Notes: Forgot to post this here before Christmas! Whoops! But here it is, a bit late; some Christmas fluff. This was written for beatthe0dds Xmas exchange. You should also check out the other entries!
Since it's Christmas, let's be glad
Even if your life's been bad
There are presents to be had
(It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad by Sufjan Stevens)
"You're kidding me with this Santa stuff, right?"
It's odd, really, how refreshing Regina finds Emma's gracelessness—the clomping that announces her arrival nearly a minute in advance—the brash and unapologetic tone with no foreword. She had grown used to order and control and (though she would never admit it) Emma's unorthodox mannerisms (a far cry from the princess-like behaviors Snow and Charming had likely envisioned their unborn daughter eventually possessing) were (now) something of a breath of fresh air. And she is unable to prevent the slightest of smiles from quirking her lips as Emma's boots thud against the steps as she descends them, broadcasting her presence long before her words reach Regina's ears.
"What's that, dear?"
Emma looks, not exactly annoyed or reproving, but perhaps a milder form of a combination of these emotions, and Regina's smile widens, just a bit, because even now, she's not quite able to quell the sense of satisfaction she finds in riling the woman up (in every way possible).
"Henry! He still believes in Santa? Christ, Regina! He's twelve!"
"I don't see how you can possibly be surprised. He did believe everyone in this town was a fairy tale character because he read it in a book, after all."
The look Emma shoots her is almost accusatory, but it's tinted with too much belated amusement to be truly biting. "Everyone in this town is a fairy tale character, Regina. And besides that's not the…" Emma trails off, her eyes widening. "Oh, jeez. Don't tell me you guys actually have a fat guy in a red suit running around giving people presents and shit."
"Of course not."
Emma almost seems to sigh in relief.
"Kris Kringle is rather slim."
The brunette smirks, but offers up a glass of scotch, almost in apology. "Joking, dear."
Emma accepts the glass, but rolls her eyes in that way of hers that Regina should find uncouth, but doesn't. "I'm serious, Regina. It's not healthy for him to believe in stuff like that at his age."
"And why shouldn't he? There is nothing wrong with allowing him his innocence." Regina takes a sip from her own drink (a larger one that she otherwise would, perhaps, had they not suddenly veered into dangerous territory). "Just because you and I were denied such a thing at young ages does not mean he should be subjected to the same fate. Quite the contrary, in fact."
It's concerning, how quickly Emma catches the underlying meaning to her words—how swiftly her expression softens. Regina cuts in again before the blonde can say something embarrassingly heartfelt.
"Besides, it's not as though he truly believes in Santa Claus any longer."
"Regina—he told me he left out cookies and milk. And a note."
"He did." At Emma's look, she elaborates. "But I… I believe that is now more for me than anything."
"What do you mean?"
Looking down at her drink (and giving it a swirl) gives her a moment to tamper the emotions that threaten to ruin her calm countenance, but the moment isn't long enough to keep the taint of infliction out of her voice.
"It is… something of a tradition. We would always make Christmas cookies together, and Henry would set aside a few especially for Santa Claus—the 'best ones', he always said. We would put them on a plate on a table by the Christmas tree, fill up the largest mug in the house with milk, and place it with the cookies. And then Henry…he thought we should leave out a bowl of water and some carrots for the reindeer, as well. He said they did all the work—flying Santa around—and everyone forgot about them, so he didn't want to."
Emma takes a few steps toward her, and Regina can see the exact sort of emotions in the blonde's expression that she had wanted to avoid. The woman always had been overly concerned with getting Regina to reveal more about herself, as if their arrangement should make her privy to such things. But Regina feels compelled to continue talking, and she doesn't step away as Emma's hand brushes against her hip in something like a caress. So perhaps Emma Swan has a bit more access to things normally kept hidden away than Regina would care to admit.
"And after we had put the snacks together, we would sit by the tree and Henry would write—or when he wasn't old enough, dictate to me— his letter to Santa Claus. It always follows the same format; first he thanks Santa Claus for taking the time to come to our home, and for bringing us presents. And then he asks him to enjoy the cookies and milk, and to make sure the reindeer get their snack as well. Finally, he makes his request; that Santa bring the particular item Henry has been especially coveting that year."
A smile steals on to her face suddenly, and she's so wrapped up in the memory that she cannot issue her token resistance as Emma pulls her closer, wrapping her arm around the brunette's waist.
"One year—when Henry was seven—he, for the entire season leading up to the holiday, had been asking for this particular series of comic books as his big gift. But then, during his letter to Santa he decided that was he truly desired was a particular Ninja Turtle Lego Set. I had to rush out in the middle of the night and threaten the shopkeeper with bodily harm to get him to come out to his store and sell me the damn thing. But Santa Clause delivered."
Regina feels more than hears Emma's chuckle, so close is she to the blonde. "So what do you do with the cookies and stuff?"
