“Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.”- Seneca
It was casual, a one-time hookup. Nothing more was implied nor discussed. As Emma licked a path from Regina’s ear down to her neck, Regina moaned in a way that made Emma smile against her heated skin.
'Dammit,' Regina thought. Everything that she always controlled about her encounters had so far been out of her control, but she allowed it. Taken by sparkling sea-green eyes, long blonde hair, and that damn dimple when Emma smiled at her. They agreed to meet first at a bar, “to make sure you’re not a serial killer,” Emma said. One drink turned into two, and then Emma put her hand on her thigh and told her she wanted her in her bed now.
Regina followed in her car to a nice townhouse not far from the bar. Regina emailed the address to herself in case Emma was a serial killer. The police always investigated the dead person’s emails, right? Regina knew she didn’t have anything to be worried about. The app she went through had great security measures and was made for professional women who didn’t have the time to go out and find someone to be with. You needed to upload an ID and a credit card to even get access to an account. No, Emma wasn’t going to hurt her; not like that anyhow.
The sex is great, enthusiastic. Emma gathered her likes and dislikes quickly, and she is big on consent, asking if things are okay before she does them, checking in with her often to make sure she feels good, which was a huge turn-on to Regina. She comes twice before Emma even removes her own underwear. Regina even gasped out the other woman’s name one of the times she came, which was more than a little mortifying. She’d never done that before, and after desperately trying to catch her breath, she looked down to see Emma’s cocky grin and that dimple, and she found that she wanted to both smack and kiss her.
It is all very confusing for Regina, and when they finished, she knew she needed to get the hell out of there before she embarrassed herself further.
Regina gets out of bed and starts to get dressed, and Emma shakes the disappointment from her features and stands as well, putting on a pair of sleep pants and a tank.
“You don’t have to run off,” Emma says quietly.
“I do. I need to get home.”
“Oh. Wait, did you cheat on someone?” Emma asks, eyes wide.
“Even if I did, you probably should have asked that before we slept together if you were truly concerned.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
Regina sits on the bed and puts her heels back on, and Emma has a brief flashback of getting down on her knees next to the bed to wrap those gorgeous legs around her neck, and how Regina’s heels dug into her shoulders for a few wonderful minutes until Regina screamed as she came and even looked horrified for a moment after doing so.
“Mind walking me out?” Regina asks, smoothing her dark hair even though from what Emma can see, not one strand is out of place.
“Of course not. Let me grab a hoodie.”
Regina watches her and thinks about staying but doesn’t want to give Emma the wrong idea. This is a one-time thing. It was discussed beforehand and she insisted on no strings attached. She’s hooked up with women on the app a few times since the divorce. It’s all she has time for, and all she has been willing to allow. But damn if Emma isn’t all gorgeous and sweet, and can carry a conversation with that amazing mouth of hers, a mouth Regina wouldn’t mind having on her again. And Regina must admit, Emma looks really good in that hoodie.
“Maybe...” Regina starts.
“Maybe we could do this again?”
Emma smiles and grabs her hand as she walks her to her car parked in the driveway.
“I’d love that, Regina”
So they meet, every third Saturday of the month, a standing pussy appointment, Emma jokes. They don’t go to dinner, to the movies, or anywhere in public after that first night. Sometimes after they finish, Regina will stay for a while. Emma will get her some water and a snack, and they lay in bed and relax, but Regina always leaves eventually. Always. They don’t text or talk on the phone, except in the week or so leading up to their evening together, and that is just to confirm the details. For a year, this is how things go between them.
Regina enjoys their time together, enjoys how Emma touches her, how she always makes sure Regina is relaxed and feeling good. She loves how Emma always wears sexy bras and underwear for her, and how she clearly takes care of her body. Emma’s stamina is like no one Regina has ever been with. She can make Regina come two or three times before Regina even gets a chance to touch her.
She also appreciates how gentle and sweet Emma is with her. Once, at around the sixth month of their arrangement, they had only gone as far as Emma giving her a massage when Regina mentioned how stressed work was making her. Emma could tell right away that she was worked up, and not in a good way. Emma made her take a warm shower, lie down, and massaged her all over for who knows how long. Regina ended up falling asleep, and Emma only woke her when she figured it was late and she should get going. It was better than sex, and sex with Emma was always amazing. But she’s boxed those feelings, and she considers after that night that this arrangement may have run its course. Catching feelings was never part of the plan.
Emma knows she likes Regina more than she is comfortable with, given the limits of their relationship. She lives for the moments after, when they lay in bed and just talk. It doesn’t get too personal. She still doesn’t know what Regina does for a living, or if she is cheating on someone, not that it would change the way Emma feels about her. They talk about superficial things like sports (Emma is surprised at how much Regina loves baseball), the weather and a new restaurant Regina has tried that Emma knows they will probably never go to together. Regina sometimes cuddles into Emma’s side and scratches at her belly with her short nails. Emma thinks she doesn’t even realize she is doing it, and Emma tries to be as still as she can so that Regina doesn’t stop. Emma finds that she loves these quiet moments, lapping up anything Regina gives her, which isn’t exactly the healthiest behavior, Emma knows, but feels powerless to stop.
They once had a conversation about feelings, about nine months into their arrangement, after Emma asked for more, asked that maybe they officially date.
“Emma, we can’t. I told you from the beginning this was casual. No strings, and you agreed. Please don’t fall for me. I’d never be able to give you what you need.”
Emma wanted to tell her it was too late, but she wisely kept her mouth shut.
“If you can’t be okay with the way things are, we should probably stop this, for both of us.”
“Is it me? Is there something I can do to make you change your mind?” Emma asked, willing to make Regina comfortable in any way that she could. She just wanted a chance.
“Emma, you’re wonderful. This is why we still meet once a month. I have never done that with anyone else. I have my reasons. It’s so trite to say this, but it’s not you, it’s me. I assure you in this case that it is one hundred percent the truth. I have my reasons.”
For Emma, that had been hard to hear. It had become more than a hookup for her. She likes Regina. Likes spending time with her, and she often wonders if they could create something more than the intense sexual chemistry that they share. She just wishes Regina would give her a chance to see if there isn’t more to what they have, because if you have sex, the rest of it might be amazing as well, right? But she doesn’t want to push, so she lets it be.
Thirteen months into their arrangement, Emma is invited to Regina’s home for the evening, only the third time she’s been to the large, white house. It’s big enough for Emma to think it’s like a mansion, and surely there is no way Regina lives there alone, but she files those thoughts away for later.
Regina lay back on the desk in her study, legs held open by the women currently pounding the purple silicone appendage strapped to her body into Regina’s wetness. Regina moans with every thrust Emma makes, the other woman dripping with sweat as she keeps rhythm, never once stopping or slowing down. Regina reaches for one of Emma’s hands, holding on to it as she makes her ascent, bringing it towards her mouth to scream against Emma’s palm as her third orgasm slams against her insides, causing the wetness between her legs to increase even more, though she doesn’t understand how. No one had ever made her this wet, this excited; no one has ever made her come as hard as Emma Swan does.
