The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Part 1

SwanQueen two-shot.
Rated X.

* * * * *

Regina Mills stared from her window at the figure in the darkness. This was the eighth time this had happened now, or maybe the ninth, because she wasn’t certain about the first night, whether her mind had been playing tricks on her or whether someone had been there. But there were definitely at least eight separate occasions in the past month and a half when Emma Swan had been sitting in the gazebo in Regina’s back yard, staring up at her bedroom window for hours on end. That was all Emma usually did: stand and stare and brood. Tonight, though, she was drinking a beer from the bottle, holding the neck between two fingers and tipping it backwards on a regular basis. Judging by the movement Regina had witnessed, she must be on her third in under an hour. In the dim light, all she could make out was Emma’s silhouette, but the magical connection between them—the one which Emma preferred not to acknowledge—allowed her to sense the other woman’s mood. It mirrored her own: a tight ache borne of repressed pain, disappointment and hurt.

Their stand-off had to come to an end soon, Regina knew, even if only for their son’s sake. Henry was upset by his mothers’ behaviour towards each other, and Regina could hardly admit that their ongoing enmity was based on their decisions to have sex with other people. Oh, they could dress it up as other things—Regina could pretend that she was upset about losing a soulmate, and Emma could grumble about being unfairly treated for saving a woman from death—but that wasn’t it. It was simple jealousy.

For months before the original curse was broken and on a few occasions thereafter, the women had indulged in angry, needy sex. In the short time between returning from Neverland and Pan’s curse stealing a year from them both, they had been together again. And those times had not been fuelled by anything other than a desire to cling to each other while their worlds were coming apart at the seams.

When Regina had a vision that, to avoid Pan’s curse, she had to sacrifice the thing she loved the most, she let everyone believe it was Henry. That hadn’t been what she had seen at all. What she had seen was a life with Emma and Henry in the house on Mifflin. It hadn’t been some picture-perfect future in which they adored each other like Emma’s simpering parents. The snippets she had seen had looked like constant hard work for small rewards, but the overwhelming feeling for Regina in all the scenarios which played out in her mind had been utter contentment. Because the thing she loved the most was her family, Emma-and-Henry indivisible. And while she did not doubt that she could be more than happy with just Henry in her life, she knew that she would never be complete without Emma, too.

When they were reunited and memories were restored, Emma made it very clear that picking up where they left off was not an option. Unlike Regina, who had had twelve months to think of little else but her cherished family, and to filter all of her previous interactions with Emma through the prism of her new-found knowledge, Emma hadn’t consciously thought about Regina since they parted at the town line. Being back in Storybrooke was hard enough for Emma; restarting their affair would have been additional pressure. And Emma wanted uncomplicated.

Complicated made Emma want to run. Emma wanted to scoop up Henry and head immediately back to New York.

And, as hurt as she had been by Emma’s feelings and decisions, Regina had known what would happen. You couldn’t love someone as much as Regina loved Emma without knowing them. Emma felt powerless again, trapped by a destiny larger than herself. Emma wanted a life which was not bound by the expectations placed on the Saviour; Emma did not want to be a princess; she didn’t even want to be Sheriff of Storybrooke. Returning to New York and leaving it all behind would put her back in a world she understood, in which the only expectations placed on her were the ones she gladly accepted as Henry’s mother. And Emma needed to feel in control of her life, even if that meant cutting herself off from everything she loved and everyone who loved her.

While Snow believed that love was always enough for everything—and Regina was coming to find that more endearing than infuriating, now that they were a real extended family, by Regina’s own choice and not someone else’s machinations—professions of love weren’t the right way to deal with Emma. The only way to persuade Emma of anything was to stand back and to let her find her own way in her own time. The best you could do was to nudge Emma in the right direction.

Regina sipped at her red wine and leaned against the wall as she glanced down to the back yard, doing her best to remain out of sight. Emma was still drinking her beer, her body rigid. That tension which had been building for weeks was going to need released and, with Henry away camping with his grandfather, it seemed the perfect night for it. Perhaps another push was in order, she thought, stepping back and walking over to her closet, depositing the wine glass on the vanity.

