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Seeing the dust literally settle around them, Emma took a quick stock check of the inevitable damage to the town following this latest battle.

Satisfied that no irreparable destruction had occurred to either property or fairy tale character, she took to surveying those remaining scattered up and down Main Street in its wake. Unsurprisingly, this consisted entirely of her family, and people she had come to consider so. At one end, still armed with her trademark bow and arrow, her mother was ushering some of the more reticent townsfolk out of the library, assuring them the danger had once again passed. Her father meanwhile was beginning the tedious, and kind of gross, process of collecting stray ogre body parts, an unpleasant side effect of the heavy blast of the combined magic of Queen and Saviour, which had finally felled their surprise guest on an otherwise peaceful summer afternoon.

The other magical practitioner in question was currently standing a few feet away attempting, Emma realised with surprisingly little success, to piece together the damned clock, which she swore spent more time shattered on the street than it did in its rightful place atop the tower. Watching the pieces idly swirl around in a haze of purple smoke, she strolled over, casually placing a hand on Regina’s arm and smiling as their magic intertwined and the clock was masterfully restored. Poised to make a cocky remark at their success, she glanced at her companion, who she was concerned to see sway precariously, the colour draining from her face. Slightly panicked, she gripped the other woman’s arm with one hand, the other sliding quickly around a slim waist, alarmed when neither movement drew a reaction.

“Woah, Regina. Just sit down a minute, okay?”

Emma was monumentally relieved to see the mayor come back to herself, shaking her head slightly but doing nothing to free herself from her grip.

“I’m fine, dear.” She attempted a smile. “I simply over-exerted myself with that last spell.”

Emma eyed her sceptically, guiding the pair over to a nearby bench, thankfully unscathed by the attack, dropping onto it and pulling Regina down with her. When Regina still failed to object, she turned toward her to properly appraise her. Although some colour seemed to have returned to her cheeks, the older woman looked more tired than she could recall seeing, and her normally sharp eyes were glazed and distant.

Emma dropped her arm from around the other woman, instead reaching for her hand, squeezing gently. “When did you last eat something?”

Regina seemed to consider the question carefully, but when no response other than a barely contained grimace was immediately forthcoming, Emma had her answer. Without thinking further, the Saviour tightened her grip on the hands in her own, closing her eyes and letting the sudden rush of protectiveness take over her emotions. When she opened her eyes, she was relieved to see the air around them reform to reveal they were still seated in their previous position but now instead of the bench on Main Street they were now on the sofa in Regina’s stylish den. Steeling herself for the verbal barrage from the mayor for “poofing” her against her wishes, she was again concerned to see that the only reaction from the other woman was a relieved sigh. Not wanting to push her luck by opening her mouth, Emma instead stood, pulling Regina up with her and ushering her in the direction of the hallway. Again receiving no objection, she took a chance, once again squeezing the hand in her own.

“Go get changed, ok. Ogre blood kinda stinks, y’know. And I’ll find us something edible in the health food store you call your kitchen.”

Her unease growing, the sheriff watched as Regina traipsed silently up the stairs as instructed, before turning her attention to the most important mission of finding something to eat in the mayor’s house which contained the energy the other woman so desperately seemed to need.

It was only when she had the ingredients set out for a superior grilled cheese sandwich that Emma realised Regina had not yet returned. Her concern winning out over her desire to not come face to face with a fireball, she quietly made her way up the stairs and down the expansive upper landing to the door which she knew to be the master bedroom. Peering into the room, Emma felt an unexpected jolt of affection at the sight of the mayor clad in yoga pants, still wearing her shirt from the day, soundly asleep atop her luxurious queen size bed. Unable to stop herself she crept quietly into the room, grabbing a throw from a chair in the corner of the room and carefully draping it over the sleeping form. Holding her breath, she waited for a moment to check that this action had not awoken the clearly exhausted woman. When the only sound in the room remained that of Regina’s slow steady breathing, she watched as her hand, of its own accord reached out gently sweeping dark hair from over a still notably pale face. Suddenly aware of the strange intimacy of the action, she inhaled, relaxing only when Regina emitted a contented sigh before shuffling further into her pillow. Pulling herself somewhat reluctantly away, she let her gaze settle on the figure before her for a moment longer before quietly backing out the door.

