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Wrong Timeline, Right Storyline

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

“Hey! Can I ask you something?”

Emma’s eyes shot skyward after she looked up from her computer screen. Regina was stood in the entrance of the kitchen wearing one of Emma’s oversized hoodies. Her long hair was pulled back into a messy yet still elegant looking braid, and the blonde thought that she would actually be quite attractive—if it weren’t for the fact that this had been the 100th interruption during her 2-hour research project on time travelling. Which she was only doing because of the woman who seemed hell bent on not allowing her to accomplish anything. “What Regina?” She groaned.

“Do you think Emma would like these?” She asked, holding up a pair of fuzzy socks that had a cat on each one of them.

Emma stayed silent for a moment, completely ignoring the question, as she eyed the objects in Regina’s hand. “Have you been rummaging through my things… again?”

The brunette stood frozen with her arm still stretched outwards. She looked as if she was attempting to think of a plausible cause to deny that question, but she came up short. “Yes,” Was her chirped answer, but she was quick to add “but there’s a good reason for it” before Emma could say anything about it.

“I’m sure there isn’t but go ahead.” The blonde said as she sat back in her seat, giving up on the possibility of finding a scientific explanation as to why there were suddenly two Reginas in her life when last week there was zero.

“Well, I’ve been gone for a couple of days now, and my Emma and our kids must be worried sick about me. I just thought I’d bring her back something to apologise for my absence.” She shrugged and dropped her arm. “…Like these socks. They’re much softer than the material we have at home.”

Emma flashed her an incredulous look and tilted her head to the side. “You’ve literally taken one of my necklaces for your daughter, one of my gold medals for your son, and now you want my favourite pair of socks as well for your Emma?” She waited for the brunette to show some sign of remorse or to at least to realise that Emma’s apartment didn’t serve as a gift shop while she was taking this unexpected vacation. But it was clear that Regina didn’t see anything wrong with the picture. “Fine, take them.” She sighed, and Regina tilted her head in a very queen-like manner.

“I knew you would see things my way.” The socks were gone in a matter of seconds, and Emma thought that by this rate Regina will have magicked away everything in her apartment by the time she left. “What are you reading about?” The brunette asked as she shuffled up behind Emma to peer over her shoulder.

“Time travelling, or at least I’m trying to anyway.”

“Why?” She scoffed, and Emma glanced at her from over her shoulder. “Time travel doesn’t exist in this reality, because magic doesn’t exist in this reality.” Regina stated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. And sure, before that night in the library, Emma would have also dismissed the concept of time travel as impossible. She also would have dismissed magic as illusion, but clearly there were things at play that she was unaware of. “So, you won’t find anything on—whatever that device is called.”

“It’s a laptop, and why are you only saying something now?” The blonde sighed in exasperation.

“I didn’t know what you were doing.”

“We agreed that we were coming home to figure out how to get you back to your realm. I thought that what I was doing was clear.”

“Not really, no.” Regina deadpanned, and Emma let her shoulders sag as she flashed the other woman a meaningful glare. How could the other Emma have fallen in love with this Regina? She was infuriating.

“Then how do you expect us to get you back to your timeline? Surely you don’t think this little shopping spree you’ve been carrying on with around my apartment will do the trick do you?”    

“Oh no, I’ll get back to my timeline the same way I got here.”

And there was a thought that only just seemed to occur to Emma. How did Regina get here, and why was she speaking as if she already held all the answers to every question Emma could possibly have? She was very unconcerned for someone who was seemingly trapped here. “Which was…”

“Magic.” Regina supplied. “And also, there’s a portal in the library.”

“What?”

“Yea.” As if Emma should have known all along. “It’s been there since the beginning of time.”

“Then why didn’t you just hop back in once you realised that this was the wrong timeline?”

“Because it’s clearly not that simple.” She mumbled before turning and opening the fridge. Emma watched as Regina pulled out the carton of leftover Chinese food and pulled down a plate. Green eyes clocked the way the other woman moved around the kitchen so effortlessly. It was almost as if she’d been there before, but that couldn’t be right, because this was the first time any Regina had ever set foot in her apartment. She was sure of that at least. “The thunderstorm that was happening the night I appeared here destroyed the portal and apparently threw me completely off my course.”