Their tension had started building when Regina had accepted the tentative advances of Robin Hood, hoping to find something new for herself and also to make Emma jealous. No matter what Tinkerbell or Snow or David believed about soulmates and fairy dust, Regina knew that such things were just made-up tales for little girls. There was no more truth to them than the silly, childish games played to predict whether your heart’s fancy loved you in return. She smiled as she remembered throwing a stick into the water and counting the seconds until it passed under the troll bridge, knowing that an odd number would signify that Daniel loved her back; an even number, that he did not. She assumed it must have been odd, although she couldn’t recall. She wondered briefly what young girls did in these days of the internet. There was probably an app for that.

As she undressed and placed her clothes in the laundry hamper, she reflected that the surprise had been that she had come to like Robin and his son, Roland, so much in such a short time. The affection among the three of them had been easy, and not faked. But she supposed that was partly because they reminded her of her real family, of Emma-and-Henry. In the end, if being with Robin hadn’t brought Emma back to her, then she could have made a life with them. In recent times, she had come to appreciate that accepting what one had provided a certain peace of its own. Robin had been gentle and caring, and he could have been an acceptable substitute for a boy who had died forty years before. But, Emma—oh, Emma Swan was no substitute for anyone. She was fierce and arrogant and possessive and sometimes harsh, but always utterly herself.

Robin made Regina feel cherished and treasured, like a porcelain vase which might crack under too much pressure, whereas Emma made her feel craved and needed, as essential as air or water. Robin sought consent for every gentle touch, giving her time to change her mind; he asked what she wanted, and endeavoured to give exactly that to her. Emma never asked. Emma told her, often in lurid detail, what she was going to do to her or what she wanted from her. If Regina objected, it was her place to say. Emma never asked if anything was too much or too little: she did as she pleased and took her cues from Regina’s reactions. But she always understood that no meant no. It had rarely needed said, for everything Emma did to her—with her, for her—had been so right, so perfectly what Regina needed, so exactly what she wanted. Emma tested them both to their limits and occasionally beyond. And it had been glorious, whereas being with Robin had been, well, pleasant.

She looked among her things for the perfect outfit, thinking back through the many times Emma had pushed inside her bedroom, full of anger and self-righteousness and lust. What had that Emma liked best? That stubborn, abrasive woman was the version of Emma outside her door, not the lonely, lost woman-child who had feared they would lose their son on Neverland, nor the sweet, tentative girl who had held her once they had Henry home and shared her whispered hopes in the dark.

Regina pulled a negligee from the rail but deemed it too slight, something she might have worn for Robin if their dalliance had continued. No, she needed something a little more forward for Emma. Her eyes travelled over the remaining potential selections until she found a black corset which fastened up the front with metal clips and was made of asymmetric scraps of lace and leather. It was a little bit steam punk, a little bit Evil Queen, a chance purchase she’d made before Emma had been sucked into the first portal created by Jefferson’s hat. She had never had the chance to wear it for Emma before Neverland, and it hadn’t been appropriate afterwards.

Perhaps suspenders as well? No, too cliché. For the same reason, she rejected heels, although she knew how much Emma enjoyed it when she wore them. She finally decided on silk and lace boy-cut briefs to complement the severity of the top half and to make for easy access. She also picked up a black chiffon peignoir to wear over the outfit.

Suitably dressed, she went through to her bathroom and removed all make-up because Emma didn’t actually like the Evil Queen, even though she enjoyed the subtle promise of that darker side of Regina’s nature. Corset and demeanour would be enough: everything else should read submissive. Her eyes flicked up to the mirror. Well, submissive was taking it a little far. Pliable, perhaps? Available, certainly.

Content that she had hit just the right balance, she returned to the corner window, pulling the drapes back enough for Emma to see her fully.

She smiled as Emma scrambled to her feet, the beer bottle dropping from her hand but thankfully rolling and not smashing on her patio. Their eyes locked as Emma stepped forward onto the grass. Now bathed in moonlight, Emma was indeed glorious. Oh, that stubborn jaw, set hard and raised in defiance: Regina could lose herself tracing along it with her eyes, but she knew that it felt so much better under her lips and teeth, the cords of Emma’s neck straining as she mewled with need. She let her gaze trail over the rest of Emma’s body, across her shoulders, to hands braced on her hips, and down those powerful legs. She had missed the softness of Emma’s thighs against her cheek, the way the skin quivered and rippled under her touch.

