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Emma Swan is truly, utterly, completely fucking wasted.

Trashed, really.

She knows this because one moment she's in The Rabbit Hole and the next she's knocking, banging really, on a super familiar door, the numbers 108 staring back at her like a warning. One she doesn't heed.

And then her mouth is slurring out a super familiar name and there's this really tiny voice in the back of her mind - it sounds a lot like her own when she's sober - saying 'what the fuck are you doing, Emma?'

Good question, me. I'll get back to you on that.

"Regina!" 

Her fist is still banging against the door and it's super fucking cold outside and the leather of her jacket is real but not at all conducive for holding in heat and jesus christ, woman open the damn door!

It does. It's ripped open, actually.

Regina's still wearing what she had on earlier that day. One of those obscenely well-fitted pantsuits, except now she's just wearing the white button-down shirt and her feet are bare.

Emma's mouth falls open at the sight of deep plum nails and the light blue of the few veins at the top of her foot.

Emma's never seen Regina Mill's feet before. It's never been a particular desire of hers.

She thinks perhaps it should have been.

But then Regina's voice, thick and rumbling and decidedly pissed off, cuts right through her marveling.

"Miss Swan, what the hell are you doing?"

"Well, I came to see you. Obviously," she hopes all those words sounded as clear as she'd intended them to be. She takes a step forward, seeking the heat of the mansion but Regina's body gets in her way.

She frowns.

"Let me in."

Regina gives her a sneer, which, okay, is ridiculously, unfairly sexy, and scrunches up her nose in what Emma concludes is disgust and gives her a hard shove.

And well, that's just fucking rude.

"You're drunk. You're not coming anywhere near my furniture. Or my hardwood floor."

"Awe, come on, Gina. I walked all the way here and everything. I think I have frostbite."

Dark brown eyes flash at the nickname and Emma smirks and then giggles. Then hiccups.

Emma's never thought Regina cute before. She's not really cute right now. Well, maybe she is a little. In a 'Miss Swan, you have three seconds to get off my porch before I set you on fire' kind of way.

She does have that pulsing forehead vein thing going on too. Emma's always wanted to touch it. Or caress it. Or kiss it.

Hm. Maybe she should have stopped after her seventh shot.

"Has anyone ever told you that you're insanely hot when you're mad?"

And yeah, she definitely should have stopped.

She's expecting the door to be slammed in her face. Or to be slapped.

She doesn't expect the scoff. Or the eye roll.

"Has anyone ever told you you're even more insufferably annoying when you're drunk?"

Emma laughs out loud at that. It's more a bark, maybe even a guffaw and Emma's brow crinkles then because she doesn't even think she knows that word.

"Seriously, it's fucking freezing out here, let me in."

She moves forward again and is stopped by Regina's hand on her breastbone.

"Henry's upstairs. Your banging and shouting didn't wake him up because apparently he's inherited your ability to sleep through a hurricane but you are not coming into my house. And I've barely the patience to deal with you when you're sober let alone while intoxicated."

She gives Emma another shove and this time Emma stumbles backwards at the force.

"Get off my porch."

And then she's turning and Emma's staring at those goddamn numbers again.

And she still hasn't gotten total control over her magic; Regina's magic lessons haven't exactly been at the top of Emma's to-do list lately. Or Regina's, really either.

But she thinks it can't be that hard to teleport. Or poof. Or whatever the fuck that shit's called.

Just picture where you want to be and think yourself there, right?

Wrong.

She ends up crashing right on top of Regina's desk. Which actually, she had been aiming for the study so she gives herself props for at least making it into the correct room.

Now she's just gotta deal with an irate brunette who's just stormed in and is hissing and seething at her and really, Emma thinks she hit her head pretty fucking hard because there's this dull throbbing and she's seeing two Reginas and that's tripping her the fuck out and so she leans into the dark mahogany wood, her eyes screwed shut, her knuckles white.

"Emma! Are you even listening to me?"

And of-fucking-course she isn't because jesus the room is spinning and she feels she's about to retch.

"Regina, could you like possibly stop fucking yelling at me for a sec?" She scrubs at her forehead and she feels herself tipping forward, expecting to feel the floor any second.

She feels warm hands at her waist instead, a murmured, concerned, "Emma, how much did you drink tonight?" in her ear.

And fuck, she has no idea; she lost count after her tenth and was cut off shortly after that.

"Dunno," she slurs. She's sitting on the couch now, Regina bent in front of her. She's definitely about to puke.

"R'gina, I'm gonna -" and it happens so fast. There's purple smoke and a bucket and she's pretty sure she loses everything she's ever ingested since childhood and then she's out.

When she wakes again, her head pounding, her mouth grainy and cottony and tasting of something foul, she's not on the couch anymore.

She's not wearing her jeans or her leather jacket anymore either.

She's wearing these super fucking soft, light blue silk pajamas and they smell like rainwater and vanilla and laundry detergent and her stomach drops and flutters and does a fucking backflip because she's wearing Regina's pajamas and she's in one of her guest beds and oh my fucking god did she put these on me herself!?

Her brain doesn't really know how to process the thought of Regina undressing her and then allowing her to wear her own clothes. Willingly.

It takes her a stupid amount of time to actually sit up and stand and make it to the door of the bedroom. And then there's the stairs. And honestly, why is there so much light everywhere?

Shouldn't reformed Evil Queens have dungeons and darkness? Or at least some thicker fucking curtains?

The smell of bacon and coffee informs her to head to the kitchen and when she ambles up to the island, she buries her head in her arms to hide from the almost blinding light shining in through the window above the sink.

She groans into the counter and hears a throaty chuckle in response.

"I feel like I got hit by a bus," Emma croaks into her arms.

She hears the scrape of a plate and her head lifts, moaning at the omelet and bacon, a mug of steaming coffee beside it.

"Oh my god, I think I love you."

And really, that's not at all how she had planned this particular conversation. In truth, she hadn't planned it at all. Hence, last night. She was going to wallow and pout and groan and grumble about her newly realized feelings and drink herself into a coma. Then forget about those feelings altogether. Like, forever.

Of course she would realize she was in love with her son's other mother after said mother was already in love with another man.

One she was supposed to be helping to find. One Regina'd known for all of five goddamn minutes.

I made you a promise I intend to keep.

She kind of stops short as the words leave her mouth but Regina just arches a brow and smirks a little, amused, before turning to wash the skillet she'd just used.

Emma slumps onto her elbow and rubs her eyes, thanking god for the fact that Regina knows the relationship Emma has with food is on par with Henry and his comic books and is capable of making her say ridiculous things.

Completely ridiculous things. Things she doesn't mean. Things she doesn't mean but really, really does.

She's about two pieces of bacon in when her brain catches up to the world around it.

"Where's Henry?"

Regina turns to give her a look before going back to scrubbing at the skillet. She's wearing a deep crimson blouse and black slacks today. Her hair perfectly coifed, now much longer than Emma's used to, curling a bit at the ends past her shoulders. She's wearing hosiery. But her feet are still bare of shoes.

"Our son does attend school during the week days, Emma."

Emma's face scrunches and she squints at the green digits on the microwave. 11:13.

Well, shit.

"Does he know I stayed here last night?"

Regina's hand kind of slips a little and she does this shifting foot thing and Emma's pretty sure that she has no idea what any of that means.

"He does, yes. I told him you came over to do some research for Operation Mongoose and ended up staying a little later than initially planned so I offered for you to sleep in the guest room."

Emma tilts her head because that's an outright lie and Regina would never lie to Henry to cover up a night of self-pity drinking on Emma's behalf. Would she?

"You lied to him for me?"

She hadn't actually meant to voice the question, but hey. Since when does her brain ever coordinate with her mouth?

Regina's eyes find hers again and Emma's stomach does that stupid backflip thing again because Regina's looking at her as if she's seeing her for the first time. Or...maybe not the first time but just like she's actually truly seeing her. Like she understands something Emma doesn't.

"He didn't need to know." Is all she says and Emma's heart stammers in her chest and her hands are all tingly and she feels this really dumb urge to hug Regina but yeah, no, she can't actually do that because hello, that's not who they are to each other.

They may be...like friends (ish?) now (You thought we were friends? Crazy right?) but they certainly didn't hug. Emma wonders if they'll ever be the type of people to hug one another. And that kind of makes Emma's heart hurt because she thinks, knows actually, that Regina's a great hugger.

She also knows she smells good.

She looks down at her - Regina's - pajamas.

"Uh - how'd I get into these?"

She has to be imagining the blush that spreads across Regina's cheeks. Has to be.

Regina wipes her hands on the towel next to the sink and makes a show of folding it.

"Your clothes wreaked of alcohol. I washed them," she looks at Emma now, blush completely gone, replaced with a teasing smile.

"I didn't dry them though. I'm not sure they'd have still fit if I had. Do you always buy jeans two sizes too small for you?"

Emma shrugs and takes a bite out of the bacon. She thinks she tastes maple syrup and silently praises the gods for blessing Regina with the ability to cook like one.

"No one ever seems to have a problem with it."

And there's that blush again but this time Regina has nothing to do with her hands so she clears her throat and moves to grab her own mug of coffee from beside the stove.

"You didn't exactly answer my question though."

Regina rolls her eyes.

"I didn't undress you myself if that's what you're worried about. I used magic. Just a wave of my hand. I wasn't sure exactly what you wear to bed in your apartment as I've never actually seen your sleepwear so I just put you in some of mine."

She's fidgeting with her coffee mug now, her words becoming increasingly unsure and Regina's not a fidgeter. She's not ever nervous or uncomfortable. But she is right now and Emma finds it incredibly endearing and wants to hug her again.

Wants to kiss her.

Has anyone ever told you that you're insanely hot when you're mad?

Oh god. Had she actually said that? She hopes maybe that was just her dream self that had said that to dream Regina in her very much dream last night. She doesn't remember much of what happened, just that she probably actually did tell Regina how attractive she was while pissed off and well, hey, Emma's been wanting to say that since like day one so she's glad Regina knows it now.

She just kind of hopes she doesn't bring it up.

Emma nods and takes a bite of her omelet, eyes fluttering at the burst of different spices and flavors.

Who knew a fucking egg could taste so good?

"Regina, seriously. This is fucking amazing."

She chuckles, the sound dancing along every inch of Emma's skin, alighting it with goosebumps, and rips off a block of paper towel and hands it over to Emma, miming at her mouth.

"Well, knowing your stomach thinks the same for cheeseburgers and fries from Granny's, I'm not sure how much of a compliment that is."

Emma wipes at her mouth and finishes off the omelet.

"My stomach also knows the difference between mediocre food and fucking ambrosia made from the very gods themselves. Or goddess."

Regina's brow arches into her hairline.

"Ambrosia?"

Emma gives a dismissive wave of her hand, taking a greedy gulp of her coffee.

"Yeah, I don't know. Henry gave me a dictionary last week. Something about broadening my vocabulary because 'seriously, Emma, your comebacks against Mom are weak'."

Regina's lips tick up into a proud smirk and she tips her head.

"And he's right. I think you actually called me an asshat the other day."

Emma's cheeks burn. "We were playing scrabble!"

"So naturally asshat is the word you choose to make with those letters," Regina drawls, thoroughly enjoying Emma's embarrassment.

Emma scowls into her coffee.

"Whatever. I still won."

Regina hums into her mug and gives this little crooked smile-smirk thing and Emma wishes she had her dictionary with her to look up the proper word for it because it's lovely and she'd like to know how to describe it.

