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Five Years

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“Hey kid, what’s up with your mom and Christmas?”

Henry straightened up from putting another ornament on one of the bottom branches, all six foot two of him nearly as tall as the tree itself. There was no question that the boy took after David in that aspect, because it wasn’t as though she or Neal could ever be considered above average in the height department.

At nineteen, Henry looked every bit a man now, complete with facial hair that Regina visibly disapproved of when he came home from college for the holidays. Emma had told her that it could have been worse, that he could have come back with a pornstache instead of just a chin strap, but Regina had just side-eyed her like somehow this was all her fault and said that she hoped it was just some kind of phase. Honestly though, Emma thought it made him look kind of handsome. It fit his facial features better than she would have thought it would, anyway.

Henry shrugged as he reached for another ornament. “I don’t know, I just don’t think she likes it. She pretends to; I used to think she did when I was a kid, but now it’s like…”

“Like she’s using me to give you the Christmas you want so she doesn’t have to?” Emma guessed, frowning as she caught her reflection in one of the little glass balls. “Because it’s starting to feel that way. You know this is the only holiday she gives me without a fight? Meanwhile, just trying to work out who gets you for Thanksgiving every year is like World War III. I actually have a scar from when she threw that fork at me.”

“Well then maybe next year we could all have Thanksgiving together; like an actual family for once,” Henry replied, a twinge of bitterness in his tone from what he was being denied. “But apparently that’s too much of a logical solution for you guys.”

An uncomfortable feeling twisted in Emma’s gut. Reaching into the box to grab another ornament, she began to defend herself with, “It’s not because it’s—” But in the end she just cut herself off with a small sigh, not really knowing how to explain the situation to him, and instead let her tone turn apologetic as she told him, “It’s just not gonna happen, kid. I’m sorry.”

“Why not?” Henry asked, and he sounded so much younger than his years for a moment as his tone came out as almost a whine; which, to be quite honest, sounded a little strange on someone with so deep a voice. “This is so stupid. What the hell happened five years ago?”

“Nothing—”

“Bullshit, Mom. You guys were fine – kinda like you were friends almost – and then suddenly it was like you couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with each other.”

“We don’t hate each other, that’s not—that’s not what it’s about, okay?” Emma tried, wishing he would just leave it at that but knowing full well that he wasn’t going to. It had been so long without either of them giving an explanation for the tension between them, that it was no wonder the kid was nearing the end of his patience. “It’s just… a little awkward between us. Also quit swearing before your mom murders me and uses my head as a centerpiece at her next dinner party.”

“Mom, just tell me. I’m not a kid anymore; I can handle it. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I deserve to know why my family is so torn apart, don’t you?”

Great. Guilt.

Emma sighed, tangling her fingers in her hair before pursing her lips together and looking up at her son. The kid was right; he did deserve to know, seeing as how he was stuck in the middle of it all. But it was just… difficult to explain; at least in a way that would be delicate enough so it wouldn’t end up scarring him for life. That was the last thing either of them needed.

“Alright, fine,” Emma finally relented, crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned against the wall. Henry looked at her expectantly while she stared out the far window for a moment, searching for the right words. “Five years ago your mother and I, we… we kind of, I don’t know, ‘shared a night together,’ or whatever you wanna call it.”

“You…?” Henry started, looking confused for a moment before it finally clicked, and a look of horror washed across his face at the realization. “Ew, you had sex with my mom?

Emma shot him an exasperated look. “I’m so glad I decided to have this mature conversation with my adult son. Yes, I had sex with your mom. Sorry if that shatters the last of your childhood innocence.”

“Hey, I’m sorry, but it was a knee-jerk reaction!” Henry defended, looking at her like she should really know better than to expect anything different. “I mean, come on, no one wants to think about their parents having sex; it’s wicked gross. How would you like it if Grandma started telling you about—”

Emma held up her hand to stop him before she started getting assaulted with mental pictures that she really didn’t want today. Or ever, for that matter. “Alright, alright, I get your point,” she conceded. “But you asked, so I told you. So now you know, okay? The end.”

Henry shot her a disbelieving look though as he crossed his arms over his chest. “So you guys did… that once, and now five years later you can barely be around each other? Yeah right. There’s obviously more to it than that.”

Emma avoided eye contact as she continued to decorate the tree, trying to ignore the burning feeling in the pit of her stomach. Already she was regretting beginning this conversation with him, as there were only so many details that she was willing to share, and she had already touched on most of them. “It’s just… it’s complicated, kid.”

“No, it’s not; you just don’t want to tell me.”

The feeling in the pit of her stomach suddenly burned hotter, and for a brief moment Emma was overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotion and she lost her temper, slapping her hand down on the small table the decoration box was on as she turned her head towards her son. “No, Henry, I don’t want to tell you, because every time I think about it, it makes me—!”

But she got ahold of herself then, reminding herself who it was that she was talking to, and she shook her head and turned away as she ran an unstable hand through her hair. “Shit. I’m sorry, kid,” she apologized, feeling like an idiot for going off on him over something so simple. “I didn’t mean to snap at you. This just isn’t my favorite topic.”

Henry scrunched up his nose, sympathy washing over his face at the intensity of his mother’s reaction and what he concluded from it. Unfortunately, he really wasn’t as naïve as Emma sometimes wished he was. “You wanted to actually be with my mom, didn’t you? Like date her?” Emma was silent, and Henry sounded upset on her behalf as he guessed, “And she said no.”

Regina’s words had been a bit more colorful than just a flat out no, basically just reducing their night together to nothing more than a cure for her momentary boredom, but… “Yes, basically.” The words came out a little broken despite the strength she tried to put behind them. Emma cleared her throat, glanced at her son, and willed herself not to get upset over it again. It was such a long time ago. “Look, we both… we both said some things that we can’t really take back, and now being around each other is a little difficult. I’m sorry, I know this sucks for you.”

“Yeah, okay, I mean I get that but… Mom, this happened five years ago. Why are you both still so pissed over it?”

“Have you not met your mother?” Emma asked, looking at her son with disbelief because, really. “She can hold grudges better than anyone else I’ve ever met. She literally cursed an entire kingdom just to get back at my mother for something she did when she was a kid, and you think this is beneath her? Come on.”

“Maybe not, but I still don’t get why she’s even mad,” Henry responded. “Even if she didn’t want to go out with you, that’s not a reason to hate you.”

“I already said once that we don’t hate each other. We still talk civilly, don’t we?” In front of company, anyway, but Emma didn’t feel like making the distinction to her son right then. “We just don’t… we don’t really hang out anymore, and maybe we argue more frequently than we used to but it’s still… I don’t know. It’s not a comfortable situation.”

“So she doesn’t like you because you make her uncomfortable?” Henry asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. “Why?”

“Because I said something I shouldn’t have, alright?” Emma responded sharply, not really keen on answering all of these questions. It was like emotional whiplash. “And how she responded to it didn’t… it didn’t make me feel very good, and so here we are. Five years later or not, every time we look at each other it still seems to remind us about what happened, so we just try not to be around each other so much. Trust me, it’s better that way.”

“If you say so,” Henry responded, although he sounded disbelieving as he grabbed some tinsel to put on the tree. “But if you ask me, this is a whole lot of drama for something really small. It’s not like you guys were in love or anything.”

Emma pursed her lips and stayed silent, and the lack of response made Henry’s brow rise in surprise and disbelief. “Oh my God, Mom, were you in love with her? Like True Love love?”

Henry,” Emma interrupted flatly, her hand coming down hard against the wall as she looked at him. Her stomach twisted in her gut, old feelings beginning to resurface again that she had been working very hard to bury, and she didn’t enjoy it in the slightest. “I’ve answered your questions, okay? You know why things are the way they are now, and that’s the end of it. Now will you please leave it alone and just put the star on top of the tree? We still have a lot more decorations to put up and we’re not even halfway through yet. I want to get this done before your Grandparents come over.”

Henry huffed at being shut down like that, and pursed his lips into a thin line that was so reminiscent of Regina that Emma had to look away. “Fine. But I still think this whole thing is stupid.”

“You’re welcome to think that,” Emma responded flatly as she handed her son the star. “But it won’t change anything.”

And Emma honestly believed that, at least until three days later.

[x]

“Come on.

“Henry,” Regina responded flatly, peering over her reading glasses to glance at her son, who in the moment could only be described as a man-child. “Stop whining; you’re far too old for it. Besides, I thought you liked spending Christmas with your birthmother.”

“I’m not saying I don’t want to spend it with Emma, I just want you there too,” Henry tried, pleading with his eyes. “That’s all I want for Christmas, okay? For my whole family to be with each other. Can’t you do that, just this once? You don’t even have to get me presents.”

“You’re only saying that because you know I already bought you presents.”

“Then donate them to charity or something! I’m serious, Mom.”

Regina’s brow rose at that; she really hadn’t expected Henry to adhere to such a compromise, considering Christmas was his favorite holiday and gifts were a large part of that. Still… “Henry, it isn’t as though I’d be opposed to the idea—” That was a lie, but regardless. “—But your birthmother and I worked together to set up a regular schedule where I would have you for Thanksgiving and she would have you for Christmas. Considering Emma was not invited to our dinner a few weeks ago, I feel as though I would be unrightfully imposing on her time with you.”

“You didn’t ‘work together’ to make a schedule,” Henry countered, shooting her a look like he knew better than that. “Emma told you she wanted me for Thanksgiving, you told her no, and then you threw a fork at her.”

“That was last year, dear; and she was very lucky I didn’t throw anything bigger at her with the way she was screeching at me. This year, however, I informed her that it was best if we kept the schedule regular for you, and she agreed.”

“No she didn’t.”

“Well, she did eventually. Regardless, Henry, I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Mom, you literally force Emma to do things your way anyway, so why would this be any different if you just forced your way into spending Christmas with us?” Henry reasoned and, well, he did have a point. It was very rare that she didn’t get her way when it came to disagreements with Emma Swan, although she often tried not to think about why that was. “Come on, I know you don’t like Christmas or… Emma, really, but can you do it just this once? Please?”

It was only then that Regina fully put the newspaper down. “What makes you think I dislike Christmas?” She had tried, so hard for so many years, to put on a happy face during the holiday season, and she had thought she had been successful with it. Perhaps pushing her son on Emma for the day was too noticeable, but she preferred wallowing to false smiles; in a way they just hurt more. “And my relationship with your birthmother is perfectly civil, so I don’t know what it is you’re implying.”

“Yeah, civil in the way where you practically avoid each other like the plague,” Henry mumbled, but Regina heard it nonetheless. Apparently, she wasn’t quite as skilled with hiding her feelings as she thought she was. “And it’s just… little things, Mom; like how you never really smile quite right, and you’re always finding some excuse to wander off to be alone. And maybe it’s just… I dunno, what is it that they call it? SAD or something, where you’re just depressed in the winter? Or it could be something else that you don’t want to tell me right now and that’s fine, but you know, maybe if you just… spent some time with the rest of your family, you could feel better about it.”

Regina very much doubted that. In fact, being around Emma Swan would no doubt make things much, much worse. Just the woman’s mere presence brings to light something she’d rather leave ignored. She sighed softly though, and corrected, “They’re not my family, Henry. They’re yours.”

“And you’re my family, so by extension they’re yours too,” Henry reasoned, apparently intent on believing that they could ever be one big, happy family when that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Come on, I’ll shave my chinstrap if you go.”

Regina quirked an eyebrow.

“What? I saw the look; I know you don’t like it.”

The older woman sighed. “This really means that much to you?” She would much rather spend the holiday at home alone, but the look on her son’s face and the insistence to go with it was wearing on her. She didn’t want to disappoint him; she felt as though she had already disappointed him enough when he was a child.

Yes, so will you go? It’s only one day.”

Regina pursed her lips, hesitating for a moment only because it made her feel better. In the end, she knew from the very beginning of this conversation that she was likely going to give Henry anything he asked for. “Fine,” she relented finally. “But don’t expect this to become a regular occurrence; I still believe our original arrangement is much better suited for our… unusual circumstances.”

“Jesus, you guys act like you’re divorced or something.” Regina bristled at the implication, but Henry moved past it and continued, “So you’ll really go? Definitely, without a doubt, no matter what?”

“I already said so, didn’t I?”

“Good,” Henry responded, happy with that answer, but not for the reason Regina had been expecting. “Because when I said ‘Christmas’ it’s actually more like ‘Christmas Eve and Christmas’ because everyone’s sleeping over Emma’s for the night so we can have dinner and then be together in the morning for gifts.”

Regina narrowed her eyes at his blatant misdirection. “Henry…” she began, her tone clearly disapproving, but her son wouldn’t let her get out another word.

“What? It’ll be like twenty four hours which is still technically a day it just doesn’t start and end at the right times. Come on, you promised.”

“Does Emma know that I’ll be staying the night at her house? Because while I’m sure she could manage having me around for the festivities in the morning, it’s quite another for me to invade her home.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

Henry.

“Mom, I’ll take care of it,” Henry repeated, his tone firm and determined. Apparently he was having this family Christmas one way or another. “All you have to do is show up. Maybe bring beer or something; Emma likes that IPA stuff.”

For that sole reason, Regina decided right then and there to bring wine.

[x]

“Henry. Henry,” Emma pleaded, her voice hard and even despite the pleading in her eyes. She felt entirely overwhelmed, everything being sprung on her in less than fifteen minutes before everyone was set to show up, and she pressed the back of her hand to her lips before tangling her fingers in her hair as she bent down to be at eyelevel to her son sitting on the couch. “Why the hell are you just telling me this now?

“So you couldn’t call her and cancel.”

It was said so simply, so easily that it annoyed Emma to no end. To add to her list of grievances, Henry apparently couldn’t even be bothered to look at her when he spoke either; instead staring past her at the television screen while he played some shooting game that Regina no doubt hated that he played with every fiber of her being.

Emma slapped the controller out of his hands.

“—Hey!”

“I don’t have anywhere to put her!” Emma hissed, furious that he would do this to her. “Where do you expect me to tell her to sleep tonight, the floor?

“Pretty sure your bed can fit two, Mom.”

Emma looked at him in disbelief. “Do you— what the hell are you doing?” she demanded, her heart beginning to pound a little heavier in her chest due to an onslaught of anxiety. “Are you trying to get me and your mom together? Because that was five years ago and a mess and it’s not going to happen, okay? It’s not. Anything that used to be between us really isn’t a factor anymore.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “Believe me, the last thing I’m advocating for is for you guys to do more things that would no doubt traumatize me if I knew about them. But maybe if you were forced to stay in the same vicinity as each other, you can actually talk like, I don’t know, adults? And maybe get over whatever stupid issues you guys have with each other.”

