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Friendzoned

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“Regina, don’t… don’t you DARE..” Emma took careful steps back to further herself from the oncoming attack.

 

Regina continued to step closer to Emma with a sly smirk in place.

 

She lifted her hand in the air.

 

“Regina, stop… you will so regret this if you --”

 

*SPLASH!*

 

Emma felt the huge water balloon hit her forehead, breaking on impact and soaking her completely. All she could do was stand there with her eyes closed and mouth open in total disbelief that her best friend just threw that.

 

Regina was laughing. Way too hard. By the time Emma opened her eyes, her friend was nearly toppled over; her eyes brimming with tears.

 

They called that ‘craughing’ … laughing to the point it caused them to cry. Craughing was not uncommon for their friendship. But Emma wasn’t too pleased when it was at her expense.

 

She looked up slowly with a smirk of her own and reached for another water balloon; hoping to find the biggest in the bunch. She stepped toward Regina this time. Just as Regina had finally caught her breath, Emma pounced. Regina shrieked and darted to her left, just missing Emma’s grasp. She ran as fast as she could around the backyard to the front porch, Emma hot on her tail with the balloon in her grip.

 

“Regina Mills if you dare come into this house soaking wet and covered in grass, young lady!”

 

Cora spat from the kitchen as soon as Regina was about to run inside through the foyer. Regina’s eyes went wide with worry of almost ruining her mother’s ivory handwoven rug.

 

“Sorry, mother. I-I wasn’t thinking.” she lifted her head with worry in her eyes.

 

Emma watched the scene from afar. After almost colliding with Regina when she halted at the front door...then seeing Mrs. Mill’s stern glance at them both; she retreated back a few steps.

 

“It’s fine, Regina. Please just be more mindful of the lovely home I have created for us all…” Cora accentuated her statement with a sickening sweet smile and a wave of her hands to signify their home space. “... And my goodness, may I remind you of the pristine conditions you were raised? I did not raise my daughter to play in the mud with pigs ..” she finished off, raising an eyebrow and looking behind Regina purposefully.

 

Regina turned on the spot, wondering what her mother was referring to. What she saw disheartened her completely. A very despondent Emma, finally dropping the water balloon on the grass, creating an immense splash.

 

Before she knew it, Emma turned and began running.

 

“Emma no! Wait!”

 

Regina began to follow her but before she came to the end of her driveway, she spun on her heels. “How could you say that, mother?! She is my best friend!” she sobbed with confusion in her eyes.

 

“Oh, my darling… you won’t understand this at your age, but you deserve so much better. Love is weakness, Regina.”

 

Regina shook her head vehemently with disbelief at her mother’s cold statement. “You’re wrong mother. And I’ll prove it to you.” Just as Cora was about to reply, Regina turned to finish her sprint and find her best friend.

 

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“Emma!”

 

In all seriousness she shouldn’t have been shocked that Regina knew exactly where she would be. It was their spot after all. Emma just kept staring forward at the swans on the bay as Regina approached the bench from behind.

 

“Emma, please… can we talk?” Regina stated as she descended onto the bench next to her best friend (or she still hoped was her best friend).

 

“What’s there to talk about Gina?” Emma glanced over to her with watery eyes “She’s right anyway. I’m a loser. An orphan. A total geek in school. I play the clarinet and am in the chess club for goodness sakes. Even my birth parents didn’t want me. I’ll never be loved and it’s just the way it is. Your mom? She’s right.”

 

“Emma?! I -”

 

“No just admit it Regina. And you? You’re perfect and well mannered and so kind and caring. You’re the most popular girl in school. The cheerleading captain. You have perfect grades. You are the most talented in your drama class and you know it. Jesus, you even volunteer on weekends at the children’s hospital?!
Mrs. Mills is right. Why are you even friends with me??”

 

As she finished, Emma let out a sob of despair, exhaustion and hopelessness.

 

“Emma! Stop that RIGHT NOW!” Regina practically screamed. The brunette couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing. Emma had never broken down like this. They had been best friends for six years. And Emma had not once even cried in front of her.

 

Upon seeing her best friend crumble in front of her for the first time; Regina lunged at Emma, wrapping her tightly in her arms. After allowing some time to pass for Emma to let all of her tears out, Regina pulled back to look at her.
Wiping her friend’s tears away with her hands, Regina decided to let Emma know just how special she really was.

 

“Emma I want you to listen to everything I’m about to say.. Okay?”

 

Upon receiving a nod from her best friend, she continued.

 

“You are my best friend. My BEST friend. I have known you for six years, Emma. You have taught me how to braid hair. How to skip stones. How to play Monopoly. How to sneak into a movie theater without anyone knowing...”

 

At Emma’s shocked face, she replied quickly.

 

“Okay maybe that one wasn’t the best example..” she winked. Emma laughed. Actually laughed. So Regina kept going.

 

“Emma, you showed me how to have fun and laugh at the silly things. I can’t begin to tell you just how important that has been to me. To be raised in the home I was - I .. do you think I’d ever laugh? I laugh because of you. I’m so sorry about what Mother said.. She is just absolutely heartless sometimes, I swear.
And do you honestly think stupid things like popularity and clubs at school influence my decision to be your friend? I would give up cheerleading and join the chess club tomorrow if it meant you never said those horrible things about yourself ever again..”

 

Emma let out a small laugh.. “Please don’t join the chess club, Gina…”

 

Regina laughed back.. “Hey! I resent that! I’d be the best player in there!”

 

Emma’s laugh turned into a reassuring smile. “I know, Gina. You totally would be. You’re amazing at everything.. I wasn’t lying when I said that before...”

 

Regina grinned at her best friend’s compliment, wishing she thought the same things of herself. “Emma… promise me something..”

 

The blonde glanced back from the swans to look at her best friend again. “Anything, Gina.”

 

“Promise me that if you ever feel that way about yourself again, you will come talk to me right away. I’m your best friend, Emma.. if you can’t talk to me then who can you talk to? I’m here for you. Forever and always.”

 

“Forever and Always. I promise..” Emma stated, hugging her best friend tightly again.

 

The girls stayed that way until the sun set on the Storybrooke shore.

Chapter Text

 

It occurred to Emma later that night that she was in love.

 

After hugging her best friend for what felt like an hour, the girls went their separate ways to their respective homes. Upon the realization that she didn’t want the hug to ever stop; Emma knew she was screwed. If she were to be completely honest with herself; Emma couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t in love with Regina Mills.

 

‘There’s no other explanation. But honestly, who could blame me?! She is perfection. The way she makes me laugh... The way she walks - so confident and carefree. And that smile! ..and the way her eyes shine every time she does. And ughh that scar on her top lip. She hates it but it’s so beautiful on her. And her personality.. So absolutely selfless and caring. She’s just. SO. PERFECT.’

 

Emma collapsed backwards onto her bed with her hands over her face.

 

“I am so screwed.” She said aloud.

 

After some further thought, the blonde ascended from her mattress and began pacing again. Faster this time.

 

“What am I even doing?! This is a ridiculous notion, dude. Regina is my friend! She would actually kill me if she found out. Not to mention her mother... yikes. If Gina didn’t kill me her mom would certainly finish the job.
Gina deserves so much better than me anyway..

 

OMG wait.

 

Does this mean I’m gay then?!”

 

Suddenly a knock on her door sounded. Emma stilled and jolted her head toward the sound.

 

“Uh - Who is it?”

 

“Emma? We’re just checking that you’re alright.. We heard some yelling from your room?”

 

Emma released a sigh. It was her foster parents. Asking why she was yelling. About Regina. And about possibly being gay.

 

“Shit..” she mouthed “I-I’m fine, yeah! Just going over some lines for a school play coming up, MM!”

 

“Okay honey, just checking! Let us know if you need any help!”

 

“Okay, thanks!” Emma yelled back, internally cringing.

 

After she heard her foster mom walk back downstairs, Emma flopped back onto her bed.

 

“Yep. So screwed.”

 

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“Emma! Hey!” Regina yelled as she jogged up to the blonde standing at her locker.

 

‘God, she’s beautiful.. That smile just makes me melt.. Maybe I should just tell her, I-’

 

“Emma? You okay?”

 

The blonde blinked her eyes, suddenly realizing that she was staring at her best friend with metaphoric hearts in her eyes and a slack jaw.

 

“H-hey Gina! Yeah I’m good..” trying her best to act nonchalant by rolling her shoulder and awkwardly shifting her books in her arms.

 

Regina giggled “Okay good. I was just wondering if you’d like to come to the stables with me tomorrow? I don’t have a lesson I was just going to take Rocinante out for a jog and groom him a bit..”

 

Emma was so focused on that giggle she just caught the tail end of Regina’s sentence. ‘Dammit, Emma .. listen to her..’

 

“Where? To see Rocinante?” Emma asked while shutting her locker and turning to walk to her class. Regina, of course, followed.

 

“Yes, he could use some attention lately.. And to be completely honest, I miss him…” Regina spoke with a meaningful tilt of her head.

 

‘She loves that horse, it’s so adorable.. And like hell I’m going to pass up seeing that pure and perfect smile of hers when she’s with him…’

 

“I’d love to come with, sure” Emma grinned.

 

“Great!” Regina effortlessly smiled back. Just as they were about to walk into their separate classrooms on opposite sides of the hallway, the brunette turned around.

 

“Oh! By the way.. I’m having a party in a few weeks to celebrate the end of Junior year.. You are obviously coming but I just wanted to give you a head’s up..” Regina smiled
“I honestly can’t believe my mother is agreeing to it..” she laughed.

 

Emma smiled “Absolutely! I mean yeah, I-I can’t wait!”

She rolled her eyes.

‘Jeez Emma sound geekier, honestly…’

 

“Great! I’ll see you after school okay?”

 

“Sounds good Gina..” the blonde smiled shyly and stepped into her Chemistry class with another sigh.

 

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Regina was wearing that damned blue-ish green blazer again. And those sexy riding boots. And her hair was in a long braid, flowing in the wind. And her smile was absolutely radiating. And she was just true perfection. And Emma was, again, screwed.

 

Rocinante slowly came trotting up to her. The blonde was hanging back near the stables and Regina’s smile grew the nearer she approached her. Emma took that as a good sign.

 

She finally made the decision to tell Regina how she felt. After days of thinking it over, pacing the length of her bedroom, accidentally alerting her foster parents to her inner turmoil, practically losing all of her hair by the ripe age of 17 and convincing herself that she just might not lose her best friend forever; Emma had made the decision. She was going to tell her. Definitely. I mean, not today. But definitely soon. She wouldn’t want to ruin her enjoyable afternoon with Rocinante after all.

 

“Hey! Those were some amazing jumps you did out there! Wow.” Emma exclaimed as Regina dismounted from Rocinante, wiping her brow.

 

“Thank you, Emma ..It’s so exhilarating! And it was so nice to reconnect with my boy..”
The brunette replied, still grinning widely and stroking Rocinante’s coat.

 

‘I love that this is her favorite thing in the world.’ Emma pondered as she watched the brunette and her four-legged best friend. She was obviously the only two-legged one.

 

“You officially have the coolest hobby, Gina. Well, obviously second to mine of course…”

 

“Emma, you play chess.”

 

“And.. What’s your point?”

 

Regina laughed at her best friend’s silliness and shook her head “You’re ridiculous..”

 

The brunette strolled past to enter the stables, Rocinante in step behind her.

 

“What?” Emma caught up with them both as Regina lead Rocinante into his stall. “Admit it, Gina.. you wish you were as cool as me…”

 

“Oh, yeah Emma. Sign me right up for Chess Club and Band..” She winked at the blonde as she locked Rocinante’s gate and reached out to stroke his nose.

 

“Umm, I take offense to that! You know I’m the coolest. Just admit it now and we can end our argument.” She winked right back.

 

“No.” Regina purposefully strode past with a grin.

 

“Yes.”

 

“No. I’m the cool one and everyone knows it.”

 

Emma indeed knew that. And Regina was now turned towards her with her hands on her hips. And her brow raised. And goddammit it all if Regina had never looked sexier.

 

So Emma kept flirting.

 

“I am without a doubt the cool one. The sooner you say it the sooner we can get you back home to your mommy dearest.”

 

Emma knew she was pushing the brunette’s buttons now. Regina was a daddy’s girl and for good reason. Cora was not exactly someone Regina looked up to to say the least. To remind her that she’s still under her mother’s watchful eye would no doubt annoy her a little. Emma hoped she didn’t push too far.

 

Regina went slack jawed at Emma’s comment. Then closed her mouth to a thin line and tensed her muscles. The vein on her forehead protruded a little. Uh oh. That was never a good sign.

 

“Regina I didn’t mean that in that way I-”

 

“Take that back Emma Swan.”

 

“I do, I’m sorry.. Really .. I shouldn’t have brought up your mother I know just the mention of her can stress you out and it was just idiotic of me I just honestly don’t think before speaking sometimes and-”

 

“Emma! Stop.”

 

Emma was rambling. A common occurrence when she unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings; especially Regina’s. Emma closed her mouth and focused on the brunette.

 

“It’s fine, Emma. I’m not mad at you. You misunderstood me anyway…”

 

“Oh?” Emma asked with a tilt of her head

 

“It was the ‘I’m the cool one’ part I wanted you to take back..” Regina raised her eyebrow again with a sly smirk.

 

“Oh... Oh! Regina Mills I swear! -”

 

They were on the chase. Emma got a jump start but Regina somehow snaked her way out of the blonde’s grasp once again; running through the stables into the tack room.

 

She rounded the end of the table in the center of the room as Emma stopped at the entrance. It was a cat and mouse game at the moment and Regina was quickly losing any leverage. Any time Emma would jolt one way, Regina would dart the opposite direction. The brunette let out a giggle at the absurdity of their game, knowing this wasn’t going to end well.

 

“Give up now, Gina!” Emma said, slowly creeping closer to her.

 

“Emma Swan, if you knew just one thing about me… you would know that I never give up!”

 

Regina bolted towards the entrance of the tack room as Emma followed; tossing a pair of stirrups on the floor on her way out. Emma stumbled on the stirrups and reached out for Regina, only to hit the ground fairly hard. She quickly recovered and somehow by sheer luck chased the boastful brunette into one of the empty stables.

 

Regina backed into the corner with a gasp. Looking around, she knew there was nowhere to go now.

 

“I told you to surrender before, Gina..” Emma laughed.

 

Then pounced.

 

She and Regina fell onto the hay as Emma tickled the brunette something fierce. Regina was laughing so hard (well, craughing) that she was quickly running out of breath. Emma decided it was time to let up and give her a break.

 

“Okay, okay… I’ll stop the tickles on one condition..”

 

“Wh-what’s that..” Regina breathed heavily.

 

“You agree that I’m the cool one.”

 

“Hmmm… never!” Regina laughed out loud, trying to escape Emma’s tickle grasp.

 

“That’s it Regina Mills!”

 

As Emma leaned over Regina to tickle her again, but her knee slipped on the hay and threw her forward. Directly over Regina’s face. Eye to eye. Breath to breath. Lips to lips.
Emma gasped at her unfortunate move. And her close proximity to the woman she was desperately in love with.

 

The ten second moment felt like forever to Emma. She eyed Regina’s brow. It was creased with emotion. She scanned down to her eyes. The rich chocolate brown color gave nothing away, but everything at the same time. Emma searched Regina’s face for any acceptance of what exactly was transpiring between them. All Emma received were eyes full of affection, yet shock. Emma glanced at the brunette’s lips. That was a mistake. They looked delicious to say the least. Beautifully tinted and parted with bated breath. Regina was breathing rapidly. To be honest, Emma wasn’t sure if she was breathing at all herself. It certainly didn’t feel like it. Just as Emma was about to let a breath in (because she was sure collapsing onto Regina after suffocating would be the least romantic act possible), Regina began to move. She was pushing herself up. Toward Emma’s face. Emma couldn’t believe it.

 

Was Regina about to kiss her?! Oh my God.
How.
Why?!

 

Did she feel the same way?
Was she in love with Emma as well?
Was she just lost in a moment?
Was she just trying to push Emma off of her for being a total creep?

 

Unfortunately, she would never find out.

 

“Neighhh!”

 

Rocinante sounded from the next stall, halting the two girls completely from their actions.

 

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Chapter Text

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Regina jumped up first. She wiggled her way out from under Emma and shuffled over to Rocinante’s stall.

“Shhh, Rocinante it’s okay.. shh.. It’s okay, boy..” Regina rubbed his nose, unsure of what could have spooked him. He immediately settled, lightly kicking his hooves and snorting a bit in appreciation of the attention. Regina stepped back, tucked her hair behind her ears and crossed her arms. Still breathing rapidly.

 

Meanwhile, Emma was right where Regina had left her. But instead of scanning over the brunette’s exquisite features; she was staring blankly down at a pile of hay.

 

Jussst great.

 

Emma jumped up quickly. Brushing off the hay from her jeans, she awkwardly cleared her throat and shuffled her feet a bit.

 

“So, I’m just gonna -”

 

Emma began slowly stepping towards the entrance of stables, making her way back to her VW Bug. As she passed Regina, their arms brushed lightly and the brunette tensed. Desperate to avoid any further awkwardness if at all possible, Emma changed the subject on her way out.

 

“Is Rocinante okay then?” The blonde glanced over Regina’s shoulder; pretending to care about the only reason she missed her chance to kiss the girl she loves.

 

“He-he’s fine, yep!” Regina replied, wringing her hands together and glancing back at her horse. “Just got spooked by something, I guess. He’s kind of a scaredy-cat so..”
The brunette let out an awkward laugh. “You ready to go or? -”

 

“Yeah! Yeah, sure.” Emma smiled “Ready when you are!”

 

Regina followed Emma to her bug after petting Rocinante goodbye and locking the stables for the weekend. Within minutes they were on their way back to Regina’s house.

 

The three mile (and what felt like 47 minute) - drive back home wasn’t any less awkward. Emma pulled her bug up to the outside of Regina’s grandeur colonial home and quickly jumped out to walk around to the brunette’s side of the car. In her attempt to evade any more in-car awkwardness, she soon realized that the awkward tension somehow simply relocated as they walked up to Regina’s front door.

 

“So, thanks for coming with me.. That was - Rocinante loved it and -”

 

Regina was stumbling over her words. She never did that. The blonde was internally cringing at just how uncomfortable her misstep back at the stables was making her best friend.

 

“I guess I’ll see you at school on Monday.. Have a good rest of the weekend!”

 

Before she knew it, Regina swung the door open and hurried into the house without a chance of Emma even replying to her last statement. The blonde stood there for a moment, staring at the stark white door adorned with the number ‘108’ in gold plaques.

 

After a few minutes of just standing in the Mills’ entryway, the blonde dropped her head with a sigh and turned to shuffle back to her yellow bug.

 

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“What was I thinking?!” Emma wailed as she paced the length of her small room for the second time in a week.

 

After refusing dinner with a somber shake of her head, a very shocked Mary Margaret and David watched Emma walk up the stairs to her room and slam the door.

 

“David, I’m worried about her.. She hardly acknowledged us, slammed the door to her room and to top that all off… she REFUSED DINNER?! David, I -”

 

“I know, MM, I know. This just isn’t like Emma..” David mirrored his foster daughter’s movements by pacing the living room.

 

“Well, what do you think we should do? Bring it up to her or?”

 

“I’m not sure, to be honest. Maybe we should give her time to sort through whatever it is.. In the meantime though, I want her to know we’re here for her…” David sat on the couch next to his wife. She reached out to grab his hand.

 

“I like that idea. Emma has been alone so much of her life already.. I-I want to change that, David. We need to be there for her. We need to show her she isn’t alone anymore..” The pixie-haired brunette said, misty eyed.

 

“We will, MM. We will. Emma is our daughter.. and will always be.”

 

The couple shared a hug and made their way up to Emma’s room with a bowl of chicken soup and some french bread. After a few brief questions and answers back of “I’m fine, thanks” while lingering outside of the teen’s room, Mary Margaret and David conceded that tonight they would just give Emma some space.

 

The couple wanted to help their daughter, but they also knew pushing Emma was a bad idea. They’d deliberate tonight and come up with a plan on just how to support their daughter through whatever it was she may be going through.

 

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Emma couldn’t stop tossing and turning. She rolled over for the umpteenth time that night to check her bedside clock. Reading 1:24 am, the blonde sighed and covered her face with her hands. Before she knew it, she was intensely kicking her legs against the mattress to divest herself of her comforter that suddenly felt like a huge weight.

 

‘Ughh. I can’t sleep like this! Why Emma WHY.
Why would I do that?!
I’m so damn clumsy.
And how difficult is it to just move off of your friend??
Fall on someone? Move off of them.

 

Don’t stare at them like a lovesick fool hoping for just a moment longer to take in her breathtaking face. Why would I choose that time to get lost in those dark eyes and pouty lips. Just why. Regina probably hates me now.’

 

She remembered just how uncomfortable she made the beautiful brunette. She recalled how Regina wouldn’t even make eye contact with her in those last moments before she rushed inside.

 

‘She definitely hates me.’

 

Emma lifted her hand to her cheek to realize that tears were slowly descending on her face. For the second time that week, Emma succumbed to the tears.

 

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Just a few short blocks away, Regina was doing some tossing and turning of her own.

 

What was that?! Just that entire day? So bizarre.

She couldn’t stop replaying it over and over again.

 

It started off seemingly well. Joking and giggling about silly things as usual. Regina riding Rocinante through the fields as Emma watched. Emma telling Regina she was wonderful equestrian in one way or another, then helping the brunette usher Rocinante back into his stall.
The girls would typically joke a little more about the time Emma attempted to ride Rocinante, or Regina’s reassurances that “You’re not that bad, Emma… not everyone is born an equestrian..”
And they would finish off their afternoon at Granny’s with a hot chocolate or an ice cream, depending on the weather.

 

They’ve lived this day about 1000 times.

 

Oh no, but not this day Regina thought. No. This day was unlike the other 999 times. It wasn’t uncommon for the best friends to act silly and chase each other around, inevitably ending in Emma tickling Regina until she could no longer breath. No. It wasn’t that part of the afternoon that made Regina toss and turn under her duvet tonight. It was the part that followed.

 

The brunette thought back to the last moments in the stables. Emma slipping as she tried to stand. Emma practically colliding with her as they pushed further down onto the pile of hay. Emma’s breath hitching as she did so. Emma staring at Regina like she was the only living thing on Earth that mattered. Regina breathing rapidly. Emma not moving from that spot. Regina not moving either.

 

Regina wasn’t sure what to think. Had Emma ever looked at her like that before? Had she just never noticed? It must just be in her head. Emma was her friend. Her best friend. And she couldn’t lose that. No… she wouldn’t lose that.