“So… you were already time travelling before you got here?”

“Yes.”

“But can’t you just—" She motioned with her hands to try and imitate the way Regina used her magic- “I don’t know, poof the portal back into working order?”

The brunette contemplated that before shoving her food into the microwave and turning to lean against the counter. “I could if this timeline had magic. But apparently you guys operate on science, and unfortunately that means that I can’t just use magic to fix the portal… Though, that is the only thing that will fix it.”

“Why can’t you use magic? You’ve literally been using it since you got here.”

“Well yes, my magic comes from within, however that magic is only sustained by being in a land where magic exists. Do you follow?” She asked at the same time the microwave dinged. Emma shook her head. “Think of it like this, a fish breathes easily under water, but it slowly suffocates and dies when you take it out of water.”

Abject horror flashed behind Emma’s eyes. “So, you’re telling me that you’re going to die if we don’t get you back?”

“No…” She took her food and plopped in the chair opposite of Emma. “I’m saying that my magic does, however. I’m weakened by this lawless land, and simply put, I just don’t have enough magic in me to fix the portal. But I do have enough magic to perform small tasks such as transporting and—”

“Stealing my things for your family.”

“It’s not stealing when I’m giving it right back to you, besides its your family too.” She shrugged and daintily put a fork full of noodles in her mouth. “Just not in this reality.”

“So how do we get enough magic in a land where magic doesn’t exist?”

“I’ve already told you… we need Regina.”

“For what exactly?”

Why, true love’s kiss my dear. True love just so happens to be the most powerful and potent magic there is, and that actually does exist here.”

“You literally just said there is no such thing as magic here.” She huffed in frustration. “So that makes no sense.”

“Of course it doesn’t. You are governed by the laws of science, and science deems magic to be incomprehensible— or even imaginary. Trying to make sense of magic in a scientific world is like—” she searched the ceiling as if there were a list of things for her to possibly say— “I don’t know, me believing that Regina is actually straight.”

“That also doesn’t make any sense, because Regina actually is straight in this reality.” She massaged her temples in an attempt to fight away the beginnings of a headache. “I don’t understand anything anymore.”

“Look, all you need to do is woo Regina, and share true love’s kiss. I will do the rest.”

“What is the rest?”

“So, because Regina and I are intimately connected…” To which Emma made a face of disgust. “I will be able to draw in the magic from her to gain enough power to fix the portal and get back to my family.” Regina said before eating another fork full of food. “But I’m afraid I cannot say it in any simpler terms than that.”

“But how, Regina is not magical.”

“That’s true, but magical things still happen even in a land where magic doesn’t exist.”

“Like true love?”

“You are correct, my dear… It feels something like your heart racing, and butterflies in your stomach. It’s the intoxicating high you feel when you’re around her. That’s the magic, and that’s what I need to get home.”

“But that doesn’t sound like magic, that just sounds like—”

“Love?” Emma nodded. “Yes, do keep up dear, that’s exactly what we’ve just discovered. Love is just magic in its purest form.”

The blonde raised her eyebrows and wondered when this fiery woman sat in front of her transformed into a total pile of mush. “You really are from a land of fairy tales, aren’t you?”

She cocked an eyebrow at that, but said nothing as she continued to eat, and not for the first time that evening the blonde wondered how in the world any of this was happening.  

X

The thought to check her phone didn’t even cross her mind until after alternate Regina was soundly tucked away in her bed and Emma laid in a bundle of blankets on the couch. She’d completely forgotten that she was supposed to be expecting a text from her Regina. “Wow.” She muttered to herself and smiled at the ludicrous thought of referring to the other woman as hers. Yet, it did spark an exciting curiosity within her that left her feeling a bit giddy… as if she were a teenager again.

She chuckled and brought her phone screen to life. There had only been one simple text and it read:

Come see me again tomorrow?

She was smiling so hard that her cheeks were actually hurting, yet even with this newfound excitement, she still couldn’t help but feel like maybe these feelings would suffocate her somehow. Alternate Regina had been adamant that they belonged together, but Emma couldn’t see how that was going to happen from where she was standing. Regina is straight and in love with someone else. She politely told herself and pushed down those childish feelings of excitement as she typed her response.

