A/N: This is a tale that I wrote and finished (sgtmac7) over on Tumblr. It's ten parts and has been edited and added to in order to provide a more cohesive and full reading experience. This story is complete so new parts will likely be posted every 24-48 hours depending on my overall availability.
This is a Regina/Emma love story, but also one of family, friendship and the pain of putting yourself out there for another try at that things called love.
Though almost every part of her longs to stay curled into this bed with Regina, wrapped around a body that is cold and always in need of the heat she offers, she long ago learned that there are always easy excuses for how to leave before the sun rises; today is no different. It's about fifteen minutes before five in the morning and the sun won't be up for another hour or so and they're both still slick with sweat and her eyes are on the rise and fall of Regina's chest as she pulls air into her lungs, her beautifully olive skin glistening. Emma thinks to herself that she could stay here forever like this – comfortable and sated - and that's all it takes to make her move away.
Yes, there are always easy excuses to escape when the fear sets in and the one for today – the one for this morning - is that she has an early day at the office.
"My boss is a pain in the ass," Emma drawls as she rises from the bed and absently reaches for her tight jeans – the indigo ones that frame her ass in a way she knows Regina appreciates - her eyes locked on Regina's half-covered body the whole time.
Finally, turning away, she starts pulling the jeans up her legs; they've been doing this dance of theirs for too long now for her to even consider trying to wear her panties. They always end up getting damaged in some way by their rather passionate activities so as of late, she has instead she chosen to briefly go commando (she'll be showering in her own apartment soon enough anyhow and gods how she would prefer to grab Regina by the hand and pull her into the bathroom here and ravish her again and again and again). It's not the most comfortable thing in the world considering the tightness of her jeans, but she figures she can deal with it for the time it takes to get from here to her apartment.
"Yes, well, you know by now that your boss just expects you to be on time," Regina answers quietly and it's exactly the response that she'd been expected to give, but there's an odd dullness to her voice that turns Emma around and makes her look the older woman over, her eyebrow lifted and worry creasing her brow deeply.
"Hey, are you okay?" Emma asks, a hand reaching out to cup Regina's cheek, the tips of her fingers dancing against the almost impossible softness of the Queen's olive colored skin. She smiles when she does this, enjoying the touch of the woman she has been spending so much time with as of late perhaps just a bit more than is safe. The voices in her head start chirping at her, and she knows that she needs to retreat and get to a safe distance, but Regina has always been a magnet for her.
Pulling her in and refusing to let her go even when they'd been clashing.
And now that they're not exactly clashing, well, the pull is even stronger.
Regina allows the gentle contact and even sighs for just a moment, but then she's shying away and saying softly as she clutches at the sheets and pulls them up and over her bare breasts (Emma really tries not to think about the feel of Regina's chest against her cheeks and the sound that she makes when her breasts are touched; she's intensely sensitive there and Emma is not one to leave such an opportunity unredeemed), "I'm perfectly fine, dear." It's a brush-off and Emma knows it well, but she's at a loss about what to do to make it better. They've been more or less together for six months now and passionate nights like the one that they'd just spent with each other have become a comfortable routine for them.
Sure, she's entertained the idea of more, but always pushed those thoughts way.
Because the dangers that lurk behind the idea of "more" are the ones that lead to blood on the green grass and glassy frozen forever eyes and someone saying with their last breath, "Find happiness" even as they carry a bit of the possibility of that off to the grave with them. She's been down that road before and can't do it again.
And besides, Regina has always had her easy convenient excuses as well, right?
"Right," Emma nods, dropping her hand away and then sliding a few inches away from Regina and the goddamned sheets that keep falling down and making her want climb back into the bed. "Uh, dinner tonight? I can pick us up some spaghetti."
"I have other plans," Regina answers flatly, her eyes oddly drifting away from Emma and over towards the open window. "I'm afraid that tonight won't work for me."
Emma feels the words like a kick to the gut but tells herself that she's surely overreacting here; she assures herself that this isn't a brush-off and that she's worrying about nothing at all. "Okay. Then, I guess…maybe see you tomorrow?"
"Of course you will see me tomorrow; I am still your boss after all," Regina replies and then absurdly, she pulls the sheets up tighter over her naked body. It looks ridiculous, really like she's trying to hide herself. Like she's trying to protect herself.
