A/N: It may be a little late, but here's the latest as promised. Enjoy! :)


"Guards!"

Regina shrieked with fury as she frantically paced through her palace.

Five men scrambled into the foyer and got down on one knee before the Queen.

"Your Majesty," the guard in front, Bruce, addressed her.

"Get up," Regina angrily ordered. "Not only have I lost my ring, but now I've lost my princess as well."

"Would you like us to find her," one of the other guards asked.

Bruce elbowed the other guard in his armor and caused it to clank against his chain sleeves.

"I would like to know just how she escaped," Regina growled. "There are supposed to be ten men making rounds to ensure the safety of this palace. She couldn't have left without anyone seeing her."

"Your Majesty," Bruce carefully started with is head bowed, chin to his chest. "There were a few of us that circled around the east wing and paid Elroy a visit in the infirmary. In shifts, of course. One at a time."

Regina clenched her jaw and fought back a growl.

"You deemed that more important than watching the perimeter," Regina asked before she pinched the bridge of her nose.

"My apologizes, Your Majesty," Bruce said. "We shouldn't have spent so much time and energy on Elroy."

"You're right," Regina said. "But there's no use in wasting more time dwelling on it."

Bruce furrowed his brow, confused.

Regina darkly chuckled.

"Oh, who am I kidding," Regina rhetorically asked before she held out a hand, clenched as if it were wrapped around someone's neck.

Magically, she choked the guard to Bruce's right.

"He dies if you fail to bring back the princess."

The man garbled and coughed as he struggled to breathe.

"And if that's not enough to go out and search for her, every hour you're unsuccessful at bringing her to me, another one of you dies."

The guards ran out the front door with her last threat.

When the group left her, she rolled her eyes and relinquished the guard she'd started to strangle.

The guard gasped in all the air he could and coughed a few times.

"Thank you for sparing me, Your Majesty," the guard said. "I shall go looking for the princess in response to your generosity."

The guard tried to leave, but the Queen held up her hand and stopped him.

"Who said I was sparing you," Regina stated. "I'm only refusing to waste my energy on you at the moment. Now, the dungeon is a more preferable place for you until I get what I want."

Regina carelessly waved her hand and the guard disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.

As the smoke dissipated, Regina sauntered up to the war room.


Regina glided her hand over the table and magically made a map appear, as she had done when she checked to see Snow's movements and position relative to the Dark Palace.

"Emma, where are you," Regina asked the map as she searched the expanse for a dot, a little fleck of hope that she would get her princess back.

Nothing.

No sign of even a flicker of light.

Regina took a deep breath and clenched a fist around the corner of the table. Her eyes burned with an intense fire as she glared at the desolate map.

"You have a few people waiting downstairs, Your Majesty," the Huntsman informed the Queen from the doorway. "They're here to discuss-"

"I know why they're here," Regina snapped. "Send them up here and apologize for my tardiness. I wish to address the princess' absence for the moment."

Regina waved her hand over the table again and made the map disappear.

"Would you like me to explain why they'll be kept waiting?"

"Of course not," Regina barked. "And you should really reconsider how you talk to me, Huntsman."

"I'm sorry, Your Majesty," he bowed his head.

Regina strutted toward the doorway.

"Know your place," Regina said as she pushed the Huntsman square in his chest and shoved him out of her way.

Regina disappeared behind the thick door of her bedchamber and hurriedly went to the vanity. She sat down and carelessly waved a hand from right to left in front of the mirror.

The former Genie's head appeared in the glass surrounded by a cloud of blue smoke.

"Can you show her to me," Regina asked.

"I'm afraid I cannot, though you should know that by now."

Regina frowned.

"Or do you not remember what I told you after that...incident. Then again on every birthday following-"

"Yes, I remember," Regina quickly said to stop him from saying anything else. "But...she's not with them, is she? If she's out there somewhere, not with Snow or Charming, can't you show her to me?"

"I guess I shall be reminding you yet again," the Genie said, a little tired. "It isn't about where the princess is. The spell the Blue Fairy cast is to ensure that I, ostensibly you, cannot ever look in on her."

Regina solemnly looked down at the desk connected to the mirror.

"I've noticed, Your Majesty, over the last few days. Knowing what I know, I can actually say I'm sorry she's gone and even more sorry I cannot help you find her."

Regina looked up at the Genie with confusion.

"What exactly is it that you've noticed? More importantly, why have you been spying on me?"

"When you brought the princess back here, I was concerned something might happen to you so I kept an eye."

"And what did you notice?"

Before the Genie could answer, there was a commotion outside the palace.

Grunts, guttural growls, and throaty yells erupted from the front yard.

Regina looked at her closed chamber door and with an absent-minded wave of her hand, the Genie vanished from the mirror. She rose from the high back chair and headed down to the foyer.

"Your Majesty," a guard yelled as the Queen descended the stairs.

A few more guards addressed her the same way and started to talk over each other.

"One at a time," Regina ordered with a raised hand to silence them. "You."

She pointed at the guard closest to the palace entrance.

"Your Majesty," the guard started. "You're needed outside. The other guards say it's pertinent."

"Did they say why?"

The guard shook his head.

"They said there wasn't time for explanations."

"Fine," Regina drew the word out in a deep tone. "You four are dismissed. Resume your previous positions around the palace."

Regina sauntered over to the double door and threw them open in a showy manner. She descended the steps on the patio-like area that surrounded the front entrance and saw blonde curls and a dark red dress she recognized from her closet.

The figure jogged toward her as several guards attempted to catch her and bring her to the Queen themselves.

Emma.

The princess' eyes were locked on Regina as she smiled at the other woman.

Regina felt her heart thump roughly in her chest and Emma's smile almost caused her to smile back. But she remembered the events of the morning. She remembered how she had woken up to an empty bed. She remembered how she personally searched every room of the palace for Emma before she demanded the guards find her. What she remembered most, however, was how she had put her search for Emma before the search for her beloved ring.

Regina didn't smile at Emma.

