chapter summary: Emma and Regina's secret sexual relationship continues. Meanwhile, cracks are appearing in Graham's cursed identity; Regina does something she regrets. (warning: Character death)
Timeline note: This installment takes place during season 1 episode 8, "Heart is a Lonely Hunter."
Chapter 6: Coming Between Us
Regina threw her arm across her eyes, shuddering and breathing hard. Emma gave a parting caress to her throbbing clit and the bed shifted as she moved off Regina's thighs.
"Hey." Emma's chuckle accompanied her fingers stroking Regina's side.
"Hnng," Regina managed, oversensitized and yet still incredibly aroused by the simple touch.
"Oh, yeah?" Emma's voice held a note of teasing. "Tell me more."
Regina's mouth set in a moue. Since they had dropped the idea their sexual interactions were remotely any sort of "arrangement," the sex had changed in intensity if that were even possible. "You are insatiable."
"And which of us took me over the cliff three times in the department locker room just this afternoon?" Emma nipped Regina's breast, sucking hard as Regina arched into the contact and grabbed fistfuls of blonde hair. The result would almost certainly be a dark purple bruise, but the endorphins flooded her body. Emma released the suction with a pop. "Just keeping the score kinda even." Abruptly Emma was no longer against her.
Uncovering her eyes and finally focusing in the dark room, Regina saw Emma backing off the bed and pulling on her tank top. The woman's skin was dappled by moonlight from the windows; her blonde hair almost glowed like faerie light. It wasn't hard to see the savior Emma was in that moment, and Regina felt her heart thump painfully.
Gruffly she demanded, "Where are you going?"
"I gotta get going."
"But Henry's asleep."
"No. I mean Graham's expecting me to relieve him at midnight. He tried to get me to take the whole overnight shift, but I promised him midnight instead."
"What are you doing with Graham?" Regina demanded and pushed up onto her elbows, watching Emma bending over locating her jeans on the floor.
"Jealous, Regina?" Emma asked, leaning against the doorframe of the closet. "I'm just doing my job."
"Where's Graham going?" Regina demanded to know.
"Out. Hunting maybe? He said he was headed into the woods for a weekend retreat."
Regina fidgeted. Graham hadn't called her, hadn't asked her. She was the mayor; he was the sheriff. Wasn't he under her control? She bit her lip thinking about the backbone the therapist had developed when Henry was recovered from the mine. Was the curse already slipping?
Emma's hand on her forearm interrupted Regina's thoughts. As the blonde eased onto the bed and her body fitted around Regina's, she said, "No worries. Relax, I can handle this sleepy little town on my own for two days."
"But Graham -"
"You're in safe hands without Graham, Regina," Emma said. She brushed aside the light hairs on Regina's neck and pressed her lips behind Regina's ear, humming into the contact.
Regina's eyes fluttered closed, unable to resist the rising arousal that swamped her belly. The woman played her body like a song.
Emma's chuckle in her ear told her she knew it, too. Regina sighed, took Emma's hand from her lap and pulled it to her breast.
"Stay," she breathed.
"I'll see you in the office tomorrow," Emma said instead.
Regina closed her eyes, unwilling to watch as she felt the blonde pull away, and heard her retreating steps around the room, eventually out the door, down the staircase, and out into the night.
She swallowed hard and went to the window overlooking the walk, pulling a robe tightly around her, locating Emma by the moonlight reflecting off her golden hair, reaching the sidewalk out in front of the house. Nervously she rolled her bottom lip between her teeth, clutching her arms around her middle, holding herself together.
Emma fidgeted with the heel of her foot not yet sitting solidly in her boot. Stopping on the walk, she bent over, pulling at the leather until her foot settled properly. With a sigh, she exhaled, glancing down at herself before she started walking to the park where she'd left the Beetle. Her tank was only half tucked and the neckline was askew, showing her bra. She tried a few adjustments, but it wasn't enough. She started to pull off her jacket when she froze in the glow of headlights.
Squinting through the glare, she recognized the patrol car and her heart thumped. She heard the car door open and close and risked a glance up toward Regina's house, hoping the woman had gone to sleep.
"Hey, Graham," she said, trying to keep her voice even, though her heart was pounding hard and making her breath feel a little short.
The Sheriff of Storybrooke stepped in front of the headlamp of his vehicle and put his hands on his hips, thumbs on his utility belt. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Just out," she said. "I told you I'd be in at midnight."
"It's after 11."
"Yeah. I'm on my way."
He looked around and seemed to notice exactly whose house they were in front of. "Regina lives here."