It had been far too long.

They continued to stare for long moments, until Emma cocked her head to the side, questioning. Regina nodded briefly towards the back door and let the drapes fall back, walking through her bedroom and around the top hallway, down the spiral staircase, and through to the kitchen. Emma would need fed later, she thought briefly, because Emma always needed fed in some way. Underneath it all, Emma was still just a scared kid, hungry for love and affection and food and warmth and shelter, unwilling and ill-equipped to ask for any of it.

As she opened the back door to let her nocturnal visitor in, she was surprised to find the garden empty, save for a small collection of beer bottles on the ground by the table in the gazebo. She almost, just for a second, thought that she might have overplayed her hand, when she heard footsteps above her. Ah, the Saviour had used her magic to transport herself directly to the bedroom. Now, that was truly thrilling. If Regina hadn’t been aroused before, she was impossibly so now. They had never had an opportunity to use magic during sex and, although it was hardly needed between them, her mind reeled with the possibilities that it might afford as she padded back towards her bedroom through the silence of her home.

As she entered the room, she saw Emma on the chaise by the window, bent over and unlacing her boots. The ubiquitous red leather jacket lay beside her. She was wearing her tightest black jeans and a white tank top, no obvious bra line, so probably without underwear. Emma, it seemed, had also dressed appropriately for the evening. And, bless her, she didn’t look up when Regina entered, although she must have sensed her, must have heard her bare feet on the hall floorboards. Only when she was finished, her boots tucked under the chaise as if they belonged there, did Emma even raise her head.

Regina stopped at the end of the bed and waited, waited for Emma to be the first to speak, because Emma needed to be in control, and Regina would gladly prolong that illusion. The only quandary was where to place her hands: on her hips would be too dominant; behind her back, too subservient. She watched Emma look her over, and she had forgotten how much she loved that demanding look in Emma’s eyes, the way her eyelids dropped half-shut, those beautiful long lashes hiding none of her intensity.

Placing her hands at the flimsy silk ties which held the peignoir closed, Regina paused again, waiting for a sign from Emma that she should loosen them. A curt nod was plenty, so she pulled them apart slowly and let the garment fall open, even though its sheer chiffon hid nothing beneath anyway. Emma leaned back and held Regina’s gaze as she dropped her hands to her waist, popping the button on her jeans and easing down the zip. Regina pushed the peignoir from her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. It was a dance to which they both knew the steps, the striptease of baring themselves, and not just bodily.

Just when she thought that Emma would beckon her forward, the blonde shook her head and held her hand out, indicating for her to stop.

“Shit. I don’t think I can do this.” Emma shook her head. “Shit.”

“What?”

“All of this, it’s too—” She fumbled with her words. “It’s not—”

Two years ago, they would have been fucking already. In those days, Emma would have started right in, barely speaking except to murmur the occasional order—take it off, show me, keep doing that, touch yourself, just there—until she’d made Regina come at least once, sheer bravado seeing her through until her true confidence kicked in.

“It’s not what?”

“This isn’t what we are anymore. I’m sorry. It’s just, I still want you,” Emma said, closing her eyes and leaning forward, propping her forearms on her knees and looking anywhere but at her. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and not just from the beer. Emma looked tired, washed-out.

“I know.” She waited for the rest of the thought.

“But this isn’t who I am.” Emma’s hands were balled into fists and it made her arms flex even more—truly, truly a compelling sight. “I don’t like feeling this way.”

“I know.” Because being overwhelmed by her feelings made Emma feel small and powerless and not in control; surely no-one understood that better than Regina. “But you’re still here.”

“I tried to stay away.” Her eyes flicked up to meet Regina’s, and there was so much pain there. “But I can’t.”

“Can’t do this, or can’t stay away?”

Emma shrugged. “Bit of both.”

Regina moved to stand in front of her, insinuating herself between Emma’s legs until the blonde’s forehead was resting against the bottom edge of her corset. She wanted to cradle Emma’s head to her, to offer her the love and comfort that Emma actually needed but would never ask for, but that was more likely to spook her right now. She fisted her hand into Emma’s hair, yanking her head back. Emma stared up at her, eyes growing hungry as she took in the corset at close range.

