It’s a casual thing, really, that first tips Zelena off. They’re at Granny’s– why does Regina insist on spending all of her time at a diner where no alcohol is served before nine pm, how quaint and archaic and obnoxious – and Emma Swan has sat down next to Regina to glower belligerently at Zelena and murmur the straight version of sweet nothings into Regina’s ear. Zelena assumes, anyway. There is no other excuse for the way that Regina Mills, former Evil Queen and current Uptight Mayor, beams like a little girl whenever Emma is close by.
So Emma is sitting there, and Zelena is prodding her buttons, which are nearly as fun to push as Regina’s, when Regina gets up to take a phone call. “Behave,” she says, glaring at Zelena , which is deeply unfair. Zelena is not the instigator here. Emma is the one who treats Zelena as though she’s a bomb about to explode. Zelena is just the delightful antihero of this story, out to reap chaos because it’s funny, and she will never commit the worst crime of all, which Emma Swan does every day by being boring .
And once Regina is gone, Zelena leans back in her seat and says, “She’ll be back, you know. Don’t need to look as though someone just killed your puppy.”
“I wasn’t– shut up, Zelena,” Emma says grumpily, grimacing at her plate instead of eating her fries.
Zelena takes that as a concession and begins to eat Emma’s fries. She takes one, and she’s in the middle of the second when it happens.
The door to Granny’s opens, and the most attractive woman Zelena’s ever seen walks through it. Her eyes run over the woman’s sleek dark hair, the movement of her ass in the shorts she’s wearing, the way that her tight white shirt clings to her– dream woman , Zelena decides, and then the woman tosses her hair back and Zelena has to let out an audible gulp.
She isn’t the only one.
No . Zelena twists around again to gape at Emma, who is staring at the woman with the same intensity. With familiar intensity, and Emma turns her head very slowly and catches Zelena’s eyes. “No,” Emma says, but it’s too late.
Like recognizes like. Painfully straight Emma Swan, who has a dozen men chasing her at all times, from the way that Regina tells it, is gay . And it suddenly all makes sense.
“You have the hots for my sister!” Zelena says, maliciously delighted. “How embarrassing .” Emma stares at her. Zelena reconsiders and remembers outrage. “Why are you staring at beautiful women if you’re supposed to be pining after my sister?”
Emma says in a strained voice, “Zelena, you’re very loud.” The beautiful woman has turned and is blinking at them with a pinched expression that might be bewilderment or embarrassment. Emma says, “Hey, Mulan. Nice day for a jog, huh?”
Mulan . A name to the face. Mulan nods abruptly and retreats from them to the counter, glancing back once. Emma hisses, “She’s my deputy . I’m not planning on dating her. I was just…appreciating.”
Zelena puts up a hand. “Far be it from me to shame you for appreciating a woman. I’m much more interested in shaming you for not making a move on my sister.” This is incredible . Emma Swan is a closeted lesbian, and it all makes sense now. It’s why she wouldn’t kiss Hook when Zelena had cursed his lips. Why she’d been positively lukewarm around Walsh. Why the father of her son had seemed estranged, back before Zelena had taken care of him.
When she thinks about it, she’d actually done Emma a favor in putting into action a plot that had gotten Neal killed. Now Emma and Regina can be a sweet little nuclear family with Henry. Emma owes her an apology for all the loathing and resentment.
She considers telling Emma that, but she’s distracted by Regina’s return and Mulan’s departure. “Oh,” Regina says, looking between them. “No one is dead. That’s a nice surprise.”
Emma snorts. “Not yet,” she says. “Give us time.”
“Actually,” Zelena says, and she puts a hand on Emma’s, earning an apprehensive look from her future sister-in-law. “I think we’re going to be good friends.”
“First of all, no , you didn’t do me a favor by killing my ex ,” Emma says later. They’re at the station. Zelena hasn’t visited it since the day that she’d been locked there, when Rumple had attempted to kill her and been sucked into a time vortex instead, but she has decided that it’s a good idea to spend more time here. After all, her best friend works there, as does a fabulously attractive deputy who watches her as though she might have to draw her weapon at any given time.
“In that case, I hardly take any of the blame for his death,” Zelena says, shrugging. “He tried to resurrect his father, who spent his second lease on life getting thrown back into the past while trying to kill me. This frankly seems like more of a them problem than a me one.”
Emma blinks at her. “Am I losing my mind, or is Zelena making sense?”
“I thought that the part where she told you that you have a thing for Regina was pretty reasonable,” Mulan says dryly.
Zelena winks at her. “Oh, darling, it’s a little soon for foreplay if we want this relationship to last,” she says, and Mulan lets out a strangled noise that Zelena takes to be affectionate. She turns back to Emma, who looks alarmed. “As I was saying before Neal came up, I don’t understand why you haven’t made a move. My sister is just sitting there, ripe for the taking.”
Mulan puts up a hand. “I’m pretty sure she’s seeing Robin Hood,” she says. “I saw them walking to the baby naming together.”
“They’re soulmates ,” Emma says, slouching in her seat. “Because some fairy dust says so. Regina is very invested in making it last. He’s…okay, I guess. Not much personality, but some people are into that.”
“Regina is. After all, she’s clearly very fond of you,” Zelena says supportively. Emma gives her a dark look. Zelena throws up her hands. “What, I’m supposed to pretend that you’re fascinating? You not being straight is the only interesting thing about you.”
Emma says, “You know, I think I’m supposed to be out on patrol right now, right, Mulan?”
Mulan shrugs. Emma exits the station, which Zelena takes as her cue to follow Emma to her car. She slips into the passenger seat and points out, “You know, a little charm goes a long way. You’d be surprised what you might get if you’d just open the car door for a woman before she gets in.”
Emma does not respond, only backs the car up and out of the lot with her eyes focused on the windshield in front of her. Zelena waits patiently, sitting back and watching their surroundings creep by. She has only been in a vehicle a few times since she’d arrived in Storybrooke, but she’d been gifted with faint memories of how things function around here in the process of the curse and she finds herself quite fascinated by technology.
Finally, abruptly, Emma says, “Yeah, Regina isn’t actually fond of me , by the way.”
Zelena cocks her head and lets out a disbelieving laugh. “What can you possibly mean by that? You spend every waking moment with her, pet.” It’s obnoxious, how much time Emma spends around Regina, trailing after her like a favored pup. Regina must find it endearing or she’d have ended it weeks ago.
Emma looks unconvinced. “Yeah, because she decided to stick a magic-suppressing wristband on a deadly criminal and welcome her to the family. I’m keeping an eye on her. And you,” she says, turning to glower at Zelena.
Clearly, she hasn’t gotten the best lesfriends memo. Zelena mimics a sigh. “So romantic,” she says, mostly to annoy Emma.
“Please stop.” The car begins to move faster. “We aren’t friends. She’s just…teaching me magic.”
A convenient euphemism, one that doesn’t hide the flush to Emma’s cheeks. Zelena grins. “Ooh, student/teacher.”
The car stops short at a traffic light. “First of all, how the fuck do you know that phrase?” Emma demands.
Zelena waves a hand. “I’ve been browsing the Internet while Regina’s at work. It’s been quite instructive. Did you know that there’s a massive subset of the Internet devoted to my relationship with Glinda? That woman drives me wild but we did have chemistry,” she concedes, thinking wistfully back. There have been a lot of women she’s had chemistry with over the years, though hardly any she’s gotten to shag. Life has been so unfair to her. She’s a legend .
Emma pulls over, very carefully, and turns to stare at her. “Zelena…” she says, her voice oddly tight. “Did you find Wicked fandom?”
“Ah, you know it,” Zelena says brightly. “Lesbian culture!”
Emma looks less delighted. “Who let you on the Internet?” she demands. “I thought we agreed to keep you under control? How is this under control?” Zelena spreads her hands, without an answer to that , and Emma sighs. “And yes, I did see Wicked on Broadway last year with a date– with Walsh,” she amends. “You remember Walsh.” She frowns. “Where is Walsh?”
Zelena has no idea. “I suppose he’s out in the woods with the other flying monkeys.” She hasn’t seen them in a while. Some of the ones who’d been turned in Storybrooke have turned back to humans, but the others are a lost cause. She assumes.
Emma looks displeased. “Zelena.”
“Oh, fine ,” Zelena says, tapping the cuff on her wrist. “I’ll free him if you take this thing off.”
“Ugh.” Emma bangs her head against the steering wheel. It lets out a little honk that startles a passerby into dropping his coffee. It’s reassuring, Zelena thinks, to know that she can still sow chaos without her magic.
She watches Emma, who is pretty but in a sort of generic way. Regina must be into that, because her purported soulmate is rather generic-looking as well, though hardly as attractive as Emma. He really doesn’t stand a chance if Emma makes her move. “So are you bisexual?” she asks, considering. “Or was the Walsh bit compulsory heteroxuality?”
Emma snorts. “It’s me with my brain fried by a woman who thinks I prefer men,” she says.
“And we’re back to Regina!”
“No, we are not going back to Regina,” Emma says wearily. “I do not want to have this discussion. Regina and I barely tolerated each other before you showed up, okay? We get along now for Henry’s sake. I think she’d be a lot happier if I disappeared off the face of this planet so she could fully enjoy her perfect new blended family with Robin Hood .” She taps her fingers against the steering wheel. “And I’m not enough of an idiot to fall for a straight girl, anyway,” she finishes off, and Zelena considers interrogating her on that – do you really think that Regina is straight after the way she stared at your ass yesterday comes to her lips– but she lets it go.
For now. She’s thinking tactically.
It is, she decides, quite lovely to have a lesbian companion in this painfully heteronormative town. “We should do something gay together,” she informs Emma the next day. They’ve bumped into each other at Granny’s at lunch. Zelena had been hoping to see Mulan again, but this is the next best thing, Emma ordering a lunch to go and then freezing up when she sees Zelena.
