“So, uh, here I am.”
She’d wondered if it was a coded message, some kind of plea for help from an endangered Archie, but Regina didn’t look like she was threatening harm. In fact, she was sitting so stiffly the only thing in danger was probably the structural integrity of her spine.
“Is there some kind of emergency? You did send me a text, right?”
Archie gave her a nervous smile and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I did. I’m so happy you could join us, Emma.”
“Join you? Archie, you sent me a text that said ‘Please come ASAP! It’s about Regina!’ I wasn’t really thinking this was a social call.”
The flare of Regina’s nostrils was the only thing that reassured Emma that she hadn’t been turned into a statue, unless she’d just imagined it. That happened in fairy tales, right? Maybe Regina was petrified and that was the emergency? Or was that Harry Potter? God, she was so not prepared for de-statueifying someone.
“Right. About that…” Another nervous smile and a gesture she interpreted as an invitation to come in, close the door, and sit. “Regina and I…” A sharp glare from Regina, and he was clearing his throat delicately, and good, not a statue. “I suggested to Regina that you might be able to assist us with a tiny obstacle we’ve encountered in her counseling.” The glare sharpened. “Uh, talking sessions. In the work she’s doing to put certain aspects of her past firmly behind her.”
Emma glanced at Regina warily. “Like AA? You want to make amends or something?”
Regina’s jaw tightened so that she was wearing an expression of tightly leashed fury that, if not really reassuring, was at least familiar enough for Emma to start to feel like she’d be able to get a handle on the situation if she just stuck around long enough. “Not exactly.”
“But not completely not exactly,” Archie interjected gently. “Maybe I could explain.”
He seemed to be waiting for a signal from Regina. It came in the form of the smallest nod of the head Emma had ever seen, but was apparently enough for Archie to continue.
“As you know, when the curse broke, magic entered this land. Regina promised Henry she wouldn’t use hers, but it’s been difficult to keep that promise.”
Emma’s eyes cut sharply in Regina’s direction, the weight of her service weapon suddenly heavy against her hip. “I see,” she said slowly, picturing all the ways this could go wrong when she brought out the cuffs. “So, what? Is this some kind of confession? Are you turning yourself in?”
“This is ridiculous,” Regina huffed, turning sharply in her chair so that she was facing away from the room’s other two occupants. “I did warn you.”
Archie rushed to reassure Emma. “Nothing like that. I promise.” He paused, clearly considering his words carefully. “With the return of magic, Regina now has access to it in a way she hasn’t for the past 28 years. It’s awakened certain desires in her.”
Emma snorted, unable to help herself. Regina shot her a venomous glare, enough to make Emma think she was on the verge of indulging that particular desire at that very moment.
“So I should keep a closer eye on her? Is that what you’re saying? In case she gives in to her, you know, desires.”
“Not exactly.” Archie removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, and Emma had to wonder how often he had to take a moment to reset himself in his sessions with Regina. If she had to guess, she saw premature wrinkles in his future. “Regina told me that her magic didn’t work in this world. At least, not at first.”
“Yeah.” Emma shrugged one shoulder. “Then I touched her and it, I don’t know, jump started it.”
“Right.” Archie nodded encouragingly. “Regina mentioned to me that you possess a very pure magic.”
For some reason, Emma felt like blushing. “I guess it’s good or whatever. I don’t know. It’s not like I know how to use it anyway.”
She felt Regina’s eyes on her, and was surprised to see her expression wasn’t, for once, disapproving.
“Maybe you could use it.” Archie was smiling at her encouragingly, and Emma began to wonder if she’d blundered her way into some kind of trap. Her hackles raised, she looked between the two of them, trying to suss out whatever devious plan it was with which Regina had forced Archie into assisting her. “Regina shared with me that your magic had a very calming effect on her.”
“And?” Emma’s voice had gone into a higher register. Maybe one of them was really Cora. Maybe Cora was pretending to be Archie and she was about one second away from magical annihilation. She should have told Mulan where she was going. It was just this kind of lack of foresight that always, always got her into trouble where Regina was concerned.
