"Regina!" Emma yelled as she pushed the brunette out of the way of the descending wraith. Both women tumbled to the floor, Emma landing protectively over the newly exposed Evil Queen as the wraith swirled in the purple vortex, the force so strong and pulled it in.
By the time everyone in the room looked up, the hat had stopped spinning, and any traces of a soul-sucking creature were gone.
"Is it –" David began, looking over from the smoking banister.
"Yes," Regina answered, breathing out a sigh of relief as she scurried to move to a standing position.
The brunette wasn't aware her hands were shaking until she felt Emma take them in her grasp, helping her steady herself. It was then the two women caught each other's gaze and stilled thoroughly confused.
Emma released Regina abruptly and stared down at her hands as if expecting something to be created within them. Regina didn't miss the blonde's actions and shivered at the intense feeling that coursed through her body only a few minutes prior.
Regina was sure she wouldn't be able to open the portal. Deep down inside the usually put together woman, panic and fear settled deep into the pit of her stomach.
Until she felt it.
Magic bubbled up in her forearm before it exploded and filled every crevice of her body. It was so overwhelming she still possessed a fair amount after opening the portal, but what made Regina shake was the source of her magic.
The blonde standing a foot away from her, staring at her hands dumbly.
"Emma?" Snow ran to her daughter and grasped the blonde's face between her palms. "Are you hurt?"
Emma immediately dropped her hands, subtly throwing a quick glance to the woman she vowed to save, before nodding at her roommate/mother. "Yeah, Mary- Sn-. Yeah. I'm fine."
David hopped over the extinguished banister and joined his family. He engulfed his two girls in his arms before putting them behind him in order to face Regina.
"You're welcome." He said pointedly with a glare and turned to lead his family out.
Regina sneered. The remaining magic within her itched to be used. Instinctively, she created a fireball in her palm behind her back and was ready to throw it.
"Wait," Emma said and halted her parents. The fireball diminished. "We're just gonna leave her here?"
Everyone looked at her confused.
"The wraith is gone, Emma." David said and took his daughter's forearm. "You don't need to protect her anymore."
"Yeah, well what about the angry mob of people that tried to string her up this afternoon?" Emma challenged.
"They won't harm her," Snow promised.
"You don't know that." The blonde remained persistent.
David spared a warning glare at Regina, silently telling her to remain there before he ushered his wife and daughter to the other side of the room where they spoke in hushed whispers.
Regina stood there and glared at the family that had taken away her happily ever after. A faint line of purple electricity crackled from her fingers as the magic slowly dwindled from her possession. Looking down at her palm, she inhaled sharply wondering what the hell had happened between her and the blonde. Her head snapped up when the blonde herself approached her, watching her steps uncomfortably. The token couple of True Love looked back before they exited the court room, glaring intently at Regina.
"Here to exact your own personal torture?" Regina asked with an air of indifference.
"I saved your life. I think you should be nicer." Emma responded.
The brunette made a sound of acknowledgement before moving past the blonde to pick up the hat. "What do the Charmings have in store for little old me then?"
"House arrest," Emma said pointedly. She moved to grab the brunette's arm but thought better of it and just waited for her to face her. "With me."
Regina looked dumbfounded. "You cannot be serious."
"It's either that or the angry mob. Pick your poison, your majesty," Emma said. "And I did make a promise, so I hope you choose the former."
Regina automatically softened at the memory of hearing that Henry had asked the Savior to protect her. Her voice was softer and strained when she spoke. "What about Henry?"
"He's staying with my parents," Emma answered making a face at the realization of her relationship between the two adults she had considered friends only yesterday.
Regina didn't hide her look of disappointment well, and it was not the first time Emma caught the look on the former Mayor every time their son chose Emma over her. She instinctively grasped the older woman's arm in reassurance since her words failed her. They both looked at their connection and wondered what would happen next.
Emma held on for a second longer than necessary before squeezing her arm in a way she hoped showed comfort before dropping her hand, staring at her palm again.
Neither woman said anything as Regina replaced the hat and followed the Sheriff out of Town Hall.
There was only one incident, surprisingly, as the duo walked cautiously throughout Storybrooke where an angry fairy tale character stopped them and began bad mouthing Emma's charge. Regina just stared at the insignificant woodsman with a smirk of superiority before Emma yanked him away and pinned him to a wall, threatening his lineage with a well-placed knee to the groin.
The two women entered the eerily empty, cold and dark mansion, the click of the door shutting echoing throughout the house.
It was here Emma noticed how Regina's shoulders slumped as if heavily burdened. She could see from the way the brunette was fidgeting with her fingers and walking at a deliberate pace that there was something pressing on her mind.
Emma sighed and wondered whether she would ask. If she was going to be staying here for a while, she'd have to be civil towards the woman who tried to kill her. She hung up her jacket and removed her boots, choosing comfort after two long days of emotional and physical drama.
It confused Emma to think about how hard she had fought to save the woman before her. Sure, Henry didn't exactly say the words "Emma, promise me you'll save my mom", but she could read between the lines. The kid needed his mother, evil or not.
What surprised Emma the most was the fact that saving Regina had been her first thought as soon as Archie came running and begging them for help. Henry had just confirmed her need for action, thankfully.
Still deep in their thoughts, the women made their way to the dining room where Regina poured them a generous amount of liquor in two tumblers. She set it at a seat on the table and took the one across from it, downing the amber liquid in two gulps. Her eyes flitted up when she noticed Emma sit and do the same. Glasses were refilled and a silent cheers was made before they took to their drinks, sipping it this time.
They remained quiet for a length of time, each comfortable enough to allow the other their time with their thoughts. It was only until the bottle remained half full did either one of them speak.
"You have magic," Regina said as she set her tumbler down. The choke from the blonde amused her a great deal.
"I'm not a witch or anything," Emma argued.
"Please, Ms. Swan," Regina said as she leaned forward, her palms pressing against the mahogany table, her voice laced with a darkness and seduction she was famed for during her reign as queen. "You and I are fully aware of what happened in that court room."
"What did happen?" Emma slurred her words slightly as she leaned in as well.
Regina's lips thinned. "My magic – magic here is different. I guess I needed a hand."
The brunette rolled her eyes. Sensing that the blonde was uncomfortable with the reality that she came from the Enchanted Forest and apparently possessed magical abilities, Regina switched the subject. "Will I be able to see Henry?"
The Sheriff looked up, determination in her face. "If I can help it, yes."
The answer baffled Regina. A simple 'yes' would have sufficed, but it seemed as if the blonde was making it her mission to make sure Regina and her son got adequate visiting time.
Another moment of silence passed.
"Why do you care so much?" Regina asked softly.
Emma gulped, wondering that question as well. "Because I know you love him, and he deserves a good mom."
"I'm the Evil Queen, dear." Regina said with no hint of malice or amusement.
Emma just shrugged in response.
"You were every bit the White Knight today," Regina commented quietly.
Emma glanced up at the brunette from under her lashes. The tension and uncertainty between them was thick, and neither woman knew what to make of it.
As soon as Regina saw the purple mist cloud over Storybrooke, she knew magic was returning. What she didn't anticipate was that she would be powerless. Her heart skipped a beat twice when the mob stormed her mansion earlier that day. Once when she realized she had no magic, and again when she heard Emma's yell through the mumblings of the citizens of Storybrooke and saw the Sheriff shove past them in order to aid Regina.
She couldn't comprehend why the blonde had stood up for her. She didn't understand why Emma threw her a fleeting glance when they locked her in the jail cell. She was thoroughly shocked when the blonde ran directly to her in order to help her up after the wraith attack while her own parents were nursing bruises.
Regina inhaled in acceptance. She was going to be living with the woman for who knew how long.
With trembling fingers, Regina leaned over and placed her palm over Emma's hand. A silent thank you hung in the air as the two women made eye contact.
Neither of them commented about the tingling sensation coursing through their embracing hands.
If someone were to tell Emma that she would be living with Regina Mills in a newly-freed town while her son was living with her same-age-as-her parents back in the apartment she had shared with the woman whom she thought was her roommate but is, in fact, her mother, she would have laughed in their face and asked what they were smoking. But here she was, waking up in Regina's guest room which had already begun to look like her own back at her apartment with all the clothes strewn about everywhere. It had only been two days, and she was getting quite comfortable with the arrangement.
Regina and Emma had managed to stay out of each other's way for the better part of two days, only truly interacting when the smell of Regina's cooking would lure the Sheriff out of her room and into the kitchen where the older woman would be making dinner. Neither woman questioned why Regina always made enough for the both of them.
They didn't speak about what happened that night in the court room or of the following interaction over drinks. It was evident both women felt whatever it was that passed through them, but both were too confused to discuss it.
Smelling no breakfast or coffee, Emma grumpily pulled herself out of bed and prepared to get ready. Curse or no curse, she was still the Sheriff of the town, and the wraith's damage was still being felt. By now, every citizen in Storybrooke knew it would be futile to attack Regina for cursing them to this land and ripping apart their lives and families. A majority of them had witnessed Emma braving the mob in order to defend the Evil Queen, and just like any other small town, the gossip of their Saviour in cahoots with said Queen spread like wildfire.
Emma couldn't care less what they thought of her. She promised to keep Regina safe, and that was damn well what she was going to do. Donning her badge and token red leather jacket, Emma made her way downstairs and quickly motioned to Regina with a nod that she would be leaving and headed out the door.
As soon as Emma left, Regina stood from her seat at the dining table and grabbed the closest candle she could find. Setting it down on the mahogany, she channeled all her energy into lighting it. The wick flickered ever so briefly before going completely out.
She pounded her fist against the table in anger.
"Having trouble, are we?"
Regina closed her eyes in disgust and straightened. Slowly, her body turned to face the speaker.
"How did you get in here?" Regina glared at Mr. Gold.
He limped towards her. "I have my ways."
"What do you want, Gold?" Regina asked, crossing her arms defensively.
The older man toyed with the bottles of cider that lined her side table. "I see you're still alive."
"Clearly," Regina snarled. "Did you come here to finish the job once and for all?"
He chuckled to himself and stood with his cane clutched powerfully under both hands. "No, dearie. I just had to see for myself whether it was true."
He flourished his hand, and the candle Regina had been practicing on lit with a six-inch flame. "You're out of magic."
Her nostrils flared and her eyes narrowed. The triumphant smirk Gold was sporting never left his face. He deliberately began to close the gap between himself and Regina. "Tell me, how did you open that portal?"
Regina leaned in closer and enunciated. "Magic. Where I channeled it is none of your concern."
Gold's eye twitched only slightly. "If I were you, your Majesty, I'd be in a vulnerable state. No magic, no son, no title. Tell me, Regina, what do you have left?"
"As soon as I get magic –"
He waved his hand dismissively, effortlessly silencing the woman before him. "Never forget who taught you the craft, dearie. I may not be willing to teach you again."
"You'd help me?" Regina asked dumbfounded and uncrossed her arms.
"For a price." His lip twitched in a deceptive smile. "Have a good day, Regina."
Regina was left standing in a confused daze. She knew the only reason Gold would help her was if it benefited him in some way. She just didn't know what.
Emma returned to the mansion later than she had anticipated. There were missing people to be reunited with their families, damages to property that needed to be tended to, and as an added bonus, a town borderline that caused amnesia. To add to Emma's already amazing day, her key wouldn't open the damn door. Just fucking perfect.
The blonde let her head fall against the door with a firm thud. "Regina!"
Calling out the brunette's name twice more, the door unexpectedly opened causing Emma to stumble forward.
"You have a key," Regina said obviously. "Is it too complicated to put it in the lock and turn it?"
Emma just glared at the woman. "Don't. Not today."
She yanked the key out of the lock before shrugging out of her jacket. She let it drop where it fell and pulled at her hair in a moan. "This town is crazy!"
"Miss Swan, you may temporarily be living here, but that does not give you the excuse to turn my house into your personal laundry bin," Regina said, strutting over to rip the jacket from the floor and thrust it back into Emma's arms.
Emma stepped in closer and thrust her jacket back into Regina's hands, mentally smirking at the fact that the brunette's eyes widened at the audacity. "You are the reason why everyone is stuck here, and the wraith was after you. I saved your ass, so if I want to leave my stuff everywhere, I will!"
The subtle insults the Sheriff threw her way were effectively dismissed as Regina dropped the jacket at her feet and closed the gap so the women shared the same air. "If you can't handle the job, Sheriff, no one is making you stay."
"You know very well why I'm here."
The brunette took a step back. "Henry."
Emma simply nodded and picked up her jacket. She moved to hang it on the banister knowing she would be getting an earful from the woman behind her in any moment, but she was just too tired to care.
Regina growled and yanked the offending jacket off her banister and hung it on the coat rack. "Next time I'll burn it."
Emma rolled her eyes as she followed the brunette to the kitchen.
"So how was work, dear?" Regina asked as she began plating vegetables onto two plates.
The blonde raised an eyebrow. "You're asking me about work after yelling at me about a jacket?"
"Well if you're going to be my only source of company I may as well make the best of it," Regina reasoned with a tone of contempt and placed a dollop of mashed potatoes on the plates.
Emma began picking at a steamed carrot before her hand got swatted away. "Hey."
"Honestly, Miss Swan, your appetite is as bad as Henry's."
She made a face before promptly picking up her plate once it held the grilled chicken and followed the brunette to the dining room. As soon as Regina sat, Emma began ferociously eating.
Regina rolled her eyes as she deliberately cut her chicken into strips and then in halves. She glared at the belch that Emma did little to hide.
"It sucked," Emma said after draining a generous amount of water.
Regina paused her slicing. "Excuse me?"
"Work." Emma started eating at a more humane pace. "It sucked."
"Here I was prepared to throw you out of my house for insulting my cooking," Regina said coolly.
Emma laughed. "Your cooking is even better than Mary Margaret's."
Regina grinned into her wine glass at the compliment. "So the town is a mess without me running it?"
"You wish." Emma gave her a pointed look. "I gotta say, Regina, when you do a curse you know how to do it right."
"What on earth are you referring to, Miss Swan?"
"The town line," she said obviously. "We can't pass it."
The brunette raised an eyebrow in confusion, but Emma was too enthralled in her meal to notice. "Well, Henry and I can, but no one else can."
"Why not?" Regina leaned forward completely baffled by this news.
The blonde looked up at her tone, amazed that she truly didn't know. "You forget about your fairy tale life. Leroy pushed Tom over the line, and now he's just . . .Tom."
Emma tilted her head. She still didn't know why Regina had enacted the curse, but coming from the mouths of every citizen, her mother included, it was just because she was evil.
Emma's lie detection skills had a very hard time believing that the woman before her was completely evil. She knew she wasn't based on her interaction with Henry alone, but was that pity on her face when she realized about the amnesia that prevented the people of this town from leaving? Maybe she wanted them to go. It's easier to live alone than to live unwanted, Emma knew that for a fact.
"So I'll make you a deal," Emma said suddenly.
The brunette looked at the woman questioningly. "You sound like Mr. Gold."
"You talk to me, tell me something about you that'll help me convince everyone you're not evil and crazy and cruel, and we'll invite Henry over," Emma proposed.
"Maybe I don't want the town to accept me. Did you ever think about that?"
"Yes," Emma said demanding Regina's eye contact. "I've also thought about Henry and how he wants you not to be evil."
Regina was struck silent.
"Think about it."
"Still attempting to light candles, are we?"
Regina jumped when she heard Gold's voice. How the man kept getting into her house despite the change of locks she had Emma install a week ago, she'd never know, but what she did know was how much she resented that mocking smirk forever plastered on his face.
She channeled all that anger and frustration the imp had caused her and held on to it. The familiar feeling of magic tingled in her fingers, and without much thought, the candle lit with burning bright blue.
