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goodnight, dear void.

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This office. Of all the places where her job interview could be, it has to be an office that Emma’s never seen but has imagined very vividly in her mind’s eye. She hesitates at the door as Regina watches her with narrowed eyes, and she wonders if Regina is thinking of the same recent phone call as she is.

 

We know Regina by now, don’t we? Of course she’s thinking of the same recent phone call, and she is also thinking about how easily she could have Emma lock that door behind her and conduct a very dubious job interview. She does not, because Regina is, to her own continuous surprise, deeply principled. 

 

The application that had arrived on her desk on Friday afternoon has been a source of consternation since. Her first impulse had been to delete it on reception. She has kept Emma carefully away from her personal life and the rest of the town since they’d first met, and bringing her in to become the town sheriff is a horrifying prospect. Emma would be ingrained . Emma would be there every day, wandering through Storybrooke as though it’s her town instead of Regina’s. Emma might put down roots in Storybrooke, might begin to look for something real, and–

 

On second thought, Regina decides, she can’t keep someone away from Storybrooke because she’s a little afraid of being around her. On third thought, Regina is itching to understand why Emma wants to leave her job and Boston, and an interview is only fair, isn’t it? It’s what she’d grant any applicant (of which, in the six months since the sheriff’s station has sat empty, there have been none).

 

Now, she watches Emma like a hawk, a careful distance between them as a flush rises in two sets of cheeks. “Please leave the door open,” Regina says hastily when Emma lingers at the door, looking at Regina and then back at Regina’s secretary’s desk as though she isn’t sure of the protocol.

 

“Yeah.” Emma bobs her head, grimacing. Regina has always hated that about her, how uncomfortable she is to occupy as much space as she does. She fills up a room, captures Regina’s gaze without trying, and she has the temerity to act as though it’s too much for her. 

 

She does her best to keep that in mind as Emma sits down on the other side of the desk. “So I see that you’re looking for work in Nowheresville, Maine,” Regina says, because she’s nothing if not spiteful.

 

Emma just raises her eyebrows. She doesn’t apologize or grovel, and Regina resents how much more likable it makes her. “That’s what the application says,” she says. “I know my background is…unconventional…but I think that I can bring a lot of skills to the sheriff’s department.” 

 

Regina pauses, evaluates her. Emma’s eyes don’t leave hers. “I hope you don’t expect favoritism from me,” she says.

 

Emma snorts. “Regina– Mayor Mills ,” she corrects herself. “That’s the last thing I’d expect from you. I know you don’t want me here.” She chews on her lip, drums her fingers against her knees. “I don’t even know if I’ll– I’ve always lived in cities. Small towns where everyone knows everyone else’s business make me antsy. But I can’t…” She swallows. Regina watches the movement of her throat, riveted by whatever Emma isn’t saying. “I quit my job,” Emma blurts out. “I know it means I have no reference and the guys were pissed that I picked up and left, but it was the right thing to do. I’ve known that–” She takes a breath. “I think I’ve known that for a while.” 

 

“Yes,” Regina agrees. Privately, she wonders if she’d had any influence on Emma’s decision. She doubts it. Emma hardly holds her in high regard. “It was.” But Emma’s eyes shoot up to Regina as though her validation had meant something, and maybe Emma does hold her in something , after all.

 

Emma smiles at her, quick and glancing, before she’s earnest again. “I want to do some good,” she says swiftly. “I want to…find runaway pets and track down kids who get lost in the woods and calm down domestic disputes and even just get the town drunk into a cell to sleep off the night before he does something dumb.” She’s just handily described every incident in the past few months, which means that she’s been doing her research with Ruby. This might be a whim, but it’s one Emma is taking seriously, Regina notes. “I want to help people,” Emma murmurs.

 

Regina contemplates her. Emma looks uncomfortable again, but she doesn’t flinch under Regina’s gaze. “I need to know that this isn’t some front or scheme. Small-town Maine might not generally be the most diverse of neighborhoods, but Storybrooke has made a name for being welcoming even to more vulnerable–” 

 

Regina ,” Emma says, and she looks aghast at the suggestion. “ No .” Regina only watches her, waits, and Emma shakes her head. “I swear, this isn’t me trying to– you know me,” she says, and she spreads her hands helplessly. “I know you think I suck in every single way–” And if she hadn’t looked mildly horrified at the innuendo, Regina might have thrown her out in that instant– “–But do you really think I’d go that low?”

