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You and Tequila

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A/N: Welcome back everyone! For those of you who read this when I first published this story, I would like you to know I did some editing and added two small scenes, in case anyone would like to read this one again! There will be one more note after this chapter to kick off this story, but for now, enjoy!

She tumbles through the door; feet aching from the fucking five inch heels that another scumbag forces her to wear. She leans heavily into the doorframe, hoping this rickety building can hold all one-hundred and twenty-five pounds of her as she kicks off the glossy red pumps and curses under her breath at the ricocheting sound that bounces off the walls and assaults her ears.

Very carefully, she turns the golden handle and eases the door closed, her jaw clenched tightly in hopes she doesn't disturb her sleeping roommates. A relieved sigh escapes her lips as she softly locks the door, in four very different places that she assembled by herself to ensure their safety in this armpit of New York, because god forbid her landlord crawls out from his sewer unless it's to collect rent. She doesn't care what anyone says, that man is Danny DeVito in his Penguin getup from Batman.

The two bedroom apartment is pitch-black, but she's done this walk too many times to even think twice about where her bare feet should step on the hardwood floors. She has every creek, every broken board memorized by now and can easily slip into the living room like a ninja. If sneaky ninjas wore skimpy red dresses that scream, 'please tip me better for this wonderful view of my chest spilling over the top'.

She sinks down onto the couch with an exaggerated sigh and carefully turns on the television. Her thumb already repeatedly pressing down on the volume button in case a certain someone was blaring the television all afternoon. She allows the volume to stay at a softer tone, mostly she just needs the white noise to keep her occupied and she still blames her mother for that one.

Her droopy eyes fall down to the coffee table, where sheet after miserable sheet is staring up at her, taunting her in bold, red ink that might as well be printed in cold blood. She groans somewhere in the back of her throat and musters up all the courage she owns to snatch up one of the bills. Another late bill. Another dollar she cannot find fast enough in the grime of New York City. Shame and regret, but mostly humiliation settles into her bones and seeps out into her veins, it prickles at her blood like jumping into a frozen lake and instantly immobilizes every inch of her body.

How the hell are they ever going to climb out of this hole? That's the only statement that beats repeatedly into her skull, every damn day.

"In other news," the television mumbles in its hushed whispers that she forced upon it. "Child prodigy, Regina Mills, was spotted today at a cafe in New York City after three months of ghosting society. Sources say that the singer was simply spending some much-needed time with her family before her world summer tour that just so happened to be leaked today."

"Hey," the usual soft voice is unfamiliar and scratchy from her sleep and causes Emma to leap in fear that someone made it passed her cheap locks. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

She sighs in relief when she locates the frail frame, glowing from the illuminating light bouncing off the television. She's tying her robe loosely around her waist and Emma immediately shuffles on the couch, allowing the older woman to sit down beside her.

"What are we going to do?" Emma groans, tossing one bill down just to retrieve another one that is so depressing, she thinks of jumping right off that hazardous balcony that they never step foot on.

"I know it seems bad right now, but we will make it out of this mess. We always do. For now, we make cut backs. Like cable," dark eyes dart in the direction where a scene of wild teens are bombarding Regina Mills as she struts confidently down the congested streets of New York. "We don't need cable. Summer is right around the corner and I know I will be spending most of my time teaching summer school."

Emma sighs as if every stressor in her life is attacking her lungs and she just needs to breathe them out, so she can think straight. She runs all ten antsy fingers through her wild hair as she squeezes her eyes shut, praying that when she peeks passed her eyelids again, a new life will be waiting for her. She's greatly disappointed when she finds the shitty apartment still waiting for her when she decides to open her eyes again.

"This is all my fault."

"It is not, stop blaming yourself."

"No, you can't protect me anymore, I need to own up to all my mistakes. I should have never made us leave Storybrooke. We should have stayed put and-"

"And what? Never follow your dreams? Drown in a small town where you could never grow or thrive?"

"We were comfortable. We were stable-"

"And you would have never lived up to your fullest potential in that place."

Emma swallows thickly, because her stomach is turning from just the idea of living one more damn minute in that pitiful, pocket-sized town. A fucking ant would feel claustrophobic in that peppy place.

"It was selfish," she complains, busying herself with shuffling all the bills together into one neat pile off the wooden coffee table from the thrift store down the street. "I could have waited to pursue a career as a makeup artist. I've had four gigs in the last six months and working on weekends at some skeezy dive bar, isn't cutting it. I need to work more hours there or find an office job, but then I wouldn't be-"

"Emma, relax," a warm comforting hand is placed against her back and she instantly melts into the familiar touch. "We will be just fine."

"How can you be so infuriatingly optimistic?" She grumbles as a delicate flowery scent fills her nostrils and settles her erratic heart that's just begging for her to flee this situation.

"Because, I'm your mother and we've made it this far in life," Mary Margret coos as she pulls her fragile daughter against her chest and holds her close, breathing in her familiar scent.

"I don't know why I thought I could make it in New York, there are a thousand other makeup artists out here," she muffles her complaint against her mother's fluffy robe. "All my fault," she mutters once again.

"We are not placing blame here. If we do that, then I am the one to blame."

"Mom," Emma disapprovingly warns, pulling away from the warm embrace and rolling her eyes in annoyance.

"No, let's play the blame game," her mother nonchalantly replies, "I was irresponsible for giving birth at sixteen and running off with you at seventeen when I had no business raising a baby on my own-"

"Stop. You worked, went to night school, became a teacher all while raising me and what am I doing? Chasing a dream that will forever be out of reach."

"Oh stop it!" Mary Margret cups her daughter's cheeks and presses a loving kiss that promises the world and so much more to her. "I promise you, you'll get your chance. Just you wait and see, something amazing is just waiting around the corner for only you."

A/N: I would just like to say that this story took me a very long time to create. I spent a lot of time on the depth of Emma and Regina and I hope everyone enjoys this journey. Most of you know how I write, I don't sugarcoat life and I write about real life situations that people face every day, however I always write a happy ending. Please think of this story as a romance novel you find on a bookshelf and enjoy the ride along the way. This story means a lot to me and I put a lot of time and heart into it to allow these characters to grow. I hope this story helps people who relate to the topic, open up about their own experiences and know that you aren't alone. People struggle every day and I just want to shed some light on the topic and I hope I do it justice, so please read at your own risk. Thank you again for always being such dedicated readers and I hope you all fall in love with this story as much as I have!

 

Chapter Text


It's the middle of May and even though summer is just lurking around the corner, it's still not warm enough to venture through the busy streets and towering buildings of New York without a jacket. So, she yanks up her zipper about halfway and shoves her hands into her pockets as she braves the world.

It's the only decent looking jacket she owns and she always wears it with pride because she knows her mother spent a few too many pretty pennies. She can still hear her own sixteen-year-old voice whining for the coolest red leather jacket she had ever laid eyes on. Mary Margret sighed heavily that day, regret, embarrassment written all over her face in her own deep blush, because how the hell could she ever scrounge up enough money for the fake jacket she knows will never keep her daughter warm? Somehow, that wonderful woman saved every penny, (Emma's sure her mother went coin diving in a wishing well) but still surprised Emma Christmas morning with the one item she would never again leave home without.

Emma's only friend, Ruby Lucas, had called her this morning unexpectedly, pleading for her friend, who she hasn't seen in a solid five years, to come meet her at some bar just up the road. She doesn't even remember the last time she spoke with her estranged friend, but the urgency and hype in Ruby's voice was enough to make her change out of sweats and greet the sun.

When Emma had just turned one, Mary Margret was struggling to balance work, attend school and raise a baby. One afternoon while her mother tried to finish her homework in the local diner with a screaming one-year-old, a kind, elderly woman took pity on them and invited mother and daughter into her home. It was a tiny apartment that had no business accompanying one adult, one teenager and two babies, but Granny didn't mind. Come to think of it, Emma has really only ever known the lady as Granny, she doesn't even know the woman's real name.

Anyways, Ruby's mother was a wild child and took off, leaving her infant behind for Granny to raise. Emma's convinced Granny only invited Mary Margret to stay, so she could feel like her daughter, Anita, was still around. So, Mary Margret and Emma lived with Granny and Ruby until Mary Margret graduated from high school, but they remained close friends throughout the years. Granny and Ruby are the only family Emma's ever known outside of her mother.

It's a Saturday, around noon, so when Emma yanks open the heavy bar door, it's not a shocker that the place is almost dead. Her curious green eyes scan over the decor, noting how much classier it is compared to the place she's been slumming it in occasionally on the weekends.

"Ah! There she is!" Ruby shrieks like a puppy starving for attention, leaping from a booth hidden in the back. Her incredibly long legs cut through the distance in a matter of seconds, tugging Emma flush against her body with enough force to steal her breath away. "I missed my kid sister!"

Emma hesitates for a moment and it's not that she doesn't love this girl, but damn, it's been a good five years and she just needs a moment before they are squealing like teenagers locked in Ruby's bedroom once again. But Ruby hastily gathers up her hands and forces Emma to hug her back.

Emma finally chuckles and relaxes against her familiar friend that always wears far too much of everything, but clothes. Far too much makeup. Far too much perfume. Far too many vibrant red extensions. Never enough material for her shirts and skirts.

"So, little birdie on the street told me you were looking to start a career in...makeup?" Ruby interrogates without a moment for Emma to catch her bearings, leading her back into the booth she had claimed earlier.

"Damn my mother and her big mouth," she grumbles as they both plop down against the cool black leather booth.

Ruby's mouth quirks into a flash of annoyance, because at least Emma has a mother, right? Yet, the brunette waves off her friend and quickly swallows her thoughts. "She's just trying to help." She quickly holds up two fingers toward the bartender and somehow he knows exactly what she needs, nodding curtly back at her. "So," there's a glint of mischief twinkling in Ruby's green eyes as she leans across the table, neatly folding her hands before her and Emma knows that is something that always got them into trouble when they were younger. "You're finally in luck, I know of a steady gig that pays a hefty amount."

Emma breathes out a laugh through her nose, half expecting some sleazy job where wannabe rock stars are way too handsy and half expecting her friend to be bluffing.

The bartender roughly drops off two mixed drinks and by the color, Emma knows it's something with a splash of Coke.

"Thanks, Rocco," Ruby happily replies, bouncing in her seat as she reaches for her drink. "I needed this."

"So," Emma suspiciously raises one eyebrow as she stirs her own drink, that will indefinitely leave her limbs buzzing halfway through. "What's this gig? And I swear to god, Ruby, if it's for a morgue, you will be the next dead person I will have to paint after accepting my new job."

Ruby barks out a loud laugh before she wraps her scarlet lips around her straw and sucks down half the glass. "No, no. There's a position open by my side. Just imagine, the two sisters, back together again." Those emerald irises are glowing from the dark makeup encasing her eyes, not to mention the excitement beaming in them, but Emma squints back at her.

"Bullshit," she boldly replies, still mixing her drink as she skeptically reads over the brunette's features.

"Seriously."

"You're serious?"

"As a heart attack," Ruby vows, motioning a cross over her heart and then makes some sign that Emma believes is the Scout's honor symbol. "Listen," she scoots further into the table, offering Emma a clear view of her full cleavage spilling out of her skimpy tank top. "I have signed a NDA, so I can't go into the details, but let's just say, the makeup artist is out and Regina needs someone who is not only competent, but also is just as private as she is."

"I could have sworn you told me when you landed that job as her hair stylist, that Regina Mills, never, rotates her staff. Hasn't everyone been with her since she was a kid in all those movies years ago?"

And it's so hard for Emma to keep the bitterness out of her tone when she speaks about Regina Mills. A child that Emma has watched on her screen for as long as she can remember and she hated, absolutely hated, how everything always seemed to come so easy to that girl. The girl with long, jet-black hair and big brown eyes, that could produce tears like a damn faucet. And those pouty lips that were always cast in every movie to break every adult's heart. And Emma always wondered where the hell that privileged little girl found inspiration to be crying so hard over. Regina was rich and famous, the exact opposite of Emma, in every way, shape and form.

Of course, Emma was bitter and jealous because she wanted everything Regina Mills had. It wasn't long before Regina grew up before America's eyes into a beautiful teenager who was suddenly on every radio station across the states. Out of nowhere, this girl was playing piano, strumming a guitar and belting out notes that sent shivers down everyone's spine. This only forced Emma's green-eyed monster to pound his way to the surface and demand that she never listen to Regina Mills again, because Emma was talented too and not that bad looking, but her big break would never come. She knew this and she settled for cosmetology school, why? She hasn't a clue.

"Yeah. I was only hired because her hairstylist decided she wanted to settle down and have a family. Now, Regina's fashion coordinator, Jefferson and I hung out in the same crowd-"

"I know all this, Rubes," Emma exasperates, finally surrendering and slurping down her Jack and Coke to help relax the anxiety rippling through her limbs.

"Alright, alright. Anyways, her makeup artist is out and she desperately needs a new one. I already set you up for a meeting tonight at seven."

"Ruby!"

"What?" Her friend casually shrugs, waving to the older gentleman for another round.

"Don't you think you should have talked to me first? I mean, I appreciate the gesture, I do, but Regina Mills is busy. Too busy. How am I supposed to keep up-"

"Listen," Ruby instantly shows off her palm, only centimeters from smacking Emma right in the face. "Three months, Emma. It's a summer tour all around the world. You're going to see places that if it weren't for this gig, your eyes would only admire through a fucking television screen. You are going to make enough money, that you won't have to work until next summer, and neither will your mother."

This instantly catches Emma's attention and weighs heavily on her heart. Of course, her mother will still work, because she's a second grade teacher at a pretty decent school, which means that, together, they can stash away a lot of money and finally, finally, get ahead in this world. But...

"Three months?" Emma's voice cracks just thinking about the prospect.

"Look, I know that's a long time for you to be away from home," Ruby pauses, flashing a wolffish grin at the bartender who nods after setting down the drinks and stomping away grumpily. "But think about how much you guys need this money and if Regina likes you, she'll keep you around for random events and shows and fucking think about how much money you'd be rolling in girl."

Ruby enthusiastically reaches for her next drink and slurps the cool liquid down as if it were water, causing Emma to wince a little. She sighs as she watches her overly energetic friend and wonders how she can say no to this opportunity and how she could ever stay away from home for three months? She can't. It's not possible. She has responsibilities. Responsibilities that most twenty-three-year-olds don't have and she could never neglect. That's not who she is.

"Girl, you should see my place and it's paid for. Paid for!" Ruby over enunciates, slamming her palms against the hard surface below.

"That would be so nice," Emma groans as a reel of over due bills play before her like some horror film. "I have to talk about this with my mom first and figure out a schedule. She's supposed to teach over the summer, but if you promise that she wouldn't have to, then maybe she could take the summer off, otherwise I would have to come up with another way-"

"Stop rambling. Let's finish these drinks, talk to M and M and then find you something sexy, yet smart to wear for tonight."

"I don't own anything sexy slash smart. I own slutty for when I am a bartender." Emma smirks as she observes Ruby's face transform to mortified.

"Regina would kill you. Okay, we will stop at my place before we go. I'll give you a grand tour and let you shop in my closet. Half the shit in there still has tags hanging off them anyways."

"Must be nice," Emma sarcastically retorts before sucking down the rest of her drink.

"Don't you worry that pretty little blonde head of yours. You'll be at that level before you know it."

~~~~~~~

Emma never really thought about how well off Ruby might be, even though the brunette spent most of the afternoon bragging, she really didn't believe her. Ruby was always the one to over exaggerate when they were in high school, for the simple idea of making things more interesting. However, when Emma was shoved inside, because she was gaping like an idiot and forgot how to do the whole left foot, right foot concept, she was smacked in the face with reality.

Not only was this apartment in SoHo, one of the trendiest places in New York according to Emma, it was also decorated with the highest end of modern décor she has ever seen. The entire one bedroom apartment was sparkling in black and white marble with splashes of red that screamed Ruby Lucas. The second Emma was pushed across the threshold, she tore away her boots like they were contaminated and might infect the entire place. Ruby insisted that she didn't need to take off her boots, but Emma was terrified of her rundown shoes leaving a scuff behind on the shiny floors.

Ruby gave Emma a quick tour and she was not kidding the least bit when she said half her clothes still had tags hanging off them. Emma was in awe and Ruby was absolutely over the moon to pretend that Emma was her new Barbie that she could play dress up with.

After too many hours spent in a closet, Ruby insisted that Emma wear black skinny jeans that hugged her every curve with a cute pair of suede ankle boots. The brunette chose a white, crisp, sheer, button down blouse that was far too see through for Emma's taste, but Ruby insisted it was perfect, especially with her black bra playing peek-a-boo. She bunched up Emma's sleeves around her elbows, to appear somewhat casual, then finished by styling those wild golden tresses since she is a professional hairstylist.

Emma ran her fingers through her hair, inspecting how Ruby managed to straighten her hair yet somehow grant those strands some volume all at the same time. There was still some waves bouncing in her wild mane which made her appear as though she was ready for a photoshoot on some beach. Emma applied very little makeup to herself, mostly just around her eyes to make the shimmering green pop and before she knew it, they were out the door.

She was on her way to the biggest game changer in her life. By the somersaults assaulting her intestines, she knew she was somehow going to fuck it up, like everything else in life.

~~~~~~~

The moment Ruby ushers Emma inside some upscale hotel, she knows she's way out of her league. Her heart pounds viciously in her chest and she swears she is trapped in some horrible movie scene where someone behind the camera pushes fast forward and she and Ruby are walking in slow motion, but everyone else is a giant blur rushing passed her.

Ruby peers over her shoulder, smiling sympathetically and says something, but it falls dead to Emma's ears. She's stuck too far deep into her own insecurities to hear anything swarming around her, except for the blood thumping in her ears, that seems to be loud and clear. So, Ruby fishes for her hand and tugs her through the crowd until they are at the end of a very long and narrow hallway.

"Emma?"

What the hell is she even going to say to some child prodigy that every girl in this entire world either wants to be or date? She's out of her element. She doesn't belong here and the worst part is, that she can feel it deep in her beating heart. Fuck, why won't her heart calm the fuck down? Is this what a heart attack feels like?- she wonders as her hand finds its way to her chest to rub the ache away.

"Emma?"

She blinks. Her green eyes slowly peel away from the white marble flooring below her new boots and nervously finds Ruby's curious eyes blinking back at her. Her friend's ruby red lips fall into a depressing frown as she assesses Emma's pale face and twitchy fingers.

"You're going to be just fine and I'm going to be right there beside you, every step of the way." Ruby gently places her hand upon Emma's shoulder and squeezes some reassurance, but the blonde is numb and definitely cannot feel the boney fingers attempting to bring her back to life. "Regina's...a little rough around the edges at first, but once she sees your magic and that she can trust you not to paint her like a clown, she'll relax...a bit."

"You should really think about a career in motivational speaking," Emma deadpans, twisting her fingers so tightly that she winces from the sudden pain.

"Thanks! But I would never leave this job. I have it made," she winks, provoking Emma's eyes to roll at her friend's obliviousness to social cues. "Now, take a deep breath..." she trails off, waiting for Emma to comply and when green eyes stare down green, Ruby finally inhales sharply, encouraging Emma to do the same. Slowly they release the breath together and Ruby flashes the broadest grin, far too proud of herself. "And relax. You got this girl."

And with that, Ruby scans her keycard, a green light flashes, along with a small beep and then Emma blinks and she's magically in a room with Regina fucking Mills, some other blonde, who appears to have forgotten to remove the hanger from her shirt judging by her stiff posture and a very tall man who is sizing her up with a pitiful pout on his lips.

The idea of stringing letters together to form a single word is completely out of the question in Emma's mind. She's never once been in front of a celebrity and her muscles seem all too aware and begin to quiver on their own. She keeps reminding herself to do that thing with her nose where oxygen flows in to fill her lungs, but that just seems absolutely absurd for her mind to comprehend right now. And it's all because Regina Mills is perched on some swivel chair that can easily stretch higher or collapse lower for Emma's height and her face is completely naked and waiting for Emma's test. Never has this woman ever looked so beautiful in her life and Emma contemplates if she could somehow convince her to never wear makeup again, even if that does cost her the most important job of her career.

Green eyes admire the shiny raven strands that resemble silk flowing passed the stiff shoulders and for some strange reason, Emma's fingers immediately itch, wishing she could run her fingers through and officially ruin the perfect style that must have taken hours to accomplish. Regina's head is slightly bowed, so all Emma can really assess are her thick eyelashes fluttering as she reads something intently. She roams a little further down to the burgundy button-down blouse and black mini skirt and never in Emma's short life has she even been this stupidly speechless from such a simple outfit. The cameras do nothing to compliment the true beauty of Regina Mills and Emma is suddenly all too aware of their class difference.

Oh, and the size of her useless tongue.

"Regina," Ruby speaks first, still as calm and cool as she was moments ago in the hall, not at all like she's speaking to God's most talented gift to this planet. "This is Emma Swan."

Regina Mills doesn't even have the courtesy to glance in Emma's direction, even her peripheral vision is too good for Emma's existence. She's far too invested in some notecards that she is frantically shifting through. That's when Emma stiffens and actually feels her heart cease up in her chest.

"I don't see why you just can't do my makeup," Regina exasperates, prompting Emma's eyes to shift all around the room because she has no idea who this woman is speaking to. Finally, big brown eyes peek up for a split second, before they immediately fall right back down to her lap. "Your makeup looks outstanding tonight, I think you are more than capable. I will double your salary," Regina says dismissively, without even batting an eye.

Ruby laughs to nobody but herself, because the two mannequins standing on either side of Regina have yet to speak, let alone move. Ruby lightly presses into Emma's shoulder, nudging her forward causing the poor blonde to stumble, embarrassingly, closer to the singer and songwriter. Instantly, Emma's cheeks burn through every shade of red, so she pushes up her sleeves to busy herself and not think about how stupid she was to even bother with this interview.

"Actually, I did Ruby's makeup tonight." She takes an assertive step forward and slowly exhales through her nerves. "I'm Emma," she introduces herself and juts her hand forward, inspiring Regina's cold eyes to flick to the hand that just rudely blocked her notes.

Emma panics for a split second, wondering if this woman is a germaphobe and her stupid perky friend forgot to mention. She swallows down her fears and decides to do what she normally does when she's desperate for a job and way out of her league; pretends she's far too good for the one she's applying for. She retracts her hand, folds her arms over her chest and purses her lips.

"Sure, Ruby's talented," Emma flatly replies, "and I'm sure she would do a fine job, if every event you attend is to a night club." Ruby snorts, not even a little offended by her friend's assumption and this is what catches Regina's full attention. She rests the cards in her lap and peers up from her chair, somehow managing to appear bored. "But her specialty is hair and you know that, otherwise she wouldn't still be by your side for the last five years. I think you need variety, character, definition to who you are every time you step out into the public eye."

She's bullshitting, pulling whatever she can out of her ass, but Regina's silent and she hasn't dismissed her yet, so she throws caution to the wind and proceeds.

"With Ruby, and even some talented makeup artists, they stick to the same routine, because it's safe and it looks good," she shrugs casually, pretending to be indifferent. "But that's not what you need. You're Regina Mills, who has been in the limelight since you were what? Five?" Regina blinks, neither confirming or denying Emma's accuracy. "You need people to see you. Who you are as an adult, not a child, not some teen pop diva. A singer and songwriter with maturity, depth."

It's quiet. Too fucking quiet and Emma actually hears as well as feels all the blood rush through her ears. The uppity blonde to Regina's right is squinting at her, trying to completely understand this dumbass girl who just waltzed into this room like she deserves to be there. While the incredibly tall man to the left is smirking and just by his mischievous grin, she knows he's flamboyantly gay and is already loving her. Now for Regina, she has yet to say one word during all of this and still looks impossibly bored.

Emma's nails dig deeper and deeper into the flesh right above her elbow, below Ruby's white, crisp shirt. She clenches her jaw, waiting for the blow that's sure to come and reminds her where her place is in this world. Which is at the bottom of the barrel, scraping for her next meal, while everyone else gets served on silver platters. She knows she doesn't belong here, but she had to lay out all the cards because she needs to better her family. No matter the cost anymore, which is three months away from home to be exact.

"Okay, Miss Swan," Regina sasses and the way her voice curls like silk around Emma's name sends shivers trickling down each vertebrae of her spine. "I have an event tomorrow night to announce my world tour, despite the fact that someone leaked this information," she growls under her breath, which somehow forces Emma to straighten her posture as if she was just scolded by a nun. "Jefferson will show you my ensemble for tomorrow and you can show me what you think is best," she smugly replies as if she already knows that Emma will fail this test miserably, but she doesn't know how scrappy Emma is or how well she actually works under pressure.

"Perfect," is all that squeezes out of Emma's dry throat because this is her one opportunity and the pressure is squeezing the life right out of her.

She may not be the smartest girl that graduated from college and she most certainly isn't the best when it comes to fashion. But if there is one thing Emma Swan excels at, it's makeup and this is her one chance to prove that she can do something right in this world.

"Jefferson," Regina coolly calls to the man like she's some queen, but he nods instantly and wraps his long fingers around Emma's elbow and tugs her right out of the room.

Emma peeks over her shoulder to find Ruby hot on their heels as they rush two doors down the hall before she is tossed into another hotel room.

"You are just a ballsy little thing aren't you?" Jefferson teases, releasing Emma's elbow and sashaying across the hotel room without another glance in her direction.

"Uh, I guess," she mutters, slightly taken back by the whirlwind she has found herself in.

"Most girls bow down to her, kiss the dirty ground she has walked on and beg for her time. Not you," he chuckles, entering some closet.

"She totally likes her, right Jeffy?" Ruby swoons, overjoyed in the moment as she collapses onto the bed, confusing Emma's scrambled up brain even more.

Were they even in the same room?

"Oh my god, adores her," he calls out from the closet before he reappears, carrying a dress bag of some sort.

"What the hell are you two gabbing about? Were you not in the room? She barely said one sentence to me. She hates me," Emma's trembling voice exclaims as she clenches and unclenches her fists to calm herself back down.

"Nonsense," Jefferson waves off the implication and hastily unzips the bag that Emma assumes protects a glamorous dress that costs more than she's ever made with all her paychecks combined. Boy is she wrong. "That's just Regina. She's my cousin you know, we've been playing dress up for as long as I can remember," he chuckles deeply and it actually surprises Emma how deep his voice truly is. "Listen Swan, she doesn't like people seeing who she really is until she can absolutely trust them. It's gonna take her some time to warm up."

He smiles easily at Emma and carefully drapes the silk, red and black, button-down blouse over Ruby's chest. She readjusts herself on the bed to play as the model while Jefferson continues to arrange the other garments. The blouse is a tank top, so then comes the sleek, black blazer that he hangs off Ruby's shoulders. A cute pair of very short, grey printed shorts is set down with jet black tights before Jefferson tops off the ensemble with a big stylish black hat on top of Ruby's dark head.

"This is what she's wearing?" Emma balks as her eyes roam over each item again intently.

"You said yourself, honey, she's not a child or a teen star anymore. She needs to make a bold statement," Jefferson confidently declares, folding one arm across his chest to prop up his elbow, so he can rest his chin upon his palm, inspecting his wardrobe choice again.

"I know...I just...I don't know...assumed a dress..." Emma trails off because who the hell is she when it comes to fashion? Beat up, decade old jeans and raggedy tank tops don't really meet Regina Mills' criteria.

"For award shows, yes," Ruby chimes in, sitting perfectly still not to wrinkle a damn thing. "But this is a fun press meeting. She needs style."

"Yeah, sure," Emma mumbles while her eyes memorize the colors that will assist her makeup and make those big brown eyes pop like they never have before. "So...how much of a statement are we trying to make here?"

Emma skeptically questions, her fingers mindlessly running over the fabric and she misses how Jefferson's eyes flick to Ruby's and they both smile wickedly knowing they have met their new partner in crime.

~~~~~~

When the trio enter Regina's hotel room once again, the other blonde, that Emma has not been introduced to yet, quickly snaps her mouth shut as the singer, yet again, ignores Emma's presence. Which in fact, only challenges her to strive for perfection and motivates her to prove her self worth.

Emma confidently struts across the room toward the dresser that is already set up with every high end beauty product that she has only dreamed to work with. She smirks to herself, knowing that she's pretty damn good with mediocre products and with these items laid out for her, well, she's about to produce a masterpiece.

"I'm going to start with-"

"Don't talk," Regina rudely interrupts, never once leaving those damn notecards that are glued to her hands, immobilizing Emma right on the spot. "I need someone who works in absolute peace and quiet. I don't have time for small talk. When my makeup and hair are required, I need everyone to work around me while I focus on what I will be presenting," she states with finality, silencing everyone in the room.

Emma's eyes flick to Ruby's for a second and she realizes that the room was already painfully quiet and she was just trying to fill the unbearable void. She now registers that the one blonde has yet to say one word and Jefferson really only spoke when spoken to. Already, she is screwing this all up, but she swallows down her trepidation, exhales those jittery nerves and focuses. She and her mother need this money and she'll be damned if she fucks up one more thing in her life.

With a shaky hand, she reaches for the first item she needs, but she pauses for a moment to steel her nerves and then proceeds. When she faces the singer, she realizes that the woman's head is still bowed and she knows this is some sort of test, but how the hell is she supposed to apply anything with the woman's head down?

An involuntary grunt escapes Emma's mouth and the second the sound registers in her own ears, she wishes she could swallow it back up again. Regina's bitter eyes snap to attention, glaring at the woman that disturbed...whatever the hell she's doing.

"Slow leak, Miss Swan?" She quips so sharply, instantly piercing Emma's flesh and stabbing her heart into shame.

Emma Swan is not one to be intimidated or back down from a few biting words, but there's just something about Regina Mills that makes Emma feel like a slug being scraped off the bottom of her Jimmy Choos.

So, she decides silence is the key in this atmosphere and chooses not to respond, mostly because she will probably end up saying something stupid and shoving her big foot in her mouth. Slowly, she cranks up Regina's chair, stretching her impossibly high. She ducks down just a tad, because now Regina is above her and she can clearly see her face.

Emma carefully steps closer, a sweet aroma of lavender teasing her nostrils and on instinct she inhales. It's an alluring scent that travels straight to her heart and kicks it into high gear, which causes conflict in her mind because not once has she ever found a woman's scent so...attractive?

She chalks up the thought to her anxiety playing tricks on her because Regina is some huge celebrity that everyone would kill to meet. It's probably just her body reacting to being star-struck, but is she really star-struck? She always felt that she resented Regina more than adored the woman.

She doesn't dwell on this any longer though because her hand is already moving to its own accord and she has a job to do. Emma's soft index finger dabs at the very few marks she left behind, that will help with a few reddening areas and the dark veins beneath Regina's eyes. Of course, the brunette flinches and jerks away from Emma's touch instantly.

"Your finger? Really? There are twenty different sponges for you to use right there," Regina growls her distaste with a disgusted scowl upon her face.

Emma rolls her eyes, and she swears she can hear Jefferson and Ruby snickering somewhere in a corner, but she ignores them. "I can either beat you with a sponge to blend the color and disrupt your reading or I can delicately dab with my finger."

"I don't know where your fingers have been," the celebrity coldly retorts, prompting Jefferson to definitely laugh this time out loud.

Emma's freckled nose scrunches, along with her sandy-blonde eyebrows while her eyes gape at the woman before her. The astonishingly silent blonde beside them finally leans into Emma's personal space, catching her off guard.

"Regina's face is sensitive, sometimes the slightest contact with certain things can cause a breakout or a reaction. That's why we have only these products out," the woman enlightens her while Regina has found her way back to another notecard.

"I see," Emma mutters. "I washed my hands before I-"

"What soap, Miss Swan?" Regina ignorantly interjects, once again.

"Dove."

Much to Emma's surprise, Regina doesn't reply and a sick part of her thinks it's because she did something right and the bitchy woman refuses to admit it.

"Only Dove from now on," the other blonde softly requests, in which Emma nods curtly and continues her task, even though she's a little thrown off now.

The room falls eerily silent one more time and Emma considers if she should hold her breath every time she even comes close to the finicky woman. When she applies the first, thin layer of cover up, she opts for a sponge this time, gently blending, allowing the olive-toned flesh to absorb and mesh together as one. Her finger delicately skims over a deep scar right above Regina's upper lip, provoking the brunette to stiffen and for Emma to freeze as well. Regina is quick to mask her emotions and she doesn't comment, so Emma feels at ease to continue and pretend that moment never happened. She lightly applies foundation, because in her vision, her main project isn't this woman's cheekbones or jawline with this outfit. No, Emma's main priority are those glamorous cocoa colored irises.

She quickly finishes Regina's face and is drawn toward those enchanting eyes. Delicately, she sweeps the soft bristles against Regina's eyelids, the woman never once flinching or fluttering her eyes. Emma's heart for some reason chooses this exact moment to pound furiously, like it's alerting her that she has stepped too close to the untouchable goddess. She fears that Regina will actually hear the horrendous sound and claim that it's disturbing her peaceful reading.

She swallows thickly, creating an awfully loud gulp that provokes Regina's eyes to flick toward high-strung green ones. Emma smiles faintly, but pretends, with every ounce of energy in her body, that she is too busy to maintain eye contact. But of course, Regina's eyes immediately cast down to the perfect cursive decorating her cards and ignores the blonde all over again.

Emma continues; brushes painting a smoky chestnut that makes Regina's irises pop and Emma's heart to skip a beat or two. She applies thick mascara, doubling the length and width simultaneously, that's so damn sexy, Emma's gut twists deliciously in response. She's creating this seductive, sultry look, that screams sex appeal and it's something she has never once seen decorating Regina's gorgeous face.

"So?" Emma hesitantly breaks through the silence, taking a generous step back away from the mirror.

"There is no way you are finished already," Regina exasperates, dropping her hands in annoyance.

"I am," Emma states with conviction, staring straight ahead into the mirror and waiting for Regina to finally look up and criticize all her work.

Regina rolls her eyes before those smoke enriched irises drag toward the mirror and there's a split second where surprise flashes across her face, but as fast as it comes, it vanishes even faster. Regina examines herself, remaining impassive and still somehow appears bored.

"Damn, Regina," Jefferson hollers like he's some gushing fangirl. "You wanted a new image girl, this...well, this is golden baby."

"Regina, your-" the blonde begins, but her words are sliced to pieces from the brunette's sharp tongue.

"I don't care, Kathryn," she spits, "I need to grow as an artist. No more child star, no more bubble gum pop music for preteens. I need people to see a glimpse of who I really am."

Emma's heart swells with so much pride because she thinks Regina might actually approve her work. She folds her arms across her chest to shield herself from whatever may come though. She's still watching as Regina inspects every detail, tilting her head side to side and judging by new angles and new light.

Mysterious chestnut eyes crawl toward worrisome green eyes and they lock onto each other for a moment through the mirror. It's deep, and Emma knows in that single moment that there's so much pain with buried secrets, trapped in those orbs. Her shoulders slump as she realizes there's so much more to Regina Mills and for some peculiar reason, beyond her grasp, her heart is screaming to uncover all those hidden treasures.

"Tomorrow evening, Miss Swan, five o'clock. Don't be late."

 

Chapter Text


She's out of her element. She's so far out of her element, that she feels like some trained monkey that everyone has paid big bucks to see perform, yet all this animal is doing is dry humping it's trainer's leg. And there's nothing more uncomfortable than an animal making direct eye contact when they are going to town on that leg. That's exactly how unbearable this moment is for Emma as Regina's mother scrutinizes her from head to toe, very visibly loathing everything that is Emma.

Emma burst through the doors at exactly five o'clock and was informed that she was late. She hurried to Ruby's side, mumbling her apologies even though she was on time, while her friend just smirked, fully amused by the disheveled blonde. It's now five minutes later and Emma is informed that she is to work her magic while Ruby straightens Regina's hair to perfection.

"Her?" Regina's mother, Cora, spits in distaste while three people frantically move all around her to transform the older woman into a more approachable manager, because that permanent scowl doesn't express her ability to cooperate during an interview.

Emma ignores the spiteful inflection that's directed toward her and very carefully skims her finger over the indent embedded into Regina's delicate lip, remembering how she flinched the day before. The brunette stiffens yet again, but this time she recovers a lot faster as she glares at her mother through the mirror.

"I trust Ruby," is all that Regina says and even though it's stated with conviction, there's still an icy tone that sends shivers down Emma's spine.

Emma doesn't murmur a single sound as she focuses on the foundation seeping into Regina's flesh and hoping she can make this new red mark that appeared overnight disappear. She suddenly panics, her finger pressing into Regina's chin as she freezes-shit, did she wash her hands with Dove?

Regina's eyes dilate as she focuses on Emma's face that is quickly draining from all color. Regina narrows her eyes, silently requesting what the hold up is, but apparently doesn't want to vocalize her concern in front of her mother. Emma notices right away, so she quickly plasters on an awkward smile and screams internally at her hand to begin working again. Thankfully, it does.

"I didn't ask if we can trust Ruby, now did I?" Cora so cruelly inquires, causing Emma to flinch in response, however Regina, nor Ruby, or anyone else in the damn room for that matter, notices the woman's harsh tone. "Miss Swan, I trust you signed the non-disclosure agreement already?"

"I did, Miss Mills," spews out of Emma's lips as if her mouth is working on reflex.

"And you do understand, the moment you paint my daughter a fool I will not only fire you, but I will also guarantee you will never work in this industry again."

It's not even a question of if, Emma screws up, no, it's a damn declaration to the day that she will indefinitely fuck up once again. Despite every instinct that is screaming in Emma's head to run as far and as fast away from these melodramatic people as possible, she swallows down her fears and nods, for her family's sake.

"I get it," she mutters, tilting Regina's chin up a little higher without any thought not to touch the woman in such a manner, so she can make sure the color is even.

Ruby's thin stiletto presses down against Emma's flats, that are actually Ruby's anyways, but never mind that, because the pain is searing and snaps Emma's head up to glare at her friend. Ruby furrows her brows and shakes her head subtly, but Emma hasn't a clue as to why. Her eyebrows pinch together in confusion as she shrugs her shoulder and thankfully Regina's eyes are closed and miss the exchange entirely. Emma rolls her eyes, because she doesn't know what Ruby is silently warning her about and she just really wishes her friend had enough common sense to warn her before these meetings.

"Honestly, Miss Lucas, where did you find this one?" Cora sighs in annoyance, but Emma softly sweeps her thumb beneath Regina's eye and ignores the anger pulsating in her gut.

"She's my kid sister," Ruby casually mentions, sleeking down the shiny inky strands swarming around Regina.

"We are the same age," Emma grumbles under her breath, this new bit of information inspires Regina's long lashes to flutter back to life. Regina doesn't have to say a word, because Emma already sees the questions floating around in those big brown eyes. "We don't have the same parents, we were just raised together by my mom and her Granny."

Regina doesn't bother with words, her eyes slowly slip closed again and allows Emma to work in peace once more. She rather have Regina's eyes closed anyways, so she doesn't feel the judgement and scrutiny pulsating from them. It helps her relax so she can produce the best display to her ability.

"Well," Cora exasperates, "then it will be your career as well Miss Lucas if she does not live up to my standards."

"You betcha," Ruby instantly replies with far too much perk and enthusiasm, not at all affected by Cora's threat.

Emma's nerves about this older woman, who is already threatening to sabotage her within thirty seconds of meeting her, are prickling in fear. She knows that these aren't some empty threats, she can tell Cora means every word, but if Ruby could survive this long, she could too, right? She has a good head on her shoulders and has always been more goal oriented than Ruby Lucas.

She inhales sharply as her thoughts scramble around in her mind and completely is unaware that she just breathed on Regina. That is until cold, hard, accusing eyes are glaring back at her. Emma swallows and quickly steps back to avoid confrontation.

"Alright," she mumbles, reaching for the scarlet lipstick that will match the red splash in Regina's silk blouse, but the cranky woman is quick to snatch it away.

"I will do my own lipstick," she vacantly declares, catching Emma off guard once again.

This woman is a pistol and Emma knows she's going to have to find her composure over this woman, so she can fight fire with fire. Once her mind will finally accept that Regina is just another woman and grows accustomed to the woman's presence, then hopefully, Emma will find her backbone again.

"Yup," is the only word that falls stupidly from Emma's mouth.

Ruby peeks over her shoulder to flash Emma an amused smirk while she continues fluffing Regina's hair. They share a knowing look, one that simply states that Ruby is mocking Emma for her inadequate vocabulary whenever she's around Regina and Emma just knows it dammit. So, she quickly averts her eyes and shoves her hands into the pockets of her dress pants that Ruby forced her into this afternoon.

There's a sudden timid knock against the door, which somehow forces everyone in the room to rush around as if a fire alarm was just pulled.

"Five minutes, Miss Mills," a strange man's voice calls out through the door, encouraging Regina to stand from her throne.

Butterflies erupt in Emma's stomach like she's the one that's supposed to deliver some elaborate interview, while she observes carefully as Regina struts confidently across the room toward the bathroom and disappears without a word. Hardly one minute whisks by before the celebrity is reappearing, fully dressed in what Emma had seen laid across Ruby the night prior. Regina might as well be a damn magician for how quickly she changed.

Just one corner of Regina's mouth quirks up as she peers up at Jefferson and he plops her stylish black hat upon her head. It's a subtle sign of affection that she feels for the man, but it's enough to prove to Emma that there is just a person hidden away behind all that glam.

Jefferson readjusts the hat, pulls out a few of her silky smooth strands and smiles lovingly down upon her. Regina purses her lips and it's so obvious she's trying to be playful with him without anyone noticing. And that small, fragment of affection, is enough to send Emma's heart soaring, but she really isn't sure why.

This woman has been nothing but cruel and cold-hearted since the second Emma bothered her with her presence. There's just something about the woman that screams miserably alone, despite the massive crowds always swarming her and that, well, that's something the two of them might have in common.

"Jefferson!" Cora's shrill voice cracks through the air and slaps Emma back to the now. "What on Earth did you choose for my daughter? This was not what I approved."

"Regina and I agreed, she needed a fresh look for this new album," he carelessly replies, his hand waving around to ward off the bitterness radiating from the older woman.

"Mother-"

"You, hush," the fuming woman firmly demands with a boney finger poking at her daughter. "Regina Mills has a reputation to uphold and I will not allow any of you to drag her name through the gutter," Cora scolds the entire room into silence, despite her lack of height. The petite woman stomps across the hotel room, her authoritative heels clicking in disapproval as she reaches her daughter. She roughly grasps onto Regina's chin and forces her daughter's attention toward herself. Even though Regina is much taller than Cora, the older woman is towering over her daughter right now. "You are not some mysterious rockstar testing the world with your vast eccentric outlook on society. You are America's prodigy and they have watched you grow up before their very eyes. You are a role model with a reputation to uphold."

Emma swallows thickly, her heart thumping just a bit faster as she watches this woman degrade her talented daughter in front of a room full of people. She can't even imagine her mother ever being so crass and disapproving toward her and suddenly there's a different ache in her beating organ. She's fairly confident it's guilt and empathy for this outstanding woman and maybe, just maybe, she might understand now where all those tears miraculously appeared from in those movies, all those years ago.

"Cora," Jefferson luckily speaks up as Regina remains stone-cold, not blinking, not responding, not showing one damn emotion toward her mother's jarring tongue. "Regina's not a kid anymore. This is a new album, with a new style. She needs to express her different traits that make her, well...her. It's a positive influence for the young girls out there to see that they don't have to be labeled just one way," he attempts to defend his fashion choice while Emma nervously sways from side to side, half expecting this to be her first and last day in her makeup career.

Cora shoves Regina's chin away in utter disappointment before she glances at her fingertips, wondering if any makeup was left behind, so she can attack the new girl since she clearly lost this round. Emma holds her breath, even though she knows the witch will find nothing. Luckily, the older woman grunts under her breath before confidently strutting toward the door.

"The next decision that any of you try to sneak pass me without my executive final confirmation, will be fired." Cora's dark eyes glance over her shoulder with a vindictive fire burning murderously as she gazes upon her daughter. "Don't you forget who built you from the ground up and how easily I can make you crumble," she seethes, before slamming the door behind her.

"Gina-" Jefferson softly whispers, but the woman hastily interrupts him with venom dripping from her scarlet lips.

"Kathryn, move," she growls, storming through the room with the frantic blonde hot on her heels until they disappear from existence and everyone exhales the breath they were all clinging onto so tightly in their lungs.

"Jeez," Emma breathes, leaning heavily into Ruby's side. "What the hell-"

"You'll learn to ignore it," Ruby flatly says, smiling brightly and showing off each and every one of her perfectly white teeth.

"What? This is typical behavior?" Emma practically squawks in disbelief, spinning on her heels to gaze upon her friend.

The brunette shrugs casually and sets off on cleaning up her supplies. "Yeah, but like I said, you'll learn to live with it. After a while, you won't even notice Cora's tone anymore."

"Or the depressing look in Regina's eye?" She mutters under her breath, but her friend doesn't quite catch the small admission.

"What?"

"Nothing," she mumbles and carries her heavy feet filled with guilt to help Ruby clean up their mess. "So, do you guys not watch her interviews?" She curiously inquires and she's not entirely sure why she feels so nervous asking such a simple question, but it's there like a shocking bolt of lightening.

"Not...really," Ruby slowly replies as if this bit of information is pulling her toward some realization she never truly thought about before. "The interview isn't live or anything. We can catch it tonight."

"Alright," Emma drawls while her mind sputters on why, all of a sudden, after years of Regina in the spotlight, is she now finding herself curious to catch one of the woman's interviews. "Hey, so how does this all work now? What happens next?"

"Well, we usually clean up before Regina and her mother get back and then we retreat either to our own hotels, if we are out of town, or we go home. Unless there's another event after."

"So, we are free to go home? We don't have to wait around for a lashing? Get blamed for something that happened on camera?" She mocks, zipping up the last of Regina's makeup.

Ruby actually chuckles at this and nudges her kid sister's arm playfully. "Nah, we aren't allowed to be in the room when they return."

"Why? So Cora can continue running her mouth in private?" Green eyes roll at the audacity of the older woman, but Ruby is quick to grab her arm and stop her big mouth from proceeding so recklessly.

"Look, we all know she's...harsh," the brunette whispers, her frantic eyes scanning the room to make sure nobody else is listening, "...but, Regina will be the first to defend her mother, that's why nobody says anything. Jeffy, well, he's family and frankly, he doesn't give a fuck what anyone thinks of him, but other than that, we all keep our heads low, mind our own business, do our job and go home."

Emma sighs dramatically, her eyes rolling just to express her defiance toward the cruel situation, but inevitably she nods along. Because in the end, this money is far more important than the ill-tempered women she works for. She's on the right track to better her family and current living situation, so she can easily keep her head down, do her job and collect her money....right?

"Hey, I'm going to head out."

Ruby's inquisitive eyes flick toward Emma's as she offers another award winning smile. "Yeah, for sure. I'll give you a call tomorrow and fill you in on the schedule for the summer. Get ready girl, rest up, because the next day we are headed to Paris, baby!"

Emma's stomach drops out from under her. How the hell did she not even consider, until this very moment, that she has never even been on a plane before? And now she has to be trapped inside one, her first experience ever, for seven and a half hours. Her face instantly pales while the acidic liquid crawls up her chest and tickles the back of her throat.

"Yeah," she croaks out, hitching her bag higher up her shoulder. "Paris, baby!" She fakes enthusiasm and rushes out of the hotel room, avoiding human contact like the plague.

She inhales sharply, loving the sting of cool air as it flows through her nostrils and expands her lungs. Besides her hometown of Storybrooke and now New York, she has never traveled a day in her life. Her mother could never afford anything beside a trip to a park and now she's a struggling adult who never thought about anything costly besides rent.

She takes one more calming breath, pushing all her worries aside and walks calmly toward the elevator. Her fingers nervously strum against the strap to her bag that's lying diagonally across her chest while she waits for the doors to open. She presses the button that glows pink for the lobby floor, then checks her phone for any messages. When her screen remains blank, except for the adorable picture staring up at her, she types out a quick text to her mom and shoves her phone back into her pocket.

The doors ding open and she slowly exits the elevator, excited to spend an evening at home before her life whirls her around in a messy tornado that's sure to come. As she calmly walks through a narrow hall, something in the back of her mind whispers that her surroundings aren't familiar. Emma lifts her head, her eyes darting around the dimly lit hall to discover that this is not the main lobby.

Her fists clench tighter around her bag as panic sets deep in her chest and spreads like vines to an old brick building. She stops dead in her tracks and glances around again because she could have sworn she hit the button marked, lobby.

Then there's a smooth, yet commanding voice that's floating in the air and cooling the anxiety burning in her chest. Her heavy feet move to their own accord, following the voices as if she was placed under some bewitching spell.

Two extravagant double doors, decorated in a soft cream with gold trim, comes into view. She suddenly stops just behind one of the doors and eavesdrops, listening to Cora's sinister laugh bounce off the walls and echo through this underground lobby. Every little hair on the back of her neck stands to attention, screaming their protest not to enter. Her heart takes off racing, pleading with her not to take another step forward. Her hands even grip her strap tighter as she ignores her instincts, because Emma has always been very good at that, and she peeks around the door.

Just as she suspected, Regina is sitting ramrod straight next to her mother slash manager, and across from her is some redhead woman that Emma somewhat recognizes as a host from some stupid celebrity gossip show. Kathryn is hanging in the shadows, behind the obscene amount of cameras and blinding lights that would cause any rational person to sweat profusely.

"Your fans are dying to know," the redhead enthusiastically gushes as she leans forward in her chair. "Why the random breaks where you drop off the face of the planet? Where do you even find a place to hide out for months at a time without any paparazzi sniffing you out?"

Regina smiles kindly at the woman, but there's a nagging sensation in Emma's gut, telling her that the woman is acting. There's just something about that smile that says, rehearsed, fake, nothing more than a mask to protect herself. Emma's always been very inept when it comes to reading people's facial expressions. That's one thing she does pride herself on. Except for one, but that's the last thing she wants to think about right now.

"Well, I couldn't really tell you where I hideout now, can I? The paparazzi would be all over that place in a heartbeat." Regina chuckles to herself and it's so damn depressing how scripted every word, every laugh, every smile is forced upon her. "But I will say this, everyone needs a moment to themselves and I believe that it's important in my life to take some time with my family, in private, before I begin such a long world tour."

"And you deserve it," the interviewer happily concedes, all three women flashing their most impressive fake smiles for the rolling cameras. "Now, it seems you have some rather big news for your fans..." the woman trails off, waiting for Regina to jump right in and take the bait. However, the singer's face falters for a moment and Emma finds herself leaning even further into the doorway, suddenly enthralled with celebrity gossip.

"Oh dear, I would love to take the lead on this one," Cora cheerfully supplies for her daughter, resting her hand on top of her daughter's knee. Regina nods politely, always so poise and in control even if she is drowning in confusion. "Regina has been working on her next album, which will drop at the end of this year," she excitedly replies, while Regina's mask slips for a split second before she plasters on another practiced smile.

Emma's brows pinch together in confusion as she watches the shocked faces all around, gaping at Cora.

"Another album? You just released your latest," the redhead obtusely points out.

"Well..." Cora proceeds to bullshit some lie that Regina is obviously unaware of.

Regina's stoic dark eyes drift away from her mother's, away from the obnoxious redhead in front of her and seem drawn to the doorway. Where a certain blonde has no business being at this moment in time.

Emma winces, appearing to be apologetic while she offers Regina a crooked little smile. Yet, the brunette just blankly stares at her new makeup artist, so many thoughts flickering across her mind, but for some reason, Emma can't read a damn one when that professional mask is firmly set into place.

Emma tries again, flashing her most sincere and adorable smile to help alleviate some of the tension knotting in Regina's shoulders. Dark brown pools, swimming in concealed perplexity, squint at Emma before Regina dismissively turns her neck and focuses on her interview once again.

Emma sighs, because as much as she knows this woman is going to make her life a living hell, there's still something tumbling around in her mind that is just itching to uncover the real Regina Mills. The woman behind her fans, her makeup, her songs, her hairstyles and more importantly, far, far away from her mother.

She hitches her bag higher up and quietly sneaks away without another person discovering her where she definitely shouldn't be. She climbs back into the elevator and kicks herself when she notices the difference between lobby and ground floor. She rolls her eyes and jams her finger against the ground floor, waiting impatiently to just go home and spend the rest of the evening with her family.

She thinks about how she is going to summon enough courage to say goodbye in less than forty-eight hours while she hails a cab on the bustling streets of New York City. Cars are zooming passed, horns are brutally honking, but all of it is a giant blur to her. She spots a yellow splash and mindlessly tumbles inside the cab, rambling off her address and pretending she doesn't notice the cringe from the man who knows the awful neighborhood.

Her mind is screaming for her to reconsider this new job because three months is a long time to be away and so much could happen in that time. It's a crucial time to be present, but god did those zeros at the end of her salary look heavenly when she signed her contract yesterday. Sometimes money outweighs life, she just never thought she would ever have the option to choose.

Emma pays the cab driver and watches as he peels away, screeching tires and all. She sighs, staring up at the rickety brick building that used to be a shoe factory once upon a time. She shakes her head and ignores the cracked windows and the balconies hanging on by one screw. With heavy feet and a heavier heart, she unlocks the door and climbs the four stories up, wincing as the neighbors scream through the walls, along with a very unhappy baby and the awful stench of musk.

Finally, she tumbles through her door, hastily locking each and every lock with relief washing through her bloodstream. Familiar footsteps pad through the rundown apartment, creating the most giddy grin to spread across her face. Her green eyes dance as she sags against the door and kicks off her shoes.

"Hi," she breathes out and pushes herself off the door for a comforting hug.

 

Chapter Text


"What the-" the rest of her sentence vanishes in the small space between her lips and the glass window before her.

Those big green eyes are tripling in size, capturing the private jet and the elaborate staircase just waiting for the guests to arrive. She attempts to swallow down all her anxiety about this scene unfolding before her, but there's not a drop of saliva to be found in her mouth.

"Thanks, Guy!" Ruby shouts as she scrambles to exit the stretch limo that was very unnecessary for just the two of them.

"Rubes, what the hell is this?"

The lanky woman abruptly stops, half hanging out of the car while she cranes her neck to offer Emma her undivided attention.

"This is an airport," she deadpans, not a flicker of amusement gracing her face.

"Yes, I can see that," Emma exasperates, her eyes roll in annoyance as she smacks her friend's bicep. "I mean that," she shrieks, squeezing passed Ruby's dramatically long limbs, so she can gesture toward the massive jet.

Ruby's dark brows pinch together, scanning Emma's face for something the blonde is unsure of. "You didn't think Regina was going to stroll casually through an airport and board a regular plane, did you?" And her tone is not at all playful, per her usual self, no, this time there's a hint of judgement, as though Emma is finally having a blonde moment.

"No, but us...well I assumed, we would be boarding a regular plane," Emma defends, motioning frantically between them.

"No, we are Regina's crew, we go where she goes," she nonchalantly replies, pushing herself through the open door and standing tall, breathing in the dewy morning air.

Emma follows her lead, hitching her bag higher upon her shoulder while the driver steps around back to retrieve their luggage from the trunk. Of course, Ruby packed her entire life, while Emma hardly had enough clothes to fill one duffel bag.

She scurries around the limo to help the man, who is already raising one sandy-blonde eyebrow at her skeptically. "I can take my bag," she kindly offers, lifting it easily onto her other shoulder.

"Miss Swan, please, this is my job after all. I can assure you, your bag will be gently placed below with the rest of the luggage," he politely replies, yet in a robotic tone as if this is the only statement he is ever allowed to mutter around other humans.

"Oh I know, I'm just not used to people serving me. I can help," she says again, but this time with her adorable little smile that usually melts every person around her into abiding her every request.

"Thanks, Guy!" Ruby shouts over her shoulder with a grin that threatens to split her face right in half before she rushes over to Jefferson.

"Rubes, call the man by his name!" Emma bellows, thoroughly embarrassed by her friend's rudeness.

"That is his name, Swan!"

Emma blinks, slowly twisting her neck to meet the older gentleman's kind, steel blue, eyes. "Guy Davidson, Miss Swan. It's a pleasure to meet you," and his tone actually softens as he politely offers his hand.

Emma smiles, admiring his charismatic grin that secretly informs her that he is a father. He has that sweet, kind and gentle ora about him, in spite of his strong jawline and it rattles her heart for a brief second.

"Nice to meet you, Guy. Will you be joining us? Are you going to pop up in Paris to drive us around?" She teases, shifting around to distribute the weight from her duffel bag and carry-on.

"I will, along with Miss Mills' other driver, Sydney Glass."

"So, how long have you been her driver?" Emma casually questions, just to fill the void of silence between two strangers.

"Since she was fifteen," the man pauses, a small smile cracking through his stoic expression for just a brief flittering moment. "I guess that would be thirteen years now," he confesses, but quickly masks his emotions toward the singer and plasters on his professional expression once again. "May I please take your bag now, Miss Swan?"

"Will you get in trouble if you don't?" She muses, her eyebrows lifting high in amusement. The older man sighs, shaking his head in exasperation as he stretches out his hand for her bag. "Alright," she reluctantly agrees because this is all so new to her. She's never once had anyone wait on her before.

The corner of his mouth twitches while he curtly nods and adds her bag to Ruby's pile. "Go on, you don't want to be late," he whispers, nodding toward the plane and encouraging Emma's feet to find the strength to move.

"Thank you," she respectfully says before she jogs toward her best friend who is hanging off Jefferson's shoulders.

"About time," Jefferson shouts just as she approaches. "Honey, you aren't thinking about switching professions are you?" He sasses, nodding toward Mr. Davidson who is dutifully working.

"Oh shut up," she laughs as she shoves his shoulder playfully. "This is all...."

"Overwhelming?" Ruby offers, untangling her long limbs from her favorite man.

"Yeah," Emma breathes out, shuffling her feet alongside her new companions that she will spend the next three months with.

"Oh, baby girl," Jefferson slings his arm around her shoulders and roughly smashes her body into his side. "Get used to it, because as long as you take care of Regina, you will be spoiled rotten," he chuckles loudly, squeezing the last anxious breath from her poor lungs.

And that's exactly what she fears most in all of this. That she will impress the insufferable Regina Mills and that she will be spoiled on this trip and then what happens when she returns home? She will have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and it's something that she will never maintain in her future. She will end this tour, back in her shitty apartment with a fat bank account, but that won't last long either and then what? Where does she go from there? She honestly can't expect Regina to keep her around, especially when her schedule isn't so flexible. It's only working out right now because it's summer.

Every rambling thought bouncing around in her head like a damn tennis match, quickly vanishes when she steps foot onto the private jet. Her fingers clench tightly around her carry-on bag that's resting against her chest and it seems to be squeezing the life right out of her heart. She swallows down her trepidation that's screaming for her to recognize that she doesn't belong there.

Ruby follows Jefferson's lead toward the back of the plane which must be their spot for how comfortably they fall into their seats. Emma hastily rushes down the aisle, avoiding Cora, Regina and Kathryn who all seem to be very lost in their private meeting at the moment. She tumbles into the seat beside Ruby, her head falling back against the headrest as she tries to regulate her breathing.

"Girl, you need to relax," Jefferson whispers, leaning forward in his seat, directly in front of Emma to rub her knee for support. "Let me fill you in on a little secret." Emma's curious big green eyes flick to his piercing blue. "The calmer we are, the calmer Regina will be. The minute she senses our nerves, she's like a fucking animal and feeds off the energy." He offers a small smile for sympathy or support, she's really not too sure. "You're going to be just fine," he assures her before falling back into his cream colored leather seat.

"You're right," Emma concedes as her wandering eyes drift around the elaborate plane, decorated elegantly in soft creams and beige colors and she's terrified she will ruin it all by her worn jeans. "Uh, someone gonna come by with champagne soon?" She halfheartedly teases, even though she could use a stiff drink to talk her nerves back down.

"No, we need to be sharp when we land," Ruby quickly states. "But they will serve breakfast as soon as we are in the air."

"Good, I'm starving."

~~~~~~~~

After breakfast, Ruby and Jefferson gabbed away, gossiping and swapping stories since they hadn't seen each other in months. Truthfully, nothing was of any interest to Emma and it wasn't long before she was curled up in a ball in her leather seat, softly snoring her nerves away.

Ruby's boney fingers assaulted her ribs in the cruelest way to ever wake someone up, around noon. They were serving a light lunch before they landed, so, of course, Emma bolted upright to inhale her food, because this girl never misses an opportunity for free food. Especially this well prepared and delicious.

While she and her friend's are humming around the scrumptious sub sandwiches, Emma's eyes scan the plane until they land on Regina. She looks absolutely stunning in a white, tailored suit that contrasts so beautifully against her olive-toned flesh. Her inky tresses are still perfectly sleek with her big framed sunglasses perched regally on top of her head and suddenly Emma feels very self-conscious in her jeans and t-shirt. She thought it was protocol to dress down when boarding a plane, but that doesn't seem to be the case with one, Regina Mills.

Inquisitive, or maybe just nosy, green eyes travel down to the tray in front of her new boss. There's a small glass of water with a lemon slice floating at the top, accompanied by a pathetically tiny plate with a few pieces of fruit on top. A sorrowful frown sets up camp around Emma's mouth, even though she's unaware of the conflict in her mind. Curiosity whispers in her head and before she can register the action, she's glaring at Cora, who is very clearly enjoying her salad beside her daughter with a glass of champagne. The fucking champagne Emma was denied.

Emma doesn't have to be a genius to put two and two together. She knows in her heart, those tiny scraps of fruit for Regina are because of Cora. She would bet her entire life savings, okay so maybe it's not that much, but still, she would bet it all that Cora has a say in what Regina puts into that mouth of hers, twenty-four-seven.

Emma has always been one to test the limits and boundaries of society and right now there's something nagging at her gut. Her one goal for this summer is to sneak a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger into Regina's mouth.

Screw Cora.

~~~~~~~~~~

The private jet finally lands in Paris, around eight thirty at night, which confuses Emma's brain because back home, in New York, it should only be around two thirty in the afternoon. An entire day is wasted on travel and even though she spent most of the flight passed out, she still feels utter exhaustion weighing down her stiff limbs.

One key ingredient into persuading Emma to even consider this job was the promise of travel and experiencing places she could only dream of. So, of course, she was ecstatic to be in France, ready to explore all of Europe by the end of this trip. However, near the end of the flight, she was handed her itinerary for the entire summer. Between travel times, concerts, interviews and sleep, it seems there won't be any time for her to venture out on her own. Just her fucking luck.

"Okay, you ready for this?" Ruby enthusiastically inquires, her dark brows dancing along excitedly.

"Ready for what?" Emma flatly asks, completely in the dark for what's to come in less than thirty seconds.

"Guy and Sydney will exit first and we need to stay right behind them. Keep walking, don't dawdle. The bodyguards are going to be right behind us with Regina and Cora in between them," Jefferson informs her, provoking her mouth to hang open like a fish out of water.

"Rubes! A little heads up before shit like this. You can't just keep throwing me into these things."

"If I tell you beforehand, you'll just spend the entire time working yourself into a frenzy," the brunette flippantly responds, standing tall and slinging her purse over her shoulder. "Now, let's go. You go between me and Jeffy."

Emma groans, but immediately hops to her feet because she just wants to barge through whatever awaits for them and crawl into her hotel bed and sleep this nightmare away. The drivers are standing at the front of the plane waiting patiently for Jefferson, Emma and Ruby to file behind them. So, she grips her bag, just as she always does when she's nervous, like some sad security blanket and waits for the plane to open up.

She swears it's climbing scorching temperatures as she waits for the debacle that's sure to come. She peeks out of the corner of her eye to discover Regina watching her intently, with her lips pursed and judgement scribbled all over her stupidly gorgeous face. She rolls her eyes to herself and straightens her posture while inhaling a sharp breath to calm herself down.

The second the plane is opened up to the world, the violently screeching from teen girls explodes through the entire cabin. Emma holds her breath, like she's about to dive right into an ocean full of sharks and all too quickly her feet are following Jefferson's.

It's a giant blur to her, she keeps her head down, her eyes strained to the back of Jefferson's feet and keeps moving. No dawdling. The sheer volume that these girls can produce is horrifying and somehow she feels as though she fell through a time portal and traveled back to when The Beatles were the hottest band, ever. She remembers the old black and white videos of girls screaming and crying as the four boys preformed and now she's experiencing the insanity firsthand.

Fans are lined up on both sides of her, hardly being contained by the barriers that someone mysteriously set up upon their arrival. Posters, t-shirts, all types of memorabilia are being aggressively waved in their faces for an autograph and she's not even the fucking talent.

Jefferson is leading with the most confident strut and his head held high and Emma can't even find the courage to peek over her shoulder at Ruby. However, her very loud friend's voice is drifting to her ears and she knows Ruby is engaging playfully with the young girls.

The crowd abruptly explodes even louder, piercing Emma's eardrums with their shrieking and she knows Regina just made her debut off the plane. Emma and her friends are hastily ushered into a stretch limo and that's the moment she finally takes a breath. Her muscles are slightly quivering from the rush of it all, so she allows herself a moment to sink back in the black leather and reflect. Except, she can't even remember what just happened moments ago and everything just feels like some cloudy dream. It's like waking up after a very vivid dream and trying so hard to recall the events that just occurred, but the scenes are fading away faster than the mind can comprehend.

Why the hell are there so many screaming fans where they just landed? Didn't they land on a runway? Why would people even be allowed to be standing there? Her mind repeatedly wonders as she attempts to regulate her breathing.

"Em? You good?" Ruby softly questions, conscious not to startle her frazzled friend.

She blinks. She blinks again and soon the entire limo comes back into play. "Yeah," she heavily breathes out. "That was...just...a lot. I'm fine though," she claims, straightening her posture against the seat and resting her bag in her lap to help ground herself.

"It'll get easier," Jefferson sweetly offers, "by the end of the summer you won't even notice them anymore."

"That's what you guys keep saying," she mumbles under her breath.

A ding from Guy's phone suddenly rings loudly through the limo, silencing everyone in the backseat. Emma watches through the small divider as he checks his phone and nods to himself. He places his phone down and quickly shifts into drive, leading the way to the hotel. And she assumes that was the other driver informing Guy that he has Regina and Cora and they are ready to departure.

~~~~~~~

"You have got to be kidding me?" Emma all but squeals as she falls hazardously onto her king-size mattress. "We each get our own room?" She happily questions, squirming against the soft, white duvet, and inhaling the scent of fresh linen.

"Yup," Ruby cheers as she too, leaps onto the bed next to Emma who is clearly lost in the moment.

"Rubes, I have never felt a bed so cozy, it's like I'm on a fucking cloud," she mutters, her head already burying deep into the fluffy pillow and her eyes drooping closed.

Her friend chuckles and swats Emma's bottom playfully. "I'm telling you girl, this is the life. Regina and her mother could be cruel, cold-hearted bitches, but they always deliver. Even the help needs to be pampered to make the Queen look good," Ruby mocks in what Emma can only assume is Cora's tone, before tumbling into the spot next to her best friend.

Emma's smile is consuming her entire face, her eyes peacefully closed as she revels in the moment; promising herself to never forget this time in her life where she was offered something more than just hand-me-downs.

Ruby's wiggling around steals Emma's attention though, inspiring her to pry open her heavy eyelids and watch as her friend maneuvers onto her side, facing Emma. However, Ruby's smile is quickly fading and sobers Emma right up.

"What's wrong?"

"No, nothing," Ruby murmurs, her hand coming to rest on top of Emma's elbow. "I just really missed you."

"And whose fault is that?" Emma accuses, but her tone is still light, maybe from the heavenly bed or maybe because this is Ruby, her sister and well, she could never truly stay mad at her.

"I know. I'm sorry. I kinda got caught up in this lifestyle, I guess," she apologizes, her deep scarlet lips pouting for dramatic affect, but there's no need, because Emma has already forgiven her.

Emma wiggles her face out from the pillow and rests her cheek in the crook of her arm. "I can see how you can get lost here. I don't blame you. I'm just glad we're back."

"It's going to be like old times," she squeals, reminding Emma of a time when they were just teenagers, hiding in Ruby's room, gossiping about her latest conquest of boys. "But we have to be on our best behavior, we can't allow anything negative to reflect on Regina," she seriously states, narrowing her eyes at the blonde that always found herself in some kind of trouble way back when.

"I know. Rubes, I'm not the same person anymore. I've grown up a lot since you last saw me," Emma sincerely informs her friend, her eyes already glistening from the separation in her heart.

"I know and hey, I'm sorry I wasn't around when everything happened." Ruby swallows thickly, producing a painful gulp and Emma already sees the guilt radiating from those glowing green eyes.

"I know and I understand. I do, but can we not-"

"I gotcha. How about for tonight we cuddle up and watch a movie. Maybe make some popcorn and just relax. Tomorrow is a big day and we should just rest, nothing too crazy tonight."

"What about Jefferson? Should we invite him?"

"Nah. He's probably helping Regina unpack and get settled in. Girls night for us. Besides we have so much catching up to do," Ruby excitedly says as she rolls off the bed to retrieve the remote for the biggest flat screen Emma has ever laid eyes on.

"Get settled in? Rubes, we leave tomorrow night to..." she trails off, instantly forgetting where their next adventure awaits.

"Belgium. Ems, you need to memorize the itinerary," Ruby fills in the blank with annoyance while rummaging through a binder on the nightstand.

"Does it really matter? I'll just follow you guys around," Emma lazily replies, flipping onto her back and stretching out her stiff muscles from the seven and a half hour flight.

"Yes, it matters. You should always know where we are headed. You never want to accidentally say the wrong place and you should be prepared and familiar with the schedule every day."

"To be fair, you guys only handed me the damn thing at the end of the flight."

"True. Well, study up. I'm going to change in my room and I'll be back for our girls night," she squawks before breezing out the door.

Emma sighs, crawling across the biggest bed she has ever been on and snatches up her bag. She rummages through the mess until she finds the folded up instructions and tosses the bag to the floor once again. She groans to nobody but herself as her eyes scan the neatly outlined list. Belgium, England, Spain, Italy, Greece. Her stomach drops out when she sees Tokyo and after that, they head back to the states where there are far too many cities listed. She's not even sure all of this is possible in three short months, but somehow it's all been calculated, to the very last minute.

A small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth when she discovers a small day of rest in Greece. It seems there is one evening free and she is going to take that sliver of time and run away toward an adventure.

 

Chapter Text


"Sleepy Swan," Ruby sing-songs, her mocking tone just inches from Emma's peaceful face. "No more hitting the snooze button. It's get your ass up time or Regina will fire your pretty little bottom."

This is the golden ticket that springs Emma's heavy eyelids apart and forces her to greet the morning. Her golden mane is in disarray as she blinks rapidly, gaping at her friend in shock because Ruby is kneeling beside her bed, her hair dripping wet and those little droplets descending toward the far too small towel that's attempting to cover the woman's long torso.

"What time is it?" Emma's scratchy throat still thick from her sleep induced coma, barely makes it passed her lips and into the still dark room.

"Six o'clock," Ruby nonchalantly replies as she stands tall on her toothpick legs and sashays away, ignoring Emma's childish groans of protest. "We have to be downstairs, looking flawless, might I add, in one hour and fifteen minutes."

Emma releases another puff of annoyance while stretching out her sleepy limbs. She groans one last time before her feet connect with the plushy carpet below and she forces herself to greet the day.

"I thought Regina's first interview is at eight?" She mumbles through a yawn and pads lazily across the hotel room toward the bathroom.

"Yes, but it takes fifteen minutes to drive there and we need to be downstairs before she is and she always insists on arriving anywhere at least fifteen minutes early. Punctuality is a quirk of hers."

Emma nods along mindlessly, not truly listening to a word her friend is saying even though she knows she should probably be writing down half this shit. She turns on the shower, trying so desperately to suppress another yawn and waits for the water to warm up.

"Uh, you gonna go back to your room now?" Emma questions when she realizes she needs to strip, but Ruby isn't making any plans to leave the bathroom.

Ruby rolls those dazzling green eyes as she stares intently at her pores through the mirror. "Not like I haven't seen you naked before," she flippantly replies, because she has seen Emma bare, far too many times when they were teenagers and truthfully that just isn't something she's shy or timid about.

Yet, Emma, she flushes crimson and spins on her heel in a lame attempt to hide the burning embarrassment. That was a long time ago in her mind and back then things were different. Emma was a hell of a lot more of a free spirit back then and she and Ruby were inseparable. They never thought once about changing in front of each other or how inappropriate it might have been to go skinny dipping with boys...one too many times to actually count. But now, she's older and she's changed a lot. She's an adult, with responsibilities and well...she just doesn't feel that comfortable anymore. Maybe her body isn't as young and tight as it once was when she was sixteen.

"Girl, come on," Ruby exasperates, easily dropping her towel to expose all her goodies and to Emma's mortification, she hears that material hit the floor. Emma quickly whips around to face the shower and slams her eyes shut. "Where's the wild child I remember?"

"Dude, come on, we aren't kids anymore. Put that towel back on," she tosses over her shoulder and even though her eyes are closed, she shields them with her hands as well for extra protection.

"No, not until you lighten up. I haven't seen my best friend since we have become reacquainted again. Let her come out and play or I swear I will hug you," Ruby threatens, sneaking a few steps closer, trying so hard to be quiet behind Emma's back.

"Don't," she firmly demands, her hands making quick work to drop her skimpy cotton shorts and fumble to remove her tank top. She hastily jumps into the shower, pulling the curtain with extra speed and breathing a sigh in relief when she knows she's alone. "Five years is a long time apart, Rubes. You have to understand that I've changed. I've grown up," she sighs heavily from that separation ache in her heart, twisting the organ yet again.

It's a sentimental moment on her end of the conversation, but Ruby doesn't seem to sense the tone when she yanks open the curtain and catches Emma off guard. Beads of water trickle down Emma's pale yet toned flesh, inspiring Ruby's eyebrows to dance playfully.

"Ruby!" Emma bellows, yanking the shower curtain back into place and hiding her glistening body from prying eyes.

"Still looking good, Swan," Ruby happily cheers and then finally Emma hears the woman's footsteps pad through the bathroom before the door softly closes.

"Fuck," Emma mutters to herself, scrubbing her face with the scalding water pelting her, before she quickly showers and mentally prepares herself for the longest day of her life.

~~~~~~~

It's all still a whirlwind of a blur to Emma. The entire morning and afternoon is a funneling tornado that spins people around her and whisks away her memories and clarity of what actually occurred. Regina had two interviews, back to back, with two different outfits, two very different hair and makeup choices and all Emma really remembers is driving passed the Eiffel Tower and promising to never forget that moment.

The crew made it back to the hotel room with just enough time to scarf down some sub sandwiches before they were shoved into another limo. Regina's first concert of the world tour was in three hours, yet everyone around Emma seemed to be running as if the singer was due on stage at any moment.

A schedule was shoved into Emma's hand two hours before the show began. It was a very detailed outline with the list of Regina's songs in order. There were bullet points for when she would be exiting stage for a hair and makeup touch up and if there were any wardrobe changes. This concert she had three. Emma was not amused.

However, her anxious mind was quickly disrupted by a deep rumble of a drum that reached into her chest and rattled her beating heart. She froze momentarily, her eyes still resting upon the schedule that she could no longer comprehend. Another bang of the drum echoed through the dressing room before a long strum of a bass guitar.

Excitement ripples through her blood as reality smacks her upside the head. She's about to be backstage for one of Regina Mills' concerts. Even if she wanted to see the woman preform live, she could never afford a ticket. The closest she has ever come to a concert was a live band that she always went to see when they would play at some dive bar back in her hometown.

Suddenly, the beat, the deep bravado of the bass, and the powerful guitar are swimming through the air and pounding in her ears. The soft and tender voices of both a male and female harmonizing, resonates in her eardrums and kick starts her heart all over again.

"No," she breathes out, dropping the sheet of paper onto Regina's vanity.

"Are you gonna take me home tonight?" The voices harmonize beautifully together, inspiring Emma to smack Ruby right across the bicep.

"Holy shit," she gasps while Ruby groans and rubs her abused arm furiously.

"What is the matter with you?" Ruby scolds, scrutinizing as Emma's pretty doe eyes double in size.

"No, it can't be," she murmurs under her breath, listening very intently to the band practicing and testing the sounds before tonight's big show.

She shakes her head rapidly, but her feet are already dashing out of the dressing room and through the backstage. She knows Ruby is right on her tail, questioning her motives, but this is too much and she has to know if her mind is playing tricks on her from stress or if this is reality.

Her fancy leather boots come to a screeching halt just off left stage, prompting her lanky friend to run right into her back. But Emma's too distracted to pay any attention to Ruby. Her eyes are darting across center stage where a gorgeous, scruffy man is sporting a beanie. He's strumming on his guitar, his crystal blue eyes sparkling as he sings to a beautiful woman with long black hair who is harmonizing perfectly with him. Green eyes drift further back to a sandy-blonde man who is pouring all his heart and soul into his bass. And then comes the drummer, with his thick curls and scruffy pout who is just as gorgeous as the rest of the band.

"Outlaw is Regina's opener?" Emma practically squeals like a little school girl, completely throwing Ruby off by the look of bewilderment contorting her face.

"You know them?"

"Yes," she squawks, her eyes glued to the band playing so effortlessly in front of them. "They were-" a large boulder of emotions swell in the back of her throat, crushing the rest of the sentence from existence. She swallows down the past pain and clears her throat, attempting to explain. "I've seen them a few times perform at The Rabbit Hole."

"No shit," Ruby exhales through a chuckle, her curious eyes roaming over all the ruggedly handsome men on stage. "Regina discovered them somewhere...I don't know, but she wanted them to open for her this year. She thinks they will be huge. I haven't met them yet."

"They are amazing. That girl can really belt out some powerful notes," Emma mindlessly explains just as the girl proves her point by shaking up the stage with a note that could shatter glass.

"Damn."

"Told you." Emma smiles to herself as so many bittersweet memories flood her brain.

She can picture the crowded bar now, the smell of beer clinging to all the hot and sticky bodies whenever Outlaw played there, but that never stopped her from missing their show. She still remembers singing along to their cover songs with his mouth pressed against her ear. He would hold her so close and together they would sing and dance the night away. She hasn't thought about him or this band in a very long time and the pain searing through her heart and gut is a strong reminder as to why she left them all in the past.

"Emma," Ruby yells, shaking the blonde's arm to snap her back to the now. "Come on, we need to have Regina's dressing room set up before she gets there. She still has to do her soundcheck."

And just like that, Emma is dragged away to her next job in life, shoving those distant memories further down and promising herself to keep them buried for the rest of the summer.

~~~~~~~~~

Emma is waiting patiently, once again, for Regina to sit her royal butt down, so she can finally do the woman's makeup. At this rate, the singer will never reach the stage and the entire concert will be cancelled. Outlaw has already kicked off the night with their first song that really pumped up the adrenaline in the crowd. Emma can still feel the fierce drum pounding against her heart and the delicious vibrations from the bass buzzing through her blood. The crowd is screaming along to every word sending chill after chill to trickle down her spine, but she's missing it all, because Cora Mills is the devil herself.

"The sound quality is horrendous. Do you honestly expect my daughter to perform with such poor speakers?" Cora spits in disgust, not bothering to even glance at the manager of the pavilion.

Emma's tired eyes drift toward Regina and the look of utter defeat and exhaustion embedded into her features is enough for Emma to re-evaluate just how tired she may be. She has no right to feel tired when Regina is standing two feet away with one foot in her own coffin and if her mother complains one more time, that will be what really does her in.

Regina must sense her stare because those dark eyes crawl toward Emma's, forcing her to flinch and quickly avert her eyes. She attempts to shove her hands into her pockets, but then she suddenly remembers Ruby's dress pants don't have pockets. So, now she looks like a fool with her hands sliding into nothing while the heat spreads up her neck and lights a burning fire upon her cheeks.

"....and that will be the last time anyone performs at this venue," Cora threatens as she stomps murderously out of the dressing room, with three men running behind with their tails tucked between their legs.

"Let's move people," Jefferson orders, clapping his hands to provoke everyone in the room to frantically scramble.

Regina elegantly sits in her chair, nerves of steel as she carefully slips her earbuds in and cranks up her iPod, evaporating her employees from existence. Emma steps right in front of the woman's bare thighs and immediately starts her process. She memorized the short black dress pants and the black sheer corset that Emma can only assume Jefferson picked up from some lingerie store. However, there is still a cream colored blazer with shiny black lapels to complete the ensemble and, of course, Regina still appears sexy and classy as hell.

She rolls her eyes at the woman's perfection and proceeds to apply a strong base that should withstand all the sweat that's sure to come.

Ruby easily works around Emma, not at all bothered with her fumbling and rushing, because the brunette is a professional and none of this phases her anymore. Regina is lost somewhere in her own mind, her music blocking out reality and for the first time, she doesn't flinch when Emma delicately brushes the pad of her thumb across the beautiful scar. Her heart skips a beat in that moment and she's not sure if Regina is so lost in her music that she didn't realize Emma's finger or maybe, just maybe she's starting to trust Emma and the feeling isn't so foreign to her anymore. God, does Emma hope it's the latter of the two, but she's not entirely sure why.

In these moments, Emma actually finds herself relaxing in front of the celebrity. Regina is usually busying herself with something and not judging her and it's these rare times that Emma thinks that maybe one day they can be friends. They haven't spoken more than a handful of sentences toward each other since Emma was hired, but when Regina's calm and Emma's hovering over her face, she feels as though there is some type of intimacy in the moment. It's a strange sensation that hums between them and she's trying so hard not to think about it, but it's there and it's almost impossible to ignore.

"Regina?" Emma softly whispers and instantly kicks herself because of course, the woman cannot hear her. She gently places her hand upon Regina's shoulder, prompting big brown eyes to pop wide open. "Sorry," she mouths as Regina tugs on one of her earbuds. "Did you want to do your own lipstick?"

Regina curtly nods and snatches the scarlet lipstick from Emma's fingertips. She admires through the mirror as Regina stands from her chair and leans over the vanity to apply the shade. Regina hesitates for a moment, her eyes flicking across the details that Emma highlighted for the evening. Emma thinks for a brief moment that she catches a small smirk at the corner of Regina's mouth, but before she can truly inspect the gesture, it's wiped away. And Regina applies her lipstick while Ruby frantically sprays hairspray everywhere and before Emma can finish blinking, Regina is changed and heading out the door.

"So? Can we watch?" Emma timidly inquires, quickly cleaning up her area like a small child that was just offered ice cream if they clean up their toys.

"Yeah, for sure," Ruby smiles, clicking the cap to the hairspray before tugging Emma out of the dressing room.

"No need to clean up just yet, we have three more changes," Jefferson reminds her as he links his arm through hers and the three of them walk behind stage.

"I'm actually excited," Emma nervously admits against her own better judgement to keep her big trap shut. "I've never been to a real concert before."

Jefferson and Ruby come to a screeching halt, glaring at Emma in disbelief. "Seriously?" Ruby squawks, her eyes quickly scanning Emma's face.

"Oh baby girl, you really are sheltered," Jefferson pouts before he breathes out a deep chuckle and he's excitedly dragging her toward the stage.

When they reach the left side of the stage, still hidden away from the thick black curtains, bright lights are flickering and music is pulsating so heavily that she feels it vibrating in every fiber and cell in her body. A small smile ghosts over her lips as the excitement and adrenaline seeps into her bones and pumps through her veins, fully jolting her awake for the first time in ages.

"Well hello, Paris!" Regina shouts into the microphone, inspiring an uproar of applauds and shrieking that puts that chaos from when they first landed in France to shame.

There's this warm, honest and wholesome smile that consumes Regina's face as she waves to her fans and crosses center stage. For the first time, Emma is sure she is seeing a true heartfelt smile from Regina Mills, not some forced grin that she has been practicing since she was four. She looks happy, relaxed and most importantly, where she wants to be. She belongs on stage, in front of fans, that's her safe place and now Emma is starting to really see who Regina Mills is and she can't wait to find out so much more.

However, across the stage, Emma notices Cora, stiffly standing on her five inch heels, in her domineering pantsuit, with her arms folded protectively across her chest. Emma swallows down the lump forming in her throat when she realizes the older woman is glaring at her. Those beady eyes are squinting at Emma with a ferocious glare that makes her want to curl up and die.

She'll have to remember to remind herself to sleep with one eye open tonight because this she-devil looks like she's about to murder her in her sleep.

So, she slowly averts her eyes, pretending not to notice and attempts to enjoy the show.

~~~~~~

With the confident guidance and explicit instructions from Jefferson and Ruby, Emma was able to keep up with the changes between songs. All three of them rushed around Regina, tearing her clothes away, blotting the little droplets of sweat away while teasing her dark locks and quickly shoving her into another dress. Those three minutes were the most stressful minutes in Emma's entire life and that's saying a lot for what her past entails.

Even still, with all the stress and rushed movements, it was one of Emma's top five favorite moments in her life. She was able to sit back stage for her first concert ever and watch one of the world's most famous singer belt out notes that actually made her heart stop.

"What a way to start off the tour, mama," Jefferson gushes as Regina's entire crew forms some sort of protective barrier around her and escorts her back to the dressing room.

"Now, are we gonna be popping bottles to celebrate?" Emma questions, whispering into Ruby's ear while her feet shuffle to keep up with the group.

"Nah. No alcohol backstage or during performances. She needs to be sharp," Ruby dutifully explains before she wraps her long fingers around Emma's wrist and winks, taking Emma by surprise. "But I did agree to stop by Outlaw's hotel room after, for a little celebratory party," she practically giggles while bumping her hip playfully into Emma's.

"No," she gasps, a cold sweat breaking out across her pale flesh at the idea of meeting the one and only band she has ever followed.

"Yeah, but we have to clean up our stuff and wait for the crowds to die down before we can make it safely to the limos."

"Guy and Sydney are outside standing guard," Kathryn anxiously clarifies, shoving an ice cold water bottle into Regina's hand. "We are approximating our exit around eleven thirty," she dutifully declares, her eyes scanning some clipboard she's desperately clinging to.

"Yes, see if we can make that eleven. We do leave in a few hours and I need sleep," Regina robotically replies before hastily consuming her much-needed water, judging by how raspy and distorted her voice sounds now.

When the crew finally escorts Regina into her dressing room, it isn't long before there's a knock at her door. Jefferson is the one to suspiciously peek his head outside before smiling wide and taking a step back. Outlaw casually struts into Regina's private room and Emma's not sure if the singer will kick them to the curb or plaster on her most insincere grin.

"Outlaw, wonderful performance."

Fake smile it is then.

"Thanks," the lead singer smiles, extending his hand politely toward her. "We haven't officially met yet, I'm Killian. I know you have been busy and have been speaking with Milah about everything."

Regina's dark eyes flash with something that Emma honestly can't read just yet, before trailing down to her lap and ignoring the other woman altogether. "Yes, I do appreciate a strong woman in a band full of men," Regina comments, lifting her gaze and blatantly assessing every man that is standing in her room.

Emma is so thankful that the spotlight is no longer on her.

"Aye." Killian smiles a mile wide, his crystal blue eyes twinkle upon his female band member, just as Emma always remembers him doing so. "Anyways, like I said, I'm Killian. This fellow is Robin," he clasps his hand over the blonde bassist's strong shoulder. "And this one back here," he tugs the curly head drummer to stand beside him, "...this is Graham. We are Outlaw," he proudly states, as if this room hadn't a clue, all while Emma is silently shrieking in her head like some crazy fangirl.

"Well, it's lovely to finally meet all of you," Regina concludes with that damn rehearsed smile that almost appears painful.

"We are having a small get together to kick off the first night of the tour and we would love to have you and your crew stop by this evening," Robin politely extends the invitation that Ruby and Emma were previously invited to.

"Thank you, but I will have to respectfully decline," Regina's smile almost morphs into a grimace before she quickly recovers. "I do enjoy my down time and rest between these hectic performances."

"Of course," Killian agrees, not at all offended.

"I do ask that you remember every detail of your contract as my opener. I expect order, punctuality and professionalism during my tours," she strictly reminds everyone in the room, inspiring Emma's mind to wonder if attending the party is a risk to her own career?

"Right," Graham quickly replies without skipping a beat. "We would never want to reflect poorly on you."

"Thank you. Now, go on and enjoy your evening," she kindly dismisses the band, who obediently files out the door.

Emma leaps into action, tidying up the makeup she used throughout the night as Regina slides into her thrown. She knows Regina is watching her carefully which causes her palms to sweat and an uncomfortable heat to explode down her back. Green eyes trail to the corner to assess the brunette's expression, but of course, the woman is stone-cold. She quickly drops her eyes back to her task and pretends she doesn't feel the tension rolling off the woman in waves of dismay.

"Miss Swan," the voice is so harsh that Emma actually flinches and drops Regina's favorite lipstick.

Of fucking course.

"Yeah," she tries to play it off cool and casual like Ruby usually does, but the fact is, Emma is now bending down, horrifyingly at the mercy of Regina's feet. And God does she need this moment to just be over, so she can hide away in a bottle of Vodka she's sure Outlaw will have tonight.

"Your job is not complete for this evening."

This news provokes Emma's one eyebrow to crawl suspiciously up her forehead as she straightens her posture and meets Regina's stern eyes. And shit-if that look could melt the flesh right off her bones now.

"Oh?" Is all that tumbles from her poor excuse of a mouth.

"After each one of my concerts, I expect you to wipe away the grime and reapply a lighter style. Just in case there are any paparazzi outside or fans ready to snap a picture from afar. At least I will appear fresh," she instructs, crossing one leg over the other and for some reason, the small action makes Emma feel like a small child being scolded by her teacher in front of the entire class.

Her nervous eyes dart around the room, wondering why the hell Ruby and Jefferson neglected to explain this portion of the night when they were so thorough with their instructions throughout the rest of the evening? She finds the two gabbing privately in a corner, giggling like some preteen girls gushing over the latest heart throb on the cover of Teen magazine. She rolls her eyes back toward Regina, who is waiting expectantly with annoyance written all over her face.

"Sure thing," she chirps, faking a smile and quickly jumping into action.

Kathryn suddenly appears out of nowhere with a warm washcloth and some makeup removing wipes. Her hands stretch toward Regina, but those big brown eyes dart to Emma and somehow Kathryn understands the silent demand. The woman pivots a half an inch and gently hands the supplies over to Emma.

Carefully, Emma leans forward, just as Regina's thick lashes flutter closed. On pure instinct, Emma holds her breath and slowly wipes away the caked on makeup that did impressively hold up through all the sweat and lights beating down on Regina throughout the night.

It doesn't go unnoticed how Regina inhales sharply and holds onto that breath as though it's her own personal life raft while Emma delicately skims over the harsh scar. Emma doesn't even realize, but she automatically frowns from the process because her mind is screaming at her to ask what happened? What the hell caused this indent which forces Regina to flinch whenever another human is near? But she doesn't ask, she sighs softly to herself and proceeds, because she knows the day her big mouth betrays her and those words finally tumble recklessly from her lips, is the day she will most likely be fired.

"I do hope you understand the repercussions of your actions." Emma's hand stills, the washcloth just resting against Regina's high cheekbone.

"Huh?"

"From what I gather, you are rather sheltered."

"I am not," Emma defensively fires back, encouraging her hand to proceed to distract herself from the woman's harsh assumption.

"Well, you are certainly out of your element," Regina huffs as though the proclamation somehow annoys her.

"Well, that maybe true, but just because I am out of my element does not mean I am sheltered," Emma assertively declares. "I've already been through the partying stage and now I'm older and I have priorities. I'm more responsible, that doesn't make me naive."

"You're twenty-three," Regina counters, with that same bored ass look that is slowly starting to agitate Emma.

"So," she scoffs, tossing the washcloth down with a little unnecessary roughness and then scoops up the removal wipes. "My age does not define me."

"I never said it did-"

"Then what are you trying to get at here?" Emma coldly interrogates, her tone a hell of a lot icier than she intended with her new boss, but she hates when people belittle her because of her age or class in society.

"Remember your place," Regina practically growls under her breath, careful not to draw attention, so the others don't discover that the new girl just snapped at the world's most prized possession. However, Emma doesn't falter because she'll be damned if she allows this woman to think she can continue walking all over her. "All I'm saying," Regina sighs, like it physically pains her to continue, "you need to be careful who you spend your free time with here."

Emma's brows crinkle at this discreet warning, catching her full attention. Her hand stills, Regina's chin resting on her index finger while her other hand ghosts over those enchanting orbs.

"I expect professionalism," Regina snaps, her tone cruel and distant, nothing like the softer concern merely moments ago. "I don't need you getting belligerent and unable to dutifully perform your job the next day."

Emma rolls her eyes and decides not to say another word to Regina for the rest of the evening. A flicker of the true Regina sparked, but only for a moment before that light was snuffed out by the whispers taunting in her mind and Emma just wishes she knew what closed this woman off again.

~~~~~~~

"No shit," Robin chuckles, his cheeks rosy from the whiskey swarming through his veins. He falls back into the white and gold hotel chair and smiles from ear to ear. "You're from Storybrooke, Maine. That was our favorite place to play." He smiles mostly to himself and Emma can already see the reels of memories floating through his mind like a trailer to a movie.

"I could have guessed for how many times you came back. It's a hole in the wall bar and a shit town," she laughs, her thumb nervously scratching at the label on her beer bottle as a distraction from all those years ago, dancing to Outlaw at The Rabbit Hole. She quickly shakes her head free of those memories.

"Cheers to that, mate," Killian leans forward and taps his bottle against Emma's, his arm still draped over Milah's shoulders.

"Well, if you didn't care for the town so much, why did we always play there?" Milah inquires as she slowly untangles herself from the lead singer and Emma's not quite sure if they are a couple or not, yet.

"You know there was no other bar that was as lively as that crew," Killian says, falling back into his seat and stealing another swig from his beer. "They sang the loudest, they danced the hardest and they screamed and clapped with the most excitement," he reminisces which sends Emma's heart into a mix of fluttering and searing pain.

The butterflies dancing around in her gut might as well have sprouted razor blades for wings as they flap dangerously around. She's not sure if she should be swooning over those times or curling into a ball and crying from the pain. So, she quickly presses the bottle to her lips and sucks down more than half of the cool liquid to extinguish the fire sparking in her heart.

She needs a distraction, so she glances around the room to find Ruby flirting heavily with Graham. She chuckles-does this woman have no shame? Ruby might as well be peeing all around the man to stake her claim as she hangs on his bicep and lingers her bright lips over his. Emma shakes her head and redirects her attention back toward the small group.

Jefferson leans forward, his water bottle dangling from his fingertips. "Are you all single? I need to make sure my girl isn't about to dip her goodies into a pool of heartache and wifey drama," he giggles and nods his head in the direction of a very loud laughing Ruby and a very shy and uncertain Graham. And of course, Emma laughs at the scene once again, same old Rubes.

"No, no. All single here," Robin confirms as he reaches forward to tap his glass against Killian's.

"Although, if any one of us could keep a stable relationship it would be Graham," Milah confirms, easily sliding right back into Killian's side and confusing Emma even more.

Maybe those two are just close? Maybe they had a past and now they are just great friends? Or maybe Milah just looks at Killian like a brother? Emma's not too certain about them, but her attention is quickly torn elsewhere.

"How about Regina?" Robin timidly questions. "Any man brave enough to date a powerhouse like her?"

Jefferson chuckles darkly, taking Emma by surprise. He slides back into his chair and elegantly folds his much too long leg over his other thigh. "Maybe you should revisit your NDA and contract once more like Regina suggested," he casually states, putting the bass guitarist right into place without batting an eye.

Emma hides her smirk from the shock across every band member's face by sipping her beer and pretending she's not slightly pleased with her coworker's answer.

"It was just a simple question," Robin lamely defends. "She is a very beautiful woman. There's no denying that."

"She's my cousin," is all Jefferson says, squinting cruelly at the man before sipping his water. "And of course, she's beautiful and a celebrity, but that doesn't award everyone a glimpse into her personal life. NDA," he carefully states again before slowly standing tall from his chair.

"I didn't mean to offend you, mate," Robin sincerely urges, gaping up at Jefferson's impressive height and for some strange reason Emma feels like maybe she should stand as well.

So she does.

"None taken," Jefferson smiles easily and offers his hand as some sort of peace offering. "Just have a flight in a few hours and a long day ahead. Nice to meet you guys." 

Robin quickly stands and accepts the gesture. "Nice to meet you, too. We will see you tomorrow."

Jefferson and Emma quickly say their goodbyes to the rest of the band. "Ruby, let's go, toots!" Jefferson calls out as they head for the door.

Ruby winks at him over Graham's shoulder before she is out of the man's lap and rushing to her friend's side. "See you tomorrow," she cheers right as the door closes behind them.

"You are such a minx," Jefferson laughs, slinging his arm lovingly around Ruby's shoulders.

"I just need to release some of my pent up flirtation. I can't flirt with you because of the whole gay thing," she waves her hand in the air while all three of them laugh happily. "And Emma has suddenly become some prude."

"I have not," she weakly defends, because the alcohol is slowly seeping into her blood and buzzing deliriously through her brain right now and she can't seem to locate her backbone.

And maybe, just maybe, she could use a good flirt right now. Scratch that, she could use a good fuck right now. She hates that her brain is feeling fuzzy and all she can think about is how it's been two years since she last slept with someone. Humiliation washes over her and she rapidly scrubs her hands down her face.

"Anyways," Ruby rolls her eyes, "I need to alleviate some of this flirting pressure building up or I'll burst and sleep with...Cora."

They all laugh a little too hard at that and Emma knows she and Ruby are a bit tipsy, but she also knows Jefferson is completely sober.

"Oh honey, I will never allow you to sink so low," Jefferson laughs and presses a loving kiss to her temple.

"I love you two," Emma blurts out shamelessly. She isn't one to toss that phrase around so easily, but it seems the alcohol is working against her tonight. "I missed you, Rubes. And Jefferson," he slings his other arm around her and pulls her against his side. "I didn't know how much I needed you in my life."

"The three musketeers," Ruby enthusiastically whispers, and Emma can't help but speculate if they are passing Regina's room?

And she wonders if the singer is peacefully sleeping from giving her all tonight.