-/-

“Regina? You in here?”

It had been two days since the unexpected ogre attack, and Emma had finally finished the last of the paperwork which such an event invariably seemed to produce for the Sheriff’s department. Determined to finally get the damn reports of her desk, at some time after three in the afternoon, she had made her way to the Town Hall to get final sign off from the mayor, only to be told by her secretary that Regina had already left for the day. Her instincts prickling at the unexpected early finish for the workaholic mayor, she had found herself pulling the Bug to a stop outside 108 Mifflin Street, knocking somewhat anxiously on the front door. Regina’s Mercedes was parked in the driveway and the light from the grand entrance was visible. However, no response was forthcoming.

Concern taking precedence over annoyance, instead of banging harder, she slipped the key, which Henry had given her “in case of an emergency”, or more usually a forgotten school book or permission slip that he didn’t wish for his stricter parent to uncover, into the lock swinging the door quietly open.

“Regina?”

The house was silent, but the light which Emma had thought to have been coming from the foyer was in fact glowing from the open door of the study. Heading toward its source, a small frown furrowing her brow, Emma peeked through the doorway. Her eyes rested momentarily on the empty chair behind the desk, pushed back from the laptop still whirring in front of it, before her attention was caught by the sound of slow, steady breathing coming from the opposite side of the room. Stepping fully into the space, the sheriff was unable to contain her surprise at the sight of the mayor curled up in a plush arm chair, her head resting uncomfortably in her hand, seemingly fast asleep. Her initial amusement quickly turning to concern at the unusual sight, Emma crouched down in front of the older woman placing one hand on her knee, and shaking it gently.

“Regina.” The woman stirred slightly. “Are you ok?”

Several moments later, she was relieved to see brown eyes drift open as Regina looked around the room in apparent confusion before her eyes rested on her.

“Emma?”

“Hey.” The sheriff was surprised at the gentleness in her voice. “Are you feeling ok?”

Regina blinked rapidly a couple of times. “I apologise, I must have fallen asleep.” Clearly unsettled by either her impromptu afternoon nap, or the fact she had been caught at it, she self-consciously tucked some stray hair behind her ear before rising quickly to her feet. On doing so, as Emma watched with growing alarm, she seemed to sway slightly before quickly sitting back down the colour again seeping from her face.

Acting on instinct, Emma reached out supporting her until she was again safely seated. Once satisfied that the other woman would remain upright, she extended a hand placing it carefully against a pale forehead, noting with relief that the unexplained unsteadiness was not the result of a fever.

When Regina once again failed to react to the intrusion of her personal space, beyond taking a deep but slightly shaky breath her anxiety kicked up another notch. “Regina?”

At the lack of response, Emma again observed the woman before her. Despite her flawless make-up, the dark circles under her eyes were evident, and on closer inspection it appeared she had lost some weight. When the sheriff thought about it, over the last few weeks, the usually sharp mayor had seemed slower, almost sluggish at times, as if she lacked the energy for anything else. Initially Emma had put the change down to the unexpected departure of her supposed soulmate and his… wife, and not wishing to reopen old wounds had somehow managed to keep her mouth shut on the subject, wanting to give the mayor space to deal. As such for the first week following the Hood family’s one-way trip over the town line the paperwork from the Sheriff’s office had never been delivered to the Mayor in such a timely manner, and as much as Emma was trying to be inconspicuous by the second week, Regina had automatically begun to set an additional place at the table alongside herself and their son.

With another deep breath, Regina seemed to find her equilibrium. However, her attempt to respond was halted by stifled yawn. Emma waited a moment before cautiously reaching out taking the other woman’s hand in her own and squeezing it gently.

“Talk to me…. Please.”

Regina’s features shifted into their usual mask. Yet her voice was genuinely warm.

