Regina has laid out her clothes for the day on the meridian chaise. She's wearing a black lacy bra, black sheer cotton with lace trim panties and garter belt. She's propped a leg on the chair as she runs her stocking up her calf and thigh. Hoses are not her thing, she doesn't specifically enjoy being tucked in and they're of the utmost inefficiency. The morning light catches warmly on the white cotton sheet hugging the form of the naked woman in her bed. A smile dances, Emma is awake.
"I love watching you get ready in the morning."
Regina rolls her eyes, Emma makes her shy. It annoys her. Emma finds it sweet and frankly, sweet really isn't what she aims for.
"I didn't mean to wake you. I wanted to get an early start today."
Yet the shyness gets to her, it always does. Being shy and sweet in Emma's eyes means she's being human. She's doing something right when Emma's smile is genuine as it is for her now. Emma's turned up lips say I love you like nothing else. Now that she's tasted that, she won't relinquish any of it. Shyness be damned.
"I want to pick up Henry and spend a moment with him before he goes to your parents for the night."
"You're seeing Ruby tonight."
"Yes, as planned." Regina switches to the other leg.
"She's spending a lot of time with you." Emma is still smiling. The one from Emma's True Love heart which has worlds of kindness and promises of lifetimes of happiness genetically encoded in it.
"Miss Lucas is making very satisfactory progress with her situation, I am… glad that I can be of help."
"She can't stop raving about you." She chuckles gently this time. She knows what game they're playing at now. Emma is indulging her. "I think she might have a crush on you."
She considers her options quickly. She could deny it; she wants to but there is the small detail of the lively truth scanner she hates to lie to. Emma knows anyway.
Ruby is attracted to her. She's attracted to Ruby. She chose red stilettos today.
Her work with the girl is paying off. Ruby is older than Emma, but she's the girl to her. The she-wolf, the girl who helped Snow, the girl who ate her boyfriend, the girl who killed her own mother.
The girl she made a red cloak for, once upon a time.
She's made her a girl, here in Storybrooke too. Maybe it was so she could call her a girl. Possibly. A woman girl in perpetual riot.
Ruby's control of Red is growing rapidly, and with it, the closeness she's found herself referring to as friendship. Except friendship doesn't make you blush at the sight of a friend's musculature and taut figure. Friendship doesn't include the fierce desire she sometimes catches in Ruby's eyes. The kind that makes her feel a magnetic pull she had been certain could only emanate from Emma.
But what does she know? Friendship is not something she excels at. She's never quite gotten the hang of it, what with her friends betraying her, getting in her way or spoiling her fun. She's certainly never had a friend like Ruby. She's had pawns. She's even had playthings of her kind. Never a lover.
"We've grown closer." Regina lets her second leg on the floor, her feet in perfect sixth, beside her red stilettos. "I am her mentor of sorts, it's not that unexpected."
"She doesn't look at you like you're a mentor, Regina." Emma's tone is not angry. She sounds concerned, wary. That's not good at all. She's scared, for her, for them. Emma doesn't worry for herself. The woman makes an irritating point to forget herself first thing in the morning, every day of her life.
"Emma," Regina looks for Emma's gaze and holds it. She says it again, like she has done a hundred times. Like she will do again until it's enough. Although she suspects it very well may never be. "I am with you, I have chosen you, you have my heart." There is surprise in Emma's eyes. That's not unexpected; there always is.
How she loathes that surprise. Villainous, violently unwanted, cloyingly treacherous, murderous surprise in those kind, soft, breathtakingly beautiful, beautiful eyes, she wishes she could erase with a swirl of her hand. She would gladly pay the price for that. The ugly, innocent and authentic surprise Emma has that she's being loved at all, not that Regina is the one loving her. Although once in awhile, there is that, too.
Regina says it at the most unpredictable times, the most boring times, the most inappropriate times, in all sorts of forms and ways. She is inexorably met by the same reaction. Even now she's still experimenting. Saying 'I love you' to Emma Swan. Seeing the smile, hearing the 'I love you too', sensing the warmth and gratefulness, feeling the love she's given in return for hers, tenfold, feeling the searing pain of the salt the words, the actual sentiment is to Emma's wounds.
Emma gets out of bed. In one go. No setting aside of sheets or using them as cover instead of the shirt she never put on last night. Emma gets out of bed naked and beautiful, but also naked beautiful without an ounce of care for any of that, including herself. She cares. Does anyone know what it's like to look at Emma Swan and want to destroy the world entirely, any world really and maybe more than one, so she can find the balm to Emma's mangled heart and self, so she and Henry never have to lose her? She does. She means it.
