Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time.
A/N: Hi all. So I wrote this a little while ago but chose not to post it after reading SgtMac's Beautiful because a) I was worried it might read a little too similarly and b) I didn't really want to follow that awesome piece of writing with a similar idea executed not as well. But here I am anyway, mainly because I didn't want to waste so many words. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Constructive criticism welcome.
By the time she climbs into bed at just past midnight, Emma Swan is exhausted. Fighting Cora and Cook, travelling between worlds, and then the party at Granny's that should have finished three hours earlier in her opinion – it all strikes her at once and she feels a bone-deep weariness that makes her limbs feel like cement beneath the covers.
It's with some annoyance, then, that she blindly fumbles around on her bedside table for her phone as the vibrating sound breaks the night silence. Picking it up, she squints against the brightness of the name illuminated on the screen. It's Regina.
The only time Regina calls her phone is for official town business or when something has gone horribly wrong, so curiously with more than a little worry, she hits the accept button.
"Regina?" she asks, her voice gravelly and tired as she sits up in her bed.
The voice that answers doesn't sound like Regina at all. It trembles slightly, in fear she would say if she didn't know Regina better, but most of all it sounds small.
"I need your help," Regina says, and immediately Emma sits up straighter and throws her covers off her legs. "Please," she adds, and though it's close to a whisper the word seems to puncture the air around her.
"What's going on?" Emma asks, even though she's already pulling on a pair of jeans over her underwear, her phone wedged between her shoulder and ear.
"Just get over here," Regina says abruptly before the dial tone sounds in her ear.
As she hangs up and slips her phone into the back pocket of her jeans, it strikes her as odd how readily she will go to Regina's aid, no explanation required. It's been a source of guilt for her a few times before, when despite everything Regina has done to her mother and father, the friends she has come to make in Storybrooke like Ruby and Archie, she can't bring herself to feel any of the hate or contempt for the woman like she is expected to. There's friction there of course, and a bitterness she feels directed towards her whenever Henry is around, but there's also some measure of understanding between them as well. She can't quite pinpoint the origin of it – what common ground she could possibly have with an ex-Evil Queen from a fairy tale land is beyond her – but it's there all the same, in unexpected moments when she sees something in Regina's eyes and thinks she might, at one time or another, have seen it in her own.
Grabbing her keys, she slips from her bedroom and tiptoes to the front door, careful not to wake Henry as he sleeps restfully on the couch. It had surprised her, earlier that day as she climbed from the well with Snow, how quickly Henry had become central to her life. The second she had felt him in her arms it was like she could breathe again, like something heavy had physically been lifted off her chest and an intense relief and thankfulness had settled there instead.
It was the first time she didn't just think of him as Henry or her kid; in that moment he was her son and she had truly felt like his mother. The feeling had diminished significantly on seeing the thinly veiled devastation on Regina's face, but the warmth she had felt as he wrapped himself tightly around her waist still sits comfortably inside her.
Worry sits there now too as she quietly opens the door and slips outside. If there is one thing she knows about Regina, it's that asking for help comes about as naturally to the woman as motherhood had come to her, which is to say, not really at all. Quickly making her way to her patrol car, she gets in and pulls away from the kerb wondering why she, of all people, is the one Regina would choose to call for help.
It takes less than five minutes to reach Regina's mansion and when she does it looks as if every single light in the house has been switched on. Her brow creases as she turns off the ignition and hurriedly makes her way to the front door.
Before she even finishes raising her hand to the doorbell, the door is opening to reveal a pale and dishevelled Regina. Her hair is unkempt as if she's been running her hands through it all night, and the sleeves of her white shirt have been pushed up to bunch messily at her elbows. There's a faint sheen of sweat at her hairline too, and Emma thinks this is one of the very few times she has ever seen Regina look anything less than perfectly put together.
"What's going on?" Emma asks as Regina fidgets at the collar of her blouse and pulls it away from her neck.
Regina just opens the door further and beckons her inside, her movements stilted and restless. Emma steps inside cautiously and follows her to the room off the foyer. The first thing she notices is a glass of ice on the coffee table and an open bottle of gin beside it. The next is something even more unusual, an odd sensation that tingles briefly on her skin before settling there lightly like a faint sprinkling of rain. She dismisses it when she hears a shuddering intake of breath and Regina turns to her sharply.
"I need you to get rid of it," she says, her voice breathless and erratic, fists clenching at her sides.
