“I’m sure that all sounds wonderful, mother.” Regina said as she walked to her office.
“Oh it is!” Cora gushed into the phone. “He’s a wonderful man, he cares so much about the environment...but he’s not a tree hugger! And he’s quite well off.”
“Yes because money is such an issue for me.” Regina rolled her eyes and checked the time on her thousand-dollar watch. “I have to go, I'm going into a meeting.”
“A meeting three days before christmas?” Cora scoffed “You just want to get rid of me.”
Regina opened the door to her office, walking in and narrowly avoiding hitting a small black ball of fur with a prada pump that matched him perfectly save for the leathery shine. She leaned down and gently pet the small black kitten before she rolled his favourite snack toy and sent him chasing after it. “Oh now mother what would give you such an idea?”
“Regina, you tried to convince me that the University you work for didn’t believe in Christmas and that you couldn’t get the week off.” Cora said, getting a chuckle from Regina as she waved hello to Emma, her TA, who was sitting on the leather sofa of her office organizing papers that needed grading.
“Oh mother, surely even you can identify a joke when you hear one.”
“Your tone was very convincing.”
“And yet you didn’t believe me and are now suggesting the preposterous notion that I tried to get out of our Christmas family lunch.” Regina gave Emma a look that got a soft, silent laugh out of the younger blonde. “Now why would I ever want to do that?”
“I have no idea and regardless, you’re not getting out of it. There’s such a thing as familial obligation and I know the students you teach might have no notion of the concept, but the Mills’-”
“Are a different breed that understands these things, yes, mother. I know. ” Regina rolled her eyes again. “I will observe my familial obligations and come over for Christmas, but if I’m going to be there on time I really do need to get back to work. Papers won’t grade themselves.” Regina said.
“It’s 2020! Surely there’s some kind of technology that-”
“We have turnitin and that’s it. We’re very old school. Goodbye mother.” Regina said, pulling the phone away from her ear to light up the screen and find the ‘end call’ button.
“Bring a christmas treat!” Cora hollered into the phone before Regina hung up. The brunette professor dropped into her plush leather office chair and let out a sigh of exasperation.
“‘Familial obligation’?” Emma asked with a chuckle, getting a smirk and an eye roll from her professor. “She sounds like a joy.”
“She’s my mother, she’s not around to bring me joy, she’s there to remind me how even being a renowned Political Science professor, I still fall short because I’m unmarried.” Regina said. “If I roll my eyes one more time today I’m going to get a migraine.”
“You have a kick-ass career, a great kid, and more money than you know what to do with...what more could a man bring into your life?” Emma shrugged.
“Or a woman?” Regina gave her a small, knowing smirk. They’d had the conversation one night a couple of months ago when Emma offered to lend an ear after they’d had to work late and the blonde TA came back with the expected chinese food orders and the unexpected bottle of pinot noir. Perhaps the older, more annoying professors would have looked down on the offer, but Regina was cool like that. (If she weren’t Emma would have the right sense of mind to not get the bottle at all. But her favourite professor was easy to work with if she liked you...thankfully she seemed to like her.)
“Uhm, yeah.” Emma chuckled. “Sorry. Either or.”
“Well for one, I’d save a lot of money on a babysitter.” Regina shrugged. “And batteries.”
“Why batt-” Emma was about to ask and then a blush crept up to her cheeks when realisation set in. “Oh...Pretty sure that’s inappropriate for the office.”
“Not when school’s out for Christmas.” Regina joked.
“Oh, are we believing in that now?” Emma teased.
“Ha. ha.” Regina said. “I wish they could cancel Christmas for one year just so I can get a break from mother.”
“Is it really that bad?” Emma asked as she went back to her seat on the sofa where Salem immediately leapt up into her lap and demanded a belly rub.
“I’m tempted to pay someone to pretend to be my partner for one christmas just so I can get her off my back.” Regina sighed.
“With your salary? I’d take that job.” Emma chuckled.
“‘Sugar mama’ isn’t exactly the look I was going for but sure.” Regina laughed.
“Oh please, you are not that much older than me.” Emma rolled her eyes. “You’re just a brilliant mind that got ahead faster than your peers. Aren’t you the youngest professor in this University?”
“Yes, that’s true.” Regina hummed thoughtfully, but then waved the notion away. “You’re probably busy with family over the holidays anyway.”
“What family?” Emma asked.
“What?” Regina raised a brow at her and the blonde shrugged.
“I don’t...I mean…” Emma sighed. “I have no family.”
“Oh.” Regina’s smile fell and she looked away sheepishly. “I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay.” Emma waved the apology off. “I grew up in the system, I made my own way up. Christmas was always kind of lonely, but I have this little guy.”
The blonde picked Salem up and held him close as he meowed and then purred at her.
“I was just kidding anyway.” Emma shrugged. “I’ll just order a ridiculous amount of food and watch horror movies like I usually do.”
“Horror movies?” Regina cringed.
“Well all the Christmas movies are all about love and family and…” Emma made a disgusted face. “Depressed is not the feeling I want on Christmas day.”
“And scared out of your pants...is?” Regina asked. Emma snorted a laugh.
“Please, I’ve seen so many horror movies they don’t even phase me anymore, I just list all the questionable choices people keep making. My new year’s resolution every year is to never be that stupid.” Emma joked.
“Well you’re still alive, so I’ll go ahead and guess that that’s worked so far.” Regina said. “This also explains how you were so ready to stick around during the break.”
“I mean, I don’t wanna make this awkward or anything but since becoming your TA...well...You’re kind of the closest thing I have to family.” Emma shrugged. “I mean I see you every day, we talk, we joke around, you let me bring my cat to your office…”
“Well he’s a pleasant presence in the office. And in the building. It’s nice to have a set of whiskers to look at that aren’t hiding a leery smile or misogynistic views.” Regina shrugged, chuckling at her own crack at her colleagues.
“That’s true. But see that’s what I’m talking about, I spend more time here than at home but I don’t mind it. I know more about you than I know about my classmates...okay now I sound boring.”
“You’re not boring.” Regina said. “You’re just...a brilliant mind that gets ahead faster than your peers.”
“Copycat. That’s my line.” Emma teased, Salem meowed up at the blonde when she said ‘cat.’ “Oh, not you silly.”
“Besides, you have friends, what about that Ruby girl who’s always cussing?” Regina asked. Emma snorted.
“She’s my best friend. She’s also my roommate, slightly unhinged...and visiting her grandmother for Christmas.” The blonde shrugged. “She invited me but I felt awkward as well about it. Besides, who would take care of Salem?”
“You couldn’t take him with you?” Regina asked. Emma shrugged.
“Ruby said her grandmother is more of a dog person.”
“I see.” Regina nodded.
“Anyway, you don’t have to worry about me, I’ll be totally fine.” Emma said, putting Salem down on the carpet and sitting on the sofa again to get back to work. Regina bit her lip and watched as Emma worked in silence while she turned on her computer, endeavouring to get some work done herself. She busied herself for half an hour with going through her emails and deleting unnecessary ones while she tried to get the blonde’s situation out of her head. It wasn’t her business...but Emma had just called her the closest thing she had to family. Wasn’t it family’s business to make sure you don’t spend the holidays alone?
Familial obligation as her mother called it, but Regina felt less obliged to help Emma than she felt to go to her mother’s Christmas parties and dinners. It felt nothing like an obligation and more like...like desire. Like something was burning inside of her and urging her to reach out to the blonde and offer her company.
That fact that she had admitted to herself (and only herself!) that she was attracted to her TA didn’t help in the least.
So try as she might, she couldn’t carry on working until she made her (possibly preposterous) offer.
“I was joking about paying someone to be my date but...how would you like to come along with me for Christmas?” Regina asked.
Emma looked up at her, her green eyes wide in some combination of shock and wonder, and she nearly dropped the stack of papers in her hands. In a curious manner, Salem looked up at his mistress’ friend and meowed at her, as if asking Emma’s unasked question, ‘ what?’
“I uhm…” the blonde stammered, trying to come up with a response that made some level of sense. There were a lot of conflicting emotions at play. Her first thought was that she didn’t want anyone’s pity for the holidays. And had it been anyone else, she would have already offered a polite rejection. But when she looked at Regina, there was anything but pity in her eyes. The offer was genuine and out of...love?
It’s either that, Her internal voice, which disturbingly enough sounded like Ruby, said, Or your big gay-ass crush on Professor MILF is clouding your judgement.
Don’t call her that!
Are you actually arguing with yourself?
...I’m a freakin’ crazy person.
So, what do you think?
“Emma? What do you think?” Regina asked gently. “I know I talk about my mother like she’s the devil incarnate. But she’s alright when you get used to her. My sister will be there. And I’m sure Henry would love to have you around. I know you haven’t met him much but he’s always liked you the few times you have.”
“That’s true.” Emma shrugged. “Your kid is pretty sweet.”
“So? What do you say?” Regina gave her a smile and a look that Emma wanted to believe didn’t look as hopeful as it did...but fuck... it did.
“I mean...uhhh…” Emma looked around, trying to find an excuse. Christmas with her totally inappropriate crush would bring up a lot of feelings that she’s not even supposed to have. Her eyes landed on Salem, who looked up at her and back at Regina before he looked back at her as if to say don’t look at me!
“You can bring Salem along.” Regina shrugged. “I know he’s important to you and my mother has had cats in the past, I’m sure she won’t mind. Zelena and I jokingly claim that if it weren’t for my father, she’d be a crazy old cat lady.”
“He’ll probably be spoiled silly though.” Regina chuckled.
The cat meowed at Emma and the blonde nearly groaned internally.
Great, now I can’t get out of this without being a dick to my cat.
“I mean...I guess…” she looked back up at her professor, who’s breathtaking eyes were boring into her and looking into her very soul.
Nicely put, Shakespeare.
Shut up Ruby!
“I’d love to come.” Emma said. “And we can...I guess, if it’s not like super inappropriate to even say it...Do that fake dating thing? I mean...you’re bringing me over to your place for Christmas so I guess it’s only fair that I get your mother off your back in return, right?”
“It wasn’t really a quid pro quo kind of offer.” Regina shrugged. “But...it would be nice to not have a random man shoved into me on Christmas eve...literally.”
“Yeesh.” Emma cringed.
“He spilled red wine all over my ivory white dress...It wasn’t pretty.” Regina chuckled.
“Which is why I’ve elected to wear burgundy this year.” the professor finished.
“It’s totally your colour anyway.” Emma shrugged. Regina smiled at her.
“I’m glad you think so.” she said.
Crap. shit. Ass. I need a dress. Or an outfit...something nice! And probably expensive! Fuck!
“I’m leaving tomorrow first thing in the morning.” Regina said. “Text me your address so I can pick you up?”
“Sure.” Emma said, suddenly nervous about the prospect of being in a small space with her insanely hot professor for hours. “Where are we driving to again?”
“Scarsdale.” Regina said as she typed away on her computer.
“Wait, you mean Scarsdale... New York? ” Emma asked.
“It’s only about four hours.” Regina said. “If we leave early we could get there by brunch.”
I’ve never had brunch!
Yeah sleeping in until almost noon and then having cereal doesn’t count as brunch.
“Sure, so what time were you thinking?” Emma asked hesitantly.
“Maybe 6AM.” Regina said. “How does that sound?”
Like I’m going to need a gallon of coffee.
“Six is fine.” She nodded. “I may have to duck out early and get my stuff ready though.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Regina looked at her. “You haven’t been preparing for this like it’s your funeral day.”
“Wow.” Emma snorted.
“If it’s too short notice-”
“No, no, it’s fine. I just have to pack and stuff.” Emma shrugged. “Maybe do some last minute shopping.”
“Well go on, I can handle things here.” Regina said.
“Okay. The papers are organized by class and then alphabetically by last name. There were a couple who didn’t have names on them, they’re at the back, I was going to cross reference with the online submissions and-”
“Emma.” Regina cut her off, getting her to look up at her and stop talking. She gave her a smile. “Go. You’ve done a fantastic job so far and...well I owe you big time for the favor you’re doing me in coming with me to my mother’s Christmas insanity.”
“Oh...well…” Emma shrugged. “It’s...I mean...I really appreciate the invitation.”
“Go, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Regina said.
“Okay.” she nodded. “I’ll...see you tomorrow. Have a good day.”
“You too.” Regina smiled at her, giving a small wave to Salem as Emma picked him up.
“C’mon buddy, say bye.” Emma said to the cat.
“I’m telling you Ruby, I have no freakin’ clue what came over me.” Emma said into her phone.
“Me neither. Why you thought calling me at 4:30 in the freakin’ morning was a good idea is beyond fucking me.” Ruby said grumpily into her phone.
“What happened to ‘you can always call me if you need anything, any time, even if it’s the middle of the night and I’m sleeping with Jason Momoa’” Emma quoted.
“You clearly need to learn the meaning of Hyperbole.”
“Oh come on, Rubes!” Emma whined.
“Oh quit whining, I’m kidding.” Ruby huffed. “So Professor MILF-”
“Don’t call her that!”
“Asked you to be her fake date for Christmas?”
“Well it started off as a bit of a joke.” Emma shrugged. “But then she genuinely invited me to her Christmas thing with her family and I said that I’d be her fake date if she wanted to get her mother off her back.”
“...I smell a Christmas rom-com in the making.”
“It is not .” Emma rolled her eyes.
“Sure, sure. I bet you have to share a bed at her mom’s place.” Ruby said.
“Oh please, we will...we’ll...find a way around that.”
“Does she know you’re a cuddler?”
“Do you know if she’s a cuddler?”
“You are being, like, the opposite of helpful.” Emma rolled her eyes.
“She’s not picking you up till six, why are you not getting some more precious shut eye?” Ruby asked.
“Because I can’t sleep?”
“You are so gay.”
“So are you!” Emma rolled her eyes. “Are you texting Belle all the way in Australia?”
“We use Whatsapp!” Ruby rolled her eyes. “And...shut up!”
“I bet you wouldn’t be as grumpy if it were her calling.” Emma teased.
“Well if it were her calling I could stick my hand down my p-”
“Eww. Gross. Stop.” Emma rolled her eyes.
“You asked for it.” Ruby teased. “So what are you losing your shit about? Or are you just losing your shit in general?”
“In general I think.” Emma said. “I’m just...so in over my head but it’s too late to back out now.”
“Why? Just text her and tell her you got the bubonic plague or something.” Ruby shrugged on the other end of the line.
“...Somehow I don’t think a disease that was wiped out four hundred years ago will cut it, Rubes.” Emma deadpanned.
“Well then, I’m out of ideas.”
“I don’t want to get out of it.” Emma sighed. “I don’t want to disappoint her and...I’m kind of looking forward to the idea of actually having company for Christmas for once.”
“And you want a chance to get into Professor MILF’s pants.” Ruby chuckled.
“I do not!” Emma groaned.
“But think about it!” Ruby said. “What bigger chance could you get than pretending to be her girlfriend?”
“I mean…” Emma trailed off.
“You have one opportunity Swan. One opportunity to do what every straight guy and every gay woman in the whole university wants to do. Get into Professor M-”
“Ruby I swear to God if you call her a MILF one more time I’m putting Salem’s litter box on your bed!” Emma threatened.
“Rowr. Easy kitty cat.” Ruby teased. “I was saying. Anyone who is anyone wants to do her. The secrets concealed by those probably really expensive panties are like...the holy grail of the University’s student body! And you, my dear friend, are Sir Galahad.”
“I’m not sure if I’m more surprised by how vulgar that is or by how accurately you know the story of the holy grail.” Emma said.
“Go forth, brave knight! Sip from the grail and achieve immortality!” Ruby said dramatically.
“I’m pretty sure the accuracy stopped there.” Emma added.
“Emma, I genuinely don’t think I’ll be able to look you in the eye if you throw this opportunity away. I’ll have to move out. Our friendship will dissolve into nothingness.” Ruby said. Emma wasn’t sure if it was a threat or just Ruby being dramatic, but she was betting on it being the latter.
“I have to go, she’ll be here in an hour.” Emma said. “Tell me I’m not being stupid, this is my professor we’re talking about.”
“If she didn’t want to be stupid with you she would have said no.” Ruby said.
“That’s true.” Emma said. “I guess we’re just gonna have to wait and see how it goes.”
“I want every juicy detail in existence.” Ruby said. “It will literally be the best christmas present.”
“You really need a hobby.” Emma rolled her eyes.
“I’ll text you.” Emma promised. “Just...don’t tell anyone...and don’t be gross about it.”
“I make no promises about that last one.” Ruby said. “But your secret is safe with me. Good luck.”
“Thanks. Have a good Christmas.” Emma said before she hung up the phone and sighed, leaving her phone on her nightstand while she went into the shower. When she came out, she was a little less nervous about the whole thing. She’d managed to find decently priced wine to bring to Regina’s parents’ house and a dress that didn’t break her bank and make her wallet cry blood.
When she picked up her phone, she found a couple of text messages from Regina.
[From: Prof. Mills:] Good morning. I just left the house, picking up coffee on the way, would you like anything?
[From: Prof. Mills:] At Starbucks. The line isn’t long so I should be no longer than ten minutes.
[From: Prof. Mills] Left Starbucks. On my way to you.
The way the texts were written made Emma raise a brow. But she typed out a quick response so she could get back to getting dressed.
[To: Prof. Mills:] What’s your ETA?
[From: Prof. Mills:] Fifteen minutes.
Emma nodded at her phone and decided that was enough time to get dressed. She wasn’t an early bird by any stretch of the imagination, so it wasn’t uncommon for Regina to see her with her hair pulled up into a messy bun and a slightly oversized hoodie and no makeup what-so-ever. Still, she was meeting the woman’s mother in a few hours with no time to change in between, so she had picked out a nice enough outfit the night before and had enough time to put on some light makeup. Hopefully the infamous Cora Mills was nice enough to forgive the lack of elegance when travelling.
She picked up her bags, phone, and keys, and a soundly sleeping Salem in his travel kennel, and made it downstairs to the front door of her apartment building in time to see Regina rounding the corner of her street and stopping right in front of her. She stepped closer to the car as the brunette made her way out of it and gave her a smile that, even at six in the goddamn morning, was dazzling.
They greeted each other and put Emma’s bags in the trunk, opening the door to the back seat and putting Salem in the back seat next to Henry who was sleeping the morning away in his car seat, his neck supported by a travel pillow. In a matter of minutes they were back on the road.
“I got you coffee.” Regina said, handing Emma a cup.
“Oh my god.” Emma sighed in relief. “I thought I missed my window.”
“Well I know your go-to is a cinnamon latte.” Regina shrugged. “And that you can’t function without your coffee.”
“Right on both counts, well done, Professor.” Emma said, looking at Regina and catching the sight of Henry in the backseat in her peripheral vision. She looked over at him and smiled. “He’s adorable.”
“He was out like a light the second we started driving.” Regina said with the soft smile she got on her face whenever she spoke about her son.
“I bet he’s excited for Christmas huh?” Emma asked.
“It’s always his favourite holiday.” Regina said. “Not the least because he gets a whole week with mommy.”
