DISCLAIMER: All respect to the show's writers for their pieces of dialogue - I have twisted some for my own SwanQueen-ish purposes. I don't own Regina or Emma or any of the OUAT characters. This makes me very, very sad.
SPOILERS: Specifically, 4x05 Breaking Glass, 4x07 The Snow Queen and 4x08-09 Smash The Mirror Parts 1&2 – but everything up to and including 4a should be considered fair game.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To syrensoul[at]gmail.com

Normal [Monsters]
By SyrenSoul_Red


1. [ Once again, I collapse ]

The glancing blow of a dying star; uncontrolled magic crackled and tore through Emma's palms. She shook one hand until the bones of her wrist ached but she could not drive it out. The weathered plastic of the steering wheel cracked beneath her grip and she felt the nip of metal.

She had just… left them there. Her father nearly crushed by a pole; Mary Margaret terrified and confused -- her mother, horrified at what she'd done, by what Emma was, angry… Henry. Oh god Henry…

A keening moan tore through Emma's throat, frustration and pain, anger burned across a cold sheet of fear. What had that Dairy Bitch done to her? Why didn't Hook-- why hadn't everyone just stopped when she'd told them to? Left her alone…

The squeal of rubber jolted Emma and she tried to ease back on the accelerator, not to ram it through the bug's rickety floor but her thigh cramped under the force of restraint. She had been driving for hours, she had no idea where she was -- She was out of control.

And then so was the bug.

It wasn't built for Storybrooke's winding forest backroads; tyres lost traction on the wet asphalt and Emma strained to keep the metal coffin steady. She made a white-knuckled correction into the skid and around they spun, large trees too close to the driver's side window, passenger side, driver's side again – and then it lurched off the road and shuddered to a halt, violently, in leaf litter and gravel.

Emma breathed fiercely into the sudden silence; eyes panicked, heart percussive in her chest – and then she noticed the glow. It radiated through her clenched fists, flared and sparked, brighter and brighter until it burned her retinas and she had to look away. It was lightning and thunder and it broke from the storm of her, shot through the metal carcass of the bug and into the trees; tore them apart and set the forest on fire.

It took Emma a second to register what it - what she - had done, and then she forced the door open and threw herself from the bug.

"Shit! Shit, shit, SHIT!" Emma scrambled for the rear door and her hands buzzed and shocked against the metal. She wrenched it open and then she was running towards the flames, fire extinguisher clutched tightly. It had rained that day and the cold fog limited the fire's hold, but still the canister was nearly empty by the time Emma felt it was safe to stop. And then, overstimulated and exhausted, surrounded by the charred remains of a decent wedge of forest – it all became too much.

Emma slid to the wet ground, back against the bogged tyre of her yellow death trap and started to cry. Not small or gentle tears – ugly sobbing, the kind you can do only in a remote part of a darkened forest. The kind of crying that shreds pieces of your lungs and drags them into your mouth. Emma held her head in her hands to stop her skull from breaking apart, tasted blood and bile and spat it into the space between her bent knees. She moaned like a dying creature no longer fit for the human world.

And when it was done, she laid on her side in the leaf litter, wet and shivering, for very a long time.

Until quietly, she rasped: "Well, fuck."

2. [ My body is not my own ]

Regina was not comfortable on the stone pallet but this part of her vault held no better options. She felt wild enough to ignore it: Robin's insistent body pressed over her, rough lips scraped her neck, her shoulder, the sharp graze of stubble on her ribs - it irritated her skin in a not-unpleasant way.

Large hands sloughed her restraint until it cracked and crumbled; Regina heard herself moan with a strange bass and chuckled at it, and Robin stilled. She waited, raised herself and shot him a questioning look. His jaw was tight, and Regina reassured him with gentle eyes and a smile though the smallest flick of irritation tightened her mouth.

Robin didn't seem to notice that part. He kissed her stomach and it passed.

His torso was heavy on her, fingers pressed above her hipbones and when she tried to arch he wouldn't let her. Regina enjoyed the struggle for a brief moment; that started to fade, then -- A chirping sound. Like a godsforsaken cricket.