"What business did you have with the mayor?"
"Not business. She's the mother of my kid," Emma explained. "We're... working things out."
"She's warned you away from him before."
"Well, that's changed."
He looked at the house again. "She's dangerous."
"She's your boss," Emma replied, putting her hand on his arm.
"She's still dangerous. You were right when you thought she had her fingers in the department, Emma."
"Well, I'm not reall-" She started to pull away.
"You shouldn't be out here," he said abruptly, interrupting her and grabbing her shoulder. Emma yanked at his hand, trying to dislodge his grip. Her eyes widened.
"Yeah, I know I gotta go to the loft and change for my shift. I'll be at the station at midnight like I promised."
"Emma," he narrowed his eyes and stared at her intensely. "You're...my...deputy. My responsibility." He shook her. Green eyes narrowed.
"I can take care of myself, Graham. Seriously, you gotta trust me if you want me to stay on as deputy."
He shook his head, frowned, and then rubbed the back of his neck. His dark curls bobbed. "Yeah, yeah, what was I thinking?" Then suddenly his head turned to the side. "What's that?"
Emma's gaze jerked to the same spot. "What?"
He looked confused; Emma managed to get his hands off her upper arms.
Abruptly he grabbed her shoulders, pulled her against him and kissed her.
"You should run far away, Emma Swan," he said sharply.
Stunned, Emma could only stare after the Sheriff as he took off running into the woods.
Regina gasped as she watched Graham grab Emma and kiss her. She slapped the window and fisted her hand against it, trying to think and quickly. She was jolted from her thoughts when Graham abruptly jerked away from Emma and ran toward the woods.
Where was he going? What was he doing? What had he said to Emma? "Damn," she muttered under her breath. Quickly she retreated to her room, donned a warm turtleneck and wool pants. She grabbed her coat, keys and phone, and headed for the door.
Emma was no longer on the walk when Regina reached it. The patrol car had been turned off. Regina looked in the direction Graham had run, realizing that way lay the cemetery. Quickly she got into her car and drove there, though she looked alongside the road as she went, hoping to spot him.
She noticed something crashing through the foliage into the cemetery grounds and quickly parked the car. "Graham!" she called out, hurrying forward.
A gray blur, close to the ground, ran through the rows of headstones. She had just jerked her head around to follow it when another motion caught her eye and she turned back to see Graham staggering, appearing almost drunk, his arms waving in front of his face. He shouted incoherently. But then he dropped to his knees before the Mills mausoleum.
Torn between approaching and watching from afar, Regina pressed herself against a nearby tree. He hadn't noticed her yet. From this angle she could see some of his face. His eyes were wild. He kept rubbing at them. "I couldn't, I…" Graham's fists slammed into the ground and he bent forward over his arms, rocking back and forth.
Then he threw his head back and howled. The sound made her jump and cower back deeper into the shadow of the tree. She began to understand that her Huntsman was beginning to remember.
"Graham," she said, loud but with surprise rather than anger. She had to play this very carefully. "What are you doing here?"
He jerked and scrambled to his feet; still unsteady, he nevertheless looked meekly down at the ground, hands rubbing against one another, before he lifted his head and met her gaze. "Re-Madam Mayor," he said. "I was...just patrolling. I...there was a wolf." He cast a glance toward the mausoleum. "I...lost its trail here."
"Was something amiss?" she asked.
"I...haven't checked yet."
"Em-Deputy Swan tells me that you're planning a trip."
His neck colored sharply. "I, yeah, I haven't. I thought a bit of camping. In the woods."
She stepped forward. "You should have told me."
"She's my deputy. It's my department."
"But I'm the mayor, dear." She narrowed her eyes, revealing a little anger. "You work for me."
"I know, I...I didn't...I mean…" His voice trailed off and his eyes dropped to the ground. "Sorry, your majesty. It won't happen again."
Regina blanched, but recovered her aplomb despite her rapidly beating heart. "What did you tell Em-" She shook her head - she couldn't think of the blonde that way right now - and corrected with a demand, "What did you tell Deputy Swan?"
"She's taking over while I'm out. One of the benefits of a deputy."
"But she is only a deputy. Where will you be?"
"I...camping." He seemed to drop his shoulders as she neared, but then thought better of it and squared them instead. "The Sheriff's Department isn't under your thumb anymore. I want it back."
"What back?" Regina watched his eyes narrow and then look toward the mausoleum again. "Have I taken something?"
