Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any recognizable characters.
AN: This is written for Cpasq who was the 200th reviewer of Static.Prompt: Emma is the one to use the tear drop in 2x21. On top of feeling Regina's pain, she feels everything Regina has ever felt. I really enjoyed writing this one. Thank you so much for the great prompt!
TW: Violence, implied child abuse, rape.
"Are you sure about this?" David asked with his arms crossed as he stood over his daughter.
Emma was sitting in their living room after returning from Gold's shop with something odd in her possession. She held up the tiny vial, a single drop of liquid lining the bottom. To the untrained eye it would simply look like a bit of condensation welling up inside the vial, but Emma knew what it contained.
How Gold even managed to acquire such a thing was beyond Emma's thinking capacity. The very thought of Regina showing emotion let alone crying, letting Rumpelstiltskin of all people close enough to capture a single tear, was a mystery. But when she thought back to Regina from the past couple of weeks, she realized that the once strict and rigid brunette Mayor had softened considerably. If she was honest with herself, Emma would admit that Regina always looked like she was on the verge of tears. Hell, chasing after her at Granny's had been painful just because she was certain Regina was going to cry and Emma wasn't mentally equipped to handle that even if she was more than ready to set aside any differences and wipe away her sorrows.
Holding the vial up to the light, squinting at the hint of purple mist clouding the tear, Emma knew she was right. Regina had been crying, and she wouldn't be surprised if this tear was a fresh one. She promised the woman once that she wasn't dying. She also promised she would always save her. Granted, that was a moment of superiority, but the words were as true then as they were now. Giving a terse nod, Emma made eye contact with David.
"Yeah. I'm sure."
"Your mother wanted to do this," he reminded her not for the first time.
"She's still beat up about, you know. I got this," Emma reassured. "I'm the Saviour and all that."
With a reluctant sigh, David nodded giving the Emma the go ahead to tilt her head back, pop the vial open and hold open the lids of her left eye. She tilted the vial over her eye, and as if in slow motion, watched as the tear slid the length of the vial, a trail of light purple following its path before it paused over the lip of the vial and fell the short distance right into the middle of Emma's pupil.
Her eye absorbed the tear, automatically blinking at the intrusion, but the faint purple and gold that coated her eyeball signalled the activation of the magic in the tear reacting with her own innate power. She blinked a few times, reminding herself it would be unwise to scratch at her eye for fear of wiping away the tear as she sat dumbfounded on the couch.
"Did it work?" David asked warily.
"I don't know," Emma answered uncertainly. "I don't feel any-"
A sudden convulsion overtook her body, her limbs tensing involuntarily as she flailed along the length of the couch. Her brain felt hot as if it would implode and explode simultaneously. She had felt pain before, at the hands of abusive foster parents and getting into one too many fights, but this pain was certainly worse than death. This pain was a phantom sensation tearing through every vessel in her body forcing her only logical reaction to be a gut-wrenching scream that resonated throughout the apartment.
Flickers of damp and damaged concrete walls filled her mind with Greg standing in the background next to a machine with a sickening grin on his face before the convulsions stopped and the pain lessened, her mind seeping into a comforting blackness.
"Emma!" David yelled at the sign of the first convulsion.
He moved quickly around the coffee table to hold her shoulders down, but it was futile. Her eyes had glazed over and the control she once had over her body was gone. All he could do was lay her along the couch, watching as she thrashed and screamed in absolute agony before one final scream knocked her out.
He said a silent prayer when he found her rapid pulse and thanked the gods that she was knocked out, unable to feel any more pain. His gratefulness was cut short when her body tensed again, significantly lesser this time with her hands clutching at the fabric of the couch and small whimpers escaping her lips.
He blanched seeing his daughter involuntarily curl into herself. "God, Emma what the hell are you seeing?"
The momentary reprieve of blackness receded when she felt a threatening presence near her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and the amount of fear flowing through her right now was enough to paralyze her. Everything was still a hazy blur, but soon enough, the sound of a voice she hadn't heard in weeks chilled her to the bone.
"Regina," Cora's sickly sweet voice called. The sound of leather hitting flesh sounded, and Emma had no choice but to flinch. "What have I told you about misbehaving?"
"I'm sorry, Mother." A high pitched voice that was unmistakably a young Regina's sounded, but Emma felt her own mouth move, unaware David had watched her muttering the words in fear.
