A/N: Sorry this took so long, but you can thank ObsessedSVUONCER for this update because she sent me a PM requesting in the nicest way ever for me post the next chapter. Merry Christmas to you! And of course, Happy Holidays to everyone! Enjoy!


Masquerade

Chapter 12

"Beautiful," Regina sighed with a satisfied smile.

"What is," Emma breathlessly asked as she slid up Regina's body, her fingers still buried in the Queen.

"You and everything you just gave me," Regina said as she affectionately ran her hand through Emma's hair.

"I gave you something?"

Regina nodded.

"Would you care for a taste?"

Emma bit her bottom lip as she smirked down at Regina. After a few seconds, she shook her head with her smirk still firmly in place.

"Not yet," Emma answered her. "There's still some sunlight to be enjoyed."

Emma buttoned up Regina's riding pants and fixed the other woman's shirt so the brunette laid covered on the blanket.

"Just lay with me," Emma said as she snuggled into Regina's side and rested her head on the woman's chest.

Emma draped an arm over Regina's stomach and stared up at the dim color in the sky that transitioned from sunset to dusk.

Regina smiled when she felt Emma settle down with her on the blanket. She wrapped an arm around the blonde and held her close. The two of them watched the sky darken until the stars started to shine before they packed up their picnic supplies and headed back to the palace.

On their way back, Emma kept her gift from Regina close by. She held it tightly against her chest with one hand while she poorly guided her horse Rita with the other.

Regina reveled in the sight and slowed down from her usual pace to stay with Emma during their short journey.

"You can ride ahead if you'd like," Emma said when Regina came to trot beside her. "I'll meet you in your chambers as soon as I arrive."

"Are you asking me to leave you?"

"No," Emma said as she shook her head.

"Good. Don't ever ask me to do that."

Emma quizzically looked over at Regina through the darkness.

"Why not?"

"Because I'll never leave you," Regina confessed.

Emma's lips slowly curled into a beaming smile.

Regina barely noticed it until they passed under the moonlight just in time for her to see Emma's warm and infectious smile directed at her.

"I'm glad to have made you look at me like that," Regina said.

"I look at you like this all the time," Emma calmly insisted.

Regina shook her head.

"This time is different," Regina said.

Emma questioningly tilted her head to the side and it was the only reaction Regina got from her.

"You always seem to want other things more than you want me. Take the sunset for example. The other day I wanted to have you. I was kissing you and touching you in new ways, but the sun was setting and I didn't want you to miss it."

Emma's face started to show her realization as to where Regina was going, but she allowed the brunette to continue.

"You seemed torn between the sunset and me, but of course I knew you really wanted to see the sunset. I'm not sure you know that I'll give you anything you want."

Emma switched the reigns from one hand to the hand pressed against the book Regina had given her earlier in the evening. She still managed to hold onto the book, but with her recently liberated hand she reached out and held one of Regina's.

"I want you," Emma said.

"How much," Regina almost shyly asked, as if afraid of the answer.

"More than anything in the world," Emma assured her.

Regina happily smiled from ear to ear before she lifted Emma's hand and kissed the back of it.

"There are some things I'd like to purchase from the marketplace. It's in a village near the stables I acquired Rita from. Would you like to come with me?"

"Yes," Emma said as she squeezed Regina's hand in confirmation.

"I want it to be the first outing of our courtship," Regina added.

Emma laughed.

Regina grinned at Emma's reaction and cut the blonde off when she saw the younger woman was about to say something.

"Before you ask, yes, my dear. I do understand I used the term 'outing' and we are both of the same sex. My phrasing was intentional," Regina said.

"Actually," Emma teasingly smiled. "I was going ask if you believe this to be a courtship."

"Have we not spent a lot of time together, getting to know one another?"

"Well, you already know plenty about me because of your unfair advantage."

Regina furrowed her brow, confused.

"The mirrors," Emma briefly explained. "You were able to see into my life when I was unable to learn a single thing about yours. In fact, I hardly know you at all."

"Oh, my dear, you know me intimately," Regina purred the last word.

Emma felt a tingling sensation trickle down her spine and her skin rose with goosebumps.

"Only in the physical sense," Emma said after the sensation lessened.

"Fine. What else do you wish to know about me? I've told you a story about your mother and the bird she and I saved. What more could I tell you?"

"Tell me about your father. Your childhood. You got to see me when I was young. I want at least a glimpse of you when you were only a child."

Regina frowned.

"You wouldn't want to know that," Regina gravely stated.

"I'm aware that you carry dark memories, Regina. I can see it in your eyes. If your mother could have done such a terrible thing to Daniel right in front of you then I'm sure the madness started long before you were eighteen."

"You really are smarter than either of your parents. Do you know that?"

"I'd like to think that magnetic pull has something to do with it," Emma smirked. "If I didn't feel it, I'd probably like most of the things my mother tries to get me interested in."

