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Love’s Callback aka the Regina Mills dating show

Chapter Text

“I am not doing that!” Regina tried to convey a sense of finality in her voice as she spoke. Her brows drew together in a scowl directed at her manager, and mother, Cora Mills.  

 

“Well it’s too bad that the network already greenlit the project when I pitched it to them last month. They think this show will be fantastic for ratings, and will also help them seem progressive and get the younger people fired up on social media,” Cora said with a smirk. She knew there was no way Regina could realistically say no at this point.

 

Regina sighed, she was not happy with this, not at all. But she also knew if the network had already given the go ahead for the project she had to take the opportunity. She knew she really didn’t have a choice if she wanted to reboot her career. She was a Latina former soap actress in her thirties who hadn’t had any acting gigs or offers in six months (the offer to star in a fetish softcore porn didn’t count); that was almost a death sentence in her line of work. And who knew, maybe this would actually be fun. It would be like a giant scripted working holiday.

 

“I hate you,” Regina told her mother. She wished she was joking, but part of her really did hate her mother and the way she did things without Regina’s consent. It had always been this way throughout Regina’s life, her first modelling job when she was only ten was something Cora had decided on. The first offer she received for an acting gig, Cora declined. And when Regina had finally come out as a bisexual to Cora, she had made the decision that Regina was never to be seen dating a woman.

 

Cora laughed and brushed off the comment, “You love me, and you love that I managed to get the head of the network to be the one that signed off on the show. Now, we have to decide what kind of boyfriend you would like to end up with on the show.”

 

“Boyfriend? I though the whole point of the show was me getting to choose either a boyfriend or a girlfriend?” Regina questioned.

 

Cora rolled her eyes, “You really think that good Christian White America can handle a lezzy Latina soap star? They need to see you kissing men. Sure, they can accept you going out and holding hands with a woman, that can be brushed off as you being close friends with them, but there will be no kissing of the women and you clearly can’t end up with one.”

 

“Mother. Please don’t use that word, it’s offensive and inaccurate. I am bisexual,” she retorted.

 

“Yes, well, the point still stands. This is all PR. You go on the show, have a few dates, pick the most eligible man and date him for a few months, and then if you’re not happy you break up. Meanwhile America will love you and believe in your romance.” Cora was already picturing their future and all of the casting directors that would be throwing themselves at Regina’s feet. She could not contain her smile.

Regina paced around the room several times, Cora knew her well enough to know that this was already a done deal and that her daughter was simply taking the time to process and get her mind around the possibilities. She watched Regina’s eyes, they were what told her the true story and what she needed to know.

 

“There will be several stipulations for me signing on to this.” Regina felt her mind spinning with the information that had been revealed to her in the past few minutes as well as the possible implications for her career.

 

“Of course, as your manager, it’s my duty to make sure I get the best deal for you, so please write down your demands and I’ll contact the network and the lawyers. I know it seems extreme, but this will be a good thing for you Regina. Everyone will be talking about you and the show. I won’t let them do to you and this show what they did to that Tequila woman. America will love you again, we’re going to make sure of that.” Regina knew her mother was correct. If there was one thing that could be said about Cora, it was that whenever she put her mind to something she always got the job done. She just hoped her mother was correct and that she wouldn’t become the star of a complete train wreck of a show.

 

Regina gathered her thoughts and then sat down at her desk to write down the demands she would need to submit to make her show not only successful, but also to ensure that she wouldn’t be driven mad during the shooting. Having her own personal space at the shooting location was a must. No actors would be allowed to be among the potential daters (this show was about her career not theirs), and she would also have veto power over the date scenarios. But her biggest, and most important demand though, was that the show would need to be different from the usual reality dating shows. Her demand would make the show actually revolutionary and stand out. The show was not to be scripted, it had to be completely live with the show streamed on the internet outside of the tv broadcast times, but none of the daters would be made aware of the live stream. It would break the mould of dating shows and be more of a social experiment, which was far more exciting.    

Chapter Text

Not having a job for six months led to having plenty of time on your hands; Regina knew this from first hand experience. She also knew it led to depression, boredom, and taking up what other people called strange hobbies. She didn’t think that her new found hobby of making tiny furniture for hamsters was really that strange, but apparently she was in the minority. Her Etsy store had several loyal customers, and she had even taken a few commissions, but still her mother and her best friend/sister mocked her every time she told them about a new piece. Her therapist told her it was probably just a manifestation of a need to control something due to the lack of control over her career, and she took some comfort in that analysis.

 

The other thing that Regina had taken from her copious amount of time on her hands was working out. She had hired a personal trainer and had exhaustive sessions five to six days a week. The results had been amazing. She always had been skinny and some of the children in her primary school had mocked her for it. They told her that she couldn’t possibly be Latina because she had no curves. The memories of those taunts were still painful, but Regina had learnt to dress in a way that accentuated the curves she did have. Now that she had been working out so religiously, she needed to figure out how to work her outfits to show off the benefits; she had what her fans on the internet called “arm porn”. She was proud of the almost six pack she had and the biceps that popped for the first time ever, but the thing that she was most proud of was her ass. She had done enough squats for probably six people, and her behind looked absolutely flawless. No one would question her Puerto Rican heritage now.

 

She also knew that her sex appeal would be another thing that would make or break the show. She knew the casting directors for the show would pick only the most attractive people. She wasn’t exactly sure where they sourced them from, but she was confident that attractive daters would not be a worry. She, however, needed to make sure that none of them overshadowed her. This was to be her show, not a launching point for any of the people she didn’t pick. America would not be able to look away from her. With this thought in mind, Regina called her trainer to book a few extra sessions and discuss plans for how she could get him to be on call during the show’s filming.

 

She placed a call to Zelena and invited her to a day out shopping. Sure, she could get a designer to make custom outfits for her during the upcoming PR campaign, but she honestly wanted a day out with her sister where everything felt at least semi-normal. She and her manager had met with the studio head; she hadn’t been expecting her to be at the meeting to go over details, but Ursula Pescado, the president of the ANB broadcast network, had been sitting at the conference table when Regina and Cora (and their lawyer) walked into the room. Regina knew this was big. If Ursula had enough faith in this project to attend the meeting personally, then she knew there would be no way the network would let the show flop.

 

Cora had sent over Regina’s list of demands the previous week and they were all agreed upon without hesitation. The network had faxed over a contract that Nick, their lawyer, had looked over and found to be satisfactory. The meeting today was more of a formality, where all parties would gather and sign the contract and think about how the show was going to benefit them. It turned out not only did Ursula love the idea of the show, she personally wanted to help promote it. A bisexual woman herself, Ursula thought the premise of the show was overdue, and she was also in the camp that wanted to forget the debacle with Tila Tequila. This show wouldn’t make a joke of anyone’s sexuality. In fact, Ursula hoped that it would help people understand that being bisexual didn’t make you promiscuous and no matter the gender of the person that you were currently dating or attracted to, you were still bisexual. Ursula had been married to her wife for several years, but she still struggled with people invalidating her sexuality; and was set on using her position at the network to bring about positive social changes.

 

After the meeting, Regina’s day out with Zelena was much needed. The two walked down the streets of New York impervious to any looks of recognition from passersby. They had never been close growing up, but that was probably due to Zelena having been raised by her father in England. Cora had had a fling with Zelena’s father before she met Regina’s father Henry and fell madly in love with him. Zelena was born and her father had fought for custody of her, winning simply because his net worth was ten times Cora’s. The two still were allowed to keep in touch and, as soon as Zelena was old enough, she moved to New York to live with the Mills family. Regina wished she had grown up with Zelena, but knew their relationship could have progressed much differently had they spend their adolescent years together.

 

Zelena was Regina’s rock; She was the first person Regina confided in about questioning her sexuality. Zelena had encouraged her to investigate the thoughts; She had even gone as far as to try and set up Regina with a friend, for science. Regina had dated the woman for a few weeks and cemented her thoughts and feelings about her bisexuality. Zelena would be the one person that she would need to rely on during her PR fest and especially during the show. She had included a provision in the demands that Zelena be allowed to be with her during filming.

 

After their shopping trip, they proceeded back to Zelena’s apartment to get drunk on cheap tequila. It was a sisterly tradition any time a big event happened in either one’s life;, it dated back to when Zelena was accepted into NYU right after moving to New York. After that, any event that was possibly life changing was celebrated:, Regina’s big movie role (the film was a flop), Zelena’s degree (in psychology), Regina’s coming out, Zelena’s grad school acceptance, Regina getting fired from her soap All Her Children , and the most recent, Zelena getting engaged.

 

The sisters giggled as they came up with possible daters on the show and their ridiculously tragic backstories. Regina’s favourite creation was a woman who was a professional comedian but had also been cursed as a child and could not see people’s true exterior form, only their innerselves (she had seen Shallow Hal a few times on plane rides). Zelena had come up with a man who was from the future and needed Regina’s heart and womb to repopulate the planet. The night was perfect for the sisters and Regina felt any tension or stress about what was to come in the next few weeks melt away, the alcohol and laughter taking their place.     

Chapter Text

Regina had done various talk shows before, but it was always to promote the soap she had been on, or a movie she had been cast in; This time, she was promoting herself. The show was her, she was the show and people needed to love it. Cora had managed to book her on several of the talk shows around New York, Live with Katie, Wonda, and the Yummy.

 

They had asked the network contact what they could and couldn't say during the interviews, and the one that stood out the most was that the network wanted to keep not only the format of the show but also the twist of having male and female daters a secret. Regina knew instantly why they wanted to keep that part a secret, there were still loads of homophobic viewers out there after all, but it did bother her a touch. She wanted this show to be a celebration of love and viewed as nothing but positive.

 

Today was the first day of her PR tour, she was only doing two shows today but even still those two interviews would take a lot of effort and coordination. She had woken up early, four a.m. early, to get to the studio and get into hair and makeup. The ride over from her apartment was a blur of lights and people. Without coffee, Regina wasn’t the most alert person at this time of the morning. She soon found herself nursing an Americano whilst sitting in a chair with a chatty older male covering her in various types of makeup. She almost felt herself fall back asleep while another artist was working her magic on her hair. The woman, a twenty-something girl with a styled bob of pink hair, had decided to straighten her hair with a slight outwards curve at the bottom. It took about two hours before the artists declared they were done and the results were magical. Gone were any signs of fatigue, wrinkles, or stray hairs. She looked every bit the bombshell actress.

 

She had a brief meeting with one of the show’s production assistants; and he told her how the format would go; an introduction video and then she would walk out through the crowd to the stage. The interview itself would last around ten minutes and then she was done. She had been on the Live with Katie show before, but it had been several years ago and was before she was a washed up, out actress. She hoped that this first interview would spark interest and would be flawless; Regina needed this to go well if for no other reason than to calm her nerves.

 

She watched the monitor in her dressing room that was showing the live feed from the studio, on screen was some lady that was famous for making cakes in the shapes of past presidents. The woman told the story of refusing to make a cake in the likeness of the current president, and Regina laughed when the woman stated her reason was not having enough orange colouring. The laughter helped to focus Regina’s mind. There was then a knock on the door. It was almost show time.

 

The moment Regina heard her name called out by Katie, she felt her face light up. As she made her way out of the backstage door, she began to see the faces of the people in the audience. She noticed there were many more younger people than she would have thought. She also noticed many of the people were wearing rainbows; Were they here for her? Surely they weren’t. Her eyes tried to glance around to as many faces as possible, high fiving as she went. As she made it to the stage, she greeted the host with a hug. Katie was a warm, energetic woman and Regina was a fan of her show; It also didn’t hurt that the two had both been on the same soap at the same time. They never shared that much screen time, but having a friendly face during these things was never a bad idea.

 

The applause died down as Regina sat down in the chair on the stage. This was it, this was her time to shine.

 

“Regina, Regina, Regina! I haven’t seen you in ages. Where have you been hiding?” Going in for the kill right away, it seemed.

 

She laughed, a stage laugh, “It has been far too long Katie. I took a little break. I had a little me time, but now I’m back.”

 

“You and I left All Her Children around the same time and I was sure you were going to be the next Julianne Moore. Can you tell us why you decided to step away?” She knew this was the question everyone wanted to know, but it wasn’t like she could actually tell the world that she had been fired for coming out; she’d never have another job if she did that.

 

“Honestly, I had been doing soaps since I was seventeen. I needed a little time to figure out who I am without a script every day. I wanted to spend time with my family, especially my mom, as my mom, not my manager.”

 

“And what made you decide to come back now?” There it was, the segue.

 

“I’m glad you asked.” She paused as the audience laughed. “I was pitched a project that I really believe in, something that I think is going to be a game changer for a lot of people.”

 

Katie made an exaggerated thinking gesture, “Ooohh, mysterious. I like it, but you have to give us more than that. What makes it game-changing, what even is ‘it’?”

 

Regina chuckled. She knew she hadn’t given any real information yet and the audience had no reason to even be interested. “Well, it’s a dating show.” The crowd made an “ooh” noise. “It’s going to be unlike any other dating show that’s ever aired though. There are a few twists that I can’t give away, but believe me, this show is going to be a lot more interactive than other dating shows and the twists are going absolutely blow you all away.”

 

She smiled brightly. God, she hoped she was selling this. They hadn’t even shot a second of footage and there was still the possibility of the show being yanked before that happened. Katie then wrapped up the segment and her first interview was over, just like that. She hugged Katie one more time with promises of getting together at some point, then made her way back through the crowd. She wished she had time to stop and chat with the fans in the audience, but the ad break wasn’t that long.

 

Once back in her dressing room, she checked her phone and saw several texts from Zelena telling her how good she looked, how charming she came across, and how the interview went well. She texted back thanking her sister and asked for encouragement for the rest of the day. She also had a message from her mother; it read simply: “One down, two more to go. Keep it up.”

Chapter Text

Regina heard her alarm go off and walked over to her bed where the phone rested on the stand next to it. She turned it off and glanced at her still made bed. She hadn’t been able to sleep at all the previous night. After staring at the ceiling for three hours she had given up and decided to catch up on the book she had been reading. It had been two weeks of solid PR work, but today was the day. She was finally going to start filming. The network hadn’t pulled the plug and, in fact, Regina had done a few photoshoots in the past few weeks. The network had been plastering the images everywhere.

 

She was driving out to a house in Connecticut this afternoon; this was to be the location for the entire series, with the exception of a few of the “dates”. She had finished packing yesterday, but still felt that she needed to double check that she had everything, even if she was going to have an assistant on the show that could fetch whatever she needed. Her nerves had started back up and, as she double checked her luggage, she glanced at the photo that hung in the hall next to her bedroom. She stood up and walked over to the picture. She contemplated taking it off the wall and placing it in her bag, but decided she couldn’t risk losing it. Instead, she traced the face in the frame.

 

“Daddy, I know you’re watching over me right now and I know what Mother said, but could you please try to influence it so that at least one of the daters on the show is someone that you would approve of?” She kissed the image of her father, a photo of the two of them that had been taken at a horse riding competition. She wasn’t a religious person, but she still took comfort in the belief that her father was watching over her since his death in a car accident when she was fifteen.  

 

She called her sister and confirmed the time that she would be coming over, before a car would be picking both of them up and driving them to the set. Now that everything was really happening, Regina hoped the next time she saw her apartment she would be a woman in love, but she knew realistically the chances of actually falling in love with someone on a dating show was smaller than the chance of her becoming president. She gathered her luggage and placed it next to the door and then made herself a cup of tea and waited for her sister.

 

Several hours and many miles later……

 

As the black car pulled up to the mansion, Regina took in the sight. If she didn’t know what she was about to step into, she would never guess that a full camera crew was just inside the giant red door. The second the car stopped, the red door opened and Ursula and the show’s director, Mal Draak, walked over to greet them.

 

Regina shook the hands of both women before introducing them to her sister. Mal and Ursula gave them a tour of the set and the rest of the house, then showed them to the rooms that they would be sleeping in. Regina then discovered the real reason for the personal tour: the camera room. The room was locked with only three people having the key, and those were the three people on the tour minus Zelena.

 

Regina’s eyes widened as she took in the monitors in the room; there were so many cameras, she was pretty sure the entire house was covered. Mal encouraged her to take a look and get familiar with the system. Thankfully, the cameras were controlled by a mouse click and changing the camera view was easier than she had hoped. She opened one of the cameras called ‘bedroom one’ and saw five beds scattered around a huge room.

 

“There’s two of those rooms, enough for all the daters and can be sorted by gender if they choose. All the cameras are equipped with audio and night vision capabilities. All of the cameras are streamed live on the internet. The only rooms without cameras are the bathrooms, for obvious reasons.” Mal finished her sentence and asked if Regina had any questions about the system. Regina wasn’t the most technically savvy person, but she was a quick learner and planned to test out the system later when she had time to herself. It would also be a fantastic way to learn more about the daters; the daters who were due to arrive in a few hours. Regina knew this meant she would need to head over to hair and makeup soon. She went over the schedule with Zelena, Mal, and Ursula before she excused herself, feeling the need for a nerve-calming shower.

 

She finished her shower and met the stylists she would be working with for the next few weeks. They were all lovely people, but her mind couldn't concentrate on anything that was said during their introductions or the actual styling session. Her mind was in the middle of freaking out, deciding this would be the best possible time to think about every single outcome of the show. Married, in love, hated, adored, made into a joke... so many possibilities played out in her mind. She wished time would move faster and that she could jump to when she was actually meeting the daters.

 

She felt a hand touch her shoulder and it startled her out of her thoughts. It was a PA coming to tell her that it was almost time. Since the entire show was being filmed and broadcast live, they only got one take and she could not be late, no matter what. She checked with the stylists, who all agreed she looked stunning and would be perfect in front of the camera, however she decided to take one final glance in the mirror to double check. The fitted pencil skirt and cream colour blouse fit like a glove, and the black stilettos she wore helped to make her taller as well as helped to accentuate her legs. If America didn’t love her, she was pretty sure that, in this outfit, at least one of the daters would.

 

She headed over to where the camera crews were located and found Mal giving directions to the crew on how she wanted the shot to look when the limos containing the daters arrived. She noticed Regina walk onto the set and smiled.

 

“Perfect, you look absolutely perfect. I’m almost sad I’m not a contestant on the show,” Mal joked.

 

Regina laughed, “Well you’re also straight, so you’d be eliminated pretty quickly.”

 

Mal joined in the laughter, “There’s that too. Are you ready for this?”

 

“As much as I can be.” Regina picked the invisible lint off her skirt and smoothed it out, making sure it was more than perfect.

 

The hurricane of activity started as soon as the words “15 minutes” blared out from a speaker somewhere on the set. Mal walked Regina over to where she would be watching the daters emerge from their limos and line up. They wouldn’t be able to see her, but she would be able to see them from her vantage point.

 

The fifteen minutes sped by, and the next thing she knew, there was a black limo entering the gate and coming up the driveway. The sound of rocks and gravel crunching against the tires made her heart constrict. She wiped her palm against her skirt, subtly of course; she was on camera after all.

 

The door opened and a tan, blonde man dressed in a black, fitted suit with an emerald green tie emerged from the car. He moved gracefully as he exited the car; he had obviously been in a limo before. His eyes darted around the area, no doubt looking for Regina, and she held her breath for a moment as they passed near her hiding spot. When his eyes locked onto the host of the show, a well-known host of dating shows Robert Gold, she felt her breath finally release.