Emma blinks at her. “What exactly is a gay thing we can do together?” she says slowly and warily.
Zelena contemplates. “We can go to a strip bar!” she suggests. She thinks she’d enjoy that . She could lose some of Regina’s money there, too.
And she’s about to lose Emma. “No.”
But Emma hasn’t turned away yet, which Zelena takes as evidence that Emma is just as desperate for some lesbian activities as Zelena is. In fact…
Zelena takes her next idea and discards it. “Well, we’re not sleeping together.” There must be something else. “Oh! Let’s watch Carol!”
“The movie ,” Zelena says impatiently. It’s as though Emma knows nothing about their culture, beyond staring mournfully at women. Which is a large part of their culture, to be fair. “We can watch it together tonight. Regina has a date and she doesn’t want me alone with Henry, anyway.”
“Oh.” Emma’s eyes had lit up and dimmed so quickly that Zelena has whiplash. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Chin up, Swan,” Zelena says. “Give it time. I can sabotage the relationship–”
Emma’s eyes widen in alarm. Or maybe hope, if Zelena squints. “Do not .” Alarm, then. “Just leave Regina alone .”
Zelena snorts. “If you really want to nobly suffer, who am I to stop you?” She pats the spot opposite her. After a moment, Emma sits down. “There we go. Tell me about your work today. Has Mulan gone for any more runs? Gotten sweaty chasing a criminal? Climbed a tree to catch a cat and had her shirt all torn up?”
“I think she’s doing push-ups in one of the cells,” Emma says, and Zelena can’t tell if she’s joking or not. Damn . “Feel free to ask her out instead of being thirsty, by the way. She could use a date like you.”
“Gorgeous and with a personality to match?” Zelena suggests.
“I thought more ‘obsessed with her’, but sure.” Emma opens her bag of food and takes out a peanut butter sandwich. Zelena stares at it. “What? I like peanut butter.” Emma gets a distant sort of look in her eyes. “It was always an easy go-to in my foster homes. Except the ones with peanut allergies. But I grew up eating it for lunch, like, basically every day.”
“Foster homes,” Zelena repeats. It occurs to her that she and Emma Swan are not entirely dissimilar. “In my foster home, I would get the edges of the bread after it had been sliced. Tough and burned. It was the best part,” she says, licking her lips. It hadn’t compared to the rest of the bread, reserved for the woodcutter’s family and not the foundling from the woods, but it’s the food fo her childhood. “Because it was mine.”
Emma smiles at her, and it’s guarded but genuine. “Yeah,” she says. “I used to be the same way with the cereals that no one wanted. You kind of make your tastes.”
“Speaking of your questionable taste,” Zelena says lightly, because Regina has walked into Granny’s. She strides in as though she owns this town– which, fair – but pauses when she sees Zelena, and then Emma.
“Regina!” Zelena greets her heartily. Regina’s eyes flicker between them, and Zelena wiggles her eyebrows at Emma. “Emma and I were just sitting down for lunch, if you’d like to join us.”
Regina blinks. Emma shifts to the side of the booth, making space for Regina. Regina’s eyes shift, and she looks regretful. “I have a meeting in ten,” she says, and she reaches out to let a hand brush over Emma’s shoulder. Zelena, watching like a hawk, catches every motion. “Next time,” she promises. “It’s good to see you two getting along.”
“Turns out we have quite a bit in common,” Zelena says brightly. Emma nods, her eyes fixed on Regina’s face. They really are quite nauseating. “Emma thought she might come over this evening to watch Henry with me so you can bore yourself silly for a few hours.”
Regina sighs. “Zelena,” she says tiredly, as though they’ve talked about this before, which they have. Zelena is an excellent wingwoman. She turns back to Emma. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
“Yeah.” Emma looks up at her, eyes warm and yearning, and Zelena is left with the sudden impulse to bang their heads together. “We’re going to watch a movie. You deserve a night out.”
“Next time, one with us,” Zelena decides. Regina looks at her with marked skepticism. Zelena says, “What, you’d prefer a night with Robin Hood to one with your favorite sister and best friend?”
“Best friend?” Regina echoes, and there is something positively like a flush on her face. “Emma and I are…” Her voice trails off.
Zelena says, “ My best friend. Not yours.” She puts a proprietary hand on Emma’s. “You’re welcome to build some other sort of relationship with Emma, if you’d like.”
Emma cringes. Regina says, “You know, I think my meeting can wait. He’s a dick, anyway.” She slides into the seat next to Emma, right up next to her, and Emma blinks at her as though her birthday has arrived early. “Emma, how has your day been going? Is Leroy still drunk?”
This is Zelena’s least favorite part of interacting with her sister and her sister’s hopeless mutual crush. It’s as though the world seems to thin and narrow to just them, and Zelena is an observer instead of an active participant. Emma laughs at Regina’s question, still sitting just a hair too close to Regina. “I think so. He demanded Advil an hour ago and then passed out again. Typical morning at the station. Oh, but today, Pongo skipped a step and came straight to the station when he escaped his leash.”
Regina scoffs. “Archie needs to accept the fact that his dog just likes us better. Last week, Pongo followed me to work and spent the day on my couch.”
Emma looks incredulous. “You let the dog sleep on your office couch? I tried sitting there once and you said it was only for formal meetings!”
“I was annoyed with you,” Regina says primly. “You were trying to steal my son.”
“So you’d let me sit there now?”
Regina scoffs. “Now it’s Pongo’s seat. You’ll have to ask him.” There’s a flash of humor in her eyes, a hint that she’s fucking with Emma that Zelena catches, and Emma pouts as a waitress arrives to take Regina’s order. “Just a light salad,” Regina says dismissively. “Whatever you have.”
“And fries for the table,” Emma says swiftly. Emma always orders fries, Zelena notices, but hardly ever eats them. She hadn’t ordered them today until after Regina had arrived, and she looks smug when they arrive and Regina takes a few. A secret vice that Emma has noticed, perhaps. Regina has no idea what she’s got.
It’s tiresome, the way that Regina and Emma interact. Emma watches every move Regina makes with shining eyes, caught in Regina’s orbit with no desire to escape, and Regina gets a light flush to her cheeks whenever she interacts directly with Emma. There is a painfully long moment when Emma leans against the back of the booth and stares at Regina and Regina stares back, right in the middle of a conversation about their son, and Zelena thinks that they might shag right there in front of Regina’s salad.
That would be entertaining. Instead, Emma gets called away in the middle of their gaze and Regina watches her go before she spins back around to glare at Zelena. “I don’t know what you’re planning here,” she spits out, the soulful eyes gone. “But if this thing with Emma is another attempt to take everything I have –”
“Oi!” Zelena says, annoyed. “I’m not allowed to have friends now?”
Regina stares at her as though she’s trying to piece together Zelena’s convoluted plot, which is currently just watch gay shit with Emma tonight , and she shakes her head. “Emma is…she has enough on her plate,” she says in a low, fierce voice. “Do not drag her into whatever you’re doing.”
“You have so little faith in me.” Now Zelena is genuinely insulted. “I thought we were getting along now. This isn’t a nefarious plot. It’s just…I like Emma.” She thinks that might actually be true, which is shocking and kind of nice. “Did you know that she grew up without a family, too?”
Regina exhales, her eyes falling shut for a moment. “Yes,” she says. “I did.” There is something new in her gaze when she opens her eyes, a sorrow that she doesn’t elaborate on. “You really do like her?”
Zelena is still feeling rather defensive, but there is something about Regina’s vulnerability right now that eases some of her tension. “Is that so hard to believe?” she demands.
Regina lets out a little huff of laughter. “No,” she concedes. “Emma could charm her worst enemy by sheer dumb luck.” She looks very fond, very distant, and Zelena’s anger drains out of her. “I suppose she did that already.”
Zelena wonders if it might be worthwhile to con Emma into getting the cuff off her wrist to turn Robin Hood into a flying monkey and get him out of the way. This is getting ridiculous. “You do seem very charmed,” she says lightly, and Regina doesn’t catch the note of mocking in her voice.
Instead, Regina says, a little tentative, “I am glad that you’re getting along. You’re right. You do have a lot in common. And it’s good that you’re…going outside. Spending time with people. Doing something other than reading Wicked fanfiction, which is somewhere between narcissistic and voyeuristic and I’m a little afraid of thinking about it too much.” She shudders. Zelena attempts to not be offended.
She says, “Well, Emma likes Wicked, too.” Regina looks at her as though she isn’t certain if she should laugh or not, and Zelena decides that this is the upper hand with which she will finish lunch. “See you after work,” she says. “Enjoy your date with the dull arrow man.” She gets up, leaving the fries behind, and sees Regina sneak a few more before she follows suit.
Henry is just young enough to find the premise of Carol entirely dull. “Couldn’t we watch Star Wars?” he whines, and he eventually gives up and goes up to bed early.
“Love you, kiddo,” Emma says, kissing the top of his head as he wanders off. “Get some sleep. We’re hiking tomorrow morning, right?”
Henry bobs his head. “Can Mom come along?” he asks eagerly. “She can bring Robin Hood, too. I bet he does loads of hiking.”
Emma’s smile becomes strained. Zelena contemplates if this is a moment to be supportive or chaotic and settles on chaotic. “That sounds lovely ,” she says. “I’m sure they’d both appreciate the invitation. I’ll be staying home, because I don’t hate myself.”
She leans back in her seat while Emma plops back onto the couch and mutters, “Fucker,” to her.
“It’s the perfect opportunity,” Zelena retorts. “You think that ugly man is going to look nearly as good as you do sweaty? Regina will look at him and then look at you and conclude that she’s made a terrible mistake.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “I think I was better off when you and I hated each other,” she says, but she doesn’t protest. Instead, she watches the movie until her eyes are glimmering with tears and she takes a glass of wine that Zelena offers her without protest.
