Emma once again found herself in the hallway that would lead to the room where Regina was waiting. Now that she was here she could admit that she was both nervous and excited to see Regina again. She wasn't afraid of Regina but given their interaction at the beginning last time…well let's just say she was hoping things would go smoother now that Regina knew she was coming.
Not wanting to surprise Regina in the middle of a painful memory like last time she quietly approached the entrance to the room and peeked inside to get a glimpse of the memory playing. Thankfully it wasn't anything like the previous one so she stepped back and knocked on the mirror wall at the entrance to announce her presence before calling out, "Regina?"
Despite doing her best not to startle her, Emma saw as Regina jumped and spun quickly towards her, the surprise evident on her face. She watched as Regina quickly recovered from her initial shock and rose to meet her at the entranceway. A mask fell over her features and Emma realized that Regina's walls were firmly intact again today and that the vulnerable and emotional side of Regina that she had seen yesterday was once again buried deep.
"What are you doing here?" Regina asked with genuine curiosity, rather than the anger of yesterday, in her voice as she came to stand in front of her.
Emma frowned in response. "I told you I'd be back, I'm not going to leave you here alone."
"But I thought…" Regina trailed off never finishing her sentence but it was clear from the look on her face that she thought Emma had never actually had any intention of returning, and after squeezing her heart so viciously, she wouldn't have blamed her if she chose to keep her distance rather than coming back.
The two of them stood there for long moments neither knowing what to say to fill the awkward silence. Regina stood as poised as ever while she silently contemplated the nervous blonde in front of her.
Emma was fidgeting and rocking back and forth on her heels as she stuck her hands in her back pockets. The silence seemed to stretch on until Emma couldn't take it anymore and she finally met Regina's gaze. The moment she did she could feel her confidence returning. Looking into Regina's eyes always had the strange effect of giving her courage.
Regina wasn't angry with her from what she could tell and although her mask was back in place, for the most part, her warm chocolate gaze was giving her away. Regina's eyes had always been one of her most expressive features and in it Emma could see the surprise that she had returned but also happiness as well and there was also a hint of the vulnerability she had seen yesterday.
Emma smiled brightly at Regina. "Right well, you won't be getting rid of me that easily your Majesty," she chuckled.
Now that the silence had been broken, Regina found herself relaxing somewhat in the presence of the blonde Savior who always had a way of confusing her emotions.
She always found it easier to fall into the banter that seemed a constant in her relationship with Emma. Something that had started off as threatening and power plays between them, had over the recent years, become almost playful and a way for them to communicate with each other without having to actually give voice to the way their relationship had grown and changed.
Giving Emma a small smirk at the reference to her title, Regina appraised her before turning on her heel and walking away from the blonde entirely knowing she would follow as she called over her shoulder. "Come along then dear, you wouldn't want to keep your Queen waiting."
Emma chuckled to herself knowing that in her own way Regina was welcoming her and was telling her she was glad she came without actually having to admit it aloud.
Realizing she had been left behind Emma took long strides into the room to catch up to Regina who was again seated at the lounge and watching the screen in front of her. Emma came round to the front and for a moment seemed unsure of what to do next, glancing nervously between the screen and the open seat next to the brunette.
Regina rolled her eyes at the blonde's hesitation before sighing dramatically, "Sit down Miss Swan before you hurt yourself thinking too hard."
Emma abruptly sat next to her and smiled sheepishly at her, "Sorry."
When Regina said nothing more and turned away to look at the screen, silence descended upon them once again and Emma turned to see what was happening as well.
Regina sat in a banquet hall alone with a feast laid out before her. She stared absentmindedly ahead not moving and not eating, just waiting. After a short while the doors finally opened to admit the King and a young Snow White.
Snow bounced animatedly to the table and sat herself next to Regina while the King sat at the head of the table and directed a quick glare towards his wife before turning and smiling brightly at his only child.
It was only after the King and Snow had arrived and been served that Regina began eating as well, but only taking a small portion of the food as she ate delicately.
