Title: Forged and Unflinching (3)

Pairing: Regina/Emma
Rating: M, TW: Rape mentions.

Disclaimer: These characters are not my creative property

"Knowing how the common-folk condemn what it is I do, to you, to keep you warm
being a woman, being a woman"
~ Joanna Newsom "Only Skin"

Regina wished for her to stay, inexplicably she felt she could shelter this lost woman.

"I- how? I could endanger you If anyone comes for me, and I do not come without heavy burden," Emma's face shone in the light, and Regina felt she knew her heart of sadness.

"Who would look for you in a brothel?" Regina swallowed the lump in her throat, offering a smile, stroking Emma's apple cheek softly.

"It would be suitable? No one would mind, I mean…maybe just for a few days, to rest," Emma wrestled with the concept of hope. She never allowed herself to let it in. This would be no different she was sure.

A dark shadow crossed Regina's face as she thought of her mother. There was no way to smuggle in and hide a woman in the brothel. Emma redressed quickly and retrieved her helmet.

"My mother, the Madame- if she agrees to it- will you stay?" Regina to, was unaccustomed to thinking in terms of hope.

"Yes, I think I would like…to stay with you," Emma slowly stood cradling her stomach, as Regina draped the blanket over their shoulders to stave off the cold as they walked languidly back up the path and through the door.

"Put your helmet back on for a moment," Regina whispered as they approached.

Cora stood at the entrance, hands on her hips a wide coy smile on her lips.

"Did you enjoy yourself, soldier?" Cora raised her eyebrows in an attempt to coax out a gratuity for the Madame.

"Mother, the solider is not as he appears," Regina's eyes turned to the floor, as she addressed Emma, "Go on, take off your helmet."

Emma slowly did as asked, revealing herself. Cora looked more amused than surprised when Emma faced her.

"She seeks refuge," Regina said forward and to the point.

"A blonde, lovely. You'll earn a nice wage. Keep the armor on and many of our gents will pay an extra price for the experience."

"No, she will not work. Not like that," Regina waved her arms and stood in front of Emma to shield her from Cora's gaze.

"And let a woman such as this go to waste?" Cora brushed Regina aside, and circled Emma as she stood. Emma stared straight ahead, only nodding almost imperceptibly to Regina in reassurance.

Cora moved closer, inspecting, "Lift your tunic, dear. Any scars, burn marks, or deformities of the flesh?"

"Don't, Emma," Regina put her hand on Emma's forearm. "Mother, I said she will not be a whore."

"Well, we can't spare a bed for someone who is not an earner," Cora reached forward to touch Emma's chest, and sensed two heartbeats in her body immediately. Cora shot Regina a scathing look, and exited the room without another word.

"Emma go on upstairs, second door on the left. I will finish talking to Cora," Regina directed a hesitant Emma to the stairway.

"Are you sure? My party hasn't left yet, I can go with them?" Emma spoke to reason.

"Please, just go get comfortable. I know you're tired. I'll bring you some dinner," Regina pleaded as Emma nodded and headed quietly up the stairs. Regina strode into Cora's dealing room hell-bent on getting her way, no matter what the price. She could be quite stubborn at times.

Cora was seated at her vanity, taking down her hair. She scowled as Regina entered, "Don't pretend that you didn't know about the baby. Not one, but two mouths to feed? You do realize it costs to keep my stock well fed and groomed."

"She is not a horse, she will stay with me, and I will pay her way," Regina remained adamant.

"No, of course not, dear, I cherish my horses. You wish to keep her as you would a stray cat? Oh, Regina, don't be weak. Don't disappoint mother."

"But mother, she is in need, and I-"Regina cut off, unsure of what she was going to say, except that she was willing to do anything to keep Emma with her.

"Save it dear. I can see you are resolved on this matter. She may stay, but we'll work out the terms of this arrangement. We need someone who can cook, clean, and serve, but she'll have to sleep in the stables."

"She is staying with me, in my room," Regina paced behind Cora. She felt her heart quicken, she couldn't believe Cora was actually agreeing to it.

"Sharing your bed? Where will you be doing your work? Will you charge her? Or will she have you for free?" Cora's lip quirked up in a sick smirk that made Regina's stomach curl. She had no right to question.

"I'll be able to protect her if she's close to me," Regina shrugged helplessly, always feeling like a scared and tiny child in Cora's presence. Cora always had the upper hand.

"Let's not pretend we both don't know what you are. She's just your sort, isn't she? Your penchant for your own kind, though deviant, is the one thing that makes you the best whore in this entire house. You never lose your head around men. You remain unattached, unflinching. You're so good at pretending, Regina; it is second nature. Darling, I know they disgust you, but you're so good at it."

"Don't, I'm warning you…you don't know what it's like," Regina sat on the edge of Cora's bed, feeling deflated and ashamed.

"It may do you good to keep a pet, now that I think about it. Though, don't get excited yet, we still have to a deal to work out. Of course when the child comes, that is out of the question. Nothing drives away clients like the relentless screaming of a needy baby. I shall not allow it. She will not be keeping the bastard. It will be dealt to the Dark One to replenish our supply of male invigoration potion, or left on the sugar crumb step of the Blind Witch in offering. That is not up for discussion."

Regina stood again and paced in outrage. She had bitten her tongue too many times, "would you send a child to the Dark One if it was in my womb, if it was your relation by blood?"

"Oh Regina, you realize you could rut like a hound for all of time, fill your cunt to the brim with the seed of the most virile and potent of men, and you'd never carry a child. You're not destined to be a mother. I wouldn't wish that burden on you, my dear," Cora removed her earrings and stood gracefully turning her back so Regina could help unlace her corset.

Regina faltered, knowing it to be true. She felt the darkness inside her, like an ever present storm cloud festering inside her woman. A dark and nasty curse of her body and she suspected, placed there by her own mother. In that moment, Regina promised herself that she would not let any harm befall Emma's child. She would get them free and keep them safe no matter what.

"Now, your new pet looks hungry. She'll be eating for her and the bastard. How do you expect to provide for and nourish your stray? This is a business," Cora disrobed and donned her nightshirt moving about the room in preparation for bed.

"I'll up my earnings. Have shifts at the docks when the pirates pull into port. I'll take Lady Red's clients when the moon is full, and she is in her condition," Regina wracked her brain for other ways to earn.

"A noble offering dear, but I'm afraid that won't be enough. I have a proposition. You keep your straw-haired dream girl in exchange for signing a binding contract. The terms are clear, but it's not forever. I'm sure at some point, you'll be released."

"You said you wouldn't bring up the contract again," Regina gulped, tears already ready to fall. She knew Cora had agreed too easily to letting Emma stay. She knew that her mother had been waiting for Regina to have a moment of need and then she'd prey on the opportunity. She would not let her mother see her cry. Regina steeled herself and blinked back her tears, "What are the terms?"

"So you'd consider it? After months of refusal, and now for a peasant you just rutted in the grass with?" Cora almost laughed at how easy this was. How absurd.

"What are the terms?" Regina ground out before she lost her nerve, and went running.

"The terms are simple. I'd send another girl, but you have magic, which is what this very wealthy client wants- your particular skills. Once you sign this agreement, you will be the client's personal whore. You will escort him to his events, warm his bed, his body, and keep your mouth shut unless you're on your knees before him. Do you agree to the terms? "

Regina took a deep breath. A tear slid down her cheek as she thought of how Emma felt in her arms and under her touch. She was willing to pay any price if it meant reclaiming that feeling of passion and happiness again.

"Yes, mother I agree. I will serve the king with my body and my magic."