“So, go then.”

“You want me to leave?” There was hesitation in Emma’s eyes, but just enough challenge in her voice that Regina knew she could push a little further. Anger was such an easy emotion for them to access, and such a reliable trigger for them both. All it took was a push, a nudge with the right words said in the right tone with the right emphasis.

“No, but I’m not going to beg you to stay here and fuck me, Emma.”

It was delightful to see the way Emma’s eyes darkened at the last three words. It was even better to see the way her body immediately reacted to the challenge, her shoulders squaring and that strong jaw tightening again.

“And if I want you to beg me to fuck you?” Regina was pleased that she gave no outward reaction to the statement, even as she had to work hard to keep the moan inside. She stepped back, feigning disinterest. Emma pulled herself to her full height. “Because that thing you’re wearing says that you want me to.” She reached her hand out and traced her fingertips across the hard edge of the corset where it met Regina’s breasts, a smile tugging at her lips. “And I think maybe I’d like to hear you beg for it.”

“Oh, you’re the one who’ll beg.” She reached up, bringing Emma’s mouth down to her flesh, hissing with relief and desire as Emma’s teeth sank into the swell of her left breast, suckling and marking her. And, no, Robin would never have dared to do such a thing, just as she would never let anyone else possess her like this. Emma was the only one to have marked her; Emma was the only one whose marks she would ever bear willingly.

“I don’t fucking think so.” Emma pulled her mouth away and walked them towards the wall, pushing Regina against it and settling her body into hers. She took Regina’s hands and lifted them above her head, holding them in place with one hand, then leaned back enough to look down at the mark she’d made. She smirked. “You don’t get to tell me what to do because I control this, not the other way around.”

And there was her Emma, the one who faced dragons with no fear and created eclipses and fucked her desperately like they were the last two people on earth. Fierce, proud Emma, who just wanted the world to be simple. Emma, who liked to top from the bottom, because she needed to be in control, but she also needed to be loved and wanted and cherished, enveloped by Regina’s body, like it could protect her from the voice in her head telling her she was never quite good enough. Sweet but passionate Emma, who always said ‘control this’—their strange relationship, their fucking, their dynamic—but never ‘control you’ because she understood the need for choice and agency and would never take more than Regina was willing to give.

“You think you’re in charge here?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“No, you’re not, little girl.” It was a teasing challenge, and a lie. Emma took charge because Regina gave her that power.

“Uh-huh. You tell yourself that.” Emma kicked her feet apart and moved her free hand up Regina’s inner thigh, nails raking over skin, and Regina could not stop herself from bucking towards the touch. Emma laughed and leaned in, her mouth by Regina’s ear. “Yeah, you tell yourself that when you’re so wet for me that I can feel it all the way down here,” her fingers dug in near the top of Regina’s thigh, “without even touching you properly yet.” Emma removed her hand from Regina’s thigh and placed it on her hip, her mouth latching onto the soft skin of her neck. “You tell yourself whatever you like, Regina, but don’t act like this isn’t all for me.”

She thrust her leg between Regina’s thighs, bringing it up hard enough that Regina couldn’t contain the moan this time, as she tilted her head to give Emma better access to her neck. And there were no words for a while, as Emma moved against her, and she writhed back as much as she could, trapped between the wall and the solidity of Emma’s body, her arms pinned above her head.

“Tell me. Tell me you want me.” Emma’s tone was insistent, expecting immediate agreement, but they weren’t there yet. Emma had made her wait far too long for this to capitulate so easily. “Tell me how much you need me to fuck you.”

“Less talking, more fucking, Emma.” She mentally crossed her fingers, because Emma’s limits could be reached easily, and there was always such a fine line there between nudging and goading. “Or would you prefer I sent you home to the pirate?”

Thankfully, Emma didn’t pull away. Her knee merely dropped a few inches and she chuckled low and dirty as Regina tried to push down to re-establish contact.

“Jealous, Your Majesty?”

“Never.”

It hurt. It burned her very soul that Emma had given herself to Killian Jones, of all people. Regina could not understand what Emma saw in him. She knew Emma didn’t love him, but she also knew that Emma wouldn’t be with him just to make her jealous. She suspected that Emma didn’t even know herself why she was with him, other than perhaps the need to meet the expectations people placed on her, lest they crush her. Regina knew a thing or two about broken girls who wanted to please the people who claimed to love them, who gave everything even at the expense of their own souls.