 

Regina purses her lips. Normally, she’d enjoy this moment of superiority, holding Emma’s future in her hands while Emma is forced to grovel for a job.

 

The worst part about Emma Swan is that she will never grovel. It’s also one of her better qualities, Regina concedes grudgingly. “Sheriff is an elected position in Storybrooke,” she says at last. “If you ran for it now, you would run uncontested and win with just Ruby Lucas’s vote. I would like to take you on as a deputy instead.” She clears her throat. Emma stares at her, uncomprehending, and Regina clarifies. “It’s a small town. You’ll get to know the people here soon enough. I would like you to earn the role.” She sighs inwardly and adds, because she isn’t an idiot and knows why Emma looks suddenly trapped, “Without a sheriff, the salary allocation for a deputy will be more than enough for you to rent an apartment in the town.” 

 

Emma loosens, just like that, and the stillness that has subdued her until now seems to fade. “You know,” she says slowly, and there’s some of that unbearable smugness in her smile now. “I always just figured you were on a power trip. I didn’t realize that you might also be a pretty good mayor.” 

 

Regina scoffs, unable to hide the pleased flush from her face. “Perhaps you might have spent a little less time insulting me and a little more time listening,” she shoots back.

 

Emma snorts. “Right,” she says. “You were a fount of civic responsibility when you were insulting my intelligence and education levels. I do have a GED, as you can see on my application–” 

 

“Achieved in an Arizona state correctional facility,” Regina notes. It hadn’t been on the application, but Regina had done her research. 

 

Emma glares at her, which feels nice and organic and as though all the goodwill from the last few minutes has disappeared. “I don’t get it. Are you against the system or for it? Because if you were just throwing around zingers about my job to get under my skin–” 

 

Regina picks up a hand in surrender. “I think it’s admirable what you’ve accomplished,” she concedes. “And I don’t give a damn what your education levels are. I know you’re smart and I know you’re a decent person and that matters more to me than whatever put you in–” She clears her throat. Emma is gaping at her, and Regina says hastily, “And if you ever speak to me like this in public, Deputy Swan, I will destroy you. Not a single person in this entire state will hire you after I’m done with you.” She clears her throat for a second time. “Now get out.”

 

“Same old Regina,” Emma mutters, shaking her head, and she blinks and turns around before she leaves. “I do still get the job?” 

 

“You’ll want to start by cleaning up the station,” Regina calls after her. “It’s in shambles.” Emma doesn’t respond, just swings back around and walks outside as though she doesn’t have to deign that with a response. Regina reflects that she should probably get used to it.

 

And for the first time in the past twenty minutes, Regina considers for a moment what a horrible mistake she might have just made. She digs for her phone instinctively after a few moments of reflection, ready to speak about anything else with Amy and put aside this Emma situation , only to find that Amy has just messaged her. Is this not the most soothing thing you’ve ever seen? It’s accompanied by a video of someone cooking a meal made of tiny food, and Regina sits back and breathes. Amy, at least, seems to be doing better today.

 

You seem chipper. 

 

Aren’t I always? Amy retorts, and then, a moment later, an emoji that looks absurdly flippant.

 

Regina takes a guess. Things working out well with your girlfriend? It still feels strangely intrusive to even refer to a girlfriend when she speaks to Amy. Amy is a lesbian , which still makes Regina’s throat dry when she thinks about it. And Amy is taken, which is fine . Regina has someone, in the loosest sense of the word, and she has no business resenting Amy’s girlfriend when she’s sort of seeing Emma. 

 

She resents Amy’s girlfriend for other reasons.

 

Amy types for a long time before an answer pops up. Better than usual. Sometimes I wonder if she might actually like me. Hastily, a clarification, as Regina steams at that. It’s not that kind of relationship. I’m just…not really a priority for her. And I get it. I know it’s not exactly healthy. It’s just how we are.

 

Regina grits her teeth, whatever good mood she’d retained from her interview with Emma fading. She doesn’t deserve you , she stabs into her keyboard. She’d known that Amy hadn’t been upfront about what had been making her so miserable. I don’t know why you don’t just end it. She isn’t worth it.

 

A pause, and then, Look at this one. Another tiny food video, this one of a miniature salad. It’s Amy’s way of shutting down the conversation, and Regina scowls but follows her cue. 

