This is the list of things that race through Emma's mind right before she gets it:
- 0.516 calls a day over the course of the last month to one Regina Mills
- the fact that she has taken the time to calculate this on her lunch break
- one spilled coffee
- okay, two spilled coffees, but not on the same day
- that time Regina called her 'dear' in a a very regal tone, and Emma had to grip the edge of her desk
- the stupid smirk of Robin Locksley, or as Emma likes to call him, whatshisface
- (she's a coward so she only calls him that in her head)
- a very specific blouse in a very specific shade of purple Emma later learns is called 'deep lilac'
- the sight of Regina in flats when she helped Henry and her move into Emma's new apartment + the realization of how not-tall she actually is
- noticing ever single Benz in town
- five texts on her phone she refuses to delete for a very good reason she just can't think of right now
- that time this morning when Emma made a joke and Regina snorted.
It wasn't that good a joke. Just some wordplay in reply to something Henry said, plus she had the good sense of not adding 'GET IT' and then explaining the joke. But Regina laughed about it. A little. A 1.8 second laugh, approximately. Emma frowns and pretends she isn't overanalyzing this.
Still, that is probably longer than when she smiled at Emma four days ago, when she was picking up Henry. That might have been an accident though, she might have meant to only smile at Henry.
Emma is definitely overanalyzing this - why is she even-
When Emma finally realizes what is happening to her, she actually says 'Fuck' out loud in surprise and, let’s be real, shock. Very loudly out loud.
"Are you okay?", Archie asks her from three booths away. They are the only two guests at the diner at the moment. Emma stares at the air in front of her.
She's not sure if she means him or herself. Either way, the answer remains the same. Absolutely not.
Emma spends the next few days in very active denial. Don’t be ridiculous, she tells herself. Just delete the texts and all will be fine. Because obviously, if she can delete the texts, she is obviously fine and obviously not having any sort of very fleeting feeling that doesn't mean anything at all for no one in particular, especially not Regina Mills.
Okay. So. Deleting the texts.
Her finger hovers over the red little sign.
"Hey Ma, what's up?"
Emma winces so hard she almost drops her phone (and more accidentally then not hits the little red sign.)
“Me? Yeah no I’m great I’m fine I’m good, I’m... great. Fine. Couldn’t be better”, it all comes out in one rush while something inside of her looks at the Conversation deleted! on her screen and screeches please come back, “Why, what’s... what’s up with you?”
Henry stares at her. “You’re being weird.”
“Your butt is being weird.”, Emma shoots back and looks unhappily at her phone.
That whole thing she had with Hook a year ago didn't really go great, especially because his dental hygiene consisted of rinsing his mouth with rum twice a day.
Emma didn't end the almost-relationship they not quite had by pointing over his shoulder and yelling 'Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!' just as he was about to kiss her and then running when he turned around, but actually, that scenario wasn't very far from what happened.
Hook followed her around for a while and eventually backed off, although he still tries to kiss her every once in a while - and usually when she is about to take him to the drunk tank.
Right now, she's just run into him at the store and is not about to take him to the drunk tank, but he's leaning in dangerously close anyway.
"Hello, Killian", she says.
"Long time no see, Emma", he purrs at her. And it's true, now that she thinks about it. She hasn't had to give him the Urinating In Public Is Not A Thing In This Land speech in a while, which is refreshing and kind of reassuring.
Hook is still leaning in. And out of a weird impulse, Emma does, too. Maybe if...
"Yeah all right no thank you", Emma says as she draws back from Hook and his pirate breath in the last second. She pats the shoulder of his moldy coat.
"I’ll see you around. Remember what I told you about toothbrushes."
Winter has hit Storybrooke full-force, which means two things: putting snow chains on her cruiser because the bug won't start at all (nay) and getting to clear the streets with a snowplow (yay).
However, it is protocol that whenever the department breaks out the snowplow, they have to hand out the snowplow form again - blah blah here's how you use the thing blah blah comprehensive cover blah blah please don't break the expensive toy blah blah, signed, the mayor.
Of course, when the Sheriff's Department first got that form, it was still Regina Mills who signed it.
They should probably update this, but whatever. With her mother in charge, no one actually cares about this stuff anyways. Emma really doesn't know why she bothered printing this out in the first place. It’s not like anyone who currently works at Town Hall actually knows how to do any of this.