Then Regina, ever the moment ruiner, decides to well, ruin the goddamn moment.

"Shouldn't you be calling the pirate? Surely he's wondering where you are."

"Hook isn't allowed to wonder where I am anymore."

Regina looks at her, confused.

Emma sighs. Reason number two for getting blind drunk last night. She effectively terminated a relationship with the only person who actually loved her more than she could ever love him. Someone who may not have made her the happiest, or truly happy at all really, but who would have worshipped her. Cherished her. It felt good to be wanted like that.

Just not good enough.

"I ended it with him. Last night."

Realization flashes across Regina's features, a breathy 'oh' leaving her lips almost like an accident.

She clears her throat.

"So that's why..."

"Yep." And it's not a lie really. It was one of the reasons. Just not the main one.

"Right," and Regina looks uncomfortable again but she also looks a little...relieved? Or maybe just less tense, like she's not trying to pull her shoulders up; her grip on her mug isn't as tight anymore.

And Emma and Regina aren't really friends but they kind of are. And Emma and Regina don't usually talk about things like this but then again maybe they do.

Emma's opening her mouth before she can stop it, anyway.

"I think it was just a ticking time bomb."

Regina stops fidgeting to look up at Emma with those soft, soft brown eyes.

Emma shrugs and picks at the sleeve of her pajama shirt. Regina's pajama shirt.

"Something was bound to hit the fan at some point. Figured I'd beat it to the punch."

She feels a warm hand covering the one still messing with the hem of her sleeve and her eyes stare at that hand in awe before looking up.

Regina's smiling. And it's gentle and tender and looks a bit too much like affectionate and Emma's only ever seen that sort of look directed at Henry and her heart kind of leaps, her stomach joining in with it. She swallows.

"You deserve so much more than him, Emma."

And Regina's hand's still on hers but now her thumb is kind of rubbing this little circle into the top of one of her knuckles and she doesn't know what possesses her to say it but something inside of her twitches with anger at Regina's words and they tumble out of her before she can reel them back.

"You mean someone like Robin?"

Regina's head jerks back as if the words had been a physical slap and the look of pain mixed in with betrayal makes Emma want to cut her own tongue out because Regina's snatched her hand away and Emma kind of lurches forward a bit at the force and fuck, she hadn't meant to say that.

"Your clothes should be dry now. I think it's probably time for you to leave."

Regina isn't demanding her. She didn't even call her Miss Swan. And that kind of scares Emma more than if she had because at least when she calls her that she knows she's angry.

Angry Regina Emma can deal with.

This. This wounded, soft, vulnerable, creature in front of her now?

It's terrifying.

Emma rushes around the island and wraps her hand around a delicate wrist.

"Wait, Regina, wait. Shit. I'm sorry - I - I didn't mean that, I -"

"Of course you meant it," Regina snaps.

Russet eyes now swirling, tempestuous, angry, glitter up at Emma.

"You wouldn't have said it if you didn't mean it so don't give me empty placations, Emma."

Emma's jaw clenches. Regina hasn't moved her wrist from Emma's hand yet.

"Okay," she grinds out. "I'm still sorry I said it. It was insensitive."

Emma squeezes at Regina's wrist.

"Regina, I'm sorry," she whispers and she watches as Regina's throat works against a swallow, watches as Regina's eyes flick to somewhere over her shoulder, watches as she nods ever so slightly before gently extracting her wrist.

"Your clothes are hanging up in the laundry room," her voice is soft, soft, soft.

And then she's walking out of the kitchen and Emma's left with this really big feeling of hollowness.

It aches.

She pads her way into the laundry room, after having to search for it a little bit because honestly she didn't even know Regina had one of those.

She's just buttoning up her jeans, Regina's pajama top still on but hanging loosely around her torso, most of the buttons undone, when she hears a scratchy voice behind her.

"Tell me the truth."

Emma whirls around and Regina's standing in the doorway, eyes glittering with unshed tears, and she looks like she knows. Knows exactly why Emma got shit-faced last night. Knows exactly why she broke up with Hook. Knows exactly why she said those words a few moments ago.

Emma swallows, her hands still at the zipper of her jeans; they're shaking now.

She watches as Regina's eyes move downward a bit, watches as they snap back up to once again meet her eyes.

Emma thinks Regina knows. Emma thinks Regina's always known.

Emma thinks Regina might actually pass out if she keeps breathing like that, if she doesn't uncurl her fists.

Emma takes a ragged inhale.

"He wasn't you."

And perhaps that's not what Regina was asking. Emma thinks Regina was asking more about the other reason, that main reason, but it's what had been bouncing around in Emma's head.

It's what had brought Emma to Regina's doorstep last night.

It's what's almost always bouncing around in her head.

He isn't her.

He isn't you.

She watches as Regina's mouth parts.

Watches as those tears spill over and down olive-toned cheeks.

Watches as Regina's jaw works and her fists clench and unclench. 

Watches as liquid chocolate pierces her through with a look she can't at all decipher.

She's trying to. She really is. And she thinks she's almost figured it out but then Regina makes a movement with her hand and Emma's completely dressed.

And when she looks back up from her red leather jacket and shirt and buttoned up jeans, Regina's already turning to walk away again.

She stops though. Doesn't turn around.

Emma wonders if maybe Regina isn't going to say anything at all but then a small whisper breaks through the silence.

"Don't fall for me, Emma."

And Emma feels it like a visceral thing. She fucking feels it.

It hurts, it jolts, it races, it burns, it fucking upheaves, and by the time she hears the soft footsteps up above her, Regina now probably in her bedroom, there's just one singular thought in Emma's mind.

Too late.

 


 

So, apparently when you tell Regina – or at least elude to the fact – that you have feelings for her and then she gives you this really fucking belated warning to not do so she reacts by pretending it never happened.

Regina's been strategically avoiding Emma for the past month and it's starting to seriously piss Emma the fuck off.

Because seriously?

You can't hear something like that, you can't fucking say something like she did and pretend it just never happened. You can't.

Or at least Emma can't.

She really, really can't.

Emma supposes it must be super easy for Regina to ignore her so effectively when she's always with forest boy.

Literally a week after That Night, these three broads (and seriously, seriously – Ursula, fucking Cruella de Vil, and Maleficent – and didn't she throw a sword through her very big dragon belly and turn her to ash?) showed up and cast this curse, with the help of Rumple because of course he had to be involved in it, but her and Regina intervened and stopped it (the only time since That Night that they've actually been within touching distance of each other) and as a result, the town line and that annoying magical barrier went on the fritz and it was about a day later that Robin, Marian, and Roland (okay, forest boy is a big eh, but that kid is fucking adorable, I mean really who has dimples like that?) showed up out of thin fucking air and Marian's just like completely, 100% okay with Regina and Robin being back together and what the actual fuck but Emma had helped Marian and the little dude find a place in Storybrooke because yeah, she may have a few choice words for the woman but they needed a place to live and she's not that bitter and okay, maybe Regina had asked her to help with it and yeah, she lied, actually she's really fucking bitter.

Just not toward Marian. Or Roland. Or even Robin.

Okay, maybe a little bit toward him.

Regina, Robin, and Roland. R cubed. How cute.

Emma mentally elbows herself then because what the fuck, brain.

It's supposed to be their weekly Sunday lunch at Granny's. Something Henry had insisted on the night after Emma had joined in on Operation Mongoose and she and Regina had both agreed to because well, he's their kid and they can't actually deny him something like wanting to spend time with his two mothers. Together. The three of them. As a family.

Regina, Emma, and Henry. That has a nice fucking ring to it too, goddammit. Just because it's not a fucking alliteration -

"You okay, Ma?"

Emma's head snaps up and Henry's looking at her with this amused little smirk that looks exactly like Regina and Emma wonders if she had been speaking out loud.

"You pulverized your fries," he nods his head in the direction of the plate in front of Emma as he takes a slurp of his chocolate milkshake.

She's indeed mashed them to the point where it looks like mushy vomit and she grimaces before sliding her plate away from her.

"Yeah, I'm fine, kid. Just full."

He tilts his head, looking at her curiously, and sometimes she forgets that he's almost fifteen, that he was precocious even at ten and god only knows how much he's picked up now so Emma scoots out of the booth with a mumbled 'bathroom' and 'be right back' and then curses herself because yeah, that wasn't a glaringly obvious dodge at all.

Emma bursts through the door of the bathroom and grips the edge of a sink.

Regina's late. Because of course she is. She's always late and Emma doesn't know if that's a queen thing or if that's just a Regina thing.

They hadn't done this lunch since the Sunday before That Night and Henry was beginning to get suspicious, had accused Emma of doing something to upset Regina, (and she's still a little miffed about that one because, excuse him she has done nothing to her…Regina's the one who's been ignoring her) and after a rather heated phone call, Regina had relented and well, here they were.

Or at least here Emma and Henry were.

Emma splashes some cold water on her face and looks at her reflection, taking in a deep breath before walking out of the bathroom.

Where Regina and Robin are engaging in a rather noisy kiss against the opposite wall, hidden in this little alcove off to the side. His hands are on her ass and Emma feels bile rising up in her throat and she tries to slip past them without being seen, she really, really fucking does but she hears Robin's startled sound of surprise – which is muffled a bit by Regina's mouth and Emma wishes she could claw that particular sound out of her memory for like fucking ever – and she turns just as Regina's head whips to the side. Emma watches her eyes widen.

Watches as she jumps away from Robin in a hurried, jerky movement.

Watches as her fingers comes up to wipe away her smeared lip stick and forest boy saliva.

Watches as she fixes her dress and fusses with her hair.

Watches as apologetic, soft brown eyes try to plead with her, ask for forgiveness, for understanding.

All of which Emma is definitely not going to give. Not anytime soon anyway, and certainly not two seconds after catching her competition's tongue down Regina's throat.

She thinks even bleach wouldn't be enough to rid her of the images.

"Emma – "

"Henry's been waiting," Emma says, voice rougher than she'd like, and turns and makes her way back to the booth, trying to not look like she'd just witnessed the woman she's in love with sucking face with another man.

She's not sure she's succeeded when Henry gives her another head quirk and crinkles his brow.

She just gives him a tight smile and shakes her head for him not to ask.

And then she sees Robin walk past and out the door of the diner just as Regina rushes up to their booth; her words breathless, her disposition a bit harried, frazzled.

Emma's never seen her like that and she isn't entirely sure she likes it.

She's 100% sure she's not entirely sure because of how she got like that.

She slides in next to Henry and wraps her arm around him, pressing a kiss to his temple.

"I'm sorry I'm late, sweetheart."

Henry leans into her embrace and gives a little shrug before beaming up at her.

Emma's heart melts a little at the sight because there's nothing more precious than Henry loving his mother.

Nothing more precious than Regina returning that love fiercely.

Emma's bitterness weakens just a tiny bit.

"It's fine, Mom. Emma and I already ate though," he gives a sheepish grin.

Regina chuckles and her eyes flicker over to Emma's briefly before she brushes at Henry's hair.

"That's quite alright, dear, I'm not very hungry. I'm just happy to spend time with you."

Henry beams again, ducking to take another drag of his rapidly disappearing milkshake and then Regina's turning her focus on Emma.

And Emma kind of freezes because well, shit, she has no idea what to even say to her.

Regina seems to sense her discomfort and gives her a timid smile.

Timid. Regina is acting timid right now.

