A/N: You wanted it, you asked for it, you left review after review practically begging for it and now...you have it! Here's the latest. I hope enjoy and I'm so very sorry for the long wait between updates. If you read my other stories or follow me on Tumblr, you know that I've been pretty busy lately with college the closer my graduation gets. Also, I haven't mentioned this before, but I've also started to beta read for people and I've got four authors sending me new chapters every so often so I try to look those over as soon as possible. Anyway, read on and let me know what you loved, liked, and/or didn't like so much. :)
"I want four guards posted outside the front of the palace, three posted in the back, and five at the barrier," Regina commanded the Huntsman and Bruce, the head of her Royal Guard. "I want two guards each to patrol every hall."
"Your Majesty? What's the problem," the Huntsman asked, seemingly concerned and slightly alarmed.
"If anyone tries to break the barrier or succeeds in invading the palace, they are to be dealt with as necessary," Regina replied.
"What shall you have us do," Bruce asked.
"Kill them or lock them away in the dungeon," Regina dismissively waved a hand at them. "Try to lock them up first, but if they present a more malicious threat then do not hesitate to end them."
The last two words were spoken with a thick, raspy tone that dripped out of her mouth with hate and anger and a darkness only the Evil Queen herself could touch.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Bruce obediently nodded.
The Huntsman said nothing and remained perfectly still, stiff as a board with tense shoulders and a lump in his throat that accompanied the sickening knot that twisted in the pit of his stomach.
"Huntsman," Regina asked with a voice like honey with an undertone of fear-inducing implications. "Do you understand me?"
The Huntsman subtly gulped then nodded and bowed his head.
"Yes, My Queen," he said.
"Don't ever call me that," Regina slowly growled. "You are to call me 'Your Majesty' and that is all."
Regina then looked to Bruce and realization flashed in her eyes as she straightened up to a more regal, dignified, and stoic stance.
"In fact, you will tell everyone that they are only to call me 'Your Majesty' from now on. Anyone who addresses me as 'My Queen' will be restrained in the dungeon without food until I feel you have learned your lesson."
Both men averted their eyes and noticeably stiffened.
"Now that I've made myself clear, delegate the other guards to their posts and join them in defense."
"Yes, Your Majesty," they both quietly said in sync before they took their leave.
Regina took a deep breath and puffed it out in a loud and heavy sigh before she surrounded herself with purple smoke. She emerged from the smoke before it even dissipated as she strode forward in her bedchamber and went straight to the bed. Emma continued to sleep even as she sat down on her side of the bed and brushed a hand over blonde tresses.
Regina stroked Emma's hair for a moment longer before she slid down on the bed and laid with her. She moved her hand from Emma's hair down to her arm and lightly ran her fingertips over the younger woman's arm.
Goosebumps rose in Regina's wake on Emma's arm and caused the princess to part her lips in her sleep as her breath momentarily caught in her throat.
Regina smiled at that and paused in her actions for a second before she rolled partially on her stomach toward Emma. She leaned in and kissed Emma's bicep where she had previously touched and created goosebumps. She didn't want to wake the princess, but with Emma's weakened state she also didn't want to leave her alone or go without feeling the blonde under her touch in any way possible.
Regina pulled back after her kiss to look at Emma and noticed that the goosebumps on fair skin had receded. She tried not to smile because to smile once at the woman in her bed was acceptable, but to do it twice in such a short amount of time made her look like a naive, lovestruck young girl; much like she had been with Daniel. She wanted to avoid that because, even though her mother was long gone, she still feared losing that which she loved. So she flashed a quick smile that seemed sadder than how she usually felt toward Emma.
"R'gina," Emma sleepily asked as she started to stir. "Are you okay?"
"Of course, my love," Regina answered as she brushed the back of her fingers against Emma's arm. "You don't need to worry about me."
Emma opened her eyes and, after a couple of seconds, gave Regina a goofy smile.
"What is it? Why are you smiling," Regina asked as Emma's smile brought one to her own face.
"You said 'love'."
Regina was shocked more than anything else, but she couldn't hide the heart stopping fear that came with the truth of Emma's statement. Though Regina wasn't sure if it actually was true. She barely admitted it to herself let alone voiced such troubling thoughts out loud. Had she said love?
"You said 'my love'. You've only ever called me 'my dear'."
Realization slowly showed on Regina's face.
"I did, didn't I."
"You love me?"
Emma looked hopeful in ways Regina couldn't handle if she ever destroyed that light in the other woman's eyes. But she wouldn't destroy that hope. In fact, she would only turn that hope into a happy reality.
"Yes," Regina confessed with a large, warm smile. "I don't know what I would do if something happened to you."
Emma placed her hand on top of Regina's on her arm and rubbed circles over the back of Regina's hand with her thumb.
"Actually, I do know what I would do," Regina corrected herself. "But you wouldn't like it."