However, there's an angelic, singing whisper, gracing the air with its goddess presence, sending delicious chills to tickle down Emma's spine and warm her heart. So much for beauty sleep.

"Awe, my girls. You two and Regina, my girls," he professes, kissing both their temples before he protectively escorts them each into their own rooms to end the night.

 

Chapter Text



The following morning Emma tumbled hazardously out of bed by four a.m. which allowed her a solid twenty minutes to shower and meet the rest of her co-workers in the lobby with soaking wet hair and her bag ready to burst from her shitty packing job. She averted her eyes quickly and pretended she didn't notice how the perfectly groomed and stylish Regina inspected her disheveled appearance. She also went on pretending that the queen, didn't scoff at her and roll her eyes in annoyance.

At least she showered, right?

Luckily, it was too early for any fans to know they were sneaking out of their romantic city, much like a drunken one night stand, tiptoeing right out the door undetected. From there, Regina's entourage was flown to Belgium, where the singer held a press conference for her tour, another interview to follow and another concert to end the day. Much to Emma's surprise, she found herself more accustomed to the hectic schedule, she even smiled at herself when they were all finished with the evening without any hiccups.

However, they weren't even granted a hotel to sleep in that night. No, as soon as the concert had ended, bodyguards shoved them all into limos, where they were driven to the airport once again and flying toward England. Emma had collapsed into her white leather seat and didn't even try to argue when her eyelids slipped closed. She slept away the flight, walked in a sleepy haze toward the next limo, where she passed right out again until she was shuffled by Ruby toward their next hotel. That's where she sprawled out her long limbs as she slept in a deep dreamless slumber until her alarm blared at six in the morning.

If anyone were to ask Emma about these different countries and what she loved most from each of them, she honestly wouldn't know how to respond. It wasn't long before she realized that each destination was exactly the same to her and she only distinguished the difference between each one from what she learned new about Regina.

The only thing that sticks out in her mind about England, was how stunned she was when she saw the baby blue skies and warm sun beating down on her. If there's one thing she remembers since the time she was little, was that London was always gloomy and rainy. She laughed at herself when she saw how opposite that actually was, maybe the sun was just out for her that day, but either way she enjoyed a good laugh over it. She did find herself paying closer attention when people spoke, she adored their accents, but that is as much as she remembers from the small country.

In Emma's mind, London was the place where she discovered how much Regina Mills loathes glitter. For her concert, the performer was dazzling in a silver, sparkling dress that somewhat reminded Emma of a human disco ball. So, she thought the best blush would be the type that shimmered in the light and a glittery eyeshadow to match. However, she was sorely mistaken, but on the plus side, Cora was missing from the room and luckily missed out on Emma getting her ass handed to her by Regina. She'll never forget that icy tone that convinced her to just burst through the doors and hop on the first plane back to the states, but somehow she found the strength to not do that.

"Miss Swan, I am not some cheap hooker standing outside of Studio 54."

Emma swallowed her pride, swiped the makeup clear, started from scratch and tossed every shimmering or glittery makeup into the trash the second Regina left the room.

It wasn't long before their crew was back on Regina's private plane, flying to Spain. This time she forced herself to stay awake and attempt to admire the new world just outside her limo, zipping by. However, in Spain, the singer had a special meet and greet with fans, followed by yet again, another interview and then a concert that started much earlier than the rest.

According to Emma's memory, Spain was where she discovered another secret about Regina that she was sure nobody else knew about. Emma was touching up Regina's makeup just as the door opened and the VIP guests were escorted into the room. She quickly stepped back, allowing Regina the space to greet her fans. Ruby and Jefferson were hanging out in a far corner, oblivious to everyone else, and Regina didn't get very far before a very young girl ran up and wrapped her arms around the singer.

Emma was stunned at first, unsure whether or not she should ask the girl to release Regina from her clingy talons before Cora or Kathryn rudely pull her away. But before she could even react, the young girl's big brown eyes filled with tears as her mouth poured out something so beautifully in Spanish. Regina tenderly cupped the young girl's cheeks and whispered something so soft in Spanish as well. The little girl immediately brightened up and squeezed Regina one last time.

Emma had no clue that this woman could even speak another language which truly threw her off, but she was even more surprised when a translator showed up out of nowhere and began reiterating everything the fans and Regina were saying. If Regina understood and so very clearly spoke the language, then why didn't she during the meet and greet? Emma was clueless as to why, noting that Regina did not utter another word in Spanish the rest of her trip. Which evidently, inspired something deep within Emma's soul to be even more drawn to the mysterious celebrity.

She sighed, hating how every day felt exactly the same, except her scenery was changing and yet, she wasn't able to experience any of it. She was beginning to think that maybe Ruby embellished a little bit about seeing a world that she would never encounter outside of the old television in her living room. A television that never, ever, played anything she desired. The whole week was becoming one giant blur and she wasn't sure how much longer she could stand being away from home.

Soon she was dragged to Italy, a place she always dreamed to visit, but by the time she blinked, they were already in Greece. When her back hit another hotel bed, she stared up at the ceiling and sighed in relief knowing she had two full days in this foreign land before Tokyo.

~~~~~~~

It's midnight, Regina doesn't have any events until her concert tomorrow evening and Emma's bored. She thinks of calling her mother back home, but then she realizes the time difference and sighs yet again. She strums her hands over her lower abdomen as restlessness swarms through her veins, enveloping her blood like a drug until she's ready to crawl right out of her own skin.

She leaps right out of bed, almost losing her footing, before she grabs her room key and slides it into her back pocket. She's been constantly engulfed by Regina's crew or fans that she feels like she's running out of oxygen. She's been suffocated by crowds of people and she just needs some kind of break.

She softly closes the door to her room and checks the halls, her head whipping back and forth to make sure nobody else is around. She tiptoes down the long hall, her ears straining to hear that soft voice carrying from behind one of the closed doors. A strange sensation she isn't too familiar with, twists her heart when Regina's tender singing never comes out to play this evening. She's grown accustomed to hearing Regina's voice at night when she passes down the halls of their expensive hotel rooms. She's never asked anyone about it, but she has an inkling that maybe Regina is preparing her next album.

Soon, Emma finds herself sneaking out of the hotel. The summer evening air is warm and inviting, inspiring her to inhale the salty ocean breeze and for once, just relax. Her long golden mane is loose, bouncing off her shoulders and dancing freely with the gentle wind. And for the first time in over two years, her mind is absolutely blank. There's no stress of bills or providing for her family, no heartache from her past and certainly no worries about what tomorrow will bring.

She's not entirely sure how far she should wander considering she's in a foreign land, so she reminds herself to pay attention to her surroundings and the buildings she passes as she heads for the beach.

Just as the white sand comes into view, she mindlessly kicks off her sneakers and bends down to peel away her socks. She quickly stuffs her sweaty socks into her shoes and carries them in one hand as she steps off the grass and into the cool sand. The sun has been sleeping for quite some time already, yet, she still expects the sand to be warm. A small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth as the little particles slip between her toes and she sinks into the powdery sand.

Her bare feet drag, memorizing every step along the way because she doesn't ever want to forget the moment she touched Greece's beautiful beaches. Her eyes are immediately drawn to the calm waves, slowly rolling toward the shore in a lazy manner. She doesn't even think in this moment, she allows her feet to carry her toward the line in the sand that the ocean has drawn and she plops down on her bottom. She tosses her shoes to the side, then proceeds to get comfortable with her hands burying in the sand behind her and her feet stretching to play a risky game with the waves washing up to greet her.

She smiles to herself, tips her head back and admires the twinkling stars that are dancing in some performance just for her. Finally, she has a moment of peace and tranquillity to herself and she vows to take full advantage and to never forget this moment.

She's not entirely sure how long she sits, half buried in the sand with her mind resting from her real life back home, but soon she feels a warm presence along with hearing the soft pad of feet sliding in the sand. Curious green eyes slide to the right to discover a slender figure headed her way. She tilts her head to the side, contemplating if she recognizes the woman's shape, but the stranger is sporting rather baggie jeans and an over-sized hoodie. Ruby wouldn't be caught dead in something so unrevealing, so she crosses her friend off the list.

She continues studying the mysterious person as she approaches Emma's personal space. There's a red scarf keeping the woman's hair hidden from the night, along with a thick pair of framed sunglasses that consumes this person's entire face. Emma snorts under her breath because for heaven's sake, it's midnight, no need for those obnoxious glasses.

The stranger turns to peer out at the calm ocean that's filling the silence of the night. She's avoiding Emma and it's very clear that she doesn't want to be identified in the middle of the night. Emma squints, scrutinizing the sashaying hips and the square tense shoulders and....

"Regina?"

She's greeted with silence and the woman picking up her speed the slightest, desperately attempting to be subtle about running away.

"Regina?" She tries again, scrambling to her feet to catch the woman before she completely disappears into the shadows.

"I'm sorry, you must be mistaken," the woman quietly whispers, her head snapping down to avoid any confrontation.

"Regina, it's Emma," she calls out, quickly jogging a few paces to fall in step with the secretive face that she knows in her heart is Regina Mills.

The woman stops abruptly and pauses for a brief moment before she peers over her shoulder suspiciously, all while Emma's heart pounds furiously in her chest because, oh god, what if it's not Regina? What if she's calling after some stranger like a lunatic?

"Miss Swan?" The frigid tone is back and Regina slides her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose, peeking over the frames at the blonde who is sighing in relief.

"Hey, what are you doing out here alone?"

"I'm a grown ass woman, Miss Swan. I don't need a babysitter," she snaps, forcefully shoving her glasses back into place.

"That's-that's not what I meant," Emma stammers, anxiously shoving her fists into her very tiny pockets in the front of her tiny jean shorts. "I was just concerned with you getting bombarded, I guess," she sheepishly replies, casting her eyes to the ground to hide the blush tingling against her cheeks.

"Yes, by the dozens of people out walking the beach at nearly one in the morning," Regina snarks as she spins on her heels and continues her strut down the shoreline.

"Right," Emma murmurs and she doesn't have a clue as to why, but her feet are moving in sync with Regina's, like some trained puppy on a leash. Both women fall embarrassingly quiet and Emma's so unsure how to even speak to this woman because she's so damn intimidating. And perfect, so fucking perfect. "Would you like some company tonight?" She timidly asks when she cannot bear another second of silence.

"It seems you've already taken it upon yourself to do so."

"God," Emma's feet instantly stop, sinking into the sand from the water tickling her feet. "I was just trying to be polite. Are you always this bitchy? There's nobody else around, so you can tone down the celebrity attitude for five minutes," she lashes out.

"Excuse me?" Regina clips in such a dark tone that Emma should be cowering away and apologizing profusely, but she's so damn tired of being treated like garbage and bottling up her exhaustion that pops off just like a bottle of champagne.

"Come on, look around," Emma gestures to the abandoned beach, "there's nobody here. You can drop the act now," she huffs, her arms dropping to her side with a thump.

"There's no act," Regina hisses, turning on her heels again to storm off, but Emma's strong grip on her elbow immobilizes her body in an instant. "Miss Swan, you are on thin ice. Don't think I won't ship you back to New York."

"You won't," Emma states with conviction, feeling her confidence start to rise again to the surface like a ballon filling and expanding with helium. "I'm quiet, I keep to myself, I do a damn good job and most importantly, I'm good for your image."

Regina scoffs in annoyance, yet Emma notices right away that she hasn't torn her elbow away in disgust. She considers that a win in her book and decides to push the woman just a little further for shits and giggles.

"Come on, Regina. You're constantly under America's spotlight, that might as well be a damn microscope." Regina squints at her, with those same cold and judging eyes, but her lips are pressed in a firm line, so Emma continues. "I bet you don't even know who you are anymore," she whispers so softly that a piece of ice chips away from Regina's frozen heart. Emma reaches for the knot securely tied beneath Regina's chin and gently tugs the material against her own better judgement. "Who is the real Regina?" She hums, the scarf slowly unraveling in her fingertips. "Nobody is here," she slowly removes the scarf, but quickly tousles those thick raven locks all around and shit, Emma wasn't expecting her hair to be that silky soft. "Let your hair down," she smirks playfully while Regina's lips purse.

Emma hastily untangles her fingers from Regina's hair and shoves her stupid hands back into her pockets. She swallows, hard, because Regina looks like she's about to reach down her throat and rip her heart right out.

"Are you fishing to get fired or are you just that stupid?" Regina harshly inquires, snatching her scarf from Emma's hand buried in her front pocket.

"I think the term Jefferson uses is ballsy?" Emma squeaks, offering a small yet, adorable grin that she has learned over the years, most people can't stay mad at.

"Well, my cousin is an idiot," Regina growls under her breath and much to Emma's surprise, Regina folds her scarf and places it neatly in the pocket of her zip-up.

"He's kind of the best," Emma easily replies, swiveling on her tiptoes to walk back to where she abandoned her shoes in the sand. "How long has he been by your side?" She innocently questions, hoping to keep the conversation light and she's somewhat stunned when Regina actually follows her back.

"Officially, since we were eighteen," Regina professionally answers which makes Emma's eyes roll almost out of her head.

"This isn't an interview, relax," she gently says, hoping to loosen some of the tension radiating off this woman. "Here, ask me something."

"I beg your pardon."

"I don't want you to feel like I'm prying or this is just another one of your fan meet and greets," Emma lowers herself to where her butt is still imprinted in the sand from before, but Regina stands rigidly in front of her. "Take a seat, ask me anything you like." She flashes a kind smile and soon enough Regina is sinking down into the sand beside her.

Regina is awfully quiet though and Emma is certain the brunette will not open her mouth again until she finally leaves the awkward tension buzzing between them. However, Regina slides her feet in the sand, bringing her knees up as she wraps her arms protectively around them. Emma watches discreetly out of the corner of her eye and never has Regina ever appeared so small and fragile. The thought tugs at Emma's heartstrings and for some damn reason, she finds the woman even more alluring.

"Where did you attend college?" Regina finally vocalizes, causing Emma to snort through a laugh.

"Boring. You know where I attended college," she laughs lightly and bumps her shoulder playfully into Regina's. "Try again."

The other woman scowls for a moment, partially because this is the second time Emma has touched her without permission and mostly because she is uncertain if it's wise to exchange such personal information with the help.

"Fine," Regina reluctantly complies because she's never one to back down from a challenge. "What's your drink of choice?"

"Ahhhh, much better. I like that one," she happily says as she falls back to her hands behind her back and mulls over her options.

"You can tell a lot by a person's selection."

Emma nods along, trying to decide between a nice cold beer that she thoroughly enjoys or her party drink that always brings out the best in her. "Beer," she firmly confirms with an assertive head nod.

"Beer?" Regina practically squawks. "Of all the delicious wine options and all the mixers available, you choose beer?"

"Yeah," Emma shrugs casually, not at all effected by Regina's judging tone this evening because this beach is just too relaxing. "Nothing like a cold beer after a long and trying day."

"Well, I guess that means you're more laid back. No reckless nights off tequila."

"Don't underestimate me," Emma laughs lightly, burying her toes deeper into the cool sand. "I know how to have a good time, but I also know when to have a good time." Regina simply hums in response and when Emma glances to her left, she discovers a whole mess of emotions flickering across Regina's makeup free face. Her favorite Regina face and dear god, this woman is breathtaking. She's not sure if she's jealous of the natural beauty or just admiring it. "What's your drink of choice?" She finds herself asking without truly thinking.

"Tequila."

"Never would have guessed."

They both fall silent and Emma's not sure why things became so quiet, but it's not awkward like before. So, she inhales the salty, crisp air and breathes in the moment. The moonlight is reflecting and dancing happily off the ocean ahead and Emma wishes one day she could bring her mother there.

"Do you do this often?" Emma softly whispers as another wave crawls toward their feet and kisses their toes.

"Tour? Yes, apparently I have a knack for singing," Regina muses with her best poker face, eliciting a breathy laugh from the blonde beside her.

"I meant, do you sneak away in the middle of the night to find peace?"

"When there's a little break, yes, I suppose I do. So long as I don't have an event too early."

"Do you ever miss the simple life?"

"I don't know what that entails," Regina quietly mumbles, encouraging Emma to readjust her seated position to mimic Regina's pose. "I've been in front of cameras since I was four. I don't know what life outside of cameras and fame are," she tentatively explains, because never in her life has she ever opened up about her lifestyle before.

Truthfully, nobody has ever asked, until now.

"Yeah, I get that now." Emma rests her cheek against her folded arms that are lying across her knees and she sighs, studying Regina's stiff demeanor. "You know, when I was a kid, I used to watch your movies and think how amazing your life must be and I envied you."

Green eyes inspect how Regina strains to swallow and fights so hard against herself not to look at the blonde beside her. Regina focuses on the tranquility of the ocean and Emma finds the courage to continue without any judgement thrown her way.

"But now, I see your life and how...hectic it is and now, I'm not so sure which one of us had it worse growing up." It's too much, she feels the uncertainty and the tension rolling off Regina faster than the waves meeting their feet. This is their first time actually having a real conversation and of course, Emma screws it up. She might as well have just lit a ticking time bomb and tossed it recklessly between them. "I'm sorry, that was...heavy. I shouldn't-"

"It's fine," Regina stiffly cuts her off, but Emma notices the subtle clench of Regina's arms around her own legs. "Not everyone could handle the fame."

Emma's positive that comment is a jab at her, but she just sighs and ignores it altogether. She rests her chin on her forearm and stares out at the water, wondering if she just changed their dynamic for the worse. What they had before was nothing actually, but Emma would rather have nothing with Regina than awkward, spiteful tension between them.

"There's another place I would like to visit before the night is over. Care to join me?" Regina shockingly extends the invitation as she rises from the sand, brushing off the little particles clinging to her disguise.

"Uh...." Emma stammers in utter disbelief that Regina just offered to share more of her alone time with her.

"Are you coming? We don't have all night," Regina carelessly tosses over her shoulder as she begins to sashay away, seeming disinterested if her employee follows or not.

Emma snaps her mouth shut and swallows thickly to clear up her dry mouth. "Uh-huh." She scrambles to her feet and rushes sloppily through the sand to catch up to Regina without another thought.

~~~~~~

"Are we almost there?" Emma shouts, even though it's pitch-black out and she feels the atmosphere is more appropriate for whispers. But the engine of the boat is roaring loudly and the waves are crashing against the speed boat as they skip across the ocean and she thinks maybe Regina won't be able to hear her.

Regina doesn't bother with words as her hand stretches against the harsh wind and she points to a secluded area. Massive rocks expand high into the sky all around the boat, creating the illusion of a protective barrier as the engine slows down. It's one-thirty in the morning and it's almost impossible for Emma to make out anything except for cliffs and the waters below, slapping against the little speed boat.

Apparently, Regina has an old friend on the island. She had explained to Emma as they walked further down the beach, that she had worked with this man when they were much younger on a film. He gave up on his acting career, hating the busy schedules and people always poking around and eventually he ran off to Greece. Regina and Daniel still stay in contact and whenever Regina visits Greece, he helps her sneak off in the night to enjoy the peaceful life.

Daniel kills the engine, the boat bobbing from left to right as the waves slowly roll in. He quickly tosses an anchor overboard while Regina leaps to her feet, tearing away her baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirt.

"What are you doing?" Emma nervously questions, peering up at the singer who is readjusting her flimsy black bikini into place.

"This area is a natural hot spring. Daniel knows all the best private areas," Regina easily replies as Daniel falls back into his seat behind the wheel and smiles proudly.

"I know how chaotic her life can be, I was there once," he adds on, reaching into a small cooler to retrieve a water bottle. "I know all the local spots where she can actually enjoy her time here."

"That's why I make sure my schedule allows two days in Greece," Regina informs Emma, who is whipping her head back and forth between the two brunettes to keep up. "It's really the only break I have when I'm on tour," she sighs, like the entire weight of her career is crushing her chest and squeezing the life out of her lungs.

And for some peculiar reason, Emma feels that weight too. She sympathizes for the woman because she would hate to watch her own life pass her by and not be able to have a moment of tranquility or fun for herself. However, all her thoughts are quickly washed away by the loud smack of the water that bounces off the cliffs above and echoes through the secluded area.

Emma scrambles to the edge of the boat just as Regina's head pops up from the rippling water. She swallows thickly, observing as this gorgeous woman wipes away the water clinging to her face and she's smiling. Regina Mills is actually smiling and it's not forced or practiced and Emma finds her lips curling into a grin as well.

"Are you coming? Or are you going to stay with Daniel?" Regina whispers, almost in a taunting tone that somehow sparks a fire through Emma's bloodstream.

"I-I don't have a bathing suit," she lamely stammers, provoking Regina to roll those big brown eyes.

"Your bra and underwear are the same thing," Daniel chuckles into his water bottle as he consumes a generous sip.

Emma peeks over her shoulder to find the man lounging in his chair, appearing like maybe he's about to take a nap.

"You aren't going in?"

"Nope, this is her time." He snuggles further into his chair and pries just one eye open. "And she didn't invite me, did she?" He smugly replies before his eye falls closed and he grins, fully proud of himself.

"I-" well shit, there's nothing she can say to that. Regina did invite her to come along and Emma would be an absolute fool if she didn't join her, right? Because anyone else in this world would give up a limb or two to be in this same predicament Emma is finding herself in.

"Nobody's looking, just go," Daniel lightly laughs to himself, his eyes still resting and not truly paying attention to his surroundings.

Emma nods, even though the man cannot see her, and she stands on her two wobbly feet. She fumbles for the button on her jeans while kicking off her sandals. She checks over the boat to find Regina already swimming toward her destination and leaving Emma behind. So, she shoves her shorts down her legs, ignoring the blush burning her cheeks because her ass is on full display from her tiny thong. She yanks away her tank top, tossing it to the floor carelessly and dives right into the water to cover up her half naked body.

"So obedient," Regina shouts over her shoulder as Emma splashes and kicks in a rush to catch up.

"Shut up," she scoffs, rapidly enclosing the distance between them. "This is a hot spring?" Emma pants just as she comes up to Regina's shoulder. "It's warm..."

"Just a little further," Regina clips as if she's agitated with Emma's presence once again.

And she's so unsure whenever she's around Regina. One minute she thinks the woman is starting to loosen up and they might actually be friends and within the same breath, Regina flips a switch and she's a frigid bitch who cannot stand the sight of Emma once again.

"And it's...okay to be here?" Emma timidly inquires.

"Nobody will ever know."

They fall painfully silent again, the only sound filling the void is their bodies splashing against the calm waters. Warmth starts to spread around Emma's long legs and it isn't very long before the calming hot springs envelop her entire body like a scorching hot tub. She sighs in relief, the sweet sound of tranquility spilling over her lips without her permission.

"You know," Regina muses, her body floating in the dark waters and no longer swimming, "most people claim that these springs are healing waters."

"I can totally see that," Emma practically moans as her eyes fall closed and she cherishes the way the water soothes every anxious nerve inside of her. Unknown to Emma, Regina watches her curiously for a moment before green eyes spring back to life and the singer quickly averts her eyes. "So, Daniel seems sweet."

"He is. I appreciate his help when I am in town."

Fuck-it's like pulling teeth with this woman to try and get her to speak more than one sentence at a time.

"Are there other things he takes you to see when you visit?" She asks, just to keep the conversation flowing while she swims just a tad closer toward the brunette.

"Mostly just the springs," comes the very short and clipped reply, just as Emma expected.

"Do you ever see him other than your sneaky rendezvous in the middle of the night?" Emma teases, drifting another inch closer while she lightly laughs, but Regina stiffens.

"Are you fishing for private information regarding my personal relationships?" Regina snaps, her eyes growing colder as she glares at Emma with enough frigidness that the hot springs almost run cold around them.

"Jeez Regina, I'm just trying to have a light conversation, have some fun," she groans, wiping the warm water over her face to calm the irritation rising to the surface once again, which seems to be a constant in her life as of lately. "You know not everyone is looking to sell information about you or throw you under the bus. I'm just trying to be friendly here. And no offense, but you look like you could use a friend."

"Don't flatter yourself, dear."

"Screw you," Emma barks out, splashing some water into Regina's face because the itch to smack the smugness off her face is just too compelling.

Regina balks at the audacity of the blonde and quickly wipes her face clear from the hot water. "Did you honestly just splash me?"

"Yeah," Emma shrugs, pushing more water aggressively into the other woman's face and god does it feel good to retaliate against that bitchy mouth of hers. "You need to chill out."

"You need to stop behaving like a child," Regina retorts, choosing to take the high road and not participate in a water fight.

"Or maybe you need to start behaving like one," Emma laughs, shoving more of the liquid into Regina's already drenched face.

"Or maybe I need to finally fire you," she snaps, her face contorting painfully into a murderous glare.

"You wouldn't," Emma tentatively replies, her hands resting in the water, preparing to soak the infuriating woman once again.

"Test me, I dare you," Regina growls, her cold eyes narrowing Emma in a challenge that terrifies her to her very soul, yet sparks a fire that tingles every inch of her body. Emma's dirty blonde eyebrows scrunch as she contemplates her next move, but her hands are slowly disappearing in the waters, not wanting to agitate the monster any further. "That's what I thought."

"Can we please just enjoy this moment? I want to relax in these heavenly springs and just enjoy one another's company. Can we do that?"

"I suppose," Regina hums, not at all convincing to Emma's ears, but they both sigh anyways and try to start over again. "Daniel and I are nothing more than friends," Regina softly whispers, much to Emma's surprise.

"It's none of my business, but I'm just trying to be friendly. I'm sure you don't get to do the whole gossiping about boys too often."

The expression etching into Regina's face is one that Emma just cannot read and it's beyond confusing and truthfully the woman appears a little baffled by the statement.

"Do you have a boy at home you wish to gossip about?" Regina mocks, her body slowly gliding effortlessly toward the blonde.

Emma swallows the acidic liquid burning her throat and shakes her head. "No, I'm very much single." Green eyes shift frantically as she searches the back of her mind for anything to take the focus off herself. "Would you ever date, knowing your relationship would be on display?"

"I highly doubt it."

"If the right guy comes along?" Emma's fingertips slice through the thick heat beneath the water, forcing her body to float directly in front of Regina's.

Dark eyes drift down like a feather in the wind, landing softly upon the down curl of Emma's thin lips as Regina whispers, "that will never happen." Her eyes snap back up to quizzical green ones, sparkling with wonderment. "No man would ever be brave enough."

The thumping in Emma's chest is harsh and she swears she can hear the organ beating against her own sternum like the drums in Regina's band. Suddenly, the heat is stifling and she's uncertain why she's struggling to breathe normally.

"Against your mother, probably not. I'm sure she would scare any man away."

The faintest of a smirk curls at the corner of Regina's plump mouth, inspiring Emma to lick her own lips. "You're right. Mother would scare away any potential prospects." Regina inches closer, the tip of her nose almost kissing Emma's and forcing the blonde to hold her breath. "That's exactly why I sneak around in the middle of the night," she hotly murmurs, her breath tickling Emma's dry lips.

She swallows, her throat unexpectedly closing up to her own mortification and smothering any opinion she has on the matter. She wants to say something, to keep the exchange of words still swimming between them, but that sexy little scar is so close to her own lips and all words vanish from existence.

And this is the moment that she will always remember, where she has a mini stroke because she knows there's something so much more between her and Regina. Never in her life has she ever felt this type of chemistry from another woman and it terrifies her to her very core because she thought she knew who she was already in life.

Regina aggressively pushes herself backwards in the water, splashing Emma lightly as she drifts away from the blonde's personal space. The little water droplets awaken Emma's fuzzy brain from Regina's seductive ways and allows her the space she needs to think properly again.

"Ah, so you aren't some strange twenty-eight-year-old virgin whose mother chased away all her suitors," Emma laughs, wiping away the water clinging to her thick eyelashes and attempting to be just a friend.

"Rude," Regina scowls over her shoulder, slowly swimming away.

Emma simply laughs and dives into the soothing waters, scurrying to catch up to Regina once again. When her head finally resurfaces, she realizes with a jolt of disappointment that they are near the boat once again.

"Are we leaving so soon?" Emma sadly questions, a pout morphing around her mouth without her own recognition, but Regina catches it and smiles softly to herself.

"It's almost two," Daniel peeks his head over the boat, offering his hand as Regina climbs onto the tiny ladder. "It's going to take about a half an hour to drop you two off and then you need time to sneak back in."

"It will be after three and I need to make sure I have some rest before tomorrow," Regina breathes out once she's onto the boat.

Emma nods along, climbing up the side ladder as well and avoiding Daniel's extended hand. She shivers from the shock of the cool evening air and the loss of the amazing heat from the springs. Regina isn't ignorant to the chill running wildly across Emma's pale skin and tosses a thick towel in her direction.

"Thanks," Emma murmurs before they all take their seats and drive off toward the hotel.

A permanent frown embeds deep into Emma's cheeks and refuses to vanish for the rest of the night. Even when she crawls into bed, she still pouts because she was just starting to inspire Regina into opening up a little bit. She was just enjoying herself as well, but her night was significantly ruined and washed away in a blink of an eye.

 

Chapter Text


"You're late," Regina bitterly growls, her eyes focusing very intently on something scribbled in her lap.

Emma's brows furrow in confusion from Regina's harsh bark, because in reality, she's actually five minutes early. She slowly removes her bag from her shoulder and gently lays it on the floor beside Regina's vanity. All eyes filled to the brim with judgement and pity are on her, provoking her hands to break out in a full-blown sweat.

"Sorry?" She mumbles, still dumbfounded by the coldness pulsating from the singer, elegantly perched upon her chair.

Neither one feels the need to communicate any further and Emma has no clue what could have possibly transpired since their private night no more than twelve hours prior. She thought things were starting to progress between them, sure it was at a snail like pace, slugs moved faster than Regina, but still, Emma truly thought they were headed in the right direction. Now, she's pretty sure they had a set back, for reasons she hasn't a clue and she has no idea how to proceed through this makeup session with this new dynamic.

The room is eerily silent, except for Kathryn's pen scratching across her clipboard and the sound of Ruby's flatiron clipping across Regina's thick tresses. It's as if the entire crew was sent some email this morning stating that Regina Mills is in full bitch mode and everyone is to be on their best behavior. Except for some strange reason, Emma never received this very important memo.

She swallows down her nerves, shakes off the taunting sensation and takes a small step forward. Of course, Regina has her head down to guarantee Emma's struggle and somehow she just knows Regina's trying to infuriate her. But before Emma has a chance to grow furious with the demanding woman and shake some sense into her, she discovers a new glow to Regina's bare face. Even though Emma can see the anger running rampant across Regina's mind, her face seems smoother, almost calmer than usual. She thinks it must be from the heavenly, healing springs from last night, it's just too bad those waters couldn't wash away Regina's bitchy attitude as well.

Emma decides that today, she may not need the extra concealer beneath Regina's usual tired eyes, because right now, they seem youthful and ready to face the day head on.

Her fingertip lightly skims the indent that somehow always manages to cease her heart and yet make it flutter all at the same damn time. Regina doesn't stiffen this time though, but her dark eyes snap toward Emma's for a moment, conveying some message that Emma just can't quite make out, before they drift down to the papers in her lap once more.

Emma's certainly not oblivious to the fact that Regina's delicate skin is silkier and she wonders if maybe tonight they could sneak away to those hot springs just once more before their flight to Tokyo? She's convinced that maybe one more night in those scalding hot springs and the thick ice protecting Regina's frigid heart might slowly begin to melt away.

However, those thoughts are quickly singed to a crisp the moment Cora comes blazing through the dressing room, her face burning with rage and steam ejecting from her ears. Emma swallows and keeps her head down, focusing on her task and pleading with any higher power that this woman will not engage with her this evening.

"I am canceling Tokyo," Cora seethes, slamming the door behind her, provoking a chill down everyone's spine in the tiny room.

Regina ignores her mother's outburst, her head down and still reading some script in her hand, allowing Kathryn the opportunity to reply. "What happened, Miss Mills?"

"The venue is not complete," she scowls, the veins around her neck popping in an attempt to run away from the maddening woman.

"That doesn't mean that it won't be ready by tomorrow evening," Jefferson kindly offers in hopes to settle the enraged woman, but it's too late. Cora is at the point where she sees red and nothing more.

"It is not prepared like I instructed. Besides," she storms across the room and angrily unzips Regina's outfit for today, ready to scrutinize her nephew's choice. "...I was informed that people are already lined up outside the hotel room, ready to catch a glimpse of Regina."

"Mother, I'm sure-"

"Is this really what you are wearing this evening?" Cora berates her daughter for ever allowing such an ensemble.

"Yes, mother," is all that meekly falls from those beautiful plump lips and Emma just feels her heart cracking from the insecurities Cora has beat into her daughter.

Cora rips the dark purple skirt from the garment bag and holds it up against the light. Emma glances out of the corner of her eye for just a brief moment to catch the twitch of disgust curling around the older woman's nose. She scoffs at the skirt and tosses it recklessly onto a chair in the corner, then yanks on the silk, sleeveless, black blouse and frowns immediately.

"Cora, it will be super cute with those boots," Ruby defends, nodding to the suede boots that will definitely reach Regina's mid-thigh.

"Yes, because I trust your fashion choices, Miss Lucas," Cora quips without a moment of hesitation. "Two minutes and my daughter better be ready," she threatens, slamming her stilettos against the wooden floorboards as if they insulted her this evening.

"Regina," Kathryn's voice cracks as she tentatively peeks up from her clipboard. "Tokyo?"

"Our flight leaves at midnight."

And with that, everyone continues to rush around Regina until she is molded and shaped into her best version of a superstar, not one single word spoken. So much for Emma's hopes to sneak back to the springs with Regina by her side.

~~~~~~~~

After the concert, the entourage was escorted in a rush back to Regina's private plane. Emma was originally told that they would have two full days in Greece, however something occurred and suddenly their flight was moved up for Tokyo. Most likely to ensure that Cora could whip the entire country into shape for her daughter's arrival.

She sighs in disappointment and checks her phone before they take off, she needs to find time to speak with her mother. Everything has been one giant blur, one long day and the guilt of not reaching out is starting to fester deep within.

"How long you think before we take off?" She whispers into Ruby's side, who is busy speaking animatedly with Jefferson once again.

"I don't know," Ruby shrugs, glancing back at Jefferson for some guidance. "Fifteen minutes, maybe?"

"Do you think I'll have a minute to call home?"

"I don't see why not. Are you gonna FaceTime? I would love-"

"No, no." Emma abruptly stands from her permanent seat on the plane and shuffles passed her best friend. "I'm going to just call...in the bathroom."

"Hurry up," Ruby calls out, playfully swatting at Emma's behind and giggling.

Emma nods and scurries off to the back of the plane, where she practically falls into the bathroom and quickly pulls out her phone. It should be around five o'clock back home, so maybe they are sitting down for dinner? Her thumb connects with the screen, her own face staring right back at her and she grimaces from how tired she appears. She quickly combs her fingers through her hair, but then her mother's face is coming into view.

"Emma! Sweetie, it's been so long!" Mary Margret gasps with pure unconditional love beaming from her delicate features.

"I know," Emma heavily exhales and just like that, all the weight of the world is quickly vanishing into thin air with just the sound of her mother's comforting voice. "I'm sorry. It's been so crazy and I don't even have much time right now. I need to get back to my seat because we are about to leave for Tokyo."

"Oh my goodness! Tokyo? How exciting. Honey, I am so very proud of you. I hope you're enjoying your time. Don't take one single moment for granted."

"I know, mom, but hey, I really don't have a lot of time, where's-Oof!" The words evaporating from her mouth the moment Regina barges right into the tiny bathroom and slams the door into Emma's body.

"Emma? Are you alright?" Her mother softly questions in concern.

"Miss Swan? Why aren't you in your seat? We will be taking off at any moment now," Regina coldly lashes out, forcing the door even further, so she can stake her claim on the bathroom.

"Jeez, Regina, I just-"

"Mommy!"

"Mommy?" Regina balks, her dark eyes immediately falling to the phone where the sweetest little voice just swooped from.

"Yeah, can I have a minute?" Regina just blinks down at the chubby little cheeks decorated with the faintest of freckles and those sparkling green eyes that are identical to Emma's and... "Regina, please. Two minutes," she whines, forcing the brunette to blink through her confusion and quickly leave the restroom without another word.

Emma inhales sharply before she turns her full attention back toward her baby boy. "Hi, bud! I miss you so much!"

"Miss you, Mommy!" He squeals, provoking thick tears to fill her tired eyes because god, does she miss his angelic voice.

"He's been so good, Emma. You have nothing to worry about," Mary Margret vows to wash away that depressing frown consuming her daughter's face, but all Emma can do is sniffle and nod in response. "I promise he won't even remember you being away and you'll be home before you know it."

"He-he just looks so big already," she laughs lightly, fiercely swiping away the tears gliding down her face because she doesn't want her baby to know just how upset she is. "Have you been growing, Henry?"

"Gan-ma, gives me milk!" Henry proudly states, squishing his little face as close to the phone as possible. "I big!"

"You are so big," she agrees, smiling despite the ache piercing through her chest. "When mommy comes home we will be so close to your birthday."

"I free!"

"Th-ree. Almost, honey," Mary Margret laughs, pressing a kiss to his thick, chestnut locks. "You're two."

"I two, mommy."

"I know, baby."

Unexpectedly, there's a soft and timid knock on the other side of the door and Emma soon realizes she's not sure how long she's been on the phone for.

"One sec," she calls out over her shoulder. "Okay guys, I have to go, but I love you both and I'll see you soon, okay?"

"Bye, mommy!"

"Bye, Emma, we love you!"

"Love you, Mommy!"

And with that Emma ends the call and quickly wipes away the tears staining her cheeks because dear god, does it hurt to be this far away. She's been rushing around this last week and hasn't truly had the opportunity to actually take a step back and breathe. Maybe that's a good thing though, because now she's aching all over from missing her son and mother so much.

There's even a brief moment where she considers hopping on the next flight back home, but she knows she can't. She needs to keep pushing forward for her family.

She steals one last deep breath before swinging the door open and plastering on her fakest smile. Regina is still standing there, her statuesque face still firmly in place.

"You have a son?" There's a hint of compassion swimming somewhere in Regina's tone, but mostly shock and utter confusion.

"Yeah." Emma shrugs, not sure how to proceed with caution.

"Why didn't you say something?" She whispers, yet there's still an underlying tone of anger, but Emma isn't really sure why?

"Because," she stretches the simple word for as long as possible, but when Regina makes no move to step out of her way, she proceeds. "I don't want my son involved in all of this. I rather stay hidden in the shadows and know my son is safe from the tabloids."

"I see."

Deep, rich, cocoa eyes lock heavily onto Emma's, igniting a flame that spreads violently through her blood. There's an intensity burning in Regina's eyes and still Emma is so fucking confused by this woman. One minute she swears Regina is going to push her off a building and the next she's sure the woman is going to shove her up against a wall and kiss her. She's not entirely sure how she feels about that, because she's never even thought of a woman in that way, but maybe...with Regina...

She shakes her head vigorously. "We done here?"

Regina doesn't even open her damn mouth, instead she steps to the right and allows Emma to pass.

Finally, she feels like she can breathe again, not being suffocated by Regina's intense stares and heart dropping proximity. She falls hazardously into her chair, curls up in a ball, and dreams the flight away of the moment she can hold her baby boy again.

~~~~~~

"What is the hold up?" Cora bellows as the whole group waits impatiently to exit the stretch limousine.

Emma hikes her bag higher upon her shoulder and clenches the strap resting across her chest because she has this sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that something is off.

"Ma'am," Guy sternly says, glancing over his shoulder into the backseat. "I don't think it's wise that we go out there."

"Well, what do you suppose we do? Live in this godforsaken limo?" Cora retorts with her bitter venom dripping maliciously from her cruel mouth.

Emma rolls her eyes, because that's being a bit dramatic for Cora, obviously they wouldn't live in the limo. They could simply fly back to the states. God, she wishes they would just fly home.

She sinks down even lower in her seat and peers out the small window to discover a mob of people swarming the sidewalks in front of their hotel. Instantly, her heart leaps to her throat and strangles the oxygen right out of her.

"Can someone please explain to me how all these people managed to find out where I would be staying?" Regina snaps, sending icy shivers to run down Emma's back and even though she knows this isn't her fault, she still feels guilty.

"I'm not sure, Miss Mills," Guy sadly replies, his mouth curling into a sympathetic frown. "But I don't think we should risk going out there." 

"My daughter is a national phenomenon," Cora smugly announces. "Nobody would dare lay a finger on her."

Emma stares, terrified to her very core as the people outside chant Regina's name over and over again. Homemade posters, along with professional photographs of Regina are being pumped into the air while people rush around, trying so desperately to inch their way closer. She clenches her jaw and prays that Guy will just drive away from this insanity.

"I don't think it's worth the risk," Jefferson firmly states, bobbing his head from left to right to size up the crowd.

"Why-" Emma begins, but then Ruby's sharp elbow is pressing painfully into her ribs and snapping her mouth shut again.

Ruby subtly shakes her head, silently explaining that Emma has no right to speak in this moment, so she doesn't. She curls her fingers even tighter around her strap and pleads for this moment to just pass by.

"My concert is in an hour and a half," Regina sternly replies. "I don't have time for this. I need to get upstairs, into our hotel room and prepare for tonight."

"Sydney!" Cora's shrill voice bounces off the limo, demanding that the man turns around from his seat beside Guy. "Didn't I ask for more security this evening? Where is the rest of the crew?"

"There was a miscommunication, ma'am, all the extra security is waiting for our arrival at the venue," Sydney explains with his most earnest tone, yet there's something about the man's impassive face that doesn't sit right with Emma.

"I don't have time for this. Security or not, I need to get up there!" Regina snaps like the final branch clinging to a tree during a vicious tornado. Emma sinks further into her seat. "Guy, contact the security at the venue and instruct them to meet us here, to escort us to the concert," she huffs in annoyance as she scrambles closer toward the door.

Jefferson hastily throws his body in front of the door, effectively blocking Regina from making her insane escape. "Have you lost your mind? You cannot go out there."

"Don't do this," Regina deadpans, reaching for the handle behind Jefferson's shoulder. "There's no time and we both know you will just cave anyways. So, move," she growls in such a dark tone that Emma feels herself jumping to attention.

"Ma'am, please wait for Sydney and I. We will make our way around back and shield you from the chaos," Guy sweetly recommends as he kicks open his door and then proceeds to slam it shut.

Emma's hysterical eyes follow Guy around the limo, horrified that something might happen to that sweet man. The crowd suddenly screams even louder, but for the most part, they leave him alone. As the back door pops open, the shrieking cries come flooding into the limo and Emma swears young girls are dying just outside the car.

"I'm right behind you and Cora," Jefferson strictly orders, glaring at Regina with a fierce determination.

Regina nods, of course, this woman is about to be attacked and yet, she's still appearing as calm and collective as ever. She squares her shoulders, inhales sharply and plasters on the most practiced smile she owns. Cora follows her daughter's lead with Jefferson right behind. Ruby doesn't mutter a single sound. No, she grips Emma's wrist with such a fierce hold, Emma's sure it will snap her bones into brittle pieces, and tugs her right out of the limo.

The absurdity of hysteria is so overwhelming that Emma cannot find her bearings. The desperation for this crowd to even be near Regina, is pure madness and Emma's certain she won't make it out of this insanity alive. The sheer volume of screeching and hollering causes her to cringe and duck her head down as she's being yanked through the crowd.

"Regina! Regina! Regina!"

Rough shoulders are slamming into Emma's tiny frame, over and over again, while she desperately tries to squeeze through the walls of people suffocating her.

"Can you sign this?"

"Oh my god, she's right there!"

A furious grunt escapes her and knocks the wind right out of her when a group of wild teens bombard her and barrel right passed her, effectively ripping Ruby's tight clutch away. Her heart plummets to the pit of her stomach as panic bubbles to the surface like boiling oil. How the hell is she supposed to find Ruby in this mess now? How the hell is she ever going to be able to shove her way to the hotel entrance?

"Emma?"

"Ruby?"

"Everyone needs to back away!" Guy's stern voice barks out, but the crowd is ignorant to his demand.

Emma snaps her head up to map out her plan and force her way through the chaos, but more elbows are piercing into her sides and she realizes she's being shuffled around with the crowd. The air is thick from the heat radiating off the frantic people and she swears this is how she's going to die.

Trampled by Regina Mills' insane fans, that will look beautiful on her gravestone.

"Regina?" Sydney's petrified voice carries through the crowd and resonates in Emma's ears.

So, she stretches on her tiptoes and catches a small glimpse of Regina being swallowed by a group of teens. Phones are being shoved into the singer's face as people try to snap a picture and others are forcing pictures in front of her to sign. Emma observes the panic striking Regina's face, even if the woman is attempting her best fake smile for professional purposes.

Emma grits her teeth and squeezes right between two young girls who can't be more than thirteen-years-old. "Move, move," she coldly bellows, forcing her way between shoulders.

People are screaming in Regina's face, provoking a bone-chilling fear to pound violently through Emma's veins. She scans the area, locating Jefferson as he fights through a mob to her right, reaching for his cousin while Cora is being escorted safely inside the hotel. She cannot find Ruby for the life of her, but none of that matters because some asshole is pushing the crowd, forcing everyone to stagger hazardously.

"Shit," she mutters, colliding into someone's back and catching a glimpse of Regina stumbling forward through the waves of the crowd. "Move, move!" She screams even louder, the volume of her own voice startling herself even as she fights her way toward Regina. She's almost there, almost in arm's reach.

"Watch it!" Someone snarks over their shoulder, glaring at Emma as if she's the monster in this horrific circumstance.

"Hey! We were in line first!"

"Regina has her concert in one hour, she needs to leave," Emma firmly demands as if she is Regina's personal assistant and this somehow inspires a few people to stop shoving and actually allow Emma to slither her way toward her boss. "Regina," she gasps, encouraging those brown eyes swimming in horror to snap toward worrisome green. "It's time for you to head inside," she states through a clenched jaw.

"I'm so sorry, but I really have to leave," Regina kindly shouts to the crowd, causing an uproar of disappointing groans.

Emma steps in front of Regina, her hand moving to its own accord while her mind screams at her to get Regina the hell out of there. She slides her fingers through Regina's and squeezes tightly. It's a discreet act that nobody else seems to notice because of the amount of people pushed up against them. Regina smiles apologetically while Emma extends one hand in front of herself as a protective barrier and pushes her way through the crowd. She somewhat recognizes the warmth pressed up against her back, but she doesn't have time to appreciate the close proximity.

"Swan! Regina!" Jefferson calls out, grabbing hold of Emma's hand and yanking them through the buzzing bodies.

"Ruby? Where's Ruby?" Emma hysterically cries out as Jefferson wraps his long arms around both women and escorts them toward the hotel doors.

"I-" he pauses, glancing back over his shoulder.

"Fuck!"

Everyone exhales in relief as Ruby stumbles out from the crowd like some drunk tumbling out of a bar after last call. Ruby takes a much needed deep breath, straightens her leather jacket and barrels right into Emma. She buries her face in the crook of Emma's neck and inhales sharply.

"I thought I lost you," Ruby whispers, crushing her sister impossibly tight until there's no oxygen left in Emma's lungs.

"I'm fine. Seriously, I am," Emma vows, patting Ruby's back to calm her back down.

"Let's get inside," Jefferson recommends, guiding all three women through the main entrance.

The second Regina is inside the hotel lobby, everyone opens their mouths to apologize profusely, but the singer holds up her hand and storms off toward the elevators without a word spoken. The entire crew is uneasy, rigid, as they shuffle their guilty feet behind Regina, except for Emma. She knows in her heart she dug deep and somehow saved Regina tonight.

Regina's entourage files into the elevator, everyone holding their breaths as they climb to the top.

"I want everyone in my room for a meeting before the concert," Regina strictly commands as she steps off the elevator.

Everyone dutifully follows with their heads hanging in shame, except Cora, who somehow still appears smug after all of this. One by one they shuffle into Regina's room until Kathryn is the last one and locks the door behind her.

"Will someone explain to me how that crowd knew where and when I would be arriving? Oh, and please don't leave out how my security team was missing as well?" Regina sarcastically quips, folding her arms defiantly across her chest.

The silence that stretches through the air is not only stifling, it's embarrassing as well. After all these years of Regina in the spotlight, how the hell did her crew screw up this badly? Emma maybe new around here, but she knows this isn't a regular occurrence for this group. Somewhere along the road, lines were crossed and Regina suffered the mishap this evening.

"Well?" Regina suddenly snaps, the last of her patience seeping out of her pores and clouding the air like a thick smoke ready to snap everyone's necks.

"Sydney," Cora begins, turning her attention toward the emotionless man, "I entrusted you with the details of security this evening. Do you concur that this is your fault?" She maliciously inquires.

His mouth pops open to defend his actions, but then his dark eyes drift toward Regina and instead he curtly nods and drops his gaze to the floor.

"There seems to be a rat festering in this group," Cora wickedly accuses, her heels stalking murderously around the room while she glares at each and every person. "And I will find out who has been leaking vital information," she threatens, her eyes landing and lingering upon Emma for a little too long.

Emma squirms under the scrutiny, because yes, she would be the obvious choice. She's the only new hire in over five years, but then again, Emma vaguely recalls a clip on television of Regina being bombarded after someone leaked information about her upcoming tour. That's her perfect rebuttal, but she chooses not to comment because that would only make her appear guilty right now.

"Everyone out!" Regina bellows, startling every body that's already quivering in fear. "I only have a half hour to shower and dress before the concert and I can't stand any of your faces right now!"

 

Chapter Text


Even though Regina was uncharacteristically late to her concert, the first time ever, Outlaw stalled perfectly by adding a few more songs into their set. The buzzing crowd seemed pleased and Outlaw always does such a wonderful job keeping their audience entertained.

After such an exhausting and eventful day, Regina decided that they would stay the night in Tokyo and fly back to the states in the morning. There is a small three day break between Tokyo and their next destination, Los Angeles, so Regina wasn't too concerned with the time schedule.

Ruby and Jefferson are hiding in Outlaw's dressing room while Cora is off speaking with Kathryn and the security team. Which, of course, leaves Emma alone with Regina for the first time since their secret trip to the hot springs. Emma can already feel her skin pricking just thinking about how close Regina's warm breath was to her lips, but she tries to shake those thoughts out of her mind and focus on her job.

This has all become routine to Emma now, after each concert she has to wipe away the sweat and grime and start fresh. She's fairly confident that this portion of the evening wasn't originally in her job description, considering everyone around her failed to mention so. She has an inkling that maybe Regina wanted to punish her the first night and now, well, it sort of has become a constant between them. Either way, it really doesn't matter to Emma, she doesn't mind these quiet moments that always seem to feel so intimate. Just another thing to keep her mind busy and off missing her family back home.

"I believe I owe you a thank you," Regina suddenly says through the silence beating between them.

The corner of Emma's mouth curls into a small smile just as her thumb sweeps across the deep groove above Regina's lip. And this time Regina doesn't flinch and Emma's smile is suddenly spreading deep into her cheeks.

"You're welcome," she modestly replies.

"You appeared very sure of yourself, fighting your way through the crowd."

She shrugs, uncertain how she's supposed to respond to a statement like that. She quietly reaches for the bronzer and brush, dutifully applying a light shade in case there's another flock of crazies just outside.

"Well, I appreciate the gesture," and even though the proclamation is so sincere, there's still an icy edge clipping Regina's words.

"Any decent human would have done the same," Emma brushes off the compliment because she never really understood how to accept them when they came her way.

"Well, there aren't too many left of those on this planet."

Emma chuckles in spite of everything that has crushed her spirit today and meets Regina's amused gaze. "We're here, just gotta dig through the riff-raff for us." One perfectly sculpted eyebrow slithers it's way up Regina's forehead, amused, yet the woman still refuses to laugh. "Like I said before, not everyone is out to sabotage you."

"There's the young and naïve woman I hired," Regina deadpans, encouraging Emma to inhale sharply and keep her emotions in check, even though she thinks this might be Regina's attempt at humor.

She leans down, smug about her height since Regina's lounging in a chair below her and hovers right above the infuriating woman. Regina's dark eyes flash for a second, maybe she's enraged with the proximity, maybe she's shocked by Emma's boldness, but the blonde will never know.

"Nobody is here, Regina," she murmurs, a hair away from plump juicy lips. "Drop the attitude," she scolds in a tone that catches Regina off guard. "It's just you and me and despite what you keep telling yourself, you can trust me," she whispers so delicately, so sweetly, that Regina cannot deny the truth any longer.

Except, she does. "I have no idea what you are rambling on about. I would never trust someone so quickly. I have my life and reputation on the line-"

"And yet, you do." Emma shrugs noncommittally, slowly inching away from the stunned brunette and allowing them both some much needed fresh air. "I kinda have this superpower and I know when people are lying."

Regina scoffs at the declaration. "Please, Miss Swan, your age is showing."

Emma rolls her eyes and busies herself with a light hazel eyeshadow sweeping delicately across Regina's eyelid. "If by age, you are implying my motherly instincts, then yes, my age is showing. Ever since my kid was born, I kinda developed this inner power, so I know when he's being sneaky."

"How old is your son?" Regina softly whispers, for once showing her gentle side and abandoning her alter bitchy ego. Not at all per Emma's request though.

Emma's face immediately morphs into a sappy grin just thinking about her wide-eyed, cheerful baby boy. "He's two," an even broader smile consumes her face, "going on ten," she laughs to herself and she's so lost in memories of her son that she misses Regina's faint smile as well.

For a split second, Emma perceives the true compassion and heart buried so deep away from the world. She can feel the earnest curiosity fluttering from the other woman and she just wants to hold onto this moment. She knows in her heart there's a good person inside of Regina, she just needs to drag her back to the surface.

"What's his name?"

"Henry," Emma happily divulges, her thumb gently wiping away the dusty shadow falling to Regina's thick lashes.

The singer darkens for a brief moment. "That's an older name for this day and age."

"I know." Emma snaps the lid to the eye shadow tray shut and places it back onto the vanity. "My mom named him."

"Really?"

"Uh, yeah...." Emma scrambles to retrieve Regina's favorite lipstick. "Here," she hastily shoves the scarlet hue into the woman's face.

Regina glares at her for a moment, assessing the blonde's nervous energy before she slowly accepts her lipstick.

"Look, Regina," Emma shuffles nervously from one foot to the other, "I-please don't say anything to anyone. I really want to keep Henry and my life private," she pleads, her green eyes glistening against her own free will.

Regina's eyes dart across her mirror just before she's about to apply her lipstick. Their eyes meet and in that brief moment, something cracks between them and Regina is quickly building up her walls again.

"Of course," she coolly replies, her eyes traveling back to herself in the mirror, leaving Emma to get swept up in the whirlwind of complex emotions that come along with knowing Regina Mills.

~~~~~~~~~

"How's the bugger doing?" Ruby asks as she plops down on Emma's bed and stretches out all the tension from the day.

"He's good. I swear he's grown since I left," Emma chuckles softly as she clambers onto the bed beside Ruby.

A full display of every junk food imaginable is spread out between them from the vending machines, ready to be torn into after the stress they endured earlier that evening. After the near death experience of being trampled by a stampede of hostile teenagers, which somehow reminded her of the first Jumanji movie, not to mention the tornado of back and forth emotions from Regina, Emma needs to binge on chocolate.

"You know, we have a show in New York at the end of next month. Maybe you can stop home and see him," Ruby optimistically suggests.

"That would be amazing, but I don't want to get my hopes up just yet. We'll see." A very light and timid knock suddenly thumps against Emma's hotel door. She quickly stops unwrapping her Snickers and glances over at Ruby for answers. "Jefferson coming by?"

"Uh, no. I don't think so," Ruby shrugs, stuffing her mouth with a handful of M&M's.

"Huh." Emma tumbles off the bed and scurries toward the door without another thought.

"Maybe Outlaw wants to party," her friend mumbles through her chocolatey mouth.

"Nobody ever knocks on my door," she laughs to herself, swinging the door wide open to discover absolutely nothing.

She furrows her brows in confusion, because clearly Ruby heard the knocking as well. She turns her head to the left, finding an empty hallway. She cranes her neck to the right and discovers Regina's door quickly being slammed shut.

What the hell?

Did Regina just ding-dong ditch her? She carefully closes her door, baffled as to why Regina would even bother knocking on her door to begin with, just to run away like a coward.

"Did they realize it was you behind the door and ran?" Ruby laughs, tearing through another box of candy.

"Oh shut up," Emma grumbles, snatching up her pillow and whipping it at her friend while Ruby just proceeds to laugh. "That was weird. I think-" she pauses, unsure if she should really confess what her eyes just witnessed.

"Was it Graham looking for me?" She questions through an obnoxious chew that would certainly scare that boy toy away. "I could use a good lay," she exhales, her wild mane spreading across the pillow below as she falls back.

"No-nobody was there," Emma concludes on autopilot, because too many what if's are skittering across her mind right now.

"Eh. So, any of the Outlaw boys moistening the abandoned cave between your legs?"

"Oh my god, Ruby," Emma squawks her mortification, burying her face in her hands to avoid the devilish glint in Ruby's bright eyes. "You're horrible."

"Awww, come on. Don't be embarrassed. It's me," Ruby tears Emma's hands away from her face and stuffs a candy bar into her mouth. "I mean I totally get why-"

"Ruby, please don't."

"You need to get out there again. Bang an Outlaw, rejoice in the naughty scandal sure to come."

"I don't know how we were ever friends."

"You should go for Robin. I think Killian might be claimed by Milah."

"I hate you."

"Or do you want me to hold your hand while you face your fear? We could share Graham."

"I am one hundred percent going to murder you in your sleep tonight."

"Aww, love you too, boo!" Ruby laughs, lightly kicking her foot playfully against Emma's which inevitably wins her a small smile from the reddening face beside her.

Emma wants to kick Ruby right out of her room like some skeezy one-night stand that was clearly more attractive with beer goggles on. Her heart is racing and her skin is crawling, crawling in the direction of a certain famous singer from down the hall. She wants to sneak out of her room, knock on that door and ask why she creeped away?

Instead, Emma sinks into her bed, flips on a movie and pigs out with her friend like they used to do so many years ago.

"Hey, Rubes?" Emma so softly whispers as if she is regretting the words already slipping off her tongue.

Ruby hums, her attention solely on the action movie lighting up the tiny room. When Emma drowns in her insecurities and doesn't continue with her question, Ruby scoots up in bed and turns her attention to the blonde, anxiously nibbling on her lip.

"What's wrong?"

"I-" Emma creates a painful audible gulp, her eyes straining on the comforter resting across her lap.

"Ems, you can tell me anything, you know that, right? I may tease you and joke around, but you know it's all fun and games. I would never judge you," she sincerely states with conviction.

"I know," Emma breathes, but the sound is enough to convince Ruby that she might not have known and she needed the reassurance. "I just-have you ever thought you were so sure of who you are, but then suddenly the smallest thing happens and maybe you aren't who you thought you were?" She rambles off as her body breaks out in a sweat from her insecurities on full display for her friend to scrutinize.

There's a heavy pause in the conversation which inspires Emma to lift her head from her lap and inspect her friend beside her. Ruby's painted lips are pursed while she's lost in some deep thought. Another heat wave washes through Emma and she's not sure how long she can wait for Ruby to say something...anything.

"I-"

"I'm not sure how to respond to that," Ruby solemnly admits. "Look," she shifts on the bed to face her sister and offer her undivided attention. "We are still very young, despite everything that you've been through, you're still so young. When I look at life, I face each day one by one. I know I'm still young and have my whole life ahead of me and I guess, honestly, I never really thought about who I am as a person. I know I work hard, have fun and enjoy each day as they come. With you, well, I know you were forced to grow up in so many ways, so it's probably appropriate that you think about the future and who you are in this world."

Emma nods along, hopelessly warding off the heartache that's slowly slinking through her limbs like some demon crawling in the shadows in some terrible horror movie. She swallows to keep the tears away, but she knows all too well that they are hiding just around the corner.

"But, I don't think you are supposed to know who you are just yet. You have so much more to learn and so much life ahead of you and I think that it's perfectly okay that maybe you aren't exactly who you thought you were. I don't think anybody ever really knows at twenty-one like you. Now, you're almost twenty-four and you jumped into this crazy job and you're out of your element and I think, it's only fitting that you are discovering new things about yourself."

Emma blinks away the warm tears clinging to her eyes and buries her face in her hands to hide the pain that's flashing across her face like an old vacant sign in front of some cheap motel. Ruby cautiously places her hand upon Emma's shoulder and squeezes some love into her torn friend.

"I-I hope that helps. Do you want to talk about what has you so shaken up?" Ruby tentatively questions.

Emma simply shakes her head and presses her palms further into her closed eyes until bright colors and random patterns explode against the pitch-black emptiness.

"Okay, well, I'm here when you're ready. And I promise I will leave my teasing tongue out of that conversation," she laughs, playfully shoving Emma. "Now come on, we are missing the movie!"

"Alright," Emma sniffs away her lingering torment and cuddles back down into the bed, shoving all her skeletons back into a closet deep within her soul and throwing away the key.

~~~~~~~

Sometime during the movie, Emma had fallen asleep and Ruby had easily slipped out of the room undetected. There's a bitter cold curling around Emma's limbs and waking her from a deep slumber. She groans, hating how dark her room is now that Ruby left and turned off the television as well. She loathes the mundane buzz of silence, ever since she was a baby she had grown accustomed to the soft white noise of a television on while she slept. If she truly took the time to think about it, her mother was just a child herself and was probably terrified of sleeping all alone in some crummy apartment with a baby and that's probably why they always slept with the television on, protecting them.

She grunts, blindly searching for her phone or the damn remote, so she can turn the television back on and fall back asleep to some sitcom from the late eighties. She locates her phone first, buried under her pillow and checks the time. It's just after two in the morning and something deep within sounds an alarm in her head that kickstarts her heart. There's a nagging itch crawling pathetically through her veins and forcing her to leap from the bed.

There are still one too many questions running across her mind from Regina's mysterious knocking and running away from earlier. She needs answers or she'll never fall back asleep. So, she tosses on her hoodie and slides into her sneakers. She swipes the keycard from the small end table and quietly sneaks out her door.

She tiptoes down the vacant hall, straining her ears to see if she can hear Regina singing in her room. What the hell is she even going to say when she gets there though? Oh, hey girl, out for a stroll...at two in the morning...wanna chill? No, she should definitely refrain from opening her stupid mouth that always seems to incriminate her.

What the hell are you going to do, Swan? Knock on her door and then stand there like an idiot, gaping at her?

"Fuck," she murmurs under her breath.

She runs her fingers roughly through her hair before shaking out her trembling hands and taking one deep breath. Her hand shoots up, ready to knock, but then she second guesses herself and drops her hand. Regina's probably asleep after the day she had today and she really shouldn't be bothering the woman.

Emma pivots on her toes, ready to sneak away in the shadows like the creep she is. However, Regina is usually up at this hour, working on her next album...Emma tries to reason with herself, encouraging her body to swivel right back around to face the door once more.

Emma shakes out her tense limbs and rolls her neck before her fist reaches up one more time. Unexpectedly, the door is creaking open slowly, forcing her to jump back in surprise. Her heart pounds furiously, all her blood rushes through her ears and an immense amount of heat explodes over every inch of her skin as she stands there like an idiot.

And that's the last person she is expecting on the other side of that door...

 

Chapter Text


"Uh, hey."

"Hey," Emma drawls, inspecting the disheveled black tresses, to the woman's flushed cheeks, down to the faint smudge of scarlet staining her collarbone.

Her heart sinks.

"We were just...going over some new songs-"

This woman hardly is granted the opportunity to defend her actions before Regina steps behind her, her fingers curling around the door and losing all color when she finds a blushing Emma Swan.

"Milah, there's no need to justify your presence to my staff," she coldly remarks.

Her stomach twists.

"Right. Well, have a nice night," Milah seductively tosses over her shoulder as she slips right passed the makeup artist who has yet to even blink.

As Milah saunters away from Emma and down the hallway toward her own hotel room, Regina is slowly closing the door in Emma's stunned face. But before the door inevitably vanishes Regina from Emma's existence, she kicks her foot forward and wedges it securely between the frame.

"Miss Swan," Regina growls in a warning that Emma comprehends all too well; she better move her damn foot or Regina will cut it right off.

"Regina, wait."

"Contrary to what you may believe, I do not owe you an explanation for my actions," she declares, slamming the door harder against Emma's foot, causing her to wince.

"I...will you just let me in?" Emma exasperates, bumping her shoulder into the door against Regina's strong hold. "We need to talk."

"There's nothing to discuss."

Emma sighs, her patience slowly slipping through her fingertips, but she came here for a reason and she will be damned if Regina bullies her once again. Even though there's an unfamiliar twinge settling in her gut that she is not very fond of. Not to mention the blaring alarms shrieking in her mind that she needs to run very far away from this woman before the singer flips her entire world upside down.

"Please, Regina," she grunts through her clenched jaw as she rams her shoulder into the door once again.

Regina exhales her annoyance and quickly steps back, allowing Emma to stumble recklessly into the room. Much to her own surprise, she somehow finds her footing instead of face planting directly at Regina's feet.

"What do you want?" Regina vacantly inquires, sashaying those voluptuous curves away from the door and disappearing into her bathroom.

Emma observes right away that Regina is in the same outfit she was in earlier, but she has her suspicions about what went on in this room before her arrival. She doesn't trust the calm and put together appearance Regina is portraying at the moment.

"Umm," she stammers as she tries to scrape the back of her mind for a sentence to begin this terrifying conversation. She softly closes the door behind herself and takes one steady breath. "So, Milah...huh?"

It's not at all what she had meant to say. In fact she rolls her own eyes at the stupidity and mentally kicks herself. She has no control over her mouth because the second it pops open, her true intentions spew out like poison. A poison that unknowingly crawled into her body, inflicted her blood and spread like the vile evil that it is.

"As I previously stated, my personal life is none of your business," comes cruelly behind the bathroom door that's slightly ajar.

Emma swallows her pride because even though Regina is acting all cold and distant right now, Emma knows in her heart something is shifting between them. She has to dig deep and unbury whatever is being securely hidden, because if she doesn't, there is no way she will survive the rest of this tour without suffering from a psychotic episode.

"Will you please come out here, so we can have a normal conversation?"

Regina instantly reappears like some damn magician, clinging to both sides of the doorframe and glaring at Emma likes she's some hoodlum from the wrong side of the tracks. Emma swallows her fears and shoves her hands into her zip-up's pockets.

"Hi," she shyly says and hates herself for sounding so pathetic whenever this woman is near. She's slowly losing her mind around the beautiful woman and it's more apparent than ever in this awkward moment.

"Yes, we've established that," Regina deadpans, striding right passed the anxious blonde.

"Drop the attitude," repulsively spits from Emma's mouth without a second thought. "It's just you and me."

Regina elegantly perches herself on the edge of her bed and it physically hurts Emma to notice the crumpled up sheets behind her. Emma's face contorts painfully, matching the jealousy slithering around her heart and crushing the life right out of her.

"Why are you here?" Regina softly asks this time.

Emma licks her lips and tears her eyes away from the mess behind her boss. "I know you came by my hotel room earlier. I want to know why you ran when I opened the door?"

"I did no-"

"Cut the bullshit, Regina. I know it was you," she states with conviction.

Regina purses her lips as those alluring dark eyes assess all that is Emma Swan. The tension is palpable, it's thick and it's mysterious and Emma swears she can reach out and touch it. And if she did, she's positive she would find a heavy rope made up of rigidity suspense that connects their hearts and forces those organs to beat faster whenever they are near one another.

"It doesn't matter anymore," Regina finally says after what feels like an eternity.

"No," Emma's voice cracks on the tiny word as her foot steals a step closer. "No, I think it does matter. Why did you come to my room after midnight? What could you have possibly needed?"

"Don't flatter yourself, your ego is already far too big."

Emma's upper lip twitches in response, still so unsure how to proceed with this maddening woman. She hates that her brain is screaming at her to smack the smugness off Regina's face all while her heart is aching to reach out and kiss the woman into submission.

"You're driving me insane, you know that? One minute I think maybe we could be friends and the next you're such a cold-hearted bitch," Emma over enunciates, releasing her hands from her pockets and running her quivering fingers through her hair in a lame attempt to calm herself down.

Regina laughs humorlessly. "Well, your conflicting personal issues are none of my concern, I can assure that. I am not here to make sure you feel comfortable." Regina tsks, shaking her thick locks and slowly rising from the bed. Emma swallows. "In fact, that's your job, to make sure am comfortable. We are not friends," she takes an assertive step forward and as much as Emma wants to cower away, she finds the strength to stand perfectly still. "You are my employee. Nothing more. So, whatever childish illusions you are drawing up in your mind about you and I, is your own problem. Not mine."

Regina steals another strong step forward, stepping right into Emma's personal space and sucking the oxygen straight from Emma's lungs.

"You mean nothing to me. Just another girl to be at my beck and call whenever I deem worthy." Her rich chestnut eyes are slowly being consumed by an inky black, trapping Emma into some sort of spell. Those eyes dart down to the pale frown staring back at her and Emma finds herself immobile, imprisoned in Regina's lust. "And that's all you'll ever be," her hot, sultry breath whispers against Emma's tingling lips.

Emma's whole body is buzzing, it's like a thousand pins and needles are pricking just below her skin and all she wants to do in this moment is lunge forward and kiss the words right out of Regina's smart mouth. Never in her life has she ever yearned for the taste of another woman's lips and now it's all her mind can think about.

There's an evil smirk sliding right into place, mocking Emma's existence. Teasing her, testing her, challenging her to make the next move. Subconsciously, Emma licks her own lips before her teeth scrape against her bottom lip and Regina's eyes follow her every move, intensifying the moment.

Emma thinks about how easy it would be to capture those full, velvety lips and to finally feel the imprint of Regina's scar against her own flesh. She's so close, she can feel that warm breath and practically taste the sweet aroma swirling all around them. Yet, she knows her mind will win this battle over her heart. She knows that Regina Mills is her boss and she is just an employee and at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

It would be highly inappropriate and to scratch a nagging itch from kissing her boss at a moment of weakness, isn't worth the risk of losing her job. Her family is far too important and this job is a game changer for their lives and there's nothing worth tossing their future down the drain.

Emma laughs through her nose and takes a generous step back, observing as Regina's face flashes with disappointment. "You're right. I'm just an employee," she admits, shrugging her shoulders as if she doesn't have a care in the world, but her gut is turning, informing her that she's dead wrong. "But that doesn't change the person I am. I'll always be a good person and whether you want to admit it or not, you know you can trust me and we can be friends."

Emma offers a small smile that's mixed with a tender frown as she slowly shuffles backwards. Regina's perfect eyebrows pinch together while she studies the way Emma heads for the door.

"Have a good night, Regina," she kindly says and then exits the hotel room without a rebuttal from her boss.

The minute she's in solitude, her head falls against the door and she squeezes her eyes shut, breathing through the adrenaline swimming violently through her veins.

What the fuck was that?

~~~~~~~~

The next morning was excruciatingly painful.

Emma couldn't sleep a wink the whole night because all her mind could do was run on the adrenaline Regina had bewitched upon her with her warm breath and hypnotizing eyes. She felt high from the woman's close proximity and it radiated off the singer and seeped into Emma's skin, until it swam in her veins and spread like the intoxicating drug that Regina Mills is.

She was up before her alarm, showered, dressed and packed. She was the first one in the lobby, waiting with her coffee and itching to catch just a glimpse of Regina again. She knew in her heart that this creature was dangerous, but that just sparked something deep within and urged her to crave more. It was a slippery slope, one that she knew she would inevitably tumble down until she crashed and burned, but that wasn't her concern at the moment.

Something had changed in the air that night, shifting the balance between the two strangers and no matter how hard either one tried, there was just no denying the chemistry between them. So, Emma has two choices; surrender to the captivating passion beating between them or completely neglect her boss in any confrontation that doesn't directly coincide with makeup.

As if she really had a choice in the matter...

Regina entered the lobby precisely at six in the morning, immaculate in a black pantsuit that did unspeakable things to Emma's insides and confirming that maybe she isn't as straight as she thought. Dark, oversized sunglasses covered Regina's judging eyes and kept her expression impassive as she swept right passed Emma and ignored her completely.

Emma busied herself with the boring script on her coffee cup that instructed her how to throw the damn thing away and pretended that her heart wasn't aching with hurt.

This continued on through their flight to Los Angeles and the duration of their time in California. So, Emma gave herself a little pep talk and reminded herself as to why she was even on this tour in the first place. Henry. Her mother. Money. Better home. Better life.

~~~~~~~~

"What the hell is that?"

"That, will be our travel companion for the next two months," Ruby sarcastically replies, bouncing through the hotel lobby and out into the California sun.

"What? I was just getting used to the private plane," Emma whines, stomping her feet like a small child behind her best friend.

"Oh honey, we are in the states now. It's easier to travel by the tour bus," Jefferson kindly explains, draping his arm over her shoulders. "We will drive to the different cities in Cali, through Arizona to Denver and then her big show in Vegas which is a two night concert. Then we will fly to the east coast, pick up her other tour bus to get around up there and end just below the Midwest."

"Oh Jesus," Emma murmurs under her breath while Jefferson practically drags her up the stairs into Regina's tour bus. "What the fuck?" Breathlessly trickles out of her mouth. "Is this a tiny house or a bus?"

"Were you expecting the inside of a school bus?" Jefferson teases, a playful glint sparkling in his eye as he peeks over his shoulder at Emma's bewildered expression.

"I-I don't know...definitely not this..."

It's impressive how open the bus appears when she first enters. The cool grey flooring stretches down the entire bus for a more modern appeal. Black leather couches are built in on either side of the bus, decorated perfectly with black and white throw pillows to complete the ensemble. The walls are a warm grayish-brown that almost create the illusion of real wood. A little further down is a small, yet very accommodating kitchen, with a tiny stove and small built in refrigerator for all their necessities.

Before Emma can comprehend her status, her feet are stumbling through the bus and she is surrounded by four bunk beds.

"This is where we sleep," Ruby supplies, showing off the area with a hint of pride.

"We?"

"You, me, Jeffy and Kathryn."

"Seriously?"

"Yup."

"And the rest of the band? Cora?" Emma skeptically questions because she isn't quite sure if she could handle Cora constantly hovering around her in such close corners.

"Cora is in the other tour bus with Regina's guitarist, bass player and drummer. She feels the need to keep an eye on them, even though they are all harmless married men," Jefferson divulges, rolling his eyes playfully.

"This is crazy," Emma laughs, but mostly to herself.

"This is my bed, that's Kathryn's." Emma peeks down and spots the blonde tapping furiously away on her laptop, ignoring the people bombarding her. "And that's Jeffy's. You get the top bunk above him," Ruby says, patting the mattress to her right, above her shoulders.

"That's cool," she mindlessly mutters while Ruby continues explaining where their belongings will be stashed away.

"And back there?" Emma inquisitively asks, pointing to the door that is shut in her face.

"That's Regina's room," Ruby leans in close to Emma's ear so she can whisper, "you'll probably die when you see how big and comfy it actually is."

"Probably." Emma glances around, her perplexity etching into the grooves of her face. "Where's the bathroom?"

"Well, Regina has one, but it's not ideal on a bus. Probably just wait until we stop for gas to use the bathroom. Most of the time we sleep on here and by the time we are waking up we are at our next destination," Ruby explains.

"Oh, alright. This is just crazy. I can't believe I'm doing this."

The secretive door suddenly slides open, revealing an annoyed brunette and a very spacious bedroom with a large queen-size bed in the middle.

"Are you three done gabbing? I would like to get some rest now," Regina harshly quips, her eyes never landing anywhere near the vicinity of Emma.

"Like you're going to sleep," Jefferson mocks, lightly shoving Regina's shoulder. "We all know, baby girl, you're working on Cora's newest and cruelest game with you."

"Either way, I need peace and quiet," she snips through seething teeth.

"Go on, we will be quiet the rest of the evening," her cousin vows just as the bus shifts into gear and rolls to their next destination.

Regina nods curtly and slams the door closed, effectively ending the conversation. Jefferson and Ruby smirk toward each other and proceed to unpack in silence. Emma follows their lead and soon she's crawling up to her top bunk and settling in for the night.

She stares aimlessly at the ceiling above, listening to the low hum of the engine and wondering how she can fix the awful tension between her and Regina?

Not only has her unexpected feelings toward another woman been haunting her mind, but she's also been obsessing over the fact that maybe Regina isn't as straight as she suspected either. There's something enchanting in Regina's beautiful brown eyes when she's standing centimeters from her face, that whispers secrets about her true intentions. Those spellbinding eyes always seem drawn like a magnet to Emma's lips and she can practically feel the urge from Regina to press forward, just a smidge and connect in a way that Emma never thought imaginable.

She wonders if Regina feels the electricity between them as well. If she does, is Regina experiencing the same sudden panic of not knowing the true identity of her sexuality as Emma or does she know who she is deep down and is just scared to confess under the spotlight?

A low, soft, strum of an acoustic guitar resonates through the bus and clears all her worries from her mind. Regina's whispering words float through her room and slip passed her closed door in order to reach Emma's ears. A small smile tugs at the corner of Emma's mouth as she takes comfort in the sweet voice that she's grown familiar with in the night.

There's a brief pause and in Emma's imagination, she pictures Regina sitting on her bed with her legs like a pretzel and her guitar resting in her lap. She imagines Regina pausing to quickly scribble down her next lyric, those gorgeous tresses slowly falling all around her face, blocking her from the world so she can concentrate.

Her heart swells with a new kind of affection and the anxiety of her future with Regina seems to wash away. She falls asleep that night, curled up at the edge of her bunk, listening to the sweetest lullaby she's ever heard.

 

A/N: Since you all have been so amazing and took the time to leave behind so many comments yesterday, I will be posting an extra chapter later today, so keep a look out! Thanks again for all the lovely support, it definitely keeps me motivated. 

 

Chapter Text


Two weeks had gone by on the tour bus, which included four concerts and far too many interviews and meet and greets to count. Emma had hoped with all the different cities they were flying through that she would feel just as busy. Except, that was the exact opposite from what she had felt in Europe.

Overseas she felt like she was in a whirlwind, jumping from one plane to the next and barely having a moment to catch her breath. Now, being on the tour bus, there's a lot of down time for their travel and she's forced to be left alone with her thoughts while simultaneously feeling like she's being smothered by a pillow from too many bodies being crammed into one tiny living space.

She misses Henry and her mother too much now and every day she argues with herself if she should stay or throw in the towel and just go home. Her stubborn mind always beats her heart and reminds her how nice her bank account is looking these days.

It's just after five in the morning and again she is finding the task of sleep a foreign concept these days. If she's not wasting the seconds missing her family, she's stressing over her harbored feelings for her boss. And she still cannot wrap her head around the idea of feeling so strongly for another woman.

Emma sighs heavily, tosses the blankets from her long legs and quietly shimmies down her top bunk. She tiptoes through the shadowy hall, passed the sleeping crew and sneaks into the living space. As quietly as possible, she prepares a pot of coffee like she does most mornings and drowns in her thoughts.

Once her coffee is made, she curls up on the black leather couch, tucking her legs beneath her and peers out into the morning sky. The midnight blue is brightening up, the stars slowly burning out while the moon fades into an oblivion and the sun peeks out over the horizon. She sighs, sipping her steaming cup of coffee and watches the splatter of pinks and oranges swirling together just behind the mountains.

This is the part of the tour that she's going to miss dearly, traveling through the cities and admiring the different qualities that make each place so unique and unlike the last. These quiet and peaceful moments are when she thinks about her family and how she hopes one day she can show off all these destinations.

The sound of gushing water tears her eyes away from the window to land upon Regina standing at the kitchen sink.

"Hey, you're up," Emma lamely greets the woman, still as awkward as the first day she met her.

"Thank you for the confirmation," Regina grumbles under her breath. "I didn't think anyone would be up at this hour."

"I couldn't sleep, besides I am kind of in love with the sunrise over the mountains," Emma shyly admits, turning her attention back toward the colorful painting just outside. When she is greeted with silence from Regina, she attempts to fill the void. "I made coffee. You are more than welcome to some."

"I prefer tea during tours like this, for my throat."

"Ah, makes sense." Emma slowly sips her coffee, shuffling through all the files in her head for something else to say. "I'm not a fan of tea, my mom used to force it down my throat whenever I was sick. Hell, who am I kidding? She still does it," she chuckles into her mug and shakes her head.

"I do prefer coffee as well, but I am told tea is better for my vocal cords," Regina explains, tearing open a package and dipping the bag into her steaming mug of water.

Unhurriedly, she trudges across the bus and sinks into the couch beside Emma, inspiring her to eye the brunette carefully, because she's pretty sure they are still not on friendly speaking terms. For the most part, Regina has been doing a damn good job on ignoring her for the past two weeks, unless she's barking orders at her.

Curious green eyes analyze the tired woman before her, adoring a sloppy ponytail that's piled high upon Regina's head, to her makeup free face. Still, Emma's most favorite face of Regina, bare, raw, natural, absolutely breathtaking. She's sporting skin tight black leggings that leave her calves on full display, along with an oversized zip-up. The zipper is hanging open just below Regina's chest, revealing a skimpy camisole that holds all of Emma's attention because she knows there is no bra underneath.

"Are you excited for Vegas?" Emma timidly questions because she's not sure what else to say at this point and she really needs to tear her eyes away from their inappropriate destination.

Regina stares intently into her mug, mindlessly dipping her tea bag in and out rhythmically. She hums to herself, never once glancing in Emma's direction and it kills her, because she has this sudden need to see those enchanting eyes once again.

"I am. Vegas are longer concerts and are more...extravagant. They are more about putting on some big show rather than a concert and that can always be fun. It sort of takes the mundane routine out of the conventional concert."

Emma smiles, and she curses her traitor mouth for caving so easily, but finally, finally, Regina is opening up to her again. "I can see that," she complies into her cup and takes a sip to hide her ever-growing smile.

She's such a sucker for Regina.

"With being back in the states, are you finding more time to speak with your son?" And just like that, with a snap of a finger, Regina's face softens and her voice becomes sweeter and fuck, Emma's heart is swelling and takes off racing.

Emma can't even suppress the giddy grin, no matter how hard she twists her lips and hides behind her mug. "I am actually. Which, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I feel like the more I talk to him, the more I want to run home and hold him. I find it easier to be away when I distance myself, if that makes any sense," she shyly explains, her apprehension about the entire situation bubbling up to the surface and buzzing right off her.

"It makes perfect sense."

"My mom keeps reminding me that he won't ever remember this time. He's two and even a year from now, he'll have no recollection of my time away, but it doesn't ease the pain," she exhales slowly, staring out into the great unknown and watching as the sun climbs higher and higher.

"I-....well, I can't say that I understand, because I don't. My family is always around and I'm never left alone. I don't know what it feels like to miss a loved one." Emma simply nods along, loving the way Regina's voice sounds so tender compared to her usual rigid and clipped tone. "We will be in New York shortly, maybe you can arrange some time to see him. If you'd like, I could always upgrade your room and allow your mother and son to stay with you for a few days." Emma's face immediately brightens, like a light bulb was just flicked on in her head. "So long as you remain professional and stay focused at work," Regina quickly adds on, the gentle side swept away and replaced by her stern commands.

"Yeah, of course. It would be nice to know they would be home when I was done for the day. I really appreciate the offer, Regina."

Regina nods curtly, her eyes trailing away from Emma to stare out into the desert zipping passed them. They both fall silent again and Emma just feels the uneasy buzz pulsating from her boss. She swears it's taking every ounce of energy the brunette has to keep her eyes on the mountain and not find meaning in Emma's eyes. But Emma needs those eyes on her, because her heart is racing and her skin is burning all over and she craves this woman's attention.

"How's the album coming?"

Instantly, Regina deflates and exhales the most drawn out, painful breath known to mankind. "It's...coming...."

"That bad, huh?" She's not sure how or why, but her body is scooting just a tad closer to the warmth emitting from Regina.

"It's just a lot. I usually need a break in between albums to find inspiration again," Regina openly admits, most likely because she's too damn tired to keep her protective walls up right now.

"I bet," Emma sips her coffee and leans against the back of the couch, her undivided attention all for Regina. "Where do you usually find inspiration?"

"At the bottom of a good stiff drink," Regina quips, creating the most adorable grin to appear on Emma's innocent face. Against her better judgement, Regina smiles along with the adorable blonde, trying so hopelessly not to stare at the deep dimple embedded into Emma's pale cheek.

"Too bad a bottle of Tequila is so hard to come by when you're touring," Emma muses, encouraging Regina to smile even broader.

"Yes, I suppose it is."

"Maybe after this tour you will find your brilliance again and knock out the album faster than you ever expected."

Regina hums in response, her smile fading away as her eyes drift down toward her tea. She plays with the string, dipping the bag in and out while her mind becomes trapped in a world that is unknown to Emma.

The silence seems to stretch on until the sun is beaming happily through the tour bus and highlighting Emma's favorite feature, Regina's beautiful scar. The singer must sense the weight of Emma's yearning eyes upon her, because those alluring eyes meet Emma's soft gaze. Emma's heart stops immediately, because the way the light is streaming through the window, Regina's eyes are almost a warm honey, glowing tenderly. She swallows thickly, provoking a devilish smirk to slither into place around Regina's mouth.

"Maybe I owe you an apology," Regina slyly says. Gone is her innocent, sweet tone and here is the sultry rasp that makes Emma's insides quiver and her toes curl. Regina leans in dangerously close and not at all appropriate for just friends. "Maybe we could be friends," her breathy whisper coating Emma's lips and fogging her brain in a split second. "Maybe."

And with that godforsaken taunt that leaves Emma's body buzzing and floating toward unknown territories, Regina elegantly stands from the couch and sashays away. She disposes her mug into the sink and disappears behind her closed door, as if she was never awake this morning.

"Maybe," Emma repeats, her fingers automatically touching her lips where she can still feel the tingle of Regina's warm and inviting breath against them.

Which inevitably leaves her a discombobulated mess the rest of the day.

~~~~~~~~

"It is way too hot, your hair is just not cooperating," Ruby groans, stomping her foot to express her frustrations like a toddler while Emma's eyes widen in horror.

Regina is going to fire Ruby right on the spot, Emma's inner voice screams as she dabs away the eyeliner that's seeping down from the immense heat.

"Is the damn air broke in this place?" Cora's shrill voice pierces every eardrum within a mile radius, but everyone keeps rushing around Regina frantically.

"Baby girl, I cannot slide these black tights up your thighs right now. It's too damn hot," Jefferson says, wiping the sweat away from his forehead as he peers up at Regina from his kneeling position. "You got gorgeous legs, own them!" He demands, smacking her outer thigh, all while Emma is having some inner mental breakdown.

This is it, this is the moment where every single one of them falls apart and they fail Regina miserably and she tosses them all out on their hides. She can see the headlines now, Regina's incompetent staff fails miserably under pressure. Especially Emma Swan, now there's a new meaning to the word fool.

Emma shakes her thoughts away and sweeps the thick bristles against Regina's cheek, but nothing is clinging to her skin. Sweat is pouring from each and every one of them. The air is so thick that Emma is struggling to breathe and she swears her throat is closing up. They are inside a pavilion in the heart of Las Vegas, where it's exceeding one hundred degrees, and the air must be broken inside.

Emma studies Regina's face, from her flushed cheeks to the caked on makeup that's being smudged away and she knows this won't do. She hastily grabs a few makeup removing clothes and starts washing away the dusty residue.

"What are you doing?" Regina harshly snaps, inching away from Emma's touch while Ruby attempts to control her damp hair.

"Do you trust me?"

"Hardly."

"Well, let's pretend you do," Emma quips, leaning back in to remove the last of the makeup. "It's too hot and the cameras are going to zoom in on your face and it's not going to be pretty."

"Two minutes!" The backstage manager calls out as the end of Regina's last song slowly starts to fade away.

Her band always extends certain songs with extra loud drum rolls and a mean solo guitarist to provide enough time for Regina's costume change, except for tonight. The concert gods are not in their favor and are clearly punishing them for some past mistake because not one damn thing is working out this evening.

"Miss Swan, two minutes and you haven't even applied my foundation."

"I promise you, you don't need it. Your skin is flawless and your cheeks are already rosy from the heat. You look like you have makeup on, I swear. Trust me, if the cameras come up close they will see your makeup crumbling. I'm just going to reapply your eye makeup," Emma dutifully explains, rushing to accomplish her task before Cora eats her alive and spits her back out so the rats can feast on what's left of her.

"Your hair is too damp Regina, it's curling," Ruby exasperates, tossing her arms up in defeat while Jefferson attempts to squeeze Regina into her booty shorts.

"She's not going on under these conditions," Cora seethes, stomping her heels murderously as she searches for the pavilion manager.

"Hold on, Rubes," Emma finishes up with Regina's eyeliner and wipes her hands clean. "I know you hate your hair curly or up in a ponytail, but I think it will really compliment your outfit and your makeup if your hair is up," Emma states with conviction while Regina just stares blankly at her. "Rubes, throw it up in a messy ponytail, bumps and all, and really high."

"Regina?" Ruby skeptically questions, waiting obediently for her boss's permission to proceed.

"Do it, Gina," Jefferson agrees, his hand laying across his heart like he's witnessing someone's death. And it might as well be the death of Regina's career if they don't get their shit together in the next ten seconds.

The music on stage slowly fades out while the lights darken to nothing. The band is running off stage to rehydrate and this is Regina's cue to enter from stage right and deliver some grateful speech before her next act.

Ruby and Jefferson are carefully observing their boss, waiting expectantly for her decision.

"Oh for fuck's sake," Emma breathes, jumping behind Regina and gathering her hair up into a sloppy ponytail.

For half of a second, Emma's certain she will be fired in the next thirty seconds, but that thought slips her mind when she actually sees Regina's shoulders slump before her. Either Regina has finally had enough or she does trust Emma, either way she stands in complete silence and waits patiently for her makeup artist to complete her hair.

"You look hot, baby girl and I don't mean the heat that's trying to smother us," Jefferson laughs lightly, his eyes inspecting every detail that they all collectively have thrown hazardously together.

"No, I can't. My hair and my makeup and my outfit..."

"None of that matters," Emma whispers in her ear as she finishes wrapping the hair tie around Regina's thick, damp, curls and she is going to pretend that she doesn't notice the goosebumps spreading like wildfire against Regina's exposed neck, despite the heat.

"Regina, you could probably walk out in a trash bag and everyone out there would still think you are the sexiest woman alive," Ruby sincerely adds on.

"Hm, we should test that theory sometime," Jefferson muses, teasing the ends of Regina's ponytail to appear fuller, more wild.

The crowd starts chanting her name, the excitement and adrenaline bouncing off the walls and sending a wave of thrills to run down Emma's spine. She watches closely as Regina second guesses herself with a handful of insecurities sweeping across her delicate face while she takes a deep shaky breath.

"You've got this," Emma vows, discreetly curling her pinky finger around Regina's and squeezing before slipping away undetected.

"Regina! Regina! Regina!"

Regina squares her shoulders and struts confidently on stage with her stilettos echoing through the pavilion. The entire crowd explodes in praise as their idol claims center stage and begins thanking her audience profusely for their love, support and dedication.

"Who the hell allowed her to go out looking like that?" Cora snaps, startling everyone who was transfixed with the angel glowing in the illuminating spotlight moments ago.

Oh shit.

~~~~~~~~

It's been a solid two hours since Cora dragged Regina into her hotel suite and began with her scolding. The entire crew was sent to their rooms like disobedient little children, so nobody else could witness the mental abuse Cora was about to inflict upon her daughter.

Emma couldn't make out the muffled words spewing from either of their mouths from down the hall, but it was very clear they were both screaming at one another. Cora was enraged that her daughter went on stage in such drastic conditions. Floozy, was the degrading word Cora used when describing her daughter out there in the spotlight. She was livid that Regina performed under the circumstances and everyone back stage received another lecture on the importance of Regina's reputation and classy appearance, all while Regina sang her heart out and slayed the audience. Of course, the outstanding performance didn't matter the least bit to Cora, the she-Devil.

A door slamming off in the distance strikes a nerve deep within Emma, causing her to wince and she knows, finally, Cora is done tearing down Regina's confidence. Despite every bone in Emma's body screaming at her to stay in her own hotel room, she swipes her keycard off the dresser and sneaks out the door.

She tiptoes passed Jefferson's room, creeps around Ruby's and lightly taps against Regina's door. Her body is humming with anticipation of what's to come, whether she will find Regina in a desperate need of a friend or the cold distant woman who continues to ignore the pain she endures from her mother.

The door immediately swings open, revealing a disheveled and worn out looking Regina. Those thick lips purse as her cold eyes scan Emma's body, contemplating if the blonde is worthy of her time. She clicks her tongue in the most judging way and leaves. Leaves, with the door hanging open and Emma standing in the doorway, so unsure what the hell she's supposed to do at a time like this.

There's a little voice whispering in the back of her mind that Regina left the door open, if that isn't a silent invitation, then she wouldn't know one unless she received a formal invite decorated in calligraphy.

She gulps, slowly stepping inside and closes the door behind her.

 

Chapter Text


Emma softly closes the door behind her and breathes through every instinct that's screaming at her to run. She stares at her hand, trembling against the handle and listens to the sound of clinking glasses from across the room.

"Come to demand that I need your friendship right now, Miss Swan?" Regina mocks, her words silky soft, yet, all too dangerous and could easily wrap around her neck and leave her for dead.

"Ah, such a good friend, you know me so well."

Emma rolls her eyes, tucks her hands into her hoodie's front pocket and struts with all the confidence she owns into the elaborate hotel room. Even if she does feel her rank in society more than ever, like the poor little girl she has always been. All those insecure feelings crawl to the surface because this hotel room is twice the size of her apartment at home. It has a fucking piano in the middle of the room which sparks a pounding rage to thump under her skin.

Fucking Las Vegas.

She locates an agitated Regina, standing in front of a mini bar, angrily spinning off a cap from a bottle of Patrón. Little wisps of strands in disarray are struggling to free themselves from Regina's high ponytail that Emma had tied back earlier in the evening. Her skeptical eyes dart back to Regina's stoic face and she takes a tentative step forward.

"I thought no alcohol during tours?"

"I do believe I earned one after tonight. Do you want one or not?" She harshly spits, slamming two glass tumblers down without Emma's consent.

Emma rocks anxiously from her toes to her heels, over and over again as Regina pours the clear liquid with determination into the glass that probably costs more than the entire complex building Emma lives in. She watches as Regina slams the bottle down and snatches up one glass, coldly extending her arm. She tentatively steps forward, eyes cast down like she's not worthy as she accepts the drink.

Regina remains impassive, still bored even, while her eyes bore into the nervous woman before her. She presses the glass to her lips and hesitates for the briefest moment before she closes her eyes and tosses back half the glass. Emma winces, knowing how rough that liquid will burn on its way down, but she hurries to follow Regina. She gulps down her own glass, her chipmunk cheeks struggling to swallow the entire glass like her drinking buddy.

"Another?" Regina clips, already setting down her glass and recklessly unscrewing the cap until it flies off the bottle and rolls somewhere onto the floor, never to be seen again.

"Ugh," Emma shudders as the liquid burns a fiery path down her throat, through her chest and settles somewhere in her gut. "Um," she wipes the back of her hand over her mouth and grimaces at how un-classy she is appearing. "That was like a triple shot."

"Your point?" Regina icily retorts, her eyes never leaving Emma's rigid stance.

"I don't know," she mumbles, shrugging nervously and feeling all hot and prickly from the alcohol burning through her veins or maybe it's because of the intensity scorching from Regina's eyes right now. "Maybe we should sit down and talk, before our next drink..."

"I'm not in the mood to talk."

"Are you ever?" Emma muses as she takes a few steps forward, suddenly feeling braver than moments ago. Definitely before the tequila.

"Not usually." Regina steals Emma's glass and hastily pours out another drink that is no way acceptable to be claimed as a shot, or even a double. She shoves the tumbler back into Emma's hand and lifts her glass, clinking the rims together. "Drink up, Swan," she orders in such a low and provocative tone that Emma finds herself obeying immediately.

This time the harsh liquid slides down easier, spreading straight to her heart and dizzying her brain. She knows that she cannot accept another drink or else her mind will swipe this night clean from her memory and she will not be able to lift her head out of the damn toilet tomorrow.

"Now, can we talk?" Emma weakly investigates because her body is still convulsing involuntarily from the amount of alcohol in such a short period of time.

She sets down her glass and cringes when Regina pours herself another smaller glass and takes it with a type of poise that doesn't match the circumstance. The singer sets her glass down next to Emma's and swipes up the bottle before turning on her heels and swiftly moving toward the piano.

"I need to work on my next album," Regina dismissively spews over her shoulder.

She carefully places the bottle of Patrón on top of the piano and slides regally onto the piano's bench. Her head bobs down, her high ponytail flopping while her hands move to their own accord, resting on the keys. One finger dips down and produces a low hum that matches the mood Emma suspects Regina is drowning in right now.

"Trapped inside those eyes, the prisons I despise."

Every cell in Emma's body jolts awake, igniting a fire to burn violently as Regina's voice cuts straight through to her soul. Yet, this talented creature stops, her head drooping lower before she bangs on the keys and roughly snatches up her bottle again.

"So, do you need to get to the very bottom of the bottle to find your inspiration?" Emma teasingly inquires, crossing the living room and cautiously sliding next to the distraught woman.

"What I need, is for you to stop pestering me," Regina fires off, her pinky finger pressing down on another deep chord that sings the blues.

"Alright, I'm going to be honest here," she assertively states because now the alcohol is swimming around in her brain and blurring the lines of appropriate and damn near stupidity.

Regina raises one eyebrow as she presses the bottle to her lips and tosses back a small portion, her eyes never leaving Emma. "Aren't you always honest?"

"Okay, how can you go from being an utter bitch one second to all sweet and tender the next?"

The words seem somewhat slurred as she listens to her own voice out there in the open, but she hopes Regina won't notice since she's consumed more alcohol at this point. Six shots in a five minute span is not going to benefit her in any way this evening. She's doomed and she knows it, but there's no point of return now.