 

The next car was a few moments later, and a brunette man emerged from the back seat. He had darker features and she instantly knew he would be the “bad boy” of the group. He was wearing a black leather jacket with a v-neck shirt to show off his chest hair. He even had an earring. She couldn’t tell if it was a trick of the light, but she also thought she saw eyeliner. His cocky grin at the other dater made her roll her eyes. She’d give him a chance, but she already knew he wouldn’t make it far in the competition.

 

The first of the females arrived next. A pale, petite woman with long, blonde hair in an elaborate braid emerged and Regina felt her heartbeat jump. This was it, this was the twist that would make or break the show. She glanced at the two male daters to gauge their reactions and was not surprised to see that both men looked shell-shocked. The blonde also looked shocked, but she seemed to let the information sink in at a much faster rate. Regina was impressed when she flashed a friendly smile at the two men and quickly moved to her place, swishing her blue dress as she walked.

 

Next up was another woman, a woman with black hair who seemed to be of Asian descent. Regina noticed that the woman appeared to have a very athletic build. The cut of her suit helped to show off her figure and Regina found herself admiring it greatly. She looked around for a brief second, her mouth twitched into a small frown before she also walked to the group.

 

The next two cars were the remaining men; one was the only man of colour she had seen, with a neat buzz cut, and the other was another pale-skinned brunette. Both had kind eyes, but Regina didn’t see much from their physical forms that stood out in her mind. She supposed not standing out just yet could be a good thing for the daters. She wasn’t quite sure.

 

The last two to arrive were the other two females, they were as different as could be, one had brunette hair, tan skin, and dark features. The other had blonde hair, pale skin, and something Regina couldn’t put her finger on. Her heart raced as the blonde’s green eyes seemed to latch on to where Regina was standing, almost as if she could see her, but she knew that wasn’t possible. An unknown amount of time passed before the green eyes moved from her position and the woman walked to the group. This was it, they were all here, and this was all real.

 

Violet, one of the assistants on the show, called Regina’s name, startling her. The girl—who could pass for a young teenager—led her over to where she was to stand for the official introductions. She had a few minutes to make it to the spot though, as the show was in commercial break. She took her time walking to the courtyard where the daters would approach her and introduce themselves, hoping to make a good impression. Regina wondered if any of them would recognise her. She hoped they would, but she knew they weren’t the traditional soap opera target audience.

 

One of the crew had offered her a drink of water, but she had declined. Now part of her wished she had taken them up on the offer as her throat felt like sandpaper. Every time she swallowed it hurt just a bit more—just another reminder that she needed to stay in the moment and not let her nerves get the best of her.

 

Mal called attention on the set; they were about to come back from the commercial. All of the daters had lined up along a small balcony with a set of stairs leading up to them. They exuded a nervous energy and seemed to be jockeying for the best position. Regina still thought the idea of people literally competing to date her was bizarre, but she still found her self-confidence skyrocketing. She was just a whirlwind of emotions on the inside.

 

Gold made his way over to her, just as the filming resumed, and asked her how she was feeling. Always the actress, she schooled her face, masking all of the emotions she truly felt. She replied, “I’m excited, I’m about to meet my True Love.” She hoped the eye-rolling she felt hadn’t been picked up by the camera.

 

As if that was the cue, Gold began to call the daters down one by one. He started in reverse order from their arrival which meant the blonde with the green eyes would be first. When Gold called her name Regina’s heart jumped. Emma , the name fit her so well. Regina watched as Emma began to descend the staircase, her eyes taking in every inch of the woman. She almost thought this moment was happening in slow motion, even though she knew that was silly.

     

The thing about live tv is that there are no reshoots, so when Emma’s boot missed the final step, the audience also got to see her fall. Regina not only saw the fall, but she felt it as well; she took the impact of a falling blonde with her own body. The impact wasn’t enough to knock them over, but it did make Regina stumble slightly as she caught Emma.

 

“Are you okay?” Regina asked her.

 

Those green eyes rose to meet hers, the embarrassment quite evident in the colouring of her pale cheeks. “Hi.”

 

Regina’s mind had shut down it seemed, unable to formulate any other words besides—“Hello.” She then noticed her hand was still on Emma’s but made no effort to remove it. Emma seemed to notice as well and smiled at her.

 

“Sorry about that, I’m Emma. I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to say here... I’m from Boston. I’m a bail bonds person. Um, I’m allergic to dogs and cats. Your, uh, show got me through high school.” Emma’s eyes looked down at her admission—she was embarrassed.

 

Regina smiled, “A fan huh? Well, that’s going to definitely score you some points, Emma.” When the green eyes looked back up, they shared a small smile before their time was cut off by Gold.

 

Regina looked back at the other daters, still anxious to meet the rest of them. The next dater to be introduced was Marian. Regina liked her personality, but wasn’t sure if there was an initial attraction. She got the sense from their interaction that at the end of the show they would be friends, if nothing else.

 

Lance made his introduction and was probably the sweetest person she had met on the set so far. Something about the man made her relax. She knew right away he wouldn’t be one of the daters standing at the end—he reminded her too much of her therapist.

 

August came to his introduction with gifts. He told her he was a mechanic by trade but his passion was turning metal into art. He gave her a small piece of metal that had been from an exhaust pipe on his first motorbike. Regina appreciated the gesture, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with the piece of metal. Thankfully, Mal sent an assistant to discreetly take it from her.

 

Mulan’s physicality was just as impressive up close as it had been when she had gotten out of the car. Regina was far more impressed though by how respectful yet adoring Mulan seemed to be towards not only her but towards even Gold. Regina blushed as Mulan blatantly flirted with her. She definitely wanted to know more about her.

 

Elsa was next up, the environmental researcher was gorgeous, Regina would have felt slightly threatened if she had been an actress on the same show. The introduction was simple enough, but Regina could tell that she was very cocky. She knew she was both brilliant and attractive; Regina wondered if there would be enough room in a relationship for both of their egos.

 

The bad boy, Killian, sauntered up to Regina and took her hand. She was immediately unimpressed. She was even more unimpressed when he kissed her hand and told her the other daters should leave because he was the one. She wondered where they found this guy. Sure, he was attractive and his accent was nice, but he was a Grade-A creep. She wiped her hand on her dress and didn’t care that the camera would have had a perfect view of it.

 

The final dater stepped up and Regina was relieved that he was a nice guy. Robin was the head of a non-profit that Regina had heard of and had thought of doing work for but never had the chance. She could tell her mother would be watching the show screaming for her to choose him. When he mentioned his four-year-old son, Regina melted a little. She had always loved children, but never had the time or the opportunity to have any of her own. She almost asked him to show her a picture of the boy, but made a mental note to do so later.

 

Regina’s attention was drawn away from Robin by Killian, who was standing next to and talking to Emma. Her blood began to boil. The audacity . It was bad enough that he was talking during the introductions, but she had heard exactly what had been said and how it had been said. With all of the sweetness she could muster, she turned to him and called him over, dismissing Robin at the same time.

 

Killian looked smug as he walked back to her, “I knew you couldn’t resist me, love.”

 

“I know I’m going a little off script here, but will you walk with me a moment?” Regina could hear Mal freaking out in the background and telling the crew to follow them as they began to walk away from the courtyard. When they reached the parking area where the daters had first arrived, Regina turned to Killian, “Get in the car and leave.”

 

His eyebrows shot up as he heard her command, “You want to get out of here already? I told you I was the one, didn’t I?” He clearly hadn’t understood.

 

“Get in the car and leave, by yourself. How dare you come here and hit on the other daters. Did you think I wouldn’t notice when I was standing five feet away, especially with that vulgar language? You are a disgusting creep and you have been eliminated.” She turned and walked back to the other daters, without even turning to look at the man. She knew security would take care of him if he tried anything. On the bright side, Regina was now one dater closer to her final choice. This was going to be a long few weeks.

Chapter Text

After the introduction ceremony, Regina resisted the temptation to check in on the daters via the camera system. She thought that everyone would still be on their best behaviour and would be awkward. Instead, she decided she would call it a night and head to sleep. The next day would see the group having dinner together—with a twist, of course.

 

She had a hard time falling asleep and, when she eventually did, it seemed like she only slept for maybe an hour. When her alarm started its screeching from across the room, Regina’s eyes slowly cracked open, allowing herself to adjust to the light in the room. She threw the duvet back and walked over to her phone, shutting off the annoying alarm. She checked her messages and found one from her mother. It read simply, “That Robin looks like a winner.” She rolled her eyes; of course her mother had liked the rich widower. She was determined to let the daters make their own cases. She texted her mother back and reminded her that she wasn’t allowed to discuss the daters with anyone but the camera.

 

The way the house was set up made it so that Regina had her own section and could avoid all of the daters unless she chose to go to their section of the house. She decided it was too early for interaction with the daters; she’d leave that to this evening. She was also expecting to sit and chat with Mal about what had happened with Killian. Her blood still boiled at that man’s behaviour, but she hoped that she hadn’t come off as a diva.

 

Mal joined Regina for lunch and the two discussed not only the previous night’s incident but also what Regina could expect for this evening’s dinner. They both ended the lunch happy with how the show had gone last night, and Mal had reassured Regina that she had come across as a strong woman sticking up for herself rather than a diva not getting all of the attention. She was relieved after that

 

Later that night, Regina made her way down to where the dinner would happen. She was happy to see several of the daters milling around talking to each other. She was interested in the groupings that seemed to have happened. Elsa was talking to Marian excitedly about something that Regina couldn’t quite hear, but the woman was definitely animated about whatever the subject was. Robin and Lance were in a quiet discussion about children; Regina was curious about the story there. Most of the other daters were actually bunched together discussing Regina and she smiled when she heard some of the comments from the group. Apparently, they were all fans of her acting and were very excited to be here. Regina did notice Emma’s absence from the main area. She glanced around and found the woman—she was in the corner of the room drawing. She was curious as to what the woman was drawing; she would make it a point to ask about it later.   

 

Dinner was an informal affair held in the open back yard of the house. A theme of casual BBQ had been decided on and Regina had insisted the food be given a Puerto Rican flair—chipotle spices, rice, and adobo were aplenty. The daters all seemed to be enjoying themselves and talking amongst one another. Regina made it a point to talk with each of the daters, trying to get a better feel for their personalities. She also had to admit they were all so attractive.

 

“I couldn’t believe when they kicked you off the show that you were the star of. I actually cheered when the show was cancelled afterwards.” Regina turned at the words and smiled when she saw that it was Emma. She couldn't quite explain her curiosity about this contestant. There was just something that she saw in her eyes.

 

“That makes two of us then.” They both laughed. “Are you going to tell me how my show got you through school now? I’m curious.”

 

Emma took a deep breath and began, “I grew up in foster care and never knew my real family. By the time I hit high school, I had been watching the show everyday because the lady I lived with at that point was a huge fan of Erin Cane. Then when you came on the show and had the coming out story, like, it all made sense to me, what I was feeling, because I was seeing it being played out on my tv screen. I couldn’t tell anyone, so I just kind of pretended your show was this alternate world that some day I’d get to be a part of and be free to be me.” Emma looked at Regina, who had several tears streaking down her face. “Oh my god, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”

 

Her words were cut off by the feel of Regina’s arms wrapping around her. Emma tentatively returned the embrace. Regina pulled her head back to look at Emma for a moment. “Thank you. Honestly, you don’t know what hearing that means after being told by so many that it didn’t matter because it was just a tv show, but I poured my soul into that character. I was Bianka Cane. I never thought I might be bisexual until I read those scripts and then it all clicked. The things I felt. So to hear that it clicked for you as well means more than you can know.” The two smiled at each other—the beginning of a real connection made Regina’s heart skip.     

 

Regina pulled away from Emma, knowing that all eyes were on them and she didn’t want to give anyone any ideas of impartiality just yet. She wiped away the tears before continuing their conversation. She asked a few other questions about Emma’s work and life, and was more than pleased that their conversation seemed to flow like they had been friends for years.

 

When loud noises from some of the other contestants drew her attention, she realised that she should be mingling more with the others. Emma seemed to also realise this as she said, “I don’t mean to hog all of your attention, you should probably chat with everyone else. I’m really glad to be here Regina.”

 

Regina chatted with August and Mulan, discovering things about the two including how Mulan was in the army and loved being a soldier with all of her soul. She excused herself from the conversation when they started talking about vehicles that were currently being used in the Middle East by the US Army. Without even thinking, her eyes sought out Emma and found her talking to Lance. She hadn’t talked to Lance much yet, but perhaps this was a chance.

 

Her path to her destination was promptly cut off by Robin, who had stepped in front of her. “Ah, I’ve been waiting for my chance to catch you.”

 

She smiled. As she chatted with Robin, she remembered to ask for a picture of his son Roland. He pulled one from his wallet and Regina gushed at how cute his son was. She asked about the boy’s mother, knowing it would be a sensitive topic (how could it not be?), but she wanted to see how he reacted. When he looked down with sorrow and told her how she had died in childbirth, she almost regretted asking. She turned their chat to happier topics before excusing herself to head to the bathroom.

 

She took a few minutes in the bathroom to gather her thoughts. She knew this show was all a game, but these were still real people with real pain and real stories. The door opened a bit and her eyes shot to the doorway.

 

A surprised Emma squeaked when she saw Regina at the sink. “Shit! I’m sorry! It wasn’t locked.”

 

Just before she backed out of the door, Regina called her name and told her told her it was okay. Emma noticed the fragile look on her face and asked if she was actually okay. Regina sighed and wanted to let it all out: her frustrations at even being on the show, frustrations at not having had a job for months, frustrations at being discriminated against because of her sexuality as well as her ethnicity... Instead of fighting her feelings, she told Emma to close the door and make sure it was locked. Then she let go. Every emotion she had bottled up for the past few months—hell, years —she let it all out. Emma seemed more than happy to stand there and provide the support that she clearly needed. When the tears started again, Regina felt arms wrap around her and a calm voice whisper, “It’s okay. I’ve got you”.    

Chapter Text

After her momentary panic attack upon waking up this morning, then double checking the camera room to ensure that there were, in fact, no cameras in the bathroom, Regina felt a sort of calm and ease she wasn’t expecting. She had really let someone in, confessed to someone about all of her insecurities and fears in one go. Part of her panic wanted her to cut Emma immediately and not look back, but there was no chance that was happening. She had no doubts that Emma would keep what had happened to herself, but having grown up in show business gave her a general distrust of people She knew she would need to mention it to her at some point during the day.

 

Today was the first official date day. It was going to be set up like speed dating, but the daters would swap out in the one chair. Afterwards, Regina would be eliminating one of the daters. She had a general idea of who she would pick to eliminate, but she felt that she could still be swayed. She decided today would be a good day to check in and see how the daters were getting along with each other on the cameras. When she checked the cameras for the bathroom, her hand guided the mouse over to the cameras marked as bedroom #1 and #2.

 

It was still early enough in the morning that several of the daters were sleeping, but most of them had gotten up and were no longer in the room. Her curiosity was piqued when she saw Marian in the room. She hadn’t had a whole lot of time with her, but the woman seemed very friendly and like someone that Regina would enjoy spending time with after the show was done. She watched as the woman walked over to a mirror and just stared at it. She wasn’t good at reading lips so she was unsure as to what the woman was saying to herself in the mirror, but she hoped the words are positive.

 

She switched to the other bedroom camera and saw Emma sitting on the floor next to her bed. She had the same drawing pad out that Regina had seen her sketching in before; however, this time, Emma was just staring at the page. She wished she could see what was the focus of Emma’s attention and part of her knew it was because she wanted to be that focus. She watched Emma for longer than she should and only stopped when she caught herself tracing the outline of the woman’s face on the screen with her finger.  She snatched her hand back and turned the monitor off.

 

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Regina sat still as the style team touched up her makeup and hair, the evening’s live show was about to start. In front of her, the dining room had been set up with a table for two that had been placed in the center of the room. The lights hadn’t been dimmed due to the cameras, but Regina tried to imagine that they were.

 

The crew around her all cleared the area and the stylist packed her bag and winked at Regina. Gold made his way over to her chair and asked if she was ready for the dates tonight. He asked several more questions about her impressions of the daters so far. He was prodding her for some kind of drama, but she played it coy. Regina tried to tell herself she was actually being honest and hadn’t made any decisions about the daters, but her mind quickly flashed to the feel of Emma against her when she tripped.

 

The first dater, Elsa, came into the room and sat down in the chair opposite Regina. The server for the evening came over and offered them a selection of beverages, Regina chose a lovely barolo then quirked an eyebrow when Elsa inquired about shots. The server looked a bit flustered, he clearly had not expected her question. His eyes shot over to Mal, who gave the man a thumbs up. He then asked what type of shot she preferred before leaving to retrieve the drinks.

 

As soon as the server turned around, Elsa asked, “So, Regina. They say you’re an actress?”

 

As Regina heard the question she wasn’t sure if it was a pick up line or a genuine question. “They would be correct. Have you not heard of the show I was on?”

 

“Nope, I don’t usually watch soaps. They’re too dramatic and the storylines are just ridiculous. I like shows like Grey’s. You weren’t on that, were you?”

 

“While I agree they are dramatic and a bit over the top, they’re actually some of the most groundbreaking shows with social issues. They also give actors a place to hone their craft as many of the scenes are done in one take.” Regina tried not to take offense at what Elsa had said, but it hit a nerve as it was something she had heard several times in her career. “Do you know how many of actors on Grey's started on a soap, because I can almost guarantee that there are several.”

 

Elsa looked down and seemed to realise that she had insulted Regina’s career without intention. Before she could open her mouth to apologise, the server with their drinks arrived. She grabbed her shot from him and downed it before he had a chance to set it down. “I’m going to need another. Please.”

 

She had tried to sip her wine slowly, but after the disaster that was her first date, Regina gulped the rest of the glass down. Hoping that the rest of the dates were better and didn’t make her feel like she needed more alcohol, she had the server bring her a bottle of water. The crew got her set up for the next date during the ad break and then the next contestant arrived.

 

Robin turned out to be every bit of the gentleman she hoped he would be. They discussed Roland a bit more, they discussed Robin’s upbringing in England and how he had decided to move to America as a child, they discussed Robin’s upcoming plans for the non-profit... Regina was more than surprised to learn that Robin was planning to expand the non-profit beyond an adult orientated one by opening a branch focused on children in New York. She didn’t want to admit her mother might be onto something with this dater. She tried not to smile at him, but she failed and then blamed the alcohol.

 

During the next ad break, Mal walked over and proceeded to tease Regina about her “girlish smiling.” She playfully punched the blonde in the arm and teased Mal back by asking, “Well, when was the last time you smiled at anyone like that, besides me?”

 

“Never dear, never.” Mal gave her a quick peck on the cheek, careful not to ruin her makeup. Their snarky friendship was something that had snuck up on Regina but had been welcomed with open arms. The two had grown close while talking over the several days spent collaborating on the show. Their instant connection over humour made working together feel less like work and more like hanging out with a friend. Regina couldn’t wait until the show was over when she could introduce Mal to Zelena.

 

The next few dates went by and were almost uneventful, August discussed some of his favourite travel spots with her and she gave him some suggestions of places that she had been to and enjoyed. Her list wasn’t as lengthy as his list, since she had only had a few chances to vacation anywhere that wasn’t her own house due to work commitments. She wasn’t sure she had much in common with the mechanic but hadn’t seen anything that was a red flag during their date.

 

Marian had been the next one up. She was still a mystery to Regina and their date so far hadn’t helped the situation. The date was one big bubble of awkward silence. Regina finally decided she would have to break the ice and asked Marian why she had applied for the show. She shyly began a story about having grown up with strict, old-school Catholic Cuban parents. Her sexuality had been something she had needed to keep to herself most of her life. She had recently decided that she hated living a lie—that she needed to be who God had made her and come out. She spoke with tears in her eyes as she told the story about her coming out to her parents and how they had been angry and on the verge of disowning her. That is, until they had had an awakening after watching a show on Netflix about a Cuban-American family with a gay daughter. They had called her that night to apologize and told her that they knew God had made her and couldn’t have made a mistake.

