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swallowed in the sea

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It’s late in the evening when the doorbell rings and Regina glances up, frowning, catching a glimpse of Emma through the long panel windows. Her image is a little fogged from the cloudy glass, but it’s so clearly Emma, with her hair giving off its quick, glinting shine in the porch light and her absent, idle movement, rolling an ankle as she waits, that Regina just sighs and closes her cupboard striding out into the entrance.

Emma startles a little when she opens the door, her face flushed red from the cold and her eyes clear and bright. “Hey, Regina,” She is out of breath, wearing a windbreaker and thin-soled running shoes, her hair messy and damp in its ponytail. “How are you?”

“Well, I’m fine, dear.” She smiles, because it’s become almost normal between them. For Emma to show up at her door randomly, in the beginning of her day or at the end of it, always in the middle of working out some kind of excuse. “Have you only come to say hello, or is there something else?”

The corner of Emma’s eyes squint, her mouth shaped both as a smile and a frown. “Um, yeah, actually – can I, uh, take a shower?”

Regina blinks. Well, that’s new. “What was that?”

“I was in the middle of my run when I realized I have dinner in twenty minutes.” She gives a soft, breathless laugh and brushes away a wayward curl of hair. “I’ve got about ten minutes before I’m deemed completely neglectful. And possibly the worst girlfriend ever.”

“Hook, then.” She huffs, but steps back. “I don’t know why you bother dating him if you forget you are half of the time.

“There are reasons,” Emma says and brushes by, “Probably.”

Regina sighs and closes the door, turning to watch Emma habitually tuck her shoes beside the coat hanger, fitting snugly between hers and Henry’s, looking beat up and worn in comparison. “You know where the shower is,” she says, and watches with a small glow of warmth as Emma straightens and jogs quickly up the stairs, her socked feet sounding light and familiar against the wood, “And don’t you dare use up all of the body soap, Ms. Swan, its special ordered.”

Emma’s “Kay!” is muffled through the bend of a hallway, up the stairs and through a closing door.

In the minutes that follow, Regina finds herself in front of the dresser in the guest room, sorting through a few of Emma’s clothes. The guestroom has sort of become Emma’s, although it only occasionally houses her – it fills with her belongings, instead. With the all the clothes Emma accidently leaves behind, including, occasionally, her keys, jewelry and wallet.

Her house has started to feel like a beach, in this way – collecting hundreds of different items from both her son and Emma, left out on the corner of desks, on counters and at the top of all her shelves. She found a thin toe ring on the floor once and sighed all the way up to the guestroom to drop it on the cupboard beside the bed. 

She can hear the movement from behind the wall, Emma moving barefoot on the wet tiles of her shower, humming quietly as she washes her soapy, wet hair, dragging her fingers along ridges of her body, the bare shoulder, the curve of her neck – closing her eyes, Regina sighs. It’s not uncommon to catch herself in the middle of these thoughts, defiantly inconvenient.

She lets the texture of the dresser bring her back down, the hard wood smooth beneath her fingers as she flips through the dry, folded clothes, through panties, bras, identical looking shirts and some strange denim-like pants that aren’t actually denim; Regina pulls them out anyway, because they look good on her and Regina isn’t one to deny herself a few harmless indulgences.

Folding it over her arm, she rises and walks over to the door, knocking gently, “Emma, dear?” She can hear the movement from inside, the bump of a heels as Emma steps clumsily over the bathtub, her wet palm sliding quickly on the wall to catch herself, “You okay, in there?” she smiles and warms from the disgruntled scoff through the door, “Anyway, I have some clothes of yours, if you want to put those on.”

“What?” Emma calls out, her voice muffled through the door

Sighing, she raises her voice. “I have some – ”

“No, I heard you.” The door opens to her smiling face. Her gold hair is in loose, wet tangles along her shoulders, drops of water rolling down her shoulders and beneath a snug towel, tucked across her chest. “I am just wondering why I spent a month wondering where half my wardrobe disappeared off to if they were just all at your place.”