As quick as it had happened, the flame extinguished. The magic within her faded as if it were never there.
"Impressive parlour trick," Gold said with a smirk. "It's hard to believe not so long ago it was you who cast a curse to end all curses. Tell me, Regina. Have you given any thought to my offer?"
Regina rolled her eyes and replaced the candle. "I'm done making deals with you, Rumple. Whatever you want, you're not getting it from me."
She took pride on the masked look of anger and annoyance the older man was currently trying to contain.
His lip twitched. "Perhaps you'll reconsider."
"Don't hold your breath." Regina crossed her arms in a defensive position, her eyes glaring telling the man to leave.
He stood for another moment more before turning down the hall and disappearing.
Regina quickly turned back to the candle she replaced and let her hands hover around it. The anger she held for the man was still prevalent in her mind, and she held on tightly to it, willing her magic to be used as an outlet. The flame flickered and held stable for a few seconds, causing joy to spread through the brunette until it extinguished leaving behind a trail of smoke and hint of lavender.
Emma had been staying with Regina for over two weeks, and it was then she decided to do something nice for the brunette. Whenever she asked if Regina wanted to talk about anything, the older woman looked conflicted and muttered "not now".
Emma woke with the brilliant idea to cook her famous penne pasta. It was the one dish she knew she couldn't mess up, and maybe Regina would appreciate the effort enough to open up just a little. She wasn't about to reward the woman with a visit from her son for doing nothing.
After hoping to score some points by cleaning her room, she made her way down to the empty kitchen. She knew that on weekends Regina would be cooped up in her room with a novel, so Emma started digging through the cupboards and fridge with ease.
With the pasta boiling in the pot, the blonde got into a rhythm of moving naturally through the kitchen, adding salt to the water and heating the pan in preparation for the ground beef. She didn't notice Regina standing in the doorway with an expression of both amusement and annoyance as she chopped onions.
Regina cleared her throat causing the blonde to jump. "Regina!"
Emma held her palm closed and clutched it in a tight fist. "You scared me!" She grabbed a dish rag and hissed when she pressed it to the web of her hand.
The brunette sighed at her clumsiness and walked over. "Let me see it."
"It's fine," Emma muttered and pulled the cloth away. The gash continued to bleed rather impressively.
"You're not fine. That could need stitches," Regina reasoned.
"I've been through worse," Emma said as she put her hand under the faucet. She hissed again as the water turned a murky pink.
"Emma," Regina enunciated the syllables of her name to get the blonde's attention, "let me see it."
She took Emma's palm in her hands and dampened the cloth, pressing it to the wound. She smirked when Emma winced at the sting. "You can slay dragons, but you can't handle this?"
"The dragon has nothing on this," the Sheriff admitted.
Regina forced Emma's hand closed around the cloth. It was a rather deep slice that would definitely need stitches if the blonde wasn't so stubborn. She mentally devised a plan to get Emma to the hospital when a faint mist of purple smoke clouded around their embracing palms. The sweet and musky smell hung faintly in the air as the two women looked at each other with wide eyes.
When the smoke dispersed, the brunette released Emma's hand. There was no trace of a cut anywhere on Emma's palm, the only evidence she had been hurt was the bloody cloth she still hung onto loosely.
"Thank you," Emma said quietly, still locked in Regina's gaze.
She nodded in response before she moved to wash the knife and clear the contaminated chopping board.
"You don't have to do that," Emma said and grabbed the fresh onion Regina retrieved from the pantry. "I was gonna make us lunch."
"As kind as the gesture is, Miss Swan, I've witnessed your cooking ability, and I'd rather not have blood in my food."
"You snuck up on me," Emma pointed out. "Besides, you have more important things to do."
Emma moved around the kitchen getting back into the natural feel almost effortlessly. "Why did you enact the curse?"
Regina's stone cold expression quickly replaced any traces of amusement she had just been sporting. "Why do you care?"
Emma turned to face her. "I care because you haven't seen your son in two weeks. If your past is more important, then fine."
"I wasn't aware you were the poster child of a perfect childhood, Miss Swan. Of course you would be with your parents being who they are."
Emma eyed the defensive pose of the former Mayor and took in her snarky tone. She read her body language like an open book. Looks like she had to give an inch. "I had Henry in jail because his father got me arrested. We met while I was stealing his car. A couple months before I was due, we had an argument, he called the cops, and I'm sure you know the rest from there."
She took a step away from the counter and closer to the brunette. "Your turn."
She didn't know why, but Regina ended up revealing secrets of her past that she hadn't shared with anyone. They spoke as Emma cooked and continued their sharing of past demons well past lunch. Emma shared stories on her foster home experiences, bouncing from house to house, living in different cities and more often than not living with abusive and dysfunctional families. She didn't dwell too much on Henry's father or her stint in jail, agreeing with Regina that the best thing that came out of that time was Henry. In turn, Regina told Emma about Snow's betrayal, she touched upon the cruelty of her mother and the ignorance of her father, and even braved the subject of her lost love.
"When Daniel died," Regina whimpered and looked down at her shaking palms, "a part of me died with him. We were so close to being happy, and Snow just had to tell my mother."
She wiped the running mascara from her eyes and took a breath to compose herself. "I think that'll be all for tonight, Miss Swan."
Emma nodded meekly and watched the woman exit the kitchen. "Regina."
"Henry's coming over tomorrow. I invited him yesterday."
It took three seconds for Regina to fully comprehend the enormity of Emma's statement. The first second had her brows furrowed in confusion before she widened her eyes in understanding that Henry would be visiting her, but not only that, Emma had invited him regardless of the fact that she hadn't opened up yet. The third second had Regina tilt her lips in the small upward smile that was completely genuine and rare. The shield she kept so firmly wrapped around her felt like it was crumbling whenever this woman was concerned. Whether the woman in question was going at it with a chainsaw or doing innocuous acts of kindness, the wall was breaking, pebble by pebble.
"Thank you," Regina said softly.
Mr. Gold lifted the receiver of his phone and punched in the numbers deliberately. He waited two rings before the recipient answered.
"I have something that is of interest to you."
"Who was that?" Belle asked emerging from the back of the pawn shop.
Gold turned his head slightly, acknowledging her presence before making a show of cataloging the antiques. "Just some business I had to take care of."
She walked up to him and leaned on the counter, effectively cutting off his reach. "I heard you say Regina's name."
"I'm glad your hearing is still intact," he offered with an impish grin.
"You promised," Belle reminded him. "You promised you wouldn't give into your hate, and you're doing it all over again."
He looked up with fiery eyes. "Do you forget what she's done to you? Locked you in a basement for twenty-eight years? Now, I need her to do something for me. I'm just balancing the scales."
"By doing what?" She challenged. She grabbed the older man's face in her hands when he tried to look away silently. "Forgiveness can be enough. We can start over. We don't need magic anymore."
He allowed himself to be pulled into the younger woman's grasp. Despite her warmth and reassuring words, the passion and determination burned hot within him. He needed to do this. He needed to cross that town line, and he'd do it by any means necessary.
The fire alarm blared loudly through the mayoral mansion, and a thick stream of smoke traveled from the kitchen. Emma was hidden in the smoke swatting with a dishrag at a rather large flame emitting from the crackling and melting microwave. She heard her name being yelled from the second floor, and for a long moment, the blonde truly feared for her life.
"It's nothing!" She called uselessly. "Just a little smoke!"
In the matter of moments, she felt rather than saw the brunette's presence behind her. Emma could practically feel the anger radiating off of Regina. She yelped when the dishrag itself caught fire and promptly dropped it, stamping on the flame with her size nine boot.
A hiss and cloud of white came from the side of her as the fire inside the microwave extinguished. Out of the corner of her eye, Emma could see Regina huff and replace the mini fire extinguisher back into a pantry. She glanced up sheepishly, terrified to meet the former Mayor's eye.
Regina crossed her arms and glared at Emma. It was the same look she would give Henry whenever she had to scold him, only magnified tenfold. Henry never set fire to her kitchen.
The fire alarm silenced itself once the smoke dissipated, leaving the two women with their ears ringing.
"I tried to make dinner," Emma offered as an explanation.
"I can see that," Regina said with a condescending tone. She crossed the kitchen to the microwave and used an oven mitt to retrieve whatever the blonde had decided would be a good idea to heat up. The foil-wrapped potato was still hot through the mitt, and the smell of burning and melting plastic perforated the kitchen. "You put aluminum foil in my microwave."
"It's one of those baking potatoes," Emma reasoned.
"You don't put aluminum in a microwave," Regina said through gritted teeth. She waved her arm dramatically towards the appliance. "You get that!"
"I'll get you a new one," the blonde muttered, clutching her arm across her middle and looking at the older woman under her lashes.
Regina rolled her eyes and tossed the charred vegetable into the trash. "Should I hide the rest of my appliances from you?"
Emma suppressed the memory of a damaged toaster before shaking her head. She watched as Regina unplugged the slightly smoking microwave and threw a dish towel over the opening. She looked attentive when the brunette turned suddenly with a tilt of her head. "Do you know how to cook?"
Emma rolled her eyes and grumbled, "Ha ha. I get it. I'll stay out of your kitchen."
"No," Regina stepped forward and moved to grab the blonde as she turned. There was a conflict behind her eyes as if trying to string her words together. "If you do exactly as I say, you may help."
"You want me to help with dinner?" Emma asked incredulously.
"You won't always have the luxury of my cooking," Regina began with a light chuckle. "Think of it as breaking even for saving my life."
The blonde nodded lightly with a soft "okay."
She removed her jacket and moved towards the brunette. "Let me get this out of the way."
Regina watched as Emma slid the large microwave to the edge of the counter. She placed her hand on the Sheriff's arm in an attempt to stop her. "Nonsense, it's –"
Heavy. The word died on Regina's lips as the blonde lifted the appliance in her arms, her bare bicep flexing under Regina's hand. She never realized just how strong the woman before her was. Sure, she had felt the brunt force of Emma's punch a few months back, but the force wasn't enough to send her to the ground like hers had. It never occurred to Regina that years of being a bounty hunter clearly had its effects on the blonde's physique, and Regina was quick to appreciate that. Her hand lingered on the blonde's arm for just a moment longer, feeling the muscle flex under her warm palm, before she removed it, covering up unsteady breathing with a cough. "Put it in the garage."
Emma nodded before exiting the kitchen. As soon as she left, Regina pressed a palm to her forehead. What was she thinking? It was hero syndrome, that was all. Regina felt a little flicker of attraction for the woman solely because she had put her life on the line for her. Over and over and over again. That was it, and nothing more, Regina thought with a shake of her head.
She ripped the confusion from her mind as soon the apron was draped over her dress. Just because she wasn't the Mayor anymore didn't mean she had to change her attire. She found various ingredients and was already washing and peeling fresh potatoes when Emma returned.
"There's another apron in the cupboard if you'd like," Regina offered, placing the washed vegetables in a colander.
Emma made her way as directed, raising an eyebrow when she pulled out a brightly coloured apron. "It's child sized."
Regina smirked and rolled her shoulder in a shrug. "Unless you want to get your tank top dirty. I imagine you will."
"I'll take my chances," Emma said, tossing the apron back where she found it and making her way to where Regina set up a chopping board. "So what do I do?"
Turning from the stove where she placed the now-peeled potatoes into the boiling water, Regina stepped beside the blonde to share the cutting board, their hips touching despite the vast space available to them. "Now you chop."
"I can do that," Emma said expertly. She grabbed the knife and moved it over the carrot with each cut. Regina cringed. "Not like that."
"Seriously? They're getting cut," the Sheriff argued.
Regina took the knife from Emma's grasp and began slicing the remainder of the carrot properly, the tip of the knife remaining stationary on the board as she moved the carrot under the descending blade. "See? Less risk of bloody food."
Emma smirked, taking the proffered knife back from the brunette and setting up a new carrot to work with. The technique was significantly easier, and the blonde's cheeks heated not wanting to stroke the former Mayor's ego.
After successfully completing two carrots on her own, Emma grinned when Regina placed a hand on her arm and complimented her efforts. "Now what?"
"I'll start mashing these potatoes. You put the beef and vegetables in the skillet once the onions are clear," the brunette delegated after a cup of chopped onions was placed in the heated pan.
"You're gonna trust me with the meat?" Emma asked uncertainly, unceremoniously dropping the ground beef prematurely into the skillet.
Regina sighed watching the blonde's action but didn't comment. "I trust you won't poison us."
"Yeah," Emma chuckled, breaking the beef into chunks with a spatula. "It's not like it's an apple turnover."
The older woman set her masher down and effectively glared at the blonde, whose only response was a playful smirk.
"So who taught you to cook?" Emma asked once they resumed their respective duties. "I mean, I can't really picture your mom teaching you. No offence."
"Mmm, the most Mother ever taught me was that love is weakness," she said fiercely, putting more force behind her mashing than necessary. "The kitchen staff – Helena actually."
"You were friends with people below you?" Emma asked disbelieving.
"I was younger then," the brunette quipped with a nostalgic upturn of her lips. "When I was a child, I used to wake before dawn and sneak down into the kitchens where Helena would scold me for being out of bed. She'd put this ridiculous oversized and stained fabric on me to protect my sleeping gown.
"She taught me all the herbs and spices and which ones mixed," Regina recalled fondly. "She taught me how to make perfect fresh bread and would somehow manage to sneak apples into most recipes."
"She sounds like the perfect mother figure."
"She was," the brunette said solemnly.
Emma glanced up from the browning meat. "What happened to her?"
Regina's eyes glazed over, and Emma could see the older woman slowly become trapped in the confines of her past. She reached over and squeezed the brunette's arm gently, snapping her out of her memory. "She died. My mother was a jealous woman."
Emma kept her grasp on the other woman's arm and stepped closer. "I'm sorry, Regina."
She shook her head and gave a practiced grin. "That's all in the past now." She grabbed the peas and corn and poured them into Emma's meat, carrot and onion mixture, watching as the blonde mixed the ingredients evenly with spices.
"You kept cooking though," the younger woman commented.
"Yes," Regina said softly as she cleaned up her station. "I used to have secret picnics with Daniel whenever the opportunity arose."
Emma smiled at the thought of a younger, in love Regina peaking around hallways in an attempt to avoid her mother as she snuck out to be with her lover. She had witnessed a genuine smile on the brunette's face only once, and that was when she emerged from the mine shaft with Henry clinging firmly to her. She wondered what Regina's smile looked like when it was carefree, innocent, and smiling at her. Wait, what? Emma shook her head. Where the hell did that come from?
Gulping at her treacherous mind, Emma grabbed a spoon and scooped up some of the filling. She swallowed it, not even trying to hide the widening of her eyes and the light satisfied moan that escaped her lips. "Wow, it's actually good."
Regina laughed. "You sound surprised."
"It doesn't usually turn out that way whenever I cook," Emma admitted. She scooped up another spoonful and held it out for the brunette to try. "Taste it."
The brunette knitted her eyebrows in displeasure. "You just ate from that."
Emma rolled her eyes and held the spoon closer to the Mayor's mouth. "I don't have cooties, and I didn't spit in it. Taste it."
Pushing the utensil forward as the brunette leaned her head in to taste, the meat and all its sauciness pressed against Regina's jaw leaving a light brown stain against her olive skin.
Emma laughed as the spoon finally made contact with the brunette's mouth. She stepped closer towards her and thumbed away the stain that marred her face. "All gone."
Regina swallowed, thankfully due to the fact she was consuming food and not due to the fact that Emma was standing so close to her, her thumb lingering on her jaw. Try as she might, the brunette failed in convincing herself of such. "It's good," she complimented quietly.