Emma hates that she looks so beautiful like that. Soft.

Happy.

She's trying to be mad at her, damn it.

"How are you?"

Seriously?

She at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed by it.

"I'm good. You?"

Regina smiles again, cheeks still tinged a light pink, nodding with a quiet 'fine' and Henry looks between the both of them with narrowed, suspicious eyes before Regina asks him about his day and he's off on a tangent about how he's really into this new book they're reading in English class and that's about how the rest of the lunch goes.

Henry entertaining and Regina chuckling and sending furtive glances at Emma and Emma ignoring her for a change and they're just exiting the diner, Henry running along ahead of them (something about going to study at a friend's house just a block away from Granny's) with a wave and a 'be home later!' and looks both ways before crossing the street.

Emma thinks it's just for show because Regina's watching him like a hawk.

"Before dark, Henry!" Regina calls after him and he gives another wave of acknowledgment before turning the corner.

Emma turns to head toward her car with a 'see ya later' thrown over her shoulder but a warm hand wraps around her wrist and she inhales sharply at the touch.

"Emma, wait."

"What?" It comes out a bit harsher than she'd intended. She doesn't look at Regina.

She hears a sigh. Regina's hand falls away.

"Are you really going to act like a child? I already have a fourteen year old, Emma, I don't need another one."

That gets Emma to meet her eyes.

"Seriously?" She snorts caustically. "Yeah, okay, Regina, I'm the child. Because ignoring me for a month because you don't know how to handle emotions is so mature."

Regina jerks back.

"I don't know how to handle my feelings? Are you not moping around like some kicked puppy because I'm with Robin again?"

Emma's skin prickles, heat racing and curling low in her belly. She takes a step forward, eyes blazing, her finger jabbing at Regina's chest.

"Fuck you, Regina Mills. Fuck you."

She turns and crosses the street, ripping open the door of her bug.

"You're too much of a coward to do that."

Emma whirls around. Regina's still standing on the sidewalk, her eyes now dancing with challenge.

And Emma's so up for one.

She's in Regina's personal space in ten seconds flat and Emma watches as Regina's eyes track to her mouth before tipping back up. She feels a bit of déjà vu at the action. A chainsaw, a particular apple tree, and a total disregard for personal space flashes at the forefront of her mind.

"You don't need me for that. That's what Robin's for. You were forty-five minutes late because of that."

She spits the last word out, her mouth curling in disgust. Because she had seen it and she's fucking jealous.

"It must be really convenient for you guys. I don't understand why he's staying at Granny's though. Wouldn't it be easier for him to just move in?" Emma asks acerbically.

"That's none of your business," Regina snaps out, Emma having hit a particular nerve. She's not exactly sure which one.

"You're right, it's not," Emma concedes. "Maybe you should stop flaunting it around our kid then. Seeing a man's tongue down your mother's throat can't be something –"

"You will not bring Henry into this," Regina growls. Emma feels her breath break against her face. It smells oddly like cinnamon and mint and Emma kind of wishes she didn't know that she and Robin had been swapping spit not even an hour ago.

"This is between you and I and we both know that Henry saw nothing. You're fishing."

"And you're settling."

"You had your chance. You had four years, Emma, and now that I've found my soulmate, now that I finally have something that could very much be my happy ending, now you decide that you're in love with me?"

Emma loses her breath. She'd never actually said the words.

You're too much of a coward to do that.

"I warned you, Emma. I told you not to fall for me. Because I won't leave him. I'm not leaving him for you."

"Because you're afraid."

Regina shakes her head then, a watery, watery smile making her look achingly beautiful and Emma's heart stutters in her chest.

"No, Emma," she whispers, and it's colored with so much sorrow that Emma feels it in the very core of her being. "Because you are."

Emma shakes her head, her brow furrowing.

"No – I – " but Regina's words echo in her mind, fill up every corner of it, and Emma doesn't know what to do. Doesn't know how to react.

She wasn't scared…was she?

No. No, she wasn't. Regina was the one who – no.

"No…I broke up with Hook for you."

Regina gives a mirthless chuckle.

"You and I both know you didn't do that for me."

And what the hell does she know about it? She doesn't know how Emma feels, she doesn't know anything.

She knows everything. She's right.

Emma's brow crinkles, her head shaking back and forth again, curls bouncing.

She's wrong.

"No, I – I sent someone away for you, ended a relationship for you!" Emma yells, because she's not sure Regina understands. She's not sure she even understands.

Regina's always been good at making her feel everything at once. Making everything jumble and intertwine and bleed into one another and it's fucking disconcerting.

"I didn't ask you to!" Regina yells back, her voice cracking, straining; eyes glittering with unshed tears and it strikes Emma with its familiarity.

Tell me the truth.

And Emma sucks in a sharp breath because that sounds a whole lot like a slip up. Like a confession.

"What if I asked you?"

"Emma, don't."

She takes a step forward. Grabs at the lapels of Regina's black trench coat, feels her chest expand underneath her fingers on a sharp inhale.

"Emma." It's shaky, feeble, barely above a whisper.

Very much a warning.

Emma's never been good with those.

"What if I asked you?" She repeats, her voice low, her eyes searching, beseeching.

Regina's eyes screw shut and she presses her lips together, hair falling into her face as she struggles to keep those tears from falling.

"I won't leave him, Emma. I can't. I love him."

Emma thinks it might have actually been less painful for her to have sliced Emma's kneecaps open with a serrated knife and then poured acid directly into the gashes.

Her fists tighten around fabric.

She feels her heart come apart a little, feels it unthread at the seams.

It's really fucking awful to find out you can't read someone as well as you thought you could.

She thought Regina felt the same way.

She thought she felt it. Their connection. Thought it was two-sided.

Emma thinks that thinking is the goddamn reason she's in this fucking mess in the first place.

So she stops.

She stops thinking.

"I love you."

She says it to her hands. She doesn't look up. She doesn't want to.

She can't.

She surges forward then, arms wrapping around Regina's neck, one hand cradling her head, threading through her dark hair, the other at the place between her shoulder blades.

She feels Regina's gasp in her ear. Feels the shudder split down her spine. 

Regina tenses, her body rigid, but Emma doesn't let go.

She just buries her nose in Regina's hair and soaks it in. Every goddamn inch of her.

Her hair smells like something expensive, something like coconuts.

And then Emma feels tentative hands at her back before one slides up and tangles in her hair.

Emma shudders.

Regina squeezes Emma's back.

"I'm never going to stop."

Regina makes a choking sound.

Emma feels Regina nuzzle at her hair.

Feels the whisper of the reply against her neck.

"I know."

And it almost sounds like Regina's happy about that. That she wants that.

I'm not leaving him for you.

She needs to get away.

She shifts a little then, pulls away. Just enough to press her lips against the softness of Regina's temple. She lingers.

Hears Regina let out a trembling breath.

And then she's out of her arms, turning, her heart feeling dull and cumbersome in her chest. Out of place.

She doesn't look over when she passes Regina in the bug, still standing on the sidewalk.

She doesn't cry.

She's not thinking.

Or well, maybe she is.

She's thinking that she'd always known Regina would be a good hugger.

 


 

He'd gotten all the way to Nick's walkway before he realized he'd left his Gameboy in the booth at Granny's.

He knew he'd forgotten something. And though he and Nick really were going to study, they also always take at least a couple breaks and play against each other on their Gameboys.

So yeah, he needed to go back and get it.

He sighs as he turns the corner at Granny's…where Mom and Emma are still standing on the sidewalk, Emma's back to him.

He furrows his brow and takes another step toward them to ask why they're still here when Mom's voice stops him.

"Emma, don't."

He's never quite heard her sound like that before. Her eyes close briefly and she shakes her head. He thinks she looks like she's about to cry.

And then Ma takes a step forward and grabs at Mom's coat and Henry's eyes widen because it looks like she's about to kiss her and wait, what?!

But she doesn't, and Mom's whispering Ma's name, or at least it looks like that's what she says. He's only a few feet from them but it's windy so he can only go by what it looked like Mom had just mouthed.

And he's surprised they haven't seen him yet. And then he kind of freaks out because if they do then they're not going to finish whatever it is that's happening right now and he really needs to know what's happening right now so he backs up another foot and hides behind the high dark blue fence that surrounds Granny's.

He knew there'd been something going on between them.

He pokes his head around and hears Emma say,

"What if I asked you?"

Henry has no idea what's going on but Mom is shutting her eyes really tight and she's shaking her head again and Henry strains his ears to hear her response.

"I won't leave him, Emma…I can't. I love him."

And Mom's looking at Ma like she wishes she didn't, didn't love this man – Robin Hood, Henry thinks. Mom looks like she wishes she loved Emma.

No. That's not right.

Mom looks like she does love Emma. Mom looks like it hurts because she does.

And then he hears Emma say 'I love you' and Henry's eyes bug out because he'd known, he really had, he knew they loved each other. He's almost fifteen, he's not blind nor is he an idiot. He just never thought either of them would ever say it aloud. While standing not even a foot from each other.

He'd never really had a problem with Robin Hood either – he made Mom happy – he just didn't really seem like enough. He made Mom smile, he made Mom laugh. He touched Mom like she was something precious, something treasured and delicate. He was a nice guy and he'd be cool with them together…but it didn't really ever feel right.

Henry would watch them together and just feel like it was something…forced? Or maybe just – it didn't seem like they fit together; like their puzzle pieces were just slightly crooked, like that one piece that doesn't exactly fit but you press and press until it does, until it's a little bent and maybe a little off, but at least it's in there.

That's what Henry felt Robin was. At least.

He may not be exactly right but at least he loves her.

He may not be enough but at least he makes her smile. Makes her laugh.

Ma's kind of turned them a bit so that he can see a little of her profile and Mom's entire face now.

He sees that Emma's not looking at Mom when she says the words but at her hands. And he doesn't understand why because she misses Mom's eyes fluttering a bit, misses her mouth part a little as if she wanted to say something – wanted to say the words back.

And then Ma rushes forward and he sees Mom's eyes widen in shock for a millisecond and then they're hugging.

Well, Emma's hugging Mom and Mom just kind of looks like she doesn't know what to do with her hands.

And though Mom can't see him; still hasn't looked past Emma's shoulders, he gestures his hands toward her as if to say 'well, hug her back!' and then she does. One of her hands even moves to Ma's hair and though it's weirding him out a little bit because one: his moms definitely aren't the hugging type (at least not with each other) and two: it's his moms and it's a little like seeing your parents do that gross domestic 'you're being way too touchy feely right now and I'm still in the room and you need to stop, please' kind of thing.

But Henry thinks that even if it's a little odd (only because it's new, only because he's never seen them like this before) it also looks right. It looks like they fit.

They fit together in a way that doesn't need to be forced. Doesn't need to be pressed and pushed and made to fit.

There's no need to make because they just are. They just do.

Mom nuzzles, nuzzles because there's no other word for what she's doing right now, at Ma's hair and he's never seen her do that before. Ever…he's not even sure she's ever nuzzled his hair before.

It makes Mom look soft, makes her look less but also makes her look like more and Henry thinks that whatever this is is about to end in something he really does not need to see and maybe he should just forget his Gameboy and come back for it later but then Ma rips away from Mom's arms and he jolts back and behind the fence, his heart pounding in his chest. He counts to three before chancing a glance.

Ma's in her bug now, and then she's driving away.

