They had decided to go south, hoping that at some point they would either be able to climb up to the path they had ridden uphill earlier or have their allies see and rescue them. Progress was slow as Emma’s back was still hurting her. Regina had insisted on helping her walk. She had her arm slung around the Emma’s waist, Emma hers over Regina’s shoulders. Maybe she leaned into Regina a little further than would have been necessary, but she felt that she might never get another chance to be this close to her and she couldn’t resist the temptation.
“All right, the name of the caretaker’s cat,” Regina was now saying.
Emma rolled her eyes dramatically. “Seriously? Mrs. Norris. You have to put in a little more effort if you want to win the goblet of fire from me.”
“I can’t believe you beat Henry at this. Do you remember when he turned eleven and waited for three weeks for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts?”
Emma laughed. “Yeah, and he would have gotten in, too. Look at who his mothers are,” she said proudly.
Regina nodded in agreement.
“And as for beating Henry at this game, I think I caught him on the wrong foot when I asked him the name of the three-headed dog.”
“Fluffy?” Regina asked grinning widely.
“Very good, your evil queenliness.”
“You forget who introduced Henry to the books,” Regina gave back.
“I just didn’t think you could be so nerdy.” Emma was grinning.
“I guess it’s a little paranoid but I think on some level I wanted Henry to believe in magic. I wanted him to know about possibilities. I also kind of wanted him to be the hero, someone like Charming. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, either,” Regina confessed.
“And that’s what Henry became when he came to Boston, the hero of his own tale.”
“With me as You-Know-Who,” Regina stated.
“I always thought of you more as Bellatrix Lestrange, you know?”
“Really? What made you think that?”
Emma shrugged her shoulders not ready to confess that she’d had a crush on Helena Bonham Carter for years.
“Who are you if we’re translating Storybrooke into Potter?”
“I always wanted to be Hermione Granger,” Emma confessed.
“Of course, you did. Then your mother would be Professor McGonagall?”
“Yeah,” she said.
Regina shook her head but grinned.
“Ow, ow, ow,” Emma made.
Regina helped her lean against a tree. “You need a break,” she said. “Here let me look at your back, I want to see how bad it is.”
“No,” Emma said looking at Regina like she had just made an indecent proposition.
“Emma, I want to make sure it’s just bruised and not something worse, okay? I’m not going to do magic on you, I promise.”
But that wasn’t Emma’s problem. The problem was lifting her shirt, having Regina look at parts of her naked body and possibly touch it, too. She felt a little panicky.
“I make you a deal. You show me your back, and you can have another drink,” Regina tempted, waving her flask.
“I’m not an alcoholic, Regina,” Emma said.
“But it’ll help with the pain, hopefully. Come on. If there are people after us right now we don’t have much time,” she said quite seriously now.
Emma took a deep breath. “Help me with the jacket?”
Emma opened two buttons on her shirt to lift it up a little. She turned around so as not to let Regina see the heightened color in her head.
Regina gasp when she saw the beginning of the bruise that showed itself on Emma’s right and back.
“Is it that bad?” Emma asked.
“Pretty bad, yeah.” Regina stepped closer and now put a hand on the hot swollen flesh.
Now it was Emma who gasped.
“Easy,” Regina soothed. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Again, not Emma’s problem.
Regina lay her hands flat on the bruise, they felt cool at first but seemed to heat rather quickly. Emma clamped her teeth together, looking up at the sky that was slowly darkening.
Heat flew through her, or rather, it seemed to flow out of her. The pain eased considerably and then it seemed to vanish. Emma blinked in confusion.
“Regina!” Emma called out and jumped away from Regina’s touch.
Regina stared at her hands which seemed to glow. Then her face contorted in pain and it brought her to her knees.
“What...,” she just barely got out as tears shot into her eyes.
“Regina?” Emma wanted to help Regina up, but then kept her from falling as she slumped to the side. Emma knelled beside her.
“You magicked my pain away,” Emma said.
“Not away, I’m afraid,” Regina answered as her face contorted.
