Regina took a breath and readjusted the basket in her arms. She raised her fist and knocked on the door and waited. And waited.
A frown settled on her features as she glanced down at the watch on her wrist. It was past nine in the morning, she couldn't have possibly missed Emma. She was about to turn away when there was noise coming from the other side of the door before it swung open, revealing a sleep tousled Emma in a white tank top and pink panties. Regina swallowed. Pink panties.
"What the hell are you doing here this early?" Emma grumbled, leaning the side of her head against the door.
"Good morning to you too. I came here to bring you this."
Regina held the basket out to Emma who raised her eyebrows. Her eyes briefly flickered down to Emma's legs.
"Apples? You came here to give me apples?"
Ripe red apples were piled into the basket and Regina held it more tightly against her chest. They were some of her most prized possessions. Her face immediately fell at Emma's dismissive tone but she schooled it back into a professional smile a second later.
"These are meant as a peace offering."
Emma looked at the apples again and snatched one from the top of the basket, taking a large bite and chewing on the juicy goodness. She nodded.
"These are great, thanks," she answered, mouth full.
Regina bit down on her bottom lip as Emma's tongue snaked out to lick the juice from her own lips. She took a quiet breath and ordered herself to focus.
"I'm glad you're enjoying them. About yesterday -"
"It's okay," Emma interrupted.
"I said it's okay. I've been thinking about it and I get it. You were jealous and you overreacted. So did I."
"You…that's… I wasn't jealous," Regina protested, the basket in her arms shaking with the effort it took to keep still. Emma smiled.
"You don't have to say it, but I know. It's actually pretty cute when I think about it now."
"You can't seriously think… that is complete nonsense… I…," Regina sputtered. This was not going according to plan.
"Don't worry about it," Emma said and took the basket of apples out of Regina's arms.
She held it aside and leaned forward so quickly that Regina could barely react before soft lips were pressed against her cheek.
"Thanks for the apples," Emma said with a smirk and turned around, giving Regina a perfect view of her pink panty-enclosed backside. She kicked the door shut with her foot and left Regina standing in the hallway like a complete fool.
She immediately raised her arm to bang her fist against the door to tell Emma that she would not be treated like this but stopped herself in the last second as she remembered the feel of Emma's lips against her cheek.
She huffed quietly and turned away from the door. She could take losing this round. There were others to come and she would be better prepared. For now it felt like order was halfway restored. Henry would be thrilled Emma was staying in town for a bit longer and maybe it would make it easier for him when they parted on friendly terms. Regina pulled on the lapels of her blazer and rolled her shoulders. It would be easier.
Regina stepped outside and raised her hand to shield her eyes from the glaring morning sun. It was going to be a beautiful day. She looked around and saw Dr. Hopper walking his Dalmatian down the street. He raised a hand and waved.
"Good morning Madame Mayor, wonderful day, isn't it?"
"I suppose," she answered stiffly and inclined her head in his direction.
She had an entire day of paperwork ahead of her and after a rather sleepless night she wasn't looking forward to the tedious task. But nobody would do it if she didn't. It was part of her job after all.
She walked into her office belatedly because of her little detour to Emma's door, but her assistant just quietly handed her a couple of folders and briefed her on the few appointments she had before going back to her own computer screen. Regina liked the girl's work ethic and would probably keep her for a while. If she only she could remember her name. She furrowed her brow as she made her way over to her desk, leaving the doors to her personal office ajar. The girl knew not to annoy her with little problems she could just as well solve by herself and so Regina had turned to allowing more personal interaction between them since it was just as efficient as the intercom. She might give her a raise soon.
She pulled open a drawer and flipped through several folders until pulling one of them out and flinging it open. Aurora, that was her name. Well, it certainly was odd enough to remember.
Regina sighed and turned to her stack of paperwork.
At first she didn't recognize the timid knock on her door for what it was but glancing at her clock realized that she had been working for several hours without a break on budget reports and other money matters that no one else seemed to capable of handling.
"Yes," she called.
Aurora pushed one of the doors open and stepped inside. She was holding a small box in her hands and lifted it for Regina to see. "This was just delivered for you."
"By whom?" Regina asked sharply, raising an eyebrow.
"A Miss Swan, she said you'd want to have this. But I can set it aside."
"No, no that's alright, just give it to me."
