Author's Note:
Normally I don't release chapters this close together, but given the holiday, I wanted to give you guys some Swan Queen feels. Happy Valentine's Day!


CHAPTER SEVEN
Truth

The ringing of the doorbell echoed through the manor, the sound almost foreign to the introverted nature of its residents.

"I got it!" Henry called out, taking the steps two at a time. Regina instinctively panicked as she watched him practically fly down them, paranoid that he was going to trip and land on his face; he wasn't the most graceful of children. Thankfully, when Henry jumped from the third step to the floor and made a loud bang that echoed through the front hall, he had landed on his feet before coming to a skidding stop at the front door. Regina released a breath she didn't know she had been holding.

"What have I told you about running?" the Mayor called out from the overhead arch of the kitchen entranceway but, as expected, her words had gone unacknowledged.

Sighing softly, Regina turned back towards the kitchen and resumed the preparation of her dinner, leaving Henry to greet his friends at the door. It was so rare that her son was invited to do anything by his peers and Regina didn't want to ruin this for him by potentially scaring off the only friends he had actually managed to make. According to Henry, she frightened a rather large portion of the kids at his school. Regina thought it more likely that she scared their parents and the feeling merely rubbed off on their offspring, but it was pointless to try to argue her side of it; Henry hadn't exactly been in her corner as of late, and it would have only amounted to wasted breath.

However, Regina found her entire body stiffening when the sound of her son's surprised tone floated over to where she resided. "Emma?"

The knife in Regina's hand clattered to the marble countertop, her task of dicing an onion instantly forgotten in lieu of the unexpected visitor. It had been nearly three days since Regina had seen the woman; after the incident in her office, she thought it best that they get some space from each other. The fact that Emma had somehow managed to hurt her feelings that day invoked an irrational panic in Regina, as the last thing she should ever feel is stung by someone who held no true meaning in her life. Emotions led to attachments, and Regina knew more than most that attachments like that never led anywhere good.

Although Regina was fairly certain that her ability to actually care what Miss Swan thought of her was nothing more than a momentary lapse of sanity, she did not want to take the risk that it was something more. Though it was undeniable that things had begun to change between them over the last few weeks, Regina chose to believe that it was only due to their shared admittance of need, nothing more.

Which, it seemed, Emma was fully demonstrating at the moment. Despite her irritation that the Sherriff showed up at her house uninvited, Regina couldn't help but smirk a little in satisfaction; Emma really couldn't stay away from her. It was a thought that made her feel all the more powerful, which was something Regina found she desperately needed in that moment in order to not storm in the other room and start screaming at her like some kind of desperate, scorned lover.

That, more than anything else, was completely out of the question. Regina Mills had her pride, after all.

"Hey, kid." Emma must have taken in Henry's bundled up appearance and the knapsack in his hand because immediately following her greeting she asked, "Where are you off to?"

"The Boar triplets are having a slumber party," Henry answered. Regina could almost hear the smile in his tone. "They invited the whole class. Mom says their parents must be insane, but I think it's going to be cool. I've never been to one before!"

There was a short pause before Henry's tone changed. "Are you here to see my Mom?" He didn't sound very thrilled about that, and truth be told, neither was Regina. Though she may feel a little more put together than she had five minutes ago because of Emma's desperate need to see her, it still didn't mean she wanted to deal with this right now.

"Yeah, I have some stuff I need to talk to her about; boring job things and whatever." Emma laughed softly, a tone meant to ease Henry's mind about their relationship being anymore more than that, but only stood to make Regina more on edge. She knew that wasn't why she was here; she had an office for such things, after all. "Being an adult really sucks sometimes, you know? But have fun at your party. And hey, if anyone says they want to play 'Seven Minutes in Heaven' with you, just tell them no."

Regina exhaled a soft groan at the woman's words, feeling herself already starting to get a headache. While she appreciated that she told Henry not to participate in any of those filthy little games that kids liked to play with one another, it really wasn't necessary as Regina was certain Henry was clueless as to their existence. Why Emma insisted on trying to parent when she had absolutely no experience, Regina would never know. It was entirely ridiculous.

As expected, Henry curiously inquired, "What's that?"

"Something you are way too young for, kid. Let's just leave it at that."

A car horn honked outside, giving Henry his cue to exit. Regina was thankful, as she was sure he would continue to ask questions about that damn game if he hadn't been given the distraction. "Mom, I'm leaving!" he called out as he wasted no time barreling past Emma to run out the door, excited about his first peer outing in quite a long time.

