“Regina, help. I’m at my house and-”
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best way to start a conversation and maybe Emma sounded a little more panicked than the situation warranted. Because the next thing she knows, there’s a puff of purple smoke in her peripheral vision, and Regina appears, phone still pressed to her cheek.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” she asks, putting away her phone and striding over while her eyes take in the chaos of the surrounding room, couch cushions askew and Emma's jacket tossed on the floor.
Her gaze is questioning when it lands back on Emma, but she’s still got a palm up, ready to command a fireball at a moment’s notice. She’s prepared to take on the world by Emma’s side, and that intensity makes Emma aware of how insignificant this situation really is.
“Um.” She scuffs a boot on the floor, feeling suddenly sheepish. “Okay, sorry, I probably shouldn’t have scared you like that. Nothing’s wrong, not like- I’m not in danger.”
“Then why...?” she trails off, waiting for Emma to fill in the blanks.
“I need your help.”
“Of course.” Regina nods, agreeing before she even knows the details. “What do you need?”
“I lost the ring.”
Regina frowns for a split second, confused, then her eyes widen in realization.
“Oh. When did you lose it? Do you have any idea where it is?”
The panic comes back all of the sudden, slamming into her, and Emma feels the hysteria start to build in her chest again, making it hard to breathe.
“I don’t know! How could I have been so stupid?” Emma whirls around, bending over to check the recliner again. “I’ve been tearing this house apart for half an hour, and nothing. He’s going to be back tomorrow, and if I’ve lost it-”
“Hey, hey. We’ll find it,” Regina says, and her tone is odd, not particularly comforting and strangely toneless. But she places a reassuring hand on Emma’s shoulder, so light, and Emma wants to press closer, solidifying the contact. The touch grounds her, lessening her panic by a fraction.
She wants Regina to never stop touching her.
Emma shakes her head and moves away, and Regina’s hand drops back down to her side.
She can’t be lulled into complacency right now, even if Regina was just trying to help her calm down.
Regina seems to sense this, and she shifts into take-control mode.
“Okay. Where’s the last place you saw it?”
“I had it on when I got home from work, because it got caught on my jacket when I was taking it off,” Emma says, lifting the rug and shaking it out. Nothing. She puts it back in place, then covers a small sneeze.
“Excellent. Have you gone outside since?”
“At least that means it must be in the house.”
“A lot of good that’s done me,” Emma grumbles, casting her gaze wildly around the room she’s already searched three times.
“Better a house than an entire town,” Regina mutters, mostly to herself. Then, switching to a louder tone, “I’ll take the kitchen, you take the bedroom?”
Emma nods, and they split up.
Ten minutes pass, then twenty, and they make their way throughout various rooms of the house, to no avail. Emma feels the panic pressing, pressing, and she wants to cry and punch something and run far, far away.
She can’t believe she’s only been engaged for a week, and she’s already lost the fucking ring. Not only that, but she didn’t even notice until it had been missing for who-knows-how-long. It’s nearly midnight now, and she’s been home since a little after five.
Some kind of wife she’s going to be.
The word chokes her like it always does when she thinks about it. Fiancée she can handle. Killian is just so excited, it’s hard not to be happy about the smile she’s put on his face. And she’s excited too, of course.
Emma grits her teeth. She’s just afraid of commitment. That’s all. It’s a common problem, and she’ll just have to power through it like the adult she is.
There’s nothing else going on here.
Emma doesn’t realize she’s been standing there, staring at nothing, until Regina calls out to her.
“Did you find something?”
“Want to take a break and regroup? Get a drink?”
Emma sighs. The adrenaline is starting to fade away, slowly being replaced by a sense of defeat. There’s still this hint of nervous panic sitting heavy in her gut, but she’s just...so tired. “Sure.”
They pad into the kitchen, and Emma gets cups while Regina grabs the Brita pitcher from the fridge. She pours, then puts it back away.
Emma leans against the counter, taking a sip, closing her eyes. Regina mirrors her position from a few feet away, and Emma just now notices that she’s wearing black socks but no shoes. And suddenly she thinks about the way Regina just...came. Immediately, no questions asked, not even pausing to magic up some shoes.
“Thank you. By the way,” Emma says.
“I know it was late, and you didn’t have to come.”
“It isn’t a problem.”
“I would’ve called my mother, but she’d read something into it.”
“I don’t think she would, necessarily,” Regina says slowly, and it’s still weird that Regina sticks up for her mother sometimes, now.
“Well, maybe she should.” Emma halts, mentally slapping herself in the face, and she squeezes her eyes shut. “God, no, I mean- I’m just stressed. Of course it doesn’t mean anything, other than the fact that I’m a clumsy idiot. You’ve certainly told me that enough times,” Emma jokes, trying to make light of the whole thing.
“Yes. Although you are more than just an idiot. You have your strong suits.”
“Of course I do,” Emma says, taking a swig of her water to hide her expression. “What kind of savior would I be without them?”