 

Regina listened to her story and felt her heart break for the woman. She knew that she was lucky that her own coming out experience was an overall positive occurrence, with the exception that Cora still seemed set on Regina marrying a man over a woman. Her father had taken the news unbelievably well. He told her he was happy that she was able to be who she was, and that he would love her no matter who she fell in love with just as long as they treated with the love and respect that she deserved. She remembered falling asleep with love in her heart and hoped that one day she would find someone that would meet her father’s approval.

 

The rest of the date with Marian had gone smoothly, the two talked about small trivial things, but Regina got a feel for the woman’s personality and knew they would mesh well. She just hadn’t felt that rush of attraction that she had with some of the other daters. Just as their date was about to end, Marian gestured to the server who returned to the table with a plate of cookies.

 

“I know it’s a bit strange, but I made these earlier using my mom’s sugar cookie recipe. I wanted to give you a little taste of my family and their history,” Marian explained as she offered the plate. Regina took a bite and moaned at the taste of the lime exploding on her tongue. She had to admit the soft treat was absolutely delicious and she kind of hoped that, after the show, she could learn how to make them.

 

Regina was still thinking about the cookies when someone sat down opposite of her. She looked up and her breath caught.

 

“Emma,” she whispered.

 

“Hi,” Emma whispered back. Emma pulled a flower from her lap and handed it to Regina. She took the flower and gasped.

 

“Violets are my favourite! How did you know?” Her eyes were soft and took in the beautiful, delicate, purple flower.

 

Emma blushed slightly, “I actually didn't know that, but I’m glad you like it. I saw it and I was just struck by its beauty, and, well, it’s so regal and breathtaking that I thought of you when I looked at it.”

 

Regina’s smile widened and she gazed at Emma with a look that could only be called adoration. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”

 

Their following conversation flowed over various topics, from their favourite foods (both loved lasagna) to their current netflix obsession (Jane the Virgin). Regina found herself laughing during their conversation so much that her face actually hurt at the end of their date. When Gold came over to the table to tell them that the date was over, Regina almost screamed at the man. Instead, she decided to pull Emma into a hug.

 

As she stood wrapped in Emma’s embrace she couldn’t help herself as she nuzzled into her neck slightly—it felt so right. She knew in that moment that her heart had already chosen the winner. Her brain, however, reminded her that there were still six other candidates that she needed to at least try to consider. She pushed the thought away and let the feel of Emma’s embrace get her through the rest of the night’s dates.  

 

-------

 

Later that night, as Regina stood in front of all the daters and called out those that would continue their chance to woo her, she found herself having to refrain from sneaking glances at Emma. When she called Emma’s name as one of those who were safe, she wanted declare the show over, the winner chosen. It took all of her skills as an actress to not seem unenthusiastic when calling the others. In the end, she eliminated Elsa.  The two had nothing in common and she had just seemed far too immature. There was no bad blood between them and, as she wished Elsa good luck in the future, Elsa leaned in and whispered into Regina’s ear, “Don’t be afraid to choose love.”

Chapter Text

After almost a week since the last elimination, it was time for date two. Regina still felt uneasy about effectively rejecting people, but she knew that she had to be a touch ruthless on the show. After all, it was her happiness that was the end goal. She thought about the date tonight and how she had imagined this scenario almost immediately after being told she would be doing the show. She hoped one of the daters would actually become a true life partner after the show and knew that integrating them into her career would be essential for their longevity.

 

She was more than happy with the scripts the production crew had made for the daters and for her. They were all copies of scripts from shows that she had done before. A few were scripts from All Her Children, another was from her guest role as a murderous escort on Law & Order SVU, and there was even a script from a pilot she shot several years ago that hadn’t been made into a series. She picked up the script for the pilot and started rereading it, still in shock that it hadn’t been made into a full tv show. The pilot had revolved around her character and another female character—the characters were partner homicide detectives on the Miami police department, as well as partners in their civilian lives. Maybe it had been too progressive at the time, but the pilot had been leaked online and had garnered positive reviews. Perhaps one day the premise of the show would be picked up by someone.

 

She had a quick meeting with Mal and the rest of the producers to go over how this evening’s date would work and how they planned to film in multiple locations around the house. Regina was relieved. Sitting in one room for hours, no matter how beautiful the room was, was just torturous. She was happy to find out that each date would take place in a different section of the estate, but she wasn’t told which date would be where to preserve some of the mystery.

 

It was almost time for the live shows and Regina had finished her hair and makeup session. Her mind wondered what the daters were up to at this moment, and she decided to check in on them. There seemed to be two groups standing around talking amongst each other. One group was Robin, Lance, and Marian while the other consisted of Emma, Mulan and August. The latter group seemed to be in a much more lively conversation than the former. She took in how they talked to and treated each other; even though they were all technically competition, having someone that treated others with respect was another quality she was looking for in a partner. She smiled as she observed that, every time she had looked in on them, all of the daters seemed to get along and there didn’t seem to be any animosity between them. She silently applauded the casting department.

 

------------      

 

The daters were most definitely not actors—not even a little. They were awful at running lines. She knew none of them were in the business because running lines to them seemed to mean reading lines off a paper. There was no charisma, no adding their own flair, nothing. Mulan had barely even looked up from the page as she read, then stared at Regina like she was waiting for her next set of orders. She knew that Mulan was in the military and tried to remind her that this was supposed to be fun and light. She had to admit, the smile that found its way onto Mulan’s face at that realisation was breathtaking.   

 

August, on the other hand, tried way too hard to get into the role of the detective from the SVU script. Regina tried not to laugh in his face at most of the effort, but when he launched into the monologue confession about how he went into a rage over the escort rejecting him, she felt almost a little creeped out by some of the details he emphasised. After their lines, he tried to seek reassurance that he wasn’t terrible and it took a lot for Regina to lie to his face and not hurt his feelings.

 

When Robin ran his lines, she was actually surprised—he wasn’t overly dramatic. In fact, he was almost emotionless. She had expected more of the sweet charming man she had previously spent time with, but he seemed more reserved today. She almost paused during the lines to ask if he was okay, but decided to wait until after they were finished running lines. Almost as soon as they had finished, he apologised.

 

“Robin, what on earth are you apologising for?” she asked.

 

“I’m sorry I’ve been a little down today and haven’t given you the attention you deserve.” He noticed that Regina was about to say something and quickly started, “It’s the day you see, today is a hard day for me. It would have been my wife’s birthday today.”

 

Regina placed her hand on his arm in hopes of comforting him. She couldn’t imagine the pain of losing the person you thought you would spend your life with. “There is no need to apologise. Maybe you could tell me about her, tell me what you loved about her. Maybe it would be a nice way to honour her?”

 

He looked up from where her arm made contact on his arm and softly smiled before taking her hand and guiding her over to the couch on the other side of the sitting room. He took a moment, then began to tell her about his late wife. By the end of the story, Regina felt her heart break a little for him, and he guided him into her arm for a hug. She couldn’t help but think of how different he felt and how much more she preferred Emma’s arms around her.  

 

----------------

 

As she paced outside near the swimming pool, Regina picked a script from the remaining stack that she had in her hands. There were three scripts left in the unused category, the pilot and two from All Her Children . Regina was amused when she saw which episodes they had chosen. She was still smiling to herself when she saw Emma walk into the yard and she felt her smile widen on a emotional level.

 

She explained to her what the task for the date was and watched as Emma’s eyes lit up when she saw the script for the pilot.

 

“Can we do this one? Please?” Regina looked at Emma and realised how much she looked like a puppy pleading for a reward.

 

Regina laughed at the tiny amount of whine that had found its way into Emma’s voice. “I take it you’ve seen that pilot?”

 

“I did, and I loved it. I always held out hope that maybe it would have been revived or picked up by Netflix. Maybe once the people that watch this show see the amazingness of the script, there will be renewed interest.” The passion in Emma’s eyes at the topic made Regina smile. She could tell there was more than being a fan.

 

As they started the lines, Regina let herself fall into the character. The scene was the two detectives decompressing after chasing down a murder suspect which then turned into playfully comparing bumps and bruises.

 

Regina took the role of Nancy while Emma read for Nikita, Nik for short.

 

“I was worried about you today, Nance.” Emma’s voice was more sombre than Regina had heard before.

 

“I was fine, nothing I couldn’t handle. I would say I made it out completely unscathed but somehow I managed this bruise on my arm.” Regina lifted her right sleeve and pointed to her upper arm. Emma’s eyes followed obediently—her hand that wasn’t holding the script twitched as if it wanted to follow.

 

Regina’s gaze focused on Emma, “You saved me though. You were perfection.”

 

Their eyes remained connected, neither wanting to break the moment. Emma said the next line without even having to look at the paper in her hand.

 

“You know I will always save you. I too got a little parting gift from our friend today.” The tone shifted to the lighter teasing part of the scene, and Emma pointed at her arm which, in the script, had a light bruise from when she tackled the fleeing suspect.

 

“Pfft, that’s nothing. Check this out.” Regina lifted her right pant leg up to show off another invisible bruise. When she let go of the clothing, she noticed she had actually stepped into Emma’s space.

 

“Oh yeah, well…” Emma whispered as she lifted her t-shirt slightly, just like the script said. Except, unlike in the script, Regina’s hand reached out and she ran her fingers over the sculpted abs that were now on display. They both held their breaths as time seemed to slow down to a standstill. Emma licked her lips as her eyes flickered back and forth between Regina’s eyes and lips. Once Regina noticed the motion, her fingers stilled and she began to lean in, inching closer and closer to Emma’s wetted lips.

 

Regina wanted the feel of soft lips on hers; instead, she felt nothing but air. She opened eyes that had closed in anticipation of a kiss to find a panting Emma, who had pulled back and was staring at her with conflict visible in her eyes.

 

“I...I just, I want it to be real, okay?” Emma managed to stutter. “I don’t want to kiss you if it isn’t real.”

 

Fearing rejection, the words slipped out before Regina could think twice, “But you do want to kiss me?”

 

“God yes! And not just because you’re Regina Mills the actress and I’ve had a crush on you since I was in high school, but because I like you, Regina Mills the person, and I want that to be mutual and real. I know going on this show is kind of contradictory to that but..” Her words trailed off.

 

Regina wasn’t exactly sure what to say. She wanted something real, that was her ultimate goal of the show, so she knew how Emma felt.She decided to go with that feeling. “I understand. I also want something real. It’s why I won’t let this show turn into something of a joke. I want to build a life with someone, and hopefully that someone is on this show.”


-------------

 

Regina’s stomach was churning—it was another elimination. As she called the names, she noted the emotions playing out in everyone’s eyes. Some were not subtle in their relief about being safe, some looked nervous that they were only delaying the inevitable, but one emotion stood out: adoration. Every time she caught Emma’s eyes, she saw that emotion shining back at her.

 

The night’s elimination came to a close as August was sent home, and the rest of the daters gathering around the pool to chat and drink. Regina, however, had returned to her room, her mind and inspiration were working overtime. She had started writing something she hadn’t had the inspiration for in years, but tonight the words flowed from her hands as her mind focused on her reading with Emma.

Chapter Text

“I could say this is an opportunity to learn about your reactions under stress or something that sounds meaningful, but honestly this is just me getting to ogle your beautiful bodies,” Regina addressed the daters with a smirk. They were an attractive bunch and she was very much looking forward to seeing them in the sunlight, muscles out, and maybe a touch sweaty.

 

The daters exchanged grins and laughter. The thought that they were being tasked with manual labour seemed a little odd at first, but now it made more sense. This date would be different than the others so far as they would all have to chop some wood and use it to start a fire. Whoever did the best job got to spend some one on one time with Regina in a camping area the crew had set up in the backyard. Regina wasn’t sure who came up with this date, but she was going to make the best of it.

 

She decided to live it up and lounge by the nearby pool as she watched the daters begin to stretch and limber up for some physical work. She was slightly saddened when she noticed that no one had taken their shirt off yet. Almost as if reading her mind, Emma took off the button down she had been wearing and now stood in a white tank top that showed off her amazing arms. Regina gasped when she saw the muscles that were now on display. She hadn’t been expecting Emma’s biceps to be that prominent and now she couldn’t help but think about feeling them around her once again.

 

She imagined Emma walking over, picking her up roughly from the chair she was sat in, and pushing her up against the nearest wall. She started pictured those arms holding her weight as Emma fucked her against the wall. She imagined how good it would feel to be able to touch her delicious abs again—maybe she would clutch at them as she rode the fingers that had slipped into her trousers and pushed inside her underwear. She imagined screaming Emma’s name as she came. Emma kissing her, then biting down on her lip as she rode out the orgasm with her. God, she could almost feel an orgasm coming on just from imagining the scenario.

 

She tried to rub her legs together discreetly so as to not let the audience or the daters know just how much she was turned on. She knew her plan failed when she heard Robin ask if she was alright. She tried to play it off, declaring that she just needed another drink of water, but the way he kept looking from her to Emma told her he hadn’t completely bought the lie.

 

Emma, on the other hand, hadn’t noticed anything. She was deep in a heated conversation with Mulan about the best method of chopping wood. Mulan had declared that using a wedge and a hammer was better than the standard axe method, while Emma decried that, next to a chainsaw, an axe was king.

 

A loud noise drew Regina’s attention over to where Robin was standing. He smirked at her and then slowly removed his shirt. Unfortunately, he miscalculated how close to the pool he was and, when he took a step to his left while lifting the shirt up, he stumbled and fell face first into the water. Stifling a laugh, Regina called out to him as his head emerged from the water. She made sure he was okay and then helped him out of the pool, offering him a towel she grabbed from a nearby counter.  

 

The other daters weren’t so kind—they all were laughing hysterically. Apparently, others’ misfortune was a comedic thread they all enjoyed. Robin brushed it off and decided to grab the axe and start the task. Regina did enjoy the sight of the man swinging the axe into the log, making a clean cut down the middle. He clearly had swung an axe before. The laughter from the others died down immediately as they realised that Robin probably had this task in the bag.

 

Marian was not cut out for wood cutting it turned out. She dropped the axe multiple times before she took a small hack at the log, taking a chunk out rather than splitting it. Lance took the bar set by Robin and shattered it. It was almost magical how he sliced the wood into two equal pieces. He flashed a smile at Regina as he then picked up a few more pieces and split them as well. When he was done, he handed the axe to a stunned Emma, who questioned how she was supposed to follow that display.

 

Emma tried, but she hadn’t ever even touched an axe before. She managed to hold on to the axe, but her attempt ended with the axe stuck in the log. As she struggled to free the axe, she looked over at Regina who, unbeknownst to her, was in the middle of yet another fantasy involving Emma’s body and her rippling muscles. All Emma saw was her reflection in the sunglasses that Regina had slipped on. Nevertheless, she smiled brightly at Regina and was rewarded with a glowing smile in return.    

 

Mulan was the final one to go and she decided to show Emma how her method was more effective. She took off her jacket to reveal her t-shirt that read ‘Army’ and her dog tags. Regina admired her arm muscles, which she clearly had worked on with vigor. Mulan finished her swings then turned to Regina and gave her a cheeky smile. Afterwards, Emma agreed that her method was probably more effective and maybe a little safer.

 

All of the daters gathered around to find out who was the lucky one that was going to spend the evening with Regina in the camping grounds. Regina took a few minutes for her dramatic pause then turned to the group and called out Lance’s name. She was unprepared when he walked up to her and hugged her tightly, lifting her up in the process. Once he put her down, he grabbed her hand and lead her to the tent and fire pit that were set up.

 

They sat down at the provided logs and Regina took some time to ask Lance some random questions. She found that he lived with his dog and his best friend from high school. He owned a landscaping company, which explained his familiarity with chopping wood. She also discovered he was secretly a huge nerd. He could speak Klingon perfectly—he had to explain to Regina that Klingon was from Star Trek—and he had a game room in his house with several original coin-operated games. He also had gone to school for psychology. She asked him what his plans for the future were and was surprised to learn that he was planning to head to Ghana and build solar panels.   

 

She knew that was an issue for her. While she admired and respected his plans, she wanted someone that would be able to continue to build a relationship with her when the show ended. She enjoyed their date, even if she knew he wasn’t the one for her. They made several s’mores and laughed at Regina losing more than one marshmallow to the flames. They drank the Irish coffees that had been prepared for them, and Regina allowed the warm tingles from the alcohol to wash over her. Her mind began to wander from her current date. She wondered what Emma was doing right now and if she enjoyed smores. She sighed as she looked back up at the kind eyes she found looking at her. Lance seemed to notice her preoccupation and suggested that they call it an evening.  

 

Later that night, when she eliminated him, he already seemed resigned to his fate. He wished her well, then turned to the rest of the daters and did the same with all of them. Regina didn’t miss the moment he looked directly at Emma and asked the daters to take care of Regina as she was worth fighting for. She also didn’t miss the flash of emotion that ran through Emma’s eyes before they found Regina’s.

 

When Gold asked her why she had eliminated the man, she was honest and let the audience know that she wanted someone for the long haul and not just for the time being. He then asked her if any of the other daters had made their way into her heart or even just her thoughts. Regina almost admitted her mind’s preoccupation with Emma, but she decided that it was still too early in the game and went with a non-committal answer.

 

------

 

Regina had decided to take a small walk outside after all of the evening's event. The crew and the daters had all left the area, leaving her to have the garden to herself—or so she thought. That is, until she spotted Emma. She was sitting on the log that Regina had been sitting on several hours before, during the date, and she was drinking something out of a mug with her sketch pad in her lap. Regina made sure to make some noise as she approached her. She didn’t want Emma to spill her drink on the book, especially since she hoped to see what she had been drawing.

 

“It’s beautiful out here.” Emma’s words let Regina know that her efforts to not startle the woman were successful.

 

She never took her eyes off of the blonde. “That it is.”       

 

Emma placed her mug down on the ground next to the log. “I needed some air. It’s a little stuffy in the house sometimes, even if I almost have my bedroom to myself.”

 

“What can I say, you choose horrible roommates.” Emma laughed at the sarcastic remark and scooted over on the log so that Regina could sit down.    

 

“I’m shocked that none of the crew has run out to film us, to be honest. I thought filming all of our interactions was kind of the thing.” Emma looked around as if she expected the cameras to emerge from the bushes at any second.

 

Regina cocked an eyebrow and gave her a sideways look. She didn’t want to give away something that the daters weren’t supposed to know, but she felt that keeping it from Emma wasn’t the right move. “How do you know they’re not filming this?”

 

“Fair point, they probably are. This whole place is probably wired with cameras covering every inch. But still, I just like it when I can’t see them. Makes this whole thing feel a little less like a tv show, you know?”

 

“I’m not really sure there’s much that can make this whole thing feel less like a tv show.” Regina bumped her shoulder against Emma’s, drawing a smile out of her.

 

Emma’s smile turned serious. The look of contemplation on her face was one that Regina had already grown to be concerned by. “Why are you on this show any way? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that you’re doing a dating show that’s respectfully showing a strong bisexual Latina, but why you? You’re gorgeous and rich and famous and could date anyone that’s on that same level.”