“You’re lucky I kept them.” Regina extends her arm, and when Emma glances down, a vague feeling creeps up along her neck, embarrassed by the panties she picked out, thin and black, sitting neatly on the top of the other clothes, “I just grabbed what I saw first – if you want to wear something else, the rest of your clothes is in the guest room.”

“That’s alright,” Emma says and slides the clothes off her arm. “Thanks, Regina.”

Emma steps away and leaves the door half open, and while she disappears into the part of the room that is hidden from her sight, there is a wide oval mirror on the wall to reflect back to her all of the hard, sleek lines in Emma’s body, her arms and legs, the muscular ridges of her back and the definitive lines in her calves.

Regina pauses, halting, a muscle along her neck tightening, because sometimes it seems Emma does this on purpose – they’ve always flit around the edges of some shared understanding of attraction, although in the passing years it’s become shrouded and misunderstood, less obvious. It is no longer a reason to step into each other’s space, to sneer and dart insults, to mock or seduce – so what is this now? As she slowly slides thin black panties up her legs and over hips, her fingers sliding along the waistband – is simple thoughtlessness? Some quirky, flirting impulse?

Frowning, Regina forces herself away, walking quietly into the hall and into her own room. A part of her buzzes, warm and hazy at the idea of an invitation, but it’s still Hook she’ll go home with tonight, after dinner. It spasms in her throat, an odd, growing jealousy, nothing new, but growing all the same, becoming, at times, almost overwhelming.

Emma finds her only a few minutes later, wandering in with bare feet and drying, golden hair, a pair of socks in her hands. “There you are.” She drops down beside Regina, crossing a leg and hooking a sock over the top of her toes. “Do you have any plans for the evening?”

Her thoughts fall flat. Henry is out with some friends, and Emma is on a date. Everything is different, she knows, but these nights remind her, at times, what it felt like in the beginning, to be in a house empty of all she cares about, wandering like a ghost, wanting something to occupy herself with. “I think I’ll watch a few of those shows Henry has recorded.” She says, glancing down at Emma’s pale, pink toes, her other foot now with a sock pulled over her heel.

“Just don’t go too deep,” she says, readjusting the thick material over her toes. “You’ll wind up watching all those Desperate Housewives episodes.”

Frowning, Regina straightens. “Our son is interested in trashy television?”

“It probably won’t do him much harm.” Emma chuckles and slips a sock onto her other foot. “You’ll have fun with the other stuff though. Some stand up. A lot of documentaries. And most of them about shit I’ve never even heard of.”

Warmth gathers in her chest like fingers, becoming a solid pushing force and Regina sighs, giving in to the feeling. “Do you ever actually leave my house?” she asks, beginning to smile, “Or is your absence just some crazy delusion of mine to help me cope with the fact that you actually just spend all of your days on my couch, watching TV.”

Emma’s face breaks out into wide laughing lines, her laugh warm and replete somehow with the last six weeks, with moments exactly like this, gathering up in the cold corners of the house and in all the empty space inside of her, in places she’d figure would always remain empty. “Tough luck,” Emma says, nudging her with a shoulder, “You can’t get rid of me now.”

“I can still change the locks.” She says, but nudges back, and Emma gives her one of those looks that – if she wants to start drawing blame – really started this confusing mess, in the first place; like a thumb on wet paint, smudging lines and clear, definite directions, smoothing them into the wet bright confusion like some of the art Henry made as a kid, painting out thoughts with his fingers. Emma has a smile that blurs her feeling into one tumbling hopeful mess.

“Why don’t you join me?” Emma says, suddenly.

Regina blinks, startled. “Join you?”

“Yeah.” The corner of her mouth tucks into a frown, a shape, Regina knows, is meant to be a smile. “For dinner.”

And sometimes it’s not just her smile that jostles thought out of her, more eager and hopeful than before. “You want me to join you on your date?”