Emma pulls out and grabs Regina, easily flipping her onto her stomach and opening her legs as she is bent over the desk. She enters her swiftly, again not faltering in her movements as she chases her own orgasm, gripping Regina’s hips in her strong hands, gripping her so hard Regina knows she will be bruised come morning.
“Whose pussy is this?” Emma grunts and as much as Regina wants to scream that it, and she for that matter, belongs to Emma, she won’t, she can’t.
“Come, Emma, come inside of me,” Regina begs instead, looking over her shoulder at Emma. She quickly learned that Emma loves when Regina tells her when to come, and she will often deny herself until Regina tells her to let go.
Emma grunts as her hips smack against Regina’s ass, sweat visible on the tan skin of Regina’s back, illuminated only by the moon as it shines inside of the window in the office. Regina has never looked more beautiful, Emma thinks.
Emma has never been in this room before, but she quickly decides it is her favorite. They fucked in the guest room the other times she’s been over. Lifting her head towards the ceiling, Emma moans her orgasm through clenched teeth, legs shaking as she slows her pumping and then smacks Regina’s ass as she pulls out.
“Really Emma?” Regina chides.
Emma laughs as she unbuckles the harness and removes the other end of the strap on from inside of herself. She drops it on the carpet, knowing that will drive Regina crazy, but she can’t help herself; she enjoys provoking the other woman during their encounters. It makes things lighthearted, and Emma needs that, bracing herself for the inevitable: Regina kicking her out before she has the chance to wipe the sweat from her forehead.
Emma pulls up her underwear and pants, fastening them as she sits on the small grey sofa in the room, then pulls on her brown boots.
Regina stands and pulls her robe back on, tying it and folding her arms as she watches Emma sit back and relax.
“I’ll walk you out.”
“I’m not trying to stay.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“Can’t I catch my breath? Wait until my legs stop shaking? Get something to drink?”
Regina opens the small refrigerator under her desk and pulls out bottled water for her guest.
“Here you go,” she hands it over and watches as Emma opens it and quickly drinks nearly half.
“Fine, I’m leaving.”
Emma walks to the front door and opens it, not saying a word as she walks out, not turning for one last glance. It’s always fast and not as nice when they fuck at Regina’s place. Emma doesn’t like it, doesn’t like the way she feels after it’s over. But she didn’t want to cancel and didn't want to skip seeing Regina this month. She wants to keep the connection, even though she knows this isn’t healthy. Catching feelings is the worst thing she could have done. She doesn’t know how much more of this she can stand, but she doesn’t know if she is ready to let it go.
Regina closes the door and heads to the shower. She would see Emma in a few weeks. That was their schedule, and neither one of them ever broke the schedule.
Only a week later, in a moment of weakness, Regina texts Emma to ask what she is doing and then agrees to meet her at a bar. It has been a rough week at work, and she wanted nothing more but to have a drink and relax. She wanted to be with Emma in her bed and should have just met her at her place, but once she sees Emma sitting there, and then notices him a few tables over, she knows she’s made a huge mistake.
“Hey, Regina,” Emma almost thinks about hugging her, but seeing the set of her shoulders and face, she knows she shouldn’t. “Can I get you a drink?”
“I’m not staying.”
Emma notices the man Regina is looking at, and at that moment the man sees them staring at him and his companion.
“Let me pay for my beer and we can go back to my place.”
Regina doesn’t wait, she walks out to her car and waits for Emma there, agreeing to follow her back to Emma’s place. Seeing him with someone else brings up all kinds of feelings, all negative, and Regina feels like she needs to get home as soon as possible. She tells Emma this as her car idles in the driveway.
“Please come in. We don’t have to do anything. I’m worried about you.”
Regina scoffs, deciding that Emma being nice to her isn’t something she can handle tonight, and she tells her instead she is leaving and will text her when she gets home, something she has never offered to do. She can’t handle the questioning look in Emma’s eyes, so she leaves before things get even heavier.
Regina doesn’t sleep well that night.
A week later, Regina walks into the restaurant, looking for a familiar face near the bar; she makes her way over to the table when she sees her.
“Marian,” Regina greets, placing a kiss on her friend’s cheek.
“Hey, you. You’re late. I’m on drink two. You better catch up.”
“Work stuff, you know how it is.”
“Not anymore, doll. Leaving the banking business was the best decision of my life. You need to do the same.”
“And disappoint Cora Mills? I wouldn’t dream of it,” Regina jokes then turns to give the waitress her drink order.
Marian laughs, knowing exactly how Regina’s mother would take the news that her only child wants a different career.
“What’s new with you? I haven’t heard from you in weeks.”
“Same. Stressed. Need a vacation. You?”
“Building an empire, one day at a time,” Marian says with a smile.
Since leaving the bank and opening her own online boutique specializing in children’s clothing she designs, Marian was making a decent living. Regina envied her, that much was true. She hadn’t thought of doing anything else than what her mother envisioned for her, taking over the bank branch that her mother ran until her retirement before handing it over to her only child.
Just then a flash of blonde to her left catches Regina’s attention, and after doing a double-take she sees that it is indeed Emma. Emma and another woman. A redhead, cute, from what Regina can tell. Emma’s eyes widen when she catches Regina staring at her, and she quickly turns away and takes her seat a few tables over with her back to Regina.
“Do you know her?” Marian asks, wondering why her friend looks so upset. She’s seen that look on her face once before when a guy broke her heart and Regina told him off and threw her shoe at his back in Marian’s defense.
“She’s an old acquaintance. Now, what shall we eat?”
Later, as Regina and Marian settle the bill, Emma leaves to use the restroom, which requires she walk right by Regina’s table.
“Hey,” Emma says as she walks by.
“How’s it going?”
“Fine, and you?”
“Oh, Ariel... blind date, actually.”
“Really? Interesting,” Regina husks, wondering why she suddenly feels like throwing something in Emma’s date’s direction.
“Friend?” Emma nods towards Marian, who is looking at them with a sly smile on her face.
“A former coworker and friend, yes.”
When it is clear Regina isn’t planning to introduce them, Emma takes her leave. “See you around,” Emma says as she brushes past Regina.
Discreetly, she grabs Emma’s arm and whispers into her ear, “Have fun on your date.”
“Yea, thanks, Regina,” Emma says.
“Should I even ask?” Marian says, smirking.
“You can, but I’ll just tell you I don’t want to talk about it,” Regina says, and her friend knows now is not the time to push.
Later, Emma wonders why she feels like she got caught cheating but shakes off the feeling. Regina decided a long time ago they would never be anything more. Emma was good enough to fuck, that was it. It’s just the way things were, and even though she wanted more, she was just going to have to let that go.
The week of their regular meeting, Emma sends a text to Regina, one she had written and rewritten dozens of times. “I am dating someone officially, so our arrangement can no longer stand. I wish you well.”
Regina replies two days later, a message she writes and rewrites dozens of times. “Lose my number.”
THREE MONTHS LATER
It’s the first day of summer Advanced Placement History Bootcamp and Regina is fretting over whether her son, Henry, has everything he needs.
“Mom, chill. I got this,” he says, trying not to roll his eyes and hoping none of his friends see his mom walking him in. Only the girls usually have their moms with them at stuff like this, but he knows better than to insist she just drop him off.
