Synopsis: Emma and Regina's feelings for one another continue to grow, turning decidedly more intimate through a shower of unexpected events.
Setting: Post S02E16 'The Miller's Daughter', in the continuance of "Food For Thought", second opus of our series Encounters.
Rating: The story is rated T.
Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.
The sound is soft, Regina notices. She puts the flour pot down. The door closes as gently as it opened. Regina hears the padded steps of what she recognizes being Emma's running shoes.
Smiling furtively, she pats her hands on her apron, unties it and, as she takes it off, walks out of the kitchen into the foyer. Emma is red faced and short of breath and, judging by the wet patches on her running shirt, freshly finished with a morning run.
"Good morning, Emma," Regina greets.
Emma turns around, not entirely startled, "Hey…" She climbs the couple of stairs to Regina swiftly. "I didn't know if you were up yet."
"Henry isn't." She breathes in Emma's tangy scent, her eyes attracted by the details of Emma's taut musculature. "I wanted to get started on breakfast." Emma's body heat is radiating in rhythm with her heartbeat, in ways entirely too magnetic for Regina to focus on anything but the pulse throbbing in Emma's neck. She spies a line of perspiration sliding down the lean throat. She suggests, "Why don't you shower while I wake Henry?"
"Yeah, sure." Emma grazes her knuckles against Regina's hand softly before turning around.
She climbs up the staircase energetically, her strides swallowing stairs gracefully. Regina shakes her head slightly. The effect Emma Swan has on her would be aggravating if it didn't feel quite so magical. The only satisfaction balancing her weakness for the younger woman is the fact that Emma is mostly oblivious to it, or lacking the confidence to realize how partial Regina is to her. Emma turns once and looks over her shoulder. Regina recognizes the same odd bemusement she herself feels at their apparently shared emotions.
She remembers the kiss of nearly a week prior and feels her cheeks flush. She starts up the stairs, not sure she's intent on waking Henry so much as following Emma.
Emma starts into the bathroom that opens on the hallway before Henry's room and stops. At Emma's frown, Regina remembers she's been remodeling. "Use mine," she suggests, indicating her open doorway on the other side of the hall.
"You sure?" Emma asks, eyebrows high in surprise.
"I'm putting some larger fixtures in his bathroom," Regina explains quietly, not sure the gesture will be understood as intended. Henry has been over so often lately and she has realized he's grown so much that the child-height fixtures are no longer suitable.
And she would still like, someday, for her son to feel comfortable enough to come home.
Emma smiles, shyly. "He's growing up," she agrees, then she walks over to Regina's side of the hall.
Regina hesitates, pondering a moment if she should guide Emma in, but deciding against it, she says, "You will find clean towels in the bathroom."
She departs for Henry's room, suddenly self-conscious and very aware that she's allowed Emma Swan in a privacy she simply does not share.
Henry's relaxed and innocent features soothe her agitation. She watches him sleep for a few minutes, content to have him and keep the rest of the world at bay. She smiles at the unruliness of his hair, as she parts the hair hiding his brow. Henry looks like his mother, she decides, nevermind Baelfire. He'll be tall, and handsome, and good, so very good. Not like the two idiots, no, Henry is intelligent; he will be fair and strong.
Her motion finally disturbs Henry's sleep enough that his eyes open. In this, too, Regina recognizes Emma. His eyes are hers. And tired, they are not showing fear of her. A lump forms in Regina's throat and she smiles as she tries to swallow it down and takes a step back, rising away.
"It's morning," she says. "I have breakfast downstairs."
Henry rubs his fists against his sleepy eyes, "What?" He yawns and stretches.
"Emma is here already. She's using the shower," Regina supplies. The image of sweaty Emma Swan is suddenly superimposed with shower-wet naked Emma and Regina feels her cheeks heat.
"Mom?" Henry tilts his head in curiosity, "Are you...blushing?"
Regina tucks her hair behind her ears, refusing to look at him.
"You totally are!" Henry giggles.
Regina looks at him then, feeling the irrational need to explain, "She's had a power run. She was quite sweaty and your bathroom is being remodeled, as you know."
"You let her use your room?" There is awe in Henry's voice now.
"I couldn't very well let her use the garden hose," Regina replies, and finds herself smiling.
Henry bursts in genuine laughter, which she finds herself incapable to resist and joins.
"Maybe I should go check if she needs any fresh clothes," Regina muses then.
"Mom!" Henry exclaims, "She's naked in the shower!" His face screws up. "Um, I didn't need to think that. She's my mom."
Before Regina can feel the pinch of his labeling Emma "mom", Henry bolts upright, and Regina watches bemused as he runs out the door. "Henry?" She asks after him.
"Too much information," he throws back, and she hears his feet slapping down the stairs.
She snaps out of her surprise only to realize she's now alone with Emma upstairs and, thanks to her son's blurt, she's too aware that the woman is naked in her bathroom.
Regina walks out of Henry's room, down the hall, stopping by the door of her own bedroom. She shouldn't. She pushes the door to open it wider. She pauses. The bathroom door isn't closed. Regina can hear the sounds of water running and falling off of Emma's body.
With a mind of their own, Regina's feet carry her into the room. Emma's clothes are on the floor by her full length mirror. She's neatly gathered her shoes but the dirty clothes are in a pile. Regina picks them up. She has the choice to let Emma leave with them, or she can wash them for her. Regina wants to scold herself for being so skittish. To wash the clothes, loan Emma something of her own, it would be a simple gesture. The gesture of someone good, but it is, like the bathroom offering, quite intimate.
Intimacy, her heartbeat races. Regina wants it, with Emma. The kiss would suggest that Emma wants something more, doesn't it? Regina tosses the running clothes into her hamper and is headed to her closet for something to loan Emma when she hears the water in the shower cut off.
Her hand freezes on the closet door. She drops her hand and leaves the room quickly.
Breakfast making is an efficient affair. By the time Regina hears Emma entering the kitchen, Henry already has a plate filled with blueberry pancakes in front of him.
"Morning kid!" Emma chimes. The sound of a chair being pulled tells Regina Miss Swan is seated.
She smiles to herself, allowing the pancake in the pan to brown a little more, as is Emma's favorite way to eat hers. They have been having breakfast in the kitchen, often, foregoing the rigid formality Regina had always imposed in her house. Emma Swan has brought Henry back to her life, along with a surprisingly comfortable relaxation Regina hasn't known…Ever.
Regina is turning just in time to see Henry swallow quickly and offer a bright, "Hi Emma! Mom is making pancakes!" He reaches swiftly for his large glass of orange juice.
"You think she'd let me have a couple? Smells pretty good." Emma asks. She turns then and Regina is caught by the woman's smile. She realizes Emma's teasing, encouraging Henry's light mood.
Regina walks over to Emma's place at the kitchen island, presenting her with a plate.
"Yep," Henry says with a smile as he digs back into his pancakes.
"Thanks," Emma smiles softly at Regina, "I'm famished."
"Eat," Regina nods before turning back to the stove.
She comes back to the island with a mug of coffee for Emma and her own plate of one small pancake.
"You're going to make me feel bad," Emma jokes, eyeing her breakfast.
"I don't eat much," Regina admits.
Emma digs into her food as she was instructed. Henry is finished first and squirms until Regina tells him he can leave the table. After he's gone and the sounds of morning cartoons softly hums from the living room, Emma and Regina only pick at their food.
The air is filled with what Regina wants to say, but she can't find her voice. She glances toward Emma every so often to see the woman dropping her eyes from having been watching Regina.
"Regina," Emma finally says.
Regina swallows, pats her mouth with a napkin, stalling. But as she sets the napkin aside she asks, "Yes, Emma?"
"I hope you don't mind that I borrowed your clothes, or your bathroom." She's uneasy, Regina observes. "If it makes you uncomfortable, I don't have to run before breakfast until Henry's bathroom is finished."
"I said you could do so," Regina replies. "I meant it."
Emma tilts her head, in a motion Regina recognizes as her "reading" for the truth of Regina's statement. Finally, Emma nods. "All right."
"I would have picked up my clothes, you know?" Emma adds, speaking her concern, "I wouldn't have left them there."
"I will wash them and return them to you." Regina adds with a soft smile, "The next time you are over for breakfast."
Emma's smile is radiant. Her plate is cleared a couple bites later and she is rising to her feet, reaching for Regina's empty plate. When Regina starts to her feet, Emma forestalls her. "I'll do the dishes."
