Thanks for everyone's support through my first stab at writing Swan Queen. I could probably draw out this story for many more chapters, but I want to wrap it up so I can focus on other SQ projects dancing around in my head. Look for more from me in this 'verse! – Eliza
"Here?" Emma's voice strangled out. "As in Storybrooke here?" The other end of the phone was silent. "Regina? Are you in Storybrooke?"
The phone call ended with a barely audible click.
Emma stared at the landline phone incredulously. Had Regina just hung up on her?
She retrieved her cell phone from the upstairs guest bedroom and called Regina's number back, but the call rang unanswered until her voicemail picked up. Emma hung up and tried again, but this time her call was sent directly to a recorded message.
Her thumbs flew across the text keyboard and she sent a flurry of text messages, each imploring Regina to answer her phone. She could feel the cold, clammy sweat in the small of her back as seconds passed, feeling more like hours, without a response. She called another half a dozen times, but Regina still refused to answer. By the time Emma gave up, she was vibrating with anger.
A single text blinked onto her cell phone screen: I'm having a hard time moving on.
Emma's response came without thought: Then don't.
It had been a long day as sheriff of the tiny coastal town, and her conversation with Regina that morning had left her frustrated, melancholy, and without power in the guest bathroom.
The people of Storybrooke were still having a hard time juggling their dual personalities, and glimmers of how conflict had been dealt with in the Enchanted Forest was starting to crack through. She'd spent the day dealing with domestic disturbances and stopping someone who called himself B.B. Loup from demolishing the homes of three brothers.
On top of that, Mary Margaret and David were pressuring her more about helping them find a way back to the Enchanted Forest. Back home, they kept saying.
Mary Margaret had decided that their inaugural Wednesday Family Dinner take place that night at Granny's. Emma had tried to put on a happy face, but conversation had felt forced and uncomfortable. Only Henry appeared at ease with the situation, but he'd always been able to adapt. It would take the three adults a little longer to figure out what their roles should be in each other's lives.
Henry, David, and Mary Margaret sat in a booth, finishing their apple pie, while Emma settled their bill at the front counter with Ruby.
"You look like you need something a little stronger than pie," Ruby noted with a wide, painted grin.
Emma pushed out a long breath. "Is it that obvious?"
"You're looking a little rough around the edges, Sheriff Swan."
Emma self-consciously touched her hair, which felt even more wild and chaotic than usual. "Yeah, it's been a rough couple of weeks."
"Nothing a little alcohol can't fix, I bet." Ruby reached beneath the counter and grabbed a bottle filled with an amber liquid. She poured Emma a glass and shoved it in her direction. "On the house."
Emma grimaced as the fiery liquid hit the back of her throat and burned all the way down. "Thanks for the drink, Ruby."
She was about to collect Henry from her parents and call it a night when she saw a hand slide a slip of paper across the diner counter and stop near her elbow. Emma looked up from the piece of paper and met brown eyes. The woman had dark, close-cropped hair that reminded her of Mary Margaret. Emma didn't know who she was, but she looked at Emma like she should.
"I'm supposed to give you this," the woman said.
"Getting numbers and you don't even have to try," Ruby smirked from across the counter. "Looks like your day just got better."
Emma opened up the slight slip of paper. There were numbers on the paper, but it wasn't a phone number. It was a bill.
"She said you'd know what it was about." The stranger lingered a moment longer.
"Where is she?" Emma demanded. She licked feverishly at lips that had suddenly gone dry.
The messenger nodded in the direction of the side entrance. "Out in the beer garden."
Emma pushed open the heavy side door and was met with a blast of cool night air.
A woman sat by herself on the patio, looking every bit as dangerous and untouchable as Emma knew her to be. Small tea light votives lit up the empty tables and a string of white twinkle lights hung from a pergola, illuminating the dark night sky like tiny stars. The evening was silent save for a random car that drove down Main Street.
It took no more than three strides of Emma's long legs to cross the beer garden and reach the seated woman. Emma shook the piece of paper in her face. "What is this about?"
Regina took a careful sip from the funnel shaped glass. It looked like an apple martini from the slight green tint of the mixture. "I thought that much was obvious, Miss Swan."
"A dry cleaning bill? Really, Regina?"
Regina's tongue flicked out and touched the small scar at the top of her lip. It was an involuntary movement, but Emma couldn't help being drawn to her one visible flaw.
"Emma," Regina gently started. Emma hated the way her traitor knees buckled when Regina said her given name. "I know you're still angry with me—"
"Anger is the least complicated thing I feel for you," Emma cut in. Anger was easy; she could be mad. She knew how to handle that emotion. It was everything else in combination that had her twisted in knots.