And Mom…well, Henry's not exactly sure how to describe the expression on Mom's face as she watches the bug until it's no longer in sight. Until Emma's turned onto another street and even then she still stares after it.

And actually he has seen this look.

He's seen versions of it, fragments of it.

When he hadn't known that she was his mom and he'd told her about Walsh.

Oh.

When he was younger and he'd thought she was evil, when he hadn't yet understood grey. When he'd told her he never wanted to see her again.

No, don't say that.

When Emma'd broken the first curse and she'd rushed to his side, tears threatening to spill and expression pained.

No matter what you think, no matter what anyone tells you…I do love you.

Henry thinks it's exactly like the one she'd given him as she backed away from him that day, her hand on her stomach, her eyes brimming with her tears.

That's the one, he thinks.

The only difference is that right now? Right now Mom is openly crying.

Henry's heart kind of squeezes a bit at the sight because his mom doesn't cry like that. His mom doesn't cry like that unless she knows he can't hear her. Unless she knows that he won't see her. Unless she knows no one can.

But here she is, midday, outside of Granny's, hand clutching almost desperately at her stomach, her head bent, body shaking with her quiet sobs as she stares at the place where Emma's bug had turned.

His heart aches and he takes a step forward to comfort her but then realizes that she'll know he saw. She'll know he heard.

And he knows Mom wouldn't want him to see her like this. Even though he can and even though he has heard her cry before (at night and only because he'd had to pee really badly and he'd heard her soft cries from behind her closed door. That was the night that suddenly Robin wasn't around anymore and neither was Roland or his mom), he knows it would make her do that thing. That 'no, sweetheart, I'm fine' thing and he hates that thing because she's always so obviously not fine when she says it and usually she's not crying like this and so he stays where he is.

The door of Granny's chimes suddenly and Mom jumps, her hands flying up to wipe furiously at her tears and then she's turning and striding away before she disappears in a cloud of purple smoke.

And it's not until later, when he's on his way back home, Gameboy safe and sound in his backpack, before dark, that he realizes Mom had never said 'I love you' back.

That she'd wanted to – he saw it in her eyes, saw it in her parted lips, he knows she wanted to – but didn't. At least he didn't hear her say it.

And he'd been watching her face the entire time. He would have seen it.

Of course it had looked like she had whispered something when she was doing the nuzzling thing.

He thinks that if she had said it back Ma wouldn't have left though.

He thinks both of his moms are super complicated and should really, possibly stop because it's giving him a headache and he's fourteen and thinks he really shouldn't be getting those yet.

Headaches caused from too much thinking is an adult thing and if his head feeling like it's about to pound out through his temples is what it means to be one then he'd rather stay fourteen forever, thank you very much.

"Mom?"

He makes his way into the kitchen and sees her cutting up vegetables at the island.

She looks up and smiles. Had he not seen what he had earlier that day he might have thought it genuine.

But he had and he could see the falseness in it. See the brittleness of it, the way her eyes didn't crinkle like they usually do when she smiles at him.

She was trying too hard. For him. And that made him want to hug her.

"Hi, sweetheart. How was studying?"

He shrugs and walks around to give her a kiss on the cheek before reaching over and stealing a tomato slice.

She looks stunned for a moment before she smiles again, all wonderment and gooey warmth, this one reaching her eyes, making them crinkle, and he smiles back at her as he chews, feeling accomplished.

"We got it done within an hour or so then we had a movie marathon. What are you making?"

"I thought we'd eat light tonight. I hope salads are okay," she voices it like a question and seems a little sheepish about it, a little nervous – like he's going to yell at her or something. Like he's going to walk out of here and never come back all because she didn't cook.

And that makes Henry want to take that bowl in front of Mom and beat himself upside the head with it because he's the reason she's all skittish like this right now.

He also thinks it's because Ma's mad at her (or whatever) and she doesn't want him to be mad at her too (or whatever) but he can't say either of those things so he just gives her a playful squint of his eyes.

"This is punishment for drinking that milkshake and eating all those pancakes this afternoon, isn't it?"

He watches as her shoulders relax, watches as she smirks and sniffs, tossing her hair a bit for added effect as she cups the tomato and cucumber slices and puts them in the bowl of what he suspects is kale and spinach.

"You're a growing boy, dear. You need the extra nutrients."

He rolls his eyes and she chuckles at him.

They're at the dining room table eating when he decides to bring it up.

"So what was going on with you and Ma earlier today?"

And okay, maybe he could have waited until she had swallowed her wine but Mom'd made this stupidly delicious vinaigrette for the salad and he was really focused on enjoying it so it's not totally his fault that she's choking a bit right now is it?

He winces and she clears her throat, setting her wine glass down. She shifts a little in her seat.

"Why do you ask, dear?" She's trying so hard to look nonchalant about it. She's squirming now. He feels kind of bad.

He shrugs and shuffles his salad around a bit.

"You two just seemed weird at lunch today. Are you guys fighting?"

He sees her jaw twitch. He takes another bite of his salad. He's doing a pretty good job at appearing nonchalant he thinks.

"We're not fighting, no. Emma and I…we're just…" she sighs and he almost face palms because seriously just say it, Mom. I know.

"Just?" he prods, giving her some slack.

She looks up at him, brow furrowing, head tilting.

"Did Emma say something to you?"

He rolls his eyes and his fork hits his bowl with a loud clink.

"Oh for god's sake Mom, I saw you two."

She rears back, her eyes almost comically wide, and he thinks she might have pulled something in her neck.

And now she's sputtering.

"You – what do you mean you saw us?"

"I mean I left my Gameboy in our booth and came back to get it and you two were standing outside of Granny's. You were hugging. She told you she loved you."

Mom's face goes ash white. She looks like she's about to pass out and now it's Henry's eyes that widen because crap he didn't think she'd go and faint on him.

He leans forward, his hand outstretched.

"Mom?"

"I – "

She stands abruptly, grabbing his bowl and hers and heading into the kitchen.

Henry slides his chair back and follows her.

"Mom, what's going on?"

She's at the sink, feverishly washing their bowls.

She still hasn't replied. She won't even look at him.

"Mom!" he says a little louder and she jumps, water sloshing and splashing onto the floor and she whips her head to him, eyes a bit wild, scared.

"What?" She barks and they both flinch. And then she drops the bowl she had been scrubbing in the sink with a dull thud, her eyes closing, her body leaning heavily into the countertop.

"Henry," she croaks, "What you saw...it was -"

"Ma loves you."

She opens her eyes and he sees it. Sees her thinking up some elaborate explanation to negate his words. Sees her forming a lie.

Sees her dismiss it just as quickly as it had come.

"Yes," she whispers, defeated.

"You didn't say it back."

Her head jolts back up, mouth parted.

"I – "

"Why?" Because he knows she does. He knows.

"Henry, this isn't something – "

And he's instantly annoyed because she's about to tell him he's too young to understand, that it's complicated.

"It is. You're my moms. We're a family. I deserve to know what's going on. Why didn't you say it back?"

She looks a little taken aback by the sternness in his voice, the maturity.

Well, see, he thinks. Adult.

And his head doesn't even hurt anymore. Not really, anyway…okay, it does a little but that's just because Mom's being extra difficult right now.

"I'm with Robin Hood, Henry, you know this."

He rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, and Grandpa was with that one blonde lady before he and Grams got together."

"What does that – " she shakes her head and Henry thinks she's never looked so disorganized in her entire life.

"Henry, I'm in love with Robin. He's my soulmate, my happy ending. You helped me to find that. Why are you asking me this?" Her voice wobbles though, and she's trying too hard again. She's straining; her words too practiced, too robotic.

"Because you're dodging, because you're lying."

"Henry," she breathes, exasperated. "I'm not lying to you, I – "

He shakes his head.

"Not to me. To yourself."

And even he's pretty proud of that. Mom looks like he just slapped a baby in the face. Or her, maybe.

He's on a roll now though, feeling a plan tugging at the edges of his brain, an operation.

Operation Parent Trap? Too cliché?

He'll think of a better name later.

"Henry – "

"I know you love her, Mom. I know. I saw you. And maybe you love Robin too and if you choose to be with him then that's fine. I just want you to be happy. But I know you love Emma and I also know you didn't tell her. So I think you maybe should do that before you do anything else because with the way Ma ran away from you I'd say she is probably thinking about running even farther. And I don't want that. And I don't think you do either."

He grabs a towel off the edge of the island and hands it to her, her hand coming up to take it mechanically.

"So tell her," he says before turning and going up to his room.

He waits a few hours before deciding that he likes the name Operation Parent Trap and calls Emma, a devious smile on his lips.

Operation Parent Trap is a go.

 


  

There were times when she felt every bit the queen she used to be. In control, feared, powerful. There were times when she still felt very much like a mayor. Aloof, hard edges, perpetual smirk.

There were times when she felt like both.

There were times she felt like neither.

This was one of those times.

She was on her fourth glass of cider and beginning to feel it.

She made her liquor strong; she's surprised it's taken this long for her body to buzz and suffuse with warmth.

She's also surprised she's allowing herself to become this dangerously close to tipsy. To drunk.

She doesn't get drunk. It's far too pedestrian, far too sloppy. Regina Mills does not do sloppy.

She also doesn't make it a habit to drink while Henry's in the house.

Tonight, she thinks, calls for an exception. Anything to stop the voices. Well, voice, singular.

Her voice.

She pours herself a fifth glass and blinks away the blurriness of her hand as it grips the crystal.

I love you.

She drains the glass.

Pours another. Her sixth.

Why didn't you say it back?

Because I'm the coward.

Seven.

What if I asked you?

Eight.

You mean someone like Robin?

She spins and throws the glass, blindly, damning her incessant thoughts, watching as it shatters, amber liquid running down the wall of her study.

She'd sound proofed the room prior to entering it.

She'd like to think she wasn't planning on doing something like throwing her finest crystal at the walls. Liked to think she wasn't going to get so emotional. Lose control.

She'd like to think a lot of things about herself that aren't true at all.

Like the fact that she wasn't in love with Emma Swan.

Like the fact that she loves Robin Hood and him alone.

Like the fact that she isn't afraid, isn't terrified that if she leaves Robin for Emma, Emma will leave her. Will realize that she actually doesn't love her and walk away. Run.

She hears banging and makes her way to the door as quickly as possible, feeling a tangible sense of déjà vu.

And she rips open the door, eyes blazing, ready to eviscerate.

And of course. She knew it. Could feel it. Feel her.

"Where is - " emerald eyes tip up then, breath coming in loud gulps, puffs of white translucence. She's got both hands gripping the frame of the door, her arms outstretched, leaning into it, almost like she needed the support. Like she'd ran here. She straightens when her eyes meet Regina's.

"You answered the door," she deadpans.

"Your perspicacity truly is astounding, Emma."

She screws her face up in confusion then, looking ridiculously like a puppy, and shakes her head.

"No – you're supposed to be – " and then her face goes blank, her brow smoothing into a line.

"That little shit…" she murmurs.

Regina's head tilts back, eyes widening. She has a feeling she's talking about their son. She's not sure she wants to know why.

She's almost certain she knows exactly why.

"I'm sorry?"

Emma brings her hand up to rub at her eyes, sighing heavily, looking worn down, exhausted.

"Listen, I – can I come in, please? It's freezing out here."

Seriously, it's fucking freezing out here, let me in.

Regina's stomach drops.

"Emma, I don't think that's - " but Emma gives her this look. And she remembers earlier. Remembers I won't leave him for you and are you not moping around like some kicked puppy because I'm with Robin again?

