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of sparrows and shel silverstein

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Regina rolls her eyes, running her finger along the spines of the worn poetry books, searching for one in particular.

“You can’t keep torturing your interns like that, Zele – aha!”

She slides the book out of its place on the shelf and bites her lip, chuckling a little.

“Did you actually find it?” Zelena asks, surprised.

“Henry is going to be so happy,” Regina breathes as she makes her way to the front of the store.

“Well, the little bookworm better be, you’ve been looking for that po – ”

“I really wish you’d stop calling him that,” Regina frowns. “He’s only ten, I don’t want him to think it’s a bad thing to have such a profound love for books. Hello, Miss Swan.”

Emma beams up at her, long blonde hair spilling over her shoulders as she leans forward for the book.

Zelena snickers through the phone. “Oh, Miss Swan, is it? What’s she wearing today? That top you like so much?”

Regina grits her teeth, keeps the smile plastered on her face, reminds herself to put bleach in her sister’s washing machine the next time she’s over.

Emma's brows arches. “Shel Silverstein, huh?”

To her absolute irritation and horror, Regina finds herself blushing under the clearly amused gaze.

“Oh. Yes. My son…it’s his favorite.”

Zelena echoes her words, intoning in a terrible impression of her. She ends the call.

Emma’s eyes widen a little but she smiles warmly as she runs her fingers down the front cover. “Your son,” she says softly. She hands the book back to Regina. “Tell him I hope he enjoys them.”

Regina blinks, taking the book on automatic. “I can’t let you just – ”

“Ah, see, actually,” Emma grins, “you can. I own this shop so therefore you have to listen to me.”

Regina feels a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She lets it form into a smirk, eyebrow lifting. “Well, in that case. I wouldn’t want to upset the ironclad rules you seem to have in place here.”

Emma gives a faux-stern nod and Regina chuckles. She presses the book to her chest, heart thumping a fair bit quicker than usual. She swallows. “Thank you,” she whispers before walking out, already eager to see the smile on her son’s face when she shows him what she’s found.

 


 

“Do you think you could do this for me? On my wrist, my right one.”

Regina takes the phone from the young girl’s hand. It takes a large amount of effort to keep the gasp from breaking past her lips. She swallows. Once, twice. Smiles. Nods her head.

The girl’s bright blue eyes widen, hand reaching for her phone, looking more than a little uncomfortable at the tears Regina’s sure she’s doing a terrible job of hiding.

“I’m sorry,” Regina gives a watery laugh, wiping at her eyes. “This isn’t very professional, is it?”

The girl’s shoulders relax a little and she chuckles, hand coming up to pat at Regina’s upper arm. “Don’t worry, I cried the other night while watching Dance Moms, I think I can forgive you.”

Regina doesn’t charge her for the tattoo.

The girl, Alyssa, had spent five minutes arguing with her over it. Regina wouldn’t budge. Alyssa had hugged her and promised her she’d tell all of her friends to come here the next time they wanted a tattoo. Regina’d just smiled, hand coming up to rest against her breastbone, fingers slipping beneath her blouse to brush against her skin. Just above her left breast, her heart.

 


 

“You know that shop next door?”

Emma looks up from the book she’s been reading, sliding her glasses up and into her hair. “The tattoo parlor? Yeah, sure. What about it?”

The boy, probably around sixteen or seventeen, leans over the counter, an air of secrecy to his movements. He even looks around the shop before speaking again. Emma presses her lips together to keep from outright laughing.

“You know she doesn’t have a single tattoo?” He whispers, like he’s just divulged the world’s greatest conspiracy.

Emma blinks in surprise, brow furrowing. “Wait, really?”

The boy bobs his head. “When my bro went there last week he asked her about it because, like, a tattoo artist with no tattoos? Fishy, right?” Emma makes a somewhat encouraging expression. “Right. So, he asked. And she got really defensive about it apparently and was all “if your presumption of my work is based solely off of my appearance then perhaps you should go to another tattoo artist.”

His impression of her is far too nasally and Emma winces, really glad Regina hadn’t been here to hear any of that.

“Anyway,” the boy sniffs and wipes his nose with his sleeve, “I’d just be careful if I were you. She’s a bit out there.”

Emma’s jaw flexes. She stands and places her book on the glass counter in front of her.

“At least she’s not spreading false rumors about people she knows nothing about.” She takes his stack of comic books and bags them, snatching his money and handing him his change before giving him her best stewardess smile.

“Thank you for your purchase.”

The boy stuffs his change in his pocket, grabs the bag, and leaves with one last glare over his shoulder.

Emma mostly just tries not to chase him down and drag him into Regina’s shop to make him apologize.

 


 

“Miss Swan.”

Emma looks up, just turning the key to lock up the shop. She smiles as Regina comes over to her, hand pulling the lapels of her coat together more tightly around her. She’s wearing a deep indigo scarf. Her hair is blowing gently against the frigid Maine wind. Emma almost drops her books.