“Besides, it’s not like you have any other options,” Henry reasoned, before listing off things with his fingers. “Grandma and Grandpa get the guest room, and me and Neal are sharing the pull out. You’re kind of out of sleeping spaces after that.”

“Then I’ll rearrange who sleeps with who. My brother can stay with me, and—”

“Me and Mom can take the pullout?” Henry asked, before cracking up. “Yeah right, good luck getting her to sleep on a couch.

“Then you and her can have my bed, I don’t care!” Emma exclaimed, exasperated. “Henry, I’m not going to share a bed with Regina; that was literally the entire reason this whole crap started in the first place!”

Henry furrowed his brow. “Because of sleeping arrangements?”

Yes,” Emma hissed, unable to really get her voice down to a normal tone now that she had succumbed to her spiking anxiety levels. “It was when your mother and I went to the lake house that summer; you know, the one she always used to take you to? But you were busy with… God, I don’t even remember now; I think it was your summer job, and so she took me so she wouldn’t have to go alone. And that stupid cot I guess you always used to use was broken so I bunked with Regina instead and— Jesus, I can’t have this shit repeating itself. I’m not drinking tonight. Or maybe I should just sleep on the floor. In the basement.”

“Mom, you’re panicking,” Henry said, looking at her like she was going crazy. She felt like she was, at any rate. She really didn’t need this today; things like this require emotional preparation. “Why is this such a huge deal to you; you don’t still like her, do you?”

Emma’s stomach clenched in her gut.

“Believe me, what I feel for your mother could take weeks to list out and a hell of a lot of them aren’t even good things.” It was the closest she could come to the truth without actually saying the truth because honestly, she didn’t know how to categorize what she felt for Regina. There were too many things, and all of them were conflicting.

“…Really didn’t answer my question.”

The doorbell rang.

Emma sprang to her feet and nearly tripped over the rug.

Breathe, she reminded herself as she headed towards the door. It’s just one day. Only one day; stop acting like this even matters to you. But instead of pulling open the front door to become face to face with Regina, a short little blur whizzed past her and into the living room exclaiming, “Henry! Henry! Look what I got!”

“Neal, at least say hello to your sist—” Snow tried, but in the end realized it was probably useless, and just tampered off with a small sigh. Shooting her daughter a smile as she dusted off a few snowflakes from her hair, she greeted, “Merry Christmas, Emma.”

“You too,” Emma responded, a smile forming on her own lips once she realized she could calm down a bit. Taking her parents into a hug one by one once they got through the door, she asked, “You got him something already?”

Snow shot David a sideways look as she took off her coat. “Well, your father—

“It was just one gift, Snow; I don’t see the harm. He’ll have plenty to open tomorrow.”

“It’s the point, David. Christmas is for opening presents; not Christmas Eve. It wouldn’t have killed him to wait until the morning,” Snow told him before handing her husband her coat so that he could hang them both up. David looked like he was about to say something else in his defense, but Snow turned to her daughter instead and looped her arm around hers as she began to walk with her. “The house looks gorgeous, honey. I really like the color you used in the living room.”

“Ashley picked it out,” Emma admitted. “Honestly the whole reason this place looks like an actual home is because of her, so if you want to compliment anyone…”

Snow smiled knowingly. “Well I’ll be sure to let her know that she’s done a beautiful job.”

Emma had bought this house six months ago, having finally decided it was time to stop living in an apartment and put more permanent roots down now that she had a fair bit of money saved up. It wasn’t nearly as big as Regina’s manor, or even as big as the house her parents now had, but it was enough space for her; two bedrooms, one and a half baths… she could have done worse. Of course she had no idea how to decorate it herself, and so she hired Ashley, who had decided to become a home decorator about two years back. Now that everything was mostly done, it was time to show it off, and so she offered to host Christmas this year.

She was praying it would go well, but now with Henry’s little ‘surprise’ that he sprung on her, Emma had her doubts. And then, as if on cue, the doorbell rang again, and Emma felt her stomach drop to the floor as her mother looked at her quizzically.

“Is someone else coming for dinner?”

“Uh… yeah, it’s—hold on a second,” Emma stumbled to say, not really knowing why she didn’t tell her mother right then that Regina was coming, but maybe a part of it was because she was hoping that it might just be someone random, and that Regina decided not to show up at all.

No such luck.

Regina stood in the doorway, dressed much more impeccably than the rest of her family with their Christmas sweaters and jeans, and Emma had to mentally remind herself not to stare so that she wouldn’t make things even weirder between them than they already are. She swallowed, pulling uncomfortably against the hem of her own sweater that her mother had given her the year before, idiotically wishing in that moment that she had dressed better. “Uh… hey, Regina.”

Regina’s posture was stiff, perhaps to try to negate how awkward she felt herself, and she greeted tersely, “Miss Swan.” As she entered the house, she held out a bottle in greeting. “I assumed you didn’t have anything of taste, so I took it upon myself to bring something suitable for the occasion. I do hope you like red.”

Actually, Regina knew full-well that Emma didn’t like wine of any sort, and so the bottle said more about where they stood than the little dig about her being ‘uncultured’, or whatever it was that she thought when she said she didn’t have any taste. Emma narrowed her eyes and bit out an ungrateful sounding, “Great, thanks,” as she took the bottle from the other woman, and Regina responded with a smile that was far more sarcastic than anything else.

As Regina removed her coat, revealing a navy dress that hugged her many curves in a way that almost broke Emma’s ‘no staring’ rule, the woman continued, “So where is your new five minute lover? I’m sure you picked one up for the holidays; that is assuming you haven’t made your way through the entire town by now?”

Fuck. Maybe the ‘no drinking’ thing was a terrible idea, because there was no way she was going to be able to deal with this all night sober. “I’ve been single for four months, actually,” Emma bit back, although immediately afterwards regretted that, because despite Regina’s dig at her string of many lovers over the years, she didn’t really want to admit that she was alone right now either. And it was stupid, but in some intense urge to get back at her, Emma continued with, “But speaking of relationships, how’s the husband? Oh, right…

Regina did look momentarily offended, but it wasn’t long enough, nor did it cut deep enough because Regina merely smirked. “That’s the best you can do, dear? Robin and I have been divorced for nearly two years now; I’d suggest getting new material.”

“Well I was going to allude to the fact that you must be gathering cobwebs by now with how long it’s been, but I thought that was too low a blow,” Emma shot back without thought, Regina having gotten to her with barely any effort at all. It was embarrassing, and so was the terribly childish thing that she said, and when that offensive comment seemed to cut deeper than the last, Emma looked ashamed of herself. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”

“Grow a backbone, dear,” Regina clipped back, straightening her spine so that she could appear as though she was looking down at her. “After all, I don’t plan on apologizing to you anytime soon.”

…Right.

Emma sighed heavily. This was not going to be fun.

“Regina!” Snow exclaimed as her curiosity finally got the best of her, and she came to see who was at the door. “What a wonderful surprise; I didn’t know you’d be joining us this evening.”

The smile that was reserved for Snow was much warmer than the one Emma was graced with, and if that didn’t say anything about where they were with each other, she didn’t know what would. The two of them hugged, having put aside most of their animosity towards one another years ago. Regina was still a little stiff while she did it, like it was more a formality than anything else, but it still was more than Emma had gotten in the last five years.

Once, she was almost able to call Regina her best friend. She was her closest friend at any rate, always doing things with one another on the weekends, but then one night they both got drunk and messed it all up. And it ached, honestly; Emma liked to pretend it didn’t, as after so long she should be over it by now, but the truth was that she wasn’t. She missed what she had with Regina, and every time she saw someone else be closer to the other woman than she herself now was, it hurt.

Now that they were around others however, the façade was back in place and the small gripes towards each other stopped. “Emma was kind enough to invite me this year,” Regina responded, all fake smiles and cheer as she pulled away from Snow’s embrace. “And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her new home.”

“Isn’t it adorable?” Snow gushed, taking what Emma thought was Regina’s obviousness fakeness at face value as she looped her arm in the older brunette’s and began to lead her into the other room. “You have to see what she did with the kitchen; I have to admit, I’m this close to asking David to redo ours after seeing it.”

Emma tried to suppress the roll of her eyes at Regina’s overly polite, “I’d love to, dear,” as she followed Snow towards the kitchen. Really, how her mother didn’t see right through that, she had no idea. Or maybe she just liked Regina being this polite and accommodating that she pointedly ignored the fact that it wasn’t entirely genuine.

Both women stopped though once she heard a distracted voice call out from the living room, “Mom, that you?”

“Yes, Henry; although you would clearly see that if you found your manners and came over to say hello,” Regina called back, clearly chiding him as her tone colored with obvious disapproval.

“Hold on a second, I’m—!”

“Henry, get off your ass and come greet your mother!” Emma called back, before vowing to hide the cord to his video games for the entire night if this was how things were going to be. She didn’t need Regina having more ammo against her, and she would no doubt find some way to equate their son’s lack of manners to her ‘flawed’ DNA.

But as it turned out, it wasn’t Henry’s lack of manners that was going to get her into trouble, it was her language. As if they had rehearsed it, both Snow and Regina smacked each of her arms with the back of their hands, making Emma nearly jump out of her skin from the surprise of it. “Jesus, ow!”

“There is a child present, Miss Swan!”

“Your brother doesn’t need to hear you speak that way,” Snow chided in turn, who had heard her son laugh in the other room and tease, “Ohhhh, she said a bad word; you’re in trouble…” after Emma’s little exclamation. The blonde sighed and mumbled an apology before retreating away from the two women with the excuse of, “I need a drink.”

Because really, there was no way she was going to get through this night without one.

Or seven.

Or twelve.

[x]

Dinner was pleasant, or at least as pleasant as it could have been given the circumstances. At least no one else seemed to feel uncomfortable save her and Emma, and considering Regina wasn’t overly fond of people knowing her weaknesses, it was a blessing. Despite the animosity between them, they both still seemed to have come to the shared agreement long ago that they wouldn’t involve other people in their drama. It was difficult enough, things being the way they were between them, without having other people trying to meddle in it in order to ‘fix’ it, which no doubt Emma’s mother would try to do should she know what was really going on.

The woman truly was insufferable, but Regina didn’t seem to hate it much anymore. Snow was, unfortunately, one of the few people she could count as a friend in this town, despite it being a rather superficial relationship. They were always polite to one another, at least, and sometimes shared drinks together in Granny’s when they happened to run into one another there.

It really wasn’t as terrible as she once believed it would be.

Things with Emma, however, were. And Regina knew it was incredibly foolish for something like this to still affect her in the way that it did, and yet it seemed ever since that night happened they both were intentionally rubbing salt in the wounds. Emma began sleeping with anyone who had a face, and Regina got back together with Robin and ended up getting married far too quickly. And it wasn’t as though she didn’t still love him and was merely using him to forget about Emma, but she did seem to throw all of the doubts that she had had that had led to their previous breakup out the window in order to just try to find a small sliver of happiness. And in the end, the relationship seemed to be more selfish than anything else, and it didn’t last. Regina wasn’t surprised by it, but it still stung. She had thought that when she got married a second time, that that one would be the real thing. That it would be forever.

That’s what she got though, for rushing into things too quickly. She should have known better; love wasn’t simple, and their marriage probably would have had a better chance if they had just worked out their issues before making a commitment, because at the end of the day they all just ended up snowballing and turning into things much bigger than their origins.

Of course, perhaps it all would have worked out better as well if Regina didn’t have Emma’s little… confession hanging in the back of her mind as well. It confused her during a time when she was already so terribly torn about things, and it made everything so much worse. Maybe she didn’t handle it in the best way either, but Emma should have—she should have known that she couldn’t have handled something like that right then. In a way, it felt like Emma was trying to take advantage of her vulnerability, and it angered her and so she lashed out.

And now… and now they were this; whatever this was supposed to be.

Whatever it was though, it certainly wasn’t as pleasant as they tried to pretend it was.

“Regina, you don’t have to do the dishes,” Emma tried, sounding a little exasperated by the gesture, as she walked into the kitchen and saw the brunette elbow deep in suds in her kitchen sink. “This isn’t your house.”

“Of course it’s not, dear; my house has a dishwasher,” Regina responded, unable to help herself for a moment. Thankfully, no one else was around to hear her little gripe, and Emma shot her an irritated look as she placed a few more dirty dishes on the counter. “Besides, if you knew anything about manners, Miss Swan, you’d know it was polite. You cooked, after all, and I suppose you should be rewarded for not burning the ham. It was still a little dry of course, but I was still quite impressed with the effort.”

“Look, insult my cooking, my lack of appliances all you want, okay?” Emma shot back, her cheeks a little pink from the few glasses of spiked nog she had for dinner. Regina hoped she didn’t look the same, despite being on rather even footing with the blonde as far as intoxication level. She felt relatively sober anyhow, but she knew she wouldn’t be at the end of the evening if she had anything to say about it; holidays with the Charmings required quite a lot of liquor intake to stand the abundance of love and cheer.

Especially during a time of year she really did not favor.

“I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’ coming; do you plan to finish your sentence?” Regina inquired, raising an eyebrow as she continued to scrub the dishes.

Emma narrowed her eyes at her. “But don’t fucking call me ‘Miss Swan’ alright? I hate it when you do that. It… it makes everything feel like, I don’t know, the beginning. So just don’t, okay? Call it a Christmas gift to me, or a peace offering; whatever. Just stop saying it.”

That made Regina stop for a moment, her hands just soaking lifelessly in the sink as she turned her head to look at her in surprise. It quickly turned defensive though, as suddenly she felt as though she were being emotionally attacked for some reason. “And why exactly do you care so much as to how I address you? It isn’t as though we’re friends anymore.”

“Which was your decision, Regina; not mine,” Emma shot back, her voice hard and even despite the flash of hurt Regina could see in the other woman’s eyes. It made the brunette’s chest compress, reminding her of feelings best left forgotten, and she immediately looked away to continue tending to the dishes.

As Emma moved around beside her to start drying anything that Regina washed, the blonde’s voice grew softer, less angry as she requested, “Just… don’t do it, okay? Please.”

Regina pursed her lips, trying to ignore the terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach as she handed Emma something else to dry. “If that’s what you wish, I suppose it wouldn’t… kill me to accommodate you,” she responded, voice equally as soft as Emma’s as she refused to look at the woman beside her.

Emma swallowed, looking a little surprised that Regina didn’t fight her on that, and hesitated a moment before nodding in acknowledgement. “…Thank you.”

Silence; save the clanging of dishes as they continued to clean side by side.