Two guards sidled up to the princess on either side of her and they each grabbed an arm.

Emma's smile faded as she looked from the stern and upset Queen to the guards at her sides.

"Release her," Regina coldly commanded as she continued to walk toward the blonde.

The guards let Emma go and stepped away from her as Regina came within a few inches from her.

Their faces were close, hers and Regina's.

"What did I tell you about leaving," Regina yelled.

"I'm sorry, Regina, but I-"

"Silence!"

Emma flinched as Regina stepped further into her personal space.

"You are not to leave the palace ever again. You will not even leave my bedchamber! Do you understand?"

"But I-"

"Enough," Regina growled then turned and headed back toward the double doors to her palace. "My guards will escort you back to my chamber-"

"I found your ring!"

Regina stopped. She stood still for a moment then turned back to Emma.

When Emma had her attention, she placed both hands over her stomach and slipped the object off her ring finger. She held it out to Regina.

"I apologize for wearing it, but upon my return there were some wolves and I believe a poacher? I didn't get a good look. The man had some arrows and hid in the shadows and I didn't want him to find me. It was dark and I was in the woods. I didn't want to lose the ring so I wore it."

Regina walked back to Emma and looked from the younger woman to the ring she held in her hand. Daniel's ring. Her mouth opened as she stared at it.

"You," Regina breathed out in awe, her focus still on the ring. "You went in search for my ring?"

Regina's eyes flicked from the ring to green orbs.

"I told you you'd have it by morning," Emma smiled.

Regina stared, mouth agape, for a few moments before she remembered they weren't alone.

"Guards, leave us," Regina demanded.

The guards dispersed.

"I know it's a little late in the morning, but it wasn't easy to find this ring," Emma said as she slowly stepped closer to Regina.

"Where was it?"

"At the stables. Over by where we...um..." Emma trailed off as a blush colored her cheeks. "You know."

Regina slowly started to smile at Emma's embarrassment.

"It was the strangest thing, really," Emma continued and looked up from the ring to Regina's eyes. "I searched the ground from the start of the woods all the way to the stables. Then, when I got to the stables, I saw the grave."

Regina looked down at the ground and tried to fight the heartbreak she felt.

"I knelt in front of it and paid my respects."

Regina looked up at Emma.

"But you didn't even know him."

"No, but he must have been an honorable man from the way you've spoken of him."

Emma bowed her head and silently apologized to a man she'd never met.

"Thank you for making Regina happy while you were with her," Emma said to the grave. "I wish you had been able to spend more time with her. It's a shame you two didn't get a happy ending. I believe everyone should have one. Part of the reason I believe people turn to the darkness and do bad things are because they've lost the light.

"Regina...she's far from the woman I assume you knew, but when she talks about you she gets this look in her eyes."

Emma smiled as she recalled the brunette's face.

"We've only talked about you a couple times, but even when she'd sad about what happened, about how you got here, there's this...innocence to her. Her eyes soften and she seems to forget all about being Queen and magic and revenge.

"Anyway, I should find the ring. She'll probably get angry if she finds out I left the palace and here I am, talking to the grave of a man I only know two things about: his name and how he died.

"Now, if I were a ring...where would I hide from the person who desperately wants me back?"

Emma placed a hand on top of the grave to stand when an odd but warm feeling swelled within her.

The warmth she felt inside contrasted with the chill of the night. The combination of the two temperatures formed goosebumps all over her body.

Emma moved back toward the ground as the feeling overwhelmed her. As she gulped, she felt that unidentifiable feeling mix with the familiar magnetic pull she often experienced.

Her eyes immediately looked across the stables toward the place where had conjured a blanket for her and Regina. She removed her hand from the grave and the warm feeling faded.

Once she stood, the magnetic pull guided her to the area she'd felt Regina's body for the first time before the riding lesson.

Then, the magnetic pull relented and she was on her own.

She scanned the grass before she dropped down to her knees and felt around for minutes that turned into hours as she crawled on all hours. She moved slowly, deliberately, in a thorough search in the dark until she felt something hard and round in the grass. When she touched it, a finger slid through the center of the object and Emma smiled at the discovery.

She picked it up and held it out in the moonlight. The ring reflected some of the light and transformed Emma's smile into a beaming expression.

"Do you forgive me," Emma asked with a hopeful look on her face.

Regina laughed, a genuine laugh free of any condescension.

"Of course I forgive you, my dear. But I don't want you running off again."

Emma nodded.

"Am I still confined to your bedchamber?"

"You should be, but...no. You have the same privileges as you did yesterday."

Emma smiled.

"So long as you don't forget to inform me of your whereabouts."

"Okay."

"I still have that 'evil roundtable' I told you about yesterday," Regina said. "I believe I've kept them waiting long enough. Still care to accompany me?"

"Yes."

"Very well then," Regina said as she tried to take the ring from Emma.

"Wait," Emma said as she pulled the ring away from Regina. "Can you conjure a gold chain?"

"May I get my ring back first?"

"No."

"Emma, please don't test my patience."

"Regina, trust me. Conjure the chain. Make sure it has a clasp. Also, you'll want it to be a bit dainty. Something small and elegant."

"Anything else, Princess," Regina asked with an arched eyebrow.

Emma stifled a laugh as she smiled.

"No. That's it."

Regina flicked her wrist and ended the motion with her palm up. She closed her hand around a gold chain that met every last one of Emma's specifications. It dangled from Regina's hand on either side of her palm before she turned her hand over so her palm faced the ground and held the chain out to Emma.

Emma held the ring between two fingers and moved it up half the length of the chain before she grabbed the chain at both ends.

Regina stared at the blonde, confused.

Emma walked around Regina then stopped behind her. She reached out in front of Regina and pulled the ends of the chain toward herself.

The ring touched Regina's sternum.

"Pull your hair away from your neck," Emma said without command or force of any kind.

Regina swept her hair off her neck.

Emma united the ends of the chain with the clasp then released the chain.

