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goodnight, dear void.

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The best way to start a new day? The smell of coffee being made in the kitchen, drifting to your room. A slow, languorous awakening, a few good stretches and no alarm clock. The sensation of someone you love curled up against you. There are few things that can make mornings enjoyable, but those are enough to brighten your day for good.

 

For Regina Mills, it’s rolling over and finding new messages on her phone from Amy, who goes to bed so late that Regina would suspect she were in a different time zone if not for the area code. Do you ever come to the realization that all your friends suck but you’re an adult and don’t know how to make friends anymore? A serious question, albeit tempered by the one that had arrived a few minutes later. My best friend stole my phone and made me a Tinder account, then hid the app somewhere on my phone. I’ve been getting notifications ALL NIGHT and when I press them it won’t open the app, so I can’t find it.

 

Regina smirks, immediately awake. For a moment, she entertains the idea that Amy is attractive enough to have piqued the interest of that many people, but she pushes that thought aside. It’s Tinder, and random degenerates with no taste abound. How can you hide an app? 

 

The response comes quickly. Amy doesn’t sleep enough. I don’t know. She’s better with technology than anyone I know. Then, without missing a beat, Will you be my new best friend?  

 

Regina leans back against her bed, exhaling, and hears the sound of Henry in the hallway, heading to the bathroom. If he’s already awake, she has a little more time, and she types, I don’t know. I’ve been told I’m ‘difficult’ and ‘a tyrant’. I doubt I’m friend material.

 

Amy sends her an emoji that feels sardonic, even though it’s just a woman with a hand put out. The emoji is blonde and white, which Regina reminds herself might mean nothing. She hasn’t had the best luck with blonde white women, though she also finds herself too often drawn to them. Maybe you just need better friends.

 

Oh, no , Regina clarifies. Those quotes were from my son. My own best friend calls me a ‘hardass’ and ‘exhausting’. Marian has been poking fun at her for days, since the ill-advised blind date that had ended in the worst possible way. Regina grimaces, her sunny mood beginning to fade with the reminder of Emma Swan. And when Amy doesn’t answer immediately, she settles firmly on grouchy.

 

She stumbles to the shower, dresses in a hurry, and cheers up when she sees Amy’s response on her phone screen. A flurry of messages, brief as a stream of consciousness.

 

I’m sorry what?

 

You have a SON?

 

Wait

 

Is this who Henry is

 

I figured he was your roommate

 

Well I guess he would be

 

How old is he? 

 

How old are you?

 

Sorry that was rude

 

You just never mentioned!

 

Kids are the best

 

I mean I’m terrible with them but like because I’d probably wind up getting them stuck up a tree or something

 

Not that I think kids are like kittens

 

Kids are great

 

???

 

Regina laughs aloud, loud enough for Henry to poke his head into her room and wrinkle his nose. “Who are you talking to? Tía Marian?”

 

“Uh,” Regina says, and to her horror, she flushes. 

 

Henry’s eyes go wide. “ Who ,” he says, and he charges forward, craning his neck to see the messages on her phone. 

 

“No one,” Regina says, too weakly and too late. “I was just–” 

 

“Who’s Amy?” Henry demands, and Regina locks her phone in a quick motion and holds it tight in her hand. Henry’s eyes narrow. “I thought you said that you weren’t dating anymore! That Marian sets you up with obscene boors .” He hooks his fingers into quotation marks for that and grins and ducks Regina when she tries to poke him in the arm. “Tell me about her. She sounds awesome. Can she come over? Can we climb some trees together?” 

 

“I don’t even know her,” Regina protests. “And we’ve talked about you meeting anyone I date– not that I’m dating Amy– it was just a wrong number–” And she attempts to explain the entire strange situation to Henry, without any success. His eyes are glowing by the end, and she feels obligated to add, “And we are not dating. She doesn’t even date women.” 

 

Henry puts his hands on his hips. “Did she say that?”

 

“Essentially.” Amy had defaulted to boyfriend when they’d talked about Regina’s blind date, and that had been proof enough. And Regina is losing the script here. “And besides, you should know by now that we never date strangers we meet virtually. Or meet them in person, or talk to them at all–” 

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Henry rolls his eyes. “You’ve gotta get out more, Mom. This isn’t, like, the olden days anymore. Everyone’s online, not just creepy predators.” He sits down on her bed, pouting up at her, and says, “She should date you. You’re much cooler than some guy .” 