Regina lightly chuckled, her spirits not entirely lifted by Emma's joke but not so caught up in the darkest parts of her thoughts that she couldn't relish at all in Emma's efforts.

"Another day, my dear," Regina said. "I'm much too tired to talk of unpleasant things tonight."

"Whenever you're ready," Emma said. "I'll listen."

Regina smiled at Emma as they approached the main palace entrance, their hands still joined.

"I must say Rita is a good fit for you," Regina said after a moment just before they stopped outside the palace and dismounted their steeds.

"You think so?"

"Any horse that leads you without having attitude is one that listens to you even when you're not speaking to them," Regina explained.

"Run that by me one more time?"

Regina laughed.

"Rita took you back to the palace even though you hardly steered her in any which direction. You were much too concerned with keeping that book close while also holding my hand."

"Are you complaining?"

"Not at all," Regina smiled. "I just want you to be more careful during future occasions. Next time Rita may not understand where you're heading and then you could find yourself in danger."

"I can handle myself."

"I don't want you to have to handle yourself. I want you to be safe."

Emma slightly blushed, though not out of nervousness. She was just genuinely surprised as well as happy to be cared for in such a way.

"I will be, My Queen," Emma said as she placed her free hand on Regina's hip and pulled the brunette toward her for a chaste kiss.

"Mm," Regina hummed into the quick but surprisingly much needed kiss as she wrapped her arms around Emma's neck.

Regina kept her arms where they were even when their lips separated.

"Come to bed," Regina asked.

"Where else would I go," Emma rhetorically asked.

Regina slowly leaned in and pressed her body flush against Emma's before she kissed the blonde again.

The kiss was slower and more sensual, but still innocent in nature. For a moment, Regina felt like her eighteen year old self when she would sneak off somewhere with Daniel to share a private moment.

Emma smiled when they broke apart again. She opened her eyes and continued to smile as she looked straight into chocolate brown eyes at the stairway that led to the palace doors.

"I want to leave a light on to read something from the book," Emma said.

"Then you can conjure your own light."

"Another magic lesson?"

Regina nodded.

"It'll be quick," Regina said as she took one of Emma's hands in hers and laced their fingers.

Regina wordlessly led Emma up to her bedchambers then carefully removed the book from Emma's hold on it and set it down on the bed. With both of Emma's hands free, Regina turned to the younger woman and gently grabbed her wrists. She lifted Emma's hands up to chest level and started to rub the pads of her thumbs over the blonde's wrists.

"Think about the magic you created when we were on the blanket tonight. The same magic from yesterday you wanted to recreate all day today," Regina said. "Instead of using it on me, channel it between your hands. The two are very similar spells with just a few differences, some more obvious than others."

Emma took a minute or two to relax and tried to picture a ball of light between her hands. When she closed her eyes and started to envision Regina bare and riding her fingers, she started to feel a warmth unlike the one she usually felt between her legs. The warmth she felt immediately went to her hands where she imagined the ball of light appearing as it should if she was successful. It also only felt sexual for a moment before she reminded herself what the warmth was for: light. Only light.

Then, suddenly, Regina was behind her with her arms wrapped around her waist. She felt Regina's hands roam across her stomach and smiled as she leaned back into the other woman.

"You did it," Regina grinned, proud and awestruck.

Emma opened her eyes and blinked a few times before the shock wore off. Before her was a glowing ball of golden energy that floated mid-air between her hands.

"I did," Emma confirmed before she beamed.

"There," Regina said. "Now you have a reading light."

Regina smiled before she pecked a kiss on Emma's cheek then released the princess from her loose embrace and went to her closet.

"Thank you," Emma smiled at Regina.

"Don't thank me. You're the one who did it," Regina said as she started to strip out of her riding clothes.

"But I only know how to do it because of you."

"Mm. Then I guess you are welcome for that."

"Um...what do I do with it," Emma asked.

Regina chuckled as she stepped out of her walk-in closet with only her riding pants on, her chest bare.

"Allow it to float, dear," Regina said. "Just pull your hands away from it and treat it like any other light."

Emma licked her lips when she looked over at Regina and her bare breasts.

"Sleep naked," Emma said.

Regina raised an eyebrow and smirked.

"Is that an order?"

"It wasn't supposed to be," Emma shyly and apologetically smiled.

"What if I want you to sleep without a shirt?"

"I...can...do that," Emma slowly said while she thought about it.

"If you're uncomfortable with it-"

"No," Emma quickly interjected.

Emma slowly pulled her hands away from the small ball of light she'd made with her magic and concentrated enough to keep it hovering in the same place by her side of the bed. She stepped around it and removed her borrowed riding jacket on her way over to Regina. She let the jacket fall to the floor a few steps away from Regina then peeled off her shirt, another thing she had borrowed from Regina.

The shirt gracefully drifted down to the floor and Emma stopped in front of Regina with her breasts exposed.

"See? Comfortable."