“Honestly, Emma. I am fine.” She swallowed another yawn, allowing just for a moment a hint of droll vulnerability to peek through. “As you are fully aware, it has not been the best few weeks, and I suppose that may be starting to catch up with me.”

The response was convincing enough, but for some reason Emma’s gut was damn near screaming at her. Realising that she was rarely capable of doing the easy, or sensible thing, she sighed, painfully aware that she was idiotically about to poke an open wound of the former Evil Queen with a sharp stick.

“Of course you are. That’s why you’re tired all the time and I know you’re not eating right.” Emma paused, absently chewing at her lip. “Would you like me to, I mean, should I….” She swallowed. “I can call Archie if you’d like.”

She didn’t realise she’d been holding her breath until a weary, but genuine smile, graced Regina’s face, as she felt her watching her curiously.

“Emma, I can assure you that I am not depressed, or anything of that nature, if that is what you are not so subtly alluding to.” She sighed. “I am conscious of the fact I have been feeling rather fatigued of late. However, I am confident that this is nothing a few more nights of sufficient sleep cannot cure, and it is certainly no matter of concern.” This time it was Regina’s turn to pause, as if she realised the inference of an assumption that the Saviour was indeed concerned for her wellbeing.

Another wave of affection for the other woman, and her ridiculously low self-worth, washing over her, Emma grinned easily.

“Well in that case, there’s no time like the present.” At Regina’s apparent confusion, her smile grew, as she nodded her head earnestly in the direction of the stairs.

On realising her meaning, Regina huffed almost petulantly, causing Emma to snort slightly.

“Miss Swan, whilst napping in the middle of the day may be normal behaviour for you, I am not a child and I refuse to….”

The rant was interrupted by the air once again dissolving around them, as Emma silently congratulated herself for another successful relocation. Pulling back the covers, she pushed the older woman gently onto the huge bed, keeping her voice firm despite the warmth within it.

“Well then if you are not a baby, you will listen for once in your damn life and get some rest when you so obviously need it.” She paused, waiting for Regina to argue, or possibly magically throw her against the bedroom wall. When all she got was an irritated sigh, she smiled cockily. “Ok, then, Madam Mayor. Here’s the deal. You are going to lie here, and you can either sulk, or try to get some sleep. Either way, Henry’s staying at my parents’, so I am going to Granny’s to pick us up some dinner, and I expect you to be right here when I get back. We will then have a civilised dinner, possibly watch some crap on TV, so you can complain about my terrible taste and pretend that you don’t care about the lives of those ridiculous fictional characters. And then you are going to get an early night whilst I crash in your guestroom as we both know I’ll be too lazy to drive, or poof home.” She took a breath, again anticipating the other woman’s objections to what in her mind was a damn good plan. When as before, none was forthcoming, Emma bit back the worry she could feel rising, instead plastering on a broad grin. “That’s settled then.” Crouching gracelessly by the side of the bed, she made a point of seeking out dark eyes. Expecting to see at the very least a sense of ire, her breath hitched as she realised Regina simply looked grateful. Rising to her feet, she carefully pulled the covers over the older woman, patting her shoulder awkwardly as she stood.

“Just rest ok. I’ll be right back.”

-/-

This time letting herself into the mansion without hesitation, her arms full of takeout bags, Emma listened for the expected tell-tale signs that Regina had ignored her earlier instructions. When met only with silence, Emma realised she was both pleased and concerned in equal measure. Dumping the food on the kitchen counter, she as quietly as she was capable of, made her way up the stairs. The door of the master bedroom was ajar as she had left it, and she peaked in, half expecting to see Regina working on her laptop, or possibly reading papers from the previous week’s Town Council meeting. Instead she was met with the sight of the older woman, still largely in the same position as she had been in when Emma had left a little over an hour ago, except she was now cocooned more heavily in the covers, the only movement being the steady rise and fall of a deep sleep. Suddenly exponentially more concerned at the level of exhaustion the mayor was seemingly experiencing, Emma slipped further into the room, gently sitting on the edge of the bed. At the movement, Regina mumbled slightly but did not awake. With the niggling worry that there was something more physical going on than the fallout of a bad breakup, or loss of a soulmate, whatever, Emma once again swept a hand over the other woman’s brow. Whilst her face was pale and drawn, she was relieved that her temperature still seemed normal and she appeared to be resting peacefully. Deciding to let Regina sleep for a little while longer, the sheriff pulled herself somewhat reluctantly to her feet. Absently smoothing the covers back over the older woman she slipped back out the door and down the stairs.