So she steps aside and lets her in.

"I see you haven't locked yourself in the bathroom, then."

"Why would I - " Henry. "Oh."

"Yeah," Emma says, rubbing at her forehead again. "I can't believe I actually fell for that…" she mutters, sighs again.

"Is he upstairs?" And she's moving toward them now, her hand reaching for the rail and Regina surges forward and grabs at her wrist, panic shooting through her veins like ice, cutting through her hazy mind like a well-sharpened knife.

"He's sleeping," Regina replies hurriedly, her words running together a bit. She can't let Henry see her like this. She won't.

"Yeah, bullshit, Regina. He called me not even half an hour ago."

Emma takes a few steps up the stairs but Regina yanks her back.

Emma turns to her, looking at her incredulously. Angrily. Fuck you, Regina Mills, fuck you.

"Regina, what are - "

"He has school in the morning," Regina hisses, grasping at straws. Logical ones, true ones, but straws nonetheless.

Emma's now too close to her, Regina having tugged her off the stairs and she watches Emma's eyes glance to her lips before searching her own.

And then her jaw flexes, her now stormy grey eyes hardening.

"You're drunk."

"I am not."

You are a dreadful liar.

Emma wrenches her hand away, Regina stumbling a bit with the force. Stumbling.

She's stumbled past tipsy and straight into drunk. Something so pedestrian, so sloppy, so Emma Swan.

Regina wants to slap her. Regina wants to shove her. Regina wants to push her up against a wall and kiss her. Hard. She wants to mark her. She wants to own her.

Regina needs to get her out of her house. Right now.

"You're drinking your problems away. With our son just up the stairs, that's really great, Regina, really, how –"

Regina feels something clawing at her, demanding, loud.

"Don't you dare finish that sentence. I don't need your judgment nor do I need your poor attempt at a barb."

She walks back into the study, intent on pouring herself another glass.

"I think you're also forgetting that you have absolutely zero room to critique me on how I choose to handle my emotions," she gives a sardonic grin then, "Or how I can't handle them, as you so graciously informed me earlier today."

She hears Emma snort behind her and is just setting down the decanter when the glass in her hand is ripped away from her.

Her eyes flash and she barely has time to take a step forward before Emma's emptied the glass. Down her throat.

She sets it on the coffee table, with an abrasive carelessness that only Emma Swan can exemplify, and Regina is torn between wanting to throttle her and wanting to tangle her fingers in that deliciously unkempt hair of hers and make her apologize. Make her beg.

Emma gives her a look. This arched eyebrow 'what are you going to do about that?' look and it's incredibly, nauseatingly smug but given Regina's current state, it's annoyingly attractive and Regina tamps down that thing still scrabbling at her insides.

"Yeah, I think you've had enough for tonight."

And excuse me?

"Since when did you become someone who tells me what to do, Miss Swan?"

And it's not her best retort but she's also…inebriated, so it'll have to do.

"Since you decided to become me and drink yourself into a mini meltdown."

Regina makes a face.

"I haven't had a melt - "

Emma turns and gives a pointed look to the wall, stained a sickly looking yellow, glass shards adorning the wood tile beneath it.

Regina lifts her head, sets her jaw. Refuses to show any sign that Emma's right. That Emma knows her.

She waves a hand, feigning disinterest.

"Target practice."

"For what?" Emma asks on a chuckle, not believing it for a second. Regina'd question her mental capacity if she had.

Regina crosses her arms and sighs, looking up at Emma like it's a chore to have a conversation with her. And right now, it is. It's a chore because she's feeling warm and unguarded and everything she tries not to think about Emma, everything she vehemently pushes back into this tiny little corner of her mind with a 72 bolded font of 'DO NOT THINK ABOUT' plastered at the front of it, is surging forward with a vengeance.

It's reached every single nerve ending in her body and now it's trying to escape.

Regina will be damned if she lets it.

"Miss Swan, I'm obviously not in the bathroom or wherever Henry tricked you into thinking I was so if there's nothing else, I'd really rather drink in peace."

"Why do you do that?" At Regina's blank expression, she waves a hand in her general direction. "The 'Miss Swan' thing. I always thought it was because you're kind of a snob but now I'm starting to think it's a defense mechanism."

She doesn't look arrogant. She doesn't look like she's just won the upper hand. Doesn't look like she just hit the nail right on the head and knows it, is boasting about it. She looks like she'd just figured that last part out and is surprised at herself for it.

Regina grinds her teeth.

"I believe you know the way to the door, Emma."

And she's nibbling at her bottom lip now, shifting. Awkward. She reaches up and scratches at the back of her neck.

Regina feels like she's about to have an anxiety attack. She needs Emma to leave. Before those fucking feelings escape through her mouth.

"Uh…about that. So I kind of ran here from the woods and I – "

"I'm sorry," Regina interrupts, not sure if she'd heard correctly. She just thought Emma had run up the steps – she was going to save that particular jibe for when she caught Emma eating one of those calorie-riddled bear claws at the office – and was out of shape and out of breath because of the short distance from car to porch. "You ran here? From the forest?"

Emma shrugs, giving a little shy tick of her lips.

"Henry said you were crying and that, uh...that you were asking for me." She mumbles out that last bit, her cheeks pinking. Regina has to clench her jaw to keep from blurting out 'you ran here for me?'

She clears her throat instead, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

And it's almost palpably there. The elephant in the room. Regina half expects to see one saunter across her hardwood floor.

She thinks if she's drunk enough to expect African mammals to be making an appearance in her home she might need to rethink the continuation of 'drinking in peace'.

She's distracted thoroughly enough for her to miss Emma's words.

She blinks up at her.

"What did you say?"

Emma eyes her curiously, before shuffling on her feet once more.

"I said the bug broke down on me when I tried to get here earlier – that's why I ran – and it's late and I'm exhausted and I really don't feel like walking back there and I don't trust my magic enough and you're drunk so you probably shouldn't tr–"

"Emma." Because she's rambling and Regina finds it adorable and she doesn't find people adorable and she needs to her stop.

"You're always welcome to the guestrooms here." It's out before she can filter it.

"Am I?"

There's something swirling within those blue-green eyes that looks almost like a challenge. Like a test.

I'm never going to stop.

Regina swallows, feeling far too off balance for the heaviness of this conversation. This avoidance of it.

The unwavering fierceness in Emma's eyes.

"Yes," she whispers, moving past Emma and out of the study.

"Let me get you something to wear."

She's a few steps up the stairs when she feels Emma behind her.

"No, don't worry about it. Thank you though."

She turns as they both reach the top of the stairs, Emma just a step below her.

"Are you sure?"

Emma nods and smiles then, tender and warm and Regina's heart skips a beat. Swallows back 'you're beautiful when you smile' and 'I love you, I love you, I love you'.

She smiles back before turning to go to her bedroom.

"Regina?" And it's whispered, timorous, soft.

She turns back around. And oh, her eyes.

They're looking straight into her.

'I love you. Oh, god, I love you.'

"Yes, Emma?" Breathy because she's on the landing now, just a stride away from Regina. Looking unfairly beautiful, eyes determined, ablaze with sudden purpose. Breathy because Regina feels like a line is about to be crossed. Breathy because Regina is gone enough to allow it to happen. Breathy because she wants it. Oh god, does she want it.

Emma takes a step. And then another. And Regina inhales sharply, her eyes flickering to thin, parted lips now just inches away from her.

Emma's own glance down before meeting her gaze once more, eyes sharp, assessing, asking.

"Emma," Regina exhales because she can't take it anymore. Because Emma smells like vanilla and a bit like winter and she's curled her hair and Regina's missed those curls and she wants to feel them. She wants it so badly. She wants, wants, wants.

"Emma, please...kiss me."

She hears Emma suck in a sharp breath, watches her eyes flick down to her lips.

Emma sways forward and Regina's palms sweat, her heartbeat almost thunderous.

She keeps her eyes open as those lips get closer. And then she feels them. Feather light, almost tickling, and she hates how her brain thinks so much softer than his.

Her eyes flutter closed at the sensation and she parts her mouth, wanting to just feel, wanting to taste. Wanting everything Emma Swan. Needing it. Craving it.

Emma's bottom lip runs along the top of hers and she shudders, parts her mouth a little further.

But Emma's unhurried, soft, gentle. And Regina wants more, more, more but she can't be greedy now. She won't. Because she won't take from Emma. Only receive.

She feels Emma's fingers lace through her hair at the base of her neck and she sighs into her mouth, whimpers.

And then it's gone. The fingers in her hair. Emma's lips. Everything. Gone in a split second.

Regina's eyes blink open, disoriented.

Emma's are hard again, her jaw rigid, fists in balls at her hips.

"Never ask me again."

Regina feels like she's just been doused with ice water.

"What – " it comes out choked.

"Don't ever ask me to kiss you again."

"Emma, I – "

"Do you love me?"

'Yes'.

Regina bites back tears, swallows, feels splinters forming near the center of her heart, piercing and puncturing.

"Emma, it's not as simple as – "

"Yes it is. Do you love me?"

She's ninety degree angles and barbed wire fences ready to be erected.

And Regina's tired. She's so tired of lying about this. To herself. To Henry. To Robin. To Emma.

Not to me. To yourself.

But with you Regina, I always know when you're lying.

So she stops.

She allows the word to flow freely, unalloyed; that thing inside of her finally able to be released, quieted, calmed.

"Yes."

And Emma's stony façade falters, falls away. Like she hadn't been expecting her to say that. Like she'd known the answer but had been preparing for a lie.

For a brief moment she looks happy, looks hopeful, a flicker of bright green in eyes that have been a dull azure all night.

And then it's gone. Replaced with razor sharp edges and a cutting grey stare.

"Then leave me alone."

Emma's not crying. Regina wonders at her strength.

Because she is. She feels the tears, hot and stifling and terrible.

"Let me be, Regina. I won't leave because of Henry. Because of my family. But I don't want to see you. You're going to ruin me and I'm too in love with you to deny you. So don't ever ask me for anything again."

She turns then, makes for the stairs.

But she stops. And when she turns back to Regina, her eyes are glistening.

"Please don't be selfish, Regina."

And then she's gone. The door clicking downstairs softly with her departure.

Regina feels completely sober.

The voice, her voice, has new words to torture her with now.

You're going to ruin me.

Regina takes in a deep inhale and closes her eyes, her chest throbbing, feeling like she's about to be torn right down the middle, starting with her navel.

Don't ever ask me for anything again.

She wipes at her eyes.

Do you love me?

Turns and pads to her bedroom, gets into her bed, skirt and blouse still on.

Please don't be selfish, Regina.

She doesn't sleep at all.

And when the sun rises she takes a shower, brushes her teeth, fixes her hair, dresses, and makes herself a pot of coffee. A full pot, black, because her head is pounding and she needs the caffeine.

She doesn't think about Emma. Doesn't think about her words. Her eyes. Her lips.

She'd had all night for that. She'd obsessed over that.

She was going to try for Emma. Emma deserved that.

Henry clambers into the kitchen a little after seven, eyes bleary, hair sticking up and out and every which direction and he's hers. He's Emma's and he's hers. He's theirs. And he's 'a little shit' but he's their little shit and though she's going to have to at least revoke Gameboy privileges for a week or two, she can't exactly begrudge him for meddling. It meant he loved them. That he was okay with the possibility of a 'them'.

