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Guardian Angel

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Regina's stylist is just finishing the haircut when Emma and Henry return to the salon. "That looks amazing," Emma says, eyes widening when she sees the short length Regina chose.

Regina grins, but remains silently focused on her reflection as though there’s something truly fascinating about seeing her own face in the glass.

The stylist dries and fluffs Regina's hair, and the end product is... well, there’s no other word but stunning. Emma feels her heart skip a beat when Regina turns to her with a wide smile. Her mind goes right back to that kiss they shared in the cabin's kitchen.

"Do you like it?" Regina furrows her brow, looking almost worried about Emma’s reaction.

"God, Regina you look spectacular." She holds out her hand to help Regina out of the chair, turning away to hide her blush when she lets it linger too long.

Regina's eyes light up at Emma's comment. "Thank you."

"You wanna stay longer or are you ready to go home?"

"Let's go home," Regina says with a smile.

Emma pays for the haircut and they drive back to the apartment. Henry goes straight to his room, mumbling something about texting Paige, and Regina all but falls onto the couch.

"I've gotta go get changed for dinner," Emma says, glancing at the clock. "Walsh is gonna be here in about ten minutes. I'll have Lacey come over and take care of Henry so you shouldn't have to worry about him."

Regina nods.

"I, uh, might spend the night, so if you don't see me by midnight that’s where I am."

"Have a good time, dear."

Emma offers her a half-hearted smile. "Thanks." Truthfully, she’s dreading this night for reasons she can’t quite put her finger on – but she won’t tell Regina that. She won’t tell anyone that.

After changing into her dress – a tight black leather number – she comes out of her bedroom to find Regina still sitting on the couch. Lacey knocks and Emma lets her in. "Hey," the girl says with a smile. "You look great, Em."

"Thanks. And hey, thanks for coming over tonight."

Lacey shrugs. "'S no problem." She glances over to Regina, eyes widening. "Oh my god, I love your hair!"

Regina grins, reaching up to tease the tips of a few strands between her fingers. "Thank you, Lacey."

Emma nods. Her phone chimes. "Gotta go, Walsh is downstairs. See you all later. Bye, Henry!" she calls down the hall before she heads out the door and down the stairs to yet another dinner with her perfect magazine boyfriend.

 

Lacey sits down next to Regina. Her brow furrows. "You okay? That guy isn't still giving you any trouble, right?"

Regina shakes her head. "Not lately. I think he's finally learned to leave me alone."

"Good. I’m glad."

The girls are interrupted by Henry coming out of his room and into the kitchen. "Hey, Lacey," he says as he passes them and goes straight for the pantry.

Lacey stands up and closes the cupboard door before he can grab anything. "Hey, little man, we're gonna be having dinner soon so no snacks."

Henry pushes his lip into a pout but doesn't argue.

"How's pizza sound to everyone?"

Regina perks up a bit at that; pizza is one of the few things she actually knows now thanks to Emma. "I could eat pizza," she agrees.

Lacey nods and grabs the phone to place the order.

Regina glances at the clock. Emma and Walsh will be at the restaurant by now. She wonders what they’re talking about...

 

Emma is speechless. There he is, her boyfriend of only eight months, kneeling in front of her with a glittering ring in his hand.

"Emma, will you marry me?"

Emma bites her lip. "I... I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"I mean, don't you think it's a little fast? We've been dating for less than a year, for Christ's sake."

Walsh stands up with a barely concealed sigh. "You don't have to decide anything tonight. But I love you, and I love Henry, and I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you guys." He takes her hand and gently slips the ring onto her finger. "Keep this. Whether you say yes or no, I want you to have it."

Emma chews on the inside of her cheek, biting hard enough to draw blood. She stares at the sparkling diamond on her finger. "I'll think about it."

"That's all I ask."

"Can you... can you take me home?" she asks hesitantly.

"Of course." Walsh pays for dinner and they leave the restaurant at only 8:00.

 

After dinner, Henry goes straight back to his room, leaving Regina and Lacey alone to chat.

"You still like Emma?" Lacey prods.

Regina shakes her head. "It only lasted for a little bit. I'm over it by now," she lies, praying Lacey won't see through her.

"Good. Because I know someone you might be interested in – if you're looking for someone, that is."

Regina raises an eyebrow. "You want to set me up?"

"Yeah, she's great. You'll love her."

"Tell me about her."

Lacey grins "Her name's Daniela. She's really pretty and she works at a farm out in the country teaching kids how to ride horses."

Regina bites back a gasp. Of the few things she misses of home her horse, Rocinante, is at the top of the list. She feels her wings flutter just thinking about the feeling she got when she rode him. But when her mother found out she made Regina stop at once; riding a horse just because it was fun was selfish. "She sounds wonderful," she agrees.

"Do you want me to give her a call for you? You could do dinner next week."

Regina thinks a moment. "Sure. Why not?"

Lacey claps her hands twice and pulls out her cell phone to call her friend.

It’s then that the door opens and Emma comes home with Walsh behind her. Lacey smiles at her in greeting before disappearing down the hallway to talk to Daniela.

Walsh's eyes narrow when he sees Regina. He turns to Emma. "She's still here?"

The color drains from Emma's face. "Can we talk in the hall?" She ushers him out of the apartment, leaving Regina sitting on the couch and wondering what she's done.

 

"She needed my help."

"Yeah, for one night, maybe two. It's been a month, Emma."

Emma sighs. "She just hasn’t quite gained her footing yet. I can't just throw her out on her own. Besides, she’s become a good friend to me."

"You know, sometimes you're just too chivalrous for your own good."

Emma snorts. "Please. Look, I don't see what the big deal is. What problem do you have with Regina?"

"I don't have a problem with Regina!" Walsh exclaims. "I have a problem with you living with an attractive woman and not telling me about it!"

Emma recoils as though from a physical blow. "That's what this is about? You're jealous of her?" She tries her best not to think about that kiss, about why his suspicions are correct, but the memory of Regina's lips won't leave her. She chews on her bottom lip and hopes he won't see right through her.

"I have every reason to be, don't I? You cheated on Henry's dad with that girl you told me about. What's stopping you from doing it to me?"

"I think it's time for you to go."

"Couldn't agree more." Walsh turns and storms off.

Emma stares at her hand, the one where Walsh's ring sits. She sighs and goes back inside.

"Is he angry with me?" Regina asks quietly.

Emma shakes her head. "He's mad at me. But he'll be fine."

Lacey comes out of the hallway with a wide grin. She turns to Regina. "Next Friday at 7:00," she says. Then she turns to Emma. "See you later, Em." She grabs her purse from the kitchen counter and makes a quick exit.

Emma raises her eyebrows. "What's next Friday?"

Regina flushes pink. "Lacey thought it would be a good idea to set me up on a blind date with this friend of hers. She sounded lovely so I thought I'd give it a shot."

Emma really hopes that Regina doesn’t see her face fall, and she refuses to think about why it does at all. She smiles. "That sounds awesome." She hurries to her bedroom and shuts the door behind her. After a moment's hesitation, she picks up her phone and dials a number that’s more habit at this point than anything else. "Walsh?" she says quietly. "I'm sorry. About everything."

Walsh sighs. "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions."

"I promise you there's nothing between Regina and me." Her stomach churns as she thinks about Regina on a date with some stranger, about Regina marrying a faceless woman in a white gown. She lifts her hand to her lap and watches in fascination as the ring on her finger catches the light in so many different ways. "And I want to answer your question from tonight." She takes a deep breath to steel herself for what she’s about to do. But she’s making the right choice. She has to be.

"Yes."