Regina startled at the sound of strong knuckles rapping against the hard-wood of her front door. She looked up at the clock; setting aside the blood-red apple she'd been peeling to study the slowly ticking hands.
It was almost midnight; Henry had been fast asleep for hours, and even though she was wrapped in her most comfortable silk pyjamas – and had attempted twice, to climb into bed and find her own slumber, resulting only in nightmares – she'd failed entirely and settled for aggressively peeling apples with the self-righteous faces of Snow White and Emma Swan in the back of her mind.
The sound of the rather frenzied knocking came again and Regina dashed up from the dining table, her apple and knife forgotten on the mahogany table-top as she flung the door open, irritation written across her face as she hissed her annoyance - over the chance they'd wake her son - at her intruder. It was a moment before she realized who it was that stood on her cold, wet doorstep.
She blinked in the darkness; her frown smoothed out and her chin rose as she met the eyes of the man that stood before her. "David?" She questioned, unapologetic for the manner in which she'd greeted him, though her tone changed from one of annoyance to one of surprised curiosity. "What are you doing here?" She hadn't forgotten the last night he'd been in her home; when he'd rejected her; walked away from her and the remnants of her favourite mirror had lain on the floor of her foyer for the better part of the following day. It still stung; regardless of how little she was willing to admit the whole ordeal wasn't entirely about hurting Mary-Margaret.
She'd thought, over the years, she'd become numb enough to their cruelty; but every rejection and cruel word was still like a dagger to her heart – even her dreams played out her fears in startling clarity. With every turned back she felt her body sink deeper and deeper, until she was clawing at the earth, shouting for help and not a single one of them was willing to offer her a hand and pull her back up. And she found herself, on nights like that, sitting at her dining table with her sleeping son upstairs, wishing for an outcome that didn't end in yet more pain.
"I've been thinking," He twitched and she could see him nervously twisting his fingers together in front of him. She forced herself to bite her tongue. She wanted to tell the man to just spit it out already, so that she could go back to wallowing in self-pity and deprecating thoughts of losing their silent war. But Regina was curious.
He looked nervous, his face was a little flushed and as she crossed her arms under her breasts, fighting the cold and regretting the absence of her robe; she saw his eyes shift and his tongue run across his bottom lip, just once.
Her eyes widened just a little. "I wanted to talk about the other night, if we could?" Regina continued to stare at him, realizing exactly what 'other night' he was referring too. She wasn't sure if she could do it – the notion of hurting Snow through David had been a last-ditch attempt at the time. She'd felt petty and frustrated and she'd wanted to hurt her in any way that she could. But that feeling had dissipated, at least for the time-being. Regina still wanted to win, but the idea of doing it through David, had been set aside.
Now he stood on her doorstep, shifting from foot to foot – either from the cold or the nerves, she wasn't sure.
"Aren't you cold?" He questioned and Regina furrowed her brow and looked down towards her bare feet, curling against the stone step.
"Freezing." She admitted, hopping a little as she stepped back inside and plastered the sweetest late-night smile on her face that she could muster as he stepped around her; she did her level best to seem unperturbed by the intrusion. "So," She started, pulling the door closed and turning around to see that David hadn't moved further into the house. He was standing so close that when she turned, her face almost collided with his broad chest and she felt her hands reflexively press against his biceps. She gasped in surprise and slowly looked up to meet his eye; seeing there, an expression she hadn't thought she'd ever see.
"I lied." He breathed out and Regina found herself wanting to run and yet, strangely wanting to stay exactly where she was. She'd struggle to admit it to another living soul; but the warmth of David's toned, flannel-covered body pressed up against hers, was oddly satisfying. And painfully familiar.
"You lied?" She dipped her head nervously, grateful in the knowledge that he had no idea who she really was, because she'd never be able to live down the fact the nefarious Queen was unsettled by a Shepherd taking up her personal space.
"Yeah," He seemed to lean even further into her personal space, until their faces where mere inches apart and she could feel his breath on her lips. She found herself staring at those lips – they were pink and symmetrical and she wondered how a man with such pink lips could be considered so ruggedly handsome. She wanted to slap herself.
"About what?" Her tone had lowered too, the closer they got the more their voices became intimate whispers and she tried with all her might, to hold back the smallest hint of a smile at the corner of her lips.