Regina smiled and ran a hand through Emma's hair. She closed the little distance between them and sensually kissed the princess. Her hand slid down from Emma's hair to the younger woman's breast and gently squeezed.

"You are too beautiful to hide yourself," Regina said when she reluctantly broke the kiss.

"Yes, well," Emma frowned as she looked down at the floor. "The last time someone saw me like this, they...they nearly convinced me I wasn't a princess."

Regina furrowed her brow.

"What did they think you were?"

"A woman best used to warm his sheets and present myself on my back with my legs spread like I was his prize," Emma sadly said.

Regina's eyes darkened out of anger while she curled her lips into a snarl. She cupped Emma's face and comfortingly coaxed the blonde to meet her eyes. When their gazes locked, she spoke.

"You are not a prize, Emma. You are a gift."

Emma slowly smiled.

"Do you truly believe that?"

"With all my heart," Regina sincerely answered.

Emma's smile brightened.

"Did you tell your parents what this idiot said," Regina asked.

Emma shook her head.

"They were about to hold court and they kept saying that marrying him would make the perfect alliance."

"I know you love them, but Emma, you're parents are horrible to ignore you like they have."

Emma shrugged.

"They're just trying to fix everything," Emma said.

"What do you mean? What needs to be fixed?"

"Ever since my parents freed the Dark One, he's been stirring up a lot of magic in other kingdoms. My parents are on the verge of war with those kingdoms because he nearly destroys each one of them with all the power he uses."

Regina frowned.

"Does anyone know why he's using all this magic?"

Emma shook her head.

"They rarely even catch him doing it. They just feel this big boom and then their kingdom is nearly torn to shreds. Why? Do you know something?"

"No," Regina said. "I know him, but I don't know what he's up to. I haven't seen him in a very long time."

"You didn't... You're not friends with him or anything, are you?"

"We have a complicated relationship."

"Complicated like Maleficent," Emma asked with a sad expression.

"No," Regina shook her head and soothingly brushed her thumb over Emma's cheek a few times. "He taught me magic."

"The way you're teaching me?"

Regina knitted her brow and questioningly tilted her head to the side.

"Emma...do you really think I allow people to be intimate with me so easily?"

Emma paused before she shook her head.

"I only ask because there seems to be a lot of things I have yet to know about the people you associate with," Emma said.

"I don't associate myself with him anymore," Regina said. "I haven't spoken to him since he told me about your masquerade ball."

Emma instantly took a step back.

"He's the reason you were there?"

Regina's expression fell and her heart ached for the hurt that passed over Emma's features.

"No, my dear. I was there for you, but...I..." Regina trailed off and sighed when no other words came out of her mouth.

It took a few seconds to recover before she spoke again.

"I was only there to steal you away from your parents," Regina calmly though sadly confessed. "That's why I was so wickedly happy to find out I nearly had sex with Snow White's daughter. Surely you knew my intentions with you didn't start out pure."

"I... You said as much, though not in so many words, but I didn't think–"

"Emma, I mean you no harm now. Honestly, I don't think I ever did. I just wanted to keep you from your mother. I never would have caused you pain."

"But you fought me."

"Because you started it. I'll always defend myself. Even against you. Although, now I'm not so sure that's true."

"How do I know I'm not still some pawn for you to use against my mother?"

"How would you like me to prove it to you?"

"You'll do anything I say?"

Regina nodded.

"Make me a promise," Emma said.

"That is all you require?"

"A promise isn't something to take lightly."

"Of that I'm aware. Your mother seems to be the only one who doesn't understand that concept."

"Promise me you would fight for me. Promise me...if I ever call out for you, no matter where I am, you'll come to me. Promise me that I'm more than someone to try and seduce. That I'm not a virgin you wish to rob of her innocence because it was taken from you, because my mother couldn't keep a secret and your mother couldn't see past the future she had planned for you."

"Those are a lot of promises. And...would you honestly call for me in a time of need?"

"I wish I had called you the night that lowly Prince told me I was only good for my body."

"One day I will get you to tell me everything about this Prince," Regina firmly said.

Emma crossed her arms over her chest and expectantly stared at Regina while she waited for the woman to remember what Emma wanted from her.

Regina defensively raised her hands when Emma gave her that look. She didn't speak again until after she lowered them and reached out to Emma's crossed arms.

"I promise you," Regina started as she uncrossed Emma's arms and took the blonde's hands in hers. "I will be there for you in any way you need me to be. And I promise the day you let me in that you will know how I truly feel about you. I'll give you a hint. It will have nothing to do with using you or with vengeance or with unjust punishment due to what I went through."

"If you break any of those promises–"

"I won't," Regina adamantly stated.

They stared at each other in utter silence for a moment. Their eyes held no anger or disbelief. It was a shared look that lasted a few long seconds. It was a connection, a moment of understanding and silent agreement.

"Okay," Emma broke the silence and smiled. "Bed?"

"Yes."