“And I was hoping,” Regina said, enunciating each word sharply, “that you would consent to working with me to re-establish my hold on my desire to use my magic.”
Archie nodded and smiled encouragingly, and Emma wished they’d just get to it, whatever it was.
“How, exactly, am I supposed to do that?”
“I have a theory that your magic can help Regina quell her need to use her own.”
His encouraging smile didn't exactly do anything to dissipate the anxiety that had started to spike through Emma. She licked her lips and turned to Regina. “Are you going to try to suck my magic out of me? Are you going to kill me?”
She wasn’t sure if she could trust anything about the situation, but Emma would have sworn that Regina looked genuinely surprised. “Kill you? No, Miss Swan. Where would you get…?”
“She just needs to touch you.”
They were both looking at her reassuringly, but nothing about what they’d just combined to say seemed at all reassuring. “Touch me? Like stick her hand in my chest and rip out my heart kind of touch me?”
Archie looked stricken. “No. Of course not. I was thinking more along the lines of holding hands.”
Holding hands? Emma was gratified to see that Regina looked as disgruntled about that as she felt. “You seriously called me here because you want me to hold hands with the Evil Queen so she doesn’t go off the deep end?”
“We don’t use that name here,” Archie said. “It’s a safe space.”
“Oh my fucking god.”
Regina bristled. “I told you this would be a waste of time. You’re free to go, Miss Swan. Try to forget we ever had this discussion.”
This is just what happened to someone living in a town full of fairy tale characters, she thought bitterly. She had to deal with magic addictions, crickets who thought they were therapists, and an Evil Queen who wanted to hold her hand.
“This isn’t some kind of trick?”
Regina sneered at her. It was oddly comforting. “If this was a trick, do you honestly think that’s the kind of interrogation likely to uncover it?”
Which, fair enough. “Fine,” she said, slumping down on the couch she figured Archie usually used for his more traditionally inclined clients. One hand came up to shade her eyes, because honestly, this was ridiculous and the less of it she saw, the better. The other hand she extended like a peace offering.
“Regina?” Archie’s voice was encouraging, the school master urging a prized pupil on to a feat of great daring.
A sigh, Regina’s shadow edging closer, and suddenly there was a hand in hers. It was warm and soft and…
“Is this it?” she asked as Regina settled onto the couch beside her. “This is supposed to help?”
Archie frowned at them. “Regina?”
“Nothing. Perhaps if Miss Swan exerted a little effort.”
“Seriously?” Emma dropped the hand covering her eyes so that Regina could appreciate her glare.
Regina’s face was studiously blank and canted slightly to the left, as if her arm was an independent being. As if she could pretend that they weren’t sitting on Archie’s couch holding hands if she couldn’t actually see it happening. “I can’t exactly benefit from your magic if you aren’t using it.”
Emma thought seriously about the many ways in which she could make Regina stay silent for just a little while. Gags. More gags. Other kinds of gags. Unconsciousness. “It doesn’t exactly perform on command.”
They were sitting on the couch holding hands with Archie watching them with a hopeful, expectant expression on his face, and she felt like she’d just fessed up to some kind of sexual dysfunction that was wrecking their marriage. It was officially so mortifying she was probably going to have to find some way to make sure she didn’t have to meet Regina or Archie’s eyes for at least a solid week.
“Relax, Miss Swan,” Regina said, her voice surprisingly gentle. “Center yourself. Feel the magic and give it permission to manifest.”
Yeah. That wasn’t happening.
“Perhaps if you gave us a moment alone, Dr. Hopper.” She could almost picture Regina’s smile as she said it. It was the Mayor indicating she’d stopped playing and it was time for her to get her way, firm and the kind of fake pleasant that had, at one time, crawled up Emma’s spine just like nails on a chalkboard.
“Oh. Of course.” He was all nervous energy and anxiety, a peasant scrambling to disappear in the face of his Queen. Emma didn’t look up as the door closed, and tried not to think too hard about the fact that she was now alone with Regina and still holding hands.
