Being loved by Regina was a feeling unlike any Emma had ever experienced. Even as they reluctantly broke their embrace in the park, Emma knew that she had taken a place with Henry at the center of Regina's universe. It was in the way Regina looked deep into her eyes, the way she tucked an errant curl behind her ear, the way she kept her close even though the embrace had ended as though the thought of letting her drift away was too painful to bear. It was powerful and dizzying and she couldn’t remember ever feeling so so cherished and adored.
Without question there was no greater gift for an abandoned kid shuffled between countless loveless families, and worse.
Not yet able to let her go completely, Regina gripped Emma's hand tightly in her own as they walked back to the mansion. They'd barely made it to the sidewalk the first time Regina brought their linked hands up and brushed a kiss against calloused knuckles. It stole Emma's breath and she risked a glance at Regina, desperate for just a glimpse of what the other woman was feeling.
But it wasn't a glimpse she got. There were no masks or protective walls - none of the barriers that Emma had become so proficient at breaking through. There was no Evil Queen or Madam Mayor for Regina to hide behind and no unloved daughter, abused wife or manipulated student to drown out her inner light. Instead it was Just Regina, incredibly an open book with all the love in her heart shining brightly for anyone to see. This was the girl that wanted nothing more than to love and be loved in return, and Emma saw it all with just a glance.
When they reached Mifflin Street and Regina brushed another kiss across their linked hands Emma just smiled and leaned into her, sighing in contentment and knowing Regina could feel it where they touched.
They'd walked slowly from the park, in no real hurry, but Regina wasted no time once they were in the mansion. She divested them both of their outerwear then guided Emma up and into the master bath, pushing her gently to sit on the closed toilet seat. Confused, Emma stared as Regina turned towards the tub and began to draw a bath. She grabbed at numerous bottles and poured measured amounts from each into the filling tub and Emma couldn't help but inhale deeply as a fragrant steam filled the room. The sound drew Regina’s attention and she turned with a gentle smile, so full of love and so earnest that Emma had to fight back the tears that suddenly pressed hot and insistent at the back of her eyes. It was the first time in their relationship that Emma almost wept with happiness.
To keep the tears at bay she cleared her throat and asked, "What's this?"
"You've had a terrible scare my love." Regina slid closer along the side of the tub and grasped Emma’s neck gently, fingers kneading the muscles still tied in knots and thumb gently whispering back and forth across her cheek. "The bath will help."
Startled and suddenly blushing furiously, Emma's eyes darted from Regina to the bath and then back again - thoughts of sharing it with her love saturating her mind. She'd assumed Regina would want to take things slowly and this was quite the opposite.
Before Emma could truly panic though, Regina was laughing and the sound was so joyous that her blush was quickly replaced by a smile. It didn't matter that she was clearly being laughed at because of the unfettered joy in the sound; she'd truly wondered if Regina was even capable of that emotion any longer.
"Relax dear,” Regina responded through her dwindling chuckles. “The bath is just for you. I'm going to use the time to take care of this scratch and change into something with considerably fewer bullet holes."
With that, Regina rose and stepped through the threshold to her room in practically one motion, turning almost as an afterthought. "Take your time dear and join me in the kitchen when you're ready." Then she was gone and Emma was alone in the most heavenly scented bathroom she'd ever encountered.
Already missing her companion but yearning to slip into the fragrant water nonetheless, Emma did as instructed and finally managed to wander down into the kitchen much later than she'd intended. If she'd worried that Regina would be upset (which honestly, she wasn't) she needn't have been. She found her sitting at the kitchen table, sipping at a mug of coffee and looking more serene than Emma would have thought possible.
A quintessential picnic basket sat on the kitchen table in from of Henry's usual place setting.
"Looks like you have more plans for us?"
Regina just smiled, more of that earnest love spilling out at Emma, and nodded. "Come along dear, we haven't much time to waste. Someone spent quite some time soaking."
She knew she was being teased but she blushed anyway, dropping her gaze to her toes with an abashed smile on her lips, mumbling a slightly embarrassed "Sorry".
The sound of chair scraping against the floor drew her attention back up and then she was being cradled snuggly in an embrace. Lips located conveniently by an ear, Regina murmured. "No my dear, I’m sorry. I was teasing… forgive me?"
