A/N: Thank you all for the reviews, follows and favourites. Each and every one means the world to me, so thank you!
Emma stared. The look on Regina's face would have been priceless had circumstances been different. There was bewilderment, fear and, just possibly, a trace of hope. Smiling she took a couple of steps nearer to Regina. She knew what a killer hope could be; yes, it could sustain you in the darkest of times, but it also brought with it the chance you'd be destroyed.
"How?" Regina trailed off, confusion evident. "I came to see how you are" Emma said simply. "Gold had the necklace and charm, so we're using those."
"Is Henry?" She stopped, fear of the possible answer closing her throat. Emma nodded understanding the unspoken need. "Yes, he's safe."
The relief she felt in that moment was profound. Henry's safety was confirmation that, no matter how many times she needed to make it, such a choice was, is and would always be worth any amount of pain. Others may have seen her actions as 'worthy', but Regina knew it was the only decision she could have made; its inevitability was her truth.
But this still left the question of why they would waste time in doing this. The query must have shown on Regina's face because Emma once again seemed to understand what hadn't been asked. "We needed to know that you're okay and if we can do anything to reverse this." Smiling slightly she added, "Henry was adamant that we try, he's safe, but he's devastated and I can't ignore that."
If anything the answer seemed to confuse Regina further, and it was in a moment of clarity that Emma grasped why. Despite the strength and determination that characterised all this woman did, for good or bad, and despite the seeming confidence with which she approached everything, Regina had little or no belief in the value she might hold for others. This was something Emma was familiar with. It wasn't simply that you found it hard to understand that you might mean something to those around you, it was that you couldn't believe that you would. It was heartbreaking really, the way life could turn you against yourself.
"He wanted to come here first you know, and it was hard telling him that we needed to make sure it was safe before I let him." A small chuckle preceded Emma's next words "That impatience is all you, you know." She sobered now though, a compassionate light burning in her eyes.
"He asked me to tell you that he loves you and he knows you love him." The look on Regina's face forced her to pause; pain and joy were warring there, bringing tears that she just knew Regina would rather not be shedding in front of an audience. Forcing herself not to look away, she went on. "He also wanted me to say that he has forgiven you for everything, and..." This was the hard one. "And, he hopes that you've forgiven him too."
Regina had been looking down, but at the final part of Henry's message her head shot up. "What?"
"Regina, he needs to know you've forgiven him."
"But, there was never anything to..."
Emma interrupted her saying "I know that, but your son believes that he needs your forgiveness and I'm going to give you and him every opportunity to make sure that happens."
She was stunned by the vehemence in Emma's voice so could only reply with a soft "Thank you." It seemed enough for Emma though.
"So, this is your new place then? Hmm, cosy." It wasn't a question obviously, but she appreciated Emma trying to lighten the situation with humour even if the attempt was weak. She was still trying to hold her emotions in check, trying not to allow herself to hope.
There wasn't anything hopeful about where she was. Regina knew what she had done to place herself here, knew exactly the consequences of that. Unwilling to allow her soul to fall to Pan, she'd used a small remainder of her magic to cast herself here. It had been a small insubordination, hardly worth mentioning really; Pan had taken all he wanted from her, her soul was an irrelevance. But to Regina, to her it had been the last defiant act of a once great monarch even if it was ultimately pointless to everyone but her.
Emma could see the despondency settle on Regina. She'd smiled slightly at her quip, but the lightening was fleeting. Deciding to move on to the other reason she was here she said, "Can we reverse this, bring you back?"
She watched as Regina shook her head.
"No, I don't have the power to reverse the spell." She smiled at the blonde, trying to convey some sense of peace, something that would make this easier for her son. "Please just tell him that," but the sob formed so she couldn't continue.
Emma realised that they were almost replaying their conversation in the mines, and, just as then, she was struck by the beauty of Regina. Even here, even now she was still trying to protect her son, shield him from the pain of losing his mother. Emma could see the attempts she was making to gather herself, the attempts to find the words that would make this easier for Henry.
"Tell him I love him, and that his forgiveness is the best thing I have ever been given. But tell him that he's done nothing that needs my forgiveness; but if he believes he needs it then tell him he has it every time, a thousand times over." She held Emma's eyes as if the force of her stare would somehow carry her words directly to Henry. The soft "I will," she heard in response caused her to look down again. There was only so much sympathy or compassion she could bear right now, no matter how well meant.
The call of her name drew her eyes back. Emma was fading from sight, but her voice remained strong as she said "I'm going to let him come." But there was no opportunity to respond because she was gone and the flames had returned to the space were she'd stood.
With no one around to see she let her tears flow freely.
With a gasp Emma woke. Taking a moment to get her bearings, she looked around at the faces hovering close to the bunk before focusing on Henry. She could see the myriad of emotions displayed clearly on his young face. Breathing deeply she knew that she had to choose her words carefully, choose precisely.
"Your mom is okay. Her soul is trapped just now, but she's still her." Sitting up she pulled him into her arms before continuing.
"I gave her your message, and she loves you Henry, so, so much." Grasping him more closely she prayed that her next words would assuage the guilt that her son felt. "Your forgiveness is the best thing she has ever been given, and she doesn't blame you for anything Henry."
He pulled out of her grip slightly at that, his eyes flickering over her face as he tried to gauge the sincerity of her words. Seemingly satisfied he allowed Emma to pull him back into the embrace.
"But she also said that, whenever you need it, you have her forgiveness a thousand times over."
Emma listened as her son's sobs filled the cabin. Rocking him gently she just held on willing him to let her absorb his pain in her arms. Lifting her head she looked round the cabin again, seeing the sympathy in the eyes of her family, she made a vow. She would find a way to reverse this and bring Regina home.