Actions

Work Header

every year is just a little bit darker (then the darker gets darker)

Work Text:

“Mom, doorbell!”

Regina sighed as she closed the lipstick she’d just finished applying, and set it back on the vanity. She leaned close to the mirror and examined her face one last time before she straightened out and made her way out of her bedroom. “You could’ve gotten the door, Henry,” she reprimanded while passing by his room’s open door, but she didn’t wait for an answer as she made her way down the stairs. The doorbell rang again just as she was turning the lock.

She swung the door open, already prepared to chide the Charmings for arriving early for the family dinner — but it was Emma. Emma who was as unexpectedly early as she was unexpectedly sheepish, standing there in front of Regina and wringing her hands behind her back nervously.

“You’re early,” Regina said in lieu of greeting, even as she stepped aside in an invitation — an invitation Emma accepted when she crossed the threshold and started pulling her outerwear off.

“Sorry about that. I have some news and I was hoping you’d have minute to talk? ”

Regina’s stomach dropped. She didn’t have a good idea as to what Emma might have wanted to discuss, but she couldn’t imagine it was anything good; especially given her nervous demeanor. Still, what was she to do? She inclined her head and lead them inside.

She considered turning towards the living room, pouring them both a drink before this talk, but found herself walking towards the kitchen instead on an impulse. Not that it was in the least surprising — the kitchen had always made her feel the safest out of all the rooms in the mansion, second only to her study. Always warm, always fully stocked, always the place where her affection transformed into meals for her family, especially Henry.

Once she reached the counter farthest from the door, she turned around and leaned back on it, grabbing the counter’s edge behind her as she did so that her hands would be trapped there. It was a nervous habit, meant to give her hands a place to be, and forcing them still so she wouldn’t play with them anxiously.

Emma stopped at the other side of the room, the kitchen island between them, and she swayed slightly on her feet back and forth, agitated and apprehensive. Her mood was contagious and Regina’s stomach was feeling heavier with each passing second that Emma just stood there.

Regina was convinced by now the news must be really horrible, and her brain wouldn’t stop inserting its worst ideas into her mind. She couldn’t take this strain much longer, so she went for reassurance. “Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

But when Emma broke out into a brilliant grin, Regina’s assumptions were sent into a tailspin — the news had to be good.

And when Emma excitedly choked out, “Killian proposed!” Regina’s whole world turned upside down — the news was worse than anything she imagined.

Emma was pulling something out of her pocket, then, and putting it on her finger— oh. She was showing off her hand, adorned with a classy ring — it was quite beautiful, really, and Regina stared at it, stunned. And when its big diamond caught the kitchen’s artificial lights and reflected them into Regina’s eyes in a way she thought might be burned into them forever more, she finally found it in herself to react. She knew what was expected of her — she rounded the island in a few quick strides, and then she was embracing Emma, saying softly, “Emma. I’m happy for you. I really am.”

And Emma hugged her back, tight and without reservation, and she beamed. “Thanks, it means a lot.” But then she pulled away just as fast, and her nervousness was back, and Regina knew this wasn’t over, there was more, and a slew of brand new horrors flashed through her mind — we’re marrying tomorrow; we’re moving away; I’m pregnant.

So when Emma said, “actually, we were hoping you’d be okay with us announcing it tonight at dinner? But it’s totally okay if you’d rather we didn’t since you’re hosting tonight,” although the request was hurtful, Regina mostly just felt relieved that it hadn’t been one of her intrusive thoughts instead. She nodded her head quickly, too enthusiastically, saying yes, absolutely, because how could she ever put her own needs before Emma’s?

She couldn’t. She didn’t have that kind of strength.

But then Emma was beaming at her even brighter, looking so pleased, and Regina thought that maybe she wouldn’t have put her own needs before Emma’s even if she could.

“Thank you, Regina.” She paused for a second while she took the ring off and put it back in her pocket. She wanted to keep it a surprise, Regina supposed. “So, can I help you with anything?”

Regina would’ve said no, I’ve got this, but right now — right now she wanted a moment to breathe. To absorb the news and recompose herself into something solid again. So she sent Emma to the dining room to set the table while she slinked out the back door into the backyard.