"Get rid of what?" Emma asks, taking a small step towards the shaking woman in front of her.
"This," Regina exclaims, holding her hands out to Emma as if there's something there to see besides fingers and skin. Emma glances down in confusion and raises her eyebrow for more of an explanation.
"Magic," Regina continues in frustration as she wrings her hands together and begins to pace across the small room. "Magic that I can't get rid of so I need you to do it for me."
"Why do you have magic? I thought you weren't –"
"I'm not!" Regina says sharply, stopping her pacing to pin Emma with a harsh glare. "I'm not," she repeats quieter, dropping her eyes to the floor. "To get you back safely I had to absorb a lot of magic – dark magic – and now it's in me and I can't get it out."
Emma pauses, feels a brief pang of guilt at the thought that she is at least partially responsible for the state Regina's in and watches as Regina runs her hands through her hair in agitation. She undoes the top button of her shirt to reveal the flushed skin of her chest, and against the pallor of her face it almost makes her look sick.
"What makes you think I can get rid of it?" Emma asks, dipping her head to try and catch Regina's gaze. She can't though, not when the woman's eyes are flickering around the room, not settling anywhere for more than a second.
Emma has never seen her like this. She's seen her frightened, of course; when Henry was trapped down the mine, or in the second the wraith was flying towards her before she had pushed her from its path. But never like this, never – out of control.
"Because you made my magic work once; you touched me and it gave me magic. Now you have to take it away."
Regina's eyes are glued to her now and so many words flicker through her mind to describe the way she is being looked at. Expectantly, hopefully.
She can't look away. Her mouth opens to say something but nothing comes out. She wants to though, and she's surprised at how badly she wishes she could help her.
"I have no idea how that happened, Regina," she says, the sound of an apology in her voice. "I can't control it. I don't even know if I have anything to control."
"Yes, you do," Regina says, vehemently, shortening the distance between them and holding her hands out palm up. "I felt it. When you touched me I felt it pour into me from you."
Emma looks down. Regina's hands are trembling. They reach out to her momentarily before pausing in the air. Regina takes another step forward, leaving them close enough to touch.
"Please," she says quietly. "Just try."
Regina reaches down and takes Emma's hands from her sides, pulling them together between them. Emma finds herself holding on tightly, if only to still the shaking of the hands clasped in her own. From this close she can see how dilated Regina's pupils are even in the bright light of the room, can hear the jaggedness of her breathing as her chest rises and falls in broken patterns.
She feels clueless, like a child asked to read when they haven't even learnt the alphabet yet. She doesn't even know if it's possible to do what Regina is asking, let alone if she's capable of it at all.
"I don't know how," Emma replies softly. Regina's head falls slightly, eyes closing as her lips purse and her brow creases in concentration.
"Just focus," Regina says, taking a smaller step towards her, close enough that Emma can feel the heat of her body. "Imagine pulling the magic from my hands."
She still isn't convinced, and even though she feels ridiculous doing it she centres her gaze on Regina's hands and imagines tendrils of magic travelling towards her own fingers. She stares hard, willing the magic to somehow flow into her, but moments of silence stretch on and defeated she drops their hands and steps back. Her hands feel cold.
"I can't do it," she says, her stomach dropping as Regina turns away and goes to refill her glass with gin. She tips it back and the clang of glass against glass as she places it back down to the table empty makes Emma flinch.
"Not that I know anything about this, but are magic and alcohol a good mix?"
It isn't a very good attempt at levity since it's very much a valid concern, but Regina scoffs anyway. The sound is harsh, though, and her voice is dull as she answers.
"I'm muting it," she says, dropping to the armchair and resting her elbows on her legs as she rubs at her temples. Emma doesn't ask for more explanation; judging by the intense frown on her face and the barely noticeable way she rocks in her seat, 'muting' it isn't working anyway.
"There isn't another way to get rid of it?" Emma asks, taking a seat on the lounge opposite to Regina.
Regina doesn't look up to answer. "I could use it," she says, quiet enough that Emma has to strain to hear it. She thinks she hears longing and regret in the words, too, but doesn't try to analyse why.
Before she can reply, Regina's voice sounds loudly in the room.
"God, it would be so easy to just…"
And then she's shaking her head in her hands and Emma can faintly hear her whispering the same word beneath her breath over and over again.
Like she's grounding herself with his name. Emma can't tell if that's working either.
