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Dangerous is the Vexed God

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She didn’t tell Regina why she was abandoning her when they left the hospital. Somehow telling your…Regina that you had to leave to go meet your ex’s fiancé was all just a little tacky.

And despite once having a fondness for wiglets, bustiers and MAC cosmetics Regina hated tacky. 

They casually agreed to try and meet later that night if time allowed and she hot-footed it back towards the bed and breakfast, pausing outside to make sure her badge and gun were both clearly visible and impressive looking and to twist her hair a little to perk up the curls that had been dragged down from heated make out sessions in hospital stairwells.

Also to wipe the grin off her face. It kept popping up. Especially when thinking about Regina.

Which was just—she’d gotten really good at ignoring Regina’s looks and not thinking about True Love’s kiss and she was still, for the most part, avoiding all that. But those private smiles only she got? Those were hard to ignore. Same went for the little gasps when she ran her hands up Regina’s sides. Or the eyerolls always chased by a gentle grin.

Regina liked her. There was no baggage or promises. Just two people enjoying each other’s company. No strings attached.

“You’re smiling,” Henry observed. “A lot.” He was standing at the top of the stairs and looking all the world like his mom when Emma confused her. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened.”

“Did Cora explode?”


“Did Hook fall off his boat and die?”


“Did someone eat his bird?”

“We can only hope, kid.”

He tried to make himself broad in an effort to block her coming up the stairs, but he was a little kid and all that happened was his chest puffed out a little. “Then why are you smiling?”

“Ever think I just had a good day?”

He glared. On him it was more a surly squint.

“We gotta work on your ‘tell me everything’ evil eye,” she joked, and she ruffled his hair for good measure, loving the way he leaned into it while pretending he hated it.

“Something had to happen.”

“It did, but I’m not telling you.”


“It was adult stuff Henry,” she looked down her nose to stare at him, “real adult stuff.”

That earned her a quick blanching and then a deep blush.

“How’s your morning been?” 

Mary Margaret had called to let her know Neal picked him up at eight for a day of father, son and fiancé bonding.

“We walked around. Got hot cocoa. Talked. He checked his phone a lot.”

“People do that.”

“Not here.”

Fair. The entire town was stuck in 1998, wielding brick-like phones that could kill a person and take a bullet. About the most they were capable of doing besides making calls was playing Snake.

“I think he was checking on his girlfriend.”

“Fiance,” Emma corrected. 

Henry pushed open the door to Neal’s bedroom without preamble and flopped onto the bed, feet carefully avoiding the covers. “Do you think she’s nice?”

Emma eyed the door to the bathroom. Neal must have not been in there. She hoped. 

Otherwise Henry had manners as bad as Regina.

She sat down next to him, the dip in the mattress rolling him lightly into her. “I think your dad has good taste.”

“He could have better taste.”

She sighed and flopped backwards. The ceiling overhead was devoid of water stains, cracks, or pot marks. Granny kept a B&B as clean as her diner. 

Henry was staring at the light ceiling fan. Lying down his face was slack—just a bare amount of tension around the mouth.

“You know,” she said, watching the tension grow, “your dad and I are—“

“I know,” he snapped.

“I’m happy for him. Really.”

He twisted his head to stare at her with shining hazel eyes. “Why did you lie?”

He’d asked that the day before. He’d accused her the day before. “I didn’t…” Henry wouldn’t look away. So Emma took a deep breath. “I didn’t want you to hate him like I did.”


“Because—“ She couldn’t keep looking at him. His eyes were too sharp and they bore in. She twisted around so she was lying on her side and reached out to brush some of the hair from out of his eyes. He only barely flinched. “I’m new to this Henry. Especially when you first asked. So I went on impulse.”

“You can't lie."

He meant, "I shouldn't."

But Henry shook his head, "No you can't. Moms can't lie.” There was a lot of baggage there. A scared kid still wounded by his mom's actions.

She let her thumb run across his cheek. The slight rise of a mole and dip of a scar. When she spoke again it was soft and careful. “That’s the thing. I never had a mom, Henry. Or a dad. So all I could go on—all I can go on—is what I know. And me kid?” She gently tugged on his chin until he was looking directly at her, “If it was me I'd want that lie. Especially because…I never thought he was coming back.“ She tried to smile, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Henry’s face was still very still, “My mom thought she was protecting me too.”

