It became a regular thing; her and Regina and dinner in the office.
Emma didn’t get it at first, why their date nights – not that Regina had ever gone so far as to say they were dating – were relegated to Thursdays . She thought it was kind of strange, really, until it started to click.
Because Thursdays were therapy days, and Regina wouldn’t admit it, but she needed a distraction from the thought of her son telling a stranger why he thought his mother didn’t love him.
“It’ll get better,” Emma had reassured one Thursday, a month into their tentative relationship. She hadn’t known where the words had come from. She wasn’t equipped to deal with the topic, but Regina had been staring off, fries getting colder faster than Emma could snag them.
She’d been looking out the window, her fingers gently playing with a simple pendent at her neck, and Regina had smiled softly. “It already has,”she’d murmured, and turned to look at Emma. “He doesn’t understand it all, of course, but when I had picked him up last week, he told me that he’d been thinking about my office.
“That he’d seen his work behind my desk.” Regina had been relaxed as she’d relayed the story, and Emma had prompted her for more information.“He got really quiet, and he asked me if I loved him. If I wanted him.” Regina’s eyes had misted over, her throat getting thick and voice deepening.“It was the first time since he found out that he hadn’t just assumed I didn’t.”
Her fingers still trembled slightly in memory of the love she’d seen on Regina’s face as she said, “I told him I did, of course I did, and he let out this sigh. He hadn’t said anything else for the ride, but when we got into the house he hugged me.
“He hugged me so tightly, Emma, and he let me hold him for the first time in months.” Emma felt her lips curl up in memory of that dinner, now a few weeks old.
It was nearly five o’clock, and Emma breezed through the lobby, having learned weeks ago not to make Regina wait. “Hey Mary Margaret,” Emma raised a hand in greeting, but didn’t slow down.
“Mary Margaret has a theory,” David had told her one day after work back before that first dinner with Regina, a basket of onion rings split between them. “About you and Regina.”
“Oh yeah?” she’d challenged, partially frustrated with hearing about David’s new girlfriend, and partially defensive from the topic. “What’s that?”
David had licked his lips, and reached for another ring. Shaking his head, he’d murmured, “Maybe I’ll tell you someday,” like the annoying brother he sometimes was.
She was pretty sure she knew now what her theory had been; after all, her own had been growing with the intensity between her and Regina, the desire to be near her more and more. Still, as sweet as Mary Margaret was it wasn’t any of her business, and Emma didn’t linger at the front desk anymore.
Instead she went straight to the elevator, and rode it up to the top. The office felt warmer now, louder, and as Emma walked down the hallway she knew that Kathryn – receptionist number nine – had something to do with it.
“Can I help you?” Kathryn had greeted her a month ago, her face fresh in the office. Emma had faltered beside the desk, always thrown by a new temp stopping her.
“Oh, uh,” she’d gestured weakly toward Regina’s door, and Kathryn had quirked an eyebrow before looking her up and down carefully.
“You must be Emma,” she’d said, stage whispering, and smiling at her own action. Not knowing what to do, Emma had stayed still a moment, until Kathryn had turned to face her computer, typing intently. “You better not keep her waiting,” she had directed, attention not leaving her screen.
Kathryn was going back to law school, temping to get by, but she showed no signs of cracking under the pressure to be Regina’s assistant. In fact, Emma had seen her give it right back to the CEO a few times.
“Emma,” Kathryn greeted her regally, attention staying on her work as she did nothing to distract Emma from her destination.
“Hey,” Emma said easily, her legs carrying her directly into Regina’s office. Her empty office.
Immediately she felt herself deflate, and she dropped the food containers on the clear desktop. Regina’s laptop was there, but closed, and Emma took a seat on the edge of the desk beside the Chinese food - Regina had insisted, she was determined to get better with chopsticks than Emma was – and swung her legs back and forth.
She hadn’t seen Regina since their dinner the previous week, and while they’d exchanged a few texts and a phone call, it hadn’t been Regina in the flesh in front of her, and that was something Emma had found she’d grown rather used to.
“There is a perfectly good chair in front of you, Miss Swan,” Regina walked into her office, shutting the door behind her. She tugged at the lab coat she wore, letting it fall from her shoulders so she could hang it on the rack in the corner. Slowly, she’d been finding a new balance for her work, discovering creative ways to work around her administrative duties so she could work with the actual research more often.
Geek was a good look on Regina, Emma had decided; the more time she’d spent in the lab, the lighter she’d seemed.
Plus the glasses weren’t exactly a turn-off.
“You always sit on your desk,” Emma argued, but slipped from the marble to stand anyway.
