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 “I think you’ll like this one.”

“Depends, does this one run marathons?”

Emma Swan kicks her feet up onto the table with a sigh, tilting her foot back to stretch out her sore calf muscles. That was the last time she agrees to bodyguard a professional athlete. She’s athletic, sure, but chasing after her principal during his daily marathon run for a month straight is ridiculous. Bastard refused to stay indoors even after receiving a death threat. Luckily that all ended when Jecob finally tracked down the whereabouts of the man’s supposed stalker and sent the cops after him. Emma had been ecstatic to get paid and leave after that.

There’s a loud snort from the other end of the line. Jecob’s laughing at her. “Bet it was good for your lazy ass. Nah, this one’s a celebrity actress. Nice and cushy job.”

Getting to her feet with a grunt, Emma crosses the room to the kitchen, rummaging in the fridge for a beer. Popping the cap off against the edge of the marble island counter, she pads back towards her dining table by the floor to ceiling windows. Her apartment isn’t huge but it’s a comfortable size and has a damn good view of the city below.

“I could use an easy one. My calves still burn. Which actress?”

She drops down into her chair and props her feet back up on the table.

“Regina Mills. Heard of her?”

Emma thoughtfully swishes around her mouthful of beer before swallowing. “She’s the brunette from that big rom com last year, right?”

Romantic comedies don’t usually propel people into stardom, but Fourth of July is one of those big star-studded Hollywood ensemble casts full of big names, just like in Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, so as soon as Regina Mills appeared on screen with Hollywood’s finest she’d become one of the newest and trendiest actresses in the industry. It certainly helped that she does, in fact, have a lot of talent, and draws a lot of attention to herself by dominating every scene she’s in with her shouldering eyes, seasoned voice, and powerfully emotive facial expressions.

“Yup. She’s heading to Vancouver to start filming a TV show. It’s a six month contract if they get the green light for a full season. They film the pilot next week and you get paid for a month upfront, regardless of whether or not it’s picked up.”

“Why does she need a bodyguard for a TV show?”

“Minor threats from a love-struck stalker of some sort. Something about an overprotective agent? Either way, it’s easy pay.”

She chuckles at that, slouching down in her seat and turning sideways to look out the window. It’s nearly midnight and the city is still glowing with life below her, millions upon millions of lights flashing and moving, never stopping.

“Henry's not done for another eight months anyway, right?” he adds, and Emma sighs at the reminder of why her young teenage son is away from home in the first place. She still owes him a phone call this week, but it’s too late to call him tonight.

“Six months tops, huh? I guess I can do that. It’ll be nice to be somewhere quiet for a change.”

“Great. Emailing you the documents now then. You leave Friday night.”

 

The flight over is a peaceful affair. Emma doesn’t have much in the way of personal items so she’s packed light, bringing only the bare essentials plus her usual gear. Vancouver International is quite pleasant compared to the airports she usually goes to, and it’s rather quiet for a Saturday morning, so she helps herself to some breakfast and a coffee at the local Starbucks before settling down at a table to wait. Ms. Mills' flight doesn’t arrive for another hour, giving her plenty of time to catch up on her homework.

“Dang,” Emma murmurs, revisiting the photo Jecob had sent her. Her principal is attractive, that’s for sure. The rom com had rocketed her into the spotlight, resulting in her easy claim of the starring role in this new TV series she’s doing. Something about playing a Queen in a medieval fantasy. That part doesn’t matter to Emma. What does matter is the eruption of her fandom. A quick search of “Regina Mills” on Google brings up millions of Tumblr and Twitter pages, gif sets and manips and video clips all of Regina and the characters she’s played. Her role in the rom com is most popular, obviously, but it has set fans loose on her previous, more minor roles, thus Emma is treated to screenshots of Regina playing a doctor, Regina in a cop uniform, and even one of Regina in a skimpy maid costume in what looks like the 70's. Lord.

She skims through social media pages, taking stock of how Regina’s fans interact with her. Regina’s Twitter consists mainly of her taking photos of the gifts and flowers that her fans send her with little “Thank you!” messages attached (and one too many smiley faces and heart emojis, in Emma’s opinion,) and each has thousands of likes and retweets. It’s surprising how sweet and supportive most of her fanbase is, always encouraging of her work and friendly in tone. There are the occasional insults, rude comments, or trolls, but nothing that stands out or gives her the impression that Regina’s safety could be threatened. If anything, this is going to be a babysitting job.

Next on the agenda is location and hotel bookings. Jecob had sent her all that info earlier so she’d already had time to look the locations up on Google Maps. They’ll be doing most of their filming in studio or out in the wilderness, so crowd control isn’t going to be a huge issue except during transportation between sets and to the hotel. Vancouver itself seems tame compared to bigger Hollywood locations she’s worked at before, so she isn’t worried.

Eventually her phone chimes with an alarm, prompting Emma to pack up her laptop, grab her bags and head towards the right terminal. She’d be meeting Regina there before escorting her out of the airport and into her waiting limo, so she’s made sure to come readily dressed. Dark slacks, black boots, and a white dress shirt made of a stretchy material that hugs her form and shows off her muscular arms while still giving her a full range of motion. Atop that, a sleeveless black vest. It’s professional but simple enough that she isn’t going to stand out in a crowd. Her long blonde tresses are pulled back into a ponytail to finish the look.

She stands by the windows to watch the aircraft pull in, her hands in her pockets and her shoulders relaxed. As expected, the entire plane’s occupants disembark first, blissfully unaware of the actress waiting quietly in first class. When the gate is finally emptied, Emma pulls her suitcase forward and waits by the desk. The flight attendant there gives her a curious look.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” she questions, thinking her to be a nobody and wanting her gone before their celebrity passenger disembarks. Emma’s brow twitches and she sucks in a breath to give the usual “Bugger off, I’m doing my job” speech, but a smokey voice beats her to it.

“She’s my bodyguard.”

 

The air leaves Emma’s lungs in a whoosh as the brunette strides from the walkway with her suitcase in tow. Regina wears a crisp white dress shirt and pinstripe vest over fitted dress pants, paired with sleek black heels much like the ones that dominated most of her paparazzi photos on Google.

Recovering quickly with the air of someone who is used to being around celebrities, Emma flashes a polite smile. “Ms. Mills. How was your flight?”

The flight attendant long forgotten, Emma motions for the woman’s luggage, to which the brunette shakes her head.

“You’ve already got your own suitcase to worry about. Besides, I’d be rendering you useless if your hands were full carrying luggage instead of bodyguarding me.” A soft, husky chuckle rumbles from her throat as she motions for Emma to lead the way. “My flight was fine, thank you. Ms. Swan, was it?”

“Please, call me Emma.” She watches as Regina pulls large black sunglasses from her pocket and slips them on over her face before they rejoin the airport’s population. Not like it will help, she thinks wryly. The actress’s wavy black hair, devilishly arched eyebrows, and lush red lips are a dead giveaway. No one needs to see her eyes behind those glasses to recognize her.

“Emma,” Regina repeats with a flash of a smile. Emma just hums in the affirmative, her gaze panning across their surroundings repeatedly as they make their way through the wide halls, retrieving Regina's remaining suitcase and bag from baggage claim along the way. She walks at Regina’s side but a step ahead, prepared at any moment to be a physical shield if someone recognizes the actress and approaches.

Regina, meanwhile, takes the chance to examine her new personal security from this angle. Emma’s back and shoulders are taut with obvious muscle, as if ready to spring into action at any moment, her gait that of a lean predator stalking down the halls. Thick, long blonde hair has been pulled into a tight ponytail, swaying side to side with each step. She’s a definite improvement from the previous male bodyguards Regina has had. Clearly trained and professional, but not a giant mass of muscle and testosterone that stands out like a sore thumb either. She’d wanted subtle protection and her agent finally came through with this one.

“So, Emma,” she pipes up, watching as Emma’s head tilts ever so slightly in her direction. “Tell me about yourself.”

That seems to take the blonde by surprise. She glances over her shoulder at Regina, brows raised. “Uhh— not much to tell, really. I’ve been in personal security for almost ten years now. This is the first gig I’ve had in Vancouver. Never been here before.”

She talks as she looks around, voice steady and easily heard despite not facing Regina. The brunette quickens her pace to walk next to Emma.

“Who else have you worked with in the past? Anyone I might know?”

“Can’t tell you that.” Emma offers a brief smile in apology, gesturing with her arm as they come to a split in the hall. She whips out her phone to check her messages, confirming that their driver has indeed found a parking spot in the pick-up zone, then goes back to eyeing everyone in sight. One woman standing in line at the corner Starbucks is staring at them, wide-eyed, her body tense as if wanting to approach. Emma glares, taking an extra step in front of Regina, and the woman quickly thinks better of approaching.

“If you don’t mind my asking, Regina; why do you need a personal bodyguard for a TV show? I’ve only ever been hired for feature films and special events.” It isn’t that she thinks a TV actor is any less than a movie actor, but they generally don’t require personal protection on a 24/7 basis. The ones that do tend to be big Hollywood film stars with paranoia or actual death threats against them. Besides, the cost adds up and she can’t help but wonder how Regina can afford paying for a constant bodyguard for a six month term. She couldn’t have made that much money off of Fourth of July , certainly.

“My agent is... overprotective. And she hadn’t wanted me to take this job in Vancouver originally, but I insisted, so my having a bodyguard was kind of our compromise.”

They reach the exit and Emma strides through the automatic glass doors first, immediately whipping out her sunglasses and sliding them on to shield her eyes from the glare of the sun. “Overprotective is an understatement. Is your agent paying for me or is this coming out of your own pocket?”

“She’s paying. And she also happens to be my mother, so.” Regina gives a little shrug, hefting up her suitcase as they reach the waiting limousine. Emma cocks a brow at her and simply hums in reply as the driver helps load their luggage into the trunk. Regina keeps a simple tote bag slung on her shoulder as they climb into the vehicle.

“To the Shangri-La Hotel?” Emma asks the driver through the little separation window once he’s back behind the wheel. He nods and pulls out of the loading zone.

“Actually, can we stop somewhere for food on the way?” Regina asks, settling back into the black leather seat and digging her phone out of her tote.

“You didn’t eat on the plane?” Emma questions, baffled, because who doesn’t eat in First Class? They even get the fancy peanuts. Of course, she immediately chides herself for the pointless question and adds, “Sorry. Where would you like to go?”

“A friend actually told me about an amazing pizza place in downtown Van,” Regina admits, fiddling with her phone. “I was hoping to try it out. It’s my first time in Vancouver, too; thought I’d make a day out of it.” She smiles tightly, as if she thinks she sounds silly now that she is saying it out loud. Emma plasters on her professional smile - the same polite and reassuring smile she always uses when humouring a principal’s whims.

“No problem. What’s the place called?”

“Bufala.”

 

“Your friend was right; this is amazing.”

Emma can’t help but moan as she takes another large bite of her pizza slice, the hot scent of fresh marinara sauce and spicy pepperoni tickling her nose. It isn’t anything like the greasy, doughy pizza from Boston. These pizzas are fancy, with quality ingredients and expensive meats and homemade sauces on thin crusts, paired with glasses of wine and even a bottle of sparkling water. She’d had her reservations when they first arrived at the classy looking little restaurant, but now she’s already planning return trips for these next six months.

“I’ll have to thank her for the recommendation,” Regina agrees, polishing off her slice of chorizo, spinach, and portobello mushrooms. Unlike Emma, she eats hers with a knife and fork, delicately cutting up the pizza into perfect bite-sized pieces. She sets her utensils aside to lift her wine glass to her lips for a long, slow sip, savouring the rich mix of flavours.

Emma claps her hands together to dust off the crumbs before picking up her own wine glass. “To your first day in Vancouver,” she offers. Regina smirks and clinks their glasses together.

“To our first day in Vancouver.”

The rest of their impromptu lunch is perfectly pleasant, comprised of small chatter and pockets of silence where they simply enjoy the soft music and the calm atmosphere. Regina had kept her sunglasses on since there was plenty enough sunlight pouring in through the big windows, but sure enough another patron in the restaurant eventually recognized her and posted about it on social media, if the small gathering of people outside was any indication. Emma ends up texting the limo driver to pull up by the sidewalk directly outside the front door so that she can hurry Regina into the vehicle, only having to redirect a small gaggle of fangirls clamouring to get a selfie with the brunette.

 

“Wow.”

Emma’s head slowly rotates back and forth, staring around the lobby of the Shangri-La with her brows nearly hitting her hairline. She hadn’t expected such gorgeous architecture and decor. Everything is a rich shade of browns and golds and white marble, polished black wood and deep red armchairs, brass rails and golden handles. She tugs her suitcase along and follows on the heels of Regina, who now walks ahead with purpose. “Did you choose this place yourself or is this what the producers put you up in?”

“My mother has instilled in me an appreciation for the Shangri-La, so I told them I’d stay here out of my own pocket,” Regina says simply, looking entirely at home as she strides up to the front desk and hands over a shiny membership card. She leans against the counter and turns to Emma as the concierge scans her card. “They offered to pay a portion, same as whatever they’re paying for the rest of the main casts’ hotel rooms, and besides, my family’s membership status gets me a good rate here. I’ve never been to this one, of course, but we’ve been to the ones in London, Brisbane, Paris, and Fiji.”

Emma gives a low whistle in response but keeps quiet when the concierge finally lifts her gaze from the computer to address them.

“I have you down for the double-room suite for one month, with a potential extension; is that correct, Ms. Mills?”

“Yes. I’ll confirm the extension in a couple weeks.”

“Excellent. Here are your room keys.” She hands two keycards over. “You’ll be in suite number one, eighteenth floor. Would you like a bellhop to assist you with your luggage?”

“No, thank you.” Regina tips her head at Emma and the two women proceed around the desk and down the hall to the elevators. Emma continues to soak in her surroundings; she can appreciate lavish decor and expensive architecture.

“This place is gorgeous. Are all Shangri-La’s like this?”

“More or less.” Regina smiles indulgently as they step into an elevator and take it up to their floor, catching each other’s gazes in the mirrors as they lean against the same handrail. Emma sticks her hands into her pockets and holds Regina’s gaze in the mirror.

“So, I’ve got a bunch of questions for you regarding your preference for how I work, if you feel like answering them now. Or we can discuss it later after you’ve settled in.”

Regina lifts a brow. “Ask away.”

“Alright. What’s your comfort level with fans like?”

“I prefer dealing with them on social media, but I’ll do autographs and selfies in person as long as it’s not a rowdy group. My fanbase is generally quite sweet.”

Emma nods along, taking note of Regina’s softened expression. Her words could have been construed as mildly vain, but it’s obvious from her face that she genuinely appreciates her fanbase. No celebrity would spend the amount of time that she does tweeting thank you notes and interacting with fans unless she actually cared about them.

“That’s cool of you. I’ve had clients who loved interacting with their fans, but others who wouldn’t even go near a crowd of fans with a ten foot pole.”

Regina laughs at that. “That’s a little dramatic, isn’t it?”

“Actors,” Emma scoffs teasingly. “Always dramatic.”

Regina smirks at her as the elevator opens, letting them out onto their floor. She swipes her keycard at their door and heads right into an open-spaced living room complete with a small kitchen area and multiple doors leading off to the bedrooms and their ensuite bathrooms. Like the lobby, the furniture is luxurious. Emma gapes.

“Wow. This is nice. I usually get put up in a separate little hotel room until I’m needed.”

“Well, I plan on taking full advantage of my time in a new city, so it seemed more convenient to stay together. Is that alright with you?” Regina turns, a hint of uncertainty in her eyes, and Emma grins and gives her a thumbs up.

“Cool with me, boss.”

Regina gives an undignified snort as she pulls her luggage towards the bedroom door on the left. “Please don’t ever call me that again.” She nudges open the door to assess the queen sized bed and the lavish decor, then glances over her shoulder to find Emma checking out the bedroom on the opposite side of the room. “Is the size okay?”

“You kidding? This is awesome.” Emma trots over to peer into Regina’s chosen bedroom. “Same size as yours; twin bedrooms. Give me a minute.”

She disappears into her room again with her luggage, tossing the suitcase onto the end of the bed and popping it open, then heads back towards the suite’s entrance door to kick off her boots and leave them on the shoe rack. When she returns to Regina’s bedroom door, the brunette is already in the process of unpacking her belongings and settling into her new temporary home.

“Any allergies I should know about? Diets? Restrictions?”

Regina glances over from where she’s hanging up a lovely gray dress in the closet. “You’re not going to unpack your things first?”

The blonde’s shoulders lift in a shrug. “My suitcase is sitting open on the end of my bed, that’s all the unpacking I need to do.”

Regina hums in response. “No allergies. I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not fast food.” She turns back to her open suitcase with another hum. “Nothing medical-related that you need to know either, unless chronic bitchiness due to caffeine withdrawal counts.”

Emma snorts out a laugh. “Keep Regina caffeinated. Got it.”

“Oh, and chocolate.”

“I’m starting to feel more like your personal PA than a bodyguard,” Emma jokes.

“Hey, I think you’re paid well enough to warrant an occasional coffee or chocolate run,” Regina fires back, teasing. Emma chuckles, but the thought reminds her that she is indeed Regina’s employee, so she moves away from the doorframe and steps back out of the bedroom.

“Gonna do a security check,” she offers when Regina cranes her head to watch her go, a questioning look on her face.

Emma makes a sweep of the room, examines the location outside their windows, then checks the door and makes a quick patrol of the floor’s hallways. She sees only one other person, a short haired brunette who gives a meek but kind smile, and nods politely before returning to the suite. Regina leans against the counter in their little ensuite kitchen, starting up a pot of coffee.

“Do you know if any of the other actors are staying here?” Emma asks, padding over and hopping onto a bar stool. Regina shakes her head as she retrieves two mugs from the cabinet.

“No idea. I was hired as the showrunner and producer's first choice, actually, and they didn’t need me for chemistry lines with the others, so I don’t actually know who else has been casted.”

“Ah.” Emma props her chin on a fist. “I take it you’ll have your own trailer whenever we’re on set?”

“Mm hmm. You’re welcome to hang out there while I’m filming.”

“Only if we’re at a lot. If we’re filming at an outdoor or public location, I should hang out nearby. You’d be surprised how fans will just appear out of nowhere. One principal I worked with—”

“Principal?” Regina repeats.

“The actress I was bodyguarding. We call our clients ‘principals.’ Anyway, she was in the middle of a scene, delivering some intense dialogue, when she looked over and suddenly realized there was a group of fans watching from the other side of the lake. Jumped a foot in the air and made this hilarious shrieking sound and ruined the whole shot, she was that startled.” Emma laughs at the memory, absently wondering what that actress is up to now. She was a charismatic redhead with a very successful career, and she’d been very fun to work for, even if Emma did have to chase her around quite often. The woman had a penchant for strolling off set to go for a walk or to hit up the nearest Starbucks during her breaks, meaning Emma was constantly working crowd control to keep the fans off her.

Regina looks contemplative. “Was your principal Zelena Greene?”

Emma’s eyebrows lift. “How’d you know?”

“She told me about that story.”

“You’re friends, then?”

“Sisters, actually.”

Green eyes widen in surprise. “Really? I had no idea.”

“Well, half sisters. Which is why we look nothing alike.” Regina chuckles, eyes crinkling as she removes the coffee pot and pours out the hot caffeine into two mugs. “She took her father’s last name. He was a pretty distinguished actor in his days but he died when she was very young. It’s her way of carrying on his legacy, in a way.”

“That explains why she kept watching those old movies in her trailer,” Emma realizes, dumping a spoonful of sugar into her coffee. “Huh. She never mentioned that to me, even though she invited me to watch them with her during her breaks.”

“She doesn’t mention that to most people,” Regina admits, sipping at her black coffee. “Her father is a very personal subject - she’s very vague when asked about him in interviews, too. Actually, please don’t tell her that I told you.”

“Everything that you tell me is confidential,” Emma promises with a little salute. Regina laughs.

“Good, because it seems I’m already carelessly running my mouth around you.”

Emma smiles crookedly and ducks her head, and they finish their coffee with very little else said.

Chapter Text

“Nervous?”

“Of course not.”

The first thing Emma notices when they arrive on set is that Regina closes up. Gone are the playful remarks and gentle smiles, replaced by a tight lipped frown and cool, dark brown eyes. She looks almost indifferent to the going ons around her, giving a curt ‘thank you’ to their driver before striding off after one of the Assistant Directors, digging her phone from her purse and tapping out a text message. They’re on a studio lot for their first day and the AD leads them through the throng of people, occasionally pausing for a golf cart to zip by. They end up heading into the large building labeled ‘Stage 4’ where the production team gathers around a main desk, deep into conversation.

“Ms. Mills!” one man calls out, beaming as they approach. The rest of the team looks equally as pleased. “Good morning. We’re so excited to get to work with you.”

“Just Regina,” she says, stilted, before smiling a little more genuinely. “Thank you. I’m looking forward to working with you all as well.”

It’s just a pilot episode, of course, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll get picked up for the full season, but excitement and optimism is the mood of the day, and rightfully so. There’s nothing more fun than starting up a project this large, even if it only lasts for one pilot, at least in Emma’s opinion. She’s already admiring one of the stage sets across the building; some sort of magnificent throne room with a green screen backdrop.

“And this is—?” one voice says in her direction, pulling Emma’s gaze back to the production team. Regina clears her throat.

“This is Emma Swan, my personal bodyguard. She’ll be accompanying me on a daily basis.”

“Oh.” There are a few looks of confusion. One man quirks a brow, wondering why in the world a television actress needs a full-time bodyguard (a relatively new actress, no less), and though Regina is humble enough to know how ridiculous it sounds, she adds,

“My mother, Cora Mills, insisted.”

The name seems to be all they need to know, because heads immediately bob and there are little murmurs of understanding and sympathy. Emma has only ever dealt with the ‘talent’ themselves, not their managers - certainly not their mothers - so she can’t help but wonder exactly why the film and television industry seems to both recognize and dread Cora Mills.

“Well, Tina here will show you to your trailer, and she’ll be the one calling first teams when we’re ready to begin,” one man says. “If there’s anything you need at all, just let her know.”

“Great. Thank you.” Regina nods, then she and Emma are hurrying after the AD—Tina—again, through the lot and towards the massive parking lot where circus has been set up. Trailers are lined up in three neat rows, surrounded by tents and various trucks.

“Here’s circus,” Tina explains, leading them towards one of the frontmost trailers. “And here’s your trailer, Ms. Mills. It’s already fully stocked to your specifications, and my number is on the table if you need to reach me. Is there anything else I can get for you?”

“No, this is fine. Thank you, Tina.”

“Great. Makeup will be ready for you in a half hour, I’ll come get you then.” And then Tina is gone, rushing off to escort the next talent arriving on set. Emma sticks her hands into her back pockets as Regina swings open the trailer door and gives her a look.

“I’ll just make a perimeter check first, get a feel for the area and see who else is around,” Emma says with a tilt of her head. Regina’s lip twitches.

“You know I’m not in danger in any way, Emma. There’s no threat. You don’t have to do the full bodyguard-security thing.”

“It’s my job,” Emma offers with a shrug, smiling apologetically. She’s already walking backwards and turning to go, so Regina rolls her eyes and heads into the trailer first. By the time Emma returns—satisfied that the area is secured and all is as it should be—she finds Regina laid out on a small leather couch with her earbuds in. The brunette lifts her head and tugs out the earbuds to greet her with a little nod.

“You should really lock your trailer door,” Emma says, quirking a brow as she sits at the table and punches Tina’s number into her own phone’s contact list—just in case.

“I knew you were coming back shortly anyway. Did you secure the area? Scare off the bad guys?” The teasing glint in her dark eyes tells Emma that Regina’s snark is said in jest.

“You’re hilarious.” Emma stretches her legs out straight and leans back against the wall of the stylish little trailer, casting her gaze around appreciatively. There’s a mini fireplace at the end of the main area, and next to it, a narrow hall leading to what she presumes is a bathroom. There’s a small kitchen zone, a leather couch by the other end that folds out into a bed, and a wide screen TV filling one wall, along with some generic little framed paintings adorning the other walls between each window. “Nice trailer.”

Regina nods her agreement, getting up and moving to the mini fridge. “Water?”

“Sure, thanks.” Emma accepts the offered bottle of mineral water and tucks her legs back under her chair as Regina moves around. “Do you have any habits I should know about?”

“Habits?”

“Yeah. Like warm ups, pre-show, hunkering, that kind of thing. If you need to be left alone during makeup, an hour of solitude before you’re up, or time alone after you’re wrapped, y’know?”

“Oh.” Regina tilts her head, contemplative. “Well, I like to relax and run lines during makeup and wardrobe. Actually, if you don’t mind running lines with me, that would be appreciated.”

“Sure.” Emma shrugs and nods. She’s run lines for actors before, it’s nothing new to her. Regina seems the type who prefers to be excessively prepared, anyway. “Got an extra copy of your sides?”

Regina snatches her tote bag from the other end of the couch and digs out her stack of sides, giving a clean one to Emma while she sets aside one covered in scribbles for herself. “As for when I’m wrapped, I generally don’t need to hunker unless I’ve been filming a really intense scene. Mostly I just pack it in and go home as soon as I’m done.”

“Gotcha.” Emma scans over the sides she’s been given. “You play Queen Reina, right?”

“Yes. Do you mind reading for all the characters she speaks with?”

“Not a problem.”

 

Regina is always stunning, but in her regal diamond-encrusted dress, jeweled crown, and smokey makeup, she’s absolutely breathtaking. Emma has to make an effort not to stare as she and the brunette are led from the makeup trailer to stage four, Tina chatting animatedly all the while. By the time they arrive on the throne room set, the place is already full of extras in costume, along with a handful of others who look like lead actors from the way their expensive white and red costumes stand out among the sea of earthy tones. Emma herself has worn a sleeveless black top and black jeans paired with knee high brown boots today, and now she blends in quite decently with the background people - just the way she likes it.

“Ms. Mills,” Tina calls out softly, directing Regina to a row of traditional director’s chairs where each star actor’s name is printed neatly. Regina moves to sit in hers, but then stops quite abruptly, eyes on the rest of the chairs. Emma peers around her shoulder to see the lineup.

Regina Mills, M.M. Blanchard, David Nolan, Ruby Lucas, Graham Humbert, Adam Edwards.

The other names don’t mean much to Emma - she’s not the kind to really remember actor names unless she’s personally worked for them - but the sudden stiffness in Regina’s shoulders tells her that there’s going to be drama ahead.

“Someone going to be a problem?” she asks in a lowered voice, hoping she won’t have to intervene in any cat fights. Regina straightens up and clears her throat.

“No. No problem.” She slides her chair a few inches further away from M.M. Blanchard’s chair, then takes a seat and goes back to reviewing her lines. Emma follows Tina a few feet away before stopping the blonde.

“Who’s M.M. Blanchard?” she asks, tilting her head in the direction of the crowd. The other leads seem to be happily mingling with the extras on set, chattering and laughing, oblivious to the quiet arrival of their star actress.

“Mary Margaret Blanchard? The shorter brunette,” Tina answers, pointing out the woman in off-white leather armor. Emma squints and narrows her eyes. Mary Margaret looks like the pixie-haired brunette she’d seen at the hotel yesterday, with the same heart-shaped face and overly cheerful expression, except she seems to be wearing a long brown wig today. “The taller brunette is Ruby Lucas, the man in the red cloak is David Nolan, and Graham Humbert is the one in the fur cloak.”

Emma hums in acknowledgement, committing faces and names to memory as she assesses the other lead actors. Her gaze flickers back to the unoccupied chairs. “What about Adam Edwards?”

“Err… Mr. Edwards hasn’t arrived on set yet,” Tina admits, brows furrowing. “I’ve got to go speak with the production team, actually.” She hurries off, leaving Emma to stand quietly next to Regina’s chair. The brunette absently gestures at M.M. Blanchard’s chair.

“Feel free to take a seat, Emma.”

“That’s okay, I prefer standing,” Emma replies, deciding against pointing out that it would be rude to sit in another actor’s chair. Regina glances up, glares coolly in the direction of the other leads, then smooths out her expression when she turns back to Emma.

“Can you run lines with me again?”

“Sure.”

 

“What the hell is delaying us?”

“Adam isn’t here.”

“What do you mean he isn’t here?”

The production team’s hushed argument is quickly becoming everyone’s business as voices grow loud with frustration. The lead actors are still goofing around on set with the extras, though Regina and Emma have now turned around to glance back at the table where the production team stands huddled together. Tina ducks into the group, phone clutched in hand and a grimace on her face.

“He’s not coming,” she announces, to which the director growls and the producers respond with a few colorful words. The DP shakes his head and wanders off towards the crafty table, along with the few other key crew members who have absolutely nothing to do now until they’re ready to film.

“I knew he was a shite actor,” the main producer snaps, one gold tooth visible as he gives a toothy sneer. “Flakey and unreliable. I told you we should have casted August Booth instead.”

“Well it’s too late, Gold. Booth was snatched up by another show just last week,” the executive producer - a narrow faced woman called Farah Blue - sighs impatiently. The 1st assistant director, of whom Emma overhead to be called Neal Cassidy, clears his throat.

“Let’s give the role to Graham and have one of the extras take over his spot, then. It’s just for the pilot. We can recast if we get picked up for the full season.”

Blue leans in and lowers her voice. “Graham doesn’t have the emotional range for that role and you know it. He’ll botch it up, and we can’t afford to risk a stilted performance. There’s a reason we gave him the silent role.”

“Fucking Adam Edwards and his bullshit,” Gold snaps, still hung up on their no-show actor.

“Heck of a way to start the first day,” Emma murmurs, quirking a brow at Regina. The brunette stifles a sigh and settles back in her chair, no longer interested in listening in to the production team’s arguments.

“Indeed. Looks like we’ll be waiting around a while longer. Can you run this scene with me again?” She flips through her sides and Emma does the same. They’ve gone over it enough times that Emma’s pretty much got it memorized, so she positions herself in front of Regina’s chair and holds the brunette’s eye contact instead, giving a curt nod that she’s ready. Regina motions for her to start the dialogue.

“What would you have me do, your Majesty?” Emma begins, dropping her voice into a serious, husky growl. She’s run lines with actors so often that she feels comfortable enough using a ‘voice’ for the characters she reads for, giving the actor something more genuine to work with. Regina lifts her chin in response, regarding her with cool impassiveness.

“Send the huntsmen after them. They won’t get far.”

“But the King of Vanyel is expecting them. He’ll suspect us if they don’t arrive safely.”

Regina stands - no, she glides out of her chair with the grace of a predator, closing the distance between them and spearing Emma with her ice-cold glare. In her costume heels, which are purposefully hidden beneath her floor-trailing dress to give her an added seven inches, she stands taller than Emma and easily sneers down her nose at her.

“Did I ask for your opinion, Kavalan?”

Emma knows she’s supposed to drop her gaze and stare at the sliver of floor between them, but she finds herself trapped in Regina’s smoldering eyes. Her voice, luckily, remains strong and steady. “No, your Majesty.”

As if spurred on by what would be her character’s anger at such a blatant display of disrespect, Regina leans in even closer, eyes alight with fire and her lips twisted into a cold, mocking smile. She is the opposite of the cold and frighteningly calm Queen Reina in the script, and yet they continue, both playing along with the improvisation. “Tell me again, warrior, why I keep you by my side?”

“To protect you with my life, your Majesty.”

“You are my Guardian. My human shield. The warmth in my bed if I so choose. You are not my advisor, and I don’t recall ever asking for your opinion. Try to speak your mind again and I will have you killed and replaced. Do I make myself clear?”

Emma pauses - there is indeed a ‘beat’ written into the script - then continues, quietly, a note of solemnity in her voice, “You and I both know there is no other who could protect you as I do.”

Regina’s jaw tightens, nostrils flaring. Slowly, so very slowly, she leans back out of Emma’s personal space.