"I love you, too." Emma's fingers tuck a strand of hair behind Regina's ear. She hadn't noticed Emma getting close to her. She stayed at Emma naked, beautiful and surprised. "I want her to be all right. She's family." Emma kisses her on the lips, softly, enticingly. "I want you to be happy."
She's smart, Emma Swan, incredibly so. She had known it all along, though she'd refused to accept it in the beginning. Now she's come to cherish it wholeheartedly. Except when it comes to Emma's awareness of her own self. Because she knows, Emma does, that she's really a 'handful' with the wave of the hand when she says it, to discard herself, and she behaves like she has to make up for it every single day through hard work and unwavering dedication.
The savior, in all her glory, and aren't the idiots proud.
She kisses back. She can't look up into Emma's eyes. At level all she can see is Emma's pulse on the soft skin of the pearly white throat she loves to lavish. She looks at her feet in perfect sixth. Happy is not a conversation she wants to have.
Regina steps into her red stilettos.
Emma loves her back. Emma wants her to be happy. She wants to snort. Oh no, not because of Emma, no, not even because Mother's voice says 'love is weakness.' No, she knows the answer to that one. 'As if you could,' that's why she wants to snort.
Running isn't like her. It's Emma's department. She wants to run now. To her credit, she's never had an Emma Swan to lose before. She fights for her son, she never backs down. She fights for Emma, too, but she's backed down a couple times. Being Henry's mother is a lot easier to be absolute at, it comes naturally. Loving his mother is altogether destabilizing and perfect. It's infuriatingly right. She wants it so badly she thought she was ready for everything that was coming for them.
Obviously she's overestimated her capacity. She is not ready for Ruby Lucas.
Regina turns to the meridian chaise. She slips into her skirt, zipping it at the back in one swift and firm motion. She picks up her blouse.
"I'm going to go make coffee." Regina buttons her blouse absentmindedly. She can't look up, she can't stay.
She walks away to the door, the staircase, the hallway, the kitchen. Regina stops in front of the coffeemaker, by the espresso machine. She likes espresso. It reminds her of all the spices Daddy showed her at the market when they would escape together while Mother was gone, manipulating and plotting for riches and influence. Papi knew his spices, his coffee beans and his flaws. Hers too. She likes espresso because the scent is thick and roasted, much more than regular coffee. Emma likes coffee from the coffeemaker. She doesn't mind only because Emma always asks her if she'll pour a shot of espresso in her mug too. Emma never got to learn better than to like coffee from the coffeemaker.
She likes a redeye with half her cup filled with warm milk and some sweetener. Regina likes a triple shot latte with sweetener. 'It looks the same, but it's different', Ruby had explained.
She makes coffee. While it's brewing, the coffeemaker makes the same sounds as Henry does when he's finished drinking his soda with a straw at the diner. It makes her cringe every time he does it. He always looks sheepishly at her although she has never said anything about it, she's made certain of that. Ruby always laughs before sweeping in with a refill and Henry always beams at the girl. She's never thought about it until now but maybe Henry and Ruby have a special code for soda refills he's not supposed to get.
She tries not to care much when it's the coffeemaker though. Maybe because Emma always smiles and kisses her when she comes into the kitchen and her coffee is ready.
Regina prepares Emma's coffee, then hers. Hers cools faster; Emma is the only person she knows who drinks coffee or anything else almost lukewarm and never complains about it.
Regina leaves Emma's mug on the marble counter, she makes it slide just a little because it's neat and smooth. She likes marble. She takes hers to the window where she can see the back yard. She stares ahead to the rough run of dirt cutting through her perfectly manicured lawn.
Something tells her Red visits the property often, not only the nights they have their sessions.
Arms encircle her waist. Regina sighs. Nothing compares to the safety of Emma's arms. They ground her and keep her steady. Emma challenges her, in every way, in each way she needs to be the best of who she can be. Because being who she truly is and not just who she's been conditioned to be is a battle of every instant. She suffocates at times, when she thinks of the arsenal of toxic defense mechanisms, unhealthy responses, and dark impulses which always cloud, and sometimes obliterate any, if not all, of her attempts at living her life, at being her own person, no one else's.
"I… I had no hope, Emma, I had no one but Henry, and for the longest time it felt I didn't even have him. But you… you changed it all."
She's all over the place, but it never seems to faze Emma. Even in denial, they're always on the same train.
Emma draws closer and puts her head on Regina's right shoulder. "You've got me, Regina. You and the kid, you're my family."
