Emma is resting her head on the steering wheel when there's a sharp rap on the driver's side window. She has a sickening feeling before she looks up that she knows exactly who it's going to be.
"Sheriff!" Regina barks as she raps on the window again. The noise is like a hammer to Emma's already aching head. Between getting the crap kicked out of her and crying at Mary Margaret, Emma feels completely wrung out. Even sitting up to roll down the window is agony - for a minute Emma can't breathe as the pain radiates out from her ribs.
"What can I do for you, Madam Mayor?" Emma manages to say, from between gritted teeth.
"Are you..." Regina trails off, bending over to look at Emma more closely. "I came to ask why you're not at your desk. Are you hurt?"
Emma tries to tell herself she doesn't her just the tiniest bit of glee in Regina's voice at the prospect.
"There was an incident last night. I'm... I'm fine," Emma tries to shrug and her shoulder grinds unpleasantly, which stops her halfway.
"Get out of the car, Sheriff," Regina orders, standing up straight again.
"Sure," Emma says, but in the half hour she's been sitting there, her body has cramped up spectacularly. There doesn't seem to be anyway to move that doesn't hurt like, well, like a motherfucker, not to put too fine a point on it. "Actually, do I have to?" She amends, not daring to look up at Regina.
"Oh for God's sake..." Regina sighs, dropping her purse onto the sidewalk and opening the driver's door. "Must I always be surrounded by noble idiots? Why aren't you in a hospital if you're too hurt to move?"
"I didn't realize I was-" Emma starts to explain, but the thought dies mid-sentence when she feels Regina's arm snake across her back. "Uh, what the hell are you doing?"
"Helping you," Regina snaps, and Emma's painfully aware of how close the Mayor is. Regina's breath actually ruffles Emma's hair as she shifts position slightly. "Because I can't have you dying in your car on official time."
"I'm not dying," Emma sighs, although as she tries to move her injured kneecap jolts in a sickening kind of way that makes her think death might be the better option; especially if being helped by Regina is the alternative. "And I can get out of my damn car."
"Let's just do this," Regina commands, and now she's so close that her breath is actually warm against Emma's ear. "Like a bandaid, get it over quickly."
"Fine," it's Emma's turn to snap. "I'm going to lean on you for a second."
And in a reckless move that hurts more than Emma has curse words to express, she forces herself out of the car, although mostly Regina is dragging her by the end. Tears leak out of Emma's eyes, and that isn't helped by looking up to see Mary Margaret being led into the court transport van by the officers, Mr. Gold following behind her.
"The arraignment," Emma gasps.
"You're in no fit state, Sheriff," Regina warns. "And now I'm going to have to miss it to make sure you actually get some first aid."
"You don't have to," Emma counters, not sure she wants Regina prodding at her bruises and asking awkward questions. It's not like Emma can deflect with 'so, your dad was called Henry, too?' because no matter what lies she told last night, she will not believe in some stupid curse.
"Yes," Regina sighs. "I do."
They make it inside the Sheriff's station in shuffling steps (Emma) and impatient strides (Regina). The TLC portion of the morning appears to be over when Regina dumps Emma roughly in the swivel chair at her desk, and neither of them look at or comment on Mary Margaret's now-empty cell.
As Emma relaxes a little, she watches Regina and has to confess to being a little impressed. There's a quiet efficiency about the woman as she pulls the first aid kit from the desk drawer and washes her hands in the sink. Emma knows the damage isn't any more severe than what she's lived through already, and there's nothing anyone can actually do about broken ribs. She can strap herself up later and maybe haul ass to the doctor if drugstore painkillers won't do the trick.
"Where does it hurt?" Regina asks, folding her coat over an unoccupied chair. She's definitely smirking.
"My shins are a little scraped," Emma admits, figuring if she gives Regina something this can all be over with. "But it's mostly bruises. I, uh, fell."
"I'm sure you did," Regina says, pursing her lips. She bends suddenly, to pull off Emma's boots. "I can't administer aid through jeans this tight, Miss Swan."
"Then I'll do it myself," Emma replies. Great, the perfect excuse.
