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from this day forward

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from this day forward

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Later (not much but later) she'll chalk it up to the idea that they're drunk when Regina says it the first time. That the both are.

But, here's the problem:

Emma’s definitely not drunk—she’s only had two beers—and she’s certain that Regina can't be more than buzzed because she certainly seems sober enough when she says, “We should get married.”

It's either the way she says it or the fact that she's saying it at all that's funny. Emma nearly feels like laughing, but the sound never comes out.

They’re in the living room, backs against the base of the couch, and the TV is playing some weird Renee Zellweger movie that neither of them is really watching. Neither of them really knows why they started drinking in the first place, but Emma thinks it has to do with seeing Hook earlier to get the rest of her things out of that house, the boxes and suitcases she knows are sitting by the couch in her parents’ loft, or maybe the fact that Robin had come up in the conversation.

They’ve been doing this a lot lately because they’re friends now. It’s hard to remember what it was like before. That's what she's been telling herself, at least.

Under normal circumstances the night always goes the same—a couple of drinks, a bad joke or two, one of them accidentally revealing too much about something emotional and then Emma ducks out for the night and walks back to her house, or, well the loft now.

But tonight, apparently, the mood is just right for possibly the most jarring proposal ever.

“For Henry,” Regina clarifies. pretending to be interested in the TV. She must sense Emma’s confusion because she continues, clearing her throat before saying, “I’ve been thinking…That is, worrying that—” She clears her throat again and Emma is just buzzed enough to nearly get to her feet, to go and get her some water, but she wants to hear the explanation first. “What if he gets hurt? And you get to the hospital before me? Or I’m not there? You won’t be able to make decisions for him and he’s your…He’s your son, too.”

It’s a lot and the memory of Henry lying in a hospital bed makes the room tilt to the side. “Yeah, but Dr. Whale and everybody know that I’m his mom, too.”

Regina nods and wraps her fingers around the stem of the wine bottle up on the coffee table, pouring some more into her already full glass. “But when he goes away to school? Or if he gets hurt outside of Storybrooke?”

Emma slumps back next to Regina, pushes her leg up against the other woman’s legs.

“Getting married to you will fix that?”

“You can legally adopt him if we’re married. We can revisit your parental rights. He’ll be yours, too.”

And Henry already is, but Emma’s stomach does this thing when she realizes that he would be in the eyes of law then, too. “Oh. And I can’t adopt him without that?”

“That” means a marriage to Regina, who is shaking her head in great big swoops of the neck, over-exaggerated from the wine.

Regina has been researching this a lot, apparently. Emma imagines her sitting behind her desk in City Hall and calling lawyers, asking questions about this sort of thing, figuring it out. They’ve certainly come a long way since that poisoned apple turnover.

“You wanna marry me?”

That’s what it takes for Regina to look at her. She shrugs. “I mean…I’m not getting younger anytime soon and we’re already a family. I care for you and—”

“Be still my heart,” Emma jokes and Regina pushes her a little bit.

And,” Regina continues. “I hate to admit it would make sense.”

“Make sense?”

“For Henry,” Regina clarifies, but it doesn’t seem convincing.

Emma leans her head against Regina’s shoulder, tucks her forehead into the dip of the other woman’s shoulder and says, “Okay.”

“Are you agreeing?”

It really is the lamest proposal ever.

Renee Zellweger has gotten herself into another pickle on the screen and she’s yelling at someone on the phone. Emma watches it for a moment and the there’s only one lamp on in the living room, making everything seem soft and warm. She wiggles her toes against the soft rug they’re sitting on.

“Yeah,” she says simply. “I’m agreeing. Let’s get married.”

.

Somehow, it gets ignored for something like two weeks. At breakfast in the morning, the weekly Henry pass-off, and the occasional budget meeting, neither of them utters a peep.

It’s like some sort of game to see how long the other will stay silent, like they’re sizing each other up.

It feels ridiculously juvenile, very junior high and not the type of thing Emma ever expected to be doing with her possibly-maybe fiancée.

“Are you and mom fighting?” Henry asks when he’s at the loft one evening, pouring her a bowl of popcorn from the bag.

Emma turns on the movie subtitles—just to annoy him really—and says, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure about that?”

No, actually. She’s really not sure about that.

But Henry can’t know that.

She says, “I think I would know if we were fighting, kid. She’s just been busy.”

Not too busy to drop off lunch for Emma twice in the past week, but she doesn’t say that either.

Henry looks at her when she flops back down on the couch, like he doesn’t necessarily believe her. But, “Okay.”

And he lets it go.

It’s when Captain America is getting punched in the face by Tony Stark that she thinks of him four years ago, looking so small on that hospital bed and how she had thought that it was the last day on earth--it felt that way, anyway, because they weren’t sure if he was even going to wake up.

If that happened now, she’s not sure what she would do. And it’s that thought alone that settles her mind.

Well, that and the memory of Regina’s perfume lingering on her skin for days after that conversation on her living room floor.

.

Regina is sitting in the study when Emma slips into the mansion with the spare key she’d been given two Christmases prior. Henry is probably asleep by now back at the loft and her parents and brother hadn’t so much as fluttered an eyelash when she’d opened the front door to leave.

All of these, she thinks, are signs that this is what she’s supposed to do.

