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


6. [ Without you, I ached ]

Regina returned to consciousness disoriented and in pain. She had no idea how much time had passed. Emma and the bug were gone. She was pretty sure her knee needed strapping, so she hobbled slowly back to the Merc and tentatively drove herself into town.

It was a split-second decision that saw her standing at the Charmings' door, despite Henry's presence - one that Regina would later put down to concussion-induced madness. She steeled herself and barged inside.

"Where is he? Is Henry ok?"

Three sets of eyes stared at her in various shades of alarm. Mary Margaret was on her feet before Regina got more than a few steps in.

"Regina! What happened? You're hurt!"

"I'm fine. It's just a scratch."

"It's not - your knee looks awful."

"Thanks," Regina sneered. Mary Margaret ignored her, led her to a chair with an insistent hand.

David was far less inviting. "Where have you been all night? We tried calling you."

"Well I'm sorry if I don't respond to your every summons! Ouch," she added pointedly at Mary Margaret. The woman looked momentarily apologetic, but continued wrangling Regina's knee with a tight bandage.

"You should rest this," she warned. "And tell us where you've been."

Regina bit her tongue against an old habit of telling Snow White regally where she could shove her demands. Instead she looked to the ceiling for patience. "I went after Emma."

"You what?" David reared up on his stool. "You said that locator spell needed time to activate!"

"I said that hours ago." She glared at him. "Why is it still here? Why are you?"

David hedged, retook his seat.

"Regina…" Mary Margaret interjected, "Did Emma do this to you?"

"Not on purpose," she said, so unusually quick to defend Emma that Mary Margaret's brow furrowed. Regina pushed on to avoid follow-up questions. "It still doesn't explain why you're not out looking for her."

"She called," Mary Margaret said quietly. "Emma called us."

"What? When?"

The woman was thrown by Regina's intensity. "A little while ago…"

"What did she say?"

"Regina, Emma is our daughter. Shouldn't you be asking to see your son?"

"Of course I want to see Henry," she snapped. Nothing was more important to her than him, nothing – but Regina resented the implication that Emma's safety was not her business. She gathered every last ounce of self-control. "Are you forgetting that Henry is our son? Mine and Emma's? Anything she does will affect him, and she's not exactly thinking rationally right now. I need to know what she plans to do about her little problem."

The pixie-haired woman seemed placated; returned to her typical compassion. "Emma said she had a way to get rid of her magic. For good."

"What?" Regina was horrified. "Did she say how?"



All eyes turned to the stairs; to Henry. Regina was immediately on her feet with her arms open. "Henry!"

The boy threw himself into her and she stumbled back against the chair.

"Mom, you're hurt."

"I'm fine," Regina brushed it off and searched his body for wounds – Emma had said he was bleeding. She found the bruised mark below his ear and convoluted tears blurred her eyes.

Henry asked in a wary voice: "Did Ma do that to you?"

"No, I slipped in the woods. Does yours hurt?"

"Only a little," he murmured, and Regina ruefully acknowledged they had both lied to protect Emma.

She healed him with a gentle glow of magic - "All better," then held him so tightly. A chair scraped as the Charmings and Elsa left them alone, for which Regina was grateful.

Henry released her eventually and helped her back into her seat. "Can you fix yours?"

"That's a little harder," Regina admitted. She waved a glowing hand across her knee and the ache eased but didn't leave entirely. "Don't you worry about me - that's my job." She smiled at him reassuringly and wrapped an arm around his waist when he perched on the side of her chair.

Henry was quiet, thoughtful and Regina waited for him.

"It must be nice to have magic," he said, almost reluctantly. "And be useful."

"Useful?" She shrugged. "It doesn't always do what you want it to do."

"No." Henry stared at his anxious hands. "But I went out there to help her, and I couldn't do anything, because I'm just-- Ordinary."

"Henry…" His pain hurt her, and Regina reached out and stilled his hands; held them tightly in her own. "We are each given our own gifts. You have the heart of the truest Believer. You brought us all together. You don't need magic to make you special - You do that." Regina's quick smile slipped as she admitted: "Besides, I have magic and I couldn't help Emma either."

He was crestfallen. "So she did hurt you."

"It was my fault," Regina insisted.

"Were you two fighting again?"

Regina took an open-mouthed breath and held it, completely unprepared for how to answer. Sometimes, Henry, when two mothers meet in the woods in a magically charged emotional situation, one of them will unexpectedly kiss the other and maybe the other mom will like it and then-- "Not exactly..."

Henry's brow furrowed. "Are you going to try to help her again?"

"I don't think that would be a good idea."

"Mom—" Henry hesitated the way he had always done when he was going to admit to a transgression. "I overheard grandma and grandpa talking about Ma, about what she was going to do…"

Regina chuckled in spite of herself. "Of course you did."

He went on, increasingly perturbed. "She wants to get rid of her magic, for good - and they want to let her. Mom, you can't let that happen! You can't. Magic might not be everything, but it is who she is. It's a part of Emma - she's the Saviour and you can't let her take that away. You can't!"

He threw himself into her chest and Regina wrapped her arms around his broadening shoulders while he cried like the child he almost wasn't anymore. She rubbed his back and shushed him mindlessly as her own tears fell quietly onto his tartan shirt. My poor boy; my poor sweet boy…

She knew he was right. She didn't think she was the right person for the job – Emma was the hero. But if the actual heroes, the Charmings, weren't willing to stop their daughter from making the biggest mistake of her life, Regina would have to try her hand at the light side again.

It wasn't like she had faith in the Author's plan anyway. No one was in charge of Regina's fate but Regina. What was a little neck nuzzling between once-sworn-enemies-turned-casual-friends? … So it wouldn't be easy. Nothing in Storybrooke ever was.

She sat Henry up, wiped his tears and cupped his perfect chin. "Don't you worry," she whispered emphatically, and smiled. "I will take care of everything."

"You know where she'd go?"

"I have a pretty good idea…"

Regina rested her forehead against his and relaxed into the warmth of his trust for just little while longer.

7. [ This could be my undoing ]

Emma hadn't stopped sparking magic since she'd lost her mind in the woods. Not just her hands anymore, it was her whole body.

She was sure Regina was fine. After she'd regained her senses, Emma had checked the woman carefully - banged and bruised but far too powerful to be down for long. Then she couldn't risk hurting her again, so she'd fled.

What had she been thinking with Regina? She hadn't, clearly, not at all.

It wasn't a side effect of magic – she couldn't blow it off that easily. But she could put it down to stress, and heightened emotion, and that strange thing she had for bad boys-- girls. Bad, whatever. It was all just bad. Something about danger and fighting, and a thousand unhealthy relationship triggers she had gained from years in the foster system.

It was also just… Regina.