"No," Regina drawls, like she's struggling to be patient with a particularly difficult child. "Off with-"
"My head?" Emma says, without thinking. She isn't imagining that Regina looks stricken for a moment, before regaining her usual bored composure
"Oh dear," Regina sighs. "Has Henry been getting his fairytales mixed up again? How many Queens am I supposed to be, exactly?"
Emma laughs nervously, because it's been a long night and a lot of stuff is cutting too close to the bone right now. She just wants to get out of here-check in with Henry so he knows Mary Margaret is okay(ish)-and then collapse into bed with all the Tylenol she can get her hands on.
"Off with your jeans," Regina finishes her thought this time. "This will go a lot quicker if you just cooperate."
"How do I know you're not just trying to see me naked?" Emma challenges with a shaky laugh, but she reaches for the buttons on her jeans all the same.
"Don't flatter yourself," Regina mutters, but Emma watches just long enough to see the hint of a blush creeping across Regina's cheeks. Interesting. Might be time to have some fun with Madam Uptight.
"You'll have to do the hard work," Emma points out. "My ribs are killing me."
"Fine," Regina agrees, tugging at the denim until Emma's legs are bare, except for her thick black socks. Regina works quickly and in total silence-ripping open the packet and sweeping the stinging cloth over the fresh grazes on Emma's shins without hesitation. Emma hisses through her teeth and toughs it out. It's nearly over.
There's something kind of pleasant about the image of Regina hunkered down in front of Emma. Even though the turtleneck and the long pants and the scarf say 'I am not on display', Emma finds her eyes roving anyway. Regina blows a strand of hair out of her eyes at one point and-oh shit-Emma actually feels her heart skip a beat. Is this really all it takes to develop an inappropriate crush? A little kindness amidst the weeks of hostility? Emma admits there have been a few confusing dreams lately, but this is ridiculous.
"Thank you," she hears herself saying, and there's a softness in her voice that even Emma doesn't expect.
"You're welcome," Regina snaps, surveying Emma's legs for further signs of damage. "Now, let's see about those ribs."
"Honestly, it's fine," Emma protests weakly.
"It's me or the hospital," Regina reminds her. "And you should go there anyway-what about internal bleeding?"
"I'll take my chances with you," Emma says with a shudder, because she's seen emergency rooms more than once, and even the memory of the antiseptic smell and carefully prepared lies makes her break out in a cold sweat. "What's the worst that can happen? You rip my heart out, right?"
"Right," Regina says, with a forced smile. "Something like that. Can you lift your arms?"
"Just about," Emma admits, though she has to grit her teeth to even get them to shoulder height. Regina acts quickly, pulling off the leather jacket and black tank top with practiced ease. In that moment, Emma sees the kind of brisk, no-nonsense Mom side that Regina's been claiming to have all this time. It's weirdly comforting when you're hurting and tired.
"Oh dear," Regina proclaims blandly, staring at the purple skin over Emma's ribs. Emma looks down just enough to get embarrassed about sitting in front of Regina in only her underwear.
"Yeah," Emma says, and she'd shrug if it didn't make her want to scream. "Do you know how to strap me up?"
"I'm familiar with the injury," Regina says, not looking at Emma. "Horse-riding. It's common."
"Right," Emma says, bracing herself as Regina starts unrolling a bandage. "Over to you, nurse."
This particular treatment requires Regina to lean in very close again, and Emma finds herself holding her breath as Regina's fingertips skim over her bruised skin before firmly placing one end of the bandage and wrapping Emma's ribs in record time. It helps, too. Emma feels like she can breathe without cracking anything now, and it makes everything else seem much more manageable.
"Thanks, seriously," Emma says as she leans back carefully.
"We're not done yet," Regina points out, and she reaches for the ibuprofen gel, smearing it liberally over Emma's slightly swollen knee. "How did you get beat up so badly from a fall, hmm?"
"Just clumsy, I guess," Emma tries to duck the question.
"Well, knowing you, whatever you 'fell on' is in even worse shape," Regina muses, and her hand comes to a rest for a moment on Emma's thigh. This time Emma's shiver has nothing to do with pain. "That bravery of yours is going to get you killed some day."
For the first time, Regina says something like that without it sounding like a threat, and Emma has no idea what to do with it.
"Some would say I'm more stupid than brave," Emma mumbles.