"Coffee?", David interrupts her thoughts. She looks up at him and then at the sheet she was just absentmindedly doodling on, pretending like he just pulled her out of work. "Yeah, I - " Something catches her eye. Right next to Signed, Regina Mills, Mayor, is a tiny little pencil heart. She has drawn. A heart.
“Oh for the love of-”
"Emma?", David shouts after her as she strides past him, holding the piece of paper an arms length away. "Where are you going?"
"Be right back", she calls back without stopping or turning around, "I just have to burn this piece of paper here really quickly and then lie down face first in the snow for half an hour."
She doesn't go lie down in the snow (even though she very much feels like it - but it just doesn't strike her as the adult-with-a-kid thing to do). Instead, she burns the form over the trash can behind the station with a grim expression on her face and decides to move on.
Crushing on Regina Mills is... unacceptable. (She doesn't even want to imagine what her therapist would say. If she still had a therapist. She should probably see Archie some time.)
Taking on a purposeful stride, she tells herself to get it the fuck together, Swan. You have a job, and a teenage son, and a slightly dysfunctional relationship with your parents, that is enough to deal with as it is.
She is a grown-ass woman (on her way to sneak herself a hug from her son before he goes off to his other mother's, because she's needy like that), and she won't be-
Oh. "Emma. What are you doing here?"
"Heyyy Regina", Emma says through her throat closing up. That's way to many y's. Turn it down a notch. "I know Henry is with you today, I just- wanted... to... give him this."
She pulls off her hat and holds it out.
"It's cold?", Emma explains.
Regina arches one eyebrow like she is concerned for Emma’s sanity. “That is... true.”
"Hi Mom - Ma?", Henry says from behind Emma. He looks at them carefully. "Guys, not that I don't appreciate it, but I'm... sort of fifteen. You don't have to both pick me up."
"I thought you'd enjoy the seat heating in the Benz. Also, I didn't want the food to get cold in the time you'd need to walk home."
Henry's face lights up.
"And I... brought you this", Emma adds weakly, still a bit shaken from forgetting how to breathe for a moment, an occurrence that might or might now have something to do with the way Regina smiles at Henry.
Her son looks at her with a mixture of suspicion, pity and affection. "Thanks, Ma." He gives her a hug and takes the hat.
Regina raises a hand at her with a nod, and Emma... clicks her tongue and fingerguns.
It's a disaster, and as she watches Henry walk off to the car with Regina, Emma realizes that he is, in fact, already wearing a hat.
The little bell rings as Emma enters the diner.
"Emma! Hot chocolate?", Ruby smiles brightly at her and then adds with a frown: "Isn't it a little cold to walk around without a hat?"
Emma gives her a very grave look. "Spike that chocolate. I definitely need it."
A few minutes later, her face doesn't feel like it will freeze over and fall off any moment now. Ruby wouldn't put rum in her chocolate as long as Emma is wearing her badge, but it's still hot and tasty and has whipped cream on it, so that's a plus.
The little bell rings.
"Hey Ruby. Hey, Sheriff", Mr. Clark greets and sneezes.
"Hey, Clark." Emma plans on leaving it at that, but he has already come to a halt in front of her. She sighs. He sneezes. It's a little disgusting.
"The usual, Ruby, please. Sorry, I think I've caught a cold. And I go by Sneezy now again." He blows his nose. "Where's the kid?"
Emma tenses. "With his mother. How's the mining?"
"Alone? With her?"
“With his mother”, Emma repeats slowly and Ruby asks: “Milk, Sneezy?”
“Yes - thank you - but. Do you think that’s wise?”
Here we go, Emma thinks. She sets down her hot chocolate. "I think that's not really any of your business."
"Well." Clark sneezes and looks at her from head to toes. "I guess it isn't, but still. She's still..." He runs his hand over his nose.
“Still what, Clark?” Emma takes off her badge and gun, carefully setting them down next to her hot chocolate.
“You know. Still evil.”
"You should stop there, Sneezy", Ruby warns him sharply.
"Why?", he replies hotly, "I don't think we should have all just kissed and made up with her. That bitch took-"
With one swift, quick motion, Emma’s fist sinks into his solar plexus. "If you'd like to press charges, please report to the station in about half an hour. The sheriff isn't on duty right now.", she tells him as he doubles over. Emma looks at Ruby. "Sorry. You probably didn't want to have that in here."
