I: In which Regina is not letting Emma drunkenly stumble home in the dark
It starts small. Henry’s away at college and the house is empty, emptier than it’s been in years, and Regina is so lonely. She wanders the house, cleaning surfaces that don’t need cleaning, polishing wooden fixtures until they gleam, straightening sheets and duvets until they’re flat as paper… There’s a certain comfort in perfection, one that Regina hadn’t needed while Henry was here.
There’s a knock at the door. For a moment her heart leaps with joy. Henry.
But of course Henry wouldn’t knock and Henry’s in New York and Regina’s alone and she stops, partway down the stairs, struck by this inexpressible feeling of weariness, wanting to sit on the stairs and cry.
The front door slides open. “Regina?” It’s Emma. She pushes the door open with her elbow, a bottle of wine clenched under each arm, a plastic bag in one hand and a giant pizza in the other.
Regina pastes on a smile and descends. “Do you take this large a snack everywhere you go?” she says, taking the pizza from Emma, and trying not to sigh at the smell of tomato and cheese, her stomach empty from a day of not eating, the thought of making food for one sickening.
“I thought I’d bring dinner around,” she says. “Henry’s worried you’re brooding or pining or something.”
It’s sweet of you to worry, dear,” Regina says, “but I’m fine.”
“I told Henry you were probably fine,” she says. “But I can’t eat a whole pizza alone.”
“Liar,” Regina says, smiling properly in spite of herself.
Emma rolls her eyes, kicking off her boots and lining them up by the door with socked feet, before heading in the direction of the living room. In the doorway, she hesitates. “This is okay, right?”
“It’s fine,” Regina says and, surprisingly, it is. Emma’s good company, even though she sticks her feet up on Regina’s coffee table, which is strictly against the household rules (and Henry knew to follow that one even though Emma’s incapable), and immediately grabs the remote to find her saved programmes. How she’s ended up with saved programmes on Regina’s television is beyond her, but at least it’ll give them something to do.
And so it is that Regina finds herself spending Friday night watching ‘Elementary’, with Emma providing a running commentary. She’s all too familiar with the ins and outs of the show, hopelessly adores Lucy Liu’s Watson and beams with pride on the rare occasions when she figures out the truth before the characters on the show.
It’s not until they’re halfway through the pizza, the garlic bread and side of fries long since demolished, that Regina realises Emma is picking off the spicy sausage, hiding it in a folded napkin. “Why did you order it if you don’t like it?” she asks.
“You do,” Emma says, as though this should be self-evident, and Regina is filled with a surge of warmth for this woman who has insinuated herself into Regina’s life to the point where she can’t imagine what it would be like without her.
There are greasy fingerprints on Regina’s nice wine glasses but she ignores that because they’re running dangerously low on the second bottle and it’s dark, the only light coming from the television and the sliver of moon outside. She feels soft and blurry around the edges and she leans her head against Emma’s shoulder and Emma briefly wraps an arm around her shoulder and squeezes before retracting. “Guess I’m walking home,” she says, looking at her phone when the latest episode finishes, and there’s a slur to her voice.
“Stay,” Regina says and Emma twists to look at her, which makes Regina fall towards Emma’s lap and then jerk backwards. “There’s a guest room,” she says. “And I know you sleep in your underwear anyway so it’s not like you’ll need to borrow pyjamas.”
“Watching me sleep again, Regina?” Emma asks, and a smile plays across her lips and Regina wants to remind her of the fact that they shared a damn hotel room on the road trip a few years ago, but Emma’s speaking again. “If it’s not too inconvenient…”
“I’ll not have you walking home drunk in the middle of the night,” Regina snaps. “Your mother would blame me for it.”
“Actually, I’m pretty sure Snow likes you more than me,” Emma says. “She’d probably say I tricked you into letting me walk.” She stretches, yawning, and Regina notices the strip of skin left bare between jeans and tank top, the indent of her bellybutton. Emma spots Regina staring and winks at her, the tip of her tongue poking out from between her teeth.
Regina rolls her eyes, ignoring the warmth in her cheeks, and leads Emma to the guest room. “Sleep well,” she says and moves forward to kiss Emma’s cheek without thinking (every night Henry was here she’d kiss his cheek before bed and she tells herself it’s just an automatic gesture, it doesn’t mean anything) but Emma moves and her lips brush against Emma’s and she feels Emma flutter back in surprise.
“Night,” she says when she’s finished with her startled Bambi routine and closes the door to the guest room. Regina goes to bed and sleeps properly for the first time since Henry left.