Doctor Cupid: Where should we meet?

Her phone buzzed almost immediately.

Shy Girl: Same place, under the Oak Tree around noon? I liked talking to you earlier. I’m sorry I had to cut it short.

She really tried not to think to much into that, but she couldn’t help that she was swooning just a little bit. Regina was beautiful, sweet, and funny… of course she was flattered by the attention, anyone would be.

Doctor Cupid: Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Shy Girl:  Goodnight Doctor Cupid.

X

The next morning, she didn’t even have to tell alternate Regina that this timeline’s Regina wanted to see her again. The woman already knew. And she wasn’t any help at all when Emma asked for advice on how to broach the hard topic of Robin. She just sleepily shrugged and mumbled something about how much more comfortable the beds are in this timeline. She missed Emma’s unamused stare as she snuggled deeper into the blankets.

So, the blonde got ready in relative silence with few distractions. It wasn’t until she reached the door that she heard Regina call out to her. “Don’t overthink too much. I know you have a tendency to do that… Just go with it. I promise you will like where things end up. There are countless other versions of you that will back me up about that.”

Emma smirked. “And you’ve met them?”

“I’ve met a few different Emmas in my time.”

“Really? Like how many?”

“I don’t keep count. But there are plenty of you.”

“Really? How do you meet so many of me… and does your Emma get to meet other Reginas?”

Regina sighed and turned to go back to bed. “You ask way too many questions. It’s much too early for this.”

“It’s almost noon.” Emma said with laughter thick in her voice.

“Time works differently in my realm, something about the time zone... I need more rest.”

“You’re a liar, but I have to go, so you win this round.” Emma said as she twisted the handle to leave.

“Oh, and Emma? If I’m gone when you get back, then just know that it worked, and I’ve fixed the portal and returned home.”

The blonde quirked an eyebrow. “What worked?”

“The kiss, obviously.”

“But how do you know—” Regina groaned and shook her head before she flicked her wrist, and with that simple motion, Emma disappeared in a flush of purple smoke and reappeared on her campus grounds.

“That little minx.” The blonde said under her breath feeling more amused than she was annoyed.

Her green eyes scanned the vicinity and found her Regina exactly where she said she would be. Emma let a smile spread across her face when as she made her way over, studying the brunette who had yet to spot her. Her short hair was windswept, and she wore a long blue dress that was made of a material that flowed freely in the wind. She was absolutely breath-taking.

Emma sighed and dropped her gaze for a moment, she had to dutifully reminded herself not to get carried away with thoughts of alternate Regina's words. True love, kisses, and all the other things... even if her heart felt light the moment, she laid eyes on her. And even if she felt warm enough to melt when those brown eyes finally spotted her coming. Nope, she most certainly wouldn't get carried away... And she still struggled to think of these feelings as true love. A crush, maybe. But, true love? 

Regina smiled at her and pushed a few stray hairs out of her face before she waved... Emma waved back, feeling like her limbs had suddenly been replaced with putty. That smile, Emma thought, it was enamouring.

Okay, true love? Maybe

"I saved you a spot." Regina said playfully as she patted the blanket space next to her and tucked her book away. "It was a good thing you showed up when you did. You wouldn't believe all the people I had to fight off before you got here. Apparently, this is the best spot in the yard."

Emma eyed her with a smile that seemed to be permanently in place. She couldn't help but notice how beautifully relaxed Regina looked, with her wavy hair and dreamy eyes—. "Well then I will consider myself lucky. I am obviously indebted to you now." She played along. "Tell me how I can ever repay you?" 

Regina used her index finger to tap her chin lightly as she pretended to consider her options. "You can give me a million dollars." She quipped. 

"That is a hefty price to pay." Emma played along swimmingly. "I really don't think I can swing it."

The brunette nodded in mock sympathy. "I thought as much... which is why I've considered other options, and I’m willing to settle for dinner." Emma's eyes met brown ones so quickly, but Regina was still playfully watching her and giving nothing away. She didn't want to assume anything, but that seemed awfully suggestive. 

"Dinner?" She parroted. 

Regina gave a firm nod. "Yes, ask me to dinner and consider your debts paid in full." As if it were the easiest thing in the world. 

