Regina's about to turn on the shower when she hears the pounding at the front door. She freezes, palm of her hand against the chrome, and considers her options. If this is the mob, now, weeks later, then she no longer has a viable escape plan.
The knocking continues, erratic and loud. Regina marches out into the hall, tamping down the pointless instinct to check on Henry, to make sure it hasn't woken him; after all, he isn't there. If the interruption and the momentary fear have irritated her, it's that painful reminder that has her all the way to fuming by the time she throws open the front door.
"What?" She snaps, as Emma Swan stands there, arm still raised and swaying slightly in the evening breeze.
"Fuck," is all Emma says, before trying to move and falling at Regina's feet instead. The fall is clumsy, a tangle of limbs that hits the marble floor hard. Regina prods at Emma's limp body with her bare foot, getting no more than a grunt in response.
Part of her wants to leave the Sheriff there-the stink of alcohol clouding the air around her- to freeze on the cold floor. Mostly, Regina is contemplating how this can be turned to her advantage: in terms of getting Henry back something like this could prove useful in front of any kind of mediator.
But something in Regina twinges at the pathetic sight before her, it's something she remembers only too well from her own darkest days. Scanning her front garden to ensure there are no witnesses, she bends down and hooks her arms under Emma's, hauling her back up to a sitting position.
"Can you walk?" Regina snaps.
"Yeah," Emma mumbles, her lip cut and swollen. "Kinda."
Regina considers for another long moment, tapping her foot as she thinks about her options. It's not too late to turn a drunken intruder out into the night, file a complaint with the Sheriff's department that will never be actioned. Prisoners' rights follow the old world model here, now that everyone has their memory back. And if Emma was a hero for breaking the curse, it's only cemented by her short-lived trip back to the Enchanted Forest.
"Oh, come on," Regina sighs, pulling Emma to her feet and gingerly wrapping a supporting arm around her waist. "Upstairs."
"Why?" Emma says. "Why are you helping me?" She slurs.
"Because, Miss Swan," Regina replies, dragging Emma towards the stairs. "You don't have the monopoly on what good people do."
Regina bites back a few choice curse words as Emma stumbles and falls. It's not something she's eager to share with outsiders, but Regina realizes she's going to need a little help from her magic, or Emma will send them both tumbling right back down the stairs.
When Regina casts the spell, she expects Emma to lash out or at least complain, but she seems quite happy to be gently levitated up the rest of the way. Regina shakes her head, because if Emma is so wasted she can't tell she isn't walking under her own steam, then it's worse than Regina thought.
They come to a halt in the bathroom, and Regina lowers Emma onto the tile floor, where she promptly sinks to her knees.
"If you're going to be sick," Regina warns. "The toilet is over there."
"M'fine," Emma grunts, but she's holding her head in her hands like she's anything but.
"Oh, for Gods' sakes," Regina groans, and with a few more flicks of her wrist she has Emma stripped to her tank top and underwear.
"Hey!" Emma protests. "No funny business."
"Get in the shower," Regina orders, her patience worn so thin it's in serious danger of snapping. "Now."
Something in Regina's tone must resonate, because Emma does as she's told. She's in the shower, pulling her tank top over her head when Regina turns it on, full blast and just above freezing. Emma squeals, and tries to jump clear of the spray; Regina grabs her arm and holds her in place.
"Sober up," Regina commands, stepping back and shaking the water from her hands. "I'll leave clean clothes, then come downstairs for coffee."
She doesn't wait for a reply, sweeping out of the bathroom and leaving Emma to the water.
Regina pours herself half a mug, and she's stirring in the cream and sugar when Emma appears, looking cold and sheepish in Regina's workout clothes. Her blonde hair hangs limply in wet strands around her face, and Regina wrinkles her nose as drips of water fall from it to the floor.
"I, um," Emma starts, but Regina is in no mood for half-hearted apologies.
"How do you take your coffee?" She asks, reaching for the cream.