“I bet he loves having you around.” the blonde said as she sipped her coffee.
“I always feel bad having to work late.” Regina shrugged. “The life of a single mother.”
“He loves you, you’re doing a kick-ass job.” Emma smiled at her.
“Thank you, it’s nice to be reminded sometimes, I tend to get into my own head about not giving him everything he needs.” Regina shrugged.
“Hey, you’re here in his life. That’s more than enough.” Emma said. Regina looked over at her for a moment and smiled at her. She didn’t know what else to say beyond what she’d already said, especially knowing where Emma was coming from.
They sat in silence for a long while, Emma sipping her coffee and trying desperately not to fall asleep in the car, while Regina focused on her driving. At some point, whilst checking her mirror, the older woman realised that her TA was having an issue with staying awake.
“Do you want to turn on some music?” she asked.
“Hmm?” Emma hummed, brought back to full consciousness thanks to the question.
“Music?” Regina asked again, her hand already on the radio’s power button.
“Oh uh, I don’t want to bother you.” Emma shrugged.
“Emma, I do listen to music you know.” she chuckled. “And not some weird classical stuff like all the other professors.”
“Oh...I guess I just...well I mean it’s always quiet in your office.” Emma smiled nervously.
“You’ve seen me work with headphones on.” Regina said. The blonde blushed slightly.
“I always thought you were listening to like...recorded lectures and stuff.” Emma shrugged. Regina laughed and shook her head.
“Not unless the Professor was Shakira or J-Lo.” She joked.
“No way.” Emma said.
“I love my latinas.” Regina shrugged.
“Well then turn it up, Professor.” Emma teased. Regina turned on the radio and connected it to her phone, playing the songs saved in her spotify and perking the blonde right up. (The coffee helped too.)
A couple of hours in, around halfway through their trip, the moderately leveled music was interrupted by a demonic growl that made both of them look in shock at Emma’s stomach.
“...Hungry, perchance?” Regina teased.
“I was hoping to make it till brunch but apparently the monster that is my stomach has other ideas.” Emma shrugged. Regina chuckled as she started looking at the highway, spotting a drive-thru bakery.
“Well, let’s grab you some pastries, and we can grab a box for my mother too, she’ll be glad we thought to bring something.” Regina said.
“I also got her a bottle of wine, nothing fancy though.” Emma said.
“She’ll act pleased anyway, she’s cordial if nothing else.” Regina said.
“Oh crap.” Emma groaned. “I totally didn’t think of Christmas presents for your parents.”
“If you’re going to be my fake girlfriend, the gifts I got them will be - fakely - from both of us.” Regina shrugged.
“Is fakely a word?” Emma questioned.
“I’m a University professor. I'm pretty sure I’m allowed to make up new words.” Regina said, getting Emma to chuckle.
They drove into the drive-thru line, getting a box of doughnuts and a box of macarons before they set out on the road again.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a macaron.” Emma said.
“My mother likes them, they’re a little rich in my opinion but whatever makes her happy keeps me sane.” Regina said, reaching into the box in Emma’s lap and grabbing a simple glazed doughnut. Emma was biting into a freshly-baked bearclaw and sipping her hot cocoa. “I was a little surprised at the cocoa, to be honest.”
“If I have another cup of coffee before we get out of this car I’m going to be hopping in my seat.” Emma shrugged. “The sugar in the doughnuts gives me enough energy.”
They heard a soft groan from behind them, the sound of little Henry Mills finally returning to the waking world.
“Hey baby.” Regina smiled as she looked at him from the rear view mirror. “You had a good nap?”
“Mmmmhm.” he said as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with little fists. He looked up, blinking repeatedly as he looked towards the front seat, having a better view of Emma than of Regina from the spot he was sitting.
“Mama?” he asked.
“Yes baby?” Regina responded.
“Thewe’s a doughnut angel in the car.” he said, looking at Emma with wide, awe-filled eyes. Emma snorted and looked back at him. “Oh! Nevah mind Mama, s’just Em!”
“Hi buddy.” Emma waved back at him.
“What you doin’ hewe?” he asked with a smile, still having trouble with his R’s like Emma remembered from the few times she met him.
“Emma’s coming with us to grandma and grandpa’s place sweetie.” Regina answered.
“Weally?!” he grinned excitedly, he’d always liked the blonde and she seemed to like him back, which only encouraged him further. “You comin’ fo’ Chwistmas?!”
“Yes I am buddy.” Emma smiled at him.
“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy!” He cheered, getting a disgruntled meow from Salem. “Aww, hi kitty.”
“Well, I feel welcome. How about you Salem?” Emma said, getting another meow from the cat.
“Em it’s gonna be so fun!” Henry went on. “Thewe’s loads of food and toys and you’ a gwown up, so you get to go to the party.”
“Where will you be buddy?” Emma asked.
“Sleepin’” Henry shrugged. “It’s past bedtime.”
“But you always get cake, right baby?” Regina said, getting her son to focus on the positive.
“Yeah!” Henry grinned. “Gwandma makes good cake.”
“And by ‘grandma’ he means the michelin-star chef she hires every year.” Regina muttered under her breath, getting Emma to chuckle.
“I can’t wait buddy.” the blonde said.
“Mama, can I have a doughnut?” Henry asked.
“It’s Emma’s box so you have to ask her.” Regina said. “But it’s alright by me.”
“Yeah buddy, you can have one.” Emma said, holding the box out. Henry took a look at the selection of doughnuts in the box and looked from the box to his mother nervously.
“Mama? Which?” he asked.
“Can’t decide buddy?” Emma asked.
“I try not to give him too much sugar for breakfast.” Regina said. “How about just one of the rings baby?”
“Hmmm.” he hummed thoughtfully. “Chocolate?”
“Okay.” Regina nodded. “But just one.”
“Yes mama.” He said, happily grabbing the chocolate doughnut and biting into it. “Mmmmmmm...s’good mama!”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full baby.” Regina corrected.
“...Sowwy.” Henry hummed, still with his mouth full, getting Emma to try and hold in a laugh. He ate his doughnut in silence, and Salem could finally go back to sleep.
They spent the rest of the ride with Henry dominating most of the conversation, raving on about how awesome Christmas is at his grandmother’s house.
“Aunt Zee will be there too mama?” he asked.
“Isn’t she always?” Regina said.
“Yay!” he responded. “She gives amazing pwesents!”
“My sister is a travel blogger. She goes all over the world, ever since Henry was born her favourite thing to do is find traditional toys. He’s had a rattle from china, a wooden figure from nepal, all kinds of things.” Regina explained with a smile. “He loves them.”
“Once she got me an olly phant!” Henry said.
“ Elephant. ” Regina corrected.
“Yeah, that.” He grinned. “I named him Olly.”
“Ollyphant.” Emma said immediately.
“Yeah!” Henry cheered, glad that someone understood the reason behind his name. “He’s woody.”
“Uhm.” Emma raised a brow at Regina, who chuckled.
“Wood en sweetheart, he’s made of wood.” the brunette corrected.
“Yeah, that.” Henry said. “I gots all kinds of aminals.”
“Aminals.” Emma repeated, grinning at how ridiculously adorable this kid was.
“Yeah!” Henry said and then frowned. “Wait no...mama I said it wong.”
“It’s animals baby, the N goes first.” Regina said, sounding out the word slowly.
“Aaaaa-niiii-mals.” Henry said slowly, giving himself a self-assured nod.
“Good job.” Regina nodded.
“We there yet?” he asked.
“Soon baby.” Regina said.
“Hey.” Emma whispered gently to her professor. “Are we gonna tell him about...our plan?”
“Hmm?” Regina glanced at her and then realised what she meant. “Oh...right...we probably should otherwise we’ll be given away quite quickly.”
“Hey buddy.” Emma said. “You wanna play a game while we’re at your grandma’s place?”
“Yeah!” Henry grinned. “What we playin’?”
“Okay, we’re playing a loooong game of pretend.” Emma said.
“Yeah?” Henry said, jumping excitedly in his car seat. Emma looked at Regina, who gave her an impressed nod.
“You got this.”
“Okay, so...have you and your friends ever played wedding?” Emma asked.
“Yes.” Henry blushed. “I married Violet last week!”
Regina mock-gasped. “And I wasn’t invited?!”
“No gwown-ups mama!” he said.
“Well that’s just rude.” Regina teased.
“We playing wedding at gwandma’s?” he asked.
“Close.” Emma said. “You know what a girlfriend is?”
“Yeah! I gots Violet!” He blushed again.
“Oh boy.” Emma muttered. “Someone’s got a crush.”
Regina, with a small, enigmatic smile on her face, was determinedly focusing on the road without answering.
“You gots a boyfwiend Em?” Henry asked.
“I don’t.” Emma said.
“You got a gulfwiend?” he asked again.
“Not yet buddy.” Emma chuckled. “But you know, your mom and I wanted to play pretend girlfriends at your grandma’s place.”
“Yeah?” He asked, perking up further when he remembered the game.
“Yeah.” Emma nodded. “But if you want to play you have to follow just one rule.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“You can’t tell anyone else that we’re playing.” Emma said. “We wanna make it really fun and we have to make people really believe it, otherwise it won’t be as fun.”
“Yeah!” Henry said. “Okay! I wanna play! I won’t tell! Pwomise!”
“Pinky swear?” Emma said with a serious tone, holding her pinky out to him.
“Pinky swear!” he said, sticking his tiny pinky out and wrapping it around Emma’s.
“Okay.” Emma grinned at him. “All you have to do is act like your mom and I have been girlfriends for...hmm.”
“A month.” Regina said. “It’s enough time to be serious but still justify why I haven’t told my mother yet.”
“A month.” Emma nodded.
“Okay.” Henry nodded back earnestly. “So...I can tell her...that we do all sorts of fun stuff together, huh Em?”
“Yeah that sounds like a good idea buddy.” Emma nodded, looking at Regina for approval.
“It does.” the brunette agreed. “Tell Emma your favourite things to do, baby.”
“We can go to the park!” Henry said. “And you can swing me on the swings!”
“That sounds fun.” Emma said. “Bet you like to go really high up on the swings huh buddy?”
“Yeah!” Henry said. “And on the slide!”
“Bet we have loads of picnics in the park, huh baby?” Regina asked.
“Yeah mama!” Henry nodded. “And...hmm...You like the movies, Em?”
“Love the movies.” Emma nodded. “We could go to the movies all the time.”
“Awesome!” Henry clapped. “This is gonna be so fun!”
“Ho. Lee. Sh-” Emma was going to exclaim when she took a look at the Mills... Estate was the only correct word that would fit in her mind.
“Emma.” Regina muttered under her breath to stop her from swearing in front of her son.
“Shhhhhhhhins.” Emma finished off. “This place is...Massive!”
“Yeah.” Henry nodded. “S’big.”
There was a curved driveway that led to the massive mansion, and a parking area in the front yard of the house that took six cars, which was overlooking a patch of green lawn and it had a fountain in the middle of it, just cause. The whole place was surrounded by trees, probably to keep the less worthy peasants from looking into the house.
The mansion itself had four wings, three on the right of the main part of the house and one on the left. It had three floors, and the front door was a massive double-mahogany decorated with small stained glass windows. And it had greek-style columns on either side of the entry-way From what she could see on the roof, Emma realised there were loads of fireplaces in the house. She could see beyond the house that there was a large patch of garden behind it, and a part of it was further fenced away, she could see the water of the pool from where she was standing but not much else. And to the side of where she was standing…
“Is that a tennis court?” she asked dumbly.
“Yes it is.” Regina nodded.
“ Regina. ” the brunette corrected. “While we’re here if you call me professor it’s going to lead to a really uncomfortable conversation.”
“Right. Sorry.” Emma nodded. “Regina…”
“Yes dear?” the older woman answered teasingly.
“The level of rich that you are is actually absurd.” Emma said. “Like...I bet your mother could afford to wipe her nose in Alexander Hamilton’s face.”
“She acts like she does.” Regina shrugged.
“All of this is...My God. ” Emma shook her head. “I never thought I’d ever afford to look at a house like this much less spend Christmas in one.”
“Well...Merry Christmas?” Regina joked. “Please don’t tell me this will change your opinion of me.”
“Why, because you could pay my student loans fifty times over and still have money for a dozen ferraris?” Emma joked.
“Among other things.” Regina rolled her eyes.
“You have two driveways.” Emma pointed to the other driveway closer to the tennis court as opposed to the one they came in from.
“One’s entry, one's exit.” Regina shrugged.
“That’s not a thing you get to shrug about.” Emma started laughing at the absurdity of it all. “This is...mindblowing. How is it that you work at Boston U instead of Harvard. I’m sure you can get into Harvard.”
“It’s Harvard. I’m a bisexual, latina, woman. ” Regina said. “You figure it out.”
“Ouch.” Emma rolled her eyes. “You’re too good for Harvard anyway.”
“I’m flattered, are you going to be able to go inside without passing out?” Regina teased.
“I make no promises.”
“My mother has a solid gold clock from pre-revolutionary Paris.” Regina said.
“You’re making that up.” Emma accused. The brunette shrugged.
“Belonged to King Louis himself.”
“Weren’t there like a hundred Louis kings?” Emma asked.
“Well it belonged to one of them.”
When Emma opened her mouth to say something, she was interrupted by a middle-aged man in a suit and bow tie coming out and smiling at Regina.
“Ah, Miss Mills, lovely to see you again.” he said, looking at Henry. “Ah, and the young Master Henry, hello.”
“Hi Jeff!” Henry grinned up at him. The butler smiled at him before looking back up at Regina.
“Hello Jeffrey.” Regina said, smiling at him. “Is mother in?”
“Yes ma’am, she’s just overseeing the finishing touches for brunch.” he answered. “May I take your bags?”
“Yes, please.” Regina nodded. “Oh and Jeffrey this is Emma, she’s my…”
Emma gulped here it goes.
Jeffrey took one look at Emma, his eyes quickly glancing up and down, before he gave her a big, beaming smile. “Lovely to make your acquaintance, miss…”
“Uh, Swan.” Emma smiled at him and held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
The butler was hesitant but shook her hand a moment later, quickly, and like he was afraid to touch her, before he moved to take their bags.
“Oh.” he said when he saw the travel kennel. “Do we have a furry guest as well this year?”
“That’s Salem, Emma’s kitten.” Regina said. “We’ll take care of him, don't worry about that.”
“As you wish, Miss Mills, I’ll take your bags to your room. Your mother has asked if you could join her in the conservatory, Brunch will be served there.” he said, giving her a curt nod before he turned on his heel and walked into the house.
“That went well.” Emma said, turning to look at Regina. “Also... conservatory ?”
“There’s also a patio.” Regina smiled and looked over to Henry, holding her hand out for him to hold it. “Come on sweetheart, let’s go say hi to grandma.”
“We gonna start playin’ now?” he whisper-yelled.
“Yes.” Regina nodded. “Remember the rule.”
“Tell. No one.” he said sternly.
“Good boy.” Regina leaned down and kissed his head before she led them into the house, Emma carrying Salem in the travel kennel.
“Meow.” the cat whined softly.
“I know, me too buddy.” Emma said, looking at the towering house she was walking into and gulping nervously.
They walked into a wide foyer, the walls adorned with expensive paintings and hanging sculptures. The floor was made out of what looked like polished marble, and covered in rugs that looked like they’d seen empires rise and fall and the passing of all forty five presidential terms. Old. They looked old. And expensive, Emma avoided stepping on them for fear that the gods themselves would smite her.
Yeah. She was nervous.
Just past one of the ancient and possibly cursed carpets stood a grand staircase you would imagine a princess to glide down gracefully in a disney movie. This whole house was absolutely ridiculous. The staircase lead up to a landing halfway up the floor, and two staircases lead up the upper half on either side of the bigger one.
“So uhh...This house must have been in your family for generations, huh?” Emma asked.
“One of the first houses to be established in New York.” Regina said. “There was a sketchy period in the revolutionary war where the owner - a British Officer - Was assassinated and then the house was sold and bought by the man who allegedly killed him but he’s...a distant cousin at best.”
This house is motherfucking haunted. Is how that translated in Emma’s mind.
“So...what enterprise is your family in?” Emma asked. Money like this didn’t come from nothing.
“Well historically, grain mills.” Regina shrugged. “Hence the name.”
“Right.” Emma nodded.
“We expanded into a whole food industry eventually. We try to focus on organic stuff, the whole ethically sourced thing, you know.” Regina explained.
“And you never wanted anything in business?” Emma asked.
“I was going to. But…” Regina bit her lip.
“What is it?” Emma asked.
“I started dating one of our employees...it was years ago.” Regina said. “And it made me realise how a lot of politics was affecting the everyday worker. People like my family didn’t feel a thing, but when you’re lucky enough to afford rent…”
“Say no more.” Emma rolled her eyes.
“It made me want to change things, to put myself in a position where I could make things better.” Regina said.
“So...Boston U?” Emma asked her, a curious smirk on her face which won her a scoff and an eye roll.
“I mean I eventually hope to further my career in politics.” Regina shrugged.
“Well, you have my vote.” Emma said with a smile.
“I hope so, being that you’re my girlfriend.” the professor said. Emma stopped in her tracks for a second and nearly swallowed her own tongue.
The game Emma. You’re playing a game.
“Oh. Right.” she scoffed at herself, glancing downwards at Salem who looked up at her through the travel kennel netting with a questioning gaze.
Great, even my cat thinks I’m full of shit.
Regina stopped and waited for Emma to come close to her and looped her elbow around the blonde’s.
“I’m going to tell my mother that I didn’t tell her about you because I thought perhaps it might be too early, but that you convinced me otherwise.” Regina spoke softly.
“Uhm I did?” Emma asked.
“It’ll give you brownie points and hopefully that will allow her to be her more...pleasant...self.” Regina shrugged.
“There’s a non-pleasant side to her?” Emma asked again.
“I pray you never find out.” Regina sighed. “You sure you’re ready for this?”
“We already told Jeffrey it’s a bit too late to back out now anyway.” Emma said. “Relax, this isn’t my first time pretending to be someone’s girlfriend.”
“It isn’t?” Regina asked curiously.
“Long story from my past I’d rather not get into.” Emma shrugged. “Just trust me.”
“Alright.” Regina nodded, giving her a confident smile as they reached the door to the conservatory. “Here we go.”
Regina opened the door and…
“Grandma!” Henry called as he ran over to the eldest woman in the room. An audible gasp came from her as she turned around.
“Oh, little Enrico, there you are!” Cora Mills crouched down as her grandson ran into her arms and gave her a hug. She beamed brightly and kissed his head before she hugged him tightly. “Oh my, look at how big you’ve gotten!”
“Five!” he shouted his age in victory.
“Yes, five.” she chuckled. “My handsome little man.”
“Mama got a fwiend!” Henry grinned. “She has a kitty!”
Oh Boy. here we go.
Cora Mills looked up at her daughter, and then eyeballed the woman whose arm was still linked to her youngest’s.
“Regina, you didn’t tell me you were bringing a guest.” she said, standing up and crossing her arms.