 

Regina kept her tone light and teasing—this was a delicate answer. She couldn’t confess that her mother had made her do the show, but she knew that there was another more emotional answer that would also be accurate. “Ah see, you’re assuming that I want to date someone rich and famous. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with dating another celebrity, and it’s not where I’m at in life. I told you before, I want something real and I meant that. As to why I’m here doing this specific show, maybe I’ll tell you after the show is over on a reunion show the networks love doing. I can’t give away all the secrets now, can I? Anyway, I could ask you the same, Emma. What made you audition for this show?”    

 

Emma’s checks pinked; now Regina was definitely interested in this answer. “Um. Well, my friend Ruby told me about the opportunity and uh...” Emma’s eyes looked around before looking back down at her lap. Regina had embarrassed her and she was loving it. “I, uh, heard the premise of the show and I was really hoping it was you. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve had a crush on you since high school. I’m very glad that it turned out to be you.”

 

Regina couldn’t help but smile. She slowly reached out and gently placed her fingers onto Emma’s hand, cautiously feeling for any sort of hesitation. Her heartbeat thumped loudly in her ears. When Emma turned her hand and caught her fingers, she ducked her head and felt her heart speed up even more. She looked at Emma from behind her eyelashes and saw her eyes were dilated and fixed on their hands. Her breathing had also sped up. She slipped her hand fully into Emma’s and then leaned her head onto Emma’s shoulder. “I’m glad it was you as well.”   

   

Chapter Text

Regina stood in front of the daters, running her hands over the soft hair of Rocinante. She was over the moon when her horse had been brought to the estate this morning. Riding horses had been her escape from stress and the life of a celebrity. She had learned to ride as a child; to her, it was another way to connect with her father. When he died, she had continued to ride out of love of the activity.

 

She had spoken to Mal during the brainstorming session for the dates, and, when Mal had asked her about her hobbies, she knew that working in her love of horses had to be something that happened. Now, as she looked at the faces that stood in front of her, she knew for sure that this would help to solidify what her heart already knew: which of the daters she would choose.      

 

She introduced her horse to the daters then explained that today’s date would be nice stroll on a horse while they chatted. Then, at the end, there would be a huge group date. It sounded like a perfect relaxing day and Regina could not wait to get started. She asked if any of the daters had experiences with riding and was a little surprised when none of them had.

 

She quickly went over how to mount a horse and then had some practice tries with the daters. They all seemed to master mounting pretty quickly, except for Emma. It wasn’t that she had a hard time mounting the horse, nope, it was more that Emma seemed to be pretty uncoordinated at times. Her foot caught as she tried to mount the horse and then the horse moved slightly which scared Emma and make her lose her grip on the saddle. Luckily for her, Regina was behind her helping and caught her before she fell.

 

“You know the saying ‘falling for someone’ isn’t supposed to be literal, right?” Regina joked as she helped Emma right herself and mount the horse.

 

Emma retorted, “Who says it can’t be both?”

 

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The wind blew through Regina’s hair, her leg muscles burning from use—she had forgotten how much she missed this. Regina hadn’t been riding in about a month and a half, too busy with the show and the PR beforehand to drive out to where Rocinante was stabled. She promised herself she wouldn’t let that much time lapse before her next ride after the show was over. Almost as if he were sensing her thoughts, he neighed at her.

 

She looked over at Marian and tried to think of something to say, but her mind seemed to come up short on topics. She decided to just ask a general question, “When you get out of this house, do you have any plans?”

 

Marian was far too focused on controlling the horse and holding on to the reigns; Regina had to repeat the question after not getting any kind of response from the woman. “Oh uh, sorry, I just would really like to not fall off. I think after I leave the show I’m probably going to go back to school. This year has been all about me growing as a person and I think getting the degree I always wanted is a good step.”

 

Regina asked a few questions about her schooling and admitted she really knew nothing of the field Marian wanted to get into: biomechatronics. After a brief rundown of what the word even meant, Regina asked why she wanted to get in that field.

 

Marian explained how the practical uses of robotics implants could change the world and that she had an aunt that was missing an arm from a car crash. She recalled how her aunt never let the missing limb stop her, but when she got older, arthritis crept into the remaining hand and things became too hard for her to do on her own. Eventually, she had moved into a nursing facility and she hated every minute of it,feeling as though her freedom had been robbed. Marian wanted to help older people like her, who had been mostly written off, and give them the option to regain their independence.

 

Regina smiled. Marian’s heart was in such a good place and she really hated that she had to break it in any way by eliminating her.

 

She decided to ask Robin the same question; she was truly curious what he had to say. She knew about the children’s ward of the non-profit, but for a man that was such a high profile businessman, he hadn’t really given any indication of what his daily life consisted of besides his son. He told Regina that his life was “actually very boring, consisting mostly of meetings and fundraisers.”

 

His immediate plans after the show were a little more heartwarming—he was planning a road trip to Disney with Roland. His tone also implied he hoped that she would be joining them on the trip.

 

Mulan wasn’t sure what her plans would be, as her unit might be deployed, but if they weren’t, she hoped to open a school to teach self-defense. Protecting people was something she took very seriously and this was a way to not only help people, but have them help themselves.

 

Emma’s plans for after the show actually made Regina laugh. Emma’s plan was to “eat some pizza and catch up on her DVR.”

 

Regina didn’t say it, but she thought that cuddling with Emma on the couch while she caught up on the tv she had missed sounded heavenly.

 

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When the five made it to their destination, Regina dismounted and walked to the picnic that had been prepared for them. She found the champagne that had been chilled for them and gave each dater a glass. She proposed a toast and asked each of them to say their favourite word.

 

“Loyalty”

 

“Hope”

 

“Honour”

 

“Kerfuffle”

 

All eyes turned to Emma, none of them expecting the random word. “What? It’s fun to say.” And then she took a drink, the sparkle in her eyes made all the brighter by the setting sun.

 

The rest of the group date was really spent as a group—they all chatted about movies, food, and places that they hoped to vacation one day. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were four long time friends having a picnic. But soon the date came to a close and Regina had to cut one of them. She almost cried as she let Marian know that her time was up. She told Marian how she wanted to keep in touch with the woman because she felt like they had made a real connection on a friendship level. Somehow, she knew that they would be friends for life after this experience, and she was dying to know how the robot hands turned out. Marian expressed that she too felt that they had formed a strong bond during the show.

 

Regina also had a positive surprise for Marian: she would be taking her on a vacation to Cuba. She had always wanted to visit and couldn’t think of anyone better to go with. And after hearing Marian talk about her heritage, she felt moved to help her friend connect with her roots. She knew firsthand the power of visiting and interacting with the land that your ancestors came from, and if she could help someone that she cared for do the same, then she would be more than happy to make it a friendcation.

 

Just before Marian turned to leave the ceremony area, she thanked Regina and embraced her. Regina smiled as Marian whispered to her, “Listen to your heart and pick her.”    

Chapter Text

The last date before the final was probably not supposed to be this terrifying for the three remaining daters, but when they were led into the sitting room and found Zelena sitting in a chair with a villainous look, their faces reflected the anxiety.

 

“Well, hello pretties. I’m Zelena, Regina’s older, wiser, more attractive sister,” she said, with a flourish of her hand.

 

“Where is Regina?” Robin asked.

 

“Not here. Now, come with me. It’s time to cull the weak.” Zelena stood up, walking out the doors and into the kitchen. The daters looked at each other before following the red head. They walked into the room and noticed the spread of alcohol, fruit, and various bar accessories.   

 

“Tonight’s task is simple: make a drink that reminds you of Regina. If you need any ingredients that you don’t see, let one of the crew know and they’ll get it.” She looked back at the daters who all had the deer in headlight look. “Go, monkeys, go!” And with that, she sat on the opposite side of the room and watched the chaos.  

 

She watched as they scrambled to pick out a base for the drink, then the mixers, and finally any garnishes. She watched with amusement as the blender even came out to play. All three eyes were on her as she stood up and walked over to them. She asked each dater what they were making, giving no response as she eyed the drink and the creator. She had decided to tease them all a bit.

 

“You sure this is what you want to make?” she asked each one, and to each answer she replied with a simple, “Hmm.”

 

When the daters had all finished their creations, she asked them to bring their concoctions over and place them on a counter. There were three drinks that all looked completely different, but she had to admit they all looked as if they could be tasty.

 

“Okay. Leave. I’ll let you know.” She shooed them away as a protest started to emerge from Robin’s lips. Once they had all left the room, she called out to Regina, who had been in the room next to the kitchen, unable to see what was taking place in the kitchen.

 

“Z. Try to be a little nicer to them.” She laughed.

 

Zelena raised her hand to her chest in mock offense. “But it’s so fun to make the monkeys dance.”

 

Regina playfully slapped her on the back of the head as she walked over to the drinks. “Come over and help me taste these.”

 

Regina picked up the first drink: it was a white, blended drink. She took a sip and then handed it to Zelena. “That is not my thing. Is that rum blended with coconut? I hate rum, but at least it’s creative”

 

“Good for you that I like it,” Zelena said as she took another drink of the beverage.

 

Next was the drink in the cocktail glass—the smell alone gave away what the drink was before she even tasted it. “A manhattan, how original,” Zelena remarked as she took the glass.    

 

The final drink sat unassumingly in a coupe glass with a cinnamon-covered apple slice on the edge of the glass for varnish. She picked up the glass and was intrigued by the citrusy sweet smell from the drink. She took a sip and moaned: it was delicious. It was complex and sweet. Besides the apple, dusting of cinnamon, and citrus, she couldn’t quite figure out what ingredients had gone into the glass. Whoever had made this though was absolutely teaching her the recipe.

 

“Holy shit, that’s good!” Zelena exclaimed. “If you don’t pick the one that made this, I’m stealing them.”

 

Regina laughed. “Easy, tiger. I haven’t made my choice yet, and I’m guessing by your reaction you approve of whoever made this one.”

 

“I don’t actually care who you pick.” Regina knew she was more than likely joking, even if her tone was serious. “I’m going to assume this one is the winner?”

 

“You know me well, sis. Let’s find out who made this divine drink, shall we?” Regina walked over, and just as her hand touched the door handle, Zelena’s voice rang out.

 

“Wait! Let’s make them sweat a bit,” she suggested.

 

“You really are wicked, you know that right?” Regina shook her head.

 

“Yes, but wicked always wins. That should be a song; I feel like it would be a smash hit.”

 

After making the three wait another twenty minutes (ad breaks were really handy), Regina finally opened the door and asked the daters to come back into the kitchen. They all looked so hopeful and excited, like puppies waiting to be told they had done a good job.

 

“I know you’re all anxious to know the winner, and quite frankly so am I. But before that happens, I’d like to tell you all that I loved the creativity of the drinks, and after I reveal the winning drink, I’d like to know what influenced you to add the ingredients you did.” She took a breath, trying to make sure there was that tense tv pause moment. “The winner is this delicious drink right here.”

 

Regina held up the apple drink and Emma smiled. “Emma, you have to tell me what’s in this. It’s amazing.”

 

Emma went over the ingredient list and how the drink was made; she broke down each item and why the drink reminded her of Regina. “I know you love apples and I love anything sweet so I thought it would be a nice mixture and, personally, I think cinnamon just makes things better. I’m glad you agreed.”

 

Regina thought about the words—she hadn’t made the drink specifically thinking of Regina. No, she had made the drink thinking about the two of them. The cinnamon-dusted apple was a mixture of both of them and it blended so well, just like they seemed to. Her mind once again went to the naughty place and she thought about how good they would be together in bed.

 

A hard nudge from Zelena snapped her out of her thoughts and brought her back into the moment, where the other daters were staring at her while she stared at Emma. Refusing to look like she had done anything wrong, she simply continued like nothing had happened. “Well, I know I’m certainly hoping to taste that again some time.” She smirked as Emma visibly swallowed.

 

She went over the ingredients and choices of the other drinks. Robin had decided on a manhattan because it was “classy and simple.” At least one of the descriptions was accurate. She started to wonder if the man had actually paid attention to anything she had ever said. Sure, he was nice, but there was something about him that struck her as off. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it as she hadn’t seen any sights outright, but there was something: she was sure of it.

 

Mulan had chosen the rum and coconut because it “seemed like a drink that maybe she would drink lounging by the pool.” It was a cute answer, but still, she hated rum. She had had a bad experience with rum on set when she was 16—one of the other girls on the show had handed her a flask full of rum and dared her to drink the whole flask. Regina spent the entire rest of the night throwing up and she vowed never to touch the stuff again, just in case. She was happy that her stomach had forgotten about that time and had been unaffected by the rum.

Emma’s prize for winning the competition was a one on one date with Regina: the twist being that Emma’s favourite food would be the menu of the evening. When Regina sat down opposite Emma, she watched carefully as the food was brought out to them, wanting to take in every second of the emotions that the food was sure to invoke. When the server lifted the lids to reveal grilled cheese sandwiches, Emma’s eyes did not disappoint.

 

“No way!” Emma took a bite of the cheesy goodness and moaned just a little as she closed her eyes.

 

Regina couldn’t help but smile as she watched the emotions play out, not only in Emma’s eyes, but all across her face. She wasn’t a huge fan of the food herself, but if this was the reaction that it provoked, she saw a lot of grilled cheese in her future.

 

“This is perfect, like how did they make this the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had? Do you have some kind of magical chef back there or something? Wait, don’t tell me it’s Ratatouille .

 

Laughing Regina responded, “I really hope the chef isn’t a rat. That would be rather unsanitary.”

 

“It would be fun to watch though, you have to admit,” Emma countered.

 

“Only if it was riding on someone’s head and using them like a puppet. I have to ask, of all the food in the world, you chose grilled cheese. Why?” Regina’s voice shifted The question would hopefully help her get to know the blonde better because she could already tell that the way to Emma’s heart was through her stomach.  

 

Emma’s face suddenly turned serious. “Remember when I told you I grew up in foster care? Well, we never had a lot of money or a wide variety of food at the places, but grilled cheese was practically always the same, no matter what house it was made at.”

 

“It seems like that would be a sad reminder?” Regina asked.

 

Emma shook her head, “It probably should be sad, but honestly it was something that was a comfort to me. No matter where I was, I could have a grilled cheese, and it just felt like something solid, something normal. It just tastes like what home should feel like. It’s kind of hard to explain.”

 

Regina reached over to Emma’s hand and placed hers on top. Slowly, Emma rotated her hand until she had the proper angle to intertwine their fingers.

 

“Do you have happy memories from your childhood?” Regina asked, almost in a whisper. She didn’t want to disturb the openness that Emma was sharing with her, but she wanted to know that this amazing woman had some kind of happiness in her life: she deserved it.  

 

“There were moments... It wasn’t all bad. I made some good friends, including my best friend Ruby. I met her at the last house I got stuck in. Her grandma was my foster mom,” Emma finished with a smile on her face. Regina could tell that she loved the woman and was fond of her based on how she talked about her.

 

Regina squeezed their fingers slightly. “Will you tell me about her? She sounds like she’s important to you.”

 

“Granny—that’s what everyone calls her—is the mother figure I never really had. I got placed in her house when I was 14 and thought I knew everything. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. One night I got caught shoplifting, and instead of giving me back to the state, she grounded me.”

 

“I’m guessing that didn’t go so well.”

 

“Nope. Not at all. I ignored it and she didn’t budge. Then Ruby also got caught doing some stupid shit and she grounded her as well. She treated me exactly the same as her blood—I had never had that before. People always had treated their kids better than us foster kids. We got hand-me-downs and broken toys while their kids got all the new stuff. But not Granny: she treated me like I was also her kid. So one day I asked her why and she told me it was because I was her kid. It didn’t matter to her that we weren’t blood or that I was almost the same age as her granddaughter: I was her kid too. Ever since that moment, I realised that she actually cared and eventually we grew to love and respect each other, when we aren’t being sassy with each other.”

 

Regina squeezed their fingers again. “That’s amazing. I’m glad that there are still good people out there like your Granny.”

 

“I think she’ll like you,” Emma replied.

 

Panic crossed Regina’s mind. “I hadn’t thought of that until now. Should I be nervous that she won’t?”

 

“Nah, and if anyone should be worried, I think it’s me. Your mom seems, um, intense.” A look of almost horror passed on Emma’s face.

 

Regina nodded. “You’re not wrong. She can be intimidating and demanding, but she just wants the best for me and what makes me happy, so I’m pretty sure she’ll approve of you.” She hoped Emma understood what she meant by the comment. Based on the gentle squeeze back, she had.

 

When their date was finished, Regina eliminated Mulan, leaving just Robin and Emma. Regina thought about why Robin had even made it this far, since she knew in her heart she was picking Emma and there was zero chance of her changing that feeling. But deep down, she knew it was because some part of her feared her mother was right: that she would need to pick a man to win the competition. Later that night, she watched Emma furiously drawing in her sketch pad. Regina made a mental note to ask her about it the next time they spoke, but then she remembered the next time they spoke would be during the final—the day that would change her life. She immediately knew that when she picked Emma it would change for the better. She went to sleep dreaming of what their future would look like.

Chapter Text

Today was the day, the day she would start her future with Emma. She had dreamt of the moment she would pick her all night and was anxious for the events of the day to unfold. She hadn’t been told anything by Mal. It seemed she planned to keep the final date a secret and wanted the surprise to be on both sides of the competition.

 

She wondered if Zelena had more knowledge about the happenings of the day. She walked over to the redhead’s room and knocked, then knocked again when there was no answer. Finally, a gruff “fuck off” sounded through the door. She turned and laughed. The mystery of the day might be fun after all.

 

She decided to check in on her two suitors, but the cameras didn’t work. She smacked the side of the monitor a few times and tried to turn it off then back on again to no effect.

 

“So much for that idea,” she said to no one. She hoped that it was just her feed that didn’t work and that the audience could still see everything. She had to trust that Mal knew what she was doing and that this day would be ratings gold. She honestly had no idea how people were taking the show, what people liked or disliked. Was anyone even watching?  

 

Overthinking was clearly getting her nowhere—it was time to get up and do something. No one from the crew had been at her door to beckon her to where they were filming, so she assumed they didn’t need her. She decided this would be the perfect time to finally use the pool, having been near it several times without actually getting the chance to use it. She found a bathing suit in her suitcase that she had packed just in case and slipped it on. She then put on a cover that looked almost like a kimono, grabbed a towel, and headed out to the pool.

 

She saw Emma sitting out in a chair as she approached, but then the strangest thing happened: Emma looked up at her, a storm of emotions playing across her face, and then she stood up and walked off. Regina was left standing there, thoroughly confused. She glanced around to see if there was any other cause for Emma’s sudden departure but found nothing.

 

Regina placed the towel down on the now vacant chair and slipped off the robe. She almost wished she had planned a date that required swimsuits. She was an actress and had always had to use her body for her craft. Therefore, she tried to make sure her instrument was in pristine condition. Her hours at the gym every week paid off, and she knew that she looked drop dead gorgeous. She just kind of wished that there was someone here to enjoy it.

  

Regina loved swimming because, as soon as she hit the water, all of her worries and thoughts melted away—the only thing that mattered was the water. She loved the silence that swimming brought her. Like riding horses, it made the rest of the world seem unimportant, as if only the activity at hand mattered. It was truly a revelation for someone with as many thoughts and worries as Regina. Still, as soon as her mind would clear, thoughts of Emma would pop back in. No matter how hard she tried, her mind couldn’t stop thinking. She swam lap after lap, switching her form from the backstroke to the butterfly and back and nothing worked. Her mind couldn’t understand what had upset the blonde. She needed to find out what had happened.

 

Just as she got out of the pool, Mal walked up to her, “Regina, are you ready for today?”