Deep breaths of the fresh night air did her well — she was already feeling more collected than a minute ago — but it was too cold to stay out there without an overcoat, and she was forced to return inside. She was just about to see if Emma needed any help when the doorbell rang again. She breathed out her relief and walked briskly to the door to welcome her guests — the Charmings, it turned out.

She invited them in, and they didn’t have to wait long until everyone was there — Zelena chose to poof directly into the dining room, jump-scaring everyone present, and then he showed up, knocking on her door with his hook, leaving ugly scuff marks. As if she couldn’t have any more distaste for the man.

But he was Emma’s fiancé now, and she welcomed him in with a warm smile, and then they sat there at her table, all of them, like a family.

The food was served, and they ate amidst mundane talk — mainly driven by Mary Margaret — but Emma kept fidgeting, filled with the same nervous energy she had in Regina’s kitchen earlier, except now Regina knew why — and for that, she couldn’t quite meet Emma’s gaze, even as she saw her glance at her out of the corner of her eye. Every time Regina saw Emma looking at her, she looked at Hook instead.

And each time, he was looking at Emma, and beaming — bursting with happiness and pride, like he won the lottery.

And he did, Regina supposed. She couldn’t begrudge him his happiness, then.

She could still be bitter, though.

And every time she glanced at Henry, he looked right at her and then at Emma, eyebrows furrowed the slightest bit, gaze calculating.

And every time she looked at Zelena, she wagged her eyebrows at Regina before looking pointedly to Emma, mistaking their behavior for something it wasn’t.

And every time she looked at David, his eyes jumped between Hook and Emma, his brain thinking something over so hard that Regina thought they might hear it buzz soon.

Mary Margaret went on, prompting new topics of conversation, and getting distracted answers here and there — and normally this wouldn’t bother her, being the one who talked the most, but she was perceptive, and she knew something was brewing tonight with the way everyone was glancing at each other, but especially with the way Regina was not glancing at Emma.

She fell silent for a moment, and everyone ate quietly for a while, not quite sure what changed, but feeling more awkward for it, until Emma cleared her throat, and everyone’s eyes snapped up to her — and when Regina’s did too, Emma smiled at her with excitement. Like they shared a secret, an inside joke, and Regina got nauseous as she saw in her peripheral vision that everyone followed Emma’s eyes towards her.

But then Emma’s head was turning, and she was looking at Hook, and she didn’t look excited anymore — she looked elated, their faces rapt with love, eyes only for each other. Regina was finding it increasingly hard to keep smiling through her urge to hurl at the dinner table, but then everyone’s eyes were turning away from her slowly and towards Emma instead, and the bile in her throat receded, leaving behind just the bitter aftertaste of heartbreak.

“We’re engaged!” Emma cried out as she pulled the ring from her pocket again and slid it on her finger — for good now — to show it off to the entire table.

Mary Margaret gasped, a hand covering her mouth, and David put his arm around his wife as he smiled at Emma, a little confused but mostly happy. Henry gaped at her, jaw hanging slack, and Zelena’s eyebrows rose impossibly high as her eyes widened.

Then congratulations started pouring out, everyone talking at once with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and it was impossible to make out any single word as they melded into one static noise of happiness, and Regina found herself just…

Awash in it, floating away.

Smiling softly, because Emma was happy.

Chest tight, because Emma was happy with him.

And then Zelena — the least enthusiastic of the bunch — well… she never quite subscribed to social conventions. No — when she was tired of congratulating the happy couple, she looked at Regina with a frown instead, and Regina so wished she hadn’t — because suddenly it got near impossible to keep her smile genuine, and it morphed into some kind of grimace instead. As if she was smiling for the first time in her life and didn’t quite know how to — and that’s how she felt.

And Zelena’s head movement drew other people’s attention, and they looked at Regina then, too. And Regina really couldn’t help herself — she let her eyes wander around the table, meeting everyone’s gazes, one by one.

Henry, a happy smile still lingering on his lips, but gone from his eyes.

Hook, delirious with love, secure in it; smug. Fucker.

David, who looked at her in a way that for the first time ever reminded her of her own father. Understanding and unconditionally loving.

Mary Margaret, who looked at her in a way that didn’t remind her of her own mother at all. Gentle and soft, supportive, but without an ounce of pity.

And Emma.

Emma with eyebrows drawn together, eyes turbulent as a half-baked epiphany descended on her — because suddenly she knew there was something, but she didn’t know what.

