It was possible the reason Regina was so happy in the future was that, wherever she went, it would always be an improvement on Neverland. The one thing she would miss would be the hot spring which, wonder of wonders, they circled back on in their never-ending quest to find Henry while he still had baby fat. Regina sunk into the warm water and cast herself through time. She needed to see the future. Just as she once hadn't been able to take Henry's fate being a mystery, now she couldn't stand not to learn her own.
It was a bright, clear day in Storybrooke. A car was coming down a nice, clean street. Even in the future, nothing Japan or Detroit could come up with could match the majestic elegance of a horse, but it looked safe enough as it pulled into the driveway. The door opened and Regina took a step back.
There was no question about it. It was Henry. He'd developed Emma's strong jaw, his grandfather's scruff, and the hair endemic to all college kids, but he was hers. There was no mistaking him. Alive and healthy and just… happy. He looked like a fine young man. Like Daniel had looked, maybe with a young Regina out there somewhere, falling in love with the stableboy.
This is enough, Regina thought. Let Emma hate her. Let him hate her. She'd stay in that sterile house like it was a jail cell, so long as Henry ended up like this and not like her.
Then she turned and finally saw the house he'd pulled up to. The manor. Regina's manor. She tried to stop herself from hoping. Maybe Mary-Margaret had kicked her out of it, exiled her once more and taken her rightful place. But then he went to the front door and it flew open before he could even knock, Emma there—and she was so bright, so open, Regina barely recognized her. Ten years of rehabilitation, of being able to feel things instead of hide them. Being able to breathe.
I could do that for her, Regina thought. We could learn it together.
And again, the voice, the fear of hoping and wanting only to be denied. But she wanted this. She needed it. Her face was slacken as she watched them hug, talk about college, Emma ruffling her son's hair. Please, she thought, as if this were another magic spell she were casting. As if here too she could just impose her will on the universe, rewrite the rules until the game went in her favor.
And then she arrived. The woman Regina had first seen in her visions. Herself through a mirror lightly. Not imposing. Not powerful. Garnering only the respect any person was due, being judged by her actions and not her past, a wife and a mother, all the parts of herself that had been cut away finally regrown. She wrapped her family up in a hug and all three of them had forgotten how unthinkable this once was.
"Thank you," Regina whispered softly. "I promise I won't give up on you. All three of you. I'll keep fighting for this."
Mills looked up and—Regina could've sworn it—smiled at her. She patted Emma and Henry on the back, sent them inside with talk of a pie cooling on the windowsill, then walked around the house.
Her finger beckoning in Regina's direction.
Regina followed her into the privacy of the rose garden, her heart helplessly expecting a trap. Some twist to dent her happiness, an affair or a scar or something. But Mills just sat down on a porch swing and—spoke.
"Hello Regina. You might want to take out your notepad." Too shocked to be less than obedient, Regina patted at her pockets. "Jacket, right inside pocket."
She found it. Pen too.
"Write this down, dear. You'll recall the first bit, but as for the rest—you'll have better things to remember."
Regina jotted down what Mills had said. "How is this possible?"
"Well, neither of us is going to get to know quantum physics beyond what it takes to watch a Terminator movie, but as near as I can figure it, the future is like anything else. Being observed changes it. Your visions, and your reaction to them, changed the future once. Now it's changing again. I really hope we're on the same page when it comes to this 'happy ending'. I don't want you to remake the world yet again so I'm a cyborg or some such."
Regina dotted the period of the last sentence. "Hence the notepad. So you can 'remember' what I'll say—"
"—to the point of finishing your sentences," Mills concluded. "Isn't time travel fun? Now, assuming you're happy with this future and its lack of killer robots, I suggest you get rid of your foresight as soon as possible to stop any more alterations to the timeline. You've heard it said that it doesn't do to dwell on the past and forget the present. Well, the same applies to the future. Our life won't be perfect, but it'll be ours, and we've wasted enough time trying to put right what's gone wrong. Give your gift to Kahlan—you'll meet her soon enough. And then just do the best you can."
"But how will I know for sure? What if the future changes again? A butterfly could flap its wings and—"
"Don't start with the butterflies. Just have a little faith. Deserve happiness and it tends to—"
"Hey, is this the future talk?" Emma came around the corner. "I knew it! Where's past Regina? Is she making the face? The angry little chipmunk face?"
Mills sighed. "Unfortunately, some things will never change. No, Emma, I don't know if she's making the face, I can't see her."
