Regina Mills had never been frightened of death threats. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
They somehow start to lose their potency after about the hundredth time they've been spat at you.
She had survived an uprising of peasants, fought in a war, been set upon by a wraith, imprisoned in a cell for weeks, blindfolded and tied to a pole in front of a firing squad, nearly decapitated in the town square, and almost lynched by an angry mob.
And that wasn't even counting how many times Snow had personally held her at arrowpoint and threatened to shoot her where she stood.
Many had tried. None had succeeded.
Some berated her luck. Others insisted it was fate. Regina believed that the repetitive gesture of refusing to put her out of her misery was someone-up-there's twisted sense of humor.
"You have no idea who you're dealing with," the Queen threatened darkly.
Regina kept up her perfected mask of calm because she knew how important the guise of control was. Her unaffected façade would make her captor doubt his own power and give her the advantage. She would make her escape; she just had to wait for the right opportunity.
She repeated this to herself over and over, praying that one of these times she would actually believe it.
Regina was determined to come out on top in this situation. Even if she was immobilized. Even if she'd been stripped of her magic. Even if her head was throbbing with a pulse of its own and the small trickle of sweat between her shoulder blades had already begun to make her blouse stick to the table.
Surrender was not an option. It never was.
Regina had learned at a young age that life was fleeting. After all, having the man you love murdered in front of your eyes is the kind of thing that one does not just simply forget. And ever since that fateful day within the stable, the scent of death had seemed to linger on her skin like a perfume, bringing ill to whomever she held closest and leaving her utterly alone in the world.
During her reign as the Evil Queen she had personally been the cause of this fate in many innocents and sinners alike, leaving a pile of bloody corpses in her wake. Whether it was by her sword or her fist wrapped around their heart… both warranted the same end result.
Death. A simple end to a tedious existence.
The only person she had left to fight for now was Henry. And he didn't want her. The only reason she was still clinging onto this whole painful ordeal was because of him. She could not, under any circumstances, let these people go after her son. It was better to keep them occupied with her.
Because without him, the one spark of good in her life, the one thing she knew she had done right… maybe she actually deserved this.
But her body was on the cusp of giving up even when her spirit was still intact. Her heart was pounding too fast in her chest and she couldn't feel her legs anymore. Her lips were cracked and chapped and her wrists had rubbed raw and red.
At least she knew that wherever Henry was, he was with people that loved him. Even if those people weren't her. It hurt every cell of her being to acknowledge it, but she knew that Emma would do everything in her power to keep him safe.
And Regina was no stranger to pain.
When the blonde had punched her in the face outside her family mausoleum, the pain had been sharp and short and metallic. She'd found it oddly satisfying if not enraging.
When Daniel had choked her up against the wall of the stable, the pain had been dull and stifling. And hauntingly sad in its presence in someone she used to love so dearly.
And when Rumpelstiltskin's wraith had attempted to extract her soul in the county jail, the pain had radiated throughout her limbs like a low thrum; an all-encompassing energy suck made her lose her air and feel like she was suffocating.
But this, what Regina was experiencing now, she was entirely unprepared for.
As it was, Owen's electrocution device was very acutely imitating the pain she had endured when she had absorbed that death curse from over the well in the forest. It was a kind of pain that could stab and linger simultaneously; the kind that made you lose all sense of time and writhe in the now until you begged for a reprieve. Every time the generator started to hum it was immediately followed by what could only be described as fire being injected under her skin, making her muscles seize until coherent thought took way too much effort to form. The pain infiltrated everything until just simply existing seemed to hurt. White hot and blinding, it made her eyes want to roll into the back of her head and scream until her lungs bled, as if vocalizing the pain would make it disappear somehow.
But she'd barely made a sound. And for that she was immensely proud.
Regina was a fallen Queen. A dethroned mayor. An unwanted mother and a motherless daughter. She was a woman who had no one left in the world to love her.
But the one thing she refused to be was weak.
Regina Mills was a survivor. And she was not about to let some non-magical boy from her past take her life away.
She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
Another electrified jolt ricocheted through her cranium and Regina's teeth clenched involuntarily as the current sizzled through her enamel. Her back arched off of the table and her hands turned into claws against the restraints that bound her, the blood from where she'd bitten into her cheek welling up contrary to her will. She struggled to focus her eyes against the fluorescent lights that were blazing into her corneas when out of nowhere her eyelids began to pulsate with the strain of staying conscious.
They had been at this for a while now and she could feel her bravado beginning to wane.
When the thudding voltage finally ceased, the Queen's body flopped gracelessly back against the cold slab once again. She wished her breathing wasn't quite so ragged.
She was just so tired.
The smell of cooking flesh had started to permeate the air around her nostrils.
Regina's vision swam in front of her and in a brief moment of completely disoriented delirium she lost all sense of time and space. She felt the restraints wrapped around her limbs and for one sick little second her mind told her it was her mother holding her back, that she was being yanked off of Rocinante by the Enchanted Forest's branches as she attempted to flee her fate with the King. 'I don't want this life. I want to be free!' Her younger self crumpled to the ground as her mother's words bounced around inside her skull.
Power is freedom.
The sound of his sniveling voice close to her ear snapped Regina back into her senses and the slight pang that always accompanied the thought of her mother was instantaneously eclipsed by her overwhelming hatred of the man keeping her bound.
Owen was nothing, and he was looking at her as if she was beneath him. An ant to squash under his shoe. His condescending demeanor made her blood boil; if she had been in possession of her magic, snapping his neck would have taken less effort than batting an eyelash.
She pierced him with a look that just radiated unrestrained loathing but he didn't meet her eyes for once. He suddenly looked toward the door and she couldn't follow his gaze.
It was a feminine voice. So Tamara was back again. Lovely.
With her ears still ringing with the leftover whine of electricity, she could barely catch snippets of the conversation happening above her head. Something about not enough time. Needing to go. Maybe she actually would make it out of this alive.
But Regina's stomach dropped at the newly determined expression on her captor's face, the whir of the machine increasing exponentially as he cranked the dial up as high as it would go. Why wasn't he leaving with her?
His dark accomplice's footfalls fell further and further away and Regina felt her hope disappearing with them.
The weasel-like man was suddenly up in her face again and the first flutters of resignation began to tremble through her already fried nervous-system. If she had had any saliva left in her mouth she would have spit it in his face.
"I'm going to give you one last chance. Tell me where my father is."
Inevitability crept up her spine like a curse and settled itself in her soul.
No one was coming for her. This was where she was going to die.
At her continued disobedient silence, Owen swung back around towards the machine with vicious intent glittering in his eyes, his fingers twitching toward the knobs. An unforeseen surge of panic at his movement forced her into action, causing her to sputter a little, although she refused to show the emotion on her face.
