The next day passed without any noteworthy occurrences. It was a Saturday and Regina sat in her study, working her way through some paperwork of the previous week with a glass of cider resting on the table next to her hand.
Emma and Henry were somewhere in the garden, her son probably getting dirt all over him with the sheriff encouraging any such silly behavior.
That morning when Emma had joined them for breakfast, she had noticed that the blonde looked incredibly tired despite having spent the last two days mostly napping. She had no explanation for that and wondered whether she should ask the sheriff about it, but then again it really wasn’t her problem if Emma suffered from some sort of insomnia.
Finishing her paperwork Regina got up and rolled her head from one side to the other. That desk job was really starting to get to her back after all those years.
Leaving her glass of cider untouched she excited the study and walked through the house until she reached the glass sliding doors that led to her back porch.
Emma sat on the lounger and watched Henry play with a certain black-golden cat the mayor had never wanted to see again.
She pushed the door open especially forcefully, causing the cat’s head to snap up to stare in her direction.
“Hey mom, look, Love came back.”
Something about that sentence caused the mayor to narrow her eyes for a moment but she dismissed the odd feeling that had been returning from time to time ever since Emma had stumbled into her arms in the hospital parking lot.
“Henry that animal brings nothing but trouble, I wish you wouldn’t encourage it any further to come back here.”
Emma grinned and raised an eyebrow. “You think everything was the cat’s fault?”
“No I am merely saying that I don’t like…”
Suddenly Love jumped up and hauled himself from where he was perched next to Henry into the air to land on Emma’s chest. The sheriff shrieked in surprise and tried to lift him off of herself, but Love only used the hands pushing at him as a stepping stone to sail through the air toward Regina.
Brown eyes widened as she took several steps back to escape the onslaught only to stumble over one of Henry’s skates. Her arms flailed wildly in the air but she still lost her balance and landed hard on her back, the air being knocked out of her by the impact.
Love however landed gracefully on his paws directly on top of Regina’s chest.
Love purred loudly and rubbed his head on the mayor’s chin affectionately.
“I hate… this cat…”
Henry hurried over to his mother and lifted Love off of her. Clutching the little animal to his chest he looked around.
“I think I’ll just let him out through the front.”
They both knew that Regina would certainly kick the kitty out one way or another after that incident, and by taking care of Love himself Henry seemed to think that he could at least say goodbye properly. He hurried off the porch and around the corner with Love meowing loudly while Regina sat up.
If her back had been hurting before, then it was one big source of discomfort now. She groaned quietly and struggled to her feet, suddenly feeling every single one of those twenty-eight years.
“You okay?” Emma asked, still sporting a bemused expression.
“Just… fine,” she hissed and rolled her shoulders experimentally.
The pain found permanent residence somewhere around her neck and moved from her shoulder blades down to her lower back. Baring her teeth she dropped into the other lounger a few steps away from Emma, sitting in an awkwardly rigid position as to not agitate her aching back any further. Emma scooted back and made some room on her chair, bending her uninjured leg at the knee and resting her foot on the ground.
Regina slowly turned, brown eyes resting on the sheriff.
Emma pointed at the vacant place in front of her. “Sit.”
“So I can help with your back, if you let me.”
“Please, it’s not as if I’m an old…”
She was trying to direct her gaze at something else beside these trustful green-grayish eyes imploring her to just do it, but the she couldn’t even turn her head away properly without wincing. Clenching her teeth she rose with a huff and walked over to the other lounger to seat herself in front of Emma, staring at the garden stretching out before them.
“See, that wasn’t so hard, now was it? Let me work my magic and you’ll feel better in no time.”
A bark of laughter escaped the mayor. “Your magic? Really?”
Emma chuckled quietly and rubbed her hands together, warming them up before placing them on Regina’s shoulders. The mayor was wearing one of her usual black turtlenecks and she could clearly feel heat of Emma’s body so very close to her own. The blonde moved her hands a few times up and down Regina’s back, probably to get her used to the feeling of actually being touched, before carefully digging her thumbs into the muscles of her neck.
Regina’s head rolled forward and a tiny sigh sneaked past her lips.