"Black is fine," Emma says, and Regina isn't sure why she's lying but pours a mug and hands it over regardless.
"You can stay," Regina says, sipping her own creamy coffee. "In one of the guest rooms."
"I don't need to-"
"You can't drive," Regina says bluntly. "And it's already too late to be wandering around. This isn't a sleepy little town any more, Miss Swan. The monsters are back."
Emma swallows audibly at that threat, before taking a mouthful of coffee.
"Thank you," she says, barely above a whisper, but Regina hears it loud and clear. Perhaps it's the unfamiliarity of the words that make them resonate, or maybe it's just hearing them from the last person Regina expected.
She's gone, in the morning. Regina can feel the return of emptiness to the house as soon as she wakes.
There's a dull pang of a headache starting, so she shakes out a couple of pills with her morning coffee. Just a precaution, of course; this solitude is boring enough without pain to keep her from filling the time.
Henry's next visit is excruciating.
He's still hoping that if he refuses to speak, Regina will get angry and cancel the visits. Truthfully, he's smart to appeal to that spiteful side of her nature, and it's taking all of her self-control not to metaphorically cut off her own nose when it comes to him. Spite has long been her default position.
What makes it especially awkward, though, is Emma's presence. Usually Henry insists that Emma stay in the room, but he doesn't seem especially warm to her today either, and so Emma has been pacing in the hall and is now rattling around in Regina's kitchen, an action guaranteed to set her teeth on edge.
It's sheer stubbornness that makes Regina wait until the hour is up, not even telling Henry off for putting his feet on the coffee table. He flicks through a comic and grunts at her vague questions about school, and Regina tells herself that it's something, even though it's worse than nothing at all.
Emma won't meet Regina's eyes as Henry runs into the hallway looking for her. The two of them depart in silence, and Regina blinks back angry tears she didn't mean to shed.
Regina comes and goes under cover of darkness wherever possible. Some days the house is unbearable in its confinement, despite the numerous rooms and high ceilings. Some days there's no substitute for fresh air and open space, because that's the only way Regina can control the creeping dread that reminds her of being held captive by her mother and Leopold in turn.
That's why she's striding back to the house via back streets after nine, pleasantly exhausted and feeling the burn in her calves from decent exercise. It means she happens on Charming wrestling with another figure in the alley that runs behind Granny's, a thoroughfare that's rarely used by anyone.
Regina thinks about intervening, to have Charming owe her some kind of favor, until the blonde curls spill from under a baseball cap and Regina realizes the Prince is wrestling with his own daughter.
"Give me the keys," he's saying in that plaintive way he has. Even now, as she lands blows on his arms and chest, the man doesn't dare alienate the daughter he's only just found.
It's strangely intrusive, and so Regina bows her head once more and continues on her way home. Let the Charmings deal with their own problems; Gods know she has enough of her own.
If the car weren't such a gaudy shade of yellow, Regina wouldn't notice it as she draws the bedroom curtains. Her breath catches in her throat at the sight, and she waves a hand to turn off the lights, not caring if magic and electricity should react badly, as she's been worried they will.
But Emma Swan doesn't get out of the car in the twenty minutes that Regina watches. It should be easy enough to ignore it, to let her freeze in the chill of a fall night, but when Regina slides beneath the sheets she finds herself unable to keep her eyes closed, with even less chance of being able to sleep.
So she finds herself pulling on that day's warm clothes from the top of the laundry hamper, not bothering with underwear, and trailing out along the garden path with a flashlight in her hand and a growing sense of unease.
Regina opens the driver's side door to discover Emma Swan with an almost empty bottle of bourbon in one hand and her service revolver in the other. In the two weeks since Regina spotted her behind the diner, Emma's demeanor hasn't improved even slightly.
"Have you come here to kill me, Sheriff?" Regina asks the only reasonable question she can conjure up.
"No," Emma says bluntly, her voice barely recognizable. "I think I came here to kill myself."