“I hoped the invitation to do so was still open mother...you see I…” Regina looked suddenly nervous, getting a raised brow from Emma who had never seen the brunette professor as anything other than confident and self-assured in the best of ways. Their eyes met over the brief moment of silence and Emma caught a glimpse of what looked like panic in Regina’s eyes. She cleared her throat.
“...She was a little nervous.” Emma spoke up.
“Nervous?” Cora asked, her and the redhead who was sitting at the table wearing similarly quirked eyebrows.
“Mmhm.” Emma nodded. “Poor Gina here wasn’t sure if it was time to tell you about us. She wanted to, she just...needed a nudge.”
“ Gina ?” the redhead with a British accent spoke up.
“Well, Gina are you going to introduce us to this mystery woman then?” Cora asked.
“Yes, mother.” Regina spoke up finally, removing her arm from the link with Emma’s and instead wrapping it gently behind her back to rest on her shoulder on the opposite side. “This is Emma...My girlfriend.”
“ Girlfriend ?!” two voices said in unison.
“Yes, girlfriend.” Regina smiled.
“Regina you didn’t tell me you were dating someone.” Cora said. “Much less in a serious relationship.”
“We’ve only been together a month.” Emma said with a soft smile. “She thought perhaps it was too early. But she told me how eager you were to see her in a serious relationship and I thought ‘well why not then?’”
“I see.” Cora gave her a smirk similar to the one Regina gives her from time to time when she says something smart. “Well good on you for convincing my daughter to break out of that shell of hers. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Pleasure’s all mine.” Emma said, taking the hand that Cora held out to her and shaking it gently. The movement got a soft meow from Salem.
“Is that a cat?” The redhead asked. Cora let out a soft gasp.
“Oh yes, it’s Emma’s kitten.” Regina said, gesturing to the travel kennel. “She didn’t want to leave him alone over the holidays, and well, I know how much you love cats, mother.”
“That’s true!” Cora beamed. “Oh do let him out, it’s fine the whole place is fenced up so he couldn’t possibly get away.”
Not unless he steals a sports car.
Emma put the kennel down and crouched down to open it, Salem stepping out of it slowly and looking up at all the new faces around him.
“Hi kitty.” Henry waved at him, and Salem stepped up to him gently, sniffing him before he began nuzzling his legs. Henry giggled. “Mama what’s he doin?”
“He’s saying hello, sweetheart.” Regina said, quickly thinking of something. “He’s remembering who you are. Henry adores playing with the little fellow.”
“You spend time together frequently?” The redhead asked. “The...three of you?”
“Yes, Zelena. Henry adores Emma, actually.” Regina said.
“Well I don’t know about adores, but…” Emma trailed off with a shrug.
“S’twue gwandma!” Henry beamed, happy to play his part in the game. “Em takes me to the movies, and she swings me weally weally high up on the swings. Don’tchya Em?”
“Yes I do, buddy.” Emma smiled at him and he beamed up at her and stepped over, hugging her leg.
“Me and Em are best fwiends!” he stated.
Oh wow, this kid is really selling it.
“Well that’s wonderful darling.” Cora gently ran a hand on Henry’s little head and ruffled his hair up in the process.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Regina said, holding up the pastry box. “Emma bought us Macarons for brunch!”
“You did?” Cora grinned at the blonde as she accepted the box from her daughter.
“I did?” she said, sending the question towards Regina who shrugged.
“I must have mentioned candidly that they’re your favourite and, well, Emma has a wonderful memory.”
“Emma, I’m starting to like you already.” Cora said, peeking inside the box curiously.
“Oh trust me, she’s amazing.” Regina said, looking at Emma and giving her some kind of signal with her eyes that got an eyebrow quirk from Emma.
She’s trying to tell me something.
All of a sudden, she saw Regina come closer and press a kiss to her cheek. The brush of soft lips and Regina’s perfume scent took over everything and for a good half a minute, Emma just stood in silence blushing like a fool.
“Well uhh…” she mumbled dumbly, her mind finally coming back to full consciousness.
Say something, dumbass!
“You’re definitely worth it.” she said.
Okay, that wasn’t horrible.
Ruby, you really need to have more faith in me.
Who’s Ruby? I’m your conscience, dumbass.
Gee thanks, Jiminy!
“I’m Zelena.” the redhead stood and held her hand out to the blonde, who had just brought her focus back to the present situation. “Regina’s sister.”
“Oh yeah.” Emma nodded. “The travel blogging ‘aunt zee’ who gives ‘amazing presents’”
“Someone’s been talking me up quite a bit I see.” Zelena gave a smirk towards her little nephew, who gave her a cheeky grin back up.
“He was raving about you in the car.” Regina said. “He was so excited for Emma to meet all of you.”
“I can see why.” Emma said.
“Oh.” Cora waved the compliment off. “You’re too sweet.”
“I try my best.” Emma shrugged.
“Ignore mother, keep the flattery up if you wish to survive in this family.” Zelena advised.
“Stop trying to scare her, Zee.” Regina said.
“Whatever you say Gina. ” Zelena teased.
“That nickname is on exclusive benefits.” the brunette warned.
“Oh you two, stop bickering.” Cora said. “Come let’s all sit and have a mimosa while we wait shall we?”
“Where is daddy?” Regina asked.
“You know how he is about his apple tree.” Zelena shrugged. “He said they’re ripe for the picking and if he left them a moment longer they wouldn’t be as good.”
“He’s right.” Regina said.
“Enrico has a special apple tree outside in the back garden.” Cora explained to Emma. “Regina always loved helping him pick apples. She even had this phase once where all she ate were apples. I thought she would grow sick of them and never eat another apple in her life.”
“She’s still a firm believer in ‘an apple a day’” Emma nodded, something she knew from previous conversations with her professor while they worked in the office. “She also likes to burn apple scented candles at the office.”
“The office?” Cora asked, Zelena giving Emma a raised brow.
Fuck. Shit. Ass.
“I mean…” Emma cleared her throat nervously.
“Emma works at the university as well.” Regina said.
“A professor?” Cora raised her brow to match Zelena’s.
What is it with this family and their eyebrows?!
“She’s a Junior Professor.” Regina said. “Still in training, she only graduated from Boston U. last year, she’s working towards getting her hours to do her masters degree and then hopefully onto a PHD…”
“In what, exactly?”
“Political Science.” they answered easily. It was the truth...only.
“Wait.” Zelena hand up her palm. “If she’s a political science graduate...That means that…”
A finger pointed at Emma and then hovered over towards Regina.
“She was your student.” the redhead said.
Motherfucking dick crap!
“Uh...well…” Emma stammered.
“Oh come now Zelena, that’s not the most scandalous thing someone in this family has done.” Cora waved her eldest daughter’s accusation away as she poured Emma a mimosa. “It’s not like Emma slept with Regina for the sake of a grade.”
Not that the thought hasn’t passed your mind a few times.
Shut up Ruby!
“No, I definitely didn’t do that.” Emma chuckled nervously.
“I nearly did.” Zelena scoffed. “That professor was an ass when it came to grades but God was he attractive.”
“Yes well, thankfully you saw sense.” Cora said.
“I saw the threat of you disowning me.” Zelena scoffed.
“That works just as well.” Cora said as she sat down. “So Emma, no hopes of a political career then?”
“Emma is brilliant, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her candidacy.” Regina said.
“Oh well.” Emma chuckled. “I don’t know about presidency. ”
“Why not?” Zelena asked.
“I mean…” Emma shrugged. “Despite being the highest rank, it’s not the place you want to be if you really want to make changes and improve the system.”
“Go on.” Zelena urged.
“Well...The president can make executive orders of course but the thing that separates democracy from monarchy, which was the whole point of the American Revolution after all, is the fact that no one man... or woman for that matter, can make changes. Not without a vote from senate or congress.” Emma said, getting a big smile coming her way from Regina. Thankfully the blonde couldn’t see it while she was looking at Zelena, otherwise she’d go red as a tomato and clam up. “That’s why voting for senators and congressmen and women is, in my opinion, just as important as voting for the president, if not more so.”
There was a sudden hush as Emma concluded before Zelena picked up her glass and leaned back gracefully in her chair.
“Regina, if you don’t marry this girl, I will.” the redhead threatened jokingly.
“Zee, we’ve only been together a month.” Regina said, giving her a warning glare.
“Listen to Beyonce!” Zelena waved off the objection.
“Zelena’s just joking dear.” Regina said towards Emma.
“I gathered that.” Emma gave Regina a reassuring smile.
“ Feliz Navidad...Feliz navidad” An older man sang as he entered the room with a basket of apples “ ...Feliz Navi-”
“Daddy!” Regina said, standing up as her face lit up.
“Oh! Mi hija !” Henry Mills Sr. beamed and nearly dropped his basket of apples. Cora stood up and took them away from him as he opened his arms wide to hug his daughter who approached him. He held her tightly, swinging her from side to side just a little and giving her a big kiss on the cheek. “I was wondering when you would arrive.”
“We just did.” Regina said.
“Ah yes, where’s my little boy?” he called.
“Here gwampa!” Henry said, waving in his special kid’s chair.
“Ah mi hijo! ” the elder man said as he released his daughter and went over to hug his grandson and give him a kiss on the head. “You’ve gotten big!”
“Gwandma said that too.” Henry said happily.
“Well then you must be really big huh?” his grandfather hugged him again. “You’ll be bigger than me soon!”
“S’ok gwampa, you can have my chair when I’m big.” Henry said, getting a loud laugh from his grandfather.
“Always generous.” the older man said, looking at the table and doing a double take when he noticed the new face. “Oh, excuse me, I didn’t realise we had a guest.”
“Daddy this is Emma.” Regina introduced. “She’s my girlfriend.”
Henry Mills Sr. looked from Emma to Regina and back again.
“Well then!” he grinned at her. “It’s wonderful to meet you Emma!”
“Likewise sir.” Emma smiled at him.
“See mi corazon ” he said to Cora. “I told you you didn’t have to invite Lark.”
“Lark?” Emma asked Regina, who shrugged.
“Enrico his name is Robin and he’s a nice boy! I thought he was helping you pick apples.” Cora said.
“ Si, he was.” Henry said, looking at the door he came in through curiously before calling out. “Crane? Are you alright?”
“Fine, fine sir...it’s just a bit heavy is all.” a breathless British accent came through the door. “And it’s uhm...it’s Robin sir.”
“Eh.” Enrico waved off. “Do you need help?”
“No no, I’m…” a loud grunt came as the man stumbled in with a basket that was just as full as the older man’s. “Fine…”
Henry Sr. stood up and took the basket from the younger man easily.
“Office boy.” he muttered under his breath as he took it to the kitchen, the other being carried easily by Jeffrey.
“Ah, sorry about that everyone.” Robin cast a smile that was, in some universe, meant to be charming, towards the women at the table. “I can never say no to a spot of gardening.”
“Of course not.” Cora said, smiling at him. “What with your love of nature and all. Mimosa?”
“Thank you Mrs. Mills.” Robin took the glass from her with a smile. He took a sip as he cast a glance towards Regina and Emma. “I’m sorry I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Oh silly me.” Cora said. “Robin this is my youngest daughter, Regina.”
“Ah the Professor. I’ve heard quite a bit about you.” Robin said, holding his hand out for Regina to shake, which she did.
“And this is her girlfriend Emma.” Cora said.
“G-girlfriend?” Robin hesitated a second and looked at Cora questioningly.
“Yes, girlfriend.” Emma said almost possessively. “The romantic kind, not your everyday gal pal.”
“I...see.” Robin said, shaking Emma’s hand.
“Emma was just regaling us with her opinions of politics.” Zelena said. “She’s quick as a whip this one.”
“I mean I had the best professor.” Emma said, throwing a smile Regina’s way.
“She’s...your student?” Robin looked at Regina with a disapproving brow reaching his hairline.
“Ex-student.” Regina said. “She graduated last year, we’ve been dating this past month after Emma rejoined Boston U. as a Junior professor.”
“So...there’s...an age difference between the two of you then I’d gather.” Robin said, getting quizzical looks from every woman in the room. (Emma tried her best to hold back a glare because did he really just imply that Regina was old?)
No, dumbass, just older than you.
“Well once we’re all here.” Cora changed the awkward subject quickly. “How about we get started on brunch hmm?”
“Yeah!” little Henry spoke up. “I’m hungwy!”
“Oh. My god.” Emma said, letting herself fall back onto the double bed in the room that Regina had lead them to. “I have never eaten that much food in my life.”
“Mother does go overboard.” Regina said. “Though you really did seem to be into those waffles.”
“Those were the best goddamn waffles I have ever eaten.” Emma stated. “I would build a church to worship those waffles.”
Regina could only respond with a laugh.
“You’re so ridiculous sometimes it’s adorable.” the brunette said.
“Well as your girlfriend I will take that as a compliment.” Emma said jokingly. “Do you want to pull the beds apart?”
“The what?” Regina gave her a quizzical look.
“The beds.” Emma pointed backwards towards the mattress she was laying on with her thumb. “These are two twin beds right? We can pull them apart?”
Regina shook her head, dread setting in. “This is my old bedroom Emma.”
“...so…” Emma’s eyes went a little wide, realising their immediate situation.
“So...that’s a double...that...my mother expects us to share.” Regina sighed and dropped her head into her palm. “And this is officially awkward.”
“I mean a part of me agrees and the other part of me is calling us both dumbasses for not realising this would happen if we tell your mother we’re in a relationship.” Emma said, taking in the look that Regina gave her and quickly added. “In my defence that part sounds disturbingly like Ruby.”
“Hence the profanity.” Regina nodded. “I’ll grab some extra blankets and find an empty guest room.”
“Hey so I don’t want to make this any weirder than it is but...your mother will know something is up if you do that.” Emma shrugged.
“Of course she will.” Regina sighed. “And may God have mercy on us, she will question every move we make.”
“You’re the boss.” Emma shrugged. “I just don’t want our plan to go to shit.”
“Call me the boss again and I’ll seriously consider a relationship with you.” Regina joked. “I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Ruby has, on several occasions, stumbled into the apartment, drunk off her ass, crawled into bed with me, spooned me like a lover and sometimes even fondled parts of me that have never been fondled.” Emma stated. “I don’t think I could feel uncomfortable about anything after that.”
“That’s one hell of a story.”
“Once she felt hot and stripped down naked.” Emma shrugged. “I’m immune.”
“Okay.” Regina chuckled. “Only if you’re sure.”
“Hey if you’re okay with cats on the furniture, we can let Salem sleep between us as a buffer. The little runt loves getting cuddled in his sleep.” Emma said.
“Sounds like a plan.” Regina nodded. “So...do you want to tell me why you looked like you were seconds away from punching Robin Locksley’s teeth out when he mentioned our age difference?”
“Uhm, because it’s rude to discuss a lady’s age?” Emma shrugged. “Did Mary Poppins teach you nothing?”
“You don’t have to act protective over me Emma.” Regina gave her an amused smirk. “It’s not part of the deal.”
“Sure. But if I were your girlfriend he’d be on his way to a dentist by now.” Emma shrugged.
“I’m flattered.” the older woman said.
“Mama!” Henry knocked on the door repeatedly. His mother opened the door and he walked in like he owned the place, going over to the bed and sitting up on it beside Emma, Salem following him around. “Kitty came into my room Em.”
“He likes you.” Emma said, poking Henry gently and getting him to giggle.
“I like him too!” he said, looking down at the cat who was meowing near the bed to be let up. “He wants ups.”
“Yes he does.” Regina nodded, leaning down and petting the cat gently before picking him up and putting him down on the bed. “There you go little guy.”
Salem meowed at her before he turned to Henry for more nuzzling, getting the boy to giggle again.
“Where you gonna sleep Em?” Henry asked.
“Oh...uhm.” Emma looked up at Regina hesitantly.
“Emma and I will be having sleepovers in my room honey.” the boy’s mother explained.
“Fun!” Henry grinned. “Can I come?”
“Henry we talked about this.” Regina began, leaning forward so she was closer in height to her son. “You’re getting big, you have to learn to sleep in your own bed.”
“Uh huh.” He nodded. “Only if I have nighmawes.”
“That’s right baby.” Regina said, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“Okay.” he said, pulling out an apple from his hoodie pocket.
“Where did you get that?” Regina asked.
“Gwampa.” he shrugged.
“You just ate baby.” she said.
“Uh huh...but I love gwampa’s apples.” he said, turning over to Emma. “He makes the best apples.”
“I bet the tree has something to do with it too huh buddy?” Emma joked.
“...Maybe.” he shrugged. “You wanna bite?”
“I’m stuffed like a turkey, kid.” Emma said. “I’ll try one later huh?”
“Okay!” Henry said, taking a big chomp out of the apple and grinning happily. “Gwampfa mafesalfindasruffwifapfen.”
“I’m sorry I don’t understand German.” Emma teased.
“Henry.” Regina chided. “Do not speak with your mouth full. It’s rude and...we didn’t understand a word you just said.”
Henry chewed quickly, swallowing perhaps a bit earlier than advisable and then coughing a little. “Sorry mama. I said Gwampa makes all kinds of stuff with apples.”
“That he does.” Regina nodded. “He even makes his own juice.”
“ Wait. ” Emma said. “The apple juice at the table?”
“Yep.” Henry nodded.
“That was really good!” Emma said.
“He uses a similar, though larger in scale, process to produce the apple juice that our company sells.” Regina said.
“He always smells like ‘em too.” Henry said.
“Remember when you used to call him apple man.” Regina asked with a smile.
“I didn’t know he was gwampa.” Henry shrugged. “But he always gave me apples.”
“So he became apple man.” Emma nodded.
“Yep.” Henry grinned. “Hey Em, what do you want for Christmas?”
Emma shrugged, unsure of the answer herself. Ruby had asked her that same question when she ran out of ideas of what to get her.
“I don’t know.” she answered simply.
“You gotta want something.” Henry said, flopping down on the bed next to her, Salem climbing onto his chest and laying down on him. “Think of something...hmmm...something you want in the whole wide world!”
Emma stared, unfocused, at the ceiling of the room. Truth be told there wasn’t much that she wanted. She always knew how to fend for herself, if there’s anything she wanted in her life she always knew how to work for it. It was that way since she wanted her very first bike, so she started doing chores for her foster mom at the time. She made 10 dollars a week...the bike stayed in her life longer than any foster family ever did, and she used it to run away more than once.
And that was how it was most of her life. Whether it was a toy, or a phone, or new clothes. Sure, there was that phase where she pick-pocketed and shoplifted a lot of stuff, which wasn’t exactly hard or honest work. But beyond that stupid teenage phase where she was just running with the wrong people, she always got what she wanted on her own. Christmas gifts never really factored as a way of getting things that she wanted.
Something you want in the whole wide world. But she was already working towards that with college, wasn’t she? She was getting further ahead in her life than she ever hoped she could, so what more could she want.
Love, you dope.
Is it? How many times have you scratched your own itches thinking about a certain professor-
That doesn’t mean I-
Her eyes landed on Regina at the wrong moment. Her heart casually attempted leaping out of her chest when their eyes met. Regina’s eyes could look right at your soul and make you feel like the most important person in the world...or was it just the light reflecting off of them?