 

Wrapping the towel around herself felt almost like she was hoping to wrap herself in a bit of comfort and ignore the life changing decision that was looming. She tried to hold on to the feeling, wrapping the towel even tighter around herself. When Mal asked if she was okay, it broke through and she was again snatched from her happy place, thrust out into the cruel world of having to make adult decisions.

 

“Let’s get this over with.” She was determined not to appear weak or emotional about today’s event—she was a bad ass bitch and Emma was going to be hers.

 

“Funny you should say that. I have a visitor who has been dying to see you, but I have a feeling that you’re going to want to make it a quick visit.” The look of apology on Mal’s face told her exactly who it was.

 

“She would pick today to come and visit.” Regina really wished she could just jump back into the pool, swim to the bottom, and stay put. Instead, she picked up the kimono and headed back into the house. She headed to the bedroom she had been staying in, where she found her mother perched on the chair next to the bed.

 

“Mother, I wasn’t sure if you were coming here before or after the dates.” She forced herself to sound happy to see her mother. She knew that Cora would push for her to pick Robin. Her jaw involuntary clenched at the thought of not picking Emma. She caught herself just as she started to grind her teeth. It was a habit that only happened when she was stressed; it also meant she needed to wear her nightguard to bed tonight to prevent the grinding in her sleep.

 

Cora looked at her with that look that said she knew exactly what Regina was thinking. That look always made her skin crawl a little because, if she didn’t know better, she’d swear that it was accurate. “I need to help you make the right choice, so I’m going to be there when you choose but not during the dates. Though I have a feeling you’ve chosen your winner. You have already decided, haven’t you?”

 

Not liking where this was heading she replied cautiously, “I have.”

 

“Good girl.” And that was it. The long conversation trying to convince her to pick Robin hadn’t taken place. Did that mean Cora assumed she was picking Robin?

 

Cora opened the closet in the room and looked at the clothing inside, “Let’s get you dolled up for these dates, shall we?”

 

After about an hour of trying on various pieces of clothing, Regina had finally picked not only her outfit for the dates but also the outfit she would wear when she picked Emma. The blonde’s avoidance was pushed to the back of her mind, but still tangible in her thoughts. She hoped the outfit would make sure that Emma couldn’t help but look at her as she called her name. There was a soft knock on the door; the hair and makeup crew had arrived to prep Regina, that meant the final dates would be starting soon.

 

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“Welcome back, I’m your host Robert Gold! Tonight, we finally learn who Regina has picked. Will it be Robin, the handsome, do-gooder CEO? Or will it be Emma, the gorgeous instrument of justice? Before we find out, the daters have one final chance to change her mind. It’s time for the final dates!” Regina watched as Gold hyped up the audience, and honestly the hype was helping her to get over the anxiety.

 

“Regina, are you ready to find out what you’ll be doing tonight?” Gold asked in that showbiz voice that over enunciated everything.

 

“I cannot wait. This is the first date I’m going into without knowing the planned activity, so I’m actually very eager to know,” she answered honestly.

 

“Fantastic, because tonight the daters have chosen the activities! They flipped a coin earlier to see who would get the first date, so without further ado, let’s get started.” He seemed far too excited and slimey for this job. He was the best in the industry, but she wondered how many people he had blackmailed or backstabbed to get to that position.

 

She was promptly blindfolded and led into another room. This had better be worth it , she thought, as the hand with a tight grip on her upper arm guided her somewhere. She tried to rely on her other sense, but she couldn’t discern any helpful information. She felt something hit the back of her legs and then the hand was pushing her down into what was apparently a chair. The blindfold suddenly gone, she blinked a few times to get her bearings.

 

She was not seated in a part of the house she hadn’t really seen before, but the room had been redecorated in extravagant fashion. There was a table with a champagne fountain, a plate of hors d’oeuvres, and tiny cakes. There were blue icicle lights everywhere, giving the room a glow. Her eyes finally finished sweeping the room and landed on the only other person in the room, Robin.

 

“Regina, you truly are a magnificent woman, and I can make all of your dreams come true. You deserve it.” His words conveyed one thing but his eyes another: they had not moved an inch from her cleavage. She knew that her breasts were emphasised by the dress she was currently wearing, but it was still highly disrespectful and she thought that it actually showed who Robin really was. She didn’t buy the act he had put on. There was something nefarious in the man’s eyes, and no matter how much he pretended to be a good guy, his eyes told her the real story.

 

She tried to play along with the scene. She knew from past experience that getting through something she didn’t want to do was always made easier if she pretended it was just a scene on her show. This particular moment called for the time she had a guest role as the innocent, naive college girl on the police drama Boomville . That episode had seen her character kidnapped by a serial killer that was obsessed with dolls. She knew that placating Robin was the best option at the moment and then, when it wasn’t just the two of them (and the lone camera man), she could feel free to tell him no. Thankfully, the date mostly consisted of him talking about himself and things he had accomplished in life. She sipped the glass of champagne very slowly; she did not want to get intoxicated tonight, not until after she had made her pick at least.

 

After what seemed like an eternity, but she guessed was really probably closer to forty-five minutes, she saw Mal and some of the crew come into the room. The date was finally coming to an end. God, what was wrong with this man? If she had to hear about his time at Oxford one more time, she would probably have grabbed a fork and rammed it into her own ear.

 

“Alas, our time has come to an end and we must part. I hope that tonight the name you call will be mine. I know it will be: we’re soulmates, I can feel it.” He grabbed her hand and kissed it,  then he suddenly stood up and pulled her to him. Before she could move, his mouth was on hers, his tongue trying to force its way into her mouth. She pulled back, eyes wide. How dare he? It took all of the composure she had learned in her years of acting to not react with anything but a “good night” as she walked away.

 

When she was out of the room, she ran to the nearest bathroom, rinsed her mouth out, and washed her lips and hands. The makeup artists wouldn’t be thrilled, but they would need to understand.           

 

“You okay?” Mal asked through the door after knocking softly.

 

“I’ll be out in a second.” Regina took a breath and opened the door. She knew they were on a schedule and couldn’t afford to stay in the room any longer.

 

She emerged from the room and looked at Mal. The look on her face told Regina that she understood what had just happened. Regina placed a hand on Mal’s upper arm and let her know that she was fine to continue.

 

“I think you’re going to enjoy the next date,” Mal whispered, then made sure to look as if she had said nothing.

 

Regina hoped the weird tension from this morning was gone and she could actually enjoy her date with Emma.

 

She followed Mal to a room that could only be described as an art studio. Mal smiled and pushed her gently inside, then closed the door. Regina’s eyes swept around the room, taking in all of the various blank canvases and a few that had images on them. Her eyes finally found the other non-cameraperson occupant of the room. Emma looked so small sitting at one of the tables in the room with the pad of mystery in front of her. She had yet to look up but she must have heard the door opening and closing and knew Regina was in the room.

 

“So this is it?” Regina asked, which finally prompted Emma to lift her eyes. She thought they might have looked puffy but the light was just dark enough that she couldn’t quite tell.

 

“What’s it?” Emma hadn’t understood the question, clearly, as her brow scrunched slightly.Regina couldn’t help but find it endearing.

 

“Is this our last tv date?” Regina clarified, hoping Emma would open up and tell her what was happening.

 

“Yeah, guess so.” Or not, apparently.

 

“Are you going to let me in on what we’re doing on this date, or are we going to just talk about having a date without actually going on it?” Regina wasn’t sure what was going on with Emma. It was like she had shut down, but they were on a timer so she needed to be far more blunt than she would have preferred to get this date moving along.

 

“Sorry. Yeah, um, I like drawing and I, uh, thought we could do some sketches. It’s lame, I know.” Her heart felt like someone was squeezing it as Emma talked—the woman so bright and full of life seemed like a shell of herself.

 

“It’s not lame, I love it.” She decided to throw out, “I’ve seen you with your sketchbook a few times, and I have to say I’m beyond curious as to what has inspired you so much.”

 

Emma’s eyes looked at her book then back to Regina, then back to the book. Her face told Regina that she was deciding something.  “Emma, hey, it’s just me. There’s no expectations. If you don’t want to show me, I’m okay with that. I just hope one day you’ll feel like you can.” She hoped speaking of future interactions indicated that she wanted Emma to be in her life for the long haul. She couldn’t come out and directly say it, not with the cameras and the show still happening. She had to choose her words carefully.

 

She slowly approached Emma and sat on the bench next to her, their eyes meeting. “Hi.”

 

“Hi,” Emma softly replied.

 

“I’ve been looking forward to our date all day. I do have to say I am really not good at drawing though, so expect a lot of stick figures.” Emma’s lips curled up at the humour and Regina couldn’t help but smile in return; the heaviness of the past few minutes evaporated.  

 

“That’s okay, I can teach you.”

 

“Bail bondsman by day, drawing instructor by night.”

 

“Bail bondsperson.” Emma’s gestured to herself and Regina took the opportunity to look her body up and down. Emma blushed as Regina blatantly checked her out, then cleared her throat and continued. “I’ve been drawing my whole life. When I was a little kid, I started drawing things as a way to escape. It was kind of like if I could draw it, then I could see it. And if I could see it, then it existed and had to be real. So then I started drawing the life I wanted and I would draw and draw until my hands cramped. I’ve always loved it and even now I draw things that I want to make happen, a way of putting it out there in the universe, if you will. Mostly, I now draw places I want to visit, nothing special.”

 

Having seen Emma get passionate about something before this time was different: this was passion about something that was clearly a very guarded personal thing. “Have you ever shown off your work?”

 

Emma eye’s lowered and her face followed. “Nah, I doubt anyone would want to see it. It’s a hobby.”

 

“Well, I for one would love to see some of your work. Whenever you feel comfortable showing me, I’m there,” she tried to encourage.

 

Emma smiled, “Not yet, okay?”

 

“Okay.” Regina reached over and took Emma’s hand, that was currently fiddling with some drawing paper, “Teach me, Miss Swan.”

 

Regina heard Emma swallow. Either Emma had a teacher kink or she liked being ordered around, or perhaps both. She couldn’t wait to find out.

 

Emma was patient and ran through some of the basics of how to draw. “Everything starts with a basic shape,” she said, though Regina was having a hard time fully concentrating due to the fact that Emma’s hand was guiding her own through the drawing. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she would rather those hands do to her. Almost as if she could hear the dirty thoughts playing out in Regina’s head, Emma’s index finger began rubbing the webbing between her thumb and index finder.

 

“Where did you go?” Emma asked. Regina’s eyes looked up and saw that her pupils had dilated and her skin seemed to be flush. This intimate setting seemed to be affecting Emma as well.

 

Regina admitted without hesitation, “I started thinking about what I want and then I got a little lost in the dream.”    

 

“Do you want me to try and help you draw the dream?” Such an innocent question.

 

“No. No, it’s okay. I’ll concentrate on what we are drawing.” Regina squinted her eyes to look at the lines on the paper. “What are we drawing anyway?”

 

“What, you can’t tell yet?” Emma joked. When Regina shook her head, she just gave her a look and then focused back on the page.

 

After a few more strokes of the pencil, Regina thought she might be figuring out the scene. It was definitely outside, that had to be grass...oh, and yes, there was a tree. Soon they started drawing some more circles and triangles in the middle and Regina could see that they were meant to be people.

 

Regina gasped as she figured out the scene that was shaping up on the paper. Emma smiled and kept going. It wasn’t long until the drawing was finished. It wasn’t super detailed, had no colour, and there were definitely some errors that could have been fixed, but it was something they had done together and it was gorgeous.

 

“Emma! This is amazing!” She threw her arms around the blonde and hugged her, her emotions getting the better of her.

 

“You’re my favourite inspiration.” The words came out of Emma’s mouth and she almost looked surprised that she had said them. Regina looked at her and, before she could think about her actions, her hand was cupping her face. Emma leaned into her touch and she longed to kiss her, but Emma’s words ran through her mind. No, she wouldn’t give in and kiss her. She had to make sure Emma knew what she felt for her was real. She hoped that maybe in a few hours she would be freely kissing the woman and showing her the depth of her feelings.

 

Just as Regina’s thumb began to trace Emma’s lips, Emma’s eyes shot open and looked at the door that had opened. Their date was almost over. It hadn’t been enough time—she wanted more. She looked down at the drawing. “Can I keep this?”

 

“Of course you can, my majesty.”

 

They stood up from the benched and hugged. Regina’s face buried itself into Emma’s neck; she wanted to live in the woman’s scent or perhaps her arms. Wait, why couldn’t she have both?   

 

After Emma left the room, Regina picked up the drawing and smiled at it. They had drawn a beautiful image of Regina sitting atop a horse in some sort of royal wear, a crown on her head and a smirk on her face. Meanwhile, Emma was dressed in knight’s armour, bowing her head to her Queen, her hand stretched out grasping Regina’s.  

Chapter Text

The two dates earlier that evening had thoroughly convinced Regina she was making the right choice. Not that she had really had doubts before, but she knew without a doubt that she was falling in love with Emma. She hoped the feeling was mutual, but there was a tiny bit of her mind that suggested that it could be all some set up and that Emma really only cared about the fame she would gain from the show. Her heart, however—her heart knew that Emma had real feelings for her.

 

After her date with Emma, she had returned to her room, asked one of the crew to get her a frame, and then tucked the framed drawing into her suitcase so it wouldn’t get damaged. She smiled every time she saw it and couldn’t wait to get home to put it up in her bedroom. She hoped that there would soon be photographs of them on the wall next to the drawing.

 

She changed into the outfit she had chosen for the deciding ceremony. “The Choice” is what Gold kept calling it. She wanted to laugh because there really wasn’t a choice. Her heart had picked Emma the second their eyes met.

 

She looked into the mirror as she finished pulling on the black leather jacket over her red tank top. The jacket accompanied her black leather skirt and black, knee-high boots. She would ooze confidence and power this evening, but she also knew that the skirt made all those squats worth it. If anyone was behind her, there was only one thing they would be able to look at and she very much hoped to use that to her advantage.

 

Her hands felt clammy. She wasn’t sure why she was having anxiety—she was the one in control. But perhaps it was that fear of rejection that she had always felt gnawing away. She wiped her hands on the back of the chair in the room and double-checked her outfit. She would need to be touched up by the stylists, but that was standard.

 

As she was reaching the door handle to leave the room, a soft knock sounded. She opened the door and was pleased to see her sister’s smiling face on the other side. “Didn’t think I’d miss this, did ya?”

 

“Ugh, I had hoped.” She couldn’t even keep the smile off her face as she flung the insult.

 

“Yes, well you know it’s my job as your big sister to steer you in the right direction, but funny thing is, I don’t think you need any help tonight. I’ve seen the way you both look at each other. It’s disgusting really. I mean get a room already.” Zelena made a gagging noise as she finished, before she she turned serious. “Go get your girl.”

 

And with that, she shoved Regina in the direction of the courtyard. The final ceremony was going to take place in the same place where the daters had all arrived, some sort of sentimental thing she supposed. She smiled but grabbed Zelena’s hand and dragged her along to the courtyard.

 

The crew had placed tiny lights all over the space and it made the atmosphere feel far more intimate than it really was. Mal walked over to Regina—she seemed to be the only member of the crew that was calm. Everyone else was frantic in their tasks. She had missed this kind of chaos, this is how it felt every day on All Her Children . She still missed the show. Sure, it had been a few years, but she had basically grown up on that and it still hurt how they had just tossed her aside like she didn’t matter.

 

Regina was snapped out of the pit of despair and rejection her mind had started sliding into by Zelena’s voice. “God, watching all the people run around like ants is amazing. That kind of power must be intoxicating.”

 

Mal laughed and leaned a little closer to Zelena. “Oh, you have no idea.”

 

Regina watched as Mal called over her assistant and asked Zelena what kind of beverage she wanted. Zelena’s eye lit up as she gave the assistant a complicated coffee order and watched the man scurry away.

 

“Oh, this is fun. I could get used to this.” Regina rolled her eyes at her sister’s behaviour, but Mal seemed to approve and began to tell Zelena some of the crazy stories from the set. Regina slowly backed away from the two that seemed to have gotten lost in their own world.

 

She found where she needed to be; it wasn’t hard with the style team flagging her down. As soon as she sat down, they asked her what look she was going for this evening, though Regina had a suspicion they already had a look planned and were just placating her. When she was done, they finally allowed her to look in the mirror and the reflection almost made her gasp—she looked stunning. Her makeup a slightly darker shade than her normal, giving her a dark, dangerous look and her hair had been re-teased and given just a touch more curl at the end. To say that she looked stunning was an understatement. No one would forget that this was her show.

 

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“Are you ready to find out which one of the daters Regina has chosen?” Gold screamed into his microphone.

 

This really was it. Regina was standing in the courtyard next to Gold waiting for the host to finish his spiel. If anyone could zoom in on her hands, they would have seen them shaking. She was beyond nervous; she just wanted Gold to shut up so she could announce her winner and be done with this. She sat through another bit where he did a recap of the ones that hadn’t made it this far, then another recap of Robin and Emma’s dates with Regina. If the show wasn’t live, she would have sat in her room and waited for them to come and find her. She had lived the moments, she didn’t need a recap. She closed her eyes and waited.

 

She felt Gold place his hand on her shoulder and her skin crawled from where the creep was touching her. She opened her eyes to see that he was looking at her like he was expecting her so say something, but she hadn’t been listening. The awkward silence was brief before he reacted and asked her again, “Are you ready?”

 

“I am,” came her firm reply, the knots in her stomach becoming more prominent with each second.

 

And then it was time. She watched as Robin and Emma descended the stairs walking towards her. She prayed Emma wouldn’t fall this time, and smiled when she didn’t. Her eyes met Emma’s and she knew that Emma had been thinking about not falling as well. Emma then looked away after a strange look crossed her face. Regina frowned slightly. She then looked over at Robin who looked smug and confident, his eyes taking in every inch of her outfit. She had to fight back the urge to punch him for the action.

 

She took a deep breath, willing herself to say this with the right amount of confidence and tenderness in her voice. “It’s been an interesting few weeks. Getting to know you both has been wonderful, but as you know, I can only pick one.” She paused.

“Robin, you are a wonderful man, the way you speak of your son shows that you are an excellent father. You’re successful and handsome. I would be lucky to pick you.” She noticed him almost basking in the praise.

 

She looked at Emma—she almost looked on the verge of tears and it tore Regina’s heart apart. “Emma, you are the strongest, warmest, funniest, most heartfelt and real person I’ve ever met. Picking you would truly be an honour.” She waited for Emma’s eyes to find hers but when they stayed downcast she was concerned.

 

“Well, here’s the moment where we find out. Who do you choose Regina?” Gold was right next to her, that mic in her face again. She looked at Robin, then back to Emma. She took a step forward until she was right in front of both of them. She then let her eyes look at Emma a split second before she took a step closer to the blonde. She was close enough now to touch her. She reached out a trembling hand and touched Emma’s face, trying to guide her face up to look at her.

 

“It’s you Emma. I choose you,” Regina said softly. Emma’s eyes finally met with hers and the tears that had been struggling to stay in her ducts sprang free and began to drip down her face. Regina felt tears sliding down her face as well. She tried to wipe away some of Emma’s tears with her thumb, but as soon as one was gone it was replaced with another.

 

“Emma, talk to me. Please.”

 

“Why?” Emma’s voice sounded like it had physically pained her to speak the work.

 

Regina smiled and tried to project her feelings for her. “Emma, how could I choose anyone else after I met you?

 

“But Robin.” Her voice was a laced with a little more anger this time.