 


 

The next few days are a whirlwind of activity for both of our heroines. Emma, of course, is packing up the paltry remains of her life in Boston while apartment hunting and preparing the station for use as something other than a place where teenagers go on dares. The previous sheriff had left the station in disarray, all unfinished paperwork and disorganized furniture, and Emma and Ruby rearrange and clean until Emma is finally satisfied. 

 

Regina has a quieter task in mind, one that involves researching how much a deputy sheriff can reasonably make and how much apartments in Storybrooke are going for these days. Property values are at an all-time high– the fault, she reasons, of an excellent government creating an appealing town to move to– and Emma will wind up spending every last cent on a rental or wind up with a roommate.

 

Regina finds herself mentally comparing Emma’s apartment in Boston to the place she’ll have in Storybrooke. She’d done well for herself in Boston. Storybrooke’s most comparable apartments belong to an unassuming pawn shop owner on Main Street, aptly named Gold, who charges a pretty penny for each. “I think there are a few in your price range,” she says on Tuesday at the B&B, nipping at Emma’s ear as Emma drives into her. 

 

“Are you really talking about this now?” Emma demands, pumping harder, and Regina reminds her again when they’re done. Emma doesn’t thank her, which leaves Regina miffed at how much social capital she’d surrendered while negotiating the price down with Gold. Gold had finally agreed to rent to Emma at a reasonable price after Regina had reminded him of a number of favors that he’d owed her. 

 

Emma has not a clue of any of this, just seizes the New Neighbor Special that Gold offers her and moves into the apartment exactly three days later. She begins work on the next Monday.

 

Between you and me, Storybrooke would have to be the primary location in some kind of magical fantasy show in order for anything interesting to happen in its sheriff station. And Emma is quietly bored for the bulk of the first day. She gets a few calls, most which are routed through to an ambulance, and one which is a kindly old lady who just wants to chat with someone. 

 

She passes the time by texting with Virginia, who is polite enough not to ask why Emma has abruptly become so chatty during work hours. Mostly, Emma finds herself venting about a woman whom she’s seen far too often lately. It’s like, whatever I do, I know she isn’t satisfied with it. We’re fine in – She almost deletes the text and then finishes it. In bed, but the rest of the time, she makes it clear that I’m barely doing a passable job at work. Regina had made nothing short of eight separate comments about the paperwork that still isn’t completed, incident reports from before Emma had begun here, and she’s still smarting about it.

 

Virginia’s comment is swift and makes Emma cringe. Sorry, I think that this is the first time you’ve mentioned this. Is your girlfriend your BOSS? It takes a lot of alcohol or a lot of righteous anger for Virginia to type in capital letters. What the hell does she think she’s doing? Does she have any idea how many HR rules she’s violating?

 

(Regina, incidentally, is under the impression that she is not Emma’s boss. Emma, who has never read the town charter nor the Political Oversight section of its amendments, is under the impression that Regina kind of is.)

 

It doesn’t bother me , Emma says, biting her lip. She knows that Virginia won’t take that well.

 

It should! She’s taking advantage of you. No wonder you’ve always felt so powerless around her. 

 

I feel like you see me as some kind of victim in this , Emma writes, and she tries not to be too offended. When Virginia is in outrage mode, she sometimes neglects to consider how her phrasing might affect Emma. I know exactly what our relationship is. I don’t care that she’s my boss. She isn’t taking advantage of me. She’s just kind of a dick. 

 

Virginia types quickly, the response popping up at once. I’m sure you don’t see yourself that way. But you have to understand how it looks to me, someone who’s firmly on your side. She’s nasty. She undermines you. She makes you feel small. And you’re still defending her.

 

Emma squirms in her seat, uncomfortable. It’s complicated. I think anyone else would do the same, tbh. It’s not just about the magnetic attraction between them. Regina is eminently appealing, and there are those moments– just brief moments, interspersed– when Emma is sure that she’s seeing someone soft and gentle beneath the surface. Someone who needs Emma and wants her just as much as Emma needs her. Virginia is only hearing the worst of it because Emma doesn’t dare think about what the best of it might mean.

 

And Virginia misunderstands her last text. No , she retorts. If I were your girlfriend, I would spend every single day basking in how lucky I was, and you’d know it. I would never let you doubt how spectacular you are, my dear.

