Regina’s a nervous wreck by the time Emma knocks on her door the next morning. She called in last night to take a personal day from work, and they set up a meeting with Mr. Gold at her apartment for 9:00 this morning.
“Hey,” Emma greets her grimly. “Um, this is Mr. Gold.” She gestures to the man standing behind her. He’s definitely aged, his hair long and grey, and his teeth severely yellowed. He stands with an ornately decorated cane.
“Good morning, dearie,” Gold says in a thick accent.
“Come in.” Regina steps back into the apartment, Emma and Gold following her to the kitchen table. “Can I get you coffee? O-Or tea?” Her wings flutter nervously as she opens and closes cupboards, getting out all the things she needs to make the drinks.
“Tea would be lovely.” Gold eases himself into the chair, leaning his cane against the table. “Now. I’m going to need to know the exact nature of your problem. Miss Swan didn’t tell me much over the phone.”
Regina shoots Emma a grateful smile for not giving everything away all at once. She sets three cups of tea gently on the table, and sits down beside Emma. “There’s a man. Robin. He’s been… showing up wherever I am. My workplace, the grocery store; he even tried to find me in my place of residence at one point. And his son is in Emma’s son’s play. And when I’m at his rehearsals Robin finds me.”
Gold nods, taking notes in his legal pad. “A routine stalking case then.”
“It’s more than just that,” Emma interrupts, casting a pointed look at Regina. “Tell him what happened.”
Regina runs her top teeth over her bottom lip a few times while she thinks of how phrase her next words. “He attacked me. He forcibly removed my clothes and he tried to take advantage of me-” she breaks off with a choked sound. “He’s been stalking me since I escaped that day.”
Gold looks up from his pad to meet her eye. “You say you escaped?”
“Yes. But only after he took my clothes.”
“I see.” He scribbles something out and replaces it with something else. “It’s quite difficult to win an attempted rape trial, ladies. I hope you know that. However, combined with the stalking, I’d say we have a fair shot at this. I’ll rule it as sexual assault and obsessive stalking – that should give us a chance.” He speaks so casually, as though this were a discussion about the weather rather than a truly damaging, life-altering event in Regina’s life.
After Gold leaves, promising them that he’ll work extensively on their case, Emma sits Regina down on the couch and takes her hands. “You okay?”
“I think so.”
“He was kind of rude. But I really do think he’s gonna get what we need. He’s gonna make sure you’re safe from now on.”
Regina smiles weakly. “Thank you, Emma. And I know I’ve said it so many times, but you’ve just done so much for me.” She squeezes Emma’s hands, but the gesture doesn’t dispel any of her guilt. “What have I ever done for you?”
“Don’t say that,” Emma says. She brings Regina’s hands to rest in her lap, still keeping their fingers tightly intertwined. “You made me realize I was with a guy I didn’t love. You gave me the courage to leave. You’ve made me so insanely happy these past few months; so happy it actually hurt when you left. And you’ve taken such good care of my son.” Her voice cracks. “You’ve cared for him so well. And you, Regina… you fixed me when I didn’t even realize I was broken.”
The tears come unbidden, and Regina leans forward and rests her head in the crook of Emma’s neck and shoulder, finding the spot all too comfortable. “You aren’t broken.”
“No, I’m not. Not anymore.” Emma pulls her back to look her in the eye. “Not thanks to you.”
Over the next week, most of Regina’s free time is occupied with working with Gold and Emma on the trial. She barely even sees Henry – he’s busy with the play and studying for his semester tests and rarely leaves his room.
It’s Friday in the blink of an eye. Regina spends the whole day nervous as all hell, and by the time five o’clock rolls around, her wings are practically vibrating.
Emma texted her that morning telling her to wear something casual. Searching through her closet, Regina finds that she doesn’t own much in the way of casual. Most of her clothes are work clothes. Finally, she settles on simple red v-neck and her sole pair of figure-hugging jeans.
The doorbell rings just as she’s finishing the last sweep of mascara. She hurries to answer it, smiling broadly when she sees Emma standing in the hall. “Hey,” she says, unable to think of anything else.