There is more wine, and then they break into Regina’s spiked apple cider and go through a satisfying amount of it. Zelena is pleasantly buzzed by the time Regina returns, a little after ten o’clock. “Wow,” she calls to the foyer. “Was it really that bad?”
“What?” Regina looks startled. “It was…no, it was fine.” Fine is a paltry, lackluster description of a date with one’s supposed soulmate, Zelena thinks. Then she says it, because she is hardly here to be delicate with Regina’s feelings.
Emma hits her on the arm. “Ignore her,” she says. “She’s just drunk and emotional.”
“It’s Zelena,” Regina says, and she takes off her coat and comes to sit on the big chair to Emma’s left. “She’s always a little drunk and emotional. Did you go through my cider?”
“There’s still some left.” Emma wanders off to the kitchen to find a glass for Regina, and she offers it to her. “How was your date?” There’s an edge to Emma’s voice, one that doesn’t seem to register with Regina.
Regina pulls her legs up, shivering a little, and Emma takes a light blanket folded on the side table and tosses it to her. “It was…nice,” Regina murmurs. “We had dinner and went for a walk. He’s a good listener.” She fiddles with the edge of the blanket. “It’s always so disconcerting to realize how little he knows about my past. I mean, he knows who I was. But it doesn’t bother him.” She laughs, rueful. “It’s a little strange, isn’t it?”
Zelena leans forward, interested. “So you speak about massacring villagers and he asks you if you’ve finished your appetizer? How very macabre.”
“ No .” Regina looks annoyed again. “It’s not like that. I just don’t…talk about it. And he doesn’t, either. It’s as though I’m someone else with him. Someone who’s never been the Evil Queen.” She stares at her glass. “It should be nice, shouldn’t it?” Zelena opens her mouth to respond, but Regina looks up at Emma, waiting for an answer from her.
Emma is silent. Zelena says, “You don’t seem thrilled about it. Would you prefer that he listed your crimes before snogging you?”
Regina scoffs. “ No . It’s better this way,” she says finally, and she drinks long and hard, glaring at empty space in front of her and saying nothing at all.
“It’s shit,” Emma says suddenly. “If– if someone were dating you and cared about you the way that you deserve, then they wouldn’t pretend the inconvenient parts of your past don’t exist. You’ve done some fucked up shit–”
Zelena elbows her hard. “I thought we were being supportive .” This is no way to win Regina over. No wonder Emma is failing miserably at it.
Emma shrugs unhappily. “Yeah, well, you’re both murderers,” she says. “And I’m still sitting here, aren’t I?” She takes her own long drink of cider.
There’s an odd comfort to that statement, the simplicity with which it had come, and Zelena grasps for the first time exactly why Regina would have been disturbed by Robin Hood’s pleasantness. Regina is staring at Emma with eyes rich with affection, and she murmurs, “Thank you.”
“Please,” Emma says. “It’s been a night . I’m never watching Carol again.” She drinks again, the waves of exhaustion coming off of her. “It gets me in a mood .”
Regina looks startled. “That’s what you watched together? It’s one of my favorite– why Carol?” she says abruptly, looking between them. “I mean, Zelena I get, but–”
Emma shrugs, and Zelena sees the moment that something daring and reckless flashes through her eyes. “What else are two lesbians supposed to do together in this town?” she says, and Regina’s glass falls from her hand on perfect cue.
It shatters on the ground, and Regina lets out a little curse. “ Fuck . I’ve got it,” she says hastily, and she slides off the chair to hurry to the kitchen, hurry back with a cloth and a broom and a dustpan, cleaning with such an aura of desperate puttering about her that Zelena watches with fascinated amusement.
“She isn’t homophobic,” Zelena says conversationally as Regina wipes furiously at a dry spot on the hardwood. “She’s just undergoing a paradigm shift.”
“I think it’s very nice that you’re a lesbian, Emma,” Regina says to the cloth. “That is, I think it’s great. That is, great is a strange word for that. That is–” She looks up, outrage rescuing her from her inability to communicate coherently, and she demands, “You told Zelena that before me?”
Emma chews on her lip. “It just never came up. You kept accusing me of being obsessed with various men and…I don’t know, you’re hard to correct when you’re pissed off. For all I knew, you were a homophobe.”
Regina scowls at her. “How dare you. My longest relationship was with a woman. Whom you killed , so don’t even–”
“What?” Emma looks bewildered. “Who did I ever– oh, god. Not the dragon .” She sets her own glass down. “Okay. You know what? I think that’s enough for tonight. I should go home before I–” She strides out of the room, leaving her shoes behind, then whirls around and demands, “Did you just say your longest relationship was with a woman ?”
There are so many ways that this can go, for better or worse. Zelena says brightly, “Did Emma tell you that she wants to go hiking with you and Robin Hood tomorrow?”
“Hiking was agonizing, thanks for that,” Emma announces, pacing through Regina’s kitchen. Zelena hadn’t invited her over. Instead, she’d appeared at the front door approximately thirty minutes after Regina and Henry had left for the day, which means that she’d first picked up coffee with Regina at Granny’s and walked Henry to the bus before coming back here. “ Every five seconds Robin found another reason to touch Regina. Like she’d put her foot on a rock and he’d be like right here milady and try to lift her up. As though she didn’t grow up in the Enchanted Fucking Forest and go hiking every day to school or whatever.”
“There’s very little formal schooling in our lands,” Zelena points out, and earns a glare for her honesty. “Did you get any quality time with the lady love, at least?”
“Oh, yeah.” Emma’s fists are balled up at her side. “When Robin decided that he was going to spend some time with my son and took him up the side of the cliff.” Her scowl grows, then disappears in a flash. “Regina tried to teach me how to summon a hurricane. It was impossible, and we got soaked.” Now she’s smiling, her mood lifting. She’s really hopeless for Regina. Embarrassing . “And she isn’t my lady love, Zelena . We’re barely–”
“Friends, yes, I’ve heard.” Zelena yawns. “So it was just you and my sister, out in the rain, all that magic surging between you like electricity…”
Emma snorts. “She gave me homework ,” she says. “There was no kissing in the rain. Sorry to disappoint. I have to get better at manipulating the weather.”
“Well, that’s my specialty.” Zelena claps her hands. “Let’s get to it.”
“Oh.” Emma looks abruptly guilty. “You think Regina wouldn’t mind? I mean, it’s kind of our thing together.”
Zelena puts up a hand. “Far be it for me to interfere with the little student/teacher romance you–”
“You know, I think it’d be fine to practice with you,” Emma says severely. She shakes her head. “I’m not taking that cuff off, so don’t even ask. I’ll come by later. Not now. I have work.”
Zelena thinks to point out that Emma hadn’t been invited here now, but decides to take pity on her. “Bring supervision,” she calls. “That deputy of yours should make sure that I don’t do anything too dangerous to the safety of the town, eh?”
“Nice try.” But Emma does bring Mulan later that day, Henry beside her and bright-eyed with interest at the prospect of seeing magic in action. Regina is still out– late night at the office , she’d texted earlier– and Emma is determined to master Regina’s homework before she gets home.
They spread out in the backyard, a full acre of back lawn before the forest begins behind it. It’s plenty of space for a tornado, though Zelena has no idea what another natural disaster might do to it.
Oh, well . Regina had made herself very wealthy during the curse, anyway, and there’s always Zelena’s farmhouse if they wreck the house. Regina doesn’t think it’s healthy for Zelena to live there alone, though she threatens to send Zelena back there at least once a day.
Zelena straightens, tossing Mulan a sidelong glance. “Now, I have reserves of magic you probably can’t dream of,” she informs Emma. “So I expect that you’ll have more difficulty with this sort of thing than I do.”
“Huh,” Emma says, and she throws up her hands and lets a bolt of magic erupt from them. It’s enormous, glowing white-hot in dusk, and Zelena stares at it with disbelief. “Regina always says that I have more magic than anyone she’s seen,” she says, challenging. “You think that includes you?”
It takes a moment to regain her composure. “Regina has no idea what I’m capable of,” Zelena sniffs. “She has only a fraction of what I do–”
“She’s the strongest person I’ve ever seen,” Emma says, eyes flashing. “Raw magic means nothing without her skill.”
Zelena holds up a hand. “Didn’t mean to cast aspersions on your–”
“ Friend ,” Emma says significantly, casting a glance to where Henry is sitting on the patio with Mulan. They’ve already stopped watching Emma and Zelena. Henry has procured a deck of cards, and they’re playing a game together and ignoring them entirely.
Zelena pouts, considers a dozen ways to get Mulan’s attention again. All of them, sadly, require removing the cuff. “You do have quite a bit of magic. Sometimes, that makes it more difficult.” She considers. “When I learned to use my magic, it only manifested in things like tornadoes and explosions because I couldn’t keep it under control. Have you tried letting it all out?”
Emma looks dubious. “I think I’d probably burn down the house if I did,” she says. “Not the best way to tackle my homework. I’m trying to be less destructive.”
“Destructive is fun ,” Zelena points out, tugging wistfully at the cuff. “I could tear this whole town down in a few well-placed magical attacks.”
Emma blinks at her. Henry calls from the patio, “Why don’t you come play with us, Aunt Zelena?”
As though it’s a question . Zelena abandons Emma without a glance back, sitting down beside Mulan to examine the cards. “These are terrible,” she says, frowning. “Why is the king a higher value than the queen? I’ve never met a king who was anywhere near his queen’s level.”
“The world is a dark and patriarchal place,” Mulan says dryly, dealing her a few cards. “We do what we can.”
“We’re rearranging the cards,” Zelena informs her. Mulan gets this charming look on her face when she’s irritated, like an oil painting of a beautiful woman. Zelena wonders how she might look happy.
She gets to see it three times, when Mulan successfully eliminates her from the game and wins. Mulan’s forehead has this little line that wrinkles up when she smiles, highlighting her eyes even more, and her chin does an adorable little wiggle as she laughs. She also seems to delight in defeating Zelena, which is somehow endearing instead of humiliating.
