Emma stares into the tray of vials in front of her and wonders not for the first time how she’s even managed to get here.
Here , as in Regina’s vault in the dead of the night. Somehow, when Regina had texted her just as Emma was getting ready for bed, the words Meet me in the vault in one hour didn’t quite sum up to this.
“Remind me again why I’m here,” Emma mutters. She watches as Regina pours another stream of strange-looking liquid into a vial.
Regina pins her with a stern look. “Because I asked you to.”
“I get that,” Emma points out, and just sighs as the vial is added to the already growing pile. “But it’s also oh, I don’t know. Two o’clock in the morning. Couldn’t this wait until tomorrow?”
“If I waited until tomorrow, Emma, then the world will collapse and all of Storybrooke will be destroyed.”
Emma balks at that. “Seriously?”
“Of course not,” Regina says. “But your mother was insistent on getting these done for that charity function of hers tomorrow. It’s not like I have a choice.”
“Wait, wait. Are you saying that all of this ,” and Emma gestures to the potions. There has to be at least fifty of them at this point, “Is for my mom ?”
“She threatened me,” Regina says defensively.
“With what? Babysitting duties?”
Regina blows out a huff. “You don’t know Snow White as well as I do, Emma. She’s a conniving fiend.”
“Right. It’s not like I spent five years of my life reading about it in a storybook,” Emma says, rolling her eyes. “So, what? Am I here to taste test?”
“The day I have you ‘taste testing’ any of my experiments is the day I get sent straight to Hell for killing you. So no.”
“You mean going to Hell wasn’t fun the first time?” Emma says wryly.
Regina shoots her a glare. “I need you here in case there’s an explosion.”
“But feel free to help with the labeling. It’s all sorted by color already. The list is on the table.”
The list is on the table. Emma picks it up, observing the various types of potions written out in a neat scrawl. Leave it to Regina to have perfect handwriting. The list goes from simple sleeping potions to healing draughts and luck mixtures.
“You got anything for stamina?” Emma asks, peering up from the list. “I’m five minutes away from passing out on your floor.”
Regina hums in the affirmative, if distractedly from the liquid she is carefully slipping into a flask.
“Red one to your right. Should be cloudy. Odorless.”
Emma spots the red vial immediately. She examines it, lifting it up to her nose and - she thinks it’s odorless. It makes her nose itch a little, but that’s about as odorless as it can get. Yet somewhere in the back of her mind, there is common sense that Emma likes to think works when faced with a bad decision.
Now isn’t that time. Not when she’s too exhausted to care.
“This one?” Emma motions to Regina, who just hums again, focused more on pouring the next batch of whatever than anything Emma has to say.
So Emma shrugs and… well. Downs it.
“What the hell are you doing?”
The abrupt entrance of Regina’s voice has Emma coughing over the thick liquid, and for a second she thinks she’s dying. But then Emma remembers that all of this is for charity and -
There’s nothing dangerous about charity, right?
“You said the red one,” Emma says once she’s done coughing.
“ This one ,” Regina says firmly and plucks up a much cloudier red vial. Lighter.
Emma’s shoulders drop. “Oh.”
Suddenly she feels stupid.
“Emma, you idiot ,” Regina snaps, but she doesn’t sound angry exactly. Just… worried, in the Regina sort of way.
It makes Emma’s stomach lurch in ways she should definitely not be feeling.
“What did you take?”
She hands over the vial. Emma silently regards her as Regina considers the glass, raising it up to her nose. Emma doesn’t realize she’s staring until Regina meets her gaze.
Emma’s pulse quickens. “What?”
“This is either a sleeping sedative or liquid courage,” Regina responds thoughtfully, oblivious to the unusual tension in the air.
But Emma is very much aware of it. She feels it creeping up her spine.
“Well, sleeping’s not too bad, right?” Emma says.
“Not unless you want to be knocked out for the next three days,” Regina offers, and steps closer, still observing her even as she kneels in front of Emma. The proximity has Emma nervously twisting in her chair. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Emma sighs, but really she’s trying very hard not to let her gaze linger. It’s not like the soft lighting makes Regina’s face look even more attractive this close. Or anything.
“I’m not going to be responsible for a single hair that falls off your pretty blonde head. Now answer the question.”
“Two,” Emma says dryly. “Though I think that third one’s getting ready to flick me off.”
Regina’s lip twitches. “Do you feel nauseated? Dizzy? Tired?”
“Not any more than I was,” Emma replies, which is partially true anyway. “You’re overreacting. I feel fine.”
She doesn’t. She knows something is wrong.
If only Emma can get over how fucking pretty Regina is.
