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goodnight, dear void.

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I hope you don’t mind if I ruin the story for you: this ends with our heroines blissfully together. All the best stories do, and all the best love triangles veer into a tangled mess that straightens out (and certainly no pun intended there ) into a firm and solid line.

 

Now, the women in question may be less than delighted by this little tidbit– or perhaps quietly intrigued– but they shall have to be patient, and you will, too, won’t you? It can take an eternity for the right accidents to make true love come true, or it can come in an instant, unexpected. 

 

So, in summary:

 

The inevitable: Regina Mills and Emma Swan will fall in love.

 

The inevitable: Regina Mills and Emma Swan will loathe each other.

 

The inevitable: neither of the above are mutually exclusive.

 

The right accidents: Regina, after a night out with her best friend, reaches for her phone in a moment of drunken clarity. Drunken clarity: in that she absolutely cannot remember her best friend’s name but remembers her number perfectly. Her fingers transpose the last two digits of said best friend’s number, and she types a message to a stranger instead. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am NOT going on any kind of blind date. I don’t care how perfect you think this person is for me. We both know that’s a FARCE. >:(

 

Regina, who is gifted with the remarkable ability to drunk-text coherently and with the unfortunate habit of using emoticons when drunk, has said her piece. The response makes less sense to her, and she squints, bleary-eyed, at the screen of her phone. 

 

Uh

 

Who is this

 

I just wanna say that I am totally with you on blind dates

 

Ninety minutes away, in her apartment in Boston, Emma Swan stares bemusedly at the text she’d just received on her burner phone. The burner phone is strictly for business– and business, for Emma Swan, is nabbing bail jumpers and not talking to angry strangers who use text emoticons. 

 

Still, she feels the need to express solidarity. Mulan has been relentless about some woman in Maine who’s apparently her soulmate. Emma had agreed to the blind date, mildly interested, only to be told, so my friend hasn’t exactly gotten her to agree to it yet but she will , I promise , and now she’s kind of grouchy about the whole prospect. 

 

She broods about that as another message comes in. I apologize. I am very much inebriated. Fuck. Emma blinks at that, and then there’s a Shit. That’s one for the swear jar. Henry will ask questions. 

 

Henry, who is ten years old and fast asleep in his room, has no idea that his mother in fact owes two dollars to the swear jar. Henry also believes that his mother puts dollars in the swear jar for using the word crap , like he does, so there is something to be said for blissful ignorance. 

 

Regina puts a :( into the message thread, and then an :o that makes her snicker into her pillow. The mouth is so round. She loves text emoticons.

 

In Boston, Emma finds that watching stupid emoticons appear on her burner phone is much more entertaining than late-night TV. She sends back an emoji, just the little circle face with a monocle, and is delighted when a scolding appears on the screen. Have some self-respect. You’re an adult. Wait. Another moment of contemplation, and then, Is this still the wrong number?

 

You’re so lucky that it is , Emma retorts, because she’s pretty sure that this stranger would never live it down if her friend were receiving these messages. 

 

Shit , Regina responds, and she immediately falls asleep, her face mashed against the screen of her phone.

 

A proper meet-cute, perhaps, if lacking in the meet . No worries. They will soon have a second meet-cute, far more lacking in the cute

 

In this story, they get to do it twice.

 


 

Regina awakens. It’s six fifty-three and her alarm clock is beeping, and there’s what feels like the imprint of a phone against her face. She presses a hand to her head, miserably hungover, and staggers to the bathroom to shower. 

 

Bits and pieces of the night before begin to filter back to her. She remembers a night out with Marian, who had not-so-subtly gotten her drunk before broaching the topic– yet again– of this vaunted blind date.

 

I’m telling you, she’s the whole package. Hot, smart, funny– Henry would love her. It’s that last bit that had persuaded Regina, just like Marian had known it would. Regina’s complaint with the last three setups she’d endured had been about Henry, and she’s weak for any kind of promise of someone he’d like. 

 

So she’d said yes, and now she’s regretting it. There have been too many of these dates, each one with grand promises of compatibility and each more unpleasant than the last. Regina is tired of dating. Storybrooke might be tiny and bare of any prospective bachelor or bachelorettes for her to meet organically, but she’s done with these arranged dates that her friends insist are perfect when they’re…not.  

