it's been fun reading your reactions to this story—some of you are angry with Regina while others are angry with Emma and Henry. But everyone's angry, which means I must be doing something right.
Henry vibrated with energy in the back of the New York City yellow cab. He craned his neck this way and that, not wanting to miss a thing, as the vehicle serpentined around the chaotic busy streets. "Are you and Mom going to work out some kind of joint custody arrangement like divorced parents do?" he asked. "Like, I can stay with her in New York for a chunk of time and then I'm back in Storybrooke with you?"
"Woah, kid. Slow down," Emma urged. "Let's just get through today first."
Henry returned to pressing his nose against the back passenger windows. "Do you think we can see the Empire State Building from my mom's new place?"
“I guess we’ll soon find out.”
Emma stared out her own window, pushing down a wave of nausea. She blamed it on the weaving motion of the taxi, but she knew it was more than simply car sickness. She didn't know how she was going to react to seeing Regina again. Emma had tried being mad at her, but she just couldn’t do it. She didn't know how to be angry, now that she knew all Regina had been through—witnessing every terrible thing Cora had done that had created the Evil Queen. Emma had always felt sorry for herself for growing up without a mom. But living through Regina's adolescence via her nightmares had almost made her feel lucky for not having one.
Their cab rolled to a stop in front of a steel and glass skyscraper. Emma stared out at the modern, sterile building and referenced the address Regina had given her. For the time, Regina was staying at hotel in Manhattan meant for business people on extended stays to the city. Looking up at the building, Emma thought it was a far cry from the mansion on Mifflin Street.
They had to sign in when they arrived at the extended-stay hotel and the concierge had called Regina's room to confirm she was expecting them. If Emma had come by herself she had no doubt that Regina might have turned her away even though she'd traveled this far. But she knew that regardless of what had transpired between them, Regina would put up with just about anything for the opportunity to see her son.
The details of the trip had felt like a vacation up to this point: crossing the town line in Emma's yellow Bug, Henry's first time on an airplane, the taxi ride across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. But now both Henry and Emma were silent as the elevator ascended to the thirty-second floor.
"Is it my fault?" Henry's voice cracked on the final syllables.
"Is what your fault?"
"Why she left Storybrooke. Is it because of me?"
Emma felt her heart twist. "Henry, of course not. If anything, you're the reason she stayed for as long as she did."
"Then why did she do it?"
The elevator doors opened and Emma sucked in a deep breath. "Let's go ask her."
Regina's face revealed no emotion until she saw her son. Her chin quivered and she just barely managed a watery whisper of his name. Henry tucked his head into her chest and threw his arms around her.
Emma stood as an awkward bystander to the reunion. She had been so distracted by how she would react to seeing Regina again and outside of Storybrooke, she hadn't thought about what this moment would be like for adoptive mother and son. It had only been a few weeks, but she was sure it had probably felt much longer to the other woman.
Regina held Henry at arm's length. Her dark eyes shimmered with precariously restrained tears. "Did you get taller?"
Henry ducked his head. "I don't think so."
"Hi." Emma needed to say something. She needed Regina to acknowledge her presence.
Regina's gaze left her son's face to fall on Emma. "Hello, Miss Swan." She swallowed, and with the motion, she seemed to reign in the emotions that had been visible for all to see. "Why don't you both come in."
The condo-like hotel room was understated, but not drab. The front door opened into a small kitchen space, an eating nook for two, and a living room with an impressive wall-to-ceiling view of downtown. The high-end finishes and elegance of Regina's Storybrooke mansion were missing. The space was impersonal, Emma decided.
A timer buzzed and Regina grabbed a hot pad. The scent of baked pastry and cinnamon that had lightly perfumed the apartment exploded when she pulled apple turnovers out of the oven.
Regina set the baking sheet on the stovetop and turned off the oven. She wiped her hands on the front of her apron. "I hope you brought your appetite," she smiled.
It had been decided that Henry and Emma would stay with Regina during their long-weekend visit. Emma had originally balked at the idea of sharing a space, but Regina had insisted, and Emma had finally relented after she saw the price of hotel rooms in the area.