Either way, Emma started having trouble breathing and she broke out into a nervous sweat.
“I uhhh…” she stood up suddenly. “I need some air.”
“Are you-” Regina was about to ask, but Emma bolted out of there like she was being chased by wild racoons.
The mansion was huge and confusing to anyone who was a stranger to it, so when Emma somehow made her way out onto the patio, she wasn’t even phased, more concerned with the singular thought that caused complete turmoil in her head and heart.
You can’t. You absolutely can’t.
But you kind of-
She was so focused on yelling at her inner Ruby that she didn’t even notice the sound of footsteps behind her.
“Oh there you are dear.” a familiar voice said. She turned around to find Cora standing behind her.
“Oh...Hi Mrs. Mills.” Emma gave her a small smile. “Sorry, I don’t make it a point to wander around people’s houses. I just needed some air.”
“I’m less concerned with that and more concerned with the fact that you nearly knocked Jeffrey over, dear.” Cora said.
“Oh...I did?” Emma gulped. “I’m sorry...I didn’t see him.”
“He said you seemed to be in a panic, dear. Is something the matter?” Cora asked. Emma shrugged and shook her head quietly. A single word and Regina’s whole story would get tossed out the window. That wouldn’t be fair to her.
“I guess being cooped up inside after four hours in a car kind of got to me.” she said instead.
“Do you suffer from claustrophobia?” Cora asked.
“Uh no…” Emma shook her head. “Well...not usually anyway.”
“Interesting.” Cora nodded. “Perhaps just nerves then?”
“Uh...well…” Emma stammered.
“It’s alright, I know meeting your girlfriend’s parents can’t be a relaxing experience.” Cora said. “When I met my in-laws I was shaking like a leaf.”
“Yeah…” Emma chuckled softly.
“Worry not, we’ve never scared a potential suitor off yet.” Cora gave her a smile. “Though it has been a long time since we’ve met one.”
“Yeah...Regina may have said something along those lines.” Emma nodded.
“Poor Daniel, it’s rather terrible what happened to him.” Cora sighed. “Ah well, one must not dwell on the past. We move on to the future, don’t we dear?”
“Uhm...yeah.” Emma said, unsure of what the older woman was talking about.
“I assure you, everyone in this house wants nothing but the best for Regina. If she’s happy with you then so am I.” Cora said. “Besides, you seem like a bright young girl. And not at all Republican.”
Emma snorted. “Nope.”
“Good.” Cora nodded. “I’ll have the chef prepare an extra helping of those waffles just for you for breakfast tomorrow.”
Fucking score, my dude.
“That’s really nice, thank you.” Emma smiled at her. “I should probably go back upstairs and finish unpacking.”
“Of course, I’ll see you a little later on, hmm?” Cora said, patting Emma’s shoulder as Emma walked past her.
She made her way back up to the room, gulping when she remembered that not only would she have to share that room with Regina, but that they’d be sleeping in the same bed together. She’d have to rein it in and hope she didn’t get drunk at the Christmas Eve party and do or say something stupid.
“Emma.” Regina called to her when she reached the upstairs hallway just before their room, pulling her out of her thoughts. “There you are, I was...worried...for a second.”
“Yeah, sorry I bolted I just…” Emma shrugged, trying to play it off.
“I’m sorry if Henry’s question crossed the line. He’s five, he doesn’t yet realise that Christmas can be a sensitive subject for a lot of people.” Regina said. Emma shook her head.
“It’s fine. No big deal. He didn’t say anything that got to me I just...needed some air. Too much time cooped up in a car you know?” the blonde tried to play it off again.
“Right.” Regina nodded, giving Emma a slight knowing look, like she could tell the younger girl was bullshitting her but she was going to let it slide. “Well if he does start asking uncomfortable questions just...give me a signal. He’s the curious sort, but he’s also easily distracted.”
“Aren’t all five year olds?” Emma chuckled. “It’s fine, really. I should go finish unpacking and text Ruby.”
“Hey Em!” Henry’s head popped out of his bedroom door with a grin. “You wanna help me and mama make popcorn strings and paper tinsel?”
“Paper tinsel?” Emma asked towards Regina.
“Family tradition, we take long strips of paper and make them into decorations with glitter and glue.” Regina shrugged. “He loves it.”
“Oh.” Emma deadpanned. “I uh, I’m not great with crafts, I never really got to do any of that stuff around Christmas.”
Henry stepped up to her in the hallway, a curious look on his face. “But everyone makes crafts with their family on Christmas Em…”
“Henry.” Regina chided.
“It’s okay...maybe…” she looked towards Regina. “Maybe it’s better if I explain it to him.”
“Only if you’re sure.” Regina said, concern painted across her features. Emma gave her a small smile and nodded before she kneeled down to be eye-level with the little boy.
“Thing is, Henry…” she began. “I didn’t have a mommy or a daddy growing up. I grew up with a lot of different people and I moved around a lot, sometimes I lived in big houses full of other kids too. And we didn’t always have the money to be able to let all of us make crafts.”
Henry frowned at her and for a moment she was scared that the kid was going to start crying. “So...you didn’t have a family?”
“Not really.” Emma shook her head. Henry’s brow furrowed further and he looked down at his shoes like he was thinking really hard. Both women were watching to see his reaction, and Emma was praying to every god she knew of that she didn’t just destroy the kid’s innocence when it comes to Christmas.
Suddenly, Henry looked up at his mother. “Mama, I should always share my things, right?”
“With your friends and the people you trust, yes Henry.” Regina nodded, unsure where this was going.
“Is Em my friend?” he asked.
“Of course she is, baby.” Regina nodded again. Henry stepped closer to Emma and tried to reach up to her shoulders to give her the biggest hug a five year old could give to an adult. Emma, though stunned at the action, hugged him back gently.
“It’s okay Em, I’ll share my family with you. Then you can have Christmas with us...and we can make crafts together.” he said matter-of-factly.
Shit. don’t cry. Do not cry. For the love of all that is good on this God-forsaken planet. Do. Not. Cry.
“That’s...that’s really sweet Henry.” she managed to choke out without sobbing.
“So do you wanna make crafts with me? I’ll show you how and everything.” he said as he pulled back. Emma smiled at him and nodded.
“Yeah buddy, I’ll make crafts with you. Just let me go finish getting my stuff out of my suitcase huh?” Emma said.
“‘Kay! I gotta ask grandma for the craft sheet.” he said, running off to accomplish his mission. Emma stood up and both her and his mother watched him leave before the blonde looked back at her professor, shocked to find her nose red and her eyes watery.
“Hey, are you okay?” Emma asked.
“I’m fine.” Regina smiled at her. “It’s just...he keeps surprising me at every turn lately...he’s so much like his father.”
“His father…” Emma trailed off and wondered for a second. “You mean...Daniel?”
“How do you know?” Regina asked, shocked, but only because she’d never mentioned it to Emma, not that she knew of anyway.
“Your mom mentioned him briefly just now when I was downstairs. But the fact that he’s Henry’s father was a total guess.” Emma said, looking at Regina with concern.
“Trust my mother to talk about things that aren’t her business.” Regina rolled her eyes. “What did she say about him?”
“Just that...something terrible happened to him.” Emma’s brow furrowed at the faraway and pained look in Regina’s eyes. “I’m guessing he passed away?”
Regina nodded, arms crossed tightly over her chest like she was afraid she’d collapse otherwise. “Daniel worked on my father’s apple orchard. We’d been dating a few years, and he’d been dropping not so subtle hints about his imminent proposal...I was a few weeks pregnant already, I was planning on telling him over a dinner date one night. It was our anniversary. I found out later that he was going to propose to me that night.”
“Was going to?” Emma asked, the question leaving her mouth before she had the chance to stop it. Regina nodded again.
“He got into a car wreck. Some idiot drunk crashed right into him and threw him off the road. I barely got to him in time to say goodbye.” The lump in her throat was so tight she could barely get the words out. “The only solace I have of that night is that at the very least, he left this world with a smile on his face, knowing he has a son, and that I would have gladly been his wife if only we got the chance.”
She wiped away a tear underneath her left eye with her right hand and that’s when Emma saw the ring. Regina always wore it, she didn’t know why she never noticed. It was sitting on the ring finger, but being on the right not on the left, it never gave the impression that it was an engagement ring. At least, not to Emma, but what did she know?
“I’m sorry.” Emma frowned. “I can’t even imagine…”
“My mother tries to push me into a relationship because she’s worried I can’t ever move on from him.” Regina shrugged. “It’s maternal care to a point...doesn’t make it any less annoying.”
“Yeah.” Emma nodded. “I’m sorry...I didn’t realise mentioning what your mother said would bring up so much pain.”
“It’s okay.” Regina sniffed and wiped away a couple of tears and gave Emma a soft smile. “It’s not usually so easy to talk about. Maybe you’re just naturally a good listener, but talking with you has always been easy.”
“It could totally be the fact that you can ruin any chance of a career that I have if I blab a single word of it to anyone.” Emma joked.
“Maybe.” Regina winked at her before she started making her way down the stairs. “We’ll be in the den covered in glitter when you’re ready!”
Perfect . Emma thought, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach at the older woman’s wink. Stupid butterflies.
“You can stop laughing any time now.” Emma said into her phone.
“I’m sorry it’s just…” Ruby laughed again, not sorry at all. “Junior Professor?”
“As opposed to ‘I’m risking my stable career for the sake of dating a student because I couldn’t keep it in my pants for a year.’?” Emma rolled her eyes.
“But they still know you’re her student...or that you were anyway they just don’t know that’s what you still are.” Ruby said. “What’s the difference?”
“The difference is that while I am currently her student she’d be breaking massive school rules and be putting her entire career not to mention any hopes of a political future at risk.” Emma explained. “No one gives a shit if she’s banging a coworker.”
“Putting aside the fact that you two aren’t actually sleeping together.” Ruby said.
“Uh...yeah...funny you should mention that.” Emma sighed. “There’s one thing we didn’t count on, and that’s sleeping arrangements.”
“Wait...what?” Ruby asked.
“We...may...have to share a bed tonight.” Emma said.
“May have, or definitely will?”
“Definitely will.” Emma said quickly.
“You’re sharing a bed with Professor MILF?!” Ruby exclaimed.
“I told you not to call her that!” Emma groaned. “And yes. Sharing a bed. To sleep in. actual sleep. Not the kind that you did all over the dorm building Freshman year!”
“Cheap shot.” Ruby rolled her eyes all the way in Maine. “Is her mom nice at least?”
“Yeah she’s not bad. I mean I haven’t known her all my life like Regina has, but she seems to like me at least.” Emma shrugged. “Did you see the pictures I sent you of the mansion?”
“Yeah. It’s crazy.” Ruby shook her head. “That’s like...a waste of good booze money!”
“Dude I had like three mimosas trust me, they have plenty of good booze and the money for plenty more.” Emma scoffed. “They even have a pool house.”
“Why the fuck would a pool need a house?” Ruby asked.
“It’s actually a small house near the pool, where guests can like, stay and have their own privacy.” Emma shrugged.
“That’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.” Ruby said.
“I suppose we’d get the point if we were swimming in cash.” Emma shrugged.
“Is the kid still cute?” Ruby asked.
“The sweetest.” Emma said. “Though he ate more popcorn than he put on his string.”
“That always happens, it’s like a rule.”
“I wouldn't know.” Emma said. “This was my first time making it.”
“Oh shit. Right.” Ruby cleared her throat uncomfortably like she did when she realised she put her foot in her mouth. “I guess that must have been awkward huh?”
“No...well...not the most awkward part.” Emma sighed. “Something uh...happened and I kind of realised something that...shouldn’t even be a thing but...surprise...heh.”
“You’re not making sense. Which means we’re getting deep. What happened?” Ruby asked.
“Oh nothing.” Emma said casually. “Except the kid asked me what I wanted most in this whole entire world and I may or may not have realised then and there that I’mkindofinlovewithRegina.”
“Took you long enough.” Ruby said simply.
“What?!” Emma all but shouted.
“You make heart eyes at her all the time!”
“I don’t make eyes!” Emma protested.
“Oh please you got so wet when you found out she chose you to be her TA I had to put a towel down.” Ruby scoffed. “You’ve been crushing on her since Freshman year.”
“That’s ridiculous, she didn’t even teach us Freshman year!” Emma rolled her eyes.
“No, she passed us in the hallway once and you turned around so fast I nearly took you to the campus clinic to make sure you didn’t have whiplash.” Ruby reminded her.
“Oh. Right.” Emma sighed. “I can’t be in love with my professor!”
“Uhm, tell yourself that?” Ruby chuckled. “Sounds like that gay-train left the rainbow station months ago.”
“This isn’t funny.” Emma sighed. “I can’t be in love with her.”
“Why not?” Ruby asked. “Sure she’s your professor but...you’re gonna graduate soon. I mean...she wouldn’t ask any student of hers to pretend to be her girlfriend Emma and...to be honest? I think she likes you too.”
“No. No way. Don’t give me that hope.” Emma shook her head.
“Yeah sure, okay, so she totally wants to pretend to date all of her students. Even Brad the incel.” Ruby nodded. “I bet he’s the one she’s asking to be her date next Christmas.”
“Eww, don’t be gross.” Emma sighed. “It doesn’t mean she likes me.”
“Emma, putting aside this whole fake dating thing...she invited you to be with her family for Christmas. The only people who do that are people who want to bang you.” Ruby said.
“You invite me over for Christmas all the time!” Emma accused.
“Yeah, and before Belle came into the picture, I banged everything that moves.” Ruby reasoned. “I mean hell I woke up naked next to you enough, are you sure we never had sex?”
“If we did I’m sure I completely repressed the memory out of trauma.” Emma said.
“Bitch I could rock your world.” Ruby rolled her eyes. “Regardless. Best friends, and people who want in your pants.”
“Regina is...well...a coworker besides being my Professor.” Emma sighed.
“I’m willing to bet a hundred bucks you two will bang on Christmas eve.” Ruby said.
“Ruby this isn’t funny.” Emma said in a serious tone that bordered on pissed off. “You just...you don’t get it okay this woman’s been through one hell of a heartbreak.”
“What happened?” Ruby asked.
“If I tell you you have to keep your mouth shut. Especially around school.” Emma said.
“Come on, Em, I know I talk shit about everyone else but you know I’d never spill your secrets.” Ruby said, her voice gentle and genuine like it always got when they got deep and sincere rather than messing around.
“She told me about Henry’s dad.” Emma said. “Apparently he was going to propose the night she was going to tell him that she was pregnant. But...he died that night.”
“Yeah.” Emma sighed.
“How did you even get to talking about that? I mean I can’t imagine that she just casually brings up the fact that her heart got wrenched out.” Ruby said.
“The kid and I had...a moment.” Emma said, trying to fight off the smile that came onto her face.
“He asked if I wanted to make popcorn strings and paper tinsel.” Emma shrugged. “I told him I never got to do any of that stuff and he was asking why and how come and all that. So I put it gently to him that I never had a real family.”
“Oh geez Em, you went and made the kid cry didn’t you?” Ruby said.
“He didn’t! I thought he would though, he scared me for a second there.” Emma sighed.
“What did he do then?”
“Nearly made me cry instead.” Emma rolled her eyes. “He said...well he looked up at his mom and asked her if he should always share his things like she tells him he should.”
“And she said yes, if the person he’s sharing with is his friend and he trusts them.” Emma shrugged. “He asked her if I was their friend. She said yes...then he hugged me and said that I could share his family with him...I damn near bawled on top of a five year old.”
“Holy shit. I don’t blame you.” Ruby said into the phone. “That’s some deep shit.”
“When I looked back over at Regina she was nearly in tears. Henry went off to get his stuff for crafts and she told me all about Daniel.” Emma shrugged. “She hasn’t dated in five years, what makes me think I could change that?”
“You’re right, maybe you can’t.” Ruby said. “But who knows if you can or not until you try?”
“And get my heart broken?” Emma said. “Or make an ass out of myself?”
“Newsflash Swan. Life is full of heartbreak and ass-out-of-yourself making. You know what kind of people don’t get their heart broken and don’t make asses out of themselves? The unhappy people. The ones who never even tried to accomplish what they wanted in life. They end up lonely throughout their life, they end up hating Christmas and pretty soon they end up living in an old, decrepit bungalow in some obscure part of town with ten mean cats and they start screaming at people to get off their god-damn lawn.” Ruby sighed.
“...You pissed off Mean old Mr. Wilkins again didn’t you?” Emma rolled her eyes.
“I dropped my water bottle!” Ruby shouted. “I need a new jogging route...or he needs to like...die.”
“Nice, Rubes.” Emma rolled her eyes.
“My point is still valid.” Ruby said.
“You’re right.” Emma sighed.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ruby nodded on the other end of the line. “And mean old Mr. Wilkins.”
“Get a new jogging route.” Emma rolled her eyes. “And what’s with the inspirational quotes all of a sudden?”
“Belle sends me one every day to keep my spirits up.” Ruby said, her voice giving away her smile.
“You two are so adorable it’s nauseating.” Emma said.
“You’re just jealous.” Ruby teased.
“Sure.” Emma rolled her eyes. She was about to say something else when the bedroom door got knocked on by tiny fists.
“Emma?” Henry’s voice called through the door.
“Yeah Henry, what’s up?” Emma called back.
“Mama says we get to go shopping!” He said, opening the door a crack and poking his head through. “Oh sowwy, you’re on the phone.”
“It’s okay sweetie, I’m just talking to a friend.” Emma said.
“Can I say hi?” Henry asked with a grin.
“Sure.” Emma said, holding the phone down to his level. He put his tiny hands on her wrist and faced the phone, speaking directly at it.
“Hi Emma’s friend! Merry Christmas!” he shouted into the phone.
“Henry come get your boots on!” Regina called from downstairs.
“Coming mama!” he said, grinning up at Emma before he ran off to do what his mother told him. Emma put the phone back up to her ear.
“I guess I’m going shopping.” Emma shrugged.
“That kid is ridiculously cute.” Ruby pointed out. “Go. Have fun. Don’t shit yourself in fear of the unknown.”
“You should write fortune cookies.” Emma rolled her eyes. “Bye Rubes. I’ll text you.”
“Please do. I want updates.” Ruby said. “Bye Emma.”
“This town is beautiful.” Emma said, looking out at all the Christmas lights that lit up the main part of town where they were, the winter snow adding an extra layer of Christmas spirit in the whole scene.
“It’s full of rich people, they can afford the taxes to keep it.” Regina chuckled, leaning in to whisper something to Emma. “Whether or not they actually pay them is another story entirely.”
Emma started laughing, and Zelena looked back to give the ‘couple’ a curious look.
“What’s funny Emma?” Henry asked.
“Your mama told me a joke, buddy.” Emma said.
“Well do share it with the rest of us, Regina.” Cora said.
“It’s an inside joke mother, you wouldn’t understand if you’re not in politics.” Regina deflected tactfully.