"Okay, fine. Come have dinner with me." Actually, it had been quite easy.

"When?" 

"Tonight." The final word hung in the air until the silence felt like it was going crush Emma, and then she was suddenly second guessing herself even though Regina was the one who prompted her in the first place. "If you're not busy, that is."

"Tonight, is perfect." The brunette said with a positively devilish grin on her face, and it was then that Emma knew that Regina was simply teasing her by making her wait for that answer.  

"You little imp." 

"I like talking to you." She said it with the most wistful look in her eyes. Emma found herself almost blushing under the thoughtful gaze. Again, this all seemed awfully suggestive. It was bordering flirtatious, but Emma couldn't fathom why this straight, and taken, woman was looking at her like she suddenly hung the moon, and of course she would remember the words of alternate Regina in her most vulnerable moment. Words that said they belonged together, and Regina would kiss her and suddenly all would be right and magical.

Clearing her throat, she looked away, letting her eyes settle on a couple of squirrels that were darting erratically through the yard. "I like talking to you too." She squeaked. 

"Oh, so now you're suddenly the shy one? I should change your name in my phone." 

The smile could be heard in her voice, and Emma desperately wanted to let go of all her doubtful thoughts and run with this, but there was at least one painfully necessary topic they still hadn't discussed. "Well you're suddenly bold... maybe I should be the one doing the name changing."

"... Maybe all I needed was for you to come and talk to me." And green eyes were on her, just as big and inquisitive as ever. "Maybe I was waiting on you to make a move, and now that you finally have... I'm taking all the liberties." 

Emma's wide eyes grew impossibly wider before she dry-swallowed. "What?" She croaked to which Regina responded with a playful laugh. "I-I don't understand." 

"Oh, forgive me if I've read this wrong, but I thought you randomly coming over here to speak to me yesterday was your adorable attempt at... flirting?" Emma was stunned into silence. Her heart was ramming in her chest as Regina waited for a response. Really, she should’ve been jumping for joy at the fact that Regina was broaching all the topics Emma didn’t know how to navigate all on her own. But instead she felt hot embarrassment pool at the back her throat like bile. 

"I wasn't..." Was all she managed to say, and Regina's face fell immediately and completely… and so did Emma’s heart. She hadn’t been trying to flirt though, maybe that’s what they ended up doing anyway, but Emma was only trying to prove a point yesterday. She never expected that alternate Regina was telling the truth when she said that she was meant to be with this Regina. And Emma went and spoke to her only so that she could go back afterwards and say see, I told you, love doesn’t happen like that here. But clearly, she was back again today for a reason.   

"Oh..." she sighed; all signs of her earlier playfulness deserted. "Then, my apologies." Now things were tense, beyond tense even. Regina wouldn't look at Emma, and Emma wasn't looking at Regina... but they really couldn't just sit there avoiding each other... could they?

"I thought you were straight." Finally came Emma's squeak of a response when the silence became too much for her to continue to bear. 

"Straight?" Regina looked up in confusion, as if she needed Emma to now define the word. "Why?" 

"Head of the Christian celibacy—”

"I've already told you. That is to appease my mother." Sure, she had said that, but that really didn't explain—

"And Robin." Emma added. 

"Robin?" Regina asked this time sounding even more confused. 

"Yea, haven't you guys been dating for li—"

"Dating?" Was Regina just naturally confused about everything right now? 

"Yea, I thought—"

The brunette cut her off with a deep throaty laugh. She was laughing, and Emma felt her cheeks grow red all over again. How awful could one day go? Now she was being openly laughed at, and she was really only a split second away from hopping up and bolting. 

"You think that Robin and I are an item?" Emma could only muster the courage to nod silently. "Well that’s just— he's going to love that." She commented with the playfulness returning to her voice. Yet, Emma still was waiting for the world to open up and swallow her whole. 

Regina only carried on a few more brief moments before she seemed to notice how the blonde still wouldn't meet her gaze, and that seemed to sober her. "Emma?" She beckoned softly, after her laughter quieted. "Please look at me?" 

The blonde exhaled, but then did as she was asked. 

"Robin and I are not an item." She said in all seriousness. "We never were... we're both gay, and out… He's my best friend." 