“I know.”

“She made everyone think I was crazy.”

“She did a lot of bad stuff.”

“Did you?” There was fear there. Innoncent and painful to see.

“No kid.”

“Do you think,” his face distorted with thoughts too profound for a pre-teen, “she’s better?”

There was no hesitation. “Yeah. I do.”

“And my dad…if he’d known about me?”

That was just about the one other thing Emma was sure of, “He never would have left.”



They clomped up the stairs together, the laughing the preceded them giving Emma way to good a look at their ease with each other. And when all four of them were in Neal's room it…it got a little claustrophobic. Tamara kept smiling politely and taking up a lot of space Emma was irrationally jealous of and Neal and Henry bounced with the exact same nervous energy. Emma wondered if anyone would be offended if she ran and opened a window.

But all that space Tamara took up, the woman wasn’t nervous. She looked like one of those unflappable kind of people who took photographs in war zones or jumped out of planes for fun. At when she wasn’t standing beside Neal, their hands tenderly clasped together.

She was, however, shocked when Neal shyly reintroduced her to Emma. Betrayal and recognition flitting across her features. 

“She’s my—“ he tried to say the words, but stumbled over them.

So Emma offered them, and her hand, instead, “Ex-girlfriend.”

Tamara didn't even wait, quickly turning her focus to Henry, who stood beside Emma and stared way too much to be polite. “And this,” she asked, her eyes darting from Neal to Emma and back again.

Neal was still shy, but not scared of the words that time. “This is my son, Henry.”

A lot went on after that. Faced with a town of fairytales and an ex-girlfriend and she was okay, but faced with her fiance's son and Tamara flinched. Or rather she looked beaten. Then just as quickly she was back to herself and focusing dark eyes on Emma.

"Is that why you were in New York? Tracking Neal down?" 

"Yes, I mean no. Not for Henry at least. Neal's father's lives here  too."

She looked back at her fiance skeptically. "Your father and your ex live in the same tiny as--town?"

"It's complicated," Emma and Neal said at in sync.

Tamara shook her head. "This is..I just thought--I mean you told me on the phone but I thought you were--"

"Nuts," Emma said sagely.


"Believe me. I've been there. Imagine having the son you gave up for adoption show up on your doorstep ten years later and claim Snow White's your mom."

"Snow White?"

"She's at school right now."

"Why isn't he," she pointed at Henry.

"I got suspended."

"He punched Gretel."

Tamara shook her head again, and Emma had to admit, that when she wasn't the one being confused the whole thing was pretty funny.

"But they just think they're fairytales right? Like those LARP people?"

She got three headshakes.

"Jesus…" she caught herself and nodded towards Henry, "Sorry."

"No offense taken," he said brightly.

Being a completely normal and sane human being Tamara was trying not to freak out and only half succeeding. Emma caught Neal's eye and motioned to the door.

"Let's go on a tour," he said brightly.

"Somewhere a little less hostile than a tiny bedroom surrounded by your fiance's love child and ex-girlfriend," Emma added.

Henry brightened considerably, "We can get ice cream."

"Kids who got expelled for punching don't get ice cream."

The shot at parenting was reflexive--firing out of Emma's mouth before she had time to remember that Henry was mad at her and had a tendency to disown parental figures when angry with them.

She tensed, waiting for an embarrassing rejection in front of Neal and Tamara.

But it never came. 

Henry was already out the door and dragging his new dad and potential stepmom behind him and detailing the grand History Of Granny's Bed and Breakfast.

The tour took them all over town. Henry had a lot of the breathless excitement of his that she hadn't seen in a while and he kept using fairytale names instead of actual names when detailing things that had happened. 

"That's where the Queen of Hearts, Snow White and the Evil Queen saved Rumpelstiltskin," he said, pointing to the pieces of rubble on the street outside Gold's shop.

"Aren't the Evil Queen and Snow White supposed to hate each other?"

"They did, but the Evil Queen isn't actually evil any more."

Tamara pretended to understand.