Regina left the kitchen to try to say a proper goodbye to her son, but it seemed Henry had already left, and instead she was confronted by the sight of the woman she had been purposely trying to avoid. Emma was standing in her front hallway a little awkwardly, hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans as she gave Regina a half-smile that looked almost apologetic for barging her way back into her life.

"Hey."

Regina felt her lip upturn in displeasure. Emma came over completely uninvited and unwanted and that was the only thing she had to say in greeting? Surely she could have done better than that.

Regina's response was icy as she stated pointedly, "I didn't send for you." She worded it in such a way that it sounded as though Emma really was nothing more than her own personal whore, as the bitter part of Regina wished for the blonde to be stung by her words as much as she had been by hers.

It was, perhaps, the need for revenge over something that should hold so little meaning that worried Regina the most.

She did, however, get the response she wished for. Emma's lips turned down into a frown, upset crossing over her face for a moment before she had enough sense to hide it. "Yeah," she responded, her tone having gotten much softer despite trying not to look fazed by Regina's words. "That's uh, kinda why I'm here."

Regina scoffed; she really did not have the time to indulge Emma in her seemingly never-ending mission to cause her misery and unrest. It was that thought which prompted the sharp response of, "Because you have a natural-born instinct to irritate me?" as Regina's hands rested on her hips, straightening her spine in an attempt to look taller and therefore more intimidating as she stared down her uninvited guest.

Despite Regina's efforts to cause the Sherriff enough discomfort to just turn around and leave, Emma stood rooted to the spot. Her stubbornness, it seemed, was Regina's constant undoing.

"Because I wanted to apologize," Emma corrected, holding her gaze to show the sincerity in her words. Suddenly it was Regina who felt very uncomfortable, and her firm demeanor noticeably faltered as an unexpected feeling settled in her gut. Knowing it was better left unacknowledged, Regina instead raised a challenging eyebrow.

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Look, I…" Emma began, taking a hesitant step towards Regina who instinctively took a step backwards in response. She felt far more comfortable when there was a noticeable amount of distance between the two of them and Emma seemed to catch onto that so she stopped, exhaling a soft sigh.

"I'm sorry," she began again, at least having the decency to look guilt-ridden. "I shouldn't have—well, you're… you're not some kind of chore for me, or anything. I didn't mean to make it sound that way, I was just stressed out and I… I don't know, am apparently a huge idiot or whatever when it comes to this sort of stuff. I'm just… I'm really sorry. Okay?"

Jaw locked and muscles tight, Regina fought against the urge to let her emotions play out on her face. Though a part of her was glad that Emma apologized, the fact that Emma realized she needed to only stood to aggravate her, as it meant she really had shown far too much weakness that day. Her eyes hardening, Regina stared at the woman before her; she needed to undo the damage her silly emotional outburst had caused before this got way out of hand.

"Your apology is hardly necessary, Miss Swan," Regina dismissed, trying to be as diplomatic yet ultimately standoffish as much as humanly possible. "Despite what you may believe, I really do not care much for what you think of me. You're a means to an end; that is all. Don't ever confuse what we're doing with anything else, because I fear you will be sorely disappointed."

Emma quirked a challenging eyebrow at her. "Really." It wasn't a question, as it was filled with too much skepticism to ever come off as such. But Regina kept her composure and stared her down, determination in her eyes, set on seeing that this foolishness came to an end.

"Really."

In one smooth motion that Regina failed to even register as reality until it had already happened, suddenly her back was against the far wall, Emma's body firmly pressed up against her newly captured form. A surprised protest died on Regina's lips as her mouth was quickly invaded by Emma's tongue, the Sherriff holding tight to her wrists as she managed to steal both Regina's breath and her sanity in one singular motion. A familiar haze began to invade the Mayor's mind, laying waste to both her anger and her resolve as Regina hungrily devoured all that the woman was offering her.

It had always felt disturbingly natural, Regina realized, for her to just fall into everything that Emma Swan was.

But a small sound of protest left Regina's lips as the contact was suddenly broken. Their passion, it seemed, had not been the Sherriff's point. "You think I really don't know?" Emma breathed against her skin, keeping firm on her hold to prevent Regina from fleeing from a conversation they both knew she didn't want to have, "What I do to you?"

Emma's tongue traced the hollow of her throat and Regina instinctively shuddered beneath her, her head falling backwards to rest against the wall, closing her eyes to try to block out Emma's words. "How I make you feel?"

"I lust after you." Regina's insistence was breathy yet firm, trying desperately not to release a moan at the feeling of Emma nipping softly at the base of her neck. She didn't deserve the pleasure; not when she was ruining the moment like this. "That is all."