-/-

Grateful for the Netflix account Henry had set up on the TV in the den, it was the growling of her stomach which alerted Emma to the fact it was now almost seven and Regina was yet to emerge from her impromptu nap. The distraction of binge watching episodes of questionable 90s comedies wearing thin, she could feel her concern again spike and before she knew it she was heading back up the stairs and into the mayor’s bedroom. Regina was once again in the same position except that the covers were now pushed back slightly and her face was largely hidden by the thick dark hair falling across it. Now officially worried, Emma crouched down once more by the bed, reaching out and gently brushing the loose hair from her face.

“Regina?”

No response.

“Regina?”

Placing her hand softly on an exposed shoulder, and squeezing lightly, Emma was relieved to see brown eyes struggle open, an endearing confusion in them. Giving her a moment to come round, she casually rose perching on the edge of the bed, her hand, she belatedly realised was trailing comfortingly up and down the older woman’s arm. “You’re ok.”

With alertness returning to Regina’s features, awareness was soon replaced with anxiety.

“What time is it?”

“After seven.” Emma mumbled slightly in the hope it would somehow detract from the fact that she had let the other woman sleep for over three hours. The tactic was clearly never going to work.

“Seven?” Regina impressively sounded both shocked and annoyed.

She shrugged. “It seemed like you needed the sleep.”

Any disagreement the mayor was about to voice was rudely interrupted by a deep yawn, and despite her best efforts, Emma could not help but grin.

When she looked at Regina, she was amazed to see the other woman’s expression mirrored her own and they shared a soft smile.

“How do you feel?”

The only response was a sigh.

Feeling an intense wave of empathy wash over her, Emma moved her hand down until it once again grasped Regina’s.

“Come on, sleepy. There’s some lasagne and a piece of pie with your name on it downstairs, and if you don’t move your ass soon there’s a very real danger that I’ll starve here.”

Seeing the gratitude again shining in Regina’s eyes, she tugged gently on her hand until the older woman was in a seated position next to her on the edge of the bed before pulling her to her feet. Hovering not so subtly next to her, she waited for a moment to check she was steady on her feet. If Regina saw the intent behind this action, she kept her mouth uncharacteristically shut. But nor did she, Emma noticed, let go of her hand. Satisfied that Regina was steady, Emma released her hold, throwing a final comment over her shoulder as she left the room.

“And I know you own something more comfortable than a pant suit.”

-/-

Emma was busy nuking a second plate of lasagne when she sensed rather than heard Regina enter the kitchen. As she turned around she smiled to see that the mayor had changed once more into elasticated yoga pants and a thick fleecy sweater. Deftly placing a steaming plate of pasta on the island, she pulled out a chair and motioned for Regina to sit. Removing her own plate from the beeping microwave she set it beside the other woman before pouring two glasses of ice cold water. Foregoing any further social niceties, Emma finally dropped onto her stool shovelling a forkful of food desperately into her mouth. After repeating the motion several times, she finally paused, looking over at the other woman who was tentatively pushing the food round her plate.

“Look, I know this pales in comparison with your version, your majesty, but it’s still edible.” Putting her fork down to focus on Regina, Emma’s smile faded as she realised her dinner companion was beginning to look slightly green. Not sure what to do, but feeling an overwhelming urge to offer comfort, she stood moving behind the other woman gently rubbing her back. “Hey, you ok?”

Regina inhaled through her mouth, clearly trying to gather herself, and to Emma’s surprise leaning into her touch.