"I had a pretty good teacher," Emma smirked, leaving Regina's warmth and scooping the meat into a corning ware dish. Without being told, she scraped the mashed potatoes over it, creating a neat dish of Shepherd's pie waiting to be put in the oven.
Regina grabbed the dirty dishes as Emma placed the pie in the oven. She stole the potato bowl from the side of the sink and hopped onto the counter, using her finger as a spoon to lick off the excess mashed potatoes.
"Honestly, Miss Swan," Regina said incredulously, watching the blonde remove her finger from her mouth. Her throat went dry for a moment. The blonde clearly had an oral fixation, Regina thought to herself.
"What?" Emma asked before the bowl was ripped from her grasp and placed in the soapy water. She huffed and crossed the short distance to stand adjacent to the Mayor. "You really need to lighten up a bit, Regina."
"I'm under house arrest, Miss Swan," Regina reminded, "there is no lightening up."
Her glare immediately turned to shock when Emma dipped her fingers in the water and splashed her. Her mouth formed a perfect 'o'.
Emma moved quickly, chuckling wildly at her job well done and putting the island between herself and the woman she had most certainly angered.
So she wants to play games, Regina thought with a smirk. She eyed the blonde with a challenging glare and focused all her energy on winning this water war. Her magic was difficult to manifest, but as she kept persisting, she could see the swirls of gray and white above the Sheriff's head.
Emma looked up with wide eyes. "Hey that's cheating!"
"I'm the Evil Queen, dear. I don't play by the rules," Regina answered with a smug look. She willed the storm cloud to pour, but it continued to swirl above the blonde's head more viciously.
"Regina. . ." Emma eyed it cautiously. The sound of thunder boomed. "Regina!"
Panicking, the brunette tried to release her hold on the magic, but it evidently took on a life of its own. A bolt of lightning crashed dangerously close to Emma's head, frying some stray hairs in the process. Before the bolt could completely touch down, Regina waved her hand across as if shooing the cloud away. Gradually, the cloud disappeared, taking its thunder and lightning with it.
"What the hell was that?" Emma practically yelled.
The blonde patted down her hair, which was unnervingly warm. "Right. Magic different here, got it. Still, you gotta get that under control, Regina."
"I'm trying," Regina replied pointedly. She watched as Emma approached her, looking sincere. "If you need help or anything, just ask."
"What could you possibly help me with?" The brunette scoffed amused.
"I don't know? Hold your hand?"
The doorbell interrupted Regina's response. She felt her heart quicken at the prospect of seeing her son for the first time since he was lying in a hospital bed. For once, she looked nervous.
Emma's expression softened when she saw the worry etched in the older woman's face. She put a hand on her back, leading her to the foyer. "Don't worry. You'll be fine."
"Is he still mad?" Regina whispered as they approached the door. "Does he still hate me?"
They stopped when they were at the bottom of the small sets of stairs leading down to the front entrance. "He doesn't know you yet."
With that, the blonde left Regina by the door in order to set the table.
Regina straightened her black dress and exhaled slowly. Steeling her shaking hand with a quick flex, she opened the door with a practiced smile on her face. Seeing her little boy removed the mask, and a genuine smile with sparkling eyes and full teeth appeared on her face. "Henry," she said his name reverently.
She placed her hands on his shoulder, patting down his hair and stroking the underside of his jaw with her palms to get a good look at him. She could see the uncertainty, hurt and hint of fear in his eyes, and frankly, who could blame him? As much as it pained Regina to see fear in her son's eyes, she reasoned that it could have been worse.
"I missed you," she said softly.
"Me too," he nodded before stepping past Regina and into the house.
David watched Regina with a wary eye, his sword draped along his shoulder. "No funny business, Regina."
"I'll just put away my spell books then," Regina replied sharply.
He narrowed his eyes. "Consider yourself lucky that Emma thinks you have a sliver of good in you. Don't prove her wrong."
Regina found Henry in the kitchen with Emma, his bag tossed carelessly on the breakfast bar and cups in his hands. A smile was prominent on his face chuckling to something funny Emma had said. Her heart clenched wondering if this dinner would turn into a disaster. The thought of faking an illness ran through her mind for just a second before she straightened and walked confidently into the room making her presence known.
"Hey!" Emma greeted and motioned to the oven with her thumb. "Smells good. Is it ready?"
"You tell me," Regina said and handed the oven mitts to the blonde.
"Is that Shepherd's pie?" Henry asked his mother, the hesitance in his voice was straining against his excitement for the food.
"Your favourite," the brunette woman replied, stroking her son's hair. He offered up a small smile before leaving the kitchen to set the cups on the dining table.
She shared a look with the blonde as she stepped behind her, inspecting the dish. "You didn't seem to burn the kitchen down this time, Sheriff. I'm impressed."
Emma feigned a gasp. "Is that Regina Mills giving someone a compliment?"
"Remember it, dear. They are few and far between."
"Mom." Regina immediately turned at the title, Emma looking up a second after thinking it could very well mean her as well. "The table's ready."
Dinner was rather quiet for the first fifteen minutes or so. Regina and Emma had asked Henry questions about school and how living with his grandparents was which the boy answered promptly. It wasn't until he set his knife and fork down and gave Regina a quizzical look did things get interesting.
"So it's true then. You're the Evil Queen." Henry said with no conviction, but the pain in his eyes didn't go unnoticed.
Regina waved off Emma's attempt to quiet the ten-year old. She leaned forward and pressed her palm over Henry's arm. "Yes."
"All those people, you cursed and sent here." His tone wavered as years of meaningless and unnecessary therapy sessions came to the forefront of his brain. "You made people think I was crazy."
Tears welled up in the brunette's eyes as she retracted her hand. She knew she should have just left well enough alone and let the Charmings raise her son. She let out a breathy "yes" before pulling back her frame. "But, that can all change now."
She searched his eyes as if in them would she find the answer. "Magic. I won't use magic for evil. Miss Swan is making sure of that."
Henry turned towards his other mother. "Really?"
The blonde couldn't hide her surprised face from Regina, but she did an effective job of nodding at Henry's question. "Yeah. We're just doing hocus pocus stuff. No curses or sleeping spells."
Regina managed to throw a glare the Sheriff's way while also looking apologetic and sorrowful to her son.
Henry glanced between the blonde and the brunette. He looked at the older woman with hooded eyes and asked quietly, almost embarrassed. "Can you show me?"
The thought running through both Emma and Regina's mind was the same. Hell no. Regina still wasn't able to control her magic, and only on rare occasions did it manifest. It irked the brunette to realize that the only times she was able to produce magic was when she was furious with Gold or Emma had in some way physically or mentally touched her. Not only that, but the blonde's magic seemed to flow naturally through Regina's veins while being mad at Rumple caused the veins in her forehead to throb from exertion. Despite Emma shaking her head and mouthing no, Regina smiled at her hopeful son and agreed. "Of course I will."
"Cool!" Henry beamed before turning serious again. "But I'm still upset with you."
"I know," Regina acknowledged, more to herself than anything. "But I hope that will change one day."
The evening turned out to be a wonderful success. It wasn't a completely quiet affair, as nothing ever was where Regina and Emma were concerned, so the mini argument they had while washing and drying the dishes together as Henry watched television was something to be expected.
"How exactly are you planning on using magic?" Emma questioned, taking the wet plate from Regina and drying it off.
"You." Emma raised her eyebrow questioningly. Regina sighed, soaping a wine glass. "You said you would help me control my magic, did you not, Sheriff Swan?"
"I didn't mean now," Emma complained. "Give a girl some warning, why don't you?"
"Miss Swan, you are to help me show my son magic. Is that warning enough for you, dear?"
The blonde scowled at Regina's smirk as she dried the last of the dishes. Regina removed her rubber gloves and quirked her eyebrows at the younger woman. "Don't be so worried. I've been practising."
"That doesn't really help me convincing everyone you're not evil."
The roll of the former Mayor's eyes dismissed the comment. "I just need you there just in case."
"In case you need a hand," Emma said with a smug smile playing on her lips. She'd never let Regina forget the moment that inevitably brought them to this point.
Henry sat on the edge of the couch, eager and excited to see magic at work. Of course, he still felt angry at his mother, but the stories that Emma shared with him whenever he visited the Sheriff's office the past couple of weeks broke through the years of lying. He could see by the way his mother interacted with Emma, and by the way the anger seemed to fade from her eyes, that he knew she was trying at the very least. He was wary, at first, of Emma living with his mother, but he knew that the blonde would protect her and keep her straight. She was the Savior after all.
So, Henry decided, he'd kept an open but cautious mind about Regina.
He looked up when Emma walked into the room, followed closely by his mother. They were carrying a toy train and track set that he had cast aside when it stopped working only a few years ago. The boy furrowed his brow. "I thought you were going to show me how to use magic."
"I didn't say how," Regina clarified.
"Nice try," Emma smirked and set down the tracks.
The two women kneeled by the coffee table and arranged the tracks to create an oval. When it was done, Regina placed the train that Henry used to spend endless hours trailing all over the house on it. Emma sat on the arm of the couch by Henry and watched as Regina let her hands hover over the train.
The look of concentration on the older woman's face was adorable. Emma smiled to herself as she watched the vein in Regina's forehead throb as her face moved closer and closer to the track as if her proximity to it would will the train to move.
"It's not working," Regina growled.
"It's okay," Henry said and slid off the couch.
Regina looked up at the movement. Whether the disappointment in her son's face was there or just imagined, her shoulders dropped with a deflated sigh.
"It's okay, Regina," Emma said and made her way to help the brunette stand. She placed her hand on the back of the woman's shoulder, almost willing the train to move just so Henry would be happy so Regina could be happy. She waved her hand in the direction of the toy. "It's just a train."
The whistle of the train sounded, and both women looked down seeing the wooden toy make its way around the track. Henry came running back into the living room, his face lighting up. "Cool! You made it puff and everything!"
Emma removed her hand from Regina's shoulder when she felt a sharp electrical sting as if getting shocked. Regina turned, feeling it as well and eyed the blonde questioningly. Still, the toy whistled and puffed around the track before its unknown power behind it slowly died down.
"That was amazing," Henry grinned and picked up the toy. A faint crackling of purple electricity whirled around the toy jumping over and through it.
"Yeah," Emma wrung her hands together feeling the tingling course through it. "I gotta get you back now, kid."
Emma left the brunette pair in the room to get her jacket and keys. Henry glanced at his mother and offered the toy back to her. She smiled and shook her head. "You keep it."
She kissed the top of his head, used to the fact that he simply turned to follow Emma out of the house.
Emma knocked on Regina's bedroom door when she returned from depositing Henry and stuck her head in. "Hey."
The brunette was sitting on her chaise by the window, one leg tucked under with the other leg lazily dragging on the floor. She slowly turned her head towards Emma from where she had been staring out the window.
"Can I come in?" Emma asked already pushing open the door.
Regina said nothing about the intrusion but inclined her head in confirmation.
The blonde made her way to the chaise and sat opposite the older woman. "What's wrong? I thought it turned out pretty good."
She lifted her eyes, showing the glassiness in them that shone in the moonlight. "He still hates me."
"He doesn't hate you," Emma placed her hand on Regina's leg. "Is he hurt? Yeah. But he doesn't hate you."
Regina scrunched up her face and wiped the wetness under her eyes. "I have to be better."
Emma tugged her face up, moving in closer in the process. She spoke softly due to their proximity. "You are."
The brunette pulled her face away with a shake of her head, but Emma was having none of that. She used both hands to steady Regina's face and nodded. "You've been so much better, and Henry sees that."
Regina didn't even bother to attempt to pull her face away. "Please, Miss Swan. I know you're not above lying to me."
"When have I lied to you?" Emma asked amused.
Regina raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow. "Staying a week does not mean six months, and you broke into my office."
"Those weren't exactly lies," the blonde mused, letting her hands trail down the Mayor's arms and resting over hers in her lap. The gesture was so subtle the women neither noticed nor cared.
Regina's eyes shone with mirth as they sat in the silence for a moment. She looked up at the blonde who immediately caught her gaze. Her voice was soft and mixed with confusion and wonderment. "Why do you care so much about me?"
Regina looked at her expectantly. Eventually the stare worked and the younger woman relented.
"I know what it's like," Emma began, her throat suddenly dry. "I know what it's like to have people expecting you to be someone, yet they spit on you and kick you when you're down.
"Just because everyone told you you weren't good enough doesn't mean it's true. Hell, going through what you went through, you're the strongest person I know," Emma said with the hint of a grin before it turned to solemn again.
"I know what it's like to fall in love and have that ripped away," she said softly, glancing at Regina. "We weren't loss causes. We weren't useless or hopeless."
Both women gazed at each other intently, listening to the words that seemed to pour effortlessly and meaningfully out of the blonde. "No one bothered to get to know us. No one bothered to listen to you."
"Except for you," Regina whispered almost inaudibly.
"Yeah," Emma whispered back.
Their eyes locked, and the tingling sensation they were familiar with yet refused to acknowledged magnified tenfold when Regina's gaze lowered to the blonde's lips.
She licked her lips in anticipation, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Never had she felt so connected to another person. Never did she fathom that someone somewhere could understand a sliver of the pain she had been through. Never did she realize that that person was the same woman she was desperately trying to get rid of months prior.
Her heart clenched in both fear and excitement, but the excitement won when the blonde pressed her lips gently against hers.
Their lips moved in synchrony, fitting perfectly together as if made for each other. If Regina's mind wasn't so hazy from the feel of Emma's lips on hers, she'd muse over the fact that in some obscure way, they were destined for each other. Each honed to fill their respective roles, Emma being the proverbial White Knight for the Evil Queen.
But the thought never processed in Regina's mind yet, as the blonde closed the distance between them, running her hands along the brunette's waist.
Regina relaxed and sighed contently, pleased when Emma took the opportunity to poke her tongue against the Mayor's, flicking lightly just to tease. She couldn't suppress the light, breathy moan even if she tried. She linked her arms around the younger woman's neck, letting them hang carelessly behind her.
Their kiss was sweet and full of something that was missing in their lives but couldn't define yet. Regina found that the blonde's lips were soft and demanding, coaxing, encouraging and delicious to taste. Her mind's sole purpose was to keep Emma as close as possible, keep her with her. Her body was quick to agree as she leaned into the toned firmness of the Sheriff, pulling them impossibly closer when she felt the other woman's tongue cease its teasing and moved to stroke the roof of her mouth.
"Emma. . ." Regina breathed out, expelling hot air that intoxicated the blonde's senses.
The pair was still so close to each other that she felt Emma's smile against her lips just before she placed a chaste kiss to them. "That's why I care."
His footsteps descended down the concrete staircase, each step echoing throughout the cold chamber. His subject was already in place, and all he needed was the final element. If he succeeded where he never had before, he'd be free to return home to his family. The only thing stopping him now was the procurement of an item. Being in the midst of a circular chamber, that item was his for the choosing.
"Hey," Emma said, peaking her head into the living room where Regina was curled up with a blanket and a novel.
The brunette acknowledged her presence with a tilt of her head but continued reading. Emma made her way to the couch, sitting as close to the older woman as possible.
She placed a hand on Regina's bare calf, her casual slacks having been ridden up when the brunette curled her legs in. Emma's hand absent-mindedly stroked the smooth skin underneath it while she flipped on the television with her free hand, flicking through the channels until she found one that caught her attention.
The comfort level between the two women grew exponentially since that fateful night when Emma was bold enough to make the first move. Their intimacy didn't exceed past that kiss, but it was all the women needed in order to find solace with each other and feed the desire they were forbidding themselves from for weeks.