“Okay,” Regina says, brows furrowed in confusion. “Liquid courage then?”
“I’m not feeling too courageous right now.”
“The name is just for show. It’s supposed to bring out some of your deeper desires. Spurs you to act on them,” Regina explains, even though Emma stopped paying attention several words ago.
Their eyes lock, and Emma feels that same prickling sensation on the back of her neck.
“Is there… anything you want to do ?” Regina asks finally.
It’s like a flick of a switch.
Emma nearly stumbles over in her haste to reach Regina. But she’s leaning over, cupping Regina’s soft face in her palms, and Emma has her mouth pressed against Regina’s before Regina can say another word.
The sharp inhale is all Emma hears at first, muffled against Emma’s mouth.
It’s not the sort of kiss Emma has ever imagined having, even if she’s imagined kissing Regina Mills a lot . It’s gentle. And Regina’s lips are soft - really soft - plump and just about everything Emma could’ve wanted and more.
The feeling of Regina’s jaw cradled in her hands has Emma rubbing her thumb over smooth skin. Regina parts her lips then, a small puff of air leaving her mouth and whisking over Emma’s lips.
It’s dizzying. Like her head is spinning and the only thing keeping Emma grounded is this kiss.
As cliché as it all sounds, she sees the fireworks about as much as she feels them exploding in her stomach.
It isn’t until the prickling sensation in the back of her neck fades that Emma gets a clearer picture of what’s going on.
Regina isn’t kissing her back.
Emma’s hands fall to her sides and she takes a step back. She can breathe again, at least. And that’s when it hits her.
She just kissed Regina.
She just kissed Regina Mills.
Regina is staring at Emma oddly, with an expression on her face that Emma can’t pinpoint. But Regina’s cheeks are flushed and her lips are still parted. Emma hates the fact that all she wants to do is kiss them again.
“Well,” Regina says finally, and clears her throat. Her voice is hoarse anyway. “That answers that question.”
Emma doesn’t say anything. Her hands are shaking. Not to mention she feels like she’s going to puke any second.
So, Emma does what she usually does best.
“ Damn it !”
It’s probably the seventh time she’s lost her cool in the last hour alone. Emma doesn’t understand how that’s even possible when all she’s doing is lying in her bed, staring at the ceiling. But then thoughts of kisses and Regina Mills come to mind, and Emma just… loses her shit.
She can’t be any more mortified.
It’s been two days since the incident at the vault. Emma hasn’t heard from Regina since, not that Emma’s been putting in much effort to reach out either. Whatever ‘effort’ she’s allowed involves turning her phone off, making sure there isn’t any liquid courage left over in her system, and unleashing curses every few minutes.
If it isn’t the humiliation burning away at her chest, then it’s the rejection.
That kiss was probably the best kiss Emma’s had in a long time, and Regina had stood still as a rock.
She practically put five years of feelings on the line with a stupid kiss. All because of a stupid potion.
Emma groans into her hands. “ Fuck! ”
Henry chooses that moment to pop his head over the doorway all of a sudden. She has her own apartment now, and a steady schedule that includes dropping him off at Regina’s every other week. Emma should’ve thought twice about giving him a key, though.
Especially if he’s going to pop up out of nowhere.
“That’s the third one,” he says.
Emma wrinkles her forehead. “What?”
“That’s the third ‘fuck’ you’ve said in the last thirty minutes.”
“Hey,” Emma says, sitting up. “Watch your mouth.”
But Henry just rolls his eyes. He’s getting far too big now. Nothing like the puny ten-year old she found at her doorstep. At fifteen, he’s already taller than she is, his voice is getting deep, he’s got Regina’s snark now and he’s repeating Emma’s curse words like it’s the most casual thing in the world.
Emma would be proud if she didn’t know Regina would probably throttle her for it.
“How long have you even been here? I thought I was supposed to be picking you up from school,” Emma squints at the clock.
“About an hour. Grandpa dropped me off,” he replies. “I figured you wanted space. So I watched an episode of Bates Motel and ate the rest of your leftover lasagna.”
Emma groans. “Seriously, kid?”
“Well, maybe if someone didn’t have their phone off,” Henry says pointedly, before stepping into the room. “Come on, Mom. What’s going on? You’ve been locked in here for days now. And you’ve been swearing like crazy. I mean, fucktrumpet? Bitchtits ?”
“I never said that.”
“Yes you did. I heard you.”
“Not if you don’t want your mom to know about those ‘graphic novels’ you keep under your bed,” Emma says, and it’s definitely not a threat towards her own son.
Except maybe it is.
