CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
"I see you've helped yourself to my liquor cabinet in my absence."
Emma nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of Regina's voice, spilling some of her drink on the leather of the brunette's couch as she was forced out of what Regina could only assume was some desperate attempt at relaxation, despite the obvious fact that Emma had been having difficulty finding it without the help of alcohol. Her eyes, which had been closed previously as she immersed herself in the soft music she had put on, were now squinting as Emma tried to focus on Regina's form in the threshold of the doorway.
"I was bored," was all she offered Regina in explanation before wiping the liquid off the couch with the fabric of her jacket. The Mayor sighed heavily, watching Emma ruin more of her nice things yet not having the effort to chastise her for it. "You're late."
"I'm fairly certain I didn't specify how long I would be occupied for," Regina reminded her as she shrugged off her jacket, laying it across the back of a chair before walking over to her desk. Switching off the music, her eyes caught Emma's unfocused gaze. "Care to enlighten me as to where our son was while you were soaking your liver in an abundance of poison?"
"Asleep," Emma replied defensively, her eyes narrowing at Regina's assumption that she would be so careless a babysitter as to do so with the kid around. "The festival wore him out." There was a beat before Emma told her, "I've been waiting for you for hours, Gina." Off of the disapproving look born from the sound of an unwanted nickname, Emma quickly corrected, "Regina."
The brunette exhaled a sigh. "It's been two," she corrected, shaking her head as she crossed the room to pour herself a drink; she wasn't going to be the only sober person in the room, especially after the irrational worries that had been invading her mind for the better part of the day. "And don't pretend as though your desire to dull your senses has to do with anything other than your inability to have a serious conversation with me. It's insulting to my intelligence."
Emma sighed, fidgeting in her seat. "Well, you know me, never doing the mature thing," she responded with an uncomfortable laugh, trying to lighten the accusation. "Fuck it, right?"
Fuck it, Regina silently mused, if only it were that easy.
"So I'm just supposed to pretend that you didn't accuse me of murder?" Regina asked her sharply before turning to be confronted with a look of pure panic on Emma's face. Regina kept her composure however, allowing the glass of freshly poured scotch to touch her lips. The liquid burned its way down her throat, distracting her from the pain that Emma's expression brought her. She didn't wish to put her on the spot like this, but Emma's inability to face anything wrong in their relationship was starting to become incredibly hard.
Regina really wished she knew what had happened in Emma's life, for her to fear admittance of problems this badly.
The blonde downed the rest of the liquid that was in her glass in one gulp, standing quite abruptly afterwards before crossing the room to refill. Regina leaned against the side of her desk, watching the emotions play out across the woman's face as Emma tried to find the response she was searching for. It took a long moment, but after the soft clinking sounds of crystal against glass as Emma sought to further diminish her mental capacity, she asked Regina, "Do you really want to do this while I'm drunk? Can't we just…" She exhaled a long breath before pleading softly, "leave it? You know, until tomorrow. It's been a long day, Regina."
"You're always going to have some kind of excuse," Regina told her plainly, watching Emma slightly wince from the truth. Her hand slipped then, spilling liquor on the surface of the marble countertop while in the midst of trying to pour herself another drink that she probably had no need for. Regina sighed, gently nudging Emma out of the way so she could clean up her mess. "I will admit though, that this is less than ideal; however considering you've yet to slur at me in an unintelligible manner, I'd say 'drunk' is overstating quite a bit."
"Give it a half hour," Emma murmured underneath her breath as she grabbed Regina's abandoned drink, swallowing it in one long gulp. She then proceeded to practically gag. "Jesus Christ, what the fuck is this crap?"
"Scotch, you uncultured imbecile," Regina shot back, irritated that Emma had helped herself to her drink without even asking. "It's meant to be sipped, not chugged in some barbaric attempt to not deal with your problems."
Emma smirked at her, placing the now empty glass down before crossing her arms, leaning her left side against the flat surface of the wall. "You want to hear something fucked up?" Regina didn't dignify that with a response, instead choosing to roll her eyes as she continued to mop up the mess Emma had made. "It actually kind of turns me on; you know, when you insult me sometimes. I don't know why."
