"Are you sure about this?" Emma frowns as she takes the paper bag from Ruby's outstretched hands and sneaks a peek at its contents.
"Positive." Ruby grins at her.
"I don't know, Rubes."
"Emma, trust me. You wanna get the mayor? This is the way to do it. It's fool proof."
Emma chews her lip as she once again looks inside the bag. "Really?"
"Fool. Proof." Ruby winks.
Emma should know better.
Emma checks the clock for about the thirtieth time that morning, her eyes darting from it to the brown paper bag and back again. Ruby had given her rather detailed instructions about what to do, not that Emma really needs them. It isn't rocket science after all.
Just something that could potentially end in disaster.
The minute hand ticks over a notch and Emma springs into action. Regina will walk through that doorway in exactly three minutes to give Emma her latest memo and bitch about something or other in the way Emma is conducting the sheriff's department as she does every Monday morning.
Not that Emma keeps track of Regina's schedule or anything.
Grabbing the bag and a chair, Emma moves quickly. She'd done a test run the day before, just to be sure on how long it would take her. Her fingers shake a little bit more today, but she still manages to get everything in place with a minute to spare.
Letting out a sigh of relief, she leans against the doorframe, her eyes blissfully shut as she hears the door to the department open. She realizes about ten seconds too late that she isn't hearing Regina's heels clacking down the hall, but by the time she opens her eyes, Sidney Glass is already standing in front of her, tablet in hand.
"Sheriff Swan, I was wondering if I could get a comment about - oh."
Oh. No. Oh no. God, no.
She doesn't even have a chance to react before Sidney's mouth is covering hers.
"What in god's name?" Regina's voice rings through the station like a shot, causing Emma to wrench away from Sidney. She has to turn around quickly so as to hide the fact that she is covering her mouth with her hand in an attempt to stop her breakfast from reappearing all over the floor.
"Mistletoe, Madam Mayor." Sidney sounds far too happy about the situation. "It's tradition, after all."
"Sidney?" Ruby gasps, nearly choking with laughter. "Sidney Glass?"
"This is not funny, Ruby." Emma hisses into the phone, grateful that she can't see the look on her friend's face because it would only further embarrass her.
"Oh, god, but Emma, it is!" Ruby manages between bursts of laughter. "I mean - Sidney Glass - and he - and then she - and you. Oh god."
Something in her voice must have cut through Ruby's amusement because Emma hears her swallow hard and try to force herself to stop laughing. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry."
"It was awful. I thought I was gonna throw up. And then Regina walked in and... why did I ever listen to you?"
"Hey, I told you that you had to be sure about her schedule!" Ruby defends.
"I was. I just didn't know about Sidney's!"
Ruby dissolves into laughter once more. Emma hangs up on her.
"Emma," Ruby draws the word out so that it's practically a whine, "come on."
"You know you sound like Henry when you do that right?" Emma rolls her eyes. "And it doesn't work for him either."
"So you had one little... mishap." Ruby opens the box of take out that she's brought as a peace offering of sorts. "You can't just give up!"
"Sidney Glass kissed me, Ruby. I think I can give up after that."
"Yeah, okay, but just think... what are the chances that Sidney's gonna show up here again? Slim to none, right? Now, what are the chances that Regina will? Way higher."
Emma shakes her head. "It was a stupid idea to begin with."
"Emma, don't say that! Look, what if we put it somewhere else that people can't catch you so off guard? Oh!" Ruby's eyes light up. "Your office doorway! It's perfect!"
"Ruby." Emma protests, but Ruby is already up and moving.
Emma eyes the little green sprig hanging in her office doorway warily. Ruby warned her that she wasn't allowed to take it down until she "swapped spit with Madam Mayor". Which was the whole point of the mistletoe in the first place, although Emma is beginning to rethink the whole idea.
But Regina's supposed to be coming over to talk about the budget any minute and Emma feels her stomach twist in anticipation.
She hears Regina's heels clicking this time and quickly stands up, moving to the doorway, ready to catch Regina and lay one on her.
Except that she hits something solid that is most certainly not Regina.
