The meal passed in a haze of mundane small talk that made Emma want to rip out her hair. So really it was like any other political function she had ever been too but the scale was just bigger and she was the center of attention. More than once a group would come up to the head of the table and badger Emma and Regina for a few minutes at a time, fawning over them and telling them what a beautiful wedding it had been. Regina dealt much better with those people than Emma herself did. The fakeness of everything grated on her too much for her to truly seem genuine.
But now people were slowly finishing up and Emma was sighing out a breath of relief. A ball was up next on the party schedule, but she could be much more wrapped up in Regina without being rude. Few people would interrupt the happy couple dancing together, not that she didn’t expect that there wouldn’t be a few, but she had learned years ago how to cut dances short without seeming rude and how to slip out to the garden unnoticed. They weren’t even slated to be there the whole event. As newlyweds it was practically their duty to slip out halfway through to enjoy the rest of their wedding night alone. That sent a bolt through Emma that had nothing to do with the continued prospect of social niceties.
Emma looked over at Regina as both of them stood and announced that the ball would be starting soon. What in the world was the other woman expecting of her tonight? Since they were married now Regina had every right to demand her due. The thought sent panic through her. She had absolutely no idea what to do in that situation. She had no experience. It wasn’t as if she didn’t find Regina attractive, anyone with eyes did, but they weren’t quite at that level yet. They had barely even kissed and that was only because they had to for the ceremony, unless you counted the kiss on the cheek and Emma really didn’t.
She took a second and cleared her mind as Regina’s hand slipped into hers to pull her towards the ball room. Regina wouldn’t do that to her. That would be the exact same thing that was done to her years ago. She was much too good a person to do that. She cared too much about Emma. Her body warmed at the thought of the whispered I love you a week prior. No, tonight was only between them and only would go as far as she was comfortable.
Emma started to calm, muscles relaxing, when another thought hit her. Was tonight really between them? The kingdom would be looking for an indication that their marriage had been truly consummated, how in the world were they supposed to provide such evidence unless they were together? Her grip tightened on Regina’s hand yet again. Maybe Regina knew a way to fake it? She had been out in the world and had much more experience in just about everything, since she hadn’t talked to Emma about their wedding night before hand surely that meant Regina wasn’t worried about it, that she had some sort of plan. Emma desperately wanted to pull Regina aside and ask, but there were far too many people around them. Perhaps when they were dancing and the music was loud enough to cover anything that was said between the two of them.
The crowd swept into the ball room. The room was draped in white silk, the same fabric as Regina’s dress, with flowers everywhere. The sight was breathtaking, but Emma found she really couldn’t enjoy it, thinking about cost and the food that was taken from the peasants’ hands just for a few bolts of silk. All a ball really needed was good music, but that was rarely ever followed.
Regina led her towards the center of the floor and drew her close. On instinct Emma put her hands up into position. Regina took her extended one. Emma smiled shyly up at the other woman, not used to being so close even after the hugs they’d shared recently. Regina returned the smile and as soon as the orchestra started playing, whisked her off across the dance floor as everyone else watched. Emma melted into the other woman’s arms, allowing her to lead effortlessly. She enjoyed the dance for a few long moments silently before speaking up.
“I didn’t know you danced this well,” Emma said.
Regina cocked an eyebrow. “Don’t let the armor fool you, Princess, I had dancing lessons back in the Dark Kingdom same as you.”
Emma snorted. “Dancing lessons and talent are two different things, or did you not have the pleasure of getting your feet stepped on at your first few balls by over eager boys.”
“Mmm, fair enough.” Regina winced. “First ball I was ever allowed to go to a boy almost broke my foot, but of course it was my fault according to my mother.”
“I’m sorry.” She really did hate bringing up any memories connected to Regina’s mother. Her eyes always got pinched and her face paled a few shades. “She didn’t show up today at least.”
Regina made a noncommittal noise. “Just because I haven’t seen her doesn’t mean she isn’t here somehow.”
“I think you would know somehow even if she was in disguise. Not much gets past you.”
Regina spun her away before bringing her back in. “Maybe. The hair on my neck always used to stand up when she was watching me and it hasn’t today, so perhaps she isn’t here. Nevertheless, it’s safer to assume she is.”
They danced silently for a few moments longer. Everyone who wanted to dance was now circled around them, gliding across the floor with various amounts of ease. Emma could feel her own mother’s eyes on her, but ignored them. She had been the polite, ever gushing mother of the bride that she was supposed to be all day, but Emma saw behind the façade easily. As soon as their guests were gone it would be back to the same old story it had been before.
