Awkward

Random one-shot Swan Queen.
Rated A.

* * * * *

It’s awkward.

Everyone can feel how awkward it is, but no-one comments on it, because there’s a man down on one knee in the middle of Granny’s, and everyone knows what a man down on one knee means. It means that you don’t interrupt. It means that you don’t say anything about how awkward it all seems.

It’s awkward because it’s in Granny’s, which is far too public for the woman he’s kneeling before. Regina knows this. Regina knows that Emma Swan doesn’t like showing emotion even in private. Emma Swan doesn’t like showing emotion even to the people who adore her. But this? This is definitely very public. This is definitely a few hundred miles outside of Emma Swan’s comfort zone.

It’s awkward because everyone is staring. They’re all staring at a man down on one knee, who’s reaching out to take the hand of the woman in front of him and he’s grinning. He’s grinning like he’s positive that there can only be a happy ending to this scene. He probably hasn’t even considered that it won’t end happily for him, because he’s an arrogant pup. It’s part of what makes him attractive to some: that swagger and arrogance and undeserving sense of entitlement. He’s a man who seems comfortable in his own skin, and there’s a definite appeal in that sort of certainty, no matter how misplaced.

It’s awkward because Emma Swan doesn’t seem to be enamoured by the certainty of the man on one knee before her, and she doesn’t seem comfortable in her own skin at all. She seems like she would rather be anywhere else than standing there.

It’s awkward because there’s Emma Swan’s father, David Nolan, standing over his daughter’s shoulder, and he’s not looking at the couple right in front of him. And his wife, Snow White, isn’t looking at the couple, either. They’re both looking at Regina, and the looks on their faces are similar but not the same. Both of them are sympathetic, yes, but their looks are not quite identical. If Regina were to characterise them—and in these seemingly endless moments of horror, where there’s a man kneeling before Emma Swan, fumbling in the pocket of his filthy leather jacket for what has to be a ring, she has little else to do but take in everything around her—she would say that Snow’s look is sympathetic but understanding, whereas David’s look is sympathetic but challenging.

It’s awkward because the ring he’s been fumbling for is silver and ornate and so very obviously from the Enchanted Forest and not from this world. And there are enough people in the room who knew him back then to have put two and two together and worked out that he’s holding a ring that he once bought for Milah, Baelfire’s mother. And while there’s a tradition in both worlds of passing rings down within families to younger generations, there’s no tradition in any world where you offer your intended the ring you originally procured for the mother of the man who got her pregnant and then abandoned her.

It’s awkward because Emma Swan herself is looking caught and lost. The man on one knee doesn’t remember that look, but Regina Mills knows it well. She saw that look on Neverland, several times—when they feared that they might never see their son again, and when Emma Swan admitted that she would never fit inside a family.

It’s awkward because Emma Swan is not looking at the man on one knee before her.

It’s awkward because Emma Swan is looking straight at Regina Mills, and Regina can read all of the questions and answers and fears and hopes in those hazel eyes—more grey than green right now, matching the pallor of Emma’s face—in a way that the man on one knee, who’s starting to talk words of love, will never be able to.

It’s awkward because all eyes in Granny’s diner, save for those of the man on one knee who’s speaking words of love, and those of Regina herself, who’s staring back at Emma Swan, are now focused on Regina Mills. They know that it’s unusual for a woman to avoid looking at the man on one knee before her while on the receiving end of a proposal of marriage. They know that Emma Swan staring at Regina Mills in this moment means something. It means something that some of them—Snow and David, Ruby and Granny, maybe a few others—have known for a while now, but which no-one has ever said out loud.

It’s awkward because what Regina Mills wants, what she knows she wants as she stares back at those grey-green eyes, is not simply to be Emma Swan’s friend.

It’s awkward because, somewhere along the way, Regina Mills’ feelings went from not wanting to kill Emma to wanting to be her friend to wanting so many other things with her.

