“Where is she?”
The demand was sharp and Mary Margaret sighed and gave Regina a sad smile. “She’s not coming.”
“Again?” Henry’s disappointment was evident and he spied the scoop of homemade potato salad on his paper plate. He usually loved his mom’s potato salad but today he suddenly found himself without an appetite. “Maybe I should talk to her…” and silently he muttering under his breath, so silently he thought no one heard him and he was a little thankful, “…again.”
“I think Emma just needs some time, Henry.” David said while bouncing Neal on his lap. “She’s… She’s just gotten back to being herself again.”
“I just miss her.” Henry pushed a creamed chunk of potato around on his plate and poked at his cheeseburger. “It’s not a family picnic without her.”
Regina Mills eyed her son while adding lettuce, tomatoes and pickles to her hamburger.
Ever since they had defeated the darkness and Emma was saved from near death, the savior had been withdrawn, reclusive.
She had moved back with her parents but had resurrected walls, emotionally and physically, all around her and had managed to keep even a little snoop like Mary Margaret out.
Regina added a little more tomatoes and topped the now tall, no mayo, no cheese, burger with the seeded bun and examined it
“I’m worried about her,” Mary Margaret muttered sighing into her burger and placing it down again, unbitten. “I don’t even know when the last time she ate was.” She looked to David, gauging his reaction. Had he seen their daughter eat anything?
“I hear footsteps in the kitchen late at night...” David scrunched his brow, “… And there are always missing items in the morning. Doughnuts, juice, milk, cereal.”
Regina pointedly stared at them. “Are you telling me Emma’s been living off doughnuts?! What kind of parents are you?” The last sentence was delivered in true sarcastic Regina fashion and somehow the Charmings knew Regina didn’t quite mean to be so cruel. As a matter of fact, unbeknownst to the former evil queen, they saw it for what it was. Care. Maybe even something more. This wasn’t about Regina’s feelings toward them but Regina’s feelings about their daughter.
However, to see his wife’s wince, knowing full well how much Snow was concerned and hurting inside while feeling so helpless, he glared at Regina anyway. “She won’t let anyone in, Regina.”
There was a squeak from Henry’s direction, drawing their attention. “She won’t even talk to me.”
Regina’s heart broke for her son. Her taller, older teenage son who seemed so strong on the outside but she could sense him hurting over this. And that was the last straw.
Standing up from the picnic table, taking a brief moment to watch the townspeople enjoy Storybrooke’s Fourth of July celebration, she grabbed her plate and bent to kiss the top of Henry’s head. She addressed the table. “Continue with the picnic and try to have fun…” she ruffled her son’s shaggy top. “Don’t follow me.”
“Regina, what are you going to do?” There was apprehension but also hope in Mary Margaret’s voice. If anyone could stir Emma, especially out of this funk she was in, it would be Regina. She had been close to asking the woman several times to talk to her daughter but she wasn’t sure how. Regina had gone above and beyond for her family. It was a little hard to believe, since one upon a time the Evil Queen had tried to destroy anything that was dear to her.
Regina simply answered. “I’m going Swan hunting.”
Emma Swan was sprawled out against the pillows staring at the ceiling, ignoring the throbbing ache at the top of her head and the rumbling sounds from her stomach.
The apartment was empty, so now would be a good time to search for food, but she didn’t want to move, didn’t feel she deserved to move.
She remembered the screaming and tortured cries, her own and also her victims. She could remember the way a human heart felt in the palm of her hand before she crushed it. She remembered the sense of control she had felt as the heart’s owner fell to the ground in death with the satisfaction of knowing that one more person could not hurt or harm her again.
She turned to her side and a lone tear spilled and was followed by another.
“Love what you’ve done to the place.”
Emma jumped and turned toward the voice and was surprised to see Regina standing in her newly renovated bedroom, scrutinizing the walls painted a near dark grey, like Emma felt had reflected her soul and mood. The woman was holding a plate with a hamburger and Emma’s stomach panged violently in hunger.
“What are you doing here, Regina?” She wiped the tears from her face and turned back around to lie on her side and clutch her pillow again.
“I brought you a hamburger.” Regina set the plate down on the woman’s dresser and wandered a little further into the room careful not to step on the clothes strewn all over the floor. A discarded article of clothing caught her eye and she couldn't help but stare at it in fascination for a moment. So the savior likes to wear simple Fruit Of The Loom pack-style cotton bikini underwear. Interesting.