If this was how it was going to end, at least she was going to go out on her own terms.
"Wait." The Queen's voice came out of her mouth like a croak.
And immediately he was back at her side, simpering like a lost puppy. "Where is he?!" the insipid man demanded.
At the over-eager expression on his face, Regina actually felt her facial muscles twitch her lips into a feeble semblance of a smile. Good. This was going to be easier than she'd thought.
Goad him. Bait him. Get him to end it quickly. Don't let him draw it out.
"I killed him. The minute you ran away." She let the cruel words hang in the air like the death sentence they were and waited for his reaction.
She was not disappointed.
"You're lying to me!" he cried out, refusing to believe the truth of her words.
But his pitiful whimpering only served to make the darkness inside her explode, and the hazy wash of success flooded over her as her vengeful streak relished in his pain.
She was so close.
Just a little bit more. Needle the aggressor. Manipulate him into getting what you want.
"Don't believe me? Go see for yourself," she rasped out, her eyes shining with the malice of a Queen she had long endeavored to bury. This was what they'd made her: a cold and calculating murderess. And this was how she was going to be remembered. Whether it really was who she was or not.
He's still staring at you. Do more. Add insult to injury. Make him end it.
She spat out her last words with as much disdain as she could muster in her weakened state, "I buried his body at your campsite. I doubt he gets many visitors there."
And there it was. Hatred etched in every feature.
"Now go ahead and kill me." The Queen chuckled breathlessly at her own audacity. "I just wanted to see the look on your face when I–"
Owen jammed his thumb into the machine and everything ended.
Agony. Raw and undiluted. Shaking. Seizing. Spasming. Every particle of her being vibrating so violently within her frame that she felt as if she was jolting out of her skin. Spots blurred her vision and brightened lights dimmed. Knives sliced at her flesh and her head split in two and everything was grinding piercing seething scorching dying deafening.
One bloodcurdling scream ripped itself from her throat before it all disappeared.
Nothing. Blackness. Gone.
Loud. Banging. Clanging. Like clapping. No. Like gunshots. Pinging around the room.
Her eyes wouldn't open. Her body wouldn't move.
Then hands were on her. Fingers at her pulse, tearing at her wrists. She wanted to scream 'off off get away from me' but she couldn't get her lips to form the words. Her frantic pleas remained only in her mind.
The weight encasing her torso lessened. Ankle shackles fell away. Hands were released from their bonds but she remained pinned to the table; her fragile frame feeling like lead pressing down on flimsy and useless muscles.
Was she breathing? She couldn't tell.
Voices that sounded like they were underwater murmured and merged together as the nodes were plucked from her bruising temple. But unlike the bonds, the sticky adhesive left on her flesh made them feel as if they were still attached and the imagined throbbing sensation made her skin crawl anew. Like she could still feel the shocks rocketing through her brain and down her spine. Like the electricity was still humming inside her louder than her own heartbeat. Her muscles were going rigid, her bones about to snap, blood buzzing and skin sizzling and sanity slipping, falling, careening…
Regina's brain shut down again, mentally collapsing in the wake of its remembered anguish. She welcomed the temporary reprieve of oblivion in place of her ugly reality.
Sun spots marred her vision. She blinked sluggishly. Strong arms cradled her knees and lower back as her head lulled against a broad shoulder that lurched under a wide-set gait.
Someone was carrying her. Who could possibly be…? Charming.
Prince Charming was carrying her around like some kind of worthless damsel in distress. Well that was just great. At least the peasant had the decency to not throw her over his shoulder like a potato sack.
Little victories; she was learning to celebrate them.
Regina vaguely thought she remembered throwing up in the back of Snow White's station wagon. The almost-memory would have made her smile if most of the vomit hadn't ended up on her own shoes.
The Queen faded back into consciousness with a pale hand dabbing her forehead with a wet washcloth. But when the owner of the revolting fuzzy knit-sweater came into focus Regina almost flinched away from the kind touch.
Regina's disbelief was palpable in the suddenly over-warm room as the heat flooded back into her cheeks in an unwelcome rush. "You saved me," she murmured hoarsely, genuinely surprised at her vocal chords' ability to produce any sound at all after her last screaming match against the voltage.
"Did you really think we'd let you die?" the pixie-haired woman crooned back in her best condescendingly incredulous voice. She spoke it as if it was the most obvious statement in the world… which, of course, was completely absurd given the women's homicidal history.
So in return, Regina kept her resounding answer of 'Yes, I absolutely thought that you would be happy to let me die' go unspoken.
Words like 'family' and 'despite our differences' spewed from sanctimonious mouths as Snow folded her hands in her lap and David crossed his arms over his chest.
But the seeming compassion was easily erased as soon as new information was brought into the light, and suddenly everything was once again the Queen's fault. Indignant accusations of selfishly burning the beans came hurtling in her direction. Blame for their current predicament. Blame for the trigger device. Blame for wanting to kill them and take Henry to the Enchanted Forest by herself. Blame for trying to devise her own plan for the future when she had already been pointedly left out of their own.
Eventually the heroes of the realm decided to leave her alone and they disappeared into the recesses of the tiny apartment to strategize in private. They claimed she needed her rest.
As if Snow White knew what was best for her.
All she really wanted was to see Henry, but Regina was now resigned to the fact that whether or not she ever saw her son again was no longer her decision to make.
Tedious little things like adoption papers and being Henry's legal guardian seemed to hold no weight against the unerring judgment of the town's new monarchs. And their filthy little daughter it seemed, with her sorted past being what it was, was more than happy to break the law when it suited her needs.
In an attempt to distract herself from her sullen heart, the Queen let the hatred and resentment rage through her system until she thought she actually might vomit again, the bile from her newly-emptied stomach creeping into her mouth to mix with her mutilated spit. She was stuck laying completely incapacitated in her arch-nemesis' badly-quilted bed until further notice and there was nothing she could do about it.
This was definitely one of the low points of her life; and God only knew she had experienced more than her fair share of those.
She pinched her eyes closed tight and willed herself to block everything out, praying for unconsciousness to claim her once more. And if she never woke up again… so be it.
Regina couldn't sleep. She was angry and sad and utterly exhausted, but every time her mind began to drift she would be jolted back into the world with flashes of remembered electricity and phantom pain.
The fact that she was extremely uncomfortable also didn't help her predicament. They'd taken off her shoes in an attempt to keep Snow's bed vomit-free, but she was still in her rigid pencil skirt from before and her plunging v-neck of a blouse. She'd worn them because they were fashionable, not comfortable, and they were definitely not designed to provide a good night's rest.
She rolled her shoulders for what felt like the thousandth time in her permanently reclined state, whimpering a little at the discomfort in her endlessly popping joints, and settled back down against the pillow with a grimace.
