The first thing she sees is a mass of blonde hair. A warm body is pressed tightly against hers, arms around her waist, her own arms around shoulders, almost clingy, definitely needy.
She feels magic in the air, tears streaming down her face, but when she tries to furrow her brow, Regina notices she’s detached from her body and she realizes, it’s a memory.
A memory, she ironically doesn't remember.
“I promise”, a familiar voice whispers against her ear. While she mentally freezes, her other self nuzzles against soft skin, not at all irritated by the tickling blonde hair but pressing closer to the other woman.
With the motion comes a surge of happiness, immediately drowned out by bittersweet sadness, encompassing all her senses.
“I don’t...” she hears herself protest, voice breaking. She knows who she’ll see before the blonde moves away. Still, she is shocked when the Savior gives her a sheepish smile, laced with way too many emotions.
“But I do.”
“You will. I promise, we will see each other again.”
Emma leans forward and presses an almost chaste kiss against her lips, winking at her as she breaks away, self-confidence embodied, and Regina feels herself release a trembling sigh.
Emma nods at her in acceptance and steps back, her hand traveling down Regina’s arm, to squeeze her hand one last time.
“I never make a promise unless I plan to keep it.”
Regina gives Emma one last smile, trying to be brave. She takes a deep breath as Emma waves the wand, glancing at her one last time before she jumps into a bright orange portal.
Regina mentally pauses, trying to understand the strange scene. She was in her own castle, dressed in a black dress that she won’t ever forget, brimming with a magic that feels strange and familiar at the same time.
That same voice, frantically calling her name, pulls her back into the present. A present filled with curses and danger, and the knowledge of a brightly gleaming Faerie Wand capable of saving them.
A gleaming wand that she recognizes, that had been in the hands of a Savior who looked at her like…
She breathes the name in wonder, before she can catch herself. She knows they’re somehow connected, has suspected it ever since Emma kickstarted her magic with the hat, dissuaded when she found out that Emma has her own magic; only to have the connection confirmed by the trigger, the eclipse in Neverland.. But what she just saw doesn’t make sense.
Unless Emma is capable of the impossible.
Blinking, Regina stands up, trying to arrange her thoughts. She believed the Faerie Wand to be lost. Apparently she was wrong.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
She brushes the concern off distractedly, but of course the Charmings don’t give her a minute to breathe. This time it’s Snow, asking for an explanation.
Regina’s thoughts are still whirling, but she’s beginning to understand.
So she answers.
“I saw what needed to be done.”
There’s more certainty in her voice than she actually feels when she looks up at Emma. Before she can say anything Henry speaks up. She tries to reassure him, but Pan appears, threatening, freezing all of them in some kind of conscious but immobile state. Her magic tries to free her while Pan is flaunting his superiority, but it is futile.
So, like all the rest of them, Regina watches him strut around, that playful grin on his face, deliberating who to kill first.
And Regina wonders, how, when she finally had the chance, she never actually physically harmed Snow or Charming. Part of her calls Pan weak and unimaginative for wanting to kill instead of making them suffer, but she knows that it will make Rumple suffer more than anything else.
Then Rumple is there and everything happens so fast. Before she knows it, Rumple and Pan are gone, Belle is crumbling to the ground, heaving sobs, and she pauses, only a moment, not ready to believe that Rumple is simply dead, just like that. Then she moves, like she is being called, to the scroll on the ground, hoping it will give her another clue, explain what it showed her.
Snow is concerned about Regina’s well being while Neal begs her to honor Rumple’s sacrifice.
Rumple, who has orchestrated all of this from the very beginning. Rumple who created this stupid curse to be reunited with his son, only to die.
She’s exasperated by everyone waiting for her to present the perfect solution. She doesn’t have any, just a strange scene in her mind, and an indistinct sliver of hope.
That’s what she tells Hook after he prods again. He looks concerned, but strangely enough, he is the only one in the group losing faith after her words. When he proclaims they should run to his ship, no one takes him up on the offer to follow behind, although Tink seems to hesitate.
Regina briefly considers sending Henry with him but it is Hook, a pirate, not really material to take care of her son. She has to make sure that they’ll save themselves.
It’s Emma now, her voice no less demanding than the others but surprisingly gentle. So Regina does her best to smile at her, even if it might look forced. Of course Emma smiles back.
“So, what’s the plan?”
“You are,” she breathes out, keeping an eye on Emma as she freezes. The Savior isn’t remotely happy with another task. She has to give her credit when Emma nods and straightens herself, accepting it in only a few seconds.
Three pairs of similarly green eyes are on Regina, begging her for an easy solution.
Unfortunately she doesn’t have one.
“There’s a Faerie Wand, forged from light magic, the magic of true love. Whoever wields it will be able to break this curse.”
“Good. Where is it?”
Emma is the perfect picture of resolve, only faltering when Regina meets her eyes.
“The last time I saw it, it was safely in my vault.”