The tops of her cheeks color with a blush and Emma tucks hair over her ear, embarrassed. “Uh, well.” She musters up a smile, meeting her gaze, and although there is a wary hint of embarrassment in her smile, her eyes are clear and unabashedly honest. “I mean, yeah. If you want to.”

“I don’t think Hook will like that, at all.” Which sounds so suddenly appealing that Regina has to bite her tongue to keep from agreeing to it.

And she is glad she did, because what comes out of Emma’s mouth next is one of those things she saves; one of the important phrases she’ll press into the pages of her memory to remember later when she’s coasting along on another absent feeling, when she starts wanting more than she has now – she will remember Emma saying, “I don’t care.” And then, somehow, more firmly, “You’re more important.” 

Feeling swells in her, up in her voice as she sighs, “Emma,” but she remembers herself, because sometimes Emma is headfirst and brash and oblivious; she will say what she feels, careless or uncaring to how it might be heard. This is just yet another bound of Emma’s loyalty, another thing she should have expected from Emma, a step in an already paved road. It doesn’t mean… “Don’t you want some alone time with Hook?”

“I get plenty of alone time with him.”  Emma shrugs, quietly readjusting her sock. “I feel like I don’t see you at all, sometimes.”

“You see me all the time.” She reminds her, because really, sometimes she walks in to a house already full, already brimming with life and laughter, pulling her in like the tide – it’s why when it’s empty it feel so much worse.

Emma ducks her head, “Yeah,” she says and shrugs, smiling in that hard uncomfortable way. “I guess.”

“Do you want me to go?” She can’t help but ask. Emma looks up, her face shrouded in color, in a hint of wariness and embarrassment, but clear in the sharp nod, in her want. “Alright, then.” Regina says, “I’ll go.”

“Yeah?” Emma says, her shoulders straightening. Her face opens. “You’ll come?”

And sometimes she thinks another step along this path, already paved, is one that will cross this distance between them; make them into something more, because it seems Emma yearns for her almost as much as she does, that she’s also tugged carelessly by this tangled up longing in her chest.

“Yes,” she sighs, “I’ll join you.”

-x-

Hook is sulking over his drink while Emma looks out for their dishes in the arms of passing waitresses and waiters, steaming hot and always passing by her, clinking onto other tables, with napkins, forks and cups – Emma sighs as another one walks past her.

“Stop watching them, dear.” Regina sips from her wine, “Paint won’t dry if you watch it, and you’ll never get your food if you keep looking at them like that.”

“I bet they’re just teasing me, now.” Emma sighs and sinks back into her seat. “God, I’m hungry.”

“It’ll come, dear.” She assures and sips her wine. Emma’s ankle accidentally brushes by hers, and she pauses, feeling the gentle skim of skin before Emma readjusts, again, tucking in her legs. It’s probably accidental, she knows. It’s nothing to think over, but her life has become so tangled with domestic concerns, she now seems doomed to walk this faulty land of what ifs, wondering over what is actually accidental or some subtle, shifting flirtation. (It’s embarrassing, really, how much time and worry is put into this thought now).

“So Regina…” She blinks and looks up, frowning at Hook watching her. “Or I suppose I should say Madam Mayor. That’s your title again, right?”

“I did win the election.” She drawls, lifting her glass of wine to her mouth. She’s been drinking a little more than she should, but she feels the urge to whenever Hook speaks.

“Right.” His forehead has a crinkle in it, and she knows he’s angry about something even as he smiles. “That was a little bit of a surprise, wasn’t it? The town booted out its very own Snow White to get the Evil Queen back in.” He says, and his hand lifts up his beer, “Apparently everybody is just dying to keep you around these days.”

“Hook.” Emma snaps.

“I suppose they do.” She says, still watching Hook. “But I’ve proven myself to be a capable leader, and that’s precisely what the town needs at the moment.”

