"You never knock," Mal says, turning her head to the door. She'll know it's Regina by the scent of her and the fall of her feet. She doesn't get up. The sun sets her blond hair aflame with gold as it sets, and Regina can't stop thinking of another blond, which is why she's here. She can't save that one.
"Do you want me to?"
Mal shrugs. "Some beings wouldn't be so comfortable waltzing into a dragon's lair."
"Not me," Regina answers, because she was afraid, once, a very long time ago, and then only for a moment. She knows what's under the scales, and Mal's bravado hasn't scared her in decades.
"Never you, dear," Mal says. Waving a hand at the sofa beside her, she pulls her feet down to the floor and makes room. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Regina doesn't sit, doesn't take the friendly conversation that's been offered. She's had enough of friendship, of kindness, of waiting and losing. She grabs Mal's leg and keeps it up on the sofa. Her hand caresses Mal's knee, then slides up and Mal raises her eyebrows.
"So you want pleasure?"
Regina shakes her head, drawing her fingers over the smooth fabric of Mal's trousers. "Only at the end." She raises her hand, telegraphing the slap before her hand even moves and Mal catches it.
"I can't--" Regina begins without any real intention to finish. "Emma."
"The Dark One gave her freedom for you." Mal twists her hand down, shifting the balance between them on the sofa so she's above and Regina's below and it creaks. Mal leans in, bring the heat with her, and it burns like the truth.
"I don't, I shouldn't, she never should have done that."
"She thinks it was worth it."
Mal smirks and leans in, surrounding Regina with her arms, her hair, and the weight on her presence presses down before their bodies even touch. "Oh? So little respect for her love for you?"
Mal's mouth stops her from needing to make the admission, and her lips push. Regina fights, kissing back as if she'd- but she's here for this, to lose herself until she can face what Emma's done, what any of them might do.
"Did you fuck her?" Mal asks, and her hand's on Regina's thigh then her thumb slides upwards and Regina hisses, not now, not here, but she needs this and Mal.
Mal's smile grows. "And you wanted to."
That's not a question. Both of Mal's hands slip up Regina's legs, her fingers like claws through the fabric. It'll hurt until they touch her skin, and then more, so much more, when they find her.
Magic takes them, hot and soft, and they're on Mal's bed. Sunlight pours in the window, casting fingers of gold across the huge bed. They're in the same position, Mal above, promising to push her down, to hold her still, to make her consciousness stop racing, just for a moment.
"It wasn't worth it," Regina protests. Mal kisses down her neck, then undoes the buttons of her shirt, one after the other. "She should be with--"
"Her family," Mal adds. Her hand cups Regina's breast through her bra and Regina covers her fingers, wishing she'd squeeze a little harder. "Your son," Mal continues, and she increases the pressure, shoves the fabric aside and Regina's body responds with an ache that covers the pain in her heart. For now.
"Her lover," Mal finishes, and she flicks Regina's bra away with magic, not even taking the time to bother with the clasp. "She gave that up for you, and you're here because you can't face them, even though they don't blame you."
Mal's thumb slips across her sex, then her fingers press through Regina's own trousers and her panties, and she groans because she needs the fabric gone and Mal's hands slick against her and within her, and she doesn't even deserve this.
"Perhaps they're just as glad that she saved you." Mal whispers, and that melts through Regina's defenses like dragonfire on steel. "Maybe your little family includes the charming family of heroes."
Regina struggles, trying to break free, but when Mal shoves her back, holds her down, she sighs, because she wants that. To be safe, to be someone else's worry, if only for a moment. Her eyes sting, and Mal kisses away her tears because she can't put words to why she's here, to what she needs, but Mal's mouth moves down, hot and gentle. She tugs up Regina's camisole and tosses it aside once it's over her head.
"Please," Regina murmurs and Mal kisses her mouth.
"What is it?"
"Make it hurt."