Aurora quickly crossed the distance between them and set the little box down onto her desk. She turned and left the office just as quietly as she'd entered it. Regina would definitely give her a raise.
She eyed the box with slight apprehension. Emma wouldn't dare try to play some prank on her so she suspected that it was safe enough to open the box without finding herself being bombarded with paint or something equally childish. The fact alone that such a thought even crossed her mind betrayed her doubts. She carefully reached out and the pulled the brown nondescript box closer. She placed her fingertips on either side of it and lifted the lid until she could look inside.
Regina set the lid aside with a sigh. An apple. Emma had sent her one of her own apples. And a note. She gingerly plucked it from underneath the apple and raised an eyebrow as she read it.
You're forgiven. I know you didn't mean what you said.
Also the apples are delicious, I had no idea apples could taste like this.
Reminds me of you.
Let's have dinner tomorrow. And yes I am asking you out. With a note.
And an apple.
Regina pulled on the collar of her white blouse and leaned back in her leather chair, dropping the note onto the table. She took the apple out of the box and switched it from one hand to the other, staring at it with narrowed eyes. She couldn't keep doing this, not with Emma and especially not if she had Henry to consider as well. All of this could turn into a complete disaster.
She put the apple down next to the note and rested her hands flat against the surface of the desk on either side, looking at the two items with a creased brow. She had to be honest with herself or else she would never be able to solve this problem.
She wanted Emma. She desired her, there was no denying that. She enjoyed her presence and she'd felt awful when Emma had been about to leave town. Emma was Henry's biological mother. She had obviously no idea. She could never find out.
Regina steepled her fingers as she leaned forward in her seat. The best plan of action was to let Emma stay until she'd gotten over this irrational attraction and could let her go without feeling anything. If Henry really got attached to her, she could allow them to stay in contact. Sporadically. Phone and email.
Emma didn't seem like the type to engage in any kind of long term commitment and Regina was sure that once whatever was happening between them had taken its course and died down she would leave town and never look back. She nodded to herself and crossed her legs, snatching the apple from the table and taking a bite. Licking some juice from her lips she congratulated herself on coming up with such a simple solution. All she had to do was wait until Emma grew too restless to stay and her problems would pretty much solve themselves.
Regina finished her apple and glanced at the clock on the other side of the room. She was behind on her paperwork and it was almost time to go. She sighed. Another long night at the office.
She looked up as she heard voices coming from the outer office. She got up from behind her desk and crossed the room, opening one of her doors and staring at Aurora as she was packing up her things. Another woman was perched on the edge of her small desk, smiling.
Regina cleared her throat and Aurora's head immediately snapped in her direction.
"Madame Mayor, did you need anything? I was about to come in ask if I could leave for today."
She stopped moving completely and waited for Regina to speak. The other woman slid off the desk and straightened, turning to face Regina with a sheepish smile.
"No, you may go."
"Thank you. This is Lisa Ming Tien, my girlfriend," Aurora introduced the other woman.
She stepped forward and held her hand out to Regina who shook it.
"Everyone just calls me Mulan," the other woman said.
Regina nodded. She liked Mulan's firm grip and smiled briefly.
"It's nice to meet you," Mulan said.
"Yes you too. I will see you tomorrow," Regina answered, glancing at Aurora briefly before turning and heading back into her office.
She left her doors ajar as she glanced around her office. She could clearly hear the two women as they made their way down the corridor.
"That is your boss. Damn. I mean you told me she was kind of hot, but damn."
"She's got nothing on you sweetheart."
"I certainly hope so."
The voices eventually faded and Regina chuckled to herself. Her eyes landed on the note on her desk and then traveled to the stack of paperwork that was still waiting to be taken care of. She sighed and walked back to her chair.
It took her about another hour to finish everything up and her neck was hurting when she finally leaned back in her chair and rolled her shoulders. She grabbed Emma's note and slipped into her pocket before she turned off the lights and grabbed her purse. She was usually the last one to leave the office and she enjoyed the silence that surrounded her when she locked everything up and walked down the empty hallways and out onto the street.
It was way past sunset and Storybrooke was tinged with darkness, the few streetlamps only illumination small circles every so often. A small cloud of breath formed in front of her lips and she pulled her coat tighter around herself as she walked to her car.
