“I…uh. Are we sure this is a good idea?” Emma glances over her back to where Mary Margaret is zipping up her dress. “And I’m not really sure that I’m comfortable wearing a dress around someone with tentacles–”
“Emma!” Mary Margaret says reprovingly. “They’re trying to change. Regina says so, and you trust Regina. And I think this is good for Cruella.”
“Are you two…friends?” She’s seen Mary Margaret hovering around Cruella recently, looking as eager as she does around her students, and Cruella watching her with a distinctly trapped look on her face.
“I’m her sponsor!” Mary Margaret beams. “It was my idea. We’re starting a Villains Anonymous group for all the rehabilitating villains in town.”
“And Regina agreed to this,” Emma says skeptically.
“Oh, you know Regina,” Mary Margaret says airily, which is really not an answer at all. “We former dark-hearters have to stick together.”
“Former…” She’s already getting a headache and she hasn’t had to see their visitors yet. There’s something about Regina surrounded by friends she seems to like quite a bit that springs a little lump in her throat and jealous-type feelings.
Because she’s Regina’s friend. They’ve been friends now for months and they worked for it, didn’t just waltz into town with a history and an agenda and become instant besties. Not that she cares. She’s supportive. Totally supportive. Of very, very shallow friendship that doesn’t involve lunching in Regina’s office.
Maybe she could strangle Cruella with her own fur.
“Don’t you remember that time I slapped Gepetto?” Mary Margaret says, still caught up in the whole villain debate.
“Right. Yeah.” The doorbell rings. “Regina’s here!” She makes a mad dash for the door, yanking it open, and winds up staring at Regina’s legs. They’re very long. And nicely shaped. And…right. She drags her eyes up past a black dress that accentuates Regina’s curves and makes her forget herself a little at the hips, then the cleavage, and finally makes it across that minefield to Regina’s face. “Hi.”
Regina shakes herself out of a daze of her own. “I…didn’t know you owned a dress.”
Her tone is a little more uneven than usual, the implications with little bite, and Emma eyes her curiously. “Well, you said formalwear was required.”
“Yes. Of course. Cruella is a magnificent snob.” Regina rolls her eyes. “A meeting to discuss their rehabilitation, and she chooses the most expensive restaurant in town. On my dime, because of some…fraud allegations? No wonder she had to give up on the villainy with that level of incompetence.” She sniffs and Emma recalls, not for the first time, that this town doesn’t pay any state taxes.
Regina drives and Emma perches next to her. This whole meeting is…strange, to say the least. Ursula had walked over to them at Granny’s and suggested a get-together and Regina had agreed immediately (my friend, the voice in Emma's head had objected) and Emma had been urged along in the name of redemption.
Really, she’s only doing this for Regina and the dizzying rush she gets every time Regina smiles at her now. It’s overwhelming and kind of terrifying in ways that Madam Mayor’s mega-bitch smile had never intimidated her and she craves it so often that she’d give up a hell of a lot more than one agonizing night out to see it.
Cruella and Ursula are already seated when Emma and Regina are shown to their table. “You’re late,” Cruella says. “Did you get caught up in good deeds?” She sneers a little. “Walk an old lady across the street? Spend ten minutes with Snow White voluntarily?” Ursula snickers, looking them up and down.
Regina rolls her eyes. “Your deep and sincere devotion to your redemption is noted.”
“Long-term plans,” Emma says quickly, leaning forward. “What are your long-term plans here?”
“Cutting out the small talk completely, huh?” Ursula gives her a second once-over. “I might not hate you nearly as much as I thought I did.”
“I’m not sold on you, lady,” Emma feels obligated to point out. “And friendly reminder that I’m the sheriff of this town.” She doesn’t bring up the savior thing again. They’d all done dinner at Regina’s earlier in the week and Henry had mentioned it and left both women guffawing. She’s never going to find a villain intimidated by that, is she. “Long-terms plans?”