Almost every night, Emma would come home, as she had taken a habit of calling the mansion as such, and sit with Regina until she was at a sufficient point in her book. She'd smile softly though still hesitantly at the blonde and put her book down before they'd venture into the kitchen where Regina would continue giving Emma lessons in culinary arts. So far, the brunette was impressed with Emma's ability to learn quickly, and only one other incident occurred when the Sheriff almost sliced her finger off after being distracted by Regina and her teaspoon.
After dinner, Emma would help Regina with her magic. They knew only contact was the sure-fire way for Regina's powers to get charged, but both women were intimately aware of the heat that radiated off their touching skin whenever they came in contact. Not only was it difficult for Emma to concentrate whenever she'd strategically place her hand on Regina's lower back, but Regina had a difficult time in focusing due to the fact that she needed help at all. Her resistance was as strong as ever.
She had gotten stronger, enchanting Emma's dirty clothes into the bin or turning off lights without touching the switch, but nothing extraordinary. It flustered Regina to no end.
Tonight, however, Emma decided to change up their routine. She remained sitting when Regina put her book down and stood. She quirked her head up and asked as casually as she could muster, "Wanna go out tonight?"
The question made Regina falter. "Like a date?"
"I guess," Emma shrugged. "But you've been cooped up in here for weeks. You must have cabin fever right about now."
"I find I can amuse myself well enough," her eyes roamed over the blonde with a predatory look.
Emma smirked and stood. She tugged on Regina's hand once before releasing it. "Come on. You need fresh air." She could see the hesitance on Regina's face before she caught the woman's eyes. "No one's gonna hurt you. I promise."
Though her brown eyes were still uncertain, Regina nodded and attempted a small smile. "I'll get my coat."
Belle let the door to the pawn shop shut behind her. She needed to clear her head before she faced the man she loves so dearly. He was clearly hiding something from her, but it was aggravating trying to get one untainted piece of truth from him.
Her feet carried her all the way to the Storybrooke Library. She took in the boarded up windows and doors and felt a twinge of sadness for all the people who couldn't experience the joy of being lost in a fantasy or an adventure. She stood on her toes to peer into a newspaper-clad window, the dust and grime that had accumulated from the last twenty-eight years blurred her vision, but she could see the stacks of books gathering dust on the shelves.
Deciding to inspect the lock, she fell back on her feet when a hand grabbed her, spinning her around and choking her against the wall.
She had just enough time to scream.
Emma led Regina into Granny's diner where the hustle and bustle and the chattering of the diner immediately quieted at the sight of the Evil Queen.
Regina instinctively scowled, the need to silence the offensive thoughts going on in the residents' heads with a power display was the brunette's first instinct. She couldn't act on it though since Emma glared at the obviously gawking civilians and said with more growl than she intended, "Back to your meals. Nothing to see here."
She unconsciously put a hand on Regina's lower back and steeled her to a booth in the far corner.
Ruby came and eyed the former Mayor but said nothing as she placed the menus down in front of them.
Regina pursed her lips and opened the menu to ease the tension in her hands. "I knew this would be a disaster."
"I've been on worse first dates," Emma smirked.
"You said I needed to get out and get fresh air," Regina questioned with an arched eyebrow.
"All part of my plan to get you to go out with me," Emma grinned.
Regina rolled her eyes, but Emma had long since studied the brunette's facial expressions to see the pleased smirk that teased her lips.
"If I find saliva or rat poison in my food-"
"Then I will go into the kitchen, kick everyone's ass and make you a nice dinner at home."
Regina's eyes lifted at the determination and seriousness in Emma's statement, and the blush forming on her cheeks did nothing to hide how pleased she was that Emma was going to all lengths to protect her.
"Guess what?" Emma asked halfway through their meal. The couple had been discussing innocuous subjects, not wanting to broach on their private lives in such a public setting, but despite the safe choice of topics, Emma would always find a way to make Regina laugh, or rather tilt her lips slightly at her plate in amusement, and Regina seemed to inadvertently turn everything she did into something sexy. Her pointed heel brushed the inside of Emma's leg accidentally on more occasions than the blonde could count and the way she gazed at Emma under dark lashes as she told stories made the blonde lose her train of thought quickly.
Possessing that gaze currently, Regina set her utensils down and said, "I assume you'll tell me."
"David got Henry a horse."
To most parents, that news would have been devastating. The idea of a ten-year old possessing his own steed was a terrifying image. The cost to maintain it and the child's safety were only one of the few concerns, but to Emma, who had witnessed more obscure things than a child getting a pet in the last two months, accepted the news with teasing of not being responsible for cleaning up the horse's giant droppings. Regina, as expected, had a lit up face and genuine excitement in her eyes. Emma knew Regina loved to ride when she was younger and mirrored the smile currently displayed on the older woman's face.
"How does he like it?" Regina asked enthusiastically, leaning her elbows on the table to press forward.
"David says he's teaching Henry how to build trust with it first or something. I say just jump on."
Regina shook her head amused at the blonde. "Take it from the shepherd. There's nothing stronger than the bond between a horse and its rider."
"What about True Love?" Emma questioned, catching Regina's eyes meaningfully.
"Yes," Regina answered quietly. "I suppose that would be stronger."
They held each other's gazes. They both felt that familiar electrical rush pulse through them. What was baffling was that they weren't even close to touching one other.
The entrance door slammed open with a loud bang.
"Emma!" Mary Margaret yelled, her gaze zeroing in on her daughter. She stormed her way through the arrangement of tables and chairs and grabbed Emma's arm, ignoring Regina completely. "You have to come quick. There's been an attack."
Before she could even ask what happened, the Sheriff found herself yanked from the booth and all but dragged out of Granny's. She managed to spare a glance at Regina urging her to follow, which she did after an obvious contemplation.
"Where's the fire?" Emma huffed when she managed to pry her mother's grip off of her jacket.
"Belle's been attacked," Mary Margaret answered. "Your father and I were picking up some groceries when we heard a scream. David ran to see what was going on and found Belle badly injured. It looked like she'd been choked."
"What? Who would want to attack Belle?" Emma asked shocked.
"That's your job to find out."
A crowd had gathered around the library. News of Belle's attack spread rapidly, and like any good small town, the citizens went out of their way to watch the events unfold.
Emma stood outside the open ambulance where Belle was strapped to a gurney and being tended to. There were obvious hand marks around her neck and scrapes on her arms where she struggled against the brick, but judging by the raspiness of the usually soft-spoken woman, she was lucky her larynx wasn't crushed.
With the growing of the crowd, murmurs and speculation grew as the residents of the town conversed among themselves about the identity Belle's attacker.
Regina could feel the hostile stares of the people as she stood off to the side. She could even hear them whispering that it was she who attacked the young woman, and if not her, someone under her command.
She scowled at their assumptions and her fingers twitched to curse them all over again. But she couldn't. She had to be better, and she was determined to do so whether the insufferable peasants thought so or not. She glanced up when she heard a particularly nasty name someone had called her. Ready to verbally strike down the coward in the crowd, her lip snarled before she saw him.
Time stood still and it seemed as if every sound faded to a low humming when she made eye contact with the figure lurking behind the crowd.
It couldn't be. It was impossible. He was dead. But here he was.
She looked around to see if anyone else noticed the stranger in the midst, but by the time she returned her gaze he was gone.
Regina shuddered and fought for air as a tsunami of emotion flooded over her. Confusion being the prominent feeling, her whole body shook with hope, joy and even fear.
"Hey," Emma grabbed onto her elbow. "You okay?"
Regina shifted her attention from Emma to where Daniel had been. She nodded quickly without saying a word.
"Belle's pretty shaken up. She described her attacker, but no one I recognize. We're gonna get a sketch artist in tomorrow to help us locate him," Emma explained.
Regina continued with her nodding, her mind still reeling from who she had just seen. But it couldn't possibly be him. Could it?
"Belle," Mr. Gold breathed out shakily upon seeing the girl. No matter how much he threatened, the damn nurses wouldn't allow him to see her until visiting hours the following day. He limped over and placed a kiss atop her head. "How are you?"
"Bit sore," Belle admitted.
"When I find out-"
She lifted her palm to rest on top of his. "I'm fine."
He glowered but didn't continue his statement. "You gave me quite the scare." He narrowed his eyes in confusion when she laughed. "What?"
"Me? Scare Rumplestiltskin? I never thought I'd hear that one." Belle smiled and reached over to take the older man's hand. She squeezed it reassuringly. "I'm all right."
He squeezed back ever so lightly before letting go of her hand when a nurse entered.
"Excuse me?" Belle asked the nurse. "Will Dr. Whale be coming by? He hasn't been in to check on me yet."
Gold shifted his gaze at the mention of the man's name, an act only the woman in the hospital bed caught.
"Oh haven't you heard?" The attendant asked. "He's been admitted himself. Arm ripped completely off. They think it was an animal attack."
With that the elderly woman left the room leaving Gold alone under the intent stare of Belle.
"Did you have something to do with that?" She asked as soon as the woman left.
"What makes you say that?" The older man asked cryptically.
She continued to analyze him then parted her lips in a gasp. "What did you do, Rumplestiltskin?"
He looked up, looking almost sorrowful. "You weren't supposed to get hurt."
The look of pain and betrayal etched the younger woman's face. Gold stammered to explain himself. "I had him bring an acquaintance back. It wasn't that big of a deal."
"You will never learn to let go of your hate, will you?" Belle asked desperately with a shake of her head. "I know you are able to love. I can see it in your eyes. Why can't you?"
Steeling his jaw and gazing blankly past her, Gold turned from the room when he noticed her eyes shine from tears in his periphery.
Belle turned her head while Gold left, not able to bear the thought that perhaps this was the final time she'd be with the man whom she grew to love despite his flaws. But one can only take so much, she attempted to convince herself.
The sound of heavy footsteps, familiar but long forgotten sounded through her room.
It had been a busy morning for the Sheriff, to say the least. The chaos of an unknown attacker the night before had caused quite a stir throughout the town. Mary Margaret was doing her best to ease the people's worry, having taken the mayoral role since Regina's arrest, but even the determined words of the princess couldn't stop the speculation and panic of the citizens of Storybrooke.
To make matters worse, Emma noticed Regina's withdrawal since the night before. The blonde knew the folks of the small town were already blaming the former Queen for the attack and the choice words they decided to call the Queen made even Emma cringe with distaste. A kiss did nothing to remove the lost look on Regina's face, but Emma was prepared for such. She allowed the brunette time to come around.
In the meantime, Emma had gone through the town's census vigorously. The sketch artist had questioned Belle the night before and came up with a composite. When Emma saw it, she had absolutely no idea who the mystery attacker was. Living in such a small town, she figured that by going through the census she'd be able to eliminate everyone she knew and cross-reference the picture to those she didn't. She didn't expect to have so many people living in this town.
Only just getting through a fourth of the census, Emma growled and threw her hands in the air. She grabbed the composite and shoved it in her pocket and left the station for lunch. She made it a habit of returning to the mansion for lunch whenever she could. She knew Regina appreciated the company whether the brunette was ready to admit it or not.
She opened the door and was disappointed to find that Regina hadn't cooked anything yet. Placing her keys and the composite on the breakfast bar, she found the brunette in the backyard, sitting on bench in the middle of her garden. Her body language showed that she hadn't felt Emma's presence yet, but the stiffness of her posture made it clear that she was lost in thought.
Emma sat down silently beside Regina, who continued to stare off into space.
"You know I could always have them arrested," Emma joked.
Regina turned her blank gaze to the Sheriff but didn't laugh or scorn her comment. "I didn't make anything."
Emma shrugged unaffected and offered her hand, which the brunette took and stood. Though they didn't hold hands, their proximity to each other unconsciously became closer and closer. "I got tired of leafing through papers."
Regina nodded, clearly not in the right mindset to entertain conversation. She stepped into the kitchen holding the door open for Emma. The blonde made a motion with her hand and remained outside to answer her ringing phone.
Regina slept little the night before. The image of Daniel standing in the crowd burned into her mind. Her past taught her not to let her hopes get too high, for people enjoyed crushing dreams as a past time. But she was sure she saw him standing there, his blue eyes piercing into her.
She sighed heavily and made her way to the breakfast bar to get something ready for lunch when the composite caught her eye. Staring back at her was Daniel.
"Hey, did you know Dr. Whale's in the-" Emma looked around the empty kitchen. "Regina?"
She called her name out several more times while searching the mansion. It was when she passed the office window did she notice the lack of Mercedes in the driveway.
With panic rising in almost every citizen and the blame of that panic now currently missing, Emma moved quickly to retrieve her keys. She didn't notice the sketch of Daniel missing from the island.
Henry ran the brush over his horse's coat, moving it in one direction like Gramps had instructed.
"You ready to tell me when I can ride yet?" Henry asked the horse running his fingers through his mane. The horse neighed with a shake of his head. "Come on. I'm ready."
Suddenly the sound of the collective horses in the stable erupted as they neighed and kicked their hooves on the ground. The steed before him was acting just as strangely, rearing up on his hind legs and making a dash for the open stable knocking Henry over.
His vision blurred from the impact of his head hitting the concrete. His eyes watered and the images before him were hazy, but despite the distortion, he knew a presence was close by the uncanny prickling hair at the nape of his neck.
A man dressed in an outfit straight from the renaissance period blocked the entrance of the stable, his gaze was blank and tense and his hand was covered in dry blood.
"Hey are you okay?" Henry stammered and rose to his feet. There was something about the man that made him vigilant. He reached out his arm in a cautious but open gesture. "Look if you need help, my mom-"
The man seemed to recognize the boy's presence for the first time and grabbed him hard by the throat, lifting him up off the ground. Henry couldn't speak. He couldn't scream. His lungs screamed for oxygen while he could feel this man's fingers squeeze around his throat.
Henry could hear his mother's desperate plea. He could vaguely make out her dark form at the entrance of the stall.
"Let him go!"
He landed on the ground with a thud and felt his mother pull him up and out of the room, shutting the door just in time as the heavy thud of the man's body colliding against the sudden obstruction sounded.
Regina quickly inspected him to make sure no serious damage was done. Her face was tear-stained and filled with worry, confusion and fear, but she held on to him as if to stable herself. "Are you okay?"
He nodded, his throat too strained to use words and clutched the hands that held his face so tightly.
"Go call Emma now."
Without a moment of hesitance, he ran out of the stable, past his mother's Mercedes and went straight for the entrance of the barn. He huffed out of breath and soothed his sore throat before retrieving his phone and dialing the Sheriff.
Emma drove the cruiser at lightning speed when Henry called her claiming he'd been attacked and his mother was still in the stable with the attacker. It was the first time she'd ever had to engage the sirens but damn anyone who stood in her way.
She arrived at the barn fifteen minutes after Henry's call and found the shaking boy sitting on a bale of hay. She immediately ran to her son and crouched down, allowing the tightness of the hug he thrust upon her.
"Are you okay?" She asked attempting to keep her voice at bay.
"My mom, she's still in there. You have to get her," Henry pleaded.
She nodded unconsciously and directed him to her cruiser. "Get in. Lock the doors. Do not come in under any circumstances, do you understand?"
Henry nodded and hopped into the passenger side. "Just get her back."
Emma drew her gun when she got to the entrance of the stables. She knew Regina must have parked on the other side, and she prayed that the older woman wasn't hurt or at least somewhere safe. Being a bounty hunter had its perks when it came to being the Sheriff. She knew tricks about keeping to walls, stepping on the sides of stairs so as to make it not creak, and how to creep past corners. All that knowledge went out the window when Emma heard that Regina's life was in danger.
Edging her way near where the horses were kept, she turned from the wall into the open hallway, her gun drawn.
She found nothing.
Panic seized the blonde woman and she jogged to inspect every single stall, praying desperately she'd find Regina instead of horses and dung. Her heart deflated when she reached the final one and found it empty.