"You don't…" Regina starts.
But Emma interrupts her. "I want to."
Regina rises, but nods, and watches Emma walk their dishes to the sink and begin the business of washing them. She smiles when her gaze drifts down Emma's back to note that the woman managed to find Regina's favorite pair of designer jeans amongst the few she owns.
Emma is also wearing a dark blue collared button up shirt, without a bra, and, Regina only now notices, she's barefoot. A fleeting instinct tells her she must have also thrown Emma's underwear in her hamper with the sweaty running clothes.
Her breath hitches at the idea that Emma might be bare in her own pair of jeans, or she is wearing Regina's underwear. Either way, she feels a flare of possessiveness wash over her. Emma is simply gorgeous, undisciplined hair falling on each side of her head, revealing the nape of her neck.
Regina takes a step toward Emma before she can think to stop. The sound makes Emma turn. Their eyes meet; Emma smiles and just as easily as the tension crept upon them, it falls away.
"You want to come to Henry's rehearsal?" Emma asks as Regina steps up to the counter.
"I...Yes, thank you." Regina inhales. She heard Henry practicing lines the night before when she'd gone to bed. She had wanted to ask. She smiles at Emma in thanks.
"You're good with the costume?" Emma asks, since Regina had offered to sew it for the play.
"It'll be ready for the next rehearsal, yes. I just need Henry to try it one last time for the final touches." Regina is looking forward to surprising Henry with his costume. She hopes he will be happy that she didn't use magic to make it. She rubs the pad of her index against her thumb; she had pricked herself numerous times. Not to mention it had awakened memories of being forced to learn needlepoint, a "lady's skill," in her mother's words, "needed to impress a lordly husband" of the likes of King Leopold.
Her thoughts must have shown in her face or stance; unexpectedly, she feels a hand gently resting at her waist, and fingers caressing her hand.
"Regina?" Emma asks in open concern, her beautiful face now in Regina's sight.
She turns away from the counter, facing the younger woman and her deep green gaze.
Emma's hand cups her face, her thumb delicately stroking her cheek. Regina looks down at Emma's bent arm in her shirt. She lets her hand slide along Emma's forearm. She's gently pulled closer to Emma's body, embraced.
Saying nothing seems like the best way to proceed, Regina thinks, as Emma's body is flush against her own, her hands warm on her back and moving in small circles. But her exhale is relief and welcome. She allows her forehead to relax against Emma's, closing her eyes. Emma's hand moves from her face to her neck. Regina softly rubs her nose to Emma's cheek, inhaling another whiff of air smelling a new fragrance on Emma - her shampoo and body soap. Regina smiles, her lips turning up against Emma's throat.
"You smell good," she whispers in Emma's ear.
"It's your soap," Emma replies, her voice husky against the side of Regina's head.
Regina pulls back in Emma's embrace and looks into Emma's features. "Should we...talk?"
Emma shrugs. "It isn't always necessary, is it?"
"It's not been my habit, no. But…I think we can both agree, this is…new, for both of us?"
"Yeah. I…" Emma's hand slips down Regina's shoulder to her elbow, "it is."
"Mom!" Henry's voice reminds the women of his presence in just the next room. Regina steps from Emma's embrace.
"Yes, Henry?" she calls at the doorway, though she doesn't leave Emma to go to him, and their hands linger together.
"I need to practice my lines. Will you run them with me?"
Emma and Regina have walked into the parlor where Henry is sitting when he finishes his request. "Don't I make a decent King Arthur, kid?" Emma asks.
"Mom actually knew him. She does his voice way better," Henry replies.
Emma raises an eyebrow at Regina and smiles. "Oh, I see. She cooks for you, she cleans up after you, and she mimics dead fabled kings better. Guess I better practice my super-hero skills or soon enough I'll be kicked to the curb." There's an edge to the last word; Regina sees Emma's gaze falter, and hears the slight stumble of insecurity.
But it is lost under Henry's laughter. Regina shakes her head, offering a sincere denial that she'd allow anything of the sort. Emma's smile broadens.
Henry darts to the living room. "I'll go get the script. Emma can do props!"
Emma starts to follow him, but Regina holds her back by catching her hand. "Emma?"
"Forget it, Regina."
"I won't," Regina pledges. She walks the step that separates them, pressing her lips to Emma's before the younger woman can protest. She kisses Emma softly a second time meaningfully.
"I won't," she repeats.
Emma's green eyes blur with tears which remain on the edge of her lashes. When she blinks, one slips free. Regina catches it with her thumb, in a sweep across the woman's lips.
Regina's smile intensifies. "You look gorgeous in my clothes."
Emma's chuckle ends on a sob and she averts her eyes. "You always do."
"Come." Regina brings Emma's knuckles to her lips. "Henry's waiting for us both."
The rabbit's warren of little rooms is driving Emma just a bit crazy. She had only gone off on a hunt for a bathroom when she left Henry in the dressing room. It has been twenty-five minutes and she is certain she's heard someone yelling five minutes to the first scene's practice. Regina hadn't yet arrived when Emma left, and Emma is anxious the other woman will miss the opportunity.
It wouldn't be Regina's fault, Emma knows. That worries her a bit. Someone might have done something to the former mayor. There are still people who glare at her as she walks down the city streets with Emma and Henry on walks around town.
There are little kids everywhere, and even more adults, it seems, Emma thinks, as she moves around Michael Tillman standing next to another small room leaning in where obviously his daughter Ava and son Nicholas are dressing for their roles.
She moves around the small family quickly. The mechanic's eyes darken upon seeing her. "Hey," she says awkwardly.
"Sheriff," he replies curtly.
"Yeah." She puts him from her mind as she rounds the next corner. She slows up. Surprise and relief at the sight before her makes her cautious. Regina stands, an arm crossed on her abdomen and her other hand lifted to her face. Her dark eyes are riveted to a closed door. Regina is nibbling on the side of a nail in a plainly visible case of nerves.
'Wow'. Emma's chest fills with empathetic pain and her instinct is to rush forward protectively. It's new, this pull toward Regina. It's not just the kissing.
She recalls seeing this similar vulnerability in Regina at the mines more than a year before when Henry was caught in a partial collapse of the ancient structures. She had wanted to hold Regina then. She'd wanted to make everything better. She remembers how finding Henry had become vital. She had needed to find him, for him, certainly for herself, but for Regina, too. Emma knows she's a fixer. She never really pays it much attention. The thing is that she had never used that ability to make things better for anyone else. Until Henry had knocked on her door.
Until then she had been alone and it was safe. No attachments. No questions asked.
The nearby motion finally registers in Regina's awareness and the brunette head spins as quickly as the arm stiffly drops to her side. Never one to be caught in a vulnerable moment in public, Regina quickly replaces her mask of indifference, though her eyes, Emma sees now her eyes continue to hold the evidence of her fear. Emma has never been so grateful for her ability to read people as she has been with Regina Mills.
"Everything all right?" Emma throws nonchalantly, diffusing the tension, knowing full well she's letting Regina have her control.
"Henry is changing." Regina nods in greeting.
"I am glad you could make it," Emma tells her as she joins Regina, "He all set?"
Regina is still clearly nervous despite the façade. Oddly enough, it's not something Emma expected, Regina isn't the soccer mom type. Emma finds that she quite likes to see Regina capable of such empathy. She knows Henry is scared shitless. He had admitted as much on their way over to the city hall auditorium. She'd done what she could to calm him, but in this, she knows, Regina probably can be the far better mother.
"What's his mood?" Emma asks.
"He's nervous, but he's practiced, and I reminded him he's a prince." Regina smiles as she reveals that bit.
"Well, his mother is a Queen," Emma muses, a smile at the corner of her mouth.
"Henry said the same thing," Regina notes, "but no, that's not why."
"Then, what?" Emma asks, intrigued.
"Because he is noble and good, and follows his heart," she affirms, pride seeping through her words.
Emma smiles at Regina. "You taught him that." She goes on, "What did he say to that?"
Regina smiles softly, "He hugged me and told me to go away so he could change properly."
Emma chuckles. "He's growing up."
"It would appear so," Regina concurs.
"So," Emma starts. Patience isn't her strongest suit. "Henry!" she knocks on the door separating him from them, "Come on out now. Time's a'wastin'." She chuckles at the groan from inside the changing room. "We've got to go out front to sit with the other parents. We'd like a chance to see you before it gets crazy."