“Send the huntsmen,” she says again, the command rolling thick and heavy off her tongue. Emma finally breaks eye contact, stiffly tilting her head down and bending ever so slightly at the waist in a shallow bow. Her next line is delivered with a grave kind of acquiescence, like she’s resigning to a choice she has willingly, if not unhappily, made. Kavalan is a warrior who will stand by his Queen no matter what, even if he does not agree with her decisions.

“Then I will protect you from Vanyel’s armies, or die trying.”

Regina’s head lowers so that she is no longer staring down her nose at Emma, her expression still cold, yet her lips twitch down in a grim frown. “Yes, you will,” she says, her voice low with finality and something else, something almost regretful. Perhaps even mournful. They both go still for a moment, as this is the end of the scene where it’s likely they’ll cut to commercial, then Emma lifts her head and Regina’s shoulders relax with a hesitant smile, both breaking character.

“You changed direction.”

“Sorry. Your glare was terrifying, I couldn’t look away,” Emma chuckles.

“I quite liked that, actually. It felt more generic, playing up her anger instead of being cold and indifferent the whole time.”

“You were great,” Emma offers with a grin, which is an entirely genuine compliment because she’s not one to fluff an actor’s ego with lies. And then she notices someone staring at her from over Regina’s shoulder. Turning her head, Emma finds the entire production team staring at them, and her stomach instantly drops. “Uh...”

“What?” Regina turns, too. Unlike Emma, she’s not shocked by the sudden attention, but she does furrow her brow and direct her next question to the 1st assistant director, Neal. “What’s going on?”

“I think we found a replacement Kavalan,” says Neal, a shit-eating grin splitting his face. Gold and Blue immediately start talking over one another.

“But she’s a woman!”

“You can’t have a woman play Kavalan.”

“She’s not even an actor.”

“They’ll never pick us up for a full season if we bring in some last minute no-name.”

“You may as well give the role to Graham like we discussed—”

“No, no, I like her,” Neal interrupts, wagging a finger in Emma’s direction. “They’ve got fire. Sparks. I like it. What do you think, Belle?”

Emma and Regina continue to stare, confused, as writer and director Belle French taps a finger on her chin and contemplates them from the other side of the production table.

“Neal’s right,” Belle says after a moment, blue eyes bright with her smile. “She’s good. Her acting is solid and she would look great in armour, and those arms.” There are titters of agreement, and Emma instinctively tightens her biceps under everyone’s sudden examination of her bare arms. “This could work for the pilot. And we can always recast the role again if we get picked up for a full season.”

“Belle,” Gold begins, placatingly.

“Miss Swan, was it?” Belle calls out, her mind already spinning with ideas, too excited to hear her producer’s weak pleas.

“Just Emma,” Emma supplies, already dreading the direction of this conversation. She did not sign up to become a last minute actor. “Uh, listen—”

“It’s just for the pilot,” Belle says, bounding over with Neal on her heels. “We’ll pay you, of course! You’d just do exactly what you two were doing. It would really save our asses.”

Emma’s mouth opens and closes, eyes flickering to gauge Regina’s reaction. The last thing she needs is her own client getting upset with her for suddenly grabbing the spotlight like this. But Regina’s staring back at her with this amused little smirk on her red lips, her brown eyes both encouraging and challenging, and Emma wonders what the hell she’s gotten herself into.

“I only do what my boss wants me to do,” Emma finally says, diplomatic, as she tilts her head in Regina’s direction. The brunette’s smirk just widens as Belle and Neal turn to her.

“In that case, Miss Swan, hurry along to makeup and costumes. Time’s wasting.”

Damn. She’d almost hoped to be spared. Emma exhales, giving Regina a dubious smile before being dragged off by Belle and Tina.

When Regina finally turns back around to retake her seat, she realizes the entire cast has been watching this exchange. The extras are excited and eager to go as always, while the other lead actors meet her gaze with curious expressions. Mary Margaret, who has finally recognized her at this point, offers up a shy smile and a little wave which Regina pointedly ignores, going back to reading her sides.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you offered me up as a backup actor,” Emma laments. Regina turns in her seat and is actually surprised at what she sees, her brows nearly hitting her hairline as she looks the blonde up and down.

Emma’s geared up in dark brown leather, the pants tight on her long legs and the sleeveless fur-lined vest showing off her sculpted upper arms. Dark under armour shields her chest and throat, made of a supple leathery material that looks tough and yet doesn’t restrict her movements. Her forearms are covered by gauntlets, she’s another two inches taller thanks to heavy fur-lined winter boots, and a sword sits at her hip, attached by belt. Her long blonde tresses have been pulled back into a tight, intricate braid, and the barest of makeup makes her green eyes stand out again defined cheekbones. The biggest change is a long, jagged scar that has been added to her jawline.

“Wow,” is all Regina can say as the blonde stomps over. She'd noticed her bodyguard's attractiveness since the beginning, of course—she'd have to be blind not to notice the charismatic blonde—but there's something wild and powerful about her now, alluring in a way she's never found another woman to be.

“You don’t pay me enough for this,” Emma half-jokes, crossing her arms over her chest and huffing dramatically. Regina allows a slow smirk to cross her lips.

“Last I heard, the producers are paying you for this.” She drags her gaze up and down Emma’s form once more, appraisingly. “You look great, if it’s any consolation. The scar is a nice  touch.”

“It feels weird,” Emma admits, lifting a hand to gently touch at the fake line of raised flesh. She doesn’t have a chance to say any more as Belle suddenly appears by her side with a fresh set of sides in hand, offering it up to Emma.

“I had to make a few last-minute changes to appease the producers, but here’s your lines! Thanks so much for doing this, Emma.”

“Sure,” Emma says, managing a smile and taking the sides. Her eyes land on the character name and she quirks a brow. “She’s still named Kavalan?”

“I’d chosen the name for a reason, and besides, it can still be a woman’s name.” Belle shrugs, grinning. “It’s mostly all the same, I just had to swap out the dialogue that insinuates you’re in a physical relationship with the Queen. The network would shut us down if we started promoting gay lead couples on TV.” She rolls her eyes with genuine exasperation and Emma laughs, liking her attitude already.

“Well that’s no fun.”

“Nope,” Belle agrees. “But we have to play by their rules for now or we don’t get picked up at all.” Then, lowering her voice and leaning in towards Regina and Emma, she adds with a conspiratory wink, “If you two wanna try sneaking in some eye-sex, though, you won’t see me complaining.”

Regina laughs her low, husky laugh and Emma just grins and shakes her head in amusement as Belle skips off to speak to Neal. She has all of five minutes to read over her new script before the entire cast is being directed onto the set, Belle moving people around and explaining the shot out loud for everyone to hear. Emma is placed next to the throne, told to look imposing yet subtle. She settles for resting a hand on the handle of her sword and glaring.

The first few scenes are all dialogue and interaction between Queen Reina and the visiting heroes, along with a bunch of establishing shots of the peasant crowd. Despite whatever personal feelings Regina may have against Mary Margaret, the two are definitely professionals and whenever the camera rolls, their attitudes towards each other change immediately. Regina comes across as graceful and kind, too kind if viewers are paying enough attention, and Mary Margaret is nothing but respectful, giving a sweeping bow and speaking to the Queen with warm admiration.

Emma maintains a stoic frown through all of it, watching the main cast and trying to differentiate their personalities from the characters they play.

Mary Margaret Blanchard plays the huntress Artemis, mature and responsible with a good head on her shoulders, an impish glint in her eyes. When Neal calls cut, she immediately turns bubbly and naive, beaming at her co-stars and occasionally high-fiving people.

David Nolan is the loyal but impulsive Atticus, hot headed and short sighted, but with his heart in the right place. Off camera, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, playful with a goofy sense of humor. When they’re waiting on the camera crew, he sometimes breaks out in a little jig to keep the extras entertained.

Ruby Lucas plays Freya, the haughty and sarcastic warrior with the intimidating-yet-sexy warpaint on her face and around her eyes, who bares her teeth at anyone who so much as looks at her sideways. Behind the scenes, she’s sassy and playful, and if Emma didn’t know any better she’d think Ruby was sending flirtatious glances in Belle’s direction.

Finally there's Graham Humbert, who is actually quite similar to his character Troy. He’s quiet and barely has any lines except when giving Artemis advice. Mostly he broods and stares people down. Off camera, he’s polite and more friendly, but no less quiet. Unlike the others, he doesn't interact with the extras, instead retreating to his chair to read a book between scenes.

Emma doesn't actually have any dialogue for the first half of the day, and the last scene they film before lunch is a close-up shot in which she and Regina exchange a loaded glance. Belle pulls her aside and gives her some personal direction, offering up some background info on her character that she's not supposed to tell the other actors about. Emma just shrugs and plays along, and after three similar takes (in which she doesn't really think she's doing anything different,) Belle seems happy with the footage and Neal announces that they're breaking for lunch on the walkie.

“Bored yet?” Regina asks her, amused. The brunette still sits on the throne, waiting for the extras to shuffle off set before she gets up. Emma shrugs, moving to shove her hands in her back pockets before realising she’s not wearing her usual jeans.

“I like watching film sets. I just happen to have a very up close and personal seat this time.”

Regina chuckles, but the sound fades off quickly as the other lead actors amble closer.

“Hey, great work,” Ruby says in lieu of a greeting. Emma smiles and ducks her head. Regina returns the sentiment out of politeness. “Didn't get the chance to say hi earlier. I’m Ruby. It’s really cool working with you, Regina. I loved Fourth of July.

“Thank you,” Regina replies, though from the blank look on her face, it’s clear she's trying to remember something she may have seen the younger woman in. “I’m sorry, I don't watch much television—”

“Don't worry about it,” Ruby laughs. “I've mostly done random TV movies. This is my first big role.” Then her gaze lands on Emma, and the blonde sees what is quickly becoming the girl’s trademark flirty smile. “Emma, right? You’re doing great for your first acting gig.”

“Thanks. It’s cool meeting you. I saw you in Werewolf Huntress.

At that, Ruby groans and playfully rolls her eyes. “That’s embarrassing.”

“You were the only thing worth watching in that, if it’s any consolation,” Emma offers kindly. Ruby gives a wolfish grin.

“Thanks. Hey, wanna have lunch with me?”

Emma glances down to Regina, who continues to sit primly on the throne and act as if she’s only half listening. “I gotta stick by Regina. I’m still her bodyguard, temporary actor or not.”

“Then let’s have lunch together,” the younger brunette says, still grinning. Regina shrugs and finally nods her agreement when she sees Mary Margaret wander off after David. At least the woman’s not daft enough to try joining them.

Emma and Regina trail after Ruby, the younger brunette chattering happily as they join the line for food. A pair of gourmet food trucks are parked just outside the stage along with a smattering of picnic tables spread around the area, allowing them to enjoy their lunch in the fresh air and sunshine. They snag a table for themselves and are quickly joined by Belle and Neal.

“So we’re moving on to the forest scene next, over on stage five,” Neal tells them conversationally as they eat. “It’ll be everyone but Regina and Emma, just so we can get all the extras wrapped early. Tina will call you two when we’re ready for the rest of the throne room scenes back on stage four.”

Regina simply nods, picking delicately at her salad. Emma munches on a club sandwich, mindful of keeping crumbs out of the fur lining of her costume.

“You two will have time to go over your new lines while we’re doing that,” Belle adds, beaming. “But that chemistry from your last read? Keep that. It’s perfect.”

She grins impishly. Neal gives a playful groan. “Come on, Belle, don’t encourage that. You know it’s a bunch of stuffy executives with sticks up their asses judging our pilot. We gotta keep it clean until we get signed for a full season, at least.”

“I still say it’s the LGBTQ crowd that we should be catering towards,” Belle says with a delicate shrug. “The industry underestimates how many of us there are in the world, and how influential we could be if we really banded together against the old boys’ club.”

“Yeah, well, keep that quiet if you know what’s good for you,” Neal advises, lowering his voice, though his tone is more concerned for her than judging. “Gold lets you get away with the things you do because he’s got the hots for you. Don’t go starting a fight unless you’re sure you can win.”

When he feels three other pairs of eyes on him, he turns to the actresses. “Same goes for you three. Gold’s as old school as they come. Don’t give him a reason to make your life difficult.” His warning is genuine and he gives them a sympathetic smile before moving off to socialize with the next table. Emma’s still hung up on something Belle said.

“We?” she questions the director. Belle grins bashfully.

“Yeah, lesbian,” she murmurs, holding up her hands as if she’s been caught. “Which is why I was so excited when you took on the role of Kavalan. I was hoping to work-in better representation in the script once we got picked up and had a strong fanbase going - you know, when it’s too late for them to try shutting us down without upsetting a big fanbase. That’s not a problem for you girls, is it?”

Emma and Regina wordlessly shake their heads. Ruby fucking grins like she's won the lottery.

“Lesbian too,” the leggy brunette whispers conspiratorially, holding up a hand for a high-five. Belle laughs and smacks their palms together, and if she notices either of the two odd looks on Emma or Regina’s faces, she says nothing of it.

Lunch goes by faster than anticipated and soon cast and crew are hurrying off to stage five while others return to their trailers. Tina texts both Emma and Regina with a rough time estimate of when she’ll be back to get them into touch-ups.

“My scar is peeling off, isn’t it?” Emma asks as they meander their way back towards Regina’s trailer. Regina gently swats at her hand when she prods at her jawline.

“Don’t pick at it. Makeup will fix it before we head back to set.”

“So, uh, what should we do for our scenes later?”

“What do you mean?” Regina drops down on her couch as soon as they’re back inside, reclining back as best she can in her costume and fiddling on her cellphone.

“Well, the whole chemistry thing that Belle was going on about…” Emma retakes her seat at the table, unrolling her sides and glancing over her newly rewritten lines again. “I mean, I wasn’t purposely…”

“Use your words, dear.”

When Emma looks back up, Regina has one brow lifted and an amused smirk on her lips. The blonde laughs and goes to run a hand through her hair before remembering that she shouldn’t mess up her intricate braid. “I mean, we should do what Neal said, right? Not play up the romance between Kavalan and the Queen? Hell, the producers had Belle rewrite all my lines just because Kavalan’s now a woman.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a romance,” Regina says after a moment, dropping her phone to pick up her sides again. “It’s purely physical. It’s quite clear Belle wrote it as a one-sided relationship. The Queen doesn’t know how to love, and Kavalan is driven by a sense of duty and loyalty, not out of a desire for romance.”

“You think so?” Emma cocks her head, but decides not to give her opinion. She’s no actor and she’s not about to argue over a character’s motivations. Besides, Regina’s studied her character at length and surely knows far more about the story’s direction than she does.

"Perhaps," Regina murmurs after a minute of silence, and says no more.

Chapter Text

Their scenes together are intense. Way more intense than Emma had thought it would be, especially on the first day of shooting, but apparently they really wanted to start things off with a bang because the second half of the day is dialogue-heavy and Emma is sweating and her mouth feels numb and tired by the end of it. She's not trained for this and she's pretty sure her words started slurring together by the end of it, if Mary Margaret's barely-contained giggles and Belle's sympathetic smiles are anything to go by.

"Just a few more hours," Regina promises quietly in her ear when they're returning to their places for the next shot, squeezing Emma's forearm briefly before sliding away.

"First marks, please," Neal calls, arms crossed with his walkie talkie in hand, watching as everyone settles in their spots as he slowly maneuvers himself around the edge of the set. Belle whispers something to Regina before scampering back to video village, disappearing behind the black curtains and hopping into her chair in front of the monitors, sliding her headphones back on.

"Lock it up, please," Neal says into his walkie. "This is the money shot, guys. This is the one. Let's keep it dead silent."

There are echoes around the large studio, voices shouting out "stand by!" and "picture's up!" Neal glances around, watches the makeup artists finish up and scurry back to their hiding spot around the corner, and meets the eye of the boom operator with a nod.

"Everyone set? Roll sound please."

"Speed," the boom op says, settling into place, his arms extended along the pole he carries as he positions the microphone a few short feet above Regina's head.

"Frame," the camera operator says, at the same time the PAs scattered around the studio shout out, "Rolling!" Every person in the studio goes still and silent, waiting patiently in place as to not make a sound.

In the dark box of video village, Belle leans forward in her seat, eyes glued to the monitors. "Action!" she shouts. Emma holds her breath, standing rigid and tense. The sharp click of heels make her shoulders jump in genuine startlement.

"Kavalan," Reina snarls, storming into the empty throne room with all the fury of a raging thunderstorm and bearing down on her warrior with murderous eyes. Kavalan's face twitches, a flicker of rebellion, before Reina shoves her hard. She stumbles back, bumping against the side of the throne, and has no time to recover when Reina is suddenly clutching the front of her fur vest and shoving her against the unyielding piece of furniture. "How dare you!"

"Your Majesty," Kavalan says hoarsely, eyes dropping in deference— except with how close they're standing together, Reina pinning her against the throne, she has no choice but to stare down at the decidedly evil cleavage nearly thrust against her. God damn it.

"What have you done?!" Reina shouts, all composure gone, her face twisted with rage. It may be the first day of filming, but the scene they're shooting now is the last scene of the pilot, and Queen Reina has gone from cold and composed to wild fury in the span of a single episode. When Kavalan's eyes flutter and no answer is forthcoming, Reina shouts again, "Answer me!"

"I did my duty," Kavalan husks, finally raising her eyes to meet stone-cold brown ones. "I had no choice."

"No choice! No choice but to betray your queen?" Reina is shaking her now, her trembling fists gripping Kavalan's vest so tightly that her knuckles are white. "I should have your head—"

"I saved you!" Kavalan snarls, helpless and angry. "They would have killed you if not for what I did!"

"You disobeyed me!"

"I don't care!"

Reina's eyes go wide, shock flickering across her features for all of a second before she quickly regains her cold mask, but it's too late. Kavalan has seen it and forges onward.

"I don't care," Kavalan repeats, breathless. "I did it to protect you. I will always protect you."

She reaches for her hip, tugging on something there, and Reina stumbles back from her when she lifts the dagger into view. In one swift motion she's holding it by the blade, handle held out towards Reina.

"If I must die for that, then do it by your own hand," she says hoarsely, pushing off of the throne and taking a step forward, even as Reina takes a step back.

"Stop this foolishness," Reina hisses, wide eyes on the dagger. Kavalan persists.

"You want me dead, so do it." Reina shakes her head, lip curling in disgust at the mere thought. Kavalan pushes forward, nearly shoving the dagger's handle at her.

"Stop it," Reina warns, angry and trapped. Kavalan is in her personal space, pushing her, forcing her, breath hot on her face, and Reina's eyes are wild. "Stop!"

"I said do it!"

SLAP!

Emma's head snaps to one side, green eyes wide with shock at the full force of Regina's slap. The sound echoes so loudly across the set that every crew member watching from the shadows winces in surprise.

"Enough," Reina croaks out, remorse and guilt on her face, the first time the Queen has ever shown such an emotion, and with a sharp intake of breath she turns and flees the throne room, her heels clicking away and stopping short just around the corner where Regina has no doubt come to a halt, safely out of sight. Emma stares after her, breathing hard, her hand trembling as she grips the dagger's blade. Blinking back the telltale glaze of tears, she lets the dagger drop, hearing the solid handle clatter to the stone floor.

The silence is deafening.

"Cut!" Belle shouts, bursting out from behind the curtain of video village, nearly tripping on her way onto set. Neal stares in surprise and just barely remembers to announce "cut!" on the radio, his walkie clutched tight in one hand.

"Holy crap!" Belle says, her grin stretching from ear to ear as Emma stoops down to retrieve her prop dagger, but the blonde only has eyes for Regina who's come running back onto set, eyes wide and apologetic.

"I'm so sorry, Emma, are you okay?" Regina blurts out, breathless, her palm still tingling from slapping Emma at full force. Despite the sting of her cheek, Emma just bursts out laughing.

"Shit, Regina, way to improvise," she chokes out, swiping the wetness from her eyes. "Oh, damn, you've got an arm on you."

"I'm sorry," Regina says again, grimacing even as she touches Emma's reddened cheek with a gentle hand. Guilt claws at her chest, still shocked that she'd winded back and actually hit the other woman in the midst of their fiery argument. "I don't know what happened."

"You two were intense, that's what happened," Belle gushes, Neal nodding enthusiastically behind her. "You injected so much pain and anger and distress in Reina in that last moment, made her so human and flawed, and— Emma! That was so perfect, that glimpse of rebellion, that desperate loyalty. That is how we start a show with a bang, people!"

There's an excited cheer of agreement from the crew, applause spreading quickly among the onlookers at a spectacular performance, and even Blue and Gold look begrudgingly impressed from their seats near the monitors.

"Honest, Regina, it's fine," Emma chuckles, flushing somewhat under the brunette's concerned touches. "You were awesome."

"You're sure?" Regina insists.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Let's keep that slap," Belle says, already bouncing back towards the monitors. "It was perfect! Do it again just like that!"

"Um," Emma says, staring at Regina nervously. The brunette takes pity on her.

"We'll fake it," Regina assures her softly.

"Good," Neal says. "Does that mean you two are ready for another take?"

 

Their first day feels immensely long and exhausting, and Emma is itchy and ready to shed her fur vest by the end of it all. As it turns out, despite having been wrapped earlier that evening, the rest of the cast had chosen to stay a while to watch Regina's scenes, and Ruby is especially exuberant to congratulate them on an intense performance when Emma and Regina are given a few minutes break during a new angle set up.

"That was so good!" Ruby shrieks, launching an arm around Emma's shoulders and nearly strangling her in her excitement. "Holy shit, Emma, you held your ground against Regina Mills! That's, like, crazy!"

"Volume, Lucas," Regina grouses from right next to them, looking unimpressed as she sips at a bottle of water. Ruby smiles in apology, though she doesn't look all that apologetic.

"You were amazing too, Regina. Is it weird if I say that I'm kind of a huge fan?"

"Thank you, dear," is the quiet response, Regina briefly nodding in acknowledgement before making herself look busy, unfocused eyes staring down at the script in her hand. Emma pokes at Ruby's side in an attempt to distract her from bothering Regina further.

"Aren't you guys wrapped for the day?"

"Oh, yeah! But we wanted to come check out your scene and see how you two were doing. You're all we've been talking about all day, you know?"

"Gee, that's reassuring."

"No, it's a good thing! Do you know how many crappy hallmark movies I've suffered through  for the better part of six years before getting cast as part of an ensemble? You've never acted a day in your life and suddenly you're, like, number three on the callsheet! That's insane!"

Number three. Emma smiles tightly at the reminder. Numbers are pretty damned important to those who care about the rank of importance, and Regina is listed as #1 while Mary Margaret is #2. Emma has avoided looking at the revised callsheet simply because she doesn't want to see her own name listed in the #3 spot. It also means she feels awkward as all hell when meeting the eyes of professional actors like David Nolan and Graham Humbert, who are #4 and #5, respectively.

"Yeah, insane," she repeats with an uncomfortable laugh.

"First team on set, please," Tina says, appearing nearby with a bright smile, and Emma and Regina stand with a nod, relieved to escape Ruby's too-excited chattering. No one should be that excited and hyperactive at the thirteen-hour mark.

"You're an actor now," Regina says, somewhat teasing as she glances sideways at Emma. "You can tell her you need to focus on going over your lines or something, you know."

"She's alright," Emma shrugs, grinning as she steps back onto her mark. "A little too extroverted for me, but she seems cool."

Regina just hums in response, her gaze turning cool when she finds where Mary Margaret and David are hanging out near the video village curtains. Mary Margaret shoots her an excited thumbs up and Regina turns away with a roll of her eyes.

"You okay?" Emma mouths to her from a few feet away while Neal calls for the camera to start rolling. They're picking up the scene from where Kavalan is holding out the dagger and Queen Reina is stumbling backwards. Regina just nods, motioning for her to get into position with an impatient wave. Huffing, Emma pretends to stab herself in the gut with the prop dagger, the rubber blade pressing firmly and harmlessly into her stomach as she staggers and gurgles briefly, and the camera operator chuckles at having caught it on camera.

"Action," Belle's voice sounds out, and Emma's smile is replaced by a desperate snarl as they do the scene all over again. They fake every slap after that, and it's nowhere near as great as the real thing, but Belle has a glint in her eye and simply assures them that it's fine.

Chapter Text

Filming becomes a whirlwind of long overtime days after that first day. They clock anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours a day on set, with too much to film and not nearly enough time. The production currently rents stages four and five, along with half of stage seven, which means a lot of studio time. The familiarity is nice, at least, and the fact that the entire studio is enclosed in a fenced-in private property with around the clock security means she doesn't need to worry about fans showing up to see the cast. Regina is her only responsibility, of course, but she's pretty stunned at how popular the other actors are.

Mary Margaret is quite the veteran, much to her surprise. The bubbly woman can be overly sweet and insanely irritating at times, but she's been around the block and has a number of big roles under her belt. David Nolan is a fresher face but immensely popular for his good looks and pretty eyes, even appearing in People Magazine's "Top 10 Hottest Men" article for the year. Ruby has a disturbingly large geek-fanbase from her Werewolf Huntress days, and Graham is surprisingly well known for a multitude of supporting roles on at least a half dozen TV shows. Most of the time, Emma can wait for the more outgoing cast to distract gathered fans at the studio gates with a few quick autographs and selfies before whisking Regina off in their cast vehicle.

Things get more interesting on the days they film on location, which are, thankfully, not often. As it's a medieval fantasy, most of their exterior scenes take place out on a piece of private woodland an hour's drive from the city. It makes their commutes a bit more annoying, but since the production provides a transport driver to and from sets, Emma and Regina are able to nap or rest their eyes in the back seat every morning and night.

Despite the land being private property, dedicated fans have still managed to track down their location and make the hike out to watch them film from a distance. On those days, Emma watches Regina like a hawk and never lets her out of her sight, which frustrates Neal often and forces the directing team to change their filming schedules daily so that Emma and Regina are always on set together, never apart or at different times.

"Your first acting gig and you're already the biggest pain in the ass actor I've ever worked with," Neal teases her over lunch one day, to which Emma rolls her eyes and flips him off when no one else is looking. Regina scoffs at the both of them (not without a hint of fond affection, because Emma and Neal have become fast friends and Regina thinks they're both idiots) and leaves the lunch tent to spend the rest of lunch hour in her trailer, and when Emma scampers after her like a puppy, no one says anything but they're all grinning in amusement.

Three weeks come and go in what feels like mere moments, jam packed with everything they could fit into a single pilot episode, and Belle looks incredibly optimistic on the last day of filming.

"Ladies and gents, that is a show wrap on Regina and Emma," Neal announces over the walkie talkie, followed by the friendly applause of the entire cast and crew they've worked closely with for the past three weeks. Their remaining scenes were shot first thing that day, which means Emma and Regina are the first of the cast to be officially "show wrapped," just in case the show isn't picked up for a full season. Belle has a happy glint in her eye when she goes to hug them goodbye, though.

"You look smug," Regina notes with amusement, giving Belle a genuine smile after they embrace. She and the young director had hit it off pretty early on when Regina brought a whole new side to the character of Queen Reina that Belle trusted her to run with.

"Let's just say that Neal and I are pretty sure we'll be seeing you again in a couple of weeks," Belle says, winking at them both. Ever since realizing that Neal was in fact the son of millionaire Hollywood producer Robert Gold, the lot of them had been less worried about not getting picked up. Old boy's club aside, Gold would surely push for the show to get a full season, if not for his beloved son, then for the lovely Belle who has absolutely no qualms about being extra sweet to him to encourage his crush. ("I'm a gay woman in an industry dominated by straight white men," she'd once said when she, Emma, and Regina were having a private lunch together in their trailer. "If I have to flirt and play along to get ahead in my career so that I can make a difference, of course I bloody will." Regina had adored her since.)

"I can't wait," Regina offers, she and Belle kissing each other on both cheeks before Regina slips off to bid her goodbyes to the few cast and crew she'd befriended. Emma tries to follow, only for Ruby and Mary Margaret to latch onto her.

"Hah! You're fired, Swan!" Ruby teases, hugging her tightly from the side. Emma snorts and elbows her as Mary Margaret laughs at them both.

"Yeah, and thank god for that! I'm not cut out to be an actor. You're all insane." She grins to soften the blow and easily accepts a hug from Mary Margaret, who she generally gets along with in small doses.

"Celebratory drinks tonight after we're all wrapped?" Mary Margaret suggests, and Emma barely has time to open her mouth before Ruby mimics her with, "I'll ask Regina."

"Shut up," Emma laughs, shoving the lanky brunette. "I'm back to being full time personal security now, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah. Tell your principal that we're all going out for drinks tonight, and yes you have to come and bring Regina, because if you don't, I'll tweet your username with a shit ton of heart emojis and start a whole new gay scandal."

"You're such a little shit—"

"I'll text you the deets, babe," Ruby says, smacking a wet kiss to Emma's cheek before running off at Tina's wave, Mary Margaret on her heels. Groaning and wiping her face, Emma goes to find Regina, rejoining her near the bay door entrance of the studio.

"Ready to go, social butterfly?" Regina asks with a quirk of her brow. Emma trots next to her as they walk through circus towards the costumes truck.

"I'll pretend you didn't just call me that," Emma says with a wrinkle of her nose.

"You were about as outgoing as Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard when you first started working with me," Regina teases, stepping up into the truck first. Emma follows, and the wardrobe lady pushes them both behind curtains to strip out of their costumes. "About as serious and dramatic, too."

"Gee, sorry for taking your safety so seriously," Emma mocks, stripping down in record time and sighing happily as she slips back into her slacks and a grey-blue blouse. Regina always has the more complicated costumes, so she steps out and sits on a stool in the corner while waiting.

"Please, my mother has to blow everything out of proportion. It was just a few ridiculous messages from an overzealous fan."

"Threats are threats, better safe than sorry," Emma shrugs, hearing the thump of a heavy, jewel-encrusted dress land on the floor. The wardrobe lady clicks her tongue in disapproval and heads into the changing room to assist, getting a squawk of protest out of Regina. "And on that note, Ruby threatened to tag my twitter account on her page and sic all her fans on me if I don't convince you to come out for drinks tonight with the cast."

"Oooh. I guess you'll have to delete your account and start a new one under a different name, then."

"Regina!"

A throaty chuckle floats out from behind the curtain, and when Regina finally emerges, she's in the designer jeans and cashmere sweater from earlier that morning. "Oh, stop pouting at me like that, Swan. Fine, we'll go for drinks."

 

'Drinks' apparently entails flaming cocktails and way too many shots after Ruby had managed to book them a private VIP room overlooking a popular nightclub, and Emma's starting to feel pretty bad about all the alcohol she's sneakily tossed over her shoulder every time Ruby brings her something to drink. Her acting chops as Kavalan evidently don't carry over to acting drunk, because Ruby is a hundred percent convinced that Emma is just a beast at drinking and won't stop drunkenly telling everyone that Emma can drink an ogre under a table.

"I think it's time for some water, huh?" Emma suggests when Ruby finishes her fifth cosmo that hour, sliding a tall glass of water in front of the brunette instead. Mary Margaret and David are both lightweights and are sleepily slow-dancing over by the window overlooking the club, and Graham had disappeared from the VIP room half an hour ago. Emma's pretty sure she's caught glimpses of him weaving around in the dancefloor down below, apparently a social butterfly when he's drunk.

"Emma," Regina hisses, sloppily whacking her arm against Emma's side.

"What?"

"Emma," the brunette hisses again, tapping her harder until Emma finally turns away from babysitting Ruby to look at the older brunette in amusement. Regina had gladly downed a few shots of her own right after being forcibly hugged by the over exuberant Mary Margaret when they'd first arrived, and she's a few sheets to the wind by now too, lips curled into a sneer and unfocused eyes glaring in their co-star's directions. "They're snogging."