"I need to see him," Regina says abruptly, standing from her seat and heading from the room.
"No, no, no," Emma says, jumping up to block off Regina's exit. She pacifies the look of rage directed at her by raising her hands in a show of surrender.
"You'll scare him, if he sees you like this," she says, delivering the words as softly as possible.
Regina looks away, her gaze getting lost somewhere over her right shoulder, but Emma knows her words were heard. Regina breathes deeply, shutting her eyes for a moment before turning and walking back into the room.
"I still don't understand what's happening," Emma says, following her. "Didn't you always have magic? Why is it affecting you like this?"
Regina pours herself another glass of gin.
"Because my magic isn't dark, it's just magic," she says, raising the cold glass to her cheek as Emma notices a bead of sweat roll down the side of her neck. "It isn't natural for my body to have this amount of dark magic in it – it wants me to use it to get it out."
Emma pauses, watching how Regina's jaw clenches and tension riddles her body.
"And you're fighting it," Emma asks, though it sounds more like a confirmation.
With one arm wrapped around her stomach, Regina nods. A silence falls between them – Emma at a loss for something to say as Regina sips at her drink, her fingers turning white as she clenches the glass. It isn't the first time Emma feels completely inadequate about her lack of knowledge of Fairy Tale Land, and she can't help but think as she watches Regina's shoulders curl inwards to shelter herself, that if she knew more of that land or at least understood how magic worked, she could be helping Regina now.
She takes a step forward, about to suggest they try the hand holding thing again so she won't feel quite so useless, when Regina breaks the silence.
"You should leave," she says abruptly, raising her gaze to meet Emma's.
Emma falters at her abrupt dismissal, but after a moment of hesitation makes no move to leave. She doesn't know what makes her stay, or even why she feels the need to be there, maybe it's her natural disposition to be oppositional to the woman in any way she can, but whatever it is it cements her feet to the ground.
"I'm not leaving you like this," Emma says, hoping Regina can hear the strength of her resolve in her voice.
"Did I ask you if you wanted to leave?" Regina snaps back, taking a step towards her that at one time might have been threatening, but she's shaking too hard to portray any sort of menace now. "You can't help me and I can't keep fighting it so get the hell out!"
Emma blinks in confusion. "Does it hurt?" she asks, as Regina growls in frustration at being ignored and begins to pace again, growing seemingly more agitated with each step. Her fists are clenched at her sides and the muscles of her forearm continuously contract and relax.
"Regina, why can't you fight it?" Emma pushes, moving to follow her across the room. "Because you're in pain? Because –"
"–Because it feels good!" Regina shouts, spinning to face Emma, tears forming in the corner of her eyes even as her features twist into anger. Her fingers claw at her shirt over her stomach. "Because when I have magic and power I don't have to feel like this. I don't have to watch my son walk away from me and I don't have to see Snow get the happiness that was taken from me."
She laughs then, even as tears track down her cheeks, and it's a brutal and bitter sound.
"Do I even have a reason to fight it? Henry isn't coming back, he isn't mine anymore."
"Regina," Emma says, trying to interrupt and diffuse Regina's spiralling train of thought. The woman continues as if she didn't hear her at all, her eyes glazed over and distant.
"If I don't have him, what do I have left to fight for?" she says, broken in a way that makes Emma want to reach out, to touch the woman and remind her that she's there and present and willing – wanting even – to help.
A faint crackling sound fills the air then and that unusual sensation on her skin returns more acutely. Sparks of green light begin to flicker around Regina's hands, and while Emma has no understanding at all of how magic works, every nerve in her body is telling her to stay back, to get out.
She doesn't, though. Instead she takes a cautious step forward, slowly as if she's approaching a wild animal caught in a fence. Regina is looking down at her trembling hands, her features morphing from disgust to fear as Emma tries to ignore the fact that something else entirely shines in her eyes.
She doesn't want to call it lust, but it's there all the same.
Something clenches inside of her when Regina speaks again. She isn't sure why she feels it so viscerally, like someone has punched her solidly in the gut, but the regret and hopelessness overflowing the words twist at her insides.
Regina drops her head and whimpers, her choked whisper filling the space between them.
"I'm not strong enough for this."
Emma steps closer, raising her hand to Regina's shoulder to offer something, though what exactly she doesn't know; because how could she even begin to comfort this woman who thinks she has nothing left. She does it anyway, though, and it only takes a second of her hand resting on Regina for her to know it was the wrong thing to do.