Regina frowned and cast her gaze to the table top. Emma could tell that the sharpness of her tone had injured the other woman, and she hated the resulting guilt. How could she still be so attracted and so invested in Regina's well being after everything that they'd been through? She must truly be a masochist.
Emma toyed with the thin slip of paper that was Regina's dry cleaning receipt. "Is this a coincidence? Or have you been carrying this bill around with you on the off-chance that we'd bump into each other?"
"Your mother told me you'd be here tonight."
"My mother?" Emma echoed.
Regina ran an elegant finger around the top of her drink. "I called to let her know I was back in town and that wanted to see you, so she arranged the family dinner tonight at Granny's."
"Does she know—"
"No," Regina cut her off, anticipating the question about their recent intimacy. "She didn't ask questions. She probably assumed I wanted to talk about Henry."
Emma rolled her ankles in her knee-high leather boots. "Why go to all this trouble? You knew where to find me. I'm living in your house after all."
"I wanted to talk to you in public." Regina inclined her head. "When it's just the two of us in private, we don't ever seem to really talk."
Emma released a giant, heaving sigh. "So you're here," she said, "and you want to talk." She sat down in the vacant chair opposite Regina. "So let's talk. Is this a visit? Or are you back? For good?"
"My departure was too hasty," Regina admitted, still not looking up from the drink in front of her. "When I was in New York, I realized I still had loose ends to take care of in Storybrooke."
Emma shook her head. "That's not an answer." She was fed up with these vague responses and half-assed answers, but she tried to keep her frustration contained.
"I know," Regina acknowledged. "But I'm not sure how to answer your question."
She finally looked up from her drink and leveled Emma with a steady gaze. "It all depends on the loose ends."
Regina licked her full lower lip and Emma found her eyes drawn to the movement. Regina had been right. If they wanted to talk, they definitely needed to do so in a public setting. It had been less than a week, but that was already too long not to feel Regina's perfect mouth pressed against hers.
"Loose ends?" Emma tried to shove down her more primal urges. "Like what?"
"Like you." Regina pressed her palms flat against the patio table. "I wondered if you might like to go on a date with me, Sheriff."
"I thought you didn't date," Emma reflexively argued. She knew she was being an idiot. Why couldn't she just say yes?
Regina took another sip of her beverage, appearing unaffected by the stubborn resilience. She carefully set her drink down on the round table. "Let's just say that I've found a reason to rethink how I go about my life." She licked again at her lower lip. "You rescued me from a lot more than the rain that night, Savior. I only think it's fair that I return the favor."
"And what exactly do I need saving from?" Emma stubbornly countered.
Emma hated how collected Regina appeared when her own emotions were so frazzled and unsure. It wasn't fair.
Regina took a deep breath. "I thought that getting away from Storybrooke would give me some perspective. And, it did, in a way. Casting my curse on the Enchanted Forest didn't change my circumstances. It only changed my surroundings. And I thought that if I wasn't surrounded by my past anymore, that I would finally have a chance at a future. But when I was away, I realized something else."
Emma swallowed hard at the lump that had formed in her throat. She found herself hanging on every word tumbling from Regina's lipsticked mouth. "What?"
Regina slowly licked her lips, as though considering her next words. "I'm broken, Emma—damaged goods. And I realized that the only time I really feel put back together is when I'm around you."
Emma released a long breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Is it wrong that all I want to do right now is kiss you?" she blurted without filter. "I know I should be mad at you for leaving and for messing with my dreams and everything else you did when you were the Evil Queen, and I still am mad," she verbally acknowledged, "but why does it feels like everything will be better if I can just kiss you?"
Regina quirked an eyebrow. "Do you want to test out your theory?"
"More than you know." So much for maintaining a poker face; she was all in.
Regina carefully stood from the table, leaving her drink behind. She held out a hand to the seated blonde who cautiously took it and allowed herself to be gently tugged from her chair. Now standing, Emma took a step backwards as she found Regina suddenly in her personable bubble. The dark-haired woman slid her palms up Emma's upper torso until her arms were around Emma's neck, forearms resting lightly on her shoulders.
Emma's hands came to rest on the other woman's hips like they'd been doing this all of their lives. Regina's eyes bore into her own. "Then what are you waiting for, Sheriff?" the dark-haired woman challenged.
Emma cast a furtive glance towards Granny's to see if anyone was looking. They were. She recognized nearly a dozen of the diners. Noses were pressed against the windows of the restaurant: gawking, gaping, wide eyed, and slack jawed. But Regina didn't seem to care.
Emma sucked in a deep breath and returned her attention to Regina. There would be time to worry about the repercussions of a relationship with the former Evil Queen and Mayor later. Right now she had a gorgeous woman to properly kiss.
And a first date to plan.