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Take a Chance on Me

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Regina burst through the emergency room door, a near murderous look on her face.

“Where is she?!”

“Madam Mayor, I’m sorry, but you can’t-”

Regina snarled, ignoring the woman as she scanned the waiting room and looked down the halls of the hospital. Every instinct screamed at her to torture the young woman until she got the information she wanted, but she quickly reminded herself she was no longer that person. And Henry would never forgive her. She would do this without the unhelpful woman’s assistance. The hospital was small, but it was a maze of hallways. She could start searching at random-

“Get that fucking thing away from me!”

Or she could just listen and wait for Emma’s screech of protest. She stalked in the direction of the angry voice, blatantly ignoring the protesting receptionist. When she found the room she was looking for, she entered without so much as a knock, stopping only when she saw nurse Ratchet approaching Emma, who had her arms up in a defensive manner.

“What is going on here?” she asked, her tone dripping with rage.

Emma immediately looked over at her, eyes wide. She calmed some when she saw Regina at the door, but she quickly turned back to the slowly approaching nurse.

“Madam Mayor. I’m attempting to subdue this patient, however she refuses-”

“Nurse Ratchet, if you do not know how to do your job correctly, I ensure you I will find a replacement. Your patient is clearly in distress. What is the problem?”

“If she would just stop moving-”

The nurse took another step towards Emma, who immediately began thrashing on the bed to get away.

“Stop!”

Both women froze, Regina walking forward and pointing at the nurse to move away. She did so, reluctantly.

“What is the problem, Emma?”

Emma bit her lip, looking to the nurse and then back to Regina.

“I- she wants to give me a sedative.”

“She is near hysterical and refuses to cooperate. She will not allow me to dress her wounds. She has numerous lacerations that need to be disinfected and I cannot work on a patient who refuses to cooperate. The sedative will calm her and allow me to do my job.”

Emma looked over to Regina, shaking her head.

“I can’t,” she pleaded, “it could put me to sleep.”

Regina gave a nod of understanding before turning back to the nurse.

“As you can see, your patient is no longer hysterical. If you had listened to her, you would have realised the problem. She is trying to communicate a boundary and you are refusing to listen. I believe you are the problem, nurse, and you are the one inducing this so-called hysteria. Put the syringe away. I can assure you that your patient will comply fully from now on, correct?” Regina asked sternly, raising an eyebrow at Emma, who nodded eagerly.

“Yeah. Just don’t put me to sleep.”

“That will not be necessary as long as you cooperate. Now, nurse Ratchet, what do you need her to do?”

“I need her to remove her clothing and put on the hospital gown I laid on the bed. It will be easier to see the extent of the damage if she puts it on.”

“I don’t want-”

“You will do as the nurse has requested. Put on the gown.”

Emma watched Regina turn around, effectively ending the argument. Emma debated momentarily, but she ultimately did as she was told. She could feel the anger radiating off of the other woman. She was not going to provoke her any more than she already had, so she slowly stripped out of her clothes, sucking in a deep breath when she lifted her tattered shirt from her body, pain slicing through her side. She refused to look down, not wanting to see the damage that the Cyclops had wreaked on her body. She’d managed to kill it though, and she was still alive, so in her mind, whatever trouble she was in now was worth it. Her family and friends were safe and that was all that mattered.

“Okay, it’s on,” Emma muttered, once she’d finally put on the gown and housecoat.  

Regina turned and joined her by the side of the bed, suppressing the rolling waves of anger in her stomach as she looked at the mass of tattered and bloody clothing on the floor. There would be time to yell at Emma later. Right now, they needed to find out the extent of her injuries.

“We need to take you for an x-ray and an ultrasound, Sheriff.”

“I told you, I’m fine. It’s just a couple of bruised ribs.”

Before the nurse could argue back, Regina took a step forward, blocking the woman’s view of Emma.

“Are you ready to take her now or should we wait here?”

“We can go now.”

Regina nodded in agreement, grabbing Emma’s elbow and guiding her off the table.

“Regina, I’m not-”

“Enough!” Regina seethed, turning to Emma. “I swear on our son that if you do not cooperate, I will make you regret it. You are going to get x-rays, you are going to get an ultrasound, and you will participate in any and all other medical examinations the doctor and nurse desire. I am this close to snapping and if I do, I promise you, it will be ugly. Now get off this table and follow the nurse or else I will ensure that you are met with a fate worse than the one the Cyclops would have bestowed upon you.”

Emma blinked, effectively silenced. She didn’t protest again, quietly following as she was led to the x-ray room. Regina stood outside as the x-rays were done, then lead Emma over to the ultrasound room. She stayed in the tiny space with the blonde as requested. She silently reached out and took Emma’s hand when she noticed the woman stifling whimpers as the technician moved the wand over her wounded side. She did not glance down when Emma looked up at her in what was likely surprise; however, she did squeeze her hand to show her support. She was beyond angry with her, but she was not heartless, as many others believed. She knew Emma was in pain, and she knew how comforting the touch of another could be when one was injured. So she stood close, her hip brushing Emma’s shoulder, hands linked.

Regina didn’t utter a word throughout the examination, but she did not leave Emma’s side. She stayed with her up until the moment in which doctor Whale entered Emma’s hospital room, ready to give Emma his assessment and treatment of her injuries. It was in that moment that Regina decided to leave, unable to listen to damage Emma had sustained when she made the incredibly irresponsible decision to go and fight the Cyclops on her own. Emma did not protest her departure. She knew it was because Regina could not handle hearing the information. Emma was not suffering from any kind of cognitive impairment, so Regina felt safe enough to leave her to speak to Whale alone.

Regina wandered the hallways, inspected the cafeteria, picked invisible lint off of her skirt until she felt sure it was safe to go back. However, fate had never been kind to her and she returned to Emma’s room to find Whale still there, along with an ever emotional Snow crying and speaking loudly. David stood to the side, baby Neal sleeping peacefully in his arms, while Henry stood worriedly by his mother.   

“So she’ll need someone to take care of her? Honey, you are coming home with your father and I. We’ll take care of you.”

Regina walked into the room, the familiar staccato of her shoes interrupting what was surely going to turn into an argument, if the look on Emma’s face was anything to go by.

“Regina,” Emma said, the relief evident in her voice.

“What is going on here?”

“I’ve recommended that Sheriff Swan not be alone for the next 48 hours and it seems to have created some upset. She does not appear to have a cranial injury, and the wounds to her body are not life threatening, but just to be safe, I recommend that someone stay with her for the near future.”

“Honey, I don’t know why you’re upset. You live at the loft, all of your things are there. Why would you want to go somewhere else?”

Regina watched as Emma glanced down at the bed, shrugging her shoulders. She recognised that behaviour. Henry did the exact same thing when he didn’t feel safe enough to respond truthfully.

“It isn’t up for debate, Snow,” Regina said, taking a step forward. “I’ve already told Emma that she is to come to the mansion where I will ensure she is properly cared for. The baby demands all of your attention. You will not have the time to look after her, and David will be assuming Emma’s position at the station while she recovers, so he will be unable to help you.”

“I can look after my own daughter, Regina. I’m her mother. I know what’s best for her.”

“Do you? You know what is best for her? You’ve been acting in her best interest for the last few weeks? That is laughable.” Regina shook with rage, marching over to Henry and handing him her wallet. “Go and get your mother a hamburger from Granny’s and meet us at home. Please ensure that there is bacon, cheese, and avocado on it, and please order a side of fries and a milkshake. You may order whatever you like.”

Henry, knowing not to argue with his mother when she was as angry as she was now, immediately nodded, took the wallet, and left. When he was safely out of earshot, Regina’s anger spilled out as she stalked towards Snow, one finger up and shaking as she spoke.

“Are you blind or just stupid, Snow White? Have you not noticed how your daughter has been suffering these past few months? Have you not noticed just how thin she has become? Do you not see the black circles around her eyes? Have you not seen how she is wearing herself into the ground? No, you have not!

“Not once have you stopped her from coming and going from that house. Not once have you forced her to sit down and eat a proper meal. Not once have you concerned yourself with her well-being. You have been so preoccupied with yourself, with your new child, that you have not seen that Emma has been screaming for help. I am not deaf, as you seem to be, you ignorant little girl. Emma will be coming home with Henry and I, and I assure you that when she is ready to leave, she will be healthy once again. I will not allow her to continue the self-destructive behaviour she has been permitted to engage in while in your home.”

“You have no right, Regina! You don’t know her like I do. You can’t just make Emma do something she doesn’t want to do. You can’t force her-”

“Oh? And was it not I who got Emma into that hospital gown? Was it not I who demanded she get x-rays and an ultrasound? Do not pretend that you could have made that happen, Snow, because we both know she will not listen to you,” Regina glanced over at Emma, holding her gaze. “You need someone who will force you to take care of yourself.” She then looked back at Snow. “I will never force Emma into something she truly does not want to do (Regina made sure to look at Emma when she said this), but I will not compromise her well-being simply to keep the peace. She is welcome to try and argue, but it will be of no use. She will do as I say.”

Emma, who had been quiet throughout the angry exchange, finally spoke up.

“I love you, mom. But Regina’s right about… about you not having the time. I don’t want to be a burden on you when you have to take care of the baby. I think it would be better if I stayed at the mansion.”

Snow looked like she was about to cry, which made Regina roll her eyes.

“But honey, your father and I want you at home.”

“And when I get better, I’ll be back. It’s not like you won’t see me again. And you can come visit if you want. Regina won’t mind.”

“Excuse me?”

“She’ll come visit,” Emma said, smirking at Regina’s protest, as she attempted to defuse the tension. “It’ll be fun. You can take out your good tea set from the china cabinet and pour her fancy tea since I hate that sh-tuff.”

Regina had made a passing comment once that she had never gotten to use it since she rarely received company other than Emma, who loathed tea. Emma bit her lip when Regina narrowed her eyes into a deathly glare, holding back the laugh that desperately wanted to escape.

“I guess it would be okay, if that’s what you want. And if we can come and see you,” Snow reluctantly answered.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” David asked, finally speaking.

“Yeah,” Emma nodded. “I’ll be out of your way at Regina’s.”

The truth was she felt more comfortable at the mansion than she did at her parents’ apartment. It had way more perks than the loft too, like more space, no screaming babies, no one making annoying doe-eyes at each other or making lovey-dovey comments. It was enough to turn her stomach. Plus, Henry was more comfortable and acted more like himself when he was at the mansion. And it smelled nicer there and there were always treats left out on the counter. Emma got to sleep in her own bed and there was cable and Netflix. And she laughed more when she was with Regina and it was really nice, because she didn’t feel like she had to be quiet because someone was sleeping. There were way more rules, but if she and Henry both begged and made promises not to make a mess or break anything, the rules were often bent or broken completely. Plus, Regina was at the mansion, and that was the biggest positive of all.

“Okay, if that’s what you want.”

Emma nodded. She could tell her parents were disappointed, but she couldn’t help feeling relieved. She didn’t want to go back to the loft. She wanted to be at the mansion, and she was incredibly grateful Regina had offered.

When Snow approached her for a hug, she didn’t protest. She knew that her mother needed the contact, and to be fair, Emma wasn’t against it either. She really did love her parents, but she didn’t feel the emotional attachment to them that she knew she should. And that, well, it made her feel guilty- for not loving them the way that she should.

“I’m sorry, Emma. I’m sorry I didn’t see…”

Emma pulled away, waving her off.

“You’re busy. I get it. And I didn’t exactly tell you.”

Snow wiped at her eyes.

“I should have known. I see it now. It’s so obvious…”

Emma shrugged, giving her parents a short smile.

“We’re still getting to know each other,” she said, even though they’d known each other for years now. “It’ll take time. I gotta make up for never giving you a hard time as a teenager, you know? Can’t make it too easy.”

Snow gave a faint smile, squeezing her daughter’s shoulder as she backed away from the bed. David walked over and gave her a hug and a kiss, holding Neal out as Emma leaned forward to kiss his forehead.

“If you need anything, kiddo, you’ll call, right?”

“I will.”

“Good. Take care of yourself.”

David followed his wife out of the room, stopping and peeking his head back in a moment later.

“And Regina?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks. For taking care of my little girl.”

Regina gave him a small smile in response, nodding once to acknowledge the comment. When they were alone in the room, she turned to Emma, who was sitting quietly on the bed.

“So… now that we’re alone, are you going to kill me?”

Regina sighed heavily.

“No, miss Swan. I am not going to kill you.”

“Because Henry would never forgive you?”

“That darn child prevents me from getting any sort of satisfaction anymore.”

Emma laughed. She clutched her side as her laugh deepened, putting pressure on the pain.

“Ow, oh God. Why do you make me laugh?”

“Because I enjoy seeing you suffer. Now, will you please tell me what that incompetent doctor told you?”

Emma let her laughter ebb before finally responding.

“He didn’t say much. Ultrasound didn’t show any damage to my organs, and the x-rays didn’t show any broken ribs. My head is good. I’m supposed to watch for dizziness, light-headedness, vomiting. I’ve got a few bandages I need to change regularly and a couple bruised ribs, but I heal fast so I don’t even know if they’ll even be an issue in a week from now. It’s weird, but I’ve always been a fast healer.”

“Your light magic allows you to heal at a superior rate of speed.”

Emma paused.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. That’s pretty cool. And good to know.”

“It does not mean, however, that you can make rash, idiotic, and impulsive decisions such as the one you made today, Emma. Your magic cannot save you from death. You acted like an imbecile and you put your life in danger today. You could have perished, and then what? You would have left your parents without a child, your brother without his older sister, this town without a saviour, and worst of all, your son without his other mother. Do you not think before you act?” Regina began to pace, getting angrier the more she spoke. “Did you not even consider anyone but yourself for even just one second? No! Of course not, because if you had, you would have stopped yourself from doing something so completely irresponsible, worrying your entire family just so you could once again be the hero. For once in your life would you consider someone other than yourself when you make these foolish decisions?”

“I was thinking of other people today. I was thinking of everyone else! That thing was going around, terrifying people and destroying the forest around the city. It was just a matter of time before he came into town and started killing people. Everyone was just sitting around arguing, so I did what I was supposed to do: I killed the bad guy. I’m the saviour, Regina. I won’t just sit around waiting for other people to do my job.”

“We were not sitting around arguing, Emma. We were deciding on a course of action. We were creating a plan, one which involved everyone, not simply one person going on a suicide mission to take down the Cyclops alone. It would have been safer had we gone as a group.”

“I work better alone, you know that. I don’t have to worry about other people getting hurt or getting in my way. I have my magic now and I know how to use it since you taught me, and you just said it heals me faster. Who knows how hurt other people would have gotten had they been there. I’m the only one whose magic can heal, so I should be the one going after the things that threaten my family.”

“Not alone, Emma. You are not a one-man show. We work together.”

“You were a one-man show in the Enchanted Forest. And you run this town single-handedly.”

“No. I had guards, servants, advisers, and an army of people willing to do my bidding in the Enchanted Forest. And I have help here as the Mayor. I have an assistant, I have a Sheriff, I have councilmen and women. It is foolish to act alone. You have too many people who care about you for you to continue this reckless behaviour. It stops today, Emma.”

Emma didn’t answer, choosing instead to remain silent. Regina wasn’t her boss, and she could do what she wanted. It wasn’t worth the argument though, so she simply said nothing. Silence filled the room, only the sound of the ticking clock audible for many long minutes. Finally, Regina filled the silence, her rage having dissipated now that she had time to cool off.

“We should return to the mansion. Your dinner is probably cold by now.”

Emma shrugged, her anger having disappeared as well.

“Cold food never stopped me from enjoying a meal before. Never matters what it is or how cold. If I’m allowed to have some, I’m not gonna to complain. Besides, cold burgers are pretty good.”

Regina blinked away that familiar uncomfortable feeling, the one that stirred every time Emma made vague comments that alluded to her past. Regina was a master at deciphering Emma’s comments, and she had long ago figured out that the woman had been severely malnourished as a child. It was one reason, in her long list of reasons, for which she kept snacks, fruit, and desserts well within reach whenever Emma was over. She always offered the woman a meal when she stopped by, as well as a Tupperware container filled to the brim with leftovers. She hadn’t always cared whether or not Emma ate, but as their friendship grew, so too did her need to take care of the other woman.

“Uh, Regina? You listening?”

“Yes, of course. I’m pleased you agreed to join me at the mansion. Let’s go.”

Emma smirked.

“I said I needed clothes before I left this place. Think you can find me some pants?”

“Fine.”

Regina quickly made her way back to the reception area, demanding a pair of scrubs from the receptionist who had refused to cooperate with her earlier. The plump brunette finally agreed, bringing back a dark blue set of scrubs.

“I’m only doing this for Sheriff Swan.”

“I’m sure the entire Sheriff Department will send you a fruit basket for your cooperation.”

Regina grabbed the clothing and made her way back to the room, once again turning as Emma dressed.

“My side is already feeling better,” Emma said, noting there was less pain as she put on her top.

“Hallelujah. I’ll be able to rest easy tonight now that I have that information. Are you ready yet?”

Emma chuckled as she slipped on her pants.

“You’re such an asshole.”

“Yes, and yet you insist on my company.”

“I guess I’m just a masochist. You can turn around now.”

“Finally,” Regina muttered, turning around and eyeing Emma’s new attire. “Well, it seems you are capable of wearing clothing that does not require excessive amounts of grunting to get into.”

“How do you know I grunt my way into my clothes?”

“Please, Emma. You cannot wear jeans that tight without there being significant effort on your part.”

“Ohh, checking out my ass, are you Madam Mayor? That would be completely inappropriate if I didn’t totally love it.”

Emma strolled out of the room, leaving a glaring Regina in her wake. She loved one-upping the other woman. It happened so rarely.

 


 

“Oh my God. This burger is fucking awesome,” Emma moaned, taking another bite. “This is so good.”

“Watch your language.”

“Oh man. I could have three more of these,” she continued, ignoring the reprimand. “How come you let me have bacon and cheese on it? Not that I’m complaining. On second thought, forget I asked. I don’t want to question a good thing.”

Regina swallowed her bite of chicken Caesar salad before responding.

“You have lost too much weight these past few weeks. You are going to begin a high calorie, nutrient-dense diet in order to return your body to a healthy weight.”

“Does that mean I get to eat more bacon cheese burgers?”

“It means that you will be consuming foods rich in calories and full of nutrients, such as avocadoes, salmon, kale, seeds and nuts, berries, whole yogurt…”

Henry looked over, grinning excitedly.

“Does that mean we get to have ice cream and chips and chocolate, since ma needs to get fat?”

“Hey! I am not going to get fat.” Emma suddenly looked panicked, turning back to Regina. “You’re not gonna make me get fat, right? I can’t be a fat sheriff.”

“I will return you to a healthy weight.”

Emma stared at her, blinking. Regina sighed.

“No, Emma. You will not get fat.”

“Oh, thank God,” she said, the relief evident in her voice as she took another giant bite of her burger.

Regina shook her head, finishing her salad and putting the container down on the coffee table. Normally, she would never allow food to be eaten in the living room. However, Emma and Henry had both looked at her with wide, begging eyes. She found it nearly impossible to resist their identical pleading expressions. One alone, she could resist (with a small degree of difficulty). Both? Loving Snow would be an easier feat.

“You didn’t answer my question though. Can we have ice cream?”

Emma glanced at her milkshake, shoving several fries in her mouth as she waited for Regina’s response. She was technically getting ice cream with her supper, but she wasn’t going to say no to more for dessert.

“You have already had several treats this evening, Henry Mills. Ice cream will not be another.”

He gave her a small, disappointed look, but he didn’t argue. Getting to eat take out in the living room on a school night was definitely more than he expected. Maybe his ma getting hurt wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Well, he wasn’t happy she was hurt and he was very relieved to see she was okay, but he also really liked eating chicken fingers and fries on the couch while watching Iron Man.

“Thirty minutes until bedtime, Henry.”

He nodded, turning back to the tv. His movie would be over in exactly 24 minutes, so he didn’t argue. Plus, even though his mom had calmed down quite a bit from the hospital, he knew she was still capable of getting really mad if provoked. She wasn’t totally relaxed, even though she looked calm on the outside. He knew her well enough to know she was still really upset with his ma, not that he blamed her. His ma had been really dumb today and worried a lot of people, including his mom. So, he sat quietly and unpaused his movie.

“I will be cleaning the kitchen and making Henry’s lunch should either of you need me. You will stay here, Emma. No getting up and no rough housing. I mean it. Are you listening, Henry?”

“Yes, mom. No rough housing, I promise.”

“I can come help you in the kitchen.”

“No, you have done quite enough for one day. Sit.”

Emma waited until Regina left the room before turning to their son.

“She’s still pretty pissed, isn’t she?”

He nodded, not looking away from the tv.

“And she’d be even more mad if she heard you saying that in front of me.”

Emma shrugged.

“I got yelled at a lot by her already. Yelling at me seems to be the theme for today.”

“You’re lucky. You got off easy.”

“What? Did you not hear me about getting yelled at all day?”

Henry sighed as he paused the movie, resigning himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to get to finish it.

“Mom’s first reaction when stuff happens is to get mad.”

“I know. It’s hard not to notice. Her go-to emotion is rage. I mean, look at her past. Takes someone who is pretty angry to do the things she did,” Emma said with a shrug.

He shook his head, irritation overcoming him.

“No, you don’t get it. Mom gets mad but that’s not how she really feels. I read somewhere that anger is an emotion that hides how you really feel. It’s like a mask or something. So someone gets mad ‘cause they’re hurting or scared or something. You scared everyone today because you acted dumb. You went after a Cyclops that could have killed you and you didn’t tell anyone that you were going to do it. And you scared mom, like really bad. You didn’t see her reaction when she realised you were missing, ma. You didn’t see how scared she got. Everyone was looking around for you, but mom already knew you were gone after it ‘cause she knows you do stupid stuff like that. And when she went to the forest and saw all the trees that were destroyed and saw all the blood everywhere, but you weren’t there, she got even more scared. She didn’t know what happened to you. It’s like after I got mad at her last month and left and went to see the twins, she couldn’t find me and when I got home she yelled and screamed forever. It’s ‘cause I scared her. Mom’s fear comes out as anger. And the more she’s scared-”

“The angrier she gets.”

“Exactly. So she’s gonna act mad at you for a long time, but it’s because she was worried about you. So if she’s been yelling at you all day, it’s actually kind of a good thing, ‘cause it means she cares about you a lot. You scared her and she cares about you, that’s why she’s mad at you.”

Emma suddenly felt incredibly small.

“I didn’t know she cared that much,” she said softly.

Henry reached out and squeezed her shoulder.

“Mom’s not real good at showing her feelings, kinda like you. But she cares about you. A lot. And if you took a second to think about it, you’d see what I mean. She likes it when you’re around and she smiles more and laughs at your dumb jokes even though they’re not funny. And she makes lots of desserts when you come, which is really awesome by the way, and she lets you pick the tv show and buys you pop and tries to hide it in the vegetable drawer even though I totally know it’s there. Thanks for not blabbing and telling her I’m drinking it by the way. Anyway, the point is, she cares about you a lot. Like, more than pretty much everyone else, except me. And you were stupid and didn’t think about her feelings when you left today. So you hurt her too, even though she’s never ever gonna tell you that. Pay attention, ma. Stop thinking people don’t care about you, ‘cause they do. A lot. And I know you’re used to like being on your own, but it’s not like that anymore. You scared all of us.”

Henry stopped talking when his voice caught in his throat. He didn’t protest when his ma pulled him in a hug, needing the comfort of her embrace.

“I was scared too, ma,” he whispered. “Don’t do it again, okay?”

Emma blinked back the tears and shook her head in his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, kid. I promise I won’t do it again. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Henry nodded in acceptance.

“At least go and see mom before you do something stupid, okay? She’s really smart. She’ll help you make the right decision. Or at least keep you from getting killed.”

“You’re right. And she is pretty smart. So are you, kid. When did you get so wise?”

Henry pulled away, but he stayed sitting next to his mother.

“I’m thirteen now, ma. I’m not a kid anymore. Plus, mom raised me. Do you really think she’d raise a dumb kid?”

Emma chuckled.

“I guess not.”

Henry smiled in satisfaction, turning back to the tv and hitting “play”. He had just snuggled back into the couch when his mom returned, pointing at him.

“Time for bed, Henry. You may finish your film in the morning.”

He suppressed an irritated groan. He couldn’t wait to buy his own house where he could make his own rules and eat ice cream as much as he wanted and watch movies in his boxers for as many hours as he wanted. But since he was not quite old enough yet, he paused his movie and leaned over his ma, kissing her cheek.

“Goodnight, kid.”

“Night, ma.”

He walked past his other mother, who told him she’d be up in a few minutes to say goodnight. When they were alone, Regina turned to Emma.

“Would you like to sleep now as well? You’ve had a long day.”

“No. Um, actually, I’d like to talk. You know, after you put Henry to bed. If that’s okay?”

“Of course, dear. Would you like me to retrieve my teapot from the china cabinet? We could have a nice, warm cup of Earl Grey as we talk. I believe I have some biscuits in the cupboard as well. The dry kind that crumble when you eat them. I know how you like them so.”

Emma laughed as she shook her head.

“Go put our son to bed before I throw one of your fancy cushions at you.”

“That would be assault with a weapon, Sheriff,” Regina called back over her shoulder.

Emma chuckled as Regina made her way upstairs, her own pleased smile on her lips.

 

Chapter Text

Thank you so much to everyone for reading and reviewing. I am thoroughly enjoying your thoughts. I'm going to be spending the day continuing this story, but first I wanted to post the next chapter so you could enjoy :)

I don't have a beta, so all errors are mine. If you find any, please let me know so I can correct them.


"You wanted to speak with me?" Regina asked, joining Emma on the couch.

Emma nodded, fiddling nervously with her sleeve as she spoke.

"I'm sorry for scaring you today, Regina. You were right when you said I wasn't thinking of anyone else. I wasn't thinking of you or of Henry or of my parents and how I'd worry you by going off on my own. I really was thinking about you guys and your safety when I went after the Cyclops alone, but I wasn't thinking about how that decision would affect everyone else, how it would affect you. I upset you today, but I never meant to. I just… when everyone was sitting around and just talking and arguing and no one was coming up with a decision, I couldn't take it. I kept thinking about how that thing was threatening this town, our town, and how it wasn't going to stay in the forest forever. And then I got to thinking about how if it did come to town, it was going to come and kill the people in it. People I care about. It was going to come after my parents, my brother. It was going to come after Henry. It was going to come after you. And no one was doing anything to stop it; they were just arguing. So I left. I wasn't about to just let that thing wander into town and kill everyone, so I went on my own and I attacked it. And yeah, it got a few decent hits in and threw me around a bunch and yeah, it hurt, but I just kept thinking about you and Henry and my parents. And it gave me the motivation I needed to keep going after it. So, maybe I wasn't thinking about your feelings, Regina, but it's because I was too busy thinking about your safety.

"You guys mean everything to me, you and Henry. My parents and the baby too. I finally have a family here, a home. I have friends. This is my town. I would do anything to protect it, including going after a Cyclops on my own. I'm sorry for worrying you today. That wasn't what I meant to do at all. I just… I just wanted to keep you all safe."

Regina lowered her eyes, unsure of how to respond. Emma so rarely opened up, and she didn't want to discourage the woman from doing so in the future, but she was just so angry with her. She thought about hiding how she felt, but quickly disregarded the thought. She knew Emma wouldn't want her to lie, and Regina hated to be lied to as well, so she decided to tell her what she truly thought.

"I was very upset with you. I will admit that I still am now. You shouldn't have done it, Emma. You could have been killed."

"I know. I'm sorry I scared you, Regina. I didn't mean to."

Regina looked at Emma for a long moment before letting out a deep breath.

"I forgive you. But will you promise not to act so rashly in the future? You are not alone and you are not invincible. I will come and help you, always."

Emma nodded.

"I'm sorry. I forget, you know, that-" she smiled weakly, "that I have people. I'm just so used to doing what I want, when I want. No one ever cared what I did before."

"Yes, well. They care now. I will not allow you to worry Henry as you did today." And the harsh tone returned. "He should not have to worry about his mother. He is a child. He should not be burdened with the fear that his mother will one day get herself killed because she is too stubborn to ask for help."

"You're right. I know."

"Of course I'm right."

Emma smiled, but said nothing more.

"Now that we've discussed that," Regina said, her tone softening, "will you tell me why you haven't been eating and sleeping properly?"

Emma rubbed her palms on her thighs. They'd talked about her nightmares briefly a couple of weeks ago, but they hadn't gotten into the details of them. There hadn't been a moment recently, with everything happening with the Cyclops.

"I just… haven't been eating much. I haven't been hungry or anything."

Part of the reason was that Emma had been spending so much time away from the apartment, she often missed the meals her mother served because she was busy working. The major reason though was that she didn't really notice her hunger. She was so used to being hungry as a child that the growling noises in her belly had stopped registering with her long ago. It wasn't worth having to deal with her parents, to deal with the baby, just to eat a meal when she used to just not eating. She'd rather save her mental health and stay away from home. Besides, if she had really wanted to eat, she could go to Granny's or hit a grocery store. It wasn't like she was broke.

"Emma, do not lie to me. I loathe being lied to. If you do not trust me with the truth or you do not wish to tell me the true reason, then at least be honest about it."

"I'm sorry. I do trust you. It's not that."

"Then what is it?"

Emma looked down at her hands.

"I don't… I feel guilty."

She squeezed her eyes shut as the tears built.

"It's okay to be honest. Why do you feel guilty, Emma?"

"Because I hate it at the loft! I hate living with my parents. I hate being there with them, but I know it makes them happy to have me around so I stay with them instead of getting my own place. But I can't stand being there with them, so I leave. And then when I'm out of the house, I'm usually at work and there's not really any time to eat at work. So I've been losing a little weight. And when I'm off work, I make it a point to be out of the house when they eat because- because-"

"Because?"

"Because they act like a family!" Emma exclaimed, jumping up and pacing as she spoke, her secret finally spilling out of her. "They sit around the table and talk and laugh and eat. And I'm not a part of it. They make all these references to memories I don't have and to things I don't understand. They talk about weird food they used to eat and about people I've never met. They make jokes I don't get and talk about how it used to be in the Enchanted Forest. And they only look at each other. And then the baby will need something so they both look at him like he's… like he's everything. And I see how they hold him and rock him and sing to him and love him. They treat him like their kid, not like some… some thing to just be tossed in a fucking wardrobe and thrown onto the side of the street in the hopes that it'll one day come back and save them. They love him and hug him and they don't look at him all weird and confused. They know what he wants even before he opens his mouth. And I'm like some damn alien from outer space! They don't get me. And they look at me like I'm some… freak. Like they don't get me. I don't fit with them. And I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes I see how she looks at the baby, how she loves him and how she never ever looks at me like that," Emma continued, wiping at her eyes as she began crying. "It's like she forces herself to like me because I was her kid for like a second before she threw me away. She doesn't love me like she loves him, and it sucks. It hurts. I hate it. Every second I'm in that place, every time I see her with him, I'm reminded of what I never had, of what she should have been like with me but never was. And I dream these fucking awful dreams because of it… memories of all the horrible shit I went through because she didn't want enough to keep me!"

Regina shot off the couch, catching Emma as the woman bent in two with the force of her sob. She guided her to the floor, pulling her into her arms and rocking her gently as she cried.

She should have known. Regina cursed herself inwardly for being so stupid. She should have known that Neal's birth would cause Emma upset. The beginning of the change in Emma coincided perfectly with the baby's birth nearly three and a half months ago. Emma had been suffering for three and a half months and she'd never let on. She'd never said a word. It wasn't that Regina hadn't noticed. Of course she had. She'd noticed right away that Emma wasn't sleeping. And a few weeks later, her weight loss had become apparent. She'd brought it up with the other woman, who had told her she was going through a rough period but not to worry because Snow was helping her. So Regina had backed off, but she hadn't stopped observing her. As time progressed, as weeks turned into months, Emma continued to assure her that she was confiding in Snow. Regina should have known. Emma was never comfortable with her mother. She was never quite herself with Snow. She should have known Emma would lie about her well-being. Emma always lied to protect herself.

She cupped Emma's head as she rocked, holding her close.

"I'm sorry, Emma," she whispered. "I should have known you were much more upset than you let on. I'm sorry I did not insist. I ignored my instincts, something which I rarely do. I'm sorry for not investigating further. I'm sorry you've been suffering alone."

Emma shook her head, the tears continuing to fall. She felt overwhelming guilt for what she had just confessed, but Regina had nothing to apologise for. She told her as much, but Regina refused to listen.

"You and I, Emma, we have lived things no one else in this town could ever dream of. We have been used, abused, rejected, and neglected. We have learned to hide when we are in pain to protect ourselves. I recognised the signs that something was very wrong, and I did not act as I should have. For that, I apologise. I hope that you know that things will be different now. I will not allow you to hide within yourself. If you need time and space, I will not force you to speak to me. I will not, however, allow you to continue to suffer alone."

She held Emma for several more minutes before she spoke again.

"You say that you trust me. Will you trust me enough to be honest with me when you are upset? Will you tell me when you need something, or someone?"

Emma sat quietly, finally nodding in Regina's shoulder. She pulled away after a minute, only to be met with a firm arm holding her in place.

"Just a moment. I'm not finished. Thank you for agreeing, Emma. I hope you will honour your word. I do have one other … request," Regina said slowly. It was going to be more of a demand, but she didn't say that. "You will take the rest of the week off, and if I believe you need more time to recover, you will take next week off as well. I will work from home, and we are going to spend some time here, together. No more running, Emma. You're not alone. It is time you learned to believe it."

"Why are you doing this?"

The question was so soft, Regina almost didn't hear it.

"You are my son's mother. In order to ensure his happiness, both of his mothers need to be happy and healthy. I would do anything to ensure he remains content, and that includes taking care of his biological mother." And, because she knew Emma needed to hear it, she did not censor the other part of her motivation for caring for her. "And, if I expect you to be honest with me, I suppose I should be honest with you as well. The truth is I care for you, Emma, a great deal in fact. It is one of the side effects of friendship I suppose, you are no longer indifferent to each other's suffering. You have come to grow on me, not unlike a fungus which grows on a tree or a wart grows on a witch's nose."

Emma gave a soft chuckle despite herself.

"You are my friend, Emma," Regina said sincerely. "At least, I believe we are friends. You are the one person in this God forsaken town who knows that the real world is not filled with happiness and rainbows and that true horrors hide in the unlikeliest of places. You understand that finding your 'true love' is not the ultimate goal in life. Although you are at times the biggest thorn in my side, you … are also the reason I am able to keep my sanity most days."

Emma smiled widely against Regina's neck, pulling away and meeting her eyes.

"You like me," she said with sudden clarity. "You enjoy my company."

"I said no such thing."

"No, you do. Like, you actually like me."

"Get off of me, Miss Swan."

"I used to suspect you did 'cause you were so nice to me, but now I know the truth. Is it my personality? Do you like that I'm so funny? Or is it just 'cause I'm super cute?"

"If you do not get off of me, I swear I will-"

"It's 'cause I have a great ass, isn't it? That's why you check me out in my jeans. You like my assets. Get it?"

The fact that she'd been pushed onto the floor did not stop Emma.

"You probably also like-"

"I am leaving now, Miss Swan. Do turn off the television before you go to sleep."

Emma grinned as she watched Regina leave.

She likes meShe really is my friend. 


 

"Do cease this juvenile behaviour, Miss Swan, or I promise you I really will rip out your hair."

Regina held the bottom of Emma's hair with her left hand, her hairbrush in her right.

"I'm not acting juvenile. You're ripping my freaking hair out of my head with how rough you're being. Christ, I'll ask the kid to brush my hair. Just leave it. You're gonna give me whiplash!"

"Are you quite finished?"

"Are you?!"

Regina sighed heavily. It had been four days since Emma had moved in, and four days that she'd been thoroughly testing Regina's patience. She was happy to help her friend out, and she was glad that Henry was so pleased to have his other mother around, but needing to care for someone so incredibly hostile was wearing on her nerves. She'd been tense from the very second she had approached her, whining even before Regina had touched her hair.

"Just throw my hair in a ponytail. It's fine. I'll brush when I can raise my arms again or I'll ask my mom when I see her."

Regina's eyes narrowed. She refused admit defeat, and she certainly would not cede such a simple task to Snow White.

"You will not. I am perfectly capable of brushing your hair, Emma."

Emma moved away when she approached her, wincing. She really didn't want Regina to touch her again.

"No, I… it really does hurt, Regina. Please stop. Just leave it, okay?"

Emma's tone stopped Regina dead in her tracks. She could hear the desperation in her voice, the slight twinge of fear. She immediately took a step back, dropping her arm.

"I'm sorry, Emma. I didn't realise…" Regina took a deep breath, swallowing her pride. "I lost my patience and became aggressive, which I shouldn't have. May I please try again? I promise I'll be more gentle."

She kept her tone soothing, trying to convey her sincerity. She felt guilty for hurting Emma. The woman looked at her hesitantly, so she tried a small smile.

"It won't hurt. And if it does, I promise I will stop this time."

Emma finally nodded, shifting in her seat so that her back was once again to her. Regina could see the tension in Emma's shoulders. She moved forward and placed the brush on the vanity, reaching for the wide tooth comb instead. She ran a gentle hand along Emma's left shoulder, squeezing it softly.

"Relax, Emma."

She felt some of the tension ebb, so she moved her hand up and took a fistful of hair, holding it up and away from Emma's head.

"It hurts less if you hold the hair up and away from the head as you brush. Using a wide tooth comb will untangle the knots in your hair, without pulling as a brush would," Regina narrated calmly as she worked, slowly running the comb through Emma's hair. "I shouldn't have pulled as I did earlier, Emma. I apologise. I became frustrated that you were moving away from me."

"I was moving away 'cause I don't like it when other people brush my hair. It hurts," Emma mumbled. She looked down at her hands before continuing. "My hair used to get really messy as a kid, you know, 'cause I never brushed it. My foster moms didn't either, until it got super bad. Then they'd force me into a chair and rip a brush through my hair. Didn't matter how much I cried. They just kept yanking on the knots and calling me names. Finally one of the moms got fed up and cut off most of my hair. So, I don't really like it when other people brush my hair 'cause I know they're gonna hurt me."

Regina swallowed the lump in her throat, taking extra care to be gentle. Silence reigned in the room for several moments before she finally spoke.

"I'm sorry, Emma. I was not aware. I shouldn't have been so forceful regardless, but had I known, I surely would have approached you more carefully. Thank you for telling me the truth."

Emma shrugged, embarrassed. It was weird (but kinda nice) to be thanked every time she was honest.

"Will you tell me if I hurt you again?"

Emma nodded.

"It doesn't hurt now. Thanks."

"It shouldn't hurt. I rather enjoyed when my nursemaid brushed my hair. She would sing to me, and the feeling of the brush in my hair was soothing. My mother… she was not kind. I did not enjoy when she was at the other end of the hairbrush."

Emma looked up in the mirror to see a dark cloud over Regina's face.

"She was mean about it?"

"She was rather mean about everything," Regina confessed.

Emma nodded, then stopped when she remembered Regina was trying to untangle her hair.

"I remember thinking when I met her that she was scary."

"She was," Regina said quietly, but didn't offer anything else.

Emma sat quietly, closing her eyes as Regina ran the comb through her hair. Regina brought the comb back to her scalp, Emma biting back a purr as the teeth massaged her head. It was soothing now rather than scary. Feeling Regina's soft fingers running through her hair as the teeth of the comb made their way along her scalp was putting her to sleep. She never knew it could feel so good to have someone brush her hair like this.

Regina noticed just how relaxed Emma was and continued what she was doing, a small smile on her lips. She liked that Emma was enjoying herself now. She felt incredibly guilty for hurting her, especially in light of what she had just revealed.

"May I try the brush again?"

Emma opened her eyes, ripped from her trance.

"Do you need to use it?"

"No, not if you preferred I did not. However, I would like to and I believe you will enjoy it this time."

Emma hesitated.

"I am your friend, Emma. I would not harm you on purpose."

"Just, don't yank on my hair, 'kay?"

"I promise."

Regina reached over and put down the comb, grabbing the brush instead. She started off slowly, near the end of Emma's curls, before moving to the top of her head and slowly running the bristles through her hair. She pressed them to the woman's scalp, chuckling when Emma let out a moan.

"That feels so good. Like a massage."

Regina continued brushing, smiling.

"It feels very nice when someone is gentle."

"I didn't know it could feel like this."

"I encourage you to take full advantage while you can."

"Yeah, my side is super sore. I don't think I'll be able to brush my hair tomorrow either. I think you'll have to."

Regina chuckled, setting the hairbrush down a few minutes later and tucking Emma's hair behind her ears. She met the woman's gaze in the mirror and smiled softly at her.

"I believe that can be arranged. Now, let's join Henry downstairs. He will surely be impatient."

Emma was disappointed that the scalp massage was over, but she was excited to know she'd get another one tomorrow. She followed Regina downstairs, joining her son and his other mother at the island in the kitchen.

"Finally!" Henry exclaimed. "I thought you drowned in the bathtub, ma."

"I took a shower."

"Well, then drowned in the shower. You took forever."

"Your mom had to come brush my hair since I still can't reach above my head long enough to do it myself. Maybe you could be more sympathetic to your invalid mother, huh? You owe me. Do you know how many hours I was in labour for you? You and your fat head-"

"Oh no! We are not starting this talk again!"

Emma laughed as Henry moved away from her.

"Alright, children. Shall we go to the park or would you prefer to stay here and bicker?"

"Park!"

Regina rolled her eyes at the twin reactions.

"Alright," she said, grabbing the picnic basket from the table. "Let's go before you decide to argue about something else, shall we?"

Henry quickly raced to the front entrance, eager to go. He was excited to share a picnic with his moms and to feed the ducks in the pond. He might be getting a little old for it, but he didn't care. He liked ducks.

His moms soon followed and the three began their short walk to the park. His moms set up the blanket and laid out the food, while Henry took his bag of cracked corn and walked to the edge of the pond. He tossed out a handful and waited, grinning happily when the ducks began to approach him.

"What is it about kids and feeding ducks? They love that shit."

"Must I remind you at every turn not to be so vulgar?"

"No, but you must nag me or else your head will explode. I'm just doing my best to keep you alive."

Regina glared.

"You are the reason I question my sanity."

"Always good to check once in a while. Self, am I still sane? Yep! Alright, now that we've made sure we're not crazy, can we eat?"

Regina sighed heavily before sitting down.

"I think I have a headache."

Emma paused, mouth full of food. She held out the container she was picking from, smiling happily.

"Cracker?" she asked, dry crumbs flying everywhere. She laughed loudly, covering her mouth with her hand as more crumbs tumbled from her lips.

"Could you be any more uncouth?"

Emma nodded happily, earning herself an eye roll. Henry joined them a minute later, dropping down beside his mom and eyeing the food eagerly.

"This looks awesome! Can I have a chicken salad sandwich?"

"You may."

"Thanks!"

Henry quickly dug in, taking a giant bite from the offered sandwich.

"Henry! Where have your manners gone? Since when do you eat like that?"

He smiled sheepishly, chewing more slowly.

"Yeah, uh, the kid and I might have competitions about who can eat their sandwich in the least amount of bites. My bad."

"And who will perform CPR when you have both choked and rendered yourselves unconscious?"

Emma shrugged.

"Probably a passerby. People here are pretty big on saving each other. It's kinda weird."

"You are a terrible influence on my child."

"He's your kid when he's pulling As. He's my kid when he's downing his sandwich in four bites," Emma said, shoving half of her sandwich in her mouth and smiling at Henry, who laughed.

"I should have bought a goldfish. I'm going to build a time machine, fuel it with my magic, reverse time, and adopt a goldfish. Perhaps I will even get two, just to be daring."

"Come on, mom. Your life would be so boring without us," Henry grinned, putting down his food and approaching his mom. Regina managed to put her plate down seconds before her son crushed her into a hug. "You love us."

"I love you."

"You love what Emma teaches me too. You think it's funny."

"I most certainly do not."

"You were laughing at the joke she told me."

"She laughed at my joke?"

"She did."

"I did not. I laughed because my son told me a joke and I gave the expected response."

Henry shook his head, releasing his mom with a kiss to her cheek.

"She was laughing. Hard."

"I'm going to return you," Regina threatened, mock glaring at him.

"There's a no refund policy. I checked the fine print. You're stuck with me!"

"…definitely should have purchased goldfish."


 

"He's happy, isn't he?"

Regina looked over at Emma, startled by the sudden question.

"Of course he's happy. Look at him."

The women looked over at their son, who was grinning from ear to ear as he fed the ducks that had gathered near him.

"No, I mean… in general. Do you think he's happy?"

Regina nodded, glancing back at Emma.

"When Henry was unhappy, it was very obvious. He was angry, uncommunicative. He did not smile. It has always been difficult for him to hide how he feels, for which I am incredibly grateful. There is no guessing with Henry. If he seems happy, it is because he is."

The boy in question looked back at his mothers, smiling widely as he waved at them. They waved back without hesitation.

"That's all I ever wanted for him. I knew… I knew I couldn't take care of him. I wasn't mother material. But I loved him, you know? Even back then. I loved him. I knew he'd be happier with someone else."

Regina could hear the emotion building in Emma's voice, even as the other woman looked away and fixated on their son.

"I know, Emma, and he does as well."

"I don't want him to think I abandoned him. I don't want him to resent me like I resent...like I resent my mom."

When she noticed the tear streaming down Emma's cheek, Regina reached out and squeezed her hand.

"He doesn't, Emma. He has grown up knowing that you loved him. I have always told him that his birth mother put him up for adoption because she loved him dearly. A mother does not give up her child because she hates him. She gives up her child because she loves him enough to do what is best for him. It is an incredibly loving and selfless act to give up your child when you know that you cannot care for him the way that he needs to be cared for. You may ask him at any time, Emma, and he will tell you that he knows you love him very much. You've been a wonderful mother to him, especially as your confidence has grown."

Emma wiped at her cheeks, nodding gratefully at Regina.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Your mother did not abandon you because she didn't love you, Emma. Snow… she has always wanted children, especially a daughter-"

"I'm sorry, Regina. But I can't talk about that, okay?"

Regina nodded.

"Alright. I'm sorry, Emma."

Henry jogged over when he noticed his mother wiping tears away from her eyes.

"Ma? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, kid. Just having a chat with your mom."

"Did she make you cry again? I told you not to listen to her when she says burping the alphabet isn't a real talent."

Emma laughed, grateful that her son knew that humour was the best way to make her feel better. Henry wrapped his arms around her, smiling when he felt his ma's strong arms encircle his shoulders.

"Thanks, kid."

"You okay?" he asked softly.

"Yeah, I'm okay. I love you."

"Love you too, ma. Wanna come feed the ducks with me?"

"Sure. You coming, Regina?"

Regina looked up at her son and his mother, both holding out their hands. She smiled at them, linking her hands with both of them and pulling herself up. The three stood close together, laughing as they tossed out handfuls of cracked corn at the families of ducks. When he noticed his bag was empty, Henry turned to his mothers.

"We're all out of corn."

"That's alright. Would you like to stay here for the afternoon or would you prefer to return to the mansion?"

"Can we go home? There's a movie ma and I have been wanting to watch. Maybe we could all hang out together and watch it."

Emma glanced over at Regina, wondering if the woman would accept to spend the afternoon doing a lazy activity such as watching a movie. She was usually pretty insistent they do something active, like taking a walk or playing outside. If they were inside, she usually got Henry to do something that would "stimulate his brain rather than waste it away". As far as Emma was concerned, watching movies was a perfectly acceptable way of passing the time.

"Very well. Your mother would benefit from a little rest after such a full day."

"I'm right here. I'm fine to hang out here some more or go home."

Regina gave her a look.

"You are meant to be recovering."

"I'm recovered!"

"Raise your arms."

Emma raised her arms slowly, stopping when she felt the familiar slicing pain in her side. She forced a smile, pretending there was no ache at all.

"See? I'm fine."

Regina was pleased to note Emma was able to reach higher than she had been two days ago, but it was a pathetic attempt at proving she was recovered. She took one step forward, her hand reaching out in an obvious indication that she was going to poke Emma's side. The woman immediately retreated, her hand coming down to protect her wounded ribs.

"Hey! No jabbing."

"Yes. I see you're in perfect health," Regina replied sarcastically.

"Yeah, whatever. It's still pretty good. Alright, kid. Let's go home before your mom gets any more bright ideas."

Henry snorted, following his moms as they began their walk home.

"And what film will we be viewing this afternoon?"

"It's a documentary called On the Way to School. It looks awesome."

"Yeah, it does look pretty good."

Regina regarded the blonde curiously.

"You enjoy documentaries?"

"Yeah, I do. I like some educational stuff you know. I like seeing other countries. I can't afford to travel to 'em, so watching documentaries is a pretty good way to see how life is in other places."

"Grandma!" Henry shouted, interrupting the conversation between his two mothers.

Emma stopped walking, and Regina could easily see the unease on the other woman's face.

"Would you like me to send her off?"

Emma glanced over at Regina.

"No, it's okay. I just… I wasn't expecting to see her."

She hadn't seen her mother since she'd left the hospital, and she definitely wasn't complaining. The break had done her a world of good. She didn't really want to talk to her mother, and she definitely didn't want to talk about the squirming kid she was pushing in a stroller.

"If you change your mind, simply mention your desire for a coffee and I will know to intervene."

"Thank you."

Emma forced a smile as her mother approached, dreading the discussion to come. She'd been happily living in a bubble at Regina's house. There was no Snow and baby around to remind her of what she had lost. There were no parents having open conversation which she could not follow. She did not feel like an outsider with Henry and with Regina. They made her feel included, wanted, a feeling which had been unbearably sparse during her youth. She liked the feeling, and now it was ripped away from her by her own mother.

"Hi, Emma."

"Hey."

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine. How are you?"

"We're doing well. We miss you."

Emma nodded in response.

"I'll be home eventually. How's dad doing at the station?"

"He's managing. You're looking much better, Emma. You don't look quite so tired."

"Yeah, I'm uh- sleeping better I guess."

She hadn't had any nightmares at the mansion. Well, she'd had a bad dream the first night, but it hadn't kept her awake for the rest of the night like the nightmares she had at a loft. The truth was, being surrounded by her son and her friend made all the difference. Emma was going to bed happy, her belly full, curling up in a soft, warm bed. Her mind was filled with the pleasant thoughts of the days she was spending joking with Henry and exchanging sarcastic jabs with Regina.

"Regina, I heard you aren't at the office this week. Your assistant told me you're working from home."

"Yes, Snow. How lovely of you to intrude in my personal affairs. I had planned on doing some laundry and fixing a meal this evening as well. Shall I forward the details to you later?"

Emma bit her lip in order to hide her smile. Regina was such a sarcastic bitch sometimes and damn if she didn't love it.

"There's no need to be mean, Regina."

"And there is no need to be burdened with your unpleasant voice on such a lovely day. And yet, here we are."

"Mom," Henry chided.

Regina stopped speaking, but only because her son was standing next to her. She didn't bother to hide her pleased smile when she realised just how uncomfortable Snow now was.

"How's my favourite uncle doing?" Henry asked happily, changing the subject.

"He's doing quite well, Henry," Snow responded proudly. "He's smiling at everything lately."

Emma took a step back, while Henry peered into the stroller with his grandmother and made faces at the giggling infant. Regina noticed the stricken look on Emma's face, immediately stepping before the blonde and blocking her view of the stroller.

"Emma," she said, her tone deep and commanding. "Would you like to go for a coffee now?"

Emma's eyes snapped up at Regina. Coffee. Right. She didn't have to stay here. Swallowing against her dry throat, she nodded.

"Very well."

Turning on her heels, Regina looked at Snow, ensuring her expression dripped with condescension.

"As… fascinating as it is to sit here and stare at your drooling offspring, we do need to be going. Emma needs to rest. I do respectfully advise that you bring your child to the shade as you undoubtedly are aware of the harmful effects of the sun, especially on a young child."

Regina reached out and took Emma's elbow, gently guiding the woman away from her mother.

"I believe sushi would be a good choice for this evening's menu, would it not?"

Emma, always easily distracted by the thought of food, quickly agreed.

"Will you show me how again?"

"If you wish."

"Oh I totally wish."

Regina rolled her eyes, smiling at her son as he jogged back to join them.

"You know, mom, you don't need to be so mean to grandma. I think you hurt her feelings."

"I did not threaten her life, Henry. I would therefore argue I was quite pleasant."

He sighed, unhappy with the tension in his family. Regina, quickly realising her son was upset, reached out and took his hand.

"I'm sorry that my behaviour upset you, Henry. Your grandmother and I have a very difficult past. It is challenging to be kind to her, but I will do my best to keep my hurtful comments to myself in the future. I cannot pretend to like her though. That simply is beyond the realm of possibility."

"Okay, fine. As long as you're not mean to her."

He looked back at his grandmother, who was watching them sadly as they left. He looked back at his moms before stopping.

"Henry?"

"I think I want to stay with grandma tonight. Is that okay?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I haven't seen baby Neal in a long time and I think it might be nice to stay with grandma. She's probably lonely since grandpa works so much now."

"Very well, but first you must ask your grandmother if she agrees."

"Okay!"

He ran to the bench where his grandmother was seated, his mothers watching from afar.

"He has much too caring a heart."

Emma smiled.

"Not really a bad thing though."

"I would prefer he loathe her as I do."

Emma chuckled.

"I don't think anyone hates her like you do," Emma said. "Thanks… for what you did back there."

"I did nothing for you, dear. I simply could not stand another moment with that woman."

Emma's smile didn't falter. They both knew she was lying, and if Regina needed to save face, Emma wouldn't call her out on it.

"She said yes!" Henry yelled when he got close enough. He ran up to his mothers, smiling at them. "She said it's okay for me to stay. I think she's happy to have company."

Regina reached into the basket she was carrying, pulling out the container of mulberry crumble and handing it to her son.

"Here. Bring this to your grandmother. You will not tell her I offered it to you."

"Okay. Thanks, mom."

He kissed both of his moms before rushing back to his grandmother, who grinned back at the two women when she realised what was in the container.

"Why's she so happy to get leftover dessert?"

Regina turned away from her son, leading the way back to the mansion.

"My recipe for mulberry crumble is her favourite. I very rarely make it and it is an even rarer occurrence that I share it with her."

"That your version of an apology?"

"It is my way of keeping my son happy. I do not apologise to Snow White."

Emma laughed, the woman's irritation tickling her.

"You talk through food."

"That hardly makes sense."

"No, it totally does. When you're happy, you bake cookies. When you're stressed, you make these crazy complicated pastries that have all these designs and taste freaking amazing. When you're sorry, you make whoever you're feeling bad about's favourite thing to eat. Like, when you were sorry for getting mad at Ruby, you made her that lemon meringue pie, even though you hate lemon meringue."

"How did you know about that pie?"

"Uh, she told me about it."

Regina could sense the other woman was lying, but before she could press further, Emma continued talking.

"You use food to make people feel better too. Like, how I was kinda… freaking out inside when my mom started talking about the baby. You know how much I love sushi and you never make it 'cause you say you hate doing it. Which, I know you only hate doing it because you're not good at cutting the pieces right."

"It is not."

"It so is! You get super pissed when the end pieces fall apart on you. But you're gonna make it tonight 'cause you know it's going to make me happy. Which it totally does, by the way."

"You think yourself so clever, don't you?"

Emma beamed as she stepped onto the porch.

"Hell yeah."

"Watch your-"

"Kid's not here. I don't have to watch anything."

Regina rolled her eyes, muttering a 'thank you' when Emma held the door open. The women removed their shoes, entering the kitchen a moment later. Regina emptied the basket, placing it in the cupboard once everything was put away.

"You still want to watch that documentary?"

"If you like."

"What would you like?"

"I don't enjoy television the way that you and Henry do, Emma. But you are the one trying to recover from injuries, not I. We will do what you want until you feel better."

"You don't like tv at all?"

"On occasion, yes, I do enjoy it. But, it is not my preferred method of entertainment."

"What is?"

"Something that offers a challenge. I prefer to be stimulated rather than sit uselessly on a couch."

Emma suppressed her childish need to laugh at the word "stimulated".

"So what can we do instead? What would you pick, if you could?"

"I would suggest a game. Perhaps chess."

"We could play chess."

"You know how to play?" Regina asked skeptically.

"Yeah. Who doesn't know how to play?"

"Can you play well?"

Emma shrugged.

"I'm decent."

"That remains to be seen."

Regina led the way to the living room, pulling out her chess board and setting it on the coffee table.

"Would you prefer to play at the table?"

"No, I'll be fine. If I get too sore, I'll just make you move my pieces for me."

Regina cocked an eyebrow.

"Hey, you offered to take care of me. That includes doing my bidding and putting my chess pieces where I tell you to."

"Oh, I will surely put them somewhere," she muttered, the corners of her mouth twitching upward when she heard the sound of Emma's laughter.

"Ow. Don't make me laugh so hard."

She finished setting up the pieces, sitting back with satisfaction when the game was ready.

"Letting me go first, huh?"

"I believe it would be unfair not to. I am undoubtedly the more skilled player."

"We'll see, Madam Mayor."

An hour later, Regina was glaring at Emma, who was grinning widely at her.

"The more skilled player, huh? Seems to me I won most of those matches."

"I should have worked harder to drive you from my town."

Emma laughed.

"Wanna play again?

"Shut up."

"Ah, ah, Madam Mayor. That is not a nice thing to say."

"I cannot believe I lost to someone of inferior intellect. It appears I am in desperate need of practice."

"Now you're just being mean because you're sad you lost. I think I need sushi to heal my wounded feelings."

Regina glanced at the clock. She was nowhere near hungry, but she was not going to tell the other woman not to eat. If Emma was hungry, she would feed her, despite her irritation at having lost to her.

"Come on. I'll let you mock my chopping skills."

Regina scoffed as she stood from the couch, following Emma into the kitchen.

"What skills?"

"That's the spirit," Emma encouraged, pulling a cucumber and some avocado from the fridge. "Do you have shrimp?"

"I did not stop and buy any fresh shrimp. I only have frozen."

"Tastes the same after it's been bathed in garlic and butter."

"It most certainly does not."

"Does to me, and I'm the wounded one so I'm right."

"You test my commitment to my son not to commit murder."

"Am I passing? I never was good at tests."

"Given that you are still alive…"

"I'll try harder," Emma said with a smirk, grabbing the knife from the drawer and beginning to slice the cucumber.

They worked in silence for the first few minutes, until Regina cut into it with her question.

"Would you like to speak about what happened at the park today?"

"Not much to talk about. Saw my mom, saw the baby. That's it."

"It upset you to see them," she said gently.

"Step aside, Dr. Phil. You've been replaced."

"Emma," Regina said reproachfully.

Emma glanced over at her, an apologetic look on her face.

"Sorry." She sighed heavily, moving onto the avocado. "Yeah, it does. It's been nice being away from them, you know? She wants me to go back though. She's been texting me asking me to come home."

"Would you like to return to the loft?"

"Not really. I like it here."

"You're welcome to stay as long as you like."

"Thanks," Emma said, warmed by the offer.

"It would be wise for you to have a discussion with your mother. You need to express your concerns and tell her how you feel."

"What do you want me to say, Regina? Hey, mom, could you take the kid somewhere else 'cause it upsets me to see you love him the way you never loved me?"

Regina pulled the shrimp away from the stove, pouring them into a bowl. She approached Emma, leaning her hip against the counter as she faced the woman.

"There are ways of communicating your needs to your mother without causing further damage to your relationship."

"She doesn't wanna hear it. She just wants it to be good between us. She's gonna take offense the second I say how I really feel."

"And how is that?"

Emma sighed, putting down the knife and facing Regina.

"You know how I feel. I've told you. I hate seeing her with the kid even though it makes me an asshole for feeling that way. I can't stand to be around him because he's just another reminder of how shitty my life was. She threw me out like garbage, Regina, and it pisses me off that I have to sit around and pretend like she didn't fucking do that. She hovers over that kid like he's some kind of… like he's the most fucking precious thing in the world and when she looks at me, it's like she doesn't know my ass from my face. She doesn't know how to talk to me; she doesn't understand me. She says she wants me around but then half the time we spend sitting there not talking because we don't know what to say to each other."

"I believe she's trying, Emma. You're from two very different worlds. But it is made even more difficult for her to understand you if you don't tell her how you feel."

"You and I are from two different worlds but we get along fine."

"You don't resent me as you do your mother. Despite the fact that you should…"

"No. She made the choice, Regina. Not you."

"I didn't leave her much other option."

"You're coming to her defense? Since when do you try to help her?"

"I'm not, Emma. I am trying to aide you as you work through your anger and resentment. She was in a very difficult place. Your feelings are not without merit, however. But you need to speak with her about how you feel."

Regina walked back to the stove, removing the rice from the burner. Emma mulled over what she said, swiping her sock covered foot along the floor tiles.

"Alright. I'll think about it."

"Good," Regina said, adding her vinegar mixture to the rice.

Emma watched her from the island. She loved observing Regina in the kitchen. She was so confident, as opposed to Emma, who did her best to just not fuck things up. When she was alone, she tended to eat ramen noodles and cereal because she hated eating burnt food.

"Emma? Will you bring me the nori?"

"Sure."

Emma grabbed the green sheets, bringing them to the other woman. Regina placed a sheet of nori on the saran wrap covered bamboo mat, stepping aside and smiling at Emma.

"Alright. You will do the honours. I will observe."

"I'm wounded. I can't do it."

"You can."

Emma hesitated.

"You'll be fine, Emma. You wanted to learn. I'll be here to instruct you and correct you if you make an error. Now, fold the nori in half as I showed you last time and tear along the folded line."

Emma grabbed the piece of nori, carefully folding it and tearing it in half. Regina could see she was nervous, so she cracked a smile.

"Be sure to do it properly, Emma. If you do not, I'll be forced to slap your hand with the rice spoon. We both know how I would loathe to do that."

Emma chuckled, unconsciously loosening her tense shoulders.

"Yeah, yeah. Any excuse to hit me is a good one in your book."

"Quite. Now, wet your hands in the vinegar water and take a handful of rice."

Emma did as she was told, feeling incredibly self-conscious as she attempted to follow Regina's instructions. She knew this would not turn out as well as it would if Regina did it, but part of her was excited to do it herself. It might actually turn out half decent since Regina was there to guide her. Emma always felt more confident when her friend was around, because she knew Regina would fix her mistake if she messed up, just as the brunette always did. It was nice, admittedly, that she knew Regina was always willing to help her. She'd never had anyone in her life on whom she could completely depend, but she knew without a single doubt that, day or night, Regina would always be there to help her.

"Good. Now, spread it along the nori. Pat it down gently, without much pressure, because you want there to be some air in the rice."

Emma followed Regina's gentle instructions, and when there was a nice layer of rice over the nori, she looked over at the woman, who gave her an approving smile.

"Well done. Now, take some of the cucumber and avocado that you sliced earlier, and place it in the middle of your bed of rice."

Emma did, followed by the shrimp.

"Excellent. Alright, the tricky part. You will grab the bamboo mat and pull it up, as you hold the cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. Then, you will roll the entire thing it onto itself to create a nice cylinder shape."

Emma followed her instructions, doing her best to ensure the shrimp and vegetables didn't fall away. She rolled the mat as instructed, smiling when it seemed to be working.

"Be sure to be gentle as you press it together. Has it formed into a nice roll?"

Emma pulled away the mat, grinning at the nicely formed roll.

"It looks perfect. Well done, Emma. Now, grab the knife and wet it lightly. Just like that, and slice the roll in half. Excellent. Now slice each half into thirds."

Emma stuck her tongue out as she worked, Regina laughing as the woman concentrated on the task at hand. She brought a plate over when Emma finished, placing the pieces in the middle of it.

"They look delicious, Emma."

The woman continued grinning proudly.

"They do look awesome, don't they?"

"Quite awesome. Now, will you make enough for the both of us while I clean up?"

"Okay."

The women worked side by side quietly, moving to the dining room when they had both finished. Emma waited for Regina to take a bite, her stomach dancing happily when the woman made a noise of pleasure.

"Delicious, Emma," Regina complimented, after she had swallowed. "It is very good."

Emma beamed, taking a decidedly much less delicate bite.

"Thanks for showing me how to make this. I love sushi."

"Hmm. This world is full of foods we did not have in the Enchanted Forest. Sushi was a pleasant discovery when I first learnt of it."

"When was that?"

"I stumbled upon the internet page YouTube some time ago, and I was pleased to discover all sorts of recipes I could access for free. It was difficult to make some of my own due to the fact that the ingredients were next to, or completely, impossible to find."

"Is this something you make a lot?"

"Not a lot, no. But often enough. I prefer using the slow cooker. I thoroughly enjoy baking, but cooking remains a task from which I derive far less pleasure. Using a slow cooker is a dream come true. I simply add all the ingredients I need, and I can ignore the meal until it is ready to be consumed."

"You wouldn't know it. You're such a good cook. I usually mess up anything I try to make, which is why I either eat out or have cereal or something."

"I'm sure your talents rest elsewhere. I have yet to see them, however-"

"Whoa, whoa, Madam Mayor. I just whipped your butt at chess. I'd say that's a pretty good talent."

Regina refused to dignify that comment with a response, instead taking another piece of maki with her chopsticks. Emma chuckled, grabbing a piece herself and popping it in her mouth.

"What do you want to do tonight?"

"Perhaps we could braid each other's hair and gossip about boys. Do you have any magazines? I'm sure there are several quizzes that would accurately describe our personalities."

Emma chuckled.

"You're such a sarcastic asshole."

Regina smirked.

"We could watch a movie, even though you hate them."

"As I stated previously, I do not hate them. We played chess, which was my choice of activity. We may watch a movie this evening, if that is your choice."

"Okay. What movie should we watch?"

"Would you like to watch your documentary?"

"No. I think we should wait for Henry because he wanted to see it too. We should watch a classic, but something with action. I'm not feeling a romantic comedy."

"And what do you suggest?"

"Have you seen Aliens? With Sigourney Weaver?"

"No. Who is he?"

"She. And she's kick ass. We'll watch it tonight."

"Let me guess, it is a movie about aliens. Fascinating."

"It is. I love that movie."

They finished their meal, and Emma eagerly put their dishes away so that they could start the movie. She found it on Netflix, hit play, and then settled on the couch next to Regina.

"You are entirely too happy."

"I'm excited! Can't wait to watch her kick some alien butt."

Regina rolled her eyes, but she refrained from commenting further. She watched in silence, even if she soon realised the movie was not quite her cup of tea. It wasn't the worst film she'd seen, and she enjoyed the relationship between Ripley and the little girl, but it definitely was not a film she'd seek out again.

"You hate it."

"I do not."

"You don't like it."

She could hear the disappointment in Emma's voice.

"It isn't something I would choose, but I don't hate it, Emma. I do enjoy the relationship between Ripley and Newt, even though that is a horrid name for a child."

"It's a nickname."

"Even still. But the child acts well, unlike many others I have seen."

"Yeah, she's good. And she's cute. Did you know she never took an acting lesson before this movie? She never even acted in a play or anything either. This is the first acting gig she ever did."

Regina nodded.

"Impressive."

"I thought so."

They turned back to the film just as Ripley entered a room full of alien eggs, flame gun in hand. Emma watched with a grin, excited. She loved when Ripley starting setting stuff on fire.

"You enjoy arson far too much, especially for a sheriff."

Emma looked at her, grin fully in place.

"I love it when she sets shit on fire. I'm living vicariously through her. Blow it all up, Ripley!"

Regina rolled her eyes.

"You are such a child."

The rest of the film was viewed in silence, Regina unable to fight her smile when Ripley was finally reunited with the little girl on screen and they were safely back on their ship.

"You're smiling. You liked it."

"As I said, it is not the worst film I have ever seen."

"Well, I really like it."

"Yes. You do enjoy violence and fire."

"And a kick ass female lead. What now?"

Regina stifled a yawn.

"Do you want to go to sleep?"

"No. It is much too early. Perhaps we could watch a documentary or a film that it less violent."

"What about Friends? Henry said you like that one."

Regina nodded.

"Very well."

"Where do you want to start? Or wait! Wanna watch our favourite episodes? We could take turns picking."

"That sounds acceptable."

"Awesome! Which one do you want to start with?"

"I'm not sure. Will you choose first while I decide?"

"'Kay."

Emma pulled out her phone, Googling her favourite episode in order to find which season it was in. She jumped to season two, clicking on episode 14 before pressing play.

"Which one is this?"

"You'll see."

Emma watched with a grin on her face, excited for the show to start. When she realised which one it was, Regina smiled approvingly.

"I enjoy this one as well."

"Good."

The evening flew by, the women taking turns choosing their favourite episodes, laughing so often Emma was sure she had pulled something in her sore side. It was eleven o'clock before either woman realised, and Regina reluctantly admitted it was probably time to get some sleep. Emma nodded, also oddly disappointed, following Regina upstairs.

"I had a lot of fun tonight," Emma said, stopping at her bedroom. "We should do that again. I liked swapping our favourite episodes."

Regina smiled warmly.

"As did I. Perhaps we can choose other television programs as well, once we exhaust our favourite episodes of Friends."

"Deal," Emma said, smiling back.

"Alright. Goodnight, Emma."

Emma watched Regina head over to her bedroom, smiling at her when the woman paused to look at her before closing the door.

"Night, Regina."

Chapter Text

 

Regina was ripped from her sleep by loud screams. She immediately jumped out of bed, yanking on her housecoat as she rushed down the hall to the guest bedroom. She knew it was Emma. Not only because Henry was still at his grandmother's house, but also because she'd had violent nightmares last night as well after seeing her mother in the park two days before. Regina had expected another nightmare tonight, and had Henry been home, she would have soundproofed his entire end of the hallway to ensure he did not overhear his mother's terrified screams.

"Emma?" Regina called, knocking loudly before opening the door and stepping inside.

Emma sat up with a start, breathing heavily. When she saw Regina enter the room and close the door, she sighed with relief. It was just a dream.

"I'm sorry, Regina. I'm sorry I keep-"

"Shh," the brunette soothed, making her way to the bed. "It's alright."

She could hear the guilt in Emma's voice, but there was no need for that, as Regina had explained to her several times already. She didn't blame Emma for her nightmares. How could she blame her for something so involuntary?

"I feel really bad. I wish you'd just let me soundproof the room."

"And leave you to deal with your nightmares alone? No, Emma. That is not how this family works. We take care of one another. When you have a nightmare, I want to be aware of it. Would you not wish to know if I had a bad dream? Would you not wish to comfort me?"

Emma nodded. Regina couldn't see her, but she felt the movement next to her.

"You never get nightmares though. It's only me."

"I have them as well, Emma. I just haven't had them lately."

"Why not?"

"My nightmares are often triggered by an event or a memory… or by a certain date, if I notice it on the calendar. My agenda is a saving grace as Mayor. It is indispensable. However, it wreaks havoc on my personal life by reminding me of events I would sooner forget."

Emma stayed quiet, toying with the blanket.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Regina finally asked.

She gripped the blanket and held it close, turning away from Regina.

"It's the same one. It's always the same. She leaves. She brings me somewhere and leaves. And I'm back in those… those houses I was in as a kid and I dream of the people in it."

Regina reached out and pulled Emma close, wrapping an arm around her waist.

"I'm sorry that seeing your mother triggered has triggered these nightmares, Emma."

"We knew it would happen again tonight. Not surprising."

"I wish you had let me stay here with you. It seemed to help last night when I joined you."

"I can't keep pulling you out of your bed, Regina. I have to learn to deal with this. She wants me back at the loft. She hasn't stopped texting me since we saw her, telling me she wants me to come home. But how can I go back if I can't even deal with my nightmares alone? The only reason I even managed to sleep last night is because you… you were here with me," she finished softly. "I can't let these nightmares start again. I need to face her."

Regina continued rubbing her back.

"There is no rush to return, Emma."

"I'm fine now. My mom isn't going to buy the whole 'I'm still sort of sore' thing forever. There kinda is some rush."

"Well, we can figure it out in the morning if you like. For now, we should both get some sleep."

"Okay. You don't have to stay. You can go back."

"Would you like me to return to my own bed? Would you feel more comfortable alone?"

Emma hesitated.

"No," she finally said softly. "I would rather you stayed."

"Good. Then we're agreed."

Regina removed her housecoat, tossing it in the vicinity of the chair in the corner. She slipped her legs under the blanket, laying her head on the pillow and facing Emma. She reached out and rested her hand on the woman's forearm, squeezing it lightly.

"Thank you for being honest with me tonight, Emma. I know it has been quite a change for you, but I'm pleased you have been more open with me this week."

Emma shrugged, embarrassed at the words. She didn't think she deserved any kind of praise just because she didn't lie.

"Yeah, sure."

When Regina rubbed her thumb against her wrist, a slow shiver ran down Emma's spine. Emma pulled her arm away, shifting on the bed so she was facing the ceiling. She missed the comforting touch, but she wasn't lying when she said she needed to learn to deal on her own. She couldn't keep hiding at the mansion forever, and at her parents' place, there was no soft, soothing voice and there were no gentle hugs or embraces. Sooner or later, she needed to go back there, so she needed to stop being such a baby and learn to comfort herself.

"Thanks for staying," Emma said, more gruffly than she meant to. "Goodnight, Regina."

"Goodnight, Emma."

Regina awoke the next morning, alone in the spare room. She blinked away her sleepy haze, glancing around the room as she sat up. It was bright, and as she looked outside and saw how high the sun was in the sky, she realised it was already quite late in the morning. She quickly got out of bed, slipping on her housecoat as she passed it and tiptoed downstairs. She stopped just outside the kitchen when she heard Emma's voice.

"…yeah, mom. I know… I know it's been a while already…yes, I'm doing better…I know, and yeah, I guess I'm fine now. I'll be going back to work tomorrow…I don't know. I haven't asked Regina when I'm leaving…I know, but I'd like to ask her if it's cool if I do. I'm not just gonna ditch out without talking to her first…Yeah, I know, mom… I know this isn't my home… I know she needs to go back to work too... Alright, fine, I'll talk to her today…I love you too… bye."

Regina snuck away, making her way back up the steps and into her own room. She went to the shower, turning on the hot water before stepping inside. There was no reason for her to feel as disappointed as she did. Emma was always going to return home. It was inevitable. She had known this from the beginning, so why was she suddenly so upset?

Regina scrubbed at her skin as she showered, only stopping when she realised she was rubbing it raw. She shampooed and conditioned quickly, rinsing out her hair before turning off the shower and towelling herself dry. She then went to her closet and put on her favourite black skirt and a burgundy coloured blouse. Afterwards, she applied a subtle coat of make-up, tying back her hair before making her way downstairs as though she had heard nothing of Emma's conversation this morning.

She pretended to act surprised when the conversation was brought up, encouraging Emma to do as she wished. She brushed off Emma's questions of concern, because yes, she was alright. She was not feeling crushed, disappointed, or confused. She was happy for Emma that she was returning to her family. Emma seemed to accept the response, and later on that afternoon, she returned home.

Regina kept herself busy for the following week. She worked incredibly long hours after Emma's departure. It was unavoidable, really. She needed to be in the office to catch up. She was very busy, and there was no way she could return home before nine o'clock in the evening. Never mind that she had worked every day that she had been home with Emma to ensure she stayed on top of her work. Never mind that her assistant had printed off and filed all the documents Regina had sent her way. Never mind that when she had returned to her office that Monday, it was like she had never been away at all.

No. She had needed to be at the office and no, she was not the least bit saddened or even a little bit hurt that she hadn't heard from Emma in nearly five days. Her only regret was that she hadn't been spending as much time with Henry, which was why she had picked him up from school this evening and brought him home to spend the weekend with her. He had spent the week with Emma while Regina worked, not only because she knew she would have to work long hours, but also because she knew Emma would struggle upon her return. Having Henry with her would help immensely. But now that Emma had had him for five days, Regina decided that it was time her son came back to the mansion, so she'd picked him up after school and brought him home.

She and Henry had shared a wonderful meal together this evening, played Monopoly and Clue, followed by watching several episodes of How It's Made (Henry's new favourite television show). He was now sleeping peacefully on the floor in his blanket fort. Regina had magicked his mattress downstairs (because there was no way she was going to drag that down here) and he had taken his time carefully constructing an elaborate fort made up of her spare set of king size sheets. She had spent some time cuddling with him inside his admittedly well-built stronghold, but once he had fallen asleep, she had snuck out and made her way upstairs to her own bed. She had tried getting Henry to come upstairs to bed, but he wanted to stay in the living room. Regina didn't see the harm in allowing him to sleep there, so she left him downstairs.

She had just climbed into bed when her phone chimed, alerting her that she had a new text message. She frowned as it was well past an acceptable hour to contact her, but she grabbed her phone anyway. When she noticed that the message was from Emma, she hastened to open it.

Had another nightmare.

Regina felt her stomach sink. She'd been worrying about her. How many had Emma been having since she'd gone back home? Or had she had one tonight because Henry was no longer with her? Feeling guilty, Regina immediately responded.

I'm sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do?

You could gimme a hug? I always feel better when you hug me after a nightmare.

Regina's heart constricted.

I would be more than happy to provide you with one.

She loathed emoticons, but she made an exception just this once and sent the one that featured two people embracing.

Can I come over?

Regina looked at the time. It was nearly midnight.

It is quite late, Emma. Far too late for you to be driving.

I could just… poof over.

Regina rolled her eyes, even as her stomach tightened in what she would never admit what anticipation. Truthfully, she had missed Emma's presence as much as she had missed Henry's. It had been far too quiet, even in the few hours she had spent at the mansion, without both her son and his other mother.

Yes, alright. You may 'poof' here.

A few seconds later, Regina heard footsteps just outside the landing, along with Emma softly calling her name. She quickly got up and made her way to the door, lest the woman wake up their sleeping son.

"Emma, I am in my room."

"Hey."

Regina frowned at the way Emma was staring. She glanced down at her attire and immediate grabbed her robe from behind the door, quickly throwing it on. She was dressed far more provocatively than she would have been had she known she'd have company. Her satin nightie was her usual sleepwear when she was alone, but she had taken to wearing cotton pyjamas during Emma's stay.

"Nice pjs."

"Yes, well, I wasn't expecting company or I would have worn something more appropriate."

"I'm not complaining. It's uh- really nice."

"I'll change into something more suitable. Come in," she invited, taking a step back and letting Emma into her room. She quickly made her way to the closet, leaving Emma to make her way to the bed.

Emma walked in and immediately began looking around. She'd never been allowed into Regina's room before, and she was not going to miss an opportunity to inspect the formerly forbidden quarters. Unfortunately it was very dark, and she couldn't see much, but she noticed a very impressive vanity to the right of her, a couple of overstuffed chairs to the left, a bulky dresser, and a massive bed before her.

"Whoa. Nice bed. This is huge."

Regina emerged from the closet in a long sleeved pyjama top and pants, much to Emma's disappointment. She liked the other pjs more. Keeping her opinion to herself, she climbed onto her side of the bed (the right) and settled in next to Regina.

"I do enjoy the finer things in life, Sheriff, and that includes an unnecessarily large bed."

Emma laughed as she spread her limbs out, rubbing them back and forth on the sheets.

"Jesus, what are these sheets? A million thread count? They're so soft. And this mattress feels like I'm sleeping on a cloud. I want your bed. God, this is so nice. I mean, your spare room mattress is way nicer than anything I've ever slept on before, but this one makes that one feel like concrete."

Regina chuckled softly, turning to face the other woman. She waited patiently as Emma fondled her bed (for that was exactly what she was doing), speaking only when she finally settled.

"Do you wish to talk about your nightmare?"

Emma shrugged.

"Not much to talk about."

"Have you been having them since you returned?"

"Not really. Having Henry around has helped. Thanks for letting him stay with me."

"You're welcome. Have you managed to sleep since your return?"

When the room filled with silence, Regina knew the answer.

"Emma-"

"Can we not talk about it, please? I didn't come here for you to play therapist," Emma softened her tone when she realised she had just snapped at the one person who cared enough to reach out to her, "I just came here because… because I don't-" Emma took a deep breath before she forced out the truth. "I don't feel safe there. Especially by myself."

Regina shifted to move closer to Emma, reaching out and taking her hand in her own.

"You are always welcome here, Emma. Especially when you do not feel safe. Thank you for contacting me. I'm so very glad that you did."

Emma blushed, grateful for the darkness of the room. She squeezed Regina's hand before pulling away.

"I'm kinda surprised you answered so fast," she said, changing the subject. "Were you awake?"

"I was. I had just climbed into bed."

"Oh. Am I keeping you up? Sorry. I can shut up now."

"No, Emma. You're not keeping me awake. The truth is, Henry and I had a little ice cream after dinner, and my stomach hasn't quite settled. I don't do well with dairy. It upsets my stomach."

"You're lactose intolerant?"

"I'm not sure. I don't believe so because I don't react every time, but I did this evening."

"I didn't know that. Is it for all dairy or just ice cream?"

"Just ice cream."

"Huh. Do you have any allergies?"

"Yes. I am allergic to certain medications, such as the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, and to sesame seeds."

"Sesame seeds? Who is allergic to sesame seeds?"

"I believe I just told you that I was. It would be much appreciated if you would listen to me when I speak, Miss Swan."

Emma laughed, shoving Regina's side.

"You're such a jerk."

Regina joined in her laughter, pausing when Emma asked her next question.

"Any foods you hate?"

"Are we playing twenty questions? I did not realise this was an evening for sleepover games. I would have fetched a bottle and researched some truth or dare questions."

"I don't know what was in that ice cream, but it sure made you sassy," Emma teased, smiling when the woman's laughter returned.

"I do have foods that I dislike. I am not particularly fond of beets or radishes, and I do not like anything filled with custard. I will assume your next question will be asking what my favourite foods are, and I will admit that I have many."

"Yeah? Like what? Apples?"

"While I do like apples, they are not my favourite, no."

"Really? I'm surprised."

"Really," Regina said, deflating. "Imagine that. The Evil Queen's tastes have evolved."

"Hey," Emma chided, reaching out and resting her hand on the woman's elbow, "don't call yourself that. I don't like that. That's not who you are anymore. You're Regina. Just Regina. Okay?"

Regina blinked away the emotions that suddenly stirred inside of her, turning away from the woman lying next to her.

"It is getting quite late, Miss Swan. I believe it is time we go to sleep."

Normally, Emma enjoyed when Regina called her "Miss Swan" because she was usually teasing her, and she really liked it when Regina teased her. This time though, she said it the way she used to say it when they first met, causing Emma's stomach to plummet with disappointment.

There was silence for several moments before Emma finally responded.

"What did I say? And don't tell me I didn't say anything wrong. I've been really honest with you lately, so I want you to answer me honestly too. Just that one thing."

Regina was quiet for so long, Emma didn't think she was going to get a response. But then, just as she'd given up hope, a whispered response was sent her way.

"I will always be the Evil Queen in the eyes of those around me, Emma. I have never duped myself into believing I could ever be anything other than a monster to them. Now it is late and I'm quite tired. Goodnight."

Emma lay in bed for a long time after Regina fell asleep, bothered by the woman's admission.


 "Where did you go last night?"

"Uh…" Emma hesitated, trying to buy time. She didn't know how to answer her mother's question. She had returned home early this morning, way before anyone would be awake. She had gone to her room, slept for an hour, and then emerged when she heard movement downstairs.