Regina's head snaps up to her and the only thing Emma sees is her eyes. They're shining; a dazzling violet that she could call both beautiful and terrifying in the same breath, and she only has a moment to register the complete lack of emotion in them before her body is flying backwards. She hits the wall hard, knocking the air from her lungs, but instead of crumbling to the ground something holds her there, pressed against the wall. She can feel restraints around her wrists but when she looks down she sees nothing, just her fists struggling to pull against air.
She looks back up to Regina and freezes, breath catching in her throat as she takes in the woman before her. An ethereal glow of green surrounds her, slowly shrinking until it seems to seep into her body that no longer shakes but stands with an eerie stillness and control. The violet in her eyes is fading but the brown beneath is just as devoid of feeling, and everything about her in that moment exudes power.
For the first time since entering Regina's house, Emma actually feels scared.
She struggles against her restraints as Regina begins to walk towards her, a smirk pulling at the corner of her lips.
"–Stop talking," Regina says, cutting her off and swiping her hand through the air. Emma goes to speak again but finds she can't, her jaw locked shut by magic. She can feel her own heart racing beneath her top, quickening as Regina draws closer to her and stands in front of her. Regina's eyes trail down her body and up again slowly, her head tilted to the side as if she's analysing her.
What happens next makes Emma fight harder to free herself. Without touching her, Regina moves her hands gracefully through the air, slipping Emma's jacket from her shoulders and letting it fall to the floor at her feet. Emma can only manage muffled sounds of protest as Regina reaches one hand towards her chest and gently pulls down the left shoulder of her tank top. Her fingers trail lightly from her shoulder to stroke the now bare skin just above her left breast, and though her touch is warm it makes Emma shiver.
"Do you know what revenge would have been sweeter than taking away her happy ending?" Regina asks, her voice low and smooth as she focuses on where her hand rests.
Emma doesn't need Regina to continue to know the answer, and in that instant she understands the fear she sometimes sees in the eyes of the townspeople. She couldn't comprehend it before; Regina could be mean and cold and manipulative, of course, but never had she seen reason to fear her. Now, as her body tenses and waits for that same cold, suffocating sensation she felt at Cora's hand, she understands their fear entirely.
"At least I'll have something," is the only thing Regina says before her hand plunges into Emma's chest.
Emma gasps, her eyes wide as she feels Regina wrap her fingers around her heart. It's still cold and suffocating, still enough to feel like her ribs are being pried apart, but something is different. With Cora she could feel her heart being clenched, squeezed in an unrelenting grip. Now it's as if Regina is simply holding her heart in the palm of her hand, and when Emma looks to her face the one word that comes to her mind is reverence.
And then Regina is shaking again, her eyes mesmerised by the sight of her own hand buried in Emma's chest. Emma closes her eyes and waits, hoping that whatever kept her heart inside her chest earlier that day would do the same again.
The only thing she feels, though, is Regina stepping closer towards her until their bodies are touching and their faces rest alongside each other's.
"Oh my god," Regina whispers, her voice unsteady as Emma feels the words breathed in awe against her ear. Regina presses harder against her then, and all Emma can think as she's pinned to the wall is what the hell is happening, because Regina's hand is slipping under the hem of her top and sliding up her stomach, and she has no idea whether she wants to push her away in disgust or let her continue, because at least when Regina is touching her like this her heart is probably safe.
The hand stops to clutch at her stomach and Regina buries her face in Emma's neck. She can feel Regina quivering against her and startles suddenly when she feels the faint and ghostly touch of lips against her neck.
It takes her a second to realise she isn't being kissed, but that Regina is talking to herself beneath her breath, continuously whispering the same three words.
Get off her. Get off her. Get off her.
And somehow, despite the haze of dark magic still pulling inside of her, Regina does.
The second Regina throws herself backwards, Emma feels the restraints on her hands and jaw disappear. She watches Regina stumble slightly, her chest heaving as her hand rises to cover her mouth. She looks like she might be sick but Emma thinks it might be to hold back her sobs, because tears are falling down her face and she doesn't look far from falling apart.
When Regina finally looks up at her, she looks absolutely petrified.
"Emma," she says, shakily through her tears as she takes a hesitant step towards her. Reflexively, Emma steps away from her and regrets it as soon as she sees the way Regina's features shatter.
Regina stops and pulls back. "I'm so sorry," is all she says before she turns and runs from the room.