"May I undress the rest of you?"

Regina smiled back at Emma and nodded.

"Yes, My Princess."

Emma untied Regina's riding pants and slowly started to tug them down her legs. She lightly ran her fingers over Regina's skin as she moved the riding pants toward the brunette's ankles.

Regina gasped at Emma's tender pace and felt that familiar pull in her chest. Before she had a chance to question why such a small and simple act would make her feel that way, Emma kissed her calve.

"Emma?"

Regina looked down and saw Emma move up her leg before she kissed her knee.

"What are you doing," Regina asked.

"Do you want me to stop," Emma asked as she looked up at Regina from her position on her knees before the Queen.

"I didn't ask you to do this," Regina said.

Emma slumped onto her ankles.

"You don't like it," Emma sadly stated, afraid she'd done something wrong.

Regina stepped out of her pants and knelt in front of Emma.

"You have no idea what you started," Regina softly said. "It felt good, Emma."

"Then why did you want me to stop?"

"I would want more from you than what you could give me."

"You don't even know what I was going to give you."

"What?"

"I don't want to say it. It's crass."

Regina smirked.

"If you can't say it, dear, then how do you expect me to think you're ready to do it?"

Emma rolled her eyes with a hint of a lopsided smile.

"It's not time for that," Regina said, still on the floor with Emma. "I made a promise to you and we had a moment. Now, we sleep. Can you refrain from kissing my legs if I allow you to remove my undergarment?"

"Lets find out," Emma said as she suddenly hooked her fingers in the sides of Regina's underwear and pulled them down to the other woman's knees.

"Emma!"

Emma mischievously grinned when she lunged forward and crushed Regina's lips with her own.

The ferocity with which Emma moved took Regina by surprise and also caused the princess to fall completely on top of her on the ground.

They landed together in a heap during Emma's playful attack while she had roughly and unexpectedly pulled at Regina's underwear to strip her completely. The fall broke their kiss and caused the princess to press their bodies flush together, but Emma used their new position to snuggle against Regina.

"Em-ma," Regina laughed, which caused her to split the blonde's name into two syllables, as the younger woman started to nuzzle and kiss her neck.

Emma released the sides of Regina's underwear and gripped the center of them with just one hand while she instinctively pressed herself against Regina's thigh.

Regina's laughter subsided when she felt Emma gently grind against her thigh and naturally lifted her leg to give Emma more friction, her underwear trapped around her ankles.

Emma moaned when she felt Regina slid her thigh against her center, but she stilled herself when her sex reached the upper part of the Queen's thigh just before the apex of the woman's legs. She pulled away from Regina's neck to look into her eyes.

"How is it that you have this effect on me," Emma asked.

"Strange. I was going to ask you the same thing," Regina smiled and affectionately ran her fingers through Emma's soft hair.

"Not that I mind it here," Emma said as her smile brightened. "But I think our time spent like this would be better enjoyed in your bed."

"Agreed," Regina drew out the single syllable in a tone that dripped with desire. "Although I think you may start calling it our bed. We do share it now, dear."

Emma's smile widened enough to show most of her teeth.

"Really?"

Regina pushed herself onto her elbows before she replied.

"Given what we've done in it? It is as much yours as it is mine."

"We aren't even married and technically we haven't even had sex, not completely. How is it our bed if we aren't joined?"

"Oh, Emma. I have not been more intimate with anyone than I have with you," Regina slowly explained. "I'm not sure if I told you this already, but intimacy isn't only about sex. The way we're intimate with each other is more than enough for me to share my bed physically and in title with you."

Emma surged forward then and chastely crushed her lips against Regina's with a smile.

Regina's lips curled into a smile of her own with Emma's lips still pressed to hers. She placed a hand on Emma's neck and kept the other woman close to her.

Emma hummed and waited another few seconds before she ended the kiss and pulled away.

"Bed," Emma playfully ordered.

Regina's smile spread into a pleased grin and watched Emma push off the ground and scramble onto her feet.

Emma held out a hand to Regina, who accepted the silent offer, and pulled the Queen off the floor. She guided Regina back to the bed – their bed – and sweetly eased Regina onto it, practically chivalrous.

Regina allowed Emma to lay her down like she preferred to do to Emma and stared up at the blonde who had yet to move from her position standing at the side of the bed. She waited a moment while Emma took the time to scan over her exposed body laid out before her. Once she thought Emma had stared at her long enough, she grinned and slowly curled her finger over and over in a "come here" gesture.

Emma lowered herself onto the bed and laid herself flat on top of Regina.

"Whatever happens from here on out, we're in this together. Right," Regina asked.

Emma smiled and nodded.

"Together," Emma fondly repeated the word.

Regina smiled back at her before she expectantly puckered her lips.

Emma took the hint and leaned in. She pecked a chaste kiss on the other woman's lips then rolled off Regina and onto her back. She pulled herself back toward the headboard and settled down with her head on the pillow.