Emma bends at the waist in a mock bow. “You look stunning as ever this evening, m’lady,” she replies sarcastically. Straightening, she looks Regina up and down. “But in all seriousness, you look really nice.”
Regina feels herself blushing. “So do you.” Emma’s dressed in her favorite red leather jacket, the one that Regina has grown to love more than she ever thought possible. “So, where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.” Emma winks and takes her hand. “Come on.”
Regina follows her to the bug, and they drive in slightly awkward silence to a restaurant. But Regina realizes quickly – this isn’t just a random choice. “You picked this place on purpose.”
Emma smiles. “The place where we first met. I lent you my shoes, right over there, remember?” She points to a spot a few feet away with a small laugh. “Who could’ve guessed it would turn into this?”
They go inside and sit at their table. The waitress comes by almost immediately.
“Evening, ladies. My name is Mulan and I’ll be your server this evening. What can I get you to drink?”
“A bottle of Merlot and two glasses, please,” Emma says politely.
“All right, I’ll be right back with that.” Mulan returns about two minutes later with the drink, setting it neatly on the edge of the table. Then she wanders off again to give them time to choose what they want to eat.
Regina longs to reach over and still her aggressively beating wings, but it would look a bit strange for her to be stroking thin air. “So. How exactly do we do this?”
“I… I don’t really know. I mean, we already know each other pretty well.”
Regina tilts her head. “Not necessarily. I don’t know your favorite color. Your favorite band, whether or not you like olives.”
Emma grins. “Green, Guns N’ Roses, and no way in hell.”
“Purple, Adele, and yes, but only the green ones.”
“Adele?” Emma’s eyebrow quirks.
“She’s very empowering! And she’s got a nice voice.”
“She’s not a band though.”
Regina frowns. “She’s close enough.”
Emma opens her mouth to reply, but she’s interrupted by Mulan returning to take their orders.
“I’ll have the grilled salmon,” Regina says with a smile.
“Farmhouse burger, medium-rare, hold the mayo?”
Mulan leaves with the menus, and Regina eyes Emma with a smirk. “Only you would order a hamburger at a place like this.”
Emma feigns offense. “All right, Little Miss Upper Class, I didn’t realize this was a competition.” She lifts her wineglass, pinkie finger sticking out at a sharp angle, and takes a dainty sip. “Quite splendid, the way the flavors blend together in such a unique fashion, combining to form its own distinctive taste,” she says in an exaggerated accent.
Regina can’t hold in her laugh. “I’m not like that!”
“No, but you’re going to be if you don’t watch out,” Emma snickers. “Oh, eat fast by the way. We’ve got somewhere to be at 7:30.”
Checking the time on her phone, Regina frowns. “That’s in less than an hour.”
“Like I said, eat fast.”
“Where are we going?”
Emma smirks. “That’s for me to know, and for you to find out.”
Regina glares, but complies with Emma’s instruction. She’s finished with her dinner in record time; barely tasting a single bite. It’s only 6:48 when she sets her fork down on her empty plate.
Emma laughs. “You look like a kid on Christmas who had to eat breakfast before opening presents.”
“I don’t like not knowing things,” Regina replies simply.
“I hear you.” Emma hails Mulan for the check, leaving cash so that they can leave quicker. “Okay, so here’s the deal for this next thing. Henry’s coming along.”
“He, uh, he finally got a date with Paige. But her dad said it has to be chaperoned. And I figured, since we’ve already established we’re going to be doing this like eighth graders…”
Regina grins. “We’re double dating with your son and his girlfriend?” She bumps Emma with her shoulder as they walk to the car. “My, my, Miss Swan, you sure do know how to plan a classy date.”
Emma sticks her tongue out. “I’m pretty sure we’re seeing the new Spider-Man movie. I know it’s not exactly grown-up date material, but it’s perfect for a bunch of eighth graders. And hey, Emma Stone’s in it,” she muses as they get into the car and shut the doors.
“Remind me again why I like you?”
