Chapter 12

Emma chatted as she magically pressed an apple into juice, dripping it right into Regina's waiting mouth. There were easier ways to do this, but they lacked the flair and the drama that she knew would make Regina smile. The juice dripped slowly into the open mouth until there were only the dregs of the apple. She told Regina pointless things. Like how the first time she saw her in that drive way she had a feeling her life had been knocked on its ass. She told her about the exercise in mortification at the town hall meeting during the whole playground debacle. And about the way she usually took just a little longer at Granny's when Regina picked up her to go coffee. Of her mishaps with ogres when they had first arrived. And how she missed coffee and popcorn. Things like that.

She told her about the winter coming to an early spring, about Henry and his lessons and how the kid was a natural at everything. She demonstrated her progress in what she called confetti magic: the flowers that materialised in Regina's hands, and the chocolates that Regina still wouldn't eat. And that Emma promptly stuffed into her mouth to prove they were edible. She levitated small objects that performed puppetry shows while Emma made squeaky voices that only occasionally mimicked the films she stole her stories from.

All it took was time. Didn't really matter if it would be soon or eventually.

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There had never been a time where Regina had felt cared for or cherished. This took some getting used to, this not being at odds with every single thing, especially with herself, the constant struggle between who her heart wanted to be and who she needed to be to survive. It took a while to stop clutching at the straws of happiness, to stop digging her nails in any hint of happiness, even if it was the small pleasure of making someone squirm in their skin as much as she squirmed in hers. It had been a lifelong winter without a single Christmas. There had been no words of comfort or encouragement. There had been only time. But Emma? Emma's heart was a place where their differences were engaged and lived with, redemption and honesty, possibility and hope. It was so unlike all others she knew, where in order to be loved you had to be something else. That was domination. In Emma's heart there was only absolution.

It felt ridiculously good.

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Emma had not gone back to sleeping in her room. She liked turning on her side and just make sure everything was still okay. She liked reaching out and having a body there she could pull into hers and snuggle because the mornings were cold. And she liked how Regina would, sometimes, in the middle of the night, just call her name softly and be soothed by the I'm here. "I just wanted to be sure." was always the answer.

And then in the mornings they would go through their grooming and feeding routine. Together. Which was new for both of them. And it felt kind of strange at first and then like something to be looked forward to. They were moving ass backwards on this, Emma thought. But maybe it was not such a bad thing after all.

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Emma was juggling apples from the basket that Henry brought every morning. She did that because while she could claim that it exercised her magic and helped her improve control- which was true – it never failed to entertain Regina. There was always the possibility of things going wrong (which they did): there were other objects that joined the moving apples or apples that shot off course and hit the darnest things like window panes (that shattered in remarkably small shards) or candles that set small rugs on fire. It was value for money entertainment.

Emma had five apples in the air, lining each of them in a straight little row, then dancing little circles. And then Regina leaned into Emma's shoulder, ostensively to steady her hands. She knew what effect she would cause in Emma. She had practiced it again and again. And maybe it was perverse. Maybe it was her evil side, but she liked knowing that Emma was not immune. She liked knowing that she was not alone.

Emma lost control of her apples. Instead of dropping them on the floor, they simply went awry, spinning faster and faster and faster with Emma's heart beat.

Regina could tell the effect of her touch on Emma. It was there, black in white- or apple darting through the air and smashing against a wall. It was a good thing they were in bed (how had she allowed this habit?) because her legs were shaking and there was heat that began at the pit of her stomach and pooled lower and lower. "Emma." Her heart was beating in her throat, in her ears. In her sex. Emma must have heard the need, because the already erratic heartbeat shot and all the apples simply flew into walls dropping with magnified thumps.

"Gina, I…"

Regina wanted to ask to be touched, but the not asking, well, that was a habit of a lifetime, difficult to break. She took Emma's hand pulled it to her face, a very silent please. It didn't matter how much she wanted to voice it, it just didn't come. But Emma knew her. By heart. On her side, she simply took Regina's mouth. The lips, the tongue, the teeth. Emma kissed her fiercely with everything and in everything she could find. As if she had been waiting for this for so very long.

Regina tilted her body sideways towards Emma, just slightly, but that was her- opening herself up. And this was what Emma as so good at doing, she took hints. She read people and she didn't need it spelt out to her. Emma slid into that open body and she fit it in it. Regina's leg draped over Emma's hip, cradling her, inviting her.

Emma had only to look up. Regina's mouth was right there, lips parted, anxious. Their mouths met, open and greedy, first just the lips, then the tongues, enthusiastically. Regina's hands cradled Emma's head effectively not leaving Emma space to break the kiss. She wanted this. She was desperate for Emma's touch anticipating how it would feel to be taken, to take, to let herself belong and be happy. Emma relented in her determination.