Pretending to sleep would just have to do for now.
The hair on the back of Regina's neck suddenly stood on end and a shiver ran down her spine. She hadn't been acquainted with that sensation since she'd taken up residence in King Leopold's castle.
She was being watched.
Regina blinked her eyes open unexpectedly fast, hoping to surprise her stalker and catch them in the act, but the nonchalant owner of a dirtied pair of skintight jeans and a rumpled black turtleneck met her gaze instead. The culprit was leaning against a supporting beam a few feet away from the bottom of the bed and Regina could just barely make out the gleam of deep jade eyes glinting at her in the darkness. She seemed paler than usual; and maybe just a little bit gaunt. But then again, that could have been chalked up to the bad lighting.
"What are you staring at, Ms. Swan?" the Queen snapped agitatedly.
The answer was blunt. "You."
Regina wished that she possessed the strength to roll herself over and put her back to the infuriating woman in front of her, but she couldn't even move her arms without vicious tremors shaking them like pathetic autumn leaves still trying to cling to winter branches. There was no way that she could change her current position without help. And Queens didn't ask for help.
Turning up her nose instead, she replied haughtily, "Well stop it. I am not some kind of animal in the zoo to be gawked at."
Where the Queen had expected an eye roll, she instead received a dejected sigh accompanied by an unexpected softening around the edges of the blonde's irises.
Emma pushed off of her makeshift back support, embedding several splinters into the shoulder of her sweater in the process, and stepped forward into the moonlight, shuffling awkwardly as she fought not to shove her hands into her pockets. Where the blonde's hair had used to fall in ringlets fit for a princess, it now hung limp and flat against her face; the only unruly strands left to stick out obviously caused by the sheriff's excessive need to tug at it.
As if on cue, Emma ran her hand through her hair again, messing up her disheveled appearance even further until the woman had a very bad case of bedhead indeed. A quick eye flick towards the half-empty glass of water on the nightstand seemed to give her pause. "Can I get you anything?" the blonde asked casually, but it somehow still managed to sound like she wasn't really offering any assistance.
"No," was the curt reply. Even though Regina was thirsty, she clung to her petulance like a lifeline: Emma was the last person she wanted to deal with right now. "Now please go away, Ms. Swan. You interrupted my sleep."
"No I didn't."
Regina's eyes flashed menacingly. "Excuse me?"
"You weren't asleep. I was watching you."
The Queen growled low in her throat, "So is that what this is? Are the Charmings monitoring me now? I'm tortured to within an inch of my life and they think that I can't be trusted not to concoct some nefarious plot to off them in the middle of the night? That is insulting as well as being completely ridiculous."
"No, they are not monitoring you, Regina," Emma breathed exasperatedly. "I couldn't sleep either, and so I decided to come and check on you."
Regina turned her face away at this. She didn't want to look at the blonde anymore.
"You almost died."
It was spoken softly, and with a little too much care for comfort. The Queen scoffed in response.
"Yes. And I am sure that everyone is disappointed by the 'almost' part of your statement," she muttered back quietly.
There was a long pause in which the silence around them was almost deafening, and then: "Henry was worried about you."
Regina sighed heavily. It always comes back to Henry, doesn't it? He was the force that constantly stood to drive his mothers apart, while simultaneously being the bond that drew them intrinsically closer and closer together.
But her son caring about her? She didn't know what to believe anymore. In her heart she wanted it to be true more than anything, but the logical side of her brain convinced her that it probably wasn't.
And that just made her loathe the cause of his abandonment even more.
She hated Emma Swan with all of her being. She hated the way that she made her feel all of these pesky little emotions like guilt and devotion. She hated that her stomach dropped into her toes every time Emma looked at her like she had failed, Henry's genetics echoing in her face with that same puppy-eyed disappointment that made her lose her breath. She hated how she felt the need to protect the damn woman, and she hated that it was the daughter of Snow White who wanted to give her the chance to redeem herself.
She hated how she lived for the challenge that was Emma Swan, a clear shade of gray in a world of black and white. It was she who refused to stuff Regina into a box labeled evil. It was she who dared to look past the angry power-suits and rigorous need for control to the vulnerable and twisted woman underneath.
The blonde-haired Savior terrified Regina as much as she thrilled her. And therefore she hated her.
Regina was broken and she was angry. And she was just waiting for an excuse to lash out. She'd been plagued with crushing loneliness for weeks on end, and with no one to talk to she was desperate for some kind of human interaction. Even if it was with Ms. Swan.
But where the brunette was nearly drowning in her feelings, it seemed as though Emma was having the opposite problem. Her eyes held little to no expression and her voice was a dull monotone that lacked her usual enthusiasm for life. It was as if the woman had shut herself down so that she couldn't feel anything at all.
The typically spunky tomboy had been reduced to someone crestfallen and bleak, and Regina found herself missing the fire and determination that used to blaze behind those eyes.
So let's reignite the fuse. Let's fight. Let's get back to some semblance of the thing that has become normal between us.
Regina craned her neck up away from the pillow so that she could fully look the sheriff in the face. "Is that supposed to be another kind of cryptic message I'm meant to understand?"
"What?" Emma looked slightly taken aback at the retort.
"Oh don't play coy with me, dear," Regina snapped. "Using the love I feel for my son to coerce me into doing as you please is a tactic that you should have realized had an expiration date. I am intelligent enough to be able to see through a badly-laid ruse."
"I'm not trying to… coerce you… into doing anything," the Savior stammered. "I was just trying to let you know that–"
"That I need to be the person Henry wants me to be before I lose him for good?" the brunette bristled, shoving Emma's words back in her face. "That Baelfire, the son of Rumpelstiltskin, is actually the biological father of my child? That the fail-safe diamond I brought to this land is the impending doom of all of Storybrooke?"
Regina met the blonde's stunned expression with a stony mask of her own. "If you have come to tell me any of those aforementioned things, Ms. Swan, you can save your breath. Because I don't want to hear it."
Emma just blinked confusedly in the Queen's direction. "Are you mad at me?" she asked dumbly, still seemingly surprised by the brunette's acidic behavior.
"Now whatever gave you that impression?" Regina deadpanned; the perfect picture of sass.
The blonde frowned heartily, "Look, if you have something to say to me Regina, by all means, just say it. You've certainly never had a problem calling me 'uncouth' before."
The effort of trying to keep her head up away from the pillow to make eye contact was proving too strenuous and Regina let her neck fall back against the cushions with a world-weary sigh on her lips.
"Are you trying to pick a fight with me, Ms. Swan?" her sense of irony giggling with glee at making this whole impending ordeal seem like it was the blonde's fault. "Because I assure you that I am in no mood to discuss the trigger debacle with you. If you have questions about that, or the magic bean situation, or anything else for that matter, go ask your parents. You can do that you know, since you still have some."
