Emma was infuriating, Regina knew that upon meeting the blonde woman that fateful night years ago when she had come parading into her life with their son behind her. But after facing evil after evil, curse after curse, and parent/teacher conference after parent/teacher conference, they had come to a mutual understanding that they were co-parents to Henry and the ultimate authority keeping Storybrooke safe. With the Saviour and the Evil Queen banded together, they were unstoppable.
A tentative camaraderie had formed over the years which led to something one might call a friendship, though at times Regina felt more like the babysitter, or worse, whenever both Emma and Henry were around and with enough sugar in their system, she felt like a single mother of two pre-pubescent teens.
But there were times, like now for instance, as Emma sat across from her as they went over the Sheriff's reports for the month, that Emma Swan was infuriating and childish all rolled into one.
"Can I have these?" Emma pointed to the several elastic bands sitting in Regina's desk utensil divider. Emma had already picked up the few elastics, one falling daintily into the paper clip section and touching the binder clips adjacent. Regina's eye twitched at the disorganization of it all.
"What for?" She ground out through clenched teeth.
Emma grinned and produced from her pocket a moderately sized ball of elastics that looked like it had been in collection for a few years now. The ball of beige with the odd sprinkle of thick blue bands here and there made Regina grimace that this was what she was paying the Sheriff's department for.
"I'd prefer if we simply stuck to the agenda on hand."
Emma nodded and pocketed the pilfered elastics, coming back to rescue the fallen one from the paper clip dispenser before leaning back in her seat. "Pongo and Perdita's puppies have gotten a little out of control, but my dad's got King to wrangle them up."
"Of course your father the shepherd would fall for the bird-talking princess," Regina muttered to herself as she made a check mark in her notebook.
"Hey, King is a good boy."
"He chewed up my Louboutin heels!"
"That was two years ago, and every single member of my family save for Neal has already bought you a new pair. Even Henry bought you a pair," she reminded her. "So really, I bought you two."
Regina narrowed her eyes accusingly. "Your mother trained him to do that."
Emma grinned, green eyes lighting up like the sun on a hot, beach day, and the sound of her laughter accompanying it made the image all the more vivid. "Right, Regina," the blonde drawled, pulling out an elastic from her pocket and leaning over the desk to swipe a pen from the stand to write on the rubber. "My mother's ultimate form of revenge was training her dog to take out your shoes. She said it was payback for chopping her hair during the curse."
Regina couldn't hide the pleasant smirk at the mention of Mary Margaret's boy cut, but the grin was cut short when the dull boing of taut rubber bands filled the air.
"What are you doing?" Regina questioned, completely distracted by the mane of golden hair flowing over one side of Emma's neck as the blonde continued to push her messy scrawl on the elastic.
"It feels nice." Emma lifted the elastic and tossed it to Regina's side. "It's like writing on a cloud."
Regina read the rubber band warily, seeing nothing more than doodles after doodles of hearts and squiggles on band.
"You're incorrigible," she said with a shake of her head.
"You said lovable wrong." The Sheriff stood with a grin and took back her elastic before strutting out the door.
"We're not done Sheriff," Regina called after her.
Emma stuck a head in and gave a lopsided grin. "We'll finish at dinner. I'll make your favourite grilled chicken and you bring the wine."
Regina grumbled a response to shock Emma raised a patient eyebrow.
"Fine. I'll see you at seven."
Since that day, Regina had started to pick up on Emma's fixation with rubber bands. Hair ties wouldn't do, and Emma never wrote on the thin stringy ones, though she did add them to her collection. Thick blue, beige, green, and once Emma even found a red elastic were the blonde's favourite to write on, sometimes covering the entire strip both inside and out before leaving it on whatever surface she could find to allow the ink to dry then wrapping it around her ever growing rubber band ball. As soon as a written rubber band was wrapped securely around the ball, Emma produced, seemingly by magic though Regina wouldn't be surprised if the blonde kept a secret stash of rubber bands on her person, elastic bands to cover the inky one until the ball was nothing more than a giant wad of beige rubber.