“Oh, sure.” Hook scoffs. “I heard great things about your previous experience.”

“Hook, shut up.” Emma says.

“Yes, please do, dear.” She hums over another sip of her wine, “You’ll spoil dinner.” Her fingers tighten instinctively around her wine glass when she feels the familiar brush of Emma’s ankle.

The pleasant glow doesn’t last. It crinkles like tissue paper when Hook laughs, the arm around Emma’s shoulder closing to push Emma closer, “Fine,” he chuckles, and presses a kiss against Emma’s temple. “I’ll lighten up.”

Emma shrugs off his arm, but there is some kind of smile around the corner of her mouth, something pleasant, and it curls in Regina’s stomach, a rattling kind of anger.

Glancing away, Regina turns to watch the kitchen instead, humming with activity, with simmering pots and pans, glowing warm from the oven and steam. The restaurant seems to surround her then, the clicking of plates and silverware, soft, close conversations, chairs sliding against the carpeted floors, people standing and sitting – it all begins to sound like something else, more remote and strange, something she shouldn’t be a part of. She probably should have remained at home, but the idea holds no allure, even now. No, not alone. Not without Emma.

Quietly, Regina slides her chair back, moving her knees away, preparing to stand. “Where are you going?” Emma asks, immediately alert.

“To the restroom,” she says, and as she stands, she makes a small pass of her hand. “Carry on without me.”

She walks across the floor and into the quiet of the restroom, striding past the blue tiles to the sink. She only means to wash her hands, to give her some time to catch her breath, calm down again, but she finds herself leaning against the white porcelain and staring down at the small metal drain instead, staring at nothing.   

It’s only a few minutes later when she hears the door open, jolting her back into action. With a jerking twist of her hand, she turns on the faucet and washes her hands, numb to the cold water and the sudden brush of air the bathroom door is swinging closed.

Emma steps close enough for Regina to see her boots in the corner of her vision, black and beat up and scuffed around the edges. “You alright?” Emma asks, and Regina sighs.

“Fine.” She turns off the faucet with a stern twist of her hand, a clear warning to anyone else.

Anyone else but Emma. “You’ve been in here for a while.”

She scoffs and yanks a brown paper towel from its dispenser, “I didn’t know I was being timed,” she says, and continues to dry her hands until the material feels harsh and unpleasant on her skin.

 “Right.” Emma’s mouth is twisting to the side, her head angling in a way that makes Regina flick the towel irritably to the garbage, as if Regina is the one being irrational, being unreasonable. Clearing her throat, Emma wraps her arms across her chest. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

She thinks about laughing, but she catches the nervousness in Emma’s face and all the irritation collapses in her. Sighing, she turns to face her. “I think I should be going home.” There is a faint flicker in Emma’s face that Regina has come to recognize as a closing door, set off by hurt or disappointment. It urges her forward, to rest against the next sink next to her, catching Emma’s eyes in their pursuit to the floor. “I have had fun, really.” She manages a smile, “But I think I really shouldn’t have come.”

“I asked you to.” She mumbles.

“Yes, I know.” Her smile aches, but it stays, “But you shouldn’t have.”

Something tightens in Emma’s expression, straightening her mouth into a line. “Why not?” Emma says as she drags her quick, agitated fingers through her hair, catching in a knot, and wincing, “It’s just dinner. I want you around, so what?”

“Don’t do that, dear.” She thinks of the spaces in her home, filled with light and laughter, like walking along the beach and feeling the cool water slide around her ankles, pulling the sand beneath her feet, wanting to pull her deeper. “This isn’t just dinner.” She says to remind them both, her voice a dry spasm of frustration. “You’re dating Hook.”

“I know.”

They stand in a quiet stubborn kind of silence. Steps pass by the bathroom door, a kitchen door opening and closing, the muffled sound of the clatter and noise drifting in through the door. Sighing, her fingers lift to touch her forehead and then slip into her waist pocket. “I should be going.” She sighs.