Emma's sharp voice bit back, "Oh don't even start with me, Regina. I didn't come in here to–"
"Start with you? I have every right to be angry!" the brunette exploded, her wrath helping her to fully fill up her skin once again. "Snow White knowingly manipulated me into killing my own mother–"
"And she's paying the price for that!"
"Hardly! Everyone who knows of her crime has either already forgiven her for it or is still making excuses on her behalf. 'Oh, poor little Snow White: the unfortunate victim of circumstance'." The Queen spat out the phrase as if the words themselves were poison. "If that doesn't just reek of hypocrisy, I don't know what does."
"This coming from the woman who imprisoned an innocent librarian in an insane asylum for twenty-eight years for the sole reason that her boyfriend was on your shit-list. I don't think your crimes even start to compare."
With more strain than she cared to admit, Regina managed to sit up a little, pulling one of the pillows more upright behind her back so that she could face Emma head on. The feat winded her more severely than she would have liked and she had to take a few gasping breaths in order to steady herself in this new position. Filling up her lungs all the way made her midsection twinge uncomfortably and a few fresh prickles of sweat rolled down her back in the effort, but the Queen was determined not to let her discomfort show.
She was fine.
Regina met the blonde's rapidly darkening gaze with a glare and a snarl on her upturned lips. "Oh I see," she crooned melodically. "Now that you have accepted your Charming birthright, you feel as though you can rightfully cast your judgment and opinion on all of the peasants around you. I'm glad you feel so entitled now, princess."
Emma's head snapped up at that, fresh ire rolling off her in waves.
"So tell me, dear," Regina simmered. "Let's flex some of that new power you hold over me, shall we? Since blaming me for everyone's problems seems to be the only thing this town's newly appointed leaders can do, let's see how well the genetics of mock-piety passed on to you." The brunette smirked as she felt the Savior's temper flare up against her will. "For once I can honestly say that you have my full and undivided attention."
Pacing angrily at the foot of the bed like a jaguar stuck in a cage, Emma shook her head back and forth, like she was literally trying to get Regina's needling words out of her ears; trying to be a better person than who she really was and not take the bait the Queen was so obviously handing her. Seeming to fail and consequently rolling her shoulders once, the blonde then glowered angrily at the bed's regal occupant and willingly laid into her.
"You know what Regina? Fine. You want to fight with me; I'll fight with you. You don't think we ever give you a chance to tell your side? You want an opportunity to come clean? Well now you have it. Right here, right now. Defend yourself," Emma propositioned gruffly. "The most recent thing that I have a problem with, on your ever-growing list of transgressions, is that you burned down an entire field of freaking magical beans!"
Regina rolled her eyes sardonically. "That was only after I overheard your parents planning to lock me up in a cell once they got back to the Enchanted Forest; that was if they were even going to deign to bring me along at all. You were planning to steal Henry from me, so I copied their plan and tailored it for my own uses. Fair is fair." The brunette scoffed and crossed her arms in front of her chest, the bruises around her wrists discoloring her flawless olive skin. "If you had informed me of the bean-field's existence in the first place, I might not have felt compelled to raise it to the ground."
"Ha!" Emma threw her head back in faux-laughter, her eyes burning with resentment. "Trust you with the whereabouts of magic beans? Because you've proven yourself sooooo trustworthy in the past."
"And whose fault is that? You always paint me as the villain."
"You always live up to the label! When you came bursting into Gold's shop, fireballs ablazing, I tried to give you an out and you didn't take it!"
"Well excuse me for not wanting to band together with the very people who had refused to even acknowledge my worth as a possible asset to your cause until that very moment," Regina sniffed petulantly. "I had been there all along, and not once did you ask for my assistance with anything."
Emma leaned over the foot of the bed, her fingernails piercing the wooden framing as she leveled her gaze with the haughty Queen. "You choked me with magic and threw me against a wall," she growled.
"Which can hardly be considered unjustified after you held a knife to my throat and then launched me over an antique counter!" Regina spat right back.
The blonde threw her arms angrily into the air, her feet unable to keep still any longer. "I only did that because you sided with your mother…" she paced away from the brunette only to round back on her once she had found another good point. "…who, by the way, you had sworn up and down that you didn't want to see land in Storybrooke."
Regina swallowed the mournful lump in her throat at the casual mention of the woman who had raised her; she supposed the pain of her mother's demise would never fully go away either. "Well who else was I supposed to turn to when you wouldn't believe my change of heart?"
"A change of heart that wasn't even real in the first place."
The brunette's mouth dropped open at the insult, genuinely offended by the lack of acknowledgement. "I absorbed a death curse into my body to ensure your safe return! How is that not a change of heart?"
Emma's hands shot out in front of her in frantic frustration, gesturing wildly at the Queen. "But you were the one who put the curse over the well in the first place!"
"I did it to protect Henry!" Regina pleaded hotly, demanding with her tone that the blonde see her point of view. If she had been standing she would have had to fight the urge to stomp her foot. "I have always had his best interests in mind! It's not as if I kidnapped him and recklessly hauled the boy off to Manhattan without informing his mother of his whereabouts first!" she seethed through her grinding teeth.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! I did not kidnap anyone!" Emma raged, pointing an accusatory finger in the Queen's direction. "I am his mother–"
"–So am I!–"
"–and I was doing what I had to in order to keep him safe from Cora!" The blonde's eyes bulged in her skull, widening as they tended to do whenever she was truly and deeply pissed. "And you were nowhere to be found!"
Regina's hands fisted to the best of their ability. "You couldn't find me because I was forced into hiding after you accused me of a murder I didn't commit!"
At this, Emma assumed a no-nonsense 'sheriff pose' by jutting out her hips and crossing her arms in front of her torso. The Queen scowled at the complacent posture.
"Well you do kind of have a history of killing people for fun, Regina, so you can't really blame me for suspecting that you could have done it again. Especially when it was lined up against proof." She added the last bit with a shrug; as if it wasn't her fault that the facts spoke for themselves.
Regina found herself wanting to rip that protruding lower lip right off the blonde's triumphant face.
"Proof you got from the brain of a dog!" the Queen fumed, the vein in her forehead growing more throbbingly prominent the more infuriated she got. "A dog who is quite fond of me, by the way. Your inferior use of magic is embarrassing at best."
"At least I don't have to use it to convince my son to love me again."
Regina reeled as if she had been slapped in the face, her cheek actually stinging behind the words as if Emma had really struck her. She felt as if a stake had been driven straight through her heart.
Her eyes flared threateningly to cover up the hurt, "You're brainwashing him against me; you won't even let me see him. How can he forgive me when he doesn't even know my side of the story?!"