"Put it down," Regina warns, hands on her hips now, clutching hard enough to wrinkle the fabric. An hour has passed, an hour mercifully spent indoors after she coaxed Emma inside the house, but Emma seems no more inclined to part with the deadly weapon she brought with her.
"Make me," Emma challenges, legs swinging against the breakfast bar where she sits, seemingly content beside the fruit bowl and some unopened mail. It might even be sort of domestic, if not for the loaded .45 in her hand. And if the gun were the only thing loaded tonight.
"Don't you ever ask yourself what the point is, Regina?" Emma looks like she's genuinely thinking about it, too. "I mean, you're holed up here in your revenge gone wrong, and everyone hates you. Even Henry hates you."
"Stop it," Regina says, and it sounds more like a plea than a threat, now.
"Maybe I'd be doing us all a favor," Emma continues, staring down the gun barrel, mesmerized. "Whaddya say? I do you first, then take myself out. We can stage it, make it look pretty."
"There's nothing pretty about a dead body," Regina snaps.
"Right," Emma says. "You would know."
"You're drunk," Regina points out again. "In the morning, through the headache, you'll remember that you have parents who love you; you'll remember that my son loves you. And I suspect even that puppet loves you, if only you would let him."
Emma laughs, and it's as hollow as the space where Regina's heart used to be.
"My parents don't know what to do with me. They look at me and it's just... disappointment. Henry's just as bad. He doesn't understand why I'm not a perfect Stepford Mom like you. And the only guy who maybe loves me abandoned me over and over again. Not to mention that I can't stand him. So what the fuck am I sticking around for?"
"You could run," Regina bargains. "Isn't that your thing?"
"They'll come after me," Emma sighs. "They'll feel like they have to."
She lowers the gun, finally, and Regina feels her chest finally expand with the air from a full breath.
"I could help you," Regina suggests, uneasy at even the though. "With magic."
She watches, helpless, as Emma lets the first wracking sob escape.
"Take it," Emma says ten minutes later, utterly defeated. Regina snatches the gun before anyone can change their mind, shoving it in the pantry and locking the door. Emma doesn't appear to be looking, so Regina slips the key discreetly into the cutlery drawer. "I don't want to run," Emma mumbles, barely loud enough for Regina to hear.
"Then stay," Regina offers, not unreasonably. "But I won't let Henry stay with you if you're drinking. I will take him back, via any means necessary."
"You don't get to decide that," Emma says, a flaring of her usual fight crossing her face and dying out a moment later. "But fuck. Isn't this why I gave him up in the first place?"
"The drinking," Regina says carefully. "Is it always... this bad?"
"Nah," Emma says easily. "I mean, I've had a taste for it as long as I can remember, but you get that, right? I mean, I've seen your liquor cabinet, Madam Mayor."
"I'm not a drunk," Regina says, folding her arms over her chest. She feels rumpled in yesterday's clothes, her makeup already removed and her hair mussed by failed attempts at sleep and then manhandling Emma from the car to the house. Regina feels exhausted, down to the bone, and the night shows no signs of ending.
"Neither am I," Emma protests, but it's weak.
"Evidence would suggest otherwise," Regina presses. "Emma, please. Should I call your parents? They can get you... help, or something."
Emma looks up at the surprisingly tender use of her actual name.
"You wouldn't," Emma challenges, and she's not slurring her words now.
"Watch me," Regina threatens, hands firmly on her hips. It makes her look far more in control than she actually feels. "You want to watch me pick up the phone and make it happen? Those idiots will coming running for you in a heartbeat."
"And then they'll 'nice' me to death!" Emma whines. "You tell me, Regina: is nice what I need right now? How long until I have them wrapped around my little finger?"
"You're horrible," Regina accuses, leaning back against the pantry door. "And you're a goddamned drunk who isn't fit to look after a child."
"I can't take it, here. Every day I disappoint someone. Henry, my parents, the people who think I'm a cross between Cinderella and the chick from Kill Bill."
"You've met Cinderella," Regina points out, from sheer force of habit now. "I don't think she's anything particularly special."