"Because you're an idiot," Regina said flatly, allowing her annoyance to give way as she repoured herself the drink that Emma had stolen from her. The blonde laughed, making an overdramatic display of sexual arousal as she rubbed her hands over her form.
"Mmm, talk dirty to me some more."
Despite her aggravation, Regina found herself smirking. "Your ridiculousness truly knows no bounds," she told her before taking a long sip of her drink. "Nor," Regina continued, advancing on her a little, "does your desperate insistence of topic switching. You really think I don't know what you're doing?"
Emma's previous amusement fell at Regina's words, her lips turning down into a frown. Turning so that her back was now flattened against the surface, she pleaded softly, "Come on. I haven't seen you in days and then what you… you know, said to me, today at the festival, I—" Emma pushed herself off the wall, crossing the small distance between them as she allowed her fingers to slide down the smooth skin of Regina's arm, tangling their fingers together. "Can't we just… pretend for a minute? We're good at that." She looked at Regina beneath her lashes, prompting the older woman to release a small sigh.
If truth were told, Regina didn't want to have this conversation either. Gold's insistency had shaken her a little, and honesty was one of the things that paved the path to a pure love. Yet at the same time, Regina didn't want to take someone into her bed that believed her to be a murderer; not because it wasn't true, but because she knew Emma's heart would never be able to dismiss her own doubts for long. Regina didn't want this to become a problem later on, but trying to get Emma to speak with her was like pulling teeth.
Perhaps opting for a full frontal assault when it came to the subject though, was entirely the wrong way to go about this. Maybe it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to put it off until the morning, as Emma's defenses were down when she was half asleep anyway.
Regina finished the rest of her liquor before placing the glass down on the counter. She looked at Emma, finding herself getting lost in a gaze that begged for one moment of happiness. Giving her a sympathetic smile, Regina's fingers traced the line of the Sherriff's jaw as she stepped closer towards her, eradicating what was left of the small space between them. "What happened to you, love," Regina asked quietly, finding herself unable to help her own curiosity, "that made you so frightened of a relationship with flaws?"
Emma averted her gaze as she tried to pull away, but Regina's hand found her wrist and kept her still. "Tell me," she pleaded softly, "and I'll take you to bed. We can forget about it for the night, I promise."
Emma hesitated, side glancing Regina as she took a moment to decide if the revelation would be worth it. After a moment she asked her, "Have you ever been thrown out like yesterday's trash?"
Regina kept herself silent, as no, she had not. She'd been sold like a whore to further her mother's own ends, but no, never anything like that. Regina may have never felt wanted, but she had never felt completely tossed aside either.
Emma pursed her lips, shrugging like it didn't matter even though the look in her eyes said differently. "After so many times, you learn to let shit go pretty quickly; keeping people happy becomes a priority. That, or you just say 'fuck all' and run, never letting people get close enough to hurt you in that way. But I…" Emma exhaled a long sigh, refusing to look the brunette in the eyes. "I can't run from you, Regina. Fuck knows I've tried."
Regina let go of a breath she didn't know she had been holding and cupped the back of Emma's neck, bringing the woman close enough to breathe her air. Her grasp was firm, possessive. "I'm not one of your foster parents," she told her firmly. "I'm not leasing with an option to buy. Trying to keep me happy all the time is unreasonable, not to mention quite pointless because…" Regina gave her a soft smile, wanting Emma to feel the truth in her words, "you're it for me, Emma. Can't you see that? I couldn't toss you aside even if I wanted to, because you'd leave with a part of my heart."
Emma pursed her lips, closing her eyes as she leaned her forehead against Regina's. "It scares me sometimes," she breathed, "how much I feel for you. The more it grows, the more I'm fucking terrified that I'm going to lose you…"
Regina tightened the grip on the back of Emma's neck, causing the woman to open her eyes to look at her. "I'm not going anywhere," Regina promised fiercely, needing her to know that more than anything else. "You're mine, Emma."
The vulnerably in the blonde's gaze made Regina's heart clench in her chest as she whispered, "For how long?"
Fingers tracing the fullness of Emma's bottom lip, Regina answered with the strongest truth she had ever known, had ever felt for another human being. "For as long as you'll have me."