“I thought we’d find a house by the sea with a kennel in the back,” Ursula says, and Cruella leans in to whisper something in her ear. And sometimes Emma has to take a step back and look at her life because what the fuck, Cruella De Vil wants to set up a kennel in her town and she slumps in her seat, Regina patting her on the back comfortingly.
She opens her mouth to agree and asks, “Do you skin puppies?” instead.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Cruella huffs and returns to her menu.
“That isn’t an answer.” Archie’s pulled her over most mornings, watching the two women parade down the street and murmuring, Is it safe? Can I take Pongo out today? and she hasn’t known what to answer.
Ursula squeezes Cruella’s hand. “We will, of course, do nothing to harm anyone in this town. We’re here searching for our happy endings, not trying to destroy yours. Unless they fuck with ours. Kidding!” she says as Emma nearly spits out her water. Regina laughs. Emma shoots her a betrayed look.
Cruella sighs deeply. “Well, she’s no Maleficent. I thought you’d find someone a little more classy for your arm candy, darling.”
Emma chokes on her water again. “Arm candy?”
“Rich talk from Ursula’s arm candy,” Regina retorts. Cruella purses her lips together and rolls her eyes.
They peruse the menu, and Emma peeks over at Regina apprehensively. Regina mutters, eyes still on the menu, “Do not order from the children’s menu while we’re out with them.”
“They come with free fries–“
She gets a panini with a side order of fries. Regina turns up her nose at it and steals fries from her plate anyway. Ursula gets…sushi. Huh.
“What exactly do you think sea goddesses eat?” she says when they stare. “Love the sea. Cherish the sea. Be nourished by the sea. But by all means, Regina, enjoy your cow. When’s the last time you took care of one of those?”
Cruella orders in a whisper in the server’s ear and digs in to an unidentified piece of meat. Emma watches her warily. “So tell us about the kid and Emma,” Ursula says. “Your redemption, huh?”
“Oh, yes.” Regina bobs her head. “Henry is…very wonderful. I credit so much of who I am today to him.”
“Yeah, but how’d you wind up with Emma? Didn’t she break our curse?”
“Our?” Regina says, distracted. “My curse.”
“Wind up with Emma?” Emma echoes.
“Emma broke the curse. She was also one of the only people in town who believed in me when I tried to change.” Regina smiles and the noise around them is suddenly static.
Emma says, awestruck, “I thought you thought I never had your back.”
“I was angry. Now I’m not.” Regina turns the full energy of her smile on Emma and Emma is breathless. “You’ve done a lot for me, Emma, even if you did also foul up my life beyond recognition.” The smile gets a little more dangerous and Emma gains the presence of mind to snatch Regina’s wrist as she reaches for the fries. Regina turns it in hers and strokes the back of Emma's hand with her thumb.
“It’s kind of sweet,” Ursula remarks, and Emma startles. She’d forgotten about their evil conference, or whatever this is.
“It’s disgusting is what it is,” Cruella says, curling her lip. “If you and I ever become that sort of couple, set my dogs on me.”
Wait. What? “Couple?” Emma repeats, her voice rising into a squeak. Ursula watches her, amused. “We’re…couple?” Oh, no. The expensive restaurant, the set of the two of them, the wind up with Emma– This is a double date.
(What the fuck do Cruella and Ursula do with those tentacles.)
Regina digs her thumbnail into Emma’s hand and yes, they are still holding hands. Oh, no. Emma turns wild eyes to Regina before she dares speak again and sees the subtle shake of her head, the pleading don’t ruin this.
They’re Regina’s pet project, this new attempt to bring people from her past whom she actually likes (Emma…thinks?) into the fold, and Emma’s about to screw this up for her. So she doesn’t laugh hysterically or focus on how if she were Regina’s girlfriend, she’d definitely get to be the one to drive and also maybe bite that spot on her neck that curves down from her jawline. She nods, very slightly.
Regina laughs, eyes still on Emma for a moment before she turns back to their companions. “Emma’s still having a little trouble with commitment here. Her mother disapproves of us.” She sighs deeply. “It’s been very difficult.”