"About what we have, together." She tilted her head, entirely aware of the point he was trying to make. But she wouldn't be the manipulative mastermind that she was, if she didn't force him to say it out loud. "This is great, what we have. This friendship, it's great and it's not what I expected. But," He took a deep breath; the rise of his chest pushing him even closer to her until their stomach's pressed together and Regina's heart quickened. "There's more here."
"You're wrong." Her eyes hardened but she blinked rapidly; surprised when David nodded his head.
"It's not love." He admitted, which had her dumbfounded. She wasn't surprised that he didn't love her; she wasn't that naive or even that vain. What did surprise her was that a man like David – Prince Charming – would stand before her and admit that what he wanted from her was nothing more than a carnal romp.
"No," She agreed, shocking herself when she realized she didn't even care. She didn't love him either, but she was loathe to admit she was attracted to him. He was almost a foot taller than her; his shoulders were broad and his arms had - without her knowledge – wrapped themselves around her waist. She could feel his calloused fingers working their way under the hem of her shirt, brushing along the base of her spine and she had to bite down on her lip to suppress a shudder. Was it so bad she was willing to go through with it for the simple fact that he was the first man to come to her, since Daniel, because he wanted to?
She could see the lust in his eyes. He pressed himself closer against her, until her back was against the wall and she could feel his fingers in her hair. He hadn't kissed her, not yet, but he was close enough that the slightest twitch would bring their lips together. And it was then that she saw it; the real truth.
Grabbing a firm hold at the back of his neck, Regina slammed her lips against his. It was hard and painful and she could feel her teeth clatter against his, her tongue dove into his mouth as he picked her up off the ground and on instinct, her legs wrapped around his waist. "Maybe its best," She gasped; her eyes rolling back in her head as David switched her swollen lips for the curve of her throat and sucked, hard. "If we don't talk."
"Why?" He questioned, wrapping his arms around her waist tighter, holding her firm as he attacked her collarbone with feverish kisses.
"Because we both know why you're here and talking about it will only force you to admit it."
David stopped suddenly. He didn't let her go, which surprised her as she looked down into his eyes. She expected him to put her back down, to step away from her and nervously fumble a ridiculously contrived apology, but he didn't. He held her firm with one arm and her back against the wall as he reached up and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear.
"How is it you understand me so well? Am I that transparent?"
For the first time in a long time, Regina genuinely smiled. It was a pained, knowing smile – a far cry from the lustrous smiles of her youth – but an honest one nonetheless.
"No," She sighed. "But we all of us have unattainable dreams; some more impossible than others." She could feel the tear in the corner of her eye and hoped that the darkness in the hall shielded the view of it from David's curious eyes.
The pad of his thumb pressed to her cheek-bone, stated otherwise. "What was his name?"
Regina cleared her throat and attempted not to look at him, though it was difficult from her position wedged between his body and the wall. "It doesn't matter."
"That's fair enough. We don't have to do this," He paused and Regina found herself looking back down at him again. "I can leave if you ask me to."
"We're adults," She weaved her fingertips through the short hairs at the back of his neck. "And I know why you're here." She knew a lot more than that, actually. And she knew that his vigor was directly related to the weakening of the curse. He needed, more passionately, to find his true love and she could only assume that Mary-Margaret had once again turned him away. So he'd come to, likely, the last place he knew he wasn't going to get a door slammed in his face.
"That makes one of us." He sighed but was cut short before he could elaborate. Regina's lips were once again crushed to his and his arms came up to wrap completely around her. She held on for dear life, clutching his shoulders as she kissed him. They broke apart only long enough to navigate the stairs and Regina covered his mouth with her hand as they passed Henry's door. She'd checked in on him right after her last vivid nightmare, terrified it had come true; only to be relieved and wide awake when she saw that he was sleeping peacefully.
David stumbled through her bedroom door, awkwardly lowering her to stand on her own two feet as he shrugged off his jacket. Regina pulled her top straight over her head, tousling her hair as she backed up toward the bed. She'd tried with Graham, to pretend. But his body was too lean, his heart too different. But David's hands were steady and broad and when she licked her lips and pressed her eyes closed, feeling the line of his muscles beneath her fingertips, she could almost smell the hay-bales. She could pretend the cool chill from the window was in fact the night air drifting through the stables and she could almost believe, has he captured her mouth with his, that she was really there, with him.
To be continued.