Emma cleared her throat awkwardly then, apparently feeling the need to break the quietness of the kitchen. “So, uh… you get to see Roland yet or is Robin bringing him by tomorrow night?”

Regina chewed on the inside of her cheek for a moment before responding, not having expected Emma to try to make actual conversation; they weren’t very good at it anymore, after all. “Robin brought him by this morning so I could give him his gifts. Him and his merry men are all spending Christmas together in some cabin up north, so he wanted to bring Roland by before they left.”

“Oh… good.” There was silence for a moment, the tension of it a little awkward as they tried to actually be civil towards each other in private for once. Emma cleared her throat again as she started stacking some of the clean dishes in cupboard before asking, “Is it… you know, uncomfortable at all? Seeing him pretty regularly and everything? I always figured divorces like that would be.”

“No more uncomfortable than this is, dear, I assure you,” Regina responded dryly, handing Emma another dish a little more forcefully. She really did not wish to talk about her divorce with Emma, of all people.

The blonde sighed softly, taking the hint and responded softly, “Right, yeah… never mind.”

Silence; this time much longer than the first. In the end though, something like that never really sat well with Emma, and she instinctively tried to fill it again.

“So…”

“Miss— Emma,” Regina stressed, practically banging one of the knives she just cleaned onto the counter. “There’s nobody around; there’s absolutely no need to try to make small talk with me. Now I’d appreciate it if you’d either be quiet, or leave me to do the dishes alone. I already told you that there was no need to help me.”

“Right,” Emma responded, irritation in her tone as she grabbed another dish to dry. “Fine. Sorry for trying to make at least one of our private interactions not turn into a complete shit show. Should have known better, right? You’re the most bitter fucking person I’ve ever met.”

“Oh, I’m bitter?” Regina bit back, almost laughing at the ridiculousness of that statement. She started washing the dishes more furiously now, making the few that were left clang loudly in the sink. “Then what do you call your little slut parade that went on for years, if not a bitter reaction to my rejection of you? You honestly think I didn’t realize that you were trying to make me jealous? As if I actually cared what you did with your personal life.”

“Oh, fuck you, Regina!” Emma practically shouted, slamming a plate down on the counter so hard that it broke clean in half. Regina was about to say something about the woman having all the grace of a bull in a china shop, but Emma just pointed at her furiously, “No, shut up about the fucking plate; I don’t want to hear you trying to claim ownership over anything else that’s mine. I know this might be a hard concept for you, Regina, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. I may have wanted you once, but my actions over the last couple years were to do with me and how I felt, not you. You jumped right back on Robin’s dick the fucking very next day, so why the hell would I ever bother thinking twice about you, when you obviously didn’t bother to think twice about me?”

For a moment, Regina was actually speechless; it had been so long since they had actually talked about what had happened between them that she hadn’t been expecting any of this to come up at all. Emma had tried once; about two weeks after it had happened, but Regina was still in a very fragile place and shut her down immediately, which in the end only turned into a screaming match that ended with Emma purposely running over her mailbox as she peeled out of her driveway. Since then, they had made little offhanded comments to one another meant to destroy their delicate relationship even further until, one day, they barely spoke at all. But they never talked about what happened; not really.

And maybe that was the problem; maybe that was why, after five years, they both still couldn’t let it go. They didn’t have any closure. But at the same time, as sick as it sounded, a part of Regina didn’t really want closure, because she had grown accustomed to this changed relationship that she now had with Emma. In some sick way, it almost comforted her; to know she had somewhere to release her anger whenever she needed to. It was therapeutic.

(It was an utter disaster.)

“I was supposed to be your friend, you selfish bitch,” Emma spit out, apparently not finished yet. Her chest was heaving, her cheeks were flushed, and there was so much pain in her eyes that it cut Regina into pieces. She hated it. She hated her; how she could make her feel. “Even if you didn’t feel the same way about me, you could have let me down gently; not use me and then emotionally destroy me.”

“Don’t you dare,” Regina shot back, furious that Emma would ever assume that she ‘used’ her. “Don’t you dare stand there and tell me that I ‘used’ you when you were the one who took advantage of me! I was upset; I had just broken up with Robin and needed a friend, and yet you took the first opportunity you could get to get on top of me, didn’t you?”

You kissed me, Regina; not the other way around!”

“I did no such thing—!”

The door to the kitchen flew open then, banging against the wall and finally silencing the two women as they realized their private issue had suddenly become very public. Snow stood in the doorway, staring them down with a look that could cut glass. “Everything alright in here?” she asked tersely, with a voice that clearly stated that she knew things were very much not alright in here.

And yet still, Emma felt the need to lie. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she practically snapped, unable to reel in her temper. “Regina just broke one of my plates.”

“You were the one who broke the plate, dear; not—”

“Fine, I broke the stupid plate; who the hell cares—?!”

“Emma,” Snow interrupted flatly, really not amused by any of this. “You may wish otherwise, but your house is neither soundproof nor the rest of us deaf. Your father had to take Neal outside to play in the snow because of the colorful language coming from this kitchen, and the less than appropriate topic of conversation. He’s six, Emma; you should be more mindful of the people around you, because this is not something that a child should hear about, nor your son, nor your parents.

Emma’s cheeks flushed then, properly embarrassed that her dirty laundry had finally been aired out for everyone to see. Regina wasn’t particularly thrilled by it either, but at the same time she knew that they only had themselves to blame; they had just gotten caught up in the argument, and forgot about the rest of the world. It had always been like that with Emma though, and once again Regina found herself hating the other woman for it. She shouldn’t be able to get under her skin this badly.

“Although, I suppose if I’m going to be completely fair,” Snow amended as an afterthought, her tense demeanor suddenly diminishing when she sighed softly, as though somehow this entire situation burdened her, “it’s not as though I didn’t see something like this coming.”

That comment seemed to leave Emma looking horrified for some reason, and although Regina herself was curious as to why Snow would ever think something like that was on the horizon for them – especially considering Emma and she could barely stand to be in each other’s presence for years now – in the end, she didn’t want to get into it. She just wanted to leave; this was embarrassing enough as it was already, and she wasn’t too keen on it getting any worse.

“I apologize for the disruption,” Regina responded diplomatically, pointedly ignoring Snow’s previous comment as she straightened herself up so she didn’t appear as humiliated as she felt. “I obviously shouldn’t have come here; I’ll leave.”

“No, Mom—!” Henry suddenly burst out from around the corner, coming into view and successfully blocking Regina’s path towards the door as he planted his hands on either side of the threshold. Clearly he had been spying; he really never did grow out of that. “You can’t leave; you promised me that you’d stay this year.”

“Henry, I know you wanted to spend Christmas with the both of us, but your birthmother and I clearly cannot get along right now, and I don’t want our issues to ruin your holiday; that’s not fair to you.”

“Do you think I actually care about Christmas?” Henry asked her, looking at both of his mothers like they were stupid. “Because I don’t. I might be an adult now, but I’m not too old to be sick of getting shuffled between you guys for the holidays, all because of some stupid crap that happened five years ago. It was sex, Moms, not the apocalypse. So can you both please just grow up and get over it? Because this is dumb as hell.”

“I’m sorry, did you just tell us to ‘grow up’?” Regina asked disbelievingly, looking utterly scathed by the bluntness of her son’s words. He had never spoken to her like that before, and quite frankly she didn’t really know how to take it; was she honestly acting so childishly that her son had to tell her so?

Because that was completely unacceptable.

“Hold on, all of this happened five years ago? I assumed by the way that you were screaming at each other that this had happened recently!” Snow exclaimed, looking at the both of them like they had to be insane for still fighting over it if it had been that long ago. And maybe they were; maybe Snow and Henry were right, and that made Regina feel about an inch tall because she loathed being wrong. But it was petty; what they were doing was petty and small and yet it still hurt just as badly as it did back then and Regina wished she knew why.

Apparently though, it seemed that Snow believed she knew, because suddenly her face turned sympathetic as she turned towards her daughter and said, “Oh, honey…”

“No. No,” Emma responded dangerously, pointing at her mother in warning. “Don’t ‘oh, honey’ me like you think you know what’s going on because you don’t. Regina and I just never talked about it, alright? That’s why it blew up the way it did.”

Regina wanted to focus on that, because Emma’s reaction to Snow’s implication of feelings or some other such nonsense suddenly made her feel like she had rocks in her stomach, but instead all she blurted out was, “Wait a moment, how did you know this happened five years ago?” Because she was certain neither Emma nor she had said that during their little screaming match, and yet Henry was very specific in his time frame.

The boy crossed his arms over his chest and glanced over at Emma, hesitating for a moment before admitting, “…Mom told me.”

Regina looked horrified, and immediately whipped around to face the accused. “You told our son what happened between us—?”

“Oh, relax; it wasn’t like I gave him the sordid details or anything. He barely even got the cliff notes version of our novel-length problems.”

“Regardless; you had no business—!”

“He asked, Regina, what the hell was I supposed to say?” Emma shot back, throwing out her hands in a hapless gesture. “Believe it or not, we didn’t actually raise our kid to be some kind of blind idiot! You don’t think he noticed that something was wrong with us? For fuck’s sake; he’s an adult now, and he deserves to know why we can’t be the family he wants, okay? We at least owe him that.

“Stop swearing in front of my son—”

“Stop acting like he’s still a child!”

“He is still a child!”

“Oh my fucking god, stop!” Henry yelled, completely devoid of patience now as he got between the two women, holding out his hands to physically put space between them. “If this is how you guys are going to act, then I’m not going to come back home for the holidays at all anymore! I have enough stress with college as it is already; I don’t need to come home to this crap! Is that what you want; for me to not come around anymore?!”

Just this once, Regina let her son’s language slide. In that moment, that really wasn’t what mattered, as truth be told, her son’s threat scared her; not seeing Henry… that was the last thing she wanted. “No, of course not, sweetheart,” Regina tried, keeping her voice even to try to calm him down. By this point, he looked very upset with the two of them. “Your birthmother and I, we just—”

Emma, Mom,” he shot back furiously. “Her name is Emma; stop calling her my ‘birthmother’ to try to distance yourself; it’s stupid and everyone knows why you’re doing it.”

Emma quirked an eyebrow at that as she crossed her arms over her chest, looking far too smug over their son choosing to momentarily be on her side. Regina almost said something to her, almost made things worse, but Snow chose that moment to hold up her hands in a white flag gesture.

“All of you, please,” she pleaded, looking between the three of them. “It’s Christmas; we shouldn’t be fighting like this. Obviously there are issues that need to be addressed, but for the sake of the holiday, can everyone please just set them aside for now? We’re supposed to be having a nice time.”

“No.”

It was Henry who answered, and all three women’s heads turned towards him in surprise.

“No, I don’t want them to just pretend things are okay; they always do that and I’m sick of it,” he continued, addressing his Grandmother with a brief glance at his parents. “They’re never going to deal with it unless they’re forced to, so I think we should go; just leave them to talk or scream or whatever they need to do to get over this, and then maybe if they’re not acting like complete assholes we can come back in the morning and have Christmas like a real family.”

Regina’s mouth fell open at her son’s choice of wording. “Henry—!

“Regina, please just—just leave it,” Emma interrupted, putting a hand on the brunette’s arm to stop her from lecturing their son. She sounded like she was growing tired of all this, and quite frankly, Regina was too. She just didn’t know what else to do other than lecture her son for his language; it was the only thing that really made much sense to her in that moment. “Okay? Just leave it. He’s right; we’re acting like assholes and we’re ruining everything right now. There’s really no watering that down.”

Regina was silent, and she pursed her lips for a moment before looking down and allowing the shame to wash over her. This truly was utterly humiliating, and she and Emma were only making it worse by continuing to bicker at one another. They were acting no better than children, and he was right; it needed to stop.

“Henry, I’m… I’m very sorry,” Regina tried, needing him to know that she regretted the way her actions had affected him. It wasn’t fair for him to be penalized for an issue that was between herself and Emma.

“Fine, be sorry,” Henry responded, his voice still a little tense from his pent up anger. “But fix it too, because if you guys are seriously still this upset over what happened five freaking years ago, then something’s seriously wrong. So figure out what that is, and we’ll all come back, okay? That’s the deal.”

Being stuck in Emma’s house, alone with her for the entire night, obviously did not sound like Regina’s idea of an enjoyable evening. However, the last thing she wanted was for Henry to grow to spite them over this and besides, he was right, wasn’t he? It had happened five years ago, and they shouldn’t be acting like this.

So why were they?

[x]

The house was far too silent.

It had been twenty minutes since everyone left, and since then Regina and Emma had pointedly separated themselves in order to just have a moment to think, to breathe. But they didn’t have all night, and the last thing Emma wanted was for this animosity between them to destroy their family’s Christmas, and so after giving Regina a decent time frame of personal space, she entered the living room through the kitchen to see the woman sitting in one of her armchairs, staring straight out the window with a rather blank look on her face.

“Here,” Emma offered softly, holding out a glass of whiskey on the rocks as she passed her. A peace offering, of sorts. “Figured you might need this.”

Regina glanced up at her, face still unreadable, before slowly reaching out and taking the offering. “Thank you,” she murmured, just as quiet. As the brunette put the glass to her lips, Emma crossed the room and took a seat on the couch, and for a moment they both just drank in silence.

Finally, it was Regina who broke it with a long, defeated sigh. “I’m so embarrassed,” she admitted softly. Emma pursed her lips and looked down, feeling the same sense of shame wash over her.

“Yeah,” she agreed, her words coming out rather mumbled. “Me too. That shouldn’t have—that shouldn’t have happened; not like that, not in front of everybody. I don’t know what happened; we used to be good at pretending when we were around other people.”

“That’s because we just used to hurl insults at one another when no one was listening, dear,” Regina responded after taking another long sip of her drink. Her hands cupping the glass fully, she looked down at it and continued, “We never actually spoke about what happened.”

“You were the one who brought up my ‘parade of sluts’, Regina.”

Regina scoffed, and finally shot a look at her. “I’ve always insulted your promiscuity, Emma; that wasn’t anything new.”

“No, but saying I was only with all those people to make you jealous was.

Regina was silent for a moment, just staring down at her drink in her hands, and all that could be heard was the tinkling of the ice against the glass. “And it wasn’t?” she asked finally. “Because at the time, it certainly felt that way.”

“What do you want me to say?” Emma questioned, feeling her gut tighten in her abdomen. “I was—I was fucking hurting, Regina; I was trying to forget you in any way that I could. That was about me, not about you.” She paused then, and in the interest of honesty and reconciliation and all that other crap that was no doubt going to make her look even weaker, Emma admitted, “But if they made you jealous, then no, I wouldn’t have thought it was the most terrible thing in the world. A part of me wanted to hurt you like you hurt me, but honestly? I really didn’t think you cared.”