Emma's breathing shallowed for a moment at her words, and she looked up at Regina with the most intense vulnerability shining through all the happiness she never believed she'd find. Draping her arms around the brunette's neck, she brought Regina towards her, wrapping her up in an embrace as she kissed the breath from her lungs, the love from her very soul. Regina grasped on to her hips, guiding Emma backwards until the blonde's back hit the wall, coaxing a small moan from her lips that Regina knew, that no matter how long she lived, she would never tire of hearing.
It had taken years filled with pain, filled with loss and with hopelessness, but as Regina found herself in Emma's arms, the woman who had become her everything, she realized that every horrible memory, every painful experience, was all worth it; for Regina knew in that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that Emma was her happy ending. And in the end, nothing could ever compare to that.
Pain had become so routine in their lovemaking that to find themselves falling into one another without it should have felt strange. Yet it was perhaps the shared realization that their lives had been filled with far too much agony already, which allowed them to slip into this comfortable state of being with one another without so much as a word of discussion. Masochism was their shared weakness, but perhaps together they could find strength in something else entirely, opening them up to a world neither woman truly believed they would ever belong in, yet found they enjoyed exploring all the same.
Their hands were linked, the heat of their connection causing fire to run through Regina's veins as she arced her back, groaning softly as Emma got to work kissing every inch of her skin. Her lips found everything from the base of Regina's feet to the tips of her fingers, her tongue hot against trembling flesh as Emma allowed the brunette to feel all the love that resided in her heart. Nimble fingers grasped at the bed sheets, a breathless plea falling from full lips as Regina allowed Emma to open her up and fill her with the acceptance of forever. It was frightening but it was beautiful, and as Emma breathed life into her, Regina knew that there was no other place she would rather be than in the comfort of her embrace.
Time stood still as Emma pushed into her, filling the emptiness that had once sought to consume Regina whole. A shuddered gasp broke the silence of the room as fingers wrapped around the back of Emma's neck, Regina's thumb lightly caressing the hollow of her throat as she fell into the intensity of the blonde's gaze. Emma's legs tangled with hers as she moved within Regina's depths, watching each expression she gently coaxed from her with an acute fascination. It was almost as though she couldn't believe that they had truly found this with each other, for it was ingrained in both of their minds at a young age that damaged people could never find true happiness.
But everyone was undoubtedly wrong, for if this wasn't the definition of true happiness, Regina couldn't even begin to fathom what was.
Emma's lips found her jaw, her cheek, her forehead. Regina could feel her heart pumping firmly within her chest as the woman who used to tear her apart now touched her in near worshiping fascination. Regina trembled beneath her, sliding her lips up the sheen of sweat that was beginning to form on Emma's skin. Whispering her name in her ear in soft praise, Regina tangled her fingers in a cascade of blonde locks, finding herself slowly being driven to an edge that there was no hope for ever coming back from.
Emma felt it as well and as she twisted her fingers deep within her, causing a shuddered gasp to fall from the brunette's lips, she buried her face in her neck and whispered against her skin, "You feel it, don't you?" Her voice trembled in fear and Regina tightened her hold on the woman atop her, desperately wishing that she could have Emma fall into her soul in the way that she was always meant to. She wanted to wrap her up, protect her and complete her, so that Emma couldn't find it within herself to fear the most beautiful thing they had ever created together.
"Yes," Regina affirmed, the word mixing with a gasp of pleasure as Emma pressed her knee against the back of her hand, allowing the fullness of her palm to rub against her sensitive flesh. Regina's lips parted and her eyes rolled in the back of her head, sharp fingernails marking flushed flesh as the blonde increased the speed of her movements, stealing all the words from Regina's mind except for one, singular word. "Emma…"
She had wanted to say it, had felt without a doubt that right then would've been the perfect moment to tell Emma the true extent of her feelings, but instead the world blurred to nothing as the wave of ecstasy crashed over Regina's form, leaving her mind gloriously blank for one, long moment as Emma gently kissed her down from her high. And as she grasped onto heated flesh, burying her face in the bosom of the woman who had taken her heart, Regina knew it really didn't matter.