"I know you weren't in your bed, Emma. Where did you go? I saw you go to your room last night, but you weren't there when I went to check up on you in the middle of the night."

"I had a bad dream, so I took a walk."

"All night?"

Emma grabbed her keys, heading for the door. She didn't want to have this conversation.

"Listen, I have to get to work. Can we talk about this later?"

"I'm worried about you, Emma."

"Yeah. I'm fine. I just needed some fresh air. I'll see you tonight."

With that, Emma left. She decided to stop in at Granny's to get breakfast, which ended up being the only good thing about her day. She spent the entirety of it filling in the mountain of paperwork Regina had dumped on her desk last week regarding the incident with the Cyclops. She was forced to fill in an incident report for her injuries, a report about the Cyclops- with a very detailed description of what happened in the forest (it took her three damn hours), and when she had finally finished that, she had had to draft seven different reports regarding the properties which had sustained damage during her altercation with the Cyclops in the forest. By the time six o'clock rolled around, Emma was practically running out of the station. She barely tossed a "hey, Mulan!" before she was in her bug, sighing in relief. It was then that she realised she had nowhere to go. Well, she had a home, which was still kinda weird when she thought about it, but she didn't really want to be there. She really wanted to go to the mansion. She wondered if Regina had made supper. Whatever it was, she knew it would be delicious.

Emma stomach rumbled loudly, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since the bearclaw she'd had for breakfast. She wondered how long it had been making noise. From the ache in her belly, it had probably been a while. Would Regina mind if she showed up at her house? That was pretty pathetic though, to show up at her place like a kid without a home, especially when she'd already been bumming around there for a week. Emma decided to drive to the docks instead. It would kill some time before she went back to the loft. If she were lucky, everyone else will have settled down by the time she got home.

She parked her car and got out, grabbing her phone and walking to the bench overlooking the water. She sat down, tucking her hands into her pockets and closing her eyes, enjoying the slight breeze as she relaxed after such a long day. She could feel herself drifting off, and she had half a mind to curl up on the bench (it wouldn't be the first time in her life sleeping on a bench), until her semi-sleep was interrupted by the vibration in her pocket. She pulled out her phone, looking down and smiling when she saw Regina's name. Immediately unlocking her phone, Emma quickly responded to Regina's text.

I'm at the docks. What's up?

The reply came almost instantaneously.

Your mother just called me; she said you aren't responding to her calls and she wanted to know if I had seen you. Is everything alright?

I'm fine. She wouldn't stop calling me, so I blocked her number temporarily. Just taking some time to myself before I head home.

The following reply took longer to arrive, but Emma was just as eager to read it.

I have just called her. She won't be expecting you until much later. Would you like to come for dinner?

Really? I definitely would. I'm on my way.

Emma happily hopped into her bug, driving to the mansion with a grin on her face. She was greeted at the door by her son, whose face broke into a wide smile upon seeing her.

"Hi, ma! Mom said you're coming for supper."

"I am, kid. What's your mom making?"

"Stew, dumplings, and homemade buns. It smells awesome."

"Yeah, it does. I could smell it outside."

Emma removed her shoes, following Henry into the living room.

"Mom and I were doing a puzzle. Do you want to help me while she's in the kitchen?"

"Sure. Let me just go say hi to her, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed, dropping to his knees and fishing through the puzzle pieces on the coffee table.

Emma smiled at him before heading to the kitchen, stopping at the doorway when she saw Regina softly humming to herself as she cut into the roll in her hand. Her hair was tied back, glasses perched on her head, face void of any make up, and her cheeks were dusted white with flour. She wore an apron around her front, but her navy blue dress was still visible underneath. She looked like the perfect housewife, making Emma's heart clench. This feeling of happiness and warmth, triggered by her son and his mother, was what she wanted to come home to. This was true happiness, this was what one should come home to. Not feelings of dread and resentment, which she often felt when she walked into the loft.

"Emma!" Regina gasped, pulling the other woman from her thoughts. "You startled me. I didn't hear you come in."

Emma smirked to cover the longing look she was sure to have been sporting.

"Yeah, the kid let me in. I thought I'd come say hi. It smells great."

Emma's stomach let out a near deafening grumble, and she laughed as she rubbed it self-consciously.

"Sorry. I'm a little hungry."

Regina frowned as she approached her.

"Have you eaten today?"

"Yeah, I ate."

"What did you eat?"

"Uh… I stopped at Granny's earlier."

"When?"

"This morning."

"Before your shift."

"Yeah."

"Which starts at seven."

Emma shifted uncomfortably.

"We spoke of this, Emma. You cannot keep skipping meals. You're still underweight. Despite my best efforts, a week of regular meals is not enough to return you to a healthy weight. You need to start eating properly all the time, not only when you are under this roof."

Regina thrust the bun she had been cutting in Emma's hand.

"Take this. There is butter on the table in the dining room. Apply a generous layer and then eat it before you join Henry in the living room. I will finish in here and call you when dinner is ready."

Emma titled her head, feeling guilty for upsetting Regina.

"Are you mad at me?"

Regina sighed.

"I am not angry. I am frustrated. Why you cannot seem to remember to feed yourself adequately is beyond me. The body requires sustenance in order to function properly, even you must be aware of that. Surely, you do hear your stomach when it reminds you that you have not eaten, do you not? The neighbours heard it just a moment ago, I'm sure of it. That was clearly not the first sounds of protest it made today."

Emma shrugged, looking down at the floor. She didn't know what to say.

"Are you going to answer me?"

"There was a question in there?" Emma asked with a wince.

"I asked you whether or not you hear your stomach when it alerts you to your hunger."

"I… I hear it. Sometimes. I don't know. I don't hear it that often really. Usually it's my dad who tells me when he can hear it and then I know I have to go eat," she said, smiling gently. "He wasn't on shift today so I guess there wasn't anyone to remind me."

Regina frowned.

"Why on Earth would you require your father to tell you it is time to eat, Emma? Are you not a grown woman? Have you suddenly gone deaf? Have you been rendered unable to tell the time? I can purchase a wristwatch if you require one."

Emma laughed and shook her head.

"Nah, that won't be necessary," she paused, feeling suddenly self-conscious as she thought of how to explain herself. "I don't hear it really because I… I was hungry a lot as a kid, you know? So it growled all the time. I heard it do that so much, I guess I kinda just stopped hearing it. It growls now, but… I don't hear it often. It's usually my dad who tells me it's happening."

Regina stared, giving her such a piercing look that it made Emma uncomfortable. She couldn't tell what was going on in the other woman's mind, but she could see the thoughts swirling in her eyes. Before Emma could even begin to decipher what she was seeing, Regina seemed to snap out of it. She stalked over to the stack of buns on the counter and grabbed two more, pressing them into Emma's palm.

"You will sit at that table and you will eat these. I've nearly finished slicing the others and then I will bring out the stew."

Effectively dismissed, Emma did as she was told and took her seat at the dining room table (It was the one next to Henry's. Regina always sat facing them, and the seat at the head table remained empty). She reached over and applied a thick layer of butter, moaning into the bread as she took her first bite. It was amazing, and she was more than glad that Regina had given her three buns to eat. She was definitely going to eat her weight in carbs tonight.

"Ma, I thought you were going to help me with the puzzle."

Emma swallowed her bite and nodded at Henry, who suddenly appeared in the dining room.

"I was going to, but your mom told me to come and sit down in here. You know you can't fight her when she tells you to do something. I think she's coming with the stew in a minute."

As though she had been summoned, Regina entered the room and placed the large pot she carried in the centre of the table.

"Henry, please wash your hands. Dinner is ready."

When he left the room, Regina turned to Emma, who was halfway through her second bun.

"It is unacceptable that you are not ensuring your proper nutrition when you are out of this house. I will not have my town run by a sheriff who is malnourished. You are responsible for ensuring the safety of this town, and you cannot do so if you are underfed. From now on, you will come to my office each and every day for lunch and we will eat together. You will not be late, unless you are on a call, in which case you will warn me that you will be late. I will pack a meal for both of us, one which will satisfy your caloric intake for the afternoon. You are only expected to bring yourself. Is that clear?"

Emma nodded. She didn't dare argue when Regina used her mom tone.

"Okay."

Regina, satisfied with the agreement, turned on her heels and retrieved the rest of the buns and the salad from the counter before returning to the dining room. She joined Emma and Henry at the table, encouraging them both to serve themselves as she filled her bowl with salad.

"You're not having any stew?"

"Not now," she answered Emma. "I will begin with this and then I will have a bowl of stew after."

"Mom always starts with a vegetable."

Emma made a face, scooping another spoonful of the delicious smelling food before her.

"Well, you can have my share if you want. I can't wait to dig into this. It looks awesome."

She reached for a bun, oblivious to the pleased smile which adorned Regina's face as she watched her son and his other mother dig into their dinner.


"Seriously, Regina. That was the best stew I've ever had in my life. That was so good. And those buns were amazing. Why did you let me have ice cream after all that though? My stomach is going to explode."

"Yes, well. You needed a good meal and it seems I am the only one who is ensuring you are actually eating properly."

"Hey," Emma said softly. "I'm an adult. The only one responsible for looking after me is me."

"And you are doing a very poor job of it. You need to take better care of yourself, Emma. You cannot survive on oxygen and goodwill alone. You need to remember to take a moment to eat and take time to sleep."

"Careful, Madam Mayor. People might start to think you actually care about me."

"Yes, we all know it is completely impossible that Evil Queen could care for anyone other than herself," Regina snapped, standing up as she angrily walked away. "If you'll excuse me, Henry is waiting for me to say goodnight."

"Regina, that's not what I meant."

Emma sat up, wincing as her stomach protested the movement. She really did eat way too much. As she made her way upstairs (admittedly very slowly), Emma adjusted her pants until they sat low on her hips. It was still less than comfortable, but it was much more tolerable as she moved. She paused at Henry's doorway, looking in as Regina sat at his side and brushed his hair out of his face.

"Thanks again for inviting ma to supper. I missed having her around. It's nice having her here. And I think she really likes being here with us too. Especially because she likes your cooking."

Regina chuckled softly.

"Oh yes, mijo? And what gave that away? The six buns she ate or the third helping she had?"

Henry laughed with her.

"I'm happy to have her here as well, darling, even if she does occasionally wear on my nerves."

"You don't hate her anymore thought, right?"

"I never hated her. I felt threatened by her; therefore, I became quite angry and defensive. I was wrong to do so. Your mother cares about you very much, and I'm grateful to have someone here who is as concerned about your safety as I. She has turned into quite the ally in the fight to keep you safe."

"I think she's your biggest ally in general, mom. She's always defending you to other people and telling everyone how nice you are now. She gets really mad when anyone calls you the Evil Queen. She doesn't let anyone say it. She even fought Leroy once when he said something really bad about you. She wouldn't tell me what he said, just that he'd never say it again because she scared him so bad. And back when I didn't… when I didn't like you," he said, wincing as he said it, "she never let me say it, ever. She'd always say you're not like that anymore, and she was right. I'm sorry I was mean to you. Ma says everyone deserves a second chance and I'm glad I listened to her. You're the best, mom. I love you."

Regina was quiet for a very long time, and Emma understood why when Henry finally sat up and pulled her into a hug.

"Don't cry, mom. I wasn't trying to make you cry."

"I'm sorry, darling," she responded, wiping discreetly at her cheeks. "That was a very nice thing to say. Thank you."

"I mean it. I love you a lot."

"I love you too, my little prince. It's time to sleep now."

Emma backed away from the door, tip-toeing downstairs and resuming her earlier position on the couch. She closed her eyes, waiting until Regina came back. When she felt the couch dip, she knew Regina had returned.

"Everything go alright?" she asked, peeking one eye open.

"I don't know, Miss Swan," Regina responded, a touch of humour in her voice. "How did it look from the door?"

Emma groaned as she opened her eyes, smiling sheepishly in Regina's direction.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I came to say sorry and then you just… you guys were talking and I couldn't stop listening." Emma paused. "Do you really not mind having me here?"

"I said that for your benefit as much as his, Emma. You are welcome here anytime. I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier. As I sat with Henry, I realised I acted rather rashly. I do care, although I've grown accustomed to the people around me believing that I am truly heartless. I realise now you were teasing me and not trying to imply that you also believe I am incapable of feeling concern for another human being."

"I know that you're not heartless, Regina. And I really was just teasing you. I didn't realise it was such a sensitive subject. I know you care about me. You took care of me for a week without asking for anything in return. You let me come over in the middle of the night and crawl into your bed because I was scared. You wouldn't have done those things if you didn't care about me. You do a lot of things to show me how you feel. People suck, and they don't see how crazy loving you actually are. Probably 'cause you hide it from them."

Regina shrugged.

"They do not believe I am being sincere when they do witness it, so I fail to see the point in trying to change their views."

"Don't give up. They need to see it in order to see you differently."

Regina gave a mirthless laugh.

"The citizens of Storybrooke have long memories, Emma. A few good deeds will not erase the harm I have caused them, nor will it cause them to see me in a new light."

"Yeah, well, people need to get over it and stop living in the past. What good does it do to hold onto that anger?"

"What good indeed?" Regina asked, raising her eyebrow.

Emma shifted uncomfortably under the other woman's scrutiny. She suddenly felt like she was the one in the spotlight.

"Anyway," she said, changing the subject. "Should I get going? Do you need to get to bed?"

"I will be going soon, yes. You are welcome to stay the night if you'd like. The spare room is waiting for you."

Emma was incredibly tempted, but she had told Snow she'd be coming home. She reluctantly rejected the offer, explaining why she couldn't stay.

"I understand. If you have a nightmare, Emma, please let me know."

"I'll be fine," she answered. She really needed to deal on her own. "Thanks though."

Emma got up from the couch and walked to the door, slipping on her boots.

"Thanks again for supper. You're an amazing cook. I don't think I've ever had anything so good."

Regina smiled, pleased at the compliment.

"I'll see you for lunch tomorrow."

"You definitely will, Madam Mayor. See you tomorrow."

Regina stood on the porch and waited until Emma's car was no longer visible before finally going back inside.

Chapter Text

"You look terrible."

Emma snorted.

"Thanks. You look great too."

"What happened?"

Emma sighed, sinking into Regina's gloriously comfortable couch before responding.

"Had a fight with my mom this morning. Dad tried to talk about it, and when I told him to drop it, he starting moping like I'd just kicked his dog. Seriously. They're so sensitive."

"What did you and your mother fight about?" Regina asked, handing her a container.

Emma popped open the lid and look down, frowning. It looked like a sandwich, but she had no idea what was in it. She made out lettuce, avocado, some spices maybe, and she was pretty sure the meat in the middle was steak, which got her excited.

"What is it?"

"It's an Argentinian Steak sandwich. You'll like it. Now, answer my question. Why did you argue?"

Emma took a large bite, moaning the second her taste buds were greeted with the delicious flavours. She chewed slowly, closing her eyes as she savoured the bite. Regina sat patiently, taking a much smaller bite and secretly enjoying the way Emma reacted to her lunch. It was nice to know Emma enjoyed what she made, even if her response was a little over dramatic.

Emma swallowed and sighed, putting down the sandwich temporarily in order to answer.

"She's driving me nuts. She spends every night in that damn rocking chair in the living room rocking the baby to sleep, and then she complains that she's sore in the morning. I've been listening to her complain every morning for months, and I've told her multiple times that she should be putting him in his crib and she should be sleeping in her bed. She doesn't want to though. She doesn't listen. She just sleeps in that chair and refuses to put him down. It's like she's afraid to. Which, I get, considering what happened with me, you know? I get she's worried, but I can't handle it. All she wants to do is talk about him. She never ever puts him down. I can't get a fucking minute to myself in that place without being reminded that there's a new kid around. His shit is everywhere. I came home last night to his damn diaper bag in my room. Like, no. That is my space. Well, mine and Henry's. He has the whole rest of that freaking apartment. He doesn't get my room too."

Regina listened to Emma rant, but the woman had still not answered her question.

"So, you argued about the bag?"

"No. We argued 'cause I finally told her to either sleep in her own bed or suck it up and stop complaining she's sore. I might have been a little ruder than that though," Emma said sheepishly, before taking another bite of her sandwich.

"I see."

"What?"

"Nothing. I'm pleased you told me what happened."

"You're thinking something. What is it?"

"I think many things, Emma."

"Stop with the word games and tell me what you wanna say."

"As I stated before," Regina said carefully, "you need to speak to your mother about the problems in your relationship."

"I don't wanna talk to her."

"Do you want to relieve the tension that has developed between the two of you? Do you want to continue having nightmares? Do you enjoy the way you feel when you see her? It will continue to be this way unless you do something. You need to speak with her, Emma."

"I know," Emma finally admitted. "I don't want to though."

"I understand that. It won't be easy, but it is necessary."

Emma sighed and continued eating her sandwich. When she finished, she handed her container back to Regina.

"I'll think about it. Thanks for lunch. I really liked it. It was really good."

She got up, wiping her hands on her jeans. Regina grimaced, but bit back her reprimand.

"I feel bad just dining and dashing, but…"

"Go on, Sheriff. We'll see each other later."

Emma nodded.

"Do you want me to bring anything tomorrow?"

"Just your appetite."

Emma grinned widely.

"That's never an issue, especially when it comes to your cooking. I'll call you later."

"Alright. Goodbye, Emma."


 

Emma knocked at the door of the mansion, taking a step back as she waited for someone to answer. It had been three days since Regina had encouraged her to talk to her mother. She had finally worked up the courage to speak to her this afternoon and at the end of their conversation, they had both decided it would be best if Emma stayed away from the loft for some time. Not feeling up to seeing anyone, Emma decided to go to the mansion to hide out for a while as she worked through her feelings.

"Miss Swan. I was not expecting you this evening."

"Yeah," Emma said, scratching the back of her neck. "Is this a bad time?"

"No. However, if you were looking to see Henry, I'm afraid I will have to disappoint you. He is with Nicholas this evening."

Emma followed the other woman into the house, toeing off her boots before heading to the living room with Regina.

"I wasn't looking for him. I actually came to see you. I uh- I finally spoke to my mom."

"You did," Regina said, surprised. "And?"

"It… could have gone better, but it could've gone a lot worse I guess."

"Would you like to tell me about it?"

Emma shrugged.

"Not much to talk about."

"What did you tell her?"

"The truth. I told her I haven't been sleeping right since the baby was born, haven't wanted to be around her because of him either. She wasn't happy to hear that, but it was the truth and I think she needed to know."

"Yes, she did. What else happened?"

"I told her I needed space from them. From her and the baby. It's not so much my dad because he's not as bad as she is. But, I told her I couldn't handle having the kid shoved in my face every time I walk into that place. She's always wanting me to take him. I don't want to. I don't want to take care of a freaking baby which is why I don't have one. I work all day and the last thing I wanna do when I get home is change his diaper or listen to her talk about all the new stuff he's doing. Which is nothing, by the way. So of course I offended her and she started crying, telling me that I hate my own brother because I don't ever look at him and I've never held him. But, like I said, I didn't want the kid. Anyway, it got pretty messy after that and the kid started crying so we both kinda just decided it'd be best if I left for a while. So, I talked to Ruby and she said she'll set me up a room. I think it's for the best. And honestly, I'm kind of relieved to know I don't have to go back to that there for a while."

"It doesn't sound as though it went very well, but I'm glad you finally spoke with her. You had many things that you needed to tell her. I believe your relationship will improve with time, now that you have let her know how you feel."

Emma shrugged.

"We'll see. Neither of us was very happy when I left, but I'm glad to be gone. Really glad."

Regina nodded. She could understand the feeling. She was actually surprised it took this long for Emma to finally decide to leave. It needed to happen a long time ago.

"Anyway. I'm glad I talked to her, so thanks. For your advice."

"Of course. I don't understand why you spoke to Ruby when there is a perfectly serviceable room here."

"You've done a lot already for me, Regina. I'm not gonna impose on you anymore than I already have. I mean, you just got rid of me."

"Do not say it like that, Emma, as though you are something to be rid of. And you aren't imposing if it is offered freely. I may not have very much experience when it comes to having friends, but I do believe it is customary to offer a friend a place to stay if it is needed."

Emma smiled.

"Yeah, I guess. But I can stay at the inn."

"And where is Henry to sleep? On the floor?"

"No. I'd get a room with two beds."

Regina shook her head.

"It is illogical. You will stay in the guest room, Emma."

"Are you sure? You don't have to."

"I'm quite sure. Now, have you eaten or shall I reheat something for you?"

"No, I ate. My dad made quesadillas for supper. I had like four. And some nachos."

Regina snorted.

"What? It was really good. Stop judging," Emma said, mock glaring. "So, what were you doing with your evening before I interrupted you?"

"I was doing a puzzle."

"God, you're so hardcore. Which one?"

"A Sudoku puzzle," Regina answered, ignoring the jab. "I have become quite addicted."

"Do you wanna continue? I'm cool with watching tv."

"Alright," Regina agreed, reaching out to grab her puzzle book as Emma turned on the television.

The women sat in silence, each at their own end of the couch. Regina curled up with her book, nibbling on the end of her pen as she filled in the empty squares. Emma glanced over occasionally, smiling to herself as she watched the brunette stare intently at the page before her. It seemed that no matter what she did, Regina did it with an intensity that was almost intimidating. Emma wondered briefly if the other woman was even capable of doing something half-assed. The idea nearly made her snort, but she bit her lip to stave it off. Regina couldn't do anything without giving 100%, including something as simple as a puzzle. She was completely concentrated on the task before her, her pen hovering over each square as her eyes scanned the page. She hesitated as she systematically analysed the numbers, and when she'd finally decided on the correct one, she confidently wrote it down before moving onto the next one. It was almost hypnotic the way that she moved, and Emma didn't realise she'd been looking so intensely until she was caught.

"Why are you staring at me, Miss Swan?"

Emma immediately looked away, flushing with embarrassment.

"Sorry. No reason."

Regina glanced over, amused.

"Is there nothing of interest on the television?"

"Uh, no. There's lots of interesting stuff on tv."

Emma immediately began flipping through the channels, refusing to make eye contact. Regina returned to her Sudoku puzzle, smiling with amusement. It was a guilty pleasure of hers to fluster the other woman.

The evening passed quietly, Henry returning a couple of hours later. He was more than happy to learn that his ma would be living with them again for the near future, thoroughly excited at the idea that he would get to have both of his mothers under the same roof once more.

"We can make pillow forts in the living room now that you're better, ma! There's so much more room here than at the loft. And mom has king size sheets. Do you know how big our cabin could be with king size sheets?"

"Oh, that would be really cool, kid. Does your mom have Christmas lights? We could put up lights too! We need a lot of cushions and pillows though."

"Mom has a ton of pillows in her room."

"Oh yeah! She's got like a million decorative pillows. We can use those. The big, long ones would work well."

Henry frowned at her.

"How do you know mom has a bunch of decorative pillows?"

Emma's eyes widened. Shit.

"Uh… I saw them."

"You went in my mom's room? When? No one's allowed in there."

"I made an exception earlier as I needed her to retrieve something for me," Regina lied, looking up from her book. "Now, have you finished your science project or will you be needing to return to Nicholas' tomorrow evening?"

"No. We're done. Can we make our fort tomorrow night?"

"You may, as long as you clean it up afterwards."

"We will!" Emma said excitedly. "We need snacks too. And a good movie!"

"We could watch Trigger Happy."

"Yes! Good idea. Snacks and Trigger Happy."

"Mom, are you gonna join us?"

"Yeah, mom," Emma turned to her, grinning. "Are you gonna join us? It's gonna be fun."

"I've no idea what 'Trigger Happy' is, and if I'm to decide based on the name, I believe I will decline your kind offer."

"Aw, come on, mom. It's really funny. It's like pranks and stuff. Please? It'll be fun."

Regina sighed.

"Very well. But I choose the snacks."

Emma made a face.

"You're gonna choose healthy sh-tuff."

"I promise to choose at least one thing with an unnecessary amount of sugar. Do we have a deal?"

Emma grinned widely.

"Deal."

"Good. It is past your bedtime, Henry. Go and change. I'll be up in a moment."

"Okay. Night, ma!"

He quickly hugged his blonde mother before racing upstairs.

"You're really gonna join us in our fort?" Emma asked, her tone betraying her excitement.

"I am occasionally known to indulge my son's childish whims. Not to the degree to with which you do, but nevertheless..."

Emma grinned.

"Alright, Madam Mayor. Can't wait for tomorrow!"

"Yes, me either," Regina said flatly, although she too was looking forward to it.


Emma stood at the door of the Mayor's office, unable to suppress the grin on her face as she watched Regina discreetly dancing to the music playing from her phone. She was sitting in her chair as usual, but she was moving her upper body and mouthing the words to Serena Ryder's song as she organised her files. It was so unlike the normally ever-professional woman that Emma found herself captivated by the change in Regina. She was smiling as she danced, even if her moves were incredibly subtle, barely there, but she was definitely dancing. Emma wished she could record the moment, or even just take a picture, because it was kind of adorable to see the other woman finally let her guard down and do something fun. She had no idea the Mayor enjoyed dancing.

"Emma!" Regina exclaimed, surprised. She immediately straightened and turned off her music. "I was unaware you had arrived. How long were you standing there?"

"Not long enough. I didn't know you liked Serena Ryder."

"Yes, well, I thought I would listen to some music as I sorted my files, just for a moment."

Emma held her hands up in a gesture of surrender.

"Hey, no need to explain to me. I love dancing to music."

"I was not dancing."

"Uh, yeah you were. And why not? It's a good song. Besides, it's cute that the mayor dances in her office when she thinks she's alone."

Regina glared at her.

"I am not cute."

"Oh yes you are. You're adorable. Especially when you make those murderous eyes at me."

"I am going to poison your lunch," Regina threatened, getting up and making her way to her mini fridge. "We'll see who is cute then."

"It'll still be you, but then you'll have no one to tell you how adorable you are. Your loss."

"Yes, I'm sure I'll be devastated," Regina drawled. She walked over to the couch and handed Emma a paper bag. "Here. Your lunch, despite that fact that you've insulted me."

"I did not insult you. Telling someone they're cute is totally not an insult."

"It is when you have a reputation to maintain."

"Fine. How about this? I'll run out of here crying after I'm done eating. Sound good?"

"Yes, thank you."

Emma chuckled before reaching into her lunch bag.

"I love eating lunch with you. I get a break from the monotony of this city, and getting these paper bag lunches is like getting a treat bag when you're a kid. I never know what's inside but I know it's gonna be something good." Emma pulled out what looked like a wrap. "What is this?"

"It is a Mediterranean wrap. There is also a lentil salad and a side of strawberries for dessert."

The only thing Emma understood in that entire description was that she'd be eating some kind of weird salad and some strawberries, one of her favourite foods. She quickly pulled everything out, removing the plastic from the wrap and taking a bite.

"Oh man that's good. God, is anything you make not delicious?"

"I don't enjoy barbequing as I'm not very good at it. If I offer you a meal that I barbequed myself, I advise you to turn it down."

"Really?" Emma asked, surprised. "That's like the only thing I am good at. I can barbeque like a champ."

"Something else to add to your resume, Sheriff."

"Damn right. Do you have anything to drink in your fridge?"

"Yes," Regina said, as she stood.

"I can get it."

Regina waved her off.

"What would you like? I have orange Fanta, iced tea, water, and one Pepsi."

"Fanta and Pepsi? Really?"

"I enjoy Fanta and the Pepsi is yours. You left it behind."

"Okay. I'll take the Pepsi then."

Regina nodded, reaching for the pop and a Fanta. She winced as she returned, the bottom of her feet still incredibly sore, despite the fact that she'd been sitting for over an hour now.

"What's wrong? Why are you making that face?"

"My feet are a little sore. I wore new shoes this morning, a decision I am quickly regretting."

"You wore new shoes today? Didn't you have that fancy meeting this morning? The one that was going to last like five hours? The one you were hosting?"

"It was not five hours, Emma. It was three."

"Oh, excuse me. Three hours. How could I be so daft?" she responded mockingly. "But seriously. You spent three hours standing and walking around in brand new shoes? Why would you do that?"

"Normally, my feet do not protest quite so vehemently."

Emma looked down at the other woman's shoes.

"Are those the ones that have been hurting your feet?"

"Yes."

"Well, take them off. Don't keep torturing yourself by keeping them on."

"I can't. If I remove them, my feet will swell and it will hurt when I am required to put them on once again."

"I'll swing by the house and get you other ones then."

"I'll be fine, Emma. You haven't enough time to drive all the way to the mansion and return before you need to speak to the dwarves. I will not allow you to be late or else they will surely contact me to express their displeasure at your tardiness. I'll be fine for one afternoon."

Emma frowned at her, finishing off her wrap before making a decision.

"You're a size 8, aren't you?" she asked, as she removed her shoes.

"Yes. Emma, I am not wearing your shoes. They're atrocious."

"What? They are not! I'm actually wearing decent ones today. They're my skater shoes, crazy comfortable." Emma used her foot to push them over to Regina. "They might not match your outfit, but you're done for meetings today so it doesn't matter. You can't stay in the heels you're in now, Regina. You'll be in too much pain. Just wear them."

"You're mistaken. I have a meeting this afternoon. I cannot wear those shoes."

"Uh, you don't, you freaking liar. Your afternoon is free. You're doing paperwork."

"You do not know my schedule."

"Yeah, I do. You have it written in your notebook. I looked this morning."

"Do not go through my things, Emma!"

"I didn't. You left your agenda out on the counter and it was open to today's date. I looked it over to see what you were doing today. I like knowing what you're up to."

Regina glared at her.

"What I do with my day is not your business."

"It doesn't hurt for me to know where you are just in case there's trouble. Besides, gathering information about people is part of my job. And today, it worked in my favour because I know you have zero meetings this afternoon and you have no excuse not to wear my shoes. Put them on, Mayor Mills, or I'll force them on your feet."

"I'd like to see you try."

"Okay," Emma shrugged, getting up and taking a step towards her.

"Do not touch me with your dirty fingers," Regina said with horror, shifting away.

"Put 'em on, Regina, or I'll lick my fingers and then touch you. What will you do then?"

Regina glared at her.

"I loathe you, Emma Swan."

"Yeah, yeah. Put on the shoes."

Regina grumbled as she carefully removed her shoes, wincing as the blood flowed down to her feet. They throbbed painfully, so she placed them on the cool floor and sighed in relief.

"Why do you do this to yourself? Wear stuff that's comfortable."

"I am the Mayor. I am expected to dress professionally. I cannot simply throw on any pair of shoes as you do."

"Well, maybe you can wear ones that don't kill your feet," Emma responded, taking her first bite of what she assumed was lentil salad. "What's in here?"

Regina chuckled despite herself, tickled by the grimace on Emma's face.

"Lentils, shredded carrots, garlic, onion, olives, cilantro, olive oil… I see we've finally found something you dislike," she said with amusement.

Emma continued chewing, rubbing her tongue on the roof of her mouth as she tried to brush the taste off of it.

"No, it's… it's not bad."

She took another bite, but this time it was decidedly smaller than the first. Regina laughed, reaching out and taking the container from Emma's hand, replacing it with the other half of her wrap.

"Take my wrap, Emma. I'll eat your salad."

Emma swallowed her second bite of the lentil salad, reaching out for her Pepsi and taking a large gulp. She took another sip and discreetly swished it around, attempting to change the taste in her mouth.

"Sorry. Just… why does it taste soapy? Is it supposed to taste like soap?"

Regina swallowed her bite and shook her head.

"Ah, it's the cilantro that you dislike. For some people, it may taste like soap."

"You mean you don't taste that?"

"No. I quite like it. It tastes like lemons."

"That's so weird. It's really gross. I'm sorry, Regina. I didn't want to insult you. Usually whatever you make is awesome. Like this wrap here."

Emma took a big bite, grinning happily. No soapy taste.

"I'll be sure not to make you anything with cilantro."

"Thanks."

They continued eating quietly, until Emma glanced at the clock and sighed.

"Alright, I'd better get going if I want to arrive on time to see the guys."

"Wait, Emma. What will you wear on your feet now?" she asked with concern.

Emma looked down at her sock covered feet, wiggling her toes.

"I have boots at the station I can wear."

Regina regarded her for a moment before nodding.

"Thank you, Emma," she said sincerely.

"You're welcome. Thanks again for lunch. It was really good. Well, the wrap was really good."

Regina smiled.

"I'll see you tonight, Emma."

"Yep. Don't forget to get snacks for our fort!" she called out, heading out the door with her small container of strawberries.

Three hours later, Emma dragged herself into the house on Mifflin street. It had been an incredibly taxing afternoon of arguing with the dwarves, who were insisting that they be allowed to mine an area that Regina had directly forbidden them from touching. It was too close to the old part of the mine, which had collapsed on itself and was no longer safe. The men insisted they knew the mine inside out and would not cause another collapse, but Emma had outright refused to allow them access and threatened to throw all seven of them in jail if they tried. They threatened to go to the Mayor directly, so Emma had spent the better part of half an hour after she'd left warning Regina that they were probably going to pay her a visit. I look forward to denying their request again, Sheriff. Well, Regina might be looking forward to arguing with the men, but Emma found it exhausting.

She kicked off her shoes and shuffled to the kitchen, dropping down on one of the kitchen stools facing the island.

"Good evening, Sheriff. You look like you need a coffee."

A cup of the steaming hot liquid was placed before her, and Emma moaned in appreciation.

"Oh my God, you're my favourite person ever. Thank you."

She took a slow sip, closing her eyes and moaning once again.

"God, that's good."

Regina rolled her eyes at Emma's vocal display, returning to the slow cooker and stirring her chili.

"How was your afternoon?"

"It went well, thank you. Nothing of note to be shared."

"How are your feet?"

Regina hesitated, removing the wooden spoon and placing it on the edge of the sink. She replaced the cover and turned back towards Emma.

"They're… doing much better than they would be had you not given me those God awful shoes. They helped immensely. Thank you."

"I think there was a comment of appreciation in there somewhere so I'm going to go ahead and say you're welcome. They're still sore though?"

"Yes, a little."

"Sit down then. I'll finish up supper. You can sit at one of those stools and boss me around. You're good at that."

Regina smirked as she went to Emma's vacated seat and sat down.

"I do so enjoy watching you do my bidding."

"There you go. That's the spirit." Emma took another sip of her coffee. "So what do you want me to do?"

"You may set the table. The bowls are-"

"In the cupboard to my left, I know. I know where everything is. I got this."

Emma put her mug down on the island, then went to the appropriate cupboard and retrieved three bowls. She opened up the utensil drawer and grabbed three spoons before heading to the table. She set everyone's place, pointing an accusatory finger at Regina when she returned to the kitchen and saw the woman drinking from her mug.

"Hey! That's my coffee, Madam Mayor."

"Technically, it is my coffee," Regina replied after swallowing.

Emma reached out and took it back, frowning down at the nearly empty cup.

"You drank it all."

"Hardly. I had a sip."

Emma narrowed her eyes.

"I'll get you back for that, Mills. Speed is not on your side now that your feet are mad at you," Emma threatened. (Regina rolled her eyes).

Emma finished the rest of the coffee and put the dirty dish in the dishwasher before turning back to the now smirking brunette.

"What else?"

"I made cornbread earlier. It is in the bread box. There is also a bottle of Vin Gris on the counter if you care for a glass of wine. Henry will have water or milk, his choice. The wine glasses are above the sink."

Emma smiled as she retrieved the rest of the items, happily setting them down on the table. Regina and Henry joined her a few minutes later and the three enjoyed their meal together. It was Emma and Henry who cleared the table after they finished eating, sending Regina to the living room to lay in the fort Henry had built earlier. Emma noticed that Regina was still wincing when she walked, though she did her best to hide it.

"Where does your mom keep her ibuprofen?" Emma asked, once Regina was out of the room.

"Upstairs in the medicine cabinet."

"Okay. Go and get the bottle for me. I'm going to make her take one."

"She's not gonna let you. She doesn't like taking that stuff."

"I'll fight her. Go get it, kid."

Henry shrugged and ran upstairs, returning a moment later. Emma finished wiping the counters, tossing the dishcloth in the sink before opening the bottle and shaking a pill into her palm. She then grabbed a glass of water, making her way out into the living room. She couldn't help the smile on her face as she saw Regina lounging in the fort, but quickly steeled her face as she approached.

"Okay, Regina," she said in her best no nonsense voice, "time to take an ibuprofen."

Regina looked over at her.

"I never agreed to take that."

"Yeah you did. You just don't remember. Here."

Emma thrust her hands out, offering the pill and the glass of water.

"I do not require medication, Emma."

"Uh-huh. So you making a face every time you walk is what? For fun?" Emma looked at her expectantly, bouncing her hand a couple of times. "Just take it, alright? I won't tell anyone you did. I'll let them all know the big bad Mayor walked on aching feet the entire night because she's way too hardcore to take something that will help her feel better."

Regina narrowed her eyes.

"I'll start singing to you if you don't. Remember the road trip to New York? Do you want me to revisit the highlights? I hear Adele has a few new songs too."

"Fine," Regina growled, grabbing the pill and the glass of water. She popped the pill into her mouth and took a large gulp of water, thrusting the glass back in Emma's hand. "I loathe you."

"You've said that before. But I'll tell you what, for being such a good girl and taking your pill like I asked, I'll help you come up with ways to end my life after Henry goes to sleep."

"There had better be ample amounts of blood in each scenario. And your mother must bear witness to it all."

"We'll make Quentin Tarantino proud," Emma agreed, standing and heading back to the kitchen. She drank the rest of the water before placing the glass in the dishwasher. She returned to the living room with a grin on her face, rubbing her hands together in excitement. "Alright, kid. Go put your pjs on and then we'll start our slumber party!"

Henry quickly agreed, racing upstairs to put on his pyjamas.

"And you, Madam Mayor. What will you be wearing?"

Regina waved her hand, her skirt and blouse replaced with a comfortable pair of flannel pyjamas.

"The ladies of Victoria Secret envy your choice," Emma teased. "I'll be back in a minute with my own flannel jammies!"

True to her word, Emma was back downstairs a moment later, having ripped off her clothing and put on the pyjamas that were on the floor. There were benefits to leaving your clothing in a heap on the carpet. You never had to look very far for them because they were, all waiting for you right where you left them. No drawers to open, no folded stacks to sort through. It was all right there for the taking.

"Ready, ma?" Henry asked eagerly.

"You betchya. I just have to string up our Christmas lights first."

Emma grabbed the lights and the clothespins, pinning the cord from the bottom of one end of the fort, along the side, up the part in the blankets, down the other side, and then down along the other end of the fort. She grabbed the second, smaller set of lights, and hung it up along the top of the inside of the sheets, to create some lighting inside their tent. She then turned off all the lights and smiled with satisfaction. She climbed inside their fort, laying down next to Henry, who was now resting happily between his two mothers.

"It looks great, ma."

"Thanks, kid. You ready to watch some pranks?"

He nodded eagerly, pressing the start button so they could begin watching. It took only two skits for Emma and Henry to roar with laughter, while Regina lay there completely unimpressed at the juvenile antics on the screen. She did not care for 'pranks'. Slapstick humour was for the weak of mind in her opinion, and she did not see why her son and his other mother thought this program was so funny. Well, she could understand why Emma found this entertaining as the woman had horrid taste and absolutely no standards. Henry, however, was far more too mature for such juvenile antics… or so she had thought.

"C'mon mom. It's funny!"

Regina let out a noncommittal hum. They watched for several more minutes, but when Emma noticed Regina lay there without so much as a smile, she reluctantly turned it off.

"Let's find something we'll all like, kid."

"Okay," he said, hiding his disappointment. He wanted his mom to have fun too, but he really did like that show. "Well, if she didn't like that, she's definitely not gonna like Happy Tree Friends, which would have been my next suggestion. What else could we watch?"

The way Emma's eyes bugged in her head piqued Regina's interest.

"I have never heard of the show. It sounds like a children's program. We can try it and see if I like it."

"Uh, no, that's okay. It's a cartoon. You don't like cartoons."

"Not true," Regina replied, latching onto Emma's obvious discomfort. What was she hiding? "Turn it on, Henry. We will watch an episode."

"You're really not gonna like it, Regina," Emma said, dreading what was to come. She was definitely going to get in trouble.

Henry, sensing his ma's worry, tried to change his mom's mind too.

"No, ma's right. Let's watch something else. How about The Big Fat Quiz of the Year? We can watch the one with Russell Brand and Noel Fielding. You'd like that show, mom. They quiz you about stuff that happened in the year."

"Perhaps later. Turn on the other program, Henry."

He swallowed. That was her no nonsense tone. He reluctantly turned to the screen, glancing discreetly to his ma. He didn't know which one to put on, which would be the least gory.

"Just choose one," Regina instructed.

He sighed, clicking on a short one, Eye Candy. It began to play, and while he was uncomfortable and knew his mother would react poorly when she realised what type of program it was, he couldn't help giggling when the beaver on screen's eye was ripped from his socket and flew into the air. He could feel his ma behind him shaking as she tried to suppress her giggles, which only encouraged his laughter. By the time the beaver was thrown over the edge of the cliff, suspended in the air by the artery connected to his eye, both he and his ma were laughing out loud.

"This is disgusting, Henry Mills. Turn it off."

He did as he was told, biting his tongue and trying desperately not to laugh at the beaver swinging from his eye socket.

"This is what you've been showing our son, Miss Swan?"

"Uh… well-"

"Actually, mom, I'm the one who showed ma. The kids at school were watching it and… yeah it doesn't matter. Sorry, mom."

"I think I'll be leaving you both to enjoy your evening. It seems we have very different tastes in television programs."

She made a move to get up, but Emma quickly reached out and grabbed her arm as Henry protested.

"Come on, mom. Please stay."

"We'll watch The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Regina. You'll really like that one, honest. And Henry and I will too. Don't go, okay? We want you to stay."

The dual puppy dog faces cracked through her determination to leave. Regina sighed and lay back down, eyeing them both reproachfully.

"Alright, but there will be no more tasteless programs. Is that clear?"

They both nodded eagerly.

"Alright."

They settled back in, Henry looking up the quiz on YouTube.

"What year, ma?"

"2006."

"Is there not one from this year? Or last year?" Regina asked.

"Yeah, there's one from last year, but the one from 2006 is hilarious."

"She's right, mom. Russell Brand and Noel Fielding are really funny together. That's the part we'll like, and maybe you will too. But you'll like the quiz part most."

Henry found the correct video, pressing 'play' before returning to curl up between his mothers. He reached out and grabbed his mom's hand, smiling up at her when she squeezed it tight. He turned back to the program, his belly fluttering with excitement when he heard the familiar theme song playing.

It didn't take long for the two to begin giggling, and Regina had to admit that she was enjoying this program far more than the previous two, especially when the quiz actually began. She attempted to guess along with the teams, satisfied when she got three answers correct in the first round. She would have preferred to get them all correct, but the British questions were significantly more difficult.

"How do you know all this stuff?" Emma asked, impressed.

"I relived the same day over and over again for years. I needed to do something to survive the monotony of my daily life, so I read this world's news when Henry was asleep in an attempt to learn more about our new home. I will admit that I only remember the vaguest details of the French woman, but I do remember when that man was shot by Dick Cheney."

They announced the scores, and Regina was disappointed to learn that she was on par with the two buffoons on screen, who were obviously there purely for comic relief. Emma and Henry laughed incessantly at their antics, but Regina did not. She refused to admit she was also (albeit only very slightly) entertained by them as well.

An hour into the program, Emma forced them to pause the show so that she could retrieve the treats Regina had bought.

"We've just eaten. How can you possibly be hungry?"

"I'm not, but you don't have to be hungry to eat candy. Where's the stash, lady?"

Regina rolled her eyes.

"In a bag in the pantry. Will you bring me a bottle of water as well, please?"

"Sure. Anything for you, kid?"

"A bottle of apple juice, please."

Emma returned a couple of minutes later, grinning madly as she held the bag and three bottles.

"She got some awesome stuff. There's Twizzlers and gummy bears and sour candies. There trail mix too and corn nuts. And dried fruit, which I'm guessing is for you, Regina. This is an awesome haul."

Emma re-entered the fort excitedly, grabbing the sour candies and handing the bag off to Henry, who pulled out the gummy bears before passing the rest to his mother. Emma turned the show back on, and the trio continued watching.

"This show is terribly crude," Regina stated, not for the first time. "I cannot believe you have allowed our son to watch it."

"He's seen way worse, Regina. It's better he hear these kinds of comments with us so he can ask questions instead of getting misinformed by his friends at school."

Regina frowned. She didn't like the idea of her son getting any kind of information from anyone but herself, and perhaps Emma.

"I'm right here, moms. I can hear you."

"Yes, and you'll do as your mother has stated, correct? If you have questions, you will ask us."

He nodded, not wanting to prolong what was quickly turning into an uncomfortable conversation. To his relief, his mothers let the subject drop and returned to watching the program. They continued watching happily, Regina no longer withholding her laughter and joined the other two. She continued trying to guess along with the contestants, although she answered incorrectly nearly half the time. She still tried though, and she thoroughly enjoyed herself for the near two hours the program ran. Her stomach was sore by the time it finished, and she'd had to wipe her eyes more than once from having laughed so much. She doubted she'd have found it so funny had it not been for the two people lying next to her, but she was glad they were there. She rarely got to enjoy a good laugh like that.

"It's too early for bed, mom. Can we watch a movie this time?"

"What would you like to watch?"

"Finding Nemo?"

Regina nodded. She enjoyed the film, even if she secretly wished it were a mother searching for her son rather than a father. She said nothing, however, reaching to wrap an arm around Henry when the opening scene began.

"This is an awful scene, kid. Why are we watching it? Let's skip to the next one."

"Okay," Henry quickly agreed, getting up and jumping to the second scene. He returned to his previous spot, curled up against his mom and smiling when she started running her fingers through his hair. He didn't care if he was getting too old to be cuddled like this. His mom liked it, and he certainly did as well. He missed the days when she would rock him to sleep in her rocking chair, singing to him as he dozed off. He was much too big for that now, but he wasn't so big that he couldn't curl up next to her.

The trio watched in silence, Henry still cuddled up next to his mother as he watched Marlin search for his lost son. He enjoyed his movie, not only because it reminded him of his own mother, but also because it was really entertaining. Marlin was incredibly overprotective, but it was obvious how much he loved his son. His mother was much braver than Marlin was, but the two shared the similar views when it came to protecting their son. As the clown fish travelled through the ocean in search of Nemo, Henry looked up at his mother.

"It's a little like you, isn't it, mom? When you came searching for me in Neverland. You braved all sorts of stuff to find me, well, both you and ma," he said, glancing over at his other mother before looking back at her. "Were you scared on the island?"

"I was, yes. The only time I felt relief was when you were back in my arms," Regina said, squeezing him tight.

"Were you scared of Pan though? And the trip on Hook's ship?"

Regina looked over at Emma, similar dark expressions on their faces.

"The worst had already happened, Henry," she began, looking down at her son. "Nothing is more frightening to me than losing you. While I was concerned and worried about the possible dangers we may have had to face, it was nothing compared to the terror your mother and I both felt when you were missing. Nothing would have kept us away, no amount of fear would have ever stopped us from searching for you."

"She's right. Nothing is scarier than when your kid is missing. So really, you're so motivated by your need to get your kid back, that the fear of the other stuff doesn't really register. You're too focused on getting them back that the rest, you don't really notice it. Kinda like tunnel vision, I guess."

Henry nodded, reaching out to squeeze his ma's arm.

"Thanks for going with my mom. I'm glad you guys kept each other safe."

Emma grinned at him.

"Your mom didn't have much of a choice, kid. She's stuck with my never ending need to keep her safe. And you too. You know, it's gonna be interesting when you start dating. We're both pretty protective of you. Your mom'll be texting you, asking you where you are and how the date is going. Meanwhile, I'll be in the unmarked vehicle following you two cars behind."

"We could hire a private investigator," Regina offered. "They're very thorough."

"Moms, you can't just-"

"Yeah, that's a good idea. I know a couple from Boston. They could look into his date's background too. Find out if they're like secretly part of the mob or something."

"Moms! You are so not doing any of that stuff or I'll never tell you when I go on a date."

"Ohhh I'd like to see you try and hide something like that, kid. Your mom knows everything. It's kind of scary actually."

"Thank you," Regina replied. She chuckled when Henry grumbled, kissing his temple. "Don't worry, dear. I'm sure you'll choose someone respectable when you decide to start dating. Which won't be for another decade or so, correct?"

"I'm not waiting 'til I'm thirty to start dating, mom."

"But we agreed," she countered, biting back a smile. She knew it would rile her son up to hear her say they had made an 'agreement'.

"We did not!" he said, laughing when she tickled his side. "You just decided it!"

"I second your mom's decision. 30 sounds good."

"I'm sorry, Henry. It's been put to a vote. This is a democratic country and the majority has spoken. You shall date only when you reach the age of 30."

"I'm moving out," he mumbled, a smile on his lips.

Emma laughed along with Regina, wiggling her way over to her son and pulling him into a hug. She kissed his cheeks, his chin, his forehead, stopping only when he surrendered. She pulled back but didn't move, choosing to cuddle close to him and his other mother.

"I love you, kid."

"Love you too, ma. And you, mom."

"I love you too, dear," Regina responded, kissing the back of his head.


"Is he asleep?"

Emma looked over and nodded.

"Yeah, he's out like a light."

She reached for the blanket at the end of their makeshift bed, pulling it up and draping it over the three of them.

"Should we turn off the tv? I don't want to wake him."

"No," Regina replied. "Henry has always slept quite soundly. He likely won't wake now until morning."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

Regina continued stroking Henry's hair, not wanting to stop the soothing gesture which had put him to sleep. She enjoyed it probably more than he did.

"So where did you learn that song? Uh, mighty's song?"

Regina laughed softly.

"Maite's song."

"Yeah that one."

"Maite… was someone very dear to me in the Enchanted Forest. She sang the song to me when I was a girl."

"Who was she? And what was the song about?"

"It is a lullaby one sings to their child to soothe them. It repeats similar verses encouraging the child to sleep."

"Oh," Emma said. She waited for Regina to continue, but when she didn't, she asked her again who Maite was. The other woman finally looked up, a sad smile on her face.

"She was…" How to describe the one person who meant everything to you? Just thinking of Maite brought tears to Regina's eyes. She hadn't thought about the woman in such a long time and part of her felt guilty for pushing her to the back of her mind. It hurt to think of her, to know that she had been without her greatest source of comfort for so long. "She was a surrogate mother," she finally said.

Emma genuinely wasn't surprised that Regina had found a mother figure in someone else (given how damn crazy Cora was), but she was surprised to note she'd never heard of this Maite. She wasn't happy that the thought of her upset Regina (she could see the tears shimmering in her eyes), but the soft smile on the brunette's face encouraged her to prod for a little more information.

"Will you tell me about her?"

Regina was quiet for a long moment, looking down at her son as she continued to stroke his head.

"I haven't spoken of her in such a long time."

Emma stayed silent, hoping Regina would choose to open up. Her patience was rewarded, and the woman eventually started talking.

"Maite, or María Teresa, was our cook. She was also my nursemaid, the one of whom I spoke when I was brushing your hair. She lived with us, and she had been a very dear friend of my grandmother's. Mother was fond of her as well, which is why she allowed her to reside with us.

"Maite was… she was everything you would ever desire in a mother. She was kind, patient. She was loving, caring, and nurturing. She was incredibly comforting, and whenever I was frightened or lonely, she was there to soothe me. When I was a small child, she made me dolls out of my old clothing and gave me extra pieces of dessert when mother wasn't near. She sprinkled sugar on my vegetables because as any with child, I loathed them profusely. Mother would punish me severely if I did not eat them, but I did so gladly whenever Maite added that extra bit of sweetness. As I grew older, she taught me to cook and to sew. She told me stories of her family, and she confessed that she had always wanted children. She treated me as though I was her child, and I wished dearly that she had been my mother, because even when I did something to upset her, she was never cruel to me. She was nothing but loving and kind, especially to me. She was the only one who dared cross my mother, especially when it came to protecting me. As I grew older, I realised it was at a terrible price. I stopped running to Maite when I realised mother punished her for protecting me."

Regina closed her eyes, smiling as she thought of Maite singing to her.

"She sang her song to me frequently. I suffered from terrible nightmares as a child. I often wet the bed, and if mother found out, I was swiftly disciplined, which caused more nightmares and thus more bed wetting. I was fortunate however, as Maite's room was near to my own, and she often heard me shouting at night. She would come into my room before mother found out and she would hold me. Then, as she changed my bedding and my nightclothes, she sang. She often rocked me to sleep afterwards, and I rarely had a second nightmare when she did."

Regina leaned down and kissed Henry's forehead.

"Wow. I didn't know…"

"No one does. I have told Henry about her, as he surely would have loved her and she him, undoubtedly. I would have named my daughter Maite, had I adopted a girl. She was very dear to me."

Regina looked away, unable to meet Emma's eyes as she softly confessed that last part.

"I always wondered…"

"What?" Regina asked, finally looking back to Emma.

"It didn't make sense, how you could be such a good mother. You were always so nice to Henry, so good with him. I didn't get it. After meeting your mom, I didn't understand how you could be so loving. Not that you couldn't have been without Maite, but I mean, I didn't know how you just knew how to be such a good mom without any kind of…guidance."

"Mother taught me how one should never raise a child. Her method of parenting was not without its purpose. I had an example of exactly what I should not do when it came to raising Henry. However, one also needs a positive role model, someone you wish to emulate. I chose to raise Henry as Maite raised me, rather than my mother. I do not know how you can look at such a helpless creature and choose to be cruel. There was never a question as to how I would parent him. When I look at Henry, I feel nothing but love and tenderness."

Regina moved her hand down to Henry's shoulders, rubbing them gently.

"May I ask you a question?" she finally asked, looking over at Emma.

"You can ask me anything you want."

Regina smiled, quiet for a moment as she considered her query.

"The homes in which you were placed as a child, many of them were quite negative experiences for you."

"Yeah," Emma replied.

"Did you ever have a good one?"

"Yeah, a couple of times. The Bakers were probably my favourite family. The mom, Nancy, was really nice to me. She gave me lots of cookies and bought me new clothes. She got rid of the garbage bag I used to haul my stuff in and got me my own suitcase. She even threw me a birthday party for the first time. That was really fun."

Regina regarded her closely.

"How old were you when you lived there?"

"Nine."

Nine years and she'd never had a birthday party. She'd never had a bag in which to carry her possessions. What else had she endured? Regina had had a difficult childhood, but she'd had Maite, at least until she was thirteen and her surrogate mother passed away. But Emma, she'd been alone her entire life. How must it have been to be alone at such a young age?

Regina looked down at Henry. She couldn't imagine leaving him alone, defenseless. He was still so vulnerable, even at his age. How had Emma managed to survive with no one to care for her?

"Hey, it's okay. Don't get sad. I didn't say that stuff to upset you." This was why she never talked about her childhood. It always upset people. "I had lots of good times too."

"Don't lie to me, Emma," Regina said vehemently. "I'm sorry, Emma. I am so, so sorry."

Regina wiped at her eyes. She wouldn't break down with her son currently curled around her. She wouldn't break down in front of Emma either. She refused.

"Hey, it's not your fault. It's okay."

"It is my fault," she whispered, biting her lip to stave off the tears.

"No, it's not. You didn't put me in those homes."

"I did, Emma. Had I not enacted the curse…"

"Hey. Let's not go there, okay? It was a long time ago. A lot of shit happened. But at the end of the day, it wasn't you who threw me through the wardrobe, alright? We've talked about this. It was my parents. They made the decision to get rid of me, not you."

"I didn't give them much of a choice, Emma."

"But they still had one."

Regina shook her head. Emma shifted, reaching over and placing her hand on Regina's forearm. It was awkward with Henry in the middle of them, but she needed to have some kind of physical contact with the other woman.

"I don't blame you, okay?" Emma started, gently squeezing her arm. "I don't blame you for any of it. Am I angry that it happened? Yes. Am I resentful? Hell yeah. But most of that anger and resentment is directed towards my parents and the rest of it is towards the people who were supposed to take care of me in this world.

"My parents were responsible for keeping me safe, and they didn't. They got themselves out of all sorts of other shit. They always had a trick up their sleeve. But that time, the time when it mattered most…" Emma made a fist with her hand, fighting her anger. "It's all in the past now. Whatever you did back then, it's forgiven, at least on my end, because of Henry. I couldn't have picked a better mom for my kid. You are an incredible mother to my son, and that's the biggest gift anyone could ever give me, Regina. The rest, it doesn't matter now."

Emma reached up and wiped Regina's cheeks, which were now wet with her tears.

"Damn you for making me cry," Regina whispered, though her voice lacked any real malice.

Emma chuckled, cupping her cheek.

"You and I, we've been through a lot of shit. We've done a lot of bad stuff too to others. But we're not the same people anymore. We're different now, because of Henry. I don't blame you for what the Evil Queen did and you shouldn't either. She's not you, Regina. She's never been you, not this you anyway."

The tears started anew, and Regina's chest vibrated with the need to release a sob. Emma's words affected her deeply. She desperately wanted to be something other than the Evil Queen, especially to someone as important to her as Emma. It had been all she'd been seen as for so long that to hear someone tell her that she was no longer that woman, it was almost too much, too much to hope that it could be true, that Emma truly knew that she had changed.

Emma waited patiently as Regina calmed herself down, periodically wiping her cheeks and sending her encouraging smiles. Eventually the woman quieted, and she was able to offer a weak smile back.

"Thank you, Emma."

"No need to thank me, Madam Mayor. Just the Sheriff here ensuring everyone is obeying the law. It would be a crime for someone as incredible as yourself to think you were anything but, and I won't stand for the Mayor of my town breaking the law."

Regina rolled her eyes, but she was unable to stifle her small chuckle.

"You're really pretty when you smile, Regina. You should do it more often."

Regina pulled away from Emma's touch. They were approaching incredibly dangerous territory. There was far too much sincerity in the other woman's voice, too much fondness, and it scared Regina.

"I believe it's time to go to sleep now. Henry will be up rather early."

Emma, recognising Regina's fear and need for distance, nodded and reluctantly pulled away. She turned off the tv, unplugged the lights, and settled in on her side of the blankets.

"Goodnight, Regina."

"Goodnight. Sleep well."

Despite her best efforts, Regina was completely unable to mask the affection in own her voice as she bid Emma goodnight.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the two women woke up to the television playing Saturday morning cartoons. Emma immediately expressed her pleasure at seeing Bugs Bunny on the screen, while Regina groaned and rolled over to face away from the bright light.

“It is much too early to be awake.”

Emma chuckled, enjoying the other woman’s displeasure.

“It’s never too early for Bugs Bunny and Tweety.”

Regina’s response was to growl, causing the other two to laugh.

“Mute the volume, kid. Let your mom sleep in a bit.”

He did so without argument, shifting to Emma’s side of the fort so that his mother could rest peacefully. The two watched with grins on their faces, occasionally glancing over at the sleeping body next to them. Regina had begun snoring softly, and the two snickered whenever they heard her.

“We should record this,” Henry whispered.

“We totally should, but I’m not that mean. Let her sleep. She had a long week.”

Regina slept for an additional two hours, only waking because the sun was now overwhelming the room in which she was trying to sleep. She groaned. Her bedroom was dark. She missed it thoroughly.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.”

Regina groaned again at the chipper voice.

“Coffee.”

Emma grinned, slipping out of the fort.

“I was waiting for you to wake up to make a run to Granny’s. I’ll pick up your coffee there.”

“I’m starving, ma. Can you get me the big breakfast?”

“Sure. What do you want, Regina?”

“Coffee.”

“I’ll get you a croissant and some jam for later.”

Emma was offered a grunt for her comment, and she chuckled as she grabbed her coat. She pulled her hair back in a ponytail, not bothering to change into her clothing. It was just before nine o’clock. It wouldn’t be that busy yet at the diner.

Emma winced at the cool air hitting her so early in the morning, jogging to the bug and hopping inside. She drove to Granny’s, only seeing Archie walking Pongo along the way. She entered the diner, happy that it was nice and warm inside. There were only a couple of patrons (who were already eating) so she walked right to the counter and smiled at Ruby.

“Hey, Rubes. What’s up?”

“Hi, Emma. Haven’t seen you in a while. Are you still in your pyjamas?”

The blonde grinned.

“Yeah, I just got out of bed. We’re starving and I didn’t want to take the time to change. Regina needs her coffee before she rips my head off. Can I start an order to go?”

Ruby raised her eyebrows.

“Regina, huh? So I take it it’s going well?”

“What do you mean?”

We’re starving? You just got out of bed? Did you work up an appetite last night?”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“No. We slept in the living room. Henry made a blanket fort so we all slept in there last night.”

“So were you the big spoon or the little spoon?”

“Neither. Henry slept in the middle.”

“Buzz kill. Next time maybe you can build an adults only cabin.”

“Can I place my order, please?” Emma asked with feigned exasperation.

“Fine,” Ruby sighed. “What would you like?”

“Two coffees, a hot chocolate with cinnamon, a croissant with jam, and two hungry man specials, please. Oh, and maybe a chocolate muffin too.”

Ruby punched in the order, keeping her comments to herself. Emma had been incredibly smiley lately. Well, she’d been smiling every time she’d seen her lately, which hadn’t been much since Emma had been spending all of her time with Regina and Henry. Regina was also much more smiley, friendly even. She had twice complimented Ruby on her hair and her make-up, stunning the woman into silence. The Mayor had always been polite, but she had never once been friendly. It was nice, Ruby had to admit, that Regina was starting to open up and actually talk to her. She turned out to have a wicked sense of humour, something Ruby had never known about the other woman.

Emma chatted with Ruby as she waited, asking questions about her new boyfriend. Ruby was more than happy to gush about her new relationship, and Emma was more than happy to hear about it. She was glad her friend had found someone who treated her well. They spoke about Patrick until Emma’s food arrived, and she waved the brunette off with a promise that they’d go out some time soon.

Emma hopped in the car and raced back to the house, the smell of the food overwhelming her tiny car. She pulled into the driveway and eagerly made her way to the door, opening it up and kicking off her shoes as she called out that breakfast had arrived. When she only heard one set of feet shuffling on the floor, she then added:

“That includes coffee!”

Emma grinned when she heard a second set of feet moving about (although decidedly slower), pulling out the containers and setting them at their appropriate place. Henry immediately dug in, pouring syrup over his entire breakfast.

“Kid, you’re gonna get diabetes if you keep doing that.”

“It’s so good. It’ll be worth it.”

Emma shook her head, emptying the bag and crumpling it up.

“Coffee.”

She laughed when she saw the bleary eyed and disheveled haired woman standing with her hand out. She immediately handed Regina a steaming cup of the liquid in question. The Mayor took a sip, groaning with satisfaction before finally looking at Emma and giving her a small smile.

“Thank you.”

Emma nodded, looking away in the hopes that her brain would stop shouting words like “adorable” and “so fucking cute” now that she couldn’t see Regina. Emma went to the kitchen and tossed the paper bag into the recycling, returning to the dining room after she’d taken a moment to breathe. The other two had already begun eating, so Emma plopped down in her seat and opened her own breakfast, taking a large bite of the delicious food.

“So what are we doing today?”

“I don’t know, kid. What do you feel like doing?”

Henry shrugged as he took another bite of his pancakes. 

“We could take a walk around the park again,” he suggested after swallowing his bite.

“I don’t believe I will be able to walk that much, dear.”

“Your feet still hurting you?” Emma inquired, concerned.

Regina nodded, only sparing a brief glance at Emma. She was feeling a little too exposed for comfort after last night. She was unaccustomed to sharing such personal information with another person, even if they were good friends. And as she thought about the comment Emma had made about her smile, Regina realised she was also a little uneasy. Friends weren’t supposed to look at each other the way that Emma had looked at her last night after she had spoken those words.

“I’ll massage your feet after breakfast,” Emma said, pulling Regina from her thoughts.

“Oh, she’s really good at it!” Henry offered. “Whenever my feet hurt from running too much at my practices, ma always rubs away the sore spots. It’s like you were never in pain after.”

“Yeah, unfortunately we shared that information with my mother and she made me rub her feet every night when she was pregnant,” Emma shuddered.

“That’s quite alright, dear,” Regina said, thought she hesitated for a moment before actually declining. “I’m not in need of a massage and certainly not for my feet.”

“Come on, Regina. You took care of me after I got hurt, let me repay you the favour.”

“You won’t regret it, mom. You should really let her.”

“It’s a quick massage. You’ll feel better after too.”

“Fine,” Regina relented. She clearly was not going to win when both her son and Emma were tag teaming against her. “But it will be brief.”

They finished their meal quietly, Emma insisting on clearing the table with Henry to let Regina rest. The phone rang when everything was cleaned up, and Henry raced to answer it. His mothers could hear him speaking excitedly, the two exchanging bemused glances as their son’s voice got ever higher.

“Hang on, let me ask!”

Henry raced into the room, a wide grin on his face.

“Moms! Moms! The guys are going to the indoor jungle gym! Can I go? Please? Jason’s mom is going to bring us!”

“Who’s going?”

“Jason, Matthew, and Nicholas. It’s gonna be the four of us. Please can I go?”

Regina looked to Emma, who gave a discreet nod.

“Yes, you may go.”

“Yes!”

“But, you must clean the living room and shower first. When are they leaving?”

“Soon.”

“Then I suggest you hurry.”

The boy nodded eagerly, running back to the phone. He whooped loudly, his mothers laughing at his childish glee.

“It’s nice, you know? That he’s still a kid at heart.”

“I agree,” Regina replied.

“Why don’t we move to the living room? I’ll massage your feet on the couch.”

“Emma, I’m not sure-”

“It’s to make you feel better. It’s innocent, I promise,” she said softly. “I’m not looking to… it’s just to make you feel better.”

Regina hesitated before ultimately relenting. She walked slowly to the couch, sitting down on one end.

“I’m just gonna go get some cream from the bathroom, okay?”

“Alright.”

Henry bounced into the living room, carefully taking down the lights and rolling them around his arm before putting them away. He then attacked the blankets with decidedly less caution, piling the sheets to one side and the comforters to the other. The pillows were left behind as he ran the linens to the laundry room, returning a moment later to fill his arms with as many pillows as he could carry. When he returned, he placed the furniture back to its appropriate place before making a second trip upstairs with more pillows. On his third trip down, he was followed by Emma, who carried a towel and a bottle of lotion.

“Sorry. Took me a minute to find the foot one.”

“That’s quite alright.”

“Okay,” Henry interrupted, arms holding the last of the pillows. “I’m gonna shower now and get ready.”

“Alright, dear.”

Emma waved him off, dropping down onto the couch and facing Regina. She removed the woman’s socks, resting Regina’s feet on the towel as she rolled up her sleeves. She then scooted closer, until the brunette’s feet were resting on the towel in her lap.

“Alright. Tell me if something makes you uncomfortable, okay? Or if it hurts too much. I’ll adjust the pressure according to how it feels for you.”

Regina nodded, oddly nervous. She rarely allowed others to touch her, and she was fairly certain she had never allowed anyone to touch her feet. Emma poured some lotion into her hand, warming it before she lifted Regina’s foot. She rested it on her leg as she began to slowly massage the tender extremity, paying special attention to the calluses she found. It didn’t take long for Regina to relax, the gentle massage melting away her tension.

“Is this okay?” Emma finally asked looking up.

Regina nodded, swallowing. Her breathing slowed as Emma continued rubbing her foot, her hands eventually coming up to massage her ankles and then moving back down to her heel. It was incredibly relaxing, and Regina could feel her muscles loosening the more Emma touched her. The talented fingers alternated between deep circles and gentle caresses, lulling Regina into a trance as she watched the blonde work. Emma eventually switched to the other foot, and Regina closed her eyes as she drifted off. She was awoken by the sound of Henry barrelling down the stairs some time later, her eyes snapping open and meeting Emma’s amused ones.

“Good morning again, Madam Mayor.”

Before she could respond, Henry interrupted.

“Moms! Jason’s on his way over. I’m going to go wait outside, okay?”

“There’s money in my purse, Henry. Take what you’ll need to pay your entry and lunch.”

“Thanks, mom.”

He hugged and kissed both of his mothers before excitedly making his way out the door.

“Kid sure is happy to be going to that gym thing,” Emma mused, a smile on her face.

“Yes.”

Emma worked her way back down Regina’s right foot, disappointed that she was nearly finished.

“How are you feeling?”

“Very relaxed.”

“Good. Does it hurt anywhere?”

“Not anymore, no.”

Emma nodded, reluctantly pulling away. She wiped the Mayor’s feet on the towel before suggesting she try getting up.

“Why don’t you try walking for a minute to see if you have any sore spots?”

Regina did as she was told, unable to mask her surprise as she no longer felt the soreness that had plagued her earlier.

“Good?”

“Yes, I believe so. There’s just one area on my left foot that seems to be bothering me.”

Emma encouraged her to sit back down, pouring a little more lotion in her hand before grabbing the foot in question. She resumed her gentle massage, pushing a little deeper around the area Regina had pointed out.

“Where did you learn such a magnificent skill?” Regina asked, after taking a moment to enjoy the gentle ministrations.

“I dated a masseuse, taught me everything I know. It’s come in handy when I pull a muscle in my legs, but it’s kind of useless when I need to massage an ache in my back.”

Regina nodded thoughtfully, closing her eyes.

“He was a very good teacher. I can’t believe the difference.”

Emma smiled.

“Yeah. She was really good at what she did.”

Regina’s eyes flew open, but she quickly schooled her expression when she realised she had reacted so sharply.  

“Clara. The masseuse I dated, her name was Clara.”

“A woman.”

“How astute of you, Madam Mayor. Yes,” she said, amused, “a woman.”

“Oh. I didn’t realise. Not that I’m surprised,” Regina said sarcastically, though she was, admittedly, a little surprised. “Have you dated many women?”

Emma continued massaging her foot, nodding.

“I’ve dated several,” she said dismissively. “Alright, I think your foot is good to go. Try walking now and see if it’s good.”

Regina did as she was told, walking on her feet and giving a pleased smile when she noted there was no longer any pain.

“Thank you, Emma.”

“Any time. So, what do you want to do today now that the kid has ditched out?”

“I hadn’t planned on anything. I do have garden beds that need to be tended.”

“Boring. Let’s go do something. What about visiting that museum you were talking about that just opened up in Belfast? The kid’ll be occupied until tonight, so we have plenty of time to go check it out.”

Regina wasn’t sure if she wanted to spend an entire day alone with Emma, not after last night, but she couldn’t think of a viable excuse not to go. Especially since she was the one who had mentioned wanting to visit said museum a mere week ago.

“I’ll send him a text and I’ll let my parents now we’ll be gone for the day. If anything happens, they’ll be here and we can head back right away too. It’s not like we’ll be far anyway.”

“Very well. I would like to change before we leave.”

“No problem. I’ll text my mom and Henry while you’re upstairs.”

Emma flopped down on the couch, grabbing her phone out of her pocket and texting both Henry and her mom. Henry didn’t answer, but she knew that he’d eventually get the message. Her mom, on the other hand, responded right away and asked her several questions before finally wishing her a good day while simultaneously telling her to be careful.

“Alright, I’m ready.”

Emma looked up, blinking. Regina was wearing a tight skirt, a cream coloured blouse, as well as a blazer. She was glad to note the woman was at least wearing flats, but she had no idea how she could possibly be comfortable in those types of clothes.

“Shall we go or would you prefer to stare at me for the rest of the day?”

Emma smirked as she got up.

“Your ego is big enough, Madam Mayor. I was just wondering how the hell you’re comfortable wearing stuff like that. Jeans and a t-shirt are the way to go,” Emma said, grabbing her keys.

“We are not driving that death trap all the way to Belfast. We will take my car.”

“Fine, but I’m driving.”

“Yes, I am well aware. You do not allow me to drive when we are together.”

“I let you drive me home from the hospital.”

“You were unable to drive,” Regina responded, unimpressed.

“Exactly. And if I am ever incapacitated again, there’s no one else I’d dream of calling to drive me home.”

Regina rolled her eyes, sliding into the passenger seat and buckling her seatbelt. Emma grinned as the car roared to life, peeling out of the driveway when Regina had settled.

“You will not do that again, Miss Swan!”

Emma chuckled.

“But it’s fun.”

“It is juvenile and dangerous to drive a vehicle so recklessly. You absolutely will not repeat such irresponsible behaviour. What if there had been a child who had run in front of the vehicle? What if our son had run home and you had not noticed? There is no way you would have been capable of stopping this car safely. You would have hit him. Would it have been amusing then? I will revoke your licence if you ever do that again. And to think you are the Sheriff of this town.”

Emma ducked her head, properly chastised.

“Sorry. I didn’t think-”

“That is precisely the problem, Emma. You do not think before you act. You will not do that again, are we clear?”

“Yeah, we’re clear.”

They drove in silence, Regina still furious as Emma took the highway to Belfast. She operated the vehicle much more carefully, hyper aware of the waves of anger rolling off of the other woman.

“I’m sorry, Regina. Really. I just like messing around with your car ‘cause it can do cool stuff, that’s all.”

“I will not allow you to drive it again if that is how you behave, Emma,” Regina scolded, although she was much calmer than earlier. “You should not be driving carelessly when you are alone, and even less so when there is someone else in the car with you. Perhaps you do not realise, but you are the only person I have ever allowed to drive me anywhere. I am always the driver, no matter who is in the vehicle with me. My only exception has been you.”

Emma stared ahead, frowning as she reflected. It was true.

“How come? How come you let me drive you but nobody else?”

“Because I have come to trust you, Emma, not to put me in danger. I trusted you to be extra cautious when I am present and to not be so impulsive.”

Emma’s guilt increased tenfold.

“Normally that trust is not misplaced. It seems today, however, it was. Gravely so.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t… I’m sorry.”

Hearing the genuine remorse in Emma’s voice, as well as her incredibly guilty expression, softened Regina’s anger.

“I forgive you, Emma, if you promise not to do that again.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

They were silent for several minutes, until Emma spoke.

“You got mad because I broke your trust. Do you want to drive instead?”

She sounded so defeated that Regina couldn’t help reaching over and resting her hand on Emma’s shoulder, if only for a moment.

“I became angry with you because you frightened me, Emma. I did not mean to speak as harshly as I did, although I do believe you deserved to be reproached. I trust that you have learnt your lesson. There is no need to cease driving.”

“I’m sorry I scared you,” she said guiltily.

“You have been forgiven, Emma. You have promised not to repeat your actions, and I’m satisfied that there will not be a repeat occurrence. Now, let’s move on. Have you given any thought as to what we will have for lunch?”

Emma could hear the smile in the other woman’s voice.

“Food doesn’t solve everything, you know?” she said with amusement.

Regina let out a soft chuckle, diffusing the tension in the car.

“But it does make you quite happy.”

“Yeah, but we’re not eating anything you made so it’ll only make me a little happy. Like a 7/10 instead of a 10/10.”

“Your attempt at flattery is poor, at best.”

“Yeah, but you’re smiling so I know you’re still pleased.”

“I am not,” Regina rebuked, though the warmth in her belly proved otherwise. “Perhaps I would have served lentil salad for lunch.”

“Then I would be forced to sing Adele songs to express my sadness and also so that you’d be as unhappy as me.”

“Oh, Heavens no.”

“Never mind I’ll find, someone like youuuuu-

“I’ve changed my mind. Pull over. I’d like to return home.”

I wish nothing but theeeeee best-

“Emma Swan, if you do not cease your horrendous screeching, I swear on our son that I will purposely guide your half of the vehicle into a rock cut and make it look like an accident.”

Emma’s singing was cut short as she laughed loudly. Regina bit the inside of her cheek, refusing to admit she found the situation quite amusing as well. She enjoyed when they bantered, Emma proving to be a worthy opponent in the art of verbal sparring.

“We’re almost here. You’re sure they’re open?”

“Of course I’m sure. I am very rarely wrong.”

“Except when it comes to making moves in chess.”

Regina sighed, counting softly to ten. Emma giggled when she heard the whispered numbers, turning into the parking lot at the museum.

“We’re here!”

“Thank Heavens.”

They got out of the car, walking side by side until they reached the front doors. Emma opened one, allowing Regina to pass first and following her inside.

“What kind of museum is this again? Evolution or something?”

“It is the Animal and Society Museum, Emma. It will feature exhibitions on animals and human beings.”

“Awesome. Can we pet anything?”

“I don’t believe they encourage touching the displays. However, we can search for a children’s museum later if you like.”

“I hear your sarcasm, lady, but you’re not gonna bring me down today. I’m about to do me some learnin’ and I’m about as excited as you can be when you know you’re gonna get to see some dead, stuffed creatures.”

Regina sighed heavily, approaching the counter and asking for two tickets. She paid the woman, ignoring Emma’s insistence that she could pay for her own ticket.

“I will take it out of your paycheck, how does that sound?”

“Good. Now, where we going first?”

“I do not have an agenda. I had simply planned on exploring the museum at my leisure.”

“Okay. That sounds good.”

They walked around quietly, reading about the different animals and comparing facts they found interesting. Emma asked about the animals in the Enchanted Forest and told Regina about the animals she had encountered in real life here in the United States.

“I love museums and stuff, I really do, but I like interactive ones where you can see real animals. I like zoos and pet shops. We should bring Henry to a zoo.”

“I will never bring him to a zoo. You may bring him if you wish, but I will not be accompanying you.”

“What? Why? They’re fun. You get to see all the animals run around and they’re alive, instead of like, dead and posed. It’s a little less morbid.”

Regina hummed, moving onto a display about whales.

“Really? You won’t come?”

“No.”

“How come?”

“Because I refuse to support the enslavement of animals. They care kept in small cages and are not left to roam freely as they would in the wild. No living creature is meant to live its life locked up in an enclosure with no chance of escape. They are ripped from their homes, Emma. To attend a veritable prison for animals and derive pleasure from the activity is reprehensible, in my opinion. Zoos and pet stores should be banned.”

Emma took a step back, a little thrown off by the woman’s rant. She hadn’t expected such a strong opinion, but then again, Regina was just one big ball of intensity. Especially when it came to something that hit close to home.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think of it like that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. I do though. I too was once a defenseless creature, believe it or not, locked in a prison from which I could not escape. Although mine was much larger than the ones that contain those helpless animals, I understand how they suffer. I have never understood why anyone is surprised when they hear of an animal turning on a human being and killing them while they are in captivity.

“Imagine living your life, for example, as a whale, much like this one,” she said, admiring the animal before her. “They are incredibly bright creatures, and yet they are forced to live in an area that is, to them, the size of a small washtub with absolutely no mental stimulation. They are ripped away from their families, from their friends, from their homes. They are alone and forced to perform tricks for an audience who then returns to their own loved ones and does not give a second thought to the treatment of the whale once it is alone with its captors. They are unable to voice their mistreatment. They are unable to escape from the people who hold them prisoner. They cannot refuse their masters, even if they abhor what is being done to them. They no longer have control over their bodies, as they now belong to another. No one can live as a prisoner for the rest of their lives, Emma. It is especially worse when they have done nothing wrong, nothing which deserves such a cruel fate. Of course they are driven mad or they turn on their enslavers. It is to be expected.”

Emma observed Regina as the woman spoke, stroking the sign, occasionally glancing up at the whale. She could feel Regina’s hurt, her pain, and Emma wanted nothing more than to wrap her in her arms and apologise a hundred times for what she went through. Emma had spent time in prison herself, but she knew it was a far different experience than what Regina had gone through. It was just for a short time, and for Emma… it hadn’t been that bad. She’d been relatively safe, she’d had a warm bed, regular meals. If Emma behaved, she was rewarded with trips outside to the recreation area. But the biggest difference was that Emma had had rights. Even as a prisoner, she’d had rights, and Regina had not. The guards had never been allowed to beat Emma. They got disciplined if they were anything but professional. They had strict rules to follow, and there were people making sure they didn’t abuse their power. The guards weren’t allowed to touch her either. Never. But Regina…

Emma shuddered as her mind thought of the things Regina had suffered at her hands of her husband, at the hands of Emma’s grandfather. She knew Regina had had no rights after she’d married, no say in what happened to her body. She'd had no right to refuse him, no matter how cruel he was. Emma wasn’t an idiot. She knew exactly what happened to Regina after she’d married, and her stomach turned as she thought of it.

Emma instantly took a step back, terrified she was crowding Regina’s space or making her uncomfortable by standing too closely.

“I do not make excuses for my behaviour. I have done some truly heinous things. I simply… I simply understand what it is like to be tortured at the hands of another. That is why I will never step foot in a zoo, Emma.”

Emma nodded.

“I- you’re right. I didn’t think of the fact that they’re in a prison... or any of that other stuff.”

Regina gave a sad smile.

“That is understandable,” she said gently. “Most do not.”

“I feel bad for being in this museum now.”

Regina’s smile turned softer.

“This is different. These animals are not alive.”

“Yeah… but still.”

“Let’s move onto a less depressing topic, shall we? We have yet to see the penguins. Henry has informed me that they are your favourite arctic animal.”

Emma gave a small smile back at the woman, letting go of the topic for now and attempting to change her mood.

“Uh, yeah. They should be everyone’s favourite animal period. They wear tuxedos, Regina. What the hell is there not to like?”

“Yes, and they are not vulgar, unlike you. Another point to be admired.”

“Yeah, yeah. Plus they waddle like this!”

Emma waddled around in a poor imitation of a penguin. Regina rolled her eyes, but Emma did not miss the amused smirk on her face.

“And they get to slide around on their bellies. Why wouldn’t you wanna be a penguin?”

“They live in freezing temperatures. I am cold enough in the winter here in Maine.”

Emma chuckled.

“Yeah, it does get pretty cold here.”

“Would you like to get something to eat? I’m rather hungry.”

Emma nodded.

“Sure, but I’m buying since you got the tickets.”

“Alright.”

They walked to the cafeteria, standing in line and looking up at the menu.

“Oh man. A burger and fries is so what I’m getting. What about you?”

Regina glanced up at the less than appealing choices on the menu. She decided to go with the least of all evils.

“It’s gonna be the grilled chicken on a bun, isn’t it?” At the surprised look, Emma grinned. “It’s the only thing on that menu that isn’t fried, deep fried, or ‘empty carbs’ as you call them. I call them pieces of cheesy macaroni goodness, but to each their own.”

“I cannot be faulted for caring about my health.”

“Oh, no, Madam Mayor. I wouldn’t dream of making fun of you for eating healthy. Not to your face anyway.”

Regina’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I only tease you to your face. I don’t talk about you behind your back.”

“Mhmm.”

“I don’t! Scout’s honour.”

Emma stepped up to the counter and placed their order, grabbing a tray and heading down the line. Regina took their cups to the fountain pop, pouring herself some water and filling Emma’s cup with Pepsi. She didn’t like to encourage such sugar consumption, but she knew if she didn’t fill it, Emma would simply come do it herself. She made a mental compromise. The first time she could have Pepsi, but the next times Emma filled her cup, it would be with water.

“Ready?”

“Yes,” Regina responded, following Emma to a table near the back.

They sat down, each woman digging into her meal. Regina finished hers first, the grilled chicken having been significantly smaller than she expected. She sipped her water as Emma ate, shaking her head when she was offered a fry.