Regina’s stomach hurt, her muscles were tense, and she was acutely aware of each breath she drew in.

Still, she was convinced she had it under control — until the moment her arms started tingling. Then she shot up, her chair scraping the floor in a way unlike her, and she said, “I have dessert for everyone to celebrate. Don’t let me interrupt, I’ll be right back.”

She left the room on shaky legs and went to the kitchen, which suddenly didn’t feel like a safe room to her at all — so she beelined from there to her study, and shut the door softly behind her.

Once she was sat on the couch, it hit her like a freight train — the finality of it all.

She’d been in love with Emma for so long, she couldn’t even remember when it started anymore. Even when she trekked through her memories and thought back to their very first meeting, she was convinced she already loved her then — even though she knew she hadn’t. But Emma permeated her life so completely, wove herself into the very person Regina was today, that Regina couldn’t remember her life before loving Emma.

She felt her there with her in all of her memories of raising Henry. Standing right behind her shoulder, looking at Henry with just as much love as Regina did.

She felt her there when she thought about Daniel, too, and… well, it wasn’t something she admitted lightly, but sometimes it wasn’t Daniel she was seeing in her memories at all. No — sometimes her lover had beautiful long blonde hair and a smile that held the power to change a life.

It did change her life. She couldn’t fathom an existence devoid of her love for Emma. And right now, that hurt in a way she didn’t know how she would recover from.

What if she didn’t want to recover from it?

A few tears spilled down her cheeks, and she dabbed at them quickly with a tissue before she blew her nose, and—

This would be all the weakness she’d allow herself right now.

Later, in the confines of her bedroom, shielded by soundproofing spells, she’d let herself grieve and despair, but not now. Now—

There was a knock on the door.

She took in one last breath, pocketed the tissue she had in her hand, and steeled her voice into something impressively solid when she said, “come in.”

Emma’s head poked in, and Regina was tempted to turn her own head to the heavens and laugh like a madman in the face of the universe’s cruelty. But then the rest of Emma appeared from behind the door, and she sat in the armchair opposite of Regina, and Regina smiled instead — she didn’t know how, but she did.

Emma smiled back, even as her eyebrows furrowed, and she asked, “so what was that about?”

“What do you mean exactly?” Regina had a few ideas, but she’d rather leave it to Emma to ask more precisely.

“I mean…” she trailed off, searching for the words. Finally, after a few long seconds, she asked, “is there a problem here?”

And Regina could still pretend she wasn’t sure what Emma meant, she could keep drilling her until Emma went ahead and said it — but she didn’t have the strength. It was hard enough to sit here, in this room full of memories of their first meeting, so she said, “no, there is no problem. I’m very happy for you.” She tried for a smile again, mostly succeeding.

But this smile didn’t work on Emma, who frowned in response. She didn’t say anything for a moment, and Regina thought maybe that would be it, but then — then Emma spoke.

“Maybe you could show it, then.”

It sounded much more accusatory than Regina was prepared for, and, despite the painful pang of guilt in her chest, her defensive instincts kicked in.

“I did show it. What do you want from me, Emma?” It came out bitter, and snarling, and so reminiscent of their early days she wanted to cry.

But she didn’t. And then she just desperately wished she could take herself back to those times and re-write history. Mold herself into a person Emma could love.

But she couldn’t. So Regina just sat there, feeling the weight of the universe’s suffering on her shoulders as she waited for Emma to lash out back at her.

But Emma didn’t. Instead, she shrugged and her face fell in a way that twisted the knife in Regina’s heart, and she said feebly, “I just want you to be happy for me.”

Regina couldn’t help it when her eyes glassed over with tears as she said, “I am.” It was weak, and wet, and more imploring than reassuring, and Regina hated herself for it.

Emma apparently caught onto every last emotion in Regina’s voice, because she looked at her — long, and searching, and… skeptical — and then she asked, “so why does it feel like you’re so damn heartbroken?”

There it was. The first truth said since Emma came into the study. Except Emma didn’t know she was off-mark — that Regina wasn’t heartbroken for Emma — and Regina could’ve let it go, she could’ve let her believe what she did and they both would’ve been all the better for it, but something in her just didn’t let her when she admitted, “I’m not heartbroken for you. I’m heartbroken for myself.”