"You're always sorry," Cora responded harshly.
Emma felt nails dig into her wrists so hard she was sure the skin would break, but she refrained from giving the woman the satisfaction of hearing her weep. Young Regina had no such inclination in mind, and with an unwilling Emma, let out a loud sob.
"I am. I'm so sorry, Mother. I won't disobey you again." Emma felt herself weeping along with Regina.
"I know you won't, dear. I'll make sure of it."
Cora's cruel face was the last thing she saw before another sudden convulsion overtook her and the faint sounds of Greg chuckling resonated in her head.
Emma thought she would have gotten used to the pain by now. She thought the unbearable shocks flowing through her body would eventually become manageable but they just continued to magnify. As the attacks from Greg proceeded, Emma continued receiving remnants of Regina's childhood, Cora becoming crueler and malevolent with each shared memory.
Until this one.
Judging from the boy in front of her with a kind face and even friendlier eyes, the fluttering in Emma's stomach and the rapid beating of her heart helped determine that Regina must have been a teenager, and the boy in front of her, "Daniel," Emma had whispered breathlessly, was a light in Regina's darkened past.
It was refreshing, feeling something other than a looming fear of being a disappointment. Looking into his face, his eyes shining back at her with wonder and hope, Emma truly felt safe.
She felt loved.
The feeling of safety nearly left her completely when the vision suddenly jumped with her breaking apart from Daniel suddenly and chasing after a broken hearted Snow. No, she couldn't let Snow get away. She had to make her understand.
Hope filled her once more when she hugged Snow to her chest, glad that the child was smart and as kind as they said believing in the power of true love and not just the vow of marriage.
The distinct feeling that something wasn't right never left Emma as she found Daniel the night they were to leave. He reassured her with a kiss, but even that flicker of hope was soon blown out.
His kind face didn't remain so as it distorted into one of agony, and when Emma looked down through the haze around her vision, she saw the dust remnants of his heart at their feet and Cora standing off to the side looking unapologetic.
"No!" The word came out unrestrained as she held onto the boy she felt such deep love for, the boy who laid in her arms dead to the world. Emma shook her head as the sobs poured down her cheeks. "No, no Daniel. Please."
She barely had time to mourn when her body stiffened with an electric jolt that sent her tumbling to the floor.
"Jesus, Emma," David whispered, catching her before her head could connect with the coffee table.
Her dead weight pulled him down with her, and all he could do was sit on the ground with his daughter unwillingly groaning and crying in his lap as he rocked her, wishing he could take away her pain.
Emma saw red. All she wanted to do was rip out Snow White's hair from her scalp in bunches even as the little girl smiled sweetly at her. It was her fault she was standing in this wedding dress about to marry Snow's father while Daniel lay dead in a glass coffin hidden under her manor.
How could she betray her? Snow had given her her word that she wouldn't tell a soul about Daniel, that she wouldn't tell Cora of their plans. Stupid, insolent little child.
Emma's fingers curled into fists wanting to punch something, wanting to set the world ablaze.
What made matters worse was that Snow remained oblivious, believing Regina freely chose the King. The little girl beside her in a dress similar to hers despite it being her wedding made Emma livid. She couldn't even give her this one day. A day where her marriage was to be celebrated. Instead this day was about Leopold's new wife and Snow's new mother.
She would end Snow White if it was the last thing she did.
Emma felt like a prisoner as women in funny looking clothing escorted her through the castle halls. All of them refused to make eye contact with her, but she held her head high, Cora's voice in her head telling her she was a queen now. There were certain duties she must perform.
As soon as the door opened and King Leopold lay on the bed with a robe that left nothing to the imagination, Emma tasted the bile rising up in her throat. Oh god. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut but the women gave her a push toward his bed before leaving them alone.
The King stood from the bed and untied his robe with little fanfare. "We must make our marriage official."
Emma whimpered when he crossed the room and brushed his knuckles against her tear stained cheek. When she had started crying Emma wasn't sure, but she was certain of his intentions with her, especially when he began untying the knots of her night dress.
Her voice was lost and she couldn't move let alone breathe. When she felt the King push her down onto the bed and part her legs, Emma turned her head to the side and squeezed her eyes shut, wishing Greg would start up his attack again and hating herself for wishing that. Hadn't Regina gone through enough?