“You think I wouldn’t care that someone who claimed they were in love with me was off screwing anything with a face?” Regina asked disbelievingly. “Honestly, I know I often call you an idiot, but you seriously cannot be that moronic.”

“You made it pretty fucking clear that you didn’t want what I was offering, Regina; so what the hell else did you expect me to do? Wait around for you with my thumb up my ass like some love-sick puppy? Because fuck you if you honestly think I should have; I have more self-respect than that.”

“I don’t know what I wanted you to do!” Regina exclaimed sharply, looking over at her in the dim lighted room; her eyes filled with more pain than Emma would have expected. “Alright? I don’t know what I wanted you to do. But you certainly didn’t have to do that. It reduced all those things you said to me to nothing, and it felt terrible; like all of it was nothing more than some kind of game to you.”

You were the one who reduced everything I said to you into nothing, Regina!” Emma shouted, getting upset now. Her voice hitched, and she demanded herself not to cry. “I told you I was in love with you, and you spat on me. And now you have the audacity to act like I did you wrong? Fuck you. Fuck you so hard.”

“I did not—!” Regina started to shout, but apparently seemed to get ahold of herself, and took a second to breathe. When she spoke again, her voice was more level as she tried to explain, “I did not spit on you, Emma. I may have—I may have taken it badly, but I was going through a difficult time and I didn’t know how—”

“You told me you slept with me because you were bored! You laughed at me, like I was some kind of fucking idiot for falling in love with you, for taking what happened between us to mean more than what it apparently was, and you made me feel like shit. So don’t sit there and tell me that you didn’t spit on me, Regina, because you might as fucking well have done just that—!”

“Fine!” Regina shouted, and the admittance made Emma’s words tamper off. The brunette’s voice sounded tight now; she was getting just as upset as Emma was, and the entirety of it certainly wasn’t just anger. “Fine, you’re right; I said some horrible things to you, and I’m sorry. There was no excuse for doing that to you, but I was—I was just so damned overwhelmed by all of it; can’t you understand that? Honestly, how did you expect me to feel? I had just gotten out of a relationship that I felt suffocated by, and then you come along and dump all of that on me not a week later? I couldn’t breathe, Emma!”

“Yeah, well, you started breathing just fucking fine when you ran back to Robin the next day, didn’t you?” Emma snapped, a sharp pain beginning to form in her chest at the memory of it. Her eyes began to water, and she looked away in order to make it stop. She didn’t want to give Regina the satisfaction.

“He was the easy answer, Emma; and you were—”

“Oh, fuck you. Don’t pretend like you even contemplated the idea of being with me; not after how you treated me.”

“Fine, would you like the truth?” Regina snapped, unable to keep her composure any longer. “No, I didn’t contemplate it then; not right after you told me you were in love with me. The night before, when we were in bed together? Yes, I thought about it. And yes, I have thought about it since then, and wondered if I made a mistake, but at the time? No, I didn’t, and would you like to know why?”

“Because you telling me you loved me right then was so terribly selfish of you that I don’t even know where to begin,” Regina continued heatedly, slamming her glass down on the table as she got to her feet and started pacing in front of her, ranting. “I was upset over Robin; confused and feeling backed into a corner because of the entire ‘soul mate’ situation, and I—I trusted you. I confided in you. And yet in the end it seemed like you used the entire situation to your advantage to try to get me into bed with you! Like you finally saw an opportunity to step in, and it didn’t matter if I wasn’t ready for something like that, so long as you were. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about me, Emma; it was about you, and that’s exactly why I lashed out after you said that to me.”

“Okay, first of all,” Emma retorted, standing up as well to be at eye level with Regina as she pointed at her, this sense of fury and despair swirling in the pit of her stomach and making her feel almost nauseas. “Don’t you ever fucking say that I took advantage of you or the situation or anything, because that makes it sound like I forced myself on you, and I didn’t. You kissed me, you started taking off my clothes and began whispering in my ear that you wanted to touch me, taste me, fuck me; so don’t you ever fucking put that on me.”

Regina scoffed and rolled her eyes. “I never said—”

“Fuck you, Regina; you know you said those things to me!” Emma shouted, getting in her face to stare her down; she was not playing this game right now. “You’re the farthest thing from innocent, so I don’t know why you’re doing this right now. We both know it’s bullshit.”

Regina’s eyes flashed, and if it was possible, she suddenly got even closer to her. “What I meant, dear, was that I pride myself on my way with words and your cliff notes version makes me sound like some teenager on her first ride.” Her eyes alight with a sudden purpose, apparently feeling the need to prove Emma very, very wrong, Regina’s voice dropped to a much deeper decibel as she continued, “What I said was that I wanted to run my nails across every inch of your skin, etch patterns into your flesh that burned and ached and would remind you for days that you no longer belonged to only yourself, but to someone who finally knew what to do with you.”

Fingers touched her abdomen then, and Emma visibly shook at the very sudden and severe sense of déjà vu. “I told you that I wanted to trace every last line with only the tip of my tongue,” Regina continued, voice like silk and sex as she leaned in and whispered the rest of her filthy little secrets into her ear, her nails gently scraping against the skin of her stomach. “Map every inch of what I claimed until you shook and pleaded and the anticipation of it became unbearable. I wanted you to drown in a sense of pleasure you’d never known, Emma, because to me your body was the most pristine piece of artwork, and I was going to make you become my finest creation. I was going to make you shine.

Regina pressed her lips directly up against her skin then, her words hot and heavy and making Emma’s head spin as she grasped firmly to the blonde’s belt, roughly pulling her flush against her for a dramatic finish, “Because I promised, when I was through with you, you’d have come so many times that you’d be covered with nothing but your own arousal; spread out like a canvas on the floor, slick and spent and absolutely beautiful.

Emma felt like she couldn’t breathe; she didn’t even know how to think in that moment. And so, the only thing that managed to leave her lips was a rather strangled, desperate plea of, “Jesus…” which seemed to be exactly what Regina was looking for.

“Yes,” Regina purred, finally pulling back a little in order to see the look on Emma’s face. “And then you said that.

The abrupt change in the atmosphere between them left both women struggling with the intensity of their breathing, and suddenly Emma began to see something other than anger or resentment in the other woman’s eyes. It was something honest; something almost vulnerable, and it frightened the hell out of the blonde. But she didn’t have much time to contemplate it, as Regina’s voice suddenly came out a little scratchy as she finished with, “Don’t ever compare what I said to you to some throwaway line in an amateur porno; it isn’t often that I say things like that to people, and I’d rather it not get reduced to utter filth. It’s insulting.”

And for a moment there, it honestly did look like Emma’s brief overview of Regina’s comprehensive declaration all those years ago, really did insult her. Hurt her, even. It was really unexpected, and unsettling as all hell.

“And you wonder—” Emma began, her voice coming out a little broken before she cleared it and swallowed, wishing she didn’t feel as hot as she did right then. It was like her entire body was on fire from Regina’s words, and a part of her hated the woman for still having so much power over her. “And you wonder why I got the wrong idea. And it wasn’t just… God, it wasn’t just your words, Regina. It was—the way that you touched me, the way that you…”

“I know,” Regina breathed, and for the first time, she truly sounded apologetic about it. She was still holding onto her, lithe fingers wrapped around the blonde’s belt as they stood close enough to feel each other’s breath on their faces, and their eyes seemed to search one another’s for the answer to a question neither knew how to put into words.

Emma felt a lump in her throat, and it ached terribly to try to suppress it. “Then why—?” she tried, needing to at least attempt to put her feelings into words, but she could barely get it out. She choked on the question, the emotion inside of her threatening to consume her whole as she forced herself to turn around; to just get away from her. But Regina reached out for her, and Emma felt tears sting the back of her eyes as the brunette forced her to come back to her; to face her, to deal with it.

“Emma, wait—”

But that was it; that was all she said. Regina just continued to look at her, this expression on her face that Emma couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out how to read, until a singular tear finally slipped down Emma’s cheek, and Regina lips covered hers.

And quite suddenly, it felt as though something broke inside of her.

Emma choked back a sob as she immediately pushed Regina away from her. “No, no; don’t you ever—” she started, upset and furious and filled with so much damn despair over one singular gesture. “You broke my heart, Regina; you—you fucked me up. I’m not—I can’t do this with you. I won’t. I can’t go fucking through something like that again.”

“Emma,” Regina tried, suddenly looking torn between being surprised at herself for what she had done, and terribly guilty for the reaction it garnered as she attempted to reach for her again. “I’m—I’m sorry, I-I didn’t… it was just instinctual; I never meant—”

But Emma couldn’t deal with this right now, and she backed away before Regina could touch her. Her throat was so tight she felt like she could barely breathe, and she hated—God, she hated that it hurt like this; that after all this time, Regina could still cut fresh wounds instead of just opening old ones. “Just leave me alone,” she pleaded as she continued to back out of the room. “Please just—just leave me the hell alone.”

“Emma!” Regina called out, desperation and apology in her tone. “Emma!

But Emma ran out the backdoor then, and she didn’t look back.

[x]

It had been nearly an hour, and Emma was still outside on the porch. Regina had been watching her from the window, this incredible sense of despair and self-loathing burning in the pit of her stomach. She had known, even when she had done it, that it was foolish to kiss her. But in that moment, it was the only thing she had wanted to do, and so she didn’t question it. Now, she wished that she had, for it made everything so much worse.

It had taken a long time to gather up her courage, but Regina finally slid open the sliding glass door of the porch and stepped outside. She just stood there however, a blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders to protect her from the cold, and she didn’t say anything. In the end, she knew it had to be Emma who spoke first.

Regina thought that Emma would’ve been surprised to see that she was still there, as surely she would have believed that after all of that Regina would have just left, but the blonde didn’t even comment on the fact that she was still in her home. She just continued to stare out at the night sky, her voice coming out cracked and hoarse when she spoke, and so very, very defeated. “You were right, you know.”

“About what?” Regina asked softly, fingers curling in the fabric as she wrapped it tighter around her form. Honestly, she hadn’t thought she had been right about anything in a long time.

“When I told you I loved you, it was selfish.” Emma took a breath then, curling her legs up onto the small porch swing as she wrapped her arms around them. “I realized what I felt for you months before that, and it—it killed me that I missed my chance; that you found your soul mate, and you were going to live happily ever after. But then you… you broke it off with him, started having all these doubts about being attached to someone in such a frighteningly permanent way, and I thought…” She exhaled a small laugh then, like she was laughing at herself; for ever being so foolish. “I thought, ‘finally.’

“And then we talked, and we drank; I told you that you deserved the freedom to make your own choices, and then you—you kissed me,” Emma continued, and even though it was still such a heartbreaking memory for her, Regina could see the little hint of a smile at that, and it made her heart clench tightly in her chest. “And I thought, I don’t know, that maybe you were choosing then – that you were choosing me — and so things… spiraled. We had sex and it wasn’t at all like mindless fucking; it felt like it meant something to you, and I convinced myself that maybe you felt the same way I did.”

Regina swallowed the tight knot that had formed in her throat, but stayed silent, waiting for Emma to finish.

“I knew you were suffocating,” Emma admitted softly. “And what’s even more ridiculous was that I know you, and I knew that telling you something that honest and intense would scare the hell out of you; but at the time it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because—because I didn’t want to miss my chance. I knew you still loved him, and I was afraid if I tried to take it slow that you’d choose him over me because you knew he was a sure thing, that he loved you and wanted you. So I just—I needed you to know that he wasn’t the only one; that you had options, and that you didn’t have to be with someone just because some stupid fairy dust said it was your destiny.”

“I wanted you so badly in that moment that honestly, I didn’t care that it wasn’t the best time for you,” Emma admitted softly, sounding so terribly upset with herself. “Because it was… it was the best time for me.” She sighed then, running her fingers through her hair as she looked down at the snow on the ground. “I’m sorry.”

A thousand feelings she couldn’t even begin to hope to name rose to the surface then, twisting her insides and weighing her heart down with rocks. Regina didn’t say anything though, merely swallowed and crossed the porch in silence, only to sit down next to Emma on the swing bench. She looked at her for a moment then, catching the other woman’s gaze for the first time since the conversation started, and she slid the blanket off her shoulders.

“You must be freezing,” she breathed, her words making little puffs of air visible against the night sky as she wrapped the blanket around the both of them, keeping her body close to Emma’s so that she could share her body heat.

“Yeah,” Emma admitted, her voice sounding a little cracked and broken as she allowed Regina to practically snuggle up against her. Closing her eyes for a moment, Regina watched the woman seem to fight down some sudden onslaught of emotion before she opened them back up, took a breath, and gently leaned her head against Regina’s shoulder as she finished, “Yeah, I am.”

Regina wrapped her arms around the blonde woman’s form then, and she felt Emma swallow.

“I’m sorry too,” Regina breathed, her lips gently touching the top of the blonde’s head. “Those things that I said to you were… horrible, and not the least bit true. I’ve never been very good at being scared; I replace it with anger instead, something that makes sense and something I can control, and then I… deliberately push people away from me, so that the thing that scares me about them never comes near me again. It’s an awful defense mechanism, but I never really regretted it; I thought it protected me.”

Taking a breath, Regina allowed what she was feeling to take hold of her for a moment, and she admitted, “But I regret it now. I’ve regretted it for the past five years. Despite trying to convince myself that you were being selfish, or that you were just toying with me, I still… I had wished I never said those things. At the very least, they cost me a friend.”

“And at the most?” Emma asked softly, and she sounded almost as though she were afraid of the answer. But she shouldn’t be, because Regina had often wondered what would have happened should she have chosen Emma that day.

“And at the most… they cost me what could have been my happy ending, and I despise myself more than anything for that.”

Regina could hear Emma take a breath, but she didn’t say anything for a long moment. After shifting under the blanket a little and shivering next to Regina’s form, she asked, “Is that why you’re doing this then? You regretted throwing it away, and now that it’s here again, you want to find out if it’s actually worth something?” It sounded more accusatory than curious, and Regina gently bit the inside of her cheek in guilt.

“I already know it’s worth something, Emma; I may be a lot of things, but an idiot is certainly not one of them.” Pursing her lips, she looked up at the outline of the moon while she allowed her fingers to gently trace the dip in Emma’s waist over her clothing. She sighed softly before continuing. “But kissing you back there was selfish; what I want may not align with what you want, and I should have thought of that before doing it. For so long though, everything I felt for you was buried beneath layers of anger and resentment, and now that they’re slowly disappearing, I don’t… to be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure what to do about it. All I know is that, quite suddenly, I seem to want you very much. And it’s… it’s intense and it hurts and I’m not entirely sure where it came from, or how long it’s been there.”