 

“I appreciate your support,” Regina says dryly, and she sits down next to Henry and puts an arm around him. Dear reader, I can tell you that this is a conversation they’ve had many times before, since Henry had gotten old enough to consider his mother as an entity separate from him. He is firm in his belief that his mother is a catch and that a stepparent would be frickin awesome , and it’s most of the reason why Regina has agreed to any dates.

 

At least, it’s what she likes to say when pressed. Quietly, Regina Mills yearns for someone else to share her life with– someone who would love Henry as she does and someone who might love her, too– but that’s a vulnerability she won’t share with anyone. “I have you,” she says now to her dissatisfied son. “You’re the only one I need. And if you ever try to find a stranger you meet in Animal Crossing, I will lock you into your room like Rapunzel and you’ll be stuck there until your hair is long enough to climb out.” 

 

Henry blinks at his mother. “You really don’t understand fairytales, Mom,” he says, and he wanders downstairs to eat some cereal.

 


 

Regina is having quite the morning, and Emma’s is no less earth-shattering, brought on mostly by the discovery that her new correspondent has a son . A son, like a real, live child, like a kid old enough to call his mother a tyrant . How old is Virginia? How has she not mentioned this before? 

 

To be fair, they haven’t really talked about anything real, cautious as they both are around a stranger. There have been lots of discussions of terrible dates and forwards of bad memes (on Virginia’s part, because she seems to send on every single stupid meme she sees, and it’s so fucking endearing– except maybe it’s because she’s a Facebook grandma or something and Emma didn’t realize) and excellent memes (on Emma’s part, because Emma is a discerning purveyor of hilarious content). And all this time, Virginia has had a kid .

 

The responses arrive a little late, during the typical gap in Virginia’s morning that Emma has always assumed has been a commute and not getting a kid to the bus stop . Emma’s mind wanders to the image of it, Virginia hurrying down the street in downtown Boston to one of the school busses that block Emma’s way to work in the mornings, a faceless boy beside her. 

 

Henry is ten. I’m old enough to have adopted a ten-year-old at a somewhat reasonable age, but not too old that I don’t know better than to give identifying info to a stranger , comes the wry response.

 

Emma speculates. Forty? Forty is a little more than a decade older than Emma, and very doable. Not that there’s…any… doing , anyway.  

 

Excuse me? Virginia sounds delighted and offended at once, somehow. Hardly that old. Which is a solid confirmation that she’s between thirty and thirty-five, Emma guesses. 

 

I’m 28 , she offers. I know that really narrows it down to only, like, a half a billion people. She turns back to the more important information of the day. Tell me about Henry. You said you adopted him? 

 

And oh, if Virginia had ever been reluctant to share personal information, she doesn’t hesitate for an instant when it comes to gushing about her son. He’s my anchor, honestly. My mother was opposed to the adoption from the start. She was certain I’d ruin all my chances to marry some eligible bachelor. Emma scoffs, and she can nearly hear Virginia’s through the text. I didn’t want to marry. I wanted Henry, and I jumped through every hoop she maneuvered in my way to get him. And he’s perfect, she says, smart and snarky and with an overactive imagination. Virginia hasn’t talked to Henry about the adoption yet– she’s waiting until he’s a little older and can better handle it. Virginia’s love for her son shines through with every word texted, and Emma feels an unfamiliar warmth creeping through her as she reads. 

 

It’s really cool, what you did for him , she says when she can find the words. I was a foster kid, and adoptive parents are just – she sends the message, unfinished, and runs out of words again. It’s really cool , she sends instead, and adds a heart emoji. 

 

Somewhere ninety minutes away, Regina is looking at her phone in the diner, her own heart thrumming and a lump in her throat as she reads Amy’s message. She’s still staring at it when she hears a name that jolts her back to the present. “–Emma’s taking Mulan’s puppy over the weekend,” Ruby is telling one of her friends, leaning back against the counter.

 

Regina’s lip curls. A day spent texting with Amy isn’t quite enough for Regina to forget Emma Swan, unfortunately. It’s strange how quickly Emma’s name has begun to feel like it’s everywhere since the catastrophic blind date. She hadn’t noticed that Marian had mentioned Emma much before this; but now, Marian drops Emma’s name in casual conversation– oh, yeah, my friend Emma saw that movie and liked it, Emma swears by these boots, I’m going to drop by Emma’s on the way to pick up Roland – and Regina doesn’t even think she realizes it. Ruby is even worse; but thankfully, Regina doesn’t spend much time with Ruby. 

