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every secret it keeps

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And darkness will be rewritten
Into a work of fiction, you’ll see
As you pull on every ribbon
You’ll find every secret it keeps
The sound of the branches breaking under your feet
The smell of the falling and burning leaves
The bitterness of winter or the sweetness of spring
You are an artist
And your heart is your masterpiece
And I’ll keep it safe
I’ll Keep You Safe, Sleeping At Last





EMMA

 

Emma doesn’t think much of it when she’s late. A certain level of unexpected villain-related physical and magical workouts means that she’s often irregular, and being late isn’t uncommon enough for her to stress about it. She puts the vague concern niggling at her mind behind her and focuses instead on the current Disney-related product they’re fighting. Focuses on her wife, her son, her job, and all the other things about Storybrooke that make her so impossibly content.

 

She doesn’t focus on the other things that she begins to notice– suddenly, she’s gasping when she runs for too long, suddenly, she’s crying at the most ridiculous things (Neal’s fourth birthday might have made sense, but crying over Regina being out by the time she gets home after that running fiasco does not), and suddenly, she’s gagging when she smells salmon. She doesn’t put the pieces together, though, not until one morning when she rolls out of bed and is struck by a dozen ordinary smells heightened, and every single one of them combines until she can feel bile rising in her throat and–

 

She makes it to the bathroom just in time, vomiting the contents of her stomach into the toilet, and Regina pads after her and winds her fingers through Emma’s hair, pulling it out of her face and massaging her head as she does. “Two years my wife and you still can’t handle my cider?” she murmurs, kissing Emma’s temple as she rises again.

 

She returns with a plastic cup, and Emma takes it gratefully and sloshes the water through her mouth. “It’s been eight hours,” she says. “If I couldn’t hold my liquor, I’d have been in here a long time ago.”

 

“Mm.” Regina presses her lips to Emma’s forehead in a practiced maternal move. “You aren’t feverish,” she decides. “Must be a light stomach bug.” She tugs Emma to her feet. “Get into bed,” she orders. “I’ll bring you breakfast.”

 

Emma rinses out the taste of vomit with mouthwash and then climbs back into bed, eyes drifting shut as she basks in the comforting scent of home. It’s been three years since she and Regina had fallen in love– or at least admitted to it, because love had come much earlier– and two since they’d gotten married, and sometimes even now Emma pauses and is in quiet awe at how lucky she is. Ten years ago, if someone had told her that she’d be living in a town with her parents and her son, married to the love of her life and just sappy enough to think of her as that, she would have laughed and then gotten very drunk, probably. It’s hard to believe that this is where her story has gone. She hadn’t believed in fairytale endings even once she’d begun to believe in fairytales.

 

But here she is, and she exhales a happy sigh and then reels at another wave of nausea.

 

She nearly makes it to the toilet in time, and she waves a hand and magically cleans the floor before she goes back to bed. It’s weird. Her stomach doesn’t hurt at all, and she’s feeling surprisingly clear-headed for a stomach flu. Instead, it seems like every odor– every breath of stale air– is enough to set her off.

 

She hasn’t felt this way since she’d been–

 

–since Henry.

 

Her brow creases. Maybe it’s hormones, acting up just in time for her period. Isn’t she due for one sometime soon? She checks her period log app absently, and she blinks at the date on it. That can’t be right . It’s been…over two months since her last period. She’s been late before, but never this late.

 

The alternative is absurd, impossible, and she rolls her eyes at the sudden doubt that worms its way into her thoughts, insidious. There’s an easy way to stay these concerns, especially when you’re not in prison.

 


 

It’s a small enough town that Emma knows better than to buy a test from the drugstore in Storybrooke. She makes up an excuse to be out of town– talks to Nate about finding him a safe place for his wife and kids in case Scar ever figures out who betrayed his gang of shifters. They’d been good friends during that particular crisis, and Regina takes the excuse without question, teasing her about her boyfriend for hours before Emma leaves.

 

Regina trusts her, and Emma can feel the pit in her stomach growing with every reinforcement of that fact.

 

She buys a test with cash at a seedy little gas station on the way to Bangor, and then she slips into a bathroom that smells enough of stale urine that she has to vomit again before she can take the test. It’s absurd, anyway. All of this is absurd. She’s going to see a single line on the test and then she’ll go home to Regina, tell her the truth, and endure the ceaseless mocking that will follow.