She can see her green eyes looking at her in their reflection on the glass of the window. She strokes Emma's hands resting on her belly. Because Emma knows the game they're playing. Though they're both learning the rules.
"You find her attractive, too, don't you?" Emma kisses her throat, burning trails of lips and tongue. Everything burns. She can't help it either; any time she's in the position to touch Emma with her lips, or caresses, she has to. It burns, like magic does. Through her veins, in her heart. In her chest and her hair. Under her fingernails. In her scars. She comes to life when Emma touches her.
"Shh." Emma kisses her jaw. "It's okay. Tell me, I want you to tell me."
Regina leans the side of her face to her temple. She looks at the path where Red goes to be free.
"I… Emma, please… I love you, I love you so much."
"She wants you. I can see it in her eyes, every time she looks at you. She wants you."
Ruby does. She does too. She wants both of them. It's all about the nuances.
Emma is not letting her hide, not today. She should be content. She's never, ever believed she could have this much, so why should she go after it all? Emma turns around to face her.
"Do you want her?"
"Does it matter?" Stalling is unbecoming. Her coffee is steaming up the window glass where she's put it down.
Emma kisses her, her throat, her neck, her lips. Her tongue is in her mouth too. She flicks and suckles and tilts Regina's head to kiss her deeper. It's like drinking passion, it burns so deliciously.
"You are so fucking beautiful." Emma's whispers under her ear cause her to shiver. It's a charm, a spell for abandon. She could forget herself in her kisses, in Emma's entirely too vast ability to love. She also knows avoiding the subject would be selfish and unfair. She loves Emma.
"Yes." She wraps her arms tightly around Emma's neck and hides her face in its warmth.
Emma's encircles her back, left fingers threading through her hair. "Thank you." Emma kisses her cheek.
"I want you more." She wants Emma to know that it's her. It's always been her.
It's beautiful, selfless. Stupid, but beautiful. Charming, actually. Emma's heart is resilient, but ever so delicate. Confidence is not Emma's forte. Neither is trust, for either of them.
"Tell me what to do… Ruby… she matters. "
Emma shimmies a hand between them up to her chin. She opens her eyes to gaze into Emma's loving ones.
She's vibrating against her, pulsating. She's like a furnace giving off heating waves of Emma's essence. "I never ever wanted to believe in True Love." Emma breathes. "You and I… you burn inside of me. It's not just the magic."
She focuses on relaxing. It's her turn to securely wrap Emma in her embrace. "It's hard to tell, Emma, your magic is so incredibly strong. When we're together, it overwhelms everything else… I don't know that I am capable."
"You love deeper, stronger, more… just more than anyone I have ever known." Emma says it with certainty. "That's why I can't fault Ruby for desiring you, for wanting to be near you."
"There's magic in her too." Emma should be aware, she can't let Ruby be reduced to carnal desire in Emma's mind. The girl means more to her. "My magic is calling to her on some level, it's also feeding the bond we have."
"Regina..." Emma is being so good, Regina nuzzles the tender spot between her jaw and ear. "Even if there wasn't any magic to it, you and Ruby have something together, it's plain as day."
They have something, yes. There is no point in denying it. "I love you, Emma." She refuses to quiver, "I do have feelings for her."
"Are you in love with her?" It sounds like Emma is ready to pluck her own heart out of her chest to offer it in sacrifice, recklessly generous and forgoing all forms of self-preservation.
"I am in love with you, Emma." She needs her to know it, to feel it as deeply as she does, "What I feel for Ruby… it's strong, it's different. I haven't… I've refused to acknowledge our connection."
"Because of me?" Emma has a long way to go when it comes to self-worth.
"For myself." She brushes Emma's incomprehension with amorous fingertips. "Because I could not bear to hurt you, to maybe have you leave me."
Emma kisses her tenderly, to comfort, to soothe. Regina's heart aches that much more.
"Look at me," Emma asks her lovingly, longingly. Regina looks. "Whatever you decide, whatever you want, I love you, I am not leaving you."
Air is missing, yet she burns.
"Your coffee's gonna be cold." Emma nudges her softly. "Come on." Regina picks up her mug. Emma moves toward the marble counter where her coffee is, never letting go of her hand.
Only when Regina is settled on a stool does she release her fingers.
"I'll make you breakfast," Emma nods to herself and get the basket of farm eggs from the pantry. "I wanna try your omelet," she retrieves the fresh cut mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, scallions, and basil from the refrigerator "I think it's fantastic." She stops the door from closing with her foot. "Oops, forgot the cheese."