That woman had known how to push her buttons since the night they'd met. Regina had hated her, but for a split-second she'd wanted her more. If it hadn't been for her insecurity over Emma's status as Henry's birth mother, that first drink might've gone very differently.

But that wasn't how it played out. And now seemed like a pretty crappy time to re-try.

Stop thinking about it.

Emma was on her way to Gold. This would all be over soon. She would never hurt Henry, or Regina, or anyone in her family again. Not by magic.

Earlier, Emma hadn't understood what had happened; how Regina had gone from being her one steady point in this whole stupid ordeal to being blown halfway across a clifftop. But it was becoming clearer. She'd had a lot of time driving to think about it.

With Regina, Emma had always known exactly where she stood. It might have been on her bad side, it might have been in the line of fire, but even when Regina hated her it was because she accepted Emma for exactly who she was. She despised Emma's role as the Saviour, she resented her position as Henry's birth mother, she was furious when she played the part of hero in every foiled plan - but Regina had never expected her to be any other way.

This was who and what Emma was. These were the cards they were dealt. These were the characters they played. Regina accepted that.

But now Emma, self-destructive as always, had thrown open the door to a spectacular rejection and tossed them both through. She had shattered what little equilibrium and mutual respect they had gained over the years. She had changed the whole game. She had royally fucked up. Good job, Emma. Great consistency.

She had nearly no control over her magic now. The bug's radio started to cycle wildly through stations. Emma took one hand off the wheel and divided her attention to mash buttons and from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of white on the road.

She instinctively turned the wheel before she had the chance to recognise the Snow Queen and actively plough the bitch down.

A second later, she'd crashed again.

Waking to Dairy Fuck was an even shittier way for Emma to regain consciousness than the last. On top of that, every time she tried to convince Emma not to go to Gold it only strengthened her resolve.

"You're not gonna hurt me, you need me," Emma spat and turned away.

But the statuesque woman was already in front of her, imploring: "Don't do this!"

"What the—" And that's when Emma realised: "You're not here!" She reached into the woman and she flurried into snowflakes. Unfortunately, she reformed.

"If I could be, I would. I am trying to protect you and that is the truth."

"I don't care what you say – that's the truth." Emma strode through her, satisfied as she burst into pieces. The fuck is with Storybrooke today?

Emma hauled herself back into the dented bug and roared onto the road.

"FUCK!" She hammered the steering wheel with red-silver sparked hands. Everyone was so goddamn determined she shouldn't get rid of this magic, yet no one was prepared to help her get it under control. Or if they were – like Regina and Henry – there was absolutely no possible way they could. Gold was her only option.

Did that make Emma take pause; that someone like Gold had offered to help her with seemingly no personal gain? Sure as shit it did. But she had reached the point where someone was going to die. If it couldn't be the Snow Queen, then it would be her and Emma didn't want that, so... Any port in a shitstorm.

It was a situation Emma had been in too many times before: A love she could not bear to lose, up against a problem that seemed insurmountable. The love thing was always murky, but the solution rarely was. If she didn't have her magic, well – Henry and Regina would be disappointed for a while. Would they love her anyway?

Could she really lump Regina into this equation?

The Swan Family, the Charmings - they would definitely love her. Far more so than they did now. They would survive her being normal, thrive in it even. They had always been this way. Emma was an anomaly. Fairy tales aside, a destined True Love and a Believer's heart were the only enchantable things between them.

By the time Emma finally pulled up in front of the mansion Gold had directed her to, she knew what she had to do. It was time to be free of this curse. She would rid herself of this monster.

She would be normal again.

8. [ But we will be tied together ]

Regina had left the Charmings' apartment before them, but she was buoyed by the fact they had taken her "screw having normal kids" speech to heart. Maybe they were dim heroes, but they were heroes all the same.

Meanwhile Captain Guyliner and Snow Queen-lite had already slipped away into the evening. Regina put as much stock in either of them helping Emma as she did in dime-store heels: they might walk the distance, but ultimately they would fall apart as soon as they got to the ball.

This would be her show.

Gold was the only other person in Storybrooke capable of stripping Emma of her magic. Regina didn't bother with his shop – a spell powerful enough to destroy the Saviour needed space and distance from the town, unless he wanted to kill everyone in it. She was at least 98% sure he did not.

There was a buzz in the night air, more so even than her now ever-present sense of Emma's uncontrolled power. It didn't take Regina more than an hour to find the towering mansion on a clifftop overlooking a previously unknown section of Storybrooke. If it weren't for the overgrown frontage and unsightly amount of dark magic streaming through the shingled roof, it might have made a decent summer house.

Regina strutted through the open side gates. Off to one darkened corner, Hook was tied to a fence while Gold serenaded him with lukewarm evil. Neither seemed to notice her presence. It would've been rude of her to interrupt so she left them to it. If she was lucky, they'd heckle each other to death before the night was through.

Two down, one to go.

Around the building, the door lock had been broken and was covered in a fresh sheet of ice. Regina waved it open with a flourish – and suddenly felt a lot less cocky. Every surface inside sparked with uncontrolled magic. A rumble and flash came from the Main Hall to her right and in that moment it dawned on Regina that she had come here to play hero – a role she felt completely unsuited for – to a woman who most days, she couldn't decide if she wanted to kill or crawl inside until the world ended.

What the hell was she doing here?

Henry's face sprang into her mind; his trusting eyes, the smell of his hair as she held him, relieved he had made it out of Neverland alive; Emma crushed in with her, body warm and unabashedly against hers as they held their son… And Regina knew no matter what happened between her and Miss Swan; no matter how ill-equipped she was to play hero, she would risk her life a thousand times to rescue Henry's mother.

With that thought in mind, Regina slipped off her gloves and coat; ran a shaking and perhaps vain hand through her long hair; absently smoothed the front of her vest.

For Henry.

As she stalked her way to the place she would find Emma, Regina heard voices.

"Elsa. What the hell are you doing here? You have to leave now."

What an excellent idea, Regina thought. She heard sparks again and was momentarily blinded by a flash of light as she reached the entrance to the hall.

"I'm sorry. I won't let you do this."

Regina rolled her eyes and swaggered in behind Snow Queen-lite.

"My powers are out of control, there's no other way. Please--" There. Emma saw her. The mix of utter relief and blind fear on the blonde's drawn face stopped Regina short.

Elsa prattled on, "You didn't give up on m—"


She had meant to be stony-faced, but the tone in Emma's voice when she said her name made Regina smile ever so slightly and in that split-second, her eyes said a thousand things she hadn't meant to say; promises and reassurances - she would not abandon Emma to this moment, she was glad to see her; when this was over there was a lot to discuss.

Elsa turned, startled, and Regina sniped: "Oh, look – superfluous character."

"Regina, you're here," Elsa forced brightly, a complex series of emotions on her overly Disney-esque face.

