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A Game of Cat and Mouse

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"Oh honey, you look adorable!" Snow White gushed, gently tugging a loose strand of hair falling from Emma's ridiculously oversized curlers.

Emma Swan didn't feel adorable. She felt ridiculous.

When the idea had been posed that they combine the celebration of the Harvest Moon from the old world with this world's celebration of Halloween, she had been all for it. Everyone had been celebrating American holidays for nearly three decades before the curse broke and they missed them, but there was also a yearning to return to the revelry of the Enchanted Forest. Celebrating both seemed a good compromise.

Tomorrow the town would bedeck its homes and businesses with signs of the autumn harvest. Wreaths, pumpkins, and ornamental gourds would declare thanks for the season of plenty followed by a community meal not unlike this world's Thanksgiving celebration. There would be a ceremony when the moon was high in the night sky. It was more solemn gathering than party by then.

But tonight… well, tonight was Halloween. Tonight there was trick-or treating and costumes and a party at the Town Hall. It had been decorated appropriately with spider's webs, jack-o-lanterns and spooky things of all sorts. There were games, party foods, candy for kids and plenty of cocktails for the adults. The farthest edge of the room was a crowded dance floor, undulating with life as a sea of witches, clowns and celebrity doppelgangers danced the night away.

But Emma was standing, as she so often was since she had ended things with Killian in the spring, with her mother, looking around and feeling awkward.

"I wasn't going for adorable. It's supposed to be funny," Emma rolled her eyes. Archie had just complimented her on her costume but he had completely missed the point. He, like everyone else so far, assumed she was dressed like a housewife cliché. And he, like nearly everyone else, had suggested next time she wear bedroom slipperS with her flannel pajamas, terry bathrobe, and hair in curlers in order to complete the look.

"You can't expect everyone to get your humor, sweetie. At least people notice you and compliment your effort." Snow pouted. No one had congratulated her and David on their cute couples costume as Disney's Snow White and Prince Charming.

"Mom, you are literally dressed as yourself." Emma tied and untied the belt on her robe and wondered if it would be inappropriate to get drunk at a party that was also attended by her teenage son.

"I never dressed like this. This is the ridiculous, and not very feminist might I add, version of us. We dressed this way to be funny. It's ironic." The petite brunette smiled at a passerby who waved as if she wasn't mid rant.

"I don't think you know what ironic means." Emma said half under her breath.

"What?"

"I said maybe they don't know what ironic means." Thank God for the loud, albeit mostly 80s music coming from the dance floor.

She'd had had a revelation just days before her wedding to Hook that she wasn't being true to herself. She was letting herself be guided and formed to the will and whim of her title as savior and to the expectations of those around her. She didn't want to be arm candy. She didn't want to be half a couple. She didn't want to be anyone's wife.

Well, at least not his.

So, she had broken things off with him and made the whole world angry, disappointed or a sad blend of both. Her mother had been so sure she would change her mind again that she hadn't cancelled the caterer. They'd eaten grilled chicken, steamed salmon or vegetarian lasagna every night since.

How long can you freeze and recook that stuff anyway?

Everyone had been let down and had given her sideways glances for the first few weeks. Except Regina. No, Regina had acted relieved. As if finally... finally Emma had awakened from her stupor and seen the light. Emma didn't want to think about what that meant. At least, not tonight. Tonight she was going to enjoy her favorite holiday, eat junk food and drink too much.

She was about to head over to the bar when she saw her mother's face light up with a genuine smile of recognition and then morph into something like surprise mixed with respect. Turning toward whatever or whoever had earned such a smile, Emma felt all the air race from her lungs with the sudden ferocity of a bursting balloon. It was Regina and every eye in the room was on her.

The Queen was surveying the room, clearly looking for someone. Her costume was simultaneously predictable and shocking for a party such as this. Predictable in that it was sexy, powerful and just shy of inappropriate. Because of course it was. Shocking in that it was sexy, powerful and just shy of inappropriate for a party her son was attending.

Emma wasn't sure what a normal person would say or do upon seeing their best friend in a so tight it looks painted on black body suit with dangerously plunging neckline and thigh-high patent leather boots. She didn't know how a normal person would stand or speak or look their boss in the eye while a half-mask obscured all but smoky dark eyes and sinfully red lips. Emma didn't know the right way to do these things but she felt confident that her current paralysis and gaping mouth were not it.