At the door, Emma tugs off her boots and sets them in the empty spot beside a pair of Henry’s dirty sneakers. Her jacket gets hung up by Regina’s on the coat rack and she runs a hand through her hair nervously, curls her toes in her socks.

Thinks about what Regina said.

We should get married.

Regina doesn’t lift her head up from her laptop and she has her reading glasses on. Emma had made a joke about them when she first saw them, saying something about her getting old and Regina had laughed and hadn't looked the slightest bit angry.

“A little late for a house call, don’t you think?”

“Probably,” Emma confirms. “Did I scare you?”

“Hardly,” Regina scoffs.

Despite the banter, it feels good, the two of them there. Together. Comfortable and familiar.

“I think I scare you more than you let on.”

It’s a joke, but Regina looks up at her then, lenses flashing the light of the computer screen back at Emma. She looks serious and thoughtful, the way Regina always does when the moment turns too serious.

“I think you overestimate yourself, Miss Swan.”

So, they’re back to that, huh?

Emma shuffles forward, slides across the hardwood floor in her socks a couple inches and then—there’s no point in being subtle really—says, “Were you serious? When you said we should get married?"

Regina looks caught off guard in a way that Emma is certain she only ever is in front of her. It’s clear that she’s been thinking about it too--how they hadn’t really been drunk, and how the moment had felt so completely lightning-struck even sitting on the floor in the living room after talking about their ex-boyfriends, of all things.

If she thinks about it, the two of them getting married is kind of beautiful poetry—like a movie about star-crossed lovers or something. Far too symmetrical to be real life.

For a moment—just a moment—Regina hesitates.

And then she nods.

Some part of Emma wants to believe that Regina is just asking, just nodding, just brought it up because she doesn't want to be alone. That that's all any of this was ever going to be about. Two women with no one else, clinging to each other because they've just run out of other things to cling to. The easiest thing would be to believe that any marriage between them couldn't possibly be the same as a marriage to someone else.

That marrying Regina is nothing like marrying Hook might have been because Regina is her best friend but they're not in love and they don't have the same intimacy that she'd had in her relationship with Hook. She might be a lot of things that Hook had never been (especially towards the end of their relationship), and she might not have ever called Emma a lot of things that made her chuck a toaster at his head (or, well, near his head), but that was a different game.

A different set of rules.

There wont't be the same factors here, the same variables. 

That's what Emma tells herself at least, in the seconds that follow Regina's nod. For a few more seconds after that, she even sort of manages to believe it.

Because it's crazy.

She's mature enough to admit that it almost doesn't make sense even if it does from some sort of...poetic standpoint. 

After all, Regina had threatened to destroy Emma's parents' happiness and their lives on more than one occasion, and she totally tried to put Emma herself into an eternal sleep, and, okay, yeah -- they've fist-fought a couple of times. Not to mention everything that went down in the Underworld and the fact that Emma is at least 86% certain that she's to blame for Robin's death.

But, crazy or not, that's over now.

They got through it.

And maybe, if they got through all of that, then...

They could do this, too.

She thinks they can. She thinks she wants to.

And, most importantly, she can't imagine ever chucking anything at Regina's head. Let alone, a toaster.

“Oh,” Emma says finally -- the sound a quiet realization that sticks to the roof of her mouth. She blinks, and then, “Me too.”

.

David hasn't spoken in close to six minutes. Emma is pretty sure he's not breathing anymore and she'd check on him -- hold a finger in front of his nose, slap him on the back, smack him, or something -- if she weren't so busy staring down her mother.

Snow, for her part, looks torn. It's a look that would probably be easier to handle if it weren't clear that the things she's torn between were laughing and screaming (quite possibly for the rest of her life).

"You're...engaged," she says slowly, like she's trying to word out on her tongue -- like she's never said it before, "to Regina."

It's not a question. Her tone falls too flat for it to be.

Emma nods and gives the pancakes on her plate a particular hard stab with her fork. "Yeah," she returns, trying to make her voice as steady as possible.

"Engaged...to be married."

"That's the idea, yeah."

"As in...married-married."

"Yes. Married-married. Do I need to add a 'speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace' section the ceremony for you and Dad?"

"Of course not," Snow says quickly. "No, sweetie, of course not. It's just...I mean, I can't say it's not a...It just seems fairly sudden, that's all." She looks like she's trying her best to be supportive, even as she takes a judgmental sip of tea from the mug she's cradling between her hands. "I...we didn't even know you two were...involved."

When Emma had prepared for this conversation in the mirror before walking downstairs to face the music, she hadn't planned on explaining the line of reasoning behind this whole thing. She also hadn't prepared for her dad being stunned into silence beside her.

Snow waves a hand in front of David’s face and he jumps as if he’s been shocked, and looks over at Emma. “Uh,” he starts, then, “Okay.”

No questions. That’s how surprised he is.

But then he gets to his feet looking a little angry and Snow grabs his arm.

“Where are you going?” she asks, fingers tight around his elbow.

“I’d like to ask the mayor how long she’s been sleeping with our daughter,” he tells her and almost shakes her off until Emma gets up to intercept him.

“Stop, Dad. Sit down please.” She grips his upper arms firmly and directs him back to his seat.He sinks down into it heavily, looking like he’d like nothing more than to fight her, but doesn’t.