 

She reaches for her phone, fully intending to walk back her promise to Marian, when she pauses. There’s a text from an unfamiliar number on the screen, sent after midnight last night. Leave the ibuprofen by your bed, k? You’ll thank me in the morning

 

Regina blinks. Checks the number again. Opens her phone and discovers, to her chagrin, that she’d had an entire conversation with this stranger last night. “Fuck,” she says, and falls back against her pillow, promptly forgetting about texting Marian back.

 

She types out a brief message, contemplates pretending that none of their exchange had ever happened, and then sends it anyway. I’m sorry about last night. It won’t happen again. She winces again, pinches the bridge of her nose, and hopes the mystery texter won’t respond.

 

Honey, I can’t tell you how often I hear THAT one , comes the response, complete with another infantile emoji, and Regina gapes at the screen and then laughs, startling herself.

 

She types busily. I can imagine, if you’re spending your Friday nights texting wrong numbers. It’s a little mean, but she’s getting the sense that the stranger might enjoy it.

 

She’s right. I’ll have you know that you’re the only wrong number I’ve ever truly loved :( and god , not a text emoticon. She’s being mocked.

 

And she doesn’t hate it. There’s a strange exhilaration that comes with a successful conversation, with someone else who’s on her wavelength even if they might be miles away. She’d drunkenly texted the wrong person, but she’s still grinning at the phone through her hangover, and she responds, I’m sure you say that to all the wrong numbers.

 

Only the ones who scold me like I’m the drunk one, with a ridiculous stream of emoji after the text. A moment, and then, You still gonna do the blind date?

 

I don’t know. She’d forgotten about it again, and she sinks into a brief melancholy as she considers it. Marian’s friend is named Emma, is apparently some kind of bounty hunter, and has the arms to match , according to Marian. Regina has never quite imagined herself dating someone who sounds quite as butch as Marian has described her, but Marian won’t let up on this one. I don’t think I have much of a choice.

 

The stranger answers with a shrug emoji. Go on the date and act like such an asshole that your friend will never set you up again

 

And a second message. It’s worked for me

 

Regina’s alarm clock beeps again before she can respond, and Regina jerks up, checking the time. “Damn it,” she says in a low voice, and she rolls out of bed and goes to wake up Henry.

 


 

Aha, you see what I see, don’t you? This recipe for disaster, what the kids might call a hot mess in the making. And Emma Swan, who specializes in hot mess , should know that better than anyone.

 

Instead, she grins at her burner phone and tucks it away, checking only occasionally during the day for a new response from her new wrong-number friend. “It’s not you,” she reassures the friend she’s actually lunching with. Mulan is a detective with the Boston PD, and Emma suspects that she would assume the worst of the mystery texter. “Just a work thing.” 

 

“Mm-hm,” Mulan drawls. “You’re still in for that date, right?” It’s an abrupt change of topic, not that Emma had been listening very well before then. “Marian finally got Regina to say yes.” 

 

“Wow,” Emma says, straight-faced. “So glad your friend decided to deign to meet me.” 

 

Mulan gives her a look. “She’s just a little gun-shy. It’s not like it’s personal . She doesn’t even know you.” She takes a bite of her panini, chews, considers before she speaks again. “If you’d have just come with me when I went out to Storybrooke to see Ruby last weekend–” 

 

Mulan .” It emerges as a whine. “I was not going to go grovel to this lady and beg for a date. I don’t even want to date her.” She makes a face. Her wrong-number friend had come at the exact right time, it seems, because they’re both about to have hellishly bad dates. The universal experience.

 

Mulan shakes her head. “Gimme,” she says, snatching Emma’s phone– her personal one, which she’d made the mistake of leaving on the table. Mulan punches in a number and saves it, and Emma determinedly does not look at the phone or show any sign of desire to call this Regina. “Tomorrow night, at Aesop’s Tables. I’ll send you the address. It’s an upscale bar in–” 

 

“Do not say Storybrooke, Maine,” Emma says, gritting her teeth. “I’m not going ninety minutes away for a date I don’t even want to have.” 

 

Mulan gives her an apologetic look. “You can stay over at Ruby’s B&B free of charge. She’s not going to come out to Boston for this.” She leans forward. “I swear, she’s worth it. She’s good people. Last year, when I had that case in Storybrooke, no one would talk to me until she took me under her wing. She was the one who introduced me to Ruby. She’s a little rough around the edges, but you kind of have that in common.” Emma gives her a dark look. Mulan shrugs, unperturbed. “And she’s hot as fuck , so there’s that.” 

