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the things i see in you

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This is the way it has to be, and Emma is ready to accept it.

 

It's a logical decision. After all, all of this is her fault; she caused her family so much harm as the Dark One—hell, she's the one who turned Killian into a second Dark One, and that's the whole reason they're all in trouble now. The least Emma can do, no, the only thing she can do is protect them from the danger she put them in. And the only way to do that is by sacrificing herself.

 

Emma's just grateful that she won't have to spend these final moments alone. She can spend her last night with her family, with her son and her parents and Regina-

 

Regina, who is currently refusing to look her in the eye as they walk down Main Street in the appropriately-gloomy late afternoon. Emma can't figure out what she's thinking; her face is cold and stoic, unusually expressionless. Regina's walls haven't been up like this, not really, in a long time. Emma wonders if this is how Regina felt just weeks ago when their positions were reversed, when Emma, caught up in her Dark One schemes, refused to open up to her.

 

"Regina," Emma murmurs tersely, not even sure what she's going to say. Regina looks up and faces Emma, not missing a single step. Her heeled boots sound a brisk rhythm on the sidewalk. Emma's quiet. Regina just stares. She's been doing that a lot these days, staring at Emma (no, Emma thinks, staring at the Dark One).

 

"What, Emma?" Regina responds, and she sounds so tired. She slows down to fully turn toward Emma, wrapping her coat more tightly around her body like a shield.

 

Emma is still going over words in her head. What are you supposed to say to your son's other mother before you sacrifice yourself to save her and her family from a problem you created? "I'm sorry. For everything," Emma finally says. Regina exhales and visibly deflates, as if the energy is being drained out of her, and Emma has the presence of mind to add something else, something more positive, that will make it stop. "And thank you. For helping me do this and- for keeping it a secret. I really appreciate it." And that was clearly the wrong thing to say because Regina stiffens and abruptly averts her eyes, and Emma is at a loss. Has she forgotten how to read Regina? Is Regina just not comfortable around Emma anymore? (Is that even a surprise? Was Regina ever comfortable around the Dark One?)

 

"As long as you're sure, Emma." Regina's voice is low and somber but it has a questioning undertone, as if she's waiting (hoping?) for Emma to contradict her. Emma's not going to do that.

 

"I'm sure," Emma says, and she makes sure to sound resolute. Nothing's going to stop her from saving her family. Regina meets her eyes again, gaze dark and pensive, and nods shortly.

 

"Then let's go get that sword," she mutters, and starts walking again. The two of them make the rest of the trip to Gold's shop.

 


 

The gravity of what Emma's about to do fully sets in just minutes later, when Emma watches Regina matter-of-factly describe the plan to Gold and Gold responds with more goodwill than either of them have ever seen from him before. He calls Emma a true hero and a brave woman and gives her Excalibur without a second thought, and Emma doesn't know what to think. But she can feel tension and surprise and more tension rolling off of Regina in waves, and she thinks it's time for them to go have dinner with their son. Everything else can wait.

 

Emma turns to Regina and speaks directly to her. "Right now, all that matters is I need to be with my family while I can be." Regina is still facing the other way. "Come to Granny's with me."

 

"No, I can't," Regina replies, finally turning to Emma with furrowed eyebrows. Emma is slightly taken aback. No? But then Regina continues, "Robin and I need to protect Roland and the baby from Zelena," and Emma feels a pocket of rage burning up inside her, sudden and unexpected, because oh, right. Regina has another family now. A new one. And some part of Emma wants nothing more than to counter Regina's words with Are they more important than we are? Than your son is? but she registers that this might not be the time to have that conversation. And besides, it doesn't matter anyway. Soon enough Emma will be gone and Regina's family issues won't be her concern any longer.

 

(But Emma still can't help feeling betrayed and, well, jealous, in some odd way. It's not fair that Emma's top priority be spending her last moments with her family, the one that's about to be broken apart forever, while Regina's top priority seems to be with her boyfriend and his children—who, by Emma's assessment of the situation, seem to be facing less certain death than she is at the moment (Sure, Zelena's loose, but does that even compare to how Emma's planning on absorbing the darkness from a dozen Dark Ones and running herself through with a sword? No, it doesn't). After everything, it doesn't make sense for Regina to choose them over Henry and Emma and her parents right now.

 

But again, Emma reminds herself, now's probably not the time to have that conversation. And the conversation won't matter anymore when Emma's gone.)

 

"I'll catch up with you later," Regina finishes, interrupting Emma's bout of silent fuming before averting her eyes again and walking out the door. It takes Emma a couple seconds to process what Regina has just said, but then the word later runs through her head and all of a sudden Emma panics because she doesn't know how much time she has left, she doesn't know if she'll actually be here later to catch up, and there are so many things she wants to say to Regina, so much history between them that they've never addressed, and they share a son for God's sake, they haven't even talked about what it means that Henry is losing one of his mothers and-

 

Emma knows her eyes must have gone a little manic when she looks around and spots Gold, still standing at the other side of the room, watching her with a single eyebrow raised.