 

It’s tender, it’s kind, and it stops Emma in her tracks. She swallows, staring down at the words, and then panics and shoves her phone into her desk drawer and slams it closed. Naturally, the drawer in question is the one that automatically locks and has no key that Emma has found, so she spends the next five minutes on the ground, picking the lock. 

 

Regina enters the room midway through this, and Emma looks up sheepishly. “Locked my phone in the drawer,” she says, gesturing to it. 

 

Regina, meanwhile, sees Emma’s phone resting on the desk and raises one perfectly shaped eyebrow at it. Emma swallows and says, “Never mind,” climbing back into her seat. “Come to berate me for those incident reports?”

 

Regina sighs expansively. “I’m afraid I’ve given up on the incident reports.” She lifts a bag in her hand. “I’m here to return a favor,” she says, and Emma eyes the bag with interest.

 

Regina sets it down, retrieving a Tupperware container from inside. There’s something that looks suspiciously like penne in it, an orange sauce over it. “It’s not mini quiches,” Regina says, sliding it across the table to Emma. “But I have it on good authority that you’ve been skipping lunches and I thought you could use my leftovers.” 

 

Leftovers is a bit of an exaggeration. The penne is still warm. Regina had cooked it fresh this morning, along with a sauce that she’d made from scratch. Henry had been bewildered by his mother’s sudden interest in cooking dinner before breakfast, but had shrugged it off. No Mills will ever second-guess pasta.

 

Deputy Swan, however, is hardly a Mills. “You poisoned it,” she guesses.

 

Regina glares at her. “No.” 

 

“It’s laced with very, very tiny pieces of glass,” Emma offers. “Eventually, they’ll kill me.” 

 

Regina is already regretting her overture. “For god’s sake, Emma, will you just let me do something nice for you?” she demands. 

 

That ticks something in Emma’s brain, just enough, and Emma stops asking questions and stares at her. I can tell you that she is contemplating continuing to give Regina a hard time. Instead, she just says, “Why?” 

 

It’s a fair question. They haven’t exactly been the lunch buddies kind before now, and the few lunches they’ve done together have been guarded and tense. Regina takes a breath and considers the answer, which she hadn’t while she’d been cooking or even when she’d decided to make Emma lunch in the first place. “We’re going to be spending a lot more time in each other’s orbit,” she says, and she takes a step forward. Emma watches her approach, and she doesn’t flinch away. “I think we can both make an effort to be…civil.” 

 

“Is that what we’re calling it?” Emma drawls, and she crooks a finger. Regina moves to her without a second thought. “I can work with civil.” She tugs Regina to her, and Regina closes her eyes for the kiss. It’s gentle, affectionate, and there is a moment when something shifts within Regina.

 

Maybe it’s just the moment before she’d come into the station, when she’d sent that text to Amy and had thought, abruptly, of Emma. Maybe it’s just seeing Emma all the time, holed up in this station and forgetting about meals because she’s so determined to be a model deputy. Whatever it is, Regina clears her throat and says, “And I’ve been thinking…”

 

She hadn’t been thinking it until this exact moment, except that it’s the only thing she’s been thinking about all week. When they’d bumped into each other one night when Emma had been doing a late-night patrol and Regina had been on her way home and had imagined, for a moment, inviting Emma to join her. When Henry had asked about the new deputy and Regina had contemplated letting Emma know about Regina’s son, gifting her with the kind of trust she’d been loath to offer until now. When she’d walked into the station and Emma had looked stressed and Regina had only wanted to ask her why. 

 

Emma watches Regina with intent eyes, and Regina says, “Would you like to try going to Aesop’s Tables again tonight? I think you’ve been remiss a proper welcome to Storybrooke.” It’s unmistakable, what she’s asking Emma. A do-over. A chance to unmake their first encounter and try again, this time with a little more understanding. 

 

Emma’s eyes bore into Regina’s and Regina forces herself to stay calm as she prepares to backpedal, if necessary. Is it necessary? you must be wondering. And, in fact, Emma is only turning the invitation over in her mind, making sure that she’s agreeing to what she thinks she’s agreeing to before she speaks. Finally, she asks, “Do you mean…are you asking me out?” 