It’s his Sophomore year and Henry is trying to assert his independence more to his mother, which is why he walks up to the sign-in table and gets himself squared away while his mother takes a call.
“Mills, Henry. AP History.”
“Here’s your name tag. Welcome. We are going to make the announcement for you to meet us in the theater for a quick meeting, and then you’ll split off with your class.”
“Henry, did you-?”
Emma at least has the decency to look embarrassed, and Regina takes a moment to gather herself. Henry looks between them and quickly decides he doesn’t even want to know what their deal is.
“Please don’t tell me you’re his teacher," Regina hisses, eyes flashing.
Emma notices that Regina’s russet brown eyes have hints of honey in them now that she is seeing her in sunlight, and she curses herself for even noticing. The way her red dress matches her lipstick only makes Emma remember how soft her lips are, and how amazing her body looks and feels, and she is flush and flustered before she remembers she has to respond to what Regina has said.
“No. I’m AP Spanish. I’m just helping everyone get checked in, well, the F-N’s.”
Then it clicks for Regina. She thinks back to the few times Emma had spoken Spanish to her in bed, until she had to admit she didn’t know the language, had never been taught, but fuck if hearing those words whispered in her ear hadn’t made her soaked. She never asked Emma how she knew the language, and now to learn she’s a teacher and has advanced classes at that, blows her mind. She curses herself for not at least finding out the basics about the woman she met up with for so long.
“Interesting. I didn’t know you were a teacher.”
“To be fair, you never asked, Regina.”
Henry clears his throat, reminding the two that he is still standing there and he’d love to know how his mom and Miss Swan know each other, but their stare-off is kind of awkward, so he waves to his friend Nick, and tells his mother he will see her later.
“Yes, have a good day. I won’t kiss you in front of your friends, but I love you. Do well.”
He smiles and one-armed hugs her before running off and joining his friend.
“I guess I understand now,” Emma says, quietly so that no one else can hear her.
“You don’t understand a damn thing,” Regina says before walking away, her black heels clicking on the concrete and away from Emma’s table. She sighs, and then waits for the next student to make it up to her table. Of all schools, of all days, Emma can’t believe it. The one person she spent months trying to forget, and now here she was, right in front of her. And the worst part is that Emma knows it won’t be the last time their paths cross.
AP Bootcamp goes smoothly for the first week, until that Friday when, as part of a team-building exercise, Henry gets placed in Emma’s group. She’s managed to avoid Henry, and Regina for that matter, up to that point, which suited her just fine.
“Miss Swan, how do you know my mom?” Henry asks, during a brief break.
“She can answer that.”
“She could, but she won’t,” he says.
“She keeps asking about you, without asking, you know,” and he tries not to laugh when Emma’s head snaps back towards him.
“Look, Henry. We knew each other casually, and then we fell out of touch.”
“You’re back in touch now.”
“I don’t think that’s a thing. Also, this conversation feels personal and I think we should get back to what we’re doing. Break is over.”
However, Henry, little shit that he is, can’t quite let this one go. One, he has never seen his mom rattled by anyone the way she was rattled by seeing Miss Swan. Two, that first night he watched her look at her phone more than once, scroll her contacts, and then put the phone back down, like she wanted to send a message, but talked herself out of it. Three, his mom has been grouchier than usual, especially on the third weekend of the month, the weekend he always goes to spend time with his grandmother. His mom had been good for a while, but not anymore. He is starting to put things together in his mind. It kind of grosses him out to think about, but he does want his mom to be happy. She could do much worse than Miss Swan, that’s for sure.
The second week of AP Bootcamp has a special day set aside for parents to attend, where they can meet with their kid’s teachers and ask any questions they may have, then stay and have lunch.
Of course Regina is there looking completely gorgeous in a blue sleeveless dress and heels, and Emma feels like a huge dork in the school mascot t-shirt and jeans. She is keeping her hair shorter than when they were meeting up, and Emma decides the short style makes Regina even more attractive. Emma sees plenty of the dads (and a few moms) checking Regina out, and it riles her up more than she would ever care to admit, but it isn’t as if she ever had a claim over her, as much as she wanted to. They manage to avoid one another, even if their eyes meet often throughout the day, until later during lunch when they both go to grab a bottle of water from the ice chests that the school leaves out for them.
“Seeing as you’re here in a professional capacity, I am more comfortable addressing you as such. Or shall I call you Señorita Swan?”
“Uh, no thanks. I make my students do that, not the parents. I wanted to compliment you on your son. Henry is a smart kid. Mr. Jones is already talking about having him lead the study sessions this year.”
“Well, at least that guyliner wearing fool recognizes intelligence when he sees it.”
“Friend of yours?” Regina glares, and her stomach sinks at the thought of him getting anywhere near Emma.
“He helped me a lot my first year here. Students and staff weren’t sure what to make of me. Here was this new, blonde, white chick teaching Spanish. You can see why folks might be skeptical, but everyone loves that guy, so they followed his lead with me.”
“Was there more to it than that?”
“Hey, you sound kind of jealous,” Emma teases.
“You wish. Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Why didn’t you ever ask, Regina? You made it pretty clear that you didn’t want to know anything personal about me. I didn’t want to cross any of the lines you decided for us.”
“I thought you were fine with those lines.”
“Was I ever really given a choice?”
“Point taken. Look, Miss Swan, I hope we can be civil when we must see one another. I hear the AP program hosts a lot of events for parents and we are bound to run into one another. I don’t want it to be weird for Henry or for us.”
“I think I can manage to control myself, Regina.”
Emma smiles and Regina is distracted by that dimple again and those sparkling eyes and then she remembers she’s kind of pissed at Emma.
“So, how’s your lady friend?”
“Oh,” Emma looks down, “that didn’t last very long.”
“Yea, it fizzled out within a month.” Emma doesn’t want to admit that she couldn’t get Regina out of her head, and so she broke up with Ariel, who had no idea she was in competition with another woman.
“Why didn’t you text me?” Regina asks, folding her arms across her chest in a way that both intimidates and turns Emma on.
“You didn’t seem like you wanted to hear from me after I messaged you the last time. Why didn’t you text me?”
Regina huffs and then walks away, even after Emma calls her name, and she goes back to her table to sit with some parents she’s met. The more she thinks about it, she realizes Emma is right. She could have reached out to her, even just to ask how she was doing. They had been friendly up to that night in the bar and Regina realizes she bears some responsibility for not reaching out.
She was the one who insisted things remain casual between them, but the truth was, seeing Emma with someone else that night still smarted. She wasn’t used to feeling jealous. She hated that. Feelings just weren’t her thing. She made a point not to let feelings complicate her life. She had her son and her work. That was enough. It had to be.
She stares at Emma as much as she can get away with for the remainder of their day and wonders why fate is fucking with her so hard on a Thursday.
“Miss Swan!” Emma turns when she hears her name called. She stopped in at a local diner to order something to go. She didn’t feel like cooking dinner, and this seemed a better option.
“Want to have dinner with us?”
“I don’t want to intrude on your time with your mom. I was just going to order something to go.”
“Mom, can Miss Swan have dinner with us?”