Emma howled out an aggravated noise of exasperation, looking like she was about ready to pull out her own hair. "Jesus, you never take responsibility for anything, do you?! I mean, the whole damn curse is your fault and yet you walk around here as if we're the ones who have all wronged you!"
"But I am just as much a victim here as you are!" Regina insisted fervently, her jaw clenching painfully tight in her barely-masked ire. Nearly at her wits end, she had actually started to contemplate how much energy conjuring a fireball would take, just to put a stop to the nasty direction this conversation had suddenly taken.
"Oh and how is that?" Emma sneered cruelly, fully matching the venom in the Queen's voice. "How exactly is the Evil Queen a victim in all of this? Because that I would love to hear."
The sound of her fairytale title falling from Emma's lips was the final straw. Regina felt something inside her snap, like a lock in a keyhole had finally clicked into place, and suddenly a renewed flood of fury washed over her skin. Even the hair on her arms seemed to bristle in agitation.
"How am I the victim, Ms. Swan?" she replied incredulously, her voice a dangerous growl deep in the back of her throat. "I was accused of murder and attacked on my own front lawn, forced to kill my reanimated fiancé, and then tricked into assassinating my own mother by the one person who ruined my life in the first place. And that's only been in the last couple of months!" Her laugh was a deadened and hollow thing that rang through the apartment and bounced off of the whitewashed stone walls with malice. "If you care to remember my dear, my son was taken from me by a woman, who upon meeting her, I asked if I should be worried about her becoming a presence in my son's life… to which you replied with a resounding 'absolutely not'. I had signed off on a closed adoption, the same closed adoption that you had signed, swearing that you didn't want any contact with him, and then you burst into my life without a second thought and stole him from right under my nose. For someone who calls themselves something as virtuous as the Savior, it was you who lied to me on the first day we met."
"I didn't ask for that title," Emma pointed out defensively.
"Nor did I ask for mine!" Regina retorted vehemently, her voice nearly cracking with how livid she was. "How am I supposed to be good when at every turn I am accused of being the thing I am trying my hardest not to be?! You said you believed me when I confessed that I knew nothing about Archie's supposed death, but then you went and listened to your foolhardy parents, my enemies, and let yourself be swayed into believing something that you knew in your heart wasn't true. You went to Gold, someone else who is also known for outwardly despising me, and then rescinded your conviction of my innocence because of your newfound magical prowess. That was the first time you'd ever done magic, was it not? How could you even possibly know if you had gotten it right? And don't even get me started on how horrendously awful it is that as soon as you learned Rumpelstiltskin was 'family by blood', that he was suddenly deemed trustworthy. That man manipulated me into casting his curse. This whole thing was his idea and yet I am the one who is constantly blamed for everyone's collective misfortune!"
"But you–" Emma tried to interrupt, but the Queen's impassioned speech would not be cut off. Regina plowed over the blonde's feeble attempt at words.
"And then, and then," she repeated, clearly way past losing her shit, "after all of that, the only person who believed that I was trying to redeem myself turned on me." And the Queen's watery eyes were suddenly blazing two scorching holes deep into Emma's soul. "That day at the well, when I had just stopped Henry from nearly blowing himself up with a pack of loaded dynamite to rid the town of magic, you had the gall to stand there and act like I was some kind of monster."
Regina's lip began to quiver in spite of herself. "You accused me of being a bad person in front of our son after being the only one in this goddamn town who thought I could be better. You abandoned me when I needed you the most." She took in a raspy breath as her voice started to shake. "You made me feel worthless and I fell. And then when there was no one around to help pick me back up, for once I just decided to stay down."
The Queen's eyes grew distant and weighted, and a depthless sadness echoed inside her chocolate irises like ripples in a pond; the vigorous fight that always infused her voice disappearing completely.
"I am alone, Ms. Swan. Unreservedly and devastatingly alone. And I'm just going to have to accept the fact that no one is ever going to love me the way that I love them."
And suddenly tears were streaming from her eyes in embarrassing rivers and tracking unceremonious patterns down her face. Her own admission had caught her by surprise and the following unleash of unexpected emotion was nothing short of mortifying. She willed the moisture to retreat, to soak back into her sockets and stay there safe from view, but nothing worked. The tears just kept falling.
The Queen quickly cupped a hand over her mouth to keep back the pitiful whimper that had lodged itself in her throat, but the addition of her fingers only made it come out more garbled and anguished than it would have without her stifling gesture.
Despite her best efforts to keep the damage inside, it seemed as though her tirade had opened up a door she had fought very hard to keep closed, and now all of her truths were spilling out of her, ugly and garish in the harsh reality of the moonlight. Like their very presence in the air would forever stain her lips with humiliating weakness.
Shame colored her features until she was red in the face.
And through it all, Emma just stood there gaping at the foot of the bed, her right hand weaving through her hair again as she stared disbelieving at the crumbling woman in front of her.
"Shit Regina, I didn't mean to make you cry."
Regina snarled through her tears at the blonde, her fists flying to the blankets about her and crushing them with as much force as she could muster, "Oh don't flatter yourself, Emma; you are not the reason I'm crying!"
But her words fell on hollow ears as Emma rushed to her side and knelt next to the bed. The blonde's placating hands reached for her, trying to soothe her arms and touch her face and calm her boiling soul with gentle gestures. Regina squirmed under the attention.
"Hey, hey, hey," Emma tried to reason. "You're not alone."
"NO! Get away from me!" Regina screamed, thrashing away from the tender caresses even though every time she moved, pain raced through her frame like flu-shot needles. She couldn't take any more lies, any more false emotions. Her heart was in too much turmoil and her brain was cloudy and everything just hurt. And Emma would only make it hurt worse: with her caring words and her pitying eyes…
So she shoved and scratched violently at Emma's frame; pushing at her chest and slapping away her hands with all of her remaining strength, screeching and crying like a lunatic until the blonde finally caught her biceps in a death grip and stilled her madness.
Emma's voice cracked, shaking the Queen by the shoulders to try and knock some sense back into her. "Stop it, Regina! You're going to hurt yourself!"
Her brow crinkled in concern at the darkening bruises encasing the brunette's limp wrists which were once again lying loosely against the bedspread.
"What do you care?!" Regina accused, her red-rimmed eyes boring into the Savior's face and daring her to fight, to lie, to betray. But the blonde's breathing was shallow and Regina could see that her throat was working overtime as her lips sobered into a thin, down-turning line. Then without warning, a tear escaped Emma's pleading eyes to glimmer down the side of her cheek.
And suddenly all of the fight left Regina's body in one fell swoop. Exhausted from her physical outburst as well as her emotional upheaval, the Queen disintegrated into a pile of shaking shoulders and painful sobs at seeing earnest concern for her well-being mirrored in the eyes of another person.
