Disclaimer in Chapter One
AN: Thank you so much for the amazing feedback! You guys are literally the best people in the entire world. I've decided where I'd like this to go, and it will be three chapters in total. I hope you guys enjoy the ride :)
"You drive four hours to come here almost every day?" Emma asked as she sat near the town line.
"Three," Regina said leaning back on her hands.
Emma chuckled earning herself a glare from the woman across from her.
"You're the reason for global warming, and why there are speed limits."
Regina rolled her eyes, sucking her teeth at the blonde.
"Come on, doesn't the drive get tiring?"
"Perhaps I'll spend more evenings at home then," the brunette threatened pointedly.
Emma held her hands up in mock defeat. "It's nice, I mean. For you to come here."
She caught the brief and hesitant smile on the older woman's face and looked down, attempting to hide her own pleased grin. She held her hand up against the line, looking up when Regina placed her own against the blonde's and caught her gaze. "When I break down this wall, I'll pay for your gas."
Regina laughed, the sound pleasant to the blonde's ears. "Why do I feel like your efforts will be reduced in an attempt to preserve the contents of your wallet?"
"Hey, I'm the Sheriff," Emma reminded her.
"And I set your salary," Regina pointed out. "I'm willing to bet your mother hasn't made significant changes other than bringing the town back to an archaic world."
"Tell me about it," the blonde grumbled.
Slowly they pulled their hands apart, the tingling of the magic buffered by Emma's. Regina glanced down at her palm, exhaling deeply feeling the buzz dissipate almost suddenly from the loss of contact. She chanced a glance to the other side of the line from under her lashes and stared at the space longingly.
"Hey," Emma said softly, sensing Regina's shift of mood. Her hand twitched, wanting to rest on top of Regina's knee, but Emma had to hold it back. "I have a plan."
Regina's eyes flashed with hope. "Oh?"
Confused as to why Emma wanted to meet by 6 with a small basket of food, Regina was about to set her blanket down when she saw the cruiser pull up. Try as she might, she couldn't stop the small upturn of her lips when Emma stepped out of the car.
The blonde looked nervous. Although she walked with confidence, her hands with stuffed in the back pockets of her jeans.
"What's your big plan, Sheriff?" Regina eyed the division between them as if it were tangible.
Emma's eyes flashed with determination. "You busy right now?"
"Excuse me?" Regina asked confused. "You asked me here, remember?"
Emma sighed mentally rolling her eyes. "If you're not doing anything, then I figured we could sit down together, have some food, listen to music, and you know, talk about our likes and dislikes."
"A date?" Regina almost laughed at the blonde's detailed explanation.
She nodded animatedly. "We'll only call it that if you say yes."
The brunette smirked at her picnic basket, finally understanding. "I suppose I have nothing better to do."
"Don't jump for joy now," Emma replied sarcastically. She motioned her head to the side. "I know this great restaurant."
"Oh do you?" Regina let out a breathy laugh. "I imagine reservations must have been impossible to get."
Emma grinned, taking a few steps towards the forest, waiting for Regina to follow. "I know people who know people."
"We're walking now?" Regina tutted. "Not a very good first impression on our date."
"I thought we could take the scenic route. How often do you get to see a fallen over oak tree?" Emma motioned to the said tree.
"That all depends on how often we'll visit this restaurant you so highly speak of," Regina quipped.
Emma grinned, unable to hide the red that her cheeks were becoming. "Depending on what you brought I hear the chef is the best chef for miles."
"Seeing as it's just me and you, I most certainly believe that."
"You'll teach me?"
"I'm not willing to lose kitchen appliances."
Emma glared while Regina just flashed her best grin.
"Never cooking for that kid again," the blonde mumbled.
"That's for the best," Regina reassured smartly.