“Come on. I see you eyeing my fries. Share them with me.”

“They are nothing but grease and empty calories. Thank you, but no.”

“Just one. I won’t be able to eat them all and you hate when I waste food.”

Emma danced the container of fries onto Regina’s side of the table.

“I have a french fry song I can sing if you want.”

Regina glared at her before reaching out and taking one. She popped it in her mouth, chewing slowly to savour the flavour. The truth was, she thoroughly enjoyed french fries, but she very rarely indulged in the treat. It had been ingrained in her mind that she had to maintain a trim waist, and greasy foods were not conducive to ensuring a slim figure.

Emma eyed her carefully, noting the smile of pleasure on Regina’s face as she slowly chewed the fry. The woman licked her lips when she finished, Emma’s eyes immediately following the pink tongue before she ripped her gaze away.

“Here,” she said, clearing her throat as she pushed the fries to the middle of the table. “Have some more.”

“No, I’m quite alright, thank you.”

“You like them.”

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you eat them more often?”

“As I said, they are not healthy.”

“There’s a lot of things that aren’t healthy but you can still eat them every once in a while.”

“Perhaps with your figure, you can afford to eat what you like. We are not all so lucky.”

Emma paused, burger halfway up to her mouth. She brought her arms back down again, eyeing Regina carefully.

“Hold up. So you don’t eat stuff you like because of your figure? What the hell is wrong with it? You look fantastic.”

“Because I keep careful control over what I consume. If I did not…”

“So you don’t let yourself eat what you want ‘cause you’re afraid to gain weight?”

“I do not allow myself to ingest unnecessary calories. There is a difference.”

“So that’s why you never eat what Henry and I eat. Regina, that’s awful. Who convinced you that you have to watch your weight?”

“I am simply interested in maintaining a healthy diet, Emma.”

“Bullshit. Your diet is super healthy. You could eat crap foods every once in a while if you wanted to.”

Regina sighed.

“No, don’t sigh. Listen to me, Regina,” Emma said seriously, putting down her food and reaching over to grab the woman’s hand (Regina winced as the greasy fingers touched her skin, but she remained quiet). “You’re an adult. You can eat what you want, when you want, and however much of it you want. If you want a french fry, eat it. If you want ice cream, have some. You are beautiful, and there is no reason you can’t eat whatever the hell you want, whenever you want it. Whoever told you in your life that you have to watch what you eat can shove it. You’re not in the Enchanted Forest anymore. There’s no one here setting the rules except for you. You’re in America, land of the free and all that stuff. So, be free. Live a little. No one’s gonna stop you. I’m totally not going to.”

Emma pushed the basket of fries even closer. It was now very clearly on Regina’s side of the table.

“I’m not saying you should stop watching what you’re eating completely, because yeah, you do want to stay healthy, but you can have a treat every once in a while. You’re only human, and humans like tasty stuff.”

Regina shook her head, leaning away from the delicious smell before her.

“I’m well aware of the fact that I can eat what I like, Emma.”

“So then do it. Stop letting your past control your present. I’m not trying to bully you into it, and if you truly don’t want any, then I’ll back off. But you looked like you really enjoyed that fry and from the way you keep glancing down at the rest of ‘em, I get the impression you want more. We’re far away from Storybrooke. No one’s gonna know and I’m not gonna say anything. I’m not going to judge you for giving into something you want.”

Regina hesitated momentarily. She'd lived her whole life with the same rules when it came to food: only eat low calorie foods, never take seconds, be aware of your portion sizes. These rules had governed her entire life. Her diet had been strict when she'd lived with her mother, as well as when she’d been queen. Her mother wanted her daughter to stay slim, and her husband had carefully controlled her meals in order to ensure she did not gain weight. At times, he’d even limited her already carefully controlled diet in order for her to lose additional weight. Regina had never been allowed to indulge, and yet here was Emma, actively encouraging her to do so.

Regina knew she shouldn’t. She knew these calories were empty. And yet, she still wanted them. She wanted them, and if Emma promised not to say anything, then maybe she could allow herself this one small treat. Regina ultimately reached out and took another fry, taking delicate bites of the absolutely delicious food.

Emma, grinning happily, finished her burger and left the fries to the Mayor, who finished them with a smile.

Chapter Text

 

"I did not have time to make anything this morning. I do hope you enjoyed last night's dinner because that is what I have brought for lunch today."

Emma nodded, kicking off her boots and sinking into the couch. She had spent the morning arguing with the dwarfs again, and she was not in the mood to do anything else today. Unfortunately, she still had to visit Granny and Ruby this afternoon. They were having issues with people parking in front of the diner even though they'd put up a make-shift sign specifically stating not to. Emma was going to put up an official sign after lunch, as well as a note on Granny's door advising people that she was going to start ticketing them in the future if they did not obey the new no-parking rule.

"Have you had a long morning, Sheriff?"

"Yeah. Seven against one is just not fair. I had to go argue with the dwarfs again. They're not happy."

"Well, one of them is."

The corner of Emma's mouth twitched upward.

"Was that a joke?" she asked, her voice light.

"Why, I do believe it was," Regina said with a mock gasp.

Emma chuckled, sitting up when Regina joined her on the couch. The brunette smiled at her, passing a container of leftover fried chicken and pasta salad. Emma popped open the container, grinning at its contents.

"It looks delicious. But… no vegetable? Is it my birthday?"

"Miss Swan, how dare you accuse me of not providing a vegetable."

Regina reached into her bag, pulling out a container of vegetable quinoa salad and placing it before Emma.

"I was almost excited there for a minute. Good thing you killed it for me."

"You enjoyed my quinoa salad yesterday."

"I know," Emma said with a heavy sigh. "You're ruining my diet of unhealthy fats and copious amounts of sugar. How will I live to the ripe old age of 46 if you keep feeding me healthy meals?"

Regina rolled her eyes.

"You will live far beyond the age of 46. You are not leaving me here alone to deal with your mother."

Emma chuckled, taking a large bite of the fried chicken.

"God this is good."

"You are not the only one whose diet has changed. I have never before allowed fried chicken in my home."

Emma smiled warmly.

"Well, a friendship is about give and take. I'm willing to compromise and eat yucky vegetables if you make me fried chicken."

Regina shook her head, taking a bite of the "yucky vegetables". Considering just how much of the quinoa salad Emma ate yesterday, it was quite surprising there was any left.

"Anyway, I tried to settle the argument today but I think they're probably going to come see you tomorrow, sorry. I tried to avoid that."

"I'm not afraid of confrontation, Emma. There is no alternate answer. They may argue as much as they like, but the decision has been made. They absolutely will not mine beyond the limits they have been given."

Emma nodded.

"They know that, but I guess they want to see you anyway."

"Imbeciles. It is a waste of my time."

Emma snorted, digging into the container of quinoa salad with gusto.

"Have you spoken with your mother recently?"

"Not really. I talk to my dad at work all the time, but we kinda both avoid the topic of my mom."

"Are you planning on speaking with her?"

Emma shrugged.

"Not really. I don't see the point. I have nothing to say to her."

"You have plenty to say to her."

"Yeah, but she doesn't wanna hear any of it. I'm gonna give her a bit more time and then I'll bite the bullet."

"Please do not bite it in my home. It is incredibly difficult to remove blood from upholstery."

Emma snorted.

"Dark joke, Madame Mayor. I like it."

Regina grinned.

"How's it going at the office?"

"It's going well. I should be home on time this evening."

"Good. The kid and I are planning on watching Twinsters tonight, the documentary about the identical twins. You wanted to watch it too."

"The girls who were separated at birth?"

"Yeah."

"Yes, I did want to view that one. Please wait for me."

"Wouldn't dream of watching it without you. Alright, I'm gonna head back to the station to get that sign for Granny's. I'll meet you at home?"

"Yes, dear."

Emma smiled warmly at her.

"By the way, I did the dishes this morning, after you left. I'll put them away when I get home tonight. Just leave them if you get home first."

"Thank you. I'll see you this evening."

Emma walked to the door, turning one last time to wave at Regina before leaving.


"I have explained my reasons to you several times. I do not wish to discuss them yet again. It is dangerous, and I will not have the residents of this town put in danger by your foolish behaviour," Regina spat, her irritation getting the better of her. "The limits in the mine are established for a reason. Beyond them, the area is unstable."

"Says you. We know that mine like the back of our hands. We can read it. We'll put up reinforcement walls-"

"As the mayor of this town, I forbid you from doing so. The answer is no."

"Listen, sister-"

"No, you listen, dwarf!" Regina growled, coming out from behind her desk and approaching him with a menacing finger. "You will not disobey my orders or you will come to regret the consequences."

"Are you threatening me?"

"Only if you refuse to heed my warning."

"Back off, lady. There's more fairy dust in the forbidden section. The area we've been workin' hasn't given us anything in two weeks. We're mining for nothing. We'll go where we want, and there's nothing you can do about it."

"I will shut that mine down if you dare disobey me."

"Yeah, you and what army?"

Regina glared at the men, who were now staring at her with hatred in their eyes. She didn't care. She refused to back down. They would not jeopardise anyone's safety, including their own, under her watch.

"I do not need an army. As the mayor, I have final say. And my say is no. Now, leave my office at once and do not further pester me with such ridiculous demands."

"Yeah, well maybe we don't like having you as mayor, sittin' behind your desk and callin' all the shots. Maybe we want to have a say once in a while too."

"If you did not make such idiotic demands, perhaps I would be more inclined to grant you your requests."

"I'm not satisfied with that answer. Put your finger down and stop threatening me."

"It is not I who is making the threats here. I have asked you to leave, dwarf. Now go! You barge into my office with ludicrous orders that I remove the barriers around the mine, barriers which I have put in place for your safety I will remind you, and you believe I am the one who is being confrontational?"

"I said back off, sister."

Regina took a step forward, glowering at Leroy.

"I will not."

"Back off, and let us do our work where we want to!"

"No."

"Then you leave us no choice."

Before she even realised what had happened, Doc yanked Regina's arm, slipping a bracelet over her wrist. Regina looked down, eyes widening with horror.

"Recognise that, Madame Mayor? Your sister left it behind when she left town. Now you aren't a threat to anyone anymore. But best of all, your barriers around the mine are now non-existent."

"Remove this cuff at once!" she snarled.

Regina raised her hand, trying to summon her magic, but nothing came of it. She felt nothing but a void, an emptiness where she should feel the warmth of her magic.

"What the hell is going on in here?" Emma barked, storming into the room. Regina looked up, and the second their eyes met, Emma knew instantly why she had been drawn to the office.

Emma wouldn't have been able to describe it even if she tried, but she'd felt a pull, a weird tugging inside of her belly as she'd been cruising through the neighbourhood. There was a feeling within her, a feeling of sheer panic, but it wasn't her own. The panicked feeling was calling to her, and Emma was powerless to resist its summons. She had reacted instinctively, driving towards the place she knew she needed to be- which just happened to be town hall. After parking her car, Emma's feet had carried her where the feeling told her to go, and before she knew it, she was before the mayor's office. As she threw the door open, the feeling instantly disappeared, as though it had never even been there. As she entered the room, Emma stumbled upon a wide-eyed mayor, surrounded by seven dwarfs.

"Emma."

Their eyes locked. Emma reacted instantly, jogging over to Regina and cupping her jaw, looking into the woman's watery eyes.

"What's wrong?"

Regina didn't answer; she simply held up her wrist. Emma recognised the bracelet instantly, her eyes snapping back to the mayor's. She could see that Regina was terrified, but she was doing her best to mask it with anger.

Emma seethed with rage. Her blood boiled as she whipped around, stomach coiled tense with absolute fury.

"Who did it?!" she erupted, advancing on the men. "Who the fuck put that thing on her wrist?!"

The men took a step back, and Emma took another forward.

"Listen, Sheriff-"

"Who was it!" Emma roared, raising her arm, ready to send them all flying. She could feel her magic bubble to the surface, and she was seconds away from using it on each and every one of them.

"Emma! Stop!"

The sound of Regina's voice made her pause, but only for a second. Emma made a move to make a second threat, but she was interrupted by her father, who stumbled into the room breathlessly.

"What's going on?"

"They put that fucking cuff on Regina," she seethed, only sparing her father a fleeting glance. "I don't know who it is, but I'm going to destroy each and every one of them until I find out who it was."

"Emma," he said evenly, "you need to calm down." He had no idea what was going on, but he had never seen such fire in Emma's eyes.

"I will not! Did you not hear me-"

"I heard you, Emma, and we'll get to the bottom of it, but we can't if you're this angry. Regina, who put the cuff on you?"

Regina reached out and pulled Emma back. Emma was standing directly in front of her, shielding her from the men. Regina appreciated her protection, but she knew she needed to pull Emma back or the woman would lash out the second she gave a name. Emma very reluctantly took a step back, standing beside Regina as the woman finally answered.

"It was Doc," Regina said, squeezing Emma's arm when the woman raised it. "Don't, Emma. Please."

"He assaulted you," Emma protested, the fury she felt evident in her voice.

"And your father will arrest him."

"No," Charming said, as he pulled out his handcuffs. "We're going to arrest every one of them. Emma, how many handcuffs do you have?"

"Only two."

"Then radio Mulan to bring us three more."

The men immediately began to protest, but Emma's booming voice encouraging them to be quiet (not quite the words she used) silenced them instantly. She was much rougher than she needed to be, but she didn't care. Emma was shaking with rage, and she was happy to admit that she took great pleasure in the yelps of pain she received from the men she arrested.

Emma stayed in the room with Regina and the rest of the dwarfs as David walked three of them to his cruiser. She glared at each and every one of them, wishing desperately that she could … well, that she could do more than just sit here and glare.

Mulan joined them soon after, cuffing the rest of the dwarfs and leading them to her cruiser. She sat three in the back, and one in the front, which was completely against regulation but there was no way they could leave anyone behind with Emma, not with the way she was absolutely boiling with anger.

After speaking with Mulan outside, David returned to the mayor's office to find Emma holding Regina's hands, speaking softly to her. He didn't know what she was saying, but it was enough to make the normally stoic brunette nod, tears streaming down her face. He stood awkwardly for a moment, finally coughing to make his presence known. Emma whipped around, approaching him with a fierce look on her face.

"I'm coming with you."

"No, Emma, you're not. You're staying here."

"What? Like hell I-"

"Emma. Listen to me. Regina needs you here, alright? She's incredibly vulnerable without her magic. She needs you here with her." He lowered his voice for the next part, not wanting to be overheard. "We both know you're too close to this, okay? You won't be able to be objective when it comes to the interrogation. You just about ripped their heads off just now."

"Yeah, and they would have deserved it. Worse, actually."

"You need to stay here, Emma." David looked around Emma's shoulder to Regina, who was discreetly wiping her tears. "Madame Mayor, I realise this is a very upsetting time for you. But I need to take a statement and it is best to do it now while the events from this evening are still fresh in your mind. Will you consent to an interview?"

Regina took a deep breath and nodded, taking a seat on the edge of her desk while David took out his recording device and a pad of paper from his pocket. He hit 'record' before pulling out his pen, flipping open the notebook, and asking the mayor to tell him what happened.

Emma grinded her teeth as Regina spoke, but she didn't once interrupt, not even when Regina recounted how the men invaded her office, threatened her, and refused to leave when they were asked. She didn't say a word, even though she desperately wanted to go to the cruisers and throw each and every one of the men who were cuffed inside clear across Storybrooke. She stood quietly by Regina's side instead, taking the woman's hand when her voice cracked as she described Doc slipping the cuff on her wrist, nulling her magic.

David thanked Regina when she finished, stopping the recording and putting the notepad in his pocket.

"Have you tried removing it?" He finally asked.

"Yes. It is enchanted. I believe it is only able to be removed by the person responsible for putting it on me, unless it has been enchanted it to be removed by another means."

"So go get Doc and bring him in here," Emma insisted.

David nodded, returning to the vehicle and bringing Doc back inside. The dwarf immediately protested, refusing to cooperate with them. Emma threatened him, but still the man refused to comply.

"I told you. It won't come off for at least 24 hours, but probably even longer than that. We wanted to make sure the Evil Queen didn't bother us while we worked."

"Don't you dare call her that!" Emma snarled.

"Listen, just because you're in bed with the Queen now doesn't mean you can just ignore that you're supposed to be the Sheriff of this town! You're supposed to protect us, not side with her!"

"My God will you people get over your shit! That was how many God damn decades ago?! Move on! She's not the same person."

"You can't see the problem because-"

"What problem?! The problem that she won't let you go on a suicide mission in the mines? Fuck, maybe we should let them go and the mine will take care of this problem for us!"

"Emma," Regina chided softly.

David took the opportunity to pull Doc away, heading to the door.

"We'll keep you updated on what happens, Emma."

She couldn't respond because she was just too angry, so Regina thanked him and bid him goodbye.

"I want to kill them."

"As do I."

"So then let me."

Regina gave her an indulgent smile, squeezing her hand.

"And then where will we be? You'll go to jail for murder and Henry and I will be left alone."

"At least they won't bother you anymore," Emma said petulantly.

They were quiet for several minutes, Regina smiling softly at her as she stroked her thumb on the back of Emma's hand. The blonde finally sighed, turning her hand in Regina's and intertwining their fingers.

"I'm sorry. This is about you. I shouldn't have reacted like that, but they just… made me so fucking angry. How are you doing? Are you okay? Did they touch you or- or hurt you?"

"No, Emma. I'm perfectly fine, save for this cuff I would very much like removed."

Emma reached out and tried to slip it off, but it didn't move an inch. She even tried calling her magic to rip it off, but that didn't work either.

"I'm sorry."

Regina shook her head. She then looked up, frowning.

"What?"

"How did you- why did you come to my office? Was there something you needed? I do not mean to sound ungrateful, as I am incredibly glad you came, but…" They had already had lunch. They didn't have a meeting set up. There was no reason for Emma to have come by. "I don't understand why you are here."

"I don't know. I just- had a feeling."

"A feeling?"

"Yeah. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I just had a feeling so I came."

Emma wasn't about to tell Regina she had felt her because even she knew that sounded crazy. But she had… the panicked feeling that had drawn her to the mayor's office hadn't come from Emma, it had come from Regina. Emma was sure of it.

"Well, whatever the reason," Regina said dismissively, "I thank you."

"No need to thank me, Regina. I'm just glad you're safe."

Regina smiled warmly at her.

"I believe it would be wise to go home now, Emma. I won't be able to concentrate any longer, and you've been banned from the station for the time being."

Emma sighed, nodding in agreement.

"I think you're right.

They packed up Regina's things, sending her secretary off as well. She was horrified to learn what happened and told the women she would help them in whatever way she could. Emma knew that most of Storybrooke's residents no longer wished Regina harm (even though they didn't necessarily like her), but it was nice to know there was at least one other person was on Regina's side.

Emma pulled into the driveway some time later, having left her cruiser at the mayor's office. She had texted David, who promised to pick it up later so that Emma could drive Regina's car home. She led the way into the house, nodding in acknowledgement when Regina said she was going upstairs to change into a pair of pyjamas. Emma ran her fingers through her hair, feeling suddenly exhausted after such an emotional encounter. She began pacing in the foyer, her mind reeling over what had happened. What was she going to do? What was going to happen now? What if they couldn't get the cuff off?

Emma's panicked thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her cellphone ringing. She glanced down at the caller, groaning when she saw her mother's name. She was so not in the mood, so she hit 'ignore' and pocketed her phone. A few minutes later, a beeping sounded notified her of a message. She sighed as she pulled it out, seeing the notification that she had a voicemail message. She dialed her voicemail, squeezing her eyes shut when she heard her mother's voice.

"Hi, honey. I know it's been a while since we've spoken. Your father just called me to let me know something happened at the station today and that I should contact you about maybe taking Henry for a few days. I know you're avoiding my calls, but will you please call me? I'm worried."

Emma took a deep breath before calling her mother back. The panicked tone made her ignore her desire to simply erase the message without a second thought.

"Emma? Is everything alright?"

"No one's hurt, if that's what you're asking."

"What happened?"

"Someone assaulted Regina at her office today."

"What?! Is she okay?"

"She'll be okay, but she's pretty shaken up."

"Is there anything I can do? Your father suggested we take Henry for a few days. Do you think she'd want that?"

"I don't know," Emma responded truthfully. "I'll talk to her and let you know."

"Alright. Are you okay?"

"I'm…" Emma trailed off. She was far from okay, but she wasn't sure she wanted to admit it. "I'm surviving. Henry's getting out of school in a couple of hours. Will you be able to pick him up if we need you to?"

"Of course, Emma. It won't be a problem."

"Okay… thanks, mom. I should go check on Regina now."

"Alright, honey. Tell her I'm sorry for what happened. If you need anything, your father and I are here."

"Yeah… thanks," Emma said, grateful for the offer.

She hung up the phone and jogged upstairs. It was taking Regina way too long to change into pyjamas.

"Regina?" she called, approaching the woman's bedroom. The door was open, so Emma walked in, calling her name once again.

"Just a moment."

Emma heard the tears in her response. She probably should have waited, but she could hear the thickness in Regina's voice, and it spurred her to seek out the brunette. Emma headed towards the closet, her heart breaking at the sight of Regina curled up in a ball in the corner. She immediately made her way to her, pulling the crying woman into her lap.

"It's okay, sweetheart," Emma said soothingly, wrapping her arms around her trembling friend. "It'll be okay. I promise you were are going to figure this out."

Regina cried harder, the comforting embrace crumbling her pathetic attempts to ward off her tears. Here, in the safety of Emma's arms, Regina let go of the fragile hold she had on her emotions.

"Shh," Emma whispered, rubbing Regina's back as she rocked her gently. "I know you're probably really scared, but you're not alone, alright? I'm not going anywhere until we get that thing off your wrist. We're going to figure this out."

Regina cried harder, clinging tightly to Emma's neck. She was terrified. She had no magic. She was incredibly vulnerable. And she was angry. How dare they come into her office? How dare they assault her? How dare they touch her and remove her only means of defense? They had no right! What would she do now? How would she defend herself? How would she protect Henry?

Regina sobbed as she was rocked gently, her mind and emotions creating a veritable tornado within her. She clutched onto Emma's neck as the woman continued to stroke her back, crying into her shoulder.

"Emma," she finally choked out, "I'm frightened. Without my magic, I am- I am completely defenseless."

The confession brought on a fresh wave of tears, the small body in Emma's lap vibrating against her chest. Emma held her tight, pressing a soft kiss to her temple.

"I know, sweetheart. And that would be terrifying to me too," Emma said, as Regina nodded against her, choking back a sob. "But I'm not going anywhere, alright? I'm not going into work, and you're not going into the office. I'm going to be right here with you until we figure out what we're going to do, okay? And I know you're scared, but the dwarfs are locked up, and there's not really anyone in Storybrooke who wants to hurt you anymore. You'll be okay."

"Rumple," Regina said softly.

"Only wants to hurt people when he's got a reason to. He doesn't right now. Belle's got him on a pretty tight leash anyway. And besides, nobody knows what happened but us and the dwarfs. My dad isn't gonna talk, and we're certainly not going to tell anyone. No one knows your magic has been compromised."

"Your mother-"

"Will be crucified if she even thinks about saying something. I'll talk to my dad and tell him not to tell her what happened, just to be sure. Okay? She won't know. Right now, she has no idea."

Regina, still trembling, finally, slowly nodded. Tears continued to stream down her cheeks, but she was no longer wracked with sobs as she had been.

"No one's gonna hurt you. I promise. Even if they tried, well, you saw how mad I got earlier. My magic has a mind of its own when I'm that pissed off. Whoever it was wouldn't be a threat for long."

"You were rather intimidating earlier," Regina said in a whisper. "I've never seen you so angry."

"I haven't been that mad in a long time," Emma admitted, bringing her hands up and pushing Regina's hair away from her face. She lay it neatly against Regina's back, her left arm then coming back to encircle her waist as her right resumed its earlier gentle strokes. "They threatened someone I care about a lot. Made me pretty fucking pissed."

Regina chuckled softly, her body relaxing in the comfort of Emma's arms. She sat quietly, allowing herself to draw from Emma's soothing energy.

"My mom called earlier wanting to know if she should take Henry for a few days," Emma finally said. "What do you think?"

"No. I would prefer if he stayed where I can see him."

"Are you sure? Do you want him to see you like this?"

"I will gather myself before he returns. After what happened today, I would feel better with the three of us under the same roof."

Emma nodded.

"Okay," she said, kissing Regina's temple. "I'll call her later."

Emma continued rocking Regina in silence, rubbing her back.

"I don't like this, Emma," Regina confessed, the tears starting anew. "I don't like this at all."

"I know, honey. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

"They wonder why I lash out at them. You wonder why I do not show others that I am capable of love. Do you see now why I am so protective of those parts of myself?" Regina said angrily, sitting up in Emma's lap. "Do you see now why I do not show them weakness?"

"Hey," Emma said calmly, "I'm sorry."

Regina sighed heavily, shaking her head.

"No," she finally responded. "I'm sorry. I'm becoming angry with the one person who truly cares for me."

"Hey," Emma said, tucking a strand of loose hair behind Regina's ear. "There are a lot of people who care about you."

Regina scoffed.

"You and Henry mean the world to me, but two people does not constitute a lot."

"My mom and my dad care about you. Ruby cares about you. There's other people who might not love you, but they don't want to hurt you either. Like Granny and Archie and Belle. People are coming around, Regina. You don't see it because you hide away, but they are."

Regina made a move to pull away, but Emma held onto her waist. Regina shifted again, but Emma's hands didn't loosen.

"Unhand me!"

Emma immediately let go when she saw the slice of fear behind the angry words. She held up her hands and apologised.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to force you. I just… I liked having you in my lap, that's all. I didn't want you to go."

Regina stood, backing away from her and pacing in the closet.

"I no longer have my magic, Emma. I cannot defend myself against you or anyone else. You are much stronger than I physically, and now you have access to magic which I do not," Regina explained, her pulse racing. "I… you cannot do that. You cannot hold me down against my will."

"I'm sorry, Regina. I wasn't trying to, honestly. But it won't happen again."

Regina left the closet, suddenly feeling incredibly claustrophobic. Emma, sensing the woman's impending panic attack, followed Regina, calling out her name. She stopped at the closet door, not venturing into the room so as not to invade the woman's space.

"Take a deep breath. I'm not going to touch you, okay? And I'm not… I'd never force you to do anything. I'd never use my strength against you, Regina. Never. If you don't want me to get near you or to touch you, I promise you I won't. I really did just…" Emma looked down shyly. "I liked having you on my lap," she finished lamely.

"Be that as it may, Emma, if I wish to leave, you must relinquish your hold on my person."

"Okay. I will. I promise."

Regina, satisfied with Emma's response, nodded.

"Alright."

"I've never forced you to do anything in the past, Regina. Just, trust my past behaviour if you've worried about it, okay?"

"I trust that you have taken me seriously, Emma," Regina responded, feeling much calmer than before. "I had a moment of panic. I dislike when I feel trapped and defenseless, and your hold on my waist suddenly felt constricting rather than comforting."

"Okay. Sorry. I won't hold so tight next time."

"Thank you." Regina looked at the clock. "Henry will be home in a few minutes."

"Do you want to change?"

Regina looked down. She was still in her work clothes, although they were significantly more disheveled than earlier. She had meant to change into her nightclothes, but upon entering the closet, she had been unable to fight the tears that had been burning in her eyes since she'd returned to the mansion.

"Yes, I believe I will."

"Okay. Are we doing pjs, or?"

Regina hesitated.

"We could do a pj movie night. I'll tell the kid it was my idea."

"It is your idea."

"See? I won't even be lying."

Regina smiled despite herself.

"Very well," she said softly.

"Okay. Meet you in the hallway in a minute?"

Regina nodded, turning back to her closet and changing into her softest pyjamas when Emma left. Once she was dressed, Regina stepped out of her room, smiling when she saw Emma already there waiting for her.

"So… I was wondering how much you wanna tell the kid."

"I believe it best to be honest with him, without divulging any of the more graphic details."

"Okay, so tell him about the cuff but not who did it or how or anything?"

"I suppose," Regina said, sighing. "I don't know, Emma. I don't know how honest to be."

"Why don't we play it by ear? We'll answer his questions truthfully without giving him all the gory details. Give him enough that he's more or less in the loop."

Regina nodded.

"Anything you don't want him to know?"

"I don't want him to be aware of how this has affected me. I would prefer to tell him that this is temporary and that we're confident my magic will return soon."

Emma took a step forward, intent on taking Regina's hand before she realised what she was doing. Not wanting to induce another panic attack, she stopped, dropping her arm and clearing her throat awkwardly.

"Okay. It is temporary though. We're going to figure it out."

Regina didn't answer, for she was not as convinced. Nothing more was said though because the door flew open, Henry calling out the second he walked in the door.

"Ma? Mom? Anybody home?"

"Yeah, up here, kid."

Henry jogged up the stairs, taking off his backpack when he reached the landing.

"What are you both doing home? And why are you in your pjs?"

"We have something we'd like to discuss with you. Please change into your pyjamas and meet us downstairs."

"Okay… Is this like a pj party or something? Cause you both look way too serious for this to be a pj party."

"We're gonna do a pj movie night. We just have something to tell you first. We'll wait for you downstairs."

Henry looked at them skeptically before heading to his room. He hurried out of his school clothes and into a pair of Batman pjs. He then jogged downstairs, sitting on the coffee table in front of his mothers, who were seated on the couch.

"What's going on?" he asked uneasily.

"I'm perfectly fine, and you needn't worry. However, earlier this afternoon I was approached in my office. I would prefer not to discuss the details, but I thought it important to inform you that I am temporarily without magic."

"What? Why? Who approached you?"

"It is only temporary. Your mother and I will fix the problem soon. I simply wanted you to be aware should you hear anything from someone else."

"But you need to keep it to yourself, kid. We don't want people finding out your mom's magic isn't working. It could get dangerous, alright?"

"You guys aren't telling me what's going on. Who did it?"

Regina hesitated, looking over at Emma, who simply gave her a look. Your call.

"Stop doing that mom thing where you guys talk without using words. Just tell me."

"You will not make demands of me, Henry Mills."

Henry backed down immediately when he heard his mother's tone.

"Sorry. I just hate when you guys lie to me."

"We are not lying, are we, Henry? We have come to you and explained what happened today rather than act as though nothing out of the ordinary occurred in my office."

"Yeah but… I still don't know much. All I know is your magic isn't working 'cause someone attacked you."

"No one attacked me, Henry. I'm perfectly fine. Look at me. I am unmarked."

"Doesn't mean they didn't hurt you," he said solemnly.

Regina hesitated.

"I wasn't hurt, but I was… frightened. I do not like that I cannot access my magic, but your mother has promised not to leave my side, and that has appeased me greatly."

Emma leaned forward, mimicking Regina's position.

"We don't want to talk too much, kid, because your grandpa is still investigating what happened, and it's upsetting to your mom to talk about it. We just wanted you to know that something happened, but your mom's okay. We just have to be sure not to tell anyone she's got no magic, alright?"

"Because there are people threatening her?"

"No, no one's made any threats. I'm just being extra careful. I don't think anyone really wants to hurt your mom, kid. But it never hurts to be sure, right?"

"I guess. You're sure you're okay, mom?"

"I am."

"Okay. Then why are we having a movie night? This doesn't really feel like a time to celebrate."

Emma gave him an encouraging smile.

"Your mom and I had a long day, and we figured you probably did at school too. Wouldn't it be nice to just sit around and watch movies? I'm thinking we should have pizza for supper too."

Henry's eyes lit up at the idea. He was rarely allowed pizza.

"I do not remember that part of our agreement."

"Yeah, I totally mentioned in between the movie part and the pj part."

"You most certainly did not."

"Yeah, I did. And you said 'what a swell idea, Emma. You're so smart. But I believe I'll ruin my pizza with vegetables and organic-vegan-hypoallergenic-free-range cheese while you and Henry eat delicious, greasy, no vegetables pizza'."

Henry was laughing hysterically by the time Emma had finished, and Regina was fighting (and losing) the battle with the grin on her face as Emma did a very poor imitation of her voice.

"Seriously. You said that."

"I may not have any magic, Emma Swan, but I do have access to my bare hands. They may 'accidentally' throttle you if you are not careful."

Emma laughed, batting away the mayor's hands as they approached her neck.

"Save me, kid!"

"Oh, no. Mom is way scarier than you are. I'm not messing with her."

Regina grinned at her son, feeling significantly lighter than she had all afternoon. Emma's laughter died off, but she was left with a big grin. Emma leaned back against the couch, chuckling occasionally as she glanced over at Regina.

"What movie are we watching? And are we really ordering pizza?"

Henry looked so hopeful that Regina didn't have the heart to crush him. Not after the day she'd had. She finally relented, nodding.

"Yes, you may have pizza for dinner. But I'd like to watch a nice film, not one filled with nothing but gore and violence."

"Okay. You can have first pick."

"What about Friends?" Emma cut in. "Do you like that show, Henry?"

"Yeah, I do. We could do that for a while and then maybe switch it up later."

"What do you think?" Emma asked, turning to look at Regina. The brunette smiled warmly at her and nodded in agreement.

"Awesome. Why don't you turn it on, kid?"

"Okay."

Henry turned on the Netflix account, flipping through until he found the show.

"What episode?"

"Your mom and I were picking our favourite episodes last time. Why don't you pick yours and put that one on?"

"Hmm," Henry sat, thinking. It took him a lot of flipping around until he finally picked an episode, jumping to season 8 and choosing the 9th episode. After pressing play, he turned to his mothers. "Do you think I could bring my stuff down here and have a camp out too?"

Emma looked to Regina.

"If you like."

"Mom, will- uh, I mean, ma will you help me bring my stuff down? I can't bring my mattress myself."

"Sure, kid. Run up and get your blankets."

Regina looked away, knowing exactly what her son was going to ask her.

"Hey. I'm sorry."

"It's fine. It was a slip of the tongue."

Emma nodded, not knowing what else to say.

"You'll need to use your magic to bring his mattress down as I cannot."

"Actually, I was thinking I could carry it down. Show off my guns," Emma said, flexing her arms and wiggling her eyebrows.

"Those pathetic excuses for muscles are hardly impressive, Emma."

"Wha-" Emma said, mouth agape. "You have wounded their feelings, Regina. Their very strong, very powerful feelings."

Regina laughed and shoved Emma away as the woman began encroaching on her space. Emma pulled away with a grin on her face, raising her finger in warning.

"They do not enjoy being insulted, Madame Mayor. You best be careful."

Emma jogged up the steps, finding Henry in his room.

"Hey, kid. I'm gonna bring the mattress down myself, okay?" she said quietly. "We're gonna do everything from now on without magic, unless we have no other choice."

"Okay," he agreed easily. "I'll carry everything else if you take that."

Emma agreed, dragging the mattress downstairs and taking care not to hit anything on the way down. Henry quickly moved the coffee table to the side, Emma dropping his mattress in its place. She rejoined Regina on the couch while their son fixed his blankets and snuggled in.

"Okay, ready!"

Emma chuckled and got up, turning on the program before returning to her seat.


"Think he's finally asleep enough that we can change the show?"

Regina chuckled.

"Not to your liking, saviour?"

"God, this show is awful. I like documentaries, but this behind the scenes on how you make shit is awful. Who cares how you make springs?"

Emma grumbled, grabbing the remote and changing the channel.

"Poor, Emma. So tortured by her son's television programs."

"They're gonna torture me into stabbing something sharp into my eyes if he makes me watch that again."

"So dramatic. Choose something else before you're driven mad with the need to blind yourself. I refuse to be your seeing eye dog."

"Yeah, but you'd be the cutest doggy ever! I could scratch behind your ears and you'd always want to cuddle with me."

"I'm willing to sit against you on the couch, but I will slice your fingers off one by one if you even attempt to scratch behind my ears."

Emma's eyebrows shot up.

"What? Really? You'll cuddle with me?"

"You seemed to enjoy earlier, and I'm not opposed to the idea," Regina responded (the fluttering in her stomach proved she was quite far from opposed in fact). "Human beings are tactile creatures, Emma, and I am no different. I… I rather enjoy physical affection."

"You like to be touched?"

"Only when I desire to be, yes."

Emma broke into a wide grin, lifting her left arm. Regina hesitated for a second before scooting over, curling against Emma's side. The blonde lowered her arm, wrapping it loosely around Regina's waist and smiling widely.

"This okay?"

"Yes. You may tighten your hold if you wish. I will not break."

"It's not gonna bother you?"

"No. I have invited you to do so. But if I ask you to remove your hold, I expect you to do so without hesitation."

"Of course," Emma responded, smiling to herself as she moved to hold the woman more securely. She let her hand go limp against Regina's stomach, careful that she wasn't touching anything she shouldn't be.

Regina shifted under Emma's arm, her hand falling between them as her head settled against Emma's shoulder. She sighed happily. It had been so long since anyone had held her, and even longer since she'd wanted to be held by someone. She had felt incredibly comforted earlier, and she was still not feeling quite herself. She allowed herself to seek out Emma's embrace, telling herself that she needed the woman's comfort in order to get to a place where she could deal with what was happening to her. Regina closed her eyes, breathing deeply. She could smell Emma's familiar shampoo, the scent calming her as she breathed it in. She kept her eyes closed, simply enjoying the feeling of the woman's arm holding her close.

Emma pressed a soft kiss to the top of Regina's head, tilting her head and resting her cheek on her hair. They watched television in silence, each woman enjoying the feel of the other against her. Regina refused to think about what this meant, refused to acknowledge the emotions stirring inside. She didn't want to consider why she felt so much safer when Emma had arrived at the office; she didn't want to think about how easy it was to let her guard down when they were alone. She couldn't reflect on just how badly she had needed Emma while in her closet, and how healing it was to be wrapped up in her arms. She refused to think of such things, instead focusing on how gently Emma's arm held her, how good the woman smelled, how right it felt to be curled up with her here, in her home, with their son at their feet.

"Hey, sleepy," Emma whispered against her hair, "You wanna head up to bed?"

Regina shook her head. She did not want to leave Emma's embrace. And she was afraid to go to bed, afraid of the dreams she was going to have if she managed to fall asleep.

"You sure?"

"Yes," she said softly. "I'm quite content right here."

Emma smiled, leaving another soft kiss against the crown of her head.

"Me too."

They cuddled together until the clock changed from p.m. to a.m., when it was finally much too late for them to justify staying downstairs. It was Regina who finally reluctantly, pulled away, sending an apologetic smile to Emma, who looked sleepily disappointed.

"We should retire. It is quite late."

Emma nodded.

"I know. I didn't want to know. But I knew."

She yawned and stretched, sad that her side was slowly cooling off now that Regina wasn't there keeping it warm.

"Should we wake the kid or let him sleep down here?" she finally asked.

"I believe we should allow him the choice." Regina leaned forward and gently shook Henry's shoulder. "Henry? Wake up, my little prince."

"Hmm? What? What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. Your mother and I are going to sleep upstairs. Would you like to stay down here or would you prefer to come upstairs?"

Henry blinked away his sleepiness. He looked up at his moms as he thought of his answer.

"I wanna go upstairs," he finally said, "to be with you guys."

He didn't know what had happened today, but he knew he didn't want to be very far from his mothers.

"Alright, Henry. Come along then."

He stood up and grabbed his favourite blanket, heading upstairs, too sleepy to remember his mattress was downstairs.

"Do you want me to bring his mattress upstairs or is he going to sleep with one of us?"

"I… I do not want to sound forward, Emma."

Emma frowned.

"Okay…"

"But I don't believe- that is to say, I'm not sure that I will be able to sleep tonight if I am alone. I feel incredibly vulnerable in sleep, and without my magic…"

"You won't feel safe enough to fall asleep."

"Precisely."

"Okay. Do you want me to stay in your room them? Or do you want to stay in mine?" Emma's eyes bulged as she realised she was probably totally mistaken. "Oh God, or did you mean you wanted Henry-"

"No, I was not referring to Henry. He may sleep in your room, as I would prefer to sleep in my own."

"Okay."

Emma followed Regina upstairs, telling her stomach to calm the hell down. It had been really nice to cuddle with Regina on the couch, and she wasn't sure what it meant exactly, because while she did cuddle with her friends, but she never felt the urge to kiss them. And she'd kissed Regina, but only on the head. But her mind was quick to point out the most important thing: Regina had let her.

"Henry?"

Emma was snapped out of her thoughts by Regina's voice. Henry was currently leaning against the bannister, waiting for his mothers.

"My mattress is downstairs," he said tiredly.

"Yes, you will be sleeping in your mother's room tonight."

"Oh okay," he answered with a yawn. "She's gonna sleep downstairs?"

"She will sleep elsewhere, yes. Come, let's get you tucked in."

Henry nodded and entered his ma's room, curling up under her blankets and snuggling in for the night. He said goodnight to both of his moms, passing out before the door had even closed. Regina then led the way to her room, turning on the lamp as Emma made her way to the other side of the bed. The woman began removing the pillows, dropping them onto the floor. Regina frowned, speaking up when she noticed Emma pulling the extra throw blanket from the bed and dropping that onto the floor as well.

"What are you doing?"

"I was thinking about it. I want to sleep here with you, in case you need me, but I think it's better if I sleep right here. I want to be close enough to you that if something happens or if you have a bad dream, I'll be right here with you, but I don't want to be so close that I might make you uncomfortable by invading your space in the middle of the night or something. I can't like, control my actions when I sleep, and I can't promise that I won't touch you."

"I never asked you not to touch me, Emma."

"Yeah, but it wouldn't be good to now, when you can't defend yourself like you could if you had your magic."

"Do I need my magic to defend myself against you, Emma? Are you implying that if you held my arm or my waist in the middle of the night, and I awoke and asked you to remove your hold, that you would refuse and you'd force yourself upon me?"

"Of course not! As if, Regina. I'd never do that."

"Then there is no need for you to banish yourself to the floor, Emma. You have never invaded my space on the nights I joined you in your room after a nightmare. If you happen to wander too closely tonight and it renders me uncomfortable, I will wake you at once and ask you to move. You will move if I ask, will you not?"

"Always."

Regina smiled at her.

"Then please come to bed."

The blonde sighed, placing the bedding back where it belonged.

"You should have been a lawyer. You're really good at arguing your case."

Regina chuckled, turning off the lamp and slipping into bed. She moved to the middle, lying down right next to Emma. They were so close that Emma could feel the heat radiating off of the other woman, and her hand itched with the desire to reach out and pull Regina into her arms.

"Thank you for today, Emma. For coming to my defense, and for soothing me afterwards."

"I'm sorry about what happened, Regina. But… I'm not sorry I got to hold you. And I'm not sorry I got to comfort you either. I uh, I really liked doing those things today."

Regina smiled in the darkness.

"As did I."

"Do you think you'll be able to sleep?" Emma asked, after a few moments of silence.

"I don't know."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Don't leave," Regina said softly.

"Never."

Emma was startled to feel a soft hand grip her own, but she quickly twisted her wrist palm up and intertwined their fingers. She squeezed tight once, grinning when she felt an answering squeeze.

"I'm falling asleep," Emma confessed, yawning loudly. "But you'll wake me up if can't sleep or if you have a bad dream, right?"

"I will wake you if I need you."

"Okay," Emma murmured, still holding Regina's hand as she fell asleep.

Emma woke up hours later, frowning as she was slowly pulled from her sleep. She was confused as to what woke her up. She'd been having such a nice dream- she and Regina were on a cruise- but then suddenly she'd been pulled from sleep. Emma opened her eyes, but she couldn't see much in the darkness of the room. She was on her side, curled around a pillow, so she gently released it as she tried to remember where she was.

"No, mama. Please."

The whimpered plea immediately pulled her from her sleepy haze. Regina. She was in Regina's bed. Suddenly the night's events came flooding back and Emma instantly remembered what had happened. She could feel thrashing coming from the other side of the bed, along with soft whimpering, so Emma immediately turned onto her other side towards the source of the sounds. She reached out and touched Regina's shoulder, ripping her hand back when the woman let out a soft cry at the contact.

"Regina? Regina, wake up. You're dreaming."

The whimpers quieted, but Regina didn't wake. Emma slipped out of bed and went to the window (which was directly by her bedside), opening the curtains wide. The room was brightened by the moonlight, allowing Emma to better see her bedmate, who was frowning heavily in her sleep. Emma crawled back into bed, and as she neared her friend, she realised she was crying softly in her sleep, her whimpers now so soft that they could barely be heard.

"Regina, honey, wake up," Emma encouraged, gently patting the bed by Regina's side. "You're having a bad dream, but you're safe now. Wake up."

"Emma?"

"I'm here, sweetheart," she answered, her heart constricting at the sheer vulnerability in Regina's voice. "You were having a bad dream, but you're here in Storybrooke with me and Henry. No one's going to hurt you here."

Regina took a deep breath. Storybrooke. She was in Storybrooke, and she was an adult. She was not a child, and her mother was not here. Regina tried with all of her might to calm down, to push back the tears that were building in her eyes. They were sore, so she'd obviously been crying for some time in her sleep. She occasionally woke up after one of these nightmares, memories of her mother that continued to haunt her even after all of this time. She was usually able to fight off the emotional grip they had on her without much difficulty, but this time, things were different. This time, she wasn't alone. There was a very real source of comfort looking at her with such loving, caring eyes. And part of Regina, the vulnerable part of her, wanted desperately to reach out and burrow herself in Emma's warm, safe embrace.

But Regina refused to be vulnerable. She was not weak. She was not a child. She was a survivor, and she didn't need anyone else. She certainly didn't need a saviour. When she saw Emma looking at her like she wanted nothing more than to hold her, Regina lashed out at her.

"Hey," Emma said softly. "You okay?"

"I am perfectly fine, Emma," Regina snapped, throwing the covers back. "I did not invite you here to wake me in the middle of the night for a chat."

"You were having a nightmare, Regina. And a pretty bad one at that."

Emma received no response. She watched Regina storm out of the room, feeling hurt even though she knew Regina didn't mean it. She's being mean because she's hurting. Regina hated feeling vulnerable, Emma knew that. And Emma knew that Regina was just trying to protect herself. She was incredibly protective of her life, of her past, of sharing anything intimate about herself, and Emma had just seen a part of her that she hadn't willingly chosen to share. So she knew why Regina had lashed out at her, but it still hurt, especially given that she'd allowed Emma to hold her earlier. She thought that they were making progress.

Emma stayed in bed, waiting for Regina to return. She waited, and waited, but when the woman failed to come back, she slipped out of bed and padded over to the bathroom. She knocked softly, calling out Regina's name. There was no answer, so she knocked again, warning her that she was coming in. Emma opened the door, her heart dropping when she caught sight of Regina curled up in a corner of the bathroom, her arms wrapped around her waist, knees drawn up. She looked so small and so scared. Emma wanted nothing more than to rush over and pulled Regina into a hug. Instead, she took a step into the room and gently closed the door.

"Leave me alone, Emma."

She could hear the emptiness in Regina's voice, and just below that, pain. Emma did hear the words, but she couldn't bring herself to obey them, not when she could hear just how much Regina was hurting.

"No, I don't think I'm going to do that. I'm going to stay in here with you. I'd really like to sit next you though. Would that be okay?"

Receiving no response, no indication that she had even been heard, Emma walked over anyway, taking care to sit as closely as possible without actually touching Regina in any way. They sat side by side in silence, Emma waiting to see if Regina would start talking. She didn't, nor did she even acknowledge Emma's presence. Emma didn't know how much time had gone by when she finally decided to start talking, but she was sure it had been at least twenty minutes. She was pretty decent when it came to predicting time passage, from her guess-how-much-time-has-passed games she played alone in her car when she had been a bounty hunter.

"You know, when I was little, I was really scared of the dark, so I used to tell myself stories to distract myself from all the scary shadows in whatever room I was sleeping in. I had a story about a big, brown rabbit that was friends with a cat, and they went on all sorts of adventures together. I called them Kitty and Hopper, because I was really imaginative when it came to naming shit when I was a kid," Emma said with a grin, looking over at Regina as she spoke. She might not get a response from her friend (who was staring fixatedly at the wall on the other side of the room), but that was okay. She could continue a one-sided conversation until she did. "They'd do things like play tag in the forest or go around and meet all sorts of other animals, and I'd fall asleep to these stories. After I had a nightmare, I'd squeeze my eyes shut and think of them as hard as I could to chase away the memories from the bad dream. I still do it sometimes now as an adult, I think about Kitty and Hopper, even though I'm probably way too old to be thinking about something that childish. But, you learn to comfort yourself whatever way you can when you're a scared little kid with no one around to comfort you. Or worse, when the people around you who should be comforting you are the ones hurting you.

"I always wanted a hug when I was scared like that though. The stories I made up helped, but what I really wanted was someone loving or comforting around so I could crawl into their lap. I wanted someone safe to pull me into their arms and hold me. It never happened, but I never stopped wanting it. And when I have a bad dream now, I still want someone to hold me because even as an adult, I still get scared and I want to feel comforted and protected."

Emma uncrossed her legs, spreading them out in front of her.

"The thing is, when I see someone having a bad dream, especially a friend, I have to wake them up. I immediately feel this need to make them feel better. Because I know how bad it is to be haunted by nightmares, and I know how much you need to feel comforted after you have one.

"I'm not gonna force you to do anything, Regina. I'm not gonna make you talk about it; I'm not gonna bring it up again after tonight unless you do. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen and that I'm not sitting here wishing I could reach out and pull you into a hug. Because I really, really want to. Instead, I'm just gonna sit here next to you so you remember that you're not alone, and I'm not gonna touch you because I want you to know that you're in control of what happens here. But, I'd like to hold you the way that I like to be held after I have a nightmare. So, you can decide what you need. If you just want a friend, I'll sit here with you. But if you wanted something more, like a hug maybe, or to cuddle, you could move from the floor over to my lap, and I'd be really glad to hold you."

Emma swallowed hard, finally looking away. She sat stock still, but she did her best to keep her muscles loose in order to mask the rolling waves of nervousness in her belly. She replayed her words in her mind, fighting her desire to continue talking, to fill the silence currently reigning over the room. Emma discreetly tapped her middle finger against her thigh, ensuring it was well hidden from the other woman, as she tried to calm her nerves. She needed an outlet for her energy, and she allowed herself that one small tick as she waited patiently.

The minutes ticked by, without movement from either woman. Emma occasionally glanced out the window, wondering how long they'd been sitting on the floor. It was at least another fifteen or twenty minutes from last time she'd guessed, so it had been at least over half an hour. Her ass was numb, her back was getting a little sore, but she didn't dare move. She felt this was the right thing to do, so she sat calmly. Emma's breathing hitched when Regina shifted ever so slightly, her body turning minutely. She forced herself to even out her breathing, her heart racing as Regina carefully made another move and then paused, before once again inching towards Emma. She didn't say a word as Regina ever-so-slowly turned towards her, and Regina didn't make eye contact as she finally shifted onto Emma's lap.

Emma's heart was practically beating out of her chest as Regina finally sat astride her thighs. She carefully brought her hands up, not wanting to spook the woman as she wrapped her arms around her. Regina lay her head on Emma's shoulder, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead to Emma's throat when strong arms fastened around her waist. She sat stiffly at first, but when Emma moved one arm to softly rub her back, she relaxed almost immediately.

Emma held her close, not saying a word as one arm held her securely and the other rubbed circles against her back. Regina took long, deep breaths as she drew from Emma's strength, until she finally felt able to speak.

"My mother… she has been uniquely capable of exploiting my weaknesses," Regina began in a low whisper. "She has been incredibly adept at controlling me, manipulating me into doing whatever she desired. I very rarely went against her wishes as the consequences of doing so frightened me terribly. However there were times, even when I was trying desperately to obey her, that I failed to please her. She punished me gravely, and I was powerless to defend myself as she had magic and I did not. She often-" Regina voice hitched, and she squeezed her eyes tighter as she attempted to get the words out, "she often restrained me with her magic as she carried out the punishment she felt I deserved."

Emma held Regina, who was now trembling in her arms, but she loosened her grip ever so slightly. Her stomach coiled with rage, as well as heartbreak, feeling just how hurt and broken Regina was in her arms. She wanted nothing more than to soothe her with everything that she had, as well as lash out at everything and everyone that had ever hurt Regina in her past. There was nothing Emma could do about that now though, nothing she could say to make it better, so she said nothing. Instead, she continued to rub Regina's back, holding her close. She laid a soft kiss against her hair, tilting her head so that she could rest her cheek against it.

"I suppose your image of the fearsome mayor has forever been eradicated," Regina said self-deprecatingly.

"No," Emma answered immediately, rubbing her cheek against Regina's hair. "She's just got another dimension added to her. You're still plenty scary, Regina. Terrifying, even. I am totally still going to rinse off the plates two times before sticking them in the dishwasher, just in case."

Regina couldn't help it, the grin formed on her face without her consent.

"I thought you were gonna explode last time you yelled at me about not rinsing my plate. I even texted the kid my final words, told him what to put on my tombstone."

"I have reminded you dozens of times. Perhaps now you will no longer forget."

Emma grinned, happy to note that Regina's voice had taken on a much lighter tone.

"And for the record, 'free Tibet' are not acceptable final words."

Emma scoffed, feigning feeling affronted.

"They are my final words, lady. They can be whatever I want."

Regina shook her head, rolling her eyes. They fell silent once more, the tension in the room having lightened significantly. The women now sat quietly and comfortably together. Regina sighed softly against Emma's throat, the gentle touches against her back not having lessened in the least since they began. They were quite soothing, so she rested peacefully as she enjoyed the gentle caresses.

Emma was in Heaven. Her butt was numb. Her back was on fire. Her legs were freezing. And yet she wouldn't change a thing because she currently had Regina Mills curled up in her arms for the second time tonight, letting Emma hold her close and rub her back. Emma didn't want this to end, so she made no indication that she was uncomfortable in any way, silently enjoying the feeling of Regina nestled securely in her lap.

"We should probably go to sleep," Regina said after several minutes of silence reigned over the room. "It has surely been hours now that we've been awake."

"Okay," Emma responded, doing her best to hide the disappointment she felt.

Regina waited a few more minutes before finally getting up, wincing as she stood. Her body protested the change in position, but she stood up regardless. She gave Emma an apologetic look when she saw the grimace on her face as she too stood up.

"I'm fine," Emma winced. "Just a little sore. It'll go away in a second."

Emma hobbled into the bedroom after Regina, closing the curtains before dropping gratefully into bed. She sighed in satisfaction when her body met the soft mattress once again, smiling up at the ceiling. She glanced over when she felt Regina shift in the bed, looking over questioningly when she felt her pause against her hip.

"Emma, I-" Regina faltered. "I would like to…" How to ask? Suddenly losing her nerve, Regina pulled back. "Never mind."

Emma reached out, softly grasping her wrist.

"Whatever it is, Regina, the answer is yes. You don't need to ask."

Emma heard a soft hitch of breath before the mattress dipped along her side. A warm body pressed against her own, Emma's arm automatically coming around and wrapping loosely around Regina's waist. Her stomach clenched when she felt Regina's head rest against her shoulder, her arm sliding across her ribs, hand coming around to tuck itself under Emma's side. A soft exhale brushed against her throat, causing a small shiver to race down her spine.

"Is this okay?" Regina asked softly.

"Yeah," Emma croaked, clearing her throat before trying again. "Yeah, it's perfect."

Regina smiled against her, nodding in agreement. Emma didn't respond, too busy willing her heart to stop trying to beat its way out of her chest. She feared Regina would be able to hear it pound against her ribcage, so she took several slow, deep breaths as she attempted to bring it back down to a normal beat.

"Thank you, Emma," Regina finally said. "Thank you for staying with me, and for comforting me as you did. I am unaccustomed to sharing my grief with others, but I have… I have grown to trust you, and your presence was incredibly soothing. I will admit that I felt significantly calmer once you had joined me in the bathroom, and I am grateful that you followed me, despite the fact that I lashed out at you. I'm very sorry that I did, Emma. You did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve such abuse."

Emma could hear the guilt in the other woman's voice, so she stroked her back and shushed her softly.

"It's okay, Regina. I knew you were just trying to protect yourself. It hurt a little, not gonna lie, but I knew you didn't mean it. Thanks for not pushing me away when I came to see you though and for telling me a little about your past. I'm so sorry it happened to you, but I'm really grateful you decided to share it with me."

"I'm very sorry I hurt you, Emma. I cannot take back the words I spoke, but I promise that I will try to refrain from lashing out in the future."

"Okay. Thanks. You think you'll be able to sleep now?"

Regina nodded, smiling.

"I believe so."

"Good."

Emma stayed quiet as she gently stroked Regina's back, letting her fingers trace up and down the woman's muscles, occasionally running down along her ribcage, and making soothing circles over the entire area. She continued the soft motions, lulling Regina into a gentle sleep before following sooner after.

Chapter Text

Regina awoke the next morning to the feeling of being jostled. She frowned, still half asleep, confused as to what the hell was vibrating in her bed. When she shifted, she realised she was draped over a body- Emma- and the woman was giggling beneath her. Regina groaned loudly in protest.

“Why are you laughing?” she whined.

“Sorry,” Emma said, stifling a giggle. “Did I wake you?”

“Your chest is vibrating,” she said in complaint, shifting away from Emma.

“Aw, don’t go. I liked cuddling you. I’ll stop laughing.”

“I must change positions. My neck has begun to ache,” Regina explained, turning so that she was on her other side. “You are welcome to…cuddle me if you wish.”

Emma grinned eagerly, nodding.

“I do wish.”

She slid over to Regina, curling around her and pulling her close. They both sighed contently, shifting until they were melded together in a spooning position.

“What time is it?” Regina asked with a yawn.

“Just after eight.”

Regina moaned in disapproval.

“Go back to sleep.”

Emma chuckled, putting her phone down (she had been watching cartoons earlier). She buried her nose in Regina’s hair, pressing her lips to the back of the woman’s head as she closed her eyes and fell back into a blissful sleep.

She awoke some time later to the feeling of being stared at, pulling her from what was a very, very pleasant dream. Emma reluctantly opened her eyes, only to find her son grinning down at her. She stifled a gasp, making a face when he met her gaze and grinned harder. He made a move to speak, but Emma immediately glared and shook her head. She looked down at Regina and then back at her son, who seemed to catch on to the message. He reached over and grabbed her phone from the night stand, swiping to unlock it and pulling up the messaging app. He then handed to her, pulling out his own phone and sending her a message.

-So… you and mom?

Emma rolled her eyes.

-Nightmare. Came in to comfort her.

-Yeah? Do you spoon everyone after they have a nightmare?

-Go away.

Henry snickered. He then clicked on ‘attachments’, attaching the photo he had taken just before his ma had woken up. He hit send, glancing over and watching his ma’s expression melt. She smiled softly at the screen, focusing probably on the smile on his mom’s face. His mom was fast asleep in the picture, but she was sporting a warm smile, looking more at peace in his ma’s arms than he had seen in a long time. Or maybe even ever.

-I think she’s really happy. She never looks that peaceful.

Emma glanced at the woman still curled up in her arms.

-She still smiling?

Henry snapped another photo and forwarded it to his ma.

-Yep!

-Let her sleep a bit more.

-Okay. I’m really hungry though. Can I make something to eat?

Emma peered over the bed, careful not to move the slumbering woman in her arms.

-Wallet in jeans by the door. Go get Granny’s for us. I want hungry man breakfast. Get mom egg white frittata and orange juice. You get what you want.

Henry nodded eagerly, grabbing the wallet and racing from the bedroom. Emma smiled at his enthusiasm, turning back to the petite brunette in her arms. She snuggled closer, taking a deep breath and inhaling the scent of Regina’s shampoo still prominent in her hair. God, she smelled so good, and to be able to hold her like this was an incredible feeling. Regina so rarely allowed others to touch her. It had taken Emma months for the woman to finally accept a simple stroke on the arm without recoiling at the touch. It had taken the better part of a year before Emma was allowed to place her hand at Regina’s lower back as they walked (and Emma was happy to point out that Regina leaned back into said touch too). And now, to be allowed to hold her just like this?

Emma sighed happily, her fingers sliding up to trace along Regina’s arm.

“I swear you are worse than a toddler.”

Emma gasped, her hand stilling at the sound of the sleepy voice.

“It is much too late now. I’ve been awakened once again by your inability to keep still.”

“Sorry.”

Regina huffed, stretching slightly in Emma’s arms before slumping back down and yawning. Emma stayed quiet, waiting to see if the brunette would fall back asleep or if she was up for the day now.

“Where is Henry?”

“Gone to get Granny’s for breakfast.”

“Alone?”

“Shh,” Emma said in response to Regina’s alarm. “He’s fine, Regina. He’s 13.”

“Have you forgotten yesterday’s events, Emma?” Regina snapped, trying to shift away.

“Hey,” Emma said soothingly, gently pulling Regina back into her arms. “He’s fine. He has his phone with him and my parents live a block away from the diner. He’s going to see like a dozen people he knows on the way, get breakfast, and come back and see the same dozen people. Everybody loves our kid, okay? And if something were to happen, he’d run right to my parents’ place. He’s not dumb. Nothing’s gonna happen to him, but if it did, he’d get out of it. He survived alone in Neverland after all.”

“Don’t remind me,” Regina replied, finally relaxing back into Emma’s embrace.

“Sorry,” Emma said softly. “So, you sleep okay?”

“Yes, I did, despite your poor use of grammar. Did you?”

Emma smiled.

“I always sleep well when you’re around.”

Regina refused to admit that the smile on her face had anything to do with Emma’s words. The warmth in her stomach was purely coincidental. She lay quietly instead, enjoying the warmth against her back and the gentle fingers stroking her arm.

“I was thinking after breakfast we could head to the station. It’ll be pretty close to 24 hours after we finish eating and getting ready and stuff.”

Regina looked down at the cuff on her wrist, wishing she could just cut the damn thing off. She didn’t want to have to go to those damned dwarfs and demand that they remove it for her.

“Regina?” Emma asked softly, pulling her from her thoughts.

“Yes, I suppose we haven’t a choice.”

“I wish I could say there was.”

Regina sighed, pulling out of Emma’s embrace and sitting up.

“We’ll get them to take it off today, and then I’ll have a talk with them, make sure they stay away from you. Maybe I’ll even threaten them without threatening them.”

“Don’t do anything rash, Emma.”

“Pfft, when have I ever been rash?”

Regina glanced back at her, raising her eyebrow. Emma laughed, shooting her an innocent smile.

“You are not cute, Miss Swan,” Regina stated, rising from the bed. “I will take my shower now before Henry returns. It would be wise for you to do the same.”

“Are you saying I stink?”

“I’m saying you have smelled better.”

“So… you’ve smelled me before then? And liked it?”

“I most certainly did not say that.”

“Oh no, you totally did. You’re saying I don’t smell as good as I did before,” Emma teased, getting out of bed and reaching for her clothes, “which means that at some point you thought I smelled good.”

Regina rolled her eyes in response.

“Goodbye, Emma,” she called, heading towards the en-suite.

“For the record, you smell really good pretty much all the time.”

Regina paused at the doorway of the bathroom, a small smile forming on her lips before she continued on her way.


Six hours. They had spent six hours with the dwarfs in the station. David and Mulan had interrogated each of them separately for a second time (the first being yesterday after they were brought in) when Doc failed to remove the binding on Regina’s wrist that morning.

They hadn’t learnt much during either interrogation, only that Zelena had enchanted the cuff prior to going back to the land of Oz. She hadn’t told the dwarfs how she had changed it, nor how to take it off. They knew nothing more than it would bind Regina’s magic completely until it was removed, but they had no idea how to take it off.

The more they spoke to the men, the more irate Emma became, until she was ultimately told she needed to either calm down or leave. Emma had taken a walk after that, but when she returned, she was no calmer. David finally told her to go home, Emma seething inside as she realised they really had no idea how to get Regina’s magic back because there was no way to get that damn cuff off.

As Emma packed her things at her desk, Regina approached quietly.

“We will visit my vault tomorrow while Henry is in school. I have books to consult.”

Emma nodded, at a complete loss for what to say. She silently led the way to the car, helping Regina in before heading to the driver’s side and getting in as well. She glanced over at the brunette as she started the car. Regina was no happier than she was, her face etched with worry. Emma was desperate to erase that concern, not wanting Regina to be upset for another moment.

“Maybe… maybe we can ask Belle too,” she suggested as they left the station, “if we can’t find what we’re looking for in your books.”

“Perhaps.”

They were silent for several moments before Emma finally sighed.

“I’m sorry, Regina. I’m really, really sorry.”

“Don’t apologise for something that is not your fault, Emma. I have not given up and neither should you.”

“I’m not giving up, but I’m sorry that this is happening. You don’t deserve this.”

“I have done many reprehensible things in my life. It is to be expected that certain citizens of Storybrooke will continue to seek revenge for what I have done.”

Emma shook her head as she turned up the driveway, cutting the engine.

“It’s bullshit. They’re settled now, life is good. There’s no reason to keep rehashing the damn past.”

Regina said nothing more, leading the way into the mansion. She announced that she was heading up to her room and that she wished to be alone for a moment. Emma respected her wishes, texting Henry instead to let him know they were home. He came racing back from his grandparents’ home the minute he got the text, but his face fell when he saw his ma’s expression.

“You didn’t get it off.”

“No, kid. We didn’t.”

“Where is she?”

“She’s upstairs, but I think she needs some time to process.”

“So… what will you do now?”

“It’s too late to do anything else today, so we’re gonna stay in tonight and tomorrow your mom and I will head to the vault while you’re at school.”

“I don’t want to go to school! I want to help you figure out-”

“It is not up for debate, Henry. You will attend school as usual. You may join us afterwards, but you will only help once you’ve completed your coursework. There is nothing more important than your education and you will not argue any further,” Regina added, raising her finger at him when Henry opened his mouth to fight back.

“Your mom’s right. We’re not saying you can’t help, but you can’t fall behind. You’ll go to school and then when you’re done with that, you can help us.”

“It was a lot easier to get my way when you guys hated each other and didn’t have each other’s backs.”

“What can I say, kid? Your mom finally realised just how charming I really am. Get it,” she said, nudging Regina’s side. “Charming?

“Do remove your elbow from my person or I shall prove how formidable my wrath is even without the use of magic.”

“Ohh I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Aw, ma. C’mon,” Henry said, frowning in disgust.

Emma laughed heartily, wrapping her arm around her son’s shoulders and leading the way to the living room. She paused when she realised Regina wasn’t following, holding out her free hand and smiling. Regina approached, linking their fingers and sighing as though it were a chore to do so. Emma beamed at her, leading them into the living room and onto the couch. Henry dropped down and reached for the remote as Regina and Emma sat down.

Regina shifted so that she was sitting right next to Emma, without actually touching her. However, she made no move to take back her hand, which was now resting comfortable on Emma’s thigh.

“What are we watching?” Henry asked, turning to his mothers.

“I don’t care.”

“You may watch what you like, Henry. Keep in mind that you only have thirty minutes before you will need to go to bed.”

Henry flipped through the channels, settling on reruns of Seinfeld. He wasn’t the biggest fan of the show, but he knew his mothers liked it and after the day they must have had, he was more than willing to put on something they liked. After choosing the program, he set the remote down on the coffee table and sat back against the couch with a grin on his face, his eyes darting once again to the linked hands on his ma’s lap. Henry wondered if his ma even noticed that she was stroking his mom’s hand with her thumb or that his mom was smiling despite the bad news she’d gotten today. He shot a quick glance to his ma, who was laughing at the tv, and decided that she probably didn’t. Just like she didn’t really notice how long she stared at his mom whenever she was in the room or that she would make these weird observations about her clothes (like she hasn’t worn that shirt in a while or I like that one, makes her eyes pop). He too wondered how conscious it was that she always opened the door for his mom or let her enter first into a room. It was probably on purpose whenever she reached out and touched his mom’s shoulder or her lower back, because her hand would hover for a second, almost like she was debating if she should, before she finally seemed to make a decision and rest her hand wherever it was lingering.

“Your ability to laugh at the most asinine of television programs is truly astounding.”

And there were those comments that made it seem like his mom was irritated or annoyed with his ma, but there was just too much softness to the words for it to be the case.

“Listen, Seinfeld is a comedy show. You’re meant to laugh at it. So start laughing.”

Henry grinned, knowing his mom’s silence was due to the fact that she was busy rolling her eyes. He decided to tune into the program rather than continue to analyse his moms’ complicated relationship. He was pretty sure they were more than friends, but not quite something more, which was confusing when he thought about it. It was too late to really think about it though, so he decided to just watch tv.

“Alright, Henry,” Regina announced after the episode had finished. “Off to bed. Brush your teeth and your mother and I will be up in a moment.”

Henry didn’t argue. When he had left the room, Emma turned to Regina.

“Are we going to bed too? It’s still early.”

“I would like to go earlier this evening so that we may have an earlier start to our day.”

“Okay,” Emma responded, not wanting to argue. She licked her lips, debating exactly how she could bring up their sleeping arrangements. She wasn’t sure if Regina wanted her to stay again, and she didn’t want to assume, but she had no idea how to ask. Finally, she decided to just be blunt and ask flat out.

“Am I staying in your room tonight or am I going to mine?”

“You are welcome to do as you please. If you would prefer to spend the night in the guest room, I encourage you to do so.”

“Don’t give me the political answer. Give me the heartfelt Regina one. What do you want?”

Regina hesitated before answering.

“I would like you to stay with me, if you are not averse to the idea.”

“As if I’d ever be against the idea of spending the night with you, especially in that bed. God, I love your mattress.”

Regina chuckled, Emma’s exaggerated tone of delight amusing her. It never failed to astound her that the traits she found incredibly annoying in others, she found endearing in Emma.

“We should go up now. He’s gonna be waiting for us.”

Regina nodded in agreement, standing up and waiting for Emma to follow suit, hands still linked. They entered their son’s room a few minutes later, each taking their turn to bid him goodnight. Henry didn’t mention the fact that his moms were still holding hands, but he definitely noticed and it made him smile right up until the moment he fell asleep.

Upon entering the master bedroom, the women reluctantly let go of the other’s hand, each going to her own side of the room. Emma reached for her pyjamas, which she had stuffed under her pillow. She turned around and stripped, throwing on her pjs and grabbing the clothes that she had dropped on the floor. Having heard the closet door close (Regina always changed in there), she turned without thought, grabbing the rest of her discarded clothes and making her way to the spare room. Emma placed her things in the hamper, rifling through her duffel bag for tomorrow’s outfit and setting it out on the bed. She then padded back to Regina’s room, smiling when she saw the woman already in bed, propped up and waiting for Emma to return.

Regina gave an answering smile, reaching over the turn off the lamp once Emma was safely in bed. She then turned onto her side and faced the blonde, lying silently.

“I’m not gonna lie, Regina. I don’t think I can sleep right now. It’s just too early.”

“You may return downstairs if you prefer.”

“No, I don’t want to. I wanna stay with you. I’m just saying, I don’t think I can sleep. Are you tired?”

“I am fatigued, although I doubt I will sleep right this moment.”

“D’you wanna talk? Or we can watch something on my phone?”

“And what do you propose we view on such a small screen?” Regina asked with amusement.

“Bugs Bunny is good on any sized screen.”

Regina sighed.

“I am not viewing childish cartoons with you. I do not understand why you derive such pleasure from mindless television. Why do you enjoy that program so?”

Emma shrugged.

“I just do. I like it ‘cause it’s funny.”

“Your ability to express yourself never fails to astound me.”

Emma chewed her lip thoroughly before finally responding.

“I like it ‘cause… ‘cause it’s always the same. Predictable. When I was a kid, everything always changed. Never had the same house, never had the same family for very long. I always had to make new friends and adapt to new rules in a new house. I was always the new kid at school and had to deal with that, sometimes like four or five times in a school year I’d change schools. It’s scary, you know? Getting moved from a house where the worst the parents did was ignore you to a house where you’re not sure if this dad will touch you or if the kids at school are gonna bully you for being an orphan. Nothing in my life was consistent except Saturday morning cartoons. Every morning starting at six o’clock, they played Bugs Bunny for three or four hours straight. By the time I was like eight, I knew all the episodes by heart, but it was comforting knowing the stories, knowing what would happen next. In a world where you have no control, where everything is new and different and scary, this show just made me feel safe. Every Saturday morning it was there and never left me. I- it’s dumb, but it was like my friend. It was the only thing that was ever the same in my life, that always stayed and never changed.

“I knew all the episodes by heart, but I liked knowing what was going to happen, knowing exactly what was going to come next. I know it’s kinda… childish to like kids’ cartoons as an adult and it’s probably weird to you that I laugh all the time still, but… I don’t know. It’s the one thing that’s been consistent in my life. It’s like one of the only happy things from my childhood. So I like them, and I watch them a lot. Because they make me happy.”

Rather than respond to what was clearly a very honest and heartfelt explanation (especially given that she wasn’t convinced she wouldn’t cry if she attempted to speak), Regina shifted onto the bed until she had found last night’s earlier position: resting against Emma’s side with her head on the woman’s shoulder and an arm slung around her waist. Emma’s arms automatically wrapped around Regina, holding her close as the brunette settled against her. Regina clung to Emma as she fought the wave of sadness rolling over her, wanting nothing more than to travel back in time and scoop little Emma up and love her completely. Emma’s explanation had ripped at Regina’s heart, and it took her several long minutes to finally be able to get a grip on her emotions in order to respond.

“So, which episode will we be viewing tonight?”

Emma smiled, rubbing her back gently.

“We don’t have to watch it. I just… wanted you to know the truth. You know, know something about my childhood. Will you tell me something about yours now? Like… what was your favourite tv show? What did you like watching as a kid?”

“Emma, certainly you are not so daft as to believe-” Regina cut herself off when she felt the woman laughing against her. “You’re teasing me.”

“I am,” Emma said, laughing. “But seriously, tell me something you used to do when you were a kid.”

Regina licked her lips, wondering what exactly she could say.

“Don’t think so hard. Just tell me whatever comes to mind.”

“Very well. I- I often ran away to escape my mother, and there was a field nearby in which wild flowers grew. I often went there, as I could run far into the field and hide amongst the tall grass and flowers. I stayed there for hours, enjoying the feel of the breeze in my hair as I made jewellery from the flowers I picked. I wove crowns, bracelets, necklaces, until I was covered in makeshift jewellery. It was lovely to smell the flowers as I wore the pieces, and then I shared them with Maite and the other staff when I returned home. I was a rather selfish child, however, as I refused to part with the crowns made of violet coloured flowers.”

Emma chuckled against Regina’s temple.

“Purple’s always been your favourite colour?”

“As a child, yes. And now, I do seem to show a particular preference for items that are of a deep shade of purple. When I was the Evil Queen, however, I preferred black or red.”

Emma squeezed her middle, stroking her back when she finished speaking.

“You look good in purple.”

“Oh, I look good in any colour.”

Emma laughed into her hair, nodding.

“I’m not gonna disagree with that.”

“Alright, if you’ve finished with the unnecessary flattery, perhaps you would be willing to share your favourite episode of this cartoon.”

“It’s not this cartoon, Regina. It’s Looney Tunes, and you gotta show it proper respect. Call it by its name and I’ll show you one of my favourites.”

“I am not-”

“Say it or there’s no deal, Madame Mayor.”

“That is a ridiculous title for a program.”

“Say it,” Emma said, poking the mayor’s side.

Regina yelped when Emma hit a ticklish spot, immediately slapping the hand away.

“You’re ticklish.”

“Do not lay a single finger-”

She hadn’t even gotten the rest of her sentence out before Emma attacked, tickling the area just below her ribs where she was incredibly sensitive. Regina laughed loudly, shoving Emma’s hands away as she tried desperately to get away.

“Emma, cease this juvenile behaviour!”

Emma fell onto her back as Regina got the upper hand, digging her fingers into Emma’s sides and refusing to let up. Only when Emma threatened to pee pants from laughing so much did Regina finally back off. The women lay on their backs panting as they caught their breath, the occasion flitter of laughter escaping their lips.

“Damn, Regina. You’re crazy strong when you’re determined.”

“Such ill-mannered behaviour cannot go unpunished. You’re lucky we are in my bed because had we been in yours, I would not have stopped.”

Emma chuckled, ignoring the warmth in her belly at the thought of Regina in her bed. They were silent for several moments before Emma finally answered.

“Felt good to laugh like that.”

Regina hummed in agreement.

“You have a really nice laugh. I like it when you do, makes me happy.”

“Yes, well… thank you,” Regina said awkwardly. She wanted to steer the conversation back to safer territory, so she reached for Emma’s phone on the nightstand and handed it to the woman. “Now, find an episode you wish to show me.”

“Yes ma’am.”

 

Chapter Text

The following days passed in a blur of books, not enough coffee breaks, and more than one frustrating dead end. No longer did the women come home early to cuddle and watch mindless television programs, instead staying at the vault until Henry’s bedtime and then falling exhausted into Regina’s bed. They tried spell after spell, doing anything from trying to make the cuff disappear to magically setting it on fire to shrinking it, but nothing worked. Finally, after five long days of unsuccessful research and spells, the women realised they needed to consult Belle. They headed to the library on the sixth day, and Belle promised to help in any way that she could when she was informed of what was going on. Emma and Regina stayed with her for the rest of the day, pulling out dozens of books and bringing them back to the vault that evening. They had decided that Emma would read Belle’s books while Regina looked through her mother’s old spell books, ones she hadn’t touched in years, in the hopes that they might offer her information her own had not.

On the morning of the seventh day of their research marathon, Regina awoke exhausted, feeling more drained than she had in a long time. She had been doing her best to keep her spirits up, but it was getting more and more difficult with each passing day. Every morning that she awoke to see that damned cuff still on her wrist, her hope faded further, until she awoke this morning feeling absolutely none at all. She and Emma had exhausted the more likely spells, the ones that were most probable to work. Not one had done a single thing; not one had given her even a glimmer of hope.

Regina stared into the mirror, applying a second coat of foundation to hide the deep circles under her eyes, adding extra eyeliner and eye shadow in an attempt to mask the sadness she could see so clearly in her eyes. When she faced the world, she carefully hid her emotions, her make-up a vital part of the armour she wore. And now, when Regina felt so down, so hopeless, her make-up was her only line of protection keeping the world from knowing exactly how she was suffering.

Regina made her way downstairs, heading towards to kitchen. She grabbed a coffee, smiled at her son and engaged him in conversation, pushing down the heaviness in her heart. Henry helped alleviate some of that pain, so she did her best to focus on him. Emma joined them at the table a few minutes later, having pulled out cereal for her and Henry breakfast and oatmeal for Regina. They ate together, Henry doing his best to fill the silence that permeated the room. He talked to distract his mom, who seemed unusually sombre this morning. Her smiles were half-hearted, but when she reached out and squeezed his hand, Henry knew she appreciated his effort. So he talked until he ran out of things to say, excusing himself from the table when he had finally finished his breakfast.

“Come on, Regina,” Emma encouraged quietly, once Henry was upstairs and brushing his teeth. “Just take a few bites, okay?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“I know, but you need to eat. Please, just take a few bites, okay?”

Regina sighed, forcing down several spoonfuls before pushing her bowl away. Any more and she’d have vomited. Emma was disappointed Regina didn’t eat more, but she was glad the woman had at least managed to swallow a few bites.

“I’ll just clean up and then we’ll get going,” Emma said, leaning over and rubbing Regina’s arm softly.

Regina sighed, nodding her head to indicate she had heard. Emma grabbed the bowls from the table, scraping the leftovers in the garbage and rinsing them off before piling them in the dishwasher. She swore quietly when she heard her phone go off again, pulling it from her pocket. Her mother had been calling her for days now, but she just didn’t have the energy to deal her.

Emma sighed in relief when she saw it wasn’t her mom, even though she wasn’t overly eager to talk to her dad either. He’d decided to let the dwarves out on probation, which she wasn’t happy about. The dwarves were bound by the order to stay in their home except to go to work, and for a few hours on Saturday to get groceries and other necessities, but Emma hated the fact that they still got to be out of prison while Regina was in her own version of it. 

“Yeah, dad,” Emma said, after swiping to answer the call. “What’s up?”

“Emma?” Her stomach dropped at the sound of her mother’s voice. “Why have you been avoiding my calls?”

“Listen, mom, I don’t have the time to talk. Put dad on the phone.”

“Emma, wait. I- I heard what’s been going on. Your father told me that you haven’t been able to find a way to remove the binding on Regina’s wrist. I’d really like to help, in whatever way that I can.”

“There’s not much you can do with a baby to take care of, mom,” she answered quietly, conscious of the fact that Regina was in the kitchen with her. “But thanks for the offer.”

“No. Your father is off today; he’ll watch Neal. Please, Emma. I know things have been strained between us lately, but I know you’re having a difficult time and I’d like to help.”

“I don’t know… hang on,” Emma said, covering the mouth piece and turning to Regina. “I know you probably don’t want her to, but my mom wants to help. It’s your call if you want her to join us or not. If you don’t want her to come, I’ll make up an excuse, okay?”

Regina sighed heavily.

“She has knowledge of the old world. She may be able to help me as I read through some of my mother’s books. As much as I am loathe to admit it, we would certainly benefit from another pair of eyes.”

Emma nodded, uncovering the mouthpiece.

“Okay, yeah, mom. It uh- it would be nice if you could join us. Thanks. We’ll meet you at the vault in like… thirty minutes?”

“Okay, sweetie. See you then.”

Emma hung up the phone, slipping it in her back pocket.

“You okay?”

Regina looked up at Emma. She didn’t even have the energy to throw a snippy remark at her because of course she wasn’t. Instead, she simply looked away. The pain that had been in Regina’s eyes all morning was still present, despite the fact that Emma knew she was trying to hide it. Seeing the despair in the other woman’s expression tugged at Emma’s heart, so she reached out and pulled Regina to her, wrapping her in a warm embrace.

“I’m sorry,” Emma whispered in her ear. “I’m sorry this is taking so long.”

Regina swallowed her tears, instead balling the sides of Emma’s shirt in her fists as she clung to her. She closed her eyes as a gentle hand began rubbing circles against her back, finding the tense muscles and massaging them until they relaxed. By the time Henry returned downstairs, Regina was resting calmly against Emma, her shoulders no longer tense from stress.

“Hey,” Henry greeted as he entered the kitchen. He wasn’t surprised to find his moms in each other’s space anymore, having walked in more than once to find them far closer than was acceptable for two friends. “You guys ready?”

Regina looked up at Emma and smiled gently in appreciation before turning to her son.

“Yes, mijo. Are you?”

“Yep. Let’s go.”

The three exited the mansion, walking together to Henry’s school. They had taken to leaving the Mercedes at home, spending the extra time together walking before they needed to part for the day. The women dropped their son off at school, heading to the vault immediately after. They found Snow already waiting, leaning against the side of the building.

“Hey,” Emma greeted.

Snow swallowed her shock at seeing just how exhausted the two women before her appeared. David had told her they weren’t doing well, but she hadn’t realised just how bad it had gotten.

“Hi,” she responded, when she finally found her voice. “Thanks for agreeing to let me help.”

Snow took a step forward and pulled Emma into a hug, trying hard to brush away her hurt when she felt her daughter tense up. She pulled away and returned Emma’s awkward smile, glancing at Regina and greeting her as well.

“Well, we had best not waste any more time,” Regina announced, turning to open the door.