II: In which Emma is far too tired after pilates to walk home
Emma is gone when she wakes up and she’s pretty sure the accidental, not-quite-kiss scared her off because Regina may not be the queen of much anymore but she is still definitely the queen of scaring off the people she cares about – even if she definitely only cares about Emma in a platonic sense, occasional sex dreams and desires to settle down and raise a family together notwithstanding.
But Emma is back the next evening, just after Regina has finished washing her dinner dishes. She is wearing tiny shorts, carrying two yoga mats and with a pilates dvd in her hand. “I stole it from Snow. I hear exercise helps with sleep,” she says when Regina opens the front door and raises one surprised eyebrow.
“What makes you think I don’t exercise?” she asks.
Emma shrugs. “I thought we could do it together.”
So Regina goes upstairs and changes into her running clothes – leggings and a tank top – and when she returns to the living room, Emma has shifted the couches and coffee table back to the edges of the room and she’s plugged her phone into the speakers. “The music on the DVD gives me a headache,” she says. “I thought we’d play it with the subtitles and listen to, like, Fleetwood Mac?” She eyes Regina, like she’s worried she might make fun of her music choices.
“Fleetwood Mac is fine,” she says and Emma – whose smiles are hard-won and quick to disappear – smiles so widely and for so long.
It’s as they’re doing the Roll Over, ‘Gypsy’ playing over the speakers and Regina’s butt in the air, that she feels Emma’s eyes on her. “See something you like?” she asks and Emma blushes and falls over.
She makes them both camomile tea when they finish. Her body aches, but in a good way, a positive way, and she stands at the kitchen island, while Emma sits, propped up on her elbows. She has loosened her hair from its ponytail and there’s a ponytail kink that Regina itches to brush out. “I talked to him today,” Regina says. “He’s settling in well.”
“Good,” Emma says, staring into her mug. “He’s been texting me a lot. Sent me a few pictures of his room and friends.”
“He got in touch with Marian, actually. He’s going over there for dinner at some stage.”
“Just Marian?” Emma asks.
Regina nods. “They’re not together,” she says. “He’s somewhere near enough for them to share custody of Roland, but the city wasn’t really for him.” It had surprised her, honestly, how well Marian had taken to New York City, after the initial terror that being in a big city had inspired. Regina had gifted them the apartment, the same one Henry and Emma lived in that year so very long ago, the place Regina had set aside as a safe house in case things should go truly wrong for her.
Emma is hesitant when she asks the next question. “Do you ever talk?”
“No,” Regina says. “Marian and I keep in touch though.” Very occasionally Marian will call with a question or a request and Regina will be allowed to talk to Roland, who barely remembers her now. She wouldn’t call them friends, but she’s able to be useful to Marian and she appreciates the opportunity to make restitution.
Emma frowns. “I’m sorry.” It was when they became friends, really, after Robin left, Emma so insistent on helping Regina find her happy ending. And then, when Hook had died, Regina had tried to provide the same comfort.
(“I don’t feel right,” Emma had admitted. “I know I should be devastated. I know I should be inconsolable. I mostly just feel guilty.” And Regina had rubbed her back and let her cry and told her that everyone grieves in their own way.)
She shrugs. “It was a long time ago now,” she says. “No sense dwelling.”
This makes Emma snort into her tea. “You are the queen of dwelling,” she says and Regina throws a tea towel at her.
Emma is clearly exhausted, trying to insist that she can drive home, even as her eyes keep sinking shut as she sits on the stool. When she topples over trying to stand, Regina takes matters into her own hands, frogmarching her upstairs and into the guest bedroom, where she puts her to bed in her exercise clothes, tucking her in, placing a towel on the bedside table for a morning shower, and closing the curtains.
“Thanks,” Emma says, her voice groggy with sleep.
Regina stands in the doorway, the room dark, and replies. “Thank you,” she says. “For coming by. I needed company.”
Emma’s silent for a moment and Regina wonders if she’s fallen asleep. “I like that you think this was an entirely selfless act,” she says into the dark and silence. “I miss him too. The apartment’s too empty without him.”
Regina smiles. “Good night, Emma.” And she closes the door.
III: In which Emma’s chivalry leads to the guest bedroom
She doesn’t see Emma for a week and after a couple of days of no company and too little sleep she’s irritable and snappy. She tells Snow her plans for a fourth grade field trip to the discovery museum in Bangor is a terrible idea – far too expensive and what’s to stop the children blathering on about their parents being fairy tale characters – and Snow smiles a little too knowingly and says, “Emma’s been on nights this week, you know.”