Emma brought it everywhere with her, sometimes using it as a toy with her three-year old brother. She'd toss it on the floor, and the rubber would bounce in a haywire fashion as the toddler screamed and chased after it. Regina had once made a comment in front of Snow that Emma was playing fetch with her baby boy, and Snow looked like she was about to ground her thirty-year old daughter. Sometimes she'd play catch with Henry, less dog-like, though the boy was not quite used to the ridges of the elastic as he caught it, but that was most likely due to his ineptitude experience at sports in general. Most times, especially when the blonde was forced to sit through city council meetings, Emma would rest her chin on the table, not even pretending to be listening as she rolled the ball to and from one hand to the other. A random thought would flutter through the blonde's mind, and Emma would grin and sit up straight. She'd find a spot of the ball with a thick enough band and begin scribbling away before resuming her boredom all over again.
Perhaps it was Emma's form of entertainment as a child. Growing up in foster homes and group homes didn't give her much chance to have many toys. Regina knew from raising Henry and the stories he brought home from school, many kids found joy in roofing their tennis balls at school despite the fact they willingly got rid of their plaything. Elastic bands were cheap and plentiful. They came around newspapers, stalks of vegetables, some brave souls even put them in their hair. So perhaps Emma was just reliving her childhood, sharing in it with their son and her brother.
Still, that did not make up for the fact that with Emma's rubber band addiction came the residual effects on Henry as their more intentionally rebellious fifteen-year old had figured out how to make a rubber band pistol.
On nights when Regina had the boys, Henry, Neal, and Roland since that whole Marian coming back from the past debacle had been over and done with, Regina would have to watch her back since good old Nephew Henry was teaching the children how to make slingshots and rubber band guns.
She caught them one night when Henry was helping Roland position his thumb and forefinger into a gun position and weaved an elastic around it intricately so it was taut.
"Now just aim and let your pinky go," Henry encouraged the seven-year old marksman who squinted one eye, aimed at the stem of the fleur-de-lis wallpaper, and released. A thick black mark from the dirt and grime of the elastic etched itself on Regina's pristine wall right in the centre of the fleur-de-lis. Worse, the boys snickered conspiratorially and high-fived one another.
"Henry Christopher Mills," Regina scolded, marching into the room with her hands on her hips. "What on earth are you teaching th–"
She yelped and clutched at her eye, a throbbing sting just under her bottom lashes as her eye watered and automatically slammed shut. She pulled her hand away to see blood on her palm and looked down to the boys, all wide-eyed and terrified. In unison, both Henry and Roland looked at Neal with an elastic wrapped around his pointer and middle finger and an arsenal of folded paper bullets at his side.
Emma was sitting in her office, feet up and tossing her rubber ball, now the size of a baseball, in the air and catching it. She was never one for trash bin basketball and lord knows she was awful at darts, but catching, catching she could do. She grinned as she watched the ball fly through the air and just as she opened her palm for a safe landing, a perfectly manicured palm came and snatched it out of her reach.
"Hey!" Emma sat up at the interruption to find Regina, a scowl on her face and a band aid under her eye. Her left eye was swollen and red, and Emma could see that the Mayor had attempted to hide it behind strategically placed bangs. "Oh my god. What happened to you?"
"Your son, and your brother, and your deputy's child happened to me!" She shrieked as she approached.
"Hey, Roland isn't even remotely related to me," the blonde argued, standing from her seat to get a better look at Regina's eye. "Jesus, what'd they do?"
The brunette swatted her away.
"You and your goddamn rubber bands!" Regina threw the ball at the wall behind Emma where it bounced off the drywall, hit off a cabinet, and aimed straight for the back of the blonde's head, but the Sheriff moved just in time for it to smack into Regina's other eye.
"Don't," Regina warned slowly, and though her teeth were set and the tension in her voice was palpable, Emma just couldn't take her seriously with one puffy, red eye and the other watering and bruised.
The snicker came out nonetheless as Emma pressed the ice pack against Regina's right eye, and the pathetic scowl and the sting to her arm from the brunette's slap was worth it.