The women headed downstairs, Regina and Emma taking their usual seats on the couch while Snow sat in the free armchair in the corner. She thanked Regina when the woman handed her a book, swallowing her surprise when she saw the mountain of books in a pile by the door.

“Are those the books we have left to go through?”

“Those are the ones we have exhausted,” Regina replied, doing her best to hide the resignation she felt.

Regina turned to the book in her hand and flipping back to the page she had abandoned yesterday, missing Snow’s shocked expression. Regina poured herself into her reading, ignoring the chatter she heard occasionally exchanged between mother and daughter. So focused was she that she didn’t notice the hand slowly moving towards her until it reached out and grasped her own, tearing a sharp gasp from her lips.

“Sorry,” Emma said sheepishly, pulling her hand away. “You were sighing a lot.”

“Oh, I hadn’t realised. I apologise.”

Snow watched quietly from the corner, observing Regina as she smiled warmly at Emma before turning back to her book. Emma looked at her for a few more minutes, bringing her hand down to rest between the women as she turned back to her book. Snow looked at them for several more minutes, finally deciding to resume her own reading until she saw movement in the corner of her eye. She glanced up, keeping her head slightly down so as to not make it obvious that she was staring. Snow watched as Regina’s hand moved, closing the remaining distance separating her hand from Emma’s. Her eyes bulged when Regina’s palm slid under Emma’s and their fingers intertwined without a word. Emma smiled softly down at the book in response, biting her lip when their hands met.

Snow tore her eyes away, heart beating rapidly in her chest. She wasn't sure what she had just witnessed, but she was sure she didn’t want to begin deciphering it. She threw herself back in her book, missing the way her daughter gently stroked Regina’s hand and squeezing it every now and then, missing the way she snuck glances at the brunette seated beside her, and missing the answering glances Regina gave Emma when the blonde returned her attention to her book. Snow missed all of that, not once looking up until the other two began trying a few of the curses Emma had picked out. Only then did she put aside her book, watching as Emma tried to magically shred the cuff. When that failed to work, she then tried to transform it, banish it, and finally she attempted to pour a potion on it that had apparently been brewing for the last three days. Nothing worked. The cuff stayed on just as securely as it had been all day.

Regina looked utterly defeated, and Snow did her best to pretend not to notice. Emma reached out to her, but Regina pulled away and stood a second later.

“I’ll return in a moment,” she announced.

Emma didn’t bother saying anything. Instead, she shot up from the couch and chased after Regina. Snow stayed seated, watching as the women disappeared down the hall. She couldn’t see them from where she was sitting, but as she glanced around the room, she realised she could see their reflections in the mirror hanging on Regina’s wall. She watched, transfixed as Regina attempted to pull away from Emma, who shook her head and pulled the brunette into her arms. Her daughter then buried her face in the other woman’s hair, obviously murmuring something because Regina closed her eyes and nodded. Tears soon followed, Regina sobbing quietly into Emma’s arms.

Snow’s heart broke as she watched her former stepmother break down. She could count on one hand the times she had seen Regina cry, more accustomed to seeing the woman seethe with rage than tremble with anguish. It made her feel terrible guilt for not offering to help sooner, but she genuinely hadn’t known how to reach out to either woman. They were the most important women in her life, and yet they felt like strangers at times. She had no idea how to relate to them. It ached in her heart knowing that her daughter felt so comfortable with Regina that she would run after her and then hold her close as she cried, but she wouldn’t even voluntarily give her own mother a hug even when Snow was calm.

Snow watched discreetly in the mirror as Regina pulled away, looking down at the floor. Emma titled her head back up, doing something that made Regina smile and shake her head. She couldn’t see Emma very well from this angle, but she could see Regina perfectly, and the woman’s smile didn’t falter even as tears continued to fall. Regina closed her eyes as Emma wiped her cheeks, and Snow let out a soft gasp when Emma leaned close and kissed her forehead before pulling her into her arms once again. She stared as Emma gently rocked the other woman from side to side, her heart beating fast as Regina clung to Emma.

David had told her that the women were getting closer, that he was pretty sure their friendship was evolving, but Snow had had no idea it was getting like this. She thought he meant maybe they were moving towards a more united co-parenting relationship rather than just… being what they were before. But as she watched them now, she knew she was obviously mistaken.

Regina kept her eyes closed until Emma finally pulled away, lifting her chin once again and starting to speak. Regina looked despondent, but she was obviously listening as Emma spoke because she was nodding along. Emma then reached down and grabbed Regina’s cuffed wrist, holding it up. Regina shook her head in response to whatever Emma had asked, allowing the woman to guide her arms around her neck as she pulled her back into a hug. Emma then kissed her cheek before giving one last squeeze and pulling away for good.

Snow immediately looked down when she realised the women were returning, hearing a soft “thank you” from Regina as they re-entered the room.

“I believe I will bring us something for a late lunch,” Regina announced after clearing her throat. “We will need to take a break to eat if we are to continue working. Are you expected at home at a specific time, Snow?”

“No.”

Regina nodded before turning to Emma, giving her a soft smile before finally leaving the vault. Emma watched her go, heading to the couch once the woman was no longer in sight. Snow watched her daughter pull a heavy book onto her lap, flipping through the pages. She observed her for several minutes before finally speaking up.

“Regina seemed upset. Is she okay?”

“Yeah,” Emma answered carefully, not looking up. “She’ll be okay.”

“Good,” Snow said, wondering how exactly to broach the topic she wished to discuss. “You two seem to have gotten closer.”

“Well, we’re friends, mom,” Emma responded, finally glancing at her mother. “Of course we’re getting closer.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is?”

Emma sighed, closing her eyes for a second before looking back at Snow. The woman was giving her a look, a knowing look, so Emma didn’t bother lying to her.

“Listen, I don’t know what it is yet, alright? We haven’t… We’ve been kinda busy lately. Whatever it is… it’s really new and I don’t really wanna talk about it.” Especially since Regina and I haven’t even discussed it yet.

The truth was, Emma was pretty sure she knew what was happening. These past few weeks, ever since she had gotten hurt fighting the Cyclops and Regina had invited her to stay at the mansion, their friendship had slowly begun evolving… and Emma was really, really liking the changes. She enjoyed Regina’s company immensely, she had for over a year now. But these past few weeks, that had changed into her missing Regina when she wasn’t around and wishing they were together. Emma began worrying about her when she wasn’t nearby and wondered what she was doing when they were apart. And in this last week since Regina had been cuffed, they’d become even closer, rarely spending more than an hour or two apart. They were nearly glued at the hip, but it felt safe. It felt right.

Emma liked waking up in the morning and finding herself wrapped around Regina like a protective cocoon. She liked sharing breakfast with her son and his other mother, she liked walking together as a family to drop him off at school, she liked comforting the other woman when she got overwhelmed or down as they did research. Hell, she even liked the research part of it because it meant spending more time with Regina (and sometimes it even ended up with Regina curled against her side, which was really really nice). She liked walking home with her after a long day of reading, she liked having supper together with their son, she liked curling up with Regina on the couch as they watched a movie or sat together as they played a game. She liked following Regina up to bed every night and listening to her as she talked about her past, her childhood, her fears, her wants, her dreams for the future, and Emma liked sharing her own as well as they lay in Regina’s bed. She didn’t like that Regina was having nightmares every night, but she did like that she was there to wake and comfort her, and she especially liked that Regina clung to her and told her how much safer she felt now that Emma was around.

So no, they hadn’t discussed it, but Emma was pretty sure she knew what was happening. She wasn’t an idiot after all. She wasn’t, however, going to say it out loud for the first time to her mother. Especially not when her mother was looking at her like that.

“There has been a lot going on, I know. We may not be talking as much, but I do realise you’ve been going through a lot. This change between you and Regina though, Emma… I realise I have not been the most supportive mother, but I can’t -”

“No. Stop right there, mom,” Emma said, cutting her off before she could say it. “I knew you wouldn’t approve. I don’t wanna hear it. I don’t wanna hear all the nasty stuff you’re gonna say about Regina, alright? So save it.”

“Emma, I wasn’t going to.”

“Yes, you were. You’d never approve. I knew you wouldn’t. It doesn’t fit in your perfect little world.” I don’t fit in your perfect little world. “So just drop it.”

“Emma, I truly wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say… I was going to say that no matter what, I’ll support you. I realise that I have not been the most supportive mother, but I can’t stress enough that your happiness is all that matters to me. Am I confused? Yes. And am I a little wary? I am, and I’m sorry. This is all… it’s all very new to me. I hadn’t realised… But if this is what you want, Emma, if this will make you happy, then I support you. I want you to know that. To know that I support you no matter what.”

Emma looked down at the floor, tears building behind her eyes. She never would have ever thought her mother would support a relationship between Regina and herself. She'd been gearing up for a fight, but hearing the sincerity in her mother’s voice, the softness of her words, it had rocked her. Emma had been struggling this week to keep it together for Regina, but now, with her mother telling her that she supported her no matter what, it crumbled her defenses and she sniffled despite her best efforts not to.

Snow got up from the armchair and joined her daughter on the couch when she realised just how emotional Emma had become. She reached out and grabbed Emma’s hands, smiling at her when the blonde looked up at her.

“I know our relationship has been strained since I’ve had the baby. I know that I… that I don’t always know how to talk to you and I know that I’m not being the kind of mother you had always dreamed about, the kind of mother I had dreamed about when I was pregnant with you. I imagined things to be so different between us, Emma, but then the curse happened and I- I made a decision which has had horrific consequences for you.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t agonise over what I could have done differently, Emma, that I don’t regret what happened to you. And then when you returned to Storybrooke and I learnt who you were-” Snow wiped at her tears, swallowing against the lump in her throat, “I was so, so happy, Emma. Here was my daughter, a bright, beautiful woman, and she was intelligent, strong, fierce, protective, and determined. You turned out better than I could have ever possibly imagined. And while I never stopped loving you, I have had an incredibly difficult time getting to know you, Emma. You’re so protective of your past; you’re so guarded. If I get too close, you push me away. And I truly do understand why, but I never know when I should push back and when I should give you space. I don’t want to damage our already fragile relationship by pushing too much. I don’t want to lose you. So, I just, I let you decide how much you’d tell me in the hopes that you’d one day open up. But it never happened, and then we drifted apart. I had the baby, and it just got even worse. Sometimes, I feel like you don’t- like you’re disappointed in us, in me.”

Snow could not fight the sob in her throat, the hurt and pain of their deteriorated relationship overwhelming her. Emma reached out and pulled her mother into her arms, tears streaming down her own face as the woman clung to her. Snow cried into Emma’s shoulder, clutching her close as she worked through the anguish she’d been feeling for months.

“I’m sorry, Emma. I’m so sorry.”

She held Emma close as she cried, and only once her sobs had subsided did Snow finally pull away, reaching out and cupping her daughter’s cheek.

“I’m sorry that I haven’t been what you needed. I’m sorry that I was selfish. I want to do what I can to make you feel supported, Emma, no matter what that is. I miss you terribly and so does your father. We want you home.”

Emma pulled away, shaking her head.

“I have a home. And it’s… it’s with Regina. And our son.”

Snow let her hand drop, nodding despite the blow her daughter had just dealt.

“It’s obvious you’re a lot more comfortable with her than you ever were with me. Why? I don’t understand.”

Emma hesitated.

“Please be honest, Emma. I want- I want to mend our relationship, but I need to know how to change.”

“Okay,” Emma took a deep breath as she tried to explain. “I can be myself with her, without getting looked at like I’m weird or something. I fit in with Regina. When I’m at the loft, I just feel… out of place. You and dad have a routine. You know how to work with each other. When I’m there, I feel like I’m just in the way. You guys know exactly what you want and you tell me to just relax and you guys get everything ready, like when we have supper. One of you sets the table while the other cooks. You both clean together and talk about your day. When we sit and eat, you talk about how good this meal was or that meal back in the Enchanted Forest and then you compare it to what we’re eating here. You talk about people you used to know and then, yeah, you stop and explain who the person is, but then you go off and reminiscence while I sit there being reminded that this is just another family I don’t fit in with. I’ve felt that my whole life. I’ve never fit in anywhere until Regina, and the shitty part is, you’re supposed to be my family.

“I used to pretend that with my real family, I’d be just like them,” Emma continued, getting a little more aggravated, “or they’d be just like me or whatever. And they’d take an interest in what I like and I’d just fit. But in reality… it’s been way different. We’re so different. So different. We differ on everything, even stupid shit like opinions on having a dryer. You guys don’t own a dryer because you ‘used to hang everything to dry back in the Enchanted Forest’ even though I love dryers and would really, really like to have one. But when I brought it up, you shot me down without even talking about it. It’s like my opinion, you’ll hear it, but in the end you don’t actually listen to what I want. I told you how many times I really wanted to get a tv and Netflix so I could come home and watch tv because that’s how I’ve been relaxing my whole life, and you and dad both just told me I should start reading or pick up a hobby because ‘we didn’t have tvs in the Enchanted Forest’. Newsflash, mom: We’re not in the Enchanted Forest! We’re in Maine! I get that you guys are super proud of the Old Country or whatever, but that’s not my world. You threw me into this one and then act like I’m the one who needs to change because I’m not like you. Well maybe if you’d have kept me, I would be! But you didn’t so I’m not.”

Emma’s anger suddenly morphed to pain, shooting up from the couch as she continued on.

“I don’t fit with you guys. I don’t fit in your life. I’m not cute and little and a baby that you can raise and tell stories to about how it used to be and mold me to fit into your perfect little family. I have my own past, and it was nothing like it was in your precious forest. You wanna know why I like it at Regina’s? Because I can be me. I can come home after a shitty day and throw myself down on her couch and turn on Netflix, which she got specially for me and the kid, and just chill. I’m allowed to relax how I want and I’m not told to change to please anyone else. And I have my own space. I have my own room with a door. And Regina always has chips in the house that she hides in the back of the cupboard for me to eat after Henry goes to bed. She makes us food and doesn’t ever compare it to the food in the Enchanted Forest. I don’t constantly get bombarded with comments about how great it is that the baby is doing this or that. I don’t have to see every day what I would have had had you not tossed me out like I was a piece of garbage!”

Emma recoiled the minute her mother approached, wishing desperately that she was back in the safety of Regina’s arms at the mansion. She didn’t want to be in the vault anymore, crying and losing control in front of her mother. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be home. She wanted to be at the mansion. Due to her unstable magic, Emma got just that, finding herself moments later dropped onto the living room couch with a very confused Regina.

“Emma?” Regina asked, concerned, placing her bag of take out onto the coffee table. “Why did you bring us home? What’s going on? Why are you crying?”

Regina had just entered the vault when she felt herself being ripped away by Emma’s magic (she would recognise the feel of it anywhere) and dropped onto her couch.

Emma didn’t respond, instead curling herself into Regina’s embrace and crying into her shoulder. Regina immediately wrapped her arms around Emma, burying her fingers in the blonde locks and gently scratching at her scalp. It never failed to soothe the younger woman to have her head scratched, so Regina did it instantly, hoping it would calm Emma enough to answer her worried questions.

“Emma? Are you alright? Are you wounded?”

Emma shook her head, much to Regina’s relief.

“Okay, darling. I’m here. It’ll be alright,” she soothed, confident that no matter what it was, they would solve it together. “What happened while I was away?”

“My mom,” Emma breathed out after she got control of her emotions. “I talked to my mom about what I’ve been feeling.”

Regina ground her teeth, taking great care not to tense her muscles in anger. Damn that vile woman for not knowing how to comfort her daughter. Damn her for being so atrociously selfish that she could not, for one moment, soothe her daughter’s pain.

“She did alright,” Emma said, noticing Regina’s rage despite the woman’s efforts to hide it. “I just- it got to be too much and I needed to leave. She let me talk and I- I said a lot of things I’d been holding back. It felt good to be honest.”

Regina let out a deep breath, continuing to lazily scratch at Emma’s scalp.

“I’m proud of you for finally speaking to her.”

Emma closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of Regina’s fingers in her hair rather than responding. She focused on the chest rising and falling beneath her head, the nimble fingers massaging her scalp, the warmth against her body. She listened to the sound of Regina’s breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, latching onto the other woman as she centered herself, calming herself down. It took some time, but she finally calmed enough that she felt her muscles loosen and relax. 

“Don’t you dare fall asleep on me,” Regina threatened, but there was no real malice in her voice.

“I’ll do what I want,” Emma said lazily, snuggling in closer. She could feel Regina’s breasts under her chin, causing her to smile happily. “I’ll sleep right here if I want to.”

“Very well. I suppose I will have no choice but to eat your lunch then.”

Emma snorted, making no move to sit up and protect her threatened food.

“Like you’d ever touch my grilled cheese. There is nothing but grease and empty calories in that heinous excuse for a sandwich, Miss Swan.

“I do not sound like that!” Regina responded, feigning outrage. “My voice is nowhere near that shrill.”

Emma chuckled, squeezing Regina’s middle affectionately.

“Nah, you got a beautiful voice.”

Regina blushed. There was far too much sincerity in Emma’s voice. Rather than respond, she withdrew her fingers, using both hands to straighten out Emma’s tangles and tame the wild locks. Regina marveled at the change in Emma’s demeanour when she touched her hair now. Just a few weeks ago, she tensed any time Regina tried to stroke her hair. Now, she melted in her arms the second her fingers made contact.

Because she trusts you.

The thought warmed Regina more than she cared to admit. She sat there with Emma, stroking her hair, until their peaceful cuddling was interrupted by the doorbell. Emma groaned, shaking her head.

“Noooo. I’m comfortable.”

Regina chuckled, patting Emma’s back.

“I’ll answer it.”

Emma huffed and pulled away, pouting as she leaned back against the couch (which was significantly less comfortable and warm). She leaned forward and snuck a peak in the take out bag, wondering if Regina had indeed gotten her a grilled cheese. Regina had been threatening to make her lunches healthier now that her weight had stabilised, so Emma wasn’t sure if she’d end up eating some kind of salad or vegetable mixture for lunch. Emma had just reached in and pulled out a container when she heard her mother’s voice float into the living room. Groaning, Emma put it back and got up, making her way to the front door.

“I highly doubt she wishes to speak with you-”

“It’s fine, Regina,” Emma said, doing nothing to mask the resignation in her voice. “I’ll talk to her.”

“Emma! I was worried. Where did you go?”

“I uh- wished to be home with Regina a little too hard and I accidentally magicked us both here.”

Snow blinked.

“Emma, we need to talk about what you said back there at the vault. I didn’t know-”

“Not today, mom. I’ve had enough emotional talks for one day. I need time.”

“But Emma-”

“No. I told you how I felt. I need you to think about what I said and take the time to process it. I’ll find you when I’m ready to talk about it again.”

Emma didn’t wait for a response. She walked away, heading back to the living room and curling up on the couch. Regina joined her a few minutes later, sitting next to her and placing her hand on Emma’s knee.

“Sorry for ditching you like that. I just couldn’t stand to argue with her.”

“You may make it up to me by handing out our lunch. The conversation with your mother has left a bitter taste in my mouth. It will be well replaced by the chicken salad sandwich I ordered.”

Emma chuckled, reaching for the bag (which was right next to her) and pulling out containers. She lined them up on the coffee table, wondering which one was hers. Regina pushed one towards her, along with a round container Emma assumed was soup.

“I purchased sandwiches and soup for your mother and I. You will be having a deluxe grilled cheese, and since your mother will not be joining us for lunch, you may have her soup and sandwich as well if you like.”

“What the hell is a deluxe grilled cheese and why haven’t I ever heard of it?”

Emma opened the container, holding up the sandwich.

“Holy- ! Is that bacon?!” Emma took a large bite, moaning when the taste of bacon filled her mouth. She chewed slowly, grinning over at Regina when she felt heat follow the first bite. She swallowed, eyes wide with glee. “There’s hot peppers in here too?”

“Jalapeño poppers to be precise.”

 “When did Granny start serving these kinds of grilled cheeses? I’ve never seen them on the menu.”

“She doesn’t. I simply asked her to combine a few extra ingredients I thought you might enjoy. I thought it would be a nice surprise.”

Emma’s heart melted.

“You did that? Just for me?”

Regina simply smiled, cheeks reddening under the look of wonder Emma gave her. She looked down and grabbed her container, opening it and removing a sandwich half.

“You’ve sacrificed an entire week of your life thus far trying to help me. Adding a few extra items to your sandwich hardly compares.”

Emma quickly wiped her fingers on a napkin, reaching out to rest her hand on Regina’s wrist.

“It’s not the size of the gesture. It’s the fact that you did it at all,” Emma said, holding Regina’s gaze. “Thank you.” She withdrew her hand, biting her lower lip for a moment before adding, “Helping you, spending time with you, it’s never a sacrifice. I… it’s actually been kinda nice not needing to make up an excuse to see you. I’m not happy you’re suffering, but I’m not gonna pretend like I haven’t liked spending all this time with you.”

Regina immediately looked away, picking at the bread on her sandwich. Emma had been saying far too many nice things to her as of late, far too many things that were making her feel a warmth inside of herself that she hadn’t felt in a very, very long time.

“Anyway,” Emma said, breaking the moment, “thanks for grabbing lunch. This is really, really good.”

“You’re welcome, dar-dear.”


“Would you like to discuss what happened with your mother?”

Emma shifted next to Regina on the couch, shaking her head. They had just returned to the vault after eating lunch, and she had managed to avoid any conversation about her mom back at the mansion. She knew it was too good to last forever. They hadn’t even been back ten minutes before Regina had brought up the conversation.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” she responded, looking up from the book she’d been reading. “I told her how I felt, told her a lot of the stuff I’ve been keeping from her, and then I just… accidentally poofed us back to the mansion. She didn’t do much talking. I did most of it.”

“Will you be seeing her this evening so that she may respond?”

“Hadn’t planned on it, since I was planning on being here. I’ve been kinda busy in case you hadn’t noticed,” Emma said with a wry grin. 

Regina rolled her eyes.

“I’ll talk to her when I’m ready, alright?” she said softly.

“Alright,” Regina replied. “If you feel that you would benefit from my presence-”

“You mean if I need ‘backup’?” Emma asked, chuckling.

“Yes,” Regina said dryly, “if you need backup. I will accompany you so that you do not have to go alone.”

The final sentence was said with such sincerity that Emma stopped smiling, looking at Regina gratefully instead.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

She gave Emma a soft smile before opening her own book, resuming her reading of other magic binding entries in the hopes that they would offer her some sort of clue as to how to remove the cuff on her wrist. Perhaps reading about other spells would provide her with answers, or at the very least ideas, for removing this infernal manacle.

Emma looked down at her own book, pushing back the conversation she’d had with her mother to the back of her mind. She began reading page after page until her eyelids grew heavy and her eyes crossed. Hours went by, but she was no closer to finding anything than she had been this morning. She tried not to get discouraged, but she didn’t even have Henry’s presence to look forward to, as he was going to Nicholas’ tonight to work on a school project. Usually having the kid around helped Emma concentrate as he offered her small breaks of laughter and teasing, which helped her focus and keep her spirits up after they’d paused their research for a second.

Emma blinked, trying to remove the blurriness from her eyes. After the fourth blink in a row and her eyes remained unfocused, she decided to give herself a break and looked up, opening her eyes wide before rubbing them aggressively. That seemed to help, and she was happy to note that she could see much better now.

Emma sighed softly as she looked around, taking in the classy décor of the vault. Regina was incredibly talented when it came to decorating. Every room in her house looked like it was stolen directly from one of those fancy decorating magazines, and yet the woman had said she had designed each one herself. This room, it was one of Emma’s favourites (after Regina’s bedroom of course), because it was just so Regina. There were so many things in it that reminded her of the beautiful brunette that she couldn’t help but love being in this space. Emma’s eyes roved over the room before settling on the woman in question. Regina was currently nibbling on the tip of her thumb, eyebrows scrunched together as she read. Some of her hair had fallen out from behind her ear, dangling near her cheek, and Emma felt a near irresistible urge to tuck it back to its rightful place. She couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful woman hunched over her book, eyes glued to the page she was reading.

Emma’s thoughts wandered back to the conversation she’d had with her mother this afternoon as she quietly observed Regina. Emma did feel better now that she’d said her piece, and she was glad to have been able to speak her mind. It felt good to finally say everything she felt aloud. The conversation she’d had with her mom regarding Regina though, however brief, had been completely unexpected. Her mom was one of the last people Emma ever have expected to talk to about Regina, and she didn’t like that she’d basically told her mom how she felt before actually telling the woman herself. Regina should have been the first person to be told, the first person to learn how Emma felt. She was sure Regina was already aware, but they’d never actually talked about it out loud. Emma had been waiting for the right time to state her feelings, but she wondered if there would ever be a perfect moment. After basically acknowledging her feelings for Regina earlier to her mother, Emma felt the burning desire to tell the woman herself. She didn’t want another person to find out before Regina did. She didn’t want another day to pass without telling Regina how she felt. She wanted Regina to know how much she liked her, how much she cared for her, how much she truly meant to her. So focused was she on her thoughts that she did not notice the woman look at her out of the corner of her eye, breath catching in her throat when she saw the unmistakable look of affection on Emma’s face.

Regina chose to ignore the warmth in her belly when she saw Emma’s soft expression, deciding instead to steer far away from what could easily become dangerous territory.

“Will you cease your staring? You will not find any answers on my person, Emma.”

Her voice had come out much thicker than she had meant it to, but Regina paid that no mind. She continued pretending to read, ignoring the small gasp that had come from the other woman when she’d been caught gawking. 

“Sorry. Guess I got uh- I got a little distracted.”

“How very unlike you,” Regina responded sarcastically.

Emma chose not to answer, tearing her eyes away from Regina and trying to refocus. Her mind screamed at her to tell Regina how she felt, but she was nervous. Emma managed to get through two pages before she was staring off again, her eyes returning to the woman next to her. Regina was chewing on her bottom lip this time, a far more distracting action than nibbling on her thumb. Her pink tongue occasionally came out to moisten it, only to be replaced by her perfect teeth when she resumed biting her lip.  Emma wondered what it would be like to feel that tongue against her own. It would definitely be wet and soft, Emma knew that much just from looking at it. She wondered how warm it would be, and if it would burn her skin. Regina was so damn hot that she wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

“You’re staring again, Emma. As I stated previously, you will not find any answers by looking at me. Focus on your book.”

“I can’t. You keep distracting me!”

“I am simply sitting here. You are distracting yourself.”

“No, you’re sitting there biting your lip which is ridiculously sexy. I can’t help staring when you do stuff like that.”

Regina willed herself not to blush like a common school girl, but it was unavoidable. She could feel her throat and cheeks first flush pink, then within a moment she had turned red, just as she always did when Emma complimented her or made a positive comment about her physical appearance.

Regina refused to look at Emma, instead ducking her head down and hoping her loose hair hid her face. Emma put her book down and scooted closer, reaching out and tucking the loose strand of hair from earlier behind Regina’s ear.

“Emma,” Regina said softly, almost in warning.

“You’re beautiful, Regina,” Emma started, stroking the woman’s throat before tracing her fingers down her arm and resting them on her bare wrist. “I can’t help getting distracted by you any time you’re near me. All I ever wanna do is touch you, stare at you. When you walk into the room, my eyes automatically drift over to you. You turn my whole mood around when you smile at me because you’re just so breath-taking. I did pretty good about reading for a few hours, but can you really blame me for wanting to look at you instead?” Emma reached out and cupped Regina’s cheek, forcing the woman to look at her. “This vault is full of pretty, shiny, expensive stuff. There’s stuff here that’s priceless, stuff that’s probably really crazy important. And this room is totally you: beautiful and elegant. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at all the stuff you’ve got in this place, and yet the only thing in here of any value, the only thing in here that’s truly magnificent, is you. The other stuff in here will amuse me for a little while, but in the end, the only thing that I truly wanna focus on is you.”

“Emma…” Regina whispered, her tone once again cautioning the blonde.

Emma was going to tell Regina how she felt. She was. But there was something far more pressing she needed to do first.

“If you don’t want this, please tell me. Because if you don’t stop me, I’m going to kiss you now.”

Regina whimpered in response, and when she received no indication that she shouldn’t proceed, Emma leaned forward and gently pressed her lips to Regina’s. Despite the fact that she knew it was coming, Regina gasped softly the second their lips made contact. She froze for a moment, her eyes closing instinctually, but when Emma titled her head and pushed forward tenderly with her lips, Regina responded automatically. She pressed back, swiping her lips against Emma’s. They kissed softly, slowly for several minutes until Emma pulled back, hovering inches from her.

Regina instantly moved forward and crushed their lips together, gripping Emma’s biceps roughly as she pulled the woman close. She’d wanted this for far too long. God did she ever want this, and while her mind screamed at her that this was a terrible idea, her heart swelled in her chest at finally getting to show Emma just how much she meant to her.

Regina held her tight as Emma cupped her cheek gently, her other hand resting delicately at Regina’s side. Emma held her as though she were made of glass, almost as though she were afraid to break her if she weren’t careful. Their kiss continued, and despite the fact that it was completely innocent and sweet, Regina felt her body ignite in response. She could focus on nothing but Emma: Emma’s lips against her own, the smell of Emma’s shampoo invading her nostrils, the feel of Emma’s fingers pressing into her cheek and side, Emma’s sinfully soft breasts beneath her arms. Regina’s mind was void of anything but the woman currently invading her senses. By the time she pulled away, Regina’s stomach was alit with arousal, her underwear coated with the evidence of her desire. She went willingly into Emma’s arms, burying her face in her neck as she fought to catch her breath.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do that,” Emma confessed against Regina’s ear.

Regina shivered at Emma’s words, her mind finally catching up to what they had just done. She went stiff in Emma’s arms, pulling away and shaking her head.

“Emma, that was- we mustn’t. We can’t.”

Emma reached out and stroked Regina’s cheek, recognising the fear in the woman’s voice.

“Why can’t we?” she asked, looking into Regina’s eyes. “What’s stopping us?”

“Everything!”

“Like what? Tell me.”

“We are two very important figures in this town; we have reputations to uphold. We have a son to think about. You are currently fighting with your mother, who will surely not approve. We need to focus on removing this infernal cuff from my wrist, not throw ourselves into … into something so idiotic. The timing is horrendous, Emma. And our friendship… Emma, our friendship means too much to me to risk it for a simple tryst.”

“First of all, I’m not asking you to be someone I have a ‘simple tryst’ with. I want more than that. I’m crazy about you and I want this to be something serious, because I’m seriously fucking crazy about you. Do you know how long I’ve been dreaming about this? About being with you?

“I want to date you, Regina. I want to take you out on a date. I want to dress up nice for you, and I want you to do the same. I want to be able to hold your hand all the time. I want to hold you while we watch a movie and have it mean something more than I’m just being your friend. I want to hear more about your past, about the people who meant something to you. I want to learn everything about you, and I want to share with you too. I’m not looking for an affair. I want more than that. With you. I want to date you. These last few weeks, and especially this past week, I’ve seen a part of you that you’ve hidden away from everyone, that I never knew existed. You’ve opened up to me and I’ve really, really liked it. I’d like to learn more about you, Regina, to get closer to you, if you’ll let me.”

Regina shook her head, looking away.  

“I can give you time and I can give you space, if you need it. But, I know what I want, Regina. And I think… well, especially after that kiss, I know you feel the same way.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking for, Emma.”

“I’m pretty sure I do.”

“I’m not easy to get along with.”

Emma laughed at that, dropping her hand to hold both of Regina’s.

“Believe me, you don’t need to tell me that. I know. But the thing is, we do get along. We’ve been getting along crazy well even this week, despite all the stress going on in our lives. I know you like having me around and I really, really like being around you too. And as for the timing, it’s never gonna be a good time, not in our lives. There’s always gonna be another crisis, another thing you and I need to deal with. But we’re a team, and we work really, really well together. This is just… another aspect of our lives we’d do well with together. Instead of being friends who support each other, who comfort each other after a nightmare, who share their secrets… well, we’d still be doing those things, but we could actually act on our feelings too. I’d really like to be able to tell you everything I’m feeling instead of hiding just how much you mean to me.”

Regina didn’t know how to respond, so she didn’t. Emma, sensing Regina’s apprehension, continued on.

“I really like you, Regina. You’re smart and funny and witty. You always have a sassy comeback to throw at me, no matter what I say to you. You keep me laughing all the time, even when I feel like I want to cry. You keep me on my toes; you challenge me. I really like that. So I’m asking you, will you please go out with me? Just one date. If you hate it, if you really think it won’t work, then I’ll back off and I won’t bring it up again, okay?”

Regina was silent for a long time before she finally responded.

“If this doesn’t work, Emma…”

“If it doesn’t work, I’ll back off, but I won’t stop being your friend. I need you in my life, in whatever way I can have you. If that’s just as a friend, I’ll have to accept that, but I think we would be really good together as more. We’re practically already dating, we just haven’t talked about it. I’m just asking you to give us a chance.”

Regina looked away. She was quiet for several moments, several long agonising moments, but then finally, finally she squeezed Emma’s hands. Emma squeezed back a second later, smiling widely when the woman looked at her.

“Okay,” Regina said softly, the apprehension in her voice obvious. “One date. But Emma, we need to be very careful. I won’t allow Henry to be hurt. He has been through far too much. I would prefer if we kept this quiet for the near future, alright?”

Emma was walking on air. She was beyond happy. She felt like she was floating. Regina had said yes. She’d said yes!

“Emma, you look like a fool. Stop smiling.”

“Never!” Emma shouted excitedly. “You said yes!”

Emma laughed happily, grinning from ear to ear. She was going to go on a date with Regina! Regina had said yes! She was getting a date!

“Can I bring you on a date tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” Regina asked, panicked.

“Too soon?”

“I…” Regina pulled away, getting up and smoothing her skirt as she bit her lip worriedly.

Tomorrow was very soon. Much too soon. She needed to do research. She’d never been on a date before. What did one do on a date? What would she wear? Where would they go? Would Emma expect- would she expect her to… she wasn’t sure what would be expected of her. It had been a very long time since she lain with someone, and even longer since she’d lain with a woman. She was attracted to Emma, yes. She would admit that much. But she was nowhere near ready to take that kind of step with her. Did the women of this world do such things on the first date? In the movies, in her books, the women did so on occasion. Would she be expected to do that as well?

“Hey,” Emma said softly. “You’re thinking too much. I can see the wheels in your head turning. Will you come back and sit on the couch, tell me what’s going on?”

Regina did not return to the couch, but she did comply with the second half of Emma’s request.

“I have never been on a date, Emma, not by the standards of this world in any case. I do not know what to expect. And I’m unsure of your expectations.”

Emma got up and went to Regina, stopping when she was before the other woman.

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s just me, alright? Nothing’s going to be different from any of the other times we’ve hung out, except I’ll be wearing nicer clothes. We’ll decide what we’ll do together. There’s no expectations, Regina. None, alright? Other than you being there and being honest with me.”

Regina bit her lip nervously.

“What does one do on a first date?”

“Whatever you want. Some people go out for dinner, some take a walk, others go watch a movie. We could go to the park or have a picnic or stay in and have a glass of wine and talk. We could go to Granny’s and get a milkshake or take a hike in the forest, find a really nice view, and sit together. We could go out late at night and watch the sunset and then lie on the grass and count stars. There’s no rules.”

Regina could feel herself calm as Emma spoke, finally nodding when the woman finished talking. Those activities sounded acceptable.

“Alright.”

“Alright? Do any of those sound good to you?”

“Yes. Quite a number of your ideas sound appealing, surprisingly enough.”

Emma grinned at the woman’s jab.

“Good. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I have more ideas if you don’t like any of those.”

“How long have you been contemplating taking me out exactly?”

“A pathetically long time.”

Regina chuckled.

“What would you suggest for our first date?”

“I don’t care what we do as long as you’re there,” Emma responded.

Regina scowled, the sincerity in Emma’s voice causing her to blush yet again. She was acting like a young maiden. It was highly irritating. She forced a tight smile when Emma frowned at her expression, trying to reassure her.

“Do you have a preference?” Regina asked.

“I kinda like the idea of taking a walk in the park and stopping by the lake. We could sit on one of the benches and talk, then maybe head to Granny’s for a milkshake before we come home?”

“That sounds lovely, Emma.”

“When do you want to go?”

“Now that my momentary panic has passed, I would be amenable to going tomorrow. That is, if the offer is still-”

“It’s good. It’s definitely still good.”

Regina chuckled at the woman’s eagerness.

“Very well, tomorrow it is.”

Emma grinned widely, ignoring the hot wave of nervousness that suddenly overcame her.

I’m going on a date with Regina!

 

Chapter Text

 

"I don't understand why you won't tell me who you're going out with, Emma. You've never gotten so dressed up just for a night out. It's a date. I know it is."

Emma sighed, ignoring her mother as she stood in front of the mirror in her room. She'd returned home this afternoon, wanting to have the full date experience of getting ready at separate houses, knocking on Regina's front door, and seeing one another only once they were fully ready. Today was Wednesday, her mother's usual grocery day, but the woman had returned far earlier than Emma had hoped and had been pestering her for the better part of twenty minutes about her appearance.

"Remember when we talked about me needing space and you hovering and stuff? This is one of those times. Just… I'm an adult, mom. What I do is my own business. Please leave me alone."

Emma turned away from her mother, putting another bobby pin in her hair. She'd curled it and pinned it back, so that it was left long but out of her face. She admired herself in the mirror, happy with the outfit she had chosen. She'd put on a pair of black slacks and a tan coloured top, and she had planned on wearing her knee high tan boots. That was, if her mother ever left her alone to get ready. She and Regina had agreed on seven thirty, and it was fast approaching seven o'clock.

Emma sat at her vanity and looked over her make-up in the mirror, applying a second layer of blush when she realised how pale she looked. She then swiped under her eyes and applied a thin layer of foundation to replace what she'd wiped away. She took a deep breath after deciding it looked good, then reached for her earrings and put them in her ears. She stood and adjusted her top, turning around and looking at her backside.

"You look beautiful, Emma. I'm sorry for hovering."

"Thank you," Emma responded, taking her mother's peace offering for what it was.

"What shoes will you wear?" Snow asked tentatively.

"I was thinking the tan ones," Emma said in response to her mother's question. Snow's tone had changed completely, changing now to try and engage her daughter in conversation rather than interrogate her, so Emma decided to engage a little more, "to match my top. What do you think?"

"That's a good choice. Are you going to bring a purse?"

"No. We're just gonna take a walk."

"Okay. Will you tell me more about your date later? I'd like to hear more about him… or her."

Emma paused, biting her lip. She could lie by omission. She could let her mother believe it was a man, but she didn't want to. She was proud to be going out with Regina. She was lucky to be going out with her.

"She, mom. My date… she's a she."

"Okay," Snow responded, trying to keep her voice steady (even though it came out shaky, because she was certain she already knew who it was).

Emma didn't say anything else, instead going to her trunk and pulling out her boots. She loosened the laces, refusing to meet her mother's eyes. She didn't want to see the shock, the disgust, the disappointment. She didn't need her mother's approval, but she certainly didn't want her rejection either.

"Do I know her?"

"It's Storybrooke, mom. Of course you know her."

"Okay. Will you tell me more about her?"

Emma looked poise to argue, so Snow held up a hand.

"Just vague details. You were right about what you said the other day… that I don't know you." And she didn't. She'd been completely blindsided by her daughter's interaction with Regina, by the change in their relationship. She hadn't even realised... "I'd like- I'd like to start learning more about you, Emma. I miss you."

The blonde deflated at the sadness in her mother's tone. She looked down, sliding her right foot into the correct boot. She began lacing it, finally responding after several minutes of silence.

"She's amazing. She's beautiful and smart and super funny. She's crazy supportive and she has a really big heart. I really like her, and she likes me too even though she's totally out of my league. She's an awesome cook, like could be a chef awesome, and she's a really great mo- uh, she's really great."

By the end of her short speech, her daughter was grinning from ear to ear, even if she'd been talking to her boots the entire time. She hadn't named names, but Snow's suspicions were now confirmed. She knew exactly who it was.

"Is it gonna be an issue if I start dating a woman?" Emma finally asked, biting the bullet. Might as well know now if dating women would be just another reason for her mom to be disappointed in her.

Snow immediately shook her head.

"No, of course not, honey. As I said, I just want you to be happy."

"Well, I am. Happy that is. She makes me really happy."

"I hope it goes well, honey. You'll tell me all about it later, won't you?"

"You sure you wanna hear about it?"

"I do, Emma. I- we've grown distant, you and I. I don't like it. I don't like it at all. I want to support you. I want you to be happy, Emma, and if she's going to make you happy, then I'll do whatever I can to support you both."

Snow meant it. It would take some getting used to, but she would come around. She'd lost far too much time with Emma to let anything else come between them. If this was what Emma wanted, she would find a way to be okay with it.

Emma paused as she let her mother's words wash over her.

"Thank you," she finally whispered, leaning forward and giving her mother a hug.

Snow fought the urge to cry as she hugged her daughter fiercely, holding her tight until Emma pulled away. It had been far too long since she'd gotten to hold her baby girl.

"Have fun on your date, Emma. I hope it goes well."

"Thanks."

Emma left the loft and hopped in the bug, warmth flowing through her after the conversation with her mother. It had been nice to hear she'd support her, but she wondered just how much support she'd receive when her parents found out exactly who she was going out on a date with. It would be nice if her parents approved. She might not need their approval, but that part of her that still wanted to please her parents, that wanted them to be proud of her, it desperately wanted it. In the end though, if they were disappointed, Emma would have to learn to deal with it. Nothing would stop her from going after what she wanted. And what she wanted was Regina.

Emma pulled up to the mansion a few minutes later, the clock reading twenty after seven. She was ten minutes early, but she figured Regina was probably ready as well. She got out of the bug, closing the door and slowly walking up the driveway. Her nerves were starting to get to her, but she pushed them down as she approached the door. She raised her hand and knocked three times before taking a step back.

Emma was not prepared for the sight that greeted her when the door finally opened. All moisture vacated her mouth completely, her lips parted, pupils dilated, all thoughts escaped her mind completely. Regina stood before her in a tight, wine coloured dress, one which fit her like a glove and showed a tasteful amount of cleavage. A small black belt drew attention to her waist, and as Emma's eyes scanned down the woman's incredibly smooth looking legs, she noticed a small anklet that hadn't been there earlier. Regina chose a pair of stunning black heels, but Emma's eyes were drawn back to her face, her incredibly sexy smoky eyes and full red lips commanding all of her attention. She wanted nothing more than to kiss those plump lips. She also noticed that the woman had pulled her hair to the bottom right of her neck, tying it there in what looked to be a messy bun. Emma could not stop staring. Regina had dressed up, she had put in all of this effort, just for her.

"God damn you look amazing," she finally sputtered when her brain started working again.

Regina grinned widely.

"You look lovely as well, dear. That top is very flattering."

Emma looked down at her shirt, smiling when she looked up and met Regina's eye.

"Thanks."

She took a step back and allowed the other woman to lock the front door.

"I figure you probably don't want to take the bug. Do you want to just walk to the park?"

"That sounds lovely."

Emma took Regina's keys and placed them in her pocket, the women beginning their walk to the park side by side. Emma could not stop looking over at her, absolutely enraptured with the beautiful woman.

"You're glancing at me rather often."

"Can you blame me? You look incredible, Regina. I kinda wanna stop just so I can stare at you for a while."

Regina chuckled, looking back at Emma.

"Thank you. I'm glad you believe so."

"You're gorgeous. Where did you get that dress? I don't think I've seen it before."

"I purchased it recently. I haven't had the chance to wear it out yet. I thought today, with you, might be the perfect time."

Emma grinned.

"I was hoping you'd wear a dress."

"You were, were you?"

Emma nodded.

"You look really nice in dresses. And skirts. Those suits you wear are super nice too."

"Are there any of my outfits that you dislike?"

"Um…" Emma paused, thinking. "No, I guess not. Can't say the same about my clothes though, can you? You hate most of them."

Regina smiled, wondering if she should finally let Emma in on her little secret.

"You've got a look, Mills. What's the look?"

Too late. She'd been caught. She glanced over at Emma, smiling slyly.

"I may or may not exaggerate my disdain for your clothing choices."

"Oh?"

"I do find your style of dress much too casual, but I will admit… you fill in your clothing well and I have found my gaze wandering over to you for more than just friendly reasons far more often than I care to admit."

"Are you telling me you think I look good?"

Regina said nothing, but her smile told Emma everything she needed to know.

"What about the jacket?"

"The worst piece of all."

"You like the jacket?! All this time I thought you hated it!"

"You exude a certain confidence when you wear it. It is very… alluring." Sexy, Regina's mind argued, but she kept that thought to herself.

Emma stepped aside, allowing Regina to enter the park entrance first before following her inside the gated area.

"I feel-" Emma paused, searching for the right explanation. "like it's my armour, you know? Like I can do anything when I put it on. I put it on and I instantly feel better, more capable. I don't know. It's stupid, I guess, but it's true."

"It isn't stupid. Where did you procure such an important piece of clothing?"

"I bought it with my first paycheque. It was the first thing I hadn't gotten second hand or I hadn't stolen. It's one of the only things I have left from when I was younger. I mean, I guess I wasn't all that young when I bought it, but… I don't know. It has a lot of sentimental value. When you don't have a whole lot of stuff growing up, the stuff you do have is just that much more important to you. You cherish it a lot more."

Regina nodded her agreement.

"I had many possessions in my youth, but I only valued a certain few. The others, I didn't care for at all."

"Which ones did you value most?"

"The ones which my father and Maite gave to me. Father gave me a pocket watch which had been very important to him. I kept it in my pocket every day until I married. Maite's dolls and her favourite book were also part of my treasured collection."

"Do you still have any of those things?"

"In the vault, yes. I keep them tucked away so they don't get lost."

When they reached the benches by the lake, Emma suggested they sit. Regina happily agreed.

"How was your mother?"

"Fine. She asked who I was going out with, told me I looked nice, asked me to call her so I could tell her about the date."

"Did you tell her who you were seeing?"

"No, but… Regina you should know, when she and I talked the other day… she knows. About us. She's gonna know the date is with you too, even though I didn't say it specifically."

"She what?!"

Emma winced. Regina wasn't supposed to get mad on their first date.

"Yeah, she… she figured it out. She guessed I had feelings for you and I… didn't deny it."

Regina sighed.

"Well, I suppose the town will know by morning."

"She's not gonna say anything. She's trying really hard to fix our relationship. She's not gonna mess it up by blabbing about you and I."

"The woman cannot keep a secret."

Emma shrugged.

"Would it really be so bad if people knew? I mean, I get you're getting the raw end of the deal, but I'd be pretty happy if people knew you were off the market."

"I am not 'getting the raw end of the deal', Emma. If you were truly inferior, I never would have agreed to this date. I have live far too long to surround myself with anything of substandard quality. I simply would like my business to stay my business. However, if your mother remains true to form, as I suspect she will, and informs the town of our … of the tentative change in our friendship, then no, I suppose it would not be the worst thing to happen. I am not ashamed of you, Emma. I've no reason to be. You are very… you are quite desirable."

Sufficiently embarrassed, Regina looked out onto the water and away from the green eyes fixated upon her. Emma smiled widely, her eyes raking over the beautiful woman seated next to her. Regina was nothing but poise and grace, her back straight, her legs tucked to the side, ankles crossed, hands sitting in her lap. And this woman, she had said Emma was desirable. Regina, with her high class and expensive taste, she thought Emma was desirable and not of 'substandard quality'. It felt good, knowing that Regina thought so highly of her.

"You're staring again, Miss Swan."

"Yeah, I finally can without coming off as a total creep."

"Oh, I would not say that is quite correct."

Emma laughed.

"Well, at least now I don't have to hurry up and look away before you notice. It's hard to sneak a peek without you noticing. You're so damn attractive. And it's worse when you're in pjs or sweatpants. Then I have a really hard time looking away from you."

"Why?"

"You look really good in pjs and sweats and stuff."

Regina frowned in confusion, so Emma explained further.

"You are stunning, Regina. You look absolutely breathtaking when you get dressed up. Like right now, you look like you stepped out of a magazine, you're so hot. But I find you're at your most beautiful when you have zero make up on, when your hair is down or pulled back in a messy ponytail, and you're wearing clothes that you'd never wear out in public, like jogging pants and a loose t-shirt or flannel pyjamas. This you, right now, is the regal Regina Mills, and she makes my palms sweat and my heart race. Definitely, 'cause she's really sexy, don't get me wrong. I like all the versions of you. But the other Regina Mills, the housewife and mom extraordinaire, that woman takes my breath away."

Regina stared at her for a long moment before responding

"For a woman who can barely string enough sentences together to fill out an incident report, you can be deceivingly charming and eloquent when you want to be."

"Nah, you just make me want to make an effort. I could bring it back down to my usual level if you want."

"That will be quite alright."

"Are you sure? I've got a ton of really bad innuendos I can send your way."

"Of that, I've no doubt. However, if you'd like this date to continue, you will refrain from sharing."

Emma laughed.

"Alright, I'll let you win."

"A wise choice," Regina said approvingly. "I do like your hair styled like that, Emma. You have beautiful curls."

Emma's stomach fluttered when Regina reached out and ran her fingers through her hair, twirling a ringlet around her finger.

"Thanks. I'm uh- I'm glad you like it. I wasn't sure how you liked it best, but I hardly ever curl it because it's so much work that I figured I'd do it for you today. You know, put in a little effort at least into my appearance."

"You look lovely, Emma. It shows that you put in quite a bit of effort into your appearance. Your make up is very flattering. It compliments your eyes well."

Emma flushed, but she smiled. She liked knowing that Regina thought she looked nice. After a few minutes of silence, she finally worked up the courage to ask the question she'd been dying to ask forever.

"Have you ever dated a woman before?"

Regina blinked, momentarily taken aback by the question.

"No, I suppose I haven't."

"Have you ever… um, been with a woman?"

"Are you asking if I've ever slept with one, Emma? That's a little forward, don't you think?" Regina teased.

"Yeah, but it's killing me not knowing if you have. I mean, you already know I dated women, so you pretty much know the answer to that question in my case. But, I don't even know if you've ever even been attracted to another woman. Or if… if you think this could last with me. If you've never been with women, if you've never even dated one, how do you know it's even worth trying with me?"

Regina's smile faltered when she realised Emma was feeling insecure. She moved closer to her, leaning against the arm Emma had draped on the back of the bench. It moved to rest along the top of her shoulders, and Regina smiled warmly at the contact.

"We are speaking of a very long time ago, Emma. I have not been with a woman since I arrived in Storybrooke. But yes, in the Enchanted Forest, I bedded many women, including my handmaidens. I preferred to be with women, if I am to be honest, because they were much more gentle and I could dominate them easily. I was very interested in having power over others when I was Queen, and that included my sexual partners. I slept with many women; I did not, however, date any of them."

Emma reflected for a moment, unsure of how to phrase her next question.

"Do you think… you could ever be happy with one? You've dated men, so you obviously feel you can have a relationship with them and that you have stuff in common with them. Like, you can make it work. But, do you think you could ever date a woman and be happy with her? More than just sexually?"

"I have dated men, but I rarely had anything in common with them, other than a desire for companionship. They did not understand me, nor did they appreciate my dominant nature. In truth, I altered my personality to please the men I dated. I forced myself to become the woman that they wanted in order to gain their acceptance. The only man for whom I did not change was Daniel, although I was decidedly different then than I am now. The reason my relationships with men appear to have worked is because I forced them to. I changed myself to adapt to the man I was with, hiding my undesirable traits, so that I would not be alone. Even I have felt lonely enough to change for someone else.

"You have not been afforded the same courtesy. I have not changed who I am to please you. In fact, I have shown you more aggression, exposed more of my undesirable traits to you than to anyone else. I have not hidden any of my more negative characteristics and still you were drawn to me and chose to be my friend. Despite all the times I have lashed out at you, you have remained. The men I dated were infatuated with the idea of me. They did not love me for they did not know me, and therefore, I could not truly love them. They would have recoiled had they realised that I am incredibly cynical, that I enjoy making people like your mother uncomfortable, that I am not the docile, sweet woman I pretended to be. You have seen me at my very worst, Emma, and yet still you are sitting next to me, looking at me as though I am… as though I am something to be treasured. It is incredibly disconcerting and I will admit, it frightens me terribly. Because this, this possibility of an us, it has the potential to turn into something bigger, much bigger than anything I have ever experienced in my life. And that frightens me."

Emma reached out and took Regina's hand, intertwining their fingers.

"It scares me too sometimes, the us part," Emma admitted. When she didn't receive a response, she continued, "I didn't know… about the guys. I didn't know you changed yourself."

"I did."

"I don't want you to do that now."

"You would know if I were not myself, Emma. You have seen me, the real me. I can be quite overbearing and controlling. I often utter snarky comments about others under my breath. I am not a kind person. I enjoy flustering the people around me. I can be terribly-"

"-protective of the people you love. You're crazy loyal, and once someone earns your loyalty, they have it forever. You're super thoughtful and you take care of the people you care about, and sometimes even the ones you don't. You have this incredibly soft side that you hide from the world. No one knows you like sitting at your desk and dancing to music, that you like to sing in the shower and wear ridiculously sexy nighties to bed. You're a great listener and a wonderful mother. You're thoughtful. The real you is a beautiful person, Regina. Your other so-called undesirable traits are just a small part of you. Yes, they are pretty aggressive and yeah, it's one of the first things someone sees when they meet you. But that's because that's what you first show to people to keep them away.

"Do you think anyone in Storybrooke knows you lick the icing off of your cinnamon rolls before you actually eat them? Do they know you watch cat videos and giggle your ass off when you think no one is listening? Do they know you have a secret stash of trashy romances hidden under your bed? Do they know you are the funniest God damn person in this town? Do they know you pick bugs up with your hands and set them free outside instead of killing them? No. They don't know these things because you don't let anyone see those parts of yourself.

"I was drawn to you at first because you were intense. It wasn't a good drawn either. You pissed me off, so I noticed you right away, but then I saw other parts of you and you slowly grew on me. I started to really like you, especially when I saw that side of yourself that you try to keep secret. You hide that part of your character; you don't let people see how amazing you are. I know it's because you've been hurt, and maybe I'm not saying this as well as I could be. But those little things, the things you keep secret from the world, are some of the main reasons I want to be around you all the time. And I do, want to be around you all the time I mean. You're amazing, Regina."

Regina could no longer hold Emma's gaze. She looked away, staring off into the distance as the tears built in her eyes. It had been such a long, long time since anyone had seen her the way Emma saw her, had said such beautiful things to her, had thought so highly of her. She had no idea how to respond, because she did not feel she deserved such kindness.

"I love what I see, Regina. I asked you out because I want to see more of you. I know you're scared. And I think you're maybe afraid I'm going to dislike what I see if I get too close, and I know you're scared of being hurt too if you let me in, but you just told me yourself that you've shown me the worst parts of yourself already. None of that has scared me off. I like you despite all the negative stuff, or maybe it's even because of it. I would never intentionally hurt you, and if we keep communicating like we are, we can avoid hurting each other. We could be really good for each other, like we have been already."

Regina crossed her arms in an attempt to protect herself from Emma's dangerous words.

"I like you, Regina. And now I really wanna pull you into my arms. Can I, please?"

Regina stayed still for several moments before finally giving a discreet nod. Emma smiled, sliding closer on the bench and wrapping her left arm around Regina's waist, while her right wrapped more snugly around the woman's shoulders. She pulled her close, placing a soft kiss on her cheek. She nuzzled her nose in her neck, grinning when Regina tried to squirm away. She was ticklish at that spot on her neck ,Emma had recently discovered, and she exploited that information at every given opportunity.

"I love that I know stuff about you that other people don't. I like knowing that if I wiggle my nose here," Emma said, rubbing it against the ticklish spot on Regina's neck, "you squirm away and have to bite your lip so you don't laugh (she was, indeed, biting her lip). I like that when I kiss your cheek like this, you smile at me. And I love that you rest against me when I pull you in my arms. I love holding you."

She squeezed Regina's middle, placing another soft kiss on her cheek.

"Emma, perhaps it would be best if we returned home."

Emma frowned, pulling away and looking at the other woman.

"I'm sorry. Did I make you uncomfortable?"

"No, but we are in the middle of a very public park, and I am not yet ready for the world to know about … about us, especially given that it is so new."

Emma nodded, pulling away. She was happy to go home if it meant she got to hold her some more.

"I guess that's fair," she said, standing up. She held out her hand and helped Regina stand, pulling her hand away when the woman was on her feet. "Let's head back then."

Regina agreed, commencing the walk home with Emma by her side.

"The date isn't over yet. I still want to spend more time talking with you," Emma said.

"You have spent the day conversing with me. What more could we possibly discuss?"

"We spent most of the day quietly reading because you wouldn't let me talk-"

"Which you did anyway."

"Because reading for ten hours is boring. I can kill most of that time staring at you, but then I feel like I have to say something research-related to bring down the creep factor. You know, make it seem like I'm thinking about work instead of just imagining spooning you in bed."

Regina rolled her eyes, chuckling softly.

"You have an unhealthy obsession."

"It's the American way, Regina. Everything we do is unhealthy."

"You are incorrigible."

"Oh, I can be corriged for the right price," Emma said, nudging Regina's side and wiggling her eyebrows in a suggestive manner. When the gesture failed to make the other woman smile and instead provoke a frown of worry, Emma immediately withdrew her arm. She realised she'd just struck a nerve she didn't know was there. "What's wrong?"

Regina bit her lip. She knew this was a part of having a relationship with someone. She was not a young maiden anymore; there was no reason for her to feel so troubled. She wanted a relationship with Emma. Regina liked her companionship, she enjoyed their conversations, she thoroughly enjoyed cuddling with her. Sex was an expectation in every relationship, and if she wanted one with Emma (which she did), she would be expected to engage in a sexual relationship as well. They were headed home now, and it was possible that Emma would want more from her when they arrived. It was to be expected, Regina reminded herself, that Emma would want to become physically intimate. It was not as though she were facing the possibility of physical relations for the first time. There was no reason for her to feel so panicked. Besides, Emma was not like the others. She would likely be kind and gentle, so there was nothing to fear.

Stop acting like a child. It isn't like you haven't done this dozens of times before. Irritated with herself for feeling so distraught, Regina looked up confidently to hide her vulnerability.

"There is nothing wrong, Emma. Shall we watch a film with Henry when we return or would you prefer we seek some privacy right away?"

"Regina," Emma said, reaching out and stopping her from walking away. She turned her so that they were looking at one another. "If we want this to work, we have to be honest with each other. We're off to a bad start if you're already lying to me, which I know you are. My lie detector is screaming that something's off. Will you please tell me what's on your mind?"

The concern in Emma's eyes weakened Regina's already fragile defenses (they could never compete against Emma). She looked at her for several long moments before sighing and finally admitting what had been weighing heavily on her mind.

"Emma, I- I'm sorry," Regina took a deep breath for courage, deciding to trust Emma with her fears. "You are aware of the fact that I have never dated. I have been courted, but it was in secret and it was many, many years ago, in a land with practices far different from this one. I am feeling rather uncertain, and I've been plagued with doubts since… since I realised I was interested in pursuing something more with you. I have enjoyed our evening, and you have been nothing but chivalrous in the time that we've spent together in the past. However, now that we are attempting to date, I am unsure of your expectations, as well as what is anticipated of me. I had only a vague understanding of what one did on a date when you asked, and I have no knowledgeable of what I must do after it. I do not know if you are accompanying me home with the idea that there will be more," Regina paused, searching for the right phrasing, "physical activities once we are alone. It is rather unsettling being so unfamiliar with this world's practices because I realise that they are very different from my own."

"Okay, just so we're clear, we're talking about sex, right? And whether or not you think I'm expecting it tonight?"

"If we are to be succinct, then yes. That is part of my concern."

"Okay. Not that I'm trying to stall this conversation, but I really don't want to have it in the middle of the street. Can we continue this talk at home?"

"Very well."

Regina clenched her fingers, trying her best to ease the tension in her shoulders by distracting herself. She was still worried, and Emma's lack of a response did nothing to ease her concerns. It had been far too long since she'd slept with a woman, and as much as she tried to exude confidence no matter what she faced, the truth was Regina scared. She wasn't ready to have sex with Emma. A small part of it was because she was a woman and it was far different sleeping with a woman than it was with a man, but mostly it was because she cared for her deeply. She wanted to wait. Sure, she could lay there and force herself to engage as she had in previous encounters with others, but she didn't want to do that with Emma. She wanted it to be loving, like it was in the sappy romance books she read in secret.

Regina was startled out of her thoughts by a calloused hand reaching out and grabbing her own.

"Don't worry, Regina. I hope you know that I'd never force you into something you didn't want or weren't ready for, and I know you're not ready for that yet."

Regina sighed internally in relief, her shoulders dropping unconsciously. Emma squeezed her hand, smiling warmly at her.

"I'm sorry this has been on your mind. I had no idea. I hope you know you can always talk to me, no matter what it's about. I promise we'll talk at home, okay?"

"Thank you," Regina responded, reluctantly taking her hand back.

They walked the rest of the way home in silence, stealing the occasional glance at one another and smiling. When they walked inside, they removed their shoes, Regina sighing with relief that she was finally able to take off her heels.

"I believe I will see if Henry wishes to join us or if he would prefer to stay in his room."

Regina had opted to allow their son to stay alone, given that their date was not going to last more than a couple of hours (though she did not tell him she was going out on a date with his other mother). He was 13, more than old enough to stay home alone in the early evening, but she was still secretly nervous about it. She was eager to run upstairs and check on him.

"I thought we were gonna talk."

"Yes, but I would like to see if he is alright, and to know whether or not he is planning on interrupting our conversation. If he chooses to stay in his room, we will be free to talk. Otherwise, we will wait until he has gone to sleep."

"Okay," Emma agreed, heading to the living room.

Regina had just placed her hand on the bannister with the intention of ascending the stairs when Emma shouted her name. Sighing (how often did she have to tell that infernal woman not to yell in her home?), she headed towards the living room.

"He's in here!"

"Do not shout in my home, Emma Swan. If you need to speak with me, come and find me."

"Yeah, but it's so much faster to just yell. Gets you all pissed and you come to me to get me in trouble."

Regina ignored her, turning to their son, who was watching them with an amused smile.

"How was your date, mom? Was ma a good gentleman? Did she pull out chairs for you? You better have pulled out her chair, ma."

"I…" Emma faltered. "How did you know?"

"Please," Henry said, scoffing. "Mom's wearing a new outfit and she's got that special perfume that only gets put on when she's going out. Plus, mom is never vague with details unless it's something she doesn't want me knowing about. Since she's good now, I figured it was either something embarrassing like a girl problem- which I so would never wanna know about- or she had a date. And since you're the worst liar in the world, ma, I knew you guys were together."

Regina stared at her son, blinking.

"Don't be so surprised, mom. Ma is not subtle, at all. She like, stares at you and watches you all the time when you're around. And ma, you talk about grandma's looks she gives grandpa? You do the same thing to mom." At the look of displeasure his mom sent his ma, Henry quickly added, "You're guilty too, mom. I can hear you changing like a hundred times in your room lately. You never ask my opinion about anything, and twice just this week you asked me how you looked. Plus, the whole sharing a bed thing? Really not subtle."

Emma looked over at Regina, a dopey smile on her face.

"You try on clothes for me?"

"I most certainly do not."

"She does, ma. And she checks the mirror all the time when you're around to make sure she still looks nice."

"Henry Daniel Mills you will discontinue revealing my secrets this instant."

Henry laughed as he slipped off the couch, brushing off his mom's indignant order with a kiss to her cheek.

"She likes you a lot, ma," he said on his way out of the living room, but then he paused, turning around and regarding her seriously. "She hasn't been this happy in a long time. If you hurt her-"

"You will not threaten your mother, Henry."

He narrowed his eyes at his ma before turning to his mom.

"Sorry, mom." (He wasn't sorry). "I only have one rule."

"And what's that, kid?"

"No funny business when I'm in the house. Sharing a bed 'cause you had nightmares is okay, but only if it's innocent. I'll go to Nick's or something if you guys need 'alone time'," he said, shuddering.

"Henry!" Regina exclaimed, shocked.

Emma laughed.

"Alright, kid. I'll be sure to send you to a friend's house when I want to make out with your mom."

"Ew! No! I don't want to know that."

He left in a huff, Emma still laughing in his absence.

"You're hopeless."

Emma chuckled and nodded, pulling Regina into her arms. She buried her face in the woman's neck, kissing her throat gently.

"Maybe, but you really like me."

Regina didn't answer, but she did run her fingers through Emma's hair, massaging her scalp as she held her close.

"You really fuss over your appearance that much?"

"I like to look presentable."

Emma pulled away, but only enough to look Regina in the eye.

"You look beautiful all the time, Regina. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Whether you're dressed in a burlap sack or the most expensive silk dress, I'm still going to find you gorgeous."

Regina was quiet for a moment, warmed by Emma's words.

"Yes, well, we all know you have very poor standards," she finally said, but the tenderness in her tone revealed just how moved she was by Emma's words.

Emma shrugged, a grin on her face.

"I landed the hottest woman in this world and the Enchanted Forest. And I'm allowed to do this," she boasted, leaning forward and pressing a soft kiss to Regina's lips (her stomach exploded in butterflies, just like it did every time their lips touched). "I'd say my standards are pretty good, and I'm pretty freaking lucky."

"You're a flatterer," Regina said softly, but her stomach fluttered as well.

Rather than pay attention to her body's reaction to such compliments, Regina led the way to the couch and sat down. The women faced each other, but they did not touch. Now faced with the conversation that had been worrying her for so long, Regina was overcome with nervousness. She wondered if Emma would think her childish for being so troubled, but then she looked at the woman in question, and her doubts lessened significantly. Emma cared for her. She soothed her when she was upset. This would be no different, Regina assured herself.

"Do you want me to go first or?"

"If you wish."

"No, I wanna know if you have anything to say first."

"No. I'm feeling rather nervous, but I believe we need to have this discussion."

"Okay. First, thanks for telling me about it, about the fact that you were worried. I'm sorry I didn't pick up on it. I guess I should have. But I'm kind of an idiot sometimes (Regina snorted). Okay, I'm kind of an idiot a lot, but I also know you and I'm pretty good at reading you. I could feel your anxiety when you finally brought it up, about what it's like in this world to date and stuff and about what I expect of you. The thing is, when it comes to sex, Regina, I have no expectations. There are none. There's never any obligations when it comes to that, no matter who you're dating. And if anyone told you there are, then they're wrong. And they're an asshole, too.

"There's no set rules when it comes to dating, other than showing the other person respect. There's no like, timeline about how long you date before you have sex. It's not like, okay we had one really good date, now you have to put out. It's not like that. It's up to the couple to decide when the time is right. That could be after the first date, or it could be after the tenth. I've had sex after the first date, yeah, but I've also dated people for weeks or even a couple months before I finally decided that I wanted to take that step. It comes down to when it feels right and when both people are ready. I know that you aren't, so it's not going to happen until you are. I don't want to do that if you don't want to too. It's something really special, too special to rush. When it finally happens, it'll be because we both want it."

Regina remained silent, unsure of what to say to respond. She was relieved, incredibly so.

"I just… You've really never gone on a date? Not even with Graham?"

"He was a pawn, Emma. I used him. We did not see one another unless I needed something. He did my bidding and I-" Regina swallowed, refusing to sugar coat the truth, "I rewarded him as any man enjoys being rewarded."

Emma closed her eyes, nodding her head.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"How were you to know?" Regina asked, but the question was rhetorical.

Silence reigned over the room. Regina was relieved that she was not expected to have sex with Emma just yet, but she was still worried. What would happen when the time finally came? She did not know what kind of lover Emma would be. Would she be aggressive? Would she take her time? Would she know how to read Regina? Would she allow Regina to set the pace or would she take control and expect the mayor to go along with what she dictated? But the scariest unknown of all: how badly it would hurt when Emma touched her? Would Emma fall into the category of lovers whose touch was uncomfortable, and maybe a little too rough, but was tolerable? Or would she be of the other variety, the one whose touch caused Regina to grit her teeth or stole her breath as she tried to become used to the pain?

"Can I ask you a question?"

Emma's voice startled her out of her thoughts. Regina turned to her, nodding when their gazes met.

"Have you ever made love?"

"What? Of course I have. I have just told you that-"

"No. What you described with Graham, that wasn't making love. That was… that was fucking. At best, it was having sex. I'm asking if you've made love."

Emma could see that Regina was struggling to understand, so before the woman could snap at her (she often lashed out when she was feeling vulnerable- and being confused was being vulnerable in Regina's world), she continued.

"Making love is totally different from fucking. Or from just having sex. Maybe not everyone would agree, but this is the way I see it: fucking, for me, is jumping right to the end act… penetration and orgasm. You're not there to show feelings, you're not there to be all mushy. You're there to get off and that's it. Couples and people who have no feelings for each other can fuck. Like, you could love the other person, but after a long day or when you're really horny, you just go at it with the end goal of having an orgasm. You still love the other person, but the point of it is just to get off. You can also fuck a stranger in a bar with the same goal: getting off.

"Making love is totally different. It's on a whole other level. It's sensual. It's caring and sensitive. It's about showing the other person how you feel about them, it's literally a physical expression of your love for that person. You want them to feel how much you love them, so you touch them slowly and carefully. You say nice things. It's super emotional and nice. It's about connecting or reconnecting and about trust. In my opinion, to make love, you have to love the other person or, at least, be on your way to it."

Emma reached out, stroking Regina's cheek. When the woman failed to respond to her question, Emma pressed on, moving her hand to hold Regina's.

"I know it scares you not knowing what's going to happen. I know you like to be in control and you don't like doing things you're not familiar with. But if and when you decide you're ready for something more physical, you and I are going to make love, Regina. It's not going to be about power or control. It's not going to be about me being on top or you taking command. It's going to be gentle and sweet. It's gonna be about us showing how we feel about each other. When I think about it, I think about holding you close, kissing you, stroking your skin. I think about exploring your body and pressing my lips over every inch of you. I want to know what makes you gasp, what makes you shiver, and what makes you scream-but in a good way. I want to show you exactly how much you mean to me. The most important fact is that you feel safe, that you feel loved, and that you want it. You are never, ever going to be forced to do anything you don't want to do, okay? I promise you that. And until you're ready, nothing is going to happen between us."

Regina refused to cry. She was far too mature to become emotional about such things. But the tears built despite her best efforts, and she had to force them back.

"I've never…" Regina whispered.

Emma squeezed her hand.

"You and Daniel…?" Emma asked gently.

"The Enchanted Forest was far different from this world, Emma. You did not do such things unless you were married. Daniel and I did nothing more than steal a few kisses and hold one another when we were together. We never-" Regina's voice cracked. "If I had known what my introduction to physical relations was to be, I would have bedded him without a second thought."

Emma's heart broke. Regina had never specifically stated what had happened to her. But Emma wasn't an idiot. A young girl (basically) sold to an old man? She knew exactly what had happened to her, even before they became friends. Emma knew, but she had hoped that, at the very least, Regina's first time had been with Daniel. Knowing now that it wasn't…

Emma gently cupped Regina's cheek, swallowing against the bile in her throat.

"I'm sorry, Regina. I'm so sorry."

Regina looked at Emma, fighting against her shame and embarrassment. She trusted Emma, and she needed to be honest with her. She needed to tell her what had happened, because Emma needed to know the truth.

"I did not know what to expect, Emma. When I was married… I was told to follow the instructions of… to follow his instructions. I did, but I knew nothing, literally nothing of what was going to happen. It was-" Regina tensed her muscles, refusing to allow the trembling in her hands to show, "it was far worse than I ever could have imagine. It was terrifying and humiliating and… I had never known such pain," she croaked. "I do not know what to expect with you, Emma, and it frightens me terribly."

Emma pulled Regina into her arms, holding her close as the brunette cried. Her heart broke and guilt ate at her. She had no idea Regina was so scared of physical intimacy. Emma mentally kicked herself. It made sense. It had taken her months to finally just get Regina to relax enough around her to let her touch her in a completely platonic, non-sexual manner. To allow Emma to get so close to her as to touch her in such an intimate, personal way… Emma had no idea Regina was so worried about this. It was confusing in a way, because of how Regina acted. She used her body to get what she wanted. Just as it had been used in the past, her mind berated her. Emma had always assumed Regina was comfortable with sex, given her past actions. Now, to know the truth, Emma's stomach turned. Regina had never made love, and now hearing that her introduction to sex had been as horrendous as it was… No wonder she was terrified. She didn't know what it was like to have loving, consensual sex. Maybe she had never even had a good experience when it came to sex.

Emma tightened her hold on the trembling woman, fighting the wave of nausea that overcame her. She vowed never to allow Regina to feel as she had in the past. Hell, if the woman never wanted to have sex again, Emma would respect that. She'd just buy a shit ton of toys instead. There was no way she would ever let Regina feel the way she had in the past or allow her to become as frightened as she was now. She'd never reduce her to the trembling shell of a woman currently wrapped in her embrace.

Emma rocked Regina gently, whispering soft words in her ear and kissing her cheek, as she did her best to soothe the broken women in her arms. When she finally calmed enough to pull away, Regina did so slowly and looked down. She took the tissues Emma offered, wiping her eyes and blowing her nose as discreetly as she could. She was embarrassed, and if she were to be honest, she felt incredibly ashamed. She'd been alive for far more decades than she cared to admit, and she had lost her careful control so easily over something so ridiculous. It had been decades since these things had happened. She was not weak; she should not be dwelling on the past as she was. She was a survivor. She shouldn't have spoken of this. Never in her life had she ever revealed this carefully guarded secret.

Regina was not left long with her thoughts when Emma titled her chin up so that they were looking at each other. She saw that tears had spilled down Emma's cheeks as well, and her anger with herself instantly lessened, replaced with an incredible longing to kiss away Emma's pain.

"Thank you for confiding in me, Regina. I feel fucking horrible that I didn't know, but I'm so grateful that you trusted me enough to tell me part of what you went through. I know that isn't the whole story, but it helps me understand a part of what you went through.

"I want you to know that there will never, never be any expectations of you. You will never be forced to give anything you aren't willing to give, and I will never expect you to either. I have never forced anyone into my bed, and I never will either. I cannot imagine the fear of being- of being violated the way that you were, and for ten fucking years. I will never expect you to have sex with me, ever. And if you decide you never want it, I'm going to respect the hell out of that decision, and I'm never going to ask for it. But if you decide you do want to, I want you to know that it's going to be how you and I decide to do it. It's going to be completely consensual, okay? And I can promise you it is not going to hurt and it's not going to be scary."

"But I still don't know what that entails, Emma. There is still so much I do not know. I don't know if you will… if you will want me to be on top, or if you prefer to be on top. I do not know if you will want to use- to use phalluses or if you prefer digital penetration. I'm unsure if you even enjoy penetration. I don't know what to expect with you."

"Okay, well, why don't we talk about it now, then? To put your fears at rest. I'm not bringing it up because I want anything from you now. I just want you to feel better. Maybe talking about our preferences and our boundaries will help. What do you think?"

Regina blinked, pausing for a moment before nodding.

"Yes. Okay. I- Will you go first?"

"Sure," Emma said, smiling encouragingly. "Boundaries or preferences?"

"Both."

"Okay. Uh- If we go boundaries, I-" Emma paused. "Um, how detailed should I be? I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"Just be honest, Emma. Please."

"Okay. I uh, really don't like anal sex or anything that goes along with that. It's just, not my cup of tea- giving or receiving. I don't do gagging, like putting stuff in my mouth to gag me, and I don't like to be bound or restrained. None of that dom/sub stuff. I don't like being whipped, but like, a slap on the ass when you're really into it is kinda hot," Emma flushed, giggling nervously under Regina's watchful eye. "Uh- preferences. I'm cool with toys. I prefer wearing them, not gonna lie, but I'm okay receiving if you like wearing them too. I really, really like oral sex, it's probably my favourite act. Giving especially and receiving definitely. I don't know. I'm not all that hard to please as long as you take it slow. I'll tell you if I don't like something."

Regina nodded, then hesitated for a second before speaking.

"What is oral sex?" She could assume from the name, but Regina did not assume.

"What? Oral… like, using your mouth? I don't know what you guys called it in the Enchanted Forest."

"You mean when you are embracing?"

Emma frowned, confused.

"Like, mouth on vagina," she said bluntly.

Regina widened her eyes, a scandalised look on her face. Emma couldn't help the small laugh that escaped her lips.

"I'm sorry! I'm not laughing at you, I just- you look horrified."

"Emma, that is completely unsanitary!"

Emma's laughter died off, and she suddenly sobered.

"Wait. You mean you've seriously never had oral sex? Like, you've never gone down on a girl? Or, a guy? Like, you've never put your mouth… there?"

"We did no such thing, Emma. That is terribly unclean."

"Well, I mean, you don't go down on someone if they don't like bathe, but otherwise," she shrugged, "it's pretty common. It feels really, really good."

Regina shook her head.

"Did you guys really not do that?"

"No, Emma."

"You didn't know people did that here?"

"Clearly not."

"Have you never watched porn?"

"It is completely distasteful that such films are made."

Emma stayed quiet.

"Uh- yeah," she finally responded, scratching the back of her head.

"Please do not tell me that you view pornography."

"Well, I mean, not often. And the stuff they show is totally unrealistic. People don't look like porn stars and the lesbian sex is totally fake. But, when you have an itch…"

Regina shook her head.

"How do you know it's that bad if you've never seen it?"

"I am not a voyeur, Emma. I will not watch other people engage in sexual relations."

"Well, I mean, I'm not gonna creep on my neighbours or anything, but sometimes a girl needs a little help getting off." At Regina's blank look, Emma's eyes widened. "Don't tell me you don't even masturbate."

"I-" Regina faltered.

"You do, right? Everyone does."

"It was highly discouraged…"

"In the Enchanted Forest. Yeah, I'm getting that that place was pretty rigid about nobody enjoying sex. Well, in this world, it is highly encouraged."

The truth was, Regina did do it on very rare occasions, but she always felt guilty afterwards. She'd been brought up being told that her vagina (one did not even speak such a word) was a private area, and it was not to be touched unless for hygienic purposes.

"So, no masturbating and no oral sex. Okay," Emma nodded, taking a deep breath. "I'll- I can respect that you won't do those things, and I won't do them to you if it's a no, but I can't promise that I won't masturbate because I will. I like it. It's great stress relief, it feels good. So, I'm not gonna lie. I'm still gonna do that."

After a few minutes of silence, Emma asked another question.

"What about, like, dirty talking?" Emma's cheeks pinked and looked at her hands. "Do you do that? I can guess it's probably not something you did but…"

"Will you explain specifically what that is?"

Emma flushed deeper.

"Uh, it's saying things relating to sex to like, turn the other person on. Like, maybe what you're about to do to the other person or what you're currently doing. Or how uh- turned on you are," Emma could feel her neck burning with embarrassment. "You know what- never mind. Pretend I didn't ask."

"No, Emma. I believe… In fact I know, that you are a very sexual being and your needs are going to be different than mine. I understand that sex is a very important part of a healthy relationship (Regina had picked up more than one book about relationships since coming to this land and an active sex life was always discussed). We need to discuss our desires. If- if that is something you desire, then I will open myself to the possibility. I will ask that you be patient, however, as it will be something that will be quite new to me."

Regina wasn't against that, not in the least. In all honesty, she was pretty sure she would like something like that. However, it was definitely going to be something she would need to become more familiar with as she'd never done anything like that in the past.

Emma nodded in response.

"I'm not gonna rush you into anything. What about your like preferences and boundaries and stuff?"

"I am not sure where to begin. I… do not know my preferences," Regina stated quietly. She really didn't know what she liked. She did, however, know what she didn't.

Emma reached out and held her hand, stroking it softly.

"Tell me about stuff I can't do," she requested. "Things that make you uncomfortable."

"I do not enjoy being restrained, as you have mentioned. Specifically, my wrists. I do not like to be pinned to the bed by my wrists. I do not enjoy feeling suffocated. You may lay on me after you… finish, but I ask that you do not rest your entire weight on me. If you are above me, it again returns to the feeling of suffocation. You cannot press your weight onto me. I suppose I prefer to be on top, if we are to be honest. I am not opposed to being beneath you as long as certain precautions are taken, namely that I am able to breathe and move freely." Regina bit her lip and smiled a little embarrassed as she added, "Despite the fact that I prefer to be on top, I have often imagined you above me… pleasuring me."

Before Emma could even process the fact that Regina just admitted that she fantasized about her, the brunette continued.

"I have never used a phallus- what you referred to as a toy. I also would not agree to anything other than vaginal penetration. I despise pain in any form, but especially vaginally. I… I will need you to take your time, before you penetrate me. It is quite painful if I am not adequately prepared."

Emma intertwined the fingers of their linked hand, squeezing gently.

"I will never rush you, Regina. I can definitely take things slow, and if you tell me when you're ready, then I'll know. I like to talk during sex, so that I know how you're doing. I like checking in, you know, asking if what I'm doing is okay and if there's anything that needs to change. As time goes by and we have sex more, we won't need to question as much 'cause we'll know each other and what we like, but especially in the beginning, communication is key."

Regina nodded.

"I would like to communicate as well."

"Are you feeling better? Is there anything we can talk about that will make you feel better?"

"I am feeling much more reassured. Thank you, Emma."

Emma nodded. She was quiet for several moments before she spoke again.

"In some relationships, like the ones that involve bondage and role playing, couples use a safe word. When one of them feels unsafe, or like they need to stop and break out of the … I don't know, the act, they say this word and everything stops. I want you to know, Regina, that all you need to do is say stop or… wait, and everything stops. If you need to stop, we will stop, no questions asked. If you need to pause, we'll pause. If you need a break or you need something to change, we'll adjust according to your needs. You can always, always change your mind. And if we get started and you realise it's too much or too fast or you can't continue, we stop. It's as simple as that. There's no obligations, okay? Sex, making love, it's meant to be nice, to be enjoyable. It's not supposed to be scary. And if it becomes anything other than nice, relaxing, enjoyable… it stops immediately the second you say the word."

Regina nodded, feeling much more at ease now that they'd had this conversation. It was incredible how much lighter she felt now that she'd shared with Emma. The conviction in the blonde's voice as she spoke, the seriousness of her expression, soothed Regina greatly.

"You as well, Emma."

Emma smiled, kissing Regina's cheek.

"Thank you."

She leaned against the couch, tucking her feet under her.

"Thanks for having this talk with me. I appreciate that you were open and honest with me."

"Thank you, Emma, for… for listening to me and for not judging me. Thank you for explaining and for reassuring me and for taking this seriously."

Emma opened her arms, and Regina went willingly into them. Emma pulled her close, until Regina was resting safely in her embrace.

"I will never judge you, baby. And this was really serious, so I'd never not be when it was something important like this. I just want you to feel safe with me."

"I do," Regina reassured her. "Thank you."

Emma kissed her temple. She was glad they had had this talk, and she was happy that she had some clear boundaries so that she wouldn't unintentionally scared Regina. But… she felt guilty, because part of her was really disappointed to know that her favourite part of sex would be off the table. She wondered if Regina was saying no to both giving and receiving, or only to giving. Emma really liked giving, more than she enjoyed receiving (not by much, mind you), and she wondered if Regina would ever be open to that at least.

"Regina?"

"Hmm?"

"I'm not trying to pressure you or force anything on you, but… you know how you said you thought that oral sex was gross?"

