It was Friday and Emma was swamped with paperwork. Regina had already called her to say she couldn't do lunch, and now Emma was wondering how they'd ever make their date on time. She had never hustled to get work done so much in her life. It was around 1:30 when David came sauntering in.
"What are you doing here? You're not on duty til 5," she asked curiously. She looked down to see an envelope in his hand.
David smiled down at her. "Not any more. I'm here to take over for you now. Mayor's orders." He handed the envelope to a confused Emma.
Emma felt the excitement brewing in her belly. She fumbled with the envelope, finally ripping the tab open. She pulled out a small folded note. She opened it and felt her heart flitter at Regina's handwriting. She read the note silently:
The date I have planned for us requires a few hours of
sunlight. For this I have used my powers as Mayor to
adjust your work schedule accordingly. Simply wear what
you are wearing and meet me at the following address
immediately. I'm waiting for you. 205 Carriage Drive
Regina had insisted on planning the date, which Emma had initially protested. But, as Emma realized was probably going to be the norm, Regina got her way and Emma had no choice but to relent. Now, as she read the note directing her to a mysterious address, Emma was suddenly glad she had. She looked up at David, unable to hide her large excited grin.
David just smirked and nodded his head. "Go on, get out of here." He watched as Emma bolted from the office. He shook his head and sat down in her place.
When Emma arrived at the address she smiled in wonder. She had to follow the dirt road a bit until she came out into a clearing, revealing an enormous horse ranch she didn't even know had been there. She saw two horses and two figures in front of the barn, and hastily parked the bug next to Regina's Mercedes. She stepped out into the warm Maine air, the scent of the farm passing over her. Although foreign to her, it was not unpleasant, and actually was quite peaceful. Emma walked the short dirt driveway to where her love stood waiting for her. She sauntered up, taking in the sight. There Regina stood, tight black riding pants and boots, red vest covering a black tank top, hair pulled back into a neat soft bun. Her hands were gloved, one holding onto the reins of an enormous brown horse. Emma nearly passed out as blood seemed to rush to her head, the sight more beautiful than anything she had ever seen. Next to her stood what appeared to be a stable hand, holding the reins of an equally large white horse with a grey mane. A little bit of fear mixed with the excitement she was feeling. When she met the smoldering eyes of the Queen, regal as ever, her heart skipped a beat.
"Hello," Regina smiled at her.
"Hi," Emma chuckled. "What is this?"
Regina laughed, knowing she had taken Emma out of her comfort zone. "This," she patted her horse's neck, "Is Archimedes. That," she pointed over to the white horse, "Is Socrates. Welcome to our date."
Emma walked over and lifted her hand, allowing Socrates to smell it. "We're going riding?" She saw Regina smiling triumphantly at her, and tried to fight the fear in her. "I've never been riding before."
Regina handed Archimedes' reins to a second attendant and took Emma's hand, leading her towards the barn. "That's alright, dear. I'll teach you everything you need to know."
Regina led Emma into the barn and to a back room where a simple white box with a ribbon around it sat on a cot. "First, you need to change. This is for you," Regina motioned toward the box, a tall pair of brown riding boots sitting besides it.
Emma looked at Regina in surprise. "You got me riding gear?!"
Regina shrugged her shoulders shyly. "It's one of my favorite pastimes. I thought...it's something I could share with you."
Emma's shoulders dropped as she let out an audible sigh. She was so proud and honored that Regina wanted to share her favorite thing with Emma. Emma took Regina by the small of her back and kissed her sweetly. She pulled back and looked into Regina's shining eyes. "I would LOVE that!"
Regina sighed out in relief. "Well then. Better get dressed."
When Emma emerged wearing the riding gear Regina had picked out for her, Regina had never felt so complete in her life. The khaki pants under brown boots were topped by a short sleeved jersey style top with a crew cut neckline, white trimmed with navy blue. Her brown gloves mirrored Regina's, and the long locks were in a loose braid across her right shoulder. Emma raised her arms up and spun as she reached where Regina and the horses were waiting.