A light breeze traveled through the stable and the rustling sound of paper caught Emma's attention. Near the east exit was the composite flapping in the wind.
"She's not here."
Emma gasped and turned swiftly, pointing the barrel of her gun at the intruder. "God! Kid! I could have shot you!"
Henry shook his head nervously and walked towards Emma. "She's not here." Emma holstered her weapon and picked up the paper. "Her car's not here, what if he took her, Emma?"
The same thought ran through Emma's mind. She promised she'd keep Regina safe. She promised nothing bad would ever happen to her. Now she didn't even know where the hell she was.
"That's him!" Henry yelled yanking the paper out of Emma's grasp. "That's the guy. Daniel."
Emma froze at the name. "What?"
"Mom came and she yelled his name and he dropped me," Henry explained. "You have to get her back, Emma. He's dangerous!"
Emma's eyes widened. He was Daniel? Regina's Daniel. The same Daniel who got his heart ripped out by Regina's psycho mother. "Henry, are you sure?"
She took her son's hand just to make sure nothing would get him again as they walked back to where they came.
"Yes, I heard her say it."
How the hell was she supposed to explain a man who was supposed to be dead but is obviously very much alive? Emma felt her heart drop into her stomach. If Daniel was alive then what did that mean for them? She knew how much Regina loved the man. She cursed an entire realm because she lost him. It made Emma sick to realize that perhaps Regina wasn't at the hands of an attacker but in the embrace of her lover.
The nausea she felt was quickly overrun by a more familiar but faint feeling. Magic. She halted their movements when they passed the stall where Henry kept his horse.
"What is it?" Henry asked when he was met with resistance from his continued walk.
Emma released his hand and touched the side of the door. She crouched down and could faintly detect traces of that sweet yet musky smell that always accompanied Regina's magic. Her fingers traveled to the floor just outside the stall then lit up with brief traces of purple sparks.
But there was something off about the feeling. Whenever they practised, Emma could feel the joy and genuine pride of the older woman whenever she succeeded in some simple spell. Emma usually contributed it to the fact that she was in such close proximity to Regina, but this time, this time Emma could feel the desperate and agonizing pain behind this magic. It almost broke Emma's heart to feel.
Living with Regina had taught Emma a few basic things about the woman. First, she was a neat freak and a germaphobe. Just leaving one cup in the sink earned the blonde a half hour lecture on keeping tidy. Second, she enjoyed simple pleasures like sitting outside to talk or curling up in bed to read a novel. Emma knew not to disturb the brunette during her alone times unless given permission to do so. Most importantly, Emma had come to learn, Regina kept her emotions so tightly bound to her that she acted as a wounded animal when her feelings were too overwhelming.
Regina was hurt, Emma knew. Perhaps physically, but emotionally the woman was dying inside. She knew Regina would find a means to escape and without a curse or magic at her immediate disposal, there was only one way to do it.
Emma used her sirens again when she ushered Henry into the back of her cruiser and sped away from the stables. She would have preferred to look for Regina alone, but past experiences taught her that her kid had a way of sneaking into her car and time was of the essence right now.
She ignored Henry's questions of where they were heading and kept driving directly to the edge of town. Never had she willed her car to go faster before in her life, but as she drove out of the town and entered the lonely road surrounded by forest did she wish it with all her might.
Regina stood at the edge of the spray painted town line. Her cheeks were soaked and red with tears. Her mascara would have been running if she hadn't already wiped it away while sobbing uncontrollably in her car. The same scene played over and over in her mind on a constant loop as if torturing her.
Daniel had her pressed against the wall with a hand firmly clutched around her throat. His inhuman strength closed her airway almost effortlessly, but she managed to squeak out one final phrase. "I love you."
Allowing the blackness to overtake her, she gasped when she felt his hand slacken. She coughed aggressively before straightening to see the man before her. The man she fell in love with. He was no longer a monster. He was Daniel.
She clutched her arms around her and crouched down hiding her face in her body. The need for air wracked her body as the sobs never seemed to cease. Her heart was breaking all over again. His eyes had sought hers in the stable and for once, she thought that she could be happy. Daniel was back. She could have it all again. But fate was never in favour of her.
They caught each other's gaze for the first time in over thirty years. Recognition, love and pure bliss coursed through their bodies as they moved closer, engulfing each other in a tight hug. Regina sobbed into his neck, still disbelieving that Daniel was really here.
They pulled their heads apart, Regina with wide happy eyes as she roamed them over her long lost love. "I can't believe it's really you."
Her breathing faltered when Daniel tensed up and moved away from her, his face cringing in pain. He clutched his heart as beads of sweat dripped from his forehead as if it pained him just to breathe.
"Stop," he moaned. "Just stop the pain."
She took a step forward and took hold of his forearms, determination written all over her face. "How?"
Daniel stepped into her embrace, his shaking figures on her neck in a desperate hold. "Let me go."
Let him go? Regina bawled into her the sleeve of her blouse. How can she possibly do that? He was her True Love. He was the only person who understood her, who knew her, who loved her.
The memories she shared with Daniel ran through her mind like a freight train. It was Daniel who taught her how to love and care for horses, and it was upon his suggestion she learned how to ride. He was even there when she was given Rocinante, a name she was pleased he approved of. And it was on a quiet night when her parents were entertaining aristocrats of the neighboring region did she first indulge in a secret kiss with him under her apple tree. She recalled all the times she would sneak past her mother's guards just to watch him clean up the stable.
But that was all gone now.
Where once the hope of his return shone dimly in Regina's heart, the finality that he would never come back struck her hard.
Regina shook her head furiously. "No. No, I won't lose you again." She could feel his fingers waver against her chin and whispered softly. "Without you I'm lost."
He winced under her hold, his teeth clenching and his eyes squeezed shut. She held onto his face tighter and begged, "Daniel. Daniel, come back to me."
But he shook his head and tried to pull away. Wrenching his eyes open, he strained to get out a pained, "Can't."
"But I love you." She whispered it so quietly it was almost inaudible. The look of shock and pain flooded her eyes, taking the brief moment of joy and relief and ripping it away from her.
"Then love again."
Allowing one final sob, Regina gasped for breath and stood. The ache in her heart seemed to get larger and larger, and the only thing she could think to do at the moment was forget the past entirely. It can't possibly hurt anymore if the memory of it being there is erased. She closed her eyes and could almost hear her name being called, by Daniel or someone else entirely. Making up her mind, she stepped over the line.
"Regina!" Emma's voice was desperate as soon as she hopped out of her cruiser before she could stop it properly.
She found the Mercedes right where she expected it but hated that she was right. She was sprinting full speed when she noticed Regina standing at the town line, her toe just on the edge.
"Regina!" She called again a few feet away from the brunette when she saw her step over the boundary.
Emma's heart stopped beating briefly, wondering what would happen, but she continued running, stepping over the line as if it weren't there and engulfing Regina in a bone-crushing hug.
The brunette was still under her arms. All Emma could feel was the laboured breathing against her neck. Did it work? Did Regina even remember where she was or who she was? How would it affect the caster of the curse?
"Regina?" Emma asked cautiously, her grip still strong. She unconsciously wove her hand through the brunette's hair in her quick attempt to catch her and it remained there, rubbing small circles in a soothing fashion.
"He's gone," Regina sobbed into Emma's neck. "He's never coming back."
"Shhh," Emma spoke softly, rocking the older woman who clung furiously to her as if her life depended on it. It made Emma feel guilty that she was secretly relieved that nothing happened to the brunette. Although Regina was in a world of anguish right now, Emma counted her lucky stars that Regina was still the same. "Shhh, it's okay."
"I lose everyone." Regina buried her face deeper into the blonde's neck and clutched the collar of her jacket to bring her closer, to keep her there for as long as she possibly could.
Emma pressed her jaw against the brunette's hair and closed her eyes. Emma knew pain in her life, that was for sure. She knew what abandonment felt like and knew what it was like to be on the losing side of every game. But nothing she ever dealt with came close to the heartbreak she felt for the woman buried safely in her arms.
She pressed a kiss to her temple, not a kiss shared by lovers, but one of comfort, reassurance and stability. Pressing their bodies closer, Emma whispered just for Regina to hear. "Not me."
Explicit sex scene in this chapter
Emma lay in Regina's bed, her arm wrapped protectively around the woman as sniffles and laboured breathing continued to break the silence of the room.
Regina was leaning into Emma's side, her hand clutching firmly at the tear-dampened tank top the blonde was wearing. She held on tightly until her knuckles turned white. If she let go, who knew what would happen to Emma. As long as she kept holding on, as long as Emma kept her arm wrapped around her, Regina would be safe.
When they arrived at the mansion hours earlier, Henry, dumbstruck at seeing his once strict and hardened mother reduced to an inconsolable mess of tears and violent shakes, was asked to walk back to Mary Margaret's and to call Billy to have him tow Regina's car away from the boundary. Emma didn't have it in her to feel bad for sending the kid away. The only thing she could think of was to somehow make the woman before her feel better.
The setting sun cast an orange glow to the pristine room. The women had been lying there for hours not saying one word. They couldn't. Nothing could be said to erase decades of heartache. Instead, Emma just held on to Regina, and by some miracle, that was just enough.
It didn't take long for Emma to deduce that Regina was forced to magic Daniel away. In fact, she figured it out on the drive to search for her, but whatever she prepared herself for, it wasn't ready for this. This side of Regina that Emma was sure no one had ever seen. The Regina so utterly hopeless and lost and clinging to the blonde in an act of desperation was a completely different person from the Regina Emma encountered upon entering Storybrooke and even the Regina from the day before.
As Emma waited patiently for the sobs to quiet down and the breathing to become even, she weaved her hand in the brunette's hair and wrapped around her in a cocoon of warmth, stability and reassurance.
She felt Regina shift her head away from her neck almost imperceptibly so. Though the shudders still spontaneously wracked the former Mayor's body and the tears turned into a silent affair, Emma knew Regina was attempting to regain composure.
"You can cry," Emma whispered.
A moment passed before Regina answered. "I did."
"No one here's going to judge you for feeling pain," the blonde replied.
"That's all anyone ever does," Regina answered darkly, her tone of voice low and receding into the darkness that once completely consumed her.
Emma gulped quietly, noticing the change in demeanor of the woman lying on top of her. She crooked her finger under Regina's jaw so that they faced each other. Emma held her jaw then, using her thumb to stroke away the wetness that traveled down her cheeks. "Do you believe in fairy tales?"
The question baffled Regina, the darkness leaving her eyes from the confusion alone. "They're not meant for me."
"I don't believe in them either," Emma began. "If you want something, you have to work for it. One day, someone's gonna work their ass off just to be in the same room as you. The pain won't stop, you know that, but I think we find people to help us forget."
Regina stared into the green eyes that bore down on her, wide and uncertain, uncomfortable and unsure of how exactly to appropriately respond in this situation, but yet, she was still here. Regina didn't know what to make of it. Daniel's final words resonated in her ears as if he was in the room saying them.
Then love again.
She sniffled again and nodded minutely. "I think you might be right for once, Miss Swan."
Emma found Regina sitting in her chaise with a picture album before her. For the past couple days, the brunette was quiet. Emma could see the older woman spent the better part of two days lost in her thoughts, and all Emma could do was to wait patiently. She had begun sleeping in Regina's bed, at first just to comfort, but when she spent a night in her own bed, the harsh sobs and moans from the older woman got her up and rushing to calm the woman from her nightmares.
Taking in her relatively relaxed appearance, Emma stepped in and sat on the vanity chair.
Regina didn't look up at the intrusion. Instead, she smiled softly at the pictures before her. "When Henry asked my where his father was, I told him he died a long time ago. I'd always wondered what would have happened if Daniel was still alive." She lifted her eyes up to meet Emma's curious ones. "When he found out he was adopted, he asked about his mother."
"He's a smart kid," Emma commented.
With a vulnerable move on Regina's part, she held out her hand for the blonde to take, which she did sitting across from her, the same position they were in when they succumbed to the emotions of this curious yet natural relationship. Regina shifted so they sat side by side, her hand closest to Emma resting on Emma's thigh and moved the album between the two.
"This was Henry's fourth birthday," Regina said as she pointed to a picture of the small, chubby boy seated at the head of the dining room table with a large Wolverine cake in front of him.
"Oh my gosh, look at his baby fat," Emma grinned and leaned in closer to examine the picture.
Regina laughed. "I may have indulged his food preferences when he was younger."
They flipped to the next page where Henry seated at the top of a slide. Regina smiled at the widened eyes of the blonde as she soaked in the images of their son. "He went on the monkey bars that day and sprained his wrist."
"That must have been fun," Emma smirked sarcastically. "How come you're telling me all this?"
Regina stared intently at the younger woman, her thumb unconsciously moving across Emma's leg. The heat emitting from the contact was more than enough to make the women aware of the action. She spoke quietly as if she had rehearsed this for some time. "I want you in Henry's life. It seems fair to let you know what it's been like for the past decade."
"When you get him back?" Emma asked, receiving a nod in response. Her lips tilted into a small smile, reading through what Regina said. Emma knew Regina would work hard to get her son back in her life. She'd been doing it for weeks now. What she also found out by the brunette's cryptic confession was that to be in Henry's life, one day living with Regina again, would mean to be in Regina's life too. Placing a hand over the palm resting on her thigh and squeezing it, she spoke, "I'd love that."
Regina mirrored the small upturn of her lips and quickly turned back to the album, immersing herself in it before the blonde moved and closed the album, setting it aside. She looked up confused before she saw Emma stand and offer her hand. She didn't hesitate to take it and followed Emma down the stairs.
Her question of where they were going was dismissed by a quirk of the blonde's eyebrows as she led them out the door and began walking towards Town Hall.
It was well past office hours by the time Emma led them to the back. She strategically planned to bring Regina by at this time, not wanting to get into a run-in with her mother. In the center of the lavish garden stood Regina's decaying apple tree. It was clear that a few angry citizens had attempted to chop it down due to the abrasions in the wood, but despite the rotten apples and chipped bark, it continued to stand strong.
Regina whimpered upon seeing the tree. It was the one thing she had that was her own for so long and here it stood, defiled and disgraced. Emma continued to tug her along until they stood under it.
"Heal it," Emma urged.
Regina's head snapped from examining the bark to question the woman before her.
"You can do it," Emma encouraged.
Regina shook her head. "There's too much damage. I don't have enough magic."
Emma stood closer so that they weren't touching, just barely. "You do. You can channel it whenever you feel intense emotion." She whispered her next response. "I felt it in the stables."
Regina's eyes flashed at the still too fresh memory but turned towards the tree. She held a palm to the center of the tree and exhaled. Feel something, she thought to herself. Let it in.
Then love again.
Regina's eyes opened at the sound, not because she heard Daniel's voice, but because she saw Emma's face simultaneously with the voice. As soon as her eyes shot open, she could feel magic power through her full force as if it were being returned to her. The broken bark beneath her palm lost its chips, the leaves returned to its vibrant green colour and the once rotten apples became plump and red again.
Regina grinned wide and laughed, pressing her hands to her chin in disbelief. "I did it."
Emma mirrored the look on the brunette's face and took her waist, both watching as the tree returned to life. "I knew you could."
Belle had been living with her father ever since she was discharged from the hospital. Seeing her father again after so long was such a welcome relief that it almost dulled the missing void she felt whenever her mind wandered to Rumplestiltskin. He was true to his word and kept away, but the rose she found on her window sill every night had her grinning like a school girl.
It had been weeks since she'd seen the man, and after spending over thirty years away from him, she was starting to miss his presence in her life. He had good intentions, that she could see, yet it was ironic how much he felt. Everyone in town likened Mr. Gold to that of a cold, heartless beast, but no one acts so strongly or passionately about deals and manipulation unless they care. It seemed she was the only one to see that.