Regina's knee-jerk reaction was just that – she concertinaed suddenly and her leg connected squarely with Robin's solar plexus. He grunted, reached out to steady himself but the stone pallet was only so wide, and then - Robin Hood was no longer on top of her. Indeed, he was nowhere to be seen.

Alarmed, Regina rolled onto her side and hung over the edge of the pallet to check, but he seemed uninjured. Unimpressed with gravity maybe, but fine. So she began to laugh. Wild laughter; a kind she was not accustomed to anymore, mildly hysterical and filled with a strange freedom. It was exhilarating. She exhaled into the space between them.

The chirping came again and Regina swung herself further over the pallet until she could reach her bag and the phone inside. "It might be Henry," she murmured by way of apology.

Robin nodded, curtly smiled but his face was shaded. Regina squeezed his bicep before she righted herself. She could deal with it later.

The screen read Mary Margaret and panic rose in Regina's throat. "What's wrong?" she snapped hoarsely. "Is it Henry?"

"Henry's fine," Mary Margaret replied, but Regina could sense that wasn't all and it wasn't good. Without thinking, she reached behind her for the ball of her dress and started to pull it on. "It's Emma," Mary Margaret continued. "She's-- Something happened, at the jail. There was an... accident."

Regina frowned, switched ears and wedged the phone into her shoulder. "What kind of accident?" She wriggled the red fabric up over her bra. "Is everyone ok? Emma—"

"David's a little bruised but he'll be ok. Emma-- It all happened so fast, Regina. There was magic; her magic, and-- Emma was out of control and then…" Mary Margaret trailed off into a weak sob and Regina pushed herself off the pallet and immediately gathered her heels from the stone floor.

"What do you mean 'out of control'? Mary Margaret, where is Emma?"

"I don't know," she said shakily, her voice small. "She jumped into her car and drove away. We didn't mean-- They tried looking for her in town, but… Hook, Elsa and David have gone into the forest but it's too big to search by ourselves. We need a group or a spell or something; it's just—I think it might be dangerous—"

"You think Emma is dangerous?" Regina asked darkly, frozen briefly on the edge of the stairs as she tightened her heels at the ankle.

Mary Margaret pleaded, "I don't think she means to be—"

"I'm coming," Regina said sharply, and hung up. As she stood, she realised her dress was twisted, the fabric bunched at her hips and suddenly she was embarrassed. Regina tugged roughly at it, tried to force everything perfectly into place; she couldn't let Emma see her like this--

She paused at that. Tilted her head. Narrowed her eyes. At the sound of a cleared throat, Regina startled and whipped around. She had almost forgotten Hood was there.

"Robin." She smiled warmly at him and hoped it touched her eyes. He was half in the shadows, arms crossed over his bare chest. His jaw flexed rhythmically while his mouth was hard. "Robin, I have to go. I'm sorry."

"Emma..." It was less a question from him, more a statement of fact.

"Something's wrong. I have to help find her." She crossed to him though she didn't have time, wrapped her hands gently around his tense arms and squeezed the muscle reassuringly. "You understand, don't you?"

"Yes, I think I do." His voice was cold and Regina's face fell almost imperceptibly, a small lump of hurt worked its way into her throat.

Something had changed, suddenly and drastically, though she couldn't quite put her finger on what. Regret? Second thoughts? They had almost…

"Maybe this is for the best," Regina said quietly, and then she couldn't meet his eyes. She let her hands slide from his arms. "I should go."

As soon as she stepped back, the man roared suddenly to life. He grabbed her – not roughly, but firmly, insistently and then his mouth was on hers and he was kissing her with tongue and desperation, and for just a moment Regina let herself be taken in this strange way. But then it tasted too much of bitterness and she pushed him off.

"Robin—" He was on her again, arms tighter this time, crushing her to him and for the first moment since their affair began, Regina didn't feel any passion so much as his demand for something she wasn't prepared to give. She pulled herself free again, forcefully this time. Her hands were firm against his chest, arms outstretched, keeping him away. "Robin. I can't."

"Because of Emma?" he spat, and she levelled wounded eyes at him.