"Gina… the…" And Emma put her hand on Regina's convalescing chest. "I'm afraid of hurting you."
"Emma… I need to feel you." And that was one of the most difficult things to say, that asking for what she needed. And then it was not.
Emma rolled onto Regina, supporting her weight on her hands, her body reacting to Regina's plea, hips jutting forward, nipples hardening, skin heating, breath catching.

A flick of Regina's wrist and her clothes vanished, leaving her bare, skin against Regina's white sleeping shift.

Supporting herself on her elbows, Emma indulged her body in the proximity of Regina's. She slid up for another kiss, dragging her heated skin against the white cloth of the loose shift, cradled between Regina's thighs. In that moment she knew there would be no stopping this. She knew exactly what she wanted to do: she wanted to remove the shift and kiss her way down Regina's body and then just gorge on what she was sure was Regina's honey like taste. Maybe salt water taffy. No one guards herself so much if she is not worth it. She just had to pace herself. Somewhere in her own sex there was a pull forward, a pull to seek out contact and touch, skin on skin. That pull was intense and distracting to the point of pain.

It was the determination to do this right that allowed her to not touch herself, not to bring herself relief- the determination to get to know Regina like that, to see for herself how Regina reacted, what she liked, how low she would growl, how high her pitch would be when she screamed out her name. Because she would.

Regina took Emma's hand in hers and brought it to her breast, not much persuasion needed, to get Emma to knead it, to rub her palm over the erect nipple, to suck it through the white cloth. It left a wet, transparent spot that revealed the nub underneath, making Emma's body react that much harder.

Emma leaned on her elbow and used her free hand to pull at the laces on the front of the shift, opening it reverently . The laces gave way, white against golden skin and Emma took the already wet nipple between gentle teeth, sucking it into her mouth, teasing a moan out of Regina that was something between pleasure and pain.

Regina's fingers were on Emma's hair, holding on, just holding on. Always a surprise, Emma. Everything with Emma. She could not quite remember ever feeling such a need, so unlike her, because she did not let herself need. When sex is power, you don't need, you command. But with Emma, she had surrendered at the very first touch.

How strange.

Regina opened her eyes and looked down, Emma's golden head on her breast, a hand under her back pushing her up into her mouth. And then the pressure on her back eased and Emma pushed onto her knees. She sat there, admiring her mouth's work, Regina's breasts pert from the attention, free in morning sun, glistening with Emma's saliva. Regina felt sexy and wanton. Which was another first. She knew, from a very young age she was desirable. She used it. Invested in it. But she had never reflected on her own want, on her own desire or pleasure. But then Emma pulled her to her body and slowly pushed the shift down her shoulders, exposing the grey webbing left by the poison.

Emma sucked in a lungful of air. It amazed her how far they had come, how bad it had been. How close of a call it had been. She couldn't stop looking, studying it, what it meant: the loss and the choice.

But Regina only saw the wide eyed stare and when she looked down at herself, she saw the same thing Emma must have seen: an ugly mark, the poison that ran under her skin. The toad poison that would break Emma's mouth again.

She pulled the shift up and closed it around her shoulders, her heart breaking.

"Emma, you don't have to…"

"I almost…"

Regina's fingers tightened around the shift, she hugged herself closed out of Emma's voice and half confession of regret.

"I almost lost you, didn't I?"

Always the surprise, Emma. Often, painfully good surprises. Patiently, Emma took Regina's fingers in her hand, releasing the shift, kissing each of her knuckles, her tenderness unclenching them. "I was so scared, because I had no clue what I was doing, only that it was not an option, you know?" She pushed the shift down again, kissed Regina's bare shoulders. "All I knew was that I should have learnt more." She punctuated each of her sentences with kisses down Regina's body. "Should have asked more." She kissed the dip of Regina's neck, her breast bone. "Paid more attention." And reached the marked skin, still tender, still redder than the rest of Regina's body. "That I should have killed that bitch on the spot."

Regina recoiled at the feel of Emma's lips on that skin. It was a weakness and she did not reveal her weaknesses. She was ashamed of it. But Emma kissed every inch of it and her fingers traced every single line. "It proves something. It proves something to me. And you are beautiful. Even more so now." Emma's mouth descended slowly with each kiss and her chin settled on Regina's public bone, the pressure doing unspeakable things to Regina. She was beautiful to Emma. She was beautiful.

Emma's chin rubbed over the pubic bone, short lazy circles waiting for Regina's signal. Regina's hands unclenched and her hips jutted up, seeking more contact, more pressure, more friction. It was all that Emma needed. Her tongue traced a wet trail down Regina's labia, sweet and salty and soft and then stopped at her clit, devoting to it all her attention, everything around them gone, pressing, rubbing the flat of her tongue on it, suckling, biting, kissing, teasing the first mewling release out of Regina.