"Snogging," Emma repeats, stifling a laugh at Regina's choice of vocabulary. She's not wrong, though. Mary Margaret and David are most definitely sucking face. "Yeah, yeah they are."

"Are they allowed to do that?" Regina asks, sounding disgusted. "Isn't there a... a..."

"Non-fraternization policy? Yup."

Regina swings her head back around to squint up at Emma from where she's been slowly sliding further and further down in her seat. "Yes. That."

"Technically, we're all fired, so I think they're fine," Emma chuckles. Regina seems to mull that over, glances at Mary Margaret and David again, and then looks away with a sound of revulsion. After a moment, she squints back up at Emma.

"How do you know that?"

"Know what?"

"That's there's a... non-fraternization policy in our contracts."

"I had to sign one too when they casted me, remember?"

Brown eyes narrow before widening in realization. "Oh. Right."

Sitting up a little straighter, Emma watches as Ruby slides from her seat and makes for the door, giggling something about sneaking down to the dance floor to join Graham. With her gone and Mary Margaret and David still swaying drunkenly on the other side of the VIP room, Emma nudges Regina amicably with her shoulder.

"Are you done for the night? I can get us a cab back to the hotel."

"No," Regina says decisively, standing on briefly unsteady legs before grabbing Emma's hand and dragging her up to her feet as well. "I want to dance."

"Here?" Emma cocks an eyebrow.

"No, not here you idiot," Regina scoffs, but it's said with the same kind of exasperated affection that she's been using with Emma since they met, and Emma just smiles indulgently and follows as Regina leads her down the stairs and out onto the dance floor. At this point in the night, most people are too drunk to recognize faces in the crowd, and no one bothers Regina as they find a space to join in the dancing. Well, no one bothers her for fan-related things, anyway. There are a multitude of eyes on her lithe and curvy form, and Emma bristles protectively. Because she's her bodyguard. Obviously.

"Relax, Emma," Regina laughs, sounding more carefree than she has in weeks, gripping Emma's hands in hers as she tries to get the blonde to sway with her.

"I'm here to keep an eye on you, remember?" Emma says, smiling wryly. Regina moves Emma's hands to her hips and then slings her own arms over Emma's shoulders.

"What better way to keep an eye on me than by dancing with me?"

This is somehow even more intimate than their scenes together, when they had breached each other's personal bubbles so entirely with angry eyes and warm breaths, and Emma isn't sure what to make of a Regina Mills that gets all up in her space without a professional reason or a camera trained on them.

"Um..." Emma trails off, her hands hovering awkwardly on Regina's hips as the brunette leans heavily against her. Regina seems to get her second wind when she pulls away, only to spin around and press herself back against Emma, hips gyrating to the beat. Breathless and stunned, Emma just kind of stands there, uncertain, as Regina dances around her and against her, throaty laughter occasionally reaching her ears despite the pounding music and the busy thrum of voices.

"Oh, come on, don't you dance?" Regina teases after a while, smiling at her with those dark, smouldering eyes, and Emma has to swallow down what feels like the biggest lump lodged in her throat.

"I think it's getting pretty late," Emma says hoarsely, and though Regina pouts, she eventually relents and lets Emma call a cab for them, whisking them back to the familiar safety of the Shangri-La and letting the rest of the cast fend for themselves. At almost three in the morning, the lobby is pretty deserted, save for the desk attendant smiling indulgently at them as Emma all but carries a mumbling Regina into the elevator.

"You should be number two," Regina hums, leaning heavily against Emma as they walk arm in arm down the hall to their suite.

"Kavalan isn't that important." Emma swipes her card and pushes their way inside, toeing off her boots before leading them to the couch where Regina promptly flops down, somehow remaining elegant even as she does so.

"Yes she is," Regina insists, lifting a foot expectantly towards her bodyguard. Emma huffs and gently helps her out of her strappy high heel. "And besides, Artemis is insipid and annoying. She's... the anti-hero to Reina. She doesn't need to be number two. Kavalan should be number two. Kavalan's more important."

"Uh huh," Emma agrees amicably, finishing with Regina's second shoe and setting both heels aside. "Let's get you into bed, okay?"

"Mmm," Regina hums, letting Emma lead her into her bedroom. She starts stripping out of her sleek dress without warning, smirking to herself as Emma makes a little choked sound of surprise, and promptly stretches herself out on top of the silky covers of her bed once she's in nothing but a lacy bra and panties, olive skin glowing in the pale moonlight.

"Well, I'll, uh... goodnight," Emma says, already stumbling backwards towards the door.

"Guardian," Regina purrs in her huskiest tone, and Emma stiffens at the sound of Queen Reina's line. That tone had fried her brain once before, when they'd filmed a scene where Reina ordered Kavalan to bring her one of her playthings. In the original script, Kavalan was the plaything, but in the revised version that they filmed, Emma had returned to the Queen's chambers with a male courtesan and shoved him towards the bed before pulling the doors shut behind her.

"Yes, Your Majesty?" Emma plays along, huffing out a soft, embarrassed laugh even as she averts her eyes from the bed and stands in the doorway to the room. She can hear Regina moving around on the bed, the soft shuffle of silk against skin.

"Bring me one of my playthings," Regina deadpans her line, before promptly bursting out in giggles. It's adorable, and Emma wishes she could capture the moment on video. As is, she settles for chancing one more glance at the drunken grin on Regina's face before grabbing for the door, careful to never ogle the brunette's body.

"Goodnight, Regina," she says, gently pulling the door shut.

"Sweet dreams, Emma," comes the soft response.

Chapter Text

Regina decides to remain in the city for a couple weeks, just relaxing and enjoying what Vancouver has to offer while she waits for a verdict. Emma finishes the month she's been paid for and, at Regina's insistence (and after Cora sends through another payment,) she stays with her, acting as both a friend and as personal security on Regina's adventures. They hike whenever the weather is good, shopping downtown and checking out shows along the strip every weekend. They dine at Bufala every so often, both a big fan of the fancy pizza restaurant, and Regina accepts a brief appearance gig at a convention in the heart of the city, joining a few of her co-stars from Fourth of July on stage for a big Q&A panel and then signing autographs in the celebrity hall. Regina preens just a little when she introduces Emma to her friend and co-star, Marian Locksley, and Emma likes Marian almost immediately, though she's less impressed by Marian's husband Robin when the man shows up after the Q&A and flashes them all a smarmy, lingering smile. They go for dinner together after the convention, and Emma's just happy watching Regina and Marian chatter away like old friends, only occasionally interrupted by Robin and his droning on about his forestry tycoon job or whatever—Emma tunes him out. Regina sneaks glances at her every so often with warm eyes and warmer smiles, and Emma relishes in the affection even if she doesn't want to think about what it all means quite yet.

Neither of them ever mention that night out again, though Regina occasionally uses a Queen Reina line on her in a teasing voice and Emma always rises to the challenge with an indulgent smile, friendly but always careful to keep that thin line between them uncrossed.

Mary Margaret and David have no such qualms about crossing any lines, on the other hand, and only a week into their waiting period, tabloids are screaming incoherently about the two actors being seen out and about together in public. Mary Margaret Blanchard is the industry's current favourite sweetheart, and David Nolan her new handsome beau, and Regina always pretends to gag just a little bit every time she sees their sickeningly cute faces on a magazine cover, much to Emma's endless entertainment.

Almost three weeks later, the call comes in, Belle and Neal's excited voices greeting them.

"Guess what show just got picked up?" Belle shrieks.

"Kingdom Come!" Neal shouts, before either of them have a chance to reply, and Regina and Emma immediately look to each other in confusion at the unfamiliar title.

"What?" Emma asks, to which Neal cackles and Belle softly berates him.

"Sorry; it's the official name. The one from before was a placeholder. Fantasy shows are in right now, and with Gold pushing for it, we got ourselves greenlit for a full first season!"

"That's great! Congrats, guys," Emma says, beaming as Regina squeezes her forearm excitedly.

"Um, Emma," Belle says, sounding like she's withholding a grin while Neal keeps on laughing. "They loved the pilot. They're keeping it exactly the way it is, no reshoots."

"How are you going to explain the new guy who gets cast as Kavalan, then?" Emma asks, cocking her head to one side and staring at the phone like a lost puppy, and even Regina snorts with laughter.

"We're not," Belle says. Neal is howling in the background. "Congrats, Emma— you're a professional actor now."

 

"I can't believe you posted that, you asshole."

Ruby's howling with laughter as she prances away from Emma's slapping hands, diving head-first into the pool to escape the blonde's wrath. Flopping back onto her chair, Emma pouts despondently at Regina where the brunette is stretched out on a lounger, sunbathing in a little white bikini that is just unfairly sexy.

"Look at this," Emma laments, waving her phone in the air. "I just got, like, a thousand new followers from one fucking picture."

"Oh, you poor up-and-coming celebrity," Regina mocks, pouting at Emma before chuckling and turning her face back to the sun.

"You have to 'like' it, Emma, it's only polite," Mary Margaret says as she passes by, moving to sit at the edge of the pool in her pastel-pink one piece. David swims over to his girlfriend and rests his forearms and chin on her knees.

"Yeah, you've gotta start maintaining a good image on social media," David agrees with a serious nod of his head. "You should really look into getting an agent soon."

Emma groans, glaring back down at the photo on her screen. RealRubyLucas had tweeted a photo Mary Margaret took of Emma and Ruby with their arms slung over each other's shoulders, standing by the barbeque earlier, Ruby in a red bikini and Emma in a blue bikini top and grey swim trunks. The caption reads "Summer pool party with my hot new co-star @EmmaSwan76! Gurl, look at that body (look at those ABS!!) #kingdomcome #costars #hottie"

Boosting the popularity of the tweet, some cast and crew had liked, retweeted, and commented on Ruby's tweet as well.

MMBlanchard: So excited to film our 1st season with u 2!!

DavidJNolan: Lookin great, ladies! #KingdomCome

OfficialBelleFrench: BLESSED to get to work with these two superstars on season 1 of my new TV show! (kiss emoji) #KingdomCome #signalboost

JustNeal: Daaayum girls! But who's that ruggedly handsome dude in the background? (hands up emoji) (smiley face emoji)

"Unbelievable," Emma grouses, tapping the 'like' button, bumping the photo's total likes up to a whopping 1,976 ever since it was posted just five minutes ago.

"Oh come on, it's a good pic," Neal says from his post at the barbeque, grilling up some patties for burgers.

"I'm not photogenic," Emma tries lamely, still scowling, though the scowl drops as soon as Regina's hand pats her softly on the knee.

"Just accept your fate," Regina smirks. "Neal and Belle always get their way."

"You all suck," Emma declares, standing and moving away to the railing when she gets a call. Neal's penthouse and rooftop pool overlook the expensive side of town and she's treated to a great view of Vancouver harbor as she rests her elbows on the railing. "Hello?"

"So apparently you're an actress now?" Jecob starts, caught between amusement and annoyance. "I don't remember agreeing to this."

"How'd you know?" Emma groans.

"Your new co-stars have been tweeting about you all day. There's articles on the announced cast of Kingdom Come all over Facebook. Magazines are boggled about the mysterious leading actress that popped up basically overnight."

"You can thank Regina for that," Emma scoffs. "Their actor dropped out last minute on the pilot and they put me in, and now they apparently want me on full-time."

"Well that's one way to turn your life upside down," he sighs. "Did her agent contact you about this? I assume she'll want to hire someone else for security if you're off play-acting."

"No, Cora knows. She's already signed me on to stick with Regina for the entire season."

"... Really? Lady seemed intense on the phone."

Emma shrugs. "Regina insisted."

Regina had a three-hour long shouting match on the phone with her mother over it, half of it in a language Emma didn't even speak, but she's not going to tell Jecob that.

"Well, you know what you're doing, I guess," he says, though he's still not entirely pleased about it. "What's your kid think?"

Emma hesitates at that, frowning. "I didn't tell him yet."

"Make sure to tell him before he sees his mom on TV. Poor boy is gonna be the— what do the kids call it nowadays? He's gonna be the son of a celebrity MILF."

"Oh, fuck off," she laughs.

"Whatever, Swan. Enjoy your new famous life." He hangs up on her and Emma rolls her eyes, not taking any real offense. Jecob's always been a gruff guy and they're used to ribbing each other like that. He was the one who first helped her get into the security business ten years ago when she'd been a struggling single mother and he'd basically watched Henry grow up since the boy had been four years old.

"Who was that?" Regina asks, appearing at her side in a thin robe, the front gaping open to show off that damned little white bikini. Emma is careful to keep her eyes on Regina's face.

"Just Jecob checking in on me."

"Is he mad that we poached you for the show?" With the sun warming her face at just the right angle, a soft altitude breeze tousling dark hair, Regina's crinkling eyes almost glow a warm gold-brown, bright and happy in the sunshine.

"He'll get over it," Emma replies faintly, entranced. Nearby, David gives a battlecry before cannonballing into the water, Ruby shrieking and laughing in response, and the two women are startled from their gentle staring contest and promptly exchange shy smiles and return to their lounge chairs.

 

Twitter explodes with incoherent screaming from fangirls and fanboys alike when MMBlanchard tweets a tasteful photo of Regina and Emma sunbathing next to the pool, their lounge chairs close together and their eyes squinting against the sun as they smile and laugh, apparently mid-conversation.

MMBlanchard: So lucky to work with these 2 talented beauties! Celebratory pool party for season 1 of #kingdomcome! Are u ready for this? #superstars @EmmaSwan76 @ReginaMills

RealRubyLucas: Hot hot hot!! (fire emoji)

OfficialBelleFrench: Jealous!! So sad I had to miss the pool party today! Have fun girls!

EmmaSwan76: (smiley face emoji) (thumbs up emoji)

Regina looks like she'd much rather shoot herself in the foot when she grudgingly hits the 'like' button on the photo, and Emma laughs through the whole ride back to their hotel.

 

The main cast is signed on for a three year contract with the company regardless of whether or not they get a second or third season, all except Emma who manages to heckle and annoy Gold enough that he grudgingly agrees to give her a short one year contract, on the agreement that Kavalan will eventually be eased out of the show and most likely killed off at the end of season one. Belle nods along, though she has this glint in her eye like she plans on changing Emma's mind, and Emma tries not to worry about that right now and just focus on surviving the next six months.

Social media has become a whole other monster she needs to deal with now that everyone's actively trying to get hype for the show. She's tagged in literally everything, even promotional posters that she isn't featured in—"You tagged me on Regina's boob," Emma says in horror, staring at the instagram photo where all the tagged names appear over top the promo pic of Queen Reina, and her name just happens to appear right over that cleavage, and Belle can't stop laughing—and the amount of new followers she's gained is a little bit terrifying considering she's supposed to keep a low profile as a professional bodyguard. Well, so much for that.

The other monster she gets to deal with, of course, is the fruit of her loins.

"You're an actress now?" Henry says over the phone, sounding skeptical after her stilted explanation, and she winces and waves off Ruby when the brunette tries to flag her over during lunch break.

"Yeah, I know. It's all pretty unexpected. I just wanted to tell you before you started seeing stuff online—"

"I thought you said you were gonna keep a low profile while I was away," he says, and it's starting to sound accusational. Emma feels her stomach plummet without her permission and struggles to keep her voice light.

"Hey, I know, I know. I'm sorry, kid. Things got a little out of hand and I couldn't say no to my employer..."

"Why not?" he demands. She can hear the rapid tapping sound of a keyboard on his end, and then— "Oh."

"Oh what?"

She waits, breath held, and when Henry speaks again he suddenly sounds... smug. "I get why you took the job."

"... What are you talking about?"

"You could have just told me the truth, Ma."

"What truth?" Emma asks, genuinely confused.

"About why you took the job for Regina Mills."

"Kid, seriously, what are you talking about?" Emma scrunches her brow as there's more tapping on the other end. Unbeknownst to her, Henry has searched up photos of Kingdom Come's leading actresses and has found a twitter picture of his mother with the brunette actress at a pool party. More specifically, the way they make gooey doe-eyes at each other.

"God," he laughs, shaking his head with exasperated affection. "You're so gay, Ma."

He bids her a goodnight and hangs up, and when Regina finally finds Emma where she's standing frozen just outside stage four, it's to witness the blonde gaping at her phone like a suffocating fish.

"Are you okay?" Regina asks, bemused. Green eyes meet her concerned gaze and, for the first time, Emma turns a bright shade of pink.

"Fine," she squeaks, already tripping away towards the catering trucks. "Lunch. Food. Gonna—" With a jerk of her thumb towards the trucks, she flees, leaving Regina staring after her in confusion.

Chapter Text

They share a fair amount about their lives and learn about each other as all friends do. Henry, however, is one subject Emma does not share, especially not now that he's always teasing her about her being attracted to her employer. She always makes her bi-weekly calls to him after Regina has gone to bed or on days where she can slip out of the studio for a privacy break, and generally it's been easy keeping her two lives separate. Ruby and Snow have noticed her from a distance on her phone on rare occasions and she always brushes it off as business calls, not wanting to involve anyone in her personal life.

It's not that she doesn't want to share, but she's been around celebrities enough to know that once this season is over and she leaves the show, she'll be nothing but a vague memory to them. They'll continue on, making new friends, mingling with more famous people, and she'll fade away as a once-upon-a-time coworker. It's how the industry works, how celebrity life is a constant cycle of meeting people and forgetting people, and she takes no offense to that knowledge. It's just easier to not get too involved when she knows this won't last. One day she'll move on to guarding her next principal and only ever seeing Regina and the others on a television screen. The thought is sobering.

"Who was that?" Regina asks one day, appearing from around the corner to find Emma hiding in one of the sets, and Emma jumps slightly and shoves her cellphone away.

"Just Jecob checking in," Emma shrugs, hopping up to head back to the greenroom. Regina walks by her side, squinting her eyes suspiciously at her.

"He checks in on you a lot lately."

Emma shrugs again without a verbal reply, and Regina is determined to find out what it is her bodyguard and co-star is clearly hiding.

 

She finds out later that week.

They've been moved into a trendy townhouse for the next half a year of filming, and with their bedrooms side by side, it's a simple matter of pressing her ear to the wall to eavesdrop on her elusive housemate. Now that she actually pays attention, she notices that Emma always waits for her to go to bed first. After a half hour of quiet, she can hear the soft murmur of Emma's low voice on the phone. She's so quiet that Regina can't make out most of what she's saying, just the occasional word or two. Emma seems to listen a lot, responding with a soft hum or affirmation, punctuated by a chuckle every so often. Finally, Regina can hear a three syllable "I miss you," (or was it "I love you?") before everything goes quiet.

She shouldn't feel... bitter. Or jealous. But somehow she is, unhappy that Emma feels the need to hide this supposed man in her life from her. They're friends, or at least Regina thought so, and she doesn't like being kept out of the loop.

She asks Emma if she's seeing anyone the next morning. Emma's reply is to choke on her coffee and splutter out something nonsensical on her way out of the kitchen, nearly running face-first into the wall as she does so.

Regina doesn't ask again and Emma pretends it never happened.

 

Filming is hard work. Emma is used to being on sets for anywhere from ten to sixteen hours a day when she's working for actors, but throw makeup and costumes and memorizing lines into the mix and now she's also mentally and emotionally exhausted, feeling more worn down as time goes by. They have a short one week break in the middle of the season in which Regina flies home to LA and Emma returns to Boston, and then they're back in Vancouver and suffering the new grey, rainy weather as autumn comes in full strength.

"This is ridiculous," Regina complains as she steps out of her trailer one day, ducking under the umbrella Tina holds up for her as they make their way through circus to stage seven. Emma shuffles closely next to her to remain dry as well, if only because Neal will give her grief if she gets her costume wet again, and they have to stare at the ground as they walk to avoid the massive puddles scattered all across the concrete lot.

"It's just a little rain," Emma chuckles, nodding her thanks to Tina once they step safely through the bay door and into the warmth of the building. Tina rushes off with the umbrella to escort the next cast, and Emma and Regina drop down into their chairs in the greenroom.

"It's cold," Regina laments, pulling out her folded sides and flattening it out to go over her lines again. "And depressing. Everything is grey and dull and wet."

"But it's warm and pretty when the sun comes out, and I know how much you love hiking in Whistler," Emma presses, grinning, and Regina can only roll her eyes at that truth. Despite her misgivings about Emma keeping things from her, she does care about the other woman (that's what friends are for, right?) and she's decided that the jealousy festering in her gut is just because she doesn't like the idea of their budding friendship taking a backseat to whatever relationship it is that Emma's hiding. It's the only likely explanation.

Tina appears a while later with Ruby in tow, as bright and cheerful as always. "First team, please!"

They step onto set, taking the place of their stand-ins and settling into their roles. Belle can be incredibly convincing and she's pushed for scenes with her writing team that just skirt the line of what may or may not upset Gold. Today, Emma and Regina are in each other's personal spaces (again, as is becoming the norm,) and Emma wonders if it's possible to melt from the ferocity of someone's gaze, because Regina's face transforms from her usual look of blank disinterest to the heated rage of Queen Reina and she can feel her knees wobbling.

"Roll sound," Neal says over the radio, and a hush falls over everyone as Belle leans towards the monitors with a grin, eyes gleaming at the palpable sizzle between her leading actresses.

"Action!"

 

They get two weeks off for Christmas, and Emma heads straight for Brooklyn to spend the holidays with Henry once Regina has left for LA. Henry stays with the only family she's ever known, Mal—the older blonde something of a mother figure to her, especially back when she'd been young and alone with a child—and Lily, her long-time friend and confidante.

Both women are overjoyed when she shows up on their doorstep as a surprise, and even Henry flings himself into her arms without hesitation, apparently not yet old enough to be too cool for his mother.

"Ma!" he shouts, squeezing her as tightly as he can. He's tiny for his age, though, a late bloomer in terms of growth spurts, and Emma just chuckles and ruffles at his hair, easily fighting him off when he tries to tackle her. Later, he asks about the unfamiliar red scarf wound around his mother's neck, and Emma gently fingers at the soft and expensive cashmere with a pink tinge to her cheeks.

"It was a Christmas gift from... Regina." She still remembers the moment Regina had presented it to her with a rushed explanation, trying to pass it off as a casual gift. Emma had sniffed and clutched it to her chest, murmuring that she rarely got Christmas gifts as a foster kid and that it meant a lot to her, and Regina had just smiled at her with warm eyes and a gentle smile, giving Emma's arm a parting squeeze.

"Regina Mills?" Lily clarifies, still not quite able to believe that her rough and tumble friend is now apparently an actress on a TV show with a bunch of other celebrities. "That's insane."

"I know," Emma puffs out, blushing further when a shit-eating grin spreads across her son's face. "Don't say it, kid."

"Say what?" he asks, innocent, then, "What'd you get her in exchange?"

"I..." Emma looks guilty. "I hadn't gotten her anything. She gave this to me right before she left for the airport, and..."

"Ma! You have to get her something for Christmas!"

"Yeah, you can't just leave her hanging," Lily agrees.

"Ooh! We could go shopping for her gift here!" Mal suggests, eyes gleaming as she smirks. "There's this beautiful diamond boutique that opened up in the shopping district earlier this year, there's bound to be something fit for a beautiful actress there."

"Guys," Emma protests weakly.

Two days later, her family drags her on a shopping trip and despite her protests, she ends up spending way too much money on a solid gold crown pendant on a thin chain, the crown encrusted with small, glittering diamonds.

When they're back in Vancouver after the Christmas break, Regina is pleased to see the red cashmere scarf still wound around Emma's neck, and when Emma shyly presents the delicate crown pendant to her, both pretend not to notice the shine in Regina's eyes as she puts the necklace on and is never again seen without it.

 

Twitter is all aflutter when Regina Mills posts the rare selfie of herself in her full Queen Reina costume, dripping with jewels, her eyes ringed with smokey black eyeshadow and her lips a sinful shade of red. There's a crown of winding gold and diamonds perched atop her head, and she captions the photo with, "Are you ready for your Queen?"

Suffice to say, her fanbase is screaming at the Kingdom Come teaser, eager and ready to see the upcoming show.

The next tweeted photo is of herself after a day of filming, soft and casual in an off-shoulder sweater, her hand held up in a playful wave to her audiences with the caption, "What an amazing day on set. I can't wait for you guys to see #KingdomCome."

Someone points out the little crown necklace resting against her collarbone in the photo, and soon everyone is tweeting and asking about the beautiful bit of jewelry that's been glimpsed in nearly all her new photos now.

ReginaMills: It's a gift from my wonderful co-star @EmmaSwan76! (smiley emoji)

 

Emma makes sure to hit 'like' on the comment, as well as adding her own smiley face and thumbs up emojis in response. The fans fawn over this bit of celebrity interaction, and Regina's smile for her is extra soft that day, adding more butterflies to the emporium of butterflies already living in Emma's stomach.

Chapter Text

Kavalan dies.

It's what Emma had asked for, but when she gets the script for the season finale, her heart still skips a beat at the reveal. The cast had gathered at Belle's hotel suite that weekend to do a cold-read of the script together and the silence that follows everyone's pages turning is almost deafening.

"Oh, shit," Ruby says, her eyes wide in disbelief as she looks up at Belle. "Belle, what the fuck?"

"You killed Kavy off?" Mary Margaret says in dismay, as if she didn't know Emma had already planned to leave the show after season one. "You couldn't just... have her leave on a quest and never come back or something?"

"This is really sad," David says, blue eyes reading ahead as he takes in Kavalan's untimely demise, and Belle looks like she's fighting back a smile as she holds up her hands.

"Untwist all your panties! Her death is implied, but it's left open. Y'know, in case we ever bring Kavalan back..."

All eyes swivel to Emma, who balks at the sudden attention.

"Nope. Kavalan dies. Let's just continue the reading, okay?"

Sighing, Regina straightens out her copy of the script and clears her throat, continuing from where they left off. Queen Reina and Kavalan are running along a cliffside in a raging storm, having just escaped their pursuers, and Reina pulls them to a stop to demand answers.

"What did you say back there?" Regina snaps, angry and frustrated, her voice rough and breathy to match the desperate running that her character has just gone through. "Tell me again!"

"There's no time," Emma growls back, impatient. Only moments before in a previous scene, when things had looked grim and they thought they were going to be caught and killed, Kavalan had leaned in next to Queen Reina's ear and whispered something to her, dialogue that the audiences would not hear. "We have to keep going. You will be safe at the castle."

Regina, ever in character, reaches across the table to grab Emma's wrist and gives her a rough tug. "Tell me!"

"Your Majesty, I—"

Emma stops, mouth snapping shut. She's not enough of a professional actor to actually shout out her death scene at a script reading. As is, everyone reads the moment the rocks crumble beneath her feet and Kavalan falls, scrabbling desperately at the edge, reaching for Reina's hand as the Queen screams her name, and then she's disappearing into the raging river below, swept away below the frothing waters and never to be seen again.

Even Regina is silent next to her, dark eyes on the page.

"Savage," Neal says from the corner armchair where he sits watching them, and the cast bursts out in awkward laughter, moving on with the script and avoiding the topic of Kavalan's death again until the day of filming arrives.

 

It's a rainy day when they film, which is great for the screen but absolute shite for everything else. They're filming far out from civilization, so without any buildings in sight, their greenroom is an enclosed tent by the treeline, warmed by a single heater blowing in through the tent flap. The cast are all bundled up in puffy coats, except Emma who isn't nearly as bothered by the cold and jokingly says that Regina looks like a wrapped up burrito.

"You make a lot of jokes for a dead woman," Regina grumbles, grumpy and unusually curt today. Emma just grins.

"I'm not dead yet, Mills."

Kavalan's death scene is the biggest stunt they've ever performed in the show so far—which is saying something, since they've had multiple fight scenes already. Emma insisted on doing her own stunts so she'd spent the past few weeks training when she's not filming, and she's equal parts excited and nervous when they finally strap her into her harness and suspend her over the edge of the 'cliff.' It's been padded with fake rocks so that it's soft when she 'slams' into it, and there's a net suspended over the waters below to catch her should anything go wrong, but their stunt team is confident and she's in awe of how epic everything looks.

"Why couldn't we just recreate this all in the studio?" Neal asks, teeth chattering as he shuffles next to Belle, his brow creased with concern. Despite all their precautions, filming a big stunt on a cliff over a running stream is still a massive safety concern. Belle gets what Belle wants, however, especially when she's got Gold wrapped around her pinky finger.

"Because this looks real. This is intense." Belle waves her arms, gesturing at the forest around them, at the rustling leaves and the rain and the grey, darkening sky. "We're a TV show, Neal. Our special effects budget is limited. We do this in a studio and people will know it was greenscreened. I refuse to make my show look campy."

"This is still the most dangerous thing we've ever done," Neal sighs, lifting his walkie up. "Alright, everybody focus. Here we go. Pictures up, please. Roll sound."

And, despite Neal's worries, everything goes perfectly. The wire drops Emma a short distance, she cries out as if the ground has collapsed beneath her, and she lands chest-first against the edge and scrambles at the fake rock ledge, staring up at Regina with wild eyes and choked words.

"Kavalan!" Regina screams, throwing herself forward towards the edge and landing on her stomach with her hands stretched out, and the wire drops Emma again right as she tries to grab hold of Regina's offered hand, this time letting her fall far enough that Emma actually screams in genuine alarm before the harness cushions her descent and leaves her hanging safely above the net over the water. Despite having anticipated the drop, her heart is still racing as if she'd just sped down the world's tallest rollercoaster, and her face is flush with startled laughter when she's reeled back up onto land, legs shaky when her feet touch solid ground.

"Holy shit," Emma wheezes, jittery with adrenaline. She's ready to go again as to not lose her stride, but Regina has burst into very real tears as soon as Neal called "cut" over the radio, and her excitement turns to instant concern as she hurries to the brunette's side, heedless of the stunts person trailing after her to make sure she doesn't tangle her wires.

"You should've used a stunt double, you asshole," Regina says, banging a fist against Emma's chest when she's in reach.

"I'm fine, Regina," Emma reminds her, grasping her by the shoulders as Regina sinks into her for a hug—their very first hug, in fact, which should feel weird and awkward after half a year of filming together, but in this moment they fit together easily like two puzzle pieces. "It's totally safe, see?"

"You fell off a fucking cliff right in front of me," Regina half-shouts, squeezing her like her life depends on it, and Emma's aware of the whole crew watching them, stunned at the emotional concern (and the foul language) coming from their leading actress.

Eventually, Regina stiffly composes herself as if she hadn't just cried over Emma's fake demise over the edge of a cliff, and they retake the scene a few times more, just enough to get their coverage shots and then unhooking Emma from her harness with a collective sigh of relief. PAs scurry about, closing up the gap of orange safety cones lining the edge of the cliff, and the whole crew is herded back to a safe distance as they start loading out gear and preparing for a move to the next location.

"You alright?" Emma asks once she and Regina are back inside the greenroom tent, bundled in their coats and collecting their personal items. Regina stuffs her phone into her pocket and pulls her hood up over her hair, preparing to head back out.

"Fine," she says, stiff, and Emma makes sure to intercept her before she can leave.

"Hey, I'm right here. I'm alright. It was totally safe."

Regina's eyes are still dark and unsettled, and she struggles for only a moment before giving in when Emma pulls her in for another hug. The brunette's embrace is like a drug—just one hit and she wants more.

"I'm still mad at you," she grumbles into Emma's shoulder, voice muffled. The blonde laughs, squeezing her tighter.

"Okay."

 

"You're fired!"

The entire cast—sans Regina, who looks thoroughly unimpressed—shouts it at her as soon as she walks into the studio on Monday morning. Emma is already show wrapped, but Regina has a few scenes left to shoot with the others, and they have three official days left before the season is done.

"Take your shit and get out," Neal jokes, slinging an arm around Emma's shoulders. Emma punches him lightly in the gut, only to be drowned beneath more hugs from her overbearing castmates.