"Because I have to help Mary Margaret find Emma, yes." She stepped back, left him to hold his own chest for a while. "She might be in trouble and if that's the case - if it's her magic - then so is Storybrooke. I have to think about Henry—"

"--And I, Roland," Hood interjected, in such a way that it sliced through Regina. There was something pointed about the mention of his son; he almost wedged the boy between them. Inside, Regina collapsed. Outside, she hardened. It was the only way she knew.

"And Marian – or had you forgotten your wife? She's just down the hall…" Regina's voice cracked on the last syllable but she hid it behind the flourished squeak of her heel as she spun away. "If you'll excuse me," she concluded regally, and strode out.

A moment later at the top of the stairs, Regina wiped at tears that burned her eyes and she knew they wouldn't stop falling for some time. But she never once broke her stride.

She left the vault. It was done.

She had to find Emma.

3. [ There has to be more to me than ashes ]

After she'd eventually freed the bug, Emma drove into the night mindlessly - though carefully this time - until she'd reached a cliff that overlooked the town of Storybrooke. It was mercifully sparse on trees.

Lights spread malignantly through the valley, the cancerous remnants of a fairy tale curse; Emma found no comfort in them. She was tired, very tired, weighted down by a thick blanket of resignation.

Had the Dairy Bitch called her a monster? Or was it Mary Margaret who'd said that? Emma wasn't sure – maybe nobody had, maybe just herself – but Mary Margaret's eyes had implied it. The tone in her voice when she'd said "Emma"; the kind of disappointment Emma had never expected to see from her, not from Snow freaking White. Not from her mom.

Emma was a monster.

Her hands started to glow and spark and she took a deep breath, held the magic in; exhaled in a billowed plume. It was freezing up here. Her teeth chattered and she sank lower into the collar of her jacket, wished she could wear gloves but her magic had already taken out one pair. It wasn't worth the sacrifice of another.

There was a rug on the back seat and Emma tugged it over herself until just her face was exposed to the cold bite of air. She couldn't keep thinking about this – about the Snow Queen and her parents, about baby Neal and being replaced and – of course she wasn't being replaced, how could they, they would never

Emma smelled hot fabric, like an iron left too long on a shirt and wrestled her thoughts away from that can of emotional bullshit before she lost her blanket too. She needed something else, a distraction.


Nope, still mad at him. He never listened, never left well enough alone… And it couldn't be Henry because every time she thought of her son, of the possibility he could see her as a monster, Emma wanted to scream and rage and immolate until her mouth tasted of ashes.


Where was Regina? The last time Emma had seen her, they had been stalking around that ice cream truck and she was still so mad--

Emma waited for the pop and burn of her magic but – Nothing. She was surprised. Maybe, maybe she was so used to Regina disliking her for reasons, it just didn't affect her anymore?

But then clearly that wasn't true. Because bringing Marian back, destroying Regina's chance for a happy ending had sliced through Emma's insides, left a sharp wound that stung every time she saw her or the hurt in her eyes. They had come so far and now…

Emma's hands remained reassuringly non-fatal. Warm though. Her whole body was warm. She had stopped shivering and she could feel her nose again. The air inside the bug was comfortable. Emma's brow furrowed but she decided not to question it. Apparently as long as she kept thinking about Regina and blocked everyone else from her mind, she could maintain her equilibrium.


Some small part of Emma was also ok with that – quite ok. A tiny part which, whether she was conscious of it or not, was always okay with thinking of Regina. Insistent even. Thinking about Regina was something it just always did. Happily, it whispered; warmly. Hotly--

Emma bolted upright, her blanket fell as she hit the steering wheel hard enough that the car rocked. The fuck?

Emma looked around the cramped shell of the bug accusingly, like maybe some evil whoever had poofed in while she was distracted and put that whatever into her mind. But it was just her. Alone. Of course.

No one here but us monsters.

Was that it? Was the monster in her drawn to Regina? But then, Regina hadn't been evil in a long time. She had proven herself over and over, loving Henry, loving—saving Emma - and her parents, and the people of Storybrooke… Regina was proving it even now, working to save the wife of the man she loved despite herself.

Maybe Emma was just tired. She curled back into her seat and tucked herself up in the blanket and tried to not-think about anything at all. Not even Regina. Especially not Regina.