She screamed when a pain ripped through her pelvis and held her breath when he lowered himself on her.
For the first time since she had been experiencing Regina's memories, she was able to disassociate herself from Regina. She still felt him over her, in places she wished he wouldn't be, but she realized that she would rather take this, take this one moment of trauma if it meant Regina got a few minutes of reprieve from Greg's torture.
Emma's back arched up in David's arms as she let out a final scream. Her eyes sprung open, but they remained glassy as she caught the distinct smell of fish, coupled with the metallic taste of blood Regina no doubt had in her mouth from her attempts at keeping her pain at bay. She hadn't been as fortunate to be pulled from her time with the King, the last thing she felt was a surge of victory as she stood in her nursery just before the curse hit, but the weakness of her limbs made her fearful that Regina didn't have much time left.
Emma had to find her soon.
"Emma?" David gasped out, clutching her tightly to him. "Christ, are you okay?"
She shook her head, unable to get the image of Leopold looming over her, Cora's cruel face in front of her, and her deep and utter hatred for Snow, her own mother of all people, out of her mind. "Regina," Emma gasped, wiping her sweat-slicked forehead with the back of her hand. "We have to find Regina."
"Did you see where she was?"
She pushed out of his arms, shaky and flustered, a myriad of emotions running through her. She doubled over when another wave of electricity coursed through her body, but Emma held onto the wall, clutching her head and yelling out through gritted teeth before it passed.
"The cannery," Emma whispered. "She's in the cannery."
The pain came and went as David, Emma, and much to Emma's displeasure, Mary Margaret, got into the cruiser with David behind the wheel. Emma felt as if she had two personalities living inside her, knowing it was stupid to be feeling such anger toward her mother, but just the look of her face made Emma want to punch her in it. She sat in the back, keeping the cage between them and sitting behind David in case she managed to somehow strangle her from behind.
She clutched at the seat and puffed out breaths, both Greg and Tamara in her hazy field of vision as she braced herself for another jolt of pain.
It didn't seem to come as full force as the others. Instead of the stinging sensation that buzzed through every cell of her body, the sound of a baby gurgling happily flooded her thoughts, distracting her from the fact that she was feeling much too weak to even move. A quiet tranquility took over her as she saw the child before her, the child she had committed to memory just before he left her arms.
Her heart clenched as it filled with something she hadn't felt in so long and was frightened she would never feel again. Not only that, this feeling, this feeling of having responsible over someone, responsibility and not just control, triggered something within her heart. This little boy would make her happy, and she'd do anything in her powers to make sure he wanted for naught.
For Emma, she realized as the feeling was similar to the ones she felt when Baby Boy Swan was first placed in her arms, giving him the best was giving him up. For Regina, the best involved letting him in, piece by piece, slowly allowing this little child to claim her heart in his tiny chubby hands.
Another bolt ran through her, but this time she could hear Regina as she spoke, her voice raspy as she taunted the man above her.
"Don't do that, Regina," Emma begged to herself before screaming again.
"What?" David asked turning his head to see her from his peripherals.
"Drive faster," Emma hissed through clenched teeth.
She panted, clutching a hand to her chest and massaged her temples, taking advantage of the momentary pause in Greg's sadistic game.
As a tear slipped free from Emma's eye, halfway across town strapped to a metal table as she had been for the last few hours, Regina released a single tear, the only evidence that she was in any pain. She had been successful at keeping her screams and groans at bay, but as she watched Greg increase the intensity of his machine, she knew her control would be tested.
She tried desperately to focus on pleasant memories, but even the one of the first time she held Henry in her arms wasn't enough to battle the insane amount of voltage frying through her veins.
Is this how she would die? Strapped to a table with a child from her past seeking revenge? It was poetic justice when she thought about it. All her life she had been set on destroying the one child who brought her downfall, but the child whom she had unintentionally inflicted pain on was back with a vengeance. Oh the irony.
She had to keep fighting. She had to have faith that someone would come for her, or at least hold on for as long as possible. The only person she would even consider to come look for her was Emma, but her faith in the blonde dwindled after her accusations of killing Archie. Still, this close to death, it didn't hurt to have faith.
Emma felt another tug on her heart as they pulled up to the cannery. The familiar feeling of disappointment and betrayal lingered, but it wasn't as intense as it was when it was directed at Snow. No, this one hurt the heart in a way Emma had felt over eleven years ago when Neal had allowed her to take the fall for him.