Emma sighed and smiled into the shoulder she was pressed so intimately against, returning the embrace and mystified at how a few simple words could soothe a lifetime of hurt inside her. "There's nothing to forgive.” Emma pulled back slightly and produced her most reassuring smile, unwilling to let any of her past insecurities intrude on this wonderful afternoon. “Now, where are we headed?"
“Grab your coat dear and you’ll see,” Regina replied, looking just the smallest bit relieved.
They ended up in the park by the pond at a picnic table covered with a red checkered table cloth, linen naturally, and accented by a single white rose in a small vase that Regina proffered to the blonde almost nonchalantly, as if it wasn't the single most romantic gesture that Emma had ever experienced.
That was the second time in their relationship that Emma almost wept with happiness. To keep tears at bay for the second time that day she took the flower reverently and inhaled it’s scent deep into her lungs as she basked in the warmth spreading through her at Regina’s gesture.
They spoke of everything and nothing while they ate and spent periods of comfortable silence gazing into each other eyes over that white rose, content merely to be in each other’s company. It was a bliss Emma had yearned for her entire life without knowing it and she soaked it up like a sponge until Regina glanced down at her phone and declared it was time to pick up Henry.
Caught off guard yet again, Emma blinked in surprise and repeated somewhat dumbly with eyebrows creased in confusion, "Pick up Henry?" He’d informed them months ago that he was simply too old to be picked up by either of his mothers in front of his friends.
"Of course dear. If our son learns that I took you to get one last ice cream cone before the snow flies and didn't bring him as well there would undoubtedly be severe consequences."
Emma was sure there was a great deal of information in the statement but Regina's casual use of the phrase "our son" just about guaranteed that Emma didn’t hear any of it. But when Regina rose and began to gather their things Emma followed suit easily, content to follow where Regina lead endlessly.
So they picked up Henry who was equal parts confused, knowing, and ecstatic in his grin and headed to Granny's for some of the best ice cream in existence. They sat at a booth and talked about things only families tend to discuss and it was perfect in a way Emma would never be able to put into words. All she knew was that, as they left the diner and returned to the mansion, her heart was light and full at the same time.
Not two steps in the door and Henry was ready for his special day to continue. “Can Ma play video games with me?”
Regina toed off her killer heels and lined them up neatly by Henry’s in front of the entryway closet as she answered, “Only before your homework this once, if Emma wants to. It’s well past time for me to begin dinner anyway.”
“Regina, you don’t-”
“It’s quite alright,” Regina reassured. “You two haven’t been able to engage in a virtual battle in ages. Go.”
Emma allowed herself to be shooed upstairs somewhat reluctantly but Henry’s constant insistent tugging on her arm tipped the scales and they ended up playing Mario Kart until both of their noses informed them that dinner was almost ready. It smelled heavenly and tasted even better and, between the three of them they consumed it all while bantering across the table about nothing at all.
When they’d finished their meals and conversations and Emma had cleared and cleaned the dishes because she still felt badly about playing video games while Regina cooked, Henry excused himself to do his homework and read before bed. His smile was no longer confused but was still knowing and ecstatic and Emma just pushed him gently towards the stairs with an exasperated “Get outta here kid.”
He took the stairs two at a time with Regina gazing after him with naked adoration. When she turned and took Emma's hand and held it against her heart, inner light still shining through in a way Emma had never seen before, the blonde froze with the gravity of the gesture. "It's amazing Emma, everything good in my life has come from you."
That was the third time in their relationship that Emma almost wept with happiness and before she could form a reply around the lump in her throat, Regina took their joined hands and pulled her towards the study. "Come along dear. Sit with me by the fire while Henry finishes his work."
It sounded heavenly to Emma who continued to follow Regina willingly. When Regina joined her on the sofa Emma didn’t even hesitate, just curled up against her companion and tucked her feet up under her body. After a minute or so, an arm came up around her shoulder and pulled her closer and Emma felt so completely surrounded by love that she almost purred. From the smile that ghosted across Regina’s painted lips, it was possible that she actually did.