Regina followed her example but displayed more grace as she moved back and relaxed on her side of the bed.

Emma lifted the covers and both she and Regina made themselves comfortable under them.

Regina turned onto her side and faced Emma. Emma did the same.

"If you insist upon wearing some clothes to bed, will you at least change out of those dirty pants," Regina asked.

Emma laughed.

"Of course, My Queen," Emma teasingly replied.

Emma peeled off her borrowed riding pants and wiggled her way out of them while she tried to stay under the covers with Regina. She tossed pants aside until she remained only in her panties.

"No pants," Emma smiled.

"My beautiful Princess, you are absolutely perfect," Regina said, her words almost purred. "You probably don't know it, but you have changed me."

"And you have made my life absolutely wonderful," Emma replied.

Regina forgot all about grace and her title as Queen and snuggled closer to Emma like a normal person without status and so-called "evil" agendas. She tapped a finger against Emma's neck and held it in place for a moment before she slowly ran in down her throat to the blonde's collarbone.

"You still don't see me as evil or wicked?"

"The things you might have done in the past would suggest that you are, but...I must have done something right. You're all too nice to me to be evil. And you haven't killed anyone since I've been in your palace, have you?"

Regina smiled.

"I haven't."

"Hmm, have I tamed the monster everyone seems to fear," Emma smugly asked.

Regina feigned offense and gasped.

"I'm no monster and I most certainly can't be tamed."

"I agree with you."

"Good."

"About not being a monster. You have definitely been tamed."

Regina playfully growled, no anger or true frustration behind it. She leaned in and gently nipped at Emma's bottom lip.

Emma giggled into the soft bite and trapped Regina's upper lip between her bitten lower lip and her own upper lip.

It was a chaste kiss reserved for overly cute couples and no matter how hard and edgy and tough Regina wanted others to think she was, she didn't care how she looked in that moment. She smiled and released Emma's bottom lip, which got Emma to break the kiss.

"Goodnight, my dear," Regina huskily said as her exhaustion decided to hit her almost all at once in that moment.

"Goodnight, My Only."

Regina smiled again even as she closed her eyes and allowed sleep to overcome her. It had been a while since she'd dreamed of nice things, but that night she had welcomed the happiness and the light. She dreamed of her life with Emma and all the possibilities of their future...together.


The trip to the marketplace the next day had been wonderfully perfect. Regina had refused to hold Emma's hand as they strolled past several carts, but Emma had her ways of persuasion. She slipped her hand into Regina's and held it tight before the Queen could pull away. Regina had whispered in Emma's ear that she rarely showed any kind of public affection toward anyone, but Emma simply apologized before she tugged on Regina's hand and pointed to an interesting object at a nearby cart.

The woman that owned the cart had told Emma and Regina about a dreamcatcher, the very one Emma had seemed fascinated by enough to stop at that specific cart.

Emma had asked Regina if she would get it for her, which caused the woman selling the dreamcatcher to eye the couple with shock and disbelief. Emma hadn't seen the woman's reaction and though Regina had caught it, she decided to ignore it.

Regina had insisted the dreamcatcher did not go with anything she owned in the palace, but Emma had pouted and begged and, surely enough, got Regina to pay fifteen shillings for the dark blue dreamcatcher.

They had spent most of the day at the market, but the only other thing they'd purchased was a new wicker basket for Regina's honeycrisp apples. During that time, Emma kept their public display of affection at a minimum for Regina's sake and only pecked her one other time, on the lips in front of the villagers, before they mounted their horses and headed back to the palace.

Of course, Emma hadn't kissed Regina without permission.

"May I kiss you," Emma had asked. "It's a long trip back to the palace and we didn't ride together. That's too long for me to go without a kiss."

Regina had blocked out everyone else around them and focused solely on Emma. She had smiled and nodded her approval before Emma beamed then stepped closer and chastely kissed the brunette. Emma had at least kept her hands to herself when they kissed and hadn't lingered too long before she'd gotten onto her steed.

It had been a nice day with no trouble and gave Emma a chance to learn something new about Regina. The brunette could be swayed into buying something she didn't particularly like and she seemed at ease in the marketplace. The fact that Regina seemed content to wander through the village without a care as to who was around told Emma as much. That and the fact that Regina had run into a few acquaintances along the way and actually took the time to talk to them. Emma had found it strange but astounding. She liked Regina even more for not being so feared by everyone. Apparently there was still some place in the Enchanted Forest that either hadn't heard of her evil reputation or hadn't cared about it because she wasn't like that around them.

The sweet– and joyousness they experienced during their day at the market carried on throughout the week, though they hadn't spent any time outside of the palace except during sunset and for Emma's sporadic riding lessons.

Regina continued to teach Emma magic and the blonde finally mastered the art of conjuring. She'd successfully summoned objects from most of the palace chambers without having to see the object she wanted to magically call forth. The next in her magic lessons was transportation, something Regina had already started to teach her, but hadn't spent much time on it.