"Whoa, slow down, sister."
No. No, no, no. God, please no.
"Well, would ya look at that? Mistletoe."
It is, quite possibly, even worse than kissing Sidney Glass. At least he didn't taste like stale alcohol.
"Leroy did you speak to the sheriff about -" Regina's voice cuts off abruptly, even as Emma pulls away.
"Regina!" She gasps, trying to come up with any words to explain what is going on, but finding none.
"It appears," Regina's voice is deadly, "that you didn't, because you were too busy sticking your tongue down her throat."
"Well," Leroy leers, "we didn't get that far but..."
Emma moves quickly into her office and slams the door shut.
"Shut. Up." Emma refuses to even lift her head off her desk.
"No. Seriously? Leroy?"
"I hate you. I hate Sidney. I hate Leroy. I hate mistletoe. I hate Christmas. There is literally no one or nothing in the world that I don't hate right now."
"Except Reginaaaa." Ruby sing songs as she drops a travel sized bottle of Listerine on Emma's desk.
"Pretty sure I hate her too."
"Uh huh. That's why you're using mistletoe to try to kiss her. Because you hate her so much."
"Never again." Emma swears.
"Oh come on, Emma. So you've had some setbacks. I've been thinking about it and it's pretty obvious to me now. We've been trying this in the wrong location."
Emma lifts her head up at that. "We haven't been trying anything! I have. And I'm the one paying for it."
"Hey, look, if Mohammed won't go to the mountain, we gotta take the mountain to Mohammed."
"That... is not how that quote goes, Ruby." Emma sighs.
"Whatever. The meaning is the same. We've gotta take the mistletoe to Regina, instead of waiting for her to come to it."
"No. Absolutely not. That is... that is the very definition of insanity."
"Is it? Is it really? Because it sounds like a perfect plan to me."
"Don't say it."
"Fool proof." She grins. Emma chucks the bottle of Listerine at her head.
As she slips her town council issued - thank you very much - key into the lock and enters City Hall, she can't help but feel just a bit like she's 16 again. Although she certainly didn't have keys to the buildings she snuck into back then.
She's already decided that hanging the mistletoe in Regina's office doorway is just a bit too much, so she's planning on hanging it from the ceiling in the lobby, close to Leslie's desk. She feels bad that the poor secretary might take the blame, but figures that she's used to it by now.
She manages to hang the mistletoe and get out of the way by the time she hears high heels coming down the hall - just in case - and is relieved that she had because it turns out to be Leslie and not Regina that turns the corner. Her heart sinks just a bit.
"Oh, Sheriff Swan! Good morning." Leslie smiles at her. "You're here awfully early."
"Yeah, well, I know how much Regina wanted these files." She holds up the budget files, glad that she had thought enough in advance to bring them. "But, uh, what are you doing here so early? I thought you didn't start until 8?"
Leslie blinks at that for a moment before smiling again. "I usually don't, but with the holidays and end of the year things coming up, I've been coming in early to get everything done. I could give those files to Mayor Mills for you, if you need to get going." Leslie reaches for the file and pulls it out of Emma's unsuspecting fingers.
"No!" She yelps, moving closer and grabbing the file back. "I mean, that's okay. I have a few things I need to go over with her. But thanks, Leslie."
"Of course, Sheriff." Leslie smiles up at her. And that's when it happens.
No. No no no no no.
Of the three kisses, it is by far the best one. Leslie is soft and her teeth are freshly brushed and she's actually a pretty good kisser - at least compared to Sidney and Leroy - but she's also not who Emma wanted to be kissing.
No, that woman is forcibly pulling them apart while raining down hell fire in the form of words on both their heads.
Somehow she manages to shove the folder back into Leslie's hands and run out the door. She'll apologize to her later. If she's still alive.
The mistletoe on the porch of the mansion earns her a brief peck from Henry before Regina actually rips it down and stomps on it, then slams the door in her face.
"So... progress?" Ruby laughs.
Emma throws the brown bag at her and leaves.
"Oh, come on, Em."