 

"Is everything alright, Miss Swan?" he asks drily. Emma opens her mouth slightly as if to say something, but instead she simply turns and walks out the door. Regina is already halfway down the block.

 

"Regina, Regina! Wait!" Emma calls out, almost frantic, and some pesky Dark One instinct within her is telling her to stop caring, to stop being so shameless, but Emma ignores it. Regina turns, eyes brimming with sudden concern, just as Emma reaches her.

 

"What- is everything okay?" Regina asks quickly. Emma opens her mouth again but finds that the words aren't coming out.

 

"Yeah, I- just..." she stammers, and Regina looks on with increasing confusion.

 

"Emma, what is it...?" By now Regina's stoic exterior is firmly back in place, and Emma sighs.

 

"Just... tell Henry I love him. After, I mean," she finally says, looking down for a moment. It comes out more gruff than Emma had intended, but she thinks Regina gets the idea. She hears Regina's soft intake of breath.

 

"Emma, I... yes, of course," Regina responds, voice soft. Emma looks up again and it's like a switch has been flicked—Regina's expression is so unguarded and filled with emotion that Emma almost takes a step back. The unfettered devastation in her dark eyes is overwhelming, and if Emma doesn't break away from her gaze she thinks she might drown in it.

 

(And, well, maybe this is why Regina had her walls up so high today.)

 

But Emma finds that she can't look away, not when Regina's the only one who knows what's going to happen and Emma's about to go eat dinner with the rest of her family for the last time and lie to their faces. Regina reaches out and gently places a hand on Emma's forearm, the arm that isn't weighed down by Excalibur, and Emma revels in her touch like it's a lifeline.

 

But an inner voice reminds her that it's unwise to cling to lifelines when she's going to die in a matter of hours anyway, and soon enough she pulls away from Regina's grasp. "You should go. I should go too," Emma says with the smallest of smiles, and she knows it's a touch too cold, too forced for Regina to believe it's genuine. Regina falters.

 

"Okay," she eventually says with one last lingering glance. Regina turns around and walks away, but not before she hesitates one last time.

 

"Emma-" she says as she turns back, voice heavy with unspoken feeling. But by the time Regina has finished saying her name, Emma has disappeared in a cloud of grey smoke.

 


 

It's incredibly ironic, Emma figures, that in the end it was Regina who was able to get through to Killian and bring him back from the darkness, and it was Killian who proceeded to make the noble sacrifice to save them all. Emma almost laughs. In the end she couldn't do any of it right, it seems.

 

It's weird. For the first time since she emerged in the Enchanted Forest as a newly-inducted Dark One, Emma no longer feels hollow, like there's a pit in her chest filled with grey where her heart should be. But at the same time she feels emptier and more exposed than ever, like the grey disappeared and took all of her heart's defenses with it.

 

Killian is gone, she keeps repeating to herself. He's dead when I should be. This is all wrong. None of it was supposed to happen like this. She wasn't supposed to lose him, not like this.

 

Emma sits in her house, the one they were eventually going to move into together, and wallows in solitude. She could only endure so many platitudes and comforting touches and careful looks from her family before it became too much, so despite her parents' visible concern, she gave Henry a long, tearful hug (and he hugged her back so tightly, and for the millionth time she thanked whatever gods or forces or fate that brought him into her life because he is everything) and pushed him toward Regina (who Emma doesn't really want to think about right now, she's not sure why but she just doesn't) and retreated into her own privacy to break down alone.

 

Now a sleepless night and morning have passed and Emma's shed enough tears for a lifetime, so what now.

 

(Emma thinks that maybe she shouldn't have asked that, even rhetorically and in her own head, because it was just begging for something to happen next. Which it does.)

 

A brisk knock at the door startles Emma out of her thoughts, and somehow she just knows it's Regina (Who else would be this subtle? Certainly not her parents). Emma inexplicably dreads facing her but at the same time she craves it, craves Regina's calm and honesty and her willingness to just be when everyone else is determined to fix in moments of sorrow.

 

Ultimately the desire to see Regina wins out, and Emma walks mechanically to the front door and opens it. Just as predicted, Regina is standing on the other side looking much more put together than Emma does at the moment, and Emma silently steps aside to let her in.

 

Regina appears to take stock, looking around the house and probably taking note of the crumpled tissues and strewn-about cushions and assorted bottles of cheap alcohol lying around. Her hand twitches, as if she's itching to clean it up, but instead she just walks over to the couch, puts her hands on its spine and leans against it, still standing and observing. Emma, who is now feeling a bit self-conscious (which is absurd, all things considered), goes to pick up some of the trash.

 

"Hey," Regina says, her voice gentle but not too gentle in that singularly Regina way. Emma swallows, hyper-aware of Regina's eyes on her as she throws used tissues into the garbage bin.

 

"Are you here for something, Regina?" Emma asks in place of a greeting in response. And she knows that's probably a stupid question, they both know that there's only one glaringly obvious reason Regina would be here and if there were some sort of emergency Regina would have cut to the chase already, but Emma doesn't really care if her questions make all that much sense right now. She's still a bit torn between asking Regina to leave and not come back for a week or begging Regina to stay here with her so Emma can just sit and not be alone.