Emma didn’t say anything to that, but she didn’t move away from her either. Regina exhaled another sigh then, and her voice turned apologetic and she finished, “And I know that, after everything that happened between us – after all the emotional turmoil that you went through, that I caused you – that must be like a slap in the face to you, and I’m very sorry about that.” Averting her eyes, knowing full well that even this sounded selfish, she softly finished with, “I just… I thought you should know where I stood.”

Emma didn’t say anything for a long time, but Regina watched her swallow hard before shifting a little, and awkwardly clearing her throat. Finally, after what seemed like forever, all she responded with was, “I’m… really fucking cold.”

Regina exhaled a breath she didn’t realized she had been holding, and although she felt disappointed by Emma’s lack of a proper response to what she said, she nodded in acknowledgement. “Come along then, dear; let’s get you inside.”

The two women retreated back into the house, and as Emma turned on her electric fireplace and sat in front of it, Regina fetched their drinks and handed hers to the blonde before sitting back in the armchair a few feet away from her. She knew Emma needed her space then, and she didn’t want to overwhelm her.

They both drank for a little while in silence, and Regina watched the light from the flames dance across the blonde’s face, suddenly finding herself enraptured by how beautiful the other woman looked in the soft glow. And it was strange, as she used to feel nothing but anger towards Emma for so long, that she never really allowed herself to see what was right in front of her; perhaps because now, all it did was make her feel guilty and regretful, and she didn’t want to feel like she had been wrong back then.

But God, she felt wrong now.

“You remembered,” Emma mentioned after a long while, the blanket pulled tightly around her shoulders as she stared at the dancing flames. “It’s been five years, and you remembered every single word you said to me.”

“Yes.”

Emma swallowed. “Why?”

Regina was silent for a moment, allowing herself to take another sip of her whiskey. The liquid burned its way down her throat, and once it settled in her stomach and filled her with a comforting sense of warmth, giving her the small bit of courage that she needed, she admitted softly, “Why do you think?”

But that wasn’t good enough for Emma. “Say it.”

Regina sighed softly, and settled back into the chair. “Because it meant far more to me than I originally let on, and it’s… been something that I’ve thought about for quite some time now. Despite my anger towards you, that night… it burned itself into my memory, and I was never able to forget it.”

Emma nodded, acknowledging her words at least, but did not respond. Instead she just sat in silence on the hardwood floor, slowly sipping her drink as she looked into the fire. Regina didn’t really know how to feel; she had no idea where Emma stood, outside of knowing that she had quite obvious reservations about trusting her again.

Finally, Emma spoke again. “Why don’t you like Christmas?” She glanced up at her then, finally, and there was something else behind her eyes that the brunette couldn’t decipher.

Regina’s brow furrowed, not having expected that question. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“I didn’t say that I didn’t, dear; but I just don’t understand where this question is coming from,” Regina responded, clearly perplexed by the sudden change in topic. Emma didn’t say anything more though, just waited expectantly as she looked up at her, and then Regina finally realized. This was some sort of test.

Emma wanted to see if she trusted her enough to tell her something so personal. She wanted to know exactly how Regina felt about her; if it was just sexual, or some casual musing, or something much deeper than that.

Regina took another sip of her drink then, and exhaled a long breath. Honestly, she had never really expected anyone to notice how she felt about it; let alone care. “It’s not… Christmas, exactly. We didn’t have that where I’m from. Instead, we celebrated the Winter Solstice.”

Emma was silent, waiting for her to continue.

“And it’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that it reminds me of things that are… rather painful,” Regina admitted softly, her nails clinking anxiously against the glass in her hands. “My mother used to shower me with gifts; or, at least, that’s what she wanted me to think. I would see them all, laid out in a row just waiting to be opened, and yet when the time came, suddenly I did something ‘wrong’ and they were all taken from me as punishment. This happened every single year.”

“It took me a long time to realize that it was just another way to break me; another way to make me compliant to her, and to be reminded that it was she who owned me, and that I would never ‘deserve’ anything unless she deemed it fit. I hated her for it, because even after I realized what it was she was doing, that didn’t stop me from hoping that maybe next year would be the year that she would finally let me have them; that she would finally deem me good enough to be rewarded.”

“So you don’t like it because it… reminds you of what your mother used to do to you?” Emma asked softly, carefully. Regina laughed softly.

“No. No, that’s not it at all.”

Emma’s brow furrowed then, and Regina explained, “My mother always did things like that to me; I could associate every day of the year with the emotional abuse she inflicted on me, so no, that’s not it.” She paused then, taking another sip of her drink before she continued. “One evening after we were supposed to exchange gifts however, I fled to the stables and began to cry, tired of being such an easy pawn in my mother’s games for power and control. And… and a boy found me.”

“Oh,” Emma interrupted, realizing now what it was Regina was associating the holidays with. “Daniel. That’s… it’s when you met Daniel.”

Regina nodded, feeling her throat tighten a little at the memory of it. She looked down at the drink in her hands, and a sad smile crossed her face then. “It was a happy memory for me,” she breathed softly. “But… even happy memories begin to turn painful, once you remember how they ended. Every year, it reminds me of how we started, which in turn… reminds me of how it ended. It was so very long ago, and yet some days, I can’t seem to think of anything else. It hurts just as much as it did back then.”

“I’m sorry,” Emma whispered, reaching up to gently place her hand on Regina’s knee. They were silent for a moment, and Regina allowed the blonde to comfort her with small patterns traced over the fabric of her pantyhose as she took another long drink, emptying the glass of its contents before she placed it back down on the small table to her right.

“You still love him,” Emma mentioned softly, after a long moment’s silence. Regina nodded.

“As much as the first day I met him,” she admitted, voice just barely above a whisper. “I think, in the end, when you truly love someone, something like that never fades away; it never lessens. You may love again, but it doesn’t overwrite it; merely… finds a different place to settle inside of your heart.”

“Yeah,” Emma agreed, voice barely audible as a sad smile graced her face, and she allowed the hand on Regina’s leg to fall back to her side as she turned back towards the fire. “I’m beginning to realize that.”

Regina’s heart clenched in her chest, knowing exactly what it was that Emma was implying with her words. And it exhilarated her, terrified her; there was a part of her that sought to reach out and tangle her fingers in Emma’s hair, to kiss her and fall into an emotion that she had known for a long time had been building, if not already fully formed by the time everything had fallen apart. She had never really dissected her own feelings, never gave it a name for fear of the permanency of titles, and although Regina knew that it was perhaps high time that she did, she was still frightened of it.

Not because of Emma, and not because of what it could give her should she just allow it to become something more than just a feeling, but because despite the blonde’s words, Regina could see that she was still so guarded. A part of the woman clearly feared the emotional hold Regina had on her, and for good reason.

“Five years,” Emma breathed, before laughing softly, like this was all so ridiculous. “Five years, and it still hurt like it was yesterday. God, I’m such an idiot for not realizing; even my fucking mother knew what it meant.” She sighed heavily, scratching her nails over her scalp as she mussed her hair, shaking her head at how foolish she believed she had been.

Regina swallowed, and it only took a moment’s hesitation before she was off her chair, and kneeling on the hardwood floor next to the blonde. “Emma.” Her voice shook when she addressed her, and Regina had to hesitate for a moment while she gathered up her courage to continue. Emma turned her head to look at her then, and when their eyes met, Regina admitted softly, “You’re not… you’re most certainly not the only one who this has hurt as though it were yesterday.”

Emma’s eyes softened then, and suddenly she looked so terribly overwhelmed by what was in front of her. She just stared at her, and Regina licked her lips nervously as she gently reached for the glass in Emma’s hand, placing it away from them on the floor until she looked back at her. She watched Emma swallow and, in learning from her previous mistake, her own voice became a little cracked with nerves as she informed her, “I would… I would very much like to kiss you right now, Emma. May I?”

Emma took a shuddered inhale of breath and then slowly, ever so slightly, she nodded her head yes, and suddenly it felt as though a crushing weight had been lifted off of Regina’s chest. She smiled softly, and as she placed a hand atop of Emma’s that lay delicately in her own lap, Regina slowly leaned in, and gently pressed their lips together.

It was barely anything more than chaste, filled with a sense of hesitancy and innocence that by all accounts, should not belong with something that wasn’t new to either of them. But it had been so long since they had shared a moment together like this, that both of them found themselves tentatively exploring one another in order to find out if this tenderness would be accompanied with the pain of their own deceptively sharp edges. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.

When they parted, Regina could feel Emma’s breath on her lips before the woman slowly licked her own, and looked up at her. “Are we being complete fucking masochists right now?” the blonde asked her softly, needing to know exactly what was transpiring between them.

“If you’re asking if I plan to reject you come tomorrow, the answer is no,” Regina responded, her own voice just as quiet, as though being any louder would somehow disrupt the delicate nature of this moment. “I don’t… well, I don’t plan to spend another five years of my life regretting not taking a chance on you; it doesn’t particularly sound like an enjoyable way to spend my time.”

Emma pursed her lips at that, gently nodding before looking down at Regina’s hand, which still lay delicately on top of hers. Turning her hand around, she laced their fingers together before exhaling a long breath. “This is insane,” she breathed. “Two hours ago, we hated each other.”

Regina smirked at that, chuckling low in her throat. “Actually, dear, I think the conclusion we’ve drawn here tonight is that the entire reason for all of the animosity between us was because of the exact opposite of that.”

Emma laughed softly, turning Regina’s hand over in her own as she looked up at her. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

She was silent for a moment then, and Regina watched a few different emotions play out on the blonde’s face as she gently played with the other woman’s fingers. Regina stayed silent, waiting for Emma to either speak, or to come to some sort of decision that she seemed to be struggling with. And for a moment there, it almost seemed like she had reached one as she began to lean in. But then she stopped just a hair’s width away from Regina’s lips as her tongue tentatively snaked out to wet her own, and the brunette could almost feel the anxiety in each breath of air that landed gently against her skin.

“You can kiss me, you know,” Regina whispered softly, the sound barely audible to anyone that wasn’t mere millimeters in front of her face. That seemed to break Emma’s train of thought, and her brow furrowed in slight annoyance as her eyes focused on the woman in front of her.

“I know. Just—shut up. Okay? I just…”

Regina began to quirk an eyebrow at the demand, but then Emma’s lips suddenly covered hers, and this time, the kiss was anything but chaste. Apparently, she had only been working up her nerve to finally trust Regina, to push things between them just a little bit further, and Regina exhaled a breathy moan as she let go of Emma’s hands, only to grasp the sides of her face. The kiss wasn’t overly rough, but the firmness to it couldn’t go ignored; instead of requesting entrance, Emma demanded it, and Regina was more than willing to comply as she parted her lips and allowed the blonde to slip her tongue into her mouth.

Regina let her lead for a bit, but eventually the burning feeling in her abdomen began to expand and spread, and the fire inside of her began to scorch away anything that had once left her feeling unconfident in the wake of such a sensitive situation. She growled low in her throat, a sound that left Emma gasping as the brunette grabbed her chin in her hand, putting just enough pressure on Emma’s jaw that she was certain it would stay open when she pulled away.

Regina’s tongue traced the other woman’s lips, her teeth, the very corners of her mouth before allowing her own to close around the base of Emma’s chin, and then up towards her jaw. Emma moaned, her breath hitching in her throat as Regina began to mark her skin, and after she had found a rather sensitive spot behind the blonde’s ear, Emma grasped onto the fabric of her dress and exhaled a rather needy sounding, “Shit…

Regina chuckled, the sound reverberating against porcelain skin as she continued to drag her lips down the expanse of Emma’s neck. “Eloquently put, dear.”

“Shut up,” Emma breathed, before her eyes fell closed and she exhaled another moan, Regina having taken more of her skin into her mouth until she had felt a small pop, and tasted copper. Her tongue then delicately traced the mark that she had made, soothing the harshness of it in the hope that it wouldn’t darken too much.

After all, she just wanted to mark her; not make her look like an abuse victim.

The next kiss she gave her though was gentle, placed just beneath the base of her jawline, and she could feel Emma swallow before she turned, gently bumping their noses together before she gave her a kiss that was anything but. It was fierce; powerful, and strong, and it demanded far more than what they had been giving each other. Emma’s breathing was labored as she roughly nipped at the brunette’s bottom lip, and as her hands fell from Regina’s neck to squeeze her breasts, it suddenly left the woman’s chest tight and her pantyhose wet.

Regina pushed her down then as she continued to kiss her, hoping she was reading the other woman’s signals right as she forced the blonde to lie flat on her back in front of the fire. Apparently though, with the quick way that Emma shed herself of her hideous Christmas sweater before practically tearing at Regina’s dress in an attempt to get it down to her shoulders, she had been correct in her assumption about what Emma wanted from her. Still…

“Here?” she asked breathlessly, however still helping the blonde get her out of her dress by reaching behind her and unzipping it before Emma ended up ripping it clean off of her. “We’re on the floor of your living room.”

“So?” Emma asked, practically panting between the kisses she was leaving on the exposed skin of Regina’s shoulder as she continued to pull the dress down the other woman’s chest, leaving it to rest loosely against her hips. “There’s a fire – it’s romantic.”

Regina snorted.

Emma sat up a little then, trying once again to push the dress past Regina’s hips, although with the angle the woman was bending over her, she could barely get it to budge past the dip in her waist. “You gonna let me undress you?” she panted impatiently, but Regina just removed the blonde’s hands from her and simply stated,

“No.”

Emma’s eyebrows rose.

“Lie back down,” Regina instructed, letting go of Emma’s wrists so she could do as she was asked.

“Regina—”

“Do what I say, dear.”

Emma looked at her for a moment, her chest heaving with desire, seemingly torn for a moment on whether or not she wanted to adhere to Regina’s wishes or just pounce on her like some crazed animal in heat. Regina just waited through, holding eye contact with her patiently until, finally, Emma nodded and laid back down against the hardwood floor, awaiting further instruction. Regina smiled.

“Good girl.”

She rose to her feet then, allowing the flickering light from the fire to dance patterns across her skin as she slowly removed her dress, letting the garment pool at her feet. She watched Emma suck in a sharp breath at the image of her lover that was left before her; a toned body in lacy black garments and thigh high pantyhose, coupled with a pair of two and a half inch heels that she had yet to kick off. Her hair was mussed, her makeup no doubt smeared by now, and Regina knew that she was a sight, and she reveled in the look on Emma’s face when she took her all in.