Picking up her bouquet of roses and lifting it up to her nose, she inhaled the sweet scent and sighed. Perhaps it was time to forgive and forget.
"Belle, love," said Maurice as he popped his head into her room, "help me with the new shipment? What are those?"
She set the bouquet down on her nightstand. "Roses."
"I can see that." He stepped in and picked them up. "Where'd you get them?"
Her father glanced up pointing at her with the bundle in his hand. "You got these from him, didn't you?"
"It's not what you think, Father."
"He's dangerous, Belle." His voice rose with a harsh tone. "You are not to see him again."
She shook her head, her eyes blazing and defiant. "I am a grown woman."
"I am your father," he reminded her, grabbing the roses and ripping the bulbs from the stems. He held them away when she screamed and tried to grab for them. "Enough, Belle. I know what's best for you."
He tossed the rest of the ruined flowers to the ground, watching as she slowly bent and retrieved a mangled rose.
"It's my life," she whispered then lifted her head up to glare at the man. "It's my life, and you can't tell me how to live my life."
Maurice regarded his daughter with pursed lips. Looking apologetically, he stepped closer to her. "I'm sorry it had to come to this."
He made a grab for his daughter, hoisting her over his shoulder as she kicked and screamed.
Regina entered the pawn shop, the door opening with the jingle of the bell. Her heels clicked on the wood flooring as she made her way to the counter.
"Regina," Gold said making his way out of the stock room. "To what do I owe the pleasure? Have you reconsidered my offer?"
She leaned forward, her eyes dark and questioning. "Why did you bring him back?"
"To the point," Gold smirked.
He leaned forward an inch. "Perhaps I was feeling charitable."
Regina gaped at the man and growled through her teeth. "Do you have any idea what I had to do?"
"Of course, dearie. Why do you think I did it?"
She inhaled sharply not expecting the man to admit it so quickly. Her voice was hoarse when she spoke. "Why?"
"Let's just say pain is a powerful motivator." He smirked at her wickedly.
Her eyes narrowed, but she steeled her emotions away from the blatant heartache thrust upon her for the man's pleasure. Instinctively she created a fireball in her hand. The flawless and natural act shocked the man behind the counter.
But with a small intake of breath, Regina diminished the ball of fire. "You're not worth it."
Giving Gold one last sneer, she walked out away, for the first time feeling like she had won a small battle against him.
Emma was proud of Regina. She expected the brunette to revert back to her old ways, blaming Dr. Whale for bringing Daniel back and hunting down Gold to strangle him with her bare hands. She found the exact opposite, however. Although Regina could easily slip into a lost daze when thinking about the events passed, Emma noticed that she seemed lighter, happier and free if she was honest with herself. Of course the former Mayor's wit and sass was still present, but it always took a teasing and flirtatious tone.
Regina opened herself up to more intimate gestures, allowing Emma to pull her into her grasp and kiss her senseless in order to win an argument, holding Emma's hand as she led them up the stairs and resting her hand on Emma's thigh whenever they sat close to each other. She had even surprised the blonde once when they were in her garden. She took Emma's hand and used their joined hands to motion towards a wilting flower. As always, the magic coursed through them, strong and confident, and the rose rejuvenated with life.
Emma wondered what the change was in the brunette, but if Regina was happier, it didn't matter the cause.
She grinned to herself as she drove to Mary Margaret's just thinking about how with each passing day, Regina was slowly letting her walls down. With each brick that came crashing and each lock that clicked open, a part of Emma was let in. Emma, in turn, became more open with the brunette, easily slipping into a comfortable relationship. Relationship? Is that what they were?
What scared Emma most about the word was that she wasn't scared at all. She and Regina had their fair share of heated kisses, desperate, needy and meaningful, but it never escalated to anything more than that. It surprised Emma that she was content with that. She grinned again as she pulled up to the curb of the apartment. Yeah. Relationship was a good word.
"I'm glad we could have dinner. Just you and me," Mary Margaret smiled, setting a tea cup down in front of her daughter. "I haven't seen you in a while, I thought I'd have to send your father over to check in on you."
Emma still winced at the fact that her parents were Snow White and Prince Charming. And the fact that they were her friends. And her age. She winced again.
"I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself," Emma said into her tea before sipping it.
"I know, I know," Mary Margaret sighed. "Regina seems to have been staying out of trouble lately."
"Lately?" Emma asked, her tone too offended for her mother's liking. "She hasn't done anything wrong since the whole poisoned turnover thing."
Mary Margaret pursed her lips. "You make it sound like it wasn't that big of a deal."
Emma refrained from rolling her eyes. "Of course it was. Henry almost died."
"So she's still evil." The brunette said more than asked as she set a sandwich in front of the blonde.
"I didn't say that." Emma's eyes flashed angrily. "She's actually been really good."
"If she's no threat then why are you still living there?" She asked with a confused furrow of her brow.
"You told me to," Emma answered childishly, hoping that reason would please her mother.
"Then come home," the school teacher decided cheerily.
Emma froze with the sandwich halfway to her mouth. The action caught the brunette's attention because she narrowed her eyes in a questioning glare. Emma resumed her paused path and took a large bite, allowing her time to chew as an excuse to think. She finally and reluctantly swallowed. "Why?"
Mary Margaret tilted her head and held her daughter under a gaze of scrutiny. "If she's no threat then there's no point in your living there." Emma's silence had the brunette stepping directly to the edge of the kitchen island, coming closer to the blonde. "Is she a threat?"
"No," Emma answered immediately.
"Then what's the problem?" Her mother's voice rose in a demanding tone.
Emma looked at Mary Margaret from under her lashes, like a child being caught for breaking the lamp. Or in Emma's case, cavorting with the enemy. "She needs a friend."
Mary Margaret shook her head in disbelief. "No, you are not friends with her."
"Don't Mom me," the brunette glared. "I know you only do that when you want something."
Emma looked down at her cup, her cheeks reddened. She thought she was pretty sly with her use of the title.
"Emma," Mary Margaret said soothingly and moved around the island to put a palm to her daughter's cheek, "I know Regina, and whatever she's said to you or done is all just a ploy to take advantage of you."
Emma eyes flashed at the accusation. "You don't know anything about her."
"I grew up with her."
"You grew up with an angry, heartbroken teenager," Emma stood. "She's not the same Regina she was back then."
"Honestly, Emma, why do you care so much about her?"
"Because someone has to!" The blonde raised her voice before she could stop it. "I got to know her, and yeah she used to be the biggest bitch I've ever met in my entire life, but I actually understand where she's coming from. I mean, her boyfriend got his heart ripped out by her mother because of you. Doesn't that bother you?"
Emma could feel something strange yet familiar bubble inside her, but she continued despite the shocked gasp from the other woman. "Her whole life she's been used and abused and lied to and taken advantage of, and I'm not saying she hasn't done the same thing, I mean she tried to poison me for God's sake but she's different now and I'm the only one who can see that."
The blonde was unconsciously pacing, her arms waving animatedly as she spoke. "People have been leaving her her entire life. Her mom was crazy and her dad was weak, and you, you broke your promise and Henry ran from her, and God, even Graham chose me, but I'm not gonna treat her that way anymore 'cause I know what it's like to be kicked to the curb over and over and over again and it sucks!"
The coffee pot on the counter exploded suddenly, a cloud of bluish red smoke hung around it. The women stared at it with wide eyes. That wasn't Regina's magic, Emma knew. She stared down at her fingers where blue electricity crackled in tune with her rapidly beating heart.
She stood there breathing heavily from her long-winded speech. Her words came out on their own accord, being thrust from her in order to defend Regina and make sure no one could retaliate. Mother or not, she was not having Mary Margaret speak ill about the woman she-. Emma paused her train of thought. The woman she what?
Mary Margaret turned a questioning glare from the coffee pot to her daughter. Emma didn't need to ask to know what was running through her mind.
"I'll pay for it," Emma mumbled.
"Has Regina been teaching you magic?" Mary Margaret accused.
Emma scoffed at her tone of voice. She felt like a teenager being caught by her parents for smoking weed. "No, she is not teaching me."
"How do you explain that?" She motioned towards the shattered coffee pot.
The blonde opened her mouth but found no words to respond. She couldn't explain that.
"That's it, you are coming home," Mary Margaret decided.
"You can't do that!" Emma yelled. It was the first time she ever purposely raised her voice to the woman. "I get that you're my mother, but come on Mary Margaret, we're the same age."
The brunette stepped towards the Sheriff and held her face between her palms. "I won't let her take you away from me again."
Emma removed her face from the school teacher's grasp. "No offence but no one forced you to send me away. Not even Regina."
She turned away from the woman and left the apartment slamming the door behind her. She didn't bother to stop when Mary Margaret called her name.
Gold limped down Main Street with one purpose in mind. He needed to see Belle. His run-in with Regina the day before hadn't gone as expected. He figured he'd be able to manipulate the girl just as he did back in the Enchanted Forest, with pain in her heart and revenge firmly in her sights. But there was something different about her. Something that wasn't clouded by years of darkness. He didn't like it one bit.
So he traveled to see the one person in this town who provided him comfort. He could tell by the way she collected his roses that she wasn't completely mad at him. It gave him hope that he'd be able to convince her to return. Perhaps with Belle's help, they'd be able to figure out a way to cross over the boundary line, since Regina was of no use. Though it seemed as though she possessed the power to do so, she was certainly not willing to help now.
He made his way down the path behind the flower shop where Maurice resided. He knew the florist took Belle under his care after her stay at the hospital, and with the use of his cane, he knocked on the door.
No sooner than a moment later did Belle answer the door. "Hello."
"Belle," Gold smiled taking in the young woman before him. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."
She eyed him curiously with a tilt of her head. "I'm sorry, but do we know each other?"
Emma returned home from her visit with Mary Margaret still noticeably tense. She huffed as she sat down on the couch hard, letting her head fall over the back of the it.
"Rough day at the office, Sheriff?" Regina asked leaning against the doorway.
"My mother," Emma groaned, her eyes still fixed angrily on the ceiling. "We got into an argument. I may have broken her coffee pot."
Regina chuckled and made her way into the room sitting beside the blonde and facing her. "Do you have a vendetta against household appliances, Miss Swan?"
The Sheriff glared at Regina's joke. "No, I just didn't agree with what she was saying."
"Children rarely agree with their parents, dear."
Emma turned her body so they were facing each other and rested her head against her crooked arm. "She said you were evil."
It didn't take long for Regina to process what the blonde's argument with her mother was about. Emma had defended her, that much was clear despite the lack of outright admission. Instead of saying her thanks, she offered up her wit. "She's not entirely wrong about that."
Emma grabbed Regina's chin between her forefinger and thumb when the brunette tried to move away. Without warning she placed the sweetest of kisses on the former Mayor's lips. As brief as it was, it stole Regina's breath away. With her eyelids halfway closed, she asked, "What was that for?"
Emma grinned releasing her face. "I know better."
Regina did little to hide the pleased blush forming on her cheeks. Instead, she leaned closer to the blonde, almost hesitatingly so. "I want to show you something."
"Do you trust me?" Regina asked studying Emma's expression for any sign of hesitancy. She found none.
Regina's eyes sparkled with wonderment. She placed her hand over Emma's heart and kept eye contact with the blonde. "I promise this won't hurt."
Emma's eyes widened as Regina's hand disappeared into her chest. It was an odd sensation, not painful as the brunette promised, but not pleasant either. Within a second, Emma saw that Regina held a pulsing glowing red heart in her hand. Her heart.
"Yes," Regina answered quietly, the heart in her hand pulsing at a steady rhythm whereas other hearts she procured in the past generally beat at a frantic pace. "I've been stronger, ever since you helped me that day at my apple tree. It's not completely back, but I have more control.
"To take someone's heart is to control them," Regina sought Emma's green eyes as she carefully replaced the heart back in its home.
In any other given circumstance, the fact that Emma had seen her heart in the hands of someone should have freaked her out, but seeing it held so reverently and protectively in Regina's palm made her feel safe. It made her feel like her heart was in a good place, literally.
Without much thought, Emma tugged gently on the other woman's waist until she was half straddling her lap and brought their faces within millimeters of one another. She whispered as her hot breath invaded Regina's senses. "You have it already."
Regina gasped softly before quickly connecting her lips to the blonde's, their mouths moving together in a passionate dance. She held Emma's face between her hands in a tender yet forceful embrace, letting her bottom lip just barely scrape against the pale smooth cheek below it.
Emma shuddered at the whisper soft caress and moved to flip the brunette onto her back. She smirked seeing Regina's grin before diving in to kiss her once more. This time their tongues moved with each other before Emma gained the upper hand and stroked the roof of the warm cavern she never wanted to leave.
Their hands were not idle as they kissed with such passion. Regina's fingers curled themselves into Emma's belt loops and pulled the blonde's waist firmly against her own, their cores coming into much needed contact with each other.
The action made Emma dig her nails into Regina's outer thigh, raking them down the leg as she pulled to wrap the toned leg around her waist settling comfortably on top of the brunette.
Emma was the first to pull back from the kiss but didn't lose contact when her lips immediately left a trail of kisses down Regina's jaw and settled happily at her pulse point. She sucked at the spot and flicked the protruding vein underneath it with the tip of her tongue. Her efforts doubled when she heard the soft whimpers from the woman under her.
"Emma," Regina sounded breathlessly. Her hand wove threw blonde locks pressing the Sheriff's lips harder against her neck. "Emma."
Emma sat up and examined her work. There was the making of a love bite forming on the spot she just vacated, and she smirked proud at the fact that she'd been able to mark her as her own. Seeing the need in Regina's eyes, which mirrored her own, Emma got up off the Mayor and helped her stand.
Their fingers were intertwined as they made their way up the stairs together, each glancing at each other under hooded lashes and grinning and blushing at being caught.
Finally they reached the master suite as the electrically charged air crackled around them.
The room was basked in the ambiance of the rising moon and the street lights. Emma's pale skin shone vibrantly against the darkness, and Regina went to her like a moth to a flame. Their mouths found each other once more sighing contentedly under each other's soft weight. Their bodies molded together so that not even air could pass through them.
Emma released Regina's bottom lip from her hold on them and pressed their foreheads together. She smiled, a true and happy smile as she gazed at the woman before her. Her green eyes locked with brown as she watched the emotions flutter through them.
Emma learned that Regina's eyes spoke volumes. They twinkled when she laughed, crinkled at the edges when she smiled, turned dark to the point of black when she was sad, but now, her eyes spoke a different story. The usual hazel eyes had taken a chestnut hue that seemed to twinkle and crinkle all at once.
Not being able to resist, Emma moved her hand from Regina's hip and trailed the back of her hand down the older woman's face. She whispered, almost amazed and awed, "You're so beautiful."
Regina caught Emma's descending hand and pressed a kiss to the palm and to every little finger. She was given a second chance, she realized, a chance to do things right. A chance to have love again. A chance to be loved again. And in that moment, Regina felt the love and want and care radiating off the blonde and pour into the very recesses of her soul. It was overwhelming.
She grabbed the base of Emma's neck and pulled her head towards her, capturing her lips in another searing kiss. As their tongues battled for supremacy, Regina's free hand moved down the lithe body against hers and cupped the aching core of the Sheriff. She reveled in the groan Emma produced when she pulled back just a fraction of an inch before she grabbed Emma's bottom lip between her teeth, nibbling softly.
Emma's eyes fluttered shut at the mix of pleasure and pain her abused lips were receiving as her hands wandered down Regina's back, squeezing over her generous rump once before grabbing the back of her thighs and lifting her off the ground. She grinned at the brunette's surprised yelp before walking the few steps over to their bed where she deposited the older woman as if setting down something precious.
