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Wrong Timeline, Right Storyline

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Emma Swan sat slouched over a paperback copy of “Biochemistry for Dummies.” She squinted her eyes, straining to see under the flickering dim light. Storybrooke library was practically falling apart at the seams, but it was the only library her small town had to offer. And so, there she was sat in a hard, wooden chair with one leg tucked uncomfortably under her body trying to make heads from tails of enzymology. University was taking a lot out of her these days, but she only had a few more months before she was done and then she could apply for medical school far, far away… preferably in a city with an array of libraries. Or at least in a city that had libraries with a working overhead light.

Letting out a weighted sigh, she turned slightly in her chair in a failed attempt to try and get more comfortable. It didn’t really help that there was a raging thunderstorm outside, and the old building was rattling with every boom of thunder. She tilted her head from side to side and briefly wondered what she would eat for dinner. It wasn’t like her to be distracted so easily, but in her defence, she really hated enzymology.

Another roaring boom of thunder rattled the building in a particularly violent jolt. Emma cringed as she heard the obvious sound of books falling from their place on the shelves. Belle, the librarian, was quick to rush to their aid, picking up as many books as she could hold at one time. Sympathy came to her almost immediately, and Emma found herself walking over to the history section. “I’ll help Belle.” She called and the brunette muttered her distracted thanks.

She picked up the first book she saw, which happened to be a biography of Storybrooke’s founder, and placed it back where she thought it may have gone. She did this a few more times before another bought of thunder rattled the place and caused even more books to fall. Her thoughts jumped to poor Belle and how she was the only person responsible for the upkeep of this place.

“Pardon me.”

A voice chimed. It almost seemed familiar, but it held a certain edge that Emma did not recognise. “Yes—” Emma blinked wildly when her brain short circuited. She was sure she was hallucinating or possibly dreaming when she was met with the sight of… “Regina?” She asked dumbfounded.

The brunette’s face broke out into a dazzling smile, taking one step closer, she opened her arms as if she were going to pull Emma into an embrace. “My love…” She breathed easily.

Green eyes grew fraught with panic and flinched at the foreign touch. “Regina?” Emma questioned again, this time taking a step back. Her mind clearly recognised the face, but everything else was so… dated? Her hair was pinned up into this extravagant updo, held together by a diamond crown. The blue velvet dress she wore also made her look as if she’d just stepped off the scene of a movie filmed in the 1800s. “W-what?”

The woman in question seemed to realise something in that very moment as her arms dropped and her shoulders sagged. “Fuck. This is the wrong timeline.” She hissed to herself, which only seemed to add more confusion to the blonde’s thoughts.

“What?” Emma’s eyes bugged and a smile played at the corner of her lips. She couldn’t even begin to wrap her mind around what was just said or the fact that Regina had referred to her as her ‘love.’ All she could think of was how ridiculous Regina looked— green eyes trailed the length of the woman’s body, once more—ridiculously hot, she corrected. “Why are you dressed like this? Where are you coming from?”

Regina shook her head and sighed, holding a note of exasperation to her voice. “You honestly wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” The brunette looked around, her face contorting into something reminiscent of disgust as she took in her surroundings. “What year is this, and why are you in this pathetic excuse for a library?”

Emma was slightly taken aback by the note of superiority oozing from Regina’s voice. She had never heard her speak in such a manner. Well, in all honesty Emma had never really heard Regina speak that much at all. They weren’t really friends. Which brought up a completely different point. “Why were you looking for me exactly?”

Regina, or this very regal lady who at least looked like Regina, turned to meet her gaze. “What? Do you and Regina not have dealings in this timeline or something?”

“Uh, not really.” Emma confirmed, watching the brunette chuckle lowly as she dismissed the statement.

“So what? Are you enemies in this one? That’s a popular trope for us, you know, the old enemies to lovers.” She said teasingly, yet Emma still didn’t quite understand what was going on and could not return the sentiment of a smile.

“Uh, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘this one,’ but no. We aren’t enemies either.”

The brunette’s smile immediately dropped as her mouth fell open. “Oh?” She chirped, suddenly looking more serious. “Well, if you’re not lovers, friends, or enemies then what are you to each other?” The brunette questioned.