“Shit,” Emma breathed. “Can I just like… take a picture of you? I want to hang it on my fucking wall.”

Regina chucked. “As flattering as that is, dear, as I’m sure you’d use it to aid in all the filthy little things you do to yourself at night, the answer is no.” A light blush covered Emma’s cheeks then, no doubt now thinking about masturbating to Regina’s image, and the brunette smirked as she began to slowly circle the woman on the floor, appraising her.

“Take off your clothes.”

Within seconds, Emma’s bra was already thrown god knows where, and as impressed as Regina was with her speed, she held up her hand and tsked disapprovingly. “Slowly. Did I not tell you once how I viewed your body? It’s like artwork to me, dear; I covet it, have often even dreamt about it, if we’re to be honest with one another now. Don’t just give it to me; tease me.”

“Regina, I’m not exactly in the sexiest of—”

Regina tsked again, silencing her. “I’ll decide what I do and do not find sexy on you. Now do as your told, and afterwards I promise I’ll whisper such terrible filth in your ear that I’ll have you coming right there on the floor just from the mere thought of what I’m going to do to you. Does that sound acceptable?”

Emma’s breath seemed to leave her at that, and she noticeably stumbled over her words in her attempt to find some sense of actual competency. “I… I—okay. Yeah, I’ll… okay.”

She bit down on her bottom lip then, a gesture that Regina had always found incredibly arousing on her as she undid the button on her jeans with one easy flick. Hooking her thumbs into her belt loops, Emma slowly began sliding the fabric down her thighs, exposing a small pair of white cotton boy shorts underneath. Regina hummed appreciatively as the blonde rid herself completely of her jeans, but when she went to strip herself of her undergarments, Regina stopped her with, “Not just yet.”

Emma looked at her quizzically for a moment, but when Regina elaborated with, “Spread your legs for me,” the woman complied without a second thought. Regina licked her lips as the flickering light of the fire illuminated the very obvious wet spot between the woman’s thighs, and it was only then that she got back on her knees, and started crawling up the blonde’s body.

“I believe it only fair to warn you,” she purred, taking her sweet time in getting to her destination, her eyes locked on the blonde’s. “That it’s very doubtful that you’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”

“That’s fine,” Emma breathed, her pupils having dilated so much that there was no longer any color left in her eyes. She stayed completely still, just watching Regina advance on her like a predator, and it was obvious that she was beginning to have problems breathing.

“Or for the next week, for that matter.”

“Fucking live with me then, or even just tie me up in your damn basement; I really don’t care, just—just touch me, Regina, please…” she begged, but when she went to reach for her, Regina merely had to tsk her again, and a frustrated groan left Emma’s lips as she instead closed her eyes, and ran her fingers through her hair, pulling on the roots a little. “You’re going to kill me. I’m going to die right here. Fuck. Tell my son I love him.”

Regina chuckled low in her throat at the woman’s dramatics, and allowed her thumb to trace Emma’s bottom lip before sliding it down the woman’s chin, taking the succulent flesh with her for a moment before allowing it to pop gently back into place. “La petite mort, my dear,” she breathed, looking down at the woman beneath her as she hovered over her waist. “Do you know what that means?”

Emma shook her head.

“It means,” Regina purred, allowing her lips to travel down Emma’s jawline, her neck, and over to her ear as she breathed hotly, “that yes, you will be dying tonight. Over,” she nipped beneath her ear then, making Emma gasp, “and over,” fingers pinched taught nipples next, and this time, the woman beneath her physically jumped, “and over again, until your body has expelled everything it has to give and you lie beneath me, motionless and spent and wondering if, for a moment there, you had actually laid eyes on the very Gods themselves.”

“Because la petite mort, my dear, is French for ‘the little death’,” Regina explained in a breathy whisper, the words sending noticeable shivers down Emma’s spine as she continued to play with her breasts, “and I plan to fuck you until the reality you know to exist shatters before your eyes and leaves you hovering between life and death, between solid ground and the heavens above you.”

“I am going to destroy everything you thought you knew about sex, Emma Swan,” Regina purred, before a wicked smile graced her lips, and she looked her dead in the eyes when she finished, “and then I’m going to make you beg for me to ruin you for everyone else all over again.”

“Jesu— fuck,” Emma breathed, and Regina was surprised for a moment that it sounded as though the woman was close already. When she said before that she could make Emma come from just her words, she was just saying that for dramatic effect; she hadn’t actually thought that she could do that. And for a second there, Regina almost thought she had achieved it, until she pulled herself out of the distraction of monologuing, and realized Emma was touching herself.

Regina tutted in disapproval, seeing the blonde’s hand shoved into her underwear, working against her clit in some kind of furious desperation. “That’s cheating.”

Regina grabbed Emma’s wrist gently in her hand, and although the blonde whined in protest, she allowed Regina to pull her hand from her underwear without a fight. Instead of just giving it back to her however, Regina’s eyes landed on the amount of arousal already covering Emma’s fingers, and she found she couldn’t help herself. Sliding two of the digits into her mouth, Regina kept eye contact with the blonde on the floor as she slowly cleaned her of any evidence of the desire she had caused.

Emma groaned, and when she spoke her plea came out sounding desperate, needy, and almost as though this delaying of her inevitable orgasm was starting to cause her actual pain. “Regina… please— I… I—I feel like…”

Regina took Emma’s fingers out of her mouth, and gently hushed her before softly pressing her lips to the inside of the woman’s wrist. Perhaps she was being too cruel, but she did love to tease. “Hush, dear,” she breathed, continuing to gently kiss down the other woman’s arm as she slid back on top of her. “I promise I’ll take care of you…”

Emma arched her back as Regina moved over her, straining to get at least a little bit of contact. Their breasts brushed together as Regina situated herself just above her, faces mere inches apart as she continued to look deep into Emma’s eyes, and gently teased the veins in the blonde’s wrist with her tongue. Emma’s breath hitched in her throat then, and it was then that Regina allowed her little games to end, and descended on her until they were finally locked in a passionate kiss.

Emma moaned at the taste of herself on Regina’s lips, and she grasped at the skin of the brunette’s back as she desperately tried to find some friction against one of Regina’s thighs. The older woman grasped Emma’s chin in her hand though, controlling the kiss as well as her as her other hand slipped down between their bodies. “Let me,” she instructed, and it was more a demand than a request as she allowed her hand to cup the warmth between the other woman’s thighs.

Emma immediately hissed at the contact, and a strangled sort of whine followed as Regina began gently massaging the blonde’s clit over her underwear as she kissed her. She knew Emma wanted more contact than that, but at the moment, she was very much enjoying feeling how wet the fabric was beneath her fingertips. With every stroke of her hand though she could already feel Emma’s insides begin to clench, her body expelling more evidence of her arousal as it completely ruined what was once a perfectly good pair of underwear, and as Emma panted heavily against her lips, Regina found herself smirking.

“You’re close already, aren’t you?” she breathed against her lips, continuing her assault on Emma’s clitoris. The woman’s hips bucked beneath her touch. “I can feel it… feel you struggling with it, trying not to come before I even take your panties off. Would it embarrass you, if you did that?”

“I…” Emma tried, but she was gasping and her eyes were almost crossing and all she could really do was dig her nails into Regina’s back as her hips began to jerk almost violently. She was trying so hard to fight it, but Regina was equally putting as much effort into making it come to pass.

“Stop fighting it,” Regina instructed gently, allowing her lips to trace the blonde’s jawline as she rubbed harder, faster, firmer circles. “You’ve no reason to be embarrassed, dear. After all, I am trying so very hard to make it happen…”

Emma’s cries were growing louder now, her body nearly curled forward off the floor as she clung to Regina like her life depended in. She was most certainly going to leave marks on her, and Regina loved every second of it. “Come for me, Emma,” she demanded, her voice no longer soft and gentle; but loud, firm. She so desperately wanted to see the look on the blonde’s face when she finally allowed the feeling to take hold of her, and so she gave an order that she knew would soon have to be complied with as she encouraged, “Now!”

There was a few second’s hesitation after the order was given, but then Emma’s back suddenly hit the floor hard, a strangled cry falling from her lips as she arched her back and expelled everything from within her. The blonde was shaking, her left leg actually twitching from the aftershocks of it, and Regina smiled wickedly as she reveled in the image of it. She was absolutely beautiful.

“Mmm,” she murmured, kissing the woman’s cheek, her jaw. “You are delicious…

Emma mumbled something in response, but it wasn’t audible in the slightest. Honestly, at this point, the only thing the woman seemed to be able to do was just lie there and struggle to breathe. Regina used that to her advantage though, not nearly done with the woman beneath her, and she began to kiss down the woman’s chest, followed shortly by the expanse of her abdomen.

Emma’s stomach muscles jumped each time Regina gently nipped at her skin, but all the woman could really do was murmur small sounds of encouragement as she lay there, still trying to find her grasp on reality. The smell of the blonde was beginning to make Regina’s mouth water the closer she got to her destination though, so when she finally situated herself between Emma’s legs, she honestly couldn’t stop herself from at least dragging her tongue just over the hem of the woman’s underwear. She wanted to tease her more; God did she want to tease her more as she loved seeing her squirm, but there was a part of her that almost physically ached to just bury her tongue between Emma’s thighs, and it was starting to win out.

But Regina fought the urge for at least a little while longer, and instead just ran her tongue along the crease of Emma’s thighs, before gently nipping at the soaked fabric and pulling on it. It snapped back into place and the blonde groaned softly, instinctively spreading her legs a little further to give Regina more room to work. Parting her lips, Regina allowed her mouth to cover the center of the fabric then, sucking gently and tasting Emma’s desire against her tongue.

“I’ve missed how you taste,” she murmured as she sat up a little, finally intent on stripping the fabric from Emma’s body. It stuck to her skin a little, and Regina could see the smear of her arousal as she began to pull it down her thighs.

“Regina…” Emma breathed, and just the way that she said her name made a fierce heat ignite in the pit of the brunette’s stomach; it sounded as though she needed her so very desperately, and Regina ached to give all of herself to her and then some.

“Shh,” she breathed, encouraging Emma to bend one of her legs after she rid the woman of her underwear. She gently kissed the inside of her knee, and then downward to place another on her thigh. “Just lie back and relax; I’m not near done with you yet.”

Regina continued to place gentle kisses down the expanse of the blonde’s thigh, until she finally situated herself between the woman’s outstretched legs. Using only the very tip of her tongue, Regina traced a long line directly down her center, delighting in the way Emma’s hips jerked and twitched. The blonde moaned deep in her throat, and Regina responded by gently nipping at each of her lips in turn.

“Fuck,” Emma breathed, her back arching as she tangled her fingers in a mess of blonde curls. Regina’s mouth finally covered her completely then, taking the tiny bundle of nerves entirely into her mouth, and Emma practically shook from the feeling of it. “Oh my— f-fuck.

Instead of demanding an orgasm out of the woman beneath her, this time she made careful effort to take her time as she slowly drew moans and gasps out of her lover, reveling in each and every time the sound of her own name fell from the blonde’s lips. Emma was clawing at the ground by the end of it, her chest heaving and skin flushed before she finally let herself go.

Regina, however, barely gave her a moment to rest.

Her fingers slid inside of her then, and Emma cried out as Regina situated herself back on top of her, using the leverage of her thigh against the back of her hand to accentuate every thrust. Emma nearly choked on her breath, still very much in the middle of one orgasm as Regina quickly built her up for another. She clawed at her, mumbling incoherent things against the skin of Regina’s neck as she nearly sobbed from the feeling of it, and it made the brunette feel very, very powerful.

“Would you be terribly angry with me if I made you come so many times that you passed out?” Regina breathed against her skin, smiling wickedly at the look of pure ecstasy on Emma’s face. “Because I think I’ve decided that’s what I’d like to do.”

“Regi—fuck, fuck, oh my god,” Emma panted, slamming one of her hands against the ground while the other tugged so hard on the brunette’s hair that Regina worried for a moment there that she may actually pull it out. But then Emma’s nails were piercing the skin of her back, and Regina felt a hot sting followed by the sticky sensation of blood as Emma shouted more explicits, and violently shook as she came once more.

It wasn’t long after that Regina finally found Emma’s limit, and the woman’s body completely shut down in order to recuperate from the ordeal. Regina was breathing heavily as she finally allowed herself to relax, and she slumped down beside the sleeping blonde as she tried, at least for the moment, to ignore the painful ache between her own thighs.

Pressing her lips gently to the blonde’s forehead, Regina’s voice shook a little as she finally breathed out the secret of her intentions, knowing full well that they would not truly be heard. “I know this doesn’t make up for how I treated you all those years ago when you said all those… those wonderful things to me,” she murmured, brushing the hair away from the sleeping woman’s eyes. “But I do hope it’s a start.”

[x]

Emma’s lack of consciousness was only brief, but it was long enough that when she awoke, it was to find Regina already lying next to her, her own hand firmly shoved beneath her black lacies as she quickly worked herself to orgasm. It was a sight that, God, Emma hoped to witness one day from start to finish, but for now, Regina getting herself off was the very last thing she wanted. She understood the woman’s desperation to start without her, but she certainly was not going to finish without her; at least if she had anything to say about.

It took a few long moments to get her bearings on reality, but when she did Emma rolled over and hoisted herself atop the brunette, stopping the woman’s actions as surprise colored her features once she realized Emma had awoken. “That’s cheating,” Emma husked as she encouraged the woman’s hand out of her undergarments, a small smirk gracing the edges of her lips at her repetition of Regina’s earlier words.

Regina was breathing heavily, her pupils dilated and lips parted as she stared up at her. But instead of the greeting she was expecting, which basically consisted of frantic kisses, grabbing hands, and someone else in this living room begging for a change, Regina just told her between labored breaths, “If you’re too—I mean, if you’re too tired, dear, you don’t have to; I’m more than capable of taking care of myself. If you’re exhausted; rest.”

Emma looked at her like she was insane. “And miss out on the bragging rights I’d have if I make you scream my name? What are you, high?” She laughed then, and as she came down to lock their lips in a heated kiss, she didn’t think much else of Regina’s offer, and believed that to be the end of it.

But after she had Regina convulsing on the floor of her living room, the orgasm that expelled from her much more violent than either of them had been expecting, it wasn’t long until Regina was trying to climb back on top of her, clearly intent on giving Emma her, what? Fifth, sixth of the night? She had lost count by this point, and honestly, she was so sensitive from before that she still needed a bit more time to recover from it.