Regina tore her eyes away from the discarded briefs and crossed her arms, directing her attention to the lump of woman under the bedsheets with her back to Regina. “I thought it was high time you stopped making out with a doughnut box and actually ate real food for once.”
Emma huffed at Regina’s gall to bother her privacy, but rolled her eyes and remained silent.
“And why is it so dark in here? You were the Dark One, not a vampire.” With a wave the blinds opened letting the sunlight in. “This is a hideous grey, by the way.”
That was it. Emma spun and sat up. “Get out of my room!”
“This isn’t a room. You’ve entombed yourself in a pigsty! This place is dripping with despair and misery and it makes my vault look cheerful and happy, and that's underground.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that it’s time for you to join the land of the living. You need to get up and get out of here, Emma.” Regina stepped toward the bed and wrinkled her nose. “And take a shower.”
Emma felt it on the tip of her tongue to offer to share a shower with the mayor, flirting with her as she often had a month ago. The darkness had helped her to be bolder and to not mask her desires. Now she couldn't help but feel embarrassed of her behavior on top of everything else. Did she actual say, not to long ago, that she wanted to lick Regina Mills’ body from head to toe? To the woman’s face?! She hoped the room was dark enough that Regina could not see the blush that crept up her neck and colored her expression.
The bed dipped with Regina’s weight as she stretched out on it, propping herself on her forearm. Emma was sitting Indian-style with her legs crossed and she was staring down at her twiddling fingers.
“Henry misses you.”
Emma’s gaze snapped to Regina’s and they became clouded with guilt, so much guilt.
“I miss him too, but…” Her sentence trailed off and Regina frowned. “Henry deserves better.”
Regina guffawed and stared Emma down. “Our son deserves the very best and yet he got us. The former Evil Queen and the former Dark One. But you know what, Emma? He deserves love and we can give that to him.” She placed her hand on Emma’s knee for emphasis and felt the woman tremble. Curious.
The brunette remembered all the flirtatious comments Emma had made as the Dark One but had always thought it was the darkness manifesting itself through her. The woman before her now was vibrating beneath her fingertips and blushing. When had she ever seen Miss Swan blush before?
“But… I’ve...” Emma blew out an impatient breath. “But I’ve done some… really horrible things, Regina.”
Regina scoffed and laid back against Emma’s pillows staring at the ceiling. “Join the club.”
Emma looked to her then contemplatively. Slowly her sitting position broke and the bed moved slowly as she crawled to the head where she laid beside Regina and stared up at the ceiling too.
A moment of silence passed before green eyes turned and studied the once former Evil Queen, who continued to gaze up while internally battling her own demons.
Emma glanced upwards again and asked softly. “How do you do it?”
Brown eyes shifted, eyeing the softness of the blonde’s cheek, the grim set of her mouth and the line of her profile. “How do I do what?”
“Live with yourself.”
Regina stared straight ahead again and released a long slow exhale. “You just do, Emma. You can’t undo what has been done, no matter how hard you try.”
“Maybe if I had a time portal…” Emma half joked. Her first bit of humor since returning as herself. The corners of both their mouths tilted upward.
“Yes. Because that worked so well for us last time.” Regina’s eyes sparkled brightly and for both women their smiles turned into chuckles.
Emma thought it felt good to be laughing again. When they stopped the blonde grew serious again.
“I remember how it feels… to hold someone’s heart in my hand. Right before I…”
“I know.” Regina had cut her off; had known how important it was to stop her in that exact second. “It’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
“I feel…” There was a hitch to Emma’s voice and she couldn’t chose the right word as many were rushing at her in that moment. Guilty, miserable, despicable, loathsome, “… bad.”
Regina gulped, took a deep breath and said, “You should feel bad.”
Emma’s heart sunk and she turned toward the woman and she could feel the tears threatening to fall.
She watched Regina chew the inside of her cheek and then she turned on her side, facing Emma and driving her hand beneath her head and Emma’s pillow. It dawned on Emma just then that her pillow was going to smell like Regina’s shampoo and she didn't mind that at all.
“You should feel so horribly guilty, Emma. It should be eating you up inside that you took someone’s life.” Regina didn’t know what possessed her but she brought a hand up and brushed Emma’s hair away from her face and behind her ear. “Because it’s my experience that when you stop feeling bad, stop caring about killing… That’s when you need to worry.”
The blonde gave a weak smile which Regina returned.
“People must hate me.”
“No. They understand that the darkness took you over. You sacrificed yourself for this town, Emma.”