She narrowed her eyes when they approached a small wooded area with a giant tree stump firmly embedded in their path. It was cracked down the middle where the division occurred, and on Emma's half of the stump, she could see half a vase of imitation flowers positioned directly on the line in the center of the stump. She whipped her head to Emma who just shrugged and offered a tight smile. "Welcome to Chez Forêt."
They walked up to the stump just as Emma removed her phone from her pocket and played a setlist of classical music that she'd downloaded just for tonight. She motioned to Regina's side of the table. "Madame."
The blonde ran a hand through her hair, wincing at the fact. "Japanese-style?"
She sat cross-legged at her end of the stump, pleased when Regina set her blanket down and did the same. "I have to say I've never been to an outdoor French restaurant inspired by Asian decorum."
Emma laughed before crawling over to her own pack and removing a candle split down the middle and gently positioning it against the border. She lit it, and soon the air around them smelled of apple cinnamon. "The menu is limited, but feel free to order whatever you'd like."
Regina removed a tupperware of lasagna, garlic bread and pulled out a bottle of water.
"Aww I want to order that," Emma whined eyeing her food as she removed her own club sandwich.
"Perhaps one day you can," Regina said quietly, her meaningful gaze caught the blonde's across from her.
Emma offered a tight, sad smile before shaking it off and pulling out a plastic wine glass and filling it with the contents of a wine juice box. Regina laughed out loud when she noticed the younger woman sticking the straw in the box, removing it then pouring the wine into her glass. "Classy."
Emma smirked, lifting her glass and toasting to Regina, taking a small sip.
They slipped easily into the flow of conversation. Emma began telling stories of watching Leroy court a nun, of Henry and his activities, though she loved returning to the topic of Paige whenever he was around simply to see his ears redden, and how she started running in the mornings to kill time, where the residents just thought she was being a health-conscious Sheriff.
Regina regaled her with stories of the city, sometimes staying up when she returned home from their meetings just before dawn and would sit on her balcony watching the morning and the night meet so briefly with the rising of the sun and the dimming of the street lights. She spoke of a cafe she frequented and how the barista, on more than one occasion, wrote his phone number on her coffee cup.
It pleased Regina to note that Emma tensed at the story, giving a new meaning to the green-eyed monster as her eyes flashed with jealousy, sadness and anger. The brunette moved her hand closer to Emma's, wanting to reassure her she made a point of drinking her coffee there and disposing the cup in front of him, only to whip it back, the magic of the border shocking her and knocking over the half-vase in the process.
Once Emma picked up the vase and replaced it back to the center, a solemn silence hung over them. The same thoughts ran through their minds. How long could they do this for? How long before they both got too tired, Regina not willing to make the three-hour drive, Emma accepting her fate and cease all forms of running? Neither knew the answer for the other any more than they knew the answer for themselves.
"Do you want to dance?"
Regina whipped her head up, distracted from her thoughts. She opened her mouth with clear confusion written all over her face before Emma stood from the ground, switching her playlist until a soft bass played and the tinny voice of Heather Nova rang out.
She waited for Regina to stand, and then stepped impossibly close to the line, holding out both palms against the barrier. She winced pulling a centimeter back, catching the brunette's wide gaze. "Be careful."
Regina stepped up to the line almost toe-to-toe with the Sheriff and slowly pressed her palms against Emma's. They felt the familiar rush, as if doing this simple innocuous act of barely holding hands was a rebellion that no one could take away from them.
Emma began to sway side to side to the timing of the music. She made the mistake of stepping closer, effectively zapping her and Regina apart a couple steps back.
Emma groaned frustrated, tugging at her hair. Regina simply stepped back to the line, her palms up waiting for Emma to do the same. When the blonde finally released her anger on an unsuspecting rock, she returned to Regina placing her hands against the older woman's more gently this time. Again she tried to sway.
"Dont," Regina whispered.
"But it's not dancing," Emma replied forlornly.
Regina smiled with her eyes, a sad smile that bred acceptance and diminished hope. "It's enough."
"You better be getting my good side."