 

Regina glanced over to Robin, who had backed away from the pair slightly but looked angry. She ignored him and looked back at the woman she was definitely falling in love with. “Isn’t you. I want you, Emma Swan.”

 

“No, you don’t. I saw. I know what happened. I told you I wanted something real with you but here you are lying right to my face. I can’t do this.” Emma jerked away from Regina’s hands and ran back into the house, leaving a stunned Regina gaping after her.   

Chapter Text

Cora and Zelena had wrapped their arms around Regina as she stood in the courtyard shell-shocked. Robin had decided to inform them that he was still willing to give her a chance to pick him. Zelena and Cora shot him daggers with their eyes and he got the hint, leaving the family alone.

 

“I don’t understand,” Regina said between tears.

 

Cora let go of her daughters and her face grew darker. “Maybe it’s because she isn’t good enough for you. I knew there was something wrong with her.”

 

Zelena interrupted, “Mother, stop! Think about what she said, Regina. She said she saw something. What did she see, Regina?”

 

Regina sniffled and wiped her eyes, trying to hold it together as much as possible—they were still filming afterall. “I have no idea. I wasn’t lying to her, I would never. None of this makes sense.” Her head was spinning. She must have missed something somewhere. The connection to Emma was so real and so magnetic there was no way it was one sided. Her mind immediately went to the morning incident near the pool, that must have been the start, but Regina couldn’t think of a trigger. She was just as baffled by Emma’s reaction now as she had been that morning. She needed to talk to Mal, maybe she saw something.

 

Her attempts to talk with Mal had been delayed by Gold sticking that fucking microphone in her face and asking her how she felt. She wanted to scream because she felt confused, hurt, angry, rejected, but most of all she felt empty. Instead, she told Gold that she “needed some time to process her emotions, but she felt crushed.”  That seemed to be enough for him.

 

“Life is never a guarantee and feelings aren’t always returned. Poor Regina has learnt the hard way. Hopefully she can pull herself back together and move on. Tune in next week when we’ll have our post-show reactions and interviews. If tonight was anything to go by, those interviews will be delicious. I’m Robert Gold and this has been Love’s Callback ! Goodnight”

 

And with that, the show was over. Regina would go back to her apartment tomorrow and have nothing to do or anyone to spend time with until the following week with the reunion show. Zelena hooked her arm into Regina’s and led her over to Mal, who looked up with a look that couldn’t be called anything but pity.

 

“Regina, I’m so sorry. Sometimes these things happen and then in a few days she’ll realise her mistake and contact you.”

 

Regina shook her head. “I’m not waiting. I need to find out what she saw, what she thinks she saw that she thinks I’m lying about. I need to fix this. Help me.” She was almost pleading.

 

“I’m not sure how I can help. You can look through the feeds from that day, they’re all stored on the server.” Mal’s voice hinted at the sympathy she clearly was showing with her body language.

 

A thought popped into Regina’s mind when Mal mentioned the cameras in the house, “Why did you cut the feed today anyway?”

 

Mal seemed confused by the question. “I didn’t. They should have all been functioning.”

 

“They weren’t. I went to use the cameras in the control room this morning and nothing worked. I just assumed you cut the feeds for some reason.” Regina was starting to get worried that something nefarious was happening.

 

“I definitely didn’t, but that means that someone did—someone found out about the room. We need to check the server and make sure that footage is safe. Whatever she saw, I bet it is connected to whoever cut the feed.” Mal put on a determined face. “No one fucks with my show and gets away with it.”

 

Regina looked around the courtyard. She was going to update Cora, but her mother was nowhere to be found and neither was Robin. She hoped that meant he decided to grab his things and leave. Her mother disappearing was strange though. If she had to guess, she’d bet that Cora was currently begging Robin to give Regina another chance. She rolled her eyes at that thought.

 

Once they got to the control room, Mal began looking around, trying to see what was going on with the monitors and feed. Regina tried to help, but since the woman didn’t know a Cat5 cable from a USB, she knew she wouldn’t be any sort of help. Zelena stood near the door, and when Regina gave her a questioning quirk of the eyebrow, she informed both women that she was playing lookout.

 

After a few moments, Mal turned to Regina with a cord in her hand—the cord had clearly been cut. “Here’s our problem. Thankfully, I swapped out the patch cord and everything seems to be working now.”

 

Regina watched as Mal went back in the footage and found exactly what had happened. They all gasped as they watched the scene play out on the monitor in front of them. They watched as Robin opened the door then crouched down and sliced the cord. He clearly didn’t know the room was only a viewing room, not the server room.

 

“Why would he do that?” Regina asked to no one.

 

“That sneaky bastard. He always smelled like a forest rat to me,” Zelena snarked.

 

Mal chimed in, “I’m with Zee on this one. He only ever made that one face. I was sure you were going to dump him the first date.”

 

“So was I. Why didn’t you dump him?” Cora’s voice startled everyone in the room.

 

Regina turned around to face her mother. “I just wanted to make you happy. I knew you’d push for him, so I tried to make myself like him.”  

 

Cora hugged her in response. “Oh, my darling... I wanted you to be happy, that’s why I pushed for this show to happen. I thought it would get you back out there and maybe open your heart, show you that work isn’t everything. Yes, love is weakness, but we only grow stronger from learning about our weaknesses.”

 

Regina cried into her mother’s arms for the second time that night. At least this time, when she let go, her heart didn’t feel like it was ripping apart. She needed to solve this mystery, figure out what made Emma not trust her. “Where did he go from there? What did he do that he needed to cut the feed?”

 

Mal moved the corresponding cameras over and followed Robin’s movement. After the camera room, he went into Regina’s room. He rummaged through her room before finding her phone. They couldn’t quite tell what he was doing to it, but he hooked some kind of cord to it for a moment then disconnected it and left the room. They kept following him; it wasn’t enough evidence yet. As he walked down the hall from Regina’s room, he saw Emma. He looked back at Regina’s room then back at Emma and smiled that fucking cocky shit-eating grin.

 

“She thought, oh Emma.” Regina sighed. Now knowing what Emma had thought happened, she knew it could be fixed. A simple misunderstanding. Why didn’t Emma talk to her? Her heart hurt over that but knew once Emma found out the truth, they could learn and grow from this and bond even further.  

 

“I don’t get it,” Zelena blurted out after Regina stopped the video.

 

“She saw him come out of my room, in the morning.” The confused look on Zelena’s face told Regina she needed to spell it out. “She thought I had sex with him and he was leaving my room after spending the night with me. The next time she saw me was a few moments later when I went to the pool. Little did she know I was actually trying to wake up my sister that sleeps like the dead.”

 

“Oh. Well that makes sense that she would think that. No wonder she told you to sod off.” Zelena chuckled and Regina rolled her eyes. Her sister would find humour in this situation.

 

“We also need to figure out what he was doing with your phone and why,” Cora said, clearly thinking with her business mind at the moment. She seemed to sense Regina’s want to find Emma instead so she insisted on adding, “You can find the girl when you’re done.”

 

Regina went back to her room and checked her phone; it didn’t seem any different. She checked her emails: still there. She checked her photos, they all still were there. She couldn’t figure out what he had done with the phone.

 

She brought the phone back to the others and explained that it looked the same. Cora took the device and examined it herself. She didn’t seem to notice anything either, but she kept the phone to have it examined by a friend of hers in the FBI. Regina wasn’t sure if they would find anything, but all she wanted was to leave and find Emma. She didn’t know if she was still there or had immediately left the property, but she was hoping that the blonde was still packing.

 

Without another word, she ran out of the room and across the house to where the bedrooms had been. She threw open the door only to find it empty. She then ran back to the driveway, hoping Emma was there waiting for a car, but she wasn’t. Instead, she found Violet walking around the area. She asked the woman if she had seen Emma, and she confirmed the worst—Emma had left the property immediately after rejecting Regina. Before the show had gone off the air, she had already left Regina’s life.

 

She came back to the room and promptly cut off the others’ conversation. “I have to find her, explain what really happened. Mal, the casting people must have some address for her. Can you find it?”

 

“I can call them and ask,” Mal said as she pulled out her phone.

 

While she was on the phone, Regina looked at her mother and sister. She knew they were going to help fix this. She asked how soon the contact could look at her phone and Cora informed her they could swing by his office in the morning. Regina had forgotten that it was night. She wasn’t tired in the least, her adrenaline and heartbreak fueling her body and mind better than a can of Red Bull would have. She saw that Zelena looked tired though; she wasn’t sure how, since the woman hadn’t woken up until after noon.

 

Mal hadn’t been able to get a hold of anyone in casting due to the late hour and Regina knew that everyone else needed to sleep. She shooed everyone away while thanking them for their patience and help. She wanted to do her own research, but with the lack of computers in the house and her not wanting to risk using her phone, those hopes were dashed. Instead, Regina took a shower where she stood under the hot water and cried.



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The following morning was more productive than the previous evening. Mal was able to reach someone and forwarded the information to Zelena—who was apparently becoming her best friend—with the promise that she never be revealed as the source. Regina would need to tease her sister about that later but right now she needed her.  So with an address loaded into google maps, the sisters set out to find Emma Swan while Cora went to have Regina’s phone looked at.

 

It only took about two and a half hours before they pulled up to the address that Mal had given them. “This is her place?” Zelena asked as she looked out the window at the building. The bottom floor of the building was a diner and Emma supposedly lived right above. Zelena circled the block a few times before they found a parking spot. Regina got out of the car and looked at the place where Emma lived. She felt Zelena hook her arm in hers and start to pull her in the direction of the building.

 

As they reached the door to Emma’s apartment, Regina pulled away from Zelena. She understood—Regina needed to do this herself. She needed Emma to know the truth in her words, and if that failed, Zelena had the video evidence that proved Regina’s innocence. She walked up to the door and knocked. Silence. She knocked again. More silence. She rang the buzzer. Nothing.

 

“Where else would she be?” she asked aloud as she pressed her palm to the door, silently willing Emma to suddenly open the door.

 

Zelena thought for a second before asking, “Did she mention any friends or family? Maybe she went to stay with one of them?”

 

“She’s an orphan but she did mention her friend Ruby that works on the show.” Regina wished she had had more time to talk to Emma, find out more about her background and friends.

 

Zelena was furiously typing into her phone. “Perfect.” Before Regina had a chance to ask what had happened, Zelena laughed—well, more like cackled. “Ruby works in the casting department. She probably gave us fake information, or told Emma we were coming.”

 

“And she ran. Again.” Regina sighed; she knew she wouldn’t find Emma. Emma would need to be the one to reach out and that wasn’t going to happen. The only other opportunity was in a week for the reunion show. She doubted Emma would appear for the show, but she hoped that she would. Until then, she had to plan for if she did.

 

She and Zelena drove back to her apartment, which was only a few blocks away. Regina checked on the status of her phone; Cora was going to meet them at her apartment to inform her of the news and that worried Regina.

 

Cora’s news wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was still rather disturbing. Robin had cloned Regina’s phone, including the encrypted files that contained all of her passwords and personal data. She immediately checked her bank accounts—her account information had been on the phone. The colour from her face drained as she saw that her bank accounts, which should have had almost half a million dollars in them, now contained a combined three dollars. Her investment account had been cashed out and closed. He had stolen all of her money. Her mind went to how she would afford to live with no money and no potential job offers. She was lucky that her apartment had been purchased and not leased, but she still had bills relating to the place that she would need to pay. She tried not to panic, but as she began to cry, another emotion took over: anger. She would not let this bastard win. She wasn’t going to sit here and cry, no, she was going to get revenge. “Mother, can you call that FBI contact again?”

 

Chapter Text

The FBI agent Cora had contacted was more than a little interested in the information about Robin and he agreed to help them immediately. As it turned out, the FBI had already been investigating him for embezzlement from his non-profit but they hadn’t been able to find concrete evidence. Hopefully, now having a money trail would help. He apologised to Regina for not being able to bring him in before he had stolen all of her money, but he hoped that she would be able to get the money back after he was tried in the courts. Sadly, she knew that was going to take several months—if not years—and, until then, she had to rely on her family. She cringed.

 

After the meeting with the agent, Regina went back to her apartment and tried to call Ruby herself. She wanted to talk to her and maybe convince her to get Emma to speak to her. It didn’t work; Emma wouldn’t even give her five minutes. The sting of rejection hurt, but she knew that Emma must have felt so betrayed and humiliated. She didn’t really blame her for ignoring her. She thought back to their last date and how sad Emma looked. She also thought about what she had said about putting things out into the world. She found some blank pieces of paper and started drawing.

 

Drawing became Regina’s new obsession. She kept drawing and drawing, willing the universe to grant her one small wish. She had never been one to wish on stars as a girl, and as she got older, she never believed that things happened for a reason. Things happened because you made them happen, luck and chance played no part in it. But as she drew, she suddenly began to believe that Emma was right: if you put something out there, then maybe, just maybe, it would become reality.

 

As the days went by and the reunion show grew closer, Regina grew more and more confident that Emma would show up. She had to believe, this one time in her life she was placing all of her faith in the universe and she knew in her heart it would deliver. Her mother kept her apprised of the investigation, while Zelena came over every day to make sure she was fed. Ursula, the network head, had called several times—the show had been an absolute hit. Social media couldn’t get enough of the bickering between the daters that had happened when Regina wasn’t around. The ending of the show had spawned several twitter hashtags that had been the top worldwide trends for almost an entire day. Of the hashtags, Ursula mentioned she had to admit that her favourite was their ship hashtag #SwanQueen. Social media had designated her a Queen and had really taken a shine to her. Multiple news outlets had asked for interviews, but she postponed them all until after the reunion show.

 

It was the day before the reunion show when Regina received an excited call from the FBI agent. “We got him, and my god, we got him for good.”

 

Regina wasn’t quite sure what the agent meant and when she asked for clarification, he told her everything that he was allowed to tell her. Robin had not only stolen from her, but it seemed he had stolen from multiple women he had dated. He had funneled the money through his charity and used it himself to live a rather lavish life. He also told her that he was the prime suspect in a murder. He couldn’t give more details than that at the moment, but he promised that she was in no danger due to him having been arrested and then denied bail.

 

She slumped back into the chair she had been sitting in, one problem in her life was at least fixed. Now she just needed to think of how to fix the other one. She called Ruby again; she was sure Ruby was sick of hearing from her, but she needed to talk with her. She told Ruby about the situation with Robin, though she gave only the basic details so as to not do anything to compromise the investigation. Ruby’s voice after hearing where Robin was currently sitting, and how it had been a result of him breaking into her room, seemed to leave the woman stunned. Apparently, she hadn’t believed Regina’s story until now. She asked Ruby to pass along the information to Emma, and to ask Emma to please appear on the reunion show.

 

She hoped Emma would listen, but she also had the confidence from putting it out in the universe. It also didn’t hurt that Zelena promised to “drag Emma’s sorry ass to the reunion, if it was the last thing she did”. It was nice to know that her family seemed to be supportive of where she was in life at the moment and she had also noticed that Cora hadn’t made a single biphobic remark since arriving at the set.




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The drive back to the estate they filmed on seemed to take longer than it had the first time, even though it was the exact same route. Regina’s mouth seemed to be filled with bile and every time she swallowed it felt as if there was a golf ball sitting in her throat. She hadn’t been this nervous since she came out to her mother.

 

As the car pulled up to the driveway, Regina saw the familiar chaos around the house. This time she didn’t think about how she had missed it—she hadn’t. This time, she thought about how her focus hadn’t been on her career since the moment she laid eyes on Emma Swan. Her heart had taken over and had changed what Regina hoped to gain from this show. Sure, it had been a hit and there was definitely talk about what her next project could possibly be, but in the end, her heart had actually pushed all of that away and told her exactly what she really wanted.

 

“You ready?” Zelena asked her.

 

“I am. Let me know when they want the shot.” Zelena had been texting with Mal the entire ride, giving updates on their arrival. It seemed the two were becoming the best of friends, perhaps something more though with the way Zelena’s face blushed every time they talked. She also hadn’t heard anything about Zelena’s fiancé in a few days. She would ask about that later, because now it was time to get out of the car.

 

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“This is Love’s Callback, the reunion. I’m your host Robert Gold! Tonight we have asked all of the daters back and hopefully they’ll spill some secrets from the house. We’ll also find out the news that shocked everyone. Then later, we’ll talk with Regina and Emma about that bombshell finale. Have they reunited, or was Emma’s decision final? Find out next on the Callback’s Callback!

 

“And cut! We’re on commercial!” Mal yelled out to the crew. Mal called over to make sure all of the daters who had shown up were ready to go, while Regina had been in her own green room. She would appear on the second half of the show, since the first half was all about the daters.

 

After a makeup retouch and a few practice lines, the commercial break was ending. As the countdown sounded around the set, Gold took his place and held the mic to his mouth.

 

“Welcome back! Our first dater didn’t even make it to the first date. Let’s find out what went wrong, it’s Killian Jones.” Gold asked a few questions of the man and then moved on to next dater, August. Then one by one all of the daters except for Emma and Robin were brought out. They were all asked softball questions about their thoughts on Regina and how they felt when they found out about the livestream. Gold tried to up the drama when he asked about an argument that had taken place between Marian and Elsa, but the women seemed to have to worked out their issues.

 

The next commercial break came and it was almost time for Regina to join the show. she had been watching the show on the television in the green room. She laughed at some of the stories they told that she hadn’t witnessed. She was glad that everyone seemed to be getting along, with the exception of Killian, who sat in his chair and glared. After today, she hoped to never see the man again.

 

She walked out to the edge of the set; she looked over at Mal and waited for the signal. After Gold did a brief reintroduction, she was given the signal and walked out on to the set. She gave each of the daters a hug before sitting in the plush chair that had been reserved for her.

 

“Hello, Regina, how are you feeling one week after the finale?” Gold asked her. She knew he was trying to dig for something, so she played along.

 

“I’m doing okay,” she lied.

 

“Oh, come now, Regina, tell us how you really are feeling. You were dumped—surely that must have hurt.” She felt her heart constrict with every word that emerged from his mouth.

 

“I never said I wasn’t hurt, but I’m not going to let myself be completely crushed by a misunderstanding that I can hopefully remedy this evening.” Regina was a self-assured badass and would never let herself be devastated by anyone, yet even she didn’t quite believe that she wasn’t actually completely broken by Emma’s rejection.

 

“You just might have that chance, but first let’s show the viewers a recap of the finale.” She looked away as he spoke; she didn’t want to watch this after living it. Instead, she closed her eyes and thought of happier things, like her plans for the next tiny hamster furniture she would build. Soon, she heard Gold talking. She focused on what he was saying and felt her breath hitch.

 

“The woman who broke Regina Mills’ heart, Emma Swan.” It had only been a week, but just seeing the woman brought relief to her soul. She had had nightmares over the past week about Emma’s well-being. Some nights Emma had been murdered, some nights she had been tortured, and then some nights she was the one torturing Regina.

 

Emma slowly approached the chair next to Regina and sat down without looking at her; Regina couldn’t stop staring though. She felt herself start to tear up and knew she needed to clear her thoughts. Deep breaths, inhale, exhale... A few seconds was all that she needed to clear the emotions and slip the professional mask back on.

 

Gold cut right to the point, “So Emma, would you care to tell the world what made you reject Regina? You said she lied and then ran away, what did she lie about?”

 

Emma shifted in her chair, clearly uncomfortable with the directness of the question. “Maybe you should ask Regina, she’s the one that was lying.” The words were harsh but the tone was laced with defeat more than anything else.

 

All eyes suddenly back on her, Regina knew this was her chance. “At first, I didn’t know what Emma was talking about. But then I figured it out, and it was a misunderstanding.” Emma made a sighing noise and Regina paused for a moment before continuing, “I’d like to show you a video, Emma. This video will clear everything up.”