Maybe it’s understandable, but she sort of hates that her parents’ minds immediately go to that. Sure, her and Regina are adults and maybe if they’re getting married that usually means they’ve slept with each other, but Emma's only briefly thought about it once.

Or, maybe a couple of times. But not more than that.

Actually, more than a couple. But not constantly!

“It’s just a little hard for us to grasp, sweetie,” Snow tells her. “Surely you can understand why.”

They don’t say that they didn’t used to trust Regina—once had her on a schedule to be executed—but now they’ve accepted her. She’s not certain they’ve ever really voiced those feelings aloud more than once and now their daughter—the one they’d been separated from at birth because of Regina—is marrying her.

She decides to cut them some slack.

“Well, I need you to get on board with this because it’s happening.”

Not a lot of slack.

Why is it happening?” David asks and she sighs, explains it to them.

Emma tells them about Henry and how she’s been having nightmares of him in that damn hospital bed, heart rate monitor flat lining, and she thinks they understand then. Snow grabs her hand and David looks properly chastised.

“It’s your life, Em,” he says. “But this is a really big change. For everyone, Henry included. It's not something you can make a snap decision about. Marriage is a huge step. Not everyone...There are some people who get married and later find out that they...shouldn't have.”

He’s right, of course. Before she’d been reunited with them, her only experience with marriage involved screaming foster parents and couples united against her.

"Not you and Mom," she says, pushing her half-empty plate forward on the counter, appetite suddenly gone. "Unless you're trying to say something new here."

David's face pales and he glances at Snow out of the corner of his eye. "No, of course I'm not." He clears his throat. "I just...We're different, Emma. We're...True love is always different."

And maybe true love is. Maybe it has to be.

Except—

“I love Regina,” Emma says and means it. “She’s Henry’s mom. She’s my best friend. She’s saved all of us too many times to count. I wouldn't be who I am without her.” Her parents look away from her, either unwilling or unable to meet her eyes. “How is this any different?”

Snow gets up and takes Emma’s plate with her, scrapes it off in the trash and then runs it under the hot water. “Well,” she says after a long moment of silence. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn't."

It isn't.

Emma's never been more sure of anything in her entire life.

.

Regina picks up on the second ring. “Hello?”

“So,” Emma says, all pretenses dropped, “What kind of ring are you buying me? Three months salary, right, Madam Mayor?”

.

“Wait a second,” Henry says when they tell him, “you guys are getting married?”

They’d had a plan. A plan that involved a nice family dinner and telling him across the table at Granny’s, but Emma had cracked under pressure the moment he’d come into Regina’s office after school.

He’d been standing there say, Hey, guys, ready to go? and she’d just blurted out, We’re engaged! and Regina had hissed out this long, ridiculous sigh and rubbed her fingertips into her temples as if Emma is the most impossible to handle person in the entire known universe.

And now Henry is staring at them with his mouth hanging open.

“I thought we agreed on the best way to tell him, Emma,” Regina says, looking over at the other woman with one eyebrow raised. “I don’t recall this being it.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t do well under pressure,” Emma whispers back, but Henry can probably hear her.

“That much has just been made abundantly clear, I’m afraid.”

“Does anyone want to explain this to me?” Henry asks. He looks frustrated now and more than a little confused, shoves his hands in his pockets.

There’s nothing much to explain past the legal part, but that doesn’t seem to convince Henry the way it had her parents.

“But…” he starts, then coughs into his fist. “I didn't even know you guys were…” He trails off and looks down at his sneakers, cheeks flushed red.

Emma's fingers are shaking. She presses her clenched fists into the pockets of her jacket. “Wow, kid. We’re so not gonna talk about that.”

“I should think not!” Regina squawks.

Henry blinks owlishly, confused. "So, you're not...dating?" he asks.

Emma's face flushes in embarrassment and she can practically feel the same emotion radiated off Regina beside her. "Oh," she coughs, looking away. "Oh, um, we're..."

"Emma and I aren't..." Regina cuts in, sharing a panicked look with the other woman.

"It's complicated adult stuff," Emma decides, finally, but, while Regina looks relieved, Henry just looks even more befuddled.

But he has more questions, and he's quick to barrel on, despite their cryptic responses.

“Are you gonna live with us now?” comes next.

Actually, they hadn’t discussed that. Emma looks over at Regina for help.

“Well, yes, Henry. If you’re okay with that,” and okay.

That’s that then.

Emma can’t help but feel a little excited at the prospect. She hadn’t thought much about the details of this, but it only makes sense for her to be moving in with her future wife and her son.

“So, you’re really getting married?”

This is said on the way to Granny’s, Henry walking beside them on the sidewalk.

Emma nods. Regina reaches out and takes her hand and her fingers are soft and warm, threaded between Emma's, and it’s a lot like that time at the town line when they’d done this but also nothing like it at all.

“Yes,” Regina says, and the idea of it feels huge, like it’s filling up the air between them. “We are.”

“Okay,” Henry says. They’re nearing the diner now and he grins. “Cool.”

Emma holds the door open and lets them go in first, letting go of Regina’s hand to do it and she’s cold suddenly, fingers chilled even though it’s March.

.

The rest of the town finds out pretty quickly.

But not the full story, the reasoning behind it.