“Okay.” Emma whispers, glancing from the floor to her face, then to the door before looking back at Regina, quietly brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “You’re not driving home, are you?”

Right. Regina thinks back to count the glasses of wine that had traveled absentmindedly to her mouth and back again, and knows somewhat shamefully that she isn’t quite sure but that it is likely she is already quite well into her third. “No,” she sighs, instead, “I think I’ll walk.”

“Okay,” Emma nods, and then steps back to the door. “I’ll walk you home.”

Regina halts. It doesn’t surprise her. Not really. But it pushes in her a hot angry frustration that skitters up her spine and spreads across the back of her shoulder blades in a warm red. “Really?” she says, and the sound gets stuck in her throat, “You’re going to drop completely out of your date with Hook just to walk me home?”

Emma creases the determined lines in her face, “It’s a long walk back, and you’re not going alone.” She says, her eyes a clear grey like the sky in the early morning, like ocean water, pulling her deeper. “I want you to get home safe.”

“Emma,” she groans, and somewhere at the end of her breath is the end, cutting off some kind of thin final thread. A weight seems to slide off her shoulders, falling out of reach, out of her control. “Emma,” she repeats, more urgently, “What in the world are you doing?”

A look of unease creeps around Emma’s face. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” she says, stepping forward until she feels looming, “What is it that you want?” The space between them shrinks and then widens again as Emma steps back and she closes in, gaining more space, “Are you oblivious or do you know what you’re doing to me?” Her heart is beating hard and high in her ears, and up against the top of her chest is warmth that is spreading, humming with the wine or maybe with anticipation, because Emma’s eyes are dark and watchful, and there is the spread of warmth on her skin too, creeping across her cheeks and chest.

Regina steps closer. “Or are you shy?” she whispers, and her voice feels almost lost in the hard, ramping blood in her ear, in the warmth that is building between them as she crosses another line of space, enough to feel the hot puffs of air brush against the side of her face. Her fingers skim along Emma’s arm, feeling the skin shiver beneath her touch, “Is that it?” her fingers, lost in impulse, lift up to Emma’s face and hesitate on her cheek, warm and red. “Have you been trying to drop hints?”

Emma makes a quiet noise in the back of her throat, her eyelids fluttering closed – and Regina can’t look away, not from the beautiful flush that is blooming in her cheeks and across her chest, or the way her body seems to hum with want, with touch, her cheek warming the skin of Regina’s palm. “Do you want me?” she whispers and feels the answer in the pulse thudding against her fingertips, her hand moving to follow it, sliding down her cheek to her neck.

It would be so easy. It would be so easy to lean in and cross that line. Push into her, take what she wants – irresistible, if the hot flush of Emma’s skin is anything to go by, but would it be a choice?

Slowly, she steps back.

For a moment, the warm haze dims and she can see where she is, having backed Emma into a corner, against the wall. With another step to distance herself, Emma’s eyes flutter open, dark and confused, but Regina is already returning to the world around them, to the sinks and stalls and the noisy sound of the kitchen, a painful reminder that beyond these walls and its door is Hook, waiting just across the room. Waiting for Emma to return to him.

“I should leave.” She says quietly, her voice thick. “I’ll walk home alone. Continue your date with Hook, I’ll text you when I get home. So you don’t worry.”

“Regina.” Emma breathes, her voice sinking into her like a fishers hook, wanting to pull her back. But she resists, pulling against it, instead, stepping out into the quiet hallway, a small space between the public area and the kitchen, a bubble between two worlds. An exit sign gives off its dim green light just at the end of the hallway, and through the small window Regina can see the parking lot and the yellow haze of streetlights. 

She’s about to forget about her purse and coat and simply walk out of the restaurant like she is, walk home without even having to brush by Hook again, avoid imagining where their evening might turn to as she walks home alone.