 

“And let’s go to video.” Gold signalled to the tv monitor next to him.

 

Regina kept her eyes on Emma as the video began. She watched as Emma took in what really happened, her eyes going wide as she saw Robin go into Regina’s room after she had already left. When the video showed him coming out of the room and his encounter with Emma, her head turned and faced Regina.

 

“You weren’t lying,” she whispered, “I’m...I’m such an idiot.” Her hands came up to cover her face.

 

“Well, you won’t hear me disagree with you on that point, but I wasn’t lying Emma. Nothing between us has been a lie.” She reached her hand over and placed it on Emma’s shoulder. When she didn’t look up, Regina tried coaxing her to look. She moved her hand to Emma’s and tried to pry it from her face. After a slight bit of resistance, Emma finally moved her hands from her face and gazed up at Regina.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me this sooner? I was so mad at you. I wanted to believe you, but I couldn’t take it. Every time I saw him, he made little remarks about the two of you together and I stupidly believed him. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.” Emma’s hand had found its way into Regina’s and Regina squeezed gently.

 

“I understand what it looked like and why you believed it, but in the future just talk to me.” Regina smiled as Emma’s eyes snapped up and they connected with hers. Emma looked as hopeful as she felt. “I have a present for you.”

 

One of the crew brought over a rolled up piece of paper, which Regina then placed into Emma’s hand, the one that hers wasn’t currently holding. “Emma, I hope that you can forgive the misunderstanding that happened between us, and I hope that you still believe that drawing what you want encourages the universe to make it happen.”

 

Regina let go of Emma’s hand so that she could unroll the paper. Emma gasped as she looked at the images on the piece of paper. It was a drawing of the two of them, wrapped in each others arms, sharing a passionate kiss. “My feelings for you have always been real, and I know this environment isn’t the best place to foster that fact, so will you start over with me? Go on a date with me after all of this is over. No cameras, no directors, no other daters... just you and me?”

 

“Only if you answer one question first: when did you get so good at drawing?” Emma asked and Regina chuckled.

 

“I had some time to practice. When you’re an out of work actress, time is abundant. That and I had a good teacher. It’s all about the shapes right?” Regina smirked—she missed their banter. “So what do you say, Miss Swan?”

 

Emma’s answer was, of course, a yes. The other daters that had been basically forgotten about all clapped and cheered. Gold even smiled what appeared to be a genuine smile. They sat holding hands for the rest of the show, which was mostly a wrap up of the funniest moments from the show. Emma hid her face in her hand again when they showed her tripping down the stairs, but Regina just squeezed their clasped hands.

 

After the final yell of, “Cut! That’s a wrap!” Regina turned to Emma.“I meant every word I said, Emma. This is real.” Emma smiled—it was breathtaking and her heart felt so full. “When can I pick you up for our date?”

 

Chapter Text

Emma paced around her apartment. She couldn’t sit still, not after everything that had happened over the last few days. She had gone from feeling betrayed and alone, to embarrassed and guilty, then finally to hopeful and happy. The reunion show had opened her eyes to how she always expected the worst of people. It was something she had done most of her life, but hadn’t really considered why or how that could be detrimental in her life. Emma had examined why exactly she had just assumed the lie Robin had presented her with was the truth and had let her mind run with it, causing her heart to run away as well.

 

It wasn’t until two days after the reunion show that she got a very interesting message from Ruby, which changed her life once again. The text from Ruby simply said, “I met your parents.” She had thought it a joke at first, but when Ruby didn’t follow up the text with some sarcastic remark or, well, anything, other than a “call me asap,” she started to have an anxiety attack.

 

“Explain.” She kept all emotion out of her voice—her heart wouldn’t let her have any hope of this being true. She had given up hope of having a family after her third foster family, the one that routinely forgot to feed her. They thought having four children share the same twin-size bed was acceptable. They also made sure to constantly remind her that she had been unwanted and abandoned. It was also the first time that Emma understood what real pain was. Her foster parents had given her several marks that still scarred her body and served as an everyday reminder that she was never meant to have a family.

 

“Emma, they saw your show. They saw you and they knew. They contacted me a few weeks ago but I didn’t want to say anything, not until I was sure it was true. The DNA results came back; it’s true, Emma. It’s them.”

 

Emma almost dropped her phone. She knew her best friend would never make something like this up, yet she found the story hard to believe. “What...what are you saying right now?”

 

“I found them, Em, I really did. They want to meet you and tell you the truth.”

 

“The truth? You mean the truth of how they abandoned me the day I was born? The truth of how they didn’t love or want me and thought that leaving me in front of a firehouse was the best thing for me? I already know that truth, Ruby, and I don’t need to hear it from someone else I don’t know.” She almost hung up on her best friend but something in the back of her mind stopped her from hitting the button—something that said this was different, and to just wait.

 

Ruby sighed into the phone then quietly said, “Emma, that’s not what happened. Just trust me. Me, your best friend. I wouldn’t lie to you, you know this. Just please, let them explain. It’ll be worth it.”

 

And Emma reluctantly agreed to meet with the strangers claiming to be her parents. She had decided that this afternoon would be the best, that way she could get the stench of disappointment and anger their lies would certainly bring off of her before her date with Regina the following evening. Since the reunion show, she and Regina had been texting, and facetiming almost nonstop. Emma couldn’t believe that Regina had given her another chance after her stupidity. She knew that she couldn’t waste this chance, this precious chance to get to know the woman that amazed her at every turn.

 

She decided to focus during the time she had before the meeting with the two strangers and plan her outfit for tomorrow. She didn’t want to leave it until the last minute—she knew it needed to be special and wanted it to grab Regina’s attention. Regina had asked her if she could plan their official first date since Emma had planned the one on the show and the others had all been planned by the crew of the show. She wasn’t sure what was planned. Regina wanted it to be a surprise and she believed that whatever she had picked was going to be perfect.

 

This was what lead to Emma having emptied her closet out and scattered her clothing around the room. She had tried on every shirt she owned at least twice and had narrowed her choices to the final three. She wondered if Regina had felt this much anxiety when she was trying to pick someone to date. The sound of her phone’s alarm echoed through Emma’s apartment; it was time to go meet the strangers.

 

After throwing on a tank top and her red leather jacket, she walked down the stairs of her building and into the diner that was on the bottom floor. She found a booth and sat down. She was early and decided to order a coffee while she waited. Ruby’s grandmother, the one that owned the aptly named Granny’s, walked over and personally took her order. She placed her hand on Emma’s shoulder for a moment as she returned with the cup of coffee. Clearly Ruby had spilled the beans about the meeting.       

 

“I’ll be okay. Promise.” She tried to sound confident, her nerves scratching at her throat gave away just enough that Granny squeezed her shoulder.

 

“Just make sure you call me if you need me to get rid of them for you.” Granny smiled at Emma, but she knew just how protective the woman could be and she knew that Emma was included in her circle of those she protected.

 

She checked her phone as she waited. She wished Regina would text her, but she had been busy today and didn’t really have the time. Regina had been a little coy with what she had been busy with, but she insisted it was because she didn’t want to jinx anything and that Emma would know as soon as she did.

 

The feel of someone staring at her made Emma look up from her phone. There was a woman with short dark hair and a man with blonde hair staring at her from the doorway of the diner. This was it then, she supposed. She wasn’t sure if she should stand or keep sitting, so instead, she gave them an awkward wave. They looked visibly relieved as they walked over to her table. She gestured at the seats across from her and they sat down.

 

“So, uh, Ruby tells me you guys were looking for me.” God, this was so awkward already, Emma wanted to just bolt and go back upstairs but she couldn’t help the curiosity that had formed about these two.

 

“Oh, Emma! We looked for you since the day you were born. We never stopped looking.” The woman tried to reach out her hands and put them onto Emma’s but she was faster and pulled her hand back, much to the other woman’s disappointment.

 

The guy with the blonde hair decided to interject, “I know this is all out of the blue, but why don’t we explain everything and then we’ll answer any questions you might have after that?” Emma nodded and looked at them expectantly with her arms crossed over her chest. “We got a little excited to see you and didn’t actually introduce ourselves and I’m sorry for that. This is Mary Margaret and my name is David.”

 

The two of them told Emma the story of how she had come to be an infant in a basket in front of the firehouse. It turned out her parents had fallen in love during college and decided to get married. They then moved back to the small town David was from so that he could take over the family business. His father had made enemies during his time running the company and one of them had decided that kidnapping Snow—which was apparently Mary Margaret’s nickname— and David’s child would be the perfect revenge. What the kidnapper didn’t expect was that the police would actually come looking for him on an unrelated charge of harassment towards an ex. In a panic, he had left Emma with someone else, someone they still didn’t know the identity of. The police never knew that he had taken an infant from the hospital and run with the child. It hadn’t been until recently that a private detective Snow and David had hired years ago had discovered the connection.

 

They then told her that the story she had told America on Regina’s show, the one about being brought to a fire station and left, also hadn’t been true. No children had been reported as found for the next eight months after Emma had been taken. In fact, she had never been reported as a found child so they could never have tracked her through the foster system because they didn’t know she had been in the system. They had never been able to find her because there had been no trace of her. They kept looking, kept hoping... even kept the PI on the case for many many years until the man retired. It hadn’t been until they saw Emma on the tv one night and heard her back story that they had finally found her. Snow had started crying and a panicked David rushed to the room. Snow had known instantly that she was the daughter they had been looking for all of those years.

 

Snow had immediately reached out to the show but had been shut down due to privacy concerns. Thankfully, David’s work had given him many powerful connections and he was able to pass a message on to the casting director, who then talked to Ruby. Ruby had been skeptical at first, but had given them some hair strands as long as they promised to give her the results first to make sure that Emma wasn’t involved in anyone trying to take advantage of her.

 

Emma slumped in the seat, taking in all the information that had just been given to her. Her entire life had been a lie. She wasn’t an orphan, she hadn’t been abandoned, and she was wanted. Her parents—no, she couldn’t call them that yet—the people, they sat across from her with tears in their eyes, looking at her expectantly. She wondered if they thought she would just fling herself at them and call them mom and dad. It wasn’t happening, not today at least.

 

“I...I’m going to need some time to process this. I can’t right now, okay?” She stood up from the table.

 

Snow reached out again, her hands hanging in mid air, as if unsure they should continue to their destination. “Emma, we don’t expect anything, okay? We love you and we’ve missed you. We just want you to be our daughter.” Snow’s voice broke and she couldn’t contain the tears.

 

Emma’s mouth moved a few times, but no sound came out. Instead, she felt her feet start to move and they wouldn’t stop. She ran probably three miles before she realised she had actually run away from them. She stopped in the middle of the street and put her hands on knees. She felt the fear and panic running through her body and, as if on autopilot, she took her phone out and called Regina. When Regina answered, it took Emma a second to realise why she heard her voice.

 

“Emma, is everything okay? Emma, are you there?” Regina’s voice sounded a little more panicked as she received no reply.

 

“I didn’t mean to call you. I’m sorry.” She felt slightly embarrassed. She had no idea why she called Regina and had no idea what to say now that she was on the phone.

 

“I’m actually glad you did, I missed your voice, but is everything alright? You sound distant.” Emma could hear the concern and questions in Regina’s voice and she couldn’t help it, her emotional walls broke just a bit, but enough for all of the day’s events to come spilling out of her mouth.

 

She stood leaning against a building on a street she didn’t know the name of and told Regina all about the meeting. She told her how she wanted to lash out at them, how she couldn’t trust them, how she wanted to believe them but still ran... Everything. And Regina stayed mostly quiet, only adding an occasional word every now and then so Emma knew she was still listening. She felt her back sliding down the building and was now sitting on the ground as she waited for Regina’s reaction. Softly and gently, Regina reassured her. She told her everything Emma needed to hear: that they needed to earn her trust, that springing this on her suddenly wasn’t quite fair, and that she had every right to every single emotion she felt. As she sat there listening to Regina’s voice, she knew right there that she needed Regina in her life.

 

“Where are you right now?” Regina asked and Emma stood up to look at the street sign on the corner. When she read the signs, she received laughter in reply. “Emma, that’s where I live. Let me put some shoes on and I’ll come down.”

 

Emma blinked and couldn’t believe the coincidence; part of her thought somehow it was fate. She brushed that feeling off because fate was a bitch and she never believed in that anyway. It was no more than two minutes before she saw Regina walking towards her—she really did live right there.

 

“Emma,” Regina said softly and embraced her. God, holding her like this felt so good, she almost felt like this was where she belonged. Emma pulled back slightly and just looked at Regina. She had wanted so much to kiss this woman for weeks, but she had only wanted to do so when she knew things between them were real. Now, standing here looking at her, she couldn’t think about anything else. She let her eyes drop to Regina’s lips and she watched as Regina quickly took a breath in and parted them. She looked back up at Regina’s eyes and found them staring at her mouth, Emma’s heart made the decision before her mind could betray her. Emma closed the gap and almost moaned at how soft Regina’s lips were, this felt so right. Regina didn’t hesitate for a second. As soon as their lips touched, she pulled Emma closer, wrapping her arms tighter around Emma.

 

The kiss was emotional, but not overwhelming. Both women seemed to be content in just enjoying the feel of the other. Regina was actually the first to pull back and Emma slowly opened her eyes, smiling at her.

 

“I thought we were waiting until our date for that?” Regina asked with a shy smile.

 

Emma countered, “I never said we had to wait that long, but I’m glad we waited until after the show.”

 

“Speaking of our date, would you like to know what we’re doing, or would you like to keep it a surprise?” Regina readjusted her hold so that their fingers were interlocked and she started pulling them in the direction of her apartment. Emma was more than willing to be lead.

 

“Hmm, I think I like the surprise angle. Where are we headed anyway?”

 

Regina responded with only a smile and then pulled her into a building lobby. The concierge in the lobby greeted Regina by name and she waved to the man. Once inside the elevator, the silence was thick but it was far from awkward. The two had the same idea as their fingers, which had never separated, squeezed the others at the same time. They both giggled slightly.

 

“Regina Mills giggling, that is something I never thought I’d hear.” Regina just glared at her in response. “Aww, come on, it’s cute. Maybe your next role should be as a giggling school girl, and you can’t stop giggling. The teachers claim to hate it, but like, they secretly love it because it’s super cute and, well, you’re super cute too.”

 

“Are you done?” Emma realised that Regina was looking at her with her eyebrow cocked and a hand gesturing at the open elevator door. She never knew that someone cocking their eyebrow could be so sexy until this moment. She was about to open her mouth to state this fact until Regina pulled her by the hand out of the elevator. Regina just shook her head.

 

They approached a white door with the number 108 on it and Regina fished her keys out of her pocket with her free hand. With a simple click, the two entered the apartment. Regina led her to the kitchen and asked if she wanted a drink. When she offered a water, Emma jokingly asked if she had anything stronger. Regina did, and the two found themselves sitting at Regina’s kitchen table nursing glasses of cider.

 

Emma took a drink of the cider, nodding her head in approval, then started, “Look, I know I kissed you earlier, but would it be okay if we slowed down a little? My mind is all...” she made a twisting gesture at her head, “it’s all jumbled and stuff. Can we just talk? Is that alright?” Emma asked with her eyes downcast, focusing on the drink.

 

Regina reached over and grasped her hand, “I told you before, I want something real as well and we can go at whatever speed we need. There’s no pressure and no expectations here. If you’re not comfortable with something, just tell me.”

 

“That goes for you too, okay?”  

 

The two sat and talked about Emma’s parents and her feelings on the matter. Regina helped formulate a plan for slowly getting to know them. Emma then asked to hear about Regina’s parents and her childhood. Regina was more than happy to talk about her father and even showed Emma his picture. Emma wasn’t sure, but she thought that if they had to call this a date, it would have been the best one she had ever had.

 

After two glasses of cider, Emma decided she needed to call it a night and head back to her own apartment. She claimed it was to “keep some mystery on their date”, but in reality she felt a touch bad for dumping all of her emotional baggage on Regina and wanted to go home and take some of her feelings out on her Ben & Jerry's and PS4. She hugged Regina goodnight and promised her that she was still over the moon excited for their date the following evening.

Chapter Text

As soon as Emma had left her apartment, Regina set out to find out exactly who David and Snow were and if their story was true. She felt she needed to protect Emma and she had some connections that could possible help to weed out any sort of scam or trouble. She called her mother and asked her if she had heard of the pair, neglecting to mention anything about Emma quite on purpose.

 

“Do I know them? How do you not know them?” Cora mused over the phone. “Put their names into Google and I promise you’ll realise you know them when the results pop up.”

 

Regina did as her mother suggested and when the Wikipedia pages for David and Mary Margaret Nolan appeared, she put the phone down on her desk. She clicked through the pages and it was all right there: the story of how David had taken over his father’s business and helped turn it from a multi-million dollar candy company to an almost billion dollar a year conglomerate, the story of Snow’s child being kidnapped from the hospital, the search for baby Emma, the foundation set up in Emma’s name, and now the possibility that Emma Swan was their long lost daughter. Regina saw that Emma had her own Wikipedia page but resisted the impulse to click on it. She rather enjoyed finding out about Emma from Emma’s own mouth. She picked the phone back up from her desk and resumed the conversation with her mother.

 

“That was not at all the story I was expecting,” Regina informed her.

 

Cora then went about interrogating Regina about the reason for the questions and eventually Regina mentioned they might be Emma’s long lost parents. She knew that if Cora was on the fence about accepting Emma in Regina’s life, this small nugget of information would push her over the edge. She knew she was right when Cora said, “You had to go and find the person that would surpass even my wildest expectations. You know how to make a mother proud.”

 

“Mother, even if she wasn’t the only child of an extremely wealthy couple, I would hope you’d be proud of me.” It was times like this that she felt like a small child, begging for her mother to love her. She knew that her mother’s approval changed nothing, but she still craved the validation.

 

“Oh, Regina, I was expecting you to pick Miss Swan from the first moment you two interacted,” she said, like it wasn’t a huge bombshell she was dropping.

 

“Wait, really?” The shock evident in Regina’s voice.

 

“Of course, I’m not blind. The way you two look at each other reminded me of how your father and I looked at each other. I knew the moment you saw her that you would choose her. I’m sorry if you felt I wasn’t supportive. I suppose I really wasn’t, but I also didn’t want you to not choose her because I supported her.”

 

“I wouldn’t have done that,” Regina countered.

 

Cora laughed, “Right. Of course not.”

 

Regina knew her mother was correct—whoever Cora had favoured would not have been her pick simply to spite her mother. When did her mother start understanding her so well?



---------

 

The black town car pulled up in front of Emma’s apartment and Regina stepped out into the crisp night air. She was having second thoughts about not wearing a jacket over her dress, but it was too late and she wouldn’t be outside for very long. She knocked on Emma’s door and heard what sounded like someone tripping, followed by a few curse words. She held in her laughter as the door swung open, then her jaw dropped.

 

“Shit. I’m underdressed, aren’t I?” Emma looked down at her outfit and turned to walk back into her apartment. Regina grabbed her by the arm and she turned around. “Emma you look perfect.”

 

Emma pointed to Regina’s form-fitting, blue, sleeveless dress. “But you’re dressed so formally. You told me to dress casual. That dress is not casual at all.”

 

“I may have gone a little more on the formal side, but believe me, what you’re wearing is more than adequate. And besides, I wanted to dress up for you.” Regina licked her lips as she allowed her eyes to wander over Emma’s skinny jeans and black button down.