 

Emma sighs, surrendering. “Lead with that next time.” It’s not like she has a choice. She’s got a soft spot for all three of them– Mulan, her girlfriend, and Marian– and she doesn’t have the heart to let them down. Even when it comes to some high-maintenance, rough-around-the-edges lady who isn’t interested in Emma in the first place. “Fine. I’ll go. But no more pushing if it doesn’t work out, okay?” 

 

“Deal.” Mulan grins, victorious, and Emma tries to ignore the sinking feeling in her stomach.

 

She reaches for her burner phone as soon as she’s out of the cafe and focuses on someone much more pleasant than Regina Mills. So what do you know about this guy you’re supposed to be dating?

 

The response is fast, as though the stranger had been waiting for her message. How do you know it’s a guy?

 

You seem like a woman to me . Maybe it’s projection, because Emma has always preferred the company of women in all things, though there had been a mention of a Henry who is presumably not a boyfriend. A roommate, maybe.

 

A pause, then, Fair enough.

 

She’s made it awkward, hasn’t she? Probed a little more than she should have. Emma bites her lip and decides to extend a little information of her own. I am, too. I’m Amy. Okay, yeah, she isn’t an idiot . She isn’t giving her name out to a stranger, even one she already likes more than she does her pushy friends right now. 

 

Virginia , comes the response, and Emma assumes it’s a fake name, too, but saves the number in her phone under the name anyway. I don’t know much about my date. Just that he’s supposed to be my “soulmate” and yet looks and sounds nothing like my type. Have you ever noticed how the only criterion for a perfect match seems to be that both people are single?

 

Sometimes not even that , Emma agrees, thinking back to a few bail jumpers she’d nabbed because they’d been trawling dating apps after fleeing their families. I could tell you some horror stories

 

Virginia’s answer comes swiftly. I’ll be in meetings all day , she says. Please, tell me every one. Emma exhales, a pleased little bubble of contentedness in her stomach, and does just that.

 


 

To explain how the date goes so miserably wrong, I will have to set the scene for you. 

 

First: Boston, two hours before. Emma is texting her new friend, which has been an all-day event again. “Virginia,” Emma discovers, has never seen a TikTok, which means she must be considerably older than Emma. It’s a travesty, and Emma texts Virginia as she picks out a dress, then a second, then swaps them both out for slacks and a blouse, then picks a third dress. 

 

She’s nervous about this date, even though she’d vowed that it would be no big deal. She doesn’t even want to tell Virginia about it. She’s been hearing mentions of Regina for the past year, since Mulan had first met Ruby and Marian, just snatches of discussion of a woman they all seem very fond of. 

 

And Emma has a very bad feeling about what’s going to happen tonight. She doesn’t want Marian to hate her for fucking this up, and she’s sure that she’s somehow going to.

 

Second: Storybrooke, an hour later. Regina has finally, reluctantly, pulled herself away from “Amy’s” incessant videos. There’s an entire series of them in which people turn busses into tiny houses, and Amy already knows her well enough to pinpoint exactly what has Regina glued to the screen.

 

Amy . She must live somewhere in the state, because her area code is the same as Marian’s, but Regina had casually Googled the number and found nothing. No name attached, no address, not in public records. Maybe she’s jumping the gun, pushing for too much information on someone she’s only just met. She hasn’t asked for that much on Emma Swan, and she’s scheduled to go out with her in an hour.

 

Amy had assumed that Regina is straight and dating a man. Regina, as mayor of a small town where gossip is widespread, has learned the value of keeping her bisexuality close to her chest, but she avoids mention of her blind date to Amy today. She is uneasy lying to her new friend, even about something as trivial as the gender of the person she’s dating.

 

She ponders her outfit for tonight, a sleek red dress with matching pumps, and wonders if this Emma will even dress up. Bounty hunter. Marian had described her as tough and working in a boys’ club, and Regina imagines her as big and burly, probably in overalls or something. Not Regina’s usual at all, but if Marian likes her this much, there must be something about her.

 

Then again, Marian also liked her ex-husband, who had hit on Regina repeatedly for years and then moved out into that camper in the woods near Rollinsford and still made a play for custody, so she isn’t the best judge of character.

 

“Stop second-guessing me and go get ready!” Marian calls from downstairs, and Regina scowls at the door and then softens when she hears Henry’s laughter a moment later. Fine . For Marian, she can do a few interminable hours. Then she’ll finally be done.