"Yes, no. No, I…"
"I gave you autonomy for most things, Sheriff. I needed to. But I am still the mayor." She drew a deeper breath before asking again, "You still work for me."
"I need to get away for a while, take a break. I'm feeling…" He looked at her confused. "Nothing. Just. Nothing."
"Maybe you should just go home and go to sleep, Graham." She reached out and touched his arm.
He pulled from her grip. "No!" She frowned. "Leave me alone! I won't. I can stop you."
"Stop me from what, dear?" Regina put both her hands on his forearms, leaned forward, looked up into his face and searched his eyes; she'd known the dull mind behind them for more than thirty years. Now all she saw was roiling turmoil. "What's going on?"
"I...You want revenge. I won't help you take it. No, Snow, Emma...no..." He pulled away from her. "I need to warn her."
Regina watched him flee the cemetery as if the wolf he claimed to have been chasing was now fast on his heels.
The cool stone of the building seeped into her fingers. She blinked. Graham was out of sight. And apparently now out of her control. What could he say to Emma? How far gone was he? What did he see of his previous life? How much would the blonde believe him? She staggered under the number of questions falling on her.
Reaching into her purse, she clutched her phone, wondering if she should try to call Emma. If the blonde was on patrol because she thought Graham leaving on his 'camping trip,' she might be out of reach by him for a while. But if he got back to the station, he could use the radio system for the department to reach her. She wavered.
She could have almost considered his distress that of a jilted lover. But he had also mentioned Snow and not letting Regina take revenge. That suggested that the curse was crumbling. Regina opened the vault. Now, she knew what he was attempting to find, even if he couldn't articulate it beyond feeling "nothing" and "empty."
His heart. She'd spoken the truth to him, though obliquely. She had taken his heart from her desk in the office years before and given up constant control of it, instead storing it away with her other captured hearts in the vault. She had wanted to know that his visits to her were of his choice. And they had been.
She needed him not to find Emma, not to tell her what he was beginning to know. She needed him not to awaken to the knowledge of who he truly was.
Regina hurried down the stairs under her father's crypt. If the curse was breaking, perhaps somehow his dysphoria was a symptom. She needed to check everything. The dust was thick down here. She coughed and covered her eyes as she pushed through a cobweb.
The magic of the space thrummed almost hypnotically in her ears as she neared the wall. She went to the creche and tapped its cover, withdrawing the small carved box.
Inside the heart glowed with its ethereal connection to this world and the other, and to the body it had once known: The Huntsman. It throbbed in her fist as she lifted it.
She hesitated at the weight of it, glancing upward. What am I doing? a part of her begged herself. She was preparing to snuff out yet another life.
If Emma ever believed in the Evil Queen, Regina would lose. She couldn't lose. What would she lose?
In her mind's eye, Regina saw the soft green eyes of the Savior, smiling at her, their bodies entwined, slick with sweat. She sighed. Emma touched her; her breath caught in her throat.
"Emma," she whispered.
The woman in her mind wrapped herself around Regina and tears slipped onto Regina's cheeks. "I'm here."
She fisted her hand into dream Emma's chest. "I need you," she murmured.
The heart in her fist turned to ash. Regina sank to the floor of the crypt and cried. "Oh, god, what have I done?"
Emma was just putting on the badge from her desk drawer when the station doors slammed open. "What the-?" She turned to see Graham stumbling into the room. He looked around, wild-eyed and his gaze intersected hers.
"Emma!" he gasped. "Run!"
"From what?" Emma darted forward and met him as he stumbled to his knees.
"Snow. Teacher. Protect you. Queen." He slammed face first into the parquet. Emma grabbed his shoulders and rolled him over onto his back.
"Graham! Fuck!" Emma looked at his glazed over eyes, pounded on his chest, and watched his body jerk.
She felt for a pulse in his throat, finding nothing. "What the hell?!" She flipped open her phone and dialed the hospital. "Send an ambulance to the sheriff's office! Now!" she shouted into the phone.
Not bothering to close the call, Emma started chest compressions and rescue breathing. Graham didn't show any signs of recovery, but she worked on him until the ambulance team pushed her aside and lifted him onto the gurney. Jumping into the patrol car, she raced the ambulance to the hospital.
Dr Whale pronounced Sheriff Graham Humbert dead at 2:34 a.m.
At 2:35 a.m., Emma called Regina. "Madam Mayor, the Sheriff is dead."
