Regina was silent as the makeshift council took control of her living room. She sat in her favorite armchair across from Snow and Gold on the couch. Charming was hovering behind his wife, and as for Emma, she was pacing by the windows, out of Regina's sight.
"It seems we have two choices, then," Snow was saying. "We can give Cora what she wants, or we can kill her."
Despite herself, despite having wanted Cora dead all those years ago, Regina gasped. "You can't kill my mother!"
"Then we'll have to send you back with her," Charming said. "It's the only way."
Emma stopped pacing, turning to look at the others.
"Please," Regina said softly. "I can't leave my son."
"Henry will be safer that way," Snow said, trying to sound compassionate. Emma watched as Regina bowed her head, a tear falling onto her skirt.
"We need another option," Emma insisted, coming closer to the others.
Gold gave her a pained smile. "Cora's not the most open to negotiating."
Regina lifted her head up but didn't make eye contact with anyone. "He's right. I have to go with her."
Emma had never heard Regina sound so broken, so out of control. "No," she said firmly.
"There's nothing else we can do, Emma," Snow replied. "Not while Cora's still alive."
"Which Regina insists on," Charming added.
Emma rested her hand on the back of Regina's chair, standing protectively beside her. "Of course she insists. This is her mother we're talking about."
Snow smiled sadly. "You don't know Cora. You don't know the things Cora has done to hurt Regina. To hurt all of us."
Emma shook her head firmly. "Victims of abuse are often protective of their abusers. That doesn't mean we punish the victims. That doesn't mean we send them back for more."
Regina looked up at the blonde, her eyes filling with tears.
Emma trailed her hand from the back of the chair to Regina's shoulder, resting it there tentatively. "I don't know Cora and I don't know all of the details, but if she's hurt Regina that much we cannot allow it to happen again."
"And what do you suggest we do, Miss Swan?" Gold asked.
"I don't know. But not this. Not this." No one but Regina noticed the slight shift in Emma's expression, the hint of pain. Without another word, the blonde hurried out of the room. Snow rose, concerned, to follow her, but Regina held up a hand.
"Please, let me," she said softly. She got up and headed to the kitchen, where she found Emma standing with her palms on the counter, sobbing. Unsure of what to say or do, Regina came as close as she dared. "Hey."
Emma didn't move except to shake her head. "They can't do this."
Regina reached a tentative hand up to stroke Emma's hair. "I'm sorry," she whispered, but she wasn't sure what exactly she was referring to.
Emma finally looked up and wordlessly folded herself into Regina's embrace. They stood for a moment, clinging to each other, neither knowing what to say or what to do. If they noticed Snow coming to the doorway, they didn't react.
"You're safe now," Regina said, continuing to stroke Emma's hair and back.
"Not until you are." Emma buried her face in Regina's neck.
Snow left the room as quietly as she'd come. She ignored the questioning look from Charming. "We need another plan."