"Jeez, I'm still gonna be here with Regina for the rest of the episode," she laughs, swatting them away. Warmth burns in her chest at the way they still fawn over her like a beloved coworker and she stamps down the little voice at the back of her mind that whispers, 'this won't last.'

"I can't believe we won't be sharing the screen together anymore," Mary Margaret laments, clinging to Emma with a whine in her voice, and Regina makes a disgusted little sound and heads to the greenroom. Emma eventually manages to shake them all off, searching out Regina only to stay back to give her privacy when she notices Regina talking to Belle off to one side. Both women glance at her from afar, and Emma gets the feeling they're plotting.

"What did Belle want?" Emma asks once Regina is back in her chair. The brunette shrugs, flipping through her script.

"Nothing," she says dismissively, and Emma sighs and says no more.

 

They attend the wrap party at the end of the season, the company having rented out an entire bar and lounge solely for cast and crew. There's security all around the building and at the front door, checking every guest before letting them in, so Emma allows herself to relax and have a couple drinks, mainly from Ruby's insistence and Regina's coy suggestions.

"No plus one?" Regina asks eventually, the two of them leaning against the bar as they wait for their drinks. Emma meets her eyes, her brows furrowed, then gives an awkward little smile.

"Nope."

And Regina just stares at her for a moment like she doesn't believe her, but Emma's smiling back at her like she's the only one she sees in the room, and for now, she lets it go.

She indulges, drinking more than she usually does in public, enough that she's warmed up to everyone again and leans into Emma's personal space a little too much, monopolizing the blonde's attention while occasionally throwing a snide remark or scowl in Mary Margaret's direction (though it's not nearly as sharp as usual, more like an irritated sibling.)

Music beats through the building non stop, but the familiar drum beat of Kingdom Come starts to thrum out over the speakers like a growing battle cry and the entire cast and crew erupt in cheers, proud of the work they've done over the past six months and celebrating along to their show's new opening theme song.

"Dance with me," Regina says right into Emma's ear, and Emma is buzzed enough to think it's a good idea.

"To the theme song?" she asks, laughing as she lets Regina pull her out into the middle of the floor. A few people are dancing, but mostly they're standing around chatting and drinking. Regina slings her arms over Emma's shoulders and sways with her, smirking.

"What better way to celebrate our show?"

"Our show, huh?"

"Forget Blanchard; you and I are the stars. Reina and Kavalan are the stars."

"That's a bit arrogant," Emma teases.

"It's not arrogant if it's true. Just you wait." Regina leans in, lips brushing Emma's cheek, breath hot on her ear. "You'll regret leaving the show."

"Sure," Emma agrees placatingly, amused. "It's not like my character fell off a cliff or anything."

Regina moves back to grin at her, her knee-jerk response of anger at that reminder strangely absent this time. Instead, there's a knowing glint in her eye, and Emma is afraid to look too deeply into them to discern their meaning.

"Dance with me," Regina says again, moving Emma's hands onto her hips, and the blonde is helpless to resist, drawn into Regina's husky laughter as they sway together long into the night.

 

Regina flies home, and Emma returns to Boston. This time, perhaps for good, or at least that's what she believes when she dumps her bag and suitcase next to her couch, staring around her modern but empty apartment. It feels like she's been away for much longer than seven months. The place feels cold and unlived in. It doesn't help that Henry's room is still half empty, most of his favourite things packed and gone when he'd left.

Sighing, she slowly sinks down onto the couch, unwinding the red scarf from her neck and staring down at it as she holds it in her hands.

A precious gift from a celebrity she once knew. One she called a friend, once upon a time.

Feeling the sting of longing in her eyes, she shakes her head with a groan and whips out her phone, calling Jecob on speed dial. She needs to get straight back into work and not give herself time to think and miss what she's left behind in Vancouver.

"Yeah," Jecob grunts in reply.

"Jecob, I need a gig."

There's a pause and a shuffling sound, like Jecob is checking his phone to confirm who he's talking to, and then—

"Uh, I got nothin' for you right now."

"Seriously? You almost always have a job available."

"Nope, nothin'," he says again, and he's always been a shit liar. Emma scowls.

"What the hell, Jecob?"

"Gotta go." There's a click and then he's gone. Jecob has hung up on her for the first time ever. Emma nearly chucks her phone across the room.

"Ugh! You son of a—"

The phone rings in her hand and she answers it immediately without even checking the caller ID.

"Jecob, I swear to god, you better have a job for me—"

"Well, I don't know about him, but I have a job for you," a familiar voice purrs. Emma freezes in place, her blood running hot and cold at the same time.

"... Regina?"

"Hello, Emma." The smile in her voice is evident, warm and bright. "Miss me?"

Emma splutters. "I— you— you're—?"

"Mmm. I'm going on a convention tour starting this weekend and your services are needed, Miss Swan."

Emma gapes. Not just at the title but at the fact that Regina is actually, directly calling her cellphone instead of going through Jecob's agency like usual. They all left Vancouver only four days ago (Emma had detoured to New York for an impromptu pizza vacation before heading home) and she'd already assumed she'd never see any of them ever again.

"Emma?"

"Uh, y-yeah?"

You're available, aren't you?"

"Available?" Emma splutters again, mind blanking.

"For the job. I need you for three weeks."

"O-oh. Yeah, sure!" She's not sure if she's disappointed or not. It's Regina Mills. An actress. A celebrity. Television's up-and-coming TV star. She craves being near her again, the way she's never craved being around anyone, especially in her line of work—but Regina is simply offering her a job. "Yeah... I can work."

"You're sure I'm not taking you away from... anything?"

"Huh? No, not at all."

She can almost see the grin on Regina's face when the woman's smile is evident through her voice. "Wonderful. I'll email you the details shortly. We start in New Jersey."

Chapter Text

The convention in New Jersey is a whopping success.

Regina is featured front and center for the entire weekend, while the rest of the cast come and go on different days to join in the Kingdom Come panels. There are autograph tables and photograph booths and special viewings of their series' teaser trailer, drumming up interest and excitement in the upcoming series. Emma watches it all with a critical eye, not least because her own face is featured in the trailers on multiple occasions, garnering her curious stares from fans when she's standing just behind Regina's autograph table or keeping watch over the stage from a back corner. Regina respects her desire to remain out of the spotlight and merely smiles and gives a dismissive "Oh, she was a guest star for a few episodes," whenever fans ask about the lurking blonde, smoothly changing topics and promoting her other castmates.

"You could be sitting here signing autographs and getting selfies," Ruby says when she attends the convention on Saturday, grinning over her shoulder at Emma after she's signed one of her old Werewolf Huntress posters for a grinning fanboy.

"And distract the fanboys from you? I wouldn't dream of it," Emma jokes, tipping her head to let Ruby know that her next fan has stepped up to the table.

Today's Kingdom Come autograph table features Regina, Ruby, and Graham, signing personal headshots as well as selling promo photos from their show. There's one promo photo of Queen Reina on her throne with Kavalan standing dutifully by her side, and Regina signs those ones the most, looking amused every time a fan's eyes bounce between the photo and Emma, nearly in the exact same position, standing behind Regina with her hands loosely clasped behind her back and her eyes as sharp as a hawk's.

"Any regrets?" Regina asks her once they've finished a panel on Sunday, heading back to the autographs table to find a full lineup of people waiting for them.

"You can't guilt me back into the show," Emma says, smirking, and Regina just shrugs as if to say, at least I tried, and returns to her seat and plucks up a sharpie with gusto.

Her fans are excited, happy to ask innocent questions that Regina smiles at and refuses to spoil. Some only want her autograph on a Fourth of July poster, while others are ready to jump into Kingdom Come on faith alone. Some, however, have the courage to openly ask about Emma's prominent appearance in the teaser trailer. Or rather, about the obvious eye-sex between two of the leading ladies.

"Is there going to be a gay couple?" one girl asks bluntly, causing Emma's eyes to bulge and Regina's lips to quirk. "The Queen and that knight woman are, like, always standing in each other's personal space."

"That's not—" Emma says, at the same time Regina says, "You'll have to watch to find out."

The girl takes it as some form of coy affirmation, because she grins and runs off with her autographed Reina/Kavalan poster clutched to her chest, and Emma's gaping like a fish.

"She's going to be pissed when she gets to the season finale," Emma says, turning an accusing eye on Regina. Regina just smiles and shrugs, focusing on her next autograph.

 

They tour to a few major cities and attend multiple conventions, promoting the show everywhere they go. Social media is aflutter with theories about the show's storyline based on the promo trailers alone, and LGBTQ fans are tentatively hopeful online, tweeting screencaps of Reina and Kavalan and the ever-miniscule amount of personal space between them. Gold and the network grumble, but they already know Kavalan has been killed off (or so Belle tells them,) so they say nothing at all and let the fans believe what they will. It only means more viewers for them when the show finally premieres.

"Isn't that kind of queer-baity?" Ruby asks one day, when she and Emma and Regina have gone out together for lunch. It's a small hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant and they're mostly left alone, though Emma has fielded a few stray fans that spied them through the windows.

"It is," Emma agrees, frowning. "I'm not looking forward to the social media backlash."

"I'm sure Belle has a plan," Regina says, giving Ruby a significant look. The younger brunette's eyebrows lift before she seems to realize something and nods, grinning. Emma only looks on between them, boggled.

 

Promo season ends and Kingdom Come premieres on television to raving reviews. They're the fresh faces of TV entertainment, fantastical and enchanting and gritty and epic in equal doses, leading the charge in the industry's latest shift to the fantasy genre. Ratings skyrocket and their social media explodes every week with each episode aired, their characters quickly gaining footing as new fan favourites. Reina and Kavalan are immediately shipped, as Regina had hoped and Emma had feared, and #KavaReina makes its way onto Twitter's most popular hashtags list, beating out Mary Margaret and David's ship by leagues.

"KavaReina is such a cute ship name," Mary Margaret gushes when asked about ships during their panel, her jealousy lasting only briefly before she turns all her focus onto shipping her co-star's characters. (Her and David's characters, Artemis and Atticus, have a ship name of their own as well, A2—squared, that is—and with their real-life romance following their on-screen romance, they've garnered a pretty dedicated fanbase for themselves, but it's nowhere near the amount KavaReina has.)

"Yeah, and I mean, they look great together on screen," Ruby adds, motioning graciously to Regina as the cast sit on a couch on stage. The fans cheer their approval and Regina smirks, lifting her microphone up to speak once they've quieted down a little.

"Kavalan's actress is backstage today. If you cheer loudly enough, she might pop her head out to say hello."

The fans go wild, of course, screaming and chanting for Kavalan, and Emma is only mildly annoyed at Regina before giving in and peering out from behind the backstage curtain, smiling and waving shyly as the fans applaud. Later, after the panel, she grumbles and scowls petulantly at Regina for putting her on the spot, but the brunette elbows her playfully in the side and all misgivings are forgiven, especially when Regina grins at her like that.

Emma joins in a few autograph sessions after a lot of begging from her castmates, figuring the extra paycheck for being an official "guest" at the convention won't hurt, and she and Regina end up signing a lot of posters featuring Reina and Kavalan, even writing out "#KavaReina" on some to appease their fans.

"I ship it," Henry says one night when she's on the phone with him, sitting out on the balcony of her hotel room since the weather's nice. "The LGBTQ fanbase has gone wild. There are so many gifs on Twitter. You should see Tumblr. You two are cute."

"Cute?" Emma nearly screeches. "She's my employer!"

"Whatever, Ma," and his eye roll is too evident in the sarcastic lilt to his voice. "I just can't wait to be home with you soon."

Warmth spreads in her chest at the reminder that she'll be reunited with her baby boy soon. Convention season is nearly over and Regina won't need her once the brunette returns home and waits for news of renewal. And even if Kingdom Come does get renewed, there's no reason to think Regina will continue keeping her on as a bodyguard. It's been a quiet year, she's had no more threats, and even Cora is starting to lay off.

"Same here. I miss you, Henry." Her eyes shut, a soft sigh escaping her lips as a warm night breeze caresses her face and brushes her hair back from her forehead. "I should get to bed, I have to be up early."

"Okay. Love you, Ma."

"I love you too."

She hangs up, standing to move indoors only to startle when a husky voice says from somewhere in the darkness, "Who was that?"

Whipping to her left, Emma finds Regina standing in the doorway of her own balcony just one room over, dark eyes glittering in the night. Her expression is unreadable, but there's a tightness to her lips.

"Just a friend," Emma says dismissively, shrugging one shoulder. "I'm gonna head to—"

"You should have told me you had a boyfriend back home," Regina says, pushing away from the doorframe to move closer to the little divider between their balconies. She hates that Emma never admitted it to her, but she fights to keep the bitterness from her voice nonetheless. "I wouldn't keep taking you out of Boston for all these long term jobs if I knew you were missing your partner."

"I don't have a partner, I—" Emma pauses, hesitating. Regina clearly overheard the end of her conversation, and she doesn't want to make the woman think she's lying about not having a boyfriend. Talking about Henry is something she just doesn't do, though, not since... "It's not what you think. Honest."

Regina steps forward, hips against the divider, her eyes wide and hopeful. "Then what is it?"

"It's my son," Emma breathes out, eyes widening as the truth slips from her own lips. But Regina stares at her so softly, so full of trust and kindness, and she can't keep lying to her even if she's sure their friendship will not last beyond this job.

"Your son?" Regina's shoulders lose their tension, expression softening as her lips tilt up. Emma doesn't have a partner; she has a child. "You have a son?"

"His name is Henry." Sighing, Emma steps forward to rest her elbows on the divider, smiling wryly across the short space between their balconies. "I had him when I was still a teenager; I was a dumb kid, really, and his dad bailed as soon as he found out I was pregnant, so I did what I could. Struggled as a young single mom for a while until Jecob offered me a job and helped me get my life together, and, well, the rest is history, I guess. I don't usually talk about Henry with my principals."

"I'd like to think we're also friends now," Regina huffs with a little smile, watching as a light blush colors the blonde's pale cheeks. Her own relief and amusement quickly turns to guilt, though, as she thinks back on how long they've known each other. "I kept you away from your own son for almost eight months?"

"What? No, of course not. I willingly took this job, remember? Besides, he's been away from home for the entire time."

The frown in her voice is too evident. Regina watches her knowingly.

"Can I ask why?"

"Same reason I don't mention him to my employers anymore." Emma shrugs, an apologetic look on her face, and Regina gives her a sympathetic smile. "I did some security work for a guy who got a little obsessed with me. Well, I finished the job and moved on to my next gig, and I came home one day and... and Henry wasn't there. He'd found my son while Henry was walking home from school and invited him to the old retro arcade for games and rocky road ice cream, something he knew Henry would love because I'd mentioned it. By the time Henry actually got home, I was scared out of my wits, and he— he was there and acting all friendly and tried to get into my apartment."

She sucks in a breath as Regina reaches across the space and sets a hand over hers, squeezing her fingers supportively.

"At first I thought maybe he was just being really attentive, you know, actually paying attention to everything I'd ever said and trying to treat Henry out, even though he'd done it without asking me or letting me know where Henry was. But then he wouldn't take no for an answer, thought I was just playing hard to get or something, and it got to the point where I didn't feel safe knowing that he knew where we lived and where Henry went to school. We moved to another city, and it was alright for a while, but then he showed up, saying he'd been relocated for work, and when Henry told me he saw him outside his new school one day, I just... It was me. He was after me. And Henry deserved to go through school without having to look over his shoulder and make sure he wasn't being followed home every day, so... I sent him to live with our only other family for the rest of his school year while I figured out what to do."

Turning her hand over, she clasps onto the hand holding hers, smiling appreciatively at the easy comfort Regina manages to provide.

"It took a long time to get a restraining order. Apparently, stalking me across the country and lurking outside my son's schools wasn't enough proof. But I got it, eventually, with some help from Jecob. Henry wanted to finish up his year over there before coming back, though, and it was better not to have him change schools in the middle of the year, so he'll finally be home with me in two weeks."

She smiles then, a warm and genuine smile at the thought of her young teenage son, and Regina wants to stretch across the space dividing them and hug her tightly, but she settles for squeezing her hand instead.

"Thank you for telling me," she says softly, eyes glittering. "You didn't have to."

"With all the time we've spent together, I couldn't hide it forever," Emma jokes, offering a small laugh. Then, more gently, "Besides, we're friends, right?"

"Right," Regina agrees, glancing up shyly towards the sky while Emma ducks her head, yearning in both their eyes that goes unnoticed. "Friends."

Chapter Text

Regina returns to LA and Emma to Boston, waiting on renewal season while keeping in touch with the occasional text or phone call. Regina films a few commercials locally while Emma flies to Brooklyn to retrieve Henry, eager to take him home and feel his presence in their little apartment again. His bedroom gets redecorated and she spoils him rotten; she'd made good money before, but with Kingdom Come and all the conventions they'd been attending, she can really treat him to whatever he wants without having to worry about money.

"We should treat aunt Mal and Lily out sometime," he says when they're walking through the park, giant greasy pizzas on paper plates clutched in their hands. Emma smiles at the thought.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," she agrees. "Maybe we can stay with them for a weekend."

And they do, traveling back to Brooklyn for a long weekend in which Mal mischievously insists they marathon the full first season of Kingdom Come. Lily is relentless in her teasing, she and Henry ganging up on Emma about the lovey dovey eyes between Kavalan and Queen Reina, and though Emma pretends to be exasperated, her heart feels full at the reminder that despite being an orphan that grew out of the system, she still has this little family she'd found for herself.

 

LA is starting to feel less like home, especially when Regina returns to a big, empty house in what her sister Zelena is always snobbily referring to as the "rich district," with few friends in town she can call upon to keep her company. Her mother and manager, Cora, is in town, and some of her old co-stars are in town for work, but none are people she'd particularly like to invite over for coffee.

"Please tell me you're in LA," is the first thing she says when she calls up Marian, only for the other woman to burst out laughing.

"You just wrapped on your new TV show, didn't you?"

"Yes, and I miss Vancouver already," Regina sighs, sinking down onto her leather couch. "I have no friends to spend time with here in LA."

"The infamous ice queen made friends in Vancouver?" Marian asks in mock surprise, her voice teasing. Regina can't exactly be annoyed when Marian's right—she'd been friggid on set of Fourth of July, hard to talk to and even harder to befriend. The only reason they became friends was because Marian wanted to befriend the only other woman of color on set and she refused to take 'no' for an answer.

"Do you want to come over for coffee or not?" Regina huffs, rolling her eyes when she can hear the sarcastic grin in Marian's voice.

"Yeah, sure, Mills. I'll just hop the next flight; should be there in six hours."

"Where are you?"

"New York. Been talking with a lawyer friend of mine."

Regina sits up, frowning. "What? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, just... I'm filing for divorce. Turns out Robin cheated on me while we were filming Fourth of July. Apparently he thought I was going to leave him for my on-screen romance, so he went ahead and slept with some bimbo from his firm?"

"He did what?" Regina scowls in immediate anger. She never did like Robin, he always had this smug grin on his face and he always hugged her too long whenever they bumped into each other, his hands tending to rest on her hips in a way that made her wary of her friend's husband. "He actually thought you'd leave him for Javier? Your on-screen boyfriend who's gay in real life?"

"Well it explains why he gave poor Javier the stink-eye at the premiere."

"If I ever see him again in real life, I'm going to have to kill him," Regina deadpans, even as Marian cackles in amusement.

"Sure, just wait until my divorce goes through, first. I don't want to be the first suspect."

Sighing, Regina glances around her empty house and says, "I'm sorry, Marian. He's a bastard. Do you want some company?"

"You'd really fly to New York to listen to me bitch and complain about him?" Marian asks, amused.

"Like I said, I'm alone in LA right now."

"Well alright then," Marian says, pleased. "Let me know when you arrive, I'll pick you up and take you for the best pizza you've ever tasted."

Thinking back on her many dinners at Bufala with Emma, Regina smiles to herself. "I highly doubt that, but you're on."

 

To absolutely no one's surprise, Kingdom Come is renewed early for a second season, and Regina's call comes only minutes after the news spreads all over the internet.

"We could ask for a bigger condo," she offers, voice warm and husky with excitement. "There's a great school in the area and there's no way Gold would say no to us if we brought Henry around on set, I'm sure the crew would love to meet him—"

Suffice to say, Emma is weak to resist her pleas, especially when Henry flushes with excitement at the idea of being on a real life film set of a TV show he'd enjoyed watching (and, to Emma's embarrassment, they really did watch the entire first season with Mal and Lily, though they'd all covered his eyes and ears during the few scenes where explicit sex or violence was happening.)

A few weeks later, they make the temporary move to Vancouver to start filming season two. Henry's transition into a new school is made easier when he brags that he lives with two of the leading actresses of Kingdom Come, and his instant status as a "cool kid" only amplifies when he gets selfies of himself on set with the various cast and crew.

"Regina! Regina, get a photo of me!" She takes his offered cellphone when he rushes up to the iconic throne in the throne room set, aiming the camera and laughing when he sits himself upon Queen Reina's throne and crosses his arms, trying to look serious and intimidating. Snapping a few pictures, she shows him the result and he beams, leaning up against her side like a wriggling puppy. He's extra childlike when he's around her, always vying for her attention and praise, and Emma jokes that he must have a bit of a crush on the older actress.

"Well of course he does," Regina jokes back, teasing Emma with an elbow to the side as Henry scampers off to explore the rest of the stage. "I'm the star of the show."

He builds an easy rapport with the rest of the cast and crew, too, always eager to talk to everyone and ask questions about their jobs, learning about what the different departments do and watching as they set up equipment for each and every shot. When he's not at school, he willingly spends every minute at the studio with them, flitting between every department like a little chameleon.

"Where's the little beastie at today?" Ruby asks one day, only to laugh out loud at the sight of Henry huffing and puffing as he carries a heavy metal light stand while trailing after a man in the Grips department. He hasn't exactly hit his growth spurt yet, even as he turns fifteen during filming (and their Craft Services person, a homely woman named Granny, makes sure to bring a giant cake to set with his name on it, because apparently he's got the entire crew wrapped around his little finger.) Despite all that crafty and the lunch caterers feed him, though, he's still short and as scrawny as a beanpole.

Eventually, the season one finale airs, and they're all on set filming that evening when their phones start blowing up with social media alerts. Ruby and Henry, the most tech savvy of the group, are the first to get to their phones, eyebrows disappearing into their hairlines as they scroll through the mess of tags including #KingdomCome, #KavaReina, and #KavalanDeservedBetter.

"Ooohhh, that's not good," Henry says with a sympathetic grimace, at the same time Ruby flags Belle over from across the room. Soon enough, the entire cast is crowded together along with Belle and Neal, everyone reading on their phones with hungry eyes.

"The overall rating from general audiences is excellent," Belle says diplomatically, even as she glances around to make sure Gold hasn't decided to visit the set today.

"Yeah, but the LGBTQ fanbase is upset," Ruby sighs. "They're complaining that all the chemistry and eye se—" she glances at Henry and amends, "—oogling was queerbaiting."

"And Kavalan's death is being added to the "Bury Your Gays" trope list," Mary Margaret reads, wincing. "Fans think that the whisper to Reina before she fell must have been a love confession."

"They're really mad," Henry adds, blinking as he's spammed with text messages and incoming phone calls. "Uhh, my friends from school are freaking out. They watch the show too."

"Relax, guys, everything will be fine," Belle says, smiling winningly. "Look, the finale's got the highest numbers yet. They'll be chomping at the bit for season two."

 

And they are. Chomping at the bit, that is. Social media raves about the show and the fandoms are starting to speculate that Kavalan will return in a shellshocking way. Which... has Emma wincing, because she still sometimes sits down for panels with the cast at the occasional convention and tries hard not to give anything away to fans, not wanting to give them false hope but not wanting to break their hearts, either. It doesn't help that Reina starts up a physical relationship with Troy, Graham's character, and Emma is definitely not looking forward to when that episode airs.

Ivy Belfrey, a young TV actress quickly rising in popularity, is cast as the wicked Queen Drizella, and though her character presents a new and dangerous challenge in the show, Ivy herself is sassy and fun in person, and she is quick to latch onto Emma and Regina like a younger sister. She delights in teasing Henry, too, and from the way Henry turns into a bumbling mess around her, Emma and Regina are never at a loss for entertainment.

"Oh, sweet boy, he's got a crush on Ivy," Regina murmurs one evening, watching as Henry trails after Ivy onto set to watch her scenes. He's like a wide-eyed puppy, really.

"Kid's shit out of luck," Emma laughs, because Ivy's twenty one—six years older than he is—and she's in that stage in life where she's starry eyed over her older, more mature and dignified co-stars. Henry and his awkward teenage limbs aren't going to make the cut.

They finish filming season two, and Regina casually mentions wanting to see Boston, which of course prompts Emma to stutter out an invitation to stay with them during her visit (and Regina might just be a sneaky mastermind but Emma willingly falls into her trap.) Emma offers to take the couch so that Regina can have the master bedroom but the brunette is persistent in not putting her out, and they're not about to pull any trope shenanigans (because really, they work in the film and television industry and know all about that,) so Regina stretches out on the couch like a contented cat and Emma doesn't get a proper night's rest that entire week, too distracted by the thought of Regina sleeping just a short distance away.

Henry insists that they show Regina everything Boston has to offer, and so Emma pulls out all the stops as bodyguard, making sure to keep an eye on anyone and everyone who recognizes them out in public. They both get asked for photos and autographs every so often, but mostly they're left alone whenever they venture out in big sunglasses and hats, their hair pulled back into nondescript ponytails or left loose and casual, as far from their glamorous on-screen personas as possible.

"Incoming," Henry says when they're out walking through the park one day and he notices a small crowd heading towards them, and Emma is a vision when she steps protectively in front of her son and her... Regina. Her shoulders are squared and she's in dark jeans and a plain white dress shirt today, sleeves tight around her biceps and rolled up to her elbows, dark sunglasses perched on her nose. Most of the crowd are fangirls who surround them in excitement, but there are photographers and paparazzi in the mix and they're the ones that Emma frowns at. Regina, naturally protective of Henry since day one of meeting him, whips her hat off and pulls it down over his head while nudging him behind her, trying to hide his face from the cameras as much as possible.

"It's so cool to know that you guys are friends in real life!" one girl squeals, thrusting out a poster and a sharpie.

"Do you guys hang out a lot?" another asks, snapping pictures of them on her phone without any subtly at all. Emma angles herself between them, annoyed that the girl would blatantly take photos of them without their permission. Another girl looks to be hiding her phone just under her arm at an awkward angle, which is even more irritating, really.

"If you have to hide your phone to take pictures of us, then at least some part of you must realize what you're doing is wrong," Emma points out flatly, her voice hard and her eyes cold. Regina's hand on her bicep is what stops her from going full angry-bodyguard mode.

"Guys, please, we're just trying to have a quiet day out, we'd appreciate some privacy," Regina says, smiling apologetically, which gets a gush of understanding words from her fans as they nod and start to back away. Only Emma and Henry seem to notice the tightness at the corners of her lips, a sign that she's just as irritated but hiding it expertly.

"Hey, come on man," Emma says, moving forward again when one of the paparazzi continues snapping photos of them with his fancy camera. He ducks away, scowling.

"What, don't you want the free publicity shots?" he sneers, shielding his precious camera away when it looks like Emma might just snatch it from him and throw it to the ground (and okay, maybe that's exactly what she wants to do, even if she knows she's not supposed to.)

"No, I don't," she growls. "And I'm a licensed bodyguard, so I suggest you quietly walk away before I think you're a threat to my principal."

He balks at that, shooting Emma a hard glare before storming off. Pulling Regina's hat off his head, Henry clutches it to his chest and peers between Emma and Regina's faces uncertainly.

"Ma? Regina?"

Regina looks apologetic while Emma grits her teeth in frustration.

"I'm sorry, kid. Are you okay?"

"Are you okay? You look so mad."

Unclenching her fists, Emma deflates and grimaces. Henry had never seen her in aggression-mode before and she'd hoped he would never have to. Regina, likewise, looks sorry that they're even in this position.

"I'm so sorry," she murmurs, running a hand soothingly along Emma's back as the blonde slumps in place. "I never meant to put you and Henry in situations like this."

"I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to be in the show." Emma shakes her head, smiling wryly as Henry leans up next to her, understanding and support in his earnest eyes. She puts an arm around him and ruffles his hair, and just this once, the growing teenager allows it.

 

An image of Emma standing in the way of paparazzi to defend Regina and a brown haired teenage boy are all over the internet by morning, and the headlines are stunning.

'Kingdom Come actress Emma Swan - bodyguard by moonlight?'

'Gal pals Regina Mills and Emma Swan spotted in Boston!'

'Mysterious teenage boy seen hanging out with Kingdom Come's lead actresses.'

'Is the brown haired boy Regina Mills' secret son?'

Twitter is far more interested in the potential romantic side of things.

'Reina and Kavalan in real life - secret family outing with son?'

'Regina Mills and Emma Swan looking cozy during vacation in Boston!'

'Failed TV couple - leading to a real life romance?'

 

Henry delights in being the "mystery man" of every gossip magazine, and flushes shyly every time someone teases him about being Regina's speculated son. Emma gets equally red, though she laughs it off every time and jokes about Henry being so lucky. Regina's flattered once she's sure Emma doesn't mind, and even goes out of her way to treat Henry as if he were her own little prince, spoiling him rotten (as if Emma doesn't spoil the kid enough.)

"You really don't mind the rumors?" Regina asks early on, smiling tentatively as she brushes the hair back from his forehead. He really does need a haircut soon.

"Course not," he says, and he blushes cutely again, his large ears turning red as he scuffs the toe of his sneaker into the ground. "You'd be an awesome mom."

He thinks the rumors of Regina and Emma are pretty awesome too, but both women keep laughing it off (Emma perhaps a little more manically) and dismiss it as nothing more than a cute joke.

"Hey, you two are being shipped in real life," Ruby says one day, after appearing at the apartment like a stalker and inviting all of them out to lunch ("I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by" my ass, you flew here from Tennessee?!") cackling as she waves her phone around. "The actress and her bodyguard. Hashtag: GuardianQueen!"

"That's cute," Regina offers with a small smile, sipping at her coffee, while Emma groans and hides her face behind her hands. Henry just sits there with the biggest shit-eating grin.

 

Regina returns to LA after an extended stay with the Swans, and Emma and Henry settle back into their Boston rhythm as if they've never left, though both can admit that they miss what they've left behind.

"I hope they get renewed for season three so we can go back with Regina," he says over breakfast one day, chewing on somewhat overcooked apple cinnamon pancakes. Regina had made them during her stay and Emma still struggles to recreate the fluffy confections. "I kinda miss Vancouver."

"Me too, kid," Emma says with a wry smile. Henry gives her a look that she can't quite decipher, and she's about to get her revenge by teasing him about missing Ivy, but he's up and scampering off for school before she can even open her mouth.

Chapter Text

Season two is off to a shaky start when Kavalan doesn't reappear. The fans keep waiting, and every week they're dismayed when Kavalan remains dead and Queen Reina seems to have taken up with Troy, luring the man to her side against Artemis, Atticus, and Freya, despite audiences being aware that there's a new third party plotting against them all. Despite her youth, Ivy is a strong contender and her character stirs up enough intrigue that audiences remain enraptured, even as they complain about Kavalan's death and Reina's lackluster new romance.

"I think they're great," Regina says with a bland smile when asked about Reina and Troy's budding relationship at a panel, her expression somewhat bored. Emma and Henry are backstage watching the live feed on a monitor and Emma thinks Regina must be doing it on purpose, because the woman is a brilliant actress for god's sake, surely she could have faked more excitement about the ship if she'd tried.

"Treina is going down," Henry cackles, perhaps a little too loudly, because Regina suddenly laughs on stage and the Treina fans in the crowd (small as they are) cry out in annoyance at the disruption.

"Do you think Kavalan will come back to the show to be with Reina again?" one fan asks when she steps up to the mic, and Regina suddenly leans forward and squints to realize the girl is wearing a fan-made T-shirt featuring Reina and Kavalan, with "#KavaReina" in flowing font just beneath them.