Keeping her voice calm and hopefully soothing, she maintained the rhythmic pressure on the mayor’s back. “Do you need to throw up?”

Regina seemed to think about the question for several moments before swallowing convulsively a couple of times and shaking her head in the negative. She remained silent, the only sound being the deep breaths she was forcing herself to take.

Still unsure as to what she should do, Emma left one hand on Regina’s back whilst moving to the side and crouching slightly until she was eye level with her. On doing so she realised that the older woman was unnaturally pale with beads of sweat breaking out across her brow. Fighting back panic, Emma smiled. “You’re ok.”

A couple of breaths later, Regina nodded, attempting to smile, but it still looked slightly like a grimace.

Emma rubbed her back softly for another moment before grabbing the offending plate, along with her own half empty one, and shoving them to the back of the kitchen counter, out of sight. “And we’re done with food.”

Without consulting the other woman, she took hold of her arm, gently pulling her upright and off the stool. When Regina again did not object, the sheriff was acutely aware of her growing feeling of protectiveness as she steered the pair of them to the den and onto the comfortable couch. Once seated, Emma again turned to face her unable to hide the worry that she knew was clearly written across her features.

“Ok, so I’m guessing this isn’t the first time that’s happened.” It was a statement, not a question.

Once more greeted with silence, Emma again reached for Regina’s hands which were fidgeting uncharacteristically in her lap. Stilling them with her own, she idly marvelled that in the last few days she had probably had more physical contact with the mayor, unless she counted that time they got into a fist fight, than in the last four years. And whereas in theory they should both have been uncomfortable with this sudden change, every instinct of Emma’s was screaming at her to initiate such contact, and more bizarrely, Regina seemed to welcome it. As if to prove her point, she took that moment to grip Emma’s hand again sighing heavily. Emma smiled encouragingly, making an effort to meet her eyes in the hopes of communicating her very genuine concern.

“You are correct. That was not the first occasion.”

The admission came out as a mumble, causing Emma, despite her worry, to bite back a grin at the un-queenliness of the tone. Instead, she nodded reassuringly. “How often?”

Regina emitted another resigned sigh. “Most days.” As if realising that any hope of not disclosing the information was long gone, she paused for a moment before adding, “hence eating the required amount for my good health has proven a challenge lately.”

Trying, but probably failing to emulate the mayor’s mask, Emma realised that as she spoke, her thumb was tracing gentle patterns across the other woman’s hand. “And how long has this been happening?”

Regina’s eyes drifted closed, as if unable to look at Emma whilst disclosing such a perceived weakness. “Three weeks.” She paused again. “Maybe a little longer.”

Seeing her eyes remained closed, Emma gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “And being tired all the time? The dizzy spells?”

Regina opened her eyes, this time looking at her with a vulnerability that took Emma’s breath away. “The fatigue… about a month ago. The dizziness, I believe you were witness to the first occasion, however their frequency has unfortunately increased over the last day or so.”

For a moment, Emma had the urge to simply pull Regina into her arms and hold her there. Instead she squeezed the hands in hers tighter, keeping her voice gentle but firm.

“I know it’s been a shitty few weeks.” She paused waiting for the inevitable eyebrow raise at her choice of language. When it passed, she grinned knowingly before her expression shifted back to understanding. “But we should get you checked out just in case.” Regina looked slightly confused but Emma pressed on regardless. “So, tomorrow, we’re gonna call Whale,” she shuddered slightly, “and make you an appointment for whenever he can fit you in. David can cover me if I’m on duty.” She grinned again. “Or if not, I’m sure my boss won’t mind me taking some personal time to take care of my family.” At the lack of response, she sought out Regina’s eyes, her heart clenching slightly as she realised they were blinking back tears. Again fighting the strange impulse to hug the other woman tightly, she forced her features into a wide smile squeezing her hands one last time before placing them back in her lap and reaching for the remote. Clicking on the TV, she scrolled through the channels in silence before finally settling on a re-run of a familiar looking comedy, the name of which she knew would come back to her. Waiting for complaint from the other woman, she was amazed instead to feel the sensation of a warm body leaning into her, and a head resting softly on her shoulder. Hiding her surprise she shifted slightly reaching her arm around Regina’s back holding her gently in place. At some point during the second episode, of whatever show it was that Emma was paying little attention to, she felt the weight against her side increase. Turning down the volume so the TV was playing quietly in the background, the only sound she was aware of was the slow and steady breathing of the exhausted woman sleeping peacefully against her.