 

She balances the stick on the tiny sink in the room, pacing the three steps back and forth that she can manage, and she lifts the test after three minutes to examine it.

 

Two lines stare back at her.

 

“That can’t be right,” Emma mumbles, but they’re both dark and distinct, two blue lines across the results window. There’s a helpful guide on the stick itself, pregnant with two lines in a circle, and Emma shakes her head and says, “No. No way .”

 

She leaves the bathroom and buys a second brand of pregnancy tests under the pitying eye of the teenager at the register, and it returns with the same impossible result. “ No ,” Emma says again, shaking her head, and she hurls both tests at the garbage, sending them crashing into the wall and onto the floor instead.

 

She stomps out of the gas station shop, climbs into her Bug, and drives too quickly all the way home before she remembers that she’s supposed to be back later. “Safe place was a bust,” she says when she gets inside, draping her coat over the stairs. Regina gives her a reproving glare, and Emma hangs up the coat instead. “I got out of there as soon as I could.”

 

It’s the second lie of the day. Emma’s beginning to suspect that there are going to be many of those before she figures this out.

 


 

“No, you’re definitely pregnant,” Dr. Whale says briskly, shifting the ultrasound to point out something on the screen. “There’s the embryo– over there?” Emma can’t see it. “That rapidly blinking little spot is the heart.” That Emma can see, and she squints at it uncertainly. “Baby looks like it’s about nine, ten weeks along.”

 

Emma finds her voice. “So, it is a demon, or…” Her voice trails off. Dr. Whale is looking at her with the same pity that had been on the gas station teenager’s face. “Look, anything else is impossible . I’m– you know I’m married to–”

 

“It’s a perfectly healthy human embryo, as far as I can tell,” Dr. Whale says, raising an eyebrow. “I think you may have some things to discuss with Her Majesty.” He makes an exaggerated wince. “Just make sure she isn’t near anything flammable when you tell her about your little surprise.”

 

Asshole . “I didn’t– I can’t be–” Emma gulps in a suddenly unsteady breath. Another emotional fit at the worst of times, naturally. “Can’t this be one of your crazy fairytale twists?” she says pleadingly.

 

Dr. Whale shakes his head, then looks at her assessingly. “If you would prefer to…avoid this becoming a problem for you…you have other options.”

 

Emma considers it for a frozen, gripped moment. It’s the only option that makes sense right now, ending this and never letting Regina know about it. What if this is some magical tumor growing within her? What if it is a demon that’ll haunt them for eternity?

 

What if it isn’t? She stares at the blinking dot on the screen, remembers the last time she’d done this in a colder, greyer room with no future to look forward to, and she touches a hand to her abdomen and can’t give this up. “I don’t know,” she says. She can’t imagine Regina’s face when she finds out about this, can’t imagine Henry’s and her parents’ disappointment, can’t imagine what havoc that tiny blinking dot is about to wreak on her carefully constructed life.

 

And she’s just as certain that she can’t give up this chance, either, with all the horrifying implications that it arrives with. I don’t know is no , and Dr. Whale knows it, too, because he puts a hand on her arm with unexpected compassion before he exits the room.

 

She dresses in a daze, and it takes every last bit of herself not to sob until she’s back in her car.

 


 

REGINA

 

At first, Regina assumes that Emma’s hiding something harmless. They don’t have secrets from each other, not anymore. Not ever, really. Hiding something usually means a surprise party or a gift or some ridiculously hopeless-in-love gesture, like the time that Emma had learned a spell to send flower petals floating through the air around the apple tree before a picnic date.

 

Regina doesn’t really question it until it begins to take a toll on Emma herself, until Emma is looking more pale and drawn by the day, until Emma is gagging every morning as though her nightmares themselves are triggering her nausea. “I have this wonderful herbal tea that I can enchant to help with your dreams,” she murmurs one evening when they’re curled up together in the study, Emma’s head on her lap as Regina reads.

 

“Can’t have tea,” Emma mumbles, her eyes drifting shut, and Regina gives up on the enchantment for the night and takes her upstairs instead.