“Regina. Come on.” Emma smiled. “This is ridiculous. We barely know each other… did someone put you up to this? Because this is a very high concept for a practical joke.”

“You’re nothing?” The brunette’s eyebrows furrowed and something akin to worry spread across her delicate features. “Nothing?” She questioned again. “Like, at all?”

Emma swallowed as the dawning realisation that Regina had clearly taken an acting class or two made itself apparent. She didn’t know whether to be offended that the brunette was still carrying on after she had clearly figured out that this was all some ploy to get a laugh, or to be thoroughly impressed. “Uh, basically. I mean, I know of you, and I guess I now know that you know that I exist. But outside of that, we don’t really have any mutual friends, or common interests… Yea, come to think of it, this is probably our longest conversation.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She threw her hands up and began pacing the length of aisle. “In all of my years, I have never seen a timeline where we don’t end up together. Sure, it takes some of us a bit longer than others, but there’s always something that connects us.” She was more muttering to herself than she was talking to Emma but the blonde still stood there awkwardly listening. “Tell me, how old are you?” She suddenly turned and pinned the unsuspecting blonde with an intense gaze.

“Uh, 22.”

“Okay, that’s great, we can work with that. Um, did you by chance have a baby at 17 that you may or may not have given up for adoption?”

“Uh… what?”

“Okay.” Regina said as she grew more visibly panicked. “Have you discovered a place called Storybrooke, Maine yet?”

“Kind of hard to discover a place when I was born and raised here.” Emma said with hints of worry now lacing her voice.

“Raised?” Regina gasped. “You have parents?”

Emma’s eyes went wide again as she exhaled through her nose. “Of course… this is getting weird. I’m starting to think that maybe you have taken the joke as far as it needs to go? So maybe you should step out of this character now.”

Regina flashed her an exasperated look before she shook her head and continued pacing. “No troubled past, no parents, no kids—there’s nothing that has the potential to bring us together in this timeline… Are you at least gay?” Regina finally turned to look at Emma again.

Said blonde felt her cheeks heat up by being asked in such a forward manner. “I-I am, but I don’t see why that’s relevant.”

“Okay, so we can work with that at least.”

“Work with what? Why do you need to know any of this? What’s going on with you?”

“I need to get you to Regina, your Regina, and then I need to find my way back to Emma.”

“But I’m—”

My Emma.” Regina said before turning and walking away. Emma stood there completely dumbfounded and rooted to her spot as she listened to the descending clacking of Regina’s heels. It wasn’t until something invisible wrapped itself around her body and literally pulled her after the brunette. Emma chirped out the beginnings of a scream but was effectively silenced with only a simple wave of Regina’s hand.

She found that she wasn’t able to use her voice at all until she was firmly back on the ground, falling in stride with Regina. “What the fuck?” The blonde tensed. “How did you do that?”

“I’m not who you think I am… Well, I’m Regina, but I’m from a timeline that is clearly not this one.” She said as she pushed through the doors of the library. They were immediately assaulted with the strong winds and rain from the storm. Emma had completely forgotten about it. “Where do you live?”

“Should I really be telling you that? I don’t even know who you are.”

“Look, I’m clearly capable of more than you can comprehend. I’m wet, cold, and I miss my Emma. So please just tell me where you live before I send you into the stratosphere.”

“Uh, in the building just across the street from Granny’s diner.” Emma said over the wind. “Do you know how to—” She couldn’t finish her sentence before they were engulfed into a purple smoke, and rematerialized right in front of her apartments.

Green eyes bulged as she shivered and turned to Regina with panic written all over her face. “Well?” The brunette snipped. “Take me up to your place. I obviously need somewhere to stay tonight.” Emma wanted to tell her that she couldn’t stay here, and that Regina had her own apartment… but for the first time tonight Emma thought that it was best to just swallow those words, and she silently led the brunette up to her place.

Once they were inside, Regina stood shivering on the welcome mat as Emma frantically ran around her bedroom in an attempt to locate clothes that were decent enough for this version of Regina. Call her crazy, but somehow, she couldn’t imagine this extravagant version of the other woman wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants… but it was kind of all she had. She sighed and silently walked across the living room and handed the bundled-up clothes to the other woman who gladly accepted them.