The ring slid less than an inch down Regina's sternum and rested just above her breasts.

Regina brought her hand to her chest and touched the ring with her fingertips as Emma walked around her again.

Emma stood in front of Regina with a smile.

"Do you like it," Emma asked. "You can wear the ring as a necklace. That should keep you from losing it again while also keeping it close."

Regina stood speechless, her mouth agape.

"That is why you kept it in your pocket, is it not," Emma asked.

Regina closed her mouth and nodded.

"Consider me in your debt, Princess," Regina said before she made the space between them nonexistent.

Regina wrapped her arms around Emma's waist and pulled her into a hard, passionate kiss.

Emma wrapped her arms around Regina's neck and kissed back with as much passion.

When they needed air, they broke the kiss. Regina let go of Emma and stepped back.

"I really wish I didn't have business to attend to, my dear," Regina said. "I could kiss you all day."

Emma closed the space between them and chastely kissed Regina.

Regina smiled.

"But as I've said, I am in your debt. Whatever you want. Name it and it shall be yours. One thing that would make you happy."

"Do I have to decide right now?"

"No," Regina shook her head with a small smile. "But you'll let me know when you do?"

"I will."

"Good. Now, we must go to the war room for a discussion I'd rather not have. Though it is my fault the discussion is needed."

Regina took Emma's hand and laced their fingers as they walked into the palace.

"What's the 'evil roundtable' for anyway," Emma asked.

"Your parents."


Emma looked back and forth between Regina and Bruce as the two argued.

"But, Your Majesty, if we don't attack they will," Bruce insisted. "Surely that barrier won't last."

"We will not attack. We stay on the defensive this time," Regina firmly stated.

"Why after all these years would you do such a thing," Bruce asked.

The rest of the Royal Guard sat in silence around the table while their leader fought with their Queen.

"Having the princess here will only cause you more trouble than satisfaction," Bruce continued. "I understand that bedding your enemy's daughter must be immensely gratifying, but at what cost?"

"As I have told the Dark One, so shall I tell you," Regina growled as she stood. "My intentions with the princess are of only my concern."

Bruce sighed through his nose and remained rigid in his chair to Regina's left.

Emma gulped, uncomfortable being the subject of discussion, especially since she was in the room.

"Allow me to remind you it is your duty to obey my command. Defy me and you shall be punished. You will also treat the princess with respect."

Emma's eyes immediately snapped up at Regina. She remained in the chair to the brunette's right with her hands settled in her lap. She picked at her cuticles and twiddled her thumbs. At Regina's demand for respect in her name, she stilled her hands, but kept them in her lap.

"I made the mistake of not properly introducing her to you," Regina added. "I suppose I'll do that now."

Regina looked over at Emma and held out a hand to the younger woman.

Emma nervously looked up at Regina. She forced herself not to pay any attention to anyone's eyes but Regina's even though everyone had their gazes trained on her.

Regina extended her hand further and gently, carefully, took Emma's hand in hers. She lifted the blonde to her feet and guided her to head of the table. She turned Emma toward the people and rested her hands on the blonde's shoulders.

"This is Princess Emma," Regina continued from behind Emma. "Treat her as you are to treat me."

Regina slowly, possessively, ran her hands down Emma's arms.

"Address her as 'Your Highness' and know that her purpose is far more superior than a woman to bed. In fact, she will probably be more useful to me than any of you for reasons I don't have to divulge, nor does she."

Emma looked around the table and made eye contact with everyone in attendance.

"And if any of you try to touch her in any vile or demeaning or unwanted way," Regina's eyes shifted to the Huntsman who sat next to Bruce. "I will not hesitate to punish, if not kill, you."

Regina wrapped an arm around Emma's waist, her attention still fixed on the Huntsman over Emma's shoulder as she stood behind the princess.

"Now, tell me where Snow and Charming are," Regina growled as she peered over Emma's shoulder at the rest of the people around the table.

Regina held Emma close, their bodies flush against each other, as she kept an arm around the blonde's waist.

"We had eyes on them last night during sunset. They were with a few guards and that woman with the red hood," one of the guards reported.

"Red," Emma breathed out in surprise.

Regina looked at Emma and studied the blonde's features to see what her response was to the information provided.

"They came back to the barrier, Your Majesty," a knight supplied.

Regina finally looked away from Emma and turned her attention to her guards.

"Have they been able to weaken it," Regina asked as she subconsciously tightened her grip on Emma.

"Not from what we've seen," Bruce replied.

"I was there late last night," another guard spoke up. "After the sun went down. The hooded woman sniffed around before she removed the cloak. She turned into a wolf, howled at the moon, then charged the barrier."

Regina waited for more, but the man didn't continue.

"Well? Did she manage to pass? Out with it, Rivers!"

"Oh, she was unsuccessful," the guard, Rivers, answered. "She tried a few more times, but all were met with failure. The wolf whimpered a bit too."

Regina felt Emma tense in her arm.

"Snow and Charming had to help her up after she transformed back into her human form," Rivers added, oblivious to Emma's change in demeanor.

Regina, however, was not as oblivious.

The brunette used her free hand, the one not joined with the arm she had wrapped around Emma's waist, on the princess' hip. She lightly squeezed to not only draw the blonde's attention, but to silently reassure the younger woman.

"They left," Rivers again continued, still oblivious.

Emma kept listening to him, though she focused her gaze solely on Regina.

"But Snow White and the prince discussed that they would be back before they helped the other woman back to the White Palace."

Emma flashed a brief smile at Regina, seemingly as a way of thanks for the other woman's concern, before Rivers finished his opinionated comment.

"Although, I'll tell you, if that Child of the Moon they were with is really their friend, I would think they'd tend to her and make sure she's alright before they think about crossing the Queen,"Rivers said.

Emma's attention quickly snapped to the man and she stiffened once again.

Regina saw and felt the change in the blonde again and immediately glared at Rivers.

"That's enough," Regina barked at him.