Emma rested her head on Regina’s chest. “Do you get a little sick at how lavish this all is.”
“A little, yes, but since it cannot be helped I’ve just been trying to enjoy it for what it is.”
“I suppose that’s healthier than the controlled anger I’ve been going for all day.”
“We’ll do as much as we can to fix it during council meetings after my coronation, you know we will.”
Emma nodded. “I do, but that doesn’t stop the ire at the stupidity of all of this.”
“Pomp and circumstance is part of being a royal. I’m quite sure you’ll have to use it as Queen just as your mother has, though more responsibly.” Regina lowered her head onto Emma’s. “For now it is our wedding, put politics aside for just a few more hours and try to enjoy it.”
“The only parts I’ve enjoyed so far are the ones with you.”
Regina smiled and laid a gentle kiss onto Emma’s hair. “Those have been my favorite as well.”
Emma stayed nestled into Regina’s chest as the song changed into something slower. “I’m glad.”
Dancing for the most part kept everyone at bay, but finally someone tapped her on the shoulder and asked Regina if he could possibly steal her away for just a song. They both gave brittle smiles to the man and Emma stepped into his arms. The muscles that had relaxed while dancing with Regina tensed up again and they were off dancing to the music. Emma made polite small talk with the man, keeping an eye on Regina. She had been swept up by some count from another kingdom almost as soon as Emma was out of her reach. When the song ended someone else was right behind her, waiting for a dance.
And so it continued for the both of them until Emma could stand it no more and politely excused herself in the middle of a song, claiming exhaustion and the need for a bit of fresh air. Within minutes Regina was right beside her, staring out at the stars that had long since come out. Regina drew her close when Emma started to shiver. Fall was really upon them now. Out in the dark world the leaves were just starting to change colors. Emma had never been able to decide what her favorite color was, the bright deep red or the vibrant orange that some of the leaves turned. Yellow had always looked too sickly for her, like the tree was truly dying instead of just going to sleep.
“They’ll be sending us off soon,” Regina spoke into her ear.
Emma shivered, but this time it wasn’t from cold. “Thank the gods. If I have to hear one more noble tell me you were a good match for me but they would have been better I might actually scream.”
Regina chuckled darkly in her ear. “I’ve had people tell me the exact same thing. I’ve just been smiling and telling them all the reasons why they are not in the form of a ‘woe as me you are right’ speech. I’ve left more than a few confused men in my wake tonight.”
Emma smiled. “Now, now, what have you told me about making enemies where they aren’t necessary?”
“No one can question the strength of our union. We have to make the kingdom look stronger, remember darling? Divesting them of these foolish notions that they would have been better is the first step in that.”
Emma hummed her agreement and pressed further into Regina. Her wedding dress was not made to hold in heat at all. They would have to go in and face the wolves soon just so she could warm up.
“I’ve just been going on and on about how wonderful you are until they shut up about it. I like you’re way better.”
“You have taken to dismantling people piece by piece quite well. I’m beginning to think you enjoy it maybe a little too much.” Regina looked at her with eyes filled with laughter.
“You might be right, but after years of having nothing to hit back with it’s nice to finally have some way to tell pompous old men who think they know everything to shove it.”
Regina chuckled again. “As long as you do remember that such measures should be taken only when necessary.”
Emma huffed. “Of course. I have been listening to you all these months, you know.” She leaned her head on Regina’s shoulder. “You’re the only one who’s been making sense.”
Regina squeezed Emma tighter to her side. “I try.” When she felt Emma shiver against her again Regina continued. “Though now I think it’s time for us to go back inside before we catch cold.”
“How much longer until you think we can slip off from all this?” Emma sighed.
“It won’t be much longer, darling, but I doubt slipping off is an option. Your mother will probably make quite the large fanfare out of it.”
Emma groaned loudly. “Great, I’m just going to love all those leering stares directed our way.”
Regina turned them and started to walk them in. She made a sound low in her throat that almost sounded like a growl. Emma looked up at the other woman questioningly.
“They won’t stare at you like that if they know what’s good for them.”
Emma was about to ask what she meant by that but then they were inside again and such questions would have to wait until later. She had a feeling Regina’s answer would not be for polite ears to hear. Regina led her onto the dance floor again and spun her around the room with ease. Dancing with Regina like this made her feel like the center of attention, but she didn’t feel as if she was just some decorative ornament as she did with some men. Emma enjoyed the feeling of not being treated as something to be owned, even if being the center of attention wasn’t her favorite thing.
A few more dances and her mother made her way onto the stage with the musicians. The orchestra fell silent as she stopped at center stage and everyone stopped to look at her. She cleared her throat delicately before speaking.