Emma moves away again and starts to pull on her red leather jacket (there's a slight tear in the arm of it and she would chuckle at that because Regina has rarely handled her or her jacket particularly gently, but now just doesn't seem the time for such mirth). Once the jacket – her armor - is on, she turns back to Regina, a deep frown marring her pale features. "Are you upset with me about something?"
"It's nothing," Regina dismisses and the sheet dips before being yanked up again.
"I don't even need my lie detector to know that's bullshit. It's clearly something. Because ten minutes ago, you were screaming my name and biting my neck and now you're freezing me out like I did something to piss you off. So…maybe tell me?"
"Leave it alone and go to work, Emma."
"So you are pissed at me."
"Really? So what are your plans for tonight?"
Regina stiffens, her fingers curling into the sheets and Emma is reminded just how much they don't talk when they need to and how often arguments dissolve into heated touches and the feel of a wall against one of their backs. Not to say that she doesn't enjoy when their clothes are being shed and there's just the sound of whimpering and pleading as each of them takes and gives and touches, but every now and again it occurs to her how just how much they almost seemed to have devolved since the sexual part had begun between them. Before the first kiss on the back porch of the mansion after a night which has involved tears and too many fears, there had been cold root beer and hot grilled cheese and conversations that had scratched the line between casual and uncomfortably honest and deep.
Now there's this and while it most certainly feels wonderful physically, even Emma knows that it's become a bit like running and hiding. Like losing themselves in the heat of touches instead of trying to connect where they both want to. But the thing is, it's safe and it's secure and there can't be glassy eyes if this is all that they are.
There can't be "find happiness again" if they are never happiness to each other.
"I don't believe that my plans or lack of plans as the case may or may not be are any of your business," Regina answers shortly, the sheet clutched even tighter.
"So what you're telling me is you've got a hot date?" Emma challenges. It's a low blow because of course she knows better; Regina isn't the kind to date casually or easily and the only reason that she and Emma have been able to keep their affair a secret for as long as they have is because no one would ever believe it possible.
But it is possible, and suddenly Emma doesn't want to leave.
Suddenly Emma wants to crawl out of her clothes again and climb back onto the bed. She wants to push Regina down and kiss her and touch her and whisper into her ear that it doesn't have to always be about coming and going. Sometimes it can be about staying. Sometimes it can be about waking up together and not leaving.
But she's afraid; she's so goddamned afraid because every leap of faith that she has ever taken has ended up in the cemetery and without too many tears on her pillow.
And this is Regina.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Regina answers icily and this feels chillingly like they're suddenly getting thrown all the way back to the beginning of their relationship because there's just uncomfortable weird coldness and hurt between them right now; it hasn't been like this in years and she hasn't seen that freeze in Regina's eyes since the days of Cora Mills and her "kill everything" agenda. But it's there now and its rough armor wrapped tightly around the Queen. Protective and mean. So wrong.
Because Regina isn't that woman now, and Emma isn't the person that she'd been back during her first months in Storybrooke. She thinks that she might have been a lot braver and bolder then, but that's not hard to imagine considering the lovers and friends that she's buried since the night that she'd first set foot in this town.
It doesn't take a lot to lose your bravery, and she'd been dealt more than a lot.
Emma sighs loudly, her frustration apparent. "Whatever. I'm going to go."
"You usually do."
"You never ask me to stay," Emma snaps back, yanking her jacket tighter around her body with more force than is strictly necessary. Her face is bright red now, her jaw clenched with anger and frustration. Rationally, she knows that this is a conversation that they should have had weeks ago, but it feels a bit like an attack at the moment – like she's being blamed for why this suddenly isn't working at all.
"Would you?" Regina challenges, her tone deceptively casual, almost like she's trying to sound disinterested, but can't quite manage it (she's not the Evil Queen anymore and now cold and distant wears like ill-fitting clothes on her). Her slender fingers are gripping the sheets tight enough for Emma to see the whitening of her knuckles. "If I asked you to stay, Emma, tell me, would you actually consider it?"
Her first reply – the first word on her tongue and the one that her heart is practically screaming at her to say because God, she really doesn't want to leave this woman and that's so terrifying that it practically makes her throat close up in panic – is yes.
But then there's that ice cold fear and the doubts and the Lost Girl pulls away…
"That's not the arrangement that we have," Emma says instead.
It's the wrong words, the worst, and Emma knows it immediately by the hurt that streaks across Regina's face before she manages to get her protective mask up.