“Oh.“ Emma hesitated. She was thinking over Regina’s statement, and Regina couldn’t bear to look her in the eyes and see the pieces falling into place. She stared into the unlit fireplace instead. Visions of burning logs, fireballs, and town hall fires swam in her head until Emma spoke again, and Regina’s eyes snapped to hers against her will. “I mean— I’m not—“ she stuttered. She shook her head slightly, and her eyes set with resolve. “You’re my friend, Regina.”

And that was the final confirmation — because Regina had always loved from afar, yearning in silence, and so she never gave Emma the chance to reject her. Never until now — and now Emma did.

Regina would’ve liked to curl up and wither away into nothingness, then, but she was Emma’s friend, and, once again, she’d be damned if she didn’t do everything in her power, breaking her own heart included, to lessen Emma’s strain. “I am your friend, Emma. Always will be. I’m here for you.” Her pulse was hammering in her ears and her chest was tight with aching, but she hazarded a smile. It came out shaky, but it was there.

And she was glad it was, because Emma smiled back, and she nodded decisively as she said, “okay. Yeah, okay. Good. I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. Let’s just forget the whole thing. You have a wedding to plan, right?” She was sure Emma would see right through her feeble attempts at peacemaking, but Emma just smiled again, and she said yeah, and everything was fine again. As fine as it could be, given… well.

They went back to the kitchen and both of them fetched dessert for their family. She couldn’t speak for Emma, but it was the hardest Regina had ever worked to keep the pain out of her eyes and features composed. It was worth it, in the end, because the rest of the dinner went smoothly, the previous awkwardness gone amid Emma’s and Regina’s smiles.

And later that night, long after everyone left, and after the kitchen had been cleaned up, and after Henry went to bed, Regina did seal herself off in her bedroom, and she cried — she wept, and wailed, and mourned her life unlived.

 

 

Things never recovered between them.

They had reaffirmed their friendship that night in the study, but, in hindsight, that had been the very last moment of its existence. Emma pulled away from her, gradually, and Regina let her. She let the distance grow between them until it felt awkward — something they’d never felt between them until now, not even when they’d been sworn enemies.

Now every time they ran into each other Regina couldn’t keep the heartbreak off of her face, and Emma couldn’t bear to witness it. She averted her eyes, she crossed to the other side of the street, she even stopped coming into Granny’s whenever she knew Regina would be there, but the change had been so gradual, Regina never had one particular moment to grieve.

Instead, she grieved all the time. She retreated into herself, too sensitive to let herself think about any of what happened, too pained to let herself think of all the possibilities and what-ifs that had been forever crossed off the list.

No, that was a lie — she thought about it; she thought about it all the time. It was as painful as she expected it would be.

Henry had been facing hard choices regarding his future, and so she threw her weight behind him, determined to help her son find a path to his happiness, having none of her own. She must have been overbearing, but he let her be as annoying as she wanted without protest, which added guilt as yet another layer to her mess of emotions — but she needed it.

Henry had been talking recently of not going to college at all but traveling the realms instead, and her knee-jerk reaction was a no way in hell, but she didn’t need much time to reconsider. She’d been to hell after all. Some days, she thought maybe she was in it still.

And the more he talked about it, and the more excited he got, the more excited for it she got, too. If anyone should travel the world, she thought, it should be Henry. The kindest, smartest person she knew — he’d enrich lives of everyone he came across while finding his own happiness, and it was all a mother could dream of for her son.

Days passed, weeks turned into months, and the pain never lessened — but it dulled, leaving her sore and bruised, but not cut and bleeding, and Regina thought she might be able to continue this way, and the pain perhaps would lessen, and then maybe one day down the line, they’d be able to be friends again.

Until—

Until family dinner at the loft on one late spring night.

Until they all sat together at the Charmings’ table, in a formation not unlike that day a few months ago, and Emma once again teemed with nervous energy, not unlike that same day.

Until Emma exclaimed, not unlike that day, “I’m pregnant!”

Until Regina got nauseous, not unlike that day.

Until she swallowed it all down, and congratulated them with a smile, not unlike that day.

And then she was alone at the mansion, having asked Henry to go home with Emma and Hook instead.

She changed into sweats, took off her makeup, wrapped herself in a blanket on the couch in her study, and drank. One, two glasses of cider, and then her head was swimming with regrets and self-loathing. Three, four glasses, and then her eyes were swimming, too, with tears of lonely heartbreak.