The doorknob clicks and then the door swings inward. Henry steps forward and the light from the hallway reveals him in his handsome costume. He's smiling.
Regina steps close to him, immediately adjusting his top and his hat. "You look dashing, sweetheart," she tells him with a warm smile.
"Your mom's right." Emma clasps his shoulder. "A very handsome Yankee."
"So you're going to be out there?" His question is most likely for both of them, but Emma is pleased by the fact that he's looking at Regina when he speaks.
"We will," Regina replies. Her voice is a whisper, like she's speaking around a barrier. When Emma looks at her face, she sees the other woman swallow. 'Ah', a lump. Emma smiles. She's in the middle of reaching a hand out to Regina's shoulder when Henry's gaze turns to her.
"Break a leg, kid," Emma says. Regina looks horrified. "It's a stage saying for 'good luck'," she explains quickly. Regina's face only marginally relaxes. Emma is amused, "Okay...Let's get out there." She pats Henry's shoulder in lieu of her usual ruffling of his hair. He grins at her, his expression grateful.
She walks past Regina who can't take her eyes off Henry and gently lays a hand on the woman's shoulder. "C'mon. It's just a rehearsal. He won't be spirited away by his adoring public just yet."
Regina follows reluctantly. They make their way to some seats with other parents in the middle of the auditorium. Emma wishes it was closer, but several stage hands are still scurrying about with cables and the director and assistant director are at the foot of the stage calling for characters. And when that isn't working, children. Suddenly there's a flurry of activity on the stage and children, ranging in age from about 6 to 17, begin running onto the stage. Some, like Henry, are in costumes already. Others are still in street clothes, their costumes no doubt still being finished.
Where they are sitting, Emma turns her gaze from the organized chaos on the stage and observes Regina for a moment. She decides to at least press her shoulder against Regina's in comfort. "You did a great job on his costume."
Regina nods, clearly not ready to speak. Emma discreetly offers a squeeze of Regina's lower arm, gripping the armrest between them.
The first several scenes roll along easily. Each young actor handling his or her lines mostly accurately. With each scene Henry is moving more easily, saying his lines with less conscious effort. Emma, although impressed with Henry's performance, is quite bemused by Regina beside her. The woman is reciting every line silently in sync with the kid. It's adorable though she's glad Henry can't see their faces because of stage lighting or she's pretty sure he would be horrified.
Emma finds them both fascinating, and is quite content to let her mind wander. It's nice, she thinks, to be able to do the normal things, the simple things, forgetting all about fairy tales, happy endings, or magic. She could get used to that, maybe. She could get used to having these moments where it's only about them, and there isn't anything to save or fight.
Settling down doesn't look all that terrible, at times. 'Settling down?' she thinks, heartbeat racing, but then a glance again at Regina's face watching their son up on stage makes her heartbeat slow.
After what seems too short a time, the rehearsal is ending, and it's an overexcited Henry who jumps off the stage after the curtain calls practice and runs up to both his mothers before they are even to the end of their row of seats.
"How did I do?!" he asks both his mothers. "Mom, did you see? I totally didn't forget to say that line at the end of…"
Regina is jostled by a parent moving from the back of the auditorium to the front. Emma reaches out and steadies her. They both hear a grumbled curse. Even Henry's head turns.
"You did great, kid." Emma reassures, "Why don't you go change. Put up the costume on the rack like you're supposed to for the real deal."
"You didn't miss a single line, Henry. I am very proud of you." Henry beams at his mother's praise. Regina looks flushed.
Emma wonders if they should follow Henry, or head outside. Noticing Regina's opening and closing hands though decides the matter. "We'll be right outside. You come find us."
"All right," Henry says. He turns away slowly, casting a last look at Regina before catching Emma's quick toss of her head suggesting he just go. She's got this.
When had they gotten this whole silent communication thing, she didn't know, but Emma is grateful for it when Henry darts off. She grasps Regina's elbow lightly, turning the brunette toward the exit.
They exit the auditorium. Regina seems calmer than Emma would expect.
"Fairy tale characters are asses just as much as regular people apparently." Emma kicks an imaginary stone, her hands deep in her pockets.
"I am not popular, Miss Swan," Regina answers formally, "It's no surprise really."
Emma looks up at that. She's annoyed. She can't really blame people for resenting Regina for what she did, but she's resentful herself that it is impeding her own enjoyment of what they've managed to build together.
She looks at Regina and nods, trying for a shrug, like it doesn't matter. Regina's expression says she knows it does. She tries for a smile and gets a small answering one from Regina. That's enough for now.
"The loft isn't that far from here," Emma suggests. "Walk home with us. We'll all have dinner. My turn to cook again."
That was the perfect suggestion, Emma realizes, when Regina's small smile blooms just a bit wider.
There are some furtive glances at both women as they continue to linger around the front of City Hall, waiting on Henry. Emma's wish to stand between Regina and some of those dagger-like stares grows steadily stronger.
Regina puts a hand on Emma's arm when it moves from her pocket. "It's all right, Emma," she says so quietly only Emma can hear.
"No." Emma frowns. "It's not."
Henry chooses that moment to appear, lifting the mood instantly with his infectious grin.
"I'm hungry!" he exclaims, getting chuckles of both his mothers.
"Emma was just suggesting the same thing," Regina replies, her smile still in place.
"I wasn't," Emma protests, "I invited your Mom over for dinner at the loft."
He grabs one of their hands in each of his and pulls them forward. "Let's go,"
"Where she'll be cooking," Regina carries on.
Henry grimaces, amused at his own antics. "But Moooom," he whines, "I am really starving!"
"It's only four in the afternoon," Emma replies.
"Yeah, but I missed lunch."
The trio is walking easily down the street, the two women side by side as Henry walks backward in front of them. "Watch where you're going, Henry," Regina cautions.
"C'mon, Emma. I'll race you home." Henry's turned around and running before he can see Regina's mask slip. But Emma sees it. She reaches for Regina's hand.
"Hey," Emma says. "Baby steps, remember?"
"He's not a baby any longer."
"No, he's not. But there's real progress here, Regina. Believe in that." Emma stops her before they reach the curb to cross at an intersection. A quick check shows Henry still within sight, but half a block ahead. She returns her gaze to Regina. "Believe in us."
"He does seem happier with both of us," Regina admits.
Emma smiles. She takes Regina's hand and leads her across the intersection with the light. Henry is running back toward them, jumping over puddles in the sidewalk from the morning rain, as they step up onto the opposite curb.
Henry's eyes widen at the same time Emma and Regina hear an engine rev higher and tires squeal behind them. Emma turns in time to identify Michael Tillman's wrecker with its bright red stripe on the side and across the front bumper just before the truck passes. A tire catches in a puddle and Emma hears the suspension scream as the truck bounces hard.
The water is up in an arc before Emma can do more than follow it with her eyes. It's going to land just in front of her. "Regina!" she realizes at the last second.
The brunette turns at Emma's call and stops moving. The muddy water spray hits her full on, drenching her from dark head to high heels.
"Mom!" Henry runs forward.
"Too bad she doesn't melt like other witches!" Michael's yell is easily heard outside the truck and Emma is in the street running toward the truck before she thinks better of it.
"Emma!" Henry's call is enough to stop her from continuing pursuit. She rushes back to the curb to find Henry trying to brush the mud from his mother's pants. Regina has her head down and averted, gently trying to push his hands away. But she's not speaking.
Emma coaxes Henry to step back. "She's got it, kid." Regina's eyes dart up, the plea in them plain. Emma keeps Henry's gaze focused on her. "It's just water."
"He did that on purpose," Henry reveals. "I watched him swerve. Why would he do that? He was trying to hit Mom."
Emma's hands tighten on Henry's shoulders. She only realizes this when he winces and she quickly releases him. "Sorry. There was probably something else he was avoiding. It was probably just an accident." She's lying and she knows it. Michael's words thrown from the vehicle as he left were proof of that.
She stands and pulls out her phone. "Who're you calling?" Henry asks.
"David's at the Sheriff's station. I'm going to have Michael picked up for reckless driving."
"That is not necessary," Regina intercedes stiffly. "As you said, it is just water. Just an accident." She's looking toward Henry as she speaks and Emma, again, understands the unspoken conversation. Regina wants to protect Henry from Michael's hatred of her.
Emma isn't as willing to let it go, but she reluctantly puts the phone away in her jacket pocket, just as she hears David's voice answering the other end of the call.