"That's just who I am," Regina nonchalantly replies, her fingers skating across the white keys below but never pressing down to create her inspiring music.

"Bullshit."

"Yes, because you know me so well from the handful of times we have spoken."

Regina scoffs, placing her bottle back on top of the piano before her fingers start dancing effortlessly to create a familiar melody. Emma is momentarily distracted from the sound, she swears she knows this song, but the title is not coming to her.

"And whose fault is that? I'm trying here, but you keep pushing me away," Emma exasperates with her hands flailing about to prove some point she really isn't sure of at this moment.

"I have every right."

"You have no right."

"Shut up, Swan."

"No, tell me why you are so back and forth with me," Emma demands, glaring at Regina with her eyebrows pinched and her brain desperately trying to follow the conversation because the world around her is starting to feel like a hazy dream.

"Because you annoy me," Regina snarks with her nose held high in the air.

"Fine. I'm done with these games. I've been nothing but nice to you and you...you treat me like yesterday's trash. I don't have time for this."

Emma pushes herself off the bench, ignoring the dizzy spell spinning in her head and stomps away, her feet scuffing against the marble tile below. She's fuming, irate at this point for constantly trying and always being ignored. She's almost to the door when Regina curls her fingers around her elbow and yanks her back, causing her to stumble on her heavy feet.

"Stop," Regina forcefully says.

"No, we are done here." Emma tries to wiggle free, but Regina's grip is like fucking Superman's at this point.

"Stop."

"Not until you tell me why you are pushing me away."

"Fine," Regina snaps, her eyes flashing with a determination that Emma never saw coming.

Regina shoves Emma's elbow away, forcing her to sway until her back hits the wall, but then Regina's right there. Her scorching hot body pressing firmly up against Emma's and pinning her securely to the wall. She doesn't hesitate, no, her lips dive forward and capture Emma's into a searing kiss that blindsides her completely.

It's something Emma's dreams have been clouded with for the past three weeks, yet, she never in her wildest imagination, thought it would ever come true. And it's nothing like her mind lead her to believe. Regina's lips are so much fuller than her eyes remember, and so velvety soft, nothing like the scratchy roughness she associates with kissing men. Even though Regina is being firm, there's still a gentle tenderness drowning in passion that electrifies Emma's entire body and creates a moan to stir in her throat unknowingly.

Regina slowly pries her lips away from Emma's, her eyes flashing with rage as she searches Emma's flushed face for some answer.

"You have to go," the singer murmurs, her voice hoarse like Emma sucked the life right out of her throat.

"What? No," she mumbles, blinking as her face contorts into severe perplexity.

Regina steps back, anxiously tugging her hair free from her ponytail just so she can run her trembling fingers through her wild mane. She spins around, turning her back to Emma, so she can hide the panic consuming her face. She grips the back of her neck and stares aimlessly at the ceiling while too many conflicting thoughts invade her mind.

"Go, Emma," and her voice cracks, so thick with the emotions that are begging to be freed and there's just no way Emma can turn her back on her now.

"No, I'm not leaving." Emma steps forward, her hand reaching out to turn Regina back around, but her nerves get the best of her and convinces her to drop that hand. "What the hell was that?" She whispers cautiously over Regina's shoulder, even though her heart is pounding with enough force to claim her life.

"It was a mistake, now please, you have to go," Regina pleads, spinning around and shoving Emma's shoulders closer toward the door.

"No, stop." She fights, she scrabbles against Regina's urging forces and gathers up both of the woman's dainty wrists. "We need to talk about this."

"There's nothing to say," Regina declares, but the glistening liquid clinging to her eyes pleads an entirely different story. "It was a mistake and it's best if you remember your contract right now and never discuss this again." She attempts to squirm her way free, but there's hardly any fight left in her from the battle she endured with her mother earlier in the evening.

"Don't talk down to me," Emma firmly rebuttals, tugging Regina's frantic body closer by her wrists. "You know I would never say a word about what happens between us," she vows in a much softer tone to help persuade Regina's mind into trusting her. "Please," she urges so desperately, "just tell me what's going on with you."

"It's the alcohol, it clouded my judgement for a moment and I apologize for my poor actions, it won't ever happen again," Regina robotically replies, rehearsed, practiced, just like mommy dearest taught her.

Emma sighs heavily and yanks on Regina once more until her tiny frame is flush against her own and their bodies are molding perfectly together. "You're lying," Emma whispers as Regina's eyes fall to stare aimlessly at their conjoined bodies. "There's something here and I know you feel it too." Regina doesn't mutter one single word, she halfheartedly twists her wrists inside Emma's strong grip, but easily tosses in the towel. "Are-are you nervous about what this means? Feeling something more for a woman?" Emma shyly questions, her tone expressing just how unsure and timid she truly is about this situation.

Regina's watery eyes snap toward apprehensive green. Those stern eyes shift rapidly from left to right as Regina's mind tries to process what Emma just revealed.

"You're straight." And it's not so much of a question as a mere realization that she should have figured out beforehand, knowing how young Emma is to have a son.

"Yes," she admits and watches as Regina's brows draw closer together. "I mean, I always thought I was, but...I don't know. I met you and I just feel...something," she whispers, showing off how insecure she really is in this moment, nothing like the confident side Regina sees flashes of every now and again.

"You've never even kissed a woman before?" Regina breathlessly inquires right up against Emma's lips, fogging her mind once again with that magical breath. Emma sucks the corner of her bottom lip into her mouth and sheepishly shakes her head. All too quickly Regina is shaking her head and breaking apart their intimate bubble. "I can't. You need to leave, Emma."

"What? Why? Why can't we talk about this and figure this out together? Are you scared your mother will find out?"

"No, that's not it," Regina dismissively replies as she stomps her way toward the door and Emma knows it's to shove her through it.

"Then what? Why are you so adamant about pushing me out of your life?"

"I can't have you in my life," Regina vacantly replies, reaching for the handle, but Emma jumps in front of her, blocking the door completely.

"Look Regina, I'm scared too. I never thought I could ever feel this way about a woman, but-"

"God, Emma, shut up. You have no idea what you are talking about," Regina exasperates, angrily crossing her arms over her chest to keep her secrets locked away and guarded.

Emma squints at her, her mind shuffling through every bit of information she has learned over the past month or so about the singer. Finally something clicks.

"Milah," she whispers under her breath. "You know you're..." she trails off because she's uncertain how to identify the other woman and she doesn't want to come off ignorant.

"Gay? Yes. I've known for as long as I can remember," Regina coldly responds, her fingers digging deep into her biceps, but Emma's positive she can't feel the piercing from the amount of alcohol flowing through her bloodstream.

"Is Milah your girlfriend? Oh god, did you just cheat on her?"

"No!" Regina scoffs in annoyance before she drops her arms and trudges back toward the piano, so she can calm her nerves with another drink.

"Then what was it that I accidentally walked in on?"

Emma lazily pushes herself off the door and crosses the living room with a heavy weight upon her shoulders. Suddenly, she's not sure what to do with her hands or even how to stand in this room. The tension is as thick as it always is when they are left alone, but it's so much more than just that this time.

Regina swallows a generous amount and eyes Emma carefully. She must have decided that she does trust this quirky blonde, because she sets down the bottle and takes a deep breath to explain the truth.

"I've known Milah for a very long time now, well before Outlaw. She was an extra in a movie when I was a teen and we became really good friends on set. We sort of have an understanding now. She's bi and is hopelessly in love with Killian and he knows that he can't always keep her happy. She never fully commits to him and well, I'm never looking for anything serious from my line of work. So, like I said, we have an understanding."

"So, she's just a fuck buddy? Friends with benefits," Emma deadpans, desperately trying to convey her indifference even though she feels her heart cracking and splitting painfully with each word Regina speaks.

For some strange reason, she had hoped that Regina was just as scared, unsure, and inexperienced as she is and maybe they could figure all of this out together.

"I suppose. If that's what you want to call it. We don't use labels," Regina vacuously supplies.

There's a very long and weighted pause between them while they both sit and stew in their brewing thoughts. Emma is convinced Regina wants nothing to do with her because she's so inexperienced and now she's feeling more self-conscious than ever.

"So, Milah isn't going to go all crazy on me when she finds out?" Emma sheepishly questions, stuffing her fists back into her pocket.

"She won't find out, you signed a NDA. Besides, she couldn't care less."

"Is that why you make people sign that stupid thing? To keep your sexuality hidden?"

"No."

Emma purses her lips because she doesn't entirely believe the woman, who is now helping herself to another swig straight from the bottle. The brunette licks her thick lips and extends her arm, offering the Patrón to Emma. She sighs and shuffles her heavy feet toward the enticing gift. She knows she's going to regret this next drink, but god does she need something to calm her high-strung nerves. She swallows down a lot more than she intends and winces as she pushes the bottle back into Regina's chest.

Regina places the nearly empty bottle down on her piano again and slowly sinks onto the bench. She gathers up her notebook and quickly scribbles something down. Her thick, raven tresses slowly trickle in front of her face, shielding her from the world, so she can focus all her attention on her hand frantically skating across the paper.

Emma cocks her head to the side and watches with a faint smile as Regina places the pencil in her mouth and quickly tickles the keys. The first sound to grace Emma's ears is low and ominous, revealing the heartache within any soul. Regina's body sways forward as she moves to a soft, lighter chord that suddenly stretches on and dances lightly in the air like a floating butterfly on a warm spring day. The most tender humming rattles in Regina's vocal cords as she continues to play the delicate melody.

Emma is positive she's witnessing a rare moment where an ingenious brilliance is born and she can't even breathe because she's too petrified that she might ruin the moment. So, she observes from a distance; the way Regina pauses to hysterically scribble another lyric, to the way she clenches the pencil between her teeth as her fingers effortlessly glide across the keys to create the most beautiful sounds.

"Trapped inside those eyes, the prisons I despise." Regina sings so desperately with the raw intensity of a sudden, painful breakup, but then her words trail off and she finishes the next line with humming. She slams her fingers ruthlessly down and grunts in frustration. "Fuck."

Emma cautiously approaches the bench as if Regina is a caged and wild animal. She sinks down beside the distraught woman and offers a small, sheepish grin. She scoots a tad closer until her shoulder kisses Regina's.

"Call it a night? Maybe it's been a long day and your brain is just fried?" She whispers so delicately that her words seem to loosen Regina's tense shoulders and persuades her into resting her head against Emma's inviting shoulder.

Regina lazily lifts her left hand and presses down on the depressing chords that mirror her mood. Emma sighs, her head automatically being drawn to rest on top of Regina's as she listens to the melody the singer creates for just them.

"You need to go. You don't fit in my life," Regina murmurs mostly to herself, but this time there's no bite and Emma doesn't believe she means a single word.

It's practiced. It's rehearsed. It's her mother's words, not hers.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Regina shifts under Emma's weight, so she can meet those stunning green, trustworthy orbs. They lock eyes and in that very moment, the world tips on its axis and everything that they have ever known, slowly dissipates in the space between them. Everything they were ever taught suddenly doesn't make sense anymore. There's no black and white, just grey and it's there, in the confusion, where they find serenity.

Regina reaches for Emma's flushed cheek and pulls her face down into another searing kiss that steals every ounce of oxygen from Emma's lungs and leaves her floating away. Emma releases a ragged breath, surging forward because she needs so much more of this remarkable woman. She slithers her fingers across Regina's warm cheek until they are buried deep in her thick locks. Regina inhales sharply, drinking in all of Emma like this will be her last time ever tasting her thin little lips.

The amount of exploding heat and intensity exchanging in this one simple kiss is mind baffling to Emma because never has she ever experienced such a raw passion like this before.

This is the moment she will come to realize later in life, where she was in far too deep and she was already royally screwed.

However, her brain is fuzzy and she's had far too much tequila to even comprehend the repercussions of her actions right now.

 

Chapter Text


The amount of tormenting, excruciating, misery that's pounding horrifically in her temples is enough to make her wish for death.

"Emma."

Never in her twenty-three years on this planet has she ever suffered a hangover even close to this severity.

"Emma."

Her mouth is dry, like she ate an entire fucking bag of cotton balls, because yes, that's how intoxicated she was and she wouldn't even put it passed herself at this point.

"What did you do?"

Her stomach does a backward flip that produces an acidic liquid to slosh in her gut and crawl up her chest in a threat to explode from her mouth in the most unladylike manner.

"Get up!"

Emma groans, she's pretty positive that someone is whispering in her ear. The voice sounds familiar and comforting, but no, fuck that, she's staying asleep to alleviate the pain crushing her skull.

"Emma!"

She forces every ounce of energy into peeling apart her eyelids, that might as well be super glued together. She accomplishes one eye, squinting through the blur of black and green before her.

"Get up, now! What the fuck did you do?"

Emma's freckled nose scrunches because she has no idea why her best friend is whisper-shouting at her? Or why the woman is squatting down beside her? Come to think of it, she has no idea where the hell she is...

Hotel door. Regina. Tequila. Piano.

"Holy shit," Emma gasps, her body moving from pure panic as she slides up in bed, remembering all too clearly how her lips felt roughly against Regina's.

She immediately glances down and sighs in relief when she finds her clothes in place. A little crumpled from her sleep, but all in the right places.

"Get up! You stupid foolish girl!"

Emma winces and peeks over her shoulder to find the other side of the bed empty. The last thing she remembers is Regina tucking her in, she has no clue if the other woman slept next to her or not.

"Fuck, what did you do, Ems?" Ruby sympathetically whines, her hand reaching out to tenderly cup Emma's cheek. Green eyes blink in confusion, still trying to piece together the previous night which is quickly becoming her own game of Clue. "Come on, we need to get out of here," her friend whispers, her hand sliding away from Emma's face to help pull her out of bed.

"What are you talking about?" Emma chokes out, her voice sore and utterly abused from the strong alcohol she obediently consumed.

"Wake up!"

Emma flinches again at the sound of Cora's shrill voice, angrily bouncing off the walls and assaulting her hungover temples. The sound that ricochets through the hotel room next, is a brutal crack that provokes Emma to stumble out of bed and shove Ruby right out of the way.

She stumbles, recklessly falling forward and catching herself with her hands before her face smacks the ground, but her feet keep moving. She's tumbling through the hotel room, ignoring her brain as it sloshes around in her skull with vengeance and the queasy sensation clawing at her gut.

She nearly collides into Jefferson's back, but she reaches out and clings to him to steady her balance. He's effectively blocking the view of the bathroom, but not the cruel words tearing from Cora's mouth.

"Emma," he sighs in disappointment and attempts to turn her away from the bathroom.

"Where's Regina? What's going on? Why are you all here?" Emma fires off each question, one more frantic than the previous.

She grips his strong biceps to steady herself and jerks him aside so she can see what he is so clearly hiding from her. Her stomach doubles over again when she finds Regina curled up in a helpless ball on the floor with her hand holding her cheek and her mother's unforgiving fingers curled into her daughter's shirt. Regina's black strands are fanned out, all across the floor and never has Emma seen this woman appear so utterly shattered.

"Regina?" Emma gasps, releasing Jefferson's arms in an attempt to move passed him, but he grips her biceps firmly and holds her back.

"No," he whispers into her ear, but she's so fucking confused and disoriented, she fights him, because that's what her instincts are screaming at her to do.

"I want her out," Cora growls, never tearing her eyes away from her daughter. She yanks on Regina's shirt, forcing the fragile woman off the cold hard floor before she delivers another smack across her cheek so fierce that Emma feels the sting from across the bathroom. "Move, you pathetic-"

"Hey!" Emma bellows ferociously, pounding her fists against Jefferson to free her, but he's just so much bigger than she is. "Stop! What the hell is your problem? Leave her alone. So we had a few drinks last night, she's a grown ass woman!"

"Ems," Ruby delicately pleads, placing her hand upon Emma's rigid shoulder, but she doesn't notice.

Cora pushes Regina back down to the floor and stands tall, stomping viciously with hate toward the frantic blonde. She places her hand on Jefferson's shoulder, silently instructing him to release Emma and he does, gently, but doesn't move too far from the situation in case he needs to intervene.

"I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you that you were no good for my daughter. A young, stupid, party girl with no concept of consequences-"

"Oh stop," Emma grumbles, crossing her arms protectively over her chest, because this wouldn't be the first time she needs to brush off the cruel judgement from someone because of her social class.

"Mother, stop," Regina weakly commands, encouraging Emma's eyes to dart to the heap of limbs struggling to stand, but failing miserably with her eyes still very much closed. "Leave her alone. Emma had nothing to do with it."

"Do with what?" Emma innocently asks because she's so damn clueless. She takes her chances and rushes passed Cora to help Regina up.

"I want her gone, Regina Maria," Cora coldly orders, glaring murderously at Emma as she kneels beside Regina and helps her lean against the bathtub for support.

Emma's trembling fingers reach out to sweep Regina's unruly locks away from her forehead, but the brunette easily grips Emma's wrist and forces her hand back down. The stench of tequila is seeping out of Regina's pores at this point. Her face is ghostly white, her usual plump lips are suddenly dull and broken and those eyes, those beautiful, enchanting, honey-colored eyes are black and lifeless and it kills Emma.

"I didn't do anything wrong," Emma quietly defends herself, sounding so much younger than she intends.

"No, she's the best makeup artist I've had and she had nothing to do with last night," Regina slurs, her eyes falling closed once again.

Cora pounds her high heels against the marble flooring and glares down at the two women who are vehemently defending one another.

"Don't you dare defend some poor little girl from-"

"Mother," Regina snaps, lifting her heavy head to glare back at the cruel woman through hooded eyes. "bought the bottle. shoved the glass into Emma's hand. forced her to drink."

Cora's dark and heinous eyes shift angrily from Regina's to Emma's, suspiciously assessing and deciding if she believes in her daughter's words or not. Surprisingly, she glances at her wrist and tsks.

"You have forty minutes before your meet and greet. Clean yourself up and we will discuss the rest of this after your concert tonight."

With one last loathsome glare at Emma, Cora spins on her heels and exits the bathroom. Not one person speaks until they hear the finality of the hotel door slamming shut.

"Gina," Jefferson sadly mutters, provoking the singer to bury her face in her hands.

"Em, why don't we go get ready and leave these two alone?" Ruby carefully suggests, confusing Emma's brain even further.

"What the hell is the matter with everyone? So, what? We had a few drinks. Why is everyone acting like we caused a huge scene? Why are you guys even here?" Emma asks again, peering up at her friends in utter bewilderment.

Except neither one opens their damn mouths to offer a reasonable explanation. The high-end bathroom is painfully silent and it seems to stretch on for eternity in Emma's eyes. She takes a moment to inspect Jefferson's sad demeanor to Ruby's anxious body, back to Regina, who still is hanging her head in shame and if Emma's not mistaken, the singer is silently crying to herself.

"Regina?" She softly whispers for just the brunette to hear, except it's so quiet that Ruby and Jefferson snap their attention to the two messes on the floor.

Regina sniffles, hastily wiping her eyes and nose before she runs her fingers through her unkempt hair and finally faces Emma. Her eyes are bloodshot and red-rimmed, painted with charcoal circles underneath and she looks wrecked. Like a soul sucking demon swooped into the hotel sometime in the night and wreaked havoc on all that is Regina Mills.

"Forty minutes, let's get a move on," Regina easily replies, patting Emma's knee and baffling everyone around her.

"What?" Ruby all but shrieks in shock.

"Baby girl, you need to-"

"Jefferson," Regina grumbles under her breath while her head bobs down once again.

"Regina, she needs to know. Enough is enough, she signed the NDA, this won't ever get out," Ruby firmly defends, inching her way closer into the bathroom.

"What the hell is going on?" Emma snaps, before she realizes the sheer volume of her own voice is crushing her skull.

"Honey," Jefferson takes an assertive step forward and kneels down before them on one knee. "Regina has been sober for only two months," he divulges in a hushed whisper and that little confession ties an anchor to Emma's heart and sinks the damn organ to the pit of her stomach.

"What?" She chokes on the question, her eyes darting back toward Regina who is already burying her face in her hands again. "Why didn't you tell me?" She breathlessly gasps toward the disheveled woman and when she receives nothing in response she explodes. "Why the hell didn't any of you tell me?"

"The NDA-" Ruby tries to explain, but Emma is so furious that she doesn't even want to hear any excuses.

"Fuck the NDA!" She scrambles to her feet, fury running wildly through her blood and stomping murderously on the hangover that was lingering moments ago. "This is something I should have been informed about from the moment I signed. How dare you guys!"

"First, it wasn't our secret to tell," Jefferson sternly interjects. "Second, we thought there was nothing to tell." His eyes slide bitterly toward his cousin helplessly on the floor. "We thought everything was under control."

Emma glances down at Regina, her eyes closed and her body sliding against the bathtub in defeat. Emma and Jefferson both scramble to catch her slumped limbs before she falls and causes more damage to her body.

"How much did you two drink?" Jefferson asks, eyeing Emma out of the corner of his eyes, but there's no judgement or malice, unlike his aunt and she knows she can trust him.

"I think-I mean, I don't know," Emma stammers as the events of the previous night come flooding back. "Not that much. We shared a small bottle of Patrón and then we went to bed...or so I thought...."

"She must have drank more after she put you to bed," he sadly replies, sweeping Regina's sweat soaked strands away from her forehead.

"Jeff," Regina's strained voice cracks through the conversation that's solely about her. "I fucked up."

"Yeah, baby girl, you did," he softly replies, cupping her cheek sweetly in his palm and skimming his thumb back and forth for comfort.

"Jefferson lift her into the shower, we need to wash away the stench of stale alcohol," Ruby instructs, gathering fluffy towels around the bathroom.

"She can't shower, she can't even keep her eyes open," he demands.

"I can shower," Regina mumbles incoherently, crushing Emma's heart even more for how small and helpless she sounds. "Just get me a Bloody Mary."

"I will give her a shower, do her hair and Emma will do her makeup and we will get her dressed together." Ruby dutifully answers as if she's done this before and that right there shatters Emma's heart even more.

How many times have they been through this with Regina?

"No Bloody Mary, Gina," Jefferson firmly commands, but she's shaking her head vehemently with her eyes sealed shut.

"It will get me through the meet and greet," she declares, swaying out of Jefferson's secure arms and leaning back against the bathtub.

"No-"

"Just get her the damn Bloody Mary," Ruby interrupts, kneeling down beside Regina to peel away her fucking heels that she must have passed out in. "She already broke her sobriety. We might as well get her through today and worry about keeping her sober tomorrow."

"Is more alcohol really the answer?" Emma timidly speaks up, because this is all new to her and she has no idea how to navigate through something like this. She was never a big drinker and her mother certainly never drank.

"Not really," Ruby honestly admits, leaning over Regina to run the shower. "But the only thing that actually sobers a person up is time and since time is not on our side right now, we need to improvise. No amount of coffee or showers is going to help her. At least a Bloody Mary will help with her hangover and most likely wake her body up and make her feel tipsy again, so she can make it through the hour."

Emma blinks, hanging onto every word as her friend works expertly around Regina. There is a horrifying twist in her gut and she thinks she might be sick watching everyone move like this is all so normal.

"After her meet and greet we will bring her back here and she will sleep it all off until her concert."

"I'll tell Kathryn to move her interview until later, right before her concert," Jefferson adds on.

"I can shower," Regina suddenly snaps, mindlessly fumbling for the buttons on her blouse, buttons that do not exist.

"I'm just gonna help you wash your hair," Ruby kindly says, taking Regina's hands into hers to desist their task.

Regina slowly pries her eyes open and squints against the harsh light that's most likely irritating her temples. "I do like you, Lucas."

"I know, Regina," Ruby sighs and squeezes some comfort into Regina's hands. "I like you, too." The lanky brunette peers over her shoulder and meets Jefferson's sad smile. "Go get that Bloody Mary."

He nods curtly and slowly stands. "I knew she wouldn't be able to control herself around this pretty little thing," he says, his index finger tracing an imaginary line up and down Emma's body.

"What?" Emma balks, quickly taking offense. "Are you saying I drove her to drink?"

"No, no," Regina mumbles to herself.

"No honey, we all know Cora drove her to that last night," he earnestly replies before slipping out of the bathroom and softly closing the door behind him.

"What the hell does that mean?"

Ruby sighs, gently peeling the too tight tank top from Regina's slick skin. "Let me ask you something, did you find some information out about Regina last night?" She delicately inquires.

Emma's eyes trail toward the half-conscious brunette between them and she feels slightly guilty having this conversation in front of Regina as if she's not even there. But then again, she knows Regina will have no recollection of this moment by tonight.

"Yeah, I guess," she shrugs noncommittally, allowing her friend to take the lead on the topic, except she doesn't.

"Lift your bottom," Ruby sweetly instructs and Regina immediately obeys so she can peel away her booty shorts.

"I got it," the singer mutters, attempting to stand on her shaky legs, prompting Emma and Ruby to jump into action and help her stand, one girl on each side.

"Step into the shower, be careful there's a small step." Regina hums to Ruby's instructions and easily clambers into the shower and under the hot spray. "I'm going to wash your hair, hang on to the wall."

Emma stands off to the side dumbfounded, momentarily immobile as she watches Ruby carefully scrub the shampoo into Regina's hair. Never, had she ever thought something like this could occur. Regina is a powerhouse, always in control and so damn proper, how could this shell of a woman be her? How the hell did she get like this?

"We have a half an hour, maybe you can help me out here?" Ruby declares, shredding through Emma's haunting thoughts. "Wash her body."

"Uh, you left her bra and thong on."

"Yeah, privacy," Ruby shrugs and proceeds to rinse out the thick soap clinging to Regina's head.

"I'll wash," Regina grumbles, fumbling for the fancy liquid soap on the wall.

"I can help," Emma tentatively offers, finally stepping forward and lending her hands.

"When she gets out, you need to jump in. You both smell like you swam in a pool full of tequila."

"Okay," Emma automatically replies as her hands move to their own accord, gently guiding Regina's hands to wash her body.

She's hungover, she feels like she was just smacked upside the head with horrific news and now her body is just working on autopilot to move her through this situation that will forever be burned into her mind.

Regina rinses her body and slowly runs her hands through her slick hair. She inhales sharply, cherishing the moment of peace and tranquility as the hot water runs down her face and slightly awakens her senses. She blinks, her eyes finally opening to their potential to assess her surroundings.

"Miss Swan, you stayed? Sucker for torment?" She quips, scrubbing her hands down her face and Emma's certain it's to hide the shame blushing through her cheeks.

"I told you, I'm not going anywhere," she softly whispers and offers her hand to help the tragic woman out of the shower.

Her swollen eyes squint at the blonde before her, desperately searching for any inkling of deceit, but she comes up short. Emma stares intently back at her, wondering what the hell she could possibly be thinking at a moment like this and it's Ruby who has to pull them from their intense trance.

"Here you go." Ruby holds open a massive, white fluffy towel and waits patiently for Regina to climb in.

"Thank you," Regina murmurs, her eyes already drooping once again from the exertion of stepping out of the shower.

"Of course," Ruby happily replies, running her hands up and down Regina's toweled biceps. "Jump in, Swan. We have no time."

Emma doesn't even have time to process her shyness about stripping down in front of her best friend and above all, Regina fucking Mills, who she is hopelessly crushing on. There's too much pressure to sculpt Regina into perfection before Cora returns, so Emma tears away her clothes and jumps right in without another thought.

It's a shower that lasts all of four minutes and when she is out, Regina is half asleep on the toilet with a towel snuggly wrapped around her torso and Ruby blow drying her hair. Emma steps out and is now just coming to the realization that she doesn't have clothes.

"I texted Jefferson, he's bringing you something," Ruby casually addresses over the loud blow-dryer floating through the air.

"Thanks."

"Ruby," Regina whisper-shouts, "I need a bagel, but don't tell Cora."

A sly smirk slides across the hair dresser's face as she turns off the blow-dryer and sets it down on the vanity. "Jeffy is on it," she chuckles, placing her hands lovingly upon Regina's shoulders. Cautiously, she steps around her boss and kneels down beside her. "You need to get it together." Regina creates an audible gulp that even Emma can feel the strain of. "You need to find something to live for, because this isn't working."

Regina's eyes crawl shamefully away from Ruby's and toward her fumbling fingers resting in her lap. "I know," she softly agrees, but says nothing more.

Emma watches in astonishment as Ruby leans in and presses a gentle kiss to Regina's temple. She's positive that Regina would never allow that type of public affection if she was in the right state of mind. Yet, Ruby proceeded without a moment of hesitation as if it was a casual occurrence between them and the idea settles in Emma's soul and leaves a heavy weight upon her shoulders because it just confirms how often this must happen.

A moment later, Jefferson is bursting through the door with a tall Bloody Mary, three large cups of coffee, two bagels and an adorable outfit for Emma. Ruby places a bagel and the alcoholic beverage in Regina's hand and then sips her coffee while Jefferson advances toward Emma. He shoves a bagel and coffee in each hand and narrows his eyes.

"Drop the towel."

"Dude, no."

"Honey, it's nothing I haven't seen before and trust me it's the last thing I want in my life."

"Still..."

"I change in front of him all the time," Ruby laughs lightly and waves off the notion while running a straightener through Regina's hair.

"Come on, we have twenty minutes to get you dressed and groomed while you accomplish your makeup skills on Tequila Sunshine over there," he smirks, nodding his head toward Regina while Emma blinks and tries to decide if her dignity is still intact and worth defending at this point.

Jefferson doesn't wait for confirmation, he rips the clothes off the hanger and Emma finds herself dropping her towel. She blushes profusely and of course, Ruby is snickering in the corner, but Jefferson is professional and has her dressed in less than sixty seconds. Classy as ever in black dress shorts, a sleeveless, sheer, baby blue blouse and cute sandals that crisscross all around her feet and ankles.

"Okay honey, start Regina's makeup and when Ruby's done, she'll fix your wet dog appearance."

"Thanks," Emma growls and hastily rips a bite of her bagel which doesn't help the image of a dog snarling around their food.

On Bambi like legs, Emma moseys on toward Regina, her stomach swirling with stale tequila and her brain feeling heavier than ever. She kneels down beside the toilet, pretending to be Regina's thrown, and sighs heavily. Regina is obediently sucking down her Bloody Mary and scarfing down her bagel before Cora finds out and murders each and every one of them.

"Emma, you're still here," Regina rasps out through her scratchy throat and she almost sounds happy to see Emma's sad face.

"I told you," Emma slowly adds the liquid foundation to her fingertip and finally meets Regina's eyes. "I'm not going anywhere," she vows, dabbing away the dark circles that have staked their claim beneath those red-rimmed eyes.

Emma's chest constricts painfully as she tries so desperately to mask away all the flaws that Regina exposed over a bottle of tequila last night. The woman looks so fragile, broken and defeated and all Emma wants to do is scoop her in her arms and hold her until the pain stops. She hates that they all have to work together to mold Regina into America's idea of perfection while this woman is begging for help. Vegas already had their night, if Cora was any kind of a human she would cancel tonight's event and make sure Regina is safe, but Emma knows in her heart that would never happen.

As Emma works dutifully, her eyes pay closer attention to every detail on Regina's face. Her favorite little scar dressing Regina's lip into a sexy smolder. Another small indent above her eyebrow, in the middle of her forehead. The cute little freckle near the corner of her mouth that somehow disappears when she smiles to her fullest potential.

She swallows, warm tears pricking her eyes because she so hopelessly wanted to see the real Regina and here she is. Battered. Broken. And Emma can't help but wonder how anybody could mistreat this beautiful creature? This astounding, talented woman who is every little girl's idol.

"Ruby, Jefferson, out," Regina unexpectedly snaps, sounding more like her bitchy self, prompting Emma to blink back her tears.

"Regina, we don't have time-" Jefferson begins, but Regina shoots him a look so fierce that both employees shrink back and shuffle out the door.

Once the door closes, Regina sets down her drink and bagel and offers her undivided attention to Emma.

"What?" Emma nervously questions under Regina's spotlight raining down upon her.

"It's just you and me," Regina mocks, "nobody else is around. What's wrong?" She smugly questions, tossing Emma's own words right back in her face. And if it weren't such a life changing ordeal, Emma would say she kind of likes drunk Regina.

"Nothing," Emma mutters under her breath. "Close your eyes," she instructs, sweeping the chestnut hue across Regina's fluttering eyelid. "You should have told me. I deserved to know."

"Don't flatter yourself, nobody deserves to know." Emma scowls at this, but keeps all her snarky comments at bay. "You're kind of cute when you're mad," Regina so boldly compliments.

"You're drunk."

"Maybe," Regina muses, shrugging her shoulders noncommittally, provoking Emma to roll her tired eyes.

"I think I like you better sober."

"Nobody likes that," Regina scoffs.

"I do," Emma vows, snapping the eyeshadow case closed and sweeping her thumb ever so gently beneath Regina's eye. "I like the badass, controlling, powerhouse."

"Masochist," Regina deadpans.

"Sadist," Emma quips right back, generating the most adorable smile to ever cross Regina's lips.

Emma cannot suppress the tender smile that cracks as she cherishes the singer's unguarded grin. Regina exhales a laugh through her nose and shakes her head.

"I think I've met my match," she whispers, her head falling forward to rest against Emma's as her eyes flutter closed.

"If only you'll remember your words tomorrow," Emma sadly replies, allowing Regina a moment of peace in their own private bubble. "Can I please do your lipstick?" She shyly asks.

"No," Regina strictly dismisses the request, her warm breath tingling Emma's lips once again.

"Please?"

"Nuh, uh," she shakes her head against Emma's and the makeup artist feels her heart swelling with so much adoration.

"I promise I'll be gentle," she vows, slowly backing Regina off her forehead and reaching for the lipstick.

"Fine," the brunette grumbles and snatches up her drink for a hefty sip before Emma comes near her.

Ever so delicately, Emma cups Regina's chin and tilts her head back. She gazes down into those mesmerizing eyes and wishes she had more time to lose herself in them. Her eyes flick back down to those plump lips her very own mouth was pressed up against last night and her heart suddenly sprouts wings and takes off fluttering. Carefully, she paints her most favorite set of lips, tracing the faint lines and curves that only builds her passion for this woman beneath her. She itches to lean down just a hair and feel the velvety texture that will inevitably make her knees quake, but she refrains.

"Emma, I really need to do your hair!" Ruby shouts from the other side of the door. "We have eight minutes!"

"Alright, come on in."

 

Chapter Text


Thunder cracks viciously outside, but that doesn't bother the unconscious brunette beside her. Emma glances down to her left, where raven locks in disarray are spread across a pure white pillowcase. Emma groans inwardly, her body still on edge since the ass crack of dawn this morning. Her head thumps back against the headboard, her back rigid, her arms folded angrily against her chest, her legs crossed at the ankles just so she can uncross them to repeat the same damn action again and she's fuming.

After the debacle from that morning, the crew ventured downstairs into the lobby of the hotel to be escorted to the meet and greet. Regina sashayed through the room effortlessly, with a practiced smile gracing her face and all the elegance of a true queen. And Emma wanted to push her down. Everyone around them acted like nothing at all happened that morning. That Regina didn't just blow her sobriety because the new girl didn't know any better and easily followed her commands. Regina was in her element, playing her roll as the superstar and not at all the still half drunk mess that she was.

Emma so wanted to trip her and watch her fall.

Because Regina Mills is a damn good actress, even Emma was taken back and started guessing her own memories, like maybe Regina doesn't have a drinking problem? Maybe she isn't half in the bag right now and only running on an hour of sleep? And all of that just squirmed its way into the back of Emma's mind and planted horrible thoughts.

If Regina is this great of an actress then maybe she played Emma like a fiddle last night. Now, Emma has no idea what's real and what's not between them. She thought Regina was this strong, independent woman who had complete and utter control in her life, but as it turns out, Cora has all the control and drives her daughter to the brink of sanity, where she needs to lose herself in a bottle of alcohol to even breathe.

Emma's jaw sets while her eyes trail back down to the sleeping beauty. Regina's back is to her, but if she just leans a little further, she can make out Regina's delicate features. Her swollen lips, free of makeup are parted, inhaling soft breaths as her long thick lashes flutter and fuck-she's adorable.

Adorable. Out of all the ways to describe Regina Mills, adorable would be the last one to ever cross Emma's mind. Sexy, of course. Gorgeous, yes. Stunning, absolutely. Smoking hot, damn straight. But, adorable?

Emma peeks over Regina's shoulder to catch a glimpse of this rare moment where the superstar is finally at ease, relaxed and at peace. And yes, she's fucking adorable. Emma rolls her eyes to herself and grunts under her breath.

It's three o'clock in the afternoon, but in this hotel room, the atmosphere says midnight. All the black out shades are drawn, the bedroom door is closed and not a spec of light is seeping through. They returned to the suite at eleven, with Regina teeter-tottering on the fine line between passing out and asking for another drink.

Since Emma was the one who started this mess, everyone agreed that she should be the one to stay with Regina and make sure there isn't another secret stash laying around. However, Regina was interested in sleeping, so Emma helped her into bed and tucked her in.

"Are you leaving now?"

"No, I told you, I'm not going anywhere."

Emma can still hear their whispers right before she climbed into bed beside Regina and the singer passed out within seconds. Her heart still aches from the insecurities curling maliciously around Regina's voice when she thought Emma was going to leave her.

Why the hell is any of this bothering her as much as it is?

Out of nowhere, the brunette's wild mane pops up from the pillow like a Jack-in-the-box, her hands stuffed under her pillow and her arms shakily supporting her upper body. Emma freezes, her head slowly turning to watch the back of Regina's head and neither one mutters a single sound. Sluggishly, Regina cranes her neck to meet Emma's blown wide eyes. Dark eyebrows furrow, disoriented, puzzled, lost in a foggy haze.

"Miss Swan," the perplexed woman croaks out through her sleepy and very hungover throat. "What the hell are you doing in my bed?"

"Oh, it's good to see you too, your majesty," Emma mocks, rolling her eyes and clenching her arms even tighter against her chest.

"I don't have time for your childish attitude-"

"And I don't have time for yours," Emma interjects because she'll be damned if this woman jumps right back into her old habits after everything that has happened in the last twenty-four hours. Regina blinks, her mind still in a haze of uncertainty. "We've been through too much last night and today, whether you remember or not, doesn't erase everything that occurred."

"What the hell are you rambling on about?" Regina grumbles, pushing herself off the bed, but pausing when a wave of nausea crashes over her.

"Hungover?" Emma muses, smirking a little too wildly for Regina's liking.

"Shut the hell up, Swan."

"You see, we are way past the part of our relationship where you are some high and mighty celebrity who gets to talk down to her staff. That all ended the moment you stuck your tongue down my throat."

Regina actually flinches from this claim, her face contorting painfully into bewilderment. Her mouth pops open to argue, most likely on reflex since she has such a smart tongue.

"What?" She breathlessly whispers, the words barely escaping her parted lips.

"Your brain might have had the chance to remember if you stopped drinking when I did. But I guess after you were so cute and tucked me into your bed and kissed me goodnight," Regina's eyes widen at this, "Yeah...you continued the party without me."

Emma leans over toward the nightstand to snatch up two bottles of tequila with blinding rage vibrating through her blood. She deposits the empty bottles of Patrón on the bed between her and Regina. She observes as Regina's eyes slowly drift down toward the evidence with fear filling those orbs like she's about to find a dead body between them. The disheveled woman winces, and the nausea is back, painted brightly across her face.

"Jesus Regina, it's no wonder you didn't die from alcohol poisoning," Emma snaps after the other woman has time to process.

"There's no way I finished off the entire second bottle by myself," she defends, but her tone is so shaky that her credibility is immediately tossed out the window...along with her sobriety.

"No, you're right, I dumped the rest down the drain." 

Regina clears her throat and straightens her shoulders. "Thank you for your concern, this will all be taken care of and I will make sure your job will not be at risk. I do hope you remember your contract at this time-"

"Oh, stop!" Emma scolds so forcefully that Regina's mouth snaps shut in an instant. "Cut the bullshit, Regina. This isn't some public apology or publicity stunt. It's just you and me. And you know I'm not saying a damn word, but I am worried about you."

"I can assure you, it's none of your concern," Regina vacantly replies as she clambers off the bed on trembling limbs threatening to buckle the moment her feet hit the floor.

"The minute you kissed me, you made it my concern," Emma rebuttals, pushing herself off the headboard and following Regina into the bathroom.

"I apologize for my poor actions while intoxicated-"

"Drop the professional act," Emma scoffs as she stomps angrily behind the swaying brunette.

Regina ignores her completely and focuses on adding toothpaste to her brush with her trembling hands. She squeezes her hands together in an attempt to calm the shakes, but it's useless, she can't stop trembling. Emma scoops up the tube without a second thought and easily adds the minty paste to the brush and shoves it in Regina's hand. The singer swallows her pride and accepts the toothbrush, but the shame is so clearly visible on her pale face.

"Look," Emma exhales slowly and decides to change her tactic, "I know you don't remember anything that happened, but a lot was said between us and I won't allow us to go back to our dynamic when we first met."

Regina brushes her teeth, absorbing Emma's sincere words and tries to focus on the calm and soothing tone effortlessly spilling from those pretty pink lips. Her stomach is flipping around in stale tequila though and she knows she's about to lose the contents in her stomach. She spits into the sink, avoiding Emma's worrisome eyes at all cost and rinses her mouth.

"I still don't understand why you are-" her words immediately evaporate in thin air, like some cruel witch just stole her voice.

Regina stumbles on her trembling limbs and falls recklessly to the floor in front of the toilet. She buries her face deep inside the porcelain, praying that the bowl will hide the shades of embarrassment coloring her cheeks. She heaves and then shudders when a warm hand is delicately placed upon her back. Chills trickle down her spine as Emma's gentle fingers sweep back her hair and then she's tossing up the old tequila as quickly as the alcohol went down.

Emma whispers nonsense that her mother always whispered whenever she was vomiting, but it just doesn't feel like these words are as helpful as they once were. She continues rubbing Regina's back soothingly, feeling the muscles contract and quiver as she empties her stomach.

"It's alright," she murmurs.

"Why are you here?" Regina chokes out before she spits out the awful taste poisoning her mouth.

"I told you-"

"You're not going anywhere," Regina snaps, "I know, but why?" She implores and Emma knows that the woman cannot wrap her head around the concept of someone actually caring for her.

"Because despite what you may think, I don't have an agenda. I know you showed me parts of you that you are terrified for anyone else to see and even though those glimpses are far and few between, I know you're a good person, Regina. I can see who you truly are and yeah, maybe you got lost along the way," she gently says, her fingers wiping away a few damp strands clinging to Regina's forehead. "We all get lost sometimes and sometimes we need help finding our way back. And I want to help you. There's no ulterior motive here, I actually like you and care about you."

Regina heaves again, releasing more bile and shaking uncontrollably. "You need to go, you can't get involved," she weakly murmurs as her head sways from side to side.

"I'm already involved."

"I can't give you anything."

"I didn't ask for anything."

"I can't be with you," Regina slumps back to her heels, dragging a washcloth along the way to wipe her mouth. "You don't fit into my life and I can't offer you-"

"Ssshhh, Regina," Emma smiles kindly and curls an untamed lock behind Regina's ear. "I'm not asking for anything from you, but respect. I'm just looking for you to be my friend and stop pushing me away, because despite what you keep telling yourself, you need a friend. A real one and I think you know you can trust me."

Regina doesn't respond, instead her watery, bloodshot eyes latch onto Emma's attentive green ones. Emma knows she's searching for any doubt or mistrust, but she genuinely cares for the woman.

"Come on, you need to shower and eat. You have an interview in two hours and then your concert after that."

~~~~~~~~

Regina is soon escorted out of the dressing room backstage to her last Vegas appearance for her fourth costume change, leaving Emma to clean up her work area with Ruby. She glances at her friend, Ruby appearing just as bubbly and ignorant as ever. She can't take it.

"How could you not have told me?" She explodes, angrily tossing some brushes into the bag.

"Ems, you know about the NDA-"

"No, stop right there. That's a bullshit excuse and you know it. We are like sisters, you should have warned me, I could have-"

"What? Stopped her?" Her friend laughs humorlessly in her face and rapidly wraps up the cord around her curling iron. For some haunting reason, Emma thinks that maybe Ruby's imagining that cord around her neck instead. "Once Regina's mind is made up, that's it, there's no turning back. She was going to drink whether you tried to stop her or not. She would have easily manipulated you into thinking she tossed the bottle away and the moment you turned your back, she would've downed it."

Emma actually winces because of one word that sticks out like a sore thumb, manipulated. She had hoped that after her talk with Regina, before the concert, that the woman was finally being real with her. But is that some kind of game? Does she usually manipulate people into believing what she wants them to believe?

"I'm just surprised she didn't get violent with you."

Hot prickly sparks swim through Emma's blood and she swallows thickly. "Violent? I mean, yeah when she had her first few drinks she was bitter and angry, but I'm pretty sure that was all because of her fight with Cora. After we talked, she was actually very...sweet."

Ruby smiles to herself as she packs away all her hair products. "Usually tequila drives her a little crazy." Emma stares intently at her friend, assessing how her demeanor changes before her very eyes. "She is actually a very sweet and loving person. She just...has her walls built up around herself for protection. She doesn't let just anyone in, but if you are one of the lucky ones that she trusts, well....she'll give up her whole world for you."

"Rubes-"

"Listen," her friend crosses the room, takes her hand and leads her to the small sofa in the corner of the room. "I didn't tell you about her drinking problem because I have earned Regina's trust over the years and it's taken me a very long time. And truthfully, I would never jeopardize the friendship I have built with her. I owe my success and everything I have to her. She takes care of me and is always there for me and I do the same whenever I can. She really only trusts me and Jefferson."

"What about Kathryn?"

"Eh, kind of. But she's not nearly as close to her as she is with us. I'm sorry, but I would never risk leaking this information. Nobody knows about her drinking problem except, me, Jefferson and Cora. I didn't think you would ever find out. She is just now sober and usually she doesn't slip up again until after her tours are over or right before one. And Regina and Cora are both damn good at covering it up. I mean you were here over a month and had no clue."

"That's what's so scary about it. She's such a talented fucking actress that nobody knows she's struggling. Fuck Rubes, don't you guys see the damage Cora causes or how Regina's drowning?"

"Like I said before, Regina will be the first to defend her mother. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped."

"No, that's bullshit. She's begging for help and everyone turning their cheek and acting like nothing is happening isn't going to fix anything."

"Oh Ems, we don't turn our cheek. We fight alongside of Regina to keep her sober every time she slips up. Where do you think Regina really is when she disappears for three month periods? Vacationing with her wicked mother?"

"Rehab?" Emma blurts out in shock.

"Well...not necessarily. Kind of..."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Emma barks out, because her entire vessel full of patience as been completely drained and she's just running on fumes now.

"Cora has a house, obviously tucked away, somewhere in Maine that nobody has any idea about. When Regina falls off the wagon, Cora locks her up in that house for three months with her personal psychiatrist until Regina is sober and stable."

"That can't be healthy," Emma grimaces at the idea of Cora locking away Regina for three whole months and throwing away the key like some damn criminal. "She needs an actual rehab facility or she'll never get better."

"No, what she really needs is to hit rock bottom and scare herself a wake up call. She needs something in her life to live for because no amount of rehab facilities are going to change her if she's not ready to change herself. And she is not ready. This career is not something to live for. She needs a purpose and meaning in her life that's personal and not for a bunch of strangers," Ruby explains like she's repeated this monologue time and time again, whether it's been to a drunk Regina or while venting to Jefferson.

"Rubes, the woman can't even date or be herself because she's in the spotlight twenty-four-seven. How the hell is she supposed to find a purpose without owning who she is?"

"I don't know," her friend sadly admits with a heavy sigh that expresses her true anguish about the situation. "But that's up to her to decide, not us."

"Yeah, well we'll see about that," Emma huffs under her breath.

"Come on, she should be almost finished," Ruby robotically states as she stands from the couch and holds her hands out for her sister.

She allows Ruby to pull her to her feet and link their arms as they stroll through the backstage area. The music pulsates through her veins and forces her heart to beat just a little faster and she knows by now that it's Regina's closing song.

They stop, just off to the left, hidden in the shadows behind the curtains. Ruby smiles with pride that Regina still rocked the show after everything that tortured her today. However, Emma's attention is drawn like a moth to a burning candle across the stage, where she discovers Cora intently scrutinizing her with Robin beside her, practically drooling as he stares shamelessly at Regina.

And her stomach bottoms out for the umpteenth time that day.

 

Chapter Text


"Miss Swan," Regina gasps as she yanks open her hotel door, her free hand anxiously fiddling with the necklace resting against her chest.

"Emma, remember we've moved passed all the formalities," she teases lightly. "Thought you could use a friend tonight after the day from Hell we suffered through."

"I don't need a babysitter, I'm not going to drink," Regina spits accusingly, her eyebrows drawn in anger, forcing that little vein to pop murderously in her forehead.

"Oh...well, then I guess I'll have to find someone else to help me polish off these bad boys," Emma fakes disappointment as she maneuvers the bottles from behind her back and frowns.

"Is...that...a root beer?"

"Two of them. I thought you could use some sugar," Emma concludes, smiling her most cheeky grin and steps passed a stunned Regina. "I also ordered us some cheeseburgers. I don't know about you, but my body is begging for some carbs and grease after that shitty hangover."

"I don't do grease...or carbs," Regina quickly adds on and softly closes the door with Emma inside.

"Well, tonight you do," she declares, shoving the cold root beer bottle into Regina's hand and then twists off her own cap. "You had a pretty shitty day and the only true cure for that is pigging out and venting about it." Emma clinks their bottles together and smiles from ear to ear. "Cheers!"

"You're an idiot," Regina exasperates, but still she's twisting off her own cap and Emma accepts that as a win. "You know that?"

"My mom says I'm eccentric."

Regina rolls those big brown eyes, but much to her own humiliation, she's actually laughing and that inspires Emma to laugh along as well. Regina nervously runs her fingers through her hair and Emma has an inkling that this gorgeous specimen isn't entirely sure how to act right now. She has drawn up her own conclusions and her answers always lead to Regina not having any true friends and spending most of her life in isolation. The celebrity is most likely only herself when she's belligerent and now she's sober and so unsure where to put her hands. Emma finds the fumbling quite endearing.

"So," Emma hops toward the California King size bed and climbs on like she's a small child. "I wasn't sure how you take your burger, so I ordered one medium and one well done. You can choose, I'm not picky." She waves her hand and happily sips her sugary beverage.

"Thank you," Regina shyly replies, staring aimlessly into her bottle and scratching her thumb against the rigid surface. "It's medium, by the way," she mutters mostly to herself, like she isn't certain if this piece of information should be exposed.

"Ah, me too, but honestly, I don't care. I'm just craving a fat juicy burger with extra grease and a thick bun." Regina smiles behind her thick tresses that have fallen to provide a barrier between her and the blonde. "Are you gonna take a seat?" Emma asks, raising both of her eyebrows curiously.

Again, woman of few words, crosses the hotel room and rigidly sits down on the edge of the bed, as if Emma is contaminated with some incurable disease. She proceeds to pick at her cold bottle, hating and loving that it's not actually alcohol, all at the same time.

"So, now that you are uncomfortable and at a safe distance, how much were you contemplating drinking before I showed up?" She boldly questions, tossing caution to the wind.

Regina's eyes coldly flick to hers with venom spewing out like laser beams, but Emma doesn't falter. "I beg your pardon?"

"Don't play coy with me. You know it crossed your mind."

"It is now."

"Because I brought it up or because of my company?"

"Your company," Regina quips without skipping a beat, but is taken back when Emma just smiles in return.

"Come on, you can be honest with me. I won't judge you, in fact, maybe it will help to talk about it instead of just pretending it didn't happen." Regina scowls, then busies herself with taking a generous sip of her root beer and then fiddles some more with the bottle. "Please, let's just try being honest here."

The anxious woman exhales slowly and rolls her eyes in defiance, yet, she still opens her mouth. "Of course, I was thinking about it."

"Good. Thank you for being honest," Emma wholeheartedly says with a gentle smile that loosens the knots in Regina's shoulders the slightest bit.

Before Regina can respond, Emma's phone is buzzing loudly in her back pocket and vibrating between her bottom and the bed. She quickly scrambles to retrieve the device and smiles from ear to ear when she reads the caller.

"It's my mom, can you hang on a sec?" Regina simply nods her agreement and watches carefully as Emma answers the call, her face glowing with excitement. "Mo-Henry?" She stammers when her son's chubby cheeks come into view.

"Hi, mommy!"

"Henry, where's grandma?" She panics just a fraction when she doesn't see her mother in sight.

"Sleeeeeeepin."

"Did you steal grandma's phone?"

"Yup! I miss you! Who dat?" He innocently questions, tilting his head to the side and scrunching up his freckled nose.

Emma peeks over her shoulder to find Regina pretending like she isn't paying any attention to the private FaceTime call. The corner of her mouth curls up before she turns her attention back to her son.

"That's my friend, Regina."

Regina offers a small, curt nod with one of her practiced smiles in return.

"Hi, 'Gina!" The little boy screams into the phone, smashing his nose and lips up against the screen, which earns him a heartfelt smile from the singer.

"Hello, Henry."

"Bud, back up. We can't see your face."

"Henry! Did you take my phone?" Mary Margret bellows from the other side of the apartment before her round face comes into view beside her grandson. "What are you doing out of bed mister? Emma? Did he call you?"

"Yeah, how the heck does he know how to FaceTime?" Emma laughs lightly, shaking her head at her son's new accomplishment.

Mary Margret scoops Henry up onto her lap and leans over his shoulder, so both of their faces are on display. Emma's smile stretches painfully into her cheeks when she notices how much their faces are identical. From the pointed chin, to the button nose and those beautiful olive green eyes.

"I've been showing him how to use the phone, in case there's an emergency. He must be paying attention when I call you," her mother states, grinning like a lunatic and smothering her son's cheek with a playful kiss which produces the most adorable baby giggles. "Who's your friend?" Mary Margret innocently asks causing Emma to roll her eyes because she knows damn well who is behind her.

"Mom, this is Regina. Regina, this is my mom, Mary Margret."

"Nice to meet you," Regina politely replies like there's a camera shoved in her face and waiting for a new song to drop.

"You as well. Thank you so much for giving my daughter this opportunity. She-"

"Mom," Emma groans, her cheeks tinging a pale shade of pink.

"Of course, Mrs. Swan," and both mother and daughter flinch at the name, but choose not to comment. "She's a hard worker and we are happy to have her join the team," Regina continues, even though she very clearly saw the grimace on both women's faces.

"Mommy, no Mickey?" Henry shrugs his little shoulders and pouts out his bottom lip.

"No, kid? Mom, I thought," Emma trails off and noticeably shifts awkwardly on the bed, because she really doesn't want Regina judging her home life, "...there's enough in the account," she mumbles, her voice cracking and selling out her anxiety about the poverty they live in.

Regina at least doesn't say a word and she actually pretends to be busy with her root beer.

"I know, but I rather put all of that into the savings. Besides, we are having so much fun between the zoo, the parks and the pool, I think he can handle the summer without television," Mary Margret defends, sweeping his chestnut strands out of his face.

"He needs a haircut, mom."

"I know. This week," she mindlessly replies.

"No Mickey Cub-housh?" Henry questions, his green eyes sparkling in pure adolescent oblivion.

"Soon, buddy," Emma smiles to distract him and luckily it does the trick. "Are you being good?"

"A-Yup! I color. I see all da animals. I shwim!" He enthusiastically lists off his recent activities, his face beaming brighter and brighter by the second.

Regina sighs happily over Emma's shoulder, encouraging her to peek and catch a glimpse of Regina's dazzling smile. They lock eyes, but only for a moment before they both feel shy and tear their eyes away back to the adorable two-year-old on the screen.

"I'm so glad you're having fun, kid."

"Actually," Regina speaks up and leans just a tad closer toward the phone. "We will be in New York by the end of next week. If feasible, I would happily send a car for you and Henry, so you two can spend the weekend with Emma at our hotel," Regina kindly offers.

"Oh my, really?" Mary Margret squeals like a teenage girl and squeezes Henry closer, eliciting those bubbly giggles all over again. "We would love to! Thank you, thank you so much."

"Of course," Regina plasters on her professional smile and nods curtly, just like her mother beat into her head.

"Great! Then I will see you two next week," Emma cheers along with her ecstatic son. "I can't wait to see you, Henry."

"I see you!"

Emma and Regina both smile like fools at the phone before they say their goodnights and hang up. Emma happily sighs, knowing it's only a few more days and she will be able to hold her baby boy again and revel in his comforting hug.

"He's a very adorable little boy," Regina compliments. "And I don't usually find children cute," she confesses through a smirk, slowly lifting the bottle to her lips and sipping so elegantly.

"Thanks, I'm bias, but yeah, he's the cutest kid out there," she replies, her eyes still glued to her phone, admiring the background photo of her and her son.

"I would have never guessed she was your mother."

Emma belts out a laugh and nods along. "Yeah, we get sisters a lot. She'll be forty later this year and she looks damn good."

"Forty," Regina balks, quickly working the math out in her head. "So...."

"Yeah, she was sixteen when she had me, that's why we are so close."

"Oh, I-" Regina is all too quickly interrupted by an obnoxious knock against her door.

"It's probably the burgers," Emma shrieks with far too much enthusiasm as she leaps from the bed and all but runs to the door. "Thanks!" There's a pause before the door swings shut and Emma is back in Regina's bedroom with a smile that could melt any frozen heart. "Burgers and curly fries," she announces and shuffles her knees back onto the bed.

"Thank you, but I really should decline," Regina respectfully says, eyeing the containers but trying to pretend that she's not at all interested.

"Regina," Emma rolls her eyes and pops the lid to the first burger labeled medium, encouraging the glorious smell of a perfectly cooked burger to float between them. "I ordered these from some famous burger joint on the other side of town and paid with my credit card, so your very intrusive mother will never ever find out," Emma declares, placing the burger down on Regina's lap and smiling smugly before she ventures on to her own meal.

Regina hesitates, her mouth betraying her and salivating like a stray dog feasting its eyes on food for the very first time. Subtly, she nibbles on her bottom lip, but Emma catches the small action and she can only imagine what haunting words are crossing her mind that her mother implanted so many years ago.

"Regina, relax. It's one time and if you feel guilty, I, myself will wake up early with you and run on the treadmills downstairs."

The conflicted woman decides against commenting any further and cautiously picks up her burger like the damn thing might attack at any moment. Emma watches through amused eyes as Regina brings the enormous cheeseburger to her mouth and takes the smallest bite imaginable.

"Besides it's healthy," she adds on, smirking as her one goal, make Regina eat a cheeseburger, is now accomplished.

"How is this healthy?"

"It has avocado," she flashes her shit-eating grin and consumes a rather large bite that's far too much for her mouth to handle.

"You really are an idiot."

Emma shrugs, not at all effected by Regina's snide comment and realizes this must mean they are growing as friends. "Maybe, but you definitely like it," she mumbles around her greasy burger and pops a long curly fry into her mouth, immediately humming at the delicious seasoning.

"One would think you were the soul being deprived from junk food."

"I enjoy food and I make sure I never take it for granted," she admits, swallowing down her bite and sipping her root beer.

Regina discreetly accepts another bite and fails miserably at masking her appreciation for the pile of meat. "May I ask why?"

Panicked green eyes flick to curious brown in an instant. Emma shifts uncomfortably again, her eyes traveling down toward her meal as she tries to decide if she truly wants to open up about her shaky start to life.

"If you," Regina starts just as Emma opens her mouth to stammer, "uhhhhhh."

"I guess you've been opening up, so maybe I should," she concedes, gently placing her half eaten burger back into its container.

"If you are uncomfortable..."

"It's just...we grew up very differently and I, well..."

"I would never judge you on your past. That's not the type of person I am. Besides, whatever life you were born into does not define the person you are today. Obviously you work hard to provide for your son."

Emma's eyes immediately gloss over and if she's being honest with herself, she's not entirely sure why she's on the brink of tears. Maybe it is because she's trying so damn hard to provide for her son? Maybe it's because deep down she wouldn't be able to do anything without her mother's support?

"I cherish my food because for a long time my mom struggled to support us and we didn't always have the best of meals."

She swallows down her embarrassment and all those times she would go to bed with her stomach growling and she pretends for a moment that Regina isn't there. Even if Regina vows that she would never judge Emma on her past, it still doesn't ease the humiliation of growing up so dirt poor when a superstar with all the money in the world is sitting right across from her.

"My mom gave birth to me when she was sixteen and my...sperm donor as I like to call him now, he was forced out of my mom's life. They were both underage and his dad sent away my biological father to some boarding school in Europe. At first, the guy-"

"You don't know his name?" Regina gently inquires.

"No, my mom never told me his name. Anyways, he wrote to my mom all the time and wanted to be involved with everything. He swore that he would come back and find us. Well, apparently his dad caught wind and sent him to an even stricter place and had him monitored. So, I couldn't really blame him and neither could my mom, but time went on and well, he's a grown ass man now and there's nobody stopping him from finding us."

Emma shrugs, because now it's just a dull pain that aches in her heart, it doesn't even hurt, it's more annoying than anything at this point.

"Well, that's true. I'm sure he could reach out if he really wanted to," Regina agrees, consuming more of her burger now that Emma's busy with her story and not focusing on her.

"Yeah. Last my mom heard, he is some big, hot-shot lawyer and his dad is some powerful judge. His dad probably still has some hold on him, but whatever. He's missing out, not me."

"Precisely. So, your mother raised you by herself?"

Regina sets her burger aside, almost completely gone and wipes her mouth clean before offering her undivided attention back toward Emma.

"Yeah. Well, so what happened was, my mom gave birth and her family didn't approve, so I guess some family member took me. My mom is very vague on the details, but from what I understand, she was underage and scared and agreed to give me up for adoption. She was kind of forced into it, but I guess she found out that they were mistreating me or something..." Emma trails off trying so hard to remember the details but her mother is always so awkward and never really divulges too much information and Emma never pushes for more. "So, I guess when I was one, she took me back because there was never any legal papers and she ran away."

"Oh...wow."

"I know. She's kind of a badass in my eyes. She was like a bandit on the run," Emma chuckles and starts to feel a little more relaxed with the topic and soon she's eating again. "So, here my mom is with a one-year-old, trying to do her homework and living in her car and this elderly lady that worked at a diner offers to help. Enter Ruby and her Granny," Emma cheekily adds on, smiling from ear to ear when mentioning the only family she has ever known.

"Right, Ruby had mentioned you were her sister," Regina adds on while she scoots further onto the bed to make herself more comfortable. Just knowing that she's starting to relax helps the tension melt away as Emma explains her upbringing.

"Yeah, her Granny took us in and helped my mom until she graduated from high school and was able to find a steady job. For a while, she worked, raised me and took night classes to better herself."

"That's really amazing. Most people wouldn't have the drive to continue in such a predicament."

"No, they wouldn't. But my mom always said she wanted me and there was nothing that could stand in her way. Now, she's a teacher and does pretty well for herself. We live together and she helps out with Henry." Emma pauses, tossing her napkin aside and sighing heavily. "She really is my best friend. I don't know what I would do without her."

"She seems wonderful, Emma, and in that sliver of a moment speaking with her, I can see how proud she is of you," Regina acknowledges and it kills Emma to see the pain in those beautiful brown eyes, because Cora will never love so openly.

"Thanks," she awkwardly says, busying herself with cleaning up the containers, so she doesn't have to face the guilt of having such a perfect mother when Regina is stuck with a devil like Cora.

Emma quickly moves around the hotel, tossing away their garbage and returning with a mysterious container. She climbs back onto the bed, her eyes dancing with glee as she shuffles on her knees closer toward Regina, resting comfortably against the headboard.

"Where did you get that?" Regina investigates, eyeing the package suspiciously as if she already knows the mental battle she will endure when coming face to face with whatever is inside.

"I ordered it with the burgers, but I dropped it off in the freezer before coming in here," Emma's mischievous grin slithers into place as she pops the lid to reveal a thick brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, decorated extravagantly with chocolate drizzle and hot fudge.

"Absolutely not," Regina shakes her head and has to physically look away in order to calm the craving deep within.

"Aww, come on, it's so good. This is what friends do. They pig out on junk and vent. It's one night," Emma pleads, her spoon already sliding into the layers for a perfect bite. "Just one bite," she urges, the spoon flying through the air toward Regina's soft lips.

The stubborn woman turns her head, her chin jutting out toward the ceiling like a small child refusing to eat their veggies. "No, means no, Miss Swan."

"Please," she implores, leaning heavily onto her left arm and inching the dessert closer to Regina's mouth.

"Clearly you were the child that never followed rules."

"You know me so well," Emma deadpans, her upper body invading Regina's personal space as she pushes even closer. "Come on, I won't tell. It will be our little secret," she whispers seductively, even though she's simply speaking about ice cream.

"We have enough secrets that I have to entrust you with," Regina vacantly replies, still refusing to even glance in Emma's direction.

And if she did, if she just cranes her neck the slightest, she would come face to face with an adorable giddy grin, shimmering green eyes, and a freckled nose that would kiss her own.

"So, what's one more. Take a bite and I won't tell Ruby you kissed me," she threatens, but her tone is so playful that she knows Regina won't take her seriously.

"Ugh," the brunette scoffs, feigning hurt as she abruptly whips her head around and sure enough, the tip of her nose brushes against Emma's.

"Hi."

"You came on to me."

Emma purses her lips in a lame attempt to keep her stupid smile at bay and Regina's eyes instantly flick down to the soft pale lips, the ones she wishes she could remember kissing.

"You have no idea who came on to whom," Emma teases, before wetting her lips, because fuck, it's hot in there...and dry, her mouth is suddenly so fucking dry.

"I may have been intoxicated, but I wouldn't have kissed you unless you were begging for it."

Emma just laughs in Regina's face, because this woman is so damn cute when she tries to act so cold and distant. "Take the damn bite, Regina."

"Absolutely not."

"Fine," Emma muses, inching away from the place that always leaves her a little dizzy and if she's not mistaken, intoxicated. "I'll just tell everyone how you tucked me into your bed that night and kissed me so sweetly before I fell asleep."

Amused green eyes flick to horrified brown while Regina's nose scrunches in disgust.

"I did no such thing."

"You're kinda the softest person I know."

"Take that back."

"Take a bite," Emma firmly rebuttals, shoving the spoon in the small space between them and to Emma's shocking surprise, Regina opens her mouth and takes the bite. She chuckles lightly and slowly slips the spoon away from those plump lips. "You're still a big softy."

"I hate you."

"Oh, I know." Emma smirks, far too proud of herself and forces the spoon into Regina's hand while she magically pulls out her own. She slices through the thick pile and moans the second the brownie tickles her tastebuds. Regina raises one eyebrow curiously and observes the blonde like she's some circus act. "What? I like sweets," Emma defends around her mouthful, which provokes the brunette into rolling her eyes.

"May I ask why your mother picked your son's name?" Regina innocently asks which stills Emma's spoon in the container along with every organ in her body.

She's not ready. She's never ready. It's been almost three years and she's nowhere near ready. The ache in her chest is still as strong and nerve-racking as it was back then and if she's honest, she doesn't think she'll ever be ready.

"Why?" Is what defensively fires from her mouth before she can muster up something more appropriate to say.

Regina takes another small bite of the dessert, her brows furrowed in confusion to Emma's tone and so clueless as to where she should proceed from here.

"Just curious, I suppose. Not many people allow their mother to name their child," she points out the obvious and eyes Emma carefully knowing all too well that she just struck some unknown nerve.

"No, no they don't," is all she has to say in response, because she really doesn't want to open up that can of worms.

"Emma, what's wrong?"

"I just don't want to talk about it," she says, closing the top to the brownie. "You done?"

"Yes," Regina cautiously replies, her eyes roaming all over Emma's rigid posture in hopes to find an answer she's not willing to share.

Emma hastily climbs off the bed and disappears into the kitchen to toss away the leftover brownie. She hates that she's wasting the scrumptious treat, but she lost her appetite just like she always does when thinking about the day Henry was born.

"So, where's your dad?" Emma immediately changes the subject when she strolls back into the bedroom.

Regina stiffens subconsciously, but then Emma is crawling into the bed and somehow all her tension just slips away. Emma shuffles toward the pillow and makes herself at home, resting her head down while peering up at Regina against the headboard. She wants Regina to relax as much as possible, so in a way, Emma's treating her like she would treat Ruby.

"Another sore subject?" Emma inquires when she realizes Regina's not responding.

"You are one to talk, Miss Swan," Regina muses, sliding down into the bed and facing Emma's delicate features.

"Maybe one day, but right now, I'm not ready."

"Does that mean Henry's father is off limits?"

Emma flinches and she knows that Regina is slowly piecing together the puzzle in her head of Emma's tragic life. She might not have all the pieces, but Emma knows she's filling in the blanks with her own theories. And a mass swells in her throat and blocks any words for formulating, so she nods slowly and focuses on Regina's full lips. She thinks about how that velvety flesh soothed every crack in her heart and for the first time, in a long time, her heart felt whole again.

"We should call it a night. We have a flight in the morning," Regina diligently concludes.

"Right." Emma sighs, lifting herself off the bed to make her way back to her own room, but then a thought occurs to her. "Are you going to be alright?"

"Are you asking if I'm going to drink the moment you're out the door?" Emma purses her lips and narrows her eyes, not bothering to supply an answer, because they both know that's what she meant. "I will be just fine." Emma stares intently, like maybe she doesn't trust the woman at all. "If you would like to stay, just ask," Regina muses, her eyes lighting up as she lightly teases her makeup artist.

"I would like to know you're okay."

"Well, I'm going to bed, stay or not, it really doesn't concern me," Regina flatly says as she slides off her bed and disappears into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

Emma nibbles on her lip, so unsure what the appropriate thing to do would be at a moment like this. Regina doesn't seem like she wants to drink, but then again Ruby's words are whispering in her mind about Regina manipulating her to believe she won't drink and then she will the moment she has her back turned.

She groans inwardly, popping the button to her jeans and shimmying right out of them. She tears away her t-shirt, leaving just her cami on and climbs back into bed. She turns off the lamp on her side and snuggles under the covers.

When Regina makes her debut, the shock that strikes her face is comical and somewhat adorable. There's that damn word again that shouldn't fit so well with the bitchy Regina Mills, yet it does.

Regina smirks and carefully slides into the bed beside Emma. She turns off her light as well and squirms beneath the covers.

"You stayed."

"When are you gonna trust that I'm not going anywhere?"

A small, shy smile graces Regina's face as her eyes flutter closed and Emma watches as the peace and serenity relaxes the woman's face. She smiles to herself, watching over Regina as she falls asleep and she vows to always protect this beautiful, broken, creature.

 

Chapter Text



"Emma."

She groans, because her eyelids are too heavy and the idea of waking up is just plain stupid at this point. Why can't she seem to find a decent night sleep during this tour?

"Miss Swan."

"It is way too early to deal with your snobby attitude right now," Emma mumbles and buries her face deeper into the fluffy pillow that smells of beaches and clouds. Yes, clouds.

"Snobby?" Regina defensively reiterates. "Well, fine. I will take my snobby coffee and leave you to fend for yourself."

"Coffee?" She pries one eye open to find the most immaculate and put together Regina imaginable. "I'm up," she grumbles, sliding up in bed and wiping away the sleep and blurry haze surrounding her.

Regina is perched beside her at the edge of the bed, fashionable in a tailored white pantsuit that has Emma questioning her sexuality all over again. She swallows as Regina places a hot cup of coffee from Starbucks into her hand and quickly averts her eyes. As if she was the one gawking when they both know it was Emma.

"Is it time for our flight?" Emma asks into her cup as she blows away the steam.

"Change of plans."

"Can you do that?"

"My mother can, she is my manager."

"Cora, right," she deadpans, rolling her eyes and slowly sipping her scalding hot beverage that she imagines tossing into Cora's wicked face and burning away her cruel scowl.

"There's a charity event in Dallas tomorrow evening. So, we will drive to Dallas and I will be the surprise guest and then we will leave right after and drive to New York."

Emma blinks, her sleepy mind still trying to follow Regina's rushed words. "Will we make it to New York in time for your concert?"

"Of course. It's only a two day drive. We will be there before you know it." Emma nods along numbly because her brain is still half asleep. "You should probably jump in the shower, we need to be on my bus in thirty minutes," Regina states, her eyes staring at the watch on her wrist.

Emma hums as she swallows the hot coffee, appreciating the way the liquid runs through her tired veins and warms her body back to life. She feels a heavy weight boring into her, persuading her sleepy eyes to flick toward Regina. The woman is pretending to be reading her watch, but it's so obvious that her true attention is on Emma.

"Is this coffee a peace offering? You're finally accepting that we can be friends?" Emma blurts out because she needs something to break apart the intense gaze raining down upon her.

"If you would like to view it that way, then I suppose."

Emma's face morphs into disbelief as her lips purse and brows furrow. "I meant what I said, you can trust me, but I do ask for respect. No more talking down to me like I'm not worth your time."

"I can't promise anything," Regina instantly replies, but Emma smirks because she can see the playful glint twinkling in those brown orbs as Regina suppresses her own grin.

"Right." Emma sips her coffee and runs her fingers through her straggly hair.

"I would like to say, that I apologize for my behavior-"

"Regina," she exasperates, because she doesn't want another political apology.

"Wait, just hear me out please," Regina softly whispers and the sincerity in her tone, snaps Emma's mouth shut. "From one friend to another, it's only fair that I say sorry for how I acted when I was intoxicated. I didn't mean to cause a mess and I certainly didn't want to drag you in, nonetheless."

"I accept your apology," Emma says, sipping her coffee once again since she just wants to move passed all of this.

"One more thing," she nervously adds on, her worrisome eyes avoiding Emma's altogether. "Kissing you was out of line and even out of character for me. It was inappropriate and I should have never put you in a predicament like that."

"Regina, I'm a big girl-"

"No, it was wrong and very unprofessional on my part. I know better, you're my makeup artist and I should have never put you in such an uncomfortable situation."

"It was anything but uncomfortable," Emma vocalizes, exhaling loudly through her nose and scooting just a tad closer toward the woman, who is so very clearly torn up about the kiss. "Look Regina, there's no need to apologize. I kissed you back, so I'm just as guilty as you are."

Very carefully, Emma places her hand upon Regina's tense knee and delicately runs her thumb over the crisp, white pants. Regina's eyes latch onto Emma's with a fierce vulnerability that rattles the blonde's beating heart.

"You're straight."

"I'm starting to think that not everything is so black and white."

"Emma, we could never be more than anything but friends. I need you to know that," Regina implores, her body stiffening from the idea alone.

"I'm not asking-"

"No, you need to know that. You have a son that you want to protect and you should, but you both don't fit into my lifestyle."

"Regina, we are friends," Emma says with conviction, even though her heart is banging it's defiance in her chest.

~~~~~~~

"Gin," Ruby happily cheers as she lays down her final card and quickly moves toward the bowl of popcorn beside her.

"Again? I'm so done playing with you," Jefferson bitterly claims, tossing down his cards. He glances across the table, cringing as Kathryn's nails clatter obsessively against her laptop.

"I cannot believe Cora squeezed in this show," the blonde huffs, her fingers dancing across the keys without a moment of hesitation.

"Why does it matter?" Ruby investigates around a mouthful of popcorn.

"Sometimes you are so naïve," Kathryn grumbles under her breath, her fingers never desisting. "I hardly have any time to shine light on this new event. This is great for Regina's image, but I don't have the time to flaunt it."

"Do what you can," Jefferson flippantly answers, stuffing a handful of popcorn into his mouth just as the bus swerves, causing his snack to tumble everywhere but in his mouth. "Dammit."

That's when soft laughs travel from the back of the bus and encourage Kathryn's fingers to finally stop her brutal attack against the keyboard, while Ruby and Jefferson share a shocked gaze.

"Was that Regina laughing?" Ruby whispers to Jefferson knowing he's the only person who has ever heard the woman's true laugh.

A too proud grin tugs at the corner of his mouth, his face lighting up with pure joy. "Yes and Emma's..." he trails off suspiciously, allowing the other two women to draw up their own conclusions.

"I thought Emma was sleeping," Ruby skeptically adds on.

"Regina never laughs," Kathryn boldly acknowledges, her eyes skipping back and forth between her two co-workers for more information.

"Regina never knew Emma," Ruby boldly quips, her own smug smirk gracing her face as all three of them imagine what could possibly be occurring at the back of the tour bus.

~~~~~~

"It's not funny."

"You laughed," Regina defends, holding back another spill of laughter as her eyes take in the very wet Emma standing awkwardly near her doorway.

"I hate you."

"Feeling's mutual," Regina snickers, placing her guitar gently down on her bed and then climbing off the mattress.

No more than one minute ago, Emma stumbled into Regina's doorway when her peaceful sleep was disrupted by the strumming of an acoustic guitar. She was lazily slumped against the doorway, her pajama bottoms disheveled and hanging off her hip while her plain white tank top was twisted. She was just about to ask what Regina was working on, after she sipped her water, but then the tour bus swerved recklessly and doused Emma's chin, chest and tank top with her water. Which somehow made both women smile and laugh at the unfortunate event the moment they locked eyes.

"Here." Regina offers Emma a towel, her eyes curiously drifting lower to where the see-through shirt is exposing Emma's decision not to wear a bra this evening.

"I don't think this will soak up all the water," Emma mindlessly retorts as she wipes her chin and bare chest just above the soaked material.

"Probably not," Regina replies, tearing her eyes away from Emma's very chilly chest and moving back to her bed, where she was working before she was so rudely interrupted.

Emma rushes back the three steps to her bunk and rifles through her messy duffel bag to find another tank top. Out of her peripheral, she spots Ruby, Jefferson, and Kathryn all watching her skeptically with amused smirks gracing their stupid smug faces. She groans and quickly pulls out an old band t-shirt before rushing back into Regina's room for a little more privacy to change her sopping wet shirt.

She finds Regina sitting crisscross on her bed, her pencil jammed between her perfectly white teeth and completely oblivious to her presence.

"Uh, everyone's awake out there, can I change in here real quick?" Emma tentatively asks, not wanting to break the singer's concentration.

"By all means," Regina vacantly says around her pencil, her eyes glued to the papers spewed all over her bed.

Emma quickly turns around, displaying her back to the gorgeous brunette she is crushing on as she hastily tears away the top clinging to her slick skin. A soft strum of the guitar vibrates through the room, momentarily immobilizing her task at hand and leaving her very naked. Her heart thumps a little harder as the sweet acoustics fill the evening air.

"Scattered freckles down her back,
laid out like a map,
to help me find my way home on this broken track..."

Regina softly sings in what barely qualifies as a whisper, provoking Emma's heart to pound anxiously while all her blood rushes to her ears. She hastily tugs on her ratty old tee and abruptly spins around with flushed cheeks and wide eyes.

"Did you just..."

Regina's eyes are glued to her music sheets, her hand furiously scribbling while the gentle reverberations still echo off the guitar fitting so snuggly in her lap. Regina ignores her, which only inspires the heat to multiply in Emma's cheeks because never has she ever felt this self-conscious before. She's so unsure if that small verse was created because of her naked back or if it's something Regina's had down for weeks now.

"Are you done changing? I need to focus," Regina dismissively says, her hand furiously scratching the pencil across the paper while a few of her dark tresses slowly fall to her face, effectively blocking Emma's view.

"Yeah, uh...sorry...I interrupted," she stammers, tugging her wild hair out from her shirt.

"It's quite alright, but I have a deadline and I'm struggling right now."

Emma swallows back every insecure sensation crawling up her throat and slowly backs out of the bedroom. She cannot seem to produce words, even if her mind could scramble something together, she's sure her mouth wouldn't cooperate. So, she softly closes the door, allowing Regina some privacy and her own chance to breathe normal again.

She exhales slowly, her eyes fluttering closed as the angelic verse replays in her mind from moments ago. She's never been more convinced of her own theories, but she's positive Regina just produced those lyrics from thin air from just a glance at her back. Her heart thumps nervously again while her cheeks burn with a fiery passion, but she'll never know the truth. She could never find the courage to ask and she knows Regina would never spill her own secrets without some coaxing.

"Ems, you okay?" Ruby shouts through the bus, snapping her back to reality.

"Yeah, of course. Just tired," she routinely responds, because that's a safe answer and she honestly has been so tired as of lately. "Goodnight guys," she announces again, much like she did over an hour ago and climbs back into her bunk.

She buries her face in the pillow and falls asleep to the sweet sounds of Regina's guitar once again. Not at all wishing that the words swimming through the air and settling in her ears are about her.

~~~~~~~~~

The charity event in Dallas came and went in a blink of an eye and before Emma knew it, she was on her way to see her family. She missed the comfort of resting her head on her mother's inviting shoulder and she especially missed the way her baby boy would curl up on her chest and instantly fall asleep to the sound of her beating heart.

"Ten miles," Kathryn dutifully informs the bus as her finger scrolls on her mouse and her eyes continue reading whatever she is so heavily involved in.

"New York is always a large production for Regina," Ruby explains as she strategically moves her Backgammon piece. "But we are here for the entire weekend, I'm sure you'll find time for Henry."

Emma sighs, cuddling her face further into her sweatshirt against the window as she swoops up the dice and rolls her turn. "I hope so. It's Fourth of July weekend and my neighborhood blocks off the streets for a taste fest. There are so many good food trucks and games for the kids," she sighs again, lazily moving her piece along the board, "I just really want to take Henry this year."

"I'm sure you'll have a chance. Saturday, her concert doesn't even start until eight. You could get to the fest around eleven and that should give you guys plenty of time before you are due back at the hotel."

"I know. I just want to spend every minute with him while I can."

"Don't you worry-"

Ruby's words are instantly cut off by an angry chord being attacked and echoing bitterly through the bus. Emma's eyes blow wide as she meets Ruby's concerned gaze. They exchange a look, one that expresses how much they fear for Regina's sobriety at this point, because she's been struggling with this new album that she's just supposed to magically produce from thin air in such a short period of time. Every night Regina locks herself in her room and pours every last bit of energy she may have after a concert into creating a new hit album. Everyone knows she is struggling and growing impatient with herself and it's only a matter of time before she turns to a bottle for answers.

Jefferson exhales slowly and mentally prepares himself as he lifts his bottom off the couch and treks toward the back of the bus. Lightly, his knuckles tap against Regina's door, hesitant and not really wanting to bother the angry woman trapped inside.

"Baby girl?"

"I'm fine," Regina's short and clip tone growls through the door.

"We are almost at the hotel, come take a breather," her cousin tries to persuade her, leaning his temple against the door with a sorrowful frown tormenting his lips.

"I don't have time," and with that Regina's fingers begin again, playing the same damn chords that have been on repeat for over a week straight.

Jefferson reluctantly pushes himself off the door, sighing heavily as his feet trudge back to the couch and he tumbles into the black leather recklessly. He curls his long limbs all around Ruby from behind and buries his face into her raven tresses.

"I know," she sympathetically concedes, patting his knee and allowing her body to be the comfort he seeks. "She'll be okay. We will get through this one."

"Fucking Cora," he grumbles into her long strands, producing a frown to embed deep in Emma's cheeks.

And she gets it, it always comes back to fucking Cora torturing a beautiful soul.

~~~~~~~

Emma bounces anxiously between her feet, she's so antsy that she couldn't even wait in her hotel room, let alone the lobby. She's standing just outside the hotel doors, her eyes speeding across the busy streets of New York just waiting for Guy to pull up with her most sacred gifts.

A black car slowly turns the corner and provokes her heart to leap into her throat. She squeezes her fists together as the black tinted windows come into view and she knows exactly who is sitting in that backseat. Green eyes flick to the driver to confirm that it is in fact Guy and she practically squeals when she spots the man. Slowly, he pulls in front of the hotel and places the car in park before he climbs out.

"Ms. Swan," he cordially greets her with a faint smirk that expresses how much he genuinely cares for her.

"Hey, Guy! Got something for me back there?"

His smile widens as he reaches for the door in the backseat and Emma runs to his side. The moment she leans down, her son shrieks with unfiltered excitement.

"Hey, kiddo!" She enthuses, leaning into the car to unstrap him from his car seat. "Did you put this in here?" She questions over her shoulder as her fingers work to free her son.

"Yes, per Miss Mills' request," he diligently responds, nodding his head politely just as he always does.

"Thank you so much," Emma happily says as she releases her son and tugs him against her chest.

"Mommy!"

"Hi, baby," she mumbles into a kiss she smothers against his chubby cheek she missed so very much. "Ugh, I missed you," she whimpers, her eyes already glossing over from the emotions swelling up to the surface as she breathes in his calming baby scent.

"Miss you," he repeats, wrapping his arms around her neck and squeezing with all his baby might.

"Emma! Honey, you look good," Mary Margaret gushes, walking behind the car to envelop her daughter into one of her overbearing hugs.

"Thanks, mom. I missed you too," she whispers, allowing her mother to hold her tight while she clings to her son. "Come on, let's get inside."

Guy helps Mary Margaret carry the two duffel bags inside, surprising the woman because just like her daughter, she's not accustomed to people waiting on her. As they ride the elevator up, Emma whispers into her mother's ear that she's still not used to people helping her out and they both share a knowing smile.

Once inside their hotel room, Emma gives a small tour and laughs at her mother's shock to the oversized room with two queen beds and a bathroom that she would love to live in because of the enormous jacuzzi. The suite is definitely larger than what Emma is used to, but Regina sprung for a bigger room knowing her family was staying for the weekend. Just like Ruby says, if Regina cares for you, she will make sure you are taken care of.

"Mommy, I shwim?" Henry curiously inquires, peeking over the lip of the spacious jacuzzi, inspiring Emma and her mother to laugh.

"Yeah, bud. You can swim in there and I can put lots and lots of bubbles in there for you too."

"Yay!"

"Hey Henry, how about we stop by Regina's room and say thank you for this nice room?" Emma suggests, scooping her son into her arms and pressing another lingering kiss against his temple because she cannot seem to get enough of him. "Do you remember Regina? When you called me?"

"Yeah, Gina." He nods enthusiastically and wraps his arms and legs around her like a baby koala.

"Oh good, I would love to thank her as well. Especially for sending the car," her mother adds on, quickly following Emma out the door. "Which level is she on?"

"Oh no, Regina usually stays with all of us on the same floor."

Emma proceeds a few more doors down before she stops, where an upbeat tune is streaming through the walls. She smirks and knocks hard to grasp the singer's attention.

The sound of Regina's hand slamming against the strings immediately cuts off her song. Emma knocks again just to make sure Regina did hear her and she doesn't have to wait long before the door is swinging wide open.

Emma's lips move to their own accord, creating the sappiest grin as she takes in Regina's appearance. Her hair, for once, is piled high into a messy bun on top of her head, loose strands tumbling all around her face. She still has her pencil wedged between her pearly whites and she looks utterly disheveled. And never has Emma ever found this woman more attractive.

"Emma," Regina mumbles around her pencil before she rolls her eyes at herself and yanks the pencil out of her mouth. She clears her throat and self-consciously attempts to run her fingers through her wild hair before she realizes it's tied back. "Miss Swan."

"Oh stop," Emma laughs, her eyes sparkling with far too much amusement for Regina's liking. "It's just my mom and kid."

Regina's eyes flick toward Henry whose cheek is firmly pressed up against his mother's and it seems that the singer is just now noticing the two-year-old's presence.

"Say hi," Emma encourages softly into Henry's ear.

"Hi, Gina," the little boy murmurs under his breath, obviously nervous about meeting someone new and clings to his mother even more.

A small smile plays at Regina's lips, but she holds back her true expression. "Hello, Henry."

Mary Margaret juts out her hand and beams with a smile that threatens to blind the singer. "So lovely to finally meet you. Thank you so much for your generosity. We really appreciate the ride here and the extravagant room," she lists all at once without ever taking a breath or releasing Regina's hand.

"Mom, let go," Emma hisses under her breath as her cheeks flare up from embarrassment.

"Sorry." Her mother quickly retracts her hand and smiles sheepishly at the superstar.

"It's quite alright. I'm so glad Emma has a chance to spend time with you two," Regina kindly states with that political smile set in place and for some reason, Emma's mind dreams about slamming her lips up against that mouth to wipe away the fake smile.

"I still appreciate it," Emma shyly adds on, subconsciously squeezing her son tighter as all her anxious nerves crawl beneath her skin.

"You're welcome."

They fall painfully silent. Mary Margret still beaming like a lunatic at Regina, while the singer studies the adorable little boy, and Emma has her eyes glued to the woman who finally looks like herself. Emma is the first to clear her throat though and attempt to push through the awkward tension.

"Do you want to come by my room and hang out for a little bit?"

Regina blinks, curious brown eyes darting toward honest green. The singer furrows her eyebrows as if she doesn't truly comprehend what Emma is asking. Her face very easily reads bewilderment and it takes everything in Emma to keep her snickering under control.

"I-I'm sorry. I have a free night and I really need to work on..."

"Right," Emma nods curtly, understanding Regina's hesitation and forces a smile to ease Regina's worry. "Well, maybe tomorrow we will stop by and say hi."

"Of course," Regina bows her head and steps back, ready to leave the conversation. "Have a nice evening."

"You too," Emma and her mother exclaim in unison before Regina softly closes the door.

"How about we grab Ruby and head downstairs for some ice cream?"

"Sounds wonderful," her mother agrees, following her lead back down the hall. "Is she always..." Emma snaps her head toward her mother, just waiting for a comment to be said. "....uncomfortable? Is she that way with her fans? I heard she is so genuinely sweet with all the young girls."

"Oh, she is. We caught her off guard and she didn't have time to plaster on her Regina Mills persona. She's still very kind, she just...likes to keep a safe distance from people. I'm sure you can understand why."

"I see Gina, 'morrow?" Henry innocently asks, lifting his head up from his mother's embrace, so he can read into her eyes.

"I'm sure you will, kid." Emma gently rubs her nose against Henry's, producing her favorite baby giggles before she stretches her lips and pecks his nose. "Alright, let's get Ruby."

She knocks lightly on her friend's door and it's only a matter of seconds before the hotel door is being yanked open with an obscene amount of enthusiasm.

"Snow!" Ruby shrieks and lunges with full force toward Mary Margret, wrapping the smaller woman up into an impossibly tight hug.

"Ruby," the older woman sighs and catches the woman just like she always did so many years ago. "I can't believe after all these years you still insist on that silly nickname."

"You still resemble Snow White in my eyes," Ruby chuckles, slowly moving back from the older woman's comforting embrace.

"Still as sweet as ever. How are you, honey?"

"Good, thanks!" Ruby beams before slowly turning her attention to the little boy burying his face in Emma's neck. "And you must be Henry?" She softly inquires, so she doesn't scare off the toddler.

"Hi," he shyly murmurs before hiding away in the crook of Emma's neck once more.

"He's adorable, Em. He looks just like you."

Emma swallows hard because even though there are some similarities between her and her son, she still sees his father every time she looks at him.

"Thanks," she awkwardly murmurs and clings to her baby boy to relieve some of the tension building. "So, ice cream?"

"Absolutely."

 

Chapter Text


"Please just come, I swear nobody will recognize you in my shitty neighborhood," Emma pleads for the umpteenth time this morning.

"Just because your neighborhood is 'shitty' doesn't mean that people won't recognize me. No, Swan, absolutely not," Regina firmly rebuttals, ready to slam the door in the blonde's face for annoying her yet again.

"Peas, Gina! Come wiff!" Henry pleads, his big green eyes glistening while his long lashes blink slowly to help lay on the guilt trip nice and thick.

"This is a new low, Swan," Regina growls as her eyes drift toward the small pout that is identical to his mother's.

"I know, but it's working," Emma confidently claims with her most cheeky smile and that too cute dimple deepening in her cheek. "Come on, I have an idea. Just come to my room with me."

"That's never a comment I tend to obey."

"Well, you should reconsider, I'm very hospitable," Emma fires back, inspiring Regina to roll her eyes.

"Come on, Gina!"

"Yeah, Gina, come on!" Emma playfully mimics her son in her most adequate baby voice.

"I can't risk-"

"You won't get caught, I swear. Besides, nobody would ever think that you would be out in a scummy town of New York with a two-year-old. Nobody will notice," Emma implores again, trying her best to coax the singer into finally going out in public and having some fun at her block's, Taste of the Town.

"If I am spotted-"

"You won't be, now come on," Emma urges, curling her fingers around Regina's dainty wrist and tugging her away from her hotel's threshold.

The short distance between Regina's room to Emma's, the singer spends the entire time humming and grumbling her distaste under her breath. When Emma opens her door, Mary Margaret is sitting at the edge of the bed with a too proud smile, a brush and two hair ties.

"Oh good, you came," the older woman sighs in relief and pats the spot in front of her. "I'm going to French braid your hair into two braids."

"Absolutely not," Regina abruptly spins on her heels and collides into Emma's strong frame.

"Oh yes," Emma demands with authority, gripping Regina's bicep tightly and forcing her back into the room. "You always wear your hair down, that's how everyone recognizes you. Nobody would ever suspect you in two French braids," she explains, shoving the singer in between Mary Margaret's legs.

"Emma-"

"Shush," Emma smirks and rummages through the bag she asked her mother to bring with. "Now, you're going to wear my old soccer jersey," she pulls out the blue and white jersey and flashes the back off with a large number eight on it. "It says Swan, so that will throw people off if they start growing suspicious." She continues ransacking the bag and pulls out more items. "You'll wear this baseball cap and these dark sunglasses that will take up half of your face and you'll be good to go."

"Emma, that hat looks like it was run over by a tractor," Regina scowls.

"Good," she happily replies with a cocky smirk gracing her face. "I'll wear a baseball cap too and sunglasses. I promise nobody will ever know."

Mary Margaret gently slides her fingers through Regina's hair and immediately the singer feels her heart twist in response. Of course, she is accustomed to Ruby styling her hair every day, but there's just something about the delicate strokes of the brush and gentle fingers of Mary Margaret that plays with Regina's heartstrings. She can feel the woman's motherly love and affection and it's something she always craved from Cora. She doesn't even know this woman and yet, she still feels the compassion and love she possesses and Regina just wishes her mother could sprout a fraction of passion this woman contains.

"You have really lovely hair, so thick and soft. What do you use?" Mary Margaret mindlessly inquires as her hands work their magic.

Regina swallows thickly from the emotions crawling their way to the surface and forces something to come out of her mouth. "It's a special conditioner," is all that she can choke out at this point.

The older woman hums in response, her fingertips gently gliding through those inky tresses. "When was the last time you went out without an entourage or bodyguards?"

"I-I don't remember," she murmurs, ashamed from the honesty in her reply and provoking her muscles to stiffen and her eyes to gloss over.

"Well, don't you worry about a thing," Mary Margret urges and even though Regina cannot see the woman's face, she knows she's smiling down upon her. "You have fun. Really enjoy yourself. If there's one thing I know about my daughter, it's her protective nature. She will make sure your identity is hidden. I promise," she earnestly whispers just over the shell of Regina's ear.

Her bottom lip trembles for a split second before she forces the unexpected emotions back down. She closes her eyes and pretends not to think about how cruel her mother actually is and instead she allows the Swans to take care of her.

~~~~~~

"I thought you said this was a carnival?" Regina skeptically questions as she follows Emma's lead through the streets flooded with far too many people.

She subconsciously wiggles her baseball cap lower and pushes the sunglasses further up the bridge of her nose. Her eyes are frantically shifting all around behind her black shades, terrified someone might spot her, but everyone seems too invested in their own groups to be paying any attention to her.

"No, it's called, Taste of the Town. Different restaurants and food trucks line up and it's always the best of the best."

"So, you forced me to come to a place where you knew I wouldn't be able to eat half of this stuff?" The singer deadpans, feeling more agitated with her employee by the minute as this horrible day progresses.

"Oh, you're gonna eat. And you're gonna love it," Emma chuckles, hiking Henry higher up on her hip.

"Mommy, corn!" Henry shrieks, his pudgy finger pointing out the food truck with fresh corn on the cob dangling from the front.

"He enjoys corn?" Regina asks, a little baffled by the young boy's enthusiasm for the vegetable.

"Loves it. I have to cut him off sometimes," she laughs and ruffles his shaggy hair that her mom has still yet to cut.

Emma weaves through the crowd while Regina tags along, desperately trying to keep her head low and hide her too popular of a face. They step in line behind an older couple, fighting over the toppings because apparently his cholesterol doesn't need the salt. Emma smiles to herself, but then that grin is slowly slipping away as she notices Regina's constant fidgeting.

"Relax," she whispers, leaning into the woman's personal space and immediately regretting it because she smells so sweet and she just wants to bask in her delicate aroma. She swallows hard and tries to find a distraction for Regina's sake. "Here," she mutters, leaning Henry closer toward the anxious woman.

"What?" Regina snaps all too quickly and gapes at the two-year-old like she was just asked to change her very first diaper.

"Hold him," Emma urges, drifting Henry closer. And much to her surprise, he holds out his little arms for Regina to accept him.

The brunette blinks behind her glasses, debating with herself on what she should do, but then Henry is smiling from ear to ear and appearing so innocent and small and she finds herself accepting him right away.

"Hi, Gina!"

"Hello," she softly replies and sends a silent thank you that this little human cannot properly recite her name.

Then, all too quickly, this beautiful little boy is molding perfectly into her side and resting his head against her shoulder and she just melts. The bitter ice surrounding her frozen heart slowly cracks and soon she can feel the liquid dripping and thawing out the organ.

"Two corn on the cobs, with everything," Emma orders which prompts Regina to attempt reaching into her back pocket for money. "Stop, I got it. Just don't drop my son," Emma lightly teases, her hand soothingly rubbing up and down Henry's little back.

"I won't," Regina rushes out far too seriously which inspires Emma to laugh at the tense woman.

"I know, I'm just teasing."

Emma hands over her crumbled up twenty, collects her change and eagerly reaches for the fresh corn doused in thick butter and sprinkles of salt. She nods her head in the direction she desires and peeks over her shoulder to observe how close Regina is holding her son. The woman is absolutely petrified of dropping or losing the toddler and Emma can't help the smile that slips into place by the view.

"Let's sit under this tree, it has a nice shade," Emma recommends as she crosses her ankles and falls to her bottom.