“My god,” Zelena blurts out at one point, after she’s been utterly crushed by both Henry and Mulan together. “You’re entrancing.”
Henry says, “Ew.”
Mulan says gravely, “Indeed,” and Zelena only realizes she’s being mocked at the glint of humor in her lovely eyes. She has no idea how Emma can be hopelessly in love with Regina when she works with the perfect woman. What an idiot.
Hadn’t Emma been working on something in the yard? She remembers that vaguely, before the world had shifted beneath her when she’d begun playing with Mulan. She shifts to look behind her back for a moment and spots dark clouds gathering around an exultant Emma. “I did it!” she calls. “Zelena, check this out!”
Zelena gets up reluctantly, Henry and Mulan on her heels, and she heads over to Emma. “Decent work,” she concedes. It’s beginning to rain, wind whipping the cards off the patio and into the grass. The wind grows, and the clouds get darker. “I suppose you did it.”
“No thanks to you,” Emma says. “Weren’t you supposed to help me?”
“I was busy,” Zelena says haughtily. “Next time, don’t bring the most eligible woman in town if you want my full attention.”
Mulan says, “The what ?”
Emma laughs. “Don’t ask.” The hurricane is growing in intensity, and she says, “So, uh…how do I turn it off?”
Mulan looks at Henry. Henry looks at Zelena. Zelena shrugs.
The wind blasts into them, and Emma says, “I’m calling Regina.”
A hurried call and a few minutes later, Regina is there, standing beside Emma with her hair whipping around her face and her hands in the air. Emma follows suit, watching Regina carefully, and Mulan mutters to Zelena, “This is the only student/teacher romance I could get behind.”
Mulan is the perfect woman. “ Right ?” Emma’s hands are lagging, and Regina turns to redirect them, her own hands sliding up and down Emma’s arms as she steadies them. Emma stares at her, their hands clasped and magic flowing from them, and there is nothing but naked longing in their expressions. The hurricane dies, and only Emma and Regina remain, lost in a little sphere of the universe that contains just the two of them.
Regina reaches out to brush a stray hair from Emma’s face, her eyes soft. “You just had to build your hurricane in my yard,” she says, teasing. “You couldn’t do it in your parents’ apartment?”
“Is that what you were hoping for?” Emma retorts, a grin spreading across her face. “No wonder you gave me homework.” She rolls her eyes. “Zelena thought this would be the best place to practice.”
Regina blinks at her, then turns to look at Zelena. Zelena waves. Regina says in a very different voice, “You were doing magic with Zelena?”
She is still standing just as close to Emma, but her hands are now stiff at her side, and her eyes are averted, staring at the house instead of at Emma. You’d think that Zelena had killed her kitten, Zelena reflects, unbothered. “We have very similar magic,” she points out. “Though this cuff won’t let me use mine–”
Regina’s face smooths out and becomes unreadable. “Well, if you’d prefer that Zelena teaches you,” she says to the air beside her instead of Emma.
Emma looks stricken. “No,” she says hastily. “Zelena’s a terrible teacher.” Zelena reminds herself that Emma is addled by love and has no sense of reality. “She abandoned me five minutes in to play cards with our son. I just…” She looks beseechingly at Regina. “I wanted to impress you. Get this magic figured out quickly. I don’t want to do magic with anyone but you,” she says in a whisper that barely carries to Zelena.
Regina’s lips are pursed, but she nods sharply. “Then ask me next time,” she says, and her voice is small. “I could put aside more time for our lessons. Whatever you need. You don’t need to resort to doing magic with Zelena.” She hesitates and says, “Unless you’d prefer–”
“I already told you that I wouldn’t,” Emma says, and she reaches for Regina’s hand again and holds it firmly in front of her. “Just you.”
“Like a fucking romance novel,” Zelena mutters to Mulan.
Mulan mutters back, “They’re an embarrassment to gay women worldwide.”
Zelena nods ruefully. “At least you and I are honest about our attraction to each other,” she says.
Mulan blinks at her. “ Attraction ?” she repeats dubiously. “Are you saying you’re attracted to me?”
So maybe they’re not quite there, either. Zelena is beginning to wonder why she bothers, and then Mulan smiles and she remembers very clearly exactly why.
Emma and Regina are another mystery, but Emma puts a hand on Regina’s shoulder as they watch the storm clouds fade away and Regina leans against Emma’s hand and maybe there’s hope for them yet.
Things are bright for a few days. Robin Hood is preoccupied with some forest matters with his Merry Men– they’re getting little cabins professionally built in the woods, a halfhearted commitment to being woodsmen that Zelena points out is hypocritical and Regina snaps at her with the same halfhearted commitment. It leaves plenty of time for Regina to spend with Zelena, and Emma comes over every night for dinner.
She plays video games with Henry and washes the dishes, and Zelena comments, “It’s almost like having a maid without the sexy outfit,” mostly to see the way that Regina’s eyes go wide and lustful at the image. Zelena is nothing if not a good friend. “Think we should make her wear one?”
“I think you’re spending too much time on the Internet again,” Regina says, her eyes still fixed on Emma. Then, a moment later, “She really could pull that off, though, couldn’t she?”
“Sounds like you’d like to pull it off,” Zelena says, and she sits back with satisfaction at the way that Regina sputters. When Regina makes her way to the kitchen, Zelena waits in anticipation– something is going to happen, she just knows it– but all that happens is that Regina puts a hand on Emma’s back and takes a dish from her to dry it, their fingers grazing in the process.
It’s so damned domestic. Regina and Emma are on the verge of something, and Zelena watches them from the dining room table and feels a stirring of dissatisfaction at it. Which is absurd, because what stake does she have in this? She isn’t interested in Emma in the least bit, not when the perfect woman lives in Storybrooke and knows that Zelena is attracted . She’s doing a favor to her sister, who had welcomed her into her house and life despite some minor attempts to rewrite history and murder said sister.
But then they watch a movie– this time it’s Summerland, which involves a lot of historical backstory about this land that Regina explains in depth– and Regina falls asleep against Emma, dipping lower and lower against her until her head is on Emma’s lap. Emma strokes her hair, her eyes drifting from the screen to Regina. “Think we can summon up a tornado and knock a few cabins down?” she says, her voice low.
Zelena holds up her hand. “Take this cuff off and I’m your woman. We could get a month out of it.” She wiggles her eyebrows, and Emma laughs.
“I’m thinking about it,” she promises. Her eyes are warm when she looks at Zelena, and Zelena realizes what it is that she wants from Emma. Friendship , something that has been more elusive in her life than even sex and romance. Someone she can sit beside and spend time with, who might care about her, too. Emma shakes her head. “You haven’t done anything evil since the first few days after Regina let you out of that cell. Unless we count whatever you spiked my coffee with this morning–”
“I was doing you a favor,” Zelena protests. “You needed something extra.”
“ Nevertheless ,” Emma says, squeezing her arm. “You surprised me. I was sure that you were plotting something when you agreed to make peace with Regina.”
“I had some plans,” Zelena says vaguely. There had been the time travel option, of course, though it hadn’t worked out. And then the idea of massing the villains of Storybrooke into a secret organization to dethrone Regina. She’d looked into a spell that would make her transform into Regina, with a potion instead of magic, but it hadn’t seemed viable.
And then Regina had been– irritable, but not unkind. She had given Zelena some freedom and had looked at her with those gentle eyes– the ones that had said I just want a sister even if she’d never said it aloud– and Zelena had wondered what it might be to find some serenity in the chaos of her life. To be a sister, an aunt, a woman without a wicked cause to spur her on.
Instead, she’s found a far better cause. Regina is with the wrong person, and this can be her gift to the sister who had gifted her a life in Storybrooke. “I like it here,” she admits to Emma now. “I don’t think I’ve ever liked my life before. Even when I was in control of parts of Oz. I never quite let go of who I could have been.”
“Yeah,” Emma says somberly. “It eats away at you, you know? Sometimes I watch my parents with my brother and I’m just so angry . He’s going to have the perfect family, the best life, and I should be happy for him but I–” She takes a breath. “I can’t rewrite the past. I know that.”
“I tried,” Zelena reminds her. “It might’ve been better.” She might have been a queen, apple of her mother’s eye, a woman with a family. She doesn’t think she’d do it now, not to harm Regina, but it still lingers as a possibility.
“You think?” Emma raises her eyebrows. “Do you have any idea what Regina went through as a kid?” She shudders. “I’ve met your mom. There was…there was this moment when I had a knife to Regina’s throat and I threatened to kill her if Cora tried to grab the dagger. Cora didn’t hesitate.”
Zelena scoffs. “You wouldn’t kill Regina.”
“No,” Emma murmurs. “But Cora didn’t know that.” She shakes her head. “I’ve talked to…to Regina and to Mary Margaret about the king. It wasn’t what you think it was. Regina was…she was really young, and she didn’t have magic to protect herself. I know it’s easy to just kind of imagine her stalking around a kingdom shouting out orders, but it was…shit, a lot of trauma went down to turn Regina into the woman she became.” She stares down at Regina, twisting a lock of hair between her fingers. Regina curls up against her in her sleep, letting out a little breath of satisfaction. “It really sucked to be Regina, too.”
There is something about hearing it from Emma that makes it finally penetrate. Zelena sighs. “No perfect lives,” she concedes.
“No perfect lives,” Emma agrees. She lets out a short laugh. “My brother will probably get kidnapped a dozen times before he turns five. I shouldn’t assume he’ll have a charmed life, either.” She sighs. “And I don’t know who I’d be if I’d grown up differently. Maybe I’d hate myself.”