"We have an arrangement, do we? I see." Regina says then as she nods her head sharply, her pale lipstick free lips setting into a smile that's just a few uncomfortable shades shy of feral. "Well then, tell me, Sheriff Swan, who is paying whom here? Since you're leaving, should I be paying you for the sex or perhaps for the –"
"No, please. Come on. Don't do this," Emma pleads, her eyes suddenly very wide and panicked and a wash of old memories rushing over her – of all of the people she has loved and lost for whatever reason, all the ones she can't ever have back.
"Don't what?" Regina prompts, still so angry. "Force you to face something?"
"Don't put this between us. Please. We've been through too much. We –"
"We apparently haven't been through nearly as much as you – or I – thought. We aren't anything. You are the one who called what we have… an arrangement."
"I don't understand what's happening here," Emma says, looking so desperate and sad and hurt. Why are you suddenly so angry with me? What did I do wrong?"
There's a strange moment, then, where it looks like all of the anger melts away and it looks like Regina might just suddenly surge forward and wrap her arms around –
But it passes when her eyes flicker over Emma and see the clothes she's wearing.
As she prepares to leave again.
"Who said that I was angry?" Regina retorts.
"I know you."
"Not nearly as well as you think you do. Now go, Emma. Just…go."
"What if I want to stay?"
Their eyes meet and she thinks that there's a flash of hope. It fades, though.
It always fades.
"You don't," Regina replies, almost inaudibly.
Emma thinks that this is the moment that she's supposed to make the grand gesture and bridge the sudden gap between them. But then Regina is looking away from her and it seems too far and too hard and all of tombstones are just too much.
So instead, Emma says while swallowing hard, "You know what? When you're done with whatever the hell this tantrum is, Regina, you know where to find me."
"Oh, that won't be necessary. We're done," Regina says, her eyes flickering upwards. As if she's trying to ensure that there can be no doubt as to what she'd meant with her words. "You're free to go now. And do whatever it is…you do."
"You should get into the office, dear; your boss might be willing to let a lot of your more questionable actions go because she has some sort of curious affection for you, but she's no longer willing to overlook your failure to take responsibility."
"More questionable actions. You might it sound like I'm a general fuck-up."
Regina's mouth opens and Emma thinks that she's about to correct that, because her eyes are suddenly wet and the anger is dropping away…but Emma's isn't.
She's hurt and she's scared and the floor is collapsing out from underneath her.
Right," she says then, but then waves her hand in disgust. "It's not worth it."
And just like that, Regina closes all the way back up again. "So you've said to me before. Though that time you were… 'hitting' me in an entirely different way."
Emma just barely stops her mouth from falling open in surprise at Regina's words (such crass colloquialisms are typically far beneath Regina – especially when she's in this cold Mayor Mills sort of modd - but she supposes that when such clearly deep hurt and upset is involved, old rules don't mean as much as they usually do). There's a part of her – most of her – that wants to counter this, but then the anger and frustration are rushing to the surface and she finds herself refusing to be the one who backs down here; she hadn't been the one to have started this fight.
And she hadn't been the one to initiate a break up for seemingly no reason at all.
"I'll pick up Henry from school this afternoon. You can go…piss someone else off."
"You don't care," the Queen announces, her chin lifting defiantly.
"At the moment, no, Regina, I really don't."
Regina doesn't reply to that, just looks at her with eyes that are suddenly dark and unreadable. The sheet is clutched so tight that Emma almost wonders if she's cutting off circulation in some weird way. Of course not, but God, so much fear.
It's written in broad stokes all over the both of them.
It's a once reliable bridge that has suddenly broken right in the middle, stranding both of them on opposite sides without a way to get back over to each other.
Emma tells herself to just let everything out and to just lay it all on the table; she tries to convince herself to let the words she feels surge to the surface and somehow make all of this right. She tries to tell herself to find a way across that bridge and to not just walk away from something that does make her so happy.
But there's Graham and Neal and Hook and so much goddamn blood on the grass.
There's roses over dirt, and goodbyes that just sound like "better luck next time."
Only there is never better luck, and this is Regina.
She can't…that can't be Regina.
Which means it can't ever be a thing. It can't ever be more sex between them.
Which means that she can't stay.
So she lifts her head in defiance and she pretends not to notice the way Regina's head drops and then she turns and walks away, slipping down the dark hallway.
And into a night that only whispers of loneliness and loss to her.