The entire span of their casual arrangement, Regina never saw Emma anywhere, and now it’s like she can’t escape! Regina wants to say no, to say this is too weird. She’s never shared a meal with the woman she carried on with for so long, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her son. Yes, that’s it, so instead, she says, “Sure, why not?”
Emma seems genuinely happy to be asked, and that makes the awkwardness worth it for Regina. The trio makes small talk after they order and before their meals come Henry excuses himself to go to the restroom.
“I hope I’m not intruding on your time together, Regina.”
“Nonsense. I wouldn’t have agreed to have you dine with us if that were the case.”
“I think this is the first meal we have ever had together.”
“I was just thinking that.”
“Although we ate together plenty,” Emma smirks and Regina is mortified when she feels herself start to blush at the flirtatious remark.
No. No. This can’t happen. They can’t go back to jumping into bed the third Saturday of the month because she knows Emma wants more. She always did. Regina sensed it and knew that at some point she was going to have to walk away. Regina knows she can’t give her what she wants. Relationships have never been her deal, and after adopting Henry, she was happy with casual meetups that never went anywhere. She scratched her itch and was done with people. Only Emma lasted longer than Regina let anyone last, and the way they ended things made her feel badly for some time.
Emma notices the conflicted look on Regina’s face and immediately feels shitty for teasing her, especially given that they ended things and aren’t going to resume that any time soon, at least not that she thinks. Emma doesn’t want scraps, but there is also a very small part of her that is willing to accept whatever Regina will give her.
“I’m sorry. That was a stupid joke. I get immature when I’m nervous.”
“You’re fine,” Regina looks at her and Emma loves how soft she looks in the lighting of this place.
“No. It was inappropriate, and I’m sorry. Let’s start over, shall we? How is work?”
“Work is work, unfortunately.”
“I don’t even know what it is that you do.”
“I’m the president of Storybrooke Bank.”
“It isn’t that impressive,” Regina waves dismissively.
“Trust me, it is. I knew you did something business-like and professional. I thought maybe a lawyer or accountant.”
“What gave it away?”
“Never on a weeknight, and you sometimes seemed like you were thinking of other things while we…” Emma trails off.
“Sometimes, yes. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel like I wasn’t all there with you.”
“I could sense when you were more stressed. I liked giving you massages to help.”
“I won’t deny missing that part of our time together,” Regina laughs, “How long have you been teaching?”
“This is my tenth year.”
“See, that’s impressive.”
Henry makes his way back to the table and the women continue talking about work and school, Henry joining in when asked, but he is mostly content to sit back and watch his mom interact with Miss Swan while he pretends to be immersed in his phone.
When they leave, Emma walks Regina and Henry to their car. Henry waves goodbye and wishes her a good weekend, leaving them alone by letting himself into the passenger side.
“Thanks for letting me hang out with you guys tonight.”
“It was nice, Emma. I enjoyed it. I’m sure Henry did as well.”
“I hope we can be friendly, Regina. When we see one another. Even though what we had was casual, you were still my longest relationship, so to speak.”
Regina can feel her heart thumping in her chest at the sweet way Emma is looking at her, so she smiles, and says, “Believe it or not, you were my longest as well.”
Emma backs away towards her car, clutching her hands to her chest as she grins at Regina.
On the third Saturday of the next month, Emma bumps into Regina at the grocery store. With her cart. It’s an accident, but the fire in Regina’s eyes when she turns around is almost worth it.
“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, clearly.”
“Oh, Emma. Hi, how are you?” Regina finds that seeing Emma again is almost comical and that instead of fighting it, she might as well enjoy it.
“Just doing some shopping for the week. Staying busy, the first quarter is almost done, so I have a lot going on with grading. You?”
“Our quarter is almost done as well, so lots of paperwork to take care of.”
“How is Henry?”
“He’s doing well. He’s told me he doesn’t see you much.”
“No, his classes are on the other side of campus. He’s not here with you?”
“It’s the third Saturday of the month, Emma.”
“Ohhhh,” Emma flushes.
“Don’t get yourself worked up, dear. I wasn’t going to suggest a rehash.”
Emma lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, trying to keep the disappointment off of her face. 'Of course you act like a dork when she brings up the day.'
“Mind if I walk with you while you shop?” Emma asks.
“Not at all.”
They stroll leisurely through the aisles, in no hurry to finish their shopping and leave, content in one another’s company, even when Regina makes faces at the sugary snacks Emma buys for her lunches and Regina pretends like all the ice creams she buys are for Henry but Emma knows better. Emma notices the mango sorbet and Rocky Road immediately. She always kept ice cream for Regina after she asked for some after one of their more enthusiastic sessions.
After they can’t drag their shopping out any longer, they pay for their purchases and Emma walks Regina to her car to help her load the bags into the trunk.
“Thanks for the help, Emma. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. I appreciate the company. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday night,” she smiles, and Regina’s eyes are dark and intense, and very focused on Emma’s mouth.
Regina fiddles with her keys before deciding to lean in and hug Emma. She misses the way Emma smells, fresh and minty, but before she can make a fool of herself she pulls away and offers a wave before getting into her car and taking off, watching Emma get smaller and smaller in her rearview mirror.
On Monday morning, Emma decides to leave early for work to head over to the Greek place for a coffee and breakfast gyro. She is happily driving and munching away when a pop of one of her car’s tires and brief loss of control occur.
“Fuckkkkkkk,” she groans, as part of her gyro slides down her shirt, and she pulls over.
The road towards the school isn’t busy just yet, and she is looking at a two-mile walk. Nevermind that she forgot her cell phone and didn’t feel like going back for it, a decision she is very much regretting at the moment.
Just then a familiar black Mercedes passes her on the opposite side of the road, and she has to wonder how it is that she keeps running into the woman she slept with for over a year, and never saw anywhere!
Regina pulls her car next to hers, rolling down the tinted windows, “Miss Swan, looks like you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle.”
“It’s a flat, and I forgot my phone at home.”
“Pity. Do you want me to call roadside assistance for you?”
“I don’t have that.”
“You drive a VW Bug that has clearly seen better days. Why on earth do you not have roadside assistance?”
“Because...I’ll get on it, I promise. What are you doing out already?”
“Henry is doing an early morning study session. I dropped him off. Do you have a spare?”
“Well, let’s change a tire then, shall we?”
Twenty-five minutes later, Regina is finished bossing Emma around (“I’m teaching you, Emma. How will you learn if I’m the one doing the work?”) and done making her do the grunt work of changing the tire. Emma replaces the hubcap onto the spare as Regina places the equipment back into the Bug's trunk.
Wiping her hands on a rag, Regina makes Emma promise she will go buy a new tire after work and replace any others that need it.
“Stop it, Miss Swan. Everyone should know how to change a flat tire. Henry knew as soon as he was big enough to pull the spare out of the trunk.”
“I appreciate it, and look, I’ll still make it to work on time.”
“I hope you have a spare shirt, you have tzatziki sauce and oil all over yourself.”
Emma looks down to the mess on her shirt and smiles. “I do. Thank you. I owe you. Big time.”
“Nonsense, Emma. Have a good day,” Regina waves, and when Emma blows her a kiss, she pretends to catch it as she walks back to her car. She glances around to make sure no one sees them being dorks, and then drives off, not minding at all that she is now 30 minutes late to the office.