Just the blurry watercolor portrait of the whole thing.

Leroy straight up hugs Emma on her way to the station one day, whispering a warm, “Congrats,” into her ear that makes her uncomfortable. Granny gives her an extra bear claw when she picks up coffee for Regina one morning and winks at her.

Other than that and the several fruit baskets and calls the police station get asking where she’s registered, nothing really changes.

Emma starts packing up her things to move into the mansion and her parents learn to live with it.

“We’re happy for you, honey, really,” Snow says one night when she slips in from having dinner with Henry and Regina.

She must mean it, too. Regina texts her the next day that Snow tried to give her a book called Things I Wish We’d Known Before We Got Married.

The fireplace is calling to it, the message says and Emma laughs so loudly that her mom says, “Emma, everything okay?” from downstairs.

.

Snow quickly becomes obsessed with what to get them as a wedding gift.

“What about a toaster?” she asks one morning, waking Emma up to say it and peering over her in, face a little too close.

Emma lies there and frowns. “Regina has a toaster already.”

Snow frowns, peering down at her daughter. “A blender?”

“She’s got that, too.”

Snow looks perplexed, wracking her brain. For how adamantly confused she’d been before, the weeks since finding out has led to an overly supportive mother.

“I just want to get you something you need,” she whines.

Emma sighs and sits up. “Have you seen her kitchen? I think she’s good.”

That makes Snow nod and looks a little confused still, stroking her chin like a Bond villain. “Well, what do you think?”

But, “I have no clue.” Emma straightens up her bed and starts rifling through her wardrobe for clothes, rubbing the remains of interrupted sleep from her eyes.

“Well, you must have some idea,” Snow prods. “I mean, the only thing I know for certain that she likes are you and Henry, and she’s got those already.”

She must think she’s clever. She’s grinning like she is.

“Whatever you get her will be fine,” Emma sighs. “Just steer clear of kitchen appliances.”

.

“So, how is she in bed?” Ruby asks one morning, whispering so Dorothy, who’s eating at the counter just a seat down from Emma, won’t hear.

Emma splutters out a, “What?” between a hot chocolate spit-take and coughing her lungs out from the whipped cream going down the wrong pipe.

Ruby grins and, honestly, Emma can practically see the wolf teeth—preparing to chomp down on her poor, fragile self-conscious soul. “I’ve always wondered. For a while I thought she might be super vanilla—I mean, Graham and Robin Hood? Come on. But now she’s getting married to you and you dated a guy with a hook for a really long time. You guys must be into some weird shit.”

From down the counter, Emma hears Dorothy scold her girlfriend and is thankful for it, except Ruby doesn’t typically take orders very well.

“Come on, Em,” Ruby whines. “Just one little detail. That’s all I’m asking for. Do you make her wear an extra hook of the captain’s? Does she come to bed with a limp?”

She’s obviously teasing her now, but Emma is bright red and speechless anyway.

It’s probably the first time she’s ever left Granny’s without eating her entire meal.

.

“Do 'oo wu-uh French or sum-thin?” Emma blurts out one day and she’s helpless to stop herself, doesn’t even really hear the words until they’re coming out of her mouth.

When she was in fifth grade, one of the girls in her gym class had pulled Emma's pants down in front of the entire class as a prank while Emma was attempting a pull-up for the Presidential Fitness Test. Her gym shorts had hung around her ankles for an embarrassing ten seconds as Emma dropped herself to the floor and yanked them back up, amidst the overwhelming peals of laughter from her classmates. Her entire life, she's thought of it as her most embarrassing moment -- the one thing she would never, ever live down.

Somehow, though, this is worse.

Regina's bottle of root beer is lowered from her lips with an astounding amount of grace, given Emma's foot-in-mouth disaster unfolding just across from her desk. Sometimes Emma forgets that she was a Queen once, that some part of her always will be, and then Regina will do something like look at her seriously, face a blank mask, when Emma has said the worst thing she possibly might have and she remembers all over again.

Whatever scary stack of papers she's been moving through slowly for the last twenty minutes, as she solemnly made her way through her lunch, is momentarily forgotten. She stares at Emma blankly, poking her reading glasses up the bridge of her nose with a sharp jab.

“Excuse me?” she ask, as if Emma hadn’t practically screamed it mid-chew.

Emma is still chewing now, swallowing thickly and staring at Regina, thoroughly humiliated. She’s been staring at Regina for the past ten minutes, just quietly watching her scanning the pages with that serious look on her face. Momentarily, there'd been nothing on her mind. Not anything that she could put words to, at least. Like some sort of meditation. If meditation ended with you sexually harassing your boss/fiancée.

“Um,” Emma says. “Never mind.”

Almost like she forgets who it is she’s talking to. Regina isn’t great at letting things like that go.

“Is this a proposition?” she asks.

Emma shrugs and pushes the second half of her grilled cheese around in the take-out box. “I don’t know.”

“Okay,” Regina says and she turns back to the magazine, like she’s apt to let it go, but then the pressure gets the best of Emma.

"I know we're not doing the whole...married thing and we haven't talked, like...ceremony details. I just thought, you know, you might want to..." She trails off, turning impossibly redder as she turns away, eye contact becoming far too much with Regina's unchanging facial expression.

"'French', as you put it?"