 

Regina freezes up at the directness of the question and smiles a Mayor Mills Smile in Emma’s general direction. “We’ve skipped ahead a few steps anyway,” she says swiftly, shrugging. “It seems like we might as well, if you’re up for it. I understand that we haven’t exactly set any expectations. For all I know, you’re involved with someone else–” She stops.

 

Maybe if they hadn’t been standing quite so close, Regina might have missed the flicker of uncertainty in Emma’s eyes. “Oh,” she says, her voice strained. “I see.”

 

Emma shakes her head, her brow furrowed. “See what? I’m not–” And she hesitates again, and then visibly tries to shake it off. “It’s not what you think it is.” I can tell you that the uncertainty is stronger in Emma’s heart now, not least of all because of the conversation she’d just interrupted with Virginia before Regina had arrived. “I have a good friend I’m– we’re not–” 

 

“You have feelings for her,” Regina deduces, and she takes a deep breath. This is hardly going the way that she’d imagined it might. Emma only looks helplessly at her. “Don’t you?” 

 

“We’re not together,” Emma says hastily. She isn’t sure what she wants right now. Regina is offering herself , is saying words that Emma has secretly craved for a long time. But Virginia had…Virginia had only spoke in hypotheticals, but Emma still remembers what Henry had insisted about his mother. She really likes you. Is Virginia making an overture, too? Is Emma fool enough to cling to a relationship based on loathing when there’s a woman out there who is perfect for her– who cares about her so fiercely and thinks she’s in a bad relationship in the first place– and who might want to…?

 

She swallows, her heart trapped between two heartbreaks, and she repeats quietly, “We’re not together.” 

 

And Regina, who has spent so many years anticipating the worst that she recognizes it immediately, repeats, “But you have feelings for her.” 

 

Emma presses her lips together. “It’s complicated. I don’t even know if–” She stops, because she doesn’t know how she’s going to explain this. She doesn’t know if Virginia is the person who she says she is. Regina is comfortably real , warts and all, and Regina is someone Emma has grown to care about more than is casual. Virginia is a fantasy, a perfect woman who has been the only reason Emma’s made it through the harrowing past couple of months. And it occurs to Emma that she knows very little about Regina Mills, even less than she does about Virginia. Regina shares only bits and pieces, moments of frustration and slips of vulnerability. They communicate only in physicality and snide remarks, and Emma is terrified that what lies beneath them might kill them both. 

 

And still, she yearns for this with Regina, despite everything. Despite even Virginia, who has no idea that she’s enduring this grand decision right now. Maybe it’s her nether regions who are doing the thinking right now, or maybe it’s the instant when Regina’s kisses turn tender and Emma could bask in them forever. “I want to– I would really like to go to Aesop’s Tables with you,” she murmurs. 

 

If only it were that simple. If only Regina could put aside her pride and her fears and say the same. If only one of them would breathe the truth in that moment. If only Henry would have walked in at that instant and said Amy? What are you doing here? and secrets would unravel in a single Hallmark Family Moment™. If only this were a terribly mundane story about terribly mundane people who glimpse each other from across a room and think, oh, I want to know her , and there would be tentative smiles and late-night dates and an engagement ring just six months later, because when you know, you know. 

 

I recall that I did promise you a happy ending. 

 

The happiest endings aren’t the ones that are there all along, ripe for the taking. Happy endings are fought for, are chosen with every breath, and chosen again for each moment after. And the best endings aren’t the ones that we ease into, no. They are the ones that speed in the opposite direction, only to do an about-face when it’s least expected and, without further ado, grant us our every wish. And I’m afraid that Regina is about to turn this train around, minutes from the finish line, and detour down another path entirely. 

 

If it’s any consolation, she will regret it, too. 

 

“I don’t think there’s anything I’d like less than to be your consolation prize,” Regina says– no, sneers , because her face has twisted into something cold and annoyed when she hadn’t been looking. “I mean, I knew you were fickle, but I didn’t expect that you had the time to entertain a second relationship. You spent all that time whining about driving up here.” Emma’s eyes narrow, the fight so close that they can both taste it, and Regina surges on. “Did you think of me when you were with her?” she breathes, and they are still so close. Emma’s breath is still a whisper against Regina’s lips, and it only makes Regina angrier.

