Emma stood in the doorway to Regina’s room, watching her two favorite people. Regina was sitting up in bed in her nightgown while Henry sat at her side, holding onto her hand. They talked in low tones and Emma knocked at the door frame to make her presence known.
“Hey,” she said, smiling shyly. She could see Regina sit up straighter as she looked up. But she wouldn’t meet Emma’s eyes.
“Hey, ma. How’re you?” Henry asked.
He had tried to see her last night but Snow had told him that his mother was exhausted and needed rest.
That wasn’t entirely true, because in Emma’s case it had meant that she had cried a lot, that her mother had held her for most of the night, and that she felt frail and tired this morning. Things had gotten better after a long bath and seeing Regina and Henry now, alive and rested, made all the anxiety she still had about Regina’s health go away. She looked well this morning as the color had returned to her skin and there was some fire in her eyes - even if those eyes wouldn’t look at her.
“I’m good. May I come in?” Emma asked.
Regina hesitated before she nodded.
Emma walked into the room more confidently than she felt and then sat down on Regina’s bed. She had formed a plan earlier in the day that she wanted to put Regina at ease, that she wouldn’t pressure her and remembering that plan now she stretched herself out on the end of the bed. She gave one of Regina’s feet a squeeze.
“How are you this morning?” she asked, smiling up at Regina.
“Doc says I’ll be fine. He wasn’t especially thrilled about the bruise on my back but the cut is almost healed,” Regina answered and showed Emma her left arm which had sported an angry wound the day before. There was only a thin reddish line now.
“Only in Fairy Tale Land,” Emma mused.
“Yeah, I wish that would go for all my injuries,” Regina said and rubbed her back.
“Well, that wasn’t your injury to begin with and if you had just let it go...,” Emma chided and let the rest of the sentence hang.
“I didn’t really make a conscious effort to rid you of the bruise, it just happened, okay? Let it drop, Emma,” Regina told her.
“What’re you guys talking about?” Henry asked curiously.
“You mom magicked my injury onto herself? Is that the proposition?”
“It was an accident,” Regina argued. “I didn’t mean to do it.”
“But you did,” Henry said and smiled.
“Henry,” Emma said and he turned to her. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Yeah, it is. And I don’t know why you...”
“Henry, please. I’m... I’ve got a headache. I think I should sleep a little more,” Regina interrupted him.
Henry did what he had done the evening before, he looked from Regina to Emma then back to Regina in disbelieve. It was plain to see he didn’t understand. “But...”
“Hey, why don’t we leave Regina to get some more sleep and I don’t know, take a walk in the gardens?”
“It’s raining,” Henry pouted.
“Come on, we’ll find something to do. After breakfast, that is. Man, I’m hungry,” Emma said, while in truth her stomach was in knots.
Regina smiled at Emma thankfully.
Emma smiled back. She didn’t really feel like it but she knew that she would have to give Regina some time and space, before she would try to talk to her. Before she would try to continue the conversation they’d started in the woods when Emma had wanted to tell Regina how she felt. Because that still seemed kind of necessary. A declaration. A vow of some sort.
Emma pulled herself into a standing position and then tucked at Henry’s sleeve. “Come on, kid. Your mom needs her rest.”
Henry got up reluctantly but he was probably hopeful that Emma would now talk to him, maybe explain what was going on. He leaned down over Regina and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll come back later,” he said.
“All right, but give me a few hours, okay? Almost dying takes it out of you,” she said in jest but neither of the three could even smile at her comment. They looked a little awkwardly past each other.
“Sleep tight,” Emma then addressed Regina as she pushed Henry toward the door.
“Thank you, Emma,” Regina said and her voice sounded serious.
Emma looked back at her and their eyes met for the first time since that kiss that had changed everything if not in the way Emma had hoped for. “You’re welcome,” she said and smiled at Regina. She had to pull herself from the intense look from caramel-colored eyes.
“I’m glad you’re all right,” she said softly before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
They were descending the stairs together, mother and son.
“So what do you want for breakfast, kid? I’m sure if you ask nicely, Granny will make you some pancakes,” Emma asked with more enthusiasm than she felt.
“I just wanna know what’s going on between you and mom,” Henry gave back and looked at Emma darkly through his bangs.
“I’m not sure what to tell you, Henry. It’s com...”
“Don’t give me ‘it’s complicated.’ That’s just lame. I don’t understand how you can go from true love’s...”
“Shhhh,” Emma made.
Henry lowered his voice as he continued, “From true love’s kiss to nothing. That’s not how it’s supposed to be!”