"And you can go," the once-an-Evil-Queen snarled pointedly.

"Regina…" A warning from Emma to play nice. The dark-haired woman folded her arms across her chest and leaned back on her heels. Emma turned to Elsa, her smile tight but apologetic and as warm as she could make it. "Elsa, thank you so much. …But you should go."

Lights flickered and popped; Emma flinched as the chandelier showered sparks around them.

"Are you sure?" Elsa shot a sideways glance at the other woman, who had clearly and pointedly dismissed her, intent now on the glow emanating from under the door. "I could—"

"I'm sure," Emma said firmly, though she shook with uncontrolled power and something else Elsa could only guess at.

The taller blonde nodded, moved as if to approach Emma but thought better of it. Between magic and Regina, she didn't think she'd make it through alive. Reluctantly, she left.

And then it was just Regina and Emma. Alone together. Again.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Emma gaped at her, blinked slowly, shook her head. "Seriously? That's how you're gonna react to this situation?" Emma hardened her jaw and a row of lights to her right finally exploded into darkness. "I am about to kill us in a mansion with shitty wiring and you want to yell at me about it?"

Regina rolled her dark eyes, arms still folded across her chest. "What would you have me do? Praise you for running off like a child and leaving me unconscious in the woods? Congratulate you for your good judgement in making a deal with Rumpelstiltskin?"

"I am doing the best I can!" Emma screamed hoarsely, and another section of lights blew into oblivion. The air crackled; the hair on the back of Regina's neck stood in warning.

"There is nothing else I can do here!" Emma went on, raw-mouthed and desperate. "I hurt my parents, I hurt Henry - I hurt you, Regina." She broke apart, sobbing. "I nearly killed us both out there in the forest. What do you expect me to do?"

"Not this," Regina hissed, and pointed a vicious finger at the rattling double doors. Something on the other side fought to get out, to get Emma in; it tasted bitter to Regina, just as it had when she'd smelled traces of it in that burnt section of forest. "I don't know what Gold promised you, Emma, but you won't find it behind those doors."

"He didn't promise me anything," she said coldly. "Just… relief, from this."


"--Doesn't do anything unless it benefits him – I know, I'm not stupid Regina. But right now, any benefit he gains from a magicless Saviour is far outweighed by me not accidentally hurting the people I love."

Regina stepped heedlessly toward her, brow furrowed in disbelief, a wet hurt in her eyes. "You really think that getting rid of your magic is going to solve all of your problems?"

"Not all of them, but a few of immediate ones, yeah." As if to make her point, the chandelier exploded overhead again. Emma jumped out of its rain of sparks and shook her hands violently; clenched her fists to hold it all in. "I can't go on like this." Tears welled again. "I can't control it."

Regina stepped forward: "I could teach you—"

Emma practically threw herself backward, a finger pointed at Regina accusingly: "You can't come near me!" Green eyes flashed, panicked anger with a background of anguish; the hollowed pain of a woman damaged as a child – a look Regina recognised all too well because she too had worn it for so many years.

She stepped towards Emma again, palms raised between them tentatively.

"Don't come any closer!" Emma threw out her hands and a shockwave of magic shot forth, but Regina had expected it and she disappeared momentarily in a billow of purple smoke.

When she reappeared, she took another pointed step toward Emma.

"Regina!" Emma threw magic but on purpose this time, aimed at the woman whose mere presence threatened her very existence.

Again, Regina was ready. Again, she magically avoided the blow. A feral grin curved her mouth, nostrils flared; her dark eyes seemed to flow with molten rock. Regina almost purred, "It seems you can gain some control, Miss Swan."

"Are you—" Emma paused, unable to believe what was happening, "--are you enjoying this?"

"What's not to enjoy?" Regina parried; wickedness in her tone, danger in her smile. "Magic isn't all curses and happy endings and life-altering power. Sometimes it's just… tossing spells around." She coaxed a fireball to life in the palm of her hand, stroked it like a kitten and then snuffed it out.

"You're… sick. You're deranged."

"No, Miss Swan," Regina snapped, her face fierce but injured. "I am not sick or deranged. I am certainly not ordinary, or normal as you might put it -- but this; my power - your power, doesn't make us monsters. It makes us unique, yes; or… Maybe even, special…"

Emma stared at her, stunned. She recognised Regina's words, stolen from a moment just weeks ago when it had been Emma reaching out to her.

"This is different—"

"No it's not," Regina cut her off. Sudden tears made it hard to see, her throat tight against things she found difficult to say. "Because I am not going to stop trying either. I may not be… as good at all this as you are. God knows I'd rather cast a curse and hope for the best than deal with my problems at the best of times…" She took a deep, shaking breath.

"But then, I'm a villain. And you, Miss Swan, most certainly are not. Whatever you think getting rid of your magic will to solve, I can tell you – it won't." Regina stepped into the woman again, almost close enough now to touch and nothing new exploded, so she went on. "Being powerless – it doesn't take a loss of magic to experience that. Something you and I both know all too well."

Emma looked at Regina with the same wide-eyed panic she'd felt before – not when she'd lost control of her magic, or thought Regina might kill her for hurting Henry - but in that heartbeat when she had realised that Regina made something in the most wounded part of herself knit together and lie flat, in places she had only ever felt torn and crumpled.

It was more terrifying than anything she had felt before.

The air cracked like thunder, electricity raced across her skin; white-hot heat tore painfully through Emma's chest and then the chandelier behind them jolted and shrieked. The chain that secured it to the rafters gave way - crystal and glass, bronze and steel crashed to the parquet floor and shattered with horrific force.

Something hit Emma hard and she felt herself knocked to the ground before projectiles could flay her skin. For a second everything was murky, the only sound Regina's ragged breath in her ear.

9. [ Take my shattered bones ]

Dim light returned.

It took Emma a second to register the last wisps of purple as they dissipated, before she felt shards of glass in her back. Regina was heavy on her, firm and soft, still braced for impact; arms on either side of her chest as she held her body over her like a shield.

She had turned her face into Emma's jacket to protect it when she had knocked her down and momentarily poofed them from the room, and Emma meant to shift the dark strands that tickled her cheek and nose – but when her fingers tangled in Regina's hair, they just sort of stopped there, held against her skull. Cradled her carefully.

Regina's shoulders ached; crystal and glass cut into her palms and her bandaged knee where it touched the floor. A more piercing heat flared where Emma was, against her wrists, hipbones and thigh. But when she felt the hand, all she could do was press her forehead against bone and sinew, into the leather and beat of the woman beneath her and breathe deeply for a moment, as unobtrusively as possible.

"You… saved me."

The mix of surprise and straightforward recognition in Emma's voice broke the moment. Suddenly embarrassed, Regina cleared her throat and tried to push herself away. But there was no dignity to be gained. Glass shards tore at her palms. She hissed pain through gritted teeth.