Henry opens his mouth, then closes it. “Okay. Fine, you win. Can’t say I didn’t try to help.” And he whirls back around to leave the room. “We’re having dinner at Mom’s tonight, by the way.”
Emma springs off the bed. Suddenly the ceiling isn’t so interesting anymore.
“Who’s we ?”
“Everyone!” he calls back out from the living room.
Everyone apparently includes her mother, who opens the door to Regina’s house with a thrashing toddler in her arms. Emma couldn’t fake sick out of this one. Now she’s starting to regret not simply inhaling a lot of alcohol and passing out so she doesn’t have to witness this tragedy.
“Oh, Emma. Thank goodness you’re here,” Snow sighs in relief. “Can you watch Neal for a moment? Your father accidentally set the couch on fire. Regina is livid .”
But she’s already passing along Neal into Emma’s reluctant arms and rushing off, presumably to put out a fire.
“Oh man. If it’s the leather Italia, Mom’s going to be pissed ,” Henry snickers beside her.
And Emma has nothing to say to that because, well. It’s just another day with the Charmings.
She tries to hand Neal off to Henry. “Here you go.”
He backs away immediately. “Nope. I changed his diaper last time.”
“I’m scarred , Mom.”
Emma tsks at him, as if she has any right to - she’s been scarred as all hell, too - and hoists Neal up against her hip. He’s calmer now, having stopped thrashing as soon as Snow handed him over. Emma guesses all the insanity was just too much for him.
“Looks like it’s just us,” Emma mutters as she walks into the kitchen.
It’s surprisingly empty, which Emma is grateful for. The last thing she needs right now is to run into Regina after two days of radio silence. Emma can still feel her lips tingling from that night in the vault, like a spark of electricity every time she so much as thinks about kissing Regina.
She’s so screwed.
“Koky, E‘ma,” Neal mumbles incoherently from her hip, pointing to the plate of cookies on the counter.
“Yup,” Emma agrees, and grabs a cookie off the plate. “Don’t ever date girls, kid. Take it from your big sis. Especially beautiful brunette ones. They’ll just break your heart.”
“Those are for dessert.”
Emma jumps and drops the cookie. Well shit.
Regina peers at her in exasperation from the entryway. Emma would at least have the decency to feel ashamed if Regina hadn’t chosen to wear that blue dress Emma really likes. Or if Emma hadn’t planted one on her two nights ago.
If anything, Emma feels terrified .
“Neal wanted a cookie,” Emma says as casually as she can. “Didn’t you, Neal?”
“And do you really think feeding a three year old a cookie before dinner is a good idea?” Regina supplies flatly, kneeling over to toss away the fallen cookie.
Emma really does try not to let her eyes roam over Regina’s ass.
“I’ve already had enough Charmings to deal with for one day. I don’t need another one.”
“Are you talking about me or Neal?”
Regina stops in front of her, motioning for Emma to pass him over. It doesn’t look like either of them is going to mention that night in the vault. But it’s the first time she’s directly looking at Regina since then, and it makes Emma’s heart soar a little.
She hands Neal over to Regina, who immediately smiles at him in that way she only reserves for children and it’s just… so pretty.
“Dinner will be ready in five minutes,” Regina says to her then, peering up to meet Emma’s eyes.
Emma swallows. “Okay.”
When Regina’s gaze continues to linger on her, studying her in a way that has Emma scuffing her feet against the floor anxiously, Emma realizes there’s no way to avoid the awkwardness.
Plus Regina’s face is a picture perfect mask of indifference and Emma fucking hates it.
“Is there… anything you want to talk about?” Regina asks after a moment, eyes still focused intently on her.
Emma hooks her thumbs in her back pockets. “Like what?”
“Like what happened two nights ago.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Regina.”
Regina’s mask breaks for a second, and she gets this look on her face that Emma thinks is frustration and maybe… hurt?
But it slips back into indifference and Regina simply nods.
“Very well. If you can, take the roast out of the oven once the timer ends. While I go fix the fiasco your parents made,” Regina says, whirling back around in her ridiculous high heels.
Emma bites her tongue. “How’s the couch?”
“Oh, you mean my expensive leather Italia?” she calls out. “Your father’s taking it to the dumpster in the morning.”
Emma blows out the breath she’d been holding once Regina leaves and nearly face plants herself onto the counter.
This is going to be a long night.
But, as it turns out, dinner isn’t too bad.
They settle around the dining room area like they do on a weekly basis. At some point in the last two years, Regina’s home had become the it spot for family gatherings. Regina grudgingly, and unknowingly, took on the role.