It was nearing midnight when her doorbell rang, and her heart rate picked up, galloping wildly at the thought that maybe— maybe it was Emma. And when she opened the door to Snow, she could have bashed her own head into the wall with frustration — at herself, for letting herself get her hopes up, for causing herself more heartbreak still.

She huffed instead, rolling her eyes, but Mary Margaret’s tentative, gentle smile never faltered. She stood there firmly with the conviction of a savior, and— how ironic. “What do you want, Snow? It’s late.”

“I just wanted to chat,” she said, that compassionate little smile still stuck firmly on her face. Regina didn’t have the presence of mind to say no — so she let her in, led her to the study and took her previous seat on the couch without a single look back at her guest, because she was drunk and bitter and she couldn’t stop it from seeping out of her.

Snow glanced at the decanter of apple cider that was slowly starting to run out, sitting on the coffee table, but if she thought anything of it, she didn’t say it. Instead, she sat herself down in the seat right next to Regina. She was so close that Regina felt stifled, not ready for physical proximity to anyone, but she was already backed into the corner of the couch and had nowhere to move away, and she surrendered herself to this cosmic punishment. She deserved it.

She grabbed her glass and took a large sip from it — more like a swig, really — and Snow set her hand on her thigh, and it burned — not her throat. She closed her eyes and sighed, willing the air she exhaled to let out with it some of her pain — it didn’t work well. Her aching had burrowed itself too deep.

“You know…” Snow started, but paused, still thinking of the right words to say. A few beats passed before she continued, “David and I didn’t really expect this, either.”

Regina snorted. Snow was full of bullshit. Regina might have been caught off-guard, but only because she’d been blind with dumb hope — but the Charmings had to have known the baby would be happening sooner rather than later. “Please. That’s a lie and I won’t sit here, in my own home, and listen to this.”

Regina hoped sincerely that her sniping would’ve discouraged Snow, but the annoying woman stood her ground somehow, and Regina couldn’t help but think how far she’d fallen from the glory days of her Evil Queendom. If she’d been sober and saying this out loud, she wouldn’t have used the word fallen but come instead, but this was her head, and there she was allowed to long for something wrong if it made her feel good. Because she hadn’t been very happy as the Evil Queen, no — of course not — but anything was better than this agony. At least then she had power.

Or maybe she was just being dramatic. Who was to say. She wouldn’t be going back to her evil ways, anyway.

But Snow… Snow and her kind smile and understanding eyes. Damn her.

Regina felt the hand on her thigh slide off, and she thought maybe this was finally over, but then Snow was grabbing her free hand instead, and she was saying quietly, “I didn’t mean about the pregnancy…” she trailed off. Her eyebrows furrowed, and it was the first time tonight she looked troubled with herself instead of with Regina, and then she continued, “I’m sorry. I think maybe I should’ve told you this months ago, but we… we always thought it would’ve been you. All of us thought that — we were so sure.”

Regina didn’t expect that — she didn’t expect to ever hear words of affirmation, to hear someone recognize her broken hopes and wasted feelings as valid. Tears welled up in her eyes, and they would’ve fallen if she looked at Snow right now, so she didn’t — she trained her eyes straight ahead, but she didn’t see a thing when she whispered, “right.”

She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know if hearing this helped her or hurt her more. All she knew was her lungs burned, her eyes stung, and she thought her bones might break from the weight of her grief.

She reminded herself of Henry — she had Henry in her life. She would be okay, because they had each other and they always would, and then it got a little easier for her to breathe until Snow said, “but I can’t lie to you and say she isn’t happy. Because she is. So happy.”

Regina’s eyes welled up all over again, and a few tears did escape as she nodded her assent — because Snow wasn’t wrong. “Yeah… She really is happy, isn’t she? I’m glad. She deserves that.”

And maybe Regina would’ve been fine, maybe she’d have held herself together through this whole ordeal with Snow in her study, but when Snow let out the most compassionate, quiet oh she had ever heard, Regina felt her mask crack. And when Snow squeezed her hand she was still holding and said, “you deserve happiness, too,” it sounded like a promise, like an oath she was making to her, and that was Regina’s tipping point.