Emma and Henry sat down in the living room while Regina continued to busy herself in the kitchen. Regina was a planner—a plotter—and Emma had no doubt that she'd known the apple turnovers would break what was sure to be a tension-filled meeting.
Regina brought out forks and two plates, each with an oven fresh pastry on it. Glasses of skim milk followed. Henry immediately dug into his. Emma was slower to break into the turnover, but after the first few delicious bites, she too was devouring the pastry in earnest. She had never eaten one of Regina's apple turnovers and regretted it had taken so long for her to have the opportunity. It tasted so good, it might have been worth the sleeping curse the first time around.
Regina beamed as she watched her son devour the pastry with enthusiasm.
"So good, Mom," he approved between bites.
"Thank you, dear."
"Yeah, Regina," Emma felt compelled to chime in. "This is delicious."
Regina's smile tempered. "I'll have to send the recipe home with you. I'm sure Snow could manage to replicate it."
The pastry suddenly felt heavy in Emma's gut. She swallowed down another bite.
Regina kept her tone light and cheery. "So what would you like to do while you're here, Henry? I thought we might play tourist today."
The boy nodded vigorously. "So cool."
Emma chewed on her lower lip. "Shouldn't we...I don't know...talk first?"
Regina raked her fingers through her hair. "We will. But it's such a beautiful day. Let's not waste Henry's first trip to the city with such unpleasant things."
+ + +
Two museums and a visit to Times Square later, Emma and Regina walked side by side down a concrete path in Central Park. Henry hurried ahead, still wide-eyed and excitedly taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city.
Emma shoved her hands into the pockets of her red leather jacket. She knew Regina hated the coat, but it was her safety blanket, especially around this woman. "How are you settling in?"
Regina’s steps never faltered, click-clacking on the concrete. "Fine."
"Why New York?"
Emma shrugged. She wanted to have a real conversation, but Regina wasn't contributing. "What are you doing for money?"
"Let me worry about that, Miss Swan."
The woman in question abruptly stopped. "I said we'd talk later, Miss Swan, and I meant that. For now, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me enjoy this day with my son."
Emma had a retort at the ready, but deciding against it, she bit down on her lower lip and sullenly nodded.
"Henry," Regina called out to the boy who was hovering near a man-made pond and admiring the miniature sailboats, "how would you like to have the best tasting pizza in all the worlds?"
His smile was infectious and even Emma felt lighter from its appearance. "Awesome!"
Emma had to admit, it was damn good pizza. She sat on Regina's couch with a hand resting on her distended abdomen. There was pepperoni and cheese pizza crammed in every formerly empty space of her stomach.
"Your Mom and I have a lot to talk about, kid. Think you'll be okay on your own for a little while?"
Henry shoved a handful of microwave popcorn into his mouth. "Yeah. I'm just gonna watch TV. I think she gets HBO."
"Which you are not to watch at this hour, young man." Regina's high heels clicked into the room.
Emma’s body reacted in an almost Pavlov’s dog response to the sound of Regina’s heels clicking against the floor. The dampness collecting between her thighs from the click clack against the hard surface brought a grimace to her face. God, what had Regina done to her?
She hopped up from the couch and ran her palms across the top of her thighs. "Where to?" she asked stiffly, rocking back on her heels. "I don't know this city."
"There's a martini bar down on the corner. It's quiet and no one will bother us." Regina pulled a long trench coat out of a narrow hallway closet. She pulled her hair out of the collar until it fell in perfectly styled waves around her face.
Emma raked her eyes over Regina and the cap-sleeved black dress she'd changed into after dinner. She suddenly felt underdressed in her skinny jeans and sweater.
"You look really nice, by the way. I like your dress."
Regina's crimson-painted lips twisted. "Thank you, dear. But this isn't a date."
"I know that," Emma scowled. "I'm not allowed to give you a compliment?"
Regina ignored the question and instead called out more instructions to Henry before she left the apartment, hips swishing and Emma obediently following behind.