And, well, if Emma sounded half as ridiculous as Regina does saying it then she thinks that they both might be in trouble.

Emma shakes her head, but she can't even look at Regina as she does it, keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the wall across the room.

"Where is this coming from?" Regina asks, and her tone is flat, conveying some distant emotional distress that makes Emma feel guilty. "Have I done something to make you feel pressured into--"

"No! Definitely not!" Emma rushes to say, and the intensity of her words makes Regina jump. She winces. "Sorry, I just...Definitely not. I just thought...I don't know. I guess I thought that, if I ever got married, it would involve...You know...that kind of...stuff."

She'd almost said intimacy. God save her, she'd almost said intimacy to Regina, of all people.

Regina stares at her, but there isn't an ounce of judgment in her gaze. She opens her mouth briefly, and then closes it again. Swallows. Says, "I suppose most marriages do often involve...that kind of...stuff."

Emma winces again at the repetition of the phrasing.

"I just--" Regina continues, choosing her words carefully, "The last thing I want is for you to think I'm expecting that from you."

"I know you're not!" Emma says, too quick, too intense. 

Regina jumps again.

"It's just that, you know, with...We're going to be married for..."

Well, the idea is forever, right?

“I would never...want to make you uncomfortable, Emma,” Regina says mildly.

It’s silent for a moment. Emma thinks that over.

"But would it make you...uncomfortable?"

Regina meets her eyes, lips pressed into a line. She doesn't answer.

"If you knew I wanted that...kind of stuff...Would you want to?"

She hopes that the hopeful lilt to the question doesn't make her sound to eager. The entire room feels tilted, and Emma is fairly certain that she's not getting enough air, but all she can do is hold her breath while she waits.

Regina's fork is dropped to her desk and her chair squeaks a little as she pushes it back to stand up. It takes her four steps to reach Emma's chair just across from her and then she gently pulls Emma's take-out box off of her lap, setting it on the empty chair beside her before leaning down. The pads of her fingers are cool against Emma's cheekbone as they trail across her skin, tucking some of her hair behind her ear before tilting her chin up and leaning down.

Emma is dizzy. She remembers, distantly, to inhale sharply before it happens. Her fingertips are tingling, eyes closing in anticipation, and she realizes that she's not dreaming the second Regina kisses her, presses her lips to Emma's.

The last person Emma kissed like this was Hook and that was too long ago to really remember much about it, but she knows it was nothing like this. Regina is softer and warmer, no stubble to scrape against Emma's chin. She's always been used to taking the lead in this sort of situation, always following her instincts and simply dragging the other person along for the ride, but here, she's at a loss.

Her hands grip the armrests of her chair, gripping the wood so tightly her knuckles ache, because Regina kisses much softer than she ever would have guessed, and she cups Emma's jaw with such gentle reverence that, if Emma hadn't already forgotten how to breathe, she would have all over again. She's helpless to do anything other than be kissed, to kiss Regina back and hope that it's enough, that the entire thing hasn't been some massive letdown for the other woman. Because this, she thinks--

This is something she'd be happy to do forever.

She’s not sure how long it goes on for, but when Regina pulls away her pupils are dilated and her breath is ragged. She settles back to lean against her desk, rubbing some of her lipstick off of Emma's mouth, still hanging agape at the way the afternoon has taken a turn.

"Yes, Emma," Regina answers, but Emma's already forgotten the question.

So, instead of saying anything better, all she manages is a quiet, "Cool," that falls so flat of qualifying the way her heart is pounding against her ribcage.

Regina laughs, shaking her head. "Quite," she agrees.

.

“I’ve been doing some research,” Snow says when Emma is packing up the last of her things a couple days later. “And I saw that…lesbians sometimes like to use other things to…f-for pleasure and…”

Emma is horrified.

There are things no one should ever hear their mother say and then there are things no one should ever hear Snow White say, and somehow this conversation fits both.

“No, Mom,” she says flatly, gripping the cardboard box too tightly. “Nope. Don't even-We're not gonna-Just...No.”

Snow is, if possible, even redder than Emma is. She nods and says, “Right.”

“Absolutely not,” Emma says and then pushes her way out of the room.

.

She moves into the mansion the next day, drops all of her boxes off in the guest room while Regina is at work and Henry is at school.

It feels a little surreal. The guest room is bigger than the entire common space of the loft and bare. There's only one painting hanging over the bed and Emma is struck, suddenly, with the realization that she has to fill those walls with pictures and she only owns three picture frames and no nails. Maybe Regina has a hammer she could borrow.

Snow was the interior decorator for the loft and each wall was tastefully decorated to her liking, and Emma has spent so much time hopping from house to house that she never considered that one day she might end up...Well, staying somewhere permanently.

She has her own walls to decorate now.

It bothers her throughout her entire shift and she comes home with a purpose, striding up the stairs to figure out how to decorate the walls best, but then--

Her boxes aren't in the guest room anymore.

She wonders, briefly, if Regina came home and changed her mind about her moving in after all--if she'd much rather carry out this whole marriage thing across the town. Emma can't say she'd blame the woman for it. She's sort of a slob, after all, and who would want to put up with that other than her mother?

Her things, it turns out, are in Regina's room.

With Regina, who is unpacking them.