Prowling like the cat-woman she was clearly dressed as across the room, Regina made her way to Snow and Emma. Every step seemed to reverberate through Emma like the aftershock of an earthquake. The closer she came, the more details the blonde was able to see—cat ears, a tail that seemed to swish with life, sharp, silver claws on each of her gloved finger tips. The air of mischief and danger hung about her as if she was indeed an unpredictable, untamable feline and not a redeemed and beloved former villain in the story.

"Regina! You look amazing!" Snow's chipper voice was a needed splash of cold water in Emma's flushed face. She was in a room with the whole town. Now was not the time to address her attraction to her son's other mother. There would probably never be a right time for that.

Regina smirked as she padded silently up to them. "Interesting choice for you, princess. I've always preferred the bandit version of you to the saccharine sweetheart but, to each her own I suppose."

Snow frowned, once more finding the supposed irony of her costume lost. "But, it's iro-"

"But you," Regina plowed ahead, ignoring Snow's protests and turning to Emma, "you have a sense of humor. Let me guess, running late? The sneakers are a nice touch."

"Finally!" Emma forgot to lust after the woman who's perfume had moments ago been lulling her into a state Mesmer could only have dreamed of. "Finally someone gets it! Thank you!"

Regina laughed darkly, her claws scraping down Emma's robed arm. "I certainly hope I'm the one who gets it tonight, dear."

Her words raced through the blonde's elation and made no sense. "What?"

"Well, if anyone understands her, it's bound to be you." Snow rolled her eyes. "Now, if you will excuse me, I want to dance."

Emma nodded but kept questioning eyes on the other brunette. "What?" She asked again.

"Let's get a drink, shall we?"

The pair made their way across the room to the bar and waited for Regina to make her choice. "Witch's Brew? Hmmm, I think we will both try that tonight, Sam."

The short, stout man smiled and served to large glasses of something unidentifiable. Emma took the glass Regina offered and followed the older woman to a cluster of tables near the dance floor. The music was loud enough in this spot to make eavesdropping impossible.

Emma took a tentative sip of the drink and couldn't stifle her spasmodic cough. "What the hell is in this?" She hit her chest with her fist, trying to clear the strangled feeling.

Regina only smirked again. "I don't know but I think I need a little liquid courage tonight so I don't care."

That caught Emma's attention. "Courage? Why? What's up?"

Regina shrugged and Emma cursed the literal mask the woman was wearing because it obscured her face enough to partially hide her revealing micro-expressions. Dark eyes locked on green and then scanned the room. "Couldn't you tell from my costume, dear? I'm on the prowl."

"I'm sorry, you're on the what?" Emma wasn't sure how to take that comment. And if it meant what she thought it meant…

Regina looked at her again and Emma wasn't sure if there was a new rosy hue to her cheeks or if it was the lights from the dance floor. "The prowl. I don't know if you are aware or not but there isn't exactly a line of people at my door looking to show me a good time and-" She stopped short a moment, as if unsure she wanted to complete her thought before leaning in conspiratorially to Emma's ear, "I wouldn't say this to just anyone but, it's been a very long time since someone shared my bed and frankly it's starting to get on my nerves."

She sat back and Emma could only stare, open mouthed and in shock.

"Close your mouth, dear. You'll catch flies."

Emma's mouth slammed shut with an audible click of her teeth. "So… you are here for..."

Regina smirked again, once more scanning the room. Turning back to Emma in her pjs and robe she laughed. "It appears we are both dressed for bed tonight, Miss Swan."

"I-" Emma stammered. "I honestly don't know what to say to that."

"Then don't say anything. It wasn't easy for me to say and if you judge me or try to-"

"No! No, I would never, Regina. I just never considered that you… well, I never considered." Emma's heart was racing at the almost lie she was telling. It was true she had never considered that Regina would have unmet sexual needs but it was an outright lie to say she'd never considered Regina's sex life. She had. Often. Especially in the last few months.

Regina sat watching her, studying her. Emma felt suddenly exposed and wasn't sure why. Emma let her eyes scan the burgeoning crowd of revelers. "So, have you got your eye on anyone in particular or just looking for a discreet hook-up."

When Regina didn't answer her she looked back at the brunette and held up placating hands. "No judgment. You aren't the only one who ever needed an itch scratched."

That seemed to lessen the tension in the air and a very predatory grin spread across the Queen's face. "An itch scratched? My dear, in that case I've fallen into a bed of poison ivy and there isn't a surface rough enough in this town to alleviate my want."