Emma stuck out her tongue as she sat back on her elbows, her curls draped to one side of her shoulder. Regina sat across from her, a flashlight beside her to counter the impending night, with her nose hovering above her sketchbook drawing furiously. The look of utter concentration on her face made the blonde posing for her grin.
"I've been sitting like this for hours," Emma complained.
"Then lie down. I don't need you posing anymore," Regina answered curtly glancing up to study the Sheriff briefly before sketching again.
Emma didn't take her advice just in case the brunette was sour. Instead she remained leaning back on an arm, flicking her flashlight on to add to the glow coming from Regina's flashlight and their headlights, before quietly gazing at the stars above her.
The blonde and the brunette trudged through the woods, having met at a reasonable hour, both of them with a tent in their possession.
"I changed my mind," Regina blurted out as they made camp. "I don't want to do this."
"I hate camping."
"Have you ever been? Besides you sleep literally on the side of the road sometimes," Emma pointed out.
"I do not." Her eyes flashed defiantly.
"It'll be like that time we both fell asleep except now we'll be more comfortable." Emma dropped her tent, bag and chair once they reached a wide enough clearing and began setting up her tent.
Regina pulled out her chair and watched Emma work, appreciating the flex of the blonde's muscles as she put the poles together.
"Can you stop gawking and start hitching?" Emma teased, her back still to the former Mayor.
"I was not gawking," Regina blushed.
"Okay, Regina," the blonde laughed, pushing her poles into their spots of the fabric of her tent. She tried to work quickly, eager to watch Regina struggle. Seeing the brunette in an unfamiliar environment always made the blonde grin wickedly. There was something about the flustered woman that made her want to laugh and feel bad all at the same time.
Emma turned disbelieving, and sure enough, Regina's small two-person tent was already up and hammered to the ground. "How did you do that? Did you use magic?"
The brunette rolled her eyes. "How many times do I have to tell you I have no magic?"
"There's no way you got that up before I did." Emma pointed at the tent accusingly.
"Competitive, are we?" Regina asked amused and sat in her chair motioning to Emma's half-made tent. "By all means, dear, show me how it's done."
Emma tilted her head with a petulant glare. "It's a pop-up tent."
Regina rolled her eyes again. "Just hurry up, Ms. Swan."
They moved their tents to the line as close as they could, a bug zapper on Emma's side and mini lanterns scattered near the middle - their simulation fire. They both lay in their tents, their heads sticking out.
"I still haven't seen that picture you drew the other day," Emma mentioned.
"I'm not done."
"I want to see it when you're done."
"Patience," Regina said firmly. She lowered her voice to a whisper, not feeling the need to speak up in the quiet of the forest. "Where does Henry think you are?"
"He knows," Emma answered drawing figures in the dirt.
Emma paused. "What about them?"
"Do they know?"
"No," the blonde answered hesitantly.
The brunette expected as much. After all, she was the Evil Queen, and if Snow and Charming knew she was coming so close to the border almost five times a week to see Emma no less, they'd take matters into their own hands.
"Perhaps for the best," Regina began assuaging the blonde's feelings of guilt. "Their course of action could be locking you in a high tower."
Emma let out a breathy laugh. "Would you climb up my hair?"
"If it reached my side," Regina quipped.
Emma's face fell suddenly, playing with the dirt more aggressively. "I've been practicing-"
"I know," Regina rushed to amend.
"Emma," Regina said more firmly, letting her know it was okay. "I know."
The nights grew more chilly and judging by the change in leave colours, fall was settling in the air. The nights weren't as bright as the blonde and brunette had grown used to, and they found themselves huddled, in their own way, on blankets with sweaters and more blankets cocooned around them.
They found themselves in this position more often than not, a lot of the times falling asleep this way, and just as often one of them would try to the find the other in their sleep only to be whipped back by the border.
"It's getting colder," Regina mentioned casually.
"I know," Emma answered sitting on her hood.