“Uh-huh,” Emma manages. Ursula is watching them with distrust on her face and Emma remembers that she’s actually supposed to be good at feigning interest for suspicious marks. This is her job.
Feigning. Right. She squeezes Regina’s hand and leans against her shoulder jerkily. Regina puts her left arm around her shoulder and says soothingly, “She can’t keep us apart. We’re family. I’m practically your grandmother.”
Emma pulls away very swiftly. Ursula says, “So? Tell us how you went from Mal to Snow White’s daughter.”
“Ah.” Regina still has her right hand, resting on Regina’s lap now. Emma doesn’t know how to stop it from moving, brushing against Regina’s bare leg, and Regina sucks in a breath and says, “It’s a long story. I’m sure you’ve heard most of it by now.”
“Yeah, sure. Curse, Neverland, some shit in between with- Zelena was your sister?”
“She tried to join us once, back in the day. I draw the line at cucumber skin,” Cruella says, tapping her nails against her glass. Regina’s jaw clenches under her skin and Emma squeezes her hand. They should really talk about the whole Zelena thing sometime.
She takes over. “So…uh, I guess for a while there Regina was really furious with me. I screwed up some stuff with her personal life and she kind of shut me out. And one day–“ It had been after all of the badness, actually, when they’d been officially friends or…something close. She’d joined Operation Mongoose and Regina had smiled at her and the world had fallen apart around her, just like that.
Seems like as good a day as any to declare the one she’d fallen in love for this fake relationship. This very, very fake relationship. Though actually, there are some times earlier on that she could pinpoint as viable falling-in-love moments. There had been that big goodbye at the town line, of course, and maybe in Neverland during some of the quieter nights? Or when they’d stopped the trigger together and Emma had been on fire and so desperately glad to be connected to Regina.
Actually, when they’d first met, she’d kind of really liked Regina. More than she'd usually liked anyone, back then. Then, of course, there had been that whole deal about destroying her happiness if she tried to be involved with Henry and she may have willfully persuaded herself that Regina didn’t love Henry for as long as that now-ridiculous mistruth had lasted and that had all gone upside down.
Maybe it’s best to stick with the easy one. “I realized that I would pretty much rather walk barefoot over hot coals than have Regina not in my life. So…you know.” She shrugs, suddenly uncomfortable, and flushes when Regina stares at her. “I fell in love.”
“I fell in love with you when you kissed our son awake,” Regina murmurs. “Hated you, but loved you, too. I don’t know how long it took before the love overwhelmed the hate. Not as long as I wanted it to.” Emma gapes at her and it’s really, really tough to remember that they’re playacting. Regina in love with her is nothing other than a fever dream, no matter how good and actress she is. Regina had spent twenty-eight years pretending.
“This is dreadfully dull,” Cruella mutters. “I thought there’d be bloodshed.”
And there’s their audience. Emma startles, remembering them.
Ursula says, “Cru and I met picking up that curse of Rumple’s, actually.” She snaps her fingers. “Instant chemistry. Shame you had to stick Mal with a sword. If you weren’t Regina’s, we’d probably have to kill you for that.” Something slick and slimy swipes at her foot under the table. Emma yelps.
“Ursula,” Regina says warningly. The tentacle retracts. Regina shifts her chair to sit closer to Emma, her hand sliding up to rest on Emma’s elbow and her gaze apologetic again.
“You really have gone soft,” Ursula scoffs. “Yearning looks and doe eyes? Really?”
Emma smirks at that before she can stop herself. Regina looks rattled for a moment before her eyes flash in distinctly non-doe-like ways and she sits up straight again. “Oh, it’s not all good. She’s an absolute slob–“
“She constantly undermines me in front of our son–“
“I haven’t done that in ages–“
“And she has terrible taste in everything. Except lover, of course.” Emma’s too busy choking over Regina Mills’s voice saying the word lover about her that she doesn’t object until Regina is smug and the two other women are looking at her with distaste.