"I think in a world of fantasy and magic, anything is possible," Regina offers, and now her smile is wide and genuine, warmth twinkling in her dark eyes. "If Reina and Kavalan are meant to be, they'll always find each other again."

A dreamy sigh echoes through the room from her many LGBTQ fans in attendance, and Emma gapes at the monitor in awe as Henry wiggles happily beside her.

"KavaReina!" he shouts through the black curtain, and the fans echo him gleefully, starting a chant that puts every other ship to shame.

 

KavaReina grows. The LGBTQ fans latch onto that shred of hope that Regina gives them and absolutely runs with it, and soon social media is full to bursting with KavaReina fanart, manips, and fanfiction. There are even fanvids using every scrap of footage from season one, set to songs that seem to match them to a T.

"Look at this one, it's so sad," Ruby gushes, shoving her phone in Emma's face ("What's your excuse for being in Boston now?" Emma jokes, but she secretly loves that Ruby keeps flying down to visit her during hiatus.) Emma takes the phone from the pushy brunette and clicks play, immediately choked when Beautifully Unfinished by Ella Henderson starts playing over a slow, faded montage of Reina and Kavalan.

Cause everytime I'm with you somehow I forget to breathe

You got me like a ragdoll, now I'm dancing on your string

And I keep trying to figure out who you are to me

But maybe all that we are meant to be... is beautifully unfinished.

"What the fuck, Rubes," Emma mutters as the video fades out on a scene of a mourning Reina from season two, blinking back the tears in her eyes because it's so sad and it's so KavaReina and damn it, she misses Regina.

"Come on, admit it: you ship it."

All Ruby gets is a rude hand gesture, and all she does is laugh and pull Emma into a side hug.

 

As per their PR manager's suggestion, Regina starts attending events with Graham, the two of them linked at the arms and looking pretty for the cameras. Emma's always on Regina's other side, though, the only one to receive the brunette's warm, genuine smiles, and KavaReina/GuardianQueen fans latch onto that even as Treina fans get smug about Regina and Graham being together "for real."

Emma joins in the occasional panel or Q&A whenever Henry's pouts get too cute to resist (though she's getting better at resisting him, honest) and it's still a challenge finding the right responses to fan questions, but she's getting better with experience and with coaching from her castmates.

"I think they definitely had something unique," Emma replies, smiling softly when a young fan beams up at her. "And if the network ever decides to bring me back, it would be really cool to explore their dynamic further."

No one outs her for being the one who asked to be removed from the show in the first place, but as time goes on, Emma starts to wonder... What if she returns? Would it really be so bad to be an actor in a show full of friends? She could take a break from her normal job, stay by Regina's side as co-star and personal security. Henry loves being on set and, for the first time in a long time, she feels like she's found a place she belongs, with people who want her and actively seek her out when she's gone.

When she shyly mentions this revelation to Regina, the brunette's response is a blinding smile. "That's great! Emma, I'll let Belle know right away! Do you know how excited our fans are going to be?"

And they are. Emma gets thousands upon thousands of mentions and likes on Twitter when the official Kingdom Come pages announce her return to the series alongside their season three renewal, and KavaReina fans are jumping for joy at the possibilities. Emma even gets a full promo poster dedicated to Kavalan, in which she stands in a heroic pose in her iconic dark leather sleeveless vest and pants, fur collar brushing up against her prominent jawline where her fake scar has been reapplied, her blonde curls up in an intricate braid and her sharp green eyes popping. The backdrop is of Queen Reina's castle in the distance, the sky dark with thunderclouds and the grounds foggy with black smoke. "Kingdom Come" is pasted across the image in stark gold lettering, and just below it, "The Guardian Returns."

"You look so cool," Henry gushes, managing to get his hands on a copy of the poster to put up in their apartment. Regina even puts one up in their shared condo once they're back in Vancouver to start filming, right next to a promo poster of Queen Reina. Emma can't help but blush self consciously every time she sees them, but she has to admit: they do look good side by side. It doesn't hurt that she looks pretty badass.

Filming feels like coming home now, even if they do work long days. They're all very familiar with Vancouver at this point and spend every weekend hitting the town or hiking the best mountains Canada has to offer. As excited as everyone is to be back for a third season, however, Belle finds a new wall standing in her way of the story she wants to tell.

Gold doesn't want a bisexual lead. Queen Reina has grown to become their superstar, their MVP, their fan-favourite moneymaker, and he fears the potential backlash from the general American audience if she suddenly becomes part of some "gay agenda." And Belle is weary of outing herself and potentially getting the show cancelled by upsetting their biggest producer, so she can only push so far before admitting defeat and trying for another route.

"Kavalan has become a favourite for the LGBTQ fans," she offers sweetly, making sure to flutter her lashes as Gold rubs thoughtfully at his chin. "They would rally behind our show if we made her queer. Think of the online publicity."

And so he agrees: Kavalan becomes canonically gay. Her "unrequited" love for the Queen has a certain angsty draw to it, he admits, and Belle just bobs her head and lets him believe it was all his brilliant idea in the first place.

"She could end up being with one of the more minor ensemble characters," she suggests, and he snaps his fingers and says, "Of course! Use Freya."

"It's like I'm being sacrificed," Ruby laughs afterwards when Belle tells the cast about the conversation.

"Gee, you make it sound like you're being forced to romance a beast," Emma jokes, setting a hand dramatically over her heart as if wounded, and Ruby teasingly pouts and makes sure to plant a wet, sloppy kiss to Emma's cheek.

"Gross, Rubes."

"You love me, Swan."

And she does... like a sister. So it gets a little weird when Kavalan washes up on shore with amnesia and Freya rescues her, recruiting her to their side and quickly falling for the gruff, rugged warrior woman.

"Why do you not allow me to come with you to the Dark Kingdom?" Kavalan frowns, moody and brooding, sharpening her sword with a whetstone while Freya paces nearby.

"The Queen is... a wretched soul. I do not wish for her to lay eyes on you."

Freya lies, and she does so with the mindset that Reina is the enemy and that Kavalan is better off with them. But she is also softer around Kavalan, less sharp with her words, and Kavalan is one of the few to ever see her without her usual warpaint on her face, their private moments tender and tastefully done.

"I do it for your own good," Freya promises, hands cupping Kavalan's face, and their kiss is chaste but gentle, a soft press and slide of lips until Belle calls, "Cut!" and Ruby is suddenly swinging a leg over Emma's lap and pretending to shove her tongue down her throat, and Emma squeals and laughs wildly as she flails her arms and tries to shove her friend off.

"Eww!" she shrieks, slapping blindly as Ruby smothers her face with kisses. The lanky brunette eventually bounces off with a cackle, leaving Emma flustered and red and Regina scowling in their direction.

"Honestly," Regina huffs, briefly giving Ruby the stink-eye, though most of the crew just finds it hilarious and has a good laugh at Emma's expense.

"That's going in the blooper reel, right?" Ruby asks Belle, and the young director snickers and agrees with enthusiasm.

Chapter Text

Season three is met with mixed reviews; mostly positive, some on the fence, and some none too pleased about getting a token gay character. It probably helps that Kavalan is #3 on the call sheet again, so they can't say it isn't a main character... but her romance with Freya splits the LGBTQ fandom into two distinct sides. The Freyalans, happy to have a gay couple that includes a main character, and the KavaReinas, who are bitter that their beloved Guardian was brought back as queerbait and sent into someone else's arms rather than the woman she's had immense chemistry with since day one.

"I think they're both trying to figure out where they fit in the world right now," Ruby says when asked about her opinions on Freyalan. For all that she teases and goofs around in person, she's also excellent at giving thoughtful responses to questions that require some tact or subtlety. "They're both a little lost and confused about who's friend and foe, and they're kind of taking comfort in going through that together, ya know?"

Emma is happy to let Ruby take over answering, though the next fan is far less considerate and bluntly asks Emma, "Do you ship KavaReina more or Freyalan more?"

Emma, having been strategically told to sit between Regina and Ruby on the giant couch on stage, gapes for a moment before spluttering, "I love all my ships!"

Ruby and Regina promptly each put an arm around her, trapping her in a gal-pal sandwich, and the audience laughs and cheers at the way Emma blushes and jokingly fans herself. The Q&A continues for another half an hour with only a few more awkward questions (Is Ruby a good kisser? Was the KavaReina eye-sex intentional? Does Graham get jealous that you bodyguard Regina all the time?) before the entire cast eventually retire to the greenroom for a lunch break.

"Kid," Emma calls out, perking up when she notices a convention employee escorting Henry into their private greenroom. He bounces over to them with a grin, arms full of merchandise and half a dozen lanyards hanging from his neck. She's started giving him some free rein (and plenty of cash because she's a pushover) when they attend conventions, and he always manages to check out every single vendor room and art hall and come back with way too much loot. Today his bags are stuffed with a new gaming headphone, several exclusive action figures and new graphic novels, a few Pop Funko boxes, and multiple comic book posters.

"Hey, Ma, Regina." Dumping his things down, he drops into the seat next to Emma and steals the other half of a sandwich from her plate, chowing down despite her huff of protest. Regina, muffling a laugh behind her hand, glances at his purchases and grins.

"You've been busy spending your mother's money, I see."

"Mm." He swallows, wiping a smear of sauce from the corner of his lip with the back of his hand. "Actually, most of them were gifts from fans!"

"Fans? Of Kingdom Come?" Emma asks, puzzled.

"Sorta." He shrugs, grinning. "D'you know they call me the Dark Prince?"

"The what?" Emma squawks as Ruby bursts out laughing like she's already heard.

"Yeah, 'cause everyone can't figure out whose kid I am since we're all living together right now, so they think you're both my moms—Kavalan and Queen Reina—so they call me the Dark Prince. I'm an unofficial celebrity 'cause of you guys."

He preens, smug and proud, and Emma just blushes hotly while Regina chuckles.

"That's very... creative of them," Regina says, leaning forward with her elbows on the table when Graham's arm rests along the back of her chair. She's been picking at her salad all during their lunch break and Emma decides to push her leftover plate of fries further towards the center of the table, dramatically patting her own belly as if full. Sure enough, when she turns to give her son her full attention, she can see Regina's hand darting over to steal a few fries.

"I got some of these from some fangirls, too," he says, taking something from his pocket and sliding them to the middle of the table. Everyone leans in to take a peek and half of them burst out laughing, while Emma and Regina both rear back and exchange awkward, embarrassed smiles.

"Ah, the crazy things fans do," Ruby snickers, snatching one of the pins for herself while Graham chuckles at the little fanart pin depicting his sort-of girlfriend with his coworker.

 

The cast attend one more autographing session before they leave Calgary Expo, and Emma doesn't realize why her fans are wriggling and squealing and sneaking photos of her until later that night when she checks Twitter and finds the pictures.

"I swear I didn't wear that on purpose!" she has to defend herself to an irate Gold on the phone afterwards, staring in horror at the photos of herself sitting at the autograph table, a KavaReina fanart pin (a manip of Kavalan and Reina standing almost nose-to-nose, expressions soft and eyes gazing longing at each other's lips) attached to the side of her jacket in plain view. It sure as hell explains why her LGBTQ fans are trying to drown her in mentions.

"@EmmaSwan76 SHE SHIPS IT TOO!!!"

"Last year: @ReginaMills chats about #KavaReina. This year: @EmmaSwan76 wears a KavaReina pin to CalgaryExpo. #BLESSED"

"Emma just casually gave us proof that she ships it and I'M A MESS"

And then, from a suspiciously familiar account;

DarkPrinceHenry: Yeah, she just wore that pin to CalgaryExpo. #KavaReina

Emma throws the pin at him afterwards, grumbling even as he catches it and laughs his ass off. When they get home, Henry thinks he's misplaced it, even though Emma has it squirreled away in a locked drawer next to her bed.

 

"Regina might be on Emma's jacket," Ruby says to her phone as she does a livestream video of herself scampering through the studio when they're back to start filming season four, "But I'm on Emma!" And then she jumps onto Emma's back, the phone held out in front of them so that all her fans can see the two of them, and Emma bursts out laughing even as she flails and shrieks in surprise. Ruby manages to plant a wet kiss on Emma's cheek before bolting off, cackling into her phone before ending the livestream, and later the cast watch Ruby's snapchat video and snicker over the comments.

"YES! Freyalan is life!!"

"My favourite gays ever #Freyalan"

"Why is Regina never in these fun BTS videos?"

"Nooo! We want KavaReina!!"

"Must you provoke the shipping wars?" Regina sighs, annoyed, and Ruby just grins and elbows her playfully in the side.

"Oh come on, it's all harmless fun!"

 

Jokes aside, some fans take things way too far, and as the season goes on, Emma finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place. She can't tweet or post a photo with either Ruby or Regina without upsetting a fandom. It doesn't help that Ruby loves sharing just about everything on social media, which means their tweets and selfies together are excessive compared to the rare selfies she gets with a surprisingly selfie-shy Regina. (There are numerous enough photos of her with Regina and Henry when they go out on the weekends, sure, but those are creeper photos posted by paparazzi and they just open up a whole other pandora's box of problems.)

"They hate me," Emma sighs, setting her phone down after scrolling away from hateful tweets calling her a sell-out. She's always been honest about her sexuality since Kingdom Come has put her in the spotlight, but some fans have apparently decided to put her to the test and are calling her out for not fighting for KavaReina... As if she had any say in the story's direction.

"Don't take that stuff to heart, Ems," Mary Margaret says, sympathetic. "Fans don't know how shows work. They don't know what our contracts are like. They think we can stomp our feet and change the story as if we aren't all easily replaceable."

David reaches over to pat Mary Margaret's hand supportively and Emma gives him a curious look.

"She was replaced in a sequel movie when she tried to push for a change in the romance story. They cast another woman who looked a lot like her."

"The romance didn't make sense!" Mary Margaret laments before drooping with a sigh. "But anyway. It's the producers with the money. If we cause them trouble, they can just as easily pay someone else to do our job."

"You really think Gold would fire me over this whole KavaReina thing?"

"I doubt it," a new voice adds, as Belle joins them where they're all relaxing on the fake logs on one of the forest sets. "I do have an idea on how to placate him, though. A little bit of PR magic, actually, if you're up for it."

Wary, Emma swings one leg over the log to straddle it and face Belle. "PR magic?"

After checking around them, Belle leans in and lowers her voice, prompting Mary Margaret and David to lean in as well. "Ruby and I have started dating."

"Belle!" Mary Margaret squeals too loudly, clapping her hands together, "That's wonderful!"

"Thank you," Belle says, amused as she hushes the ebony haired woman. "But we need to keep it heavily under wraps right now. If Gold found out, he'd sack me and cancel the show before we knew what hit us."

"Right, but what's that got to do with the shipping drama over me and Regina?" Emma asks, brows furrowing in confusion. Belle grins a wide, wicked grin, and Emma is honestly learning to fear that look every time Belle aims it at her.

 

"I will claim sexual harassment if you touch my hips again, I swear," Emma grumbles under her breath, though she doesn't actually struggle when Ruby's hands pat her hips and pull her closer to her side. The taller, willowy brunette gives a dirty chuckle and rests her chin on Emma's shoulder.

"C'mon, it's only creepy when men do it to their female coworkers," Ruby teases.

"Don't be sexist." Emma scoffs, but she can't help but grin as her friend gives her an affectionate snuggle, because Ruby means well and is doing it to tease her as a friend, not because she harbors some weird secret attraction to her—which is promptly followed by a resounding "Awwwwww!" by the fans as they step onto the stage together like that.

"How're you doing, San Diego?" Ruby greets cheerily when the MC hands them each a microphone. There are two chairs on stage, one for each of them. Tonight's panel is a special Freyalan Q&A (no doubt the work of Belle and Gold to take the attention off of Regina and KavaReina) and the audience is chock full of LGBTQ fans loudly applauding their beloved gay ship. Both their characters are still alive, anyway, which is more than other current TV shows could say.

"Wow, look at this room," Emma says when the applause is less deafening. "We're so excited to be here tonight. Are you guys all caught up on season three?"

There's more applause. Ruby grins at her, one eyebrow quirking in question, and Emma gives a nervous nod of her head.

"Alright, let's get this show on the road, huh? Who's up first?"

They make their way through the lineup of fans coming up to the microphone, answering every question cheerfully and thoughtfully. Ruby takes the lead in diverting any questions away from KavaReina, and Emma makes a concerted effort to gaze at Ruby whenever the brunette speaks. Her friend is her current on-screen romance, and she's going to do everything in her power to honor that and promote it.

"Hey Emma," one fan says, and Emma snaps her head over to pay attention, smiling cheerfully in greeting. "There's a lot of photos of you and Regina hanging out off set with a younger boy. Are you guys a family?"

There are excited titters in the crowd. Emma blushes and straightens.

"Actually, the producers put us up in temporary homes when we're in town filming. Regina just happened to be my housemate, so we try to hang out when we're not working and get to know the city. Vancouver really is a beautiful place to explore."

"Really a shame," Ruby adds in, winking playfully in Emma's direction. "If I knew I'd start dating this hottie, I'd have asked to be housemates with her instead!"

Oh, the fans lose it over that. The Freyalan shippers are screaming, their phones out as they all rush to take videos of this momentous occasion, and Emma promptly blushes as Ruby laughs.

"Oops," the brunette purrs, one hand pressing briefly to her mouth, "Was that a secret? My bad. To be fair, this was before we got renewed for season four. There's no contract breach! No one tell the producers!"

Laughter follows her dramatic joking. The fans keep taking pictures and videos and Emma wonders when this is going to backfire and get them all into a shit ton of trouble. Regardless, she plays along, she and Ruby linking arms and waving goodbye once their panel is over, disappearing behind the black curtains. Regina and Graham are waiting there—the special Treina Q&A coming up next—and both look stunned at this turn of events.

"When did you two start dating?" Regina asks, her voice sharp, and Graham gives his girlfriend an odd look while Emma freezes in place under the scrutiny of those dark eyes.

"We're not," Ruby chuckles, callous. "Belle and I are dating. But Gold would shit bricks if he found out, and Emma's kind of in trouble with him for that KavaReina pin she accidentally wore to a panel, so we figured this was good for PR."

"Oh." Regina deflates slightly, her tight frown relaxing, and she promptly gives them a curt nod of her head before heading out on stage, dragging Graham with her.

"Someone's jelly," Ruby snickers, flouncing down the narrow hall and into the greenroom. Emma follows, gaping.

"What? She's not jealous. Why would she be jealous?"

"Oh please. There are bets going on how long it'll take for you two to bang."

Emma splutters, choking on her own spit. Ruby grabs a water bottle from the mini fridge and hands it over with a sympathetic smile.

"She's with Graham!" Emma says eventually once she can breathe again, and Ruby just smiles and pats her cheek as patronizingly as possible.

"Yeah, for PR, like what you and I are doing right now. It doesn't mean anything."

"Regina's not gay!"

"Oh honey," Ruby sighs before she grabs her bags and exits, leaving Emma sitting alone in the greenroom and straining to hear Regina's voice on the microphone down the hall.

"She's not gay," Emma insists to no one at all.

Chapter Text

Treina is... standing strong, kind of, if a lacklustre romance with non-existent chemistry is considered strong. But the ship is still canon, and that's all the fans really care about, anyway. Season four ends with Queen Drizella taking Artemis and Atticus prisoner in some twisted hostage attempt, and Queen Reina visits Drizella's kingdom to strike a deal, like two vipers circling each other in a dangerous game. Troy remains at Reina's side like the arm candy he is, though he shows signs of weakness in a scene where Drizella attempts to seduce him away from Reina, and Reina herself is the one to catch Freya and Kavalan when they slip into the castle in an attempt to rescue Artemis and Atticus.

"Kavalan?" Reina breathes out, the most stunned anyone has ever seen her, her dark eyes wide and disbelieving when she realizes who the second intruder is. They've been separated for two seasons now, and it's the first time Reina has set eyes upon her Guardian since watching her fall to her supposed death at the end of season one. "You're... you're alive?"

She has her hands around Freya's throat, pinning the huntress to a wall, and Kavalan's eyes are cold and unfamiliar when the Guardian shoves Reina away, standing protectively in front of Freya.

"Keep your hands off of my love," she snarls, her sword poised and ready to strike at the woman she would have once died for, and Reina's expression is shattered, her eyes wet and hurt, and then the screen cuts to black.

"I don't know if I want to watch this show anymore," Henry says in a voice that's finally cracking with puberty, clicking off the TV once the finale episode has finished, and Emma gives him a scandalized look even as he rolls his eyes. "Ma, Ruby's like your sister. It's gross seeing you two kiss on screen."

"And seeing me kiss Regina on screen would be better?" she snarks, somewhat defensive even as he pins her with a pointed look.

"You two would make more sense."

"Henry!"

"What? I ship it!" He throws his hands up, grunting before jumping up in his suddenly-longer and ganglier teenage body and disappearing into his bedroom, and Emma sighs and stretches out on the leather couch, putting the bowl of popcorn aside. They're home again in Boston, taking a long needed break after the last couple years of filming and traveling and bouncing around to a million different conventions, and Emma is grateful for the hiatus. Even Henry, despite his pining over the unattainable Ivy, seems happy to be able to hang out with his old Boston friends. Regina doesn't mention wanting to visit them, though, and Emma can't bring herself to ask, and so they survive on brief text conversations and rare phone calls all hiatus, more awkward than they have ever been in the four years they've worked together.

Besides, Regina's been attending events with Graham in LA without inviting Emma along as personal security, and—okay, it's not like Regina really even needs personal security, it's been four years and those stalker threats have never amounted to anything—but it's always been her excuse for them to spend time together, and now it seems she no longer needs that, either.

Emma knew this day would come, but it doesn't take away the sting.

 

Ruby stays with them for a few weeks, excited to get to know Boston. Magazines flourish with photos of the two beauties out and about on the streets, sometimes with Henry, sometimes without. The headlines change daily, giving Emma an absolute headache, but this keeps Belle's job safe and her relationship with Ruby under the radar, so Emma is willing to weather the drama to help her friends.

"Ruby Lucas and Emma Swan spotted having a romantic dinner in uptown Boston!"

"Convention footage confirms it - on-screen lovers now dating in real life!"

"First Mills, now Lucas. Who will Emma Swan date next?"

"Look at you go, tiger," Ivy teases, she and Ruby laughing at Emma's expense as the blonde shrinks down in her seat and Henry just kind of sits there in a daze, too busy admiring Ivy's smiling face to really participate in conversation. They've all gone out together for brunch since Ivy decided to visit and so far they've been unrecognized, but at the decibel Ivy and Ruby are cackling at, Emma wouldn't be surprised if camera flashes started going off soon.

"Should I be worried?" Ruby jokes, swiping a tear from her eye. "You gonna be spotted in Boston with Ivy next?"

"Eww," Ivy snickers. "No offense, Emma, but eww."

"Yeah, eww," Henry repeats, looking mortified at the thought. Emma swats at her son's shoulder before grumpily snatching the newspaper away from Ivy, crumpling it up into a ball and tossing it beneath their table.

"Enough of the headlines and tabloids! I swear I can't even hang out with my friends anymore without people thinking I'm a player."

"But, baby, I'm your girlfriend," Ruby says with a dramatic pout, lower lip quivering. "I thought we had something special."

"We have something, that's for sure," Emma grumbles, resisting the urge to flip Ruby the bird because she's pretty sure a girl a few tables over is aiming her phone in their direction. Instead, she reaches across the table to pat Ruby's hand sweetly, and Ivy joins in on the shenanigans by ruffling Henry's hair and kissing his head, leaving a crimson red lipstick stain on his forehead that Emma has to pin him down to forcibly wash off that night.

God, being a celebrity is insane.

 

They're renewed for a fifth season, and Emma isn't sure if she's excited or terrified anymore. Belle has this manic look in her eyes like she's plotting something major, Ruby is always smirking like she's in on a giant secret, and there are a few stray #Belswan tweets floating around Twitter now that she and Ivy keep appearing in friendly selfies together, which— honestly. Do people have nothing better to do with their lives than to ship her with every co-star she's friendly with?

"We have a ship name," Emma deadpans at some point when Ivy joins her in her trailer for lunch one day, and the younger woman just laughs and laughs and ends up knocking on Ruby's trailer to share the apparently hilarious news.

"And here I thought I was enough for you," Ruby teases her, only to muffle her laughter when Gold stomps past them all with a disgusted sound. The man has little patience for any of them anymore, thinking they all fraternized behind the scenes during hiatus when their contracts weren't in effect, but at least he doesn't suspect Belle of being gay, which is really the only thing that matters while they still rely on his funding.

"Piss off, Lucas," Emma laughs, and Ivy pulls them all together to make duck faces for a three-person-selfie that she tweets later that day.

MissIvyBelfrey: Just in the middle of a Freyalan sandwich... Or is it a RedSwan sandwich? (winky emoji) (kiss emoji) #Freyalan #LoveTheseLadies #squadgoals

The fans fawn over the bit of fanservice Ivy gives them and Emma grudgingly 'likes' the photo on Twitter, because despite all the shipping nonsense, it is a cute picture of them.

 

ReginaMills liked a Tweet you were mentioned in.

Emma stares at her phone for the longest time and doesn't mention anything about it, remaining trapped in the awkward void that is stilted conversation and unsaid words between herself and Regina.

 

Twitter and Tumblr are disturbingly on point when it comes to Regina and Graham's break up. It wasn't even a huge deal—they'd attended an event and arrived in separate cars, walking apart rather than arm-in-arm and sitting apart—and suddenly social media is all over their split, analyzing every single photo of them and theorizing on whether or not it bodes poorly for their on-screen counterparts.

"And so it begins," Ruby whispers to Ivy and Henry the day after, scurrying away only after receiving a warning glare from Regina and her apparently bat-like hearing.

"You okay?" Henry asks Regina, carefully slinging a lanky arm around her stiff shoulders, and she leans into his quickly growing body with a warm smile instead.

"I'm fine, dear. I realized he and I weren't very compatible. It was a mutual split."

He just smiles encouragingly, his mop of hair falling into his eyes, and she reaches up to brush it aside with a fond smile, boggled that he's actually a little bit taller than she is now. He's really shot up in height this past year. The two of them really look like mother and son, and with nearly four years of bonding now, they're really starting to act like it too.

Emma wanders her way into the greenroom where they're all hanging out and watches Henry and Regina with hesitant, yearning eyes, and when Regina meets her gaze and her lips spread into a warm smile, Emma feels herself fall just a little deeper into her self-dug hole.

 

It's breathtaking to be sharing the screen with Regina again. Emma hadn't known how much she's missed it until she's finally standing across from Regina on set, the brunette's dark eyes piercing her very soul as they parry a few blows back and forth, sword props clacking together noisily, to be replaced with the sound of steel against steel in post production.

"Stop this!" Reina demands, though from the crack in her voice, it's starting to sound more like a plea as she clearly tries to defend herself from Kavalan without hurting her. Emma tries to keep her face cold and devoid of emotion, but she hasn't had any scenes with Regina since her character's been brought back, and it's hard not to grin now that Kavalan and Reina are finally reunited, regardless of the less than ideal circumstances.

"Cut!" Belle pops out of video village, both frustrated and amused as she hops up onto set and shakes her head at Emma. "You can't look like you're enjoying this, Ems."

"Sorry! It's just— I forgot how fun this was." Emma beams, leaning in to bump her shoulder against Regina's, and the brunette surprises her by playfully bumping her back. "Seriously, Belle, you kept our characters apart for two seasons."

"Yes," Belle says with a playful roll of her eyes, "Two seasons of Kavalan having amnesia and not knowing who Reina is anymore. Can you please look at her like a stranger?"

And they retake it—multiple times because Emma can't stop grinning— and by the end, they have enough coverage that they can just cut it together in a way that Emma's slips aren't seen. Still, the glint of excitement in her eyes is unmistakable, and it will definitely give the hardcore KavaReina fans something to over-analyze later.

"I've missed filming together," Regina says later when they're sitting alone in the greenroom while the others film their scenes. Her eyes are lighter today, a warm brown that glows in the dim lighting, and Emma silently tells her heart to stop thudding quite so loudly.

"Yeah, it was a lot of fun." She sucks down half of her water bottle, throat dry, then asks, "What do you think will happen with our characters?"

"I hope Kavalan regains her memories." Regina purses her lips, then smiles softly. "They made a really good team. Like us."

"Yeah," Emma agrees, blushing and ducking her head as Regina glances upwards at the ceiling, neither noticing the tentative looks of hope in both their eyes.

Chapter Text

"I think they would be very hot together."

Regina's laugh is a rich, husky laugh that sends Emma into a tizzy, and very nearly gives the fans heart palpitations, too, because the girl who'd asked Regina what she thought of KavaReina is literally wobbling away from the microphone to collapse back into her seat. The army of KavaReina fans present at this panel is overwhelming and their cheers of approval are deafening, but there's a pretty strong group of Freyalan fans who make noises of protests as well, rising up in defense of Emma and Ruby's supposed relationship.

"Hey, I love all the ships," Ruby pipes up, laughing as she maneuvers herself to sling an arm around Emma and Regina both. "I agree with Regina— Kavalan and Reina would make a super hot couple!"

That placates the fans when they see the three women getting along so swimmingly on stage, but Tumblr is alight with photos and gifs afterwards, their diehard shippers arguing over the slightest twitch of a lip or any body language that might say differently.

"Emma looks really uncomfortable... #lovetriangle"

"Ruby's trying her best but she's clearly jealous."

"First she dumps Graham, now she's making the moves on Emma. I stan Regina but that's pretty sleazy"

Emma tries not to pay attention to social media, she really does, but one can only ignore so many cruel words before they start to take their toll. She hates that Ruby and Regina are getting harassed over this too, but Mary Margaret's the one who reminds her, "Even if you never joined the show, Emma, there would be shipping wars and online bullying over some other actor or character romance. That's just how things are. You can't feel responsible for that."

"Maybe things would be slightly less crazy if they didn't think Ruby and I were a couple." Emma sighs, pouting to herself as she stands in the middle of the crafty tent, examining the table's offerings and trying to decide if she wants to get a plate of fruit to be healthy or to grab a handful of the various chocolate bars in the candy bowl.

"Everything would be less crazy if everyone was just honest about who they wanted to be with," Henry says diplomatically from where he's making himself a cup of coffee, and Emma squints at him before doing a double take, because—

"Since when do you drink coffee?"

"I love coffee," he says defensively, straightening up as he puts a lid on his steaming cup, and he may finally be of average height for a newly eighteen year old, but he's still scrawny as a beanpole.

"Right, and it's got nothing to do with the fact that Ivy is an avid coffee drinker," Emma deadpans, quirking an eyebrow at him. He blanches and instead tries to change the conversation.

"Leroy said I could shadow him this season."

Leroy is their A cam operator, and he's already got his full camera team hired for the season, so it's a bit of a big deal that the man is allowing Henry to learn from them. Generally, having too many bodies on set can be a hindrance, so despite the blatant conversation switch, Emma allows it and smiles encouragingly.

"That's great, kid! He's a hard guy to impress. You must've done something right."

Bobbing his head, he walks alongside her as they head out across the lot and back to stage five. Emma makes sure to snag a few chocolates from the candy bowl before they go.

"Yeah, and he said that if I learn quickly, he might hire me on to be their camera trainee next season, since their current trainee is moving on to that new superhero show next year."

"Really?" They nod their thanks to the PA that opens up the big bay doors to let them through, meandering through the familiar stage towards their current greenroom. "I thought you were interested in applying for film school after you finish high school."

"There's always time to go to school, Ma," he says, plopping down in Regina's empty chair while Emma takes a seat in her own labeled chair. "But he's giving me a job opportunity, a chance to learn hands-on on a real film set, and Kingdom Come is a pretty big show. Not everyone's lucky enough to get a shot like that. I can always go to school after, if this show ends or if Leroy decides not to hire me back."