 

She couldn’t tell you who it is who is making her angry, only that the rage has bubbled up and refused to abate. And Emma, who has gone from choosing Regina to being called fickle for it, is in no mood to defuse. “More like I thought about her when I was with you,” she snaps back. “You would hate to hear what she says about you.” She’s quietly thought that Virginia is overreacting, but it sends a jolt of satisfaction through her to know, right now, that there is someone on her side.

 

And it’s exactly the wrong thing to say. Regina loathes many things, but principal among them is being made a fool by others. “And I wonder what she thinks of you,” she says coldly. “You would jump from her bed to mine. I’ve seen your resume. I know how quickly you flit from place to place. Have you ever had a functional relationship?” 

 

Emma’s expression hardens, and Regina wants to shatter it, wants Emma broken in pieces for the humiliation that Regina has just suffered. (No one has ever, ever said that Regina is well-adjusted.) “This from the woman who couldn’t handle takeout without panicking that she might be on a date. Have you ? Is there anyone in this universe who has ever managed to tolerate you?” Gone are the playful insults, the reminders that they hate each other that serve more as foreplay than real taunts. Today, they are uncontrolled, unraveling like a spool hurled down a mountain. “Or does everyone who cares about you wind up running for the hills?” 

 

“At least I do have people who care about me,” Regina shoots back, and oh , Emma doesn’t shatter as much as crumple, take a step back and then shrink into herself. And in that moment, Regina remembers that she is a formidable Head Bitch In Charge and yet absolutely powerless when Emma is sad. 

 

Emma reaches for her and kisses her, hard and furious and the sort of kiss that leaves Regina weak-legged and breathless beneath Emma’s grasp. When Emma lets go, Regina staggers back, her heart racing as she stares at Emma’s dark eyes. “Go fuck yourself,” Emma says. “It’s all you’ll be doing from now on, anyway.” 

 

And she stalks out the door of the station, leaving Regina behind, humiliated and needy and utterly mystified at how she’d managed to fuck that up so badly. 

 


 

Emma, meanwhile, makes it about ten feet out of the station before she remembers that that had been her workplace she’d stormed out of, and that Regina is still inside. So much for a dramatic departure. She lingers in the street for a few minutes, pacing up and down the block, and then reaches for her phone to talk to Virginia. 

 

But no, her burner phone is still in that desk drawer, and Emma squeezes her fists and allows, for a moment, bitter regret to overwhelm her. She hadn’t meant to make a choice, hadn’t thought about it until Regina had pushed her into it, and now she only feels as though she’s betrayed Virginia by choosing someone else. Virginia is good to her, and it isn’t Virginia’s fault that Emma is consistently attracted to assholes. It isn’t Virginia’s fault that Emma had allowed herself to believe, for just a moment, that Regina has layers. 

 

Regina is gone when Emma returns, and Emma finally manages to pick the lock on the desk drawer and retrieve her burner phone. Technically, she doesn’t need it anymore, but she doesn’t let herself think about that. She isn’t giving it up until she’s ready to give Virginia her real number, whenever that day comes–

 

She winces when she rereads Virginia’s last message, a flood of longing washing over her. If I were your girlfriend, I would spend every single day basking in how lucky I was, and you’d know it. I would never let you doubt how spectacular you are, my dear. If Regina were just half as considerate as Virginia, there never would have been a question of who she’d pick. It’s jarring to juxtapose her last conversation with this text from Virginia and to take stock of how many worlds apart Regina and Virginia are. 

 

She doesn’t know what she’d been thinking. Regina has a way of making her forget all of her best instincts, and she’d just… 

 

She writes quickly, her heart in her throat. Have I ever told you just how important you are to me?

 

And I know that you want to know what Regina thinks of that . In fact, it frustrates her. Amy’s words are a reminder of another relationship she’ll probably destroy, just as she has countless others. Emma is right , and that’s what stings most of all. 

 

She reads her own last text message back and shakes her head despairingly. Why hadn’t she spoken like that to Emma? Why is it that Emma brings out the worst in her– 

 

Why is she still thinking about Emma. 

 

She knows how uncomfortable Amy is with vulnerability, so she responds quickly. You’re important to me, too. She never forgets that Amy sees only the best of her, and Amy would never feel this way about Regina. Still, Regina can’t help herself. I just think that you deserve better than that woman.  