God how many similar things did she and Regina feel? She almost hated that she pitied herself for so long when most of what she went through paled in comparison.
Her head hurt, but not from the bolt of electricity she was sure was not far behind. It stung at her forehead, and the memory of her being flung across Regina's lawn resurfaced, but instead of the watery brown eyes she had shrieked at weeks earlier, she was faced with staring at herself, telling Regina she would never change.
Her heart stabbed again, but before it could linger any longer it was gone.
What the hell were these things she was feeling? Why had she been knocked out relieving Regina's time in the Enchanted Forest when these Storybrooke memories seemed to appear more timed and fluid? Emma didn't know. All she knew was that she had put herself on the long list of people that had given up on Regina, had spat on her, and kicked her down, and Emma hated herself for it.
She banged on the window until David let her out, pulling her gun out and not even waiting for them to follow as she found an entrance into the cannery. Moving along industrial sized water tanks, Emma confirmed that this was the place Regina was in with the smell so ingrained in her mind and the damp and darkness matching up to what she had previously seen.
Every so often she would have to stop, feeling a wave of shocks flow through her body, but it scared her that the intensity wasn't as bad as the ones she had felt before. There was the slim hope that Greg was letting up, but Emma just knew that Regina's body was slowly shutting down, all its energy on keeping her heart beating and keeping her distracted from the pain.
She had gotten so used to the tiny little baby shocks that the sudden onset of a shock so intense it brought her to her knees, ripping at her scalp in an attempt to relieve the pain was so startling. She fell limp to the ground, her vision blurry and the worried calls of Snow and David becoming a distant noise in the echoing halls of the cannery.
She was tired. So tired. She only assumed Regina felt much worse after physically feeling the effects of everything Greg and Tamara had put her through. Despite the buzzing pain, there was a lingering acceptance, a silent nod that this would be it. This was the end.
Emma squeezed her eyes shut as the buzzing pain moved to the background and focused solely on Regina and her final thoughts. She wasn't surprised when she saw Daniel's face again or saw Regina's father riding freely on a horse. She expected to hear Henry's laughter again, this time older than that of the baby's. Images flashed of him through the years, every smile, every laugh, every bump and bruise, every tantrum. Her heart swelled with such pride and love Emma had to scratch at it in an attempt to simply breathe.
What made Emma gasp out loud was that in the montage of Henry as he grew up through the years, Emma began seeing herself in the images. Instances where she picked up Henry from school, took him to his castle, all seen from afar until eventually she was staring up at herself inside a burning Town Hall, directly in front of herself by Regina's butchered apple tree, turning around feeling light-headed when she came running out of Granny's to chase after Regina.
The final memory Regina had settled on was of Emma pulling herself out of the well and bringing Henry into a fierce hug before thanking Regina. It lingered as if paused with Emma's head nestled firmly on top of Henry's as she stared back at Regina with gratitude. It was then that Emma felt something totally unique.
"Oh god," Emma groaned as she pushed herself up, accepting the hands of her parents to bring her to her feet.
Emma shook her head to clear her mind, but nothing could deny what she was feeling right now. What Regina was feeling right now. She wanted a family. They wanted a family. Regina wanted a family with Henry and Emma. Throughout the months Regina had softened her heart and had allowed one more person into her life, into Henry's life, and despite their squabbles and constant bickering, Emma could feel that underlying care Regina had for her. The same care that made Emma want to wipe away any of the tears that threatened to spill from Regina's eyes. The same care that forced Emma into action when she chased after Regina that night. Jesus, when did they start caring for each other?
It both scared and exhilarated her all at once.
"I'm fine," Emma insisted, claiming her gun once more.
A blood curdling scream came from the west corridor, and it chilled Emma to the bone to realize she didn't feel a goddamn thing. She took off toward the noise, barely looking back when Hook arrived out of nowhere to clothesline her father. Snow was nowhere in sight, but Emma couldn't care about that right now. She ran faster, Regina's scream dying down into an eerie silence. Turning into a room, she aimed her gun and fired two shots, just missing Greg as the man ducked and ran through a back exit. No matter how much she wanted to run after that asshole and clock him a few times with the butt end of her gun, she refrained and jogged quickly to Regina who lay limp on the table.
