She’s resplendent in Storybrooke U sweatpants during Emma’s nine in the morning history class. All cutting words towards their admittedly moronic professor and cuttingly pretty smiles when she passes back handouts. Sometimes. Alright, once.
Ruby wants Emma to get her number, and Emma wants Ruby to shut up.
“She’s like,” Emma waves around a dill-flavored lay’s chip. “What’s the phrase? Out of my league? Probably straight?”
“Both?” Ruby offers and steals the chip right out of Emma’s hand. She’d be mad, but she’s also having an existential crisis in a dorm lounge. “They’ve been telling us all along to get class buddies, so...”
“Emma,” Ruby says, the kindest smile on her face. “That’s how I met Belle. It started out study buddies, became buddy-buddies...and then, kind of skipped the fuck-buddy stage and now we’re engaged, so buddy up, Swan.”
Emma stares. Emma contemplates sticking her head in the lays bag. She decides to go back to her math homework instead.
“Or, you could wait until the semester’s out and ask her out for coffee. You’re a senior, anyway.”
Emma puts an earphone in. “Listen, I know how this goes. She rejects me, and then we see each other in ten years at a bar, except I’m not ruggedly handsome with a charming three year old, so it’s just going to be an awkward night for both us. I’m sparing us that.”
She taps her fingers on her lips in thought and Emma marvels a little how her fingers come back devoid of lipstick. She shrugs her amazing eyebrows, and begins to pack up. “Well, alright. Suit yourself. I’m on-duty in five, so it’s back to my wonderful little monsters. Feel free to stay here.”
“i think they’re called freshmen.”
Ruby winks. “Just think about it, Emma.”
Emma thinks about it.
Okay so, Ruby met Belle on a Tinder date. Not with her, Belle was the bartender. Either way, Emma Swan rarely is so stuck on girls she’s barely even talked to, and Ruby’s always believed a little in the power of serendipity and a good conversation.
“Hi honey,” she says brightly into the phone. She highlights something interesting in her Foucault reading. “How do you feel about double-dating?”
Regina Mills is writing a capstone. It’s due in three weeks. She wants to die.
Marian tugs a strand of her hair, and launches herself into the couch beside her. “Ask out that girl from History 221 yet?”
Regina nearly spits out her coffee, which would be awful because it’s Peets and cost like half her tuition for an extra shot. “No, and I completely regret telling you everything, ever. How in the hell did you get attraction from there’s one girl in that class who I don’t want to first degree murder?”
Marian curls her feet underneath her lap and shrugs. “Lucky guess, honestly.”
Regina’s eyes widen. Marian smiles.
“I’m going to first degree murder you,” she says, firmly pressing her glasses up her nose. She crosses her legs on the couch and stares more harshly at page twenty-eight of her thirty-five page thesis.
Marian laughs. “Honestly, Regina. She could be straight, or you could get your first date in...well. How long has it been since Robin?”
They high five like they always do; dodged a bullet, gained a best friend.
“I actually enjoy being single,” Regina says, a bit softly. “It’s given me time to think about everything.”
Marian leans in to cuddle into Regina’s side. “I know. I just want you to have that fairytale wedding you told me about wanting.”
Regina whacks her without looking at her. “When I was ten.”
Marian tugs on another strand, and this time she turns. Her smile is warm. “Ten year old dreams never truly die. Besides, class friends are good too, right? I love tearing Killian Jones apart with this girl, Emma in my three pm. The man refuses his to do his reading for Marxist literary theory, and I’m the idiotic idealist? Really.”
Regina swallows and thinks, not in a million years. “Emma who?”
Nine numbers appear and while they should be innocuous, instead Emma wonders if that’s the new date set for the apocalypse.
“Oh my god,” Ruby and Belle chorus in unison, Ruby still wiping down the counter, Belle mid-sentence of an essay.
She clicks off her phone, and shoves it in her bag. “We’re not making a big deal out of this, right? Right. She literally just wants the notes. Literally notes on the French Revolution, which is not sexy.”
Ruby and Belle give her smirks as matching as their future wedding gowns. “Sounds like we’re not the ones you’re trying to convince.”
“I have a math test, and you guys are obnoxious,” Emma says, slaps a twenty dollar bill on the counter, and books it to the library, which is definitely closed even with finals hours.