“What does have to do with anything?” Regina snaps, but she takes the proposal from Snow and agrees to look it over, approving it minutes after Snow leaves.
That evening she makes beef stew, based on a faintly remembered recipe from her father’s kingdom, and drops a portion of it into the sheriff’s station. Emma’s on patrol and she’s glad, but she leaves it in the centre of her desk where she won’t miss it.
Her phone buzzes an hour later. Best stew ever. Are you my fairy godmother?
I don’t know what you’re talking about, Regina replies.
She is still smiling an hour later when Henry skypes her. “You look good, Mom,” he says. “Happy.”
“I am, I think,” she says. She has made herself a mug of tea and he sits in front of his laptop with a travel mug of coffee and his headphones on. In the background, she catches his roommate walk past, a pixelated blur of blue and red.
“Good,” he says. “Emma says you made her dinner.”
“I made too much stew,” she lies.
“The beef stew?” he asks. “Mom, you never make that just for you.” He shakes his head, the image crackling. “When will you guys figure it out?”
“Figure what out?”
He rolls his eyes. “Nothing. Hey, did I tell you about my astronomy class?”
Her mind keeps returning to their conversation. She thinks about it into the evening, into the night, at three in the morning when her eyes still refuse to shut. Henry’s happy and he’s loved and that’s all she’s ever wanted for her little boy (not so little anymore) but is it all she can want for herself?
The next day she cleans. There’s comfort in the mindless scrub of grime from the shower or in the weight pushed behind her hand when she cleans the oven. It’s just gone six and she’s showered and dressed in trousers that aren’t actually pyjamas but are heading sharply in that direction and she’s contemplating an unopened bottle of merlot in her study.
And Emma bursts through the front door, heading for the stairs. “What on earth?” she mutters and follows her up the stairs, finding her in her bedroom, where she is surveying Regina’s wardrobe.
“Do you have anything that isn’t, like, mayoral?” Emma asks. Regina notes the pair of heels on the bed that Regina certainly did not put there, dangerously high and patent red with an ankle strap.
“Are you looking to diversify your wardrobe?” Regina asks, taking the shoes off her clean duvet.
“No,” Emma says, rifling through dresses. “We’re going out.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“We’re going out,” Emma repeats. “I’ve had a week of night shifts. I need to cut loose. And the Rabbit Hole has karaoke tonight.”
“I don’t sing,” Regina says, though she goes to her wardrobe, pushing Emma aside and finding the little black dress she bought several years ago for dates that never transpired. She moves to her dresser, pulling pantyhose from the top drawer and more suitable underwear for the dress.
“They all say that,” Emma says, grinning. “Before shots.”
“Get out,” Regina says and adds, when Emma’s face falls. “I’m not getting dressed in front of you.”
Emma pouts but complies and when Regina descends the stairs it is kind of gratifying to see her jaw actually, literally drop in the way Regina’s only seen in the cartoons Henry watched as a child. “You look–” She pauses. “Obviously you’re trying to pull tonight.” Regina smirks and grabs her house keys.
“You clean up nicely yourself, Emma,” she says, admiring the stretch of black denim tight against Emma’s thighs and the bounce of curls around her shoulders as she walks out the front door.
Emma trips on the front step.
The Rabbit Hole is packed and Emma signs them up for a song, while refusing to tell Regina what it is, and then buys them doubles of Tequila. She shoots her own two shots back as though they’re water and so of course Regina has to do the same.
She’s on the other side of tipsy when Emma drags her up on stage and she’s chosen ‘Proud Mary’ and Regina’s sure she’s never laughed harder in her life because although Emma’s got a strong karaoke voice, she’s a terrible dancer and, by God, she gives it her all.
And then there are more shots and some dancing that gets raunchier than Regina would have expected when one is dancing to Nova’s terrible rendition of Destiny Child’s ‘Survivor’, but Emma grinds against her backside and sings into her ear and Regina’s hair sticks to her forehead with sweat and she is definitely too old to be behaving like a rebellious teenager.
She wants to turns around and kiss Emma, wants to press her lips to Emma’s skin and brand her with the heat she feels but although she may be drunk, she’s not an idiot, and she doesn’t plan to skip ahead with whatever this is just because the feel of Emma’s thighs against hers is making her horny.