 

Regina recalled how she moved up in the last second to kiss her best friend. Kiss her. What the hell was she thinking?! Did she want to push Emma away forever?? Emma had enough going on in her life to worry about Regina’s new burgeoning feelings. Emma deserved more than a sloppy kiss in the stables from someone who promised her they would be friends forever. It would have never been reciprocated anyway.

 

Regina cringed at the fact that she almost allowed herself to take advantage of Emma in a vulnerable moment.

 

“What was I thinking?!” She harshly whispered to herself in the darkness of her bedroom.

 

Emma trusted her. Trusted her. That meant more to Regina than anything in this world. Emma didn’t trust so easily. Her past hardened her. It didn’t make her cold, but it certainly exposed her to some hard truths about the world. And at such a young age. Emma was left on the side of the highway as an infant. She was taken into an overfilled orphanage to then just be passed from house to house. Emma purposefully never called them homes. The blonde reminded the brunette that these emotionless shells of bricks and wood filled with people who would never understand her didn’t deserve the word home.

 

Until she found Storybrooke. Until she found Mary Margaret and David Nolan. Until she found Regina. Emma finally found her home. She used only that term now. Emma never said house anymore. How could Regina even think to sever that trust? She helped Emma finally find her home. And she was a damned fool to think it was worth breaking that trust and strong friendship over a moment of impassioned idiocy.

 

That is exactly why she was exceedingly grateful for Rocinante’s timing that afternoon.

 

Regina vigorously lifted her head off of her plush bedding and sat up with a sigh. What would have happened if he didn’t neigh? Regina surely would have kissed Emma. And Regina surely would have ruined their relationship forever. She ran her fingers through her dark locks in thought.

 

The following moments were of course, extremely awkward. Poor Emma. She remembered how when the blonde stood, she couldn’t stop shuffling her feet and wringing her hands together. A tell-tale sign of an uncomfortable Emma. Regina felt the tension as well in those moments. She was doing her best to focus solely on Rocinante, but she felt unbelievably embarrassed. Her face, she was certain, matched the bright red apples from her favorite tree in the backyard. She was horrified that she put her best friend in such an awkward predicament. The fall was an accident of course, but the slight lunging movement intended to kiss those soft pink lips? Well, that was all Regina’s doing.

 

Those lips. My God, how had she never noticed them? The brunette thought back to that moment. Emma was staring into her soul. She could swear by it. She knew she was just caught in the moment, but those lips. They looked so soft and inviting. And her exquisite eyes. How had Regina gone so long without truly getting lost in them? They were a stunning green that day. She thought back to how the blonde’s eye color would fluctuate between a somewhat royal blue and forest green, depending on the time of year. The blue or green always lead to a light brown near her irises. All surrounded by delicate light brown eyelashes.

 

And that hair. She recalled how those beautiful blonde curly tresses covered her shoulders. The sun filtering through the locks, giving Emma an angelic and otherworldly presence. And the fragrant aroma floating from those tresses to Regina’s nose were just putting the brunette over the edge. And thinking back on it now My God no wonder she was about to kiss her best friend -

 

“No! Regina. STOP IT.”

 

She whispered harshly to herself yet again, angry that she was allowing herself to be immersed in these absurdly inappropriate feelings towards her best friend.

 

Emma trusted her. She wouldn’t allow this.

 

This was the last time she would ever act on these foolish notions.
In the soft light of the moon shining through her window...
At 1:38 am on a Sunday alone in her bed....
Regina Mills made a promise to herself.
She would never cause Emma to question her trust or friendship again.

 

She would not act on these developing feelings. She would not cross that line.

 

After all, Love is weakness.

 

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Chapter Text

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The following week was fairly back to normal. Emma and Regina walked to school together at 7:45am. Attended their respective classes. Met up for lunch. Chatted and laughed as they normally would have. Walked back home together. Sometimes grabbing an ice cream on the way.. craughing the entire way home.

It was perfect.

 

Emma was super confused.

 

Did Regina remember the stables? Because? Emma did. She would never forget that day. But honestly, the way Regina was acting confused the blonde. Really confused her.

 

When they went their separate ways Saturday afternoon, Regina was all kinds of uncomfortable. And in all honesty Emma couldn’t blame her. But she was very curious how in only one day the brunette went from practically slamming the door in Emma’s face out of sheer determination to get away from her …

To acting as if nothing ever happened between them.

 

She was back to giggling at Emma’s dorky jokes, making plans for the weekend and chatting about her upcoming party. It was going to be a formal party. Emma smiled. Of course it was. This was Regina Mills.

 

As confused as hell as Emma Swan was, she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Emma thanked her lucky stars that the brunette was acting her usual perfect self. She worried herself nearly sick over the weekend thinking she had completely ruined their friendship. On Monday morning, when the blonde opened her front door to see a beaming Regina staring back at her…

 

Emma felt on top of the world.

 

Now it was Saturday again and the girls were relaxing on a blanket in Emma’s backyard. The sun was beaming through the branches and leaves of the large red oak, shining down on the pages of Regina’s book. There was a cool breeze, aiding the balmy May day.

 

She was reading Wuthering Heights. It was a favorite of hers, and the pages were somewhat tattered as she flipped through them from 5 years of wear and tear. Regina was lying on her stomach and breathing steadily. Her chocolate brown hair was fanning in the wind and her forehead was creased in deep thought. Emma surmised that she was approaching the climax of the story; when Heathcliff overhears that Catherine will be marrying Edgar instead of himself.

 

Emma watched as Regina sharply inhaled. Yep, the climax.

 

Emma smiled. It was so adorable how the brunette would still react as if she were reading this book for the first time. Regina’s dark eyes scanned the words on the page. Emma’s green eyes followed her’s.

 

She knew she should stop, but she couldn’t help herself. It wasn’t her fault that Regina was the most stunning woman on the planet. So, Emma let her eyes continue roaming. Just like that day in the stables. And as they landed on Regina’s scar above her lip (Emma’s favorite feature), she noticed the brunette staring back at her.

 

Oops.

 

“What’s up Emma? Do I have something on my lip?” Regina sat up abruptly, swiping at her top lip hoping to remove whatever it was Emma saw.

 

“Huh? Oh! No… no, nothing… it’s just -”

 

“What?”

 

Regina was looking at her with such pure uncertainty and that damn adorable crease between her brows that Emma just stopped moving all together.

 

That obviously wasn’t assuaging Regina’s doubts… seeing as she began to tilt her head with a questioning glare and the crease on her brow was becoming that much deeper.

 

‘Jeez, Emma .. say something. ANYTHING…’ the blonde thought to herself.

 

“I - Umm..”

 

She realized this may finally be the time to come out with her confession. That she’s been in love with the beautiful brunette since probably the second she laid eyes on her and she can’t possibly live without her and they should probably get married and have a lot of babies in the future and -

 

“Emma?”

 

The blonde snapped out of her reverie to look towards the back door. It was her mom.

 

“Huh? Yeah MM?” She chanced a look back at Regina and the brunette looked even more confused than a moment ago if at all possible.

 

“Sorry to disturb you girls.. But David and I were wondering if we could have a family meeting this evening after dinner? We have something we need to discuss with you.”

 

“Oh, sure… okay..” Emma shrugged with a half smile, hoping it wasn’t anything she had done wrong. Her internal alarm bells were blaring. All of those times in the past when she was given up and cast aside. All of those moments began with a similar sentence: ‘We have something we need to discuss with you.’

 

“Okay..” Mary Margaret smiled back “Dinner will be at 7.. Will you be staying Regina?”

 

“Oh, no thank you Mrs. Nolan… My mother expects me home at 6:30 on the dot. I appreciate the invitation though, thank you.” Regina politely nodded with a smile as well.

 

“Oh! Okay, that’s just fine honey. Let me know if you need anything girls.” MM smiled one last time on her way back inside to finish this evening’s meal.

Regina glanced at Emma knowing exactly what was off about her. The blonde was blankly staring at the door her foster mother just walked into. Regina placed her hand on top of Emma’s. That immediately turned the blonde’s head.

 

“Emma, I know what you’re thinking. And it’s not true.”

 

“Huh? What? I don’t know -”

 

“ - Emma. Don’t even try to play dumb. I know you better than that. Really know you.”

 

Emma sighed and placed her hands over her face in exasperation. Nothing ever got past Regina.

 

“Okay, fine. I guess you know what I was thinking. But -”

 

“No ‘buts’ Emma.. your parents love you. I’ve seen it. I know how they look at you and speak to you. I know what it’s like to lo- ..
Well, I just know that they love you. So stop convincing yourself that no one will ever love you. Because that is just false.”

 

Regina was looking at her with such honest conviction it halted Emma’s thoughts in their tracks. The forehead crease was back, but for a different reason this time.

 

“I-I’m sorry, I … You know what I’m like and that’s probably really annoying for you to have to deal with..”

 

“You don’t have to apologize Emma. I just wish you could see yourself from my eyes..”

 

The brunette’s brown eyes were glistening with adoration and Emma was completely lost in them.

 

“Y-you remind me of a butterfly.. They can’t see their own wings. They can’t see their own beauty ..but the rest of the world can…” She was still staring into the blonde’s bright green eyes and slowly shaking her head back and forth. How could Emma not see it?
‘Dammit .. you are breaking your own promise..’

 

Regina cleared her throat and jumped up from their blanket aimlessly wiping non existing debris off of her trousers. Now it was the blonde who wore a questioning gaze.

 

“I-I just want you to stop worrying about such notions, Emma. You are very loved. I’m just going to run inside to grab a cup of tea.. I’m getting a little cold out here. Would you like anything?”

 

“Um, no.. no thanks, Gina…”

 

“Okay then.. I’ll be back in a moment..” Regina plastered on a mannered smile and briskly made her way into the Nolan’s kitchen.

 

Emma watched the brunette walk inside and blinked.

 

“What just happened?”

 

---------------

 

After thorough and calculated deliberation; Emma came to the conclusion that Regina just might, well maybe.. MAYBE be possibly or somewhat a little bit in love with her as well.

 

Maybe?

 

It was becoming somewhat of a routine; the blonde pacing her small room with only one person on her mind.

 

Regina Mills.

 

She sat on her bed with a sigh.

 

‘What am I going to do? If she doesn’t love me, I could ruin everything…’

 

Emma’s thoughts drifted to their friendship and everything it meant to her.

 

Sitting on their bench at the docks, chatting and eating ice cream..

Slow walks to school together…

Munching on apples together under Regina’s Honeycrisp tree…

Weekends watching Regina’s luminescent smile whilst riding Rocinante around the green fields ..

Laughing from across the table at Granny’s.. Emma with a grilled cheese and Regina with her grilled chicken salad..

Days like today.. Laying in the grass next to each other while Regina reads and Emma looks on in amazement at such a simple gesture.. Days like today is what Emma lives for.. Days like today -

 

“Emma??”

 

Emma stood quickly to open her bedroom door, revealing Mary Margaret.

 

“Dinner is ready, sweetie… Are you okay?” MM asked seeing the despondent mask Emma was wearing.. This was common as of late.

 

“Oh, okay MM thanks… Yep! Yeah I’m fine..” Emma smiled, hoping it would reassure her mom.

 

“Okay, well if there is anything you need to talk about please let us know… Are you still okay to have a chat after dinner?”

 

“Um, yeah… sure..” Emma hesitantly answered, still a little nervous over what this ‘chat’ would be about.

 

As Emma followed her mother down the stairs, she was none the wiser as to just how much this little chat was about to flip her world upside down.

 

Emma had no idea…

 

Just how nervous she should have really been.

 

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Chapter Text

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Emma stared blankly at the textured spot on her ceiling. It was shaped like a bunny. It had always been shaped like a bunny. She first noticed it on her third night in the Nolan’s home. She was eleven.

 

Emma would sometimes have nightmares about her past ‘homes’. Her first foster family cared. Cared, but not enough. She had been adopted at 2 years old. Before she hit the age of 4, Emma was placed into the system again. Thanks to her adoptive parents finally being able to conceive a “real child”. Or something like that. She couldn’t remember the details.

 

All she remembers was feeling like she wasn’t enough.

 

Her second foster mother would scream at the top of her lungs for the blonde to clean the house or scrub the toilets. She never understand exactly why it always had to be her when there were four other foster children in the house. Now she knows it was because of her eager-to-please attitude. She tried her best. But it wasn’t enough.

 

Her third faster dad had hit her. The first time, he apologized. The second time, he said it wouldn’t happen again. By the third time, she wasn’t surprised when he raised his hand to her. That was the night she ran. Again, she wasn’t enough.

 

Until one day. Emma was finally enough.

 

She didn’t stop running until she arrived at the Nolan’s. Of course, she was extremely hesitant at first. To be completely honest, she remembers emotionally pushing Mary Margaret and David away. After a horrendous track record of foster families, Emma wasn’t open to trusting anyone. But, she would soon find out that the Nolan’s were different.

 

They cared for her.

 

They truly cared for her.

 

Emma thought back to the first time she had the flu at the Nolan’s. Well, the first time she had the flu ever. That she could remember at least.

 

She remembers heaving over the toilet, nothing left in her. No vomit, no strength, no tears. Just before she collapsed onto the bathroom floor, she was caught by strong arms. David carried a weak Emma to her bed, followed by an obviously distraught Mary Margaret. Emma remembers how they tucked her into her princess bedding and kissed the top of her head. MM stayed with her all night long, applying a cold washcloth to her forehead and rubbing smooth circles on her back every time she needed to throw up.

 

Emma cried that night.

 

Not just because of the flu. But because it was the very first time in her young and innocent life .. that she felt safe.

 

The Nolans meant absolutely everything to Emma. Which was exactly why when they brought up the move across the country, Emma couldn’t exactly argue.

 

They were moving to L.A. in two weeks.

 

Feeling tears in her eyes yet again at the extent of her mixed emotions, Emma glanced back up on the bunny on her ceiling. She wiped her tears and tilted her head, wondering just how many more times she would look at that bunny before she moved from her home…

 

Her. First. Ever. Home.

 

--------------------------------------

 

Regina clenched her fists and paced the small entryway outside of the Nolan’s home. The brunette hadn’t spoken to her best friend in a week. No calls, no texts, no messages. No morning walks to school together. Regina hadn’t even been able to find Emma in school throughout the week. It was like she was completely avoiding her.

 

Regina was a combination of absolutely enraged and insanely worried out of her mind.

 

How could Emma have done this? They talked every day for the past 6 years. Every single day.

 

Regina really didn’t want to seem clingy. At first, she let it slide that Emma didn’t respond to her text on Sunday morning. No big deal. It was Emma after all. The girl who once forgot her English Lit paper on her kitchen table, only to run back home to get it… and then forget it again somehow on her way back to school. Emma was just that type of person. Forgetful and very clumsy. It was truly endearing. And always something Regina loved about her. Until this week at least.

 

Sunday evening rolled around and Regina was getting a little worried. It just wasn’t like Emma to not respond the entire day. Plus, they always made plans on what time to walk to school together the following morning. It was 10 p.m. and still nothing. Regina tossed and turned for a few hours before finally dozing off. And walking herself to school the next morning.

 

The rest of the week generally passed by the same way. Emma nowhere to be found and Regina worrying out of her mind day by day. By the end of the week, Regina could barely sleep, finish her homework or eat a meal. It was Friday after school now and Regina had had enough. She had to know what was going on with Emma.

 

As Regina finished her quick pace back to the door, she heard someone finally approaching. The door swung open, revealing Mary Margaret.

 

“Regina! Hi..” MM smiled at the teen, her usual chipper self. Which sort of confused Regina even further. Obviously, nothing was really wrong with Emma. Which made her happy and angry at the same time.

 

“Hello Mrs. Nolan. I was just wondering if Emma was alright? I haven’t spoken with her all week; nor have I seen her at school. I’m just growing a little worried..”

 

“Oh.. oh! Of course, yes. I suppose I can imagine why she hasn’t contacted you this week… what with all of the new plans coming up..” she trailed off. “I’m so sorry, where are my manners.. Would you like to come inside?” MM moved aside to let Regina through the entrance of the quaint home.

 

“Yes, thank you. I-I’m sorry… You mentioned something about ‘new plans’ ?..”

 

“Yes, I did.. It’s just that - Well… I think I should let you talk to Emma first. I’ll run upstairs and let her know you are here. Would you like a cup of tea while you wait?”

 

“Um, no ..no thank you, Mrs. Nolan. I think I’m alright. I’ll just wait for Emma on the couch if that’s okay?”

 

“Yes, of course Regina.. Please have a seat..” MM smiled “I’ll be right back.”

 

As Regina slowly descended onto the cream couch, her mind was running rampant with ideas of why her best friend had been avoiding her. Regina honestly couldn’t think of one. She thought back to the week before; more specifically their most recent day together. Emma was acting herself that day as far as she could remember. Their afternoon hanging out in the backyard was nothing out of the ordinary. Well, for the most part she supposed. Regina remembered the moment she caught Emma staring at her that Saturday afternoon. At the time, Regina had honestly thought there may have been something on her face. But now… now she can remember the look. The look Emma had given her. Her eyes had been shining with a certain tenderness that Regina could only truly place from one other moment. The moment in the stables.

 

Regina’s forehead creased in thought. What could this be about? Was Emma sick or something? No. No way.. She would have been one of the first people to hear about something like that. Right? Was she mad at her? Upset at something Regina had said or done?

 

Something had shifted in the last few weeks and Regina was adamant to find out. And find out today.

 

She heard someone descending the stairs, and just as she was about to turn to ask Emma what in the hell was going on… her eyes landed on a despondent looking Mary Margaret again.

 

“She.. she said she didn’t want to talk to you right now, Regina. She said she is so sorry and will hopefully make it up to you soon..” MM finished with a slight shake of her head.

 

Regina just stared at MM for a moment, mouth agape. After a few moments, she closed her mouth and swallowed tensley.

 

“Oh.. um, okay.. I guess I’ll just be going then I-” the brunette stood up from the couch and stoically brushed her hands off on her trousers. As she made it to the front door she turned around to make eye contact with Mary Margaret again.

 

“Would you please just let Emma know I am here for her? Even- even if she doesn’t want to speak to me.. I will always be here for her. Would you just tell her that… please?”

 

Regina’s eyes were full of that same despondent look she held herself only a moment ago.. So Mary Margaret said the only thing she could have said at the time.

 

“Of course I will.”

 

 

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Chapter Text

Regina was fuming.

 

To be honest, that was an understatement.

 

Another week had passed without seeing or talking to Emma. Well, she saw her momentarily on Tuesday. And that was it. Literally. She saw Emma in the hallway. And then Emma passed by her. As if they had never known each other. Regina couldn’t believe it. She just couldn’t.
Emma had never behaved this way. And Regina was beside herself with heartache for the following few days.

 

It was Friday and her big end of the year party was tomorrow. Her Mother was rushing around the home somewhat frantically preparing for the guests. She told Mother it didn’t need to be formal, but there was no talking to her at this point.

 

Regina, dear. Who do you think we are? We are formal people. And formal people throw formal parties.

 

Regina rolled her eyes just thinking about her Mother’s response. She couldn’t handle her Mother’s governing attitude today… but she was throwing her a party. Which was just so unlike Mother. So Regina receded to smiling and nodding all evening.

 

As she cleaned the baseboards (Because apparently baseboards need to be cleaned for a party consisting of 25 teenagers who probably don’t even know what baseboards are), Regina thought about Emma. All she thought about lately was Emma. And her perplexity of the last few weeks never dwindled.

 

What had changed, although, was Regina’s attitude towards it. The more she thought about it, the more it aggravated and confused her greatly. Her confusion and aggravation were now leading to anger. Anger that she, quite frankly felt was justified.

 

The party she was anticipating for weeks now was tomorrow. She was truly looking forward to Emma helping her plan it; choosing outfits together, making a list of what food to have and games to play. Emma would have asked for hot cocoa. It wasn’t a party without hot cocoa. Even in May.

 

Mother eventually administered the menu for the evening. The games, music and movies they would be playing.. Regina chose. As well as the decorations. With a bit of difficulty that was. Regina wasn’t often allowed to have parties and was somewhat unfamiliar with common party etiquette. That was where Emma was meant to help.

 

She scrubbed a particular section of the baseboard that much harder as she thought how Emma had let her down. She had promised her she was going to help. She was going to be there for her like she always had been. After two weeks of moping around house and school, Regina decided that that was enough. Emma didn’t deserve her despair. She tried her best to reach out to her.. And that obviously wasn’t sufficient. The blonde passed by her without a blink of an eye.

 

How could she have done that? That made Regina’s heart ache at the mere thought of that moment. The brunette shook her head and stood up from her cleaning duties.

 

She slowly strolled into the kitchen where her Mother was explaining to the maid exactly how the hors d’oeuvres should be displayed for tomorrow. She watched as Mother walked purposefully around the large marble-topped kitchen island, checking through the list of food and drink for tomorrow.

 

Hot cocoa was still on the menu.

 

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3 days earlier...

 

Emma groggily sat up, reading 6:23 on her alarm clock. She yawned and rubbed her hands over her face for a moment before grabbing her glasses from the nightstand and crawling out of bed to go to the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and washed her face. With a sigh, she headed back to her room to get dressed for the day and finally head downstairs for breakfast. She quickly chose some black skinny jeans and her black Ramones top. She was feeling black today.

She threw on her red leather jacket and shuffled down the stairs to the kitchen where MM and David were waiting.

 

“Good morning, sweetheart!” MM in her usual chipper tone, even in the mornings. Emma could never understand that. Especially lately.

 

“Morning, Emma.. how are you feeling kiddo?” David sat down next to her at the kitchen table, handing her a large mug of cocoa.

 

Emma grasped it with appreciation, letting the warmth comfort her cold hands.

 

“Thanks David… I-I’m fine. Just tired..” The blonde shrugged and averted her eyes.

 

David glanced at Mary Margaret with uncertainty, knowing that fine was probably not the appropriate word. Emma had been somewhat.. Numb.. ever since they told her about the move. On the surface, she was her normal self… going to school, studying, going to her chess matches and band practices. But David and MM knew their daughter. Something was off. Even more so than before.

 

Two weeks ago, Emma had been a bit jittery and emotional. Pacing her room, talking to herself, concentrating on something in particular her parents just couldn’t peg. But now? Now. Emma was almost void of emotion completely. It was almost like she had transformed into a zombie-like-state. The teen would wake up and go through the motions of the day; brushing her teeth, eating breakfast, walking to school, coming back home to stay in her room for the remainder of the evening. She claimed she just had a ton of schoolwork to catch up on before the year finished. But her parents knew better. This wasn’t like their daughter. This wasn’t like Emma.
The hardest part was, whenever MM and David asked her ‘How are you?’ or ‘Is anything wrong?’ and ‘Do you want to talk, Emma?’ .. the teen would completely evade the heavy questions with a nod and a “I’m fine.” All the while, averting her eyes from any contact.