“Wow, Mom,” Henry says as he takes in the vast amount of food on the table. “What’re we celebrating? I mean, roast and chicken?”
Regina delicately spreads a napkin over her lap, almost timidly. “Nothing. I thought since it’s almost the weekend…”
“It’s Tuesday,” Henry states, and laughs when she reaches over to pinch his cheek.
“Well, I think it’s wonderful,” Snow proclaims with a smile. “Thank you, Regina.”
“Don’t think this settles the charity function, Snow.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Emma is too busy staring at the smile Regina throws back at Snow, however wry it is. So she doesn’t see David stand up until he’s tapping his glass with a spoon, calling for their attention.
“Since there’s nothing to celebrate, I guess we’ll toast to being together again. On this normal Tuesday night,” David announces with some amusement.
He raises his glass in a toast. “To family.”
“To family,” comes the chorus of echoes.
Emma raises her glass to take a sip, only to find her eyes drifting back across the table, catching Regina’s gaze. Regina stares back questionably, a curious look on her face that has Emma swallowing hard.
Emma looks away and digs into her chicken.
Her parents leave soon after dinner. David pulls Emma in for a bear hug and holds her there for several long seconds, as if he’s aware of it all. As if he knows she has unsolicited feelings for their former nemesis and this is the way to throw pity around.
“Don’t stay up too late, sport,” he ruffles her hair. “I need you back at the station bright and early.”
Emma just grumbles back.
Henry staggers up the stairs to go play his video game once they leave, which leaves Emma alone in the kitchen… with Regina.
She dawdles by the entryway long enough for Regina to notice.
“These plates aren’t going to dry themselves,” Regina deadpans.
Emma bites back a smile - she’ll never admit it out loud, but she actually likes Regina’s snark - and moves to fill up the empty space by the sink where the dish rag is.
They don’t say anything for a few minutes. The silence is comfortable at least, but Emma is also hyper aware of how close Regina is. It would be so easy to reach out and touch one of Regina’s soapy hands. To start up that conversation again that Emma was too afraid to have earlier and -
Wait for Regina’s inevitable rejection? Pretend like Emma hasn’t been circling around whatever this is for so long?
“Pass the pan, please?” Regina asks.
Emma does, but it slips out of Regina’s reach, clattering into the sink and soaking Regina’s dress with soapy water.
Emma is mildly horrified. “Regina… shit, I’m so sorry. Do you need -”
Regina holds up a hand. “It’s alright. I have some spare towels in the cabinet.”
Emma steps aside to let her through, her mouth straining on a smile when Regina struggles to reach the top shelf.
Emma leans over her and grabs the towels. She pauses quickly, acutely aware of how close Regina is now, with a towel in Emma’s hands and just about little else between them.
“Here you go,” Emma practically squeaks.
Regina takes it with a small smile. “Thank you.”
She doesn’t move, though. Regina is still staring at her, with that same quiet and curious expression on her face that she had during dinner. It kicks Emma’s heart rate a notch. But Emma stops herself from taking a step back, mostly because she can practically count Regina’s eyelashes from this close and Emma is struck by it.
By how unimaginably pretty Regina is.
Beautiful , Emma thinks instead. Maybe a little longingly.
Or rather, a lot longingly. Emma’s gaze sweeps over Regina’s face, over the curve of her red lips and back up. Regina still hasn’t moved, but her wide eyes are darting between Emma’s as the moment stretches, like an elastic band getting ready to snap.
The tension is so thick. Emma can’t seem to drag her gaze away from Regina’s mouth. She takes a step forward, and Emma can hear the soft hitch in Regina’s throat as soon as she does. It makes the fine hairs on Emma’s arms crawl. But there’s something tender about the way Regina is staring back that has Emma reaching out, her thumb tracing a light path over Regina’s jaw line.
Regina’s lips part with a sort of dawning awe. Then she leans her face into Emma’s hand.
Emma holds her breath.
It’s the final straw in Emma’s unraveling self-control before she lets her fingers drift down to the side of Regina’s neck, and just… dives right in.
The surprised little gasp that puffs out is silenced by Emma’s mouth finding Regina’s. It’s gentle, giving Regina the opportunity to back away if she needs to.
But Regina doesn’t . There’s another shaky exhale against Emma’s mouth, after a second. Two. And then Regina is pressing forward instead, her lips gliding effortlessly over Emma’s.
Emma’s stomach flips .
Regina is kissing her back.
She can feel the quick thrum of Regina’s pulse racing beneath Emma’s palm, from where her hand is still cradling Regina’s neck. Emma rubs the spot gently with her thumb and presses even closer, tracing Regina’s lower lip with her tongue.