Later, Emma walks her home, air crisp against her skin and her heels in one hand (and Emma had stared when she’d removed her pantyhose outside the bar). Regina drags her inside by her wrist. “You’re not walking home alone,” she says.
Emma giggles. “All part of my evil plan,” she says. “Your guest bed is the most comfortable bed in the universe.”
“You should try my actual bed,” Regina says and then glares. “Don’t.”
Emma smiles, standing in the doorway to the guest room, and then leans forward, pulling Regina into a hug. She smells of sweat and booze and soap and Regina’s hands tighten reflexively in the tight fabric of her top, tugging it up, revealing the smooth, pale skin of her back, the nubs of her spine. “I had fun tonight,” Emma says when they break apart.
Regina is too wired to sleep and she thinks she needs to stop pretending that she doesn’t understand what Henry was getting at earlier.
IV: In which Emma moves from the guest bedroom to Regina’s bed
And so it continues. Every couple of days, Emma comes by to do their pilfered pilates DVD or watch a movie or she’ll bring around takeout because she somehow knows Regina’s had a long and exhausting day and the idea of cooking is too much to handle. They even skype Henry together one evening, an evening where he caustically asks, “are you married yet or are you still kidding yourselves?” and Regina chokes on her tea, while Emma blushes and stammers and glares.
And just about every time Emma comes over, Regina finds an excuse to make her stay. It gets to the point where Emma keeps spare clothes in the guest bedroom and a toothbrush in Henry’s bathroom and Regina stocks the shower with the soap and shampoo she knows Emma likes.
She sleeps better when Emma’s in the house and she doesn’t want to analyse that further because the few times she has it’s led her down a path that, frankly, terrifies her, but she thinks Emma sleeps better too because she never once turns her down.
Then it happens. They finished pilates and Regina has showered, changed into pyjamas and fallen easily to sleep.
And she wishes she hadn’t because it’s back. The nightmare.
It’s dark and it’s cold and she can hear these noises, odd screeches and wails. She can feel hands clutch at her and they’re Leopold’s hands, at once clammy and too dry, and with each touch, her skin ripens into bruises. She tries to speak and her throat is constricted, the only sound being coughed out a hoarse and squeaky, “Mother?”
She smells blood, so much blood, and it stains her hands like rust.
“Regina!” Dimly, she hears Emma’s voice, cutting through the fog. “Regina, wake up. It’s just a nightmare.” There’s a hand on her upper arm now and she swats it away but it’s not Leopold’s fingers. The touch is gentler, surer, comforting.
She opens her eyes. The bedside lamp is on and Emma is bathed in an orange glow, her forehead creased in worry. “I’m ‘wake,” Regina mumbles.
“Are you okay? I heard whimpering.”
“I’m fine,” she says. Her tongue seems to be sticking to the roof of her mouth. “I just… haven’t had it in a while.” She looks at Emma, actually looks, and feels herself grow warm because of course Emma’s wearing nothing but a tank top and panties and she becomes hyper-aware of her own lack of a bra, and the low cut nature of her nightgown, which has twisted around in the night. She pulls the sheets up to her chin.
“Well.” Emma stands. “I guess since you’re okay…”
Regina reaches out, grabbing her wrist. “Stay. Please.”
Emma hesitates momentarily before shrugging. She curls up beneath the covers and soon Regina’s breathing steadies and her heart beat slows and she falls back into a dreamless sleep.
Before she does though, she hears Emma, barely whispering. “Sleep well, darling.”
And so when Regina falls asleep she does so with a smile on her face.
V: In which Regina kicks Emma out of bed
So they start sleeping together sometimes.
Just sleeping, even though Regina has come to the realisation that she would definitely like it be a lot more because she’s pretty sure this is something like love. Snow keeps giving her these looks when they meet up and David keeps offering her these terrible romance tips, just dropping them casually into conversation, as though he doesn’t have an agenda and Henry has given up hinting and just asked the other day, “so, you asked out Emma yet or are you still being a big baby about it?”
She fell asleep the night before with her arms around Emma’s waist and her face nuzzled into Emma’s neck so when she wakes with empty arms and to the sound of a loud ‘oof!’ she’s surprised to say the least.
And then there is a hand around her ankle and she is being dragged out of the bed. She screeches and flails as she falls, landing on Emma.
“What are you doing?” she hisses, hyperaware of the press of Emma’s body against hers, of her hand cupping Emma’s breast and Emma’s foot stroking her calf.