Regina leans into Emma from the passenger seat. “I could just show you,” she purrs softly in Emma’s ear, smiling in satisfaction at her date’s small shiver. She smiles teasingly before retreating back to her own space and speaking in a normal voice once again. “So, we’ve got to pick up Henry and Paige?”
“Dammit, woman.” Emma’s voice is slightly breathy. “I swear you’ll be the death of me.” She puts the car in drive, and they swing by the apartment to get Henry before going down to Paige’s house.
Regina smiles as Henry gets out to go to the front door. “He looks very handsome.”
Emma chuckles. “Lacey said he spent half an hour on his hair, and another ten minutes picking out an outfit.”
Henry gets back in the car, Paige behind him in a pale blue dress. “Hello,” she greets them politely.
Regina grins. “Hello, Paige. You look lovely.”
The drive is spent in awkward silence – Emma and Regina somehow resisting the urge to embarrass Henry, and Henry not wanting to talk to Paige in front of them.
Emma pays for all of their tickets, despite Regina’s protests. “All right, kiddos,” she says as they walk into the theater with two buckets of popcorn and four enormous sodas. “You can sit wherever you want. Regina and I are gonna sit in the back and have our own date.” She casts a wink at Regina, who flushes, luckily hidden by the darkness of the theater.
“Ew, Ma!” Henry exclaims. He and Paige take their snacks and choose a spot near the middle, while Emma and Regina head up to the very back row.
“You know what people do in the back row, don’t you?” Emma whispers as they sit down.
“They make out. A lot.”
Regina quirks an eyebrow. “Do they now? Even the eighth graders?”
“Especially the eighth graders.”
“Well then I suppose I’ll allow it.” She smirks, leaning in and feeling pale pink lips slowly brush against hers. As soon as the first contact is made, they both surge forward, hands anywhere and everywhere they can find purchase. The popcorn flies off of Emma’s lap and spills all over the ground but neither of them can bring themselves to care. All Regina can think about is that she’s kissing Emma Swan, actually kissing her in the back of a darkened movie theater with their son just a few rows in front of them.
That gives her pause.
When did she start thinking of Henry as her son? She supposes there wasn’t really an exact moment – it just happened. But she knows it’s true. Henry is her son. Maybe not the way he’s Emma’s son, but he’s her son all the same. The thought makes her smile; the two of them sharing a son. It almost makes her think of-
“Hey!” a voice hisses.
Regina jumps away from Emma and frantically fixes her hair and wipes away her smeared lipstick. Standing in front of her is a woman of maybe forty or fifty, wearing a stern glare and both hands firmly planted on her hips.
“Keep it to a minimum, ladies. We’re here to see a movie, not a porno.”
Regina’s face heats in embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” she mutters, latching onto the hand that snakes into hers and squeezing hard.
“Sorry,” Emma says softly when the woman is gone. “People don’t usually care when people make out back here. It’s sort of a given.”
Regina smiles. “We’ll have plenty of time to do that when we go back to my apartment.”
Emma raises both her eyebrows. “Cocky, are we? You’re not afraid I’m gonna sleep with you and never call you again?”
“You know, I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m not afraid of anything when I’m with you. It’s like I can just let things happen without worrying about the consequences.”
Emma clutches Regina’s hand with both of hers. “I can’t make you any promises, Regina. I just want you to know that. I can’t promise you I won’t hurt you; I can’t promise you I won’t wake up one day and freak out and run. But I can promise you I’ll always come back.”
“This is selfish of me… but I don’t think I ever want to be without you again. Whether it’s as friends or something more, I can’t lose you, Emma.” Regina stares into the green pools of Emma’s eyes that are somehow sparkling in the low light of the theater. She doesn’t say it, doesn’t say the three words that have been on her mind for so long now.
“Being selfless is overrated anyway,” Emma replies with a grin. She leans forward and brushes her lips briefly over Regina’s before turning to face the screen. “Now hush, the movie’s starting.”
But Regina’s not watching the movie. She’s watching Emma. I love you, she thinks. And maybe she can’t say it yet, but she’ll do everything she can to show it. But for now, she just focuses on tonight.
And really, it’s the perfect date.