Emma swallowed hard and felt the sands of twelve deserts fill her mouth. This night wasn't going at all like she had thought and she wasn't sure how she felt about it yet. She stared dumbly at the other woman.

"So tell me, what do you think they are like in bed?" Regina nodded behind Emma.

The sheriff casually glanced in that direction to see Ashley and Sean serving up kettle corn in a booth. With confusion knitting her brow, she turned back again. "Listen, I don't think they would be open to-"

Regina's laughter was an explosion of joy. "Oh gods! No! Not that. Not them. No! Oh my god! I just meant… like, what do you think their sex life is like? Are they… fun? Boring? Adventurous? You should see your face. My poor Emma. I would never."

Emma laughed at her own mistake, feeling embarrassed and intrigued by the turn of the conversation. She took a deep drink of her Witch's Brew and cleared her throat. "I see. For a second there I thought I was seeing a new side of you."

"Play your cards right..."

"What?" Emma said, unsure she had heard correctly.

"So… what do you think they are like in bed… with each other." Regina said, ignoring Emma's question.

"Oh, I… I don't know. I'm not sure I'm comfortable discussing that. I mean, they're my friends." There was something taboo and exciting about the little game Regina seemed to be proposing.

"Don't be such a prude. It's all in good fun." Regina ran her sharp, pink tongue along the rim of her glass before taking a sip.

Challenged by the accusation, Emma looked back at the royal couple again. "I bet she's a screamer."

"Really?" Regina nudged the blonde's leg with the toe of her boot. "And him?"

Looking at them once more to be sure, Emma shrugged. "I think his voice gets way too high when he's climaxing."

Instead of the laugh she had anticipated, Regina nodded, examining the pair. "I can see that. But I don't think she's had the kind of orgasm to bring on a scream. Unless she was faking."

It was then that Emma realized this wasn't just a game. Regina was serious enough to be giving it real thought. Intrigued, she pointed out another couple—Aurora and Phillip.

"What about them?"

Regina snorted uncharacteristically. "She's a total pillow queen. And I think he is a closeted bisexual with a swordplay kink."

Emma's eyes became saucers. "Damn. You've played this game before."

The dark woman purred her agreement. "Oh my sweet girl, I have played so many games you can't imagine. Besides, even self-service sex needs something to keep it interesting."

"Oh, I'm aware," she replied without thinking. Even with the mask, Emma could see Regina's brow rise in challenge. "I don't have a line at my door either, Madam Mayor."

"Noted."

They sat in amenable silence, feeling the driving pulse of the music, before Regina spoke up again. "Ok, what about them?"

Emma followed her gaze to her parents. "Nope. No. Not happening."

Regina giggled wickedly. "Oh, c'mon Swan. It's all in good fun."

"No way. I almost walked in on them once right after the curse broke and that was… traumatic. No way in hell I'm actively gonna think about it." Emma's nose wrinkled in disgust.

"You walked in on them?" Regina's laugh only intensified and for a moment Emma wondered if her evil ways were completely behind her. "Now that is something I would have loved to see. Not them in bed, but your face seeing them in a compromising position."

"Oh, laugh it up, but Henry was with me and it's only because he was too young to understand what was happening that he didn't go back into therapy after that." Emma playfully shoved Regina's shoulder. Her fingertips grazed bare skin and was surprised at the warmth and the desire to leave her hand there.

"My son was there?! Did he see anything?" Regina made to stand.

"Relax. They weren't actually doing anything. Just… after glow. Our son was fine." The blonde couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

"After glow? Oh gods. I regret suggesting them for our game. That's… disturbing. I bet she wrote him a thank you note afterward."

"Hey! That's my parents you are defaming."

By now their slightly tipsy laughter was drawing attention from other party-goers. It only made the secret joke all the more delicious between them.

"Dearest Charming, I was overwhelmed by the size of your gift to me tonight..." Regina did her best impression of the petite brunette.

"Oh. My God. Stahp!" Emma covered her face. "Just kill me now. Just… magic me to the grave."

Regina laid a still gloved hand on the blonde's thigh and squeezed. "I'm sorry to break it to you but… your parents are sexual beings, dear. If I told you how many times I had to run your mother out of the tub when she hit puberty-"

Emma crammed her fingers into her ears. "La la la la….I'm not listening…. La la la la!"

Regina shook her leg gently, gaining her attention. "Ok. Ok. I'm sorry. Your parents are off limits."