The martini bar was nearly empty at this hour. It was too late for the post-work Happy Hour crowd and too early for the Friday night crowd. A pianist played soft, melodic blues and bored cocktail waitresses huddled together and gossiped to pass the time. Regina claimed a table for two close to the glass plate windows that overlooked the streetscape out front. Emma scrutinized the narrow sheet of paper that served as a menu. She wasn't a martini drinker and had no idea what to order.
“Will you let me buy the first round?” she offered. She doubted Regina had found work in the city so quickly and despite Regina’s dismissal, she worried about the other woman’s finances.
“That depends. Do you plan on dumping this one down my cleavage, too?”
At her words, Emma’s eyes drifted to said cleavage. Regina’s black dress dipped modestly in the front, but it revealed enough to keep the blonde woman’s attention. When Emma realized she was openly staring at Regina’s chest, she jerked her eyes away. But it was too late; the smirk on Regina’s mouth said she’d caught her.
A waitress sidled up to their table. “Good evening ladies.” She set two cocktail napkins on the table’s surface. “What can I get you?”
“Dirty martini,” Regina ordered. “Three olives.”
“Um. Beer,” Emma stumbled out unsophisticatedly.
“What kind?” the server asked.
The waitress arched an eyebrow. “Sure thing.”
She returned a few, painfully silent minutes later.
“Dirty martini,” the cocktail waitress announced, setting Regina’s drink down in front of her. “And … a beer. Enjoy ladies.”
Emma flashed a smile in thanks and the waitress left to check on her other tables.
Regina brought the funnel-shaped glass up to dark red lips. When she returned the drink to the table, her lipstick had left a stain on the glass’s edge.
“I don’t know how you can drink that stuff,” Emma said, making a face. “Martinis are pure alcohol, aren’t they?”
“And olives.” Regina speared one of the olives at the bottom of her glass with a toothpick and sucked the salty fruit into her mouth. Emma found her gaze drawn to the bee-stung lips, but it was better than her gawking at Regina’s perfect breasts.
“I take it you’re not picky about your alcohol?” Regina said, nodding to the beer bottle Emma worried between idle hands.
“Not really,” Emma admitted. She fiddled with the bottle’s paper label, shredding and peeling it out of nervousness. "So let's talk. I think we've tiptoed around enough for one day."
"Or a lifetime," Regina sagely noted.
"Is this really your life now?” Emma pressed. “You live in New York? You're a New Yorker?"
"I haven't made my mind up yet about this city."
Emma chanced a smile. "It's not exactly Storybrooke, is it?"
Regina smiled a little sadly in return. "No. But that's the point."
"I understand, you know. Why you had to go." Emma continued to shred the paper label on her beer. "But that doesn't mean it's been easy. Not on Henry. And-and not on me."
Regina was silent as she ran an elegant finger along the rim of her funnel-shaped glass. "I've been thinking. Maybe you and Henry should move into my house. It's just sitting vacant. It would be a waste if no one took advantage of my absence."
"So that's it?" Emma blinked in disbelief. "You're really not coming back?"
"I don't plan on it."
"How do you expect to survive out here? You don't really exist in this world, Regina. Do you even have a social security number? What about a job? New York already has a mayor," she couldn't help pointing out.
Emma continued to get worked up, but Regina's features remained impassive. "I'll be fine, Miss Swan. The curse anticipated all of those things: social security numbers, college degrees, professional references. Don't forget I was able to adopt Henry in Boston based on those credentials."
Emma pressed her palms against her closed eyes until she saw white. "Fine." She shot out of her seat so quickly that she nearly toppled over the chair. “I guess we’re done talking about this.”
"Emma. Please understand where I'm coming from," Regina urged. "I'm trying to do what's best for everyone here. You can't tell me that Storybrooke is any worse off without me there. In fact, I'd venture to say that most people are more at ease now that the Evil Queen is gone."
"You're not the Evil Queen," Emma protested. "You're just Regina: Henry's mom, the former mayor, and a major pain in my ass."
Regina's dark eyelashes fluttered. "Language, Miss Swan."
"When will you see him? You can't expect me to bring him to New York like this all the time. I have a job and responsibilities. And I'm not going to let Henry come on his own even if he managed to navigate around Boston on his own."