But Ruby’s gaze is fixed to Clark with a hard expression. “You’re right. I didn’t.”
David yells at her for ten minutes and makes her fill out a form in which she officially confirms that she was off duty when she hit Sneezy, but Emma is not especially intimidated.
In fact, she is writing Fucking Worth It in cursive at the top of the form and decorating it with little flowers. She has a feeling that the Sheriff will appreciate it.
When her phone vibrates two days later and the caller ID says Regina Mills, Emma drops the sandwich she's having for dinner and picks up with both hands. "Yes hello?"
"Miss Swan." Oh. Emma's brain does this thing where it replays all the times Regina has called her 'Emma' whenever she hears her say 'Miss Swan'. Emma doesn't really love it.
"Henry just told me about the... incident on wednesday."
"Did he." Emma's heart is beating very hard. She is probably going to strangle him.
"Yes. I'd like you to know that I don't condone this act of violence and, was I still mayor, you would most certainly face consequences for your actions."
Emma sighs. "Seriously? Regina, when you were still mayor, you literally got in a fist fight."
“You say that like it doesn’t count - can we please revisit the bit where you totally punched me first?”
"You brought that on yourself."
"Fair enough, but believe me, so did he."
Regina is silent for a moment before she says: "You should really think about what kind of example you're setting for our son. I don’t want him thinking that violence is a valid way to deal with... things. "
Her voice is softer by at least one degree on a scale Emma wouldn’t even know if she wasn't so fucking done for.
Henry gets kissed instead of strangled the next day, after all. They spend the day playing video games and taking a walk on the beach together - it's snowing, and the salty sea water melts forms into the ice cover. In the evening, Henry cooks.
"Henry, this is outrageously good. Are you secretly taking classes?"
Henry's ears are very red. "Mom is teaching me."
Emma feels too much love at once to be sure whom she feels it for.
The great thing about her parents is, they’re her parents. They care about her well-being, they’re proud of her achievements, they’re always happy to see her.
The not so great part about her parents is, they like to ignore that they haven’t been her parent’s for almost thirty years. And sometimes, that means that they ignore that she is a self-made woman.
Emma sighs as she pulls apart the toast to look at the contents of the sandwich Snow packed her - it’s peanut butter. With butter underneath.
It’s sweet. Of course it’s sweet. But Emma finds butter underneath her peanut butter revolting, and she told her foster mother so when she was five and a half. (Although she didn't actually phrase it like that.)
“Suit yourself”, Carrie said and dropped the butter-clad knife, which made a very loud sound when it fell onto the plate with Emma’s half-buttered sandwich. Carrie went back to reading the newspaper, and Emma made her own lunch. That day, and every day after that.
And that is why she knew how to make lunch for Henry, when he was eleven and everything so new: she asked him what he liked.
When he rattled off the contents of a typical Regina-made lunch, Emma snorted and thought him a little spoiled (but she did cut off the crust like he asked).
For some reason, Emma remembers this moment now, behind her desk with a sandwich she can’t bring herself to eat in her hand. Something in her throat swells.
Hey., she texts Regina. She doesn’t know how to say the rest.
A moment later, her phone vibrates. Hey.
When she doesn’t reply, it vibrates again five minutes later. ?
Henry shuts off the radio with determination.
“Hey! I was listening to that!”
“You were singing along to that, and it was terrible. Honestly Ma, what is going on with you?”
Emma throws him a glance and signals before turning left.
“What are you talking about, kid, I’m singing along to songs on the radio all the time.”
Henry’s eyes narrow. “Yes. But usually it’s more ACDC and less Erasure’s A Little Respect.”
“It’s not my fault this song happens to be brilliant.”
“It’s so not brilliant...”
“Oh baby please...”
“Give a little respect... to... this song...”
“I’m calling Mom.”
Regina and Robin have figured out their soulmate thing in a platonic sort of way. Or at least that's what Henry told her, it's not like Emma would have the audacity to ask about it.
She really, really wants Regina to be happy. Like, would-invest-all-of-her-money-in-buying-her-a-pony, ready-to-face-an-ogre-again-if-that’s-what-it-takes wants her to be happy. With one side of her heart. The other side of her heart also wants her to be happy, but insists on a way that will make herself happy, too. That doesn't make her a terrible person, right? It's not like she's acting on it. She's fine.