Protectively, Emma moves to Regina's outside, between the brunette and the road. She looks up and down the street alongside and glares. "All right. Let's go to the loft. Looks like you'll be borrowing my shower," she says to Regina, letting her elbow brush Regina's as they walk next to one another.
Henry is subdued for the remainder of the walk to the loft and Emma and Regina exchange glances trying to figure out what to say.
They enter the loft. Henry kicks off his shoes and rushes to the bathroom. He's back a second later, with a large towel and a basket.
"Here, Mom." He hands her the towel. "It's mine. We can put your clothes in the washing machine." He lifts the laundry basket.
Emma realizes from Regina's shocked expression that she thinks he expects her to take her clothes off right here, as Emma might. But Emma wears tanks, not delicate underthings like Regina. She takes the basket from him. "Let your mom use the bathroom in peace." She directs Regina to the small bathroom. "Use anything you need."
"Thank you." Regina takes the basket and closes the door behind herself.
Henry's face darkens. He looks forlorn and angry.
"Henry," Emma puts both hands on his shoulders.
He interrupts her and shrugs off her attempt to comfort him. "He would have really hurt her." His hands are white knuckled fists. "She is changing," he tells her. "It's like before. Before I knew you were the Savior, and...She's getting better."
"I know. But not everyone sees it that way."
He shakes his head, "She didn't even do magic! She didn't even get mad!"
"Because what you think, how you see her, is more important to her than what other people think, Henry. It always has been," Emma explains gently.
"What are you going to do when we see Mister Tillman again?" Henry asks with seriousness that reminds her he is different than the little boy she had met in Boston. "Both Ava and Nicholas are in my class and in the play. He's going to be at rehearsal again."
"Your mother thinks we should let it drop."
"You're the Sheriff," Henry responds.
"Yes, I know. But if it was just an accident -"
"You and I both know it wasn't," Henry points out with a confidence an 11 year old shouldn't have.
"OK. I'll… talk to him." Emma bites the inside of her cheek. She wants to do much more than talk to Michael. She is mindful both of Henry's innocence and her role as his mother to keep it that way as long as possible, and Regina's plea to just leave the matter alone.
"You promise?" Henry demands.
"Yes, I promise." Emma rolls her eyes. "Let's get some dinner rolling."
"Let's make hot chocolate!" Henry is Henry again. "It'll warm Mom up."
Leaving Emma in the kitchen, Henry runs up to his room. Emma can hear his closet door open and noises that she associates with rummaging through his things.
He reappears atop the stairs and says: "I can't find anything that she could wear." He runs back down to Emma who's only managed to fish out the bottle of milk from the fridge.
He looks at her intensely, "You're tall. And you're a girl."
"I am?" she jokes.
"You should let Mom borrow some of your clothes." His piece spoken, he moves to the back of the loft where Emma now has her bedroom.
"Hold on, kid," Emma calls after him. "Don't you even think about it."
She lays out some dry and comfortable clothes for Regina to use. Henry sets the table for their early dinner as Emma gets on with the hot chocolate.
Emma hears the bathroom door crack open. A glance in that direction shows Regina's head peeking through apparently to check if she can come out safely.
"Hey, kid," Emma calls Henry, "Take your hot chocolate to the couch and watch some TV or something."
She hands him a steaming mug and it's only a minute before Henry is comfortably sitting on the couch, absorbed by the screen.
Emma walks over to the bathroom door and offers softly, "You can come out, now."
"I only have a towel." Emma is already picturing it.
"There's clothes in my room."
A delectable shoulder appears around the edge of the door frame as Regina, pinning the towel tightly to her chest, leans out further.
"He's in front of the TV all the way on the other side," Emma reassures her, resolutely looking at the rumpled wet black hair on top of Regina's head.
Emma stands between Regina and any possible sighting by Henry, escorting the woman to her bedroom. She is inside, having led the way, when she hears the click of the door, closing them both in, alone.
Self-conscious and suddenly nervous, Emma turns to look at Regina. "I…I should go."
Regina adjusts the towel, drawing Emma's gaze to the naked collarbones. She's caught glimpses before of Regina's skin. The woman's attire is always flatteringly showing off her figure. This is a much more revealing peek. Emma isn't sure how much restraint she actually can muster. And then she's looking down at dainty bare feet and shapely legs.
She's taken two steps toward Regina when she realizes Regina has met her halfway. The fresh scent of Regina and warmth wafting off her body from the shower is enticing. They're incredibly close to each other, but Emma doesn't dare. Her gaze is tracing skin and curves, taking in the flawlessness. "You're…" She clears her throat. "I laid out a few clothes." She starts to turn, to show Regina what she means, when she feels a hand on her wrist.
She snaps her gaze down to their hands and then up to Regina's face. "Emma," Regina says.
The woman gets no further. Whatever else she would have said is lost in Emma's mouth as Emma pulls her against her body for a passionate kiss. Emma tastes Regina with her tongue and rubs her hands on Regina's back pressing her tightly in her arms. The friction proves too much for the towel and Emma's hands slide against warm, slightly damp skin. The embrace saves Regina's modesty, their bodies pressed together holding up the terrycloth in front.
She delicately kisses Regina's jaw, then down her throat. She can feel the woman's hands on her arm and back. Regina's pulse is hammering against her lips.
She whispers, "What happened today...I don't want it to happen again."
"I know. And I…Thank you." Regina's lips brush Emma's cheek and she steps out of Emma's embrace, her hands going to the top of her towel and holding it up.
"He could have killed you." Emma shudders. She's not entirely sure it's because of the terrible thought or the effort it costs her to turn around so Regina can have the privacy to change.
There's a bit of rustling of fabric behind her and then Regina's voice. "He lost much, so he's angry. Of all people, I can understand that."
"So you're not angry?" Emma's having trouble containing hers the longer she thinks about the incident. She is frankly surprised that Regina isn't lashing out.
"What would it serve?" Regina replies, sounding almost tired. "I have already punished him. For twenty eight years. I used his children for my own plans and destroyed their family."
Emma swallows. She can't argue, but Regina looks so small, naked as she is, saying this.
"You've done awful things, I know that," Emma starts, "I am not saying you weren't wrong, but that doesn't give him the right to revenge."
"From your point of view," Regina replies. "I lived a life entirely based on revenge for longer than you've been alive."
"And if we don't stop that cycle, it will only destroy more lives," Emma affirms, "Including Henry's, including yours." She turns around then, feeling the emotions come forth with the truth that forms on her lips, "Including mine."
Because, Emma realizes then, she's having a very hard time imagining a life without Regina in it.
"So, what do you want to do?" Regina asks. She's in Emma's borrowed t-shirt, but her legs remain bare, Emma's jeans still in her hand.
"I want to shake the man and everyone else until they realize how amazing you really are." Emma knows it's childish and that she blurted out because of frustration.
"I'm amazing?" Regina asks.
"Yeah," Emma says, all eloquence gone as she stuffs her hands in her pockets with a pout. Her hand wraps around her phone.
Her reward is a beautiful smile that makes Emma want to kiss her all over again. "I'll be out in a moment to help with dinner," Regina says. "Why don't you see to Henry?"
"I…uh, yeah." Emma watches Regina start to bend over to pull on the first pant leg, and her gaze travels over the end of the riding up t-shirt to a naked rear. Emma snaps her eyes shut when her mouth goes dry and she hurriedly leaves the room.
Outside she looks down at the faceplate of the phone and reads: "Sheriff's station: 32:03." The numbers on the seconds are continuing to rise. Alarmed as she realizes what has been happening for the last thirty two minutes, Emma presses "End" and stuffs it back in her pocket before going back to the kitchen to work on dinner.
"I really don't think we should do this now," Regina says.
"It's time, Regina." Ruby is determined. "I can't be like this anymore."
"I know we tested the barrier, but I have the enchantment ready," Regina offers. "The outcome here..."
"I know." Ruby's look is a tilted smile. She's grateful, Regina realizes. "I don't want to need it anymore."
"I could kill you." Regina is trying to be firm, though she feels anything but. There's so much danger in what she's doing. Not for her, but for the relationships she's tentatively building, with Henry, with Emma, and with this stupid mutt standing in front of her. "There's no going back from that."
"Yeah," Ruby nods, "and I could kill you."
"You'd be doing Snow a favor." Regina is blunt. They both know that Ruby is incapable of killing Regina.
"Don't you dare say that!" Ruby is genuinely upset. "I don't want to hurt you. I never wanted that for you."