"I promise I'm here with you. I won't leave, but...if anything happens to me that neither of us can control, please don't resort to your dark, villainous ways."
Emma teasingly smiled, which told Regina that the message was serious but the context of her words were spoken lightly as a joke.
Regina's smile widened and she exposed her perfectly set teeth. But the smile faded before she replied to Emma.
"I'm not comfortable with making a promise I'm not sure I can keep. But I will promise you this, if anything out of our control were to happen to you, may the gods forbid it, I will try my hardest to be the person I am when I'm with you."
"That's enough for me," Emma said and brought Regina's hand from her arm to her lips and kissed the back of the Queen's hand.
Regina raised her eyebrows in a way that silently asked, "Really?"
"For now," Emma answered Regina's unvoiced question with a suggestive and partially mischievous grin.
"Oh? And when will you hold me more accountable for such heinous actions?"
"When I see you waiting at the end of the aisle for me," Emma easily answered. "I expect nothing less in your vows."
Regina's jaw dropped.
"You want us to marry?"
"I don't want to be with anyone else," Emma casually shrugged as she continued to lay in the bed. "Why not?"
"I... Wh... I..."
Emma chuckled at Regina's sudden speechlessness.
"Relax, My Queen," Emma said. "One step at a time."
"What step are we on, dear?"
Emma pursed her lips together while she smirked at Regina. She rolled on top of Regina and pinned down the hand she still had possession of before she laced her fingers with Regina's. She smirked down at Regina and bit her bottom lip as she straddled the Queen's hips.
"Emma," Regina almost warningly said, though it sounded more like a plea.
"I knew you loved me," Emma admitted. "I felt it. You've told me you've changed and I've seen you refuse to do harm simply because I asked you not to. That's more than anyone has ever done for me. You've given me a horse and a dream catcher and have allowed me freedom my parents didn't, wouldn't. They were worried you'd hurt me and yet, you love me. You're not a threat to me. They are."
"Yes, well, you need to rest, my love," Regina said.
"I don't want to rest," Emma said as she placed her head on Regina's chest.
Emma chastely kissed Regina's sternum then lifted her head and leaned forward before she kissed Regina on the lips. "How about a magic lesson?"
"Emma," Regina started. "No magic today. And no horseback riding either."
"Why not," Emma almost pouted. "I want to do something. I don't want to be trapped inside. You're doing what my parents did."
"You need to stay in bed until you recuperate," Regina insisted. "Your magic has been tested to great lengths and you'll need your strength if you want to continue practicing."
Emma collapsed on top of Regina and groaned in defeat before she curled against Regina's body, her head on Regina's chest and one leg thrown over the brunette.
Regina lifted her hand up to Emma's hair and started to soothingly brush her fingers through blonde tresses.
"If I have to stay in here, you have to stay with me," Emma said in a tone that left no room for argument.
"Fine. We can talk," Regina offered. "We haven't done much of that yet. At least, no more than knowing what we both like."
"Yeah, like you and the color black, Miss Queen of Gothic Fashion."
Regina grinned and laughed as she continued to run her hands through Emma's hair.
"You say it as though you aren't madly fascinated and thoroughly pleased by my preferred style."
"Though what you say is true, it doesn't mean I find it humorous that your outfits reveal so much and have an unnecessary dramatic flare."
"No matter," Regina purred. "I shall wear them until your jaw stops dropping every time you see me in them."
"Mm," Emma hummed and started to draw lazy circles on Regina's hip with her fingertips.
"Now, we'll talk about things I told you I wasn't ready to talk about when you asked."
Emma immediately stopped making circles on Regina's hips, tensed, then pushed onto her forearms and stared at Regina. Her eyes were wide with anticipation as well as hope that Regina spoke the truth with a glimmer of excitement on her face.
"You'll tell me about him?"
"Mhmm," Regina nodded against the pillow.
Emma sat up and folded and tucked her legs underneath her. She remained on the bed next to Regina and patiently waited like an anxious child during story time for the brunette to start talking.
Emma's youthfulness and childish wonder made Regina smile and reminded the Queen how precious the woman with her was. She knew the blonde had her moments and could be strong, but she rarely saw that side. She saw Emma as a woman fearful to trust, but when she did, it meant more than any words or significant promises that were unfortunately broken.
"I will tell you something about my relationship with my father, but I hope you'll share at least one memory of your past with me afterward."
"Something from after your sixth birthday, should you decide to share."
"I can do that," Emma smiled. "What about your father?"
"You're awfully curious about him. Is there something specific you would like to know?"
"Maybe. Your mother sounds like a nightmare," Emma said before she realized that topic hardened Regina's features with pain. "But when you mention your father, you seem nostalgic and sometimes you smile."
Regina smiled then too as if Emma saying it made her want to prove the blonde right.
"Yes, I suppose I would. My father was a kind and honest man. He wasn't very strong when it came to standing up for what and who he should have, but...I can't exactly blame him for that considering who he would have had to face."