"Don't move, you'll hurt yourself."

Regina rolled her eyes unseen. "Ya think?"

"I'm… I'm so sorry." Emma's small words covered so much – the redundancy; the exploding light fixtures; three years of unrelenting antagonism – things that neither she nor Regina were prepared to deal with in this brief moment. They pressed in, heavy and insurmountable.

"Miss Swan…"

Emma chuckled acidly, said "Madame Mayor--" in the most professional tone she could muster; her knee still caught in Regina's skirt, left hand curved possessively into satin and pinstriped wool without having meant to, just the way they had landed and curled into each other naturally.

She understood what Regina was trying to do, was supportive, grateful even - but equally she realised the absurdity of trying to distance themselves from what was happening while they were still pressed so tightly against each other.

Pretending, ignoring, denying could come later, she knew that – they were both very good at that.

Right now, Emma wished old habits didn't exist. That later would not come. That Regina would shift her knee just a fraction higher, more firmly against the ridged denim between her thighs…

The remaining lights in the hall flared suddenly, air crackled and bit and Emma's ears popped with a sudden change in air pressure. Overhead, books rattled on towering shelves while the double doors behind them clattered menacingly. Emma squeezed shut her eyes, lips moved wordlessly as a litany of curses poured through her.

I'm a monster. I'm a fucking monster. This will never stop. The closer I get to someone, the more likely I'm gonna kill them. I am going to fucking kill somebody. I'm gonna kill Henry; I'm gonna kill Regina – I won't survive that. I won't survive…

Emma knew suddenly and overwhelmingly that she had to get through those double doors, to whatever Gold had set there – salvation. Like a caged animal, wild and blindly panicked, she pushed herself up, ignored the slick slice of shards in her palms -- and found herself forced back by a weight on her chest. She struggled against it, frantically lashed out.

Beyond her, a voice that made no sense – "Miss Swan" – seemed far away yet right against her ear; she paid it no heed, swung her elbow, pushed and flailed, and then, through the fog: "Emma! Emma STOP!"

And she did. She didn't know why. But she came back to herself, to Regina's voice, and she was so tired. "I have to go. You have to let me go, Regina. I have to do this."

"No, you don't." Regina was half in Emma's lap, undignified and wounded but she put her bloodied palms on Emma's shoulders and hoped the maroon leather would be forgiving. Her voice broke from sternum to larynx and tears burned her cheeks. "I'm not going to let you go. I promised Henry I wouldn't let you."

"Henry?" Emma's voice was so small.

"Do you really think our son would be ok with this? With you getting rid of a part of you that makes you special?"

The smallest spark of hope drowned in the brine of her eyes. "Henry makes me special. I'm nothing without him. What good am I as a Saviour if I can't save anyone? I can't be a hero like this. If I hurt him again… It didn't work, Regina! The magic between Henry and I – he touched me and it didn't work. For fuck's sake - I threw him across a forest."

Regina's brow furrowed, frustration in her deep-copper eyes. "What exactly did you expect would happen?"

Emma stopped short, tight-lipped as she thought about it for a second, as though she hadn't before - and she hadn't really. "I don't know– that it would… Break the curse or something? Centre me? Help me to get control of myself?"

Regina leaned back, disbelief in her raised eyebrow. "You thought our son could do that? This isn't some curse, Miss Swan. You thought a child could somehow exert control over the emotions you, an adult, couldn't handle? You do know how ridiculous that sounds?"

Emma clenched her jaw, looked pointedly away and muttered, "I do now."

Regina glared at her. "Good." She folded her arms over her chest and resettled herself, regal despite her position perched on Emma's thighs. "This is about who you are. Magic is a part of you, Swan. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get it under control."

Emma scoffed. "I already accepted that I was the Savior, and everything that goes with it when we were in Neverland."

"Yes, and as convincing as that was…" She held up a hand before Emma could argue. "Clearly it's not going to be that easy." Regina caught herself, titled her head. "Or -- maybe it is."

"I don't—"

"What happened today in the forest?"

Dark heat blotched Emma's cheeks, her hands crackled and she pressed tight fists against denim hips. "I don't think this will help."

Regina ignored her. "You held my hand and everything stopped. All the magic—" Not all of it, her brain quipped -- "Everything went quiet. You were in control."

"And then I wasn't," Emma said darkly, her point punctuated by the pop and fizz of electricity in a few remaining lights, and the energetic rattle of whatever loomed behind Gold's tempestuous doors.

"Before that," Regina tried to keep exasperation from her voice. "What was it about Snow and Charming - and Henry, that made you feel out of control? Why was it different with me?"

"I don't know," Emma snapped, annoyed. But she did, at least a little, and it made her calves tighten, her body tensed to flee, that voice in her head shouted - Run! and it was all she knew how to do, every fibre of her being screamed...

Regina pushed: "I think you do know."

"Dammit, Regina!—" Emma bit her tongue; it would do her no good. Evil Queen or Storybrooke's Mayor, this woman would not be intimidated or shouted down. So she crossed her legs at the ankles and took perverse pleasure as Regina struggled to maintain her balance.

"Miss Swan—" It was a warning.

Emma sighed, inherently uncomfortable but unable to avoid the conversation any longer. "It wasn't anything really. Just… My parents, everyone – I terrified them yesterday. My magic… Mary Margaret wouldn't even let me hold the baby—" Shelves rattled, books thudded heavily to the floor. "Henry – god, he is so trusting. I don't know how you did that—"

It was an offhanded compliment but Regina burned with pride.

"—But it's not permanent, you know? Just because he's my kid…" Emma shook her head and magic hissed along the cuts of her palms so she clenched her fists tighter. "You can break that. You can break that out of a kid." It was haunted, the light momentarily hollowed out of her green eyes. But Emma swept on. "It was so easy for that Snow Bitch to rile me up. I blew the wall out of the fucking jail…"

"Impressive," Regina said lowly.

Emma glared at her. "Thanks, not really." Then she straightened. "See, that's the thing! You don't care if I blow up a wall, or burn down a piece of forest, it's just not an issue."

The Mayor in Regina disagreed but she tried not to raise an eyebrow too pointedly.

"I always know where I stand with you, Regina. You get pissed when I use my magic to break a curse, or… ruin your plans or whatever – but you accept that about me. You accept that it's a part of me, so when I saw you in the forest, maybe… I don't know. Maybe that was enough." Emma trailed off awkwardly, stared at the hem of her jacket so she wouldn't have to meet Regina's eyes.

Regina was grateful, because all she had was warmth and appreciation and the wet sting of something she wasn't quite prepared to talk about yet. She cleared her throat quietly; reluctant to push into whatever came next but knew it couldn't be avoided, not if this was to end with Emma's power intact. "Then what happened?"