It became clear to Emma what she had done. She’d magicked the pain onto herself.
Emma flushed from a rush of anger. “Take it back. Whatever you did, reverse the spell.”
Regina shook her head. “It’s all right. Just give me a minute. I can deal with this as well as you can.”
“This is not a contest, Regina. You don’t win a fucking goblet of fire if you can stand my pain better than I can,” Emma yelled with tears in her eyes. “Give it back!”
“Language, Miss Swan,” Regina admonished her.
Emma stared at her. “Don’t get sassy with me now, evil queen. I want my pain back,” she said, pouting.
Regina merely smiled and then pulled herself up on Emma’s arms that were around her.
“It’s okay. Just let me take a sip of this and we can keep going.” Regina took a hefty swig of her flask and let it do its work.
Emma took it from her without a word and took one herself.
“Don’t you think the injured one should be the one drinking?” Regina asked.
“You still owed me one for lifting my shirt. Always buy a girl a drink first.”
“Cute. If one drink is all it takes, you come pretty cheap,” Regina joked.
Emma blushed, hoping Regina couldn’t see it in the fading light. She helped her to her feet.
“Are you okay? Do you think you can walk?”
“With a little help,” Regina assured Emma and they set out again, while now leaning on her.
It was getting dark and the ground became decidedly more difficult to maneuver.
“Maybe we should rest for the night,” Emma said.
“We can’t be that far from help,” Regina protested, even though her back was killing her. She had berated herself inwardly for having been so foolish to take Emma’s pain. There was a part of her, however, which wasn’t sorry at all, because she felt she’d done the right thing. After all, Emma had rescued her from the arrow attack and then had to endure the full impact of their landing for her troubles. It wasn’t fair, and Regina felt that she’d balanced fairness just a little – not that this small sacrifice could outweigh Emma saving her life again.
“We can’t be that far from our enemies, either, and we could just run into them in the dark. We should find a sheltered place for the night and get some rest,” Emma answered a little testily. She was still mad, Regina could tell, and probably exhausted from helping her walk.
“Let’s sit over there,” Emma pointed.
Regina didn’t protest this time, she was too tired.
Emma helped Regina sit on another fallen tree and then stretched her back, looking around them.
Regina let her eyes wander as well, but couldn’t see very far. She knew that making a fire wasn’t in their cards tonight and it was already growing colder.
“You wouldn’t have a blanket in that bag of yours, would you?” Emma asked, as if reading her thoughts.
“This is not Mary Poppin’s bag, Emma. That one’s in the closet at home,” Regina said.
Emma looked at her questioningly.
“That was a joke.”
Regina found it quite endearing, how Emma never seemed to know when she was joking about these things. She seemed to think that anything was possible, now that she knew that Snow White and Prince Charming were her parents. It gave Emma a youthfulness, a charm Regina had never seen in anyone else.
“Then we have to make do without a blanket,” Emma mused. There was a giant tree not too far away and Emma moved toward it.
“I’m sure we’ll manage,” Regina said.
“Well, I bet you wish by now Robin was here with you.” It came out so unexpectedly that it seemed to even surprise Emma. She stopped walking, her body tensed.
“Would you stop with this nonsense already?” Regina admonished her, but her words were less sharp than they would have been if Regina hadn’t been surprised by the jealousy she’d heard in Emma’s tone.
“Don’t tell me you don’t like him,” Emma said, her back rigid.
“I do like him but that doesn’t mean anything. We hardly know each other.”
Emma whipped around. “It means everything in these woods, Regina. This is the Enchanted Forest, a place for happy endings. And if you fall for Robin then everything will change, our lives will change.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Regina snapped.
Emma stared at her.
It had gotten too dark to see her expression, but Regina was sure it was confused, maybe even hurt. She lowered her head.
Emma took a couple of tentative steps toward her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that neither one of us is dating. We’re spending a lot of time together... people talk,” Regina revealed hesitantly.
“Have we gotten too close, Regina? Have I gotten too close? Are you casting me out now?”