Regina had yet to look at Emma as she spoke. She looked down at her lap, but she seemed to be in another world as she recalled her memories of Henry Mills.
"He used to sing me Spanish lullabies before bed and tickle my toes whenever I sat in his lap," Regina smiled and continued. "When I got older, he would praise my riding skills and tell me how proud he was. He told me how beautiful I was and how well I've grown."
Finally, Regina looked at Emma.
"He would have liked you. I think you would have liked him too. He was a kind soul and Mother would always be harsh and strict. But he would sneak all the foods Mother didn't allow me to eat up to my room and told me stories of the places he'd wanted to go and how spirited his was when he was about my age."
"He sounds like a great father," Emma noted with a warm smile.
"He was the only one to stand by me when I went from being his young and hopeful little girl to the King's wife to the Evil Queen. The older he got, the more I pushed to find a spell that would preserve what youth he had left, but...there was only so much I could do to cheat his death."
Emma frowned and reached out. She grabbed one of Regina's hands and rubbed her thumb over the back of it to comfort the brunette.
"He died not too long before I met you, in front of the palace. His last words, aside from 'I love you', was an apology."
Emma furrowed her brows in confusion.
"Wait, how long before you met me," Emma asked.
Regina seemed thrown off by that question.
"A few days before your ball. Why?"
"Grayish white hair, mostly bald on the top of his head? Dressed in a royal blue coat with gold buttons?"
"Yes," Regina confirmed with wide eyes. "But how–"
"I met him," Emma said. "I was there when he...fell down. I tried to help him, but he told me to leave because you were coming. I swear, Regina, I didn't know what to do, but I wanted to stay with him. I started to help him. Honestly!"
Regina immediately softened and slowly smiled at Emma's long and rushed explanation.
"Oh, my love, worry not," Regina said. "It wasn't your fault. He should have passed years before, but I couldn't let him go. I'm glad you met him, though I wish it had gone differently, and you tried to help him. Truly impressive since he was a perfect stranger. Although, I'm sure that's the Charming gene of yours."
Emma rolled her eyes.
"It's what good people do. Try to help someone in need," Emma said. "It has nothing to do with genetics."
"Mm," Regina noncommittally hummed as she nodded.
"Besides, it hurt me to see him like that. He sounded like a mad man when he tried to rush me away from here, but he said it was for my own good and it's not like he forced me to leave like my parents might have. I figured I should trust him, but I really didn't want to leave him. He said his daughter was on her way so I hoped you would get there in time."
"He warned you about me," Regina asked with sad and slightly watery eyes.
"Yeah," Emma said before she cringed and continued. "I guess he knew who I was and knew you had something unpleasant planned for me. You said it yourself, he was a kind soul. He loved you, but he had to do what he could to protect me."
Regina nodded and smiled. She breathed out a small chuckle.
"I'm glad he did," Regina said before she looked up at Emma again. "Because it's what he tried to do for me. It's what a father does, or at least what a father should do."
Regina leaned forward and sweetly kissed Emma. She leaned back when the kiss ended, a smile still on her face.
"For his daughter," Regina added. "He's never warned anyone else about me in all my time as the Evil Queen, but he warned you. He protected you."
"He liked me," Emma joked with a wide smile.
"He did," she agreed. "And he was right to like you. Princess Emma, you are one truly wonderful and beautiful woman. Though I captured you to use you against your parents for revenge, it gave me the greatest gift in all the lands. And my father was right. I did find my happiness."
A tear slid down Emma's cheek and Regina wiped it away.
"I love you," Emma said.
Regina beamed before she leaned in and kissed Emma again.
"And I love you," Regina said after their kiss. When those three words left her lips, she realized how good it felt to finally allow herself to say them.
"I feel much better now," Emma smiled.
"You're staying in this bed."
Emma sighed then bit her lip as she fought to conceal a mischievous smirk.
"Even if I do this," Emma asked as she pulled her shirt down one arm to expose her shoulder before she leaned in and slowly, languidly, kissed Regina's neck.
Regina closed her eyes and quietly moaned in response to Emma's lips on her neck.
"Get away from me, Temptress," Regina joked, her eyes still closed.
Emma laughed into her next and sent vibrations across Regina's neck.
"Now's not the time, my love," Regina said with a low and raspy voice.
As if on cue, three chimes sounded from the mirror and the genie appeared in the glass.
Emma knew the signal and reluctantly pulled away from Regina then turned to face the room as she covered her shoulder once again with her shirt.
"Genie," Regina flatly asked as she slowly removed herself from the bed.
"Your assistance is needed downstairs," the genie quickly informed her. "There's been a possible security breech."
"Already? ...Alright. Thank you."
The genie disappeared as Regina turned toward Emma with an apologetic expression.
"I'll be right back. Stay in bed. When I return, you can tell me something about yourself."