Emma merely laughed, the sound almost echoing off the hollow of her throat. "I fucking terrify you," she corrected fiercely before pressing her thigh firmly between Regina's legs, emitting a wanton gasp from the woman beneath her before Emma sunk her teeth into her shoulder, marking Regina as hers. The brunette cried out from the feeling, her nails digging into the flesh of Emma's bicep as her hips twitched in insistent desperation.

"But you know what?" Emma breathed, her tongue tracing over the mark she made and then upwards, over the succulent flesh of Regina's neck until she got to her ear. Her breath was heavy with arousal as her fingers splayed out against Regina's skin, hiking up her shirt so she could feel the dip and curvature of her waist. It was then that Emma quietly revealed her own weakness, being whispered softly into Regina's ear as though it were a schoolyard secret between friends. "You terrify me too."

Regina's breathing shallowed.

Her arousal giving way to panic, the Mayor suddenly shoved Emma off of her. "Stop it!" she shrieked, unable to contain her fear over what had been implied. It was completely unbecoming of her, but in that moment Regina really couldn't find it within herself to care. "We are nothing to each other; nothing!"

Emma's chest was heaving, her eyes becoming dark as she stood before the woman who would rather live in denial then admit that something had changed. "Is that what you told yourself while you sulked for three days, avoiding my calls?" Emma took a step forwards and Regina felt the overwhelming urge to back away, yet found she had nowhere to go.

"I'm not telling you this because I want something more than what we have; I'm telling you this to make you feel better about this entire fucked up situation. You're not the only one that this screwed with, you know! Half the time I can barely stand to look at you and the other half…" Emma trailed off, suddenly finding that she didn't want to elaborate. Regina clenched her jaw, trying desperately to fight the slew of emotions that were threatening to make her ill.

"You care, Regina."

Regina was beginning to feel akin to a trapped animal and so she bent her will to allot herself the freedom and space that she so terribly needed in that moment. In the end, there was nothing more she could do, as she knew Emma was stubborn and would fight to the last. That was something Regina knew she wouldn't be able to handle.

"Fine!" she exclaimed fiercely, desperate for this conversation to just end. "What you said bothered me, and it's been fucking with my head ever since because I'm not supposed to care; it complicates things and that is the last thing I want." Dark eyes met light as Regina furiously glared at her interrogator. "Alright? Are you satisfied now?"

Emma exhaled a slow breath, her anger starting to dissipate from the confirmation. She nodded, releasing her hold on the brunette. "Yeah."

"Good. Now get the hell out of my face."

Emma did as she requested, backing up a few steps so that Regina no longer felt backed into a corner. As she tried to steady her breathing, realizing that she had been nearly on the verge of a panic attack, Emma watched her. Her face softened with guilt.

"I'm sorry," she said softly, sounding regretful. "I just… I don't like when people lie to me."

"Another childhood trauma from the rejected daughter in you, I'm sure," Regina spat, still furious with her for making her admit something she had taken quite a lot of time and effort to bury. Her arms wrapped around her form, trying to find some small semblance of comfort after being taken much farther than she was ready for.

Hurt flashed in Emma's eyes, but she did not deny it. "Yeah, probably," she affirmed quietly. Her eyes shifted from Regina and the Mayor watched her start to recoil from the subject she had so fervently insisted on bringing up. This was exactly why they did not talk about what they were doing; neither of them were emotionally mature enough to do so. They were too messed up.

"I don't want to date you," Emma told her, pushing past her urge to run for once and actually facing what it was that she had started. "I think I'd probably end up killing you. All I wanted, all I want," she corrected herself, "is the truth. If you can't give that to me, then maybe…" Emma exhaled a long sigh, her expression showing how much she did not want to say her next words, "maybe we really should stop."

Despite her anger, Regina's stomach twisted in knots at those words. "I don't want that," she answered, without even fully thinking about it. Relief flashed on Emma's face, but it was brief. She looked at Regina, knowing that she needed to test her before she allowed herself to feel good about it.

"Why?" The question was not unexpected, yet it was hated all the same.

Regina slumped against the wall, already utterly exhausted by the unexpected onslaught of emotions that she was forced to feel this afternoon. She looked at Emma helplessly, silently begging for her to just let it go for now. However, her request was quickly denied.

"Regina, just tell me," Emma pleaded softly, desperation in her tone. "Please… make me stay."

The brunette let out a loud sigh of frustration, running her hand through her hair. Honesty had never been a redeeming quality of hers, but as she looked at Emma, Regina knew that if she opted to say nothing at all, it would only stand to hurt them both so much more. It would end what they had, and that was the very last thing that Regina wanted right now.