 

And a spoiler for you, my friend: she will be far, far from done. Not with Amy, and certainly not with Emma, who is driving toward Storybrooke at this very moment.

 


 

Storybrooke is nice, Emma decides. A little smaller than she’d imagined, but Maine is like that. Further upstate, there are the towns where streets are winding rocky paths through the woods and there are more deer than people, but Storybrooke is close enough to the border that there are paved roads and a few traffic lights. There are a few curious glances at her yellow Bug as she drives down Main Street, but she’d figured that it was a pretty small town.

 

Regina does…something in politics here. Mulan had been vague about what, exactly. But the town is nice, so she’s probably doing a pretty good job. Emma allows herself that charitable thought before she pulls into the parking lot behind the diner and B&B that Ruby’s family owns and heads in to say hello.

 

“Aesop’s Tables is on the next block,” Ruby says, gesturing in its direction. “You can walk there from here. Oh!” She fishes out a key from her pocket. “A room upstairs.” 

 

“I doubt I’ll need it,” Emma says absently, doing the math. An hour or two for this date, tops, and she’ll be on her way home before eleven. More time in the car than in the bar. 

 

Ruby wiggles her eyebrows and takes that in exactly the wrong way. “I’ll bet .” 

 

Emma rolls her eyes and does not dignify that with a response. She tucks the key into her bag, striding down the block toward the sign for Aesop’s Tables. As she puts some distance between herself and the diner, she slows down, tugging anxiously at her skirt. She knows this date is going to suck, but she doesn’t want it to be so terrible that it causes friction between her and Marian. Mulan’s friends are her friends, now, and Emma doesn’t have so many friends that she can afford to lose some of them over a bad date.

 

She thinks longingly of Virginia and the burner phone she’d left in the car. Maybe she has one more now, at least. And if this goes badly, she might even break her own rules about caution around strangers and confide in Virginia. 

 

She pushes the door of the bar open and maneuvers to the bar, where Regina is supposed to be waiting. There . There’s a woman leaning against the bar, strikingly beautiful in red, and she bears some passing resemblance to the one blurry group picture of Regina that Mulan had let her see before the date. “Uh. Hey,” she says.

 

Regina looks at her, eyes raking over her legs and then up her dress to her face, and Emma feels thoroughly exposed. Mulan had been honest about exactly how hot her date was, at least, but she’d left out details. Details like how visibly expensive Regina’s clothes are, and how she carries herself like she owns the place. There is something distinctly superior about Regina Mills, and Emma realizes with a sinking feeling tha this woman is far out of her league.

 

And then Regina turns around without a word and looks back at the door. 

 

Emma gapes at her, astounded at her rudeness, and tries again. “I think we’re supposed to be here together.” 

 

Regina doesn’t look back at her, but she does respond, her words scathing. “I don’t think so. I’m waiting for someone.”

 

“Me,” Emma says helplessly. She’s beginning to suspect that Marian hadn’t even shown Regina a picture of her. Does Marian even have a picture? Or maybe this isn’t Regina, and Regina is some sweet and less attractive woman who’s just running late– “Are you Regina?” 

 

Regina turns again, her eyes roving across Emma’s body a second time. For a heated moment, Emma is absolutely sure that she likes what she sees– but then Regina says, again, “I don’t think so.” 

 

Right. Because Regina can’t conceive that her friend would have talked her into dating someone like Emma. Emma swallows through a scratchy throat, humiliated and annoyed, and bites out, “Oh, good. I was worried Marian had set me up with some superior shit with no substance.” Stupid, stupid . But Regina is asking for a fight, and Emma has never been very good at turning those down.

 

Regina twitches at Marian’s name, and she looks hard at Emma. “You’re Emma?” She doesn’t sound pleased, and Emma’s hackles are raised. “I thought you’d be taller. And a little less obnoxious.”

 

“Sorry to disappoint, Your Majesty.” God, she doesn’t even care about the long trip back. She’s ready to go right now, to escape this town and this woman. “It’s been real. Great date. It’s a wonder you’ve stayed single this long.” 