Regina gently sits down beside her and the moment she's in the grass, Henry crawls into his mother's lap and hastily snatches up a corn. Emma swivels her baseball cap backwards and places a tender kiss to her son's temple.

"I figured we would share this one," Emma takes a big bite and smiles around the juicy corn spraying her tastebuds.

"I'm fine," Regina politely declines, but Emma is already shoving the corn into her hand.

"Don't be ridiculous. It's healthy and you have to try everything here."

"It's far from healthy with the amount of butter and salt threatening my life."

Emma just laughs and shakes her head while she helps her son hold the long cob between his little hands. "Kid, take a breath," she laughs as his teeth sink into the bright yellow pieces, over and over again.

"I see he takes after you," Regina muses, her eyes dancing with playful banter, encouraging Emma to lightly shove her shoulder.

"Hey, I get most of the food in my mouth," she teases right back, wiping Henry's messy face caked with butter and corn.

Regina hums, her nerves finally releasing some of the tension as she nibbles another small, delicious bite. Henry grins wildly at her, but then he coughs, forcing Regina to leap forward in fear that he is choking on a kernel.

"Oh my-"

"He's fine," Emma assures her, sliding off her backpack to pull out Henry's bottle of water. "Here bud, take a sip," she tenderly says, peeling away the corn from his mouth and replacing it with his water.

"How could you possibly know that he wasn't choking?"

"I don't know," Emma mumbles and shrugs, busying herself with sweeping away those thick chestnut strands dangling across his forehead. "I guess after time I just learned all his little noises." She squeezes her son close to her chest and sighs in relief that he's finally in her arms again.

"Here, mommy," Henry says, handing over his water and reaching for the corn once again.

"Can mommy have a bite? It seems Gina is hogging all my corn," she teases, green eyes sparkling with mischief as she peers up at Regina over Henry's head.

"I am not," Regina hastily defends and shoves the corn right back into Emma's hand, producing a bubbly laugh from the blonde.

Emma happily accepts the corn and dives right back in. "Okay, so there's a truck, Cheesy Cheese or something...I don't really remember, but I do know, it has the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever."

"That sounds greasy."

"Exactly." She wiggles her eyebrows playfully and holds the corn out for Regina to take a bite.

Skeptical brown eyes drift down toward the corn just lingering near her lipstick free lips, taunting her, just begging to be consumed. Slowly, she leans forward and nibbles the smallest bite, all while Emma's shimmering eyes shine back at her with nothing but adoration.

"Henry, do you like grilled cheese?" Regina asks while she wipes her mouth clean.

"Yesh. Yesh. Mommy, we get grilled cheese?" Henry cranes his neck, placing his tiny hand against her cheek and forcing her attention back to him.

"Yeah buddy, we can get one," she promises and kisses his palm while her eyes crawl toward the brunette watching her in awe. "What do you say, Gina? You want to split a grilled cheese with us?"

Henry leaps from his mother's lap as though someone just pumped his veins full of sugar and set him free. "Yeah, Gina! You come wiff?"

"Of course, little man," Regina agrees through a laugh as the little boy jumps up and down with glee.

"Alright," Emma chuckles and stands, wiping away the grass sticking to her jean shorts and Regina follows suit. "Henry, up. I need to hold you, it's too busy here."

"Gina, hold me?" He curiously questions with his little head cocking to the side as he stares between both women.

"Sure, I think I can handle that," Regina says wholeheartedly and swoops down to lift the boy gingerly. Carefully, she rests him upon her hip and when her eyes trail back to her friend, she finds Emma studying her with a stupid grin plastered across her face. "What?"

"Nothing." Emma shrugs noncommittally and steps passed Regina with her fingers moving to sweep down her son's back. "This way."

"So..." Regina drags out the small word as she holds the toddler as close as humanly possible. "Are you in school, Henry?"

Emma chuckles mostly to herself at the idea of Regina hopelessly seeking a conversation with a two-year-old.

"Nope!" Henry shakes his head vigorously.

"He turns three in October, so he will start preschool next fall. During the day I stay home with him and when my mom comes home from work, she watches him while I go to work for the evening," Emma explains, sliding through the sweaty bodies molding together from shoulder to shoulder through the crowd.

"I see."

"Boo-boo?" Henry tenderly questions as his index finger reaches out to graze the scar embedded into Regina's lip, provoking her to dodge the unwanted touch.

Emma peeks over her shoulder, slightly panicking because, of course, her curious son has to touch the one spot on Regina that causes her to cower and shrink back. However, Regina gently grasps onto his little finger and carefully lowers the inquisitive digit.

"It was a boo-boo," she whispers for just Henry, but Emma hears the admission. "But that was a very long time ago and I'm all better now."

Henry seems to accept the answer because his face is cracking into a wild grin as his grip tightens around Regina's neck. "I glad you better, Gina."

"Well, thank you," she murmurs and actually hugs him back without any uncertainty.

Emma cannot remove the stupid grin slapped across her face, so she ducks her head down and attempts to regain her composure as they fall into line. While they wait for their turn, Emma tries to explain to her heart that she isn't attracted to this beautiful superstar. She lies to herself and says she would feel compassion for anyone that held her son so close and spoke to him with great interest and adoration. Yet, her heart is beating faster, her cheeks seem to constantly be erupting with heat and her lips are tingling to brush up against Regina's once again.

"We could never be more than anything but friends. I need you to know that."

Regina's words unexpectedly barge their way through her thoughts and squash any lingering daydreams she may have had about the celebrity. And she tries so desperately to not allow those words to put a damper on her mood.

~~~~~~~

Emma wipes away the sweat from her forehead and places her baseball hat on backwards once again. She lifts Henry onto the ledge of the game as he squeals from the anticipation of what's to come.

"Grab three ducks, guarantee a winner every time," the man says behind the counter, appearing bored as ever.

"Okay Henry, pick any duck you want," Regina whispers, encouraging the toddler to reach into the cool water and pick a yellow duck.

"Yellow duckie!" He exclaims, ripping the toy from the moving pond and splashing Emma and Regina in the process.

"Good job, bud." Emma takes the rubber duck and peeks under the bottom to find the letter S, written in chicken scratch. "Okay, one small prize. Go ahead and pick another."

Henry hums, tapping his finger against his chin as he thinks about his strategical next move, which inspires Emma and Regina to snicker at his cuteness. "Da gween one!" He lunges forward and snatches up the bright green duck and quickly hands it to his mother so she can read the bottom.

"Another small. You get one more."

"Blue!" He shouts, claiming his duck and flipping it over immediately to see what's at the bottom.

"Alright three small," the man lazily replies. "You can either get three smalls or upgrade to one medium," he explains, gesturing toward the pile of stuffed animals crammed together on a shelf.

"Da orange Dino!" Henry shrieks and leaps back into his mother's embrace.

"Good choice," Regina comments as the man hands over the neon orange T-Rex. Henry creates his best dinosaur impression, pretending to attack his mother and Regina while they act like he is inflicting real pain upon them. "What are you going to name him?"

"Buddy, like mommy calls me." The toddler squeezes his stuffed animal with all his might and snuggles is face into the plush fabric.

"Can you say thank you to Gina for paying for the game?" Emma softly whispers into his ear, encouraging his head to snap right up.

"Dank you, Gina!"

"You're welcome little man. How about some ice cream? I think I saw a truck back there," Regina nods her head in the direction of a flashy truck decorated in bright colors to grab any child's attention.

"Yes, finally," Emma cheers, hiking Henry higher up on her hip as her arms grow tired from his weight and the scorching heat engulfing their sweaty bodies.

As long as Emma can remember, The Fourth Of July has always been excruciatingly hot, but today must be hitting a record high. Her long hair is clinging to her forehead and the back of her neck and the hat is doing nothing but smothering the heat to her head. Sweat is dripping down her chest and soaking into her bra and she can only imagine how Regina's holding up.

The other woman has yet to wipe away any sweat beneath her black baseball cap or the large glasses slipping off her nose. Not to mention that jersey Emma made her wear, she knows personally, that material is always a bitch in sweltering heat and it's probably suffocating the poor singer.

When they step in line, Regina bows her head and discreetly wipes away the sweat across her forehead, only lifting her hat a smidge off her head. Emma subconsciously sways Henry left to right as she watches Regina, but there's a group of young girls behind them, studying Regina just as hard. Panic fizzles in Emma's chest and she knows she has to react fast before these girls attack Regina.

"Here babe, can you take him a minute?" Emma cheerfully asks, leaning Henry closer to a perplexed brunette.

Regina snaps her head up, her face pinched together in utter confusion even though she's reaching for Henry. Emma's eyes flick toward the girls behind the celebrity, and sure enough, all five girls are squinting at Regina, desperately trying to figure out if she's herself or just someone who resembles the star.

Emma readjusts her backpack and pulls out her money before she leans dangerously close. Regina's heart stops as she discovers the blonde's pretty pink lips puckering toward her. She's not entirely sure why Emma just referred to her as babe and she was willing to allow that one to slide, but she will never forgive this idiot for kissing her in public.

However, Emma presses a kiss to Henry's cheek and sweeps his sweaty strands away from his eyes.

"Do you two want your favorite? Cookie dough?" Emma playfully asks in her best baby voice, which produces an expression of distaste to form around Regina's mouth.

"Yesh, mommy," Henry excitedly nods along and squeezes Regina even tighter and Emma really hopes that will convince these nosey girls this stranger couldn't possibly be Regina with a two-year-old.

Emma leans so there is no breathing air available except the mix of their own breaths and she distinctly hears a hitch in Regina's throat. "Don't talk," Emma murmurs in the space between Regina and her son. "Kiss Henry's forehead." Regina's brows furrow but she obediently follows Emma's specific instructions. "Henry, can you say my name and then give Gina a kiss on her cheek?"

"Mommy!" The little boy screams and places the sloppiest kiss against Regina's flushed cheek.

Emma chuckles and nuzzles her nose against Henry's, while her worrisome eyes drift over her son's shoulder to find the girls behind them walking away. She sighs in relief and kisses Henry's chubby cheek once more while her pinky finger finds Regina's loosely hanging by her side. She intertwines them for just a brief second and squeezes.

"Emma-"

"All good, I promise," she vows, stepping back and granting Regina some much-needed fresh air. "Okay, but really, what do you want, Gina?"

"Cookies and cream," she mutters without skipping a beat, but her face doesn't rest from the bewilderment etching into her features.

Emma orders a small cup for Henry and per Regina's request, they share a small cone of cookies and cream. They wander back toward an open area with a giant oak tree for them to hide out under and cool off. Emma sits cross-legged with her son in her lap as she leans back on her hands. Regina sits right beside them, her back against the tree for support as they pass the cone back and forth between them.

"Someone noticed, didn't they?" Regina nervously inquires, her anxiety prominent in her tone and causing her voice to crack.

"It's fine. I think some girls were a little curious, but I think when they saw Henry clinging to you they thought better of it and walked away." Emma's sincere eyes drift toward the woman who is slowly stealing bits and pieces of her heart. "I promise it's okay," she whispers so tenderly and full of earnest that Regina has no choice but to nod along.

Regina holds out the sugar cone in front of Emma's dainty lips and studies very carefully how her soft tongue pokes out and licks the ice cream without a moment of hesitation. Emma swallows the cool treat, her tongue gliding across her lips to wipe away the sticky residue and she just feels the intensity rolling off her friend beside her.

"We should probably head back, huh?" Emma timidly questions when the pressure between them builds so thickly that she feels like they might both explode.

Regina pulls out her phone and with a heavy sigh, she nods. "It's two o'clock," she confirms and angrily shoves her phone back into her pocket. "It seems someone had enough for the day," she whispers as she nods her head in the direction of a sleeping little boy.

"Is he asleep?" Emma whispers so she doesn't disturb her son's slumber.

"Yes." Regina's smile stretches from one ear to the other as she leans forward and gently removes the spoon and nearly empty cup of ice cream from his death grip.

"I figured, between the heat and all the food," Emma concludes, very softly running her fingers through his hair. "Come on, we can get a cab back to the hotel instead of walking with him."

Regina gently maneuvers Henry into her arms so Emma can stand back up. She decides to keep him since he's holding onto her for dear life and snuggling his little face into the crook of her neck. Then they walk to the edge of the gathering, so Emma can hail a cab and proceed back to the hotel.

Emma takes Henry from Regina when they step out of the cab. Then they ride the elevator up to the eighth floor. She smirks over Henry's sleeping body and eyes Regina's ensemble one last time before the singer is back to her professional clothes.

"What?" Regina defensively snaps when she feels the added weight to Emma's gaze.

Emma shuffles a little closer, enclosing the gap between them and rests her head against the wall. "I like you this way," she shyly admits, but boldly reaching out and tugging on the bill of the baseball cap.

"Oh please, this is not an attractive look for anybody," she huffs in annoyance and Emma absolutely loathes the sunglasses keeping Regina's true emotions hidden from her.

"You don't like my hat?" Emma feigns hurt and pouts out her adorable bottom lip that always seems to loosen Regina up just the slightest.

Brown eyes roll playfully as she smacks the bill to Emma's hat. "Not a chance."

"Hey," Emma lamely protests and lifts her hat, setting it on backwards again. "Well fine, don't admit it, but I like yours," Emma leans in just a hair, which is enough to desist all breathing in the elevator except for a sleeping little boy. "And your braids," she softly whispers, sending her hot breath to tickle Regina's plump lips.

Regina swallows, watching intently as Emma invades her personal space and gently tugs on one of her French braids. "You're playing a dangerous game, Swan," Regina threatens, but it only seems to add to the lust pulsating between them like a beating heart that just ran a marathon.

"Am I?" She mocks with a tone that's a few too many octaves higher while one side of her face scrunches up playfully. She tests the rapid waters, her pinky finger blindly grazing Regina's in the small space between them.

"You know damn well what you are doing," Regina growls, but her eyes are softening and flicking down to the lips she still can't remember kissing. And she hates herself for losing such a precious memory.

"Maybe I like playing with fire," and with that the elevator dings, slicing through their very intimate and private moment as the doors slide open.

Emma and Regina instinctively step back, but luckily not a soul is lurking around. They both step off the elevator in unison and avoid each other's eyes as if they are filled with a deadly poison.

"I will see you in an hour, Miss Swan," Regina strictly commands, picking up her pace toward her own hotel room.

"Of course," Emma sighs, mentally kicking herself for pushing the limits or maybe it's because she had the perfect opportunity to taste those velvety lips again and chickened out.

Either way, she trudges back to her hotel, lays her son down and indulges in a very, very cold shower.

 

Chapter Text


"Hey, how did the show go?" Mary Margaret asks the moment Emma tumbles through the door, exhausted as ever and appearing like she just faced three rounds in the ring against Muhammad Ali. "Honey, you look awful."

"Thanks, you really are the best mom ever," Emma sarcastically quips with an exaggerated wink that clearly says, f-you.

"What happened?"

"Nothing really happened." Emma groans when she kicks off Ruby's dressy boots and almost falls straight to the ground, but she catches herself with the very strategically placed wall. "I just didn't really sleep well on the bus and then we spent all day in the sun while I carried around a sack of twenty-five pounds...I'm just drained." Emma exhales every last drop of oxygen from her lungs as she falls carelessly to the couch. "I don't know how the fuck Regina looked so composed and chipper tonight."

Tired green eyes slip away from the never-ending day just as she rests her head against the back of the couch. Then she feels the comfort of her mother's palm gently patting her knee.

"I'm sure Regina was on a high from taking a break from her career and losing herself in an actual public outing for once."

Emma smiles, so very proud of herself for sneaking Regina away and gifting the greatest present, a day where she could actually be herself and enjoy life. Emma noticed right away how once Regina finally relaxed a little bit, she was actually smiling. A genuine smile that consumed her entire face and warmed Emma's heart into chocolatey goo.

"I think she really enjoyed Henry," she hums, her head sliding down the couch to rest on her mother's inviting shoulder.

"Well, who wouldn't?" The proud grandmother gushes which only generates a sappy grin to spread across Emma's entire face. Her mother presses a kiss on top of her head and lingers for a moment, breathing in her daughter just as she has always done since she was a baby. "Are you alright, honey?" She timidly inquires, because yes, she's her mother and they have been best friends since Emma was one and nobody knows her better than Mary Margaret.

Emma's eyes immediately moisten from the sincerity in her mother's tone while her nose tingles and she feels those pesky tears just waiting to escape and embarrass her. She sniffles in a very lame attempt to cling to her emotions, but Mary Margaret wraps her up and holds her close, encouraging Emma to open up.

"Mom, I..."

"Emma, you know you can tell me whatever is bothering you. You know I hate seeing you upset," Mary Margret whispers so delicately into her daughter's hair.

"I know," and her voice quivers, but she can't, she just can't formulate the right words to express how she's feeling. Fuck-she's not even sure she knows what she's truly feeling. "Hey um, I'm going to check on Regina," she unexpectedly announces, tearing her body away from her mother's loving embrace and leaving the older woman completely dumbfounded.

"Em-"

"She's kinda going through a rough time," she admits, shrugging awkwardly and quickly forcing some much-needed space between them. "I just want to make sure she's okay tonight." She leans forward and quickly presses a gentle kiss to the snow-white complexion and hastily rushes backwards.

"Hurry back. I would like to spend time with you too, you know?" Mary Margaret scolds, but there's still a playful tone that eases some of Emma's tension before she escapes the room.

"I know. I'll be quick," she reassures her and then disappears out into the hallway.

She has no fucking idea as to why she just ran out on her mother. Well, that's not completely true, she has an inkling that she was about to confess her confusing feelings for the singer and she panicked. So, she ran away like the chicken shit she is as of lately and is now wringing her fingers together as she walks the abandoned hall.

The upbeat tempo of the sweet acoustics swim through the air and paints a smile upon Emma's face. Just like that, her nerves are dripping away, leaving a puddle of uncertainty behind her as she reaches Regina's door and knocks. The music abruptly comes to a screeching halt and in a matter of seconds the door is swinging open.

"Emma," the singer gasps with that damn pencil in her mouth and there's even another pencil twisting and holding together the mess of a bun on her head.

"You need sleep," is all Emma declares as she brushes right passed the disheveled woman and struts confidently through the room.

"I know, but I was sort of on a roll. The lyrics were just pouring out," Regina confesses, chasing the twitchy blonde further into her suite. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be with your family?" And for once there's no bitter bite or venom dripping in disdain. No, now, there's just a softness that Emma swore Regina didn't possess in her body and she feels warm all over.

Emma clambers onto the bed like a lonely puppy and rests against the headboard, careful not to disrupt any of the papers spewed about.

"Look, if you're here to make sure I don't-"

"No, no," Emma immediately cuts her off. "That's not...no, I just needed a minute to breathe and I don't know, I wound up here," Emma sheepishly explains and fuck, why are her cheeks burning again?

"Oh." Regina cautiously lowers herself on the edge of the bed, stiff, rigid and uncomfortable as ever.

And Emma hates how they can't seem to find a balance in their relationship. It's constantly bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball; from cold and distant, to playful and friendly to flirtatious and definitely crossing the lines of 'appropriate'.

"I just..." Emma runs her fingers anxiously through her hair and ignores the fact that her entire hand is trembling. "I was talking to my mom and then you came up and I-"

Her words are instantly shot to pieces when Regina's door beeps and hurricane Cora comes storming through. Her heels clicking with murderous rage just as the door slams shut. Emma and Regina both flick their attention to the irate woman who is hurling her phone at her daughter.

"Good, you're both here. What the hell is the meaning of this?" Cora bellows so loud that her words ricochet off the walls and slice through Emma's eardrums. "You stupid foolish girl!"

Regina quickly fumbles for the phone while Emma slinks back, unsure where her place is in this room that just quickly turned into the blazing, fiery, pits of Hell.

A very long exhale escapes Regina's mouth while her eyes seem invested in whatever Cora brutally tossed her way. "Mother-"

"I know that is you," Cora spits in disgust before she turns her wrath on the blonde praying that a UFO swoops down and abducts her at this point. "I know this was your idea. My Regina would never have risked something so irresponsible and idiotic."

"What-"

Regina leans back and carefully hands over Cora's phone as if it is a ticking time bomb. Emma's puzzled eyes wander up to find Regina completely avoiding her gaze and her blood runs cold. She swallows down the boulder, that seems to have wedged its way in her throat from all her insecurities, and then peeks down at the phone.

What she discovers is mind boggling. There, in front of her very own eyes is a picture of Regina sitting in the backseat of the taxi with Henry fast asleep against her chest. Off to the side, and not at all in focus, is Emma starting to climb into the backseat beside them. Instantly her heart stops beating.

"Mother, nobody knows for sure if that's me," Regina weakly defends and it irks Emma just how timid and small she sounds around her own damn mother.

Emma studies the page a little closer, noting that it's some random Twitter account and even though every voice in her head is screaming not to look at the comments, she does.

"Is this really Regina Mills?"

"Why does she have a small child?"

"Does Regina Mills secretly have a child and we all don't know?"

"Who is Regina Mills' secret husband?"

"Who is the random blonde?"

"Regina was spotted with that random b-list actor last week, do you think that's her husband?"

"She's way too good for him."

Emma blinks, the little black words on the brightly lit screen all swirling together to create a dizzy vortex for Emma to only lose herself in. She scrolls back up to the picture and sighs in relief because whoever the asshole is that captured this private moment, at least they had the decency to blur out her son's face.

"What the hell were you thinking? You know better, yet here you are, risking everything for, her," Cora growls as if the concept of even uttering Emma's name is low class in itself.

"Mother, this will all be speculation. Nobody will believe that's me with a two-year-old," Regina repeats Emma's words from earlier, but they lack the conviction Emma so easily portrayed.

"We need damage control," Cora mutters, already pacing frantically, her mind shifting through all the horrific possibilities.

"Mother, damage control? Really? Even if they do find out it's me, there's nothing wrong with the picture," she softly pleads, already wincing because she knows she will suffer the backlash from her mother's hot temper.

"Your reputation! Your image," the older woman explodes, inspiring Emma to sink further back into the headboard.

"All this picture proves is that I'm holding a toddler. That will only help my image..." Regina weakly defends once again while Emma's eyes drift back down to the outrageous amounts of notifications regarding one blurry image.

"I bet the blonde is her nanny."

"I actually think the blonde is her new makeup artist."

"Whoever that little boy is, he is damn lucky. I wish Regina Mills would hold me like that."

He is damn lucky, Emma thinks to herself as she plays back the events from earlier. Her son weaseled his way into Regina's heart and easily tore down the walls she has built around her lonely organ, around the person she truly is. Henry saw the gentle, tender and loving side of Regina that Emma knows is just begging to come out.

"You and I both know what I am talking about. You cannot go parading around with her."

"I have a name," Emma unexpectedly pipes up, shocking everyone in the room including herself. She swallows as two sets of fierce black eyes snap in her direction. "Call me, Emma. Call me, Miss Swan, I don't care, but stop saying her, in that condescending tone."

"Fine, Miss Swan," Cora mocks, cruelly folding her arms across her chest as an intimidation tactic. "Please leave. I need to speak with my daughter in private."

Emma's petrified eyes flick to Regina for confirmation, because she knows leaving Cora alone with Regina will end horrifically. Not only will that pathetic excuse for a mother degrade Regina and tear down what little sanity she has left, but she will also drive the poor girl to drink once again. And Emma won't allow that.

Regina nods her agreement though for her makeup artist to vacate the room, but Emma sees the hesitation all too clearly. The singer is broken, battered, just barely hanging on and she needs some sort of life support right now.

"Sure, you know what, I'll step into the hall, but I won't go anywhere," Emma states with conviction, her eyes never leaving Regina's rigid frame.

"Wonderful," Cora mocks in disdain and taps her heel impatiently as Emma climbs off the bed and slowly exits the room.

With a heavy heart and her body buzzing with nervous energy, Emma softly closes the door behind her and is immediately swallowed whole by regret. She hates how she cannot defend Regina when she knows the woman needs her most, but she isn't stupid and she knows Cora will have her job. Then, what? How could she keep an eye out for Regina with too many miles between them?

She steps away from the door and turns to the nearest wall for support. She slides down to her bottom, pulls her knees to her chest and buries her face in her lap.

At first, the screaming is loud and clear from Cora's end, filled with hateful words that are meant to torment, belittle and create such deep holes within Regina's soul that she will have no choice but to think she needs her mother. It's not long before Cora's words become a hushed whisper Emma cannot piece together for the life of her and Regina's voice grows louder. The singer is begging and pleading with her mother not to do...whatever it is that she's doing. She's hysterical at one point, but something happens on the other side of that wall that shuts Regina right up.

There's a few more hushed whispers before the door gently opens and Cora makes her debut. She doesn't bother peering down at the lump on the floor that she so clearly loathes. She simply readjusts her pantsuit and stares blankly ahead.

"She's all yours," Cora vacantly says and the lack of emotion sends a spidery chill to crawl down Emma's spine.

She peeks up from her lap and watches as the older woman saunters away with all the confidence and smugness one person can be filled with. Slowly, Emma scrambles to her feet and finds Regina leaning in the doorway with her arms folded over her chest like she's freezing cold from Cora's ice-bitter wake.

"You okay?" Emma whispers, ducking down to meet Regina's vacant stare.

"I lost my inspiration for tonight. Care for a drink?" Regina flatly replies, instantly producing a scowl upon Emma's worried face.

"Not funny," she firmly declares and shoves Regina back into her hotel room. "I will stay all night if I have to, so I know you're safe."

"I'm fine, Emma," Regina exasperates and falls in defeat against her bed.

Emma mindlessly gathers the papers strewed about the king size bed and neatly places them on the dresser. She carefully picks up Regina's guitar, a small smile playing at her lips as she rests it on the couch in the corner of the room.

"What are you doing?" Regina barks out.

"Cleaning up. It's been a very long day and you need rest. You have another show tomorrow."

"I'm not tired."

"Well, I am."

"Then go back to your room," Regina replies like a small child with a serious attitude problem.

"No, not until I know you are fast asleep."

"You can't possibly watch me forever. You have to leave me alone sometime."

"Well, that's not tonight."

Emma sighs heavily and rips the comforter from the bed, silently ordering Regina to climb inside.

"I am not a child."

"Well, you sure as shit fooled me. Get in," she huffs in annoyance and almost cracks a smile when Regina obediently climbs under the covers, groaning the entire time.

"I liked you better when you were shy and timid around me," Regina grumbles as she swats at her pillow to make it more accommodating for her head.

"No you didn't," Emma hastily rebuttals, climbing onto the other side of bed.

Regina scoffs, hitting her pillow once again and Emma can only assume she's pretending it's her face instead. "Why are you always so damn difficult?"

"Because you are."

"Whatever."

"Good night," Emma sing-songs in a chipper tone just to further irritate the woman all the more.

Regina's upper lip snarls as she reaches for the light beside her bed and turns it off. She squirms back into the mattress and even if she doesn't mean to, a sigh of relief slips passed her lips. She struggles, very, very hard to keep her heavy lids pried open, so she can glare at Emma studying her face intently. However, Regina fails miserably and exhaustion spreads through her tired limbs and curls around every fiber in her body like a snake and squeezes until she finally surrenders and drifts off to sleep.

Unknown to Emma, a smile graces her own face as she watches Regina fall into a deep slumber. She whispers the singer's name a few times and waves her hand playfully in front of her face to test if the other woman is lying or not. She listens to the rhythmic breaths and observes the steady rise and fall of Regina's chest and she knows this woman is out.

Very carefully, not to disturb her, Emma slips out of the bed and tiptoes right out of the room. She softly closes the door behind her and trudges back to her own hotel room with her own body begging for sleep.

"That was not at all quick," her mother bitterly accuses as she tumbles through the door.

She winces from the icy tone and knows immediately that she screwed up. "I know," she whines and moseys on back toward the couch, feeling guilty for leaving her mom behind when she should be spending as much time as possible while she has the chance. "Someone snapped a picture of us in the cab on the way back. Henry was in Regina's arms and you really can't tell it's her, but Cora flipped out on both of us."

"Oh, I'm sorry, honey," Mary Margaret gently says, her anger slipping away and quickly replaced with her loving, motherly tone. "So, what happens now?"

Emma's hands fly up in defeat without any true thought. "I have no idea. Cora kicked me out while she yelled at Regina and I think she has a sneaky plan up her sleeve. She said something about 'damage control'," Emma mocks, even using air quotes to stress the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

"Maybe you should get some rest, you looked whooped."

"No, no. I haven't seen you, let's hang out."

"I fashioned us some hot cocoas," her mother proudly announces with a smug little smirk.

"Perfect."

Mary Margaret leaps from the couch and moves fast around the hotel to retrieve the mugs she had waiting for Emma's return. She carefully hands one back to her daughter and falls into the couch right beside Emma, both sitting cross-legged and facing one another. They both sip their mugs, eyeing each other suspiciously over the rim and when they both swallow, in unison, they both ask, "what?"

"Nothing," they immediately reply together once again. "Stop." Mary Margaret snickers while Emma simply rolls her eyes, because they obviously spend far too much time together.

"You were going to say what's bothering you before you ran out the door like a common thief," her mother muses, slowly sipping her chocolatey beverage again.

Emma groans, her thumb anxiously scraping against the warm mug. She wants to talk out the confusion with her mother, but how does she explain her feelings when she isn't quite sure what the hell is going on inside of her?

"Emma, please. You know I am always here for you. Nothing can top what we have been through in our past, especially with Henry," she pauses, allowing the grunt and eye roll from her daughter just as she always does when mentioning the toddler. "So, whatever it is that is stressing you out, just say it."

Emma's eyes flutter closed and she inhales sharply and debates with nobody but herself. She knows her mother, she knows the type of person she is and she knows exactly how she will react.

"I just," Emma nervously scratches her temple and searches blindly in the back of her mind for something that can justify her true intentions. "I don't know what I'm feeling, so how can I possibly explain it to you?" She exasperates and slumps further into the back of the couch.

"Try," her mother gently urges and places her comforting palm upon Emma's knee. Green eyes flick down to the loving touch and she reminds herself that this is her mother, her best friend, her confidant.

She groans again and through a deep sigh she grumbles, "I feel something for Regina."

Mary Margaret purses her lips, her jet-black eyebrows scrunching in confusion as she cocks her head to the side. "What do you mean, something?"

"I don't know," Emma whines, nervously rubbing her fingers over her clenched eyes.

"Okay," her mother drags out the small word and slowly sweeps her thumb over Emma's knee. "Sweetie, are you concerned for her?" She skeptically questions and Emma knows the woman well enough to know she's tiptoeing around the subject.

"I'm scared. Okay? I've never felt this type of connection before and it's fucking terrifying. I've only ever loved one person and obviously he was a man and I just...never in my mind...I didn't...."

"Emma, honey, calm down. You're shaking," Mary Margaret coos, clenching her daughter's knee tightly to help ground her and reassure her that she's right there.

"I'm exhausted," she mumbles under her breath and takes one last deep breath. "I never thought I would ever feel this way about another woman, but god, mom," she whimpers, her eyes glossing over and she feels the pure exhaustion slowly dragging her down and hauling her through the mud.

"I-well, I can't really say that I have experience in this area," her mother laughs lightly, hopelessly attempting to lighten the mood because she absolutely hates when her daughter is so frantic. "But, what I can say is, does it really matter if she's a woman?"

Emma blinks away her tears, her eyes darting up to meet her mother's soothing gaze. "What?"

"You feel something deeper than a friendship, correct?"

"Yes..."

"Well, then go with it. Take it slow, day by day. Find out what it is that you are feeling for her. If your body is telling you that this is what you feel, then don't deny it," she easily replies, shrugging her shoulder as if it's the most obvious answer in the world. "Follow your instincts, they will always guide you in the right direction."

Emma swallows hard, because of course, her mother would be understanding, she has always been that way, it's just, Emma wasn't expecting this. Her green eyes glisten as her mother sets down her mug and takes her head into her hands, smiling down upon her greatest accomplishment in life.

"I raised a good, kind-hearted person. I know in my heart, that whatever you choose, it's the right decision for you and for Henry. Don't worry about anyone else. If you feel something for Regina then allow yourself to feel what makes you happy."

"But-"

"Does she make you smile?"

"Yeah, but she also really pisses me off," Emma sternly says, causing Mary Margaret to belt out a carefree laugh.

"Sounds like she's a keeper. If you didn't really care for her, then her actions wouldn't bother you so deeply," she reasonably explains. "Just go slow, honey," she whispers delicately and places a tender kiss to Emma's forehead. "I love you," she murmurs against the warm skin.

"I love you too, mom."

"Good." The older woman slowly releases her daughter and smiles wildly. "Now, tell me all about this girl that has stolen your heart."

 

Chapter Text


The weekend had flown by in a blink of an eye, a very heavy, sleep deprived blink and soon Emma was kissing her son goodbye and hugging her mother with all her might. She continued waving goodbye like a lunatic as she sat down on the tour bus while her mother and son climbed in the back of a limo, that Regina insisted on paying for, until they drove away.

It was harder this time saying goodbye than the very first time she left to start this tour. Now, they are halfway through the summer, just three weeks left of travel and Emma will be back at home. The next stop on the Regina Mills tour is New Jersey before they head toward Chicago.

"How you holding up, buttercup?" Ruby cheerfully asks as she stands on the bottom bunk to peek inside of Emma's.

She sighs her anguish and slowly rests her book on her chest so she doesn't lose her page. "I miss him," she confesses, her head slowly falling to the side to meet glowing green eyes and a wolfish grin.

"I know." Ruby leans forward and presses a loving kiss to the tip of her nose. "But we are almost done here." Emma nods along feeling numb from the ache in her heart, not to mention the exhaustion weighing down her limbs. "How about a game of Backgammon. I'll let you go first," her friend happily sings-songs to coax her into playing and just stop moping around the bus.

"Nah, I'm really tired and honestly, I just want to catch up on some sleep."

"Are you sure you're just not depressed?" Ruby skeptically questions with one perfectly sculpted eyebrow climbing high upon her forehead.

Emma laughs through her nose at Ruby's comical facial expression and shakes her head. "No, I'm good. I really am just tired."

"I know," Ruby concedes, hopping down from the bunk and smiling, "the tours get easier, the first one is always the hardest," she reminds her and skips away, light as ever on her feet, back toward Jefferson and Kathryn.

Emma slowly releases a long breath and places her bookmark where it belongs. She doesn't even have the energy to read at this point. So, she turns over on her side, faces the window, and it's not even a full minute before she passes out.

~~~~~~~

The world around her is for once peaceful and quiet. The only sound to be heard is the rhythmic humming of the engine when her eyes flutter open. She is greeted by the tranquil night, the stars dimly lit just outside her window and the light posts flashing by as they guide the bus's way to the next destination.

She stretches out her aching limbs and comes to the realization that she must have slept hard because she stayed in the exact same position, all night. Her hand moves to its own accord, blindly searching for her phone, so she can check the time.

One-thirty a.m.

She stuffs her phone beneath her pillow and forces her eyes closed in hopes the Sandman will sweep her right back under. Yet, her mind flashes images of her son's exuberant smile, beaming at his new best friend, Gina. She tries not to think about the ache in her heart longing for her son. She ignores the itch to feel Regina's presence just anywhere near her again. It's not long before memories of her deep conversation with her mother rudely invade her mind and she's up.

Wide fucking awake.

She tears the blanket off as if it's planning to murder her in her sleep and slowly climbs down from the bunk. She doesn't even think, she maybe wide awake, but her brain is still a little fuzzy from the deep sleep and soon she finds herself knocking lightly on Regina's door. She peeks over her shoulder, paranoid that she might wake one of the lifeless bodies behind her, but when she finds them all fast asleep she exhales slowly.

She lifts her hand to knock again, but then the door is slowly sliding open. Emma can barely make out the expression on Regina's face, but the woman is taking a generous step back and granting her permission inside. Emma rushes forward before Regina retracts the silent invitation and then the singer gently closes the door behind her.

When Regina finally faces her, Emma's convinced her entire world just melts away from existence and all that's left is the singer. However, the humming of the engine sounds amplified and she's so thankful because she's sure her pounding heart would be detected if it weren't for the bus. So, she slowly crosses her arms over her chest to keep the damn organ from beating right through her sternum.

To Emma, Regina appears like maybe she's in pain. With the shadows casting over her face and the fractions of light peeping through the tiny window, Regina looks absolutely conflicted. Emma swallows down whatever is threatening to leak embarrassingly from her mouth, but she's not even sure if it's her words she's more terrified of or her lips that are tingling and begging to press up against Regina's once again.

The brunette blinks slowly as she inhales a sharp breath and it looks physically painful as she takes a step back. She spins on her heels, ready to turn her back to Emma, but then the blonde is reaching forward, slipping her pinky finger into Regina's and urging her to come back.

"Regina," she whispers and winces at how scratchy and worn out her voice sounds in the quiet night.

Regina instantly presses her finger to her own lips and shakes her head, but she never removes her pinky from Emma's loose grasp. She tugs gently, encouraging Emma to follow her back to the bed. Their fingers drift apart as they climb upon the mattress together and turn to face one another. Emma's mouth curls weakly into a small smile, but Regina is frowning back at her.

"Regina, I-"

"Don't say it," Regina cruelly cuts her off, but her face remains impassive and Emma is reminded how excellent of an actress she truly is.

"I'm so lost."

"There's no reason for you to feel that way," Regina replies without skipping a beat, provoking Emma's heart to plummet, because of course, she's feeling all this crap for the amazing woman and Regina feels nothing for her in return. "You have your mother and your son," Regina actually smiles at the mention of the little boy and much to Emma's surprise, Regina reaches up between them and delicately glides her fingertips across Emma's temple to brush away a few wild tresses. "And you're starting to build your career. There's nothing for you to feel lost about."

Emma's heart melts like butter in a sizzling pan, because dear god, this woman can be so soft and so sweet. She offers a weak smile at the face that's expressing so much compassion and it's so deep, she feels like she might just rush forward and steal another kiss.

"That's not what I meant by lost and I think you know it," she mutters for only Regina's ears to catch.

"That's all that it should be," Regina gently says, retracting her fingers and Emma has to remind herself not to frown from the loss. "I already told you, you don't fit into my life. Especially now that I have met Henry," Regina's mouth suddenly snaps shut as she shakes her head and her eyes fall closed in despair. "I'm not healthy for him and I'm no good for you. You know who I am. You know what I'm capable of and I can't wreck your lives like that," she whispers with regret curling maliciously around each word and cracking her voice.

"But I'm not asking for anything from you. I just..." Emma scoots just a tad closer, forcing Regina's eyes to spring back to life. "I know you feel this tension between us. I know you are struggling with this just as much as I am-"

"Emma, stop. There's no point indulging when the road ends in destruction."

"You don't know that and like I said, I'm not asking you for a damn thing," she urges as her whispers grow a little louder, motivating Regina to clamp her hand over Emma's mouth and silently scold her with cold, wide eyes.

"Then what the hell do you want from me? Some stupid little experiment, so you can figure out your own sexuality?" Regina bitterly mutters, causing Emma to flinch from the harsh tone.

"No," she muffles sincerely against Regina's soft palm, her green eyes glistening for understanding.

Even though, she's not even sure if she understands herself at this moment what she truly wants. She has no idea what she's asking for and she knows it's unfair and she has no right to beg for anything at this point.

"I can't do this with you," Regina angrily responds, even though her eyes are filling with a wetness Emma cannot unsee.

Regina abruptly spins around, offering Emma a full view of her back. She frowns to herself because she knows Regina and she's on the verge of tears, so she had to distance herself. Time seems to stand still against Regina's cold shoulder and Emma hasn't the slightest clue how to fix any of this.

She knows in her heart she pushed too far, she keeps pushing too far for something she's not even sure she wants. She doesn't know where they might end up and she's certain Regina always being in the spotlight would drive her mad. There's just something pulling in her heart whenever she's around Regina and she just needs so much more to even function properly.

She feels the pressure and the tension like a thick wall pushing them apart like two magnets of the same Pole. She hates this awkwardness that's only forcing them further and further apart. Her heart skips a beat, only to pound more furiously than before. She swallows her pride and bites back all the negativity floating around in her head and cautiously wraps one arm around Regina's dainty waist.

Emma sighs in relief when Regina doesn't stiffen under her touch or pull away. Instead, Regina actually squirms a little closer, her back slotting perfectly into Emma's front. So, she takes that as a win and buries her nose deep into those inky tresses, inhaling the sweet aroma of lavender.

"I'm not going anywhere," Emma vows once again into Regina's hair and smiles when the smaller woman wiggles closer into her embrace.

Not another word is spoken, both so insecure and unsure of where they stand in their companionship. So desperately needing the comfort of one another, but too petrified of what could be. And that's how they end their night, falling asleep in each other's arms and for once, both sleeping soundly.

~~~~~~~~

"She's good."

Emma jumps back from the unexpected voice, her heart almost leaping up to her throat as she blinks furiously. She cranes her neck to the right, discovering a mischievous grin smiling back at her. Her eyes immediately drawn to the perfect mix of blue and green irises that are so crystal clear, she swears she can make out the infinite designs that illustrate Milah's eyes.

"If I'm half as successful as she is, then I'll consider myself a winner," Milah muses, crossing her arms over her chest while her eyes soak up Regina strutting confidently across the stage which somehow causes an uproar from the audience.

Yet, as much as Emma adores Regina, she can't seem to tear her eyes away from the mysterious woman beside her. The exotic, bisexual woman who seems to have slipped passed everyone's radar and snuck into Regina's bed. Emma's heart suddenly feels like it was filled with lead as it sinks down in her chest and when it finally crashes brutally into the pit of her stomach, jealousy explodes like a volcano and poisons her blood.

In spite of all her instincts screaming malicious and obscene thoughts to scare this woman away from Regina, Emma swallows back her threats. She produces a weak smile, that comes off more like a grimace and nods politely.

"Well, you're opening for her, so that alone should boost your popularity."

Milah shrugs, coming off like this topic of conversation suddenly doesn't interest her the least bit anymore. "Our music doesn't really fit into Regina's genre. Sometimes I think we might be a little too...rough...for the audience."

"I highly doubt that," Emma instantly retorts, because even though she's utterly jealous that this woman has been with the one person she is desperate for, she knows that Outlaw is truly outstanding. "Sometimes I think Regina's genre, isn't her genre."

Milah slowly turns to finally meet Emma's serious gaze. She quirks up an eyebrow with an expression far too amused settling upon her face while she really studies Emma. "Why would you ever say that?" She questions in a low, raspy tone that is somewhat threatening and maybe elated as well.

"I don't know," Emma mumbles right off the bat from Milah's intense scrutiny. She shrugs her shoulders, her eyes drifting back out toward the singer lighting up the stage like a damn scene from a movie. "I've just heard some stuff of hers and it doesn't ever sound like this." She gestures toward the stage flashing enough lights to make her head spin like a terrible hangover.

"She's played in front of you before...voluntarily...not just eavesdropping outside her door..." Milah skeptically interrogates.

"Uh...yeah. I mean, I do hear her playing every night, but she has played in front of me before," Emma defends, feeling as though the other woman isn't trusting in her words. When Milah's face morphs into utter perplexity, Emma blurts out, "What?"

"Nothing," the singer softly responds, still eyeing her suspiciously. Emma watches intently as the brunette opens her mouth to continue, but something steals her attention away and snaps her mouth shut. Before Emma can even peek over her shoulder, she hears, "Robin."

"Hey ladies, how's the show?" He cheerfully calls out over the vibrating speakers and heavy bass pouring from the stage.

"Good," Milah answers, smirking at Emma before she turns back to pretend like she's more interested in the concert than the company.

"She's really spectacular, isn't she?" Robin exuberantly announces as he peers out onto the stage where Regina is nestling her microphone back into its stand as the lights dim for dramatic affect.

Emma squints at the man beside her, all too suspicious and aware, painfully aware of that stupid, sappy fucking grin plastered across his face because Emma has had sore cheeks herself from grinning so brightly at the star. Her eyes wander bitterly back toward Milah, the one that's already claimed the prize, back to Robin who seems to be the newest competition. Emma stops herself right there.

She distinctly remembers Regina saying the word, gay. Not bi.

She groans inwardly and squeezes her eyes together to alleviate the tension headache slowly pounding against her temples with a very large stress hammer. Regina's soft, but raspy voice washes over her as she begins her slow ballad, encouraging Emma to peel apart her eyelids just to catch a gander at the astonishing woman belting her heart out.

The entire crowd is lit up with bright white lights shining through their phones as they sway and sing along to one of Regina's most famous songs that pulls at everyone's heartstrings. Every word in that song unburies the heartache beneath the scars from the loss of a first love. It's raw, emotional, tender and absolutely gut wrenching and there's not a soul in this entire stadium that isn't belting out each and every word like the song was specifically written for them.

Much to Emma's dismay, the terrorizing echo of Cora Mills' heels gloat as she creeps up behind the trio. Emma stiffens subconsciously, but never does her gaze ever slip from the queen on stage. She's faintly aware of Killian strolling up beside them and easily draping an arm around Milah, but Emma does smile inwardly because at least that's one less person she has to fight against for Regina's affection.

The crowd screams and applauds like Emma has never heard before. People are chanting, encore and one more song, before Regina even has a chance to walk across the stage. The singer is smiling and waving frantically as she strolls across the stage and disappears behind the curtain.

Before anyone can mutter a single word, Emma notices a strange and eerie shift in the air. Her eyes flick to the only irises she feels at home with, to find a vacancy that terrifies her very soul. She observes as Regina's genuine smile distorts into the professional, fake smile her mother has forced upon her since she was four-years-old. An icy chill spills down her spine, causing her to shiver because in her gut she knows something is off. Something just isn't right and this shell of a woman that's strutting toward her, isn't the Regina she has come to known and...

Regina, with her practiced smile, ignores everyone around her as she leans forward and presses a kiss to Robin's scruffy cheek. He beams with so much pride that Emma actually feels her stomach bottom out and fuck with her equilibrium. She staggers, but only for a moment because Regina's eyes are drifting toward hers and softening behind Robin's head as he pulls her into a hug. He's obstructing the view of Cora, but it doesn't even matter because in a blink of an eye, Regina's gaze is gone and she's turning, allowing Robin to tuck her safely into his side.

The world falls dead to Emma's ears. She watches through tunnel vision as Robin laughs, his head tilting back before he presses another kiss to Regina's cheek and he escorts her back to the dressing room.

And Emma follows behind, numb, still trying to figure out what the fuck just happened from last night, where she fell asleep with Regina in her arms to now. The point where Regina is kissing a man she's barely said a full sentence to this entire tour and appears genuinely happy about the turn of events.

 

Chapter Text


"Miss Swan needs to reapply my makeup," Regina politely dismisses her entourage while Emma busies herself with the required items and not at all stressing over the new doting couple. "I should only be twenty minutes."

Emma's quizzical gaze shifts to the corner of her eye just in time to catch the display of affection between Regina and Robin, immediately painting a scowl upon her face. Her stomach backflips, creating an involuntary groan to rattle deep within her chest and encouraging her eyes to wander elsewhere. Anywhere else. She cannot stomach the image of Regina's perfect lips pressing so firmly into the sandy-blonde stubble upon Robin's cheek.

"Baby girl, we need to bring-" Jefferson starts to explain the crew's need to carry their items to the limo, but Regina is firmly interrupting his claim.

"We won't be long," is all Regina coldly retorts before there's a harsh slam to her dressing room door and if Emma isn't mistaken a soft click of a lock.

Yet, Emma doesn't bother glancing over her shoulder to question Regina's motives, instead, she lays out the warm washcloths and makeup removing wipes dutifully. Still, ignoring the acidic liquid burning her throat and the nausea spinning viciously around in her gut.

All too quickly, there's a tight, commanding hand on her wrist and everything happens in such a rush that she doesn't have a second to react. Regina curls her fingers like a snake coiling dangerously around its prey and she drags Emma away from the vanity and tosses her into a pitched-black closet. She gently closes the door, careful not to make a sound and when Emma opens her mouth to question, what the hell is going on, Regina shuts her up with a kiss so fierce, she shreds all those little words to pieces.

Regina's warm body molds perfectly against Emma's, forcing her to tumble back until she's colliding against the wall. She's utterly confused, blindsided and discombobulated by the rapid force, but her body somehow reacts without her brain. She slides her fingers up Regina's delicate cheeks, until her fingers are treading through thick damp locks and tugging the singer in closer, inspiring both women to moan into the searing kiss.

Regina quickly parts her lips, guiding Emma's apart in the process and easily slips her tongue in with expertise. The velvety muscle doesn't waste a single second to become reacquainted with Emma's mouth and there's just something about the kiss that's all too new and yet, familiar at the same time. Another moan escapes Emma and tumbles into Regina's mouth, encouraging the brunette to grip Emma's sharp hip bones with need and hold her into place like she's terrified the blonde may vanish right through her fingertips.

Emma's temperature is rising, burning and boiling up to the surface as her heart beats vigorously with an added weight. She can't think. She can't speak. All she knows is she has to keep kissing Regina with every ounce of passion harbored deep within. She cannot lose this moment and she feels this urgency, this desperation to prove to Regina that she's worth it. She's worth the celebrity's time and devotion.

"I don't want him," Regina incoherently murmurs against Emma's desperate lips, her nails digging deeper into Emma's hips in a silent declaration of what she really wants.

Something pounds viciously under Emma's skin, maybe it's the jealousy, maybe it's utter confusion, but she yanks Regina's face closer and dominates the frantic kiss, claiming Regina for the one second that she finally has the opportunity to.

"You need to do my makeup," Regina whispers, before she dives right back in, slamming her lips brutally against Emma's like she needs to see them bruised. "I need to go outside and kiss Robin in front of the crowd," she confesses, provoking Emma to jerk her head backward and finally end the urgent kiss.

"What? What the hell are you talking about?" She whisper-shouts, her eyes searching deep inside of Regina's, but it's too damn dark to read her expression.

"You know who I am, you know I don't want a man," Regina says with authority as her fingers gently curl around Emma's wrists that refuse to release Regina's face just yet.

"Well, clearly you don't want me either," she bitterly quips, but never once does her grip loosen.

"I never said that," Regina firmly rebuttals and Emma opens her mouth to argue, but she rushes on. "I said that you needed to leave. I said that you don't fit into my life. I said that I wasn't healthy for you or for Henry, but never once did I ever say that I didn't want you," she states with conviction before she lunges forward and captures Emma's lips once again to physically prove her confession.

Emma whimpers from the passion behind Regina's words and the severity of her frenzied kiss. Her arms move all on their own, wrapping tightly around Regina's neck in a futile attempt to bring her closer. Regina's hands glide possessively up Emma's sides until she's cupping her jawline and sweeping her silky thumbs across flushed cheeks.

"You're driving me crazy," the singer murmurs against Emma's kiss swollen lips, her thumbs sneaking between their hot breaths mixing as one.

Emma watches carefully as Regina's eyes flick down to study the way her thumbs tenderly glide down her lips. Maybe she's memorizing, maybe she's trying to convince herself that Emma's really there or maybe she's so caught up in the moment, she doesn't even realize what she's doing anymore.

Emma will never know.

"I can't have you, but I don't know how to tell you no anymore," Regina chokes out as her thumbs drag down Emma's pointed chin.

"So don't," Emma mumbles, her fingers mindlessly tread through Regina's silky hair. "Fuck Robin. I'm here and this is real," she implores before she gently brushes her lips against Regina's in the most delicate and intimate way imaginable to wash away any of the doubt.

"I told you," Regina exasperates and slowly breaks apart the kiss, crushing Emma's heart in an instant. "You don't fit into my life."

"Oh, but he does?"

"He's damage control, Emma. He's going to hold my purse with his hand placed on the small of my back while he escorts me to the limo and then I will kiss him before I step into the car. You know how fast the rumors will fly. Gone is the mysterious blonde and the unknown toddler and here is the handsome bass player of Outlaw. Regina Mills' new boyfriend," she recites exactly how Emma would imagine some gossip reporter would say.

"I-"

"This is how it has to be," the singer sadly confesses as she carefully tucks Emma's hair behind her ear and Emma hates how fucking endearing and gentle she is with only her...and her son.

"So, what? You're going to pretend to date him as a publicity stunt and what," she cynically replies, "keep throwing me into closets like your damn sexuality, so you can kiss me in secret?"

"I told you, I can't date you," Regina exasperates, expressing how annoyed she is with this topic once again.

"So, I'm just some dirty little secret?"

"You said yourself that you're not asking for anything from me," Regina snaps, the last bit of her patience flying out the window.

The brunette angrily stomps away from Emma's personal space and yanks open the closet door. She marches through the dressing room and regally perches herself into her seat. Emma's stunned for about a millisecond before fury quakes through her limbs and she stomps right out of the closet after the maddening woman.

"We aren't done," she sternly growls and snatches up a washcloth to wipe away Regina's mask.

"Please continue to state the obvious, Miss Swan," Regina sarcastically retorts, her long lashes fluttering closed to allow Emma to easily do her job.

"Well, obviously you're acting like a bitch."

"Well, obviously you're delusional. I already explained my terms, time and time again."

"No, you didn't. You avoid a real conversation, time and time again," she mocks with all the maturity of a five-year-old.

Regina's eyes snap open and Emma catches the way they dilate and pulsate with rage as her face comes into view for the singer. They lock eyes, both challenging each other in the raging silence beating between them, but all too quickly Regina is pulling out her phone just to avoid her makeup artist like a snob. And Emma tries so hard to ignore the painful twisting in her heart by proceeding with her job.

She tosses the dirty wipes stained with Regina's success into the trash bin near her feet and gathers up a foundation. Carefully, she dabs a few spots inflicting Regina's smooth skin. Her index finger skims over the deep indent above those kiss swollen lips and her heart skips a beat. Green eyes flick up to brown, but Regina's ignoring her once again. Yet, Emma smiles to herself because she has finally reached the point where the singer doesn't flinch whenever she touches the scar.

"Regina?" She timidly whispers, but never does her hand stop dutifully working.

"Emma, I cannot be in a relationship with a woman. I cannot place my career on the line with something so risky. I could lose everything," she gently explains, finally resting her phone into her lap to offer her undivided attention.

"That's a bunch of bull. There are plenty of celebrities who are out and are still blooming in their career."

"I can't expect you to understand, you have no idea what it's like to have to come out to anyone. I have been in the spotlight since I was four. I was America's perfect little girl. I was America's precious teen pop idol and now, I'm America's flawless superstar. I was molded to be an idol, there is no room in my image for the slightest imperfection-"

"Who the hell ever told you that being gay is an imperfection?" Emma voices, absolutely appalled by the notion, that she takes a step back to study the woman's reaction.

"In society, being gay means being different. As much as we all think our world is changing, it's still not considered the norm," Regina sadly acknowledges, which somehow adds a weight to Emma's heart and forces the organ to sink down to her gut.

"But we are getting there," she weakly defends. "And that's because of people like you in the limelight, coming out and sharing their stories. It's because of celebrities, movies and shows talking about it and making it all normal."

"I can't, Emma. I just can't. My life, my story is different from the rest. I've been under everyone's scrutiny for too long-" Regina's words are rudely cut off when there's a rapid knock on the door. "Go unlock the door," she mutters coldly under her breath which lights a fire under Emma's feet to scurry across the room and do as she's told in fear of Cora.

"We need to get a move on," Jefferson urges through a clenched jaw and beady little eyes that express he suspects what's been occurring behind the locked door. "Now, before Cora comes in here."

"I-uh...need five more minutes," Emma announces, her feet rushing back to her boss and her hands jumping right back into action.

Jefferson gracefully enters the dressing room, but Ruby hastily barges through, practically knocking him over in the process. Regina doesn't even bother looking up from her phone that has suddenly piqued her interest once again, all while Emma works expertly around her.

"Are you insane?" Jefferson hisses, waving at Ruby to shut the door behind her, even though his question is directed toward his cousin.

"What now, Jeff?" Regina exhales slowly, her eyes shifting back and forth as she continues reading.

"Don't give me your attitude right now," he barks, advancing quickly toward her chair in a few short strides, thanks to his long legs. "You're going to parade around with that rugged specimen, who, might I add, is obediently waiting for you downstairs, and then come up here and kick out the crew except for this pretty little number?" He incredulously interrogates with his hand gesturing frantically toward Emma.

"That's none of anyone's concern. I needed a moment of peace after my show while my makeup artist attended to my face," Regina vacantly supplies as an answer, not once showing any suspicion to her credibility.

"Ha!" Jefferson mocks and folds his arms across his broad chest. "I know you inside and out, honey. That is not what transpired behind this locked door."

A tiny twitch around Regina's nose produces a mean snarl to form as her eyes wander up from her phone to meet her smug cousin. They lock eyes with all the determination to break one another and much to Emma's surprise, Regina is the one who rolls her eyes and scoffs first.

"Oh do shut up, dear," she sasses, her gaze intently following Emma's hand enclosing the gap between them with a deep ruby-red lipstick.

Emma's trustworthy eyes flick toward hesitant brown while her eyebrows skyrocket in a silent question. Regina sighs, but slowly, she nods her permission and Emma's heart almost explodes with gratification. Now, she knows Regina trusts her completely. Vigilantly, Emma steps forward, her hand inching closer and closer until she delicately sweeps the stain across those velvety lips she's already yearning more for.

"Does Robin know he's a pawn in your game?" Ruby mindlessly asks as she gathers her duffel bag full of supplies.

"I haven't a clue what you are insinuating," Regina states with ease which only infuriates Emma all the more because it's just another reminder of how great an actress Regina Mills truly is.

"Are you sure singer slash songwriter is really your passion?" Emma sarcastically quips.

Regina purses those swollen lips and glares at Emma like maybe if she stares hard enough, Emma's head might just explode before her.

"What are you implying?"

"That you're too good of an actress," Emma bitterly exasperates and then spins around on her heels to clean up her working area.

"What is the matter with all three of you?" Regina sternly snaps as she stands tall from her chair and glares at her employees. "Are we forgetting our place?" She cruelly questions, folding her arms defensively across her chest. "Hair stylist, fashion coordinator and makeup artist," she punctuates, pointing angrily at each and every one of her staff members. "My publicity actions nor my dating life concern any of you," she barks out, while all three employees, clench their jaws and glare right back at her.

"Don't you dare act like the three of us just work for you," Jefferson growls, stealing a step forward while his cheeks burn with rage.

"Come on, Regina, we are your friends," Ruby gently reasons, hoping to break the tension that's rapidly building in the room and dividing their friendship.

"After everything we just went through with your slip up, you have the audacity to treat us like we are just your waitstaff, really?" Jefferson squawks, his crystal blue eyes burning into stern brown ones, waiting for her to apologize or say something, but Regina just clenches her jaw and holds his gaze. "Fine baby girl, be that way, but don't you even think about crying to me when you can't pick your drunk ass off the floor and Cora needs you on stage," he threatens with such a fierce bite that Emma actually flinches.

She watches as he tosses a few bags over his shoulders and yanks on the door so hard, she fears it might swing right off the hinges and knock them all out. He storms off into the hall, but before Ruby or Emma can squeeze a word in, fucking Robin is peeking his head in with a sheepish grin.

"Hey, babe? Everyone is waiting..."

"Of course," Regina sweetly responds with her academy-award winning smile perfectly sculpted into place as though she didn't just damage her relationship with the closest person to her heart.

She sashays across the dressing room and leans forward to peck his cheek and, of course, Robin takes her purse and guides her down the hall with his hand placed strategically upon the small of her back. Just like Regina said he would.

Ruby shakes out her long mane and flashes Emma a broad smile. "Ready, Ems?"

Emma groans, rolling her neck to release some of the tension clenching in her shoulders and lifts her bag of makeup over her shoulder as well. She trudges across the room and follows her best friend toward the door.

"Please tell me since Regina has her new arm candy that we are shunned to another limo," Emma whines pathetically as they walk down the hall together and she dreads the moment sure to come.

"Um, I wouldn't assume so...I-I actually don't know..." Ruby trails off from the lack of information she possesses.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Emma whimpers, proceeding to trample down the stairs with a frown threatening to make itself known and sell out her true feelings for the singer.

"Regina has never had 'arm candy' before. I mean she has dates to award ceremonies and events, but we don't usually go to those. She's never really had a man tagging around concerts and stuff," Ruby confesses and then shrugs like all this information is nothing to stress over, but Emma is stressing.

In fact, beads of sweat are forming at her hairline and her neck, threatening to incriminate her. How has Regina never been seen around with another companion? The woman is twenty-eight-years-old and Emma knows that she is gay and refuses to make that public knowledge, but how has Cora never forced a fake relationship as a publicity stunt until now. Why now? Is it really because of one lousy picture that was partially distorted of Regina with a toddler? In Emma's mind, it was a brunette woman wearing a baseball cap with braids, she could hardly see Regina's face and Cora and Regina are acting like she held Henry over a cliff for the entire city to speculate, like freaking Simba.

"Looks like there's just one limo, Cora must have left already," Ruby announces when they reach the back door and she peeks out the window.

"Yippee," Emma deadpans and slams her palm against the door, brutally forcing the heavy metal wide open from all her rage.

She steps out into the warm evening air, already wincing from the blinding white lights flashing erratically from every angle. The paparazzi are overly enthused this evening, screaming for Regina to look this way and that. And of course, America's sweetheart, smiles from ear to ear, showing off her pearly whites and waving to each and every cameraman. Even Robin is smiling like he just won the jackpot...well, because he did, right?

Regina slowly turns her attention to Robin, they lock eyes, both smiling wildly at one another like there's not nearly enough time in the day for them to love each other. It makes Emma physically nauseous. Regina tenderly cups Robin's cheek, sweeping her thumb with adoration for the man she hardly knows. Her smile somehow spreads as she leans forward and brushes her lips ever so delicately against his. He chuckles into the kiss while she sighs happily.

Nauseous. So fucking nauseous.

"Emma? You don't look so good," Ruby acknowledges, stopping three feet away from the limo and the insane crowd who is gushing and screaming for the new information that will surely be plastered across every social media page within the next twenty minutes.

"Fine. Just fine," she grumbles and barges her way through the crowd.

Regina waves one last time and slips into the limo with Robin right behind. Guy waits patiently with the door open for Ruby and Emma to climb in as well. Right before Emma tosses herself inside, Mr. Davidson stops her with a gentle touch to her shoulder.

"Don't let them see you frown," he says so sweetly for just her ears and that alone inspires a small smile to appear. "They never last," he whispers and smirks, fully proud of himself which immediately brightens up her mood.

"Thanks, Guy."

He winks and nods his head professionally just as he always does before she slides right in and he closes the door behind her. Emma sinks right into the black leather near the door with Ruby beside her. She glances around the limo, finding Jefferson scowling and avoiding Regina's face like he may catch her germs. Regina is at the other end of the limo, near the dividing glass with Robin's arm draped casually around her shoulders. She's intently reading something on her phone, yet again, completely disinterested in the human leaning heavily into her side and this, well Emma smirks to herself and quickly gazes out the window to hide her laughter.

"So, how about we pop open this champagne?" Robin cheerfully recommends, already reaching for the bottle buried deep in a bed of ice.

"I cannot think of anything more appropriate," Jefferson impassively quips which earns him a discreet eye roll from his cousin.

"We usually don't like to drink in public," Ruby chimes in to rescue everyone from the awkward situation presenting itself like a foul stench clouding the air. "We maintain our professionalism best when we save the alcohol for behind closed doors."

Emma slowly cranes her neck, assessing Ruby's controlled demeanor, and damn, she's good at acting too.

"Oh, uh..." Robin stammers not entirely sure how to proceed, so he glances at his new girlfriend for guidance. "Would you prefer if I wait until we head inside?" He innocently inquires.

"Whichever you prefer," Regina vacantly replies, expressing just how much she doesn't give a rat's ass about this man and Emma snorts embarrassingly from the mundane show. Regina's cold eyes flick toward Emma's, demanding that she shuts the hell up. Slowly, with every intent of commanding Emma's attention, Regina places her hand upon Robin's knee and squeezes, dark eyes still blazing toward sparkling green. "I will not partake since I'm in public," Regina drawls, easily lying through her teeth once again, "but if you desire a glass, I won't hold it against you," she sweetly replies and turns, finally breaking eye contact with Emma to press another kiss to his cheek.

Jefferson, Ruby and Emma all glare at the man, each one of them holding their breaths and waiting for this pawn to make his next move.

"That's alright. I was just trying to be friendly," Robin states and pushes the bottle back into the ice.

Regina smiles back at him, even though it resembles more of a grimace in Emma's eyes and she turns her attention back to her phone. Leaving the rest of the bodies in the limo to sit in silence and drown in their own agonizing thoughts.

~~~~~~~~

Emma frantically jolts up in bed when she feels her body shake vigorously and she nearly slams her head against the roof of the tour bus. She blinks away the sleep and scrubs her eyes rapidly to discover Regina with her finger pressed up against her own lips. Emma furrows her brows, glancing around the dark bus, only shadows casted from the moonlight just outside her window.

Regina curls her finger, provocatively instructing Emma to follow wherever she leads and without another thought, Emma is tossing away her covers and climbing out of her bunk. She blindly follows Regina inside of her room and shivers from the bitter cold air conditioning blowing against her back.

Regina slowly closes her door, conscious of the sleeping bodies just outside and proceeds to lock her door. Emma hugs herself, in a lame attempt to warm herself up and opens her mouth to ask, what's going on? Yet, the words never greet the world because Regina is advancing at an alarming rate and crashing her full lips against pretty little pink ones.

Emma stumbles back from the force, but quickly catches Regina around the waist and steadies them. The brunette smiles into the kiss, holding either side of Emma's face and clinging to her like she's her saving grace. Just like that, Emma is no longer cold and tired, no, she's wide awake and her skin is burning hot. She smiles back at Regina and spins them around abruptly, so she can gently lay Regina down on her back.

Not once does Emma's body ever leave Regina's, she follows the woman down every inch of the way and carefully lays on top of her. She sighs the moment Regina is pinned between herself and the mattress and all she feels is the warmth emitting from the older woman and wrapping around her body like an old security blanket.

"I knew you are already bored with him," Emma muses, roughly slamming her lips against her most favorite place to gawk at, because god, does she want to feel the groove of that scar against her mouth once again.

"Don't talk," Regina mutters, slipping her tongue with ease into Emma's mouth and claiming her for her own.

"But I want to talk," Emma rebuttals and then sucks Regina's thick bottom lip in between her teeth which produces the sexiest little whimper from the singer.

"You always want to talk," Regina groans and easily flips them over, so she can regain her dominance in the situation that seems to always cloud her judgement.

Emma smirks wildly up at the gorgeous woman hovering from above like some angel. She grips the back of Regina's neck and tugs her down until their noses are kissing, but not their lips. She peers deep into those rich eyes and smirks again.

"That's because I love the sound of your raspy voice," she confesses before capturing the plump lips once again, eliciting another moan from Regina's raw throat. "But seriously," Emma interrupts the searing kiss, provoking a groan of frustration to rip from Regina's mouth.

"What?" She exasperates, reluctantly pulling away from their intimacy.

"Stop," Emma says, gripping Regina's wrist before she has the opportunity to crawl too far away. She pulls back the covers and climbs in before yanking Regina down into the bed with her. She blinks slowly, memorizing Regina's face in the shadows of the night and smiles. "Is this how it's going to be?" She nervously questions, her eyes flicking down from the insecurities whispering in her mind about where she and Regina stand.

"How what's going to be?"

"Us. Are you going to gush all over Robin in public while I keep your bed warm at night?"

Regina delicately places her index finger below Emma's chin and slowly guides her head back up so they can lock eyes. Something in Emma's heart ceases up, because she has this theory that whether they are fighting or lost inside an intimate bubble, Regina's favorite thing is to hold her gaze.

"I told you my terms. I cannot keep repeating myself. I cannot be open about my sexuality and if you cannot accept that, then please tell me now, and I will never pursue you again, but you cannot keep playing these games with me as well. We will end this, cut our ties and never speak of it again."

Emma's heart decides this is the perfect time to start back up again, pounding faster than it has ever done before. Regina's laying out all the cards on the table, she's offering the very most that she is allowed under the circumstances and all Emma's heart is doing is screaming to snatch up this proposal and never let go. She is well aware of the risk involved, the jealousy, the secrets and lies, but maybe this is what her life needs. She's been drowning for over two years now and she needs something to shake up the day to day routine.

She cups Regina's cheek and slowly brushes her lips against the silky flesh, inhaling sharply so she can memorize every bit of Regina.

 

Chapter Text


"Thank you, Chicago!" Regina bellows as fireworks whistle into the air and explode over Solider Field, illuminating the sky in various shades of reds and blues.

Emma's head tilts back, a giddy grin stretching into her cheeks as she watches the beautiful display of colors decorate the sky and pound with her beating heart. Regina purposely brushes passed her, distracting her from the show, their shoulders lightly connecting as she strides right up to Robin and sweetly pecks his lips. He wraps his arms tightly around her waist and lifts her effortlessly into the air while they both laugh.

"I need to use the restroom," Regina announces as her fake boyfriend sets her down.

"Regina, we don't have time," Jefferson grumbles, already checking his watch and tapping it as proof. "We need you back in the dressing room and on that tour bus if we are ever going to make it to Nashville."

"Well, too bad," Regina coldly fires back, because they have still yet to reconcile after their explosion two nights prior.

Regina untangles herself from Robin's clutches while Cora and Jefferson exchange death glares and Emma pretends she's invisible.

"Go Jefferson," Cora growls, her beady eyes searing right through Jefferson's gaze and forcing him to oblige.

"Does she really need an escort?" Emma naively questions, just before Jefferson latches onto her elbow and drags her along.

"Come on, Swan. You're coming with me," he grunts through his jaw, that she is convinced he has yet to release since the fight that severed his relationship with his cousin.

"Alright," she stammers, her feet scuffing against the floor to keep up with his long strides.

"I don't need a babysitter," Regina maliciously gripes over her shoulder.

"Your mother insisted," he seethes while Emma blinks rapidly in bewilderment and tries to wrap her head around the current baffling situation. Regina presses her fingertips against the bathroom door and peeks over her shoulder, prompting Jefferson to shove Emma forward, taking her by utter surprise. "Watch her," he orders and folds his arms across his chest, narrowing his sharp baby blues her way.

"Watch her?" Emma dumbly mumbles as Regina disappears behind the door and into a stall. Emma just gapes at Jefferson, squinting back at him while shaking her head. "I don't need to listen to the woman pee."

"Just go, you idiot."

He quickly shoves her inside the tiny bathroom and leans his back against the door, instantly becoming the guard dog for the rundown bathroom.

Emma groans to herself while hiking up her leg and planting her foot against an old, red brick wall. She rests her back and gently allows her head to fall back just to stare blankly at a ceiling that's stained with brown water spots. She listens to Regina finishing up, unlocking the stall, and strutting out, full of confidence.

She doesn't bother glancing in Emma's direction, but this doesn't irritate her like it once did, because she knows this is their song and dance now. This is how Regina gets arise out of her and this is the kind of behavior that strikes the match to their connection and lights the burning passion between them. So, Regina carefully washes her hands while Emma ignores her as well.

Regina places her hands beneath the air drier, that is obviously broken by the obnoxious noise assaulting Emma's ears. In a blink of an eye, Regina's warm body is pressing against Emma's and she's stealing those dainty lips all for her own. Her slender fingers glide possessively up Emma's soft cheeks, urging her forward, so she can quite literally take her breath away.

Emma's body immediately reacts, like there's a switch that flips on in her head whenever Regina's lips connect with hers and it turns off all other thoughts and guides her hands with expertise. She slides her hands around the sexy curve above Regina's hips and travels up the woman's toned back, instantly creating a pulsating between her legs, that's been hibernating for the last three years.

Regina straddles Emma's only leg that's supporting her entire weight and slowly rides her firm thigh up, deepening the kiss while Emma groans into her mouth. The heat scorching from Regina's body and sinking into her own skin is like basking in the summer's hot sun, warming up her veins and tingling her flesh. And with each passing kiss, the temperature seems to be rising between them and Emma knows it's only a matter of time before she gets burned.

But, it's far too early to stop now and they are just getting started, so Emma just reminds herself to lather on an extra layer of protection. She roughly sucks Regina's bottom lip into her mouth, so she knows she has Regina's undivided attention.

"Do you always have to kiss me right after kissing him?" Emma snarks, tugging Regina even closer by the dip in her lower back.

"Do you always have to ruin a moment with your big mouth?" Regina annoyingly quips before shutting her up with a desperate kiss that steals the last bit of oxygen from both their lungs.

Emma's mind spins, like some euphoric energy leaks from her brain whenever she kisses Regina and intoxicates her. The energy sends her high, tampering with all her logical thoughts and leaves her feeling drunk afterwards.

Regina boldly slithers her sneaky fingers down Emma's abdomen only to roughly glide right back up and grope Emma's full breasts with a type of need that awakens something deep inside of Emma. She moans, lunging forward to only deepen the kiss further.

"Girls, the bus! Let's go!" Jefferson rudely interjects their private moment, pounding roughly against the door.

Emma attempts to pull back, but she's perfectly pinned into submission against a brick wall and her most favorite person right now. Regina slows down the kiss, affectionately sliding her hands back up to cup Emma's cheeks in the most adorable way. Her tongue tentatively brushes against Emma's before she slowly ends the kiss. Regina pecks her lips one last time, which instantly produces a frown around Emma's mouth.

"Let's go," she whispers and steps back from Emma's embrace to readjust her clothing.

Emma groans dramatically, "do we have to?"

"You'll be back in my bed in an hour," Regina deadpans while fluffing her hair and sauntering toward the door with an extra swing in her step.

Emma groans once again and tumbles forward. She whimpers like a little puppy while Regina glances over her shoulder with a smug smirk just to watch the blonde trailing behind, hunched over and staring shamelessly at her full bottom. Regina's hand smacks against the bathroom door, signaling their departure, so Jefferson can step away and Emma immediately straightens her posture.

"You're welcome," Jefferson spits indignantly.

"For what?" Regina innocently inquires, brushing right passed her cousin without ever glancing in his direction.

"You may have everyone else fooled, but you could never pull one over my eyes," he hisses in her ear and Emma swallows hard, hating how they are still fighting.

"I'm glad you proceed to think so highly of yourself," Regina flippantly replies with Jefferson marching hot on her heels and Emma dawdles behind them, unsure where her place is.

"Fuck you," he spits in a hushed whisper, "I hope you enjoy your evening," he sarcastically fires back, urging Regina to finally crane her neck and meet his gaze.

She squints at him, assessing his cold expression to his rigid posture, but Cora is the one to break the intense stare down. "Regina, darling," she wickedly coos, "Robin and I were just discussing how wonderful it would be if he traveled to Nashville with you on the bus." Cora's vindictive smile stretches across her face while her eyes flash with malicious intent. "It would be so healthy for your new relationship to spend some quality time together, don't you think, my dear?"

And that condescending tone settles into Emma's skin, provoking goosebumps to scatter across her flesh while her stomach flips in disgust.

"Of course, mother," her daughter easily replies with her supportive smile and all too agreeable tone in her voice.

Robin offers his elbow and beams with such pride. "My lady," he playfully says, encouraging Regina to hook her arm into his. "Makeup first, right?" He proudly states to show off his knowledge of his girlfriend's schedule and nods his head toward Emma, who coincidentally appears like she's in excruciating pain.

"Right," Emma drags out the word and nods back at the man she despises.

It's not that he's a horrible guy, because if she's being honest with herself, he's not. He's actually very sweet, but he's just stuck in the wrong place, wedging his stupid perfect face where it doesn't belong, between her and Regina's blossoming romance.

"Alright, makeup and then back to the tour bus," Ruby awkwardly announces as she slithers her arm around Emma's and drags her back to the dressing room.

~~~~~~~

It's two thirty in the fucking morning and Emma's on her third cup of Sleepy Time tea and she feels like she just downed her second can of Red Bull. She's wide awake, watching the trees and highway pass her by, wondering what the hell she's doing with her life?

"Miss Swan?" Mr. Davidson quietly interrupts her thoughts and yanks her mind back to the now.

She blinks away her daydreams and forces her eyes away from the window toward the kind soul driving the bus.

"Yeah?" Her voice comes out all scratchy and groggy from the lack of sleep, motivating her to sip her warm tea to soothe the muscles.

"Don't you think you should get some sleep? Big day in Nashville tomorrow, right?" He softly whispers over his shoulder, conscious of all the people fast asleep at the back of the bus.

"Probably," she murmurs, mindlessly scratching at her coffee mug. "I'm not tired."

"Sometimes my daughters enjoy a bedtime story. They claim it's because of my calming voice, but I have an inkling it's because they find my stories boring," he professionally states, so matter-of-fact, which generates a small chuckle to escape Emma's mouth.

"You do have a soothing sound to your voice," she reasons because this man is so sweet and there's just something about him that washes away all of her fears.

"You're very kind, Miss Swan."

"Em-ma," she over pronounces and watches through the rear view mirror as his bright blue eyes slide in her direction and he smiles back at her.

She returns the gesture, her heart squeezing deep inside her chest as she wonders if this is what it would feel like to talk to her dad in the middle of the night when her life problems are weighing her down? She never had a male role model in her life and she never really spoke to anyone older except Granny and her mother. And even though the concept of not having a father doesn't bother her anymore, it doesn't stop her mind from dreaming up what could have been.

"I think you need some rest, Em-ma," he teasingly mocks in a hushed whisper while he focuses intently on the midnight road ahead.

"You're up."

Emma jumps back against the black leather couch, clenching her chest from Regina's sneak attack. "What the hell?" She gasps through a heavy pant while she attempts to regulate her breathing.

"Sorry," Regina shortly replies and slides into the spot right beside Emma. "Why are you up?"

"I couldn't sleep." She shrugs noncommittally and wishes her eyes would venture out back to the shadowy scenery whipping by, but she can't. Regina's eyes are glistening with concern and pulling at her heartstrings and trapping her under some enchanting spell.

"I'm sorry our plans for this evening were ruined," Regina delicately whispers while her index and middle finger trap a piece of golden locks and tuck it neatly behind Emma's ear.

Emma stiffens immediately from the display of affection, along with the apology and her eyes immediately flick toward the driver. Regina follows her gaze and waves her off in a split second.

"Mr. Davidson is very trustworthy, surpassing every one of my employees."

"Including me?" Emma muses.

"Including you," Regina seductively whispers, enclosing the minimal gap between them to brush her lips ever so delicately against Emma's.

They both smile softly against one another before Emma pecks those plump lips just one last time before she pulls away.

"How was your night?" And it takes every last bit of energy Emma possesses to keep her voice neutral.

"A bit dull."

"Did you sleep with him?"

Dark brows pinch together quizzically as Regina slowly backs away from Emma's face. "I beg your pardon."

"Just curious," Emma retorts, but her voice cracks and expresses that it runs so much deeper than curiosity. The green-eyed monster is crawling his way to the surface and she has no idea how to control the beast.

Regina hums in response, not at all trusting in the blonde's words. "Why would I sleep with him when I haven't even slept with you?"

"Because he's your boyfriend...and I...am not."

"That doesn't win him the right to sleep with me."

"That's not what I meant," Emma sighs and runs a shaky hand through her wild mane. "Aren't you going to have to eventually sleep with him to keep up with this facade?" Emma scratches her scalp anxiously and tosses around her straggly strands. "Fuck, I don't even understand how any of this happened. I've never even seen you talk to the man and then all of sudden, you two are kissing each other like you've been together for years."

"It really is nothing for you to worry about," Regina says so sincerely that Emma almost accepts that answer, almost.

"If I'm going to play along, I need to understand everything about you two. How did this even begin?"

"We've been speaking since Vegas," and Emma isn't ignorant to the fact that Regina very visibly flinches from the admission.

"Vegas."

"Yes," she weakly responds, never appearing so fragile and insecure since the day Emma found her a heap of a mess on the bathroom floor completely wasted...in Vegas.

"So, you started speaking to Robin and building your fake relationship when you slipped up?" She hates how cold and distant her own voice sounds, but she cannot help the bitterness swimming through her bloodstream right now.

"Well, technically it was after that."

"Is that what influenced you to drink? Knowing you had to pretend to be in a relationship and keep who you are hidden from the world?"

"No, you said yourself, I'm a phenomenal actress," she conceitedly replies, thrusting her chin high in the air to add to her ego while Emma just scoffs and rolls her eyes. "I just think of it as playing a part. Honestly, it doesn't even phase me," she earnestly states.

"Did your mother force you to do it?"

"It was my choice, Emma. Don't place the blame on my mother," the singer sternly says, narrowing her eyes to express the seriousness in her words, but Emma has never been one to cower away.

"Why do you constantly defend her after the way she treats you?" She exasperates because she doesn't understand how Regina can so easily turn her cheek when her mother is so wickedly cruel.

"Because she is my mother," the brunette snaps, effectively silencing Emma for once. "If it weren't for my mother, I wouldn't be who I am today. All my success is because of her, I owe her everything," she states with finality leaving no more room to argue.

Emma tentatively reaches in the space between them, hesitant because she's unsure how irritated Regina is with her at the moment. Her fingers lightly curl a chunk of thick raven tresses behind Regina's ear as she offers a small smile.

"Regina, you're successful, because you are talented. No amount of lessons could teach the raw passion and drive you have for acting and singing. Nobody can teach that. Nobody can make you become a songwriter and you're one of the best." Gently, the back of her fingers trail down Regina's jawline and caress the soft flesh before she leans forward and places a small kiss to those irresistible lips. "You are who you are today because of your dedication and strive for perfection," she whispers as she slowly pulls away and watches intently as Regina's long lashes flutter open.

"I suppose," the talented woman agrees halfheartedly.

"So, you've been sneaking around talking to Robin and developing a relationship with him? Does he know this is just a ploy?"

"Emma, please stop worrying about Robin," Regina sighs heavily and Emma just knows she's carrying the weight of the world upon her tired shoulders.

"I need to know all the details if I'm going to be involved. It's kinda hard not to worry about him, because if I were him, I would be devastated to find out you were seeing someone else on the side."

"Would you now?" Regina muses with an evil little smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.

"I would." Emma exhales slowly and leans just a smidge closer. "Look Regina, I'm a little lost here." She rests her warm palm upon her companion's thigh and slowly caresses the silky skin below. "Tell me something that nobody else knows," she whispers so tenderly that Regina's mask slips for a split second before she slides it right back into place.

In a hot, sultry manner, Regina lifts her right leg and slowly glides it across Emma's lap, all while her dark, enchanting eyes never leave Emma's inquisitive ones. It feels like everything is in slow motion as Emma studies the way this seductive woman lowers herself onto her lap and drapes her arms over Emma's shoulders. Bitterly cold chills trickle down her spine and produce goosebumps to scatter across her flesh.

"Regina, someone could see."

"They won't wake up," Regina murmurs, peering down into blown-wide green eyes that are slowly being taken over by her lust.

"Why? Because your NDA demands them not to?" Emma quips which instantly provokes Regina to purse her full lips. "Please," she urges delicately, "I'm having such a hard time trying to identify where Regina Mills the star ends and where the real Regina begins." Affectionately, she slides her palms up Regina's thick thighs, around her full bottom until she's holding the smaller woman closer in her lap. "Please, tell me something that nobody else knows, so I know that I'm not just a game to you like Robin. I need something, so I know I'm not in this alone and you're not just playing another part with me," she whispers.

It's so dark on the bus, but every now and again a lamppost outside leaks through the window and lights up Regina's breathtaking face. Emma studies those dark eyes as they flick from left to right, desperately trying to read Emma's mind. There's a tiny tremble toying with Regina's bottom lip and out of Emma's peripheral she notices Regina's chest rising and falling at a faster rate.

Regina opens her mouth to speak, but it appears that the words are just not cooperating, staying stranded somewhere in her throat. She slowly closes her mouth and swallows hard and Emma pretends not to notice the liquid clinging to those beautiful brown eyes.

"I'm not acting with you," Regina finally chokes out.

"Then please, be real with me," she implores, tightening her grip around the woman's tiny frame.

"Nobody knows this, you can never-"

"Stop, NDA or not, I would never spill our secrets. Do you know why?" Regina's eyes never stray from intense green ones as she slowly shakes her head. "Because my most favorite thing about us is knowing that we share secrets. That I know you better than all those people that claim to. I love watching everyone gush over you, so I can smile to myself and say, well I know the real her," she smugly confesses with a much too cocky grin set in place.

Regina purses her lips once again, but it's different this time, Emma knows she's attempting to suppress her giddy grin. She rolls her eyes dramatically and exhales loudly, but Emma knows she won this woman over and she cannot contain her sappy smile.

"Fine." Emma carefully slips her fingers beneath Regina's camisole and methodically rubs her lower back to keep her content in her confession. "When I was four, my father walked out the door."

Emma blinks rapidly, baffled by the new information because she has never heard a thing about Regina's father. Not even in the tabloids had any reporter ever mentioned a Mr. Mills.

"I'm so sorry." Emma ducks down, hopelessly searching for Regina's gaze, but she's avoiding her. "Do you know what happened?" She timidly murmurs, uncertain if she should push for more or back off because finally, Regina has given her something.

Regina tsks to herself as she reluctantly nods along. "I-I was not planned. My father, he was a coward," she bitterly spits in disgust. "He didn't really want to be with my mother, but I guess he had some influences from his family and felt obligated to marry her. Well, I guess after four years he had enough of my mother and he left. I don't really remember him too much, but I do remember the day he left."

Emma squeezes her, confirming that she's still with her, every step of the way. Very delicately, she brushes her lips against Regina's and murmurs, "Do you want to tell me about it?"

Regina nods against her, peering so deep into Emma's eyes, she swears the brunette can see into her very soul.

"I remember sitting on top of the staircase, listening to them argue. I couldn't tell you what they were saying, but I will never forget him grabbing his suitcase and reaching for the door. My mother asked him something and he just looked up at me and I will never forget how he just stared into my eyes before he shook his head and said, 'No, I don't want anything to do with her.' And then he just left without even saying goodbye to me and I will never, ever, forget the sound of my mother throwing a vase at the door once he was gone."

"Regina, I'm so so sorry-"

"I think that was what motivated my mom to put me in the spotlight. I think she felt this need to prove that, not only did we not need him to be successful, but also how much he was missing out on," Regina sadly confesses, painfully constricting Emma's chest, because she gets it, probably better than anyone.

"I guess we both kinda have that in common then, huh?" She sheepishly shrugs. "Pieces of shits for fathers?"

Regina actually chuckles at this and rests her forehead against Emma's. She inhales sharply like she's trying to breathe in Emma's essence while her eyes flutter closed.

"Do you trust me now?" Regina mutters mostly under her breath as if she's petrified to voice the question out loud because she really doesn't want to know the answer.

"Of course, I trust you," Emma wholeheartedly concedes and puckers out her lips just to lazily connect with the woman who is becoming more irresistible by the second in her eyes.

"Good. Now, kiss me like you mean it," Regina demands, snaking her fingers through long golden waves so she can hold her into place.

Emma smirks, digging her fingertips deep into Regina's back and traveling up the silky flesh as she crashes their mouths ruthlessly together. They are both frantic, all tongues and teeth in some desperate need to prove just how much they desire one another.

Regina leans to her left while her right hand skates with determination down Emma's chest to roughly grope her heavy breast. Emma chokes on her moan, failing miserably to keep her sounds at bay because there are far too many people in the close proximity to catch them in the act. Regina's hand falls away, traveling further down with the intent for so much more. Her slender fingers dip inside Emma's waistband, but she's quick to catch Regina's tiny wrist.

"Nuh-uh," she mutters into the kiss, frantically shaking her head, but Regina just nods and smiles that evil grin.

"Uh-huh."

"Someone could wake up," Emma hisses, never once peeling her lips apart from Regina's smart-ass mouth.

"Then be quiet," she retorts.

The sound of someone clearing their throat, disrupts their playful quarrel and forces them to acknowledge the man driving the bus.

"Miss Mills," Guy warns in a low tone that makes Emma feel like a scolded teenager caught red handed for smoking.

"Sorry, Mr. Davidson," Regina sorrowfully replies, causing Emma to blink rapidly in confusion, because she actually does appear to be sorry.

"You both need sleep," he strictly declares, encouraging Regina to climb off Emma's lap.

"Of course," she solemnly says. Regina outstretches her hands, encouraging Emma to place hers inside and allow Regina to pull her to her feet. "Good night, Mr. Davidson."

"Good night, Miss Mills, Miss Swan."

"Night, Guy," Emma happily says and follows Regina toward the back of the bus. She leans heavily into Regina's side and whispers, "well, that was awkward."

"Hardly, he's been my driver since I was sixteen and let's just say I wasn't such a sweetheart as everyone suspects. Mr. Davidson has always kept a close eye on me and protected me when need be," Regina expresses with a deep compassion for the older man.

"He's a good man."

"I know," Regina breathes and leans in to place the smallest, but sweetest kiss against Emma's lips. "Good night, Em-ma," she taunts teasingly as her lips slowly break apart from Emma's tender flesh.

"Good night, Regina."

 

Chapter Text


"So, thank you all for the time, dedication, and hard work that each and every one of you put in to make this tour possible. See you all in the spring," Regina plasters on her plastic smile, lifts her sparkling cider into the air and toasts her entire crew.

"Cheers!" Everyone bellows as they clink their glasses together and toss back the champagne with a hefty price tag attached.

Emma and Ruby clink together their cider as well, neither one ever wanting to indulge whenever Regina is in their presence. Her phone suddenly vibrates in her back pocket and quickly she retrieves it, knowing her mother is probably going ballistic with the idea of her coming home tomorrow. Yet, the text message she receives from her mother has nothing to do with missing her most favorite daughter. She furrows her brows, scanning the words one more time before her heart pounds a little too hard.

"Excuse me a sec," she mutters to Ruby, who smiles and nods, already moving on to converse with Jefferson. She maneuvers her way through the crowded hotel room, people laughing and speaking over one another, until she is right next to her boss. "Hey."

"Miss Swan," the singer politely greets her and nods slightly while Emma's eyes become distracted with Robin's arm coiling around her waist.

"Um, can I speak with you for a moment...regarding my contract..." Emma trails off once she feels Cora's fiery gaze burning into her right side and Kathryn scrutinizing her from the left.

"Of course," Regina platonically says, handing her glass off to her mother, so nobody ever discovers what's truly inside.

"Hurry back, babe, there are plenty more of celebratory champagne bottles with your name on them," Robin cheerfully announces, raising his glass to clink against Killian, Graham and Milah's glasses as well.

"Of course," Regina easily concedes and steps back from the small circle to lead the way through the suite into her private bedroom.

Regina holds the door open for Emma to step inside and then proceeds to close and very carefully lock the door without the noise reaching the crowd just outside. Regina spins around, advancing quickly with that hungry glint sparkling in her eyes, but Emma holds up her hands in surrender with her phone still on display.

"Wait, this really is about my contract," Emma hastily rambles off and Regina doesn't even try to hide the frown.

"Very well." The singer waves encouraging Emma to proceed.

"My mom just sent me the bank statement after my last check..." Emma unlocks her phone and brings up the message once again. "Regina, there must be some kind of mistake. I think you need to call your bank and-"

"There's no mistake," Regina coldly states, reminding Emma of a time when she didn't know this beautiful creature before her and she's so glad she was granted the opportunity to really unlock the pieces that make her who she really is.

"Look, the amount is double what my contract agreed upon-"

"I know how much it is, Miss Swan."

"Please drop the attitude," she whines, shoving her phone back into her pocket since the evidence seems to be of no use to her. "What's going on? Why are you acting all defensive?"

"I am not."

"Yes, yes, you are," she breathes out a frustrated sigh and steals a step forward. "Why is there an extra salary's worth in my bank account?"

"You have showed initiative and I believe you worked very hard during this tour. When you first showed up, I didn't expect much out of you, so I low-balled the price, but you showed determination and drive and I believe you deserve more than my initial offer."

Emma's sandy blonde eyebrows pinch together as she assesses Regina's explanation. She folds her arms defensively across her chest and squints at her secret lover. "You sure this has nothing to do with pity? Or because of Henry? Because you're acting suspicious."

"Absolutely not," Regina takes offense and encloses the last step between them. "Truly Emma, you deserve the pay, you earned it." Tenderly, Regina places her index finger beneath Emma's chin and guides those pale lips to her own. Just barely, she brushes her lips against Emma's and whispers, "I would like you to stay on as my personal makeup artist."

Emma blinks as her mind replays Regina's request once more. She honestly didn't think Regina would fire her, but she never once thought about continuing with this job either. She would be a fool to throw this kind of money away and reject the proposal, but then again, could she really spend another summer away from her family?

"What's wrong?" Regina inquires, the concern and uncertainty evident in her tone as her thumb sweeps affectionately over Emma's chin.

Emma frowns, but pecks Regina's lips once more and god, they are so velvety soft, she wishes she could just get lost in them for the rest of the night.

"Nothing, to be honest, I just never thought about signing again. Not that I don't want to," she rushes out when she notices Regina's face falter. "I just haven't thought about it and I don't know if I could be away from my family again like that."

"Would you like me to arrange for another bus so they could come along?" Regina hastily suggests without truly thinking about the idea which causes Emma to chuckle softly.

"You're so sweet when you want to be," she muses before capturing those succulent lips in a deep kiss that sucks all the oxygen from the room. "The road isn't really a place for a three-year-old," she laughs lightly even though her heart is aching because bringing along her son would be the best option, for her.

"I understand. I can always arrange for him to visit more. My private jet is accessible if ever need be," she firmly declares, snaking her arms around Emma's neck.

"Thank you." Emma pecks her nose playfully and smiles from ear to ear. "Can I have a week to think about it?"

"Of course. The tour most likely wouldn't occur until next summer anyways. However, I do have some guest appearances and award ceremonies during the meantime..." she trails off, hoping Emma understands the silent offer.

"I can definitely agree to those now because I know I won't be gone more than a day, right?"

"Exactly and I wouldn't mind if you brought Henry with."

"Deal," Emma instantly agrees and tugs Regina flush against her body, stealing a kiss to seal their arrangement.

However there's a crude and rapid beating against the door and Emma just knows it's the insufferable Cora, so she quickly untangles herself from Regina and wipes her mouth to make sure there's no evidence of their tryst left behind. Regina swiftly glides across the room and unlocks the door, yanking it wide open as her mother is already crossing the threshold.

"Regina, there is a party in your honor, it is rude not to be present," Cora scolds, waving toward the door for her daughter to close it once again.

"Miss Swan and I were just discussing her salary and the prospect of her signing again for next year," Regina professionally responds, clasping her hands in front of her lower abdomen as regal as always.

"I see," Cora hisses like the snake she is, turning her dark expression to the twitchy blonde who is still self-conscious about the stain that may or may not be present on her lips. "My daughter is paying you quite well, don't you agree, Miss Swan?"

"Absolutely," Emma immediately concedes, "and I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity. It's just...I have my son to consider as well..."

"Right...Henry," she growls with a sourpuss expression like her son's name tastes foul upon her rich tongue. Emma flinches, her eyes instantly darting to catch a glimpse of Regina's uncomfortable stance as well, confusing her even more. "Well, do as you must, but I would like an answer before you leave to go back home."

Emma opens her mouth, but Regina is already intervening. "Mother, I already told her she could have until the end of the week."

Cora's beady little eyes trail toward Emma in disdain, roaming over her fidgety body and silently judging her. "Very well," she hums, pivoting on her high heels to exit the room, but she stops directly in front of her daughter and grasps onto her chin so tight that Emma winces in return. "It's time to come back out, enough with the sneaking off for the night. I don't want one single slip up this evening with the entire crew present. Miss Swan, you are not to steal away my daughter for the rest of the evening," she demands, her eyes never leaving Regina's, but Emma swears the woman has eyes in the back of her head just shooting daggers in her direction. She swallows thickly, absolutely mortified that Cora might know about her and Regina's secret rendezvous. "Do I make myself clear ladies?" She snaps like a leather whip slicing through the air and brutally raining down upon them.

"Yes," they both answer obediently in return.

But then Emma's big mouth opens and even to her own humiliation, she speaks. "You know?" She squeaks out barely above a whisper, provoking Regina's disapproving glare to slide in her direction, even though Cora still has her claws digging into her daughter's cheeks.

"Of course, I'm no fool. Do you honestly think you are the first pretty little girl to catch my daughter's eye?" She vengefully quips over her shoulder, then tosses her daughter's face away in disgust and Emma has no clue if her stomach bottoms out from Cora's malicious words or her abuse toward her daughter. "Don't be so naive, Miss Swan. It won't get you far in this industry." Cora sashays toward the door in which Regina obediently opens for her. "Five minutes, say your goodbyes and come back out and mingle."

"Yes, mother," Regina robotically answers just like the good little girl her mother taught her to be and softly closes the door behind the devil.

"She knew and you didn't tell me," Emma seethes in a whisper, careful to protect her voice from Cora's prying ears.

Regina slowly turns around, her eyes quickly latching onto Emma's as she pushes herself away from the door. "Do you really want to spend the five minutes we have discussing my mother?" Her steps are powerful, determined and screwing with the portion of the brain that controls Emma's logical thinking.

"Yes."

"Of course, you do. You always want to talk," Regina annoyingly says and clutches onto the lapels of Emma's dressy jacket. "Well, I don't," she murmurs and slams her mouth brutally against Emma's, effectively shutting up her big mouth that always incriminates her.

Regina steps forward, forcing Emma to tumble backwards until her back smacks against the far wall. Emma groans, sliding her hands around Regina's tiny frame and holding her close.

"Why are we always standing?" She groans into the hysterical kissing session she has suddenly found herself in. "We need more time." Regina nods absentmindedly and proceeds to nibble on Emma's bottom lip, eliciting the most sultry moan in return. "I hate how we are always rushing," she mumbles before Regina releases her lip, those lust filled eyes floating up to lock onto Emma's. "I want to spend more time with you," she confesses earnestly, tugging the smaller woman closer. "I want to explore without having a five minute time limit."

"I know and we will. The tour is over and this is the last night that we have to hide in front of everyone," Regina vows so sweetly and places one last delicate kiss to her secret lover before pulling away. "Shall we?"

"I really don't want to, but let's do this," Emma reluctantly agrees and straightens her black jacket that she borrowed from Ruby before they are out the door and lost in a sea of people.