For Emma already knew anyhow.
Sunlight streamed through the curtains as a new day broke the horizon. Regina had been awake for a little while now, finding herself unable to move from the warmth and comfort of her bed whilst it was occupied by the serene picture of Emma fast asleep and content beside her. Regina hand was tangled in a mess of hair as she propped herself up on her elbow, watching her fingers run gently across the soft skin of Emma's arm. The blonde grunted and twitched in her sleep and a small smile broke out across Regina's face, finding something terribly endearing about Emma's morning grumpiness.
She was sleepily swatted at. "Quit it," Emma whined, rolling over and taking half the covers with her. "S'early. Fuck's sake, babe."
"Babe now, is it?" Regina questioned, her eyebrows rising to her hairline. Emma heard the disapproval in her tone over the term and she threw the covers over her head, mumbling beneath them.
"Gonna call you 'muffin' for the rest of your damn life if you don't leave me alone. M'Fucking off today, Regina. Need sleep."
Regina smirked, amused despite herself. "Fine," she told her, crawling out of the warmth of the bed. "I'm going to get Henry ready for school, but you're having breakfast with me after I drop him off."
Regina couldn't really hear Emma's mumbled response from underneath the covers, but it sounded like a, "Whatever," which was enough confirmation for her.
Awhile later, Regina was back in her bedroom, kicking off her shoes as she looked down at the sleeping figure atop her comforter. Emma was sprawled on her stomach, legs hanging off the edge of the bed, and Regina was fairly certain that she was drooling on one of her throw pillows. Shaking her head, Regina chuckled as she crawled in bed beside her, leaning down to place a light kiss on Emma's shoulder.
"Get up," Regina demanded in a low voice as she pressed her lips to her ear. Emma noticeably twitched as she was awoken from her slumber, a grumpy protest falling from her lips almost immediately.
Regina rolled her eyes and shoved Emma's shoulder lightly. "I gave you an hour and a half, and I swear to you, if you call me that one more time, I am not above pushing you right out of this bed and onto the floor."
Emma, not one to back down from a challenge, did so without thinking. "Pumpkin," she stressed instead, trying to take advantage of Regina's failure of specifics. However, the obnoxious term was close enough, so without hesitation Regina put all her weight against Emma's back, beginning to push.
A small screech fell from Emma's lips as her hand grasped onto the edge of the bed, trying to keep Regina from throwing her off the mattress. "Alright, alright!" she conceded loudly, half of her already off the bed once Regina stopped moving against her. Emma growled in displeasure as she resituated herself, lying back against the pillows. "You suck," she accused as she let out a long breath of defeat, blinking the sleep from her eyes.
Regina smirked, pushing the hair off the blonde's forehead. "I'm persistent," she corrected as she settled in next to Emma, content on relaxing for a little while before she got up and made them breakfast. Emma shot her a grumpy look before grabbing one of Regina's hands, taking it with her when she rolled over so the brunette would be forced to spoon her. Regina had never been overly fond of cuddling, but she allowed the position, at least momentarily.
They lied there in silence for a little while, Regina allowing Emma to fully awaken on her own terms now that she had at least roused her from slumber. But it was sometime between when Emma's breathing started to slow and Regina placed a soft kiss against the back of her neck to remind her to stay awake, that the Mayor remembered why she had allowed Emma to put off the conversation they needed to have. So it was with full awareness that Emma's defenses were down when Regina told her softly, tentatively, "I knew that Graham had a… heart condition."
It was the closest to the truth that Regina could muster and Emma instinctively stiffened at the unexpected words. Still, she continued, "I was angry; jealous that the both of you were going behind my back and I thought…" Regina sighed softly, tightening her hand in Emma's. "I knew the stress of us fighting could possibly hospitalize him, especially after his mental breakdown, or whatever that insanity was…" It was a lie that she had practiced a hundred times in her head since the accusation was made, but it didn't make the words come any easier. "I wanted to hurt him," Regina admitted after a long stretch of silence. "But I never thought it would…"
"Kill him?" Emma finished for her in a whisper, her words nothing but broken fragments of the strength she once held. Regina nodded silently behind her back, finding that she was holding her breath, waiting for Emma's reaction to her admission of ill-intent. It was the closest she could give her to honesty, and the only thing that would explain Emma's suspicion of her. The silence between them stretched onwards and Regina's heart was firmly lodged in her throat by the time Emma finally spoke.