Emma closed her eyes. Eventually she slept.

4. [ If I could return, it would be here ]

When Regina pushed open the front door of her Mayoral mansion, she almost called out for Henry but of course he was not there. This wasn't his home right now. It wasn't hers either – recently Regina had been practically living in her vault. This house was too empty without Henry to be called a home, and too full of Snow White during business hours to be anything comfortable. That woman just couldn't contain herself to Town Hall.

But Regina still kept clothes here, and enough ingredients and equipment to make a passable locator spell – and it wasn't like she could go back to her vault now. Hood was there, and Marian, and enough raw-knuckled pain to bring her to her knees and she couldn't afford that. Not now. She had Emma to think about.

But first, a quick shower. A change of clothes. New skin… Regina stood under pounding wet heat and scrubbed at stubble rash longer than she'd meant to. Eventually she felt almost human. Empty, but manageable.

She dressed knowing she would probably be up for a long hike at some point to find Emma. Lower-heeled boots than she would usually want, zippered over thick leggings and a knee-length leather skirt. She buttoned a pinstripe wool vest over her satin blouse and for some reason wasted time on lipstick and mascara, though nothing else.

It was near-freezing outside and she knew she would need a coat, gloves – Emma must be frostbitten. Regina pulled out an extra coat and hung everything on the rack by the front door.

She tied her hair into a simple ponytail and made for the locked magic cabinet in the reading room. Regina made short work of the locator potion. There'd been a demand lately and she'd taken to pre-preparing ingredients. She distilled the blue-tinted liquid into two vials – one for the Charmings and the other she tucked into her coat pocket as she pulled it on.

She was in no mood to join the band of merry idiots, yet she wanted to do something. To stay busy. Traipsing through the forest to find Miss Swan seemed… strangely appealing, if not – invigorating?

Regina snorted at herself. She was losing her mind. She pulled on leather gloves, tucked the spare coat under her arm and pulled the heavy mansion door firmly as she left.

Regina didn't want to see Snow, which was fine because she caught an exhausted Charming and the two superfluous characters before they made it home. Regina thrust the locator spell at him. "It might take a while until it's active," she hedged. "You should wait a few hours."

It wouldn't, but Regina needed a head-start. She didn't question why. When David asked where she was going, Regina merely waved a gloved hand over her shoulder and continued walking. It was a 'dismissing the men from my life' kind of night.

She had something of Emma's for the spell – a knitted beanie the woman had once pulled free of blonde curls and left on the hook at Regina's front door. She had kept it all this time because… magic reasons, she'd told herself. And now it was true. Regina pulled the hat from her coat pocket and did not feel at all the urge to breathe in its scent of shampoo and cinnamon. Not at all.

Regina had parked her Mercedes on Main Street because she was not an idiot. There was no reason for her to fight her way through dirt and insects and foliage until it was absolutely necessary. She emptied the locator spell over the beanie and threw it into the chill air. It floated obediently into the gleam of her headlights. She roared the Merc away from the curb.

Hours later, Regina stood in the middle of a blackened copse of trees; frustrated and perhaps, mildly, frantic.

The locator spell seemed intent on taking her haphazardly through the forest, to places the Saviour clearly had been but wasn't anymore. It was like following a compass that couldn't find True North. However much Emma was out of control of her magic, clearly the part of her that didn't want to be found was working just fine.

Regina collected a hunk of charcoal from the ground and brought it to her nose. It smelled of chemicals – flame retardant, and something faintly bitter that she couldn't quite put her finger on. The bespelled beanie darted around beside her like a nervous puppy and she scruffed it forcefully.

"Try this, you useless thing," she hissed, and smeared oily ash across its wool. It would probably never wash out and Emma would kill her. But suddenly the hat had renewed purpose and headed off along a wider road. Regina sighed and made her way back to her car. Soon the sun would be up. Perhaps she'd have better luck in the light.

5. [ I found a home in you, once ]

Why was Henry here? How? How had he found her?

Emma tried to keep him distant: "I can't control my powers right now. Listen, don't worry about me. I'm gonna find a way to fix this, but until I do... You gotta go."