"That's true," Emma admits, chest warming at how reasonable he is and how he's thought this through. "I suppose nothing really beats hands-on experience in the field. Whatever you decide to do, I'm proud that you're going after what you want."

"Thanks, Ma." He grins, notes Regina entering the room, and pops up from her chair.

"Sit, sweetheart," she says, waving at him to stay, but he shakes his head and moves for the door.

"Leroy's letting me shadow him this season. I'm gonna go see if camera needs help loading in." He grins and side-hugs her before disappearing, so Regina sits down in her chair next to Emma and quirks a brow.

"When does he drink coffee?"

"Ivy," Emma says simply, to which Regina chuckles in understanding as she pulls out her sides to go over her lines. Emma holds up her handful of chocolate bars. "Chocolate?"

"Ah, the fastest way to my heart," Regina teases, grabbing a bar and quickly tearing it open, and Emma blushes and chews on her lower lip, wondering on Ruby's cryptic hints.

 

Emma's confused and gay.

Regina has become the biggest flirt at conventions and events, and Emma can never quite figure out how she's supposed to respond when Regina makes suggestive jokes about KavaReina and Ruby's sitting at her side still pretending to be her real-life girlfriend and, really, why can things never be simple?

"I have read the fanfics!" Regina laughs wickedly, beaming at the fans as they squeal in delight. "The KavaReina fans are so talented, it honestly blows me away."

"Have you read them too, Emma?" the fan proceeds to ask Emma, and before she can muster up an acceptable reply, Regina says,

"She has! There was this really good one that got published into a book, so I gave her a copy. We both have one."

Emma smiles in embarrassment, hoping the question goes no further because yes, of course she'd read the book Regina had gifted her as a joke, only to enjoy it more than she probably should have considering it started out as fanfiction of her character.

"Hey, where are the Freyalan fanfics?" Ruby jokes, trying to get in on the teasing when there's audible grumbles from within the audience. "Freyalan fans! Get on it!"

The cast laugh it off, moving the questions forward and having a blast on stage. Later, social media is a bit of a snappy monster. The KavaReina fans are raving over Emma and Regina's real life friendship and making the GuardianQueen hashtag popular again. The Freyalan fans are... kind of pissed to have their territory intruded upon, and they loudly clap back with, "Emma and Ruby are together in real life, deal with it! #Freyalan #RedSwan"

Ruby and Ivy are the first to hop on the "let's play nice" bandwagon, dropping careful tweets here and there, along with various selfies of all the women in friendly poses.

RealRubyLucas: Y'all keep asking me what it's like bts. Honestly? I love all my coworkers! We're all great friends and we love all our ships! #Freyalan #KavaReina #ShipAndLetShip

MissIvyBelfrey: So thankful to get to work with these beautiful ladies. Who needs shipping wars when everyone can bask in love? (heart eyes emoji) (kiss emoji)

Regina makes an appearance on social media too, posting all kinds of photos on her Instagram with all the cast and crew. She and Henry take a lot of selfies around set together, but there are multiple shots of her with Ruby and Emma as well, carefully cultivating a close friendship for the public eye.

ReginaMills: Just saw outtakes from our last promo; @EmmaSwan76 and @RealRubyLucas look beautiful together! I adore my #KingdomCome family. #Freyalan #KavaReina (heart emoji)

Most fans are happy to believe the stories they're given. Some want to dig their claws in and create drama out of nothing. And... okay, maybe there's a bit of actual drama, in that Ruby's secretly dating Belle but publicly dating Emma for PR and Emma is secretly in love with Regina and Regina is the fucking Queen of mixed signals and confusing the hell out of a useless lesbian (Emma)... but still. At least there's no love triangle.

"There's no pleasing them, is there?" Emma sighs afterwards, tossing her phone aside after glancing through the snippy group-email from Gold about non-fraternization policies. He complains and badgers them for the sake of holding up appearances, but as long as he continues to pine over Belle, the rest of them are in the clear.

"Never is," Ivy laughs, who has her own hands full with the fans now tentatively shipping her with Graham's character after Queen Drizella managed to put a spell on Troy and turn him to her side. There's also a small fanbase that seems to think shipping the venomous Drizella with the angry and spiteful Reina is a good idea, so Ivy and Regina have been dancing around the Reizella hashtags with amusement and a ten-foot pole.

"After this show ends, I'll be glad to be rid of all this shipping nonsense," Emma decides, picking up her phone when her email alert goes off. "The acting life was fun, but I'm happily retiring after Kingdom Come."

"Fair enough. It's not for everyone. The film life is pretty soul-consuming, you have to really love it to survive it." Ivy's phone buzzes with an email alert too and she skims through it. "Ooh, a cold-reading party at Belle's loft for the finale. Have you heard anything about it yet?"

"Nope." Emma emails back her RSVP. "Belle's been super tight-lipped about the finale. Wonder what she's plotting now?"

"She and Ruby keep going around grinning like Cheshire cats," Ivy notes. "It's kinda creepy."

"Glad I'm not the only one who's noticed. I'm learning to fear Belle when she smiles like that."

 

For once, she's not entirely sure if she's terrified or...

"Are you... are you serious?" Regina asks, and it's hard to read her expression when she's just staring across the table at Belle, eyes wide and dark, the finale script clutched in her hands. Emma isn't looking at either of them; she's too busy gawking down at the script in her own hands, eyes hungrily skimming over the words in disbelief.

"I'm entirely serious," Belle says, smug. "Go on, read it out."

Regina hesitates, eyes flickering between the script and Belle and Emma, before finally she settles her gaze on the blonde sitting next to her with a shaky exhale. Her heart is thudding loudly in betrayal and she hopes no one can hear it. Green eyes flicker up to meet hers, just as wide and surprised, but it's all Regina needs to take a breath and begin.

"You remember?" Regina whispers, eyes glittering. "After all this time—"

"I can't believe I ever forgot," Emma breathes out, too shaken by the genuine wetness in Regina's eyes to continue staring at her. Nervously, she stares back down at her script, tongue darting out to lick dry lips. "Your Majesty..."

"My name, Kavalan," Regina demands hoarsely. "We've been through too much for that."

"Reina." Emma blinks at the page. Kavalan sinks to her knees before Reina, clutching the Queen's hands and pressing her forehead to the woman's thighs reverently. Slowly, Reina sinks to her knees as well, their foreheads slowly pressing together. "My Queen. My... my love."

Regina swallows down the lump in her throat, fingers tightening against the pages of her script. Reina and Kavalan are both crying silently when they finally kiss, hands in each other's hair, clinging to one another like it's the first time they've been able to truly breathe. The music crescendos and then the screen cuts to black, a long awaited romance left on a cliffhanger, promising a game changer in the next season.

Slowly, brown and green eyes both lift to stare at each other, not quite able to believe that it's happened. Five seasons of their sizzling chemistry forcibly kept apart, all to culminate into this desperate, passionate, long-awaited reunion in which they'll be closer than they've ever been before.

"KAVAREINA!" Mary Margaret suddenly screams, throwing her arms up into the air with a shriek of excitement, and Regina visibly jolts back while Emma falls right out of her chair with a plethora of curses, and absolutely no one notices Ruby and Ivy sneakily recording the entire thing on their phones with the biggest grins on their faces.

 

As excited as most of them are about KavaReina finally being canon, things get a little weird on set, too. Snow and Ruby are the biggest supporters, of course, and David thinks it's a brave but wonderful move, but Graham is quieter than usual—which is saying something because the man has never been very talkative in the first place—and Regina constantly catches him giving her odd looks when he thinks he's being subtle. Gold's reaction to this entire thing is to brood and tolerate it, and when the girls press Belle for information, she shrugs and admits she'd invited the man out for drinks and plied him with so much alcohol that he'd drunkenly agreed to her ideas for the KavaReina romance. By the time he'd been sent home in a cab and woken the next morning to a raging hangover, she'd already had his signature of approval on a rough draft and had her writing team brainstorming and working on the script.

(Ruby is proud. Terrified of her girlfriend's manipulative prowess, but proud nonetheless.)

Of course, actually filming the long awaited scene is a whole other matter, especially when it comes to one of the actresses expected to participate in the lip lock.

"I don't know if I can do this," Emma whispers harshly, green eyes large and wide with panic, and Ruby and Ivy are all that stands between her and the emergency exit door at the back of the studio.

"Relax," Ruby says, hands held out as if trying to calm a wild animal. "It's just acting, Emma. You can get through it."

"I have to make out with Regina!" Emma hisses. It's the final day of filming and the last scene they need to film is also the last scene of the finale, which means she and Regina have to lock lips in front of the cameras, not to mention the entire crew.

"We made out in front of the cameras plenty," Ruby points out, because the show has gotten pretty ballsy and Belle can't exactly say she doesn't indulge in some gratuitous sex scenes once in a while. (And that terrifying grin did make an appearance the one time Emma and Ruby had to get near-naked for a Freyalan sex scene. No one talks about that, ever.)

"That's not the same!"

"Well why not?" Ruby asks, quirking a brow, and she knows exactly why not but she's going to be a dick and force Emma to admit it. Emma groans, flipping her the bird, and Ivy chuckles and slings an arm around Emma's hips to give her a side hug.

"It'll be fine, Ems. Don't think so hard about it."

"Easy for you two to say," Emma grumbles. "You don't need to film a makeout scene with someone you have feelings for."

"Ah, she finally says it." Ruby chuckles, taking up her place on Emma's other side and leaving the blonde sandwiched between her two brunette friends. "Pretty sure she's got the hots for you too, Em. I mean, it's kinda hard to fake that kind of natural eye-sex."

"God, yeah, you two set things on fire," Ivy hums in agreement.

"That's... It's not..." Emma flounders, looking for excuses, and Ruby and Ivy exchange amused glances. "She just teases me to entertain the fans! You know how they are..."

"That's a weak ass excuse and you know it, Swan. Now get out there and kiss your woman so hard she realizes she wants you in real life."

Ruby and Ivy each grab Emma under the arm, hauling her further into the studio towards the stage they're filming on, ignoring each and every one of Emma's frantic protests.

 

Regina, likewise, is panicking just a little bit on the opposite side of the studio, but instead of some pestering friends, she has an annoying gnat latching onto her arm.

"Don't be nervous, Regina! Emma adores you."

"I'm not nervous," Regina hisses, shaking Mary Margaret off only for the woman to scamper to her other side instead.

"I know it can be scary to do an on-screen kiss with someone you're attracted to, but look how well that turned out for David and I!"

"I'm not—" Regina sputters, angry and embarrassed, only for Mary Margaret to give her a knowing look.

"I know you, Regina, even if you don't like that fact."

"Stop acting as if we were ever friends," Regina scowls, arms crossed tightly, but her fire is quickly dwindling, and as much as she hates Mary Margaret for being a naive, annoying, idiotic brat who gets things handed to her on a silver platter, it's been a while since she's been around someone who's known her since childhood.

"I wish you would let go of the past," Mary Margaret sighs. "I'm not responsible for my father's actions—"

"But you certainly didn't complain when he used his contacts to get you a role that had been mine."

"Would you have done the same for me?" Mary Margaret counters. "If Cora had been influential enough back then to knock me out of the running and get you a starring role that had been mine, would you have told anyone what happened? Would you have given me back the role?"

"Please, you were everyone's favourite Disney kid with the rich white daddy," Regina snaps, bitter. "I was an unknown Latina girl from downtown Brooklyn. I never stood a chance."

Mary Margaret stares, stung. She's never been particularly aware of her privilege, nor had it thrown at her face. But she's always admired the way Regina fought tooth and nail in the industry and never let anyone trample her down, and some part of her is finally old enough and mature enough to understand why Regina had to try twice as hard as anyone else.

"I'm sorry," she says softly. "I never thought of that. I should have."

"I don't care about your apologies," Regina mutters, turning away.

"That's fine. I'm years late. I understand." Mary Margaret steps around her to face her again. "But right now, you're nervous, and I just want to tell you that it's all gonna be okay. Emma's crazy about you, has been since the very first day you brought her on set. We all see it, we've all watched you two for the past five years. Your scene together is going to be amazing, I just know it. So don't be scared."

She gives Regina's arm a quick squeeze, smiling wryly before walking away and leaving the older brunette staring after her in deep contemplation.

Chapter Text

"You remember?" Reina stares at Kavalan in disbelief, her dark eyes wet like glittering charcoal. The throne room is empty, void of people. The castle itself is eerily quiet, most of the staff long gone. Reina's kingdom had crumbled around her, and she'd been too angry and heartbroken to care. "After all this time—"

"I can't believe I ever forgot," Kavalan breathes out, regret and remorse in her face as she moves ever closer, yearning eyes drinking in the sight of a Queen she'd once pledged her life to. "Your Majesty..."

"My name, Kavalan," Reina demands hoarsely of her Guardian, even as her eyes blur with tears. "We've been through too much for that."

"Reina." Kavalan sinks to her knees before Reina, clutching the Queen's hands and pressing her forehead to the woman's thighs reverently, breathing in deeply of a perfume she'd never truly forgotten, one whose scent she'd craved even when amnesia had clouded her mind. Slowly, Reina sinks to her knees as well, their foreheads slowly pressing together. "My Queen. My love."

"Oh, Kavalan," Reina cries out, cupping her Guardian's cheeks and drawing their faces together, lips melding in a desperate kiss. It's eager and messy and wet with their tears, both women gasping and crying between each kiss, bodies pressing together as they cling ever tighter. Kavalan cradles the Queen's face, kissing her like she's the most precious thing in the world, and Reina buries her fingers into Kavalan's golden tresses and pulls the braid loose in her attempts to keep Kavalan close, never again wishing to be apart from her Guardian.

"Cut!" a voice calls out, echoing across the throne room, and they come apart slowly, noses nestled together, lips grazing as they breathe hard, eyes still shut in the moment. The excited thud of Belle's footsteps has them slowly parting like molasses, Regina untangling her fingers from blonde hair as Emma gently releases her face. Their eyes are dark, pupils blown wide, and Emma is still reeling while Regina recovers faster, smiling a dreamy smile as she laughs softly and reaches over to smooth down Emma's ruined braid.

"Thanks," Emma says, sheepish, even as Regina grins at her and backs off to let the swarming hair and makeup people get at them. They're both a mess, really; hair mused, lips swollen, makeup starting to run from their tears.

"That was perfection," Belle gushes, fanning herself with her hands. "Exactly what I envisioned. I don't even have any notes for you. That was just... god. The KavaReina fans are going to die."

Emma thinks she's going to die, honestly, with the way Regina smiles at her, eyes warm and crinkled at the corners and oh so beautiful. Their hair and makeup is fixed and the cameras adjusted for another shot, and they end up filming the scene so many times from multiple angles that Emma and Regina are intimately familiar with each other's mouths by the end of it, knowing exactly how to kiss and nip and to sweep their tongues into the other's mouth to get the perfect moan out of them.

"That's a cut on our window shot," Neal finally announces, and Emma and Regina just kind of stay attached at the hip, leaning heavily against each other as they blink across the set to where Neal stands with the walkie held up. "And a show wrap on Emma and Regina!"

The entire cast and crew burst out in applause, swarming out onto the set to hug and congratulate each other on a season well done. Swept up into the celebration, Emma and Regina just share a shy smile before they're pulled in opposite directions.

"You were amazing, Regina," Henry says, slinging an arm around her shoulder as she falls willingly into his hug. "Congrats."

"Thank you, Henry." Her eyes are warm and she pulls him down by his collar to plant a solid kiss to his cheek, and he blushes and tries to look nonchalant as he presses a kiss into her hair, the way he's imagined doing so for years ever since wondering what it might be like to have her for a second mother.

Across the stage, Emma watches them longingly even as the weight of Ivy and Ruby descend on her, the brunettes hugging and kissing her cheerfully with cooes of congratulations.

"You two were amazing!" Ivy gushes, as Ruby thrusts her phone out in front of them all.

"Hey guys, that's a wrap on our favourite Emma Swan!" she cheers, Ivy immediately flashing her flirty smile towards the camera while Emma just kind of gawks, her hair mused and her lipbalm smeared. She looks like she's just had an intense makeout session (which she did) and Ruby must be doing it on purpose to give the fans something to squeal and titter about, the asshole.

"Can't wait for you guys to see season five!" Ivy says, waving before blowing the camera a kiss. "Mwuah!"

Ruby ends the recording and immediately tweets it, and Emma self consciously wipes at her mouth and tries to smooth down her hair.

"Alright, I love you assholes, but I need to get out of costume and makeup stat. I'm itchy."

"You two do that," Ruby says when Regina and Henry finally make it through the crowd to stand near them, "And then come back and meet us in the greenroom. No one gets to leave! We're going for drinks! Unofficial cast wrap party!"

"Got it," Emma laughs, receiving a hug and a kiss on the forehead from Henry before he scampers back to help Leroy and the camera team pack up. Regina takes a breath and loops her arm through Emma's, smiling at her as she leads the way, and the blonde just flushes and follows willingly.

"Good work," Regina says softly as they step out into the cool night air, heading through circus towards the costumes trailer.

"You too," Emma murmurs, eyes soft, gently grasping Regina's hand to help her up as the brunette steps up the metal walkway and into the truck. The wardrobe people help them out of their elaborate costumes and soon they're taking their seats in the makeup trailer next door, relaxing into the comfy padded chairs and wiping the makeup from their faces while the stylist gently releases their hair from their intricate braids.

"Where do you think the girls are gonna want to go tonight?" Emma asks, scrolling through her emails on her phone while the hair people work on her. Somehow her hair has always been more complicated than Regina's, blonde tendrils carefully woven into a ton of different braids making up one large braid, each one tied off with a strip of leather and adorned with glass beads or feathers. Taking it apart at the end of each night is much easier, but just as time consuming.

"If it's up to Ruby, probably somewhere loud and obnoxious," Regina says, not unkindly. Running a hand through her hair now that it's finally down from its heavy updo, she stands and motions to the door. "I'm going to pack up my trailer. See you in five?"

"Yup." Emma grins up at her, green eyes bright and vibrant like dewy moss, one cheek dimpled with her lopsided smile. Regina can't help but reach out for even a little bit of physical contact, squeezing her shoulder briefly with affection before she leaves.

The light is on in her trailer, which is unusual because she'd turned it off before leaving it after lunch and had stayed in the greenroom for the rest of the day. Frowning, Regina pops open the door and steps up, eyes immediately falling upon the figure sitting stiffly on her leather sofa.

"Shut the door behind you, dear," Cora says, her eyes dark and piercing. "We need to talk."

Regina doesn't so much as shut the door as it falls shut behind her while she stands there, frozen in indecision. She's only ever seen Cora briefly during her trips back to LA and on holidays - and even then, those don't happen often, not since her father passed away and Cora buried herself in work. The woman manages not only her, but many popular actors and actresses that keep her busy and away on business, and Regina prefers it that way. She respects and fears her mother in equal measures.

"Mother," she says hoarsely, swallowing down the lump in her throat. Kingdom Come is her show. This studio is her home. Vancouver is hers, and Cora's presence here for the very first time makes her feel both threatened and anxious in a way she can't yet comprehend. "What are you doing here?"

"Checking in on my client? Visiting my daughter?" Cora motions for her to sit and Regina promptly drops down on the leather sofa across from her. "I have half a mind to be offended. Why do you looked so shocked that I'm here?"

"It's just that you're a busy woman," Regina offers, finally forcing a smile as she gathers herself together. It's no time to show weakness. "I didn't expect you."

"Well, it is the finale of your show. How many seasons have you had now? Three? Four?"

"This is the end of the fifth season." Regina's voice is monotone. Her mother had wanted her to continue pursuing big movie roles; it comes as no surprise that Cora is still callous about her TV series. As if to prove her point, Cora gives a dismissive wave of her hand.

"Of course. Regardless, I'm actually here because Gold mentioned something of... concern to me. I didn't think he was serious; surely the network couldn't be foolish enough to allow this pandering in one of their top tier shows. And so I fly all the way here from LA to watch you film your final episode, and do you know what I saw?"

Regina goes pale, eyes wide as her mother gives her a look of utter disappointment. It's a rhetorical question, because Regina knows and Cora knows, and so she can only open and close her mouth a few times in stunned silence. Answering would be incorrect.

"You know, Regina, I might have congratulated you on your acting talents, pretending to be in love with that blonde," Cora spits, distaste coating her words like venom. "America adores you and I will admit you have your skills... but you're not that good, dear."

"Mother—"

"You cannot love a woman. You will not." Cora stands suddenly, towering over Regina in her unforgiving stilettos and dark power suit, and as if she were ten years old again, getting slapped on the hands and scolded about her weight and how she shouldn't have had a second helping of dinner, Regina curls back against the sofa with a tiny, almost soundless whimper.

"I did not train you for the past thirty eight years to destroy your career over some woman you work with on a silly TV show. Use your brain, Regina. Think. You think it was hard enough getting to this point in your life where I can book you auditions for Hollywood blockbusters? Imagine how much harder it will be when you're in the middle of a gay scandal. Hollywood is full of straight white men like Gold and Leopold who will easily use any excuse to pass you over for girls like Mary Margaret. Is that what you want? To give them more reasons to pass you over?"

Regina cringes, eyes fluttering beneath the spitting fury of her mother. "Mother, I—"

"No! You don't get to speak. I have done everything to get you here and you want to throw that all away? You want to tease another woman on stage and talk about lesbians with your fans? No more. I will not allow this stupidity to continue. Find yourself a man, get back with that Graham Humbert if you have to, but you make sure the fans know you're straight and that this ridiculous KavaReina bullshit is only a job to you. And enough of this bodyguard foolishness -  clearly you're fine and no longer need that woman following you around like a lovesick puppy making those disgusting rumors worse. You fix this, Regina Maria, or I will disown you faster than you can destroy your own career."

She doesn't register Cora's swift exit, barely winces at the slam of her trailer door. All she can hear is the painful thud of her own traitorous heart as it slams away inside her ribcage, the pulse of blood in her ears and in her head, and the broken sob that eventually escapes her lips moments later.

 

Family emergency, I had to leave for LA right away. I'm sorry, enjoy the afterparty.

Emma stares down at her phone, re-reading the text for the hundredth time as Ruby appears at her side with a fresh drink for them both. Their booth at the club is otherwise empty at the moment, since the others had decided to hit the dance floor for a while.

"Emma, let it go! She's got something to deal with, I'm sure she's fine." Ruby forces a drink into her hand, watching as Emma reluctantly puts her phone away.

"I don't know, Rubes. It was like we were getting to something good, and then she just suddenly disappears from the studio without even a goodbye. The cast driver took her to the townhouse and then straight to the airport, said she looked awful."

"Maybe her grandma died or something." Ruby shrugs, taking a drink, and then ducks her head to catch Emma's anxious gaze. "Hey, we were all watching that last scene. You two were sizzling. She almost kept kissing you even after Belle called cut. Whatever's bothering her right now, I doubt it has anything to do with that. Next time you two meet up, she'll probably pick right back up where you two left off."

"You think so?" Emma asks, half jokingly, but the fear of rejection is clear in her eyes. Ruby slings an arm around her shoulders and gives her a squeeze.

"I know so, babe. Now how about you finish your drink and join us out on the dance floor, huh? We could grind up on Ivy and make all the boys in the club jealous."

"You're so gross," Emma laughs, but Ruby's comforting affection loosens her up and she downs her drink, letting her friend drag her out into the thrumming crowd and pulsing music.

Chapter Text

Their first big booked convention after wrapping on the show is located in Orlando, Florida, and Henry is the only thing keeping Emma relatively calm as they're picked up from the airport and taken to the hotel. Regina's replies to any text messages have been vague, and any attempts to call have more often than not been left ringing straight to voicemail. Henry's managed to talk to her a few times, but every time he mentioned Emma wanting to say hi, she'd bid a quick goodbye, always with an excuse for needing to get off the phone.

"She's probably just nervous," Henry offers, watching the way his mother's knee bounces impatiently from where she sits at the edge of the bed. Since Henry's not cast, the show didn't put him up in a room for a convention he's not a guest at, so Emma had grudgingly shelled out some extra money to get herself a room with two beds instead. Henry loves coming to every convention with her but he's a full grown young man now—one who kicks in his sleep, no less—and she refuses to share her bed.

"Maybe making KavaReina canon was a bad idea," Emma laments, collapsing back onto her bed with a groaned exhale. "Regina's clearly uncomfortable now. And— oh god, what happens if we're renewed? We'll have to film more kissing. We'd have to film—"

Emma goes white, eyes wide with terror, because Belle is kind of a perv and if KavaReina is canon then she and Regina will eventually have to film a sex scene and oh god—

"Ma," Henry says, and she jerks her head up to look at him. "Get your head out of the gutter, they want us down in the greenroom in five."

He drags her down there, cheerfully bidding his hellos to the other cast members already present in the greenroom and preparing for a big group panel. Ruby and Ivy drag Emma down onto a couch with them and chatter away about what they've been up to since they'd wrapped on filming (Ruby had gone back to Tennessee and Ivy had been in Australia.) Regina isn't there yet, but Graham's offering awkward, uncomfortable smiles to Emma, and Mary Margaret and David are too busy gushing about their upcoming wedding. There hadn't even been an epic proposal— they'd just started talking about wanting to get married and start a family together, and the next thing anyone knew, tabloids had photos of the two at Disneyworld together, shiny rings on their fingers and big, happy grins on their faces.

"Sorry I'm late, everyone," is the first thing from Regina's mouth as she enters the greenroom in a timid, decidedly out-of-character way that has Emma stiffening and Mary Margaret looking concerned. Still, Henry jumps up and embraces her happily, receiving a kiss on the forehead from the woman who's loved him like her own for the past few years, and she looks immeasurably calmer with his lanky arm around her shoulders.

"Glad you could make it," Ruby teases, receiving a curt nod from Regina. The convention employee appears then, letting them know they're up, and Regina slips from Henry's side to follow the man down the short hall and to the stage, the others hurrying after them. Emma hasn't received so much as a glance, and as much as her chest aches and her eyes sting with tears, she refuses to let herself feel anything at the moment. There has to be an explanation. She can't think the worst and get upset, not now when they're stepping out onto the stage to the thunderous applause from their fans.

Regina is already seated near the middle of the long table, fidgeting with the nameplate and microphone in front of her. Emma almost automatically sits to Regina's left, until her eyes fall on the nameplate and realizes that it says "Ivy Belfrey." Glancing to Regina's other side she sees Mary Margaret's nameplate, and with a sinking feeling in her chest, she momentarily fumbles and locates her seat on Ivy's other side.

Ivy sits and immediately shares a confused glance with Emma, and Ruby hesitantly takes her seat on Emma's other side, both reaching over to give her arms a squeeze of comfort below the table. The front of their panel table is covered by a cloth so that the fans seated nearest to the stage aren't staring at their crotches, but everyone can see both women reaching for Emma and are already whispering about why Emma isn't seated next to Regina and Mary Margaret like usual. Cast numbers 1, 2, and 3 have always been seated together, and today's arrangement (and Ivy's unwitting participation) has signalled a clear shift in power.

Initial bafflement aside, the fans erupt in applause as the MC announces each cast member, giving a brief introduction before getting into the nitty gritty. Questions are asked, sometimes of the entire table and sometimes directed to certain cast, and their interactions settle into their usual rhythm as if they hadn't all been spread across the globe for the past month after wrapping season five. Regina is vibrant and sassy and coy with her words again, switching easily into her "convention personality," but it's quickly—and painfully—obvious that she's no longer flirting with or even talking to Emma, and as the fans start to whisper amongst themselves and look concerned, she panics internally.

It hurts. It hurts to avoid Emma like the plague and it hurts to know that Emma continues to glance at her, clearly wounded and confused and most likely blaming herself. But she doesn't know what to do, doesn't know how to make a clean break without making everything crash down around herself, and Cora's words continue to linger ominously in the back of her mind like an ugly tattoo forcibly etched into her skull.

"—think Kavalan will react once she gets her memories back?"

Regina snaps back to attention to realize the next question has been asked of Emma, and as she finally dares to turn her head and glance at her co-star, she finds Emma staring back at her, eyes wide and face pale. After a stunned moment, Emma looks back to the audience and smiles, laughing almost nervously, her hands trembling in her lap where no one but her coworkers can see them.

"I think she'll be devastated that she tried to attack someone she'd once sworn fealty to," she answers, and despite her excellent performance as Kavalan for the past five years, Emma isn't exactly a seasoned actress, and her forced smile is painfully obvious to the audience members watching them carefully. "And she'll probably beg Reina for forgiveness for... for what she's done. I mean, despite their dynamic of Queen and Guardian, Kavalan definitely cares about her as her closest friend and confidante, you know?"

Ruby and Ivy cheerfully give their input on their own characters' involvement, their smiles blinding, but the fans snap photos of Emma's pale face and the stunned look of guilt on Regina's, and social media is relentless when they study posted con photos that very evening.

 

"Shit has to have gone down during the filming of s5. There's no other possible reason they stuck Ivy between Emma and Regina at the panel."

"So... is @EmmaSwan76 and @ReginaMills still friends or did @RealRubyLucas get sick of their weird gal pal friendship and put an end to it?"

"Emma and Regina barely looked at each other and no one dared mention #KavaReina this time around. #awkward"

 

The con employee Emma manages to get a hold of stutters some sort of half-assed excuse about the producers wanting to promote the two queens front and center, hence why Regina and Ivy were at the center of the table. It's a sad excuse, but she takes it with a halfhearted shrug and tries not to be too hurt when Regina flees as soon as their panel is over, gone before any of the cast can try to catch up with her. Her avoidance tactics fail once they're all brought down for an autograph session, however, because there is no seat plan and Ruby, Ivy, and Mary Margaret all hang back, refusing to sit down until Emma has claimed a chair next to Regina.

"Hey," Emma says, hesitant as she tries to busy her hands lining up the handful of sharpies she's been given, and Regina looks skittish despite trying to play it cool, even as her heart jumps up into her throat.

"Hey," she says back, clearing her throat and smiling and waving towards the excited fans standing in line. She hasn't made eye contact yet, doesn't want to make eye contact, knowing those mossy green eyes could pull any number of truths from her if she stared too long.

"Are you okay? I haven't really heard from you since we wrapped."

"I'm fine, Emma. I've just been busy."

From Regina's other side, Mary Margaret shoots Emma a confused, sympathetic look, and Regina bristles and tries not to pay them any attention at all.

"Regina—"

"Not now, okay?" Regina finally turns to glance at her, brown eyes meeting green for half a second, warning, before quickly turning away again. "The fans are coming up. Let's not discuss personal matters in front of them."

Snapping her mouth shut, Emma turns away, stung. Ruby is on her other side and pulls her into a quick hug, whispering words of comfort into her ear that fans assume to be more than it is, their phones already up and snapping photos of the supposed couple. They smile and play it up for the fans, cheering up quickly as people are herded through the line and along the table, getting various items and posters signed from their favourites. Emma and Ruby both scrawl "#Freyalan" beneath their autographs, pleasing their most dedicated fans with the ship support, and Regina refuses to sign "#KavaReina" on anything anymore, pretending she doesn't hear the requests when some fans ask for it, and changing the subject with others who ask her why not.

Emma pretends she doesn't notice what Regina's doing, and when the denied fans move from Regina to her with dismay in their eyes, she makes sure to write a big "#KavaReina" along with her autograph, heart aching but refusing to let down their LGBTQ fans.

 

Regina is always gone before anyone can grab her for a proper conversation that weekend, and Emma and Henry return home to Boston to find Jecob waiting for them in the lobby of their apartment building, his physical presence a rare and usually foreboding sight.