 

Regina sneers at her, any veneer of civility gone. “You’re not going anywhere,” she says. “Marian made me promise I’d give this an hour. I don’t know what I’ve ever done to earn this torment–” 

 

“Probably you were just yourself,” Emma shoots back. She has made no such promise to Mulan or Marian, and she is ready to go – 

 

“Oh, you’re not going anywhere,” Regina says in a low, dangerous tone. “I will not be forced into another blind date because I didn’t give the last cretin a chance.” She wrinkles her nose, which is as alarmingly attractive as everything else about her. This would be so much easier if she weren’t this hot. Every single thing about her is repulsive except for the way that Emma’s body is thrumming with desire, with the inability to storm off. 

 

She doesn’t move. She also tells herself that it’s because if this date is just bad enough, Mulan will apologize and stop trying to push her into a relationship. Regina says, “Let’s just get this over with,” and jerks her thumb toward the seating area.

 

They glare at each other from either side of the table, ordering food and drinks in terse voices, and Emma sees Regina staring at her arms. Well, good . Emma might not be some stuck-up politician from Maine with the purse to match, but she’s got good arms and she knows it. Let Regina know what she’s missing. “I can’t believe that Mulan likes you,” Emma mutters. “Is this revenge for that time I talked her into dyeing her hair purple? She looked good in purple.”

 

When she glances across the table, for an instant, she thinks that Regina might have smiled. It metamorphosizes back into a sneer in seconds. “I thought she liked me,” she says coldly. “Clearly, I was wrong.”

 

“God, you’re so insufferable,” Emma says irritably, kicking the side of the table. She thinks she might have hit Regina’s foot instead, from the dark look on her face and the sharp pain in her leg in response. “I can’t do this. I thought this date would just be awkward and boring, not repulsive .” Regina just lets out a scornful noise and then ignores her altogether.

 

And there’s the awkward silence Emma had been expecting, coupled with an undercurrent of barely restrained hostility. They eat in terse silence, midway through Emma feels a note of regret. They’d started on the wrong foot, sure, and Emma would rather date another possible-serial killer over Regina Mills, but there’s no reason to make an enemy of Marian’s best friend. She clears her throat. “So, are you, like, a politician in this town? Marian’s never…” Her voice trails off at the icy look on Regina’s face. 

 

“I am the mayor ,” Regina says, and Emma feels a little stab of irritation at Mulan for not letting on exactly what Regina does. She would have known immediately that this would be a crapshoot if she’d known Regina was some rich and powerful lady, let alone one this gorgeous. “You’d do well not to cross me.” 

 

Gorgeous and nasty , right. Emma is at the regret-her-regret point of this date. “Oh, yeah, very intimidating,” she says dryly, as though she hadn’t just thought the same. “What are you mayor of? A drugstore and a few dozen moose? Mooses? Meese?” 

 

Regina’s lip curls. “Storybrooke has a stellar school system, thanks to me. Something I can see that you were deprived of.” 

 

And that’s a hit Emma hadn’t needed. She stands up, new anger thrumming through her veins. “Okay. I’m done.” 

 

Regina’s eyes narrow, and damn, this would be a lot simpler if that wasn’t so hot. “It’s only been seventeen minutes–” 

 

“I don’t care. Lie to Marian. I’ll tell Mulan it was an interminable hour and it’s just a mark of how good a person I am that this didn’t end in homicide.” Emma twists around, judging exactly how many crowds of people she’ll have to make it through to get to the front of the building. Back door, then. It’s just down the hallway, and Emma digs in her purse and slaps down a bill large enough to pay for both their meals and the tip. “I’m out of here.”

 

She makes for the hallway, pushing open the heavy back door and finding herself in an alleyway. Regina is right behind her, hissing furious words. “I don’t lie to Marian, get back here–” 

 

Emma grits her teeth and keeps walking. “I don’t care,” she says again, and she remembers the way that Regina had looked her up and down when they’d first met, I don’t think so , and feels a new hot wash of humiliation. She twists to stare at Regina, who– fuck – is all flushed with anger, eyes burning, like a vision of a Valkyrie about to go to war. “Just tell her that you were expecting someone else. Some rich brat with a stick up her ass to match yours.”

 

Regina shakes her head, moving in closer. “You’re obscene,” she growls.