 

When had Emma become so ensconced in Regina’s life? And why does she still twitch whenever she hears Emma’s name, as though her body itself remembers Emma perfectly? 

 

(Amy had asked her once about the blind date, casually and three days after said Official Debasement Of Regina Mills. The less said about it, the better , Regina had written, because her conversations with Amy are the one sanctuary she has from that night.)

 

Amy. Better to focus on Amy, who is finally opening up a little and Regina wants to know more. There is a person behind the memes and the chatter, someone Regina genuinely likes, and she is not going to think about Emma Swan again. 

 

Fuck , why is she abruptly aroused.

 


 

Isn’t this fun? Perhaps not as much for the women in question, who still recall the night that they’d met with horror, but this does make for a winding narrative that will bring them back to each other– by the end of the chapter, perhaps, if we are so fortunate.

 

You see, Emma and Regina are each blessed with a good friend who cares for them– a detective in Boston, a park ranger in Maine. A year before, Detective Mulan Hua had been searching for a murder suspect in the campgrounds outside Storybrooke, and beloved local ranger Marian Alvarez had worked with her and made a close new friend. Both Mulan and Marian had been sure that Regina and Emma would be the perfect match. Both are baffled at this twist of events. 

 

Both are less than convinced that their grand plan has come to a close, though they know better than to try to force their friends into the same vicinity again.

 

Ah, well, one of them knows better, anyway. “Regina doesn’t like surprises,” Marian says morosely. “She gets mean. It’d be Aesop’s Tables all over again.” 

 

“I can’t even say the word Storybrooke to Emma anymore,” Mulan admits. “I said I was spending last weekend with Ruby and she said in that hellhole? My condolences to you both .” 

 

Marian opens her mouth, bites her lip. She’s been sworn to secrecy about what had happened between Regina and Emma, even to Mulan, and her promise wars with her desire to make it clear that there’s still something there. “I’m coming down to Rollinsford this weekend to drop Roland off. Henry has some grand sleepover, and I was thinking about dragging Regina with me and making it a Boston weekend. Do you think…?” She stops just short of suggesting it, fully aware that it wouldn’t end well. “Never mind,” she sighs.

 

“Bad idea,” Mulan agrees. Did I mention that this conversation was by phone? That’s important.

 

It’s important that Marian doesn’t see Mulan’s expression and the thoughtful look on her face.

 

Marian, as you recall, knows better.

 

Mulan is making new plans.

 


 

Let’s fast-forward a bit. Hit the button, skip ahead, and get to the moment you’re waiting for. I must digress for a moment to share with you how close our ladies are getting: virtually, though physically will have to wait. 

 

Regina finds herself sharing more and more with Amy. Once the floodgates had opened, she finds that she wants to tell Amy everything about herself. She confides in Amy about her mother and about a dead ex-fiance, and the ill-fated marriage she’d been strongarmed into after. It’s a sordid past for someone who still feels so young, and she remembers that Amy is twenty-eight and worries that she’ll seem…old. As old as Amy had thought she’d been, if not older, and that bothers her for reasons she can’t explain.

 

But for her part, Emma has plenty of her own baggage to share with Virginia. At first, it’s because Virginia is opening up and Emma feels as though the trust has to come from both sides. Then, it’s because it feels good . She doesn’t talk about herself much. She makes up new versions of herself to catch bail jumpers and she talks with Mulan about reliably impersonal things like the weather and the ball game the night before. She doesn’t say I met a girl named Lily when I was fifteen and she taught me to never trust anyone ever to Mulan, but she texts it to Virginia one night and feels like she can breathe when Virginia says tell me what happened

 

It’s gotten to the point where Emma misses Virginia when she isn’t around– when they’re both at work or Virginia is asleep instead of texting her. This kind of relationship is fragile, wrought in insubstantial words floating through invisible space, but Emma is already certain that it will leave a void behind if it ends.

 

She goes to work and chats with Mulan and reluctantly agrees to go out for drinks with Mulan and the girls this weekend, though she’d rather text Virginia. It’s fine. Once Mulan and Ruby wander off to dance and Marian finds someone tall and bland to flirt with, Emma can text to her heart’s content. 