But she never gets the chance. The restroom door swing close and she barely has the time to turn around before Emma is pressing her against the wall, her arms bumping against the wall as they skirt up Regina’s back, holding her close. “I want you,” Emma breathes against her neck, hot and frantic. “I want you.”

And damn it if Regina can resist it.  Against the wall, with Emma wrapped around her waist and trapping her arms, there is little room for movement, but she doesn’t have to move much to get what she wants; jerking up her chin, she nips for a kiss until she can feel Emma’s mouth pressing against hers.

A breathy groan hums on her lips, met tentatively with the press of Emma’s teeth, edging along the bottom of her lip in small nips, soothed by the warm touch of her tongue. Emma’s hands gather the material of her dress, bunching it up as they kiss, and Regina becomes frantic, searching for an immediate way to the skin beneath Emma's long sleeve t-shirt, too tight to work over her arms or up her chest. She can only peel it up a little around her waist before it gets stuck.

Her breath revs with frustration and she scratches punishing lines down Emma's stomach when she is unable to wiggle her hand beneath her bra. “Hey, don’t blame me,” Emma mouths down her jaw, brushing across her ear, “You’re the one that picked out these clothes.”

“Well, I didn’t think I’d be the one working against these obstacles, did I?” She groans, warmed by the hot breath skimming along her neck, Emma’s laugh mushed into her shoulder. “Don’t you dare laugh,” she bites along Emma's earlobe, enjoying the quiet sounds Emma makes against her skin.

Her hand is working on Emma’s not-denim jeans, but even with the button popped, she can only fit a few of her fingers through the small space, enough to rub her thumb in tight circles around her clit. But she likes it, likes the struggle. She likes the sounds Emma makes, the high, quick breathing that bursts in puffs against her ear, the way her fingers dig into her skin, her hands gliding up over her breast and down her thighs, moving again and again in more frantic, grasping touches.

The bones in her hand is jutting out from her effort, but she manages to slide her hand deep enough to slide Emma’s thin, black panties aside, feeling the slick, wet skin against the pads of her fingers. “Hm.” Regina glides her fingers up and down, her own breathing become heavier, heady, excited by the sounds Emma is making, struggling to keep quiet as they push up against each other.

“Fuck, please.” Emma grounds out, bucking her hips again.

“Well, if you didn’t have such tight jeans,” Regina pressing the tips of her fingers into Emma and delights in the frustrated groan rasping out of like the sputtering exhaust in a car. “This wouldn’t be a problem.”

Emma’s mouth slides up her neck, no doubt to deliver some bickering remark, but it’s halted by Regina’s fingers sliding inside of her, picking up the same frantic pace their hips are managing. They don’t talk for a while, the sounds restrained to breathy gasps as they rock against each other like ships in the sea.     

When she comes, Emma gasps against her shoulder, biting on impulse, to muffle the sound she is making, and Regina wants to tell her to keep it loud, to gasp it against her ear. But she is reminded of their location with the sound of the diner, resurfacing from an open door, closing again. They sway against each other, both regaining their breath.

Turning her cheek, Emma’s mouth skims the side of Regina’s jaw, moving to her mouth. Their lips stick together, tacky from Regina’s dark lipstick, smudged around the edges. “Okay.” Emma breathes, smiling, her hands squeezing pleasantly along her thighs, “Now you.”

Regina can’t enjoy the low flutter of delight that comes from the idea of continuing – thinking of the long hours ahead of them, against the wall or in a bed, rolling in sheets – because through the thin walls she can hear the faint sound of incoming footsteps. Heavy footsteps, the sound of boots.

“Wait.” She says, and Emma pauses in her motion, her fingers hesitating on the inside of her thigh. She’s about to ask if she’s alright, but they don’t have time for explanation; with a quick shove, she gets Emma off of her and stumbing uncertainly a few steps back, her eyes wide and wary. “In here,” she gasps, and grabs the bend Emma’s elbow, dragging her with her, down the hallway to a small staircase.