“I’m not talking about your destiny, or whatever. I’m talking about your heart.” Regina smiles this gentle smile, all soft eyes and lips, the one she usually reserves for Henry. The fact that it is directed at Emma - it does something to her breathing, making her lungs feel too large for her chest. “Your caring. Your dedication. Your occasionally outlandishly frustrating tendency to stubbornness.” And Emma’s lie detector doesn’t really work with the nonverbal stuff, but something pings inside her when Regina’s smile gets bigger suddenly, brighter, like she’s trying to produce sincerity by showing off more teeth. “Killian is a lucky man.”
“You called him Killian.”
Regina sets down her water and heads back into the living room, and Emma follows.
“So? That’s his name,” Regina answers, upending a couch cushion.
“You never do that.”
“Perhaps I should.” She pauses, then laughs to herself. “No, you’re right, I’ll probably never do it again. Call it an experiment.”
“Well, good. It weirded me out for a sec.”
Regina just hums and doesn’t say anything more, and it occurs to Emma - not for the first time - that it’s strange, how she doesn’t really want her best friend and her future hus- fiancé to get along.
She doesn’t like change, though. It’s only natural. Regina dislikes Killian, and the feeling is mutual. It’s a fact, a constant in Emma’s universe. Like gravity, or Emma’s hatred of beets.
“I didn’t mention this earlier, but I assume you already tried a basic locater spell?” Regina says a couple minutes later, after more searching.
“Yep. Didn’t work.”
Add another check to her list of failures for the night.
“That isn’t surprising. It takes time before you can truly lay claim to something, at least, claim enough that it will work for a spell. You’ve only had the ring a week.”
“Shouldn’t it be, I don’t know, mine? I mean, it’s a symbol of a promise. You’d think that would be about as much of a claim on something as you could have.”
Regina shrugs. “Don’t ask me. You’re the one who said it didn’t work.”
Emma hesitates for a moment, then lets the question emerge in a voice barely above a whisper: “Do you think it means something? That it didn’t?”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that,” Regina comments carefully, turning around to face Emma, her eyes guarded. “Do you want it to mean something?”
The silence stretches, and this is her best friend, the one she could confide in if she were having doubts. She looks into Regina’s eyes and a mishmash of feelings and words bubble up inside her, but she can’t make any sense of them.
Instead, she shakes her head, pasting on a smile. “Of course not. I’ll be fine, as soon as I can find the ring again.”
And Regina smiles this clenched-jaw kind of smile and nods, facing away from Emma again, and Emma goes back to looking in the bookcase. The bookcase, like her ring would be there.
“You know, I didn’t even want a bookcase in here,” she starts conversationally, if for no other reason than to fill the silence that suddenly seems oddly weighted. “I didn’t want one, period. I’m not all that big on reading. But Killian thought it would make a good impression. Like we’d need to impress the people we’d have visiting our house. He made me order all these stupid classics that I’d fall asleep if I tried to read-
“Emma,” Regina says, and her voice is quiet, but something in the way she says that single word makes Emma turn toward her immediately, and- there it is.
Regina is kneeling on the floor in front of the couch, a ring with a glinting diamond between her fingers, held up for Emma’s inspection.
And something in Emma’s brain short circuits. She can’t move. All she can do is stare at Regina, ring in hand, in front of her and down on one knee.
Down on one knee.
Then she isn’t anymore, smiling her Lie Smile again, standing and moving toward Emma. “Here.”
Emma reaches her hands out for it, both of them. Because Regina has found this thing she’s been desperate to find for over an hour now, and she has to grab onto it. If she doesn’t-
If she doesn’t, she has no idea what is going to happen.
But instead of handing it over into Emma’s outstretched fingers, she looks into Emma’s eyes, grasps her left hand, turns it over in her own and slides the ring gently into place.
And time...it just stops.
Or maybe it doesn’t, not for the rest of the world, not even really for them. Emma is, in fact, distantly aware that she can hear that godawful grandfather clock ticking away in the next room.
It’s the only thing she can hear other than her breathing and Regina’s breathing all mixed together and the ringing in her ears, like the air around them is electric and buzzing, and she’s still looking at Regina, and Regina is still looking at her. Her eyes have gone soft, so soft again, and Emma’s heart trembles in response.
This has to be some kind of record, even for them, more than a Chernabog at a town line, more than standing in a stranger’s house and promising a happy ending, more than that time in Regina’s office. It’s been well established through several heated discussions with Killian, that she and Regina have a staring problem. But she’s always quick to defend it. We’re friends. It’s just how we communicate, she’d said. It doesn’t mean anything weird. They stare at each other and sometimes she stares when Regina isn’t looking and sometimes she can feel Regina staring at her, feel it in the hot flush on her neck and the heightened awareness of her every movement. But what it means-
What it means has never been established, and Emma used to obsess over it, long ago. Before best friends and co-parents, soulmates and reformed pirates.
But not anymore. Now she can just accept it as how they are and move along. Except...except she’s having a hard time doing that tonight.