"So you say. You're the one who came to me. Emma came to me under a guise once, too. Only the Blue Fairy put her up to it."
"That's not why I am doing this, and you know it. You know it better than anyone." Ruby is florid now, flushed and pacing. "I don't want to rely on magic anymore. I want control of the wolf."
Regina does understand that. It's why, in a fit of insanity, she agreed to the wolf's plan. She is still wary. "I don't know that anything else will work. Meditation hasn't exactly been my panacea."
"But you are in control. So it is working." Ruby stops pacing.
"The fight is constant." Regina knows she sounds tired, but it's the truth. "I could still accidentally kill you. It's not like taking a pill. And everyone will blame me when they know I did it."
"No. Granny knows I'm here. She knows why I'm here."
Regina is surprised by Ruby's words. "How long have you known?"
"Since my first change here in Storybrooke, after the curse broke," Ruby reveals. "The…well, the details aren't important. I killed."
"And if I give in to the magic just a little too much, you will be dead." Regina sounds poised. They both know what it's really about.
"I don't think that will happen. You…have changed, Regina. Not everyone sees it. But, I do. Emma trusts you."
"You're a fool, dog," Regina throws at the woman who's way too old to still be the girl everyone else wants to contain. The girl she gave a form to, but who was created long before the curse.
"Yeah, but I'm your fool." Ruby gives Regina a decidedly cheeky grin which makes Regina want to growl and cry both. "You agreed to help me because you know I'm right. Freedom isn't giving in to the magic. It's gaining control of yourself."
Regina rolls her eyes. "Fine."
"Look at us," Ruby jokes, "talking like two recovering addicts going to an AA meeting."
Regina thinks Ruby's mirth is misplaced but understands the need, sometimes, to put hard emotions aside so you don't have to deal. They really are very much alike, and that sets Regina's jaw with determination.
"All right," she agrees. "We'll do this, but I'll stop it before anything too permanent can happen."
"No cloak," Ruby replies with equal determination in her tone. "I can't have a safety net. If I want control, I have to believe I'm the only one that can stop me."
"I could make it like Emma's horrible leather jacket, if that makes you feel any better." Regina smirks.
"We've got to have a talk about Emma."
"We definitely don't." Regina shoos Ruby away. "Now, go."
Ruby bends over and her hands drop to the top of her boot, sliding the zipper down and lifting her gaze to find Regina's, which is already widening in amusement. "Gotta leave 'em here, so I don't have to go hunting for them, right?" She smiles.
"You are something else." Regina averts her gaze, and puts her hand on the bridge of her nose. But as Ruby lingers more over disrobing, she finds herself studying the sleekly muscled body of the younger woman. The sensation of Emma's lips on her neck, when she was herself half naked in Emma's bedroom, ghosts across Regina's throat now. Her center warms and grows wet. She would have let Emma much closer but for the notion that Henry being nearby.
"I have no idea what you're thinking about, but I wanna hear about it later." Ruby's comment makes Regina blink, and the sensations fade back as she takes in the sight of Ruby's naked form standing tall and proud before her.
Regina growls. Ruby laughs and runs away. Regina smiles. 'Ruby really is a beautiful creature'.
Ruby is in wolf form before a hundred yards have separated them, gray and black against the wet green of the foliage. Red vanishes around a tree and then suddenly the gray and black blur is racing toward Regina, as though flying. All extended claws and teeth and danger.
Regina can feel it in the shiver that runs up her spine. Red is hunting her.
It's fight or flight, and Regina always chooses fight. But the consequences could be devastating. She raises her hand, the intricate, emotion willed, invisible shield spell they've agreed she would use at the ready. Her gaze follows the wolf, focusing on the red-rimmed black eyes as Red comes closer. The lips are pulled back from the canines glinting in the moonlight.
She steps aside when Red's haunches bunch to leap. "Ruby!" she shouts sharply, hoping to draw out the young woman from within. "Ruby! Stop!"
Red's body elongates toward Regina and the wolf slams muzzle-first into the invisible shield Regina erected with her magic.
There is a yelp, then Red shakes herself back to her paws. She circles Regina again and leaps from another angle.
Another invisible shield prevents Regina from facing those protuberant canines and sharp claws. An unearthly screech accompanies Red's claws scraping down the shield. Which should be impossible. But then again, a magic wolf against a magic shield, maybe it is possible.
Regina shudders. She almost loses her focus at the shrieking sound. Her shield is only half erected and slams into Red's belly as the wolf had been leaping, relentless to attack. The force of the blow flings Red's body in the opposite direction several feet. The wolf lands heavily on its side. She'll be bruised, Regina knows. The wolf staggers to its feet and takes a bit longer to shake off the effects and thinks about its next move.
The wolf is on the prowl, growling loudly. Regina is impressed. Red is a magnificent, powerful, stubborn animal. Not unlike the young woman herself. She hopes Ruby is working on some control, however, because Regina doesn't think the wolf will give up its attack anytime soon.
Even as she thinks it, she can see Red regrouping. It's strategizing, muzzle turning this way and that, eyes flashing. Regina is fascinated.
"Ruby," she tries, lifting a hand, palm outward. Magic at the fore, but a placating motion she hopes all the same. "Ruby, it's time to come out. No more hiding."
The wolf growls and Regina exhales, rolling her shoulders, and preparing for another attack.
Regina doesn't back up. To do so would invite the wolf's attack directly. She steps forward. The lip of the wolf quivers and the growl is low, then there is a shake of its head, and a low whine as its ears drop back. The teeth are still bared, but something is happening.
"Ruby?" Regina calls, hand still outstretched. "It's okay. You can do this."
The shield spell is flying from her fingers almost before she can think as Red's shoulder bunches and Regina realizes she is being charged. There isn't space to step back. She tries anyway, and falls. The shield hits the wolf in the side, but it doesn't flinch. It drops to its feet and is suddenly sniffing at the ground, near Regina's foot. She can feel the twinge that tells her the ankle is turned, but she dares not move or look.
She's tired. The risk is getting greater by the second. Pain is not a good catalyst for her to feel benevolent toward Red. She knows if her feelings reach too dark a place when Red attacks her, then the shield will act outwardly instead of a benign protection.
Regina is sweating, in fear, and the wolf's nostrils flare. Wounded prey. Damn it. Regina pushes at the ground, trying to shift a few inches away. She doesn't want to have her throat ripped out. And that self-protection is warring with her knowledge of what Ruby might do if she returns to human form standing over Regina's body.
Red isn't growling anymore. Regina realizes it suddenly. She's been busy trying to figure out how to get through to Ruby. She looks into the wolf's eyes. She speaks softly.
"Think about what you want. Find the common ground." She had tried to tell Ruby before, she needs to cooperate, not resist. The key is not to surrender, but to accept.
"Set it free," Regina coaxes, "but remember who you are."
Red's muzzle hair shimmers. It could be the wind, or a trick of the moonlight, but Regina tenses and only waits. The wolf lays flat on its paws. It crawls closer, a little at a time.
The wolf noses Regina's ankle. It passed through the shield. Regina smiles. The palest pink of a tongue licks at the ankle bone. It tickles, and Regina's heart rate slows further as her smile widens.
"That's a good girl," Regina says, reaching out slowly, fingers at nose level before reaching the wolf's large head. Dark eyes follow her movements, but the tongue remains out, though the licking has stopped. Regina risks a single scratch at the edge of Red's ear. The wolf lowers its head between its paws, baleful eyes looking up at Regina. She hesitates, then scratches again. A throaty sound, not a growl, but not a whine, comes from the animal. "Ruby," Regina calls, "it's going to be all right."
Red is leaning into Regina's side, inching her head closer to the woman's lap. Her fur is soft. Regina likes how Red's ears respond to every words she says.
"You are a cheeky woman, Ruby Lucas," Regina says, sitting up more fully and allowing the gray and black head fully onto her thighs. "I haven't even let Miss Swan get this close."
Red's big eyes close in contentment, as Regina is gently petting the top of the wolf's head. She likes her ears scratched. Regina can't help but smile at the thought.
The huge wolf is gradually replaced by the naked form of Ruby, head laying in Regina's lap, hand resting on her knee. She's wrapped around Regina's body. Ruby keeps her eyes closed. Regina keeps stroking her hair in silence.
"You did well."
Ruby reaches out and touches the ankle Regina injured. The touch stings and Regina hisses out a soft breath, unable to prevent the reaction. "I hurt you."