They slip in, stumbling, Regina’s hip hitting the narrow doorway and Emma’s back slapping against its thin black railing. Steps loom closer, and Emma’s arms stretch skittishly stretch cross Regina’s back, pressing her close against her, again.

“What’s wrong.” Emma pants against her skin, but Regina shushes her. She doesn’t wonder for long, footsteps moving down the wall, louder now in the hallway’s cold tiled flooring, and close enough to make Emma’s breath rev against her ear. Regina doesn’t dare look, but she can hear Hook move down the hall, and then pause, stepping back, again.

“Swan?” Hook sighs, knocking firmly on the door to the ladies room. “The food just came out.” He pauses, and then grumbles, “Been gone for a little while, Swan.” After a pause, he huffs and retreats, leaving behind a tense agitated silence in his wake. Regina is tucked into the small space of Emma’s body, so she can feel the press of her ribs with each breath, moving uneasily now.

“Damn it.” Emma mutters quietly, the words pressing against the top of Regina’s forehead. “What a mess.”

Her heart stammers, and Regina closes her eyes, feeling suddenly cold. The air is colder here, closer to the door, it prickles across her back and along her neck. “Well.” She slowly pushes herself up from where she is resting against Emma’s body, managing to straighten the crinkled state of her dress.  “I won’t make it any messier for you.”

“What?” Emma blinks, and as Regina’s foot falls to the step below them, panic jolts in her face, sends her fingers scrambling up her arms, trying to get a good hold of her. “No, stop.” Regina wrenches away, but Emma has more muscle, pressing her back into the small space, fighting off the jolting, angry motion in Regina’s attempt to exit. “Regina, stop, damn it.”

“Why?” She sneers, feeling a little out of control, a little breathless, a little wild, “This was a mistake, I get it. No reason to make this any more difficult for you.”

“No, Regina. I want you.” Emma’s hands finally find purchase, grasping around her waist, keeping them together.

Regina sighs and stops, unable to resist the brash genuine sentiment in Emma’s voice, bursting against her like waves, pouring deep inside. Her fingers stretch out from where they’ve curled into fists, and she sighs, letting Emma’s hands slowly travel up from her ribs to the small dips in her back, pulling her a little closer.

She tilts her head away, sniffing. “I don’t know what you want, but I’m not going to be some quick fuck on the side while you figure out which one of us you want to have around.” She says lowly, her voice harsh.

Emma shakes her head, her voice a quiet, fretful sound. “There’s no decision to make, it’s you. I just want you.” Her arms are still holding tight around her, fraught with apprehension, waiting for the next push of arms and force, trying to break free from her. Regina is still buzzing with agitation, but the admission has calmed her a bit, enough for her to ease against her, resting her chin warily on the slope of Emma’s shoulder. Emma tilts her head to press against the side of Regina’s head. She sighs, “I only meant it’s going to be messy. Breaking things with Hook, he’s going to make things as difficult for me as he can.”

“Of course he will.” She answers gruffly, but lifts her arms from where they are limp against her sides, sliding them tentatively around Emma’s waist. “But if you’re breaking it off with him…”

“I am,” she whispers and nudges closer, brushing her cheek against Regina’s, and so they stay like that, pressed up against each other, feeling the soft sway of their bodies, moved by their quiet breathing.

 A door to the kitchen opens suddenly and they startle, teetering on a step, Emma grabs her arms and they both fall back to the wall, the thin black railing hitting Emma’s back even harder than before. Emma groans, and Regina huffs, “This isn’t exactly a graceful beginning for us.”

Emma chuckles, her arms slinking around her waist again. “No it’s not.” She admits, and presses Regina a little closer, her cheek warm and steady against hers, like cement after a long day in the sun, like sunlight in the warm summers. “We don’t need one.” She says, and Regina chuckles, smiling. Closing her eyes, she rests against Emma’s shoulder as something lightens inside of her, something bright and wonderful, a sense of expanding possibilities.