"But you remember being her. Did you make the face when you were in the past?"
"I don't recall."
Regina was making the face.
"So where is she, I don't want her checking out my ass while I'm talking to her." Emma followed Mills' line of sight to Regina's apparently very predictable position. "Hello from the future, Reggie! Sorry in advance for, like, our first nine dates. By the way, totally going to find that notepad you're writing in and figure out all this time travel bidness."
"No," Mills said, answering Regina's unspoken question, "that slang will not come back into fashion in the future. Emma is just… Emma."
"BTW, FYI, do not get me black diamond jewelry. It never works with my look, but I always try to make it work because out of context it looks so nice and you seem like you tried really hard but, no. Doesn't work for me."
"I thought you liked black diamonds," Mills said.
"You also thought the sun revolved around the Earth for, like, most of your adult life." Emma turned and called "Hey, Henry, wanna talk to your mom from the past?"
"Stop giving her knowledge of the future!" Mills insisted. "Too much foreknowledge can alter history. Don't you watch Star Trek?"
"Henry, tell past Regina how often you use those French lessons she insisted you get!
"Un peu!" Henry called from inside the house.
"Regina, you'd better go," Mills said. "But don't worry, you'll have ten years to get used to this."
"2017 Best Picture Oscar!" Emma yelled. "The Hobbit: Empire of Steel. Do not lose the office pool this time! And yes, there end up being five of those movies. I still don't know if Bilbo gets back to the Shire."
Regina closed her eyes and concentrated on returning to the present. Her future self was right. When it came to the future, a little knowledge—in Emma's case, very little—was a dangerous thing.
"Enjoy me rocking your world!" Emma called after her, as the shock of the future faded back into the gentle warmth of the present.
At least until Regina opened her eyes and saw Emma across from her.
"Hey," she said, like they weren't both naked in the same hot spring.
"Hey," Regina said back, likewise.
Emma crossed her arms over her chest, though it wasn't like Regina could see much through the bubbling water (she hadn't checked). "I realize how this looks, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't jump to conclusions. This seemed very romantic when I was taking my clothes off—"
"By all means, I won't draw any conclusions from you being naked and making a quote-unquote 'romantic' gesture."
Emma groaned, but could admit that she deserved that. "I just wanted to let you know—in a fun, spontaneous way—that I've been thinking about what you said. And. I still don't know if you're seeing the future or what. But if you really do have feelings for me, I don't want to waste time making you jumps through hoops when we can be… doing things that aren't jumping through hoops!"
"While not jumping to conclusions," Regina leaned forward, "this talk does seem a mite bit flirtatious."
"I still don't know if you've changed. But I want to believe you've changed. Is that enough?"
"A chance is more than enough. More than I deserve."
"Then… I had a speech, but then you were naked so—screw it. Wanna be my girlfriend?"
"Yes, but—" Emma groaned again. "Yes. I said yes first. It's just that you've been in love with me all this time, haven't you? The only thing that changed the future was me. My willingness to be loved by you."
"You are far easier to love when you have your head out of your ass." Emma uncrossed her arms as she spoke. Regina might've checked then, but she was just suspicious of Emma having a nipple ring.
"So, now what? I think you have more experience at adult relationships than I do."
"There's a scary thought."
Regina tilted her head. "I could make a few suggestions. When it comes to choice of activities."
"Wow, you're almost too suave to use good grammar."
"This does seem like our best chance to resolve some of our sexual tension without frostbite."
Emma bit her lip. "I really do want to go on some nice, normal dates and build trust and take things slow and… and hold hands…"
"I'm very good at holding hands." Regina smiled. "I have two of my own."
"Yes. A nice, normal, lovey-dovey relationship full of trust and caring and affection. After you fuck my brains out."
"Thought you'd never ask." Regina slid closer to Emma. Just close enough to whisper in her ear. She used the Voice. "Poor dear. Thinking you could resist me, your Evil Queen. My touch will make you shudder with pleasures you can scarcely imagine."
"Uhh… keep talking like that, I don't think you'll have to."
Regina gently parted Emma's legs as the blonde wrapped her arms around Regina's shoulders, letting the other woman hold her up as she was opened. Regina's hand ran from the inside of Emma's knee to the flesh of her inner thigh.
"You know, in the future, I'll be able to make you come with just one little finger?" Regina grinned into Emma's throat. "I'd better start learning that."
As it turned out, there was something Emma did that Regina liked just as much as Emma liked the Voice.
Call her egotistical, but she just loved it when people screamed her name.