Regina bobbed her head for emphasis. “Yes, my desk.” Emma rolled her eyes and sat down heavily in the sleek visitor’s chair. “Your attitude is worse than Henry’s,” Regina said playfully, the topic having grown easier to deal with as time had gone by. As their relationship had improved.
Emma didn’t want to pull her from the easy mood, but she hadn’t been able to check in about it and she had to ask: “How’d it go last week?”
Regina had taken to confiding in Emma – not in depth, her wounds with Henry far fresher than the ones she’d shared of her past, and just as painful – a day or two after Henry would return from therapy, with an assignment from Dr. Hopper that sometimes left Regina in a foul mood.
“Hopper still a quack?” Emma added, just to see Regina smile. She did.
“Unfortunately so.” Regina walked further into her office, and sat on the edge of the desk in front of Emma, smiling triumphantly at her unimpressed look. “Although this weekend was…surprisingly pleasant.”
Regina slowly crossed one leg over the other, the long skirt of the dress – the long slit one, Emma’s favorite – baring a shadow of the back of her thigh. “He prompted Henry to ask me to do something we haven’t done since he was little. Something he used to enjoy.” Regina smiled wistfully. “He wanted to bake cookies.”
Emma leaned back in the chair, smiling easily. “That’s cute.”
“It was something we hadn’t done since my father passed. He didn’t cook often – neither did mother, of course – but he’d learned from his aunt when he was young how to make mantecaditos,” she pronounced beautifully, and held up her fingers in a small o. “They’re little shortbread cookies, about this big, and you can put jelly or sprinkles or chocolate in the center.
“It was a bit awkward, when we started. Henry didn’t say much to me, just listened as I gave him directions.” Regina’s foot flexed out toward Emma a bit. “I was mixing a batch, and I heard a clatter; he’d knocked a hot tray over and burnt the side of his arm.”
Emma’s brows furrowed in concern. “Is he OK?”
Regina waited a moment before she nodded. “I ran it under water, and applied burn ointment; I was terrified, but he was tough, quiet. When I was done putting the bandage on, he asked me if I remembered him falling off of his bike when he was seven.
“I did, of course. He’d just learned how, we’d spent all day going up and down the block with me guiding him. Finally he decided to try going the full block on his own, and he walked his bike all the way to the other end and then turned to face me.” Regina leaned forward a bit. “He wanted to start there so I wouldn’t be able to catch him; so that he’d be forced to do it himself.”
Her eyes darkened, and she lowered her voice, vulnerability creasing her features. “He’s so brave, Emma. So much braver than I’ve ever been. I hate to think it, but sometimes I wonder if he got that from her. That drive to do it on his own, to prove himself. I wonder what she taught him when she was alone with him. I don’t want him to be heartless like her.”
Regina’s face was open, so much more open than she would have dreamed of being with Emma months ago. Emma didn’t know what to say, how to reassure her, so she stood up, and set her hand on Regina’s gently. After a moment, Emma prompted, “What happened with the bike?”
Regina’s lips turned down into a frown. “He made it the entire block, all by himself. But the tire caught on an uneven part of the sidewalk just before he got to me, and he started to fly up off of the bike.” Sensing the tension growing in Regina, Emma started to stroke her thumb over Regina’s knuckles soothingly.
“On instinct I’d reached out to grab him, and had pulled him down into the grass. He’d landed hard on my ribs,” she started to smile, “knocked the wind out of me. But when I caught my breath and realized he was fine, I couldn’t stop laughing.”
Emma’s movement stopped, a small smile of disbelief on her face. “You laughed?”
Regina did it now, too, low and gentle. “I did. I’d been so anxious about everything, raising Henry, grad school, work. My mother. I’d lost two of the most important people in my life over the course of four years, and I was scared all the time for Henry.”
Regina sighed, and she looked exhausted, suddenly. “It was relief, that he was OK. And then it just kind of kept going. I couldn’t stop.” She smirked. “Of course, my little boy thought it was hysterical, too, and started laughing with me. We laid out in the grass laughing until our sides hurt.”
She looked down at Emma’s hand, still resting on hers, and flipped her palm up to press them together. Her fingers stroked over Emma’s knuckles, over the webbing between her fingers, and said softly, “He remembered that, Emma. That day. He told me…” she breathed out heavily, and looked up at Emma, her eyes dark brown. “He said that he missed it. Missed me, being happy.”
“Are you?” Emma asked suddenly, the question bursting out of her.