"No. Absolutely not. I am not going into that room until every damn sprig is put away."
"It's a Christmas Party tradition!"
"Fine. Then I'm staying back here." Emma squares her jaw. "Besides, I doubt Regina is even going to come anyway. This isn't exactly her scene."
"She'll come." Ruby smirks. "She brings Henry every year. They don't stay long, but they always come. And this year, you can be waiting for her."
"Okay, that sounds like something out of a horror movie. And I'm telling you, Rubes, I'm done with the mistletoe."
Ruby frowns and slumps down on the washer next to where Emma is perched. "Look, Sidney isn't coming, Leroy will be way more concerned with the booze than with you, and everyone else is pretty hot. So if you do get ambushed, it should at least be fun."
"Thanks." Emma rolls her eyes.
"Seriously, Em, it's Christmas. Just come to the party, have fun, score some kisses. What's the worst that can happen?"
Emma doesn't even want to try and answer that question.
She's doing pretty well at steering clear of the mistletoe, mostly because she's planted herself in a back booth with enough alcohol to make her – hopefully – forget about everything that has happened in this hellish week. She knows now – has known all along, really – that this whole idea was incredibly stupid from the get go. And now all she wants is to drown her sorrows and maybe sleep through Christmas.
Everyone else is taking ample opportunity to use the mixture of mistletoe and holiday spirit – and holiday spirits – to lay one on anyone they can. Emma shudders each time someone is caught under the green plant, but they all seem far more pleased with their experiences than she was.
"I would think," comes Regina's voice, cutting through her thoughts and making her jerk her hand so that her drink sloshes out of it, "that you would be out there putting your lips on anything with a pulse. After all, you weren't exactly discerning this week."
Emma lets her head fall to the table and discreetly licks the alcohol off her hand. She is so not in the mood for this, nor has she had nearly enough to drink. "What do you want, Regina?"
"I was merely making an observation."
"It's noted," is all Emma replies.
"Yes, well, I would hope so. After all, I'm not sure how it might look to some people for you to be vying with Miss Lucas for title of town tramp when you've got a young son at home. Some may find that concerning. Perhaps even call you unfit."
Emma jumps up then, ready to rail at Regina for the cruel words. She wants to shout at her, scream in her face that it was all because of her, because she was stupid enough to want to kiss her, but she swallows the words down and instead pushes away from the table, heading for the back exit. It isn't worth it, especially because it's obvious that Regina has no feelings for her whatsoever, except perhaps hatred. Yet another reason this was the worst idea ever.
"Nice," Ruby comments when the back door slams shut, causing Regina to look over at her with a scowl.
"Was I incorrect in anything I said? Did she or did she not go around kissing everything with a pulse this week?"
"You really don't get it, do you?" Ruby asks, titling her head to study Regina.
"What?" Regina snaps.
"You ever notice a common thread to Emma's mistletoe misadventures?"
"Common thread?" Regina scoffs. "Besides using mistletoe as some kind of an aphrodisiac?"
Ruby rolls her eyes and moves away.
Regina watches her go, but suddenly her mind is working overtime. Emma and the mistletoe had been constants, but nothing else had been the same. The locations were different, the people were different, the –
A sudden burst of cat calls interrupts Regina's thoughts and causes her to look up. She takes in the sight of Astrid laying one on Leroy while the various spectators cheer them on.
She had been a witness to all – or at least she assumes all – of the mistletoe incidents. She's the common thread. But that doesn't make any sense unless –
Her eyes widen as realization hits her.
It was her.
She checks that Henry is safe with Archie watching after him before she quickly heads off to find Emma.
Emma's sitting at her desk in the station, crumpling the bag containing the sprig of mistletoe between her hands when she hears Regina's heels tapping out their staccato beat on the floor.
She doesn't even bother to look up, just continues to squeeze the bag harder, as though that will help the situation in some way.
Regina stops just under the spot where the mistletoe was hanging on Emma's first failed attempt. Emma considers chucking the bag at her face. Her stupid perfect face with those damn kissable lips that started this whole dumb situation in the first place.