 

Just as David was about to respond to Emma’s nonchalant answer, the blonde quickly stood up from the table and grabbed her book bag that was hanging on the back of the chair.

 

“I’m running a little late today, so I’m just gonna..” Emma pointed toward the front door, backstepping out of the kitchen.

“But, you haven’t even had breakfast honey? I made waffles today? And we can drive you to school..” MM asked, hopeful her daughter would sit and eat with them for just five minutes.

 

“That’s alright, MM, honestly. I-I’m pretty full from the cocoa anyway, so… I’ll see you guys later!”

 

Before they knew it, Emma ran out of the house without another word. Mary Margaret sat down next to her husband with a long sigh.. Both of them noticing Emma had barely even touched her hot chocolate.

 

---------------

 

Emma kicked a small stone across the sidewalk, watching it skip abruptly into a bush. She re-adjusted her backpack and tucked her hands into her jean pockets. The walk to school today was a listless one, seeing as she left 20 minutes before she actually needed to. She just wasn’t ready to talk to anyone yet. Her feet came to a halt upon approaching the home she had been avoiding for the last week and a half.

 

“Shit!”

 

Emma whispered to herself before darting back quickly behind the bushes outside of 108 Mifflin. She watched carefully and quietly as Regina’s father, Henry, walked slowly down the small pathway of their home to grab the morning paper. He was humming to himself as he bent over to snatch the paper and return back into the grand home. For a moment, Emma thought about the song he was humming as it reverberated in her mind. Regina has hummed it before as well. She found herself wanting to ask the brunette what the song was. She obviously couldn’t do that. So she unconsciously hummed what she remembered.

 

Before continuing her slow walk to school, Emma glanced up to Regina’s bedroom window. She knew the moment she did that that it was probably not the best idea. Because there stood Regina, looking out of her window into the distance at the newly rising sun. She still had her pajamas and robe on; her long hair tousled and hanging over her shoulders. The pink and yellow hues of the morning sky had begun to settle upon Mifflin street, casting an ethereal glow onto the Mills Manor. And onto Regina.

 

Emma gasped in awe at just how unbelievably stunning the woman standing in front of her was. As she watched Regina run a hand through her hair and turn from her viewpoint to presumably get ready for school, Emma decided then and there that:

 

Nature and its aesthetic effect on the world may indeed be ethereal..

 

But nothing in this universe is quite as exquisite as Regina Mills.

 

Emma sighed and walked the rest of the way to Storybrooke High.. humming the same tune all the while.

 

--------------------

 

She couldn’t face her. She just couldn’t.

 

Emma had hastily turned the corner to the Science department, making her way to Chemistry before the bell rang. She checked her watch, noting that she had about 3 minutes to get to room 207. She glanced up to avoid any possible collisions as she turned (which were quite frankly, extremely likely for Emma)... and that’s when she saw her.

 

She was walking down the hallway, the opposite direction to Emma.

She was on her way to Trig. Emma cursed to herself. She timed this one horribly.

 

Regina hadn’t noticed her yet. That was good. She was about 20 feet away from the blonde, but making her way closer by the second. Emma had no way out. If she had more time, she could have cut through the courtyard. She glanced at her watch and noted that the time ticked down to 2 minutes now. Not nearly enough time. The blonde figured that her only option was to rush the walk. That way Regina just might.. might not see her. That was extremely unlikely but she had no other option.

Emma glanced at the brunette once more. She was maybe 10 or 15 feet away now.

 

God she was so beautiful. She was wearing a light blue button up blouse and white trousers. The light outfit was a lovely contrast to Regina’s chocolate brown hair and mocha skin. Emma loved light colors on Regina. Especially blue.

To be honest, Emma loved anything on Regina.

 

She was within about five feet from her now. The brunette was now lifting her head from the notebook she had been glancing at (of course, Regina was never at risk of tripping up or stumbling into someone). Emma held her breath and kept her head down and she hurriedly walked by her best friend. The smell of the brunette’s Estee Lauder perfume wafted through the air as she took her breath, making it that much harder for Emma to keep her head down.

 

Emma didn’t exhale until she made it to her room. She stopped inside the door before going to find her seat, gazing back down the hall to make sure Regina had gotten safely to her class. What she saw, although, she hadn’t been expecting. Regina was stood, stock still, staring out into the courtyard. She had a puzzled look on her face and her head was tilted to one side. Her brow was furrowed; but not in the playfully inquisitive way Emma loved so much. Her mouth was agape. And her eyes. Her eyes were clouded over. And her breathing was ragged. And if Emma looked very carefully she could almost make out a tear running down Regina’s face?

 

This… this look Emma had never seen before. If she had, Emma had certainly never caused the brunette to have it.

 

She watched as Regina wiped her tears, took a deep breath and finally turned to make her way to her class.

 

The bell rang at that moment… but all Emma could register was that for the first time in forever…

 

She had made Regina truly and utterly sad.

 

 

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Chapter Text

Emma felt numb.

 

Regina’s sorrowful expression haunted Emma the rest of the day. She walked home from school and locked herself in her room for the remainder of the night, telling her parents she couldn’t stomach any dinner. As she rolled onto her left side, clutching a pillow in her grasp, her mind wandered. She had never seen the brunette look so disheartened. Her stance so listless. Her face down-turned. Her eyes. Oh God her eyes.

 

It reminded Emma of the moment she first realized she may never have a family to love her. She was 7 and her most recent foster family had dropped her off at the orphanage again. As she watched them drive away, her eyes grew cloudy. Her mouth agape. A single tear ran down her cheek. It was exactly the same expression.

 

Emma shot up to sit on the edge of her bed; her chest heaving with strong haphazard breaths. She began to feel droplets of sweat on her forehead. Her temperature was rising and her vision was becoming cloudy. Her hands felt numb. She shook her hands out and placed them on bed next to her. Straightening her back and lifting her chin, she tried to take long breaths in and out. But it was fruitless. There was no air.

 

What was she thinking? What was she doing?!

 

She was hurting the only person in the world she was in love with. Regina was her everything. Everything. And she was causing her pain.

 

Why was she doing this? Her reasons that she came up with two weeks ago were now completely lost on her. Emma jolted up from the bed, waving her hands around, trying to detect any air in the room for her lungs.

 

She needed to make this right. But she couldn’t make it right if she died from a panic attack. Emma slowly walked over to the window in her room and looked up at the sky. The moon and stars always seemed to calm her. She quietly hummed Regina’s song and focused on the moon and its craters. Nearing the end of the song (or, the few lines she remembered from the song).. Emma was finally able to get her breathing back on track. She wiped her brow and sat back on her bed, still looking into the night sky.

 

She had to fix this. And she knew just the way to do that.

 

Hopefully.

 

---------------------------------

 

It was Saturday afternoon and if Regina thought her Mother was bad last night.. That was nothing compared to today.

 

Cora was like a madwoman; ordering the maids, Henry and herself around the manor to perfect the final touches for the party. As mother reminded Linda, one of the maids, that the table runner was not as centered as it should be.. Regina slipped unknowingly through the back door. The brunette sighed and ran her fingers through her long hair, glancing up at the target for her escape. She smiled as she walked on the grass to her apple tree.

 

She leaned her back against the trunk for a moment before slinking down and sitting underneath one of her favorite things in the world. Regina folded her legs and placed her arms around them, lifting her eyes to take in the grand wonderment of her honeycrisp tree. The leaves had begun to take on a bright green hue now that summer was coming around.. and the apples as red as ever. It was strong. And uniquely beautiful… well, to her at least. Regina smiled and grabbed an apple off of the ground, twirling it around in her hands. Something about this tree always relaxed the teen. Whenever Mother would be on her back about her school work or many commitments, Regina would just sit under her tree for a while… taking in it’s tranquility. When expectations weren’t met and her Mother was disappointed, this is where she would escape to. And when Emma.. when Emma ignored her completely the other day… Regina rushed to her honeycrisp to finally release the tears she had been holding in.

 

Emma

 

Regina still couldn’t understand. She didn’t think she ever would. One thing she did understand was that she was done trying. Trying her best to be there for Emma. Trying her best to remind her she was such a wonderful friend and person. Trying to make her feel better whenever she was feeling low. Trying to help her fit in. Trying to make her see how perfect she was. Trying not to love her. Trying Trying Trying.

 

This was it for her. Emma couldn’t even look at her? Well, Emma would be getting exactly what she wished for. She wouldn’t feel obliged to look at Regina anymore, because Regina was finished. The brunette planned on letting Emma know just what she thought of her obvious avoidance the last two weeks. And she didn’t care if Emma even listened. But she had to say something. There was no way Regina was going to allow their friendship to end this way. With no meanings or explanations. She honestly couldn’t actually fathom how Emma thought that just pretending their friendship never existed was any kind of appropriate?

 

Then it hit Regina. Maybe Emma didn’t actually care. Maybe this was all an act… befriend Regina to just desert her in the end. Maybe Emma was trying to get back at the universe somehow for being deserted herself. That would explain the longing and loving looks Emma sent her.. Just to be let down and cast aside weeks later. Well, this wasn’t a game to Regina. Her heart had been completely shattered in the last two weeks. But that was something she would never again allow. Love was indeed weakness. And this proved it. Without love, there was strength.

 

And Regina was ready to be strong.

 

Just like her tree.

 

----------------------------------------

 

 

Emma finished tying off the ribbon on the bouquet of pink and red camellias. She wrapped the large bouquet in tissue paper and placed them gently on her dresser.
She took a deep breath and glanced up at the mirror once again, smiling nervously. Actually nervous was an understatement. Emma was shitting bricks. Tonight was the night.

 

She looked fairly pretty, she thought. The blonde was wearing a new cream dress with lace detail. Her hair was tied back with a few tendrils peaking out and some light makeup applied to her face. It was very rare for her to wear something so feminine, but she was seeking absolution. Everything about tonight; from the flowers she chose to the dress she was wearing.. She wanted to do anything and everything possible to earn Regina’s forgiveness. Everything about tonight mattered. And Emma was ready. Shitting bricks, but ready.

 

She slipped on her cream heels and folded the paper with her speech into her cardigan pocket. Emma grabbed the flowers, making sure not to break any of the stems, and made her way downstairs.

 

“I’m headed to Regina’s now MM and David!” Emma exclaimed from the foyer. MM and David walked from the kitchen.

 

“Emma! Oh my goodness you look absolutely beautiful!” Mary Margaret beamed. Emma blushed fiercely but smiled. She wasn’t so great with single channeled attention. Especially pertaining to her looks.

 

“Our little girl is all grown up..” David placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder, and she could almost swear she saw tears in his eyes. “..You look very charming Emma..”

 

Emma smiled a watery smile as her parents shuffled in to give her a family hug; Mary Margaret now with tears in her eyes and David’s hand cradling her head.

 

After a moment, Emma pulled back. “Guys, you’re going to make me ruin my makeup!” She chuckled while lightly sweeping the tears from under her eyes.

 

“Sorry honey, sorry..” MM moved back, taking one last look at her beautifully grown up daughter. David cleared his throat and did the same.

 

“We hope you have a wonderful night! Enjoy the party and - Oh?” MM turned her head quizzically. “Who are the flowers for?”

 

“Flowers? Oh- oh! No one really just… Regina’s mom..” Emma shuffled her feet knowing that was the worst lie on the planet. And she hated lying to her parents. She glanced to the floor sadly, thinking that is all she had been doing lately.

 

“Oh, well that is so sweet of you Emma… especially seeing as she isn’t always the nicest to us…” MM glanced at David, trying her best to resist rolling her eyes.

 

“Yeah, well… It’s time to repair those burning bridges I think..” Emma smiled, knowing that she wasn’t talking about Cora, but Regina.

 

“Well, I think it is very sweet of you, Emma. You’ve turned out so well. And I think I can speak for both of us when I say.. We are so proud of you.” David smiled at his daughter and kissed her cheek one more time before she left.

 

“Th-thank you. Both of you.” Before tears threatened to spill once more, Emma made quick work of kissing both her parents goodbye before closing her door and nervously making her way to Regina’s.

 

------------------------------

 

DING DONG

 

Emma could still feel the low melodic vibrations in her fingertip after pressing the doorbell to 108 Mifflin. The sound must have been specifically chosen by Cora Emma figured. It had an elegant, yet eerie, quality. The sound of the doorbell could somehow be reflected in Cora herself. Emma surmised that if Cora had been a sound, it would have been that one.

 

She didn’t usually ring the bell to be honest. But the party was in full swing and Emma wanted to make sure she was heard. She glanced down at her hands as she was waiting for someone to answer the door. Her hands were trembling with anticipation, Regina’s flowers shaking in result. She took a deep breath. She had to calm down before she ruined the bouquet she took an hour to put together. Just as she was moving the flowers and letter from one hand to the other, the door swung open.

 

“Who are you??” A tall and pretty brunette girl answered the door with a questioning - somewhat bitchy - gaze. Emma recognized her right away as one of Regina’s co-cheerleaders. Ruby? Or something.

 

“I-I’m Emma… Emma Swan..” Emma adjusted her weight on her feet, feeling as small as ever.

 

“Who?” Ruby folded her arms in front of her, raising her eyebrow.

 

“I’m Regina’s best friend. Or- was. I don’t know at the moment. I’m hoping to change that tonight but- ” Emma’s eyes widened, realizing how much she had just spilled to Ruby.

 

Ruby scoffed and rolled her eyes. Just when Emma thought she was going to slam the door in her face, Ruby opened it further and began to walk back into the party.

 

“Whatever, I don’t really care who you are..” Emma could hear faintly as she walked away.

 

Emma sighed and looked beyond the door into the party. She assumed that this was a (somewhat backwards) invitation, so she slowly stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind her. The home looked AMAZING. The lighting was dim throughout the house with black and gold streamers bordering the rooms. A large banner hung over the foyer: Congratulations, Class of 2000 ..with large gold and black balloons lining the stairs and walkway into the home.

 

Emma slowly climbed the few small steps from the foyer and made her way into the living room. There must have been about 200 kids from her school here. Regina’s popularity wasn’t an understatement. She glanced around searching that familiar face, squinting and pushing her way through the crowd. The music was louder and more upbeat than she thought. At the moment Destiny’s Child was on and Emma was fairly certain that wherever Cora was, she was having at least a small aneurysm.

She slowly but surely made her way through the crowd of dancing and hollering teens, releasing a heavy breath at the other end of the room. Regina wasn’t in here. Great. She glanced down at the bouquet and note, assured that they were both still in surprisingly good conditions.

 

--------------

 

It had been about 45 minutes and Emma was exhausted. She had been searching high and low for Regina but the beautiful brunette was nowhere to be found. In her own home. At her own party.

 

Emma sighed and made her way up the grand staircase to get away from the crowd. She passed by a couple of teens making out on the stairs, wondering where in the hell Cora was to be allowing this. She shook her head and kept her pace, searching any respite from the craziness. She found her way into the guest bedroom and flopped down onto the plush bed. She set the bouquet and note down next to her; the flowers somewhat less lively and the note somewhat crinkled. Emma sighed again. Tonight wasn’t going to plan. Of course it wasn’t. She was probably maybe the most unlucky person on the planet and things very rarely went her way. The blonde wiped her brow and sat contemplating for another moment. She decided that she was going to put fate into her own hands. She would find Regina. She would find Regina and apologize. Apologize and grovel and hope and pray on any Gods listening that the love of her life would hear her out and accept her with open arms.

 

With a new determination, Emma lifted herself up off the bed and made her way back into the hallway.. Flowers and note in tow. Just as she was about to make her way back down the staircase to continue her search, she felt something. A pull. She couldn’t explain it, but her heart jumped as she turned around to make eye contact with Regina’s bedroom door; the dim light peeking from underneath. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Of course. Her bedroom.

 

But why would Regina be in her bedroom? Her party - the one she was planning for months and was so excited for - was downstairs. Yet, there was Regina. Alone in her bedroom. Maybe she just left her light on? Although that wouldn’t explain why the brunette couldn’t be found for the last hour. Emma was way too curious now.

 

With shaky hands yet again, the blonde approached Regina’s door.

 

She slowly turned the knob and gently pushed it open.

 

 

“Emma?”

 

 

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Chapter Text

Regina knew it was stupid.

 

She knew she was going back on the promise she made to herself. But there was just something about Emma. Well, everything about Emma. She just couldn’t get the blonde out of her mind.

 

She told herself over and over again that she was being weak. She couldn’t think of Emma this way anymore. Regina needed to protect her heart. And pining and moping about Emma was an unfavorable way to do so. She just couldn’t help herself. She was in too deep.

 

‘All the more reason to pull yourself out, Regina..’ The brunette thought to herself with a grimace.

 

“Regina? Are you even listening to me??”

 

She blinked from her reverie, finally noticing the high-arching eyebrow currently worn by Ruby.

 

“Oh.. I’m.. sorry, Ruby.. please go on…”

 

Ruby sighed and picked up the conversation where she had left off.

 

“I was saying.. I think Brad is really into me and I was going to ask him to dance to the next slow jam.. But only if you think it’s a good idea.. He’s totally gorgeous isn’t he? Tall, blonde with beautiful green eyes.. Just my type!..”

 

Ruby trailed off, babbling on about how perfect Brad was. Regina had to admit though; those particular qualities were very appealing to her as well.

 

“Um, right.. Sure, Ruby.. Go for it!” Regina plastered on a smile as Ruby squealed with excitement at the prospect of dancing with Brad.. he is so hella cooool..

 

Regina sighed and relaxed her shoulders as she watched her friend run after the boy she was probably going to break up with next weekend. She turned back to the kitchen island, reaching for another cracker to munch on. The party was an absolute hit; Regina surmised that there were about 120 students in her house at the moment. Including some of the most popular kids in school. Everyone was dancing, eating, laughing and enjoying themselves. Mother was even (for some unfathomable reason that Regina still couldn’t quite peg) allowing all of this.

 

So why was Regina so miserable?

 

She munched on her cracker and glanced around. A couple of kids were making out on the stairs. Regina had no idea who they were but Mother was going to have a conniption. She had to break them up. As she turned around to place her red solo cup in the trash, her eyes landed on the hot chocolate station she had put together. And it, again, made her think of one person.

 

”So much for not thinking of Emma, dammit..” She rolled her eyes. There was no ‘not thinking’ of Emma. She couldn’t stop. There were too many questions still left unanswered. And it was driving Regina mad. She had to get out of here.

 

As Destiny’s Child boomed through the speakers, Regina darted towards the stairs desperately. She felt hot breath and hands all over her as she made her way through the crowd. It was suffocating. Maybe this party was a bad idea after all. There were far too many people here.

 

She finally made her way to the stairs, attempting to break up the random horny couple on her way up.

 

“Excuse me..” She tapped the young girl on the shoulder, somewhat having to yell over the music. “Can we please stop this inappropriate behavior? This is my home..”

 

The couple pulled away from each other and laughed in Regina’s direction. “Are you for real?”

 

“Y-yes. I am for real.” She repeated distastefully “My Mother will have a cow if she sees you two making out on her staircase..” Regina raised an eyebrow with a pointed glare.

 

“Look.. Who are you again?” The boy answered this time.

 

Regina scoffed. “Regina.. Regina Mills. You are at my party…” She waved her hands around, not even believing this conversation.

 

“Well, we’re sorry Regina.. It’s just..” He glanced back over to his girlfriend
“Haven’t you ever been in love?”

 

Regina gasped. She wasn’t expecting that response. Not at all.

 

“We get carried away sometimes..” The other girl replied quickly with a shrug “We can’t help it.”

 

Regina stood still, her eyes watering with emotion. Had she ever been in love? She wasn’t so sure at this point. It had felt a lot like love but.. Now? She wasn’t exactly convinced. It’s not as if she and Emma could have ever been seen making out on the staircase. And it’s certainly not as if Emma had been treating her that way for the last month. In that short moment, she reminded herself of her thoughts underneath her tree. No. She wasn’t in love. And neither was Emma. Regina was being taken for a fool; and Emma not being here tonight.. For the last 3 weeks.. Was proof enough for her. Her face hardened into a glare as the couple looked up at her, confused.

 

She spoke sternly. “Don’t you two idiots know? Love. Is. Weakness.

 

As Regina swiftly made her way past the lovebirds, they glanced back at each other with wide eyes.

 

“Well, I guess that answers that question about her being in love, then..”

 

------------------------

 

Her eyes were rimmed, red and puffy. She looked horrible. She glanced into her vanity mirror, knowing there was no way she could attend her party now. Her emotions were going haywire. One moment, she was strong and sure.. The next: weak and wanting Emma. She felt like she was getting whiplash, sitting in her room with her own thoughts plaguing her mind. Maybe she should get out of the house completely? It was stifling in here.

 

She jolted up, making her way to her door and turning the knob. Then her hand dropped. She would have to walk back through the party looking like this. Dammit.

 

The brunette shuffled back over to her vanity; readying her makeup once again.

 

Just as she was finishing off applying a wad of concealer underneath her eyes; she heard a noise. Someone walking toward her door. What? Why would someone be coming to her room? Upstairs was off limits for the party.. Everyone knew that.
She prayed it wasn’t Mother. She didn’t - couldn’t - let her see her like this.

 

Before she could fully question who else it could have been, her door was gently pushed open. Revealing the last person Regina would have ever imagined at her door tonight.

 

“Emma?”

 

---------------------

 

“Emma .. What..? What are you doing here..”

 

Regina’s face hardened. The first moment she saw Emma her heart stopped completely. Allowing a moment to take in her radiating beauty. Emma was absolutely stunning. Regina had never seen the blonde like this. So soft and feminine. It was surreal.
Then she remembered. Remembered everything Emma had put her through the last 3 weeks. Her confusion, her anger, her desperosity, her love, her heartache. The brunette’s emotions were going haywire again and she was steadily losing control. There was so much.. SO MUCH.. she didn’t understand.

 

“Regina.. I..” Emma was stunned for a moment. She halted on the other side of the door, unable to move.

 

For a few reasons. The first was Regina had never looked more beautiful in her entire life. She was wearing a deep navy satin dress, that dipped low on the back. Her chocolate brown hair was tied up, giving her a more mature look. Delicate earrings finishing off the elegant ensemble.

The next were Regina’s eyes. They were red-rimmed and puffy. And Emma wanted to rush over to her best friend and hold her in her arms forever so she would never cry again.

Then. The third reason was exactly why she didn’t do just that. Regina was glaring. At her. Emma gulped. She had never seen this look on the brunette. Ever. It was absolutely terrifying. For so many reasons. But mostly, because it meant that Emma may have been too late. She was too late and Regina hated her. Emma’s heart dropped to the bottom of her stomach, making her feel like she could probably vomit on the spot if she wasn’t careful.

