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the things i see in you

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Emma Swan is an idiot.

 

She's always been an idiot, Regina's maintained that for years, but this whole Dark One ordeal seems to have brought her most idiotic tendencies to the forefront. Regina had thought that Emma sacrificing herself and getting sucked into a vortex of evil to save her had considerably raised the bar on stupid Savior behavior, but stupid Dark One behavior is proving to be an even greater problem than stupid Savior behavior ever was. It's stupid Dark One behavior, after all, that has brought them to this moment, standing in Emma's kitchen with a kind of mutual (if muted) exasperation that hasn't truly been present between them since before the first curse broke.

 

When Snow and David left, citing the late hour and promising to begin work on solving the crisis in the morning, Regina had stayed behind through silent agreement and Emma had led them to the counter and poured them two drinks. Now Regina leans against the cold marble island, sipping slowly and observing the house for the first time (breaking in and taking what she needed against Emma's will didn't really count as a house tour). It's a little bland, Regina thinks. Empty. Not that she can see much more than shadows right now. She'll have to reassess when it's light again.

 

Regina hears Emma somewhere behind her, probably on the other side of the island, set her glass down. They still haven't spoken a word.

 

And, well, Regina doesn't really know why she's here, why she's having drinks with the Dark One (one of the two, as they all just found out) at eleven o'clock at night instead of strategizing or researching or looking for ways to protect her family and deal with the certified mess they're facing. (Not sleeping, Regina doesn't think she could fall asleep now if she tried.) But here she is at this not-quite-uncomfortable impasse, standing in silence and taking note of Emma's interior decor of all things, while Emma's newly-evil boyfriend goes God knows where, planning or doing God knows what.

 

Well, neither the Savior nor the Evil Queen has ever been good at being normal. So why start now, when the world might be crumbling around them for the fifth-or-so time in as many years.

 

"Your new place isn't very... homey." Regina finally speaks, somewhat reluctantly breaking the silence. She can almost feel Emma's gaze on her back.

 

"Is this really the time to question my taste?" Emma responds, and it's familiar. Regina's mind flashes back to speeding down the road to the town line as a shrieking chernabog chases them, to that blasted yellow bug that holds too many memories, to looking over at Emma and thinking I can't let her die, I can't ruin her life again and transporting out of there, hoping it works out because their son can't lose both his mothers in one fell swoop. Fortunately for all of them, it did. It worked out. It always does, until it doesn't.

 

And here they are now.

 

All things considered, life was simpler then. Regina misses it, misses having someone other than her son (as much as Regina loves him, and she loves him more than anything, she spent many years without any friends and it took its toll) at her side who is willing to support her despite everything.

 

Well, she has Robin now, and she loves him. He makes her happy. But it's not the same.

 

No one is like Emma.

 

"If my son is going to be living here someday, it needs to be a good home for him," Regina says, letting a touch of snob color her words. (Great, now it really is like before the first curse broke.) "There are standards." Emma walks around the island to Regina's side and leans against it at the opposite end, mirroring Regina's pose from five feet away. Regina feels like Emma's building up to something more serious than interior decor. Regina's right.

 

"I did what I had to do to save him. I don't regret it." Emma's stone-faced, looking straight ahead into the darkness of her living room. Regina feels a twinge of frustration but tries to tamp it down, tries to empathize.

 

"Did I say you had to? Regret it, I mean?" Regina tilts her head to the left, observing Emma's hard eyes, her set jaw, and remembers what it was like to be evil and alone—though Emma Swan isn't evil, even as the Dark One; Regina doesn't think Emma Swan could be evil if she tried. But she is alone right now, Regina sees that, and she remembers exactly what it feels like to make bad decisions, drastic decisions, for love and have no one else understand. (Except the Evil Queen never tried to defend her decisions to others; no, the Evil Queen did what she wanted and needed no one's justification but her own.)

 

"It was heavily implied," Emma replies, bringing Regina back to the present. Regina exhales (huffs, really).

 

"Just because I don't want the pirate with a centuries-old history of violent vengeance to be consumed with dark magic," she pauses, "doesn't mean you should be obligated to justify your actions to me." Regina scoffs. She knows Emma can hear the self-deprecation in her voice. "Don't get me wrong, I disapprove. But I'm one to talk."

 

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

 

"Do you feel badly enough that you need to feel better?"

 

"No."

 

"Okay then." Regina almost rolls her eyes. She's forgotten how petulant Dark Ones can be—almost as stubborn as the idiot Savior Emma had been before all of this, and at that thought Regina feels another twinge of long-held frustration that she doesn't resist. "Although, let me remind you, Savior, that the reason we're here in the first place is because you just had to follow your first impulse and save me."

 

"And would you have preferred if I didn't?" Emma mutters back. Another twinge.

 

"Maybe if you had just stopped and used your brain for one second, we might have avoided this entire mess-"

 

"I had no choice-"

 

"Same thing you said when you broke our son's heart." Regina knows she's hit a nerve. Good, she thinks. Let her think about that a little while longer.

 

Emma's jaw sets harder, if it's even possible. "You said it yourself Regina, you of all people should know that everything I did was because there was no other way-"

 

"Oh, haven't you heard? For heroes there's always another way." They both fall silent, stewing in their own tense bitterness. (When Regina really considers it, she thinks that maybe it's a bit irrational to be angry at the Savior for doing what the Savior is fated to do and sacrificing herself for others. But she'll never admit that out loud.)

 

"I'm sorry, okay?" Emma speaks up again after a few moments, voice low and quiet. "I know I shouldn't have done that to Henry."

 

"No, you shouldn't have," Regina responds, the timbre of her voice dropping to match Emma's. "But I'm not the one you need to apologize to." Emma hums in acknowledgment and it's short but it's something. She picks up her glass again, and Regina watches her down its remaining contents in one swallow. Emma clears her throat and looks over to her, and for the first time tonight (hell, for the first time in days, weeks) it seems like they are actually looking at each other, seeing each other, the way they used to be able to.

 

"Our son," Emma whispers, eyes softer than Regina has seen them in a long time. "He's really something, isn't he," she continues, and oh.

 

And suddenly Regina gets it, she understands what Emma feels so acutely that it momentarily takes her breath away. Regina's been here, she's been the object of Henry's love and gone and betrayed it away; she knows what it's like to be filled to the brim with love for him, it being the only thing keeping her tethered when the darkness calls, even when he himself is too hurt to look her in the eyes.

 

So Regina takes a breath and remembers what it was like when no one believed in her but against all odds Emma did, and what kind of person would Regina be if she didn't return the favor? She lets herself smile, small but organic and more meaningful than either of them are willing to admit, and watches Emma's jaw unclench just a little bit. "He really is," Regina whispers back. "He's extraordinary." And they stand there, recognizing something so profoundly real in each other, in their shared love of their son, and they let it sit between them like a bridge—so familiar yet so new.

 

Regina doesn't know how long she stands there in Emma's kitchen, nursing a half-forgotten drink and letting her edges soften, but she hopes that if only for one night Emma was able to let her edges soften too.