“I know... I...” Emma was at a loss as to what to tell him. Would she have chosen this limbo of insecurity if she had had a choice? Certainly not. But this wasn’t just about what she wanted. It was also about what Regina wanted and from the look in her eyes since they shared that kiss, Regina didn’t want to talk about it.
“Let’s go into the library, okay?” Emma asked.
They settled in the two high armchairs in front of the fireplace in which there was no fire burning at that moment. Henry leaned forward expectantly while Emma stared into the darkness where usually a fire would be blazing. There was a sizzle and a crack and suddenly flames shot up then settled down. Mother and son looked at each other.
“Was that you?” Henry asked.
Emma shook her head.
“Fairy Tale Land strikes again. It probably sensed that you should be staring into flames. This place is sometimes so odd.”
Emma could only nod to this assessment.
“What happened in the woods between you two?” Henry asked because Emma had actually started staring into the flames by now.
“I’m not sure... a lot somehow, and nothing at all.”
“Could you be anymore cryptic?” Henry said and he sounded angry.
Emma looked at him and sighed again. “Mainly we were just talking about things. We spend a little time together. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, really.”
“Well, I guess it was for here,” Henry commented.
“What do you mean?”
“You never spent any time together here. The few times we’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest together you always pretended like you hardly know each other. At dinner the other night, you didn’t even tell her that she looked nice, and you always do that.”
“I do?” Emma asked.
“Yeah, you do. But not when you’re here. You treat her like everyone else does, as the evil queen,” he accused her, his look dark once again.
“I’m not doing that,” Emma said. “I always talk to her when we’re here.”
“Like ‘pass me the potatoes, please’?”
“Henry, that’s not at all the way I treat your mom,” she tried to defend herself.
“But it is, ma. And mom doesn’t... she pretends like she doesn’t care but she does. I know she thinks she deserves this treatment and maybe she does from everyone but you. You weren’t cursed by her, she didn’t do that to you.”
“I know your mom isn’t the evil queen anymore, Henry.”
“Why do you treat her like it then?” He raised his voice.
Emma fell silent for a moment. “I’m not...,” but it came out as an unconvinced whisper. She knew that Henry wouldn’t say these things if he didn’t feel them strongly and she thought about dinner on their first evening here. How she had watched everyone giving Regina the silent treatment, how she had watched her leave. She had watched, she hadn’t participated, but she also hadn’t gone out of her way to make Regina feel more welcome. She hadn’t talked to her, or even stood with her.
“God,” she exclaimed and pushed her hand through her long hair. “I’m such a hypocrite. I watched everyone else do it and did nothing. I’m so sorry,” she said, looking at Henry earnestly.
“It’s not just you. Mom wouldn’t say anything, she just takes it. But I know it hurts her - from you, not so much from everybody else.”
“It’s not gonna happen again, I promise you. And I’ll apologize to your mom,” Emma said.
Henry smiled at her. “Good,” he said and then he started looking into the fire.
Emma watched him for awhile, the thoughtful young man their boy had become. The truest believer. He certainly still was that, even though it had cost him a lot.
“That wasn’t what you wanted to talk about, though,” she said.
He shook his head.
“After the kiss... when your mom woke up, she looked at me. And I could see that she was scared. That’s not something I’ve seen a lot of, you know.” Emma told Henry what was bothering her, what had made her act the way she did these last hours.
“She’s scared? Of your love?”
“I think so. It’s not easy for your mom to love, to accept love, I think.”
“Because she doesn’t think she deserves it,” Henry said.
“That would be my guess,” Emma confirmed.
“But she does. She deserves to be loved, just like everyone does.”
“I know and, Henry, I do. I do love your mom,” she told him looking deep into his eyes.
He smiled at her. “I know.”
“How did you know, kid? I mean, why were you so sure that I should kiss her?” The question had been at the back of her mind, taking a backseat to other worries, but it had nagged at her.
“I watched you. I mean, not really consciously, but when you were gone I thought about the way you were with each other. Mainly, because it had bothered me how you two were so different here. And I talked to Snow about it--”
“You talked to your grandma about this?” Emma asked and her eyes went disbelievingly round at the thought.
“Yeah, I did. And she... well, I wouldn’t say that she’s cool with it but she says she doesn’t mess with true love.”
“Oh, my God!” Emma leaned back into her chair and stared at the ceiling. “Snow knows? She knows that I love Regina?”
“Calm down, ma. It’s not that bad,” Henry tried to reassure her. He lay a hand on Emma’s knee and squeezed it. Emma looked at him bewildered.