“Liar.”

Emma brought her leg back up so hard that Regina’s feet were lifted clear off the floor. Letting go of Regina’s hands, Emma grabbed the backs of her thighs, pulling her up so that Regina had no choice but to wrap her legs around Emma’s waist. The movement pushed Emma’s tank top up and they both groaned at the contact, only the wet silk of Regina’s underwear separating them.

She tried to rub herself against Emma’s abdomen to get some friction, but Emma’s fingers dug tighter into her hips, keeping her still.

“Nuh-uh. You know how this works. We do this my way or not at all.” Emma finally brought their mouths together, but didn’t kiss her. She bit down on Regina’s lower lip, running her tongue back and forth across it. “Did you think of me when Robin was fucking you?”

She could lie again, but what would be the point? She wanted Emma back in her bed. More than that, she wanted Emma for herself. She wanted her family. It wouldn’t be quick and it probably wouldn’t be easy, but it was a long, hard road she was willing to head down. She grasped Emma’s head in her hands, her thumbs forcing Emma to look her straight in the eye.

“Yes.” She didn’t wait for a response, forcing her mouth on Emma’s in a messy, sloppy kiss of teeth and tongues and both of them fighting for dominance, moaning into each other’s mouths. Emma’s nails dug into her ass cheeks, pulling them as close together as possible, sliding her up and down slowly so that the pressure of Emma-and-silk against her clit had her too close to the edge, too soon. She pulled away with a slurping sound, eyes narrowing as she took in the flush of Emma’s cheeks and the red marks around her lips.

“You shouldn’t have been with him at all. I didn’t like it. I still don’t like the way he acts around you.”

“You’re with Hook.”

“No, I’m not.” Emma eased Regina back into a standing position, placing her hand inside the corset to take Regina’s nipple between her thumb and forefinger, squeezing to the point where pain bled back into pleasure, that place they both knew too well.

“He thinks you are.” She had to grind her words out. Talking was difficult when Emma was touching her.

“He can think what the fuck he likes. I’m still not.” Emma looked down at the complex stays holding the corset together. While Emma could read Regina’s lies from her facial expressions, Regina could always gauge Emma’s moods by the shading of her eyes. She was feeling indulgent now, willing to talk only insofar as it didn’t get in the way of what she really wanted. “You need to take that thing off for me.”

Not reluctantly, Regina’s hands dropped to the top two clips and loosened them, which gave Emma enough room to slide her hand in fully and start massaging her breast, her palm soft and sure in counterpoint to the forceful pressure of her fingers. That sex between them could be as gentle as it was harsh probably said something profound about their constantly shifting relationship, but Regina was damned if she knew what that was.

And, besides, it had been far too long.

“Get on the bed, Emma.” She placed a hand against her shoulder and pushed hard. Emma laughed as she stumbled backwards, shaking her head.

“You don’t tell me—”

“That’s not what this is. Get on the bed, and tell me what you want.” She unfastened the remaining stays on the corset, letting it fall open and watching Emma’s eyes trail over her possessively. She would give Emma all the power and control she needed for as long as it took. “Tell me what you need me to do for you.”

+

The days passed, turned into weeks, and there were stretches when they didn’t speak to each other at all, but talking wasn’t what they did best anyway. They met in Regina’s bedroom, or occasionally in Regina’s office. They’d agreed that the Sheriff’s Station and the Charmings’ apartment were off-limits, because Regina hardly wanted to be caught with Emma knuckle-deep inside her by one of her lover’s parents. And the most infuriating part of that was that she didn’t know whether she was more concerned that Snow and David would be disappointed in Emma or in her.

She told herself that she had the best part of Emma because at least, with her, Emma was herself. There was no pretence between them. They loved each other, although Regina wasn’t sure that those words would ever be spoken out loud. What they had was all Emma was capable of giving, and it was better than not seeing her at all, which was the other option. So they played by Emma’s rules, and they did what Emma wanted, when Emma wanted, because Regina would not add herself to the list of people who demanded things from Emma. She had learned to be happy with what she had and not resent what she didn’t.

