Emma checked her watch. 8.03. She was late. Why was she late? Why today of all days?
Today, when Emma had finally decided that today would be the day?
The customer at the front of the line cleared his throat a second time. “Tall cappuccino to go. Please.”
“Sure,” Emma said distractedly, her eyes going back to the door every few seconds. “Anything else? $3.95. Next?”
Five minutes and three customers later, — two of whom couldn’t make up their mind about their order for the longest time — Emma was biting her lip in worry. What if something had happened? What if she had an accident and is lying somewhere completely helpless?
At 8.15 there was a short lull, and Emma spent the quiet minute staring between the clock on the wall and the door, her hand unconsciously playing with the short apron she wore to protect her one really nice shirt.
“Swan!” Mulan yelled from the kitchen. “Need some help here. Now.”
Emma sighed dejectedly and walked into the back with one last look over her shoulder, missing the moment the door opened by a mere second.
Ruby smirked as she looked up from the Mastrena coffee machine she was working on. For a moment she contemplated calling Emma back but she knew that whatever Mulan had needed her for was probably more urgent than Emma making the perfect coffee for the woman who had just come in, even if she was one of their most regular customers.
She decided instead to watch the woman as she looked around their small coffee shop, her face slowly turning from a harried smile to a frown. And Ruby could have sworn she heard a small sigh. That’s what you get for being late, lady.
“Morning,” Ruby greeted with a wide smile. “What‘ll it be?” she added as if she didn’t know the order by heart. Everybody in the coffee shop knew Regina Mills’ order by heart, and still Emma was the only one who got it perfectly right, and thus made it every time.
“Skinny hazelnut latte … two extra shots.”
Ruby’s eyes widened. Okay, that was different. “Whoa, it’s that kind of morning, is it?”
“You have no idea,” came the uncharacteristic response. “Where’s … Is E-Em—your coworker not here today?”
Well, well, Ruby thought as she took Regina’s money and got started on her order. Maybe Emma’s crush wasn’t as one-sided as they all teased her about. “Emma’s in the back … I can call her out if you want to talk to her?”
Regina’s skin darkened a little and she shook her head quickly as if she’d been discovered doing something wrong. “N-no, that’s fine.” Then she straightened her spine. “Just my coffee, please, and before lunch if at all possible.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ruby said with a small chuckle. Oh yeah, it’s not just Emma. She handed over the coffee with a smirk. “Have a nice day.”
Regina Mills nodded and left without a word, but not without another glance at the kitchen door.
The door Emma burst through a moment later, almost running into Ruby. “Hey,” she said in reflex.
“Hey,” came Ruby’s measured reply.
Something in Ruby’s grin made Emma suspicious. “Did something happen?”
Ruby thought about leaving Emma in the dark but then decided that would be too cruel. “Your crush was just here and picked up her coffee.”
“She was?” Emma’s face fell and her whole body deflated. She didn’t even realize that she wasn’t denying the major crush she had on the brunette customer. “I missed her? Today of all days?”
Ruby wasn’t sure why missing Regina would cause that much of a reaction — even if Emma had a crush — but she found herself continuing quickly. “You really just missed her, Emma … as in she walked out ten seconds ago. I mean … if you needed to talk to her or something, I could cover you for a few minutes …”
Emma’s eyes lit up. “Now or never,” she told herself under her breath. “Thanks, Rubes,” she added a little louder before tearing off her apron and sprinting out the door. She stopped there and looked up and down the busy street. The door behind her opened. “She turned left, Emma,” Ruby yelled. “And she was wearing her black suit. The one with the pin-striped vest.”
Emma nodded her thanks and took off but didn’t get far before she heard her name called from the side alley next to the adjacent building. She turned around and saw Regina leaning back against the brick wall. “Regina,” Emma breathed. “I mean Ms. Mills. You’re … here.”
Regina rolled her eyes a little at Emma’s Captain Obvious imitation. “That I am. I’ve been trying to enjoy my coffee … but it just doesn’t taste the same this morning.”
“I’m sorry,” Emma breathed, immediately contrite. The one morning she wasn’t around to make Regina’s coffee and Ruby fucked it up. “You were late.”
“I’m sorry,” Regina mumbled, then instantly looked like she had no idea why she had apologized.
“Not as sorry as I was,” Emma whispered.
“Oh? Was there something you wanted?”
Was that a hopeful smile or a grimace? Emma figured she’d know once she pushed forward. “I was hoping … I thought maybe … I mean you probably eat and I eat and maybe … but then again you’re you … and I’m me … and why would you even consider it … I just make your coffee—“
“Shut up, Emma,” Regina Mills interrupted the nervous ramblings.
Emma promptly snapped her mouth shut, blushing even more fiercely than before. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to … Sorry, I’ll go.”
“No!” Regina took one look at the coffee in her hand, then tossed it in a perfect no-look throw into the trash can a few feet away. Emma watched her as she apparently grappled for words but remained still.
“Seems we both suck at communication,” Emma pointed out, finding her voice again.
“I’ll have you know that I am a perfectly good communicator,” Regina groused, offended. “You just … argh.” With that she wrapped both fists in the front of Emma’s nice shirt and pulled her into a kiss.
Emma yelped and needed a second to get over the surprise but once she did she kissed back with abandon, slowly pushing Regina back against the wall and leaning her body against her. This was everything she wanted, everything she dreamed of, and had been hoping for since the first day Regina Mills had shown up in their coffee shop.
When Regina finally pulled back from the kiss — lipstick smudged, eyes half-lidded, cheeks a little darkened — Emma cupped the side of her face. “Your communication skills are awesome,” she rasped. “At least the non-verbal kind.”
“So are yours,” Regina conceded. “Maybe we could try and progress to the verbal kind now?”
Emma nodded, a sudden calm coming over her now while her insides were still fluttering from the kiss. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
Regina smiled. “See how easy it is?”
“Only because you sort of spoke first.” When Regina didn’t say anything, Emma got nervous again. “So … dinner?”
“Dinner,” Regina confirmed. “Tonight. Pick me up at this address at 7.” She handed Emma a business card with all her professional details and a phone number and different address scribbled on the back.
“You already had this prepared?” Emma asked.
“I got tired of waiting for you to work up the courage to ask me out,” Regina explained with a slightly darkening blush. “Consider my disappointment when you weren’t there.”
“Oh.” Emma grinned, still staring at the business card. “Great minds think alike, huh?”
“If you say so, dear.”
“Don’t be late.”
Emma saluted and turned to go back to work. After one step, she turned back and pulled Regina into another kiss that made her toes curl with the happy anticipation of things to come. Then she practically skipped away, rounding the corner after a second.
Regina sagged against the wall, a wide smile on her face.