 

Emma swallowed audibly and felt herself relax knowing that Regina really did approve of her outfit. It wasn’t everyday you got to go on a date with a celebrity, though she hoped that it would eventually become a frequent occurrence in her life.  

Regina held out her hand. “Shall we?” Emma took the offered hand and they headed to the waiting car.

 

Whatever Emma had been expecting for their date, this was definitely not it. The bright neon sign for an arcade lit up the building and the window front that stood before them. Emma looked at Regina then back to the arcade. “Are we in the right place?”

 

“We are. I hope this meets with your approval?” Regina smiled at Emma and Emma wasn’t quite sure if her smile or the sign was brighter.  

 

“An arcade? Are you kidding me? This is amazing!” Emma was almost jumping up and down from the excitement running through her veins.

 

They walked into the arcade, which also happened to have a five-star chef that served some of the finest cuisine in all of North America. The two decided to order food and drinks, wine for Regina and a lager for Emma, then play some games until their meals came.

 

----------

“How have you never played Virtua Cop? Have you ever been in an arcade?” Emma whined.

 

Regina sadly said, “We didn’t really have a lot of machines on set, and I didn’t really have a lot of time to socialise as a child actor.”

 

“Shit. I’m sorry. I guess now is the best time to learn?” Emma knew that she should have thought of this and remembered that Regina didn’t have the typical childhood experience.

 

“Teach me,” Regina responded, her voice having dropped a octave.

 

It took Emma a second to process the command. “Right. Okay so you need to hold the gun like a real gun and—wait, no, not like that.” Emma knew she couldn’t explain it since apparently Regina was the only person in the world that held the gun controllers wrong.

 

“Maybe you should stand behind me and guide me,” Regina suggested.

 

As soon as Emma’s body was behind her, she backed up, making contact with Emma. She hoped that her attempts at flirting were being understood. When Emma pushed her body even closer and ran her hands down Regina’s arms until they came to rest on her hands, she knew that they were on the same wavelength. The two attempted to play the shooter game but both were far too distracted by the feel of the other’s touch. When the waitress informed them that their food had been brought to the table reserved for them, they reluctantly separated.

 

In the middle of eating a truffle fry, Emma seemed to realise something. “Wait. You’ve totally held a gun before. You had that whole plot where you kidnapped the old guy because he was blackmailing your girlfriend, but it turned out the information he had was about her twin sister and not even her at all.”

 

With a sly grin she replied, “Busted.”

 

Emma dipped another fry into her aioli. “I like your style Mills. A+.”

 

-----

 

After the arcade, the two had taken a walk that had led them to a door. Regina stopped in front of it. “Up for a drink?”

 

“Uh sure, I think there was a bar a block over.” She pointed with her thumb behind her.

Regina walked to the door and then looked back. “Come, Miss Swan.” Emma was pretty sure she melted right there on the sidewalk.

 

Upon entering the building, Emma turned back and looked at the door they had just walked through. She thought she had found the Tardis for just a moment—the inside of the place was huge. There was a giant, wooden dance floor with a glass chandelier above it, next to the dance floor was a piano where a man sat playing a tune that sounded vaguely familiar, and to the right was a massive bar with several patrons nursing various drinks.

 

“Welcome to where I grew up.” Regina held her arms out and looked around the room. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been here, but it doesn’t seem to have changed much. Before you ask, I didn’t live here. The cast of All Her Children used to come here almost every night and decompress. Unless you know about this place you can’t find it, and for overworked soap actors that is a godsend.”

 

Emma tried to imagine a teenage Regina hanging out in this place and wondered what kind of trouble she had been exposed to and had avoided. Since she couldn’t really imagine Regina getting into any trouble, she decided to ask about the antics of the cast back then and how they treated their teenage costar. Regina insisted that they had been like a protective family and kept her away from anything like drugs or even alcohol, her beverages had been strictly non-alcoholic. Regina also revealed that she had never told another soul about this place, let alone brought anyone here. Emma knew that this was a huge show of trust. The two ordered several drinks and talked more about Regina’s life on a soap, and Emma told interesting stories from her job.

 

When it seemed that both had decided they had had enough alcohol—neither wanted to get drunk—they decided to take another walk out in the fresh air. When Regina started shivering slightly due to the chilly air, Emma wrapped an arm around her side and smiled as Regina snuggled closer. After what seemed like only a ten minute walk, Emma started to recognise the area. They were now on the street Regina lived on.

 

“Are you ready to call it a night?” Emma whispered in to Regina’s ear.

 

“Why? You tired of me already?” Regina laughed when Emma tried to backtrack and explain why she asked the question. “If you’re up to it, I’ll let you walk me to my door. You never know what kind of people could be lurking in the halls.”

 

“I am one hundred percent up for it.” Emma puffed out her chest slightly, her hero complex getting a boost.

 

Both Emma and Regina waved to the desk concierge as they made their way up to Regina’s. “Well, here you are. No suspicious people in sight. I think it’s safe to enter.” Emma gave a mock salute as she gave her rundown.

 

“No, I suppose there isn’t.” Regina looked at her expectantly. She wasn’t sure if Emma would kiss her, but they had agreed to take it slow and she wanted Emma to set the pace. “I had a lovely time tonight, Emma. I would really like to see you again.”

 

Emma saw the way that Regina blushed and felt a rush of confidence. She leaned over and gave Regina a lingering kiss on her cheek. “You can count on it.” As she pulled back, Regina turned slightly and their lips were only millimetres apart. Emma couldn’t help but feel the draw and she decided to not fight it. She looked up to Regina’s eyes and whispered, “Can I?” Regina’s response was to close the gap herself. Unlike their first kiss, this kiss was all passion.

 

Regina moaned when she felt her back hit her door. She reached out and threaded her hands into Emma’s blonde curls. A moan from Emma as her tongue swiped Emma’s lip made her panties flood. She knew she needed to check in—she had to make sure that she wasn’t rushing anything. She used every ounce of self control she had to pull away from Emma, just enough to clarify the situation.

 

“Emma, wait. I don’t want to push you. Do we need to slow down?” She looked at the woman in front of her, chest heaving, lips swollen, lipstick smudged, and hoped to god that she would get the honour of touching her at some point.

 

Emma took a second then brought her hand up to cup Regina’s face. “I don’t care what I said before. This can be date number one or date number seven. Either way, I want your hands on me. God, I need to touch you so bad. Nothing has ever felt so completely right. Please.”

 

Regina leaned her face into Emma’s hand. “Emma, I need you to know from the moment I saw you step out of that car, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind. I’ve never had something that felt so right either.”

 

Emma smirked. “So I got out of my car and into your dreams?”

 

“You really are an idiot.” Regina laughed as she threw the insult that was meant with nothing but affection.

 

“Yeah, but I’d really like to be your idiot,” Emma said, almost bashfully.

 

“I’d like that too.” Regina pulled her in for another kiss by the collar of her shirt. It was a short kiss that was cut off by Regina opening the door and shoving Emma into the apartment. As soon as the door was closed, Emma’s mouth attached itself to her skin.

 

The two kissed and let their hands wander over the other’s body. Clothes became obstacles that were removed as soon as they became noticeable hindrances. Regina promised she’d pay for the shirt that she ripped off of Emma’s torso when it got in the way of her mouth reaching Emma’s breasts. Emma was glad her bra was a front clap because she knew Regina would have torn it, and it was her fanciest bra.

 

Regina kept pushing, kept leading, until Emma had fallen back and was now laying on her bed. Golden hair fanned out, pale skin blushing, hard nipples beckoning with every rise and fall of chest... Emma looked every bit the goddess on her bed. She began to work Emma’s skinny jeans off of her and sucked in a breath when she noticed the large damp spot on Emma’s boyshorts. With a swift motion Regina pushed Emma’s legs apart and sank to her knees. She could hear the quick puffs of uneasy breath coming from the blonde. She looked up at Emma’s face and waited for her to open her eyes.

 

Regina placed her fingers lightly on Emma’s boyshorts and asked, “May I?”

 

“Fuck. Please.”

 

Regina could feel Emma’s anticipation, not only in the air around them, but also in the way her entire body couldn’t stop moving. Every inch of the woman seemed desperate for Regina’s touch. As she peeled the wet garment off of Emma, she saw that Emma was literally dripping arousal. She couldn’t help the guttural moan that escaped from her throat. She wanted to put her face right into the source of the wetness but she also want to make sure that this wasn’t a quick fuck—she wanted to do this right. So instead, she divested herself of the rest of her own clothing and moved onto the bed, right on top of Emma. As soon as their naked bodies touched, both women gasped. Emma ran her hands down Regina’s back and settled on her ass, while Regina had begun an oral exploration of Emma’s body. She had started with Emma’s lips and tongue then moved along her jaw—she was now lavishing attention to one of her earlobes.

 

The overwhelming pleasure that Regina’s mouth was giving her without even touching her most intimate parts made Emma want to cry. She was so distracted by how Regina gently nibbled on her ear whilst her tongue simultaneously traced the shell that she had forgotten what to do with the rest of her own body. It was only when she noticed that her hips had started moving on their own accord that she moved her legs slightly,gently tugging on Regina’s hips until their legs were intertwined and their sexes were both pressed firmly against a leg. Regina realised what was happening and brought their lips back together.

 

Emma could feel that she was close, but she could also feel that Regina wasn’t that far behind. She took a chance and nibbled a little on Regina’s bottom lip; it earned a sharp jerk of her hips. She had guessed right when she gambled that Regina would be into biting. She moved one of her hands from where they were pressing Regina’s hips into her, up to her face. She really wanted to watch Regina as she came undone. Almost as if Regina had the same thought, she moved her head slightly so she could look at Emma.

 

“I’m so close,” Regina breathed out.

 

Emma managed to moan out, “Same, fuck.”

 

Simultaneously, their orgasms peaked and washed over them, causing both of them to squeeze their eyes closed and tense all of their muscles. A chorus of moans sounded around the room for several more seconds.

 

Emma was the first to come back to herself from the precipice and stroked Regina’s head, which had lulled into the crease of Emma’s neck. She could feel small puffs of air coming from the woman and she really couldn’t help but think about how she wanted to make Regina a permanent fixture in her life. Thoughts like that would have to wait because, for now, she needed to explore the perfection that was Regina Mills’ body. She had several other ways to bring Regina to orgasm that she wanted to try. Thankfully, Regina once again seemed to be on the same wavelength and lifted her head up to smirk at Emma.

 

“You ready to go again?”

Chapter Text

“Welcome back to the show! Our guest today is Regina Mills, star of the upcoming Shanda Rooms show FBI . Can you tell us a little bit about how you ended up landing this role?”

 

“Of course, Katie! After Love’s Callback aired, I had a few offers but nothing that seemed like a good fit for me. Then I got a call from Shanda.”

 

Katie interrupted her, “She personally called you?”

 

Regina beamed. “She did. She told me that her production company was working on a new show and that they hadn’t found their lead yet. She also told me that she had been a huge fan of my character on All Her Children . So I went to audition a few days later and it seems they liked me enough to call a few weeks later to offer me the role.”

 

“Can you tell us a little about the character and the show?”

 

“I’m playing Agent Monica Arroyo. She leads a task force under the National Security Branch and this season she and her team have to figure out who assassinated the CEOs from over 100 of the US’ top companies. She’s been a fun character to play because she’s powerful, smart, and inspiring. She feels like a real person that finds herself in incredible situations because of her job.” Regina loved talking about her new role because she really loved and believed in the character—she hoped that came through to the audience. She was also over the moon when she got the part because her money had still been tied up in the investigation and the funds she did have were dwindling fast.

 

The investigation was now in the the prosecution stage. The FBI had had enough information and proof to charge Robin with embezzlement, witness intimidation, attempted murder, and kidnapping. The last two charges had been a shock to the media and to Regina. Robin had allegedly gotten an escort pregnant, stolen the boy, Roland, and then tried to kill Roland’s mother. The reunion of mother and son had been a heartbreaking moment to see on television and there had even been talks of a movie about the incident being made.

 

After watching a clip of Regina’s new show, Katie turned back to Regina. “So here’s the question everyone really wants to know: you and Emma?” Katie wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.

 

“Emma and I are good.”  Regina kept her answer short and sweet.

 

“Good? Does this mean you’re together?” Katie squealed with delight.

  

“Maybe I can answer that.” The entire audience along with the camera people, Katie, and Regina turned to look at the voice. Emma made her entrance out of seemingly nowhere to approach the interview area.

 

“Well folks, it looks like we have a special guest, Miss Emma Swan!” Katie recovered from the unexpected surprise easily and led the audience in their applause.

 

One of the crew rushed to place a chair next to Regina’s; Emma sat down in it and took Regina’s hand, holding it with her own in her lap.

 

“So your question, are we together? We very much are.” Emma beamed.

 

“That is amazing! I can’t believe how inspiring of a love story you two have. Can you share with us how things are going in your lives since the show? I know being an overnight celebrity must have been hard.”

 

“It was, but honestly this show was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found my parents and the love of my life. I’m pretty much the luckiest person ever, and it’s all thanks to Regina here.” Regina blushed as Emma kissed the back of her hand.

 

Just as Regina was preparing to respond, Emma suddenly stood up in front of her. She took her other hand and looked at her. “Regina, I have an important question for you. I know this might be a little soon and in a really public place, but I really really want to ask you something.”

 

Regina gasped and her heart leapt into her mouth—Emma was popping the question, the audacity of her. They hadn’t even discussed it, not really at least. There was the one time a few weeks ago after Regina had found out she had been cast in a Shanda show. They were drunk and had just made love on the sofa in her office, but she hadn’t been serious, had she? Regina looked out to the audience and saw, like her, they had all held their breaths and Katie covered her mouth in shock.

 

“Regina, will you let me show everyone your collection?” Emma did her best impression of a puppy and looked sadly into Regina’s eyes.

 

“I’m sorry, what?” It came out flat and probably a little harsher than she had meant, but Emma wasn’t proposing, and now Regina couldn’t stop thinking about how much she had actually wanted her to have.

 

“The furniture you’ve made and the photos I took of them after we placed them all, I want to show the audience. They should know just how much of a loveable dork you are underneath that cool, regal persona. ” Emma jutted her lip out just enough to be noticable.

 

The audience loved it, they awwed and laughed and even Katie had joined in on the awwing. Regina, however, was a little less than please at how her emotions had been played with. Based on the mischievous look in Emma’s eyes, she understood exactly what Regina had thought she was asking. She sighed and got on board with the situation. She shook her head before giving the okay. This clearly had been something Emma had planned since, as soon as she nodded her approval, photos started appearing on the screen behind them.

 

When Emma had learnt of Regina’s unusual hobby, she couldn’t get over it. She wanted to see more items, looked through the Etsy store, and even began to place them into little sets. It seemed Emma was as big of a dork as she was. Emma had even adopted a hamster just so she could use the furniture Regina had made. But then Emma had felt some kind of maternal instincts kick in because she had asked Regina if she wanted children, which led to a hard conversation. Regina had had an accident on set in her young teenage years and a piece of metal had pierced her body, damaging her uterus—she would never be able to carry a child. Emma had taken her into her arms and kissed her over and over until the tears had stopped. She had then talked about perhaps adoption as something Regina could still consider. When Regina thought about Emma’s childhood, she knew instantly that if she did decide to have a child, it would be adopted. The two had only been officially dating for about a month at that time so they had decided to shelf the conversation for another time.

 

Looking at Emma and the way her eyes lit up while talking about the items Regina had made, she had no doubts that one day soon not only would she marry this woman, but that they would start a family of their own. Emma had been working to reconcile her feelings with the fact that her parents hadn’t abandoned her, and slowly but surely they had built a relationship. Now, they all had dinner together once a week. Emma had even referred to them as Mom and Dad once. The look on her face when she had heard the words come from her own mouth made Regina’s heart swell.

 

When the show was over and they headed back to the green room, Emma found herself being pushed against the door and kissed hard. Before she could move her hands to Regina’s body, the kiss ended.

 

As Regina turned away she yelled, “Don’t you dare do that to me again, Emma Swan!”

 

Emma tried to play innocent and wrapped her arms around Regina’s stomach. “Regina, look at me.” Regina slowly turned so they were face to face. “It was a little joke, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t ask you that other question before I’ve told you that I love you.”

 

Regina’s lips were on hers before she took her next breath. When the kiss came to its natural end, Emma slowly opened her eyes and waited until Regina did the same. “I know I’m an idiot so in case I wasn’t clear enough, I love you, Regina Mills.” She then leaned back in and planted a quick kiss with each word. “I—” kiss, “love—” kiss, “you,” kiss.

 

Regina was mindful of their current location and couldn’t allow the kiss to lead to anything more heated. She leaned her head on Emma’s shoulder and whispered softly, “I love you, Emma Swan.” Her mind raced through all she had been through over the past few months and how her life had changed, from lonely and bored to loved and excited about work. She thought about her future and how it was no longer focused on her. She now had another person (and a hamster) who would be there and she finally felt that she was content and happy with where she was in her life.

 

She looked up at Emma and kissed her again. “I love you, but if you ever almost propose to me on live television again, I will destroy you if it’s the last thing I do. I have to call Zelena and listen to all the details of her date with Mal, and as punishment for this little stunt, you have to stay and listen to it as well.”

Emma sighed but agreed to accept her punishment—the things she did for the woman she loved.


Two years later…..

 

The limo from the Emmy party felt more like a party bus. After her win, the champagne hadn’t stopped flowing and she could tell that Emma was heading towards inebriation. Emma got a little more handsy when she was drunk and she couldn’t keep her hands off of Regina. Now hidden away from photographers and fans, the two were more than free to make out like teenagers and they had been taking advantage of that fact. But that freedom was coming to a brief pause as they pulled up to the apartment they now shared.

 

Once inside, Regina had been expecting to continue the celebration but was confused by Emma’s sudden disappearance. “Emma?” She called out several times and heard nothing but silence each time. She wandered into their bedroom, hoping the blonde was waiting for her on the bed, but the room was empty. She started checking other rooms whilst calling out for Emma. When she got to the office they shared, she noticed a note on the screen of her laptop. In Emma’s handwriting a “press play” was written. She followed the note’s instructions and pressed the button.

 

“Regina, I owe so much to you. You were there for me when I was confused about myself and who I was as a teenager. You helped this orphan find her lost family and helped me to accept my new family. You inspired me to go after my dreams and finally share my love of drawing. You have made me the happiest I’ve ever felt. You have given me so much without asking much from me, but now I want to ask one more thing from you. Regina Mills, will you—” The video stopped. Before Regina could yell or hit the computer, she heard her name come from behind her. She turned around to see Emma, still in her tailored suit and blazer she had worn to the awards. She was on one knee holding out a ring.

 

“No audience, no live videos. Regina Mills, will you marry me?” Emma looked at her with hope, adoration, and unadulterated love. She had no other words but “yes.” The two embraced and kissed as Emma slipped the ring onto Regina’s finger.

 

Later that night, as the two lay exhausted from the build-up and release of passion and emotions, Regina reflected on the changes in her life the past two and a half years had wrought. She thought back to that wish she had made to her father and couldn’t help but believe that he had heard her and had helped Emma come into her life. She said a silent “thank you” to her father and snuggled into Emma’s neck. Emma reflexively pulled her closer. Both felt content and like they had found their place in a crazy world. They also felt optimistic about what the future looked like for them. When both decided to say “I love you” to the other at the exact same moment, they laughed out loud. Their unconventional fairy tale was well on its way to coming to the best part—the part where they lived their happily ever after, with all its ups and downs—together.  



The End