 

She had to remain calm and stay strong. Regina was mad at her. Of course she was mad at her. Emma was mad at herself. And deservingly so. She deserved to be hated. After the way she mistreated Regina the last few weeks. That alone made her sick to her stomach. But she was determined to make this right. Or at least try her damned best. Emma knew it probably wasn’t the best idea; but she took a deep breath and stepped slowly into the room. The blonde made eye contact with Regina once again.. Noticing the other woman’s stern gaze was not faltering. Emma kept her eye contact despite this.

 

“Regina..” Emma slowly approached the brunette who was sitting on her vanity stool, eyeing Emma very wearily. “I am so s-”

 

No.” Regina abruptly stood up, her hand lifting in front of her. Emma noticed it was shaking.

 

“No, Emma. You can’t just barge into my room after all of this time and..” Her eyes began watering instinctively. She tried to stop the tears from falling but it was of no use. She felt ambushed and her emotions had already been on overload. The brunette closed her eyes and took a deep, heavy breath. Steadying her voice, she spoke again.

 

“I want you to leave.”

 

She remained emphatic, but holy Hell was it difficult. Emma looked like she was about to break. Shatter completely. The blonde’s eyes were completely glazed over, tears ready to spill down her face. Her stance transformed .. from strong and purposeful, to feeble and somber. She was no longer keeping eye contact; but darting her gaze around the room.. Searching.. Searching for something..

 

“I.. I won’t.”

 

“You what?!” Regina couldn’t believe her? Was Emma kidding? Refusing to leave when she asked her to?

 

“I’m sorry, Regina but - I c-can’t leave.. Not yet. Not until I explain myself, I..” Emma lifted her pained watery gaze back to her love’s eyes. “Please. I have so many things- so many things to say and apologize for.. Please..” Emma reached her hand toward the brunette; and that’s when Regina noticed the bouquet of flowers. They were stunning.

 

“Emma, I.. You can’t just bring me flowers after all of this time and..”

 

“I know.” Emma stood firmly again, determined to do what she came here to do. And she was clinging desperately onto the prospect that Regina was actually responding to her. Maybe that meant she could somehow convince her to listen to everything she had to say.

 

“I know that. You- you Regina.. Deserve so much more. So much more than a bouquet of flowers and a handwritten note and three weeks with someone you love not talking to you and confusing emotions and crying alone in your bedroom on the night of your party. You deserve so much more than me.

 

But.. If I don’t get this out now..” Emma gulped and took a heavy breath. This was it. The moment she had been thinking of for months. The moment that kept her awake at night, tossing and turning. The moment she was terrified of. Terrified yet so unbelievably elated was finally here. Her hands were shaking and her heart was thrumming.

 

“If I don’t get this out now.. I never will.” She looked into Regina’s eyes once more. They began to soften as Emma spoke. Emma prayed they would stay that way.

 

“Regina, I love you.”

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter Text

****************

 

Her head was whirling.

 

Regina felt as if she were in a dream. Like the room was whizzing around her in a deaf haze. All the while she was stuck in the middle, unable to move. Her mouth agape. Her eyebrows, quizzically furrowed. Her eyes. Looking directly at the woman who shocked her to her core.

 

Emma Swan.

 

And she was looking back.. With so much love in her eyes.

 

The words echoed in her mind on repeat.

 

“Regina, I love you..

I love you..

I love you..”

 

Had Emma really just said that? Was she actually dreaming? How weird would it be right now to pinch her own arm. Because she was truly tempted.

 

Before she could even register how to respond to dream Emma.. she saw the blonde’s mouth moving once more.

 

“-And I know this doesn’t make any sense. I know it just adds confusion and questions and.. I just know. I just know in my heart that I love you. And I always have. And I always will. With everything that I am..” Emma placed her hand on her heart and awaited a response, but still received nothing. It was as if Regina was in a daze. Almost as if she wasn’t listening. Emma was hoping with everything that wasn’t the case.

She continued on anyway. “You are my best friend and I would be nothing without you.. Other than my parents; no one, literally no one in this world has given me a chance. Proved to me that I could be something.. Someone. Stuck by my side through good and bad.. Made me laugh the way you do.. Love me the way you do.. Well, that I hope you do, I - …” She laughed awkwardly at her sad attempt at a confession of love.

 

“This whole thing isn’t exactly going to plan and..” Emma shrugged and ran a hand up and down the arm that was currently holding the flowers and note. “I just wanted to say I am so so sorry Regina.. And I love you..” Upon finishing her short yet sloppy confession, she held out the bouquet once again.. Hoping Regina would accept it this time.

 

But before Regina could even respond, a familiar deep and melodic voice sounded from the hall.

 

“Oh, you foolish girl…Don’t you know? Love is weakness.”

 

Emma’s blood ran cold. Cora waltzed into the room with a conniving and manicured smile on her face.

 

“This is just so incredibly… sad..” Cora pursed her lips and placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder. Emma tore her gaze away from Regina to look down at the floor.

 

“Mother that’s enough -”

 

“Oh, no Regina.. You don’t get to tell me what is enough in my own home..” Cora spat at her daughter maniacally. The older brunette turned back around to Emma, somewhat taking pride in how the blonde’s demeanor drastically declined.

 

“Emma, dear… why can’t you just admit defeat? My daughter will never be interested in you..” She chuckled lowly as she waltzed over to Regina’s full length mirror, turning to the side and checking her reflection.

 

“And even if she is.. you will never be good enough for her..”

 

An icy cold glare was thrown in Emma’s direction and that was enough for her. She couldn’t take it any longer. So Emma did what she does best.

 

 

She ran.

 

-------------------------------

 

Her legs felt like they were on the verge of buckling and tears were falling at a rapid rate, but Emma kept going. She ran as quickly as she could down the long, ornate staircase.. Knocking some other kids over on her way. She mumbled some fruitless apologies, not truly caring about anything but getting the hell out of there.

 

She swiveled around the banister at the bottom of the stairs, her right arm protesting the hard jolt necessary to turn the corner. It sent a shock of pain through her arm but Emma didn’t care. Nothing compared to the pain her heart currently held. I Need You by LeAnn Rimes played loudly over the speakers surrounding the rooms as some couples slow danced. Emma stumbled over the steps in the foyer, her body slamming onto the floor at the entrance. Luckily, the ivory rug cushioned her fall. The commotion immediately caused everyone in the room to look her way.. Some laughing at her expense. Emma blushed something fierce and scurried to her feet, leaving the tattered bouquet of camellias in her wake.

 

She bolted out of the Mills Mansion, but before she could make it to the gate, she heard a voice.

 

“Emma no.. wait!”

 

She halted in her tracks. The blonde was immediately taken back to the last moment she heard those words. Spoken by that same beautiful voice. Following a similar statement by Cora. It sent chills up her spine.

 

“Emma, please!” Regina tried again.

 

Emma turned around; hair tangled, makeup running, knees scraped. She made eye contact with Regina who looked nearly as distressed as she. Regina was standing on the balcony. Tears were streaming down her tanned cheeks and she was reaching her hand out desperately towards Emma as if she could stop her with some form of magic.
For a moment, Emma held eye contact with Regina. The air was heavy and there were so many unspoken words of love. But Regina had been hurt, and Emma.. hurt even more. As Emma was about to speak once again, she noticed a dark figure gliding out behind Regina. She made eye contact with Cora. And oh, this eye contact felt so different. It was dark and frightening and ominous. And Emma couldn’t compete against it.

 

Emma held eye contact with Cora for another moment. Minutes felt like hours. She was as small as ant, with a broken heart the size of a whale’s. Emma began sobbing once again, her breaths coming through haphazardly as she dropped the letter she had written to Regina on the walkway. The older woman smirked at the blonde and placed a delicate hand on Regina’s shoulder. It was obvious what this was signifying. Regina was her daughter… not Emma’s love. She never would be. Emma heard the message loud and clear.

 

Before turning to finally run back home and move from this horrible, debilitating town, Emma looked at the love of her life for the last time. Her heart shattered that much more, knowing she could never be hers. Emma tried to ingrain into her memory each and every little detail about that extraordinary face. Those eyes that held so much emotion. That heart. That big, wonderful heart that stole her’s. Every single thing she could memorize. She had to do it now.

 

Cora suddenly moved from her peripheral and caught Emma’s eyes with a hateful glare once again. That was it. Emma had no more chances to take in Regina’s beauty. No more chances to make her laugh, hearing that effervescent sound carry through the air. No more chances to sit on the docks, talking about anything and everything. No more chances to sit under the trees and read together; noticing dark hair falling over her eyes then tucking it back behind her ear for her. No more chances for lingering green eyes to appreciate that subtle, yet beautiful scar above her top lip. No more chances to see her face light up whenever she was riding Rocinante. No more chances to win her over. No more chances to love her. No more chances.

 

Emma let out another sob of despair whilst looking into Cora’s eyes for the final time.

 

Before running off, Emma finally spoke. And her last words were ones that would echo through their minds for years to come.

 

I hate you.

 

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Chapter Text

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ten Years Later

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

“Let’s go, let’s go! 5 more!”

 

“Easy for you to say..” The older man grumbled as his breathing became that much heavier. “You’re young and in shape..” He placed his hands on his hips willing his body to push that much further through his last set of squats.

 

“Awww c’mon, George.. You are just starting out in life! Especially if you continue with your workout regime..” Emma winked at him as she strolled around to make sure his form was correct.

 

George finally finished his set and nearly collapsed onto the workout bench nearby, wiping his forehead with a small towel. Emma gave him a high five and congratulated him on finishing his workout today. The man was pushing 58 and it didn’t get any easier the older her clients became.

 

“Yeah, yeah.. Again, Miss Swan, you’re saying that because you are young..” He laughed. “I’m pushing 60, young lady.. I-”

 

“George..” Emma walked over to the salt and pepper-haired man and sat next to him on the bench. She and George had formed a somewhat unpredictable friendship over the last 2 years. “I don’t want to hear you speaking that way. I’m telling you, you are more hard-working and determined than most of the 20-somethings I train. Stop thinking about your age. It’s just a number, and psyching yourself out over a number can be dangerous. Mental health is just as important as physical. So tell me, what can you do to make yourself happy today? Other than a workout, of course..” Emma laughed and raised an eyebrow in George’s direction.

 

George laughed back “Alright, Miss Swan.. I hear you loud and clear. I believe I will be visiting my granddaughter today. Nothing makes me happier.”

 

“Perfect!” Emma jumped up and began tidying her workout gear to bring back to her office. “Have a lovely visit with miss Gracie and I will see you on Wednesday. Same time?”

 

George laughed again, shaking his head slightly. “Same time, Miss Swan. You have always been so kind and vastly ahead of your years.. It’s a wonderful quality that I hope you keep.” He smiled kindly “I will see you next week.”

 

The graying man waved once more and walked back outside through the doors of the state-of-the-art gym as Emma watched him go. She hadn’t received a compliment like that in years. To be honest, she couldn’t remember the last time she had been complimented on anything other than her looks or figure. Of course she cared about her looks… who didn’t? But to be complimented on her kindness and wisdom? That was new. And it made Emma’s day.

 

Not that she would ever reveal that to anyone. It would ruin her game.

 

Emma blinked and looked around her. Luckily none of the other trainers or clients were around to notice her awkward trance she fell into. She cleared her throat and stretched her arms and shoulders as she walked to the showers. She certainly needed a clear head for her next client.

 

-------------------------------------

 

“Hi Emma!”

 

A pretty young brunette woman walked out of the locker room with a white towel hanging around her neck. She waved at Emma with a flirty smile and a wink on her way out of the gym.

 

“Hey Kayla!” Emma returned the smile and wave before bending down to pick up a couple of barbell collars.

 

“Jeez, Swan.. I swear you have the entire female population of L.A. winking at you on a daily basis…” Killian laughed and shook his head in admiration.

 

“Yeah, well.. What can I say? The entire female population of L.A. has good taste..” Emma remarked slyly whilst sliding the collars onto the end of Killian’s bar.

 

“Aye, love… I’d have to agree. That same bird is winking at me now..” Killian winked back at the young woman and laughed out loud at Emma’s scowl she was currently shooting him.

 

-----------------

 

“Double shot cold brew with soy; no whip, no sugar for Emma!”

 

As Emma approached the counter, she took note of the very cute barista smiling with her drink in hand.

 

“That’s me, thanks..” Emma went to grab a cup sleeve to slide her coffee into when she realized there was one already on her to-go cup. She grabbed it from the young blonde girl with a grin. “..thanks.. Abby..”

 

Abby winked at her and turned to her next customer as Emma shook her head with a smile, walking back to the table where Killian was already waiting with his coffee.

 

“Seriously, Swan? What did you do.. Put something in the water?” Killian rolled his eyes at the name and number written on the coffee sleeve with hearts around it.

 

“Why would I need to put something in the water when my good looks and debonair personality take care of that for me?” Emma smirked proudly while setting her coffee on the table and taking a seat next to Killian; who was once again, rolling his eyes.

 

“Alright, Swan... I’ve heard quite enough from the ‘Tales of LA’s most eligible lesbian’, thank you very much. Now, can we talk business once more?”

 

Emma laughed and took a sip of her coffee. It was perfectly brewed and just what she needed after a training session with Killian. They were becoming more intense as the weeks passed. “Sure, Kil.. What kind of ‘business’ are you suggesting?” She smiled and wondered why on Earth her friend/client suddenly put a weighty mood on their light conversation.

 

“Well, it’s something completely out of the ordinary and probably not a typical proposition for you, but..”

 

Emma gulped as her face grew a bit more serious. She had only seen Killian become so stoic on two occasions.. And both of them were moments when he was talking about his soon-to-be ex wife.

 

“My Ex..”

Yep, just as she had suspected.

 

Killian ran his hand over his face in exasperation at just the mention of the wicked woman. “She is now claiming the divorce cannot be finalized until I sign some papers. Apparently I’ve missed a few in the process and I plan to immediately fire my divorce lawyer…”

 

Emma was truly trying to follow where this was going but Killian was making almost no sense. Why couldn’t Killian just sign the papers and be done with it? And more importantly, what did this have to do with her?

 

“Kill, I’m not sure I’m following here.. Why can’t you just sign the papers and send them back?”

 

Killian rubbed his hand over his eyes once again, obviously frustrated with something that hadn’t been said yet. “Because, Swan.. My lovely wife is refusing to sign them herself until I sign them. And the deadline is Friday. It is now Wednesday. My good for nothing lawyer informed me that faxing them would not be quick enough. I frankly think that is absurd, but both my lawyer and soon-to-be-ex are insisting that…”
He looked up to the ceiling for a moment then back at Emma who was still wearing a very questioning gaze. “They’re both insisting that I fly back home to sign the papers and finalize the divorce.”

 

“What?!” Emma exclaimed “Back home? You mean-”

 

“Yes, back to London.”

 

“Wow, Killian that really sucks.. I’m sorry. But what does that have to do with a proposition?”

 

Killian smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

 

“To be completely honest, Swan.. All of this stress surrounding my divorce has made me tense. And the news of having to travel back to England by tomorrow hasn’t relieved any of that stress. Your training has a way of relieving that stress, so…”

 

“You want me to come with you!?” Emma exclaimed, trying not to spit her recent gulp of coffee in Killian’s face. He wasn’t kidding when he said this would be a proposition she rarely received.

 

“Killian, that’s-”

 

“I know. I know, Swan. Extremely last minute. And it’s close to Christmas. But I will pay you handsomely for your time. And your flight, obviously…It would only be for about a week until I’m sure the papers have been accepted. You should be back in L.A. with your family for Christmas Eve.”

 

“Killian, I don’t know... I-”

 

“Please, Swan?”

 

Emma looked at Killian and realized she had never heard the man say please once. He must me desperate. She looked into his eyes and they were so full of worry that Emma wouldn’t agree to his proposition. She was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Killian was one of her best clients. And saying no could sever that tie. They had known each other for 6 years now and he had always been Emma’s primary financial support. To make it even harder to say no, Killian had become a good friend. Emma sighed realizing she could never say no to her friends. And despite that fact causing her great pain in the past, she was a sap when it came to her friends.

 

“Alright - alright, Killian. I’ll come with you.”

 

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Chapter Text

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Emma rolled up her favorite red sweater and slotted it next to her brown boots and umbrella. That was one good thing at least. She never really has the chance to wear her sweaters and boots in L.A.

 

She had to admit, she was very excited. She had never been to London, after all. Never in her wildest dreams did young Emma think she would one day be traveling to such a faraway destination. She could hardly make it up to the local convenience store without getting yelled at by foster parents. Her move to L.A. was the most exciting travel in her life (Even though she wasn’t too psyched about it at the time.) It ended up being for the best. Right? She was sure of it. She wouldn’t have the amazing life she had now. The prospects. The clients. The money. The penthouse. The ocean. The friends. The celebrities. The parties. The girls.

 

The girls. Emma sighed. If she were being truly forthright with herself, she was honestly getting tired of it all. She was pushing 30 and the L.A. life was a bit much. Being hit on by every other girl in L.A. certainly had its perks. But there was something just so… artificial about it all. All of these girls.. Girls.. Girls.. Interested in her body. Her car. Her house. Her bed.

 

Never her heart. Her personality. Her interests. Her love.

 

The blonde sighed again. ’Ugh..I need to stop thinking this way again.. I fell in love once.. And it nearly killed me. I need to remember why I chose this lifestyle in the first place..’

 

Emma ran her hand through her hair and checked her luggage list again. She grabbed a few more things from around the house she forgot to throw in and zipped her suitcase up. Their flight was in a few hours and Killian was meeting her outside of her penthouse.

 

She grabbed a green smoothie out of the fridge, plopped herself down onto her couch and flicked on the T.V. She scrolled through a few channels before NBC caught her eye.

 

“..It seems that the snow is just not letting up here. As you can see all the way from the Midwest to the Northeast parts of the country.. Snowy conditions and Icy roads.. This is appearing to be quite a winter storm here, folks.. New York is expected to get 11 inches overnight.. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Mai…”

 

Emma blinked and looked down at her phone. Al Roker’s voice was phased out by Killian’s call, presumably to check if she was ready for the flight.

 

“Hey Killian… Yep I’m ready… Okay, that’s fine… I’ll see you in five, then.. Alright, see you soon.”

 

Emma quickly finished her smoothie and grabbed her luggage to roll to the door. She looked back at her gorgeous penthouse. Gorgeous. But empty. Her heart ached momentarily.

 

Ached for someone to actually kiss goodbye.

 

She shook her head and rolled her suitcase over the threshold; locking her door, setting her alarm and heading down to meet Killian.

 

------------------------------------------

 

“Saying goodbye to the palm trees there, Swan?” Killian laughed as he handed Emma her coffee. They were waiting at their gate for the plane to board and the blonde seemed to be in some kind of trance.

 

She turned away from the large window toward Killian’s laughter to roll her eyes and grab her coffee with a ‘thanks’.

 

“To be honest, I think I will actually miss them...” She shrugged, glancing at the sunset on the L.A. horizon. The stunning silhouette of the dark palm trees against the golden and pink hues of the sky immediately transported her back to a certain memory.

 

’Nature and it’s aesthetic effect on the world may indeed be ethereal, but not as exquisite as -’

 

“Ahh don’t worry, Swan! Soon you’ll be enjoying the stunning views of London town.. You know, those telephone boxes may not exactly be palm trees but they do have a certain allure..”

 

Emma broke from her trance and pressed herself to laugh at Killian’s light hearted mood. The poor guy had no idea what was going on in Emma’s head. Emma sometimes wasn’t even sure herself.

 

“Yeah, well.. That’s a new view I look forward to seeing..” She smiled and sipped her coffee. “So, are you nervous to see Zelena again?” Emma asked hesitantly.

 

“Ehh, not really, no. I’ve already seen her at her worst, trust me. I just want to get this divorce finalized and move on with my life, you know Swan?”

 

“I know, Kil, I know. It will happen one way or another, don’t worry.”

 

Emma glanced down at her the vibration of her iphone, seeing Mary Margaret light up her screen. “Sorry Kil, it’s my mom.. I’ll be right back.. Let me know if they start boarding..”

 

Killian only had time to nod before Emma walked back to the window to answer the call.

 

“Hey mom..”

 

“Emma, hi! I just wanted to make sure your flight hasn’t taken off yet..”

 

“No, no we’re just about to board now mom.. Is it alright if I call you when I land?”

 

“Of course, honey.. Just.. the weathermen are saying the storms on the East coast are getting pretty bad.. And it’s making me a little nervous..”

 

“Mom. I’m sure we’ll be perfectly fine. Killian is saying there’s a pretty good chance we’ll miss it.. We’re flying a little north of New York, so..”

 

“Oh- well, alright. I just want you to be safe, that’s all.. You know me, Mrs- ..”

 

“Worrier. Yes I’m very aware, mom..” Emma laughed out loud and looked back to Killian, noticing he was signaling the boarding of the flight was about to commence. “Look, mom I’ve got to go now. They’re boarding. But I promise everything will be fine and I will call you as soon as I land okay?”

“Okay, Emma. Please be safe and let us know as soon as you land. As soon as you land, young lady!

 

Emma laughed again and rolled her eyes at her mom’s adorable attempts to sound intimidating. “Yes, mom, I promise! I will call as soon as I land. I love you and tell Dad I love him too.. I’ll talk to you soon..”

 

“Okay honey .. we love you so much!” She could hear her Dad yell from the background as well and it made her smile broaden. “Have a safe flight, honey!”

 

“Thanks guys, bye!” Emma ended the call on their goodbyes, realizing they would have just continually said “Goodbye” all night if it meant keeping Emma off of this flight.

Not for one second did Emma take that for granted. She knew she was extraordinarily lucky to have parents that loved her the way they did. She hoped to be the same with her children one day.

 

Emma rushed over to Killian who was holding her carry on bag in the line for first class flyers.

 

“Everything alright, Swan?”

 

“Yeah, sorry.. Just my mom worrying as usual.. Ready to fly, Captain?”

 

Emma heard Killian laugh before he held out his arm to allow her to board the plane first.

 

“Aye, aye, matey.”

 

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Chapter Text

Emma’s right hand clung onto the armrest for dear life. Her other hand in Killian’s; most likely squeezing the life right out of it. She could feel the blood rushing to her head in pulsating quickness as her anxiety grew.

 

Okay Emma.. remain calm.. Just remain. Calm. Airplanes always hit turbulence, right? It’s completely normal. Deep breaths in and out and we’ll get past the turbulence wh-

 

Emma opened her eyes as the sound of the Pilot’s voice echoed through the aircraft.

 

“Ladies and gentleman it seems that the weather has taken a turn for the worse.. Ehh, it looks like we may have to make an urgent landing in the nearest city..”

 

“What did he just bloody say?!” Killian whispered not-so-quietly to no one in particular.