"Yes."

"Is that only giving? Or… is receiving a no as well?"

Regina could hear Emma's attempt at being casual, but she failed miserably. She could hear the hope in the woman's voice, and so she took her time thinking about it. It had never even crossed her mind prior to Emma bringing it up. The people she'd lain with, they'd all been from the Enchanted Forest, and that was something she'd never heard of. It was not something they did, ever. And the idea of putting her mouth on another's genitalia, it was… it was not appealing.

And if they cleaned? Took a shower? The idea was less disgusting, if they were properly cleaned. If Emma had taken a shower and had taken care to properly wash herself, perhaps then… but Regina wasn't sure she would ever be able to do such a thing. And to receive? That did not sound pleasurable. There were teeth, and teeth were sharp. It would hurt.

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that it would be quite painful to have your mouth touch such a sensitive area."

"Oh, it's not. It feel really, really good if the person is good at it. You're thinking it'll hurt 'cause it's too intense?"

"No, because of your teeth."

"There's no teeth involved because you cover your teeth with your lips like this."

Emma made a show of wrapping her lips over her teeth. She stuck out her tongue a little, then righted her mouth.

"It's like that sort of. I don't know. I'm really conscious when I'm doing it to make sure you only feel my lips and tongue, never my teeth. Unless you wanted teeth that is."

Emma could see Regina's look of apprehension, so she tried a suggestion instead.

"Okay, how about this? I can tell you're not keen on it, and that's okay. But, I'd like it if you tried something. No pressure. You don't have to. I just… maybe if you're open to it?"

"I will not promise anything, Emma, but I am willing to listen to your proposal."

"Alright. You like taking baths, right?"

"Yes."

"Okay, well, next time you have the house to yourself, take a bath. Run the water, but don't plug the tub right away. Just let the water run, but make it less hot than you would if you were taking a bath. I know you probably like your water really hot, but you'll scald yourself if the water is burning hot. So, get it to like a warm temperature and then," Emma paused, feeling her face flush, "sit under the flow of water with your legs spread. Let it um, let it run between your legs, over your uh- over your clit. It might feel weird at first, but move around until you find the right angle. When you find the right one, you'll know, because it's going to feel really, really good."

"And why would I do this?"

"A, because it feels amazing. And B, because it'll give you a better idea of what oral is like. Sort of. It's nowhere near as intense and the pressure isn't as strong. Oral sex is a lot gentler and your tongue obviously doesn't move as fast or as intensely as rushing water, but it's warm and it's wet and it feels really fucking good. It's as close as you'll get. Just, if you're not completely opposed to the idea, try it, okay? You'll be alone; no one will be around to see you do it. You can do it at your own pace and you have control to stop it if you don't like it. But, it feels really good and you'll at least have an idea of what it's like to feel something like that."

"You've done this before."

"Yeah. Lots of times. It doesn't work with every bathtub but I uh- I scoped yours out already."

"Emma Swan, have you done this in my bathtub?" Regina asked slightly scandalised, though her stomach clenched at the thought that Emma had pleasured herself in her tub.

"No," Emma responded with a laugh. "I've never taken a bath here. But, you never know."

Regina sat back and contemplated the suggestion.

"Do you think you'd try it?"

"Yes," she finally responded after a moment. "You know, I have never spoken so freely of this subject. It has always been rather taboo."

"Well, I hope you don't mind. I really like talking about sex and I think it's important to talk about it when you're a couple."

Regina nodded.

"While I find it somewhat uncomfortable, I am glad we are discussing it. It has put me much more at ease. Thank you, Emma."

"Hey, thanks to you too. I'm glad you talked to me about it. There's no shame in enjoying sex, Regina, or enjoying your body. If you like doing something, and it's not hurting anyone, then do it. You're not in the Enchanted Forest anymore. There's no one watching what you're doing. Don't feel ashamed for masturbating or for talking about sex or whatever. It's normal and it's healthy."

"Is this a public service announcement?" Regina asked with a smile.

"Maybe. I could totally record myself giving you your own PSA about it or like, drafting up a flyer if you want."

"Please don't."

"I could put statistics too! Like, 60% of women masturbate once a week or something like that. I know how much you like statistics."

"I'm sorry I asked. Please cease-"

"I'd even put like a picture of a person giving a thumbs up. Or winking at the camera to encourage the people reading my advertisement."

"I'm walking away from you now."

Emma got up and followed Regina out of the living room, continuing her chatter.

"Maybe I could get testimonials from people, like a doctor or something, to give credit to my advertisement. It's important to quote credible sources."

"Will you please lock the door before coming upstairs?" Regina asked, attempting to appear stern despite her twitching lip (she was desperately fighting her smile).

"Should I print it on cardstock or is regular paper okay?"

"Goodnight, Miss Swan. I am going to sleep now."

Emma laughed, no longer able to keep up her one-sided conversation. She quickly locked the door and jogged up the stairs, joining Regina at the threshold of her bedroom. The woman was smirking at her, Emma grinning at her like a fool.

"You are not clever, nor are you funny."

Emma threw her head back and laughed, pulling Regina into her arms.

"Like hell I'm not," she said, kissing her soundly on the lips.

Chapter Text

 

"And how long do we have to wait for this?"

"Ten more days, until the next full moon," Belle explained. "That's when the spell is at its most powerful."

"Why don't we just try it now and see if it works?"

Regina sighed slowly, and Emma could tell that she was irritated with her. Emma smiled sheepishly.

"As we have discussed, one cannot simply cast this spell at one's fancy. This is not Harry Potter. There are rules to be obeyed."

"But the spells we cast in your vault, there weren't really any rules other than to just do them."

"Every spell is different, Emma. Really. You must be aware of this."

Emma looked down. She decided she'd keep quiet from now on, not liking the fact that she was being treated like an idiot, especially in front of Belle.

Regina immediately noticed Emma's wounded expression and forced herself to swallow her sigh of irritation. It was not Emma's fault that she did not know such things. Regina was responsible for her magical education and if Emma did not know something, it was because Regina was failing to properly educate her.

"Each spell is unique," Regina explained, her tone much gentler. "Some will demand nothing more than your focus, others will require a costly sacrifice, and I am not referring to a monetary one. This spell in particular must be cast on the night of a full moon in order for it to be effective."

Emma nodded to show she understood. Belle turned momentarily and grabbed the book they'd been looking at, giving Regina a moment to reach for Emma's hand and mouth the words I'm sorry. Emma smiled to indicate she was forgiven just as Belle turned back around and placed the book on the table before them.

"I believe this may work," Belle said. "I'm optimistic. I've done quite a bit of research and read the books I could find that that refer to magic-binding elements, like the cuff on your wrist, in order to learn more about it.

"There're only vague descriptions in the books, but from what I've understood, the cuff neutralises your magic and makes it inaccessible to you. However, your magic in still inside you, it's just … dormant. At the same time, it absorbs any and all magic you try on it, almost like a black hole for magic and spells. The reason I believe this spell will work is that it is meant to be absorbed by neutralising agents, like this cuff, and upset its magical balance. In theory, it will be absorbed into the cuff and shatter its hold on you, allowing you to slip it off."

"Am I gonna be casting the spell or are you gonna get Gold or Blue to do it?" Emma asked.

"I think you'll be fine, Emma," Regina said. "I will be there with you. The spell itself is not complicated."

"So why didn't we try this before? How come it took so long?"

"I've been reading through dozens and dozens of books. It took this long because I can't read at a super human rate," Belle teased. "It took me this long to find it."

"Sorry," Emma said, offering her friend an apologetic smile. "I didn't mean to sound rude."

"It's alright. I'm confident this will work, but I believe we should continue to look for other spells just in case. Regina, have you thought of contacting your sister in case it's necessary? Is it possible?"

"I believe it is possible," Regina said, "but I'm only considering it if we get utterly desperate. For now, I don't believe we are."

"Nor I," Belle agreed.

"So, I guess we'll just continue reading?" Emma questioned.

"I must return to the office this week. I have been absent far too often lately. You, Sheriff Swan, must return to the station. I am not paying you to read books. We will continue our research in the evenings."

"Because it's such a leisurely activity. I can't wait."

"You're welcome to return to the loft," Regina offered with a grin. "I'm sure your mother would thoroughly enjoy bonding with you."

"Ugh, you fight dirty. Fine! I'll meet you tonight. Do you want me to drop you off at your office or are you gonna fly your broom there?"

Regina ignored the comment, instead turning to Belle and thanking her sincerely for all of her help.

"It was my pleasure. I've enjoyed going through these old spell books. They're fascinating."

"Keep them as long as you like," Regina responded, flashing her a smile before following Emma out the door.

"So you really think this'll work?" Emma said, once they were outside.

"I believe so, as does Belle. It is our only hope right now."

Emma reached out and squeezed her hand in reassurance.

"I think it'll work too."

She approached the passenger door of her cruiser and opened it, helping Regina in.

"It isn't necessary for you to open every door for me, Emma. I am quite capable of doing so on my own."

"Oh, but her royal highness should never ever have to exert such energy," Emma said haughtily, dipping into a low bow before standing up and grinning widely. "Not when there are lowly peasants around."

Regina rolled her eyes.

"Bring me to work, lowly peasant, before I decide to turn you into a toad when I remove this wretched cuff."

Emma gave another overdramatic bow.

"Right away, Your Majesty," she said before straightening and closing the passenger door.

Emma hopped into the driver's side, giggling when she noticed Regina glaring at her.

"You're not funny."

"Um, not true. I'm really funny."

"The peasants in the Enchanted Forest were far less insolent."

"They probably bowed way more often too. They just don't make peasants like they used to," Emma said somberly, shaking her head.

Regina looked out the window, biting hard on her cheek so as not to give into the laugh that was trying to escape. Emma drove to the Mayor's office, trying not to dwell on the disappointed feeling that she wasn't going to see Regina until tonight. She walked her inside, hovering in the doorway.

"I'll pick you up on my way home."

"That won't be necessary, Emma. I am perfectly capable of walking."

"Why would you walk if I can drive you? It's safer that way anyway, in case something happens."

"I enjoy exercising. I'll call you should I encounter a problem."

"Alright," Emma said reluctantly. "What time will you be off?"

"I don't believe I will be more than a few hours. Will you turn off the slow cooker when you arrive at home?"

Emma nodded. She took a step away from the door, hesitated, then reached out and grabbed Regina, pulling her close. She buried her nose in the brunette's hair, smiling when she got a strong whiff of the woman's shampoo.

"You smell so good, almost as good as supper's gonna smell tonight."

Regina couldn't stop it this time, she laughed loudly. Emma smiled against her cheek, leaving a soft kiss against her skin, lips grazing there for a moment. Regina smiled warmly when Emma finally pulled back, heading out the door.

"I'll see you tonight, alright?"

"Yes you will," Regina said confidently, waving Emma off.


"She's still not back, ma?"

"She'll be home any minute. Just be patient. She hasn't been at work as much as she probably should've been so she's gonna be behind on her paperwork. You know how much she likes that stuff."

"Yeah, but I'm starving. I wanna eat now."

"You're not starving, kid. How's the rice?"

Henry looked at the clock.

"Needs about five more minutes and then it'll be ready. When was she supposed to get here?"

"Any time."

Henry sighed. He really wanted to eat. He had played football with the kids in his class after school and came home incredibly hungry. It didn't help that when he opened the door, the overwhelming smells of his mom's supper hit him hard, only aggravating his hunger. He eagerly jumped off the kitchen stool when he finally heard the front door a couple of minutes later.

"She's home!"

Regina looked up and smiled when she spotted her son, then frowned when she saw he was running. He quickly stopped, looking sheepish.

"I'm just really happy you're home!" he said, flashing his best smile. "How was work?"

"It went well," she answered, rubbing her hands together.

"Cold?"

Regina shivered in response.

"It was a rather chilly walk home. I hadn't anticipated such a drop in temperature and I didn't have my jacket."

She smiled warmly when Emma joined them, happy to see the other woman was already home. She'd never admit it, but she'd missed her in her absence.

"Hey kid. I think the rice is ready. Why don't you put everything on the table and we can start eating?"

Henry didn't argue, eagerly leaving the entrance at the promise of food. Emma turned back to Regina, taking the few steps forward needed to bring them close together. She pulled the woman in her arms, holding her close. Regina shivered again, but sighed happily at the warmth Emma offered her.

"You should have called me."

"I'm fine, Emma."

"You're cold," Emma protested, rubbing Regina's back in an effort to warm her up.

"Yes, but in a few moments, I'll be warm once again."

"What if you'd have frozen to death on your walk home? What would Henry and I have done? We'd have starved here waiting for you!"

Regina rolled her eyes, pulling away just enough to look into the other woman's eyes. Emma's arms stayed wrapped around her securely, and her gentle hold warmed Regina more than the heat radiating from her body.

"I highly doubt that would have occurred."

"But it's possible."

"Have you quite finished your idiotic rambling?"

"One more thing," Emma said with a grin before leaning in for a kiss.

Regina melted against her the second their lips touched, warmth bursting through her veins as soft fingers stroked her sides. She brought her own hands up and weaved her fingers through Emma's hair. They were cold, but Emma barely noticed when they started gently massaging her scalp. Emma moaned at the attention, and Regina eagerly took advantage by slipping her tongue in Emma's mouth. It was the first time their kissing had taken this step, and both women pressed closer as their tongues met. Emma's stomach dropped when Regina growled and took control, her heart thudding loudly in her chest as her senses were overloaded by the woman in her arms. She was dizzy with lack of oxygen, but she didn't care so long as Regina didn't stop touching her.

Regina could feel her desire pooling between her legs as Emma whimpered and gave in, allowing her to control their kiss. She backed her into the door, pressing their breasts together as she massaged her tongue against Emma's. She could feel her nipples tightened as Emma's hands rubbed up and down her sides, moaning against her lips. Emma's wandering hands settled on her hips, gripping them tight and pulling her close. Regina ripped away from Emma's lips with a loud gasp when her centre made contact with Emma's thigh, a bolt of pleasure shooting through her body. She quickly took a step back, eyes widening when she realised just how dishevelled they both looked.

"I'm sorry," Emma said guiltily, still breathing heavily. "I didn't mean to do that. I just- my body overrode my brain and I stopped thinking."

"It's quite alright," Regina responded, straightening her clothes. "I also lost control for a moment. Fix your clothing before Henry sees us."

Emma quickly righted her shirt, running her fingers through her hair as she followed Regina to the table. Her eyes were glued to the woman's delicious ass, her thoughts incredibly carnal now that she was feeling overwhelmingly aroused. She wanted nothing more than to pin Regina against a wall, hoist her up against it, and massage that incredible behind while they made out like teenagers. She loved feeling Regina against her, and she loved even more that the woman had purposefully pressed their breasts together when they kissed.

Emma took her seat at the table, all lustful thoughts disappearing the moment she saw her son.

"Took you guys long enough," he said, sitting impatiently at the table.

"Sorry. Your mom was freezing. She needed a minute to warm up."

"Eating will warm you up, mom," Henry said, serving a heaping spoonful of rice into her plate, followed by the beef and mushrooms in cream sauce. He then served his other mother before serving himself.

"That was pretty gentlemanly of you, serving your mom and I first even though you were starving. You'll make a good husband."

Henry made a face.

"I don't want to be a husband."

"Oh okay. Then you'll make a good wife, I'm sure."

"Ma!"

Emma snorted as she took her first bite, moaning as she chewed. God, it was just as delicious as it smelled. She finished her bite slowly, swallowing only because she knew there was more to come.

"This is amazing, Regina. Holy crap. Can we have this every night?"

"No, darling, we may not. However, I will make it for you again if you wish."

Emma smiled widely when Regina called her 'darling'. Regina, who had noted previously that the pet name pleased Emma so much, used it intentionally now to make the other woman smile. She reached out with her foot and stroked it against Emma's ankle, leaving it to rest there as they continued eating.

"So how did it go at Belle's?" Henry asked.

"It went well. She has found a new spell she believes will work."

"Do you think it'll work?"

"I believe that there's hope."

"Good," Henry said finishing his bowl and serving himself another. "When are you gonna try it?"

"We must wait another week and a half before we're able to perform the spell, but when the time comes, we will tell you."

"Okay. Thanks."

"So how'd the football game go, kid? Did you tackle anyone?"

"Henry, did you not expressly promise me that there would be no such aggression?" Regina cut in immediately, worried.

"Yeah, mom. There's none. There's a no contact rule at the school. If you tackle anyone or anything like that, you get benched."

"What? Then what the hell do you do? Sit in a circle and roll a ball to each other?"

"Emma, you will not swear in front of our son."

"No, we still play," Henry continued, smirking as his ma smiled sheepishly at his mom. "We just don't hit each other."

Emma shrugged, knowing that if she said anything more she'd just get in trouble, so she opted to stay quiet. It wasn't worth arguing about something that wouldn't change, since now apparently football was being turned into a game for wimps. Instead, she took second helpings of the incredible meal, thanking Regina profusely as she ate until she was ready to burst.

Emma and Henry cleared the table while Regina made her way to the living room, turning on the television and pressing the Netflix app. She went to their most recently viewed and clicked on Bones, their newest obsession. She did not allow Henry to watch more than two episodes before she turned it off, but her son did not argue. Not only because he knew there was no use, but also because he was only able to finish two episodes before it was time for bed anyway. She and Emma would then switch to Narcos. Regina liked that it was based on a true story, as well as the fact that it was in Spanish. Emma liked the fact that it was about Pablo Escobar, one of her favourite criminals. For a woman of the law, she sure enjoyed viewing programs about notorious crime lords.

"Hey, mom. We're done. Is the show ready?"

"It is."

"Awesome. I'm gonna go get my bean bag chair."

Henry raced out of the room, Emma moving to the couch and joining Regina. She pulled the woman into her arms, smiling when she felt the small body press into her side. Emma sighed contently, her arm coming to wrap around Regina's waist.

"I love when we cuddle like this on the couch. I could sit here forever with you."

Regina simply looked up at her, smiling. Emma leaned forward, pressing their lips together in a chaste kiss.

"Aw, gross, moms. I said not while I'm in the house!"

Emma grinned against Regina's lips, giving her one last kiss before pulling away. She rubbed the woman's side before rolling her eyes at their son, pushing her toes against his bean bag chair when he sat.

"Ma!" Henry chastised, arm flailing blindly behind his head as he attempted to hit her foot.

She chuckled as she grabbed the remote, pressing play. She sat the remote on the coffee table next to her before shifting so that more of her body faced Regina, who took the hint and was now all but sitting in her lap. Emma sighed contently, lips pressed against Regina's temple as one arm stayed wrapped securely around her middle and the other rubbed her back slowly. She felt Regina go boneless in her arms, and Emma grinned in satisfaction. She loved it when Regina relaxed against her.

They cuddled during both episodes of Bones, and when it was time for Henry to head to bed, Emma shifted so that Regina could get up and follow him upstairs. She then lay on the couch and closed her eyes, waiting patiently until she heard familiar footsteps re-enter the living room.

"Tired already?"

Emma grinned, slowly opening her eyes.

"No, not yet. I was just waiting for you."

Emma shifted, opening her arms.

"Cuddle with me."

Regina walked over, pausing at the edge of the couch.

"How shall I…?"

"Wanna lay on me?" Emma asked, smiling sheepishly. "I won't try anything. I just… wanna feel you on me."

"I- very well."

Regina moved awkwardly, accidentally elbowing Emma in the boob (she apologised profusely for that one) before she finally found a position that was pleasant for both of them. She lay with her head on Emma's chest, a soft breast resting just beneath her chin. Regina buried her hands under Emma's back, their lower bodies pressed comfortably together, legs intertwined.

Emma's hands immediately came up when Regina settled, one settling against her lower back and the other burying itself in her hair. Regina untucked one hand long enough to turn on their show, sighing contently when she felt nimble fingers massage her scalp. She closed her eyes and buried her hand beneath Emma's body once again, thoroughly enjoying the attention to her head. It lulled her into a soft, safe place, and she smiled when she felt a soft kiss against her hair.

"You feel amazing. We should cuddle like this every night."

Regina nodded, swallowing hard when she felt Emma's breast against her chin. All she'd have to do is shift a few inches and it'd be right at her mouth. Emma's nipples would likely harden instantly, allowing her to graze her teeth over the tip. She wondered if Emma enjoyed rough treatment of her breasts or if she'd prefer soft and gentle touches. She hoped she enjoyed a bit of both, as Regina loved to alternate between gentle caresses and aggressive grasps, especially if her lover's breasts were sensitive.

"Regina? You okay? You're breathing a little heavy."

"Yes," she responded, clearing her throat. "I apologise. I am somewhat distracted."

"You thinking about what happened with Belle today?"

Emma took her lack of a response as a yes, and Regina did not contradict her.

"It's gonna turn out, babe, one way or another. If this idea doesn't work, we'll find another one."

"I'm concerned, Emma," Regina responded, latching gladly onto the distraction to calm her libido. "If this spell is unsuccessful…"

"We'll find another," Emma said confidently. "We always figure it out, and you're not alone. You've got me and Belle helping you out, and if it gets to that point, we'll turn to others too. There's always going to be someone with a new idea."

"I would prefer we keep this quiet. I loathe to think of how many people those damn dwarves have already told."

"Not one. They've taken an oath of secrecy. They literally can't tell anyone."

Regina tilted her head, looking up at Emma with surprise.

"What? I'm not a total moron. I fought to put it as one of their bail conditions. They all agreed."

"Thank you," Regina responded, incredibly relieved that the men who had threatened her could not endanger her further by announcing she was without magic.

"You're welcome," Emma said, kissing her head affectionately.

"Perhaps my sheriff is not as dim-witted as I once thought."

Emma laughed.

"She'll surprise you every once in a while."

Regina smiled against Emma's chest.

"Yes, she does."

Emma tapped her fingers against Regina's back, her heart speeding up as she thought of revealing the surprise she'd been working on for the last few weeks. It was part surprise, part revealing a piece of herself she'd hidden from the world for nearly her entire life. Emma was incredibly protective of certain parts of herself, and some of those parts included her talents. She preferred to come off as aloof, clumsy, lacking any and all grace. She had built a wall around herself long ago, and part of that wall included showing the world one Emma, while keeping bits of secret Emma tucked away. Some things she kept hidden because it just felt too personal to reveal them. Telling people she liked crushing Oreos on her ice cream, totally fine. Revealing this thing, this thing that she was considering for Regina… that was something entirely different. It was something very near to Emma, something very important to her. And she wanted to share with Regina, but… it also scared her to let her that close, to let that wall crumble and allow Regina to see what lay behind it. She had never done that for anyone, never allowed anyone that close to her. But for Regina… she felt like she could. She felt like she wanted to.

"Emma?"

Emma flattened her hand, ceasing the tapping.

"Are you alright? Your heart is racing."

Emma stayed quiet, now making soft eights with her fingertips against Regina's back. Regina could practically feel the woman vibrating with anxiety, so she rubbed her arm and spoke in a soothing voice.

"Whatever it is, Emma, I promise you it is safe to tell me."

Emma stopped the movement of her hand, taking a deep breath before she made a move to sit up. Regina pulled away, her expression drawn tight with concern. Emma got up from the couch, biting her lip as she looked at Regina, telling herself she could trust this woman. She had trusted her with so much already and Regina had done nothing to hurt her. Regina was safe.

"I… there's something I want to tell you. Or, show you, I guess. But it's really- it's really important to me. And I haven't told anyone else, because it's a secret. I don't like other people knowing this about me, but I trust you. I've wanted to tell you for a long time. I've come close a couple times… but I always chicken out. 'Cause it's really… close to me," Emma repeated, looking at Regina, "and I need you to promise to never tell anyone about it."

Regina was taken aback by Emma's serious tone, her grave look.

"Emma, if it's something dangerous-"

Emma smiled softly.

"It's nothing like that. It's just- it's emotionally important to me."

"Oh," Regina said, relieved. "Alright. Will you tell me?"

"I'd rather show you," Emma said, holding out her hand. "Do you trust me?"

Regina took Emma's hand without hesitation.

"Yes."

Emma's heart fluttered as she pulled her close, wrapping Regina's arms around her neck and settling her own at the woman's waist. She swayed gently, slowly, working up the courage to start.

"Are we dancing?" Regina teased, her tone soft.

"Shh," Emma chided.

Regina followed Emma's lead, moving slowly. Several minutes ticked by with nothing further happening, so she prodded her again.

"Emma?"

"Okay, sorry. I'm just nervous. Promise you won't interrupt, okay? Not 'til I'm done."

"Alright."

"I've uh- I've been working on this for a while. Ever since I saw you that day. I wanted it to be perfect," Emma started, her heart speeding up once again as she spoke. She was incredibly nervous. "Remember, you promised not to interrupt."

Emma ducked her head down, so that her cheek was pressed to the side of Regina's head, her lips near her ear. She loosened one hand from the woman's lower back, her fingers tapping gently against Regina's sweater to set a beat, working up her courage as she finally revealed her secret.

If you should fall to pieces

You know I'll pick them up

There are so many reasons

I'm never going to get enough

If you should leave this country

You know I'll come to you

Because you always love me

Oh what I wouldn't do

Oh what I wouldn't do

Regina's breath caught in her throat as Emma began singing, tears instantly springing to her eyes. It was her song, her favourite song as of late, and Emma was singing it in a voice she had never, ever heard before. Emma's voice was incredibly soft, clear, soothing. Emma had could sing, she could sing. Gone was the raspy, off-key, broken voice that Regina was used to. This voice was incredibly light and fluid, crystal clear, melodic. Perfect. She'd never heard anything so beautiful, and Regina had to bite hard on her lower lip as Emma continued, sending shivers down her spine.

I'll carry the weight

I'll do anything for you

My bones may break

But I'll never be untrue

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Oh what I wouldn't do

Oh what I wouldn't do

Regina could hear the soul, the heaviness, behind Emma's words, and tears raced down her cheeks as Emma continued singing softly in her ear. She tilted her head to hear her better, her heart clenching as the flawless, gentle melody fell from Emma's lips. This was the song Emma had caught her dancing to in her office. Regina knew every word, and as Emma sang, she realised the blonde had learnt the entire thing just for her. She had even adapted the beat, slowing it down, so that they could dance more easily to it. The knowledge that Emma had learnt this song just for her, that she was singing this only to her, that she was trusting her with what was clearly an extremely well-guarded secret caused a sob to hitch in Regina's throat. She'd had no idea… no idea Emma had hidden such a magnificent talent.

Your love is like an ocean

That always takes me home

Whispering wind is blowing

Telling me I'm not alone

Tellin' me I'm not aloooone

Regina shivered down to the bone, a fresh wave of tears spilling down her cheek as she heard Emma's voice thicken with emotion. She closed her eyes, Emma's voice wrapping around her like a warm blanket, soothing her from the outside in. The sob in her chest slowly eased as Regina got a better handle on her emotions, but the tears did not stop as every fibre of her being was enraptured by Emma's voice. Emma continued singing flawlessly, despite the fact that Regina knew she was now crying too.

Your love is like a river

That I am floating down

I've never been a swimmer

But I know that I'll never drown

I know that I'll never drown

Regina clung to Emma as she followed her lead, swaying in a gentle circle. The tears refused to stop, and a knot formed in her throat as she tried desperately not to make a sound. She was fighting her sob once again, overcome with the emotions that Emma's voice was provoking. How in the world this woman was able to hide such an incredible talent, Regina did not know. She had hidden it so incredibly well. Regina had had no clue. All those times she had mocked Emma for her horrendously off-key renditions of countless songs… and the whole time, she'd been hiding the truth. All this time, Emma had this incredibly beautiful voice, one that had instantly brought Regina to tears. Oh, my beautiful Emma. What other talents are you hiding? What other secrets are you protecting deep within yourself?

To keep the sob from escaping, Regina bit harder on her lip and squeezed her eyes shut tighter, listening to the woman who was slowly stealing her heart.

Oh the things I never noticed

Opened my ears to the chorus

You have made me listen careful

And you gave me the light

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Whoa-oh-oh whoa

Regina's tears slowed, and she buried her face in Emma's neck as the end of the song approached. Her stomach was clenched tight, her heart heavy from the emotion she could hear in Emma's voice.

I'll carry the weight

I'll do anything for you, baby

My bones may break

But I'll never be untrue

The current grows stronger

Hundred different shades of blue

I've fallen in your water

Oh what I wouldn't do

Oh what I wouldn't do

Emma whispered her final line, Oh what I wouldn't do, finishing it off with a soft kiss to Regina cheek.

Silence.

Silence filled the room as Regina's brain ceased to function, her heart swollen in her chest. She stayed wrapped in Emma's arms, clinging to her neck as the tears finally stopped, but the emotions brought on by the woman's beautiful singing stuck to her long after. She could not stop listening to Emma's voice in her mind, the song stuck on repeat in her brain. Regina couldn't say a word, because she knew that the minute she opened her mouth, she'd burst into tears all over again. Never before had she been so moved by someone's voice. Never in her life had she been so surprised, so awestruck, by something so beautiful. Regina had been blind-sided countless times in her life, but never had she been given such a precious gift by someone she loved.

That single thought broke the dam, and Regina burst into tears. She loved Emma, and that knowledge was both exhilarating and terrifying. She hadn't allowed herself to admit it before, not even in her mind, but she was powerless to stop the thought now. She loved Emma, adored her even. And the knowledge that Emma trusted her enough to reveal such a carefully guarded secret was nearly too much to bear.

"Shh, baby, don't cry," Emma soothed, tears spilling down her own cheeks.

"Emma, thank you," Regina choked out, swallowed against the lump in her throat. "I've never heard anything so beautiful. I had no idea- no idea you could sing so beautifully."

Emma smiled softly, pressing another soft kiss to Regina's temple.

"Nobody does," she confessed. "I've never told anyone."

Regina finally pulled away, knowing that her make-up was now smeared, her cheeks were flushed, and her hair was likely disheveled. But she didn't care. She immediately pressed her lips to Emma's, kissing her fiercely. She pulled away soon after, laughing gently when they both gasped for air.

"I know. It's not sexy when you're gross from crying and you can't breathe 'cause your nose is plugged."

Regina gave a small nod, but then smiled warmly.

"And yet, my dear Emma, you still take my breath away."

Emma blushed, looking down in embarrassment.

"I am stunned, Emma. I cannot… I cannot believe that I was unaware of such a magnificent talent. You have an incredible voice."

Emma grinned, enjoying her praise.

"Yeah," she said, giving a small shrug. "I'm alright."

"You are wonderful. Although I believe, in light of this new information, that you owe me for that horrendous trip to New York."

Emma laughed, kissing her cheek in response.

"Does this song make up for it?"

"Yes," Regina sighed softly, happily. "I don't believe I have ever enjoyed a song quite so much. Will you sing it again for me some time?"

"Any time you want. And I could… I could always record it for you too, if you want."

"That is a far better offer. I accept."

Emma buried her nose in Regina's hair, feeling incredibly light despite having shared such a treasured secret. She thought she would feel upset, scared even, maybe even sad, but she didn't. She felt… she felt even more connected to Regina. She felt happy. Excited. Euphoric even. She'd never told anyone about this talent, and yet it felt so good to share her secret with Regina.

"You've truly been practising this song for weeks, Emma?"

Emma nodded.

"I knew as soon as I saw you in your office, I was gonna sing for you. And when you said that was your favourite song, at least right now, I decided I'd do that one. The lyrics and how perfect they were, you know, to kind of say how I feel about you were just an added bonus. I was really nervous that I'd ruin it for you, but-"

Regina shook her head vehemently.

"You improved it far beyond what it was, and it is already a lovely song."

"Thank you," Emma said, warmed by the compliment.

Regina reached up and cupped Emma's cheek, stroking it gently with her thumb.

"What other talents are you hiding from me, my love? Are there any other secrets you are keeping from me?" she asked with a tilted smile.

Emma, who usually blurted out jokes when conversations became too serious, simply smiled back. It didn't even cross her mind, not when Regina had just called her 'love'. Instead, she leaned down and kissed her gently, pouring all of her emotions into that one, single kiss. She pressed her lips along Regina's jaw when she finally broke away, gently stroking the other cheek with her fingers before finally stopping back at the ear she had sung into earlier.

"Only one secret that you should know… I love you, Regina Mills. More than you can ever possibly imagine. I'm so in love with you."

Regina's breath caught as Emma whispered confession. She tightened her hold on Emma, arms holding her securely as she trembled against the whispered words. They terrified her, and she had no idea how to respond.

"You don't have to say anything back. I just wanted to say it, to tell you. I love you, Regina."

Regina knew how she felt. She knew she should say the words back, especially to someone who craved love as much as Emma did. But Regina was terrified. The last person she'd confessed her love to had been murdered because he loved her and because she loved him in return. What terrible fate would Emma meet if she confessed her true feelings? She wasn't ready to say the words aloud, so Regina opted to speak her own secret, one she'd been keeping to herself for far too long.

"You have become my world, Emma Swan, a development I never would have predicted. I have been imagining… I have had a fantasy, if you will, one which has been occupying my thoughts for quite some time. If you accept, I would very much like-," Regina breath caught in her throat as she forced herself to say the words she'd been wanting to for so long, "I would very much like you to stay here permanently, with Henry and I. I would like this to become ourhome. Yours, mine, and Henry's."

"Like a family?" Emma whispered hopefully.

"Oh, Emma," Regina said softly, pulling back and cupping the woman's cheek. She looked into her eyes as she spoke. "No matter where you are, no matter how far away you find yourself, Henry and I will always be your family. But I would very much like this house to be your home, Emma. Our home."

Emma's muffled cries became audible as Regina spoke those final words against her cheek, pressing soft kisses to her skin. She'd been searching her entire life, over thirty years, for a family, for a home. The mansion had felt like her home for so long now, the two people residing within it having become the single most important people in her life. Right here in Regina's arms, their son sleeping safely upstairs, this is where Emma knew she belonged.

"I have never wanted anything more in my life," she finally whispered, holding Regina tight.

Chapter Text

"So are you and Regina gonna come to the dance tomorrow?"

Emma shook her head before taking a gulp of her coffee.

"I don't think so, Rubes. If we go together, it's gonna be kind of obvious we're like, together and I don't think she's ready for that yet, for other people to know."

"Look, I'm going to be honest because I'm your friend. People have pretty much figured it out. I think it's probably time to make it official. By not admitting it, kinda looks like you've got something to hide."

"I don't."

"I know, but it looks that way, you know?"

Emma sighed before nodding. Ruby had a point.

"I'm not trying to force you out of the closet, I'm just saying…"

"I know. I appreciate it." Emma hesitated for a second before leaning forward over the counter and lowered her tone. "Speaking of forcing people out of the closet… Listen, Regina and I have been talking a lot and I just- I was wondering if it would bother you if I told her… about us."

Ruby looked surprised.

"Why would you want to tell her about us?"

"Because Regina and I are working on being honest and not lying to each other, which is kind of both of our go-to thing whenever there's a subject we don't wanna talk about. So we're countering that by not lying at all and just admitting when we don't want to talk about something. It's been working, at least so far, but the subject of you and I came up the other night and even though she's respecting my boundaries about not giving names, I can tell she's uneasy not knowing who my "special friend" was here in Storybrooke. I told her it was over, and I think she trusts that, but if I were her, I'd wanna know too. I feel like it's not fair I know everyone she's been with but I've still got secrets in that department. If it's something you don't want people to know, that's totally different. I'm all about respecting your privacy, but if you don't care-"

"Hey. I don't care, Em. As long as she isn't gonna go all she-Hulk on me trying to claim what's hers (Ruby smirked when Emma smiled proudly), I'm fine with her knowing. It's not really a secret that I don't discriminate, so you're not forcing me out of any theoretical closet."

"Okay. Thanks, Ruby."

The waitress smiled, waving Emma off as the sheriff headed to town hall for lunch. Emma was glad Ruby was fine with Regina knowing the truth. Emma wasn't bothered by telling Regina about her fling with Ruby, not in the least. The only reason she'd been hiding Ruby's name was to protect her friend's privacy. But when Emma and Regina had talked a few days ago and the subject had come up about Emma's special friend, she noticed that Regina was uncomfortable not knowing the truth. Emma had made it a point to see Ruby today to ask if she could be honest about their former arrangement, and Emma was glad that she had agreed.

Emma walked into town hall and nodded at Regina's secretary before entering the mayor's office. When she heard the door close, Regina looked up and smiled widely. Emma couldn't help smiling right back, warmed at the knowledge that she could elicit such a genuinely happy reaction from the usually reserved mayor.

"Hello, Emma."

"Hi, baby. I got you a coffee to keep you motivated today."

Emma rounded the desk and placed a firm kiss on Regina's lips before looking down at the mess before her.

"What are you working on?"

"The budget for next year," Regina sighed. "It is a daunting task."

"Why don't you take a break and come eat with me?"

Regina accepted the offered hand, following Emma to the couch and taking a seat as the other woman headed to the fridge. She returned a moment later with an arm full of containers, setting them down gently and taking her seat next to Regina.

"So, what's for lunch today, chef?"

"Cucumber salad and chicken wraps, with a yogurt parfait for dessert."

"I'm going to marry you so hard one day," Emma said seriously. "You are the best cook in the world."

Regina gave her a tight smile, handing over a container.

"While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't believe I'd ever like to be married again, Emma," she explained calmly. "I do not wish to be anyone's property ever again."

Emma's stomach dropped. Shit.

"I'm sorry. That was- I wasn't thinking. Marriage doesn't work like that here, so sometimes I forget that it was different for you. Here, you're still a person. Like, you still have rights, you're still independent. It's more of a… a public announcement that you're committing to each other I guess and not so much a 'he owns you now' thing."

"Still. Marriage is no longer something that appeals to me."

"Fair enough."

"Would you like to be married? Would you feel disappointed if you never married?"

Emma shrugged as she opened the containers to her lunch.

"I mean, if you weren't against it, I would probably do it. But I won't be disappointed if we don't either. Nobody really gets married anymore anyway. I wouldn't need to marry you to be happy. It's enough to know that we're together and that you don't plan on being with anyone else. I don't need a piece of paper saying you're with me, as long as you tell me that you are."

Regina smiled at her, reaching out and kissing her softly.

"Thank you. And I believe it goes without saying that I am."

Emma wrapped her arms around her waist, Regina happily reciprocating the embrace. She smiled into Emma's neck, enjoying the cuddle until she felt a nose nudging the side of her throat.

"Don't you dare, Emma," she growled.

"What?" Emma asked, feigning innocence.

Emma tilted her chin so that her lips were pressed against the ticklish area along Regina's throat and began nibbling at it with her lips.

"Emma!"

"Sit still, Regina," Emma chided, giggling. "Why are you squirming away? Why won't you let me love you?!"

Emma held fast to the woman who was now laughing and pushing at her arms, continuing to feign confusion as she tickled her skin with her lips.

"You are such a child! Unhand me!" Regina said, attempting to sound commanding and failing miserably.

Emma backed off, pulling away laughing. She placed a soft kiss to the now glaring woman's cheek, still cradling her body in her arms.

"I should end your life right this instant."

"Too bad there's no guillotines around. There's a serious lack of those in this town."

"That would be much too sudden a death. I would prefer to have you flayed."

"Ohh, kinky. I thought you weren't into spanking, Madame Mayor."

Regina rolled her eyes, moving away from Emma and grabbing her lunch.

"You are decidedly unfunny," she responded, glaring (though the smile kind of negated the fear it should have instilled).

"You were laughing just a second ago."

"An involuntary action, I assure you."

Emma grinned at her, grabbing a wrap with one hand and taking a large bite. She moaned in appreciation before sliding closer to Regina, resting a hand on her thigh as they ate. Emma liked touching Regina. It was nice to get to hold her, kiss her, or simply rest her hand on her leg like this. The contact felt nice, and from the way Regina leaned into her, she knew she liked it too.

"How was your morning?"

"Good. I stopped by Granny's and Ruby asked if we were going to the dance tomorrow night."

"What did you tell her?"

"I told her probably not."

"Would you like to go?"

"I think if we went, it'd pretty much 'out' us. But uh- you should know, Ruby told me the town is talking. They've more or less figured it out."

Regina sighed, but nodded in acceptance.

"It was simply a matter of time."

"Are you upset?"

"No, however I am not rejoicing the fact that the people of this town are once again privy to my business. Though, it does send the message that you are no longer available, a happy consequence. I trust your former suitor has taken note."

"Yeah. Uh, about that. I talked to Ruby today, and she said it's cool to be honest that it was her. I was with Ruby when I first got to town."

"I had my suspicions," Regina said slowly. "However, I thank you for being honest."

"Are you pissed?"

"No, Emma, I am not pissed and I will thank you never to use such a word again. I am grateful to have my suspicions confirmed, and I am not angry so long as Miss Lucas understands that you are no longer available."

"Oh, she knows. She told me today she knows I'm yours."

Regina gave a small smile, pleased to hear the words from Emma's mouth.

"Yes, although I would not say you are 'mine'. You are not a possession, Emma. We are, however, together."

Emma shrugged, smiling shyly.

"I like being yours."

Regina, a little taken aback, blinked and furrowed her eyebrows. Emma, seeing Regina's surprise and confusion, continued.

"I never belonged to anyone before, you know? I was an orphan. Never really… anyway. It was kind of nice, hearing that I belonged to someone." It means someone wants me.

Regina heard the vulnerability in Emma's voice, so she put down her container of cucumber salad and reached down to grab the hand Emma had rested on her thigh.

"I apologise, Emma. I did not consider that for you, belonging to someone would be desirable. As long as we are both of the understanding that I do not own you and that you are free to do as you wish, to leave if you so desire, then I believe it would be acceptable to say that you," Regina hesitated before saying the word, "belong to me."

"Does it bother you to say it?"

"No, I rather enjoy it," Regina finally admitted. "Though I feel it is hypocritical to enjoy stating that you belong to me while I fight against the very idea that you have any such hold on me. I have no more power over you than you do me, Emma. You are mine only so long as you desire it."

"I know. And I do want to belong to you. I don't need to say that you belong to me though. I already know you're with me, that you're 'mine'," she said, adding air quotes to the word, "so to speak. But, it's kind of nice to hear that you feel at least a little possessive of me."

"Oh, I feel profoundly possessive of you, Emma Swan. The very idea that someone would dare touch what is mine…"

Emma shivered at the fire in Regina's eyes.

"I think they know."

"Good," Regina said darkly.

Emma grinned at her, squeezing her hand before resuming her lunch. Regina ate slowly, carefully, reflecting upon their conversation. She knew there was no way to hide their relationship forever. Eventually, it was going to come out. They were both very much in the public eye of this town, and the residents of Storybrooke kept close tabs on both the mayor and their sheriff. Neither could enter a building, nor exit it, without someone knowing about it. Emma staying with Regina had undoubtedly been noticed, and the thought that she was now a target of gossip irked her.

"Would you like to go to the dance tomorrow?"

Emma, surprised, swallowed her bite.

"What?"

"The Charming genes are ever present," Regina muttered, annoyed at having to repeat herself. "I asked if you would like to go to the dance tomorrow."

"Yeah, I mean I definitely would. But it would kinda confirm the rumours about us, wouldn't it?"

"Precisely."

"You want that?" Emma asked, unable to suppress the disbelief in her voice.

"I do not wish to be anyone's piece of gossip. If it has become known that we are dating, then I would prefer to make it public knowledge so that the rumours are put to rest."

"Wow. Okay." Emma paused, her grin growing as she thought about what this meant. "So, we're gonna tell people?"

"I don't believe it will be necessary to say anything. Simply attending the dance together will be enough."

"Can I tell people anyway? Can I write it on the bulletin board at Granny's? Can I put signs on your front lawn? What about t-shirts? We could get matching t-shirts!"

"I will end this relationship if you dare do any of those things."

Emma laughed at Regina's dirty look.

"Okay. But… can I call you my girlfriend?"

Regina's features softened. She could hear the hesitance in Emma's tone, and the smile the woman bore was both happy and hopeful. It warmed Regina. She nodded easily.

"Yes, Emma. I believe that would be acceptable."

Emma grinned from ear to ear.

"Yes! I have the hottest girlfriend in town. Everyone's gonna be jealous! I landed the mayor! Go me!"

Regina rolled her eyes at Emma's juvenile display, but she'd be lying if she said she did not enjoy it.

"Wait," Emma said, suddenly stopping her happy dance. "We have to tell my parents."

"Your mother attends every dance. She will be well aware of the change in our relationship."

"No, we can't tell them at the dance. She'd be really hurt. We have to tell her before."

"And when do you suggest we tell them? The dance is tomorrow."

"We could do supper tonight?"

"Emma, it is nearly two o'clock. I don't have time to make a dinner for five people."

"Let's just order pizza. We haven't had take out in a while."

"That is not a reason to eat poorly."

"Yeah, but it's a justification. Come on. We have to talk to them."

"Very well. But I will not sit and listen to your mother and father speak ill of myself or of you. If they start, we are leaving."

"We're going to their place?"

"They are certainly not coming to the mansion."

"Why not? They can't ever visit?"

"No, they may visit. But I believe this conversation will go poorly and when it does, I would like to be able to leave."

"It's not gonna go bad, Regina. My mom already knows about us and I'm sure she's told my dad. He's been asking about you and about how I'm doing at your place, so he's only hearing good stuff. It's gonna be fine."

"You are eternally optimistic."

"That's not true. Yesterday when I made you breakfast, I was pretty sure it was gonna be an epic failure."

Regina fought her smile, but failed miserably.

"I appreciated the effort, dear, but those pancakes were atrocious."

"I know! I'm sorry. I'll never cook for you again," Emma promised.

"Henry and I both thank you."

Emma grinned and gave Regina a kiss on the cheek, getting up and gathering their empty containers.

"I'll talk to my dad and call my mom to make the arrangements for tonight. I'll text you the details later, alright?"

"Very well. See you this evening."

Emma waved goodbye before leaving, heading back to the station to talk to her dad.


Regina took a deep breath as she approached the loft door, smoothing out her skirt and fixing her hair as best she could without a mirror. She wasn't nervous. She wasn't, but she knew how important it was to Emma that her parents approve of her and her choices, no matter how many times she said she didn't care what they thought. Regina knew that she did care, and so it was important to keep her cool this evening, for Emma. She was here for Emma. She repeated it in her head several times before she knocked, forcing a smile when Snow opened the door.

"Hi, Regina."

"Hello," she said politely, following the younger woman inside.

Regina breathed a sigh of relief when Emma walked to her, pulling her into a hug.

"Hi, baby. Thanks for coming."

Regina placed her hands on her girlfriend's hips (it felt so strange to hear the word, even when saying it in her mind), kissing her softly on the cheek. She pulled away and removed her shoes, ignoring Snow's shocked expression. Regina had never been one for public displays of affection, but she wanted to make things perfectly clear this evening.

"Hi, mom!" Henry greeted from the couch, waving baby Neal's arm at her.

Regina smiled affectionately at him and the baby, her stomach warming at seeing the children together. She'd always had a soft spot for children, even in her reign as the Evil Queen. She'd always loved their honesty, their innocence. And it helped that most children were downright adorable. When Henry rose from the couch and offered her the baby, she took him gladly, kissing him on the cheek and cradling him close.

"Hello, David," Regina said politely when the man entered the room.

"Hi, Regina. How was your day?"

"It went well, although it is overwhelming at times as I attempt to balance next year's budget."

He nodded, knowing how big of a job it was. They had a hard enough time drafting up an expense sheet for the station, showing where their money was going and giving an estimate of how much they'd need for the following year. He couldn't imagine being the mayor and having to look over each budget and allocating money as needed.

"I don't envy you, Madame Mayor."

Regina smiled at him in response before turning back to the baby, cooing at him as she sat at the table. He gurgled back as he reached out and tried to grab her hair. Emma took the seat next to her at the table, stretching her arm out on the back of Regina's chair and leaning in her space as she too said hi to her brother.

The relationship between brother and sister had improved tenfold after Emma had moved in with Regina and finally spoken with her mother about all the feelings she'd been keeping inside. They'd spoken again a few days ago, and Emma was slowly working on accepting her mother's apology. She knew there was no use in dwelling on the past and she was working on accepting that her mother truly had not wanted to abandon her. It was comforting at least, knowing that her mother had in fact wanted her and that she deeply regretted her actions. It didn't erase Emma's feelings or the things she had gone through, but at least they were working on mending their relationship. Snow had made a promise to be more involved in her life, and Emma had promised to stop shutting her out.

"I made chicken burgers and a garden salad for dinner," Snow announced. "I hope that's okay with everyone."

Regina, surprised, smiled at the woman.

"That sounds lovely." She then turned to Emma. "I thought you were ordering dinner."

"Mom said pizza wasn't healthy enough for Henry and the baby. She's breastfeeding, so she's watching what she eats pretty aggressively."

"It was worse when she was pregnant for you, Emma," David said sombrely. "We ate nothing but lean meat, nuts, and vegetables for nearly a year. She wouldn't allow dessert in the castle. Not even a fruit pie."

"You're welcome, husband, for giving birth to your two healthy children."

He grinned at her.

"Would you like any help?" Regina asked, but Snow shook her head.

"The chicken's almost done. If I need anything, I'll make Emma get it."

"Alright."

Regina turned back to the baby, smiling when he opened his mouth at her and grinned. It was unfortunate he had such idiots for parents, but with any luck, he'd turn out as handsome as her own son. They did share several physical characteristics already, such as their big green eyes, which Emma also possessed, and a charming smile. Neal seemed to be a happy baby as well, just as Henry had been.

Emma watched Regina bounce the baby. She looked so happy, so comfortable with him in her arms. She wondered if the woman had ever wanted more kids. They hadn't actually had that discussion yet. It was way too soon, but it'd be nice to know if she was as open to the idea as Emma was. Only after asking if Henry was okay with it first, of course. She'd never even consider having other kids if her son would feel cast aside or replaced. He'd been an only child for over a decade after all.

Emma was pulled from her thoughts by her mother bringing the food to the table. She quickly got up and helped bring over the rest before once again taking her seat by Regina's side.

"Here, I'll take him," Emma offered, taking the baby. "I can eat with one hand."

"A talent which has served you well in life, I'm sure."

"It's about to serve you well by letting you eat unencumbered. If I drop anything on my lap, I'm screwed."

"Unencumbered," Regina repeated, eyebrows raised with surprise. "That is an awfully big word. It seems I've successfully expanded your vocabulary."

"No, dad got me one of those word-of-the-day calendars. It was today's word. Checkpoint, Emma, for successfully using the word of the day."

"She has been dictating the conversation for weeks now because she's trying to use all the words she's learnt," David said, shaking his head.

"And it totally works. I have yet to be stumped."

David leaned over towards Henry.

"She controls the conversation so she can say the example sentence under every word in order to say she used the word right," he stage whispered.

Regina snorted, chuckling when Emma sent her a mock glare. She thanked Snow for making supper, pulling two buns on her plate, along with two pieces of chicken breast. She fixed Emma's first (since Emma was busy flying her brother around above her head), placing it in her plate when she finished. She then worked on her own, looking down at her plate to avoid the now awkward silence in the room.

"So," Snow began, when she realised no one was willing to address the elephant in the room, "Emma said you had something to tell us."

Henry perked up, chewing quietly while eagerly awaiting the announcement. He knew what it was already, since he already knew his moms were going out on dates. His ma had confirmed it in the car on the way over, telling him that they were going to be making their relationship public tomorrow at the dance.

Regina glanced over at Emma, who nodded and swallowed her bite.

"Yeah, uh, I'm sure it's not really news to you guys since I'm sure you already know, but I wanted to tell you first before we make it public tomorrow. Regina and I are dating," Emma admitted, her heart racing as she spoke the words aloud. "Officially. She's uh- she's my girlfriend."

Regina thought it was ridiculous (and utterly adorable) that that sentence alone caused Emma to grin like a fool. She looked across the table to her son, who wore the same goofy smile as his mother, and then to her girlfriend's parents, who did not look surprised at all. David smiled at her, while Snow offered one as well, albeit much smaller.

"Congratulations," David said sincerely. "How long has it been?"

"A little while," Emma responded. "We were keeping it quiet at first. We're gonna tell everybody else tomorrow at the dance. Or, well, they'll figure it out when we show up together, I guess."

Snow perked up at this information. Her daughter never wanted to attend Storybrooke's dance night. Once a month, she and the fairies got together and redecorated Zelena's old barn to host the event. It wasn't mandatory that the attendees dance either. There were tables and chairs, as well as dart boards, in case people didn't feel comfortable dancing in front of others. It was basically an excuse for the townsfolk to get together. It was popular and it had been going on for about six months now, but Emma had yet to attend.

"Regina, you'll be coming too?"

Obviously, Regina's mind spat.

"Yes. I will be attending as well."

"How exciting," Snow said happily.

"So," Emma said hesitantly. "You're okay with this?"

David reached out and rested his hand on his daughter's wrist, stopping her from tapping her fingers nervously on the table.

"As long as you're happy, I'm happy," he then turned to Regina. "And if she's not happy-"

"Dad, don't threaten-"

"I will purposely make mistakes on every single report I file your way from now until eternity," he stated, ignoring his daughter's interruption.

Regina's eye twitched. She loathed incorrectly filled paperwork.

"Noted."

Emma's shoulders sagged in relief, glad that her father had not really threatened Regina. She then turned to her mother.

"Mom?"

"I-" Snow hesitated. "It's a lot to digest, I'll admit. But I'm trying, Emma. As I said before, I'll support you no matter what. I have missed out on far too many years of your life already. I won't do anything to jeopardise our relationship any more."

"Thank you."

Regina squeezed her knee under the table, turning to their son.

"And you, my little prince?"

"Oh, I'm really excited! Having parents that aren't together works out in some ways, like getting two Christmases and stuff, but it's way better when we're all together. I like living in one house with both of my moms."

His mothers beamed at him, and Henry smiled back warmly. He really did love them both, and he was happy they were finally together.

"So, now that that's settled, let's eat!" Emma announced happily.


"Are you nervous?"

"I am not the least bit eager, of that I'm certain."

"Everyone's gonna be fine, Regina. I promise. They're happy for us."

"That remains to be seen."

"It'll be awesome, mom. Come on!"

Emma gave Regina an encouraging smile as Henry eagerly jumped out of the car and awaited his mothers. Emma knew how nervous Regina was, despite the fact that she tried to appear nonchalant. Regina did care about people's reactions, at least a little. She didn't want to be on the receiving end of what Emma knew she thought would be unhappy or even hateful comments. Emma was not so sure that would happen. The town had come around. They may not love Regina, but they respected her enough as mayor not to begrudge her this new relationship.

Emma got out of the Mercedes first, straightening her suit jacket as she made her way to Regina's side. She opened the door, holding out her hand to help her mayor as she got out. Regina thanked Emma and smoothed out her navy blue dress, taking Emma's offered arm as they followed their son to the barn. Regina tried to calm her nerves, a little irritated with herself that she was feeling nervous. She didn't care what these people thought, she reminded herself, but she was not looking forward to being told how unworthy she was of Emma or that they scorned her happiness. Her relationship with Emma was very new, and even though the other woman assured her that everything would be fine, Regina was not so sure.

"Oh, wow. Looks like everyone's already here," Henry commented.

Regina was unsurprised as she had planned it this way. She did not want to come early, as she hoped people would be busy dancing or mingling already if they waited long enough to arrive. They slipped in quietly, Emma commenting on the beautifully decorated barn. Regina had to agree that it was tastefully decorated, white icicle lights illuminated the high ceiling, paper lanterns were strewn about the crossbeams, vines and white lights were wound around the posts in a beautiful criss-cross pattern. Tables were lined up on either side of the barn, where people could sit and talk. There were several dart boards and a pool table, along with a rather large bar area. There was also a small stage with what looked like karaoke equipment (Regina would never be caught dead participating in any such activity). Music poured from several large speakers mounted around the barn, people milling about with smiles on their faces. Regina was mildly impressed. It genuinely looked like a party. She wondered who was in charge of the décor as it was actually quite nice.

"Emma! You came!"

Regina took a slight step back as Snow enveloped her daughter.

"I'm so glad you're here. What do you think?"

"It's really nice mom," Emma complimented, taking a step back and grabbing Regina's hand. "You did a good job."

"Thanks! I kind of cheated and looked online for ideas, but…" Snow shrugged, trailing off with a smile.

"You designed this?" Regina asked.

"Yes. Hello, Henry."

"Hi, grandma."

Regina bristled. The decorations weren't that impressive she suddenly decided.

"Mom, can I go find Nicholas and Ava now?"

"You may."

Henry grinned at his mothers before racing off.

"I'm glad you came," Snow said, looking at Regina.

"Thank you for the invitation," she said politely, leaning a little closer to Emma as she realised people were beginning to approach.

It wasn't that she needed a body guard, or that she couldn't handle herself, but Regina felt a little nervous now that she didn't have access to her magic. And Emma, well, she was a great source of comfort. So Regina stuck close, feeling much more at ease when Emma took a step into her space and smiled at her reassuringly.

"Hey, guys! I'm so glad you came!" Ruby announced, pulling both Regina and Emma into a hug. Only Ruby would dare pull the mayor into such an embrace.

"Hi, Rubes. Nice dress."

"Thanks! Just got it," Ruby replied, twirling around in the peach coloured cocktail dress. "Nice suit. Where did you get that? You look pretty spiffy."

Ruby, noticing Regina's possessive posture, laughed as she removed her hand from Emma's jacket.

"Don't worry, Madame Mayor. I'm just looking. You look really good yourself, by the way. If I weren't already taken, I'd definitely ask you to dance."

Ruby moved away with a wink, leaving a stunned Regina in her wake.

"Yeah, she's a little forward."

"A little?" Regina balked. 

Emma laughed, squeezing her fingers.

"She's comfortable with you now. That's a good thing."

"I'm not sure I agree," Regina responded, though a smile played at her lips. "She is correct, however. That suit fits you perfectly. Where did you find such a well-fitting piece?"

"Uh, I had it in the back of my closet. You know, just in case. Didn't know if I'd ever need it for formal sheriff stuff or whatever, so I bought it. But it was a little big according to Belle. Well, actually, she told me it 'fit atrociously' and that I needed to fix that stat if I planned on going out with someone as unbelievably sexy as you, so she altered the jacket for me and hemmed the pants a little. "

"I hardly believe she said that."

"Eh, not in so many words. But she did say that it was an awful fit and that if I was taking someone as classy as you out, I should at least let her fix it."

Regina smiled despite herself.

"She likes you, you know."

Regina did know. Belle had become a rather good friend in the past few weeks, one with whom she was slowly becoming quite comfortable. It was nice… having a friend.

"Speak of the devil."

Regina glanced over to where Emma was waving, a very enthusiastic Belle in a red dress eagerly waving back.

"Come on, let's go say hi."

"Alright."

Emma could sense Regina's trepidation, so she squeezed her hand and slowly led the way further into the barn. So far, not many had noticed their presence, but as they made their way across the room, heads turned in their direction. Some people were shocked (the fairies) and others gave warm smiles (Granny, Archie, and Mulan). There were some, however, who grimaced and looked away (like Michael Tillman and Jefferson). Emma ignored them all, guiding Regina to the corner where Belle stood with Rumple, both holding glasses of wine.

"Miss Swan. I do admit I'm surprised it is you who is wearing pants given that I would have assumed Regina-"

"Rumple!"

Emma laughed, even though Belle was clearly mortified.

"She does wear the pants," Emma confirmed. "I just hate dresses."

"As do I," Rumple responded, lifting his glass in agreement.

Before Regina could contemplate just how bizarre it was to see Rumplestiltskin actually be conversational, and dare she say pleasant, Belle beamed at her and looked her up and down.

"Your dress is beautiful," she said sincerely.

"Thank you," Regina responded. "You look stunning as well."

"Nice party," Emma commented, looking around the room. "Is it always this full?"

Belle hesitated.

"Not really. But… people heard you were both coming and-"

"Emma!" Ariel cried, interrupting. "I heard you were coming! I'm so excited you're here!"

She pulled Emma into a hug, pulling back only enough to hold her at arm's length.

"Will you come dancing with us later?" Ariel asked, turning to Regina with a smile.

Regina, not having expected to be included in the invitation, did her best to hide her surprise.

"Yeah, of course we will. Regina was telling me earlier how excited she was to dance!"

"Awesome! I'm going to go tell the others!"

Ariel left with a smile on her face. Regina tilted her head towards Emma, eyes narrowing.

"I said no such thing."

"Oh, you totally did." Emma turned to Belle and Rumple. "She totally did. She's beyond excited. If you'll excuse us, we should go say hi to everyone before she drags me on the dance floor."

Emma then pulled Regina away, biting her lip as she attempted to contain her laughter.

"You're devious, Miss Swan."

Emma laughed, slipping her arm around the brunette's waist as she led them over to Mulan and David, who were standing by the dart board.

"Hey guys," Emma greeted, falling easily into the hug her dad pulled her into.

When she was released, Emma stepped back beside Regina, slipping her arm around her waist once again.

"Hello, Emma. It's nice to see you, Madame Mayor. You are looking stunning this evening."

Regina smiled. She liked Mulan. The woman worked hard, was incredibly polite, and her paperwork was always pristine. If only Emma would take a page from Mulan's book, she might like Emma almost as much as she liked the woman standing before her.

"Good evening, Mulan. How are you?"

"I'm doing well, thank you. And you?"

"Very well. I received your budget proposal for next year, early, as usual. Thank you for your impeccable paperwork. It is highly appreciated. If only the sheriff were as diligent as her deputy-"

"Whoa, whoa. My paperwork was awesome this year. There were no coffee stains on it. Not one!"

"That's because you photocopied the original and sent me the copied version. The ring in the top right corner, along with the splashes of coffee so carelessly evident on the original, were also photocopied."

"Damn it," Emma muttered, earning herself a laugh from both Mulan and David. "Well, at least my writing is better than my dad's."

"Your father types his reports. I have never had any issues deciphering his writing."

"Alright," Emma mock whined, "everyone is better at paperwork and writing than I am. There, I said it. Let's move on."

Regina grinned and turned to the other two, who began discussing their plans for the renovations at the station which would take place in the upcoming year. She stroked Emma's thumb with her own, squeezing her fingers gently as she looked back at her girlfriend.

"No one draws comics on their paperwork or leaves me kind notes in the margins. Your submissions are the only ones that make me smile," Regina whispered, when Mulan and David were sufficiently distracted.

Emma smiled widely, incredibly warmed by Regina's whispered confession. She turned her head and looked into Regina's smiling face, wishing they were home so she could kiss her. Instead, she squeezed her hand softly and asked if she wanted to mingle some more. Regina did not; however, she knew that she should. This was the first time that the mayor was attending this event, and it would be impolite if she did not at least attempt to socialise with all of the attendees. So, she made her way around the dance floor, making polite conversation with all of Storybrooke's residents present at the dance. It was only hours later, after they'd finally stumbled into the front door, that Regina was finally able to relax.

"I fear my ankles will never recover," she complained, ripping off her heels and sighing in relief.

"Yeah, but you looked hot," Emma complimented, toeing off her own shoes and removing her jacket. She then helped Regina out of hers, hanging them both in the closet. "That was fun. We should go again."

"Thank Heavens your mother only hosts these events once a month."

Emma chuckled, taking Regina's hand and leading her into the living room. She lay the woman down on the couch, kneeling next to her on the floor.

"I'll go get some cream and I'll massage your feet, alright?"

"Thank you."

Emma pecked Regina on the forehead, getting up with a wince as her own muscles protested. All in all, it had been an amazing night. They had stayed for four hours, greeting everyone and taking a moment to speak with each one, except for those who refused to even acknowledge Regina's presence. Regina was unfazed, as she did not wish to speak to anyone who did not wish to speak to her. Emma, however, had been perturbed. It had taken some slight cajoling on Regina's part to remind Emma that some townsfolk would need more time to come around than others and that they had the right to express their feelings. The irony that it was Regina advocating for Emma not to lash out was not lost on either woman. However, Regina did not want to cause further conflict in her town, so she convinced Emma to simply let it go. Luckily, nearly everyone had been happy for them when Emma and Regina had confirmed their relationship, congratulating them and extending words of support. Regina had been surprised that she'd received such well wishes, but she was not unappreciative. It had been nice to be on the end of positive comments for the first time in a very, very long time.

Emma had been elated at the party, despite the few who had temporarily dampened her mood. She'd been on cloud nine as she walked around with Regina on her arm. Emma was proud to be with her, and it had been amazing to be able to announce to the town that they were together. It was nice to be out with Regina and not have to hide. She'd been able to hold her, dance with her, link their fingers without a second thought. While Emma hadn't gone so far as to kiss her, it was still nice to be allowed certain intimate gestures. And, in a much welcome surprise, Regina had initiated many of their dances, including one that involved swapping partners with nearby couples. She had danced with a smile on her face, and Emma was sure she'd never seen her look so carefree in the company of others.

"I got it," Emma announced, upon returning to the living room.

She took a seat and lifted Regina's feet in her lap, uncapping the bottle and squirting some cream into her palm. Regina moaned in appreciation as Emma's hands began massaging her sore muscles, sighing happily as nimble fingers worked away the tenderness in her feet.

"Did you have fun tonight?"

Regina nodded.

"I did. It was a surprisingly pleasant evening."

"You'll wanna go again?"

"I believe so, yes. Henry will not object, that much is certain."

Emma chuckled. Their son had opted to stay behind with his grandparents at the barn, as they were not ready to turn in. They had even brought the baby, who had been passed around as everyone wanted their turn holding Storybrooke's youngest resident.

"You're really good with my brother," Emma commented absentmindedly.

"He's an infant. They are not difficult to please if you understand their needs."

Emma shrugged. She didn't have much experience with babies, but she found them incredibly complicated. And kind of scary when they cried. But still, the thought of having one with Regina…

"Do you think you'd want another one?"

Regina quickly opened her eyes, fixating her gaze on Emma.

"I'm just, you know, curious. I'm not asking to have a kid right now. But maybe in the future, if you wanted more-"

"Emma, I…" Regina sighed, deciding to just be honest, despite the fact that it still pained her even after all this time. "I cannot have children."

"Oh," Emma said softly. She could hear the sadness in Regina's voice. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"It is a fact, one you must accept if you wish to remain with me. I will never be able to give you a child."

"Well, you wouldn't have been able to anyway, right? Cause we're both women, so..."

Regina hesitated.

"There are ways…"

"Seriously?"

"Yes, but they do not matter now. As I said, I cannot have children."

"Well, we could still… we could use a sperm donor and I could get pregnant again."

Emma wasn't eager to be pregnant again, nor was she looking forward to giving birth for a second time. But she liked the idea of parenting another child with Regina, and if that meant dealing with morning sickness and pregnancy hormones, she'd do it.

Regina looked at Emma for a long time, contemplating the idea. She'd dreamed of having several children, but her life had not gone as she had planned. She'd been happy with one child, especially one as wonderful as Henry. She'd thought of adopting others, but it had been difficult to obtain Henry, and she wasn't sure it would be possible to adopt another. She had long ago accepted that she'd only have one child, but she had to admit, the idea of having another, especially with Emma, was highly appealing.

It had been difficult to raise Henry alone, not only because she had had no help, but also because she'd had no one with whom to share his accomplishments. She'd been alone in her joy and pride when he'd taken his first steps, alone to deal with her sorrow on his first day of school. She'd been alone much of her life, but it had been especially difficult while raising her son. But with Emma here, and offering to carry another child, Regina found herself eagerly wanting to respond affirmatively.

"Regina?"

She snapped out of her thoughts, looking to the woman still massaging her feet.

"It is an incredibly important decision, Emma, and it is much too soon in our relationship to be discussing such a significant topic."

"I'm not asking to have another kid tomorrow, Regina. I'm just wondering if it's a possibility."

"Would you like others?"

"With you? Yeah. I would. I'd wanna talk to the kid first and see if he's okay with it, but if he is, I'd like to have more with you."

"As would I," Regina finally admitted.

Emma smiled widely, quietly massaging Regina's sore feet for the next few minutes. It excited her, the possibility of having more kids. She wanted them, at least two more, if Regina were okay with that. She sensed the topic was closed for now though, so Emma worked in silence until she was satisfied she'd worked out all the tension from Regina's muscles.

"How's that?"

"Much better. Thank you, Emma."

"Do you want to walk for a second to see?"

Regina did, and after a few moments of pacing, she stopped and nodded.

"Perfect."

"Good. I'm just gonna go wash my hands. Meet you back here in a minute?"

"Alright."

Regina lay on the couch, sighing contently. Her feet, which had been throbbing when they first returned, were now tingling pleasantly. Emma truly was incredibly gifted with her hands.

Regina rested quietly until Emma re-entered the room a few minutes later, peeking an eye open and smiling at the blonde.

"Is there room for me on that couch?" Emma asked with a smile.

Regina gave a dramatic sigh.

"I suppose."

Emma chuckled and lay down on her side beside Regina, frowning when the woman began pulling away.

"Wait, you don't have to move," Emma protested.

"Lay on your back," Regina directed.

Emma did as she was told, stifling a groan when Regina straddled her hips. The bottom of Regina's dress rode up to mid-thigh, and she did her very best not to look down at the incredibly enticing skin now on display. She was both relieved and disappointed when Regina adjusted her dress, hiding the toned thighs from view. Emma was quickly distracted again as Regina took her hands, placing them on her waist.

"You looked stunning this evening, Emma," Regina complimented, adjusting herself until she was comfortably seated. "I will admit, it was difficult to look away from you."

Emma shivered at the intensity in Regina's eyes. She looked like she was ready to devour her whole.

"Thanks," Emma finally responded, when she found her voice. "You looked amazing too. Where did you get your dress?"

"My closet."

"I've never seen it before."

"I have many clothes you have never seen before," Regina teased.

"I really like it," Emma said, reaching up to run her fingers over the decorative buttons at Regina's shoulders. "These are nice. They add something to this dress. Without them, I think it'd be too plain. It'd still look awesome on you, but it looks even nicer with these buttons. You looked really, really good tonight."

"Thank you. I observed you admiring my dress many times this evening."

"I wasn't admiring the dress. I was admiring the woman in it and how hot she looked. I didn't want to stop touching you." (Emma also admired the copious amount of cleavage on display as they danced, but this truth went unsaid).

Regina smiled, leaning down to kiss her on the lips.

"Thank you for such a lovely evening. You were the perfect gentleman. I appreciate that you respected my boundaries and allowed me to dictate the level of physical affection for this evening. I was not comfortable embracing in front of the others, and I thank you for respecting that, despite the fact that you wished to kiss me while we danced."

"You could tell, huh?"

Regina chuckled.

"I could, yes. And yet you did not. Thank you."

"I'd never do anything you weren't comfortable with, Regina. I mean it. I like kissing you, and touching you, but only as much as you're comfortable with."

Regina leaned forward and kissed Emma again, taking her hands and placing them back at her waist.

"I'd like you to indulge me for a moment."

"Okay?"

"Look at your hands. I'd like you to imagine drawing an invisible line exactly where your hands are located."

"Around your waist?"

"Precisely."

Emma looked down at her hands, which had been placed just above Regina's waist. They sat at the dip in her curves, level with her belly button. She did as she was asked, drawing an invisible line around the woman's waist. It started above her left hip, circled around her back and then around to her front, passing over her belly button before meeting the initial point.

"Okay."

"I want you to remember that line, Emma. It is quite important."

"Okay," Emma agreed, slightly confused as to where this was going.

"I will admit that I had ulterior motives to retiring early this evening. You see, I too was affected by the intimacy of dancing with you, especially given how absolutely elegant you appeared in your suit. I wanted nothing more than to bury my fingers in your hair and kiss you thoroughly, but I am quite uncomfortable with public displays of affection. I prefer to show my fondness for you in the privacy of our home, away from prying eyes. The fact that you fought your desires in order to respect my boundaries made my want for you grow, until I was nearly consumed with the need to touch you. I was quite aroused on the dance floor this evening, Emma," Regina admitted, running her hands along Emma's arms, "and I spent much of my time wondering if I was prepared to take things further with you this evening. I realised I still have many reservations, and I admit that I was quite nervous that you may unknowingly cross a boundary once we returned home. Therefore, I have come up with a solution."

Regina leaned forward, pressing her breasts to Emma's as she licked the shell of her ear.

"Do you remember the line, Emma?"

"Yes," she said, breathlessly.

"You may touch anything above it. In fact, I would very much like for you to touch everything above it."

Emma's breath caught in her throat when Regina bit her earlobe, sucking it into her mouth. Emma's brain short-circuited, her hands rising up to rub along the smaller woman's back. The line, the line was at Regina's waist. She couldn't touch anything below it, only above. Okay. She could do that. Good God she was getting wet just from what Regina was doing to her earlobe. What was above it?

Emma groaned loudly when she realised. Regina's breasts. She was finally able to touch them. Oh God. She tilted her head and captured Regina's lips in a heated kiss, plunging her fingers in her hair as their tongues danced. She had felt them countless times pressed against her chest, beneath her head, against her back. When they had danced tonight, she'd spent far more time than she cared to admit looking down Regina's cleavage. And she'd wanted to touch- God had she ever wanted to touch. She needed to double check though, just in case.

"Are you sure?"

"Touch me, Emma," Regina demanded breathlessly.

She moaned when Emma's mouth made contact with her throat, licking and sucking softly as her hands roamed her stomach, her sides, her back. Regina had been aroused since the moment she'd seen the blonde on her doorstep (Emma had needed to retrieve the suit as it was not at the mansion), the perfectly tailored black suit fitting her like a second skin. All night, she'd wanted to kiss her, touch her, press their bodies together. She'd at least been able to do the latter, albeit it discreetly. They'd danced until Regina claimed her feet were too sore to continue, breaking away for some relief from the throb between her legs. After several rounds of darts and some conversation away from her girlfriend, she'd managed to calm her hormones and soothe her arousal. That was, until Emma reached out for her again and pulled her close, reigniting the fire Regina had so diligently tried to put out. When Emma had leaned down and begun singing softly directly against her ear, Regina's libido had roared back to life. She had been able to endure only a few more songs before she'd had to return home. As she recalled her earlier lust, Regina's heart rate increased tenfold and her stomach dropped low. Dear God, did she ever want this woman.

Emma could hear Regina's breathing increase as she shifted above her, clenching her knees against Emma's hips. Emma knew what that meant. She did the same when the ache in her clit became almost unbearable, and the knowledge that Regina was that turned on fuelled Emma's desire. She threaded one hand in Regina's hair, pulling her down for a fierce kiss. Regina kissed back aggressively, plunging her tongue in Emma's mouth as her hands fisted the crisp blouse beneath her.

Emma's right hand slowly crept up Regina's side, palm flat against her ribcage. She brought it up and dipped between Regina's breasts, up her sternum, and rested at her shoulder. She brought down her left hand before letting them both travel down and softly cup Regina's breasts through her dress. The women moaned and pulled away from their kiss, panting heavily as Emma's hands gently palmed the soft, cotton-covered mounds.

"Yes," Regina encouraged, her hips rocking slowly as Emma touched her breasts. Her nipples were wound painfully tight, and when they were suddenly pinched and then soothed, she cried out, hips jerking of their own accord.

Emma would have been concerned by the shout, had it not been so thick with lust. She watched as Regina's brows furrowed, her lips parting as she panted harshly. Her eyes were closed, and she was clearly enjoying the attention to her chest. Emma pinched her nipples again, slightly harder this time, before once again releasing the tips and brushing her thumbs against the hardened nubs. Regina hips jerked again, and Emma shifted slightly, raising one thigh. She didn't press it between her girlfriend's legs though, remembering the way Regina pulled away when they had kissed at the front entrance of the mansion. Instead, she continued palming Regina's breasts through her dress, licking and scraping her teeth against the moaning woman's throat. When Regina's hips shifted lower and she found the offered thigh, she shot up and then back down, groaning loudly in appreciation. Regina didn't jerk away this time. Instead, she rocked several times against it before leaning forward and ripping at the bottom of Emma's blouse.

Emma pulled away and crushed her lips to Regina's, hands falling away from the heavenly breasts she'd been palming when the brunette began aggressively unbuttoning her shirt. Fuck. Making out with Regina, feeling her grind against her leg, fingers ripping at her shirt… it was the hottest thing Emma had ever experienced. When Regina was finally successful and her hands made contact with Emma's bra-covered breasts, both women moaned into the kiss. Emma snaked her tongue into Regina's mouth, a shiver racing up her spine when she felt the mayor's hands eagerly squeeze and massage her breasts. She was getting increasingly wet, and she pulled away with a groan when Regina pinched her nipples through her bra.

Emma's hips jerked up, causing Regina to gasp loudly, mouth open as she let out a guttural moan, hips rocking against the strong thigh between her legs as Emma's hands found her breasts once again. It was only when she began feeling herself begin that ever-familiar climb to orgasm, when she felt just how wet she'd become, that Regina finally stilled. When she finally got ahold of herself, she reluctantly opened her eyes and looked down at her panting girlfriend.

"Emma," Regina said, swallowing as she tried to moisten her incredibly dry throat. "We must slow down. I am much too aroused."

Emma really, really didn't want to, but she agreed nonetheless. If Regina wanted to stop, she'd stop.

"Okay," she said, nodding.

Emma reluctantly brought her hands away from Regina's breasts, resting them on the woman's hips instead. She waited for Regina to make the next call, to tell her what to do. When the woman said nothing, staying still above her, Emma reached up and tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear before speaking.

"Baby? Are you okay?"

"I don't want to move," Regina admitted.

Emma was fine with that. Her thigh was still firmly pressed between Regina's legs, right against her centre. She kept still, but she could feel the heat radiating against her leg and she wanted nothing more than to press upwards and watch Regina gasp with pleasure.

"You don't have to move. I'm totally happy where you are."

Regina smirked despite herself.

"I'm sure you are."

Emma grinned, but grasped the woman's hand when she began to sense her unease.

"You okay?"

Regina swallowed and closed her eyes, too embarrassed to look at Emma.

"I believe I have… caused your pant leg to become damp."

It took Emma half of a second to catch on, but when she finally did she groaned loudly.

"Fuck. That is so hot. You have no fucking idea how bad I wanna continue."

"I know," Regina said, finally, slowly pulling away. "That is why we must slow down."

Regina got up, wincing at the uncomfortable wetness between her legs. She had never before become so aroused so quickly, and she had certainly never become so aroused as to soak through her panties and onto her lover's clothing. She didn't trust herself not to ravish Emma right here and now, so she reluctantly pulled away.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, I am. However, I am in desperate need of a change of clothes," Regina responded.

"Okay. I probably should too. You wanna go up first? I need a minute to let my body cool off."

Regina nodded in agreement, leaving the room a moment later. Emma groaned in frustrated arousal, but she did not regret what had just happened. As soon as she heard the bedroom door close upstairs, her eyes fell to the thigh Regina had been pressed against. Her fingers reached out and touched the dampened area, and she let out another groan when she felt just how wet the fabric was. Her stomach dipped low in her belly, and she wished desperately that she could have flipped Regina down and licked away all of traces of the woman's arousal before making her come hard against her mouth. Unfortunately, that particular fantasy would have to remain just that, at least until Regina was ready and open to the idea.

Emma lay there quietly, unmoving, working through her arousal until Regina returned.

"I placed your pyjamas on the bed. I washed them this morning."

Emma got up then, kissing Regina's cheek when she got close.

"Thanks, baby. By the way, I'm never washing these pants. Ever."

She grinned as Regina protested the statement, walking away chuckling. She quickly changed upstairs, doing her best to ignore the fire between her legs. However, when she got to the bathroom and the ache still hadn't lessened, Emma gritted her teeth as she tried to talk herself out of touching herself. She told herself not to, but her clit was so incredibly sensitive that she needed to. Leaning against the sink on her left hand, she slipped her right in her pyjama bottoms and rubbed until she came hard, images of a panting and moaning Regina filling her mind. Emma's left hand flew up and covered her mouth as she whimpered, her fingers circling rapidly as a second orgasm quickly washed over her. She panted loudly against her hand, slipping the other out as she took a moment to recover. She then wiped between her legs with some tissue and washed her hands, taking a deep breath before making her way downstairs.

Regina was resting against the couch, so Emma walked over and sat next to her, relieved that most of her arousal had ebbed now that she had taken the edge off. Pulling her close, Emma tilted Regina's head and pressed their lips together, kissing her softly. She pulled away for a split second before leaning close once more and pressing another gentle kiss to Regina's lips.

"You're beautiful," Emma murmured, pulling away and looking into Regina's eyes.

Regina smiled warmly at her girlfriend. She rested her head on Emma's shoulder, wrapping her arms around her waist.

"You okay? With what happened just now, I mean."

"I am, Emma."

"Okay. You're not worried or upset or anything?"

"Don't worry, darling," Regina soothed. "I feel nothing but warmth and affection at the moment."

"Sorry. Just checking. I'm glad you're good."

"I appreciate that you are concerned, but there's nothing to worry about. Now, shall we watch an episode of Narcos before bed?"

Regina desperately needed a distraction from the arousal still thrumming in her veins.

"I don't care, as long as I get to hold you."

Such comments should not warm her as they did. They were simply words, and yet, coming from Emma, they turned Regina into a puddle of mush- figuratively speaking of course. Rather than respond, Regina kissed Emma's cheek and turned on the television, curling up in her arms as she pressed play.

Chapter Text

 

Regina awoke the next morning to Emma's arms wrapped around her middle, body curved around her protectively. She could feel her girlfriend's face pressed into her hair, soft breath against the back of her neck. Regina wondered what it was that woke her until she heard a slight whimper in her ear, followed by a hand rubbing against her stomach. Another nightmare? Emma hadn't had one in weeks, not since she had returned to the mansion for good.

Regina carefully shifted in Emma's arms, heart clenching at the frowned that marred her girlfriend's facial features. She didn't look as distraught as she did during her worst nightmares, but it was still upsetting to see that she didn't look as relaxed as she usually did during sleep. Regina reached out and smoothed her thumb along Emma's eyebrow, but the touch provoked another whimper, so she pulled her hand away. Emma tightened her hold, her breathing increasing, mouth falling open. The sleeping woman shifted her hips and a low moan fell from her lips. Emma's fingers twitched against Regina's back, and her hips rocked once as another whimper fell from her lips.

Regina smirked. She had been mistaken. This was definitely not a bad dream.

"'Gina."

The whispered name made Regina bite her lip as she wondered what Emma was seeing. Last night's... activities must have provoked the dream. Regina had had her own arousing dream, the evidence of its effects still slick between her legs. The knowledge that Emma too was not unaffected by their activities last night kicked off Regina's libido. Was Emma dreaming that they were back on the couch, Regina above her once again? Or was Emma spooning her, her hand between Regina's legs? Perhaps Regina had Emma against the wall, toying with her breasts as the mayor had fantasized of so often.

The noises Emma was making, along with Regina's own fantasies, increased the already copious amount of wetness between her thighs. She'd fallen asleep still incredibly aroused last night, and she'd woken up once already due to an erotic dream. Regina had already decided upon waking in the middle of the night last night that she would not stop any further activities between them, as she so desperately regretted stopping last night. But even as she had made her decision, there wasn't much she could do given that Emma was asleep. So Regina had drifted off, but now… now she was sure she couldn't fall back asleep. Not with her clitoris aching as it was.