"We'll play it by ear. I don't have all the answers yet."
+ + +
The return walk to Regina's hotel complex was silent, save for the sounds of the city on a Friday night. They rode the elevator to the thirty-second floor without a shared word. Regina let them into her condo where Henry was passed out on the couch. On the neglected television, an infomercial argued that their product produced the whitest whites.
Emma brushed the hair away from her son's forehead. His eyes fluttered open and he gave her a sleepy smile. "Hey."
"Hey, kid. Let's get you to bed."
Regina's condo was spartan, but it had two bedrooms. Henry shuffled to the guest bedroom while Emma took over the couch.
Regina hovered in the living room after tucking Henry in. "Do you have everything you need?"
No. I'm pretty sure I need you. "I'm good." Emma tossed a pillow at the end of the couch.
Regina nodded and hugged herself. "There's extra blankets in the hallway closet if you get cold."
Or I could cuddle with you. "Great. Thanks."
Sleep never came for Emma. The city was quiet far below and the couch wasn't entirely uncomfortable, but her brain refused to shut down. She listened to the sounds coming from another apartment—footsteps paced back and forth above her, mimicking the restlessness inside her head.
Emma threw the covers off her legs and climbed off of the couch. She stopped in the guest room to check on Henry first. He slept on his back with his mouth open and an arm thrown over his eyes. He seemed to be able to sleep anywhere and under whatever conditions.
The door to Regina's room was slightly ajar. Emma stood in front of it, listening for sounds coming from the other side. She pushed the door and it soundlessly opened.
Regina was sitting up in bed, another victim of a restless night. “Emma?” she turned toward the opening door and the woman standing in the doorway. “What’s wrong, dear? Is it Henry?”
“Henry’s fine. But you and I have some unfinished business, Madam Mayor.”
Regina pulled back the covers and patted the empty space beside her. “Maybe we can properly talk in here.”
Emma didn’t hesitate or need a second invitation.
The mattress dipped and the crisp sheets rustled as Regina moved, wiggling and shifting to get comfortable. One hand rested lightly on Emma’s thigh and the other fisted in her defiant curls. Emma sucked in a sharp breath when Regina tugged her hair at its roots and her fingers curled around the tender flesh of Emma’s inner thigh. Regina had said they needed to talk, but apparently her hands didn’t agree. But then the fingers twisted in Emma’s hair relaxed, and Regina began to stroke the top of the Savior’s head as if trying to tame the chaotic mess in her brain.
“I know there’s still things that need to be said. But would it be okay if we just …” Emma flipped the ends of Regina’s dark hair through her fingers. She wasn’t sure how the other woman would react to her question.
“If we just what, dear?”
“Sleep?” Even though the nightmares had stopped with Regina’s absence, she still haven’t been able to sleep throughout the night.
Regina brushed her lips on a spot just below Emma’s earlobe, causing a shiver to ripple down the other woman’s spine. The simple action had the blonde reconsidering her request.
“Are you sure?” Emma asked.
Regina’s chuckle vibrated against her neck. “I must admit there’s other things we could do that I wouldn’t object to.”
Emma teased delicate underwear down Regina’s thighs. The material stuck to her skin, already damp with arousal. She was shaved everywhere except for a closely cropped landing strip. Emma stroked her fingers over smooth, naked skin and through short, coarse hair while Regina arched into the touch.
Regina’s thighs pressed around Emma’s ears, muffling any outside noises. Emma brought her hand up to Regina’s concave stomach and their fingers joined. Touches that had once been greedy and forceful had now become languid and gentle. There was nothing rushed or desperate in this exchange.
Emma lathed her tongue the length of Regina’s slit and felt her shudder. She arched off the bed, quiet words of praise and encouragement falling in Emma’s direction. Emma used her tongue to divide Regina’s slick heat, eager to taste more and make unchecked noises tumble from her slightly parted mouth.
Emma held her lips open and suckled softly on her exposed clit. Regina’s heels thrummed against Emma’s bare back, and the blonde squeezed out the imagery of Regina digging the stilettoed heel of her shoes into her.