"It's just so... it's like I'm going to scream if I don't get out. But if I leave, everybody gets hurt. I've never had anyone to leave behind before. I hate it. Don't you get why I might want to just not deal with that for a while? Drinking, well, it helps."
"No," Regina says firmly, mind made up. "I'm calling them. You are not my problem."
But Emma is on her before Regina knows what's happening. She smells like bourbon and cigarette smoke, because apparently falling back on one vice at a time is just so passé.
"If they take me away, we won't get a chance to try this," Emma says, her voice little more than a husky whisper that's smothered when her mouth starts to kiss Regina's neck. "Or this," she adds, nipping at Regina's earlobe. That sends a jolt straight to Regina's clit, and she's already losing.
"You have to stop," Regina warns, willing her knees not to tremble, trying desperately not to lean into the hot, wet pressure of Emma's relentless mouth. "I don't want this. I don't want you."
"Your eyes say otherwise, Regina," Emma points out as her mouth continues its determined assault. "You've been fucking me with your eyes since the first night we met. How about we trying fucking in a much, much better way, hmm?"
"It's just because you're drunk," Regina accuses, clutching at Emma's jacket but failing to push her away. She considers for a long moment. "If we do this, you have to promise to stop drinking."
"I can do that," Emma lies, reaching for the waistband of Regina's pants. "I can stop for you."
"Not for me. For Henry," Regina insists. She attempts one final, weak protest but her hands are already grasping desperately at Emma's denim-covered ass.
"Okay, Regina. But please," Emma pleads. "Don't tell them. Me and you, okay? Just me and you. And this."
"Fuck," is the only thing Regina has left to reply with. Emma has her hands under Regina's sweater now, and she hisses happily on discovering bare breasts and no bra.
"You sure you didn't plan this?" Emma says, smiling as she tugs the sweater up over Regina's willing arms and throws it on the kitchen floor.
"Yes, it was the perfect plan," Regina grumbles, rolling her eyes just a little. It's hard not to feel a little self-conscious, standing there bare-breasted and trembling slightly. "All I needed was for you to show up drunk and suicidal, if not homicidal."
"Hey!" Emma protests, smacking Regina's ass just hard enough for it to sting through the wool of her pants.
"Can't get angry when it's true," Regina tries to say, but Emma's tugging at her bottom lip with intent and the words fall into nonsense.
"Upstairs," Emma says, breathless when she releases Regina's mouth. "I want to fuck you in a bed."
"How romantic," Regina mutters, but she picks up her discarded sweater and leads the way, stopped at various points by Emma pushing her against a wall for more kisses, by Emma undoing the button on Regina's pants and letting them almost trip her on the stairs. At one point, when Emma lifts Regina up against the wall outside the bedroom, Regina simply wraps her legs around Emma and decides to hell with ever making it to bed.
"Not so fast," Emma says, before sucking lewdly on Regina's painfully hard nipple. She releases it with an almost comical, hollow 'pop' and fixes those stormy green eyes on Regina's face, which has to be flushed with the heat and arousal that's leaving her dizzy. "We are making it to your bed," Emma continues. "No matter how strong your thighs are."
Regina squeezes them to make her point, and Emma groans.
"Don't underestimate me, your Majesty," Emma warns, grabbing Regina's ass and pulling her away from the wall. In stumbling steps, punctuated by more breathless, unforgiving kisses, they push through the door of Regina's bedroom.
"How did you know this was the right room?" Regina asks, once Emma has dropped her carelessly on the bed.
"I spy on you sometimes," Emma says with a shrug. "Well, I did. To make sure the kid was okay."
At the mention of Henry, some of Regina's ardor cools.
"Should we be doing this?" She asks. "Henry already hates me and if he thinks-"
"He doesn't hate you," Emma soothes, straddling Regina's lap as she sits up on the mattress. "He doesn't. He's getting to hate me, though. Another week of me burning dinner and not washing his superhero shirts fast enough, and he'll be running back here to you."