~~~~~~~~

Emma had spent two hours glued to Jefferson's side as if there was an invisible tether attaching them at the hip. The moment she stepped out of Regina's bedroom, they had split like the Red Sea and when she went in search for her best friend, she discovered Ruby had already firmly planted her bottom in Graham's lap once again. So, Jefferson was her safest bet to keep her distance from Regina like she was instructed to do by Cora, because the two cousins were still fighting and Jefferson would rather be caught in last year's fashion than apologize first to Regina, according to him.

So naturally, she had been stumbling behind Jefferson, listening to his conversations while they sipped their pretend champagne with her eyes constantly searching for a flash of inky black tresses and that award-winning grin that always causes her to smile as well.

Milah had slyly whisked by, whispering in Emma's ear, "she'll never be yours."

"What?" Emma had blinked in confusion, spinning around abruptly to meet those stormy eyes that are always up to no good.

"It has nothing to do with you," Milah honestly said, "I mean she and I have always had great chemistry in bed," Emma's face scrunched in disgust, "but nobody will ever win her in the end. Her mother's approval is too important to forfeit for a relationship. Her career will always come first, because that's what Cora expects of her," and that was all Milah provided before she was stolen away by Killian.

Emma found that Regina spent most of the evening fawning over Robin, her fingers mindlessly running through his short sandy-blonde hair while he had a secure arm around her waist. She noticed whenever Robin would tell a story and have his whole band laughing, Regina would strategically place an adoring kiss to his cheek and smile like he is her sun, brightening up her days. But then Regina's eyes would trail back to Emma's, when everyone else's attention was on someone else and those rich eyes would soften and glow a warm honey hue and Emma knew that she was so much more than just Regina's sun, but she was her world; her sun, her moon, her stars, the air she breathes and the light to pull her out of the darkness.

Emma could only imagine how dark Regina's world was at this particular moment. Everyone around her was drinking, even her own damn mother was tossing back champagne glasses like they were water. One would assume a mother would have the decency not to drink in front of their daughter who is a struggling alcoholic, but not Cora Mills. Jefferson, Ruby and Emma all had an understanding and the respect not to drink around Regina, knowing how badly she's suffering and it was like a jagged blade straight to Emma's heart as she watched everyone flaunt their bottles around the singer.

Whether Regina, herself, noticed or not, Emma sure as hell wasn't ignorant to the fact that every time a cork was popped or a full glass tipped in her direction, Regina would flinch. Emma wanted nothing more than to drag Regina out of the room and hide away back in her own hotel room with the woman curled up in her arms, in the dark, in silence, away from all the pressures of society. But she couldn't. Cora was maintaining a watchful eye throughout the evening, until Emma finally threw in the towel and slipped out the door unnoticed.

It was the final hurray, the last night of the tour, but there were far too many things nagging at the back of her mind to really enjoy the party. Besides stealing Regina away and keeping her protected from her poison, all Emma really wanted to do was just go home. She had a flight back to New York with Ruby at seven in the morning and she just couldn't wait for that moment. Her skin was prickling with anxious energy just to be home again and her stomach kept sporting backflips at the idea of her son in her arms once again.

She crawled into her hotel bed, one of far too many to count or keep track of by this point and she couldn't help but wonder if she could do all of this over again? She needed the money, that's for damn sure, but truthfully, she just loved the idea of finally being able to take care of her mom and alleviate some of the pressure her mother's been carrying around for twenty-three years now.

Three months away. Three months away is nothing compared to nine months at home, living happily and comfortable. The thought of living comfortable, is almost enough to make her sign the contract right here and now. To be able to walk in her apartment and not have to avoid the coffee table filled with bills marked in red ink would be a blessing.

Three months, she repeats over and over again, until her eyelids grow heavy and she falls fast asleep, dreaming of her baby boy and a certain brunette who may have stolen her heart undetected.

~~~~~~

"Emma, get up. We need you," Ruby hisses, shaking her sister violently and forcing Emma's eyes to widen to their fullest extent.

"Ruby? What the hell? How did you get in my room?" Emma groggily rambles off as she wipes the sleep from her eyes and slowly pushes herself up in bed.

"A key," she flippantly replies, motivating Emma's eyes to roll in annoyance. "Get up. We need you, now," she urges frantically, already standing up from her kneeling position by Emma's bed and crossing the hotel room.

"Dude, I'm tired. I'm not in the mood."

"It's an emergency," Ruby sternly states with enough panic lingering behind her tone that Emma's heart leaps into her throat and she finds herself tossing off her covers and clambering out of bed.

"What's wrong?" She nervously questions as she snatches her sweatshirt off the edge of the bed and quickly tugs it on.

"It's Regina," her friend softly whispers, like she cannot find the strength to confess what has happened while Emma has been blissfully ignorant in her deep slumber. "Come on," she sadly says and tugs Emma right out of the room.

Emma squints from the blinding yellow lights illuminating the hallway because her mind is still half asleep. It's attempting to wake up and follow along with where her body is being dragged to, but everything is still so hazy. Her heart is sinking with each passing footstep and she just knows in her gut what she will find on the other side of whatever door Ruby brings her to.

Ruby swipes a key card and steals one last glance in Emma's direction, and that look alone sends shivers down Emma's spine. One corner of Ruby's mouth deepens before she sighs and opens the door. Quickly, she yanks Emma inside with her and closes the door behind them.

"Step back, the stench of forest is starting to agitate my sinuses," Regina bitterly bites out as Emma rounds the corner to find the brunette shoving her so called boyfriend. However, the man appears to be heavily intoxicated by his squinting, bloodshot eyes, and the unbalanced stagger in his step.

Emma swallows thickly as the vile stomach acid crawls up her throat and tingles the back of her tongue. She blinks, long and hard hoping that maybe this might just be a dream and maybe she never really woke up to begin with, but everything is so vivid, especially the hand upon her shoulder. She blinks again and peers up at the man sorrowfully gazing upon her.

"You need to calm her down," Jefferson whispers while his concerned eyes focus intently on his cousin. "She's getting violent."

Emma blinks again, her sleepy eyes trailing back to the woman tossing another shot back with Milah, while her free hand is forcefully shoving Robin away once again. They both slam down their empty glasses stained in tequila, just so each of them can gather up a fresh piece of lime. Milah leans heavily on her forearms and invades Regina's personal space as she tenderly paints Regina's full bottom lip with the juicy lime. Ever so slowly, the tip of Regina's tongue pokes out, licking up the trail of tang left behind. Both women lock eyes, and there's that chemistry Milah was bragging about earlier. Emma watches as the lead singer of Outlaw places the lime into Regina's mouth.

She's absolutely mortified of what might transpire between these two women, but Regina shakes her head, shoves Milah back into her seat and proceeds to pour another round, still clueless to Emma's presence. Her body relaxes, slightly relieved that nothing more happened between the two singers. Regina places a significant amount of distance between herself and Milah which motivates Emma to confront her secret companion.

Emma's heart pounds a little faster out of fear of what's to come, because she knows Regina could react one of two ways; either happily listen to Emma because she's so ecstatic to see her while hammered or cause a huge scene because she's crossing that line between cheerful drunk and belligerent.

Emma tentatively crosses the suite, her mind running a mile a minute as she tries to decipher the best way to approach the situation. She stuffs her hands into the pocket of her hoodie to calm her twitchy fingers and slowly slides up to the group of people standing around the kitchen island.

"Hi," she timidly interrupts, inspiring Regina's neck to whip around.

"Emma," she gasps, like she isn't too sure if the cute blonde is actually standing before her or she's that fucked up already.

"Hey," Emma softly says, a shy smile curling around her mouth. "I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute?" She timidly asks, hoping her shy disposition will keep Regina's demons locked securely away.

"I'm with my boyfriend," Regina dismissively counters, encouraging Emma to take a gander around the room and see if Cora is still lingering around, corrupting Regina's mind, but she doesn't seem to find her.

"Your forest smelling boyfriend," he chuckles, leaning forward to steal a kiss, but Regina expertly blocks him with a finger pressed to his lips and that's how they remain, frozen.

Emma scrunches her eyebrows as she watches Robin leaning heavily into Regina's finger, while the singer swiftly snatches up her bottle of tequila and pours another round of shots.

"Uh," Emma murmurs, reluctantly tearing her eyes away from the couple and focuses back on the brunette. "Regina, can I please speak to you in private?"

The singer groans, expressing her true irritation with the blonde. "Can't this wait until the morning?" She snaps.

And Emma feels utterly embarrassed like an unwanted child on the playground.

She glances around the counter, finding Graham awkwardly staring down into his glass of whiskey like he's praying to be anywhere else. Then she discovers Killian nibbling on Milah's neck while the woman's sparkling eyes flick back and forth between Emma and Regina curiously.

Emma clears her throat and tries again. "It's about my contract, it's pretty important," she lies and discreetly reaches for the Patrón that's more than halfway gone by now.

"Is it?" Regina hums to herself, expertly tossing back her shot and smiling wildly in Emma's direction. "Oh honey," she condescendingly cheers and nuzzles her nose against Robin's, forcing Emma to flick her eyes in a different direction before she explodes with rage. "Would you mind if I speak with my employee about her contract?" She inquires in the most sticky sweet tone Emma has ever heard fall from those plump lips.

"Hey, I get it," he chuckles, smiling from ear to ear before he lunges forward, stealing a rough and sloppy kiss. When he pulls away, he drapes an arm around Regina's shoulder and sways. "My baby's gotta work."

Emma's eyes drift around the circle again, assessing everyone's behavior and poor posture and she's just sending a silent prayer that everyone in this room is so hammered that they won't recall most of this conversation.

"Come on, we can discuss it over a drink," Emma persuades, dangling the bottle like bait in front of Regina's face.

Cold, black eyes slither suspiciously in Emma's direction and she feels her entire body tense up from the scrutiny beating down upon her. She offers her best sincere smile that will hopefully calm Regina's agitation and slowly takes a step back.

"If we must," Regina sighs and brushes right passed Emma, through Ruby and Jefferson, and right out the door.

 

Chapter Text


Emma spins around abruptly and jogs to catch up to the brunette. Jefferson and Ruby follow behind, knowing Emma cannot handle this dilemma all on her own. When they step into the hallway, they find Regina furiously swiping a card against Emma's door and violently wiggling the handle.

"Does she know not all keys work to every room?" Emma whispers as they slowly approach Regina like some stray cat dumpster diving for food.

"She thinks it's your key. I swiped it from her bedroom earlier," Ruby confesses, not even appearing remotely sorry for her petty theft.

"How...why does she have a key to my room?" Emma stammers, looking expectantly at Jefferson for a reasonable explanation.

"Oh, come on, honey," he scoffs, rolling those baby blues, "don't act like you two don't sneak into each other's beds every night."

Emma blushes profusely and immediately hangs her head in embarrassment, but no amount of unruly blonde curls can hide the deep crimson hue painting her cheeks at this point.

"Nothing happens," she defensively murmurs.

"Thank god," Jefferson cackles, "because you two are far too quiet and I was about to take you both to a sex education course and teach you a thing or two."

The amount of heat that scorches Emma's cheeks is brutally painful at this moment, Jefferson might as well have lit a burning match to her face for how hard she is blushing. Of course, Ruby and Jefferson are both giggling hysterically at Emma's expense while Regina continues to assault her door.

"Whatever, where the hell were you two? Why weren't you watching her?"

"Well, this little minx was too busy with her fangs deep in Graham's neck," Jefferson chuckles while Ruby just shoves him lightly. "And I was obviously avoiding Regina all night since she's still mad at me. I didn't notice her sneaking shots until it was too late," he shamefully admits.

She groans, stealing a step forward. "Wrong key," she sheepishly says, squeezing beside Regina just to ignore her two friends from any further teasing.

Emma swipes her key and holds the door open for Regina, but before Emma can even blink, Regina is ruthlessly yanking her through the door and shoving her down on the bed. "Wait," she pleads desperately as Regina's lips slam roughly against hers.

The sound of two bodies colliding, along with the door crashing into the wall resonates in Emma's ears and forces her to tear her lips away from Regina's to discover Jefferson and Ruby shielding their eyes. But the singer is so inebriated that Emma's voice falls dead to her ears and so she proceeds, peppering Emma's long neck with hot sensual kisses.

"Regina, your cousin is behind us," Emma whines, attempting to peel the woman's body off hers without manhandling her.

Regina freezes, bloodshot eyes crawling up to meet Emma's wide-eyed expression. The singer rolls her eyes and with a heavy sigh, clambers off her body.

"Why are you even here, Jefferson?" Regina snaps, encouraging her cousin and Ruby to both turn back around and stop hiding from the inappropriate scene moments ago.

Ruby gently closes the door behind them just as Regina marches up to Jefferson and shoves him viciously against the wall. Emma instantly leaps to her feet, ready to intervene, but he holds up his hand, stilling her body immediately.

"Why, Jefferson?" Regina shouts in his face, but he doesn't even flinch. "I thought you were done? I thought you couldn't stand to be around a drunk mess like me?" She growls in such a malicious tone that Emma and Ruby both wince, but Jefferson remains impassive. "Why?" She bellows, the hurt rattling deep in her chest as her palms slam into his broad chest again and his back pounds into the wall, rattling a few paintings hanging on the wall.

"Calm down, baby-"

"Don't call me, baby girl," she sneers like the old and familiar nickname personally inflicted all the pain that she has ever had to carry around within her soul.

"Regina, calm down," he urges, quickly gathering up her wrists when she moves to push him once again. "This, this is exactly why I don't want you drinking anymore," he firmly states, but then his eyes soften and he frowns, his voice growing gentle and sincere. "You know I will never leave your side. You're my baby cousin, my baby girl."

A falling piece clicks into place and Emma imagines a little boy sitting on an enormous couch while an adult hands over a tiny newborn. She can just see a toddler version of Jefferson, kissing the baby wrapped in a soft pink blanket. He tries and fails miserably to pronounce, Regina, so he proudly says baby girl, the best way he knows how.

"No," Regina snaps, wrenching her wrists in his strong hands from side to side. "This is just another one of your insignificant interventions," she seethes in disdain, fighting wildly against him, but he refuses to release her.

Emma's stomach drops out like she was just released from the very tip top of a roller coaster. She feels empty without her stomach, a little woozy as she observes Regina completely lose herself. She's never witnessed another human morph into an irrational villain before her very eyes and she hasn't a clue how to react in this type of predicament. Her glossy green eyes flick to Ruby for guidance, but the other woman is studying Regina, still as calm as ever.

"That's not what this is," Jefferson calmly responds, twisting and turning with Regina as she struggles against his tight hold. "Listen to me," he pleads, ducking down to meet her eyes flashing with fury. "Listen, we didn't want you drinking in front of Outlaw, that's all this is," he gently explains, hoping to tame the lion just scratching to be free.

Emma tentatively steps forward, feeling like maybe this might be an opportune time to enter the conversation. "Why drink with Robin when you could be in my room with me?" She cheekily chimes in and shuffles a few steps closer.

Regina flexes her jaw and skeptically peeks over her shoulder to find Emma's enticing green eyes staring right back at her with nothing but concern. The singer halfheartedly fights against Jefferson again before her knees buckle from carrying around the weight of the world, but he swiftly catches her.

"I thought I could be around it all," Regina cries out, startling everyone around her from her abrupt mood change.

Jefferson holds her close to his chest and presses a loving kiss on top of her head. "I know, baby girl," he whispers into her head. "It's not your fault," he vows, causing Regina to break down into heavy tears. "Fucking Cora," he growls, kissing her head one more time to calm her hysterical cries.

"Fucking Cora," Ruby repeats as she steps forward and brushes away the tears streaming down Regina's face. "She shouldn't force you to attend these parties, it's just not fair."

"No," Regina demands, abruptly pushing off her cousin and angrily wiping away her own tears. "Stop blaming her! It's not her fault. It's my fault. I'm the screw up," she screams with so much raw passion and self-loathing tearing through her throat that Emma feels her heart cease up in her own chest. She knows these are Cora's words, she knows the cruel woman has beat these words so severely into Regina's mind that it's going to take so much more than a month locked away with a psychologist to uproot them. "I'm the incompetent fool who cannot control my actions," Regina seethes, running her trembling fingers through her hair. "It's my fault that I'm such a failure, I'm such a disappointment," she wails, thick tears clinging to her eyes before she unexpectedly picks up the lamp on the nightstand and chucks it against the wall with all her pent-up rage.

Emma and Ruby both shield themselves and cringe as the glass shatters into millions of little pieces, matching Regina's heart after all her mother has inflicted upon her. Emma doesn't hesitate this time, she dashes across the room and wraps Regina in her arms. At first, Regina's alcohol-soaked mind is slow to react, so she curls her fingers into Emma's hoodie near her hips and breathes out a heavy sob. Emma buries her face in the crook of Regina's neck and holds her impossibly tight, wishing the pain away.

"No!" Regina suddenly screams, releasing the sweatshirt and shoving her savior back, but Emma holds on tighter, refusing to ever let her go. "Stop! You don't get it," she grumbles, fighting so desperately to free herself from Emma's warm embrace because she believes wholeheartedly she's not worthy.

"Regina, please," Emma implores, "I'm right here with you."

"No, you don't fit into my life," she repeats like a broken record and Emma just knows in her gut Cora has brainwashed her. "I-I can't," she stutters through a hysterical sob that torments Emma's very soul.

"You know me, I'm not going anywhere," Emma whispers into her neck and very discreetly places a kiss to seal her promise. "Please, relax."

Regina's knees buckle once again, sending both women tumbling to the ground and Emma truly believes for that split second that this is all over now. Regina is going to cave.

"Where's my bottle?" The irate woman mumbles, scrambling away from Emma's embrace.

"What? No," Emma firmly states, absolutely flabbergasted that this woman has the audacity to ask for more.

Jefferson dives for the bottle of tequila lying in the middle of Emma's bed, where it fell from her grasp when Regina brutally attacked her with a bruising kiss. Regina crawls pathetically on the ground while Emma rushes behind on her own damn knees.

"Give it to me," Ruby demands, encouraging Jefferson to hand over the bottle as Regina lunges for it. "You're done, Regina," Ruby aggressively declares as she runs into the attached bathroom.

"Lucas!" Regina seethes through a clenched jaw, staggering upon her feet as she runs toward the bathroom, but Ruby luckily locks the door just in time. Regina rattles the handle, kicking the door and cursing the woman behind it. "I already blew my sobriety, I might as well live it up tonight!" She hollers, smacking her palm against the door while Emma stands back up from the ground and scrubs her hands down her face in disbelief.

"How long is she usually irrational for?" Emma whispers as she feels the last bit of her patience seeping from her pores.

"Depends," Jefferson shrugs, "Tequila is her poison and drives her absolutely mad," he reveals sadly, eyeing the woman still arguing with a damn door.

"That's what Ruby said before. She was so...so sweet with me last time," Emma reveals with a frown upon her lips and a heavy ache in her heart.

"Maybe you saw her when she first started drinking. When she has a few, she's very sweet, lovable, carefree...a good time, but the more she consumes, the more it poisons her blood and awakens all the demons inside. Her true self gets benched and this evil villain takes over. There's no stopping her until she's sober again."

Emma sighs, hating that the woman she cares so deeply for is so broken, so torn to shreds that she can't possibly piece herself back together again.

What can she possibly do but wait? Approaching Regina right now, may only further agitate her.

So, Jefferson and Emma wait until Regina finally exhausts herself and recklessly tosses her body onto the bed, neither one saying a word. When more than five minutes crawl by in nothing but silence, Ruby slowly cracks open the door and peeks her head out before fully exiting the bathroom.

"Where's my bottle?" Regina grumbles, tossing an arm over her heavy eyes that are on the brink of passing out.

"I dumped it."

Regina hums in response, never once glancing in her hair stylist's direction. Cautiously, all three sit on the bed beside Regina's sprawled out body.

"Jeff?"

"Yes, baby girl."

"I fucked up," Regina slurs, sniffling into the crook of her elbow and the shame trembling in her throat forces Emma's eyes closed to fight back her own tears. She's so involved and deeply connected to Regina now, that the singer's pain is her pain as well.

"Yeah, you did," he sighs heavily and places his palm upon her thigh to express his support and eternal love. "You have to go back to Maine now, you know that, right?"

Regina sniffles again, her face hidden from three sets of sorrowful eyes as she nods in understanding. "I know," she chokes out and fights every instinct begging her to cry out the pain torturing her soul instead of downing another bottle.

"Please Regina, you have to find something to live for," Ruby implores again, just like she did the last time the singer slipped up.

"I-I can't," she shyly whispers, her voice sounding so cold, so distant.

"What do you mean you can't?" Emma gently interrogates while she carefully lies down beside Regina, propping herself up on one elbow.

Regina slowly removes her arm, revealing her blotchy face from the persistent tears and those red-rimmed, swollen eyes. She peers up at Emma, so battered, so timid and unsure. "How can I find something to live for when I can't have what I want?"

Emma blinks, cocking her head to the side in wonderment. She wants to ask Jefferson for guidance, but she's trapped inside those beautiful eyes just swimming in a sea of unforgivable pain.

"Whatever it is that you want, you have to fight for it," Ruby insists, pounding her fist against her palm to express her point.

Regina shakes her head, her eyes straining on the ceiling above as she contemplates her answer. "It will never be," she sadly stresses.

"What happens now?" Emma curiously questions, completely missing out on the brief conversation between the two brunettes.

Regina shamefully tosses her arms over her eyes again and exhales as though she is trying to breathe out her heartache.

"Now, Cora will ship her to Maine," Jefferson states.

"Regina will you please consider an actual facility this time?" Her hair stylist asks with her concern straining her tired voice. "I think you need something more than just being locked away."

"I have to finish my next album," she vacantly replies and Emma's sure the woman is on the verge of passing out now.

"Yes, continue putting Cora's wants before your own needs," her cousin sardonically retorts with the Mills' famous eye roll following after.

"Hey guys, why don't we give it a rest right now?" Emma timidly recommends. "She can sleep in here tonight and we can talk to her in the morning when she's sober." Ruby and Jefferson share a look before turning back to Emma. "What? Nothing will happen," she defensively declares.

"She won't let my hands near her panties," Regina sasses from her protective barrier, producing fits of laughter from Jefferson and Ruby.

"That's not true," Emma shrieks, glaring at Regina before snapping her attention to her two assholes of friends. "It's not true," she states with conviction. "The only time you tried we were five feet away from Guy!"

Well, this new information only encourages her so-called friends to laugh even harder.

"Such a shy baby," Regina slurs in her drunken state and flings her hand to land upon Emma's upper thigh.

"Shut up," Emma grumbles, bitterly shoving Regina's hand away. "Alright, you two out," she coldly orders, pushing both of her friends off the bed.

"Alright, alright," Jefferson and Ruby sing-song in unison as they stumble toward the door.

Once they vacate Emma's room, she tosses back the comforter and pats the sheets, wordlessly instructing Regina to climb inside. Hazardously, Regina crawls into the spot and curls her body into the smallest ball, warding off anymore haunting creatures just lurking about. Emma sighs and slowly crawls in behind Regina, gently covering them both up.

"I'm so sorry," Regina cries into the pillow and the humiliation tormenting her broken voice is enough to urge Emma into draping an arm around the woman's tiny waist and pulling her flush against her body to ease her pain. "You don't deserve this. You're so good, Emma," she mumbles as she hopelessly struggles to keep her tears from falling once again.

"I'm not all good. I've fucked up too," she confesses, burying her nose deep into Regina's thick hair that smells of gel and hairspray from her concert earlier that evening. "We all screw up," she whispers, just barely loud enough that Regina might be able to hear her.

"You need to go," Regina chokes out, just as she always does when she's drowning at the bottom of the ocean filled with her darkest fears.

"Stop saying that. You know I'm not going anywhere," she vows all over again as she holds Regina closer and they both surrender to the sandman.

~~~~~~~~~

A stifling heat that threatens to suffocate Emma until she implodes into nothing more than a puddle of sweat, is what wakes her from her deep slumber. She jerks forward in bed, her hoodie strangling her throat and choking the life right out of her. She tugs the damn thing away from her neck and moves quickly to remove it from her body. Regina must sense the disturbance because she stirs, peeking over her shoulder and blinking rapidly up at Emma.

"Emma?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Sorry, I was sweating." She breathes out her relief and tosses her sweatshirt to the ground. She sinks back down into the warm and cozy space behind Regina and carefully pecks her lips. "Do you know where you're at?"

Regina blinks, allowing her mind the time it needs to gather up all the missing pieces before she slowly nods. "Yes," she croaks out, her voice wobbling with embarrassment as she stiffens.

"Good." She rests her head back down on the pillow and squirms closer against Regina's inviting backside. "Do you remember everything this time?"

The world around them falls painfully silent, the dead of the night swarming around them and engulfing them into the pitch-black of nothingness. Emma waits patiently through bated breath, knowing that if Regina does remember, they are going to hash it out right here and now.

"Yes," Regina eventually says, her voice box quivering as she buries her face further into her pillow to escape the shame washing over her.

"Why?"

"I don't know why," Regina firmly states like she's already done with this conversation, but they are far from finished in Emma's eyes.

"No, you do know why and I need to know what pushed you over the edge tonight."

"I don't-"

"Stop, I'm not like everyone else. You can't lie to me, I always know when you're lying and your bullshit excuses aren't going to work on me," she strictly explains, before she does soften because she wants Regina to relax and feel comfortable enough with her to open up completely. Emma presses a small kiss to Regina's shoulder and whispers, "I want to understand you. I won't ever judge you. It's just me," she vows, pressing one more kiss, her lips more firm than the previous, so she can embed her devotion into Regina's thick skin.

"A lot of things triggered me tonight," Regina confesses, just barely audible for Emma's focused ears.

"Like...."

Regina exhales loudly to prove how much she detests speaking on the subject, yet, she finds herself opening her mouth ready to spill her guts to this persistent blonde.

"My mother for starters, I despise the way she grabs my face and speaks down to me and..."

She chokes on her own words, but Emma's right there, holding her, keeping her from slipping under her mother's treacherous waves, keeping her afloat. For the first time in forever, Regina doesn't slip under the wave just to drown from her insufferable mother, finally she inhales a fresh breath and doesn't feel the sensation of death clinging to her throat.

"And..."

"And especially in front of you," Regina meekly finishes the sentence. "I was mortified."

"You don't ever have to feel that way in front of me." Emma breathes a small laugh through her nose. "Who am I? Some poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks. I'm nobody."

Regina tentatively spins around in Emma's safe arms to find the most adorable grin shining back at her.

"If you ever speak about my makeup artist like that again, I will have your job." Emma blurts out a carefree laugh and wiggles even closer, intertwining their legs like a pretzel. "Seriously, Emma, please don't ever speak that way about yourself. You are somebody who is extraordinary. You're an astonishing mother, trying to make a better name for herself and provide for her family. I don't think I could accomplish that without my demons interfering. Not to mention, you're handling dipping your toes in the bisexual pool quite well."

Emma barks out another uncontrolled laugh and shakes her head. "Oh, I panicked, I just buried it down deep and cried on the inside like a winner." Regina chuckles a deep laugh that vibrates in Emma's chest and warms her heart like a marshmallow hanging over an open fire. "I totally blurted out my embarrassing crush on you to my mother."

"You didn't."

"I did," Emma muses, sliding her leg playfully through Regina's silky thighs.

"What did she say?" Regina investigates, her eyes lighting up with amusement and glowing in the pitched-black room.

"My mom is the most accepting and welcoming woman I have ever met. She is always the first to open her arms to anyone, no matter what. And I knew that she would totally be fine with it, but she was even more on board than I expected."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. She told me to follow what my body is telling me and trust my instincts."

"Really?" Regina questions again, squirming closer to enclose the minimal space between them. "And what does your body tell you?" She seductively husks, her thigh grazing against Emma's suggestively.

"It's telling me that I need to stop feeling so dead on the inside." Regina becomes immobile from the admission, her eyes glossing over as she stares intently into Emma's. "I have never felt this kind of...attraction to anyone before."

"Not even Henry's father?"

"Not really. Don't get me wrong, I loved him a lot and I was attracted to him. It's just, when I'm around you, I feel this gravitational pull and this buzzing in my blood and my body just itches to touch you. And when we do touch, I have never felt more at ease inside. I just know how to be me. Being with you is so easy. I mean you drive me crazy that's for sure," she laughs, earning herself an eye roll in return, "but even still, there's just something so natural between us...do I sound crazy?"

Regina produces a harsh audible gulp as her eyes inspect every detail of Emma's face. "Not at all." She offers a weak smile that sort of resembles a frown before she proceeds. "I feel absolutely crazy whenever I am near you and once I feel your body against mine, I sober up."

"Good. I'm glad I'm not alone, but I have to know." Regina nods subtly, encouraging Emma to continue even though her heart is pounding wildly in fear. "Your mother earlier...the way she worded....am I just another pretty little girl to you? Am I just another Milah?"

"What?"

"Your mother made it seem like you go through women all the time and that's how she knew about us."

Regina's face morphs into perplexity as she flinches from the acknowledgment. "No. If there was a long list of women attached to my name, I can guarantee my sexuality would be public knowledge by now."

"Then why-"

"My mother is a condescending, manipulative, cold-hearted witch. She will say anything to ensure her upper hand and especially to make you feel uncomfortable and like she owns you. Don't believe her." Regina gently, but with determination, cups Emma's cheek and peers deep into a sea of green, twinkling with adoration back at her. "I promise you, things are different between us. I wouldn't have shared my story about my father if I didn't feel so affectionately towards you," she professes, her thumb sweeping delicately against the baby soft flesh below.

"And your rendezvous with Milah?" She cynically interrogates, not at all hiding the hostility toward the other singer.

"Not since the beginning of the tour, which you know about that only time. I'm with you."

"Okay, so if you feel so strongly for me, then why Robin? The whole picture of us with Henry is completely forgotten about. Why can't you end things with him now?"

"Emma, do you want to be with me?"

"You know that answer."

"Humor me."

"Fine. Yes, I want to be with you," Emma honestly vocalizes.

"Well, my mother is right then. If we want to be together and continue sneaking around, then I need Robin as my decoy. People will be invested in my relationship with Robin that they'll be far too busy and distracted to notice anything transpiring between us."

"So, your mother did put you up to this?"

"No. It was my choice. I needed something shiny to take my fans' eyes off you. Otherwise, people would grow suspicious. My mother even said I wouldn't be able to be with you while you're my makeup artist."

"So...she threatened to fire me if we didn't end things?" Emma bristles, knowing just how manipulative Cora truly is, yet, her daughter still seems to be blinded by the notion.

"She just said that it would be far too difficult to keep you on staff and have us sneaking off together. It wouldn't work. So, I agreed that pretending to have Robin around would be the perfect cover, so I can continue my relationship with you."

"For the love of God, Regina, please tell me that you see that your mother completely masterminded this entire scheme to hide your sexuality."

"No, Emma, wanted to do this for us and for Henry's sake, to keep him out of the limelight as well. Now, nobody will be fishing around you or your son's life. Your life will be protected and remain in your privacy."

"Oh my god, Regina, your mother really does have you brainwashed."

"Emma, I already told you to stop blaming my mother," Regina growls so low that Emma knows she has to back off now before she ends up losing Regina.

Just like that, Milah's words from earlier come haunting back, loud and clear. "Her mother's approval is too important to forfeit for a relationship. Her career will always come first, because that's what Cora expects of her."

"Can't we take this slow and see where we even end up?" Regina innocently asks. "You still aren't even sure if you want to be with another woman. Maybe you are enjoying a few stolen kisses here and there, but what if you come to find out that's all you want?"

"I don't think that's the case with you. Yes, like I said there's a physical connection, but it runs so much deeper than that."

"I know," Regina whispers under her breath, "otherwise you wouldn't have stuck around."

"You need to stop doubting your worth." Emma clasps onto both sides of Regina's face and holds her gaze. "Stop listening to those voices in your head and look around. You have Jefferson, Ruby and myself and I know, you know deep down, that we would never abandon you. But you have got to stop pushing us away. We care about you. A lot."

Regina doesn't bother with pesky words, instead she lunges forward, capturing Emma's lips into a strong kiss that she hopes can convey her gratitude. There's a faint taste of the tangy lime still evident on Regina's bottom lip and when her tongue invades Emma's mouth, the taste of tequila is still haunting her mouth. Emma feels the weight of alcoholism tying a knot around her heart and sinking the organ to the pit of her stomach. Never has she ever thought the taste of alcohol could make her so physically sick, but knowing how it breaks Regina and torments her soul, well, its enough for Emma to break the kiss and want to swear off alcohol for the rest of her life.

"When will you leave for Maine?" Emma blurts out the moment her lips leave Regina's.

"I have a few press conferences, charity events and some special appearances to make for the next month. So...maybe by October first?" She lazily replies and for the first time since waking up, Emma's not entirely sure how sober Regina is at this moment.

Come to think of it, she's not even sure what time it is? Or how long they slept for before Emma was ripping her sweatshirt off that attempted to end her life in the middle of the night.

"Are you going to be okay for the next month?" Emma suspiciously inquires as her hand travels around Regina's back and slips beneath her tank top.

"Of course," Regina laughs off the idea like it's the most ridiculous thing that has ever leaked from Emma's mouth. "I am an actress after all," she conceitedly professes just as her eyelids droop closed and she's submitting to the exhaustion clouding her mind.

 

Chapter Text


Emma had an early flight back to New York with Ruby and spent most of her morning regretting booking such an early flight. She had woken up with Regina curled into her side, a warm breath coating her bicep and she swears she fell even harder for the woman in those five minutes of peace. She timidly kissed the woman awake, memorizing the sultry moan stirring in Regina's chest as her mind recognized the familiar touch and she began to kiss her back. Emma spent the next several minutes kissing Regina deeper than she ever had before and hated herself when she had to leave to catch her flight.

A week has gone by since they said their goodbyes and as much as Emma is so thankful to be home again with her family, she cannot ignore the hollow sensation carved into her chest. Even though, the two women share an interest in sending constant flirty texts all day, it's still not enough for Emma and she hates herself for wanting so much more. She has just spent three months with this incredible woman by her side every day and now her body is struggling through withdrawals without the sassy queen.

She's missing Regina so much that she even went against all her beliefs and created a few social media pages, so she could keep up with celebrity gossip. Two days after, she wasn't entirely sure if that was the worst idea she ever had or the greatest. She truly enjoys all the information and pictures people post, but right after, her heart sinks, and her stomach twists, and she regrets ever sneaking a peek, because she inevitably misses Regina more.

Okay, so she's got it bad. She's head over heels and falling incredibly fast for the diva, something she swore she would never do again.

"Gina!" Henry squeals as his chubby little index finger taps on her phone, producing the biggest smile across Emma's face.

"Yeah, kiddo, it's Gina," Emma confirms, leaning in to kiss her son's forehead before she closes out of the app and opens her texts with the singer.

"Do you always dress that nice getting ice cream?"

Immediately the tiny little bubbles pop to life, signaling Regina's response that Emma knows will be witty as always.

"Do you always spy on celebrities practicing the art of mediocre life?"

"Do you always forget the top four buttons on your blouse? Your mother is going to lose her mind when she sees your bra peeking through like that."

"I'm sensing some jealousy..."

"Your bras are for my eyes only."

"Well, come visit and I'll give your greedy eyes all the peep shows you desire..."

Emma groans, bitterly tossing her phone back onto the table and folding her arms across her chest like a small child just placed in timeout. She would give anything to spend an evening with Regina, but she's in L.A. at the moment and Emma's in New York, as far away on the map as humanly possible.

"Why you sad, mommy?" Henry innocently questions with his bottom lip puckering to express his vulnerable compassion.

"I'm okay, bud." She ruffles his hair playfully and offers the best smile she can muster up while her heart is yearning hopelessly.

Henry crawls out of his chair and into her lap, securely locking his little arms around her neck and squeezing her tight. "Heart you, mommy."

"I heart you too, bud," she breathes out and holds him extra close this evening to ward off the feelings she swore she would never allow in her heart again.

The clatter from her mother's key jiggling in the lock just outside the front door, erases the moment of weakness drilling into Emma's heart.

"Gan-ma!" Henry squeals, slapping his palms on both sides of his mother's face and smooshing her cheeks together, provoking a laugh to tumble from her mouth.

"Yes, she's home," squeezes passed her fish like lips just as the door swings open and Mary Margaret enters, sighing heavily from her fight with the rundown door.

Her mother grumbles something under her breath as she kicks the door closed and drops her bag full of schoolwork near her feet. She wipes her arm across her forehead and leans all her weight against the wall while she kicks off her shoes.

"I think we should consider moving," her mother heaves, then proceeds to lock all of Emma's extra safety precautions.

"Gan-ma!" Henry wiggles out of Emma's embrace and runs as fast as his little chubby legs will carry him toward Mary Margaret, who is already leaning down to scoop him into her arms.

Emma sighs, so thankful to be home again and begins clearing off the tiny counter where she and Henry just had dinner. The apartment is far too small to fit an actual kitchen table, but the small counter is tolerable for now. She carries their dishes to the sink and begins scrubbing the sauce away without a second thought.

"I left some pasta on the stove for you."

"Thank you, honey." Mary Margaret presses a small kiss to her daughter's cheek and easily maneuvers around her, despite the tight corners and Henry upon her hip. "But I am serious, we should start looking into other apartments. Especially with your added bonus, we will be just fine upgrading," she explains all while preparing her plate and still holding Henry.

"I know, but I just want to make sure we get ahead with everything before we make any rash decisions."

"Emma, we are all caught up on our bills. We have money stashed away for a rainy day and you still have a few random events before spring, right?"

"Right," Emma huffs out her trepidation and busies herself with wiping down the countertops. "And during the winter I'm still going to bartend on the weekends. That's extra money we can put away."

"That's not necessary."

"I know, but I really want to get ahead here, mom. We don't deserve this life anymore. We have both busted our asses and I just want to make sure we never fall behind again."

Mary Margaret slides onto the barstool and readjusts Henry comfortably upon her lap before she dives into her dinner.

"I understand your concerns and I'm right there with you, but we need to get out of this crummy apartment and more importantly, we need to find a nice area for Henry. He starts preschool next year and it's important we find a great school district for him."

"And what about you? You are doing well with the school you're in."

"I think we should look in that area," her mother mumbles behind Henry's back, obviously apprehensive about this conversation that she's been dying to speak about since Emma's return.

"What?" Emma tosses the sponge in the sink and scurries across the small kitchen to plop down on the stool beside her. "There's no way we could afford that area."

"Yes, we can," she urges, setting down her fork and turning her full attention toward her daughter. "I've already looked at some condos in that area or even the next town over from where I work and they still have pretty nice places and schools."

"Mom-"

"Listen, I think it's very important that we move before Henry is in preschool. We can't stay here, it's not good for any of us. It was fine when we first started out, but now we need to establish stability and work for our future. There's some lovely townhomes we can look at as well, that I think will fit in our price range."

Emma runs her twitchy fingers through her hair and eyes her son, contemplating on what's best for him and his future. Because in the end, that's always her top priority and everything else in her life is usually benched.

"Don't you think we should wait another year?"

"Why?" Mary Margaret continues eating, shrugging her shoulder so carelessly. "You already signed a contract for another summer tour, correct?"

Just thinking about leaving again makes Emma's skin all prickly and her heart to pound furiously in her chest all over again. "Yeah."

"We are fine now, honey. If we take the money you made for this year and use it as a hefty down payment, then our mortgage wouldn't be as much. By the end of next year we could almost pay off the place. Could you imagine, no mortgage? Please trust me. I would never consider this if I didn't think we were capable."

"I know. You got us this far," Emma muses with a cheeky little grin that warms her mother's heart, because after all these years, Emma still smiles with her entire face like when she was a baby.

"And I promise to keep pushing us forward," her mother vows, patting Emma's knee before resuming her dinner. "Now, let's discuss the dates Regina sent over for the fall."

~~~~~~~

The constant buzzing awakens her from the deep slumber she was finally enjoying. Her heavy eyelids just barely lift as she scrabbles for her phone around her bed. She finds the device shoved under her pillow, encouraging her to peel apart those eyes and discover who the hell is refusing to leave her alone at...two in the morning. She groans and peeks over her shoulder to find her son fast asleep in his toddler bed across the room. She squirms beneath her covers and answers the call from Regina.

"Hello," she groggily mumbles into the phone from her makeshift fort.

"Emma," Regina gasps like she's shocked to hear her voice.

"Yeah, of course it's me. You called me, remember?"

"I know," there's a long and heavy pause that settles into Emma's sleepy body and rattles her beating heart.

"Regina? You okay?" She timidly asks, because she just knows in her gut, something is off.

"I needed to hear your voice," she confesses in a volume that is hardly considered a valid whisper. "I miss you," and her voice cracks this time, provoking Emma's eyes to widen to their fullest potential.

Now, she's awake.

"You...miss me?"

"Of course, I do, I just spent three months with you by my side every day and most nights," Regina vocalizes and the strain in her throat makes Emma's entire body ache with a kind of need that she hasn't felt for anyone other than her family and it terrifies her very soul.

"I just-well...you never really talk about how you feel unless...Regina?"

"Hmmm?"

"Are you sure you're okay?" She sadly questions even though her mind is screaming for more answers and her heart is wishing they could end this conversation right here and pretend this never happened.

"Come to L.A." It's another hushed whisper, just pleading for so much more and Emma swears someone just reached inside her chest and stole her beating heart.

"You know I can't. My mom is starting work again and I have Henry all the time. But I'm going to see you next week for your guest appearance on the Today show," Emma dutifully explains because this time she took the time to memorize her itinerary.

"Bring Henry," Regina sternly states and there's just something in her voice that isn't sitting right with Emma and it's causing her stomach to swirl and her flesh to burn with fear.

"Regina...have you...did you...drink?" She meekly interrogates and it's absolutely pathetic how small she sounds to her very own ears. Yet, there's no reply. "Regina?" She sadly urges, but again she's greeted with silence. "Please just talk-"

"I shouldn't have called and disturbed you this evening." Emma instantaneously rolls her eyes, because here comes professional Regina Mills, hammering up her protective walls once again. "I apologize for my-"

"Regina, stop!" She hisses into the phone and sends a silent prayer that her son doesn't stir from the hushed whispers. "Talk to me, tell me what's going on."

Regina sighs heavily and she doesn't even have the decency to cover up the sloshing sound of her vile liquid against whatever bottle she's drowning in this evening. Emma cringes from the background noise and she can just see in her mind, the bottle of tequila being manhandled by the sloppy celebrity.

"I didn't realize how lonely my bed was until you weren't in it," Regina bashfully confesses into the still of the night.

Emma freezes momentarily because she knows Regina must be half in the bag for her to be so open and honest in this moment. Her chest constricts and her heart hurts from the idea of Regina all alone in her enormous mansion in L.A., drinking her problems away.

"Sounds like a country song," Emma lightly teases, but there's nothing but deafening silence on the other end, so she clears her throat and tries again. "I know what you mean. I never thought I would miss the comfort of another person beside me at night. I fought very hard to make sure that never happened in my life again...but here I am..." she trails off, not needing to explain any further because she knows Regina will understand completely.

"Tell me about him," Regina boldly requests, another swig from her bottle pounding in Emma's ear and making her physically nauseous.

"Not now. It's late, you're drunk and it can't be over the phone."

"Do you hate me?"

"That's a loaded question," Emma deadpans and even though Regina can't see her, she still rolls her eyes to express her annoyance. "No, I don't hate you. I hate what you're doing to yourself. I hate this disease. I hate that ever since Vegas you've been on a downward spiral and you aren't doing anything to really stop it." Another heavy pause weighs down upon them and rests heavily on their chests. "But no, I don't hate you."

"I want to get better," Regina finally acknowledges, her voice straining to profess the words she's struggling to make her reality. "I just..."

"I know, but please, Regina. Please, consider a real facility," she begs with every ounce of desperation seeping from her bones.

"I should go."

"No, wait. Please just talk to me," she implores again because she doesn't even want to entertain the idea of Regina hanging up this phone and drowning in god only knows how many bottles until she passes out on the floor by herself without anyone around to watch over her. "Or I'll talk, just please don't go," she pleads with her heart on the line and her body buzzing with anxious energy.

"What's your favorite sin?"

"My favorite sin?" Emma balks in confusion as she tries to comprehend where Regina's tequila-soaked brain might be at right now.

"Yes, everyone has a poison, a sin...something others frown upon, but takes you incredibly high," and now Regina's slurring, sounding more lazy and exhausted and all Emma wants to do is hold her through the night and chase away her demons.

"I guess..." Emma drawls out the small phrase while she debates with herself about exposing her own dirty little secret. Who knows if Regina will even remember come tomorrow? "I guess, I would have to say sex."

"Really?" Regina deadpans and Emma can already imagine her bored, unamused face glaring right back at her. "Sex, the girl who wouldn't let my hands roam under any clothing and who was terrified to even kiss me in front of another human."

"That's different. Just because I don't want to fuck for the first time in front of your driver, does not make me some prude," she harshly defends, whisper shouting at Regina through her phone and still hiding under her covers like a small child afraid of the dark.

And god does she feel like a teenager all over again, hiding under her covers to gab in the middle of the night with the one person who makes her heart throb and causes her body to tingle all over.

"I beg to differ," Regina teasingly replies.

"Before I had Henry..." the words evaporate from her tongue in an instant as her eyes flutter closed.

"You know...for someone who loves to talk all the time, you never say much, you know that?" Regina interjects with a hint of amusement dancing upon her intoxicated tongue.

"I know, you're right," Emma wholeheartedly agrees because she has to stop holding back when she begs and pleads so desperately for Regina to constantly open up.

It's just that she closed herself off years ago and it's hard to find where the hell she hid the key that's keeping her soul so heavily guarded. In the back of her mind, she knows she's going to have to start opening herself up to this woman. Maybe tonight would be the perfect opportunity to start with Regina since she's only half present at this time.

"It's just...before Henry, I made some poor life choices. Maybe it was daddy issues since I never had one," Emma shrugs to herself and closes her eyes, so she can pretend she's only speaking to herself when she admits, "I think I craved attention from men since I didn't have a father figure. I didn't realize that until after Henry...but I went through a time in my life where one-night stands were kind of my thing."

"You're only twenty-three."

"Yeah," she exhales heavily wishing she could just breathe those pesky memories out of her life. "I wasn't the greatest kid when I turned sixteen."

"This is all rather shocking considering what a good girl you are now," Regina slurs, inspiring Emma's ears to strain a little harder for any speculations of a bottle, but this time she doesn't hear anything other than Regina's soft breathing on the other end.

"Well, I changed a lot because of Henry. I had to grow up, fast. Ruby and I were a handful. Always sneaking out with boys and partying a little too hard. We both had fake I.D's at seventeen and never thought twice about our actions."

"Your mother doesn't seem like the type that allowed you to sneak off. She seems like a Miss goodie-two-shoes herself," Regina chuckles to nobody but herself which produces an instant smile upon Emma's lips. Fuck-does she miss that sound.

"She wasn't the type. She was very strict with me, but she was working during the day while I was at school and then I would come home and she would go to night school for her degree. I was such an ass." Emma's voice cracks as she reminisces of those days and the weight of guilt crushes her windpipes.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because, my mom was struggling to keep a roof over our heads while attending college and raising a teen and I didn't make her life any easier. I was off screwing boy toys with Ruby and partying and...well, inevitably I just doubled her work load when I had Henry."

"Emma, you were a teen. That's what teens do."

"How would you know?"

"I wouldn't," Regina solemnly replies, but then she changes her tune and perks right up, "however, I have played plenty of bratty teens back in the day."

Emma actually chuckles into her pillow and shakes her head. "Still, I was a huge dick. You would think I would have learned from my mother's mistake and been more careful when it came to teen pregnancy."

"But you weren't a mistake. And I'm willing to bet your mother would scold you for saying that you were," Regina berates her, but her tongue is sounding heavier and Emma can only imagine those rich eyes are firmly shut by now.

"Probably."

"Even after knowing all of this, would you ever say Henry was a mistake?"

Regina barely even has the chance to finish her sentence before Emma blurts out, "no!" Regina exhales a small puff that sort of resembles an, I told you so which causes Emma to smile in return.

"Regina?"

"Hmmm?"

"Why do you and Cora flinch every time I mention Henry?" She tentatively asks because she knows she's picking at some unknown scab that will only rip right open and bleed out once again.

And maybe it's the alcohol clouding Regina's judgement, but she doesn't even skip a beat when she grumbles, "my father."

"His name was Henry?" Emma whispers softer than before, knowing how hard this will be for the singer.

"Yes and we all know how I feel about him-"

"Say no more. I'm sorry."

"There's no need to be," the brunette clips causing Emma to deflate when she senses the cruel bitterness echoing through the phone.

So, Emma attempts her best subject change before she drives this woman to down another bottle. "How was your ice cream outing today?"

"Dull."

"Well, for what it's worth, you and Robin seemed very chummy," and it takes everything in her to leave the bitterness at bay because that should be her with Regina, strolling down the street, eating ice cream with Henry giggling between them.

"I don't love him, you'd do well to remember that."

"Have you ever been in love?"

"No. Have you?"

"Once."

Another wave of lonely silence stretches on between them and fogs up the conversation that was starting to come so easily. Emma stares at nothing but the pitch-black comforter and waits for Regina to reply, because she doesn't have the heart to elaborate tonight and she's already warned Regina at the start of their conversation.

"There's no room for love in my chaotic lifestyle," Regina adamantly states, just as she always does when there's a stench of alcohol lingering on her breath.

"And there's no heart left for love in mine." Emma pauses when she hears a very heavy sigh coming from the drunk brunette down the line. "So, what the hell are we doing?"

"Indulging in our favorite sins."

"Sounds dangerous."

"Sounds like one hell of a ride."

"Regina?"

"Em-ma," she taunts with and extra slur consuming her lazy tongue.

"How...when...did you first realize you had a drinking problem?" Emma timidly asks and she herself flinches when the words leave her mouth, knowing the damage she will most likely inflict upon Regina.

"It's irrelevant," Regina coldly dismisses without skipping a beat.

"I think it's pretty relevant, especially since you've been struggling so much lately."

"I have not. Drinking three times in over a two month span is not even close to a struggle." Regina exhales her annoyance with the topic and Emma holds her breath, straining her ears for a sign of a bottle nearby, but again she doesn't hear a sound.

"It doesn't matter, Regina. Sober is sober. Even if you had a sip, that's still breaking your sobriety and one time is a struggle for a recovering alcoholic."

"Since when did you change your profession from makeup artist to my psychologist?" Regina snarks with enough cynical venom to flush Emma's entire body with a burning rage.

"I'm not trying to be your psychologist," she seethes through a very tight jaw and whisper, conscious of her sleeping baby. "I'm trying to be a friend. I'll admit, I had no clue about substance abuse when I first found out about you, but I've been reading so much-"

"So, what? That makes you an expert now?"

"No, not even close. But I do have a better understanding because I want to be there for you. I want to support you in any way possible."

"I don't need another person pitying me or looking down upon me-"

"I would never do that," Emma quickly interjects, "and you know that. I'm just trying to be someone you can lean on and trust to be open with and not feel like you are being judged."

They both fall painfully silent again and Emma just wordlessly begs to anyone who is listening that Regina didn't just hang up on her. She needs to prove that she can be a positive support system for Regina. She feels this need to prove her worth to the woman.

"Regina?"

"I was fifteen and I really cannot stress enough that tonight is not the night to be discussing this topic," the brunette coldly explains, but Emma nods along, even if Regina can't see her.

"I understand. Thank you for telling me how old you were." She waits for a response, maybe even a small humming sound, but nothing comes and her heart plummets. "So...."

"Are you going to stay the entire weekend for the Today show? Or will you drive back after the interview?"

Emma blinks through her confusion of subject change and the stern tone unexpectedly in Regina's voice. "Oh, uh...I hadn't really thought about it, I guess. My mom is going to watch Henry for me since it's here in New York. I guess the question is will you be staying or will you fly back to L.A. right after?"

"I believe that depends on you," Regina murmurs, her voice sounding so much heavier and loopy to Emma's ears.

"On me?" There's another silence ghosting between them, but it's the heavier breathing on the other end that truly catches Emma's attention. "Regina?" More silence. "Regina?" She tries again and is greeted with a soft rhythmic breathing that's almost a faint snore.

Emma frowns to herself, knowing Regina must have finally passed out. So, she ends the call and prays that Regina stays asleep until morning, so she doesn't lose herself in another bottle.

 

Chapter Text


Emma arrived twenty minutes early just to make sure she was well prepared for the interview with the Today Show. Except, she hadn't planned for the unexpected delay that has her standing outside of Regina's room with Jefferson and Ruby beside her. She clenches the strap resting snuggly against her chest and breathes through the panic that something is horrifically wrong and waiting on the other end of that door for them.

Suddenly, the door swings open, revealing the wicked mother with enough tension stressing her features that Emma finds herself taking one step back. She contemplates making a mad dash for the lobby, but she knows that if Cora is this seething mad, then Regina must need her, wherever she maybe.

"Get in," Cora barks out, persuading all three sets of legs to jump dutifully into the hotel room. She softly closes the door, despite her anger pulsating all around them like a ticking time bomb. "It seems my sorry excuse for a daughter cannot grasp the concept of control."

Emma swallows thickly, the bones in her body feeling heavier than ever before. She takes a quick gander around the room, but finds it completely empty. Her flesh breaks out in a cold sweat and she clenches her bag even tighter.

"I don't know how we are going to push through this month with her incompetence. One would assume she enjoys being locked away like the insolent child she is," Cora sneers, slandering her daughter once again while Emma, Ruby and Jefferson stand obediently in silence.

Maybe, just maybe, Emma thinks, that if they keep their lips sealed and they don't move or even breathe, Cora will continue yelling at them and for once leave her daughter alone.

"You three have one hour to produce the star that America is waiting for or I will have each of your jobs. Do I make myself clear?" She snaps, like the last branch of her patience breaking from her tree.

All three nod along and mumble their agreement before Cora spins on her five inch heels and stomps out of the hotel room. The minute the cruel woman vanishes, Emma untangles herself from her bag and drops it to the floor before rushing into the ensuite. Her heart leaps into her throat and her stomach bottoms out when she finds Regina passed out on the cold, hard floor.

She rushes forward, instantly dropping to her knees with Jefferson and Ruby hot on her heels. "Regina," she groans while her fingertips delicately sweep away the brunette's straggly hair covering her blotchy face. "Fuck, what did you do?" She whines when Regina lies unconscious, a heap of heavy limbs soaked in Vodka, by the nose curling stench.

"Baby girl," Jefferson coos as he shakes Regina's shoulders roughly, eliciting the faintest of grumbles in response.

Ruby steps around all three on the ground and yanks on the shower handle. The harsh water sprays aggressively from the spout, the sound bouncing off the walls, but Regina doesn't budge. Emma's not sure if she's utterly crushed or seething mad, but she knows her adrenaline is pumping harder and she needs to find a way to get this woman up.

"Regina," she urges, cupping her head and forcing it off the ground. "Get up!" She screams, encouraging a light flutter from those thick, dark lashes. "Come on, wake up. You have to get up!" Her thumbs press down into Regina's cheeks to awaken her senses as she caresses the silky soft flesh, stained with old salty tears. "Regina, please."

"Come on, help me lift her into the shower," Jefferson sadly instructs, which provokes a panic deep within Emma.

"What? No, she's not even awake. We can't just toss her in there," she exasperates, subconsciously tugging Regina's face further into her lap to protect the sad woman below.

"The water will wake her up, trust me, Swan, her mother's been doing this for too many years to count," he supplies, but no matter how comforting he sounds, it just doesn't sit right with Emma.

"No," she hastily rejects the idea, shaking her head vehemently. "Rubes, wet a washcloth for me, please." She pulls Regina further up into her lap, until the woman's warm temple rests against her chest. "Regina, you need to wake up now. I'm here," she whispers as Ruby hands over the requested towel.

Emma gently wipes the cool rag over Regina's sweaty forehead, down her temple and across her flushed cheeks. She continues to repeat the singer's name over and over again as she wipes away the sticky residue of Regina's heartache evident upon her red, blotchy cheeks.

"Emma," just barely mumbles incoherently out of Regina's parted lips.

"Yes, I'm right here with you, just open your eyes. Show me that you are okay," she pleads through the thick emotions obstructing her throat because, fuck, does she care for this woman.

Regina struggles, her eyelids crinkling and fluttering to obey the request. Finally her lashes break apart and Emma is greeted with bloodshot eyes still swimming in a sea of unshed tears. The saddest smile tugs at the corner of Emma's mouth as she peers down at this beautiful soul.

"Hi."

"Hey," Regina chokes out and winces at her own harsh voice struggling to make it passed her dry lips.

"We need you to get up. The Today Show is in one hour."

It kills Emma as she watches those cocoa rich irises roll hazardously all around in their sockets. She knows Regina's desperately trying to follow along and stay awake, but her body has reached its limit and is begging for sleep.

"Regina," Ruby kneels down beside Emma's lap and gently shakes the woman's hunched shoulders. "Time to take a shower, okay?"

Regina nods, with her eyelids firmly closed and her brain clearly not functioning at this point. It's a reflex action and maybe she somewhat hears the faint whispers around her, but everyone accepts that as her consent now.

Jefferson swoops her up, carrying her bridal style and his touch must be familiar because Regina instantly curls up against his chest and rests peacefully in his arms. He frowns to himself and carefully steps closer to the shower.

"Wait!" Emma abruptly calls out, stilling Jefferson from actually placing the passed out woman into the tub. She jumps to her feet and quickly removes the strappy heels clinging to Regina's feet. Ruby leaps into action as well, helping Emma strip the woman down to her bra and underwear. "Okay, go ahead."

Jefferson nods and slowly sets Regina down into the tub, allowing the cascading hot water to pelt Regina right in the face. She gasps, quickly running her hands down her face while attempting to move away from the spray.

The water droplets cling to her long lashes as she squints and discovers Emma leaning down next to the tub, ready for whatever may come her way. "Emma?"

"Hi," she softly whispers and offers the best smile she can muster up with all things considered.

Regina blinks again, slowly shifting back on her bottom to avoid the harsh spray. Slowly, she takes in her atmosphere, her watery eyes roaming around the room and all Emma can read is confusion.

"You're at the hotel. You have the Today Show," she supplies some information that seems to be missing from Regina's intoxicated brain at the moment.

"I don't-" that's as far as Regina's mouth allows before she's scrambling around in the tub like a fish out of water.

Her knees and elbows bang brutally against the tub, echoing through the ensuite as she heaves. Emma quickly gathers Regina's sopping wet hair into her hands while Ruby places her hand upon the woman's trembling back. There's no time to react properly and move Regina to the toilet, so she releases the poisonous toxins wreaking havoc on her body, down the drain of the tub. She heaves again, the alcohol ripping through her throat and tearing apart the delicate muscles that she needs more than any other body part to continue with her career.

"I'm going to grab her some water," Jefferson quietly says.

"Bloody Mary," Regina pathetically groans, sucking all the oxygen from Emma's lungs and causing her to deflate.

"Gina," he attempts to rebuttal, but the singer isn't in the mood for confrontation this morning.

"I need it," she desperately urges, causing all the little hairs on Emma's body to stand to attention.

"No, what you need is a fucking miracle," he bellows as his heavy feet trudge toward the door and he slams it shut on his way out.

"Fuck," Regina cries out through her abused throat and the thick tears clinging to her eyes.

She wipes her mouth with the hot water still raining down upon her and scrubs her face to wash away her hangover. Yet, they all know not a damn thing can clear her inebriated mind except for time and again they are lacking the simple concept. Ruby continues to methodically rub her hand up and down Regina's hunched back while Emma carefully places Regina's hair down the middle of her back.

"Regina, what happened?" Emma whispers, leaning over the edge of the bathtub to catch just a glimpse of those beautiful eyes, but Regina avoids her.

"Nothing happened," the singer spits in annoyance, "this is who I am. Regina Mills, America's sweetheart and biggest fuck up," she growls, angrily running her hands through her drenched locks. "I've told you time and time again, Swan, this is me. A drunk. A pathetic excuse for a daughter. A disappointment. I told you not to get involved with me. Stop asking what happened, when this is my life. This is me," she yells as she scrambles to stand on her weak legs that are wobbling recklessly.

"Regina, please just sit down," Ruby urges, but the woman is too far gone to even register the hair dresser at this point.

Emma jumps to her feet and quickly catches Regina by the elbow before she tumbles back down and causes anymore damage to herself.

"Let go, Miss Swan," Regina seethes in her most threatening tone, but she's far too unstable to jerk her elbow away from the persistent blonde.

"No. Just relax. I'm not going to sit here and watch you hurt yourself. Please, just sit back down so Ruby and I can help you shower before Jefferson and Cora return," the makeup artist firmly instructs, but her green eyes are glistening from the damaged woman before her.

"Where's my mother?" Regina abruptly investigates with enough fear striking her features, she immediately stops wrestling around.

"I don't know, maybe her room," Emma offers, slowly easing the singer back down into the tub for her own safety.

"Was she here? Did she see me?" Regina timidly questions, shrinking back into the tub like a small child cowering away from their bully.

Emma's worrisome eyes flick to Ruby in an instant for guidance and the brunette just exhales slowly, her eyes never leaving Regina's rigid posture. "Yeah Regina, she was here. Do you remember how you even got here?" Ruby curiously asks, lightly running a soapy washcloth over the singer's back.

"No."

"Maybe you came with Cora?" Emma offers in hopes to spark some memory from earlier that morning. "Did Guy drive you? Or Sydney?"

"I...I don't remember."

"Doesn't that scare you? That you have no recollection of your trip to this hotel?" Emma interrogates, but her authority is lacking from the emotions cracking her voice.

"Mr. Davidson takes care of me," she robotically recites.

"And Sydney?" Emma cynically rebuttals, because truthfully she doesn't care for the man.

"Sydney has my best interest at heart."

"Sure he does," and with that, Emma rolls her eyes and helps Ruby wash and rinse Regina's hair while the singer continues to nod off from the alcohol still poisoning her brain.

~~~~~~~

"Miss Swan! Miss Lucas! Is my daughter presentable?" Cora shouts through the bathroom door, forcing Emma and Ruby to lock eyes in sheer panic mode.

"Go distract her," Emma whispers, shoving Ruby toward the door. "I'm almost done with her makeup."

"Alright, hurry," her best friend urges with sorrowful pleading eyes before she slips out the door and firmly closes it behind her.

Emma takes a deep breath and steps in front of Regina, perched at the edge of the toilet seat. She steals a moment to admire her work, hiding away the red-rimmed eyes and dark circles tainting Regina's complexion. Gently, she cups Regina's chin, her thumb tenderly sweeping across the prominent jawline while Regina stares up at her with so much adoration. Inch by inch, Emma encloses the gap between them until her lips ever so delicately brush against Regina's.

The singer sighs in relief from the physical affection and moves to deepen the kiss, but Emma's already pulling away. "Your mother is waiting for you," she whispers through a frown, her thumb never stilling against the woman's strong jaw.

With one hand, Emma pops the top to Regina's favorite shade of lipstick and this time she doesn't even bother with seeking permission. Her grip tightens around Regina's chin as the scarlet hue connects carefully with her plump bottom lip. Regina's eyes flutter closed as Emma expertly glides the lipstick across the velvety flesh. Green eyes are drawn like a moth to a flame to that sexy little scar as the color moves to Regina's upper lip.

"I love that you trust me now," Emma mutters under her breath, half expecting Regina to miss her words altogether and somewhat praying that she does.

Brown eyes pop back open and connect with soft emeralds, shimmering with affection. "I do. I hope you know that," Regina miraculously says in a tone that doesn't sound like she spent an entire evening drowning in Vodka or this morning hurling the liquid back up.

Emma tilts Regina's head back just the slightest as she inspects her work, her finger moving to its own accord to ensure perfection. When she deems her art worthy, her eyes travel up to Regina's. There's a heavy pause between them, one that stops both erratic hearts and connects their souls in a passion that's undeniable. Emma doesn't even think, she just finds herself lowering down until she's resting on Regina's welcoming lap. The brunette's arms wrap safely around Emma's waist while their eyes never shy away.

"Am I acceptable for my mother's inspection?" Regina muses with a small smirk, but Emma's face falls and produces a sorrowful pout in return.

Emma slowly leans further down and rests her forehead against Regina's in the most intimate way.

"Please, I'm begging you, go to a facility. I know I'm new here, but I hate seeing you like this." Her voice cracks as her eyes gloss over from the heartache of a loved one suffering. Her hand disappears from Regina's chin and finds purpose burying deep into those thick locks and holding Regina's neck firmly into place. "I need you to find your worth in life. I already know what an amazing woman you are deep inside, but you...you need to find it," she implores, gripping Regina's neck tighter, willing the woman to believe in her words.

"I'm going to get help at the end of the month-"

Emma's already vehemently shaking her head against Regina's. "No, that's not good enough. You need a facility. You need to attend meetings with other addicts. You need stability and you need to work through whatever is killing your soul. I-I can't watch you destroy your life."

"I never asked you to."

"I can't walk away now."

"I could never be what you want."

"But you're already what I need," Emma softly whispers before she drags her lips just barely over Regina's, conscious of her impeccable lipstick.

"Girls!" Cora bellows, generating two groans of frustration as Emma climbs off Regina's lap and helps the other woman stand from the toilet.

Emma twists her pinky around Regina's and leads her to the bathroom door. She peeks over her shoulder and offers Regina her best positive smile before she opens the door and Regina's pinky finger is gone from hers.

"All set," Emma enthusiastically chirps to help break the tension pulsating between each individual in the room.

Jefferson smiles proudly while Ruby sighs in relief and smirks at their ending result. Kathryn glances up from her clipboard, her shoulders immediately slumping in relief as well. Emma finally lands on Cora, who is tsking and inspecting every detail to Regina's face.

"Shall we, mother?" Regina somehow manages to say, sounding more sober than a priest on Sunday morning.

"This isn't finished," Cora seethes.

"Is it ever?" Regina mocks and sashays across the hotel room without another glance in her mother's direction before they are both out the door.

~~~~~~~~

This is all becoming a little too routine for Emma. Regina stumbles and falls face first into a bottle, Emma and the crew pick her back up, mold her into America's idea of perfection and then Regina ends up passed out to sleep off her mistake with Emma by her side.

Emma examines Regina's peaceful face as the woman lies fast asleep. Those thick eyelashes flutter as she sleeps and Emma finds herself trapped in a mesmerizing trance. She sighs and scoots just a tad closer while her index finger skims across Regina's temple to whisk away a fallen chunk of hair. An angelic smile instantly morphs from Regina's full pout and Emma grins right back, her heart fluttering from the small gesture.

"Emma," Regina exhales as she fights away the sleep still clinging to her eyes.

"Yeah." Regina's eyes slowly peel apart to greet the gorgeous blonde protectively hovering above her. She stretches away the stiffness enveloping her tired muscles and Emma can't help but pull Regina closer into her loving embrace. "Your mother wants you to stay with her, so she can keep a watchful eye on you until she sends you to Maine."

Regina groans and buries her face impossibly close against Emma's chest to hide away the emotions flickering across her face. "It's only two more weeks. I'll be fine."

"You keep saying that, but you are anything, but," Emma counters as her right hand sneaks beneath Regina's tank top to lightly scratch her nails up and down the woman's back to calm her anxious body. "Regina, please tell me what happened when you were fifteen," she timidly requests because she's fairly confident Regina won't divulge the secret she's keeping hidden.

"Why do I always have to open up and tell you everything when you can't even talk to me about Henry's father," she snaps, causing Emma to deflate because she knows Regina is right.

A deep chill runs down to her bones, producing a shudder she cannot conceal. She feels Regina's body stiffen in her arms before the brunette slowly backs away to meet Emma's glistening eyes and demand an explanation.

"You're right. It's not fair. I'm always pushing for more information when I'm not being open and honest with you."

"Em-Emma, I'm sorry-"

"No, I need to talk about it sometime."

Regina rests her head on the same pillow as Emma and waits patiently. Her fingers curl around Emma's sharp hip bone to offer some sort of comfort while Emma gathers up the courage to explain her past.

"During my wild days with Ruby, I met an older guy, Neal. Like I said, we had fake I.D's when I was seventeen and that's how I met him...in some dive bar back in our hometown of Storybrooke. He was twenty-one and just had this easy going presence about him. He was so easy to be around," she chokes up momentarily as her mind flicks through so many images of Neal laughing wholeheartedly.

If she closes her eyes, she can distinctly hear that laugh that filled her heart with warm gooey love and made her swoon like a fool. His chestnut eyes that squinted when his face was full of amusement and his cheeks would burn a bright red. Regina's grip tightens and forces her mind back to the now. She opens her watery eyes and frowns at Regina's pout staring back at her.

"I've never felt so carefree in my life. He was always making me laugh and it was so natural and easy to be with him. Anyways, we dated for a little over two years before I found out I was pregnant."

Emma inhales sharply and attempts to breathe through the searing pain crushing her heart because those memories are what filled her heart with unconditional love and now, the emptiness that is left, she fears can never be replaced. Three years is a long time, but in Emma's heart it still feels like yesterday.

"I was twenty, living at home with my mom and going to college and Neal was twenty-four and working as a bartender on weekends, just waiting for his band to be noticed."

"Thing for musicians do we, dear?" Regina muses with a full-blown, cocky smirk set in place.

"It appears so," Emma actually chuckles and tugs Regina in even closer to her cozy embrace. "Anyways, when we found out I was pregnant, my mom suggested he move in, so we could save money together and hopefully one day, get our own place."

Emma swallows thickly before her tongue finds the strength to continue on. She's still so unsure of everything that occurred that evening and the unknown, the idea of never knowing, well, that's the worst curse imaginable.

"I-I think Neal panicked because we really didn't have any money. My mother was struggling to support all of us and I think the guilt weighed a little too heavily on Neal's mind. He-well...he started doing some things that he shouldn't....things that were illegal and would definitely get him into trouble."

"Like what? Stealing credit cards?"

"No..." Emma whispers as shame fills her blood until it thumps anxiously beneath her heated flesh. "He started getting involved with some shady people...with drugs...and he swore once our baby was born he would stop. He just wanted to stash as much money away as possible before our son was born."

"So..." Regina doesn't even finish the sentence, instead she allows her word to dangle between them, hoping it will lure out the explanation Emma is searching for.

"The night Henry was born," already her voice cracks and sells her out, "Neal was on his way to the hospital...they said it was an accident, but I just have this feeling in my gut that it was so much more than that," and with that last sentence, tears well up in those sparkling green eyes and trickle down her cheeks. "He always carried this backpack and the police swear it wasn't at the scene of the crime and...and it was never found," she chokes on her sob and bites down on her lip to keep from completely losing her composure.

"Emma," Regina whispers ever so delicately and places a gentle kiss to her lips, "what happened?" She murmurs against Emma's quivering flesh.

"He-we-we didn't have a car and he was on his bike...it was a hit and run," she cries out, immediately burying her face in the pillow to hide away the tears streaming down her face.

Her heart is heavier than it's been since the day of the accident, the day their son was born. One life lost while another was born into this crazy world. She shoves her face deeper into the pillow, like maybe this puffy cloud can suffocate the pain right out of her body.

Regina tightly wraps Emma into her arms and pulls her impossibly close, placing a lingering kiss to the woman's temple as she cries and mourns for the love of her life. Not once does Regina say anything, because truthfully what is there to say at a time like this? Nothing she can muster up would ever be significant enough to wash away the torment Emma has been living with. So, Regina holds her close, peppering the silky golden locks with kisses that vow to stand by her, that she too, isn't going anywhere.

"He was so young," Emma mumbles into the pillow between her gasping cries. "I know. I know it wasn't an accident. Whatever he had on him in that backpack was taken. God Regina, he never even had the chance to meet his son. He was on his way," she heaves, encouraging Regina to tighten her grip.

"I'm so sorry, Emma. I shouldn't have pushed for you to open up. I didn't know. I just assumed he was some jerk that left you and Henry behind."

"I know. I'm sure that's what most people assume, but he was such a good guy. He would have never left us...he just stumbled down the wrong path for a moment, hoping to better his family."

"So, that's why your mother named Henry?" Regina timidly inquires as she runs her fingers through Emma's hair to help calm her down from the tremors wracking her body.

Emma nods at first, still crying through the torture of her past. "I went through a really hard time after Henry was born. I would just hold my baby and cry uncontrollably. I couldn't name him. Nothing felt right and I was too distraught to even try. So, I told my mom to name him. She said Henry was a strong name, someone meant to be a leader, not a follower and honestly, I didn't even care. I just wanted to hold my son and cry for his father."

"Henry is a strong name and that little boy is going somewhere in life," Regina vows, sealing her promise with a tender kiss.

A small smile works it's way around Emma's mouth at the prospect of a bright future for her son. She sniffles away her sorrow and hastily wipes away the mess clinging to her face, but never once does Regina ever let her go.

"I'm sorry, I know that this was a lot-"

"Please don't apologize." Regina connects their lips and whispers, "I'm so glad you finally told me."

Emma sighs in response and swoons when Regina moves to deepen the kiss, effectively erasing the heartache for the night.

 

Chapter Text


The next four weeks were a chaotic blur to Emma. She spent her weekdays with Henry and weekends working for Regina. With each passing week, she was struggling with the idea of leaving Regina alone after the weekend was over while dreading a new weekend altogether.

Each time she arrived, it was the same scenario playing out over and over again. She would find Regina a heap of mess on the bathroom floor, intoxicated and passed out. She would spend the next hour or so cleaning the singer up and applying as much war paint as possible to hide away the pain.

What she hated most of all, was the way Regina would become violent and try to fight her and Ruby away at first. It would never last long. Regina would always end up apologizing profusely and wanting to shower Emma with affection and all the emotions flying around always left Emma dizzy and more discombobulated by the second.

Emma had begged and pleaded like a homeless child in search of a few scraps, for Regina to check herself into a real facility. Of course, Cora's manipulative power won, yet again, and in the end Regina was shipped to Maine for her seventh time. Seven times and this woman still has yet to find peace.

"Two, 312's!" The man shouts over the overpopulated bar with his forearms resting on the sticky counter below.

Emma quirks up one eyebrow playfully as she reaches into the cooler below and pulls out the requested beer bottles.

"She's actually letting you buy her a drink?" She teases the man, but he just laughs in return and slaps a crisp twenty down on the bar top.

"She must be pitying my awkward sense of humor and social cues," he chuckles along, accepting his beer and wandering off without his change.

She's been keeping busy at a local bar while Regina's been away. It helps distract her from the worry and wandering thoughts of what if's. It's a nicer sports bar than she's used to and she's not going to deny how much she's enjoying the hefty tips from all the single men desperate for a one-night stand. It's only been two weeks, but she has stashed away every penny for her and her mother's big move. 

There's a strong vibration that's been rattling in her back pocket ever since her shift started two hours ago. Discreetly, she checks her back pocket, just barely lifting the phone out of the tight denim before she reads, Jefferson. She groans from the sinking sensation in her chest and shoves the device way down deep.

"Hey, Lacey?" Emma leans into the woman's back while this sexy little brunette with the most adorable Australian accent leans back against her chest. The blue-eyed beauty continues shaking out her martinis while flashing her most flirtatious smile at a group of older gentlemen drooling from across the counter. "I need to make a phone call," Emma whispers into her ear. "Can you handle the bar for five minutes?"

"Does a stripper shake her titties?" Emma's face contorts into painfully dumb, while Lacey's baby blues roll dramatically. "Yes. Yes, I can handle the bar. Now, go," the woman grins wildly and pours out two martinis to perfection without skipping a bit.

"Thanks, you're the best," Emma cheers before she darts out the back door into the dark and bitter cold alley.

She welcomes the sharp fall bite with open arms because she was just suffocating moments ago from the sticky heat of the rambunctious bar. She yanks out her phone, taking one last calming breath and quickly calls Jefferson back, mindlessly pacing the narrow alleyway.

"Swan!"

"H-hey, Jefferson..."

"Listen honey, I need you here in Maine. Like tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Are you insane?" She balks, completely blindsided by the demand that interrupted her job.

"Come on, I'm going to send Regina's private jet and a limo to take you to the airport," he dutifully rambles off, as though they have spoken about this plan time and time again, yet she must have fallen with a bad case of amnesia.

"Jefferson, do you hear yourself? No, I can't. I have my son!"

"Listen honey, Regina is really struggling right now. She doesn't know that I'm calling you, but I know she's missing you. I know she cannot focus on her sobriety because her heart is somewhere else," he sincerely states, causing that sinking sensation to return in her chest all over again.

"What the hell? That's laying the guilt trip on extra thick," she groans, leaning heavily onto the red brick wall beside her. "But I can't, I have my son."

"Bring him. This house is a damn mansion. Five bedrooms, each with their own private bathroom. There's a basement pretending to be a fucking movie theater. There's an indoor pool. Henry will think of this as a vacation. What do you say?"

"I say, you better have your head checked by that psychologist why you are there because you're losing your damn mind!" Her head falls back, connecting with the scratchy brick as her eyes flutter closed. Another deep breath.

"Come on, Swan, I can barely drag her out of bed. She's been hiding out in her room for days," he sadly divulges, catching Emma's full attention and springing her eyes back to life.

"She won't get out of bed?" She whispers so softly as anxious energy ripples through her bloodstream.

"No," her friend sighs heavily and Emma's right along with him. "I know I'm asking a lot, but I really think you and Henry are what she needs to snap out of this slump. I haven't seen her this depressed in...please, Swan."

She groans to herself and kicks the brick wall with the heel of her black suede boot. "Fuck, fine," she grumbles. "But I can only stay for one week. She needs to focus on her treatment and I need to celebrate Henry's birthday at home with my mom."

"Of course, baby doll," he ecstatically cheers and Emma can already see his manic grin spreading across his beautiful face. She rolls her eyes to herself, but she has to admit, she misses the man...she misses Regina.

"Alright, send over the info. I gotta get back to work."

"Love you."

"Love you, too."

Emma ends the call, absentmindedly rubbing her thumb across her screen and smiling down upon her son. She quickly opens her text messages from Regina and reads the last text from the singer again.

"Don't you worry about me, I told you, I'm fine."

She rolls her eyes hard at the blatant lie lighting up her screen like a damn lie detector test and contemplates on calling out the woman. Instead, she opts for something that will hopefully brighten Regina's dark mood.

"I miss you and I believe my son is experiencing some withdraws as well. All I hear, all day long is, we see 'Gina?"

She sends the message and shoves her phone back into her pocket before yanking on the old metal door and heading back inside for the rest of her shift. The music is blaring at this point, but it's nothing like the heavy thump she's grown accustomed to from backstage at Regina's concerts. There's nothing like the rush, the adrenaline, and the goosebumps that erupt when she gazes out across that stage and watches Regina come to life.

She strolls back behind the bar, quickly jumping back into action without skipping a beat, like she was never missing. She pops the caps off two beer bottles and swaps them for the empty ones on the counter just to move along down the line. Some older gentleman, still in his suit and tie from his business meeting, is belting out some off key version of Pour Some Sugar On Me and Emma reminds herself to water down his next drink.

"All good, Swan?" Lacey shouts from across the bar, splashing some coke into two glasses in front of her.

Emma nods, dutifully counting out the man's change before sauntering back across the bar. "I know I just started and all, but do you think I would be able to request off next weekend?" She sheepishly asks.

"Oh, for sure," Lacey waves off the implication that might paint Emma as an unreliable employee at her new job and smiles from ear to ear. "George really doesn't care who requests off, as long as you cover your shift."

"Well, who should I ask? I really only know you and the cocktail waitresses. I haven't worked with any other bartenders."

Lacey finishes loading up a tray full of drinks and nods to the blonde waitress waiting nearby. The brunette wipes her hands clean from the slick residue and turns her full attention to Emma.

"Don't you worry about a thing. I got your back, girl. I know Jazzy and Ivy have both been fighting for some extra hours. I'll call them tonight," she offers, clasping her arm around Emma's bicep for a quick squeeze before floating off to a new customer.

"Thank you so much. I really appreciate it."

"No problem."

~~~~~~~~~

Emma hikes Henry further up on her hip and exhales slowly as she steps out from the plane and down the portable stairs. Even though the sky is painted a light baby blue and only a few white puffy clouds are scattered above, there's still a slight chill in the air. Emma hastily yanks Henry's hood from his sweatshirt on top of his head and descends the narrow stairs.

Even though this isn't her hometown of Storybrooke, it's still Maine and her stomach is twisting and turning with knots as her mind replays an endless movie collection of moments with Neal. She hasn't been back to Maine in quite some time, but she still feels his presence and feels closer to him than ever.

When she reaches the bottom, she discovers Guy standing with a sign that says, Miss Swan and Prince Henry. She belts out a carefree laugh while her son points back at the plane over her shoulder.

"Bye, bye, plane!"

"Guy, seriously? Didn't think I could spot you in this wild crowd?" Emma muses with her eyebrows dancing in delight.

The conservative man bows his head, just as he always does, but there's still that warm smile curling around his mouth. "Jefferson insisted on the Prince Henry portion. Please, strap Henry in and I will retrieve your bags from the plane."

"Thanks!" She cheerfully agrees and proceeds to place Henry in the back of the car that already has a car seat properly strapped inside.

"Where's Gina?" Henry innocently investigates as his big green eyes follow his mother's every move to secure him.

"We are going right now, buddy. I promise."

Emma kisses his forehead and brushes his chestnut locks to the side before she climbs in on the other side of the car. She clicks her seatbelt and watches as Guy carefully arranges their luggage into the trunk. He swiftly slides into the front seat and asks for permission to proceed before venturing on to the mysterious mansion that has Regina locked away like some psychotic prisoner.

"So, umm...have you seen Regina?" She tentatively starts the conversation, because she isn't quite sure what this man knows or was left in the dark with.

"I have," he shortly replies, his baby blue eyes trailing toward the rear view mirror to meet Emma's curious gaze.

"Oh...good." She hesitates for a moment, a mental battle with herself if she should continue or not. She loses. Or maybe she wins. "So, ummm...how's she doing?" She stammers and mentally kicks herself for sounding so suspicious.

Those kind eyes squint back at Emma before redirecting back onto the rural road ahead. "You should really revisit your contract, Miss Swan."

Emma scoffs in response and scrambles to lean into the back of Mr. Davidson's seat. "I think you have an idea of how much I genuinely care for the woman." His eyes flick back to hers in the mirror, but for only a brief second. "We both would never double cross her."

"You were beckoned by Jefferson for a reason, correct?" He cryptically responds, still as stoic as possible for any human to be.

"Look, I know you care about her, just as much as I do. I just...I want to mentally prepare myself before I blindly walk into a death trap," she huffs out her frustrations before hazardously falling back into her seat.

"I think your presence will lighten her mood," he evenly replies and focuses back on the road without another sign that their conversation may continue.

~~~~~~

"Dis Gina house?" Henry inquisitively questions as Emma walks up the brick pathway toward the overly extravagant house dressed in white with black accents.

"Uh, kinda," Emma meekly answers and hitches her son higher upon her hip before she climbs up the porch.

"Just walk in, Jefferson is expecting us," Mr. Davidson calls out from the trunk, but Emma shakes her head and knocks three times.

"No, that's weird," she hisses over her shoulder and watches in amusement as her son leans forward in her arms and repeats her action.

The door enthusiastically swings open and before Emma can even inspect who is behind the grand white door, she knows it's Jefferson.

"Oh honey, how was your trip?" He squawks as he jerks Emma and Henry against his broad chest, successfully knocking the wind out of her. "Come in. Come in. I was just about to make some lunch."

Emma stammers as Jefferson releases her and it's almost comical how wide her eyes are at this point, like a giant cartoon from the eighties. She quickly kicks off her shoes and removes her son's before bending down to neatly arrange them on the mat near the door, all while Henry's claws dig deeper into her flesh.

"Buddy, relax. I'm not letting you go."

"Jefferson, who's at the..." Regina's words evaporate from existence as she leans over the elaborate staircase to find Emma and Henry smiling up at her with nothing but genuine excitement. "I..."

"Hi," Emma shyly greets the woman she has been missing so desperately for the past two months now.

"Hi, Gina!"

"Miss Swan," Regina nods politely, masking her true emotions as she elegantly floats down the staircase like a damn queen. "Hello, Henry."

"Miss Mills, what room would you like Miss Swan's luggage in?" Mr. Davidson professionally inquires as he makes his debut behind mother and son.

"The room after mine will be just fine. Thank you, Mr. Davidson."

"My pleasure." He bows his head and swiftly moves passed the foyer and right upstairs to deposit the luggage.

"What are you doing here?" Regina whispers, her eyes flickering from Emma's to land on the small toddler clinging to his mother's side.

"I-uh..." Emma's worrisome eyes dart to Jefferson, who is deliriously grinning back at her. "It was all his idea," she hastily defends and physically points out Jefferson to further throw the man under the bus.

"Witch," he hisses while his grin morphs into a sourpuss frown. "I thought it would be best if these two visited for a week to liven up this place," he quietly recommends.

"Jeff, that's not how rehab works. You can't just bring your friends and family along," Regina rebuttals, but the usual harsh bite in her tone is long gone and there's nothing left but exhaustion.

"Well, in case you haven't noticed, this isn't rehab," he snips, spinning on his heels and storming off into another room before anyone else has a chance to argue.

"It's not," Emma weakly agrees, readjusting Henry upon her hip again because all this little boy does is eat and she's feeling the aftermath of it all. Regina glares at Emma out of the side of her eyes and if looks could kill, the singer would be feasting off her dead corpse right now. "So, we can only stay for a week..."

"How about a tour?"

Emma feels the tension in her shoulders melt away like wax dripping down a candle and she smiles brightly at the woman who smuggled her heart straight from her chest.

"We would like that. Henry, can you walk? You're getting really heavy," she whines, but her son just clings on tighter, silently declining her proposal. "Alright," she sarcastically mumbles under her breath and follows Regina around the over the top mansion.

Regina begins the tour with the upstairs, politely and thoroughly mapping out the layout. She quickly shows off her room and where Emma will be staying with Henry, just next door, including a king size bed and a bathroom that puts all those hotels they stayed at in the summer to shame. Regina vaguely passes through all the extra guest bedrooms before heading back downstairs.

She proceeds through far too many living rooms that appear to have been abandoned by human contact for god only knows how many years. Everything is immaculate, crisp and clean with warm beige colors and flashes of black for an accent color. Every piece of furniture is modern and Emma subconsciously holds Henry closer, petrified that he might escape her clutches and break something.

Regina continues on toward the kitchen, a kitchen that belongs in some ridiculous action movie, where the bad guy lives from all the money they have stolen. This kitchen deserves a full waitstaff, complete with a head chef for how enormous it truly is.

Regina quickly moves into the basement with the in-home theater that Jefferson claimed, to the indoor pool. She proceeds to show off some game room, a den, plenty of other rooms that most likely haven't ever been touched by a human and an area specifically for Jefferson and her psychologist.

"I shwim?" Henry asks as he gathers his mother's face between his palms and peers deep into her eyes, eliciting a carefree laugh from both Emma and Regina.

"Of course, Henry. Why don't we head upstairs and change real quick," Regina suggests, earning herself a squeal of delight from the toddler.

~~~~~~~

"Buddy, mommy's arms are tired. Give me a minute," Emma heaves as her son dances at the edge of the pool, dripping thick water droplets from his soaking wet body.

"No, tired. Okay, mommy, one..." Henry shouts, his little body squatting down to prepare his grand leap into the pool, like he has been doing for the past thirty minutes.

"Henry, how about we give mommy a rest," Regina calmly suggests as she glides through the water closer to where Henry is preparing his jump. "Can I catch you instead?"

Henry straightens his posture immediately from the proposal and cocks his head to the side. Water is sticking to his thick lashes and creating the illusion of enhancing them and somewhere in Regina's frozen heart, another piece chips away from this little boy's cuteness.

"You can catch me?" He suspiciously interrogates, his big eyes shifting to his mother for approval.

"Of course, she can," Emma insists and sends a silent prayer that she doesn't have to play this game anymore.

"Okay," he shrugs off any apprehension he felt moments ago and continues his countdown. "One, two, free!" He screams, his little voice carrying through the pool and bouncing off the walls as he leaps into the air and successfully splashes Regina right in the face. "Again!" He shrieks, already wiggling in Regina's arms to make his way back toward the ledge.

"How about we swim?" Regina recommends, pushing off the ground and gliding through the warm waters.

Henry's baby giggles fill the air as Regina holds him from behind and spins him around in circles. Emma swallows down her emotions because, dear god, is the sight of her son giggling so freely with a person she adores, so beautiful. She never thought she would ever allow a potential romantic partner around her son so quickly, but she knows in Henry's eyes, Regina is just a friend. He's too young to know any better and it's best this way, but she's so thankful that her most favorite people get along so well.

"Ah, Regina...I thought I heard you had some visitors," a strange man slowly announces, causing Emma to spin around abruptly.

"Dr. Facilier," Regina gasps, obviously startled by his presence just as much as Emma is. "I thought we didn't have a session until this evening?"

"We don't," he nonchalantly concedes and struts confidently closer toward the pool, as if he was just invited by Regina herself. "Although, I think it would be wise to be formally introduced to your...friend," he maliciously insinuates as his dark eyes roam over Emma's body, provoking goosebumps to break along her flesh in response.

"Of course," and there's that fake Regina smile that Emma hasn't seen since the summer tour. "Emma, this is Dr. Facilier. Dr. Facilier, this is my makeup artist, Emma Swan, and her son, Henry," she politely introduces and Emma isn't ignorant to the extra tight hug around Henry's torso when Regina said his name.

"Ahh yes, Emma Swan, so lovely to meet you. It's nice to put a face to a name," he says through a broad grin that just keeps on spreading like a madman.

Emma swallows thickly from the fear tingling the back of her throat and produces her own best, fake smile. "All good things I hope," she nervously replies and instantly deflates when her voice cracks.

"Of course. Of course," he chuckles a sinister laugh, "that was until you showed up unannounced to her rehabilitation center." The entire world seems to freeze for this one moment and Emma's face falls, her brain short circuits and she's left staring like a damn fool. "Kidding," he laughs hysterically, encouraging Regina and Emma to both laugh awkwardly, so unsure how to respond at this point.

"Shwim, Gina! Shwim!" Henry bursts through the embarrassingly awkward moment and kicks his little legs to encourage Regina to keep spinning him.

"Well, I'll let you three continue. Regina, I will see you later."

"Of course. Have a nice afternoon, Dr. Facilier."

Emma cautiously swims toward Regina and her son once she's fairly certain the man has officially left them alone. "So, that's your psychologist? For how long?"

"Um, ever since I was twenty-one." Regina tugs Henry closer to her chest and pulls him through the waters again, with Emma swimming right alongside of them.

"Did you have one before him? Like when you were a teen?" Emma tentatively inquires, respectfully treading lightly through the topic that Regina has still yet to explain about the incident at fifteen.

"No, he's been the first and only," Regina hesitantly responds, eyeing Emma carefully.

"Oh," is all that falls from Emma's pathetic mouth.

When she needs something to say, nothing ever comes out and when she needs to shut the hell up, it seems she's inflicted with a terrible case of word vomit.

"How about we take a break?" Regina recommends and immediately Henry whines in her arms and starts flailing about like a fish that accidentally flopped out of its bowl. "Oh, so I guess you don't want the fresh batch of homemade cookies Jefferson made earlier, huh?" She teases, her beautiful smile consuming her entire face and melting Emma's heart all over again.

Henry's face beams with a voltage threatening to blind Regina as he whips around in her arms and presses his little button nose to hers. "Cookies?!"

"Easy, kiddo," Emma laughs lightly and attempts to pry her son's claws out of Regina. "Back it up."

Regina laughs wholeheartedly while gazing into his youthful eyes and she squeezes him back. "Yes, Henry. We can have cookies as long as we get out of the pool now and dry off."