Regina just sighed and shook her head. "Perfect. Are you ready?" Regina saw Emma looked a little nervous, tentatively stroking the side of Socrates' mane. She stepped forward and put her hand on Emma's wrist. "It's alright. Do you trust me?"
Emma smiled. "Of course."
It didn't take long for Regina to get Emma comfortable in the saddle, teaching her the basics of how to control a horse. Of course Regina had chosen Socrates for Emma because he was a very disciplined horse, familiar with beginner riders. He was just as patient as Regina, allowing Emma to get comfortable up so high on his back.
Before long they were on their way, just the two of them side by side down the forest trail. Despite her initial worry, Emma found it wasn't as scary as she thought, and before long was able to forget her fear of falling face first into the mud. The rhythmic pace of the horse beneath her coupled with the beautiful scenery and most pleasant company beside her seared into her soul, and before long realized she was having the time of her life. Emma had never seen Regina smile so much as atop that horse, realizing that back in the Enchanted Forest, riding was her only real escape from the horrors of her life.
Regina recounted to Emma her memories of Rocinthe and her riding days back in the Enchanted Forest. It was a rare moment of recounting happy memories, and she found the stories and words came easy with Emma smiling across from her on their horses. The two hours it took to get to their destination flew by in blissful smiles, laughs, and playful banter. And when they reached the end of their journey, Regina eagerly awaited Emma's reaction.
Emma noticed Regina slow her horse slightly so that Emma could go first as they started to emerge from the forest. And as the full scene came into view, she knew why. Emerging from the forest, a beautiful shimmering lake laid out before her, back dropped by the tall green pine trees of Maine. The beach of the lake was smooth sand, tiny white birds spread out the distance, picking to find their dinner. Along the beach stood a regal tent, similar to the one Lancelot had in the Enchanted Forest. Only this one was elaborate, clearly fit for a queen. Emma looked over the lake, sunlight shimmering magically off the surface as Regina pulled Archimedes up next to her.
Without taking her eyes off the lake, Emma gasped, "it's beautiful!"
Regina simply looked at Emma's profile, the woman slack jawed, braided hair, wide sparkling eyes. "Yes it is," she whispered.
Emma looked back to Regina and blushed, realizing she wasn't talking about the lake.
Regina led them over to the tent, where two attendants came to take the reins, helping the women off their horses.
Regina followed Emma up to the tent, which had all four canvas sides pulled back to let the warm summer air flow through. She watched as Emma looked at the spread of fruits, meats and cheeses laid out waiting for them. Regina was on cloud nine.
Emma looked down at the spread of food, imagining this was exactly the way Regina had lived back in the Enchanted Forest. Emma looked around and could tell Regina had gone out of her way to make it seem like that's exactly where they were...and that Emma were the princess she should have been. Even the attendants were dressed as royal servers. Emma looked back questioningly at Regina. She didn't want to seem ungrateful...because this was incredible. But she couldn't help thinking there was a hidden meaning here. "Regina..."
Regina figured Emma would catch on. She jokingly called the Charming "idiots" but she knew they were anything but. She walked up and put her arms around Emma's neck, immediately feeling her love's arms around her waist. "I wanted you to experience what it could have been like. What it should have been like. You're a princess, Emma. I took that away from you. I-not a day goes by that I don't bear the guilt of that. I just wanted-for one small moment-to give that back to you."
Emma melted into the embrace. There was much to be said, but for now, Emma wanted to keep the moment light. She stroked the side of Regina's face as they swayed slightly together. "Thank you. This is perfect." The two women simply smiled at each other, finally Emma planting a soft, sweet kiss on Regina's lips.
Regina sighed, happy she had made Emma happy. "Are you hungry?"
Emma laughed. "Aren't I always?!"