"Don't joke about that," Regina warns, her mood darkening. Emma probably doesn't intend it that way, but Regina is so heartily sick of everyone dangling the things she wants in front of her, only to snatch them away and punish her for daring to hope.
"Enough Henry talk," Emma insists, her palms flat against Regina's bare chest now. "Just... enough."
Regina could confess that she knows this feeling of worthlessness, that she knows what it feels like to stare at a sleeping child and mentally list the ways in which you're failing him, but she keeps her mouth firmly closed. At least until Emma seeks out another searing kiss, this time more forceful with her tongue, and it feels like a promise of what else she's going to do with it.
"Are you sure?" Regina asks, extending the one courtesy that's never been offered to her. Emma responds by pushing Regina down on the bed, and as she looms over Regina with blonde hair backlit like a halo, Emma doesn't look quite so broken anymore.
It's not exactly a masterclass in finesse.
Not using magic has made Regina's body sluggish in ways she couldn't predict, and her fingers take a little longer to carry out her commands. They paw blindly at each other's clothing, apparently deciding along the way that contact is more important than stripping in anything like a seductive manner. Emma actually throws her bra across the room, and when it comes to removing Regina's pants, they're tugged down her legs and dropped with little ceremony.
"Impatient?" Regina gasps as Emma wriggles out of her own remaining clothes before laying herself on top of Regina, pushing her legs under the sheets.
"Aren't you?" Emma says, before trailing another line of bourbon-soaked kisses down Regina's neck, laughing softly when Regina clutches at Emma's hair, pulling her closer and refusing to let her pull away. "Don't worry, your Majesty. I'm not going to make you wait."
"Don't call me-" Regina starts to scold, but Emma's mouth has already moved south, and she's toying with a hard nipple like a woman on a mission. Regina's words dissolve into gasps as the shocks of sensation radiate through her breast, finding faint echoes all over her body. It's been too long since anyone touched her like this, and decades since anyone did it with anything approaching enthusiasm. Emma might be a slightly sloppy drunk, but there's very little wrong with her motor control right now.
"Hmm?" Emma murmurs against Regina's skin, those unmoisturized hands clutching desperately at soft flesh, squeezing in a counterpoint to the flick-flick-flick of Emma's tongue. Regina arches into the touch as Emma begins to suck instead, and this time when Regina reaches for those messy blonde curls, she holds on tight enough to make a point.
Emma kisses her way across to the neglected breast, Regina's hand guiding her there without complaint, and this time it's a little less playful, and there's a lot more breathy moaning on both their parts as Emma twists and teases, before returning to Regina's waiting mouth in a flurry of open-mouthed kisses against skin that's now practically feverish.
It feels almost demure to be half-covered by the sheets, but there's nothing shy about the way Emma insinuates her thigh between Regina's. The gentle, rocking pressure seems like a natural extension of Emma being on top, and Regina parts her thighs a little further, wanting every bit of contact that Emma's willing to give her.
"So hot," Emma mutters, and this time she moves down while charting an unseen map with her tongue. She swirls in maddening circles over areola and nipple alike, before lathing the lines of Regina ribs in sweeping and fluttering touches. "I hate that about you," she continues, and Regina's eyes sting for a moment with undefended tears. At least now, they're on familiar ground.
She forgets her offense quickly enough as Emma traces her hipbones, replacing the pressure between Regina's thighs with darting kisses and soft flickers of tongue along every sensitive edge and curve.
"Please," Regina whispers when the anticipation becomes too much. She's arching her hips off the bed to urge Emma towards more rewarding contact, fingers tugging hard on Emma's hair to try and force the issue, but in the soft light of the bedroom Emma is a tease, her smile lazy and smug in a way that makes Regina want to pin her down and fuck her til she cries. It's not helping anything to see that smile resting between Regina's legs, Emma's face shrouded by the sheets as though she's something angelic, like there's still good in her left to corrupt.
Regina licks her lips at the thought of being the one to do exactly that.