Shifting her gaze so that she didn't have to look Emma in the eye when she said it, Regina forced the words to come out of her. "Because you make me feel something I don't want to lose." The admission was soft, sounding almost painful to utter, but it was heard all the same.

Whatever was holding Emma's emotions back seemed to break at those words and suddenly she had Regina's face in her hands, crushing their lips together as she kissed her with such bruising passion that the brunette suddenly found that she couldn't breathe. Everything felt lighter, easier almost as she allowed Emma to unburden her with a secret that had been crushing the sanity out of her for far too long. And so, hands grasping at the fabric of Emma's clothing, Regina welcomed her in, allowing herself for the first time to feel something other than lust for the woman that had always drove her mad.

It was probably the worst idea either of them had ever had, yet they fell into its madness it all the same.

"Fuck," Emma panted against her lips after they broke, pressing her forehead against Regina's as her hand snaked up her shirt and over the taut muscles of her abdomen. She closed her eyes, her voice sounding terribly regretful as she breathed, "I so wish you had said that to me earlier…"

Regina's eyebrows knitted in confusion, her breathing labored from everything Emma had made her feel. "Why?" she asked, allowing her hand to cup the back of the woman's neck in some pathetic attempt to make her stay with her, even though she was fairly certain she knew why Emma sounded so regretful.

"Because I want to fuck the breath from your lungs," Emma told her passionately, her fingernails raking over soft, olive skin as she pulled back a little to look her in the eye. Her lips turned down into an apologetic frown. "But I…"

"Have to go," Regina finished for her, wishing she didn't sound as terribly upset about that as she did. Taking a shuddered inhale of breath, Regina instantly rebuilt her walls in a desperate attempt to stop feeling everything she knew she was going to eventually drown in. She pulled away from her. "It's fine, I don't—"

But Emma grabbed her hand, pulling her back to her. "It's not fine," she told her seriously. "But it's… it's kind of my early birthday celebration." Guilt masked over her face; she really didn't want to leave her. Regina wished that served her some sort of comfort, but right then it really didn't. She had allowed Emma to strip her naked, emotionally speaking anyway, and now she was basically abandoning her.

"Oh."

Honestly, Regina didn't even know her birthday was coming up, and though it was unfathomable that she would, since Emma had never mentioned it before now, an uncomfortable feeling twisted in her gut.

"Yeah," Emma confirmed softly, chewing slightly on her bottom lip. "Ruby and Mary Margaret wanted to take me out drinking at The Rabbit Hole tonight since they both have to work tomorrow. My actual birthday," Emma explained after a beat, even though Regina had gotten that herself. The blonde's grip on her hand tightened before she admitted, "I actually came here to invite you. After, you know, the whole apology thing…"

Yesterday, Regina would have believed she'd never have an interest in such a thing. But today, now, it almost hurt her to remind Emma in a soft voice, "That's probably not a good idea." Regina exhaled a defeated breath filled with all the disappointment she hadn't really expected to feel. "You know we shouldn't be seen together."

"Fuck that," Emma said strongly, making Regina's eyebrows rise in disbelief. The woman shrugged noncommittally as she amended, "Okay, I'm not saying come as my… whatever the hell you are, but everyone knows that we've gotten friendlier. You wouldn't let Henry sleep over as much as you do if we hadn't. Mary Margaret has even formed the theory that you might actually be human after all." She smirked, trying to allow Regina to find the humor in it. But the brunette just sighed as she rested heavily against the wall.

"I can't," she answered regrettably. "I'm sorry."

Emma pursed her lips, trying not to look disappointed yet failing miserably at it. Regina felt her heart clench in her chest and she reached for her, bringing them into an apologetic kiss that suddenly felt so much more real than anything she had ever felt before, despite the fact that it was probably nothing more than another, yet far more attractive, delusion to immerse herself in.

"You've fucked everything up now, you know that right?" Regina breathed against her lips, partially wishing she had never allowed herself to have these kinds of emotions, as she was certain they would crush them both in the end. Emma had changed everything by forcing her to admit what she felt and it was eventually bound to turn into something neither of them really wanted. That was how these sorts of things went.

"Yeah," Emma whispered, sounding almost regretful herself. But she sunk into her, pressing her palm to Regina's to feel the connection they shared as she allowed they brunette to consume her whole. "This is going to end badly, isn't it?"

Regina closed her eyes as she leaned her forehead against Emma's, breathing in her air as she nodded. "Yes," she affirmed softly, knowing that the time would come when reality would crash down around them. "It most certainly is."

TBC…