The muscle in Emma's jaw bulged on gritted teeth; malachite eyes scorched. "You know what happened." A gravelled snarl. "You were there."

Regina turned in place, ignored the pain as she put her knees to the sharply littered ground on either side of Emma's thighs. She sat back against Emma's knees, palms flat on the leather skirt twisted in her lap. "You lost control."

"I lost control," Emma agreed tightly, and continued to do so. Books tumbled throughout the hall, followed by their shelves. They splintered on the parquet floor; plaster and wood creaked and groaned around them.

Regina knew she walked a dangerous line. She waited long, tense moments as Emma tried to stare her down. Then she said, "You kissed—" And was ready for the explosion.

Her fingers wrapped tightly in Emma's dark leather lapels, braced for the shockwave that hit her in the gut, head bowed against a shower of sparks that rained around them.

A ceiling-high bookcase at the front of the hall creaked and squealed; buckled away from the wall and shuddered to a precarious angle. Plaster dust filled the air, mingled with the dense cloud of smoke that swirled around the rafters.

"You need to stop!" Emma yelled, but did not try as hard as before to get control of her power. It seemed a good enough end to the conversation.

Not for Regina. She waited for Emma's magic to beat itself exhausted against ceiling and floor, door and light socket - the way she had when Henry was a toddler and prone to tantrums. There was a sense of this here; a heedless fit of destruction.

When it eventually died down, Emma realised the woman above her shook... Regina was chuckling. It infuriated her, livid anyone could possibly revel in this moment: her lack of control, vulnerability, despair - and she spat, "Are you fucking kidding me?

But Regina's red-stained mouth slid ever-so-gently to the white glint of teeth and there was no malice there: a warmth to her humour, an invitation for Emma to appreciate the absurdity of the situation. The two of them stranded in a sea of glass, a supposed sworn enemy perched on her body like an island, the raging storm of magic that buffeted them together.

Finally, as hard as she fought it, the smallest hint of a smile trilled along the edge of Emma's lip and she shook her head ruefully.

Regina knew she had her. It was safe to try again. "You kissed… My neck."

Emma's frown was unweaponised now, glare far less compelling and she was pissed about that. The woman did not play fair, never had. "Yeah well – you started it." There was petulance to her tone and she regretted it immediately. At Regina's arch expression, she regretted it more.

"I started it? I believe I was just standing there in the woods, Miss Swan."

"You started it the day I went down that hole to rescue Henry and you nearly planted one on me and would you please stop calling me 'Miss Swan'?"

Regina blinked several times; her posture grew noble, glass under her knees be damned. A honeyed glint swirled through umber eyes, a dangerous curve to the bow of her lips and she leaned into Emma, close enough that danger prickled through blonde hair; and against her ear, Regina breathed, "Emma…"

It was low and delicious, like nails on each ridge of Emma's spine, urgent fingers clutching her in the night and her eyelids slid closed, head lolled forward of its own accord. "Don't do that either," she rasped coarsely. Regina's throaty chuckle rumbled through her.

"Well I have to call you something." Regina leaned back, as though unaffected by the moment. She wasn't. "Frankly I resent the implication that any of this," she gestured at the diminishing space between them, "was prompted by me."

"Bullshit." Emma sneered. "You know exactly what you're doing, Regina – every second, every word, every time you move you know exactly what will happen because you've planned it out so carefully that when something doesn't go your way – when someone doesn't act the way you want them to, you don't know what to do with yourself. You can't breathe." She chuckled, relieved finally to be on familiar, comfortable ground.

"That's why you hated me when I came to Storybrooke – I threw a chainsaw into everything you had laid out so perfectly…" Emma shrugged her twisted shoulders, palms splayed in the only section of floor that was relatively glass-free. "And then - I took a chainsaw to your little apple tree."

Regina was gnarled lip and flared nostril, a violet cloud swirled through dark brown eyes. She wanted to strangle the woman beneath her, fingers twitched with the very force of it, every rotted fibre of her being flared and bellowed against too-tight skin.

But she knew what Emma was doing.

And the blonde's hands no longer crackled, and the shelves no longer hurtled books to the floor, and the light beneath the treacherous doors had dimmed. So Regina forced short nails to scrape at the pieces of glass in her palms and sat back majestically, revelled in Emma's confusion when she did not punch her hard in the face.

"Very good, Miss Swan." Regina smiled, dangerously. "It seems there are ways we can interact that you are perfectly comfortable with."

Emma said nothing. For a second she had no words. It wasn't a reaction she had expected. "And you're… Ok with that?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Emma faltered. "I don't know. There's nothing new about it? I… I kissed you."

Regina's quick smile was mildly triumphant, but she conceded: "And I let you."

Emma stared, a turbulent sea; not quite hearing, not quite understanding - not quite letting herself believe. She folded her arms over her chest. "But that's… I mean, that's not…" Her mouth snapped shut, head tilted, one eye examined the woman suspiciously.

Regina wished Emma was not quite so intentionally dense, or perhaps so wounded - but all at once wouldn't have it any other way.

"I am not going to deny there has been a… something between us, Miss— Emma," Regina forced, relieved her voice sounded far steadier than she was. "But it's always been there. Nothing that happened in the last day has changed that." At least, not for the worse, that small voice whispered. Regina scraped her palms again and went on stiltedly. "It's just… a little more obvious now."

Regina is not brushing this off.

At this, Emma spun and free-fell, her heart kicked against buckled ribs, she choked on the sand in her desert mouth. Parts of her were broken - brain and tongue, but not wounded: It was more of a… Resetting. A realignment. A perfectly splinted bone.

Outside the timpani of her reckless veins, the room was quiet. No crackle and hiss, no thump of books, no rattle of doors – it was all perfectly still.

Into that delicate space, Regina moved slowly; slid her fingers under dark lapels, between blonde hair and leather to curl against Emma's collarbone. The wide-eyed panic in old-copper green slipped away as Regina leaned inexorably closer.

In the absence of damaging sparks, Emma was finally able to put her hands on Regina's waist where it flared to hips yet remained deceptively small. She closed her eyes and tilted her chin and, to the tinkle of crushed glass beneath Regina's knees, let the last breath between them disappear into her mouth.

That first touch of lips like falling from a cliff, terrified and weightless but never hitting ground; heat and breath and the perfectly tilted axis of faces; each woman pushing just a little further, a little deeper; asking for just a little bit more. Emma may have moaned, or maybe it was Regina, at the first wet glide of tongues, bodies crushed tightly together.

It wasn't a True Love's Kiss; there was no curse to be broken. It was just Regina Mills, kissing Emma Swan, in a broken-down mansion, because that was the clearest, most succinct way to tell her: I accept you for all that you are. Every last infuriating gasp of you.