She chuckles and he gives her a baleful glare. Regina sees Emma in him more and more each day and instead of it irritating her, she finds she's okay with it. Finds she prefers it that way.

She now understands why.

She stops thinking about that.

Try.

Henry splays himself over the island counter, much like Emma had that morning so long ago.

She wonders when she started seeing her in so many of his mannerisms.

He groans into his arms.

"Mom, I can't go to school today I think I have the flu."

And her heart jolts and she pushes off of the counter but then she stops. Narrows her eyes.

"Nice try, young man. What would you like for breakfast?"

He sighs into his arms before lifting his head up and scrunching his face in thought.

"French toast," he decides, voice a bit scratchy, dipping down into a register she's never heard from him before.

He's growing up too fast. Slipping through her fingers and she doesn't know how to stop it. Can't stop it.

She feels panic tendril through her body but then Henry scratches at the back of his neck, comes around the island, and gives her another kiss on the cheek.

"I'm gonna go change, I'll be back down. Thank you, Mom, love you."

The panic seizes, her heart bursting now.

And it's sudden.

The images that bombard and overtake her.

Emma and Henry laughing together as they spray each other with the hose, soap in their hair and on their clothes, drenched and running around Emma's bug parked in the driveway. Next to Regina's car.

Emma in the kitchen, pots and sauces and flour and recipe books littering the countertops. There's a streak of white on her cheek and she's glowing, breathless as she turns and sees she's been caught.

"I'm sorry about the mess. I just wanted to cook something for you for a change."

Emma and Regina and Henry all huddled together on the couch watching a Christmas movie marathon. There's a tree and three stockings.

Emma and Regina watching Henry graduate from high school. They're holding hands.

Emma and Regina in bed one morning, tangled limbs and mussed hair. Emma smiles up at her, eyes that bright, bright green. Happy.

She leans over and kisses Regina.

"I love you."

And Regina says it back.

She staggers backward against the sink, her fingers coming up to her lips.

"Oh," she breathes.

And everything shifts. Everything she had set out to do. Trying. For Emma. It had a new meaning now. She was going to try for her. She was going to love her. This was her family. Henry and Emma. They were her family. And she was going to do everything in her power to keep them. To earn them.

And she knew exactly where she needed to start.

 


 

She was just dropping off Henry at Regina's when her phone buzzed in her pocket.

She pulled back onto the road (because she doesn't ever get out of the car to walk him to the door anymore) and fumbled to get it out of her jeans, bemoaning the tightness of them for like the first time in her life.

It was Snow.

"Hey, Mom, what's up?"

She hears clanging and shuffling on the other end of the line.

"Hi, sweetheart, do you like walnuts?"

Emma's brow furrows and it takes her a second to process the question.

"Uh…yeah, I guess so." She turns onto the main street. "Did you call me just to ask if I liked walnuts?"

"Wonderful," she chirps, completely ignoring Emma's inquiry. Emma shakes her head with an affectionate grin.

"We're having a family dinner tomorrow night. You don't have to work, right?"

And her grin turns into a panicked frown because family dinner usually means everyone. Including –

"Uh, yeah, no, I'm off tomorrow night…um, family dinner…" she says, hands tightening on the wheel. "As in all of us?"

She hates how anxious her voice sounds and gnashes her teeth together because honestly, she's supposed to be getting over this, not cowering in every corner she can find just to avoid crossing paths with Regina.

"Regina declined my offer," Snows says and Emma's heart does this weird flip-flop thing at hearing her name. She also clenches her jaw because if her mother knew who she was talking about then god knows how obvious she's being around other, highly more perceptive, people.

"So it'll be just the five of us."

Emma clears her throat and wills her hands to loosen.

"Oh, that's – " and her voice comes out far too shaken so she doesn't finish. "Do I need to bring anything?" She says instead.

"Nope, just make sure you and Henry come hungry."

And she hangs up and Emma leans her forehead against the steering wheel, phone still grasped in her hand.

She'd been sitting in her car outside of her apartment for the last minute or so.

She lets out a long exhale and then gets out of the bug, deciding she should probably stop putting off cleaning her apartment. Using Henry as an excuse wasn't going to work for the next five days while he stayed with Regina.

They switch off every week, and then on the weekends he gets to choose where he wants to stay. Which is usually with his grandparents, because he doesn't ever want to hurt their feelings she suspects, or with Nick. Emma hadn't liked that particular addendum to their arrangement. But Regina'd insisted that he should be allotted the choice for at least two nights on where he spent them. Something about him becoming older and being able to make his own decisions.

Emma didn't want to rock the boat any further so she had agreed.

They still had lunch every Sunday; the only time Emma truly couldn't avoid her.

It was always stilted and awkward but Henry always seemed oblivious. Which was surprising in and of itself because the kid was a walking sponge. He soaked up everything. Noticed everything.

He did have this weird habit of sitting his backpack in the open seat next to him though.

The first time Regina had moved it to sit beside him he had stopped her and asked why she didn't just sit with Emma so he didn't have to turn to talk to her.

It was a really lame excuse and Emma had thought Regina was going to just brush it off and sit next to him anyway but she had just given him this really wide-eyed expression before she'd balled her hands into fists and moved to sit rigidly next to her.

She'd been really quiet that day too. Only giving Henry perfunctory responses. Henry didn't seem to care. He seemed rather smug about it actually.

Emma scrubs at the coffee mug rings on her counter thinking maybe she should have looked further into that.

Her hand stills then, eyes widening.

Oh god, she was becoming her mother.

No, no no no.

She just hadn't wanted to ask about it. Because that would have required talking about Regina and possibly to Regina so she had just filed it away for more thorough perusal later.

Apparently later was now.

It'd been almost two months since Emma had walked out of the mansion that night.

The extent of her and Regina's conversations were times to pick up Henry (which were through text anyway) and the mandatory congenial small talk during those Sunday lunches. Which were for Henry's benefit.

She kind of thinks the kid knows something she doesn't though.

He's always bringing Regina up in their conversation and Emma always has to pretend it doesn't bother her, doesn't make her heart race or her hands clammy. Doesn't simultaneously make her want to punch in a fucking wall.

One day he'd brought up Robin and Emma couldn't pretend any longer. She'd snapped at him and then immediately felt bad and apologized but Henry'd just given her this arched brow look (like he was expecting that response) that she really wished he would stop doing because he looks like his mother when he does that and it's a really big inconvenience when she's trying to get over said mother.

She moves to clean out her fridge next and then grimaces when she takes out milk that's been expired for weeks.

She briefly wonders how apoplectic Regina would be if she found out she feeds their kid take out almost every night he's here. That vein would probably make an appearance too.

She slams the jug of milk into the trash with a little more gusto than she'd intended and the cap pops off and she gets splattered with white, chunky, spoiled…ness and stands there for a few seconds, mouth open, hands outstretched, wondering how the universe can hate her this much.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me."

And then she stomps up to take a shower, takes two sleeping pills, face plants naked in her bed, and promptly passes the fuck out.

She has dreams of dragons with purple scales and dark brown eyes and throws the bottle of sleeping pills away when she dresses in a pair of jeans, a cotton tee, and her red jacket the next afternoon.

When she makes her way into the kitchen it smells like that fucking sour milk and she takes the trash out, almost suffocating herself with febreeze when she comes back in.

Her kitchen smells like rainwater and lavender now and she growls, throwing the spray bottle in the newly empty trashcan, grumbling and forgoing lunch before slamming the door behind her as she heads to the station.

Will had said he'd take her morning shift as well as her night shift today, ennui from this sleepy town making him antsy, but she needed to do something or she was going to rip her fucking hair out.

Will's there when she walks in and so is David and they give her curious gazes when she makes her way to her desk, but she just holds up her hand and they don't ask.

She's thankful for it.

And when five o'clock rolls around David squeezes her shoulder and she looks up from the paper work she's been studiously not doing for the past hour or so.

"Do you want to ride with me to the house?"

Emma works the kinks out of her neck, standing.

"No, I have to pick Henry up from Regina's."

David tilts his head, his brow crinkling.

"I thought he was coming with Regina?"

Emma stops short before shaking her head slowly.

"No, Mom said that Regina wasn't coming."

"Oh," is all he says and Emma narrows her eyes.

"What aren't you telling me," she poses it as a threat more than a question. She's going to kill Snow if this is a set up.

He looks at his feet, nervous suddenly and Emma feels her skin buzz with anger.

She breezes past him, phone already to her ear, his words of 'Emma, wait!' nothing but white noise.

"Emma – "

"Where are you?" She snarls, cutting Regina off.

There's a beat of silence, followed by another few seconds of silence and Emma hears the soft click of a door.

"Is there any particular reason you sound like you want to throttle me through the phone, Miss Swan?"

And Emma's nostrils flare and she takes a turn a bit too hard and her tires screech.

"Don't fucking pull that shit with me, Regina, why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what, Emma?" She sounds annoyed. Emma doesn't understand why. She's the only one who has the right to be annoyed right now.

She slams her hands against the steering wheel, putting the car in park.

"The fact that my mother invited you to this fucking family dinner!"

"I'm sorry, am I not allowed to be a part of my son's family gatherings anymore?"

"What are you – of course you are…that's not – Snow said you declined her off – "

Emma feels the blood rush to her face and she grits her teeth.

She had called the wrong person.

Regina says her name and it's softer now, placating, but Emma can hear the fury she's trying to keep out of her tone. Emma would hazard a guess that Snow hadn't told her she lied to her.

"I'm going to fucking kill her." And she hears Regina say her name again but the second syllable is cut off as she ends the call.

She slams the door to her bug and makes her way up to the apartment, not even bothering to knock.

"Where the hell do you get off – "

She stops when she sees four sets of eyes blinking up at her. Well, three now. Baby Neal doesn't seem to care after the first initial second – going back to mouth at his fist, resting on Snow's hip.

Henry's next to Snow, peeling bananas, and Regina's by the stairs, looking like she had been trying to get to the door.

"Emma," she says, placating again. And she doesn't need to be pacified, god damn it. She needs to yell at her mother and then maybe at Regina too because she's so fired up she feels like she's about to explode.

Snow whispers something to Henry and he nods, taking Neal from her arms and disappearing up the stairs.

She comes around the island, her eyes soft, soothing. Emma wants to scream.

"Emma, sweetie – "

"No," Emma seethes. Her hands are shaking.

"No. You lied to me. You told me she wasn't going to be here and she's standing right there."

She doesn't even look toward Regina when she throws her hand out to point at her.

Snow does though and she looks pained when her eyes find Emma's again.

"I lied to you because you two need to talk."

And the fire inside Emma dies in favor of ice spreading through her body like a sickness.

She draws up short.

"What are you talking about?"

"Snow," she hears Regina warn, voice low and dangerous. She thinks she might have been a little intimidated if she wasn't so fucking lost.

And she looks over to see Regina giving Snow a look hard enough to peel the paint off a wall. Snow doesn't even see it.

She holds a hand up to Regina and it's the way she's looking at Emma, like she loves her no matter what, like she's a child who's just knocked over a vase and Snow's about to lift her chin up with just two fingers and tell her everything's going to be okay. She's looking at her like – like she knows.

She's looking at her like she. fucking. knows. and Emma feels her stomach seize. Feels her fingers go numb.

"You're kidding me, right?" She exhales, looking from Snow to Regina, a shrill laugh leaving her throat like something festering and rotten.