All Emma can do, as she listens to Regina's footsteps thud up the stairs and a door slam loudly shut, is raise her hand and rub absently at her chest. She knows she should leave, the sane and logical part of her is telling her to get the hell out of dodge and quick, but she's never been very self-preserving and she isn't about to start now. In any case, the part of her that isn't sane or logical still thinks she can feel Regina pressed up against her, and for a multitude of reasons it's a debilitating feeling.
Other than that, Emma doesn't know what to feel. She thinks she should feel scared or angry, violated even, that Regina would render her so completely incapacitated with every intention of taking her heart. She doesn't, though, and the absence of any negative feeling leaves her stagnant, encumbered by some hollow sense of vacancy that she honestly couldn't begin to explain. If anything she feels sad, and while she recognises the absurdity of that thought the second it crosses her mind, it still is there in the pit of her stomach as she recalls the look of horror on Regina's face when she realised what she had done.
There was something else, too, in the way Regina had said her name that gives Emma pause. The utter devastation in which it was delivered, maybe, or the simple fact that as far as she can remember, Regina has never called her by her name before. It's an odd realisation; that she's never been anything other than Miss Swan, Deputy or Sheriff to Regina, and it makes her wonder what her name might sound like falling from Regina's lips if they were friends.
She shakes the thought away. As if they could ever be friends.
The thought that maybe they could be something else is entirely unexpected, and before Emma can garner anything meaningful from that idea she hears a loud crash from upstairs.
Her limbs are moving before she even tells them to and she races up the stairs, throwing open the doors that line the hallway. The one at the far end of the hallway is the master bedroom, and from the doorway she can hear an erratic thumping over the sound of a running shower. She doesn't think twice before rushing to the door of the en suite and wrenching it open.
The entire bathroom is a mess. The mirror has been shattered and the broken shards of glass cover the tiles, many of which have been ripped up and cracked themselves, and there's a perfectly round hole in one of the walls with charred marks around the edge.
The thumping is from Regina, and Emma doesn't even take the time to gasp before she rushes towards her. She's drenched; her clothes melding to her body like a second skin as she stands beneath the spray of the shower, her fists raining down on the tiles of the wall. Green light sparks from her hands on each strike and watery lines of blood flow down the side of her wrist as the tiles begin to break beneath her pounding.
"Regina!" Emma yells, pulling open the shower door and stepping inside. Immediately she grabs hold of Regina's arms and fights to keep them in her grasp as Regina struggles against her.
"Regina, stop it!" she yells again, her clothes soaking through as she tries to position Regina so her back is to the wall.
"Get off me! I need to get it out!" The hysteria in Regina's scream is almost painful to hear.
"You're hurting yourself!" she screams back.
Regina ignores her and tries harder to free her arms from Emma's hold. Emma watches as tears mix with the water running down her face and unbidden Emma finds her eyes stinging in kind. She manages to manoeuvre them so Regina is against the wall and she can use her body weight to restrain her.
"Regina, please, stop this," she pleads, as Regina finally begins to weaken beneath her. Emma moves forward until their cheeks brush and lowers her voice.
"Please, Regina," she whispers, and for some reason that's all she needs to say, because Regina is going limp against her, crying silently as she slides down the wall. Emma goes with her until they're huddled together on the floor beneath the spray of water, Regina wrapped tightly in her arms as she wonders how it can hurt so much to see the woman who would have ripped out her heart in pain.
The water is running cold now so Emma reaches up to turn it off, careful not to jostle Regina as she does. She doesn't know how long they sit there for – long enough for Regina to stop crying and start shivering – so without saying anything Emma pulls her to her feet and helps her from the shower. She leads her to lean against the basin and carefully pulls her hands from her sides to inspect her cuts.
The bleeding has stopped and most of the blood has washed away in the shower so Emma can see they aren't serious. She searches the cupboards that have mostly remained intact until she finds some bandages in a first aid kit. Gently, she circles one around each of Regina's hands and secures them with a small clasp. The entire time Regina just looks down, her eyes red-rimmed and vacant as she lets Emma work.
Emma takes a small step back and quietly clears her throat. "I'm going to get you something to change into, okay?"
Regina's only response is to nod.
Emma sighs and makes her way into the bedroom, opening the dresser of drawers until she finds a pair of black, silk pyjamas. She returns to the bathroom, placing them on the seat of the toilet and grabbing a towel to hand to Regina.