At the other end of the table, one of the people in attendance that was not a knight or guard watched Regina's behavior with intense and curious eyes.

"If you can't bite your tongue..." Regina trailed off as a smirk slowly spread across her lips.

Regina didn't finish her sentence as she flicked her wrist and wickedly grinned at the result.

The guards' eyes bulged and he opened his mouth to talk only to find himself without a tongue.

Emma gasped, along with a few other people at the table, but she was the only one to turn to Regina with scolding eyes.

"Regina," Emma quietly warned as she tried not to undermine the woman's authority in front of the others, not that truly believed she could do that anyway. "Give him back his tongue."

Regina scoffed at the mere thought of doing such a thing.

"Regina," Emma warned again as she pushed further into the brunette's body.

Emma remained only half-turned toward the Queen, but their lips were inches away as she leaned closer to the woman.

Regina looked from Emma's eyes down to her lips.

Rivers groaned and whimpered at the table as he failed to accept the loss of his tongue. He waved his hands around in a feminine manner that would make anyone second guess his position as a capable guard.

Regina and Emma were the only ones to ignore him, except for the watchful eyes across the room.

Emma noticed Regina's eyes on her mouth and genuinely smiled.

Regina looked up and saw the amusement on the younger woman's face, though she also noticed the exhaustion.

"I'll give you a kiss later if you return his tongue," Emma promised under her breath as her lips occasionally brushed against Regina's when she spoke.

"Are you offering your tongue in exchange for his," Regina asked with a small smirk.

"You'll find out if you do as I ask."

A gleam more like one the Evil Queen would display swirled in Emma's green eyes.

Regina rolled her eyes and sighed as she raised her hand and dismissively waved it.

Rivers instantly yelped and realized it wasn't muffled as it had when he'd been without a tongue. He breathed heavily for a moment before he touched his throat then cleared it before he tried to speak.

"Your Majesty," he huskily said as he tried to find his voice.

Rivers swallowed hard before he continued.

"I apologize for my blatant disregard. It shall not happen again."

"It had better not," Regina darkly and slowly warned with a penetrating gaze that could have easily set the man ablaze had the Queen chosen to do so.

Emma turned in Regina's arms again and faced the table.

"My parents, do any of you feel as though they are a threat," Emma asked. "Do you think they'll be back with magic?"

Rivers glared at her.

"Your parents are always a threat to this palace, to the Evil Queen. Though they are idiots so maybe we've got plenty of time to just relax before they decide to attack. I'm also quite certain that their attack will be poor and easy to defend against."

Rivers arrogantly grinned at the princess.

Emma narrowed her eyes at the man, but she wasn't the one to speak to him.

"Take into consideration who just awarded your tongue back to you," Regina angrily growled at Rivers. "And need I remind you to treat her with respect!"

"I know I do not run this palace," Emma started just after Regina finished. "But I am as concerned about my parents' arrival as all of you. If I ask you a question, I would prefer you give me an answer."

"And she shall be awarded one if there is one to be provided," Regina added from behind her, her arm still wrapped around Emma's waist.

Rivers cast his eyes down to the table in front of him at hearing the Queen's words.

Emma proudly smiled and lifted her chin high much like the Queen did when she felt powerful.

Regina noticed as she remained behind the blonde. She grinned and moved her hand at Emma's hip to clasp her other hand as she brought Emma into an embrace, both her arms wrapped around the blonde's waist. She pulled Emma flush against her and shifted from foot to foot like a slow dance.

Before Emma could suppress it, her expression fell and she yawned. She raised a hand to cover her mouth as she did and the sudden intake of breath got Regina's attention.

Regina frowned and stopped swaying with Emma to turn the woman toward herself.

"You must be tired. Did you get any sleep while you were out looking for my ring," Regina asked.

Emma looked over her shoulder at Regina and shook her head.

Regina looked to everyone at the table and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could get a word out the voice that belonged to the watchful eyes in the corner filled the room.

"So sweet," a woman's low tone came from the far end of the table. "You're willing to allow the daughter of your enemy to run your palace now?"

Regina glared at the blonde that sat confidently in her chair. She seemed relaxed and almost predatory in the way she stared at the Queen. It reminded her greatly of Maleficent.

"Of course not," Regina replied. "But I refuse to let her be treated like some lowly commoner, especially given her stature."

The blonde woman haughtily chuckled and curiously leaned forward in her chair, out of the shadows.

"Right," she drew out the word in a playful growl.

Suddenly, Regina recognized the blonde. Her eyes widen as she gasped and clutched Emma tighter.

"She's a princess, dear," the woman continued. "It won't end well. You should have just stuck to our little plan."

Emma quizzically stared at the blonde across the room. She had felt Regina tense and pull her closer again like she'd done before when Emma assumed she'd felt threatened. She looked over her shoulder with the same quizzical expression then directed it at Regina. She didn't get the chance to ask the brunette who the other woman was. Regina answered her question before she could even form it.

"Maleficent," Regina breathed out.

Emma's eyes grew wide in shock much like Regina's. She instinctively placed a hand over Regina's joined hands on her torso and squeezed. It was her way of doing what Regina had done in an attempt to keep the other close.

"How," Regina asked, still stunned.

"How do you think," Maleficent asked. "Rumpelstiltskin."

The guards remained silent as they watched the exchange between the two women, their heads hunting back and forth between them at opposite ends of the table.

"Why are you here? This meeting is for allies only," Regina snapped with her usual bravado to intimidate, though Regina could tell – just as Emma could – that it hadn't worked.

"Relax," Maleficent rolled her eyes. "I'm not here to stop you...or even seek revenge, though I should given what you did to me. Being a dragon isn't as much as fun as some would hope."

Emma gulped.

"Then what do you want?"

"Same as I wanted before you forced me to give back the dark curse. ...You."

Maleficent stood and sauntered toward the Queen.