But Henry kept walking towards her. "No. You always think that pulling away from people will fix your problems, but it never does. I can help you."

"Henry, just wait." She begged him to stay back with outstretched, crackling hands. But her kid was stubborn, and sweet, and he reached out and touched her-- And the air exploded between them. "Henry!" Emma started to run towards him. "Henry are you ok?!"

His crumpled body on the wet ground; her son groaned in pain – Emma stopped herself short, fists pressed to her chest like sheathed weapons but she was not disarmed, Emma knew that. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm... I'm fine." He lied. The fingers he held up showed the back of his head was bloodied.

Tortured panic ripped through Emma's chest, more pain than she had ever known. "Is that a cut? Henry, what did I do?"

Her son stood, placated her; reassured her, "I'm okay."

Her wide-eyed vision had narrowed only to the sight of his blood; a wild monster clawed inside her chest and roared, Run! -- "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."


"Stop! Please, don't come any closer." Emma felt the magic rise again. It burned against her sides, tore at her skin. "I love you, kid, but you gotta go. Just go!"

Another wave of power ignited the air between them. It forced Henry back. Emma looked down at her hands and knew, knew there wasn't just a monster somewhere inside of her. She was the monster. Maybe she always had been.

Henry turned from her. He ran.

A monster. I'm a monster

"I know exactly how you feel."

Emma startled, stood bolt upright – the Dairy Witch. Finally, someone she could hurt without shame.

"…seeing the fear in his eyes..."

Emma spun and released a shockwave of magic at the icy bitch. It missed, though not by much. Yet the other woman merely turned her head to watch it go, nonplussed.

"You are out of control," she said, delighted. "But, Emma, you're not going to hurt me. Nor should you. I'm on your side."

Emma heard a voice bellow in the distance, "HENRY?" -- It was Regina. How many people are out in these damned woods?

"Just leave me the hell alone," she warned the Snow Queen.


Regina again, closer this time. The Ice Bitch didn't react and Emma wondered if she was hallucinating.

"You can run, but it won't help," the woman said calmly. "The only way this ends is you embracing who you are."

"Just leave me—"


Emma spun and there she was – Regina; a tornado, a fury, a seriously fucked off mother bear. "Did you hurt Henry?" she roared.

"The Snow Queen—" Emma turned but there was no one there.


"Yes!" The word fled Emma's throat, a strangled cry filled with saltwater and regret. "I didn't mean—He was bleeding—"

Regina shoved her, hard. Emma stumbled backwards, tripped over a branch and sprawled to the ground.

"I will kill you," Regina growled and magic swelled in her palm, a roaring fireball of anger.

Emma rolled onto her side in the wet dirt. She sobbed, quietly pleaded: "Just do it." This would be the end. Emma embraced it.

It never came.

Regina's boots stopped short of her crumpled body and then her face appeared, still dangerous, still angry but also… softer somehow.

Her eyes were wet; her face was… pared back. She looked younger. "I'm not actually going to kill you." There was a hitch in Regina's voice like she said it reluctantly, but also that she was hurt she had to say it at all.

"But... Henry—"

Regina gritted her teeth, paused; exhaled slowly. "He looked well enough to run away from me a minute ago." Her voice rasped with dismay. She would talk to her son sternly about that later.

Emma's hands continued to crackle magic and wood smoke stung her eyes but she wasn't prepared to move, wasn't even capable of it. "I'm not good like this. I'm a monster."

Regina sighed, exasperated. "You're being ridiculous." She grabbed Emma's wrist and pulled at her. "You need to get up. It's cold."

"I need to stay here, where I can't hurt anybody."

"Clearly that's not true, because Henry already found you. I found you. You think your hero parents won't be next?" Regina wrangled Emma into sitting.

"Oh god – you have to keep them away from me!" Emma was wide-eyed again, panicked. "I almost killed David once today, I can't—"

Regina tugged Emma up while she was distracted and reasonably compliant. "You can get control of yourself, Emma. There - look at you now…"

Emma stared for a moment, confused, then followed Regina's pointed gaze to their hands. She held Regina's ungloved fingers tightly, and no magic spat or bit between them. "How-- How did you do that? What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything." Regina pulled her hand away.