Green eyes gazed suspiciously at the older woman. Finally finding the trust she required to go on, Emma cleared her throat and picked out someone else. "What about Archie? I mean… do crickets have sex or…?"

~ (SQ) ~

The game went on much longer than was strictly necessary. Somehow Emma felt like if the game continued then that was less time for Regina to actually make a move on someone and take them home with her. She didn't dare hope she would ever be the brunette's choice, but she didn't like the idea of her having a one night stand—or worse still—a relationship with anyone else.

The two of them had always had an unusual relationship and every time Emma felt like she may be brave enough to explore the possibility of something with Regina, a new emergency, a new villain, a new curse would demand their attention. Once, she had made it all the way to Regina's front door to just lay her cards on the table. That had been the first morning she saw Robin slip out the side door. That had been the first morning she had decided to take Hook seriously.

But now, with relative peace in the town, their enemies vanquished and neither of them in a relationship, Emma still couldn't seem to broach the subject. Regina meant too much to her as a friend. Not to mention she was her boss. And Henry. There was always him to consider.

You're a chicken, Emma.

Her inner critic was always quick to point out that she was being a coward. But she ignored the voice. So what if she was a chicken? It was a big risk. Especially since she wasn't sure of herself or of Regina.

"Who else?" Regina's husky voice sliced through her inner thoughts. "Ahhh! Him."

She pointed to Leroy, trying his best to convince Nova to leave her booth with the other nun/fairies and dance with him. Emma emptied her second Witch's Brew and shook her head.

"Too close to family for me. Besides, his relationship with my mom is… weird." She felt Regina on the verge of pointing out someone else so she added. "But for the record, I think he probably grunts when he reaches his… climax and I bet he sweats. A lot."

Regina shuddered at the thought. "TMI. Even for you, Emma. I regret pointing him out."

Emma laughed and surveyed the room. It was her turn. She was surprised to see so few people still at the gathering. She was equally surprised at the number of them who they'd already critiqued. "Well, it looks like we have exhausted our supply of contestants, Regina. I guess… game over?"

Green eyes turned to find chocolate orbs burning into her. "No, we haven't done everyone… yet."

There was something dangerous in the way she spoke—something that made Emma's skin prickle with goosebumps. Rather than address that, Emma shrugged and gave the room a more thorough once over. Still, she saw no one new to speculate about.

"I don't see anyone else. Who—" Emma looked back at her companion. The brunette had removed her mask and was smirking. Regina waved a hand in the air down the length of her own body, presenting herself as the next subject. "Oh no. Nuh uh. I am not…"

Emma stood, suddenly very uncomfortable and looking for an escape route. Where were Henry and her parents anyway?

"Emma…it's no big deal. I'll do you if you do me." Regina's voice seemed to place special emphasis on "do" and it made Emma's insides churn.

"I don't think that's a good plan. It's getting late and I better see about Henry—"

"Henry went home with Nick."

The blonde felt near panic as her eyes darted about the room again. Surely there was a suitable distraction. Maybe if she just started walking away. Maybe if someone saw her obvious distress. Maybe…

"What's the matter, dear? Are you a chicken?"

Regina's words stopped Emma's fleeing feet dead in their tracks. That grating voice from inside began its accusations anew. Coward. Fool. Chicken! She didn't even turn back to the woman as she spoke through gritted teeth. "What did you call me?"

Regina's laugh stung. "Chicken. I mean, what else could it be? We've critiqued every sexual being in this room all night and suddenly it's time to go. You… are… a chicken." She made a clucking sound and Emma turned in time to see her moving her arms like wings flapping.

"I am NOT a chicken." Her voice was higher and louder than she intended.

"No? Then why can't you do it?" Regina stood now too. She took a step forward so she was all but pressed into the blonde.

Emma's mind was racing. What reason could she give that wouldn't reveal how she really felt about the other woman? She wiped her clammy hands down her bathrobe and was about to implode from the weight of it all when a thought pushed its way forward. Why was Regina so dead set on getting her to do this? She was mocking her—goading her—into describing how she viewed her as a sexual partner.

The little comments the brunette had been making under her breath all night suddenly made sense. Regina was on the prowl and playing a cat-and-mouse game with Emma.

I am the mouse!

She cleared her throat, feeling suddenly more confident and gave a half shrug, glancing around at the cleaning crew beginning to tear down tables and sweep the floor. She didn't have much time before this party was over and with it, her chance. So she squared her shoulders and arched a brow. If Regina wanted to play… she was ready.