Snow chattered animatedly about her day and how after following Regina's advice she had finally gotten back on a horse alone for the first time since Regina had rescued her.
The King, who had remained quiet up until this point while he watched his daughter with an affectionate look, finally cleared his throat and waited for Snow to quiet down before speaking for the first time that evening. "I'm so proud of you dearest for facing your fears after what happened. It's good that you've started riding again because you and I are going on a trip."
Regina after her initial shock quickly schooled her features not wanting to show her true feelings about that statement, but her eyes twinkled with relief, as she turned to look at Snow.
Snow stared open mouthed at her father for a few moments, "but we've only just come back from traveling father, and I've just gotten Regina for a new mother. Why must we go on a trip so soon? Will Regina be coming with us?"
The King indulged his daughter with a kind smile before answering her, "No dearest, Regina will be staying here."
The look of relief on Regina's face at the King's answer would have given away her true feelings on her new family if anyone had been paying attention to her but luckily no one was and she was able to hide her elatedness at not having to accompany the King and his darling Princess on whatever journey he had planned.
The King glanced at her, his smile faltering before he quickly looked away and back to Snow, "I know we've just returned, but Morgana le Fay has just been crowned Queen of Avalon and is holding a coronation ball. It's our duty as fellow royalty to acknowledge her royal status and build a relationship between our kingdoms. There will also be many other members of royalty and nobility from neighboring kingdoms attending and this will be an excellent opportunity to cultivate those relationships and to start looking at potential suitors for you my dear."
Snow beamed at her father as he mentioned suitors for her. She turned and looked wistfully at Regina as she said, "maybe I'll be able to find my True Love and we can be betrothed." Snow was so engrossed in her fantasies of some unknown Prince sweeping her off her feet that she didn't notice Regina's wince and the way her eyes misted.
Seeming to remember whom else was in the room she quickly masked her pain and blinked until her eyes no longer threatened to shed tears as she looked to see if the King had noticed her slip. If he had noticed she couldn't tell because he had turned back to his meal and seemed to not be paying her any attention at all.
Snow turned back to her father now that her wistful fantasy had finished. "Father, why does that mean Regina can't come with us? After all she is royalty too now, would it not be her duty to do the same?"
Regina's hand gripped the arm of her chair tightly as Leopold turned his attention to her only briefly with cold eyes before answering his daughter. "No dearest, there needs to be a royal presence here in the White Kingdom as well and now that Regina is Queen she can fulfill that role."
Regina let out a small breath of relief. For a moment she thought Snow might actually convince her father to bring her along. The King had a habit of gifting Snow with almost anything she asked for. Snow seeming to accept this turned to her and Regina gave her the best fake half smile she could muster. "That's alright dear, I'll see you when you return."
The memory faded and shifted to another and Emma couldn't help but share in past Regina's relief that she got a brief respite from the King and her mother. She had a few conflicting feelings on the matter because of the fact that they were her family but given that she never really knew them it was hard to see them that way in the moment. She glanced at present Regina and could see that she was tense and probably uncomfortable. After all, here they were watching the highlights of her life.
The memories continued to play only snippets of Regina's life but it still gave Emma a pretty clear picture of what life for her had been like at the time for the young Queen. If Emma had thought that being alone in the castle while the King and Snow were away would be infinitely better, those next memories that played showed her that she was sorely mistaken.
At first it seemed like it would be a blessing but as Emma continued to watch she began to realize how wrong she was. She watched as Regina attempted to reach out and talk to a number of people but it never went well. She had tried talking to the staff, especially the young maid who was supposed to attend her but the girl would just bow and say she had no place talking to a Queen and would hurry away, while the rest of them either sneered because she wasn't Queen Eva or they ignored her and dismissed her entirely.
She saw the two guards that were there on her wedding night with the King often and they would always leer at her and smirk. They had seen her at one of her worst moments and they never let her forget it as they watched her with salacious grins. She did her best to avoid them as much as possible but it seemed they were always somewhere nearby.