“The bathroom is just—”

Except she didn't need to finish that thought because Regina was wearing the clothes after only waving her hand over her body. “Perfect.” She said as she stepped off the welcome mat and made her way over to the couch, leaving a very confused Emma in her wake.

“How did you do that?”

“Magic.” The brunette smiled as she leaned over and picked up a fashion magazine from the coffee table. “I’m impressed. You at least have some style in this reality.” Regina said as she kicked her feet up and flipped through the pages. “What are we having for dinner? Time travel makes me awfully hungry.”

“So…” Emma said as she slowly made her way over, her head swimming with questions. “You’re from the future?”

Regina looked at her from over the pages of the magazine and shook her head. “Judging by how modern everything looks, electricity, coloured prints… I’d say that I am from the past. Way in the past.” Emma was dry with one flick of Regina’s wrist.

The blonde blinked down at herself before she slowly looked up and was met with an inquisitive stare from the other woman. “And, you’re really not Regina, are you?”

“Oh, I am probably the most authentic Regina you will ever meet.”

“No, but you’re not— the Regina from here. I guess.” She thought herself to be insane just from going along with it. But this woman had clearly demonstrated wizardry that she was sure Regina from this timeline could never do.

“No darling. I’m not.” Emma’s gaze fell as she felt her heart ramming in her chest, and suddenly there was an overwhelming need to sit down before her legs gave out. Maybe it was the severity of the situation finally sinking in, or maybe “you’re experiencing a side effect of my magic.” Regina said apologetically. “It’s something akin to motion sickness, and nothing to worry about. I’ll get you some water.” She said before hurrying into the kitchen. Emma could hear her rummaging around before there was the sound of the tap and then Regina reappearing in front of her extending a glass of water.

She happily accepted.

“So, you and I…?” Emma asked only after the full glass was gone and Regina was sitting comfortably next to her again. “What are we in your… timeline?”

“Well, for starters, we are Queens.” That would explain the extravagant costume. Which turned out to not be a costume. “And we are married… with two children even.”

“W-what? How?”

“Magic fingers.” She smiled devilishly and wiggled her eyebrows. “No seriously, I come from a land of magic and fairy tales. And in my world many things can be accomplished through true love.”

“Like creating a baby between two women.”

“Yea, exactly like that.”

Emma waited a beat before her brain doubled back to something. “And you and I?” She said motioning at the space between them. “We’re together?”

“Yea, in almost every reality except this one it seems.” Regina sighed. “Is that so hard to believe?”

“Uh, yea.” Emma nodded her head vigorously. “Yes! It is.”

“And why is that?”

“Because, here, you’re like—straight.” Emma said slowly, and Regina rolled her eyes already looking as if she would say something to dismiss the thought, but the blonde cut her off. “No, I don’t think you understand. You’re like straight straight.”

Regina’s ears perked up at the insinuation. “Like how straight are we talking?”

“Like leader of the Christian celibacy committee at our university straight.” Regina’s face contorted with horror. “And you have an equally straight boyfriend. His name is Robin.” Emma breathed. Regina didn’t say anything for a long moment, and Emma watched as she fixed her mouth to say something several times, but nothing ever came out. “I bet you weren’t expecting that.” She said with a hint of laughter in her voice.

“But she belongs with you. You’re her true love.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. In this timeline we kind of just have normal love, and you’re allowed to be straight. It’s not a crime or anything.” Emma shrugged, uncaring. “Besides, Regina and I barely know each other. So, I’m going to make this clear, this is very weird for me.”

The brunette sighed and sunk further into the couch. “Oh my god, well at least there’s some semblance of normalcy here.”

“What’s that?”

Regina hummed as her big brown eyes met green ones. “We’re both still idiots... I will bring you two together somehow, and then the three of us will figure out how to get me back home.”