“I know who I’d be,” Zelena says cheerfully. “Regina.” There are little things that aren’t decided by their birth, though. Zelena’s magic is a different breed than Regina’s, and she wonders if Mother would have seen her as an enemy instead of a weapon. She’s taller than Regina, gawkier, and she imagines that she would have lacked some of her grace.
“Yeah.” Emma tilts her head and looks at her. “No offense, but I’m glad you aren’t. Redheads really don’t do it for me.”
Another difference, subtle but undeniable. “Oh, and Regina does?”
“Shut up.” Emma stares down at Regina, absolutely lost again, and Zelena snorts. There is a sense, though, that the world is only theirs– Emma’s and Regina’s, and no space for Zelena with them, and she feels that uncertain dissatisfaction again. When they find their way to each other– and they will , she’s sure of that, with a little help from her– then what place will there be for Zelena with them?
She pushes the thought aside. “How about that tornado?” she says lightly, and Emma laughs and leans against her and Zelena thinks this is where I want to be , with her sister and her best friend in a town that can’t possibly be real but is.
It can’t last forever, of course. Not without that tornado. Before long, Regina is back out at night with Robin, returning unexpectedly early with a slight expression of uncertainty on her face. But there are changes.
For one, Zelena is abruptly and without ceremony trusted with Henry. There are no excuses for him to have sleepovers with the Charmings or reasons for Emma to supervise, though Emma does still make her way to the house each evening, regardless. Zelena suspects that it’s for the look on Regina’s face when she comes home, the clarity that comes with knowing that Regina isn’t quite as head-over-heels as she’d like to be.
But perhaps it’s also for what happens before Regina arrives: the two of them watching terrible movies together solely for a specific actress; cooking a meal for Regina to return to and nearly burning down the kitchen on several occasions; playing video games with Henry and then fighting Zelena if she manages to win. There is a peace to this solidarity between them, an understanding that Zelena has grown accustomed to. Somewhere along the way, Emma Swan had genuinely become her best friend, and she’d become Emma’s– or, at least, the only best friend Emma has who isn’t her mother or she isn’t in love with.
It’s not a particularly high bar, but Zelena is pleased to have passed it.
Zelena is beginning to discover that she prefers people , which she’d never imagined she would before now. “It’s because all the people you used to know sucked,” Emma tells her dryly. She’s already experienced this same sensation, though she is far less needy about it. “Now that you actually like and care about the people around you, you can’t get enough of them.”
Emma might understand her, but there are some things that she just doesn’t get. Most significantly, the darkness that lurks in the shadows of Zelena’s psyche. She’s terrified of being alone again because her thoughts are dangerous.
Only Regina can really grasp that, and because of that, Zelena is careful to not let that fear show. They’ve made it too far for Regina to see Zelena as a potential villain now, and so Zelena nods and shrugs when Regina prepares for a date one evening and says absently, “If you and Emma are planning on baking again, please open a window first.”
“Emma isn’t coming tonight,” Zelena says dully, and Regina pauses, a flash of disappointment on her face before she collects herself.
“Why not?” She frowns. “She doesn’t have a shift tonight. I always check before I make plans.”
Zelena shrugs. She knows why, and she doesn’t want to talk about it, nor does she want to discuss exactly how afraid she is of the pit of loneliness that will consume her without Regina or Emma there tonight. She forces a laugh. “Don’t worry. I intend to spend the bulk of the night experimenting in the kitchen. I know how much you appreciate that.”
Regina hesitates. She glances at Zelena, her gaze penetrating, and Zelena averts her eyes. “Go,” she says. “I’m sure you have…a romantic evening planned in front of the cabin fireplace. Assuming you don’t get overexcited and burn the whole charming little house down.”
“Not a strong risk of that,” Regina mutters, and Zelena raises her eyebrows and is thinking that that , at least, is a nice consolation prize for Emma’s absence tonight when Regina says, “I’m canceling. One second.”
Zelena endures Regina shouting into the phone, “PUT IT BY YOUR EAR! NO, THE UPPER PART! PRESS THE SPEAKER BUTTON!” and then the final, regretful cancellation. Regina gives no reasons and Robin doesn’t sound very unhappy about it, either. Zelena isn’t entirely sure that he’s capable of conveying any emotions, to be fair.
She says, “You didn’t have to do that.” Her eyes are fixed on the floor, afraid of what Regina might see in them. “I wasn’t actually planning on burning the house down. Or even Robin Hood’s cabin.”
Regina puts a hand on her back. “I didn’t think you were,” she murmurs, and she walks Zelena to the couch and sits down beside her, and Zelena is pathetically grateful to have a sister in that moment.
She leans back against the couch, staring at the ceiling. “I’ve been pondering another hobby. Maybe multi-level marketing schemes. Do you think I could persuade Snow to host a Tupperware party?”
Regina snorts. “Sadly, yes, which is why it’s not going to happen.” She shakes her head. “How about something healthy, like jigsaw puzzles or books? Have you been to our library yet? It’s outdated, but it has the classics.”
“Absolutely not. The librarian hates me.” Zelena scowls into nothingness. She’d seen her a few times, glowering at her from across the diner, and there had been something very intimidating about that mousy little librarian’s stare. Mulan thinks she’s sweet , which makes it clear which of them is the brave one in their not-yet-relationship.
Regina contemplates that for a little while. “Belle has plenty of reasons to hate us both,” she says wryly. “I did lock her up for many years, and you weren’t exactly kind to her lover. But she has no right to blame you for Rumple’s death,” she says, and her voice is hard now. “He brought that upon himself when he attacked a defenseless woman in the station. If she believes he’d changed , then I have a bridge to sell her.” She grits her teeth and Zelena looks at her in awe, the protectiveness coming off Regina in waves.
Zelena had never quite imagined herself as someone worthy of protection before. She doesn’t know how to process this, and so she leaps on another point made. “Rumple isn’t capable of change,” she says scornfully. “He was the same manipulative old cretin that he’d been when he first tracked me down until the day he was swallowed by a time vortex.”
Regina nods fervently. “He trained you, too, didn’t he?” she ventures. “And Mother. He targeted us to cast his curse.” She looks unhappy at the reminder of the curse, and Zelena dares to share some of the most humiliating facts of her past with her.
“He wanted me to cast it first,” she mutters. “And I was so unaccustomed to kindness that it backfired on him. He was the only person I didn’t despise, and so it would have been his heart I’d use for the curse.” She scoffs. “Or so he thought. He always did have a rampaging ego.”
Regina laughs lightly. “He was so sure that this was his story and we were all just pawns in it.” She exhales heavily. “He came by his power with a single blow of a knife. He never had to go through redemption .” She pronounces the word with weight and misery, a nightmare of her existence.
“No one expects redemption of me, either,” Zelena feels obligated to point out. “They all look at me as though I might attack them, but I have endured very little else.”
Regina squeezes her shoulder. “You weren’t trying to hold onto anyone,” she says. “I was desperate to keep Henry. And then…” She breathes. “Somewhere along the way, Snow became important to me again. And Emma…”
Her mouth snaps shut, the softness in her eyes more pronounced, and Zelena prods, “I thought you and Emma hated each other before I brought you together as the greatest threat you’d ever faced.” She smirks, and Regina rolls her eyes at her.
“Yes. No. I don’t know if Emma ever hated me. I might have hated her. I was terrified that she’d take Henry from me. But she was so…did you know that she pulled me out of a burning building while I was in the process of sabotaging her career?” she asks suddenly. “She jumped into a portal to rescue me from a wraith. She reached out to me when everyone else had written me off as the Evil Queen.” She rubs her face. “I keep trying to imagine that we might be friends, but friend seems an insufficient term for what…for what she…”
“For what she means to you?” Zelena suggests.
Regina sits very still at that. She speaks after a lengthy silence. “I don’t know how to describe our relationship,” she says slowly. “I just know that when she’s here, I feel like I can breathe. And when she isn’t, I find myself just…wondering, all the time, where she might be.” She places her hands on her lap, her jaw working beneath her skin as though she’s irritated by the sheer vulnerability of her admission.
And something in Zelena ticks, once, and she admits, “She went out with Captain Hook tonight.”
Regina straightens, her eyes going sharp and oblique again. “Ah,” she says.
“He saw something suspicious near the docks,” Zelena volunteers. “I don’t know anything else.” She wrinkles her nose. “I don’t like him being around Emma.” He is too eager, too quick to seize her attention, and Emma tolerates him with ease. Zelena doesn’t trust him.
“Neither do I,” Regina says darkly. Then, a breath, and she says uncertainly. “You’re sure that…Emma is a lesbian, isn’t she?”
Zelena shrugs. “She’s dated men in the past,” she concedes. “But I don’t think that she’s attracted to them. When you’re…when you’re alone in the world, sometimes the thing that attracts you is a warm bed and someone to take care of you.”
Regina closes her eyes and is quiet again. When she opens them, it’s to change the subject, abrupt and unhappy. “Why don’t I show you how to follow a recipe? It’s something you might find useful.”
And so they bake. Zelena nearly creates crises and Regina averts them, and neither one mentions Emma again until there’s a knock at the door and Emma pushes it open without waiting for a response, collapsing wearily at the kitchen table. “Oh, good. You’ve been baking. Give it,” she says, hands out like a pauper at the village square, and Regina puts a cookie in her hand. “I deserve, like, ten of these. Regina?” Emma says, startled. “Weren’t you supposed to be on a date tonight?”
A glimmer of hope in her eyes, and Regina dashes it. “We postponed. I had a sisters’ night instead,” she says, patting Zelena’s shoulder. Zelena eats a cookie. “How about you? Hook at the docks?”
“ Ugh .” Emma slumps against her chair. “You know, it’s my fault. I kissed him once, back in Neverland. I didn’t even want to. You know how it is when you just want the guy to stop harassing you so you give him what he wants? I’m a good kisser. I’m a really good kisser,” she says, and Regina teeters in place and her eyes hood over at that revelation. Zelena eats another cookie. “I figured that would be enough to shut him up and get him to move on. Instead, he decided he was in love with me. The fuck . He barely knew me.” She bites her cookie with savage irritation.