“Okay, but Regina’s no perfect girlfriend, either,” she says hotly. Regina’s eyes gleam with interest. “Remember the whole mass-murdering psychopath thing?” She realizes a moment too late that that might go over differently with a pair of women who’ve styled themselves twice in the past hour as ‘queens of darkness.’ (Which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound like something a redeemed villain would say. They should look into that.)
“Did she drip blood on the carpet, dear?” Cruella drawls, examining her fingernails.
Tough crowd. “She pours in the milk before the cereal!” she blurts out, which she only knows because Henry had brought it up once when she’d first come to town as proof that Regina had been evil.
Cruella and Ursula both look very perturbed. “That’s fucked up, Regina,” Ursula says.
Regina’s lips thin and she looks suddenly trapped. “I like to have a precise amount of milk. It’s a holdover from my old work with potions, which neither of you is any good at, I might add. It keeps the cereal from getting soggy. Why are we discussing this?”
“Cruella likes to control my aquarium fish and have them make kamikaze attacks on the side of the tank when I’m not around. I came back to our old mansion in the Enchanted Forest once and there were over three hundred fish passed out at the top of my tank,” Ursula offers, glaring at Cruella. “It’s not quite as heinous as Regina’s offense, but it comes close.”
“You threw my furs in seawater when we ended things! Do you know how long it took to clean it out?” Cruella demands. “The material has never been the same.”
“You made me pay my own fare on the LIRR when I came to visit you in this land! And you were loaded with tax fraud dollars!” Ursula lowers her voice when people start staring. “That’s why I never came back.”
“Oh, darling, you’ll have to forgive me. You know I don’t give away my money,” Cruella coos, and abruptly, they’re in a liplock across the table, arms flung around each other and faces pressed together and a tentacle swerves out and knocks over all the chairs at the next table.
Regina blinks at Emma. Emma blinks at Regina. Regina says, “Romance?”
Emma says, “Is that how you and Mal were?” Which she totally, really isn’t jealous about. Because fake girlfriend. Not real. Regina and Mal apparently had had the real deal but it’s not like she cares, because Regina might be the perfect woman aside from the homicidal impulses and the weird cereal thing but she obviously isn’t Regina’s type.
Not like Mal, apparently. “Because it’s fine. It’s not like I haven’t had my fair share of girlfriends.”
“Are you jealous?” Regina scoffs. “You could never hope to be the woman Mal was.”
And that stings. “Yeah, well, I did just fine by Ruby!” Before her mysterious disappearance and the mass forgetting that she’d ever existed, anyway. She has so much sheriffing to do.
Regina’s eyes flash. “I kissed your mother!”
“You did not.”
“I did!” Regina looks gleeful. “She was fourteen and so worried about not knowing how to kiss her ‘one true love’ and I was a model stepmother so I–“
“Model stepmother? You sent Graham to carve out her heart!”
“Well, I wasn’t her stepmother then!”
“Ladies,” Ursula cuts in, and they both jerk around. Cruella and Ursula are standing now, Cruella’s hand loose around Ursula’s waist and Ursula with both arms crossed. “You’re making a scene.”
“We’re–?“ Regina grinds her teeth together. “We do get rather passionate,” she says instead, and turns to Emma and licks her lips.
Emma swallows audibly.
“Oh, we’re not offended. We’ve all been there with Snow,” Ursula adds. “There was that four-way back in the Enchanted–“
“I’m done!” Emma announces, standing and determinedly wiping everything from the last minute- sans Regina licking her lips- from her memory. “Nice night. Going home. Now.”
"There’s a nice spot out by the ocean where we like to go sit,” Ursula suggests. “Why don’t we take this evening outside?”
And yeah, okay, Emma’s wanted to see the inside of Cruella’s car. Maybe drive it. Maybe on the next double date. Maybe Cruella won’t murder her in the process.
Cruella starts her car.
“I’M JUST A BLANK SPACE, BABY, AND I’LL WRITE YOUR–“
Ursula snaps off the music before it takes off their eardrums. “Have some self-respect, Cru.”