The unspoken agreement between them hung in the air. Winter was approaching. They couldn't see each other nearly every day. They had agreed in the summer to hibernate for the winter, but neither women were sure they could do that.
They remained still, Emma on her car, Regina leaning against her door, desperately trying to find ways around it.
They met on special occasions and days that promised a warmer temperature despite the snow on the ground, but given the fact they met up in Maine didn't provide any opportunity for such circumstances.
Regina didn't want Emma, who had never adjusted to the cold despite her three years in Storybrooke, to catch hypothermia during their meetings, and Emma didn't want Regina to have to drive back and forth on icy and winding roads.
Unfortunately for them, the closest special occasion as soon as the snow hit mid-November was Christmas. The only thing that kept them going was the fact that Emma called her every night under the ruse of Henry wanting to talk.
On Christmas Eve, Regina drove the four-hour drive to Storybrooke, gifts wrapped in her backseat and a happy smile on her face when she saw the familiar cruiser waiting for her.
As soon as the Benz approached, Emma moved quickly out of her car, a giant smile plastered on her face making her look even more dopey with her bobble-knitted hat and poofy winter jacket. Henry stepped out much more dignified, and both mother and son went up to the line to greet the brunette.
Regina walked over with her gift for Henry and Emma, still amazed at her now fourteen-year old son looking more and more like a man every day.
"Merry Christmas, Mom," Henry greeted, his voice deep.
"Merry Christmas, dear." She smiled and motioned to the package in her hand. "I realize you can't have it right now-"
"Save it for me," Henry said cutting her off. He caught Emma's eye, and the brunette woman realized he knew what Emma was trying to accomplish.
She opened up the gift for him, pleased when he looked surprised and stepped towards the line, just feeling the shock before Emma whipped him back. Regina threw the blonde a grateful look before holding up their son's gift - a monogrammed riding helmet.
"Thanks, Mom!" He grinned.
Regina replaced it back in its gift bag, pleased he liked the gift.
The cold prevented the family from staying out too long, only long enough to finish a thermos between Henry and Emma and a travel mug of hot cider for Regina.
When Henry was nudged back into the cruiser, Regina and Emma walked off to the side together just as a light snow fall began to drift down.
"I got you something," Emma admitted sheepishly.
"You go first."
Regina unwrapped Emma's gift for her with tentative fingers. She slid out the gift to present the blonde with the sketch she had drawn of her months prior, now protected in an elegant frame. Emma grinned widely at the addition of the picture. Regina was nestled in Emma's arm, her back to the blonde's front.
Regina avoided Emma's gaze, her cheeks heating up and preparing herself to be laughed at or teased. After a minute of silence where a thin layer of snow covered the frame, Regina saw Emma's hand moved towards the frame before stopping herself, the blonde gritting her teeth at why she couldn't touch the frame, why she couldn't hold the woman in front of her the way their picture depicted.
"Hang it up for me?" Emma asked through a watery smile.
Regina returned it, relieved at her expression before nodding and holding the frame to her chest.
Emma dug into her pockets to remove a small, surprisingly well-wrapped box, a small red thing with snowmen littered on its print. She tore through it recklessly, letting the wrapper fall to the ground before revealing a small velvet jewelry box. She struggled to open it with her mittened hand finally able to prop the box open. Inside was a sterling silver chain with a thin circular band as its ornament. The circle was decorated in a million tiny little diamonds, whether they were real or not, Emma didn't know, but the way the ring-like circle sparkled in the light made Emma want to buy it.
She used her teeth to yank off her glove then used her hand to pick up the necklace, letting it dangle in the air. "I didn't know if you liked gold or silver or-"
Regina hugged the frame closer to her chest. "Put it on for me?"
Emma yanked her other mitt off and struggled to undo the clasp with her slowly numbing fingers. She finally weaved it around her neck where it settled next to her own necklace of similar design.
"It's like yours," Regina commented.