Emma playfully pouted.
Regina closed the space between them and leaned down for a kiss.
"I won't be long," she said when they parted. "Close your eyes and rest or change your clothes. Take a look around my closet. If you find something you like, have it. But don't leave our chambers."
Regina kissed Emma again, unable to keep her lips away from the blonde's, before she asked, "Please?"
"Okay," Emma quietly said.
Regina smiled and gave the blonde a quick peck on the lips.
"Thank you," the Queen said as she headed toward the door. "Be right back."
Emma sighed and fell back on the bed after Regina left. She waited minute after minute until it felt like hours since she last saw the brunette. When boredom became torture, Emma bit her lip and sat up in the bed. She remained completely still for a few moments, lost in an internal debate about her next move, before she came to a decision.
Emma stood and slipped out of Regina's chambers. She moved casually throughout the palace as she descended staircase after staircase, walked through the courtyard, and then traveled up the stairs in an almost adjoining building to the castle. It was one of the places she had yet to explore even though she'd seen it during her day of adventurous exploration. She decided she would take the seemingly abundant amount of time before Regina returned to their chambers to see what lay inside the tall, brick building.
Once inside, Emma first noticed the lack of guards. Regina usually had a guard or two positioned within the entrance of each area of the palace except for those just outside the main doors of the castle's double doors. Though she thought it odd, she shrugged it off and started to climb stair after stair past several closed doors.
The silence in the building suddenly chilled the blonde to the bone. Something felt off. There was a reason why the guards were elsewhere and Regina had been gone from the room a while. A breech in security could have been anything and if it actually was her parents, Emma knew they had nothing to worry about. Right? Her parents weren't killers and Regina promised not to hurt them.
A giggle erupted from the room Emma had stopped in front of when she had started to question to the strange feeling in the pit of her stomach that screamed for her to turn and run from the building.
Emma jumped and whipped her head in the direction of the giggle. Her eyes widened when she saw familiar tight, blonde curls and a wicked grin on light pink lips.
"If it isn't the darling princess," Maleficent cooed as her face filled the four by four glass window on the door. "Are you here alone?"
Emma steeled her features as she overcame the initial shock of seeing the woman Regina had made disappear right before her very eyes almost a week ago.
"That matters not, Maleficent," Emma said, her expression neutral if not a little tight and angered.
"Actually, it does. You see, Regina won't be pleased if you've wandered off. But if you're here because you're allowed to go wherever and do whatever, you must have given yourself to her."
"That is none of your concern."
"Maybe not, but she really is an excellent lover," Maleficent purred. "And nothing would please her more than to have a taste of you. I see the way her eyes devour your body. The only way you can fully satisfy someone like her is to give her what she really wants."
Emma thickly swallowed down the lump that had formed in her throat at the other blonde's most likely true words.
"A little advice," Maleficent asked as she slowly looked Emma up and down and got as close to the window as possible. "She doesn't get off on being touched. Not as much as she does by touching others. No matter how hard you try to find all the right spots, she'll squirm until she has dominance over you."
"If that was true, why would she be patient enough to wait until I say she can?"
"You just answered your own question, Princess. Dominance is more pleasurable when given permission to take it. To will yourself on someone is alluring enough, but it doesn't sate that hunger for complete control.
"She'll get tired of waiting, especially if she doesn't think you're worth it. And that all depends on how well you touch her. I suspect a virgin like yourself can only do so much."
"I do more than enough," Emma proudly stated. "You're the one who can't please her."
"You're jealous," Emma continued. "And you also hate that I'm a princess. You have this perception that we're all like the princess you fell for, but did you ever think it wasn't the princess who was wrong for not loving you? Did you ever even consider there's a reason why she couldn't love you? Because in case you haven't noticed, she wasn't the only one to not love you."
Maleficent seethed inside her cell.
"So you're trying to break up Regina and I because it's not fair she gets to fall for the princess and keep her too," Emma continued. "Especially since Regina also didn't return your love. I guess there's not a single person that could love you."
"You better hope Regina will be there to protect you when I get out of here," Maleficent threatened.
Emma furrowed her brows.
The princess looked to the bottom of the stairs where the Huntsman swiftly moved toward her with wide eyes.
"There you are," the Huntsman said as he gently grabbed her elbow and pulled her along with him toward the building's entrance. "You need to leave the palace. There's a horse waiting for you near the barrier. I assume you'll be able to weaken the magic used to create the barrier before you go, but–"
"What? No, I'm not leaving," Emma insisted when they reached the last step.
"Regina is looking for you. Knowing how she feels about your mother–"
"She won't hurt me," Emma insisted. "Why does no one believe me when I say that?"
"Emma, your parents are worried about you. The longer you're here, the more likely the Queen will poison your mind."
"Are you working for my parents?"
"I told you the Queen has my heart. I'm here because the Queen keeps me here."
Emma shook her head.