The Admittedly Pretty and Intelligent Girl in 221, or Emma Swan as Regina now knows, stares at her as she walks in.
Until Regina arches a perfectly-practiced raised eyebrow at her. She immediately averts her eyes and pretends to be writing down the date. Or maybe she is writing the date. Pretty and Intelligent or not, Regina can’t be fucked. It’s nine in the goddamn morning.
“Hey,” Emma says, hesitantly, as she sits down. “I thought you weren’t going to be here today?”
“What,” Regina says, because they’ve never had a conversation before and she’s flustered, and she almost drops her binder.
Emma turns bright red and it’s equal parts cute and annoying. “Um, Marian, your, um, friend, is in one of my other classes, and she told me you needed the notes for today?”
Regina stands up. “She what?”
So, it wasn’t Marian’s greatest plan.
Marian rubs the back of her neck. “Look, it would have worked. A maybe new friend and class notes!”
She holds out her hand for a high five and predictably, is not met with a high five. Instead, Regina, the best person she’s ever met, glares at her under the harsh fluorescents of their shared kitchen. She may be like, five feet tall, but she’s also terrifying. “Well, now I have neither.”
Marian gulps. “In my defense, I thought you were going to be absent. You said you had an interview today!”
She crosses her arms. “I changed it to Monday, because at least I’m not looking forward to Mondays anyway.”
Marian contemplates getting on her knees, but the tile is uneven. She gently holds Regina’s shoulders and implores her for some direct eye contact.
“Regina, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pried.”
Regina lowers her hackles. “No, you shouldn’t have. But I understand why you did it. Even if every class is now going to be insufferable.”
Marian smiles. “I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know her. She’s a good one, I promise. She once punched James Nolan in the face after he bothered Jackie one too many times.”
Regina rolls her eyes, but a grin starts to form. “Classy.”
“Only the classiest for you, my dear.”
The grin blooms. “Did she do any damage?”
“Black eye and a busted nose.”
“Yeah, Emma’s ripped.”
“She’s what now?”
“...Then she just stared at me, sat down, and didn’t talk the rest of class. Which was either due to me or the fact that it was a lecture class, but you know. I really cannot tell.”
Ruby frowns, and slides over Emma’s fourth mug of hot chocolate. She’s not even gonna charge her, because friends help friends get over class crushes with free chocolate. “It’s not over till it’s over, Emma.”
“It’s super over, Ruby. We’ve had an awkward exchange.”
“Not nece– Hey, you have a text!”
“Ruby, what the fuck does a thumbs up mean?”
“Beats me. I just go with go with a good ol’ kiss face for friends, big smile for acquaintances, you know.”
Emma Swan is going to die.
“Did they come out alright?” Emma asks, and startles Regina from her phone, oh shit, oh shit.
“The uh, the notes.”
Regina smiles like she imagines a politician would after shaking hands with the guy they lost to. “They did, thank you for sending them.”
“Cool,” Emma says and leans back, tries to be, cool. Fuck. “So how was your, uh, thing?”
“Whoa, this early?”
Regina doesn’t respond and takes out her notes. Emma can see that her notes are very neat, but that her handwriting itself is very looped and messy. She also draws little flowers in the margins. She should probably not stare any longer at Regina’s notes.
“Yes, well, have a good class.”
Won’t even look at her. Alright. “You too, Re-, Mills, uh, Regina Mills.”
Emma doesn’t take a single goddamn note.
Wednesday passes with relative ease. Regina thanks Emma for the notes and they have an entirely embarrassing and bland conversation. It’s fine. Regina should have known that nothing would come from this stress.
Then, she, Marian, and Cruella go to the gym on Thursday.
“Oh my,” she says without meaning to.
“–Jesus,” Cruella finishes. She raises her hands up. “Thank God for bisexuality.”
“Amen,” Regina says, because there is potentially no greater benediction than seeing Emma Swan in a sports bra, abs gleaming , doing weights.
“You were right,” Regina says weakly to Marian, and wrings her hand around her gym bag. She isn’t supposed to be sweating yet.
“I’m too right,” Marian says and pulls them away. “I am not lusting for Emma Swan too, no way, no how.