"I eat them, of course. There has to be crumbs, after all. Though I suppose I more nibble on the carrots to try to uphold some kind of acc…" She trails off, because Emma's chuckle has turned into a full-on laugh, and suddenly she remembers that this sort of behavior is not exactly appropriate when one is trying to maintain a carefully distant relationship (with lust being the only emotion allowed into play).
"So yes," she continues, pulling away from Emma under the guise of depositing her glass in the sink. "I believe Henry continues with the letter and the cookies and such because it's… tradition now. And he knows it makes me…"
"Happy," Emma finishes, with a small smile. "Yeah. I can see that." She finishes her drink with a large gulp and places her glass next to Regina's, before reaching for the dish soap. "So what's the big item he asked for this year?"
"I'm not sure," Regina admits with a slight shrug. "I haven't read his letter yet."
"Well go get it! Henry mentioned it to me when I was saying goodnight, so he must want to make sure you got him whatever's in that note."
Regina complies with the request, not because she feels any particular need to obey Emma Swan (of course not), but because if there's to be a repeat of the Ninja Turtle Lego debacle, she'd rather get it over with. And because she, truth be told, rather enjoys Henry's letters; any sign of remaining innocence in her son, after everything that had happened, was something she couldn't help but treasure.
Leaving Emma to wash the few dishes in the sink, she slips into the family room—lit up by the massive tree, lights and decorations done in a near-professional manner. 'Near' because Emma had sneaked in a few of her tacky ornaments from places such as Las Vegas and New Orleans and Regina had found herself unable to remove them after witnessing Emma's obvious joy in hanging them with Henry; she chalked it up to simply picking her battles with the headstrong Sheriff.
She takes only a moment to admire the tree before turning to the small table next to it, meticulously set with two plates, a bowl, and a large mug. The cookies and carrots are arranged in neat lines, and a napkin rests alongside the right edge of the table, underneath the folded letter (which Regina knows to be written on cheerful holiday stationary). She pucks a cookie from the plate, finishing it in two bites, before carefully picking up the letter and flicking it open, her lips uplifting in an anticipatory smile.
A smile which quickly fades as she reads the words scrawled on the paper (showcasing Rudolph and his glowing red noise) replaced instead by an expression that is as close to shock as the brunette has ever displayed. Her mouth opens slightly, cheeks become tinged a curious red, and her eyes, glazed, stare at the page for far longer than required for adequate reading time.
Regina nearly jumps, and this is the greatest sign of her shock, for it meant Emma had snuck up on her. Emma. Clomping, stomping, graceless Emma.
"What's he asking for?"
Regina's fist closes around the letter instinctively.
"Nothing!" Emma's eyebrow raises, her eyes flickering down to the paper Regina now clutches a bit too tightly. "That is… nothing I haven't already acquired."
Her mind reviews Henry's written words and she realizes that this may or may not be true, depending on how she looks at it. The thought causes her hand to almost spasm; if she were to be stuck dead at that moment, she's quite sure they would never be able to remove the letter imprisoned in her fist. Which is good, because Emma has taken a few steps forward and has a wicked gleam in her eyes that Regina recognizes well.
"Speaking of… perhaps we might commence with our own exchange of presents."
It's a poor choice in diversion, not because it will not be effective (it will, if she knows Emma at all), but rather because 'gifts' exchanged between the two of them tend to involve handcuffs and blindfolds and melting chocolate and a great deal of noise. And Henry's only just been put to bed, on Christmas Eve night, no less, so there is approximately a zero percent probability that the boy is already asleep. Still, better this diversion then none at all; if Emma were to take another step closer, Regina would probably risk the wrath that would come from violating the no-magic rule, and set Henry's letter to Santa aflame.
But as predicted, Emma's eyes light up at the mention of gifts. "Presents! Alright! Um… Lemme just go and get yours. One second!"
Regina supposes this was the sort of thing a 'casual' relationship did not involve; exchanged presents and sleepovers and sharing a child who had a tendency to involve himself in their business (whether through books on Fairy Tale characters, secret walkie-talkie messages, or notes left on Christmas stationary), but she tries not to think about it as Emma rushes off, hurrying out the front door of the mansion (and, as was typical, leaving it open to let the cold air in). She also tries not to think about how little the idea bothers her.
Emma returns in less than a minute (slamming the door behind her—again, typical), but when she enters the room, carrying a misshapen and large object behind her back (with difficulty), her expression is uncharacteristically shy.
Despite herself, Regina moves towards the blonde, her expression curious, and Emma smiles bashfully, a red tint to her cheeks that Regina should view as a repulsive sign of weakness, but instead finds endearing.
"I…uh… I noticed that ever since you… stopped using magic, your tree—it kind of—well, it looks like shit. And I didn't know how to fix it, or whatever, and then I figured maybe it was a good idea to just, well—" Emma appears to grow tired of attempting to force her words out, and simply places the present on the ground in-between them, lifting the cloth over it without a hint of fanfare.
"…Get you a new one. I thought—maybe it was time to let go of that old tree and start with a new one."