Zelena speaks, mostly because Regina doesn’t look capable of speech after Emma’s announcement about her kissing prowess. “So he hadn’t seen anything suspicious at the docks, I’d wager.”
“Nothing. He wanted to talk about us .” Emma hooks her fingers into quotes. “He thinks we’re meant to be . So much bullshit about destiny bringing us together. As if any relationship that’s destined is doomed to anything but failure.”
Regina blinks. “Ouch,” she says.
“Oh. I didn’t mean–” Emma winces, glances to Zelena for help. Zelena wiggles her eyebrows in response. Emma glowers at her and turns back to Regina, contrite. “I’m sorry. I was just talking about–”
“I know,” Regina murmurs, and she sighs. “Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t feel all the things I should when I’m with Robin. I want to. I really do want this to work.” She gestures helplessly at them. “But I think I’m happier here than I’ve ever been with him.”
Emma stares at her as though she’s been slapped in the face. Regina doesn’t seem to notice. Zelena takes another cookie. This is nearly as entertaining as the last movie she’d watched with Emma. Regina says, “He’s…he’s nice . And he’s my big chance. I’ve never gotten the fairytale before, you know?” she says helplessly, wringing her hands. “I’ve never had fate work out in my favor. So maybe this is my guaranteed happy ending and it’d be a fool’s errand to give it up.”
Emma stands abruptly. Regina stares at her, her eyes wide and yearning, and Emma says hoarsely, “Maybe. But is it worth it if there’s no fire?”
Regina takes a step forward. Emma moves to her, the two of them hovering in front of each other in the middle of the kitchen. Regina reaches out to touch Emma’s shoulder, the tips of her fingers grazing against it, and Emma breathes, “I just think that you deserve fire, too.”
Zelena chews her cookie. Regina is leaning in close to Emma, and Emma is tilting her face, her lips parted but no sound emerging from them. They are so close , right there on the edge of something new just for them, and a dark, petty thing emerges from Zelena’s throat. “Hey! I’m not washing the dishes if Emma’s eating the cookies, too,” she says loudly, and Regina startles and then stumbles back.
“She does have a point,” Regina says ruefully, and Emma gives them both a sour look and slides across the kitchen to the sink. Zelena is relieved and irritated with herself at once, frustrated at her own inability to let this happen. Her sister and her best friend, both of them gone for each other– this is what they deserve.
And she can’t bear to imagine them getting it and leaving her in the dust.
Regina returns to Robin, grimly determined to make it work. Emma mopes around the house and claims that she’s fine , and Zelena is regretting her interference enough that she declares, “Enough. We’re going out.”
Emma blinks at her. “But Henry–”
“Henry can stay home alone. He’s…what, seven? He can handle any intruders. I’ve seen Home Alone.” Zelena nods vigorously. “We are getting you pissed and laid.”
Henry puts up a hand from his spot on the couch. “Everything you just said was horrific,” he says. “I would personally like to go to Grandma’s and forget I was ever here.”
Zelena pats his head. “That’s the spirit. Go pack a bag.” She gives him the leftover cookies, too, a bribe to keep him appeased, and Emma drives him over and goes inside, reluctant, and gets dressed.
“Back inside,” Zelena orders her. “Shorter dress. Lower neckline. What is this, the Blue Fairy’s nunnery?” She has plans for tonight. She’d already found a club thirty minutes from Storybrooke. It isn’t a lesbian club, but it’s well-frequented by women who might be interested, and she plans to have a good time tonight instead of listening to Emma moan about Regina for the rest of the night. Maybe, just for a night, they can have a distraction.
And Emma surprises her in the car. “Mulan’s coming with,” she announces, pulling up beside an apartment where Zelena fully intends to spend tonight. “Don’t say I never do anything for you.”
“You’re an excellent friend.” Mulan is wearing a pair of jeans and a tight top that nearly rivals her running outfit, and Zelena stares at her with a wolfish grin and climbs into the backseat in the middle of sharp turn.
“Whoa!” Emma nearly crashes the car. “Zelena, can you please –”
“Shh.” Zelena lounges in the backseat, her eyes fixed on Mulan. Mulan raises her eyebrows. “You have the most exquisite eyes,” Zelena informs her. “I’m never sure if you find me charming or terrifying.”
“I’m never sure of that, either,” Mulan says, and her gaze drifts to Zelena’s ample cleavage. Zelena smiles and shifts a little closer to her. Mulan blinks and puts a hand, very tentatively, on Zelena’s thigh.
The driver– Zelena forgets her name– says, “ Buckle up or I’m turning this car around and taking you back to Storybrooke.”
“I do like being restrained,” Zelena says conversationally. The driver turns on very loud music. Zelena reminds herself that said driver is Emma, her best friend, and she is absolutely going to get Emma very drunk tonight.
Her wrist is itching, and she rubs at it under the cuff. “You might as well take this off now,” she points out. “There isn’t even magic out here.”
“Can’t hear you,” Emma calls back. “Do not want to hear you–” She drives a little faster, and Zelena slides her hand over Mulan’s on her thigh.
She doesn’t think much about the itching in her wrist after that. Mulan lifts her eyebrows at Zelena again when they get to the club, and she leads them inside. “I’ve been here a few times with Ruby,” she says. “We took Belle here once recently. It was good for her. Perfect place for a rebound.”
“Can’t rebound if you’ve never actually dated,” Zelena points out, and Emma gives her a sour look. “Well, go ahead. Find some nice brunette in here who doesn’t look like my sister. I’ll wait.” She lowers her voice to an exaggerated whisper, loud enough to be heard over the music of the club. “Emma doesn’t like redheads. It’s offensive.”
Mulan nods sagely. “Neither do I,” she says, and Zelena gapes at her, horrified, as Mulan sways to the music and pulls her close. Zelena moves with her, feels her grip like liquid muscle against her, and Mulan murmurs, “I could make an exception if you play your cards right.” Her voice is husky, and Zelena moves in closer just as Mulan pulls away. “I need a drink,” she says, and she slips an arm into Emma’s and leads her to the bar.
Mulan is something . Zelena is head-over-heels, hopelessly in love. “I think I want to marry her,” she tells Emma when they run to the bathroom. She scratches at her wrist. “Our babies would be such brats .”
“I’m still right here,” Mulan says from the sink. “In case you’ve forgotten.”
Emma says, “I don’t think she has. She doesn’t have a filter.” She tilts her head. “Zelena? What’s wrong with your wrist?”
Zelena glances down. In the bright light of the club bathroom, she can see the irritated skin beneath the cuff, raw and red as though it’s been burned. “I don’t know,” she says. The itchiness is almost too much to bear now, and she swats at her wrist, scratching until the skin starts to peel. “Has this cuff ever been taken into the Land Without Magic?”
The skin is beginning to bleed. Mulan holds Zelena’s wrist in her hand, her brow furrowed. “Can you get it off?” she demands, fixing Emma with a sharp glare. “Do we have to drive back to Storybrooke?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how to get it off.” Emma chews on her lip. “Regina’s the only one who–”
“Well, call her!” Mulan barks out, and Emma dials quickly, pacing through the small bathroom as Zelena makes another attempt to scratch the skin under the cuff. Mulan seizes her hand and holds it in place, and Zelena whines in frustration, desperate to make the burning sensation stop. Mulan yanks her forward. “No touching,” she says sternly.
“That is so fucking hot,” Zelena sighs, and Mulan kisses her right there, up against a bathroom wall in a club without magic. There is a lot of kissing then, which is very distracting and makes Zelena forget about the cuff altogether. Emma stands in the far corner of the bathroom and stares fixedly at her phone, and Zelena says, “The least you could do right now is make sure we have some privacy,” and slides her not-burning hand into Mulan’s pants.
Mulan sighs as Zelena curls her fingers into her, and Emma exits the bathroom quickly and stands in front of it. Zelena can feel the burning like a constant ache, growing in intensity, and soon, even Mulan can’t distract her from it. It feels as though her arm might disconnect from the rest of her body, like it might throb until it falls off, and she curls onto the floor and lets out pained moans until Mulan fetches Emma again and Emma wraps her tightly in her arms. “Hang in there,” she says. “Regina’s on her way.”
“You like Regina more than me,” Zelena accuses her, which isn’t a reasonable or relevant argument right now. Her wrist is on fire and she can’t think coherently at the moment.
Emma sighs. “Is this really the time?”
“You’re going to kiss her and then never talk to me again.” Zelena hangs her head. “You’re the worst, Emma Swan.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Emma wraps an arm around Zelena, holding her still while Mulan keeps a grip on the injured hand. “Don’t worry. Regina is never going to kiss me. She has a soulmate , remember?”
“She loves you,” Zelena says mournfully. “Even someone as dull-witted as you must know it. She’s also going to forget about me after she kisses you.”
Emma shakes her head. “You’re her sister,” she reminds Zelena. “I think you might actually be my best friend. I don’t think either of us is going anywhere.” She wrinkles her nose. “My two closest friends in town just had obnoxiously loud sex on the other side of a door while I stood guard, and I’m still talking to them .”
Mulan snorts. Zelena says interestedly, “Oh, who was it? Share the gossip, I need something good after going through this agony–”
Mulan says, “I think I may have made a mistake.”
“Be nice to her, she’s in pain,” Emma says, and she laughs a little and squeezes her arms around Zelena, and Zelena reflects that maybe Emma does like her just a little bit. Maybe even more than she likes Regina, though she’ll probably never admit it.
Mulan and Emma keep talking, their voices low as they hold onto Zelena, and Zelena is ready to pass out from the pain when the bathroom door opens and Regina strides in. Her face is unreadable, and she says curtly, “Show me.”