“I do believe it’s time for our newlywed couple to take their leave. They have quite a few other things to enjoy tonight besides dancing. The party for the rest of us will of course continue until we can dance no more.” She smiled out at the crowd, but Emma could read the fakeness in it. “So with that why don’t we give Emma and Regina one last bow before they run off for the night?”
At the words the entire room sank into bows and curtsies around Emma and Regina. Emma took a deep breath and smiled at them all, Regina’s arm around her waist keeping her steady. When everyone rose Emma grabbed Regina’s hand and pulled her forward towards the door, taking the cue to leave and running with it. She nodded at everyone smiling at them and bidding them goodnight, but not more than that. She wanted out of this mess as soon as possible.
When they reached the hall with the doors to the ballroom closed behind them Emma finally let out a relieved sigh. That was finally over, thank the gods above. She turned towards Regina and smiled. Regina returned the expression and tugged her forward.
“Come, let us be off before some of the nosier courtiers find it in themselves to try and spy on us.”
Emma grimaced and followed. The butterflies in her stomach increased with every step towards her rooms—their rooms now she supposed—until she thought she was bound to lift up and fly away. The safe feeling of being with Regina never left her, but her nerves still couldn’t be tamed.
As soon as Regina threw open the door and walked inside Emma felt as if she was going to throw up or pass out. That would not make their first night as a married couple memorable in a good way so she managed to talk herself out of it and walked in without doing either. She shut the door behind her and threw the lock. Regina was right, she really didn’t want to risk some nosy idiot trying to get a peek at what they were doing.
Across the room Regina collapsed onto the couch in front of the lit and roaring fire with a groan. Her shoes went flying, stopping just short of the fire. Regina looked at them for a long moment before looking over at Emma and biting her lip. She waved her hand timidly and the shoes scooted away from the flames and nestled themselves by the couch’s leg. Regina shot her a sheepish look.
“I really didn’t want to move.”
Emma’s nerves settled just a little bit at that. She walked over herself and flopped down, taking much more care with her shoes. They weren’t really practical for every day wear, but she liked them and there would be many more balls she was sure she could wear them to so she didn’t want them going up in smoke. She leaned heavily onto Regina, drawing her legs up onto the couch, wrinkling her skirts enough that she knew the women who did the laundry would be cursing her name.
“I totally understand.” Now that she was sitting all the tiredness she had been putting off all day came crashing down on her and she could barely keep her eyes open.
“It’s been a long day.”
Emma hummed, eyes slipping shut. She felt Regina’s arms come up to wrap around her and draw her closer. She sighed, this wasn’t so bad, but then again they’d been this intimate before. Their clothes were still on and they were doing nothing more than hugging in the scheme of things. This wasn’t what had made her so nervous. She felt safe in Regina’s arms like always, but she just didn’t know anything about what came next really. She had figured out enough from the servants’ gossip, but had no idea how to put that into practice. What if she wasn’t good? What would happen then?
Emma swallowed hard as she started to tense up more. Above her she felt Regina perk up just slightly and she froze. Regina brushed a piece of hair that had fallen out of her intricate hairdo from her face.
“We need do nothing that you aren’t comfortable with tonight, darling,” she said in a gentle, soothing voice.
Emma looked up, startled. “But, won’t they need some proof that we’ve consummated our union?” She gestured towards the door.
Regina leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead. “They will, but that’s easy enough to fake, a few drops of blood smeared into the sheets and they’ll be satisfied.”
“Really, that’s all it takes?” She scowled just the slightest bit. How could something that was made such a big deal out of boil down to nothing more than a few drops of blood. It seemed utterly ridiculous. Then again, that seemed to be par for the course for all the traditions of the kingdom.
“That’s all it takes.” Regina smiled at her warmly. “So don’t worry about what they’re expecting. Whatever happens between us, or doesn’t happen, is ours.”
The words brought warmth to her. “Ok.” She settled back into Regina’s arms, but popped up a second later when one of the bones in her corset jabbed her. She rubbed at her side and stood up. “Unlace this gods forsaken corset for me? I don’t think I’ll be able to fully relax unless it’s off. I can barely breathe.”
Regina stood. “Of course, as long as you return the favor. I don’t know whose idea it was to make dresses so hard to get in and out of, but they should be run through.”
Emma laughed and walked towards her room. She paused a second on entering. It was different now, she squinted for a second before picking out just what had changed. Regina’s things were in her room now. She sighed, of course they were, these were their apartments now that they were married. Regina didn’t have much stuff, so it really didn’t make too much of a difference to the room’s appearance, there was just far more weaponry that before. Regina’s sword hung off of one of the chairs and her bow and arrows sat on top of the neat pile of her armor.