Regina ultimately decided to wake Emma in the hopes that she'd be open to continuing where they had left off last night. She doubted very much that Emma would mind, especially given that Regina had no plans of stopping this time. First though… Regina slid out of bed and crept to her closet, removing the flannel pyjamas she was wearing and reaching for the nightie Emma had caught her in so many weeks ago. She slipped it on, shivering as the silky material brushed over her hardened nipples. She then padded silently back to the bed, slipping under the blankets and curling herself around the sleeping woman.

"Emma," Regina purred, running her hand along the blonde's side. "Wake up."

She lay a soft kiss on Emma's lips, her cheek, and finally just beneath her ear. Emma stirred, moaning in disapproval at being pulled from what was such an amazing dream. That is, until she realised Regina was currently tonguing her throat, her body pressed into her. Emma let out a moan of appreciation, her hand rubbing Regina's back encouragingly. When she felt silky material instead of soft cotton, her eyes immediately opened. She looked at the woman against her, a delicious amount of skin on display, her body just barely covered by dark blue silk. Emma groaned loudly. Fuck, Regina was hot.

"Hello, darling," Regina whispered against her throat.

"Hey, baby. You look really, really good."

"Thank you. I believe you were having a pleasant dream. I'm sorry to have woken you."

"The best dream," Emma murmured, gasping when Regina sucked on her earlobe. "But it doesn't compare to having the real thing. Especially not when you're wearing that. God damn, woman."

"Oh?" Regina asked, sliding over to straddle Emma's hips. She relished the moans that tumbled from Emma's lips as she leaned forward and began licking and sucking on her throat.

"Yeah," Emma croaked out, gripping Regina's hips as the woman brought her kisses lower.

Emma arched her back as Regina's hands began wandering over her torso, purposely avoiding her breasts. Emma grunted in protest, eliciting a chuckle from the woman above.

"Something wrong, darling?"

"No, I just want you to touch me."

"I am touching you."

"Not where I want you to."

Regina clucked her tongue.

"Is there somewhere in particular you wish me to touch? Perhaps you could be more specific."

Emma looked down at her hardened nipples before glancing back up at Regina.

"They want your attention."

Regina grinned. She slid her hands up Emma's rib cage, cupping her breasts in her hand, but avoiding the peaked tips. She had to bite back her own groan as she palmed the soft flesh, her breathing increasing as she watched the pleasure on Emma's face.

"Baby," Emma moaned. "Please."

Regina shuddered as her arousal settled deep in her belly, growing at an incredible rate of speed. She swallowed hard, reigning in her steadily increasing libido in order to focus on the woman beneath her.

"I will touch you, Emma, under one condition."

"Name it," Emma said breathlessly, desperate to be touched.

"You will tell me about your dream," Regina purred, licking the shell of her ear. "If you cease speaking, I remove my hands. Is that clear?"

Emma looked up nervously, almost guiltily, which concerned Regina slightly. She stilled the movement of her hands, frowning.

"What?"

"I… You're not gonna like the dream."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it's not… it's not something you'd want to do. I didn't force you in the dream," Emma added quickly. "In the dream, you really liked it. It's just uh… not something you'd like in real life."

"How can you be so certain?"

"Because we talked about it."

Regina thought back, frowning until she realised what Emma was talking about.

"You dreamt of oral sex."

"Yeah."

"Which you enjoyed, in the dream."

Emma shifted, the evidence of her enjoyment coating her panties even further as she moved. She simply nodded in response.

"I'm sorry."

"You have nothing for which to be sorry, Emma. You are allowed to fantasize about whomever or whatever you wish. You cannot control your dreams any more than I can control the trajectory of the sun. Now," Regina said, shifting as she resumed her gentle exploration of Emma's torso. "I made you an offer, one which you have yet to accept. I would very much like to hear this dream, and I believe you will enjoy the reward if you choose to accept my proposal."

Emma moaned deep in her throat when Regina grabbed her breasts once again, moving ever closer to her over sensitive nipples.

"Are you sure you-" Emma's breath caught when Regina nipped her collarbone, "you wanna hear it?"

"I am quite sure."

The truth was, seeing how much Emma enjoyed her dream made Regina infinitely curious. Besides, this would an indirect way for her to gather insight into a fantasy which so obviously aroused her lover.

"Okay, I'll tell you," Emma moaned loudly when her Regina pinched her nipples, her mind going temporarily blank.

"It is terribly quiet in here," Regina clucked, slowly drawing her hands away.

Emma arms shot up, grabbing her wrists and dragging them back so that Regina's hands were once again on her breasts.

"We were in your office, only it didn't look like your office here. It was smaller and way less nice. You were sitting at your desk. Fuck that feels so good," Emma panted, gasping as Regina pinched and palmed her breasts. "You looked so hot. You had a skirt on and a blouse, but it was open. I was sucking on your nipples (another loud moan when Regina brought her mouth between Emma's breasts) but you wanted me between your legs. So you shoved me down and took off your skirt. And I was on my knees and you spread your legs, and fuck," Emma cried out. Regina had pulled her nipple into her mouth, and Emma's hands flew to her head, keeping her in place.

Regina bit the hardened peak between her teeth in protest that Emma had stopped speaking. The truth was, she was becoming unbearably aroused as she listened to Emma's breathy confession, the hips beneath her writhing on the bed as Emma spoke.

"And I could see you, see how wet you were. Fuck you were so wet, dripping down your thighs. God you tasted so good when I finally put my mouth on you."

Emma was having trouble concentrating. She was so turned on thinking about the dream, and then to have the star of it rocking her hips into her thighs, Regina's hot mouth on her over sensitive nipples… it was too much. Emma was moaning and arching, her head digging into the mattress as Regina teased and toyed with her breasts.

"Baby," Emma pleaded, "if you don't stop, I'm gonna come."

Regina released the pink nipple in her mouth, blowing on it softly. She licked the underside of Emma's breast, smiling when she heard a low groan. She felt no different than she had when she'd woken earlier: she did not want to stop. She wanted to watch Emma come undone. She wanted to watch the beautiful creature beneath her lose control. Decision made, Regina insinuated a thigh between Emma's legs and pressed it firmly against her heated sex. Both women moaned, Emma's hips jerking in reflex.

"Regina," Emma panted. She had closed her eyes when Regina pressed against her sex, but she forced them open to look at the beautifully disheveled woman above her. "I don't want you to regret it. I don't want to overwhelm you or scare you by moving too fast."

Regina leaned forward and kissed her lips softly. She rocked her hips once, biting the plump lower lip between her teeth when Emma gasped in pleasure. She licked her way along Emma's jaw to her ear, slowly rubbing her thigh back and forth as Emma moaned in appreciation.

"You will not frighten me by simply having an orgasm, my darling. I would very much like to see you lose control for me. Don't hold back. This time, you will be the one to ruin my pant leg. Or you would, if I were wearing pants…"

The reference to last night, the memory of Regina's heated sex leaving a damp patch on her thigh was too much for Emma. Her clit tightened, hips jerking against Regina warm, firm thigh. Her left hand reached down to grip the back of Regina's leg, heat roaring between her legs as her hand made contact with smooth, warm flesh. Her right held fast to her lover's hip as she began actively fucking herself against Regina's thigh, mouth open as she lost herself in the overwhelming pleasure she felt.

Regina aided Emma's efforts, pressing firmly as she began peppering Emma's cheeks and throat with kisses, thoroughly enjoying the sounds coming from her girlfriend.

"Talk to me," Emma whispered.

"Hmm?" Regina hummed, voice low in her throat. "Do you wish to hear my voice as you rut against my thigh?"

Emma whimpered, nodding eagerly.

"Love your voice," she panted. "So hot. Reminds me it's you here with me. You're real."

"I am quite real, Emma. Allow me to prove it to you."

Regina grabbed the hand at her hip, guiding it under her nightgown until it was pressed against her breast. Emma's eyes flew open, her hand squeezing in reflex.

"Fuck!" she grunted, upon feeling the hardened tip against her palm. "You are so hot."

"Touch me, Emma," Regina commanded, shifting so that she too was grinding against Emma's leg.

It only took Emma half a second to reciprocate, raising her knee so that Regina had better friction. She didn't know what she wanted to do more: hold Regina in place to get the pressure she so desperately needed between her thighs, or bring her hand up to rejoin the other and palm to woman's breasts.

You idiot. Touch her fucking boobs!

Emma immediately released Regina's thigh, returning the kiss was that firmly planted on her lips as her other hand slid under the brunette's silky pyjamas. Both of her hands began palming the fleshy mounds as Regina's hands moved to the sides of Emma's head, holding her up as she began actively pumping her hips.

"Fuck, Regina," Emma panted, squeezing her nipples. "Take this off. I wanna see you."

Regina complied, halting her movements in order to peel off the straps of her nightie. Rather than remove the article (she was only wearing a thong underneath and she wasn't quite ready to be so naked), she allowed the garment to pool at her hips. Regina's stomach dropped at the pure, unadulterated arousal in Emma's eyes the second they zeroed in on her breasts. The look of desire would have almost been comical had Regina not been so incredibly wanton.

"Can I?" Emma said, licking her lips.

This time, Regina did chuckle, for Emma spoke to her breasts rather than to her. In lieu of a response, she moved closer, moaning softly when a hot mouth covered her nipple. Emma began grinding beneath her once again, Regina eagerly joining in. In only took seconds for them to find their frantic rhythm from before. They grinded, moaned, and gasped as they worked their way towards climax, Emma ripping away from her breasts in order to pant her impending orgasm.

"Gonna come, baby. I can't fight it."

"Don't fight it. Come for me, Emma," Regina leaned down, husking her response in her ear.

Emma shouted, head thrown back as white hot pleasure ripped through her body, curling her toes and stealing the breath from her lungs. She jerked beneath Regina, hips shaking madly as stars burst beneath her eyelids.

"More," Regina demanded, rocking her leg more firmly between Emma's legs. "Come harder for me, Emma."

Emma whimpered as a second wave of arousal hit her like a freight train, and she began gasping as the pleasure clawed at her core once again. Regina leaned down and pulled a taut nipple in her mouth, and the second she bit down, Emma was thrown over the edge once more, unable to stop the scream that fell from her lips. Her back bowed tight as she rode the waves of her second orgasm, her body collapsing seconds later.

Regina grinned at the spent woman beneath her, incredibly smug at just how wasted Emma appeared. She leaned down and gently kissed the panting woman, biting back a moan as her thong grazed her overstimulated clitoris. She had not been able to achieve climax, but she was not surprised. She usually required direct stimulation in order to do so. However, she had thoroughly enjoyed this unbelievably erotic encounter, and she did not regret it in the least. In fact, she was almost disappointed it was over… until she realised with glee that they could do this again any time they desired.

Emma's eyes fluttered open when she finally came to, her breathing nearly back to normal. She swallowed to moisten her throat, looking at Regina, who was now curled into her side.

"Fuck," she groaned, wrapping her arms around Regina to hold her tight. "That was so, so good."

Regina laughed, kissing the side of her jaw.

"I'm pleased you enjoyed yourself."

"Didn't you?" Emma chuckled.

"Very much so."

Emma closed her eyes for a second before they snapped open again.

"Wait a minute! You didn't come."

"No, but it was very pleasurable for me nonetheless."

"Well, that's not fair." Emma attempted to pull Regina back into her lap, but the woman resisted. "What's wrong?"

"I… I cannot achieve climax unless directly stimulated. Pressing against your thigh, while incredibly pleasurable, will not allow me release."

Emma frowned, disappointed.

"I wanted you to feel good too."

"I did, Emma, very much."

"Yeah but you didn't…"

"No. However, I am not disappointed. I hope that you are not either."

"Well, I'm not disappointed for me. But I am for you." Emma paused. "You're not ready for me to touch you yet?"

"No," Regina admitted quietly, rubbing her hand along Emma's stomach.

"Okay. That's okay. But uh, what about if you touched yourself? You know, there."

"Now?" Regina asked, surprise evident in her voice.

"Yeah. I want you to feel good too. To um, to come too. Would you be okay to, you know, touch yourself? That would be uh-" Emma paused, her brain short-circuiting at the incredibly erotic visuals of Regina masturbating before her, "really hot. Like, if you touched yourself to come. And if I could um, watch."

"Would you enjoy-"

"Oh God, so fucking much. If you're not opposed to it and wouldn't be uncomfortable doing it, I really want you to. Like really want you to. I'm not above begging to watch either. 'Cause God damn that would be so hot."

Regina chuckled, becoming slightly more breathy as she noticed just how excited Emma was getting at the mere thought of her touching herself. Normally, she would be embarrassed, probably even opposed to the idea. But she'd never before been so comfortable with someone. And Emma was obviously eager for her to, which emboldened her further. She was no longer in the Enchanted Forest, Regina reminded herself. She was a grown woman, a grown woman who was incredibly horny. She wanted to masturbate if she were to be honest, and had she been alone, she'd have done so without a doubt because she was almost painfully aroused.

Regina looked up at Emma, who smiled warmly at her. The thought of touching herself before Emma, well, that was a very intriguing idea indeed.

"I would not be opposed to the idea," she finally said. "Truthfully, I am rather aroused and it is fairly uncomfortable."

"Oh God," Emma groaned. "Then please, don't let me stop you."

Regina sat up, sliding back onto Emma's lap.

"You would not be opposed if I sat here, would you?" Regina asked cheekily. "It was quite enjoyable on your lap."

Emma panted loudly. She was dying. Surely, she was dying because nothing this fucking awesome happened to her. She looked up at the topless, breathless woman above her and bit her tongue. God damn, it should be illegal to look that fucking hot.

Regina, noticing Emma's eyes darken, grinned salaciously. She began palming her own breasts, starting a slow rock as she pinched her nipples. Her head fell back as she ground her clitoris into the firm body beneath her own, squeezing her nipples and grasping her breasts. She could feel another wave of wetness flood her underwear, smearing against Emma's lower stomach. Regina's thighs were sticky with her arousal, and the extra attention to her breast only aided the flood between her legs.

"Fuck, Regina," Emma moaned. "You're killing me."

Regina grinned down at the woman who was openly gawking at her, Emma's mouth open and pupils incredibly dilated. She looked wild, and Regina wanted nothing more than to tease her further. She dragged her palm down her side, stopping at the band of her thong before slipping inside. She slowly pressed her fingers between her legs, gasping loudly and jerking against her hand the second it made contact with her engorged clit. It was much too sensitive to be touched, so she dragged her fingers lower and sank two inside, pressing her palm against her swollen nub.

When Emma realised Regina's fingers were buried inside of herself, she groaned and gripped the woman's knees firmly. It was the only way to ensure she didn't flip her onto her back and thrust her own fingers into what was undoubtedly an incredibly warm, tight channel. God, what she couldn't give to feel the woman clinging to her fingers, her vagina gripping her slim digits as she slowly fucked her.

"Emma," Regina whimpered, her hips actively bucking against her hand. She was close already.

Emma shot up, her mouth attacking Regina's lips as her hands caught the woman to prevent her from falling back. They shifted slightly as they devoured each other's mouths, Emma's hands roaming over the silky skin of her lover's back as she moaned into their kiss. Regina was jerking in her arms, her hips thrusting wildly against her hand. Emma plunged her fingers into Regina' hair, holding her in place as she dove her tongue into her warm mouth. They duelled, but ultimately Regina lost as she was far too lost in the sensation between her thighs to be able to concentrate on the battle of their tongues. Plus, she had to admit it felt incredible to have Emma dominate her mouth as she fucked herself on her fingers. Wetness seeped from her core, coating her fingers and thighs even further as she began whimpering against Emma's mouth.

"Emma, I'm close."

"Good. Come for me, Regina. I wanna watch you lose it for me."

Regina cried out when Emma palmed her breasts, her hips bucking madly once, twice, before her mouth dropped open in a silent scream, brows furrowed as she spasmed against her hand. Her fingers plunged in and out of her body, eliciting a high pitched gasp as her palm ground hard against her clit. Regina shook for several seconds in Emma's arms before she finally collapsed, leaning heavily on the other woman. She rested her head on her shoulder, closing her eyes and gasping for breath as Emma held her close.

Emma rubbed slow, wide circles on Regina's back as the woman slowly came down from her high, giving the occasional shiver as she calmed. When her breathing had finally returned to normal, Regina pulled back and kissed Emma softly. She slowly extracted her fingers, wincing at the slight sting between her legs. She had been rather rough in her quest for an orgasm, but it had been incredibly worth it. Regina had just been about to discreetly wipe her fingers on the sheets when Emma caught her hand, bringing it up to her lips. Regina's eyes fluttered closed, mouth dropping open at the incredibly erotic sensation of Emma's soft tongue licking and probing at her wet digits. She shivered when she heard a moan of appreciation, her eyes opening to watch a look of pure pleasure on Emma's face.

"Fuck," Emma panted, when she finally pulled the fingers from her mouth, reluctantly admitting to herself that Regina's flavour was completely gone. "You taste even better than I ever could have imagined."

Emma softly licked the two digits once again, and Regina's clitoris clenched in response. She was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought of what it must feel like to have that soft, probing tongue between her thighs instead of her fingers. Rather than dwell on that idea and arouse herself once again, Regina slowly extracted her hand from Emma's grip, smirking when she was met with a pout.

"There will be a next time, Emma. I am loathe to admit that we must begin our day."

"Damn this town and all the people in it!"

"I already have, dear," Regina said with a smile, slipping from the bed and making her way to the bathroom.

Regina spent the rest of the day glued to her desk, having cleared her schedule in order to catch up on her paperwork. She startled when her secretary poked her head in to announce that she was leaving for the day, a stunned Regina looking at the clock and realising it was now after five. She had even worked through her lunch hour. Emma hadn't dropped in today because she had a health and safety workshop to attend with David, and without the other woman around to remind Regina to stop working, the woman had fallen into bad habits and worked for nearly nine hours straight.

Regina bid her secretary goodnight and gathered her things, her back and neck aching from being hunched over for so long. She drove home in silence, sighing heavily as she finally entered her home. She dropped her briefcase and purse onto the floor, ripping her shoes off and wiggling her toes in relief. Regina felt exhausted and she wanted nothing more than to just curl up with Emma and her son. This was an unrealistic dream, however, because Emma was currently still at her workshop and her son was at school, decorating the hallways with his classmates. They were putting up paper leaves and pumpkins to celebrate the fall season. He had invited Regina, but after the day she'd had, she had no patience to cut out paper leaves and tape them to a wall. Although it was not physically tiring, doing paperwork mentally exhausting and left her feeling incredibly drained. She felt guilty for turning her son down, so she had told Henry she'd play a video game with him when he came home instead, much to his excitement (as she very rarely played them).

Regina brought her things into her home office, placing them on her desk. She contemplated going through the dwarfs' budget for the mines since she had some time to herself, but she had been working on it for two days now and she no longer had the patience to decipher their botched-on-purpose paperwork. She would tackle that tomorrow. Instead, she decided to relax by taking a bath, given that no one was home to interrupt her.

Smiling at the notion that she'd be able to soak in a hot tub, Regina happily made her way upstairs and stripped down to her underwear, throwing her dirty laundry in her hamper. She then made her way to the en-suite, turning on the taps and feeling for the perfect temperature. She leaned over to plug the tub when Emma's voice suddenly filled her mind. Next time you have the house to yourself, take a bath. Sit under the flow of water with your legs spread. Regina shivered as she remembered exactly how good it had felt this morning to have Emma slowly lick her fingers. She debated for half of a second before deciding to give in. She was infinitely curious and no one was here. No one would know that she had tried it.

Memories of this morning flooded her mind as she stripped naked, settling into the tub and adjusting the temperature once again. Remembering Emma's voice, her touch, her erratic breathing, her soft hands roaming all over her body was doing wonders for Regina's libido. By the time she was ready to try Emma's suggestion, Regina was breathing heavily with anticipation. She ensured the temperature was cool enough before she spread her legs, hesitating only for a moment before finally scooting closer and tilting her hips.

Regina gasped when the water first touched her between her legs, hips jerking in response. It felt good, although not as pleasurable as Emma had made it sound. She shifted around, closing her eyes as she enjoyed the completely foreign feeling of something warm and wet between her legs. Never before had she felt such a wonderful sensation, and when the flow of water hit her clitoris directly, Regina cried out in pleasure. Her eyes flew open in surprise, the sound having been ripped from her throat involuntarily. She looked down as her hips began rocking of their own accord, her nipples tightening as she suddenly found herself rapidly climbing towards an orgasm. She'd never approached climax so quickly, but then again, nothing had ever felt this unbelievably pleasurable.

Regina closed her eyes, head dropping back as she gasped against the wonderful sensation of the water flowing against her. She parted her knees further, tilting her hips back, and when the flow of water began beating at her entrance, she cried out once again. She was swollen beyond belief and her thoughts were suddenly invaded with visuals of Emma between her legs, her tongue stroking her as eagerly as the water was. Regina was suddenly blinded by her orgasm, a burst of pleasure exploding from her between her legs and vibrating her body, causing her to shout with satisfaction. She quivered for several moments, never falling from her high as she was brought to a second peak, culminating with several cries of pleasure.

Finally she could take no more, so Regina pulled away and lay in the bottom of the tub, panting as she slowly calmed down. Her eyes fluttered open, and she stared at the ceiling, laughing as she was suddenly overwhelmed with the knowledge that this was a sensation she had never known she had wanted. But now that she did, Gods did she ever want it. She wanted to lay in bed and feel Emma's tongue stroke her heated flesh, and the knowledge that Emma wanted it too made Regina wet once more.

Regina slowly sat up several moments later, hissing as pressure was placed against her oversensitive clitoris. She shifted, plugging the tub and adjusting the temperature of the water. She liked scalding hot baths, and she sighed with satisfaction as steam rose from the steadily filling tub. Regina reached for her favourite aromatherapy bubble bath, squeezing a generous amount under the flow of water. She happily sank into the tub, enjoying the feel of the rising water and bubbles. She turned off the water once the bathtub was full, closing her eyes and soaking contently in the hot water. Regina lay there until the water cooled, feeling incredibly relaxed as she drained the tub and toweled off. She slipped into a pair of Emma's pyjamas, sighing as the smell of her girlfriend invaded her nostrils. Regina curled into the couch, wrapping herself in a blanket and reading silently until she heard the front door open. Sounds of her son and his other mother floated into the room, so she closed her book and greeted them at the entrance.

"Hi, mom!"

"Hello, my little prince. How was your evening?"

"Great! The halls look awesome! We decorated the whole place. My hands are really sore from cutting, but not too sore to beat you and ma at MarioKart."

"Yeah, keep dreamin', kid," Emma teased, her smile growing wider when she feasted upon the beautiful woman before her. "Hey, gorgeous. I like your pjs."

Regina smiled, wrapping her arms around Emma and greeting her with a soft kiss.

"Hello, darling."

Henry left the room, wrinkling his nose as his mothers kissed. He was really, really happy they were together, but it was totally gross that they kissed around him. Emma chuckled when she saw his expression, nuzzling her nose into Regina's neck and laying a soft kiss against her throat.

"You sound pretty relaxed."

"I am."

"You smell nice."

"Thank you."

"And your hair is wet. You took a bath, didn't you?" Emma asked, pulling back with a grin.

"Now I understand why you're so successful in law enforcement. Your investigative skills are astounding."

"Moms!" Henry shouted, interrupting them. "It's all set up! Come play!"

Emma sighed heavily.

"You're not off the hook. I wanna hear about your bath."

"It is unfortunate you weren't here a mere two hours ago. You surely would have heard how I enjoyed my bath."

Regina left a gaping Emma in the foyer, giggling to herself as she joined her son in the living room. He happily handed her a remote, frowning as he saw his mom enter the living room, flushed and a little bewildered.

"You ok, ma?"

"What? Yeah, no, I'm good. I'm fine. What level are we playing?"

Regina smirked as Emma took a seat on the floor next to Henry, clearly still reeling from her admission. She loved that she could fluster the other woman, and she thoroughly looked forward to doing so after their son went to sleep.

"Ma! You're totally sucking tonight!" Henry said, after he'd beat her for the third time in a row. "I never beat you like this."

"I know. It's your mom's fault. She's distracting me."

Truth was, Emma could not stop thinking of a naked, wet, and very vocal Regina spread in the bathtub upstairs. It had been on her mind since she had mentioned it, and she could not for the life of her concentrate on making Yoshi travel on the screen. She kept falling over the edges, slipping on turtles, and bumping into walls. Her mind was stuck on a loop of Regina panting, bucking her hips, biting her lip, nipples tight…

"Ma? You ok? You look like you're gonna pass out."

"Yeah, I'm gonna go get a glass of water. You guys want anything?"

"No, I'm good."

Emma got up before Regina could answer, knowing that if she looked at her, she'd be unable to stop herself from jumping her and dragging her upstairs.

"Henry? I believe I will go check on your mother."

"She's acting weird, isn't she?"

"She is. We've both had a rather long day today. You needn't worry. She will be fine. Play a round by yourself, mijo. We'll be out in a moment."

Regina got up and headed to the kitchen, where she found Emma leaning on her hands against the sink. Her head was down, and she looked to be breathing heavily. Regina, grinning, walked over and wrapped her arms around Emma's stomach.

"Jesus!" Emma gasped, not having heard anyone come in.

"No, darling. It's me."

"Yeah, stop acting so innocent," Emma grumbled, turning in her embrace so that they were facing one another. "Stop smiling."

"I cannot. I'm simply much too pleased to see you."

"No, you're too pleased to see the effects of your damn comment earlier. Which, by the way, you totally knew would happen."

Regina grinned wickedly.

"They don't call me the Evil Queen for nothing, darling."

"You're not … okay, that comment was a little evil," Emma said, brushing the brown locks from Regina's face, "but you're not."

Emma leaned forward and brushed their lips together.

"You really had a bath and uh- tried that thing I suggested?"

"I did, but now is not the time to have such a conversation. We will wait until our son is asleep."

Emma groaned.

"Let's ground him, send him to his room."

Regina chuckled.

"We are not grounding our son simply because you cannot control yourself."

"Can you blame me? You're crazy hot, Regina. Just the thought of you there, wet-"

Regina leaned forward and kissed her, cutting off the rest of the thought. There would be time enough later for that discussion.

"Moms?! Are you coming back?"

Emma sighed, sliding her hands down Regina's arms and linking their fingers.

"Coming, kid!"

"Oh, I already came, Emma," Regina said with a smile. "Twice."

Regina led a sputtering Emma back into the living room, settling against her on the couch as they resumed playing. Emma played even worse, if it were possible, and Regina's smirk did not dissipate until she finally announced their son's bedtime.

"Do I have to go to sleep? It's Saturday tomorrow," Henry complained, then suddenly looked up at his mothers. "Hey, it's Saturday tomorrow. You're doing the spell, right?"

"Yes," Regina confirmed. She hadn't been thinking about it because if she did, she began thinking about what would happen if it didn't work, an outcome which she did not wish to consider.

"Are you excited?"

"Henry, we will speak of this in the morning. It's time for you to sleep."

"But I forgot. Can we talk about it, please? We could talk about it once I'm in bed instead of doing our usual recap of the day?"

"Very well," Regina agreed. "We will join you in a few minutes."

Emma's libido deflated the second she sensed Regina's uneasiness. She slid over on the couch, pulling her into her arms and holding her close.

"I know what you're thinking, but don't. It's gonna go fine tomorrow."

"You cannot possibly know that, Emma," Regina snapped.

"Hey, don't get mad at me. I'm sorry. You're right, I don't know for sure that it's gonna work, but whatever happens, we will be fine. We're pretty confident about this one, so I have hope. But even if it doesn't work, we will find another way, Regina. We always do."

Regina sagged in Emma's arms, nodding

"I apologise for becoming angry with you. Thank you for being supportive."

Emma kissed her temple, holding her close until the other woman finally pulled away.

"We should bid Henry goodnight."

"Okay."

They made their way upstairs, joining Henry in his room. He looked up at his moms, smiling when he saw them standing together at the foot of his bed. He sat up, patting his mattress so they'd sit down with him.

"Have you brushed your teeth?"

"Yes, mom. Wanna smell?" he asked with a grin.

"No, that will be quite alright," Regina responded, smiling easily at him.

Regina sat first, settling at his hip, while Emma sat close behind her, wrapping an arm around her waist and pressing up against her back. She rested her chin on Regina's shoulder, peering over at her son from her perch.

"So, what time are we gonna try the spell?"

"We aren't, kid. You're gonna stay here with Ruby and your mom and I are gonna go with Belle."

"What? Why can't I come?"

"It is far too dangerous, Henry," Regina said seriously. "I would prefer not to worry about you. You will stay here, as your mother has stated."

"I want to go."

"I understand that you wish to join us; however, the answer we have both decided upon is no. You will cease arguing," she added, when she noticed Henry opening his mouth.

"This isn't fair! I'm not a child anymore."

"Kid, it's not 'cause you're too young (it was also because he was too young). It's 'cause your mom and I need to concentrate and if you're there, we're both gonna be worrying about you. We can't tune out our need to like… keep you safe so when you're around, we're automatically distracted. It's not your fault, but you're a distraction. If you're here, away from what we're doing, we don't have to worry and we can concentrate on making the spell work."

"I still wanna come," he said, though with much less conviction.

"You'll be the first to know what happens, Henry," Regina assured her son.

He sighed heavily, dropping back onto his pillow. It was no use fighting when both of his moms were against him.

"Fine."

Emma reached out and pulled him back up by his pyjama top.

"Stop being cranky or else I'll make you breakfast tomorrow and force you to eat it."

He rolled his eyes.

"Or I'll kiss your mom."

"Aw, gross, ma."

She tickled his side, grinning as he laughed and pulled away.

"We love you, kid. Maybe you don't get to participate in all the grown up stuff, but it's because we love you too much not to keep you safe."

He sighed, reluctantly agreeing with her words.

"I know, ma. I just really wanted to come."

Regina reached out and pulled him in her arms, heart breaking at his saddened tone. She hated it when he was unhappy, even when she knew her decision was for his own good.

"I love you very much, cariño."

"I love you too, mom. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow."

"Gracias, mijo."

Regina pulled away, allowing Emma to hug their son. The two women headed downstairs together afterwards, Emma dropping onto the couch first and pulling Regina into her arms. She kissed her softly on the temple, wrapping her arms loosely around her waist.

"Are you nervous for tomorrow?"

"I don't wish to think of it, Emma, because if I do, I will surely come to the conclusion that it will not work. I would prefer to think of something else rather than ruin my evening with negative thoughts." Regina shifted in Emma's arms, cuddling into her embrace and resting her head on her shoulder. "I quite enjoyed my bath this evening."

Emma laughed as she stroked Regina's back.

"Real subtle, Madame Mayor. So you tried that thing I suggested."

"I did."

"Did you like it?" Emma asked, swallowing hard before the visual of a certain beautiful brunette panting and spread open, face contorted in ecstasy.

"I have never felt anything quite so pleasurable, Emma."

"Never?"

"Nothing like that."

"Do you think… maybe you'd be interested in uh-" Emma hesitated before saying the word, "trying oral sex? I mean, no pressure if it still isn't something you'd wanna do and you definitely don't have to answer-"

Regina leaned up and kissed Emma slowly, cutting her off. She cupped her cheek as she moaned happily against her lips, thoroughly enjoying the soft lips against her own. When she finally broke away, she smiled at Emma.

"I will admit that I am curious," she said, not saying that a more accurate word would have been 'eager'. Or 'desperate'. Or incredibly-horny-for-it-now-that-I-came-to-the-image-of-you-between-my-thighs.

Emma nodded, licking her lips as she tried to mask her enthusiasm at the idea.

"Okay. Well, there's no pressure."

"Thank you."

Regina rested her head once more, sighing when Emma resumed stroking her back.

"How was your day?"

"It was tiresome. I will be relieved once the budget is settled. How was yours?"

"Busy, but it was good. Got to chat with my dad. My mom stopped by in the afternoon."

"Was it a pleasant visit?"

"It was actually. I thought she came by to see my dad, but she came by to see me. She brought me cookies that she made. It was really weird. She just… came to sit at my desk and talked with me about- about how I was doing and how you were."

"It sounds like a lovely visit."

"It was, but it was weird too because it was just so normal. Like a regular mom coming by to see her kid."

"That is precisely what happened today, Emma. A mother came to her daughter's place of work, likely because she missed her."

Emma kissed Regina's hair, smiling at the thought.

"You think so?"

"Yes, darling. Your mother has many faults, but she has always been loving. She is affectionate towards those of whom she loves."

Emma couldn't wipe the grin on her face. She had been thinking it earlier, that her mom really had come just to see her, but it was nice to have it reaffirmed.

"Do you want to go to bed?" Emma asked, after Regina yawned heavily against her.

"I am tired, however if you aren't, I would not be opposed to staying awake with you."

"Nah, let's go lay down."

"Are you certain?"

"Yeah, come on. I can cuddle you just as easily in bed."

Emma followed Regina upstairs. She smiled to herself, watching the glorious ass before her move up the steps.

"I feel your eyes on me, Emma. I know why you insist I lead the way every night."

"Your ass is the reason I get up in the morning, baby. I just wanna grab it, it's so sexy."

Regina rolled her eyes, heading into the en-suite as Emma changed in the bedroom. She quickly brushed her teeth, slipping into bed a minute later. Emma washed her face and brushed her own teeth before turning off the lights and jumping onto the bed.

"You are such a child."

Emma rolled over and dragged Regina close, burying her nose in her hair.

"I'm gonna love on you even though you call me names," Emma replied.

"I will allow it."

Emma laughed against her head, eliciting a small chuckle from Regina as well.

"You're such a generous person."

"I am well aware," Regina responded.

Emma placed soft kisses against Regina's shoulder, enjoying the way her girlfriend relaxed in her arms as she pressed her lips against her soft skin. She heard Regina attempt to stifle a yawn, so she pulled her mouth away and settled against her.

"Go to sleep, honey."

"No…I missed you today," Regina admitted. "I would prefer to stay awake with you."

Emma's heart melted, her arms squeezing her affectionately.

"I missed you too, baby, but I'll still be here in the morning. We'll cuddle some more before we get out of bed, and I'm not planning on moving from here for the rest of the night, so you'll get to enjoy cuddling all night too."

"Your walnut-sized bladder will not allow you to stay in this exact position the entire time," Regina teased.

"Listen, I spend a lot of my time running, so I gotta drink a lot of liquids to stay hydrated. At night, it bites me in the ass."

Regina snorted.

"You rarely run, Emma, unless chasing the doughnuts in Granny's take out boxes counts as exercise. You spend much of your day sitting at your desk, staring off into space."

"I so do not!" Emma said indignantly. "And the time I do spend staring off into space is usually time I'm thinking about you, so you should be flattered."

"Am I reprimanding you, in said thoughts, for not working as you should be?"

"Oh, you're reprimanding me alright. Usually in a really tight outfit and I'm very, very sorry."

Regina shook her head, chuckling.

"Goodnight, Miss Swan."

Emma grinned, closing her eyes and enjoying the feel of Regina in her arms.

"Goodnight, baby."

Chapter Text

This story was never meant to be this long... I just can't stop!


 

"No way you're going to beat me again, Henry," Ruby vowed, sticking her tongue out as she pressed hard on the controller's buttons.

"You're gonna eat my dust!"

Both Henry and Ruby were sitting on the edge of the couch, staring intently at the television as they raced around the track. So far, Henry was in the lead by two rounds, and there was no way Ruby was going to let him get away with beating her again. She was seconds away from passing him when her phone went off, and she'd have ignored it if it weren't Emma's ringtone.

"Damn it!"

Henry paused the game as Ruby put down her remote. He really wanted to beat her, but it would be a cheap win if it were because she wasn't even playing. He sat and looked at the screen, calculating just how much further he had before he would pass the finish line and win the cup.

"Emma, slow down. I can't hear you. What?"

At the sound of his mother's voice, Henry instantly turned to Ruby, whose eyes were wide as saucers, her mouth open.

"What?" he asked eagerly, moving closer.

Ruby got up and began pacing, nodding into the phone.

"Okay, okay. Yeah I got it. We're leaving right now." Ruby hung up the phone, pocketing it as she began putting the game away. "No questions asked, Henry. Go upstairs and pack a bag. You're staying with your grandparents for a few days. Your mothers are fine but the spell didn't work, and your mom is really upset. Emma wants us to leave."

"But I-"

"I said no questions, Henry. Get your stuff and I'll answer you on the way to your grandparents'. Go!"

Henry scurried off, grabbing his backpack and stuffing clothing inside. He wanted to argue, but he knew that if he disobeyed Ruby, his mom would kill him. Any time he was left with a babysitter and his mom was told he had disobeyed, he got it big time- worse than when he disobeyed his mother directly. So, he moved quickly, stuffing enough clothing in his bag for three days, not knowing how long he'd be. He grabbed a few comics and his toothbrush before jogging back downstairs. Ruby was already waiting for him at the door.

"Okay, let's go."

Ruby led the way into her car, and the second he was seated, Henry turned to her.

"What happened?"

"I didn't get much info, but from what your ma told me, the spell didn't work. Your mom is really upset." Ruby shook her head solemnly as she started the car and took off.

"My mom was really hoping for this one to work," Henry said, his voice filled with sadness. "I want to be home with her."

"I know you do, but your mom isn't in a good place right now."

"You don't think she's gonna hurt anyone, do you?"

"No, she's not going to hurt anyone, but she's really upset. She needs some time alone."

"Ma's gonna stay with her though, right?"

"Oh yeah," Ruby said confidently. Of that she was sure. "She's not going to let your mom run away or shut her out."

Henry shook his head dejectedly.

"I don't know why she wouldn't want me there."

"It's not about you, Henry. It's about her. When adults, especially parents, are really upset about stuff… important stuff, they need space because when they're around their kids, they feel like they have to hide how they feel to protect their kids. And if they can't hide how they feel, it can be kind of traumatising for the kids to see their parent so upset. It'll be stressful for your mom if you're there because she's always trying to take care of you and protect you, but right now, she needs to be upset. And she can't be if you're there. I don't know if that makes sense. I'm not good at explaining things. Do you get it?"

"Yeah… I think I get it. It still sucks though. I want to be there."

"I know. But Emma said she'd call you later," Ruby said, parking in front of Snow's apartment.

She followed Henry upstairs, knocking on the loft's door and taking a step back. David opened the door and quickly ushered them inside, his face somber as well.

"She called you?"

He nodded.

"What did she say?" Henry asked, eager for as much information as he could get.

"It didn't work. The spell they were trying didn't get the cuff off. Regina's in a pretty bad place right now."

Henry looked up fearfully, so David patted his shoulder.

"She'll be fine, Henry. She always is. She's just…" he searched for a better word than 'devastated', which was the truth. He didn't want his grandson to worry any more than he was.

"Upset," Henry offered quietly.

"Yes. She's very upset right now."

Snow entered the room a minute later, having just put the baby down.

"Henry," she said softly, pulling him into her arms. "I'm so sorry. Don't worry, alright? Everything will be fine."

"She needed this to work," Henry whispered.

"I know," Snow said, her heart breaking at his distressed tone. "But this wasn't their last option. There are others."

Henry wrapped his arms around his grandmother's waist, taking comfort in her embrace rather than responding. Snow guided him to the couch, pulling him into her arms while David and Ruby spoke.

"How did Emma sound when she called you?" David asked.

"Panicked. She was talking a mile a minute, I could barely understand her. All she said was that the spell didn't work and that Regina was really upset. She was going to bring Regina to the mansion, but she didn't want Henry there to see her so she asked us to leave right away."

David nodded.

"She called me right after, saying she couldn't talk but that Henry needed to stay with us for a few days. She said the spell didn't work and that she'd give us more details later. We didn't talk long before she hung up."

Ruby shook her head. She'd only recently learnt about the binding on Regina's wrist, but she knew what it was like to be controlled by others, so she empathised with the other woman. She couldn't imagine how devastated Regina must be that the spell hadn't worked.

"Never thought I'd say this but, poor Regina," Ruby said.

David nodded his head, looking over at his solemn grandson.

"Poor Henry and Emma as well."

Ruby left shortly thereafter, leaving Henry in the care of his grandparents. She knew there was nothing more that she could do, and it crushed her knowing that her friends were so upset. She had told them to let her know if they needed her, and they promised they'd call with an update as soon as they heard anything.

Hours later at the mansion, Emma held Regina as she slept, the woman utterly spent from the hours she spent crying in Emma's arms. Emma's eyes hurt from crying so much as well, her heart in shreds upon witnessing her girlfriend's utter devastation.

They'd been so sure, so sure it would work. And when Emma had cast the spell… it had done nothing. It hadn't even reacted, hadn't even weakened the cuff in any way. It was as though they hadn't even tried anything, and Emma had put every ounce of her will into that spell. When she realised it had done nothing, Regina had not said a word. She'd simply blinked and walked away, but Emma knew. She knew Regina was going to blow up simply by the fact that she had had no reaction at all. She could feel it, feel the emotion rolling in waves off of Regina. Emma knew her girlfriend was internalising, but it would come out, and she knew it wouldn't take long.

She had sent Belle home immediately after Regina had walked away, reassuring the apologetic woman that she'd take care of the mayor. Belle had promised to spend every free moment she had doing more research, and Emma had thanked her sincerely before pulling out her phone and calling Ruby and her father. Moments later, she was running towards Regina, who had wandered off deeper into the woods and began destroying anything in her path: ripping branches from trees, uprooting plants, slamming her fists against anything solid. She was hell bent on destruction, and she cried out as she threw heavy tree stumps, ripped apart trees, upended boulders, trying to destroy what she could with her bare hands. Emma stood, unsure of what to do. She knew Regina needed to let out her rage and disappointment, but she wasn't sure if she should stop her. She didn't, in the end, feeling that Regina needed this release to express her feelings. So she had stayed at a safe distance until Regina slowed down as her energy began to dissipate.

Emma had approached the sobbing woman carefully, pausing when she was just a few feet away. She waited until Regina collapsed on her knees, her rage finally replaced with despair, before going to her and pulling her into her arms. She poofed them home, holding the hysterical woman close as she rocked her in their bed. Regina had cried for hours without saying a word. All she did was cry, clutching Emma as tightly as she could. Regina had then finally collapsed in utter exhaustion, but her tears didn't stop flowing even as she slept.

Emma had gotten up for a moment almost an hour ago to remove their shoes and get a warm blanket, covering them both as she held Regina close. She didn't want to sleep. She wanted to hold Regina close as she watched over her, but after the emotional roller coaster they'd lived today, Emma was exhausted too. She fought the fatigue as hard as she could, but ultimately she began to drift off.

"I'm sorry, Regina," Emma muttered as she too fell asleep.

The women slept fitfully, Emma waking up in the middle of the night by the sounds of Regina whimpering against her.

"No, please, mama."

Emma's heart clenched. She knew Regina would have nightmares. She always did when something overwhelmed her, and Regina's nightmares always came back to either Cora or the King. Emma felt guilty for falling asleep and for not waking her lover sooner. She had no idea how long Regina had been suffering from her terrible dream.

"Shh, baby. Wake up," Emma encouraged softly. "You're just having a nightmare."

Regina whimpered again before her eyes slowly fluttered open, the fear she felt in her dream still fresh in her mind.

"You're safe, honey. You're here in Storybrooke. You had a bad dream."

Regina looked around, incredibly confused. It took her a few moments before her memories returned… the failed spell, the forest, the cuff still clinging tightly to her wrist. Regina closed her eyes and nodded. They burned. She'd been crying in her sleep, if the pain in her eyes was any indication.

"It didn't work," Regina whispered, defeated.

"No, baby. It didn't."

Emma hesitantly reached out, scooting closer and resting a loose arm around Regina's waist.

"When did we arrive at the mansion? You didn't allow Henry to see…"

"No, he's with my parents. I sent him there with Ruby before we got home, which was about six hours ago."

"I don't recall returning," Regina said softly.

"You were uh, pretty out of it."

Regina said nothing, looking down at the black leather on her wrist. She felt her rage return, as well as overwhelming despair, as she looked at it.

"I can no longer do this, Emma. I can no longer wear this cuff. We must remove it. I cannot continue for even one more day. I can't stand to be helpless, to be defenseless as I have been for weeks now. I cannot wear this. I must-" her voice caught in her throat, "I must remove it."

The tears started anew, and Regina was powerless to stop them. She began sobbing again, despite the fact that she'd spent hours crying in Emma's arms already.

"Baby," Emma whispered softly, sitting up and tugging Regina into her lap.

Emma rocked her slowly as she cried, comforting Regina as best as she could. She kissed her temple, stroked her back, held fast to her middle. She whispered gentle words in her ears, nonsensical phrases simply to try and soothe the defeated woman in her arms. Emma's heart clenched as Regina clung to her. This spell was supposed to work, and as much as she wanted to have faith, Emma's reserve was incredibly low right now too. They had no other spells lined up, and she had no idea if they would be able to find another. She had no idea what she would tell Regina, but she knew she had to tell her something.

"I know it feels hopeless. I know it's been way too fucking long that you've had that damn thing on your wrist. I know that you're probably feeling like we'll never find an answer. I swear to you, Regina, we will," Of that, Emma was sure. They always managed to think of something, even if right now it felt like there was nothing. "I haven't given up, and I'm not letting you either. But let me tell you one thing, you are not helpless. You are the smartest, bravest, most resilient woman in this entire town. You survived your mother without an ounce of magic. You survived your marriage for years without having magic. You have survived without it before, and you're going to doing it again. It's not gonna be forever. It probably feels like forever now, but I promise you it's not going to be.

"You can do it. And you're not defenseless, Regina. Like ninety percent of your offense and defense is your wit and your intelligence. You can escalate or end a confrontation just by opening your mouth. You know how to talk your way out of trouble even better than I do, and I'm an expert at that kind of thing. You're not alone in this, baby. We are going to figure it out, you, me, and Belle. And Ruby will help too, and my parents. This isn't going to be forever. I'm sorry it's taken this long, but I promise you, we're going to get that fucking thing off."

Regina stayed quiet. She appreciated Emma's comments, her support, she even appreciated the conviction in her voice, but there was only one way they were going to be able to remove this cuff for good.

"We must go to Oz."

"Not yet."

"We've no choice, Emma. Zelena is the only one who can undo whatever it is that she did."

"We don't even know how to get there."

"I will figure it out. Zelena travelled by cyclone. That is a start, at least."

"Do you have a spell for conjuring a freaking cyclone?"

Regina shrugged. She would figure it out. Emma sighed heavily, shifting in the bed until she was on her back, Regina draped over her chest.

"I don't want to go to Oz," Emma admitted.

Regina was incredibly grateful for the dark, because she was sure there would have been no way for her to hide the hurt she felt at Emma's confession. Instead she nodded her head.

"There is no need for you to come, Emma. You may stay here with Henry if you wish."

"No, that's not what I meant. I don't want you to go either. I don't want to go because I'm scared of what'll happen when we're there. We'll be on her territory, and she'll have the advantage. I don't like that. I'm terrified she'll hurt you. I don't wanna go because I don't want you to get hurt when we're there. Magic or no magic… it worries me. She worries me."

Regina was secretly relieved at Emma's explanation, her hurt being replaced with the need to comfort her lover. She raised herself on one elbow, reaching out to cup Emma's cheek.

"We will be careful, Emma, but we've no choice. I cannot and will not continue to live my life as I have been. I refuse to be a prisoner any longer."

"I know," Emma said softly. "I just… I love you. A lot. So I'm worried."

Emma knew it was only a matter of time before they would have to travel to Oz. She had genuinely hoped this spell would work, but she knew if it didn't, Regina would demand they go and see her sister. She knew it was just a matter of time before this would have to happen, and she didn't blame Regina for demanding they go either.

"Whatever you want, baby, I'm going to support you. Whatever you decide to do, I'm right behind you."

"Thank you, Emma."

"We'll look up ideas for how to get to Oz this week, alright?"

Regina nodded, kissing Emma's throat.

"We're not bringing the kid, right?"

"Of course not. Henry will stay here."

"He's not gonna be happy about it."

"We are his parents. Our job is to ensure his safety first and his happiness second. There is absolutely no room for negotiation when it comes to his safety."

"Totally got my agreement on that one."

Regina was silent for a long moment, her fingers stroking up and down Emma's arm before she spoke.

"Did you tell him about this evening?"

"About the spell not working?"

"Yes."

"I talked to Ruby. She told him. Not sure how he took it since I haven't talked to any of them, but I'm guessing he didn't take it well."

Regina was suddenly filled with guilt.

"I should have called-"

"You couldn't, Regina. You couldn't even talk to me, you were so upset. The kid understands. You'll talk to him tomorrow."

"I'm concerned. He must be so worried."

"Why don't you send him a text then? He'll see it first thing when he wakes up."

"What if it wakes him?"

"He turns off the volume at night. It'll be fine. I put your phone on the nightstand after you passed out. If you get off of me for a second, I'll grab it."

Regina did as requested, slipping off of Emma in order for her to reach over and grab the cellphone.

"Thank you," Regina whispered, when Emma handed her the device.

She curled up against the seated blonde as she pressed the messaging button, immediately typing the moment Henry's name appeared on the screen. Emma watched over her shoulder, one arm slung protectively around Regina's waist.

-Henry, I'm sorry if you were frightened this evening. As you've probably been told, the spell did not work.

Thank you for staying with your grandparents and allowing your mother and I some time alone. We will come for you in the morning. We love you very much, my little prince.

Emma kissed Regina's head, rubbing her back gently. Her eyebrows shot up when she heard the phone ding, indicating Regina had received a reply.

"Henry! Why are you not asleep?" Regina reprimanded as she opened the text message.

-Mom, I'm so glad you texted. Are you okay? I was really worried.

-You should be asleep, young man. It's much too late for you to be awake.

-I couldn't sleep. I was too worried. You okay?

-I'm fine, Henry. I promise. Are you alright?

-I'm okay. I wanna see you.

-You will see me in a few, short hours. There is no cause for concern. All is well.

-Ma said you were really upset.

-I was. However, your mother has comforted me greatly. We'll call in the morning, alright? Go to sleep.

-Okay. Tell ma thanks for me, for taking care of you.

Regina smiled, as did Emma, who reached out and grabbed the phone.

-No need for thanks, kid. I'll always take care of you and your mom. G'night.

-Night, ma, mom. See you tomorrow.

Emma put the phone back on the night table.

"Feel better now?" Emma asked sincerely.

"I do not like the fact that our son has been awake and worried for most of the night. However, I will admit that yes, I feel much better now that I've spoken with him."

"Good," Emma said, kissing her cheek. "Do you think you can sleep now?"

"I'll try."

Emma lay back down, tugging on Regina's arm. The brunette followed willingly, tucking into Emma's side and resting her head on her chest. She smiled the second Emma's hand started moving against her back, enjoying the familiar caress.

"Why are you smiling like that?"

"Are you aware that any time I lay against you, your hand automatically begins to stroke whatever is within reach? My arm, my back, my hair…"

"Yeah. I like to."

"Why?"

"I just like to touch you."

The way she responded, her vague hesitance piqued Regina's curiosity. She knew that there was more to the reason that Emma was holding back.

"Will you tell me the real reason why? There is more to that explanation."

Emma paused.

"I feel like… touch has been used negatively against both of us," she started slowly, "You know, like either comforting touches have been withheld or denied or we've been given aggressive and cruel touches. So it's become kind of like, a bad thing in your mind, and in mine too sometimes, to be touched because so many people have hurt us. You're used to having your guard up and ready in case someone tries to hurt you, and that includes physically. You tense up. You back away if someone tries to put their hand on your arm. You take a step back if someone 'unsafe' stands too close to you. It's like… physical touch has become something that isn't safe to you and you need to protect yourself from it. And you've been denied the healthy, safe physical love, like hugs and stuff, so you've learned to survive without them and just not ask for it even when you need it. But I don't want you to ever think that I'd ever do that to you, that I'd ever deny you a hug or cuddling, or that I would ever ever hurt you by touching you in a way you didn't like.

"So I touch you whenever I can… to comfort you and reassure you that I'm safe, that my touch is safe and not like what you've experienced in the past. I want you to know my touch won't hurt you and it'll stop the second you stop liking it. And I do it for other reasons too… like to connect with you. I do it too for selfish reasons because I really just… I like touching you. I like holding you and rubbing your back. I like holding your hand and kissing your cheek. You're really soft and warm and comforting. And I love you, like a hell of a lot more than I think you even realise. It feels good to touch you and I like the way you just smile and go all limp against me when I start rubbing your back or playing with your hair. I don't even know if you know that you do that, but you totally do. You just melt into me and I love it. You do it now, but you didn't before, you know, in the past. And I'm pretty sure it's because you feel safe with me now so you let your guard down like that and just rest against me. So I touch you in a good way to let you know that you are, you know, safe. With me. That I'd never hurt you, not on purpose. Never. I want you to know consciously and subconsciously that you're safe with me physically, and emotionally and … and sexually too."

Emma finished, feeling a little awkward but never once stopping the soft strokes against Regina's back.

"Damn you, Emma."

Emma was incredibly confused until she heard Regina attempt to stifle a soft gasp. It was then she realised the woman was crying again.

"Oh, honey," she said with a soft smile, "don't cry. I know I can't explain myself worth shit and it brings you to tears how bad I am at communicating, but I'm sure at least like half of that made sense."

Regina chuckled despite herself, tears streaming down her face. She pushed up so that she was hovering above Emma, holding her cheek as she leaned forward and pressed their lips together.

"Thank you, my dear, sweet, loving Emma," Regina said softly, against her lips. When she pulled away, she stroked Emma's cheek with her thumb. "You are correct in your assessment. I have never felt quite as safe, physically, with another until you. Not since… not since Daniel have I felt so secure. You have allowed me a peace I have not felt in decades, and you've no idea what that is like, how liberating it is to know that when I am with you, I do not have to worry. I know that I'm safer with you than alone, and that has never been true before you. It feels as though… it feels as though I can begin anew when I am with you, as though I am offered a new beginning." Regina swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. "I never believed this day would ever come."

Emma immediately kissed Regina, holding her close as they embraced. When Regina pulled away, she cradled Emma's cheek in her hand.

"You are my white knight, Emma Swan."

"And you, Regina Mills, will always be my Queen."


"But I don't want you to go to Oz."

"We haven't a choice, Henry."

"You haven't tried every single spell here, yet. Ruby said Belle is looking at books, so she obviously thinks there's other stuff to try."

"Belle will continue to research. However, I am not convinced there will be anything of use left in her textbooks. Zelena is the one who inflicted this curse upon me and she is the only one who can lift it."

"Your mom's right, kid. We talked about it already and we decided this is the only way. We don't have a choice. If there were another way, we wouldn't go, but there isn't."

"You didn't even ask me! You just made this decision and you didn't even let me have a say."

"You're not the parent. You're the kid. That means you do what your parents say and that's that. You don't get a say."

Henry jumped up from the couch.

"Fine! Then if I don't get a say, then you don't either! Go on your stupid trip and leave me here alone. I don't care what you do. And when you're gone, I'll do whatever I want too! Maybe I'll even leave and never come back!"

Before he could rush off, Regina shot up from the chair she was sitting on and grabbed her son by the arm.

"Henry Daniel Mills! How dare you speak to your mother in such a manner! You will apologise immediately. I did not raise you to be such a disrespectful young man. Apologise at once!"

Angry Regina frightened even Emma. Her eyes were almost murderous, but her voice was even scarier. She almost felt bad for the kid. Almost.

"No. I'm not sorry! You guys go and make decisions all the time without letting me have a say. You wanna go off and get yourselves killed and leave me an orphan and not even let me tell you what I think? That's not fair!"

Regina glared at him.

"When you learn to act as an adult, we will treat you as one. This childish display is precisely why parents do not consult their children when important decisions are to be made. You were unable to communicate your displeasure in a calm and respectful manner. How dare you threaten your mother and I? That is absolutely unacceptable, Henry. You will go to your room and you will stay there until you are ready to apologise. Perhaps some time alone will allow you to reflect upon your inexcusable outburst and you will discover a more effective means to communicate your unhappiness. To your room, Henry."

Henry ran up to his room, slamming his door when he got there. Regina deflated, collapsing on the couch next to Emma, who wrapped her arms around her.

"I loathe reprimanding him. However, he cannot be allowed to speak to us in such a manner. I can't believe he was so disrespectful."

"He's a teenager. It's gonna happen. I'm sorry I wasn't much help. I'm not as good as you at like, disciplining him properly."

"You're improving."

"Yeah, at a freaking snail's pace. He's lucky he has you, Regina. You're an awesome mom."

Regina sighed, resting her head on Emma's shoulder.

"His behaviour does not indicate such."

"His behaviour is his own. He's acting like that because he's becoming a teenager. He'll take the time like you said to think about what he did and he'll realise he was in the wrong."

"He is unhappy with our decision. I cannot leave him knowing he is so angry…"

"We're not going any time soon. He'll come around by the time we do. I think he's scared," Emma said, reflecting upon what Henry had told her all those months ago about fear and anger. "You heard what he said? About us getting killed? I think he's mad because he's scared. I mean, probably also because we didn't tell him and just kinda sprung the decision on him, but I'm guessing fear is the main reason."

"I believe you're correct. However, it does not excuse his behaviour."

"No, it doesn't."

Regina looked up, smiling when Emma looked at her. Emma leaned down and pecked her on the lips. When Emma pulled away, she frowned at the sudden change in Regina's expression. Her girlfriend was biting her lip in a way that meant she was about to deliver news Emma wouldn't like.

"What?"

"I believe I'll have to disappoint you and alter our plans for this evening."

"What do you mean?"

"We will no longer be going out to dinner. I'll make something here instead."

Emma was relieved. Thank God it wasn't anything serious.

"Yeah, that's cool. Because the kid freaked out?"

Regina snorted.

"Yes, because the kid 'freaked out'. We will not be rewarding such behaviour by bringing him out for dinner."

"I'm fine with that. Your cooking is amazing. I do have one request though."

"And what would that be?"

"Make out session first?"

Regina laughed lightly, dragging Emma down as she settled on her back, the blonde hovering above her.

"Yes, I believe that would be acceptable."

She cupped the back of Emma's neck, pulling her closer and pressing their lips together. Regina moaned happily, her knees coming up to cradle Emma's hips as they embraced, her hands roaming along the strong muscles of her lover's back. Regina opened her mouth when she felt a soft tongue slide along her lips, shivering at the feel of the warm muscle stroking against her. Their tongues chased and retreated, pushing and probing as they kissed passionately. Emma's hand snaked under Regina's top, her thumb stroking along the bottom of a lacy bra. She was seconds away from pushing it up, her palm eager to press against the soft flesh, when they were interrupted by Henry's disgusted voice.

"Aw, Ma, gross! Get off my mom!"

Emma ripped her hand away as though it had been burned (she was pretty sure Henry couldn't see where that hand was though since it was her right hand- and it was facing the couch instead of their son). Regina would never admit that she giggled as she saw her son's horrified face, knowing that seeing his mothers embrace wasn't truly traumatising, only a little mentally scarring. Perhaps this would be punishment enough for his earlier outburst.

Emma pulled away, helping Regina back up as the women fixed their dishevelled appearances. Henry actively avoided his mothers' gazes, not wanting to see them adjust their clothing and fix their hair. When she was satisfied she was once again looking proper, Regina spoke.

"Was there something you would like to say, Henry?"

This time Henry avoided their gazes for an entirely different reason. He looked down at the floor as he worked up the courage to say what he wanted.

"I'm sorry about earlier."

"Are you apologising to the floor or to your mothers?"

Henry looked up at his moms.

"Sorry. I shouldn't have talked to you the way that I did. It was disrespectful. I'm sorry, ma. And mom."

Regina looked to Emma to respond.

"Yeah. I forgive you, kid."

"As do I, as long as it is clear that such behaviour will most certainly not be tolerated in this home or in any other. You will not speak to anyone the way you spoke to your mother this evening. Is that clear?"

He nodded.

"Good. I understand you were displeased. Have you thought of a more appropriate way to convey your displeasure? Your mother and I would like you to feel that you can communicate your unhappiness, Henry. You are allowed to tell us how you feel, as long as you do so in a respectful manner."

"I don't like that you're going and that you didn't even let me have a say," he finally replied.

"Please come here," Regina said softly, holding out her hand.

Henry went to her, curling into her side as soon as he'd reached her.

"I'm sorry you feel as though you were left out of what was a significant decision. Your opinion is important to both of us, Henry, and neither your mother nor I wish for you to feel as though it isn't."

"Then why didn't you even tell me?"

"Because this decision was not yours to make, nor was it your mother's. It was mine. She has chosen to support me," Regina couldn't help the smile when she felt Emma squeeze her arm softly. "I can't continue to live the way I have been and confronting my sister is the only option I have left."

Henry shook his head.

"It's dangerous. You can't go, mom. You can't leave me here."

"I will return, Henry. I will always return to you."

"You can't know that!" He said, becoming agitated once again. "You could get hurt or killed or-"

"Hey," Emma said sharply, interrupting him. "She's not gonna get hurt or killed, kid. Not on my watch. I promised you once I'd take care of your mom, and I meant it. When we go to Oz, she's going to be well protected because there is no way in Hell I'm going to let anyone touch her, alright?"

"What about you? Who's gonna protect you?"

"Your mom, just like always. We protect each other, Henry, just like any good team."

"But mom doesn't have her magic."

"She will when we get it back. Besides, she doesn't need it to protect me. All she needs is that big brain of hers."

Henry deflated, leaning heavily into his mother. There was no way he was going to win this battle, especially not since his moms seem to have made up their minds already.

"I'm worried."

"I know, cariño, and there is no shame in being worried or frightened."

"You guys are the only parents I have. I can't lose you."

"You won't, Henry," Emma promised, getting up and sitting on the other side of him. She cuddled close, sandwiching him between their bodies. "This is going to be just another typical issue your mom and I have to settle, no different than anything we've had to face in Storybrooke."

"Zelena is dangerous."

"And we're gonna be extra careful. We've got something back home that's pretty big incentive to make sure we don't do anything stupid," she said, nudging his shoulder.

"I don't have a choice, do I?"

"You do. You can choose to accept our decision or you can choose not to, kid. Either way, it's gonna happen."

Henry sighed.

"I don't like it."

"You don't have to, but you do have to respect it. It's all part of growing up, respecting choices you don't agree with."

"Growing up sucks."

Both of his mothers laughed.

"Oh, man," Emma responded. "You don't even know."

Henry stayed quiet, enjoying the embrace of both of his mothers.

"Feeling better now?"

Henry shrugged.

"I guess. Are we still going out for supper?"

"I believe you are already aware of the answer to that question."

Henry looked up at his mom, who had an eyebrow raised. He finally looked down and nodded.

"Poor behaviour is not rewarded in this home. I'll make something and we'll eat here."

"Okay."

"I'll begin dinner now. I will call you when it's time to set the table."

Emma followed Regina into the kitchen, asking her what she'd like her to do.

"I'm not sure what we will be eating. I'm open to suggestions."

Emma looked her up and down, knowing exactly what (or who) she'd like to have for dinner. But since that wasn't an option, she took a moment to think.

"We could do salmon and asparagus? And maybe some scalloped potatoes?"

"That is an excellent suggestion, much better than what you were thinking," Regina said with a smirk.

Emma grinned, not the least bit embarrassed at having been caught.

"What can I say?" she said as she approached, nipping at Regina's earlobe. "I love the way you taste."

Regina pulled away when Emma began licking the shell of her ear, but not quickly enough to avoid her nipples from hardening. Emma noticed (of course) and smiled proudly as she walked to the fridge.

Chapter Text

 

"It was not six feet long, Emma. You're exaggerating."

"It was! It was at least as tall as my dad, probably taller!"

"There are no fish within Minnow Lake that are six feet long. It is called Minnow Lake for a reason."

"I'm telling you this thing was huge."

"Very well. Show me a picture."

"Well, we didn't get one because we were too busy trying to not get dragged into the water!"

"So you've no proof of your six foot long fish."

"No, but I'm telling you it was that big!"

Regina rolled her eyes. Emma and her father had used some of their overtime hours this morning to spend some father-daughter time fishing. Emma had returned about thirty minutes ago, just in time for her daily lunches with Regina, who was not buying for a second that they had caught such a large fish.

"You don't believe me."

"Of course not."

"Are you callin' me a liar, ma'am?" Emma asked, in her best Southern drawl.

Regina ignored her, taking another bite of her couscous.

"'Cause I sure don't like bein' called a liar."

Emma put her food down, narrowing her eyes playfully and slowly encroaching on Regina's space.

"You smell like a swamp."

"It's from my six foot swamp monster!"

Regina sighed, shaking her head. When she realised just how close Emma was getting, she made a face and backed her upper body away.

"You smell vile. Return to your side of the couch."

Emma refused, reaching out and taking Regina's container and placing it on her coffee table.

"You called the sheriff a liar. That kind of behaviour needs to be punished."

"I did not say that. I simply stated that I did not believe your story."

"That's as good as calling me a liar," she said, now hovering above Regina, who was laying on her back on the couch. "I should arrest you."

"For stating the truth? That there are no six foot long fish in my lake? I created this town, dear. I'm well aware of what types of fish are and are not in its lakes."

Emma grinned, her fingers slowly dancing up Regina's sides. Regina's eyes widened when she realised what was about to happen.

"You will not tickle me, Emma Swan!"

Before she could throw her off, Emma dug her fingers into Regina's sides, grinning when a burst of laughter escaped from the mayor's lips. Regina instantly began wiggling, demanding that Emma cease her behaviour. Emma refused, but even as she "tortured" her more-than-willing victim, she ensured that she was never truly pinning Regina down. They both knew that if Regina wanted to escape, all she had to do was push Emma away. Instead, Regina grabbed Emma's wrists and attempted to pull them away from her body.

"Stop! I am the mayor!" she protested through giggles.

"A mayor who calls her sheriff a freaking liar," Emma said with a smile, leaning down and kissing her cheek.

Emma lessened the pressure of her fingers but continued tickling along Regina's ribcage until she was just below her bra. The touches changed almost instantly, her fingers now tracing along the soft skin beneath the lacy material.

Regina looked up at the woman hovering above her, who now bore a lust-filled expression. She licked her lips, arching her back as she pushed Emma's hands up and over her breasts. She moaned quietly as her eyes fluttered shut, head moving to the side the second she felt soft lips against her throat. She gasped when Emma pushed her bra up and palmed her naked flesh, nipples hardening instantly. She panted in Emma's ear, unknowingly causing a veritable flood between her girlfriend's thighs as she did so.

"Emma," she moaned, hands plunging in blonde locks to encourage her mouth. "We should… we should stop."

Emma paused her gentle ministrations, pulling away just enough so that Regina would hear her clearly.

"Are you suggesting we stop or are you telling me to stop?"

Regina, panting, squeezed her eyes shut as she tried to concentrate. They needed to stop. She was at work. This was completely inappropriate, but the throbbing between her legs was making an extremely valid argument as well.

"Suggesting," she finally responded, throwing caution to the wind.

They hadn't had a moment alone in days, and she had been aching for Emma's touch. They had been spending every waking moment researching ways to get to Oz, and as much as she appreciated the help from her son and from Snow, she and Emma hadn't been able to do anything more than exchange chaste kisses in their presence. And by the time they arrived home at night, they both fell into bed exhausted, too tired to do anything but cuddle. This was an opportunity to do more that Regina just didn't want to give up.

"Thank God," Emma replied, resuming her kisses to Regina's throat.

"Do not leave a mark, Emma Swan."

Emma grinned against her neck. Oops.

"You did not," Regina growled, pushing Emma away. When she saw the sheepish grin, she narrowed her eyes. "You'll pay for that."

Regina straddled Emma's hips, pinning her against the back of the couch. She began her own assault on the other woman's throat, hands instantly snaking under her top to roughly grab her breasts.

Emma did not complain. Instead, she grabbed onto Regina's hips, holding on as the woman attacked her throat, her breasts, behind her ear. She knew she would be covered in marks, but she could easily magic them away, if she chose to. Sometimes, she preferred to leave them as a reminder of their activities.

"You are enjoying this far too much."

"I have a hot woman in my lap," Emma panted, "touching my tits and kissing my neck. You're damn right I'm enjoying this."

Regina chuckled against her throat, shaking her head.

"I don't think I've learnt my lesson yet. You should definitely keep punishing me."

"I believe I will need to find a more suitable punishment," Regina purred, fingers pinching the hardened tips of Emma's breasts.

"No, no. This one's good. I'm definitely learning a lesson."

"And what lesson would that be?"

"Fuck," Emma breathed, when Regina licked up the column of her throat.

The knock on the office door was like a bucket of cold water shattering the heated moment, both women instantly jumping apart. Regina immediately stood, fixing her clothes and running her fingers through her hair.

"Mayor Mills?" Came the muffled sound of her secretary's voice. "You have an appointment in fifteen minutes."

Footsteps faded as she left, and Regina raced to the mirror to adjust her lipstick. Emma, on the other hand, made no move to right her appearance. She actually kind of liked it when Regina messed up her hair and her clothes. Instead, she began packing up their lunch, placing the half empty containers back in the fridge.

"How do I look?" Regina asked, fussing over her skirt.

"You looked better when it was obvious you were fooling around."

"Emma! I'm serious."

Hearing the stress in her voice, Emma sighed.

"Alright," she said calmly, reaching out to fix an errant hair. She then squatted and tugged at Regina's skirt, smoothing out the wrinkles as she adjusted it. She stood and adjusted her shirt until it sat perfectly on Regina's shoulders, smiling when she finished. "There. You look perfect."

"Thank you."

"I'll get going before anyone gets here just in case there's any suspicion. I don't want anyone thinking the sheriff is consorting with the mayor."

This time, Regina chuckled.

"Everyone is already quite aware of the status of our relationship, Emma."

"Damn right."

Emma grinned, placing a soft kiss on her lips.

"Who's the meeting with anyway?"

"Belle."

"Really? Do you want me to stay? I feel like I should be here for this."

"No. You need to return to the station. Mulan has worked alone all morning. It's unfair to leave her without aid. Belle and I will be fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I will see you this evening, Emma."

"Okay, see you tonight."

Emma leaned in for one last kiss before leaving. Regina made her way back to her desk, smiling at Belle when the woman finally entered her office.

"Hello, Belle."

"Hi, Regina. How are you?"

"I'm fine. Has your research yielded any new results?"

This would be their second meeting, and Regina was desperately hoping Belle had some answers. It seemed at every turn, they faced yet another dead end. Belle had warned her when she'd called that she didn't have much information, but Regina had hoped there would at least be something.

"I've ruled out the cyclone, since we've no way of calling one. And I've had no luck about the magic beans. I'm still looking though. I believe at this point our best chance is Emma magically transporting you both to Oz, though I'm not sure her magic is strong enough to send her there, let alone the both of you."

"And even if it were," Regina responded, "I don't believe Emma understands her magic well enough to be able to do accomplish such an endeavour."

Belle nodded, feeling guilty. So far, her research hadn't proven promising at all. It had only been five days since they'd tried the failed spell, which was not a long time when it came to doing research, but she knew just how desperate Regina was for a solution. Five days was an eternity, especially when she'd already been cuffed for weeks.

"We're still looking for Jefferson's hat," Belle stated, trying to sound encouraging.

"It hasn't been seen in years, and even if Jefferson knows where it is, he isn't going to help us."

"We'll find a solution, Regina. I just need some time to do more research. Every problem has a solution, this is one just… particularly difficult to find."

"We're going to have to ask the imp for help," Regina muttered to herself. When she remembered who exactly was in the room, she sent a tight, apologetic smile. "Sorry."

"No, it's… it's alright. I realise he hasn't always been the kindest man. He is doing his best to improve. If I ask him for help, he will. For me."

Regina shook her head.

"You and Emma… you help people who don't even deserve it. I don't understand how you can love such monsters."

"You and Rumple, you're not monsters, Regina. You're people. You've made some horrible decisions, yes, but you're still people and you're capable of good. Everyone is. I've seen the change in you, Regina, and it gives me hope that Rumple can do the same."

"Some days I wonder if I really have changed," Regina said gravely, staring at the cuff on her wrist. "I've thought about murdering those damned dwarfs every day since the second they put this wretched thing on my wrist."

"That's completely understandable. I probably would have thought about harming them as well if I were in your position. The difference is, Regina, you haven't done it. That's all the proof you need to see that you've changed."

Regina sighed, looking over at the brunette seated before her.

"Thank you, Belle. For being such a good friend, despite everything I've done to you. I don't deserve your kindness."

"You're not that person anymore, Regina."

Regina smiled softly. She never tired of hearing that the changes she was making were noticeable.

"I'm sorry I don't have better news for you, but I want you to know I'm not giving up. I'm going to return to the library and continue looking through my books, and I'll call you if I find anything, alright?"

"Very well. Thank you, Belle. Take care."

"You too, Regina."

Regina watched the woman leave, grabbing her phone once she was alone in her office. She pulled up Emma's name and then hit the messaging app.

-Belle hasn't any viable solutions. She said she will continue her research.

The reply came a moment later.

-Im sorry Regina. Lemme know if theres anything I can do to help her. Its pretty busy here so I might be late tonight. Hope thats okay.

-That's fine. Cease your fraternisation and concentrate on your work, sheriff.

-Yes, maam. Right away, maam.

Regina snorted, putting her phone away.

"Idiot."

She worked for the next few hours, stopping only when her phone chimed indicating she had received a message.

-Mom can I go swimming with grandma and grandpa tonight? They're bringing Neal to a mommy and me class but older kids can go too and swim in the deep end. Grandpa and I are gonna practise our cannonballs.

David was a bigger child than her son, but she was secretly pleased that he spent so much time with his grandson. Henry had never had a father figure, so it was nice that he took on the role.

-That's fine, Henry. Will you be home for dinner?

-Don't think so. Swimming starts at six so I think we're gonna eat first and then go. I'll text you when we're coming home k?

-Alright. Have fun and listen to your grandparents.

-I know mom. See you later.

Regina tucked her phone away, groaning as she reached for the dwarfs' budget. She had been ignoring it for nearly a week now, but she knew this was an ideal opportunity to confront the horrendous mess they had handed her. With Henry and Emma both away from the mansion, there was no reason for her to return home early, so she reluctantly attacked the paperwork she'd been ignoring. She didn't stop until she was interrupted by her secretary, who informed her it was nearing five o'clock. She thanked the woman, then grabbed her phone and texted Emma.

-Do you know what time you will be arriving at the mansion? I'll remain at the office until then.

Regina waited and waited, but she received no reply. She sighed heavily. It was now nearing five thirty with no response. That likely meant that Emma was back at Ursula and Cruella's, attempting to settle another of their domestic disputes. The women worked well together as a couple, truly they did, when they weren't drinking. However, after a long day of work, the two liked to unwind with a few cans of beer and that was when the problems began. Emma had already been there once this week, working several hours of overtime as she attempted to settle an argument between the two. Regina wondered just how long she'd take tonight.

It was nearly seven o'clock when Regina's phone finally rang, and when she looked down, she saw that it was Snow.

"Hello?"

"Regina? Where are you?"

"Snow?" Regina asked, the woman's panicked voice immediately setting her on alert. "What's wrong? Is Henry alright?"

"He's fine; it's Emma. Get to the mines, Regina. There's been a collapse."

"What?!" Regina cried out, her heart racing. She immediately jumped from her chair and ran out the door. "Is she okay?! What happened?!"

"We don't know. Just get to the mines."

Regina immediately ended the call, heart in her throat as she burst through the front doors of town hall. She immediately hopped in her Mercedes and committed nearly every traffic violation as she sped to the mines, fighting the nearly overwhelming urge to cry, throw up, or scream, or possibly a combination of the three. She drove her car as close as possible once she arrived, seeing Mulan, David, Snow, her son, as well as various others already huddled together. She jumped out of her car and ran as fast as she could, her son throwing himself in her arms the second she arrived.

"What the hell happened here?"

"The dwarfs have been mining the formerly forbidden areas of the mines," David responded.

"Formerly?! They're still forbidden! Those mindless, insipid-"

"I know. What I meant was, the areas of the mines that were protected by your magic. With the cuff binding it, all the spells you put around the mines have been lifted. Or they're not working, so they've been doing as they please, even though we've been checking in on them regularly. When we came to check on them, they were never mining any place they shouldn't. I guess they've been doing it when we weren't around."

Regina vibrated with anger.

"What does this have to do with Emma? Is she in there?"

David nodded solemnly.

"Why is she in the mines?"

"She received a call from Archie, who was walking Pongo around the area. He felt the earth shake, so she came to inspect. She wasn't supposed to go into them-"

"But she did because she is an idiot. Alone I presume, as you and deputy Mulan are standing before me."

"Yeah. She went alone."

Regina shook her head. Idiot.

"When will we begin a rescue mission?"

"We're already working on it, but we need the plans for the mines. We need to find alternate routes to this area. We think they're beneath us or somewhere nearby, since this is where Archie says he felt the rumbling. They'll be nearby, unless they've moved. But we need maps of the whole place, especially the ones focusing on the forbidden areas."

"Very well." Regina took out her phone, stepping away as she dialed her assistant. "Cindy? I'm sorry to bother you at home. I will need you to go to the office- what? When did you return? … Yes. How did you hear? … You're correct, nothing stays quiet long in this town. I will need you to retrieve the plans for the mines from the archives room. … You've already gotten them?" Regina was stunned. "Alright, we will see you momentarily." She hung up the phone and looked at David. "She returned to the office when she heard about the collapse. Apparently, she pulled out the plans weeks ago because she suspected the dwarfs would ignore your caution."

"You've got yourself a smart assistant, Regina."

"Yes," she responded, still a bit stunned at the woman's foresight. It was definitely time for a raise for her indispensable secretary.

"Mom?"

Regina looked down at her son's worried face, cupping his cheek.

"Do you think ma's okay?"

"She's fine, Henry. Your mother is far too resilient to be seriously injured by something as simple as a mine collapse. She is likely trying to find a safe way out. Your mother loves you and fears me far too much to do anything that would compromise her life, alright?"

He nodded, leaning against her. She was right about one thing at least: ma was terrified of his mom's wrath. Henry looked up when he heard a car approach a few minutes later, happy to note that Cindy had finally arrived with the plans for the mines. He was eager for his grandpa and Mulan to rescue his ma.

"Hi," Cindy said sheepishly, unused to having so many eyes on her at once. "Here you are, Mayor Mills."

"Thank you, Cindy."

Regina laid out the plans on the hood of her assistant's car, pointing out the area they were standing on.

"We are here. There are only two entrances to this part of the mine: the one above ground and the other below, both of which I had sealed off magically." Regina flipped through the sheets of paper until she found the plan that focused more clearly on the part of the mine they believed Emma to be in. "We will go through this tunnel here-"

Regina was interrupted by a loud rumbling sound, coupled with a violent rattling of the ground. She immediately reached out for Henry, grabbing him as others screamed and fell. The earthquake lasted mere seconds, but it was enough to terrify them all.


"Okay, well, that didn't work," Emma said to herself, wincing as she checked her throbbing side. It turned out to be just a few scrapes caused by falling chunks of rock, so she pushed her shirt back down and looked at the men before her. "Everyone okay?"

"Fine," Happy coughed out.

Emma did a cursory glance and was relieved to note that all seven men looked alright (a little dirty, but fine). She then looked around, her shoulder sagging in defeat. There was now an even larger pile of rubble that blocked off their exit.

"I told you magic was unstable down here."

Emma frowned at Doc's words, approaching the mountain of rocks. This was the easiest way out, but the exit had been obstructed when the men had been digging earlier. They had caused a collapse. Emma had hoped that by using her magic, she could clear the way and create an exit once again, despite the men telling her that her magic wouldn't work properly down here. She had tried anyway, summoning her magic as she always did. However, it had felt weak, less powerful than normal. So she had dug deeper into herself, summing up what magic she could, and attempted to clear the blocked path. However, her magic had backfired, exploding into the heap of rubble and causing another earthquake. Luckily, no one had been hurt by the falling rocks and the ceiling hadn't completely caved in, so Emma counted herself lucky.

"You're not doing that again, sister," Leroy warned.

"Yeah, I hadn't planned on it."

"What now?"

"We'll have to go back through the mines," Emma said. "Find another way out."

"Alright. Let's go then."

Emma followed Doc and Grumpy, wincing as she moved her injured side. Regina was definitely going to be pissed when she found out about this. She was probably really worried too. Emma had tried calling her earlier, but her phone received no reception down here, and there was no way for her to magic her way out of the tunnels either. Even if she could, she wasn't convinced she could find her way back to the dwarfs, so she wasn't sure she would have done it anyway. Emma felt guilty knowing her son and his mother, her parents, the townspeople were probably incredibly worried, but there was nothing she could do now except get out safely, without magic.

"Damn it!" Grumpy shouted.

Emma halted. Her mouth slowly opened in fear, her eyebrows creasing.

"This isn't our exit," she said in disbelief.

"It is."

"This wasn't here before!"

"The second earthquake must have caused another collapse."

"Is there another way out?"

"There's always another way out," Doc said hesitantly. "The problem is, we aren't as familiar with this part of the mine because it was forbidden. We haven't explored it as thoroughly as the rest."

"Think you can still get us out?"

"We'll try."

The men shone their flashlights around the mass of rocks blocking their path, but Emma shook her head even before she began speaking.

"We're not moving anything. I'm not risking another collapse. The last one almost caused a cave in, so we're going to do this the hard way. We'll try tunnels at random, until we find ourselves in more familiar territory."

The men agreed, backing away and retracing their steps until they found an alternate tunnel.

"We could be down here for days looking for a way out."

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Emma said gravely.


"You're not going too, mom, are you?"

"Of course I am," Regina said urgently, at the same time as David insisted she was not. "What? I'm going with you, David."

"No offense, Madame Mayor, but this is not your call. You're the mayor. Mayors don't personally assist their sheriff's department in search and rescue missions. Besides, we need you here to read the maps and give us directions in case we get lost."

"I will give you directions personally while I guide you through the mines."

"He's right, Regina," Snow said, finally speaking up. "You'll just get in the way. I know you want to go, but you can't."

"That is my sheriff in those mines, Snow White, as well as the mother of my child. I will not sit idly by while she is in danger."

"I know how you feel. That's my daughter down there, and I'm about to send my husband off as well. I'm terrified too, but the best thing we can do right now is stay here where we aren't in the way and they don't have to worry about us. Let them do their job."

"Please, mom?"

Regina ground her teeth. They didn't have time to argue. Emma could be hurt. She desperately wanted to get down there and see her girlfriend, who was possibly lying unconscious and in need of her help. Logically, Regina knew they were right. She didn't have her magic. She wasn't as physically strong as they were, and she was definitely not wearing the right footwear (not that this would have truly stopped her). They would be able to cover more ground than she could, and more quickly too, but she loathed the idea of simply doing nothing while Emma was possibly in danger. Regina was a woman of action, and taking a backseat to the idiot and his sidekick did not sit well with her. Despite this, she finally gave a curt nod. She backed away so that David and Mulan could read over the maps, squeezing her fists as she tried to work through her irritation. She despised feeling useless, and that was precisely how she felt at the moment. If she had had her magic, there was no doubt in her mind that they would have requested her assistance. However, without it, she was useless.

"Alright, enough talking. We're going. Take this walkie-talkie, Regina. I've got it on channel 3. If we get into trouble or we get turned around, we'll let you know."

The two headed off, leaving Snow, Regina, Henry, and Cindy by the car. The small gathering of townsfolk stood back silently, watching as the two deputies entered the mines.