Emma looked at herself in the mirror and self-consciously picked at the knotted laces around her wrist. She shouldn't have, she kept telling herself. It wasn't right. But she'd been given Graham's clothes at the hospital, and almost mechanically, absently, she'd stripped out the laces from his boots and fashioned them into a band on her wrist.
He'd have been proud of her though; she didn't cry until she was in her car. She took care of signing his body over to the medical examiner, requesting a thorough autopsy. Why would a man in the prime years of his life, by all signs in peak physical condition, simply drop dead of what Dr Whale had termed a cardiac arrest?
Mary Margaret hadn't been home when Emma returned to the loft. She'd raided the schoolteacher's closet for a black dress. She'd thought about wearing the uniform. The one she'd told Graham he didn't have to make her wear. Somehow it would be poetic; but she wasn't in a mind to be poetic. It hurt, goddamn it. And she wanted to be raw and real, not fancy or zen. Mary Margaret had told her Graham was in a better place and Emma should be happy. Fuck that.
She got out of the car at the cemetery; Graham hadn't been of any faith anyone knew about, so Regina had arranged a graveside gathering, giving the city employees the day off. Emma was determined to say a few words. She hadn't seen Graham with many friends, just acquaintances.
Archie was there with Pongo. The Dalmatian was one of the sheriff office's semi-regular calls. "He came back last night," Archie said. "On his own. I should've known something was wrong."
Emma put a hand on the psychiatrist's shoulder and stood next to him, looking from the simple casket to the gaping hole in the ground. Looking quickly away, she scanned down the assembly of mourners. Mary Margaret stood with Ashley and her baby, David Nolan with his wife, Kathryn. Regina stood at the end, separated from the rest.
Her eyes were down, and she held Henry tightly by the hand. Emma frowned when he said something, a scowl on his face and pulled away from her. Regina's head came up to follow her son leaving her side. But she didn't move after him, her face a study of agonized and pinched pain, from eyes red-rimmed and cheeks washed of color, no matter the makeup she had applied to apparently cover it.
Henry didn't come to Emma's side. Instead, he pushed past even her to hug Pongo at Archie's feet. Dr Hopper rubbed Henry's shoulder. Emma's gaze locked with Regina's.
"Storybrooke owes a debt of gratitude to her servant," Regina said. "Sheriff Graham Humbert served everyone with a deep affection for all."
Emma quirked her lips to convey to Regina she thought the words had been nice. Regina swallowed and dipped her head again.
"They call police officers peace officers in many places," Emma said. Regina's gaze snapped back up to hers. "Graham was definitely a man of peace."
Regina's throat moved spasmodically again and it was easy to tell she was holding back tears; Emma was, too.
"May he rest in peace," Regina said, looking back down at the casket now lowered into the gravesite. She picked up a handful of dirt from the mound. Emma stepped forward and did the same. "Deputy Swan?"
Emma shook her head. "Emma," she said, meaningfully dropping her handful of earth into the hole. Regina nodded and dropped hers.
Emma turned where she stood now next to Regina. She saw Henry staring at them. Well, more accurately, glaring at them. He took the shovel from Archie and scooped a shovelful of the dirt into the hole. When he looked up, he went to Mary Margaret and gave her the shovel, sending another glare toward Regina.
Regina looked away from the gravesite, took the shovel from Brian and shoveled a large heap of dirt into the hole. She looked several times about to say something, only to bite her lip and say nothing. Emma put one hand on her back and reached around, grabbing the shovel.
Before speaking, Emma tossed two shovels full of dirt into the grave. She handed the shovel off and guided Regina away.
"Hey," she said, once they were sufficiently separated from the others.
"I should stay," Regina said. "Graham had no family."
"You were just his boss, Regina. It's all right. You've done enough for him."
Regina looked back. "He was a good man."
"Yeah." Emma walked away from the site; her motion dragging Regina along with her, since she'd rightly guessed the brunette didn't want to be alone. "I started the process to get an official autopsy," she said quietly.
"I thought Whale said-"
"Cardiac arrest, yeah. But Graham was in great shape. Yeah, when he got to the station, he'd obviously been running hard."
"He got to the station?"
"What did he say?"
"He was kinda raving. Nothing really made any sense," Emma said. "I'd seen him earlier, after I left your place. He'd been upset at me then, and got distracted, but this was something else. Maybe he picked up something in the woods when he was running through them."
"You think he was feverish?"
"Lots of strange stuff out there," Emma said. "Anyway, I've got the medical examiner looking into toxicology."
Regina's brow furrowed. "What do you think he'll find?"
"Answers," Emma said, glancing back over her shoulder at the now covered gravesite.