Actually, she's not all that fine. What she is is creepily watching Regina smile at Robin, who is using his hands a lot as he talks. Mom is doing better, Henry told her a while back.
Regina catches her staring with a glint in her eye, and Emma suddenly thinks of Neverland, and magic lessons, and walking in step.
"Emma? You okay?" Ruby snaps her fingers in front of her face.
"Yep", Emma says, a little too clipped, "super okay. I'm actually leaving now, dinner with my parents - I’ll meet Henry there, he had some kind of thing with David."
She knocks on the counter as she gets up, a completely obnoxious gesture. Ruby frowns at her. "Call me sometime, yeah?"
"Absolutely," Emma says. Not, she thinks.
She arrives twenty minutes later. It's a five minute drive to her parent's apartment, but then that fucking terrible James Blunt song came on and did something weird to her insides, and then she had to spend ten minutes crying alone in her car (and then take another five to look for her dignity. "God, I hate feelings.", she murmurs to herself as she walks up the stairs. )
Dinner is very nice (Henry talks for half an hour about the remote controlled plane he and David are building, and Emma loves that they’re doing this together) and also absolutely terrible, because here's the thing Emma had forgotten about hanging out with both of her parents at once: they are disgustingly prone to PDA.
("Hey now", Emma finds herself interjecting weakly as Mary Margret kisses David for taking Neal from her arms, "everything over three seconds needs its own room... four, five... six... there you go. Yeah. Okay.")
They are constantly praising each other for their accomplishments. And they are so constantly, blatantly happy that Emma contemplates throwing some ice water on them.
(Another problem is that they like to bring up Emma’s childhood a lot. Snow has tears in her eyes as she says “I wish I could have nursed you like I do Neal now, Emma” and Emma doesn’t know how to say “I wish you I could get you to stop saying that, it’s kinda weird”.
She also doesn’t know how to say “I wish you hadn’t named my brother after a guy I slept with, it’s super weird.”, but that's something different altogether.)
It’s nothing she can’t handle. Really. But by the time she drops Henry off at Mills Manor, she is ready for some Death Metal.
Regina gives her a look like she can see it, but if she does, she doesn’t say.
“Are you coming in for a moment?”, she asks.
No, thanks, I got a thing, Emma thinks and says: “Yeah, for a moment.”
Emma follows Henry inside, who squeezes his mother so hard she pretends to choke for a second and then bolts upstairs to change into sweatpants. (Emma sometimes wonders if Regina would have allowed sweatpants into the house five years ago.)
Regina serves her espresso. “Your mother asked for my help.”
“Apparently, being mayor to a small town is not the same thing as being Queen in the old world.” Regina’s voice is smooth and sharp with a hint of sarcasm. “Who’d’ve thought.”
And so instead of admitting defeat, Snow asked Regina to step in as an advisor - of course she did. She probably thinks it’s the right thing to do. Emma thinks of peanut butter sandwiches and sighs.
“So what are you going to do?”
Regina sits down and crosses her legs. “Well. I am certainly not going to do her job for her. But Henry pointed out that I am the only person who knows how Storybrooke once worked, and that I might as well make that knowledge useful... and given that my son's future depends on this town to run relatively normal...”
She sets her cup down on its saucer. “We will see.”
Emma sips on her coffee. It's hot and sharp and bitter, but it warms her ripcage from the inside.
She thinks about all the fucking discussions about forgiveness around town over the last two years, and she thinks about Marian, about You did this? and sitting here now, about her mother and Cora and asking for help, and her entire body feels like an exposed nerve.
Blocking her feelings out works very well for another week and a half, and then Regina drops by with a list of Henry’s birthday wishes. After that, Emma thinks she might be ready for a drink, but that one drink doesn’t seem to make the impact of Regina’s blue dress any less significant at all, and so she has a second one.
As it turns out, being ready for a drink does not mean you're ready for five to seven drinks. She calls Ruby at one forty-five ("Ruby, I need you to keep me from drunk dialing." "...I think it might be a little too late for that.").
Ruby turns up at her place at two five.
"Hey Emma", she says, standing in the doorway, "Been trying to drown some pain in alcohol?"