 

Virginia’s been texting all day, fretting about a sleepover that Henry is participating in. He doesn’t have a lot of friends , she admits. And I don’t love this Nick boy, either, but Henry was so excited just to be included.

 

In my expert opinion of once being the ten-year-old who didn’t get invited to sleepovers at all, I think that kids are really fickle , Emma offers. Henry might’ve just had a good bag of chips at school yesterday or something.

 

She’s sure that Virginia will probably be aghast at the idea of Henry bringing chips to school, because she just knows that Virginia is the kind of mom who sends her son with fresh home-baked goods every day. Virginia has been vague about her job, which seems to involve a lot of flexibility and working from home, and Emma is absolutely sure that Virginia spends her free time being some kind of maternal goddess. 

 

She grins, tucking away her phone, and wanders into one of the better lesbian clubs in the city. Mulan has already texted Emma on her other phone, letting her know that she’s waiting at one of the side tables with the others, and Emma makes her way toward the left side of the club. Mulan is tucked in next to Ruby, the other girl’s arm slung over hers, and Marian has already found someone to chat up, since they’ve got a fourth with them at the table–

 

Wait . Emma recognizes that hair, those shoulders, that neck – she really, really knows that neck– and she takes a step back, a sinking feeling in her stomach. She whirls around to flee just as Ruby sees her and calls, “Hey! I thought Marian said you weren’t coming tonight!” 

 

Marian turns, eyes widening at the sight of Emma. Her companion turns, too, and fuck if Emma hadn’t blocked out the memory of exactly how attracted to Regina Mills she is until now. There had been that terrible, amazing night, which had simultaneously been the worst and best night of her life, and Emma had done what she knows best after that and compartmentalized it all. Regina Mills is a distant memory now, an unpleasant person she never wants to think about again, and she haunts only Emma’s dreams now. 

 

Except that she’s sitting beside Marian right now, and she looks very displeased at Emma’s arrival. As though Emma is crashing this night instead of being the one who was actually invited.

 

Emma storms forward, fully intending to clear the air on that . “Mulan,” she says, and Mulan looks loose and unbothered, her head tilting against Ruby’s arm as though she hasn’t done a thing. “You said it would just be Marian and Ruby.” 

 

“I said it would be the girls.” Mulan shrugs, looking puzzled. A shameless liar . “I don’t know what you assumed.” 

 

Emma’s eyes narrowed. “I said ‘so when you say the girls, you mean just Marian and Ruby, right? No demon mayor from Storybrooke?’ and you said ‘I would never do that to you.’” 

 

Mulan looks blankly at her. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she says. Emma feels a sudden burning desire to punch a wall. 

 

Instead, she twists around and catches Regina watching her, her eyes doing that smoldering thing that had turned Emma to putty the last time– 

 

No. Not again.

 

But she already has the sinking feeling that she knows exactly where this is going, of course. She’s known since the moment she’d walked into the club.

 

My friends, isn’t it just adorable that she still might still think she can resist the inevitable?

 


 

Emma Swan is here, in this club, sitting between Ruby and Marian. Every few moments, she turns to glare at Mulan, who has paid her no attention since she’d walked in. She does not look at Regina.

 

Which is a very good thing, because Regina doesn’t trust herself around Emma. She keeps her own accusing glare on Mulan, who chats with Marian as though neither of them are there. “I’ve been doing some hiking on weekends,” she says. “There are some great places north of the city that are halfway between here and Storybrooke.” 

 

“No cell service,” Ruby says grimly. “The things I do for her…” Mulan rewards her with a kiss. Regina delicately looks away, and finds herself staring at Emma.

 

Emma doesn’t see her at first. She’s checking her phone, brow creased at something she’s looking at, and…is it normal to want to lick every single inch of someone, including their brow? Admittedly, Regina has been living practically like a nun for years now, and maybe Emma had just…awakened something in her–

 

She freezes. Emma is looking up now, and has caught Regina’s gaze. Her own eyes burn hot, and Regina tilts her head in quiet challenge. “Oh, fuck off ,” Emma says aloud. “You really think you can intimidate me like that? What are you going to do, swing your purse at me?” Her eyes glitter, mocking now. “Fight me in an alleyway?” 

 

“There’s that charm that made me swear off Boston,” Regina retorts, and she can feel new heat rising across her face at Emma’s reminder. “I came here for a break from the squabbling infants in the town council. I don’t need to manage another one now.” 

