offers up after a long moment. "And I think maybe Emma doesn't come by those easily, which means it means something. To her especially."
Snow nods her head, but doesn't say what she's thinking which is that neither does Regina. "I just want all of us happy," she announces. "I want all of us to have a chance to start over and be family and just be happy."
"Is that even really possible?" he asks.
"It needs to be. For me, for Emma, for Henry and for Regina."
She feels his arms tighten around her. "Okay," he says simply.
It's his way of telling her that he'll follow her anywhere and do anything she needs, even if it means trusting someone that he simply does not.
She leans up on her tip-toes, kisses him and tries to tell him just how much she loves him and just how very thankful she is for his support and faith.
She feels him smile against her lips.
Because he knows.
Because somewhere along the wicked and often twisted road of life, she'd won the flip of the coin that Regina had lost. Somewhere along the way, she'd found love and family and hope and Regina had watched all of those things slip away from her like sands through a broken hourglass.
She's ready for peace and forgiveness between she and her former stepmother. She wants to bury the coin, the hatchet and anything else that she can manage to get into the ground.
She likes to think that what had happened between them on the island – Regina allowing her to provide comfort in one of her darkest moments – will give them both the chance to do that because she so desperately wants to try to start over. It's selfish and as much about her as it is about Regina, but she wants to balance their ledgers and clean the blood off of them; she wants to make amends and she wants to rub the stain of darkness away from both of their hearts. Assuming that's even possible.
She wants to try. She needs to try.
"Hey, you think you're ready to try to turn in for the night?" David asks as he rubs his hands down her arms, trying to press warmth into her skin.
"It's no longer night," she says, gazing up at the quickly lightning sky.
"Fine; you ready to turn in for the morning?"
She glances back towards the cabin. "Sure. I just…want to check on them first. Make sure Emma is…I want to make sure they're both doing okay."
David nods his head, and then silently follows behind her as she leads them towards Hook's quarters. The heavy wooden door is slightly ajar, and so she just glances inside to try to see what's going on.
What she sees surprises her and doesn't.
What she sees is Henry sound asleep on the bed and both of his mothers next to him, each of their arms slung protectively over him. That they're all sharing the same bed together seems mostly unimportant – though she'd be lying if she said it didn't frighten her just a little bit - because this is more about being close to their son than being close to each other.
Still, they are close to each other. Not touching, but still close.
She sighs and closes the door. "Let's go to bed," she says.
Emma opens her eyes, blinking against the streaming bright sunlight that fills Hook's cabin. There's a blanket tangled up around her feet, but she's otherwise uncovered except for the dirty clothes that she's still wearing.
She hears a grunt from beside her, and turns her head slightly.
To see Henry and then Regina.
A slightly snoring Henry is curled up against his brunette mother, his head resting heavily against her right shoulder. The positioning is rather awkward for both of them, and yet they both look like there's nowhere else that they'd rather be. Emma feels a small jolt of jealousy and then sadness at this – she finds herself wondering just how often they'd had moments like this before the book of fairytales had been given to Henry – but she quickly pushes both of these things away. Instead, she opts for just watching them and enjoying the almost calm and peaceful nature of the visual.
She enjoys just how wonderfully unguarded Regina is like this. Not suspicious of the world around her and not fearful of the people nearby. It's nice to see even if she knows damned well that the moment will end the moment the former queen's dark eyes open to take in the light again.
Emma sighs at this thought, stretching her body out as she moves. The fatigue of the previous days' events continues to cling to her, but the hours of sleep received have at least helped to make her feel like she's alive again.
And well considering how she almost wasn't thanks to the dark desires of a certain body thief named Peter Pan, well she'll gladly take this instead.
This, which apparently includes sharing a bed with her son and his mother.
A few hours earlier, their intention had simply been to move Henry to the bed, and then to each take a position on opposite sides of him on the floor, but then exhaustion had settled in on both of them and the decision to slide onto the mattress next to him had come remarkably easy.
There had been no uncomfortable conversation and not a single awkward look had been exchanged; simply a soft smile of understanding and then each of them had rolled towards their son and closed their eyes.
Like this was something so very natural to both of them.
And perhaps, it had been.
Now, watching Regina and Henry sleep curled together, she thinks that maybe this is the most natural thing ever because the two of them just fit perfectly. There's no struggle for space or room between mother and son; there's just Henry against Regina and she with her arm wrapped loosely around him, providing him with the kind protection and warmth only she can. And yeah, maybe there's the jealousy again because she wants this.
She's always wanted this.
Family and love and peace.
But then, Regina's always wanted this as well, and she'd come in and taken all of that away with a swagger in her step and righteousness in her heart.
Because she'd known what was best for Henry.
Because she'd known what was best for everyone.
"You're thinking too hard, my dear," she hears. She blinks and looks across to see Regina gazing at her, her brown eyes tired but amused.