A loud series of booms and a flutter of birds out of the trees drew everyone's attention to a neighborhood off the main drag.

"What's going on over there? Cranky giants?"

Emma cocked her head and listened to the birds--and then immediately hated that she understood birds. "It's the Basile estate."

"Who," Neal asked.

"Sleeping Beauty," Henry explained.

Neal smirked, "Someone trying to wake her up?"

"Nope," Emmma shook her head, "She had a rough day yesterday and she's just"--there was another boom--"working out some frustration."

"On what?"

Another boom.

"Nothing living I hope."




Mulan yanked on the cord and the little orange disk shot into the air. It sailed through the sky crystal clear blue sky completely oblivious to the wad of pellets Aurora had fired at it. It's trajectory brought it down on the other side of the garden where a small pile of too intact clay targets was forming.

"Again," Aurora growled.

Mulan shook her head and came around the skeet shooter, laying her hands on Aurora's hips and whispering in her ear. SHe lifted her arms to wrap around Aurora's, better guiding the gun.

"Regina you want to help," she called behind her.

"I didn't think you heard me come up with all the bad shooting."

Mulan glanced over her shoulder.

"Right." Regina waved her hand and the skeet shooter launched another clay pigeon into the sky. 

Together Mulan and Aurora tracked it. Mulan's lips were a breath away from the shell of Aurora's ear--whispering instructions.

"Now," Regina just barely heard.

Aurora squeezed the trigger and the pigeon shattered.

Regina clapped, "The great Sleeping Beauty slays another foe."

"They're harder to hit than it would appear."

"For a princess and a shotgun maybe. Mulan send another one up." She forged a ball of fire in her hand.

But Mulan crossed her arms and shook her head, "No."

"Oh come on."

"You just want to show off."


Aurora popped the empty shells out of her shotgun and hooked it across her arm, "Your ego doesn't need the boost."

"And your's does?"

"I wasn't--this was getting out agression."

"Why? We caught Merryweather's killer."

Aurora huffed indignantly, "Do I need to remind you that just yesterday my friend tried to kill me."

"Oh I remember. What with being there and being betrayed too."

"That's different, you're best friends with the Mistress of Evil."

"Maleficent never betrayed me."

"You betrayed her," Mulan noted.

"Precisely. If anyone is going to commit an epic betrayal and nearly murder their friends it's me!"

A breeze off the bay caught in the trees.

Aurora closed the gun, still unloaded, and set it by the skeet shooter. "Is he staying with you?"

"He and her."

Mulan snorted, "Regina's Home For Wayward Villians."

"Very funny."

"What did Emma say?"


Aurora frowned. "Why are you blushing?"

"I am not." It was warm.

"She blushes when you say Emma."

Very warm. "I do not."

Aurora stepped closer and peered, "Emma."

"Stop that."

She smiled, not unlike Maleficent, "Did you tell her?"

Regina tried to glare her into silence. Unfortunately Aurora had had an arch nemesis since she was a baby and was immune to all but the most evil expressions. 

"You told her!" She clapped.

Mulan sigh, "Good for you."

"Was it romantic or just…" Aurora lowered her voice, "dirty."

"We banged like bunnies right outside Grannies--I'm not here to talk about Emma," she snapped, "I'm here to talk about the alcoholic you two abandoned on my doorstep at five in the morning."

They both looked away. 

"He's been there less than a day and has already lost his pants and made a pass at Maleficent."

"They deserve each other," Aurora said succintly.

"And I deserve them? In my house? Together?"

"You're the one that ressurected her."

Regina scoffed, "Oh don't act like any of us had a choice in that fiasco. One which, if we're going to be examining with abandon, saved your life. She can't kill you now without offing herself."

"And I can't kill her."

"Were you going to? You're about as lethal as a fart in the wind most days."

Aurora reached for the shotgun and Mulan bravely stepped between them, hands held out. "You two yelling at each other because you don't want to yell at Killian is not helping anyone. So can you stop? For five minutes?"

Aurora bounced on the balls of her feet and eyed Regina, who really did have to apologize first. She'd just lied to get a rise out of Aurora, needlessly escalating things because it was easy.

God, all the well-adjusted idiots were rubbing off on her.