"Let's go!"

~~~~~~~

No.

Reckless.

Irresponsible.

No.

Regina grimaces as she glares heavily at the bottle resting on top of her piano. Her heavy eyes flick to the clock on the wall just behind the full bottle.

Two hours of this ridiculous battle.

No.

Henry's here.

Her pleading eyes travel back to the fancy script reading Tito's. The clawing, nagging sensation scratches pathetically just below the surface and she's about to rip her own skin right off just to find relief from the desperate need. She aggressively scrubs her hands down her face and shakes the sick, eerie prickles out of her heavy limbs.

"Okay," she breathes out to herself and rests her fingers against the keys. "Focus," she berates herself for the umpteenth time and lightly presses down on the white keys.

"Trapped inside those eyes, the prisons I despise," she softly sings, pouring all her pent-up emotions from the losing battle within, into her words. Her fingers continue the gentle melody, but her mind draws blank on the lyrics that should follow. "Fuck," she cries out and slams her fingers angrily against the piano to release some of her agitation.

There's a soft knock at the door, motivating her to spin around abruptly upon her bench and watch as golden curls cascade down through the crack in the doorway. She stiffens, her eyes immediately traveling back to the bottle taunting her.

Stupid girl.

"Hey."

 

Chapter Text


Sheer panic electrocutes every cell in Regina's body as she watches Emma's wide eyes travel away from hers and land directly on the bottle. Her chest heaves as she struggles for a single breath of air, knowing the disappointment she has just caused at three o'clock in the morning.

Emma cautiously steals a step forward and softly closes the door behind herself, conscious not to create a sound. "Have you been drinking this entire time you've been away?" She interrogates in a stern tone, yet there's still compassion lingering behind her words to help persuade Regina into revealing the truth.

"No, no," Regina rushes out, vehemently shaking her head in defiance. "I'll admit, I was going to tonight, but then you showed up this afternoon...and I would never do that with Henry around," she sincerely professes and already her throat is straining to justify her actions because she's on the verge of tears from being caught with her stupidity.

"I would hope not," Emma whispers and timidly crosses the bedroom that also serves purpose as a music room. "Why were you going to drink before we showed up?" She gently inquires, cautiously lowering herself onto the bench beside Regina.

"I-I'm struggling. I cannot finish this album and I need some kind of inspiration to push me through it."

"Alright...are you having a hard time with just the lyrics?"

"Yes." Regina runs her quivering fingers through her wild hair and closes her eyes for a moment of peace away from this demanding world. "I need depth, power, soul, if I'm ever going to create number one hits on the billboard."

While Regina has her eyes firmly shut, Emma reaches for an acoustic guitar resting in its stand against the wall. She smiles from ear to ear once she feels the familiar weight in her hands again and she crisscrosses her legs on the bench. The sudden movement awakens Regina from her trance and snaps her brown eyes back to life. Emma rests the guitar between her lap and takes a moment to prepare herself.

"Not all number one hits have phenomenal lyrics with depth and power," Emma acknowledges as her fingers effortlessly drag across the thick chords to produce an upbeat tempo. "He was a skater boy, she said see ya later boy," she sings enthusiastically and slams her palm against the strings to kill the familiar top charter.

Green eyes lock onto blown-wide brown and Emma has to twist her lips to suppress the laugh pleading to spill out. Amusement, along with utterly baffled and maybe even a little pride, flashes across Regina's face.

"You-you can play guitar? You can sing?" She squawks like a pigeon begging for food.

Emma shrugs her shoulder noncommittally as her eyes fall back down to the beautiful guitar resting in her lap. She's never had the opportunity to hold an instrument so valuable, but in the end it's the music she creates that warms her heart.

"Neal taught me how," she lightly strums her fingertips down the cool chords and smiles inwardly. "He always said I was a quick study."

"Quick study? Emma, you're very talented. Like you had said before, that's not something you can teach so easily, I can see it's a part of you. It's in your blood. You're really good," Regina gushes, still in awe from this secret talent Emma has securely kept hidden from her.

Music could have been another detail they could have bonded over.

Emma chuckles softly and shakes out her long mane. "I'm karaoke in a dive bar good, not fame and Grammy's good."

"Emma-"

"So, what lyric is ruffling your feathers?" Emma lightly teases and glances at the notebook propped up with Regina's heavy eraser marks and pencil scribbles.

Regina sighs, like just the thought of that damn lyric is sucking the life right out of her. She stretches out her fingers and aligns them against the keys. She takes a deep breath before the sweetest, yet, heart wrenching sound sings from the piano.

"Trapped inside those eyes, the prisons I despise..." her fingers immediately desist and retract to tread through those inky tresses all over again. "And that's where I'm stuck."

"Well, like I said, sometimes the most popular songs aren't always the deepest or detailed." Emma's long fingers glide down the guitar as she plucks the top chord and strums a beautifully deep vibration. "Yes I'll admit, that I'm a fool for you. Because you're mine, I walk the line," she sings in the deepest tone she can possibly produce to portray Johnny Cash, which forces Regina to purse her lips and glare to keep from laughing out loud.

"You're an idiot." Regina shifts on her bench to face her piano properly and stares intently at her notebook like the words will just magically write themselves.

Emma switches her chord progression just as she whines through her next verse. "You know I'm such a fool for you. You've got me wrapped around your finger. Do you have to let it linger?"

Regina shoves the playful blonde, eliciting the most adorable giggle to erupt from those pretty pink lips as Emma attempts to steady her balance before she tumbles right off the bench. She catches herself with a light, high note, as her fingers slam down on the piano keys. She shakes her head, still laughing because she can see the amusement twinkling in Regina's rich eyes.

"Alright, let loose. Let's just clear your mind and not focus on your writing for a moment," she suggests and readjusts the guitar in her lap. "Let's just play some music and I bet you will see that not all lyrics are so deep as you assume."

Regina proceeds to glare at the quirky blonde with her lips puckered out in all her judging glory. Emma lazily drags her fingers down the thick wires, producing a very distinct country twang as she sways from side to side.

"I'll wear a town like a leather jacket, when the new wears off, I don't even pack it. If you need me, I'll be where my reputation won't proceed me. Maybe I'm addicted to goodbyes...another vice."

"I told you, everyone has their sins...their vices."

Emma rolls her eyes and waits patiently for Regina to join in on her fun. She narrows her eyes expectedly at the piano and sighs heavily to stress her point. Regina proceeds to roll her eyes as well, but then her fingers are skittering across the white keys and creating a melody Emma is somewhat familiar with from her childhood.

"Traveling around sure gets me down and lonely. Nothing else to do but close my mind. I sure hope the road don't come to own me. There's so many dreams that I have yet to find." Regina glances at Emma through her peripheral and smirks slightly. "But you're so far away." Emma smiles the most ridiculously goofy grin that stings her cheeks and burns her flesh the most vibrant of red. "Happy now?" Regina mocks, her fingers sliding away from where they are destined to be.

Emma responds with an aggressive strumming that takes Regina by surprise. "I'm bad. I'm bad. I'm really, really, bad." She slams her hand down on the guitar again and smiles with her entire face back at Regina. "Oooh!" She exclaims in her best representation of Michael Jackson.

The singer inhales sharply and shakes her head, but as much as she's trying, she cannot seem to wipe the stupid grin off her face. Her dainty fingers slither slowly onto the piano and she actually only creates one sound as she whispers, "Hey Jude, don't let me down."

Emma slows down her beat so that a sad vibration fills the air. "She's a good girl...loves her mama..."

Regina immediately slams her fingers down with enough pain pouring from her heart that Emma feels the aftermath rattling in her very own beating heart.

"Mama, oohhhh ohhhh, I don't want to die." Her fingers push angrily onto the piano as if the instrument is the one that inflicted her with so much pain, not her own damn mother. "Sometimes wish I'd never been born at all." Regina's voice cracks, but it's in the most endearing way that expresses her true emotions through a song that everyone always writes off as silly and fun. She quickly retracts her fingers and swipes at her cheek that's holding onto one lonely tear.

Emma leans forward and presses the most gentle and warming kiss to Regina's shoulder. Very slowly she creates a new sound, one that Regina catches onto right away and tickles at her fingertips to play along.

"Just today she sat down to the flask in her fist, ain't been sober since maybe October of last year." Regina and Emma both swallow thickly from the truth behind the words, but Emma continues, her voice pleading and whining for Regina to just hear her. "Here in town you can tell she's been down for awhile. But my god it's so beautiful when the girl smiles, wanna hold her, maybe I'll just sing about her."

Emma's eyes well up with thick tears and a large boulder swells in her throat, cutting off any other words from pouring out in desperation.

But then Regina's soft, angelic voice is singing in a breathy whisper, "Breathe. Just breathe."

"Ohhhh breathe....just breathe," Emma urges because she knows this is what Regina needs more than anything. To take a step back from her frantic life and just breathe.

"Two a.m. and I'm still awake writing a song if I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to. And I feel like I'm naked in front of a crowd because these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know you'll use them however you want to," Regina sings with such a raw passion, Emma's body erupts in spine-chilling goosebumps.

"See!" Emma shrieks, startling Regina and silencing both instruments between them. "Right there, Anna Nalick literally wrote about writing a song and that song was a hit!"

"I know, but..."

"No, but's...." Emma abruptly starts cheerfully playing her new favorite guitar again and smiles that cheeky grin that always sparks a fire in Regina's blood.

Regina secretly knows and loves the song and quickly jumps on her piano and sings before Emma can even open her pretty little mouth.

"Guess what, I'm done writing you songs. I'm far too unstable to settle...."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Emma's shocked expression brings another cocky smile to Regina's face. "You know Jack's Mannequin?"

"I've got friends who la la lie, to help me pull through." Regina delightfully sings as her fingers dance elegantly across the extravagant piano and those words hit a little too close to Regina's actual life.

"Okay, but is that like the only song you know?" Emma teases as Regina's fingers create a new song that warms Emma's heart and flutters her stomach.

"Dark blue, dark blue. Have you ever been alone in a crowded room?"

"Holy shit, I never would have guessed you even know that genre."

"Why not?" Regina shrugs casually and smirks with all the confidence in the world.

"Alright, how about this..." Emma shifts on the bench and clears her throat as she slowly plucks a country sound that's full of heartache and love all wrapped into one. "When it comes to you, all the damage I could do. It's always your favorite sins, that do you in..."

As Emma holds onto that last note, Regina joins in, singing the softest, most delicate sound. "Ahhh ahhh ahhhhh...." Emma smiles in awe by this amazing woman and together they both sing. "You and Tequila make me crazy. Run like poison in my blood. One more night could kill me, baby."

Emma slows down her rhythm and holds Regina's gaze intently, hoping the other woman can feel the urgency behind her words. "One is one too many."

"One more is never enough," Regina sadly sings in response, never tearing her eyes away from those intense green irises that are pulling at her heartstrings.

Emma's fingers slowly fall away from the guitar, deliberately plucking each thick chord on her way down as Regina's fingers slip away from the silky keys to rest in her lap. Instead of bringing up the giant elephant in the room and putting a damper on their midnight jam session, Emma blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.

"You know country songs?"

"I believe what makes an artist truly special, is listening and accepting all different types of genres. It's important to pull aspects from each, I think it's what makes me a well-rounded artist and writer," Regina confesses, with a hint of pride shimmering in her eyes.

"No, you're right. I...I just didn't expect it is all."

"That's because you don't know me." Emma's heart sinks to the pit of her stomach and leaves her absolutely nauseous. "Yet..." Regina's fingers lightly trail across the keys, never pressing down to create the slightest of a sound. "You know me better than anyone."

Emma's mouth pops open to argue, because she does know Regina and she's been working so hard to prove that. She really thought she had at this point in their relationship. But then Regina's fingers are skating across the ivory and wiping Emma's mind completely clean.

"And you don't know me at all, yet somehow you know me better than the rest. And maybe I should surrender. Let you inside these lonely castle walls."

A satisfying smirk plays at the corner of Regina's mouth as she hums in approval. She hastily reaches for her notebook and scribbles down her lyrics like a madwoman.

"Did you just..."

"Let's keep going, Miss Swan," Regina playfully teases as she sets down her pencil and paper.

Regina enthusiastically slams her fingers down on the piano and smiles from ear to ear when her eyes meet Emma's overjoyed expression.

"Looking out on the morning rain, I used to feel so uninspired." Regina's entire body sways forward as she aggressively plays the piano, her whole soul dancing along to the song. A song Emma recognizes from the first night she ever heard Regina play. "And when I knew I had to face another day....Lord, it made me feel so tired. Before the day I met you, life was so unkind. But you're the key to my peace of mind."

Even though Emma knows in her heart and soul what's coming next because her mother absolutely adores Carole King, she remains frozen, listening to the soul and passion that this astonishing woman is pouring into her words and piano.

"Cause you make me feel. You make me feel. You make me feel like a natural woman," she seductively sings, side-eyeing Emma with all the confidence one person can possibly possess.

Emma grins like a lunatic back at this smug human and quickly strums her guitar to catch up to Regina's fingers and she takes the lead in the next verse.

"When my soul was in the lost and found, you came along to claim it. I didn't know just what was wrong with me. Til your kiss helped me name it."

Emma shyly smiles back at Regina, her cheeks painted a slight shade of pink and somehow Regina just knows she needs to sing the next line. "Now I'm no longer doubtful, of what I'm living for."

Emma happily chimes in on the next part so they both can sing in unison, "And if I make you happy, I don't need to do more."

Regina doesn't waste another second as she abandons her piano and her fingers find a new meaning to life against Emma's cheeks. The singer pulls this other woman into a searing kiss that evaporates any other lyrics that were ready to dance off her tongue.

Emma reaches across the new guitar and cups Regina's jawline to steady herself as she pours all her emotions into one kiss. Maybe they are in sync from the music they just shared, between the lyrics and the tempo pulsating between them, but together, Emma and Regina part their lips and become reacquainted with their warm tongues. Tasting. Exploring. Memorizing. Falling deeper....

Regina's fingers slip away from Emma's flushed cheeks and blindly remove the guitar from her lap. She gently rests it onto the floor behind them and replaces the instrument with herself. She seductively slides one leg over Emma's lap and snakes her hands behind the blonde's neck. Her right hand delicately caresses Emma's soft skin beneath her golden mane, while she lowers herself onto Emma's thighs, never once breaking eye contact.

Emma's hands instinctively glide up Regina's thick thighs and rest happily upon the woman's hips. Green eyes peer up at loving brown and the tenderness and emotions beating in those beautiful orbs is all the confidence Emma needs to proceed. She leans forward and captures Regina's plump lips, her tongue instantly slipping between and dominating the soaring kiss.

Regina's fingers scrape against the nape of Emma's neck, begging for so much more. And Emma knows exactly what this sexy woman, who is subtly rolling her body against her, is pleading for. They started testing the waters between them back in July and it's now the middle of October and nothing more has ever occurred besides these passionate moments of just stolen kisses.

Something desperate and animalistic consumes Emma's blood and demands control. It's burning hot and tingling cold all at the same time as it swims through her bloodstream and intoxicates her brain. In one swift move, Emma stands up from the bench, firmly holding Regina's body close before she sets her down on the black and white keys that sing their praise.

A breathy moan escapes Regina's parted lips before she dives right back in to Emma's inviting mouth. Both women panting and grasping at anything one another has to offer. Regina expertly finds the hem of Emma's favorite, old tank top and tears the soft cotton up her heated flesh, only to break their frantic kiss for a split second before they are both gasping and diving right back in.

Emma snuck into Regina's room in the middle of the night, so of course, she wasn't wearing a bra at that time. Regina eagerly gropes both heaving breasts while inhaling sharply like she's trying to consume every part of what makes Emma who she is.

Emma smiles like a lunatic as her hands move to their own accord, sliding her old soccer jersey up and over Regina's body.

"I thought you stole this," Emma muses, holding the evidence up between them, but Regina hastily snatches it away and tosses it to the ground.

"Shut up, Swan," she growls, aggressively cupping the back of Emma's neck and tugging her right back in for another desperate kiss.

Emma smiles wildly into the kiss, her hands pressing firmly into Regina's silky smooth back before she grazes all the way up just to pull the smaller woman closer. Regina becomes hysterical, her hands fumbling to claw at any piece of clothing that still remains on Emma Swan while her swollen lips and teeth are alternating frantically between kisses and bites.

"Hey," Emma softly whispers and pulls away from the woman before her. Big brown eyes filled to the brim with insecurities blinking back at her and Emma feels her heart thump in concern. "Slow down, I'm not going anywhere," she promises and delicately brushes her lips against Regina's to calm her.

Regina doesn't mutter a word, instead, she slides off the piano, creating a mix of a few random tones. She stands tall, almost reaching Emma's height, just shy by a half an inch since she's not towering in her stilettos. Her fingertips gently massage the back of Emma's neck as she pulls the younger woman into a gentle, meaningful kiss. Carefully, she steps forward, ushering Emma's fuzzy socks to step backwards until she collides with a king size bed.

"Are you absolutely sure about this?" Regina timidly asks into their passionate kiss.

Emma blindly searches for Regina's free hand, her pinky finger wrapping securely around Regina's as she smiles and nods into the kiss.

"With all my heart," she murmurs and bends backwards onto the bed with Regina following her every step of the way.

 

Chapter Text


Regina follows every inch of Emma's body down onto the bed, her skin needing the constant connection that makes her heart pump faster and knees grow weak. Emma slithers her long fingers into Regina's thick hair and pulls the brunette in even closer, deepening the kiss and gently sweeping her tongue against Regina's.

Emma releases a deep shuddering breath because never in her life has a kiss felt so meaningful. She smiles a mile wide and glides her free hand up her lover's back, carefully unclasping the black lace bra. Regina finishes removing the bra altogether for her, pulling away for just a moment before she's gently laying back down, relishing in the feel of Emma's bare chest firmly pressed up against her own.

Emma's heart starts pounding fiercer than she ever thought imaginable, because now they are crossing a line. There's no more uncertainty of where they land or her feelings for another woman. She can see the passion beating in Regina's eyes as she stares down upon her and Emma knows in her heart this isn't just some quick fuck. This woman is about to make love to her and all she ever thought about herself and her sexuality is being tossed out the window.

Regina juts out her jaw as she holds Emma's gaze, her index finger skimming over a sandy-blonde eyebrow, down her temple, over her cheek and tracing her strong jawline. She swallows thickly, producing a painful audible gulp and Emma absolutely detests the fact that she cannot read this woman's thoughts. She cocks her head to the side as Regina's eyes drift away, mapping out every detail that creates Emma's stunning face.

"Re-"

"I'm so sorry, Emma. I didn't mean to disappoint you," she confesses through her trembling voice, inspiring Emma to hold her even closer.

"I know, but you need to fix this."

Regina doesn't bother with words, she usually doesn't in moments like these. She eliminates the tiny gap between their lips and softly kisses her. Her velvety lips drag away from Emma's mouth, drifting down her pointed chin, so she can plant an assortment of featherlight kisses all along the column of her neck.

Emma squirms the slightest as a twitch awakens her senses between her thighs. The intimacy, the light touches, the powerful kisses, the pulsating ache between her legs has all been hibernating for three years now. But by the flush of heat scorching just below her flesh, her erect nipples just pleading to be touched and the slight sway to her hips, she knows that only Regina could have awakened her soul quite like this. And in this moment, she knows that she's in too deep with Regina, yet, she wouldn't drown with any other human on this planet.

She watches through hooded eyes as Regina provocatively glides down her chest, wild raven tresses tickling her heated flesh on the way and creating a path of chilly goosebumps in their wake. Plump, velvety lips place a tender kiss to a protruding nipple just pleading for attention, before Regina hungrily sucks the pink flesh into her mouth while caressing the other heavy mound gently.

Emma's body reacts instantly with a deep guttural moan that rattles in her chest while her body writhes for so much more. She threads her fingers through Regina's hair and pins the woman closer to her chest, eliciting a breathy moan from the brunette. She pants from the stimulation, but what's really driving her mad, is the sweet little sounds escaping from Regina's lips.

The brunette sucks harder, sending an electrical shock straight to Emma's bundle of nerves all while her thumb lightly skims over the other nipple, never once neglecting either breast.

"Regina," Emma breathlessly pants, scraping her nails against the woman's scalp in a silent request for more.

The singer hums to herself, swirling her tongue around the erect bud before finishing her feast with one more gentle kiss. Emma never takes her eyes off the top of Regina's head as she slowly sinks further down, peppering sweet kisses across the pale flesh scattered with random freckles and beauty marks. When she finally reaches Emma's waistband to her cotton shorts, Regina licks across the barrier, forcing Emma's eyes to slam shut in a lame attempt to calm her desperation, but it's all futile. She's been deprived intimacy for far too long and her body will punish her tonight as a reminder to never be so neglectful again.

Regina's sultry moves are causing Emma's head to spin, leaving her absolutely dizzy. She curls her fingers into Emma's waistband, her big brown eyes flicking to green ones for approval before she continues. Emma slowly nods and studies the way Regina effortlessly peels away her pajama bottoms and thong in one swift motion.

Emma's heart is hammering profusely against her sternum, her body is flushing with an immense heat over and over again, and never has she ever felt more self-conscious or on display. But then, Regina delicately lowers herself onto Emma, like a warm blanket designed to wash away all fears and anxiety. Very slowly, she pecks Emma's lips and stares deeper than she ever has before into Emma's eyes.

"You still with me?" She murmurs, those chocolatey orbs shifting back and forth for an answer.

"Of course," Emma whispers, even though she's paranoid that Regina can feel her heart reaching out to connect with hers.

"Good," barely escapes Regina's kiss-swollen lips before she captures Emma's lips again, gently nibbling on her bottom one specifically.

This seductive woman slowly slides away from Emma, causing confusion to consume her expression. Regina smirks down at her, but all those green irises can focus on, are those small and perky breasts on full display for her eyes only. She gulps down her nerves and examines how Regina pops the button on her jeans. Slowly, she drags her zipper down, intently watching the lust take over Emma's eyes. She leans back on pale thighs and quickly removes her pants and little black thong as well.

Emma's eyes are unhinged, darting rapidly across this gorgeous specimen straddling her thighs. She roams over the tan flesh to the dark pink nipples down to the flat stomach and sharp hip bones. She darts back up to those breasts because even though they may not be the biggest, they are damn perfect. Her eyes wander back down to the smooth area between Regina's thighs and instantly her mouth waters. And all Emma can think about is how Regina must have a special artist as well who is constantly waxing her to perfection.

Finally, Emma travels back up to meet Regina's gaze and she's expecting a smug smirk, fully proud of her goddess figure, but instead Emma finds a heartfelt, sober expression that takes her breath away. Regina very slowly leans back down and just stares into Emma's eyes, not once pushing for more. So, Emma tenderly curls a chunk of hair behind Regina's ear and offers a crooked grin.

"Everything is different with you," Regina whispers, cupping a pale cheek and sweeping her thumb delicately across the warm flesh.

"I hope so," she replies, her voice cracking between her emotions and trying so hard to whisper.

"I want to be better when you're around."

"And when I'm not around?"

"I hate when you're not," Regina acknowledges, her eyes drifting down to watch as her thumb presses into the small indent in Emma's chin.

Emma swallows hard, because she knows what she's about to say could ruin the moment and she knows the answer will be a tough pill to swallow.

"Then stop all the games and publicity stunts. You can have all of me."

And again, Regina neglects her words and presses her warm lips against Emma's, effectively swiping her thoughts clear and distracting her with her previous arousal.

She possessively latches onto the back of Regina's head and kisses her with every bit of emotion she has bubbling just below the surface. Regina moans erotically, her hips grinding down against her and creating the most euphoric friction to consume both of them. The groan that Emma releases is animalistic as she revels in the heat emitting from Regina's core and the thick wetness smearing together with hers.

A burning heat ignites through her veins and explodes against her throbbing clit. She's already teetering on the edge from the lack of human contact and she's a panting, heaving mess. Regina's hips slow down their tempo, while her right hand snakes between their slick bodies to roughly cup Emma's bouncing breast. Her warm tongue claims Emma's, slightly distracting her as slender fingers dance down her ribs and slip between their molded bodies.

Gently, she circles Emma's aching bundle of nerves, causing the blonde to cry out in ecstasy. Blonde curls tip back, embedding into the pillow below as Emma moans hotly and writhes uncontrollably. Regina's lips slip passed her jawline, so she can lightly suck and kiss her pulse point to add to the stimulation.

"Oh fuck," Emma grumbles and squeezes her eyes shut as she feels Regina grinding against her own hand that's persuading Emma to unravel.

Regina's free fingertips slide beneath Emma's neck and hold her into place and she ravishes the long neck before her. Emma's short nails dig deep into Regina's back, momentarily marking the older woman and claiming her as her own.

Without preamble, Regina easily slides one finger into Emma's soaked entrance, producing two deep moans in return. Emma bucks her hips, seeking so much more while Regina is busy familiarizing herself with the slick, tight walls. She scratches deep red trails of lust up Regina's naked back until she grabs her head and forces those succulent lips back onto hers.

Erotic little moans and the sound of Emma being taken fill the air and cloud their minds. Regina carefully stretches Emma's quivering hole, knowing how long it's been, she takes her time, gentle, thoughtful, cautious as she slides another finger inside and waits patiently for Emma to become accustomed to the feeling again. She stills her fingers for a second, her palm working over Emma's needy clit to coax more thick arousal to coat her fingers.

Emma trembles beneath her, wiggling and moaning for so much more. In her experience, men are always in a rush, rubbing furiously, to the point of ache and not pleasure, slamming inside without any consideration. But with Regina, it's nothing like that. Each move is with thought and tenderness and sometimes a woman needs to be worshiped instead of manhandled. Emma enjoys her rough sex and being tossed around, but right now Regina's opening her eyes to a whole new world.

"Fuck," Emma gasps as Regina's fingers work diligently to create a mind-blowing experience.

Regina continues to grind heavily onto her own hand as she curls her fingers deep inside which encourages her name to be screamed through the room. Emma's walls tighten around her fingers and she knows the woman is right there. She grips Regina's face and kisses her like it's their last while her hips furiously ride out the last bit of friction she needs.

"Fuck," she croaks out against full lips as her gut twists and she feels that old familiar sensation build deep within.

Her body erupts in scorching heat as a blaze of euphoric bliss spreads like spilled oil through her blood. Yet, Regina never lets up, pumping furiously and grinding ruthlessly to extend this Earth-shattering orgasm for as long as possible. Emma cries out again, feeling her body release another orgasm that she's been missing out on for far too long. She gasps and heaves as her hips fall back down into the mattress, officially spent.

Regina smiles against her lips and steals another deep kiss that expresses her true feelings. Carefully, she withdraws her wet fingers and pecks Emma's mouth again when the younger woman winces.

"Holy shit," she exhales, tossing one arm over her face to hide the blush burning her cheeks.

Regina chuckles softly, kissing a warm path across her chest and down the valley of her heaving mounds. Emma stops her from descending lower by an abrupt and firm thigh to Regina's center. Brown eyes flick to blown-wide green in question, but Emma just smirks and rolls them onto their side.

Emma scoots just a little further down until their noses are aligned and smiles like a lovesick fool. And that's probably because she is a damn fool for this gorgeous woman. She hastily leans forward and slams her lips against Regina's while her hand sneakily slithers between their bodies.

Regina smiles, unaware of Emma's hand, and grips both sides of her face, pulling her in for another frantic kiss. Emma follows Regina's tongue as her fingers press down onto the brunette's deprived clit. The older woman gasps, her hips reacting immediately to the pleasure Emma has to offer.

"I," Emma begins, but Regina instantly cuts off the words about to recklessly tumble from insecurities.

"Sssshhh, don't say a word," Regina strictly orders, creating a violent shudder to wrack Emma's body. Maybe she does enjoy being controlled in bed a little too much. "Just stay with me here in this moment. Don't think. Don't doubt. Just act," she sternly declares, before reclaiming Emma's pretty pink pout.

So, she follows her instincts, lightly spreading Regina's warm arousal all around while teasingly grazing over her clit. Just to remind Regina how wet she is, Emma paints the thick essence over her inner thigh and around her plump bottom. She smoothes her palm over Regina's ass, moaning heavily to the feel of the weight. She scratches her way down the back of Regina's thigh and guides that leg over her hip.

Regina immediately presses her body more firmly into Emma's, seeking the attention she deserves. And Emma's not about to make this woman wait after the way she just took care of her. Two firm, but affectionate fingers press against Regina's clit again, circling, memorizing every hitch in Regina's throat and every erotic moan that spills from her lips. She carefully spreads her soaked lower lips, dragging her finger in between while Regina holds her impossibly close. And Emma can't help but wonder if anyone has ever been this intimate and tender with Regina before or if it's always been quick fucks before anyone found out.

Emma timidly dips one finger inside, inspecting the new sensation of another woman. She groans in response when Regina clenches around her finger, silently encouraging her to continue. Deftly, her middle finger meets her other digit and pumps slowly, so she can admire the feeling of Regina.

"Em-Em-ma," Regina pants into their heated kiss. "Harder," she moans and Emma will be damned if she ever disappoints this woman.

She quickens her pace, pumping furiously while Regina's hips become frantic and she forgets to even kiss Emma back. Regina's fingers dig deep into Emma's unruly locks, her nails clawing their ownership into her scalp, but Emma doesn't mind. She sucks Regina's lip into her mouth and nearly dies when she hears the moan that stirs in Regina's throat.

"Em-Emma," Regina gasps in a tone that Emma's never heard spill from those plump lips before. "Oh, yes," she cries out as a warm liquid coats Emma's rough fingers.

She studies through wide eyes as Regina's face relaxes with a peaceful, slightly delirious grin plastered across her face. Gently, she retracts her fingers and then something strikes her heart and she freezes. So fucking unsure what to say or do next.

"What's wrong?" Regina's tone immediately shifts to concern.

"No-nothing...I...uh...." she stammers like an idiot and hates herself for being so awkward.

Regina rolls her eyes and easily drapes one arm around Emma's back to tug her closer. "Relax, it's just me," she muses, and just like that the tension slips from Emma's shoulders from the familiarity behind the phrase.

God only knows how many times she has tossed that sentence at Regina?

Emma skates her fingers over the sexy curve of the singer's hip and lightly trails her fingers over the angry red marks she left behind. Neither one finds the courage to utter a single word, but their eyes are locked and so many emotions are being exchanged wordlessly.

Big fat tears well up in Regina's eyes, alarming Emma down to the bone. The older woman somehow holds onto the liquid, refusing to allow one single tear to fall.

"I-"

Thunder cracks just outside the window, shaking and rattling the entire mansion and crushing the words straight from Regina's mouth. Both women jump in surprise with an ear-piercing cry to follow. Emma scrambles out of bed, frantically searching the floor for her tank top and shorts as Regina slides up in bed, a little taken back by the sudden cry because she's not used to a child being around.

Emma slips into her shorts and runs across the bedroom while still trying to tug on her tank top. It's inside out and backwards, but Regina doesn't have a chance to inform the hysterical woman as she darts out the door.

Emma runs down the long hall, turning the corner and nicking her hip with the sharp edge of the elaborate wrap around banister. "Shit," she mutters under her breath as her son belts out another distraught cry. The hall is dark, her eyes still adjusting from the bright lights from Regina's room, but her room is a pit of blackness. No wonder her son is screaming bloody murder.

She charges into the room, her shoulder jamming into the doorframe along the way. "Mother, mmmm," she bites down on both lips and rubs the wounded area furiously.

"Mommy!"

"I'm here, baby," she coos and easily finds him in the dark, sitting up in bed. She scoops him into her arms and holds the back of his head while she sways from left to right. "Mommy's here, buddy. It's alright."

"Rain?" He sniffles through his heavy cries and cuddles even further into her chest.

"Yeah, it's raining," she softly whispers as the heavy pelts of liquid abuse the rooftop above.

"Emma?" Regina timidly knocks on the doorframe, startling the blonde and forcing her to whip around. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." Emma notices a relaxed pair of yoga pants, but a small smile appears when she registers the old jersey. "I-is everything alright?"

"You can come in. You don't have to lurk outside like a weirdo," she teases and watches in amusement as Regina furrows her brows. "He's alright. Right, bud?" She asks, peeking down at her son's red-rimmed eyes, inspiring her to kiss his forehead lovingly.

"Yesh," he mumbles against her chest and moves to place his thumb into his mouth.

"No, Henry. No fingers in your mouth," Emma gently explains, carefully pulling his thumb away from his sorrowful pout.

"Does he always suck his thumb?" Regina curiously inquires as she finds the courage to cross the threshold.

"No, only when he's really upset will he try to sneak it in there," she lightly responds, tickling her son's sides to erase the lingering fears and it works because soon the room is filled with sweet baby giggles.

Emma laughs, her green eyes sparkling with joy while her cheeks take over her entire face and suddenly Regina finds herself even more attracted to this playful woman. Emma waltzes across the room, gingerly sitting down on the bed with Henry practically climbing back inside of her like a baby kangaroo.

"I should-"

"Stay," Emma finishes and pats the spot beside her.

She slides down onto the bed, her son never leaving her chest as she pulls the blanket on top of them. She peeks over Henry's wild and sweaty locks to discover Regina awkwardly standing in the middle of the room, fiddling with her fingertips.

"Why are you hesitant?" Emma whispers, her fingers absentmindedly stroking her son's head to ease him back to sleep.

"Is it really appropriate for us to be sharing a bed with your son?" Emma's eyebrows scrunch together as her lips purse in bewilderment. "I mean, to him I'm just a friend. Isn't this confusing for him?"

"He's two. He has no idea what's going on and what is or isn't appropriate for two female friends. He will never know, Regina."

The older woman still seems uneasy about the situation, but her feet are lightly padding across the floor and her body slips beneath the comforter without a word spoken.

"Your shirt is on backwards," Regina blurts out, creating the most adorable chuckle from Emma in return.

"Thanks."

"And inside out."

"You really know all the right things to say after sex."

"Emma," Regina gasps in a scolding tone as her eyes drift to the sleepy little boy.

"He has no idea what I said," she kisses his head and continues running her fingertips methodically for comfort. "Besides, he's already half asleep."

"How do you know?" Regina asks as she flips onto her side and stares intently at the beautiful sight of mother and son.

"Listen." They both fall silent and listen to the steady rhythm leaking through Henry's nose. "I can always tell by his breathing."

"You're a wonderful mother." Emma blushes, but thankfully it's so dark that Regina will inevitably miss the color burning her cheeks. "I'm happy you two are here."

"Me too."

"I should really go back and work on my album," Regina sadly admits as her lips find purpose against Emma's bare shoulder.

"Or you should really stay here, with us."

Regina sighs, her warm breath tickling Emma's cool skin. She puckers her thick lips for another short, but sweet peck and rests her forehead against Emma's strong bicep.

"I want to stay," she confesses and tentatively rubs Henry's little back in the most delicate way imaginable.

And there goes Emma's heart, fluttering away again from the image of this amazing woman with her son.

 

Chapter Text


With her lip tucked securely between her teeth and her hair being restrained from a pencil to keep from falling in her view, Regina uses the soft morning glow seeping through the windows as her light, so her hand can scribble furiously against her notebook. She can hardly contain one thought before it leaks out of her brain and trickles down her arm to become a beautiful mess of words on the paper below.

Every now and again, her eyes wander to the most alluring vision her eyes have ever laid upon. An adorable quirky blonde, fast asleep on her side with the most precious toddler wrapped protectively in her arms. She studies his thick dark lashes that flutter while his mind is dancing through some peaceful dream and they are identical to his mother's. She examines the prominent freckles scattered perfectly across his nose, a few strays painted across his cheeks just like his mother, but hers have faded over time. Yet, Regina still adores each faint mark, it has to be one of her most favorite details of this stunning blonde. Emma is the perfect mix of sexy and adorable and because of that, she isn't quite sure how to ever tell this woman no.

"Gina?" Henry attempts a whisper for his mother's sake, but fails miserably at his volume. "You coloring?" He innocently questions as he slips out of Emma's motherly embrace and crawls toward her.

He rests his little hands on her thigh and leans heavily to observe what's on the sheet of paper below, effectively obstructing her view.

"No, I'm not coloring. I'm actually writing a song...or three," she laughs lightly and waits for this fascinating little creature to remove himself from her lap, but instead he peeks over his shoulder with his curious eyes shinning back at her.

"You sing me a song?" And the pure innocence in his tone, reaches deep inside of Regina's chest and swaddles her frigid heart, melting another layer of ice away.

Regina glances behind the little boy to the notebook that's been keeping her most valued thoughts locked away. She smiles softly at the boy and slowly peels back a page, careful not to disturb the sleeping blonde.

"Trapped inside those eyes, the prisons I despise. Seeking the truth I cannot find. The truth I refuse to call mine."

She softly sings in a breathless whisper and she cannot stop her fingers from gliding across Henry's forehead, despite all her instincts screaming at her to distance herself. But for this moment, it's okay, because he's beaming brightly at her and she's smiling right back and for once in this messy world, she's at peace.

"You play on da piano? Mommy said you play piano and guitar!"

"I do." Regina's small smile spreads into a wild grin as an idea flickers in her mind. "How about we let mommy sleep and I can show you my piano?"

Henry nods enthusiastically as he practically leaps into her arms, catching her completely off guard. His presence is comforting, soothing and so she inhales sharply and relaxes the moment she recognizes Emma's familiar scent. She holds Henry closer to her chest and discreetly clambers out of the bed with her notebook.

And her inspiration.

~~~~~~~~

A bitter bite nips at her skin and forces her to blindly search for warmth. Her body moves to its own accord, squirming across the soft linen, but when she finds the lack of another body, her eyes spring to life. She blinks furiously, her eyes struggling to adjust to the blinding light pouring through the extravagant window, while her hand reaches across the bed for her son.

A son who is missing.

Her heart pounds feverishly, sending panicked chills to trickle down her spine which forces her to slingshot out of bed. The cool air licks her skin, creating a path of goosebumps in their wake as she stumbles hazardously across the floor. However, a soft, faint melody suddenly fills the air and allows her to take a calming breath.

Her conscience is now fully awake and reasons with her, whispering that her son is safe with Regina. Even so, she rushes down the hall, back toward Regina's music room and before she enters, she's not so cold anymore from the heat burning her cheeks because so many naughty images from the previous night are replaying in her mind. She swallows thickly, because there's an old familiar ache between her thighs and a fluttering sensation that produces delicious shivers down her spine.

She's in too deep.

"But oh how it feels so real, lying here with no one near. Only you and you can hear me when I say softly...slowly..."

Emma smiles to herself like a buffoon as she rests her head against the doorframe and watches as Regina sings so sweetly to her son. Henry's sitting on her lap with his hands resting on both of hers as she plays that old hit. And there goes Emma's heart again, sprouting wings and preparing to fly away toward her future.

"Hold me close tiny dancer. Count the headlights on the highway. Lay me down in sheets of linen. You had a busy day today."

Henry giggles with each note they produce together on the keys and soon Emma finds herself strolling across the room to be near the ones she spent all night dreaming of.

"You don't know any farm animal songs to play on the piano?" Emma teases as she slips down onto the bench undetected.

"Jeez, you scared me," Regina gasps, which only encourages Henry to giggle even harder.

"Sorry." So Emma claims, but her mischievous smirk tells a different story. "Teaching my son good old Tony Danza, huh?"

Regina's nose scrunches in return before shaking her head. "You really are an idiot, aren't you?"

Emma belts out a carefree laugh and leans forward to press a gentle kiss to her son's temple. "Oh come on, don't tell me you haven't heard that joke before?"

"One too many times. It's overused, find new material, Miss Swan."

Emma scoffs, but then she catches a twinkle of mischief in Regina's eye and that very faint smirk threatening to reveal itself and Emma can't help but laugh.

"More!" Henry abruptly announces, slamming Regina's fingers back down onto the keys to create a mess of contradicting tones.

"How about after breakfast, buddy. I'm starving," Emma declares as she swoops her son up from Regina's lap and heads straight for the door. She peeks over her shoulder, resting Henry onto her hip and smiles back at Regina. "You coming?"

Regina glances back at her notebook resting on her piano and smiles to herself. Her eyes skitter back to mother and son both waiting patiently and her smile grows even wider.

"Of course," she whispers and for once she leaves behind the only world she has ever known.

~~~~~~~

"Who ate all my cookies?" Jefferson bellows like a big man-child and slams the lid to the cookie jar down with all his might.

"Henry did it!" Emma hastily replies, pointing to her son like the man towering over six feet needs further explanation of the toddler.

"Emma!" Regina scolds, glaring up from the coloring book she is sharing with Henry, who is oblivious to the ongoing conversation about him. "Jefferson, don't listen to her, it was so very clearly her."

"What the hell, Swan, I just baked those!"

"Oh, don't get your panties in a twist," Regina huffs and tosses her crayon down. "We can bake a new batch. Henry, would you like to make some chocolate chip cookies?" She offers, her hands already prepared and waiting for his rambunctious leap into her arms.

"Yesh!" He squeals, landing safely in her embrace.

"Uhhh, bad news," Emma declares with her nose buried deep into the refrigerator. "You are out of cookie dough."

"I make the dough from scratch," she easily replies as if it's the most normal thing to do.

"Really? We usually get the big fat roll of Nestle Toll House," the blonde says as she lifts herself onto the edge of the counter and swings her feet in the most endearing way.

"Get down, you need to help gather the ingredients," the singer teases as she swats Emma's outer thigh playfully. "Besides, Henry is going to sit up there, so he can help us."

An obnoxious snicker coming from behind them, provokes both women to whirl around and glare at the person who created such a hideous sound.

"Is there something you would like to say, Jeff?"

"No, baby girl...not at all." Regina nods curtly and sets Henry down on the counter and that's about as far as she gets before her cousin opens his mouth again. "So, when did you two become so domesticated?"

Both women flinch on pure instincts that specifically taught them to be loners in this cruel world. Emma slowly slides off the counter and distracts herself with something that's needed in the refrigerator. What? She hasn't a fucking clue because she's never made cookies from scratch, but she feels the need to hide.

"I was unaware that friends cannot bake cookies together?" Regina smartly reasons and places her hand on Henry's knee before turning her focus toward him. "Don't move," she sternly instructs.

"Okay, Gina," he nods, his little eyebrows pulling together in deep concentration to follow his one task.

"Emma? Did you find the butter, yet?" Regina supplies and the blonde breathes out a sigh in relief that she wasn't stranded in the fridge like a damn fool.

"Uh, yeah," she grabs a stick on the shelf and quickly allows the door to shut on its own.

Regina proceeds to gather ingredients while dutifully listing off others for Emma to grab while Henry waits patiently on the counter and Jefferson smirks to himself from the sidelines. Eventually, he slips into a barstool behind the counter and gingerly taps Henry on the shoulder. The little boy abruptly spins around and stares warily at the man.

"Do you even like chocolate chip cookies?" Henry's eyebrows scrunch together in bewilderment, but he doesn't supply an answer, instead he just stares back at the man. "I mean, chocolate chip cookies are fine and all, but have you ever had Snickerdoodle?"

"What are you whispering about, Jeff?" Regina exhales as she lines up her ingredients, but her cousin just waves her off like it's none of her concern.

Jefferson leans heavily into the counter and whispers in Henry's ear. "Gina makes the best Snickerdoodle, but only for very special people." Henry's thin little lips twist and turn and pucker as he tries to comprehend what this giant is trying to explain to him. "Ask her," he urges, coaxing the little boy to play along to his scheme.

"Gina?"

"Yes, Henry."

"You make Sni-wa-k-duel?" He's not even sure what he's asking for, but the too tall man-child seems happy.

"Jeff, what has your big mouth been feeding this little boy's brain?" She accuses, her rolling pin pointing toward him as her murder weapon.

"Nothing," he whines innocently, but they are the best of friends and Regina knows him inside and out.

"Do you really want Snickerdoodle, Henry?" She softens up her tone when speaking to the little boy and he just smiles back at her and nods, still so confused as to what is happening around him.

Is he getting the damn cookies or not? Is Snickerdoodle even a cookie?

Emma laughs at her son's eagerness, but she knows he has no idea how easily he was just manipulated.

"Okay, little man," Regina tenderly cups his chin, guiding his attention up to her, "only for you."

~~~~~~~~

Emma presses her index finger to her lips while Henry's eyes double in size. She watches through her very own amusement as Regina places the cookie sheet into the oven and carefully closes the door. That's when Emma lunges forward and paints a streak of white flour down Regina's nose.

"Emma!" The most adorable carefree laughter sings its sweet acoustics as mother and son enjoy the surprise striking Regina's face. "Really? You two find this amusing?" The singer grumbles with her hands firmly on her hips.

"Yesh!"

Henry squeals in pure joy and presses his hand into the dusty residue still coating the countertop. His bottom is still firmly rooted to where Regina instructed him to stay, so his eyes flick back and forth between both women, unsure of what his next move should be. However, his mother senses his confusion and sweeps him right off the ledge and flies him through the air, so he can smear his flour coated hand down Regina's face. And just because this little boy is so damn cute, Regina allows that action with open arms.

"Well, I see how it is," Regina muses as she dips her fingers into the bag for a pinch of the fluffy white powder and tosses it right into Emma's face.

"Regina! I just brushed the tiniest bit on your nose," Emma complains as she sets Henry back down on the counter, so she can wipe her face clean, but before she has the chance, her son is shoving his hand into the bag and scooping a fistful. With some convincing on Regina's part with her hand pointing eagerly at his mother, Henry launches a cloud of flour that heavily impacts Emma's face. "Henry!"

Regina smirks to herself and something deep in her heart twitches and suddenly she's faced with the reality that never in her life has she ever behaved in such a childish manner. Her smile spreads even further and without another thought, her hand is back in that bag and decorating Emma Swan even more.

"What the hell?" Emma laughs, her eyelashes fluttering and sending flour particles to rain down to the floor. "Alright, now you are both in for it."

She never thought in a million years that Regina would ever allow this type of behavior, let alone her kitchen covered in flour, but she takes this moment and runs with it. She gathers up a hefty scoop of flour and plops it right on top of Regina's head, morphing those inky tresses into a powdery sand color. She doesn't wait another second before she repeats the very same action upon her son. Henry shakes out his locks, sending flour to spray in every direction while all three of them burst into laughter.

"Miss Mills," a dark voice echoes through the kitchen and silences the beautiful laughter that was starting to finally warm up the bitter cold mansion.

"Um, Dr. Facilier," Regina clears her throat and runs her fingers anxiously through her hair which only causes more flour to spew about.

"You missed your eight o'clock appointment this morning."

"I apologize," she hastily replies, self-consciously brushing away the flour clinging to her thick hair. "I simply lost track of time with my guests," she politically answers like she's being interviewed once again and Emma has to roll her eyes at the scene.

Things have really been progressing well between them and truthfully, it's been a while since Emma has seen professional Regina Mills. The glamorous superstar, hiding behind her mask from the cameras always shoved in her face. And it kills her to see Regina build up her walls again.

"I see." Dr. Facilier hums, his skeptical eyes trailing over to the blonde completely covered in flour as the culprit. "Can I trust that you won't miss your evening appointment?" He inquires, yet, his dark eyes never leave Emma's rigid posture.

"Yes, of course, and again, I apologize for my actions and irresponsibility. I promise I will be prompt this evening," she dutifully replies and Emma can't help but exhale her sigh of annoyance.

"Are the cook-what the hell happened in here?" Jefferson barks out, but his maniac grin is slowly consuming his entire face. "I was gone like five minutes," he chuckles.

"Well, I suppose I will let you finish up with your guests, so you can clean yourself up before the appointment," Dr. Facilier coldly implies before he saunters back toward his side of the mansion.

"Jefferson, can you watch the cookies," Regina sadly asks as she removes her apron. "I should head upstairs and shower."

"Of course, baby girl," he happily concedes, yet, he maintains a safe distance between himself and the flour catastrophe.

"I should shower off too," Emma announces, scooping Henry into her arms and ruffling his head again to brush away more of the flour. "And I guess you need a bath now too, huh?"

"No baff!" Henry stubbornly rejects the plan and firmly crosses his arms over his chest.

"Yes, bath."

"No!"

"Well, too bad you're getting one," Emma declares and easily tosses her furious toddler over her shoulder.

He kicks and squeals his protest, but Emma walks through the kitchen ignoring his temper tantrum. Regina warily observes as she follows Emma out of the kitchen, so unsure if she should allow them some space or ignore the situation like Emma seems to be doing.

"No baff! No baff! Mean, mommy!"

"Hey!" Emma lightly swats at his butt and slides him down her front to face her screaming son. "That's not nice. We don't say that mommy is mean. Didn't we just have fun baking cookies and playing with the flour?" Henry crosses his arms over his chest again and turns his cheek, squeezing his eyes shut, so he doesn't have to face his mother. "You're not being nice, Henry. If you're going to be mean to mommy then you're not getting any of the cookies we just baked."

Slowly, Henry peels one eye open and assesses his mother's face, deciding if he should push his luck or just fold. He glances over at Regina wondering if he could convince her to sneak him some cookies later as well. However, Regina's subtle shake of her head is all the answer this toddler needs. Clearly Regina is his mother's ally in this battle.

"Are you going to be nice? Or do you need a timeout?" Emma sternly questions.

"No, timeout."

"Then you're going to be nice?" Henry slowly nods, opening both eyes and turning to face his mother. "What do you say?"

"Sowwee, mommy," he sadly states and wraps his tiny arms around her neck.

"Okay, but I mean it, bud, you need to be nice to mommy."

"I know," he mumbles into her neck as she holds him close and carries him up the stairs with Regina quietly following behind.

"I think after your bath, we will take a nap and if you are a good boy and sleep nice for mommy, you can have some cookies."

"Okay, mommy," he sniffles, burying his face deep into the crook of her neck.

~~~~~~~

After Henry's bath, Emma laid him down on their temporary bed, closed all the blinds and in a matter of seconds, he was out. Snoring and all. She tiptoed out of the bedroom, leaving the door cracked, so she could hear him when he wakes up in the next two hours.

Her eyes immediately travel across the upstairs layout and land upon Regina's closed door. Cautiously, she sneaks across the hall and very quietly knocks on Regina's door. It's open in a matter of seconds, with a very soaking wet singer greeting her in a silky burgundy robe.

"Hi." Regina smiles and steps back, gesturing for Emma to come right in and she does, without a second thought. "Can I use your shower? I don't want to bother Henry. He's already passed out."

"Of course." Regina spins around and curls her finger for Emma to follow behind. "I know I'm hardly ever around Henry, but he's usually so well behaved."

Emma laughs to herself as Regina escorts her into the ensuite. "Yeah well, he's two. This is prime time for temper tantrums."

Regina sets an extra large, fluffy towel down on the counter and turns to face Emma. "I don't know much about children, but I think you handled that situation rather well."

Emma smiles from ear to ear, her cute little dimple digging deep into her cheek. "Thank you, that means a lot to me. I don't always know what I'm doing, but I try," she shrugs shyly as her eyes find something fascinating with the floor to hide her blush.

"Well, you sure look like you know what you're doing," Regina compliments and boldly steps forward.

Emma swallows, still so nervous and unsure whenever Regina is so close, stealing her own breath away. Regina very slowly reaches for the hem of Emma's tee and inch by inch she reveals the milky white skin below. Inquisitive brown eyes follow the path of the t-shirt, admiring the sleek physique slowly coming into view and causing Emma's temperature to rise. Her cheeks burn, her skin breaks out in a sweat, because never has she ever held someone's attention so closely.

When her shirt hits the ground, Regina's fingers jump toward the button on her jeans. Emma watches with great interest as this woman takes control in the most tender way imaginable, releasing the button and dragging the zipper down at a tantalizing pace. Swiftly, her thumbs move into Emma's waistband and guide the tight denim down her tone thighs until they are kicked off to the side.

Emma nervously nibbles on her bottom lip while she falls under Regina's scrutiny. Those dark eyes are filling with lust as they roam over every inch of Emma's exposed skin. Her heart pounds furiously, banging like the drum that starts off Regina's concert each and every time. Her skin prickles with delicious shivers and suddenly she loses all control.

She has to have Regina Mills.

She lunges forward, gripping both sides of Regina's face as she pulls her into a searing kiss that takes them higher and higher. Regina's cool hands glide softly around Emma's hips, slipping under her red lace thong and down her bare bottom. They both seem to melt into each other at that moment, Emma's tingling skin brushing up against the silky fabric clinging to Regina.

As Emma's tongue sneaks into Regina's mouth, the brunette slides the lacy material down pale thighs. She clumsily kicks her thong away while Regina chuckles into their heated kiss and slowly backs away. In all her sultry essence, Regina teasingly tugs at the corner of the sash keeping her rope securely shut. Emma produces a very audible gulp as the silky material falls open, revealing a figure that only a Greek Goddess should possess.

Emma lunges forward again, her greedy fingers sneaking beneath the silk around Regina's shoulders and pushing that robe away until the woman is standing proudly naked. Her fingertips skim tentatively down Regina's bare shoulders and dance lightly across the woman's chest.

"You are so beautiful," Emma shyly murmurs just before her lips brush teasingly against Regina's. "I feel so inadeq-..."

"Don't finish that thought," Regina firmly cuts her off with her hands rounding Emma's bottom again and jerking her flush against her own naked flesh. Regina rests her forehead against Emma's and sighs heavily. "You are so gorgeous, Emma Swan. Breathtaking. I was speechless the first time I ever laid eyes on you. Don't ever doubt your beauty or worth."

"Well, that's rich coming from you," Emma laughs while Regina smiles in return before stealing a small kiss.

"Come on, you need to shower before Henry wakes up."

"We have at least an hour," Emma informs her as the brunette pulls away and runs the shower. "Are you going to join me?"

A small smirk flashes in her direction accompanied by twinkling brown eyes and Emma's heart crashes full force into her sternum. She studies the seductive way this alluring woman climbs into the shower and beckons her with one teasing finger. And like the obedient little lap dog she is, she follows Regina into the shower and closes the glass door behind them.

"There's a bench in here," Emma deadpans because her big mouth can't seem to keep her thoughts inside her head.

"It's convenient for shaving my legs," Regina says like it's the most logical answer staring Emma right in the face.

"Oh, you don't have servants to do that for you?"

"Oh shut up, Swan," Regina growls, wrapping her arms around Emma's neck and cutting off her sarcastic tongue with a biting kiss that leaves the blonde speechless. "Sorry, I don't have any coconut shampoo," Regina whispers into the heated kiss, which effectively ends by Emma's burst of laughter.

"What?"

"Don't you use some sort of coconut shampoo?"

"No," Emma laughs, tugging the petite woman in even closer. "Do I smell like coconuts?"

"Yes, I assumed it's your shampoo. Is it your lotion?"

"I-I don't think so," she shakes her head, finding this moment far too amusing.

"Well, either way, you smell amazing," Regina purrs, diving right back in for an opened-mouth kiss.

Slowly, Regina steps forward, ushering Emma under the hot spray and enveloping their skin in a mix of steam and soothing water. Emma moans, partially from the way Regina's tongue is curling around hers, but also from the warm waters. Her hands glide up Regina's back, her fingertips pressing into the soft skin and easing away the tension in her back from being constantly hunched over her piano.

Unexpectedly, Emma finds herself at the back of the shower with the water just missing her skin and she frowns. "Sit," Regina orders against her wet lips, causing Emma to blink through her confusion. She glances over her shoulder to discover the bench just behind her knees, so she does as she's told.

"Shit, that's cold."

"It's marble," Regina flatly replies and kneels down before her, smirking when green eyes widen in surprise.

"I haven't-"

"Sssshhhhh," Regina soothingly coos with a sweet peck to pretty pink lips, effectively silencing her.

Regina works out a path of well placed, meaningful kisses that leaves Emma's skin tingling in delight. The singer trails down her pointed chin, inspiring Emma to turn her neck, exposing more of her skin so Regina can suck lightly just below her jaw. Emma's fingers curl painfully tight around the edge of the seat as she struggles not to squirm, but never do her eyes stray from the curve of Regina's spine as she moves erotically.

The brunette skims her lips, deliberately not kissing as she slithers down Emma's chest before she hastily sucks a protruding nipple into her mouth. Emma reacts instantly, her hips bucking as her hand moves to hold Regina closer from the overwhelming stimulation vibrating through her limbs. She shudders from the intensity in Regina's attack and the lack of hot water against her skin. Chills run down her spine as Regina's hands glide up her thighs to hold her hips securely, roughly licking and sucking her sensitive bud.

"Fuck," she hisses as her clit throbs brutally for attention, but it's denied right away.

She can feel Regina smile against her heavy breast just before she slips a little further, kissing a trail of promises down her abdomen. Her breathing becomes erratic, her heart pounding anxiously, her flesh breaking out in a sweat as Regina's big brown eyes flick up to hers for approval. Emma swallows, suddenly feeling extremely self-conscious of her body and appearance.

When Emma cannot find the strength to simply nod a yes or no, Regina tenderly kisses her thigh and then moves to the next. She alternates between thighs, leaving sensual kisses as she climbs higher and higher. She presses her face against Emma's hip, leaving a firm kiss before sweeping her tongue across her bikini line. Emma's hips buck again, needing so much more and provoking those dark eyes to dart back up toward intense green ones.

Emma tightens her hold in Regina's hair, expressing her anxiety about having another woman between her legs. Another soothing kiss is embedded to her flat stomach.

"We can stop," Regina sincerely offers.

"No, I just...I'm still a little nervous, I guess. Guys don't usually pay attention or care, but girls...we notice..."

"Emma, relax. Whatever irrational fears you have in your mind right now about being with another woman, just let them go." Regina snakes her arms around Emma's waist and pulls her flush against her chest. "I'm attracted to you and I care for you very much. So whatever you are feeling self-conscious about, just know that it doesn't bother me, because it's you."

Emma frowns as she leans down and captures Regina's lips into a kiss that hopefully expresses her gratitude. Neither one can find the courage to break the moment, so they continue tasting one another and becoming more familiar until the heat is far too intense between them. Regina starts over again, kissing her way down Emma's body until she lands where she truly wants to be. Her eyes flutter back up once more for approval and this time Emma nods eagerly.

Her heart is pumping a fierce adrenaline that scorches through her veins and leaves her skin burning hot. Her chest is heaving as she watches Regina lick a slow and teasing path up her slit. She shudders from that one small contact and she knows deep in her heart it's because of the person, not the sexual act.

Her fingers curl around the marble edge again until they are ghostly white, but she never takes her eyes off the sexy scene of Regina sweeping her tongue all around like she needs to taste every inch of her. Suddenly, all her fears and insecurities are drained from her mind and all she can focus on is the intimate bond she shares with Regina Mills.

Regina spreads Emma's thighs as her tongue slides right into her hole, persuading Emma's legs to tremble. The brunette's warm hands glide up her thighs and pin her hips into place while her tongue retracts and swirls deliciously around the swollen clit. Emma instantly breathes heavier, panting from the glorious stimulation rippling through her bloodstream. Her fingers comb through Regina's damp hair, holding her closer as she watches in awe as Regina's back dips and the water trickles all down her spine.

That warm, talented tongue flicks over her throbbing clit a few times before picking up a rhythm again and swirling in the most heavenly way. Emma squirms, but her hips are being locked into position and her gut is twisting for so much more. She attempts to lift her bottom again as Regina changes tactics and sucks on her bundle of nerves.

"Oh, fuck," Emma chokes out as a burning hot wave of pleasure washes through her body.

She feels that euphoric buzz swimming through her blood faster than it ever has before. She slams her eyes shut and focuses on the pleasure Regina is showering her with and that's when this incredible woman picks up her pace, moving in a circular motion all while sucking and Emma just explodes.

"Holy fuck," she gasps as her orgasm takes over, her hips jerking forward, suspending in mid-air as she coats Regina's mouth with her essence.

Regina doesn't let up the least bit until Emma's body slacks and falls back down onto the marble bench. Regina peppers Emma's thighs, her mound, her stomach with sweet kisses that are mixed with her own saliva and Emma's pleasure. All while Emma is peering down her own naked body at this astonishing woman between her legs, her chest constricting painfully tight and she feels this urge to pull this woman into her arms and say three little words that she swore she would never utter again.

Instead, she gently cups Regina's cheeks and kisses her swollen lips in a way she hopes expresses her true feelings for her.

 

Chapter Text


Five days locked inside the mansion without a breath of fresh air or the warmth of sun beating against her skin and Emma is going a little stir crazy. She cannot wrap her head around the thought of Regina being trapped inside this place for three months straight, being forced to write her songs and be sober. Frankly, the solitude alone is driving her to crave a drink, so it's no wonder why Regina can never find the strength through sobriety.

The days and nights have all started to blend together at this point. Emma and Regina waking up with Henry jumping onto their sleepy limbs until one of them convinces the rambunctious toddler into eating breakfast. They both have found tranquility in working together to prepare three meals a day, sometimes baking a treat midday. They spend most afternoons swimming and most evenings in the theater with a classic Disney movie for Henry's entertainment. Usually, the sleepy boy will fall asleep and Emma will carry him upstairs and tuck him in before sneaking into Regina's room.

Every night, Emma will patiently listen to Regina continue writing her next album and when the late night sneaks up on them, Emma will drag Regina back into bed. The singer will pretend to be reluctant, but Emma always snakes her arms around the brunette's slim waist and peppers her neck with playful kisses until Regina is putty.

Each night they take their sweet time exploring each other's writhing bodies; learning what drives the other wild, what sends them over the edge and memorizing every freckle and scar along the beaten path. And after they are both spent, their limbs, without a doubt, will intertwine like they are meant to be molded together and they share their ambitions and goals for the future, staying very far and clear from their treacherous pasts.

"Hey Swan, kiddo asleep?" Jefferson asks over his latest thriller book.

"Yeah," she huffs and falls recklessly onto the couch beside him, using the back as a sturdy base to keep her body propped upright.

Jefferson smiles and hums sweetly as his eyes trail back down to the enthralling words etched into his book. Emma studies him for a moment, remembering every single time he has taken care of Regina and showed his caregiving nature. Discreetly, his baby blues drift back to her face, peeking over his black-framed reading glasses.

"What?"

Emma jumps, startled by his sudden tone and realizes she must have been very lost in thought. "Nothing...well no...not nothing...per say..."

"Save the incoherent rambles for Cora, honey. What's up?" He asks, setting his bookmark in place and resting the heavy book onto his lap.

"Henry will be out for the night and well, I was thinking...maybe it would do Regina some good if she got out of the house a little bit," she sheepishly explains, already wincing at the idea of him flat out rejecting her proposal.

"You're going to sneak Regina out?" He deadpans, his face as impassive as his wicked Aunt Cora's.

"I've done it before."

"You were caught."

"Hardly," Emma rolls her eyes and picks the seam on top of the couch cushion. "Nobody could really tell that was her."

"And you're confident enough that Cora won't find out and murder you?"

Emma flinches from the statement that holds so much promise. "Where is she by the way? I haven't had an opportunity to ask Regina, well honestly, I haven't wanted to spoil our fun."

"Cora's on her brand new yacht that she just purchased from her prodigy's latest album," Jefferson declares with his infamous eye roll that's identical to Regina's.

"She's on an enormous yacht by herself?" Emma flatly questions.

"No, she's with her friends," he waves his hand dramatically in the air, "traveling around the Caribbean."

"What friends?" She practically squawks in disbelief that anybody would willingly spend time with Cora Mills.

"Not so much friends as a bunch of mooches lingering around for the fame and fortune," he scoffs, propping his elbow against the back of the couch and leaning heavily onto his palm.

Emma rolls her eyes in an annoyance and scoffs at the gall of those petty people. "Well, anyways...would you keep an eye out for Henry? He shouldn't wake up until morning, honestly."

"You really want to risk pissing off the Devil?"

"I don't give a damn about Cora's feelings. Regina needs to get out, this isn't healthy and I know I have her best interest in mind, unlike her so-called mother," she adamantly defends, but the way Jefferson is eyeing her, makes her second guess her own beliefs.

"Honey," he clicks his tongue and leans forward to fully grasp her attention. "You may know in your heart that you are looking out for Regina, but in Cora's eyes...you're just another blonde bimbo trying to weasel her way into her daughter's life to steal her money and ruin her career," he sadly explains through a full on pout.

"I would never-"

"I understand," he places his hand upon her knee to express his true compassion and that he does believe in her loyalty to his cousin. "But Cora, will never accept you. She will never trust you, no matter how many times you prove yourself. Hell baby, she doesn't even trust Ruby and that girl is as loyal as a fucking lap dog and not once has she even made a move on Regina. Imagine what Cora thinks about you. Storming into her daughter's life, distracting her, persuading her to drink and sneak off with you every night."

"It's not like that," Emma angrily blurts out all while Jefferson sincerely rubs her knee for comfort.

"I know that. Hell, Ruby, Kathryn, and Guy knows that...but Cora never will, because she simply doesn't want to and she'll be damned if she allows anyone to come between her and her daughter and that money," he earnestly says which sends a chilly shiver down Emma's spine.

She groans and scrubs her hands down her face and contemplates if this is all worth it anymore. If she wants to continue in a relationship with Regina then she has to deal with all the baggage that comes with and she can't just brush it off or ignore it. No, she has to accept it and face it every fucking day. The sneaking around, hiding their sexuality, fake boyfriends, drinking, rehabs, paparazzi, tours and the fucking devil herself, her mother.

"Emma," Regina sighs as she sashays across the living room. "I was looking for you," she says through a warm smile before she leans down and places the sweetest little kiss to her lips.

Jefferson smiles like a crazy person at the tender exchange between them and he knows in his heart that what they have is real. And never has he ever been more thankful for another human being's existence. He knows in his gut that Emma will always take care of Regina and he can worry a little less with her around.

Regina slides into the space in front of her and Emma moves to interlock their pinkies, just as she always does when seeking discreet comfort in their relationship.

"Since Henry fell asleep so early this evening, how about we find a movie that's at least rated PG-13," Regina muses, glancing between both of her companions.

"I-"

"Actually," her cousin cuts Emma off and smiles from ear to ear. "Change of plans this evening, Emma's sneaking you out."

"What?" She gasps, peering over her shoulder at the too proud grin smirking back at her.

"Come on, we need fresh air and I know of a cute little ice cream parlor that's open for another hour," Emma says and places a quick peck to those pouty lips.

"And Henry? You don't allow anyone to watch him except your mother."

"He's asleep and you know he will be out until morning. If not...Jefferson will be here and I trust him."

"You do?" Regina and Jefferson both gasp in shock which persuades Emma to laugh and nod along.

"Of course, I do. Now come on, we only have an hour."

~~~~~~~~~

The middle of October in Maine means one thing, fucking cold. So, Emma seized the perfect opportunity to bundle Regina and herself up in their best disguise and head out the door with all the confidence in the world that not one single person could recognize them in their getup.

Regina was sporting rather baggy sweatpants and thick black Ugg's, causing her pants to bunch up at the bottom. Not to mention the thick hoodie beneath a puffy down jacket and a black beanie to complete the ensemble. Emma felt more at ease with her identity and not being spotted so instead of a puffy coat, she wore her red leather jacket with pride. She also had a grey beanie on as well, snug and low to keep her face hidden away like her partner in crime.

The two of them walked down the peaceful streets until they stumbled upon Elm Street where the ice cream parlor was located. Regina was a mess just before they entered, fear striking her features at the prospect of being caught. So, Emma told her to snag a table in the back while she ordered their dessert.

It wasn't long before she returned to Regina, who was obviously hiding her face from the rest of the patrons, even though there were only two other customers and one person behind the counter working.

"Cookie dough," Emma acknowledges as she slides a cup under Regina's nose and claims the seat beside her. She hunches over like the brunette beside her in a lame attempt to keep themselves hidden. "You needed the fresh air," Emma sadly acknowledges while her spoon dives into her chocolatey treat.

"I know," Regina mutters and quickly picks at her ice cream with a pink plastic spoon.

"Mmmm, now that's Rocky Road," Emma mumbles around her big mouthful, persuading dark eyes to peek and catch a glimpse.

"You eat like a child."

Emma shrugs, not at all wounded by the words. "It's more fun that way," she claims and scoops up another bite, flipping the spoon upside down and dragging the plastic across her warm tongue, oblivious to the light reflecting off the glass in front of them.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"The flash," Regina angrily whispers, her eyes darting toward the empty street in front of them.

"Relax, you're paranoid." Emma takes another bite and nods in the direction of the other couple at the front of the store. "Look, they're old and lost in their conversation about retirement," she claims, then proceeds to nod toward the large windowpane, "and the streets are dead. Nobody's out there."

Regina skeptically drags her eyes away from the dark street to meet Emma's gaze. "Are you sure?"

"I'm positive. You're fine," she reassures her and very secretively drops a small kiss to Regina's jawline.

"No PDA," Regina scolds, but Emma just laughs in return and nods along. "Henry is going to be furious if he finds out we went for ice cream without him."

"I don't care." Emma shrugs and scrapes the bottom of her cup for every lick of ice cream. "He's been stealing most of your time and he's damn luck he's my own flesh and blood, otherwise I would have to push him down to win your attention."

"Well, that's just plain stupid, because then I would scoop him up and spend more of my time with him," Regina sasses causing Emma to scoff in response before they both chuckle softly.

"I'm glad we are doing this. I'll admit, I was a little jealous seeing you all over social media getting ice cream with Robin," Emma bravely confesses even though her cheeks are flushing with all her insecurities.

"I told you to stop worrying about him. You are the one that holds my attention and affection. You are the one that keeps me warm at night."

"And when I'm not around? Does he keep your bed warm at night?" Emma seriously inquires, peeking out of the corner of her eye for Regina's reaction.

"Just that one time on the bus, that you were there for," Regina honestly admits and slips her hand subtly beneath the table to squeeze some comfort into Emma's knee. "I promise you, nothing more will ever occur between Robin and I besides my planned kisses for the public."

"And you think that's easy for me? That's enough to settle my mind?"

Regina pauses momentarily to take in Emma's words. She sets down her cup of half eaten ice cream and faces Emma's freckled nose and glistening eyes. "No, of course not. I know it's not enough, but it's all I can offer and I've told you this from the beginning."

"I know," she sheepishly replies, because she has known all of this from the beginning and she accepted these terms and signed away any rebuttals her mind could come up with when she agreed to begin a relationship with Regina Mills. "I do trust you, it's just...I mean how long is the guy going to wait before he tries for more in your relationship?"

"Trust that the man is just so happy to have me on his arm that he won't do a damn thing to screw it up," Regina claims with an evil little smirk slipping easily into place, convincing Emma's mouth to smile right back at her.

"Okay," Emma softly concludes, her eyes locking onto Regina's to express her sincerity behind her words.

"Okay."

"So, how long are you going to stay in Maine for?" Emma timidly questions, slightly petrified of the answer to follow.

"I'm not sure. I need to get into the recording studio fast if the new album needs to be complete right before Christmas."

"I won't see you for the holidays, will I?"

Regina swallows a harsh gulp and pushes her cup away. "I-I'm not sure to be honest. I'm sure I will spend most of my time in the studio, but I will try my best to sneak over to New York for Christmas."

"I hope so. I would like to spend Christmas together."

"I know," Regina sadly answers and the look of defeat etching into her features is all Emma needs to know that her wish isn't going to come true, no matter how many times she writes to Santa.

"How about we get out of here? I am freezing." Emma laughs, attempting to lighten the mood and it works because Regina smiles so softly at her.

And god, that one smile always seems to spark a fire in her soul.

"We could lay by the fire tonight...naked," Regina seductively whispers, her sneaky hand traveling up Emma's thigh and teasingly squeezes a promise of so much more.

"What are we waiting for?" Emma abruptly stands, creating the most adorable laugh to spill through Regina's lips.

She tosses away their garbage and meets Regina at the door before slipping into the bitter cold evening once again. She itches to reach out and hold Regina's hand, but she knows it's forbidden. So, she shoves her hands into her pockets to keep her twitchy palms from misbehaving and walks calmly beside Regina.

The sound of heavy shoes pounding against the street pavement catches their attention though. Emma glances over her shoulder, but finds nothing in correlation to the vibrations. When her eyes travel down the hill just in front of them, she spots a stampede of teens charging their way.

"Uh...."

"I told you," Regina hisses as she zips up her coat to the very tip top to cover the lower half of her face and anxiously tugs her beanie down as well.

Emma's head snaps from left to right in search of shelter as sheer panic drives a hole right through her gut. She hasn't experienced this much panic since they were swarmed by crazed fans outside their hotel over the summer. Luckily, she spots an alleyway and doesn't even think twice as she digs her fingers into Regina's bicep and jerks her between the two brick buildings.

Emma leans against the building with her right arm, effectively blocking Regina from plain sight and stands perfectly still as they hear the stomping grow louder.

"Oh my god, I can't believe Regina is here in Maine!"

"I hope she signs my picture."

"I hope she takes a selfie with me!"

Emma winces as she hears all the young girls squealing in excitement. Regina buries her face against Emma's chest, hiding away from her reality and also hating the idea of disappointing her fans.

"There's the ice cream parlor!"

Emma discreetly peeks over her shoulder and watches intently as a mob of people rush passed the narrow alleyway. She waits patiently an extra minute or so and when she hears the voices fading away in the distance, she kisses the top of Regina's head.

"Are they gone?" Regina mumbles into the safety of red leather.

"I think so, wait here." Emma slowly peeks around the building, her heart pounding angrily at her for being so stupid because she should have known better. Someone always notices Regina Mills and if she would have waited another minute at the parlor they would have been discovered. "Regina, I'm so-"

Her words are instantly cut off by cold, plump lips molding perfectly against her own and she doesn't waste a single second as her hands glide up Regina's cheeks and hold her into place. She steps forward, crushing Regina against the cold hard brick and her own body. Regina groans into the kiss, her chilly fingers wandering under Emma's jacket to pull her even closer.

"That was exhilarating," the singer moans hotly against Emma's lips before her tongue sweeps teasingly along a pink bottom lip.

"I can't believe we almost got caught," Emma chuckles, diving right back in and inhaling the calming scent wafting through the breeze that is all Regina Mills.

"Maybe we should sneak around out in the open more often," she suggestively implies, balling Emma's sweatshirt into her fists and slamming the slim body against her own.

Emma laughs and shakes her head while slowly pulling out her phone. "As much fun as that was...I'm not taking any chances. I'm calling Guy," she declares and scrolls through her phone for his contact.

"I agree," Regina hums, resting her cheek against Emma's collarbone and breathing in her favorite scent of coconuts, even if Emma claims that's not her fragrance.

All while they are both oblivious to the phone lurking in the shadows from across the street....

A/N: That's the conclusion of the first half, I hope everyone enjoyed and is ready for the second half! I was going to write the next part as the sequel when I first wrote this, but then decided to just add it here.

 

Chapter Text


The sun 's  golden rays  are raining  down upon her, but she's oblivious to the heat as her fingers focus on the keys below. The clacking is just a constant buzz in her mind  now,  that she needs to help stay focused. However, her phone lights up beside her and vibrates viciously against the mini table to  the  right of the lounge chair. She rolls her eyes as she reaches for the device, annoyed that she's being interrupted, yet again.

The screen rolls like a slot machine with text message after text message coming through and vibrating against her hand. She slides her finger across the warm screen and opens the first picture that was sent anonymously, just as they are always instructed to do. She tilts her head to the side as she inspects the first picture, her eyes immediately drawn to the tacky red leather jacket and she cannot suppress the eye roll that follows.

The picture is incriminating, with the blonde and brunette leaning in dangerously close, close enough to kiss as they laugh wildly at something the rest of the world is shunned from. Yet, the blonde's face is distorted behind the massive windowpane and the brunette is very strategically obstructing the view of any onlookers.

She scoffs at the picture and quickly moves onto the next. She shakes her head when the second scene comes into view with both women walking side by side down the street, with a small gap between them and both peering down at their feet like the world might suddenly slip out from under them and toss them off balance. She closes that message and opens the next, with the blonde tugging a big puffy jacket into an alleyway.

She scrunches her nose at the sight and moves onto the next, which is the big money winner, the payout. She cocks her head to the side as she assesses the evidence of a blonde woman with a grey beanie sharing a passionate kiss with a brunette who is pinned firmly against a brick wall. It just so happens that the angle is perfect and the profile view of Regina Mills is undeniable. Except ,  she closes out of the message and opens the next picture, with a brunette burying her face against the taller woman's chest.

Her lips twist and turn as she mulls over her options. She flips through the pictures several times as she weighs the possibilities. Her eyes drift toward the clock on her phone, calculating her time with deadlines to make this work in her favor. She clicks on the picture she desires, her thumb hesitating for a split second before she sends the picture and breathes out a weighted sigh.

Her heavy head falls back against the chair as her eyes fall closed and her mind scrambles with the infinitive amounts of different ways this could all play out. Yet, she doesn't have nearly enough time to think before she's interrupted again by that obnoxious device.

It's not even a full minute before her phone vibrates in her hand , but  she doesn't even bother with glancing at the name because she already knows  who is on the other end . She rolls her eyes and answers the device with another heavy sigh that expresses her annoyance.

"Are you positive this is the-"

"Run it," she coldly demands and ends the call before the person has a chance to rebuttal her decision.

~~~~~~~~~

"I love you so much, buddy, and I'll be back before you know it," Emma whispers soothingly in her son's ear as she holds him impossibly close and breathes in his familiar scent one last time.

Maybe it is coconuts...

"Peas, mommy, stay," he whines, burying his tear-stained cheeks further into her neck and if he could, he would crawl right back inside of her and never let her go.

"I know, baby," she chokes on her pathetic words that hold no justice for her departure as her eyes swell with warm tears.

"Henry, you'll see mommy very soon," Mary Margret tries to reason as she slowly attempts to peel the baby koala from his mother's embrace. Henry locks his arms in a death grip around Emma's neck and cries out in sheer agony from being ripped away from his mother once again. "Henry, honey..."

"You're okay, buddy," Emma sniffles and paints on her best brave face as she quickly unlocks Henry's arms. He kicks and screams his protest, his eyes firmly shut with tears streaming down his face, causing a searing pain through her chest. "Calm down, Henry. I promise I will see you soon." She vows and gently passes him over to her mother, who instantly cuddles him as tight as humanly possible without suffocating him to ease his pain. "I love you, bud." She delicately rubs his back before she dives right in to hugging both her mother and son one last time.

"Ready, Miss Swan?"

Green eyes roll playfully as she pulls away from the warm embrace that soothes her pain. "By the end of this tour, I will get you to call me, Emma," she teases, running her fingers through her son's chestnut locks one last time for the road.

"Have a safe trip, Emma. Please call me or at least text me when you get there," her mother pleads because she knows her daughter too well and Emma will inevitably forget, just as she always does.

"I will," she vows wholeheartedly because she really intends to. "Thank you," she whispers to Mr. Davidson as he opens the door for her and waits patiently for her to climb inside. She waves one last time and slips into her leather seat as the door softly closes.

"Heart you, mommy!" Henry screams as his mother fades from existence behind the tinted glass.

"I heart you too, bud," she exclaims, knocking on the window to grasp her son's full attention.

Loose, bouncing curls slam back against the headrest as she squeezes her eyes shut and pleads for the tears to magically evaporate from her ducts. But the second she hears Guy close his door, hot liquid sneaks through her closed eyes and leak down her face.

"Are you ready, Emma?" He tenderly questions and just because he finally said her name, her heart feels somewhat lighter.

She chuckles and nods her agreement. "I'm ready," she claims, even though every fiber in her body is screaming their defiance louder than her son's tiny lungs.

After she left Regina's mansion in Maine, she headed back to New York to celebrate her son's birthday the following week. She would be lying to herself if she refused to admit that secretly, she hoped that Regina would surprise them and attend Henry's third birthday party. But of course, Regina remained locked away like some damn criminal while Jefferson and Ruby both turned up with giant smiles on their faces and enough toys to open a damn Toys R Us.

However, in the pile of toys there was one that was secretly sent over from Regina and it just so happened to be one of Henry's favorites. The singer had purchased a high quality walkie-talkie set, that had Henry abandoning all his other toys. Every day, for two months straight, that little boy would only communicate with his mother and grandmother through the walkie-talkies. He spent all day crawling on the floor and hiding behind furniture until bedtime, where he slept with the device tucked under his pillow, just in case his mommy needed him.

Every day Emma sent pictures and videos of Henry making the most of his toy and even if Regina never admits it, Emma knows it helped the woman with her sobriety. Henry became a constant in Regina's life, even if she wasn't physically around him and Emma knows in her heart his chubby freckled cheeks and sparkling green eyes chased away the brunette's demons at night.

Once Regina was out of the mansion, she spent the next month trapped in her new prison cell, her studio. Every day Emma received messages complaining about Cora who just couldn't understand why there were more ballads on the album rather than upbeat, party songs. Regina spent all of November and the beginning of December recording her next album, so she could release it right before Christmas like Cora had originally planned.

And she did.

And it was a huge success.

Selling far more than any of her previous albums, which said a lot and was a giant slap in the face to Cora who fought Regina every step of the way on her song choices.

By the time the record dropped, Emma hadn't seen Regina in two months and it felt like a dull razor blade to her gut every damn day. And just like she suspected, Regina missed out on Christmas with her and Henry. Yet, despite Regina's physical absence, she still made sure she was a constant in Emma's life. No matter how busy Regina appeared to be, she always found time to text Emma and sneak calls late at night. There wasn't a day that would go by that they didn't see each other's faces, even if it was only through a picture, they still never lost contact.

When January came around, it was time for award shows and finally, Emma was needed again by her career. She was so damn enthralled with the prospect of seeing her girlfriend again that she almost forgot about the giant elephant in the room that quickly stunk up the entire place like a damn zoo, the moment she stepped inside the first hotel.

Robin. It's not like she completely forgot about him, because after Regina released her album there were a few planned outings of the couple for publicity. Yet, somehow, he slipped passed Emma's mind when she received her schedule for January and all the dates and events that marked her calendar for all the ceremonies.

Regina is such an icon that it's not even award shows that correlate with singing. No, America's Sweetheart needed to attend every award ceremony, including movies, television and every thing else falling under the entertainment category.

And there Regina "Queen Of Pop Culture" Mills was, with her arm-candy hunk, always by her side on the red carpet. He was perfect too, always carrying around her clutch when she was needed for an important photo, always escorting her with his palm perfectly placed at the small of her back and always placing small, but sweet kisses to her cheek. His broad smile was perfect for the cameras, especially with America's best actress smiling right back at him and they did appear to be "in love".

But Emma knew better, because she has seen Regina's real smile, that genuine grin late at night when nobody else is around to sneak a picture. It's a small quirk of her full lips, that cracks into her cheeks and highlights her eyes into a soft, warm, honey hue and it only shines through for Emma and Henry. Nobody is special enough for that heartfelt smile, not even Jefferson who receives something similar, but never to its fullest potential. Emma knows in her heart now, the difference between reality and what's on display for the public eye and truthfully, she's okay with all of it, because it does refrain from exposing her and her son into the limelight.

Even though there was a slip up back in October. Emma's still so unsure how anyone snapped that picture of her and Regina at the ice cream parlor, but the singer had been right all along, someone did steal an intimate moment shared between them. Even if it was only of them eating ice cream and laughing, and Regina's face was pretty well hidden from the camera, people still went ballistic. Cora came rushing back from her trip around the Caribbean to rip Regina to shreds on her irresponsibility and even though Emma knows Regina has been busy with her career, she still has an inkling she was trying to lay low for a while.

Even though there were plenty of opportunities to see Regina in January and February from all the ceremonies, Emma never received any alone time and it killed her. She went through March, April and May without the woman's physical contact and when June inched its way closer, she was about ready to tear her skin right off to escape the unnerving torture in her soul.

Now, she's on her way to the airport to kick off the summer tour around the states, hitting far more cities than last summer and she's physically nauseous. Although, Regina has yet to miss one day of communication in six long and treacherous months, Emma still can't help but feel uncertain on where they land. Long distance relationship, is another term for dating Regina Mills that she had signed up for, but she's starting to feel the negative affects seeping into her bones and draining her energy.

"We are here, Miss Swan...are you?" Mr. Davidson questions in concern, his baby blues shifting toward the rear-view mirror to meet her tired eyes.

She blinks away the remaining tears still hopelessly clinging to her eyes and just begging to be released. She wipes at the sticky tracks left behind on her cheeks and inhales sharply to mentally prepare herself for what's to come.

"How has she been?" The words barely escape her dry throat, provoking a frown to form around Guy's mouth.

"She's been...holding up," he offers as a comfort, but by the expression tormenting her features, he knows he failed. "And that's because of you and your son," he sincerely acknowledges with that warm smile that always settles her heart from beating straight through her chest and leaving behind a big, gaping hole.

She offers a half, crooked smile and mutters the faintest, "Thanks."

"Come on, we wouldn't want to keep her waiting," he playfully teases and pops open his door, encouraging Emma to mimic his actions and to finally face the music.

"Swan!" Jefferson bellows from across the runway, waving his hands dramatically like a lunatic as if maybe she won't be able to spot him in the big, wide open spaces.

"Ems!" Ruby shrieks in a volume that pierces her eardrums, but she doesn't mind because, dear god, did she miss her best friends.

She smiles, a broad, goofy grin that consumes her entire face and hitches her bag over her shoulder. She pauses for a brief moment near the trunk, ready to assist Guy in whatever he needs help with, but he shakes his head and nods toward the two people that will effectively break through the storm clouds hovering above her head. And hopefully there will be one more person who can lure out the sun and squash the depressing mood she has been in.

She rushes toward her two friends and allows both lanky brunettes to swallow her whole in a hug that steals her breath away. She sighs, recognizing the warmth spreading through her heart and it feels like home. Ruby has always been a part of her life, her sister, but now as she stands between these two beautiful souls, she can finally put a name on their relationship. Family. Home away from home.

"Oh honey, how I have missed you," Jefferson gushes, draping his arm around her shoulders and tucking her safely into his side while Ruby curls her arm like an eager snake around her elbow.

"How was Henry with saying goodbye this time?" Ruby inquires, her dazzling emerald irises shimmering in concern.

"He was...rough," she exhales heavily, "he cried so hard-"

"And then you cried," Jefferson chimes in, causing all three to bob their heads in agreement.

"And then I cried," she fully admits, but quickly swallows down those emotions before they swell too much and rain down on her all over again. "But I'm sure by tomorrow he will be over it all."

"Too bad those walkie-talkies won't reach. That would be perfect for him to stay in contact," Ruby softly says.

"I know, but I can still FaceTime him and Regina promised to fly him and my mom out more...but honestly, I don't know how. This schedule is madness."

"It's going to be a rough summer. I don't think we've ever had this many cities lined up," Jefferson informs her, persuading her anxiety to crawl just beneath her skin. "Thirty-five cities with forty shows."

"Wonderful," she deadpans and follows her friends onto the private jet without another word spoken.

Ruby takes the lead onto the plane with Emma nervously gripping the strap against her sternum so tight that her palms begin to sweat and her knuckles drain from all blood flow. Another step forward and her heart somehow fills with a lead that weighs down the organ and brutally slams against her chest with a heavy thump. She swallows the sick feeling filling in her mouth and squeezes her strap even harder.

"Welcome back, Miss Lucas," Regina's cool and smooth voice travels elegantly through the plane and vibrates in her ears, sending a prickly wave of shivers to tickle down her spine. Green eyes immediately snap to attention. "Miss Swan," Regina coolly purrs, convincing Emma's heart to cease altogether and then they lock eyes and she melts from the devilish gleam of mischief twinkling in those rich orbs. Yes, she has seen this beautiful face through a screen for months now, but this close, in person, Regina's even more breathtaking. "Jeff." Regina nods politely at him just as Emma passes Regina's seat.

"Hey, baby girl." He squeezes his cousin's shoulder as he slowly passes her by and she gently pats his hand in a loving manner. "Lookin' good," he whispers and continues toward the back, to their usual seats.

And the next hour and half of radio silence from Regina is enough to make Emma contemplate jumping out of the plane without a parachute to escape the soul crushing torture.

 

Chapter Text


From what Emma overheard, Ruby and Jefferson bar hopped all night long as a last hooray before the dry tour they knew they would have to endure to help maintain Regina's sobriety. That's why it's not a surprise to her right now that both of her friends have been passed out for a solid hour while she twiddles her fucking thumbs, still as hyper anxious and edgy as a hooker finding out she's pregnant.

Finally, she leaps from her seat and scoots passed Ruby's never-ending legs and Jefferson's lap to scramble into the bathroom. She escapes inside undetected, not bothering a single soul on the private jet and closes the door softly behind her. She takes a few, deep calming breaths because she cannot stand this twitchy feeling pulsating through her flesh.

She turns on the faucet, running ice cold water to splash across her face and hopefully relax her insides. When she moves to dry her face she is shell-shocked to find Regina slipping into the crammed space as well.

"Uh-"

Her words, or lack there of, are immediately cut off by Regina's plump lips brushing tenderly against hers and sucking every last drop of oxygen from her lungs.

"God, I missed you," Regina murmurs incoherently into the soft kiss, completely taking Emma by surprise because usually when this woman sneak attacks her, it's with bruising, forceful kisses full of declaration and claim.

Emma sighs the biggest fucking exhale of relief and glides her fingers gently up Regina's face. She tilts her girlfriend's head back slowly and dips her tongue inside without any restrictions because Regina is just as eager. Her thumbs caress the silky flesh below as she becomes reacquainted with one talented tongue she has been so cruelly withheld from.

"I've missed you so much," Emma confesses into the kiss, refusing to allow this woman to ever slip away again.

"I need to slip back out before my mother has a conniption fit," Regina whispers as her fingers sneakily slide beneath Emma's shirt and travel teasingly up her back.

"What? No, why?" She whines and tugs the immaculate Regina Mills in her ivory power suit and five fucking inch heels, flush against her body. "Stay."

"Emma, I can't. You know my mother," the singer forcefully states even though her greedy little fingers are soaking up the soft flesh just below Emma's bra.

She groans, her eyes falling closed to hide her disappointment as she connects their foreheads. "Can I sneak by tonight?"

"You better if you know what's good for you, Miss Swan," and the teasing in Regina's voice is exactly that ray of sunshine that beams down on Emma and immediately brightens her stormy mood.

And with that, Regina sneaks out of the confined bathroom and Emma has no problem bouncing back to her seat with a hopeful promise of a better road ahead.

~~~~~~~

"She looks good," Ruby muses with her arms folded smugly across her chest as she peers out on stage where Regina and Outlaw are preforming a duet for sound check before the concert.

"She does," Emma wholeheartedly agrees, her eyes never once leaving the mesmerizing view of Regina in all her glory on stage.

"I think you and your little offspring have made an impact."

"Possibly."

"I'm happy for you, Ems." The tender tone behind Ruby's words grasp her full attention and forces her eyes away from Regina. "I'm so happy Regina found you two, because we all know how much you've changed her, but more importantly, I've gotta say, I'm so happy you found her. You needed her just as much as she needed you. I'm so happy to see that wild impish grin from when you were a kid, again."

She frowns from the honesty behind the words because she knows in her heart that Regina did save her. She was miserable and alone and sure as hell wasn't going to allow anyone into her life and only Regina could do that. Did, do that.

"Thanks, Rubes." She lightly bumps her shoulder against her best friend's and offers a cheeky little grin. "I'm still worried about this tour and her drinking."

"She's been sober for seven full months now."

"So we think."

"You honestly think she's been sneaking it?" Ruby incredulously inquires.

"No, I don't. Honestly," she reassures the brunette when she continues to skeptically glare at her. "I'm just worried. That's all. This tour is going to have a lot more stress than the last. Less sleep. And the new opener for Outlaw...she seems like a flower child."

"Oh my god, Emma, those days are over," Ruby bursts out laughing.

"Are they?" She questions playfully with her voice squeaking a few octaves too high.

"Yes!" Ruby rolls her eyes and shakes her head in a teasing manner.

"What are you two gabbing on about?" Jefferson investigates, quite literally shoving his nose into their business, right between both women.

"Swan doesn't trust Mal."

"Oh no? How come you don't trust hippie-dippie?" He mocks, cocking his head to the side like a dog soaking up the word, treat.

"See!" Emma laughs and slaps her palm roughly against his broad chest. "Clearly she gives off those vibes."

"Maybe it's the constant vaping that's clouding your judgement," Jefferson barks out through a deep chuckle which the girls can't help but laugh along with.

"Why would Cora hire her?" Emma finally questions once their laughter fades away.

"Who knows?"

"Well, Mal is a thriving superstar right now. She's everywhere, might as well snatch her up while she's hot and place her under Regina's wing before she overthrows the queen herself," Jefferson solemnly explains, prompting all three of them to fall silent from the admission.

Unexpectedly a sweet scent of strawberries fills the air and Emma already growls under her breath from the cloud of lies lingering, because no, there isn't some magical stand with fresh, juicy strawberries, it's just Mal and her vapor of deceit.

"My, my, my, the four of them could cure cancer with those harmonies," Mal's rich and sultry tone curls smoothly around each of her words as she saunters up beside Regina's crew.

"If only life were that simple," Jefferson flatly quips, squinting at the woman suspiciously.

"The chemistry between Outlaw and Regina Mills is truly extraordinary," the new singer comments, eyeing the stars shining on stage in the spotlight.

"Well, that's what happens when you spend every day on tour with people," Emma chimes in to discreetly cover up why Regina and Milah possess such a strong chemistry, even if it does kill her to see her girlfriend smiling between her fake boyfriend and secret ex-friend with benefits.

"I suppose. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that Regina and Robin have been pop culture's hottest couple for the past year now," Mal adds on, eyeing Regina's crew curiously, but all she receives in return are three blank faces staring back at her. "Well, I'm so thankful to be on this tour now. I should go freshen up before I start," she politely excuses herself with three sets of judging eyes weighing down upon her back.

"I don't like her," Emma states with conviction, crossing her arms protectively across her chest to ward off any intruders from breaking in and ripping her apart.

"Trust me honey, Gina would never give that woman the time of day. Not with your pretty little self in her bed," he enthuses just before Regina exits the stage, her eyes never leaving Emma's as confirmation as she sashays away.

~~~~~~~

If Emma thinks back over the past year, she couldn't even begin to count the endless times she snuck out of her room and magically appeared in Regina's. Now, as she swipes the keycard off her dresser and tiptoes down the hotel hallway, she's as confident as ever. There's no more uncertainty of who these two women are in this world. Emma knows Regina is her girlfriend, her future, her everything and she doesn't have to fear what personality she will receive tonight or if she's even welcomed. No, she knows Regina is waiting impatiently for her and she can practically feel the excitement buzzing between them like two old tin cans tethered by a string to play telephone.

She swipes the keycard Regina miraculously left in her room and softly closes the door behind her.

"Regina?" She's greeted with silence, so she bravely enters the hotel room, yet she's still silently whispering to herself, "please don't let Cora be here." She strolls right into Regina's bedroom and frowns from the missing woman. "Regina?" She calls out just a tad louder before she opens the door to the ensuite and becomes completely slack-jawed.

The lights are dimmed to the lowest setting and there are far too many candles to count, flickering against the walls and creating the most romantic display Emma has ever laid eyes upon. She swallows thickly and quickly moves to shut the door behind herself. When she turns back around, Regina is right there, cupping her flushed cheeks and kissing her passionately, expressing just how much she has missed her.

"I-" Emma breaks the kiss, her eyes trailing back to the candles glowing around a bubble bath in a tub that could easily fit six grown ass adults.

Regina gently caresses her cheeks with the soft pads of her thumbs, motivating those green eyes to flick back to her. "I wanted to show you how much I appreciate your patience, your loyalty, and devotion to our relationship. I-I know it's not easy, but I hope you know how much I truly appreciate you."

The stupidest looking grin plasters across Emma's face as she slides her hands around the sexy, curvy, path to Regina's bottom. "You've never done this for anyone before, have you?" Emma teasingly whispers, jerking the woman wrapped in satin against her body.

"How did you-"

"You're blushing profusely, Miss Mills," she seductively whispers just before she captures Regina's mouth hanging agape.

And just like that, all the stress and worries of the world that demands so much from them, melts away and all Emma sees is her drop dead gorgeous girlfriend. She tugs discretely at the black silk robe while her tongue dominates Regina's, reminding the woman who her reality is and that the world outside the bathroom door is just some movie she stars in.

Emma is her compelling truth, her world, the one she runs to, the one who holds her at night and chases away her demons. Emma's her future, her reality...her tequila. Because when Emma's around, she doesn't feel the need to drink. The way Emma makes her feel when she's kissing her, already makes her feel intoxicated and takes her on the highest buzz she has ever endured.

Emma's warm fingertips slip undetected into the robe, until her soft pads skim lightly over Regina's flat stomach, persuading those muscles to tremble in delight. Emma smiles wildly into the kiss and steps forward, inspiring Regina's feet to step back. She coasts her fingers lightly up the tan flesh until she's dancing over the perky breasts aching to be touched after six long months. Her teasing fingers smooth up the heavy mounds, admiring the delicate curve and silky soft nipples. She cannot contain her excitement, her hands moving to their own accord to roughly grope, creating the most sensual moan to escape Regina's full lips and fall into her mouth.

Regina's warm skin breaks out into goosebumps under Emma's greedy touch, inspiring the brunette to shrug the robe right off her shoulders. And as much as Emma would love to take a generous step back and admire this gorgeous creature, her mouth cannot find the strength to abandon Regina's.

Something needy erupts inside Regina and encourages her to rip apart every item of clothing keeping Emma from her greedy hands. Emma stumbles clumsily as she attempts to help her girlfriend undress her, but she's too ecstatic to come off smooth and in control.

"Don't ever keep this body from me like that again," Emma hotly declares as her unforgiving hands slide down Regina's back to gather up two handfuls of the woman's firm bottom.

"It was torture," Regina agrees wholeheartedly, groping Emma's breast with just as much vigor, her nails embedding little crescent designs along the top to reclaim what is rightfully hers.

In all her hypnotizing and sultry moves, Regina slowly steps out of Emma's embrace and curls her finger for Emma to follow. Carefully, her girlfriend steps into the tub and holds out her hand for her. Emma dips her toes in, sighing happily in the warmth enveloping her body as she submerges the rest of her body. She rests her back against the dip that is molded for a human's shape and relishes in the jets softly pulsating against her back.

"This is amazing," she breathes out deliriously before her hands shoot out of the water and motion for Regina to join her. "Come here."

Regina smirks down upon her and slides easily into her front. Emma wraps her arms securely around the fragile woman and places the most meaningful kiss to her neck. Green eyes flutter closed once her girlfriend produces the sweetest moan in return and she cannot stop her hands from wandering. She tentatively creates a path with her short nails, up the inside of Regina's thick thigh while her other hand gently caresses the swollen breast, encouraging Regina to squirm in her lap and grind that full bottom down upon her.

"Regina, I think I'm falling in love with you," she whispers behind her ear and seals the confession with a lingering kiss just behind her earlobe.

The brunette whips around abruptly, wide-eyed in utter shock and sending water to lap over the lip of the tub. "What?"

Emma's face falls because she knows this could end up so badly and she never, in her wildest dreams, thought she would ever say those words to another lover again, but it felt right. Perfect.

"I don't think I'm falling in love with you," she whispers and swallows down every instinct that's screaming at her to shut the hell up before she ruins the only good thing she has outside of her tiny family back home. "I-I do love you, Regina."

Regina's strong jaw juts out as her big brown eyes scan every inch of her face, forcing Emma's heart to pound furiously from the anticipation of what's to come. Fat tears well up in those curious orbs and Regina chokes on her words.

"You love me?"

"Yes," Emma timidly confirms as her body breaks out into a full-blown sweat.

"You can't."

"But I already do."

"Promise?"

Emma nods slowly, tenderly curling a wet chunk of hair behind Regina's ear. "I promise."

"Okay good, because I love you, too," Regina breathes out in a rush, persuading the goofiest grin to smear across Emma's lips.

"Seriously! And you didn't say it back immediately?"

"I needed to make sure."

"You're a monster," Emma scoffs.

"Meh, you love it."

"That I do," she wholeheartedly agrees as Regina encloses the bridge between them and steals a kiss that takes them both soaring.

Regina snakes her fingers down Emma's chest with a promise full of every intent on satisfying. Those long and talented fingers that create the sweetest sounds in music history, gently circle around the silky bud just throbbing for attention. Emma shudders from the intensity of it all and digs her nails deep into the tiny waist floating above her.

Of course, this smug human smiles broadly into the kiss and slips her finger down Emma's slit and easily into the tight walls that have been neglected all over again.

"Fuck," Emma hisses, blonde curls spilling down into the bubbles below and ending the heated kiss.

Regina nips at her pointed chin before her tongue soothes over the area and licks down the long column of her neck. She guides Regina's hips to straddle her thighs all while that one slender digit pumps in a tantalizing manner. Emma uses two fingers to drag down Regina's slick folds and she can already tell the difference from the warm bath water and her girlfriend's need for her. Slowly, she glides one finger in, memorizing the way Regina trembles in response and encouraging her to steal another kiss from those pouty lips.

Emma curls her one finger suggestively, knowing all too well how her girlfriend will react. "Fuck," Regina's quivering voice exhales into their kiss which only encourages Emma to deftly add one more finger. "Oh god...I missed you," Regina stammers as her free hand grips the back of Emma's neck and holds on for dear life.

"I know," she breathlessly responds before crashing her mouth against Regina's parted lips.

She brushes her thumb against the swollen bud, coaxing a flood of arousal to coat her fingers as she buries them deeper. Her girlfriend pants heavily, searching for more oxygen deep inside of Emma's mouth all while her hips begin to rock. Regina suddenly remembers her one finger has stilled inside of Emma, so she slides another finger in and curls those long digits in the most glorious way.

Heavy gasps, shuddering breaths, and sexy little moans are the only acoustics bouncing off the bathroom walls as Emma pumps furiously into the tight walls sucking her fingers eagerly and Regina strokes the sweet spot that always makes Emma's toes curl. Regina digs her nails deep into Emma's neck as her hips pick up speed, grinding wildly for the sweet release she's been craving for seven months.

"Regina," Emma moans, her voice already hoarse from the pleasure buzzing through her veins. "I'm...fuck...."

"Don't stop," her girlfriend pleads, silencing Emma with a fierce kiss that sends both of them over the edge.

Emma is the first to cry out, her world spinning and crashing down all around her as her orgasm bursts so unexpectedly through her blood. And the sexy whines of pleasure spilling from pink little lips is enough to send Regina tumbling right behind her. She grinds down ruthlessly against those slender fingers and all Emma can do is watch in awe as Regina fucks herself on her fingers.

"Oh yes," Regina chokes out just before she deflates and slumps forward against Emma's bare chest.

She quickly holds her girlfriend close in her lap and vows to memorize the soft little gasps for air as Regina comes back down from her high. Her nails drag lazily up and down Regina's back until the woman's breathing regulates.

Slowly, Regina pulls away from their intimate moment and stares deeply into a sea of green. "I do love you, Emma," she vows, pressing the most delicate kiss to her lips.

"I love you, too," Emma practically giggles, because the idea of saying those three little words out loud still seems so foreign against the grain of her tongue. "I swear, I never thought I'd say those words again," she professes against kiss-swollen lips.

"I never thought I'd say it, ever."

Another short peck is placed against Emma's lips before the singer spins back around and slumps back against her chest. Immediately, Emma wraps her arms securely around the fragile frame resting in her embrace and trails her fingers up and down every inch of naked flesh.

Both women are quiet, lost in the tranquility that they can only ever find with each other. Regina's nails are scratching softly up and down Emma's thighs while the blonde is lost in the familiar feel of that darker skin contrasting so beautifully against her own.

"How did everything go with the house?" Regina quietly questions, sounding half asleep as her head rolls against Emma's chest.

"Perfect." She smiles broadly against the long neck on full display for just her. She places a warm and breathy kiss to the center and allows her lips to linger as she continues. "We are officially home owners," her smile grows even more. "I wish I could be there to help my mom with everything-"

"Didn't you hire a moving crew like I suggested?"

"I did," she hums and trails a few more kisses down Regina's neck and across her defined shoulder. "And really, we don't have much. I need to go furniture shopping to fill out some of the space."

"I wish I could be there for that," Regina mindlessly states as her fingers find Emma's traveling up her knee and interlocks each digit. Slowly, she lifts their hands out of the water and kisses the back of Emma's hand.

"Me too."

"How much does Henry love his own room?"

"He cried when I told him he had to wait to sleep in it." They both laugh lightly as Regina places their hands back in the water but refuses to release their fingers. "He misses you a lot."

"I know," the brunette sighs heavily, expressing her true anguish and squirms further into Emma's chest for comfort. "I'm really sorry I haven't been around."

"Please tell me it won't ever be like that again."

"I can't promise that," her girlfriend shamefully whispers under her breath, like maybe, just maybe, Emma might not be able to hear and will magically drop the conversation.

Emma cups Regina's cheek and guides her to crane her neck, so green eyes can fall hopelessly into warm brown. "Regina, please. I'm trying so hard here in our relationship," and Regina's mouth pops open to argue, her favorite pastime, but Emma presses on, "and I know you are too, but you need to promise me that we won't ever go that long again without seeing each other. I can't do that again."

"I'll try," she timidly murmurs just before Emma captures her lips in a slow and sensual kiss that prickles at both of their connected flesh. "I'm going to come see your new place after the tour."

"You better, via FaceTime isn't good enough."

"And Henry's all signed up for preschool?"

"Yup, one of the best school districts and I have you to thank." Emma grins like a fool and squeezes Regina's tiny waist.

"I didn't do a thing, it's your talent that pushed you this far in life, don't you dare forget that," she states with conviction, her nails dragging slowly through the waters and skimming down pale thighs.

"Thank you."

"Thank yourself." Both stubborn women fall silent, but only for a brief moment. "I know this tour will be more chaotic, however, I did send over a schedule for your mother which includes weekends that I am willing to fly them out for, if she can make it work with her own schedule."

"Thank you so much. You have no idea what that means to me, especially since Henry had such a hard time saying goodbye this time around."

Regina slowly floats around and brushes her lips against Emma's. "I'm so sorry, I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you."

"It was rough. I hate seeing him scream like that, it breaks my heart."

"Well, maybe...if all goes according to plan, you will see him in two weeks."

"God, I hope so." Emma smiles down upon her girlfriend, her heart swooning and just itching to be closer than ever to this gorgeous specimen. "How about we call it a night? You have a long day ahead of you." As tenderly as possible, Emma sweeps her thumbs just below Regina's tired eyes where the raccoon circles love to linger. "I rather not taint this beautiful face with loads of concealer tomorrow. You're so gorgeous when you're just like this, makeup free...raw," she whispers the last word before her lips just barely brush against the pouty flesh before her.

"You won me over. I'm yours. No need to keep buttering me up, Miss Swan," Regina muses, humming so smugly into the tiny bubble they created for just them, because fuck the outside world and all it's horrid temptations. 

"If only you could see what I see."

"If only you could see what I see and then maybe you would understand my life," Regina sadly confesses.

Emma firmly places her index finger beneath Regina's chin and guides those eyes back up to meet her serious gaze. "I do understand your life and as much as you hate to admit it, I really know you."

Emma seals her devotion with one last powerful kiss before she helps Regina out of the tub and back into her bed, where their limbs entangle just as they always do when they sleep beside one another.

 

Chapter Text


The heavy drum pounds a single beat that rattles deep inside of Emma's chest as Regina stands out on stage with her best, broad, fake smile firmly set into place. The drummer smacks his stick against the drum once more, creating that same deep vibration as Regina gestures for Outlaw to take the stage.

"Tonight, we have a little surprise for you," Regina playfully announces, her dark eyes glossing over into a vacant stare as she smiles wildly at her boyfriend.

The entire crowd erupts in a roar mixed with shrieks and claps of overwhelming joy just before people start spewing out Robin's name along with Outlaw. The proud man enters from the left side of the stage, resting his bass guitar's strap over his shoulder with Milah excitedly trailing behind on her fuck-me-heels, yanking on Killian's hand to follow.

"Aren't you a part of that band?" Mal's busy-body mouth asks Graham right away when she sees him lingering behind.

"Yeah, but Regina's band is out there," he nonchalantly says, shrugging his shoulder while he slinks back behind the curtain, nervously tapping his sticks against his outer thigh.

"So? The rest of your band is out there."

"I know," the drummer mumbles under his breath just as Ruby chimes in over his quiet voice to swoop in and save him from further confrontation.

"Killian's not playing, he's just singing and so is the rest of the band, it's just their vocals that they are lending a hand on for this specific duet," Ruby justifies, lightly wrapping her arms around Graham's strong bicep, causing the shy man to stiffen in response. "Graham doesn't sing."

"I see," Mal murmurs, her eyes slithering back out toward the stage where Regina, Killian, Milah and Robin are all standing in a line and belting out the first chorus to one of Regina's latest songs that has yet to be released on the radio.

Milah locks those crystal eyes onto Killian's and cups his scruffy cheek tenderly as she sings the start of the second verse. "And you don't know me at all..."

Killian sincerely gazes back into her eyes and sympathetically smiles. "Yet, somehow you know me better than 'em all."

Regina inhales sharply as her sorrowful eyes appear to land heavily upon her boyfriend who is wailing on his bass, but Emma feels the intensity and knows in her heart Regina is peering through Robin to gaze upon her.

"And maybe I should surrender," Regina sings in a soft whisper with such thick emotions that her voice cracks in the sexiest way possible. "Let you inside these lonely castle walls."

Emma smirks to herself and very discreetly nods her head, encouraging Regina to face the audience again and proceed with the song. So, she does, brown eyes wander back out across the wild crowd where glowing cell phones are being raised toward the sky and putting all those stars to shame. Emma's positive that everyone sees this amazing and confident performer, but she sees the slight shimmer of tears in Regina's eyes and the emotions bubbling up to the surface.

They both know what those lyrics truly mean, and when they were created, and just how special that night is to both of them.

And that right there is a type of intimacy that nobody else could ever share with Regina and Emma is over the moon with that realization.