"I tripped. The wolf didn't do that."
"Liar," Ruby whispers, "Why'd you let me get so close?"
Regina sighed. "I wanted you to succeed."
Ruby doesn't say anymore. Regina realizes she understands. It's the reason they're working together on this after all. If Ruby can succeed, without magic, to contain her wolf, Regina has hope she, too, someday, can save herself.
"Can you heal it?" Ruby looks at Regina pleadingly.
Regina shakes her head no. "I won't."
"Henry again? Is this about your promise to Henry not to use magic?" Ruby asks.
"No." Regina looks away.
"I can heal a damn sprained ankle, Miss Lucas, never doubt that." Regina frowns. "Just leave it."
Ruby lifts her head and inhales, her eyes scan the forest, searching. Regina looks in the same direction, but she can't see anything.
"What is it?"
"Henry," Ruby sounds shocked, "Henry is here."
Regina magicks the woman's clothes back on her. Ruby gets to her feet, and before Regina can protest, she gently but firmly hoists Regina up to her feet. Ruby slips an arm around Regina's waist, making sure she's stable.
Henry is marching towards them, almost running. The closer he gets, the angrier he looks.
"Henry," Regina calls to him, "what on earth are you doing here?"
"You did magic!" He screams at her, furious. "You attacked Ruby, I saw you!" His small body is trembling with anger, his eyes swimming in hurt and disappointment.
"Henry, sweetheart…" Regina tries to appease him, but she's interrupted.
"No, you hurt Ruby, she was yelping in pain-"
"That's enough, Henry." Ruby's authoritative tone surprises both Mills. "Your mom didn't attack me. She's helping me."
"She's doing magic," Henry refuses to hear it, "magic destroys everything."
He looks at his mother then, "You were just changing, you were being so good." His eyes are tearing up, "I just got you back."
Regina feels like her breath has been knocked out of her lungs. She doesn't know what to say to him. She feels the first stings of resentment at Ruby bloom in her heart. She tries to stop them. She would like to be able to make Henry understand. It was too early, she thinks, she should have refused Miss Lucas. Henry's trust is so fragile. Regina should have known better.
"I have changed, Henry," Regina promises.
"No you haven't," Henry's tears hit the hard line of his mouth, "You're here with Ruby, lying and…and…Emma is starting to love you, and you're doing magic behind her back with Ruby!"
Ruby grabs Henry's shoulder. "Stop it!" She growls in his face. "That's not how it is, and not what you saw. Kid, your mother is helping me with something. She's doing this because I asked her to. And if you'd shut up for a second, instead of judging her, you'd maybe hear that."
"Miss Lucas, you will not speak to my son this way." Regina can't help but feel horrified at the idea of Henry being spoken to in such a harsh manner.
Henry's gaze jerks back and forth between the two of them. Regina tries to face Ruby, ready to tell her off. It doesn't seem Ruby can be deterred.
"Things are not black and white, Henry." Ruby is solemn as she looks at Henry, "All of us, we're a little of each, gray. Solutions aren't knights on horseback sometimes. Sometimes they're just hard choices."
"But Mom hit you with a blast. I saw it."
"What you saw was a magic shield. She didn't hit me with it. She put it up to protect herself against my wolf." Regina sees Henry's brow furrow. "I came here to learn control. But I could have killed her."
Henry looks at Regina then with his eyes widening. She tries to step away, her sprained ankle disobeys her request, and she stumbles. "Did...Did Ruby hurt you, Mom?" His voice becomes very young.
Regina turns quickly, hearing the pain in his voice as she always had when he was a small child. "I sprained my ankle backing away. Ruby is not to blame." She darts a glare at Ruby to warn her not to deny the statement.
Henry's face falls. Guilt flashes in his eyes, shame and frustration follow.
"I'm sorry," he throws it and takes off running toward the house.
"Henry!" Regina calls after him, her whole body inching toward where he is heading.
Ruby is at her shoulder, holding her up, keeping the weight off the sprained ankle. "I'm sorry, Regina. I'll talk to him."
"You tried. It hasn't worked yet. It's not your problem," Regina sighs. "I have hurt him terribly."
"He's kinda caught up in this black and white, good and evil thing, huh?" Ruby's voice shudders a little with her effort of keeping Regina off her foot as they walk toward the back of the house.
"Henry should be surrounded by goodness. He should never know pain or want, or evil. I always wanted that for him. He may not want to be my son, but I always wanted to be his mother."
"You're a pretty cool mom," Ruby tells her with a smile.
Regina shakes her head. "I'm working on it."
"Don't put yourself down, Regina. I'm the one who listens to his sorrows when he needs to drown in hot chocolate after school. You're a great mom."
"Hey, did I hear him say that Emma's in love with you?" Ruby straightens when they reach the back porch and Regina leans against a column.
"I…She hasn't...We're…" Regina doesn't really know what to say. They've kissed. They've said they have something, but her relationship with Emma Swan isn't like any relationship she's had previously, so she honestly doesn't know.
"You totally have the hots for her." Ruby summarizes. Regina feels a burn in her cheeks.
"Ruby Lucas, you are ridiculous. I do not have the 'hots' for Miss Swan."
"You so do. Henry's right, she's over the moon about you, too. It's easy to see it when she doesn't think you're looking. There's this…look in her eyes." Ruby leans back against another column and crosses her arms over her chest, looking up toward the sky and then nodding her head as she brings her chin down. "Yeah, Henry's moms."
"You're out of your mind," Regina replies, but there's no heat in it.
Ruby teases, "You dream about her, don't you? Close your eyes and…Oh, hey, was that what had you blushing earlier? 'Cause it sure wasn't me" She pouts.
Regina looks down, hiding her growing red face from Ruby, and spies the end of the garden hose. With a flick of her wrist it's in her hands and she is turning the nozzle, opening the flow, directly at Ruby. "Get your mind out the gutter, Miss Lucas, time to cool off."
Ruby is laughing when Regina turns off the spray. She's drenched to the skin and yet unfazed by the soaking. She rushes to Regina and shakes herself - like a dog - before wrapping her arms around Regina's neck.
"Thank you." Ruby whispers in her ear, before placing a chaste kiss on her cheek.
Regina can't exactly react much more than putting a hand to Ruby's waist before the vibrating woman bounds back off into the woods, changing to wolf form within a few strides.
Tossing aside the hose, Regina sits down on a chair and just watches the gray and black blur racing among the forest trees under the moonlight.
Free. She closes her eyes and smiles. Maybe, someday.
Emma is standing absolutely still. She has hurried around the house, where Henry radioed, so upset and worried, that Regina was fighting with Ruby. It's not a fight she's witnessing now, 'nope', they both seem all fine and chummy.
Regina is standing somewhat relaxed and she and Ruby are laughing. Laughing isn't something Regina does, Emma thinks. She has been under the impression that only she could make Regina laugh. How stupid. Regina is smiling and she seems comfortable. That, too, is new outside of their small circle. That's just the thing, Emma realizes: she forgot that Regina apparently has her own circle.
A water hose magically appears in Regina's hand, it rains heavily on Ruby who is laughing so open-heartedly. Emma is shocked, surprised that Regina would do magic, but she's doing magic for a...a prank.
Emma knows she is being unreasonable. She's feeling resentment for her friend growing in her gut. She's feeling a sting of something she didn't even realize she could ever feel for someone she…someone she has feelings for like she does Regina.
Ruby's arms are around Regina. In a heartbeat Emma's mouth opens. She wants tell her to step away before Regina freaks out, but then Regina's hand is on Ruby's waist. Ruby's lips are on Regina's cheek.
Ruby's lips...on Regina's cheek. A smile forms on Regina's lips.
Forcefully, Emma shakes her head. It's nothing.
Regina straightens in her chair. Emma freezes. She's still deciding whether to leave or stay, when Regina's voice reaches her.
"Emma." The lightness to it makes Emma take a second, harder look at Regina's face. The woman is smiling easily. Emma feels a pit grow hard in her stomach. She swallows.
"I didn't know you were coming by tonight," Regina says as she stands slowly, a hand lingering on the arm of the chair. Impossibly drawn forward to this woman she can no longer resist, Emma takes a few steps.
"I…I'm glad to see you." Emma notices Regina's quick glance past her shoulder, out to the forest, where Emma knows Ruby went.
Emma thinks about the next words she is going to say. She could inquire about Ruby. She could, but she decides against it.