"You said you would save me. You promised," Regina blubbered, looking smaller than she ever had in her life, cocooned in the blankets of her enemy. "When you dragged me out of the fire you promised you'd keep saving me, no matter how much of a pain in the ass I was…"
"Snow only came for me because she's trying to erase the blackness in her heart by doing good deeds. She didn't come to save me because she thought I deserved to live." The brunette gestured half-heartedly with her arms as if she was trying to wave away the thought, "It's only a matter of time before someone just… finishes it. And then it'll be 'good riddance, the Queen is dead'."
Another ugly sob escaped her and Regina let her head fall forward onto her chest, no longer able to meet the Savior's studying gaze. She quivered in self-loathing for her incessant need for other people's approval in her life.
Two pale hands cupped her face and pulled her out of her sadness. Intensely emerald irises stared back.
"But I did come for you," Emma implored.
"You… what…?" Regina stammered through her hiccupping tears, blinking her watery eyes rapidly to properly bring the Savior's face back into focus.
"I was there at the cannery, but I got caught up chasing Tamara and so David was the one who came to whisk you away this time, not me. But I was there. And I was looking for you."
Emma's thumb brushed against her cheek, trying to rid the undersides of the Queen's eyelashes from their betraying droplets. "I mean, I was the one that figured out you'd been taken in the first place. I hadn't seen you around for a while and then… when the beans were burned and your office felt all weird and empty… I don't know…" She shrugged like she was a little embarrassed. "I just wanted you to know… that I noticed. That you were missing. That I missed you."
The two women just stared at each other for a moment: a tender half-smile gracing the blonde while the brunette sucked in a shuddering breath.
And then Emma kissed her. Gently. Oh so gently. It was sweet and soft and so not wanted. It made Regina feel shy and vulnerable and cared for. And she despised the strange pulling sensation on her heart that accompanied the sudden butterflies in her stomach.
But the blonde's amorous gesture was met with a quiet hum that the Queen could not control. Little keening whimpers mumbled in the back of her mouth as Emma brought their lips together over and over again.
I missed you I missed you I missed you.
The mantra fell like breathing over her skin until it enveloped the Queen's heart and slowly started to seep into her soul; the Savior making her feel the words like the soft affection kisses being peppered on her mouth.
Hands moved from her face to tangle in her hair and cup the back of her neck, deepening the kiss until Regina lost herself; Emma pulling her into her own body until all she could comprehend was heat.
Heated skin pressing against her own. Heated breath breaking over her lips. Heat in the pit of her stomach. Heat in the tips of her toes. Heat in the tips of her fingers as she ran them down the blonde's back and felt them snag in the sweater around her shoulder blades. All of that heat igniting her senses until she could barely remember the buzzing pain she had felt before.
It had been so long since anyone had touched her with anything other than hate that the Queen suddenly found herself trembling with the kind sensation of legitimately being wanted by someone else.
In the hazy blur of feeling however, Regina didn't register Emma climbing on top of her until the weight of the blonde's hips was suddenly pressing into her own overtop of the ugly quilt.
Blunt fingernails scraped along her scalp as her back hit the mattress once again. "Emma," she mumbled around the increasingly wet kisses. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" A traitorous little moan escaped the clutches of Regina's vocal chords as the Savior's teeth nipped lightly at her full lower lip. "I'm showing you you're not alone."
The blonde ripped the blanket off of the Queen and smashed it unceremoniously toward the bottom of the bed where it piled up into a heap against the footboard.
And immediately Regina felt very, very exposed and started to panic.
Her heart rate skyrocketed as Emma pressed herself flush against her frame, their bodies touching everywhere as the sheriff settled her jean-clad thigh exquisitely in between the Queen's. But when Emma bent her head to kiss her again, Regina turned her face to the side so that the blonde's lips missed their mark.
Emma frowned at the meek request; confused at its presence in the usually fiery Queen as she not-so-subtly rubbed her thigh teasingly up against Regina's core.
"Why not?" The blonde whispered mischievously, her eyes following her hands as they began to map out the covered flesh beneath them. They quickly sought out the Queen's breasts and kneaded them fondly, and Regina's nipples instantly jumped to attention under her blouse, revealing how much she craved the intoxicating touch of the Savior… no matter how much she might protest otherwise.
"Because I can't return the favor," the Queen stated bluntly, her hands daring to curl onto Emma's biceps as the blonde's fingers scratched delicately at one of her erect peaks. Her breath was starting to hitch. "I can barely move, Ms. Swan."
"I don't care," was the earnest reply.
"Well I do. I don't want to owe you anything."
Regina's heart sank a little at the sheriff's devastated expression. There was anger in there, which could probably be attributed to some repressed memory of her not feeling worthy, but it was almost completely masked by the overwhelming amount of hurt swimming in the blonde's eyes that only served to make Regina feel incredibly guilty. She was only trying to be reasonable, needing to nip a possibly awkward situation in the bud before it even started; but it seemed that in the case of Emma Swan, the Queen was always doomed to say the wrong thing.
But stubborn as always, Emma wouldn't be deterred. She replied with a darkly curt, "You won't."
Regina raised an eyebrow good-humoredly. "Forgive me if I don't believe you, dear. I seem to remember how much you liked getting your turn last time."
"Well it's not necessary this time, okay?" and before Regina could say anything to the contrary, Emma kissed her hard enough that when she finally broke for air the room looked like it was spinning.
"Right now, I just want to forget how much life hurts and feel good with you."
With one more quick peck on the lips and a question in her eyes that Regina didn't say no to, Emma picked up where she had left off. Her lips fluttered down the Queen's cleavage, nipping at her regal collarbone and laving her tongue over the exposed clavicle until she had teased a keening moan from the brunette shifting underneath her. Shivers of pleasure tingled through Regina's skin as Emma continued to massage her breasts in her hands, kneading the mounds with precision as her hot breath raised goosebumps wherever it passed.
Regina didn't know if she could do this. For her, sex had never been about feelings of desire: it had been about power, about control, about needing to scratch an itch. She had never gotten the chance to try with Daniel and that was all it had ever been with Graham... The Queen had possessed the huntsman's heart out of spite and then since he was in good form and now irreversibly hers, whenever she had felt the need to forget herself in a hazy wash of endorphins, Regina had forced him to serve her. She was a Queen after all.
Comparatively, she had also never felt anything in her time alone with Leopold except for a deep-seated loathing that enveloped her very core. The King had merely staked his claim in her young soul, bedding her simply because society had dictated that he should, not because he loved her. Her wifely tasks had left her feeling dirty and degraded, and she hated him for it: sex with the King had been a job and not something that she was supposed to enjoy. Which was partly why Regina had found herself so sickening when she began to mirror her ex-husband's motions during her own reign.