“And you’re a raging bitch,” Emma hisses back, and Regina’s eyes darken– 

 

It’s not exactly clear which of them moves first, though in later years they’ll each insist it was the other. But it’s clear where they are an instant later: lips locked together furiously, Emma backed nearly to the wall of the bar with Regina pressed to her. And if Regina had been an unbearable date, she is something else entirely when they’re kissing like this. Emma’s heart is pounding, the blood running hot and loud through her veins, and she is drunk on Regina in an instant. She clutches onto her, hears a hiss of approval when her nails dig into Regina’s arms, and stumbles back to the wall until she’s flat against it and Regina’s tongue is in her mouth.

 

Emma pulls her in closer, grips her with savage satisfaction as she hears Regina moan. Yes , much better than anything else that’s escaped Regina’s mouth tonight, and far more fulfilling. Something primal is rising within her, a deep-seated desire to make Regina scream, and she tightens her hold on Regina and twists them around in a smooth motion.

 

Regina fights her every step of the way, determined to win this battle for dominance, and Emma grazes Regina’s lip with her teeth, runs her hands along Regina’s back and ass, does everything she knows of to leave Regina desperate for more. And there may be something yet to their friends’ assurances– because the two of them might be ill-suited to dates and civil conversation, but she’s never felt more compatible with someone else like this. Regina mewls out a strangled noise and lifts her neck, ever demanding. 

 

This time, Emma is happy to comply. She licks a line up Regina’s neck, sucks hard where she’ll have trouble concealing it, and kisses her again, capturing another noise before it can escape Regina’s lips. In another swift movement, she slips her hands under Regina’s thighs and lifts her, and Regina gasps against her mouth and writhes hard against Emma. 

 

Oh . Emma forgets in an instant where they are, who she’s with, and possibly her own name. Regina’s hands slide up to Emma’s breasts, cupping them over her dress and thumbing her nipples. Emma chokes, shifting against Regina’s hands, and Regina bites her shoulder and snarls, “ Now , you imbecile . I need–”

 

Her dress is hiked up, her legs wriggling furiously against Emma’s sides, and Emma cuts to the chase and presses the heel of her hand hard against Regina’s wet panties. Regina’s head falls forward, a litany of curses falling from her lips in a steady stream, and Emma slips her fingers into Regina’s underwear and angles them, jerking her thumb onto Regina’s clit and plunging her fingers inside. Regina rocks in place, a strangled noise escaping her mouth, and Emma pumps harder and harder, watching Regina’s blown pupils and the way she smacks her head back against the wall. Regina’s hands are squeezing Emma’s breasts painfully, and Emma needs more, more pain, more friction–

 

Regina does scream, and Emma kisses her hard before she attracts any attention, swallowing up the noise. Regina’s tongue is in her mouth in an instant, swiping against her teeth and the roof of her mouth, and it’s so unexpectedly sensual that Emma can feel an entirely different part of her body burning as Regina quakes against her. 

 

It takes all she has to pull back when Regina stills, her pulse still going wild as she stumbles back and lets Regina down. Regina stares at her, her eyes dark and needy and her chest heaving with gasping breaths. Her dress is askew, her perfect hair a mess, and she looks thoroughly debauched, all in an alleyway outside the bar. Emma can bet that Regina would consider this entire incident beneath her dignity. 

 

She should feel satisfied. Instead, she still burns with desire, and Regina looks better than ever. Regina says in a throaty snarl, “You absolute fucker ,” and then promptly runs out of words, still breathing hard and so damned beautiful that Emma is consumed with the need to seize her again. 

 

She says, her voice as strained as Regina’s, “I have a room at the B&B,” and they stumble together for the next block.

 


 

It’s the most obscene thing she’s done in her lifetime, with the most obscene woman she’s ever had the displeasure of knowing. And still, it’s a struggle for Regina to finally pull away and snap, “This was the worst decision I’ve ever made.” 

 

Emma Swan only cocks her head, looking smug and satisfied where she’s splayed out on her bed, still stark naked. She leans back against the headboard, her legs spread out in front of her, and Regina has never wanted more dearly to climb onto a bed and forget her dignity. Again . “So, are you gonna want these, or…” She dangles a torn scrap of red fabric from her finger, and Regina lets out a little cry of rage and surges forward to yank it from her.

 

And then she’s close enough that she can’t stop herself from kissing Emma again, hard and angry and unrelenting, until it’s Emma who looks as though she’s been struck by a tornado. Good . This is Regina’s only victory of the night, and she clenches her underwear in her hand and stalks downstairs as subtly as she can manage. 