She sees Regina take a step forward, her brow furrowed in concern, eyes imploring and Emma takes a jerky step backward, her hands flying up.

"No. No, don't fucking – " she runs her hands through her hair, feeling like this is all one big joke and she's the punch line.

"Emma, it's okay, it's – "

"Okay?" Emma rasps, eyes snapping to Snow. "Okay?"

"What part of this is okay, Mom? The part where you lied to me because you thought you were doing some great fucking deed or the part where you didn't tell me that you knew I was in love with Regina and decided to make me feel like a fucking idiot by having her show up here tonight?"

She's shaking again, but this time because she feels like she's about to halve. She feels her lungs constrict and she's not sure she's getting enough oxygen because she's starting to lose feeling in her toes now too and then she starts seeing spots and is tipping forward and then it's completely black.

When she comes to she feels softness beneath her head, warmth. And then there's the sound of garbled voices, sounding miles away, and she wills her mind to focus.

"…you should have told me, Snow."

Regina is furious.

Emma feels something thread through her hair. It feels nice.

"I didn't think she would react like this!" Snow sounds panicked and Emma's hazy mind feels satisfaction in the sound. She damn well deserves it.

"You didn't think – " she hears Regina snort derisively. "You really are as disgustingly sanguine as your charming halfwit."

Emma feels her lips tug up into a smile despite herself.

She's almost inappropriately grateful to Regina's still-not-so-forgiven demeanor toward Snow right this very moment.

And then she feels whatever it was lacing through her hair still and hears Regina whisper her name.

She feels it break against her cheek and her heart thumps against her ribcage because Regina was weaving her fingers through her hair and she's in her lap and now her face is like inches away from hers.

She opens her eyes all the way, seeing nothing but deep brown and that stupid fucking scar she's always wanted to run her tongue across and she jolts up, Regina's hands steadying her hips when she sways with the action.

"Emma, stop, you're going to end up falling over again if you don't lie back down."

She shrugs Regina off, feeling groggy and desperately craving orange juice. She doesn't even like orange juice.

"No, I'm fine. I'm still mad at both of you."

She stands up, and Regina mirrors the action, taking Emma's hand when it shoots out to balance herself. Vaguely Emma remembers that she hasn't eaten all day. She feels fuzzy again.

"Emma Swan, you were passed out for more than a minute. Shut up and hold onto me."

And she's not going to argue with that tone so she does what Regina says and sits down on one of the chairs Snow pulls out for her. She tries to tilt her chin up so she can give her a look over and Emma wrenches her head away, swatting at her.

"Mom, I might actually slap you, so stop."

Snow gives her a wounded look and she sighs as she nods and backs away.

Regina comes back over to her with a glass of apple juice and hands it to her.

"Drink," she says, her tone still a bit rigid with her frustration.

Emma drinks and when the glass is empty a few moments later, she feels infinitely better. Renewed.

As is her anger.

She feels it bubbling just beneath the surface and her eyes catch movement above them, seeing Henry sidestep back out of sight.

"I saw that, kid," she yells up to him.

She imagines him wincing and he comes around the corner slowly, holding a sleeping Neal, a sheepish grin on his face.

It calms the rage within her temporarily.

"I was just checking to see if everyone was done fighting…I'm uh…I'm like super hungry."

Regina chuckles beside her and she feels herself smiling at the sound. Regina's eyes find hers and she rolls her own when Regina gives her a 'he's your son' look.

"Yeah, yeah," she says, waving her hand. "You're gonna blame his appetite on my poor genes instead of on the fact that he's fourteen and growing like a tree."

Regina gives her a smirk and it's all so comfortable that Emma forgets why she was even angry to begin with.

She remembers a few hours later when David's taken Neal and Henry to Granny's for some late ice cream and she's left with Regina and Snow.

Regina's wrapping the half eaten banana bread in aluminum foil and Snow's just finished the dishes.

Emma's drying the last plate and she places it with the others in the cabinet before she feels she's done her duty and dries her hands.

"As much fun as this has been, I'm going to head out."

Snow turns to her, looking like she's just told her she's not a fan of Disneyland and Emma pulls a face.

"You didn't actually think I was unaware of why David took Henry and little guy out did you?"

She hears Regina give an amused snort and she whips her head to glare at her.

"And you. You're the reason this whole thing even started." And okay, that may have been a bit melodramatic but Regina's acting like everything is back to the way it was and like they're buddies in this or something and that couldn't be further from the truth.

Her mouth parts and she looks stricken. She feels Snow's hand at her upper arm and yanks it away from her.

"No, seriously, whatever the fuck this is between you two. It needs to stop. You two aren't supposed to be in on something together. It's…fucking weird."

"Emma, sweetie, we're not 'in on something', we both love you and – "

"See, yeah no. That right there?" She waves her hand in front of Snow. "No. Stop including her in this. You lied to me and you apparently lied to her as well. You had no fucking right to meddle in something that has nothing to do with you. This is between Regina and me."

"I'd very much appreciate it if you would stop speaking on my behalf as well, Snow," Regina adds dryly.

Emma looks between the both of them again, feeling like she's in the twilight zone.

Her and her mother weren't having a conversation about her feelings for Regina in her kitchen, with Regina standing not three feet away from them. They absolutely were not.

But they were and she feels her head spin, needing to get as far away from the both of them as possible.

"Yeah, I'm leaving now."

Snow reaches for her again but thinks better of it and Emma brushes past Regina.

She's just outside when she hears Regina call after her. She ignores her and keeps walking.

It's not until she feels Regina's hand grip at her bicep and whirl her around that she stops.

"Emma, please stop."

Emma pulls away from her.

"It's late, shouldn't you be going back to forest boy?" She rumbles because she's petulant and in love and jealous.

"This isn't about him right now, this is about you."

Emma's head jerks back on a bark of laughter, disbelief coloring the sound.

"Oh, is it? This is about me? Okay, yeah sure, Regina. Go ahead then. Tell me how this is about me. Please," she adds when Regina's jaw grows taut. "I'm dying to hear this."

"Not when I want to strangle you."

Not when she wants –

"Not when you want to strangle me?"

"Are you fucking serious right now? You have absolutely no right to be mad at me."

"Actually, I do. You're acting as if this only affects you."

"Doesn't it?"

Regina's head tilts back.

"Of course it doesn't, Emma! Are you really so selfish?"

Emma's eyes bug out then and she laughs out loud, bending forward with it.

Regina's looking at her like she's just sprouted another head and Emma's sure she sounds crazy.

Maybe she is.

And it's all Regina's fault.

"Are you medicated?"

And Emma holds her stomach, her laughter dying out.

"No. I just find it hilarious that you called me selfish with a straight face."

Regina's jaw flexes and she crosses her arms.

"If you're implying something then – "

And Regina's all haughty and superior and Emma's anger rushes forward tenfold.

"Oh, I'm not implying anything. I'm outright telling you that that's the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth."

"Excuse me?"

Emma's skin's aflame. She takes a step toward Regina.

"You're not excused. You're pompous and pedantic, and yes I learned that word just to describe you, and you're a liar and you made me fall in love with you and I fucking hate you.

She's reeling out of control now, words just tumbling from her mouth and she spits the last few in Regina's face, watching as her eyes flutter at the venom behind them.

"Why are you so angry with me?" She whispers, astonishment tainting the syllables.

And Emma feels it. Feels the moment that dam inside of her bursts.

"Because you fucking asked me to kiss you, Regina! Because you're fucking with another man and you asked. me. to. kiss. you."

Regina's mouth is parted, eyes wide and shocked and stricken. She looks stricken again.

"Emma, I – "

"I asked you to leave me alone and here you are telling me that this doesn't just affect me, telling me this isn't about your boyfriend but about me, making me feel like you actually do love me – "

"Because I do!" It's a yell, something booming and raw and it jolts Emma, makes her forget her train of thought and she shakes her head, stumbles backwards a few steps.

"No," she says. "Don't say that."

"Emma." She breathes, taking a step forward. "I love you."

"Shut up!" Emma screams. "Shut up! You don't love me and I don't love you. I hate you! I hate you and your stupid fucking scar and I hate that I want to kiss you, hold you even when I do fucking hate you and I didn't want this! I don't want you!"

She's sobbing now, completely, totally fucking bawling and her throat is raw and itching and her words sound gravelly and hoarse and she hates her so much. She hates her so fucking much and she never wants to hate anyone else. She never wants to feel the same way about anyone else ever. She loves her. She loves her so fucking much and she wants to fucking claw her heart right out of her chest and give it to Regina to crush.

"Emma," Regina says, tears evident in her voice. "Emma, please stop."

She keeps saying that and Emma wants to fucking yell at her, tell her to stop. Stop making her want her. Stop making her love her.

She feels Regina's arms wrap around her and Emma shoves at her, not wanting her to touch her. Not wanting to feel her warmth. But Regina doesn't stop and she wraps her hands around Emma's wrists and pins them to her sides before hugging her tightly.

And Emma struggles and squirms and screams and heaves and shatters before she just falls into Regina. Lets her muscles loosen, gives up. Gives in.

She buries her face in Regina's neck and breathes her in. Breathes in the coconut and the rainwater and the fading scent of banana bread in her hair.

She brings her hands up to fist in Regina's dark blue sweater at her sides.

"I hate you," Emma whispers into her skin.

"I love you," Regina whispers back, fingers lacing through her hair again.

"Emma," she says after a beat. "Emma, look at me." She pulls away and Emma sniffs, eyes burning. Regina's crying too.

"I'm no longer with Robin," she says and Emma's whole world shifts on its axis.

"What?"

"I ended it with him the afternoon after…after you kissed me."

That was – that was almost two months ago. Emma wants to fucking scream at the top of a mountain. She wants to tell the whole world how fucking elated she is. She wants to punch something. She's livid.

"You've been – almost two months. Two months, Regina, and you didn't think that was something I might like to know?"

Regina averts her eyes, looking remorseful, looking downright torn up about it. And it's absolutely maddening that even as angry as she is at Regina right now, she still wants to run her fingers along those plump lips. Wants to alleviate her pain. Wants her to never look so fucking wrought with guilt ever again.

"I – I didn't know how to tell you. You asked me to leave you be. To not be selfish."

Her eyes tip back up to meet Emma's.

"I was trying not to be."

Emma rips away from Regina, hands tangling in her hair, eyes skyward, wondering why everything has to always be so goddamn difficult with them.

"You should have fucking told me, Regina."

Regina's eyes well up with tears again, voice almost inaudible.

"I'm so sorry, Emma."

And Emma needs to fucking get away from this woman again. This woman who makes her feel everything. Makes her crazy. Makes her empty. Makes her whole.

"Yeah, me too," she says and turns to get in her bug. Drives away from her. Doesn't look back.

Again, Emma thinks.

 


 

"You're a child."

Emma's head knocks into the shelf above her, a yelp echoing around in the refrigerator and she staggers backward, hand coming up to massage at her scalp.

And Regina's in her kitchen. She had walked away from her not ten minutes ago and here she was, looking like a drowned rat. A stupidly attractive drowned rat and Emma shakes her head, mind too confounded to even process that Regina had just insulted her, to be angry at her for lying to her (the act of omission does count, no matter how many times she's told otherwise), for showing up in her kitchen unannounced, for giving her what's probably going to be a pretty sizable bump on the back of her head.

"Jesus, Regina, you – "

"No," Regina cuts her off, voice gruff, eyes intense. She's angry. She looks fucking pissed, actually. "You don't get to talk right now. You've done enough talking tonight. Now you're going to listen." 