"Oh." Emma moved her hand to her neck feeling embarrassed. "I didn't even think of that."
She shoved her hands deep into her jacket pocket as she rambled. "I didn't think you'd go for a heart, and I think we all know hearts can break, and circles they just. . ."
She let her sentence drag on, feeling stupid about her reasoning.
"I know." Regina smiled reassuringly. She motioned to the blonde's neck. "I love it."
Emma dug her boot into the snow, not even looking up to raise her hand to the border. Regina reciprocated, but within moments they could feel the magic reacting to them, forcing them apart.
Regina glanced at her sadly then spared a fleeting look to the cruiser where her son sat. Without another word, she turned and headed back to her car, only letting her head fall dejectedly when she was five miles away from Storybrooke.
It was past six in the evening and the storm had knocked out the electricity in Regina's apartment. She was frantically trying to rush, pulling out her warmest most appealing clothes she could find by way of candle. The vibration of her phone paused her activity when she crossed her small room to pick up the device.
She answered it, expecting Henry's deepening voice but found Emma's tentative "Hi" instead.
"Emma?" Regina asked, sitting down hard on her bed. "Is everything okay? Is Henry-"
"Henry's fine," the blonde quickly confirmed.
"Is there a problem?"
"It's the worst storm of the century, news said."
"It's not that bad," Regina answered automatically until she finally looked out her window to see street lights swaying, swirling grey clouds towering menacingly over skyscrapers, and the snow coming down so fierce the city declared it a white out.
"I don't want you driving, Regina."
"It's too dangerous," the blonde stood firmly behind her statement.
"I'll drive carefully."
"No, it's not up for debate," Emma argued. "Just stay home."
"Emma," the brunette enunciated her name fiercely, her tone not to be taken lightly. "I haven't been down there since Christmas."
"And I want to see you next Christmas, and not visiting a grave on the side of the road."
Regina fumed silently.
"Please," Emma pleaded. "It's bad here too, I don't want you driving in this."
The brunette huffed angrily and fell back on her bed. "Fine."
"Thank you," Emma breathed out relieved.
Regina crawled up to the headboard of her bed, curling under her blankets and kept the phone pressed to her ear. "How was your day?"
They talked non-stop for hours, about little things like how Regina purchased these new marvelous paint brushes, and big things like how Emma had managed to transport herself magically to the station when she was late for work one morning. By the time Regina's electricity came back on, it was well past midnight and both women were content just to be on the phone with the other, neither having to say anything just enjoying the other's company.
Regina finally noticed the time and sighed sadly into the phone, eyeing the frame she kept on her night stand as she whispered to the quiet blonde on the other line. "Happy birthday, Emma."
The first sign of winter breaking had the blonde and brunette meeting up at the town line almost immediately. The large bashful grins on their faces couldn't be denied, but Emma was no closer to figuring out how to break the damn dome that encompassed the town.
Every time they met, it became harder and harder to leave, and the growing reality that Emma wasn't strong enough to break this curse burrowed itself in the minds of both women. The weeks passed where they wouldn't bring it up, but the nights when they wanted nothing more than to feel arms wrapped around them, to feel their fingers linked together, had them yearning and wanting.
Most nights Regina would live in a hotel just over an hour away just so she had more time with Emma and Henry whenever he came. Most nights Emma would bring her dinner to the line, not surprised to see Regina driving up there as well.
But this night, this night Emma had had enough of her cabin fever, desperate to find any way to get over that line. She didn't realize her mother had noticed her erratic behavior and discreetly followed her.
When Emma was at the line, palm pressed against Regina's, Mary Margaret snapped, running out of her car and yelling. "Get away from her!"
The shrill voice startled the two women, causing the brunette to instinctively pull Emma towards her, causing the border to shoot her backwards through the air.
"Regina!" Emma called out frantically to the woman on the ground.
Mary Margaret grabbed her daughter's arm, forcing her to face her way. "What do you think you're doing?"