Emma… wasn't afraid anymore. She could accept these parts of herself. Nothing had changed, even though everything had. And she thought, Oh, there I am...

If she'd had any breath left it would have been stolen by the shockwave that jolted through her, a familiar bolt of released magic so now, at least that problem was over. But the kiss, this slow battle of tongues and hands pushed urgently at clothing; this hot fight for skin had just begun.

10. [ These hands; this weary heart ]

Emma tugged at the slippery fabric of Regina's shirt until it came free from the leather waistband and ran her thumbs across the warm strip of skin there, fingertips against the dips and ridges of her ribcage and she fitted perfectly into her hands. Regina kissed her deeper, filled her mouth with a low rumble, nails dug firmly through the fabric of her shirt and there was altogether too much clothing.

Emma tried to help remove the leather jacket but ended the struggle when Regina pushed it roughly as far as her elbows, then reached for the zipper on the front of her shirt. She clutched the leather on Regina's thighs because it was all she could reach now and kissed her furiously, ignored the clack of their teeth for the dangerous taste of her mouth.


Flurried limbs and swallowed curses at the sound of Hook's voice -- they threw themselves from each other. A second later he was in the room; heavy boots crunched on glass and twisted metal. Each woman was sprawled in the remnants of chandelier with palms full of crystal; Regina had finally sacrificed her favourite leather skirt to the wreckage of the hall floor. But their eyes had not unlocked even though their bodies had parted.

Hook seemed briefly surprised that it was not Elsa in the room, but recovered quickly. "Swan! Are you all right?"

He leaned over to help her up, hands and arms around her body and it was too awful compared with Regina, the cheap-swill cologne of him and she shrugged him off, eyes still trapped by amber in dark chocolate.

"I'm fine," she muttered, and crossed the gulf to Regina, just a few small but too-far steps. She offered her hand, without realising it, like the woman's very own Princess Charming. Regina cleared her throat, let herself be helped up then tried to break the tableau by brushing the glass from her skirt primly.

"Your magic, Swan?" Hook asked, against the mildest sense of unease that he could not quite place, beyond the fact that the Crocodile now had his heart.

"She didn't do it," Regina said brusquely, a sliver of pride to her jaw. It clenched away when Swarthy-and-Unwashed threw his arms around the blonde. A snarl tugged Regina's lip.

Emma did not return the hold, arms held awkwardly out to her sides and she tried to think of a way to extricate herself that would not arouse suspicion, but would also not involve punching. It was difficult. "Wow, I've never seen people so happy about me not doing something," she joked forcefully.

"We'll find another way to defeat the Snow Queen," he said. "Together."

When Hook went in for a kiss, Emma could stand it no longer. She pushed him away, harder than she'd intended and he stumbled on a spray of debris. Regina took a large step back rather than steady him.

Hook found his balance, straightened slowly. He stared at Emma - a hundred questions pierced through her, and while she knew eventually she would have to answer all of them, she was not ready right now. She smiled weakly, stepped in and put a hand on his shoulder. "Sorry. It's been a long night, and I'm - covered in glass."

He seemed to accept this, or at least nodded curtly; but then his eyes continued to bore strangely into her.

"Are you alright? If you look at me any harder, you're gonna drill a hole in my head."

Hook forced a smile. "I'm just relieved. You should go outside. I have a feeling there are a lot of worried people who will be glad to see you."

Emma felt a hand brush her spine, knew it was Regina's and leaned into it without thinking. She squeezed Hook's arm one last time, then turned and left him in the hall.

As soon as they were away from Hook, Regina slid her open hand into the curve of Emma's back, her mouth at her shoulder and Emma leant into her so the woman's breath could whisper against her ear.

"We should talk," she said lowly.

Emma turned her head, lips a mere ache from Regina's. "Talking wasn't what I had in mind."

Before she could enjoy the flush that overtook Regina's face, the hitch in her chest and the fuck me in her dark eyes – Elsa stepped from the shadows.

Regina jumped as though burned, hurried away but Emma reached for her, decisively laced their fingers and pulled her firmly back. Regina was frozen, unable to gracefully step away from the situation - but a part of her was also unwilling. She stared at their knuckles locked perfectly together, bones like braille and she wished she could read whatever it was they were writing there.

Elsa faltered briefly, then smiled broadly at Emma - though Regina caught the smallest flicker of something more complicated in her wide eyes. Emma did not. Elsa reached out her hand and Emma took it with her free one, squeezed it tightly.

"It looks like things were able to get better between you two again." Elsa grinned at the tight hold Emma kept on Regina's hand.

Emma shrugged. "I guess you can get them back."

Regina didn't know if she was more surprised to hear she had been the topic of a conversation that didn't involve cursing her existence, or by Emma's embarrassed, fidgeting smile.

"I'm so happy for you, Emma." And it was true - Elsa's voice was filled with warmth and kindness.

Emma knew it would probably never be this easy again, to introduce to someone her strange intertwining with Regina Mills - or even if she ever would. What the hell is going on here? She slipped her hand from Regina's, tucked it firmly into her pocket and said "Thanks," with a shoulder shrugged to her ear.

The briefest frown of confusion crossed Elsa's face, but she asked, "Your magic…?"

"Still there," Emma confirmed proudly. "Are my parents…?"

Elsa nodded. "Out the front. I saw them arrive with Henry. I didn't eavesdrop on you," she added in a rush. "I was just still here because... Well I didn't want to get too far, in case—"

"--We killed each other?" Regina finished drily, still sure she disliked this woman but no longer thinking about setting her on fire.

"Well… yes."

Emma squeezed Elsa's hand one last time and let it go. She turned to Regina. "We should get out there. I need to see Henry."

Regina nodded, but then something in turbulent green eyes punched the air from her lungs: a panicked need for reassurance; a terror. She wondered when that had happened, when it had become her place to soothe the hollow ache in Emma. But maybe it wasn't new at all. Maybe they had been looking to each other like this for quite some time.

Regina couldn't find the words and now she didn't need them; instead she threaded her fingers through gold and pulled Emma's head down until she caught her lips, pressed into her mouth and her tongue lathed away the last knot of Emma's fear.

Emma forgot herself, ran her hands over Regina's tight leather skirt and dug her fingers into the curve of her ass, and Elsa had the good grace to smile and walk away. Regina found herself backed up against a wall, Emma's knee between her thighs, pushing against her and she tried so hard to stifle a moan but it escaped and echoed around them. She wanted to drag Emma closer, skin against skin until friction caught fire but instead, Regina urged her back.

"They're waiting for us." Her voice sounded foreign even to her own ears: too throaty, too unravelled.

"Shit." Emma rested her forehead on Regina's satin collar and breathed deeply. The woman smelled like dark promises and twisted sheets.