Weapons first, Regina had told herself when she realized the most important thing she wanted her princess to know. She'll be defenseless if she doesn't know how to properly arm herself.

Once Regina believed Emma had achieved all she could with conjuring, the following lesson was How to Get Out of a Situation Without Fighting.

Taking the high ground, Regina mentally noted. Make sure Emma can get to safety if or when she feels uncomfortable or unable to handle a particular battle.

But during Emma's first real lesson in transportation, Regina watched the younger woman's struggle to move herself anywhere outside of whatever room they were in without exhausting herself. She tilted her head to the side and frowned after Emma bent over at the waist, rested her hands on her knees, and panted in front of her.

"You're weak, my dear," Regina said with a twinge of concern in her voice.

"I'm sorry," Emma replied, her head lowered as she tried to control her breathing.

"No. Don't apologize. I don't believe it's your fault. You've never looked so...pale and sticky before when performing magic."

"Maybe I've been doing too much magic this week," Emma breathlessly suggested with a thin sheen of sweat that coated her body.

Regina shook her head.

"I've been careful not to let that happen," Regina said as she stepped forward and hooked her index finger under Emma's chin.

Regina gently lifted Emma's head so she could look into her princess' eyes.

Emma looked drained and slightly disheveled. Her eyes held less color and life and appeared to have sunken with small, though not entirely dark, circles underneath them.

"Something's wrong," Regina said.

The Queen almost seemed crestfallen about the way Emma stood before her. Her frown changed from disapproving to worried and sympathetic in a single heartbeat.

"That's enough magic for today," Regina insisted in a tone that left no room for argument.

Not that Emma didn't push her luck anyway.

"What? No, I want to learn," Emma whined as Regina started to usher her to their bed.

"I won't risk your health," Regina said as she eased the blonde onto the bed. "Lay down."

Emma sighed and her shoulders sagged in defeat before she followed Regina's gentle commands and laid down.

"Rest, my dear. I'll go down to the kitchen and have them prepare you something to replenish your energy. We might try again tomorrow if you're feeling better."

"If you wish for me to stay in bed, you'll have to stay with me as well," Emma firmly said.

"Only after I talk to the cook about your next meal," Regina told her as she sauntered toward the chamber door.

"I'm not hungry, Regina. I just want you."

Regina swiftly turned and faced Emma, paused in her place not far from the door and took no further action to leave nor go back to the bed.

Silence filled the room. It wasn't tense, only reflective of how Regina suddenly realized she fit into Emma's life. Or at least how Emma felt Regina fit into her life. She was wanted and she was needed.

The last time she'd had to take care of a sick child was when she'd reluctantly and unhappily accepted the title as Snow White's stepmother. Even then she hadn't known how to take care of anyone, not even herself considering how horrible she felt most of the time; sick or not.

Snow had needed her, but Regina didn't want or know how to help the girl. She had been very naturally maternal with Snow when they'd first met, but the girl didn't depend on her or expect anything from her then. The two of them just were. Perfect strangers at the time and politely kind to one another. After she'd married King Leopold, everything Snow said or did or wanted fell upon Regina. The Queen struggled to give Snow what she needed when she relied on her new stepmother.

The moment Emma's confession left the princess' lips, Regina felt that urgent dependency all over again. She hadn't learned much from caring for Snow, but that was because she absolutely loathed the girl that stole her happiness – at least, that's what she thought at the time. With Emma in her palace, she was no longer sure about lacking happiness.

"I don't know what to do," Regina decided to tell Emma the truth.

"You don't have to do anything," Emma faintly smiled and waved at Regina to come to her. "Just lay here with me and tell me you care."

That gave Regina hope that she could be there for Emma. In that instant, from Emma's words alone, Regina trusted that she would know what to do. For Emma, she would figure it all out if she didn't know what would help. She knew then that she would stop at nothing to soothe Emma. She knew that with Emma, everything she'd ever experienced was different; better.

After a moment, Regina smiled back and slowly walked over to the bed with new found confidence.

"Oh, my darling princess, I care much more than you know," Regina confessed.

"Will you let me know how much?"

"Not yet," Regina said as she lowered herself onto the bed and leaned down to place a kiss on Emma's cheek. "Soon enough."

Emma sleepily beamed up at her.

"Come closer," Emma calmly commanded without much force.

Regina did as Emma wanted and climbed over Emma to get comfortable on the other side of the bed. She draped an arm over Emma's waist and pressed herself firmly against Emma's side. She rested her head on Emma's chest and hummed her approval of how she could feel the woman breathe beneath her.

"I want to know what's wrong, what's making you look so sick," Regina said. "I want to fix it."

"I'm fine," Emma lightly laughed as she tried to assure Regina. "But I'll feel better if you give me a kiss."