Cruella sniffs. “It’s not my music. The pups enjoy it.”
Ursula snorts. “Does the shower head enjoy it, too?”
“This is fun,” Emma murmurs to Regina. “Let’s never do this again.” Unless driving Cruella’s car is an option. Or just…taking out Regina. Regina has a tiny bit of sauce on the corner of her mouth, and Emma reaches out to swipe it off.
At which point she realizes that Regina is sitting right next to her and her finger is on her lips. “Never?” Regina mutters back, her lips tickling Emma’s finger while she moves them.
“Maybe once or twice,” Emma breathes, sucking on the finger with the sauce on it. Regina’s eyes dilate.
“Oh, don’t be prudish on our account,” Cruella says from the driver’s seat. “You never gave us such courtesy with Mal.”
Regina’s face darkens.
“I didn’t know that good meant boring,” Ursula grumbles, and Regina is beginning to look chagrined and vaguely embarrassed. “I’m starting to reconsider–“
Emma decides to rescue Regina, as a good fake girlfriend would. She leans in close, bumping their nose for a second while Regina stares wide-eyed at her, and tries tentatively to press her lips against Regina’s.
Regina reacts vigorously at the permission, forcing Emma’s lips open and sliding her tongue into Emma’s mouth, and Emma gasps into her mouth and pulls her closer, yanking Regina’s legs up to wrap around her in the seat. Regina moves in, the sides of her heels pressing into Emma’s back, and Emma takes advantage of this moment to bite that spot on her neck just under her jaw. As much as she can. Until there’s a little bit of purpled skin right there.
Regina is still wrapped around her and Emma’s hands are everywhere, stroking her hair, running over her face, squeezing her ass, and Regina starts, digs her fingers into Emma’s shoulders and drops soft kisses on the expanse of skin exposed by her dress. You’re a disaster, Emma hears murmured into her ear, which is as good as a declaration of love from Regina. She freezes and sits back, gazing at Regina.
Regina’s eyes are very soft and her fingers are still curled into Emma’s shoulders and Emma says, “I’m gonna kiss you again.”
“Well, we are dating, aren’t we? This is a perfectly normal–“ Regina cuts herself off to kiss Emma first, pressing her forehead against Emma’s when she’s done. Emma slides her hand up Regina’s dress.
They notice some time later that Cruella and Ursula have departed the car and they’re parked out by the beach. “Huh.” Emma straightens out her dress and bites Regina’s lip. “Well, I guess you never know where they might have spies.”
Regina bobs her head up and down. “Cruella can control insects and spiders and who knows how many they have in this car. We’ll need to keep this up for at least some time to be convincing.”
“Especially if you factor in my mom,” Emma agrees solemnly. “We’ll have to pretend for her, she can’t keep a secret.”
“So until the day she dies.” There’s still a part of Regina that automatically looks perky at that idea. It vanishes a moment later, to Emma’s relief. That would complicate things.
Regina frowns suddenly. “Why does this car smell like old man cologne and the pawn shop?”
“Yeah, yeah, something to look into.” Maybe she needs a deputy who doesn’t bring a baby to work with him every morning. Ruby was pretty decent at it. (Who was this Ruby again?)
They walk out onto the beach, spotting Cruella and Ursula cuddled up next to each other on a bench overlooking the water, Ursula’s tentacles out and bathing in the water up ahead. “Disgustingly sweet,” Regina says, looping her arm around Emma’s. “How dare they mock me over us. We’re not even really dating.”
“Right,” Emma agrees, pressing a kiss to Regina’s nose. “We’ll never become that kind of fake couple.”
They sit down a few feet over from the two former-ish villains, kicking off their shoes and stockings. Regina slides her leg against Emma’s and Emma slides her arm around Regina. “Not a chance,” she agrees, laying her head down on Emma’s shoulder, and the four of them sit together on the beach, watching the water glow gold in the moonlight.