Emma kept eye contact with the woman lying in the bed, seeing her watch her, wait for her. Slowly, Emma moved to remove her shirt before Regina reared up on all fours and halted the blonde's movements.
Her hand held over Emma's and without questioning, the blonde moved her hands to Regina's shoulders letting the brunette lift the thin material away from her body. Regina was more than a little displeased to find the tank top underneath the shirt she had just tossed on the floor, but she couldn't find herself to be mad when it was something entirely Emma. The fact that it accentuated her breasts and strong arms didn't hurt.
"I always loved this on you," Regina grinned as she let her fingers graze over Emma's arm and rest hotly on her bicep.
Emma chuckled as her own fingers played with the hair at the back of the brunette's neck. "If I recall you said I looked trashy." Her chuckle was cut short when she felt the tank top lifted and hot lips pressed around her belly button.
"Why would I say that?" Regina smiled into Emma's stomach as she licked and kissed every inch of revealed skin. Eventually she sat up on her knees as she removed the tank. Her lips found the dip between Emma's breasts and happily stayed there. Her hand kneaded the forgotten breast as her lips trailed further down, face pushing the cup aside before she took an erect nipple between her teeth.
It took all of Emma's energy not to just let herself get lost in Regina. Somehow, she managed to weave her hand to the front of the brunette's blouse and popped the buttons one by one. Pushing the fabric off of her shoulders, Emma made quick work of divesting Regina of her bra.
She felt Regina's lips place open mouth kisses up her breast, along her collarbone and just below her ear, where the brunette's husky voice chuckled throatily. "Relax, dear. We have all night."
Emma caught her lips then and pushed against the woman so that they toppled on the bed. She pulled back her body but kept their lips firmly attached when she felt Regina's fingers scrape up and down her back before unclasping her bra and tossing it haphazardly away. She was pulled closer when the older woman wrapped completely around her.
Their heaving breasts pressed firmly against one another sending a delicious hum to the pit of their stomachs causing the women to moan.
Emma's eyes snapped open needing this woman so badly. She licked her way down Regina's torso, stopping to nibble on hardened nipples just as the brunette had done to her. She licked them apologetically with just the tip of her tongue after a particularly harsh bite.
"Emma," Regina whimpered breathily.
"Stop teasing." The growl in Regina's voice had Emma smirking. "You said we had all night."
She didn't bother waiting for the glare before she placed hot kisses at the top of Regina's pelvis. Swiftly, she unzipped and unbuttoned Regina's slacks, letting her hot breath tease the covered mound aching to be free. She tugged until the only barrier was an expensive and drenched piece of lingerie.
Regina moaned as the cool air hit against her covered sex. Already her hips were rocking closer and closer to Emma's mouth, the heat from her breath doing wonders for her body and stoking her already burning desire.
Emma debated on teasing the Mayor further, the heady scent floating up from her sex sent her brain into overload. She clenched her thighs together to ease the pleasant discomfort before settling between two toned tanned legs. Quickly making away with the underwear, Emma took a moment to appreciate the naked woman presented before her.
She couldn't believe how far she'd come in the last several months. It was only eight months prior was she alone in a Boston apartment hunting down scumbags. Now she was here, with a kid who she adored, a home with roots, parents for God's sake, and Regina, the woman she, dare she say, loves.
She couldn't believe how lucky she was.
Regina held Emma's gaze as she watched the blonde thoroughly examine her. Her eyes traveled down her naked body and up again as if the blonde was memorizing her. Regina never felt more beautiful than in that moment.
She reached for Emma's hand, their fingers intertwining as she let Emma push their conjoined hands as high as she could reach while she bent over Regina's arousal.
Regina was glad Emma didn't hesitate. She needed this, she needed her almost as much as she needed air. She was gone after the blonde's first firm lick along her length. She squeezed Emma's hand tighter feeling Emma's tongue flick with such force into her awaiting heat. Her walls constricted immediately against Emma's tongue.
Regina was panting heavily. She could feel Emma everywhere. Her hand keeping her stomach flat, her tongue making love to her in the most intimate ways, their conjoined hands squeezing just as tight as she was, her scent of vanilla and something entirely Emma filling her nostrils and flooding every sense, her voice in her head whispering words of reassurance. Emma was everywhere around her and in her and Regina loved every second of it.
She bit her lip when Emma used her free hand to suddenly insert two long fingers deep into Regina.
"Oh god," Regina did nothing to hide the moan escaping her lips. She gasped even harder and rocked her hips a little faster when she felt a delicious heat surrounding her clit.
Emma kept her fingers pumping at a steady rhythm as she placed her mouth directly above the precious jewel that guarded Regina's entrance. Already she could feel the legs around her quivering in anticipation. With little fanfare and a goal of seeing, feeling and hearing this woman come undone, Emma took the nub in her mouth, lapping at it with the flat of her tongue.
If Regina's ragged breathing and whispered curses were any indicator, Emma could sense she was close. She crooked her fingers deep inside the brunette feeling her inner walls milk them for everything they were worth while she used the tip of her tongue to trace the alphabet on her swollen clit.
Her moans alone were enough to get Emma off. Her own sex was aching and begging for attention despite the tight confines of the jeans she was still in, but Emma needed this. She needed to know everything about Regina, what made her moan - a nip to her collarbone, what made her cry out - her fingers buried knuckle deep, what made her lose control - Emma was more than happy to spend nights figuring that one out. So she continued her assault on Regina's core. A few more well placed licks and Emma was sure to figure out what drove the former Mayor crazy.
Emma only got to the letter "K" before she felt Regina blindly grab at her shoulders and pull her up. Her hips were now rocking against the denim of her jeans, a spot of wetness appeared where Regina's sex made contact. Emma went lightheaded at the sensation when she felt urgent lips pressed against her own.
Regina invaded Emma's mouth, slanting her head to better accommodate their roaming tongues and making their desire evident. She had been so close, so so close to that delicious edge, but she needed Emma. She wanted to come with Emma.
As they kissed, Regina cupped Emma's core again in a teasing manner, loving the gasp the blonde emitted, before unbuttoning her jeans and forcibly tugging them down. Using the help of her legs and the blonde's own efforts, jeans and underwear were kicked aside until finally their bodies held no barriers.
Regina once again moved to cup Emma, no boundaries this time, and immediately felt the wet and warmth spilling from the blonde. They stilled for a moment, their kissing paused and their roving hands finding purchase on sweaty, wet skin. Regina whispered so quietly yet so desperately. "I want you."
Emma brushed their lips together, just barely before whispering back. "Have me."
Her words echoed from her previous statement when Regina replaced Emma's heart back in her chest. Regina felt hers soar.
Both women had one hand weaved in the other's hair keeping them close and within kissing distance, but Regina used her free hand to lead Emma's back down to her quivering netherlips, urging her to continue. Immediately Emma inserted two fingers back into Regina's waiting heat where they were greeted happily in a pulsating tight warmth. Regina did the same, inserting her fingers and using the heel of her palm to press against Emma's engorged clit.
It was a race now. Both women trying to hold out for as long as possible while simultaneously attempting to give the other woman the biggest orgasm of her life. They gasped together, hot breath mingling in the small space between their mouths, their hearts beat wildly as one. Regina's rhythm drove Emma crazy quickly. She'd push her fingers deeper into the blonde twice before scissoring them against Emma's tight cavern, her clit pressed deliciously against Regina's palm every single time she pushed in.
They captured each other's moans, stealing them in passionate kisses whenever the other so much as opened her mouth. Finally they neared the edge, the sensation and emotion becoming too overwhelming.
Regina broke first when Emma inserted a third finger unexpectedly and pressed hard on her clit with the pad of her thumb. Her scream would have been swallowed by Emma's waiting mouth had Regina not hit Emma's g-spot right in that moment, earning herself a deep and long groan from the blonde above her.
They continued to hold on to each other as their hips rode each other's fingers on their own accord drawing out their orgasms. Regina's body quivered beneath Emma's as shudders wracked her body. Emma's stomach tightened at the sweet pleasure coursing through her veins, willing it to continue.
Finally the pleasure became a dull humming as their bodies eased themselves down from their high. Regina was the first to remove her fingers and allowed the sticky wetness that was Emma Swan drip onto her thigh. She brought the fingers up to her mouth and licked them clean. Removing them, she allowed Emma to lick off the excess, smiling as Emma made a show of getting into the space between her fingers.
Emma smirked when Regina whimpered from the loss of Emma's fingers. She put them in her mouth and sucked. "You're my favourite taste."
Regina used the hand permanently weaved through Emma's hair to pull her down and kiss her, catching a hint of herself on Emma's tongue. "Mmmm, your taste comes a close second."
Emma grinned at Regina's smirk before removing her hand from her hair and intertwined their fingers. She held both of Regina's hands high above her head as she kissed her senseless. She pulled back just when Regina was attempting to duel with Emma's tongue. "Maybe you'd like another taste."
Regina's eyes sparkled with mirth. "Well, if I must."
Emma laughed as Regina suddenly flipped her onto her back and moved quickly to straddle her pale hips. She moaned and shut her eyes when her sensitive core made contact with Regina's. "Take as many tastes as you'd like."
"Snow! Snow, will you slow down?" Charming walked quickly after his wife who was somehow a good hundred yards ahead of him with vindication in her eyes.
Something happened between his wife and daughter last night that had her furious. Despite her night-long ranting and yelling, the only thing he could truly process was that Regina was somehow to blame for it. Before he knew it, she had ceased washing the breakfast dishes and stormed out of the apartment with his sword in tow. Exchanging worried and shocked glances with Henry, Charming bolted out of his chair and after his wife, Henry following suit.
He knew very well what Snow's wrath felt like. He had the scar on his jaw to prove as much, so it didn't ease her anger when he caught up with her exiting the building and wrestled the sword out of her grasp. In fact, in only spurred the smaller woman on and within moments she was already down the street towards the suburbia her alter ego had once before been afraid of visiting.
"What is she going to do?" Henry asked, running to keep up with his grandfather.
David picked up his pace to a jog. Even from a distance he could still see the tension building within his wife. Ominously, he spoke. "I don't know."
By the time grandfather and grandson made it to the end of the mayoral pathway, Mary Margaret was already picking at the door. Frustrated with her delayed results, she turned a determined glare to David. "Kick it down."
"What?" Henry asked with wide eyes.
"Our daughter is in there right now with the Evil Queen, Charming! She's put a spell on Emma, so kick down the door." The tiny woman spoke with such authority that no one could deny her request. David processed his wife's words and wondered the possibility of their truth. He wasn't about to take any chances so with a firm kick, the door to the mayoral mansion swung open on its hinges.
A mess of blonde curls and brown locks merged together in the midst of the goose down pillows while the white cotton comforter hung around the bare waists of the two lovers tangled together in bed. Their breathing was even and constant, as if one would wait to exhale while the other breathed in creating a rhythmic and calming atmosphere that only lulled the two women in a more content sleep.
A pale face was nuzzled into the tan and lean neck of the darker woman, her front pressed hotly against a toned back that arched perfectly to accommodate their closeness while her arms wrapped protectively around her lover.
Regina's hand had unconsciously interlocked with Emma's during the night as the blonde pulled her closer in their embrace. It now nestled over Emma's hand, secure on her waist line.
Despite Regina's strict morning routine to awake at precisely 6 am, she found herself happy to sleep through her internal clock, succumbing to the warmth and security that was Emma Swan. Only when the blonde began to stir did she begin to wake herself. Feeling a draft of air seep through where Emma had unconsciously moved her body away to stretch, Regina tightened her hold on the younger woman's hand to wrap around her, using their conjoined hands as a makeshift pillow under her cheek.
She heard a low chuckle and felt a kiss to the back of her bare shoulder, another one at the nape of her neck and one more just below her ear where she finally felt the soft weight of Emma's cheek leaning against the back of her head.
"Hi," she whispered into Regina's ear.
Fighting a smile, Regina tilted her head to accommodate the blonde above her. "Good morning."
Emma's hand found Regina's chin and tilted it towards her to capture the now-bruised lips in a deep kiss. Regina released a throaty chuckle, looking directly into the sea of green captivating her. "Now it's even better."
The brunette trailed a hand down the younger woman's face, studying every aspect about it that she didn't think to do the night before. Her fingers traced over the wrinkles at the corner of her eyes, stroked over a miniscule freckle by the side of her nose that no one would notice if they weren't looking and finally allowed her palm to rest against the smooth expanse of cheek that she had marred with a bruise not so long ago.
She didn't say anything as she memorized every little detail of Emma. She just reveled in the realization and fascination that this woman was with her, whatever that may mean.
"I always loved when you did that," Emma spoke leaning firmly against Regina's palm.
"Looked at me." The phrase was so simple it sounded crazy even to Emma's ears as she laughed. "I mean, you probably wanted to punch me or strangle me, but you stared at me like I was the only thing you could look at."
It was Regina's turn to laugh. "It's the way you look at me, dear."
With a smirk, Emma leaned down meeting an eager Regina in passionate kiss. Tongues collided and just like that, the intimate moment turned yearning and desperate. Breaking the kiss, Regina wrapped her hand around a fistful of blonde hair to tug Emma back and flip her over on the bed. She lowered her face within millimeters of the younger woman, eyes fluttering shut as she felt the familiar desire pool in the pit of her stomach when the blonde's hand traveled down towards her heat. Biting her lip to suppress a moan, she managed to breathe out a pleading, "Stay home."
"That's a given," Emma growled before connecting their lips again.
Their minds were too hazy and laden with lust to hear the front door bang open, but there was no mistaking the loud screech coming from just outside their bedroom door at the top of the stairs of Mary Margaret yelling out her daughter's name.
They ripped apart, panting and eyes wide.
Although Emma looked stunned and slightly terrified – she swore that yell shook her to the bone – Regina glared at the door looking annoyed. "Did she honestly barge into my home?"
Pushing back on the older woman, Emma glared at her reaction. "That's what's on your mind right now?"
"Emma!" Another yell emitted from the hall, followed by the banging of one of the guest rooms.
"And she's going through my bedrooms?" Regina sat up appalled.
Emma couldn't help but smirk at her lover as she scurried out of bed throwing on her clothes. She tossed Regina's slacks and blouse to her. "You might want to put those on before –"
"Oh my god."
Emma stilled hearing Mary Margaret's voice as she finished tugging on her tank top over her bra. Luckily enough she had managed to slip on her jeans, but that didn't explain the very naked Regina sitting up in the disheveled bed.
Regina had enough sense to yank the sheets up to her chest and slide to the far edge of the bed to start redressing before Emma turned slowly, mentally bracing herself for her mother's wrath.
"Morning," Emma mumbled meekly.
Snow glared at her daughter. Her look was enough to make the blonde gulp. "Get dressed and meet us downstairs."
With a slam of the door, Snow left the two women in a room of awkwardness.
Maurice stepped out of his truck, moving towards the back to unload the new shipment of roses, azaleas, and lilies.
He inhaled the calming scent of the flowers and smiled. Things were good lately. Taking Belle over that boundary line was the best decision he ever made. She no longer remembered a time where she was held captive by the Dark One. All she could remember was being kept in a cellar room by the Evil Queen, and through a fib or two, it was her father who set her free.
Now that the blasted Rumplestiltskin was out of the picture, he was free to spend his time with his daughter, who had taken up the position at the front of the shop. Her beauty and kind-hearted presence made business boom.
Whistling as he grabbed an assortment of wildflowers, he turned just in time for a cane to come down across his temple.
"You did what with my daughter?" David roared as soon as Emma and Regina stepped into the study and shut the door.