Regina lifted their hands, traced the edge of Emma’s thumbnail, a smile growing on her lips as she ignored the question. “We laughed all day after that. I told him stories he couldn’t remember, we ate cookies all day.”
“And then you got sick?”
“And then Henry got sick.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot you’re used to eating your dessert before dinner,” Emma teased, the mood lightening. Regina’s skin was warm against hers, and she let out a breath as she nudged Regina’s knee so she could stand between her legs. “No self control,” she murmured, and leaned in for a deep kiss.
Their fingers squeezed tighter as they pulled the other close, and Regina’s free hand wound its way to the nape of Emma’s neck. “I am happy,” Regina sighed as they parted, her breath ghosting across Emma’s warm cheeks, and when she opened her eyes Regina looked it.
Emma wasn’t arrogant enough to think it was all because of her; Regina was figuring out how to get back into the research she enjoyed, making friends – though she would never admit it – with Kathryn, and most importantly, she was starting to mend the relationship that had so unfairly fractured with her son.
If Emma played a small part beside the rest of it all in Regina’s happiness, she was content.
Still, she teased, “How could you not be?” and gestured to herself as she dropped Regina’s hand gently.
“For starters I could have hired a courier service with a far-too-mouthy delivery girl,” she raised one brow, but her legs parted further, and Emma leaned into them, into her space.
“I’ll show you mouthy,” she murmured seductively, and Regina rolled her eyes, Emma dropping her mouth to the delicate skin of her jaw.
“Mmmm,” Regina sighed, her palms coming to rest on Emma’s shoulders a moment before she put a bit of pressure there to draw her attention. “At least you’ve improved on the personal hygiene front,” she teased, and Emma dropped her hands to Regina’s thighs, leaning in with a smirk.
“I’ll have you know I jumped into the back of a garbage truck that day,” Regina gave her the unimpressed look she knew was fake. “Just to get you your package on time. How’s that for professionalism,” she slid her hands down Regina’s legs to rest on the nylon covering her knees.
“Except for that fact that you weren’t on time,” Regina pointed out, her breathing growing shallow as Emma started to drag her hands under the dress.
Her hands stilled. “Yes, I was,” her eyes widened a bit. “You were just too busy—“ Regina silenced the ensuing argument with a deep kiss, her lips warm against Emma’s, and her mouth tasting faintly like the chocolate Emma knew hid in her desk drawer.
Emma couldn’t believe it most of the time; the woman that had caused her so much grief in the beginning had brought her so much joy each day after. Well, most days after. It was never going to be calm between them for more than a few days at a time.
It shouldn’t have worked; Emma acted first and thought later, and Regina never backed down from a single challenge. They should have burnt each other up. Only, they had both decided to be fearless with the other and open up.
“Regina,” Emma sighed happily, but pulled back from the other woman.
“I was silencing you for a reason, Miss Swan,” she teased with the formal name, and settled her hands on Emma’s belt. “May I continue,” it wasn’t a request.
Emma put her hand over Regina’s pulling her attention for a moment. “He doesn’t. Get it from your mother, I mean.” Regina watched Emma closely. “Just like the rest of it, Regina, he gets the bravery from you, too.”
Trailing a finger over the bared sliver of Emma’s stomach, Regina cleared her throat. “You can’t know—“
“I know. I mean I haven’t ever really spent time with him, but—“
“You could come over tomorrow night,” Regina said evenly. “Have dinner with us, both of us.”
Emma licked her lips, warmth spreading across her chest at Regina letting her deeper into her life. Letting her get to know her son. “Yeah?” she asked hopefully.
“Yeah,” Regina sighed, before trailing her foot over the back of Emma’s calf.
She started to tug at Emma’s jacket – the red one, despite Regina’s insistence she needed a thicker coat if she refused to take another job in the colder months – and Emma felt the heaviness of the moment start to shift as desire swept through her.
Emma tugged on Regina’s thigh, pulling her closer, and they shifted on the marble surface until Emma heard a loud crash beside them.
The food had fallen over, the bag bursting open and cartons tipping out of the torn paper. Both flushing in embarrassment at their behavior they started to pull apart. Emma started to pick up the cartons as Regina’s cell phone buzzed on the corner of the desk.
Regina’s eyes narrowed as she read the text, and, curiosity winning out, Emma looked over her shoulder.
Take it out of the office.
Emma laughed softly, gesturing with a nod to the nosy – and ballsy – assistant that sat outside the room. “I think number nine’s a keeper,” she smirked, and set the uneaten food down.
Regina smiled and slid off the desk to stand beside her, head tilted down as she glanced at Emma out of the corner of her eye. “She certainly is.”