 

When they’re together now, Emma squirms under the blanket and says breathlessly, “Keep the lights off. I want to– I need the dark.” Her breasts feel fuller than usual, her body filling out in a way that it never has before, but it’s the way she kisses Regina that stands out most. It’s desperate every time, raw and needy as though it’s their very last kiss, and she cries on two separate occasions after she comes.

 

Emma’s always a later riser than Regina is, and Regina is rarely in the room when she wakes up except on lazy Saturday mornings. They haven’t had many of those lately, and Regina luxuriates in bed on the first Saturday in a while that she doesn’t have early errands to attend to and rolls over, resting her head on Emma’s side. Emma’s eyes are open when she looks up, and she looks almost trapped. “Morning,” Regina murmurs, tilting her head in concern.

 

There’s a part of her– a ridiculous, insecure part– that’s always certain that this happiness can’t last. It’s been three years of being in love, of having her family, and she still can’t shake the specter of the Evil Queen and the knowledge that she’s never going to undo or redeem herself fully, not in a dozen lifetimes. Happiness is always going to feel fleeting, and she’s on guard now, already running through a dozen scenarios where the worst is realized. Emma is ending things, Emma is sick, Emma is running–

 

And when Emma opens her mouth to respond and instead flies out of bed, hurtling back to the bathroom, Regina is suddenly certain that this is going to go spectacularly wrong. “Another nightmare?” she says as she hurries after Emma, worried.

 

Emma shakes her head and vomits into the toilet, tears in her eyes at the force with which she’s throwing up, and Regina rubs her back and hopes desperately that this is nothing. “You haven’t even had my cider this time,” she says, struggling to keep her tone light and not scare Emma. “What else could it be?” She laughs. “Are you pregnant?”

 

Emma jerks. Twists up to stare at her, her eyes wide and miserable and terrified, and Regina doesn’t understand. She can’t comprehend this , what Emma’s face seems to be saying, and she says again, her brow furrowing, “What, are you pregnant?”

 

Emma shifts away from her, takes a tissue instead of the cup in Regina’s hand and wipes her lips. Emma huddles against the side of the bathtub as though she’s a child, curled around her stomach, and she whispers, “It doesn’t make sense . Regina, I swear I’d never–”

 

Regina stumbles backward, her heart in her throat, and her cup spilling onto the floor as she squeezes it and no. Emma wouldn’t. Emma is…

 

Emma gives her a weak smile. “Any chance you cast a spell you didn’t tell me about?” she says, and Regina can’t be in the room anymore, can’t live a farce , another happy ending snatched away from right under her nose.

 


 

She leaves under the pretense of getting Emma another cup of water. There are cups in the bathroom and neither of them believe it, but she needs…

 

She leans against the side of the fridge, buries her face in her hands, and sucks in a long, deep breath as a whirl of possibilities twists within her like a tornado, tearing her insides to pieces and flinging them beyond where she can reach. Water. She needs to get Emma water. Emma , the woman she’s in love with, the woman whose pregnancy has suddenly changed everything.

 

The most absurd part is that they’ve talked about having another child. They’d been looking into adopting again months ago, before they’d been distracted by Scar’s pride and their plans had been put on hold. Regina had wanted this so desperately that of course she’d gotten it in the last way she’d ever have chosen, because the world is exactly that cruel.

 

She hadn’t thought that Emma had been that cruel, though.

 

She returns upstairs. Emma has gotten dressed, red leather jacket hanging on her shoulders, and she looks pale and afraid again when she sees Regina. Regina hands her the water in silence, waits for her to drink before Emma says suddenly, helplessly, “I can stay at the station for now, but I don’t have– I have so much stuff that I don’t have a place for in my car anymore–”

 

“You’re not going anywhere,” Regina says immediately, and Emma looks at her with so much hope that Regina can’t meet her eyes. “I’m not–” She swallows. “I’m not going to leave you without a home when you’re in this…condition.” She hesitates. She needs to ask, even if just the question makes her nauseous. “Did...did someone...attack you?”

 

Emma shakes her head, slowly, from side to side. Regina ventures on. “A love spell? Did someone take away your ability to say–”

 

“I wasn't raped, Regina,” Emma says wearily. “I wasn't anything . There was never anyone else. I know it's...it's hard to believe when all the evidence is saying something else, but I love you .”