~~~~~~~~

Mal struts confidently through the maze of the backstage area with one place in mind. She glances between the two brunettes leaning on either side of the metal door and furrows her brows in confusion. She shakes off the questions whispering in the back of her mind and steps forward with her fist ready to knock on the door. That is until Ruby jumps in front of the door, startling the newcomer.

"What's up, Mal?"

"Uh, nothing really. I wanted to congratulate Regina on her concert this evening. I thought out of respect I should say something."

"Well, that's very sweet," Jefferson condescendingly quips, leaning his body further to effectively block the doorknob. "But she's having her makeup done right now."

"Why are you two out here?" The singer interrogates, never skipping a beat as her eyes bounce between the duo.

"This is Regina's down time after the concert. It's always so hectic when she leaves, so we try to allow her some peace and quiet before she is bombarded again," Ruby easily explains, never once blinking an eye, even though Mal is suspiciously inspecting every inch of her face.

Before any other words can be spoken though, there's something heavy crashing down on the other side of Regina's dressing room.

"What was that?" Mal investigates, her eyes flicking between the two guard dogs very clearly protecting the damn door like there's a pile of bones behind it.

"Emma's a klutz, she probably dropped something," Ruby casually answers.

"Well, it was nice of you to drop by," Jefferson says through a smile that is more of a grimace.

"So nice," Ruby adds on, both brunettes glaring down the blonde until she slowly backs away.

"Alright, please tell Regina I stopped by."

Jefferson and Ruby hum in unison, with bored expressions plastered across their faces until the woman is out of view.

~~~~~~~~

"Oh god...fuck....yes...." Emma pants incoherently as Regina shows no mercy fucking her up against the dressing room wall.

"Sssshhhh," Regina hisses, sucking Emma's bottom lip into her mouth and watching in delight as her girlfriend falls apart.

If it weren't for Regina's body firmly pinning Emma up against the wall, the blonde would have collapsed and tumbled hopelessly to the floor by now. However, the singer presses her body further into Emma's to hold her upright and proceeds to ruthlessly drive her fingers expertly into Emma's warm essence.

There's a rapid fire of three knocks against the door, encouraging Emma to cry out through her orgasm against Regina's shoulder to muffle the obvious declaration of pleasure. A fierce shudder wracks her body as the warm euphoric buzz swims violently through her veins and she releases all over Regina's talented digits.

"Shit," Regina mumbles, ripping her fingers away in fear of the repetitive knocks. It's a signal and she can already hear her mother's heels clicking down the hall.

"This is your fault," Emma hisses, yanking her slim, black jeans back up and quickly reassembling them.

"My fault?" Regina balks in a hushed whisper as her fingers move at lightening speed to button up her blouse.

"Yes, you and your constant need to kiss me right after you kiss Robin," Emma scoffs and tucks her white blouse back into her jeans, noticing right away the horrifying wrinkles that Cora will surely point out.

"Don't you dare blame me, Miss Swan," Regina stomps over to her vanity and squats down, fluffing out her hair and wiping furiously at her smudged lipstick. "You're the one that took it too far," she declares and regally perches herself onto her chair, elegantly crossing her right leg over her left.

The knocking grows louder just outside as Emma trudges her heavy feet toward the vanity and begins wiping away Regina's sloppy makeup from the sweat and bright lights beating down during her concert...and maybe the quickie.

"How did I take it too far?"

"Don't play coy with me," Regina taunts in a low growl as her eyes roll dramatically. "You know exactly what you are doing when you make those noises."

"What noises?" Emma squawks as the door bursts open and Ruby and Jefferson tumble inside like some crazy neighbors in a ridiculous sitcom from the nineties.

"Cora," Ruby mutters and jumps into action, cleaning up the dressing room with Jefferson like they were there the whole time and not keeping watch because Regina kicked them out twenty minutes prior.

Emma groans under her breath, earning herself a glare from her girlfriend just as Hurricane Cora comes blazing through the door, just like she always does.

"Everyone out, I need to speak with Regina in private," the woman coldly commands, neglecting everyone in the room as her eyes darkly latch onto her daughter.

"Emma is not finished," Regina bitterly announces.

"Ruby, Jefferson," Cora bites out, her dark and beady eyes never leaving Regina's in a silent battle for power.

"You betcha," Ruby cheerfully says, curling her fingers around Jefferson's wrist and tugging him right out the door because she rather be standing in Hell than in Cora's presence right now.

The second the door creeks closed, Cora rains down all her fury upon her daughter as if Emma is not at all present in the room. The cold-hearted witch steps forward, her heels snapping angrily against the ground as an intimidation tact and, of course, Emma practically jumps out of her shoes while Regina doesn't even blink.

"Twenty minutes Miss Swan and you have just started the foundation?" Emma's mouth falls open and she thinks she's going to defend herself, yet nothing comes to mind. "I am no fool," Cora sternly growls, "if you two cannot be trusted to be left alone then I will find a competent makeup artist, do I make myself clear, Miss Swan?"

She swallows, her thumb frozen against Regina's deep scar and never once does Regina stiffen or shy away from the touch.

"You will do no such thing mother," the singer surprisingly defends. "Emma is the only professional I trust." And that's all Regina has to say to spontaneously flip the tables and persuade Cora into backing down.

Emma blinks between both women, utterly baffled by Cora's sudden change of heart, but she knows now is not the time to open her big mouth.

"What I originally came here for, was to inform you on the new release date," the older woman announces in a softer tone.

"Release date?" Regina repeats, swatting Emma's hand away from her cheek and quickly leaning forward in her seat. "Mother, what the hell are you talking about? I just released an album in December and another exactly one year prior to that."

"Don't you worry, I'm allowing you more than six months to create."

"How long mother?" Regina seethes through a very tight clenched jaw.

"Next March, just in time for spring fever," she numbly responds as if none of this even concerns her.

"Mother!"

"Have you not been working with Dr. Facilier on your temper?"

Emma even flinches from that cruel remark and she wishes she could just step forward and slap the bitch right out of Cora, but she can't. Despite the constant mental abuse, Regina will still defend her mother to the end and Emma will just be labeled as wrong.

"That is neither here nor-"

"And this time we would like a more upbeat album to correlate with that time of the year," Cora rudely interrupts, breezing right passed her previous insult as if it were nothing more than a leaf tumbling right below her designer shoes.

"No, mother. I just finished an album. I need a break. I need time for motivation and inspiration to hit me again. Besides, when I am ready for my next album, I would like to try something different. More intimate."

"That will never work." Cora flicks her wrist as though she is swatting away the ideas Regina is insisting on. "This last album was already filled with soft melodies, the public needs something different. Are you trying to ruin your career?"

"It's not ruining my career," Regina coldly quips, "it's changing my image. I'm older now and I would like my fans to see me," she urges with an expression just pleading for her mother to finally see her for who she truly is and accept her.

"Miss Swan, can I presume that my daughter's obtuse rambling is your influence?"

"No," she barks out defensively without thinking twice about her tone and she plans on telling this woman off, but her girlfriend holds up her hand and extinguishes the words right off her tongue.

"This has nothing to do with Emma, I'm so tired of being someone that I'm not," Regina elegantly slides off her chair and stands tall before her mother and for the first time since Emma has met her, she doesn't see the constant fear in her eyes. "If I could just be a fraction of who I am in the public eye, maybe I-"

"What?" Cora snaps, stealing an assertive step forward with her heels clacking murderously against the cold hard floor. "Maybe you would finally grow up and stop all your insolent behavior?" Cora cruelly grasps onto Regina's chin, digging her fingers in deep to assert her dominance. Emma flinches. "Oh dear, don't be such a fool. You and I both know that isn't the reason for your abuse with alcohol." The older woman tugs her daughter's face forward, a snarl curling around her upper lip. "Mark my words, if you dare expose your true self," her cold eyes flick toward Emma in disgust, "your secret relationship," she scoffs and turns her attention back to her daughter, gripping even harder, "or your addiction, you will lose every single one of your fans. And more importantly you will lose me as your manager."

Regina's dark eyes soften and gloss over from the fear of managing this chaotic career without her mother by her side. After everything Cora has done, she's still her mother and in the end, the singer will always feel a constant need to please the woman, make her proud. She already lost one parent who didn't give a damn about her and she will do everything in her power to win her mother's approval and love. To prove she's worthy to one parent.

"Cora," Emma says even though her knees feel slightly unstable and her voice quivers in fear.

"This doesn't concern you, now does it?" Cora sasses, over enunciating each word as her tongue clicks to stress her point.

"Emma-"

"No, it does concern me," she demands, her hands balling into tight fists as she scrounges up some courage cowering away in the back of her mind. "I've been around for a while now and I think you know that I'm not going anywhere and I'm not going to sit back any longer and allow you to treat her like crap."

"Finally found your back bone? I can assure you it will only find you trouble here."

"Oh cut the bullshit," Emma snaps, her voice exploding off the walls and assaulting their ears, taking both mother and daughter by surprise. "If it weren't for Regina's raw talent, you wouldn't have half the shit you have today. By the way, how is your yacht?" She cynically inquires.

Cora shoves Regina's face away and stomps with nothing but authority toward Emma, her eyes flashing with rage and her mouth practically foaming with animalistic intention to kill. Emma swallows thickly, but she doesn't cower away, she plants her feet to the floor and prepares for the shit storm that's sure to come.

"How is your new home?" Cora sweetly tosses right back in Emma's face, but she knows it's a trap, this woman is never nice. "Before you start making accusations, you better take a long gander in that two-faced mirror of yours, Miss Swan. I earned every penny that rests in my bank account. Not once did I sleep my way to the top."

Her face scrunches in disgust at the implication so cruelly shoved into her face. "I resent that! I did not sleep my way to the top. Regina and I fell in love along the way and we didn't even sleep together until way after my job was complete and I earned my salary."

"Emma, please," Regina embarrassingly pleads with her to stop talking, but Emma has never been one for social cues or backing down when she's already heated.

"Oh lovely, you tricked my daughter into trusting you and manipulated your way into receiving a bigger payout," Cora sardonically fires back, unwilling to surrender in this battle they have found themselves in.

"You're a real piece of work, you know that? Maybe if you actually sat down and got to know your own daughter and not the facade that you created for your own benefit, then maybe you would see that I am best for her. I'm not some gold digger that you think I am. I'm in love with your daughter and everything I do is for her and what's best for her career." Emma takes an assertive step forward as she feels the adrenaline warming her blood and pumping furiously through her veins. "If it were up to me, she would be out and we could be together openly, but I respect her decision to protect her sexuality. I respect her so much that I'm willing to turn the other cheek with her fake-ass boyfriend. So don't sit here and talk down to me like I'm some trash she found off the street. What we have is real, so you better get used to my face," she encloses the gap between them and growls in a threatening whisper, "because I'm not going anywhere."

"Oh trust me, my dear, it's only a matter of time before you grow sick and tired of picking her drunk ass off the ground," Cora humorlessly laughs in her face, never cowering away from her speech. "Tell me, is that really the type of role model you want around your son?"

Green eyes flick to watery brown, studying the way Regina is anxiously nibbling on her bottom lip as she fights against her tears and Emma feels her heart crack deep within her chest.

"Yes," she states, her eyes sliding back toward Cora's and holding on for dear life, "she is exactly the type of person I want around my son. Despite what you may think, the world could use more Regina Mills. Her compassion, her empathy, her devotion, her love. Yes, yes I want my son growing up with her in his life," she repeats with conviction.

"Two fools, it's no wonder you found each other," Cora chuckles wickedly and steps around Emma, heading straight for the door. "Regina, you have until March, I suggest you get started," she tosses over her shoulder, never once looking back. "The tour bus leaves in ten minutes, not a second later. And Miss Swan, do try to cover up the wrinkles in your blouse before you embarrass us all," and with that, the devil is out the door.

"Regina, are you-"

"Why did you have to fight with her?" Regina presses, but her voice is deflating and Emma knows she's on the brink of exhaustion.

"Me? Oh come on, you can't possibly blame me for that after the way she treated you. You hate when she grabs you like that and I wasn't going to sit by and allow it anymore."

"That's not for you to decide. She's my mother."

Regina storms off toward the door, ready to walk out on her, but Emma curls her fingers lightly around the dainty wrist and spins her around.

"Hey, stop," she gently says and motions toward the chair. "I need to finish your makeup." Her girlfriend doesn't mutter a single word, not even a sound as she plops down in defiance and allows her to finish. But before Emma continues, she straddles Regina's legs and tenderly places her finger beneath Regina's chin, her thumb smoothing over the flesh that was abused. "I'm sorry things got out of hand, but I won't ever apologize for defending you." Regina nods slowly, her eyes finally drifting up to meet worried emeralds. "I love you and I just want what's best for you, that's all."

"I know, but can we please drop it? We need to get down to the bus," Regina whispers in a tone that's so utterly broken and lacking her usual fight.

Emma nods and timidly brushes her lips against her girlfriend's to ease the tension before they have to travel to their next destination.

 

Chapter Text


The arena is glowing a warm midnight blue as a spotlight beams from center stage and lands upon Regina, illuminating her natural beauty. She is perched on a wooden stool, an acoustic guitar resting in her lap as she readjusts the microphone to meet her level. She smiles out toward the crowd that's completely silent, just waiting for this astonishing woman to create the magic before their very eyes.

"This is a new song off my latest album, Just A Glimpse." The entire crowd roars their approval, eliciting the sweetest laugh to spill from Regina's scarlet painted lips. "Well, thank you," she blushes and slowly strums the softest note against the thick chords.

She has never sat down on stage, raw and vulnerable before her audience. A typical Regina Mills performance consists of flashing lights and upbeat music that encourages lazy feet to dance accordingly. There's always a major show that screams extraordinary and is unlike any other, so for Regina to simply sit in the middle of the stage, takes everyone by surprise, including her girlfriend.

"This song is very near and dear to my heart. I wrote it when I was feeling a little overwhelmed," Regina vulnerably announces, mindlessly strumming her guitar as a distraction. "And looking for inspiration. And then it came to me, took me by surprise actually," she smiles wildly and glances out at her audience, "so please be kind."

The entire crowd applauds their support and motivation for the singer to continue and Emma knows in that moment, no matter what Regina does, these fans will stick by her side. They aren't going anywhere. They are as loyal as ever and if Regina ever decides to announce who she truly is, Emma knows in her heart that each one would stand by her side.

"I never understood the meaning of life," Regina softly sings, her voice overwhelming with raw passion, "or why I was set into this world." Her fingers gently pluck each chord as she travels down the guitar while a broad smile stretches into her cheeks. "Until the day I looked into his youthful eyes, and I saw my future flash without disguise," her voice cracks on the intensity as she softly sings, "and now he's my whole world."

Emma places her hand over her chest because she feels each one of those words seeping into her heart and warming her very soul. And there's only one image that comes to her mind; with his little freckled nose, mischievous green eyes, and crooked grin.

Her son.

Yet, this entire audience is captivated by Regina's performance, everyone fawning over the love Regina Mills has for Robin, but it's not what Emma sees. She knows in the depths of her soul that this masterpiece is written for one guy only. He's not some ruggedly handsome, bass guitarist, no, he's a little three-year-old filled with rambunctious energy and the sweetest baby giggles.

"And now I know...I'll never be the same," Regina carefully strums, her fingers purposely dragging out the sweet acoustics that vibrate through the entire arena.

Leaving Emma Swan breathless.

~~~~~~~

The bus jumps as Guy drives over something that's most likely dead on the road, that he couldn't exactly see at three o'clock in the morning. Emma's eyelids peel apart, startling her because she had no idea that she even fell asleep. The last thing she remembers is Regina's slick flesh sliding against hers after another mind-blowing orgasm and she had softly kissed Regina, her nails dragging endless patterns against the singer's back.

Her right hand reaches out for the warmth she desires, but when she comes up empty handed, she slides up in bed and glances around the tiny bedroom. Of course, she finds her beautiful girlfriend hunched over a guitar at the end of the bed, reciting the same words over and over again.

Emma crawls slowly behind Regina's back, careful not to make a sound in the night. Tentatively, she wraps her arms around Regina, causing the woman to jump in her embrace. She places a delicate kiss behind her ear and whispers, "Gina..."

"Don't," her girlfriend strictly interjects the plea she knows is about to come.

"Come to bed," she breathlessly purrs just before her lips press a lingering kiss against a throbbing pulse.

"I need to work on the next album," Regina rebuttals, but her body is claiming the exact opposite actually when her head rolls against Emma's collarbone to expose more flesh.

Emma is right there, never missing an opportunity to feel connected to her girlfriend. She wets her lips and softly places another skillful peck, right before she drags her lips against Regina's neck and lightly sucks the damp flesh into her mouth.

"Em," Regina moans softly, not able to even finish her name because of the pleasure buzzing through her limbs at the moment.

"You need sleep. After your tour, you will have six months to work on your next album without any distractions. Don't worry about it right now," she murmurs lazily into Regina's silky neck.

"I have to," and when Regina swallows a rough gulp, Emma feels the tendons stressing to accommodate that small action. "I need to work on it now, so I don't lose time and become overwhelmed. I don't want to relapse," she chokes on her words, forcing Emma to stop her attack and offer her undivided attention. "I know if I stress out over this album and I can't find my motivation, I will turn to another bottle. I don't want that, not again," she sadly expresses as her eyes fill to the brim with tears, but never fall.

"I know and you won't. You won't drink again," Emma firmly demands, but the defeat etched in Regina's face urges her to retract her previous statement, but she doesn't. "If you find the motivation, then write, but don't force yourself. Once this tour is over in August, you will have until January to write. Please don't stress right now, because right now, your main priority is making it through this tour without any speed bumps."

"I should work." Regina shakes her head, like she's trying to toss her emotions right out of her mind as she reaches for her pencil. However, Emma is faster than she is and sneakier, successfully yanking the pencil and notebook out of arm's reach. "Emma." 

She tosses it recklessly across the room and quickly wraps her arms around Regina's torso and her legs around her waist. Despite her girlfriend's cries of protest, Emma latches on like a damn octopus and slams Regina back into the bed, winning herself an unexpected giggle in return. Emma moves like a ninja, gathering up Regina's wrists and pinning them to the mattress while her girlfriend halfheartedly fights back.

"Time for bed," Emma demands, dipping her head lower and capturing Regina's adorable pout.

This is exactly what Regina needs in her life, spontaneous fun. She needs to laugh, a carefree belly laugh that takes her breath away. She needs to let loose and act like a child, even though she never had a childhood and doesn't comprehend what that entails. She needs Emma Swan to show her the meaning of life.

Regina expertly slides her thigh between Emma's legs and presses forcefully, winning herself a sweet groan from Emma's parted lips. "No, we need sleep," Emma rejects the implication and climbs right off her girlfriend, leaving behind a cute little pout and a frustrated groan.

She pats the sheet and waits for Regina to climb right in before tucking them both beneath the comforter. And because Emma knows Regina so well, and understands that the singer is feeling overwhelmed, stressed and vulnerable, Emma holds her close and allows Regina to cuddle against her chest. She gently massages Regina's scalp to help slow down her running mind and she instantly feels the woman relax against her.

"I loved Henry's song," Emma quietly whispers into the peace drifting between them.

"How did you-"

"Because that's exactly how I feel every time I look at him," she explains, inspiring Regina to press a sweet kiss to her chest.

"I love him, you know?"

"I do," Emma happily concedes, stroking those thick, dark tresses until they both drift off to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

A/N: You have all been so amazing!! Enjoy an extra chapter today and don't forget to drop a comment at the end!!!

 


"Swan!" Jefferson's boisterous voice carries easily backstage and startles her heart.

"Chill," Emma breathes out as her two friends come to stand alongside of her, hidden in the shadows of another curtain.

Another concert.

Another city.

Another week.

"Hey, what's up with those circles under Regina's eyes. Are you not her makeup artist anymore? Are you just her fuck-buddy," he mocks in the most condescending tone that provokes Emma to shove him square in the chest, but he just laughs and rubs the inflicted area mindlessly.

"She's stressed."

"Fucking Cora?" Ruby inquires, sounding absolutely exhausted from just having to say the woman's name.

"Yes. Come on guys, she needs a break from working on another album. Plus, she really wants to stay sober and she's struggling. Really struggling," Emma sadly proclaims, staring at her girlfriend in a deep conversation with Mal by the snack table. "Why is she talking to her?"

Jefferson and Ruby both peek over their shoulders to see what Emma is leering at that's creating an image of murder across her face.

"What? You two are dating and she can't speak to women anymore?" Jefferson sarcastically quips with a hint of his protective big cousin instincts shining through.

"No, no. It's not like that...I just don't trust Mal."

"Unless you see Regina suck on that woman's vape pen, you have nothing to worry about. Mal doesn't drink and I highly doubt Regina will smoke anyways," he hastily defends.

"I know, you're right," Emma mumbles as she watches Regina nod along dutifully to whatever Mal is rambling on about.

Never once do her green eyes falter as Mal pulls Regina in for a tight hug and whispers something into her ear before she pulls away and bounces happily off into her corner. The temperature boiling in Emma's face is enough to melt her cheeks right off and all she can do is fidget like a damn junkie.

"Why are you stressing, Ems?" Ruby softly inquires, resting her gentle touch against her shoulder.

She exhales slowly, turning her attention to her best friend. "I don't know. The more she stresses, the more I stress about her sobriety and sanity. I just want to see her happy."

"Look at her, she maybe tired...and a little stressed from this tour and the next album, but she's happy," Jefferson says through a lopsided grin in which Emma simply rolls her eyes from the stupidity behind his words. "Honestly, I've never seen her happier," he vows and Emma's eyes slither back to her girlfriend just in time to see the brunette smirk back at her before strutting away.

~~~~~~~

"With Vegas coming up, I would like to go over the security team. There's been too many slip ups this past year and quite frankly, I don't need anymore mayhem," Regina dutifully explains, her eyes sliding from left to right as she scans over her itinerary again.

Emma exhales and squats down, her girlfriend complicating her job this evening because Regina is so laser focused on the documents in her lap, that she cannot see a clear view of her face. She's certain any minute now Regina is going to bark at her for breathing upon her precious face, but instead the singer scratches something down on the piece of paper and proceeds to chew on the pen cap as she revisits the words once more.

"Regina, look up," Emma whispers, convincing the singer to oblige, but that paper follows her head right up and Regina continues reading.

"Mr. Glass, are you and Mr. Davidson prepared with the security team?" Regina inquires.

"Of course, Miss Mills. I have already spoken with the team and they are all set to escort you from the hotel to the venue and back again. I assure you, there will be no mistakes this time," Sydney respectfully explains with a polite, yet firm nod.

"Very well. Mr. Davidson, I would like you in charge for that weekend. Kathryn?" The blonde snaps to attention, her hand immediately stops from scribbling so furiously the second she hears her boss. "The publicity for the event-"

"Miss Mills, Vegas is two weeks out. I am still working on the publicity for L.A and San Francisco first," Kathryn quickly interrupts with a panic-stricken expression flashing like an ambulance siren in the night.

"Well, Kathryn, I suggest you manage your time accordingly and become more efficient," Regina blankly responds, attempting to scratch something down on the papers being suspended in mid-air.

"Regina, look at me," Emma sighs, still struggling to win her girlfriend's attention, so she can produce the best appearance and not get fired by Cora.

"Miss Swan, I'm working on my events while attempting to memorize this speech for my interview before the concert," Regina professionally replies, the actress on full display for the people moving swiftly around her.

Emma inhales sharply, biting her tongue so she doesn't cause a scene in front of the rest of the crew and attempts to proceed with her job. Her green eyes catch a glimpse of Ruby frowning sympathetically back at her while running the straightener through Regina's ever-growing hair.

That's when Cora makes her grand debut, sweeping through the hotel door with enough power that everyone in the room hesitates if they should actually bow for Her Highness.

"Sydney," she shrieks with enough ice in her tone to freeze the entire room with her single breath.

"Miss Mills," he respectfully answers with his head bowed as if he's not worthy enough to make eye contact.

"I would like to discuss the security team-"

"Already taken care of, mother," Regina absentmindedly chimes in, her eyes still roaming obsessively over the sheets in front of her. "Mr. Davidson will be taking the lead in Vegas."

Cora blinks, obviously perplexed by the notion. Her cold eyes drift toward Sydney, who nods politely, before they crawl to Kathryn for further confirmation and the blonde nods as well. Cora blinks away her confusion and squints at her daughter.

"Well, let's move on to the interview before the concert."

"All prepared, mother," Regina shortly adds on.

Cora remains silent, definitely not praising her daughter on her hard work and dedication, but Emma senses the small smirk tugging at the corner of Regina's mouth and it's enough. Cora's silence is enough to settle the anxiety in Regina's body from all the stress because even though she's not praising her daughter, like a decent mother should, at least she's not belittling her and mentally abusing her in front of all these people.

"Regina," Emma whispers again, trying to coax those big eyes to focus on her and drop those papers.

She places the lipstick in her girlfriend's line of view and finally those irises discover Emma waiting patiently. Delicately, she cups the singer's chin and presses the mulberry shade across the full bottom lip that she absolutely loves sucking between her teeth. Chills run down her spine as a very distinct image comes into view, of her tugging gently on that lip as Regina cried out through her orgasm last night.

"Emma," Regina mutters under her breath when she notices the dazed look in her girlfriend's eyes.

"All set," she chirps and fakes a smile before slowly stepping out of Regina's personal space.

Regina stands with the poise and composure of a true star and sashays toward the ensuite with an extra swing in her hips. Emma scrunches her nose because she is well aware of her girlfriend's teasing ways, but she's suddenly and rudely interrupted.

"See," Jefferson murmurs into her ear, "she's on top of her game. She wouldn't be so alert if she had been drinking or smoking pot," he chuckles and breezes right passed her toward the bathroom to lend a hand if necessary.

~~~~~~~

She blinks and another week passes the entire crew by and finally her son is coming to visit in Chicago. It's a two day event, so Regina's entourage will arrive Friday morning and prepare for a press conference, a meet and greet, then the concert. Saturday, they will have a little down time which is perfect for Emma and her family before the concert. Sunday, they will be leaving in the early afternoon to squeeze in a Wednesday evening show, so Emma will need to soak up the morning with her son.

"Come on, you're just walking down to the lobby," Emma huffs as she tosses a random pen down she has been anxiously twirling for the last ten minutes.

"Emma, no. No more slip ups. If someone spots me in the lobby walking with you and Henry, they will instantly connect the dots."

"What? From last year and that blurry photo?" She picks up the pen again because her body cannot relax from the apprehensive energy buzzing through her system. "You need to get over yourself, nobody is paying that much attention."

"Will you stop twirling that damn pen," Regina snaps, causing Emma's fingers to desist and for that innocent pen to crash to the floor below.

"What is the matter with you?"

"Nothing."

"Yes, because everyone lashes out irrationally over a damn pen," Emma scoffs and swoops down in her chair to retrieve the pen that has caused horrible tension in the room.

"I'm sorry." Regina scrambles off the bed and strides across the room to sink down upon Emma's lap. "I'm just tired. I didn't get much sleep last night and I feel agitated because of it." She snakes her arms around Emma's neck and connects their lips for the slowest, most sensual kiss they may have ever shared. "Forgive me?"

Emma's sneaky fingers slip beneath Regina's blouse and relish in the warm flesh below. "I always do, don't I?" Emma teases playfully, diving right back in for more of those succulent lips that drive her absolutely mad.

Just as her tongue is dipping into her girlfriend's mouth, her phone vibrates in her back pocket. She maneuvers blindly to retrieve the device, never once falling away from Regina's alluring mouth. She glances down at the screen for a split second before slowly ending the kiss.

"It's Guy." Regina nods, but her head is dipping down to embed warm, featherlight kisses just below Emma's jawline, encouraging goosebumps to erupt like a volcano and spread like hot lava. "Hello?" And Emma's voice cracks like a teenage boy experiencing his first taste of pleasure.

"Miss Swan, five minutes away."

"Thanks, Guy," she pants heavily as Regina's talented tongue licks a delicious path down her neck and over the swell of her breasts. She quickly ends the call and cups Regina's face, forcing plump lips back up to meet her own for a fierce kiss that inspires Regina to moan erotically. "I have to go downstairs," Emma gasps the moment she reluctantly pulls away.

"Alright, make sure you come straight up here before you show them to their room. I really want to see him before my press conference."

"Of course," she cheerfully concedes as Regina slips off her lap and keeps herself busy with a small duffel bag while Emma is away.

Emma bolts out the door and bounces between her feet as she waits for the elevator. Her fingers dance against her thigh as she rides down to the lobby and then she bursts out the door the moment they spread wide open for her. She smiles a mile wide as she spots the black limo pulling up to the front. She jogs toward the lobby doors as Guy steps out of the vehicle and opens the door for her family.

"Thanks so much, Guy."

"My pleasure, as usual," he joyfully says with the most endearing smile set into place while his baby blue's sparkle with adoration for just Emma.

"Henry!" She squeals in delight and bends down to unclip his car seat.

"Mommy!"

"Hey, mom," she greets her mother as her fingers move expertly to release her son, all while his tiny legs bounce with joy.

"Hi honey, I've missed you," Mary Margret says with a warm smile that always settles her daughter's racing heart.

"Luckily, it's only been two weeks this time," she acknowledges, swinging her son onto her hip and attacking his entire face with loving kisses.

"Mommy! Shtop!" He giggles and buries his face into her neck to hide away from her brutal attack.

"Never, I missed you so much, bud."

"Miss you, mommy. I heart you!" He exclaims, squeezing with all his might around his mother's neck.

"I heart you too, baby. Now, come on. Regina has a press conference that we have to leave for in a half hour and she really wants to see you," Emma explains as her fingers move to their own accord to tickle more giggles out from her toddler.

Mary Margret kisses her daughter's cheek as Guy follows behind with the light luggage for Emma's family. "How has this tour been? Different from last summer?"

"Yes, a hell of a lot more hectic. They really squeezed in as many cities as possible. All we do is drive and then there's a concert and drive some more and then another concert and repeat."

They walk together through the lobby and toward the elevators and maybe it's just Regina's paranoia rubbing off on her, but she swears most of the guests are watching them carefully. With an unnerving sensation crawling at the back of her neck, she holds Henry closer and to the best of her ability, blocks his face.

"Uhhh, Guy...."

"Yes, Miss Swan?" He nods for her and her mother to enter the elevator first and she doesn't have to be told twice as she rushes inside.

"Are people....staring?"

"Possibly. I believe you have been properly identified on the internet now as Regina's personal makeup artist. We won't even mention the leaked photos," he casually states as if this is all routine and he's reading the instructions from some manual.

"Wonderful," she deadpans, subconsciously holding her son even closer to her chest.

When they reach the eighth floor, Emma hands an extra keycard to Guy, so he can drop off the bags in the appropriate room. Then, they part from Guy and Emma leads the way to Regina's room, swiping her own card and entering without a second thought.

"Regina?" She calls out as her mother closes the door behind them.

"R'Gina?" Henry mimics his mother which prompts the celebrity to make her debut from the bathroom. "R'Gina!"

"There's my little man," she coos as she sweeps across the floor and holds out her arms, ready for one of Henry's infamous leaps into her embrace. "How are you?"

"I'm good," he honestly tells her, with a very serious expression that causes the adults in the room to laugh along. "I like seeing you not in my mommy's phone."

Regina chuckles softly and presses a gentle kiss to his forehead. "I know, Henry, I like seeing you in person as well." Big brown eyes and a sad little pout turn toward Emma behind Henry's back. "He's speaking so clearly now, no more, Gina?" She sadly questions, creating a sorrowful pout around Emma's mouth as well.

"He's getting big," she admits, even if it does kill her to say it out loud. She places her palm against his back and gently rubs up and down. "He's already going to be four in four months."

And the expression that strikes Regina's face is enough to make Emma believe that someone just slapped her across the face. "I've missed so much," she murmurs as Henry cups her cheeks and peers deep into her eyes.

"It's okay, I sh-till like ice cream and my walkie-talkies," he earnestly enlightens her which does elicit a small chuckle in response.

~~~~~~~

"Oh no, something's wrong with the engine, the plane...it's going down!" Regina bellows.

"Mayday! Mayday! Send help!" Henry screams as Regina's legs kick his little body higher into the air and he bounces recklessly on her shins.

Emma smirks to herself and leans heavily into the doorframe, her toothbrush hanging out of her mouth as she watches Regina interact with her son. Her heart swells as a calming sensation washes over her and she knows she picked a keeper, the best option possible for her son.

"Oh no," Regina fakes some crashing sound which produces a light laugh to spill from Emma's foamy mouth. "It's going down," she drags out the last word for as long as possible as she opens her legs and Henry crashes down against her chest.

He bursts into a fit of delirious giggles as Regina catches her breath from flying him through the air upon her legs.

"How do you even have energy after today?" Emma mumbles around her toothbrush and disappears for a brief moment to spit and rinse her mouth. "I'm exhausted," she declares as she enters the room once again and hops onto Regina's bed. "And I sure as hell didn't put on a concert. All I did was apply your makeup...three times today."

"And what a talent that is, I must say," Regina muses as she turns her head and puckers those plump lips, signaling for Emma to lean in and quickly grant her a small kiss.

"Again! Again!" Henry chants as he lifts his head off the singer's chest, his eyes wide with amusement and his cheeks burning from his laughter.

"Okay, again," Regina wholeheartedly agrees, lifting his little body back up onto her shins and flying him up into the air.

"I hate to be a buzzkill, but it's bedtime little boy," Emma states in her most authoritative tone and jumps off the bed to peel her son from Regina's legs.

"But mommy, I miss you and R'Gina," he whines as his mother sets him upon her hip.

"I know, bud, but it's way past your bedtime and Regina needs some sleep." His bottom lip dramatically puckers out as he blinks slowly to portray his best puppy dog eyes. "I promise you, we will wake up early and spend the day together. Now, say goodnight to Regina."

Regina sits up on the bed and kisses his temple sweetly. "Goodnight, Henry."

"Night, R'Gina," he murmurs lazily through a very wide yawn causing both women to chuckle softly.

"Goodnight, Gina," Emma teases and presses a small kiss to the corner of her girlfriend's mouth.

"I'll see you two in the morning," she sing-songs and watches intently as Emma waltzes out the door.

She absolutely detests the idea of sleeping away from Regina tonight, but her family is only here for two days and she needs to spend every second with them. She trudges back to her hotel room with Henry falling fast asleep in her arms. Once she enters, she finds her mother sitting in the dark with nothing but her phone illuminating her pale face.

"Emma?" The older woman jumps, startled by her daughter's sneaky presence.

"Hey, what are you doing?" She whispers and gently lays her son down on the bed, tucking him in safely with a sweet goodnight kiss.

"Nothing, playing a game," Mary Margret mutters under her breath and Emma's just going to pretend she doesn't notice the pink shade tinting her mother's cheeks. "How was Henry with Regina? Excited, I assume."

"Yeah, he was like a clingy monkey, climbing all over her. And I have no idea how the hell that woman kept up after a day like today," Emma breathes out and slumps next to her mother on the couch. "How did the move go?"

"Oh, fine." She waves off the question and attempts subtlety, when she slides her phone beneath her thigh. "Henry loves his room. And the minute you come home, we are going furniture shopping."

"I know, I know," Emma laughs with her hands up in surrender. "I can't believe Henry will be starting preschool in the fall," she exhales, her head falling back to rest against the hard cushion.

"He's ready, sweetie. Don't you worry," her mother states with conviction and pats Emma's knee for comfort and support.

"I know, you're right," Emma mumbles, scrubbing her hands down her tired face.

"How is Regina doing? Still sober, I see."

Emma's thin eyebrows furrow as she cocks her head to the side to examine her mother's expression. "How do you know that?" She practically squawks from her baffled state of mind.

"Let's just say I recognize the signs of alcoholism," Mary Margret vaguely supplies for an answer and pulls out her phone as an obvious distraction and dismissal from further conversation.

"Uh...how? It's only ever been you and me."

"Well, I did have a brief sixteen years of life before you," her mother mocks, absently scrolling through her phone to avoid this topic of conversation, yet again.

"Mom, I never ask for much on your past. I never push, but if you can offer some advice on alcoholism from a personal experience, well then, I'm going to have to push for some information. This is all so new to me and I'm really fucking clueless here."

Mary Margret inhales sharply and twists her thin lips as she shoves her phone back beneath her thigh. Whatever she endured in her past is clearly something she has wanted to keep buried away...far, far away from Emma.

"Mom-"

"Look," her mother sighs and turns to offer her full attention, provoking Emma's heart to sink to the pit of her stomach. "I never wanted to discuss this, but we are older now and that was a very long time ago so...here goes. As you know my mother died when I was very young." Emma offers the smallest head nod because her mother never speaks about her past, so she's sort of lost in a trance. "My father started drinking heavily after that. Most of my memories with my father are of me taking care of him as he stumbled into the house in the middle of the night. I was very young and no child should ever have to take care of their father or witness the things I had when he was drunk. He was never abusive or violent with me, but I couldn't stand watching him throw away his life."

Emma swallows thickly, never once did it ever occur to her that her grandfather was a raging alcoholic. Something unsettling crawls through her intestines and slithers around until she's almost doubled over in pain, because what her mother worked her whole life to run away from, Emma's running toward with open arms.

"When I found out about you, I knew I couldn't raise a newborn and support my father as well. He forced me to give you up for adoption, which you already know."

Emma nods again, her eyes glossing over from the pain her mother endured, yet, she is still so brave and confident today. A real fighter in life. Someone Emma aspires to be.

"He had a younger sister and brother-in-law who were ecstatic to take you from me...I should have ran away that day, but I didn't. You know they never drew up any legal documents because they thought I was young and naive. They just came and took you from me and those two were far worse than my father when it came to drinking."

Mary Margret wipes angrily at the tears slowly rolling down her cheeks and sniffles to keep the rest at bay. However, the heartache of her past is there and just as painful as it was twenty-four years ago.

"I never wanted you to know about this, but they neglected you all the time. I would sneak by and take care of you, until I couldn't take it anymore and one day I packed you up and ran. I was so stupid, Emma. I didn't even have a car seat. You were one and I just strapped you into the passenger seat and drove off." Mary Margret breathes out a shaky breath full of heartache. "God Emma, you were so small, just blinking up at me with your big sad eyes." She shakes her head and dismisses the thought faster than the image swept through her mind. "I wrote my father a goodbye letter, but never did I ever hear from any of them again." Mary Margret laughs humorlessly, her fingers still scrubbing away the evidence of her horrendous past that still abuses her heart to this very day. "How could I? I didn't have a phone or an address for them to track me down."

"I'm so sorry, mom," Emma cries out and lunges forward, her body crashing against her mother's petite frame and holding onto her for dear life.

Mary Margret doesn't even falter, she wraps her arms tightly around her daughter, the one she has vowed to devote her life to and holds her as a few more tears tumble freely down her cheeks for the first time in over twenty years.

"It's not your fault, Emma. Besides, I don't think I would have found the courage to leave my father behind if it weren't for you. You may not think so, but you saved my life. You made my life so much better, richer, happier," she coos and squeezes her daughter impossibly tight, hoping to pour her love and devotion into that one embrace.

Emma hiccups, breathing in her mother's familiar scent and closes her eyes for a moment to memorize this important step in their relationship.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't honest from the beginning. I was just ashamed of my past and I didn't think it was necessary for you to know."

Emma laughs lightly and pulls away from her mother's warm embrace, brushing those pesky tears away. "It's fine. I understand why you didn't tell me and I think that's because I'm a mother now. Maybe five years ago, I wouldn't have understood, but now I do."

"Look at us, blubbering messes," the older woman laughs, sweeping away her daughter's tears just as she always has.

Emma slowly gathers Mary Margret's hands into her own and sobers up, peering deep into those olive green eyes. "What do I do about Regina?"

"Honey," Mary Margret sighs heavily and shakes her head. "There's nothing you can do. Addicts don't change because people force them to. They change from hitting rock bottom and because they, themselves, want to change. Not because someone else needs them to."

"Seriously? You honestly think Regina won't change for me?"

Her mother purses her lips in the most pitiful way and Emma already knows her answer. "No baby, Regina will only change for herself when she's finally had enough. And she hasn't had enough, yet," she solemnly states.

Emma exhales a sob through her nose and slowly crawls into her mother's lap, who is already waiting with open arms to hold her baby while she cries herself to sleep.

~~~~~~

Sometime in the night, Emma blinks the sleep away, still curled up in her mother's arms. Slowly, she sneaks out of the embrace, careful not to wake her mother as she quietly exits the room. She closes the door softly and tiptoes down the hall toward Regina's room. There's a heavy weight crushing down upon her heart and all she wants to do is feel Regina's skin against her own.

She knows her girlfriend will be passed out from the lack of sleep the night before and the hectic day they endured earlier. She swipes the keycard and jumps back the moment she steps into the hotel room, blinding her with every fucking lightbulb turned on.

"Regina?" She calls out, closing the door behind herself.

When she receives no reply, she rushes around the corner and breathes out a heavy sigh when she finds Regina hunched over her guitar, scribbling like a madwoman.

"What the hell are you doing up?"

Regina doesn't even bother looking in her direction as she mutters, "Please. I'm trying to work."

"You didn't sleep last night, you worked all day and then played with Henry, you need sleep before you have a nervous breakdown," Emma scolds, crossing the room with every intention on stealing that damn guitar.

"I'm focused. Just let me finish here," Regina says in a tone that is half a threat and half her trying to keep her temper under control.

"You need sleep," Emma whispers as she crawls onto the bed and slides behind her girlfriend. "Come to bed," she husks deliberately against the shell of her ear, knowing it's Regina's weak spot.

Regina shudders, but not in a way that Emma is used to seeing and there's that twisting in her gut again. "Please," the singer urges, "I'm really trying to finish up this song."

"Why are you so short with me?" Emma gently questions, her arms slithering around the tiny waist as she places a tender kiss to Regina's temple, but the woman stiffens.

"I'm not. I'm just trying to finish this up," she says in a flat tone that confirms the shortness Emma was just complaining about.

"And I'm trying to take care of you, you need sleep." Emma trails delicate kisses all down Regina's neck. "Come to bed with me," she murmurs into the heated flesh as she pulls down Regina's loose t-shirt and kisses the path across her shoulder.

Regina closes her eyes and inhales a deep breath, exhaling her anxiety out slowly until she succumbs to Emma's pleasure and rolls her neck, offering more of her flesh. "Fine."

Emma coaxes her girlfriend into following her into the bed, where she holds Regina tight. Except she notices the tension buzzing through Regina's limbs and radiating right off her.

"I love you," Emma shyly says as her eyelids grow heavier and all her thoughts slowly drift away.

"I love you, too," Regina sincerely says and places a sweet kiss to pale lips as she watches the blonde fall fast asleep.

 

Chapter Text


"And maybe I should surrender," Regina sings and immediately yanks out her earplug and runs her itchy fingers through her hair. "Stop! Stop!" She sighs heavily and places her microphone back in its stand. "The sound is off, doesn't it sound distorted?" She presses, glaring at Milah for some support.

Milah pulls out her own earbud and glances back at Killian warily before she nods. "Yeah, a little," she meekly agrees.

"Alright, well let's see if we can clean it up and take it back from the top," Robin easily recommends to the sound crew and readjusts the strap upon his shoulder.

The crew nods from behind their station while Regina watches intently as they move a few dials around until they offer a thumbs up. She places her earplug back in and nods toward Outlaw to begin again. The second Robin's fingers create the first note, Regina rips out her earplug again and sighs.

"How is this so difficult? Last night the sound quality was perfect, what the hell could have possibly happened from then until now?" She exasperates and storms off stage to fetch a bottle of water, leaving everyone else on stage to flounder under pressure.

"I'll talk to her," Robin breathes out and removes his bass guitar, handing it off to a backstage crew member.

Regina angrily twists off her cap from the bottle of water and hastily soothes her sore vocal cords with the chilled liquid. She closes her eyes for a brief moment and counts to ten, hoping to settle the unnerving energy prickling just below her skin that she's never quite experienced this intensely before.

"Hey, you alright?" Mal questions, curling her long fingers around Regina's bicep for comfort, but the brunette flinches from the unwanted touch and shrugs the woman off. "Jeez, what's gotten into you?" When Regina refuses to utter a word and resumes her consumption of hydration, Mal continues. "Regina, when was the last time you slept?" She softly investigates, full of genuine concern.

"I don't know," she mumbles under her breath, running her fingers through her hair once again. "Three...four days?"

"Girl, that is not okay. You need to chill."

"I don't have time to chill. I have a lot going on in my life right now. What I need is to keep moving forward and finish this damn album, so I can focus on...Robin..." Regina awkwardly finishes as she notices the man coming up behind Mal.

"Hey, you alright, babe?" He gently inquires, placing a delicate kiss to her cheek which only causes the blood in her veins to boil.

"I'm fine," she snaps, the lack of sleep finally dragging Regina to her brink of sanity and leaving her to teeter on the edge of a cliff. "I apologize," she quickly mutters, "I haven't been sleeping well and I'm just overtired is all."

And she swears if one more person asks her what's wrong or if she's been sleeping, she will take out this entire crew and leave them all for dead. Her brain feels fuzzy from the exhaustion and her limbs feel like she's carrying around an extra weight and she's fairly confident she's going to claw her skin right off from the anxiety slithering through her flesh.

"After this show you need to catch up on some z's," Mal earnestly says.

"I can't. Emma's son is in town."

"So?" Mal scoffs, glancing between the couple for further explanation, but senses she will be ignored so she continues. "He's just your employee's kid."

"She's not just my employee," Regina explodes and all too quickly she realizes the turmoil she's burying herself in. "She's not just my employee," she tries again in a calmer tone, "she's a very close friend of mine and I adore her son."

"Alright, girl," Mal leans in and hugs her extra tight, with Robin's curious eyes raining down upon them. "I'll text you later," she whispers into Regina's ear, for only her to hear, but Robin catches the murmur.

"Regina," Robin begins as Mal sashays away with nothing but confidence. "What-"

"Come on, we need to get back on stage and work out whatever these incompetent fools are failing miserably at," she sasses before she places a quick peck to his cheek and drags him back on stage before another can of worms explodes before her.

~~~~~~~

"Where were you earlier?" A deep voice whispers, ghosting just over the shell of her ear and causing her to jump.

"Excuse me?" Emma grudgingly sasses as Robin hooks his bass over his shoulder and prepares to enter on stage for the duet between Outlaw and Regina.

His piercing blue eyes frantically scan from left to right to ensure their privacy before he leans in again, taking Emma by total surprise. "Earlier, during sound check, you weren't here."

"Not that it's any of your business, but I was with my son. I only have two days with him, so Regina gave me the morning and afternoon off. Why does it even matter?" She petulantly bites back, folding her arms over her chest as a protective barrier.

"Regina needed you this afternoon," he whispers, his baby blues still keeping a watchful eye out for any eavesdroppers. She furrows her brows and simply stares at the man, wordlessly urging him to proceed. "She was overtired and..." his eyes scan the area once more, causing Emma to exhale her impatience with the man. "...I don't know. Something was off and Mal was trying to console her...it was..."

"Off," she flatly finishes his rambling, slowly raising one eyebrow skeptically. "So, what does this have to do with me?"

He laughs humorlessly and fiddles with his bass. "I'm not an idiot." And that one eyebrow suspended high against Emma's forehead somehow reaches newest heights. "Well, maybe at first I was a little naïve and blinded by the idea of Regina Mills even glancing my way, but I get it now."

"Get what?" She growls in a low, threatening tone that suggests he better keep talking and explain what he's dancing around before she punches him in the nose.

"Emma," he sighs heavily, his eyes finally locking onto hers and she so vividly sees the sincerity shining through. "I know I'm just some nice guy to escort Regina to functions and hold her purse while she shines in the spotlight." Her heart free falls into an empty abyss while she stares with her mouth agape and her arms slowly unfolding and falling to her sides. "After a few months, it wasn't hard to see the way she looks at you is nothing like the way she looks at me. I could only dream of a woman that special staring back at me the way she does with you."

Emma's eyes double in size as she proceeds to just stare like a fucking moron because again, her mouth only works when she should be shutting the hell up.

"Do you honestly think I would go on for an entire year, following her around like a lost puppy and never receive anything more than a few kisses?" He scoffs, a small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I understand her situation and the predicament you both are in and not many guys would do this, so I guess that's why I stuck around. I didn't want some other arm-candy to come around and expose her...or you for that matter."

"I-"

"Regina and I have an agreement." He pauses for a moment and gazes very deeply into her eyes. "I hope you know how much she cares about you."

"I know," her voice finally cooperates and produces the tiniest squawk of a response.

"Anyways, I found her conversation with Mal a little shady. I don't know why," he mumbles mostly to himself as a blinding white beam cascades down just in front of their toes. "That's my cue," he winks and follows Milah and Killian on stage, waving happily as if he didn't just flip Emma's whole world upside down.

~~~~~~~

"....five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten," Henry blurts out in one big word and squeals, "ready or not, here I come!"

Emma shakes her head at her son's inability to wait the full ten seconds as she crawls on the floor toward the ensuite. The little pitter-patters of his feet echo, even though he's so desperately trying to tiptoe and be sneaky as he searches for them. She discreetly slips through the doorway on her hands and knees and hides behind the cracked door.

It's so far past Henry's bedtime that he's slightly delirious and just slap happy now and honestly, Regina might even be rocking in that boat alongside of him.

"Sssshhhhhh," purrs seductively behind her ear and catches her off guard, but she manages to resist creating a single sound.

Regina is also on her hands and knees as she reaches with one hand to cup Emma's cheek and guide her dainty lips against her own. Emma sighs from the connection pulsating off her girlfriend and seeping into her own skin and warming her heart. Her girlfriend deepens the kiss almost immediately, slipping her velvety tongue into her mouth and moaning softly into the kiss.

"Probably not appropriate with my son on a journey to find us," Emma murmurs, lightly laughing as she pulls away from the sensual kiss.

"Probably not," Regina agrees through a mischievous smirk. "But you said yourself, this is the last round and then he's off to bed," she provocatively insinuates, her eyes flashing with a spark of lust, lighting up that familiar flame of need.

"That goes for you, too." Emma strictly informs her. "You haven't been sleeping well lately and you are just running on fumes right now."

"I am not," the brunette hastily defends in a hushed whisper, not to draw any attention and sell out their hiding spot. "I will prove it to you, too."

"Keep those greedy little hands to yourself. You are sleeping tonight, even if I have to wrap you up like a mummy between the sheets."

"Or," Regina husks, dragging out that simple word as she leans into the minimal space between them, her eyes trailing down to admire the swell of Emma's chest. "You could just wrap yourself all around my body," she insinuates, producing a sweltering heat to burn against Emma's flesh and stain her cheeks.

Emma swallows down the urge to flip Regina on her back against this cold hard floor and ravish her in ways she hasn't had the opportunity to do, just yet.

"I win!" Henry screams, startling both women to the point that they both yelp out in fear.

"Shit," Emma murmurs. "Yup," she quickly fakes a smile and takes a deep breath to calm her erratic heart. "You win, buddy. Now, time for bed," she reminds him and swoops up the little boy before his cries of protest begin. "Say, goodnight."

"Good night R'Gina," Henry says through a pout that Regina cannot resist.

She leans forward and kisses his forehead and whispers, "good night, my little man."

Emma quickly exits Regina's hotel room and carries Henry back to her mother's room. She's not at all surprised to find her mother half asleep on the bed, so she lays Henry down beside her and smiles when the older woman senses his presence and pulls him in close. She waits a few minutes for Henry to fall into a deep sleep before she sneaks out of the room and back into Regina's.

The second Regina's door closes, Emma's attacked. The singer pounces, her lips crashing aggressively against Emma's as those fingers move at an expert skill to remove her tank top. Emma gasps, struggling to catch up to Regina's speed as her shirt is thrown to the ground in a haste and her pants are being shoved down her thighs.

"No, we agreed sleep," Emma weakly declares, her willpower slipping through her fingertips when the cool air licks the already wet area between her thighs.

"You did, I did no such thing," Regina fires back, sliding her naked body back up Emma's in the most sexy manner.

"You're naked," Emma whines because she knows not even Jesus himself could keep her from worshipping Regina's goddess figure if he planted himself directly between them.

Regina hums in a cocky tone as her hands roughly grope Emma's full breasts and her mouth comes crashing down upon hers again. And there's literally nothing else Emma can do but whimper into the gratifying stimulation and surrender to Regina's advances.

Yet, she still tries to argue because that's what they just love to do with each other. "You really need sleep," she groans, her body betraying her and bucking off the door to gain more friction against her slick skin.

"What I need is you."

"No, seriously," she gasps as Regina forgoes kissing her mouth because she's too busy talking. Full, succulent lips set up camp against Emma's pulse point and suck until she's writhing against Regina's body. "You have to catch up on sleep before you have a nervous breakdown."

Regina slowly pulls away and glares hard at Emma to the point where she thinks she might actually shrivel up and die.

"Fine, go to bed then. I'll just take care of my problem on my own." Regina shrugs carelessly and pushes herself off Emma's body, but the blonde is quick to react and grab Regina's wrist before she gets too far.

"No, don't be like that," Emma whispers, tugging the older woman back against her bare skin and curls a chunk of hair behind Regina's ear. "I refuse to be the person that didn't satisfy Regina Mills," she claims in a teasing tone with a goofy grin that instantly brings a smile to the singer's face.

"Prove it," her girlfriend taunts, stepping back to show off her damn body like the prize that it is and Emma doesn't even hesitate.

She steps forward, her hand cupping the back of Regina's neck as she devours her mouth and walks her backwards toward the bed. She makes sure to prove that she is in charge with her tongue dominating the kiss and her hands guiding Regina every step of the way. She lays her girlfriend down on the bed, not once breaking apart their wild kiss, as she crawls on top of her.

By the way Regina is squirming beneath her, she knows that there's a desperation crawling inside of this woman tonight and she needs to tame her body once and for all. She doesn't waste a single second with foreplay or doting kisses. Instead, her blonde locks tickle a path down Regina's tiny frame, until her head is dipping down and licking the familiar taste of the exquisite Regina Mills.

They both moan at the feeling and dear god, Regina wasn't kidding when she claimed she needed her. She's already soaking wet and Emma has only kissed her so far and the thought of her being able to turn Regina on this much is enough to send a fierce chill to run down her spine.

She grips the back of thick thighs and pushes them roughly until Regina's knees are almost connecting with her chest. Emma hungrily swipes her tongue through the wet folds again, her eyes darting up to watch as Regina's back arches off the mattress and she moans her approval.

She never takes her eyes off the most erotic scene she has ever seen while her tongue circles rapidly against Regina's clit. Her girlfriend writhes in the sexiest manner, with her perky breasts bouncing as Emma ravishes her like no lover has before.

"God yes," Regina moans, her head tilting back as she slams her eyes shut and cherishes the pleasure Emma is offering. "Fuck," she chokes out as Emma easily slips one finger in and then another in a matter of seconds. "Emma," she pants heavily, and it's the most seductive way anyone has ever said her name and Emma almost explodes right then and there from the sound alone.

She focuses all her attention into Regina at that moment though and pushes her own needs aside. The flat of her tongue presses down against the swollen bud as her fingers pump furiously and not once does she stop until Regina is pushing her face closer, grinding wildly against her mouth and crying out through her orgasm, releasing all over her.

"You're so sexy," Emma shyly compliments as she peppers Regina's trembling body with wet kisses.

Regina simply chuckles and yanks Emma back up her body, so she can thank her with a searing kiss that leaves them both dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

"I needed you," Regina gasps, still struggling for clean air to fill her deprived lungs.

"I know, but seriously, you need rest now," she sternly declares, preparing herself for a battle she knows her girlfriend is ready to fight over.

"After I have my wicked way with you," the older woman claims, still coming down from her high. Regina rolls on top of Emma and pins her to the mattress below. "I have so much planned for this gorgeous figure," she husks with so much intent hidden behind her words that Emma's body involuntarily jerks forward for attention.

"But-" her whining is instantly cut off when Regina grinds her smooth mound down against her own. "Fuck," she groans and slams her eyes shut as the most glorious sensation prickles through her blood and erupts against her clit.

Regina smirks, fully proud of herself for distracting her girlfriend before she connects their lips in the sweetest kiss. She sneaks a hand between them and massages the heavy breast that she can never seem to get enough of. It was hard for her not to notice the swell of Emma's chest and how she was blessed in that department the first time she met her and one year later, she's still crazy for them.

Emma skates her fingertips down Regina's ribs, expertly following each dip and causing her girlfriend to squirm on top of her. She palms the sexy curve of Regina's hips until her hands are groping that full bottom that she loves to playfully smack when nobody is looking. Her nails embed little crescents as she urges Regina to push down further and pick up the pace.

Deep moans, sexy gasps of pleasure, with the mix of their warm tongues and their hands well placed from lots of practice and both women are crying out from the intensity of their orgasms far too quickly. And the extreme pleasure has little to do with how attractive the other is or how skilled they are in bed. The euphoria they both reach is strictly from the intimacy and bond they only discover within each other.

"Fuck, I love you, Emma," Regina groans, connecting her forehead against Emma's heaving chest.

Emma pouts and she's not entirely sure why, but like Robin mentioned earlier, something feels off and leaving her quite nauseous. She threads her fingers in tangled locks and holds Regina even closer.

"I love you, too," she whispers so delicately and as much as she's praying that this woman will fall asleep, is as much energy as Regina comes back at her with.

And these two women spend the entire night making love until the sun is peeking over the horizon and Regina is left with another sleepless night.

 

Chapter Text



"Is Regina still asleep?" Ruby whispers as three sets of intrusive eyes land upon Emma sneaking out of Regina's tiny bedroom at the back of the tour bus.

Kathryn is glaring over her laptop and Emma senses some concern for the singer, but mostly she feels the cold hard glare that could probably strike her dead at any moment. Jefferson and Ruby are watching her carefully, full of sorrow and compassion. Emma tiptoes like a damn cartoon character through the bus before sliding beside her sister and curling up right against the woman's lanky arm.

"Yeah, she's out cold," she whispers, petrified of waking the woman who has now been asleep for seven hours.

After their long night of going at each other like a couple of teenagers experiencing phenomenal sex for the very first time, Emma spent the morning with her son, mother, and Regina. Together they said their goodbyes around noon and when Regina climbed onto the tour bus, she passed out like someone knocked her over the head with a club and left her for dead.

At first, Emma was just as exhausted from staying up all night as well, but after a three hour nap, she was wide awake, but Regina was still in a deep slumber. She spent the next few hours falling deeper and deeper down the internet's rabbit hole which she definitely regrets. She stumbled upon some pictures of herself, carrying Henry through the hotel lobby that weekend, just like she suspected. And of course, someone zoomed in on her and Henry and placed it next to the blurry picture of Henry and Regina over a year ago.

"Is this the same little boy?"

"There's no way to tell, that picture with Regina Mills is way too blurry."

"It's definitely the same little boy. Do you hear me squealing?"

"Oh my god! Regina and the makeup artist are holding the little boy exactly the same way!"

"Everyone needs to calm down, it's obviously her makeup artist's son!"

"Why would she bring her son on tour? That's so irresponsible."

"Where is this little boy's father?"

"Regina is obviously close to this boy if she was spotted last year holding him."

"Why does any of this matter? Regina is with Robin, obviously."

"I don't care what anyone says, I am just going to sit here in my little bubble and pretend that Regina, that little boy and the makeup artist are a family."

Yeah...Cora's definitely going to have her head for that last one.

Anyways, after far too much celebrity gossip and theories, Emma found herself restless and decided to sneak out and allow Regina some time to sleep alone.

"I'm glad she's still asleep, she needs it after what? Four restless nights ," Jefferson exasperates and tosses his cards between him and Ruby in defeat.

"Yes, I don't understand why she's so stressed about this next album? She has until March this time," Emma grumbles and snuggles further into Ruby's arm for some much-needed comfort.

"Honey, she just released two albums practically back to back, I'm sure she's running low on inspiration. I guarantee that's what's driving her a little mad," Jefferson defends with a careless shrug of his shoulder while his hands shuffle the cards.

"I guess so," she mutters as her eyes wander aimlessly around the bus to find Kathryn eyeing her curiously.

Yet, the other woman displays a blank expression when their eyes lock onto each other's. Emma's heart races just a tad faster and she isn't entirely sure why, but she chalks it up to her always hating the idea of all eyes on her. Kathryn's eyes slowly crawl back to her laptop without a word spoken and Emma has no problem pretending that interaction never happened.

"So, did Regina and Henry enjoy their time together as well?" Ruby questions just to fill the silence stretching between them.

"I know she was looking forward to seeing him," Jefferson adds on, passing out cards between Ruby and himself.

"I think so. I mean, she didn't even catch up on her sleep just to make sure she didn't miss a moment with Henry."

"That's good to hear," he hums softly and again the small group falls awkwardly silent while he and Ruby focus on their game.

Green eyes travel back toward the door she snuck out of moments ago and again, Emma feels a sinking sensation in her chest that she can't quite name.

"Do you think she should be sleeping this long?" She absentmindedly questions, unaware that her big trap is revealing the thoughts in her head once again without her consent.

"I'm sure she's exhausted and needed this rest," Ruby nonchalantly replies, never once lifting her head from the cards arranged in front of her to find the pout on her best friend's face.

"It's just...not like her..." she stammers with her eyes still glued to the shut door.

"Baby cakes, she needs rest," Jefferson exhales in annoyance, encouraging Kathryn to peek over her laptop once again.

"If you are concerned, maybe you should wake her," Kathryn casually recommends with the least amount of enthusiasm possible in a tone.

"Maybe I should."

"Don't you dare," Jefferson barks out, but Emma's already standing on her two feet and out of his reach.

She leaves behind her friends, people she spent almost the entire summer with last year, but now, she seems to be finding her time always occupied with a gorgeous brunette. She sneaks back into the pitch-black room and stumbles slightly when the bus swerves. She crawls onto the bed and slips beneath the sheets undetected.

She should have minored in ninja skills in college.

She finds Regina passed out on her stomach with her arms tucked beneath her pillow and her wild mane acting as a curtain to hide away her peaceful face. Emma reaches in the small gap between them and brushes those long tresses out of her face.

"Regina?"

Nothing. Not a flicker of eyelids. Not a soft, yet sexy hum in response.

"Regina?" She sings softly and presses the most delicate kiss to full, parted lips.

Zilch. Not a squirm. Not a groan. Not a, "leave me the hell alone, Swan".

"Regina," she says louder in a more serious tone.

Nada. Not a change in breathing. Not a grumpy turn of her head.

"Hey," she tries louder this time and shakes Regina's shoulder to awaken her senses.

Regina groans this time, one eye peeking through her heavy lids, before it slips shut once again. "Huh?"

"You've been asleep for almost eight hours now. Maybe you should wake up. Eat something," Emma suggests in a whisper as she leans forward to drop a loving kiss to Regina's bare shoulder.

"Uh-huh," Regina halfheartedly agrees, but Emma knows she's still teetering on the edge of dreamland and reality.

"Regina..."

"I'm up," Regina mumbles, but she's anything but conscious to the world around her.

"Do you want to sleep more?" She softly inquires, trailing a path of featherlight kisses across her girlfriend's shoulder toward the warm crook of her neck.

"Sure," Regina mumbles into the pillow.

"Do you want me to leave?"

"Never," she states and scoots closer to the comforting warmth emitting from her lover.

"Okay," Emma sighs and pulls Regina into her embrace. "Sleep, we can talk later."

And of course, she receives nothing in response as her girlfriend falls fast asleep in her arms and Emma tries to come up with a solution to help Regina sleep at night like normal humans do.

~~~~~~~~

Warmth prickles against her eyelids and encourages her to stretch those lazy lids and greet the day. She slowly peels them apart, squinting from the pink and orange hues shining through the small windows of the bus. She groans and stretches out her long limbs, absolutely loving the extra weight entangled around her body and keeping her warm.

"Good, you're up," Regina whispers, her voice sounding so much rougher than the usual natural rasp.

"I should be saying that to you. I was worried that you were dead for a while. That is until I woke you, but then I was just convinced that you were morphing into a zombie."

"Stop rambling," Regina groans, palming her entire hand down on Emma's face to physically silence her.

Emma just laughs in return and bites down on Regina's palm, her teeth grazing the soft flesh. "But seriously, I was worried," Emma states with conviction, placing her hand over Regina's and dragging it down to her chest. "Are you okay?"

"The stress wore me down," Regina sighs and turns on her side to face the blonde staring back at her with worrisome eyes. Brown eyes drift down to the hands resting upon Emma's chest while her nails lightly scratch the warm flesh. "Between the hours of this tour, my mother and her new album, and then worrying about missing just a second with Henry...I just over did it," she trails off as embarrassment tinges her cheeks a pale shade of pink.

"I mean, you wouldn't even open your eyes when I woke you up around eight last night."

"I'm sorry, I don't even remember that."

"Do you feel better now?" Emma gently presses on as she peers deep into wholesome cocoa irises. "Your voice sounds a little raspier than normal," she acknowledges, turning on her side to offer her undivided attention.

"I know," Regina exhales and scoots closer, wedging her thigh in between Emma's warm legs.

"Do you want me to make you some tea?"

A smile instantly spreads wildly into Regina's cheeks, inspiring her to lean forward and brush her lips delicately against Emma's. "I would love that," she admits, her smile never vanishing through the tender kiss.

"Alright, I'll make you some tea, but then we need to talk," and just like that, Emma watches as Regina's grin slips away.

"About?" Her girlfriend croaks out, straining against the sore muscles in her throat to speak her concern.

"Robin."

Emma pecks her lips quickly and scrambles out of bed and out the door before Regina has a chance to stop her. She glances at the clock illuminating from the microwave and sighs when her mind accepts that it's twenty minutes after five o'clock in the morning. Quickly, she heats up some water in the microwave and tears open a package of tea for Regina. She adds lots of honey and lemon to help soothe her strained throat and sneaks back into the back of the bus before any of her roommates stir.

"Extra lemon and honey," Emma informs her as she hands over the mug and slides right back into the spot she vacated moments ago. "There was this Polish chick that I used to work with at this dive bar and whenever I would strain my voice from hollering over the rowdy crowds, she would make this remedy with freshly squeezed lemons and honey. She would have me take shots of them throughout the shift and by the end, my voice would always come back," she explains, flashing a cheeky grin as Regina hangs on every word with her fingers curled securely around the warmth of the mug.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." She fidgets nervously with the sheets before she rests her back against the headboard and contemplates what she would like to say.

"Robin," her girlfriend flatly supplies, urging Emma to spit out whatever is dancing around upon her tongue.

"Right." Emma rolls her head to the right and takes in Regina's rigid posture while she stares aimlessly into her steaming tea. "He approached me today-yesterday," she stammers, but Regina hardly even blinks and proceeds to sip her beverage. "He told me that he knows your relationship is a sham and that you guys have some...' agreement'," Emma actually gestures with air quotes to support her claim, even if it's completely juvenile and pointless.

"Yes."

Emma's lips slowly peel apart as her jaw slacks from the confusion swirling around in her brain. She studies the way her girlfriend casually sips her tea as if this conversation is as common as exchanging a simple hello.

"Wh-why would you have kept that from me?" She seethes, glaring at Regina in a mix of hurt and shock.

Regina eyes her over the rim of the mug and slowly swallows the hot liquid soothing her raw throat. She lowers the cup to her lap, but her fingers remain securely locked around the heat to help relax her anxious nerves.

"Nobody knows." Regina shrugs casually. "Everyone, including my mother, assumes Robin still thinks we are in a serious relationship. To be fair, he only questioned my actions after my time spent in Maine."

"But after all that worrying I did over you two-"

"And I told you there was nothing to worry about," she firmly states, her eyes narrowing at a flustered Emma.

"It doesn't matter, anyone in my position would have stressed about it. You could have just told me that Robin knew and saved me the time and energy worrying about him trying to get in your pants."

"Oh stop, you know I would never sleep with a man."

"That doesn't matter-"

"No, it does matter. I told you nothing was going to happen and I thought you trusted me."

"I did-I do. But-"

"No," Regina sternly cuts her off with a strict tone and a fierce glare that has Emma snapping her mouth shut. "If I would have told you that Robin was playing the part as well, then you wouldn't have felt any concern and everyone would have slowly started to figure it out. I don't want a single person finding out about this because then it will slowly be leaked out into the public-"

"That's bullshit. We've been sneaking around for almost a year now and the public is clueless, but all our close friends are aware."

"And that's a huge risk, besides, we didn't say anything about our relationship, they all just started putting two and two together," Regina declares with an exaggerated eye roll as she brings her mug back to her lips and sips slowly.

"I think you're just overly paranoid."

"And I think you are far too relaxed. Do you honestly think I don't see all those tweets and comments on Instagram about 'the mysterious little boy and his blonde mother,'?" She rolls her eyes again at her girlfriend's ignorance. "I know people are growing suspicious about my relationship with you and Henry and I just cannot risk anymore slip ups. And don't act like you would be fine with it all, I know how much it irks you when photos of Henry pop up."

Emma slams her head back against the headboard because she hates how right Regina is and how much she hates that she feels that way. She should be furious and want to be open and expose their beautiful relationship, but in the end, she doesn't want her son in the spotlight and she really loves stepping out into the public eye and not having the paparazzi or crazed fans chasing her down the street.

Regina gently sets her mug down on the nightstand and easily slides into her lap. Emma's hands move to their own accord, gliding up those thick thighs to rest comfortably on Regina's hips. Her girlfriend drapes her arms around her shoulders and buries her fingers deep in messy golden waves, gently massaging Emma's scalp in the process.

"I'm sorry that I kept you in the dark about Robin, but I can't apologize for protecting our relationship. I just hope you trust me," Regina whispers, peering down into glistening, bright green eyes.

"I do trust you," she vows, tugging Regina closer in her lap.

"Good," the brunette inches closer, her lips ghosting over Emma's, her warm breath tingling pale pink lips. "Because I would never be unfaithful," she husks before capturing Emma's delectable lips into a slow and sensual kiss.

Emma hums in response because words seem to always escape her when Regina kisses her in such a tender manner. All she can focus on is the velvety plump flesh as it slowly drags tentatively against hers. The sweet little noises they produce together creates spine-chilling shivers to run wildly through her body and straight down between her thighs. It's a type of intimacy that she only ever thought existed in romantic comedies or sappy love stories on bookshelves and she still cannot wrap her head around the fact that she's experiencing all of this firsthand.

A part of her knows that she loved Neal very much, but it was never at the intensity she feels for Regina and that terrifies her. Because if it's taken her three years to finally move on from Neal...what the hell is going to happen to her if Regina ever leaves her behind? She knows in her heart and mind that she's in too deep and she keeps falling more and more in love with this astonishing woman every time they have a moment alone together and she should run very fast and far away. Yet...she doesn't ever want to stop this feeling deep within.

Regina gently breaks apart their kiss, her eyes shining with so much adoration as she peers down into Emma's and a warm smile graces her face. Her fingers continue to massage Emma's scalp, eliciting the most delicious groan of contentment from her lover.

"I hope you're not getting sick," Emma sighs mindlessly, because Regina's magical fingertips are making her slightly delirious.

"I'll be fine," her girlfriend earnestly replies even though her scratchy throat is betraying her.

"Lots of lemon and honey shots for you today," she muses, resting her forehead against the comfort of Regina's chest and losing herself in the rhythmic rise and fall.

"If you insist."

"And no more talking until you are out on that stage."

"What about when I'm calling out your name?" Regina seductively teases and Emma cannot control the throb between her legs from the deep rasp stealing her girlfriend's voice.

"No. No sexual activities until you are one hundred percent better."

"We'll see about that," Regina challenges as she closes her fist to gather a chunk of golden locks and yanks hard enough to expose Emma's neck for her persuading love bites that will inevitably surrender Emma's willpower.

 

Chapter Text


The next two weeks were a giant blur to Emma, that were overpowered by interviews and concerts and mixed horribly with Regina's illness. She was sure her girlfriend was plagued with walking pneumonia, but Regina refused such an accusation and resumed pushing her frail body forward. She had no idea how the singer kept forcing herself to power through, because if that was her, she would have cocooned herself in a pile of blankets, shut out the world, and slept for an entire week straight. Yet somehow, Regina found the strength to attend every interview with a bright smile and every concert with more energy than a toddler pumped with pure sugar.

Emma's ashamed to admit that with Regina's throat so sore and tender, her songs were even more raw, sexier, and full of thick emotions with every word that drifted through the air. It was an instant turn on, but she knew she needed to keep a safe distance to maintain her health. That didn't go according to plan. For some strange reason, Emma found herself pinned in a variety of different positions that left her on the brink of passing out from the intensity of each and every orgasm. Maybe Regina was just trying to prove how not sick she was, but either way, Emma knew her girlfriend's body was thrumming with a new found sexual desire that she could never deny.

She would be lying if she said she didn't enjoy this time with Regina. Her girlfriend was sober, more focused than ever, craving sex and Emma was sucked up into this whirlwind vortex that only consisted of her and Regina. She was in love, on cloud nine and completely blindsided when the events to come slapped her hard across the face and left behind a stinging reminder.

Two weeks after Regina was feeling better and back to herself, the wind shifted and whisked away the brunette's positive attitude. They were halfway through the tour and things seemed to be slowly slipping through the cracks and causing mayhem all around. Even if Emma tried, she couldn't stop the destruction crashing hazardously all around her.

"What a show," Ruby murmurs as Regina struts off the stage, waving enthusiastically to the crowd that's chanting for one more song.

Emma smiles to herself, ducking her head low to hide just how infatuated she is with this bombshell sashaying confidently toward her. Her green eyes slide up from the long, tan legs, sculpted perfectly, to the sexy curve around her girlfriend's hips. Her stomach swirls with lust and kick starts her heart as if a defibrillator was pressed firmly against her frantic organ.

Robin jumps into action, stretching forward to place a sticky-sweet kiss to Regina's cheek, but she flinches and dodges the unwanted touch. His puckered lips immediately morph into a pitiful frown as he takes a step back to assess the singer's demeanor.

"I'm overly hot," Regina flatly reasons, hastily reaching for a bottle of water from Jefferson's clutches.

"O-okay," Robin shamefully stammers and shoves his hands into his pockets in a lame attempt to hide away his insecurities.

Yet, Regina is oblivious to his rigid posture as she trudges right passed the man and heads straight for her dressing room. Her fake boyfriend glances at Emma for guidance, but her green orbs are too busy bouncing from him, back to Regina, puzzled by her cold behavior.

"I guess I'll just wait here for you," he calls out sarcastically, but Regina ignores his attempt at communication and proceeds to march along.

"Uh...I'll talk to her," Emma stutters as every set of wide eyes backstage stares at her for...something, she just isn't sure what.

She jogs away from the crew members and Regina's entire staff, with Jefferson and Ruby following closely behind. As she rounds the corner she spots Regina's door being slammed shut with enough fury to rip the hinges right off. She flinches. She glances over her shoulder just in time for her friends to be stopping alongside of her.

Jefferson places his hand upon her shoulder and squeezes for support...or maybe to brace her for the words he's about to carelessly spew. "There's only one thing on this planet that boils her blood."

"Don't you dare," Emma growls in a deep, threatening tone, but obviously he ignores her.

"Tequila." 

"No, there's no way," she frantically rejects the accusation, already violently shaking her head to prove her point. "Absolutely not. I'm always with her. I would have noticed her drinking. I would have smelled liquor on her breath-"

"Or tasted it," Ruby casually slips in her comment, but quickly snaps her mouth shut from the death glare burning from Emma's cold eyes.

"No, there's no way," Emma rebuttals, her soft curls still bouncing from her head, shifting left to right in defiance.

"Even her mother doesn't fire her up this badly," Jefferson sadly acknowledges, turning his attention to the very closed door in front of them.

Emma groans, rolling her neck to loosen the tension before she steps forward and barges right through without permission.

"Jeff-"

"It's me," Emma softly greets the raging singer and closes the door behind herself, but Regina doesn't respond. She's far too busy removing her own makeup, which is an instant punch to Emma's gut. That's her job. That's their special alone time after each show. "Regina-"

"Please Emma, just give me five minutes," she urges, her eyes never leaving the tired version of herself staring back at her in the mirror.

"Are you-"

"Emma, please," Regina stresses again through a heavy exhale that expresses just how agitated she is in this moment, yet, Emma hasn't the slightest clue as to why and apparently her girlfriend isn't willing to elaborate.

"O-kay," she mumbles to herself, dragging out the four letter word for as long as possible, hoping Regina will have a change of heart, apologize, and ask her to stay.

She's sorely disappointed though when silence fills the room, so she finally backs herself out the door and closes Regina inside, alone.

"She kicked you out?" Ruby hisses under her breath, stepping forward with determination etched in her face. "What the hell has gotten into her?"

"Teq-"

"I swear to god Jefferson if you say that name one more time, I will rip your balls right off and feed them to the next pack of wild teens we run into as a Regina souvenir," Emma threatens, her body pulsating with blinding rage from her girlfriend's cold dismissal seconds ago.

"It must be something in the water," he muses with his perfect eyebrows dancing playfully and Emma wants to slap those sculptured brows right off his face, because fuck, hers don't even look that good.

"She needs a minute to herself, that's all," she attempts to defend her girlfriend, but both friends are eyeing each other over her head with the same, 'yeah, right,' expression.

So, the three of them wait outside of the dressing room, using the wall as support to keep their bodies upright while they stare aimlessly at the floor below. Not one word is spoken, each one of them stewing in their own thoughts to even strike up a casual conversation. And of course, Emma is rifling through every possible scenario that would cause such a reaction from her girlfriend, but nothing feels right.

She knows exactly how Regina acts when she's been drinking and even though everyone claims the singer is a violent drunk, Emma always seems to calm the demons from dragging Regina right off the cliff. In her heart and soul, she believes Regina is sober from alcohol, but there's little taunts of reality whispering in the back of her mind and producing a doubt she cannot ignore any longer.

Then, they wait some more. Emma shifting all around against the wall from the apprehension of what's to come while Jefferson obnoxiously chews on his thumbnail and stares murderously at the ground below and Ruby anxiously twirls her long locks around her finger. Regina still has yet to emerge and the energy rippling off each one of them is becoming unbearable.

Yet, they still continue to wait outside the dressing room, straining their ears for a single sound on the other end of the door. Emma breathes out an exaggerated sigh as she rolls her neck to loosen the tension tightening in her muscles. Jefferson proceeds to chew on the same damn nail that's far too short by now, while Ruby has mindlessly started to pluck at her dead ends.

"I'm gonna-"

Emma isn't even granted the opportunity to finish her statement because the door is swinging open to reveal a fuming Regina. Green eyes blow wide as Emma realizes that her girlfriend wiped her makeup completely clear and took it upon herself to reapply a light coat for the crazy fans outside. Emma swallows, straining the tendons in her throat as a wave of nausea almost knocks her off her own feet.

That's her job.

"Where's Robin?" Regina barks out, causing all three of her friends to bolt upright.

"Gina, you usually take a hell of a lot longer to prepare before we leave from a show," her cousin attempts to reason, but she rolls her big brown eyes and stomps away.

Without a word or even a glance in Emma's direction.

Ruby sighs and catches Emma's heavy gaze upon her as she mouths, what the fuck? The hair dresser simply shakes her head because in all honesty, she hasn't the slightest idea what's crawled up Regina's ass and died this past week.

Like obedient little children sent away to a private school, Jefferson, Ruby and Emma all follow Regina through the building in a single file line. Again, not a word is muttered, the only sound to be heard is the clicking and clacking of Regina's stilettos against the concrete below. With every step, Emma's heart pounds faster while her stomach swirls in a mess of backflips and her knees grow weak.

When the crew finally reaches the back door, Guy, Sydney and Robin are patiently waiting with their hands neatly folded in front of their lower abdomen. If Emma didn't know any better, she would assume Regina's fake boyfriend was just another part of her security team. 

"Regina, darling," Robin lovingly purrs, "are you feeling alright?"

"Of course," she confirms with her chin held high, but Emma's stomach is sinking fast because she doesn't believe her girlfriend's lies anymore. "Shall we?" She questions with her eyebrows scaling up her forehead as she nods toward his arm.

Immediately the man offers his arm and she easily links herself onto his side. Robin pushes open the door to reveal a mob of fans screeching their love and devotion for the child prodigy. But no matter how many times Regina has been shoved into this situation or she becomes ill or just isn't in the right mood for all the attention, she still plasters on her broad, fake smile and waves like she's so happy to see all these strange faces.

"Please Regina, sign my poster!"

"Regina, here! I made this!"

"Regina please, just one picture!"

The crowd is chanting and pleading while cameras and phones are flashing recklessly for just a glimpse of the superstar. Despite Regina's foul mood, she still grins from ear to ear and quickly signs a few pictures for the people who made her such a star.

Regina is beaming with pride as she signs her name across a picture that was blown up of her and Robin at some award show.

"Robin! When are you two tying the knot?" A fan yells over the ruckus, provoking Emma's stomach to finally drop out from existence and steal her breath along the way. It doesn't matter how sure she is of her relationship, it still is a punch to the gut every time someone acknowledges Regina with Robin and not her.

Robin chuckles, his cheeks burning a deep shade of red as he waves off the question and shakes his head nervously. Regina easily plays along, clutching his chin and pressing a sweet kiss to his scruffy cheek for show.

"Regina! Who is that little boy? You're so cute with him!" Another fan bellows from somewhere in the back and Emma can just feel all the blood draining from her face. Cora is definitely going to murder her in her sleep.

"A nephew?"

Regina ignores the questions though, her smile never fading as she continues to scribble her name across every item that's being shoved carelessly into her face.

Unexpectedly, Emma feels a warm presence lingering beside her. Without ever turning to see the person standing next to her, she can feel the nervous energy pulsating from the stranger and Emma just knows she isn't going to like whatever comes next.

"Are you Regina's makeup artist?" The person whispers so not one other person who is drooling over the singer will hear them speaking.

Emma blinks, finally peeking to her right to find a young girl with bright blue eyes staring back at her curiously. Her tongue suddenly feels far too big for her mouth and she's very aware of how dry her throat is, so she nods slowly in return.

"Is that little boy in the pictures your son?" The blue-eyed girl cannot be more than twenty-years-old, Emma notes, as the young girl waits patiently for her to answer the personal question.

"I-I'm not quite sure I follow," Emma stammers, desperately wishing someone would just shove her into the limo right now and end this awkward moment.

"The little boy in the pictures, people claim he's your son...is Regina really close to him?"

"I...I'm not sure...what pictures you're referring to. Excuse me, please...I uh...need to get to the limo," Emma stutters as she squeezes her way through the crowd.

She curls her fingers around Ruby's wrist and tugs her best friend with her through the wall of people. Ruby is clinging to her hand, refusing to be swept up and lost in this sea of wild fans like she did the previous year.

"Robin! Is that little boy yours? Regina is so cute with him!"

"Regina? Can you take a selfie with me?"

"Regina! I'm your biggest fan!"

"Regina you saved my life!"

"Miss Mills, I believe it's time to leave," Guy strictly announces above the crowd as he escorts her and Robin toward the limo.

An uproar of groans and disapproving grunts fill the air as Emma slides into the black leather seat with Ruby and Jefferson following behind. Regina mutters a few goodbyes and her apologies as she slips into the limo as well and Mr. Davidson closes the door behind her.

The crackling of nothing but air assaults Emma's ears as the entire entourage sits in complete silence, replaying those questions from the crowd over and over again in their minds. Emma peeks through her lashes to gauge Regina's reaction, but the woman is stone cold. The brunette is projecting her best blank expression that never reveals the slightest emotion and always drives Emma absolutely insane.

Regina abruptly whips out her phone, her fingers frantically tapping furiously against the screen as Guy starts the engine and they begin to drive away. Emma assesses the way Regina's nostrils flare for a moment as she continues to type away her request or maybe her complaint, Emma will never know. Her girlfriend tosses her phone into her lap, those inky tresses falling back against the headrest and matching the leather as Regina peers hopelessly out the window and ignores her friends once again.

Emma throws her head back as well, squeezes her eyes closed and prays for the day to just end already.

 

A/N: Keep an eye out for an extra chapter later today, since I couldn't post yesterday. 

 

Chapter Text


Vegas. Another trip to the glamorous city that never sleeps, enriched with sparkling bright lights and pumped with intoxicating oxygen that energizes the mind and encourages any human to keep moving forward. Keep spending another dollar. Keep walking down the busy streets.

In Regina's case, keep the two concerts booming larger and brighter than the previous year. And when the last sound of music fades into oblivion, signaling her time to step off the stage, keep going. Just one more song. Maybe one more after that if the crowd pleads hard enough. Just another song after that one because there's an energy pulsating from the audience that amplifies through the arena and vibrates deliciously against Regina's skin.

And after all that's said and done, Regina locks herself in her enormous ensuite, the one Emma had found herself in a world of trouble one-year-ago to date.

Tangled raven tresses in disarray continuously slip into her view as Regina remains hunched over the grand piano, struggling to create another chart topper. And Emma, well...she's wrestling with her own haunting thoughts.

A soft ballad drifts through the hotel room and elegantly sweeps through Emma's ears as she lies curled up in the fetal position upon Regina's California king-size bed. Her eyelids droop closed as she listens to the intricate melody filling the air and warming her soul. For a split second, she's certain that this beautiful tune could drift her off to dreamland, but then the jittery anxiety slithers beneath her flesh again and she's kicking away her covers in frustration.

She exhales slowly in a lame attempt to calm herself down, but she's too nervous. Something in her gut is screaming out to her girlfriend and she just can't ignore the sensation any longer. She cannot risk turning her cheek on a feeling that's constantly been gnawing at her.

She swings her feet over the edge of the bed, her skin immediately prickling from the bitter cold temperature icing out the room. She shivers violently and wraps the massive comforter around her shoulders before she stands upright. With a heavy heart, she trudges her feet filled with dread toward the piano, knowing damn well that the past week Regina has been nothing but short and agitated with her. She knows she's sneaking up behind the beast, poking the ill-tempered creature with a pointy stick which will indefinitely piss off her girlfriend, but she cannot allow Regina to push herself through another night with a good conscience.

Tentatively, she tiptoes behind the black bench, noting Regina's rigid posture as she scribbles something down before she angrily erases away the words and furiously writes something else down instead. Her heart aches in agony as she gently wraps her arms around Regina's waist while her lips seek out the tender spot below her girlfriend's ear.

"Come to bed," she murmurs, even though Regina just flinched from her touch and attempted to squirm away.

"I have to focus on this song," Regina flatly replies as if someone stole her soul and left this vacant shell of a person.

A person she once knew and loved very deeply, but today...

"You need to come to bed," Emma husks, her lips trailing softly down Regina's neck to place slow and sensual kisses across the hot flesh below.

Emma delicately skims her nail over Regina's skin, carefully pulling the spaghetti strap down her shoulder as her lips follow the path every inch of the way. That is until Regina shrugs her off and hastily snaps her strap back into place.

"Emma, stop! I need to focus on my album tonight," Regina declares, resting her fingers back down against the keys and it doesn't go unnoticed to Emma's eyes, just how badly those digits are trembling and nothing magical is being produced.

"Regina, please," she pathetically pleads, leaning back down to hold the fragile woman against her chest, but Regina is quick to react, shoving Emma away.

"Are you that dense?" Regina barks out, spinning around on the bench to glare murderously at the stupefied blonde behind her.

"Wha-"

"Seriously?" Regina cruelly spits, provoking Emma's hanging jaw to snap shut. "What part of my job do you not comprehend? I'm busy. I have to finish this album without you constantly hanging all over me." She whips around, leaving Emma completely perplexed by the sudden outburst. "Some of us aren't as lucky to have such a simple minded job as playing dress up for a few hours a day."

The wave of nausea comes back to attack Emma's stomach with vengeance, causing her to sway on her sleepy feet. She clenches the comforter tighter in her fists and uses it as a protective barrier from Regina's cruel tongue.

"Look, I know you're stressed and under a lot of pressure," she gently begins, prompting Regina to sigh in annoyance and drop her head to stare aimlessly at her lap. "But there's no need to lash out at me. I'm trying to help you, I'm worried about you."

"How many times do I have to tell you, I'm fine," she sasses, never once offering her attention to the one person who is always so calm and patient with her.

"You're not fine," she urges, her tone firmer than moments ago to stress her point. "You hardly sleep at night, you keep going until your body finally gives way and you crash. You're moody and irritable and I know you just need some actual rest to replenish your body-"

"Swan," Regina growls, her fingers preparing to dance across the ivory keys. "I'm asking you one last time. Go. Away."

The bitter and anxious energy rippling off Regina pounds into Emma's skin and seeps into her heart, filling the beating organ with a thick dread that instantly sinks her heart. Her mouth waters with a tangy liquid that threatens to empty the contents of her twirling stomach. This just isn't her Regina.

Suddenly, all those taunting thoughts from the beginning of their relationship come pounding back into her brain. Maybe Regina really is a damn good actress and she was altering her personality this entire time. Maybe after one year together she decided to show her true colors and this, this cynical woman before her is the real Regina Mills.

She shakes away those whispers because she refuses to believe such grim thoughts. She swallows her pride and tries again, refusing to give up so easily on the person she loves so damn much.

"Regina-"

"For fuck's sake," Regina screams, whirling around on the bench to glare at the blonde like a tornado wreaking havoc on an innocent small town. "Have you always been this annoying? Just go! I don't have time for this meaningless argument that you insist on. I have more important things to worry about than your childish need for attention!"

"Excuse me? After all I've done for you, this is how you are going to treat me?" Emma incredulously interrogates in pure shock.

"Because you don't listen! I've asked you plenty of times to leave me alone over the past week and you have yet to obey at least one of those times. Enough is enough. I want to be left alone!"

Regina angrily runs her quivering fingers through her hair and jumps up from her seated position, inspiring Emma to shuffle backwards.

"What the hell has gotten into you?" Emma exasperates, tugging the comforter closer to her shivering body. Maybe she's still cold from the room temperature, but she has an inkling it has everything to do with her girlfriend's frigid behavior. Despite all her instincts, her mouth pops open to say the one thing that will inevitably shove Regina over the edge. "Are you drinking again?"

Her girlfriend's face hardens, her nostrils flaring with pure rage as her jaw clenches painfully tight. "No," she growls so low that the sound hardly qualifies as a whisper. "I can't believe you just accused me of drinking again. Don't you think you would notice me drinking since you're always around?" She spits in absolute disgust.

"Don't sit here and pretend that I have no right to ask. You have never spoken to me like this before and I have every right as your girlfriend to ask why," Emma calmly reasons, but something has clicked in Regina's mind tonight and has officially sent her over the brink of sanity.

"I am sober," Regina bitterly replies, her upper lip trembling from the emotions bubbling up deep inside. "I haven't had a fucking drink since October, but trust me, Swan, you're pushing the bottle right back into my hand."

"Don't you dare blame me! If you drink, that's on you, nobody but you. You will only have yourself to blame, our actions are our own."

"Fine! Then what do I have to do to get you to leave me alone? I need time and space and that minuscule brain of yours doesn't seem to be grasping the concept."

"I'm trying to help you."

"I don't want your help!" Regina bellows so fiercely that Emma actually flinches and takes a step back.

She inspects every inch of her distraught girlfriend; from her trembling fingers, to her irritable temper, to the dark circles around her eyes, down to the anxious energy pulsating viciously from her frail body. Regina's jaw is clenched impossibly tight as she slowly starts to grind her teeth and Emma knows that her presence will only cause more damage in the end.

"Go," Regina slowly commands in a dark tone that provokes Emma to finally drop the comforter to become a mess around her ankles.

Emma's jaw juts forward as she fights against the tears just lingering in her ducts and begging to be released. She shakes her head in disappointment and storms out of the room without another word spoken. She even slams the door on her way out to prove just how ticked off she is in this moment.

Her heart rages with defiance and anger as she reluctantly stomps back to her hotel room. She swipes her keycard, steps inside and slams the door shut with enough fury that the sound ricochets off the walls and bounces through the empty hall. She throws the keycard across the room as her socked feet pad across the room until she is recklessly tumbling into the cold bed.

She climbs under the comforter and hates how chilly and lonely the bed feels. Yes, Regina's room was freezing cold this evening, but it's a different kind of chill that slithers through her veins and turns her blood into ice. Her body is hypersensitive to the fact that Regina's presence is missing and it leaves a searing pain to twist in her gut and forces her to curl into a tight little ball.

And that's how she remains for the rest of the evening, with her body overly anxious as she obsessively worries over her girlfriend's new behavior.