“I am not lusting–” Emma looks up and sees her. She’s only deer in the headlights startled for a second before she gives Regina a small smile and a quick wave.
Like an idiot, Regina waves back as Marian hauls her through the door.
A party is a good idea. Especially since finals hell begins in a week.
Ruby’s pre-law school friend, Kathryn, invites her and Belle to a party that’s only going to be potentially awful, besides that’s what bars afterwards are for.
Kathryn is super sweet and brings over two bottles of wine that probably cost more than what Emma makes in a year, and she tries not to chug the glass as she watches them get ready.
Emma’s in her trusty red dress and long plaid. She’s ready for the void.
She lets Ruby and Kathryn do her contouring, if only to compare techniques, do her eyeliner wings, and politely says no to liquid lipstick.
“You look almost good enough to eat!” Kathryn says and winks.
Emma blushes like a motherfucker, and Ruby smacks Kathryn on the arm. “Be nice to the girl who punched your ex in the face.”
“Oh, that was you?” Kathryn high fives her. “He hasn’t shown up to parties in weeks because of that, you’re a real catch.”
That doesn’t help Emma’s blushing, but it distracts her from how much she embarrassed herself in front of Regina Mills this week.
Which in turn, makes her think about how much she embarrassed herself in front of Regina Mills this week.
“Hey, Emma!” Ruby says, and she stops zoning out on her wine. Ruby grabs her hands. “I’m gonna set you up tonight!”
For once, Emma smiles back. “Yeah?”
“Regina Mills will wish she had a piece of this!” Ruby says and pinches her on the cheeks.
“I hate you.”
Marian is right. Her capstone is frying her mind. That does not mean that going out two weeks before it’s due is a good idea.
Still. She’s surrounded by all her friends; Marian is laughing at some vine that Maleficent is showing her, and Cruella is drunk enough to half-sing along with the music. Ursula corrects her key mid-conversation with Ariel Waters, and Cruella tells her to fuck off, as lovingly as possible. As long as no men make a pass at her, this night is shaping up to be decent. The beer only tastes a little bit like corn flavored backwash.
Then, Emma Swan walks in. Of course.
She thinks she can dodge her successfully if she leans a little to the right and pretends to be interested in whatever Ariel has to say, but then Kathryn walks in behind her. Her friend, Kathryn. Her friend, Kathryn, who apparently knows Emma Swan well enough to go to a party with her.
Regina needs something a lot stronger than beer.
After Emma sees Regina, she almost leaves.
Then Kathryn hands her a shot of tequila and she thinks, what the hell.
“Hey,” Emma Swan says in the hallway to the bathroom, two hours and three shots later.
“Hello, Ms. Swan. How’s class going?” Regina says, hands on her hips. She is not even as drunk as she should be for what she just said.
“Well,” Emma says wryly and crosses her arms. “This is certainly the strangest class I’ve ever been to.”
Regina waves her hand and ends up swaying a bit and wow, are those Emma’s toned arms holding her up? Everything is a lot.
“You know,” she points at Emma’s chest. “Exactly what I mean, Emma,” she says, elongating her name with purpose, even though she’s not sure what that purpose is at the moment. “You know, I have no idea why you’re on my mind this week. You’re just....some girl....with abs, that–”
Emma gently removes her fingers. “I’m gonna get you some water, huh? Let’s go outside and chill for a while.”
Regina grumbles. “Fine, yes. Sure.”
She leads Regina to a patio table out back, and they don’t look at each other.
Outside of the party, Emma realizes that she’s kinda sober. Emma was headed that direction anyway, but now the muffled beats sound somber, and she guesses this is why philosophy majors do pot instead or something.
She could go for some too, if only to escape this conversation.
Regina shivers and Emma takes off her plaid shirt without really thinking too much about it. “Here, you’ll catch your death out here, or that’s what my foster mom says at least.”
Regina makes some kind of noise and burrows into it. “This is barely warm enough to be a cover sheet, but thank you.”
Emma realizes too late that she is now the one freezing. She shivers, makes herself stop shivering, and sighs. “Can we start over? I don’t want class to be death for the next two weeks. Also, you seem really...”
Regina has tucked her legs up on the fold-out chair and is now a very irritated ball of plaid. Emma’s fucked. She laughs.