"Are you going to be alright?" Emma asks, dipping her head to catch Regina's eyes. Brown eyes flicker up then in confusion, as if she has no idea what Emma is doing there at all.
She nods anyway, and Emma grabs another towel for herself before retreating and closing the door behind her. She dries her clothes as best she can while they're still on her body before dropping the towel over the back of a chair. She settles back against the edge of the desk lining the wall opposite the bed and waits; wonders if this is the most confusing night of her life and why after everything that has happened she still hasn't left to go home.
That answer, at least, is simple enough to know when the thought of being anywhere but here makes her anxious and her eyes stare fixatedly at the bathroom door as if it might just disappear.
She wants to be here, and she's surprised to realise it has nothing to do with Regina being Henry's mother at all.
The bathroom door clicks open then, and when Regina emerges Emma thinks she looks the most like herself she has all night. Though she is clearly exhausted her eyes are clear and aware and her body has regained most of its normal composure. When Regina looks at her it's with a solemn sort of acceptance, as if she's prepared herself to receive whatever punishment Emma sees fit.
Emma stands from her perch on the desk. "Is the magic still…"
Regina glances away and shakes her head. "I used enough – in there and … before." Her voice trails away softly.
There's a long pause before Emma speaks again.
"Do you need anything?" she asks, shifting her weight from foot to foot.
Regina just looks bewildered, like she's thinking Emma might actually be crazy, and when her mouth opens to answer no words come out.
Emma clears her throat.
"Okay then. Well, if you're okay I might–"
"–Wait," Regina says abruptly. "Could you…"
"…Stay?" Emma finishes for her.
Regina averts her eyes as if she's ashamed; like she doesn't think she has the right to ask, and really she probably doesn't, but Emma made the decision long before she even asked.
"Do you have something for me to wear?"
It's almost three a.m. by the time she's slipping under the covers of Regina's bed, dry and wearing a pair of silk pyjamas almost identical to the ones Regina is wearing beside her. If tonight wasn't the strangest night of her life before it certainly is now, because she is actually about to spend the night with Regina and her entire body is tense at the thought.
Regina must sense it. "You don't have to stay if you're uncomfortable," she says, her face illuminated by the glow of the lamp on her bedside table.
Emma turns to face her and the way Regina tries to turn her expression into one of disinterest makes her immediately relax.
"I'm not," Emma assures her before turning completely onto her side to face Regina. "But why do you want me here?"
Regina sighs heavily and stares up to the ceiling.
"Because you stayed, even after I … did that to you. No one has ever stayed before."
Her eyes glisten again and Emma watches as a single tear falls down the side of her face as she closes her eyes.
"I am so sorry, Emma," Regina whispers, and before Emma knows what she's doing her hand is reaching out to rest on Regina's arm.
"It was the magic, Regina. Don't worry–"
A watery laugh cuts her off and when Regina speaks her voice is bitter and low. "Dark magic doesn't make you pin someone to a wall and try to take their heart out."
Emma flinches at the explicit self-loathing in the words.
"God, if I had been able to take your heart …"
Emma pauses, voicing her next words softly. "You would have killed me? Like Graham?"
Regina turns her head then and for the first time since Emma got into her bed she looks at her plainly.
"You would have ended up like Graham, in one way or another."
And then she turns to face the ceiling again.
It's an ambiguous statement, one that Emma is smart enough to know she doesn't really understand. Something tells her not to ask though, so she redirects the conversation and asks something she has been wondering all night.
"What stopped you from doing it?"
Regina seems to consider her question and after a pause turns her body to face Emma's until only a small space remains between them. Emma can't help but think there's something intimate about the way they're positioned; not necessarily sexual though there's a peculiar sense of normalcy in lying side by side and looking at one another, as if tonight was one of many they had spent in the same bed.
So normal does it feel to her, that when Regina reaches out her hand and brings it to rest lightly on her chest, her first instinct is to remain exactly where she is.
"You have no idea how powerful you are – how powerful this is," Regina whispers.
Fingers stroke gently at the skin above her heart once more, but this time Emma doesn't feel even the slightest bit of fear, just a soft warmness that centres beneath the hand above her breast.
"Your heart stopped me, Emma, because what all the fairy tales tell you is exactly true; true love is the most powerful magic of all, and you were born with it in every inch of you. When I touched your heart it was as if my entire body, every single part of me was full of that love, encased by it so there was nothing else. There exists no darkness in any world with the power to overcome that."
