About half an hour into Emma’s tearful, perplexed, hug-filled reunion with Snow and David, it hit her. “Regina. I have to tell Regina.”
“Emma-” Snow began, only to have her daughter cut her off.
“Don’t,” the blonde snapped, uninterested in this blood feud stuff anymore. “This has to be just as hard on her as it has been on you guys. We can’t keep this from her.” The former sheriff tried not to dwell on the intensity of her reaction, tried not to think about the way Regina’s face had flashed through her mind when she remembered who she was.
“It's been worse for her, actually,” her mother explained gently. “That was what I was going to tell you. She isn’t doing very well with losing Henry. We had each other. You had him.” She paused to give her next words weight. “She has nothing.”
“And now, to have him back but not really-” Emma couldn’t even finish the thought. “I have to go. I have to go now.”
“Emma,” Regina breathed as she opened the door, just as she had when she’d touched the curse scroll all those months ago. Her eyes immediately started darting around, looking for Henry.
“He doesn’t remember,” the blonde said quietly, unable to think of a way to soften it.
“I know,” the older woman said, her tone brittle as she stepped back to let Emma into the house. “I could only make one dose of potion until the next full moon and obviously it had to be for you. But I thought you might bring him. I just- wanted to see-” her voice broke.
“I’m sorry,” and the former sheriff truly was. “I will bring him, tomorrow. I’ll think of something to tell him. Are you-?”
“Don’t you dare,” the queen cut her off, turning back from closing the door behind them with fire in her eyes. “Don’t you fucking dare. Of course I’m not okay.” She radiated agony from every pore, and Emma found herself stepping closer, reaching up to lay a comforting hand on the older woman’s upper arm. That place she always touched her.
The contact seemed to break the surface tension that was holding Regina together, and she crumpled into herself. Emma immediately, instinctively gathered her up in her arms to provide what comfort she could. The blonde could feel the older woman trembling, fighting to hold back tears, and she murmured against her temple, “It’s okay for you to cry. It’s also okay if you don’t trust me. I’m here either way.”
That seemed to open the floodgates, and immediately the queen was weeping into Emma’s shoulder, chin tucked into the collar of her leather jacket, and all the blonde could do was stroke her hair and make soothing noises and ache on her behalf for long, long moments.
Gradually, Regina’s sobs slowed, then stopped, and she pulled back just enough to look the former sheriff in the eye, not quite breaking their contact yet. “Why?”
“Why do this for me? This isn’t who we are to each other.”
“It isn’t who we’ve been,” Emma agreed. “But I think we can be whoever the hell we want to each other. And as sarcastic as you were about being friends when we got to Neverland, I think that by the end we-” she paused, searching for the right phrasing for those little moments when they’d understood each other perfectly. “We had a connection,” she said after a beat.
“‘A connection’ is something I can work with,” the older woman conceded, finally stepping back. The blonde felt the loss of her immediately. “Especially since I no longer have a son,” and the bitterness was back full-force.
“Hey, you can see him. I’ll bring him over,” the blonde found herself wheedling, surprised by her own persistence in trying to snap Regina out of this funk.
“Yes, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to spend time with a stranger,” the queen replied at her driest, and Emma found that little edge of her old attitude wonderfully familiar.
“Well yes, it will be the three of us-” and she stopped, the phrase echoing something Henry had said. It would still be good just the three of us. What if-
“Emma?” Regina questioned, and the former sheriff realized she’d trailed off mid-sentence.
“This is crazy, but what if we tell him we’re dating?”
“When Walsh proposed, Henry said he knew it was serious because he was the only person I dated he ever met.”
“You’re engaged?” That couldn’t possibly have been a little flicker of hurt across the queen’s face, could it?
“No, he-” better to leave that can of worms unopened for now, “I didn’t accept. The point is, if Henry believed we were dating and it was serious, then we could all three hang out and you’d see him a lot.”
“So you’re going to go from almost engaged to ‘serious’ with me? Of all the harebrained schemes-”
“I know, it’s stupid,” Emma conceded before Regina could really get rolling. “But it might be what we can do for now. I don’t know what else would be plausible.” She shrugged. “I’m open to other suggestions.”
Of course it was stupid. It was completely stupid precisely because of what leaving Regina had made her realize, what the potion had made her realize once more, what was hitting her hard in the chest all over again now that she was in the queen’s presence. The blonde now remembered vividly the way she regretted immediately not even hugging the mayor goodbye, had almost turned back just to touch her one more time. She knew now that she had a very real emotional attachment to the older woman.
If she were to call it like it was, a very real attraction too. Sleeping with Walsh had been perfectly adequate, but he’d also felt heavy on top of her, like her body really wanted to be covered by a smaller frame. She’d stopped looking when he went down on her after one too many times expecting silky dark hair when she glanced. She had quite honestly never even thought of herself as heteroflexible but she’d been having very vivid, very specific, very continual fantasies of strong, smooth legs wrapping around her waist and the hot slick press of aroused woman just above her pubic bone.
And now she knew it was Regina. That it had always been Regina.
The whole “Walsh is a flying monkey” thing had taught her once and for all that happy endings and real relationships were not on the table for the savior, and it would never have been on the table with Regina regardless. She knew it was crazy to even want it and crazier still to indulge that desire with a fake relationship. But she needed something, and this might just also work for the Henry problem, and damn it if she had to sacrifice as the savior she deserved a little comfort for her trouble.
“Look, I have to get back,” she said, stepping toward the door. “I had to leave Henry with Hook, of all people. If you come up with a better idea before breakfast tomorrow, you have my number, but if not that’s what I’m going with. We’ll be here at 9?” The queen nodded.
Emma paused on the doorstep to grip Regina’s arm again in farewell, and then somehow they were hugging again, just breathing in each other’s presence. As they parted, the former sheriff kissed the queen on the temple and the older woman slid her hand down into the blonde’s palm, squeezing just a second, easy and comfortable and unlike them. Unlike they’d been.
Perhaps because of how intently they were looking into each other’s eyes, neither of them noticed that they had an audience.