When Henry returned a minute later after having released Love through the front gate, he came to an abrupt halt and peered around the corner.
He narrowed his eyes at Emma and his mom, suddenly feeling like all the pieces of a puzzle were falling into place with a quiet ‘click’. A brilliant idea was making its way through the windings of his brain. He smirked and cackled quite evilly for a boy his age.
Turning on his heels he walked back around the house to let himself in through the front door. He briefly wondered why he hadn’t seen it earlier, since the Savior was obviously supposed to save something or someone.
He bounded up the stairs and hurried into his room. There was a plan waiting to be written.
Regina’s entire body was humming with relaxation as Emma worked her admittedly talented fingers over the last few kinks around her shoulder blades.
“And, feeling better?”
Regina smirked and turned her head slightly to the side, this time without wincing in pain.
“It’s not exactly magic but still…”
It felt way too intimate when Emma dragged her hands down the mayor’s arms before removing them completely.
Regina sounded sincere while she remained sitting in front of Emma.
Heat had spread through her entire body and although she could acknowledge the arousal that had gathered in the pit of her stomach, she completely attributed it to the fact that she hadn’t allowed anyone to touch her in quite a while. That was the sole reason. Anything else would have been far too difficult to explain, let alone to analyze, so Regina firmly held onto the explanation in her head, deciding that she would not ponder on it any longer.
“So, when will you be able to chase imaginary thieves again?”
The mayor thoughtfully tapped her fingertips against the cast around Emma’s leg. Even though Emma had been with them for two days, they still hadn’t talked about any of what happened, least of all the moments in the cellar that might or might not have changed their feelings for one another on a basic level.
“I don’t know. The doctors said the leg is broken in so many places… they’re not sure if I’ll ever be able to really run again.”
Emma sighed and without having to turn around Regina knew she was shrugging it off.
“But it could be worse, right?”
“I suppose,” Regina answered.
She suddenly rose from the chair and linked her hands behind her back before turning to Emma with a smile.
“How about we eat out today?”
The sheriff blinked, a little startled by the sudden change in mood, but nodded her assent.
“Sure, count me in.”
Of course Henry was thrilled about the prospect of eating out, not because Regina’s cooking was any worse than that of others, quite on the contrary, but the simple fact of getting food somewhere else excited almost every kid.
The mayor raised an eyebrow as she watched her son scramble off the bed to hide something he had been writing. She was used to his moods and secrets by now, but she had thought that they were past the entire Evil Queen thing.
Henry dashed past her and down the stairs where Emma was already waiting for them.
There was a smug smirk on her face when Regina’s gaze fell upon the red leather jacket she was wearing. Somehow she had now lost her right to criticize the piece of clothing and therefore only pressed her lips together to show her displeasure.
Emma only raised her eyebrows, daring her to say something, but Henry was much quicker.
“Hey Emma your jacket looks real good. Did you do something to it?”
His little fingers plucked at the material, a look of concentration on his face.
“Alright let’s go!”
Regina ushered them out of the house and successfully distracted Henry by allowing him to choose where they would eat. Of course he decided that Granny’s would be the place to spend their Saturday evening and even though she tried to persuade him to try out another place he was not to be deterred.
They waited patiently for Emma to get out of the car, Regina already holding out the crutches to her.
Emma took the crutches and even smiled when she tucked them under her arms. She headed for the door and was the first one to step into the small diner.
Ruby immediately rushed around the counter to greet the sheriff, as did some other guests and patrons. Obviously everyone was glad to see Emma, but as soon as Regina set foot into the diner behind her everything went deathly still.
Oh yeah, she still had it.
It felt good to have all those fearful and hostile glares being directed her way.
Ever since she allowed Emma to take up residence in her house she had started to feel like she lost her bite.
They hadn’t really argued that much, and after the thing with the jacket, Emma had begun to smile at her so genuinely that it was almost disconcerting.
“Mom, can we sit down now? I’m sort of hungry.”
Henry walked past them and toward an empty booth where he slid into the seat, gesturing for Emma and Regina to do the same. And just like that the atmosphere in the room was a lot less tense.
“Hey Em? Got a sec?”
Ruby motioned with her head for Emma to follow her over to the counter while Regina took a seat opposite her son.