Regina chuckled and lifted her head off of Emma's chest long enough to peck the other woman on the lips, chaste and sweet. Simple yet still filled with compassion. She pulled back and looked down at Emma for confirmation that she'd gotten what she wanted.

"Mm. One more," Emma smirked.

Regina's smile spread into a grin and she leaned forward again. She pressed her lips to Emma's a second time and the contact lasted longer then. Regina kept it as chaste as the first one, but the way Emma slowly wriggled and readjusted herself beneath her, she knew the princess wanted more.

Instead of giving in to Emma's every desire, Regina pulled away again and waited until Emma opened her bleary eyes.

"I don't think that was enough," Emma purred and curled a lock of Regina's hair around her finger. "Another?"

"Rest, Emma," Regina playfully admonished with an amused smile.

"But we haven't done more than kiss in days. I missed you, Regina," Emma purposely pouted.

"I never went anywhere. You know that."

"One more kiss," Emma drew out her words. "Then I'll rest."

Regina stared at Emma with a raised brow that challenged Emma's implied promise that they would stop after just a single kiss.

Emma brought a hand to the back of Regina's thigh while she waited for the brunette to make a move and pulled Regina's leg over her hips. She positioned Regina above her with her legs on either side of herself, straddling Emma.

Regina permitted Emma to reposition her, but she refused to lower herself onto Emma. She instead kept a distance between their bodies as she made Emma wait several long seconds for her to bring their lips together again. She ensured Emma suffered by having to watch her slowly move in, their lips closer and closer with each minute movement without being touched.

Until Regina smirked and emitted a breathless chuckle before she claimed Emma's mouth with her own.

Emma immediately responded, though she remained calm and kept the kiss slow and sensual. She arched her back and lifted her hips to brush her lower abdomen against Regina's center.

The instant Regina felt Emma brush against her, the contact as light as a feather and temptingly tantalizing enough to give her a few goosebumps, she pressed her lips more firmly against Emma's. She raised her own hips enough to deny Emma anymore contact and proudly grinned when Emma groaned into the kiss.

Emma parted her lips as soon as Regina kissed her harder and wasted no time before she flicked her tongue against Regina's lips in an attempt to part them herself. She ran her hands down Regina's sides and over the Queen's backside. She squeezed Regina's perfectly rounded asset and tried to pull the woman down on top of her, desperate for more of Regina.

Regina gasped when Emma gripped her rear and released the sudden intake of breath with a moan when Emma tried to bring them flush together. Her body started to heat up in a familiar way that craved attention and she let herself give in to that feeling. She sank a little toward Emma, her sex positioned over Emma's stomach but still didn't apply any pressure to the blonde.

Emma slid her hands up Regina's backside and settled them on the Queen's hips to keep her in place. She pushed her tongue against Regina's lips and used a little more force to part them just slightly. She arched her back again and brushed against Regina's center. Just as she felt Regina contentedly sigh into their kiss, she confidently tugged Regina onto herself with her hands tightly pressed to the other woman's hips. She lowered herself completely onto the bed when she crushed Regina against herself and didn't hesitate to slide her tongue between Regina's fully parted lips when the Queen moaned again.

Regina pushed her hands deep into the bed on either side of Emma, rolled her hips to grind against the princess, and redistributed her weight from her hands to her forearms. She pushed her backside toward Emma's thighs from the woman's stomach sand slid her sex over the blonde's body the entire way.

Emma tipped her head back and whimpered.

"Regina," Emma moaned.

"Last kiss, my dear," Regina warned as she leaned in and crashed their lips together.

Regina delved her tongue into Emma's mouth and felt the blonde put up a lazy fight for dominance, one Emma clearly didn't care to win. She ran her finger over Emma's jaw as she kissed the princess then slid it down Emma's throat. She curled her finger and ran the back of it over Emma's sternum before she slid it over her chest. The backs of her fingers grazed over one of Emma's clothed nipples before Regina brushed the heel of her palm over Emma's left breast. She gave a faint, gentle squeeze to Emma's breast before she slipped her hand off Emma entirely and pressed her forearm into the bed once again beside Emma.

Once Regina's forearm pressed into the bed, she slowly pulled her head back and broke the kiss, but she let it linger between them for a moment.

Emma's eyes popped open at a casual, sleepy pace and she smiled a goofy smile up at Regina.

"You look happy," Regina noted, a little pleased to see Emma's blissful expression.

"I am. I think your kisses have healed me."

Regina throatily chuckled.

"Then you should be able to rest now," Regina said as she eased herself off of Emma and rolled onto her back next to the blonde.

"Mhmm," Emma hummed and rolled onto her side to face Regina.

Emma curled up against Regina's side and draped an arm over her. She nuzzled her face into Regina's neck and pecked a kiss there before she settled again with her cheek pressed against Regina's sternum and the crown of her head lightly pressed against Regina's throat.

Regina felt Emma's hair tickle her below her chin on her neck and collarbone. She smiled and wrapped an arm around Emma to hold her close in a comforting and affectionate embrace.