“Regina, Regina,” Emma gently coaxed, untangling the woman from on top of her. She chuckled a little, and told her, “Give me a little bit, okay? I can barely have my thighs touch right now without jumping straight out of my skin.”

She rose up on her haunches then, leaning forward to place gentle kisses on the other woman’s neck as she reached around, and finally unclasped her bra. “Besides,” she drawled, allowing her tongue to trace the shell of the other woman’s ear before she spoke again. The movement made Regina visibly shudder, and Emma smiled wickedly against her skin as she coaxed the fabric to fall from the brunette’s body. “I have a list a mile long of things I want to do to you, and we’ve only just begun to tick off boxes…”

Regina’s eyes fell closed, and she murmured appreciatively when Emma’s hands cupped her firm, round breasts, the blonde dusking her thumb over the woman’s hardened nipples. And yet even still, what fell from her lips was the last thing Emma was expecting. “It’s late, dear; so if you don’t want to do this right now, please know that you’re certainly not obligated. I’ll survive, I assure you.”

Emma pulled away from her immediately, her brow furrowing as she caught Regina’s gaze. “Okay, that’s twice now that you’ve told me that I don’t have to do anything to you. What’s going on?” But then a sudden streak of paranoia hit her, and Emma’s expression suddenly crumbled as her stomach clenched in her gut and she asked, “Unless you don’t— do you… not want me to touch you?”

Regina looked surprised by the question, and then realization hit her that right in that moment, that was what Emma deeply feared, and so she was quick to assure her as she clasped their hands together, “No—Emma, no. That’s not… that’s certainly not what I meant. Of course I want you to touch me.”

“Then what’s wrong?” Emma asked, Regina’s assurance at least making her feel less inferior than the last twenty seconds did. Still, whatever this was, it didn’t feel particularly good.

“Nothing,” Regina tried to deny, shooting the woman a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I merely… don’t want you to feel obliged to return the favor if you don’t want to. I know it’s late, and you must be tired; I wouldn’t want to keep you up.”

Emma turned her head towards her shoulder a bit, shooting Regina a suspicious look out of the corner of her eye. “You’re lying,” she told her, and it wasn’t a question. Her bullshit meter tinged a mile off that one. “Why?”

Regina sighed softly, resting her back against the base of the couch as she ran her fingers through her tussled hair. “I’m not lying, Emma.” Her gaze met the blonde’s then, and she questioned, “Is it so farfetched that I would be concerned about your needs over my own?”

Emma hesitated. That sounded like a trick question.

She didn’t say anything for a long time; just stared at Regina as she tried to figure out the problem, before suddenly, and only slightly, her eyebrows raised in realization. “What?” Regina demanded, noticing the look and immediately becoming a little defensive. And it was that, more than anything else, that proved to Emma that she was on the right track.

“Oh my god, you’re keeping score, aren’t you?”

Regina averted her eyes and scoffed at that theory. “I’m certain I don’t know what you mean.” She huffed, folding her arms across her chest as she continued, “And besides, if I was, you would be immensely behind; so I don’t know why you believe I’m stopping you from reciprocating, if that’s the case, unless you believe ‘winning’ really means that much to me. Which, I can assure you, it does not.”

“I don’t mean about tonight,” Emma responded, sliding herself over to situate herself next to the brunette. Her brow furrowed as she looked at the woman’s face, the light from the fire dancing across her expression and making the lines in it even more pronounced. Regina wouldn’t look at her.

“You think you owe me something… don’t you?” she asked, her tone gentle enough so that she wouldn’t make Regina feel as though she were getting backed into a corner. “That’s why you want tonight to be all about me.”

Regina pursed her lips, and an annoyed look flickered across her expression as she rolled her eyes. “Are you honestly complaining that I wish to focus all of my attention on you? Because I’m sure most people would be pleased with something like that.”

“Fuck ‘most people’, Regina; I’m not them, okay? I’m me, and…” Emma tried, before tampering off with a small sigh. She looked at the woman next to her, who apparently still felt the need to not grace her with eye contact of any sort, and gently took Regina’s hand into her own. That, at least, garnered a little bit of attention as Regina side-eyed her.

“I don’t want our… whatever this is that we’re doing right now, to come with a scoreboard, okay?” Emma tried, needing her to understand that this wasn’t the way to do things. “And honestly, I don’t know why you even think you do, but if you need to hear it be said, then you really don’t owe me—”

“Don’t I?” Regina interrupted, her tone strained with a sudden emotion. Emma closed her mouth then, and waited for Regina to continue as the brunette sighed and shook her head. “You were right,” she told her softly, her voice sounding so terribly small and filled with such an acute sense of self-loathing that it tore the blonde’s insides to shreds. “When you told me that you loved me, I… I spat on you, and I—”

“Regina…”

“Don’t, Emma. You know I did; and those were your words, not mine. They just happened to be true.”

Emma sighed softly, the corners of her mouth creasing down into a frown. Squeezing Regina’s hand in hers then, she told her, “Look, I’m not going to deny that you broke my heart that day; you did, and it hurt like hell. But if that’s what you’re basing this imaginary scoreboard off of, then I think we’re already even.”

Regina’s brow furrowed, and she finally turned to look at her.

“Maybe I’m wrong,” Emma admitted, although she hoped she wasn’t; at least for this conversation’s sake. For Regina’s peace of mind. “But when I started to sleep with other people, you mentioned that it made everything I said to you that day feel like it was worth nothing. I basically told you that I was devoted to you, and then I turned around and began giving myself to somebody else; anybody else. And yeah, there were mitigating circumstances and whatever, but that… when you told me that, it sounded like it cut you; that maybe, watching me do that, even broke your heart a little.” Wetting her bottom lip nervously, Emma looked up at her and asked, “Am I wrong?”

Regina was silent for a long moment, just looking into the fire as she watched the flames jump and dance. She swallowed. “No,” she whispered, her voice barely audible. “No, you’re not wrong.”

“So then we’re even,” Emma responded softly, on some level glad that she was right, yet pained to realized that she had done the same thing to the woman she cared about. Still, they had to move past it; being stuck in this cycle, it wouldn’t do either of them any good. “Aren’t we?”

Regina exhaled a small breath, before allowing her gaze to land on the woman next to her. “I suppose,” she murmured. Pursing her lips, she looked down at their clasped hands and apologized, “I’m sorry. I merely… I suppose I just feared that, despite what has transpired between us tonight, that a part of you may still resent me for what I did to you.”

“I don’t,” Emma answered without hesitation. “Regina, that was… it was a long time ago, okay? We’re both not the same people that we were then. And I’m not saying the past doesn’t matter because it does, but if we get stuck in it then we’re never going to move forward. This, right now? This is what matters; not what we did or didn’t do five years ago. I might still have my trust issues and you might still have your paranoia, but if we let it consume us, then we’re never going to get anywhere. And I…”

Emma licked her lips a little nervously then, and as she exhaled a little breath, she rose up and swung her leg over the brunette’s thighs, straddling her. Catching her gaze, Emma told her honestly, “Regina, I want to get somewhere with you.” Giving her a soft, encouraging smile, she continued, “I want to go to a hell of a lot of somewheres with you actually. Like maybe even my bed, say right now? I mean, I wouldn’t complain about that.”

Regina cracked a tiny smirked. “Regretting your decision to fuck me on the floor now, are you?”

“Well, no, because it was really fucking hot, but we can’t stay here all night either,” Emma rationalized, before shrugging softly. “Besides, last I heard, queens deserve the best, and the floor really doesn’t meet that criteria. I wouldn’t want to make a bad impression in front of royalty.”

Regina quirked an amused eyebrow at the ‘royalty’ comment. “You forget, dear, that I’m not the only one with royal blood in this room.” Taking both of the blonde’s hands in her own, Regina laced their fingers together and brought them up over their heads, pressing her chest into Emma’s as she let her go, and gently allowed her nails rake down the skin of her arms. “Besides,” she breathed against her lips, and just the tone of her voice caused Emma to shiver. “Presenting me with the most beautiful princess in all the kingdoms… I dare say you’ve already made quite the impression on me.”

Emma smiled around her softly bitten lower lip, gently teasing, “Listen to you, being all romantic and complimentary. I could get used to this.”

“Oh, don’t be insufferable about it.”

Emma laughed, throwing her arms around the brunette’s neck as she kissed her. And they did, eventually, make it up stairs to her bedroom, where they completely forwent sleep for a night of passion, that Emma, in no way, regretted… at least until the morning.

And only because the way she woke up? Well, it wasn’t exactly the best.

It felt as though she had only just closed her eyes to sleep when the sound of her doorbell rang through her house, startling her so badly that she practically jumped out of her skin. Unfortunately, she had been lying half on top of Regina when she did so, and her abrupt movement ended up startling the brunette so badly that she instinctively reacted, and sent a blast of magic her way that landed Emma hard on her ass on the floor. She groaned, slumping over so that her forehead touched the ground in a rather defeated position.

“Emma!” Regina exclaimed, suddenly very much awake as she sat up in bed and scrambled towards the edge, peering down at the woman on the floor that was practically crumpled into a ball. “I’m so sorry; are you alright?”

“Peachy,” Emma wheezed, before coughing and hoisting herself into a seated position. That was going to leave a bruise. She had almost forgotten what had woken her up, when a loud knocking sound came from downstairs. Suddenly hit with a severe streak of panic, Emma shot up from the ground and exclaimed, “Shit!”

“Emma!” Regina tried, already foreseeing what was going to happen just as Emma slipped on her area rug, and practically bashed into her bedroom wall in an attempt to stabilized herself.

“Fuck, ow.”

Regina pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

Emma barely even registered the other woman’s reaction to her clumsiness though. “Get up!” the blonde exclaimed once she had gotten her bearings again, rushing to find something to wear. She didn’t understand why Regina was just sitting there, didn’t she realize who was at the door? Honestly, did she want to traumatize their son, her brother? Because that really wasn’t on her to do list today. “Do you have clothes? Oh god, did we leave everything in the living room?

“Emma, Emma!” Regina tried, clutching the sheets over her bare breasts. “Calm down; you’re going to hurt yourself again. I’m sure waiting a moment for us to open the door won’t kill Henry or the rest of your family.”

Emma turned back around from practically throwing clothes out of her dresser drawers, looking at Regina with an expression of utter disbelief. “Regina, they have a key!

Realization dawned on Regina’s face then, followed by absolute horror. If they waited too long to answer the door; they were just going to come in. And, well, with the state they were in now, that really wasn’t something that either of them wanted. Suddenly Regina was off the bed in a flash, nearly getting tangled in the sheets as she rushed towards the blonde.

“Give me something to wear!” she demanded, practically shoving Emma out of the way as she tried to find something suitable in the other woman’s wardrobe.

“Where the hell are your clothes?” Emma hissed, grabbing an oversized t-shirt out of her drawer before throwing it over her head. “Didn’t Henry tell you that you were spending the night?”

“I never took my bag out of my car!”

The knocking grew louder then, more insistent, and Emma muttered, “Fuck,” before throwing a t-shirt at Regina. “Wear this!”

Regina looked at it with disdain. “I can’t wear—”

“Do you want to be naked when they barge in here?!” Emma exclaimed, looking at her with disbelief. Seriously, now was not the time to be picky about what covered her body, so long as it was covered. Regina shot her an irritated look at her tone, but did as she was told and pulled the shirt over her head. She looked down at it then, picking at it with distaste; and, okay, to be fair, it was an old shirt, and it was a little ratty.

“I’m buying you new clothes.”

“Great, buy me a fucking pony while you’re at it if you want, just put on some underwear!” Emma exclaimed, throwing Regina a pair before she stepped into a pair of boxer shorts, pulling them up over her ass. “I’m gonna go downstairs – find whatever you can wear for pajama pants and then come help me pick up the shit in the living room!”

Before waiting for Regina’s answer, Emma took off out of the room, taking the steps down to the front hallway two at a time. And just in time too, as Emma heard the distinct sound of the lock click just before the door began to crack open. “No, wait!” Emma exclaimed frantically and, in a wave of desperation, did the first thing she could think of and pressed hard on the wood once she skidded to a halt in front of it, shutting it directly in her family’s face.

“Emma!” exclaimed Snow, sounding unsure of whether she should be surprised, worried, or offended by the blatantly rude gesture. “What on earth—?”

“Mom?” came Henry’s confused voice from the other side of the door. He banged on it loudly, and the sound echoed through the house. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just—give me a minute, okay? Just one minute, I’m sorry!” Emma apologized, feeling really awful for doing that, but at the same time, the last thing her family needed was to come in and see her and Regina’s clothes thrown haphazardly around the living room. She didn’t wait for their response, and instantly rushed into the connecting room, picking up any article of clothing that she could find.

And then, after gathering it all up into her arms, she bolted upstairs in her haste to get rid of it. Of course however, tripping on the second to last stair; because this morning wasn’t going swimmingly enough as it was, was it?

The clothes went flying, scattering all over the upstairs hallway and half into Emma’s room as the blonde smacked her forehead on the floor. Regina bolted out of the bedroom once she heard the crash at the same time the front door opened and her family burst into the house, no doubt having heard the commotion.

“Emma? Oh my God, sweetie, what happened?!” Snow exclaimed, looking horrified by the sight she was presented with. She tried to make it up the stairs, David hot her heels as the two younger boys just stared at the scene in surprised shock, but Regina turned around in a wave of frustration and waved her hand, freezing them all in place.

“Alright, everyone stop!” she shouted, chest heaving as she watched everyone halt in place, completely immobile. It seemed to be an instinctual reaction to the overwhelming situation she just walked into, and her face flashed with guilt before she twisted her hand in the air, at least unfreezing their son and Emma’s brother.

Henry looked halfway between shocked and indignant at his mother’s use of magic on him. “Mom, what the hell—?

“I’m very sorry I did that, Henry, but this—everyone just bursting in her, it overwhelmed me, and I can only handle one thing at a time right now,” she tried to apologize, looking a little frazzled as she knelt down next to a groaning Emma, who was currently trying to get herself into a seated position. “I’ll make it up to you, sweetheart, I promise,” Regina assured him, practically gathering the blonde into her arms. “But for right now, please just take Neal and go play outside for a bit; I’ll explain everything to you soon.”

Henry looked like he was going to say something, but then something on Emma’s face seemed to catch Regina’s attention, and the brunette’s expression masked into a look of terrible concern. “Damnit, you’re bleeding,” she breathed, gently touching Emma’s forehead to inspect the damage. The blonde winced. “Must you be so terribly clumsy?”

Henry’s eyebrows rose, noting the tender touch and look of care on his mother’s face.