 

“I repeat, due to inclement weather conditions the aircraft will be making a landing into the nearest city..”

 

Emma let go of Killian’s hand noticing it was beginning to move into a fist. By the look on Killian’s face he was in no mood to offer comfort at the moment.

 

“What does he mean by ‘the nearest city?’” Emma asked, glancing back at Killian’s indignant expression. They had been flying for a few hours now and she hadn’t really paid attention to where they were on the map since. Not since the intense turbulence had started at least. Just when she was about to check their location on the map on the screen attached to the seat in front of her, the pilot spoke again.

 

“It seems that the nearest city is indeed.. Portland, Maine. We will be landing in Maine in approximately 20 minutes ladies and gentleman…”

 

Emma froze. Maine?! He was joking, right?

 

“Again, we will be landing the aircraft in 20 minutes.. Please note that the fasten- seatbelt signs are on and the armrests and tray tables need to be in the upright positions ready for landing. Upon landing, we will do our best in offering advice and guidance on when and where you can continue your journey from here.. Uhh.. Although, again due to inclement weather conditions this evening.. That information is not completely clear as of yet. We apologize for any inconvenience this landing may cause to your journeys. Thank you again for flying Wingspan International and we hope you have a Happy Holiday.”

 

Emma and Killian looked at each other, wide eyed with only one thought on their minds.

 

What the HELL?!

 

-----------------------------

 

The snow was cascading down upon the colossal trees surrounding the small airport. The white layers laid upon each branch like a cold pillow; perfectly still and soft. The sun began to rise, peeking over the mountains of fir trees, leading to extraordinarily large shadows that seemed to extend themselves all the way to the airport they were currently standing in. Emma intensely stared out of the window, lifting her hand to touch the tip of the shadow of one of the tops of the trees. Just as she was allowing herself a moment of serenity, Killian’s voice boomed throughout the gate reminding the blonde again of the situation they were actually in.

 

“What do you mean there’s nothing you can do?! Must I go over it again, Gold? We are STUCK. In the middle of nowhere. And my ex-wife is going to continue to be my actual wife unless you find a way to GET ME TO BRITAIN!!”

 

Emma stood wide-eyed as the man on the other end of the phone presumably scrambled through his words, trying to reach any solution for their predicament. But Emma knew better, there was nothing they could do. It’s not as if they could stop the blizzard from falling. So here they were, stuck.

 

“You will find a way to get me there, Gold! I have three days and this snow can’t last forever. FIND. A. WAY.” Killian practically threw his phone into his duffel bag and sat down with a huff. As his hands came up to rub his face, Emma rolled her eyes and sat down next to him.

 

“You know you’re throwing a tantrum, right?”

 

Killian shot her a hard look and sighed. “Yes, Swan.. I realize that.. But I don’t think you understand. I cannot let this divorce slip through my hands. It’s been years.. YEARS of effort to push this through. This is my final chance without having to face her again. Just - ” Killian began to steel his jaw as anger overtook him again. “ - of all things to happen. This is one of the worst circumstances I could have imagined..”

 

Emma sighed and glanced at all of the people that deboarded their plane.. And people currently deboarding others. The airport was a mess.

 

“Well, at least we landed at all.” She shrugged.

 

Killian rolled his eyes and smirked. “Aye, Swan..”

 

Emma noticed his smirk and ran with it. “Seee, it’s not all bad. We’re alive!”

 

Killian shook his head and smirked again.

 

“C’mon ya grump.. Let’s go talk to customer service about scheduling a new flight out of this place. Believe me, I don’t want to be stuck in this state either..”

 

 

-----------------------------

 

 

“Hello? Emma?!” Mary Margaret practically yelled, causing Emma to flinch and quickly pull her Iphone back from her ear.

 

“Mom, mom.. It’s okay.. I’m fine..”

 

“Oh thank God! Emma! I-we just heard about the horrible blizzard coming through the east coast and we immediately thought of your flight. Are you okay? Have you landed? Where are you??”

 

“Whoa mom - hold on..” Emma could hear her Dad in the background trying to calm Mary Margaret while they waited for Emma’s response. “It’s alright, everything is alright..” Emma glanced at Killian who shot her a dirty look at her passive mood.

 

“Okay, well not exactly alright.. We’re stuck..”

 

“Stuck?”

 

“Yeah, umm.. Our plane got diverted due to the storm and..” Emma sighed and rolled her eyes at her adverse luck. “.. we’re stuck.. In Maine. They have grounded all flights for the un-foreseeable future.. But it looks like the storm won’t be calming down for a few days at least..”

 

“Maine?!” MM practically yelled through the phone once again. “Emma that’s.. Actually ideal I mean what are the odds?!”

 

Emma blinked. Did her mom just say this was an IDEAL situation?!

 

“Mom -what?? This is anything but ideal I..”

 

“I mean of course, I’m so sorry to hear that for Killian’s sake.. That mustn’t be good timing for his divorce but.. For you, honey.. That’s just wonderful! You can head back to Storybrooke while you wait for the storm to clear over and see all of your old friends again! Oh I don’t know why we haven’t made that trip sooner I wish your father and I could join you it would be -”

 

“Mom! Mom. Just - no.” Emma arduously responded. “I can’t just go back, mom. It’s been years.. It would be just awkward at the very least and I have Killian with me and -”

 

“That’s absurd Emma, I’m sure everyone would love to see you again! Come to think of it, I’ll just send a quick email to Granny and see if she’s got any room left at the inn. I think this is just going to be such a wonderful little visit for you.. A few days in your old hometown may do you some good! You just told me last week you were getting tired of the hustle and bustle of L.A. life and this is the perfect opportunity to appreciate a small town! And it’s your small town. I just can’t believe the irony!”

 

Emma heard her Dad laughing in the background. “It is pretty ironic, Emma.. wouldn’t you say?”

 

Emma huffed again at her parent’s eager attempt to convince her to visit Storybrooke. She knew they were just trying to help but after the day she just went through, socializing with friends from the past was the last thing on her mind.

 

“Mom. Dad. Listen to me.. Storybrooke is not my home anymore.. L.A. is. And yes, I suppose it’s ironic but.. It’s just not going to happen, okay?” Emma tilted her head up and closed her eyes. Storybrooke was about a half hour from the airport she supposed. But I’m sure there were other places they could stay outside of Portland, right? It was a somewhat large-ish city.

 

I’m sure they’d be able to find something.

 

Right?

 

 

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Chapter Text

 

 

 

Or not.

 

They had been trying to find something, anything, outside of Portland for hours now. But it seemed that the minimal amount of b&b’s, hotels and inns surrounding the small city couldn’t hold a candle to the sheer volume of deplaned travelers looking for a room.

 

Everything had been booked for hours and it seems that their plane wasn’t the first to make an unscheduled landing in Portland.

 

”Swan!”

 

Killian strode over to the blonde who was currently 7th in line to speak to yet another woman at yet another desk. They were becoming somewhat desperate now after waiting in four different lines to speak with anyone who could help them find a place to stay for the weekend. This was their fifth attempt and judging from the angry expression thrown her way, it seems Killian wasn’t having much luck either.

 

“This is becoming absurd at this point. There has to be one blasted room somewhere in this God-forsaken land?!”

 

Emma knew that blatantly rolling her eyes at Killian’s over-dramatic behavior was a bad idea.. And would most likely just anger her friend further. So she internally rolled her eyes instead. Men.

 

“Killian, relax.. We’re going to see what this lady says here then -”

 

“ - Excuse me, Swan but I have a gut feeling that this lady won’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Which is that there are no. rooms. remaining. Anywhere.”

 

“Okay well maybe let me finish, Killian…” Emma was starting to become really aggravated with his snapping. She understood he was frustrated because nothing had gone to plan but I mean it wasn’t as if she wanted to be here.

 

“Aye, sorry, Swan.. go on then..”

 

“I was going to say… If the lady here doesn’t have a solution for us.. I may have.. Another plan..”

 

Emma sighed as Killian raised his brow inquisitively. She couldn’t believe what she was about to say.

 

“We’re going to Storybrooke.”

 

 

-------------------------------------------

 

They were about a quarter of a mile from the town line and Emma could just make out the WELCOME TO STORYBROOKE sign in the distance.

The snow seemed to have calmed down a bit within the last hour or so, thank god. Emma was used to L.A. driving. Which was pretty much opposite to these conditions.

She couldn’t believe she was going back. Despite the freezing weather, her palms were sweating profusely as she gripped the wheel of the Range Rover they rented to drive down to the small town.

 

She took a deep breath and shook her head. This was ridiculous. So what she was going back? It had been ten years. Ten years. She’s now a 27 year old, successful personal trainer in L.A. with big deal clients. She’s a successful, wealthy, independent, hard working, social, happy person. Yep, happy.
And successful.

She could do this.

 

Going back to Storybrooke should be a piece of cake. We’re talking about a mini weekend trip here. Two days, tops. And how hard could it be to see the people she left all those years ago? Probably nothing had changed and the quaint town was most likely the way she left it. An insignificant place on the map from her past. Merely a blip on her radar. This would not be a problem.

 

Nope.

 

“Swan? You alright?”

 

Emma jolted at the sound of Killian’s voice. She hadn’t realized she’d been in a trance as she passed the Storybrooke sign.

 

“I-I’m fine, Killian.. Yeah..” She shrugged her shoulders, trying her best to maintain impassive.

 

“Okay, well.. You seem a bit, off? You’re hands are gripping the wheel so tightly your knuckles are turning white, love..”

 

Emma sighed, releasing the tight hold on the wheel and shaking her hand. “I’m fine.”

 

Killian looked extremely unconvinced, but for some inexplicable reason Emma was grateful for, he dropped the subject completely.

 

“So… what will our accommodation be in this… Storybrooke?

 

Killian spoke of the town with such distaste.. As if it had wronged him at some point in his life. The fact of the matter was that Killian had never even heard of the town Emma grew up in before this trip. She never really spoke of her past.. And Killian couldn’t stand small towns. He was a big city kind of guy and Emma couldn’t really blame him. Not after the things she used to deal with when living here. In the city, you’re responsible for yourself and yourself alone. No one to answer to. No gossiping. No artificial cliques to be placed in. No judgement.

The city didn’t have time for that shit. And that’s what both Emma and Killian loved about it. One of the many things.

 

That still didn’t prevent Emma from rolling her eyes at his melodramatic tone, though.

 

“It’s called Granny’s. It’s well - A combination diner and inn? It’s pretty much the only place to stay in the town, so my mom pulled some strings. Needless to say, Granny purposefully saved a room for us which is pretty great under the circumstances..”

 

“Swan.. did you say room? As in we will be sharing one room?

 

They approached the stop sign into the town, Emma’s foot resting on the break as she glanced over to Killian.

 

“Unfortunately, yes. And believe me I’m not much happier about it. My mom told me that Granny could only guarantee one room because of the ‘unforeseen influx of guests’ ” Emma air quoted her mom’s exact words. “So we’ll have to make due..”

 

Killian rubbed his face and sighed as well “Aye ..aye... I’m just so exhausted, Swan. I am more than ready to lay my head… wherever that may be..” Killian winked and Emma rolled her eyes once more.

 

She had to agree though. They just needed somewhere to sleep. And Asap.

 

Emma parked the SUV outside of Granny’s as Hook made his way to grab their luggage from the trunk. The town looked almost exactly the same as she remembered. A few new shops here and there, but otherwise the same. Emma glanced up as the clock-tower struck 10:00 pm. Emma still couldn’t believe she was here, but it was getting late and they just wanted to get some sleep. So she pushed her nerves aside and got out of the car to help Killian with the bags.

 

------------------------------

 

“Hello? Anyone here?” Emma semi-whispered as to not disturb any of the other guests at the inn. They arrived pretty late and she wouldn’t be surprised if no one was even there to check them in. She was certainly hoping so or else they would be enjoying their first night in Storybrooke on the benches by the wharf.

 

“Is that little Emma Swan I hear??”

 

Granny came waltzing out from the back room of the Inn, smiling just as big as Emma remembered. Granny wasn’t one to smile at just anyone… but she had always loved Emma and her family. That’s also most likely the only reason she was willing to hold off a room for the visitors.

“Welp, big Emma Swan now that is..” Granny’s smile grew even bigger as she made her way around the check in desk. Before Emma knew what was happening Granny pulled her into a bear hug, patting her back somewhat ferociously. Emma had to admit, she sort of missed these hugs.

 

“Ugh.. haha, yep it’s me Granny! It’s good to see you again..” Emma pulled back from the embrace, smiling widely herself. It was actually so nice to see the older woman and Emma felt a tug on her heart in that moment. She pushed it aside and glanced at Killian as he set their luggage down next to her.

 

“It’s so good to see you too, dear..” Granny lovingly squeezed Emma’s shoulder and walked back around the desk ready to sign her new guests in. “And who is your friend here?”

 

“Oh! I’m sorry, this is Killian. Killian, Granny..”

 

Killian raised a brow at his friend who forgot to mention him. He was beginning to feel a little invisible during this reunion. “Aye, Killian Jones. Nice to meet you, love.”

 

“Yeah well we’ll see about the love part..” Granny replied slyly as she grabbed the key for their room. “So you two are in room 3. Here’s your key and Emma you may already know this.. But it’s just down the hall there to the left..”

 

“Room number 3? What are there only 5 blasted rooms in this inn or -”

 

“Um please excuse Killian, Granny…” Emma was quick to recover as she noticed the fire in Granny’s eyes at Killian’s comment. “We’ve had quite a day.. Also, I’m sorry for the late check-in. I know you will probably be up making breakfast and getting the diner ready so..”

 

“Sure will… every day for the past 40 years…” This was said in a back when I was your age tone which made Emma grin and internally roll her eyes. “And don’t worry about the late arrival kiddo, I’m up this time of night anyhow.” Emma thanked Granny once more as she winked at the blonde, then quickly shot the stink eye at Killian.

 

They made their way down the hall and into their room. Emma collapsed on the bed as Killian moved the luggage into the closet. She was utterly exhausted.

 

“And what do you propose we do about this Swan?” Killian quirked a brow and gesturing toward the one double bed in the center of the room. Emma wasn’t even in the mood for an argument right now.

 

“It’s fine, Kil.. you can take the bed tonight. I’ll crash on the couch. I think Granny stores extra blankets and pillows in the closet..” She ascended from the bed wanting nothing more than to just sink back into it. Their total travel time today added up to maybe 12, 13 hours? It’s no wonder they were both irritated and exhausted.

 

Emma grabbed the spare comforter and pillow from the closet and made her way over to the tiny couch to somehow hopefully form something comfortable to sleep on tonight. As she laid down, she noticed her feet extended over the end of the couch. This was going to be an interesting night. And she wasn’t sure how Killian was going to fare with this couch tomorrow night. Because she wasn’t about to sleep on this two nights in a row.

 

Ironically Killian spoke just then. “Thanks, Swan. I’ll take the couch tomorrow night, love..”

 

“Hell yeah you will..” The blonde laughed as she tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable on this God-forsaken mini sofa.

 

“So, Granny is kind of a piece of work, eh?” Killian spoke from under his blanket mountain. Emma was jealous. “I have a funny feeling she doesn’t like me..”

 

They both laughed out loud at Granny’s not so subtle attitude. “Ehh, she’ll grow on you.. Don’t worry…”

 

“Aye, we’ll see about that. It does have me wondering if I should worry about anyone else in this town, though.
Goodnight, Swan.”
Killian rolled over and Emma could only assume he drifted off to sleep not long after.

 

The room hummed with silence as Emma thought through Killian’s last statement.

 

She was indeed worrying fiercely about running into one person while in Storybrooke.

 

And it wasn’t Granny.

 

 

---------------------------------

Chapter Text

She rolled over on the couch for the 173rd time with a groan. Her feet were still hanging over the edge. Her neck was killing her. If she wasn’t forcing her body against the crease in this damn couch, she would have dropped onto the floor by now. And from the position she was currently in, she could only assume that would have probably been flat on her face. A very irritated Emma cracked one eye open as the sunlight peeked through the window, landing directly on her. She had to admit, it was nice to actually feel the sun. Maine wasn’t particularly known for it’s sunny weather after all and Emma assumed she would only be seeing cloudy, snowy weather during her very short lived visit. At that thought, Emma opened her eyes further at the realization that maybe this meant they could be booking a flight out today. If the snow is gone, the airport should be ready to roll.. Right?

 

Sitting up with new vitality to face the day, the blonde cringed momentarily as her stiff neck protested the movement.

 

“Dammit.” She forgot about that. She started to rub the muscle until it felt like a dull ache.

 

“What’s the matter Swan? The sofa isn’t to your liking then?”

 

Emma glanced over to Killian as he strolled out from the bathroom ready for the day. He was a morning person and Emma could never understand it.

 

“No ’it wasn’t to my liking’ ” She rolled her eyes and mocked his words. He was so taking this couch tonight. That was if they were still even here. She certainly was hoping not. “This thing was a nightmare..”

 

“Well, hopefully by the looks of the weather this morning.. I might just be able to avoid sleeping on that piece of deplorable furniture all together..”

 

Emma checked the time on her phone that she forgot to place on charge last night. The battery was on 12%. Just great. She read 7:14 and yawned. “How on Earth are you up and ready by 7:15 every day. I’m sure you had a better night’s sleep than me but c’mon..”

 

Killian laughed and grabbed his coat from the hanger in the closet “Not all of us are big shot personal trainers, Swan.. Some of us have responsibilities and schedules to keep..”

 

“Ugh, excuse me. I take offense to that! I have plenty of responsibilities. And a perfectly fine schedule that aligns with my job and social life..”

 

“And your penchant for sleeping in every day?”

 

“I swear Killian if you make me roll my eyes one more time on this God-awful trip they are going to remain there. Just give me a break.” Emma stood up from the couch and flung the blanket onto it with impressive force for 7 in the morning. She found it somewhat strange that she could harbor hateful feelings toward a piece of furniture.

 

“Sorry Swan. I was just trying to add some humor to our already shite situation..”

 

Emma glanced back at him, almost feeling bad for snapping. It wasn’t Killian’s fault their flight was grounded. But it was partially his fault she had to sleep on that rock that disguised itself as a sofa last night.

 

“Yeah, I - I know. Sorry I just..” Emma ran her hands over her face “I’m just exhausted .. and frustrated .. and I thought I’d never have to come back here. Just maybe keep the teasing to a minimum while we’re here, okay? It’s kind of a sore subject but Storybrooke.. Something.. happened .. before I moved. I don’t want to get into it but it affected me. A lot. And I just.. I’m just ready to get out. Before anything else happens..”

 

Killian was looking at her with an unreadable expression. Maybe a hint of confusion? Emma knows she left that answer very open ended but she was hoping he didn’t prod any further.

 

“Aye. Alright Swan. I get it. No more hassling you. You ready to get breakfast then?”

 

Emma laughed. Killian and his food. Just then her stomach grumbled as she finally noticed the smell of bacon frying from downstairs. Maybe breakfast wasn’t a bad idea.

 

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe breakfast will help improve my mood anyway..”

 

“Aye. Just don’t add any salt to your eggs..” Killian winked as he opened the door. “I’ll meet you downstairs, Swan. I’m going to go make a couple of calls to get us on a flight today..”

 

Emma grinned back despite herself “Thanks Killian. I’ll be down in fifteen.”

 

---------------------------------

 

Breakfast was booming in Granny’s. Emma’s eyes widened at the sheer amount of people here before 8:00am.

 

The bar was full and there were only a couple of tables unoccupied. Everyone was chatting about this and that. Families and friends catching up with each other about the week they’ve had and plans for the upcoming weekend. It was Friday morning so Emma supposed the crowd would filter out within the next hour or so as everyone would be on their way to work. She glanced around the room, looking for Killian. Nowhere to be found, she guessed he was still on a call trying to book their flight out.

 

The blonde made her way over to a two-top table near the window. She made a meek attempt to hide her face behind her iPhone. She hadn’t been in Storybrooke for ten years but it was only a matter of time before she was recognized.

 

“What can I getcha?”

 

Emma looked up from her phone, a little startled at the question. She had been engrossed in her own thoughts and didn’t notice the waitress walking over. What truly caused her to startle, although, wasn’t the question. It was who asked it.

Ruby?!

 

Emma realized she was just staring as Ruby held the notepad and pen at the ready. She was looking knowingly at her. Shit. Right.

 

“Uhhh, yeah. Can I get a stack of pancakes with a side of bacon, please? And a hot chocolate.”

 

“No problem. Anything else?”

 

“Oh! Yes could you add cinnamon to the hot chocolate as well?”

 

“Cinnamon? Sure! I’ll be right back with that..”

 

“Okay, thanks..” Emma smiled back at Ruby. It seems she wasn’t remembered by the brunette (now with red streaks in her hair). She wasn’t exactly surprised by that, though. The only interactions they had as teens were when Ruby was rolling her eyes at her. Or drunk. Or drunk and rolling her eyes. To be honest, Emma was happy she wasn’t recognized yet. She wasn’t in the mood for small talk. Not before breakfast.

 

She couldn’t believe Ruby was still working as a waitress at the diner. It had been ten years and she was still serving the same customer’s in her grandmother’s restaurant. Emma laughed internally. She glanced around, subtly trying to recognize anyone else from her past. There were some old faces and some new. But everyone was the same. All dressed for their humdrum days, drinking their humdrum coffee, having the same old humdrum conversations, on their way to their humdrum jobs. If the crowd in Granny’s diner was anything to go by, Emma was definitely the most successful of all.

 

Just then Killian strolled through the front door, huffing as he sat down across from her at the small table.

 

“Uh oh. That wasn’t the entrance I was hoping for. What’s wrong?”

 

“Well, nothing.. yet. I just spoke with my travel agent. He’s going to contact the airport today to see what they can do and give me a call back. My last temper tantrum is giving him cause to speak with the airline himself, so..”

 

Emma eyed him from across the table. ‘Temper tantrum’ was sure putting it lightly. She recalled Killian’s voice booming through the crowd in the airport the previous time he spoke to Gold. She couldn’t believe he still agreed to even help Killian after that performance.

 

“Here’s your hot chocolate.”

 

“Oh cool, thanks..” Emma responded as Ruby set her drink carefully down in front of her.

 

“And oh, sorry… I didn’t realize you had someone joining you. Can I get you something, handsome?” Ruby eyed Killian from top to bottom, obviously flirting. It was a pathetic attempt in Emma’s eyes, but it was happening either way.

 

“Well, I didn’t tell you, so..” Emma rolled her eyes as subtly as possible and took a sip from her hot chocolate.

 

“Aye, hello love. How’s the morning treating you? I suppose I’ll take an egg white omelette with an orange juice, please. No pulp.”