“Miss Swan.” Again, Regina’s voice was disturbingly gentle. Fingers under her chin turned Emma in Regina’s direction; it was by far the most non-violent contact they’d had since Emma had been dragged to Storybrooke. “I can imagine that this is as unpleasant for you as it is for me, but Archie is convinced that it will work. Personally, I’m not convinced, but I’m willing to try. I would give anything to be able to keep my promise to Henry, but I’m not sure you understand how difficult it is. Magic is seductive and honestly, sometimes I find it difficult to remember why I need to refrain.”
Emma got that. It was going home alone when you were drunk and horny and someone hot had made it clear they were very, very willing.
“It’s not that I don’t want to help you,” she said, glancing down at their joined hands. “I’m just not exactly a master at getting my magic to do anything. At all.”
“You need to… May I?” Emma looked down to see the fingers of Regina’s free hand hovering just above her heart and tried not to panic. “I’m not looking to steal your heart, Sheriff. I promise.”
“Okay,” Emma said shakily. “Yeah, okay. Just, if you could not kill me, I would really appreciate it.”
Regina’s eyeroll was nearly palpable. “Your magic is always with you,” she said, fingertips making contact with the skin above the dip in Emma’s shirt and tracing a short path up and down her sternum. “Close your eyes, push everything else from your mind, and let yourself feel it.”
How she was supposed to do that with Regina’s fingers tracing over her skin, Emma didn’t know. Close her eyes, and the only thing her mind seemed to be able to focus on was just how soft Regina’s skin was, how she smelled absolutely delicious, and how she had gotten so close that their knees were touching. She was going boneless under that touch, and holy shit, this was about to get embarrassing.
“Focus on the way it feels inside of you.”
Jesus. Maybe even more embarrassing than before Regina had said that in that voice.
There was a moan; Emma was about 55% certain it hadn’t come from her.
“Very good, Miss Swan.”
Was she making magic? With Regina? A quick peek revealed that Regina’s eyes were closed. Her head was tilted back and her mouth open slightly, lips pursed. It was not entirely unlike how Emma imagined Regina might look in other situations where someone was talking about how good something felt inside her. Was this what magic did? Turn her into a nympho with a focus of one? Should she be feeling something?
And, oh. Oh, there it was. It was… Emma had felt this good before, but never when she was just holding someone’s hand. This was the weightless comfort of a high, the seductive pull of sleep after good sex. She could feel her heartbeat slowing and all of the day’s stress leaching free of tense muscles.
If she was Regina, she wouldn’t want to give this up either.
“Everything okay in there?”
Emma jerked up with a gasp, magic spigot drying up at Archie’s voice. “Everything’s fine,” she said, voice surprisingly hoarse. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Regina blinking heavily and licking her lips, and holy shit, just a couple of minutes of hand-holding did this?
“It’s been a half-hour,” Archie said, clearly apologetic as he stuck his head into the room. “I was beginning to get worried.”
A half-hour? Emma glanced up at the clock on the mantle, and yeah. She’d been stuck in some kind of tantric magic trance with Regina for more than just a couple of minutes.
His half nervous/half encouraging smile was back. “Did it work?”
Regina cleared her throat. “I believe so,” she said, and Emma swallowed hard. She’d never heard Regina sound that relaxed. Her voice was almost a purr minus its usual predatory timbre; instead of a heinous threat personified, it was a swarm of butterflies in her stomach. “I believe Miss Swan and I may have to work on regulating her… output, but otherwise, it was quite successful.”
She couldn’t look at either of them.
“Same time again tomorrow, Emma?” It was Hopper, and he sounded as euphoric as she felt. He was, Emma thought, undoubtedly extremely relieved that he hadn’t pitched this to Regina only to see it fail. She was working on scraping away the evil, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t still utterly terrifying when she wasn’t lounging on a couch looking orgasmic.
She was getting ready to find a polite way to phrase ‘Oh hell no’ when Regina spoke, a hint of cool creeping back into her voice. “I trust you’ll be able to find the time, Sheriff. And, I hope I can trust in your discretion on the matter.”