Before she can say something cruel (which, if she guesses correctly, would spur Emma on more than make her stop), Emma's warm lips are pressed around Regina's clit. No feather-light touches now, only slow, rhythmic sucking punctuated by smooth strokes of Emma's tongue, as strong as a heartbeat and enough to have Regina clutching desperately at the sheets each time. She's already straining her throat with the cries she tries to bite back, and when Emma coaxes her over the edge for the first time (arms propped under Regina's thighs, splayed hands resting on Regina's abdomen to hold her in place) Regina actually screams for a second, before the sound catches in her throat.
"Well," Emma says, her weight on top of Regina once more, pinning her to slightly damp sheets. Emma's whispering the words right next to Regina's ear, making her shiver in her oversensitized state. "That was worth staying alive for. Here," she adds, kissing Regina thoroughly but almost sweetly, stealing just a little more air from her struggling body. "Did you know you taste that good?"
"Don't be... crude," Regina snaps, her face flushing all over again. Seduction is one thing, but the naked, sweaty reality of sex is another. She feels a sweep of shame wash over her, making her feel rigid in Emma's casual embrace.
"You okay?" Emma asks, propping herself up on her elbows. Her hair, messier than ever, sweeps over Regina's face, tickles at her shoulders. "Because if you're about to have some kind of revelation and start babbling about how colors seem brighter now, I'm outta here."
"Shut up," Regina says, finally in control of herself again. She emphasizes her point by kissing the base of Emma's throat, grazing the pulse that beats there with her teeth in warning. She may be a prisoner and a mother and a hundred other things, but she is still the Evil Queen, and no daughter of Snow White will ever have the upper hand.
That's why she raises a knee gently for leverage, flipping Emma onto her back with surprising ease. It helps, at least, that Emma is too busy grabbing Regina's ass to complain about the reversal.
Greedy now, Regina charts her own path over Emma's warm body, dipping and swirling her tongue whenever there's a hitch in Emma's breathing, nipping with her teeth anywhere that provokes a moan. Emma is grasping, her hands restless against Regina's back, and when Regina focuses on incredibly sensitive breasts, she finds Emma's nails raking down her back hard enough to make Regina cry out at the sudden pain.
"Sorry," Emma says, and she looks genuinely upset that she might have gone too far.
"Don't be," Regina says with a shrug, before returning to the task at hand. "I can take it," she adds, and when she kisses Emma their lips meet almost hard enough to bruise.
"I need..." Emma starts to say, but whether she doesn't know the rest of the thought, or the movement of Regina's hand has interrupted the process, it's hard to tell.
"This?" Regina asks as her fingers slip between Emma's parted legs. The slickness that greets her hand would suggest that, yes, this is exactly what Emma Swan needs, and pretty desperately too.
"Fuck," Emma gasps, hips rocking up to meet Regina's hand, desperately seeking more pressure. Closing her eyes for a moment, thinking of the ways she touches herself on lonely nights, Regina moves her fingers slowly, circling Emma's clit hard and then easing off. "Tease," Emma chokes out, but her body is undulating in time with Regina's movements, the tension building exquisitely as Regina slips two fingers inside, crooking them roughly against Emma's g-spot, making her back arch like a bow.
"You're gonna..." Emma's words dissolve into another soft moan, and Regina knows she has her, the tightening around her fingers confirms it.
"Make you come?" Regina whispers, bending forward to capture a hard nipple between her teeth. "Yes," she says, releasing after Emma actually shrieks at the sensations. "I am."
"But-" Emma tries to protest, defenseless against the corkscrewing motion of Regina's fingers. The thumb flat against her clit is the final straw, and Emma comes with a cry. She grabs Regina by the hair, pulling her down on top of Emma as she rides out the aftershocks. With not much grace, Regina eventually pulls her hand free, stroking Emma's hair with damp fingers.
"Good?" Regina asks, feeling sleepy and sated for the first time in months.
"Mmm," Emma confirms, before they both drift off on top of the sheets.