Regina grabbed Emma's hand, holding on for dear life, a tether to reality.

"Emma…"

"I'm here. I'm right here." Emma squeezed Regina's fingers, kissing their tips.

"I just wanted to be sure…"

Emma's reply was to push herself up, climb up Regina's heated body and press a kiss, a demanding kiss that was all openness, invading tongue, reassurance.

Regina's legs closed around Emma's hips, an instinct reaction, surprising in its strength especially because Regina was quite sure that her legs would not sustain her.

"Gina…" Emma pleaded because she was not quite finished, she was not done sampling Regina's body, she was not done smelling and touching and tasting; she wanted to taste more and more of Regina's pleasure and she wanted to do more and the way Regina's body was pressed against hers, the way her clit was pressed against Regina's, well, there was not going to be much time for anything else, was there, not with the way her body was doing things without her permission, like that rocking motion, that was just bringing her closer and closer, her breath hitching and catching. She opened her eyes and Regina's face was just the most beautiful thing she had had ever seen, her eyes wide open, her lips parted, her gaze intent on Emma.

Emma opened Regina further to her, pushing her thigh up with her arm and shoulder. Regina raised her head from the pillow to claim a kiss and the way her lower body contracted to achieve that increased the pressure against Emma.

It was unstoppable. Emma's core simple spasmmed and exploded outwards, wetness flooding out of her, as they kissed.

Regina came as a consequence: of the kiss, of the wetness flowing out of Emma into her. Of the way Emma released her name with the longest aaaahhh at the end of it, almost a sob.

Emma sunk her face into the crook of Regina's neck, supporting her weight on her arms. The tenderness of the gesture did not escape Regina, even in her blissful state. My Emma.

There were things waiting to be said. Things as insistent as that orgasm had been. Things she did not know how to voice, because words, they just betray you. The most important things are the most difficult to say.

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Always mindful of that fragility, Emma rolled onto her back bringing Regina with her, cradling her in her arms. She dotted soft kisses on the sweaty temple and smoothed the damp dark hair down Regina's back. She loved the smell in the air, of sweat and of sex and apples smashed against the walls and floor.

"Sleep now, Regina."

"I've been sleeping too long, lately." Truth was, she didn't want to sleep. She didn't want to miss a single second.

"We have time. Sleep. I'll take care of you."

Regina's eyes watered. Yes, she knew that Emma would take care of her. She believed that with all her heart.

It was just that… well, with the family away, now that Emma was safe, how much more time would they have?

Emma's fingers ran down the sweaty length of her hair, down her damp skin and pulled the covers over their joint bodies. Sleep claimed her almost instantly.

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Emma woke up and spared a glance at Regina's sleeping form. Damn, she could wake up like this every morning from now on. There was in fact, no need to wake up any other way. There was no flight instinct, no need to hit the floor running. There was a quietness of the heart, as if it belonged here. It was the strangest thing.

She put on her clothes and made her way to the kitchens because she wanted to get breakfast. She wanted to make breakfast for Regina. Hell, she wanted to raise her own chickens and milk her own cows and bake her own bread just so that she could feed her. She wanted to bring her breakfast in bed, not like to a sick person, but like a lover does, flowers and the newspaper, coffee and chocolate cake for breakfast.

She had to settle for scrambled eggs (no way that omelet was coming out of the pan in one piece) and no, there was no newspaper (no Enchanted Forest Daily was delivered to the steps of the castle) and coffee was nothing but a vague memory. Still, she packed a tray with juice and fruit and warm buttered bread and, of course, flowers from the garden.

On her way up, she considered waking up Henry just so that she could bring Regina a family for breakfast as well, but she reconsidered. She was playing good cards and she might well get lucky again and she felt just selfish enough to want that.

As she moved through the corridor, she vaguely sang a shapeless tune, just because she was happy. Just because this could well be her happily ever after. She was at the epicenter of the concept, might as well believe she could have one. Even if the thought had never occurred to her before.

When she opened the door to the chamber, the curtains were still closed but the bed was empty, the covers pulled up, covering someone that was not there. She held on to the tray, knuckles turning white and for some silly reason, she could not put it down. As if, by holding on to it she could still be holding on to what she had left in that bed when she had gone down for breakfast.

But the bathing chamber was empty, as was the closet. She went across the hall to check her room, in all the same places and there was just empty space. And she could try to not believe it. She tired her hardest. But when Snow and James appeared at the end of the corridor, hand in hand with commiseration in their features, she could no longer believe. She closed the door to their chamber and slid to the floor.

The tray was still firmly in her hands.