 

Emma snorts. “Oh, yes, thank you for the reminder that you’re the big, bad mayor of Nowheresville, Maine. Did you even campaign, or did you win because you were the only one who bothered to vote?” 

 

Regina had run against her own mother, who had launched a smear campaign and publicly destroyed Regina’s reputation, attacked her son, and spread a rumor that Regina had killed her dead fiance. Emma has no idea what Regina has gone through, and Regina feels the rage burning low within her. “I hardly think that some glorified bounty hunter has any right to critique my job. You exploit poor bail jumpers for a living–”

 

“I do not.” Emma slams her hands on the table, hard. Ruby jumps. Mulan looks warily from Emma to Regina.

 

Regina sneers at Emma. “Let me guess. You only go after the bad ones. You’re a hero.” She drawls out the hero sardonically, and watches with satisfaction as Emma’s eyes go dark and furious. “You poke fun at my job, but when’s the last time you did anything for someone else?” 

 

“I can name one time,” Emma grinds out, and there’s an undercurrent in her voice that has Regina twitching, desperate to give as good as she gets.

 

“That was mutually beneficial,” she says, her voice silky, and she notices with satisfaction the way that Emma swallows, the movement of her throat. 

 

Mulan says, “Hold on. What’s happening?” 

 

“Shh,” Ruby hisses. Marian, at least, says nothing at all.

 

Regina stands, turns, walks toward the bathrooms, and she hears a chair scrape the floor and knows that Emma’s about to follow. The hallway is empty, only a single pair of women exiting the bathrooms and heading back to the club, and Regina turns around–

 

–And she’s flattened against a wall, Emma kissing her hard enough that Regina’s entire body springs to life in an instant. Regina totters in place, pulling Emma in closer, and yes , this is it , the thing she’s needed all week and hasn’t known it. Emma kisses like a revelation, and Regina can’t breathe without Emma’s kisses, without the rush of fury and loathing that comes along with them. 

 

“You’d better have a clean apartment,” she grits out against Emma’s lips, nipping at them, and Emma grabs her wrist and drags her out to a hideously yellow little car.

 

They start the drive in silence, which is probably healthiest for them, and Regina can’t stop herself. Her hands wander, sliding up Emma’s thigh and then a little lower–

 

Fuck .” Emma slams on the brakes and three cars honk furiously behind them. “Wait,” Emma mutters, “Just wait, you idiots, I’m pulling over, I’m–” Regina slides Emma’s dress up a little higher, drawn to her as if by magic, and Emma swerves to the side of the road and parks messily. 

 

“You’re an atrocious driver,” Regina accuses Emma, only half serious, and Emma lets out an odd grunting noise and then seizes Regina roughly, yanking her into the driver’s seat. With one foot, Regina finds the mechanism to push the seat back, and she twists around onto Emma’s lap. And yes , this is exactly what she’s needed since their horrendous blind date, even in a car in the middle of an empty street in Boston. Everything about their interactions has been classless and humiliating, but she can’t stop herself.

 

“Make no mistake about this,” she breathes, capturing Emma’s earlobe between her teeth and tugging it. Emma’s head falls back against her seat, and her hands move in whispers of movement along Regina’s thighs, tracing hypnotic patterns into Regina’s stockings. “I despise you with all of my being.” 

 

Emma rears up against Regina, her hands moving to rub against her own center. Regina’s close enough that she can feel every stroke, and she grinds on Emma’s hand, forgetting where they are and who they are until– “It’s very mutual,” Emma bites out, and then they’re moving against each other and Regina reaches down to press the spot she’s found can make Emma choke and come and then, finally, the first taste of bliss.

 


 

Emma doesn’t have time to think about the state of her apartment when Regina enters it, and she ignores every nasty comment Regina makes in favor of pressing her down into the couch and climbing onto her, struck by the glassy look in her eye. Regina Mills continues to be the worst, but there’s something about forcibly silencing Regina by turning her into a nerveless puddle that is so much more satisfying than fighting with her. 

 

Regina seems to feel the same, if the enthusiasm with which she attacks Emma’s body is any confirmation, and Emma quivers beneath her, drunk on this terrible, terrible idea that keeps ending in ecstasy. By the time they make it to the bedroom, Emma is on her back, legs hooked over Regina’s shoulders, and Regina is lapping greedily at her. Emma babbles a mess of words, most of them rude, at Regina, and Regina breathes, “And yet you keep coming, don’t you?” and sends her over the edge.