"That doesn't answer my question."
"We haven't much time, Emma," the Huntsman hurriedly said. "You either leave or you return to the Queen immediately. She's very upset with you."
"Then take me to her," Emma said, her expression furious with the man who yet again dared try to force her to leave the palace.
The Huntsman sighed through his nose as he stared at Emma for a few seconds, her determination clear and her mind made up.
"As you wish," the Huntsman bowed his head then led her out of the building.
Once the two of them were gone, murky red smoke swirled in front of Maleficent's door.
"It took you long enough," Maleficent flatly said, agitated.
"Now that I know she's here, I no longer need your help, dearie. Are you sure you want to use that tone with me?"
Maleficent just glared at Rumpelstiltskin through the window.
"That's what I thought," he said before he gracefully flicked his wrist.
The door unlocked and opened at his command and Maleficent stepped out of the room with a wicked smirk.
"Which cell is she in," he seriously asked.
Maleficent looked up and nodded at the door at the top of the winding staircase.
Without so much as a thank you, Rumpel disappeared in his usual red smoke and reappeared outside of the door. Just as he did for Maleficent, Rumpel used his magic to unlock the cell. He then stepped inside and looked around the room until his eyes fell on the thing he wanted but still didn't quite expect to see.
"Belle," he softly asked, his eyes slightly wide and his mouth open as he stared at her scraggly brown hair.
Her long locks weren't brushed and were draped over her face as she sat curled up by the window that overlooked the palace with her knees to her chest. She rested her arms over her knees and slowly turned to face the man who called her name.
Piercing blue eyes gazed up at him as he stood completely still only a step or two inside the cell. Her lips parted with the shock of seeing him again, seeing anyone she recognized again.
"Rumpel," she whispered.
His lips slowly turned up into a smile and he moved toward her. Within seconds, he wrapped her up in a hug and spoke into her hair with a rough voice strained by the tears he tried not to shed.
"I can't believe you're alive."
When he pulled away from her, he smiled and only focused his eyes on her intense, blue gaze.
"What are you doing here," she asked.
"I'm taking you home."
The Huntsman brought Emma up to Regina's bedchambers as agreed. On the way up to her chambers, he looked anything but happy. When he reached the chamber door, he forced himself to appear indifferent while he walked in with Emma on his heels.
"What did I tell you," Regina barked as she rounded on Emma and the Huntsman, her fiery eyes focused solely on the blonde.
"I'm sorry," Emma immediately started. "I got bored and went out to explore the palace more."
"I asked you to stay here," Regina said as she took Emma's hand and yanked her away from the Huntsman and toward herself.
"I didn't know how much longer you were going to be and nothing you suggested for me to do seemed appealing," Emma confessed.
Regina sighed as she pulled Emma into a hug and comfortingly rubbed her back a few times for good measure.
"I thought I made it clear when you went out to the stables in the middle of the night never to scare me like that again."
"You did. I'm sorry. I really thought I would have made it back before you did."
Regina pulled out of the hug and rested her hands on Emma's arms as she gently squeezed them.
"What if you were too weak to make it back to our chambers? What if someone had taken you from the palace before you could return? What if the breech in security just now had been someone dangerous that wanted to hold you captive?"
"Who was responsible for the breech," Emma curiously asked.
Regina closed her eyes and shook her head, her expression a mixture between angry and concerned.
"None of the guards saw who it was. They were gone before I went downstairs. We searched, but they were gone from the premises by then," Regina answered. "But that doesn't mean the threat isn't there."
"You're right. Again, I'm sorry, My Queen," Emma said and smiled as she used the royal title to address Regina.
Regina cupped the side of Emma's face and brushed her thumb over her the blonde's cheek. She tilted her head and a smile of her own slowly started to appear.
The Huntsman quickly noticed not only the title Emma had used, but Regina's reaction as well. His eyes widened in realization when he remembered earlier in the day that Regina had told everyone else to refer to her only as "Your Majesty".
Regina hadn't corrected Emma. She had shown compassion with a simple yet meaningful touch.
The Huntsman's expression morphed from shock to apprehension. There was no way Regina loved the Princess. She was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. She was a bargaining chip to exact Regina's revenge on the fair queen. Surely, anything Regina did that resembled actual care or love or even a strong liking toward Emma was all a lie to cut deeper when she finally revealed her true nature, her true intentions, to the good family of three.
"Come," Regina said to Emma as she lightly grabbed the woman's hands. "Let's get you into bed so you can rest."
The Huntsman watched Regina pull Emma toward the bed then sit her down on it. He nearly grimaced at the thought of Emma sharing a bed with the Evil Queen, the woman out to destroy Emma's family at any cost.
"I'm not tired," Emma stated.
"No matter. You'll rest until you're at full strength," Regina insisted.
"Regina," Emma slightly warned.
"Emma," Regina mimicked the blonde's tone.