"Go on up first, alright?" Emma says, handing her suitcase to her son, and he sighs and gives Jecob a wry grin and nod before ambling into the elevator with their luggage. Once he's gone, Emma jerks her head and Jecob follows her to the little sitting area of the lobby, both dropping down into an armchair each. He looks older, somehow, with his salt-and-pepper hair and thickening beard, his beer belly a little more pronounced now that he no longer actively works as personal security, mainly managing the company from behind a desk at his wife's rather demanding behest.

"You're looking a little soft there, Jecob," Emma teases, trying not to show her lingering unhappiness from their most recent shit-show of a convention. "Losing your touch?"

"The wife feeds me well and is happy I don't jump in front of bullets anymore, laugh all you like," he scoffs, waving her off. He doesn't talk about his past jobs very often, but Emma knows that he used to bodyguard high-profile government officials in his prime, and after three bullet scars and multiple jagged scars from knife lacerations, she'd say he deserves his cushy desk job more than anyone. Doesn't mean she won't tease him every so often, though.

"So, give it to me. Quick and painless like a band-aid." He doesn't usually make house calls, so she's anticipating bad news. The frown on his face confirms it.

"Ms. Mills has ended your contract."

It's a little like a punch to the gut. She sucks in a breath when she realizes she'd forgotten to keep breathing.

"Cora did?"

"No," Jecob says, sympathy in his eyes. She hasn't received any sympathy from Jecob in more than a decade, not since the very first time he saw her at a grocery store, struggling with a toddler Henry and stuttering to the clerk about removing some items because she couldn't afford the total, and he'd stepped in and paid for her and told her he had a respectable job for her if she was willing to learn and work hard. "It was Regina."

He sits in silence, watching as she absorbs the blow and struggles to rein in her reaction. Her expression is mostly stunned, but there's a kind of devastation shining in her eyes that he respectfully says nothing about. After nearly five full minutes of silence, he clears his throat, watching the way she shakes herself out of her daze and straightens up in her seat.

"I wanted to know what you want to do now. Are you continuing with the show? Or do you want me to find a new client for you?"

Swallowing, Emma blinks away the wetness from her eyes and manages to force a small smile. "No, that's okay. I mean, I've got a lot put away for a rainy day. Maybe some time off will be good. I'll see if we're renewed for another season. If not, I might give you a call afterwards."

He nods. "Okay. You let me know."

Never one for lingering words, Jecob stands, noting the way Emma sinks back into the armchair with defeat.

"Thanks, Jecob," she says quietly, forever grateful that he's always ready and willing to provide paid work for her in her times of need. Instead of replying, he just reaches down, a heavy hand landing on her shoulder and giving her a brief squeeze before he lumbers away, leaving her alone in the lobby to process.

Chapter Text

Season five premieres on television to raving reviews. Reina and Kavalan finally share the screen again, their chemistry as hot and sizzling as season one, and even though they're currently enemies, the fans are screaming over their every interaction.

"I want someone to look at me the way Kavalan and Reina glower at each other #yesplease"

"I sense an incoming enemies-to-lovers trope. #KavaReina"

"Freyalan is cute, but this season has just reminded me how hot KavaReina is #dead"

"Well, the fans are happy at least," Henry says, scrolling lazily through twitter on his phone as his mother paces the living room. They'd been notified of their next convention date and she hasn't been able to stop freaking out about it since. Henry's sympathetic, he really is, but he's also starting to get sick of the way she winds herself up and ends up giving herself minor panic attacks. He also misses Regina, and this whole drama thing between them is getting in the way of his fantasies of having two parents instead of just one.

"Has Regina tweeted anything?" Emma asks, because she and Regina don't text anymore, not since Regina gave her the cold shoulder at the Orlando con and pulled a disappearing act on the entire cast.

"For the hundredth time, Ma, she hasn't—" Except this time he stops, eyes wide when he finds Regina's twitter page and realizes she has retweeted something for the first time in a week. It's a photo of her and Graham having tea together at a little cafe in... Henry's eyes bulge. The location stamp says Ireland. Regina went to Ireland to have tea with Graham. The caption below the photo is equally as concerning.

"Is #Treina making a comeback in real life? Regina and Graham are looking cute together during an impromptu vacation in Graham's hometown in Ireland!"

"What?" Emma barks when Henry goes silent, staring wide-eyed at the way he quickly turns off his screen and hides it against his chest. "Henry, what?"

"Um, Ma—"

But she's already scrambling for her phone off the coffee table, navigating to Regina's twitter page even as Henry leaps to his feet and tries to grab it from her.

"Ma, wait!"

"Oh." She stares at the photo, shoulders slumping, and Henry grimaces and gently pries the phone from her hand so that she can't keep torturing herself. "Oh. She... and Graham..."

"Hey, we're all friends, aren't we?" Henry tries. "Maybe they just went to catch up over a drink. Ruby and Ivy fly here all the time to visit us."

"She went to Ireland, Henry. She won't even answer my text messages anymore. I think she's made herself pretty clear."

"Ma..." Henry clutches both their cellphones, watching as his mother shuffles down the short hall and disappears into her bedroom, the door clicking shut quietly behind her. He can't remember ever seeing his mother so heartbroken before; in fact, he's never seen his mother heartbroken at all before this. He's always been her main focus. She's had a few brief relationships with men and women alike, but none ever lasted for more than a few weeks at a time, and she'd always been the one to end them, her heart never really in it.

Now her heart's been in it for five years, and Regina has finally broken it clear in half.

'Ma misses you. I miss you too.' He sends the text from his own phone, dropping down onto the couch and awaiting an answer. Regina always replies to him, even if she's elusive when it comes to Emma. Still, it takes a long few minutes for a reply to come in, and when it does, he has to resist the urge to cry at the short, impersonal text from someone he'd really started to see as a second parent.

'I'm sorry, Henry.'

 

"Can I be blunt?"

The park is quiet after the initial few paparazzi got the shots they wanted and scurried away. Walking arm-in-arm, Regina can feel the stiffness in Graham's body and cranes her head to look at him, watching the harsh shadows play across his face from each street lamp they pass. It's a cool night and his hair is tousled from the occasional breeze. Once, when they'd first started dating for PR purposes and later fell into something of a real relationship, she'd thought him handsome. Now, all she can think is that the nine o'clock shadow on his jaw looks scratchy and uncomfortable, nothing like the soft smoothness of a woman.

She shouldn't think that of a woman, though. She can't. So she leans up and presses a kiss to his stubbled cheek and tries not to wince at the roughness against her lips.

"Of course, Graham. What is it?"

He pulls them to a stop quite suddenly, the two of them standing in the comforting darkness between two street lamps, his face even more shadowed and hard to read as he disentangles their arms and moves to face her directly.

"Why are you here?" His voice is firm and guarded, his arms crossed as if to provide an extra barrier between them, and Regina feels her heart drop into her stomach out of panic, because this was supposed to work. He was supposed to fall for her all over again after a bit of groveling and a lot of flirting, and they were supposed to get back together and look cute for social media. This was supposed to appease Cora.

"What do you mean? You know why I'm here, dear."

Disappointment flickers across his face. She can't even answer the question.

"Let's not lie to ourselves, Regina. You don't want me, and I don't want someone who's in love with someone else."

Regina pales, her breath coming short. "But I do want you, Graham. I miss us."

"You can lie to yourself, but I won't have any part of it." He shakes his head, and there's some resentment in his eyes even if he tries to hide it behind a sad smile. They were never spectacular together by any means, but he'd liked her quite a lot and it still stings, regardless. "I don't know what you were thinking in Orlando, but it's clear you have feelings for Emma. Try not to mess it up, yeah?"

He looks at her with pity and her panic and guilt quickly turns to bitter anger within her belly, stirring uncomfortably in a way that makes her uncertain if she wants to throw up or not. Instead she puffs up, indignant, and curls her lip in a sneer.

"I do not have feelings for Emma!"

"Go home, Regina," he sighs, shaking his head again as he backs away from her, continuing slowly down the path. "Better yet, go to Boston. She won't wait around for you forever."

He disappears into the night, leaving her standing alone in a park in Ireland, more lost and lonely than she's ever felt before.

 

"Is it just me or do these Kingdom Come panels keep getting more and more uncomfortable?"

"Soooo... What's the deal with Regina and Emma ignoring each other at cons now? #awkward"

"Hey @DarkPrinceHenry what's up with ur moms?"

DarkPrinceHenry: Everyone's been super busy. My mom is still great friends with Regina and Ruby. Hope you guys are enjoying season 5!

Henry finally confirms which actress is his mother to all of Twitter, though they still happily refer to him as the Dark Prince of Kingdom Come. Regina used to 'like' every single one of his tweets ever since he got a Twitter account four years ago, but this time she is silent, his subtle rejection of her too much to bear.

 

The season five finale airs on television, and the fans go absolutely crazy. Social media is on fire, the LGBTQ fandom is pasting rainbow flags and KavaReina gifs all over the internet, and #KavaReina reaches number one on Twitter's top trending hashtags list in a single day. It's impossible to go on the internet and not find pictures, gifs, or video clips of Reina and Kavalan's passionate lip lock.

Everyone is celebrating the long awaited queer romance. Everyone but the actual actresses themselves.

Emma and Regina are all but invisible to each other now, barely interacting except for when they have to talk at panels. And even then, Regina is painfully distant and Emma looks like a kicked puppy, and it's clear to literally everyone that something's gone down between the two lead actresses. Social media is relentless in its theories and rumors, but the LGBTQ fans are pretty sure they know the truth. The gay panic that had ensued after filming the KavaReina kissing scene is too painfully obvious, and since Emma is already out and in a "relationship" with Ruby, Regina is the easy target. A lot of tweets aimed her way are mean now, people calling her out for her sudden chilly attitude towards the KavaReina ship and labeling her a coward, supporting the ship for PR purposes and then dropping it once it's canon. Emma, on the other hand, is being treated like the victim, drowning in her fans' sympathy and supportive tweets when all she wants is for everyone to just shut up and stop talking about it.

"At least you're getting a bunch of cool free loot," Henry offers, trying to look on the bright side. Emma had gotten a fair amount of fanmail and gifts since her first appearance in season one, but it's overflowing now that KavaReina is finally canon. The letters, especially the ones from her young LGBTQ fans, are absolutely heartwarming, and the gifts are all manner of creative and entertaining. She gets mugs and t-shirts and keychains of Kavalan fanart, as well as all sorts of artwork of her character and her ships. There's plenty of Freyalan stuff, of course, but the KavaReina stuff comes in droves. The poor lobby receptionist is starting to look overwhelmed every time Emma goes down to pick up her mail and finds him drowning beneath boxes and boxes of gifts that the production had forwarded to her apartment.

"Yeah, loot that I can't use," Emma grumbles, wrinkling her nose at the rather explicit KavaReina manip on a T-shirt before balling it up and tossing it at his head. "I wish I could speak up on Twitter about all the drama that's been going on with the fans, but Gold was the first one to text me to shut up."

"Really?" Henry can't help but laugh. "He really doesn't like you, huh?"

"Nope. Pretty sure he keeps me around to appease the gays." Emma smiles, but it's half-hearted and bogged down with guilt as she tries not to pay too much attention to the condescending tweets aimed at her co-star. She shouldn't feel guilty though, should she? Regina's the one giving her the cold shoulder without explanation. It's not her fault the fans can see right through them.

"Maybe this next con will be better," Henry says softly, not quite looking up as he sifts through his mother's overflowing pile of fanmail. He doesn't sound convinced, though, even if he tries to be the optimist.

"Yeah, maybe," Emma sighs, saying no more on the matter.

 

Their last con before they start filming again is in Burbank. As always, fan attendance is at an all time high, their LGBTQ fanbase chomping at the bit for good representation. They're eager to ask questions and rave about the KavaReina reveal and what it means for season six, and Regina and Emma are their big headliners for the weekend, which... makes everything extremely uncomfortable. Not least because Regina is incapable of looking directly at Emma and Emma always looks like she'd rather be anywhere else but there.

"Does this mean KavaReina is endgame?" one young fangirl asks, her question followed by a chorus of cheering and applause. Emma and Regina both plaster on smiles, and though they've been seated side by side again after Gold nearly had a conniption at the drama from the last convention, Regina has been perpetually leaning away from Emma the entire panel.

"We don't know where the story will go because we're not really a part of that process, but I know our writers will do their storyline justice," Regina says, flashing a diplomatic smile. Emma bobs her head.

"Yeah, our showrunner Belle French and her writing team are amazing and we know they'll do an amazing job no matter what happens. I'm excited to see how the Kavalan and Reina dynamic changes."

"What was it like filming that last scene in the finale? Is it weird for you two to kiss when Emma's with Ruby and you're straight?" another fan asks Regina bluntly, with zero regard for either of their personal comfort levels. Regina straightens in her seat, her shoulders tense even as she acts casual, and Emma doesn't really know where to look, eyes nervously flickering back and forth before she finally settles for staring down at the mic in front of her.

"Emma and I are both very professional on set," Regina says, her face carefully blank. "It wasn't weird for any of us. At the end of the day, we're actors doing our jobs."

She doesn't joke or play off of Emma at all— doesn't even look at her, which makes Emma's flustered agreement even more awkward for everyone watching them.

"Yeah, I mean we're all friends off set, so it was really just a usual work day for us!"

Her chuckle sounds forced and Emma quickly retreats into herself, avoiding questions whenever possible in an effort to limit her embarrassment. By the time the panel is over and they're released into the greenroom, her shame has turned to anger. Regina is gone like the wind again, though, hurrying out the door, so she doesn't have a chance to ask her what the hell is going on, not until that night when they've all retreated to their hotel rooms.

"Open the door, I know you're in there," Emma demands, rapping loudly at Regina's door. It's ten o'clock at night after a very long autograph session that had gone two hours overtime, and she knows Regina will do anything to avoid a scene. She doesn't expect the door to rip open and for the brunette to greet her with an angry snarl, however.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Regina hisses, blocking the door with her body as if expecting an intrusion. Emma pales at the sheer fury radiating from someone she'd once thought of as her best friend, but she's already here and she's sick of the way social media gossips about them and all she wants to know is why.

"We need to talk," she says quietly, giving Regina the option of inviting her in for more privacy. The older woman looks suddenly terrified, though; gripping the door and the door frame with both white-knuckled hands as if they were the only thing anchoring her to the earth.

"I don't think that's a good idea," is her stiff reply, but Emma frowns and shifts closer, causing Regina to jerk back and retreat into her room, as if repelled by her very proximity. Emma takes advantage of the fact and quickly steps inside, shutting the door behind her and then holding her hands up in the air. She doesn't want to frighten or intimidate the other woman, but she needs answers.

"Please, Regina, just talk to me. What happened to us?" It's soft, a pleading request that has Regina reeling only momentarily before she finds a shred of anger and latches onto it.

"There is no us," she snaps, dark eyes burning in the dimness of her hotel room. The lights are off and her windows are open, the room illuminated only by the moonlight. She looks smaller, somehow, pale and fragile in the silvery blue hue. Emma sniffs, mouth dry, eyes suspiciously shiny.

"We were friends, Regina. You were... you were my best friend. I know you're not gay and I respect that, and I'm sorry if the scene we filmed made you uncomfortable. I just hoped you would have talked to me about it instead of... all this."

She gestures vaguely around at them, the tense weirdness about them, and then drops her arms to her sides in defeat.

"What did I do wrong?" she finally asks, voice small, because of course it has to be her fault. She must have done something to upset Regina. She has to be the reason Regina's trying to shake her off like an unwanted nuisance. That heartbreaking lack of self esteem in those mossy green eyes, usually so tough and callous, now hurt and insecure, is what wrenches a guilty cry from Regina's lips.

"Emma, no," she says, surging forward in a moment of despair, aching at the thought that she has caused this strong, defiant woman to wilt in defeat. That Emma could have fought tooth and nail to get to such a good place in her life, only for Regina to beat her down by rendering their five year friendship into nothing more than a job. "Emma, I'm sorry. I... It's not you. I couldn't... I had to. I'm so sorry."

"Had to what? What's wrong? Let me help you. Please."

Regina cups her face at the same time Emma's hands land on her waist, and up close the sheen of tears in both their eyes is painfully obvious, the twitch of lips and the tremble of their chins.

"You can't," Regina breathes out in despair, and she aches to tell Emma everything, to explain what's happened, but another part of her holds back out of fear, knowing she'll be judged, knowing that Emma would only jeopardize her own career in a misguided attempt to protect her. Emma will try to save her and Cora will destroy them both. "You can't, Emma. Please, you need to let me go. It's what's best for both of us."

"But why?" Emma's hands tighten on her waist, instinctively pulling her closer, and Regina melts into her embrace even as she screams at herself to pull away now before it's too late. "Regina, I... I love you."

The admission knocks the air from Regina's lungs, and she gapes and tries to come up with something to say, but Emma holds her ever closer and forges onwards. "I love you, and it's okay if you don't feel the same. But you're my best friend and I can't... I can't let you go if you won't give me a real reason why. Please, Regina, we can carry on as friends if you want, that's more than enough for me. I just want you to be happy—"

Later she'll say it was Emma who started it. She'll deny it with her last breath. But Regina is the one to lurch forward with a stifled sob, lips crashing against Emma's mid-sentence and pulling her in desperately. Shaking hands bury deep into blonde hair, fingernails scraping against scalp as strong, muscular arms fully encircle her body and steady her on her feet. The kiss is rough and messy and drowning them both with the intensity of their passion, not unlike the desperate kiss they'd shared on screen, and it isn't until a tongue sweeps at the roof of her mouth and coaxes a whimper from her that Regina is jarringly brought back to reality.

She turns her head away to break the kiss, stumbling backwards with the slightest of pushes, and Emma lets her go with a confused, hopeful expression brightening her face. It's cruel of her to have indulged before ending this, Regina knows that, but she supposes she has always been self destructive and manipulative, just the way Cora has raised her to be.

"We can't," she gasps, watching the understanding dawn in those green eyes, once bright and vibrant, now growing dim and dull in the darkness. "I'm sorry, Emma. We can't. We can't ever..."

"You do have feelings for me," Emma says quietly in realization, but it's tinged with despair, already anticipating what Regina's going to say. "Why are you pushing me away? Are you afraid of coming out to your fans?"

Regina's eyes flutter shut, sucking in a much needed breath to steady herself. "Please don't ask me."

"I won't give up on you until you tell me why."

Pushing. She should know better than to push. But this, them, means too much for her to give up on Regina without an honest answer as to why. It's the least she deserves, if this is how they're to end after all they've been through together.

Regina doesn't respond. Not for a long minute. Then she opens her eyes, once warm brown orbs now hard and resolute, and she even manages to speak in a firm, steady voice that has Emma's heart sinking and sinking until it settles at the bottom of her stomach like a cold, hard pit.

"I've worked too hard to have my career destroyed over a gay scandal," she says blankly, her mother's words playing through her mind, and the betrayal on Emma's pale face lasts but for a moment before she swipes at her damp eyes and twists her mouth into an angry line.

"You're a coward," Emma says, and then she turns and leaves and slams the door shut behind her, leaving Regina alone in her dark, empty hotel room. It's only until after she hears Emma's door slam shut halfway down the hall that she allows herself to sink to the floor and cry.

Chapter Text

Emma and Henry are gone the next morning. They'd bid quiet goodbyes and apologies to the rest of the cast—except for Regina, of course—and simply hopped a plane to Boston, refusing to finish the convention weekend. So when Regina enters the greenroom on Sunday morning to suffer one more group panel, she's stunned to find the entire cast frowning at her in various stages of anger or disappointment.

"What?" she snaps, irritated and exhausted after a long, sleepless night. But one quick glance around the room tells her all she needs to know; Emma and Henry are gone.

"I don't know what the hell you said, but you broke her heart," Ruby mutters, probably the angriest of the group. "Real shitty of you."

Ruby turns away and refuses to acknowledge her anymore, while Ivy just gives her a look of sympathy and disappointment—probably mostly disappointment—before shaking her head and returning her attention to her phone. Graham won't even meet her eyes, and Mary Margaret and David just kind of shrug and grimace before minding their own business.

No one sits with her or speaks to her, and Regina just sinks into a seat at the far corner of the room and waits for the MC to call for them, missing the way Emma would always perch at her side and Henry would always curl up under her arm, the both of them somehow loving her unconditionally until the day she ruined everything.

 

"Emma dropped out on Sunday and the con wouldn't refund my photo op ticket. Not cool."

"Shit went down this weekend. Entire cast of Kingdom Come looked miserable after Emma ditched on Sunday. wtf is going on?"

"Is Emma and Ruby still together? What is up with Regina stonewalling every KavaReina question? Like tf happened this weekend??"

 

They're renewed, of course. Gold has his fingers in everyone's pockets and so long as his son continues working on the show, it'll probably never end. It's like Grey's Anatomy 2.0.

Emma had naively signed a four year contract when she'd first been brought back in season three, so regardless of how much she doesn't want to return, she is legally obligated to finish filming season six. Henry doesn't mind so much since Leroy has offered him the job of camera trainee, and after a bit of outright begging, they managed to convince the production to give them their own townhouse in Vancouver this time around. No more sharing with Regina, no more shadowing Regina like an overpaid bodyguard, no more seeing Regina at all except on set when absolutely necessary.

It's all tense and uncomfortable and feels like unnecessary drama that could have been avoided if everyone had just been honest in the first place, but Regina is resigned and Emma is hurting inside, and neither care to make any efforts to fix it.

It's a bizarre thing working with someone who hurt you immensely, someone who you want to hate yet can't help but love. Emma hides in the safe company of her other castmates when they're in the greenroom, and Regina always returns directly to her trailer when she's not needed on set, preferring to keep her distance from her co-stars on a whole other level. It's easier to escape Emma's wounded avoidance and the others' judgmental glances that way. Henry is harder to ignore as the young man works with the camera department now, always scurrying around set with gear in his hands. He stares at her sometimes, hurt and upset and still yearning for her affection, and she tries to convey her regrets in silence, too much of a coward to say it to his face.

Belle had originally feared that Emma and Regina's fallout would ruin their performance together, but somehow it's gotten better. The fire in their eyes burns brighter, the anger in their fights is explosive, and the desperate longing in their touches and kisses are utterly mesmerizing to watch. The two of them are darkness and light in front of the cameras, yin and yang, and they unapologetically dominate every scene they're in.

As much as it hurts them both, they're also stubborn women, and they manage to keep up this charade for far too long. Days turn to weeks turn to months, and as the Christmas break draws near, they're reminded of a much more memorable Christmas from years past.

Regina doesn't wear her necklace anymore, the beloved pendant hidden away in her jewelry box at home, and Emma has since replaced her scarf, the red cashmere one hung up on a hook in their Boston apartment and never touched again. Both gifts a reminder of what had been.

"Hey Ems, can we talk?"

Ruby pokes her head into Emma's trailer, hair already wound and tucked beneath her red cap and her nose pink from the cold. She looks tentative for once, quieter than usual, and Emma motions for the brunette to join her while she tidies up for the holiday hiatus.

"What's up, Rubes?"

Dropping down onto the couch, Ruby momentarily fiddles with her fingers, the nervous tic garnering Emma's full and mildly concerned attention.

"What?"

"I want to break up," Ruby blurts out, grimacing in apology. Emma blinks, unsure if it would be appropriate to laugh or not.

"Um, okay? We were never a real couple, Rubes."

"I know, I know! I mean, Belle and I really appreciate you covering for us—"

"I was happy to help—"

"—and you know I love you, Ems, but I don't want to spend another holiday in Boston acting like a cute couple for the paparazzi. I want to meet Belle's family, go out shopping with them, spend Christmas with them."

"Are you asking for my permission?" Emma finally chuckles. "Go! Go be gay with your girlfriend. If that's what you guys want to do, I'm happy for you."

"You don't mind pretending to break it off with me?" Ruby asks, but she's already relaxing in her seat with a thankful smile, knowing she can always count on Emma.

"Of course not. Are you guys ready to deal with Gold, though? He might not react well to the news, and our show kinda relies on his funding."

"Belle says she's got it handled," Ruby says with a small shrug, never one to doubt what her cunning Australian girlfriend is capable of. "She's already got two plane tickets ready for us as soon as we leave set today."

"Well, that's great, Rubes. I'm happy for you two." Motioning for Ruby to stand up, Emma proceeds to pull her into a hug, squeezing the other woman tightly for a moment and taking comfort in the tight squeeze she gets in return. It stings to know that Ruby won't be appearing on her doorstep this Christmas like she has before, but she's happy for her friends regardless. "Enjoy your trip, okay? I can't wait to hear all about it."

"Thanks, Emma." After a moment, Ruby turns her head to press a soft kiss to the blonde's cheek. "We love you. Take care of yourselves, okay? We'll see you and Henry after the break."

"Yeah. Go on, get out of here," Emma teases softly, swatting at Ruby's ass. The brunette squeals and laughs, leaping out of Emma's trailer and happily slipping and sliding her way down the snow-covered path towards the director's trailer. Emma leans in the doorway and takes in a breath of crisp winter air, sighing softly as she resigns herself to wait. Since Henry's working for the camera department now, she'll have to sit around until he's helped them load out their gear and is officially wrapped himself.

"Hey, Em," a light voice says, and she tilts her head to find Ivy standing nearby, her hair and peacoat already lightly dusted with snowflakes and her cheeks pink from the cold. "My folks are away traveling this year, so... I don't suppose you and Henry would mind some company over Christmas?"

Maybe she's telling a white lie to make sure they're not moping around this Christmas, or maybe she really doesn't have anyone else to spend the holiday break with, but either way, Emma smiles warmly and resists the urge to cry as she motions for Ivy to join her in her trailer.

"Come on in, Belfrey. Let's have some hot cocoa while we wait for Henry."

 

Regina returns to LA for the holiday, dreading what awaits her at home and feeling mildly relieved when all there is is a letter from Cora. Her mother has no time to spend Christmas with her, thankfully, but expresses her approval in Regina's clear-cut rejection of Emma and her coldly professional responses to her KavaReina ship.

Regina rips the letter to shreds and throws it into the fireplace.

She's resigned to a silent Christmas, too, since the newly divorced Marian had decided to backpack all across Europe to do some soul searching, and is just settling down in front of the fire with a glass of wine and an old framed photograph of her father for company when the doorbell rings. She almost considers ignoring it, especially if it's her mother dropping by to catch her unawares, but eventually drags herself up to answer it after the fifth persistent ring.

Wild red hair and a manic smile are the last thing she expects to find.

"Zelena?" she sputters, mouth agape as her older half-sister invites herself inside, stomping off the rain and hanging her dripping coat on a wall hook without prompting.

"Merry Christmas to you too, Reggie," Zelena chirps, planting a wet kiss to Regina's cheek before swirling away into the kitchen to help herself to some wine. Regina just shuts the front door and follows wordlessly, still trying to digest her sister's presence. Last she'd heard, Zelena had been filming a string of rom coms in New York, too busy and too caught up in the celebrity lifestyle to really have time for her. It's not like she minds, they were never particularly close as children and even less so as adults with crazy careers, but Zelena's sudden appearance now has her reeling.

"Well, this isn't terribly depressing," Zelena mutters, noticing the framed photo of Regina's father on the coffee table as she sweeps into the living room. "I know mother can be an absolute cow for company, but did you really plan on spending your Christmas alone with a photo of your father?"

"He's an excellent listener," Regina grumbles, snatching the photo from the table and returning it to its corner on a cabinet. Since Zelena's already splayed herself out on the couch, she decides to perch in the armchair, wine glass cradled between her hands. "What are you doing here, Zelena?"

"What, can't I want to spend Christmas with my darling little sister?"

"We've never tolerated each other enough to spend holidays together," Regina snorts, but it's not without some shred of affection for the redhead. They were never very close, but their sibling rivalry has always pushed them both to be the best they could be, and she respects Zelena for that.

"Fair enough." Zelena smiles, wry, and shrugs delicately as she takes a few gulps of her stolen wine. After a moment, she sets the glass down on the coffee table and tucks her legs up beneath herself, stark blue eyes curiously examining Regina from across the short space. "I've been seeing a lot of rumors on Twitter lately. You've got yourself into quite the debacle, haven't you?"

"Oh, not you too, Zelena," Regina groans, her patience already running thin. "Believe me, Mother has given me plenty of grief over it already. I don't need your snark as well."

"Is Mother the reason you've decided to become a grade A bitch? I mean I know bitchiness is in our blood but this is a whole other level."

"Excuse me?"

"Did you know that Emma was my personal security once?" Zelena says instead, opening the tin container on the coffee table and peeking inside, grinning to herself when she finds chocolates. Regina scowls in protest as Zelena pops one into her mouth.

"I'm aware. She mentioned what a pain in the ass you were."

"Liar. Emma adored me." Zelena sticks out her tongue, sitting back with her wine glass to take another sip, savoring the deliciously bitter mix of wine and dark chocolate. "She's a hell of a woman. I'd date her if I was gay."

"Zelena!"

"But I'm not, and you apparently are."

"I'm not—"

"Please. You're an excellent actress, Reg, but some things can't be faked."

Regina's nostrils are flared with her rage and, if Zelena was anyone else, she'd be scared. As is, she just smirks, meeting her younger sister's furious gaze head on.

"You two were peas in a pod before your characters got into a relationship. Hell, you two were moving towards something good, we all saw it. Then mummy dearest flies down to Vancouver for a surprise visit and suddenly you're acting like a bloody douchebag to someone who's basically been your best friend for nearly six years. I know we've always fought over Mother's approval, but dear god, when did you become so spineless?"

Regina could argue back. She could. But it's Christmas and she's tired and lonely and if Zelena ditches her too then she really will be pitifully alone, and that's an outcome she doesn't want now that her half-sister is here.

"She said she'd disown me," Regina says quietly, eyes dropping in shame. "She said a gay scandal would ruin everything I've worked so hard for."

"And you believed her?" Zelena scoffs in disbelief. "Regina. Do you know how often she's threatened to disown me? My miniscule role in that fashion movie, the weird TV show we got stranded on an island for, when I married Walsh, when I tried going blonde. It's all a bluff, she's not actually going to disown you. You're a celebrity and you make her a lot of money. For God's sake."

"But the gay scandal?" Regina pushes, anxious for an excuse. Zelena rolls her eyes.

"You're not in a relationship— no, that dopey Graham Humbert doesn't count—and last I heard, Emma's relationship with that Lucas girl is for PR. Neither of you are married; it can't be a scandal if you're not cheating. And as for the gay part? Get with the times, Regina! Gay celebrities are the new fad. Everyone loves a good coming-out story. There's literally no good reason for you not to be with Emma."

They stare at each other for a long moment, Zelena smug and Regina a mixture of shock and frustration.

"Are you done?" Regina snaps, cheeks burning with embarrassment. Zelena shrugs and finishes off her wine, standing and moving towards the kitchen for a refill.

"Sure, we may as well enjoy the Christmas hiatus together," she throws over her shoulder. "I've said my piece; it's up to you if you decide to grow a pair and go after the woman you're clearly in love with. Life's too short to prioritize your career over happiness."

The redhead disappears into the kitchen, scrounging through her fridge for food and more free alcohol, and Regina just sinks back into her armchair with a sigh, her mind and heart heavy with indecision.

Chapter Text

Ivy helps Emma pic out a good photo of Emma and Ruby to post, adding a little caption that reads, "We always were better as sisters in crime. Love you, @RealRubyLucas! #bestfriends"

It's sweet and innocent and though Freyalan fans are disappointed at the subtle breakup news, they're quick to realize that Emma and Ruby still make an adorable—albeit platonic—pair. Their castmates tweet their cheerful support of the newly hashtagged #RedSwanFriendship, and soon after, paparazzi release photos of Ruby and Belle spotted celebrating Christmas together in Melbourne, Australia. Emma is quick to shower them both with love and congratulations, not wanting their rabid fans to make any grossly incorrect comments, and Ruby and Belle are equally as affectionate in their responding tweets, making it clear that there are no hard feelings or jealousy.