"I'm sorry."

Mulan looked to Aurora. 

She tried not to groan, "I don't actually hate you for bring Maleficent back to life."

"Thank you," Mulan sighed, "now hug."

Neither of them responded.

"Back to the idiot in my kitchen," Regina announced--changing subjects, "He can't stay at my house indefinitely. Either Maleficent will realize he's conning her or I'll accidentally kill him for leaving the seat up."

"So kick him out," Aurora muttered.

"He wouldn't even be there if you two hadn't left him."

Aurora crossed her arms, "If it were up to me we would have left him in a ditch off the road somewhere around Boston."

"You want him dead?"

"This wasn't that little job he pulled in Asgard, Regina. This was him pushing me straight into the undead arms of Maleficent, the woman who vowed to murder me when I was a baby."

"Curse, not murder."

"It's not funny."

Regina thought it was a little funny. Cursing babies was so silly. Entire lands while crashing a wedding? That took pizzazz. 

"What if he'd betrayed you to…Snow White?"

"He thinks she's dowdy."

"Then Gold. Or your mother when she had magic. You're telling me you wouldn't be furious?"

"Of course I would, but I'm not a role model for anger management am I? You and Mulan are the heroes, remember? Killian and I have always been gray hats with murky loyalty issues."

"The difference is you bothered to change for the people you care about and he threw us into a pit. And the worst part is he doesn't regret it."

"He does--"

"He doesn't! As far as he's concerned everything turned out all right so he shouldn't have to deal with what he did."

"Show her," Mulan said quietly.

"Show me what?" 

Aurora pulled her phone out and tapped on an icon. "He sent me an apology," she groused, "on Instagram."

"Killian can't even turn his phone on most days how's he supposed to--"

Aurora stuck the phone in Regina's face. There was a picture of Killian pouting and Maleficent "photobombing" and the caption  "sorry @sleepingwarrior."

She blinked. Her jaw was slack. Her mouth suddenly incapable of forming words. "I--"

"He 'grammed it Regina."



"You know how to use Instagram?" Regina didn't quite shout.

Killian looked up from his spot on the couch, a Pringle halfway to his mouth. "You told me to integrate."

"So you sent Aurora a passive aggressive apology via social media."

"The apology was genuine."

"She was in it," she jabbed a finger in Maleficent's direction. She'd acquired a two-liter bottle of Coke at some point in the day and was drinking from it with a straw.

"I was showing her the functions of the phone."


"Show me your tits!"

Regina curled her hand into a fist so quickly her knuckles popped. "When did the bird get here?"

Sinbad was sitting on the mantle, his beady bird eyes focused on her decollatage.

"Found him while making a snack run," Maleficent said. "You know for a place that was supposed to be everyone's worst nightmare this world isn't half bad."

"I'm sure your ass will disagree if you keep drinking all that soda." Which wasn't true. Maleficent had eaten the entire cake at Aurora's parents wedding without gaining a pound and when they'd been young evil doers together half their time had been spent consuming other people's food in front of them while laughing. Her magic burned calories almost as fast as Regina's.

"Make out," Sinbad sqwaked.

She threw a fireball without a second thought, but Sinbad was faster, and landed on Killian's chest. He put his hand around it protectively, "Stop trying to torch my bird."

"He talks about my tits, ass or any other part of me again and I'm serving him at Thanksgiving."

"What about your eyes?"

"She's what Circe used to call 'cow-eyed," Maleficent said too sagely.

"You apologize to Aurora, like a real person."

"Real people apologize that way. Aurora told me so."

"Real person Killian. Flowers. Wine. Mow her lawn if you have to. But make it right."

"Love, she's an actual fairy princess and I'm the fellow she trusted that tried to murder her. She needs time."

"Henry's the son of the Savior and he forgave me just fine. YOu can make it worked," she growled.

Maleficent snorted.

Killian looked skeptical, "Has he?"



Emma shivered in the middle of the street. Like ice water had been dumped on her head.

Henry was the only one to notice and asked quietly, "You okay?"

She was, but her eyes wandered towards the direction of Regina's house. Someone had just made her real cranky. "I'm fine." 