“She’s going to get over it when she sees how much you love her. You know they’re all about that,” he told her.
Emma nodded hesitantly. If there was one thing her parents held in high esteem it was true love. And there was no doubt that Regina and she shared that. She couldn’t have saved her otherwise.
“Are you going to talk to her, ma? Will you tell her?”
“Well, if Snow already knows there’s really no--”
“Mom, are you going to tell mom?” Henry interrupted her impatiently.
Emma was about to tell him that Regina already knew, too, but she looked at his earnest face and nodded.
“I will talk to her, and yes, I will tell her. But I think it’ll have to wait till we’re back home.”
“Well, we’re leaving the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow’s Killian’s ball, there really isn’t much time,” Emma argued.
“And you want to postpone coming out to your parents as long as possible?” Henry asked.
Emma opened her mouth to argue some more but couldn’t. Henry was right, Regina wasn’t the only one who was scared. Only, Emma was scared of other people’s reaction more than of her own feelings.
“You know, in fairy tales the prince and the princess usually get together at a ball,” Henry said.
“Seriously? You’re suggesting that I play by the rules of a fairy tale?”
“Like you’ve never done that before,” he gave back. They looked at each other. “We call it Operation Happy Ending and--”
“No,” she interrupted him and raised her hand as he wanted to argue. “I already have a code name for telling your mom how I feel. It’s Operation Cinnamon, and it’s my mission, not yours. I have to do this alone, Henry.”
“I could do recon,” he suggested.
“You’re not going to talk to your mom about this. I don’t want you to pressure her. I’m sorry, but this is and has to be about Regina and I, son.” She looked at him earnestly.
He nodded slowly and a little dejectedly.
“I love you, kid.”
“I love you, too.”
“You’re okay with this, right? Your mom and me, together?”
Henry grinned. “It makes you happy,” he said.
“It sure does... it will... it does,” she stammered. Then she stood and so did Henry. They hugged.
“I think I’m hungry now,” he said.
“And I’m right there with you,” she laughed.
They left the library together in search of something to eat.
Regina stood at the open window to her room, staring into the distance. She had tried to sleep a little but she couldn’t anymore. Last night she’d been too exhausted to stay awake but now that she was rested and clean and fed there was only her mind to bother her. And her heart, of course.
She had always prided herself in knowing herself well. She had, after all, spend a lot of time thinking only about herself. She had made sure that everybody suffered for how she felt mistreated, and she had also rewarded people if they were especially sensitive about how they could make her feel better. Ironically, some of those latter had been her guards. The same people who had made her realize what she was really feeling, quite undetected of herself.
She had fallen for Emma Swan. There had never been a greater irony in her life, and her life had certainly had its share of ironic mishaps. And now she was in love with her nemeses’ daughter.
But not just that, Emma was more than just Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter. She was Henry’s birth mother, she had been a constant irritation ever since she had come to Storybrooke, not to forget, her own downfall, the Savior. All of this should have ensured Regina’s indifference, her hate, really, for Emma.
But there was something about her – a phrase so many had used to describe either Snow or David, their way to make everyone feel good, almost everyone. Combined in Emma, a dash of charm, a silly sense of humor, and those green eyes, and suddenly the evil queen found herself in love.
No, not the evil queen. The evil queen was dead. Regina Mills.
And to think that she had thought she might fall for Robin! But hadn’t she been entitled to that love? Hadn’t it been promised by Tinkerbell? Yes! Tinkerbell had promised her a new love and she had pointed at Robin. He should have been the one, so many years ago. But Regina had been scared then, and she was scared now.
She only needed to look at Emma and her throat closed up, her chest constricted, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think. She just fell into that perfect moment of the kiss Emma had given her. One moment, there was darkness and confusing background noises, and then the darkness ripped and a blue sky opened for her... and Emma. Emma, her whole world suddenly seemed filled with her and what she wanted to give her. Her heart had swelled, her lungs expanded and she had been able to open her eyes again. Life – she had been suddenly filled up with it. And then she had seen Henry, his worried face. She’d seen the outline of a library behind him - not her library at the mansion but the library at Snow White’s castle... and she’d known she didn’t deserve it.
People had suffered again because of her. Because of her, her former guards had attacked people, raped women, beaten men and possibly children. In her name, they had stolen and burned houses down. She had taught them to do this, she had trained them to be merciless. And yet she had been saved... by love. There was no way she could accept this, there was no way she could just go and be happy with Emma and Henry when, once again, her evil shadow had made others to suffer.