“I think it’s just dirty.” Zelena shrugged. “And she’s embarrassed to tell us.”
“It’s a joke about taxes, Zee, there’s nothing sexy about that.” Regina rolled her eyes, looking at Emma who was trying to hold in a laugh and ignoring the eye roll she got from her sister.
“Mama look! It’s your store!” Henry pointed to a window to a jewelry store.
“Your store?” Emma asked as they both looked towards the window.
“Oh.” Regina chuckled. “It’s my favourite jewelry store, I always end up looking at their window when we come here to see their new stock.”
“But for some inane reason, she never buys anything.” Zelena said.
“Why not?” Emma asked as they slowly got closer towards the window of the store. Regina shrugged.
“I don’t know, I guess something always holds me back. I usually look at it during Christmas time I guess…” she shrugged again. “I don’t know.”
“I say she doesn’t buy the thing she wants most from the store because she’s fishing for a christmas present!” Zelena teased.
“Oh shut up.” Regina rolled her eyes. “I can easily buy a necklace if I want one.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Oh Zelena, enough. Leave your sister alone.” Cora chided gently. “Besides, I always thought that Jewelry was worth more when given as a gift anyway. That’s the classy way to do it.”
“Sure, if we lived any time before the twenty-first century, when women couldn’t work and afford their own jewelry so their husbands had to buy it for them so it was a gift no matter what.” Zelena reasoned. “I buy my own jewelry, mother are you saying I’m not classy?”
“Well no, of course I’m not saying that.” Cora rolled her eyes.
“Mama look!” Henry pointed at the window, his finger and nose pressed against the glass, his grandfather, who had been silently walking along with them, was holding him up to the window. “ducks!”
All four women approached the window, looking at the piece that Henry was looking at. It was a sterling silver necklace, the pendant of which was two swans facing each other, with their necks bent and foreheads touching to form a heart. The eyes were two diamonds and shone bright in the lights of the shop window.
“Those aren’t ducks sweetie, they’re Swans.” Regina explained.
“...What’s the difference?” Henry asked.
“About twenty five pounds.” Emma chuckled.
“Fun fact. In England, all the Swans legally belong to the queen...and she’s the only one who’s allowed to eat them.” Zelena said, giving Emma a wry smile.
“Uhhh…” Emma stammered.
“Emma dear…” Cora spoke up. “Isn’t your last name Swan?”
Emma turned beet red while Regina gave Zelena, who wasn’t trying to hold in her laughter at all, a death glare.
“You’re horrible.” Regina said.
“I’m sorry it’s too funny!” Zelena cackled.
“I don’t know what you two are bickering about.” Cora said. “I just thought perhaps it would be lovely symbolism wouldn’t it, Regina?”
“What would be?” Regina asked.
“If Emma bought you the necklace.”
Emma would later swear high and low that at that moment, she’d heard a record-scratch and the supposed soundtrack to this absolute farce halt on the punchline.
“Mother!” Regina chastised. “That’s...Dear God I can’t even begin to explain to you how rude that is. How dare you pressure her like that?”
“Well calm down dear it was only an open suggestion.” Cora rolled her eyes. “Such a drama queen.”
“You did name her Regina. ” Zelena muttered.
“Shut it, Greenie!” Regina shot back, getting a gasp from her sister.
“How dare you?!”
“Oh enough, you two.” their father halted the fight, putting Henry down and placing a hand on Emma’s shoulder. “Corazon I know you mean well, but I’m sure Emma already has a wonderful gift ready and waiting under the tree for Regina. Don’t you, mi hija ?”
Shit. Dick. Motherfucker.
“Of course I do.” Emma tried her best to fake a smile, it made her face hurt.
“You do?” Regina asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah...babe.” Emma said, the term of endearment feeling foreign and yet fitting. “Of course I do.”
“Well I’m sure you have a gift for Emma as well.” Zelena said. Regina turned to her, hoping to God that rush of panic she felt in her heart didn’t show in her eyes
Son of a bitch!
“Well... obviously Zelena I bought my girlfriend a gift!” Regina rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Honestly what a notion.”
“I was only asking because you looked like a deer caught in headlights when she said it.” Zelena shrugged.
“I know Christmas is a time to be merry and reminisce about your family, but I really could do without the memories of you two bickering when you were children. ” Cora rolled her eyes. “Now come, all of you, let’s go get a festive treat...some mince pies and hot chocolate perhaps?”
Regina gently took Henry’s hand, stopping him from running after his grandmother excitedly, getting a confused frown from him.
“You guys go on ahead, Henry and I will catch up.” Regina said. Everyone gave her a curious look, but let it slide and walked on, except Emma, who stayed where she stood for a moment.
“Yes.” Regina said. “Go along with them, we’ll catch up soon.”
“Uhm.” Emma looked back at Regina’s family nervously.
“Oh, my father will protect you from my sister and her insanity, you’ll be fine. Go.” Regina waved her off.
“Okay…” Emma gave her a weird look and did what she was told, leaving Regina and Henry alone.
“But mama I want a cookie.” Henry frowned.
“You’ll get a cookie baby, I promise.” Regina smiled and crouched down to talk to him. “But I need your help with something very important.”
Henry looked at the scheming look in his mother’s eyes and smiled. “‘Kay!”
It was 9pm, and according to Regina, an hour past Henry’s usual bedtime. She’d bathed him and got him into his pyjamas, but was having some serious trouble getting him to actually get into bed.
“Young man, I said stop jumping on the bed and get under the covers. Now. ”
“But mama it’s Chwistmas!” he said, still jumping on the bed as if somehow, it made any difference.
“Yes, it is, and Santa isn’t going to bring you anything but a dusty lump of coal if you don’t listen to me right now.” Regina threatened. “I’ll call him and tell him you’re being very naughty.”
“He’s busy. You’ll pwobably just get voicemail.” Henry shrugged.
Emma started laughing and caught their attention, having changed into her comfy PJs herself now that they weren’t going out again she was hoping she could relax for the rest of the night. She’d come to say goodnight to Henry when she’d heard him basically sass his mother.
“Maybe she will buddy.” Emma said. “But you know what? Your mom knows how to send an email marked as ‘high importance’ which is something I haven’t figured out yet. And I hear Santa pays really close attention to his emails.”
“You just press the red exclamation point Emma, honestly.” Regina rolled her eyes, getting a brow raise from the blonde before she realised what she was trying to do and backtracked. “But yes Henry. Santa’s emails are very important to him because that’s how he makes sure little girls and boys still belong on the nice list.”
“So before emails, all the kids could get away with being naughty on Chwistmas?” Henry crossed his arms and looked at his mother expectantly.
“Kind of.” Emma shrugged. Henry hummed thoughtfully.
“Mama, can you email Santa and tell him I want a time machine?” he asked.
“Absolutely not.” Regina said.
“ Why not?” he whined. Regina opened her mouth to say something, but Emma beat her to it.
“You need to be sixteen and have a licence to operate a time machine buddy.” she said.
“Oh.” Henry frowned.
“Eleven years to go kiddo.” Emma said. “So why don’t you just get under the covers so you can get some sleep till then, huh?”
“Mm. Kay.” Henry shrugged and jumped up again, lifting his legs and letting himself fall on the mattress on his butt.
“Henry. ” Regina chastised. “You could get hurt!”
“Nuh-uh. The bed’s soft.” he said. Regina let out a frustrated grunt and shut her eyes, clearly counting to ten in her head so she wouldn’t get angry at her son and upset him just before bed. A soft meow caught her attention, Salem coming in and rubbing up affectionately against her legs before walking further into the room, silently asking Emma to bring him up onto Henry’s bed.
“Kitty wants ups!” Henry said. “Mama please?”
“Only if you promise to go to sleep after you say goodnight to kitty.” Regina said.
“Good.” Regina nodded. Emma picked her kitten up, giving him a soft kiss on his head before placing him down next to Henry. The kitten started purring and nuzzling the boy, who hugged him close to him.
“Mama, are you and Em still playing?” he asked.
“Yes sweetheart.” Regina answered. “We’ll be playing until we get back home.”
“It’s a long game.” He said. “You havin’ fun?”
“ Tons. ” Emma chuckled, giving Regina a knowing look.
“Yes we are baby, but like I said you have to keep following the rules, okay?” she reminded him.
“Uh huh. Tell nobody.” he repeated.
“Good boy.” Regina came beside him and kissed his head.
“Mama, can kitty stay with me?” Henry asked. Regina looked up at Emma who shrugged.
“It’s okay with me, he seems to really like you huh buddy?” the blonde asked.
“Maybe cause he knows we’re family now Em!” he smiled at her.
“Maybe.” Emma said, poking his nose teasingly. “Or maybe you just smell like tuna!”
“Nuh uh! I smell like soap!” he protested, giggling when Emma poked his sides.
“I know buddy, I’m just kidding.” she said.
“I’m glad you’re having fun, baby, but you really do need to sleep now.” Regina said.
“Mama, can Em tell me a story?” he asked.
“You have to ask if she wants to tell you a story first, baby.” Regina said.
“Em, do you wanna tell me a story?” he asked. Emma smiled at him.
“Sure buddy. A short one okay? So you don’t stay up too long like your mom said.” she agreed. He nodded.
“Good boy.” Regina said. “You be good for Emma, okay? Pay attention, I bet she has a really good story for you.”
Emma smiled at the way Henry smiled at his mother as Regina leaned in and kissed his forehead.
“Goodnight baby, I love you.”
“Love you too, mama.” he said, kissing her cheek back and wrapping his arms around her neck to give her a hug before he let go and burrowed under the sheets, letting Salem crawl under them too so he could cuddle with him.
Regina gave Emma a dazzling smile on her way out of the boy’s bedroom, one that nearly made Emma’s heart follow the brunette out the door. She took a deep breath and waited until she heard Regina’s footsteps fade away before he turned to Henry again.
“Hey Henry, before I tell you a story, can I ask you something really important?” she asked.
“Uh huh.” he nodded.
“What did your mom buy when you stayed at the jewelry store earlier?” Emma asked.
“Can’t tell.” he answered. “It’s a super duper secret between mama and I.”
“Okay.” Dammit. “So...If I ask you a question, can you answer yes or no for me?”
“Depends on the question.” He shrugged.
This kid has brains. No surprise given who his mother is. “Okay...do you think your mom liked the swan necklace you saw in the window?”
“Oh. Yeah.” he nodded, not hesitating for a second to answer. “I could tell cause she gets a little smile on her face when she sees something she likes. It’s bigger on one side than the other. And her eyes go all happy and soft. I know what it looks like cause she always smiles like that when she’s happy. And she smiles like that at me. S’how I know she loves me.”
Holy shit that’s so cute.
“Okay. So is that what she bought at the store?” Emma asked, expecting to get hit with the super duper secret barrier again. But instead Henry frowned.
“No.” he shook his head. “I thought she was gonna. But she bought a...uhm…. something else. I can’t tell what.”
“Okay.” Emma nodded. “But not the swan necklace?”
“Nope.” he shook his head again. “She never buys the pretty stuff she likes. I don’t know why. When I get grown up, I’m gonna buy all the toys in the world. But I’ll share them with everyone. That way everyone can play together.”
“That’s really sweet buddy.” Emma ruffled his hair gently. “I bet everyone’s gonna have a lot of fun playing with you.”
“I hope so.” he said, nuzzling into his bed, sleep slowly grappling at him. “Hey Em...do you like my mama?”
“Yeah buddy. I really like your mama.” she answered, wondering where the question was coming from.
“S’good...I don’t think mama has a lot of friends. I’m glad you’re in our family now. That way she can have a friend.” he said. “S’what I really want for Christmas...for mama to be happy.”
“You don’t think she’s happy?” Emma asked.
“She smiles at me a lot. I think when she’s with me she’s happy. But sometimes when she doesn’t know I’m looking, she looks sad. I think she wants another grown up around...like a girlfriend.”
“Oh.” Emma gulped.
“Hey Em, maybe if you have fun playing pretend girlfriends with mama...maybe you could be her girlfriend for real? Then you get a family, and she has a grown up to be happy with.” he said, giving her a tired little smile.
A win-win if there ever was one. If only it were that easy.
“I don’t know buddy, I don’t know if your mom likes me that way.” Emma shrugged.
“I think she does.” he said.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
“When we were making crafts earlier I looked at her...and she was looking at you the same way she looks at me all the time...Like how she looked at the ducks.” Henry said.
“The swans.” Emma corrected, her mind going blank for a second.
“Yeah, that.” he said, turning over and gently cuddling Salem closer to him, getting a soft purr in response, he yawned softly and closed his eyes. “Goodnight Em...I hope you get everything you want for Christmas tomorrow.”
“Me too kid...me too.”
When Emma walked into the bedroom she was meant to share with Regina, she found the woman changing, and inadvertently slammed the door on her own foot trying to close it again.
“Ouch.” she groaned in pain “Sorry. I didn’t realise you were in here. Should have knocked. Sorry. Ow.”
“Are you alright?” Regina asked with a soft chuckle as she opened the door to see Emma hopping on one foot and holding the other with a pained look on her face.
“At the very most it’s just a bruise...hell my toes might be fine, it’s my pride I’m worried about.” she said.
“Come in, silly.” Regina said. “Do you need some ice?”
“I’m fine.” Emma sighed. “Kid’s out like a light.”
“Thank you for handling that. He’s less worried about talking back when he’s at his grandmother’s house.” Regina shrugged. “I’m sure I’ll come to miss his sass when he’s older and ignoring my existence.”
“Regina!” Cora called from downstairs. “Are you and Emma coming to join us for the movie?”
“It’s a Christmas tradition!” Zelena sing-songed. “You’ll be burned at the stake if you dooooon’t!”
“Zelena!” Cora chastised. “Stop taunting your sister’s girlfriend and go make popcorn!”
“What do I look like, the popcorn fairy?!” the redhead protested.
“Dear Christ.” Regina rolled her eyes and stepped out of the room, leaning over the handrail to look downstairs at where her sister and mother stood, one idiot short of a mexican standoff. “Will you two quit yelling? If you wake Henry up, hell hath no fury like what I will do.”
“Oh please, I’m your mother, what could you possibly do to-”
“Run with the Republicans!” Regina said, getting a horrified gasp from her mother. “Now shut it. ”
She walked into the room a second later, greeted by a chuckling Emma.
“So, I guess we better get down there huh?” the blonde said. “Before your sister comes up here with a pitchfork and an angry mob.”
Regina chuckled. “I can make up an excuse if you’re tired of their shenanigans.”
“No matter what you tell them, they’re going to think that we’re having sex.” Emma bluntly pointed out with a shrug.
“That’s a fair point. But if we’re trying to convince them we’re in a relationship together…” Regina raised her brow and gave her a smirk and Emma’s heart stopped when Regina winked at her playfully.
“Uhm…” she blushed. “No let’s...go downstairs. I don’t want you to miss out on a family tradition.”
“Emma I didn’t mean to-” Regina started but Emma shook her head at her with a small smile.
“It’s okay, you didn’t.” she shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Only if you’re sure.” Regina said, still giving Emma a questioning look. The blonde smiled at her and gently took her hand.
“Come on, babe. ” she said teasingly. “It’s family movie time.”
Regina chuckled and let Emma lead her down the stairs and into the luxurious living room, where Cora had already taken a seat in her favourite recliner. Zelena came in, carrying two big bowls of popcorn, and claimed the other arm chair, which left the admittedly large sofa free for Emma and Regina.
“So what movie are we watching?” Emma asked.
“It’s A Wonderful Life.” Zelena and Cora answered in unison.
“ Again ?” Regina rolled her eyes.
“Oh Regina, it’s a Christmas tradition!” Cora said.
“Yes mother, it’s been that way since the movie was released. ” Regina chuckled.
“It’s my favourite! You can have your own favourite traditional Christmas movie when I’m dead.” Cora said. “Until then sit down, cuddle with your girlfriend and bask in tradition.”
“Knowing you? You’ll live for eternity out of spite.” Regina teased, leading Emma to the sofa and sitting down, the blonde doing the same and trying to leave a gap between them, but New York was cold, and the heat was certainly not turned up in this room, which made Emma shiver slightly.
“Mother, could we turn the heat up?” Regina asked as the opening credits began rolling on the large TV screen.
“Oh Regina we’re all in warm pyjamas and socks. We’ll die of heat if we do that.” Cora said.
“Emma’s cold.” Regina argued. She got hit in the back of the head with a blanket from the other side of the room, courtesy of her sister.
“Use this, and be a good girlfriend and cuddle her!” the redhead suggested. “Honestly. If I were her girlfriend I wouldn’t be able to get my hands off of her.”
“That’s inappropriate.” Regina said, opening up the blanket and draping it over them both. “But thank you for the blanket, Zee, I could have done without you trying to concuss me.”
“It’s never just ‘thanks’ with you, is it?” Zelena rolled her eyes. “And if you’re not going to cuddle her, I will. ”
“Is that a threat?” Regina narrowed her eyes at her.
“You two. Enough!” Cora rolled her eyes. “Dear God, no one could tell that you two are grown adults. This is not what they mean young at heart! Zelena, you’re the oldest, quit acting like a brat!”
Zelena gasped at her, clearly offended.
“And Regina, your girlfriend is quite a few years your junior and even she isn’t acting as immature as you. What is it with you two?!” she sighed. “Now both of you be quiet, eat your popcorn, watch the movie, and for God’s sake, Regina, show the girl some affection would you? I did not raise a prude.”
Regina blushed and crossed her arms, clearly embarrassed, and looked at Emma, who, thankfully out of Cora’s line of sight, gave her professor a sympathetic look, gently brushing her fingers across the top of Regina’s hand to silently say ‘it’s okay.’
The blonde leaned in towards Regina, Cora and Zelena already engrossed in the movie, and whispered. “Just put your arm around me, it’s okay.”
Regina gave her a soft smile and wrapped her arm around Emma’s shoulders, the blonde making the necessary but bold move to close up the gap between them and curl up her legs on the couch. She threw the blanket over them and turned to look at Regina. Their eyes met and Emma’s heart leapt into her throat at that moment. At first she thought she was seeing things, but the longer they looked at each other, the longer she could take in the smile on Regina’s face, and match it with Henry’s earlier description.
The small, lopsided smile, the soft look in her eyes...the very warmth that Emma could feel coming from the brunette, and it wasn’t just because they were sharing a blanket.
Safe to say, she was too wrapped up in her own head to pay any attention to the movie for the rest of the night.
A couple of hours later, the credits to the movie were rolling, and Cora let out a satisfied sigh.
“A true classic!” she said lifting up her wine glass, which was brought in at some point during the movie, and taking a big gulp to empty the glass. “What did you think, Emma?”
“Oh I uh…” Emma stammered.
“She was staring at Regina half the time.” Zelena teased.
“She was not Zelena, leave her alone.” Regina said, staring daggers at her sister.
“Do not start up again you two.” Cora warned. Regina rolled her eyes and sighed.
“It’s been a long day. I need my rest if I’m going to survive tomorrow.” she said.
“Uh, yeah…” Emma gave Cora a nervous smile. “Me too.”