She glanced at the clock on her dashboard and sighed. The babysitter always charged her extra whenever she went over the agreed time but Regina had decided to leave it that way because she felt like she deserved it. She hated having to leave Henry by himself for most of the day, but her job was sometimes too demanding and there was no way she could be mother and mayor at the same time. Sometimes he came to her office after school and they each did their work in companionable silence, but usually Regina had meetings that ate up most of her afternoon.
It would be nice if he had someone who could be with him after school until she came home, not a babysitter, just someone who would take care of him for the sake of being in his company and not because she was paying them to.
Regina drove up her driveway, caught up in her thoughts. She got out of the car and walked over to the door, opening it with the keys she fished out of her purse and stepped inside. Warmth immediately surrounded her and brought some life back into her fingertips and toes. She shrugged out of her coat and pulled off her shoes before dropping her purse on a small table walking toward the living room.
"Sweetheart I'm…," the words died in her throat the sight before her.
Emma was grinning at her sheepishly from the couch as Henry jumped up and launched himself into her arms.
"Hey mom, Emma came by tonight to see you, but since you weren't back she offered to stay so Miss Nelson could leave."
Regina hugged Henry against her and bent down to kiss the top of his head, looking at Emma through her lashes. Emma slowly stood from the sofa. With her large grayish sweater and trademark skinny jeans she looked like she could just as well be a student whom Regina was paying to watch Henry. She raked a hand through her blonde tresses and rested it against the back of her head for a moment.
"I hope you don't mind that I stayed, but Henry got excited after I told him I would be in town for a little while longer, and he wanted to watch a movie with me."
Regina nodded slowly, a strange feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. "It's fine. But how did you get here?"
"Ruby gave me a ride," Emma replied.
Regina cleared her throat and looked down at her son. He was smirking in a way that undeniably reminded her of herself.
"Only that Emma doesn't know about bedtime and would've let you stay up if I hadn't been back, right?"
Henry shrugged innocently and turned to glance at Emma who rested her hands on her hips.
"Indeed," Regina said, briefly resting her index finger on his nose. "Say goodbye to Emma and then it's time to get ready for bed."
He nodded and spun around the throw his arms around Emma's waist before running toward the stairs, yelling a faint goodbye. Regina smiled as she watched him bounding up the stairs. When she turned she found Emma holding her arms out in an awkward position, a slightly spooked look on her face. She was about to ask what was wrong when it dawned on her that Emma was probably in pain.
"Your side," Regina said and moved toward Emma. She knew that there was certain strength behind Henry's hugs, especially when he was excited. Emma sucked in a couple of breaths and let her arms fall to her sides.
"It's okay, I'm okay."
"Let me see."
"Yes again. But this time keep your hands to yourself."
Emma smirked but hooked her fingers under her sweater and pulled up, holding the end against her chin.
"Will I make it through doctor?"
Emma still chuckled as Regina eyed the bruised skin, bending forward to get a better look. It was taking on all kinds of colors, from green to yellow right down to an interesting shade of purple. They stretched from Emma's side around her lower back and across part of her stomach.
"Are you sure you don't want to see a doctor? A real one I mean."
"No, everything's healing just fine. I've had worse."
Regina raised her gaze from Emma's skin up to her eyes. "Is that so?"
"Uh…yeah. That one time, this biker was coming at me with a motorcycle chain…," Emma began but trailed off when she saw Regina staring at her with widened eyes.
"I heard what that sounded like, and it's not like that," Emma offered with a small wince.
"Then what exactly was it?"
"Well, I used to work as a bail bonds person, and I had to sometimes get a little rough with some guys."
"That's…interesting," Regina answered as she straightened.
Emma let go of her sweater and it fell across her stomach, hiding that particular stretch of enticing skin from Regina's view. She remembered kissing Emma's there, feeling the muscles rippling beneath. Clearing her throat, she stepped back and tilted her head toward the foyer. "Well thank you for staying with Henry, I'm sure he enjoyed it."
"No problem, it was fun, but I actually came here to talk to you," Emma said, looking down and playing with the hem of her sweater. "Did you get my present?"
"You mean my apple?"
"Yeah that, and my note?"
"Yes I saw it."
Emma glanced up to look at Regina. "And?"
Emma rolled her eyes, almost pouting. "Will you go out with me?"
Regina hesitated for a moment. The hopeful look on Emma's face made her stomach twist and she found herself actually considering it.