Emma felt in control, and things were calm. And Emma was happy, mostly, which made Regina happy.

It couldn’t last.

+

Regina was on her knees in her office, her mouth wrapped around Emma’s clit, Emma’s fingers digging into her scalp. Regina had three fingers deep inside Emma, and the way her vaginal walls were pulsing, she was close to coming hard, even though Regina had been taunting her the entire time.

“Does he let you fuck his mouth like this? He has such a pretty mouth. I bet he’d suck you off gladly.” It was crude and unfair, but Regina had seen Killian and Emma together at the diner over lunchtime, and the jealousy had exploded within her, sated only a little when Emma had burst in through her office door, apologising in the same breath as demanding that Regina bend over the desk.

In a way, they were were back to where they used to be, before Henry and Emma broke Regina’s curse, when this sort of late afternoon activity was almost a given and the harsh jangling of their emotions could be buried beneath sex and anger. Only, it wasn’t quite the same, because Emma responded to every insult and accusation with reassurances and whispered words.

“No.” Emma’s hips thrust forward, and her eyes were wild, staring down at her with a lack of comprehension. “You. Only you.”

Regina flattened her tongue so that it was putting just the right pressure on Emma’s clit, and she could hear Emma panting random words.

“Need. You. Mine. Fuck. Yes. Fuck. Love you. Love you so much.”

Emma’s thighs quivered and her back arched as she cried out her orgasm. Regina pulled her hand out gently, careful not to hurt Emma further, since she had definitely scraped her internally with her nails on a few occasions. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and got up from her knees. They were a mess, hardly undressed apart from Emma’s jeans being at her ankles and Regina’s blouse hanging open, her underwear having been ripped off and discarded some time ago. Emma’s legs dangled from her desk, and she looked shocked, either from the force of her orgasm or the fact that she had admitted her love as she came. Feelings like love were too big for Emma, so Regina gathered her into her arms, pressing Emma’s cheek against her sternum, holding her close and letting her hide at the same time.

“Don’t be jealous,” Emma said, her arms coming around Regina’s waist as her mouth rubbed against the flushed skin between her breasts. “I need you. I need this.”

“I know.” She smoothed down Emma’s damp hair, closing her eyes as she pressed her cheek to the top of the blonde’s head.

“I’m not with him anymore.”

“You’re what? Since when?” She pushed Emma back so she could stare at her in disbelief.

“Since we—” Emma hung her head and shrugged.

“And you didn’t think this was worth mentioning?” She winced because she hadn’t meant to shout, but that was hardly the sort of statement which could just be casually dropped into conversation as something which had happened, like changing the bed sheets or giving up sugar in your coffee. She stared at the light fixture on the ceiling, trying to pull her anger back.

“We don’t even talk about stuff like that, and it doesn’t change anything anyway. I didn’t think you cared about what was happening with him.”

And she didn’t. She really could not care less about Killian Jones and his happiness, but surely Emma could see that her no longer being with Hook had a direct impact on the state of their relationship? She was about to say as much when she realised that Emma was crying silently, tears running down her face, and she really hadn’t appreciated just how much in love she was with Emma Swan until that moment, when all she wanted to do was kiss away whatever hurt it was and make her better. She couldn’t let herself think about the childhood which resulted in an adult who cried without making a sound or moving at all: that childhood had been partly her fault.

“He was asking me to try again. That’s what today was. But, it, it was stupid. I could never be what he wants, not really, because it isn’t this. It isn’t us.” Emma sniffed and wiped her face with the heel of her hand. “But it’s okay, right? We’re okay, aren’t we? I mean, it doesn’t change things, does it?” It wasn’t clear whether ‘it’ was Emma admitting her love out loud, or Emma having broken up with Hook in favour of Regina. It hardly mattered. No matter what Emma wanted to believe, it had never just been about sex between them, and their true feelings leaked out all over the place anyway. Regina didn’t need Emma’s words to know that she loved her.

Regina eased her hand under Emma’s chin, tipping her face up to smile down at her. She could see the terror in Emma’s eyes. Her tightly-controlled life and feelings were spiralling out of her control again, and that couldn’t be good. She brushed away the remaining tears with her thumb and then returned Emma to snuggling against her chest.