“I…apologize if it was a bit presumptuous,” Regina says when Emma finds her hanging up one of her leather jackets in her bedroom closet. “I just assumed—”

But Regina’s room feels so much warmer and Emma’s chest ignites with a fluttering feeling she’s never felt before when she sees the book she’s been reading for the past month on the empty table on the far side of the bed, that picture of her and her mother placed by the lamp. Like the guest room, there's only one painting on the wall and it's right above the vanity, but every other wall is filled with pictures of varying sizes, all of them holding a shot of a grinning Henry. Emma is surprised and pleased to see that she's in at least 75% of them, too.

“No,” she says, grinning so wide it’s embarrassing. “No, it’s fine.”

And Regina zips up one of her jackets affectionately on the hanger and says, “Good.”

.

One day, a week or so later, Ruby comes by the station with food and sticks a black sack over Emma’s head when she’s distracted by her French fries.

“Wow! What the hell?” Emma demands, trying to tug the sack off her head, but, sweet damn, is Ruby strong.

She could probably magic it off, but for some reason, she constantly forgets in times of stress that she actually has magic.

“Sorry, Em. Stop wiggling and let me walk you outside,” Ruby says. “I promise not to bump you into any walls.

It’s hard to breathe with a sack over your head, but Emma trusts Ruby even when she can’t see her, so she says, “Fine,” and then, “Bring my fries.”

Ruby only bumps her into a wall—probably on purpose, based on the way she cackles—once.

She’s pushed into a car and feels someone’s leg bump hers when she slides into the seat. “Can I take this damn thing off now?”

The door slams behind her and then she hears Ruby get into the passenger seat just ahead. “What? No. That completely ruins the effect.”

“Miss Lucas, I hardly think, as mine are not, that Emma’s hands are bound, not to mention that you’ve completely forgotten that I could simply remove this hood with a flick of my fingers as easily as I could also remove your—“

Yeah, that’s definitely Regina.

Emma smirks a little under her hood.

“Wow, calm down, your highness,” Ruby cuts in. “It’s just for funsies, okay? Yikes.”

“Emma, I would never let anyone hurt you.”

And that is definitely Snow, leaning forward from the driver’s seat of whatever car they’re in to say this into Emma’s ear.

“Thanks, Mom,” Emma mutters, a little self-conscious.

She feels a warm, familiar hand reach out and squeeze her thigh and she grabs it and squeeze it in return.

“We’re not hurting anyone,” someone else cuts in.

Emma’s only spoken to her once, but she thinks it might be Dorothy, speaking from behind them.

“Definitely not,” says Belle, who must be behind them as well.

“Okay, now that we’ve established that the brides-to-be aren’t about to be beaten up and dumped in a ditch—”

Miss Lucas,” Regina scolds, huffing a little.

“—kidding! We can get going. Buckle in, ladies. It’s gonna be a crazy day!”

The car starts moving and Emma thinks someone in the back—either Belle or Dorothy—must reach out to help her buckle when her hand can’t find the strap and the other refuses to let go of Regina.

.

Ruby’s idea of “crazy” turns out to be mini golf thirty minutes outside the town line.

At a place called Pirate’s Cove.

“Don’t you love it, Emma?” Ruby asks and winks, faking a limp as she walks over to pick out a putter.

Regina flips her off before Emma gets the chance.

It’s sort of sweet that Ruby and the others went to all this effort to give them some semblance of a bachelorette party, and Emma is happy that they hadn’t split her and Regina up to do it. She’s not sure she would be this amenable if Regina weren’t there with her.

Snow gives them Bride-to-Be sashes and pouts at Regina until she puts hers on.

It’s 36-holes in the warm April sun and Emma is absolutely terrible, but Regina laughs the entire time and buys her an ice cream cone afterwards for “being such a good sport", and it's not the actual worst.

.

Until they get to the strip club.

“Surprise, skanks!” Ruby yells when they pull up.

“No, no, absolutely not,” Emma says, but even her mom looks like she’s going in and if that isn’t embarrassing, she doesn’t know what is.

Belle actually looks interested too, though she has a feeling that Dorothy doesn’t even know what it is based on the way she’s frowning at the neon sign of a busty woman.

Regina looks pissed, but that’s really nothing new. Emma has to admit that she looks very pretty even in the flashing pink and green of the sign.

“We might as well,” Regina says. “You know she won’t give up if we don’t.”

Emma sighs. “Fine,” but at least Regina holds out a hand to her.

The strip club has a huge breakfast bar, which is pretty high on the ick-factor, but Snow says, “Ooh,” the moment she sees it and disappears with Belle to get some waffles.

“Ruby, I swear on everything that is holy, that I will murder you if you try to buy me or Regina a lap dance,” Emma says when they sit down at a table.

Like most strip clubs Emma has been to, it’s nothing very impressive. Just a darkly lit room with a couple of round stages spread out, a bar towards the side, and a bunch of scantily clad ladies walking around to talk to a lot of middle-aged, balding men.

Ruby pouts for a second, but then Dorothy leans over and starts asking where the women’s clothes have gone, so she gets a little preoccupied.

“If you’d like,” Regina says lowly, and there’s this shine in her eyes that makes Emma feel torn between being aroused and being terrified, “I can dance for you when we’re alone. Free of charge.”

More than likely, she’s joking, but Emma gulps anyway, her mind a sudden tornado with images of what that would look like.

