For some reason, lightsabers, space battles, the Force and tiny green puppets who live in a swamp are not the things Maleficent remembers about Star Wars. She does not remember Luke fighting garbage chute monsters until prompted, nor Han Solo and his giant furry companion (Chewie was Henry’s favorite for years).
Star Wars, is for Mal, the film about the tiny angry senator from space. Sometimes she says in space, either version makes Henry chuckle and Lily roll her eyes. The one who wears white is her favorite, even though Mal sees white as a waste of perfectly good space for color most of the time. Leia Organa, is all she cares about. Henry sits on the floor and explains how the space ships work and hyperspace and offers Mal his book about the science of Star Wars, which Regina did catch her reading.
Star Wars is all about Leia. Which is wonderful, because Leia’s always been Regina’s favorite. Sometimes she wonders if even her mother would be pleased with her (though she would want Leia to have the Force, because why would Luke get to develop his powers when Leia doesn’t? How profoundly unfair..)
Cora never knew the word for feminism and went about it all wrong, but there are moments, listening to the radio or the latest events on television where Regina has to admit sometimes she wishes she could set her mother loose on some of the men she hears talking, or the people who make the films Henry comes to her to analyze, shaking his head. The world needs an author like her son, as much as she loathes the idea of watching him head out there.
He’s gone to the movies on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Lily’s at work because no one wants to cook when the rain’s pouring down like this and Granny’s is unbearably busy.
The crumble in the oven fills the house with the scent of warm fruit and spice. Regina can’t make turnovers any more than Henry can look at them without wincing. The one time she thought about trying to conquer her fear and self-loathing Mal ended up holding her on the floor while flour and butter sat forgotten in a bowl.
Mal cleaned it up later, washed it all away. They lay in bed together in the dark, Regina curled so tightly around Mal that
She can’t make them. She nearly killed her son. Henry laughs about it now. He hugs her close and cursed turnovers, like so many other things, are gone beneath the nebulous softness of forgiveness.
Yet her chest aches, and sometimes she thinks so much that her stomach twists into knots and she retreats from the kitchen. Apple blackberry crumble is not cursed apple turnovers, and the scent is different, but she can’t stop thinking about it.
Mal sits on the sofa, book in hand, coffee long finished on the table beside her. Regina stares at her from the doorway, toying with the wood beneath her fingertips. Regina’s fine, entirely fine. She’ll know what to bring up with Archie next week and she should be able to drag herself into the words.
She settles on the floor at Mal’s feet, lying her head in her lap without a word.
Mal’s fingers run warm over Regina’s neck, then through her hair. The binding sighs and she sets her book aside. "We should watch a movie."
"It's a good day for it, and your kitchen magic needs time, doesn't it?"
"We can't eat it until Lily comes home. She wanted it." It's a feeble response. Small talk, searching for words to hide what she doesn't want to put into words.
Mal's lips press warm against her forehead. "Watch the tiny angry senator with me."
"You're thinking about Henry, it's appropriate." Mal lifts Regina's chin, smiling. "And I like it."
"You like it?"
Mal nods. "You sound surprised."
"You don't understand half of the film." Half is generous. "You and Hnry took all afternoon to watch it last time."
"He said I could ask questions."
He did, and Henry explains the minutia of Star Wars to a dragon was something she should have recorded because no one else got to experience how wonderful that was. Emma laughed, she always laughs, but it wasn't the same. Regina's life brims with moments like that, quiet, understated, unbelievable moments full of love that she can't explain, no matter how hard she tries.
Snow says that's just what happens. Life fills up with so much love that words are inadequate. The inability to put affection into words hasn't been one o Regina's problems. She used to cling to scraps of it, cry behind closed doors until she learned to shove even that feeling away. Queens don't cry, they murder.
They punish everyone for their own inadequacies and hide behind masks of anger. Without the mask, and the others that followed, she can barely watch Leia stand up to Darth Vader without thinking of Rumplestiltskin, and herself, strangling, killing, snapping necks. She hugs the pillow to her chest and curls into Mal's lap. Mal's fingers run through her hair, over and over, soft and patient. This too she has no words for.