"I come to your office every Monday morning at the same time to give you your weekly memo." Regina states. "Sidney Glass does not."
Emma doesn't respond, but she feels her gut clench. Regina moves closer, stopping in the doorway just under where the second mistletoe attempt went sour.
"I was coming to discuss the budget with you on Tuesday. It just so happened that I ran into Leroy on the way and decided to send his petty issue to you just before I arrived."
Emma squeezes the bag tighter and refuses to look up, even when she hears Regina move closer.
"I arrive at work – and therefore move through the lobby by my secretary's desk – every day at 7. Leslie doesn't normally start until 8."
Regina's next to her now, Emma can feel the heat her body is giving off and all she wants to do is get up and run, but it's too late now anyway. Regina already knows. Regina's already figured it out. And now, she's going to crucify Emma.
"I typically answer the door before ever allowing you to see Henry. It just so happened that on Thursday, he was closer to the door and beat me to it."
A finger falls under Emma's chin and forces it up, so that Emma's eyes meet Regina. "The common thread here is me, Miss Swan. Is it not?"
"Yes." Emma mutters the word bitterly.
"So all of these incidents were –"
Emma pushes herself up from the chair and moves away from Regina. "Trying to get you under the mistletoe!" She bursts, finally just letting it all come out. "Yes, I was trying to get you under the mistletoe. Happy now?"
"But – why?" Regina asks, genuinely curious as to what Emma's ulterior motive could have been.
Emma starts to laugh rather hysterically. "Why? Seriously? You're asking me why? Do you not get what mistletoe is all about? I mean, jesus, you saw me getting kissed by everyone else but you! How could you not get what I wanted to happened?"
"Kiss. You wanted to kiss me?"
"Oh my god. Someone kill me now." Emma says tiredly. "Yes, Regina. I wanted to get you under the mistletoe so that I could kiss you. And when you obviously hated it and pulled back and slapped me, I could blame it on tradition and the rejection wouldn't hurt so much. Okay?"
Regina blinks then, before moving closer to Emma and pulling the mangled bag from her hands.
"What are you –"
She reaches inside and pulls out the dilapidated sprig of mistletoe. It's been completely crushed and falls limply to one side. All of the white berries are gone and most of its leaves have fallen victim to Emma's hands as well. It's pathetic. Just like Emma and her attempts to use it.
And yet, Regina holds it up above her head.
It's Emma's turn to blink. "Regina?"
"I can't slap you if you don't kiss me." Regina replies, even as the sides of her lips begin to tug upwards.
"Seriously?" Emma's brow raises.
"Well, you did seem to go to a lot of trouble. The least I can do is allow you to have your little moment."
"And slap me after."
Regina shrugs. "If your kissing skills are inadequate."
"Seriously?" Emma asks again, even as she moves closer to Regina.
"I will not repeat myself, Miss –"
And then, Emma's kissing her. Finally, finally kissing her.
And god, it's like none of the rest of it even happened because she's kissing Regina and it's better than she ever imagined and oh man, the mistletoe is falling on her head because Regina's grabbing the back of her neck and pulling her in closer and yes. Yes. This was totally, totally worth all of it. Including the slap that's about to come her way.
Except that there isn't a slap.
Emma's ready for it. She's prepared. It's a small price to pay for what has just happened.
But it never comes.
Regina pulls back and looks at her and her hand moves and Emma, she doesn't even flinch, because she knows what's going to happen next.
But she doesn't, apparently, because yeah, Regina's hand goes to her cheek, but it doesn't slap her flesh. It just kinda caresses it. And then Regina smiles. Like actually, full out smiles. And Emma can't even breathe because she's so goddamn beautiful.
And then she opens her mouth and says, "Adequate."
And Emma just laughs and laughs because it's the best thing she's ever heard.
And she laughs until Regina stops her by kissing her again. She's kissing her again and the mistletoe's on the floor, so there's not even an excuse. It's just that Regina, apparently, wants this too.
And when she pulls away and rests her forehead against Regina's so that their lips are still basically touching even though they aren't really kissing anymore, she grins and whispers "fool proof".