"You should go first," Regina added, and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind Emma's ear. Apparently, curls covered all manner of sin. Emma would pass as magically rumpled but otherwise presentable. Regina on the other hand, with her shirt untucked and her cheeks on fire, would not slip past Snow so easily.

"We're not done here," Emma whispered, an electric shock across Regina's skin, but she pushed away from the cold wall, the hot body and strode out towards the landing.

Regina breathed heavily, her back and palms flat against the plaster as she watched the woman go; the exaggerated strut to her denim hips and knew this might kill her. She had avoided getting too tangled up with Emma Swan for exactly this reason.

But the taste still lingered on Regina's tongue, fingertips buzzed with the feel of her and Regina knew there were worse ways to die; worse reasons to throw it all away on a chance for a Happy Ending. And maybe she wouldn't find it here. But she was certainly not done looking.

Regina tucked in her shirt and smoothed her hair as best she could, squared her shoulders and remembered carefully how to breathe. She pulled on her coat from the stand where she'd left it; tugged her collar up against the night and strode out to re-join Emma.

"Emma! Did you do it?"

Regina stepped on the landing just in time to hear Emma announce, in the tight confines of her mother's hug, "I didn't - thanks to Regina."

Mary Margaret's first reaction was a kind of startled dismay and flash of abject horror, which would have brought a past Regina great joy. But they were no longer those people; so far removed from Snow White and the Evil Queen as to be unrecognisable.

So when she caught sight of Regina, Mary Margaret's face shifted quickly into warmth and gratitude, and she mouthed 'thank you' over her daughter's shoulder.

Regina, surprised, could only nod curtly in response.

"I'm so, so glad," Mary Margaret clutched Emma tighter. "Just... Please don't change."

"I don't want to," Emma assured, and squeezed back.

David put an arm around his teary wife. "We love you, no matter what."

"I know." When Emma caught sight of Henry, she felt like she might explode – not with magic this time, or at least, not the same kind of magic as before. Just with his sweet face, and all the infinite forgiveness he seemed to contain. "Hey, kid. How are you?"

Henry pressed into her arms. "Just glad you're okay."

Emma hugged him so tightly she worried he might break; cupped his precious cheek in her hand with love and apology in her eyes. She felt Regina watching them, stretched out her arm and beckoned her to join them without taking her eyes off Henry. She just wanted to see that smile when he shouted, "Mom!"

Then Regina was crushing him to her chest and Emma used the moment to wrap her arms around both of them, because it was something they had done before and would arouse no suspicion. Just a perfect Swan-Mills family moment.

"You did it," Henry whispered, his voice a breaking creak of wonder and relief.

"Did you really doubt her, kid?" Emma asked, and smiled so sweetly at Regina that she nearly reared back, a glint of terror and confusion in her eyes. Emma squeezed her upper arm in a way that would have seemed casual to everyone else.

"Yes, well…" the woman stuttered. "I think, maybe we all did it."

Emma chuckled quietly at her, kissed their son's head and stepped back to give Regina room - but would not let go of his hand.

"So, your magic..." Mary Margaret was tentative, scared to ask the question, scared to know the answer; scared to hurt her daughter in any way. "Are you in control of it again?"

Emma smiled broadly, proud and unabashed. "Absolutely." She tugged Henry in next to her and faced the night, rolled up her sleeves. The boy shot a questioning look at his other mom, hand still tight in his but Regina merely shrugged. She had no idea what Emma planned to do next.

Emma wriggled her fingers and in her outstretched hands, let her magic crackle to life. Multi-coloured waves of it thundered into the clear night sky and as it reached its zenith, exploded into fireworks.

It was corny and show-offy and completely over the top, and Regina shot a look of wry bemusement over Henry's head that Emma chose pointedly to ignore. When Henry said, "Cool," she relaxed and let herself enjoy the display. It was a night fit for celebration.

"Mom, when did you get that?"

Emma followed her son's gaze to her wrist, and when she caught sight of the yellow ribbon, her smile faded. "I don't know..."

Regina heard the tinge of alarm in Emma's voice, turned to see her tight grip; caught a mimicked movement from Elsa in her peripheral vision and immediately tensed. "Emma? What's wrong?"

"Emma, what's happening?" The taller blonde used all her strength against the ribbon. "It won't come off."

"Mine won't either."

Regina stepped past Henry and grabbed Emma's wrist, waved magic across the yellow strand - then again, as frustration and a sense of dread settled in her chest. The wounds on Emma's hands disappeared, but nothing else. "My magic won't undo it."

She squeezed Emma's palm and Emma squeezed back with nearest fingers, but really she needed more. Then the ribbon glowed and Emma gasped, clutched her stomach.

"I feel it, too," Elsa said. "It's like it's funnelling all my magic away, like it's... harnessing it somehow."

"It doesn't tickle," Emma muttered, and Regina put a hand on her shoulder because she could not gather her into her arms, and there was no one to immediately kill to make the ache stop.

David asked: "Any idea what this is?"

"No. But I have a pretty good idea where it came from." Emma's stony expression read Snow Bitch and Regina agreed.

It wasn't over. Of course it wasn't over – this was Storybrooke, and it never was.

"Do you think it's…"

"--part of her spell of Shattered Sight?" Emma finished for Elsa, face taut and garish. "Of course it is, what else would it be? I have my powers under control, you have yours…" She shrugged bitterly. "All that's left is for us to become sister-wives to the Bitch-Queen of Crazy."

Elsa looked confused. "Sister-w—"

"Never mind." Emma turned, nearly collided with Regina's face, the woman was so close. She forced herself to step back though her body protested. "Regina, is there anything you can think of – a spell or a potion, a charm – anything we could use to stop this assho-witch," she corrected, with a glance at Henry, "from going through with this thing?"

Regina stuttered; a pained expression on her face - there was so much hope directed at her and she was not used to it. It scraped her skin, clawed at her chest; she knew there was nothing that could be done -– not if the curse was already underway.

Curses came with two things: A specific, destructive purpose; and a singular method of undoing – and neither of these could be undermined by flustered shots in the dark.

But the thought of letting Henry and Emma down - and even the Charmings at this point, if for no other reason than they meant something to the people she cared for – was more than she could handle. So Regina did something she never did: She offered hope, compassionately, where none existed.

"There are some things in my vault we could try, ah… Magical objects, a talisman, a few old books which might have something useful. Until I know more about the curse—this spell - anything is possible…"

Mary Margaret looked relieved; David and Henry, the cartoon blonde. Emma squeezed her arm in thanks and Regina wouldn't meet her eyes. If Emma always knew when she was lying - more so than with anyone else, as she'd once claimed – then this was a gamble on a train wreck.