"I am," Emma admits. "Good morning. Or…actually, I think it's afternoon since we went to bed sometime around dawn."
"Mm. We're not moving."
Emma concentrates on the sway of the boat for a moment. It's gentle and rocking like the water is sliding beneath and beside it, but not like it's gliding forward, which means Regina is right; they're anchored down.
"Hook must have needed to sleep for a few hours."
"Downside of being the only one who knows how to captain a ship," Regina replies. She turns her head and looks down at Henry. Her hand slips out and she brushes hair away from his forehead, the gesture tender. "Honey," she whispers, her voice low and gentle. "Wake up, sweetheart."
His eyes blink open and he smiles at her. "Mom."
"I'm here," she answers. Then, looking up at Emma. "We both are. And so are you. Everything is all right now."
It's strange to hear such soothing and soft words from Regina. Strange and kind of incredible because the one thing she'd wanted more than anything else when she'd given up her son had been to know that the person who would hold him next would love him with everything in them.
As Emma watches mother and son gaze at each other, both of them with matching smiles, she finds herself almost wistfully thinking about her own past and all the tender moments that she hadn't shared with her own parents. It makes her sad and angry and then just…melancholy.
She should hate for Regina for those lost years, but she doesn't.
She should hate her own parents for them as well, but she doesn't.
She's sick of hating. Sick of hurting.
She just wants to start over and try to find happiness.
Maybe now that they're finally on their way home – hopefully – and everyone is safe and alive and healing, maybe now she can.
Maybe they all can.
"I'm hungry," Henry says, sounding so much like a child instead of the teenager that he almost is.
"When's the last time you ate, kid?" Emma queries.
"A couple days ago?"
"They didn't give you any food at all?" Regina asks, sounding outraged. It's enough to almost make Emma laugh because the older woman looks downright pissed off at the idea that the body snatcher and his band of weird-ass homicidal teenagers had forgotten to properly feed her son.
"Tamara gave me a granola bar," Henry replies with a weak smile.
"We need to feed you at once," Regina announces. "Up. Get up."
Henry looks over at Emma who shrugs her shoulders. "You heard your mom, kid; it's time to eat whatever gruel this ship has to offer."
Regina wrinkles her nose. "Absolutely not. Henry, up."
With a sigh, he pushes himself to his feet, fisting his hands so as to rub at his tired eyes. He looks down at the bed, then, noticing that both of his mothers are still resting atop it, though both are now sitting up at least.
"Now, you guys," he says.
The women exchange a look, and then Emma pushes herself up first. She feels the slight unsteady wobble of her legs, but they hold and then she's up. She nods to Regina as if to say, "your turn."
"Mom?" Henry asks when he notices Regina's hesitation.
"I'm fine," she assures him just before she stands up. She flashes him a bright smile, her eyes glittering. "Shall we see what the galley has to offer?"
Henry nods his head eagerly, and steps out of the cabin and into the blinding sunlight. They hear him call out for his grandmother and then race away, running across the wooden planks like this is a grand adventure.
"You all right?" Emma asks as she turns to face Regina, her voice quiet.
"Better now," Regina says softly. "The pain is less and…I'm all right. I can feel my magic starting to finally recharge and -" She frowns, then. "Henry has -"
"Something inside of him, yeah he does, and we'll deal with it, okay? Whatever it takes; I promise you, we're not going to let any harm come to him" Emma assures her. "You'll teach me, and if need be, we'll teach him."
"I don't want him knowing magic. I don't want him having it."
"Him having it may have saved your life."
"I'm not sure that's a worthy trade-off."
"It is to him."
"And to you?" Regina challenges.
Emma shrugs her shoulders. "I'm glad you're here."
It's a loaded answer, Emma knows, but then it was a loaded question and she's not sure they're ready for this conversation yet, anyway.
"We shall see," Regina drawls.
"Yeah. You ready for this?" Emma motions towards the door.
"You act like we're facing a shooting squad."
"No," Emma chuckles. "Just my parents and their constant worry about me. And you. And everything."
"Ah, yes; them." She waves her hand, then. "Don't worry, dear; it'll be fine. We all want the same thing now, don't we?"
"And what's that?" Emma queries, her eyebrow lifted.
"To get home," Regina says.
And she's right. Everything else is irrelevant beyond the desire to return to the place that most of these people have called home for twenty-eight years; Emma knows that David still harbors some dreams of returning to the Enchanted Forest but even he is on board with the plan to return to Storybrooke. Even he seems to know that that's where they all belong.
Because that's where they this little weird family of theirs fits now. That's where all of the pieces come together and make sense.
Because that's where a friendship - and perhaps eventually much more than that - between a former Evil Queen and a reluctant Savior makes sense.
"Home it is," Emma chuckles as they follow Henry out into the light.