Almost immediately, the buzz and arc returned. Emma stared at it, narrowed her eyes. "Hold my hand."

"What? No." Regina stepped uncomfortably back, struggled to put her glove back on as though it needed to be protected.

Emma pleaded with red-rimmed eyes, "Just hold it, ok?"

Regina glared; sighed but relented. She held out her hand for a polite handshake, but Emma took it from the wrong direction and then there they were, holding hands like lovesick teenagers in the middle of a sunlit forest. Regina had no idea what to do with herself.

It worked though. Emma stared at their clasped hands for a moment - then stepped into Regina. The brunette pulled back without thinking – it was too much. But when Emma caught her eyes and searched them, the green held Regina like a rough-worn sea.

"The other one."


"Your other hand," Emma said, like she was slow. "Let me hold it." Regina didn't move and exasperated, Emma reached for her.

Almost immediately, Regina felt an unnatural burn and shot away. "That hurt," she said accusingly.

"Your glove." There was an hysteric edge to Emma's voice. "I already ruined a pair of mine - take off your glove."

Regina frowned, did not want any part in this, there was… too much skin going on. Skin was trouble. Leather was better. Let something else's skin face the world.

Yet she peeled the glove from her hand and slipped it and the other into her pocket.

Emma reached for her again, held one of her hands loosely and then the other – Emma hesitated. She held her hand up between them, palm to Regina and waited tentatively, unsure, terrified.

Regina clenched her jaw, tried to look more annoyed than the fear she felt. Eventually all she could do was slowly reach out and press her palm to Emma's. It felt like fire, hot but not painful, like closing a circuit; the flow of nervous electricity. And then Emma braided her long fingers with Regina's and in the tapestry of their knuckles, everything else disappeared.

"Will you look at that…" Emma's voice was hushed with wonder, eyes fixed on the point where their hands met but Regina was drawn to something else. The soft lines of Emma's face, the relief, the sheer joy of what happened when they touched.

Regina felt it too, but knew that her heart-pounding exhilaration came from another place entirely. It had nothing to do with magic - at least, not the kind that plagued Emma. When the blonde finally looked back at her, Regina dropped her eyes to the ground, bitten.

"So I guess that works," the Saviour added with a rough humour.

"Yes, well - I can't exactly hold your hands for the rest of my life," Regina objected. You could, a traitorous voice whispered. She cleared her throat against it. "We're going to have to find you a more practical solution."

Emma's face shuttered again. "What if there isn't one?"

"Of course there is. There's always a solution to general magic. We just need to find it."

Emma looked at her with fragile hope and Regina's ribs caught on the inside of her skin. Emma smelled like pine and winter fireplaces; like cinnamon and faintly androgynous cologne and Regina realised they had stepped into each other again, and the closeness constricted her throat at her collarbone, made it difficult to breathe... "I like your shirt," she blurted out, to reinflate the space between them.

Emma was momentarily confused. She leaned back. "Uhhhhm, thanks? It comes in jackets too. The designer, I mean. Makes jackets."

Regina nodded seriously as though it mattered. "I'll look into that." She used the distraction to drop Emma's hands and step away.

Magic crackled again and Emma stared at her palms despondently. She said quietly, "I just wanted to be normal, you know? Have a family, a simple life. An apartment in New York or whatever. Normal things."

"Miss Swan," Regina began, then nearly stopped herself. But she felt it was necessary… "You could never be normal. You are extraordinary."

Distracted, Emma took the sentiment at face value. She shook her head. "I'm a monster."

Regina scoffed. "Please. You're not even close. I know monsters. I was a monster. On my cuddliest days as the Evil Queen I was ten times worse than you could ever be."

A smiled played at the corner of Emma's lip despite herself. "The Evil Queen had 'cuddly' days?"

"Days where there was a lot less hanging," Regina said dryly. "And a lot more gentle suffocation."

Emma shook her head ruefully, dropped her gaze. "How do you do that? How do you just – laugh it off?"