Regina reaches out to Emma a week later, after listening to a lot of Lauryn Hill and getting deep into her feels. She sends a friendly text, wishing her a good day. The reply is almost immediate and so begins their texting back and forth in the coming weeks. Sometimes it’s about work or funny things that happen to Emma, or Regina’s frustrations dealing with a teenage boy who is needing her less and less each day. And then one night Emma sends a heart emoji when saying “goodnight,” because yes, their messages go on from morning to night when they have free moments to do so. And then, at some point, Regina starts sending heart emojis too, because why not?
And when she asks Emma what her plans are for the holidays, it seems the right thing to do is to invite her to dinner at the house when Emma tells her that she has none.
When Christmas finally arrives, Emma is nervous and changes clothes five or six times before settling on black jeans, boots, and a red sweater. She curls her hair but makes sure to wear a ponytail holder around her wrist for when she gets hot, because it is a given that she always gets warm around Regina.
Henry is their buffer, and he immediately welcomes Emma in and drags her to the living room to show her his new record player with some vinyl that his mom started him off with. They talk music after Regina greets her, and Emma notes that Regina’s red dress matches her sweater, and Henry shakes his head at the way his mom and Miss Swan skirt around one another even while they both have hearts in their eyes.
Dinner is amazing - pot roast and mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls, and a healthy serving of vegetables that Regina insists Henry and Emma finish before they even ask for seconds of anything else. It is the first time Emma has had Regina’s cooking, and she hopes it won’t be the last.
“There is more food, Emma, you can have as much as you’d like,” Regina teases, as Emma once again moans around her fork.
“This is the best food I have had in a while, Regina. Let me savor it.”
“Why aren’t you having dinner with family, Miss Swan? Not that we don’t enjoy the company,” Henry adds quickly, hoping he hasn't offended.
“You don’t have to answer that, Emma.” Regina insists, wondering where Henry’s manners have disappeared to.
“No, it’s fine. I was a foster kid, Henry. I wasn’t adopted, so I don’t have a family per se, but I have a lot of friends I consider family. Normally on days like today, friends will invite me over. I never have a shortage of places to hang out. I was very honored that you and your mom opened your house up to me this year. So I turned down the other invites, though I have a few spots to hit tomorrow for leftovers,” she jokes.
“We are glad you could make it, Emma.” Regina smiles warmly at her, and Emma can feel her stomach flip-flopping like crazy and the beads of sweat begin to drip down her back.
Henry just shakes his head as he watches them, wondering how much longer they are going to pretend to be okay with being only friendly towards one another.
After dinner, Regina sends them off to the tv room to hang out while she gets dessert ready, and Henry shows Emma his gaming system that he got the Christmas before. They play a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate when Henry suddenly pauses the game.
“I want you to know I’m cool with this situation between you and my mom.”
“There is no situation, kid.”
“I think there is, or there was, and I’m letting you know I’m ok with it.”
“Have you spoken to her about this?”
“Not yet, but I plan to.”
Emma hums, “I am good with being friends with your mom, kid. I’m not trying to pressure her into something she isn’t looking for.”
“That’s the thing. She likes to say she is happy with me and her work, but no one would be happy with just that. She deserves more, and I see the way she looks at you.”
“Yea, well. She has made it pretty clear that she isn’t looking to date.”
“All I’m saying is be patient. My mom is a hard one to crack, but I can tell that she likes you. She’s stubborn, even when it comes to things that she shouldn’t be stubborn about.”
Emma sighs and ruffles Henry’s hair, which then somehow turns into an arm-wrestling competition and that’s how Regina finds them when she brings in the pumpkin pie. Shaking her head, she plates some for the three of them and sits and eats hers while her son and Emma are holding each other off.
“That pie smells really good, kid.”
“Let’s call a tie, for now, and then we can come back to it at another time. I’m not giving up, though, just so you know.”
“You have a deal!”
Henry and Emma sit and dig into their pie, complimenting Regina around full mouths. She likes the way it feels to have Emma there, and she doesn’t want to want it as much as she does.
“I’m going to go up and start packing, Mom.” Henry excuses himself after dessert and heads upstairs.
“Yes, Henry will be spending the rest of the week with my mother.”
“Oh, she lives nearby?”
Emma moves to help Regina take their dishes into the kitchen and load the dishwasher.
“My mother and I agree on very little, Emma. Except for Henry. He is the one thing we have in common. She is a much better grandmother than she was a mother, so I like to give them as much time together as I can.”
“That’s good of you, but won’t you be lonely?”
“Are you offering to keep me company?”
“Maybe, if you’re amenable to it.”
“Oh, big words.”
“I know you think I’m not that smart.”
“No, Emma, I--”
“You always kind of acted that way when we were meeting up. I kind of got the vibe that you thought I was a dumb jock or something.”
“To be fair, you have an amazing body. I thought you were a personal trainer the whole time we-- I made judgments that clearly were way off base. I’m sorry for being a snob.”
“No, it isn’t, especially if you’re bringing it up. I’ve hurt you, and I am sorry for that. It wasn’t my intent, but I made assumptions based on things that were silly.”
Emma smiles and leans closer, “You thinking I have an amazing body is far from silly. I also have to know, how far does that sorry go back?”
“As far as you need it to,” Regina responds, leaning in and eyeing Emma’s pink lips.
“Mom, Grandma is on her way,” Henry comes into the kitchen, interrupting his mom, who now appears to be blushing, and Miss Swan, who looks like she wants to deck him.
“Oh, okay. Do you have everything you need?”
“I think so, if not, it’s not like we don’t live ten minutes away.”
Regina laughs, “Yes, yes, I know.”
She walks into the foyer, inspecting Henry’s bags and helping him to the door when she hears her mother’s car horn.
Henry hugs his mother, whispering into her ear, “I really like her, Mom. She’s good for you,” and then he’s off and she and Emma are alone.
“Do you want a drink?”
“Sure, I’ll have what you’re having.”
Regina heads into the study, and Emma follows, face flushing when she remembers the last time they were in that room together.
Emma sits on the couch and waits for Regina to pour her a drink.
“Cider. I make my own.”
“Look at you,” Emma marvels as she takes a drink, immediately humming at the strong, distinct taste of the alcohol as it warms her belly.
Regina sits across from her in a chair, sipping her drink.
“Thanks for inviting me today.”
“We were glad to have you, Emma. It was a lovely time. I didn’t know about your family, or lack of. I hope that didn’t bring up bad memories for you.”
“It isn’t something I talk about much, but I would say it bothered me more when I was younger. In my Sophomore year of high school, I was in a group home and I had the most amazing Spanish teacher, Mrs. Oliveros. She took me under her wing, and she made sure I stayed on the right path. She had a love for what she did and I wanted so much to make her proud. I took her AP Spanish Language class my Junior year and AP Spanish Literature my Senior year and scored a 5 on the tests. I was the only student of hers both years to score a 5.”
“Wow, that is amazing, Emma. She must have had a profound effect on you.”