“I sacrificed myself for you, Regina.” Emma corrected immediately and there it was, Regina thought. She smiled and wondered whether her true feelings for the blonde were etched on her face.
“Still, they understand that it wasn’t you.”
“Maybe they’ll want to hunt me down.” Emma laughed inwardly with a twist to her cheek.
“I won’t let them.” Emma’s green eyes zeroed in on Regina’s determined brown ones.
The savior’s head shifted on the pillow a little closer and she smiled, “I’m glad you came by.”
Regina grinned, closing her eyes for a brief few seconds and then offered, “What are friends for?”
“Just friends?” Emma raised an eyebrow and smirked at her persistent guest.
Regina shifted this time, moving a little closer. The air around them changed and became suddenly fun and light. Emma was surprised to discover she felt good for the first time in a long time.
The dark haired woman’s eyes darted from green eyes to naturally pink lips and back. “Today we are.” Her smile broadened at the thin line of disappointment that the blonde's lips suddenly formed into. “However, tomorrow is a brand new day.”
Emma’s hopeful expression was endearing and those dazzling eyes lit with desire and optimism and the combination was so electrifying Regina could barely contain her own heart from beating out of her chest.
“Soooo… tomorrow we could be something… more.”
Regina was tempted to tease the younger woman but her own excitement at the prospect of becoming romantically involved with Emma Swan threatened to overtake her. “I’m counting on it.”
Emma’s dimples made an appearance and the whites of her teeth shown. Her mood had vastly improved since Regina had poofed into her bedroom and now with a future with Regina on the horizon, Emma felt like perhaps new beginnings were possible.
“I very much like the idea of being more to each other than friends, Regina.” Emma covered Regina’s hand with her own.
“I do too, Emma,” Regina agreed while tenderly squeezing her fingers. Regina smirked and quipped, “Provided that you take a much needed shower sometime today.”
Emma chuckled and then flirtatiously wiggled her eyebrows. “Want to join me?”
Regina’s eyes reflected the playful smile on her lips and she said, “That is an excellent topic for discussion… for tomorrow, Miss Swan.” Regina sat up in bed and magically levitated the plate of food over and Emma sat up, gladly picking it out of thin air.
“Oh my God… Is this your potato salad?” She looked at the glob of potatoes and creamy dressing and spices.
“That it is.”
Emma took a bite straight away and her eyes rolled back into her head in utter delight. “Regina, your potato salad is the best I have ever eaten.”
Regina shook her head and watched the savior devour every morsel of her homemade dish, relishing it like it was her first meal after being stranded at sea.
“Hmmm…” Emma inspected the burger thumbing through the ingredients like she would quickly a book. “This burger has pickles on it,” and her face scrunched up in disgust.
“Of course it does. It was my hamburger.”
“I should have known,” Emma went on, “… there are more vegetables on here than meat! And no cheese? That’s burger blasphemy!”
“Is this how it’s going to be with you? Emma, when we start dating your diet will need to include more than grilled cheese, bear claws and PopTarts.”
“When we start dating…” Emma repeated slowly and approvingly, “Tomorrow.” Regina raised an eyebrow and when she opened her mouth Emma added quickly, “Only if I bathe. Yeah-yeah, message received.” She picked up a pickle and tossed it into her mouth, chewed and swallowed. “Blech!”
“Good girl.” The older woman looked around the room and said, “Now after you eat, you should go shower while I tidy up in here.”
“I can clean up my own mess, you know.”
“Of course you can, but if we do it this way we can save time, get back to the picnic and spend time with our son as a family.” The burger halted halfway to her lips and Emma slowly smiled at the queen. She liked the idea of Regina, Henry and her being a family just as much as the idea of holding and kissing Regina Mills.
Regina’s cheeks pinked and Emma knew Henry’s other mother was thinking the same thing and that she liked it equally as much. “Plus, don’t you want to see Neal’s excitement at the fireworks?”
“Yeah. I do.” As she bit into the burger, Emma thought about how much she wanted to hug each member of her family, starting with Henry first.
Regina watched as Emma hungrily dug into the burger, vegetables and all. She could also tell there was a change in the woman’s mood. She was hopeful and even a little content, maybe even a little happy. She vowed to do whatever it took today to keep Emma looking like that.
Regina saw a pickle slice peeking out of the sandwich’s side, and she reached up and picked it out with her fingers and ate it.
They shared a smile and both of them were suddenly looking forward to tomorrow and the future.