Emma ripped her arm out of the brunette's grasp and turned back to see Regina limping as she picked herself up. "Are you okay?"
"Why do you care? She's evil, Emma," Snow reminded her.
"She's not evil," the blonde quickly dismissed. "Regina!"
The brunette on the other side of the line glared at the pixie-haired woman, limping a few paces to get a feel for her ankle. "I'm fine, Ms. Swan."
Snow grabbed her daughter's arm roughly, yanking her back to their cars. "Stay away from the line, Emma. It can hurt you."
"It already has!" Emma yelled. "I'm stuck here, Mary Margaret! I've got nowhere to go! You think that doesn't hurt more than an electric shock and a few scrapes?"
"And it was a stupid agreement!" Emma screeched at her mother, letting her self-loathing expel to the closest target. "Yeah, no one comes to town now, but I don't want to live in Storybrooke for the rest of my life. I don't want to live in the Enchanted Forest. I don't want to be trapped, and I'm trapped."
"Who's fault is that?" Snow asked throwing a sideways glare to Regina. "It also keeps her out. Remember that, Emma."
"I do," the blonde gasped out. "Every time I come here, I am all too aware that she can't cross that line just as much as I can't."
Snow narrowed her eyes and switched her gaze from her daughter to the stock still woman on the other side and back again. "How long have you two been meeting?"
"Does it matter?" Emma shook her head dejectedly and whispered. "We can't cross the line."
"Why. . .?" Snow tensed and eyed the women. "How long has this been going on?"
She stalked over to the line, pointing a threatening finger at Regina. "We gave you chances time and time again. You are banished, Regina!"
The brunette leaned her head in closer with a sneer in place. "Don't you think I know that, dear?"
"Stay away from my daughter."
Snow turned at Regina's answer. "Excuse me?"
"I stopped owing anything to you, and your kingdom and this town the day I crossed this line, so you can threaten me all you want, Snow White, but you cannot stop me from doing what I want on this side of the line." Regina's voice was low and menacing, every bit of the Evil Queen she was famed for.
"Fine." Snow stormed off, pulling Emma with her. "You are not allowed to associate with her, Emma."
"What?" The blonde shrieked yanking her wrist away. "I'm an adult, Mary Margaret. You don't get to tell me who I can see."
"She's the Evil Queen, Emma!" Mary Margaret yelled. "Even if she's changed, you cannot be with her!"
Green eyes sparked defiantly. "Watch me."
Neither brunettes had time to process Emma running full speed towards Regina. For a brief fleeting moment, Emma thought she would make it, she thought she would cross the line, grab Regina and go.
But the line flew her back twenty feet, the sound of her body thudding and scraping against the road was sickening.
"Emma!" Regina's eyes widened and she yelled, moving from her car to the line.
Snow ran to her daughter, kneeling to help her up before Emma pushed her away, running again towards the line. She flew back again, rolling on the ground several times before she stopped.
"Emma, stop it!" Regina yelled from the edge, moisture clouding her vision watching Emma struggle to stand this time.
The blonde was resilient. Her cheeks were scratched and her jacket torn, but she limped to the line again only to be flung back.
"Stop!" Regina tugged her hair frantically when she saw a trickle of blood drip down Emma's forehead.
Snow stood in her way again, but Emma just spat out blood, shouldering her mother aside when she limply walked to the line directly in front of Regina.
"Emma, please," the brunette begged.
The blonde just banged a fist at the border, meeting imaginary resistance and crying out when she felt the shocks run through her and willed her magic to keep her stable. She kept banging, the magic of the border overpowering her weakening resistance until it brought Emma to her knees.
Regina crouched by her, unconscious tears streaming down her face as the blonde before her slumped over, broken, bruised and bloody.
"Emma, please stop trying," Regina begged quietly.
Emma mustered up enough strength to raise her head, the abrasion on her forehead obvious as was the growing bump there. Her eyes were cloudy with unshed tears and hopelessness.