 

Humiliating, every instant of this. She’d been taken aback from the moment Emma had approached her in the bar, had thought that she was being accosted with an unwanted advance, because the Emma whom Marian described had been pretty and nothing more. Big, strong, with a nice face, Regina had assumed. Not some kind of sun goddess in human form, glowing with vitality and with the sharpest tongue on her that Regina’s ever seen from anyone but herself. She’d come unprepared. She doesn’t know what had gotten into her, except perhaps that she’d been so consumed with loathing and lust that–

 

She needs a shower, god . She drives home with unsteady hands, checking the time. A three-hour date. Perfectly long enough for her to tell Marian she’d given it a shot and Emma Swan is an obnoxious, argumentative brat whom she will never be seeing again. 

 

Never. And the last three hours– no, one hundred sixty-three minutes– will be wiped from history as though they’d never happened. She parks, taking another deep breath, and checks her phone to see if she’s missed anything from Amy, her only anchor right now. 

 

Nothing since her last TikTok, and Regina bites back her disappointment with this whole failed embarrassment of a night. She pushes the door open quietly, hoping that Marian is at least asleep in the guest room and won’t ask any questions tonight. 

 

But that would be too fortunate, and Marian is perched on the couch in the living room, grinning at her. “Well? Three hours sounds like a very nice first date–”

 

Regina holds up a hand. “Do not.” 

 

Marian does. “What did you think of Emma? Isn’t she–” 

 

“She’s a piece of work,” Regina manages.

 

Marian laughs. “I know, right?” 

 

“I don’t mean that as a good thing!” Regina twists around to glare at her. This is Marian’s fault, start to finish, and Marian has no right to act as though anything good has happened tonight. “She was a menace! We’d barely met when she started insulting me– and just because I didn’t know she was– and why didn’t you tell me she was so gorgeous?” she demands, because she’s suddenly certain that that had been where this had all gone wrong. Not that she isn’t grateful that she’d seen Emma’s true colors right away and before being strongarmed into another date or two, but… 

 

Marian shrugs. “Eh. I mean, I said that she was pretty, I guess?” 

 

Oh, typical . “You have terrible taste!” Regina snaps out, because pretty is hardly a word to describe Emma Swan, who had been a vision until she’d opened her mouth. 

 

“We know this!” Marian says, throwing up her arms. “You once called my ex, and I quote, a giant thumb in Timberlands . I don’t know what you ever saw in Mal, and I don’t know why you’d be so livid that Emma is hotter than you’d expect, except–” She frowns suddenly. “Actually, you haven’t even broken anything. You’re surprisingly sedate tonight for a failed date…that took three hours…” Her voice trails off, and Regina realizes with horror that she’s piecing the truth together. “Oh, my god , Regina.” Marian’s eyes glitter with delight. “You absolute animal. On the first date?” 

 

“There was no date,” Regina says sharply, wading hastily into the river of denial. “There was no…anything. I don’t think I’ve ever despised anyone on sight like I do Emma Swan.” 

 

Marian bobs her head, very slowly. “Okay,” she says.

 

Regina lifts her head. “I don’t know what you think happened, but I assure you, it was a nightmare from start to finish. I only stayed past the first few minutes because I promised you I’d give her a chance. And I don’t want to be set up again, understood?”

 

Marian finally looks like she’s taking Regina seriously, which is a relief. “I just…I worry that you’re lonely, Regina. I know you’re a secret romantic, and I just thought that Emma would…” She stops before Regina can rake her over the coals for whatever she might have said next. “I underestimated both of your tempers, I guess.” She sighs. “It won’t happen again.” 

 

“Good.” Regina raises her chin and tries her best to ignore the way her body seems to move, like liquid, unrestrained and relaxed. “See that it doesn’t. Have a good night, Marian.” 

 

She turns to head upstairs, and Marian says delicately, “By the way, you might want to throw those out before Henry comes down in the morning.” Regina’s head snaps around. Her underwear had fallen out of her bag and onto the floor at some point during their conversation, and Marian is laughing silently at her. 

 

“I’m going!” she says, scurrying for the door. “I’m going. I’m just glad the night wasn’t a complete wash for you–” She ducks out before Regina can throw something at her, still laughing, and Regina stalks to the door and locks it, grabs the piece of fabric, and storms upstairs.

 

Fucking Emma Swan.

 


 

(In this case, dear reader, she didn’t mean the above literally. Sometimes we all need a bit of clarification, especially when it comes to a night as confusing for all involved as the last one.)