For now, Emma pushed on with apparently buoyed optimism. "See, guys – there's still hope! Elsa, why don't you go and see if Belle's found any more details about the spell? Mom, Dad--"

"We'll go with Elsa," Mary Margaret announced. To Emma, she murmured, "We'll take Henry with us. Belle is watching the baby at Gold's – there's probably something we can do to help her from the library." She added, "There are fold-outs there, so Henry can sleep..." It was directed at Regina.

Although that wasn't the cause of her worry, Regina was grateful for the consideration. She smiled honestly at Mary Margaret, for the first time in longer than she could remember. Maybe ever.

Flustered, Mary Margaret grabbed on to David, then remembered what she was doing; turned back and pulled Emma into a fierce hug. "Don't worry, Emma – we'll fix this."

Emma smiled in the circle of her arms. "I was about to say the same thing to you."

"Like mother, like daughter," David quipped over their shoulders, and a part of Emma wanted to roll her eyes but knew that was exactly what he was going for. It was all just a little too perfect.


Regina already had hold of Henry, some sort of whispered conspiracy going on between them and Emma waited her turn, almost patiently.

"Anything I should know about?" She muttered into his ear when she finally got him back.

The boy-teen shook his head, smugness in his tone. "Not yet."

Emma held him at arm's length, exaggeratedly narrowed her eyes. "Is this a secret operation I've been left out of?" Her hurt was not entirely feigned.

"If I told you that, it wouldn't be a secret." His grin, cheeky.

Emma let him have this one; kissed his cheek and reluctantly let him leave with her parents.

The party filed down the stairs and out into David's pickup. Regina stepped closer to Emma, wanted suddenly to lean her head against the blonde's shoulder as she watched them go - yet was still surprised when Emma slipped a hand into hers and held it tightly out of view.

As tail lights disappeared into the night, Regina knew it was time to confirm the woman's superpower with a confession. "Emma, about the curse—"

"I don't want to talk about it," she said flatly, eyes fixed on the road. "I know what you did and I'm grateful - let's just leave it at that."

Regina squeezed her hand, sorry she couldn't offer more and Emma squeezed back, let her go. "We should get to your vault."

Her brow corrugated, dark eyes questioned the woman who had just as much admitted there was nothing there for them now. "Why—"

"It's cold, Regina. I'm not gonna stand on the steps of this crappy place all night and we told everyone we'd be at your vault, so that's where we'll go." She continued haltingly. "And, maybe – I know it's a long shot, but maybe, we'll find something you haven't thought of and end this thing. I have to think it's possible. I have to hope—" She stopped abruptly.

Regina tried to lighten the mood: "Your family gets a quarter from the Hope Commission every time one of you says that word - admit it."

It didn't work. Emma glared at her with sea-churned eyes. "There are a lot of ways that I am nothing like my mother, Regina. Hope is one of them. But I have to try."

She put her hand on Emma's belted hip, fingers under the edge of her jacket. "There's nothing wrong with hope, Emma. I have it myself, about a lot of things."

Before the woman could ask her anything more, push her into words she was not ready for, Regina stepped into her lean body; grabbed Emma's waist with both hands and tugged her in. Emma's fingers tangled in her hair, lips parted at her insistent tongue, the pull and slide of her, every thought stolen when Regina rolled her hip against the tight denim between her thighs, and again, until Emma moaned into her mouth and she swallowed it down, breathless.

Regina moved away. Her hand steadied Emma, a delicious curve to her bitten lips. "You're right, it's cold here. We should get to the vault."

"Not cold anymore," Emma rasped, and pulled her back into lips and teeth and tongue; tasted her mouth, searched for the heat of her between the silk lining of her coat and satin shirt. Her hand slid over Regina's breast, felt the hard nipple and knew it had nothing to do with the cold. Regina moaned and pressed herself against Emma's fingers.

This time Emma stepped back. She let Regina sway, disoriented and breathless; a perverse flash of glee. "You're right, we should get to your vault. Is your car here?" Emma though she had seen the Merc in the flash of David's headlights.

Regina's bowed head; she exhaled through a thick curtain of dark hair. Eventually, she nodded.

"I have my bug. Do you want me to take the lead, or--"

Her head reared back, a sudden flash of panic – would Hood still be there? Had he left Marian at the vault? The woman was an ice cube, that wasn't the problem -- but if he was still there…

"Regina? Are you ok?"

Emma's cold hand cupped her heated face and Regina leaned into it, caressed it with her cheek bone. "There's… There might be—Hood might be there."

"Right…" The word rolled in Emma's mouth like a stone, hard and rough. She didn't know what to say then, didn't feel she had a right to ask what Hood's presence might mean to Regina, to whatever it was that was happening here.

It was always going to be complicated. It was complicated before it began, before they'd even met, back when Queens were evil and curses were coming and family feuds lead to shattered worlds and dark magic. It would probably never get easier.

Maybe, just - more worth it

All Emma knew was that each time Regina kissed her, she wanted more. Of everything. And maybe that was enough.

She grabbed Regina's hand and pulled her toward the stairs. "Come on."

"What? Where--"

"We're going to your vault. I'm cold, it's late, we have maybe seven hours til dawn hits and this ribbon traps me and Elsa in… whatever kind of love triangle Ice Tits is into. I for one don't want that to happen." Emma eased Regina against the body of her Mercedes, reached into the woman's coat pocket for her keys and thrust them into her flustered hands.

"You think she'll wait until dawn?"

"I think she's the kind of bitch who wants to see fear on people's faces, so yeah – Elsa and I might've kicked this YaYa Sisterhood off, but I think we have time before the real show starts."

Regina hesitated, hand clenched on her open car door, salt-wrecked eyes. "What about Robin?"

Emma remained dismissive, though muscle hardened her jaw. "If he can read, he can work. If not, he can make cocoa and get the fuck out of my way."

Regina exhaled into a raw, half-formed smile - relief, gratitude; shadowed eyes glistened, vein in her forehead visible as she swallowed too much emotion. "Emma…"

"Just get in your car, Regina." Emma pushed her in, not unkindly, and closed the driver's side door after her.

She made her way back to the yellow bug in the flare of Regina's headlights, all business except for the exaggerated sway to her hips. She knew the woman watched her again, and just because they had work to do, didn't mean Emma couldn't have a little fun.

Safe in the confines of her car, Regina's Merc pulled away and Emma had a moment to breathe. She rested her head against the steering wheel and closed her eyes - it had been a long night, a long few days and it was nowhere near over.

The rhythm of Storybrooke was always staccato; long bouts of sleepy small town interspersed with brutal, frantic fighting, Emma accepted that. Liked it, even. This time though, she wasn't sure she would make it out alive. They would defeat the Snow Queen - she wasn't worried about that. It was this new element to Regina: this soft skin and taut muscle; body hot and heady; the slow-burn taste of her -- That, Emma knew, might just kill her.

But she had waited here long enough.

Emma started her car. She headed to the vault.

Part 3

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