~~~~~~~~

She dips the mascara into the container and expertly applies the thick black liquid onto her lashes when there's a sudden rapid knock at her door.

"Coming," she calls out, twisting the cap back on before she scurries toward the door and swings it wide open, neglecting the peephole altogether.

"Swan," Jefferson greets her with a lack of enthusiasm he usually possesses. "You didn't stay with Regina last night," and it's not a question as a mere state of fact.

"You should consider a career as a detective," Emma vacantly replies as she releases the doorknob and proceeds back toward the mirror to finish her makeup.

"You two have never spent a night apart," he obviously points out once again, further agitating her.

"Your skills are quite impeccable," she sarcastically retorts, sweeping the mascara brush through her lashes once again.

"Sarcasm, just what this crew lacks," he cynically snarks right back, persuading Emma's eyes to roll dramatically. "Seriously, what happened?" He softly inquires with his heart on his sleeve and his compassion shining through his baby blues.

She exhales through her nerves and sets down her makeup, turning around slowly to meet her friend's worrisome eyes.

"She kicked me out. She said I was annoying and always around...oh, and I'm dense and that she wants space from me," she deadpans, because now, after spending a night replaying that conversation over and over again in her mind, those hurtful words are just that now, words.

She's numb.

"What?" Jefferson squawks in disbelief. "She adores you, there's no way she could ever say-"

"Except she did." Her shoulders sag in defeat as Regina's bitter tone rings loudly in her ears like a damn siren blaring from an emergency. "She was so cold and distant last night. Honestly, I've never seen her so irrational before and I had no idea how to even respond. I spent all fucking night thinking of how I could've treated the situation differently, but I was so calm and understanding and that only seemed to irk her even more."

"I'm telling you, she's gotta be drinking."

"She swore to me that she was sober and then basically called me an idiot because if she was drinking, I would have noticed. And then she claimed that I'm driving her to drink."

Her heart free falls to the pit of her stomach while her stomach leaps to her throat, because that comment still kills her. She thought she was the one saving grace that kept Regina safe and away from the alcohol. Not push her toward it, that's the last thing she ever thought she was doing.

"Something's off. That's not like her and you damn well know it, baby," he sincerely states, gripping her shoulders and bending down to meet her sorrowful gaze and convince her of the truth she may be neglecting to see at a moment like this.

"You think it's more than stress? What if she's suffering from some sort of nervous breakdown?" She sadly asks, her skin prickling from just the idea of Regina losing her sanity.

"I honestly don't know," he shamefully admits, dropping his hands from her tense body. "Maybe we can talk to her later about all of this, but right now we need to wake her up."

"She's still asleep?"

"Yeah, she must have crashed hard this morning after another all-nighter."

"Well, she can sleep today on the bus as we drive to the next show," Emma suggests as she distracts herself with cleaning up her makeup and packing up her bag.

"Yeah, but we are supposed to leave in thirty minutes and she's still passed out."

"Go wake her ass up."

"Awe come on, you know if she's cranky you're the only one that can calm her down," Jefferson whines uncharacteristically which instantly settles into Emma's heart and softens for just him.

"Not according to last night," she mumbles under her breath, but Jefferson hears her and sighs.

The lanky man grips her shoulders and rapidly spins her around before he maneuvers her toward the door. "Come on, you know she will only want to see you and you know you want to see her too and hash this all out." He jerks open the door as Emma peeks over her shoulder up at him. "Just don't take too long. Cora will be hunting for you two very shortly," he smiles wickedly and ushers her right out the door before she even has a chance to rebuttal.

"I hate you," she hisses when she finds herself directly planted in front of Regina's doorway.

"I love you too, baby," he chuckles and knocks rapidly on the door before he darts down the hall and disappears into his own room.

"Asshole," she murmurs and waits for the door to slowly creek open, but when it doesn't, she reaches into her back pocket and swipes her keycard, allowing herself in. "Regina?" She calls out, softly closing the door behind herself.

There's a little voice inside her head, calling her an idiot, because did she not learn her lesson from last night? Regina specifically told her to go away and that she was always around. She should keep her distance and wait for Regina to come to her, but then again, she was never that great at following simple directions anyways.

She tentatively steps into the ensuite, the room engulfing Regina in a cloud of nothing but blackness, an empty pit of a black hole. She sighs and shuffles her feet quietly toward the bed where she can just barely make out the lump hiding away from the cruel world in her fortress of blankets.

Without a thought, Emma works on autopilot, her body carefully slipping into the vacant spot that should be hers, right behind her girlfriend. She slithers beneath the blanket and wraps her arm protectively around the brunette, pulling her flush against her body. Warmth radiates from her girlfriend and soothes all her twitching muscles still anxious from the night before. She buries her nose deep in those raven tresses and inhales sharply, persuading her eyelids to droop closed. For a split second, she expects to smell the foul stench of stale alcohol, but instead, she consumes the calming fragrance of lavender.

Her breath catches in her throat as her eyes fill with hot tears and she hates herself for doubting Regina in a moment of weakness. Is this how their life will always be though? Emma accusing Regina every time things become a little rocky in life? Is she ever going to be able to fully trust a recovering alcoholic?

She breathes out a shaky breath, wracked with hard emotions and hugs the dainty woman even closer to her chest. Regina subconsciously hums her approval, shimmying further back into the comfort of her loved one, encouraging Emma to hold on even tighter.

"Regina? We have to get up. We only have thirty minutes before the tour bus leaves," she whispers so delicately into the wild mess swarming around her face.

"Mm-kay." The singer spins around in Emma's loving embrace, her eyes still firmly shut, yet, she somehow manages to find the pale lips blindly. She brushes her lips gently against Emma's and moans softly from the instant connection buzzing through her veins and filling her sad heart. "I'm sorry," she breathlessly whispers into the kiss and presses her body more firmly against Emma's.

"Are you?" Emma disbelievingly counters.

Regina sighs in defeat and finally cracks open her sleepy eyes. Emma notices right away just how dark and vacant they appear to be and she hates how she cannot read one emotion from them.

"Yes," Regina admits, her fingers reaching out to just touch Emma's cheek tenderly. "I was acting like a bitch last night and I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to lash out like that and I'm sorry I lost control. I just-"

"What?" Emma mumbles, urging her to proceed and be open and honest about this entire situation.

"I was irritable from not sleeping lately and I'm overly stressed because all I want to do is finish this album and spend all of fall and winter with you and Henry." Her fingertips skate gently across Emma's pale cheek as if she's desperately trying to memorize the details or maybe convince herself that Emma is actually there with her. "I don't want to miss the holidays and I don't want to spend our time together distracted by this stupid album," she thoroughly explains which helps ease Emma's mind.

Just a fraction.

"But you are over doing it. Can't you see that? I'm terrified that you're going to have a nervous breakdown. Your body is screaming at you to slow down," she pleads with an urgency that Regina cannot ignore, no matter how much her mind is persuading her to.

"We have three weeks left on this tour and then I promise things will slow down," her girlfriend whispers in such an angelic tone that Emma's body cannot help but melt like an ice cream cone dripping from a hot summer's day.

Regina captures Emma's pout, her full lips dragging as slow as humanly possible against Emma's. She swears she can feel every indent in Regina's plump lips as she admires just how velvety soft they truly are. Emma slithers her fingers behind her girlfriend's neck and latches on as she pushes for more, eliciting a sexy little whimper to erupt from Regina's mouth.

"Does this...mean...I'm...forgiven?" The singer questions through the deep kiss that's slowly stealing her breath away.

Emma's mouth guides Regina's lips apart as she rolls on top of the brunette and dips her tongue inside. "Maybe," she mutters, sucking a swollen bottom lip into her mouth, persuading Regina's fingers to slide beneath her shirt and scratch those nails deliciously down Emma's back. She moans instantly, grinding her jean clad hips down against Regina's lacy underwear. Unexpectedly, Emma breaks the soaring kiss and stares deeply into Regina's eyes shimmering with lust. She pecks the brunette's nose and lingers for just a moment as she asks, "what happened to your lip?"

She instantly feels Regina's entire body tense below her, causing another ache deep in her chest. "I don't want to talk about it," Regina sternly announces as her eyes drift away, maybe to another world, but definitely away from the intimacy glistening in those green irises.

"Why? Did it happen when you were fifteen? With the thing you never want to talk about?" Emma presses on, because after last night, she needs something to reassure her that she's still connected to this human she's so desperately in love with.

"Yes. Now, can we please drop it?" Regina coldly responds, but Emma doesn't falter, she dips her head low and slowly kisses Regina with every ounce of compassion and love she keeps hidden in her heart for just her.

"Come on, we're going to be late."

 

Chapter Text


"What are you doing?" Regina happily inquires as she crawls seductively up Emma's long legs and peeks over her laptop, effectively blocking Emma's vision with a waterfall of cascading dark tresses.

Her heart skips a beat.

Emma removes her thumb from her nervous chattering teeth and waits for Regina to flip her hair back and meet her eyes. Warm, chestnut irises blink in a swirling mix of confusion and worry as they latch onto stunning green.

"You're not going to be touring forever and I need a backup plan," she gently explains, knowing damn well that this could be the match that sets Regina's anxiety into a hazardous roaring flame once again.

But god-she's been so good for two weeks now.

"What? Is it the money? I could-"

"No! No," Emma hastily shoves her laptop aside on the bed and gathers up Regina's hands, tugging the woman into her lap. "I just want to make sure I have a backup plan in case you decide to take a break for a summer from touring." Regina actually appears perplexed by the notion. "Let's be realistic here, you can't tour forever, right?"

"No...I guess not," Regina insecurely mutters, "I just never really thought about it. I've always been in the spotlight, always on the go, I've never thought about a time where life stands still."

"Not stand still necessarily, but slows down," she reasons, her thumbs mindlessly sweeping across Regina's hands to calm the anxious monster stirring awake from his deep hibernation. "I've just been searching for more of a permanent position during the fall and winter, you know?"

A slight frown etches around plump lips as Regina slides forward in Emma's lap and she drapes her arms around her shoulders. "What did you have in mind?"

"I was hoping for something on a television show, I think that would be really cool." Regina nods along, hanging on every word with her brows furrowed in concentration. "But it's so hard to come across something like that."

"I know a lot of people, Emma, and if this is something you really want to pursue, then I'd be happy to make a call and-"

"No! No. I would like to do this on my own. I feel like the only reason I even started here was because of Ruby and I want to earn this, by myself."

"Ruby got your foot in the door, but it was you who earned this job. You know that," Regina trails off as her lips gently mold perfectly against Emma's.

"As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I would really like to earn this on my own," Emma reiterates, encouraging Regina to nod mindlessly as she pushes her lips more firmly against the soft pale flesh.

That's as far as they venture into their heated kiss before there's a rapid and stern knock at the door. Regina groans as her succulent lips fall away from Emma's and she rolls off her. Emma quickly reaches for her laptop and settles it back on her thighs while Regina treks across the hotel room to discover who interrupted them.

"Miss Mills," Guy politely greets her, inspiring Emma to lean over her laptop to catch a glimpse of the kind man.

"Did you get it?" Regina inquires as the driver offers a plastic bag, creating a curious wonderment in Emma's mind. She watches as Regina peeks inside the bag which produces a sappy smile to spread instantly across her face. "Thank you so much."

"You're welcome."

"Hey, Guy!" Emma calls out and waves happily, generating a broad grin to deepen in the man's cheeks.

"Hello, Miss Swan." She rolls her eyes at the formality and falls back against the headboard, a small smile playing at her lips. "Would that be all, Miss Mills?"

"Yes, thank you so much."

"Of course," he says, then bows his head and disappears down the hall without another word spoken.

Regina softly closes the door and strolls casually across the hotel room, piquing Emma's interest at what could possibly be inside that bag. Green eyes latch onto the thick white bag, that much to Emma's dismay, is not transparent. Regina places the bag next to the bed and carefully removes the laptop once more. She crawls back up Emma's legs without another concern for the mysterious item taunting the blonde.

"So...." the brunette seductively husks, her plump lips ghosting over the dainty ones before her, "where were we?"

"Oh, come on," Emma exasperates, producing the most adorable giggle to fall from Regina's lips. "What's in the bag?"

"It's not for you," her girlfriend teases on her hands and knees as she leans forward to steal a kiss.

Emma groans in return, but she cannot find the willpower to reject the luscious kiss that inspires her toes to curl and unleashes an entire clan of butterflies to swarm around in her gut. "You're playing dirty."

"Don't I always?"

"Please, show me what you got?"

"You're such a child."

"I know, so let me see."

"I cannot condone this type of behavior."

"True, but you also can't resist my pout," Emma acknowledges as she puckers out her bottom lip and flashes her most sorrowful puppy dog eyes.

"Fine, you big baby," Regina grumbles and rolls off the slender frame below her as she stretches to retrieve the bag. "Don't get mad." Emma's heart pounds just a fraction faster, because of course, her mind is worrying about what could possibly be inside, but then again she knows Guy would never purchase anything that would negatively effect Regina. Her girlfriend straddles her thighs and tantalizingly reaches into the bag. "I know Henry has been a little obsessed with Toy Story as of lately..." she trails off as she gently pulls the box from the plastic bag.

"A Woody doll," Emma breathlessly whispers as her eyes take in the replica of Henry's favorite on screen hero.

She subconsciously reaches for the box, her eyes glowing with an adoration Regina hasn't quite seen before.

"Do I need to have Guy go out and purchase another one, so you can keep this one all to yourself?" Her girlfriend sasses, but the sparkling emeralds before her never tear away from the cowboy.

"No...it's just...I never really had toys growing up and I'm just so happy that I can finally give my son everything that I never had," she chokes out through a wave of emotions wobbling in the back of her throat. "Besides," her mischievous eyes crawl back up to meet Regina's watery orbs from the confession, "Henry has to learn to share."

"Well, we have about an hour before we have to share as well," Regina suggestively taunts as she leans down to hover over Emma's delectable lips, her warm breath tingling her flesh and causing a spark of desire to erupt.

"Well then, you better saddle up cowgirl," Emma coyly husks as she tosses the box beside them on the bed.

Regina throws her head back laughing and for once, Emma finds the little girl trapped inside of this woman. A little girl that begged and pleaded for a normal life, to enjoy her childhood and have parents that actually loved her.

"You're out of control," Regina chuckles before she ferociously slams her mouth against Emma's, effectively shutting up her ridiculous mouth.

~~~~~~~~

Regina's crew remained on the tour bus, driving from Dallas, Texas to New York City while the singer decided to fly herself and Emma out on Thursday morning. It was a surprise for her girlfriend, that way she could have more time with Henry all of Thursday and most of Friday before the concert.

Mary Margret needed some time to set up her classroom before the new year started, so she was happy to drop off Henry with his mother. The plan was for her to return Friday evening and stay at the hotel with her grandson and then again on Saturday evening while Emma worked.

"There's a snake in my boot," Tom Hanks' voice plays over again as Henry releases the pull string, encouraging his chubby cheeks to light up with the pure joy of innocence.

"Oh no! Get it out!" Henry shrieks as he jumps up and down on the bed, jostling the toy around upside down to shake the snake out of the sheriff's boot. "R'Gina! It's on your legs!"

Regina leaps off the bed, happily playing along to Henry's wild imagination as she hops up and down to free herself from the slithering make-believe snake.

"Ewwww!" Emma cries. "Quick! We need Sheriff Woody to round up the snake before it attacks Regina!"

"We got this! Sheriff Woody, get that snake!" Henry screams as Regina resumes her role as the victim parading around to ward off the snake. "You got it, Deputy Henry!" The toddler portrays his best imitation of the cowboy as he swings the toy's arm as if he really has a rope to lasso.

"Did you get the snake?" Regina screeches while Henry makes a fist and holds up nothing in the air, but in his mind, he has the snake by the throat and showing off the vile creature he captured.

"Whew," Emma dramatically wipes her hand across her forehead and falls recklessly back onto the bed.

"Thank you so much Sheriff Woody and Deputy Henry," Regina exhales in relief and shakes Henry's little hand as a sign of gratitude.

"Anything for you, R'Gina," he exclaims, showing off each and every one of his adorable baby teeth.

All too quickly their game is cut short by a stern and rapid knock at the door. Regina releases Henry's chubby hand and runs her fingers lovingly through his hair before she saunters across the suite to answer the door. She swings open the door, her cheeks still tinged with a soft pink hue from dancing around the room for Henry's benefit.

"Regina, darling..." Cora pushes herself through the door with a snarl curling around her nose. "...why are you so...flustered?"

Regina sighs through her disappointment from her mother's unwanted appearance and closes the door behind the older woman.

"I was playing with Henry, mother. You know that's why we came to New York early," she reiterates and folds her arms neatly across her chest to protect herself from whatever her mother has come to bestow upon her.

"Of course," the ignorant woman waves off the response and turns around to glare at her daughter.

"What are you doing here? I thought you and the crew wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow morning."

"Yes, well...I believe your bus is still in route," is all this infuriating woman says as her eyes trail toward the back of the suite where she knows a certain blonde and her son are waiting impatiently for her daughter. "How is the album coming?"

Regina's eyebrows immediately draw together, skeptically assessing her mother's abrupt question. Subconsciously, her nails bite into her biceps as her entire body stiffens because she knows her mother has come to flip her world upside down once again.

"Alright...I have another six months," she sternly reminds her, eyeing the woman suspiciously while her stomach completes the new record for most backflips in a row.

"How many songs are complete?"

"I-" she swallows, because unexpectedly there's an acidic tang tickling the back of her throat, "about six," she timidly answers, her skin prickling in fear and creating wild goosebumps to pop all along her flesh.

"Well, make it a solid six and then produce six more by Christmas," the wicked witch strictly demands with her eyes still straining across the room, just waiting for the rambunctious blonde to storm out with her fists held high.

"Mother! No! You said March, I need more time-"

"Enough with your childish behavior," Cora snaps, gripping her daughter's face and tugging her down to meet her icy glare, just as she always does, lacking the true empathy, compassion or respect that a real mother would possess. "I am rather tired of your poor attitude and don't think for a second, I don't know where it's coming from. Step out of line again, Regina Maria and I promise you, Emma Swan will be out on her ass. Do I make myself clear?"

Regina's pools of chestnut orbs drift toward the ceiling above, wishing that she could just be any other human on this planet. She's so exhausted from being her mother's constant disappointment in life and she would most certainly give up her career, her fame, her fortune, just to be any other soul walking this inhumane world right now.

She swallows, creating an audible gulp that expresses to Cora just how much she humiliated her daughter and of course, this spiteful woman is ecstatic because she needs to maintain her control.

"Yes, mother," she chokes out, refusing to ever meet those cold beady eyes staring her down while she's so open and vulnerable.

"Very well." Cora snatches her fingers away and with pristine composure, she sashays confidently toward the door. "December it is, my dear."

Regina proceeds to stare up at the ceiling as her chin wobbles recklessly, her nose tingles, and her eyes fill to the brim with scalding hot tears. She doesn't mutter a word, not a single goodbye while her mother takes her regal exit. Her heart is sinking hard and deep into her chest as her mind whirls with the idea of producing six more songs in three months. She has already been struggling. Burned out.

A demonic presence slithers deviously through her bloodstream, increasing her body temperature which causes the hairs on the back of her neck to stand as she breaks out in a sweat. Her flesh tingles and crawls while her heart rate increases as she feels the start of a panic attack pounding its way to the surface.

Her stomach is rolling, over and over again and generating a bitter stomach acid that claws its way through her intestines and up her chest until it's tickling the back of her throat like some disgusting monster that children dream of with sharp claws and drool hanging from their fangs. She clasps her hand over her mouth, maybe to keep her dinner down or maybe to suppress the sob just pleading to escape.

She just doesn't have the strength or willpower to carry on any longer. Producing catchy lyrics that every woman wants to scream on the top of their lungs to while driving down their streets, with a beat or melody her audience finds themselves humming on repeat and just can't get out of their head, twelve times, for twelve songs per album, every year is insanity. She's spiraling, she sees the vicious circle spinning with a mix of black and white as she falls into an abyss of sheer panic.

God, does she wish she could stop her body from free falling, but she doesn't know how. She was never properly treated or taught how to control this anxiety that inevitably forces the bottle in her hand and the liquid to slide gloriously down her throat to relieve all this tormenting stress.

"Regina?" Emma tentatively whispers, slowly approaching with special care, not to scare the woman who is clearly in distress.

Her eyes take in the rigid posture, the frantic chest rising and falling as Regina struggles for a single breath, all while those big brown eyes are glistening with tears that refuse to fall while she stares aimlessly at the ceiling above.

"Regina?" She jumps, startled by the soft tone of Emma, her saving grace. She blinks through her tears, a blur of golden locks coming into view with a white tank top. "Are you okay?"

Regina shakes her head and that's the signal Emma needs to lunge forward and hold her girlfriend impossibly close. Regina buries her face into Emma's neck and exhales a shaky breath.

"She wants the album done by Christmas. I can't, Emma. I just..."

"I know. I know," is all Emma repeats as she holds Regina, willing her to stay together and not completely fall apart all over again.

"Mommy?" Henry's tiny voice breaks through the moment, causing both women to spring apart. Regina hastily wipes at her face to clear away the sticky tears while Emma smiles down upon her son, who is standing nervously with her phone stretching high in the air. "Your phone keeps ringing," he shyly announces.

"Thanks, bud," she cheerfully responds, not to worry her son who is far too young to understand any of this. He still doesn't even understand the concept of Regina being a huge celebrity.

"Excuse me a moment," Regina mumbles as she rushes off toward the bedroom and disappears into the bathroom.

Emma unlocks her phone to discover a random number she doesn't recognize has called her twice. She purses her lips mindlessly as she clicks on the number and calls them right back. She waits a total of three rings as her heart pounds a little faster from the unknown.

"Hello, Gavin Wright's office, Cynthia speaking, how may I help you?" A polite secretary of some sort recites professionally on the other end of the call.

Emma instantly clears her throat and begins to pace frantically around the room. "Uh, yes. Hi, um, someone from this number just called my phone..." she trails off nervously, while her son starts following her lead around the hotel.

"Name?"

"Right. Sorry. Emma Swan."

"Ah, Miss Swan. Yes, it seems you had filled out an application online," there's a pause and some shuffling around of papers as Emma bites down hard on her lip and continues to pace with her son hot on her heels. "Here it is...you claim to have worked for...Regina Mills?"

"I still work for her," she hastily responds without a thought running through her brain. "It's a summer gig...so, I was looking for something that might work for the fall or winter...um by the way, which place is this for? I filled out several applications..."

"In Fashion magazine. We are looking for a part time position as a makeup artist for our models. Usually we hire artists we know and have worked with before, but I noticed Regina Mills, so I thought I would call to make sure this wasn't some prank."

"No, no. No, prank...I swear."

"Well, would you like to come in tomorrow morning at eight a.m. for an interview?"

"Yes! Yes," Emma stammers without a second thought as to who will watch her son in the morning.

The secretary provides all the information Emma will need for the interview and the location before she ends the call. She squeals the moment the line is dead and tosses her phone onto the bed.

"What, mommy?" Henry innocently questions, oblivious to what his mother was talking about as they played follow the leader.

Emma swoops him up before she fumbles hazardously onto the bed with him securely in her arms. "I'm just excited, I might get a new job, so I don't have to go away as much," she gingerly explains as Regina makes her debut.

"You got a new job?" The singer breathlessly whispers as she lingers nervously in the doorway.

Emma peeks over her son's head and smiles softly at her beautiful girlfriend, who ironically always seems to shine brighter when she's appearing shy. "No, I have an interview for tomorrow morning at eight for In Fashion magazine, who knows if I'll even get it. Which reminds me, I better call my mom and ask her to come up here earlier..."

"What? Why?" Regina abruptly cuts her off and shuffles across the room to sit down on the bed beside mother and son. "I would love to watch Henry while you go."

"A-are you sure?" Emma double checks, because she doesn't want to assume that Regina would take care of him just because they are dating.

"Of course. Why wouldn't I want to spend a morning with just him?" She teases, her fingers already reaching out to ruffle his silky hair.

"Thank you," Emma murmurs through her puckered lips, just waiting for Regina to accept her gratitude.

"You're welcome," she whispers and slowly kisses those dainty little lips. "So, Henry? What do you say? Just me and you tomorrow morning?"

"Yay!"

~~~~~~~~

"Regina, are you sure it's okay? You were up almost all night writing," Emma whines as her fingers fumble to button up her crisp, white blouse for her interview.

"It's fine," Regina casually states, strutting like a predator on the prowl across the hotel room and into Emma's territory. She playfully swats Emma's hands away and curls her fingers into the fabric, jerking her girlfriend forward. "Don't cower away," she strictly orders while her fingers dutifully finish buttoning the shirt. "Show them the confident Emma Swan that walked into my hotel room and smugly sold herself as the best makeup artist around."

Warm honey irises flick up to meet dazzling green, shining brightly with golden flecks of amusement. Regina's loving gaze roams over every detail of Emma's perfectly applied makeup that will indefinitely play as a test to her abilities. There's this electric magnetic pull that Regina just cannot resist as Mother Nature consumes her thoughts and forces her lips to lean forward and delicately capture Emma's.

"I love you," Regina murmurs into the kiss, her fingers still holding onto the untucked blouse for dear life. "You're over-qualified for the position, don't worry about a thing," she whispers lazily and softly pecks those irresistible lips just once more for good luck.

"I love you, too," Emma breathes and glances back at her sleeping boy in the bed all three of them shared an hour ago.

She really didn't want to leave the cozy comfort, cocooned between her son and girlfriend because Regina had just crawled into bed no more than an hour prior. Yet somehow, she found the willpower to finally crawl out of bed and prepare herself for the interview.

"He should be up soon," Emma recites for the third time this morning as Regina walks her to the door.

"So, I've heard," she sasses, smirking wickedly as she opens the door and ushers the blonde right over the threshold. "Good luck and I love you," she says with a sweet kiss to the corner of Emma's mouth before she closes the door.

"I love you, too," Emma shouts through the door with a hint of a giggle trailing at the end, persuading a sappy grin to spread into Regina's cheeks, despite her inner turmoil.

She inhales a crisp, sharp breath that stings her lungs before slowly exhaling through her mouth to regain her composure. This new deadline is maddening her, but she wants to be there for Emma for a change. The woman is constantly devoting every minute of her day to Regina and she only thinks it's fair to finally show some kind of support on her end.

One more deep breath for good measure before she trudges back toward the room where her favorite little human is tucked away in a mess of blankets, just like she always finds Emma when they wake every morning. It has to be one of her favorite things about Emma, waking up to the woman wrapped up like a mummy while her body subconsciously clings to Regina in the night...well, that is when Regina can finally catch some shut eye.

Her eyelids droop instantly as she daydreams about the tranquility washing over her body, if she could just close her eyes for a few minutes. "Henry?" She softly whispers, testing his depth of slumber, but the toddler doesn't stir. Carefully, she climbs onto the bed behind him and cuddles into his back, gently pulling him closer to her chest and for a split second, her heart actually slows down from the fierce pumping. "Henry?" She tries again, but he remains immobile, so she breathes out a shaky breath of relief.

Just a few minutes of resting her eyes, that's all she needs. Well, on the contrary, that's all she tells herself, she needs.

When the clock struck five this morning and the birds chirped their morning song, a sinking feeling buried itself deep inside of Regina's heart and created a mess of emotions. Her skin was crawling from the stress of having to finish the album when her mind had been completely empty from the last two albums. Her nerves were shot, her entire body was buzzing with an anxious energy that she couldn't talk herself down from, no matter how many times she stared at herself in the mirror and attempted to control her breathing.

The insomnia was becoming too much, slithering its way into her bones and weighing them down with an unsatisfying pressure that her body could never escape from. It was suffocating and downright miserable and she was convinced that at any moment she would claw her flesh straight from the bone to feel some sort of relief.

However, the absolute worst were the whispers in her head of self-doubt. It was like a dark, ominous, never-ending forest that sent shivers down her spine, the words haunting her like a wolf howling into the night. And all she wanted was a moment of peace. A moment where her mind quieted down and the whispers evaporated from existence. A moment where her skin wasn't burning or crawling with a dark energy that controlled her entire mind and body. A moment where she could finally sleep in absolute solitude and nothing could ever harm her in that state.

And she did finally find that peace without having to turn to a bottle.

"Regina? Regina? Wake up!"

 

Chapter Text


"Regina? Henry? I'm back," Emma shouts to her loved ones, kicking the door closed behind herself and groaning under her breath. "Regina? Henry?" She calls out again as she saunters into the bedroom, still trying to shake off that horrific interview.

When she steps into the suite her heart sinks so fast, her entire body flushes with a scorching heat that threatens to burn her flesh right off. What she discovers is Regina passed out in the bed that's still a mess from before Emma left for her interview and her son is nowhere to be found. Her greatest fear is now a reality, her son is missing and her body automatically flips on to fight or flight mode.

"Henry!" She bellows, frantically searching the bedroom while her fucking girlfriend doesn't move a muscle. She drops to her hands and knees wondering if her son is playing his favorite game of hide and seek, tucked away in his most secretive spot, under the bed. "Henry!"

"Swan!" Jefferson's muffled voice comes from the bathroom just as the harsh sound of the toilet flushing rings in her ears. "I'll be right out," he shouts before Emma distinctly hears him washing his hands. "Sorry, baby," he says as he swings the bathroom door open, "I couldn't hold it any longer."

"Where the hell is Henry?" She shrieks in a high pitched tone that only dogs should be able to pick up on.

"Calm down," he says, stepping forward and pulling her flush against his broad chest. "Ruby has him," but that's as far as the explanation travels before Emma jerks away from his embrace and shoves his chest out of pure rage that is only directed at her girlfriend, but since she's passed out, her cousin will have to accept the punishment.

"Why the hell does Ruby have him? And what the fuck happened to Regina!" She screams without holding back one single shred of emotions tearing through her body like a flesh eating virus, destroying everything in its path.

She could have lost her son. He could have been very badly injured. Hell, she doesn't even know if he's all in one piece or if something did happened.

"I'll explain everything, just please try and calm down-"

"Don't you dare fucking tell me to calm down," she growls, slamming her palms against his sturdy chest to alleviate some of the rage pulsating beneath her flesh. "If Ruby has Henry, why the hell didn't she shoot me a text? Hey I have your son! With a cute picture attached, so I'm not blindsided when I walk into a room to discover my child is fucking missing!" She over enunciates, like maybe he's not understanding the severity of the situation he is swarming in.

"Because we didn't want you to worry during your interview. We knew Henry was safe and that's why I'm here, to explain everything when you returned."

"I want to see my son," Emma sternly states as she whips around on her tiptoes to storm out of the hotel room, but Jefferson is quick to snatch up her elbow.

"You will. I swear he's perfectly fine. Can I just explain what happened?" He timidly inquires while Emma wretches her elbow from his clutches because her body is still pounding with pure rage.

"I honestly don't even know if I want to hear it. What the hell kind of excuse-"

"I-I don't know what her excuse will be...she hasn't truly woken up since I've been here," he sadly divulges, his baby blues sliding over to where his cousin is softly snoring, in a deep slumber that's so far from this universe that she's unknowingly wreaking havoc upon.

"What do you mean she hasn't woken up?" Emma seethes through a clenched jaw, her feet stomping bitterly toward the sleeping beauty snuggling into a mess of blankets.

She's utterly torn in this moment, does she show compassion for her girlfriend who might be slipping from existence from whatever she thought was okay to drink while taking care of her son or does she rip her limb from limb for child endangerment and neglect?

"Around eight-thirty the tour bus dropped us off. Ruby and I were coming off the elevator when we spotted Henry lingering in the doorway." He swallows hard enough to produce an audible gulp that prompts Emma to cringe, knowing nothing good is about to tumble from those lips. "Ruby and I went to him right away and asked what he was doing. He said Regina is very sleepy and he was bored. So, we brought him back inside and found Regina passed out in the bed. I-I shook her several times and she would answer me, mostly sounding loopy and out of it, but she was responding... just... not enough to open her eyes or actually get up."

"Have you been trying to wake her up since then?" She hastily questions, leaning over Regina's body while her trembling fingers brush the unruly hair away from her girlfriend's serene face. "That was almost three hours ago."

"I've kind of just let her sleep it off. I've tried three more times to wake her though and she usually responds like on autopilot and falls right back asleep," he meekly explains, watching intently as a storm of mixed emotions flash across Emma's face.

She leans down, enclosing the minimal gap between them and inhales softly. Without a flicker of a doubt, she's just waiting to breathe in that foul stench of stale liquor...except she doesn't. Her brows furrow in utter confusion as she slowly pulls away, her mind shuffling through every possible scenario and logical explanation.

"She wasn't drinking," she whispers mostly to herself, but Jefferson responds.

"I don't think so either," he murmurs, inspiring Emma to peek over her shoulder and meet the depressing expression stealing his usual gingerly persona.

Because if she wasn't drinking....

"What the fuck?" Emma grumbles in the back of her throat and jerks her hand from Regina's forehead like the woman suddenly developed a scalding hot fever that just burned her palm.

She stomps, purposely pounding her feet against the floor below to help release some of the tension coiling her muscles. Or maybe it's because she's really fucking pissed off and wants to disturb the precious queen's slumber.

"What are you doing?" Jefferson exasperates as he follows her into the bathroom.

"No. There is no way she's this knocked out from nothing. If she isn't drinking, she's doing something else," she heaves, frantically yanking open every drawer in the bathroom like Regina would be that dumb and have her stash hidden in plain view.

"Honey, that woman hasn't done a damn thing but drink her entire life. Where would she even find...what the hell are you assuming she's doing?" He inquisitively investigates further once he realizes he isn't quite sure what the blonde is insinuating.

Emma grunts and slams another empty drawer shut. She runs her quivering fingers through her long mane while her eyes jump around the bathroom for some sort of clue. All too quickly her feet are moving on their own, parading around the hotel room in search of anything that could possibly explain Regina's state of mind right now....maybe explain the whiplash of mood swings this entire fucking summer.

She falls hazardously onto her hands and knees and reaches under the bed, yanking out Regina's small duffel bag that travels with her to every hotel room, every dressing room and every tour bus. Emma angrily tears apart the zipper and rummages through every item while Jefferson anxiously waits behind her on pins and needles, mindlessly nibbling on his thumbnail for what's to come.

She retrieves the small toiletry bag and rips that bag open like a wild beast. She flips it upside down, staring aimlessly as a toothbrush, toothpaste, eyeliner, hair-ties and so much more falls to the ground below. She double checks the bag and searches the floor once more, only to come up empty. She throws the double-crossing bag behind herself and proceeds to dive right back into the duffel.

Regina's silky, turquoise, matching pajamas, that highlights her skin and does dirty things to Emma's body, is the second thing she purges from the bag. She shakes out the dainty ensemble, but again, she comes up short. She carelessly yanks Regina's favorite zip-up out of the bag and tosses it to the floor.

She freezes.

Slowly she turns around because she could have sworn she heard something besides the soft sweatshirt, connecting against the ground. Her heart pounds faster, threatening her young life as she tugs on the hood of the zip-up, dragging it across the floor until it's in her lap. She shakes the sweatshirt, expecting something to drop out, but much to her dismay nothing appears before her. Her hands instantly bury deep into the pockets, her mind praying that something is clenched between her fingertips when they emerge. Except, nothing...again.

Her hands slip into the inside of the plush hoodie, because she knows something is inside, it's just a matter of figuring out where. She finds a small zipper near the inside of the left chest and anxiously yanks the metal down. Her fingers slip inside at an alarming rate and pull out a small ziplock bag.

"What the hell is that?" Jefferson screeches as he rips the bag from her fingertips with every ounce of fury rattling through his system to inspect the four little orange pills.

"I have no fucking clue, but I don't trust her. There's more...somewhere." Emma rambles, her fingers finding the comfort of threading through her messy locks once again. "No way she's only keeping four hidden."

Emma pushes off the floor while her eyes are already roaming around the room, inspecting every detail because her gut is screaming that there's so much more to this story. She's heaving, struggling to catch her breath from the anger swarming through her chest and spreading like a wild flame. Her stomach is twisting and turning and she's convinced she's going to be sick, but she needs answers.

"I can't fucking believe her. I defended her," she absentmindedly rambles off as she trudges across the bedroom in search of any other incriminating items. "She swore she was sober," she angrily bites out as her emotions crawl to the surface, threatening to release a stream of tears.

She quickly sniffles away the sadness and forces herself to remain angry, bitter. She thinks about her son trying to wake up Regina and how scared he must have been. Her mind plays the story Jefferson told her earlier, images of her three-year-old climbing down from the bed where Regina lies passed out. A very vivid image like a movie playing in her mind comes into view of Henry holding his Woody doll close as he shuffles toward the front door and cracks it open. She knows her son well enough to know he peeked his little head out of the tiny space before he finally stepped across the threshold and debated if he should run off or stay put.

"It's Adderall," Jefferson breathlessly informs Emma, "I googled it."

Emma slams her fists down against the dresser and groans under her breath again. Her entire body is vibrating with fury and she honestly doesn't know what to focus on at this point to calm herself before she forces her body into cardiac arrest.

Out of her peripheral, she lands upon the acoustic guitar that assists Regina in creating the most magical songs when she's on tour. She groans as she rips the guitar off the ground and places the black leather case upon the dresser. She unclasps the gold metal locks and pops the top open with an eerie shiver slithering down her spine from invading someone's personal property.

Carefully, she lifts the guitar in the air and investigates every inch. She gently shakes the exquisite instrument, straining her ears for the slightest sound, but again she comes up empty. She sets the guitar down on the floor with practiced ease and focuses on the soft protective barrier dressing the inside of the case. Her fingers move to their own accord, exploring the edges all around the curves of the case until....

"Fuck," Emma murmurs to herself as she peels back the velvety layer to reveal another ziplock bag with more of those little orange pills mixed with long, white, rectangular shaped pills with the word Xanax written across. "Welp, no need to google this," she spins around, holding up the bag filled with a mix of orange and white, "she's also taking Xanax."

"Shit, baby girl," Jefferson whispers, glaring at the pills like he's willing them to just disappear and erase this nightmare they are slowly spiraling deeper into.

"What the fuck?" Emma seethes, channeling all her pent up rage into whipping the bag across the room before she does something she will regret instead.

"I can't believe this. How-where did she-why?" Jefferson incoherently babbles as his mind tries to formulate a reasonable explanation, but he already knows.

He knows in his heart and soul, there's nothing to excuse this. Regina's his cousin, his best friend, who he knows better than anyone and he knows she was desperate to maintain her sobriety from alcohol just to hold on dearly to her relationship with Emma.

"Mal," Emma growls, her fingers running the beaten path in her golden waves once again. "I knew she was fucking shady."

"Calm down. We can't just go blaming people without any evidence and since when did you start swearing so much?"

"Since my girlfriend has been sneaking behind my back to pop pills and passed out when she was supposed to be watching my three-year-old. That's when. I'm fucking furious right now, is this really the time to be questioning my choice of words? Fuck you," she spits, pounding her feet against the ground toward the bed once again.

"Look, I know you're upset, you have every right to be, but I don't think we are going to get answers with you screaming in her face when she wakes up," he gently explains while he watches her rip the blankets off his cousin's lifeless body.

"I don't give a flying fuck. She put my son in danger and I'm done coddling her." She spins around and leans down, hovering over the woman who is still sleeping heavily. "Regina, it's time to get up," she firmly demands, but chooses not to yell in her girlfriend's ear.

Regina hums softly, an automatic smile gracing her peaceful face from her most favorite sound in the world, Emma's voice. She stretches out her sleepy limbs, but her eyes never peel apart.

"I'm up," she says with conviction, and maybe her mind is, but her body is not cooperating.

"No, you need to wake up all the way, we need to talk," Emma sternly urges, inspiring the brunette to squirm closer to Emma's face and peck her cheek, with her eyes still firmly shut.

"Few more minutes," she mumbles mindlessly and snuggles back into the pillow below her wild tresses.

"That's how she's been all morning," Jefferson sadly chimes in, folding his arms across his chest and sighing in disappointment.

"I'm going to see my son," she announces and walks away from the bed without another glance in Regina's direction.

Her body is still buzzing with uncontrollable outrage and tension from the entire situation. She's unsure if she's more pissed off because her son was in harm's way or because Regina has been lying to her and very clearly abusing those pills. Adderall and Xanax. It's no wonder Regina was flying through her irrational mood swings like a damn rollercoaster. One minute she was up and the next she was down and she was hardly sleeping....

Emma furiously shakes her head to remove those unwanted thoughts because now she has to muster up her best happy-go-lucky face for her son's sake and pretend none of this is even occurring. She takes one deep breath while her knuckles tap against Ruby's hotel room.

The door swings open immediately and her heart sinks even further because not even her best friend has the courage to fake a smile for her. Ruby is frowning as she steps aside and allows her to enter.

"He's watching Toy Story on my iPad," her sister says and closes the door behind her.

"Is he okay? Did he ask any questions?"

"No, I think he's too young to understand that anything even happened. I haven't asked him a thing because I wasn't sure what you wanted to do." Ruby nervously nibbles on her bottom lip and Emma knows exactly what's to come. "Is Regina up yet?" She whispers, conscious of the toddler in the room, but luckily, he's too invested on his favorite heroes to pay any attention. "Was she drunk?"

Emma's chin instantly wobbles from the accusation. She clenches her jaw, begging for the tears to stay locked inside her broken heart. "No," her voice cracks, encouraging those pesky tears to swim to the surface once again. "She hasn't been drinking," she sniffles as soon as she feels her nose start to tingle.

"Then..."

"Apparently, she's popping Adderall and Xanax," she chokes out through a sob that she can no longer hold back, motivating her best friend to jump into action, yanking her flush against her lanky body for a protective hug.

"I'm so sorry."

"Mommy?"

Emma hastily jumps back and angrily wipes away at the sticky tears clinging to her cheeks. "Hey, bud!" She over enthuses and quickly moves to sit beside him on the bed. "You watching Buzz and Woody?"

"Yup!" He cheekily replies and crawls into her lap, not wanting to miss a single second even though he's seen the movie too many times to count.

Emma snakes her arms around his tiny little frame and holds him close. Her eyes fall closed as she buries her nose in his soft hair and she inhales his sweet, familiar scent that settles her frantic heart. "I love you," she breathes out.

"Heart you, mommy," he replies on autopilot, hugging his Woody even closer to his own chest.

Emma rests her cheek upon his head and glances at Ruby for guidance, her eyes filled to the brim with hot tears. Ruby shakes her head and mouths, "he has no idea," which helps settle a portion of Emma's disturbed heart.

 

Chapter Text


She waits. She waits impatiently with her legs folded up like a pretzel, anxiously bouncing at the knees while she glares murderously below. Her heart has been like a jackhammer, cracking through the cavity, just ready to lash out and finally release all this pent-up rage. For the last thirty minutes, she's been repeating her monologue over and over again, ready for this battle Regina will unknowingly wake up to. She knows exactly everything she wants to say, but she also knows that in the heat of the moment, she will inevitably forget more than half of her practiced speech.

Dark, thick lashes slowly flutter to life, forcing Emma's spine to straighten and her heart to pound so ferociously that she breaks out in a full-blown sweat. Regina stretches out her stiff limbs before her mind is fully awake. A small smile is evident before it quickly vanishes like a ghost in the night and she frantically pats the bed beside her.

Oh good, so she remembers she's supposed to be watching my son, Emma thinks to herself as she sits in complete silence and watches the scene play out before her.

Black, vacant eyes spring to life as Regina's entire body shoots up in bed and she gasps in fright. "Henry?" She calls out just as her mind registers Emma's rigid body directly in front of her. "Emma?"

"Mmhmm," is all she can murmur because the amount of anger pulsating through her body like a bass drum is far too overwhelming at the moment.

"What are you doing home already? Where's Henry? Oh god," she stifles her mouth with her own hand slapping across her parted lips as she gasps and realization washes over her.

"Yeah..." Emma drawls out cynically, clenching the plastic baggies impossibly tight between her furious fists, producing a slick sheen of sweat against her palms. "Anything you would like to confess?" She sarcastically interrogates even though a bitter acid is sliding it's way up the back of her throat.

"Where's Henry? Is he alright?" Regina ignores her and focuses on what's most important.

"Why does it matter?" She shrugs noncommittally, "obviously he doesn't mean anything to you."

"Stop!" Regina barks out, running her trembling fingers through her hair. "Cut the passive aggressive bullshit, you know how much Henry means to me."

"Obviously not," Emma rebuttals, hastily scrambling off the bed to stand tall and assert her power, because she's feeling far too vulnerable in this moment and she needs to remind herself to stay mad. "If he meant so much to you, then why the hell would you risk his safety for a stupid high?" Emma shouts, each word growing louder and louder until she explodes and whips the bags of pills at Regina.

The brunette flinches, but she doesn't have enough time to shield herself from the unexpected bags being hurled at her. Emma studies the way those lifeless eyes crawl toward the pills for a split second before traveling back toward her.

"You swore to me that you were sober!" Emma shouts, folding her arms across her chest to stop herself from lunging at Regina just to smack some sense back into her.

"I am!" Regina scrambles to her knees and reaches for Emma, but she is far faster and immediately jumps back from the unwanted touch. "Emma, please. I have not had a single sip of alcohol since October," she vows with an urgency Emma hasn't quite heard in her girlfriend's tone before.

"It doesn't matter, Regina. Sober is sober! You just replaced the alcohol with a different substance. It's the same fucking thing!"

"No, no, it's not. It's completely different," her girlfriend firmly declares, but Emma isn't having any of these poor excuses. "I can function so much better if I just take one, that's a hell of a lot better than drinking myself into a stupor where I cannot control my actions."

"Are you seriously defending yourself right now? Regina!" Emma bends down to meet those bloodshot eyes and hold her gaze. "You just passed the fuck out while you were supposed to be watching my three-year-old! You still cannot fucking control your actions," she seethes, her nose almost connecting against her girlfriend's.

"That-I don't know what happened. I usually have the doses under control...maybe I was just overly tired from pulling an all-nighter," she rambles on and it takes some higher power that Emma calls upon not to strangle her girlfriend for being so blind to her own addiction.

"Stop! Stop! I don't want to hear another damn excuse. You've been moody, irritable, distant, restless, agitated and a down right bitch this summer and I asked you about it and you looked me square in the eyes and swore you were sober-"

"I am!"

"You aren't!" Emma bellows so loud that Regina actually shuffles back on the bed. "It's still substance abuse! Anything that alters your mood or behavior that you abuse is still an addiction. You just swapped out the alcohol for pills. How do you not see that?"

"Emma please, I just needed to push through this summer. I swear I wasn't going to continue once this tour was over. I just needed to finish this album, so I could spend the rest of the year with you and Henry," she thoroughly explains with desperate tears quickly building in her tired eyes.

And it takes everything in Emma to remain rooted to the floor and not cave, because enough is enough. She cannot coddle Regina any longer through this addiction. Her girlfriend needs serious help and she crossed a line today that endangered her son and there's no coming back from that.

"Please, tell me he's okay. I just laid down for a minute with him in my arms and...and I must have dozed off-"

"Regina! Listen to yourself, you didn't just doze off, he tried waking you up and he wandered into the hall. You are so fucking lucky that Jefferson and Ruby were just coming in from the bus and that he didn't...." she trails off when horrific images of the worst case scenarios play through her mind. "I'm so lucky nothing happened to my baby," she whispers as a few tears finally trickle down her cheeks.

"Emma, I'm so so sorry," Regina cries, scrambling forward on her knees to hug those tears away, but Emma places her hand between them and takes a generous step back.

"Don't! I have begged you time and time again to get help. Real help. And you never listen and now it's gone too far, Regina."

"Emma, please," she chokes out through a harsh sob, one that finally causes the dam to burst, allowing thick tears to leak down her flushed cheeks. "I'm so so-"

"No," Emma breathlessly whispers as her chest heaves through a deep sob that feels like her entire chest is caving in. "I'm so sick and tired of hearing your empty apologies. I can't stand one more, I can't, not if you're not willing to admit yourself into an actual facility."

"You know I can't do that," her girlfriend cries even harder, viciously shaking her knotty hair all around her face. "My career-"

"Then you've made your choice."

Soaked brown eyes flick toward glistening green in bewilderment before Regina jumps off the bed and rushes to the distraught blonde.

"Emma, please. Whatever you're thinking...don't," she says with conviction, breaking apart Emma's folded arms and snatching up her clammy hands. "I can do better, I promise. The tour is over in one week and I swear I can stop taking those pills. If I can quit alcohol, I swear I can quit those," she vows with all her heart and maybe she does mean it, but an addict is an addict through and through and they will tell their loved ones anything they want to hear to dig themselves out of the mess they created all on their own.

"See Regina, that's the thing," Emma slowly begins as she pulls her hands away from Regina's burning hot flesh, "you never quit alcohol. Not for real anyway. You'll end up right back with those pills in your mouth the next time life gets a little rough." She slowly steps back, another tear tumbling down her cheek. "And that's not a risk I'm willing to take again with Henry."

She swallows hard as she watches Regina's chest heave for a breath as a fresh new wave of tears stream down her face. She knows her girlfriend is in denial when thick chestnut locks in disarray whip hazardously around her face.

"Em-ma," her voice breaks, the emotional shards of glass spewing from her mouth and breaking through Emma's chest, shredding her heart into a million little pieces because she herself cannot stand the thought of this relationship actually ending.

"No, I have to protect Henry. Maybe if it was just me, maybe I could stand to have my heart broken again," she hiccups, quickly crossing her arms over her chest as a sudden chill spreads wickedly in her blood. "...but...Henry comes first and I can't have him around this."

"Please, Emma. Don't do this." Regina lunges forward, desperately trying to pull Emma into her embrace, because she thinks that maybe the feel of her love will be enough to end this nightmare she woke up in. "I love you so much. I promise I can do better, just please don't leave me."

Emma chokes on a heavy sob, Regina becoming a blur of messy colors as new tears fill her eyes and fog her vision. She's a blubbering mess now and she's just sitting there, tearing her world apart and breaking this already damaged woman even more and there's not a damn thing she can do to stop it because she knows in her heart and soul, it's the right decision.

"I'm sorry, but I can't do this anymore. I can't be who you need me to be," Emma quickly wipes away her tears and inhales a deep breath that burns her aching lungs. "If I wasn't the motivation to push you to stay sober, I had hoped so desperately that it would have been Henry." Regina shakes violently as another deep, shuddering cry wracks her frail body. "But it's not us. If you can't stay sober for us, then we aren't what you need, Regina."

"Don't say that," she softly cries, "you are both what I need. I have never felt more alive than I have this past year." And there goes what little bit of heart Emma had left pieced together. "I have never tried so hard to stay sober. Please, don't give up on me now. I need you two. I love you both so much."

"No, Regina. My mom told me one time that an alcoholic cannot change for a loved one and I so hopelessly ignored her and believed that you could." Regina shakes her head violently, but Emma continues. "But she's right, an addict will only change when they have hit rock bottom and have had enough. They can't do it for their partner or their children...they can only do it for themselves."

"Please, don't say that. Please Emma, I love you and Henry so much-"

"I have to go, Regina. I can't drown with you anymore. I need to protect my son," she strongly states, even though her flushed cheeks stained with tear tracks tell a different story.

"Emma!"

Her entire body is vibrating with a new kind of energy, one that's plagued with heartache and guilt. She wishes she could be strong enough and learn to cope with Regina's problem, but there's been too many broken promises of sobriety and Emma can't allow her son to witness such a beautiful disaster that Regina Mills creates.

She runs toward the door with Regina chasing after her, calling her name in a strangled cry, over and over again, but she doesn't dare look back, because if she did, she would crumble. She would toss away her beliefs and break not only her heart again, but also her son's and it's just something she cannot do.

"Emma!" She hears one last time before she slams the hotel door shut, eliminating the singer from her life once and for all.

~~~~~~~~

She swallows down another choking sob swelling in her throat, which is already abused from all the tears that have fallen for the only person she has ever learned to love in her sad little life. She thought she loved her mother, unconditionally too, but that was all fear that warped her mind and lead her to believe such a foolish idea. No, there hasn't been a single soul to walk this planet that Regina ever wasted her heart on, but Emma...Emma Swan and her beautiful baby boy, Henry, well, they finally broke down her walls and taught her the true meaning of love.

She shoves her phone into the back pocket of her jeans, because she cannot possibly stare at the thirty unanswered messages any longer and releases a shaky breath as she stares at her puffy eyes in the mirror. Slowly, with trembling fingers, she slides her black sunglasses up the bridge of her nose to conceal the evidence of gut-wrenching heartache. Heartache that she caused because she was so fucking stupid.

She gambled and she lost the jackpot.

She doesn't have the strength to roam the halls with her head held high and the pride of Regina Mills. Instead, she hangs her head in shame, purposely using her hair as a curtain to hide her embarrassment as she carries her heavy feet toward the hotel room that's portraying a dressing room this evening.

With her chest feeling like it's caving in and her throat feeling like it's closing up on her, she swipes her keycard and lets herself into the room. All the commotion, the hustle and bustle of the familiar routine just before a concert, instantly vanishes in thin air and it's as if someone just hit the mute button on her life. She swallows down her fears as every single set of eyes land upon her, but she proceeds to trek forward and slide into her chair.

The rest of the crew slowly starts to work around her again, but it's so very clear that each person is tiptoeing on eggshells around her. Ruby steps forward though, with a brave expression that reveals just how ticked off she truly is. Except, much to Regina's surprise, the hair stylist snatches up the stick of concealer that Emma always begins with.

"What are you doing?" Regina bitterly bites out, but her voice doesn't possess the same authority when her throat comes off sounding like a bunch of gravel grinding beneath a tire on a dirt road.

"Your makeup," Ruby flatly replies, ignoring the singer's foul mood and leaning into her personal space, but Regina slides further back.

"Where's Emma?"

The entire staff's ears perk up from the unfamiliar name leaving the singer's tongue. Long gone is the formality of, Miss Swan, and the blanket of unnerving awkwardness that covers the room is suffocating. Ruby's jaw comes slightly unhinged as she stares Regina down in the eyes and just when she thinks she's about to answer with a cruel comment, Cora steps forward.

"I am very sorry to inform you," and her mother leans in dangerously close, lowering her voice, but everyone is straining to hear what this woman has to say, "but Miss Swan resigned earlier, something to do with her family."

"What?"

"Miss Lucas will attend to your makeup for the rest of the tour and until we can find a replacement."

"But-" Regina chokes on the small word and prays that she doesn't break down in tears all over again in front of her staff and especially her heartless mother.

"Did you really think she would stay?" Ruby whispers as she leans in and slowly slides the pitch-black frames off her face. "All your messages went unanswered. What made you think she would be here this evening?" The hair stylist murmurs for only Regina's ears, not even Cora can comprehend the conversation.

A brick full of regret, heartache, and fear collapses onto her chest and weighs down her heart, making it impossible to catch her next breath. Of course, she knew she completely screwed up with Emma, but she assumed this would all blow over, just as it always does. Emma swore she wouldn't leave her, she repeatedly said that she wasn't going anywhere and Regina assumed after hearing it so many times that it actually meant something. She thought Emma would just always be there, no matter what.

Her blood feels extra thick as it slinks through her veins and prickles like a thousand needles stabbing her skin. She isn't sure if she wants to neurotically scratch at her skin to relieve the stress or if it would be more ideal to just rip the flesh straight from her body. She's panicking, that much is true, but she's craving too. Her heart is racing and all she can think about is jumping right out of this chair and maybe out of her skin, and lock herself in her room and feel the soothing sensation wash over her as that white bar slides down her throat.

She debated for a solid hour before she left if she should take a Xanax to calm her twitchy nerves, but all she could see is that look of disappointment in Emma's eyes and she just couldn't do it. However, knowing that Emma officially left her, in their relationship and professionally as well, is all the motivation Regina needs to swallow those pills or maybe even find a nice bottle of tequila while she's at it.

Ruby leans down, ghosting over the slash deep in Regina's upper lip while she advances with a mulberry color lipstick. This is what snaps Regina back to reality and causes her to jump back in her seat.

"What are you doing?"

"Your lipstick," Ruby deadpans with an exaggerated eye roll.

"I will do it myself," she snips, snatching up the lipstick and standing tall from her seated position.

Ruby folds her arms across her chest, with her vibrant red lips pursed while she examines Regina's fragile posture. She watches intently as Regina leans into the mirror and the first thing she notices, is how badly the singer is trembling.

Long black eyelashes flutter closed for a moment while she inhales a calming breath to settle her anxious nerves, but when she opens her eyes again and presses the shade to her lips, she's still quivering uncontrollably.

"Can I please just-"

"I'm fine, Miss Lucas," Regina calmly claims, but they both know she's anything but.

"Fine."

Slowly, carefully, she drags the mulberry across her bottom lip, all while her body is screaming at her to stop the madness festering inside. Her body is suffering from withdrawals, that much is evident, because her blood has been consumed by the glorious taste of Xanax or Adderall for over two months now.

She never took the time to learn about each drug, Mal just explained what each little pill's job was and that was enough for Regina. Take the little orange one, Adderall, as an instant pick-me-up, perfect for her concerts and after, so she could focus on creating her next album. The only downfall, was the actual downfall when she was sobering up from that little orange guy. She would feel irritable, anxious, and wide awake and after that dragged on for almost five days, Mal offered a relief, Xanax. The long white bar to calm the anxious energy crawling inside and finally allow her peace and quiet to relax and maybe fall asleep. Except, Regina loved the calm too much, so much that one bar wasn't enough after an all-nighter, so she kept consuming until she was out cold...so long as she knew she didn't need to be up for a concert the next day.

And if Regina actually took the time to read about the side effects of these mood enhancers, then maybe she would understand that Adderall is only increasing her state of insomnia and doubling the anxiety festering inside, which only provokes her mind into craving the delicious relief of Xanax. A very vicious cycle. Maybe she should have taken the time to understand that her body should never quit Xanax cold turkey. Maybe she should have the information to comprehend that Xanax is a very addictive drug with a long list of negativity to follow if not prescribed and consumed properly.

But it's all too late for that now, her body is obsessed.

 

Chapter Text


And so it goes, life proceeds to spin routinely around them, but Regina swears Emma is inching forward in life while she's hopelessly being sucked backwards by some awful time warp. And maybe, if Emma would answer one of her texts, telling her to fuck off, then maybe, she could find the strength to move on. Except, the silence is a sliver of hope that maybe Emma will one day forgive her and actually reply. Maybe if Regina continues to pursue, Emma will one day cave and answer one of her many, many calls.

Yet, without fail, no matter how many times Regina swears to herself that she will not leave a message, she does. And every damn time, she finds herself pacing like a madwoman, her fingers fiddling with her hair as she rambles on and on like a damn fool. A fool that she most certainly is for the blonde.

"Hey...it's me...again." A deep heavy sigh filled with embarrassment, shame, and regret always follows. "I'm so sorry. I don't know how many more times I can say those words before they start to lose meaning...maybe they already have....I just miss you and Henry so much. I-I don't really know how to exist anymore in a world without the two of you in it. I know you hate me. I hate me. I just need to know that you are both okay. God, I miss the sound of your voice. And I don't know how I survived so long in this world without the comfort of your body next to mine at night. Please, Emma, I'm begging you to call me back. Answer one of my texts. Yell at me! I just need-"

And then that stupid recording always cuts her off because she's gone on for an embarrassing amount of time. That's usually about the time where she throws her phone against a bed, a couch, anything really where she knows the device won't shatter. After that, her nerves always get the best of her, short-circuiting and frying to the point where she actually feels exhaustion settle in her limbs, but her mind is running rampant and she doesn't know if she should run a mile or sleep for three days straight.

That's the exact moment where she finds herself in a heated argument with nobody but herself on how she should proceed in life. Does she suck up the pain and torture? Or does she wash away the stress with a little pill and a large glass of tequila?

The rectangle bar wins out, each and every time.

The first week without Emma Swan was by far the worst, actually, scratch that, she doesn't really remember that week. All her medically induced, mixed irresponsibly with alcohol brain, really remembers is that it was her last week of the tour.

Oh, and her mother hired some new girl. Brunette, opposite of Emma and that's all Regina can recall about the woman. She was so deep in a depression that she actually allowed her mother to handpick the new makeup artist, something Regina has not allowed since she was fifteen. She's always been very adamant about background checks and several interviews with herself, but she was too far gone to accomplish such a task.

"Uhhh...new girl," Ruby drawled out as she twirled a thick raven chunk around a curling iron, "your job is to hide the blemishes, not create more destruction."

"I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry. I don't know what's happening! Why is her skin so red?" The poor new girl hysterically stammered as she frantically waved her hand in front of Regina in a lame attempt to cool down her flesh.

"Oh honey," Jefferson tsked, shaking his head as he gathered up the girl's hands into his own. "What soap did you use? Didn't Cora give you a list of products that Regina is allergic to?" He sadly questioned, but there was a hint of amusement in his tone because nobody could ever replace Emma Swan.

"I-I...no. I don't believe so. I used Dial," she admitted, generating an uproar of sighs and disapproving tongue clicks from the staff.

"You have one job," Regina growled, rising from her chair like the queen that she is. "Are you honestly that incompetent that you can't possibly take the time to memorize an allergy sheet?" She spat in disgust, inspecting the blotchy red mess spreading across her cheeks and neck like bubbling hot oil spilling and burning her flesh. "You're fired!"

"But I swear-"

"Fired!" Regina barked out, provoking each staff member to jump in their own skin.

That's about as much as Regina remembers from that week. Luckily, Ruby was there to pick up the pieces from that debacle, just as she has always done before, because no matter how furious the hair stylist is with her, deep down, they are friends and Ruby Lucas is as loyal as they come.

After that week was over, everyone ventured on their own ways and of course, Regina was shipped off to Maine for drinking an entire week away. Her mother knew about the incident with Henry, but like mother like daughter, she didn't view the pills as an issue, just the tequila.

By week two, vacant of Emma Swan, Regina was off the alcohol and back to a routine with her little orange and white buddies. Since she wasn't on tour though, the routine changed just a little bit. Regina would swallow an Adderall in the morning to keep her mind focused on finishing her album and at night when the medicine was wearing off and she was anxious and insomnia was keeping her wide awake until all hours of the night, she would consume enough Xanax to relax every anxious murmur in her head, along with her restless body.

Dr. Facilier had stated that he could prescribe her anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax, if she was feeling that anxious and agitated. He made her promise that she wouldn't abuse them, and she agreed wholeheartedly, but can anyone honestly trust an addict?

So, Regina stayed chained to the mansion, drowning her sorrows with pill after pill until all she really understood was the action of popping open a bottle, swallowing the mood enhancers, and drowning in a world where pain ceased to exist. It was nice on that planet, her body was numb, like someone ripped out her heart and stopped the frantic palpitations that caused her stress. The world was silent there too, no whispers of taunting insecurities that broke her down and had her searching for the next bottle of tequila. She felt a type of tranquility that only ever came when she was protectively tucked in Emma's embrace.

But soon, her body became accustomed to the addictive high and she found that she couldn't focus on her writing like she did over the summer. So, one tiny orange pill became two and that seemed to push her mind back on track, except when it was time to slow down for the evening, she wanted to keep pushing forward. There was this urgency that slithered in her bones and kept her eyes focused on the prize, finishing that damn album.

She couldn't find the willpower to sleep and two bars of Xanax just wasn't contributing to its part on the job. She didn't feel that pull that swept her under into a deep sleep that helped her escape the world anymore. So, she did what she thought was logical, upped the ante. Another bar of Xanax should quiet down her mind.

And Regina Mills continued on this destructive path for two solid months before something snapped.

~~~~~~~~

Her eyes are unfocused, a foggy mess of white and black beneath her, but her fingers know what to do by now. She presses down on the familiar keys and instantly, her nose tingles, but she proceeds.

"But I knew you, playing hide-and-seek and giving me your weekends, I-" her voice cracks as the memory of the three of them crawling around on the floor comes parading to the forefront of her mind again. "And when I felt like I was an old cardigan, under someone's bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite," she sadly cries, not even noticing the tears trickling down her cheeks.

She can't do this. She can't stay away. Not today. She's drowning in their memory tonight. So, she snatches up her phone and dials the only number she's been calling for two months now.

Voicemail. Again.

"Hey, Emma, it's me...I..." she groans into the phone clenched between her cheek and her shoulder as her fingers skate across the top of the piano keys, never creating an actual sound. "I just wanted to sing Happy Birthday to Henry." Her right pinky presses down on the ivory, producing a sweet angelic note as she sighs again. "I can't believe he's four already. I wonder how big he is now? I bet he can say my name very clearly." Her left pinky tickles the next key, creating a deeper, more somber tone. "If he even remembers me now," she sadly acknowledges with a heavy heart and thick tears coating her eyes. "I hope he still loves Toy Story, please don't hate me, but I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't send him something. It should have arrived earlier today, according to my tracking."

Her fingers press down in a rhythmic combination of notes that she had memorized by the age of five, while she sadly whispers the lyrics that match. She sings her sweet rendition of Happy Birthday and almost bursts into tears when she's done because she should be there with them. Everything wrong that she ever did in Emma's eyes was all so that she could be sitting at that table today, singing Happy Birthday and watching that beautiful little boy blow out his candles. Except, life took a very sharp and hazardous turn into a shady alley and she wound up here.

Alone. Again.

"Please Emma, please just let me-"

Again, that bitch of a recording cuts her off just as she always does. She yanks the phone away and places it down beside her on the bench. Her fingers angrily hammer down across the keys, generating a deep tone that matches her anger.

"Please just let me see him!" She cries out as her head hangs in shame and a few tears squeeze through her clenched eyes. "Fuck!"

She folds her trembling arms over the top of the grand piano and weeps, like a child falling off their bike for the very first time and scrapes up their knees. She cries and cries so uncontrollably that her chest cannot possibly inhale enough clean oxygen to support her frail body.

She leans her heavy head on one arm and peeks below to watch through her tears as her fingers drag across the keys all on their own. The melody is deep and sinks further into her chest until she's left with a big gaping hole, but she can't stop herself.

"I knew you, leavin' like a father, running like water, I," she barely sings through her broken voice and heavy tears. Just thinking about her father again, sparks a rage deep within her shattered soul and suddenly, she's slamming her fingers down on the piano and bitterly singing, "But I knew you'd linger like a tattoo kiss, I knew you'd haunt all of my what-ifs. I knew I'd curse you for the longest time."

"You drew stars around my scars and now I'm bleedin'..." She breaks down again, sobbing with her head hanging in shame, not even her fingers can find the strength to carry on as she cries. "I knew you, hand under my sweatshirt, baby, kiss it better, I-"

With tear soaked eyes and stained cheeks, she angrily removes herself from the piano and wobbles on her shaky knees to fall recklessly against the door way. She sniffles away the leaky faucet dripping from her nose and heaves for her next breath, just praying for enough clean air to alleviate the pain crushing her chest. She pushes herself off the doorframe and stammers down the hall, her feet scuffing the floor below until she trips into her mother's vacant room.

She honestly doesn't recall the last time her mother stepped foot in this godforsaken prison, but she knows her mother well enough to know that she wouldn't stay anywhere without a bottle of her most expensive white wine. She crawls, pathetically, like the addict she is, on her hands and knees toward her mother's closet. Despite this place being a sanctuary free from alcohol, Cora Mills still had the balls to stash away a few bottles.

It was her daughter struggling, right? So, why should she be punished as well?

Bitch.

It doesn't even cross Regina's mind if the bottle should be chilled or not. No, in a haste, she finds her mother's bottle opener and pops the cork right out. She presses the cool glass to her lips and doesn't even hesitate to pour the warm liquid down her throat. If she can't have Emma, then there's nothing left in this world to live sober for. That quirky blonde with the most stunning green eyes was the only motivation Regina ever felt for sobriety and she still managed to fuck it up.

Another swig. Another pain melting away from her body like a piece of chocolate smushed between warm fingertips on a hot summer's day. Another gulp. Another depressing memory fading like existence sucked into a black hole. Another poison. Another insecurity burning from her mind.

Somewhere lost through half of the bottle, her ears perk up like a dog relishing in the word, walk. She peeks her tangled hair in disarray out of the closet and strains her ears to discover that her phone is in fact ringing. She scrambles to her feet, abandoning the bottle of white wine before she charges through the hall and falls across the piano bench to retrieve her phone.

Her heart swells painfully, five sizes too large.

"Hello? Hello? Emma?"

"Regina," and she sounds so sad and so far away, but Regina's smiling wildly into the phone and clutching the device as if it's Emma herself.

"I'm so glad you called. How's Henry? Is he enjoying his birthday? Did he receive my presents?" She fires off as quickly as possible before Emma wakes up and realizes she made a huge mistake by calling.

"He did. He really loves them. It was all too much, thank you," Emma whispers and no matter how fucking depressed she sounds, Regina cannot stop grinning like a fool. "Listen-"

"I just wanted him to have the entire Toy Story collection. I know how much he loves them."

And it's the excruciating, painful, audible gulp on the other end of the line that steals Regina's next breath away and renders her speechless.

"Please Regina, you have to stop calling," Emma chokes on her own words to suppress the evident sob swelling in the back of her throat. "I can't move on with you constantly calling."

"Please Emma, I miss you both so much. Please just give me another chance. I'm in Maine right now, I'm sober," she lies, of course she'll lie, she'll say anything, promise the world, if she can just get Emma back in someway.

"No, you're not. I'm not stupid, Regina. I can hear it in your voice."

"No, no. I just...I've been crying. I'm so mad that I'm missing his birthday," she honestly confesses as a new wave of warm tears cling to her eyes and blur her vision, but she doesn't need to see anyways. All she needs to do is close her eyes and listen to the beautiful sound of Emma's voice, that always chases away her demons. She can distinctly picture those silky, fat, curls, that dazzling contagious smile, and those sparkling eyes that are the most gorgeous shade of green with warm honey flecks. "Please, Emma, tell me what's been going on in your life."

"I have to go, Regina. Please stop calling."

"Wait Emma, please, let me prove to you that I can change."

"You're not going to change," and suddenly the sorrowful Emma is replaced with a bitter, spiteful woman instead. A woman who has had her heart broken one too many times. "Your career, your damn mother, are way more important to you than your own health. And I cannot sit by any longer and watch as you destroy yourself. And I most certainly will not allow that to happen in front of my son. Goodbye, Regina," Emma flatly replies and ends the call before Regina is granted another opportunity to lie through her teeth.

"Emma!" Regina shrieks in a pitch that is so foreign to her own ears that she winces in response. "No, no, Emma," she cries out as hot liquid trickles down her flushed cheeks and she clicks on Emma's name again, but sadly it goes straight to voicemail without a single ring.

"Hey guys, it's Emma...."

"No, no, no!" Regina shouts like her phone just sold her out to the devil himself. She quickly ends the call and tries again.

"Hey guys, it's Emma...."

"Fuck!"

She chucks her phone, this time without a care in the world if there's some soft cushion to cradle its fall. Of course, she hears the cringeworthy cracking of her screen, but honestly, she doesn't give a flying fuck.

She hurls her body off the bench and crawls back toward her mother's bedroom, sobbing hysterically because this is it. This is what she's been waiting for, Emma to finally answer and tell her off and officially end the limbo Regina has been suffocating in. She has finally lost the last tie keeping her bound to Emma and she's certain by morning, Emma will have either blocked her number or changed hers altogether to avoid any more heartbreaking moments.

Like a pathetic worm, slithering its way toward its last meal before becoming slime off the bottom of someone's boot, Regina crawls on the floor and snatches up the bottle of wine that was neglected with one thought of Emma actually calling her. She roughly slams the bottle to her lips, most likely bruising the flesh in the process and opens her throat for the sweet relief.

Her mind blanks out, she sees nothing, hears complete and utter silence as she gulps down drink after drink until every last drop is swarming in her stomach and violently spreading through her bloodstream with a burning heat. It warms her soul, and she's just waiting for the poisonous liquid to erase the old and haunting memories.

Except, this time it doesn't. Her mind is pounding with image after image of Emma. Her infectious laugh. Her cocky smirk. Her adorable carefree laugh. Her silky skin. Her milky-white flesh. The way her back arches when she is unraveling beneath her. The sexy little moans that would escape her pale lips when Regina would nip at her hipbones.

"Fucking stop," she viciously cries out as she pops another bottle open and angrily consumes another drink or two.

She presses the heel of her palms to her eyes until an explosion of vibrant colors dance before her. She just wants the pain to go away, but then she hears his adorable baby giggles. Freckled nose. Chubby little hands upon the piano. That stupid fucking Woody doll.

"Fuck!"

She sobs uncontrollably and whips the bottle against the wall before she clambers to her feet unsteadily and storms out of the room. She sways from left to right, ignorant to the fact that she should have never mixed alcohol with those pills and stumbles down the stairs. She leans heavily into the wall for support and slides down until she's fumbling through the foyer. Everything around is blurry and somewhat slanted, but she tells her feet to keep pushing forward.

His black jacket is hanging on the wall and she doesn't possess a single rational thought in her mind. All she knows, is she has to fix this. She needs Emma to believe her.

"Miss Mills, what are you doing?"

She's caught, with her hand in the cookie jar, well technically, it's in his coat pocket with her fingers curling around the jagged metal.

"Busted," she whispers because the alcohol has now seeped into her brain and clouded her better judgement.

"Miss Mills?" He tries again, cautiously approaching her to ensure that he won't spook her.

"Hey, Guy," she greets him, plastering on her most pristine and professional smile, ignorant to the fact that the alcohol is already mixing with the pills and causing her grin to appear lazy and sloppy.

"Miss Mills, why do you have my keys?"

"I have somewhere important that I need to be this evening," she confidently informs him, but she's just too far gone to notice the frown he's sporting.

"Alright, I will pull the car around and take you," he kindly offers, even if it wasn't the sole purpose of his duty as her chauffeur, he would have still offered.

"I can drive myself," she states with conviction, which causes a glint of humor to sparkle in his crystal blue eyes.

"Ma'am, you don't have a license."

"I know what I'm doing. Do you not remember teaching me when I was sixteen?"

A warm, earnest smile filled with compassion and love, stretches into his cheeks. "Of course, I remember. It was in the parking lot of the grocery store at midnight."

"Then you know I am more than capable," she slurs and immediately covers her mouth as a hiccup escapes between her lips and causes her body to sway to the left.

"Regina," he softly speaks, knowing exactly what condition she is in tonight, but more importantly, why she is where she is now. "I think it's best if I take you upstairs and you can sleep this off."

"No," she adamantly says, violently shaking her head as her feet shuffle back toward the extravagant front door. "I have to go. It's too important," she firmly declares.

She reaches behind herself and fumbles for a few seconds before she locates the knob and slowly cracks open the door.

Mr. Davidson studies her droopy eyelids, to her scarlet cheeks stained with dry tear tracks. His frown deepens as he takes a step forward, ready to protect her from the chaos she's about to cause around her.

"Please, let me drive you," he urges with his most sympathetic puppy dog eyes on full display because he cannot stand to watch her unravel again.

Regina glances down at the keys resting in her palm and sighs. Her bloodshot eyes crawl back up toward the only man besides Jefferson that she has ever trusted and slowly she offers him the set of keys. He smiles a mile wide and she cannot help but smile back at him.

She slips out the door with Guy following closely behind, just in case she accidentally trips over her own two feet. He opens the door for her, just as he was trained to do so many years ago and waits for her to tumble inside recklessly just as she usually does when drowning in this state of mind. Except this time, she smirks and jerks the handle to the front side and helps herself into the passenger seat. Guy shakes his head, slightly amused and closes the back door before he jogs around the back and slides into the driver's seat.

"Where to, Miss?"

 

A/N: I wrote this story before the album Folklore came out, but when it did, I had several people say that the album reminded them of this story, so when I was editing this story I added two of the songs that fit so well!

 

Chapter Text


"Mommy?" Her puffy eyes flutter the slightest, but the weight and torment from the previous night render her heavy lids motionless. "Mommy, wake up!"

"Henry," she groans, blindly reaching over the edge of the bed and pulling her now four-year-old up and over the mattress.

She lazily pulls him flush against her chest and puckers her lips to place a tender kiss to the top of his head. Except, her baby boy isn't having any of their routine morning cuddles today, instead, he places his Woody next to his mother's ear and yanks hard on the pull-string.

"Boy am I glad to see you!" The sheriff claims with a giggle at the end that pries Emma's eyes wide open and forces her mind awake with a jolt.

"I'm hungry, mommy!"

"But mommy's tired," she whines, hugging her son even closer to her chest to soothe the tormenting ache deep within her heart.

"Pancakes! Pancakes!"

"Henry, honey," Mary Margret's gentle tone carries from the doorway and startles both mother and son, "why don't we let mommy rest this morning. I can make you pancakes," she offers as she sweeps elegantly across Emma's bedroom and scoops up her grandson, despite his protest.

"No, no, I want mommy!" He shrieks as his grandmother settles him upon her hip. "I see Regina today? I miss her," he sadly expresses just as he has been every morning for the past three months.

Every day for over one year, this little boy has grown accustomed to seeing Regina's face, even if it was only through the small screen on his mother's phone. However, one day he didn't see Regina's face or hear her kind voice and his mother explained that Regina was simply busy. Unknowingly, because four-year-old's cannot possibly understand the concept of time, three months have passed by and every day he asks for Regina and every day Emma frowns and says, "maybe tomorrow, bud."

"I know you miss her, maybe tomorrow, bud," Emma sadly lies, avoiding her son's curious eyes as she slips out of bed and busies herself with making her bed, just so she doesn't have to see that look of disappointment once again. 

And this is exactly why she never wanted to fall in love again. Not because she wouldn't be able to handle the insufferable pain, even though she is barely hanging on, but because she never wanted to bring another person into her son's life, just to rip that important person away and break his heart. He's far too young to suffer the loss of someone important and she knows one day he will stop asking about Regina and then eventually, she'll be a distant memory until his little brain can no longer hang on to such a faded time in his life. She's just terrified that deep down, someway, somehow, she damaged her baby boy and that's something she won't ever be able to forgive herself for.

"Emma, if you want to rest this morning that's alright," her mother offers while Henry wiggles down from her arms and charges out of the bedroom and back downstairs. "I know you had a rough night last night," she divulges which instantly paints Emma's cheeks a deep shade of pink.

"I'm sorry, mom, I didn't mean to keep you up," she whispers, embarrassed that her mother had to listen to her hysterically cry all night long, but Mary Margaret just waves her off.

"Nonsense. If there's anybody that understands the disappointment of a loved one over an addiction, it's me," her mother sadly acknowledges, even though she's attempting a small smile.

"Mom, I want to cave so badly and just take her back, but I know she's not going to change and I-I just..." Again those pesky tears are right on the verge of expanding into a full-blown stream and honestly, she has no idea how her tear ducts can even produce any more liquid after last night's catastrophe.

"Honey, listen to me, loving an addict is one of the hardest things to do because you think your love can change them because you know them. The good in them, that's worth the risk and you pray every day that they will sober up and be everything you have ever hoped and dreamed for. I get it, I really do."

Emma exhales slowly with some whimpers escaping her lips as her mother takes her hand and leads her to sit at the edge of the mattress. Tenderly, with all the comfort and compassion a mother can produce, the older woman curls a chunk of hair behind Emma's ear and smiles sympathetically.

"Not a day goes by where I don't think about my father. Some days, he'll flitter across my mind with something as insignificant as to what he might be doing. More important days, like your birthday or the day Henry was born or the day we purchased this house together, I do feel an ache, wishing I could share this news and he would tell me how proud he is of me and how much he loves me. Then he would hug me like he always used to and hold me close and the chaos from the world would settle. Most holidays, I wonder how he must feel to be all alone, with not a single person to share the special occasion with. His birthday usually gets to me the most, because I know there isn't a soul who is calling him and wishing him a happy birthday and to me, that's utterly depressing. But then I sit back on other days and remind myself that he doesn't have to be alone on holidays and he could be a part of all our milestones, but he's the one that chooses not to be. He's the one that would rather spend his days intoxicated than with his daughter and granddaughter and great grandson. I would open my arms and welcome him back into my life again if I knew one hundred percent, that he could stay sober, but, just like you, I know I can't allow him back in if he's not. I can't risk the torture it inflicts on my heart, but most importantly, I couldn't subject you to that kind of torment. And I hate that I tried to protect you from a world of loving an addict when in the end you stumbled into a life of it anyways."

"Mom-"

"I'm not blaming you and I'm certainly not upset, that's the way of the world. I want you to know that I completely understand what you are dealing with. I understand the back and forth pull in your mind between forgiving and forgetting. I made my choice to cut my father out because time and time again, he let me down and when I knew I was bringing you into this world, I knew I couldn't continue to have such negativity in my life. I made my decision for you and I know you're making your decision for Henry. I know this isn't going to be easy and I just want you to know that I will be here every step of the way, no matter what," she happily vows with those olive-green eyes glistening with unconditional love.

Emma slowly releases a shaky breath, her eyes continuing to leak her heartache all over again. She falls forward, connecting her forehead against her mother's shoulder and melts into her loving touch, but barely thirty seconds pass by before the rude interruption of a television blaring comes from downstairs.

"Come on, before Henry scales the pantry for cereal," her mother giggles, squeezing some comfort into Emma's body before they stand together and head downstairs.

"Henry, can you please turn down the t.v?" Emma hollers, strolling right through the living room and into the kitchen that overlooks the entire first floor.

Emma proceeds to move around the kitchen with her mother, gathering the needed ingredients to whip up Henry's favorite chocolate chip pancakes. She places a large plastic bowl on the kitchen island and glances out toward the living room where her son is sitting far too close to the screen with his Woody doll in his lap, watching as well.

"Henry! I said turn it down!" She yells over the noise while her eyes sweep toward the pancake mix her mother set down beside her.

"In other news today, the world has been in utter disbelief over the information that has been leaked early this morning...."

"Mommy, look! Look!"

"Henry, please turn down the television, I can feel a migraine coming on," she exasperates while her hands move to their own accord, cracking eggs into the bowl of the powdery mix below.

"But mommy!"

"Henry, please listen to your mother," Mary Margaret finally chimes in as she chops up some strawberries to help decorate the sweet pancakes.

"But Regina's on t.v!"

"What?" Emma shrieks, missing the bowl completely with an egg and smashing the goo all over her countertop. "Shit!"

"Shit's a bad word, mommy."

"I know! Don't say it again," she sternly orders, wiping her sticky hands with a dish towel before dashing into the living room, where sure enough, images of Regina Mills are being shuffled across the screen like a slideshow.

"Oh my god," she breathes, firmly planting her bottom next to her son on the coffee table and leaning far closer than her son ever was. "Turn it up."

"You told me turn it down," her son frowns as she plucks the remote from his hand and beats heavily upon the volume button.

"Social media is swarming with photographs, beautiful artwork and creative videos put together by fans. It seems that everyone is attempting to express their support for the singer during this time."

"What the hell happened?" Emma shouts at the television like maybe the news reporter will hear her plea and turn to her with a smile and say, 'well, Emma...'.

"What's going on?" Her mother whispers as she slides onto the coffee table on the other side of Henry and leans just as far forward as mother and son.

"I don't know," Emma mindlessly babbles while her eyes stay glued to the screen, not wanting to miss a single second.

"Late last night, just after midnight, it was reported that Regina Mills, child prodigy, actress and singer, checked herself into a rehabilitation clinic."

"What?" She breathlessly whispers, her heart ceasing in her chest and her throat constricts so painfully, she's sure she won't be able to squeeze in her next breath.

This entire moment is that eerie calm of silence right before witnessing a horrific car crash. That single second when the outsider holds their breath, knowing the nightmare that's just about to unravel, yet, there's not a damn thing they can do about it, except sit back and watch.

So, she watches, through wide, glossy eyes as the first blow explodes with that godawful crunching noise and all Emma can think about is the repercussions that Regina will have to face when Cora gets ahold of her. Then comes the cringeworthy sound of shattering glass as the impact occurs and the pain is being inflicted and Emma's mind races with scrambled thoughts of Regina and how she checked herself into a facility that will be filled with civilians, not celebrities such as herself. She can only imagine how Regina will be bombarded without the assistance from her bodyguards. Then the final moment occurs where there's a split second of peace, before the chaos breaks out again and that's when her mind drifts back to the television in front of her.

Adorable photographs and clips of Regina at the beginning of her career start flashing across the screen. The beautiful little girl with bright brown eyes of innocence, just around Henry's age now. Emma and Mary Margaret smile to themselves while Henry cocks his head to the side in confusion.

"Who's the girl?"

"That's Regina when she was your age," Emma happily informs him as the news plays a short video of a brunette in pigtails and overalls, storming off and crying her little eyes out from some movie that Emma was obsessed with when she was little.

"Why she on t.v?"

"Oh," Emma's skeptical eyes creep over her son's head until they meet Mary Margret's in the middle. "Uh..." She never revealed who Regina really is to her son, he was always too little to comprehend fame anyways and she still thinks he's too young. "A lot of people like Regina because she can play the piano and sing," she lamely answers, but her son thankfully accepts the answer and smiles along.

"Me too!"

She ruffles his hair and automatically leans in closer to the bright screen once again, just waiting for more information.

"The clinic is rejecting any calls regarding Regina's treatment. No information as to why the singer even checked herself in to begin with has been announced. Other sources have yet to speak with her mother and manager, Cora Mills. She's usually the first to make a public statement regarding her daughter, but as of right now, it's been reported that she is keeping a low profile. Again, all of her fans are in shock this morning, there was never any suspicious activity that lead to believe that Regina Mills had any trouble with substance."

"No, there has to be some mistake." Emma springs off the coffee table like a jack-in-the-box and rushes back to the kitchen to retrieve her phone. After she spoke with Regina last night, she immediately shut off her phone to avoid caving and left it on the charger all night. "I just talked to her last night. There's no way she would have checked herself into a facility. She told me she would never do that," she rambles on with her heart pounding anxiously in her throat and her palms sweating from the unknown.

She frantically dials Jefferson, knowing that if anyone would have any intel on the situation, it would be him. She paces along the back end of the couch, her heart like a jackhammer while image after image of Regina flash across her television. Her mother and son, luckily, are silent as they hang on every word the reporter has to say.

"Swan," and it's a heavy sigh, instead of his overly enthusiastic cheer like she just scored the winning goal and never has she ever longed for his cheerful disposition like she does in this moment.

"Jefferson, what the hell is going on?" She screeches like a wild banshee, because apparently, she is no longer in control of her own vocal cords from the stress burning through her blood right now.

"Your guess is as good as mine, baby. I woke up this morning to find that Regina had checked herself into a clinic in the middle of the night. I've tried calling Cora, but that damn woman isn't answering. She's probably trying to figure out where Regina is and if she can speak to her before she converses with anyone else, especially the public."

"Shit," Emma breathlessly exhales as her feet stop shuffling, "so, then she did it. She finally did it?"

"It would appear so, right?" He trails off like something more important caught his attention before he proceeds. "Hey Swan, Guy is trying to call me, let me call you right back, alright?"

"Yeah, of course, bye," and with that Jefferson is switching lines while Emma is already scrolling through her contacts again.

"Any news, honey?" Her mother calls over her shoulder, her eyes still mesmerized by the remembrance of Regina Mills.

"Not yet, I'm calling Ruby," she announces even though she knows in her heart her best friend will be just as clueless.

"Ems...."

"Dude, what the hell?" Emma growls into the phone, her feet picking up the neurotic pacing from moments ago like they never stopped.

"This is all crazy. Did you know she was going to do this?" Ruby interrogates with a tone that expresses her bitterness that Emma neglected to share this juicy piece of information with her.

"No! I just found out through the news," she defends, her fingers finding purpose in her long mane, fidgeting and twirling mindlessly.

"Did you speak to her recently? I know this break up has taken a toll on both of you, but maybe..."

"Yeah, we spoke yesterday because she wouldn't stop calling for Henry's birthday and I just wanted to clarify that I couldn't be in a relationship like that with my son around," Emma whispers, conscious of her son's curious little ears and steps back into the kitchen. "I just couldn't take all the calls and texts anymore, I needed a clean break. It was all too much for me to find the strength to move on when she was calling every day and all I wanted to do was pick up and take her back, but I know that's not healthy for Henry," she admits, her nose tingling and her eyes soaking in the warm liquid, just signaling that another sob is lurking around the corner.

"I know, Em. You did the right thing and maybe that's what motivated Regina to seek actual help. Maybe she realized that this was it and she had to shape up or ship out," Ruby enthusiastically tosses around the old saying and Emma can just imagine that wolfish grin spreading into her best friend's cheeks.

"Ugh, I don't know. She literally said last night that she could never admit herself into a clinic," she exasperates, slinking into the stool near her countertop before nervously playing with her hair again.

"Yeah well, if anyone could convince her, you'd be the lucky lady," and that's the silver lining that tugs at the corner of Emma's mouth and almost produces a smile.

"Do you know which place she checked in to?"

"No, not yet at least. I'm sure Jeffy will call when he has more info. Why? You going to visit?"

"No." She sighs through her tormented heartache and runs her fingers through her tangled locks once again. "As much as I want to call her and tell her I'm so proud, I know that's not ideal. She needs to focus on her recovery and herself because she can't even think about me. If I call..." she attempts to swallow the large mass of emotions swelling in the back of her throat, but it's no use, "...if I call, she would probably assume that she proved a point and we could work things out, just like that." She snaps her fingers to make a point, even if Ruby isn't actually there with her. "I can't be in her life right now, I'll just be another distraction and if I ever want to be with her again, then I need her to focus while she's in there."

"I get it-"

"Wait, Rubes...Jefferson is calling me-"

"Okay, call me later, bye," the brunette rushes out before she hangs up and Emma switches to the other line while her entire body fills with dread.

"Jefferson? What happened? What did Guy say?" She frantically questions in one single breath.

"Well, he was with Regina last night..."

"Oh god, what happened?" She interrogates again, not being able to hold back the nervous energy buzzing through her limbs.

Through the long distance phone call, miles away, she feels as if she is in the same room as Jefferson when he inhales sharply and breathes out his stress through the line.

"Well, he said they were at the mansion last night and Regina had locked herself upstairs all day yesterday. He said he heard her coming down the stairs, staggering and bumping into the walls and he ran into the foyer just in time to catch her stealing his car keys."

"What? She doesn't even have a license!"

"I know," he exhales slowly as her eyes flutter closed and she tries to breathe calmly through the story.

"Please, tell me she's okay," she mumbles, desperately trying to hold back the sob just begging to be released and soothe the ache in her chest.

"She's okay. He was able to persuade her into giving him the keys and that he would drive her where she wanted to go."

"And that's where she wanted to go? A rehab facility?" She squawks in disbelief because after a year and a half of pleading with the woman, she knows Regina would never willingly walk herself into a public clinic like that.

"Yes. Guy said he thought for sure she was trying to get to you and Henry because she said she had somewhere important she needed to be, but turns out, she just wanted to check herself in, to fix the damage she caused."

Her blonde mane is already snapping from left to right in denial before her mouth can even formulate the words needed to be spoken. "No, no. There's no way. Jefferson, I spoke to her last night, I asked her again to seek the help she needed and she flat out told me no. No, nope. There's no way."

"Calm down, baby. Obviously, whatever you said sunk into that thick skull of hers, because she did. You must have really influenced her into finally caving and listening to you."

"But I-"

"Guy wanted to bring her to a more secluded place," he continues on, ignoring Emma's chance at an argument, "but she insisted on one specifically and he escorted her inside and stayed with her until they showed her to her room. He said that even though she was intoxicated and very clearly out of her mind on other stuff, Regina never appeared so determined in her life."

That is all Emma needed to hear to coax those warm tears of joy to slide down her face and maybe they are mixed with a mournful ache and regret, because she isn't there to help Regina through all of this. But she knows deep within her soul, that staying away is the best option for Regina's sake and that's okay, so long as Regina finds the peace she's been searching for, for well over twenty years now.

 

Chapter Text


There seems to be some sort of pounding, maybe off in the distance through a haze of fog clouding her vision or maybe that's because she's still half asleep. Either way, the repetitious knocks are never-ending and it's not very long before she feels the banging inflicting her throbbing temples. She winces, burying her face deeper into the pillow and searching for the wild curls that usually envelop her face in the night. Except, when she breathes in, searching for that warm coconut aroma, she finds a sterile linen stench that causes an instant scowl upon her face.

"Miss Mills, if you do not answer the door in five seconds, I am authorized to come in there to check that you haven't caused harm to yourself," a woman shouts from the other side of the door, provoking Regina to grumble into the unfamiliar pillow she is not in favor of.

"I'm fine," she mumbles incoherently just as the door swings open, motivating Regina to pry one eye open and peek at the heavier set woman, glaring murderously down at her with her hands upon her hips.

Regina's one lazy eye sweeps from the frizzy salt and pepper mess piled high upon the woman's head, down to those tired brown eyes and stress lines embedded all around her face. The woman is most likely in her sixties, but the job has definitely taken its toll on the poor woman. Well, maybe not poor woman, judging by the power and authority radiating off this woman like rays from the scalding hot sun. And if Regina keeps staring, she might go blind, or maybe worse, end up burned.

Her eyelid falls back closed just as she catches a glimpse of the name tag on the woman's upper left chest.

"Mills, it's time to get up. This isn't some resort to sleep your problems away," the woman announces as she storms into the room and yanks on the curtains, revealing a very angry sun beating down through the window, provoking another groan from Regina's lips. "You have to face your problems head on. It's your first day, I suggest catching breakfast before your doctor's appointment and meeting with your counselor to go over your daily activities and plans for your stay."

"Is this the same way you greet all your guests or am I just special?" Regina sasses into her pillow, but the woman hears her mumbles loud and clear.

"First, you are not a guest here. You are a patient. Just because you are a celebrity doesn't mean that you are any different from the rest of the people in this facility. The moment you walked through that door, your fame was wiped away and what was left was a human, just like the rest of the people you will meet over the next few days. You are all equals now, all suffering from the same disease, addiction and all here for one reason, to change. So, I promise you Regina Mills, there will be absolutely no special treatments on my end."

Regina blinks, her long lashes sticking together from all the tears she spilled the previous night and she curiously stares up at this peculiar woman. She swallows her pride, her embarrassment, and most of all, her shame as she slowly nods and masks all her emotions.

"Of course, Ruth. I wouldn't have it any other way," she happily states, with her best practiced smile set into place and pushes herself up in the small twin-size bed.

"Child," the woman softens and bends down into Regina's personal space, causing her to tense the slightest, but never does her mask falter. "If you are going to make it through this program, you're going to have to stop lying to others," she tenderly cups Regina's jawline and peers deeply into her bloodshot eyes, "especially yourself. You won't beat this disease if you don't allow yourself to feel. The first day is always terrifying to every addict, you are no different," she sternly says as her cool palm slowly slips away. "Take five minutes to cry your eyes out and then meet downstairs in the dining hall for breakfast."

Regina swallows, hard enough for both of them to understand her hesitation and fear. The older woman kindly steps out of the room, granting Regina the peace and quiet she needs to surrender to the moment and accept her fate. Except, Regina doesn't cry, that's not how she was raised, she was taught to mask her emotions in such a public place. And most importantly, to hide her emotions when she's feeling the most weak and vulnerable.

She quickly scrambles on the bed, searching frantically for her cell phone. She leans over the bed, sending all the stale alcohol to slosh around her brain, causing her temples to pound even further with vengeance for the pain she inflicted on her poor brain last night. She searches for her phone and again, comes up short. She glances around the room, praying for a duffel bag or something...anything at this point, but she finds nothing but a strange room filled with colorful wall hangings that don't belong to her.

"Where the hell is my stuff?" She mumbles to herself as she wracks her brain for some tiny piece of memory from the night before.

Of course, she remembers checking herself in, that is something she wouldn't allow herself to forget so easily, because she knew how deeply she wanted this. But the rest of her memory...

"You don't have anything," Ruth calls obnoxiously from the other side of the door because, of course, she would be eavesdropping. "And I don't hear you crying in there, you better hurry up before all the pancakes are gone."

Regina rolls her eyes. If this woman wants tears then fine, she's an actress, hell she's been crying on command since she was four-years-old and her mother pinched the back of her neck to coax those tears to fall right before she went in for her very first audition. Regina sniffles and soon the tears are streaming down her cheeks and she heaves heavily, but....

"Oh child, I have seen every one of your movies, I know how you produce those waterworks like a damn faucet. I'm no fool."

Regina groans under her breath and hastily wipes away the tears that hold no true meaning. She clambers off the bed and stomps toward the door, yanking it open to reveal her disheveled self.

"Well, can I at least use the bathroom to make myself more presentable before I'm bombarded by the public?" Regina exasperates in pure annoyance.

"The entire facility has already been spoken to, nobody is to approach you or even acknowledge who you are, otherwise there will be repercussions."

Ruth neatly folds her arms across her chest with a cocky smirk dancing upon her face, but Regina just scoffs, breezing right passed the older woman.

"The dining hall is the other way."

Regina's eyes flutter closed for a brief moment as she inhales a calming breath and resists the urge to strangle this infuriating woman that apparently only has one job title: Annoy Regina Mills. She exhales slowly and spins around with her award-winning grin and calmly walks toward the other end of the hall.

"Your last name is Mills," the woman obviously points out as she follows behind Regina. "Who is Swan?"

Her heart plummets to the pit of her stomach, creating a wave of nausea that actually forces her to feel hungover for the first time since waking up. Of course, she would be stupid enough to check herself into a clinic, intoxicated, wearing Emma's old soccer jersey that she never returned on purpose.

~~~~~~~~~

It's so blatantly obvious that every pair of wary eyes are upon her as she enters the dining hall and stands at the end of the line for her breakfast. She maintains eye contact with the linoleum floor below, counting the square tiles as her feet shuffle forward with a generous amount of space between her and the next person. All she wants to do is keep a low profile and make it through these...well, she isn't quite sure yet how many days she signed her life away for, but she wants to complete this without any hiccups along the way.

If she's being honest with herself, all the food appears to be nutritious and on display very nicely. Except, her mother's haunting voice whispers in the back of her mind to maintain her physique. Just because she's seeking help doesn't excuse her into gaining weight and tossing her beautiful figure down the drain. Yet, there's another voice, tende