“You kicked me out of bed,” Emma says. “Literally. I think I broke my butt.”
“Oh, baby,” Regina says. “Do you need me to kiss it better?” She regrets the words the moment she says them but Emma’s lips curve into a grin.
“If you’re offering,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to have a queen kiss my ass.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Regina says even as her heart quickens.
“No, no,” Emma says. “I insist.” And she twists so that she’s on her stomach beneath Regina, baring her lace-covered buttocks.
And Regina can’t think of anything else to do that might shut her up so she bends down and presses her lips to the small of her back. Emma actually shudders and Regina sits back on her haunches, legs on either side of Emma’s thighs, smirking down at her. “Your move,” she says.
Emma flips them and Regina’s head hits the carpeted floor. “Careful!”
And then Emma’s kissing her. Emma’s lips press against hers and Regina feels her heart beat even faster and her eyelids flutter shut and her hands clasp and claw at the soft flesh of Emma’s thighs. “Christ, that hurts!” Emma says, though her mouth is still barely an inch from hers. “Your nails!”
“You’re such a baby,” Regina says and lets her hands sweep high, tugging at the waistband of Emma’s panties and pulling the down, baring taut skin, and she snakes a hand between their bodies and to the juncture of her thighs, sweeping two fingers through the moisture gathered there. Emma squirms and clenches her thighs, trapping her hand.
“You’re making it your mission to hurt me as much as possible,” Emma says, scowling and then jerking when Regina presses two fingers inside.
“I’m sorry,” Regina says and curls her fingers, and Emma’s so tight and wet and responsive, her nipples hardened to little peaks beneath her tank top and she lets out this breathy sigh. “Would you like me to stop?”
Emma moans. Regina waits. “No, damn it,” Emma hisses as the silence becomes interminable. “Just fuck me already.”
“I don’t know,” Regina says. “You’ve been kind of mean and whiney about this whole thing.” She pulls her hand free and brings her fingers to her mouth, tasting Emma, the tart tang of her. She licks her lips.
Emma scowls. “Only you could make sex into an argument,” she mutters.
“Only you would let me,” Regina says, stretching up to kiss Emma and while she’s thoroughly distracted she takes over, flipping them back over and shuffling down, pushing Emma’s thighs apart and smirking up at her. And while Emma’s wincing at the rough handling, she’s also smiling like she’s the luckiest woman in the world. “I think I love you,” Regina says.
Emma’s smile quirks upward on one side, her left cheek dimpling. “Darling,” she says. “I know I love you.”
“Stop trying to one up me,” Regina grumbles even as her stomach warms. She presses a soft kiss to Emma’s thigh and her skin quivers.
“Is it your sadistic plan to torture me?” Emma asks as she takes it no further, fingers drumming against Emma’s thighs.
“Shouldn’t our first time making love be in a bed though?” Regina asks, lips curving into a grin, and Emma lets out a frustrated grunt before yanking Regina by her arms, sliding her up until they’re face to face again. She kisses her fiercely, biting her lower lip, pressing kisses to her jaw, her neck, her collar bone, and then she’s pushing aside underwear, twisting fingers – two, then three – inside Regina, her thumb circling her clitoris erratically and Regina loses all capacity for speech, too caught up in sensation. Emma mutters complaints as she makes Regina come apart at the seams, bitching about her incessant need to cuddle, her mixed signals, her insanely comfortable sheets…
When Emma hones in on her clitoris, pushing down the top of her nightgown so that she can latch onto a nipple, Regina comes but Emma doesn’t stop, not until she comes twice more and collapses boneless over her. Emma combs her fingers through Regina’s hair. “Sorry,” Regina mumbles. “We’ll get to you.”
Emma kisses Regina’s cheek. “Yeah, we will,” she says. “But we’ve got all the time in the world.”
Later, after Regina’s evened the score (and Emma’s told her off for trying to turn orgasms into a competition before whispering in her ear, “but I’m winning”), Regina makes them coffee and asks, “were you anticipating this when you came by that first night?”
“Anticipating? No,” Emma says and takes a long drink of coffee. “Desperately hoping? Yes. I’ve loved you a long time.”
“I didn’t realise,” Regina says. “I’m sorry.”
“Never be sorry,” Emma says, kissing Regina’s cheek as she passes her the day old croissants. “We got there.”
“That we did,” Regina says. “Henry will be pleased.”
“He’s been bugging you too?” Emma asks, outraged.
And Regina laughs in the late morning sunlight.