“I seem really, what, Swan?”
“Cool!” Emma says mid-laugh slash choke. She reaches over and finds Regina’s hand in the shirt. “You seem really cool, Regina Mills.”
Regina stares at their hands for a second in bewilderment before she tentatively squeezes back. She gives a smile that is soft and pretty and doing interesting things to Emma’s stomach that have nothing to do with alcohol. “You’re not so bad yourself, Emma Swan.”
Regina sighs. “Do you want to go steal a blanket from someone’s room and sit on the porch swing?”
Daddy always told her that she’d find the one. She thought the one was Daniel and there was that awful tragedy, then came along Robin, and now. Well, she doesn’t know.
What she does know is that sitting on a weed-smelling porch swing cuddled next to Emma Swan under a stolen blanket feels as warm and refreshing as the best summer sunrise. Or, as Highschool Musical so annoyingly well put it, the start of something very new.
“So, why politics?”
Regina laughs. “I ask myself that every day.”
“Not a great department?”
“Oh, it can be a wonderful department. I’ve learned a lot of skills that will help me do my part to make the world better. But of course, white, straight men tend to ruin everything.”
“Shit,” Emma says, and shifts in the blanket. “Yeah, they suck. Our professor can eat a dildo, especially.”
“I’ll order the dildo that he can eat,” Regina says solemnly. “I’ll be glad when that’s over.”
Emma shifts again. “Right, me too.” There’s something sad at the end of her sentence, and Regina’s pretty sure it has nothing to do with the class.
Someone inside the party smashes a bottle. How charming.
“So why math? Why on earth would you do that to yourself?”
Emma laughs. “It’s only minor, but it’s amazing! It’s all the secrets of the universe, right there in an equation for you to solve.”
“And what is a person who reads Freire for fun?”
“A nerd with taste.”
Emma turns in their blanket and gently puts her hand on Regina’s wrist, a question. She nods and Emma begins to draw something with her finger. Her touch is light and cool and she shivers no matter how warm the blanket is.
“I’m going to teach you what a matrix is,” she says very seriously as she looks deeply into Regina’s eyes, and Regina is kind of turned on. She takes away her wrist, and laughs.
“I’ll have you know that I know exactly what a matrix is. The professor for my GE told me that I do very well in math and should pursue a minor.”
Regina settles back and stares up at the vaguely rotted wood of the porch ceiling. “I told him that he could keep the secrets of the universe if it meant I never had to do derivatives again.”
Emma leans back with her. “We could have met each other before now.”
“Hmm,” Regina says and turns her head. “What makes you think I’d want to know you before now?”
Emma raises a brow and grins. “Just a hunch.”
They settle into quiet as the porch swing rattles in the wind. Regina checks her phone to find seven sunglass emojis from Marian, and has no desire to figure out what that means.
Emma breaks the silence. “Uh, do you wanna, like,” she looks away from Regina and swallows, drops the blanket. “Do you want to get coffee sometime, like with me? Like after the semester ends? I mean, before, but like, do you want to hang out with me outside of class, potentially caffeinated?”
Regina looks at her, her earnest, stupid face. “Can we go to Peets?”
“We can go to the moon if you want, but like transportation might be sucky, and I don’t know if they have a Peets set up yet and–”
Regina kisses her quickly on the cheek. “The one on University Ave is perfectly fine, but thank you.”
Emma stares, or gapes really. After a minute of wrestling with the universe, she comes back down to earth and nestles further into Regina’s side, lays a contented head on her shoulder.
“I was right, you are pretty cool.”
“I know I’m pretty cool.”
“Couldn’t agree more, Ms. Mills.”
“Ugh, no, you sound like my boss at my internship last summer.”
“Do you want to wake up alive tomorrow?”
“Future Madam President Regina Mills?”
“Hey, Emma, who can you possible be texting at eleven pm on a Wednesday?”
“Holy shit, read my mind. Am I guessing?”
“You’re super guessing.”
“Are you talking about class?”
Ruby deadlifts her . Emma’s solid fucking muscle. “I’m so proud of you, Emma!”
“Okay, but can you be proud of me on level ground, Supergirl?”
She doesn’t put her down, at least until Granny threatens trash compactor duty.