“Care to tell me what is going on?”
Emma watched how Henry pointed out something on the menu only to have Regina shake her head with a determined set to her jaw.
“What do you mean?” Emma asked distractedly.
“You having a friendly family dinner with Madame Mayor herself?! Emma please, what the hell did I miss? I thought you were with Mary-Margaret trying to recover.”
Emma eventually turned to the waitress.
“What? Oh no, actually I’m staying with Regina. Mary-Margaret is on that school trip of hers and she couldn’t back out after she promised her kids they would go. So she won’t be back until Monday night.”
“Yeah right, you’re staying with Regina now since the two of you are best buddies anyway.”
Ruby put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow.
“Cards on the table, what exactly happened in that cellar?”
“Nothing! I don’t know what you’re trying to say.”
Emma turned her head away defensively, her eyes travelling back to Henry and Regina.
“Me? Oh I’m just wondering why you’re so cozy with the Mayor all of a sudden when only a week ago the two of you tried to rip each other’s throat out.”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh you know it is.”
“Well maybe we decided to be civil with each other after almost suffocating in a damn cellar,” the sheriff hissed.
Ruby raised her hands in a gesture of surrender. “Alright alright, I get it, you don’t wanna talk about it, but if you do, you know I’m here, ‘kay?”
“Yes, I know. Thanks Rubes.”
Emma smiled briefly and hobbled over to the booth to sit down next to Henry.
“You guys decided yet?”
“I can already feel my arteries clogging up by just looking at the menu,” Regina grumbled, causing Emma to chuckle.
Ruby sauntered over to their table, a smirk firmly in place.
“What can I get you all?”
“Mom, can I please get the turkey-cheese sandwich?”
Henry looked with large eyes at the mayor who leaned back with a sigh.
“You know I don’t like it when you…”
“C’mon Regina. The sandwich isn’t that bad of a choice,” Emma chimed in, smiling at the frowning woman.
“Alright fine. I’ll have a salad then.”
“And chilly cheese fries for me,” Emma added.
Ruby was still staring at them open-mouthed, not even taking down their orders.
“Is there anything else you need Miss Lucas? Written directions to the kitchen maybe?”
Regina’s comment actually caused Ruby to blush a little before she hurried off, muttering a quiet ‘sorry’ on the way.
“What is it with the service personnel these days…?” Regina mumbled under breath, shooting Emma a meaningful glare.
The sheriff only raised an eyebrow in return and gave Henry a low-five underneath the table.
“Don’t come complaining to me though when either of you has a stomachache tonight.”
“And here I thought a good belly rub was part of the whole hospitality thing.”
Emma smirked as she watched Regina trying to think of a snarky retort. In the end she simply let the comment slide and focused on explaining the disadvantages of greasy food and the consequences of adiposity to Henry who was obviously far far away with his thoughts.
They enjoyed dinner quite a bit in between a few good-natured arguments and Henry almost dripping sauce all over his pants and shirt.
In the end they even managed to convince Regina to let them have chocolate brownie flavored ice-cream for dessert.
Ruby was narrowing her eyes at the trio while standing next to Granny behind the counter.
“Do you see that? I can’t believe it. They’re in the same room without biting each other’s head off and look! Emma is even laughing, like genuinely.”
Ruby turned to her grandmother.
“I think that quite a few things are about to change in this town,” Granny answered thoughtfully.
Ruby turned back to stare at Emma. “I hope for the better.”
Both women sighed and were brought back to the present when the door to the diner opened yet again. Ruby hurried back to work, cleaning and serving, while she kept a close eye on her friend and the mayor. She truly wondered what had happened in that cellar to turn two people who used hate each other’s guts completely inside out.
She needed to discuss this with Mary-Margaret as soon as she got back from her school trip. Maybe Emma’s roommate could supply some information as to what was going on.
When the three of them left the diner and Henry dashed through the door, almost knocking one of Emma’s crutches out of the way without noticing, it was Regina who placed a steadying hand on the small of Emma’s back.
Ruby was so shocked that she ran smack into Leroy who had been nursing his second beer the entire evening.
“Hey, watch where you’re going sister!”