“Of course dear, good night, we’ll see you both in the morning.” Cora said.
“Goodnight, mother.” Regina said, gently taking Emma’s hand, which nearly sent Emma’s heart into overdrive, and leading her back up to their bedroom.
“I’m sorry about them.” Regina said.
“Don’t be.” Emma shook her head.
“They keep making this harder on both of us.” Regina sighed, putting her hands on her hips. “Maybe...maybe this was a bad idea.”
“Don’t say that.” Emma shook her head again, some strange kind of anxiety spiking up.
“They keep pushing and pushing and I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or obligated-”
“I don’t .” Emma sighed. “I went into this knowing exactly what we were doing. I’m the one who volunteered, remember?”
“Emma my mother is relentless I’m pretty sure she’s not going to stop until she has us...I don’t know...kissing under the mistletoe!” Regina rolled her eyes.
“That’s what this is?” Emma gave her a playful smirk. “You’re afraid you’re gonna have to kiss me?”
“Emma trust me.” Regina took her hands gently and let out a soft, resigned sigh. “If you were... you. ..with...with everything that makes you what you are...with one slight difference ...in that...you weren’t my student...Then I’d have no problem with kissing you. In fact I think I’d quite enjoy it.”
Emma shut her eyes for a second, her face feeling hot and flushed and she didn’t know if she should let Regina’s hands go or hold on tighter. “...but?”
“But you are my student.” Regina said. “It crosses a major line. For both of us. It’s not just that I’ll risk my career. They’ll start an enquiry into all the work you’ve ever submitted to make sure you didn’t get any preferential treatment. If they have even a shadow of a doubt that you did, they’ll consider it void. You might not be allowed to graduate…”
Emma pulled her hands away from Regina’s and sighed. “Well then it’s a good thing we’re faking this...right?”
“We...we are...yeah.” Regina said softly, her mind miles off from the present.
“Cause for a second there…” Emma let out a chuckle, turning away so that Regina wouldn’t see that she was fighting off her own tears. “For a second there it sounded like we were thinking about an actual relationship...that would be...that’d be crazy right?”
Silence. For a moment that felt like eternity, and then Emma turned around and saw the look of pure heartbreak on Regina’s face. The brunette was looking down at the carpet, a frown on her face, her hands balled up into fists like she was trying to keep it all together.
“...Regina?” Emma asked gently.
“You’re right. That would be crazy.” Regina shot back, her voice cold and steely, cutting through Emma’s heart like a knife.
“I just…” Emma fidgeted uncomfortably. “We don’t have to worry about all that you know? That’s what I mean.”
“This is just a show. After we get back home, none of this will be real.” Regina’s voice didn’t soften in the slightest.
“Regina…” Emma tried to get the brunette to soften up a little, but Regina just crossed her arms.
“I’m going to get ready for bed. Goodnight Emma.”
“I...uh...Goodnight.” Emma said as Regina turned around and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Emma picked up her phone off the nightstand, pulled on her boots, and left the room, picking up her coat on the way out of the front door. She pulled out her phone and was about to make a call when…
“Can’t sleep?” a british voice stole her attention. She looked up to see Zelena standing there, in her coat and with her hair a little messed up and a lit cigarette held between her index and middle finger.
“Uh...yeah...kind of.” Emma shrugged.
“Trouble in paradise?” the redhead asked again before taking a drag of her cigarette.
“No.” Emma shook her head. “Just...uhh…”
Zelena raised a brow at her and gave her a smirk before she let out a small, cackling laugh, and then reined herself in again, flicking her cigarette out into the snow and snuffing it out before coming closer to the blonde, her blue eyes staring into Emma’s and making her feel even more nervous.
“You’re not really dating my sister, are you?” the redhead asked.
“That’s...uhhh…” Emma’s brow furrowed. “Yes I am.”
Zelena shook her head. “No you’re not. But you wish you were.”
“Bullshit.” Emma said, frowning at Zelena in annoyance. “And even if it were true it’d be none of your business.”
“Oh sure.” Zelena shrugged, turning away and giving Emma some more space. “But if it were and you told me so, I could help you charm your way into my sister’s heart.”
“You- I-...” Emma growled softly under her breath, then she let out a resigned sigh and shook her head. “It couldn’t happen even if I wanted it to. She made that clear.”
Zelena raised a brow at her and then nodded. “You haven’t graduated yet. You’re still her student.”
“How do you know all this?!” Emma demanded. Zelena rolled her eyes, pulling out her phone and tapping a few keys before she showed it to Emma, which showed her facebook profile and all her relationship and school or work history. “Mother fucker. ”
She kicked a pile of snow in frustration and sighed while Zelena chuckled.
“Relax, my mother doesn’t use Facebook, so your secret is safe.” she said. “As for my sister, dating her student wouldn’t be the first rule she’s broken.”
“What do you mean?” Emma asked.
“Daniel, poor boy.” Zelena shook her head. “My mother has strict company rules. No dating employees, and employees can’t date each other. Something about not wanting to find the teenage summer workers getting it on in the locker rooms. She was ridiculously cross with Regina at first when she told us all that she was dating Daniel. But when she saw how much Regina loved him, she made an exception.”
“That’s...good?” Emma said.
“It would be if he hadn’t died.” Zelena shrugged. “Regina hasn’t... loved... since then...well with the exception of Henry but that’s not the kind of love I’m talking about.”
“Yeah, I got that.” Emma sighed. “I don’t know why she got... mad? I don’t even know. But I’ve never seen her like this.”
“Tell me what happened.” Zelena said gently.
“She said that maybe...faking this whole relationship thing was a bad idea. And then somehow we got to talking about having to kiss each other to make it more convincing. I said I didn’t mind and she said...she said if I was exactly the same person with the exception of being her student, she’d have no problem kissing me. Then she started mentioning all the risks and the reasons we could never be together…” Emma sighed, shaking her head.
“She broke your heart.” Zelena said.
“And I said...you know...none of those risks mattered because we were just faking this all.” Emma sighed. “And she just...closed up or something. Her voice went cold and...hard...She’s never spoken to me like that before.”
Zelena nodded. “Do you want to know why she spoke to you like that now?”
“I’d like to.” Emma shrugged. “Maybe then I can fix it.”
“She spoke to you like that…” Zelena stepped closer to her again. “Because you broke her heart.”
“ What? ” Emma stared at the redhead. Zelena nodded. “That doesn’t make any sense, she was the one saying we couldn’t be together.”
“My sister is a creature of mystery.” Zelena said. “She needs a push sometimes, when it comes to taking a risk...she was hoping you would talk her into saying to hell with the consequences. You didn’t, you merely reminded her that this was all a game. She’s closing herself up now to avoid getting her heart broken any further...but it already has.”
Emma sighed. “I...thought she was rejecting me.”
“There’s still time. You can still fix all of this.” Zelena said.
“How?” Emma looked at her pleadingly.
“Show her you care.” Zelena said. “Do you want to know the reason why she never buys herself all the jewelry she likes?”
“Why?” Emma asked.
“She’s hoping someone will pay enough attention to her to actually buy it for her. A little childish perhaps...Daniel always worked extra hours during Christmas and before her birthday and around Valentines day, so that he could get her the thing she saw in the window. Maybe it’s a silly gesture. But it’s how he’d show her that she matters enough to him, that he notices every little thing. That he knows what she looks like when she’s happy and he wants to see that look on her face all the time.” Zelena explained.
“Wow.” Emma sighed. “She saw that one necklace.”
“The swan necklace...fitting.” Zelena smirked at her. “Meet me out here tomorrow. 9AM. Mother likes to sleep in during the holidays, so it’ll be brunch instead of breakfast tomorrow which is around 10:30AM. Gives us enough time.”
“Time for what?” Emma asked.
“You’re getting that necklace for Regina. I’ll loan you the money if you need to.” Zelena said. “And I’ll drive you there.”
Emma looked at Zelena with a puzzled expression. “Why are you helping me?”
“Because no matter how much I pick on Regina, she’s still my little sister, and I still love her. And I can see that you do as well, you both just need some help along the way and I love playing matchmaker.” Zelena shrugged. “Not to mention I just had a wicked good shag and I’m feeling generous.”
“Uhm. thanks?” Emma said, her face scrunching up in confusion. “Wait...who did you sleep with?”
“Bird boy, of course.” Zelena said.
“You mean Robin?”
“Did you call him bird boy during?” Emma asked curiously.
“Apparently he loves getting teased. And you know me, I love picking on people.” Zelena shrugged. “I think it’s a good match.”
“Maybe.” Emma shrugged.
“7 sharp. Don’t be late.” Zelena said. “Now let’s go inside before mother catches us and thinks I’m tormenting you.”
“Hey Zee?” Emma said, stopping the older woman in her tracks.
“Thank you.” Emma gave her a smile.
“Thank me next Christmas when you’re celebrating your one year anniversary with my sister.” Zelena gave her a wink and walked inside.
When she went back to the bedroom, Emma found the lights turned off and Regina fast asleep. She tried to take off her boots as quietly as possible, her coat left downstairs, and slid into bed.
Regina shifted in her sleep, mumbling something under her breath as she shuffled closer to Emma.
“Uh..” Emma was about to say something when Regina’s arms snaked their way around Emma and the next thing she knew, her professor was nuzzling into her chest.
“You’re freezing.” Regina mumbled.
“Are you awake?” Emma asked.
“No Henry you can’t eat your crayons.” Regina mumbled back.
“That’s a no.” Emma sighed in a mix of relief and frustration. Regina cuddling her in her sleep she could understand, and would have been a little more shocked if it had happened while Regina was wide awake. But the fact that Regina was asleep meant that if she tried to move her she would definitely wake the brunette up, and that would be very difficult to explain.
Regina started nuzzling again, burying her face in Emma’s neck and humming softly in her sleep. “You smell good.”
Oh good, I was worried.
Emma rolled her eyes at herself, trying to fight off the excited feeling she felt in her heart. Regina was asleep, which meant she had no control over her actions until she was fully conscious. She was doing this on basic instinct alone. It was cold. Of course she wanted to cuddle, Emma thought to herself, she’d cuddle a wild bear if it made its way into her bed.
She positioned her arms in the most respectful way possible so that she wouldn’t accidentally touch Regina inappropriately but in a way that also didn’t cut off her circulation, adjusted herself in the most comfortable position possible, and went to sleep, vehemently trying to ignore how soft or warm Regina felt in her arms or how good she smelled.
She couldn’t deny how easy it was to fall asleep in her arms, though.
The next morning, Regina woke up feeling very warm, with the most comfortable of pressures around her. Though foreign, it was a wonderful feeling, one she’d almost forgotten existed.
The soft chest under her cheek, the gentle rise and fall at the steady rhythm of another person’s breathing. The soft thumping against her ear, evidence of a heartbeat....
Wait a goddamn minute…
She pulled away so suddenly she nearly hurt herself and found herself lying on Emma’s chest. Her face suddenly went red hot and she turned over, praying to god that Emma didn’t notice it ever happened.
You absolute idiot. You complete moron.
She heard Emma’s soft groaning as she herself shifted and turned over on her side of the bed and tried her best to pretend she was sleeping so the other girl wouldn’t notice. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table. It was only a little bit before 7AM, that meant they didn’t have to be awake for another hour.
She thought the time was a relief, but then she felt Emma getting out of bed, stopping in her movements for a second. She swore just then that she could feel the blonde’s eyes on her.
“Regina?” Emma whispered. It was soft, and meant only to be heard if she were really awake. In fact, the professor was certain that it was whispered in such a way to avoid waking her up if she were asleep. As such, she didn’t answer, focusing on her breathing and closing her eyes to make it more believable, hoping the slight tension she felt in her shoulders didn’t give her away.
She felt a dip in the bed as Emma stood up, hearing her let out a yawn as the blonde stretched behind her. She maintained her act of sleeping while she heard Emma’s footsteps padding around the room, the blonde opening the wardrobe and the sound of clothes being pulled off of hangers and out of drawers. In a couple of minutes Emma gathered her things, walked into the bathroom, and began taking a shower, all of which brought more and more questions to Regina. Emma had admitted to her once on a very early morning after three coffees within one hour that she was not a morning person. So what in God’s name could be waking her up and hour and twenty minutes earlier?
Her questions were only mildly answered when Emma came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, the smell of her body spray following her out of the room. While she could, Regina took a quick glance and saw her fully dressed. She felt another dip in the bed as Emma sat down on the mattress, making a noise that sounded like she was putting on her boots.
“Regina?” Emma whispered again. For some reason, Regina didn’t answer. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t ready to face the awkwardness after what transpired the previous night. Either way, Emma stood there waiting for an answer for a minute before she picked up her things and left the room.
Regina heard her footsteps jogging down the stairs and the faint sound of the front door being opened and then shut. Her suspicion got the better of her and she got out of bed, going to the window on the other end of the large bedroom and pushing the closed curtains aside to take a look outside. She saw Zelena standing outside in the driveway, smoking a cigarette, Regina rolled her eyes. Mother would kill her if she ever found out Zelena smoked.
What caught her surprise though, was not the dangerous habit her sister picked up. It was the fact that Emma went outside at her sister’s expectation. They exchanged a few words that Regina couldn’t hear before Zelena dropped the cigarette in the slowly melting slush and then both Emma and Zelena made their way to the redhead’s car, got inside, and drove away.
“Mama, where’s Em?” Henry asked as he walked into the dining room, where Regina was sitting in silence with her father, who was reading the newspaper. Salem followed Henry dutifully, sitting his tiny body on Henry’s foot and meowing up at the brunette. “Kitty says good morning.”
“Good morning Salem, it seems you have better manners than my son does today.” Regina said, giving Henry a pointed but teasing look and getting a giggle from him in response.
“Good morning mama!” he said with a grin. “Where’s Em? I think kitty’s hungry.”
“She’s out, sweetheart. But his food is in the kitchen. Why don’t you go ask Jeffrey if he can help you hmm? Don’t give him more than one scoop of food okay baby?” Regina said.
“Okay mama!” Henry said before running off into the kitchen with Salem following him. Regina was glad she managed to avoid discussing the blonde who was currently on her mind, but not for the best of reasons.
She was hoping to apologise to Emma for her attitude last night when she stepped out of the bathroom, but Emma was gone when she got out. And she didn’t come back until after Regina was asleep. And now to see her leaving the house with Zelena...she didn’t want to admit it, not even to herself, but damn it to hell. It bothered her. A lot.
Which lead to an annoying feeling of guilt. Did she even have the right to be bothered? Emma seemed clearly upset at their conversation the night before, and looked absolutely heartbroken at the way Regina had spoken to her before she stormed off to hide from her feelings in the bathroom. But Emma was right. This was all fake. So who was she to be bothered and grumpy about the fact that she was hanging out with her sister? The fact that those two were spending time together wasn’t really... suspicious was it? Perhaps Zelena asked her for a favour or some help with...something. Maybe Emma accepted because she wanted to leave a good impression on Regina’s family...despite them currently being at odds.
Regina sighed, Emma had every right to call the whole thing off and leave Regina to clean up the mess she’d leave behind, she had every right to do that last night and she still held that right. But she never took it. Regina was beginning to wonder why.
“ Hija. ” her father’s voice rumbled quietly from behind his newspaper.
“Si, papa? ” she said.
“You’re worrying about something.” he stated. “You’re sighing, and your brow is wrinkled, mi hija. If you think any harder I’m going to be able to hear your inner thoughts.”
Regina sighed, knowing there was no way of getting out of admitting it to her father. “I’m worried about Emma, papa. ”
“Is something the matter with her?” Enrico asked.
“No.” Regina shrugged. “Something’s the matter with me. ”
“You’ve always been too hard on yourself. What happened?” he asked in concern.
“We had an argument.” Regina said. “And I did what I always do when I get scared.”
“You went cold. Closed up your heart.” Enrico nodded. “And knowing you, stormed off.”
“I went to take a shower.” Regina said. “But I realised I shouldn’t have closed off like that and I was going to apologise when I came out...but she wasn’t there. She didn’t come back until after I fell asleep.”
“Ah.” Enrico nodded. “You went to sleep angry with each other.”
“You could say that, yes.”
“ Mi Hija ” Enrico sat down next to his daughter and placed a gentle hand on hers on the table. “Do you want to know how your mother and I managed to stay married as long as we have?”
“An air-tight prenup?” Regina asked with a small smirk. Enrico tried to stifle a chuckle as he shook his head.
“No.” he said before he shrugged. “Though it helped motivate us.”
Regina chuckled and gently nudged her father’s shoulder with her own. “How?”
“Well, sometimes, mi hija, all you need in life is one defining moment. One little minute. And what you do in that minute can change your life forever.” he said.
“I’m guessing you and mom had this defining moment?” Regina asked.
“ Si. ” Enrico answered. “We were newlyweds.”
“Well…” Enrico sighed. “The economy was not very good. A couple of big businesses owned by people we knew had to close down. And we were...well...terrified that we would be next. We had mortgages on the house and the company’s head office and with how things were going we were worried they would foreclose. We had hopes and dreams of a family. Zelena was still quite a little girl. You had not been born yet. And the tension of everything was slowly getting to us. We’d started arguing and fighting almost every day. And then one night we’d had the biggest fight of all. And your mother had had enough and decided to go to bed early. I sat in my study having a drink and trying to recollect myself. And somehow I found myself imagining my life without her. And I couldn’t.”
Regina raised a brow at her father, not entirely sure what he meant, and Enrico chuckled.
“I simply could not imagine any kind of life without her and Zelena to come home to every day. I couldn’t imagine sleeping in a bed that did not have her in it. So I went upstairs, and I woke her up. And she looked at me like I was crazy but I did not care at all. I got down on one knee and held her hand - much like I had when I had proposed to her - and I told her that there was no life for me without her in it. I vowed to her that day that no matter what, I was determined to grow old with her and be hers until my very last breath. It felt like we’d fallen in love all over again. And I promised her that no matter what the day brought with it, from then on, I would never allow us to go to sleep angry with each other. There’s no better way to start the day than waking up in the arms of the one you love the most, mi hija, and if things are right between you, it doesn’t much matter what else happens. Because you know when you get home you have someone to hold you and support you.”
Regina watched her father’s features carefully as he recounted what had happened that night, and what he took away from it, and she couldn’t help but smile at him.
“I always was a romantic.” Enrico shrugged, and Regina chuckled a little as she leaned over to hug him.
“You’re sweet, daddy.” she said.
“Well, it worked.” Enrico shrugged. “I grew old with her, didn’t I?”
“You’re not old, dad.” Regina said. “And if you tell mom she is...you won’t grow much older.”
Enrico chuckled and shook his head. “Your mother is a pussy cat.”
“A sabre tooth tiger is still, technically, a pussy cat.” Regina pointed out. “I still wouldn’t pet it.”
“So,” Enrico chuckled. “What will you do about Emma, hmm?”
“I’m not sure yet.” Regina sighed, almost forgetting the mess she’d made between her and her supposed girlfriend. “I got a little ahead of myself last night with my feelings. I expected her to...tell me something that I knew she couldn’t.”