“Before we do this,” Emma said, eyeing the couch nervously, “I want you to explain to me exactly what it is we’re doing.”
Regina was wearing a power suit, as if this was a lunch-time meeting between the once Mayor and her Sheriff. She was straightening her cuffs, refusing the meet Emma’s eyes, and acting like they weren’t about to engage in something that felt entirely too intimate for comfort.
Archie perked up at the question. “It’s really quite fascinating,” he said. “All we’re doing is satiating Regina’s desire for magic in a way that keeps her from indulging in her own. We’re using your magic – good magic – as a substitute so that the part of her addicted to her own magic receives the sort of stimulus it needs to keep her from, well, falling off the wagon.”
Emma scowled. “So I’m like some kind of magic methadone? She scores a hit off of me and it keeps her from giving in to the urge to use?”
“Leave it to you to come up with the basest description possible,” Regina said, sneering, but with the kind of guilt in her eyes that let Emma know she was on the right track.
It was the kind of fucked up situation Lifetime would have made into a movie. They’d call it something like ‘A Mother’s Secret’ or ‘Her Cry For Help’, and they’d play up all the tear-worthy parts of their backstory. Emma would be the emotionally scarred former foster child who gave her son up for adoption while she was in juvie. Regina would be the cold, emotionally unavailable adoptive mother with a troubled, abusive relationship with her own mother – the one who had turned to drugs to help her cope and was on the verge of a breakdown. Henry would be the perceptive and precocious son who brought his two mommies together, saving them both from loneliness and despair. There would be harrowing scenes of Regina’s rehab with Emma at her side, the development of a grudging respect and friendship between the two women, and the kind of affirming ending that would leave viewers crying into their tissues. Hell, it was already a Lifetime movie, only she was living it, and it’d gone irrevocably off-book once she’d come to a town full of fairy-tale characters that no one could leave.
“Look, it’s weird. I’m pretty sure we can both agree about that,” she said, hands shoved down deep in her pockets. “I’m not saying I won’t help. Whatever you need to be a good mom for Henry.”
Regina’s shoulders relaxed in a way she wouldn’t have allowed before the curse was broken. It was another sign that she was trying, that she was chipping away at her shell and hoping that the person who emerged was better than the one before, and Emma couldn’t turn her back on that. Regina was a woman who had hit rock bottom but was determinedly pulling herself back to her feet, and Emma could respect that. Grudgingly.
The woman knew how to clear a room. Emma could respect that too.
“Perhaps you could work on your control today, Miss Swan,” Regina said, settling down on the couch primly.
Emma joined her, her posture decidedly more comfortable. “Look, lady, if you’re not happy buying what I’m selling, maybe you should shop elsewhere.”
She was getting used to Regina’s scowls. This one didn’t even faze her in the slightest. “I’m merely suggesting that you exercise a little restraint.”
“What, is my magic a little too much for you?” Emma smirked. “Can’t handle it, Madam Mayor?”
Old Regina would have sent her flying into a wall, leaving her clawing at her throat and gasping for air. New Regina just scowled a little more deeply and grabbed her hand hard enough to bruise.
And, yeah, maybe there was something between no magic at all and effectively catatonic, but it was only her second day. There was a learning curve, and she’d only just found it.
After, they were back to straightening their clothes and studiously ignoring one another, with Archie beaming at them like a proud father.
“Can’t we do this somewhere more private?” Emma asked, hands back in her pockets. “No offense, Archie.”
Regina’s lips pursed as she considered it. “I suppose we could relocate,” she said, fiddling uncharacteristically with a button on her silky Mayor-lady blouse. “My house, perhaps?”
Not that she didn’t feel uneasy about that too, but seriously. It had to be better than the couple’s therapy vibe she got from Archie’s office.
“Tomorrow night? After my shift ends and the kid is in bed?”
At the mention of Henry, Regina’s mouth tightened. “Call first.”
Emma wanted to ask her why, because it wasn’t as if Regina had much of a social calendar in a post-curse Storybrooke, but Regina had already taken one hit in the past minute. There was no need to pile it on.
She could call.