"Where's Henry?" Her tone is cool.
Regina's eyes widen in surprise Emma can easily read. "Henry? He's in the house." Regina nods toward the back door. "Why?"
"He ran away from my parents. I've been out looking for him."
"He was here. He saw… he needed to see me, he said." Regina is temporizing, and that revives Emma's frustration easily.
"Yeah, well, let's go talk to him." Emma stalks past Regina into the house, only dimly hearing the sound of Regina following. She's through the kitchen and down the corridor before she even looks back. And that's mostly because she's turning at the bottom of the stairs to run up them. Her energy is negative and high, and she's rapidly getting angrier. At Henry. At Regina. The woman still at the bottom of the stairs is staring up at her, almost like she's afraid. Her brow is furrowed and she's pinching at the left leg of her pants, the foot half-lifted from the ground.
Emma grabs the railing and pulls herself away from the moment.
"Emma!" Regina stumbles, and hisses as she hits the bottom step. "What are you…?"
Emma pushes into Henry's room; she's been here enough now to know where it is without a second thought. She finds him sitting on his bed, one leg crossed under him, looking at his phone and then up at her.
A sound of a body hitting a wall near Emma makes her turn to see Regina, red-faced and wincing, but determination plain on her features. "Emma, stop, Henry…He's...fine." The woman is breathing hard and Emma wonders briefly why. Then she turns back to their son.
His eyes are wide, and his color is high, like he's been running, or angry. "What is the matter with you?" Emma demands. "Why'd you leave Mary Margaret and David?"
"I...I thought Mom was going to do something wrong." He's looking at his shoes.
"Then you tell someone. You have to stop running off on your own!" Emma's dropping onto the bed with a thump when she finishes. Dimly she's aware Regina remains leaning against the doorway, but her attention is focused on Henry's downturned head.
"But it was…I couldn't tell Grams."
"Why the h…why not?" Emma's frustration is high, but not enough for her to forget she doesn't want to curse in front of the kid, though she feels the moment might call for it.
"Because I wanted to be sure first." Henry chews on his bottom lip, "They hate each other."
Emma takes the opening to look at Regina before continuing. "So, what'd you find?"
"Mom was doing magic, and...fighting with Ruby."
Fighting with Ruby? Emma looks at Regina; the woman is actually nibbling her own bottom lip. Emma wonders what they were really doing if Henry saw anything like what she herself saw, which was definitely not fighting. "Um, are you sure?"
"Ruby scolded me." Henry seems actually shocked by it.
Probably for being a Peeping Tom, Emma thinks uncharitably toward her friend.
"She said I was making assumptions and I have a problem with black and white and that Mom was helping her."
"You do have a habit of doing that," Emma says before her brain catches up with the last part. "Your mom was helping her? Ruby said that?" Emma looked at Regina, who started into the room.
"Henry, please…" Regina tries to interject.
"Yeah," Henry looks at Regina for a long moment, then he sighs. "Maybe…Emma?"
"Yes, Henry?" Emma responds.
"Is it okay if, maybe I shouldn't tell you?" Henry seems conflicted.
"Tell me what?" Emma looks at Regina, who is looking decidedly pale at the possibility of revelation.
"It was a secret. I wasn't supposed to sneak."
Regina sighs. "No, you were not." She exhales again and, Emma now notices, she hobbles forward into the room. "Emma, Ruby asked me to…help her control her wolf. I…used magic to do that. Today. Out in the yard. She…Red is still running out there."
"So, you're helping Ruby with her werewolf thing?"
"I'm trying to. I didn't think it would work, but she…Miss Lucas can be persuasive."
"It was totally badass, Emma! You should have seen it!" Henry smiles sheepishly.
"Badass, huh?" Emma's leaning back now, almost enjoying the uncomfortable mien Regina is displaying at her son's description.
"Yeah, Ruby was a big gray and black wolf. She was, like, charging Mom, like, really fast and strong, and Mom was just…She was standing there and glowing. It was like she had Captain America's shield, but only...I couldn't see it, and it was all around her, and…"
"Whoa, whoa, hold on." Emma puts a hand on Henry's shoulder to slow his retelling. "I get it, it was exciting."
"Mom you were totally awesome!" Henry smiles.
"Our son," Regina says slowly, "is leaving out the part where he thought I had killed Miss Lucas. She was lying in my lap on the ground."
"I'm sorry, Mom."
Emma looks to see if Regina is accepting their son's apology. The dark chocolate eyes are swirling with emotions Emma has become all too familiar with when watching Regina looking at Henry: pure love and adoration.
His smile vanishes. "But Mom's hurt, Emma!"
"As I told Miss Lucas, it's a sprain. Nothing more. I tripped backing up."
Emma studies Regina for a moment. "All right." She stands. "You," she says to Henry, "stay here."
"I'm going to tape up your mother's ankle."
"Why can't I watch?"
"Because you," Emma says firmly, "are grounded."
"But, Emma..." He's face drops and he looks horrified.
"No buts. You're staying here until you understand what you did was wrong."
"Right here." She emphasized by pointing down at the floor of the bedroom.
"In my mom's house?"
"Yes." Emma is already out the door, brushing past Regina and misses the smiles exchanged by both Mills.
Emma feels Regina follow her. She leads the way to the master bedroom. With her arms crossed on her chest, she looks at Regina, nodding for her to take a seat on her meridian chaise.
"You have some explaining to do," Emma is irritated, but scolding Henry, as a parent would, has actually calmed her nerves, "but first, where is your first aid kit?"
"So do you. Do you realize you just scolded our son for basically doing everything your parents would have approved?"
"What?" Emma doesn't realize at all.
"You scolded him for spying on me, for making assumptions, and for believing my magic use is evil."
"Well, yeah, he was being a punk. He totally should know better." Emma shrugs. It seems pretty normal to her.
"I haven't been using magic," Regina says, "except for this. Ruby asked me." Emma wants to remember to tell her that she's used magic at the pier too, and that it doesn't always have to be a bad thing.
"Why would she ask you for help? I thought she was pretty tight with Snow."
Regina looks down and apparently makes a decision by the way her hands rub together briefly. Then she looks up and says, "Because I helped her family out back in the Enchanted Forest."
"I…was the witch who gave Eugenia the enchanted cloak."
"That's...pretty cool." Emma smiles.
"You believe me?" There is wonder in Regina's voice.
"Of course I do." Emma kneels in front of her. "I don't believe in black and white, Regina. It only goes to prove that you were never all bad or all good. We're all made of gray. You did things." Emma puts her hands on Regina's in her lap, "You did terrible things, but you also did good things. You have a choice. You always do. I don't believe in this fate bullshit." Emma breathes in deep. What she's saying now might be changing everything.
"You were abused, manipulated, and hurt, and I can't begin to imagine what you went through. You did fucked up things, but it's not all on you. It's not all of who you are. Henry needs to get that, so do my parents, and so does the rest of this damn town.
"Seems Ruby already has," she adds, looking at the floor.
Regina's fingers are suddenly skimming Emma's cheek and then slipping under her chin, cupping it and applying a slight pressure. "Emma?"
Emma purses her lips. "Yeah?" She gazes into swirling soft brown, crinkled a little by a tiny smile.
"Ruby is just here for my help." Maybe Regina can read minds, too, the evil witch.
"'kay," Emma whispers, averting her eyes. She suddenly feels so small and vulnerable.
Regina tucks a lock of hair behind Emma's ear as she slips her fingers along Emma's jaw, raising pleasant tingles. Her smile has vanished to become searching and serious. She's looking at Emma with something much more intense and it sends a cavalcade of sparks of desire all the way down from Emma's chin still in Regina's hand to her core, throbbing in wetness.
Emma's breath catches when Regina's thumb moves against her skin, experimenting, considering. Regina's lips capture hers, languorously, passionately, enough to dazzle her. And pull a moan of rising need from within her throat.
When Emma feels Regina release her, she opens her eyes to find the brown irises dark, almost obscured by the widened pupils.
"I want you." The husky voice slips into Emma's ears and curls down her spine wrapping its tendrils around Emma's heart. She catches her breath and forgets to release it altogether.
"Not Ruby," Emma says, shyly.
"Not Ruby," Regina kisses the sensitive skin below her ear.
Emma's breath explodes from her in the next second. She rises, wrapping her hands around Regina's shoulders, pulling the woman toward her to return to kissing, need riding her hard.