“We’ve never brought her out of town before,” Emma says. “I had no idea that the cuff would do this–” She takes a breath. “Do you think you’ll be able to get it off without magic?”
Regina removes something from her bag. It’s a pair of scissors, and she cuts neatly through the cuff and leaves it in pieces on the ground. Zelena feels the relief almost instantly, and she lets out a sobbing exhale, falling back against Emma’s chest. “Better,” she gasps out. “Much better.”
“Next time, talk to me before you go clubbing,” Regina says, and she sounds sharp again, irritable. Zelena has the presence of mind now to register that tone, and she looks up at Regina and sees nothing but hurt on her face.
Emma shakes her head. She must see it, too, because she sounds defensive and apologetic. “We were trying not to interfere with your date,” she says in a high voice. “We know how– how important your soulmate is to you!” She lowers her voice. “Of course we’d have invited you otherwise. You’re our…our…” She looks to Mulan and Zelena for support. Mulan shrugs. Zelena examines her wrist. “You’re Zelena’s sister,” Emma finishes meekly.
“Of course,” Regina says, formal as steel-bladed ornamentation. “I’m sure you would have brought Baby Neal along, too.” She turns on her heel and walks from the bathroom, leaving them behind, and Emma stares at the closed door as though she is desolate.
Zelena coughs. “I, for one, would have a very good time with a little tyke in a club,” she says. “Have you ever seen a pissed-as-fuck infant?”
Mulan says, “I can’t believe I’m dating you.”
Zelena perks up. “We’re dating?”
They are dating, and it’s absolutely perfect. Zelena gets her first look at Mulan’s apartment (subpar and impersonal) soon after, once she’s healed her own wrist upon their return to Storybrooke. Mulan gets her own look at Zelena’s farmhouse (disturbing and decrepit, she declares, the nerve ) in the days that follow. Emma, forever a good friend, pretends that she doesn’t notice that Mulan is taking extra-long shifts.
It’s all perfect, except that Regina is hardly speaking to Zelena. Zelena can’t even tell her about Mulan, because Regina finds every reason to cut off conversation with her before it begins. Regina is cold and distant, though she never does bring up the new reality that they’re living now in which Zelena has full access to her magic.
Emma drops by the evening after the club with a peace offering: Regina’s favorite fries from Granny’s and a little apple necklace that she’d purchased from a shop on Main Street. “I saw it and thought of you,” she says meekly. She holds it out to Regina. Regina stares wordlessly at it, and Emma sets both items down in the foyer and stumbles back to the door. “I’ll just…I guess I’ll head out now.”
“That would be wise,” Regina says crisply, and Emma walks from the house as though she’s been punched in the face, glancing back at the door in agony. Zelena watches her from the window, but she doesn’t dare bring it up with Regina. Regina is in no mood for playful banter, not anymore.
Instead, she cooks dinner mechanically and speaks only to Henry, and she brushes off all attempts Zelena makes to explain herself. “You’re perfectly entitled to go to a club without me,” Regina says, though she makes it sound like anything but that. “I’m not part of your little…your posse . I just live here.” She sounds so sad that Zelena is guilty again, which isn’t fair, because Regina had hardly been excluded. She’d been on a date .
A date with a man she’s scheduled to see again today, and she paces the foyer and looks desperately reluctant to go. She wears Emma’s necklace, rubs her thumb over it and glances out the window with what is unmistakably dread, and even Henry picks up on it. “Do you wanna just stay home and play video games with me?” he says hopefully. “We could catch Pokemon or something–”
“I have to go,” Regina says grimly, the apple pressed between her fingers. “Robin is expecting me. I have to–” She takes a breath. “You enjoy your evening,” she says, mussing Henry’s hair. “I’m sure Emma will be back as soon as I’m gone.”
Henry looks at her with solemn eyes that see everything. “You don’t like Auntie Z’s relationship with Ma, do you?” he presses, and Zelena averts her eyes so Regina doesn’t notice that she’s eavesdropping from the dining room.
She hears the way that Regina stops moving, the sudden bite to her voice as she says, “I– what? ” Henry starts to speak, but Regina doesn’t stop, her voice growing louder. “I don’t care,” she says swiftly. “That is– of course I like it. I support it. I’m supportive of all of it. Why shouldn’t other people find happiness like I– like I have with–” Her voice rises to an unearthly pitch, and Zelena glances up just swiftly enough to see Henry taking a step back.
When Regina speaks again, it’s lower, unsteady. “I have never– I’ve never given any impression that I’m not supportive. If they want to be… well , if they want to be together, I don’t have any reason to stop it. Good for them,” she says, and she sounds as though she’s about to cry. “Good for them,” she says again, and her voice is rough and hoarse.
There’s a knock at the door, and Regina nearly leaps from her spot by the window. “I have to go,” she says, and she abruptly unclasps her necklace and lets it fall onto the windowsill. She nearly runs from the house, leaving Henry behind, deeply puzzled.
He says, “Did Mom think I meant you were dating Ma?” and it all makes a little more sense.
Zelena doesn’t invite Emma over, and Emma doesn’t arrive unannounced. Instead, Zelena watches TV with Henry, using her magic to overpower him when he tries to seize control of the remote. “You’re a tyrant ,” Henry informs her.
“I’m your babysitter,” Zelena shoots back, and they squabble over the remote until they find a documentary about sharks called Jaws that they both enjoy enough to keep running.
The door opens less than an hour later, and Zelena calls, “Emma?”
But it isn’t Emma. Regina is back, her eyes dark and wild, and she says, “Do not talk to me right now.” She sits on the couch, back perfectly straight, and she watches the shark documentary without a word to either of them. Henry snuggles in beside her and Regina softens just a bit, stroking his hair and pulling him closer.
Zelena waits until the movie is over and Henry has wandered up to bed before she broaches the topic of what had happened on Regina’s date. “Shut up ,” Regina hisses in response, her eyes flashing. “You have no right to ask me about it. Your relationship doesn’t make you an expert on mine.”
“My relationship isn’t–” Zelena begins, but Regina waves her off.
“Don’t talk to me about that. I don’t care. I don’t want to hear it.” She stalks into the kitchen, yanks the fridge open and emerges with an egg. Rather than lighting the stove, she sets a frying pan on it and flings fireballs at it until the egg is scrambled. “Anyway, it’s over now. I sabotaged my own relationship, because I can’t handle anything good without thinking about how to destroy it. Isn’t that how we Millses do it?”
“Stop. I don’t want to talk about it,” Regina says again, and continues to talk about it . “He was so decent . He didn’t care about my past. And I told him that this was a fucking sham because–” She stops, her jaw working. “I don’t know why,” she says. “Because it was a fucking sham. Because I’ve been going out with him for months and I’m so bored I want to scream every time. Because I couldn’t even touch him without thinking about–” She squeezes her eyes shut. “ Fuck ,” she says, and she throws another fireball at the stove, lighting a second flame. She puts a pot on it, drops in butter, and flicks her wrist until an onion materializes on a cutting board and a knife begins to cut it into precise little pieces.
She whirls around, and she lights a third flame. On this one, she roasts peppers, and a fourth is lit for frying bacon. A frenzy of activity erupts around her, knives chopping and peelers grating and forks on the stove stirring and flipping and cooking in a grand display of magical control. Zelena is impressed. Regina is livid at nothing at all. “I should have kept my mouth shut,” she says, and the onions crackle in the butter. “I should have gone right back to him and begged to work this out.” The bacon strips sizzle. “I should have fixed it ,” she snarls, and the ingredients all spin through the air, fire-hot pots whirling over their flames.
“Then fix it,” Zelena says, and Regina snaps, “ NO! ” and the food is thrown from the pans, landing perfectly on a plate that Regina conjures out of nowhere.
“No,” Regina whispers, and she subsides into tears, her hand slipping and her magnificent breakfast-dinner nearly toppling to the floor. Zelena catches it and sets it on the table before it can go to waste, and then she gathers Regina into her arms and holds her, the two of them swaying together as Regina sobs.
To Zelena’s surprise, Emma is less than ecstatic about Regina’s breakup. “She’s furious with me,” she says when Zelena brings it up. Zelena has taken to dropping by the station after breakfast, mostly to snog her beautiful girlfriend, who has threatened to arrest her for public indecency twice before kissing her back. “She hasn’t spoken to me in days. I wish we’d invited her along,” she says glumly. “I didn’t want to go without her in the first place.”
“I don’t think she’s angry about the club,” Mulan says sagely. “She’s just angry in general. She invested so much into that relationship.”
Emma develops the palest hint of a smile. “She really told him it was a fucking sham?” she says, sounding very hopeful.
So there is something , perhaps, and Zelena breathes and feels relief, not dread, about it. “She also thinks we’re dating, incidentally. Might have whipped her into shape.”
Emma stares at her. “ What ?” She jumps up. “You have to tell her the truth.”
“That I wouldn’t be caught dead with someone so testy?” Zelena shakes her head. “I will be the only cranky one in my relationship, thank you very much. And no.”
“No?” Emma echoes, looking outraged. “You can’t lie to her. She’ll never–” She stops herself and then starts again, her voice small. “Zelena, you know how I feel about her.”
“It took an hour of this lie before she broke up with the forest idiot,” Zelena points out. “Who knows what delightful things might happen if she believes it a little longer?”
“I can’t believe you,” Emma says, wheeling around to face Mulan. “Mulan, you’ve got to–”
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Mulan says mildly. Emma gapes at her in betrayal. Mulan shrugs. “I’m dating Zelena. Do you really think I have good judgment?” She bites at the corner of Zelena’s ear before Zelena can protest, during which instant Zelena decides that she likes her woman a little mean.
Emma straightens. “I’m going to talk to Regina. I have to– we have to make it clear that–”
Zelena is up and racing to her, seizing her hand to yank her back before Emma can open the station door. And in a fortuitous twist, Regina pushes the door open at that instant.