For as sensual and erotic as the Queen appeared to be, Regina's seductive temperament was more of an act than anything. Her overtly sexual nature had been a way to coax what she wanted from others, a way to manipulate and tease so that she would never need to dirty her hands for herself. She learned that a well-timed pucker of her lips could have men falling to their knees and that a pouting glance from underneath her eyelashes would have them nearly clamoring over themselves to do her bidding. In a land where she had needed to transform into a frighteningly suggestive figure in order to survive, she had done just that.
But besides the King and the huntsman, Regina had never actually trusted anyone else enough to let them to take her to bed.
And now here she was, flat on her back with the Savior of all people perched on top of her, evoking all of these emotions that she simply didn't have time for. It was appalling how obscenely on display the Queen felt, like a raw nerve throbbing without its protective skin, and even though she couldn't deny that Emma's mouth on her felt positively heavenly, the possibility of letting go and actually letting someone in was petrifying.
Her immediate impulse was to hide. To cower away in the deep recesses of her mind. To escape herself in the sensations upon her skin and not truly feel anything at all. She needed to block out the fact that her heart was fluttering too fast in her ribcage and that Emma was looking at her too devotedly. She needed to disappear and remember that compassionate things never happened to someone of her caliber.
Her life was a sad story. It was the kind of tale that children hated to listen to because it had no happy ending.
Regina realized how wrong it was that she felt the need to shrink away from the given affection, but in all honesty, she didn't feel as though she had really earned it either. For Christ's sakes, she'd actually sunk so low as to wipe her own son's memory with magic not so long ago, after fervently promising him that she would do better to control those kinds of malicious urges within herself.
Guilt surged through the Queen's system and a disheartened whimper escaped her pursed lips, but suddenly Emma's voice broke through her dreary thoughts. "Hey. Hey. Stay with me, Regina…"
The assault on her breasts stopped and the brunette was mildly surprised to realize that Emma wasn't going to simply just take what she wanted from her.
"Regina." The blonde's voice was firm and commanding as she took the Queen's chin between her fingers and brought the brunette's face to gaze into her own. "Don't leave me."
Emma's eyes were glistening and a new sort of sadness that Regina hadn't noticed before was lurking right underneath the surface of the irises glowing back at her in the darkness. And for the first time since the blonde had interrupted her evening, Regina wondered what else had happened to Emma during her stint in the cannery. There was a worn down quality about her demeanor and her usually clear eyes seemed just a little bit stormy. It came as a shock that the usually brash and headstrong sheriff looked just as broken as Regina felt.
Maybe Emma needed this just as badly as she did.
So Regina nodded in Emma's grasp, her eyes searching the darkened jade orbs in front of her. "Okay," she assured quietly. She raised a shaky hand to tenderly cup Emma's cheek and when the blonde closed her eyes a thin line of moisture threatened at the bottom of her eyelashes. "Okay," Regina repeated, tracing her thumb reverently over a pale cheek bone. "I'm not going anywhere. You couldn't get rid of me even if you tried. I know from experience that I'm not easy to kill."
Emma's eyes snapped back open in alarm, "Don't joke about stuff like that."
Regina offered a forlorn little grin in return. "What else would you have me do?"
"Just let me kiss you."
This felt so different from the last and only other time that they'd done this. The night that Snow and Emma had come back from the portal had been… intense… for the Savior and the Queen, to say the least. The sex had been passionate and volatile, urgent and angry, all teeth and bruises and backs against walls and heads slamming into bedframes. It had been driven by emotions that screamed you don't deserve the love of my son and how dare you be away from me so long. They had erupted into something violent and carnal in their desperate need for each other, the unnamed tension between them only heightening in their prolonged absence from their dynamic counterpart; yin yearning to reunite with yang.
Their nighttime encounter had left them both dizzy and momentarily infatuated, and for one blissful day Regina had walked around with a ghost of a smile playing on her lips, satisfied that she had finally done something right.
And then that blasted dinner had happened and everything had raced spectacularly downhill from there.
But this. This was unexpected. This was tender. And gentle. And dare she say it… a little bit loving.
Slow and careful touches ghosted over her flesh and left her breathless. Feather-light kisses scattered on her bruised wrists and lingered on her temple. A nose nuzzled cutely against her skin and contented little sounds infiltrated her ears.
Emma descended with deliberate leisure down the Queen's abdomen, cautiously untucking the blood-red blouse from her skirt and lifting it up to expose her stomach. She worshipfully traced the outline of Regina's ribs with her fingertips and licked the discolored strip of skin about her middle that had previously been suffocated by restraints.
Regina's muscles jumped under the contact and she hissed whenever the Savior pushed too hard or found a sensitive spot, and Emma's response was always just to kiss it softly and shower the sore places with soothing attention until the brunette was murmuring her approval in muted moans of pleasure.
Looking down at the blonde lavishing her waist, Regina noticed at this new angle that the woman had a nasty cut on her temple near her hairline. It had probably needed stitches a few hours ago, but in trying to heal itself, it had scabbed over for the time being. Dr. Whale was going to have to crack it open a second time to suture it properly if she didn't want it to scar and mar her perfect princess skin.
Summoning the latent power within her in with some effort, the Queen once again felt the welcome tingle of magic crackling about her fingertips and reached out her hand to rid the blonde of the unnecessary scratch.
But Emma caught her questing fingers before she could enact her good deed.
"Uh-uh," the blonde chastised, interlacing their digits and pushing the Queen's hand back against the pillows. "Don't you dare, Your Majesty. You save that magic of yours for a rainy day; keep your strength for when you'll really need it."
Regina frowned at the rejection, her eyes flashing with hurt. "If you didn't want my help, you could have just said so. I don't need to be coddled for the sake of my feelings."
"I'm not trying to be nice," Emma whispered teasingly in her ear. "The last time you magicked me I ended up flying halfway across your yard."
That earned the blonde a soft chuckle and an eye-roll that was soon cut off by her teeth biting down on Regina's nipple through her blouse. The brunette cried out a little louder than she had meant to and Emma groaned in response to the hypnotic sound of the Queen's voice laced with desire.
It was frightening how compatible they were they weren't fighting. Sometimes being with Emma felt as natural as breathing.
Other times, of course, it just made her want to throttle the woman.
The blonde's continuous assault on her senses would be her undoing. Regina was quickly becoming restless, squirming underneath the warm mouth that was now avidly studying her breasts through her shirt, leaving a wet spot on the expensive material. Emma's lips continued their descent back down to her midsection and teased around her bellybutton; a fleeting tongue darting out to swirl briefly in her navel before her skirt was pushed up from around her thighs to pool about her waist.
But the Queen visibly tensed at the motion and pressed her legs together.