 

Emma swore she saw Ruby literally batting her eyelashes. Wtf. Was she Minnie Mouse or something? This girl hadn’t changed and she seemed just as desperate as she used to be. Short skirt and all.

 

Of course, Killian bought into it completely. It was just as well that he was about to complete divorce papers this week.

 

“Yes sir, coming right up!”

 

“You can call me Killian, love..”

 

“Killian. Coming right up..” Ruby winked and sauntered back to the kitchen to place his order.

 

Emma scoffed loudly, pulling his eyes off of Ruby finally.

 

“Killian, you have got to be kidding me. Ruby?!”

 

Killian laughed and took a sip from his water “What? I figured I’m on holiday, so..” the man shrugged his shoulders as if that had been a perfectly acceptable reason. Emma rolled her eyes again but before she could respond Ruby was back at their table.

 

“Here we are.. The stack of pancakes with a side of bacon for you miss..” Ruby set the shockingly immense stack (of dessert, disguised as breakfast food) down in front of the blonde.
“..and the egg white omelette for the gentleman..”

 

She winked at Killian once more as she placed him omelette on the table. Killian winked back with a “thanks, love”. And Emma was ready to throw up what little hot chocolate she actually drank thus far.

 

“Pancakes and bacon, Swan? A moment on the lips, forever on the hips..” Killian teasingly whispered so Ruby couldn’t hear.

 

“You’re such a jerk Kil.. It’s our ‘holiday’ remember?..” Emma air quoted Killian’s previous words which shut him up quickly. She gave him a knowing look and he knew she would readily expose him as a married man if he kept his teasing up.

 

“Right. Enjoy your pancakes then..”

 

Just then, another voice spoke from in front of their small but apparently very popular table.

 

“Hey! I like cinnamon on my cocoa too!”

 

They all blinked, turning their heads to the little voice speaking with so much excitement. A little brown haired boy was pointing at Emma’s mug with a smile. He looked to be around 6 or 7 and he was dressed in a navy blazer and tie. Emma presumed he was in a school uniform of some kind. She smiled back at him as his little dimples started to show, his big eyes full of astonishment that someone else also put cinnamon in their hot chocolate.

 

“You do?? I always say it’s the only way to drink ho-cho!” Emma winked and took a gulp of her now lukewarm hot chocolate.

 

“Ho-cho?” The boy giggled “What’s ‘ho-cho’mean?”

 

“It’s my shortcut for hot chocolate. It’s more fun to say don’t you think?”

 

“YEAH!” The boy practically jumped up and down “I like it! Ho-cho. I’m gonna say it that way too..”

 

Emma was smiling so hard her jaw began to ache. This kid was beyond adorable. “Okay kid. It can be our secret word then.” Emma gave him a thumbs up, ignoring the fact that she was behaving like a total nerd. The kid was just too cute.

 

He smiled even bigger than before and gave Emma a thumbs up back. “Yeah! Our secret word!”

 

Killian and Ruby were watching the entire scene, perplexed by their arbitrary conversation.

 

Ruby turned back to the young boy and searched the diner as if looking for someone. “Henry, where is your mom?”

 

The little boy, Henry, lowered his arm and glanced up to Ruby. “Oh, she’s outside Miss Lucas.. See?” Henry pointed to a parked car outside of the diner. “Mom told me I could come in to get my bagel myself because I’m learning to be.. What did she say? .. Indepnant. Mom gave me the money for it and everything!”

 

Emma tried to hide her smile behind her mug.

 

“Do you mean ‘independent’ Henry?” Ruby asked him with a smile

 

“Yeah that’s it! Im-de-pen-dnt.” He nodded with certainty and Emma couldn’t contain the laughter that bubbled up.

 

“Well that’s great kiddo.. But your mom is probably getting a little worried out there..” Ruby winked at the boy and gestured to his mom’s black car idly waiting out front.

 

“Oh yeah. Okay. Bye everybody!” Henry waved, his little smile still in place as he backed away from the table.

 

“Bye Henry.. Nice to meet you!” Emma waved to the kid as he opened the door to go meet his mom.

 

“Bye Henry, tell your mom I said hi!” Ruby waved as well as Henry ran out of Granny’s and into the passenger side door of the classic Mercedes.

 

Ruby turned back to the table “Enjoy your meals you two!”

 

Emma began to dive into her pancakes not noticing that Killian was staring at her the entire time. He cleared his throat as Emma shoveled in a second bite.

 

“What?”

 

“What?! What do you mean what Swan..” Killian raised a brow in question. “What was that?”

 

“What.. with the kid? He was cute…” Emma shrugged her shoulders and continued to chew her bit of pancake.

 

“Cute?? I didn’t know you liked kids..”

 

“Well, I usually don’t…”

 

“Aye. Maybe there is some room for affection for others in that cold heart of yours, yet..”

 

Emma laughed and threw a blueberry at the Brit’s head which he swiftly dodged. “Shut up or I’ll tell Ruby you’re married..”

 

“I knew you were thinking that, Swan!”

 

They pair laughed as the black car drove off from the diner into the distance.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Emma strolled down Main Street, finally taking the small town in after all of these years. A few people recognized her so far; two of them previous classmates from high school and the other’s, friends of Mary Margaret and David.

 

Dr. Hopper was one of them. He was the town psychologist and one of Mary Margaret’s good friends. She recalled him helping her a great deal when she was first adopted by the Nolan’s and it was actually really nice to see him again. He was thrilled to see her as well and suggested they talk over a coffee. She agreed and ended up video calling her mom (who was then on the verge of crying; finally seeing her old friend after 10 years.) Emma rolled her eyes jokingly and handed the phone to Dr. Hopper so they could catch up with one another.

Other than the mini reunion with Dr. Hopper, she seemed to be dodging the attention bullets fairly well today.

 

She decided to continue roaming the town as this was pretty much her only means of working out around here anyway. Killian was back at the Inn, on a phone conference with a client at the moment and informed her he was going to follow that up with another discussion with his travel agent. Although, at this point, they were beginning to worry if they were even going to be able to fly out of Maine before Monday. Everything seemed to be completely booked and to top that off the snow was beginning to fall again.

 

As if on cue, the snow picked up the pace somewhat. Emma pulled her beanie out of her pocket and placed it on her head for some warmth. Without thinking, she strolled back into one of the old alleys she used to take to get to the docks. She peered out onto the ocean; a cold mist collecting upon the water. She approached the benches and focused on the colors. Deep blue water leading into a grey mist then into a white, enigmatic sky. It was beautiful, but at the same time, sorrowful.

 

Suddenly, a wave of emotion took over and nearly had Emma gasping for breath. Her eyes began welling up with tears and her mind, swimming with memories. Memories of only Regina. This had been their spot and Emma wanted to kick herself for allowing herself to wander here.

 

‘What the hell was I thinking? The docks, Emma.. seriously??’

 

She had to catch her breath. The blonde plopped down one of the benches, breathing deeply and wiping the tears from her face. This was ridiculous. How was she not over her yet?! It had been ten years. Ten fucking years and -

 

“Hey! Don’t I know you??”

 

Emma jolted at the question, not expecting anyone else to be around. She squinted and turned her head, almost recognizing the little voice.

 

 

“Yeah it is you! You’re the lady who likes cinnamon ho-chos like me!”

 

Emma laughed out loud, tears still clouding her eyes. Of course it was Henry; bundled up in his striped scarf and pea coat.

 

“Henry.”

 

“Yeah! You remembered!” The boy replied enthusiastically before joining Emma on the bench.

 

“How could I forgot you, kid? You’re the only other person in the world who likes cinnamon on their ho-cho..” Emma winked and laughed again. “Who told you about that, anyway?”

 

“My mom, actually. She doesn’t like hot chocolate but she told me if you’re gonna have hot chocolate anyway.. It needs a sprinkle of cinnamon. And now I love it!”

 

“Well, I would have to agree with your mom then. She sounds like a smart lady…” Emma smiled at Henry’s response. He was so ahead of his years. Come to think of it, she had no idea how old he was.

 

“How old are you anyway, kid?”

 

“Oh, I’m seven and a half next month!” Henry replied eagerly as if that was any kind of normal number.

 

“What?!” Emma looked around almost frantically, searching for Henry’s mom or dad or guardian or whomever. “Kid, you are seven and at the docks alone ? Where is your mom?!”

 

“Henry nonchalantly tossed a pebble into the sea and replied “She’s at work, I guess. I don’t know..”

 

“Kid. What?! Come on, let’s go..” Emma jumped off the bench and grabbed onto Henry’s hand to lead him back to Main Street. Why on Earth would the kid be on his own? Emma didn’t know much about kids, but she liked to think she knew enough that a 7 year old shouldn’t be roaming the town alone.

 

“Wait, wait!” Henry yanked her hand back once they were outside Granny’s. “Please don’t tell my mom. I was meant to be staying with Granny Lucas for a couple of hours while my mom had to go to the office. I - I’m sorry. I snuck out and if Granny or my mom find out, I’m dead meat!”

 

Emma had to hold herself back from laughing out loud. That was like the cutest thing a kid had ever said. They stopped outside of Granny’s and Emma squatted down to look Henry in the eyes.

 

“Okay, kid. Fine. But I can’t just.. have you wondering around the town on your own. Storybrooke is safe, but..” Emma sighed at Henry’s worried expression. He had the biggest brown eyes and Emma was reminded so much of Regina in that moment. It warmed her heart more than she wanted to admit.

 

“What time were you meant to be picked up? Or dropped off or whatever?”

 

“Well, Granny is probably looking for me as we speak. She was going to take me back to my mom’s office after..”

 

“Right, okay..” Emma stood up and marched toward the front door of the diner. Henry followed behind, knowing there was a good chance he was going to be in a great deal of trouble. He wasn’t sure what was worse: Being in trouble with Granny or his Mom.

 

“Henry where have you been?!” Granny came running to the front door in a huff. “I’ve been looking everywhere around the diner and inn for the last 15 minutes..”

 

“I - I’m sorry..” Henry looked as if he was about to cry.

 

Emma noticed his expression and stepped in front of him. “It was my fault, Granny.. He just wanted to see the boats and I thought we could go look for a second.. I’m sorry..”

 

“Emma, my goodness you had me worried sick young lady. And you as well, young man..” She pointed to them both. “Next time, tell me first.”

 

“Right, of course. We will. Again Granny, We’re sorry.”

 

Granny sighed and shook her head. “It’s alright, I’m just glad he’s safe. I suppose we should be getting you back to your mom anyway, Henry.. C’mon -”

 

“Well, I’ll take him.. If you’d like? I don’t mind at all. Besides, I think Henry and I need to talk on the way anyway..”

 

Granny shrugged and smiled. “That’s fine, Emma. Just tell his mom to give me a call when you’ve arrived..”

 

“Will do, Granny, thanks..”

 

“Oh, do you know where she works?”

 

“No actually I -”

 

“I do!” Henry spoke up “I can show Emma..”

 

“Alright you two, alright.. Just be safe..”

 

Emma thanked Granny once more and ushered Henry out of the restaurant.

 

“Jeez Kid, don’t ever do that again! I hate getting yelled at by Granny!” Emma laughed and looked down at Henry. The regret still marring his little face.

 

“I’m sorry Emma..”

 

The blonde stopped walking and stood in front of him once again. “It’s okay, kid.. I know you were just wandering around.. But Granny just wants the best for you.. And your mom I’m sure as well. I am going to have to tell your mom.. But I will do my best to make sure you won’t become ’dead meat’.” Emma winked and turned around to begin their journey to his mom’s office.

“I’m sure she will understand, Henry. Where does your mom work anyway? I don’t even know if we’re going the right way here..” Emma laughed and glanced down at the brunette boy.

 

“We’re going the right way.. It’s just up the road on the left, past the post office..”

 

Emma tensed for a moment. ’It couldn’t be..’

 

The closer they got to their destination, though, the less assured she became. Why were they heading to the Town Hall? Her stomach plummeted at the idea that Cora could still be the Mayor of the small town and that it was very likely she would run into her once again. ’No that’s ridiculous. She wouldn’t still be the mayor, right?! And she certainly couldn’t be Henry’s mother. He was only 7 and Cora had to be, what, 55 now? 60?' She surmised it wasn’t completely impossible and that there was a chance she could still be the Mayor. Emma hands began to shake thinking of the possibility of seeing Cora face to face once again. She knew it was ridiculous as she certainly didn’t owe the woman anything after how she treated her. But Emma just couldn’t shake her nerves. No matter what, the woman terrified her. Even at 28.

 

As they made their way into Town Hall, she decided Henry was the best way to retrieve this information.

 

“So, is Cora still the Mayor here or? -” She asked as the two made their way up the stairs to the main office. She was hoping her question didn’t raise any alarms for Henry. He was only 7 but my gods the smartest 7 year old she had ever met. Luckily, he didn’t seem to note Emma’s nerves.

 

They made it to the top of the stairs and Henry looked up at Emma, pulling a face portraying that he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. “Cora? Um, no..”

 

At his response, Emma felt her body release the tension it was holding. ’Thank Goddd’

 

“Oh, alright, cool! So what office does your mom work in?” Emma glanced around, her hands in her pockets, unsure of where to head next. She watched as Henry skipped over to the door.

The Mayor’s door. ’What?!’

 

Emma set her hand on top of Henry’s, gently stopping him from swinging the door open. “Henry, your mom is the Mayor?”

 

“Yeah..” Henry shrugged nonchalantly again and finally swung the door to the office open, strolling inside as if he owned the place.

 

Emma stood at the doorway, waiting for Henry to move from her sight to see who was now occupying the Mayor’s desk.

 

Emma froze, her breathing labored and her hands quavering as her eyes landed on one Miss Mills.

 

And it wasn’t Cora.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Regina.

 

It was Regina.

 

She was finally seeing her after all of these years. Emma’s breath was quite literally stolen from her lungs as she took in her prior best friend.

 

Emma had always thought Regina was beyond beautiful. She was always the sun peeking through tumultuous clouds. Always the smile in a depressive state. The hope she adhered to when there shouldn’t be. Love and perfection and all things poignant.

 

As her eyes settled onto her features once again.. After all of this time.. Emma realized something.

 

That this feeling was unchanging.

 

Her hair was shorter now. Shoulder length with layers. It was the same, rich brown color with small flecks of golden highlights. Her eyes; striking, yet so demulcent. Emma got lost in those eyes oh so many times before. Her nose, cheekbones, lips.. Oh God those lips. The scar above them seemed to become even more noticeable after some time had passed and Emma loved it. She loved that scar. She glanced back into Regina’s eyes as the room slowly warped back into place and time resumed.

Regina’s eyes.

She was stunned.

The brunette was so stunned she didn’t move for what felt like hours to Emma. Of all ways to see her again, this is not what Emma pictured. She could probably assume Regina felt the same way. Henry unzipped his backpack quite emphatically as he sat on the couch by the fireplace and that seemed to knock Regina out of her trance.

 

“Emma?”

 

“Hi.”

 

Emma shallowly waved from the doorway, tilting her head and shuffling her feet. The nerves were coming in waves now. She had to breath deeply to prevent the sudden feeling of nausea taking over. Why had she listened to Henry, dammit..

 

“Emma?” She may have been asking the same question, but Emma noticed Regina’s features quickly flash from shock, to recognition, to tenderness. Her hard eyes softened and her jaw slacked. She began to lift her arm, almost reaching out to touch Emma. To see if she was real or if this was just an illusion of the mind. Emma watched with tears slowly forming in her eyes.

 

“It’s me, yeah..”

 

Just as Emma was about to move, Henry spoke up. “Uhh, What’s going on?”

 

Shit. She forgot they had an audience.

 

Regina blinked and cleared her throat. “Henry, would.. Would you give us a minute please sweetheart?” Regina finally began walking around her desk and Emma took in her new style. She was wearing a chic grey pencil skirt suit with black heels and oh my Gooddd could she pull that look off or what. She was making her way over to Henry and Emma gulped as she glanced at Regina’s ass unintentionally.

 

“Okay Mom, sure..”

 

“Thanks dear.. You can sit at Belle’s desk .. she’s not here on weekends..” Regina lead Henry around the room to usher him through the door, walking past Emma as she did so. Emma closed her eyes as her heart picked up speed. Memories came flooding back to her as she noticed the smell of Regina’s perfume. Estée Lauder

 

She glanced back to see Henry sitting at the small desk right outside the office, pulling a comic book from his book bag. As he placed it onto the desk, Regina ran a hand through his hair and kissed the top of his head. A gesture that made Emma’s heart jolt.

 

Regina turned to walk back into the office and Emma moved aside to let her through the door. She had to place a hand on a random side table to steady herself. The nausea was just getting worse. Regina strolled back to her desk and took a seat in her high back chair. Emma couldn’t help but notice that her eyes had changed now; the way she looked at Emma was now concentrated. Unyielding. So different from a moment ago. Emma swallowed her nerves and tried to remain impassive as well. It was certainly easier said than done.

 

“Won’t you sit, Miss Swan?” Regina’s hand motioned to the chair across from the large desk. She was smiling, but it wasn’t real. Emma has seen Regina’s smile for years.. Pictured it on her bad days.. Dreamt of it.. This wasn’t that smile. This was a disguise. Emma tensed for a moment at the transition before nodding and making her way over to one of the two chairs.

The two made eye contact once again. Regina’s posture remained rigid but something in her eyes told Emma that she was happy to see her still. Their eyes remained locked, neither one knowing what just to say. Regina opened her mouth to speak but Emma beat her to it.

 

“It’s - It’s good to see you..” Emma smiled warmly at the brunette; internally chastising herself for not coming up with a better line.

 

“You as well, Miss Swan..” Regina’s smile turned into something a bit more genuine at Emma’s words.. But Miss Swan? What was that about? Before she could ask, Regina spoke again. “What are you doing back in Storybrooke?”

 

“Oh - well, I actually was just on a flight to the UK when the weather took a turn for the worse. We had to make an unscheduled landing in Portland.. Of all places..” Emma laughed awkwardly.

 

“And that led you back to Storybrooke?”

 

Okay so maybe Regina wasn’t happy to see her. “Well, geographically we could have stayed at any of the other small towns.. But due to so many flights being delayed and rescheduled this was honestly the closest we could find.”

 

“We?”

 

“Yeah, my friend Killian and I..”

 

Regina’s eyes hardened. “I see. How long are you planning to stay?”

 

“Why do I feel like I’m in an interview right now?” Emma laughed again, causing the already awkward tension to permeate through the room. Regina’s cold stare could cut through glass right now and Emma shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“Sorry.. Um.. we’re just staying until we can find a flight back out.. It depends on the weather, really..”

 

“Well..” Regina glanced down at the paperwork on her desk momentarily and Emma was more than happy to not be on the receiving end of that stare any longer. “Please let me know if there is anything I can do to place you on the most prompt flight out.. We wouldn’t want to keep you in our dilapidated little town any longer than necessary..”

 

Emma had to fight off the instinct to physically roll her eyes.

 

“Thank you for bringing Henry back, Miss Swan. Please see to it that you inform him to come back into my office on your way out..” Regina lifted her eyes momentarily and gestured to the door before flitting through some papers on her desk.

 

Emma gaped at her, shocked.

 

“So, that’s it? That’s all we have to say to each other? After ten years?” Emma wasn’t sure what got into her but she was suddenly feeling courageous. What had gotten into Regina? This was not the sweet, approachable, tender woman she used to know. What happened? Emma wasn’t going to back down that easily. This was her best friend.. Well, former best friend. She needed to know.

 

“Yes. Unless you’d like to discuss flight information I don’t see what else needs to be said. So if you will, please..” Regina pointed to the door and began to rise from her chair. Emma felt like the smallest person in the world in that moment but she refused to give in.

 

“No.”

 

”No?”

 

“Yeah, NO.”

 

Emma stood and leveled Regina with her eyes. Their faces were only about 6 inches apart as Regina leaned over her desk to glare at the blonde. Emma tried to focus but at this distance, she could finally make out every detail of the brunette’s features. The mocha skin, chocolate eyes, dark pink lips, raised brow.. That goddamn scar that she found so sexy. Her features were quite distracting and frankly had Emma almost losing her resolve as she was tempted to pull Regina’s face closer and kiss that smug expression off of it.

 

“What do you mean, no?” Regina questioned flatly, never breaking eye contact with the blonde.

 

“I mean, Madame Mayor, I am not leaving after so much as a sentence spoken between us. We have more to say than that..”

 

“Oh? And how do you know just what I want to say to you, Miss Swan? I already said everything I needed to say. You don’t speak for me.”

 

Emma smiled precariously “I may not know you that well anymore, Regina.. But I do know one thing.. You’ve never been a good liar.”

 

 

“Get out of my office, Miss Swan.”

 

The vein in Regina’s forehead began to protrude and her breathing became heavy. She glanced down noticing her teeth were clenched in anger. Emma knew that meant she was toast unless she backed off. She recalled witnessing Regina this way in the past, but it was never directed at her. Come to think of it, the look Regina was sporting now was always directed in Emma’s defense. Usually at kids who teased Emma. And sometimes even at Cora if Regina was feeling brave.

 

So she backed off. Releasing her hands from the desk, she lifted them in a sign of resignation and backed away.

 

“Fine. I’ll go. But I know there are things you want to say and you just aren’t saying them. And I’m not sure why.”

 

Emma slowly made her way to the office door, her hand turning the knob to pull it open.

 

 

She stopped momentarily and closed her eyes. Her heart began to plummet realizing just then that Regina was going to let her walk out of the door. Walk out without so much as an explanation.. A conversation.. A smile.. A promise to see her again. She would probably never see her again. Regina didn’t want to see her. She didn’t want to know her. The familiar pain from being rejected yet again by someone shot through her chest. She raised her teary eyes and looked at Regina once more.

Was this the way they were really going to end it?

Was this just what they were now?

 

“I just want you to know that..” She took a deep breath “I - I’m sorry. About everything. I’ll be on a flight out tomorrow and out of your hair for good..” Emma wiped her cheeks, tears slowly trickling down. ’Dammit, why did I have to cry in front of her.. This is so embarrassing..’

 

“Take care, Gina.”

 

Before Regina could even blink, Emma was out the door and informing Henry he could come back into the office now that she was leaving. She ruffled a hand through his hair and without a glance back, raced down the stairs. Out of Regina’s life yet again.

 

But why would she think it would be any different? What did she expect? Emma was a runner. She ran.. But it’s not as if Regina had given her any reason not to. What the Hell was she thinking? She asked; no, told Emma to get out of her office. After she brought Henry back, she noticed Regina and hadn’t run then. She looked terrified, but she stayed. She tried. That’s something Regina couldn’t say about herself right now. All she had done was stifle Emma and make assumptions. God Dammit.. Regina shook her head and closed her eyes, standing still in the spot Emma had left her. Why did she always have to act this way? Emma hurt her in the past. Truly crushed her. And she knew she couldn’t handle that again. She had to push her away. But to the point where it brought tears to the blonde’s eyes? Regina’s expression may have remained passive, but her heart was crumbling looking into Emma’s watery eyes and tear stained cheeks. Was that worth it?