“Henry, now,” Regina ordered without even looking at him, knowing he hadn’t left yet. “I do not appreciate being gawked at; please just let me take care of your mother before she tries to get up and falls completely down the stairs, or does something else completely asinine.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Emma groaned, feeling as though her head was splitting in two as she held it. She winced, and closed one of her eyes in order to focus on the woman in front of her; Regina’s image blurred momentarily, but then went back to normal. Well, at least she could see. Sort of.

“Emma…?” Neal asked, concern tainting his tiny voice as he held onto Henry’s leg and looked at his sister with a frown pulling at his lips.

“I’m fine, squirt,” the blonde assured him, forcing a smile. “Just a bump on the head; go play with Henry.”

“Right, okay; come on, Neal,” Henry encouraged, picking the kid up into his arms. “Let’s go make a snowman while my Moms try to figure out the least traumatizing way to tell me they did something really gross last night.”

Regina blinked, and sharply turned towards her son. “Henry—”

“You’re wearing Emma’s Iron Maiden t-shirt and you came out of her room, Mom; doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why,” Henry called back as he headed out the door with the smallest Charming. “So let’s skip the awkward part where we talk about what you guys are doing now, okay? Because I’d rather not have to scrub my brain with bleach. Thanks.”

The door closed behind him, and Regina let out a long, defeated sigh.

Emma scrunched up her nose in apology, knowing that was not the way that Regina wanted her son to find out about them. “I’m sorry…” To be fair though, their kid wasn’t a child anymore, and Regina wearing her clothes? That was a huge flashing sign of the obvious considering that usually, Regina would never be caught dead in something like that.

“It’s not your fault, dear,” Regina assured her, and that alone made Emma’s brow rise, because Regina was always so quick to blame her for everything. But then the woman hesitated for a moment, and amended as she side-eyed her, “Although why you felt the need to run up the stairs with the clothes, when you could have just hid them in a closet down there, is absolutely beyond me.”

Oh. Right. That probably would have made more sense; or at least had the possibility to be far less catastrophic. “I don’t know; I’ve had like a half an hour of sleep, Regina; I really wasn’t thinking.”

“Yes, that much is abundantly clear,” Regina responded dryly, and although it was clearly a jibe, her voice still held a bit of fondness to it that couldn’t be ignored. Emma smirked, and Regina responded with one in kind. “Come here,” she encouraged, feigning exasperation as she brought the blonde a little closer to her as she inspected the small gash on her forehead. “Since you’re clearly incompetent, I suppose it falls on me to take care of you now.”

Emma tried to suppress her smile at that, but failed miserably.

But then she glanced down at the statue-like images of her mother and father, and had to ask, “Uh, Regina? You gonna unfreeze my parents anytime soon?”

“Eventually,” Regina dismissed, apparently very uncaring about the state of the Charmings until she could first deal with Emma. Peering at the wound for a moment, she informed her, “It’s only minor. Would you mind if I healed it with magic?”

“You don’t— I mean, you don’t have to. I can do it.”

Regina shot her a skeptical look. “When was the last time you used your magic? We haven’t had a town-wide catastrophe in quite a while, and I know how you are with studying.”

Emma wrinkled her nose, and apparently that was all the answer Regina needed.

“Then I’ll do it; knowing you, you might accidentally magic off your head, and then what use will you be to me?” Regina responded, smirking in amusement when Emma shot her a disgruntled look.

But the mention of magic made Emma realize something then, and as she grabbed Regina’s arm she exclaimed, “Wait a minute, why the hell were we even struggling to get dressed when we woke up when you could have just poofed clothes on us?”

Regina froze, her own stupid mistake dawning on her. Emma smirked; it seemed she wasn’t the only one not thinking clearly this morning.

“Because one shouldn’t use magic for mundane tasks, Miss Swan; it’s incredibly lazy and that is not an example I wish to set for my son,” Regina shot back, clearly just making up any excuse she could think of in that moment. Emma’s smirk widened.

“You didn’t think about it.”

“Well as you’ve said we’ve had barely an hour’s sleep, and you were utterly distracting as you ran around your room like a clumsy maniac,” Regina responded haughtily. “Now be quiet; I’m much more comfortable with the idea of it only being you who made moronic mistakes this morning.”

Emma snickered as the brunette side-eyed her, before the woman told her to ‘just hold still’ as she leaned forward to heal Emma’s injury.

A warmth began to tingle the blonde’s forehead then as Regina hovered her hand over the cut, magically sealing the wound and cleaning the blood from her skin. “There,” she said softly, her previous irritation seeming to just slip away as she gave Emma a small smile and brushed a fallen piece of hair from the woman’s eyes. “Good as new.”

Emma touched her forehead, feeling nothing but smooth skin. “Thanks,” she responded, her cheeks tingeing pink from the fondness in both Regina’s tone and expression as she looked at her. Biting gently on her bottom lip for a moment, she looked up at her and suggested, “And um, I mean, I know I’m like the worst student ever, but if you… wanna teach me magic again, I’d actually really appreciate it? Cause you’re right, I am really out of practice.”

Regina quirked an eyebrow at that. “You know if you’d like to spend time with me, Emma, you don’t need to make up excuses for it.”

“I wasn’t making excuses; I was laying the groundwork, actually.”

“For?”

Emma licked her bottom lip suggestively, all sorts of devious scenarios playing out in her mind before she smirked and admitted, “For my suggestion that you do it while in a naughty teacher outfit.” Her hand that was playing with the hem of Regina’s t-shirt suddenly tangled in the fabric, pulling Regina a little closer to her as she breathed against her lips, “Think about it; every time I do something wrong, you can bend me over the desk in your study and spank me with a ruler… Miss Mills.

Regina raised a singular eyebrow, obviously intrigued by the prospect. However, what came out of her mouth wasn’t entirely the yes that Emma was hoping for. “As much as I am in agreement that you are in sore need of discipline, dear, you are forgetting two very important factors.”

Emma furrowed her brow.

“One, there is absolutely no way you will ever learn anything if I dress up for you; especially if you’ll be purposely seeking out punishment, which it sounds like you’ll do. And two,” she continued, shooting Emma a pointed look that clearly said you fucked up, “Your parents may not be able to move or speak at the moment, but that certainly does not mean that they are deaf.”

Horror washed across Emma’s face.

“Oh God,” she breathed, completely and utterly horrified as a wave of embarrassment swept so violently through her body that she felt as though she were about to die on the spot. “No, no, no,” she groaned, pitching forward and burying her face in Regina’s neck, hoping she could just melt into her disappear. “Please just—you’re joking, right? Tell me you’re joking.”

Regina pursed her lips, and patted Emma a few times on the head. “Unfortunately, no. And I suggest you deal with your little self-outing sooner rather than later so that we may enjoy Christmas together; so do have fun with that, won’t you?” With a swish of her wrist, the Charmings were unfrozen and Regina finished, “I’m going to go see to our son. Find me when you’re finished.”

And then she was gone in a puff of smoke, and Emma nearly fell straight over onto the floor again. “Regina?” she called out, perplexed for a moment before it hit her that the woman had seriously left her to do this alone, and she screamed furiously, “Regina!

With one glance at her parents who, despite having been unfrozen, still seemed very much unable to move or speak after what they just witnessed, Emma groaned again and crumpled herself up into a ball on the floor.

She was going to kill her.

[x]

Christmas morning was pleasant, despite the tension and awkwardness that seemed to surround the beginning of it. After a while though, it seemed that the gifts and abundance of familial closeness seemed to win out, and they all focused on enjoying themselves rather than question the newly budding relationship between herself and Emma. And quite honestly, Regina was thankful for that; she wasn’t particularly keen on people knowing her business, and discussing it was quite another. In the end, that was why she had left Emma to deal with her parents alone.

Which she was certain that, after everyone left, she would pay for.

And she did.

“I can’t believe you made me do that alone!” Emma exclaimed once her parents and brother had left, shoving Regina’s arm in irritation. “Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was?!”

“Yes, which is why I did not want to be involved,” Regina answered easily, which only earned her a furious glare. Regina sighed softly. “I’m sorry, dear; but I just didn’t see it as my responsibility – they are your parents, after all.”

“So? They’re your… they’re your…!”

Regina raised her eyebrows, waiting for the end of that sentence.

“People!” Emma exclaimed suddenly, like she had made some kind of grand point until she frowned, reassessed that, and tried again. “Friends, or something— alright, maybe not but whatever, they’re just around you a lot and damnit, it wasn’t fair that you left me with them! You’re a part of this… this thing too, you know.”

“This… thing?” Regina questioned, an unspoken request for elaboration in her tone. Emma’s cheeks colored.

“Well, I don’t know what to call it, we haven’t really… you know,” Emma answered, fidgeting a little uncomfortably as she wrung her hands together. Her sudden nervousness was incredibly endearing. “I mean, do you… want to go out with me?”

Regina pursed her lips, and while she knew she shouldn’t, she couldn’t help but pick on her a little. She very much enjoyed watching Emma squirm. “I’m sorry, dear, are you proposing a date, or a relationship? Your wording wasn’t very clear.”

“I…” Emma blushed again, and it was absolutely adorable. Running her hand through a mess of blonde hair, she shrugged awkwardly and tried, “I mean, I don’t know? Whichever; whatever you want? I’m not picky.”

Regina quirked an eyebrow at that. “You’re not ‘picky’? Well, isn’t that terribly romantic; how could I ever say no to that?”

Emma groaned, slumping down on her haunches as she buried her face in her elbows and her hands in her hair. “Oh my god, you’re doing this on purpose aren’t you?” Regina said nothing for a moment, trying rather unsuccessfully to hide her smirk. Thankfully, Emma was too busy hiding in a ball for her to see anyway.

“I’m just saying, dear, if you want something, there are much better ways to go about it than bumbling around it with uncertainties and fear.”

“Fuck,” Emma breathed in frustration, slumping down against the wall as she banged her head against it lightly and looked up at her. “Fuck you. Please be my girlfriend, Regina. There. Happy?”

“Begging now, are we?”

Emma grabbed the closest thing she could find – which thankfully was one of Neal’s stuffed animals that he accidentally left behind – and chucked it at her head. Regina ducked, only narrowly dodging it, and laughed as she sunk to her knees in front of the blonde, who was glaring at her for being toyed with. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” Regina apologized, hoping she didn’t irritate her too much. “I just find you rather endearing when you’re flustered.”

Emma’s eyes narrowed, but she seemed more to be feigning her annoyance than truly feeling it. “I seriously hate you.”

Regina pouted, playing wounded. “Oh? Well, that’s rather disappointing. And here I was just about to accept your offer; but if you hate me, then, well…”

She was about to pull away when Emma snatched her hand, pulling the brunette towards her so quickly that Regina basically fell into her lap. “Fuck you,” she repeated, her gaze landing on the older woman’s lips, before resting on her eyes. “Be my girlfriend?”

Regina chewed gently on her bottom lip, a small smile peeking out between her teeth. “I suppose I can carve out time in my busy schedule for a relationship,” she answered, her tone gently teasing before she ran her tongue along the cleft in her lip, and swung her leg over the blonde’s so she was straddling her. She quirked an eyebrow at her then, and continued in a sultry voice, “I may even make a pit stop on the way home and purchase a sturdy ruler, since you seem to have a very vivid fantasy. Would that please you?”

Emma’s breathing noticeably shallowed. “Oh god please,” she begged, completely without shame. Already she looked like she wanted to devour her, and Regina had to place a hand on her chest to stop the woman from leaning in; at least momentarily.

“Two things, however,” she told her. “One, that little role play will not be involved in our magic lessons, which we will continue twice a week; you being so terribly out of practice is dangerous, and I won’t allow it to continue. And two…” Regina’s gaze glanced up towards the stairs, a small sense of anxiety beginning to brew in her stomach. “Before this goes any further, we should really inform our son of our changed relationship.”

Emma shot her a disbelieving look. “Pretty sure he gets it, Regina.”

“He knows we had sex; that’s quite different.”

Emma rolled her eyes at that, apparently not finding it very different at all for some reason, but did comply with her girlfriend’s wishes as she turned her head towards the stairwell and yelled, “Hey, kid!”

“What—?” came the distracted voice from the guest room. No doubt Henry was playing with his handheld that he got for Christmas.

Regina shot Emma a disapproving look, as this really wasn’t what she meant by ‘talk’, but Emma chose to ignore her as she called up the stairs, “Your mom and I are dating. That cool?”

Regina sighed heavily, utterly exasperated by this entire exchange. In the end though, she knew that this way would probably be preferable to their son; he was, after all, quite clear about not really wanting to know any specifics.

“Yeah,” Henry called back down. “Just don’t do gross shit when I’m in the house and try not to break up before the next holiday, because we’re not doing separate things anymore and that’ll just make it awkward for everyone involved.”

“Deal.”

“—’Kay.”

Emma held out her hands like ‘ta da’, and Regina rolled her eyes. “You both are utterly insufferable sometimes. You honestly call that a conversation?”

“Yes?” Emma answered, apparently not understanding Regina’s disapproval of it. “I asked him if he was okay with it, he gave us his terms, and we came to an agreement; seemed pretty conversation-y to me.” She smirked a little, sliding her arms over Regina’s shoulders as she leaned forwards. “So really, he’s okay so long as we don’t fuck this up and spend another five years wallowing in bitter resentment. Sound doable?”

It was said so flippantly, but Regina could see the twinge of fear behind Emma’s eyes. And if Regina was being honest, she had the very same fear; they had already proven once that they had the capacity to destroy their relationship beyond all comprehension, so what was to say that they wouldn’t do it again? And yet even still, just seeing the fear in Emma’s eyes caused a protective nature to rise up in Regina, and she cupped the woman’s cheek possessively in her hand, passion in her voice as she told her with a certainty she didn’t entirely feel in that moment, but needed the blonde to believe, “That isn’t just doable, Emma; that’s what’s going to be done. We won’t destroy this; not again. I won’t allow it.”

A vulnerable, yet hopeful look crossed Emma’s face then, and her voice was small when she asked, “…Yeah?”

Regina nodded, dusking her thumb across the woman’s bottom lip. “Yeah.” She smiled then, an encouragement that Emma seemed to need before the woman smiled back brightly, tangled her fingers in her hair, and brought their lips together in a passionate kiss.

And yes, perhaps it was something Regina could not guarantee, let alone feared quite terribly herself, but a long time ago she had vowed never to break anymore promises to the people that she loved, and so she forced herself to make this one not just for Emma’s sake, but for her own.

Because five years? That was a very long time, and the next time it came around she wanted them to be looking forwards, rather than backwards.

THE END