“She helped me get into college, helped me figure out how to apply for scholarships, and she has remained a mentor to this day. I spend New Year's Day with her family every year. So, not having a family and being in the system hasn’t made things as terrible as they could be. I’ve made my own family throughout the years.”
“Good for you. I can see how she would be very proud of you. You’ve done very well for yourself.”
“Thank you, that means a lot coming from you. You’re very successful in your own right, with this giant house and your job.”
“My mother gave me this house when my father passed away, and the job was given to me as well. I haven't earned things in any of the ways you have.”
“Well, let me say, they wouldn't keep you there if you weren’t kicking ass, right?”
Regina laughs, “I suppose you’re right about that.”
“Were you an only child?”
“Yes, I am. I was closer to my father, and after he died, the cracks in my relationship with my mother just became more pronounced. We no longer had to hide our bickering or pretend anymore. My mother had goals and I was going to achieve them, regardless of any ambitions I held for myself. After I graduated with my MBA, she retired, handed over the reins of the bank to me after a lengthy hiring process which I am sure was just for show, moved to a condo in a senior community and gave me the house and here I am.”
“Wow, that is pretty cool that she and Henry are so close.”
“As I mentioned earlier, Henry is the one thing we both agree on. She is a wonderful grandmother to him, and I made it clear to her that I wouldn’t tolerate her interference on how I raise him or what he wants to pursue in life.”
“Where is his dad?”
“Henry is adopted. I got him when he was less than a week old.”
“Really? He makes a lot of the same expressions as you,” Emma teases. “Does he know?”
“He does. I always made it known. I never wanted him to find out accidentally. That was always my biggest fear.”
“I’m glad he has you. He’s a lucky kid.”
Regina ducks her head and smiles bashfully, something Emma has never seen her do, and Emma can feel her heart swell with emotion for this woman.
“Regina,” Emma begins.
Regina sees the look in her eyes, the affection and desire, and it frightens her.
“You have to understand something, Emma.”
“I don’t know if I can be in a relationship. I haven’t dated in years, and with Henry and work, I am not certain I can give you what you want.”
“I want to understand that. I do.”
“I know you do, and I appreciate that. I’m not good at relationships. I was married once, to a person I believed was the love of my life and he left me. He found another girl who wanted to be a housewife and have his babies. That was never going to be me, not the way he envisioned it, anyhow. And once that happened, I just focused on work and the things I could control. The night we met at the bar, he was there, with someone else.”
“I don’t want a housewife, Regina. And he must be some kind of fool to let you go.”
“I’m not always a nice person to be around. The stress of my job sometimes makes me unbearable,” Regina continues, ignoring Emma’s comments.
“You do know that there were times we were together that you weren’t exactly kind, right?”
“Regina. You would sometimes come by and I was worried about saying the wrong thing, so I just kept my mouth shut. I could tell that you were completely stressed out, so I would just shut up and give you what you needed.”
Regina thinks back to some of their times together, recognizing when she wasn’t at her best and may have made Emma feel like she wasn’t one hundred percent there with her.
“I’m sorry about that. But you see, this is why you and I dating would never work.”
“So you keep saying. But I see someone I enjoy talking to, someone I have fun grocery shopping with, someone who takes the time to invite me to dinner so I won’t be alone at Christmas, and I see someone who can’t keep her eyes off of me when I’m around her.”
“Our sexual chemistry is off the charts, Emma. Always has been. Even against my better judgment, it was why I couldn’t stop seeing you.”
“Is that why you keep me around still? Hoping I’ll give in?”
Regina looks down and Emma’s heart sinks. She puts her drink down and stands. Things between them are heavy enough already. 'No sense in making things worse,' Emma thinks.
“Thanks for having me over, Regina. I do appreciate it, but I think it’s time for me to go.”
Emma walks to the front door and grabs her jacket. Regina has so many things she wants to say, all on the tip of her tongue, but nothing comes out. Emma slides her arms into her jacket and turns to look at her, before grabbing her in her arms and wrapping her in the warmest, safest hug she has felt in her entire thirty-seven years.
“Take care of yourself, Regina,” Emma says, kissing Regina on the forehead, and then walks out the door into the cool evening.
Regina spends the rest of the evening drinking in front of the fireplace, wondering why she’s so afraid to try to be with someone. She never wants to see that expression of hurt on Emma’s face again, but she’s convinced that is all she will see if she gives in.
“Mom, don’t you think this has gone on long enough?”
“You, avoiding Emma. What happened when I left on Christmas?”
“Nothing happened. We talked.”
“And let me guess, you told her you can’t be in a relationship?”
“You don’t even know my reasons, Henry.”
“Mom, you like to act like you’re so mysterious and tortured, but in reality you’re just afraid. You don’t want anyone to leave you, so you push them away first.”
“Yes, it’s true. Daniel, you pushed away with your ambition, according to you. You wanted to be a career woman, fine. What about Robin?”
“He was a fool. I am way too good for the likes of him.”
“You still pushed him away. And what about Katherine?”
“She wanted more than I was willing to give, and I felt we were better off as friends. That reminds me, I should text her and invite her to lunch next week,” Regina says as she begins composing a message on her phone.
“Pushed her away, too.”
“You have no right to speak to me about this, Henry. You’re my child, not my buddy.”
“As your child, I want you to be happy.”
“I’m happy with you and my job.”
“And when I go off to college? And when you retire?”
Regina is silent.
“Even if you decide Emma isn’t for you, you owe it to yourself to take a chance on someone. Stop thinking that a relationship is going to destroy who you are and mess up your way of life. The right person adds to your life; they don’t take away from it.”
“When did you get so smart?”
“I watch all of those boring rom-coms with you, Mom. For someone who loves those movies, you really are slow on the uptake.”
“Go upstairs and do your homework.”
“Clean your room!”
Henry gets up from the table and narrowly avoids the swipe his mom makes towards his butt.
“Admit I’m right, and maybe I will.”
Regina narrows her eyes and stands from the table.
“Good enough,” Henry says as he laughs and runs upstairs, leaving his mother to consider his words.
Regina spends the rest of the weekend asking herself why she won’t and can’t give Emma a chance. She settles on two facts: she is busy, and dating as a whole has never worked out well for her. A broken heart from her divorce was all it took for her to swear relationships off. Daniel was a man who wanted a submissive wife with zero aspirations of her own, and he made it known once they married that he expected her to give up work and her ambitions. She should have listened to her gut and not married him, because they went into it thinking they could change the other.
In looking back she thinks maybe she was too harsh and should have tried to date more, that one person wanting her to be something she wasn’t was not a personal challenge to prove she was never going to be that kind of woman. It was her stubbornness that always got in the way. Sometimes she just got an idea in her head and that was it, no discussion, no changing it, that was that. But it was no way to live, she sees that now.
After she adopted Henry, she put him first, and they were fine in being a family of two. But Regina knows he is growing up, becoming more independent, and then he will go off to college and she will be alone, and then what? Doesn’t she deserve to be happy with someone else if she could make it work? Can she make it work with Emma? What do they even know about one another that isn’t based on just how well they fuck? Is that enough?