Regina came up behind her. “Well, they were efficient.” She walked over to a new set of dresser drawers and opened it, drawing out a thick set of tights and a loose, worn looking shirt. She threw the outfit over the changing screen and turned to Emma. “Why don’t I go first, the way your corset is laced it will be just as much of an ordeal to get it off as it was to get it on.”
Emma groaned, just great. Still, she walked over to the other woman and made quick work of the rather simple laces. Regina stepped away from her, holding the dress up with one of her arms and shot a smile at Emma. Emma’s mouth went a little dry at the sight of Regina standing there, one wrong movement from being in only her undergarments in front of Emma. The other woman slipped behind the screen and changed quickly, emerging in much more comfortable clothes with her dress hung up expertly.
She shook herself and went to go grab one of her thicker nightgowns. It was going to be chilly tonight once the fires burned down. Winters in a palace were always drafty and colder than they really needed to be. When she threw the gown over the screen Regina was right behind her, working patiently at the laces of her dress. Emma forced herself to breathe as skilled fingers swept up and down her back loosening the infernal corset. She was sure such simple contact should not make her feel so breathless, but it did. Her mind wandered briefly, wondering just what it would be like to have Regina’s fingers on her bare skin, but she shook it off quickly. She wasn’t ready for that just yet.
Regina let out a triumphant noise just as the dress loosened around her. Emma grabbed onto it just as Regina let loose the last few buttons that had closed up the lace top. She shot the other woman a grateful smile, finally being able to breathe for the first time in hours and went to change quickly.
Regina wasn’t in the room when she finally emerged, but Emma found her easily enough, nestled back into the couch, legs stretched out, eyes closed, face peacefully relaxed. Emma smiled at the sight, it most certainly had its draw. She wandered over and sat, nudging Regina’s feet out of her way. Regina’s eyes blinked open sleepily. Her brow creased in thought for just a second before she scooted back into the couch and patted the area in front of her.
Emma hesitated. This seemed so much more intimate than all the things they had ever done before. She tried to tease out why, but couldn’t. She had fallen asleep with Regina on the couch before, cuddled into her side, how was this any different? But it was no matter what she told herself. It was Regina, though, she was safe, and laying all curled up with her after everything the day had brought was appealing.
She crawled up the couch and positioned herself carefully. Regina drew her back the second she was settled, melding their bodies from calves to chest. Emma sighed at the warmth that enveloped her, the fire in front of her and the heat of Regina behind her. Regina’s arm curled around her waist, hand resting on her stomach as appropriately as possible in such a positon. Emma wiggled back into the other woman just a little further and stilled. This was nice.
Regina nestled her head into the back of Emma’s, breath tickling the fine hairs on Emma’s neck. She fought the urge to laugh and squirm at the sensation, it was just so different. Regina hummed contentedly and it vibrated Emma’s whole body. It was odd being so connected to another person.
“Is this ok?” Regina whispered behind her.
She felt Regina smile behind her. “I’m glad.”
They laid like that silently for a long while. Emma felt her eyelids getting heavier and heavier. She really didn’t want to fall asleep, she was enjoying her time curled up with Regina, but her body had other ideas. She had been up for the better part of two days and the adrenaline that had kept her going all day was gone now that she was relaxed, but still she fought.
A chuckle rumbled through Regina as Emma jerked awake rather violently, almost sitting straight up before realizing what she was doing. Regina sat up with her and nudged Emma from the couch. The fire had burned low in the time they’d spent together on the couch, just barely lighting Regina’s face now, her smile standing out more than anything.
“I think perhaps it’s time for us to go to bed.” Regina stood up and stretched for a long moment before offering her hand to Emma.
Emma took the outstretched hand, not trusting herself to do anything else after watching Regina’s toned body ripple and flex as she stretched. She wasn’t sure how the other woman had made even such a simple act seem so graceful, but she had. Regina pulled her into their bedroom. She pulled down the covers and just as Emma was about to fall into the bed, Regina gestured for her to wait. Emma sent her an odd look but complied.
Regina walked over to her stack of things, pulling out a dagger and walking back over to the bed. She drew up the sleeve of her loose shirt and had the dagger slit across the fleshy skin below the bend of her elbow before Emma could even ask what in the world she was doing. The knight hissed a bit and put the dagger aside as a small amount of blood welled up.
“Regina, what in seven hells are you doing?” Emma couldn’t draw her eyes away from the cut.