"This is your fault," Regina growled.
"Look–oh wait, you can't," Emma laughed at her own joke and earned several more smacks that she evaded with raised arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Regina pushed her away, though she didn't get far as she pressed the back of her finger to her black eye and winced.
"No one told you to chuck the ball," argued the blonde.
Blinking a few times, Regina did her best to glare though it was a look between a nervous twitch and constipation, and Emma grinned all the more. Defiantly, Regina grabbed the ball neither woman bothered to pick up off the floor. "This is mine."
The smile faltered and Emma truly looked panicked. "Come on, don't be like that."
Raising her chin, Regina pocketed the rubber ball and stalked out of the Sheriff's department with as much superiority as she could muster with two black eyes.
Regina hadn't left her house for three days following the rubber band incident. That's how long it took for the swelling to die down in her left eye and for the bruising to be easily covered with make-up in her right.
She had forgiven the boys, and Henry had sworn never to touch a rubber band again, though Neal and Roland were more difficult to persuade since the small things were easier to come by than swords and bows all things considering. Still, they never did it in the house – Regina's at least. Regina wouldn't mind if Neal took aim at his mother on a few occasions. Emma, however, had been interesting since the day she walked out of the Sheriff's station with the rubber band ball in tow.
She had received numerous texts and phone calls from the blonde asking to return it. Regina had asked if there was some childhood memory behind the makeshift toy, and at Emma's easy snort and quick "no", Regina knew there was something else to it that the blonde wasn't ready to admit and promptly hung up the phone.
Emma had even gone as far as asking Henry to steal it back for her. Regina had caught her son in her office study rifling threw the drawers with a guilty look on his face, and Regina just knew what he had been doing. She had called Emma that night and scolded her for using their son as bait. The blonde was unapologetic as she insisted it wouldn't have happened if Regina would just give back the ball.
Regina refused, and now she sat in her office at Town Hall, bored out of her mind and tired of looking at the same old paperwork from the same rich noblemen claiming they wanted more land and less taxes. Royalty, honestly. She gave them indoor plumbing, what more could they want?
She sighed and pulled open her drawer where the ball lay hidden. It was quite impressive and durable, Regina had proof of that. Emma must have been working on it from time to time over the years. She picked it up, weighty in her hand, and examined it. What could possibly be so special about a bunch of elastics wrapped around one another?
She squinted at the rubber and saw black ink from where Emma must have written on it, a band hidden behind a layer or two. Even curiouser, the ink formed letters, and Regina was sure they were more than just hearts and squiggles. Having nothing better (or more interesting) to do, Regina began peeling away the rubber bands one by one to get to the written one within. She was so intent on getting to that elastic she just noticed that the thick, blue one she had just released had writing on the inner band.
Her attention diverted to the blue band where it read in messy and slightly smudged print: 1/8/17 – Chicken parm is even better than lasagna.
"What?" Regina said aloud, flipping the elastic inside and out for clarification but found none.
Shaking it off, she continued to peel off the elastics, finding another hidden written message on a standard beige one: 23/7/17 – That blouse should be illegal.
Well that message certainly hadn't made things any clearer, but her curiosity was peaked and now that she knew, relatively at least, what Emma was writing, she wanted to read them all. Band after band was removed, and soon the one she had spotted to begin with started to enlighten her just a little bit: 4/7/17 – The blanket was warm, but she was warmer.
A sudden memory of Storybrooke's Fourth of July festival complete with parade and fireworks flashed through Regina's mind. As Mayor and Sheriff, she and Emma had the honours of commencing the festivities. Emma's arm was warm on her lower back as they stood beside each other for their photo op, but the fact that she, Emma, and Henry had watched the fireworks together had grown to become one of Regina's fondest memories. In true Emma Swan fashion, the blonde had brought neither a picnic blanket nor a lawn chair, and though it was peak season for hotter weather, summer nights were still quite cool in Storybrooke, and by the time nine o'clock hit, Emma had her knees up to her chest and was shivering every so often. Regina had shown her mercy and offered her blanket to the Sheriff, scooting over so that she could drape it over both their legs just as the fireworks were beginning. Regina had been acutely away of the arm holding itself up behind Regina's back, so close yet still so far, and the heat emanating between the two and apparently Emma had felt it as well.