Their tour of town had led them back to Granny's, where Tamara was planning on napping while Neal and Henry played ten-year catch up.

"You want to come in," Neal asked.

"No, no, I'm good. I've got to get back to the station anyways. Yesterday was kind of busy."

The corners of his eyes crinkled, "Kind of?"

"Somehow not the busiest day ever in town."

"That was the time the Four Thieves blew up Granny's fighting my grandparents." The kid was way too excited about that. 

"But um," she looked from Neal and Tamara to Henry, "you guys gonna be okay? I can call Regina or David or--"

"We'll be fine Emma. We'll have something to eat and then Henry's gonna take us around town some more."

"I can show you the giant dog car!"

"You guys have a giant dog car?"

"It's a long story."

"Fairy fight," Henry said unironically.

Emma left before she had to help explain that one.



"How's Henry?" 

With just one eye David seemed infinitely more focused. It shined like a chip of glass in the harsh overhead lights of the police station.

"He seems pretty okay. The drama with Hook and Gold, and Neal and his fiance in town have him half forgetting to be mad at me."

"Hopefully he takes after your side of the family when it comes to forgiveness."

"Right? Don't need minature Gold or Regina."

He was still staring. Perfectly still. "You walked her home last night."

That was loaded sentence. Emma poured a cup of coffee and tried to laugh it off. "Had to make sure she wasn't concussed from getting flung all around town."

"And you two were working today."

"Follow up on our creepy fairy killer. I'm actually looking forward to not having to see her every day now that the case is over."

He wasn't buying it, "You walked her home."

She glanced over her shoulder and thought about making a crack about how Regina wasn't the only one with a bump on the head.

"And you smiled."


He glanced down. "I know I can't have a right--I know I gave up a lot Emma. I understand that doing what your mother and I did has consequences," he winced, "but this--"

Emma sat down heavily at her desk. She'd poured creamer and sugar into her coffee and now watched the way it swirled around in the cup. 

This, she could feel, was a lecture. The kind she couldn't interrupt without sounding petulant. She'd been on the recieving end of just a few of these and they made her twitch.

All it was just one person saying what they didn't like and expecting the other to listen. Especially coming from a guy who wanted to be her dad, it rankled.

"She and Mary Margaret have a long, complicated history Emma. One I don't fully understand. I can't. Because your mother loves her inspite of everything they've done to each other."

"What Regina and I--we're not Mary Margaret and her."

"I know. I know. You're Henry's moms and you know her as a very different person. As weird as that is I do get it."

"So what's the problem, because it really sounds like you have a problem with Regina and I--" she didn't want to finish the sentence. Didn't want to put labels where they didn't belong.

"I want you to be careful."

She rolled her eyes.

"And I want," he sighed. Ran his hands through his hair to ease his frustration. "I want you to talk to me."


"I know I'm not Mary Margaret. Hell she's barely herself right now. So you need someone to talk to about Regina and I can…I can be someone, Emma."

There was a lot less bitterness there than Emma would have expected, and his one eye was now kind of bleary. She could even see the fatigue. The dark circles and the lack of shaving. 

The guy looked worn out. 

Stuck in her own head and with her own stuff going on she hadn't seen it. 

David was exhausted.

And alone.

She set her cup down and moved across the office kneeling by him and enveloping him in wordless hug. David was a slim man with thick arms and a soft chest and a hard back. He was a guy it felt good to be hugged by, but he was difficult to hug back. He was like stone if it bristled in a person's arm. The coiled muscles of his back flexing against her.

She squeezed tight and held on until she felt his gentle hand on her forearm.

She couldn't…Emma couldn't call him dad. As much as she knew he needed it the word was still all wrong coming out of her mouth. But he was more than he'd been before the curse broke. He was a part of her and the smell of him, his hand on her, it all felt right.

"You're someone," she whispered into his shot cropped hair.

He pressed the top of his head against her cheek.

"I don't tell you that enough, but you are."

He pulled away, just enough that he could look up at her with a shining eye. He reminded her of Mary Margaret then. Her face after the curse had broken and Emma lost a friend and gained a mother. All the apologies and love and affection wrapped up in that look.

She resisted the urge to shudder or look away.