She stutters out some version of, “Okay,” and then Snow and Belle come back with extra bacon for everyone.

“These are really good,” Snow says, drowning her waffles in syrup and whipped cream. She makes Emma eat half of one because she “worries about her eating habits” now that she's moved out.

Regina rolls her eyes when she says that and then Belle starts giving Emma tips on being married to a former villain and that goes on for probably 20 minutes until Regina gets fed up and heads to the bar to get something to drink.

It’s when she comes back with Emma's exact drink order, that Emma realizes that they’re actually getting married. That she might want to hyphenate her last name, and, holy crap, she moved out of her parents house and they’ve shared a bed for a whole week now.

For a moment, she expects to feel some sort of fear, some whiplash from how quickly this has moved, but, it’s funny, she’s not scared at all.

Ruby ruins the moment when Whatever You Like comes on and she screams Emma’s name all the way from the bar and starts grinding on an amused Dorothy.

Regina rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling, and it’s simultaneously terrible and perfect.

.

They don’t get home until around one in the morning, Snow dropping them off at the mansion just as David is coming out with a half-asleep Neal in his arms after watching Henry for the night. He kisses his daughter on the forehead and gives Regina a somewhat stiff, somewhat friendly nod before getting into the car with his wife.

Snow waves out the window on her way down the street and the moment she’s gone, Emma can’t keep her eyes off Regina’s hands, her neck, her lips. She wants to blame the alcohol, but she knows, realistically, that this isn’t new. This has maybe, probably been there since the first time she was ever invited into this house, dazed in the aftereffect of her son finding her and Regina's bright smile, fake as it may have been.

Her mind is buzzing with an onslaught of memories—Regina’s skin against hers, the warmth of her fingertips, the way she’d said free of charge.

At the door, she presses into Regina’s side and starts trailing fingers up and down her bare arm, scraping her nails through dark brown hair, until Regina says, “Emma,” with a sigh like she’s struggling and her hands shake trying to get the door unlocked. She’s not sure how long it takes them to get in the doors, because she’s already kissing Regina and something in Emma’s chest clicks into place.

She’s not sure what it means or how to deal with it, but she’s a little busy stepping into Regina’s space, pressing her into the back of the door and gripping her hips to bring her closer.

She feels Regina’s hands tangled in her hair, fingernails scraping against the back of her neck, and she’s breathing heavily into Emma’s mouth, groaning.

“Oh, gross! Ew, ew, ew, ew!”

That’s what tears them apart. Reluctantly, but still.

Henry is standing on the stairs in his pajamas, covering his eyes as he tries to back away.

“This never happened! I was never here!” And then he slips upstairs.

It isn’t until they hear his door close that Emma laughs, dropping her head down onto Regina’s chest and Regina laughs, too, sounding more than a little embarrassed.

It’s not funny.

But, still.

.

It’s a bit of a mood killer until they make it to the bedroom and then Regina is unbuttoning her shirt, still a little drunk, and trying to change into her pajamas and Emma can’t help herself.

She practically tackles her onto the bed and she was wrong--very wrong--to ever think that this wouldn't be an important part of it.

She wakes up warm and happy in the sun-lit room with Regina snoring softly in her arms and it’s her favorite morning since living there by far.

A late breakfast with Henry and Regina smiling at her over waffles just makes it even better.

We can do this, she thinks, laughing at something Henry says (he’s moved on from the previous night, likely too humiliated to bring it up ever) and Regina runs her fingers over Emma’s shoulder blades when she passes by.

It’s the most perfect thing that Emma never expected to have.

.

At lunch one day, Emma is eating her food and ends up asking in the middle of the bite, “’ow shoe we kees?” and Regina doesn't even look at her.

“Why do all of these conversations occur when you are in the middle of eating?”

She’s got a point, except they’re sitting on the couch on the side of her office instead of at the desk, and she has her legs draped over Emma’s lap, head tilted back against the armrest and eyes closed.

Emma swallows and says, “When they announce us, you know?” One of Regina’s eyes opens and she looks at Emma for a moment before closing it again. “At the wedding."

"Oh." 

Regina's voiced is hushed at the reminder, just quiet awe that mimics Emma's own.

She could never forget that they're getting married, but sometimes the thought that it's real still takes her breath away.

“Like...G or PG?” Emma clarifies. "What's the rating supposed to be?"

Regina laughs at her and opens both eyes this time, sitting up and curling her legs in so that she’s pressed right into Emma, reaching out to brush some of Emma’s hair behind her ear. “You're overthinking this.”

Immediately, memories of the night before flutter into her mind -- pressing Regina back into the bed with her body, fingers running down her skin, hiking her skirt up her hips, teeth grazing against the buttons of her blouse, and Regina's fingers in her hair, sighing Emma into the darkness as Emma moved back up her body, pressed their lips together, kissed her back into the mattress.

She is absolutely not overthinking this.

"My mom is going to be there," she says and she can feel the tips of her ears heat up.

"Oh, I'm quite aware."

"My dad, too."

"Yes, he was on the invite list."

"Rumple."

"Unfortunately."

"Granny."

"Emma, I--"

"Our son."

At this, she's met with silence and Regina's most unimpressed look of confusion.

"What are you getting at?" she asks.