Suddenly the blouse and the chicken parm had made sense. Regina had invited Emma over for dinner just last week, and it was no town secret eyes wandered whenever Regina wore blouses that buttons refuse to close, and Emma was no exception.
Her heart started beating wildly as it jumped to the conclusion her mind wouldn't accept. To keep that treacherous mind from siding with her heart, she continued tugging away at the elastics.
11/6/17 – Her bathing suit almost gave me a heart attack.
8/6/17 – Why does she have such good aim with water balloons?
19/3/17 – My beanie looks cute on her.
1/1/17 – Midnight :)
25/12/16 – Her smile when she opened that gift.
24/11/16 – Her smirk when I said her stuffing was better than Mom's.
31/10/16 – Convinced her to get matching Halloween costumes. Danny and Sandy from Grease? Hell yeah.
Piles of elastics were written on and dated back at least three years prior. When King ate her shoes and when Neal said her name before Charming's and after Snow's where Regina had been smug for a week. Emma had written nearly everything about Regina that made her smile or any happy thought they or their son shared together. She paused at one that made the grin she was holding back come effortlessly: 28/9/14 – She finally got out of the hospital. Her breathing is the most precious thing I've felt.
She remembered being frozen from Elsa's magic, so cold hypothermia looked like a head cold in Hawaii that neither magic nor science looked to be able to save her, but for some reason, she lived. To this day, Regina hadn't been sure what had thawed her heart, but as she continued reading she had an inkling.
13/9/14 – She talked to me.
20/7/14 – She's even pretty when she cries, and I hate that I caused it
15/6/14 – The way she says my name.
12/6/14 – Our magic.
11/6/14 – Our son.
At a point, the written bands became fewer and fewer, stopping just shy of around the time Emma returned from her impromptu trip to the Enchanted Forest, but this had been years in the making. Emma had been noticing her for such a long time, and it was profound for Regina to realize that she had been noticing the blonde too. Every memory Emma had written, every smile, every laugh, Regina remembered just as vividly as Emma.
"Madam Mayor, your three o'clock is–" Her secretary stopped dead when he entered the room and saw Regina's desk littered with hundreds of elastic bands. He furrowed his brow and looked completely flabbergasted. "Should I. . .clean them up?"
"No." Regina stood hastily and escorted him out the door. "Clear my schedule. I'm taking the rest of the day off."
Clearing her schedule was definitely needed since Regina had spent nearly two hours reconstructing the rubber band ball in relative order of how she dismantled it. The bare bands could go any which way, but the marked ones were dated intricately, and so she placed them back starting with the earliest all the way down to her chicken parm.
It was nearing six when she finally reached the station to see that Emma, despite having received the silent treatment for inadvertently blinding Regina in both eyes, had made good on their schedule to pick up Henry. The teen was sitting at a desk, typing away on a laptop he most likely wasn't doing homework on. His need to take advance courses during the summer seemed to occur only when Paige had signed up for them as well. Emma was sitting in her office, feet up on her desk as she poised a crumpled up paper in her hand and shot at the recycle bin. It missed by a good foot and landed right by Regina's Loubotin's, coincidentally the (second) pair Emma had bought for her.
"Regina." Emma stood abruptly and tried to look busy though her disheveled nature took precedence. She ended up picking up a stapler in the process and just held it as sheer proof that she had been doing nothing.
"Sheriff," Regina acknowledged before turning towards their son, her credit card already outstretched in her hand. "Darling, can you buy us all some dinner, please?"
Tugging the earbuds out of his ear, he glanced between the two women and then focused solely on his mother's credit card.
"Perhaps you can walk along Stevenson to get to Granny's," Regina suggested none too subtly and walked the few steps to deposit the card on the table beside their son.