A pan sizzles softly with olive oil, Emma is cooking, offering her a smile over her shoulder every so often.
"Is she giving you something I'm not?"
She wants to forget all about the mutt and play Emma's tune instead. She wants to get rid of the conversation before her headache settles in.
"I haven't acted on anything, Emma."
"I know you haven't, I trust you."
There is a plate before her with delicious smelling food. She wants to be disgusted and not have an appetite, but her stomach rumbles.
Emma's laugh ends up making her smile. She feels lips on her cheek, fingers tucking her hair. "What is it you say?" She straightens up and looks at her very firmly. "Eat."
Emma settles on the side of the island, not next to her but not opposite either, and digs in.
"What do you think?"
"I am not sure how to explain it," Regina struggles with her trembling hand to lift the fork to her mouth. The omelet is really delicious, Emma is learning.
She struggles with what to say, too. They need to talk, they need to communicate. Both of them are so good at enduring, withstanding. She can't allow this to be a silent acceptance of her needs and let Emma deal with the emotional burden on her own.
"I only ever loved Daniel before you, Emma, I am not very good at… I am not good that way. I am definitely not good at dealing with others.
"We are doing well. I firmly believe that, for as crazy as it may sound, the Savior, the Evil Queen, when it comes down to it, we are right for each other.
"I want to be better. I want to be me. I want to, I want it so terribly much. It's how I can be with you. It's how I can be a better mother to Henry. It's how I can find reprieve.
"I mean, really, I've tried everything else." She gives a bark of laughter. Not a happy one.
"I wish I was better already because you deserve nothing less, Emma, nothing less, not from me." She looks in Emma's watery pools of blurred green then and gently takes her hand in hers across the marbled surface of the kitchen island.
"Ruby is gaining control of Red. She's taking over the wild, the dark, the monster. Not to destroy it, but to make it her own, to stop that from being bigger than who she really is. I am helping her, and she's so close, Emma. You should see her, she's becoming herself and that is so beautiful.
"Seeing her struggles and now her victory, I'm…"
Regina takes a swallow of her coffee, and a bite of her omelet.
When Emma says nothing, it dawns on her, "You meant the eggs." Idiot.
"Yeah," she has a smile at the corner of her mouth, "I kinda did." Emma lifts her knuckles to her lips, "But this is good too."
She gives her an eye roll, just for the form.
"Do you enjoy your power over her?" It's a fair question. Emma is smarter than she's given credit for. She always thinks so.
"I…" She had not expected that one, though. "I enjoy her trust in me, her… obedience too."
"Do you need me to-"
"Emma, no." That one needs to be smothered right here. "Our love-making is… we are equals." She stands and walks over to Emma's chair.
"I don't want your submission. I want you to be free, us to be free. If that means your surrender then I will guide you, and if other times it means mine, then I will follow you."
"Ruby is different." It's not a question but she answers it anyway.
"Yes," She needs this to end. "I enjoy seeing her in control of Red. Knowing it's possible, that I am part of it. I do that to her. I like that I can."
The look in Emma's eyes is soft, understanding."You need her too."
She can't hold it for long.
"Yes, I need her too."
She does. She needs Ruby. She needs Red. She chose red stilettos today.
Emma stands and wraps her arms around her neck. She feels the soft skin against hers almost at her nape.
"Then go to her."
Regina embraces her tightly into her. They're quiet for a moment. She closes her eyes and waits for the soft huffs of Emma's relaxed breath in her hair.
When she pulls back, she brushes her fingertips to Regina's throat. Where they both know Emma left a hickey earlier.
"You might want to put concealer on that thing, or wear a scarf maybe?" She's truly embarrassed, the sweet fool. Her sweet fool. Regina smiles.
Emma's gaze snaps right up, surprised.
"Ruby will see it." She says it quietly; Regina places a hand on her chest, stepping into their closeness. She thinks maybe Emma needs the mark to know she will be coming home.
Her voice is firm, the kind of tone that doesn't suffer question or refusal. "I belong to you, Emma."
"Yes." Regina kisses her nose lightly. "I'm off to work now." She disentangles herself from her and heads for the foyer. Emma helps her in her coat and opens the door for her.
"I'll see you later."
She's halfway off the threshold followed by Emma in her movement to close the door behind her. She turns around swiftly, her hand in Emma's unruly locks. She kisses her out of her wits.
"I love you so very much, Emma, don't be afraid." She looks at her with the softest smile she knows how to give, "I promise."
"'kay." Emma nods.
"Be safe." Regina wills herself away, bracing to face the day.