“But who says that I want to be with Regina?” That earned her a dangerous glare from the brunette, which, in turn, caused Emma to hold her up her hands in mock surrender. “No offense, but I don’t know a lot about her, and she kind of seems to go against everything I stand for? I guess. I don’t know, it kind of seems like a stretch for us to go from not meaning anything to each other to us having this weird soulmate bond that apparently transcends the rules of time and reality. That kind of freaks me out a bit.”

Regina’s eyebrow arched inquisitively. “You’re afraid of the fact that you exist in other timelines as a couple?”

“As odd as it sounds, no. I am afraid of having such an… intense relationship like the one you described. True love? It’s jus—”

“You’re afraid of commitment.” Regina said with a note of familiarity. Something changed in her expression and Emma felt her cheeks heating up from being called out. “I knew you were in there somewhere.” And Emma didn’t know what she meant by that nor did she question it, the embarrassment of the situation was too much for her and Regina had barely said anything at all. But Emma thought that if given half the chance this Regina would be able to read her like a book, and the idea of someone wrecking all of her walls-- of someone who may know her so intimately scared her. And so, she didn’t respond to that, instead she averted her gaze and stealthily picked up a take away menu from the coffee table.

“Do you have Chinese food in your realm?”

X

“Regina, you can’t just walk up to her.” Emma scolded.

“And just why not? I am her.” The brunette countered as she folded her arms over her chest. She’d traded her regal attire for Emma’s everyday wear and was sporting a jean jacket and oversized sunglasses. “Besides, you two don’t speak to each other, so how else are we supposed to get her attention?”  

“Well I think if you just walk up to her like you plan to, she might faint, or scream. We need to be more logical about this.”

“Oh, I know!” She said with mock enthuse. “How about you go talk to her. She’s your girlfriend after all.”

“She is not my girlfriend!” Emma shrieked far louder than she had meant to. She gained a few looks from a few passer-by’s, but trudged on, this time using her inside voice. “You are literally insufferable.”

“And you are being a coward. She’s just a woman. You like those, remember? It should be nothing to go and speak to her.”  Regina huffed. “I don’t get why you’re so adamant on staying away. You said you would help me get home. We need her.”

“Why? It doesn’t seem like this timeline correlates with yours or any others. What does it matter if we are together in this universe or not?”

“Well—” Regina huffed and said nothing. Apparently, Emma had a point, but for someone reason Regina, this Regina, was invested in their storyline in this timeline. “You two belong together. It doesn’t matter how backwards this timeline is. If you would just give her a chance, then I think you would find that you actually could love her.”

The blonde sighed. “Regina, it’s not that simple. I’m not going to fall in love with Regina because we have one conversation together. Things don’t work like that in my world. Love takes time—”

“And you’re wasting it.”

Emma glared, but ignored that. “And she has Robin. Let’s not forget about him. They’ve been together for a long time. I don’t see her leaving him for someone like me.”

Regina lowered her shades and flashed Emma a deadpanned look. “In no reality has Robin actually been a threat.”

“Regina.”

“What? Do you want me to kill him?” She asked seriously and Emma immediately felt her heart stop. “Because I’ll do it. It will take absolutely nothing.”

“Regina! No.” Emma said combing her fingers roughly through her hair. “My god, does your Emma think that killing is okay?”

“No.” She shrugged. “But my Emma has taken leave and left me with this pale imitation of herself.”

“I’m no imitation.”

Please. You’re too afraid to even speak to me. My Emma would have this Regina wrapped around her pretty little fingers in three seconds flat. You couldn’t compare to her even if you tried.” The brunette said, and Emma noticed how the tone of superiority had returned. It made her blood boil all the more.

“Oh yea?”

“Yes, Emma.” She made a face at the blonde and turned to survey the crowd of people walking around the campus grounds. She spotted the other version of herself sitting prettily on a blanket under a large oak tree. In her hand was a book, that Regina couldn’t make out from so far away, and she rolled her eyes. This timeline was so wrong.

“I’ll show you who the imitation is.” Emma said before she stormed towards the other brunette. Unbeknownst to her, alternate reality Regina smiled evilly from her spot. So, the blonde didn’t like being teased in any reality. Good to know.

Emma seethed for the entire short walk over to the other girl. It wasn’t until Regina was looking up from her book and staring at her that she realised she didn’t have a reason for coming over. “Uh, hi.” Emma said awkwardly.