"Okay." He wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and with little fanfare, he slung his backpack over his shoulder and jogged out of the station.
"You know he's gonna buy that limited edition Loki trade, right?" Emma pointed out with a raised eyebrow as she tucked her thumbs into her jean pockets trying to figure out what made the Mayor decide to come visit so suddenly.
Regina scoffed. "I almost had him converted to DC until you gave him Journey Into Mystery."
"Kid-Loki, what's not to love?"
"Harley Quinn and her own comic," Regina countered.
"You would side with the psychotic, violent, therapist too love-sick for her own good," the blonde smirked.
"Would that make you Mistah J?" Regina did her best impression of the sidekick with a wicked glint to her eyes. She kept her gaze firmly on Emma as the blonde gulped like a prey being stalked. "Pity. I always preferred her with Poison Ivy."
"Regina. . .?" Emma began hesitantly, but the brunette didn't give her the chance to finish when she tossed the rubber band ball to Emma.
The blonde caught it reflexively and stared down at the wads of elastic in her palm. Her mane was covering the side of her face, but Regina was certain the blonde was blushing from embarrassment or shame. It was endearing, and the wicked part of Regina took pride in it as she took calculated steps closer.
Emma squinted and looked up confused, but Regina just motioned to the ball as she took a seat at the Sheriff's desk, her legs crossed and her hands on her knees waiting patiently.
Understanding flooded the blonde's features, and her cheeks tinted red in embarrassment. "Look, they're really not anything bad. I just–"
"Open it, Sheriff," Regina repeated with finality.
Rolling her eyes and muttering nonsensical words for the sake of showing her annoyance, Emma remained standing as she fumbled with the elastics on the ball. One by one, the rubber bands became loose and the ball became smaller. Regina noticed that Emma seemed to know which bands had little messages on them from feel alone and separated them from the blank ones.
It took a solid eight minutes for Emma to remove all the bands without breaking any elastics, and as she was nearing the centre, a sliver of yellow caught the blonde's eye.
"Is that paper?" She asked out loud, shoving rubber bands aside to properly see. "You're not supposed to put paper in the middle, then it's not a real rubber band ball."
The nearly offended tone Emma had taken made Regina want to grin at how adorably irritated Emma was as she fumbled through the final knots of the last rubber band. Finding the folded sticky note in the middle, Emma scoffed and held it up. "Not a real rubber band ball."
It was Regina's turn to roll her eyes and just stared at Emma until she understood further. Cocking an eyebrow, Emma looked down at the paper and unraveled the edges.
Hearts and squiggles lined the border of the mini sticky note, and smack dab in the middle was Regina's elegant script: 3/3/14 – If she comes through that well, tell her how you feel.
The amused smirk that was previously plastered on Regina's face gave way to nervous insecurities as the Mayor bit her lip. Emma's eyes snapped up to meet hers, and her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. She snapped her jaw shut, moving her eyes back down to the sticky note and up to Regina again. Her lips curled upwards briefly before opening again in confusion, but finally she settled to leaning against the side of her desk staring down at the woman before her. "So what does this mean?" Emma asked carefully.
Regina stood slowly, smoothing out the creases of her already ironed skirt as she licked her lips methodically. "It means," she said quietly, taking that final step until she and Emma were an inch apart, "that there are aspects about you that I could fill a rubber ball with."
The blonde chuckled happily once but never took her eyes off the brunette.
"And it means I like you too."
Emma grinned, cocking her head down once as her eyes brightened when she made contact with Regina again. "Cool," she said bashfully.
"'Cool'?" Regina tilted her head nearly offended. "That was a romantic gesture and it was cool? Your skill is–"
Her words were cut off when Emma grabbed her by the waist and pressed their lips together in a long overdue kiss.
"Better?" Emma whispered hotly against Regina's slightly parted mouth.
Regina's response was to weave one hand behind the Sheriff's head to reclaim her lips in another fiery kiss.
Most times, Regina found Emma irritating and childish, but a lot of the times, as Emma's tongue slipped gently into Regina's mouth, she was anything but.