“I already explained to you.” Regina climbed up on the bed to the center and let a few drops fall before smearing it into the sheets. Satisfied with her work she climbed down and went back to her things, drawling out a few cleaning supplies and bandages. “It’ll look better if the blood has turned brown by morning.” She shrugged.
Emma shook herself and walked over the other woman who was trying to clean her wound one handed. The princess took the bandage covered in a foul smelling concoction and finished cleaning the wound before reaching for more bandages.
Regina handed her another pot of bitter smelling poultice. “Here, before you wrap it up use this. It’ll help it heal quickly.”
Emma nodded, took a healthy dose of the stuff and spread it over the wound before bandaging it up. She gave it a once over and nodded. The princess put away the extra materials and stared at Regina hard.
“Yes, I know, but when you said a few drops of blood I imagined a finger prick or two, not a knife wound.”
“Someone would see wounds on our hands and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened. I’m always wearing my armor, or at least something with long sleeves. No one will see the wound, or if they do I can sight a training accident, nothing too uncommon for a knight.”
Emma huffed out a breath. “Your reasoning is sound, but still. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
Regina’s expression softened. “I’ll be fine, darling. I’ve been through much worse than a shallow cut such as this.”
“I’m aware, but still.” Emma walked towards the bed once more. The few drops of blood that Regina had smeared into the bed were drying quickly, but she thought a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. She’d rather not stain the nightdress she was wearing, that would probably give something away about what they were doing as well. She idly wondered what in the world they would do to explain the blood on the sheets when they truly did consummate their marriage.
Regina came up behind her and set a hand on her shoulder. “I shouldn’t have to hurt myself anymore, darling, but next time if I do have to I’ll make it clearer to what extent.”
Emma frowned again, but nodded. She had a feeling that was all she was going to get.
Regina glanced at the bed and climbed up. She touched at the blood. “It’s dry. We should be able to sleep now.”
Emma went around to the other side of the bed and climbed in. Regina snuggled down in her own side, sighing, a slightly goofy smile on her face. Emma loved the look on her, happy and carefree if only for a moment.
“I think maybe the only thing I missed about being royalty was the beds.” Regina spread out, legs and arms brushing Emma.
“The beds in the guards’ quarters not up to par?” Emma had to hold back a laugh.
“Gods no, you’re able to sleep on them of course, but straw will never beat down mattresses.”
Emma scooted over to the other woman and snuggled up to her side, feeling bold for a moment. Regina looked down at her, smile changing from goofy to warm and loving.
“Of course their beds are also lacking certain bed warmers as well.”
Emma scoffed. “Oh, so that’s all I am,” she joked.
Regina’s look turned serious in a moment. “Never, you’re so much more than that, darling.”
Emma was slightly hypnotized by the look in the other woman’s eyes. Their faces were only breaths apart in that instant. She was caught in Regina’s gravity and she was almost positive she didn’t want it any other way. She felt them both leaning forward and knew what was happening. Her heart beat faster in her chest.
Their lips met and Emma’s eyes slipped shut. All the feelings from the chaste kiss at their wedding were back in full force and then some. She felt like she was flying and falling all at the same time and didn’t know how it was possible that it could feel so good. She kissed the knight harder, feeling her hands come up and tangle themselves in Regina’s hair. Regina’s hands were on her waist again holding her gently yet firmly. It was a short eternity that they kissed and was over much too soon.
Emma sat there, staring at Regina, panting just slightly. “Wow.”
Regina just nodded.
Emma dropped her head to lay on Regina’s chest again. “I—um—yeah.”
A laugh bubbled up from Regina’s chest. “I’ve actually rendered you speechless.”
“Well—I mean—” Emma sighed and took in a deep breath. “After that who wouldn’t be a little tongue tied.”
Regina’s hand came up to start carding through Emma’s hair. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be more tongue tied in other kisses.”
Emma felt herself blush. She swatted lightly at Regina’s side. “Not language befitting of a princess,” she mumbled.
Under her Regina settled down further into the bed. “Ah, but between us we’re anything we want to be.”
Emma looked up at Regina. “Yeah, I guess we are.” She paused for a second. “But why would you ever want to sound like a bar maid.”
Regina laughed long and loud under her. Emma kept her eyes on the other woman, feeling a warmth suffuse her being. She pushed up just a little and her lips were on Regina’s again, swallowing the laughter. Regina’s arms came to rest behind her neck, drawling her in further.
Emma pulled back a long minute later, warmth still coursing through her. “Goodnight, Regina.” She settled back into her positon curled up against the other woman.
Emma sighed and felt herself drifting off almost instantly, warm and safe in the arms of her wife.