They sat like that for quite some time, saying very little and luxuriating in the closeness they were finally able to share - luxuriating in the fact that they were, against all odds, cuddling. Emma may have even dozed against Regina’s shoulder, she wasn’t quite sure, but when Regina shifted slightly to see the grandfather clock in the corner she realized it was much later and she had very little recollection of the time passing. She’d been in a blissful daze.
“My love, it’s time for us to insist that Henry stop reading and go to sleep.”
Emma groaned at the thought of leaving her warm and loving nest but did so anyway, motivated by the tantalized desire to put their son to bed… together.
By the time they made it into his room Henry was already switching off the light and gathering his covers into a little cocoon and smiling brightly up at them. “Today was awesome you guys. It was so, so awesome.” After a slight hesitation, he turned serious. “Are we going to do it some more?”
Emma looked on as Regina gifted him with her most adoring smile, one that she had now been on the receiving end of, and ruffled his hair. “Today was a bit special Henry but we will be spending a lot more evenings like this one, playing video games and eating together.”
The hand in his hair drifted down to rest on his chest, fingers running absent circles against his sleep shirt. “Does that answer your question sweetheart?”
“Yeah it does,” Henry answered on a contented sigh. “Good night moms, I love you.”
He turned onto his side, into his standard sleeping position and the two women left after a few more hugs and kisses, leaving the door open as Regina always did so she could hear if her son needed her. By the time they got back to the foyer, Emma’s had was being cradled gently in Regina’s own again and the thought of walking anywhere ever again without Regina’s hand enveloping her own made Emma’s heart ache.
Guiding them by their linked hands Regina stopped them in front of the door and gazed at the blonde with the same expression of adoration she’d worn all day. “Unfortunately, if we are to be of any use at either of our jobs tomorrow, we must finally bring this evening to a close. Tell me though, did you have a good time?”
“God Regina,” Emma breathed. “Yes, it was amazing! I never want it to end. It’s just… you don’t… it can’t…” Emma stammered to a halt and realized she had no idea how to express what she was feeling. The day had been amazing but it had been all about her and she was suddenly afraid that Regina somehow thought their relationship would have to be as well. If Emma let this turn into yet another way that Regina tried to atone for her past mistakes, then she would have failed them both. The thought made her frown and Regina picked up on it immediately.
“Is something wrong?” For the first time since the park bench, Regina’s joyous demeanor was dampened and Emma hated that it was because of her.
“No. Yes, I’m mean no but-” Emma halted abruptly in the middle of her thought again and took a deep breath, calming herself so she could explain. "Today was amazing, it was - you have to know that. I've never felt more loved in my entire life. But it can’t-"
"Hush dear, I know. Not every day can be like today. You'll go home tonight and tomorrow real life will take over, as it always does. But today,” Regina reached out and trailed the back of her hand lightly across Emma cheek. “Today was for me to show you how I wish every day could be and to show you how much I love you - how you and Henry are the center of my universe. So when real life does take over and I can't show you these things all the time, you'll still know."
Emma had no response and again almost wept with happiness. Regina had taken regular words and wove them together in such a way that they touched Emma's heart, filling it with emotion until it threatened to overflow. Even though it had always been Emma’s experience that these types of things just didn’t happen to real people in the real world, Regina had spent an entire day dedicated to showing her how much she was loved.
And so it seemed only right that she lean closer to her love and bring their lips together. Regina sighed at the contact and Emma's full heart soared, even as she felt arms wrap around her and draw her closer until their bodies were touching along their entire length. As they shifted the kiss deepened naturally and Emma groaned in pleasure as Regina took charge, working her tongue masterfully against Emma's own.
The sensation was exquisite and it didn’t take much time for Emma’s hands to being to wander of their own accord, until Regina stilled them with her own. Emma pulled back, breathless and tingling but worried that she’d somehow misunderstood everything.
Regina just gazed at her adoringly, herself slightly breathless and a smile tugging at her lips. “A wonderful idea my love, but not tonight. You are too precious to me for our first date, first kiss and first time together to be all in the same evening.”
Having prepared herself for almost every possible answer but that one, Emma fell into Regina’s embrace and wept unashamedly, feeling loved and cherished beyond compare.