 

"I don't know," Regina replies simply. "If you want me to go I'll go." It's right there, Regina has just handed Emma an out for the taking. "Henry's willing to see you whenever, he did want to let you know," Regina continues, and Emma smiles, just a little bit. Their son. "If you don't want to be alone." And Emma looks at Regina and marvels at how well she can sense what Emma needs.

 

Emma shakes her head and gestures to the couch. "No. Stay," she says, and Regina exhales and nods slightly. She unbuttons her coat and drapes it over the arm of the couch before sitting down, posture casual enough for Emma not to feel tense. Emma disposes of more tissues and joins her, a bit sprawled out, hugging one knee to her chest like a buoy and angling herself toward Regina.

 

"Do you want to talk about it?" Regina asks after a moment, the lilt in her voice telling Emma that she already knows what the answer is going to be.

 

Emma scoffs and gives Regina a look. "No. You knew that already." Regina smiles.

 

"It's an obligatory question in times like these, I hear," she replies, just the right amount of snark in her tone. Emma gives a weak but fond smile in return, rolling her eyes slightly. There's a pause.

 

"Do you want to go drink ourselves into oblivion?" Regina asks this time, and Emma barks out a quiet laugh.

 

"I think I drank enough last night," Emma says, noncommittally waving a hand at the empty bottles scattered about. "But thanks."

 

"My cider is several times better than any of... this," Regina intones with badly-concealed disdain as her gaze flits around the room. Emma smiles fondly again, a little brighter this time. "The offer always stands."

 

"I know, Regina." And Emma does know; she knows that Regina will be there for her through anything and everything, and it's invaluable. She looks Regina in the eyes. "Thank you. Really."

 

Regina puts a soft hand on Emma's knee and squeezes briefly, eyes warm. "So," Regina says, and this time she sounds more definitive. "Do you want to put on some trashy action movie and lay here for three hours?" she asks with a twinkle in her eye. Emma feels a sort of peace, or something as close to it as she's going to get right now, expand in her chest.

 

"Yeah."

 

And so they do just that.

 


 

Hours later, when Emma wakes, it takes her a little while to realize that she had fallen asleep in the first place. She's snuggled in a very fluffy blanket and her cheek is resting against the cushion and facing Regina, whose eyes are also closed and breaths even. Regina is leaned into the corner of the couch, one of her wrists positioned lightly over Emma's outstretched ankle in an endearingly protective way that makes Emma a bit warm inside. (Regina can be subtle with her affection for everyone who isn't Henry, and moments like these are unneeded but still sweet reminders of how much she cares, of how lucky Emma and her family are that she cares.) Henry, who had been called over as soon as the movie started playing, is still awake, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the couch and quietly munching on popcorn as he watches an unidentified buff man perform stunts across the TV screen. For a moment Emma is neither here nor there, eyes glossy as they rest on her son and his mother in this tranquil scene while the muted sounds of the movie playing in the background sound far away enough to be a dream.

 

But then reality comes crashing back down like a tidal wave, and Emma remembers what happened—god, Killian is dead—and why she woke up from her nap just now—voices. She jolts awake, abruptly enough for Regina to also stir.

 

"Emma?" she asks groggily, and for a second her hand tightens over Emma's ankle almost instinctively.

 

"Sorry, sorry, everything's fine," Emma responds, which, ha. There are a lot of words to describe the current circumstances, and fine is probably not one of them. "There's just..." She trails off.

 

"What is it, Mom?" Henry has now turned around to face them, still chewing the remnants of his last handful of popcorn. Emma takes a moment to reach out and tweak his hair and she smiles, hoping to alleviate some of the worry in his eyes.

 

"Nothing, kid. Go back to the movie," Emma reiterates, and she looks to Regina for backup. Regina looks unconvinced, but she takes the hint immediately.

 

"So, what'd I miss while I was asleep? Wait- is that a helicopter chase?" Regina says, playfully prodding Henry's side with the foot sticking out from under the blanket. Henry also still looks somewhat unconvinced (what is it with these two, Emma can't get anything past them-) but he relents and begins animatedly explaining an intricate sequence of the movie's events to Regina, who clearly does not know what he's talking about but listens anyway. She shoots Emma a pointed look somewhere in between paying attention to their son, a look that says we'll talk later and leaves no room for argument.

 

Emma sighs internally. She supposes she'll have to tell Regina sooner rather than later about how she still hears the whispers she heard as the Dark One, how the only way that could be possible is if the dagger is still here and contains darkness, and, well, that shouldn't be possible but if it is it poses a whole new set of problems for all of them-

 

But for now, Emma thinks she might just sink back into the fleeting comfort of this moment, of Henry and Regina and cushions and blankets and an overproduced movie that no one but the teenage boy is actually following. So Emma squeezes her eyes shut, blocks out the whispers, and turns her attention back to them.

 

The weight of all the loss and danger can remain uncarried for just a few more hours.