It’s awkward because she knows that her face is betraying all of these thoughts and feelings she’s having, but she can’t do anything about that. She’s too stunned by the man on one knee, still speaking words of love and holding out the ring he intended to give to another woman. She’s overwhelmed by the enormity of what his actions mean for Emma Swan and Henry—their beautiful, beautiful son, who’s part Emma and part Regina and completely theirs—and for Regina herself, who thought she’d have time to do something or say something before it came to this.

It’s awkward because Regina glances to their son, to Henry, whose face is pained, and she’s not sure why. Does he want her to encourage Emma to take this chance for a new start, a new family? Does he want her to leave because this moment is not about her or even about the three of them—Emma, Regina, Henry—but about Emma and the man on one knee speaking words of love?

It’s awkward because the man on one knee holding out another woman’s ring is winding up his speech and getting to the key question, while Emma Swan looks increasingly faint and still hasn’t met his eyes.

It’s awkward because everyone knows that a marriage proposal is a binary proposition: there are only two acceptable answers, and those are ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But Emma Swan says neither of those things. She says only one word, and it’s not one which has ever been the answer to any marriage proposal. And suddenly the words of love die on the lips of the man on one knee before her, and he realises for the first time that things may not end happily for him.

It’s awkward because the one word that Emma Swan says is neither yes or no, but ‘Regina’. It’s not a statement and it’s not a question. Maybe it’s more of a plea, but it’s hard for Regina Mills to tell because she can’t read Emma Swan’s eyes anymore. It’s only when she tries to focus harder that Regina realises that she’s started to cry, that her vision is blurred by tears she wasn’t aware of shedding.

It’s awkward because Regina can’t stay in this place where everyone is seeing her fall apart, and Emma Swan is staring at her with desperation, and their son is pleading with his eyes for her to do something, even if she doesn’t know what that something is.

It’s awkward because Regina turns on her heel and flees, straight out of the door and onto the street and the tears in her eyes make her stumble and fall, breaking a heel on her three-hundred-dollar shoes. But she keeps on running, picking up her shoes and running in her stockinged feet, just like the girl who used to sprint barefoot through the fields, fleeing her mother and running until her lungs were fit to burst.

It’s awkward because people have stopped in the street to stare at their former Mayor and former Queen, who’s running like there are banshees nipping at her heels. And all she can hear is the pounding of her heart, a heavy thump inside her mind. Except it’s not her heart: it’s the heavy thump of boots on asphalt.

It’s awkward because the people on the street who stopped to stare are still staring as Emma Swan catches up to Regina Mills and grabs her arm, pulling her around and forcing her to stop. The two women stare at each other, their chests heaving from running and from everything that has always been unspoken between them. Regina doesn’t know what this latest stand-off means, but she knows what she wants it to mean, and she fears that it can’t mean what she wants it to mean.

It’s awkward because the man who had been on one knee, asking Emma Swan to marry him and hearing only a woman’s name in reply, is running up the street towards them, calling Emma’s name. Emma Swan’s parents and Regina Mills’ son, who is also Emma Swan’s son, are following close behind. Regina takes a moment away from staring at Emma Swan’s perfect face and expressive eyes and heaving chest to look down the road towards their pursuers.

It’s awkward because Emma Swan takes a step towards her, and pulls her into her arms in a move which Regina Mills has imagined so many times. Emma Swan’s head dips and her face is buried in Regina’s neck, the breath warm and uneven and so arousing against Regina’s skin. There’s the feeling of hands settling on her hips, sure and strong and possessive, and Regina Mills reaches up to link her hands behind Emma Swan’s neck, letting her three-hundred-dollar shoes fall to the ground, forgotten. A cloud of white smoke envelops them both, and then they’re no longer on the street with everyone watching. They’re no longer being pursued by the man who had been on one knee, asking Emma Swan to marry him, or by Emma Swan’s parents, or by Regina Mills’ son, Henry, who’s Emma Swan’s son, too.