“Shh, now. Everything’s going to be okay. Nothing’s changed.”

Everything had changed.

+

It was late on a Sunday evening when there was a knock at her front door. Her first thought was that Henry must have invited one of his friends over, but there was Emma in the doorway, a sheepish look on her face.

It had been nearly a month since they had been together, a month in which their interactions were reduced to telephone conversations about Henry and awkward, stilted meetings on the street and concerned texts from Regina which were answered with platitudes of how fine—but busy, so very busy—Emma was.

“Hi,” Emma said, making no move to come inside.

“Hello.” She tilted her head. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, no, I—” Emma rubbed her neck and shrugged. “I dunno.” She pushed up the sleeve of the Storybrooke PD hoody she was wearing and showed Regina an angry red mark. “I got an ice burn from a tree today.” Although the Snow Queen was gone, there were still remnants of her in the forest, and Emma seemed to gravitate towards the things which could hurt her.

“Do you want to come inside and let me tend to it?”

“I kinda do, but I just started my shift.” She shrugged again. “Probably not the best idea.” She rolled her sleeve down and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “I’ll be honest. I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I’m just really sorry for being a dick and whatever, and I thought maybe we could, I could, you know, I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to see you.” She gave her a lop-sided smile. “So, hi.”

There were many versions of Emma which Regina found attractive, and this bumbling, tongue-tied woman on her doorstep was just one of them. Her embarrassment at her own actions was evident, but she’d come anyway, braving her complete terror of real emotional interactions just to be there, to see and be seen.

Regina glanced upstairs. She could hear Henry playing something loud on his games console. It was unlikely that he would leave his room, but she didn’t want to risk them getting caught. She flicked off the porch light and stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind her. Grabbing a handful of Emma’s sweatshirt, she backed up into the corner of the front stoop, where they would be partially hidden from the street, and pulled Emma tight against her.

“I missed you, too,” she said, and then she kissed her long, slow and sweet, putting all the love that she felt, the love Emma might never be ready to accept, into her actions. She teased and nibbled with her lips as her hands slipped under Emma’s clothes to rub soothing patterns up and down her spine. As she felt the tension disappear under her touch, she smiled against Emma’s lips. “Better, mi cariño?”

Emma nodded and kissed her some more, this time to the point where they either had to stop or take it indoors because Emma’s wandering hands were in danger of turning things decidedly x-rated. Reluctantly, she placed her hand on Emma’s chest and pushed her back.

“That’s why I didn’t want to come inside,” Emma said. “I’m not good with impulse control around you, and I really do have to head out on patrol.”

Regina reached her hand up to Emma’s cheek, rubbing her lipstick from Emma’s mouth with her thumb. She was getting more gaunt. Tiny frown lines marred her beautiful face, pulled downwards at the corners of her mouth. Emma’s shoulders seemed permanently angled down and in, as if trying to shield herself from the rest of the world. Being back in Storybrooke did not agree with Emma.

“Why don’t you come to dinner tomorrow before your shift?” Feeding Emma properly wasn’t much, but it was something.

“I can’t. I promised my mother I’d drop by.” Emma had her own apartment now, but Snow still expected family meals on a regular basis. Those meals made Emma miserable, and that enraged Regina, but she had signed up for being in the background, which meant she didn’t have the right to storm over to Snow’s home and demand that the other woman should treat her daughter with respect and care.

Snow didn’t see how fragile Emma was. Snow bought the façade which Emma presented to the world and didn’t ever see the lost soul behind her own child’s eyes. Snow didn’t see how Emma struggled to accept her family and her titles—princess, daughter, Saviour—and the idea that people might love her without agenda. Emma tried to keep the people who loved her at arm’s length for fear that she would disappoint them so much that they would push her away. Emma would probably never understand that she didn’t have to be anything other than herself for others to love her.

Regina rubbed her thumb across the heated flesh of Emma’s cheek, and put on her best smile.

“Come by for breakfast in the morning and I’ll make you pancakes.”

“With chocolate chips?” Emma’s smile was too hopeful for Regina to resent her for staying away for so long, and she loved her too much to deny her such a simple pleasure, so she nodded.

“With chocolate chips.”

* * * * *

Next up: Part 2 [AA]

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