"I can't think," she confesses, sitting up and undoing her trousers. "I can't think of anything but Emma, and her face through the blackness. She could have let me go, she should have let me go, but instead I'm here and she's not and I--"
Mal slides her trousers off, but she makes it gentle, even reverent, when all Regina wants is pain. "You should be here."
Regina waits, the sun hot on her bare skin, and she waits for the pain, the hot breath on her neck and the teeth against her shoulder. It'll hurt and she needs that so badly--
Removing her own clothes like a goddess disrobing, Mal straddles her legs, resting her palms on her stomach. "You deserve to be here, Regina."
"Not at that cost," she argues. Regina drags her own hand tight across Mal's hip and watches the red lines rise in the wake of her fingers. "Not instead of her."
Mal strokes Regina's hair back away from her face with one hand, and the other slides down, promising release from the pain of life, just for a moment. "That was her choice to make, and you can't take it from her. You can't make her hate you as you hate yourself. I could replace your pain with another, but that's not what you need."
Mal's fingers slip down, then across and Regina's gasp removes her desire to speak. Panting, she shifts her hips, wanting more. "What do I need?"
Mal's teeth brush her shoulder, then her breast, and above Regina her eyes glow like the setting sun has taken root within them. "You need to be loved." One finger, then another slides within her and that shock shivers through her body, but it's the words that drive home.
"And you are," Mal whispers into her ear. "Your family loves you, your son, the princess and her shepherd knight, and your savior." Her fingers continue to slip in and out, then deeper, wetter, and Regina's gasp could be sobbing or pleasure and they're all one and Mal's mouth is so close, and she kisses back.
They entwine, hands on skin and within and Mal's fingers are so sure of themselves that Regina's breath starts to race. She knows how to tease, and when she's close that pressure is gone. Wet fingers slide across her clit, then that too is ignore and she squirms, desperate, until Mal's thigh shifts for her to press against and Mal holds her closer, tighter and kissing her taste of hope instead of self-loathing and still, all she can think of is Emma and how she did, how she couldn't. Mal nips, fire flashes behind her eyes and Mal parts her legs for her mouth and Regina's little cry only makes her tongue harder, more insistant, and when her fingers return, she's ready, moaning, wanting. Mal's tongue is fire and her hands are flame and orgasm hides her tears.
Making Mal cry out, and laugh and tremble as she holds her follows while Regina's head spins, and then they lie together, wrapped in arms and legs and sweat-dampened sheets. She should work this through, learn to bare her heart to Emma as easily as she can to Mal, but Mal's a constant. She's the tide and the sunrise. She'll always- and that's why Regina falls, here, over and over, because there's no doubt. No fear of rejection.
"You can still love the Dark One," Mal reminds her, tracing lazily patterns where Regina's wings would be on her bare back. "Power doesn't take away the soul of a person, not unless they want it to, and sometimes, not even then." She follows that thought with a kiss, and curls against her, promising safety with her body until Regina can face what lies outside of this room.
"She could still love you," Mal offers, later, when they've crept down for food and wine and they sit before the fire, still naked together, wrapped in blankets and the pleasant warmth of drink.
"That's the problem."
"You let me love you, dear," Mal teases, and follows that thought with a kiss that rivals the fire for heat.
"You're different," Regina says, but it's not an explanation. Mal knew her before, even during her darkest moments and she- this- them- is constant, because even when they couldn't trust each other, their bodies still found safety.
Mal's laugh echoes in her living room, and the sound melts into the flames. "I am one of many who loves you, yet I'm the only one you believe."
"It's getting easier." Regina leans back, letting Mal be her shelter. "Henry and I are better than we've been, and Snow- we're comfortable, but--"
"Loving Emma is a pain you could handle, her loving you, well--"
Regina nods, and Mal's arms wrap around her.
"She saved you. That's a heavy responsibility, and a beautiful choice." Mal nuzzles the back of her neck. "She's made hers. Now you meet her, save her back."
"You think I can do that?"
Mal laughs again, and shows her support with another kiss. "You saved me, you've saved your town, of course you'll save her."