“Hello… Emma, right?” The brunette asked and Emma immediately noticed the differences between the Reginas. This one was softer somehow— sweet even.

“Right.” She breathed. “I saw you over here sitting alone, and I thought that I would come and say hi.”

Regina flashed Emma a curious look, but smiled nevertheless. “Hello?” It was more of a question than anything, and the blonde found herself struggling to answer it. Regina wasn’t rude enough to flat out ask her ‘why?’ but Emma still found herself wanting to fill in the silence anyway.  

“So, what are you reading about?” She inquired as she took a seat next to the brunette. “You don’t mind if I sit do you?”

“Oh, no.” Regina said as she spread out the crumpled up part of the blanket and moved over to make room for Emma. “I’m just reading about the data analysis of qualitative research, and—” she stopped herself and chuckled. “And, that’s completely boring. You probably don’t want to hear about that. Was there a particular reason you came over here?” She asked curiously.

And Emma could only blink as her eyes flitted down to Regina’s smile. Okay, so maybe she couldn’t subscribe to the belief that there was such a thing as true love, like the other Regina described. Or the idea that she was going to come over here and somehow fall in love with this Regina. But Emma really couldn’t deny that she had a beautiful smile, and her stomach did sort of go all fluttery when Regina was staring at her so kindly. Curse the other Regina for filling her head with such nonsensical ideas. “I just realised that we’ve never spoken really. I wanted to change that I guess.”

“Oh.” Regina said, closing her book and pushing it to the side. “That’s sweet Emma. I’m glad you came over.”

“Really?” She had never thought of it before, but for some reason she thought Regina would be more… like the other Regina. Sassy, snarky, and snappy. But she wasn’t she was kind, and inviting—Emma sighed as she tried to stop her thoughts from trailing down those lines.

“Yes, really.” She nodded and smiled again. “I’ve seen you around campus and I’ve always thought you seemed nice.”

“Then how come you’ve never spoken to me?”

Regina blew air through her nose and gazed up towards the sky. “I’m kind of shy… but I did notice you.”

Her stomach did that fluttery thing again. She had to bite her lip just to feel something else besides the intoxicating feeling that Regina’s smile was giving her. If she wasn’t careful she would forget herself. Curse the other Regina and these ideas indeed. “What? You’re shy?” Emma teased playfully, and Regina looked over to her and silently nodded. “You? The leader of the celibacy committee whose whole job is public speaking.”

“Yea, it’s weird, I know. I can get in front of a crowd and speak without an issue, but I get tongue tied in front of one person. It’s like a curse or something.” She laughed, and suddenly Emma knew what the other Regina had been talking about. She was beautiful, yes, but when she laughed it flipped a switch in Emma that made her yearn to hear it again, and again, and again. For forever, for eternity… and all it took was for her to laugh for the blonde to realise that she wanted to spend the rest of her life sharing in that laughter, being the cause of that laughter, and hearing it. “Robin thinks I have some mild form of social anxiety.” Emma straightened at the mention of Robin, feeling her stomach plummet. It was sobering how quickly her emotions were changing. “But what does he know? He’s no doctor.”

The blonde blinked and tried to clear her mind of the disappointing haze, as she forced a smile. “Right.” She was internally kicking herself for wanting to cut the conversation short just because Regina had mentioned her boyfriend. Regina didn’t deserve that, and she’d looked so happy when Emma came over here. Now, she was looking slightly concerned. “So, shy girl, what do you get up to outside of qualitative research?”

“Am I going to be deemed as the shy girl now?”

“Your punishment for never having spoken to me.” Regina averted her gaze and smiled before she tucked a few stray strands of hair behind her ear. “So, spill, what goes on in the outside life of an obvious genius?”

“A genius you say?” She inhaled through her teeth. “Oh well let’s see, I mostly spend my time trying to cure cancer, and end world hunger, on top of saving babies from burning buildings.”

Emma laughed, despite her sinking heart. Beautiful, and funny. She really should have never gone to speak with this Regina. “You are a lot different than I thought you would be.”

“And how, pray tell, did you imagine me?”