"Madame Mayor, if you don't mind, I'll be going now. Will you please inform me when sheriff Swan is safely out of the mines?"

"Of course, Cindy. Thank you very much for bringing these plans. Please adjust your timesheet to reflect the extra hours that you've worked."

"It was nothing-"

"It was not nothing. We will be discussing a salary adjustment as soon as my idiot sheriff is retrieved from the mines."

Despite her boss' serious tone, Cindy knew exactly what that meant: she was getting a raise. She fought her smile, knowing that it would be completely inappropriate given the circumstance. There were a lot of people who hated her boss, but the mayor had been nothing but fair (if not demanding), and Cindy enjoyed working for her.

"Yes, Madame Mayor. Thank you."

"Thank you, Cindy. Have a pleasant evening."

Regina carried the plans to her car as Cindy drove off, laying them on the hood. She waited impatiently, pacing, biting her cheek, clenching her fists. She ignored the ever growing crowd amassing nearby, paying them absolutely no mind as she tried to keep herself calm.

"Madame Mayor."

Regina glared in response.

"Now, now, dearie. No need to set me on fire for simply greeting you. Oh! My mistake. That would be an impossible feat with that dreadful thing on your wrist, now wouldn't it?"

"What do you want, Rumple?" she barked. She was in no mood for games.

"Nothing. I just came to see how our dear sheriff is doing."

Before Regina could lash out at him, Belle came running over.

"Rumple! I thought you were staying at the shop."

He shrugged in lieu of a response.

"Regina," Belle said, turning her attention to the now livid woman. "I'm sorry. I just heard. Is there anything I can do?"

"Get him out of here."

"I will. If you need anything, please let me know. I'll be happy to help."

Regina sagged against the hood of the car when they had walked away, looking up only when a pair of high heeled boots entered her vision.

"Hey," Ruby said, giving a small smile. "You okay?"

Rather than snap like she wanted to, Regina looked away.

"Sorry. I guess that was kind of a dumb question. I was thinking of going to get some food for everyone. Snow and Henry haven't eaten yet, and I'm guessing you haven't either. Can I get you something? Even just something to snack on?"

"Thank you for the offer, but I won't be able to stomach anything."

Ruby nodded, reaching out and squeezing her elbow.

"She'll be fine, Regina. They just need to find her, that's all."

"I hope you're right."

"I am," Ruby said before getting up and taking off.

Regina sat, looking at her hands and trying desperately to ward off the negative thoughts filling her mind. Emma would be fine. She would. Emma was strong. She was a fighter. She would be okay.

"Regina? Are you there?"

Regina immediately pulled out her radio, grateful for the distraction from her thoughts.

"I'm here."

"We went to the entrance you pointed out, but it's blocked off. We back tracked, but we're not sure which way to go now. Can you guide us to another tunnel?"

"Do you know where you are?"

"At the star, where there are about four or five different tunnels to choose from."

Regina looked down at the map. Her eyes immediately landed on the area David mentioned, absentmindedly noting that it did in fact look like a star.

"Face the tunnel which led you to the collapse."

"Yep."

"Do you see the tunnel to your right, the one which would be at your two o'clock?"

"Yeah, we see it."

"Follow that tunnel. You will see that it forks into two paths. Turn left. After you've turned left, continue straight. It will bring you to a new juncture of three meeting tunnels. Let me know when you arrive there and I will give you further instruction."

"Roger that."

Regina waited, pacing and occasionally glancing over at her son, who sat somberly, picking almost disinterestedly at his fries. It pained her to watch him, because he reminded her so much of Emma. Henry and Emma both saw the very best in others, both were a bottomless well of hope. They had incredibly large hearts, bigger than any other in Regina's opinion. They would need to, to love someone like her. And she loved them dearly.

She did not know she could love so fiercely, so intensely, until she'd had Henry. After Daniel, Regina had shut her heart to love. The pain she had felt upon his murder had devastated her. It had nearly blinded her in its intensity. She had never known a pain so powerful. And she had vowed to never, ever allow herself to feel such a pain again. So she'd closed herself off to love completely to protect herself. But then Henry… Henry had ripped her heart open and then he'd helped mend it. He had helped Regina learn to love again, something she thought impossible. And he had loved her in return, but Regina thought he would be the only one who could ever so do.

But then she'd met Emma. Dear, sweet, loving Emma who adored her, who loved her despite her past, despite her faults and her undesirable traits. She had bullied her way into Regina's life, into her home, into her heart. Emma had brought back feelings that Regina hadn't felt in decades, raw, real emotions that she thought had been dead and gone forever. But that impossibly charismatic smile, that charming personality, that incredibly loving and loyal woman had shattered the walls Regina had built around herself. That damned woman had made her way right into Regina's soul, and God damn if Regina didn't love her completely.

A sob hitched in Regina's throat.

She loved her. She loved Emma, and she had never once told her. She was down there in those mines… she was in those mines and she could be hurt and Regina would never have told her, she'd never know-

"Regina? We found them! Everyone's fine. We're heading back now."

Regina put the radio down and hugged her now ecstatic son, wiping her tears as she returned his embrace with a smile on her face. She retrieved the radio and gave careful instructions to help them find their way out when they became lost once again, stomach tightening the closer they got to the entrance of the mine. When she spotted Doc and Sleepy, she heaved a sigh of relief, putting the radio down for good.

Henry raced as fast as he could to his mother, throwing himself into her arms hugging her tightly as the townsfolk cheered. Emma hugged him close, but her eyes were up, staring clear across the area to where Regina was standing, holding herself. She looked both relieved and furious. Emma knew she was about to get yelled at, but she didn't care. She was just too happy to see the woman she loved.

"You okay, kid?"

He nodded.

"You okay too, ma?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm gonna go see your mom now, okay?"

"Okay," he said, pulling away and heading over to his grandfather.

Emma began walking towards her, and Regina was unable to stay still. She started out walking, but it turned into a desperate run when Emma was only a few metres away. She launched herself into Emma's arms, shaking as she clung to her, burying her face in her neck.

"Don't you dare to that to me again," Regina choked out, voice cracking as tears spilled down her cheeks. "Don't you dare do something so utterly idiotic, Emma Swan."

Emma crushed Regina close, ignoring the pain in her side.

"I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean to scare you."

"Why must you act like this? Why must you always be the hero!" Regina raged, knot tight in her throat. "I could have lost you," she whimpered.

"I'm sorry, baby," Emma repeated, pressing her lips to Regina's ear as she spoke lowly against it. "But you didn't. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere, alright? I'm not going to leave you. I'm always careful, Regina. Always. We would have been out a long time ago, but we got lost. I wasn't in danger though, okay? I'm sorry for scaring you, honey. I really am."

Regina didn't respond, instead burying her face in the crook of Emma's neck as she attempted to hide her tears. She could feel dozens of eyes on her, and while she loathed that they were seeing her in this moment of weakness, she couldn't pull away from Emma's embrace.

"I was so frightened," Regina breathed against her skin.

"I know. I'm sorry," Emma said softly, relieved that Regina's voice seemed a little stronger. "I would have texted, but there's no cell reception down there. I didn't want to leave until they were all out, even though I should have just left them there after what those bastards did to you."

"Yes, you should have. They would have deserved it."

Emma kissed the side of Regina's throat, holding her close. Regina took a shaking breath, swallowing hard and pulling away just enough to look into Emma's eyes.

"I love you, Emma," Regina said softly, tears spilling down her cheeks.

Emma's breath caught in her throat. Regina had never said the words before. God, it felt so good to hear them. Emma buried her face in Regina's neck, squeezing her middle as she fought back her own tears.

"Say it again," she pleaded.

"I love you, Emma, dearly. I'm sorry I hadn't told you before. I was- I was frightened to say the words aloud. I was a coward, and I apologise profusely. However, I have felt it for some time, darling. I have loved you for a very long time."

Emma squeezed her in response, nodding as a few tears slid down her cheek.

"I love you, too."

They stood closely together, ignoring the crowd of onlookers as they held each other tight. It was only when Emma saw her mother out of the corner of her eye that she finally pulled back gently.

"I'm sorry. I don't want to let go, but I should go see my mom. It's her turn to yell at me."

Regina let out a soft chuckle, reluctantly pulling away. She refused to let go of Emma's hand though, holding it tightly as they walked together towards Snow. Regina only let go of Emma's hand when Snow wrapped her arms around her daughter, pulling her close.

"You scared us, Emma. You should have waited for your father before going into those mines."

"I know, mom."

"You scared us all. You could have been hurt!"

"I was careful, I promise."

"I don't care how careful you were. You could have been killed!"

"I was just doing my job, mom. And see? I did it right because I'm fine."

"You aren't fine, Emma," her mother argued. "Grumpy told us you were injured."

Regina's eyes bulged as she immediately turned to her girlfriend.

"What?!"

"I'm fine. A few rocks fell and I was in the way. It's literally just scrapes, see?"

Emma lifted her shirt and showed the area in question. There were a few superficial scrapes, as well as some minor redness.

"See? Nothing bad."

"Are you injured anywhere else?" Regina asked, hands running up and down Emma's arms and sides as she checked for any anomalies.

"I'm fine, baby. I promise."

Regina glared at her, looking into her eyes until finally she was satisfied Emma was telling the truth. She then turned to Mulan, who was busy speaking to the dwarfs.

"You will arrest each and every one of these men, correct?"

Mulan nodded.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good. Do you require Emma's assistance?"

"No, ma'am. I believe Deputy Nolan and I will manage just fine."

"Good."

Despite the fact that Regina just wanted to go home and curl up with Emma, and perhaps yell at her a little more, she knew that as mayor, she had a job to do. Therefore, she reluctantly moved away from Emma and addressed the crowd, informing them that the area was off limits for the near future and that anyone caught trespassing would be promptly arrested. She made a note to look pointedly at the dwarfs as she said this, who were being piled into the cruiser. Most townsfolk wandered off after the announcement, the last few finally leaving once David and Mulan had pulled away.

"Where's the baby, by the way?" Emma finally asked her mother.

"I left him with Granny. I should go now though. She's had him for quite some time."

"That's fine, mom. Thanks for everything today."

Snow took a step forward and pulled her daughter into her arms.

"I'm so glad you're safe. I love you."

"Love you too."

"Would you like me to take Henry?"

Emma pulled back, looking at her son.

"Do you want to come home or go with grandma and grandpa?"

"I'd rather come home," he said honestly, sending an apologetic smile to his grandmother. "Maybe I can come hang out this weekend?"

"That sounds nice, Henry. We'll go to the pool then."

Snow walked to her car, Emma reaching out and grabbing Regina's hand. She laced their fingers together before leading the way to the Mercedes, opening the driver door for Regina. Emma was too tired to drive, so she ceded control to Regina just this once and slid into the passenger seat. The drive home was relatively silent, all three relieved to be returning home together. Regina pulled into the driveway and parked the car, leading the way into the house.

"I think I want to take a shower and then just curl up on the couch," Emma said as she removed her boots. "I'm exhausted."

"That sounds good. Mom and I will pick something out."

"Okay. Thanks, kid."

Emma made her way upstairs, Regina following her with her eyes until she could no longer see her.

"You okay, mom?"

Regina smiled warmly at her son.

"I'm fine, Henry. Thank you for asking," she said, kissing his temple. "I believe I will make your mother and I something to eat, however. Are you hungry?"

"Not really. I had some french fries earlier and a few bites of a hamburger, but they're sitting in my stomach like a rock or something."

Regina reached out and pulled her son into her arms, holding him close.

"You must have been quite frightened today."

He nodded against her chest.

"I'm sorry, Henry."

"Wasn't your fault. And ma's okay. It was just scary for a while."

"Yes, it was."

She rubbed his back gently, holding him securely until he finally pulled away.

"Thanks, mom."

"Te quiero mucho, mijo."

He smiled up at her and kissed her cheek in response.

"What are you going to make? Do you need some help?"

"No. Why don't you set up a movie while I make something simple to eat?"

"Okay," he agreed, heading to the living room and turning on the tv.

He was glad to be home with his moms, especially after today. He had been incredibly scared, especially after the second earthquake. He hoped his ma would take the weekend off, instead of going in to do some work at the station like she had planned. He really wanted her to be safe, and the safest place would be here with his mom. Maybe his mom could convince her. After seeing how she had reacted today, crying in front of everyone (she'd never done that before), he was pretty sure she wouldn't let his ma go in on her days off.

Henry settled onto the couch, throwing on How It's Made while he waited for his mothers. His ma joined him halfway through his second episode, groaning when she saw what was on.

"I'm turning it off, ma. You big baby. I was just watching it until you got here."

"Big baby? I'll show you a big baby."

Emma dropped down onto the couch, laying across her son and whining like an infant.

"Ma! Get off! Your hair is wet," Henry protested, laughing.

"Oh no. Not the hair!"

Emma shifted, purposely rubbing her hair all over Henry's arm. He shouted and tried to squirm away, laughing as his ma tickled his sides.

"Mom! Save me!"

Regina sighed, a smirk on her lips.

"It seems I was mistaken when I believed I only had one child."

Emma stopped, grinning up at the woman when she heard Henry call out to her. She sat up, face lighting up when she saw the plate in Regina's hands.

"You made grilled cheeses?" she asked excitedly, sniffing the air.

"I did," Regina confirmed, taking a seat and handling the plate to Emma. She snuggled into her side before reaching onto it and grabbing a half.

"And you're going to have one?"

Regina smiled at her lover's disbelief, taking an Emma-sized bite and grinning at her. Emma, eyes wide, looked at her and spoke in a serious tone.

"You have never been hotter than you are in this moment."

"Aw, ma. Gross. Really?!"

The women laughed, Regina chewing as discreetly as she could.

"No, seriously," Emma whispered conspiratorially, "so hot."

"Thank you, darling," Regina said, a tinge of humour in her voice.

Her subsequent bites were dramatically smaller, but she had enjoyed the delight in Emma's eyes when she'd acted so out of character. Emma wrapped her left arm around Regina, holding her close as she happily munched away on a grilled cheese half.

"What are we watching, kid?"

"I was thinking Remember the Titans. What do you think?"

"Love that movie. Regina?"

"That's fine," she responded, as she reached out and took a second half of grilled cheese.

"I love that you're eating this with me," Emma confessed, licking her lips before placing a wet kiss on Regina's cheek.

"An indulgence I'll allow for today," Regina responded, looking at Emma. Their eyes met for a brief moment before Emma leaned forward, kissing her softly on the lips.

Henry almost protested, almost, but after today he decided to allow that one kiss, especially since his mom looked so happy. If they tried anything else though, all bets were off. The kiss was brief though, luckily, and his moms turned away from each other to look at the screen as the show started. Henry would admit it to no one, but he kind of liked it that his moms were affectionate with each other, even though it was pretty gross too. But when his mom rested her head on his ma's shoulder and whispered that she loved her, and his ma kissed her forehead and said it back, well… that was pretty cute indeed.

Chapter Text

 

"Hi, honey."

"Hi, mom," Emma greeted, as she closed the loft door behind her. "How's it going?"

"Fine. Neal and I are looking forward to our outing with Henry."

"I'm really excited too!" Henry exclaimed, reaching out to grab the baby in Snow's arms. "Are we gonna cannonball your mom? Yes, we are!"

Neal squealed as he was lifted in the air and then brought back down in a pretend cannonball.

"Maybe in a couple of years," Emma said with a smile. She approached the baby and kissed his head. "Hey, bro."

Snow beamed as she watched Emma caress her brother's head. Ever since their talk, there had been such a change in Emma's approach towards the baby. She now actively greeted him, played with him, changed him. She had even offered to babysit should the need arise. It hadn't yet, as Snow was unwilling to part with her youngest child, but it warmed her to know that her daughter was feeling secure enough in their relationship that she no longer resented her baby brother.

"How are you?" Snow asked sincerely. "How are your ribs?"

Emma lifted her shirt, showing that the damage had already healed itself.

"It was just a surface scratch so it healed overnight. This magic thing is really handy."

Snow nodded. Speaking of which…

"How's Regina?"

"She's… okay," Emma trailed off, glancing over at Henry. He was now in the living room flying a happily screeching Neal around in the air, so she was confident he couldn't hear her. "We're still looking for ways to get to Oz, but I think this weekend we're going to take a break to just spend some time together. It freaked her out what happened yesterday."

"You worried us all."

"Yeah, I know. Sorry."

Snow nodded in acknowledgment.

"What will happen to the dwarfs?"

"They're going to stay in custody for now."

"What happened to Regina upset your father," Snow began, "but he was willing to give them a second chance. That's why he let them out instead of putting them in jail when they first put that cuff on her wrist. He gave them conditions to follow because he thought they understood how serious their actions were. I guess not. After what happened yesterday, he said they won't be getting out for a while, but I don't know how long that means. Do you know how long they're going to be imprisoned?"

"I'm not sure," Emma responded.

While Emma was glad to hear her father wasn't planning on releasing them anytime soon (it wasn't Emma's call since she wasn't officially working the case), she was not happy with the fact that he was discussing the matter with Snow. Emma had already explained to him that in this world, people had the right to privacy, which meant he wasn't allowed to discuss what happened at work unless he was speaking directly to the victim or to the criminal (or a co-worker). Of course, word got around because Storybrooke was so small and everyone knew each other, but the gossip was not supposed to originate from the sheriff department's employees. Emma made a mental note to have another discussion with her father.

"Emma? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she lied. "Just thinking that I'm glad they're not going to be a problem for the near future."

"Me too."

There was a small silence between the two, until Snow broke it with her question.

"So… you and Regina, you're doing well? As a- a couple?"

Emma smiled despite herself. It was kind of cute that her mother was a little awkward, but she appreciated that she was trying. Snow had been trying to show her support, and it was nice. It was nice to know she was making an effort.

"Yeah, we're good."

"She's seems to really care for you."

Yesterday had been an even bigger eye opener for Snow than the time she had witnessed Regina's meltdown in the vault. She had known Emma and Regina cared about each other, and she knew that Regina and Emma trusted each other, but she hadn't realised just how invested Regina actually was in their relationship. The woman was so guarded with her emotions, so she usually only saw Emma's affection for the brunette. It seemed that Emma cared a great deal for Regina, while Regina… well, Snow hadn't been sure how deeply Regina actually felt about Emma. But after seeing the usually stoic mayor come apart when Emma was found safe, her doubts had been put to rest. Regina kept her walls high, but yesterday, she had seen them come down for Emma.

"She does. I care about her a lot too. I uh, I love her," Emma admitted.

Snow smiled, reaching out and pulling Emma into a hug.

"I'm so happy for you, honey."

Emma hugged her back, the sincerity in her mother's voice warming her thoroughly.

"So, no more like… being unsure? You're okay with it?"

Snow took a step back and cupped her daughter's cheek, smiling warmly at her.

"Yes, I am. I'm sorry I was hesitant before. But after yesterday… I can see how much you mean to her. It's comforting to know she loves you like she does. Regina is- she's fiercely loyal and incredibly protective of the people she loves. Knowing that she loves you… it's scary but it's also comforting, because I know she's going to protect you with everything she has. I didn't ever see this happening, you know, my daughter and… well, her. But, regardless, it doesn't matter. I just want you to be happy, Emma. I'm glad you've found someone who loves you like Regina does."

Emma wasn't going to cry. She wasn't, but damn was she close.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Snow leaned forward and kissed her daughter's forehead, rubbing her back gently.

"Are you going to stay at the mansion today or are you two going to head out to do something together?"

"No, I think we're going to stay in. Regina wants to spend some time together at home, away from everyone else. Honestly? So do I. I just want to lie on the couch with her and hold her for a while," Emma admitted, a blush tainting her cheeks.

"I understand, honey. After your father and I had particularly rough days in the Enchanted Forest, the only thing either of us wanted to do was hold each other."

Emma nodded.

"Thanks for taking Henry. If he decides he wants to come home, just text me and I'll come get him."

"I don't think he will. I've planned a busy weekend to keep him entertained. He'll be fine."

"Okay. Thanks," Emma said, inching back towards the door.

"You're heading home now?"

Emma smiled at the words. Home.

"I have one stop left and then yeah, I'll be going home. Kid," Emma said loudly, looking over into the living room, "come say bye. I'm heading out."

Henry got up and gently flew the baby over to his ma, smiling as the baby laughed loudly.

"Eeeeer. Last stop. Please gather all your items and be sure to thank the flight attendants on your way out."

Baby Neal reached out for Emma, who gladly took him into her arms.

"He's a weirdo, huh baby? Good thing he's so cute," she said, kissing her brother's cheek. She then leaned over and pulled her son into a one-armed hug. "Behave for your grandmother."

"I always do," Henry said with an exasperated sigh, returning the hug before taking his uncle back.

"Bye, mom," Emma said, hugging her mom on the way out.

"Bye, honey."

Emma jogged down the steps, her stomach fluttering with excitement. She had one last stop to go and it was to the flower shop. She had spent most of the night Googling different types of flowers until she had come up with the perfect bouquet for Regina. She wanted to surprise the woman with something special, so she'd come up with a list of flowers to get, a list that was safely password protected on her phone. Emma had wanted to do something for Regina, something that came from the heart and would express how she felt about the woman. Since she couldn't sew or cook or write poetry, she decided she'd do the next best thing and get flowers. Regina was a closet romantic, so Emma knew she'd love this gift.

Emma entered the shop with a smile, whipping out her phone and rhyming off the flowers to a very enthusiastic Moe French. He grinned as he pulled out the seemingly random flowers as they were named off.

Moe was an expert horticulturalist. He knew trees, shrubs, flowers, weeds… you name the plant, he knew all about it. He knew where they originated, what it took to make them grow, and he knew exactly what flower and what plant meant what. It took three flowers for him to realise that the sheriff had come with a specific message in mind, and that she was not just choosing flowers based off of their looks. He gathered the bouquet with a smile, wrapping it carefully in paper and sealing it with the red ribbon Emma had requested. That mayor had found herself a keeper. Moe tallied up the price, wishing the sheriff good luck as she exited the shop.

Emma walked out of the store even more excited than when she had entered it. The flowers were perfect, and she was eager to get home and give them to Regina. She drove carefully (although a little faster than was necessary if she were to be honest), pulling into the mansion driveway a few minutes later. She exited the car, strolling to the front door and pulling off her shoes.

"Honey, I'm home!" she called, as she pulled off her jacket.

Receiving no reply, Emma headed off in search of her girlfriend.

"Babe?"

Emma peeked her head around the corner, looking into the kitchen with a smile, flowers hidden behind her back.

"There you are," Emma said, walking confidently into the room.

She placed the bouquet on the island behind Regina, hidden from her view. She then walked to the woman, sliding her hands around Regina's waist. Emma inched forward until she was flush against her back, resting her chin on her girlfriend's shoulder. "Why didn't you answer?"

"I have told you repeatedly not to shout in my home," Regina reprimanded, though she wasn't angry, just slightly annoyed.

Emma placed a soft kiss against her throat in apology.

"I just like saying that. Honey, I'm home! It's fun. You're my honey, and I'm home."

Regina sighed, deflating when she felt a warm palm rub her stomach and soft lips against her throat. She tiled her head, allowing Emma better access to her sensitive skin.

"Yeah?" Emma inquired happily at the invitation, hands roaming freely up and down Regina's sides as her tongue explored the woman's neck. "Your skin is so soft."

"Hmm. How was your visit with your mother?"

Emma's attention immediately halted, and Regina grinned.

"Way to throw a bucket of cold water on the situation," Emma groaned.

Regina chuckled. Payback is a bitch. She turned in Emma's embrace, kissing her softly on the lips. She pulled back a second later, a questioning look on her face.

"It went fine," Emma sighed, resigning herself to the fact that there would be no making out and no more wandering touches to the unbelievably sexy body before her. "She asked about you, about how you were doing."

"And?"

"I didn't tell her much. Just said you were doing alright," Emma paused before adding, "She uh- she said something kinda nice too."

"What did she say?" Regina asked with a smile. Emma looked happy, and it pleased her to see that the visits with her mother were now a positive experience.

"She said she was happy for me, for us. She said some nice things about you and I don't know. I think she means it this time, you know? That she wants me- wants us- to be happy."

Regina felt her stomach flutter with happiness for Emma. It was obvious Emma was both relieved and excited that her mother had finally come to accept their relationship. As independent as Emma was, Regina knew how much Snow's approval meant to her. She wanted her mother to be proud of her and to support her, and seeing just how happy Emma was due to her mother's words made Regina hate the woman just a little less. Only a little though.

She pulled Emma into a hug, closing her eyes as they held one another. She took a deep breath, inhaling the calming sent of the woman holding her tight. They stayed like that for several minutes, until Regina opened her eyes and noticed a package sitting on the island.

"Emma? What have you brought home?" Regina asked, voice laced with confusion. The package was an odd shape and she couldn't guess as to what it was.

Emma, hearing the perplexed question, latched onto the opportunity to tease her girlfriend.

"Alligator. I thought we could have something different for supper. I was told the sedation would last on him for at least another thirty minutes. But," Emma frowned, looking at the clock, "that was like thirty minutes ago. We better cook him before he wakes up. You know how to cook 'gator, don't you?"

Regina narrowed her eyes. Emma was joking, she was sure of it. But then again, she looked so serious. Was alligator truly something they ate here? She pulled away slightly and looked over at the package with concern. What if it woke up while she was trying to prepare it? How did one even prepare alligator? She was confused until Emma's neutral look cracked and she began laughing.

"Emma Swan, you are not funny!"

Emma laughed in response, kissing Regina's cheek as she wrapped a loose arm around her waist.

"Gotchya," she giggled, nuzzling Regina's hair and kissing her temple.

"You're such a child," Regina said with a smile, resting her hands on Emma's biceps. "Will you tell me what it really is?"

"It's a gift," Emma said, suddenly feeling a little shy. "For you."

"Oh," Regina said, surprised. She turned to look Emma in the eyes. "Why?"

Emma shrugged.

"Because I love you, and I wanted to make you smile. And I thought maybe this would be a nice thing to do for you. You know, to say thanks for everything you do for Henry and me."

Regina nodded in acknowledgement of the comment, breaking away from Emma's gaze and looking over at the package. Emma had gotten her a gift. She wanted it, truly. But she felt odd. She'd never been given a gift so freely, not by anyone besides Henry. Well, not in a very, very long time anyway. She wasn't even sure how to ask for it because it had been such a long time since she'd been offered one. She knew enough to know that she should thank Emma, so she did, but she never looked away from the present on the island.

Regina absentmindedly stroked her palms up and down Emma's arms, looking at the brown paper wrapped around her gift, wondering what it was.

"Do you want to open it?" Emma asked, a smile on her lips. Regina had been eyeing it so intensely she was surprised it hadn't burst into flames.

"Yes," Regina said eagerly, suddenly remembering that Emma was in the room. She smiled sheepishly at her, stepping away from her embrace and following the woman to the island.

Emma picked up the gift, handing it to Regina, who took held it almost reverently. It sent a pang of sadness deep within Emma to see Regina stroke the paper in awe, almost as though she weren't sure if she even wanted to open it now that she was holding it. Emma made a mental note to surprise her with presents more often, because it was becoming incredibly clear that Regina hadn't had any in far too long.

Emma sat patiently, watching as Regina stroked the paper, before finally bringing her index finger up and gently sliding it under the taped edge. She slowly lifted the adhesive, then moved to the bottom and did the same. She lay the package on the countertop, carefully untying the ribbon and carefully opening the paper. She gasped quietly, smiling down at the flowers presented to her.

"They're beautiful," Regina said softly, delicately fingering a petal.

"It's not just a random bouquet, even though it kinda looks like it. There's uh, there's a story to each one. If you wanna sit? I can tell you why I picked them."

Regina stared at the bouquet for a moment longer before sitting on the closest stool, watching as Emma reached into the cupboard by the sink and pulled down a vase. She filled it with water, opening the package of food for the flowers and pouring it into the vase. She then grabbed a pair of scissors, reaching for the first flowers and cut the bottom before holding them up to Regina.

"Daffodils and Lily of the Valley. Daffodils are supposed to mean hope and new beginnings and Lily of the Valleys are supposed to mean return to happiness.

"You were happy once, a long time ago. And then a bunch of really horrible stuff happened and your happiness was ripped away from you. I'm really sorry that happened to you, Regina. I would never wish that on anyone. But, I want you to know that this- us- it's a fresh start for both of us. Our relationship is a fresh start and, I hope, a step towards you finding the happiness you lost a long time ago."

Emma placed the flowers in the vase and smiled softly at Regina, hoping her blush wasn't too obvious. She wasn't very good at expressing herself, and she was really nervous, but she hoped Regina didn't mind. She reached for the next flower, holding it up as she spoke, reciting what she had read last night on the internet.

"This is an orchid. They're considered the epitome of rare beauty. We both know you are the rarest of beauties (Regina shook her head, but she was smiling widely), so I knew I needed an orchid in this bouquet. I looked up the different meanings to figure out which one to choose. The red one," Emma explained, tilting the red orchid in Regina's direction, "represents courage and strength.

"I admire you, Regina, and that's not a secret. You're the strongest, bravest woman I know and I look up to you because of that. Your courage and your strength give me hope. You give me the motivation I need to keep going, even when I want to give up. When I want to just… throw in the towel, I think of you, of your strength, and it pushes me to keep going. You've overcome shit that I'm sure I never could have survived, but you did. You got up, you fought, and you persevered. And I admire the shit out you for that."

Emma placed the flower in the vase, giving herself a second to look away. She felt shy, unused to expressing her feelings. She never exposed herself like this, and while it was a little awkward for her, she forced herself to grab another flower. Regina deserved these words, deserved to know exactly how Emma felt. And when she looked up, when she saw the way Regina was looking at her so lovingly, Emma was instantly put at ease. This was Regina, and Regina was safe. She could be open and honest with her.

"These are blue iris blossoms," Emma continued with renewed confidence. "They made me think of you because they represent hope and faith. Just like your courage and strength motivate me, you give me hope and faith when I'm ready to give up. You never stop fighting; you never give up. Even when it seems hopeless, you refuse to back down. But when I look at you, I have hope that… that I can be happy. Because you love me, and you care about me, and you're honest with me."

Emma placed the flowers in the vase and reached for the next flower, the one which would tie into the previous one.

"And this one is the white Chrysanthemum. It means truth. It's the one thing I can always count on from you: you always tell me the truth. No matter what, you don't lie to me, not when it's important. Everyone else will sugar coat the bad stuff, thinking they're protecting me, but you're always honest with me. In the past, you did it to hurt me, but now… now I think you do it because you know I need the truth to feel safe, and you tell me in a way that doesn't hide anything, but doesn't hurt me either. Or, hurts me the least possible.

"I've had so many secrets and lies in my past. You have no idea what it means to me that you're always honest. It makes me feel safe, knowing I can come to you, and you're going to be tell me the truth. I need that. I need to know there's always someone who won't hide things from me, that I can go to and know that I'm hearing the truth."

Emma leaned over and kissed Regina's cheek when she noticed the woman was tearing up.

"You okay?" she whispered.

"This is-" Regina stopped, "I don't have words."

"You want me to continue? Or-"

"Please, continue," Regina said earnestly.

"Okay. Um, the next flower… the freesia. It means trust, something that's lacked in both of our lives. You have trouble trusting other people, and I totally understand why. I do too, so I get what it's like to always push people away to protect yourself. But, I want you to know that you can trust me, always, just like I trust you. I'm never going to do anything to hurt you on purpose. I'm never going to do anything to betray your trust, because I love you way too much to do that and I know what it feels like to be betrayed that way. I could never do that to you. I know that trust is something that hasn't really been present in your life, but I want you to know that I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure your trust in me is never broken.

"This flower here," Emma continued, swallowing the emotions that were starting to stir within her, "represents protection and safety, which I think kind of ties along with trust. It's the Queen Anne's Lace. I want you to know that you're safe with me, Regina, just like I know I'm safe with you. I'm going to do everything I can to protect you, from whatever it is that is hurting you, or scaring you, or threatening you. I'm never going to let anything hurt you if I can help it. I've never felt this insane need to protect anyone the way I feel it with you. Even when we're walking down the street I'm like… on the lookout. It's why I always have my arm around you, so I can grab you or shield you if something crosses our path that I feel isn't safe. I know you can protect yourself, and I know you protect the hell out of me, but I want you to know I'm always gonna do the same for you. You can trust me to keep you safe."

Emma placed the Queen Anne's Lace and the freesia in the vase, reaching out and squeezing Regina's hand when she saw the woman discreetly wiping away her tears.

"I love you, baby," she whispered, grabbing the next flower. "Do you need a minute?"

Regina vehemently shook her head. She was beyond words, the knot in her throat growing with every moment Emma spoke. She was awash with emotion, this gift being the single most beautiful one she had ever received in her life. She did not want it to stop, not for a second.

"This is the stock flower," Emma said softly, "and it has a lot of meanings. It supposed to represent a long life full of happiness and success, which is all I want for you. I just want you to be happy, which is the ultimate success in my opinion. It's supposed to mean happiness with your life the way it is right now, as well as achieving paradise on Earth, which is pretty much how I feel now that you're with me. I've never in my life been this happy, Regina. Never. I've never felt so safe and loved and just… secure. I've never felt home, but you've given that to me. You've given me a home, a family. You give me love and support and make me feel safe. You don't know what all that means to me."

Emma took a second to gather herself, her voice having cracked as she was overcome with emotion. Tears threatened to fall, but she fought them off. She wasn't done yet. She paused for a second before clearing her throat, swallowing hard as she continued.

"And it also means beauty that doesn't fade with age or time, which is you, my beautiful love." Emma placed the flower in the vase and pulled Regina into her arms, kissing her softly on the cheek. She couldn't handle another moment without pulling her close because her heart ached, seeing just how tearful Regina was. "Shh, baby. You weren't supposed to cry."

Regina wrapped her arms around Emma's shoulders, clinging to her as tears spilled down her cheeks. She took a deep breath as Emma rubbed her back soothingly, smiling at the familiar touch.

"This is so beautiful," Regina whispered, her voice cracking.

"As are you, sweetheart," Emma responded, kissing her throat and discreetly wiping away her own tears.

Regina held fast for several more minutes, until she felt strong enough to pull away. She gave Emma a watery smile, wiping away her tears and sitting down once again. Emma reached into the cupboard to grab a glass, filling it with water and handing it to the now quiet brunette.

"Here," Emma said, offering the cup.

"Thank you."

Regina took a deep gulp, sighing with satisfaction as it soothed her throat. She felt much better after, smiling at Emma as she waited for the woman to continue.

"You okay?" Emma asked with concern.

Regina nodded.

"Will you continue?"

"Of course," Emma replied.

Emma reached down and grabbed another flower, Regina absentmindedly noting that there were now only a few left.

"This is the Peruvian Lily. It's a symbol of devotion. It means 'I'll always be here for you'. This one is fitting, for us. No matter what, I'm not going anywhere. Because," Emma reached down to grab the primrose still lying on its back. "I can't live without you, which is what this flower means. And God that is the truth. I can't live without you. You give me hope and strength and courage. You make me happy. You make me feel safe. I'm never going anywhere," Emma vowed.

She placed the flowers in the vase, adjusting the others as the glass receptacle started to become a little crowded.

"I debated which one to finish with," Emma said, holding up a purple flower in her left hand and a red in her right, "because they're both important but for very different reasons.

"Red, I'm sure you already know, means love and purple means royalty. This one," Emma stated, holding up the red flower, "is a tulip. A red tulip is supposed to say that you're deeply in love with someone. I picked the reddest one I could find, because I have never been in love with anyone like I'm in love with you, Regina Mills. But as much as I love you, I also respect you, which is where this purple flower comes into play. This is another orchid, but a purple orchid represents admiration and respect. I love you, I admire you, but most of all, I respect you. I respect you as a person, as a friend, as a mother, and as a lover."

Emma took a step forward and placed the tulip and the orchid in Regina's hands, wrapping her own around the delicate ones holding the flowers. She looked deep in Regina's eyes as she spoke, ensuring their gazes held as she continued.

"I love your intelligence, your beauty, your sense of humour, your grace, your wit, your passion. I love the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you make me feel like I'm the most important person in the world. I love that you get snarky whether you're annoyed or you're in a good mood. I love your loyalty and your perseverance. I love the way you love our son. I love everything you do for us, from cooking to cleaning to grocery shopping to buying us clothes to smiling at us when we see you.

"I love that you're so loving, baby. I love the way you treat me, the way you kiss me and touch me. I have never ever been so in love with someone, Regina. But even before I loved you, I respected you. I respected you as Henry's mother, even if I fought you about it at the beginning. I respected and admired you as mayor. Even though I kind of hated you, I still respected the fact that you were incredibly hard-working and that you had such integrity in your work. And eventually that respect started to grow and change, and I started respecting how loyal you were to the city. Throughout all of that, throughout all the changes in our relationship, one thing has always stayed the same: I've always respect you as a person."

Emma reached up and stroked Regina's cheek, her stomach warming when the woman leaned into her touch.

"I think in your past, there was a big lack of respect for you as a person. Your boundaries weren't respected. Your thoughts and desires and needs and wants were ignored or even just totally disregarded. You were used and abused and betrayed and mistreated by people I really, really wish I could be alone with for like five, or even just three minutes, tops. But I want you to know that in this relationship, Regina, you will always be loved and respected. Even if I don't agree with you, or we have a fight, or things are just in a bad place between us for whatever reason, I will still love you and I will never disrespect you by talking badly about you or by hurting you on purpose. I'm never gonna betray you. And I'm never gonna betray your trust. And I promise you this: your boundaries are always going to be respected, Regina. I understand that they weren't in the past, and I can't even tell you how much I fucking hate it, how much it makes me so angry, and I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am that they weren't. But I'm never going to do that. I respect and I love you way too much to ever touch you in a way you don't want or don't like. I'll never touch you without your consent; that's a promise. I just want you to be happy and to feel loved." Emma wiped away the tears streaming down Regina's cheeks before wiping her own. "You are the light in my life, Regina Mills. You make me so fucking happy and with you, I feel like I can do anything."

Emma leaned forward and pressed her lips to Regina's, who hitched out a sob as she returned the gentle kiss. Regina threw her arms around Emma, clutching the flowers in her right hand as she cried and kissed Emma softly. Never in her life had she been given such an elaborate, thoughtful, loving gift. She knew Emma loved and respected her, she knew she cared for her, but to have her explain her feelings in such detail…

"I love you," Regina whispered, clutching her tight.

"I love you too, baby. Mucho mucho mucho," Emma responded, peppering her cheeks and forehead with soft kisses.

Emma pulled away when Regina nodded, smiling gently at her. Emma took the flowers from her hand and added them to the vase, tying the ribbon near the top in a delicate bow. She then reached out and pulled Regina close, looking at her and then at the bouquet of flowers on the island.

"That's my promise to you."

Regina turned in her arms and tucked herself into Emma's embrace.

"It's a beautiful promise. Thank you, Emma. I've never received such a thoughtful gift. I must admit, I feel incapable of adequately expressing how I feel. I'm overwhelmed."

Emma kissed her temple, rubbing her back as she held her close.

"Now you know I feel pretty much all of the time when I'm trying to express myself."

Regina laughed, a welcome feeling after such an emotional experience. She laughed even harder when she felt Emma vibrating against her, the two giggling incessantly as they hugged.

"Thank you," Regina said sincerely, pulling away just enough to look up at Emma, "for the beautiful gift. I adore it."

Emma leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose.

"You're welcome."

She held Regina close, breathing in her scent as the women held one another. Neither made a move to pull away, not until many, many minutes had passed. Finally it was Emma who spoke, tilting her head and murmuring in Regina's ear.

"What would you like to do now?"

"I'm not sure. Are you hungry? Would you like me to make you something to eat?"

"As much as I wanna say yes, I can't. I'm still full from the amazing sushi you made for lunch. God, it was so good," Emma said, practically drooling as she remembered the delicious maki Regina had made. "We could take a walk or play a game or take a nap on the couch and cuddle."

Emma wiggled her eyebrows.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now since you've been feeding me so much food. I'm much softer."

Regina chuckled, squeezing Emma's arm.

"Very well. I'll join you in a minute. I'd like to recycle the paper from my flowers and place my glass in the dishwasher."

"Okay. I'll find something we can put on and cuddle to."

Regina nodded in agreement, grabbing her glass and placing it in the dishwasher before turning to the brown paper resting on the island. She folded it up and placed it in her recycling bin, turning back towards her flowers and approaching them with a smile. She traced her fingers over delicate petals, smiling as she recalled Emma's explanation of what each flower meant. She'd never had anyone give her such an incredibly elaborate, thoughtful gift and it warmed Regina immensely as she looked at the bouquet before her. She leaned forward and smelled each one, smiling as she looked down at her beautiful bouquet.

"Baby, are you-" Emma stopped when she found Regina smiling, holding the stock flower in her hand. Regina looked up, a soft smile on her face.

"They're beautiful. I don't want to part with them."

"We can stay in here if you want or we can bring them with us?"

Regina nodded happily, grabbing the vase and following Emma into the living room. She placed the vase on the wall unit, admiring it as she joined her girlfriend on the couch.

"Looks good up there."

"I agree. Thank you again."

"You don't have to keep thanking me," Emma said, snaking her arm around Regina waist. "I was really happy to do it. I'm glad you like it."

"I adore the gesture," Regina responded, curling up in Emma's arms. "I appreciate the things that you said to me, Emma, particularly regarding love and respect. I trust you as well, implicitly, as you have always respected my boundaries. You've never taken what I haven't offered freely. I thank you for never pushing me."

"You shouldn't thank me for that, Regina. You should expect it. But, I'm glad you trust me. That means a lot to me."

She leaned down and kissed Regina softly before cuddling down until they were both comfortable.

"Ready?"

Regina nodded against her shoulder.

"What film did you choose?"

"If These Walls Could Talk 2. Have you ever seen it?"

"No, I've never even heard of it."

"Good. It's a good one. It's been like ten years since I've seen it, but I think you'll like it."

Emma pressed play, smiling even before the movie began. She had loved this movie when she first saw it. It was one of the few lesbian movies she remembered enjoying. Usually, lesbian movies involved a married woman having an affair with another woman, and that irked her beyond belief. It was difficult to find a simple, loving story involving two women.

"Is this film about lesbians?" Regina asked, as the opening credits began.

"You'll see," Emma said with a smile.

Regina looked up at her suspiciously before turning back to the television. The first scene began and her suspicions were confirmed. A smile grew on her face, and she reached out to take Emma's hand. Emma happily laced their fingers together, bringing their hands up and kissing Regina's knuckles softly.

As the beginning scene unfolded, Regina's smile was replaced with a frown.

"Emma, please do not tell me the women on screen will be attacked or harassed," Regina said worriedly. "I would prefer a light-hearted film, especially now that I feel so happy after your gift. I don't want my mood to be sullied."

"It's sad at first, but it gets better, I promise. The movie is cut up in three parts, like three different stories, and the first one is the hardest and saddest. But it gets better in the second and the third is the best. If you decide you don't want to watch it anymore though, I'll turn it off and we'll watch something else. But I promise, it does get happy."

Regina looked up at her, a frown still marring her features.

"I promise," Emma repeated, leaning down to kiss her lightly.

Regina's stomach warmed as their lips touched, her smile returning.

"Very well."

She looked back at the screen, resting her head once again on Emma's shoulder. She watched silently until the elderly woman named Abby fell from a ladder, eliciting a small gasp from Regina's lips. Emma rubbed her back as Regina watched, heart breaking as Abby's lover sobbed when she learnt that Abby had passed away due to her injuries.

Regina shifted and wrapped her free arm around Emma's waist, clutching her close. The story continued, and Regina watched raptly as Abby's nephew entered the picture. She soon realised what was going to happen, shaking her head.

"This is a terrible story, Emma. That poor woman has just lost her lover."

Emma gave a half smile, kissing Regina's head.

"Do you want me to turn it off?"

"No. As long as you promise it will improve."

"It will."

Regina nodded, taking comfort in Emma's soothing touches against her side as she continued to watch. She gently wiped away her tears as the story unfolded, Emma continually stroking her back.

When the first part ended, Regina sighed heavily.

"Well that was sufficiently depressing."

Emma laughed.

"Yeah, it was. But you'll like the next part. And the one after that too."

The second part began, Regina watching with interest. As depressing as the first part had been, she had still enjoyed it. She realised she was enjoying the second part much more, even just a few minutes in. The women in this part were more confident, stronger, which appealed greatly to Regina.

They watched in silence, but when it became clear later on that the two actresses on screen were going to become intimate (and Emma was suddenly reminded just how graphic their love scene was), Emma bit her lip. She knew it got graphic, but she forgot just how long this scene was.

"Uh, we can skip this part. It's kind of … visual."

"No," Regina said, a little breathier than she had meant to. "It's fine."

Emma glanced down to see Regina watching attentively, cheeks flushed and slightly breathy. Her right hand was currently stroking Emma's waist, and had to Emma bite her lip to swallow her groan. She recognised Regina's subtle signs of arousal, and damn if it wasn't turning her on. She looked back at the screen and clamped down on her own arousal, discreetly sighing with relief when the scene ended.

When the second scene changed into the third, Emma calmed significantly.

"It's Ellen!" she announced, as soon as the woman came on screen.

Regina snorted.

"Yes, dear. It is."

Regina shifted in Emma's arms, and when her shirt rode up a little, Regina licked her lips as a soft hand made contact with the bare skin at her hip. Emma immediately moved her hand, tugging the shirt back down before resting her hand atop the cotton material. Regina unlaced her fingers from Emma's, tugging her shirt back up and placing Emma's free hand back on her skin before once again lacing their fingers together.

Emma chuckled, but she would be lying if she said she didn't thoroughly enjoy feeling Regina's skin beneath her fingers.

"You sure?"

In lieu of a response, Regina shifted so her shirt rode higher. Emma's face changed into a full blown grin, her fingers languidly exploring the soft skin. Armed with Regina's silent consent, Emma quickly lost interest in the movie. Instead, she gazed down at the brunette curled into her side. More specifically, she gazed down at the few inches of visible olive skin her fingers were currently touching. She remained focused until she noticed the women on the screen had started kissing, and she was suddenly reminded of the fact that Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneres also had a love making scene. Fuck. It had been nearly a decade since she'd seen this movie and she'd completely forgotten about this part. She was not going to survive another scene like this, not with Regina so damn close to her. Emma was a very visual person, and she instantly began imagining it was she and Regina upstairs in bed, touching and kissing as the couple on screen currently were.

Emma closed her eyes as the women divested one another, stilling her hand as she focused on calming her now roaring libido. Closing her eyes did not help, however, as she was then assaulted with very vivid visuals of Regina lying naked and wanton in their bed. She imagined her hair spread on the pillow case as she dug her head into it, back arched as she panted, hips canting against Emma's mouth as she begged and pleaded for more.

Emma tore her eyes open, focusing hard on her breathing. She looked down at Regina, who was resting calmly in Emma's arms. Little did she know, Regina was also struggling as she too imagined the women laughing and making love on screen were Emma and herself. Regina's eyes were glued to the screen as she watched the woman gently touch, roll, and laugh in bed. She'd never once laughed while intimate with someone. It had never even been something she'd considered could occur. Did people truly laugh while naked and vulnerable?

"Emma?"

Emma snapped out of her daydream, licking her lips before answering.

"Yeah?"

Regina was quiet for so long, Emma wondered if she'd forgotten to ask.

"What is it?" Emma encouraged softly.

"It's silly. Never mind."

"It's not. Whatever it is, you can ask me."

"I…"

She could hear the trepidation in Regina's voice, so Emma stroked her arm to help her relax.

"This couple, for example, laughed while being intimate. It's not the first time I've seen such a reaction while the couple is engaging in sexual relations. Is this… do couples truly laugh during such an experience or is this another of Hollywood's false depictions of intimate relations?"

Emma's initial reaction was to bite out a surprised, 'you've seriously never laughed during sex?' but she immediately clamped down on her tongue. Of course Regina hadn't laughed during sex. She'd never made love. Her experiences were far different than Emma's, and if she were asking, it was obviously because she didn't know. Emma saddened at the thought that Regina had never actually experienced laughter while making love. Everyone should laugh while being intimate like that. It was great, light. It should be fun. And the knowledge that Regina hadn't made her frown.

Realising she was taking far too long to answer, Emma nodded.

"Yeah, baby. People laugh during sex, if they're comfortable enough with each other."

"Have you?" Regina asked after a moment.

"Yeah, I have," Emma admitted, briefly thinking back to the times she'd spent laughing hysterically with Ruby. "I like to laugh during sex, lightens the mood when you're nervous. I'm always nervous when I'm with someone new. But then when you laugh together, it helps you relax." Emma leaned forward and kissed Regina's forehead when she turned to look up at her. "You and I laugh all the time. It's not going to be any different if we sleep together. We'll both be nervous and then I'll do something stupid like trip over my pants or something and then we'll both laugh. And then I'll probably do something else, like accidently knock all the pillows on the floor or knock over the clock-radio because I was busy staring at your boobs."

Emma looked down to the breasts in question, smiling at the ample cleavage visible from where she was sitting.

"Speak of the devil. Hello there."

Regina chuckled and rolled her eyes, but she made no move to cover herself. Emma's laughter drifted off, and she was left smiling at the woman curled up against her.

"Does that answer your question?"

"Yes. Thank you."

"Do you feel better?"

"Yes."

"Got anymore questions?"

"No, I don't believe so."

Emma smiled at Regina and leaned forward, giving her a chaste kiss on the lips. They settled back in to finish the film, even though they had missed a good portion of the third story. They finished it in silence, Regina smiling up at Emma when the credits rolled.

"What did you think?"

"It was a very good film. Thank you for suggesting it."

Emma stretched and yawned, smiling back at Regina.

"Thanks for watching it with me."

She reached over and turned off the tv, leaning forward and kissing Regina on the lips.

"Come on, let's make supper."

"What would you like to eat?"

As soon as Emma looked away grinning, Regina shook her head.

"Food, Emma," she sighed, feigning exasperation.

Emma laughed, getting up and holding out her hand. Regina took it gladly, letting herself be pulled up. Emma wrapped her arms around Regina's waist, pulling her back flush against her chest and resting her chin on her shoulder as she guided the brunette to the kitchen. The walk was a little awkward, but neither woman complained. Emma enjoyed the feeling of Regina in her arms, and Regina quite liked feeling the strong arms holding her close. That, and she thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of soft breasts pressed against her back.

Once in the kitchen, Regina stopped at the island and looked towards the cupboard.

"You never answered me, Emma. What would you like?"

Emma, who was far too busy staring down Regina's cleavage, didn't answer. Instead, she spread her fingers to cover more of Regina's stomach, kissing softly up and down the side of her neck. She grinned when Regina tilted her head, allowing her better access to the soft skin. She grazed her lips up and down the smooth flesh before pressing soft kisses along her neck down to her shoulder. Emma's hands began stroking Regina's stomach, fingertips teasing circles around her abdomen.

Regina's eyes fluttered shut as Emma kissed and stroked her softly, her breathing becoming increasingly shallow as the woman's hands explored higher and higher. When they stopped just beneath her breasts, Regina swallowed hard, mouth opening slightly as the eager fingers carefully made their journey up and over her soft breasts. Regina moaned low in her throat as Emma's fingertips stroked her softly through her bra, nipples growing hard as a warm tongue traced its way from one shoulder to the other. Emma began sucking softly on her neck, fingers pinching lightly at Regina's now hardened nipples. Emma palmed her breasts, nipped at her throat, thoroughly enjoying the soft sounds coming from her girlfriend. Regina's hands gripped the counter as she focused on staying standing, her knees weakening beneath Emma's incredibly pleasurable attention. She hitched out a gasp when teeth scraped at her earlobe, a shiver rushing up her spine as Emma's lips grazed her ear.

"I'm thinking we should have BLTs for supper."

Regina instantly stilled, eyes flying open as Emma began giggling against her shoulder. It took Regina a second to gather her bearings before she whipped around, eyes narrowed as Emma laughed openly.

"I'm sorry," Emma choked out, still laughing. "I had to answer. It would have been rude not to."

Regina, still hazy with lust, glared. Two can play that game.

"Very well, darling," she purred, taking a step back and ensuring she was out of Emma's reach. She pulled up the hem of her dress, but only by a couple of inches. Emma stopped laughing, her eyes now drawn to the newly exposed flesh as Regina's hands slowly slipped under her dress.

"Babe? What are you-"

"You've made a request, and I'd be a terrible girlfriend if I did not heed it. However, given how wet I've become," Regina said, fingers slipping under the band of her underwear as she slipped them off and let them pool at her feet, " it would be rather uncomfortable for me to continue wearing these."

Regina stepped out of the fallen undergarment, reaching down and grabbing it by the waistband. She walked over to a now slack-jawed Emma, placing the underwear in the palm of her hand. Emma groaned when she felt the wetness coating the lace material rub against her palm, breath hitching with the knowledge that Regina was now panty-less.

"Be a dear and put them in the laundry for me while I begin our dinner?"

Regina turned around with a grin.

Regina: 1, Emma: 0.

 

Chapter Text

 

"You're losing pathetically."

"I know," Emma whined, "but that's because my hotgirlfriend is sitting in my lap. How can I focus on the game when that's happening?"

Regina shrugged.

"Not my problem. My turn," she said happily, grabbing the remote from Emma's hands.

After dinner, the women had decided to settle in the living room and play Donkey Kong. The goal was to beat as many levels as possible before dying, which would then signal the other woman's turn. Regina was at 8 levels, Emma only at 2. Regina was cheating though. Both women knew it, but neither actually cared (Regina, because she liked winning, and Emma, because how could she dislike having Regina shifting and squirming in her lap?) It was unfortunate to know that Regina had gone upstairs after dinner and slipped on a pair of underwear (because how much hotter would it be if she hadn't been wearing any?), but Emma was definitely not complaining. She loved feeling the mayor rock in her lap. To make matters worse though, Regina was resting against Emma's chest, so her back rubbed against her chest every time she shifted. Emma's nipples had been hard for the better part of half an hour, pressing against the back of Regina's dress. She played dirty too though, kissing Regina's neck, stroking her fingers along the woman's outer thighs… but even as the brunette's breathing changed and she squirmed with obvious desire, still she was able to focus enough to complete whatever level she was working on.

Emma finally decided to play unfair when Regina took the controller once again. The truth was, she had lost interest in the game completely and was now much more interested in touching Regina. At first it had been fun- a game of who could top whom- but Emma was far too gone now to continue competing. She was much too wet, much too horny, and she wanted Regina to be just as far gone as she was. Emma knew how sensitive the woman's skin was at her neck, so she placed soft kisses at the nape of her neck, brushing her hair to the side and trailing her fingers down to the zipper of Regina's dress. She traced her index finger over it, wanting desperately to unzip the garment and place kisses down Regina's back. Their game of teasing each other had begun over two hours ago when Regina had dropped her underwear in the kitchen, and Emma was willing to admit now that she was going to cave and give in. She wanted to touch Regina, so she was more than willing to admit defeat and declare Regina the winner. Besides, she was pretty sure by the way the woman was rocking periodically in her lap that Regina was more than ready to end their game too.

Emma made her intentions known, lifting and dropping the tab of the zipper, circling it, tracing along the connected metal teeth before finally pinching the tab and slowly bringing it down. She waited for Regina's reaction, and when the woman stilled and straightened her back, aiding the glide of the zipper, Emma grinned. She kissed every inch of newly exposed skin, tongue darting out to taste the olive flesh.

Regina gasped when Emma's warm tongue began stroking her skin, her eyes closing halfway as she cleared her throat and attempted to pay attention to what she was doing. She continued the level, her breathing growing shallow as Emma gently guided the dress from her shoulders. She slipped her arms out one at a time, eyes focused on the screen as Emma's fingers trailed up her stomach to the bottom of her bra. She leaned back against Emma chest as she fought to keep her eyes open, eyelids growing heavy with lust as soft palms covered her sensitive chest.

"I'm done playing," Emma husked in her ear.

Regina nodded in agreement, dropping the PlayStation remote and fumbling for the television one. She moaned when Emma pulled down her bra and found her nipples, using the last of her focus to turn off the tv. She turned her neck to face Emma, tilting her head up. Emma took the hint and leaned forward, pressing to lips to Regina's as her fingers pinched and tugged at the hardened tips in her hands. Regina moaned against her mouth, Emma taking advantage of the parted lips and slipping her tongue inside. She instantly found Regina's tongue, stroking it firmly with her own as she continued to manipulate the woman's sensitive breasts. Regina squirmed in Emma's lap, the tugs to her nipples shooting pleasure straight between her thighs.

"Emma," she panted, pulling away from the kiss.

Regina moaned away when Emma licked her way down her jaw to her throat, sucking lightly at her neck as her hands cupped and squeezed her breasts. Regina was actively canting her hips, eyes closed as she enjoyed the thorough exploration of Emma's mouth and hands.

Emma pulled her mouth away from Regina's throat, panting heavily as she watched her hands toy with the soft breasts before her. It was incredibly hot to see Regina's hips rocking back and forth, nipples hard, one hand gripping Emma's wrist while the other reached up and buried itself in Emma's hair. She shifted to get a better look at Regina, whose eyes were squeezed shut, mouth open and breathing heavily, clearly enjoying the attention to her body. Emma's eyes drifted South, watching as Regina's dress slowly inched up her thighs. Her right hand released the breast it had been playing with, fingers dancing their way down Regina's abdomen. They paused at her waist, the bunched up the dress halting any further progress.

Regina, who had felt Emma's hand make its way down to her waist, groaned when it stopped. She had begun clenching her thighs in anticipation, wetness seeping from between her legs and coating her thighs as she waited for the exploring fingers to make their mark. When she realised they were not going to continue, Regina removed her hand from Emma's hair and encircled the blonde's wrist, guiding the hand further down.

"Wait," Emma panted, halting the movement of her hand. "Wait."

She swallowed hard, breathing harshly against Regina's shoulder.

"Turn around, please?"

Regina complied with the breathy request, wincing as she realised just as how wet she was. Emma's eyes raked over her body, Regina's stomach tightening at the lust-filled expression on the blonde's face.

Emma reached up at cupped Regina's cheek, leaning forward and kissing her softly.

"Why did you want to stop?" Regina finally asked, when they broke apart.

"I wanted to look at you. Are you… do you want to continue? Are you sure?"

"I'm certain, Emma."

"How… how far? How much- I mean," Emma grunted with frustration, irritated at herself for not being able to express herself properly. She took a deep breath and tried again. "How far can I go? Where should I stop?"

Regina leaned forward, pressing her breasts against Emma's front as she nipped at her earlobe.

"Don't stop, Emma. I want you to touch me, and I want to touch you as well. Completely."

"You mean…"

Regina nodded, pulling away.

"Make love to me, Emma."

Emma's stomach dropped when Regina spoke the words, clenching her thighs as her underwear became instantly soaked.

"And before you ask, I am sure. I've been sure for some time, I've just been waiting for the right moment. I want to touch you, Emma. Now. I'm ready."

Regina pulled away enough to reach for Emma's shirt, pulling it up and off.

"Wait. Not here," Emma said, shaking her head. "In a bed. I want to make love to you in a bed, Regina."

Regina really, really didn't want to move, but the idea of doing this in her bedroom, in her bed, was much more appealing. She was far more comfortable there, and it would be much more intimate as well.

"Yes," Regina finally agreed. "Bring us upstairs, Emma."

Emma immediately complied, engulfing them in a cloud of white smoke and depositing both of them on Regina's bed a second later. Regina was still in Emma's lap, grinning salaciously at her. She leaned forward and kissed Emma softly, removing the bra which had been pushed down to her waist. Emma's pulse quickened, her stomach dropped, and she clenched her thighs as she felt Regina's incredibly warm, soft body press more firmly against her. God, she wanted to touch her. She tore her eyes away from Regina's breasts long enough to look into her eyes.

"I know you said you want this, but if at any point you change your mind or you need to stop, I want you to tell me, okay? You can always tell me to stop. You're allowed to change your mind at any time. And if I'm doing something you don't like, please tell me."

"I will," Regina agreed.

Emma's tone left no room for doubt. She was sincere, and if Regina had felt any apprehension before, it would have been alleviated by the woman's words. However, the only thing she was feeling now was incredibly aroused, so she grabbed Emma's hands and guided them back to her chest. She threw her head back the second calloused fingers grazed over her nipples, the sensitive tips hardening once again.

Emma leaned forward and traced the tip of her tongue over the dark peak before her, grinning internally when Regina's hips jerked in response. She wrapped her lips around it, pulling in as much of the sensitive flesh as she could into her mouth. She sucked lightly, flicking her tongue against the tip and thoroughly enjoying the moans coming from above.

"Yes," Regina hissed, pleasure coursing through her body, "just like that."

Her mouth hung open as Emma continued the incredibly erotic attention, groaning happily when she then moved to the other breast and gave it the same treatment. Emma toyed with her breasts, licking, sucking, squeezing, and nipping at them until Regina was rocking steadily against the thigh between her legs. Suddenly needing Emma's mouth, Regina tugged at the base of her head until the woman reluctantly pulled away. Regina then leaned down and crushed their lips together, cupping Emma's jaw as she plunged her tongue into her mouth. Their tongues danced, stroked, chased as they kissed, running over every inch of each other's mouths as they explored. Regina moaned against Emma's lips when strong hands began encouraging the movement of her hips, guiding them as they continued rocking.

"I think you soaked my jeans," Emma panted against her lips.

Sure enough, when Emma shifted, there was a noticeable stain on her thigh.

"Fuck that's hot."

Regina, although still slightly embarrassed, smiled.

"You make me wet," she said easily.

Emma sat transfixed, the words sending a bolt of arousal straight to her clit.

"Say it again."

Regina leaned forward and tugged off Emma's bra, speaking lowly as she did so.

"You, Emma Swan, arouse me as no other has. My body responds to yours in a way it never has before." Regina leaned forward and nipped at Emma's tight, pink nipple, smiling when she was rewarded with a hiss of approval. "I am infatuated with your body, especially these perfect breasts." She pulled a hard nipple into her mouth, sucking lightly before trailing her tongue over to the other. She swirled it around the pink tip, raking her teeth over it and then pulling it between her lips.

"Christ, Regina. Fuck. Feels so good."

"Mmm," Regina hummed in agreement, her right hand coming up and toying with Emma's neglected breast.

Her mouth continued to nip and suck at the now reddened tip, thoroughly enjoying the way Emma squirmed and twitched beneath her. She only stopped once she was satisfied both peaks were sufficiently hard, blowing on the tips before pulling away. She then kissed her way up Emma's throat and to her lips, kissing her gently. She pulled back and smiled at the blonde, who was looking at her through hooded eyelids.

"You are so fucking hot, Regina."

Emma's eyes raked over the beautiful woman sitting on her legs. Her hair was disheveled, make up smeared, red lips swollen, her breasts were rising and lowering rapidly with the movement of her breathing- dark tips jutting out proudly, the top of her dress was pooled at her hips and the bottom bunched up at the thighs to reveal incredibly smooth legs.

"Would you like to remove the dress?" Regina asked, thoroughly enjoying the look of desire on Emma's face.

"Can I?" Emma asked, almost in awe. Her hands twitched eagerly, wanting nothing more than to rip off the garment.

"I believe you can, Emma."

Emma rolled her eyes. She leaned forward, hands settling on Regina's trim waist as her lips approached the brunette's ear.

"May I please remove your dress, Mayor Mills?" she asked, voice low.

Regina shivered, unexpectedly affected by the gravelly tone.

"You may," she panted, licking her lips as she scooted back in Emma's lap.

Emma reached out and gently gathered the bottom of Regina's dress, bunching it together until it formed a ring around her lover's hips. She then tugged it up, slowly inching it up the gloriously smooth body before her. She stopped just below Regina's breasts, throat going dry as her lower body was revealed for the first time. Emma could do nothing more than stare, arms stretched out, heart racing, eyes transfixed. She greedily drank in the sight before her: Regina was wearing a black satin thong, and Emma wanted nothing more than to cover it with her mouth.

"If you remove the dress, darling, you'll be able to touch much more easily."

Emma was snapped out of her trance by Regina's voice. She smiled sheepishly as she guided the dress up and over Regina's head.

"Okay?"

"Yes," Regina soothed, sitting back and enjoying the way Emma's eyes darkened as she raked her eyes over her body.

"God, Regina. You're beautiful."

Emma hands slowly made their way to Regina's thighs, caressing them as she peppered kisses along her lover's throat. She worked her hands up and down Regina's body, stroking her knuckles up her taut stomach, down her ribs, along her knees. She began kissing lower, down Regina's sternum until she could go no lower in their current position.

"Will you lay down? I want to touch you."

"Under one condition."

"Name it."

"I want you to remove your jeans. Stand up."

Emma stood, stomach clenching when Regina scooted to the edge of the bed and unbuttoned her pants. She mouthed the sensitive skin just below Emma's belly button, the blonde gasping as a soft tongue licked its way down to the band of her boyshorts.

"Mmm," Regina moaned in approval, peeling away Emma's jeans.

When her jeans hit the floor, Emma stepped out of them and kicked them out of the way. She then carefully guided Regina up onto the pillows, until the woman lay flat on her back. Emma leaned forward and kissed Regina softly, tongue tracing her lip and sneaking inside as she hovered above her. Emma pulled away when Regina turned her head, panting heavily with arousal. She began placing soft kisses down her throat, nipping and sucking as she slowly explored the other woman's body. She discovered that kisses to Regina's clavicle made the woman's nipples tighten further, while teeth gently scraping along her inner elbows made her shiver. Nips to her ribcage made her gasp, licks under her breasts made her moan, and hips bucked when Emma trailed her fingers along inner thighs, kissing her way up and down the woman's legs.

Regina arched her neck when Emma finally made her way back up her body and sucking gently on her throat.

"You're gorgeous, Regina," Emma said reverently. "Turn on your stomach for me?"

Regina, despite the fact that she felt incredibly relaxed and comfortable (and aroused, no doubt), hesitated. She never allowed a lover to touch her from behind; she always faced them.

"You don't have to, but I want to kiss you all over. I want to explore you. I won't do anything to hurt you, and if you don't like it, I promise I'll stop. I just want to touch every part of you."

Looking into Emma's eyes, Regina could see the truth in them. She trusted Emma, so she did as she was asked and turned onto her stomach. Regina bit her lip as she moved, the wetness between her thighs becoming incredibly apparent as she shifted. She bit back a hiss of pleasure as she settled, her unbelievably sensitive clitoris receiving unexpected pressure as she lay down on her front. She waited patiently, feeling Emma's gaze rake over her backside.

Emma, kneeling between Regina's legs, let her eyes rove over the luscious body before her. She stayed near Regina's middle at first, kissing and licking along the woman's lower back and enjoying the goosebumps that appeared on smooth, olive skin. As she felt Regina relax and melt against the bed, Emma began moving higher, licking up her spine and stopping at her shoulder, nipping it gently. Emma then got a wicked idea, grinning as she kissed her way down Regina's back once again. She then leaned forward, dragging her breasts up Regina's spine.

Regina gasped when she felt the hardened tips of Emma's nipples brush against her, groaning with pleasure as the pillowy mounds dragged along her skin.

"Gods, Emma," she moaned, hips rocking against the mattress.

"You feel so good," Emma breathed in her neck, kissing her cheek before working her way back down.

Emma stopped before Regina's ass, reaching out and squeezing the firm globes.

"This ass is so fucking sexy. Do you know how much time I've spent staring at it?"

She leaned forward and sunk her teeth into the supple flesh, her tongue lapping away the mark as she pulled away. Regina jerked as soon as her teeth made contact, but then she moaned appreciatively when Emma licked away the gentle sting. Emma kneaded the firm globes, grabbing and squeezing as her tongue danced along the base of Regina's spine.

"Emma," Regina moaned. She was becoming embarrassingly wet, and she was unbearably horny. She needed Emma to touch her.

"Yeah, baby?" Emma asked, her mouth working its way down the back of Regina's thigh, stopping to lick at the back of her knee.

"Oh! Yes," Regina said approvingly, the warm tongue lapping at her flesh sending bolts of pleasure to her core.

She had no idea her body was this sensitive, but as Emma explored, she discovered just how receptive she was to her attention. As Emma's mouth moved to caress the backs of her knees, Regina's hips slowly rocked against the firm surface beneath her, a soft moan floating from her mouth as delicious pressure was placed on her clit.

Emma looked up, mouth salivating as she was presented with Regina's perfect rear thrusting up and down as she moved her hips. She wanted nothing more than to yank the woman onto her knees and sink her tongue between those glorious thighs, but there were still unexplored parts left to be kissed. What was more, Regina still hadn't said she wanted that, so Emma returned her attention to the woman's legs, dragging her lips down and kissing her ankle.

"Emma, please. I need you."

Emma's stomach clenched at the plea, moving to the other leg and slowly working her way back up to her ass, where she kissed and sucked and squeezed the firm globes for several minutes before licking up her spine and kissing her shoulder.

"Turn around, baby," Emma whispered.

Regina complied instantly, turning onto her back and yanking Emma down. She moaned as their near naked bodies met, gasping as Emma's tongue plunged into her mouth and stroked hers softly. Regina spread her thighs further, bucking up against Emma's and pressing her own against her lover's heated sex. They moaned as they began rocking against one another, Regina reaching down and gripping Emma's ass in order to hold her close. She pulled back from the kiss when her fingers met with the fabric of Emma's underwear, frowning in irritation.

"Take them off," Regina demanded, yanking at the boyshorts.

"Okay."

Emma wasted no time in removing her underwear. When Regina sat up and lowered her thong, Emma stared unabashedly.

"Oh fuck," she groaned when her eyes fell on the trimmed curls between Regina's legs. They glistened with the evidence of Regina's arousal, and Emma licked her lips, wanting nothing more than to cover the area with her mouth.

Regina's hips jerked the second Emma licked her lips, the memory of those lips and tongue and what they did to her body just seconds ago still fresh in her mind. Gods, what they would feel like against her heated core. Realising she wanted just that, Regina spread her legs, stomach tightened as she watched Emma's eyes glaze over with lust.

"Would you like to taste?"

Emma swallowed hard, tearing her eyes away from the delicious looking cunt and looking up at Regina, who was staring at her through hooded eyes.

"I- only if you do," Emma panted.

Regina nodded, settling back onto her elbows as she widened her knees even more.

"I do, darling. Your mouth felt incredible on my body. Now, I want to feel it against me. I want you to lick me, Emma. I want to feel your tongue inside of me."

Emma closed her eyes as she worked through the overwhelming wave of arousal that crashed over her body. She panted harshly, throat incredibly dry as she thought of finally being able to fulfill one of her most erotic fantasies.

"Please, Emma. Touch me."

"God. Fuck. Yes."

Emma immediately moved down, settling between Regina's legs and throwing a thigh over her shoulder.

"Pass me a pillow," she requested, looking up at Regina.

Regina complied, raising her hips as Emma took the pillow and placed it under her hips. She looked down, watching as Emma stared between her thighs.

"You are even more sexy than I imagined. God, you smell so good."

Emma leaned forward, transfixed by the sight of Regina's dripping sex.

"You probably taste even better than I remember."

Emma turned her head, pressing her tongue to Regina's thigh and sucking at the wetness there. She moaned as the woman's musky flavour hit her taste buds, lapping up every bit of it she could find. She then turned to the other side, doing the same, moaning appreciatively the entire time.

"Emma," Regina pleaded, hips shaking with desire. "Please."

"Okay, baby," Emma soothed, blowing softly on the heated sex before her. "I know."

She peeked her tongue out, Regina's mouth dropping open with anticipation as it approached her sex. Emma gently stroked it along Regina's slit, thoroughly enjoying the groan from above. She pulled away and kissed the swollen lips, once again letting her tongue tease at the swollen flesh before her. Her head was swimming with arousal, Regina's scent and taste overwhelming her senses. All she could taste and smell was Regina, and when she leaned forward and took her first swipe, both women groaned loudly.

Regina fell back onto the bed as Emma finally, finally began licking her. Her warm tongue licked broad circles around her sex, actively avoiding her clit as she explored. Liquid seeped from her, trailing down between her legs and pooling under hips. Gods, she had never felt anything like this, and she was rapidly approaching climax. She desperately needed the woman's tongue against her clit.

"Emma," Regina growled, her patience wearing thin. She needed her tongue against her. She needed to come. She thoroughly enjoyed the attention, the gentleness, but she was achingly aroused and she needed relief. Regina's hips shot off the bed the second Emma's lips pressed to her clit, and she shouted her name as incredible pleasure ripped through her body. It felt like her clit was engulfed in softness, but the pressure against it was relentless.

"Gods, Emma. What are you doing?" Regina had never before felt anything this pleasurable.

Emma let the swollen bud fall from her lips, smiling as she lapped up the fresh wave of wetness that fell from Regina's entrance.

"I was sucking on your clit," she explained, as she pulled it back into her mouth before letting it slide out again. "This is what the tip of my tongue feels like," Emma said, tracing the tip of her tongue along Regina's clit, "and the back of it," she continued, pressing the widest part of her tongue to the swollen peak.

"Suck again, Emma. Please."

Emma eagerly complied, pulling the erect bud into her mouth, sucking lightly and lashing it with her tongue.

"Oh, Gods. Yes," Regina cried out, hips bucking wildly as she gripped the sheets for dear life. "Don't stop. Don't stop."

Never, Emma vowed as she sucked, tongue lapping and stroking.

"Oh! Ah, Emma. Emma!" Regina panted, hips canting against her mouth. "Fuck!"

Emma almost stopped in shock -almost- when she heard the swear tumble from Regina lips. Hearing the expletive from Regina's mouth was incredibly hot, Emma decided, and she wanted to hear it again. She sucked harder, Regina crying out as her hand rushed to the back of Emma's head. A fresh wave of arousal washed over Regina as her fingers buried themselves in the blonde locks, a reminder of who exactly was between her thighs and providing her with this overwhelming pleasure.

"Emma," she moaned, bucking against the woman's mouth.

No wonder Emma loved this so much. Regina had never before felt anything like this. Her toes were curled, her stomach was coiled tight, her fingers gripping harshly to the sheets and to Emma's scalp. Her nipples were rock hard and it seemed there was a never ending flow of wetness seeping from between her thighs. She could feel it travelling down, coating her entire sex and pooling against the pillow. As she began nearing her peak, Regina suddenly felt the need to be filled, the emptiness inside demanding to be satisfied.

"Emma, your fingers. Inside. I need you inside."

Emma pulled away, much to Regina's displeasure.

"Are you sure?"

"Emma, inside, now." Regina demanded.

"Okay," she chuckled. "Sorry. How many?"

"I'm not sure," Regina hesitated. She didn't want it to hurt. "Perhaps only one?"

"We'll start slow," Emma confirmed.

Regina, too far gone to bother correcting Emma's grammar, simply nodded and groaned as Emma's mouth enveloped her once more. Her hips thrust up once again, jerking away as a single digit began gently tracing along her swollen lips. Emma backed away for a moment before returning, and this time Regina leaned into her touch rather than away. Emma moved at an infinitesimally slow pace, much much more slowly than she would have had she not known about Regina's fears. Only when Regina encouraged her to move faster, that she was okay, did Emma finally bring her index finger to the soaked entrance beneath her chin. Emma stroked and sucked more aggressively as a distraction as she gently probed the slick opening, reminding herself to go slowly as her instinct screamed to plunge in as hard as possible. She inched in the digit to the first knuckle, stopping the second it was in as she continued licking at sucking at Regina's clit.

"I'm okay, Emma. More."

Emma complied, inching in a little more before pulling back slightly, only to push in again. Regina hips followed her movement, the woman hissing with pleasure and approval as Emma slowly filled her. When her finger was buried in Regina's sex, she pulled her mouth away in order to give her lover a moment to adjust.

"God you feel so good," Emma breathed. "So fucking soft and wet."

Regina purred, stroking her fingers through Emma's long locks. She shifted her hips, fucking herself on Emma's finger. She closed her eyes as she enjoyed, for the first time in her life, penetration without even a hint of pain or discomfort. The fullness inside felt incredible. She'd never known it could feel this good. She could feel every inch of Emma's finger as it pushed in and withdrew, pressing along her walls as it stimulated her core. When her hips began rocking more rapidly, her slow build rapidly ascending, Regina guided Emma's mouth forward.

"Make me come, Emma."

"Fuck," Emma panted, squeezing her eyes shut. "With pleasure."

She sealed her mouth over Regina's cunt, flicking her tongue up and down the heated flesh before narrowing her hold to the hardened bud jutting out from beneath its hood. She increased the speed of her finger to match Regina's hips, accidentally grazing her middle finger against the heated entrance as she readjusted her hand.

"Yes," Regina panted, "another one, Emma. Add another finger."

Emma did as requested, slowing her mouth and fingers as she slowly, carefully, eased another finger inside. She had been terrified to hurt the other woman, hand tense as she carefully guided her slick digits inside, but Regina had moaned and rocked in approval until she was filled completely.

"Fuck, Emma. Please. Touch me again."

Emma nodded in agreement, resuming her earlier pace. She slowly built up with her fingers, curling them forward once Regina's hips were matching her thrusts. The second her fingertips made contact with the fleshy pad she was searching for, Regina gasped loudly and her hips jerked in response. She cried out as her thighs trembled, squeezing Emma's head as she bucked up against her.

"There, Emma! There. Don't stop. Please, don't stop!"

Regina had no idea what was happening, but she lay back and bucked, panted, swore, thrashing both away and towards Emma's overwhelmingly pleasurable touches. She could feel Emma's lips and tongue sucking and lashing between her thighs, while her fingers inside pressed- well, it felt as though they were pressing behind her clitoris. Blinding pleasure overwhelmed her and she frantically patted along the bed until she found Emma's free hand, intertwining their fingers as she climbed to an almost frighteningly high peak before suddenly being thrust off of it, squeezing Emma's hand and screaming as stars burst beneath her eyelids.

Emma squeezed back as she followed the frantic bucking of Regina's hips, fingers digging against her g-spot as she brought the woman to a second peak, sucking harshly as Regina screamed her name, back bowed tight. She didn't let go until Regina finally collapsed in a heap on the bed, pushing weakly at her head to get her to stop. Emma reluctantly complied, pulling her mouth away and panting harshly to catch her breath. She really didn't want to remove her fingers, not when Regina's walls were gripping them the way that they were (fuck, that was hot). However, Regina had told her to back off, so she made a move to withdraw until Regina protested.

"No," she said weakly, squeezing her thighs, "stay."

Emma eagerly agreed, relaxing her fingers and thoroughly enjoying the feel of the spasming canal clutching at her soaked digits. She panted as she rested her head against Regina's thigh, stroking her tongue along the roof of her mouth and licking her lips, as she savoured the rich and musky flavour that was Regina. She lay there quietly as Regina recovered, not moving a muscle as she listened to the sound of harsh pants slowly even out before a heavy sigh sounded, followed by soft giggles.

"Fuck, Emma."

Regina reached down and tugged at the back of Emma's head, eyes still closed as she guided the blonde up. She winced slightly as Emma's fingers were removed, a sliver of pain hitting her as she was slowly emptied.

"Sorry," Emma apologised, kissing her softly on the throat. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

"It's alright. I tensed for a moment," Regina explained, eyes fluttering open for the first time since her mind-blowing orgasms.

She giggled again, Emma's eyes softening as she looked down at her lover.

"What's so funny?"

"I feel euphoric. I have never before felt such pleasure, such lightness. I was also quite vulgar," Regina added, laughing a little with embarrassment.

"Yeah, it was crazy hot. You should be vulgar more often," Emma said, nuzzling her throat. "You were beautiful."

Regina purred as Emma began licking her neck, tilting her head to give her better access. Her fingers wound their way up into Emma's hair, scratching at her scalp.

"I had no idea penetration could be so pleasurable. I have never felt anything so magnificently enjoyable. You're incredible."

Emma smiled against her skin, enjoying the compliments.

"Thanks, baby."

"Your mouth," Regina started, pulling back and stroking her thumb along her lower lip, shivering when Emma sucked it into her mouth, "felt wonderful. However, once you added your fingers… I was unaware an orgasm could be so overwhelming. And what you did- it felt as though you were touching- as though you were touching my clitoris from the inside."

Emma smiled as she licked Regina's thumb, letting it slide from her mouth a second later.

"Your G-spot. I feel that too sometimes."

"My what?"

"Your G-spot," Emma repeated, "it's a like… place inside a woman's uh- vagina. Feels really good when you touch it. Especially if you touch her clit at the same time."

Regina, though she hated being uninformed, allowed herself to show her ignorance just this once.

"And… every woman has this- this G-spot?"

"Yeah."

"Where is yours?"

Emma bit her lip.

"It's uh- inside. Of me. When you're ready to touch me there, I'll show you."

"Oh, I'm quite ready, Emma," Regina purred. "You didn't expect we were finished, did you? We've only just begun. It's now your turn."

She flipped them over, Emma letting out an 'ouf' of surprise as she landed on her back.

"Madame Mayor, you surprise me."

Regina chuckled, leaning down and kissing Emma. She instantly pulled back though, her tongue tracing over her lips.

"What is that?" Regina asked as her tongue was assaulted with a foreign taste.

"Uh- that's you. I mean, from when I was…"

Blushing, Emma waved her hand in the area between Regina's legs.

"Oh," Regina panted, sucking on her tongue curiously. She leaned forward and kissed Emma again, peeking her tongue out and gently swiping at the woman's lips. She tasted the flavour again, pulling back once more as she savoured it. "I feel as though I should be disgusted."

"You shouldn't. I mean, some women are I guess. But, I'm not. It's okay if you are though," Emma said, though the look on Regina's face was more of curiosity rather than disgust.

"No, I…" Regina trailed off, leaning forward and kissing Emma more thoroughly.

She dipped inside Emma's mouth, where the taste exploded against her tongue. It was heady, darker than she was used to when kissing Emma, but it was not unpleasant. She kissed her thoroughly, only pulling back when they were both breathless. Regina looked down between Emma's legs, where she was bare, save for a small strip of hair. She was eager to please her lover, so she looked back at Emma.

"Show me, Emma. I want to make you feel as you made me feel."

"Okay," Emma agreed. She knew she wouldn't last long, not when she was as horny as she was. Touching Regina had made her libido skyrocket, and the minute Regina's fingers were on her body, Emma knew she'd explode.

She took Regina's hand, slowly guiding it down her body as their eyes locked. Emma bit her lip in anticipation as the manicured digits touched her swollen lips, Regina gasping at the copious amount of wetness she found there.

"Emma…" Regina groaned, her fingers slowly exploring the soaked folds.

"Yes, so good," Emma panted, back arching as the fingers stroked along her clit.

Emboldened by Emma's throaty moan, Regina pressed more firmly, circling the hard bud with her fingers. Emma's hips bucked, eyes closing as she gyrated her hips against the soft fingers stroking between her legs. Regina began experimenting, alternating light and firm touches, strokes and circles, pinching lightly at the base of her clitoris and tugging at the firm bud. Emma gasped, eyes snapping open when Regina gently ran her nail down the oversensitive tip, a shiver of pleasure coursing through her body at the unexpected sensation.

"You're wonderfully soft," Regina purred, leaning down and kissing Emma firmly, "so warm, wet."