 

“You were ready to leave me a minute ago,” Regina says blankly. Emma shakes her head wordlessly again, and Regina remembers again nausea and sickness and secrets. “Tell me this. How long have you known about this and kept it from me?”

 

“A few weeks.”

 

“A few weeks!” Regina’s voice is too sharp, too loud, and Emma flinches away. They say you’re never really cured from an addiction, that you can't change completely, that it's always lurking in the shadows of your mind and waiting for an in again. Regina knows it. Emma knows it, too, and Regina forces her voice into something softer, more pleading than furious. “You’ve been lying to me for weeks? Did you think it’d just...go away if you hid it long enough?”

 

“I don't know what I thought,” Emma says desperately. “I just– Regina, I didn't want to lose you. I didn't want to lose us .”

 

“Then you shouldn’t have–!”

 

“I didn’t! I swear, I didn’t , Regina…” Emma says, hopeless. “You mean more to me than– than anything. This family means more to me than anything.”

 

“And you thought, what, that I’ve already raised enough children of your blood that I wouldn’t mind doing it again?” The words are caustic, and Regina regrets them the moment they emerge from her lips.

 

Emma wraps her arms around herself, head bowed. “I should go,” she whispers.

 

She’s giving up, and that makes Regina even more furious. “You’re not going anywhere,” she grinds out. “I am not letting you live out of your car again. You aren’t seventeen anymore, you have people who love you, and you’re staying right here .” And because she can’t bear to see hope in Emma’s eyes again, she stalks across the room to the closet and begins pulling down her own dresses instead.

 

“Regina,” Emma whispers. “I’m not chasing you out of your house.”

 

Our house. Our family, in case you were wondering what exactly you’re trying to destroy singlehandedly,” Regina bites out, and she empties a drawer, then two, putting everything into a suitcase. “I’m going to the guest room,” she clarifies, because Emma is just staring now, silent and empty-eyed. “I’m not going to abandon you when you’re…when you need me.” The words are cool, but they’re enough that Regina can see Emma’s eyes tearing up. “Lie down. Have you been taking your prenatals?”

 

Emma reaches into her night table drawer, fishing around in the very back of it until she pulls out a ziploc bag with unlabeled pills in it. The wave of anger at this– another active concealment from Regina, another lie between them– is overwhelming, and Regina needs a moment before she can clear her throat. “Dr. Whale?”

 

“He’s looked at the baby,” Emma sits gingerly on the edge of the bed– their bed, once, but never again. “It still could be a demon infestation, though. He can’t prove otherwise.” It’s almost hopeful, and another time, Regina might have laughed through the heartbreak.

 

This time, she says, “You need to tell Henry today. He’s going to see that we’re not sleeping in the same room anymore, and I will not be the villain again.”

 

“Okay,” Emma croaks, and she looks exhausted still, worn out from their talk and close to tears.

 

Regina doesn’t help her under the covers. That’s one step too far.

 


 

They say you’re never really cured from an addiction, that you can't change completely, that it's always lurking in the shadows of your mind and waiting for an in again. Regina waits until Emma tells Henry, until he’s staring at her in disbelief and she’s pleading, again, claiming a reality that isn’t physically possible, and she slips outside to the woods behind their house.

 

She screams when she’s alone, a full-bodied howl that echoes through the trees over the sound of fire crackling, and she hurls blow after blow of unrestrained magic at the trees around her. They wither to dust, they come crashing down around her, they burst into flames and burn and burn and burn. She cackles in a deep voice she hasn’t used since she’d been a queen, screams again, hisses curses and laughs wildly until she’s sobbing on the ground, surrounded by destruction that she’d wrought alone.

 

She swings her fist at a tree with a magic-powered strength behind the blow, watches the trunk of the tree crack and fall toward her, and she can only laugh and cry as it drops. What does it matter if it crushes her to the ground, makes her only a shattered shell of what she once had been? What difference would it make?

 

She’s still standing straight when a larger body plows into her, shoving her out of the way of the toppling tree just in time. “Mom,” Henry pants, and she stares at him sightlessly through blurry eyes, her hands still raised but the fireballs gone.

 

He wraps his arms around her and holds her tightly, and they’re both crying for what they’ve lost, the woods lonely desolation around their shaking bodies.