Emma had never learned to wield a sword. She'd never even held a sword. Well, she had once, but when she whirled it around in her hand she nearly sliced her father's bicep open before he plucked it from her hands. Even so, she still reached for the sheathed sword closest to her from an unsuspecting knight and pointed the tip at Maleficent's throat before the woman could come any closer than the length of the sword.

Maleficent laughed.

Regina stared at Emma in awe. She could tell Emma wasn't practiced at sword wielding, but the gesture was enough to surprise and warm her.

"You will not have her," Emma boldly insisted with a deep tone.

"And you think you can keep me from her," Maleficent incredulously asked.

It was Regina's turn to gulp.

"Whatever she's done with you, I can assure you she learned it from me," Maleficent held her head high and smirked.

Regina averted her gaze, though she kept her arms around Emma.

Maleficent looked over Emma's shoulder and her smirk spread to a devious grin at the sight.

Emma briefly took her eyes off Maleficent in an attempt to look at Regina through the use of her peripheral vision. She couldn't, but she had to make a choice. Instead of turning to Regina, as much as she wanted to, she kept her gaze set on Maleficent.

Never turn your back on a threat, Emma remembered the words of her father on one of her first nights outside the palace walls.

"Your Majesty," the Huntsman spoke up with a question.

Quickly, Regina's head snapped in the direction of the man that required her attention. Immediately, she looked around the room and regained her previous Queenly strength.

"Leave us," Regina loudly ordered. "And take Maleficent with you."

Regina's eyes glided from the Huntsman to Maleficent.

Maleficent just grinned.

The Huntsman stood, as did the rest of the guards, and he moved to grab the unwanted blonde.

Maleficent's expression fell to one of anger and repulsion at the mere thought of anyone escorting her out. She swatted the Huntsman's hand away before his fingertips could even touch her arm.

"That won't be necessary," she said as she stared the man down.

The Huntsman looked between Maleficent and the Queen.

"Well, don't just stand there," Regina yelled. "Remove her from my presence this instant!"

The Huntsman sighed and tried to grab Maleficent again, but she flung out a hand and magically sent him flying across the room. He crashed into the far wall, near where Maleficent had previously sat, and the air left his lungs upon impact.

Maleficent dropped her hand to her side and the Huntsman fell to the ground. She turned her attention back to Emma and Regina. She chuckled and waved her other hand in front of the sword. She magically yanked it from Emma's hand and flipped the sword around in the space between them. She took control of the sword with ease and held it to Emma as the younger blonde had held it to her.

Regina let go of Emma and, in the blink of an eye, she closed her fist around the back of her own red dress that Emma wore. She pulled Emma back and stepped in front of her before Maleficent could jab her with the sword.

"No," Emma yelled as her eyes widened in fear.

Maleficent didn't thrust the sword at Emma, but she used enough force to do some damage. Though, she didn't bring that damage onto Emma as intended.

Since Regina had moved as the sword made contact, it poked and sliced at her collarbone. She winced and raised a hand to magically retaliate. Immediately, Maleficent dropped the sword as she gasped and flew back against the nearest wall almost directly behind her.

"You will not lay a hand on her," Regina barked before she lowered her tone to a growl before she continued. "And you will not be making it out of this palace alive."

Emma hurried to rejoin Regina and stood behind her as the brunette had done earlier. She rested her hands on the Queen's hips.

"You have a dungeon, don't you," Emma asked.

Regina furiously glared at Maleficent as she listened to Emma, the younger woman's voice in her ear as she felt the princess bring their bodies almost flush together.

"Yes," Regina answered through gritted teeth as she kept Maleficent magically bound to the wall.

"Just lock her up. You won't have to worry about her there."

"Have you not seen?! She has magic. She'll escape. She'll always be a threat so long as she lives."

"She's right, Princess," Maleficent confirmed. "And until I have what I want, I'm not going to leave either of you alone."

"Why would Rumpelstiltskin turn you back into your human form," Regina asked. "What use are you to him?"

"The only thing he said was how lovely it would be to see the show," Maleficent replied with a grin.

"Show," Emma quietly asked, confused.

Maleficent heard her, though she wasn't meant to, and curled her lips into a devilish smirk.

"He knew what I wanted. Regina broke off our...engagement much too soon. He knew I'd come after her if I ever got my human form back so he paid me a visit, freed me of my dragon skin."

"Engagement," Emma sadly asked, her face scrunched up in disappointment.

Maleficent felt all the more prideful for it.

Regina narrowed her eyes and curled her fingers, which began to magically cut off Maleficent's air supply.

Regina turned to Emma with soft eyes.

"Not that kind of engagement. We were never to be married, my dear," Regina gently informed her.

"My dear?"

Maleficent interrupted the moment and callously laughed.

"You're giving her a sort of pet name? How cute," Maleficent sarcastically continued. "I guarantee she can't give you what I can."

"Oh, please," Regina snapped at her. "You're only jealous because I never called you anything special."

"Of course not. You were still head over heels in love with Daniel."

"Never speak his name," Regina yelled as she tightened her grip on Maleficent's throat.

The unwanted blonde made guttural noises as she struggled to breathe.

"Regina," Emma softly warned as she slowly wrapped her arms around Regina's waist. "I'm tired and I really don't want to see you kill someone."

Emma looked from Regina to Maleficent and glared before she finished.

"As awful as this woman is."

Regina flicked her other wrist in Maleficent's direction and conjured a thick cloth to gag the woman before she used her other hand to make Maleficent's presence against the wall more permanent.

Suddenly, the cement wall pooled like wet concrete over Maleficent's wrists. Once the woman's arms were covered in the unset cement, it dried over her wrists and trapped her against the wall.

When she knew Maleficent would not be able to escape her hold, she turned in Emma's arms and cupped the younger woman's face with both hands. She smiled warmly at Emma.

"This is the one time I will ask you to allow me the cruel act of murder. I've been kind enough to go easy on the guards as you've wanted, but I cannot risk letting this woman live," Regina explained.

"Please don't do this," Emma pleaded. "Remember how I see you?"

Regina sadly smiled before she nodded.