 

 

“Mom?” Regina blinked, wiping under her eyes. She glanced up at Henry as he strolled back into the office, Hulk comic book in hand. “Mom? Are you okay? What’s going on?”

 

She cleared her throat and walked around her desk. “Everything’s okay my little Prince.. Emma is just an old friend and - ”

 

“So why are you crying? And Emma too? Did you have a fight?”

 

Always so astute, her son. Regina smiled thinly, kneeling down to look Henry in the eyes. “It’s not anything you need to worry yourself about, dear. I think I upset Emma, yes.. but - ”

 

“Well maybe tell her you’re sorry? That’s what my teacher tells me to do when Mason and I get into a fight..” Henry shrugged and smiled back at his mom “Then we hug and make up and everything’s okay again..” He looked back at Regina with such innocence shining in his eyes she couldn’t hold back the immense smile now monopolizing her face. Henry always lifted her mood so easily.

 

She thought over the simple, elementary instructions given by her son. Out of the mouths of babes.

 

“You’re exactly right, my prince. I need to apologize.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Chapter Text

________________________________

 

Regina walked with purpose toward Granny’s. She had time to think it over after Emma’s, yet again, hasty departure and she knew she had been in the wrong. She rolled her eyes as her heels clicked steadily on the sidewalk; her hands buried deep into her coat pockets to avoid the bitter chill. Why did she always have to push people away? She thought back to the time in her life she was more open and accepting. Before everything changed. Before Emma ran. Before mother took complete control of her life.

 

Regina glanced up and saw Granny’s sign coming into view through the tumultuous snow and wind. It was beginning to pick up speed again and she wished she drove her car over instead of walking. She shivered and pulled the fur on the trim of her collar closer to her face. The brunette thought through what she was planning to say to Emma.. how she was going to apologize. She came up with an organized, thought out apology and went over the words in her head once again before making it to the front door of Granny’s.

She stumbled through the door haphazardly, relieved to finally get out of the storm. She almost slipped on her heels before grabbing onto the coat rack by the entrance to steady herself. The diner suddenly fell silent as everyone turned their heads to the noise and movement coming from the door and Regina turned bright red. She was usually so poised and reserved that everyone was shocked to see that it had been the Mayor nearly breaking the door down on her way in.

 

“What?!” Regina straightened herself out and glared around the room, meeting everyone’s eyes as she did so. “Why don’t you all take a picture, then..” She waved her hands and snarled at the onlookers who quickly decided that their plate of food was much more interesting than the scene the Mayor caused. (Although, she could have sworn she heard a shutter sound from someone actually sneaking a picture.)

 

She quickly found her footing and made her way through the back of the restaurant to reach the Inn. She took a deep, steadying breath and closed her eyes. She needed to calm down. She hadn’t felt so impotent in years as she stumbled and floundered through Granny’s. She needed to get a hold of herself before finding Emma.

 

The Mayor made her way over to the front desk where Granny was sorting through some keys. “Excuse me..”

 

Granny looked up at the statement. “Madame Mayor. What can I do for you today?” The older woman held a rigid smile and paused her movements. Regina wasn’t all that surprised. Granny had never really liked her. She would mask her discontent with a fairly believable erroneous grin, but Regina knew better.

 

“Yes, I was hoping you could tell me which room Miss Emma Swan is staying in?”

 

“Well, I’m not certain Miss Swan would like to me to just give that information out..”

 

Regina tensed her jaw and avoided rolling her eyes in front of the older lady. “I see..” She smiled politely back, her face morphing into her pensive Mayoral mask. “Well, this is regarding official town business; so I would greatly appreciate the assistance Ms. Lewis.” Regina scowled at Granny, an eerie smile still set in place.

 

Granny didn’t buy it. But she knew if she didn’t provide the information; Regina would come up with a reason to charge Granny extra rent this month. Or inform her that her permit for running the Inn had expired.. Or that there was a recent complaint about the food being served in the diner… or something that she would later pay for. It quite frankly, wasn’t worth it. Mayor Mills had much too much supremacy in this town. Granny forfeited and informed her that Emma was staying in room number three.

Regina nodded triumphantly and made her way down the short hall. It was quite humorous how small this inn was, actually. She knocked on the door and waited nervously for a response; her left hand fidgeting with the ring on her right. When the door finally swung open, Regina was confused. Very confused.

 

Unless Emma had turned into a tall, scruffy man that smelled of rum in the last couple of hours she wasn’t certain she knocked on the right door.

 

“How can I help you, love?”

 

Regina heard the man speak and visibly shuttered at the pet name. She hated them. She turned her head and began counting the doors in the hall to be sure this was indeed #3. Upon confirming, she had only one option left.

 

“Yes. Is Emma Swan here?”

 

The man on the other side of the door leered at her with a slight smirk. She assumed some women (well, girls) at one point or another found the look adorning this man’s face charming as he seemed to be quite cocky about it. Regina was not one of those women. And she was, quite frankly, revolted by it. The look he gave her was completely objectifying and she was almost tempted to punch this stranger in the face right in front of Granny. She closed her eyes and rubbed at her temples, praying to whatever deity above to give her strength.

 

“Pardon me, sir, but I would appreciate if you wouldn’t ogle me whilst I wait patiently for you to answer the simplest question known to man. I apologize if I spoke too quickly for you before. I’ll repeat it for you. - Is - Emma - Swan - here - ?”

 

Regina intentionally repeated each word as slowly as possible; the sarcasm and disdain obviously dripping from the question. Killian smiled again, but this time, genuinely. Whoever this woman was, she certainly could give him a run for his money.

 

“Aye. Unfortunately she is not. She ran off before, quite upset. She informed me that she was going to take a walk. Although I can’t imagine a walk in this town.. It’s more like two giant steps and you’re at the other end..” Killian laughed. Regina did not.

 

“I see. If I don’t find her could you please let her know Regina stopped by? It’s quite important..”

 

“Aye..” Killian nodded and took Regina’s business card as she passed it over to him “Will do, love..”

 

“Oh also.. Don’t call me love.”

 

Before he could reply; Regina was off down the hall once more, leaving Killian stunned and smiling.

 

-------------------------------------------

 

Regina had been looking everywhere for Emma. She had walked the entire length of Storybrooke twice in the hour. It was a small town, sure.. But walking it in heels? She felt insane. At one point she was highly considering walking back home to Mifflin Street to grab her running shoes, or at least some boots, before continuing on. She ultimately decided against it as she was at the wrong end and it would have added an extra 20 minutes to her journey. She couldn’t handle an extra 20 minutes in these God forsaken stilettos. She felt like throwing them into the harbor at this point.

 

Regina blinked and glanced up. The Harbor. The docks. Of course! How could she forget to look there of all places? It used to be Emma’s favorite spot in Storybrooke. The water calmed her and she loved the breeze. Regina crossed the road, determined even more so now to find her. The wind whipped her hair around fiercely and she wondered, if Emma was indeed at the docks, how she would quite possibly be on the brink of freezing to death.

It gave her an idea. Before she made her way to the docks, she quickly made a pit stop into Granny’s for a couple of hot drinks to go. Grabbing the cups, she sighed at the warmth they provided momentarily before striding back out into the storm.

 

Regina turned the corner from the small alley leading to the docks. She was right. Emma was sitting on the middle bench. It was their usual. She was facing the sea of course, her blonde hair thrashing in the wind. Regina smiled. She had missed her so tremendously over the last ten years. She may have been hurt by Emma, but old feelings die hard.

 

As she made it closer to the blonde, she realized that she was indeed shivering. Regina furrowed her brow and wondered, not for the first time, why on Earth Emma was sitting outside in the middle of a snow storm. The brunette approached her, then suddenly halted. All of the things she wanted to say to Emma completely dropped from her memory now.
She began to feel the uncertainty rise inside of her like never before. For a moment she considered turning around and running as fast as her Jimmy Choos could take her.

 

Then Emma turned around.

 

Regina gulped, her eyes watering from not only the wind whipping around them.

 

“Regina?”

 

“H - Hi Emma” Regina gave a small wave (or the best she could manage with two to go cups in her hands.)

 

“What are you doing here?” Emma’s lip was trembling from the cold and Regina felt a pang of sadness at the movement.

 

“I brought you a hot chocolate?..”

 

Emma eyed the cup Regina was handing over with an uneasy, serious expression. “Why?”

 

“Emma, just take the cup please..” Regina replied concisely, a small smile playing on her lips.

 

“Alright.. bossy..”

 

Emma took the cup and Regina’s heart soared at her response. It was so unbelievably reminiscent of the past. It was such an Emma response.

 

“Can I sit?” The brunette asked cautiously, gesturing to the spot next to Emma on the bench.

 

“Of course, yeah..” She happily slid over a couple of inches to allow room for the brunette to join her, wiping the freshly fallen snow from the seat first.

 

“So..”

 

“So….” Emma smiled and took a sip of her hot chocolate, the liquid immediately satiating the need to warm up after sitting in the freezing cold for so long. She literally groaned out loud and Regina watched with amusement (and something else that she didn’t care to admit right then and there).

 

“Are you enjoying your hot chocolate then?”

 

“Ugh. Yes! This is exactly what I needed.. Thank you. And you even remembered the cinnamon I -”

 

Emma looked at Regina through snow dusted eyelashes and noticed that she had been staring at her ever since she took her seat.

 

“I’d never forget..”

 

Regina answered with a tilt of her head, eyes studying her own. Those deep brown eyes. This time Emma recognized them. There it was. The look… The eyes she knew and loved so effortlessly. And Emma no longer had to worry about the cold. She could tell she was blushing something fierce at Regina’s response.

 

“Emma, I -” Regina glanced down at her leather gloves, unable to look Emma in the eyes for this. “I wanted to apologize about.. before. I can’t believe I behaved that way..” She laughed uncomfortably for a moment, recalling the things she said to Emma before. “..I just was .. surprised to see you.. It’s just -”

She sighed and finally looked back up into Emma’s eyes. They were calm and understanding and encouraging. Regina couldn’t help but smile. She had seen Emma all but 20 minutes in total since she had left; yet it seemed that the blonde was still the same, sympathetic person.

“ - It’s just that.. It’s a lot to suddenly take in. I’m sorry.”

 

Emma’s smile grew and Regina was immediately relieved. “It’s alright. I’m sorry too. I kind of… bombarded you out of nowhere.. I just didn’t expect Henry to be your kid, I -”

The blonde shook her head, watching Regina’s dark hair swirl in the wind around her. Emma suddenly had the urge to reach out and tuck it behind Regina’s ears.

“You have always been so great at astonishing me.”

 

She could have sworn she could see Regina’s breath catch at the statement, making her blush yet again.

 

“Well, Miss Swan.. I believe we have a lot to catch up on. I do have some things I’d like to say.. And some questions, of course. But what say we do that somewhere a bit.. warmer than this bench?”

 

Emma was still baking from their conversation.. The unexpected yet overwhelming feelings all thrumming through her veins, her mind, her heart. She hadn’t expected Regina to even come look for her; let alone bring her a hot chocolate (with cinnamon) and offer to continue their conversation elsewhere. She was gazing at her with hopeful, dark eyes and Emma shook herself from her thoughts.

 

“Of course!” The blonde practically jumped up from the bench, pulling Regina up with her. The brunette threw her head back in laughter and Emma’s heart melted just like it used to when she heard that sound. It hadn’t changed at all. No wonder she wasn’t cold anymore. “I - I’m sorry..”

 

Regina grabbed Emma’s hand and squeezed. “It’s alright, Emma. I’m just a little cold that’s all. Not all of us have practiced sitting at the coldest part of Storybrooke during a snowstorm for hours like you have..” Regina winked and Emma was a goner.

 

The blonde laughed nervously and acquiesced. It probably wasn’t the greatest plan to turn into Emma and Regina ice sculptures. Especially before this discussion they were about to have. This was a talk she had been looking forward to for the last ten years. Also, the one that most terrified her.

 

“Right, of course.. Well, my hot chocolate is long gone now.. Granny’s?” Emma offered nervously with a smirk.

 

“Granny’s it is..” Regina smiled back and linked her arm into Emma’s as they made their way back to Main Street. The blonde, not for the first time, gazed over at Regina in awe. Despite everything her rational mind told her; Despite everything that happened in the past.. her heart fluttered with copious amounts of love. She avoided eye contact with the brunette on their walk as tears began to cloud her eyes once again.

 

This was too soon. It had to be. She didn’t even know this current version of Regina. She must have changed so much over the years. Grown, evolved, matured.. It was natural. So how was it natural for Emma to still feel this way about her? After all this time.. Years and years apart.. It’s almost as if her heart never even realized. It still beat only for Regina.

 

And there was absolutely no way Regina would be interested in Emma the same way. She thought back to all of the times she previously forced herself to forget. The rejections, the confusion, the facts. Regina had a son? A Son!? She had a life here that most definitely involved a significant other. There was absolutely no way Regina would be single. She was perfect. And even if she was single, she already displayed her disinterest in the past. Emma breathed deeply and tried to pull it together. Regina couldn’t have this much hold on her heart anymore. This was a dangerous game and Emma needed to protect herself this time around. As they approached Granny’s, a thought rang through her mind.

 

It’s one of the hardest things to wait around for something you know might never happen. But it’s even harder to give up when it’s everything that you want.

 

__________________________________________________________________

Chapter Text

_______________________________________________________________

 

“A salad?! Doth my eyes deceive me??”

 

Emma couldn’t help the laughter bubbling up. She had missed Regina’s snark. “Shut up, you...”

 

“I just can’t help but be surprised, seeing as you literally used to eat an average of two grilled cheeses a day..”

 

“I did not?”

 

Regina threw Emma a pointed look and the blonde deflated. “Okay, fine. I maybe ate a few more grilled cheeses than the average person..”

 

“Emma, you ate 9 in one day.”

 

“What?!”

 

“Yes don’t you remember? At the County Fair that one summer.. Leroy had challenged you to a hot dog eating competition.. And you agreed on the terms that -”

 

“ - That they were grilled cheese sandwiches instead..” Emma glanced to the side and finished Regina’s sentence as she remembered that night. She ended up nearly puking behind the lemonade cart as Regina rubbed her back to ease the nausea.

 

“I completely forgot about that, oh man..” Emma laughed and rubbed her forehead.

 

“Leroy was this big, bulky guy and thought he had won the competition hands-down already.. And then little Emma Swan comes to the table and demolishes 9 grilled cheese sandwiches in less than 10 minutes..”

 

They were both laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes and it made Emma nostalgic. This is exactly how they used to laugh. Maybe not much had changed after all?

 

“Well, I may have won.. But I do remember quite clearly almost throwing up behind the lemonade cart..”

 

“Yes, as I rubbed your back..” Regina’s expression jumped from amused to sorrowful in a moment. “You were so sick that evening.. I kept telling you to just let it out.. But you were always so stubborn.. You hated throwing up..”

 

“Still do..” Emma shivered at the thought. She looked back at Regina and shrugged “..But the back rub helped..”

 

Regina smiled, her entire face lighting up.

 

..Before her thoughts drifted to the man currently sharing a room with Emma. She had thought about it before and it only seemed logical that he was Emma’s current boyfriend. Or even more? She wasn’t sure why but her heart ached at the fact that Emma was taken. Of course she’s with someone, idiot. She’s wonderful, thoughtful, gorgeous.. And I bet that leather clad douche-bag in room 3 helps rub her back these days..

 

Emma noticed Regina’s face drop; a scowl in place of the gorgeous smile she was donning only a moment before. What just happened?

 

“I, uh, can’t understand how I didn’t weigh 300 pounds to be honest… with all of those damn grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolates..” Emma laughed awkwardly in an attempt to steer the subject back to her less-than-healthy former eating habits.

 

Regina cleared her throat, realizing she never responded. “Well, the gift of being 17 I suppose..” She smiled, her eyes crinkling in the corners. Emma thought her smile seemed a bit off now. Almost forced.

 

Their food arrived, two large grilled chicken salads placed in front of them as Emma said thank you and Regina nodded with a smile. The women both ate quietly for a moment; the mood shifting a little from the jovial aura from five minutes ago.

 

Regina had a sip of her black coffee and glanced back at Emma from under her lashes. She took a moment to observe the blonde quietly as she began eating. Her hair was even longer than it used to be.. The golden tresses now twisting into ringlets. It cascaded down, surrounding her shoulders and ending just below her chest. Her eyes were even more piercing than she remembered. That damned combination of green and grey and blue that only Emma was born with. She thought of how not even the best painters.. artists in history could duplicate the uniquely radiant color. Not Michelangelo, Titian, Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh..

 

Only Emma.

 

She still had dimples when she smiled. Especially when she smiled that half-lopsided way that made Regina’s heart beat quicker. She wore more makeup now and dressed a little differently.. But that wasn’t surprising as she was now 28. Regina wondered what else about Emma had changed.

 

The way she made the brunette feel certainly hadn’t changed. How, after ten years, Emma could have the ability to make her giggle still. Mayor Mills never giggled. But leave it to Emma Swan and the usually indomitable Mayor was a puddle. Nothing had changed. Nothing had changed? The realization that she was still head over heels in love with Emma Swan hit her like a freight train. Her breathing became labored as she looked down at her plate of grilled chicken and lettuce. She tried to focus on each cherry tomato adorning her plate. She suddenly felt Emma’s hand on hers and jolted at the touch.

 

“Hey, are you okay?”

 

She blinked and looked up to Emma who was looking back at her with all of the love and understanding one possibly could.

 

“I-I’m fine, Emma. If you’ll excuse me I’m just going to run to the restroom for a moment..”

 

“Oh, of course, yeah. I’ll be here.” Emma smiled cautiously hoping Regina was okay. It looked like she’d seen a ghost. Maybe she wasn’t feeling well. “Was it something in the salad? I don’t know if I trust Granny’s version of anything but fried food..”

 

Regina laughed and wiped a tear from under her lash. “No, no Emma. It’s not the food. I’ll be right back..” The brunette placed her hand on top of Emma’s now and smiled softly to show everything was alright. She made her way back to the bathroom and wondered..

 

Was it?

 

_____________________________

 

Hi mom, how’s it going wi…

 

Emma glanced down as Regina’s iPhone pinged and read the text without thinking. It was from Henry. She suddenly looked anywhere else as she felt she completely invaded the brunette’s privacy. Unintentionally, but still.

 

She still couldn’t believe Regina had a kid. She had no doubt Regina would make a wonderful mother.. But she never expected her to have a kid so soon. She remembered Regina wanting to be a mom. They spoke about it in the past, but the brunette always put her studies first. She wanted to become a successful businesswoman before she had a family. Henry said he was 7 and a half.. That meant that Regina had him at, what… 20 or 21? That was incredibly young. She was Mayor as well. It seemed that the brunette achieved both career and family in the span of ten years.

 

Emma smiled and shook her head. Of course she did. If anyone were to achieve so much, it would be Regina. The woman had always been remarkable.

 

She hadn’t noticed a ring on Regina’s finger, but that didn’t necessarily mean she wasn’t taken? She shook her thoughts away as she realized what she was doing. She was hoping. Hoping to woo the enigmatic yet captivating blast from the past. What was she thinking? Was she also hoping to have her heart broken again? She recalled her thoughts from outside before and realized there was just too much truth lying in them. Regina could destroy her with so much as a “no”.

Emma couldn’t do this again.

She couldn’t. Her heart just wouldn’t survive the pain. Not again.

 

Emma quickly wiped the tears from her eyes as she heard the familiar sound of stilettos walking back to the table.

 

_________________________

 

Regina paced the small bathroom; her arms crossed and heels clacking on the tiled floor as sweat permeated her forehead. If someone told her last week that she would be purposefully spending time walking around the bathroom at Granny’s diner she would have incinerated them.. Not literally of course. But, ergo, that’s precisely what was happening.

 

She didn’t know what to make of her thoughts. Emma was back… she was back, barreling into Regina’s life like a sudden gust of air on a hot day. Like the air and oxygen dismissed from her mind and memory ten years ago. Air she couldn’t fathom not breathing in.. now cleansing her soul and heart as she did so. Why was Emma doing this? She had worked damn hard the last ten years to form the woman she was now. A strong, dignified and stringent Mayor who ran the entire town without fault. A single mother of a wonderful son. She loved Henry fiercely of course, but she was set in her ways. He was a straight-A student, always respected his elders, did his chores and listened to his mother. Well, for the most part.

 

Everything in her life had been thoughtfully coordinated and she needed it that way. So to have Emma flying in out of nowhere after all this time… Regina was.. well.. Off her game.

 

The Mayor walked over to the sink to splash some water on her face. She dried herself off with a paper towel and looked into the mirror with a sigh. There was certainly no denying how she felt about Emma. Surprised, confused, speechless she supposed.. But this particular feeling in her heart never wavered. The feeling that Emma was it.

She was the one.

 

Regina closed her eyes momentarily as thoughts ran through her mind of what her future could look like. They came in flashes. She saw Henry bouncing happily through the door on Mifflin, Emma smiling broadly behind him with a tub of ice cream in her grasp. The two of them chasing one another in the backyard, Regina looking on fondly as Emma ‘threatened’ Henry with tickles if she caught him. Henry asleep in his bed as she and Emma sat comfortably on the porch swing, arms wrapped around one another. She pictured glancing up at Emma, the blonde’s eyes already set on her. She could almost feel the warmth of the moment. The tenderness in Emma’s eyes. She recognized it. It was the same look the blonde wore all of those moments from their past. Regina realized it then and there; that look.. It felt like home. These images comprised from her conscious mind in an attempt of illustrating what her happy ending may look like. Regina couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful.

 

She blinked and opened her eyes as a lone tear dropped down her cheek. She wiped it and smiled.

 

Maybe she could have everything her thoughts produced? Perhaps Emma felt the same way? Maybe Emma’s plane landing in Portland was a sign? A sign that she was getting a second chance. Regina took a deep breath, realizing what she had to do. She corrected her makeup in the mirror once more before swinging the door open and walking back to the table.

 

Her Mother and the mystery man from room 3 be damned.

 

She had to win Emma back.

 

________________________________

 

“So, Miss Swan..”

 

“Regina, can we please drop it with the Miss Swan stuff already? We were - are - friends.”

 

“Oh, we’re friends?” Regina smirked knowingly at the blonde as Emma shuffled in her seat.

 

“Well, yeah. I - I mean I’d like to think we can be friends again after.. Well, everything..”

 

The brunette cleared her throat and glanced back down as their plates were removed from the table by a busboy. Memories of that night came flooding through her mind.. Her mother’s grip on her arm.. Her desperate plea for Emma to not go.. Emma’s dejected face as she ran away…

I hate you.