"He died right as he was leaning in to kiss me." It sounded as though she were talking to the wall more than Regina, the guilt weighing heavy on her words. "So if anyone pushed him past the brink, it was probably me."
Regina took a hesitant breath, intending to tell Emma that it wasn't her fault, but the blonde continued, needing to get everything out at once.
"That's fucked up though," Emma murmured, her whole body stiff wherever Regina was touching her, as if she too was afraid of the reaction she'd provoke, "that you would do that, knowing that he—" Emma shook her head, pulling away from Regina for a moment so that she could turn to look at her. "I mean jesus, Regina, couldn't you have just spread around town that he had chlamydia or something, like a normal fucking person? You don't screw with someone that has a condition like that, jealous or not. I swear, sometimes you really don't think of anyone but yourself, and that's…" But she didn't finish her sentence, instead averting her eyes from the brunette as she set her jaw.
"I'm not proud of it," Regina told her honestly, as she had never been particularly proud of those she had murdered; they were a means to an end, a piece that didn't quite fit with the bigger picture she was trying to create. Their deaths were for the greater good of her happiness, as disastrously fucked up as that was.
"But you were right," she continued, a statement that prompted Emma to look at her once more. "If someone or something didn't benefit the wellbeing of me, or my son, I really couldn't find it within myself to care about the consequences that my actions held. I'm probably always going to be selfish in that way, but I…" Regina chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before revealing, "I've expanded my horizons a bit to include you in the things I deeply care for, and I think that, perhaps, the fact that we're so different in that way can actually stand to benefit me, just as I hope there are parts of me that could end up benefiting you. After all, isn't that why people say that opposites attract?"
Emma pursed her lips for a moment, looking at Regina in silence. Whether she was assessing or judging her, Regina wasn't certain, until Emma spoke once more. "Sometimes I wonder whether it's smart of me to trust you in the way that I do," she admitted softly. "I know you lie; I know you manipulate things to further your own ends. And yet I would trust you with my life, like… without fucking thought. I don't get it, and… fuck, sometimes I think I must have gone insane for it."
"Emma," Regina implored gently, her eyes softening as she reached out to cup her lover's face in her hand. "I swear to you, I would never intentionally hurt you. I've done a lot of horrible things, made a lot of bad choices, especially when it came to you, but now I…" Regina noticeably hesitated, her paranoia seeking to destroy the moment she found she really needed to have. It took quite a lot of effort, but as Regina pushed past her fear, she locked onto Emma's gaze and told her fiercely, honestly, "I… love you. Quite a lot, if I'm to be honest, and I… would never want to jeopardize my happy ending with you; not for anything. You are the reason I smile in the morning, Emma, the reason I am no longer consumed by a sense of hopelessness. Only a fool would throw that away."
A lump rose up in Emma's throat as she found herself instinctively smiling at those three little words that held more weight than anything either of them had ever known. Her hand covering Regina's that lay delicately on her cheek, her eyes shone with more emotion than the brunette believed she had ever seen before; disbelief, happiness, love, acceptance. It was strange, how different Emma looked in that one moment. It was as though Regina's declaration allowed her to let go of all her fears of abandonment, of worthlessness, as she swallowed hard.
"I love you too," Emma breathed, the words barely audible and yet blasting volumes within Regina's heart. The brunette's fingers tightened their grasp on Emma's hand, seeing nothing, feeling nothing other than the woman in front of her.
"Is that enough?" It was a soft question, yet Regina's need for an answer was reflected deep in her eyes. She knew she wasn't perfect, she knew there were a great many flaws that Emma would have a hard time overlooking, but in that moment, with the way the blonde was looking at her, Regina prayed to any God she could think of that Emma would say that it was, for she knew it might very well break her if she could not.