It’s awkward because they reappear in Regina Mills’ home, in her study, and Regina can remember being in this room and warning Emma Swan to stay away from her son and her town. It’s been a very long time since she has wanted that. She has successfully sent Emma Swan away before, with the son who is a mix of Emma’s instincts and Regina’s intelligence and his own goodness, and she knows that her heart couldn’t take her family being separated again.

It’s awkward because they’ve still only spoken one word between them—Emma Swan’s utterance of Regina Mills’ first name—and they have so much between them that has gone unsaid for so long, and probably needs to be said, now more than ever. Yet, all they are doing is holding onto each other, clinging together as the smoke clears and their heartbeats return to something like normal (although Regina Mills’ heartbeat is rarely anything approaching normal around Emma Swan).

It’s awkward because Emma Swan pulls back and Regina Mills can see that she’s not the only one who’s been crying, that Emma’s eyes are watery and red, too. But she’s smiling, a half-smirk which seems to communicate everything, and one of her hands moves from Regina’s hip to her cheek, cupping gently, brushing away random tears, and Emma’s hand is cold and clammy, but her touch is perfect.

“You ran,” Emma says, but her eyes are greener now, kind and loving and not judging at all.

“I don’t want you to marry him.” There are so many other things that Regina Mills could and probably should add to that statement—because I love you, because this is your family, because it would break my heart for you to be with someone else—but she doesn’t. She waits mutely, and hopes that Emma Swan can read all of that in her eyes, the way she can read the love in Emma’s own eyes.

“I won’t.” Emma Swan’s eyes are full of the certainty that this will end happily for them both, and her bearing is strong and proud, like she’s entirely comfortable in her own skin. Suddenly, Regina Mills can understand why that kind of arrogance is attractive because, on Emma Swan, it is breathtaking.

It’s awkward because they both look terrible, with washed out and tear-stained faces, and they’ve never done this before. They’ve never done this, not just with each other, but with someone who matters, who is everything. And it’s probably the worst time for them to do this, right after a man dropped to one knee and held out another woman’s ring and spoke words of love and made promises of forever. It’s the worst time to do this when the man who was on one knee and Emma Swan’s parents and Regina Mills’ son, who’s also Emma Swan’s son, are all probably converging on their current location, wanting answers to questions which they both know are coming.

It’s awkward because they both tilt their heads in the same direction, Regina Mills’ left and Emma Swan’s right, and their noses and foreheads bump together. That makes them both laugh nervously and try again. This time, Emma Swan waits to see which way Regina’s head is tilting before she moves, and then their mouths find each other.

It’s awkward because they’re both still laughing and crying, and they’re unfocused in this first kiss. It is not a movie kiss, with rising strings and a camera panning around them in wide circles, indicating their soaring hearts and entwined destinies, but a mess of tears and snot and not really knowing what they’re doing. But a second kiss becomes a third and then a fourth, and they settle down to getting to know the right combination of lips and teeth. The tears and the laughter stop, replaced by sighs and moans and the rustle of fabric as they strain against each other, hands starting to explore over clothes as their mouths try to stay together.

It’s awkward because they’re getting really good at it just as there’s a pounding at Regina Mills’ front door and a familiar man’s voice demanding that they both show themselves. But Emma Swan doesn’t even let them break their kiss; she merely tightens her hold, her hands clasping behind Regina Mills’ back as the white smoke appears around them for a second time. And, this time, when they reappear, they’re no longer standing. They’re on the bed in Emma Swan’s apartment, and Regina Mills is on top, and they’re in their underwear, the rest of their clothes lost in the ether somewhere. Regina Mills pulls back enough to brace herself on her arms and to smile down at the startled face of the woman underneath her. Emma Swan smiles back, her eyes darkening as she takes in their positions and what her magic has done, and her hands start to remove the last remaining items of clothing between them.

And this? This isn’t awkward at all.

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