She told herself that she loved herself now. She does, at least, she does most days. Today she falters, and her thoughts wander in the dusts of Tatooine. She cries into Mal's knees without realizing the heat on her face is wet. Mal curls down, and they wind together. Mal's legs are so long she can't help thinking of the coils of her tail.
Regina could recite Star Wars half-awake, so she doesn't need to watch. She falls asleep against Mal's thigh, because long-buried emotions are exhausting in ways she doesn't have the strength to explain.
Mal understands, because Snow and David took Lily, and she couldn't fight them. She was weak, she failed her baby. They talk late into the night about failing, about motherhood and all their regrets. Sometimes they whisper in the darkness about successes, about how Henry hugs so tightly, how Lily's been sneakily helping teach him how to drive in her old Honda. How they laugh, heads close together. Henry's taller than Regina, creeping up on Emma, but the dragons are still taller, for a while anyway.
Though, Neal wasn't that tall, nor is Rumple, perhaps Henry will never be taller than his step-dragon. Regina turns her head, returning to the moment enough to glance at Mal.
Mal's head rests on Regina's ass, and her hand on Regina's hip is almost suggestive, but not, because Leia's about to save them all on the Death Star and it's one of Mal's favorite parts. She's so angry, her tiny senator.
"What is it?"
It is a hundred things. Mal and Henry teaching each other about the old world and the new, Lily doing the dishes perfectly and always seeming to know exactly where Regina likes her things put away. It's Mal standing in the bedroom, completely naked in front of the closet, because her mother never told her it was wrong to be in her own skin.
It is Henry winking at her when Snow asks again about weddings, Lily landing on Main Street and tapping Regina's shoulder with her tail, Mal sneaking up on her in the study, Mal sitting on her desk in the office, Mal watching her get dressed with the look that suggests they'll be late for whatever they're trying to go to, it is more than she has words for.
It is Mal trailing her hand over Regina's lower back, smiling at her ass.
"Are you even watching the movie?"
"The good part is over."
X-Wings fly into battle, screaming through space as they dodge ion cannons. Henry used to find this the most exciting part. Mal finds it dull because Leia has to wait, and watch in the control room, and she'll be only somewhat interested again until the medal ceremony.
"It's not an it," Regina answers Mal's old question.
"I'm not thinking about an it."
Mal blinks, slow and steady, tracing Regina's words in her head. "What are you thinking about?"
Rolling onto her stomach, Regina smirks at the screen. "You."
She can't see Mal's face anymore, but her chin presses against Regina's ass and she could stay here forever. Mal certainly could from the way she laughs.
"You and my ass."
Mal's fingers run over her ass, then knead in by her hip bone. It shouldn't feel as good as it does, Mal must cheat and use magic, because Regina didn't even think she was tense, but now she melts.
"I love beautiful things." Her fingers dig into Regina's muscles, strong and sure. "Soft things, sharp things, dark things..." Mal's hands leave her ass and rub up her spine, slipping beneath her shirt. Her fingers work their way back down and--
Regina is going to murder the oven timer. Blast it into smithereens with a fireball for screeching and ruining the moment. She drags herself off the sofa, sighing, muttering, swearing under her breath. She pulls out the crumble and sets it on the counter, shutting off the over and pulling off the hotpads.
Mal presses up against her them, easing her against the counter. "I love Regina things," Mal whispers into the back of head. She traces her hands down, again rubbing Regina's ass before she grabs it, squeezing tight. "Especially this one."
"What happened to your angry senator?"
"It's the boring part, I told you." Mal kisses the back of Regina's neck, parts her legs with her own and pushes her against the counter. "I found something better."
Sex in the kitchen isn't the answer to her anxieties. Maybe it's another kind of burying, shoving her thoughts away. Ignoring puff pastry for the rest of her life won't make up for nearly killing her son, nor can Snow apologize for Lily, or Regina for all the deaths on her hands.
It's too much. It's all so much more than she has to give.
But Mal's here.
Maybe together they are a beautiful thing.