As Regina stares down at the young apple tree, hardly over three feet tall, and fragile as a twig, she has to remind herself that Emma can't possibly know the implications of what she's saying. She can't possibly know enough about Regina to comprehend that her words can be interpreted in a way far more significant than surface level. She can't. Because they're sleeping together—not whispering their secrets to each other in some disgusting version of pillow talk.
But Emma is serious and her eyes warm, and when she looks at Regina there's a softness there that cannot be explained by anything but understanding.
"It'll take a while to get this one going—apparently it'll be another year before it even grows any fruit. And we'll have to uproot the old one, if you want to put this one in its place. But I figured… well, I could help. Henry too. And since we're staying in this world… we've got the time, don't we?"
Regina feels as though she is standing on the precipice of the very thing she had been actively avoiding—the chasm of deeper emotion and true connection that she had only entered once before, and with disastrous results. Even thinking about taking the plunge with Emma is absurd—preposterous. But as she thinks back to Henry's letter, she realizes that despite it all, she wants to do it anyways.
"Yes," she barely whispers, her fingers reaching up to brush against Emma's cheek. "We do." She clears her throat, then, because even though she's made her decision, that doesn't mean she's going become some sort of blubbering sentimental fool. "You are correct, however—it will take a great deal of time and care. You should probably just move in to make things easier. And honestly, being in a relationship with a woman who still lives with her parents is so very pathetic, anyways."
It's the worst excuse in the history of man, and Emma knows it, judging from the smile on her face. But neither she, nor Regina herself, appear to particularly care.
"Are you giving me a key for Christmas, Regina? How very romantic of you!"
"Don't be ridiculous," Regina scoffs (or tries to—she finds her voice dips in affection rather than scorn). "This is a matter of practicality. Don't expect a key with a ribbon, or any such tripe."
Emma rolls her eyes, but does so with her smile still in place. "So, what'd you really get me then?"
"I'm afraid it's not as sentimental as your gift, dear," Regina says with a smirk, never more thankful for the distraction, and Emma's impatience (even if it doesn't quite quell the unsettlingly content feeling swelling in her chest).
Emma puffs her chest out, in an exaggerated manner, taking Regina's words as a complement. "Well, yeah. I'm clearly the superior gift giver here. I mean, come on. Let's just look back on Henry's last birthday. My Captain America… w—what are you doing?"
Regina's smirk grows as she continues unbuttoning her gray silk shirt with one hand, calmly slipping the third and then fourth button loose; Emma's eyes latch on what the parting fabric reveals with a slightly open mouth.
"You asked for your present, did you not, Miss Swan?"
Emma nods dumbly, hands almost absently reaching for the red satin bustier that barely covers Regina's chest. It's remarkable, almost, how quickly the lust darkens her eyes. Regina feels glad to be back on more familiar terrain, but there's something different—tender—in the way Emma's hands roam her skin, and she knows they've been forever changed. She's unable to find any regret within her.
"Don't I get to unwrap my own present?" Emma husks, gently batting Regina's hand away.
A smirk is Regina's only reply, but it quickly leaves her face as Emma continues her ministrations, and it doesn't take long for her to put everything from her mind but the blonde before her—insecurities and fears slip away as easily as the letter that falls from her hand and on to the floor, utterly forgotten.
Rather unlike its contents, perhaps.
There's a lot I should be thankful for this year, so it kind of feels weird to ask for anything else. I hope you don't think I'm being greedy, but there is one thing I want really bad, and I think you're the only person who can make it happen. I know it's not something you can run out and buy, or get your elves to make, and maybe it'll be harder for you to get than anything you ever have before, but I think that it's the most important thing I've ever asked for.
I kinda just want my moms to be happy.
I know that sounds like a hard thing to give as a present, and at first, it probably seems like I'm asking for more than one thing, but I'm not! Because the thing is…I think they're happy when they're with each other.
Whenever I would read about the fairy tales in my book, the whole stuff about true love was kinda weird to me. I didn't really get why it was so important to anyone to be with that one person, and even during Operation Cobra, bringing Snow White and Prince Charming together was more about breaking the curse than anything. But I think I sorta get it now; because when my two moms are together, and they just focus on them, and our family, they both forget about all the stuff that bothers them; like turning back into the Evil Queen, or not being a good enough Savior, and they're just my moms. They're just happy.
I think they're scared though, because maybe not everyone would like it if they stopped pretending they weren't together. But I think they're even more scared about how much they like each other. I guess it is a scary thing, because you have to let someone see all of you when it comes to true love, even the bad parts, but I know they'd both be happier if they did. And then we could be a family without having to pretend. That would make me happy too—happier than any Christmas gift ever has made me! (Not that I didn't like all those other gifts, because they were really, really great).
So maybe you could give them some bravery. Not like, action-bravery, or anything, because they both already have that—but the kind of bravery that's like… love bravery. I'd like that a lot. Because I love my moms. Both of them.
And they should get their happy ending.