Then he blinked. Grinned. Deep emotion buried so swiftly she got whiplash. "So you and Regina--"

"Oh my God." She fell back. "Was that…were you just--"

"Batting my eye to get you to open up?"

She stomped back to her desk, "That's evil."

He was already leaning back in his chair and kicking his feet up onto his desk with pride, "You're mom taught me. I've always been the straight laced one in the family."

"Yeah, well she…" Emma shuddered, "She taught you well."

"I am serious though. If you want to talk about it I can listen."

"And not make comments? Because heartless Mary Margaret has become a big fan of the comments."

"Judgement free." He crossed his heart.

Emma sipped his coffee.

He stared.

She continued to drink.

"Now you're not gonna tell me now are you?"

For coffee brewed that morning and forgotten it was delicious.



Regina was elbow deep in dish water, trying to scour burned cheese out of the three day old lasagna pan, when there was a tap on the glass.

She missed it at first. She was busy fuming over her house guests and worrying at a persistent piece of cheese. But the tap was steady and eventually caught her attention over the sound of water pouring into the sink.

She paused long enough to look up. Emma was on the other side of the glass, shrouded in moonlight and looking skepitically amused. When they made eye contact she nodded to the porch and ducked away.

Regina stayed at the sink a moment and tried to let the rushing water drown out her thoughts. From the other room she could hear the drone of the tv and lazy conversation between her houseguests, punctuated by the unctious squawking of the bird.

She had to remind herself that the visage of Emma tapping at her window probably wasn't fake.

And she was rewarded when she crept out onto her back porch and found Emma leaning against the wall and waiting for her with a lazy smile.

"Hey--" was met at the same time with Regina's "what are you doing here?"

"Henry's staying a little later than planned at Neal's. Thought I'd bide my time with my second favorite person in town."

Regina's dubious murmur was met with a warm kiss that melted much of the tension set in her shoulders.

"You looked tense."

"If one of us doesn't get out of the house soon this Home for Wayward Villains is going to be a smoking crater."

Emma was still smiling, "If you need a break we can lock them up at the station."

"The only person with less pateince for those three than me is Aurora. We do that and you'd have to arrest her for murder."

"So I should take you out instead?"

Regina raised an eyebrow, "Did you sneak into my backyard to ask me out on a date?"

"Too teenager?"

"I feel like one of us should be in a letter jacket." She tugged at Emma's jacket. "And by one of us I mean you."

"I thought about showing up with a mum or something, to really embrace the adolescence--"

"I'm glad you didn't. One pre-teen and a pirate are more than enough for me."

Emma nodded and darted in for a quick kiss, her hands sliding easily around Regina's waist. "So about that date…"

"To Granny's?"

"I was thinking lobster rolls sold out of a shack thirty minutes away."

"Out of town?"

"That okay?"

With Gold powerless and stuck in his mansion it was possible. But, "Henry?"

"Remember? With Neal and then strict orders to go home and go to bed. Operation You're Not Out Of Trouble Yet Kid starts tomorrow. David's taking him to the stables to clean stalls." She wrinkled her nose.

"You or the farmboy come up with that one?"

"Farmboy. If you don't like it we could always make him file stuff down at City Hall…"

"The gossip mill that is City Hall is the exact wrong place for Henry to be." He was as bad as Red and her grandmother.

Emma nuzzled her cheek--gleefully free with her physical expression--and then tugged on her hand. "So come on. You, me and a lobster roll on the beach."



Emma wasn't gonna go tooting any horns, but she was pretty great at date planning. It had to do with how it was a lot like planning a bust. Pick a place, make the subject comfortable, entice them by looking fantastic, and then slam their head into a steering wheel.

Or joke and make mooneyes at them like you were twelve. 

As Regina was a date and not a perp Emma settled on the latter. She'd also skipped the looking great part. Great would have been her little red dress or that suit she could pull off when she was in full swagger mode. Mediocre was the skinny jeans and leather jacket she was wearing. 

Place and comfort had been solid at least. They'd picked up a bottle of rosé and lobster rolls and settled a blanket on a beach just outside of Storybrooke. On this side of the barrier there was inky darkness where there should have been a hazy glow of civilization. They just had the moonlight and starlight for company. And the crashing waves.