 

There are few people whom Regina despises more than Amy’s girlfriend, an ingrate who has been taking advantage of Amy’s generous soul for far too long. Amy’s girlfriend doesn’t appreciate what she has– barely knows the woman Amy is– and Regina can’t fathom a woman who might have Amy and treat her so badly. 

 

Which is why it should be good news when Amy says, Well, you’re in luck, because I’m pretty sure we just broke up. It’s strange, the pit that it leaves in Regina’s stomach, the sudden dread that begins to creep up within her. She started the conversation by bringing me pasta– which I am still eating, because I DESERVE it after that– and ended it by telling me that I‘m basically garbage who has no one who cares about me. 

 

No. God, no. No, no, no. 

 

And the worst part is that I actually thought we had a chance , Amy goes on. She can’t see the look of horror on Regina’s face, of course. She’s at least a hundred feet away right now. I don’t know WHY, because she’s never made any secret of how repulsive she finds me. Lol. I guess I was just hanging onto the relationship because it was all I had. I don’t know.

 

No. No. No. 

 

Wanna hear something funny? And Regina does not , but she can’t type right now, either. She can’t answer at all, and Amy types trustingly, certain that her messages are going to someone who cares about her. Someone who would never do what her now ex-girlfriend had, who would treasure her in all the ways that Regina had insisted that she would. She ended things because she thought I might have feelings for someone else. And I kind of do. Have feelings, I mean. For you. 

 

Regina drops her phone. It crashes onto the floor of her office, a fault line spreading from one corner of it to the other in some sort of ominously symbolic move. Regina follows it to the ground, her hands rising to her face, her heart pulsing so loudly that she can hear it beating in her ears. 

 

It can’t be. It can’t be possible. The universe has never been quite so cruel to her. And she has– she has Emma’s number in her phone–

 

But she’s seen Emma with another phone, hasn’t she? Emma had even made a comment about it when she’d walked in today–

 

On a hunch, Regina dials Mulan. “Hello,” she says briskly. “Can you help me out? Emma’s left her phone here, and I wanted to call her spare number to let her know.” 

 

“Oh, yeah, I’ll get it–” It’s the way that Mulan stops short that decides it for Regina. “I’ll give her a call,” Mulan finishes, her tone much more cautious. “Let her know you have her phone.” 

 

“Mulan,” Regina says, because now she’s remembering. Mulan had been the one to find Henry, too. And if Amy is…if this has all been… Mulan is the only one who might know the truth. “Mulan, where did you find Henry two weeks ago?”

 

Mulan hesitates. “Regina…” 

 

“Where did you find Henry?” Regina repeats, and her chest hurts. Her throat feels clogged with tears, with despair as yet unreleased, and… “Does she know?” she whispers, because if Emma has been playing some twisted game with her for this whole time, then Regina will never forgive her. Regina will drive her from Storybrooke and break into pieces and never, ever recover from any of this. 

 

Mulan finally answers. “No. She doesn’t have a clue.” She sounds regretful, even apologetic. “I think it was just a weird, weird coincidence. I haven’t told– I didn’t think it was my place to tell anyone,” she says quietly. “But I hope you won’t keep this from her for too long. It isn’t fair.” 

 

None of this is fair. It isn’t fair that Regina’s closest confidant is a lie , or is perhaps more of the truth than anything else that Emma Swan has presented herself to be. It isn’t fair that Regina has lost two people in one, has given of herself so much to a woman who hates her. She shudders when she thinks about the woman Amy had spoken about, the girlfriend who’d made her feel like nothing. 

 

Hating herself is nothing new; hating herself preemptively is an unexpected twist.

 

She’s spent weeks telling herself that Amy is too good to be true. That Amy would see Regina for who she is eventually and hate her. And now that every last bit of her most dire predictions has come to pass, Regina still wants to curl into a ball on the floor of her office and sob.

 

She does not. She is a professional with nerves of steel, and she handles even the most bracing of circumstances. She says to Mulan, “I just need some time to…I just need some time,” hangs up, and cancels several meetings later that day.

 

And then she picks up her briefcase and her phone, walks home and smiles at constituents along the way. She doesn’t look at her phone again, and she moves at the brisk pace of a woman who is busy, always busy, and has little time for anything else. 

 

She puts the penne in the oven at home and sets it to turn on to warm the food in one hour. She goes up to her room, removes her makeup, and changes into a cardigan and a pair of pants.

 

And then, at last, she curls up onto her bed and sobs.