Gold finds out mid-holiday and barely has time to rage and spew threats before Neal slams him with some well placed threats of his own, swearing to cut him from his life if Gold so much as tries anything. Immediately cowed by his son's protective anger, he relents and promises to continue producing the show, though he no longer cares to visit the set or check in on filming... which is, honestly, a relief to the entire crew to no longer have a producer breathing down their necks.

Ivy really does spend her entire Christmas hiatus with the Swan family, happy to have some bonding time with two of her favourite people in the world. Emma is thankful for the company and, besides, Henry's shy and awkward floundering makes everything worth it in the end, especially when they all go to Brooklyn to visit Mal and Lily, and all four women take immense delight in teasing the poor young man.

Ivy also takes offense on Emma's behalf over the entire Regina debacle, and she goes to great lengths to make their holiday look as fun as possible on social media to spite the older brunette.

MissIvyBelfrey: Just some last minute Christmas shopping with my favourite medieval warrior ever!! @EmmaSwan76 (kiss emoji) - The photo Ivy posts on her Instagram is a selfie of herself and Emma, smiling faces squished together and snowflakes in their hair, both proudly holding up armfuls of gift bags as they walk the streets.

EmmaSwan76: Christmas isn't complete without hot cocoa with this wicked queen! @MissIvyBelfrey (heart emoji) - Emma's post is a picture of Ivy curled up on a couch in a cozy cashmere sweater, cradling a mug of cocoa and smirking at the camera. Emma's own bare feet are visible at the bottom of the photo, sitting on the other end of the couch with her toes poking at Ivy's thigh. The little electric fireplace is visible in the background and a light Instagram filter makes the photo extra warm and dreamily lit.

Their pictures, together and with Henry, start off a whole other round of gleeful rumors amongst the fans. Emma's somehow become a player without ever having actually dated any of her co-stars, and Ivy and Ruby think it's all hilarious, teasing and joking and playfully groping at each other once they're back on set after the winter break. Belle and Mary Margaret delight in posting behind-the-scenes photos on their Instagrams and Twitter feeds, and soon social media is treated to their shenanigans on set. There's plenty of pics of Emma, Ruby, and Ivy always tangled together, sometimes with their arms slung around each other for posed photos, and other times caught during moments of goofing around when one jumps into another's arms or sits on their coworker's lap in a teasing effort to squash them. David's always grinning in amusement somewhere in the background, or Graham's got a hand over his mouth to stifle his amusement, or Henry's purposefully photobombing the photos with a goofy bug-eyed grin.

The world watches the behind-the-scenes moments of Kingdom Come and don't bother asking where Regina is anymore. Not unless you count snide tweets or muttered comments as asking.

"One more week!" Ruby hollers, jumping onto Emma's back and laughing maniacally as the blonde squawks and fights to catch her balance. "Are you gonna miss me, bitch?"

"Not if you keep trying to kill me," Emma complains, but she's grinning when Ruby finally lands on her feet and plods towards set with her. "You and Belle have any plans for after we're wrapped?"

"Belle wants to check out Amsterdam, get some writing done and get a plan ready if we're renewed for another season."

"And the cons?" Emma asks, more hesitant as they step up onto set. They're in the throne room today, the crumbling fake stone returned to its former glory by the set builders. Queen Reina's kingdom is back in full force now that Kavalan has returned as her Guardian and consort, the castle strong and thriving under their rule. "You're still coming to them, right?"

"Of course! I'd never ditch you at one of our cons."

"Do I have all of first team?" Neal asks over the walkie, nodding his hello to Ruby and Emma. Tina comes scurrying in a moment later with Regina.

"First team's on set," Tina says, dashing away again for her next responsibility while Regina gingerly steps up onto the stage. She glances at her co-stars, looking like she wants to say something, but bites her lip and remains silent when Emma and Ruby barely acknowledge her presence. Their last couple months of filming after the winter break has been as awkward as usual, maybe more so because the cast has grown numb to her presence and Regina has been less of an ice queen and just... alone. Zelena's words at Christmas continue to haunt her and as much as her heart aches for what it wants, she remains unsure, teetering on the edge and struggling to find the courage to jump.

"First marks, please," Neal says, ever the brisk professional on set, and Regina takes a seat on the throne, just barely managing the cool frown she is supposed to wear as Queen Reina. Emma crouches next to the throne, gently resting one arm atop Regina's knee, and Regina slides her fingers into the soft fur lining at the neck of Emma's vest, watching as dull green eyes flicker up to meet her pleading stare with a carefully blank one of her own.

"Action," they hear from somewhere in the darkness off set, and Emma's expression shifts into a warm, gentle smile, a loving gaze that hasn't been genuinely directed at her in over a year.

Regina barely stifles a sob.

 

The wrap party comes and goes with its usual shenanigans, most of the cast attending and none of the crew asking about Regina's whereabouts. Everyone goes their separate ways when season six is officially wrapped and Emma and Henry have a few quiet weeks to relax back home in Boston before they're all called in for a Kingdom Come convention in New York. The paycheck for attending is generous, as always, and Henry has become quite a fanboy of attending cons and leaving them with more nerdy merchandise than he really has room for, so they fly out the day before and have a relaxing night in the hotel before heading down for panels and autographs and photo ops the very next morning.

"Good morning!" Ivy purrs, smiling her coy, lazy smile when Emma shuffles over and drops down at the signing table next to hers, yawning and sucking down a large Starbucks coffee. Her handler starts collecting payment from the first fan in line and Emma takes a moment to squint over at her co-star.

"How are you always so chipper at this hour?"

"It's 10am, babe," Ivy points out, laughing and turning away to greet a fan and sign a poster. "You ready for our two o'clock panel? Fans are gonna be asking you and Ruby all about your breakup, you know."

"Oh. Yeah. That." Emma grimaces, her downturned lips turning into a smile as she greets her first fan. "Hey, how's it going."

She's given a screencap printout of Kavalan and Freya, tangled together in bed, only their heads and bare shoulders peeking out above the furs and dreamy smiles on their faces. It's a tiny bit racey but certainly not the worst she's ever gotten—at least it's a screencap and not their faces photoshopped onto naked bodies, because that had been the most uncomfortable she'd ever been—and she waves off her handler and offers the fangirl a smile as she signs her name and adds "#Freyalan!" to the bottom for good measure.

"She confirmed her attendance for today, by the way," Ivy says conversationally, with nothing but the occasional squeak of sharpies on posters between them.

"Who?"

"Regina."

The next fans in line squeal in excitement and Emma glances over at Ivy with a 'look what you did' kind of face.

"Okay? It's... whatever. We should all be here for the cons. It's a team effort." Her tone suggests that she'd rather not stress out about having to see Regina later, and Ivy gives her a sympathetic smile and says no more.

 

The panel is about as uncomfortable as everyone had feared it would be, except this time around Emma is the one who looks done with drama and Regina is the one who looks like a kicked puppy. Neither women are really sure of how they feel about the role reversal, but both could probably agree that the fans have soaked up all the drama and are unhelpfully making it worse as the Q&A continues.

"No! Of course not!" Ruby gives a startled laugh when asked if there were any hard feelings between her, Emma, and Belle. "Emma really is more like a sister to me than anything. I love her like a sister. She and Belle are really great friends!"

Emma gets a similar question, of course, as if she'd say something contrary to Ruby's answer. Still, she smiles and bears it and even jokingly jumps out of her seat and moves down the table to hug Ruby, remaining standing behind her co-star with her arms gently looped over her shoulders, Ruby patting her hand sweetly to the 'aww's and cooing of the audience.

"She and Belle are just the sweetest together," Emma says, her chin resting atop Ruby's head briefly before she finally releases her friend and returns to her seat, shooting Ruby a playful smile from down the table. "Those two give me cavities, honestly!"

"It was definitely a bit of a rocky start," Ruby answers when asked about coming out of the closet. "I mean everyone was shipping me with my male co-stars back when I was on Werewolf Huntress, and there was never really a good time to come out, you know? But Emma has always been so genuine about who she is, and having the honor of knowing her and being her friend for the past six years - she gave me the courage to be myself."

When Emma is asked, her answer receives a few more laughs. "Oh, I dunno - I mean I was just a security person before this. I was already out and not hiding it. I didn't have a chance to change my privacy settings before everyone was Googling my name and stalking me on Facebook."

One fan takes them down a path of poorly chosen questions when Ruby makes an unfortunate joke about how Emma had much better chemistry with Regina than her anyway, and when Regina is suddenly in the spotlight and directly asked about her sexuality, the entire cast goes stock-still.

"Oh, I... that's not... um..." It's the first time anyone has seen Regina Mills stutter. Her castmates look to her with wide eyes and Regina stares out into the crowd in alarm, refusing to look sideways at her co-workers, fearing the judgement she's sure she'll see in green eyes. The stagelights feel hot, too hot, and she nervously tugs at the neck scarf she's wearing, blinking blurry eyes out at the audience, barely able to make out the silhouettes of everyone staring up at them.

"Can we get the houselights on, please?" she says instead, pretending to shield her eyes with a laugh, but her hand is shaking and she quickly shoves it back under the table when the room lights up and reveals just how big the audience is. "Wow, there you all are. I was having a hard time seeing you guys. Where were we?"

She stares meaningfully to the other side of the room, focusing on the next person standing in line for questions—there are two lines, one on each side of the room, and she's avoiding the fan in the other line who'd asked for confirmation on her sexuality—and the audience is split between annoyed at her for the avoidance or sympathetic for her uncomfortable predicament.

"You didn't answer my question," the other fan insists into the microphone, wheedling, and Emma fights past the lump in her throat to lean forward and glare down at the girl.

"Well your question was rude and intrusive," she says, feeling Ruby's hand land on her elbow in a warning gesture. Mary Margaret takes one look at them and jumps in to diffuse the situation with her sugary sweet demeanor instead.

"It's not very polite to ask personal questions like that," she offers, smiling apologetically. "Let's be more careful about keeping our Q&A's respectful, okay? Hi there, sweetie, what's your question?"

And just like that, the panel continues on, Emma sitting stiffly with her jaw set and Regina staring down despondently into her lap.

 

"Alright, who's the dumbass asking inappropriate questions at NY con? When did fans start to think they were entitled to knowing personal information about celebrities? They don't know you. They don't owe you shit. #rude"

"I feel soooo bad for Emma. She was clearly uncomfortable at the panel. Regina looks like she hates the entire cast. Why is she still on the show?"

"@ReginaMills went full on gay-panic mode at NY con after Emma and Ruby talked about being out of the closet. Talk about awkward. #lesbihonest"

 

Fraud. Queerbaiter. Coward.

It all blurs together at some point and Regina avoids social media like the plague now, mentally and emotionally drained and too exhausted to deal with it anymore. The world is gearing up for the long-awaited premiere of season six and she dreads the reaction, afraid of more backlash when audiences praise the KavaReina romance but hate her in real life. She's done plenty enough self-sabotaging to deserve it.

There are at least two people who don't believe that, at least. Two people who show up on her doorstep with candy and alcohol and refuse to let her wallow in self pity. Zelena shoves her way into the penthouse and Marian carries all the goods, and neither say a word about what she's done the past year, merely setting themselves up in the living room and dragging her down onto the couch for a movie marathon. Zelena finds a classic film her late father had starred in and Marian produces a pack of licorice wands from her pocket, and it's many hours and multiple movies later that Regina finally breaks down into her glass of wine with wet, messy tears.

"They hate me," she cries, already drunk and bawling and more of a hot mess than she has ever allowed anyone to see before. "She hates me. I was stupid enough to listen to Mother and now everything is ruined!"

"Hush now, poppet," Zelena cooes, petting at her sister's hair while Regina leans heavily into Marian's side. "Everything will be fine. Nothing a bit of grovelling won't fix. Emma loves you, she'll forgive you if you just apologize."

"But I— I hurt her so badly. And Henry—"

"Will be thrilled to have you back in his life, I'm sure," Marian says soothingly. "Come now, Regina. After all these years, it's clear how much you love them and miss them. You just need to show them that you're still the same person they love back, that you just made a mistake and you're willing to own up to it."

"Really?" Regina sniffs, eyes shimmering with tears as her friend and her sister both put their arms comfortingly around her.

"Really. But you have to mean it, Regina," Marian says, firm. "They deserve your best effort."

"Which means telling Mother off," Zelena adds gleefully. "It's time to stop letting her control your life, Reggie. You need to go after what you want!"

"She'll be mad," Regina whispers, wincing at the memory of Cora's dark, angry eyes, the way her thin lips would purse tightly with thinly veiled contempt and disapproval. Zelena says Cora's threats of disownment are just a bluff, but the threats still feel very real to a girl who remembers the hot sting of a belt to her back end, who remembers the hollow ache of an empty stomach when she was pronounced too "pudgy" to have any dinner, or the cruel remarks from a sneering mouth when she had been passed over for a role because she wasn't "white enough." She remembers every insult and every hit with painful clarity, and getting disowned no longer seems so far off.

"Would you rather live the rest of your life without Emma or Henry ever again?" Marian asks softly, garnering a pained look from Regina.

"I couldn't... I need them," she breathes out, the first honest thing she's admitted in a long while. Marian grins while Zelena throws her hands up in the air in victory.

"Well then, what are you waiting for?"

Chapter Text

"Have fun, Ma." Henry hugs his mother close, happily pressing a kiss to her forehead now that he's taller than she is. They're standing in the greenroom of this weekend's popular Fan Expo convention in Vancouver where Kingdom Come is hosting a special early screening of the season six premiere, in which fans will get to watch the episode with the entire main cast.

"You sure you don't want to join us? You could fit on the couch with us," Emma asks one last time, patting his chest. He chuckles and shakes his head.

"Nah, the cast of that new zombie show is here and I wanna go get some autographs, maybe a photo op with the leads. Plus one of my favourite comic book artists has a booth in the art hall today and I need him to sign a copy of the newest Batman for me."

Emma laughs, letting her boy pull away. "Fine, fine. Have fun, I'll come find you after the screening."

"Maybe I'll sneak into the back of the theatre to catch the end of the episode," he offers with a wink before waving merrily to the rest of the cast in the greenroom. "See you guys later!"

There's a happy chorus of "bye, Henry!" from the others, a cast that he considers family after they all basically watched him grow up on set these past years, and then he's gone, his tall, lanky form bounding down the hall and away to the rest of the massive exhibition hall. Sighing, Emma drops down on the couch between Ruby and Ivy, slumping down to get comfy and nestled. Ruby pats her thigh comfortingly.

"They grow up too fast," the blonde laments, missing the days that her young fourteen year old would lean against her hip and beg her for spending money with his big puppy dog eyes. Now he works for the camera department and makes plenty of money on his own.

"Please, he's the biggest momma's boy," Ruby teases. "You have nothing to worry about... Or maybe that's concerning in itself."

Ruby cackles even as Ivy reaches over to slap her knee gently.

"It's cute!" Ivy defends with a raspy laugh. "I love how close you and Henry are, Emma. Boys should always be sweet with their mums. It's a good sign that they're emotionally open and affectionate. Makes for great family men."

"You think Henry would make a good family man, huh?" Ruby says with a wiggle of her eyebrows. Ivy flushes and rolls her eyes.

"I was just making a point."

"Ivy," Emma whines, making a face, because the idea of one of her best friends being with her son is just— ick! And not as far-fetched of an idea as it used to be, apparently. Not when Henry is now nineteen going on twenty, tall and lanky and boyishly handsome even when he's trying to perfect his nine o'clock stubble look.

"It's not like that," Ivy says, but she also giggles, actually giggles, and Emma knows they're all doomed.

"We're ready for you guys," one of the handlers says, poking his head into the door and juggling an armful of microphones. The cast stand, excited to watch the premiere episode with a live audience. Mary Margaret stops and looks to the back door with a frown.

"Regina's still not here," she says, concerned, because even if Regina has self-exiled herself to be the black sheep of the cast, she's still a part of the team. The fans will be upset if the lead actress isn't present.

"We can't wait," the handler says, grimacing as he checks his watch. "We're on a tight schedule. There's a Buffy reunion happening in this theatre right after your screening."

The cast exchange wary looks before they all shrug and grab their microphones, following the handler down the hall and up onto the stage. After a brief introduction to deafening applause, they all settle down on the two leather couches on stage, both side-facing so that they can watch the projection as well as interact with the audience. The lights dim down to darkness and Ruby makes a dramatic "oooooh" sound when the title sequence starts, garnering delighted laughter from the fans.

"Are you guys excited?" David asks into his microphone, turning to smile at the audience. The room fills with happy cheers and David grins, shooting them all a big thumbs up before turning back to the screen. "Oh, I forgot this starts with me in chains."

There's more laughter as David—or rather, Atticus—glares up past the camera at something offscreen, his face dirtied and blood trickling from his hairline. He's shackled in a small underground cavern, and Artemis is nearby in her own little cell, still unconscious from getting slammed into a wall by the wicked Queen Drizella's magic. Drizella herself slides into view, smiling that coy, dangerous smile, and Ivy's fans scream their adoration.

"Didn't that corset end up leaving bruises all around your hips?" Ruby asks into her microphone, turning to glance at Ivy while Drizella sashays towards the camera onscreen, and Ivy widens her eyes dramatically and nods her head towards the audience.

"I bruised like a peach and still have the pictures to prove it."

The laughter is brief, audiences quickly shushing themselves when Drizella starts speaking, but the cast has too much fun pointing out little facts or making jokes about filming each scene, and most of the audience will have to rewatch the episode when it airs on television because no one can hear a word over all the laughter.

 

"You're doing what?" Cora hisses, all venom and rage. But the effect is lessened by the fact that Cora is currently on the other side of the world and yelling at her through the phone, and Regina is thankful she doesn't need to see the disappointment in her mother's eyes while they're having this conversation.

"I am letting you know now as a courtesy. You can't change my mind, Mother."

"Don't you dare out yourself, Regina! I didn't go through all that work for you to ruin it like this!"

"You may have helped, but I've worked hard to get where I am," Regina says calmly, taking a deep breath to steady her voice. "And I think I'll be just fine going forward, regardless of whether or not you continue to represent me. I will not prioritize my career over love, Mother. Not anymore. They're my family, and I'm going to fight for them."

"Regina—!"

Regina hangs up, basking in the thrill of hanging up on her own mother for the first time. Cora calls back and she taps the 'ignore' button with a building sense of glee. She's finally ripped off her leash after more than three decades of being tugged around by her mother, and damned if it doesn't feel good.

"There he is," a gruff voice says from beside her, and she spots Henry in the crowd ahead before turning to smile at her bodyguard. He has his arms crossed and an imposing scowl on his face, keeping the fans at a safe distance. Regina reaches out and touches his shoulder, ducking her head.

"Thank you for your help, Jecob," she says softly. His lip twitches upwards for only a moment before he huffs and shrugs.

"I'm doing it for them. You better not fuck up this time."

His foul language would surprise anyone else but Regina just laughs, loud and warm and husky. The man acts tough but she can see the softie within.

"I won't," she promises, before turning and forging through the crowds. The exhibition hall of the convention center is packed but she is a woman on a mission and people move out of her way instinctively as she marches towards Henry, pulling off her big sunglasses as she does so. Fans shout in excitement when they realize it's her, but Jecob is hot on her heels with a murderous glare and no one dares to approach.

"Henry," Regina calls out softly when she reaches him, stopping and staring at the new broadness of his back. He stiffens and turns, gawking down at her at the same time she has to crane her head up to look at him because he's so damned tall now.

"Regina?" he says in disbelief, looking around at all the fans staring at them and wondering what the heck she's doing out here on the floor. She could get mobbed for crying out loud. But then— "Jecob?"

"She hired me," he says with a shrug.

"I owe you an apology," Regina blurts out, ignoring the fact that they're in the middle of a crowded convention hall and that Kingdom Come fans are whipping out their phones to take pictures and videos. This is hardly going to be the most shocking thing she does today. "I was afraid of what other people would think, and I pushed you and your mother away because I was a coward. But I... I miss you, Henry. I miss you both. And I'm not afraid anymore."

She takes a tentative step forward, hands outstretched, and Henry visibly swallows and nearly leans towards her, a yearning in his eyes that makes him look like the young boy she'd met years ago, the one who curled up at her side and beamed at her compliments and craved her approval at every turn. She misses him so much that it hurts.

"Really? You mean that?" His voice is deeper with age but still light and full of hope. Regina feels tears stinging at her eyes.

"I love you, Henry. Can you forgive me?"

He doesn't respond. Just lunges forward, scooping her up into a hug so tight that her feet lift clear off the floor, her arms wrapped around his shoulders and their cheeks pressed together. Henry's breathing hard, huffing against her shoulder in an effort not to cry, but Regina chokes out a sob and runs a hand through his short cropped hair, turning her head to press damp kisses to his cheek and temple.

"I missed you," he says hoarsely, hunched down so that he can receive every bit of love and affection that she's willing to give him. Regina doesn't hesitate to cover his face in kisses.

"I missed you too, my sweet boy," she murmurs lovingly, which finally gets the wetness in his eyes to spill over. Henry sniffs, soaking in the attention for a good long moment before finally swiping at his eyes and giving her a warm smile.

"Have you spoken to Ma yet?"

Regina shakes her head. "Not yet. They're still watching the screening, I didn't want to interrupt—"

"Interrupt! Definitely interrupt!" He grabs her hand and starts pulling her away like a hyperactive kid in a candy store, and Regina can only laugh helplessly and follow him, Jecob on both their tails.

 

"What now?" Kavalan asks, the night breeze lifting blonde locks from her bare shoulders. The moonlight bathes her naked skin in a soft, silvery-blue glow as she stands at the balcony doors, staring down at the crumbling courtyards below. Everything her Queen has worked so hard for is in ruins.

"Now, you come back to bed," Reina orders, her voice a low, husky purr. Kavalan turns and prowls towards the Queen's bed, her eyes gleaming like emeralds in the darkness. Reina tosses the furs away from herself, stretching out like a lazy, naked cat, and Kavalan groans as she climbs onto the bed, immediately dropping a kiss on smooth olive flesh.

"The kingdom is in ruins," Kavalan murmurs, sighing as she runs her fingers along Reina's hip. The brunette hums, arching into the feather-light touch.

"We will fix it."

"It won't be easy..."

"No, but at least I will have you by my side."

Rolling towards her lover, Reina drapes herself over Kavalan's lean, lithe body and kisses her, a slow press of lips against lips that give way when a tongue begs for entrance. Moaning, Kavalan winds her fingers into dark hair, content and pliant to whatever her Queen demands of her.

"I love you, my Queen," she husks, eyes at half mast as Reina brushes their noses together. The Queen smiles, slow and warm, her eyes glittering.

"And I love you, my Guardian. You and I will make Drizella regret ever crossing us. All the kingdoms will be ours."

Kavalan grins up at her, excitement and bloodlust rising to the surface at the thought of waging a new war for her beloved Queen. It's not the first and it certainly won't be the last, not for as long as she draws breath and loves this woman in her arms.

"As you wish."

The screen cuts to black as the music crescendos, and the entire theatre explodes in applause, fans screaming their joy over Reina and Kavalan's return to action. The season premiere promises the biggest war between the factions yet, and no one can contain their excitement.

"Wow! Can you believe it?" The MC says into the microphone, urging on their applause as the lights go up and hundreds of eyes blink rapidly to adjust. "I think that might just be the most epic episode yet, not least because the actors themselves are here watching it with us! Please give a big round of applause for the cast of Kingdom Come!"

The crowd screams their adoration as the cast stand up, smiling and waving their gratitude to their massive fanbase. The MC quickly rattles off autograph and photo op information as the cast start shuffling towards the curtain, only to stutter to a stop as the doors by the back of the theatre slam open, Regina and Henry stumbling inside.

Every eye in the entire theatre falls on them, but Regina only has eyes for one person.

"Sorry I'm late," she says, breathless. Henry touches her back with a reassuring nod. Flashing him a nervous smile, Regina starts down the middle path through the audience seats and towards the stage, her expression determined. Emma, on the other hand, stands frozen, eyes wide and mouth agape.

"Emma, I'm sorry," Regina says once she reaches the front of the stage. There are no stairs on her side and it's just a little too tall for her to climb up in her tight jeans and high heels, so she sets her hands on the edge of the stage and stares up pleadingly at the blonde frozen just a few feet away, ignoring the audience and their cameras behind her. "I pushed you away because I was a coward. I let someone convince me to hide who I was, and that was the biggest mistake I've ever made. Our friendship these past years has been the best thing to come into my life and I don't want to lose that. I'm not scared anymore, Emma. You told me once that you loved me, and I hope that's still true because... I love you too."

The entire audience gasps audibly, going still and silent in anticipation of Emma's response, their phones all held in the air to record the moment and share it with the world. Heedless of them, Regina stretches a hand up to Emma, her eyes pleading for forgiveness.

"Give me one more chance. Please?"

Emma blinks. Once. Twice.

"Took you long enough," she rasps, eyes wet, before grabbing onto Regina's hand and hauling her up on stage. Regina barely has a chance to chuckle before their lips are crashing together, shiny pink lip-gloss against crimson red lipstick.

Camera flashes go off, the audience screams joyously, Henry jumps into the air with a loud whoop. All around them is an explosion of cheer and excitement and congratulations, but all Regina and Emma see is the overwhelming love in each other's eyes, no longer missing the look but instead basking fully in it, their yearning finally returned.

 

Social media is barely comprehensible. Fans scream and sob and wail over their OTP finally being canon - both on the show and in real life. Pictures and videos of that momentous day saturate the internet, rainbow flags fly, and when Regina finally posts a photo on her social media, Ruby is convinced some fans must have died from the cuteness.

Pictured: Emma, in a comfy plaid shirt and a red scarf around her shoulders, a big goofy grin stretching her cheeks, sits on a couch taking the selfie. Regina wears a cashmere sweater and is cuddled up against Emma's side, clean of makeup and her smile soft and happy. A little golden crown necklace rests against her collarbone, the glittering jewel nearly as bright as her eyes.

 

ReginaMills: Happiness isn't the life you live, but the people who live in it with you. I love you, @EmmaSwan76. #GuardianQueen

Chapter Text

"Hey, they brought in a waffle truck today. It's on production."

"No way! Want me to get us an order?"

"Hell yeah, Swan. Get me something with ice cream and chocolate."

"It's Swan-Mills, Leroy." Twenty three year old Henry grins, swatting the camera operator on the shoulder as he makes his way out of stage 7. Just next to circus is a bright yellow food truck offering all kinds of dessert waffles, and he hops into the small lineup of crew and puts in an order for his team.

"Name and department?" the woman taking orders asks.

"Henry, camera department. Thanks, ladies." He flashes a smile, charming to the bone, and the waffle truck women titter over his handsome looks as they cheerfully get to work. Henry stands off to one side out of the way and fiddles on his phone for a moment before slender arms snake their way around his waist and a smaller body hugs him from behind.

"Charming the waffle ladies now?" Ivy purrs into his ear, smiling mischievously at the way he shivers. "Should I be worried?"

"Never," he says with a chuckle, turning around in her arms to face her and press a kiss to the top of her head. She pouts, head craned up to look at him, and he hunches down a great deal to land a kiss on her lips. "You getting a waffle too, shorty?"

He gets a warning squint for that.

"Nah, too much sugar... I'll just steal bites of yours."

"Get your own," he whines, slipping away from her when his name is called, carefully grabbing the takeaway tray of desserts. He starts walking back towards stage 7 with Ivy hot on his heels, pinching pieces of waffle from his dessert and swiping it through the ice cream before stuffing it into her mouth. She at least has the decency to hold open the stage door for him.

"Quit it," he complains loudly and jokingly, holding the tray up high above his much shorter girlfriend as she scampers around him with grabby fingers. Laughing, he hands off desserts to Leroy and their other camera assistant, then clutches his own to his chest as Ivy tries wrestling him for it. "You monster, it's mine!"

"Sharing is caring," Ivy wheedles, suddenly groping his ass hard enough that he squeals in a decidedly un-manly way and bursts out laughing.

"Oh my god, my eyes!" Emma shrieks dramatically, and both Henry and Ivy look up to find Emma and Regina staring at them in amusement.

"Honestly, children," Regina sighs, rolling her eyes fondly. Her blonde wife is in stitches by her side, one hand clutching her stomach and the other thrown across her eyes. Both are already fully done up in hair, makeup, and costume. Regina has Reina's newly designed crown on her head—Reina had taken over Drizella's kingdom as well and cursed Drizella into having a new, much more agreeable personality—and Emma's fur lined vest has been given a few upgrades, most noticeably the glossy black feathers that detail the collar in a stark, dramatic fashion, and the gleaming white wolf pelt that drapes around her shoulders. They both look like legends, and Henry's grin is proud and warm as he regards them both.

"Hey, moms, let's do a quick livestream! Ivy?" He offers her the waffle and Ivy takes it for him, stealing more bites of the dessert as Henry positions himself between his two mothers and holds up his phone.

"Hey guys! It's your favourite dark prince!" Henry greets his camera as he starts a recording, smiling his lopsided smirk. As he's grown older and more handsome, he's amassed a fanbase of his own, and he loves peacocking for his snapchat followers. "I'm here on set with my moms for day one of filming season ten! Are you guys ready for this?"

Emma and Regina both lean in, sandwiching Henry between them with big smiles and little waves at the camera.

"Season ten!" they cheer, grinning as Henry ends the recording and sends it off to social media. When they look back, Ivy has chocolate sauce on the edge of her mouth and an unapologetic grin on her face.

"Traitor!" Henry shouts, lunging playfully for his girlfriend, who shrieks and runs off with the remaining dessert held above her head. They bolt around the corner of a set and disappear out of sight, Ivy's squeals and Henry's laughter echoing throughout the stage. Regina chuckles lowly as she slides into Emma's space, nestling in beneath the blonde's chin when arms settle around her waist like a puzzle piece slotting into place.

"I can't believe our friend is dating our son," Regina murmurs, shaking her head in amusement and moving towards set when Tina waves at them from afar. Ivy and Henry had started dating just a year prior and it's still a bizarre concept to the two older women.

"Well, Ivy is younger than us by a good deal," Emma points out, watching as Regina drops down into her throne and then sitting down in her own smaller throne just next to the Queen's. "And I'd rather Henry date her than that snobby girl that guest starred with us last season—"

"Ugh, she was awful, pawing at Henry the way she did. And she called me ma'am as if I were an old woman. Can you believe the nerve of her?"

"Nope. You're sexy as fuck."

"Emma!"

"What? You are! And I'll show you exactly how much tonight when I—"

"Too much information," Neal complains from the edge of set, looking disturbed as he clutches his walkie in hand. Belle, on the other hand, is happily tucked under Ruby's arm in front of the monitors and shooting them both a gleeful smirk.

"Oh, please continue," she teases, prompting her fiancée to laugh.

"Not in your wildest dreams, French," Regina snarks, grinning at Belle before pointing a finger warningly at Emma. "Behave, darling."

"Lame," Emma says with a playful little roll of her eyes, slumping down into her throne with a dramatic sigh, chin propped on her hand and looking very much like a bored warlord in that moment; hair braided back, new scars adorning her face, a luxurious white wolf pelt draped around her shoulders. Regina stares approvingly, leaning from her throne to run her fingers along a muscled bicep. Emma flexes for her.

"You two are gross," Neal groans, stepping off the set and motioning at the crew. "Let's go before they get worse. Picture's up. Roll sound, please."

Henry darts over to the camera, holding the slate out in front of the lens. "Scene one-oh-eight apple, take one."

Leroy readjusts the camera slightly before nodding. "Mark it."

The clapperboard snaps shut and Henry darts back out of the way, watching over Leroy's shoulder as the older man lines up the shot.

"Frame," he says. Belle leans forward in her seat, eyes intent on the monitors as Regina and Emma transform seamlessly into Reina and Kavalan before her very eyes, a Queen and her Guardian, utterly and hopelessly in love.

"Action!"