Regina stumbles and utters a cry even as her lips press once more to Emma's. "What?" Emma asks, pulling back, afraid something within reach will be taken from her once again.
"Oh shit." Looking down between their bodies almost dumbly, Emma sees the half-lifted foot. "Hold on." She settles Regina back onto the chaise and stumbles backward over her own feet toward the bathroom. "Where's the first aid kit?" She turns around half way to the door, and clumsily bumps into the frame. The jolt goes a long way toward clearing her head of its passion's haze. "I'll tape up your ankle."
"Under the sink."
Emma finds the kit quickly and returns to kneel at Regina's feet, easing off the shoe carefully, looking at the battered and bruised skin of the now swollen ankle, so obvious. "Wow. Um, I'm sorry," Emma says as she unrolls the tape.
"I'm not," Regina admits. Emma startles. "I could have fixed this with magic, but… I like you tending me much better."
Dropping her gaze once more, Emma blushes and softens her touch, carefully winding the tape around the ankle. When she finishes, she eases Regina's other foot out of her shoe as well. "Your clothes are muddy."
"Well I did douse Miss Lucas with water while standing in my yard."
"Why did you…I've never seen you prank anyone like that."
"Yes, it was. She…she said something I was…I wasn't ready to admit yet."
Emma cants her head slightly and rises to sit on the chaise beside Regina. She studies Regina's face for a long moment. "Admit what?"
"That I am falling in love with you." Regina says boldly, maybe she had to find the courage.
Emma stands up then.
"Where are you going?" Regina sounds horrified.
"To run you a bath." Emma doesn't wait to see the surprise on Regina's beautiful features.
Emma enters the bathroom, and admires the beautiful claw foot bathtub that Regina had to have in her marble clad bathroom. It really is an awesome bathroom, Emma had said so to herself last time she was in here.
She moves to the tub and starts running the bath, searching in a nearby cabinet and shelf for scented salts and bubbles. 'You can't have a luxurious bath without some awesome bubble bath.' The water is running loud, steam rising from it, and while Emma is checking the water temperature, she feels Regina's entrance more than she can hear it.
"You weren't joking, Miss Swan." Her tone is a little cold.
"You need to relax," Emma shrugs. She is desperately trying to keep it cool, and specifically not linger on what Regina blurted out back in the bedroom.
"That I do," Regina's tone is...it sounds like when she's more Queen than Mayor and definitely not Mom.
Emma gulps. Were it not for the running water, she's pretty sure Regina could hear it. Something tickles her. Breathing becomes about controlling it. She knows she shouldn't turn around, but she can't help herself. And really, smashing her eyes shut is not going to happen.
Emma turns to face Regina.
Regina is unbuttoning her blouse, silk parting from equally silken-looking skin. Emma's fingertips tingle with the desire to touch. A glance down and away finds Regina's bare feet. Before Emma can say a word, the silken material softly falls from Regina shoulders like water running to hide Regina's feet.
Emma wants to offer privacy, be well-mannered and polite, but only the loud thud of her thundering heart and soft sounds of Regina stripping in front of her are registering with her brain.
Two dexterous hands reach the hem of Regina's pants as she unfastens the buttons of her jeans. 'Regina wears jeans, actual denim,' She'd said the same to herself after that first morning in Regina's shower. But seeing them now, hugging trim hips, brings the whole thing home to her with center-throbbing detail. Each button makes a soft popping sound, as the other woman undoes them one by one, deliberately.
Regina pulls them down, ever so slowly. Emma can guess the birth of the other woman's underwear. Very costly, classy underthings Emma would, she swallows, possibly make the effort not to rip. Upon seeing the black piece of fabric covering Regina's center, Emma refuses to blink; Regina lowers her jeans on interminable legs getting a grunt out of Emma's throat. Regina bends down to help the pants off her feet and Emma's right arm is unconsciously looking for something to grip on for support, Regina's bra straps are in view, too.
Regina is standing, naked in front of Emma save for her undergarments.
Emma's will is all that stops her from lifting Regina up on her bathroom counter and relieving the woman of her last pieces of clothing before giving her a taste of her own medicine.
Their eyes meet, all bravado and provocation evaporates.
"I want to touch you." Emma's voice comes out hoarse and broken in a semi whisper.
Regina's arm lifts behind her back. She unclasps her bra and a shoulder strap slips almost wantonly down her arm. She frees her breasts from the cupping material. She crosses her arms gently over her chest in modesty.
Emma's gaze lifts from the perfection on display and finds Regina's cheeks stained with color. She removes the space between them in a single stride, cupping Regina's cheek and bringing their lips softly together.
"Do you have any idea the things you do to me?" Emma whispers in Regina's mouth, closing her eyes and resting her forehead on the other woman's.
Regina's voice is as breathless. "Hopefully it's the same things you do to me."
"Not yet." Emma turns shakily from Regina and twists off the faucets, leaving them wrapped in the steam and silence.
"Help me in?" Regina asks, her injured foot half lifted.
Emma envisions lifting Regina in her arms, bridal style and lowering her into the water. Reality, however, is much less gallant. She grips Regina's hand, holds her hip with the other, and, between the two of them, with only a little sloshing, Regina is soon leaning back with a sigh against the curved side of the tub, arms resting on the lip.
Regina leans forward and her hands disappear under the bubbles. A moment later, Emma sees a pair of black silk underwear, dripping wet, dangling from long, elegant fingers.
"Oh thank god!" Emma hides her face in her hands.
Regina's laughter rings deliciously in Emma's ears.
"You'll still scrub my back, won't you?"
Emma settles down on the marble floor, her back to the wall, watching Regina with amusement.
"Okay, if we're doing this, I'm gonna need a cold beer."
Regina lifts her hand in the air with an almost lazy swirl, mesmerizing Emma with the sinuous movement. A six-pack appears next to Emma's hip. "There you are, dear," Regina says.
Emma inspects a bottle with orange cap and orange label. "Sweet," she marvels, reading the label. "Didn't know you for a beer drinker."
"I got those for you," Regina admits.
Emma leans back. "How long ago?" It's not a question about the beer. How long has Regina felt this way, wanting something between the two of them.
"Since I have been wanting you to come over." Regina's response is cryptic, but Emma gets the message, it's her turn.
"I…it's been growing for me since you came to the loft to check on Henry..." Emma pauses, "I mean, to check on me. Watching you with him, though, I wanted your happiness so much right then."
"That's why you stood back while I tucked him in."
"Yeah," Emma admits. "You're so beautiful when you're with him, you love him so much." She looks into Regina's eyes intensely, "You're so beautiful when you love."
Regina's blush is evident even with the heat from the water flushing her skin.
"So, I…I want Henry to know you'll always be his mom."
"It means a great deal to me that you will share him," Regina says.
"No, no, you…I'm just…"
"You're his mother, too," Regina says quietly. "He wants that. I…" She hesitates. "I want that. I want you, with us."
Emma feels the tears brimming in her eyes. She lifts the beer to her lips and closes her eyes to hide her emotions for a moment. A warm, wet hand slides along her arm still resting on her knee.
Her voice is choked when she lowers the beer and meets brown eyes. "I want that, too. I don't want to leave…either of you."
Regina's smile is as warm as her fingers on Emma's skin. "Come, you owe me a back rub."
"I do, huh?" Emma smiles, grateful for Regina's attempt to lighten the moment. Neither of them is wholly comfortable with deep emotion and these have to be some of the deepest waters either of them have tread in a lifetime.
She sets aside the beer bottle and rolls forward, tucking her knees under her as she reaches for Regina's shoulders. Her hands slip over the heated wet sun-kissed skin and delicate bone structure hiding a deceptive strength. She rolls her thumbs first, testing the tension. Regina exhales and her head lolls forward until her chin is resting against her chest.
Emma's hands get to work on Regina's tense shoulders. She rubs and caresses, massaging until she hears the soft moans in Regina's throat telling her how wonderfully she feels.
"You like that?" Emma's question is rhetorical, or maybe not at all about back rubs in bathtubs.
"Yes," Regina whispers.
Emma bends slightly more, captivated by the beauty of Regina's profile, her face resting atop her folded knees, her eyes closed. Emma ever so delicately presses her lips to the nape of Regina's neck, once, twice, and much more, because really, she could spend the night tasting Regina's perfection.
"So good…" Regina exhales with a slow shiver.
Emma smiles against the skin, pausing in her kisses only for a moment. 'Yeah', she thinks, 'this really does feel so good.'