Regina, ever the Evil Queen she was known to be, simply stood with her hands on her hips, a smirk and knowing look on her face.
"Really?" Emma asked exasperated to her lover. "Don't make this worse."
Regina directed her glare to the blonde before relenting and folded her arms.
Mary Margaret stepped directly up to Regina but was stopped when Emma moved in between and kept her at a sufficient distance. "We could have locked you away or given you to the mob, but no! We didn't! We gave you a chance, and this is how you repay us? You and – That's my daughter!"
"Oh, you think you've shown me mercy, Snow? What about when I asked you to do one thing – do not tell my mother about Daniel – and you couldn't even do that right?" Now Regina had stepped closer, effectively creating an Emma-sandwich as the two brunettes squeezed to get at each other.
"I was eight!"
Pulling his wife back and keeping a firm grip on her arm to keep her there, David's voice boomed over the women's. "Just release the spell you have on Emma, and we'll be on our way."
"David, I'm not –"
"Is it really that difficult to believe that your daughter wants to be with me?" Regina said with a hint of laughter to her voice. "It's not my fault she doesn't want to be near you two."
"It's entirely your fault!" Mary Margaret snapped, ripping away from her husband's grasp and pointing an accusatory finger. "You sent us all here. You separated our family!"
"You had my fiancé killed!" Against her control, Regina whipped back her hand and summoned a large fireball. The force to propel it at the pixie-haired woman was met with resistance when Emma caught her wrist, wide green eyes meeting furious dark ones.
With the ball still flaming in the older woman's hand, the two shared a silent conversation. Regina begging for one shot at the woman while Emma firmly shook her head. As quick as it came, the ball disappeared in a wisp of smoke. The blonde gave Regina's arm a proud squeeze, keeping their proximity close.
"Run out of apples this time?" Mary Margaret taunted.
"If you touch one hair on my wife's head-" David began his threat, his hand firmly grasped on the handle of his sword.
"You'll what, Charming? Kill me?"
Emma groaned and put her fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly. The room silenced from the unexpected and shrill noise. Emma cocked a head to the door, and huffing, Regina understood and walked to it, opening it briefly to dismiss the eavesdropping boy at the door. She pushed it shut, the click echoing throughout the room.
"Look," Emma spoke slowly. "I am not under some spell." She took Regina's hand in hers and spoke with every bit of honesty. "I want to be here."
The young women stood there quietly as Emma's parents gaped at them shell shocked.
The silence was cut short when all hell broke loose.
Henry was sitting at the kitchen island, sipping on a glass of juice and going over his fairy tale book. The endless shouting match occurring in his mother's study with all four adults had been going on for the last twenty minutes. He tried to make out what they were saying, even attempted to listen in on the door only for them to quiet momentarily when Regina opened the door and told him to go wait in the kitchen.
From what he could pick up, his grandparents were accusing Regina of doing witchcraft on their daughter, but he knew that notion was ridiculous. He'd been visiting his mothers for weeks now, and he noticed that his brunette mother rarely did any sort of magic in front of him. He picked up Emma complaining about living her own life or something along those lines while Regina just yelled at Snow for reasons unknown.
He sighed into his glass. This was what it felt like to have the entire family back in his life. He looked up at the sound of the study door slamming and the familiar staccato click of his mother's heels walking into the kitchen. Her face was flushed and her eyes were defiant, but there was also a hint of something in them he couldn't quite name. Not because he was unfamiliar with that brand of emotion, he saw it every time Snow and James looked at each other, but because it was the first time he'd seen it in his mother's eyes.
She forced a smile and stood across from him. He raised his eyebrows at her, silently asking what they were fighting about. Instead, she just pushed her hair behind her ears and clasped her hands on the marble-top. "Hungry?"
Without waiting for an answer, she moved robotically to the fridge and began pulling out ingredients.
"It's about you and Emma, isn't it?"
She glanced up under her lashes, catching the look of her curious son. Cracking a few eggs in a bowl, she responded. "What makes you say that, dear?"
He shrugged. "Mary Margaret's pretty mad."
She leaned over the island with an amused smirk. "She may be innocent in your book, but Snow was quite the drama queen."
"What's going on with you and Emma?"
Regina paused and looked up, biting her lip and mentally arguing with herself. She tilted her head in contemplation before answering. "We've developed a friendship."
He narrowed his eyes questioning his mother. "It looks more than that. I mean, grandma and gramps wouldn't be so mad if you were just friends."
She chuckled to herself as she chopped peppers. "You'd be surprised."
"I wouldn't mind." Regina ceased her cutting at her son's response. Her eyes widened at his clarification. "If you and Emma were more than that. I think it's good for you."
She looked down, unable to formulate a response as she mixed the peppers with the egg. Her feelings for Emma weren't new, even she couldn't deny that, but there was something about the outside world knowing that she was happy that terrified her.
The last time her secret relationship was exposed, it resulted in Daniel's heart being ripped out. It was absurd to think the same would happen to Emma, but the thought frightened her nonetheless.
The presence of someone handing her the spatula jarred her from her swarming thoughts as she looked up to see Henry with the kitchen utensil. She smiled softly, thanked him for the spatula and poured the omelet into the pan.
She gasped when she felt his arms wrap around her middle in one of the most affectionate hugs she had ever received from him. Her eyes watered, quickly moving the pan away from the flame to properly wrap her arms around her son, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
The door to the study whipped open and banged shut as Emma's heavy gait stormed towards the kitchen with her parents on her heels. "I'm not some kid you can just control!"
The Charmings entered the kitchen, each with their own unique expression of anger. "That's enough, Emma," David spoke. "You have no idea what she's capable of."
The brunette mother and son released their hold, but Regina was pleased that Henry still kept an arm around her waist as they watched chaos unfold.
"Actually, I do." Emma replied smartly, her hands on her hips.
"Dear god." Mary Margaret shut her eyes in disgust and muttered. She took a deep breath and stepped gingerly toward her daughter, forcing her emotions to cool down. "Emma, you found us, and now we barely get to see each other, and I want to be able to see my daughter."
Regina could practically hear the makings of a comeback that would wound the petite brunette's ego on parenting, but she extracted herself from Henry and took Emma's arm before the blonde could regret saying anything.
Worry lines appeared on Emma's usually calm face. It was clear the stress of fighting with her parents over a romantic relationship no less was taking its toll on the girl. Regina couldn't remember a time during her house arrest when Emma wasn't with her. As much as it secretly pleased her that Emma willingly chose to spend time with Regina, she came to the realization that the blonde rarely saw her best friend turned mother anymore. If she really wanted to change, she'd have to start with this.
Her brown eyes shifted rapidly as if hurrying to memorize all of Emma that she could. Her heart ached, but she would rather let something good go than have it ripped unceremoniously the hard way. She learned that far too late with Henry.
Speaking quietly in a manner that was neither Mayor Mills nor the Evil Queen but simply Regina, she exhaled and spoke. "Go home with your parents."
Emma's eyes widened to the size of saucers, and even the Charmings exchanged a glance disbelieving what they heard.
"What?" Emma asked, taking Regina's hands in hers.
"Go home, Miss Swan." Despite her icy tone, the sadness in her eyes was evident.
"No," the blonde refused stubbornly.
"Emma," Regina said slowly, her voice hitching just a tiny bit. "I won't be the cause of you and your parents' strife."
"You heard her, Em. Let's go home," Mary Margaret said though she still kept a wary eye on the older brunette.
The blonde threw her a glare to silence her before turning back to the woman whose hands she was clasping tightly. "Why do you care so much about their feelings?"
Regina glanced around the room, thoroughly aware of the spectators. David with his narrowed eyes, hand close to his sword, Mary Margaret with her head tilted and eyes wide at the scene before and then there was Henry with a knowing and hopeful grin on his face. She forced her attention back to Emma and easily zeroed in on her and her alone.
Subconsciously she took a step closer, squeezing back at the pale hands encapsulating hers and spoke softly. "It's not their feelings."
"What is it? Do you want me to leave?" The vulnerability in Emma's voice didn't go unnoticed.
Steeling her shoulders, she shook her head lightly. "I found someone," Regina began hesitantly. "I found someone who's working her ass off to be in the same room as me, who's refusing the one thing she's been looking for. . . for me."
Emma's eyes widened. The women would have noticed Charming's slack jaw and Snow's gasp if they weren't securely locked in each other's gaze.
"And I don't want you or Henry to get hurt because of me," Regina continued, her shaking hands matched her wavering voice.
"What are you saying?" Mary Margaret demanded, making her presence known to the two women.
They didn't look at her, however. Instead, Regina focused on Emma, a grin forming on the blonde's face, as she gulped audibly, fear and something else entirely in her eyes. "I . . ."
"I know," Emma whispered and closed the gap between them, taking Regina's face in her hands to press their lips together in a deep and sensual kiss.
Regina's eyes closed and automatically kissed the blonde back, but there was a force bubbling up inside her that began at the tip of her toes causing a tingling sensation before it exploded through every fiber of her body.
The force was so strong it pulled the two women apart where all that was left in between them was a sweet-smelling cloud of purple and blue mist.
"What the hell was that?" Emma touched her tingling lips with her fingers, surprised to see blue sparks emanating from them wildly.
"True Love's kiss," Henry answered obviously with a dopey grin, still sipping on his juice.
Regina's once brown eyes turned a vibrant purple, magic returning to her in full force. She clutched the counter to stable herself from the overwhelming impact as she blinked profusely until her irises returned to its hazel colour.
"Emma," David approached his daughter and bent slightly. Sure enough, the blonde's eyes shone a metallic blue, matching the faint mist in the air and the sparks flying off her fingers.
"This can't be," Mary Margaret shook her head in disbelief.
Clearing her head and straightening up, Emma turned back toward Regina, the magic the two women currently fully possessed reacted wildly in time with their erratic beating hearts. Regina stretched out her hand which Emma took hold of immediately, their magic buzzing to a low hum.
Before her parents could say anything, the blonde's phone rang. It was a call from the station.
There was a commotion outside Game of Thorns. Petals and bulbs and stems littered the ground around Maurice's truck as spectators kept a safe distance away from the raging man that was Mr. Gold as he tore the flowers to shreds, yelling at the battered man on the ground.
"You did that to your own daughter!" Gold yelled, bringing his cane down on Maurice's leg with a resonating smack.
All the florist could do was yelp and protect his face from any more blows to the temple. A trickle of blood eased its way down from the side of his head making its way down his cheek while his hands and arms were bruised from the strikes it took defending himself.
"She was your daughter!" Thwack. "You took her from me!"
"Stop!" Belle's shrill feminine voice cried desperately as she ran from the shop and leapt to drop in front of her father. The hilt of the cane was coming down before Gold could stop it.
Belle braced herself for the impending force that never came. The cane was met with resistance when Emma managed to catch it just in time.
"Savior," Gold's lip twitched, silently thankful she had caught it.
"Sheriff," Emma corrected and ripped the cane from the old man.
David and Mary Margaret scurried to pick up the old florist and his daughter up off the floor, and even Regina stood by, close to Emma in case Gold was up to something.
The pawnbroker leaned in close to Emma with a sneer. "Do you have any idea what he did? He wiped his daughter's memory, now tell me, is that not the same level of abusive parenting that you yourself went through in your foster homes?"
"You don't get to decide who gets punished, Mr. Gold." The Sheriff leaned in closer matching the older man's stance. She grabbed his arm and slapped handcuffs over him, the metal shining bright blue without her knowledge as her magic seeped into the restraints keeping him there. Gold, however, widened his eyes at the revelation. This wasn't good for him.
Regina stood off to the side and waited with Henry as they watched Belle and Maurice get tended for their injuries. She watched the girl in particular, seeing Belle stare as Gold was escorted into the squad car. The younger woman's stance was rigid and frightened, but the way she watched Rumplestiltskin get taken away showed the tiniest bit of recognition.
Pressing a hand to Henry's shoulder letting him know she'd be back, Regina made her way to the girl.
"So how did you do it?" The door of the jail cell, humming a metallic blue colour, locked as Mr. Gold took a seat on the cot.
"I got a call and came down?" Emma answered confused.
He laughed. "No, dearie. Magic."
The Sheriff automatically looked down to her hands, the power beneath them never completely going away.
"Yes, I know." He stood and walked toward the bars. He leaned closer, resting his head between the gap. "You are quite powerful. Did Regina teach you?"
"What's it to you?" Emma questioned with a glare.
"You may be more useful than you know. Plus, I believe you still owe me a favor."
"No, she doesn't." The clicking of heels made Emma turn, and with a grin she saw Regina enter the station. The look on Emma's face upon the former Mayor's entrance silenced the deal maker on the spot.
The brunette marched straight up to the cell with such force and confidence and swagger to her hips, it made Emma's mind unable to form coherent thoughts. "No deals. No favors. You and I are making an exchange."
"Is that so?" Gold's lip twitched in amusement. "What do you possibly have that I would want?"
She leaned her head in closer towards the man and whispered. "I restored Belle's mind."
For the first time during his reign as the Dark One, Rumplestiltskin was surprised by the turn of events. "Impossible."
Regina grinned and stepped closer to Emma. The power behind the two women exuded off their very presence. "Perhaps before."
Gold eyed the two women, a mixture of fascination and contempt. Finally he turned toward the Sheriff. "Fine. Consider us even."
"Lovely." Regina grinned and took Emma's hand, pulling them towards the exit. "She's at the hospital. Whether she still wants to see you after what you did to her father is entirely up to her."
With a wave of her hand, the magic Emma unintentionally placed on the bars began to waver as Gold sat seething waiting to be released.
"Why does your magic trump my magic?" Emma asked on their walk home from the station, her hands stuffed in her pockets as she absent-mindedly kicked rocks.
The women walked close to each other, both hesitant on public displays of affection that wasn't centered around their son, but the way they walked in sync and spoke intimately to one another proved there was a clear indication of their togetherness.
"Practice, dear." Regina laughed lightly at Emma's pout. "I'll help you when you visit."
"Visit?" The blonde lifted her head in curiosity.
"Your mother was very adamant," Regina reminded her.
Emma stopped their walking and stepped closer to the older woman. "I don't care what she thinks."
"What do you care about then?"
"You." The word came out of Emma as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and if she thought about it, it was.
She grinned at the pleased blush the brunette tried to hide. She placed her palm on Regina's warm cheek. "That was good, you know? What you did for Belle?"
"She loves the man for some reason," Regina muttered and averted her eyes.
"And you didn't want her to lose her love," Emma finished Regina's unspoken statement. "How'd you know it would work?"
"I didnt," she admitted.
"You just tried something good for the sake of being good," Emma teased.
"Yes, thank you, Miss Swan." Her tone was curt and dismissive, but the brunette's eyes flashed as they made contact with Emma's. She leaned into the warmth of the Sheriff's palm, hands moving to rest on the blonde's shoulders. She closed the gap between them, their bodies molded to one another so pliantly.
Emma grinned at Regina's motion and tilted her head to steal a kiss from the former Mayor and damn any who saw and wasn't okay with it.
"Then let's go pick up our son and bring him home." With that, the blonde began walking again, her cocky smirk already in place as she caught the wave of emotions cascading over the brunette's face.
There was wonder, amazement, love, a little annoyance, but more importantly, hope. Regina grinned to herself as she caught up with Emma, giving her a glare that told her she'd be in trouble for leaving her standing there, but the blonde laughed just the same.
She didn't know whether the animosity between herself and the Charmings would ever truly go away, she didn't know if Henry was ready to come back home, and she didn't know what Rumplestiltskin needed from the now two most powerful beings in Storybrooke, but what she did know was walking right beside her, guiding her to their home, where they would continue this journey together one day at a time.