The princess sighed and unceremoniously fell back on the bed to lay down per the Queen's request.
"Thank you," Regina grinned down at Emma then turned to the Huntsman.
Her grin disappeared in less than a second as she glared at the man.
"Leave us," she quickly dismissed him and the other guard that had waited with her in her chambers for the blonde to be found and returned to her.
The Huntsman tried not to scowl at her even though he was more than displeased with the bed situation and bowed his head before he turned and exited the chambers.
The other guard followed him out and once Regina and Emma were alone in the room, the door closed behind the guard and the Huntsman. Only then did he growl as he headed down the hall, left to help protect the palace from unwanted visitors and unexpected attacks. He wanted to do no such thing. He wanted to fight the Evil Queen and free Emma from the evil woman's hold. He wanted to get the princess away from Regina and away from the palace. To do any of that, he knew what he needed.
And what he needed was what he had wanted for years.
He wanted his heart back.
"Tell me more about little Regina," Emma said with a bright smile as she reached out and pulled the brunette down on top of her on the bed.
Regina bit her bottom lip in a failed attempt to hide the matching smile on her face as she allowed herself to lay on Emma's body just as the blonde had effortlessly arranged it.
"But you still haven't told me about yourself, my love."
Emma lifted her head in a flash and kissed Regina hard. She picked at the brunette's velvet dress where it clung to Regina's abdomen as she kept their lips pressed together for as long as possible before she dropped her head back onto the bed and caught her breath.
"I love it when you call me that," Emma admitted as much as made it sound like an explanation for her actions.
"I'm glad. I would hate to call you that and learn that you hate it or didn't feel the same. Now, stop avoiding the subject and tell me something about you that I don't already know."
Emma hesitated as she stared up at Regina and racked her brain for things to say. She had plenty of stories, but there was something she had to tell the woman above her that she knew would please her greatly to know. The longer she stared at Regina, the more safe and comfortable she felt about telling her. It took her another couple of seconds before her smile widened and she decided to just say it.
"Okay," Emma started. "You want to know something about me you don't know?"
"I believe I said exactly that," Regina said. "Please, Emma, enlighten me."
Regina's jaw dropped and her smile immediately vanished in lieu of her shock.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Emma said as she nodded.
"I thought you would be happy about this."
"Oh, Emma, I am. But I want to know what's changed. You seemed close to being ready these past few days, but not thisclose. I just want to make sure something or someone hasn't rushed you in anyway, that I haven't rushed you in any way."
Emma quickly shook her head.
"Of course not. You've been nothing but patient. But I can see you are more than interested in what is between us, not just the physical attraction, and you are still the one I want to give myself to. Completely."
Regina's eyes started to water with tears on the verge of release. She smiled at Emma as she slowly leaned in and pressed her forehead to the blonde's. She closed her eyes and smiled even more as she laughed with relief.
"What is it, My Queen," Emma asked as she laughed with Regina. "What amuses you?"
"Nothing amuses me," Regina replied. "I'm happy."
"I made you happy?"
"Yes," Regina breathed out with a small laugh, still noticeably relieved.
Emma tipped her head back and brought her lips up to Regina's. She tenderly kissed the brunette for several precious seconds before Regina slowly, almost reluctantly, pulled away.
"Will you have me, My Queen," Emma asked.
"Forever, my love."
Emma smiled and went in for another kiss, but Regina pulled back.
"After you regain more of your strength," Regina added.
Emma furrowed her brows and was a frown away from pouting as she considered the brunette above her.
"You've been waiting for this even before I first touched you. Why not have me now?"
"You'll be just as ready tomorrow night as you are now, won't you?"
"Well, yes, but–"
"Then let me surprise you," Regina cut Emma off. "Tomorrow will be one of the best days of your life and to commemorate it, and celebrate our love, we will officially make this bed ours."
Emma bit her lip as smiled again. She nodded her agreement and placed a hand on the back of Regina's neck before she pulled her down for a heated kiss. Just when Emma's hands started to wander and Regina whimpered in response to all the attention, the brunette broke the kiss.
"You're a naughty little thing," Regina smirked. "Tomorrow, dear Princess. We shall enjoy this tomorrow."
Emma puffed out a sigh as Regina rolled onto her side next to the younger woman.
"Now tell me something about your past," Regina said. "I told you about my father. It's your turn to share something."
"Right," Emma said as she shifted onto her side to face Regina as they lay sideways together across the bed. "Okay. When I was nine, I had a fascination with my father's sword. I kept trying to steal it from him at all times. Whenever he'd wear it, I would try to sidle up beside him and slip it out of his sheath and whenever he left it in my parents' chambers, I would sneak in and grab it. Somehow, though, he always knew I was there. Every time I even touched it, he would laugh and pull me away from it."
Regina smiled as she imagined it.