Emma doesn't have the heart of a poet. Fancy words and feelings have never come easy to her - only on occasion and usually in Spanish. But for Regina, Emma can think of one hundred words in each language to describe Regina’s skin alone. She finds herself thinking of things like this at the most inopportune moments - like her Monday afternoon staff meetings - where her friend Ruby kicks her foot more than once when she notices Emma not paying any attention to their principal, Mrs. Blanchard, who is talking, and that she is instead doodling the letter “R” over and over on her paper with stars and flowers. Emma is a mess.
“Swan, you’re coming with us to happy hour,” Ruby says when the meeting is finally over.
“Rubes, I’m beat. Next time!”
“Nope. You’ve been mopey all month and I want deets, come on.”
Emma decides it’s useless to fight Ruby on this one, and she is hungry, so she follows her friend to The Rabbit Hole, a dive bar many of the teachers on campus are fond of. Ruby teaches AP Biology, and her wife, Belle, is the school librarian. Belle arrives a few minutes after they are seated. They make small talk about work, and just when Emma thinks she isn’t going to get questioned, Ruby starts in.
“So spill,” she says, after taking a sip of her beer. “I know you’re pining after someone. Now I want to know who, and how we can get you the girl.”
“Not much to spill. I like someone, she doesn’t want a relationship. It sucks, but I am working on acceptance.”
“That isn’t like, Ems. You’re in love.”
“Ruby, let her be,” Belle chastises gently. “Tell us about her, Emma.”
“She is smart, sophisticated, professional, and we have intense chemistry. We have known each other more than a year. It’s been casual, more by her choice than mine. I’ve asked, more than once, for more. But, she is pretty insistent we keep it that way, so we took a step back but have seen one another a few times since.”
“Is this why it didn’t work with Ariel?” Ruby asks. “She seemed pretty upset when you ended it.”
“I know. I never should have started anything with her, and I felt even worse that you set us up to begin with.”
“No worries, Em. I just hate seeing you so bummed.”
“You know that kid, Henry Mills?”
“He’s my TA 4th period,” Belle says.
“It’s his mom. The whole time we were messing around, I never knew she had a kid. We saw each other the first day of AP Bootcamp. And now I see her everywhere. They had me over for Christmas dinner, and she told me again that she won’t do relationships.”
“So why do you keep asking, if you know the answer?”
Emma feels badly when Ruby says it that way, hoping that Regina hasn’t felt pressured in a way Emma never meant for her to feel. Asking more than once clearly wasn’t going to make the answer different. Emma puts her beer down, immediately feeling like she owes Regina an apology.
Belle and Ruby shoot one another concerned looks. Emma has never had it this bad for anyone in the time they have known her. They each move to put an arm around her shoulders, and she smiles sadly at their attempt to make her feel better.
“Thanks, guys. I think I needed to hear that, Rubes. I haven’t wanted to take her no for a no. I feel like a total dick now.”
“No, Em. You can’t help wanting who you want. But things don’t always work the way we want them to, or in the time frame we want. Look how long it took for me and Belle to get our shit together.”
Emma nods. Belle was going through a contentious divorce when she first started working at the school. It was nearly two years later when she finally gave Ruby a chance, and there were many stops and starts to them finally dating exclusively and eventually marrying. Emma doesn’t know what will happen with Regina, but she knows her pining isn’t doing either one of them any good. She’s got to get her emotions under control if she hopes to even have a friendship with Regina. She would rather have that than nothing at all.
Marian shows up at the house on a Saturday that Henry is with his grandma with a bottle of reposado tequila and the ingredients for Palomas in a bag. Regina, who makes asada tacos for the occasion, has missed her friend. After small talk and a few drinks, they sit on the back porch with their food.
“What’s going on behind those eyes, girl? I haven't seen you like this, ever.”
Regina sighs, “Remember that blonde we saw at the bar a while back?”
“The one you looked like you wanted to fuck, then kill?”
“Is it a lie?”
Regina looks thoughtful before laughing, “No, not then.”
“Now, I am way over my head.”
“You like this blondie!”
“Emma, her name is Emma.”
“You love her ass.”
“No question about that,” Regina jokes.
“So what is the problem?”
“The problem is, I don't do relationships. I don’t do love. I do, let’s fuck and see ya.”
“And how has that worked out for you?”
Regina waves a hand in frustration. “It did work. Until her. And now, I see her everywhere. She teaches at Henry’s school. I can’t avoid her, and I don’t think I want to.”
“So what if you stop fighting it. Let what happens, happen. At worst, maybe you have a good friendship where you occasionally….”
“No, she has made it very clear she isn’t down for that anymore.”
“Right? She is amazing in bed. Like, I don’t think I have ever.…”
Marian laughs, loudly. In the many years she has known Regina, she has never known her friend to speak this way about anyone she has been with. There is a lightness to her, a softness that she has not seen ever, and it makes her happy.
“You need to get on that, Regina.”
“I don’t know if I can give her what she needs, Marian. And she deserves a lot. She is an amazing woman.”
“But what if you could?”
“In a heartbeat.”
“Think about it, Regina.”
So Regina promises that yes, she will think more about it, not that she thinks of much else these days. A friendship with Emma might be better than nothing at all. Regina doesn’t want to think of her life without Emma in it.
“I feel like I owe you an apology.”
“An apology? Why?” Regina tries, and fails, not to stare at how pretty Emma looks in her plum dress, with her hair down and softly curled. When Regina volunteered to chaperone the school Valentine’s Dance, she hoped she would see Emma, but she had no idea what seeing her dressed up would do to her insides.
“I kind of harped on you about what I wanted, projected those feelings onto you, and then went silent when I didn’t get what I hoped out of it. That wasn’t cool, and if I’m trying to be a new and improved Emma, all evolved and shit, that probably wasn’t the best way to go about things,” Emma says as she tries desperately to keep her eyes off of Regina’s cleavage in her plunging red dress, because of course Regina would wear a strapless red dress to a Valentine’s Day dance.
“Evolved and shit. Very well-spoken, Miss Swan.”
“You know what I mean. I like talking with you, and dinner at the house was really nice, but I knew what the deal was. And I feel like I still tried to push it with you, thinking it would change your mind. It was dumb, and I feel like an asshole about it, and I’m sorry.”
“Emma, I appreciate the apology, even though it isn’t necessary.”
“It is. A few days ago,a friend said something that made me realize I was pressuring for something I already had an answer to. That was an eye-opener, and I don’t feel good about how I may have made you feel. So, I’m sorry. Really sorry..”
“I appreciate that, Emma. I--”
“Regina! Look at you all done up and gorgeous. It must be my lucky night.”
“Mal, hi. What are you doing here?”
“I volunteered to chaperone. Lily isn’t speaking to me for it, but here I am.”
“This is Miss Swan. She teaches Spanish.”
“Wonderful, let’s catch up over there,” Mal says as she ignores Emma and points to a corner of the room. Taking her cue, Emma wishes them a good night and walks away.
“So, I’m single again.”
“Marriage number 3, Mal. I’m sorry, I thought the third time was supposed to be the charm?”
“Don’t be sorry. It was good while it lasted. On to better things, I suppose. Fancy another round for old times sake?”