"Like I said before: noble idiots," Regina says. "I know the type well. I hope it's not genetic." She realizes then where she left her hand, and stands up quickly, pulling the hand away like Emma's skin is burning her.
"Regina-" Emma starts to say, but she has no idea what comes next.
"I have to go," Regina says, washing her hands again. "There's a town to run, and that doesn't grind to a halt because you have a boo-boo."
"Could you help me dress first?" Emma pleads, because she actually needs the help. But mostly, she's ashamed to note, because she doesn't want this surprisingly nice moment to end.
"Do you have clean clothes somewhere?" Regina asks, tapping her foot in annoyance.
"There's a gym bag over there," Emma nods. "I just did laundry, so my running clothes-"
"Fine," Regina snaps, marching over to grab the bag and pull the clothes out. Emma thinks a zip-up hoody and some nice running pants will be a whole hell of a lot more comfortable.
"I'm taking the day," Emma says when Regina comes back over to help her up. "But I'll be on call if anything really bad happens."
Regina says nothing, opting to pull Emma's top on for her. She zips up the hooded top with slightly trembling hands, and manages to brush Emma's breasts twice in the process. Any other time Emma would have her guard up, would know better than to react. But today, she lets the surprised little moan escape, and Regina just looks startled.
"Sorry," Emma breathes, and Regina turns to retrieve the pants. A moment later though, she turns back with a questioning stare for Emma.
"You're not..." Regina starts to ask.
"Not what?" Emma aims for innocence, and misses.
"Are you... to me?" Regina can't seem to form a sentence at the thought. Emma had assumed Regina discovering her new crush would make Regina cocky, not flustered.
"Is that so horrible?" Emma can't help but ask. "I mean, I'm not some great catch, but you don't need to look like I killed you-"
Regina shuts Emma up with a kiss, swift but indecisive.
"Like that?" Regina asks, still confused. "I mean, that's what you want?"
"Only if you do, too," Emma replies, instead of the ten plausible denials that she should have come up with. "Oh my God... do you? I thought you hated me."
"I do," Regina fires back. "I did. I don't know. I thought I was just worried about Henry. But it's... it's something. You're trouble, Miss Swan."
"Ah, that much I can't deny," Emma concedes. "Always have been. Probably always will be. But so are you."
"What do you mean?"
"I know you're involved with this Mary Margaret thing," Emma accuses. "And I can't let you distract me because you have really soft lips and those really good hands."
And damn, she really hadn't wanted any of that to slip out.
"You're being ridiculous," Regina says, completely unruffled. "If anything, you should be looking at your good friend, Mr. Gold."
"Yeah?" Emma says, aware that she's probably being tricked and still finding it hard to care. Regina is still so close, and she smells unfairly good, and every not-aching part of Emma wants to grab Regina and do her, right there on the desk. Which is a way past a little idle fantasy, and that's kind of a problem.
"Oh screw it," Emma gasps, and when she kisses Regina there's nothing even slightly indecisive about it. Regina yields right away to Emma's tongue, and the way she grabs at Emma's clothing is ever so slightly desperate.
They part, reluctantly, and Regina is the first to reclaim her sanity.
"If you want this-"
"I do," Emma confirms.
"Then we wait until you're satisfied with Miss Blanchard's case. We can't do this if you suspect me. Though what you suspect me of is just beyond me, but still."
"Or we could carry on," Emma suggests, arching one eyebrow. "And call it off if I find any proof that you're involved."
"That sounds pretty stupid," Regina counters.
"We already know I'm stupid," Emma argues. "I only said it five minutes ago."
Regina says nothing for a moment, grabbing Emma's running pants instead. She motions for Emma to step into them, and Emma complies without argument.
"Perhaps you have a point," Regina murmurs, and Emma almost misses it. "Come over tonight, if you're well enough?"
"I will be," Emma promises. "Although I can't promise to bring my A-game, not until my ribs heal."
"I wasn't suggesting we-"
"Yeah, you were," Emma sasses, leaning in to steal another kiss. Regina's definitely going to want to leave now, and Emma has things to do.
"Tonight. After nine," Regina says, scooping up her coat and purse. "Don't be late."
"I won't be," Emma assures her.
"This is probably a terrible idea," Regina reminds her as she sweeps towards the exit.
"All the best ideas usually are," Emma calls after her.