She felt the tears come before she knew it, and she yanked her hand out of Snow’s, and she set her glass down, and then she was hunched down, her face was in her hands, elbows resting on her knees, and she let out an anguished sob, one that she’d be mortified with if she had the capacity to feel anything else but hurt at the moment.

The dam had been burst, and she wept into her hands, ignoring Snow completely until—

Until she felt two arms snake around her, and she was being pulled down to lay on the couch, and she let herself fall.

She fell until she was curled up in her seat and her head was in Snow’s lap.

And then she kept falling — into despair as her tears fell on Snow’s jeans.

And then Snow’s hands were in her hair, combing through it with her fingers, and— nobody’s done that to her in… well, since the Enchanted Forest, really. And it had never felt like this.

So Regina sobbed — as quietly as she could muster, eyes shut tight, breathing shaky — and Snow hunched over her, her arms embracing her securely, and her lips on Regina’s temple as she soothed her with hushed nothings. Regina felt a few wet drops hit her head — Snow was crying, too, and Regina felt crushed under the weight of heartbreak filling the room, her own pressure chamber of sorrow.

She wasn’t in the state of mind to appreciate the irony then — but who would’ve known how much her and Snow’s roles would reverse, years down the line? How bizarrely things would change. Regina wouldn’t have believed anyone if they told her she’d be crying her heart out in the comfort of Snow’s arms, and yet…

When did it happen that Snow became the mother she never had?

Never to become the mother-in-law, though. No, never that.

They spent minutes like this — maybe hours — Snow rocking them slowly, and Regina letting her, until their tears dried, and until broken whispers started sounding a little more solid again, and then Snow left her, reluctantly, and Regina laid in her bed, sleepless and defeated.

She knew what to do.

 

 

It was just a few weeks later that Henry was officially leaving Storybrooke to traverse the realms — and Regina was going with him.

He had been stunned into silence when she’d first asked him what he thought about that idea, and she didn’t blame him for that. She expected him to turn her down, because— because he was finally just getting to be an adult, and who would want their mother with them on the adventure of their life. But when he shook out of his daze, and he rammed into her and hugged her hard with a loud that’d be amazing! she knew it wasn’t even pity — he really wanted her there with him.

And she wanted to be there with him more than anything else in the world.

They packed, they prepared, they got all their affairs in Storybrooke in order — and then it was time to leave.

Many people came to see them off, people beyond just their family, and the bittersweet aftertaste of the day would stay with Regina for a long time.

Zelena cried — the first time Regina had ever seen her emotional — and she made Regina swear they’d stay in contact. Regina did swear, because she spent the past week poring over her magic books and finally found a spell — she had to modify it a little, but it would now let their phones connect across the realms.

The Charmings enveloped her in a hug so warm and full of love that for a moment she second guessed her decision to leave.

But then Emma was hugging Henry, and then she was turning to Regina, and— she gave her a small wave as she stepped back.

And then Regina knew it was time to go.

So they went, and days passed, then weeks — and it got easier, but never easy.

Their adventures began quickly, and took them on a whirlwind of a life, but it was exhilarating in a way she had forgotten she could feel.

Then it was months, and years — and it still constricted her with the world’s worth of aching when she thought about it, but she thought about it less then, and maybe that was really what healing was about.

Some time down the line, Henry started a family of his own, and Regina was always around — always close-by, always visiting her son, and her daughter-in-law, and her grandkids. She was always wanted there.

She never came back to Storybrooke. Henry did, a few times, but Storybrooke felt like it belonged to Emma now — Emma, and Killian, and Hope — so whenever he met Emma now, they usually opted to do it on neutral grounds, hopping portals to lands unknown.

So did the rest of their family, although they never saw each other anymore in a complete set — it was impossible when the two of them couldn’t bear to look at each other — so Regina seldom saw any of them in person anymore.

Except for Zelena, who visited Regina often.

But throughout all the years, even though they hadn’t seen each other much, they all had stayed in contact one way or another. Snow and Regina, especially, always called each other to chat — sometimes more often, sometimes less, but, since that night, always, always in contact.

And never once in all the years had Emma’s name been uttered between them, but they talked about her every time — in metaphors, and euphemisms, and allegories. In sighs, and hums, and silences.

And every time, the bottom line was that Emma was really, truly happy.

And every time, it secretly killed her, left her in despair all over again.

But even so, Regina had no other choice but to be happy for Emma, too.