"I don't," Regina disagreed, a flash of annoyance and hurt. "I know what I've done. I'm not proud of it. But everything I did –" She grabbed Emma's hand again, "every horrible, monstrous thing I did, led me here. To Henry, to y-- to this place. And I'd never change that. What I have now - I regret nothing."

"Henry's worth it, I get that. I do." Emma's fingers dug into Regina's almost painfully. "But everything else…"

Regina returned the force on Emma's palm until the woman met her eyes again. She smiled at her, slowly and broadly and tried to convey the brightest parts of Henry when she said, "I may not be 'normal'. But the love I have in my life – I know there's no way I could be a monster."

Emma wanted so much to believe. The earnest tears in Regina's eyes, how far she had come -- But with everything that had happened to Emma recently; being a constant magnet for evil, the uncontrolled magic and a tendency to hurt the people she cared for - she just could not. She could not forget anything. "Maybe that's true for you, Regina. But maybe not for me."


"I can't have a normal life. Not like this. There has to be another way."

"Short of stripping you of all your magic – there's not." To Regina, it was a perverse joke, but it backfired. Emma was inordinately interested.

"Could that be done?"

"No," she snapped, as at a naughty child.

"You just said—"

"I was being facetious."


"Emma," the dark-haired shot back, and her eyes flashed a warning. "I will say this once. You would need an incredibly strong practitioner of magic who was willing to strip away every part of what makes you you. And as infuriating as I find you most of the time, you are also talented and a hero to our son. So, no – I will not do that. That would be monstrous. Please don't ask me again."

The tears had started in earnest and Emma felt like they would never stop. She was shaking from more than cold; from a pitted despair that bent her bones and crumpled her face and tore her throat open. "I hurt the people I love, Regina! What if I can't get control? What if I never do? What If I hurt Henry again?"

"I won't let that happen," Regina snapped. "I'll teach you to control your magic. We can do this together."

"I don't think I can!" It was sobbed, high-pitched and broken and Emma hardly recognised any part of herself anymore.

"Of course you can," Regina insisted, her voice rough and sore, and she stepped into the lean body, hand and arm on her shoulder, closer than they had been before - yet still with space between them to breathe – essential breathing room...

Ordinarily, that would have been enough. Too much, even. Emma wasn't one to breach distance, rarely to touch - especially with Regina. She wasn't fragile or needy or dependent on anyone, it just wasn't the way their relationship worked… And yet, she collapsed.

Emma's knees buckled and she grabbed hold of the only safe harbour in this torrential storm. Arms around Regina, one across her ribs and the other up over her shoulder, Emma clutched tighter until her hands met wedged under the jut of the woman's shoulder blades.

For a moment it was so wooden, so strange for both of them that it threatened to shatter into awkward excuses and muttered apologies and a great deal of fleeing. But then one of them took a deep breath and everything just sort of… settled into place.

Distantly, Emma felt ridiculous because Regina was much smaller than her – shorter even than usual; where are her heels? – but at the same time, this woman was powerful and fierce and Emma knew she would be held up no matter how heavily she leaned.

For a moment, she felt safe.

When Regina slipped her arms from their awkward angle on Emma's upper back to a more comfortable position around her waist, Emma shifted to fit perfectly against her. Her hand slid to the small of Regina's back because it stopped her elbow from aching, but also the bow and arch of her body just happened to be the perfect shape for Emma to curl her fingers into.

Regina smelled like Dolce and Gabbana and leather; dark chocolate and spiced apple turnovers and Emma –she didn't mean to, didn't even know she had at first, but she turned her face across the seam of the woollen coat and into its collar, until the frozen tip of her nose pressed against the sharp heat of Regina's skin at the juncture of shoulder and neck.

It was nice, and there was something else there – salt and nutmeg and a scent she couldn't quite put her finger on, something uniquely this woman and then her lips were pressed against the pulse point that throbbed with life, and a vibration, low and dark, ricocheted through Regina and drew Emma's mouth to capture it, wetly…


Suddenly, so that there could be no warning, magic reared and exploded through her.

Emma thought she'd screamed "Regina!" but she couldn't be sure. She'd felt her bones crack and then she flew, and she didn't remember landing, just sharp pain, and then darkness.

Part 2

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