Enrico nodded. “You cannot expect her to be anything other than who she is, mi hija. Besides, if she was anything other than that, would you even care for her the same way?”
Regina gnawed on her bottom lip before she gently shook her head.
“I will not pretend that I understand what challenges you two may or may not be facing - you two are young and a fairly new couple. Things are much different when it comes to dating and relationships now than they were when I was your age. But I know you, mi hija, and I know the pain you went through when you lost Daniel. I imagine Emma must be a very special young woman, if she was able to get you to open your heart once again.” Enrico said, giving her a soft, knowing smile.
“She is, daddy.” Regina said softly, barely above a whisper. “I think I made a big mistake doing what I did last night.”
“You are my daughter. And if there is one thing I know about you, it’s that you will not stand aside and let something you want get away from you without fighting for it. Just like I did with your mother.” Enrico said. “Now, you just have to figure out the best way to do that.”
He stood up, patting Regina gently on the shoulder and leaning forward to press a kiss to her forehead. “If you need me, mi hija, you know where to find me.”
“Thank you, daddy.” Regina said, smiling up at him. “I really needed this talk.”
“Sometimes we don’t know what we need until we get it.” he smiled at her for one last moment. She stood up and kissed his cheek and nodded.
“Thank you daddy. I think I know what to do.” she said determinedly before she left the room.
“Good luck, mi hija. ” Enrico said, watching her leave with a knowing smile on his face.
“And you’re sure that Henry said she didn’t buy the necklace?” Zelena asked for the third time.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Emma nodded.
“You know, I’ve spied on a good number of people in my life...but my informants usually didn’t have a bedtime.” Zelena said as she and Emma walked towards the register along with the jewelry store associate who had helped them pick out the necklace. She had seemed to recognize Zelena, though she didn’t make it obvious. She did, however, hide a smirk at every clever quip that came out of the redhead.
“Well the good thing about my spy being five is I can scare him with the concept of naughty lists if he lies to me.” Emma said.
“And you’d know if he was lying...how?” Zelena asked.
“I have what people call a superpower.” Emma said. “I can tell when people are lying to me.”
“...That sounds like something you’d say to a child to stop them from lying to you.”
“Maybe so.” Emma shrugged. “But it’s never let me down before.”
“So when Regina was telling you that this was all fake and there were no actual feelings involved, you could tell she was lying? Is that why you freaked out?” Zelena asked.
“That’s not what it was.” Emma sighed. “But when she was telling me that we shouldn’t do anything, that we had to be careful and all that...She was telling the truth. That’s what scared me.”
“Why would that scare you?” Zelena asked.
“If she’s so worried about us being caught, about how it would affect my future and all that...well the truth would never scare a person unless they thought it could actually happen.” Emma said.
Zelena blinked repeatedly. “What?”
“Okay, say I said ‘there’s a chance you’re going to be struck by lightning.’ I wouldn’t be lying, right?” Emma said.
“Right.” Zelena nodded.
“But given how small the chances are, neither of us would be worried, right?”
“Right...” Zelena squinted, trying to connect the dots.
“But if the chances were higher, we’d be worried.” Emma said.
“Yes.” Zelena nodded. “I spend a lot of money to get my hair to look like this.”
“Right. And if we were worried, that would be obvious by how we said it.” Emma said.
“Yes.” Zelena nodded again. “But what does that have to do with you being a human lie detector?”
“Well I mean...you wouldn’t worry about something that wasn’t true.” Emma said.
“So...she’s panicking about her feelings.” Zelena stated.
“I mean, maybe?” Emma shrugged. “That’s what it seemed like to me.”
“Then she loves you.” Zelena nodded.
It felt so final, the way the redhead said it, that it sent a chill through Emma’s chest that had nothing to do with the fact that someone had just opened the door to come into the store.
“I…” Emma sighed. “I love her too.”
It was soft, barely anyone heard it. But Zelena’s ears picked it up and she looked over to the blonde, giving her a soft half-smile.
“Good.” Zelena nodded. “Then nothing else should matter.”
“But what if it does?” Emma said. “What if...What if she rejects me because she thinks she’s protecting me from whatever might happen if the university finds out?”
Zelena chuckled. “You could do it right in front of the dean, they won’t ever punish either of you.”
“How do you figure?” Emma gave her a questioning look. Zelena rolled her eyes and looked at her with a smirk.
“First off, do you really think she’d be the first professor to sleep with a student? I know for a fact that you’re not the only student in that university to sleep with a professor.”
“I mean...I haven’t actually slept with her yet but…” Emma shrugged. “How would you even know that?”
“Because…” Zelena shrugged. “I was a student there. And the dean was my professor.”
The redhead didn’t say anything else, just grinned like a cheshire cat.
“Oh. God. ” Emma shut her eyes and tried not to picture the dean - a man forty years her senior who was awkwardly tall and lanky, dressed like he was stuck in the early 20th century with a beard that made him look like Karl Marx if he was balding - naked and in bed with Zelena. Safe to say. It didn’t work. She couldn’t un- see it and was ready to gouge out her own eyes.
“And I know for a fact others have done as well - because some of them were my friends.” Zelena shrugged. “Besides, the Mills family has a generous amount of sway over the university board. Regina always tried to separate herself from all of it because she wanted to achieve things on her own merit - noble, in theory…”
“But in practice?” Emma raised a brow.
“The second they read the name ‘Mills’ and saw a woman who looks like a Latina version of Cora, they were metaphorically shitting themselves.” Zelena shrugged. “She could get away with murder in that place.”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“She’s got no reason to be scared.” Zelena nodded, handing her credit card to the sales girl with a wink. “And if you give her this gift and express your feelings and she still doesn’t pull her head out of her perky little arse, I’ll sit her down and talk to her myself.”
Emma tried to fight off a smile, but it didn’t work. “You really should meet my best friend, Ruby. I think you two would get along.”
“Is she a crazy cuss-machine too?” Zelena asked.
“Oh yeah.” Emma scoffed a laugh.
“Come on.” Zelena said with purpose, grabbing Emma’s hand when the sales girl handed them the bag with the boxed up necklace inside.
“Where are we going?” Emma asked.
“To get you a dress.”
“But I have-”
“One that will knock Regina’s socks off.” Zelena said. “No offense, I’m sure you have an exquisite sense of style.”
“I tend to like fancy things now and then.” Emma shrugged. “But I don’t have the paycheck to back it up.”
“ I, however.” Zelena grinned. “Just think of me as your fairy godmother. Or...god...sister...in-law.”
“That’s a mouthful.” Emma chuckled as Zelena dragged her out of the store and towards her favourite boutique.
When Emma and Zelena arrived back at the mansion, everyone was outside in their winter clothing. Zelena immediately gave their bags to Jeffrey, asking him to wrap the gifts up properly and place them under the tree, and they both joined them outside in time to see Henry and Enrico building a snowman.
“Let’s make him as tall as you. Gwampa!” Henry suggested.
“We can try.” Enrico chuckled.
“Can his nose be an apple instead of a carrot?” Henry asked. Enrico just laughed.
Regina was sitting with her mother on the patio, hot cocoa keeping them both warm.
“Hey.” Emma said, a little nervously, to Regina.
“Hey.” Regina looked up at her, raising a curious brow at the two.
“Zelena.” Cora said sternly, looking up at her from above her glasses that she was wearing because she was knitting. “I hope you weren’t tormenting Emma.”
Zelena rolled her eyes. “We just went shopping for dresses.”
“And why wasn’t Regina invited?” Cora asked, looking up at the redhead fully.
“Because I helped Emma pick out a surprise for her, which you’ve now successfully ruined.” Zelena stated. “What’s with the third degree, mother? I thought you’d enjoy the fact that I was bonding with Emma.”
Cora shrugged. “Well I happen to like Emma and I don’t want you scaring her off.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Zelena rolled her eyes. “You never accuse Regina of scaring off my boyfriends.”
“That’s because you don’t bring home boyfriends you bring home hook ups and flings. And Regina isn’t as terrifying as you like to pretend you are.” Cora said. Zelena scoffed, But Emma plastered a big grin on her face and threw an arm around the redhead.
“Aww, it’s okay Cora, really, Zelena’s a pussy cat!” she said.
“Call me that again and I’ll claw your eyes out.” Zelena threatened mildly.
“You don’t scare me.” Emma stuck her tongue out at the redhead and then zipped away quickly to go watch Henry and his grandfather build a snowman.
“Well...You two seem cozy .” Regina muttered. Zelena rolled her eyes, pulling a chair out to sit between her mother and her sister.
“Regina. Stop.” she said to the brunette, giving her a knowing look which Cora couldn’t fully see. Regina looked at her curiously but didn’t say anything.
“Oh damn.” Cora hissed. “I forgot my new yarn ball.”
She got up, leaving her knitting safely bundled up on her chair as she went inside to retrieve the yarn she’d left inside, and Regina seized her opportunity.
“What is going on?” she asked sternly. “Emma never wakes up that early in the morning. She didn’t have an alarm. And she made especially sure that I wasn’t awake when she left. You’re up to something.”
“So are you.” Zelena shrugged.
“What the hell are you tal-”
“Regina,” the redhead rolled her eyes. “The jig is up, at least with me. I know you and Emma aren’t actually dating. I know she’s your student. And I know that you have feelings for her.”
Regina’s face turned bright red as she gaped at her sister, trying desperately to find the words to respond, to negate all she said, to tell her it wasn’t true…
But she couldn’t.
Tears stung her eyes. “You can’t tell Em-”
“She knows.” Zelena shrugged. “And she feels the same.”
Regina thought she might pass out. She propped her elbows up on the patio table and dropped her head in her hands, letting out a long, deep, shuddering sigh.
“It wasn’t meant to be like this.” she said, her voice suffocated to a whisper by the lump growing in her throat. “I just wanted mom off my back for one year. She doesn’t have a family to celebrate Christmas with...I just...I”
“Regina.” Zelena said softly, shifting her chair forward and placing a gentle hand on her sister’s back. “It’s okay.”
Regina sniffled. “It’s not! After five years of my heart being totally closed up to anyone, of all people to fall in love with... a student!”
“You won’t be the first professor, nor the last, at least with you and her; it's based on real feelings that don’t come from your trousers.” Zelena said. Regina scoffed.
“I doubt they’ll care.”
“Regina stop!” Zelena said forcefully, tugging at her sister’s arms and forcing her to look up at her. “Stop it. You’re self-destructing in an attempt to protect yourself and you’re only going to hurt yourself and Emma in the process!”
Regina sucked in a deep breath and held onto it for a brief moment before letting it out slowly. “I can’t ruin her life like I did to-”
Zelena grabbed the lapels of Regina’s coat and pulled her till their noses were almost touching.
“I swear to the good holy Lord Regina if you say what I think you’re about to say I will slap you into next century!” she threatened. “That was not your fault.”
Tears started flowing down her sister’s cheeks and she let her go with a sigh.
“You need to allow yourself to be happy.” the redhead said softly. “Emma wants to give you that. And you make her happy. I know it’s difficult after what happened with Daniel, Regina...but he would want you to move on and open your heart again. I may have not known him well, but I’m sure of that. The University board won’t even bother to talk to you about the whole thing, our family has too much sway. I know you think you’ve separated yourself from all of that, Regina, but the truth is that your name carries weight and power in there...besides we can totally blackmail the dean if you want to.”
“No.” Regina said sternly.
“Just a thought.” Zelena shrugged. “Besides...isn’t she going to graduate soon?”
“Yes.” Regina answered, her voice hoarse.
“You only have to lay low till the fall. After that you’re in the clear.” Zelena said. “Shouldn’t be too hard...not if you think it’s worth it.”
“She’s worth everything.” Regina whispered, wiping the tears away and looking over to where Emma was playfully chasing Henry in circles around their newly built snowman which had Emma’s scarf on it. The scene warmed her heart, and she couldn’t help but smile, but because she was so focused on her little boy and the woman she was ready to give her heart to, she didn’t see her sister share a similar smile at the scene.
“Then I think that settles it, don’t you?” Zelena asked. Regina looked at her, smile still in place, and nodded.
“It does.” she said, turning to look over to Emma, Henry and her father again...just as a snowball was accidentally thrown her way.
It smacked her right in the face and collapsed on impact, some of the snow landing in her lap as she gasped in shock.
Emma froze, staring at her, mouth agape. It was a small, powdery snowball because it was meant for Henry and she didn’t want to hurt him with it accidentally...but her goal was never to hit Regina with it, and her cheeks were turning red as she tried to stammer through an apology.
Regina calmly got up, making a gesture to Zelena behind her back. The redhead followed. She knew the plan. They’d done it a billion times when they were kids.
The brunette walked up to Emma, a sweet smile on her face and looking generally calm and non-threatening.
“I’m so...oh my god...I didn’t mean...I...Uhm.” Emma was bright red at this point, and the snow had nothing to do with it. Regina tilted her head and looked at the blonde expectantly and stood there quietly, arms behind her back leisurely as she sometimes stood in her lectures while she was explaining things to her students.
What Emma didn’t know was that there was a point to it. And while she was switching between covering her face in sheer embarrassment, and focusing on Regina to see her reaction, the brunette’s secret agent had handed her a nice, full snowball in her hand. And in a split second, it was being pushed right onto Emma’s head, Regina grinning in pride and victory as the blonde gasped.
“Oh...it’s on!” the blonde stated, rushing away from the brunette and collecting a snowball as she did, throwing it at her and hitting her in the face again. Zelena immediately started building snowballs, handing one to Regina before she built another while Regina threw the one that was just given to her at Emma
It naturally led to Henry and Enrico joining in. And soon, the whole scene devolved into them running around and throwing snowballs at each other.
At some point, Robin decided to search for his hosts and came out onto the patio because he’d heard the ruckus.
It all reached a head when Regina and Emma were chasing each other in circles around the snowman, Regina holding a snowball in her hand and Emma trying to get away from her.
With her back towards the house, and Regina behind the snowman exactly across from her, Emma decided to taunt the older woman, sticking her tongue out at her and ducking suddenly when Cora, followed dutifully by Jeffrey, came out on the patio.
“Oh no!” Emma said. “MRS MILLS! D-”
It was too late. The snowball struck Cora Mills right in the face, her attention having been caught by Emma.
“Oh no.” Regina froze in place. Cora looked startled, staring out at them wide-eyed as she took in what had happened and why.
“Uhm.” Jeffrey looked at her in shock. “Ma’am...are you…”
“Jeffrey, do you know how to build a snowball?” Cora asked, not taking her vengeful eyes off of her youngest daughter, who looked like she was about to pass out in fear and shock.
“Uh...Yes...ma’am.” the butler said nervously.
“Good. Then you can take a break and come join us. I’ll need someone to help me.” Cora said calmly before she stepped out into the snow and picked up a large wad of it, balling it up and throwing it right into Regina’s face.
The professor gasped. Emma and Zelena started laughing. Then Emma got one in the face from Regina. Zelena got pelted by her mother. Enrico threw one at Cora and made the highest pitched sound his daughters had ever heard from him as he ran away, with his wife chasing him. Henry was grinning wildly as he pelted Jeffrey, who was laughing for the first time as he ran around and played with them.
Robin Locksley had gone to the main house in time for brunch. But when he’d gotten to the conservatory where they were supposed to be, no one was there. So he’d gone to the patio, knowing that Cora enjoyed spending some time out there in the morning. To say he was shocked when he saw Mrs. Mills, and the rest of the family, and the butler, running around and pelting each other with snow like school children, was putting it mildly.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” he asked, catching Cora’s attention. They all stopped to look at him as he raised a brow at all of them like a parent who’d caught his kids with their hands in the cookie jar. “Well?”
No one answered. Instead...7 snowballs flew at him simultaneously, one hitting him in the face, another in the chest. He wasn’t sure if the one that hit him in the crotch was Henry’s, due to his lack of height, or Zelena’s because she liked to torture him.
It was Enrico’s. But no one bothered to tell him.
They all had to change before brunch, because their clothes were wet, so Emma went to the bedroom while Regina helped Henry with his clothes. But he was still feeling playful, and so wasn’t listening very much as Regina tried to get him to put his shirt on.
He ended up running out of his bedroom, and towards the room Regina was sharing with Emma, barging in on the blonde while she was in her underwear.
“Emma!” he yelled as he ran in. “Uh oh!”
“Henry!” Regina called, gasping and freezing in place when she saw Emma half naked. Thankfully, Henry had covered his eyes, because his mother’s brain was currently short circuiting and she couldn’t move a muscle.
“Uhm.” Emma looked to make sure Henry couldn’t see her, and then raised a brow at Regina.
“I...I...I…” the brunette stammered before she covered her eyes in the exact same way her son did, her voice turning into a squeak as she said; “I’m sorry.”
Emma chuckled, pulling on her bathrobe to cover up before taking Henry’s shirt from Regina’s hand. She crouched down in front of Henry and tapped on his hands so he could move them.
“Hi Em.” he said, blushing brightly.
“Mmhm. Hi.” she said. “Arms up please.”
Henry did as he was asked and Emma put his shirt on, making sure it was fixed properly before poking his nose gently. “Don’t run away from your mom like that next time.”
“Sowwy.” he said, still blushing. Emma looked at his feet and saw that he was still in his socks as she ruffled his hair playfully. “Go put on your shoes please.”
“Yes ma’am!” he said, zipping out of the room to go back to his and do as he was told. Regina still had her eyes covered, mostly out of embarrassment, her face was now shining a similar bright red to what her son’s had a moment ago. Emma tapped on her hands the same way she did with Henry. She peeked in between her fingers, and then removed them, her eyes immediately hitting the floor because she couldn’t look Emma in the face.
“It’s okay.” Emma said immediately.
“You handled him pretty well.” Regina deflected.
“Regina…” Emma sighed and shook her head. “I think we need to talk...about last night?”
“Yes…” the brunette sighed as she entered the room, now able to change herself since Henry was all settled, thanks to Emma’s help. “I’m sorry about him barging in like that, by the way.”
“It’s fine, kids are kids.” Emma shrugged.
“Thank you for helping me get him dressed.” Regina said.
“Well...you seemed a bit... distracted. ” Emma said with a teasing smirk.
“I…” Regina blushed and looked away again. “It’s hard not to be.”
“I’ll take the compliment.” Emma shrugged. “Last night…”
“Right.” Regina sighed. “I...wanted to apologize.”
“What for?” Emma raised a brow at her. “I was the one who upset you.”
Her professor shook her head, wringing her hands together nervously. “Only because I was expecting you to tell me something that you couldn’t realistically say.”
“And what would that be?” Emma said. Regina shook her head.
“I...can’t say just yet.” she sighed. Yes, her feelings for Emma were real. Yes, Zelena said that the blonde felt the same way. But she wasn’t ready to throw herself at Emma like that just yet. Least of all while she was soaked to the skin and freezing and Emma was in her underwear and a robe and nothing else. “But I promise I’ll let you know before this trip is over.”
“I can work with that.” Emma said, giving Regina a soft smile and tentatively stepping closer to her. “But...you know that whatever it is, you can trust me, right?”