Regina's eyes fluttered open, but the brightness of the light made her slam them shut again. The last thing she remembered was taunting big grown up Owen and revealing that his father was buried in the woods before he turned the dial all the way up and left the machine running for god knows how long.
Perhaps she was dead. She never would have thought Hell would be this bright, but it could be punishment for all the lives she had taken. Instead of wallowing in the darkness she was accustomed to, she'd be in the light where her flaws and scars were visible for all to see. She took another chance to open her eyes again, finally realizing that what she was lying on was soft, and the stinging and incessant buzzing all over her body was still ever present. She tried sitting up, but a hand on her shoulder gently laid her back down.
Her eyes opened completely now, and the blurry form of Emma Swan began to clear as she focused her vision.
"You need to rest," Emma said quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed pressing a straw to Regina's mouth.
Regina confusedly absorbed her surroundings and was loathed to find herself in Snow White's bed of all places. Perhaps she was in Hell.
"Drink," Emma insisted pressing the straw closer.
Regina attempted to refute the blonde's request, but as soon as her lips parted her vocal cords rubbed together like sandpaper. She took the straw into her mouth and greedily drank the water Emma had provided for her.
"What hurts?" Emma asked placing the empty glass on the bedside table.
"I'm fine," Regina insisted, settling into the pillows and closing her eyes.
"My head hurts," Emma began. "It pounds like there's a Rolling Stones concert going on in there and the circuit to the firework show just combusted in my brain. I have marks all over my hands and wrists from clenching too hard, and I'm pretty sure I pulled out some of my hair. But my heart hurts the most."
Regina snapped her eyes open eyeing the blonde curiously.
"Am I close?" Emma asked.
"How did you find me?" Her voice came out raspy which was unsurprising.
"Gold gave me one of your tears. I could feel everything you've felt."
"Yeah, I thought it was weird too." Emma fidgeted as she gestured. Even from her position Regina could see the crescent-shaped indents all over the Saviour's hands. "I could see into your mind and feel and see what you did. That's how I found out you were in the cannery."
"My parents took him out. You needed time to rest."
Regina nodded in gratitude as she laid her head back down. It was a long moment of silence before Regina finally spoke again in the barest of whispers. "What did you see?"
Emma fidgeted with her hands by tucking them into her sweatshirt pocket, averting her gaze from Regina until finally making eye contact with her. "Everything."
Regina raised an eyebrow needing clarification.
"Your childhood," Emma said noting Regina's visible stiffness. She freed a hand and smoothed it over Regina's leg over the blanket hoping to calm the woman. "Your mother, Daniel, Snow. Casting the curse, your father, coming here. You getting Henry...and then me."
Regina stiffened again.
"I mean, I just-"
"What did you see?" Regina asked again, and by the tone of her voice Emma didn't need to ask for specifics.
"It doesn't matter what I saw, Regina. It matters what I felt. What I felt coming from you," she argued before lowering her voice, wary of being overheard in the empty house. "And, you're not alone."
She spoke her final sentence with such insistence and emphasis that Regina had to gawk at her as she mentally unwrapped Emma's meaning. In her final moments, in her time when she thought it would all end and the pain would stop, Regina brought forth every happy memory she had ever had, almost sad that there were so few, but the ones she recalled were worth it, and in the deep recesses of Regina's mind as she was moments away from inevitable death, she had imagined Emma, and what life would have been like if things had been different. If they were able to move past their differences and start over, building something much greater than a precarious friendship. She cared for Emma, and was grateful that if she wasn't around to take care of Henry, Emma would.
Regina's fingers twitched over the blanket, catching Emma's eye as the blonde smiled and hesitantly moved her own hand from Regina's leg covering the brunette's. They exchanged new and hesitant smiles, slight twitches from their lips but smiles nonetheless.
Emma squeezed Regina's hand in hers before standing up. "You really need to rest."
Regina grabbed for Emma's hand, unwilling to let it go. Her eyes were glassy, and there was a frown on Emma's face as she gazed back into their reflection. "Can you...?"
Emma didn't answer and simply leaned over, catching the bit of moisture from Regina's eyes on her thumbs. As soon as the movement was done and Regina's tear were held at bay, Emma smiled again then nodded, pulling the rocking chair that she had slept on for the past day and a half beside Regina's bed and sat, their fingers intertwined and placed on Emma's lap.