Emma's mind is still stuck on her clothes, dripping a slowly growing puddle at her boot-clad feet.

Had it started to rain? Was that even in the forecast for today? Was there even a weather channel for Storybrooke? Had she been here for four years and is only just now realizing this?

"You're a child," Regina repeats, bringing Emma back to the conversation. She rolls her eyes and shuts the door of the fridge behind her with her foot, arms crossing over her chest, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from retorting.

"You're impatient and stubborn and obtuse and idiotic and annoying and you think bear claws constitute as breakfast and you wear gaudy leather jackets and too tight jeans and are apparently under the impression that the word 'fuck' is essential to everyday conversation and I want to strangle you more times than I don't and I'm hopelessly, ridiculously in love with you."

The last twelve syllables are said breathlessly and Emma's arms uncross, swallowing. She wasn't expecting that tirade to end on those words.

"You – you're – "

"I'm not finished." Regina takes a step forward, a squeaky little noise against the linoleum of Emma's kitchen floor. "I didn't tell you I was no longer with Robin because I didn't want you to think that I did it just for you. Because I didn't, Emma. I did it for me." Her hand comes up to her heart. "I didn't want you to think that I could end a relationship with someone and immediately assume that meant you and I could be together. I was trying to not be selfish, Emma. You asked me to leave you be and I did. I was trying to respect your – "

"Two months, Regina. Two fucking months. I was almost over you!" Complete and total lie.

One which Regina sees right through and chooses to ignore.

"You asked me to leave you alone! What would you have had me do?"

"Fucking tell me!"

Regina gives her a hard look. Something exasperated and strained.

"You can't ask for something and then get angry with me when I comply, Emma. You can't."

Emma wants to shake her. She wants to continue screaming at her. She wants to pour all of her rage into her and watch all the emotions of it flicker across her always so expressive, beautiful, beautiful face.

But Regina's right. Emma feels the denial bubble up and fizz on her tongue, regardless.

"I meant to stay away from me because you were with Robin! Because you asked me to kiss you, told me you loved me but that you weren't going to leave him. That you couldn't. Obviously, if you broke up with him I'd want to know about it!"

Emma hadn't wanted to say that. Because she knows it's childish and yeah, it was a little selfish too, and on top of that now she's totally a colossal hypocrite because she'd been the selfish one this entire time.

Regina makes a noise of disgust and it tears through Emma. Makes her stomach twist.

"And you accused me of being selfish," she wipes a few strands of matted, starting to curl hair off of her forehead.

The conversation has somehow turned; it's been shifted so that now Emma is the one who feels guilty. Feels like she has no right to be angry. Feels like she should apologize.

You had four years, Emma.

And maybe she should apologize but she's not the only one at fault here. And it seemed like Regina had showed up ready for all cards to be laid on the table.

Well, alright then.

"You told my mother." Emma says just as Regina had made to turn and leave.

She finds Emma's eyes again.

"Your mother," her face contorts into contempt at the word, "has a habit of showing up in places where she doesn't belong." She takes a deep breath, eyes skirting the kitchen counters. "She saw me with Robin that day. Or rather, heard me."

Her eyes turn soft, expression sincere.

"I didn't tell her, Emma. I wouldn't betray your trust like that."

And Emma had figured something like that had gone down. Her mother was a perpetual snoop and though she loved her with all her heart, there were certain parts she didn't really love much at all. She was just angry and wanted to accuse; be absolved of all the blame that felt suddenly crushing on her shoulders.

"I know you wouldn't," Emma says quietly, eyes downcast.

She feels embarrassment sweep through her unexpectedly, feels silly now. Awkward.

She clears her throat and scuffs her socked foot against linoleum, completely at a loss for words. She'd had so many.

"So, uh…"

"Yes." She hears Regina say and she looks up to see Regina fidgeting, eyes over Emma's right shoulder.

And she feels the smile pulling at the corners of her mouth, feels comfort in knowing that her chagrin isn't one-sided.

"Did you walk all the way here in the rain?" Her smile widens into something lopsided and resembling more of a smirk than anything.

Regina's eyes snap to her body, her hands unclasping, surprised; as if she had forgotten she was drenched from head to toe.

"Oh," she runs her hands down the front of her skirt, almost bashful, "I just – I was so angry with you that – "

"You forgot you had magic and decided to break into my apartment to insult me?"

Definitely a smirk now. Because this was easy. Even when there was still so much that needed to be said, even when Emma knows that this is only the prologue to a very long, long story, banter with Regina had always been a reflex. Had always been something that was there. That was theirs.

"Your door was unlocked," she says through a glare. She sniffs then, making rain sodden clothes look almost regal and Emma kind of hates her a little bit for looking so fucking sexy all the time. "You really should invest in an alarm system, dear."

"Why, so you can poof in here and give me one of those patented eye brow arches and matching smirk the next time we fight and I walk away from you?"

She chuckles but then stops when she sees Regina pale, wry turning into the working of a throat against a swallow, the downturn of bare lips.

Emma frowns as well, brow furrowing.

"Is that how you intend to react every time we have a disagreement?"

Emma feels distinctly like she's being led into a trap.

"Well, I wouldn't necessarily call this a disa – "

"Are you going to just up and leave one day because you've realized you can't handle this?" Regina barrels right through her words, voice becoming shaky, angry again.

Emma doesn't know what's happening.

"What are you talking about?"

"Do you even truly love me or is this because someone had something you didn't and you decided that wasn't okay for you?"

Emma's head jerks back on her neck, eyeing Regina incredulously. Dark brown eyes are piercing her through with effervescent fury. She looks off balance though and Emma can see the pain beneath her iciness.

"You know that's not what this is," Emma says evenly, trying to keep her anger in check. Both of them throwing laden insecurities at each other wasn't going to solve anything. And they'd done enough hurting. Had been through enough hurting.

"Do I?" Because she's Regina and she's difficult and she's five years old and Emma snorts internally because yeah, pot meet kettle.

She closes her eyes briefly, reminding herself that Regina is very much akin to an injured animal when she feels vulnerable and she's just lashing out, claws and teeth and venom and all.

"Regina," she starts, taking a step forward.

"Tell me why you love me."

Emma's head tilts on an angle, thrown off by the request.

"I – what?"

"No, actually," she shakes her head, "Tell me when you knew."

And Emma can't think of anything past that red dress, russet eyes dancing with almost girlish glee. She'd seemed so real, so human that day and the first thing Emma had felt was awe. She'd even smiled.

And then her mother had said something about looking smitten and Emma's stomach had dropped. She'd been so enthralled by the beauty of Happy Regina Mills that she hadn't even stopped to wonder why she was like that.

But Emma thinks that's just when she first felt jealousy. When the first whispers of I could make you happier started to root themselves into her subconscious until they grew and twined and overtook the better part of her conscious mind.

The very first time she knew was when she'd found out that Regina had let Henry go. When her and David had been up late that night after the party. After no, wait, I'm sorry and Henry wanted it.

She'd kind of wanted it too. Regina'd saved their lives, she deserved to be invited to that goddamned party. She'd been so angry (and still kind of is now that she's thinking about it) at how everyone had treated her that night. How she'd walked out even before the cake. She'd understood their resentment, yes, but that didn't mean she couldn't be unhappy about it.

Then Regina had snapped at her and Emma had wished she hadn't invited her.

But then she had apologized immediately and Emma was thrown. Had conceded that she was trying.

And then later that night, long after Snow and Henry had gone to bed, David mentioned that she let Henry stay with him, had heard her tell him she didn't know how to love very well and Emma had felt something at the words.

Something very small and very new in relation to how she felt toward Regina, but it had raced through her. Had warmed the muscles around her sides. Had her speechless for a few seconds. It may have been much too early for it to have been categorized as falling in love with Regina but it's what had resonated with her.

It's what comes to her now.

"That night you saved us from the death curse."

Regina looks floored for a moment, mouth parting and then closing once, twice.

"Why?" she whispers finally, nearly inaudible.

"Because I saw the way Henry hugged you. Saw the way you held him. I see you, Regina. I've always seen you."

Regina looks taken aback by her words, looks increasingly softer, more real, more human. Less like the Regina who cuts people with her callous words. Less like the Regina who had once been a queen. Less like the Regina who was and still is a mayor. Less like cold and ice and straight shoulders and lifted chins.

She looks so much younger now, looks small, looks like someone who needs. Her walls are down and Emma's never seen so much of what she keeps hidden behind them before.

"It's just that night…I saw how much you love Henry. I saw how you love Henry."

"How do I love him?" Her voice is soft, soft, soft. Everything about her is soft in this moment.

And Emma smiles then.

"With everything you have, Regina. You love our son with every single part of you."

Regina lets out a breath at that, eyes closing and lips turning up at the corners. Soft.

Emma wants to kiss her.

"You're so beautiful," she finds herself whispering.

Regina's eyes open then and they're so unguarded, so, so soft, that Emma's breath catches. She's never seen so much of her before and it's slowly unraveling her. Everything that makes her her unwinding, being replaced with Regina. She feels her weaving through her veins, finding home in them. And Emma finds that she feels more because of it. She feels grounded, feels that word bounce around in her head like something plausible. Something other than Storybrooke and her parents and Henry. It's more like rainwater and apples and bare feet and hands in her hair. It's your comebacks against Mom are weak, it's I'm hopelessly, ridiculously in love with you, it's Regina.

Home is Regina.

Home is her parents and Storybrooke and Granny's and Henry and Regina.

Home is them.

"I'm so sorry," Emma breathes just as Regina whispers "I love you so much".

Their foreheads come together as Emma's hands find purchase in Regina's hair and Regina's grip at her waist.

Home is that scar above her lip that she's always wanted to run her tongue across.

Home is the mansion she moves into six months later.

Home is fights with Regina that don't end with her walking away but with heated kisses and clutching hands and I'm never going to leave you.

Home is tender touches and warm plates of leftovers in the microwave after late nights at the station.

Home is family dinners every Friday night.

Home is their bed. Their bed and their pillows and their toothbrushes and their dresser.

Home is forgiving her mother and feeling whole in her embrace afterward.

Home is her father's strong arms and unwavering love.

Home is tickle fights and three stockings and spit up after babysitting her baby brother.

Home is Regina laughing, eyes bright and open and free.

Home is her lips.

Home, Emma thinks, is something that doesn't elicit anger, doesn't elicit dread or panic or emptiness.

No, home for Emma is Regina and Henry and Snow and David and baby Neal.

Home is happiness.

"I think you've ruined my kitchen floor," Emma murmurs against Regina's lips.

She gets a laugh out of it, something tinkering and full and pure and her heart feels close to bursting at the sound.

"Perhaps you should get me out of these clothes then."

It's said into her ear, all deep and gravelly and jesus christ and Emma shudders even as she bends a little, wrapping her arms around the backs of Regina's thighs, her hoisery coarse and wet and ruined. Emma drags the damp fabric of her skirt up with her fingers, it bunching so Regina can wrap her legs around Emma's torso.

And Regina squeals as her arms circle Emma's neck and she buries her face in her hair, chuckling.

"I can carry you up the stairs and everything because, you know, muscles, but I think it'd be quicker if you – "

And they're gone in a cloud of deep purple then, laughter spilling out into the kitchen, a puddle on the linoleum, a glass of milk on the counter, and the scent of rainwater and lavender lingering in the air.