"Absolutely not", Emma replies and starts falling forward. Ten minutes later, she is sitting on her couch with a glass of water in front of her and bawling into her hands.
"It’s all different and shitty and fucking asshole love is the worst..."
Ruby hands her the tissue box and gets out her phone.
"Oh, honey", she says as she opens the recording app, "who did you say you’re in love with?"
"I did not say that." Emma's face feels dry. And hot. And sort of like it's made of stone. As does her stomach. She's wearing the very dark sunglasses that go with her Sheriff's uniform she never wears for the first time - it hurts her pride, but the light hurts more.
Without mercy, Ruby clicks 'play' again. "Fucking Regina", her own voice sobs pathetically. Emma buries her face in her arms. “Stop that.”
“You have to talk to her.”
Emma’s head shoots up and she regrets it immediately. “Ugh... why the fuck would I talk to her?”
Ruby holds up her phone threateningly and raises her eyebrows. Emma hisses. “Stop it!”
“Fine, but seriously. Emma. You’re in love with your son’s other mother, and if you ask me, you’re gonna want to get that out in the open before it ruins anything between the three of you. I mean, she’s probably already wondering what the hell is going on with you.”
Emma lets her head sink back down. "Regina hasn’t noticed anything. I’m super subtle. And if you tell anyone, I will arrest you forever."
Whether Regina has noticed or not, Emma finds herself unable to un-accept it - on the contrary, now that she has said the word out loud, everything feels about ten times worse.
She starts running again (no matter how much her lungs screech in disgust of the very cold winter air), she cleans the entire apartment and organizes everything alphabetically (This is not a metaphor, she tells herself ten times), she buys a plant (the internet said that caring for something would make her feel better), she overwaters it in a week and then throws it away (the internet is a lying whore) and eats an entire bucket of Ben&Jerry’s in one night while binge watching Game of Thrones (or that’s what she calls it later, when in fact, she watches two episodes of it and then proceeds with D.E.B.S. and Imagine Me & You).
The solution, she hopes, is easy. If she won’t see Regina as much, she will forget the way she smells clean and expensive and warm, and she won’t be reminded of how her voice makes her bones vibrate, and there will be no reason for her to keep the words I’ll just call Regina firmly planted on the tip of her tongue.
It is decided, and Emma feels like this just might work, so of course she almost stumbles into her on her afternoon run the next day.
“Regina”, Emma says, and feels every effort to stay away melt down. It feels like being offered a hot bathtub and fresh dry clothes when you’re standing in the rain already soaked to the skin - impossible to resist.
Regina looks up. “Hello, Emma”, she says. “How are you?”
She looks ageless. And ancient, and youthful, and familiar. Emma feels like her heart is quivering and she inhales deeply to steady it.
“You cut your hair.” That is not what she was planning to say. (Not that she actually had a plan after Staying Away From Regina didn’t hold out one day.)
There are crinkles in the corners of Regina’s eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous”, she returns. “Obviously I paid to have someone else cut it.”
“Right”, Emma says, brain- and breathlessly, and then the ground shifts and she’s falling, hands outstretched, towards Regina and her newly cut hair, or at least it feels like that for two split seconds before she realizes that they’re still standing there, keeping a socially acceptable distance from one another.
“Looks nice. So, you’re... out for a walk...?”
Stupid, stupid, stupid. But luckily, Regina chooses to ignore how awkward and clumsy her attempt at conversation is.
“Yes, actually. I met Robin and Roland earlier.”
Oh. Emma curses the way her shoulders tense. It’s not only none of her business, she’s also really glad that she didn’t destroy everything between Regina and her soul mate. Really very glad. She’d just be gladder if she wasn’t so fucking bothered about that whole soul mate business to begin with - who would even want to be tied to another person by some sort of weird fate you have no control over?
(Sharing a son by a weird mixture of coincidence and A Meddlesome Imp™ is different, she decides firmly.)
“Ah. Right. Robin. How’s he?” She avoids looking up, opens her water bottle with a little more force than necessary.
“He’s... good.” Regina frowns and gives her a measuring look. “May I ask you a question?”
Emma looks up. It’s not like Regina to ask if she can ask something. It’s like her to just... ask. She takes a sip of her water. “Sure?”
“Are you in love with Robin?”