-/-

Cracking eggs into a pan ready to cook and humming tunelessly to herself, Emma took a moment to bathe in the early morning sunlight streaming into the airy kitchen of 108 Mifflin Street – so different from the cramped apartment she shared with her parents and baby brother. It idly occurred to her that she really should get her own place. But between the time she spent at the station, the seemingly frequent rescue missions to other realms, and the growing amount of hours she spent right here with her son and his other mother, finding somewhere of her own seemed a pretty big waste of time. Her mind drifting, her thoughts went, as they so often seemed to lately, to the woman who appeared to still be sleeping upstairs. After atypically falling asleep on her shoulder in the den the previous evening, Emma had let the other woman sleep undisturbed until ten before gently waking her and ushering her upstairs to bed. Regina, on being awakened, had been groggy and cute – a word choice she was not going to dwell on – letting Emma essentially tuck her into bed as she would Henry in his pre-teen days. The older woman had fallen back into unconsciousness almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, although for some reason this had not stopped Emma from loitering for a few moments watching the reassuring rise and fall of her chest before retreating somewhat reluctantly to her usual spot in the mansion’s main guest room.

Hearing movement upstairs, Emma listened for a moment debating whether to start their makeshift breakfast, or wait until Regina came down. The clock on the wall showed it was almost eight, and whilst this was disproportionately early for her on a day like today when she was not expected at the Sheriff’s office until the afternoon, for the mayor it was more like midday. Whilst Emma was fully aware of her reason to rise early – to make sure she could get an appointment with Storybrook’s curse qualified doctor that same day, whether it be through luck, coercion or outright threat – Regina’s lack of a morning appearance only served to strengthen her worry from the previous day. Feeling the usual need for action, she quickly found herself outside the master bedroom peering in. Regina was not in her bed and the door of the en-suite was half open. Unsure where they stood on the whole invasion of personal space thing after the previous day, she stuck her head into the room. About to call Regina’s name, she was alarmed to hear the unmistakeable sound of retching coming from the bathroom. Her feet working faster than her brain, she crossed the room decisively dropping down beside the mayor who was on her knees over the toilet bowl clinging on as if for dear life. Pulling the elastic out of her own hair, Emma quickly tied it around Regina’s, marvelling for a moment, as to how much it had grown. As the heaving began to thankfully decrease, she rubbed steady circles on her back, vaguely aware she was making gentle shushing noises as she did so. When the older woman was finally able to move, Emma felt her instincts again take over as she slipped one arm around her waist the other flushing the toilet and shutting the lid to hide the incriminating evidence. She briefly considered lowering Regina to sit on the side of the huge bathtub, but seeing how shaky she still looked, she instead pushed her gently onto the closed lid. Once she was sure the other woman was steady, she passed her the glass of water conspicuously prepared next to her, and encouraged her to rinse her mouth in the sink beside her. Once this task was completed, unable to contain her need for an interrogation much longer, but also not wishing to hold the conversation in the discomfort of a bathroom, Emma once more swept an arm around Regina’s shoulders, escorting her decisively to her bed and sitting them both on the edge of it.

The sheriff opened her mouth to start what she suspected would be the first of many questions, but one look at the guilt, or possibly shame on the other woman’s face, made her snap it shut. Turning so she could maintain eye contact, she placed a hand on Regina’s, the other pulling her cell phone from her pocket and scrolling through her contacts until she found the number she was looking for.

“Hi. This is Emma Swan. I need to make an appointment with Dr Whale. This morning.”

TBC...