"I can't do it because I don't think you are ready." Emma didn't have to affect smugness. She was suddenly feeling very much in control. Regina had overplayed her hand.

The brunette snorted in disbelief and stepped back. "I'm not ready? Oh my dear, sweet Emma. You have no idea who you are dealing with. I know what I am like in bed. I'm not afraid of your imaginary critique."

Regina was bold. She was confident. She had never looked sexier to Emma than in this moment. Was she really going to do this? Just risk it all and go for it? Just say these words that would expose her secret thoughts?

Hell yes, she was.

"Alright," Emma stepped back, sizing up her companion as if inspecting a work of art before an auction.

As if sensing the critical eyes on her, Regina made a show of turning about slowly, offering Emma a more thorough view. When the brunette's rotation was complete, Emma gave an exaggerated look of concentration.

"Well? I'm waiting… Emma."

The blonde knew Regina was close to losing her patience with her, yet she waited. She enjoyed the power. It would certainly be lost soon enough so she reveled in it now.

"Well," Emma finally spoke not a moment too soon. "I think you like to be in control."

Regina rolled her eyes. "Groundbreaking, Miss Swan."

"I wasn't finished… your majesty."

Something darkened in Regina's already black eyes at the honorific. She nodded for Emma to continue.

"You like to be in control, but you do not want a submissive partner. You want someone who will make it worth your effort. You want someone who challenges you… even though you will no doubt win in the end." Emma waited, watching. She noted the soft pink blush blooming across Regina's exposed décolletage. The blonde knew she was on the right track.

"I think you are confident in bed, and with good reason. You know what you are working with. You know how to use it. And you know what you like and aren't afraid to ask for it. But sometimes you just wish somebody wouldn't need to be told. You wish someone would be in tune with you… with your body… with every little sound you make… enough to not need your instructions."

Regina diverted her eyes then. Emma knew she was walking a fine line between pleasurable discomfort and actually pushing too far. She had to tread lightly. Almost imperceptibly she felt Regina ease closer to her. Dark eyes looked again into green ones and the blonde saw the unspoken request to go on.

"And when you are finally there, in the moment, your body being played like a fine instrument and humming with pleasure, just ready to burst, then…"

"Yes," Regina said breathlessly, "then what, Emma?"

Emma deliberately lowered the volume of her voice forcing Regina closer still, forcing dark eyes to watch soft pink lips to be sure she didn't miss a word. "Then you reach out for that elusive moment of release, feeling a little unhinged and not giving a damn what you look like or if you seem desperate or weak. You forget everything but the pleasure and how very badly you want it… need it."

Emma could feel the heat from Regina's body she was so close now. The pink on her chest was deepening and so was her breathing. One more little push and Emma knew she would be the mouse that was caught on purpose.

"And when you come… it is the most glorious thing anyone could ever hope to witness. Your body snaps taut as if by a jolt of electricity, and for just a moment everything stops. You don't even breathe. It's like you are suspended somewhere between heaven and earth and you can't even remember your name. But then just as suddenly, everything rushes back in with a wave of pleasure… your face is beautiful agony and the sounds that come out of your mouth are enough to push your partner over the edge. And when it passes, your body glistening, your face glowing, hair mussed and every limb falling limp, your lips curl into a lazy smile and everything is right with the world."

Emma could feel her own heartbeat pounding in her chest and between her legs. She was embarrassed by how badly she wanted the other woman in this moment. She'd tried to ignore it for so long, but there was no going back know. She wanted Regina and she couldn't deny it.

The brunette stood stock still in front of Emma, her eyes not giving away anything. The color in her face remained but her breathing was decidedly better controlled than it had been a few moments ago. She said nothing, only continued to stare at the other woman with practiced indifference. It was an expression so out of place with the moment that Emma felt suddenly very vulnerable and unsure of herself.

Nervously, she tugged at the belt on her robe. Maybe she should play it off as if it was just a game after all. Maybe it was. Had she just really misread this? Oh, shit. She had time for a course correction. The blonde gave a sheepish grin. "So, am I right?"

Regina remained still a moment and then leaned into Emma's personal space. Her full lips brushed lightly against the other woman's ear as she whispered darkly, "There's only one way to find out."

~ (SQ) ~

As the first golden rays of morning played around the edges of sheer curtains, with muscles aching and body succumbing to exhaustion, Emma smiled in satisfaction at the dark woman settling against her to sleep.

Oh, how right she had been…