Regina’s pulse jumps against Emma’s thumb. Emma smiles a little into the kiss, but doesn’t dare mention it and ruin the moment. She does catch Regina’s lower lip between her teeth and sucks, causing Regina to exhale a tiny gasp.
The towel drops to the floor, unnoticed.
Regina closes the distance and unexpectedly presses her body into Emma’s. A hand twines into Emma’s hair, and Emma is left breathing raggedly, searching anywhere and everywhere to put her hands; from Regina’s neck to her shoulders, her back, and finally settling on her hips. Emma is driven purely by instinct as she gently guides Regina against the sink, pressing closer, feeling Regina tremble slightly against her.
When Emma catches Regina’s lip again, letting her tongue flick over Regina’s tentatively, Regina’s hand tightens around Emma’s hair. Her back arches.
“ Emma ,” Regina whispers unsteadily. The word comes out, breathless, ghosting over Emma’s jaw.
And Emma feels a thrill spike up her spine.
She wants to hear Regina say her name again. Over and over in that same husky tone. She wants to feel Regina quiver against her mouth.
She wants to keep kissing Regina forever and not even bother to come up for air.
So Emma does - she kisses Regina again, this time more firmly. Plump lips move enthusiastically over her own, and Emma has to grip the edge of the counter on either side of them as Regina actually bites down on Emma’s lip.
The shock of it prompts Emma to jerk forward, her hips coming to meet Regina’s in a sharp - and totally accidental - push.
Emma so doesn’t expect it. The moan is raspy, much like Regina’s voice. Long and almost needy . And Emma might be dizzy and intoxicated by everything Regina but she desperately wants to hear it again. Just as Emma’s mouth drops down to the smooth expanse of Regina’s throat, they’re interrupted -
“Moms!” Henry calls out from upstairs. “Have you seen my Game of Thrones set?”
- and Regina shoves her right off.
Emma tumbles back, but luckily doesn’t fall over. Her lungs are tight beneath her ribcage and she can’t quite get her breathing under control. Neither can Regina, apparently. Her lips are swollen, her cheeks flushed. But she stands up straight and looks more put together than Emma feels, that’s for sure.
As the last several minutes begin to sink in, Emma freezes in place, caught between a state of panic and… joy? Bliss?
Yeah. She’s definitely turned on.
“That… was unexpected,” Regina says decisively. Her voice is hoarse again, like she still hasn’t been able to catch her breath.
Emma’s mouth curls into a cheeky grin despite herself.
“Yeah,” she agrees. “It was.”
Regina stares at her. Like all other times, it makes Emma’s stomach do that fluttery thing that she normally hates. Now it doesn’t seem so bad.
“I think,” Regina begins, her hand rising up to rest over her stomach. “I think it’s getting late. You should probably go.”
And there’s the disappointment.
It’s a hard blow. Much harder than Emma anticipates it being when it feels a whole lot like a second rejection.
Emma rocks on her heels, pasting on a smile. “Right. I’ll just…”
“Can stay here tonight, if you want.”
Emma twirls on her heel before this can get any more awkward. She hears the click-clack of Regina’s heels following her to the front door, though, and even as Emma is standing outside on the front porch, she doesn’t want to leave.
“I can drop him off tomorrow after school,” Regina offers.
Emma nods, forcing herself to keep her hands tucked in her back pockets. It should be a problem that she wants to cup Regina’s face and kiss her again.
It is a problem. A big problem.
“That’s fine,” Emma says, nonplussed.
Inwardly she’s freaking the fuck out.
Regina observes her, her eyes flicking from Emma’s down to the general vicinity of what Emma thinks is her mouth. Regina sighs and moves forward.
“You have lipstick… everywhere,” Regina mutters, and uses her thumb to wipe at the corner of Emma’s mouth.
Emma looks at her, wide-eyed. Regina pauses in her movement to latch onto her gaze, before the sultriest smirk - and sly. Definitely not innocent whatsoever - curves over Regina’s mouth.
If Emma thought she had any control left over her raging hormones, not anymore.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Regina confirms and takes a step back. “Em-ma.”
Emma is left staring after her as Regina struts back inside. While Emma’s heart might be failing right now, at least the view is great.
It isn’t until the door shuts that Emma remembers -
“Wait, Regina. My -” The door swings open briefly, long enough for Emma’s red jacket to be flung into her arms, nearly hitting her in the face. The door closes again.
It’s quiet out on the porch. Emma’s lips are still tingling. If she listens closely, she can hear the last shred of her denial crumbling in its wake.
There’s no denying anything. She just kissed Regina Mills.
And she liked it.