Two fingers found their way inside of Regina, and Emma ground the heel of her palm into the brunette’s clit. Regina released another delicious, throaty groan as Emma pushed deeper inside.
“Right there,” Regina sighed. Her hips bucked into Emma’s mouth. “Stay right there.”
“Never leaving,” Emma murmured against the other woman’s skin.
Regina’s movements stilled, and Emma looked up at her achingly beautiful face. Her raven-black hair had fallen across her forehead.
“But I did, Emma.” Her voice sounded rough. “I left.”
Emma wiped at her face with the back of her hand. “Maybe we should just sleep.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Regina sighed dejectedly. “It’s probably not the reasonable or responsible thing that we keep doing this.”
It might not have been either of those things, but Emma didn’t want to stop.
“It isn’t fair,” Regina murmured.
Emma lifted her head from the pillow with some difficulty. “What’s not?”
“You eat nothing but cheeseburgers and pizza.” She raked her nails down Emma’s torso, leaving pink, raised trails. “I so much as look at a carbohydrate, and I bloat up.”
“I find that hard to believe.” Emma slid her hand along the smooth expanse of Regina’s exposed thigh. “Your body is amazing.”
“Thank you, dear.” Regina smiled softly and tucked blonde sweeps of hair behind Emma’s ear.
“You’ve done this before.”
Regina knew what Emma meant. Obviously they’d had sex before, but there had been other women.
Emma rolled over onto her side and tucked her hands under a pillow. “Who? When? What was her name? What were their names?”
Regina’s mouth pressed into a tight line. “You ask a lot of questions.” It was too dark in her bedroom to interpret the expression in her eyes, so Emma couldn’t tell if she was annoyed or amused.
“It’s what makes me a good cop.”
“It was after I had the King killed,” she vaguely revealed. “Even an Evil Queen can miss the comfort of human touch. But there was no one of consequence.”
Emma tried to shove down the jealousy that bubbled just under the surface from Regina’s admission. She didn’t want to think about someone else touching Regina’s skin and making her back arch off the bed. She tried not to picture an anonymous woman kissing behind the raven-haired beauty’s knees or in the crook of her elbows. She didn’t want to mentally see a stranger’s mouth mapping Regina’s taut body and traveling the distance from her breasts to her belly button and below.
“Stop stewing, Sheriff.”
Emma cleared her throat. “Am I that obvious?”
“Your face is an open book, dear.” Regina touched the side of Emma’s face and she stroked the pad of her thumb across the other woman’s cheekbone. “I bet you’re a terrible liar.”
Emma swallowed hard at the lump in her throat. Gods, she could fall hard for this woman. Even now, it was probably too late to put on the breaks. “The worst,” she croaked out.
Regina didn’t turn the question around to ask about Emma’s previous experiences. Maybe it didn’t matter to her, but it bothered Emma that she wasn’t as curious as she had been about her.
“Don’t you want to know about me?” The words felt needy and juvenile, like it was important to know she had the power to make Regina jealous as well.
Emma didn’t know what to say to that.
“It’s your past that’s made you the woman you are today, Emma.” Another pass of her thumb across Emma’s cheek and she would melt into a gooey puddle. “But I’m more interested in the woman in my bed, not the girl she’d been before.”
“Good answer,” Emma said thickly.
Regina pulled her hand away, and Emma instantly missed the heat of her touch. “We should get some sleep.”
Emma wasn’t tired anymore. Every nerve ending in her body was ready for another round with this goddess. It was imperative she erase all traces of previous lovers. Emma slid her bottom lip out, ready to protest.
“We have an early morning. I promised Henry we’d go to Ellis Island.”
Emma tucked her lip back into place. “Okay.”
“Just sleep, Emma.” Regina smoothed down the other woman’s hair. “I’ll be right here.”
Emma shut her eyes and allowed herself to be soothed to sleep.
Once upon a time, Neal had told her that you know you have a home because it’s the place you miss. You miss it when you’re gone. Emma closed her eyes even tighter to keep the tears at bay. She missed this. And she missed this woman.
+ + +