Emma is choking and coughing and gasping for air. Regina steps closer to pat her back forcefully, and continues in a slightly defensive tone: “I was just wondering, because you’ve been acting very strange lately, especially around me, and Henry said... You know that Robin and I are not involved any more, right?”
“What did he say”, Emma croaks out between coughs, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes.
“He said you seemed heartbroken. It would certainly account for some of your behavior.”
Her hand is still resting between Emma’s shoulder blades. “So?”
“No, Regina. I am not in love with Robin.” She sighs. Regina takes her hand away.
“Then what? Something is obviously going on with you, and I would like to know what it is before it interferes with my life, and I once again find myself asked to clean up the mess of consequences that your stubborn insistence to solve everything without help from anyone leaves in its wake-”
“That’s too bad”, Emma snaps, “because it’s you, and I’d rather not have it interfere with anything, either, but it seems like that’s just the way things are and-”
“Oh now it’s me?! Have I been punching random members of the public lately? And don’t you dare bring up-”
“No”, Emma interrupts her, deflating. She feels chilly in her oversized sweatshirt all of a sudden. “It’s you. I’m in love with you.”
The fury leaves Regina’s expression just as fast as her face pales. Yep, Emma thinks, that feels just about as great as I thought it would. And then she doesn’t think at all anymore, because of course it’s not great, and of course it hurts.
She reaches for Regina’s arm because she doesn’t know how else to say I’m sorry, and Regina looks down at her hand, and back at her, and of course it’s way too much.
And so Emma what she does.
Regina comes home twenty minutes later, only to find Emma on her porch, back against her front door and her knees drawn up to her chin - defeated and contrite.
“We should probably talk”, she starts as soon as Regina is close enough to hear her. “I’m really sorry I ran. I just... I guess I just panicked and I don’t deal super well with emotions or whatever.” She swore herself to not say whatever. Both her hands come up in a helpless gesture and she runs them over her face. “What I’m saying is I’m sorry, and I’m here to talk about it, and I promise I’m working on the running away thing.”
Regina looks at Emma for a long moment, and Emma looks back at her, face wan and make-up-less, and it is silent.
Then there’s the sound of Regina’s heels on the wooden porch. “Yes, Emma”, she sighs, “we probably should talk.”
She takes off her gloves, puts them away and hold out both of her hands. When Emma takes them, they are warm and dry and pull her up, and then suddenly they’re standing way too close and someone is really going to have to say something if she’s not-
“Go out with me.”
Emma stumbles backwards. “I. What?”
Getting out her keys with one hand, Regina brushes Emma aside with the other.
“I said: go out with me. On a date.”
She lets herself into the house, already unbuttoning her coat and taking of her scarf. Emma just stares after her. “Didn’t you make all sorts of promises concerning my happiness last year?”
Here is a list of things that race through Emma’s mind before she manages to move again:
- 0.323 calls a day over the course of the last month from one Regina Mills
- Neverland, and magic lessons, and walking in step
- six texts on her phone that she won’t delete because Regina rarely ever texts
- You did it and We did it and You did this? and standing here now
- every single time Regina called her ‘Emma’ in a ‘Miss Swan’ kind of moment
- her hand in Regina’s with a promise of good memories
- that time two months ago when Emma made a joke and Regina snorted
- the handful of times Regina called her ‘Miss Swan’ in ‘Emma’ kinds of moments
- Regina’s front door, still open between them.
When Emma finally manages to walk into the house and close the door behind her, when she has taken off her shoes and padded into the kitchen, there is already a pot on the stove, a container of milk and a chocolate bar sitting on the counter next to it.
Regina is getting out a bottle of rum, and Emma slides onto a stool.
“How are you so... completely not bothered by any of this?”
A good chunk of chocolate melts into the lazily bubbling milk. Regina gives her a look, and something hard and cold dissolves inside her chest.
“I have decided that I don’t have the time or the energy to be bothered by things that are not actually bothersome.”
“You called me three weeks ago to lecture me about the Sneezy thing.”
“My son’s mother throwing punches in public is bothersome.”
She opens her mouth, but Regina sets a mug of wonderful, spiked, steaming hot chocolate down in front of her. “What will it be, Miss Swan?”
Emma thinks of a million things and the way her lungs sometimes don’t feel big enough.