“Regina,” she says, attempting to cover up her blatant ogling with a too-high-pitched voice.

“I was wondering,” Regina starts, teeth nibbling lightly at her bottom lip. Emma has to force herself to look back up at her eyes. Her very brown, very beautiful eyes.

Regina’s staring at her, a hopeful expression on her face. Emma’s realized she’s missed her question.

“Um. What?”

Regina presses her lips together and chuckles. Emma thinks she’s been caught.

“I asked if you’d like to have a drink with me?”

Emma blinks, looks dumbly down at the books in her arms. Her glasses slide down her nose a bit. “Tonight?”

“Tonight,” Regina says, visibly trying not to laugh in Emma’s face.

“Right, duh, of course. Um. Let me put my books in my car first? I know a place just around the block.”

Regina nods, eyes dancing as she watches Emma almost trip a couple of times in her haste to get to her car.

 


 

“Okay, so…I have something to ask you but I don’t want to be offensive and I know for a fact you’ve gotten this question before and I – ”

“Emma,” Regina says, hand coming to rest atop Emma’s on the counter of the bar. “Just ask me.”

Emma swallows at the warmth of Regina’s hand on top of her own. It’s the first time she’s ever touched Emma. Or called her by her first name.

“Right. Okay.” Emma thumbs at the lip of her glass, eyes on her drink. “Why don’t you have any tattoos?”

She flicks her eyes up and sees Regina nod softly. “Ah,” she says. She takes a sip of her drink. “I have one.”

Emma’s mouth parts. “Wait, you do?” Accidentally, Emma’s eyes start to rove over Regina’s body before she can tell her brain to tell her eyes not to do that.

Regina just chuckles. “It’s not visible unless I wear something a little more revealing, dear.”

Emma chokes on her drink. Regina hands her a napkin, amused. “I wonder what happens when I tell you I sleep in the nude.”

Emma’s hand knocks against her glasses and she winces. Regina laughs, full-bodied and melodic. Emma glares.

“That was so mean.” She wipes at her face again before tossing the napkin on the counter. Her glasses are crooked. Regina reaches a hand up to fix them. Emma’s breath snags in her throat. Regina stills, fingers hovering before she lets her knuckles brush against Emma’s cheek.

They’re both a little drunk. “You’re very beautiful,” Regina breathes.

“So are you,” Emma breathes back.

Emma sees Regina’s throat work on a swallow and she brings her hand to her blouse, undoes the top two butto –

“Regina, what are you doing?” Emma’s eyes widen, darting across the bar to see that there’s only a few patrons in here tonight.

Then Emma turns back to see that Regina does have a tattoo.

“It’s a sparrow,” Regina says, a note of wistfulness to her voice. Her fingers dance reverently over the top of it. It’s no bigger than the pad of her forefinger and Emma marvels at it. Against her olive-toned skin, it’s gorgeous. “My fiancé loved sparrows.”

Emma inhales softly. Loved. “It’s okay, Regina, you don’t have to tell me this.”

Regina shakes her head, a tear slipping down one of her cheeks as she buttons up her blouse once more. “I want you to know.”

“Okay,” Emma says gently, reaching a hand to brush her fingers against the inside of Regina’s wrist. Regina runs her knuckles along the back of Emma’s hand. Emma’s stomach knots.

“A heart attack,” she whispers. “He was very young. He’d been born with it. Congenital heart disease,” she says, mechanically. As if she’s wrung her voice dry of any emotion. Emma feels something deep inside of her ache for this woman. So very beautiful, so very strong.

“It was four years ago. Henry, my son. Daniel used to read him Shel Silverstein every night before bed.”

Emma’s breath leaves her in a rush. “Regina, I’m – God, I’m so sorry.”

Regina laces their fingers together, shaking her head. She looks determined for something, eyes alight, dancing with tears. Emma’s enthralled in an instant.

“Emma, I’d like…if you’d be willing, that is. I’d like to ask you on a date.”

Emma’s heart jolts. “A d-date? Like, as in, romantically, like as in you’re…?”

“Very much interested in and attracted to you.”

Emma sucks in a breath. “Wow.”

Regina chuckles. “So is that a yes, then?”

Emma twists her mouth, eyes falling to their hands, entangled, fitting just about perfectly. “I can’t promise I won’t royally screw things up.”

It’s far too deep for the status of their…relationship but she feels a compulsion to tell Regina every single truth and confession she’s got inside of her and she’s not sure, but she thinks Regina would be okay with it.

Regina’s thumb smoothes against her knuckles. “I can’t promise I won’t hurt you.”

“I’m willing to take the chance if you are.”

Regina smiles and Emma feels her heart jump a bit, thrilled and terrified to be given the opportunity to learn more about this woman. To be on the receiving end of interest from this woman.

“Yes,” Regina exhales. “I am.”