 

Emma doesn’t know when it is that they finally collapse, exhausted, except that Regina doesn’t flee the room immediately this time. She just sinks into the bed, slick with a sheen of sweat and muttering a low threat to Emma, and she closes her eyes and doesn’t open them. “Are you dead?” Emma demands, but Regina’s chest is rising and falling steadily, so she must be fine.

 

“Shame,” Emma mutters, but it doesn’t have much irritability behind it. It’s too difficult to be irritable when she feels this relaxed, like weeks of tension have been relieved in another passionate night. It’s absurd that it’s Regina who’s the only one who can do this. It’s just unfair

 

With that thought, Emma stretches out beside Regina and lets herself doze off. She’s half asleep when she feels the body beside her curl in closer, pressing to her, and her arms slide out of their own accord to wrap around the body in question. It feels good. It feels dangerously good to be spooning Regina Mills, whom she absolutely loathes, and Emma is left with that troubled thought as she falls asleep.

 

I wish I could tell you about their dreams that night, but they were unremarkable, flashes of the day and forgettable nonsense. Instead, I can only tell you about the moment that Regina awakens and discovers herself in Emma Swan’s arms. She freezes, refusing to dwell on the brief shiver of contentment that comes with waking up beside Emma, and she slips out of Emma’s embrace and gathers up her clothes instead.

 

She gets dressed in a hurry, and then calls Mulan repeatedly until the bleary-sounding woman picks up. “You did this to me,” Regina barks out. “Now you’re going to take me back to my hotel room.” 

 

“Uh,” Mulan says unintelligibly, but she comes, shooting uncertain glances at Regina between yawns. And Regina is free again of Emma Swan. For now.

 

Each time they meet, that freedom slips more and more out of her grasp.

 


 

The best way to start a new day? Not this: waking up sated and content and reaching over instinctively for the person who had made you that way, only to discover that the bed is empty. Emma rubs at gummy eyes and squints around the room, searching for Regina and drawing a blank. The bathroom door is open, the kitchen is quiet, and– oh – Regina’s clothes and bag are missing. Regina has departed again, and Emma shrugs and tells herself that this is better than some acerbic morning after.

 

Emma and Regina do best when there’s as little talking as ever, and there’s something addictive about being with Regina. Maybe it’s just how hot hate sex is, the satisfaction of dominating and being dominated by someone as snotty as Regina. Maybe it’s just Regina herself, who is…really, really good, even though she’s terrible. 

 

Still, Emma swallows back a little flare of disappointment. It’s fine. It’s not like she’d wanted to spend any more time with Regina, anyway. She might have some minor abandonment issues, but that’s just Emma . Nothing to do with Regina.

 

She has better things to do. Virginia had responded to her messages late last night, confirming exactly what Emma had suspected. Henry would never bring chips to school. I do send him with extra cookies for this reason. Do you think the other boys take advantage of him?

 

I think they probably wish you were their mom , Emma types, pushing away thoughts of Regina Mills. Whatever had happened last night, she has Virginia, and Virginia is worth a dozen Reginas. She considers for a moment bringing up what she’d been through last night, but something stops her.

 

And what is it, exactly, that stays both women’s hands? They confide in each other about daily events, about traumatic pasts, and about prior failed relationships: but you can see that they are vague when it comes to other matters. For one, Regina doesn’t explain her job to Amy, and Emma avoids mention of hers to Virginia. For Regina, it’s the fear of being too recognizable, and nothing fills her quite with terror like the idea of someone out there knowing her innermost secrets. Amy is an anonymous phantom, a woman without a face who exists only on her phone, and Regina intends to keep it that way.

 

For Emma, it had at first been simpler to say that she works in law enforcement, and now she retreats for another reason. Something Regina Mills had said to her has struck a nerve, and she finds herself turning over each case she’d had in her mind. Like, Regina is a dick who has no right to lecture Emma on what’s right and wrong, but Emma shifts uneasily as she thinks about the bail jumpers she’d caught. Plenty of them are terrible, yeah, and she specializes in the ones who abandon their families and leave them to pay the bail for them. But all? Is every person she’s caught absolutely–

 

I’m sorry to cut in. If I allow Emma’s inner monologue on this matter to overtake the story, we’ll spend the next few hours reading in circles. Suffice it to say, Regina has gotten under Emma’s skin in multiple ways. And yet, neither of them mention this new engagement to their texting buddies, either. 