Regina thinks of how easy it would be to start up with Mal again. They would occasionally hook up here and there in between Mal’s marriages, but as she looks across the gym and meets Emma’s green eyes, she knows she can’t. Not with Mal. Not with anyone. Even a casual hook up wouldn’t do it for her anymore. She realizes it suddenly, and it makes her sick and almost giddy; she’s fallen for Emma Swan, and there is no more denying it.
Mal senses the hesitation and looks at where Regina is watching. “Ah, understood. Say no more. Let’s do lunch when you’re up to it, okay?”
Regina accepts a kiss on the cheek from Mal, and covertly watches Emma for the rest of the night. She’s come to a decision, and now she needs to be brave.
A few weeks later, Regina invites Cora over for dinner, and her mother accepts, even though she seems a bit surprised by the overture. It’s an awkward affair, and while Henry struggles to fill the silence between the two women most important to him, Cora finally snaps.
“Would you mind telling me why I’m here?” Cora demands, red lips pursed, patting at her perfectly coiffed hair in nervousness.
“You’re here because I invited you to dinner, Mother.”
“Are you sick? Is that it? You’re dying. My goodness, I had hoped your paleness was due to bad lighting, Regina,” she exclaims as she begins to dab at tears forming in her eyes with her dinner napkin.
Rubbing at her face and making a mental note to go sun herself out on the patio over the weekend, Regina says, “I am not sick, Mother. Jesus. Way to scare Henry. Do you really think I’d invite you over to dinner to make an announcement like that?”
“I’d hope not, but you have to admit this is out of character for us. We haven't dined together since your father was alive.”
“I know. And I’d like to change that. I’d like to put our differences aside. I’d like to have family dinner once a week. And I’d like it if we could try to be civil with one another. For Henry’s sake.”
Regina looks over at her son and the joy and hope in his eyes reminds her of when he was a small boy. She had forgotten that look.
“Not for Henry’s sake. Let’s do it for us. I’d say it’s the least we can do for one another after all these years, right?”
Regina swallows the lump that has suddenly formed in her throat and smiles a watery smile at her mother, reaching for her hand and using the other to grab Henry’s.
“Te amo,” she says.
Henry laughs, “So now you speak Spanish?”
“I’m learning,” she grins.
For Regina, making grand gestures has never been her thing. She doesn’t do it, and she doesn’t expect it from anyone. She took a chance inviting her mom over for dinner, with promises to make it weekly, because she was tired of feeling as though her decisions were unchangeable. Their relationship was important to Henry, and it was important for them to drop the bullshit and learn how to get along. Cora was always going to want bigger and better for her child, but she was just going to have to learn when to keep her mouth shut. Boundaries would be a discussion they would have often, but it was necessary to keep them on track and in a healthy place.
As she makes her way to the door, she straightens a nonexistent wrinkle in her red silk button-up shirt. Her heels feel heavy with each click against the concrete walkway. She takes a few deep breaths and raises her hand to knock, then holds her hand against her stomach and takes a few deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. She takes out a Kleenex from her purse to dab at the moisture gathering above her lips.
'I can do this.'
She hasn’t thought much through, memorizing only one line of what she wants to say, and the rest she is hoping will just come to her when she needs it. This is the first time she has thrown all thought out of the window and is relying purely on her feelings, on her gut. She let Henry know what she was going to do, and he was excited and a little too helpful. Once he brought out Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII,” she thanked him for all his suggestions and sent him on his way. She knows there is a lot riding on getting it right, so she steadies her nerves and knocks on the door.
Emma answers in the hoodie she wore the first night they hooked up, eyes bright and curious, a welcoming smile on her face.
“Regina, come in.”
She marvels at the open space of the townhouse and the soft grays and whites of the decor, offset by a few colorful art pieces hanging on the walls. The floor is adorned with several beautiful rugs in bold, bright colors. They look marvelous against the wood floors, and she is taken by Emma’s style. She thinks her own home could use more color in it, and if she is lucky, Emma might be willing to help. Regina’s never been here in the day, and the nights she was over, Emma had the lights off and they would go straight to her bedroom.
“Did you want anything to drink?” Emma breaks her quiet reverie.
“Water would be nice.”
Regina follows Emma to the kitchen, noting the many copper pans hanging from a rack over the granite island in the center of the room.
“Do you cook often?”
“I do. It’s one of my favorite ways to relax,” Emma says, handing Regina a glass.
Regina takes a drink of water and looks at Emma, who seems anxious.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I asked to see you.”
“I have to admit I was a bit surprised by your text. We hadn’t spoken since the dance, and since that was over a month ago, I figured I would give you some space.”
“Can we sit?”
“Sure, let’s go to the living room.”
Once seated on Emma’s obscenely comfortable couch, side by side, Regina turns her body towards Emma.
“When I met you, when we hooked up, I was convinced that once was going to be enough. That night was amazing, everything I could have wished for. I decided, why not do it again? We were consenting adults. And when it ended, I thought it was for the best. One of us was going to have to make the choice, and I was willing to accept it. I had broken my own rules from the first night. We caught feelings, you and I.”
Emma smiles softly, but stays quiet, allowing Regina to continue.
“I didn’t want to date anyone. Ever. I was hell-bent on the idea that my life was perfect as it was. But you showed me, every third Saturday of the month, that being alone was not all that I made it out to be in my head. And when you ended it, why in the hell did I have to suddenly see you everywhere? The entire time we were carrying on, I never caught a glimpse of you anywhere! And then there you were at Henry’s school.”
“That was pretty wild that we kept seeing each other after that day.”
“I have to believe that it was fate, Emma. So, I’m here today asking for a chance. I’ve been stubborn and hard-headed and everything in between, but I would love it if we could start again.”
Emma feels like she’s been holding her breath the entire time Regina was speaking, so she lets it out all at once, making a whoosh sound with her mouth.
“I’d like that, Regina. Very much.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, there’s something you should know, though, something I realized in the last month or maybe even before that.”
“Uhm, okay. Go ahead.”
“Estoy enamorada de ti.”
Regina’s eyes widen, and she reaches for Emma’s arm, “Emma?”
“I never knew hearing you speak Spanish would be so hot.”
“I’ve been studying.”
“What else do you know?”
“Llévame a tu cama, Emma.”
“Is that a demand?”
“Depends on your willingness.”
“Oh, I’m willing. All of it. I’ve loved your stubborn ass too, for a while, Regina Mills.”
“Is that so?” Regina asks, as her cheeks begin to hurt by how widely she is smiling. “I don’t want to lose you, Emma, even though I am terrified to let you in.”
“Let’s be terrified together,” Emma says, grabbing Regina’s hand and entwining their fingers. “Are we really doing this?”
“Going to your bed?”
“All of it. Bed. Love. Me. You. Us?”
“I’m in if you are.”
Emma stands and when she reaches her hand for Regina’s, she pulls her into her arms and holds her tightly against her body. She moves her lips down Regina’s jaw to her neck and begins sucking hard enough to leave a mark. Regina gasps.
“You have no idea how long I have wanted to do that.”
“I’d call you a brute, but I am way too turned on right now to care.”
“I’m in, Regina. All in.”
“Good, I’m not letting you go, Miss Swan. Never again,” Regina says, as she pulls Emma by the hand into the bedroom.