"One day, he brought me a wooden sword he had Geppetto make. Oh, Geppetto is a woodcarver that my family is really close with. Anyway, my father told me I could show him how I would fight with a real sword using the wooden one. If I proved myself worthy, he said he would let me practice with his sword."
"I imagine you didn't fight so well," Regina happily and knowingly grinned.
"Not at all," Emma laughed. "I had absolutely no grace or technique."
"He should have taught you to use the wooden sword so one day you could use a real one. If you showed any determination to learn, it would have been in everyone's best interest."
"He tried," Emma shrugged. "He taught me a few things here and there, but then I got older and there were suitors to impress and a kingdom to learn about. Plus, I told you about the time I finally got my hand on his sword. I almost sliced him open."
"Well, if you still wish to learn how to properly wield a sword, maybe I can arrange for one of my men to teach you. In fact, I might even ask a few of them to teach you their individual techniques. Though the way to wield a sword is mostly standard practice and universal for every guard and knight, everyone has their own ways of handling weaponry, especially considering how different the weapons and guards are. You are a petite young woman. You probably have to use different muscles to achieve the same results as some of my best men."
"You would do that? Have them teach me how to use a sword?"
"I would give you anything you desired," Regina said. "You wormed your way into my life and my heart. And I believe it happened long before your masquerade ball."
"Well, I believe you've done the same. Why else would I have attempted to walk through a mirror to get to you?"
"Because you thought I was pretty and didn't know any better than to go walking through glass," Regina joked. "Idiot."
"Yes, well, what does it say about you that you really like this idiot?"
"It says I have good taste."
"Yes, because though you may be an idiot, you only do such foolish things out of bravery and exercise of your strong will. You're also my idiot so it matters not what others think for me liking one. So long as you're mine, it shows there's something more than hopeless feelings for a hopeless woman."
"That's all fine and well, My Queen, but please tell me my new nickname isn't 'my idiot'."
"Of course not, dear. You will always be, from today forward, my love."
"I think I should have another nickname for you."
"Yes, I can't imagine always calling you 'My Queen'. That should be reserved for specific intimate moments. Remember that we are equals. If I call you that, it means I am giving you more power than the status of an equal."
Regina's face almost fell as her heart started to sink fast.
"Which I don't mind doing," Emma quickly added. "But 'my love' is something that expresses your true feelings toward me. I want something like that for you. I want you to know how I feel with just one or two words. Something to call you so you know you are mine and I am yours."
"Surely anything will do," Regina said as she started to run her fingers up and down Emma's side. "Do you not already have a few names to call me?"
"True, though I want to settle on just one that I will use for most, but necessarily every, situation."
"Hmm," Regina scrunched up her face in thought. "You could always call me just as I call you."
"It sounds perfect when you say it."
"I think it's unique to you."
"We don't have to decide on just one right now, do we? We have plenty of time together for you to find something you like more than all the others," Regina said. "Besides, I'm sure we've had this conversation before and there was just one name you insisted you'd use and nothing else would do."
"So quick to change the subject. Is there something else you would prefer to do right now," Emma smirked as she brushed a few strands of Regina's hair away from her face.
"You could tell me where you were when I couldn't find you."
"I thought you were about to tell me you're too impatient to wait until tomorrow evening to touch me," Emma said as she moved in a little closer, her lips a breath away from sealing Regina's in a kiss.
"I'm certainly impatient, but I can control myself. I already have so many things planned for the day. I promise it will be worth the wait for us both."
"I trust you."
"Good. Then you'll tell me where you were today."
"I...saw Maleficent," Emma carefully said.
She knew better than to lie to Regina and she really didn't want to hide what she'd done and said, but she also knew that Regina most likely would not have been pleased to hear about her visit with the other blonde. She was right.
"You went to the dungeon?"
"Did you talk to her?"
"What did she say? Did she mention something about me, about us? You know she only says those things to bait you."
"Is that why you suddenly think you're ready?"
"No. Regina, I know I'm ready and it has nothing to do with her. When she started to talk about us, I told her she was jealous and that no one seemed to love her. She didn't really have anything to say after that."
"You stood up to her?"
"Someone other than you had to do it. But she did threaten me. It's not like I made her cry or got her to back off."
"What," Emma asked, confused even as she smiled at the look on Regina's face.
"I approve," Regina said. "She only threatens those who hurt her or threaten her first. I can't say I completely enjoy the fact that you made her your enemy, but I suppose she always would have seen you as hers. ...You're a tough one."
"Tough enough I guess," Emma shrugged with one shoulder as she and Regina both remained on their sides.
"Can't take a compliment," Regina started. "I'll be sure to fix that."
"We have a lot of daylight left," Emma said after a moment. "What else can we do so long as you have me cooped up in our chambers?"
"You asked me earlier to tell you more about little Regina."
"That's right," Emma lit up. "Tell me another story about you as a child."
"Just before Daniel came to work with his father at our stables, and sometime even after he and I had first met, I used to run in the field just behind the stables."