Emma tries to tear her gaze away, but she can’t. She can’t. It’s like Regina’s eyes are all she ever wants to see for the rest of her life. Like she won’t be able to breathe if she forces herself to look elsewhere. So she can only stand there, staring, Regina’s hand still clasped over hers like some sort of prayer and they don’t do this. They don’t touch. Not without the safe barriers of gloves or wool coats or leather jackets. Something to keep this swimmy feeling from invading her head, feeling Regina’s smooth skin against her own. Her skin is so smooth, her eyes so brown, and whoever said brown was an ugly color had clearly never seen Regina’s eyes. They’re so beautiful. Regina is so beautiful. And she hasn’t thought about Regina like this (on purpose, anyway) in- in, god, so long.
But as amazing and thrilling as it is to stand here and stare at Regina, Emma’s feet are suddenly itching to move. Because they’ve spent so long staring, gazing, looking at each other from far and near, and Emma is so sick of standing still that she could just-
She could move.
She couldn’t. Shouldn’t. But god, she has to, because she has stood still long enough, not just tonight, but for years. Years of holding back when she was too scared, too unsure, to trapped to press forward. But now...now she is stepping forward and Regina is, too, and Emma is breathing so hard that she can see her chest in the bottom of of her vision, but that’s not where her gaze fixes.
No, she’s watching Regina, whose eyes have gone misty and whose lip is trembling more than her hands upon Emma’s. They’re closer now than they’ve been since that night a week ago when they hugged for the first time in Emma’s existence and she couldn’t sleep for an entire night and tried to blame it on the proposal and not the fact that she thought she could smell a remnant of Regina’s perfume on her skin and wondered if it was real or just a trick of her imagination.
They’re closer than they were at the town line when Regina gave Emma the best gift she had to give.
They’re closer than they were when Regina nearly died in another realm, when Emma bent close to her body and felt like she was going to die, too.
They’re closer than the antagonism of an apple tree, than the trust of “you said you wanted to be the leader,” than than the vulnerability of “just bring him to me,” than the hesitance of “you’re Henry's birth mother?” and the hope of “hi.”
And Emma feels all of those moments and a hundred, a thousand, more when her lips finally, finally touch Regina’s.
It’s not a burst of rainbow light or even a visible spark, but it flips a switch somewhere inside her, and her insides are suddenly positively vibrating with magic and light and energy, breaking a dam she’s tried so, so hard to build.
Emma is cracking apart, splintering, falling, but Regina is there, too, pressing back against her, and she smells like clean air and lipstick and everything Emma has tried so hard not to want and failed miserably.
Emma turns them until Regina is backed up against the bookcase, and she grasps at her waist, her arms, her hair, anywhere she can reach. Regina’s hands are on her biceps, curled so hard she’ll probably leave indentations, but she’s pulling Emma to her, as if they could merge into one body if she tried hard enough, and Emma is more than okay with this. She angles a knee between Regina’s thighs, and Regina gasps at the contact, quickly obliging by setting one foot up on the first shelf of the bookcase.
Emma wants to weep with the perfection of it all, the way Regina kisses a little bit with her teeth, like Emma always knew she would. The press of their bodies together. The way she is nearly suffocating from lack of oxygen, but she feels brighter, freer than she has in an eternity.
She nuzzles at Regina’s neck, trying to get her breath back, presses light kisses up around the shell of her ear.
Regina is gasping, too, running her fingers up and down Emma’s torso, slipping one hand below the fabric to feel Emma’s skin underneath, and Emma’s skin burns at the contact. She moves her lips back to Regina’s, and the other woman responds immediately, bringing up her other hand to run it through Emma’s hair.
The kiss turns languid, slowing until Emma can feel every heavy thud of her heart, notice the exact shape of Regina’s tongue, teeth, lips. She wants to memorize them, keep them with her forever. She wants to be able to do this forever.
The thought is enough to make her pause, drawing her head back, though the way Regina makes this little whine in the back of her throat and her lips chase after Emma’s for those first few inches, do a lot to nearly make her reverse her decision.
But it’s important.
“Are you- do you-” Fuck. Emma isn’t good with words on her best day, and right now, her brain is only operating at about a tenth of its normal capacity. The rest of it is still stuck on Regina’s mouth, Regina’s hair, Regina’s skin, Regina’s everything.
She shakes her head, frustrated, but Regina smiles at her, tears and radiance, and it’s like looking at the sun.
Emma laughs a little at her abrupt answer, breathless, her chest bursting with the possibility of it all. “You don’t know what I was going to ask.”
Regina’s expression doesn't change, and she leans up to press a the briefest kiss on Emma's lips before drawing back. “Don’t I?”
“Do you really want this? All of it?” All of me?
Regina grabs Emma’s right hand in both of hers, presses a kiss to it, then holds it to Emma’s heart.
“More than you could possibly imagine.”
Emma lets out a watery laugh, the fingers of her left hand coming up to caress Regina’s cheek. “Always underestimating me.”
Regina chuckles, sniffling a little along with it. “Never.”
Emma rolls her eyes, and the moment passes, leaving a sense of the gravity of the situation in its wake. This, what they’re doing, it isn’t a small thing, she knows. It’s everything. And it will change everything.
“Are you sure?” Regina questions, looking at her with serious eyes.
Emma has never been more sure of anything in her life.
She nods. “I’m sure.”
“We’ll face it. Together.”
Emma nods and presses her forehead against Regina’s, entwining their fingers once more.
She whispers, “Together.”