The only person who did come and really talk to her was Rumplestiltskin. He would come by some days and try and teach her magic but would often act frustrated with her. He would make snide comments that were made to dig at her feelings. Sometimes they were about Cora, other times they were about the King or Snow. Regardless of what he was speaking about at the time his comments were always made to hurt her and to allow her anger and discontent to grow.
Mostly, Emma saw that Regina was alone and neglected. The crushing loneliness of her life did nothing but allow her more time to dwell on the things she didn't have. The things that were taken from her like Daniel and her freedom, and Emma could see all too easily how much it affected her and how easy it had made it for Rumplestiltskin to manipulate her into what he wanted her to be. Whatever light was left in her was being stomped out little by little.
Emma looked to the woman at her side and for the first time was really able to appreciate how resilient she must be. She had always known that Regina was a fighter but sitting here watching her life she realized Regina had overcome so much more than she had ever realized.
Looking at her now, Emma could admit, at least to herself, that Regina Mills was one of the strongest people she had ever met. She had gone from that sweet and innocent girl who just wanted to be loved, to a woman who was so abused physically and emotionally that it broke something in her and sent her tumbling into the darkness, to the woman that Emma knew now, the strong and confident woman who when she loved someone she loved them with her entire being, and she was the woman who had raised her son into someone to be proud of. A boy with an amazing sense of wonder, that was both intelligent and kind.
She could still see the tension in the brunette's shoulders as they sat together. Even knowing that it might get her a fireball to the face but not being able to stop herself, Emma moved a little bit closer and slid her hand beneath Regina's palm up as she entwined their fingers together much like she did every night when she went to sleep.
She couldn't help herself, she wanted to be closer to this amazing woman she had grown to care for. At the first contact with her hand she expected Regina to pull away and was surprised when she didn't. She tensed and her muscles went rigid but she never tried to pull away and eventually Emma felt her relax and the tension leave her body as Regina gave her hand a light squeeze and rubbed a small circle on the back of Emma's hand with her thumb.
They remained like that for hours. Neither one spoke much. Emma would occasionally ask a question about something she had seen and Regina would answer and then they would just continue on in silence until the next time but it was never uncomfortable. They remained like that until Regina's hand fell from Emma's and landed with a dull thud.
They both looked down to where their hands had just been joined to see that Emma's was nearly translucent. She was fading and waking up. She looked up to meet Regina's chocolate gaze with a frown. "I'm sorry, looks like it's time to go."
Regina smiled sadly and could only nod her head once; she didn't want to speak for fear that her voice would tremble. Though uncomfortable and tense in the beginning that feeling had changed over the long night they spent with each other, not even speaking just holding hands. Regina felt safe and cared for with Emma there and though she wouldn't admit it aloud, she didn't want to be alone anymore. Watching the memories of the evening had only reminded her of how alone she had felt for most of her life.
Emma could read the storm of emotions in Regina's eyes and knew she didn't want her to leave, but she couldn't stay, no matter how much she might want to. A single tear escaped from Regina's eye to fall down her cheek. Emma reached for it before remembering she was fading and wouldn't be able to touch her, but wanted to try anyway.
She pulled all of her magic to her hand and focused on nothing but what she wanted to accomplish in that moment. She watched as she moved her hand to cup Regina's cheek and where she should have passed through she felt warm flesh meet her palm and smiled that she was able to make it work. She used her thumb to gently brush away the tear that had escaped as she felt Regina press closer to her. "I'll be back as soon as I can. I promise"
Regina opened her eyes as the feeling of Emma's hand on her cheek faded to see that the blonde was almost gone entirely. The last thing she saw was the tender smile on Emma's lips as she faded from the realm and Regina was left alone again.
O O O
AN: You probably want to murder me for being gone so long. All I can say is I'm sorry and that sometimes life gets in the way. Brief highlights of what's taken me so long to write this chapter are that I was promoted, had my schedule changed twice, helped my sister prepare for her wedding and took a week off to travel to said wedding, moved twice and last but not least my girlfriend of 4 years and I broke up.
I really hope you enjoyed this chapter. I wanted to leave it just the two of them. Let me know what you think.