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don't be shy

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"Hey, Mags! Incoming!"

Magdalen Thrakena, part owner in Hide Nor Hare, the hottest vegan-friendly, kosher corner pub with various animal parts hanging on the walls, turns to stare at the large man working next to her behind the bar. "You know I hate it when you call me that, Johnny."

He just smirks. "I know. But my point still stands. She looks like she's on the warpath. What'd you do this time, sister?"

"Fuck off, fat boy," she growls, turning to hand off the whiskey sour to the guy at the end of the bar. This allows her a chance to take in the newcomer. She glances at her pocket watch, a birthday gift from her father-in-law, and frowns. "Hey, babe, it's kinda early for lunch, isn't it?"

"Two Firecrackers and keep them coming."

Mal's hands move on autopilot to make the shots, as she studies her wife. "You wanna talk about it?" She glances over at John, relaxes slightly at his knowing nod as he heads back toward the kitchen to make something to help sop up the booze that will soon be roiling in her wife's gut. She turns back, no more than sixty seconds have passed since she started making the shots, but she can sense the impatience and anger radiating outward. "Regina? What happened?"

Regina takes one of the shots straight from Mal's hand and tosses it back without even flinching. She slams the empty glass on the bar and licks her lips. "I needed to get out before I committed a very messy, very bloody, very permanent crime against Cru. And Ursula wouldn't have been able to stop me." She takes the second shot and tosses it back just as effortlessly. Her hand is a little less sure when she sets the glass down this time. "I was ready to throw down with her, Mal, but I just saved my files, walked out, and took an Uber over here."

Mal lets out a relieved sigh at that, not wanting her wife to drive if she's going to be drinking this heavily. "Maybe we space the shots out a little bit, hmm? Get some food in you and pace ourselves?"

"Mal, I…" Regina sighs and glances down at the bar, tracing the pattern in the wood with her thumbnail. "I'm sorry. I'm being stupid about this bullshit with Cru."

"Hey, it's okay, Kitten." Her words are soft, meant only for her wife, and she squeezes her hand. "Are you planning to go back to the office today?" Her shoulders relax minutely when Regina shakes her head. "Okay, good to know. I'm on until Rick comes, but then we can head home for the rest of the weekend. Ana messaged me earlier to say that she'll drop Henry off on her way home tonight. We'll go get your car in the morning, okay? Maybe even head over to the zoo if the weather's nice tomorrow. How's that sound?"

"Like heaven." Regina's words are faintly slurred, and her breath tastes of peppermint and cinnamon when Mal leans across the bar to gently kiss her. "Thank you, my love."

"You're welcome. Water or another shot?"

Regina pauses for a moment, then smiles sheepishly. "I'd like another shot, but I guess I should do water? And I should probably have something to eat. What's Tiana got on special today?"

Mal chuckles. "Johnny saw you coming in, Kitten, and then disappeared to the kitchen. What do you think you're going to be eating today?"

Regina's eyes light up and she licks her lips. "Is he making my special? He's making it himself?"

"He did see you come storming in before I did. And you know he loves you like a little sister. If he's not making your food, he's contemplating how best to beat the shit out of whoever pissed you off without getting caught." That makes Regina laugh, a bright, full-bodied sound that turns Mal's guts to goo. "That's what I like to hear. You know Cru is just a pompous blowhard who gets mean when she has too much blood in her gin system."

Regina laughs again and shifts to lace her fingers with Mal's. "Thank you for reminding me of her lack of tact. Sometimes I forget that she has that hidden Hyde side." She licks her lips and lets out a soft sigh. "I just hate it when she says some of the things she says. It reminds me of Mother's helpful suggestions when I was growing up."

"Here," Mal says, setting a bottle of VOSS Sparkling Lime Mint on the bar. "I want you to drink at least half of that before you can have another shot. As for Cru's stupidity reminding you of your mother, you have told her that, right? I swear you have, and that I was there. Or is she just being stupidly stubborn and thoughtless again?" Regina taps the tip of her nose repeatedly and rolls her eyes. "Okay, I get it now. You don't have to give me specifics if you don't want to, but please try to let it go? If you stew too much, it's just going to give you a migraine, and none of us want that kind of pain for you, not even dumbfuck Cru."

Before she can say anything else, someone at the other end of the bar calls her over for a refill. She offers a small smile to Regina, then heads over to take care of it. On her way back, after setting up another round of shots for the suits from out of town, Mal sees John coming out of the kitchen with a tray bearing two plates and a small bowl. The look of sheer adoration on Regina's face would be comical if one forgets the way she stalked into the bar in the first place. Now, it just makes Mal's heart swell with love for her wife's predictability in certain areas. Like comfort food. And she thanks all the stars in the sky that one John Little knows exactly how to make the foods that give Regina the most comfort in the world.

"Oh, you did make it for me!" Regina says with a soft squeak of appreciation. "I could kiss you, Johnny Little!"

John's grumble at the nickname coming from anyone but Mal might be taken seriously if it weren't for the broad grin lighting up his face. Mal knows just how much love there is between her blood brother and her wife. It was all thanks to him that she even met her wife in the first place, and he never lets her forget it.

"What kind of brother-in-law would I be if I didn't try to make you smile, Queenie?" His nickname gets a spluttered, embarrassed laugh out of Regina. "Now I don't give a good god damn what got you so mad--"

"Yes, you do."

John rolls his eyes and purses his lips at her interruption. "Beside the point. And interrupting is rude, Queenie."

"Sorry, Johnny."

"If you want to talk, you know I'll listen every bit as intently as that sorry excuse of a wife of yours." He glances up to wink at Mal. "But if you don't want to, that's fine, too. I do, however, expect you to eat every last bite of food on this tray. You're looking too damned skinny again."

Mal can't make out Regina's response, but she already knows the gist of what is being said. They've had this discussion themselves. But it's tax season, and that always brings out the more self-destructive patterns in her wife. The whole rag-tag gang they call a family knows it, and each has their own methods of making sure Regina doesn't get too caught up in ignoring her own needs to focus on her workload. Which means, Mal realizes belatedly, tax season stress is probably the actual instigator behind whatever transpired between Regina and Cruella.

"Now," John says, bringing Mal out of her thoughts, "are you going to eat this here at the bar or would you prefer the relative anonymity of the clan cave to hide your messiness today?"

"Fuck you, Johnny." Regina's deadpan delivery, combined with the bright red splotches on her cheeks, makes Mal laugh loudly. Two sets of dark eyes turn to focus on her in unison, Regina pointing a finger at her. "And don't you start, Thrakena." Lifting her hands in acquiescence, Mal just laughs again, relieved when the other two join her. Regina takes another long drink from the bottle of water that's nearly gone already, and Mal's eyes are drawn to the movements of her throat as she swallows.

"Get a damned room, you two," John grumbles, then heads over to the booth with the tray of Regina's food. Regina makes an actual whimpering sound as he walks away, eyes trailing after the food longingly.

"Go eat, babe," Mal says with a smile. "I'll bring over a shot and another VOSS for you as soon as I get this group's drink order taken care of."

Regina nods and takes her current bottle with her. Mal briefly considers just saying Fuck it and joining her wife back in the corner booth, but she knows just how much she's needed behind the bar at the moment. She sets up the drink order that Mari's patiently waiting for, then adds one of Regina's Firecrackers and tells Mari to deliver it personally.