..The phrase running around in her mind like a record skipping due to an unbalanced arm.

 

“I had thought, maybe.. I thought you hated me..” Regina wanted to scoff at how shaky her words came out. She refused to make eye contact with Emma. She was beyond embarrassed and absolutely hated appearing vulnerable in any way.

 

Emma was looking back at her, utterly confused. “What? Regina - why -”
She looked imploringly at Regina hoping to meet her eyes, but the brunette wasn’t budging. So she placed a hand on top of Regina’s once again, hearing the other woman draw a breath in sharply.

 

“Regina, I never hated you. Just the opposite in fact..”

 

Regina’s heart was beating vigorously as she took in Emma’s words, finally looking back up into Emma’s eyes. She couldn’t contain the tears that spilled and she reached for her napkin to quickly wipe them away. She was desperate to hide her reaction from the rest of the diners in Granny’s. Not one soul in this town, (other than her Mother and Emma) had witnessed her crying and she wasn’t about to break that tradition today.

 

“What about the moment you ran? You turned around and - and I heard you..”

 

“Gina, I wasn’t talking to you...”

 

Tears were clouding the blonde’s eyes as well as she recalled that last moment at Regina’s house. The fear gripped at her once again as she remembered the fire in Cora’s eyes that evening. The pity and arrogance exuding from the older woman made Emma shiver to this day...but a small ounce of courage momentarily dominated her that night, allowing the blonde to harshly state those words.

And Regina thought they were for her? This whole time? Oh God.

Emma felt sick to her stomach at the idea that Regina thought she hated her all of these years. If she only knew. “Regina I- I am so sorry… I had no idea you thought -”

 

Regina laughed momentarily, surprising Emma altogether. It was a watery laugh and the brunette still had tears in her eyes. “Mother.. Of course..”

 

Regina continued laughing and Emma smiled awkwardly at first, unsure what was happening. Their conversation just jumped from serious to humorous in under a minute and she was confused. Despite the confusion, Regina’s laugh was infectious and it wasn’t long before Emma began laughing as well. Why was there so much about this woman that made her so damn lovable?

 

The laughter died down, both women wiping their eyes after the recent fluctuation of intense emotions.

 

“It was my Mother.. You were saying that to my Mother?.. This whole time.. I’m such an idiot..”

 

“Regina I could never hate you..” Emma smiled despondently as she remembered all of the times she honestly tried to hate the brunette. She had been attempting that for years. And if this longing feeling in her heart was anything to go by, she was failing miserably. “Is this - Is that why you said those things in your office yesterday? Because you thought I hated you?”

 

Regina glanced back up, a redness to her cheeks “Perhaps…”

 

Emma laughed and shook her head as it all began to make sense now. “Well, until the meeting at the docks.. I had assumed you hated me too..”

 

Regina sighed and placed her hands over her face. She had certainly made a mess of this. She chuckled awkwardly and looked Emma in the eyes. She had been avoiding them for far too long, she decided.

 

“I could never hate you either, Emma.. I’m so sorry about all of this.. I just thought - and then you said... I just... Ughhh..”

 

Regina laughed helplessly again as she tried to form a coherent sentence. What was wrong with her? She spoke elegantly and confidently in front of the entire town.. Weekly. And now sitting here in front of her former best friend in a diner over a slice of apple pie (When had Emma ordered that for her?) she was a bumbling mess of words.

 

Emma placed a hand on top of hers again and she could feel the electricity and warmth transfer to her own. It soothed her.

 

“It’s okay Gina, really.. It was my fault as well. All of those years ago, I shouldn’t -” Emma faltered momentarily as the words stuck in the back of her throat. These were things she’d been wanting to say to the brunette for years. Wanting to say but terrified to say them. “I shouldn’t have.. ignored you for all that time. It was incredibly thoughtless of me and if I had the chance to go back, I would. In a second. I’m just - I’m so sorry. You deserved so much better.”

 

Regina didn’t respond and Emma glanced back up after a minute of silence. She was crying again and the blonde’s heart was shattering knowing she had been the one to cause these tears again. Regina was desperately trying to hide behind the small napkin, now with added mascara stains, and not for the first time Emma wondered why that hadn’t chosen somewhere more private.

 

“Damn you, Swan. Making me cry in front of the entire town..” Regina smiled through her tears and Emma smiled broadly back. She was so grateful the brunette wasn’t angry with her. She had every right to be after how she treated her in the past.

 

“Well, to be fair.. It isn’t the entire town. Just the hungry people..” Emma shrugged and Regina laughed out loud.

 

“I suppose so, yes. I owe you an apology as well, Emma. My Mother - she -”

 

“- Was not your fault. She treated me unfairly, yes.. But she was a grown woman and we were so young, Regina. It wasn’t your fault.”

 

“Well. That’s good to hear..”

 

Another minute of silence passed by as she absorbed Emma’s apology. She had been waiting a long time to hear these words from her, but before she could burst into tears yet again (She guessed that she was also PMS-ing.. just to top this emotional roller coaster off).. she took a bite of her pie.

 

She winked at Emma and thanked her for ordering it. She was more than pleased to see Emma’s cheeks turn pink as she winked at her. Suddenly, the brunette’s confidence was back in full swing.

 

“I ordered it when you were in the bathroom .. I thought maybe it was still your favorite..”

 

“It is, indeed..” She grinned salaciously, noticing another shift in mood between them. This one, Regina could work with. “Would you like a bite, Em-ma?”

 

Emma laughed, avoiding eye contact with the brunette. “I, uh, I shouldn’t. I’ve already had a stack of pancakes this morning and a hot chocolate.. I wouldn’t want to gain those bad eating habits - and calories - back by over doing it..”

 

She placed her hand on her stomach and patted it for effect. She then made the grave mistake of looking into Regina’s eyes. Holy hell. The brown orbs were somehow darker than usual. Her eyebrow was quirked as well as her smile and Emma melted like the ice cream on top of that slice of pie. “Oh, come now Emma. You look like you could certainly spare a few calories..” Regina winked again and held her fork out for Emma, a piece of the pie steadily resting on top.

 

Emma gulped loudly and turned even redder realizing Regina must have heard it. The Mayor’s smile grew even larger now and winked once again and what.. Was Emma going to say no?

 

So she slowly leaned her head forward and opened her mouth to take the bite from Regina’s fork. Regina glanced down at her mouth as she did so and Emma couldn’t help but feel like this was some weird deleted scene from Basic Instinct. She also couldn’t deny that this was sexy. as. fuck.

 

After what felt like an hour of holding the fork in her mouth, Emma hummed and pulled back. She was just about to ask Regina if she would like more coffee before they left when the brunette brought the fork up to her own mouth and sucked it clean, never breaking eye contact with the blonde.

 

Holy shit.

 

Emma choked and sputtered on the sip of coffee she had the misfortune of drinking right before witnessing Regina’s little display. The other woman looked even more amused; her eyebrow raised even further and her grin now widely displayed on her beautiful face.

 

“Are you, alright, Emma? Would you like some water?”

 

Emma coughed for another moment before finally steadying her breathing. Well, as much as the moment could allow. “I - Umm - No I’m alright, I -”

 

“Hmm.. it seems as if you’re the one finding it difficult to string a sentence together now..” Regina winked again and if she could stop winking already Emma would greatly appreciate it.

 

“I-I’m alright.. The coffee just went down the wrong way I think..”

 

“I see. And how did you like the pie?”

 

Emma was so grateful she hadn’t sipped from the coffee cup before that statement as she would have certainly been choking once again. Instead, she so eloquently stared at Regina’s dark red lips, wishing she could have been that damn fork.

 

“Yeah, it was... It was delicious..”

 

Regina looked at Emma through hooded eyes, stopping on her lips as well. Emma suddenly had the urge to take a cold shower.

 

“I would have to agree.”

 

______________________________________________________________________

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Emma stepped out of the (much needed) cold shower and dried herself off. She made her way over to the wardrobe on the other side of the room and rifled through the few articles of clothing she brought for this trip. She was thankful Killian wasn’t from some tropical island and that she was fairly prepared for the cold Maine weather. She grabbed a pair of skinny jeans, a sweater, a pair of boots and her trusty red leather jacket to top it off. She smiled as she remembered Regina’s comment..

’Oh, good lord don’t tell me you still have this abhorrent piece of clothing..’

It was, of course, said with a hint of a smile and the sexiest teasing tone of voice Emma could imagine. Regina was definitely happy Emma hadn’t changed that much.

 

The blonde quickly threw on her hat and gloves and swiftly made her way to the door. Before she could grab the doorknob, it flew open from the other side, Killian charging through.

 

“Woah, Killian… You alright?”

 

“Aye, sorry Swan.. I didn’t mean to almost knock you over on my way through..”

 

“It’s okay.. What’s up?” Emma stood back to let Killian into the room, noticing the sour look on his face.

 

“It’s this damn snow, Swan. I’m starting to wonder how we’re ever going to fly out of this God forsaken town..” Killian dropped onto the couch and looked at Emma questioningly when he realized she was about to leave again. “.. And where are you off to again?”

 

“I’m uhhhh…” Emma shuffled her feet as she tried to filter through some of the reasons she would be out this often. “Just meeting up with some old friends..”

 

Killian raised a brow and smiled wily “I see… and would one of these.. friends .. happen to be a gorgeous brunette with a snarky attitude?”

 

Emma swallowed thickly but of course, in typical Emma-like-fashion, so gracefully choked on her own saliva and began coughing forcibly. She had been doing that a lot lately. Killian laughed out loud as the blonde sat on the bed to catch her breath.

 

“So nice of you to.. Laugh while I practically die over here…”

 

Killian continued to laugh but raised his hands in surrender.. “Apologies, love .. but that just seemed to be a very random moment to choke, there.. Did I say anything to vex you?”

 

“No! No it wasn’t what you said.. I - uhh..” Emma breathed deeply “It was just completely random..”

 

“Aye. Random indeed..” He winked but continued on. “Well, have fun with your friends Swan and I’ll see you later this evening I suppose..”

 

“Right, yeah.. I’ll see you tonight…” Emma walked to the door but turned to look at Killian once again as he annoyingly shucked off his soggy boots and socks. He hated the snow. “Uh, Kil? What, um.. What did Gold say about the flight? Still scheduled for Monday night?”

 

“If all goes to plan, yep! Tomorrow night and we will finally be on our way to merry old London town. As long as the snow doesn’t get any worse than it already is.. which I cannot even imagine, to be honest, Swan..”

 

Emma smiled back fictitiously. “Right, perfect.. Well.. I’m headed out so, I’ll see ya later tonight and I’ll start to pack up..”

 

Killian waved in her direction as she closed the door and made her way to Main Street. Fuck. Could she leave already? Was she ready to fly out tomorrow? She and Regina just began to connect again after all of these years.. Is she really just going to throw away this opportunity to spend time with her again? Emma groaned and ran her hands over her face as the snow continued to fall around her still. Her intensely irrational thoughts wished that the snow would fall even faster and stronger to prevent the inevitable flight tomorrow.

 

Thursday. Just Thursday her life had been perfectly normal. She was working and drinking cold brews and planning on meeting a girl at a bar later and having fun and mostly loving her life.

And now, here she was.. Pacing Main Street.. Fucking Main Street, Storybrooke ..with the one woman that has ever broken her heart monopolizing her thoughts and decisions.. Again.

Would this ever change? Probably not.

Did she want it to change? Probably not.

 

But to protect her heart again, Emma had to try at least.

Right?

Probably.

 

Which was obviously easier said than done. It was almost second nature for her to drop everything and worship the ground the brunette walked on. And now Emma was picturing the heels Regina wore to lunch. Stark black stilettos; maybe 5 inches with a pointy toe and they complemented the brunette’s legs perfectly. And her legs complimented the grey pencil skirt that hugged her form .. particularly the backside. Leading up to the matching grey fitted V-neck blazer that buttoned just below her..

 

NO EMMA. NO.

 

She shook her head and stopped her incessant pacing. She needed to really get this attraction to the brunette under control. At the very least, so it wasn’t that obvious when she was around her. She wasn’t 17 anymore and she could mask this better than she used to. Emma took a deep breath and decided that instead of using her steps to pace back and forth, she should make her way.

 

The blonde pulled her coat tightly around her and began her 12 minute walk to 108 Mifflin Street.

 

____________________________________

 

“Emma!!”

Henry came running up to the blonde the moment she stepped through the door. She made an ‘oomph’ sound as the seven year old slammed into her legs. His version of a loving hug, she surmised; so she couldn’t complain too much.

 

“Hey kid!..” She laughed but also winced at the fact that she had nearly been knocked over by a little kid. “Jeez Henry.. you’re strong, dude. Maybe I should be getting back into the gym soon..”

 

“Wow, the gym too? I guess the days of eating grilled cheeses and being a couch potato really are over, hm?”

 

Emma looked up and her mouth went completely dry. Regina was wearing a sleek black dress that ended right above her knees. It was trimmed with a bit of lace on the V-neck (why did that have to be the brunette’s favorite cut?) which Emma’s eyes landed on immediately. Those same cursed black pumps that did things to the blonde she didn’t want to admit and a black leather jacket topped off the look. And holy shit Regina wearing black leather should be illegal because Emma was honestly struggling to breath at the moment.

 

“I.. um.. Yeah... H-Hey, Regina..”

 

“Always so eloquently spoken, dear.” Regina arched an eyebrow and Emma turned bright red.

 

“Yeah well.. At least I’m ready on time, unlike one of us..” Emma winked at Henry as Regina pulled out her crimson red lipstick to apply in the foyer mirror. The brunette popped her lips together and scowled back at Emma through the glass.

 

“Oh, You’ll find that I am indeed ready on time, dear. In all of our ten years apart, that has not changed..”

Regina strolled over to them and grabbed her coat off the rack. She helped Henry get his winter apparel on (which consisted of about 14 separate items) while Emma slyly checked the time on her fitbit. She was partially impressed but also super annoyed to read that Regina was right and it was actually 12:00pm on the dot. This woman was always right.

 

The brunette lifted herself from her squatted position after tucking Henry’s scarf into his coat.

 

“Ready?”

 

Emma and Henry responded in unison.. and with an equally enthusiastic, “Ready!”

 

They arrived at the ice skating rink ten minutes later and Emma was pretty psyched. Her skating skills had improved tremendously since moving out west. It wasn’t the most common extracurricular in L.A., but it was one of Mary Margaret’s suggestions after Emma struggled with the move. To her surprise, Emma ended up loving it and even joined a recreational hockey team. The sport also eventually led her to a healthier lifestyle; working out more, eating a well balanced diet (sans grilled cheeses), to eventually owning her own gym. Emma’s was now one of the most popular privately owned gyms in West Hollywood; including an ice skating rink below the gym floor.

 

All in all, Emma was an awesome skater. And she couldn’t wait to show off to the Mills family. Ya know, because Henry would think it was cool.

 

The trio walked up to the hut to grab their skates and sat down on one of the benches to tie them up; Emma reminding the Mills’ that they had to pull as tight as possible to make sure they were secure. As she waited for Henry to finish, Emma looked around. It was like a winter wonderland in the square and she had never seen Storybrooke look so beautiful.

 

The ice skating rink was obviously the main feature, but there were huts lined up around the square. All with something related to Christmas; hot chocolate stalls, German sausages being made to order, Christmas memorabilia and handmade ornaments for sale. It was adorable. And quite honestly, culturally forward for Storybrooke. The huts were all lit up with twinkle lights making them appear like Christmas markets somewhere in Europe. Emma was quite impressed to be honest and the thought of Storybrooke reminding the blonde of Europe caused her to laugh out loud.

 

“What? What is it?” Regina looked back at Emma, amused.

 

“Nothing, I - I was just thinking of how Storybrooke is reminding me of European Christmas markets right now and.. I was meant to be flying over to London. Looks like I found my own London right here..” She laughed again and Regina was still wearing an amused expression. The brunette’s smile growing exponentially despite herself.

 

“Oh”

 

“So!” Emma clapped her hands together and stood up, wobbling slightly on her skates. “Are we ready to get our skate on?!”

 

Henry immediately jumped up yelling “Yeah! Let’s go!”. He also immediately began descending back to the ground, head first, as he forgot he had actually only been skating once in his short 7 years before.

 

“Woah! Henry!” Both women held their arms out to catch the boy, lifting him back into a standing position. He was wobbly, but at least he was standing. They sighed and Emma spoke again. “Maybe not that quick, kid..”

 

“We’ll help you over to the rink, and you can hold onto me the whole time if you need to, my little prince..”

 

“Okay, thanks mom..”

 

They each stood on one side of Henry and slowly helped him make it to the rink. Emma couldn’t help but smile cheesily at the term of endearment Regina used on Henry. The pair was beyond adorable and Regina was the perfect mother. Emma couldn’t help but feel amazed by that fact as Cora was quite possibly one of the worst mothers in existence. Luckily, Regina was a polar opposite to her mother.

 

“Alright Henry just place one foot on the ice slowly..”

 

Emma had jumped in before the other two to help Henry onto the ice.. And of course Regina was being so overly cautious it had Emma rolling her eyes. “Oh come on, Regina.. He’s 7! He’ll be fine..”

 

“You don’t know that, Miss Swan? It is quite common to have an accident on the ice.. and some lead to fatalities..” Regina whispered the last sentence, not wanting to scare her son. “It can be a very dangerous activity. One that I plan on Henry perfecting before skating on his own..”

 

This time, Henry rolled his eyes. “Mooommm I’ll be fine!”

 

“Dangerous activity, hmm?.. You mean like horse riding?” Emma smirked as they all finally landed on the ice and began moving slowly.

 

Regina arched an eyebrow and shot the blonde a glare which enthralled Emma that much more. That playful glare was Emma’s new favorite look on her. And she seemed to receive it quite often.

 

“Yes, Miss Swan, like horse riding..” Emma couldn’t help but notice the slight smirk on the brunette’s face and smiled back herself as they tried to keep Henry from falling on the ice. “But that was different, I was experienced and trained and..”

 

“And, how do you expect Henry to gain experience? He’s got to try first..”

 

Regina looked down at her little boy who suddenly didn’t seem so little anymore. Emma could see that she was certainly hesitant to let Henry try this on his own; but there had to be more to it. Her brown eyes were glazed over with emotion and she sighed deeply.

 

“I suppose you’re right.”

 

“As usual..” Emma winked and nudged Regina on the arm, which was not an easy feat with a 7 year old trying to skate in between them. The brunette rolled her eyes.

 

“Mom, I can do it! Trust me.. I just have to practice a little. Can - can I go hang onto the side? Maybe I can learn a little better there..”

 

Regina blinked and cleared her throat. “Of course, sweetheart.. We’ll just be right behind you if you need us, alright?”

 

The women led Henry to the side as he grabbed on and thanked them for the help. He really was such a polite boy, but honestly, Emma expected nothing less of Regina’s child.

 

They held back a moment as Henry began skating again and Emma felt somewhat awkward being alone with Regina now. It was a little ridiculous as they had just sat together at a diner alone yesterday.. But something about ice skating was sort of … intimate. She couldn’t explain it but by the look of uncertainty on the brunette’s face she was possibly feeling the same way.

 

“So, Miss Swan.. Other than not eating grilled cheese for breakfast, what have you been up to all these years?”

 

Emma glanced over to Regina but she had her eyes on Henry the entire time.

 

“Not much, I suppose. After the, um, move.. My dad started his new job and my mom found a teaching position at a local middle school. I finished high school and went onto graduate from UCLA..”

 

“Wow, UCLA? That’s amazing Emma..”

 

The blonde glanced back and Regina was looking at her now, emotion still clouding her eyes. Emma rubbed at her neck and shrugged. “Yeah, well.. I suppose so. It was a really great school and I worked my ass off..” She laughed and Regina smiled.

 

“I don’t doubt that.. You were always a wonderful student and such a hard worker. Lovely qualities, really..”

 

Emma reddened at the attention and if she could shuffle her feet awkwardly right now, she would have. Instead, she continued skating smoothly and averted her gaze. “Thank you.”

 

“And after that?”

 

“After that, I decided I didn’t want to go into business marketing at all. Why is it after you earn a degree you don’t realize until the very end it was the wrong one?” She laughed and continued on. “But, I suppose I can’t complain too much. I actually used my degree to open my own business.”

 

Regina’s eyes popped open at that admission. Emma owned a business? “W-What is your business?”

 

“A gym in SoHo.”

 

“Well. That’s why you’re so .. in shape then..” Regina arched her brow. Then her eyes bulged widely as she realized what she had said. Shittt she didn’t mean to say that out loud. “ - I mean, ah…”

 

Emma was smiling from ear to ear in amusement. So Regina had definitely taken note of the workouts she had put in throughout the years. “It’s alright, Regina.. You can admit I’m sexy..”

 

Regina turned bright red. Which was beyond annoying for her and she was losing her composure. And she hated to lose her composure. Emma seemed to be the only person to cause reactions like this from the Mayor. But just as Emma began to grin knowingly, Regina was somewhat pleasantly surprised to see the blonde lose her balance a bit on the ice. She wobbled and tried to steady herself but before they knew it, Emma’s legs flew out from under her and she was flat on her ass.

 

Regina couldn’t contain the laughter that bubbled up if she tried. Henry joined in after seeing the blonde fall onto her butt from the sidelines, surprised and impressed with himself that he actually wasn’t the first one to fall. Emma looked like a wounded puppy, crossing her arms in defense; her face red from embarrassment. After a few seconds of laughing, Regina decided to give Emma a break and held her hand out to help her up.

 

“That hurt ya know..” Emma grumbled under her breath as she stood back on her skates.

 

Regina was still laughing lightly and she honestly wanted to kick herself for doing so. But the timing had just been too perfect.

 

“I’m - I’m sorry, Emma.. I just.. Couldn’t help it. One moment you were claiming how sexy you were and the next, you were on your, well.. You know...
The timing was just impeccable…”

 

Regina was wiping the access ice from Emma’s shoulders as the blonde avoided her eyes and grumbled again “Yeah, well.. I never fall, so.. It must have been a knick in the ice or something..”

 

“Mhmm..” Regina smiled at Emma as her eyes averted back to Henry who was still clinging to the wall but dutifully shuffling forward. Satisfied that her son was alright and slowly learning how to skate on his own, she turned her gaze back to the blonde. She looked so despondent and embarrassed still and it pulled at Regina’s heartstrings. The brunette just couldn’t help it. Plus, Emma’s pout was pretty damn adorable.

 

As the women began skating, Regina nudged Emma’s shoulder but looked straight ahead.

 

“Well, if it’s any consolation.. you are quite sexy, Em-ma..”

 

And the blonde almost fell on her ass again.

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________