And just like that Emma felt her world come tumbling down all around her. "What?" 

"You heard me." She teased. "And since you seem adamant on making me say it... I've had a crush on you for nearly a year. I just didn't know if you—" 

"I do!" Emma hurriedly stated. "I mean, I am. I mean—" her thoughts were a jumbled mess, as she tried to clearly dismiss whatever Regina was going to say. "—wait I don't actually know what I'm trying to say." 

"That’s because you didn't let me finish my sentence." Emma smiled meekly and felt her heart jolt when Regina placed a hand atop hers. "I just didn't know if you were interested in me. You never gave me a sign... not until you showed up yesterday with that goofy smile on your face... and then I figured it out." 

"Figured out what?"

"That you think I'm beautiful, and you want to take me out on a date." Regina teased and Emma felt the tension leave her shoulders with every new bout of laughter. 

"You gathered all of that just because I came to say hi?" 

"And the way you look at me."

"And how is that?"

Regina didn't skip a beat when she said, "it's the same way I'm looking at you right now, and I know exactly what I’m thinking." 

Fuck. Emma wasn't sure if it was decent or appropriate, but she was really fighting the urge to just kiss Regina here and now. "I’m guessing you think that I'm beautiful and you want to take me out on a date?" 

"Obviously." The brunette said. "It took you long enough." 

Emma was grinning from ear to ear. "I could say the same to you." 

Regina nodded and smiled at Emma in a way that said touché. "But now that, that's out of the way, there was something else I've been dying to ask you as well."

"Oh?"

Except Regina didn't say anything afterwards. She wordlessly leaned closer until Emma's nostrils were caressed by the sweet scent of her perfume. The blonde felt her body react on its own as her heart quickened and she leaned forward, ever so slightly. 

And when Regina's lips finally met hers it was nothing like alternate Regina described it. 

The brunette was tentative at first, only moving her mouth against Emma's in a way that could only be described as soft. It held all the shyness and uncertainty that any first kiss would. And Emma felt as if she was floating on a cloud. But then Regina brought her hand to rest on the back of Emma's neck and pulled her closer, anchored her, demanded that she stay put. And Emma was malleable enough to obey this silent command as if her life depended on it. 

That’s when something changed... or everything changed. The soft brush of Regina’s lips turned into something hungrier, something more all-consuming. She was suddenly kissing Emma as if she really had been awaiting this very moment. Breathy and hot. Emma let her take the lead in this sensuous dance, never mind that they were in the middle of the university courtyard. Emma was absolutely willing to bear it all, right here in front of everyone.

But then Regina pulled away— far too soon, a note of roughness appeared in her voice that wasn't there before. "Let's get out of here?" She said still staring at Emma's lips. 

"My place?" Emma asked almost sounding too eager. “It’s only a few blocks away from here.”

“Yea, that sounds good.”

And Emma prayed with every fibre of her being that alternate Regina had gotten what she needed, because she wasn’t exactly sure how she would explain that to her Regina.

But said brunette didn’t seem to be sharing the same concerns as she interlocked Emma’s hand with hers, effectively pulling the blonde from her thoughts. And this time Emma smiled at her, unguarded and completely smitten, and all she could think was: my Regina.

Epilogue

Regina laid her head gently on her wife’s lap as Emma combed her fingers through dark locks. “I’ve missed you.” She sighed contentedly.

“And I, you, my love… I take it everything went smoothly?”

Regina laughed but nodded. “It was a wonder there was even an issue in this timeline. Emma barely even questioned things. And I didn’t even need to meddle with Regina. It was obvious she wanted Emma from the moment they first spoke.”

Queen Emma laughed and shook her head. “The more the storyline changes, the more it simply stays the same.” She leaned down and placed a kiss on her wife’s forehead. “And did she believe that ridiculous story about the portal and true love being magical in a land where magic doesn’t exist?” Brown eyes met green ones and then they both were laughing. “How is it, that I fall for that plot in so many different timelines? Our children came up with that idea, and I was sure it would never work. But here we are…”

“Another successful mission…” Regina said as she slowly pushed the upper half of her body up to be levelled with her wife.

“Together again, at last.” Emma hummed feeling her heart jolt from the intense gaze.

“In every timeline.”

“As it should be.”