They were bundled up in their jackets with another blanket around their shoulders to keep the chill at bay. It always seemed to be cold on the beach in Maine. Didn't matter the time or year. Regina kept rubbing her hands together to keep warm until Emma cupped one in between her own hands and breathed on it.

Hand indisposed Regina frowned at a distant spot, her mouth pulling down comically, "If I had magic I could just make us a fire."

Emma leaning into her, enjoying the heat the full length of Regina's body put off naturally. She dropped a kiss on her shoulder. "I think I've got a flare in the bug."

"That's not the same," Regina grumped.

And it wasn't. Emma had used just enough magic to know that. One was instaneous manifestation of Regina's desire. The other was Emma crouching over some driftwood hoping the wind didn't get too gusty.

They ate in easy silence. The length of their arms touching. Regina would stop sometimes and try to stare at Emma without being noticed and then look away when Emma glanced at her.

"As dates go," Emma ventured cautiously.

"We're relatively sober, my mother isn't murdering anyone and there aren't any fairies about looking for a threesome. Easily top ten." Regina didn't even look up from her sandwich when she said it.

"Two of those I get, but your X-rated adventures with half the cast of Midsummer Night's Dream is gonna take some getting used to."

She got careful sideeye for that, "Jealous?"

"Of Puck's riding crop?"

"Puck was more a Bottom," Regina said slyly.

Emma ignored the pun, "What about you? You jealous of all the people I've ridden off into the sunset?" It was meant to be a bit of meaningless banter and not the fishing expedition it probably sounded like.

Thankfully Regina shrugged, "Seeing as none of them got invited on this picnic I'm going with no." She finished her sandwich with a satisfying smack and looked too seriously at Emma. "Unless I wasn't your first choice?"

Shit. "Who else would be?"


"Old news."

"Before or after you found out he was engaged?"

Regina had a funny way of speaking like a friend and a lover all at once. Cloaking her jealousy and possessiveness in concern. It made it easy to talk to her, but being totally honest also kind of felt like she was punching Regina in the gut. So she skirted the truth. Asked a question. 

"Does it matter?"

And punched Regina in the gut anyway, because the other woman smiled sadly, lying through her teeth like she thought Emma couldn't tell. "No, I don't suppose it does."

She leaned in close and tried to maintain eye contact. That always worked for them. Even when they'd just been frenemies riding bareback through the Enchanted Forest. "He's not here Regina, you are."

"I know."

"I…" she reached out to grab Regina knee, pulling her towards her. Forcing her to look at her. "I chose you," she said softly, and the giddiness of that statement bubbled inside of her. "Not Neal."

"You're right," Regina nodded and reached out with both hands to cup Emma's face, "you chose me."

There was a tiny crack in her voice. Emotions too frightening to examine just beneath a brittle surface.

Emma surged forward to kiss her. 

Kissing was different. It shut down complicated thoughts and eradicated doubt. Pressing against Regina and feeling the hum of her against her lips made more sense than all the talking they were ever gonna do. It wasn't parents or Henry or Neal or the spectre of that other woman or even a town looking for a Savior. It was affection without strings. Easy and right even as the world lapped at their feet like the waves on the sand.

She heard Regina gasp her name and all the delicate emotion and carefully built walls were gone in that sigh. 

"We really should stop talking," she breathed against Regina's throat. She was salty and the touch of perfume behind her ear bitter.

"It's a very bad habit," Regina murmered, her hands looking for something to grab beneath Emma's jacket.

She pushed and Regina sank down onto the blanket, her leg long and sure against Emma and her fingers pulling and plucking. They danced up into Emma's hair, dragging her into another kiss that was all tongue and hot breath.

It was messy and it was right. That was all she could think as her hand trailed up a firm leg and her thigh found a perfect place against Regina's center. She flexed and delighted in the way Regina writhed against her.

All the argueing and sniping they'd done and this was the quickest way to see the whole Regina. Flushed cheeks and dark eyes and swollen lips and someone young and vulnerable and just for her.

"If I'd known it was this easy to get a rise," she said with another smooth thrust--

"You would have done it years ago?"