 

Regina is simply too embarrassed to say a word. She feels as though Amy has a high opinion of her, warts and all, and she thinks that this might be the thing to destroy it. And it’s very important to her that Amy likes her. Instead, when Amy comments on where she’d been the last night, Regina lies. I fell asleep early on the couch , she writes, which isn’t an unusual side effect of nights when Henry is out. I only woke up around midnight to go to bed.  

 

For her part, Emma almost writes about it multiple times, only to hesitate at the last moment. She doesn’t want Virginia to assume that Emma’s in a relationship, because…because, well, Emma hasn’t figured that one out yet, but maybe you have, haven’t you? And maybe Regina’s opine about high opinion is equally unconvincing. 

 

Whatever it is, Regina departs Boston unscathed and with only a glare whenever Marian brings up Emma. “I just think that there’s clearly something there,” Marian insists. “Like raw, animal attraction, maybe–” 

 

“Marian?” 

 

“Yes, darling?” 

 

“Stop talking.” Regina scowls at her from behind her desk. They’ve made it through a full week without Regina being forced to introspection, and she doesn’t intend to start now. “We barely tolerate each other. This is not some kind of secret love affair. I still don’t know what you see in that woman, let alone what you thought I might see in her.” She still shudders when she thinks back to their blind date. 

 

If she shudders for other reasons, Marian tactfully doesn’t mention it. “If you think that’s best,” she says, and she shrugs and lays her hand down on the desk. “Nothing wrong with meeting up with Emma again for…whatever the two of you want.” When her hand returns to its place, there’s a post-it note on the desk where she’d put it, and a phone number on the note.

 

Regina stares at her, methodically picks up the note, and then crumples it in her hand. Marian makes a face and then says, “ Fine ,” and gets up to go.

 

And I’m sure she’d be pleased to inform you all that by the time she’d reached the door, Regina had uncrumpled the note and taken out her phone. 

 

Regina dials before she can rethink her decision, and in Boston, ninety minutes away, Emma stares at her buzzing personal phone and the name on the screen, gripped by indecision. No , she decides, and then she picks up the phone and says, “Yeah?” 

 

“Polite as always, Ms. Swan,” Regina drawls in that damned superior voice, and then her voice lowers to a husky lilt. “Come here.” 

 

“Excuse me? I’m working–” 

 

“Tomorrow at noon. Granny’s, Room Two. I’ll be waiting.” The phone clicks off and two women are left shell-shocked at what had just transpired. 

 

As one, they seize their phones– Regina the one she’d just used and Emma her burner phone– and start typing to an ephemeral friend without a face, desperate for a distraction.

 


 

Does Emma go? Of course she does. Does Regina await her? Of course. The road to love is by no means steady, but these two are bound together already. They crave it all– sex, intimacy, and even the arguments that ensue after the first two. “I’m not driving an hour and a half next time just because you command it,” Emma is saying hotly. “Do you know how much gas this is going to eat up?” 

 

Regina waves a hand. “I’ll pay for it. Whatever your cost.” 

 

“Don’t say it like that ,” Emma snaps, because Regina knows exactly what she’s doing and Emma feels the sudden need to squirm under a blanket and cover herself up. She doesn’t, because she knows better than to show any weakness to Regina. “I can afford the gas. But if you want to make this a regular thing, then I don’t see why you can’t come to me.” 

 

Regina is sitting up against the headboard, and she has no compunctions about her nudity. She examines her nails. “I can’t spare three hours of travel on a weekday afternoon,” she says, sounding bored. “I have responsibilities.”

 

“And I don’t?” Emma demands. “Why are your responsibilities somehow more important than mine?”

 

Regina scoffs, one perfect leg bending at the knee as she looks imperiously down at Emma. Emma has always had a thing about authority. Until now, she’d thought it was a supreme distaste and not an unbearable attraction. “Yes, go ruin another person’s life instead of fucking me. I won’t beg.” 

 

Emma swallows and seizes the upper hand. “Yeah?” she says, and she slides her fingers along Regina’s leg, watching the way Regina’s mouth snaps shut and her eyes follow Emma’s movements.

 

And Emma knows with a sinking feeling that she will absolutely trek out to Storybrooke every Tuesday from here on out.