Emma groaned, eyes closing of their own volition. She was happy to note that for someone who had been unsure about dirty talking, Regina was taking to it like a fish to water. Her voice was unbelievably sexy, especially as its timbre lowered significantly to purr in her ear.

"All because of you," Emma moaned, gasping again as Regina moved lower and teased her entrance. "Yesssss. Inside, please."

Regina did as Emma requested, moving her fingers lower. She hesitated for a moment before pressing her index finger forward, circling the source of Emma's wetness.

"Two fingers," Emma panted, reaching down and grabbing Regina's hand.

She guided it inside, groaning as the slim digits filled her. Regina's stomach clenched as she felt the warm, tight walls clutch her, breathing increasing as Emma directed her hand.

"Deeper, baby," Emma begged, grunting with approval when Regina pushed in further. "Fuck, yes. Like that. Please."

Regina pulled out slightly before pushing in to the hilt, pausing when Emma gasped and held her breath for a second.

"Fuck," Emma exhaled, the wave of arousal that had hit her momentarily halting her breath.

Emma opened her eyes and looked up at Regina, smiling at her as her hips slowly began rocking against the fingers filling her. Her mouth dropped open in pleasure when Regina began stroking her walls, whimpering when a warm palm made contact with her clit.

"Are you alright?"

"Fuck," Emma panted, "so much better than alright. Please, keep going."

Emma's brain short-circuited as Regina did as requested, pumping her fingers more firmly as her palm stoked her clit. Her hips immediately began rocking against the delicious pleasure caused by Regina's hand. Emma reached up and cupped the back of Regina's head, guiding her down for a heated kiss. She was overwhelmed with the sensation of Regina's perfect hand fucking her, her wonderfully plump lips kissing her, her unbelievably soft breasts pressing into her side. Emma began climbing instantly, her peak nearing even before she was ready for it. When Regina's tongue invaded her mouth, Emma gasped and then groaned, clutching at the back of the brunette's neck, as well as her hip, as she began shaking with the need to come.

Emma tore her mouth away when she felt a bolt of magic shoot through her body, Regina's exploring fingers having pressed on her g-spot and causing the unexpected reaction.

"Regina?" she asked worriedly, her hips halting. "What-?"

Regina stopped her probing fingers, smiling at Emma to ease her concern.

"Shh, darling. It's alright. It's perfectly normal. You're enjoying this, are you not?" Regina asked, stroking her fingers along the area which had made Emma react so intensely.

Emma cried out, her hips bucking up as Regina caressed her G-spot again. Her eyes squeezed shut as another bolt of pleasure shot through her body, intensified by the magic that had suddenly roared to life within her. She could feel it rushing through her veins, setting her body on fire from the inside.

"It is not uncommon for one to unintentionally stir one's magic when in the throes of pleasure. Yours was simply awakened by the pleasurable sensation you're feeling."

Regina had set off her own bouts of magic a few times when she had masturbated. She had read in her books that it was possible for such things to occur, so she had known what was happening at the time, but she was still worried and a little scared the first time it happened. She leaned forward and kissed Emma softly in order to soothe her fears, for she did not want the woman to become frightened.

"It's perfectly normal," Regina said calmly.

Emma gasped as Regina continued touching her, thighs quaking against the almost unbearably hot pleasure tearing through her body.

"My G-spot," Emma croaked, panting harshly as Regina's fingers refused to let up their assault on her body. "That's my G-spot."

"This?" Regina inquired, curling her fingers forward and pressing against the spongy pad within.

"Yes!" Emma cried out, nearly sobbing with pleasure as her magic raced through her veins. "Please, Regina. I need to come."

"Very well, darling," Regina replied, speeding up her fingers and pressing more firmly between Emma's legs. "Come for me, Emma."

The second Regina's lips made contact with her nipple, Emma exploded, screaming as white hot pleasure sliced through her body. Her body arched, heaving Emma halfway off the bed as she curled in two, alternating between cries and gasps of pleasure as she squirmed, twisted, and jerked. Regina refused to let up, her fingers nearly stabbing at Emma's walls as the woman begged her not to stop, to go harder, faster. Magic shot from Emma's finger tips, shattering a picture frame as the woman rode up a second peak (or was it the same one?) before finally, finally collapsing on the bed.

Regina watched as Emma lay boneless against the sheets, biting back a chuckle as the woman attempted to recover from what was obviously a very intense orgasm. Regina smiled smugly, though her stomach was tightening with renewed arousal after having observed what was undoubtedly the most erotic scene she had ever witnessed. That, coupled with the spasming walls currently clutching at her fingers, made Regina want to jump Emma again and she was a little surprised to note she wanted that unbelievably talented tongue between her thighs once again.

"Jesus Christ, Regina. I think you fucking killed me. Holy shit," Emma panted, finally opening her eyes and looking at the woman in question. "Is it always like that? Because if it is, we are never leaving this bed. Fuck. I've never in my life come that hard."

Regina chuckled, leaning forward and kissing her firmly as she gently withdrew her fingers.

"Imagine when we both have magic, darling. There will be many more broken things than my picture."

Emma looked over to where Regina had glanced, eyes widening.

"I didn't do that, did I?"

"You did," Regina confirmed with a smile.

"When? I don't even remember. I'm sorry!"

Regina laughed, shifting to cover Emma's body with her own. She leaned down and kissed her slowly, moving her body along Emma's and enjoying the delicious sensation of feeling Emma's soft skin rub against her own. Emma moaned into the kiss, hands moving up and gripping her hips to encourage the motion. Regina tilted her head and plunged her tongue in Emma's mouth, stroking their tongues together as a firm thigh pressed between her legs. Her hips instantly responded, grinding against it in order to relieve some of the pressure in her clit.

"Emma," she murmured, dropping her head onto Emma's shoulder.

"Yeah, baby?"

"You feel fantastic."

Emma licked up her throat before kissing her way back down, sucking at her sensitive pulse point as she encouraged Regina to grind against her thigh.

"I want to make you feel as good as you just made me feel."

"You have, darling. Oh!" she gasped, as Emma reached up and began pinching her nipples. "You're phenomenal."

"Not like that," Emma panted. "Fuck, Regina. With my magic… I didn't know it could be like that."

Regina snaked a hand between them, intent on touching Emma again. However, a calloused hand caught her wrist, preventing her from reaching her goal.

"Way too sensitive, baby. I can't. It's your turn again."

Regina moaned as a warm mouth enveloped her right nipple, sucking on it firmly as she wound a finger in Emma's blonde curls.

"If you enjoyed that, my love," Regina panted, rocking herself against Emma, "you will surely enjoy when we both have magic. It will be far more intense. We will need to- ah! Remove all fragile objects from this room."

"I can't wait," Emma panted, letting go of Regina's breast. "I want to taste you again."

"Yes. Yes," Regina encouraged, shifting backward so Emma could move.

"No, stop. Just stay like that. Hang onto the headboard." Emma shimmied down and pulled Regina forward, closer to the headboard. When Regina was straddling her mouth, knees on either side of her head, she grinned. "You're going to fuck yourself on my mouth."

A shiver ran down Regina's spine, and before she could even begin to contemplate how incredibly erotic that suggestion was, Emma's mouth enveloped her core and all thought fled her mind. Regina cried out as her clitoris was sucked into the warm cavern of Emma's mouth, a wet tongue lashing at her seconds later.

"Emma! Oh, yes. Don't you dare stop," Regina commanded, bucking her hips forward against the talented mouth. She gripped the headboard tightly with her right hand, her left dropping down and gripping Emma's head to hold her firmly in place.

Emma moaned the second Regina's hand clutched at her, loving the control the other woman yielded over her. She opened her mouth wider, sucking in as much of the brunette's sensitive flesh as she could. Regina cried out and jerked up, Emma's hands flying up to her hips and holding her down securely. Emma began moving her head from side to side as her tongue painted tight circles against Regina's clit, enjoying the slew of expletives and encouragement coming from above. She grinned, slowly letting the bud slide out of her mouth as she moved down and slipped her tongue inside of Regina's slick entrance. They both moaned as the talented muscle parted overheated flesh and made contact with an abundance of wetness. Emma eagerly lapped it up, swallowing as much of the liquid heat as she could before Regina growled at her to make her come. Emma happily complied, moving back up to the engorged clit and latching onto it with her lips.

Regina threw her head back the second she felt Emma's mouth latch onto her clitoris, instantly bucking her hips as she ground down. She had never before in her life felt such pleasure at the hands of another. She'd had orgasms, she'd felt fleeting moments of desire, but she'd never once felt this all-consuming need clawing its way through her body. And it was need. She needed Emma's mouth on her, needed her fingers inside, needed to come.

"Emma, inside. Fill me."

The blonde instantly brought her fingers down, sinking them inside. Regina cried out in appreciation, her thighs trembling, movements sloppy as she was overwhelmed with her fast-approaching orgasm.

"I will not last, Emma. I'm going to- Ah!" Regina's orgasm blind-sided her, cutting her voice as it ripped through her body. She cried out, hips bucking harshly against Emma's mouth, bed vibrating with the force of her thrusting hips. Regina had a passing thought that perhaps she was crushing Emma, but it flew from her mind when Emma began aggressively fucking against her, fingers plunging in and out of her body as her lips sucked harshly on her swollen bundle of nerves to prolong her orgasm. "Oh! Emma! Ah- Ugh! Yes- Right there!"

Emma plunged her fingers in and out, keeping up Regina's frantic rhythm as she did her best to stay latched onto her clit. She tore away for a second to catch her breath before instantly returning her mouth, lashing the engorged nub harder to make up for the momentary break. Regina cried out in appreciation before finally slowing and ultimately stilling her movements, crawling down Emma's body as her orgasm tapered off. She'd come to visuals of tasting Emma, and she was determined to do so now.

"Regina, what- oh!" Emma's hips flew off the bed the second Regina's tongue made contact, eyes squeezing shut as the mayor's deft tongue lapped between her legs. "Oh fuck. Fuck!"

Regina licked, sucked, swirled her tongue, thoroughly enjoying the incredibly intimate sensation of having the evidence of Emma's arousal coat her mouth. Her taste buds were awash with the unique flavour, never before having tasted anything similar to Emma's wetness. She parted Emma's thighs further and licked more firmly, experimenting with pressure and speed until she found something had made Emma tremble and sputter nonsensical words of encouragement. She realised Emma was close when the woman's back arched, so she doubled her efforts. She wanted to taste Emma's orgasm, and when the woman screamed and froze, magic sparking around the room, Regina continued her attention to the erect bud before replacing her tongue with her fingers, moving her mouth down to catch the fresh wave of wetness that seeped from Emma's entrance. She lapped and swallowed her reward until Emma reached down and pulled her up, mouths meeting as fingers sought out swollen bundles of nerves once again.

"Together this time," Emma panted, fingers stroking against Regina's clit as she looked into her eyes.

Regina nodded, knowing for a fact she would need a break after this orgasm. Her body was already weary from the orgasms she'd just had, but she knew she was capable of one more before she collapsed completely. Emma closed her eyes momentarily when Regina's fingers found the perfect spot within her, stirring her magic once again.

"God, do you have a map of where to touch me?" Emma gasped, hips bucking as her eyes flew open.

Regina grinned, eyes fluttering as Emma stroked her fingers inside of Regina's body. She rode Emma's fingers as she plunged her own inside her lover, mouth falling open as a nimble thumb stroked her clit. Emma watched from below as Regina face contorted with pleasure, wishing desperately that she could make her feel as good as Emma felt with her magic thrumming in her veins.

Emma had felt good during sex before, great even, but it had never before felt this intense. She felt like she was soaring, like her insides were on fire, like her clit was going to explode as her magic fuelled her pleasure. She wanted Regina to feel this way too, for her magic to bring her to this same height, but the damn cuff on her wrist prevented her from feeling any of what Emma currently was. She couldn't wait to get to Oz just so that they could come home and have more mind-blowing sex. Regina had promised it would be even better once she had her magic too. But Jesus, how could it get better than this? Would they even survive anything that powerful?

Emma's thoughts were interrupted as sparks flew around the room. Regina had doubled Emma's arousal by clamping down on her G-spot, rubbing it firmly before letting it go, only to repeat her actions. Emma looked up to see a grinning Regina, who knew exactly what she had just done.

"You're wicked," Emma accused, parting her thighs further so Regina had better access.

Regina laughed, leaning down and kissing her gently.

"You adore my wicked ways."

Emma closed her eyes and nodded, fingers pressing into Regina as the women began bucking more firmly against the other's hand. Emma could feel her magic building as Regina pressed inside more aggressively, so she relaxed as Regina encouraged her to let her magic take over.

"Trust your body, Emma. Your magic won't hurt you."

"What about- what about you? It might hurt you." Emma gasped, rocking her hips. The magic was building far more aggressively now, and it concerned her slightly.

"It will not harm me either."

Emma nodded in response, relaxing and allowing the small knot of magic within her to grow and expand. She began climbing higher, moving towards a peak she'd never before approached. She instinctively sank into the intense pull, the reflux of magic causing her to cry out and encouraging her to dig deeper. She pressed further into herself, her fingers matching the rhythm of Regina's hand as she gave just as hard as she received. Her eyes fluttered open when Regina called her name, eyelids heavy with desire.

"You're beautiful, my darling."

Emma, unable to communicate words, simply cried out as her magic enveloped her whole, thrumming through her veins, overwhelming her senses, buzzing through every inch of her body. Wetness seeped from her core as Regina dragged her fingers out and plunged them in again, heightening her pleasure with each stroke. Emma's orgasm began clawing at her belly, ripping at her insides as she began vibrating almost violently. Blood roared in her ears, and Emma was panting so hard she thought she might faint. Her mind was void of any thought, save one: that she wanted Regina's magic back so that she would feel the same all-consuming pleasure that Emma was. Never before had Emma ever felt anything so fucking good.

As Emma plunged her fingers in and out of Regina's core, her other hand travelled down Regina's left arm until it caught on the cuff bound to her wrist. She wanted it off, crying out as the brunette leaned forward and bit her throat, her magic sparking against the delicious pain slicing through her body. Emma pulled at the binding, but it didn't move, just as it hadn't any other time she tried. But she wanted it gone. She wanted them to come together, their magics exploding from both of their bodies, just as it had burst from her own during her earlier orgasms. Emma's thoughts became muddled as pleasure ripped through her core, Regina's fingers relentlessly pressing between her legs, but still she yanked and tugged at the leather.

"Come for me, my love," Regina panted. "I want to feel you explode."

Emma's groan reverberated through the room. She squeezed her eyes shut and arched her back, rubbing sloppily at Regina's sex as her orgasm slammed into her, her magic overcoming her entirely. She dug deeper into the blindingly hot energy, her pleasure intensifying the more she sought it out, digging deeper and deeper until she felt like she was exploding from the inside out, knowing she was screaming and yet powerless to stop. Her body jerked and yanked around like a puppet on a string, grounded only by the fingers being squeezed by Regina's warm sex and the death grip she had on the cuff around Regina's wrist. Emma ripped at the leather binding as she shouted in pleasure, her mind screaming to rip it off so that Regina's magic would join her own.

Get the fuck off!

A loud crack sounded as white heat burst from within Emma, a blinding flash of light exploding within the room. Emma shouted as a tsunami of pleasure washed over her, overwhelming her completely. Emma's eyes shot open as Regina sobbed her name, screaming and thrashing above her. Swirls of purple and white surrounded them, filled the room, as Emma's body suddenly filled with a heavier, richer magic, one that was not in the least bit unfamiliar to her. The women's shouts tapered off, bodies heaving as they tried to catch their breath, wisps of white and purple still dancing around the room.

Regina hovered above Emma, vibrating in shock. It wasn't possible. She looked down at her arm. Her wrist lay bare, Emma's hand gripping it almost painfully tight as Regina felt the other woman's magic combine with her own inside of her body. Regina pushed against the source, watching as Emma gasped.

"You can feel that?" Regina asked, pressing back against the magic flowing within her, eyes wide with shock.

Emma nodded as a second rush of magic filled her veins, arousing her senses and warming her to the core. She pushed back, watching as Regina's eyes filled with tears, her body shivering against the feeling.

"This isn't possible," Regina whispered, "it is a myth… this isn't…"

Regina gently removed her fingers from inside Emma, who did the same, and straddled her thighs. She held up her hand and pulled magic from the link she realised she now shared with Emma, watching as a ball of white magic formed in her hand. She then held up the other, calling her own magic and watching as a fireball formed.

"Regina," Emma said hesitantly, "is that- are you- what's happening?"

Regina extinguished both balls of magic and looked at Emma, tears spilling down her cheeks.

"This isn't possible, Emma. It isn't supposed to be possible. It was a myth, a-a story they told us when we were children."

"What is?" Emma asked, sitting up so that she could look Regina in the eye.

"This," Regina whispered, holding up both hands and making the two balls of magic reappear. "This is your magic, light magic. This is mine." Regina then pushed her magic against the link, watching as Emma's eyes widened and she gasped at the feeling. "They're- they're linked. They've connected. I shouldn't be able to do this, Emma. No one can wield another's magic. No one can make you feel their magic as you are feeling mine within you. You aren't supposed to be connected like this to another wielder of magic. But, I felt it- I felt you, Emma. When you were calling your magic just a moment ago. It- it pushed against me, within me. Emma, your magic called out to mine, and mine responded. Our magics joined together to destroy the cuff."

Regina made the spheres disappear and held up her bare wrist.

"You removed it. Your magic. Our magic."

"I wanted it off…" Emma whispered, trailing off.

Regina shook her head in utter disbelief.

"Then your desire for its removal, along with your magic, were strong enough that it awoke my own. Together they shattered its hold upon me. And now they've joined…"

Regina held out her hand and a swirl of white and purple magic formed, dancing and chasing, leading and following. The more she wielded their combined magic, the more the connection grew and the stronger she felt Emma's magic within her.

"Jesus," Emma gasped, feeling the sensation of Regina's rich energy flow through her veins as she too called it forth. It was incredibly strange, her own coming forth without thought, but if she concentrated, she could tap in deeper, pulling out strings of purple light which threaded with her own.

"How is this possible?"

Regina stared, transfixed for several moments at the dancing light between them before finally responding.

"There was a legend," Regina began, still watching their magic twirl around between them, "one which spoke of old magics, magics which no longer existed in our world, in the Enchanted Forest. These magics were older than anything or anyone in our existence. No one had ever seen them, but there were stories which spoke of these incredible forces.

"The legend stated that these old magics had been divided, though no one knew how. The magics were split in two, were rendered two separate entities and then placed in two separate people in order to keep them apart. They could be used and wielded on their own, but they were incomplete halves of the wholes they once were. It is said that they were divided in order to lessen their strength, for when they were whole, they were a force of unparalleled power. None could compete with these old magics, for they were so powerful that they could move the stars in the sky if they so desired. So, they were halved in order to lessen their abilities. But, according to the legend, these magics would combine if they found each other once again, linking themselves through the people who wielded each half in order to become the whole they once were. Though still technically apart since they were still halves inside of two people, they could join through the link and be wielded by either, or both, people. The link would allow the magical halves to call out to one another, boost each another as needed, and combine to be whole once again."

"Wow. Holy shit, Regina."

"But these were simply stories that were passed down from one generation to the next. It wasn't supposed to be true. No one had ever seen or heard of such a thing happening. It was a myth. It was not supposed to be possible for two people two be linked in such a way."

Regina severed the link, the magic between them extinguishing like a candle. She looked down and wiped at her cheeks, overwhelmed with the knowledge of what this meant. It was real. The legend was true. She and Emma… they were perfect magical mates. If the rest of the legend were also true, she and Emma were now bonded for life, would forever be linked together by their magic. Gods. How could this possibly be true? It was supposed to be nothing more than a story.

When she felt Emma's pull from within, Regina looked up, the gentle look on Emma's face calming her racing heart.

"I felt you… that day the dwarfs were in your office. It was you. Your magic. When you were upset. When you were panicking. Your magic called out to me. I felt it, but I didn't know what it was at the time. I just knew I had to get to you. Your magic is what drew me to you. "

"This is unheard of Emma," Regina whispered. "I can't believe… It isn't possible."

"And yet..."

Regina shook her head. It couldn't be. She'd grown up with Maite telling her this story at night, but it was just a legend. How could this possibly be true?

"Does this mean I'll always feel you?" Emma asked after a moment.

"I don't know, Emma. Possibly. All I know is what Maite used to tell me as a child…"

"What else did she say about it?"

"She spoke of the legend I told you, of old magics which once existed, which could be joined if they met their mate. Maite said that even if you had a mate though, it was impossible to know."

Regina traced her fingers along Emma's cheek before continuing to speak.

"She also said that if these magics did finally combine, none could stop their bond; no force could compete against it. Ours magics are so different though, Emma. Yours heals and protects. It is borne of love and good. Mine… mine was borne of hate and revenge. Of desperation. It attacks and maims, murders. It is dark. How can we be magical mates if we possess such different magics?"

Emma stayed quiet for a moment as she reflected on what Regina said.

"I mean, it kinda makes sense, right?" She finally stated. "Your magic is strongest when it takes offense, and mine defense. Yours is strongest to attack others, mine does best when it's healing and protecting. Yours is dark, mine is light. I mean, whatever mine is lacking, yours has and vice versa. It makes sense that they'd come together to make a whole 'cause mine has what yours doesn't and yours has what mine doesn't. It's kind of the perfect match."

"Do you understand how rare this is? And how incredible it is to know that the legend is true?" Regina asked, her voice filled with awe as Emma pulled from her and wielded her darker magic. "This is the first instance of magics combining that I have ever heard of. No one can manipulate another's magic, not unless they link the way that ours seem to have. Only I can wield my magic, and yet… you can draw from me without hesitation. And this link… I can feel you, Emma."

"I can feel you too," Emma said, a soft smile on her lips. "Did Maite ever tell you how many people are supposed to have this ability? Like, how many halves exist?"

"No. The legend never specified."

"So we could be the only ones."

Regina nodded. Silence reigned again as each woman attempted to come to grips with what was happening.

"I have never heard of anyone meeting their magical mate, Emma. Ever. It has never happened in my life or in any other's that I have heard of. It is entirely possible we are the only ones- will be the only ones- whose magics ever combined."

Emma looked up at Regina's eyes, mind racing as she considered the implications of their linked magics.

"This is why I make your magic boost, isn't it? It's why the hat worked when I touched you… and why we were able to make that eclipse. It's why we can always defeat whatever it is we're facing when we're together. Our magics have been combining for years without us even knowing."

Regina nodded slowly.

"I simply believed it was that your magic was true love's purest form. I had never considered…"

"Why didn't this happen before? Why didn't they combine like this earlier? I didn't feel you in the past. I mean, I don't think I did anyway."

"I'm not sure. I don't believe I've felt you either. Perhaps it is because we've never been so unguarded with each other. I will admit, I've been quite distant with you in the past. It is only recently that I've felt… that I've felt safe enough to truly lower my defenses around you. It is also possible that we needed to love one another before the link could be created. Perhaps our magics only combined when there was a great need. Or want." Regina sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know, Emma. I have no frame of reference for such an occurrence."

Emma withdrew from the link, the magic between them tapering off.

"Are you okay with this?"

"I haven't a choice, have I?" Regina said softly, then smiled gently at Emma when she looked at her worriedly. "Yes, Emma. I am. I will admit it is somewhat overwhelming. The knowledge that we are so intimately connected… it is slightly jarring. I never believed that this could ever be possible. It is true that I have never felt so connected to another person, that I have never loved nor been loved so completely by another, not since I was an innocent girl. But this connection, Emma, do you know what this means?"

Emma gave a small shrug.

"Fate?"

"More than fate, Emma. These magics are older than you or I or anyone we know. They're older than this world, older than anything that still exists in the Enchanted Forest. Emma, our magics were destined to be together. They were meant to be together. If we are to believe the legend, this link, this connection between us has been fated since before we were even born."

"I don't believe in fate or in destiny or in any of that shit, Regina. I believe that we make our own choices."

"Yes, Emma. We do, and yet… we still made this one," she responded, cupping Emma's cheek and kissing her softly. She giggled when she felt Emma push a surge of magic through the newly formed link, tickling her from the inside. It was so strange to be tickled from inside one's body. "I fear I will come to regret this change between us," Regina reproached.

"Why would you?" Emma teased, a smile on her lips.

Regina gasped as the tickle changed to a flood of arousal, warming her between her legs and sending a shiver up her spine.

"Stop that."

Emma chuckled, leaning forward and pulling Regina closer into her arms. They held each other tightly, Emma tilting her head to place soft kisses along her lover's throat.

"So this is real? We're really… this link is for real? Is it forever?"

Regina nodded, burying the fingers of her right hand in Emma's hair and scratching at her scalp.

"If we are to believe the legend, yes."

"I can't believe this is possible."

Emma was in awe.

"Now you understand why I could not believe it earlier when I realised what was happening. You are truly special, Emma Swan."

Emma pulled back, kissing her softly on the lips.

"You are too, Regina. I didn't do this by myself."

Regina smiled at Emma, resting her head on the woman's shoulder as she considered her overwhelming new reality. Now that their magics were combined, there would truly be nothing that could endanger them, that could truly harm them. Not according to what Maite had told her, anyway. They'd be able to protect this town, their son, without worry. It would still require a vast amount of energy and concentration to destroy real threats- like Gold or other truly powerful magic wielders- but with their magics combined as they were, it would be far easier than it had been before, even when they had worked together. Nothing would be able to defeat them now that their magics were one.

Regina's eyes fell upon the shattered picture on the floor, the one she had taken of her beloved apple tree one particularly bountiful year, and waved her hand. The glass was restored at once, the picture returning to its rightful place on the wall. It felt incredible to have her magic back, to know that she was no longer without it. And now, now she had access Emma's as well. She smiled when she felt Emma yawn against her throat, pulling back and brushing the loose strands of her lover's hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

"Tired, my love?"

"Well, you kinda wore me out," Emma responded, closing her eyes and enjoying Regina's gentle attention. Warm kisses were distributed to her cheeks, before the soft weight in her lap disappeared. She instantly opened her eyes, protesting Regina's movement.

"I must use the bathroom for a moment. I'll return, I promise."

Emma gave an exaggerated sigh, Regina rolling her eyes at the dramatics as she left the room. The blonde looked at the state of the bed, sheets askew, blankets thrown on the floor, only one pillow left on the bed. She chuckled to herself before getting up and tossing the pillows back on the bed, leaning down to grab the comforter. She straightened when she heard Regina entered the room, or rather, when she felt her enter the room.

"God that's weird. I felt you come back."

Regina nodded.

"I felt it as well. I believe we will become accustomed to it with time. It is not unpleasant, I hope. I find it… comforting."

"Definitely not unpleasant. Just, weird. I kinda like it too. How far do you think this thing ranges? Like, could I feel you on the other side of town?"

"Well, where were you when you felt my distress in the office?"

"I was in the neighbourhood. Maybe a couple blocks over."

"This was before our magics were truly linked. It is quite possible you would be able to sense my presence at the other end of town or even on the other side of the country, Emma."

"Guess that kills any hide and go seek games we'll wanna play in the future."

Regina chuckled indulgently, waving her hand and changing the sheets on the bed. She then replaced the pillows and comforter, slipping into bed immediately after.

"Will you be joining me or would you prefer to watch from the side of the bed?"

Emma shook her head and laughed, getting into bed.

"I got distracted watching your boobs as you moved. They're so sexy," Emma whispered conspiratorially in Regina's ear, snuggling up to spoon her. She moved her hands up and squeezed the mounds in question, humming happily as she felt the hardened peaks brush against her palms. "These are my new favourite things ever. All mine."

Regina sighed, but she made no move to stop Emma from touching her breasts. The truth was, she rather enjoyed the gentle attention, as Emma's touch was soft and soothing. The blonde's hands soon migrated south, stopping at her waist and wrapping securely around her.

"Tonight was amazing, Regina," Emma said sincerely. "You were beautiful, more beautiful than I ever imagined. I've never felt this good when I was with someone. I love you, a lot. A lot a lot. I'm glad we took this next step, and I hope you're feeling good too, and not like… I don't know, bad or regretting it."

Regina turned in Emma's embrace, locking eyes with her before leaning forward and kissing her gently. She pulled back a moment later, cupping her cheek as she looked her in the eyes.

"Emma, I assure you that there is no part of me that regrets this evening. In fact, part of me wishes that we had done this sooner. Never before have I ever felt so loved, so comfortable, so safe with another person. I have been physically intimate with others for longer than I will admit, and yet I had never made love until this evening. You have shown me a beautiful side to physical intimacy, one I had never known existed. You've given me a gift. I could never regret this, darling. I look forward to the many, many, many encounters we will share in our future. I love you, Emma Swan."

Emma leaned forward this time, kissing Regina firmly as she held her close. She stroked Regina's lower back as she kissed her, causing the brunette to grin against her lips.

"What?"

"I enjoy the way that you touch me," Regina said, smile evident in her voice. "Always so delicately, as though you're afraid I'll break."

"You've just been treated so roughly in the past. I want you to know there's at least one person in your life who's never gonna do that. Besides, you have to be careful with pretty things. They're expensive and fragile and break easily. And you're like, super pretty. And shiny. And mega expensive, like the prettiest diamond ever. So I have to be careful."

"Diamonds are quite difficult to break. They're the strongest-"

"Shhh. You're ruining my analogy."

"It isn't a good analogy," Regina teased.

"You're wounding my pride. Do you see my pride, woman? It's wounded."

Regina laughed, eyes filled with affection. She leaned forward and kissed Emma again, pulling away and looking into her eyes.

"Thank you, Emma. For treating me with such love and respect."

"Always, baby."

Regina gave her one final kiss before turning over onto her side, sighing happily as Emma's arms held her securely. She shifted until they were melded together, not a hair's breadth between them. She smiled as Emma brushed her lips against her shoulder, feeling the woman push her magic through their link, flooding her with what Emma was clearly feeling: love and affection.

"Can you feel that?" Emma whispered.

Regina nodded.

"That's so cool," she said with awe. "We're linked. We'll always be connected. You know what this means, right? If we're always connected?"

"Emma," Regina said warningly, for she already suspected what Emma was going to say.

"No matter what happens, if we get separated or if we get lost or if something happens to the other-"

"Do not say it."

"-where maybe we're far apart or I don't know where you are-"

"Emma, I am warning you."

"Like literally, we could be on opposite ends of the country-"

"Emma I will not repeat myself-"

"I will always find you."

Silence.

"I'm leaving you," Regina said harshly.

Emma pulled Regina back down as the woman tried to get up, the brunette giggling loudly as Emma began kissing the sensitive part of her neck and tickling her sides.

"Emma Swan I will end your life if you do not release me!"

"Kinda hard to take you seriously when you're laughing, Madame Mayor."

"Then stop tickling me!" Regina yelped, laughing as she pinned Emma's wrists to the bed. "There. Have you quite finished?"

Emma's eyes were instantly drawn to the breasts now centimetres from her mouth.

"Oh yeah," she purred, leaning forward and pulling a nipple into her mouth.

"Emma," Regina said, trying her best to be stern. It came out more as a whine, however, as a very talented tongue worked her sensitive flesh.

Emma sucked and nibbled before releasing the nipple, satisfied now that it was hard. She then trailed her tongue along Regina's sternum before enveloping the other brown tip with her lips. Once it too was hard, she pulled away happily, smiling up at the woman now breathing shallowly above her.

"Are you happy now?" Regina asked, all moisture gone from her throat.

"Very."

"I loathe you," Regina said with a mock glare, turning onto her side a moment later.

"I love you too, baby."

After they had settled, Emma glanced at the clock radio before speaking.

"Just FYI, I'm going to wake you up in about four hours, and then probably three hours after that, so I can make you scream loud enough to scare the neighbours. I wanna test out this magical link and see just how hard I can make you come. So, sleep while you can because when I wake you up, I'm going to ravage you."

Regina shivered despite herself, her earlier arousal returning with a vengeance at Emma's promise.

"I eagerly await it, my love."

Chapter Text

Emma awoke hours later, deliciously sore from the hours of love making she and Regina had shared. She stretched, the muscles in her thighs protesting the change in position, but Emma was stiff from spooning Regina for the last (Emma glanced at the bedside table clock) four hours. They’d made love three separate times last night, taking a few hours to rest before waking and resuming their love making once again. Regina had ultimately erected a bubble around them during the last round as they had both gotten tired of repairing the countless items in the room which kept shattering and breaking. The bubble had served well, as it doubled as a soundproof barrier. Emma was excited to learn that Regina was a screamer. It was unbelievably hot to hear the regal mayor swear and scream her name while in the throes of passion.  

Emma pulled herself from her thoughts, slipping out from under her still-sleeping lover until she was on her side facing her. She froze when Regina moaned unhappily and shifted onto her back, breathing a sigh of relief when the woman didn’t wake. Emma looked down and smiled automatically, the soft sunlight of the morning affording her just enough light to see the beautiful woman still slumbering peacefully against her. Her libido stirred once again as she looked Regina up and down, her eyes settling on the woman’s dark nipples. They hardened before her very eyes, Emma licking her lips as she imagined taking the pebbled peaks into her mouth. Emma’s pulse quickened as she remembered the sounds Regina made when she enveloped those sensitive tips into her mouth, pulling and sucking on them until the room filled with moans. Her eyes travelled down as she thought of what it felt like to have Regina’s thighs trapping her head in place as her tongue stroked through copious wetness. God, Regina tasted so good. She wished she could push the sheets off of her lover and place her mouth back on that delicious cunt. However, with Regina currently asleep, Emma was stuck with her memories and imagination- both of which were plentiful.

She reached out and gently tucked a loose lock of hair behind Regina’s ear, fingers skimming along the smooth flesh of her neck as she recalled panting against the very area her fingers were currently touching. God, the things Regina had made her feel. She was horny, but she was still incredibly sore. She wondered if Regina would be open to receiving instead, or if she was feeling the same soreness between her own legs.

“Don’t even think about it,” Regina murmured as Emma stroked her fingers along her belly.

Emma’s eyes snapped up, and she grinned at the other woman.

“Did I wake you?”

“Your libido woke me. I could feel your arousal. How can you possibly want to again? You’re insatiable.”

Emma chuckled, leaning forward and pecking her softly on the lips.

“You’re just wicked hot, that’s all.”

Emma’s eyes raked down Regina’s body as the brunette stretched, licking her lips as more delicious flesh was exposed. She reached out and stroked her fingertips along Regina’s ribcage, pressing soft kisses along her sternum. Regina closed her eyes, her hand rubbing languidly along Emma’s back as the woman’s soft lips travelled along her skin. She could feel Emma’s desire flow through her body, but Regina genuinely could not go again. They’d made love less than four hours ago, and then a mere three hours before that. She was still much too sore. It had been way too long since her body had had this kind of work out.

“As much as I’d love to, darling, I can’t.”

Emma smiled, though she was slightly disappointed.

“Okay.”

Regina, feeling Emma’s chagrin through the link, kissed her cheek.

“Tonight, alright? I need time to rest.”

Emma sighed, trying hard to fight her grin as she prepared to deliver her teasing response.

“You’re right. At your age, we have to be careful. You’re pretty brittle- ah!”

Emma yelped, laughing loudly as Regina flipped her over and pinned her to the bed with a growl.

“Watch yourself, Miss Swan.”

Emma continued laughing, fuelled by the feeling of playfulness ebbing from Regina.

“I’m sorry,” Emma giggled, looking up at Regina. “I really should respect my elders.”

Before Regina could respond, a loud ringing broke through the room.

“That’s Henry’s ringtone,” Emma said, shifting on the bed and reaching to her jeans on the floor. “Hello?”

“Hi, ma. Is everything okay? Mom wasn’t answering her phone.”

“Yeah. Sorry, kid,” she answered, moving to a seated position. “Her phone is downstairs. What’s up?”

There was a silence.

“Are you guys in bed?”

“Yeah, we are.”

“It’s after ten. Mom never sleeps that- Oh gross, ma!”

The phone went dead, Emma laughing as she put her cellphone down.

“What?” Regina asked, curling herself around Emma’s hips and lower back.

“Just traumatised our kid,” she said with a giggle. “He figured out why we were in bed so late.”

“Emma!” Regina said, scandalised.

“It’s fine. It’s not gonna hurt him.”

“Did he at least state what he wanted?”

“No, never got the chance.”

“Well, text your mother to make sure everything is alright.”

Emma reached out and grabbed her phone, smiling as she felt Regina lay soft kisses along her outer thigh. She texted her mother, who responded a few minutes later.

“She says she told Henry not to bug us, but since he did, she figures he was going to ask if we wanted to join them for a picnic in the park. What do you think?”

Regina could feel Emma’s desire to go, even though the woman was clearly trying to hold it back. She knew eventually they’d get control over their emotions and be better able to hold them back from the link, but for now she quite enjoyed knowing exactly what Emma was feeling.

“We should go. It’s rare that we all have a weekend free.”

Emma happily texted her mother that they were going to be joining them, smiling at Regina and helping her out of bed. They then showered (Emma spending a little too much time washing Regina’s body), before dressing and heading out the door. Luckily, they saved on time since they didn’t have to make breakfast; Snow had packed a lunch for them all.

“So, are we gonna like… tell my mom about this link thing? Does she know about the myth?”

“She does. Nearly everyone who grew up in the Enchanted Forest heard the legend as a child,” Regina responded, slipping into the passenger seat and buckling up. They had decided to take the car to arrive more quickly. “Would you like to tell her?”

“I don’t know. I feel like it’s important and that I should, you know? Or should we keep it a secret? Would it be dangerous for people to know?”

“I don’t believe so, though Gold will be a little unnerved once he learns what has transpired between us.”

“But we can face him if he tried something, right? Now that our magics have linked?”

Regina looked over and smiled at Emma comfortingly. She could feel the woman’s worry, so she reached over and held her hand before responding.

“We have before, Emma, and we will again if need be.”

Emma smiled back and squeezed Regina’s hand before looking back at the road. She could feel the woman’s calm and soothing energy through the link, and it reassured her greatly. She was really liking this whole connection thing she had with Regina. It was strange to feel another’s emotions inside of her, like an echo within herself. But it was nice too, knowing for sure exactly how Regina felt. She'd never again have to worry if Regina was scared or uncomfortable or worried. She'd know right away now that they were connected.

Emma drove the short distance to the park, letting go of Regina’s hand momentarily as they exited the vehicle. Once they began walking though, she took her hand again, smiling when Regina laced their fingers together. They found Snow easily, joining the brunette on the blanket a moment later. Emma looked out at her father and son, who were play wrestling on the grass.

“How long have they been at that?”

Snow sighed.

“Longer than you want to know. Your father is an overgrown child.”

“Like father, like daughter,” Regina said with a smirk.

Emma glared playfully.

“You’re lucky my mother is here or I’d make you pay for that. There’s a pond behind you that’s calling your name.”

Regina rolled her eyes, smiling happily at the baby who was reaching out to her.

“Well, hello there, handsome,” she cooed, taking him in her arms and flying him above her head. “How are you doing?”

“Much better than his mother,” Snow replied wearily. “I think he’s teething. He cried all night last night. It’s a good thing Henry can sleep through anything.”

Regina smiled sympathetically.

“Put a damp face cloth in the freezer until it’s cold. It was the only thing that soothed Henry when he was teething.”

“Or his pacifier,” Emma added. “I remember… well, from your memories. That worked too.”

“It did,” Regina agreed.

Snow smiled. It was still so strange knowing that Regina and Emma shared the same memories when it came to Henry, but it was incredibly telling that her former stepmother would willingly share such intimate memories with Emma. Regina was the most private person she knew. For her to share such sacred memories with Emma, Regina obviously felt incredibly safe and comfortable with her. It was comforting to know that Emma had found someone who trusted her so.

“Thanks,” Snow finally said, when the women looked at her. “I’ll try that.”

Emma’s stomach rumbled loudly, and she shot a sheepish grin at her mother when the woman gave her a surprised look.

“Sorry, haven’t eaten in a while.”

“Well, by all means,” Snow offered, waving to the basket in the corner. “We already ate while we were waiting for you.”

Emma eagerly reached over, her mother’s eyes bulging when she saw the sizable hickey that had been previously covered by Emma’s shirt. When her daughter shifted, the material moved and exposed an almost angry looking mark. When Emma sat back down, she frowned at her mother’s expression.

“What?”

Snow cleared her throat.

“Well, I see now why you haven’t eaten in a while,” she mumbled, pointing at Emma’s clavicle.

Emma looked down, confused, until Regina chuckled and moved her shirt, exposing the large mark.

“Regina!”

The woman in question laughed, hovering her hand and healing the mark. She'd promised Emma earlier that she’d gotten all of them, but she’d left this one as she was particularly proud of it. She was almost sad to have to heal it.

“Sorry, mom,” Emma said, looking down at the picnic basket instead of at her mother. She could feel her cheeks flush pink, so she concentrated on the delicious looking food before her. “Looks awesome. Are these roast beef sandwiches?”

“Yes, and there’s macaroni salad and a fruit tray for dessert.”

“Wicked. Thanks.”

Emma pulled out two sandwiches, passing one over to Regina and narrowing her eyes. She wasn’t going to forgive her that easily for leaving the hickey on her skin. To be fair, however, Regina had never meant for Snow to see it. It was supposed to be a fun reminder for later for she and Emma of what they had shared last night. It was an accident that the other woman had seen it, though Regina would be lying if she said she didn’t at least slightly enjoy the woman’s discomfort. She also secretly enjoyed the way Emma’s embarrassment burned through the link, thoroughly amused by it. She sent a tickle through to Emma, grinning when the woman laughed and shifted as though she’d actually been tickled. Snow frowned, clearly confused as to why her daughter was laughing, but she didn’t ask questions.

A comfortable silence settled over the women, all three watching Henry and David as they laughed and wrestled on the ground. Baby Neal flapped his hands excitedly as he watched the show, giggling when Regina pretended to eat his cheeks. When their lunch was finished, Emma wiped her hands on a napkin and looked over to Regina. They shared a look, one which did not go unnoticed by Snow.

“What’s going on? You two look like you have a secret.”

Emma bit her lip. Regina could feel Emma’s nervousness, so she sent her a wave of soothing energy before passing the baby over to her.

“We have something to tell you,” Regina said, turning to Snow.

“Okay…” Snow said slowly. “What’s going on?”

“Do you remember the story I used to tell you when you were a girl? The one that spoke of ancient magics?”

Snow furrowed her eyebrows. Regina hadn’t told her stories since she was a child, but she remembered them all. She had never forgotten the times Regina would crawl into her bed and tell her bedtime stories. They were some of her favourite memories.

“Yes.”

“Do you remember what I told you?”

“Of course I do. I’ve never forgotten the stories you used to tell me. But what does that have to do with anything?”

Regina raised her hand, producing a simple ball of light.

“This is light magic.” Regina stated, then raised her other hand, creating a small fireball.  “This one… is my magic. Dark magic.”

Snow gasped.

“Your magic. Your magic is back!”

“It is. And I have light magic now as well.”

Snow frowned in confusion.

“I don’t understand. How can you have both? And the cuff, how did you remove it?”

Regina extinguished the balls of magic before reaching over and grabbing Neal from Emma.

“Show her,” she encouraged Emma.

Emma obeyed, producing the same ball of white magic and then producing a fireball. Snow gasped when she saw the fireball, her eyes widening.

“But that’s dark magic, Emma. You don’t have dark magic.” She and David had gone through great lengths to ensure Emma would be a child of light. There was no way she could have gone dark.

“I don’t, but Regina does.” Emma then changed the magics in her hand, making them combine into a swirl of white and purple.

Snow’s eyes were transfixed. She would recognise that purple magic anywhere. It couldn’t be.

David came running over when he noticed Emma and Regina’s display of magic, followed closely by Henry. When he noticed the white and purple mist in his daughter’s hand, David asked what was happening.  

“Emma?” Snow asked.

Emma smiled reassuringly at her parents, waving her hand so the magic disappeared.

“Ma? Why is your magic purple now?”

“It’s not. Mine is still white. But… I have Regina’s magic too now. Our magics, they linked yesterday.”

Snow’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“No. You told me, Regina, you told me it had never happened. It’s never happened before. It’s a myth!”

“I did. And, it was supposed to be nothing more than that.”

“These magics… they only combine if they meet their other half,” Snow said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Oh my God. You guys, you’re each other’s other half?”

“Other magical half, at least,” Regina said with a nod.

“You have ancient magics,” Snow whispered in amazement.

“No way,” Henry said, eyes wide. His mom had told him this story dozens of times. It was one of his favourites. “You guys are like, unstoppable now!”

“We were pretty unstoppable before, kid.”

“Yeah, but nothing can compete against this, can it, mom?”

“According to the legend, no.”

“Wow,” he said, awe evident in his voice. “So you guys can use each other’s magics now?”

“Yeah. I can use your mom’s magic and she can use mine,” Emma explained, waving her hands so the balls of magic disappeared. “Coolest thing ever. Well, other than the whole feeling her thing.” When she spotted her mother’s scandalised look, Emma quickly continued, “I mean, I can feel Regina when she’s in the room even though I’m not looking at her. My magic just… reacts to hers. And I can feel when she’s upset or distressed. Or happy or sad. It just… comes through and I can feel it.”

“That’s so cool,” Henry said. “Weird, but cool.”

Snow sat, looking between Regina and Emma.

“So… you were destined for each other. The legend, it said the magics were bound together by fate.”

“If you choose to believe in destiny, then yes,” Regina replied calmly, “I suppose we were.”

“What else could it possibly be? Magics this old… Regina I can’t believe it. You and Emma possess some of the oldest and most powerful of magics! The most powerful now.” Snow’s faces suddenly changed from disbelief to concern. “You have the most powerful magic now. This could be very dangerous. People will come after you to gain that power.”

“They cannot take it from Emma or from me. It cannot be removed from either of us.”

“But they could come after you because they’re scared of you.”

“Even if they did,” Regina said gently, “you’ll remember that the legend states that nothing can compete with the ancient magics. Once the halves combined, nothing can defeat them. Emma and I may be feared once it’s learnt what has happened, but nothing can compete with our linked magics.”

Regina held out her wrists, showing that they were both bare.

“Our magics shattered the cuff. We had tried everything and nothing worked. But our magics, they removed it when nothing else could.”

Snow shook her head, completely overwhelmed.

“What other stories have we been told are nothing more than myths that are actually true?”

Regina gave a soft chuckle.

“It does make one wonder…”

Silence fell upon them for a moment, until Henry’s eyes lit up and he grabbed his ma’s hand.

“Come here. I wanna try something!”

He guided Emma away, turning her so that his mothers’ backs were against one another, the women facing opposite directions.

“Okay, now that you can’t see each other, I wanna try this.” He sat down, facing his ma. “I’m gonna make a face to show an emotion. Use the link and make mom guess what it is. Kind of like charades!”

Henry was incredibly excited. This was just way too cool.

“Okay!”

He sat back, grinning widely as he faced his ma.

“Is that the emotion, kid?”

He nodded rapidly, still smiling. Emma chuckled at his enthusiasm. She began thinking about Regina and how happy she made her. She let the emotion consume her, knowing Regina would feel it immediately.

“Happiness,” Regina said confidently.

“Oh my God, that’s so cool!” Henry said, shifting to kneel before his ma. His stomach was vibrating with eagerness to try another emotion. This time, he frowned, sticking out his lower lip and pretending to be sad.

Emma took a deep breath and calmed herself, trying to erase the happiness she felt. Once she felt she was fairly void of emotion, she began thinking about the fact that Regina had rejected her offer for sex this morning. That was sad, but as she thought about it, it was more disappointing than sad. Her disappointment was replaced by excitement upon remembering that Regina had said they could have sex again tonight. Her libido stirred as she thought about sex with Regina, letting out a surprised “oof” when she felt a hard elbow connect with her rib.

“I can feel your tornado of emotions and it’s making me seasick. Stop it.”

Emma chuckled.

“Sorry. Okay. I’ll try again.”

She closed her eyes and thought about the second curse, when she’d been standing at the town line. She envisioned Regina standing before her, clasping her hand, tears in both of their eyes. She remembered the sheer devastation she felt, the pain that had threatened to consume her entirely. She let the emotions wash over her, hearing Regina gasp as the intensity spilled over the link.

“Sadness,” Regina said, voice shaky. She had no idea what Emma had been thinking about, but it was obviously something that greatly affected the woman. The emotion came crashing through the connection, overpowering the feeling of calm that had settled over her as she waited to guess what emotion Henry had chosen. Regina reached back and blindly felt at Emma’s hip, relaxing when the woman’s fingers intertwined with her own.

“Okay, last one,” Henry promised. He sat back and tapped at his chin. He thought about different emotions he could choose from, finally settling on one he knew his mom would like. He brought his hands together, shaping them until they form a heart. He tilted them and showed them to his ma, who smiled at him affectionately.

Emma closed her eyes and simply let herself feel the emotion she’d been feeling for weeks now. It didn’t really matter what was going on, Emma felt love bubbling just beneath the surface, especially when she was near Regina. She was walking on air now that she and Regina were together, and it was easy to let herself be consumed by the love she felt for the other woman. She could feel the answering emotion through the connection, her smile turning into a full blown grin.

“Love,” Regina said confidently, the smile evident in her voice.  

Emma turned at the same time as Regina, twin smiles on their faces. Emma leaned forward and placed a small peck on the woman’s cheek, shifting to lean against her as she settled down to face her family again. She looked over and saw the goofy smile on her mother’s face, suppressing the urge to roll her eyes. Emma chuckled when she felt the same emotion coming through from Regina, only much stronger. Evidently she had noticed the same dopey smile on her mother’s face.

“It’s so beautiful, Emma. I had always hoped you’d find the same connection with someone that I feel with your father.”

Emma had to bite hard on her tongue to avoid bursting into giggles after feeling the absolute repulsion coming from Regina. She could feel the woman’s utter disgust, and it was downright hilarious. She knew Regina would be gagging if she weren’t so damn polite. Emma had to dig her nails into her palms when she felt anger coming through the link as well. Obviously the woman was not so amused by Emma’s finding the situation absolutely hysterical.

“It’s really nice, mom,” Emma said slowly, shoving down all feeling of amusement in order to keep a straight face. “I’ve always wanted what you and dad had, you know? And now I know just how much Regina loves me. And the thing about this link, it really is a connection. I can feel her all the time. Regina and I realised yesterday that because of this link, we’ll never be separated. Like I told her last night, I’ll always be able to find her. We’ll never be separated again.”

Emma had to look away. The seething energy coming through the link was fuelling her desire to burst into laughter. She was going to pay for this later. Regina was going to kill her, but it was so worth it. She took a second to collect herself before turning back to her smiling mother.

“That’s so nice to hear, sweetie. I’m so happy for you both.”

“We’re happy too, aren’t we Regina?” Emma asked, turning to Regina. She couldn’t help the smile that toyed at her lips, eyes crinkled with laughter.

“Ecstatic,” Regina responded through gritted teeth. I’m going to murder you.

Emma beamed at her in response. Henry, now growing slightly bored with the conversation, asked his grandfather if he wanted to go back to playing football. The man readily agreed, not particularly eager to listen to his baby girl describe how close she was getting to Regina. It was nothing against the other woman, but he liked bonding with Emma over work or fishing or sword fighting. He didn’t want to hear about her relationships with women or with men. She was still his little girl after all.

“Anyway, what do you have planned for today?” Snow asked, shifting a squirming Neal in her lap. “Shh, honey. Do you want to bounce?” she asked him softly, bouncing him in her lap as she looked to her daughter.

“We don’t really  have anything planned,” Emma answered, smiling softly as she watched Regina coo over her brother. She drifted off for a moment, staring at the brunette, who now bore a wide grin as she smiled at the baby. Emma couldn’t help the flood of affection that overcame her, meeting Regina’s eyes when the woman looked over at her. Obviously, she had felt it, for she returned the feeling with equal fervor.

When Neal made a loud wail of protest at having been forgotten, Regina chuckled and looked back over at him.

“You demand my attention as much as your sister does, young man. You, however, are far cuter than she.”

“Hey,” Emma protested. “At least I’m potty trained.”

“Yes, and we’re all so very proud of you for that accomplishment, darling,” Regina responded, voice heavy with sarcasm. She reached out and took a now fussing Neal, pulling him into her arms and kissing his cheek. The boy instantly giggled, reaching out to grab her hair. “We are going to take a walk to see the ducks.”

Snow smiled at them affectionately, waving her son off as Regina walked away. Her feelings were far different than Emma’s, whose heart had started to speed up when she noticed the way Regina was walking as she moved towards the pond. Emma hadn’t seen it earlier as they had been rushed to arrive, but watching her now, she could see that Regina was definitely walking funny. It made her want to laugh, while also stirring her libido as she thought of why the woman was walking like that. Emma wondered if Regina really would be up to having sex tonight like she’d stated earlier, or if she’d be too sore to do anything. Then again, Emma’s magic had healing powers. She could definitely heal any residual soreness her lover felt. There were still many positions she wanted to try, and Regina had hinted that maybe they could use toys ‘so that we may have use of both of our hands’.

Emma’s stomach clenched as she thought about bending Regina over their bed. She wondered how vocal Regina would get if Emma were able to hold her hip steady while plunging inside of her with a toy, free hand stroking her clit. Last night had been beyond amazing, better than anything Emma could have imagined. There were a few times though that she wished for another hand (namely when she had three fingers buried deep inside of Regina’s heat, the other hand rubbing her clit, unable to yank the woman closer when she started coming and slipping away from her).

Regina had been ignoring the burning heat she could feel coming from Emma, but whatever the woman was thinking (though Regina knew what she was thinking), it was consuming her whole and beginning to affect Regina as well. She glared over at the other woman, but upon seeing the obvious arousal on Emma’s face, Regina’s libido stirred, encouraged by the lusty feelings slipping through the link. She immediately turned away, breaking their locked gazes. She breathed a sigh of relief when Emma’s concentration was obviously interrupted, grateful for the surprise and embarrassment that replaced Emma’s more carnal feelings. Serves you right.

The women spent most of the day at the park, talking and laughing, spending time with their family. Regina was often flooded with Emma’s poorly controlled feelings of lust (seriously, was she actually a teenaged boy?), only once losing control of her own libido when she watched Emma tackle her father and bring him down during a game of football. Watching the woman’s muscles ripple as she took her father down (with minimal effort, Regina’s mind noted) instantly made her stomach bubble with arousal. Emma had felt it, of course, and flashed her a shit eating grin as she flexed her muscles once again. They had kept things PG, however, only sharing the briefest of kisses when Emma had plopped down next to Regina after going to feed the ducks with Henry. As it neared dinner time, they decided to pack things up, Henry choosing to stay with his grandparents because he “enjoyed spending time with them”. He didn’t mention the fact that his grandfather had promised him a late night of grandpa/grandson bonding time, binge-watching movies and eating all the junk food he wanted. Henry was eagerly awaiting a night of watching action and Marvel movies while gorging on all the foods his mom would never let him have at home.

They parted ways just after five o’clock, Emma grinning to herself as she thought of all the alone time she’d have with Regina now that their son was spending the evening with his grandparents.

“I can feel you staring at my ass, Emma.”

“I’m doing a whole lot more than staring, baby,” Emma said lowly, gripping the ass in question as she crowded Regina against the car. She gripped the supple flesh firmly, lips trailing along the smooth expanse of Regina’s neck. “I’ve been thinking about you all day.”

“I know,” Regina breathed, the fire in her stomach burning hot as the combination of Emma touch, as well as her lust, overcame her senses. “I felt your poorly contained arousal.”

“Wasn’t trying to contain it,” Emma said simply, licking and sucking behind the woman’s ear. She grinned as she felt Regina shudder in her arms, hands coming around to rest on the woman’s belly. “Think you’d wanna act on those feelings?” she trailed off, tapping her fingers at the top of Regina’s pants.

“Not here, surely,” Regina responded breathily.  

Emma rolled her eyes.

“At home, Queen of sass.”

Regina chuckled, moaning when Emma suckled on her earlobe. She was having trouble concentrating. Her panties were wet, clitoris twitching with the memory of how good Emma’s mouth felt wrapped around the sensitive bud.

“Hmm?”

“Yes,” Regina finally responded. “Although…”

“Although?” Emma prompted.

“You’ll have to be gentle. I’m still-,” Regina paused, mouth open as she was suddenly overwhelmed with Emma’s lust, “still sore.”

“I saw the way you were walking earlier, Madame Mayor. It was hot as fuck. I don’t want you to be sore though. Do you want me to heal you? That way we don’t have to be gentle.”

Regina swallowed hard, Emma’s obvious wish to not be gentle flooding through the link. The woman’s want made Regina tremble, flooding her panties with a fresh wave of need.

“I can feel how you want me, Regina. I can’t wait to get you home and fuck you.”

Regina gripped the roof of the car, breathing heavily as she worked through Emma’s overwhelming hunger.

“Take me home, Emma,” she finally grunted through gritted teeth.

“With pleasure,” Emma said eagerly, helping Regina into the car before getting in herself.

Emma sped to the mansion, one hand firmly planted on Regina’s thigh. She stroked up and down the hard muscle, fingers dipping down and teasing a now panting Regina.

“I can’t wait to get you home, baby. I want to taste you so bad.”

Regina’s hips jerked as Emma’s fingers skirted over her, teasing between her legs.

“Emma,” she moaned.

“Almost there, baby.”

Emma took a right, turning onto Mifflin street. As soon as she parked the car, she undid her seatbelt and jumped out of the car, reaching for Regina and practically dragged her into the house. Regina would have laughed at Emma’s eagerness if she weren’t so unbelievably turned on herself.

The second the door closed, Emma pounced, pinning Regina to the wall and pressing their lips together. She kissed her fiercely, hands roaming up and down the woman’s body. She moaned when Regina pressed into her, hands plunging into her blonde locks and kissing her back passionately. Mouths opened, tongues explored, and teeth clashed as the women finally gave into their need for each other.

“Bedroom, now,” Regina panted, head dropping back against the door as Emma’s mouth wandered over her neck.

Emma nodded in agreement, gripping Regina’s hips tight as they were enveloped in a swirl of white and purple smoke. They appeared next to the bed, Emma instantly reaching for the zipper of Regina’s pants.

“Can I take these off?”

Regina nodded quickly, teeth nipping along Emma’s shoulder. She could feel Emma’s eagerness to get her undressed, the warmth of Emma’s arousal pooling low in her belly. She hadn’t realised how intensely Emma wanted her until the link had finally joined them. Emma’s hunger for her nearly overwhelmed Regina’s senses, and Regina  made sure to push back just as fiercely, not wanting Emma to doubt for a second that she was wanted just as much.

“God,” Emma breathed, dropping to her knees as she tugged on her lover’s slacks. “Gotta taste you.”

Emma ripped off the tight pants, tossing them to the side and groaning when she spotted the darkened patch of Regina’s underwear. She looked up, eyes locking with chocolate brown eyes nearly blackened with lust.

“Fuck, Regina. You are so beautiful.”

Rather than respond, Regina leaned forward and crushed her lips to Emma’s, pulling back only when they were both breathless.

“I love you, darling. But I need you now,” she panted, laying back on the bed and spreading her legs. “Make me come.”

Regina gasped when she felt the fire of Emma’s want burn into her, moaning loudly when her panties were ripped off and a hot mouth covered her sopping sex.

“Yes, Emma. Gods.”

Emma’s eyes rolled in the back of her head as Regina’s flavour burst over her tongue, lapping eagerly at the woman’s swollen folds. She quickly found Regina’s clit, gingerly taking it into her mouth and sucking it between her lips. She heard Regina’s grunt of pleasure, smiling as she pressed her tongue against it, lashing against the hardened nub.

Regina’s back arched as Emma’s lapped at her clitoris, her right hand moving down to grip the back of her lover’s head. She held her firmly in place as her free hand gripped the sheets, hips rocking against the woman’s talented tongue.

“More, Emma.”

Emma pulled her mouth away, tongue trailing down to the source of the woman’s wetness. She swirled her tongue at the leaking entrance, fluttering it softly against the sensitive opening.

“Yes,” Regina hissed, thighs parting to give Emma better access.

“Are you still sore?” Emma murmured, kissing Regina’s thigh.

“A little,” Regina admitted, breathing heavily.

“Should I heal you?” Emma didn’t ever want to hurt Regina, and she knew that even if she were extra careful, she’d likely cause the other woman some discomfort. “I don’t want you to hurt when I touch you.”

Regina was warmed by the concern she could feel emanating from Emma, sending the woman a wave of comfort through their connection.

“I would have been alright if you’d have been gentle, darling, but perhaps healing me would be a good idea. I would very much like you to fuck me hard later. Gentle won’t do tonight.”

“Fuck,” Emma grunted, closing her eyes and doing her best to concentrate on the task at hand. Images of fucking Regina instantly came to mind, but she pushed them aside as she focused on relieving the woman of any lingering soreness from the night before.

Regina moaned as the ache between her thighs disappeared, replaced by an entirely different kind of throbbing.

“Touch me, Emma.”

“Fuck yes.”

Emma, knowing now that Regina was ready for her, latched back onto her dripping sex. She sucked and licked and lashed at the swollen bud now standing firmly out of its hood, her fingers gently probing at the woman’s dripping entrance. She teased her endlessly, tracing along the sopping opening, fingers pressing into the first knuckle and then retreating, tongue coming down for a taste only to return back to the engorged clitoris it had abandoned. Emma smiled at the woman’s ever growing impatience, chuckling against her sex when Regina growled at her.

“Enough teasing, Miss Swan, or I swear to you, this will be the last time you get laid.”

Emma heeded her warning, immediately plunging her fingers inside of Regina’s tight heat. They both moaned at the contact, Regina’s back arching the second she was filled. She was incredibly close already, having been turned on nearly all day long.

“Faster, Emma. Harder.”

Emma did as she was told, sucking aggressively and thrusting her fingers roughly inside. Regina’s eyes squeezed shut as she was sent hurdling to the edge, pussy clamping down tight against Emma’s invading fingers.

“Emma! Oh- Emma!”

Regina screamed as Emma sent her flying over the edge, body vibrating and hips jerking violently as stars burst behind her eyelids. She dug her head into the mattress as her orgasm refused to end, fuelled by Emma’s mouth, fingers, as well as the lust emanating from the other side of the link. She could feel Emma’s overwhelming desire, and that made her cunt clutch greedily at the slim digits stabbing at her swollen g-spot. Sparks flew around the room, shattering a picture and sending books topping to the floor, but neither woman noticed due to the all-consuming pleasure they shared. Only when her body could no longer sustain such a powerful released did Regina finally collapse in a boneless heap on the bed.

Emma pulled out slowly, watching, unblinking, as a surge of wetness poured from between Regina’s legs. She immediately leaned forward, lips latching onto the heated opening and letting her mouth flood with Regina’s come. She moaned as she swallowed, her clit twitching with arousal as her throat was coated with the woman’s flavour. She pulled away only when there was nothing left, licking her lips as she slowly made her way back up Regina’s body.

Regina lay semi-conscious on the bed, quite positive she had blacked out for a moment post orgasm. She lazily looked down as Emma’s tongue gently swiped at her entrance, groaning when she realised the blonde was lapping up the wetness that was flowing from her body. Her eyes followed Emma as she pulled away and licked her lips, moving up and over her on the bed.

“You taste amazing, baby.”

Regina, still unable to formulate words, simply reached up and pulled Emma down for a languid kiss. Their tongues met, Regina’s body slowly reigniting as Emma’s desire began firing hers up again. By the time they pulled apart, Regina was panting and aching to be filled again.

“Take off your clothes,” she demanded, ripping at her own top as she sat up.

Emma complied enthusiastically, clambering off the bed and yanking at her clothes. She stood before Regina, staring at her when the woman was fully undressed. For a moment, Emma’s side of the link was silent as she stared at the beauty before her. Regina chuckled, spreading wider on the bed and allowing Emma to see more of her. It was incredibly empowering knowing that Emma found her so desirable.

“Would you like to touch me, darling?”

Emma blinked, snapping out of her trance.

“Fuck yes.”

She climbed back on the bed, covering Regina with her body as she kissed her. Regina let herself be led back against the mattress, arms wrapping around Emma’s strong body as their tongues and bodies stroked against one another. She spread her legs further when she felt Emma’s firm thigh press against her, hips rocking lazily against the rock-hard muscle. Regina pulled her right hand away from Emma’s body, letting it trail down the woman’s side before slipping it between them. She walked her fingers down Emma’s torso, fingers stopping just shy of the apex of the blonde’s legs. Regina pushed down, pressing her palm against Emma’s mound, nails gently raking against the woman’s sensitive skin.

Emma pulled away from their kiss with a gasp, hips jerking against Regina’s teasing hand.

“Are you wet for me, my love?”

“Why don’t you-” Emma panted, biting her lip as she strained to continue her thought, “-you continue down and find out?”

“Is that an invitation?” Regina asked coquettishly, finger stroking up and down Emma’s slick slit.

“More like a plea.”

Regina’s chuckle instantly changed into a moan when her fingers were met with an abundance of wetness. 

“God,” Emma breathing, head dropping into the crook of Regina’s neck.

“What have you been thinking of that has gotten you so wet, darling?” Regina purred, waiting for an answering. When one didn’t come, she pressed firmly against Emma’s clitoris. “Hmm?”

Emma grunted, hips jerking against Regina’s hand.

“You,” she finally responded, squeezing her eyes shut when Regina’s fingers stroked up and down her throbbing clit. “Being inside of you. Fucking you.”

Regina moaned, legs spreading subconsciously. God, she wanted that desperately, wanted to feel Emma inside of her, wanted Emma to come while deep inside of her body.

“Yes,” Regina panted, licking her lips.

Emma pulled away so that she was hovering above her lover, looking down at her, eyes heavy with lust.

“Do you have toys here?”

“Toys?” Regina asked, confused.

“Yeah, like for penetration. Uh, I thought that’s what we were talking about…” Emma trailed off, cheeks burning with embarrassment when she realised Regina wasn’t following the same train of thought. “Obviously not what you were talking about. Sorry.”

Regina, feeling Emma’s embarrassment, reached up and cupped her cheek.

“I was talking about penetration, darling, but not with toys. I was talking about feeling you inside of me.”

“Okay…” Emma trailed off, confused.

Regina trapped Emma’s swollen clit between her finger and thumb, stroking it up and down.

You,” she repeated as her fingers stroked the erect bundle of nerves, hoping the meaning was clear.

Emma’s eyes widened as the implication of Regina’s words dawned on her.

“But how?”

“There is a spell to… enlarge your clitoris so that it may be used for penetration, not unlike a toy. However, this way, you will feel everything.”

Emma’s breathing suddenly got much heavier. Fuck. Fuck that was hot. Regina giggled as she felt Emma’s body suddenly overcome with anticipation and arousal, her fingers still massaging the swollen bud beneath her fingers.

“I take it you’re intrigued?”

“More than intrigued baby. Fuck yes. Let’s do that.”

Regina grinned, continuing to stroke her fingers as Emma’s hard bud suddenly began to lengthen and grow thicker. When it was of an acceptable size, Regina cut off the flow of magic, wrapping her hand around the considerable length and giving it a firm tug.

“Oh Jesus fuck!” Emma shouted, hips jerking automatically in Regina’s hand. “Holy shit. Oh fuck, that feels good.”

Regina laughed, tilting her hips and stroking the woman’s length between her wet folds.

“Oh God,” Emma groaned, head dropping forward as Regina manipulated her engorged clit. She looked down between them, Regina’s warm hand wrapped around her. It looked more like a cock than anything else, and the thought that she could now actually fuck Regina turned her on beyond belief. All she wanted was to sink it into Regina’s hot, perfect cunt.

“Would you like to be inside of me?”

Emma’s mind went blank before Regina’s words, her sultry tone sending a shiver down her spine. She simply nodded in response. She'd never wanted anything more in her life.

“Very well,” Regina purred, lining up Emma’s length to her entrance. “I’m ready for you, Em-ma.”

“Fuck,” Emma grunted. God damn, when Regina said her name in that way…

Taking a moment to recuperate, Emma closed her eyes, hips moving up and down as she stroked herself along Regina’s sopping folds. She opened her eyes, looking down at the incredibly erotic image of Regina spread open for her, hand guiding Emma’s would-be cock to her entrance. Regina held her there, Emma biting down hard as she slowly sunk into the velvety heat. She grunted and swore, a deep shiver of desire racing up her spine as she was enveloped by tight, slick heat. Good God, she had never in her life felt anything so fucking good. When she was buried to the hilt, Emma dropped down onto her forearms, groaning loudly into Regina’s neck.

“Fuck, baby. God damn. You feel fucking fantastic.”

Regina was nearly drowning in Emma’s hunger. It flooded her completely through the link, overpowering even her own rapidly rising libido. She could do nothing but react, her body thrumming with pleasure as Emma filled her completely. Her nipples ached with need, fingers coming up and pinching them firmly as her hips began rocking against Emma’s invading member.

Emma looked down when she felt a spike in pleasure from Regina, groaning at the sight of the brunette pinching her own nipples. Emma’s hips began rocking of their own accord, a small whimper escaping her lips at the sheer pleasure she felt. Regina was gripping her tight, and she could feel her walls clutching her firmly as Emma began thrusting in and out of her body. Regina arched her back, wetness seeping out of her as Emma began plunging in and out more quickly, their combined arousal fuelling their need to move against each other.

Emma shifted onto her knees, holding tightly to Regina’s hips as she repositioned their bodies. She wanted to fuck Regina, and as good as she felt while they were nearly melded together, the position was not conducive to what she had in mind. So she moved onto her knees, grabbing a pillow and slipping it beneath Regina’s hips. Emma looked down upon her lover, swallowing hard as she took in Regina’s swollen lips, panting chest, tight nipples. Regina’s stomach was clenched in desire, her legs spread wide, pussy stretched wide around Emma’s girth. Emma pulled back and pushed forward once, groaning loudly as wetness seeped from Regina’s core.

“Emma,” Regina warned. She was beyond aroused, desperately wanting her lover to make her come. She no longer wished to be teased.

“Okay, baby. I know.”

Emma gripped Regina’s hips tight, giving a rough thrust inside. Emma bit her lip when Regina groaned loudly, her wave of pleasure washing over them both. She circled her hips as she plunged inside, closing her eyes as she focused on what spots made Regina’s pleasure spike the most. She thrust her hips deep, and when she found a place that made Regina cry out and shudder with pleasure, Emma zeroed in on it and slammed her hips against it repeatedly. Emma’s pulse roared in her ears as she beat that particular spot over and over again, letting go of one of Regina’s hips in order to roughly manipulate the woman’s swollen clit.

Regina gasped loudly when Emma’s fingers found her clitoris, moaning as she was consumed by a fresh wave of need. Gods, she had never felt so wanton, her body pulsating with desire as Emma brought her to heights she had never known existed. The engorged flesh ravaging her pussy was pushing her towards a climax she desperately wished to reach. Regina cried out repeatedly as Emma focused on a spot within her body that caused her to shake with desperation, her eyes squeezed shut tight as her cunt clamped down on Emma’s thick length.

Emma drove her hips up against Regina’s front wall, now convinced she was hitting the woman’s g-spot. She dug her thumb under the brunette’s engorged clit, using all of her energy to push the woman over the edge. She wanted her to come, and she wanted her to come hard. Emma continued what she was doing, encouraged by the waves of pleasure crashing over her from Regina’s side of the link. Only when she was suddenly assaulted by the feeling of panic did Emma stop, and abruptly at that.

“Baby? What’s wrong?” 

Regina, panting heavily, closed her eyes as she focused on calming down. Emma had unknowingly hit that spot within her, the one which caused her to expel an embarrassing amount of liquid. Had Emma not stopped when she had, it would have only taken a couple of more thrusts for Regina to have released a flood of wetness upon her lover. She had never done that with anyone else, and she wasn’t sure what Emma’s response would be if she did it now. The two times Regina had managed to ejaculate by herself, she’d been left in a pool of wetness, her mattress saturated with liquid. Yes, it had made her feel a pleasure unmatched by any other, but she wasn’t about to let herself feel humiliated before her lover. Not that she was afraid Emma would ever shame her, but Regina wasn’t sure she wouldn’t feel ashamed for doing such a thing in front of someone else.

“Regina?”

The brunette opened her eyes, shaking her head as she pulled herself from her thoughts.

“Nothing, darling. I simply need to change positions.”

“No,” Emma responded, stroking Regina’s thigh as she pushed a wave of love and comfort towards the brunette in order to make the woman feel safe enough to be honest. “Don’t lie to me. Please.”

She could feel the woman’s uncertainty through the link, so Emma continued speaking as she stroked Regina’s thigh.

“It’s me, baby,” Emma assured Regina as she looked her in the eyes. “It’s just me. You can tell me anything. You were feeling really, really good and then all of a sudden you were panicking. Did I make you uncomfortable? Do we need to stop?”

Regina swallowed hard, finally shaking her head.

“No. You did nothing wrong. In fact… you made me feel incredibly good. Too good.”

“Too good?” Emma asked, confused.

Regina took a deep breath, reminding herself that Emma was safe. The feelings of love and comfort flowing through helped reassure her as she forced herself to trust Emma.

“If you had continued, I would have ejaculated,” Regina said bluntly, deciding to simply go with the brutal truth rather than pussyfoot around it. “I was suddenly overwhelmed by fear that I would do such a thing without knowing if you’d be disgusted by it or not.”  

Had they not been connected by a link which allowed Regina to experience her lover’s feelings, Regina might have been incredibly worried by Emma’s silence. However, given that she was suddenly overpowered by a tsunami of desire, eagerness, and excitement, Regina’s fears were quickly put to rest.

“That would be so fucking hot, Regina,” Emma finally said, when she found her voice again. “I wouldn’t be grossed out. Fuck. The opposite. I really want you to.”

Emma closed her eyes, shaking as she forced herself to use every last bit of restraint she had to keep from pounding into her lover.

“If you want me to stop though,” Emma breathed, speaking slowly as she worked through her arousal, “just say the word and it stops now.”

Emma’s care and concern touched Regina, but knowing that the woman wanted her to ejaculate left no room for any of Regina’s earlier doubt and uncertainty. She was now confident as to what she wanted, leaning back and relaxing as she looked up at her lover.

“Fuck me, Emma.”

That was all it took. Emma swore loudly and instantly resumed her brutal thrusts, determined to make Regina come all over her. Regina moaned loudly and rocked her hips back against Emma’s, aiding the woman as she searched for that spot once again. She yelped loudly when Emma’s cock brushed against it, her stomach bearing down as she was instantly thrust towards her climax.

The second Emma heard Regina yell, she knew she had found the place she was looking for. She pounding against it with renewed determination, refusing to let up until Regina let go and came all over her.

“God, Regina,” she grunted, forcing herself deeper inside, “can’t wait for you to come. Want you to squirt all over me. Come on, baby. Let go for me.”

Regina’s body instantly responded to Emma’s words, her lower body clenching tight as her orgasm was forced out of her. Regina screamed, her body bowed tight and that familiar need to push overcame her. She gave in, and instantly she felt herself release a gush of wetness from inside, her body shaking as Emma pounded into her. Magic sparked from both of them, bouncing of the walls as the room was filled with moans and shouts.

“Fuck, fuck. Yes, more, baby!”

Regina cried out as her body expelled more liquid, pussy clamping hard on Emma’s pummeling member. Emma was clearly turned on by the experience, so Regina let go, wave after wave of liquid spilling from deep within her. Emma was consumed by carnal need, pounding harshly into the spasming channel before going rigid above Regina, crying out her own release seconds later. The women shook and gasped against each other until they both finally collapsed from exhaustion.

The link was blissfully silent as both women reveled in their post-orgasmic haze. They lay there silently, panting against one another as they attempted to recover from their unbelievably pleasurable encounter. Regina was the first to come to, stroking Emma’s back softly as she placed delicate kisses along her throat. She waved her hand to make the Emma’s clitoris return to its normal size, both women groaning in disappointment when Regina was emptied.

“Fuck,” Emma finally breathed, attempting to extricate herself from the sweaty body beneath her. She slowly pulled away, rolling over onto the dry side of the bed. She then pulled Regina to her, wrapping them woman in her arms and placing a gentle kiss on her shoulder. “You were amazing.”

“As were you, darling,” Regina purred in response, kissing the woman softly on the lips.

Emma moaned against her, hugging her close.

“So, can you do that every time?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps.”

Regina could feel Emma’s excitement through the link, causing her to chuckle softly.

“Had I known you desired such a thing, I would have told you about my ability to do so much sooner. I thoroughly enjoyed your enthusiasm.”

“Oh, baby. You have no idea. That was so fucking hot. We’re gonna have to experiment so much more to see if you can do that every time.”

Regina chuckled, rolling them over so that she was on top of Emma.

“Very well, darling. Shall we start now?”

“God, yes please,” Emma growled, crushing their lips together as they explored each other once again.

 

Chapter Text

 

Epilogue

Regina leaned further into Emma's embrace, a soft smile on her lips as the couple watched their son chase Neal through a mountain of leaves, lifting him in the air and flying him around when he finally caught the rambunctious two year old. Emma snuggled into her neck, her warm hand rubbing circles over Regina's round belly.

"He's going to an awesome big brother."

Regina nodded in agreement, taking a slow sip of her hot chocolate.

"Of that, I've no doubt. However, I'm unsure how much time he will actually get to spend with little Isabella-Maite with your mother intruding in on our lives as she has been."

Emma chuckled, pulling her gaze away from her son to look over at her pregnant girlfriend.

"Yeah… she's a little enthusiastic. She's just excited to be a grandmother again, that's all."

"A little? Ever since we announced the pregnancy, she has spent every free moment she has here, hovering. I can't even get a glass of water for myself. And the questions! She has asked me questions no mother-in-law should ask."

Emma, grinning, placed a soft kiss against her cheek. Regina may complain, but Emma knew that she didn't actually mind that Snow had been spending so much time with them. The truth was, the pregnancy had been hard on Regina's body, and Snow had proven an invaluable source of help.

"I can't wait for her to be born," Emma said softly. "I can't wait to raise her with you."

Regina smiled, the sincerity in Emma's voice was incredibly touching. She sat her mug on her swollen belly and reached up with her free hand to stroke her knuckles along Emma's cheek. She then leaned forward and captured the soft, pink lips in a chaste kiss, humming in approval when Emma's free hand began scratching lightly at her scalp. She pulled away, eyes closed, enjoying Emma's gentle touches against her head.

"You want me to rub your feet? Are they sore?"

"Not right now, darling." Regina opened her eyes and met Emma's gaze. "However, they will be by this evening. Your daughter becomes quite heavy after a full day of carrying her."

"She's my daughter now? This morning she was yours."

"She's mine when she sleeps all night. She'll be yours when she needs a diaper changed or wakes screaming in the middle of the night."

Emma didn't even bother pretending to pout. She was too damn happy. She'd do it all, happily. Regina, feeling Emma's euphoria from the inside, couldn't help responding by flooding the link with warmth. Emma giggled, the warm feeling tickling her ribs. She pulled Regina closer, kissing her temple as she melded her body against the brunette's side.

"I'll get up every night and do every diaper change and rock her every time she screams since you're the one carrying her. Kinda only fair, right? Since I carried Henry but you did all the hard work once he was born."

"And I don't regret a moment of it."

"I won't either. How could I? I just wish I had been there for Henry when he was a baby…" Emma paused. "I feel guilty, you know? That I'm going to watch Isabella grow up, but I wasn't there for him."

"Emma," Regina said soothingly, grabbing the hand Emma had rested on her stomach and intertwining their fingers. "I understand you feel guilty, but you've no reason to. You are not the same person you were when you gave birth to him. You were eighteen, a mere child. You were nowhere near ready to raise a baby. You've grown and matured into a beautiful woman who is now ready to raise a child. If Henry had been born today, I've no doubt in my mind that you'd make a terrific parent. But at eighteen, you made a selfless decision to give him a better life, one which you knew you could not provide him. There was no other choice to make, and while it cost you the first ten years of his life, you did the responsible thing as his mother and gave him his best chance. I'm sure if you spoke to Henry, he would tell you that he's incredibly grateful that you gave him up. If you hadn't, we wouldn't all be here together now."

Emma nodded slowly.

"Yeah… he said that."

"You've spoken to him then?"

"Yeah. After we told him about the baby, I pulled him aside because I wanted to talk to him about this, you know? About how he was feeling about me being around for this one when I wasn't for him. I asked if he was upset that I had given him up but was staying for this baby. He said he wished we could have been a family back then too, and that Isabella was lucky she'd have us both, but he said that he was glad I gave him up because in the end, he got two moms out of the deal. Then he went off on how great a mom you were and that he was glad I gave him up 'cause he got you as a mom for the first ten years, and then the both of us for the rest of his life. And then now he was getting a little sister. He said he was glad it all happened the way that it did, though, even if it meant we were apart for the first ten years."

Regina, whose hormones now caused her to cry at absolutely everything, welled up with tears. Emma smiled at her, leaning forward and kissing her cheek.

"He's right about one thing anyway. You're a fantastic mom."

"I try," Regina said through her tears, wiping them away when they fell.

"You do better than try, Madame Mayor. You succeed."

Regina gave a half chuckle, resting her head on Emma's shoulder.

"Thank you, darling."

Their attention was drawn to the end of the driveway, Regina giving a small wave to the dwarfs, who smiled at her and waved back on their way home from work. Emma did not wave, though she did give a tight smile and nodded her head at them in acknowledgement.

"You're going to have to forgive them one day, darling," Regina said softly, feeling Emma's body tense up as the men walked by. "They paid their debt to society and their apology afterwards was sincere. I've since forgiven them. Surely you can too."

Emma continued looking towards the end of the driveway, waiting until she could no longer see the men to respond.

"I'm never gonna forgive them for what they did. I can be civil to them, but I can't be any more than that."

"I don't want you to be consumed by negative emotions, Emma," Regina said sincerely, looking at her lover. "I want you to be happy."

Emma smiled softly at her.

"I am happy. Really happy." Emma's smile widened, her eyes crinkling at the corners. "You know, I always wished I would be happy one day. When I was a kid, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd just say that I wanted to be happy. 'Cause I wasn't back then. I didn't really have an idea of what that happiness looked like, but I honestly never dreamed I'd be so lucky to have what I have… a house, a good job, parents who love me, a brother, a town full of people who are annoying but who care about each other and who care about me. But even better than all that, I got to reconnect with the kid I gave up and become his parent. And his mom, who's a total smoke show by the way, ended up falling in love with me-"

"You fell first," Regina accused, a small smile on her lips.

"And who still loves me," Emma pressed on with a chuckle, "and who is now carrying my kid. A kid we made with awesome true love magic. The only downfall is this connection thing we have which makes me feel all your damn morning sickness. I suffered with the first one. It's your turn now."

"I am a Queen," Regina replied haughtily. "I will not be made to suffer alone."

Emma laughed, prompting a small chuckle from Regina as well. A comfortable silence fell between them before Regina spoke again.

"You're truly happy, Emma?"

"I am, happier than I ever could've imagined, baby."

"As am I. I don't deserve this family after everything I've done, but I'm incredibly grateful for it. For you. Thank you, Emma, for everything you've done for me."

"Don't thank me, sweetheart. There's nowhere else I would ever want to be. This is where I belong, with you. You're my everything."

Regina tilted her head, kissing Emma softly on the lips.

"I love you, Emma Swan."

"And I love you, Regina Mills."

Fin.