Emma smiled at her softly, leaning forwards so that they were breathing each other's air, allowing their clasped hands to fall to her lap. And as Emma pressed her forehead against hers, the Sherriff's fingers curled around the base of her neck, wanting Regina to feel the fierce honesty in her words as she whispered without thought nor hesitation, "It's more than enough, Regina."
Her emotions getting the best of her, Regina closed the distance between them, needing Emma to feel the effect that her pure, uncontested love had on the soul of someone whose heart had once been so shrouded in darkness. Their lips met and an instantaneous warmth enveloped Regina's body, igniting all her senses from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. It was intense, it was beautiful, and it was true.
And, within an instant, it all came crashing down.
The ground rumbled beneath their feet, the warmth and honesty between them expanding so much that it physically pushed outwards, causing the two women to break quite suddenly as an array of colors filled the light in the room, whooshing away from the center of their hearts as it fled the manor in an instant, washing over the rest of the town. The reaction happened so fast that it caused their hair to whip around their stunned faces, leaving them alone in a new world that would seek to destroy the happiness that they had managed to find within one another.
It was the most suffocating thing Regina had ever felt.
"No," she whispered in agony, the realization of what was happening hitting her full force, pushing the breath from her lungs and the sanity from her mind. "No!" Regina exclaimed as she scrambled off the bed, backing away from Emma so fast that she ended up tripping, landing in a trembling heap on the floor. Her heart was pounding mercilessly in her throat, every fear she had ever had being washed over her tenfold as Regina stared helplessly at the woman she knew she was seconds from losing. It made her want to cry out, rip the world to shreds, and run from the inevitable truth as fast as her legs would carry her, and yet Regina found she couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't breathe.
"Regina," Emma pleaded, looking as though she too were seconds away from losing her mind. Her hand was shaking as she motioned erratically to what had previously passed through the air. "What… what the fuck just happened?" Her eyes were wide, looking as though she were desperately trying to fight the truth that had been laid out in front of her. There was no mistaking what had just happened though, no pretending the magic that had passed through the room was anything different, as Regina knew that the moment Emma stepped back into town she would be confronted with every single lie that Regina had told anyway.
She was certain she was going to be ill.
"Regina," Emma repeated, her voice a dangerous decibel now as she stared her down, her eyes begging her to say that what had just happened wasn't what she thought. It looked as though the truth might very well break her. "Tell me what—please, just… tell me I'm crazy. Cause that… I mean it's—"
"The curse," Regina told her in a broken whisper, closing her eyes as a tear slipped down her cheek. She felt as though she were being swallowed whole in a nightmare she needed to wake up from, but the world had always been harsh and cruel towards her, so perhaps it was foolish to have expected anything but the pain she was destined for. Still, the love Regina had in her heart prevented her from lying to Emma any longer; she couldn't stomach it, not on top of everything else. "I think…" Regina breathed, her expression turning pained as she uttered words she knew she could never take back, "I think we just broke it."
Regina wiped the wetness from her cheeks, a trembling hand coming up to tangle in a mess of chestnut hair as she gathered the courage to look at Emma, the fear in her heart becoming justified in an instant at the expression on the blonde's face. Emma looked as though she were torn between laughing, crying, or punching Regina square in the face whilst screaming. There was no love in her gaze any longer, only disbelief and soul-crushing betrayal.
Her lie had destroyed them.
"Please," Regina begged through her tears, her voice cracking from the strain as she felt her whole world being brutally ripped to shreds. "Please, Emma, forgive me…" It was a futile plea and they both knew it, yet it was the moment when Emma's darkened gaze met hers, the finality in her eyes ripping Regina's soul apart, that the brunette finally knew that a happy ending would never be in the cards for someone like her.
For no one could ever love the Evil Queen.
I'm aware that there are some of you who probably want to beat me senseless for this, but I request that you suppress that urge for at least a little while, lol. This particular story might be over, but their journey is far from finished.
The first chapter of the sequel, Transgressions of the Heart, will be posted on May 1st.
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I want to thank you all for your continued interest in this; with 500+ reviews and follows, this story has officially become my most popular fic. The response has been both amazing and overwhelming, and I hope the sequel does not disappoint. Thank you guys so much, and I'll see you in a few weeks :]