Determined, Emma turns around, breathing through her mouth to avoid what Regina is sure Emma has already read in her eyes.
“The cemetery then…”
“Not here, Emma.”
It’s almost painful to watch Emma’s shoulders slump.
“How? I mean, that’s…” The Savior visibly deflates. “We’re trapped, aren’t we?”
Snow moves in, ready to hug Emma, Charming not far behind, hands twitching, desperate to help. Henry leans into Neal, no doubt comforting himself as much as his father.
But Regina has to focus, so she blocks out everything but Emma. Emma who looks so lost, nothing like that confident version that Regina just watched earnestly promising to come back to her. Emma, who meets her eyes, so ready to trust whatever solution Regina comes up with.
So Regina takes a deep breath and leads with the truth.
“You are the Savior, you were created to break the curse and once again, you can escape it.”
Emma shakes her head.
Regina shivers, reminded of her own voice, breaking in the same way Emma’s does now. It’s so hard to have hope, so hard to put her trust into someone other than herself.
“You have to. You are the only one who can go. You will find the wand, come back, and save us.”
“It’s in my vault. You were a thief; it shouldn’t be too hard for you to get it.”
Her quip receives the right reaction. Emma rolls her eyes, a broken smile in her eyes.
“But you will be cursed.”
Regina nods, not able to argue that away, refusing to look at Henry. She never wanted any of this for him.
“Until you come back and break the curse.”
“Why do I have to go? Can’t we work it out together? I broke the last curse here as well…”
Now she does glance at Henry, both of them do, but Regina shakes her head.
“I’m afraid that it won’t work this time.”
There is a minimal whine in Emma’s voice, so subtle Regina almost misses it. Her eyes are wide, reminding Regina of the offhand tone Emma first protested her fate with, when it was all about saving Henry, when Emma wasn’t even asking about her parents, or fairytales, solely focused on cursed apples and Regina’s magic, ways to save Henry.
It’s different now. There’s no way around that.
“Because Pan has no compassion, no love. You need the wand. I’m sure we can dive into the theoretical discussion once you’re back, but now I believe we’re short on time.”
When Emma is still shaking her head, eyes begging Regina to change her words, Snow steps forward.
“Emma, you have to go.”
Emma hesitates and falters, tears in her eyes, as she embraces her mother, looking back at Regina, doubt in her features. Regina meets her eyes without wavering. She doesn’t know what she did, but in the next moment the Savior is standing in front of her, trying to breathe.
So she does.
During her instructions the entire group, sans Hook, moves toward the edge of the town. At the sight of the green magic coming up from the well, everyone gasps, but it soon becomes clear that the smoke divides itself to run around the town line, surrounding everything before swallowing them up.
Regina instructs the others to stay at the foot of the hill because she and Emma are the only ones that can go up now.
Henry barrels into Emma and for once Regina doesn’t feel jealous because he blinks up at her, trusting her to prepare Emma.
“So, how are we gonna get up there?”
Emma suspiciously squints at the green smoke like she’s expecting it to hurt her. Regina almost chuckles. She might, if it weren’t for the strange memory.
“We just go, the smoke won’t be able to touch us because you’re the Savior and I’m still holding the scroll.”
Without another word Emma trudges onward, flinching at the smoke but nodding satisfied, when it avoids her.
“So, how does this work? Time Travel? Do you really think I can do this or was this just some farce to leave them with a little bit of hope?”
Finally shocked out of her haze, Regina stumbles. She barely catches herself, and grabs out for Emma, whirling her around by her arm.
“This is not some kind of Hail Mary play, but a perfectly reasonable chance, even if it is our only chance. So get yourself together and be ready, because the curse requires you to believe in yourself or it will never work.”
Regina fixes Emma with a hard gaze, until she can feel the familiar tingle of Emma’s magic under her hand and she lets go. Emma opens her mouth once without saying a word, shaking her head, until she blurts out.
“How can I believe in myself? I never…”
“Your mother does,” Regina sneers, but when Emma flinches, she knows it’s the wrong thing to say. The curse is unraveling around them, ready to swallow them whole, and Emma needs to be gone before then.
“I never managed to do anything around here, Regina. It’s always you that does the saving, the trigger, Neverland.”
It’s so ridiculous that Regina foregoes whatever argument she is trying to find and just scoffs.
“Need I remind you that I was usually the one who caused the catastrophes in the first place?”
Still, Emma just shrugs. “I can’t Regina. I don’t know how.”
Desperate, Regina tries to come up with something, anything, but she’s really not the one for a pep talk. They should have taken Snow with them for that. Snow, who is always talking about fate and destiny and hope and goodness, while Emma frowns and heedlessly does what she thinks is the right thing to do.
Like saving Regina from the wraith, pushing her away from the portal, putting her hands around the trigger, allowing her to guide her magic in Neverland.
And that smile right before she jumps into a curiously bright orange portal.
It takes all Regina has not to dwell on that scene, whatever it truly was.