Regina's teeth grazed her ear and a sure thumb confidently dragged across her breast.

"Might have chosen someplace besides the beach though."

"All the sand," Regina agreed.

"Should we stop?"

Regina's hand snaked it way under Emma's shirt. Her fingers were cold and maddening and answer enough.

She slid her hand between her thigh and Regina, the pads of her fingers digging into the fabric. The hiss of pleasure was lost as cold fingers found there way around her bra and


They had to mean something to each other because their hearts were hammering as one. Regina's horrorified face a perfect picture of Emma's own shock. They both froze, hands in inappropriate and really nice places.

"Come on out," the voice demanded, a thick Maine accent coloring the command.

Regina looked to her, her eyes bright, "Should we--"

"Now." It was definitely not a request.

The shining beam of a police cruiser's search light lanced across the beach, just barely missing their picnic. Emma rose first, one hand up in surrender and the other shading her eyes.

"Problem," she called.

Regina was clutching Emma's foot and panting.

"It's a private beach and you're not the owner, so yeah."

She chanced a look at Regina, "Did you know?"

"This was your date idea," she hissed back. 

"How was I supposed to know the beach was private? We're twenty feet outside of town!"

"Come on now," the man called, "Don't make me get out of the car."

"I'm…" she waved him off, "I'm sorry officer. We didn't know." She reached down and pulled Regina up, keeping herself between the cop and her girlfriend. "Just saw the beach off the road and thought it'd be a nice place to stop."

"It's a half abandoned country road. Folks don't just wander down it less they're looking for ghosts."

"Or going for a scenic drive," Regina offered over Emma's shoulder.

The light tried to catch Regina in it but she smoothly darted away.

"Uh huh. Real scenic at night. You guys are looking for ghosts and you can look elsewhere."

"Do we look like ghostbusters?"

"You look like trespassers!"

He waited, light shining on Emma, until they'd packed up their picnic and headed for the car. His light only fell on Regina as she was climbing into the Bug and Emma thought she saw a flicker of recognition slacken the trooper's face.

Emma shaded her eyes again against the light and asked, "Any other problems sir?"

More than recognition. Talking about ghosts--it was like the trooper had seen one. He shook his head. "Keep driving," he croaked, "maybe don't stop 'til Boston."

He rolled his window up before anything more could be said and Emma fought the chill climbing up her back.

The heat that poured out of the Bug's vents helped a little, but Regina caught how cold she seemed and reached across to rub a warm hand vigorously up and down her thigh.

"You all right?"

"That cop seem a little off?"

Regina's mouth quirked up into a mischevious smile, "He thought we were ghosts."

"Yeah, he seemed pretty scared when he saw you. Any reasons?"

"I've never said I spent the last twenty-some odd years years just filing budget reports did I?"

She tried to picture Evil Queen-mode Regina spooking lost drivers. "You didn't wear a sheet did you?"

Regina was appalled, "Do I look like Moe French?"

Thank God she didn't. 

Seized by the impulse Emma leaned across the console to kiss Regina's cheek. Only Regina turned and their lips met gently instead.

"He kind of ruined our night," Regina said huskily.

Emma nuzzled her nose, "Yeah. Though I'm pretty sure a couple of ghosts ruined his. Want to go haunt a more private beach?"

Regina's bandaged hand shuddered against Emma's cheek. She saw her throat bob in the moonlight as she swallowed. "We should probably go back."

There was a reason there. Something unsaid and important. But without the magic of their lockets Emma just had gut instinct and an uncanny ability to read Regina to go on. Talks of ghosts has scared her. Uprooted emotions Regina clearly wanted buried.

Emma shifted the car into gear and reached out to take her hand. She wasn't gonna press it. They both had things they were never gonna say. And that was okay.

The contact was enough.

The short drive back to Storybrooke passed by in an eery complete silence at odds with the companionable one they'd shared earlier in the night. Just the sight of her breathing and the pressure of her hand in hers let Emma know she wasn't alone in the car.

But as the endless dark of primitive forest disappeared into the glow of a warmly lit town Regina squeezed her hand.


Their eyes were on the road. Both of them. "Yeah?"

"Thank you."