Regina didn’t answer, she kept staring at her boots. Her heart was beating too fast, thoughts whipping around in her head. She felt dizzy and ashamed.
“I know that you’re scared of people getting too close. And I can empathize but that doesn’t mean you have to... throw yourself at the first man that comes along. Robin is not the only option, Regina,” Emma said earnestly.
Her words seemed to hit Regina in the chest like a fire ball, sending a wave of heat through her body. Did she actually mean that? Did she mean it the way Regina thought she did? And was that a good thing? Her body told her that it was, but her mind seemed undecided. Regina looked up at Emma, unsure of what to search for in her face. She was still too far away, but maybe she would say more, maybe she would tell her what she meant?
“Regina...,” Emma was about to continue, but a noise interrupted her.
It sounded like the snap of a twig.
Regina stood as she saw Emma duck, turning. She couldn’t see anyone in the dense foliage, the dim light. Emma crawled toward her, she plucked at her sleeve and Regina crouched down. A moan escaped her as her back protested against the movement.
Emma put her finger to her lips and Regina nodded. Talking was over for now.
They moved behind a tree, straining their eyes against the darkness to see what had made the sound but nothing moved.
Emma pointed at the tall tree she had noticed earlier and they quietly scuttled towards it. Due to the uneven terrain, the roots had formed a small alcove. Emma bend a root outward and signed for Regina to crawl into the space. Regina did, then helped Emma slip into the space beside her. It was a tight fit and if Regina had worried before that they would be cold, she now feared that they would catch fire. She already felt the heat between them. pressed against Emma who was lying half on top of her.
And then she heard them, or rather, she felt the vibration in the earth. Footsteps. At first she thought it might be an animal but no animal would bother trying to be this quiet. They both held their breaths as they listened into the darkness beyond the roots of their hiding place. There were at least two, that much Regina could tell. They weren’t talking but they were getting closer.
Regina couldn’t help but notice that Emma was holding her breath. She leaned forward, pressing her lips to Emma’s ear. “Breathe,” she whispered.
Emma looked at her, her eyes seemed to shine in panic, but then she slowly breathed in air. Her rib cage expanded against Regina’s, pressing her curves into her. Regina felt trapped. The thought of flight and fight was tempting, to jump out of her hiding place and throw a fire ball at their pursuers before they even knew what hit them. But there was no way of telling how many men were out there, they could be outnumbered 10 to 1. Judging by the number of arrows that had been shot at them earlier that day, the odds could be even worse. But could it be worse to die fighting than lying here with Emma’s breath against the sensitive skin of her neck after what she’d just said to Regina? Oh God, the things she had said!
Footsteps just below them, made Emma once again catch her breath.
Regina held hers too. Two men, just outside their hiding place. Regina closed her eyes.
“Where did they go?” one of them asked quietly.
“I’m not sure. Maybe they’re trying to climb up over there. It’s leveled out some. Maybe they’re trying their luck further on,” the second man said. He had a deep voice and it was filled with authority.
Regina stiffened at the sound of the voice. It was familiar, but she wasn’t able to place it.
Emma looked at her, frowning.
Regina shook her head slightly, there was no way they could communicate while these guys were so close.
“If they reach the path, our chance of capturing them is gone. Let’s hurry,” the second man then said and they walked on, the footsteps retreated.
Regina and Emma started breathing again.
“I know that voice,” Regina said against Emma’s ear.
Emma closed her eyes tightly, their faces so close, Regina felt the light brush of Emma’s lashes. Her heart skipped a beat.
Emma lifted herself up a little, straining against the roots in her back. “Let me... slip behind you. Maybe that way we could get some sleep,” she whispered.
Regina fought to change her position beneath her. It took them a few minutes but finally Emma settled behind her, her arm across Regina’s waist holding her.
The earth was hard and a little damp and Regina didn’t want to think about the kind of creatures that inhabited this space with them, but Emma was holding her and she felt safe. They were both safe - for now. She couldn’t ask for anything more as she relaxed into the warmth embracing her and fell asleep.