“I believe in you,” is all her frantic thoughts produce and Regina is too busy being shocked by the earnestness in her own voice that she barely has time to conceive Emma’s body losing its tension, the shoulders falling, a tiny smile on her lips.
And Regina finds herself fascinated by how much impact her words have on the Savior, who gets the trust and belief of the townspeople for nothing, who is loved and praised for kissing their son on his forehead.
But maybe that’s what makes the difference.
So Regina nods, placing all her confidence in her affirmation, surprised by how true it rings.
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
She doesn’t know how much this moment has to do with the connection she feels toward Emma or the scene the scroll showed her, but when Emma breathes out, finally breathes out, Regina is relieved.
“Okay, so find that stupid wand, come back, break the curse, and take a long vacation?”
“There’s paperwork before the Sheriff can go on vacation.”
Emma rolls her eyes, but it’s familiar and relaxing.
At least until they are up at the well and Emma is shuffling her feet.
“You jump in.”
With a nod, Regina hands her the scroll.
“Concentrate on the curse; it will take you to the time before it was enacted, after the scroll was first used.”
“It was used before?”
“The first time I tried to do the curse I failed.”
Emma’s eyes look at her questioningly, but Regina shakes her head and Emma nods, accepting that they don’t have time.
“You have to hold on to the scroll and find the wand. I know this will be difficult, but I also know that this stupid wand disappeared out of my vault one day and the only explanation is that you were there and stole it.”
“I was there?”
“Time travel, remember?”
“Right,” Emma breathes, not looking right at all. In fact she looks a little green and Regina has to force herself to believe in a chance. Emma has a chance to succeed, however slight it may be.
“So I know that you can do this. Just…”
Regina hesitates, until the other woman meets her eyes.
“Don’t engage with anyone, at all. Try to stay invisible. If anyone recognizes you…”
She is glad when Emma nods, understanding washing over her.
“No changing the past. Got it.”
The flippant tone, however, does not make her happy.
The hint of teasing in Emma’s eyes is calming. Somehow, as weird as it is, her pep talk worked.
“Okay, then,” Regina swallows, hesitating before placing her hand on Emma’s shoulder.
Emma nods, a bright smile on her lips. It’s strange how she can go from being completely overwhelmed to absolute confidence in only a couple of moments. Her magic is brimming beneath her skin, ready to be victorious, and Regina has to pull her hand away when her own, dark, magic reaches out for Emma’s light. Luckily, Emma stays oblivious to it.
“Let’s hope you don’t guard your vault too well.”
Shocked that she forgot it until now, Regina blurts out.
“Don’t use magic in my castle. It will alert every guard to your presence, and do not use magic in my vicinity, I will feel it.”
“I never used magic to steal things before.”
Emma winks, full of confidence, and turns around, her shoulders tense but her smile determined, her left hand clasping the scroll, ready to jump in.
“Come back,” Regina whispers, her desperation, her need, clear in her voice. She doesn’t expect Emma to hear her, but, her free hand already on the well, the blonde turns her head, curls swinging, expression resolute.
With that the Savior jumps into the well, a bright light, silver and orange, divides the green one for a moment, flashing into the sky, and Regina stops shivering, certain that Emma has made it.
Not wasting a second she transports herself back to the waiting group. Before she’s fully there, Henry is in her arms. She pulls him close, and smiles at the rest, Snow and David hands clasped together, Tink shivering, Belle heavily leaning on Neal, Ruby with a comforting hand on Belle’s arm, while she’s grasping on to Granny’s with the other.
“She made it,” Regina announces, marveling at the certainty in her own voice, but Snow nods.
“We know. We saw the light.”
Satisfied, she nods at Snow, before she bows down to Henry, who clings to her, desperate.
“She will make it, Henry. Emma... she will come back to break the curse.”
But he just shakes his head, tears brimming in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I had never gone to get Emma, if I just lived under the curse with you, none of this would have ever happened. I thought I was alone. I-I thought you didn't love me, but I was wrong.”
His wavering voice, the deep regret he should be too young to feel, cuts right through her. So she leans forward, trying to breathe, and pushes his bangs out of his face.
“Henry, I was wrong too. It isn't your fault, it's mine. I cast a curse out of vengeance and I'm...,” her voice breaks and she swallows. “I'm a villain. You heard Mr. Gold. Villains don't get Happy Endings.”
But she has just built their fate on the fact that Saviors do. That the Savior’s Happy Ending includes the happiness of their son, that they do get their happy endings.
Still, Henry shakes his head with determination.
“You're not a villain. You're my mom.”
He throws himself back into her arms, mumbling against her.
“And Emma will come back and break this curse. She will bring back the happy endings, yours too.”
Dazed, Regina just holds on to him, shaking her head about his unwavering belief in her. She hasn’t earned it. She knows that. But she will do her best to prove him right in the future, even if she doesn’t believe that a Happy Ending is in her cards.
He is enough of a Happy Ending, more than she ever deserved.
So she holds on to him tightly while the green smoke swallows them up.