Regina stepped closer to Emma, gently taking her hands and giving them a comforting squeeze. “I do trust you, Emma.”
“Okay.” Emma smiled at her gently, turning her hands so that she was holding Regina’s as well. “Then...I think we’ll be okay.”
Regina smiled at her again and gave her a gentle nod, and then suddenly Emma was letting go of her hands and wrapping her in a gentle hug.
“Thank you for inviting me to Christmas.”
“I worried you might end up regretting it.” Regina said. Emma shook her head as she pulled away from the brunette.
“Best Christmas ever, so far.” she smiled at her. “For the record, though, I am sorry that what I said upset you.”
“Like I said Emma, it wasn’t your fault.” Regina said.
“I know, I just…” the blonde shrugged. “Hated seeing you so upset.”
“Well...it’s water under the bridge.” Regina smiled at her again. “Now let’s get dressed, I’m hungry...and freezing.”
“Yeah, I’m starving.” Emma sighed, walking over to her side of the bed where she had her clothes laid out, taking her robe off, having forgotten about Regina’s earlier reaction to seeing her in her underwear. When she looked up, Regina was staring at her red-faced.
She’d left the room to give Regina some more privacy and space, going to the kitchen to see if she could snag a pre-brunch cup of coffee, where she found Robin sitting at the kitchen island, shivering.
“Hey.” she said to him and to Jeffrey when she came in.
“Coffee, Ms. Swan?” Jeffrey asked her. She smiled and nodded at him and gratefully accepted the cup of coffee which was perfectly prepared to her liking.
“Thank you.” she said, taking a sip and sighing contentedly. “Perfect. I might ask Regina to steal you.”
Jeffrey chuckled and carried on with his work, and the blonde turned to Robin, who was still shivering and sipping at a cup of tea.
“Are you okay?” Emma asked.
“Freezing.” He answered. “Did you all have to conduct an all-out assault on me?”
“You were kind of being a party pooper.” Emma shrugged.
“One of them hit me in the…” he cleared his throat.
“In the balls?” she said for him.
“I was being polite.” Robin said, glancing towards Jeffrey, who sniggered.
“I could get a hot water bottle for your bollocks if you’d like, sir.” he said, smirking at Emma before leaving the room. The blonde nearly choked on her coffee.
“I like him.” she said.
“Clearly, the feeling is mutual.” Robin sighed.
“Something wrong?” Emma raised a brow at him.
“Let’s just say this trip isn’t turning out like I’d hoped.” he said. “Enrico doesn’t like me.”
“I gathered that, I think the bird-name thing is just a game to him now.” Emma shrugged. “But Cora loves you.”
“ Cora loves my mother, my father, and our family legacy.”
“By which you mean family bank account.” Emma gave him a knowing glance.
“Exactly.” Robin sighed again. “I’m the only one of us left single.”
“Really?” Emma asked.
“Well, I’m a widower.” he said. “I have a son, Roland. He’s about Henry’s age”
“Where is he?”
“With my parents.” Robin shrugged. “They love having him over for Christmas.”
“But…you’re not spending Christmas with him?” Emma asked.
“I’m staying for the party tonight and going back home early tomorrow.” he said. “There’s nothing for me here now.”
“What do you mean?” Emma raised a brow.
“I…” Robin sighed. “Cora wanted to try and set me up with-”
“Regina.” Emma said. “Of course.”
“Well...Zelena is single as well.” Robin shrugged. “But I don’t think I could be that serious with her.”
“Sorry I stole your thunder.” Emma chuckled, not actually sorry at all.
“More like obliterated it.” Robin said. “You’re perfect.”
Emma snorted. Loudly. “I am not . I am inappropriate and damaged. I don’t even have any parents. This is the first time I’m not spending Christmas alone.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Robin said. “The part about no parents not the-”
“I get it.” Emma said, stopping him before he ate his foot any further. “Point is, I’m not perfect.”
“Cora seems to like you.” Robin said.
“I think she’s just happy that Regina is happy.” the blonde shrugged. “Works for me.”
“So...when are you popping the question?”
And God, did Emma wish he asked her either one second earlier, or not at all. Because she’d just taken a big gulp of coffee and she did a projectile spit-take clear across the kitchen island.
“Well...that was vile and unnecessary.” Robin muttered.
“Unnecessary was your question, bro.” Emma said after she’d finished coughing. “We’ve only been together a month!”
“Weren’t lesbians known to...oh what was it called…’Greyhound’ it?” he asked.
“Are you…” She narrowed her eyes at him curiously. “Are you talking about U-Haul lesbians? ”
“Yes that’s the one.” He nodded with a clueless smile on his face. Clearly, the snow ball she pelted at his head had concussed him.
“There are, like, several things wrong with that question.” she shook her head.
“Well for starters, it’s offensive as fuck.” she said with a pointed look.
Oh, he says .
“Why?” He asked. Emma sighed.
“Because it’s an awful stereotype.” she said.
“Right...But...is it true?” He asked.
“It depends on the couple.” she shrugged. “That doesn’t make what you said okay.”
“I apologize.” he said. “So...no Christmas proposal then?”
“No.” Emma rolled her eyes at him. “Now knock it off before I snowball you in the dick again.”
“Sorry.” Robin quietened. “You two do make a good looking couple though.”
“Thanks.” Emma said with a soft smirk. “I should probably-”
She was about to get up and clean up the puddle of coffee she’d spat onto the floor, but suddenly Jeffrey speed-walked back into the kitchen and made a sharp turn to the left, stepping right into the coffee puddle and skidding across the kitchen before crashing into a shelving unit, and falling on his backside.
“Jeffrey!” Emma and Robin exclaimed.
“I’m okay.” he said, before a large pot tumbled off the top shelf and landed upside down on his head rather comically. “...Now I’m a little less okay.”
It was early afternoon, and Regina was searching for Henry. Her mother had taken up a couple of hours of her time because she’d wanted second, third, and fourth opinions on the menu for the party that evening, and then the decorations, and the music. By the time she’d let Regina go, the youngest of the Mills’ women was already sick to death of the party and was considering faking a contagious illness to get out of it. So she decided some much needed play time with her son would help her relax, as it always did, and refocus her energy so that she wasn’t so anxious.
Of course, that required her finding the tiny human first.
He wasn’t in his room, which didn’t surprise her. And he’d had his fill of playing in the snow this morning (frankly, they all did.)
She was about to go ask Jeffrey if he’d seen Henry, when she heard giggling and laughing coming from the living room.
“Ah-ha.” she said victoriously as she entered the room in time to see Henry and Emma running around the living, Henry laying out flat on Emma’s back with the blonde leaning forward and her arms wrapped behind hers and Henry’s back to keep him from falling off.
“Okay, okay…” Emma said, coming to a gentle stop right in front of Regina. “How about we land and refuel for a bit, huh buddy?”
“That was fun, Em!” Henry beamed as she gently lowered him to the floor as safely as possible.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it buddy.” Emma said, ruffling his hair as he hugged her legs tightly.
“What is going on here?” Regina asked with a growing smile on her face.
“Em and I was playin’ airplane!” Henry said.
“Emma and I were playing, honey.” Regina corrected.
“Yeah. That.” He nodded. “We had fun, huh Em?!”
“We did buddy.” Emma said, grinning at him and ruffling his hair again. “Guess no one ever told me that having kids would be such a good workout.”
“Of course, you think I have time to go to a gym?” Regina joked. Emma shrugged.
“Could have fooled me.” the blonde said with a wink, immediately blushing. “I’m uh...gonna go grab a drink. Anything for you two?”
“I’m fine.” Regina shook her head.
“No thanks.” Henry smiled up at her. “Can we play more later, Em?”
“Sure buddy.” Emma smiled at him before leaving the room. Regina couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the blonde’s antics. She turned over to her son who smiled up at her.
“Hi baby.” She chuckled. “Are you having fun?”
“Yeah!” he nodded. “You gonna play with me now?”
“I was looking for you to do so, yes.” Regina said. “Or did you have too much fun with Emma?”
“No.” he shook his head. “I always wanna play with you! Or...can we colour?”
“We can, yes.” Regina nodded.
“Mama, can I tell you something?” Henry asked. The professor raised a brow and nodded, and became even more curious when her son gestured for her to come closer. She crouched down in front of him and he hesitated for a moment before he spoke up.
“Uhm...I just wanted to say that uhm...Mama I’m having a lot of fun with Em.” he stated.
“I know, baby, and I’m glad you are.” she said, tilting her head at him curiously. “You really like her, huh baby?”
“I do.” he nodded. “And uhm...I wanted to ask you something please?”
“What is it baby?” Regina said, placing a gentle, comforting hand on her obviously nervous son. “You can ask me anything.”
“S’just uhm...you know how you and Em’s playin’ a game?” he asked, playing with his fingers nervously. “You know...the one we can’t tell no one about?”
“Yes baby.” Regina nodded, her curiosity piquing.
“Well uhm…” he began. “D’you think that uhm...that you’d wanna make it real life?”
“You mean…” Regina leaned in closer and whispered. “Are you asking me if I want Emma to be my girlfriend?”
“Yeah.” he nodded at her nervously.
The whole thing hit her like a ton of bricks. Yes, feelings for Emma were there and they made themselves a lot more obvious the previous night. Lord knows the way she cried in the bathroom after hers and Emma’s argument made it impossible to deny it. But to say it out loud? And to her son, who held onto her word like it was gospel. That would make it undeniable.
“...I...I do, baby, yes.” she said. His face lit up.
“Really?!” he asked her.
“Henry, calm down.” she said as gently as she could while still being firm. “This isn’t as simple as you think.”
“But you like her, mama, I’s know you do cuz you look at her like you look at me all the time!” he said.
“I know, baby.” she sighed. “But I don’t know if she feels the same way.”
“So if she does...then you two can be real life girlfriends?” he asked.
“I suppose, if she wants to, yes.” Regina sighed, knowing she was talking too much. But after her earlier conversation with Zelena, and her previous interaction with Emma, she’d been more hopeful in one day than she had in five years. She just prayed that she wasn’t jumping the gun and setting herself up for disappointment.
“Can we email Santa? I wanna change my wish for Christmas.” Henry said. “I want you and Emma to be girlfriends. That way you get to be happy all the time like you are with her. And she gets a family. And...and I get two mommies, and a new best friend!”
Regina had to stop herself from collapsing into tears, so instead she just pulled her son into a tight hug.
“I love you, Henry.”
“I love you too mama.”
Regina and Henry spent a good hour colouring together, Regina more focused on her earlier conversation with her son, and what she could do about it, rather than what she was drawing.
And that’s how she ended up with a fully purple unicorn with a blue horn. But she’d come up with a plan, and Henry thought it was the best thing in the world. So it didn’t matter that it was an accident.
Henry had just asked for a snack when her mother rushed in, holding two large flower arrangements, and looking upset about it. Jeffrey was following her, looking worried, so Regina knew immediately that whatever was going on, mother was unhappy.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“The florist is an imbecile!” Cora answered. “Look at these!”
A bouquet was shoved in her face, and she blinked at it for a moment. “They’re beautiful and they smell nice. Is that not a good thing?”
“Honestly Regina, your level of sarcasm in a time of crisis!” Cora huffed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize a crisis could ever involve flowers.” Regina sighed. “I suppose I’m too attuned to things like war, famine, and systemic discrimination.”
“I don’t have time for this!” Cora raged. “There are too many roses and they completely overpower the lilies!”
“Of course.” Regina nodded. Cora began carefully pulling roses out of the arrangement. One. Two. Three. A fourth was pulled out before Cora repositioned one single lily and deemed the bouquet worthy of presentation.
“There.” she said, handing that one to Jeffrey. “Put this in the large vase and help me check the others.”
“And the rest of the roses, ma’am?” the butler asked. Cora had already begun pulling more roses out of another arrangement.
“Oh I don’t know.” she sighed. “We have no need for them.”
“Uhm.” Regina piped up. “Actually, could I have them?”
Cora raised a brow at her daughter who shrugged.
“What? Emma likes roses and it’s not like you’re going to do anything useful with them.” she said. “Might as well put them to good use.”
“Fair point. They’re all yours.” Cora said. “Though really, Regina, you shouldn’t forget to bring a woman flowers. It’s bad manners.”
“I’ll endeavour to do better in the future.” Regina said, picking up the roses her mother had cast aside, six in total, and a piece of ribbon her mother had just removed from the arrangement she was massacring at that moment. She gestured for Henry to come with her and took him to the kitchen, fixing him up a snack and working on tying the flowers together with the ribbon as he ate.
“Ooh, flowers.” Zelena’s voice stole Regina’s attention as she came into the kitchen.
“Yes.” the brunette nodded. “And I need a favour.”
“Ah...so they’re for me then.” Zelena smiled.
“No.” Regina deadpanned.
“Rude.” Zelena frowned. “Well what do you want?”
Regina pulled her sister out of the kitchen, and away from the coffee machine, which irked the redhead even more.
“You’re quite bad at convincing people to help you.” Zelena pouted.
“Enough. Look...I was thinking about what you said. And Henry said something that was quite shocking and...well...I’ve made a decision.” Regina sighed.
“About Emma?” Zelena asked.
“Yes.” Regina nodded. “I’m going to ask her to be my date at the party.”
Zelena blinked at her. “Regina...she already is your date at the party.”
“No, I mean…” Regina sighed. “She’s my fake date to the party so I can avoid some gross, snobbish, half-wit trying to kiss me under the mistletoe. But I’m going to ask her to be my real date to the party. No more faking.”
“Well yes, it’s brilliant!” Zelena said.
“You really think so?”
“Of course. If she says yes then it’s not a surprise to anyone, and if she says no she’s screwed because she has to be your fake date anyway.” the redhead deadpanned. Regina’s shoulders slumped.
“Well shit, Zee, when you put it like that.” Regina said. Zelena rolled her eyes.
“Oh I’m just teasing you.” she said. “Emma will say yes. She does feel the same way about you, Regina, I know she does.”
“She told you that?” Regina asked nervously.
“Yes.” Zelena nodded. “Now what’s this favour you need?”
“Henry. Can you keep him occupied please? He’s...incredibly keen on the idea of Emma and I becoming a couple. I don’t want him to get over excited just yet in case something doesn’t go as expected.” Regina said.
“You also don’t want him to see you cry on the off-chance you get rejected.” Zelena pointed out. Regina sighed.
“Yes. That too. Will you help?”
“Of course! I love playing match-maker!” Zelena clapped excitedly. “So, how are you going to do it?”
“I’m going to give her the flowers and ask her.” Regina shrugged. “Why do you overcomplicate things?”
“Oh yes, I’m the one overcomplicating things when it comes to your love-life.” Zelena rolled her eyes. “Piss me off enough, I’ll teach Henry to roll a joint.”
Regina rolled her eyes back at her sister. “Just make sure he doesn’t eat too much candy while he’s with you, please?”
“I will do my best.” Zelena gave her an over-exaggerated salute. “Good luck.”
“Thank you.” the brunette answered before they both went back into the kitchen, Zelena’s attention immediately turning on Henry. It was easy to convince the boy to go hang out with his aunt while mama did something very important, and having just finished his snack, he was ready to go.
Regina sighed nervously as she watched her sister lead her son away, giving her one last wink over her shoulder to solidify her resolve. It was now or never.
She found Emma outside, on the phone with Ruby, who Regina was sure was saying something graphic or cussing like a sailor by the way Emma was rubbing her face and blushing. Or it might have been the cold nipping at her cheeks. Either way, Regina couldn't deny that she was absolutely adorable, which made her even more nervous, because it strengthened her conviction that she was absolutely head-over-heels in love with the blonde.
Emma turned around and saw her, standing there with a nervous smile and her arms held behind her back, and said something to Ruby on the phone, to the effect of her having to go. A couple of goodbyes and well wishes for the holidays and the blonde was hanging up the phone and putting it away before she approached Regina.
"Hey." She said with a gentle smile.
"Hi." Regina said, biting her lip nervously.
"Is...everything okay?" Emma raised a brow at her. The jig was halfway up, Regina realized, as the blonde caught on to the fact that something was going on.
"I uhm...would like to ask you a question." Regina said. "But...full disclosure?"
"I'm nervous." Regina said with a slight shrug. Emma scoffed a small chuckle.
"We're pretending to be girlfriends and you saw me in my underwear earlier. I think I accidentally concussed your butler this morning before brunch. Unless you’re about to ask me to marry you, or like, commit insurance fraud, I don’t think you have anything to be nervous about.”
Regina laughed, her nerves getting the better of her for a minute. “God I love...your...sense of humor.”
She cleared her throat nervously, and Emma raised a brow at her again.
“It's one of the many things about you that I’ve grown incredibly fond of in the time we’ve worked together.” the brunette carried on, her knees beginning to shake.
“Regina…” Emma gave her a curious smile. “Are you okay? You look like...like you’re going to be sick...or like you’re about to tell me you’re dying. Which would be horrible, so please don’t do that.”
Regina shook her head and sucked in a deep breath before she slowly pulled the makeshift bouquet of roses from behind her back. Emma’s jaw went slack, and it looked like whatever word she was trying to say got caught in her throat.
“Emma...I know this might shock you. And I don’t want you to feel obliged in any way. For a moment I want you to forget this whole game we’re playing here and just think about yourself and how you feel…” The professor preambled.
“O-o-okay?” Emma stuttered.
“I would like you to come to my family’s Christmas party with me this evening...as my date.” Regina asked.
“I...I thought I was your date?” Emma managed to get out, still shocked and frozen in place by what was happening.
“I mean...I mean as my real date, Emma.” Regina said, her voice going to a whisper because she didn’t have the strength to talk thanks to the lump that was building in her throat. “I...want you...to…”
She didn’t have the strength to speak anymore. And Emma was staring at her wide eyed, tears pricking both their eyes.
Regina shut her eyes, the silence weighing too heavy on her heart as she thought it was breaking.
But then she heard the sound of slush and snow being crushed under a pair of boots. The bouquet was taken from her hands and a pair of arms were wrapped tightly around her, a pair of warm lips and the tip of a cold nose brushing her cheek.
“I would be honored.”
Regina didn’t know how long it had been since she’d taken a breath, but it felt like eternity when she finally breathed in deeply, opening her eyes to see blonde hair as Emma hugged her tightly. She wrapped her own arms around the student she was willing to risk it all for, and sighed in relief, joy filling her heart the likes of which she hadn’t felt in over five years. The joy of something new, something risky, something that was worth giving everything else up for.
“You didn’t have to go buy me roses just to ask me on a date.”
“They’re adopted, actually.” Regina said. “Strays.”
“It’s a long story.” Regina chuckled into Emma’s neck as she breathed deeply again, her senses filling up with Emma’s scent and driving her crazy.
“Let’s go inside before we freeze.” Emma suggested, pulling away just enough to be able to take Regina’s hand and tug her eagerly. “Hot cocoa?”
“I’d love to.” Regina smiled at her as she followed her to the house, knowing that whatever else happened, it was going to be a very merry Christmas indeed.