"I think we were supposed to meet," Emma hazily said after a moment. "I think we were supposed to be here, in this moment, with each other."

"What makes you say that?"

"Being with someone has never felt as right as it does when I'm with you."

"I couldn't agree more," Regina fondly said as she started to slowly rub Emma's arm and back, one arm wrapped around the princess and the other at her own side on the bed.

"That's why I'm going to keep calling you 'My Only'. You are my only. My one and only, Regina. I don't want to find someone else. I don't want to court anyone else. If I ever did that, I would be bored and unhappy and it wouldn't mean as much as my time with you has meant this far."

"Is that why you're so nice to me," Regina teased.

Emma laughed and Regina felt the laughter vibrate against her skin where Emma rested.

"Do you feel that way about me?"

Regina's breathing never changed. It remained steady even though she didn't answer Emma right away.

"I believe I do."

Emma smiled.

"Never leave me, my only," Emma said as she started to drift off to sleep.

"Not for anything, my love."

Just as the words had left Regina's mouth, her mirror chimed once, twice, three times.

Regina's features changed from soft and happy to incredibly concerned, her defenses suddenly raised.

"Appear, Genie," Regina quietly said to the mirror and looked down at Emma to ensure she hadn't disturbed the blonde.

"Your Majesty," the Genie gravely and urgently greeted as he swirled into view in the looking glass. "Snow White and her Prince are at the barrier."

"Show them to me," Regina commanded and continued to use hushed tones as she stayed in bed with Emma.

The image in the mirror swirled again before the Genie disappeared and was soon replaced by Snow and Charming along with a twinkling blue light in front of the barrier.

Regina narrowed her eyes at the mirror and withheld a growl for Emma's sake. She watched the blue light wave at the barrier and magic appeared between the light and the barrier.

The Blue Fairy.

Regina stared at the three people least welcome at her palace with fury until something clicked in her mind. Her anger faded into worry and fear as she looked at the woman in her arms.

Emma's exhaustion suddenly made sense.

"No," Regina sadly said. "I will not let our time come to an end. Not now. Not like this."

Regina rolled Emma onto her back and eased herself out of the younger woman's hold on her. She slowly removed herself from the bed and walked over to the mirror. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists at her sides. She allowed rage to consume her before she waved a hand at the mirror and magically flew Snow, Charming, and the Blue Fairy away from the barrier.

Snow and Charming landed in the grass a few feet back while the Blue Fairy hovered nearby where they fell.

Regina then transported herself outside on the opposite side of the barrier from the three intruders. She glared at them as Snow and Charming helped each other up, the Blue Fairy stunned into silence as she kept her eyes on the Queen.

"Leave. Now," Regina growled, her attention focused on Snow.

"We are not leaving until we get our daughter," Charming boldly stated.

"You will leave now and you will leave without her," Regina said as her eyes slid from Snow to Charming.

"Let Emma go," the Blue Fairy said.

"You say it as if I'm holding her captive," Regina replied.

"Because you are," Snow exclaimed.

Regina mirthlessly chuckled.

"On the contrary, Snow. Your daughter is here of her own free will."

"We will not let you corrupt her," Charming yelled as he took a step toward the barrier.

Regina waved her arm again and knocked him off his feet. He harshly landed in the grass again and his wife immediately helped him stand.

The Blue Fairy huffed out an angry sigh and tried to magically weaken the barrier again.

"Stop it," Regina shouted. "You'll hurt her!"

"Hurt who," Snow asked.

"Don't listen to her," Charming said. "Whatever she says is a lie."

Regina's eyes sparked purple and she fought to keep control over herself and her magic, but Charming's ignorance would only effect Emma badly. Regina acted before she took the time to think about how Emma might disapprove of her behavior and threw out both of her hands.

Snow, Charming, and supposedly benevolent fairy flew far from the barrier at Regina's magical insistence. Snow and Charming hit the ground hard and rolled down a slope in the grass. The Blue Fairy hurdled backward as she flipped over and over again in the air as far as Charming and Snow had flown. Her mid-air somersaults ended where Snow and Charming started to roll down the small hill.

"I'll do far worse if you return," Regina threatened before she flicked her wrists and sent the three of them away in clouds of purple.

Regina lowered her arms down to her sides and looked around the surrounding area to ensure no one else had decided to try to eliminate the barrier. When all seemed quiet and safe, Regina relaxed a little and engulfed herself in purple smoke. She reappeared in her bedchamber with Emma still peacefully asleep.

Regina sadly smiled at her and tried to assure herself everything would be fine, Emma would recuperate in a couple days, and she probably wouldn't have to worry about Snow and Charming for a short amount of time. But she had an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach that things would soon get much worse.


Note: Not sure when the next chapter will be posted, but I'll try to keep up with it as best I can. Thanks for reading. I hope you have a fantastic holiday! Review and let me know what you thought of Chapter 12! :)