Her eyes flicker down to Zelena and Emma’s joined hands. “Hello,” she says. She’d avoided Zelena’s eyes at breakfast today, had eaten in a rush and hurried out the door instead of entertaining conversation, and she glances away from Zelena now and presses her lips together. “I…uh…” Her gaze is locked on Emma, and it is pained but determined. “I wanted to apologize for overreacting the other day.”
Emma gazes at her with aching eyes. “You don’t need to apologize for anything,” she says firmly. “We did something stupid, and we should have brought you along. It was my fault–”
“None of this is your fault,” Regina says firmly. She is wearing Emma’s necklace, Zelena notices, and she watches Emma with exhaustingly fond eyes. “I’m just…I’m happy that you’re happy right now. You deserve that and so much more.”
Emma shakes her head, still desperate to foil all of Zelena’s carefully laid plans. “Zelena and I aren’t–”
“It’s all right,” Regina says, cutting her off cleanly, and she looks so sad that Zelena nearly regrets her actions. Nearly . “You don’t need to say anything.” She leans forward, and she murmurs, “I wish all the best to you.” Her lips brush against Emma’s cheek and linger there for an indecent amount of time, until Emma’s eyes are closed and she looks like she might collapse.
More productively, she is incapable of speech for the rest of Regina’s visit, in which Regina sets down a donut for Emma as a peace offering and makes a quick exit. Emma sways in place, her hand on her cheek, and says, “The fuck was that.”
“ That is what happens when you let your bestie do the scheming,” Zelena says, patting her on the back. “You’re welcome.”
It’s always a pleasant surprise when her plans work, and this one seems ready to go off without a hitch. Emma still seems shell-shocked when Zelena wanders out to lunch, tugging Mulan behind her. “I think we should give it a month,” she says thoughtfully. “I don’t know if I can talk Emma into anything explicit, but I think it’ll be most effective if we really let Regina simmer in this. Milk the jealousy, too.”
“You’re terrifying,” Mulan says, staring at her as though she’s only beginning to understand exactly what she’s gotten into.
Zelena beams at her. “Thank you,” she says. “It’s been so long since I’ve really felt that way. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She swoops in for a kiss right outside Granny’s, backing Mulan against the wall, and she is at once positive that this is all going to work out perfectly. Is there still the fear that Regina and Emma might swan off into the sunset together and leave her behind? Indubitably, but it won’t be a problem for another month , so she has time.
She’s jerked from her thoughts as swiftly as she’s jerked from Mulan by a wave of magic, hurling her away as Regina strides forward with her eyes flashing. “How dare you,” she snarls, and she slaps Zelena hard on the cheek, shaking with rage. “How dare you? Is Emma just a toy to you? And you!” She jerks a finger at Mulan, who looks alarmed to be included. “You’re supposed to be her friend, you miserable hag –”
Zelena slaps Regina now out of loyalty to Mulan, and Regina lets out a growl of sheer rage and hurls another wave of magic at her. “I thought I could trust you!” she hisses, and violet flames encase Zelena. “I thought you’d changed!”
“I did change!” Zelena snaps back, and her green magic hits Regina’s and erupts in the center of the sidewalk. Mulan springs into action, guiding passersby out of the way and barking out orders at anyone who doesn’t listen, and Zelena can’t even enjoy how sexy it is because her sister is trying to kill her.
The magic is lethal, warping around them, and Mulan snaps, “Get it out of the street!” In another wave of magic, Regina teleports them both into her office and thrusts Zelena into a wall, her eyes dark with fury.
“How dare you,” she says again. “How could you do this to Emma?”
Zelena scoffs. “Emma knows, because I’m not actually dating her,” she says, and she hurls Regina back against a wall with all her power, sending her crashing to the floor. Regina stares up at her, wordless and breathing hard, and Zelena says loftily, “But someone else will if you don’t get your act together and make a move.”
Regina blinks at her. “You’re not dating Emma?” she says slowly.
“I can honestly say that I feel absolutely no attraction toward her,” Zelena says, wrinkling her nose at the thought of it. “I mean, she’s all right , but when women like Mulan exist in this town, why would I want to date a generic dumb blonde?”
“She’s light-years ahead of you,” Regina says, but she is calming down, watching Zelena with careful, uncertain eyes. “You and Emma…you have something together. You can’t tell me that there’s no connection.” She sounds bitter. “I get it. You have so much in common, being…lesbian pseudo-orphans or…”
Zelena snorts. “You really are an idiot,” she says, and nothing has made her feel more content with the idea of Regina and Emma being together than this sputtered explanation from Regina. They might be utterly drunk on each other for a while, but Zelena will have her place with them, whether they like it or not. “The one thing we had most in common is a fixation on you , Regina. Don’t you know anything about us?”
Regina leans back against the wall, her lips pressed together and her eyes lost, and Zelena says, “You know, I don’t think I’m the one you want to talk to right now.” It’s the most selfless thing she’ll do, likely in her entire life, what she does right now, and she snaps her fingers, fights every impulse she’s cultivated in an existence geared around hating what she doesn’t have, and teleports Emma into the mayoral office.
Emma spins around, coughing in the magic and attempting to draw her gun, and then she sees Regina on the floor and her eyes go wide. “Who hurt you?” she demands, her voice dangerous.
Zelena feels a sudden urge for self-preservation and backs up, sliding over to the far side of the office where Emma can’t easily reach her. Regina shakes her head. “My fault,” she says wryly. “A misunderstanding.”
Emma drops to her knees in front of Regina, touching her face to examine it. “Are you all right?” she asks worriedly. “Did you get hurt? How’s your head?” She puts a hand on it, feeling around for bumps, and she is suddenly very close to Regina. Regina stares up at her, their eyes lingering on each other and only millimeters apart, and Zelena thinks don’t say I’ve never done anything for you and shoves Emma with a sharp wave of magic.
Emma tips forward, her lips meeting Regina’s, and Regina lets out a muffled noise and tugs her closer, her hands curling around Emma’s shirt to hold her tightly in place. There is a lot of kissing, a lot of whispering and some laughter, and then more kissing, growing louder and more vigorous with every minute that passes. Zelena suffers in silence from the couch where Regina holds meetings, and she entertains herself by livetexting the experience to Mulan.
Mulan texts please don’t talk to me ever again . Emma says, “I am not dating Zelena, by the way.” Zelena loses two girlfriends on the spot and still has a happy little bubble in her chest, a sense of peace, and she leans back against the couch and grins like a fool at Regina and Emma.
Regina says, “Zelena?”
“Yes, dearest sister?” Zelena says, and Emma twists around and looks startled to see her.
Regina yanks Emma back to her, and Emma obligingly begins to kiss her neck instead. “Get out,” Regina says, her head tilting up to give Emma more access, and Zelena spreads her hands, your wish is my command , and vanishes from the room in a cloud of green smoke.
The farmhouse is cheerier now, a little brighter and better decorated, but Regina is still unimpressed. “It’s too far away from everyone,” she says. “How do we know you aren’t going to lurk in here until you’re miserable and depressed? It’s not healthy.”
Zelena puts up a finger. “It’s far healthier for me than what I’ve had to endure for the past month,” she says, and she means it. One month since that day in the office. Twenty-six days since the first time Zelena had walked into Regina’s room one morning, hunting for a missing hairbrush, and instead gotten an eyeful of her sister spread wide open in front of her, Emma crouched over her and lapping at her like a cat in cream. Twenty-one days since the time Zelena had come home unexpectedly in the middle of a date with Mulan only to find Regina and Emma stark naked in the foyer, Emma pressed against a wall as Regina had kissed a path down her body.
Seventeen days since Zelena had had to soundproof her room at night, and twelve days since that hadn’t been enough to stop the little bursts of magic that keep erupting whenever her sister or her best friend orgasms. It’s quite out of hand, and it’s a miracle that Henry somehow remains oblivious.
The point of fact is that she isn’t built for this kind of trauma, and she’d like to have her own place now, anyway. “Mulan will be here often,” she points out. “She likes it here more than her apartment. Much more space. She keeps talking about getting chickens. And I won’t be alone even when she isn’t here. I have a roommate.”
“Don’t worry about her,” Emma says cheerfully from the front porch. She’s pressure washing the porch in an attempt to clean it. It hasn’t done much this time, or the three times she’d done it before today. Zelena is beginning to suspect that Emma might have a pressure washing problem. “She’s just pissed that I’m moving in with you before her.” She catches Regina’s gaze. “It’s too soon ,” she says, but it’s gentle. “And I needed out of that loft. I can handle Zelena.”
Zelena points a warning finger at her. “Remember my house rules,” she says. “I mean them.”
“No more hanky-panky at the farmhouse,” Emma says obediently. “We will keep it to the mansion. And the station. And the mayoral office–”
Zelena tunes her out, then twists back around to her as Emma’s words register. “No more ?” she echoes in horror, and Emma takes advantage of her distraction to wink at Regina. Regina pinks, a pleased little smile spreading across her face.
“I hate you both,” Zelena declares. “The worst thing I’ve ever done is give Emma that push in the office. Is this what redemption is like? It’s miserable.”
Regina gives her a little kiss on her temple. “You’re doing great ,” she says, and she wanders up to the porch, sliding her arms around Emma from the back until Emma reluctantly stops pressure washing.
“Hands off!” Zelena barks, and Emma and Regina ignore her, swaying together on the porch in that way that is dangerously close to foreplay. Zelena is, quite frankly, considering homophobia as a lifestyle choice. Mulan won’t mind. “No touching on my porch!”
Regina ignores her. Emma blows her a kiss and then twists around to kiss Regina properly. Zelena glares at them in consternation. “We’re back to being nemeses,” she calls. “I still know that time travel spell!”
And then, despite herself, she smiles stupidly, the contentedness bubbling up within her like a warm reassurance that life is perfect , and she calls a broom and flies away from the farmhouse before she can reconsider.