"I witnessed what you did to that guard last night. Though I didn't leave the palace because of it, I didn't appreciate it. It was hard to see you as Regina having seen you as...the Evil Queen," Emma frowned.

Regina leaned in and rested her forehead against Emma's.

"But that's who I am," Regina said.

"It's not."

Regina looked down and smiled as she kept her forehead against Emma's.

"I haven't been Regina since I lost Daniel and was forced to marry the King."

"But you have been Regina. With me."

Regina looked up and met Emma's eyes with her own before Emma spoke again.

"Don't you see?"

Maleficent chuckled through her gag.

Regina tried her hardest to ignore her. Emma did the same.

"You turned her into a dragon. Can't you turn her into something else, something less threatening? Then you can lock her up, away from you and out of Rumpelstiltskin's reach," Emma added.

Regina leaned in further and pressed her lips to Emma's with a smile.

Emma smiled into the kiss the second she felt Regina's upturned lips against hers.

Regina only let the kiss linger for a quick moment before she pulled back and broke it.

"You are a genius," Regina slowly complimented her before she brought Emma back into another chaste kiss.

"Thank you," Emma smiled.

"But I'll do you one better. I'll strip her of her powers."

"Okay."

"Though now I maybe owe you two," Regina said as she slid her hands from Emma's face to the younger woman's chest and down to her hips.

"Two," Emma asked with clear confusion.

"Two things that will make you happy. Can you think of anything yet?"

"Oh. No. Well, maybe."

Emma shifted in their embrace like a rosy-cheeked, awkward teenager.

Regina smiled in response to Emma's adorable actions.

"You said you'd tell me when you knew," Regina said with a light tone.

"Now isn't the best time," Emma said as she looked at Regina then over the brunette's shoulder at the other blonde in the room.

The Huntsman coughed and slowly got to his feet in the corner.

Both the direction of Emma's attention and the Huntsman coughing pulled Regina from the moment and reminded her how right Emma was.

"Right," Regina said as she turned to face Maleficent.

Emma let go of Regina as she turned. She looked over at the Huntsman and sympathetically smiled at him.

He gave a single nod before he made his way to the door behind her and took a moment to look over at Regina and Maleficent.

Regina flicked one of her wrists and removed the gag while she caused the cement to drip off Maleficent's wrists.

Maleficent fell onto her knees in front of the wall. She looked up from her position on all fours at Regina's feet. She chuckled with a smirk.

"You always had a love for bondage and control," Maleficent quipped. "Anything to get a lover on their knees."

Maleficent looked from Regina to Emma with a dark, satisfied gleam in her eyes as she slowly, gloriously, started to rise to her feet.

The second Regina saw Maleficent look at Emma, and in such a way no less, she began to chant in a strange language.

A spell.

Maleficent's eyes widened in recognition that Regina wasn't bluffing with her plan to strip her of her powers. She raised a hand to attack, but Regina was just as fast.

The chair Maleficent tried to throw at Regina was effortlessly deflected by its target. The chair flew back a few feet and slid the rest of the way across the floor to the other end of the room right when Regina finished the spell.

Regina held out her other hand and performed a careless grabbing motion before Maleficent arched her back at what Regina's actions caused.

A burst of green energy flared through Maleficent's chest before it crossed the space between her and the brunette.

Regina absorbed the flow of green energy through her fingers until the energy stopped and Maleficent lifelessly fell to the ground.

Regina closed her eyes as she took a moment to reel from the newly acquired power. When she slowly opened her eyes, they swirled with purple before her irises returned to their normal brown hue.

Maleficent looked up at Regina, breathless and disbelieving as she pushed herself onto her knees. She huffed out a sigh and tiredly stared into Regina's eyes.

"All of this, all the power you've worked for, all the times you and I talked about ending Snow and Charming's life together. You're going to give it all up for her? She is no more than a pathetic lay," Maleficent spat. "If you've even done that much with her. She reeks of inexperience."

Regina snapped her fingers and a cloud of purple smoke swirled around Maleficent.

"I think we've heard enough. Time for you to go," Regina growled as she victoriously watched Maleficent disappear in the smoke with wide eyes.

"You are mine," Maleficent demanded with a raspy yell before the smoke claimed her.

Within seconds, the smoke dissipated and left Regina and Emma alone in the room.

Regina turned back to Emma with a small grin, but it quickly vanished upon seeing Emma's frown and downcast eyes. She took the few steps toward Emma that closed the space between them and cupped one of Emma's cheeks as she rested her other hand on the younger woman's hip.

"Emma?"

Emma took a step back, away from Regina's touch, and shook her head as she dropped her gaze further. She kept her eyes focused on the ground.

"What's wrong, my dear?"

"I shouldn't be here. You shouldn't... You deserve better than me."

Regina furrowed her brow and felt a pain she'd never felt before. It wasn't physical and, though it was emotional, it wasn't the same as when she'd spent all those years under the King's control. She knew Emma probably wanted the space, which was why – Regina assumed – she had pulled away in the first place. In any case, she took a step forward and once again closed the space between them.

"What do you mean," Regina asked as she shook her head, her face contorted to show the pain she felt for Emma.

Regina reached out and hooked a finger under Emma's chin before she raised it to get the blonde to make eye contact with her.

Emma still refused to look at her.

"Emma?"

Regina's tone was soft, pleading, more so than Emma's had been when she asked Regina not to kill Maleficent.

Regina dipped her head to try and meet Emma's eyes herself.

Emma sniffled and slowly flicked her eyes up to stare into Regina's.

Regina's lips parted in shock as she saw the tears in green eyes just before one fell and stained a cheek.

"I'm twenty-eight years old and I know I want to give myself to you and yet...I can't. I can't and you should be with someone who can give you that. You should be able to enjoy the physical and I'm keeping you from that."

"No," Regina shook her head again as her eyes watered at the sight of Emma. "If that's what I wanted, if I felt that I deserved more than what you can give me right now, then I would have forced the Huntsman back into my bed or found someone else to please me."