The impassioned words silence her, and in that moment she is completely enraptured by the awe, the adoration, almost, being directed towards her so nakedly.
"How did it feel?" she asks, trying to understand the wonder in Regina's expression.
Regina's eyes fall shut as if she's remembering the sensation, and Emma feels the faintest pull somewhere low in her stomach at the small whimper that falls from her lips.
"Incredible," Regina whispers, and without a single thought of her actions, Emma's hand is coming up to settle over Regina's, pressing it more firmly to her skin, and words are falling impulsively from her mouth.
"Do it again," she says, trapping Regina's hand against her chest as she immediately tries to pull it away.
"Regina," she says firmly, locking their eyes together and ignoring the look of panic that flashes across Regina's face as she lowers her voice to a whisper once more.
"Do it again. I want you to."
Regina blinks at her in confusion but her eyes betray her as they flicker down to her chest, and Emma can tell she wants to as well. Emma nods at her in encouragement and then she's nodding shakily back, steeling herself with a deep breath before she focuses on her hand.
Emma shuts her eyes and waits, expecting the sharp flash of pain and cold she's experienced twice now but it doesn't come; all she feels is the softness of a hand curling snugly around her heart.
A loud moan opens her eyes and she sees Regina's head thrown back, her chest heaving through her laboured breaths. Emma thinks she can almost see it now, in the glow of her skin or the way her eyes seem to turn a lighter shade of brown and lose the sadness that darkens them; whatever it is it makes Regina a wondrously beautiful sight.
It's the first time that Emma thinks of what it might be like to kiss her.
The thought is unexpected but at the same time not, because what better explains her inability to feel anything close to hatred for this woman than the prospect that maybe she feels something more for her instead.
When Regina suddenly pushes her back and rolls on top of her, and the entire lengths of their bodies are pressed together, there really is no maybe about it. Her heart is beating faster and she knows Regina can feel it, too, because she's whimpering her name and moving slightly against her, her head buried in the curve of Emma's neck and shoulder as if all she wants is to just get closer to the feeling.
It's tempting to let it go on, but Emma doesn't even know if Regina is in control of what she's doing, so she gently places her hands on Regina's hips to still her and whispers to her.
"Regina," she says, one hand rising to hold onto Regina's wrist as she tries to coax it from her chest.
As Regina pulls back and their eyes connect, Regina's widen in panic and she's scrambling away from her as fast as she can with yet another apology falling from her lips.
Emma sits up quickly and grabs her hand to stop her.
"It's okay," she's saying, even though Regina is shaking her head and trying to pull away.
Emma squeezes her hand tighter. "Hey,' she says softly, waiting until Regina looks at her again. "I let you, didn't I?"
Regina laughs quietly. "Because you're insane."
Emma grins. "Maybe."
This time when Regina goes to pull away Emma lets her, and waits until Regina has settled back down next to her.
"It didn't hurt, you know. That time," Emma says.
Regina looks at her curiously. "What did it feel like?"
Emma shrugs. "Warm, I guess. Soft."
There's a pause as Regina looks at her thoughtfully, like she's trying to figure out exactly what that means but can't manage to piece it all together.
Emma glances over Regina's shoulder to the alarm clock and sees that it's late, very late now, so she pulls the covers back over the two of them properly and curls onto her side.
"Sleep?" she suggests.
Regina nods and reaches behind herself to turn off the lamp.
They lie in silence for a while, and Emma has no explanation as to why she breaks it with the particular words she does. Maybe it's the security of the darkness that makes her think it's safe to voice them, or maybe Regina is right and she is actually legitimately insane, but they're tumbling from her mouth before she has a chance to catch them.
"I thought about kissing you before, when your hand was inside me."
The quiet then is stifling, and more than anything Emma wishes she could take the words and stuff them back inside her mouth, because of all the ways she could have worded it, she had to do it that way. She can feel Regina tense next to her and wonders if this, of all the things that have happened that night, is what will finally make her leave.
"–I thought about it, too."
And for words so simple the effect they have on Emma is profound. She shakily exhales a breath she didn't know she was holding and stares up at the dark ceiling.
They don't speak anymore and Emma figures they don't need to. Enough has probably been said for one night, and in any case maybe the act of sleeping beside each other, of Regina reaching slowly across the space between them to hold Emma's hand, speaks well enough on its own.
For tonight at the very least, Emma decides that they are all the words she needs.