“I don’t know.” Emma shrugged. “I thought maybe you’d be… stuck up probably. I mean I never met a leader of a Christian celibacy committee who wasn’t.”

“Oh yea, that keeps coming up… My mother made me do it. Celibacy is respectable, but my personal views align more with the education of safe sex practices rather than abstaining altogether. I don’t really believe in the things that I preach.”

“So why do you do it? You’re old enough to make your own decisions, right?”

“Right.” She confirmed. “Just not rich enough. My mother has this very particular idea of who she would like me to be, and she has made it very clear that if I do not abide by her vision, then I will not be supported. So—” She shrugged. “There’s that.” Emma studied her for a moment and kicked herself extra hard for never having spoken to this woman, but at the same time she was kicking herself for doing exactly that now… Regina was actually quite—she seemed to be someone the blonde thought she could really get along with after all. “That was probably way too much information. Sorry.”

“Oh please don’t be sorry. I… like hearing that there is a real person behind all of these ideologies that you speak about so often. It’s really refreshing, and I’m sorry about your mom.”

Regina shrugged it off and looked at Emma with a renewed interest. “What about you?”

“What about me?” The blonde retorted playfully.

“Tell me some things about yourself. I’m curious to know if you’re anything like how I imagined you to be.”

“Oh?” Emma teased, now with her eyebrows raised and a huge smile splayed on her lips. “So you’ve imagined me?” Regina laughed, but kept her lips sealed. “Okay, so now I feel like I should be really impressive, but sadly that’s not the case.” Emma said as she idly ripped bladed of grass from the ground. “I’m afraid my life is completely mundane—” save for the version alternate version of Regina who showed up last night out of nowhere claiming to be her true love in a different reality— “I wake up, I go for a run, I may see a movie here or there, I hang out with friends, and I study. Yep, that’s my life. Is it as exciting as you imagined?”

Regina was quiet for a moment as she regarded her and Emma thought that maybe she had been so underwhelmed that she wasn’t going to entertain that question, but then the brunette was nodding and smiling thoughtfully at her. “And what exactly are you studying?”

“Biochemistry, and then I would like to apply to med school somewhere far away.”

“What do you want to specialise in?”

“Cardiology probably.”

“So, you’re a romantic.” Regina stated as if it was the clear thing to say, but the blonde found herself confused. “You want to fix broken hearts. Doctor Cupid.” And when she laughed again, Emma simply knew she was a goner. She was chanting the name Robin in her head as if it was the only thing that could keep her from floating away in this moment.

“So then is that my name now?”

“Yea, I think Doctor Cupid, suits you.” Emma found herself blushing for completely unrecognisable reasons. She hated how she was going to have to admit to the other Regina that she was actually right about this. It was absolutely insane. “Oh, I have a class I need to be at in about 10 minutes.” Regina suddenly chirped as her eyes glanced down to her wristwatch. “But maybe you can give me your number, and I could drop in for a completely mundane hang out session or maybe a mundane movie?” She suggested as she handed over her phone, and Emma quickly accepted it, and input her number before handing the phone back.

“Yea, that would be good.”

“Good.” She said, and Emma could see that Regina had saved her number under Doctor Cupid. “I’ll send you a text once I’m in class.”

“Okay.” Emma stood, finding it ridiculous how she really didn’t want to leave. “Don’t forget.” Were the last words she muttered before she made her way back across the yard to a very smug looking alternate Regina. “Shut up.” Emma bit out as she breezed right past the conceited looking woman.

“I didn’t say a word.” Regina beamed as she fell into stride next to Emma. “But can I just say that, my Emma would be so proud of you right now. Regina is going to fall so deeply in love with you, it’s already obvious.”

“Yea, except there’s one little issue.”

“What?”

“She's straight.” Emma deadpanned. "... And there's also Robin."

“It’s not too late for me to kill him.” Regina shrugged, and to Emma’s horror she actually contemplated it for a second.

“No, if we do share true love, as you described it, then you won’t need to kill him.”

“But what if I just want to?” She asked innocently.

Emma ignored that. “Let’s go home and come up with a plan… We need to get you out of here.”