Emma sniffled again.

Regina unhooked her finger from Emma's chin and brought it under Emma's eye before she swiped away a tear.

"Twenty-eight, Regina?! Twenty-eight."

Regina placed a hand on Emma's bicep and gently squeezed.

"We're going to continue this discussion in my bedchamber. I'm going to transport us, okay?"

Emma swallowed back a sob before she nodded.

"Okay," Regina said no louder than whisper as she pulled Emma into a hug.

She cradled Emma's head against her chest and rested one hand on blonde hair and the other on Emma's back.

It took only a moment as purple smoke consumed them and took them from the war room to Regina's chamber.

Once they were there, Regina rubbed Emma's back a few times before she eased the younger woman away from her. She rested her hands on Emma's shoulders and tried to make eye contact with her again.

Emma didn't struggle that time. She met Regina's gaze in seconds.

"I would rather you wait until you're sixty if that's when you're ready," Regina continued. "I didn't give myself to anyone. My innocent was taken from me, ripped away the first night of my marriage to the King. I value innocence, as I believe I've told you, and even if you're twenty-eight and you're not ready, I will respect that. And if it is me to you truly want to give yourself to, I will gladly wait. Although, I must admit I never used to value innocence before I met you."

"I just...I don't know why I can't- Why I can't do that," Emma said between shaky sobs.

"You...are more than I will ever deserve, my dear," Regina slowly confessed.

"But...But I- I want-"

"Shh," Regina tried to sooth her as she brushed stray blonde tresses out of Emma's face. "You're tired. It's not as serious as you're making it out to be. I promise."

"But I want you. And I can't...I can't let you touch me and I don't know why."

"You're not ready."

"My body is," Emma childishly insisted.

Regina lightly laughed.

"But you're mind isn't. Those are two completely different things."

"Sometimes...sometimes I think I can. Like yesterday. But then I...I don't know."

Regina ran her hands down Emma's arms and pulled her toward the bed as she walked backward to do so.

"I think I know why," Regina calmly said. "And if I'm wrong, so be it. It may help you figure out what's stopping you."

When Regina's thighs hit the edge of the bed, she turned Emma and eased her onto it.

Emma sat down with Regina's comforting help.

"Tell me what's wrong with me," Emma desperately demanded without any bite or force as she looked up through dark, wet lashes.

"There's nothing wrong with you," Regina assured her. "Just lay down."

"Maleficent is right. I'm a pathetic lay."

"Hey," Regina sternly tried to pull Emma's attention away from her dark thoughts. "Maleficent is not right. Never listen to her. She only said that because she's jealous."

"Jealous of what? I'm not worth it. I'm not a good princess, I would never make a good leader, I'm a huge tease, and it's just sex!"

Regina listened to Emma ramble and believed absolutely none of it.

"It's not just sex. But it's not something to over-think either, my dear."

"Was it just sex when we were at the stables," Emma asked, hopeful as she looked up at Regina again.

Regina slowly smiled as she looked Emma over and saw how small she seemed. It reminded her of the few times she'd seen Emma as a child. She had grown so much, but there were still plenty of things about her that, thankfully, hadn't changed. Somehow, she knew how to calm Emma when she acted like that.

"No. I've never gone that slow with someone before. I've only ever had the two relationships aside from my time with the King, which only loosely do I call them that, and they've both been about power. With you, I did just as you said I would. I let you in. I let you see me naked in the light. I took my time. I made sounds for you that I don't usual make because I'd trained myself not to, partially by force. ...No, dear. It wasn't just sex."

Regina ran a hand through Emma's hair and watched the younger woman's eyes flutter closed due to the sensation. She smiled just as Emma leaned into the touch of her hand.

Emma, with her eyes closed, leaned forward and pressed a simple kiss to Regina's wrist. As she pulled away, she opened her eyes and instantly met Regina's gaze. She grabbed Regina's forearm and held it as she leaned in further that time. She kissed Regina and pushed the brunette back to get her to lay down on the bed.

Regina moaned as Emma kissed her hard and didn't hesitate to slide her tongue past barely parted lips. She gave in and allowed Emma a small bit of control as she slowly lowered herself onto her back.

Emma straddled one of Regina's thighs as she continued to feverishly kiss the woman beneath her, a hand still clasped around Regina's forearm though she pinned it against the bed to use that hand to hold herself up. She slid her other hand up Regina's torso and palmed one of the other woman's breasts.

Regina got lost in the feeling of Emma's hands on her and hummed her approval. She momentarily forgot the conversation she and Emma were having before the blonde stopped talking and started acting.

Regina pressed her unbound hand to Emma's hip and rolled the blonde onto her back. She mimicked Emma's previous position and straddled one of the younger woman's thighs. She pushed her tongue against Emma's in a battle for dominance over the kiss. She moved her hand further up the bed and felt Emma's fingers surprisingly still wrapped around her forearm. No matter how she moved, Emma kept her grip on Regina's arm.

Emma broke the kiss to breathe, her nose a little stuffed up from her earlier crying, before she went right back at it. She felt Regina grind against her, just a quick movement and only once. She didn't think Regina wanted to push her too far.

Emma was right.

Regina slowly came out of the haze Emma created in her mind. Right before she could pull away to reassess the situation, Emma lifted Regina's hand – the one she had control over – and brought it between them.

Emma released Regina's breast to hike up her borrowed red dress while she simultaneously slipped Regina's hand underneath it, between her legs.

Regina could sense where Emma's actions were going and tried to pull away both her lips and her hand.

Emma fought her as she gripped at the back of Regina's neck to keep her head in place with one hand and tightened her hold on Regina's with the other.

Regina groaned in an attempt to protest, but Emma didn't relent.

Emma spread her legs under Regina and forced the other woman's hand into her panties.

Regina balled her hand into a fist and trapped Emma's bottom lip between her teeth. She growled at Emma and bit with mild pressure. It was a warning.

One that Emma didn't heed.