"Beyond the forest? Between your stables and the nearest town where we went to the market?"
"That very field," Regina smiled. "You should know as well as I do how often it rains here in the fall."
"Of course," Emma exclaimed. "I'm always getting caught in the rain. My parents or the guards have to yell at me to get me inside."
"I was much the same back then. You've seen the field too so you know it truly is a field. There are no crops, just grass and open space."
"Mhmm," Emma agreed.
"Until I was almost fourteen, I would braid my hair before I left and tell my mother I was going to visit the stables to learn more about the horses so I could ride them better once I started my lessons. She only agreed because she wanted me to be the best at everything a princess was expected to know how to do. I may have hated it then, but at least I got it to work in my favor.
"So I would travel out to the field by myself and run around, sometimes even roll in the grass. I spent a lot of time inside due to my mother's strict orders. I couldn't stand that feeling, being trapped and under her thumb. It's why I loved riding so much once I started. The freedom of being out in the open air.
"But in the fall, that rain would come and I refused to head back to our castle. I played and played all through the rain and it made the grass in the field muddy. I stopped around in the puddles and the mud and got as dirty as I could. My mother almost suffocated me with her magic when she finally caught me coming back to the castle as filthy as I was."
Emma furrowed her brows.
"You said you did this for a couple years?"
"I told you my father would sneak me all the foods my mother forbid me to eat. The first time I was out in the rain, he met me in the foyer and saw me soaking wet and covered in mud with dirt under my fingernails. He would sneak me past my mother and her favored guards and kept it our little secret."
"Did you ever go out there with Daniel after you met him?"
"Twice. The second time was when my mother saw me. Thankfully she didn't know I'd been there with Daniel, but..."
Emma reached out and stroked her thumb over Regina's cheek.
"It's okay. You can cry about him or stop talking about him if you want. ...I'm here."
Regina flashed a small but warm and appreciative smile.
"Thank you, dear, but I'm okay. I still miss him, but I can finally talk about him again. It doesn't hurt as much now that I have you with me. How do you do that?"
Emma shrugged with a smile.
"I don't know. But I'm glad it hurts less. I don't want you to replace his memory by being with me though. You're free to always have a place for him in your heart, but I hope that doesn't mean you can't love me the same or as much as you love him."
"Never," Regina firmly, confidently, said. "Yes, he will always been in my heart. Just as my father will and, unfortunately, my mother as well. But there is still plenty of room for you. I will never love him more than you, but I'm not sure I'll ever love him any less than you either."
"He's your first love and he's a part of you. As long as you no longer get caught up in what might have been had he lived, I can respect how you feel about him. As for your mother, I understand that too. We don't get to choose our parents and though they might do things we wish they hadn't, that doesn't make us love them any less."
"You are wise beyond your years," Regina proudly smiled.
"I think I knew as a child that I loved you so I must have figured the best way to an older woman's heart would be to not act so childishly," Emma jokingly said.
"You still had a somewhat normal childhood for a princess, however. Did you not?"
"I did, but I never liked anyone my age. They were all too privileged. As I've said, I didn't start rebelling until later in life even with having the barrier in place around my family's palace."
"Yes, I recall you telling me you had to be careful not to upset your father because of his heart."
"Though it's weak, it's remarkably resilient. Doc and the Blue Fairy both agreed that his heart should not have been able to sustain so many years in its state after the shock it endured from the mirror incident."
"I know your father well enough to know he would never leave you and your mother unless he knew you two would be fine. I'm sure he's fought his heart condition this entire time just to protect you."
Emma frowned then.
"Do you think all this time I've spent here has hurt him? I don't just mean mentally. Physically, do you think him fighting alongside my mother to get me back has stressed his heart?"
"You worry too much," Regina soothingly said as she moved closer to Emma. "I told you, he's not going anywhere so long as he thinks you need protection. You get that from him, you know. Your stubbornness comes from your mother without a doubt, but your heart and tenacity...that's all him."
"You truly think that?"
"I know it," Regina said with conviction and smiled.
Emma smiled back.
"How about we share more stories over a good meal," Regina asked. "I haven't eaten all day."
"Then it's settled. We'll have Cook make us a special treat and I'll tell you about the strangest days I had when you were older because of that magical, magnetic pull in my stomach."
"I wonder if they're as strange as mine."
Regina raised an eyebrow, surprised and intrigued.
"It seems we have much to discuss."
"I'm confident we'll cover a lot of ground. We have the rest of the day, after all," Emma said with a cheeky smile then leaned in and chastely kissed Regina.
Note: I'm not sure when the next update will be, but here's a hint about what will be included in the next chapter: it will be worth the wait! ;) Also, there's an author I'd like to mention who writes two fantastic crack fics for Swan Queen. If you want to check them out, which I highly recommend you do, take a look at The stories ofMiss Blanchfart and Drunks speak the truth by LovingUkillsMe.