"Do you really want me to French you in front of our son?"

It’s possible that the memory of the last time she'd used that particular wording might have made Regina laugh any other time, but it doesn't this time. Regina looks at her as if she’s sobering up about the whole thing, and then says, “Okay,” and pulls away to stand.

Emma lifts herself to her feet and they’re just standing there in the middle of Regina’s office staring at each other. Regina comes a little closer, hands reaching out to pull Emma closer and she says, “Something easy. Simple. Like this,” and she kisses Emma but it's too soft, too distant. Emma holds her breath and kisses back, counting to three in her head, and then Regina is already pulling away.

It's too modest. The whole thing. Emma's first instinct is to protest, to pull Regina back in immediately, but Regina is looking at her seriously, waiting for a response, and Emma snaps out of that instinct immediately.

“Never mind,” Emma says after a moment, shaking her head.

“What?” Regina asks, frowning and beginning to pull away.

Emma tugs her closer before she can, fingers gripping Regina's hips through her skirt. “I'm going to have to French you in front of our son. It's going to happen. You can't fight it. Neither of us can.”

And then Regina does laugh, even though Emma isn’t kidding. Kissing Regina is always some sort of out-of-body experience, in and of itself, and maybe someday she'll be able to settle for simple kiss like that. But she knows that, when the moment comes, a kiss like that won't be enough. 

Really, she doesn't think it ever could be.

And the funny thing is this:

She's pretty sure Regina feels exactly the same way.

.

The rehearsal dinner is held at the mansion two weeks later, the night before the ceremony. People congratulate them all night and you’d hardly think Regina was the same woman who cursed all of them for twenty-eight years from the number of warm shoulder touches and handshakes she gets.

Henry gives an abridged version of his speech for the reception that makes Emma cry like a baby and bury her face in his shoulder when he’s finished. The majority of his response is to just pat her on the back and say, "Ma, it's okay," really softly while looking to his other mother for help, of which she gives him none.

Snow and David give some sort of joint speech that Snow wrote down on blue index cards. It goes surprisingly well for the first few minutes, but then David loses his place and starts stepping all over Snow's cues. Eventually, the entire thing breaks down into him just summarizing the entire plot of Disney's Snow White. When it's over, Emma isn't sure if the applause is for the speech or for the fact that Snow finally managed to drag him offstage.

She's elbowing Henry in the ribs for laughing into the palm of his hand and throwing a worried look at Regina -- who's begun to knock back her glass of champagne at a worrying pace -- when she hears Snow scolding her father in the next room over.

"It was beautiful, David, really, but the last thing you should do before a wedding is remind the entire town that the brides-to-be are technically related," Snow says.

"Only through marriage!" David argues back and Emma decides to push that particular reminder as far back in her mind as she possibly can.

It's a relieving distraction when Ruby only clinks her champagne flute with her fork, chanting, “Kiss, kiss, kiss,” and making everyone join in just the once. She gets a little too excited, though, and ends up breaking the flute in her hand and Regina gives her such a glare as she waves her hand to fix it that Ruby doesn’t try it again.

Everyone leaves way too late and Snow is already crying—she’s going to be a mess at the ceremony—and when David hugs Regina tightly at the door, she joins in on her husband’s other side. It goes on for so long that Regina mouths help me to Emma and Henry, who pretty much leave her to fend for herself because they can’t stop laughing.

Emma camps out in the living room with Henry, watching infomercials all night, even though there’s a guest room because, if she has to sleep without Regina, she'd rather not be alone.

She’s gotten used to sharing a bed with her now and misses her warmth so much she can hardly sleep.

It’s more than a small relief when Regina sneaks into the living room around three in the morning when Henry is already snoring in a pile of blankets on the floor.

“Can you slide back a bit?” she asks and Emma does, presses herself into the back of the couch so Regina can lie down in her arms.

"Sure," Emma whispers, and she's never been the big spoon before, but, she has to admit, it’s something she could get used to.

.

Two months after that night in Regina's living room, they get married at last (at last). It's a beautiful day, blue sky and warm, May breeze that flutters the green grass, the leaves in the trees, shifting through Emma's hair as she waits. Takes a deep breath. Holds it. Lets it go.

Henry gives Regina away and David walks his daughter to her. Ruby cheers too loudly at inappropriate moments and the whole thing is officiated by Archie, who gets a little weepy during the vows.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and they’re holding hands under a white arch decorated with roses and Emma makes a face at Regina that makes her laugh when they're exchanging rings. She'd spent so much of the very beginning explaining it away as something to simply benefit Henry, as nothing more, but she’d nearly cried when she’d first seen Regina waiting for her at the end of the aisle and now, here they are.

When Archie announces the kiss the bride part, Ruby is the first to start screaming and clapping, nudging Dorothy to get her to join in beside her. Even Belle is hooting in the back.

Snow is crying for sure and David is too—it’s possible Henry is wiping his eyes discreetly, and this is something that Emma finally has:

The woman she loves kissing her in front of everyone she's ever cared about.

It’s sort of funny, she thinks when she dips Regina back a little and Regina laughs against her lips (the kiss, it turned out, hadn't been enough -- wouldn't ever be enough) that it’s called a 'happy ending' when this is really the closest thing to a beginning that she’s ever truly known.

..

fin