Emma pushed forward and scrunched up her face in discomfort as she felt Regina's knuckles graze her center. When she tried to twisted Regina's hand and bring two of Regina's fingers inside herself, the Queen used her magic to shock their lips.

Without much of a choice, they broke the kiss.

Regina took her only opportunity and pulled back far enough to look down at Emma as she removed her hand from between Emma's legs.

"Stop," Regina breathlessly ordered. "Emma, please stop."

Emma sobbed before she opened her eyes and looked up at Regina.

"Please," Regina said in a much softer tone.

A tear rolled down Emma's temple and into her hairline.

"What's wrong with me?"

"Emma, sweetie, please let go of my hand."

Emma blinked away a few tears at the sound of Regina's new term of endearment before she let go of the woman's wrist.

Regina kissed away one of Emma's tear before it could roll across the princess' temple.

"Nothing is wrong with you," Regina reassured her before she looked over Emma. "I think the reason you're afraid to let me touch you is because you think I'll have power of you. Power you're afraid to let anyone have."

Emma gulped and looked to the side.

"But I want to give that power to you. So why won't I just give it up?"

"Don't do that."

Emma immediately looked at Regina again and furrowed her brow.

"I love that you want to put that trust in me, but I don't want you to rush yourself into doing that."

"I'll be ready. I am ready," Emma insisted.

Regina shook her head.

"You're not. You know you're not."

"Just...touch me. I'll adjust."

Regina nearly cried at how sad Emma's request seemed.

"You need to rest. You haven't slept since the night before last. You're not thinking clearly."

"I want you," Emma admitted. "I don't want to go to sleep."

"Will you sleep if I stay here?"

Emma nodded.

"Then I'll stay here. Just give me a minute to arrange the rest of today's affairs."

Regina pecked Emma on the cheek before she slid off the bed.

Emma reached out and grabbed Regina's arm. She pulled Regina back to the bed.

"Wait, where are you going?"

"Just to the mirror," Regina pointed to her vanity across the room.

Emma looked over at the mirror as she continued to hold on to Regina. She gave a moment's pause before she stared up into brown eyes then let go.

Regina flashed a small smile at Emma before she walked over to the mirror and sat down in front of it. She waved her hand in front of the glass and in an instant, the former Genie appeared.

Emma's eyes widened as she watched Regina bring a talking head to the surface of the mirror.

"Your Majesty?"

"I need you to tell my guards to send all urgent status reports through you for the rest of the day," Regina said. "They shall only inform you of the most dire situations such as an attack on the palace, especially by Snow White or Prince Charming, or an escaped prisoner. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," the former Genie said before his eyes slid off Regina's form to the her bed.

He scanned his eyes over the blonde princess with a red dress he'd seen Regina wear on one or two occasions in the past. The princess' legs were spread and the hem of the dress bunched up around just above the blonde's knees. One of the former Genie's eyebrows spiked up toward his headdress before it fell back into place.

Regina looked over her shoulder to follow the man's gaze.

Emma caught the talking head's roaming eyes on her and pushed the dress down to cover her legs.

Regina turned back to the mirror with a scowl.

"Do not look at her that way," Regina growled.

The former Genie focused solely on the Queen when he heard her order.

"Of course, Your Majesty," he said as he bowed his head to her. "If there is an emergency, how shall I respond?"

"I will be here for the remainder of the day with the possible exception of supper at sundown. If I am to be reached, you will warn me in this very mirror."

"Understood. Do you seek privacy?"

"Yes. If I am needed, you chime three times before appearing."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Good. Now go," Regina said with a quick wave of the hand.

The former Genie disappeared and the mirror returned to its normal reflective state.

Regina stood and went back to the bed. She snapped her fingers and changed both herself and Emma into silk sleepwear.

"I know it's a bit early for these kind of outfits, but I prefer to sleep in such attire," Regina said as she got back into bed and curled up beside Emma.

Emma rolled onto her side and faced Regina.

"I'm sorry I almost made you touch me."

Regina ran her hand down Emma's cheek. Her thumb brushed over the corner of Emma's mouth before she let it slide across the blonde's bottom lip. She parted the younger woman's lips and smiled before she leaned in and replaced her thumb with her lips.

Emma let the chaste kiss fill and warm her. She felt safe and unhurried. She knew that was the reason she wanted to give herself to Regina. The woman showed a great deal of patience, though Emma couldn't understand for the life of her why. She still believed every word she said to be true. A twenty-eight year old virgin didn't deserve to be waited on, especially not in the Enchanted Forest. If Regina wouldn't take what she wanted, then Emma would do everything she could to give it to her as soon as possible. Though, that didn't work out for either of them when she tried it, did it.

"Stop thinking," Regina said.

The sound of her voice brought Emma out of her thoughts. She looked at Regina and saw a smile on her face.

"Your eyes were glazed over and I could see your worry lines," Regina added.

"...Thank you."

Regina draped an arm over Emma's waist and held the woman close as they laid together.

"For what, my dear?"

"Waiting."

"In case I haven't made myself clear, you're worth the wait."

Emma smiled.

"Sleep," Regina started. "We'll rest until sunset and then we can eat on the balcony."

Emma's eyes started to droop.

"You did well today, my dear," Regina commended.

Emma hummed.

"You brought back my ring, which I can't thank you enough for, you stood up to Maleficent in my honor, and you've shown me that who am I when I'm with you and who I used to be are the same person."

Emma smiled and emitted a softer hum as she nuzzled her face into the crook of Regina's neck. She kissed the spot she burrowed into and draped an arm over Regina's torso.

Regina felt Emma's breathing even out without the next few minutes.

Emma had drifted off to sleep.

Regina lazily played with golden curls as she slowly started to let the worrying events of the day take their toll until sleep overtook her as well.


A/N: Okay, so I took a chance with involving Maleficent. I have a few ideas on how to tie everything together so I hope all of you stay with me while I work this out. Leave a review and let me know what you think. As much as I want/love the feedback, I NEED it too.