Confused, Emma placed a quick kiss to her kneecap, since where she really wanted to kiss was now hidden from view, and chanced a worried look at Regina's face. "What?" Emma asked concerned, kneading the calves in her hands gently. When her question was met with a silence only broken by heavy breathing, she crawled up the Queen's body to meet her face to face. "What is it?"
The brunette's head rolled unsteadily on the pillow to meet Emma's gaze and her eyes shone a little too brightly in the starlight. "It's nothing," the Queen murmured unconvincingly as she wove hesitant fingers through the blonde's hair. "I just wanted to see–"
But Regina's voice caught in her throat and she could feel the moisture welling up in her eyes; so she forced away the tears and swallowed around the sound. Instead she pet the hair underneath her fingers with a little too much reverence for Emma not to raise her eyebrows at the woman pinned beneath her.
"I just wanted to see," the Queen stated again with quiet conviction; the phrase no longer an unfinished sentence. A pained smile twitched briefly at the corner of her lips as her fingers struggled to tighten their grip in golden locks, and blonde let the Regina bring their mouths together in another tender embrace.
How could she tell Emma that she wouldn't be able to stand the gentle warmth of the blonde's mouth on her sex without crying? That she needed Emma inside of her, giving over little parts of herself so that she could keep a tiny piece of the Savior within her always. How could she say that she needed the help to stay connected or she might fall again?
She hoped a kiss would do.
The little moan that escaped Emma's mouth as the Queen's tongue swiped across her lower lip seemed to indicate that she understood. Emma deepened the kiss, stealing the breath from Regina's lungs until she couldn't have cried even if she'd wanted to. This was not a refusal, just a small askance for a little change of pace, and the Savior had greedily accepted.
She placed sloppy, wanton kisses all over Regina's mouth, at the corner of her lips, and against her flushing cheek before traveling them down to the underside of her jaw and onto her elegantly sloping neck.
Regina's head crashed back against the pillow as Emma licked the vein in her throat all the way up to catch her earlobe between her teeth. The blonde nibbled softly on it before sucking it into her mouth, and a ragged whimper slid out of the brunette's vocal chords unbidden. Her head was foggy with arousal and she clung to Emma as though letting go of her would cause the Queen to drift away. Everywhere the Savior touched felt like fireworks exploding under her skin.
"I don't deserve this," Regina mumbled breathily to no one in particular.
"Yes you do," Emma instantly replied, murmuring hotly into her ear as the blonde's own panting breath began to mix with the Queen's. "We do," she revised. "We deserve to have something nice happen to us for a change."
And then Emma was back at her neck and she bit down, sucking with just enough force that there would probably be a slight mark showing there tomorrow. The Queen moaned raspily and her back arched away from the mattress just a little, urging the blonde on.
Emma's hand trailed sluggishly down the brunette's body, clutching at breasts as she passed them and tweaking their stiffened nipples in its wake. It cruised methodically down her taut but bruised abdomen, taking care to miss the extra sore spots discovered earlier and deciding to hover and tease right underneath her bellybutton instead.
Regina whimpered with frustration, her hips canting upward into Emma's touch and inviting her in. The little enticing patterns the blonde's fingertips were drawing over the insides of her thigh were driving her insane.
And then the Savior was cupping Regina's mound fully in her hand and the Queen could have died happy.
"Oh Emma," the brunette groaned out lustfully at the contact, and Regina could feel the blonde smiling against her skin.
The Savior continued to nibble and lick at the juncture of Regina's shoulder as she rubbed the Queen gently through her pretty underwear, skirting over her clit in little circular motions until the moisture gathering against the lace began to form a slick heat that was impossible to ignore.
Regina was mewling lasciviously at Emma's skilled touches and her hips were grinding cravingly against her palm, so without wishing to make the Queen wait for it any longer, the blonde pulled her panties aside and slid her middle finger easily into Regina's waiting warmth.
The sharp gasp and squeezing fingernails on her shoulders made the sheriff look up from her work at Regina's neck. The Queen was wincing.
Emma delicately curled the finger she had inside of the woman and looked for any signs of distress. The quiet mewling was a good sign but Regina's forehead was still scrunched up, like she was waiting for something bad to happen.
"Regina," Emma spoke gently.
"Mhm," the brunette hummed, her eyes still firmly shut.
"Regina, look at me."
The brunette opened her eyes.
"I promise I won't hurt you."
Emma languidly pulled her finger almost all the way out of the Queen before she slowly pushed it back in, giving Regina's nerve-endings time to catch up with the pleasurable sensation. To remember that not everything that touched this body was meant to cause its host pain.
Regina shuddered as tendrils of heat pooled in her groin and snaked their way up her spine, reminding her of how wonderful this could feel when done with the right human being. Emma kissed her parted lips as a sensual sigh fell from them, and the blonde increased her internally thrusting pace as she did so.
The Queen was grinning as they sank into a world of groaning gratification, of teeth and lips and fingernails, of almost-kisses and hot breath on salt-slick skin. Regina's knees hiked up of their own accord, pulling the blonde even deeper within her, opening herself up and giving herself over to the Savior's sultry desires.
Emma pushed faster and faster into the Queen and Regina bit down hard on the blonde's bottom lip as they panted and gasped into each other's mouths, the molten lava in the brunette's belly increasing tenfold as Emma's palm brushed steadily up against her clit. Regina's breath stuttered in her throat as her hands fought to find purchase on the woman above her; her vision growing fuzzier as her legs became like jelly, preparing for the onslaught of firing synapses she was rapidly hurtling towards.
Her fingers dug into the backs of the Savior's thighs, then scrambled for her thin waist, then flew fleetingly over her back before both hands ended up cupping around the back of the blonde's neck in her desperate attempt to stay rooted in everything Emma.
Regina fought until the end to peer past her hooding eyelids to the beautiful woman on top of her, who was loving her and filling her with her own shining light until the Queen thought she might combust.
And then she did.
Stars danced in front of Regina's eyelids as she came fast and hard, crying out as a tidal wave of pleasure crashed over her in a heady rush. Emma captured the sound in her mouth as she crushed her lips against the Queen's, swallowing her moans as she kept up her furious pace against the brunette's oscillating hips.
The Savior stayed inside her long after the earth-shattering orgasm had ripped through her body, weathering the violent aftershocks alongside her Queen as the brunette's form was wracked with pleasurable spasms, her frame jumping and twitching at even the slightest movements.
When the shuddering had finally abated, the blonde gracefully extracted her finger and placed the digit in her mouth, licking off any remaining elements of the Queen.
Emma rolled off of the brunette to lay next to her squished in the tiny bed, the blonde's elbow propping up her head as she regarded the woman coming back to herself.
Regina remained strewn out on her back with her eyes wide, panting hoarsely into the cool night air. Her lungs were burning as though she had just run a marathon and her core was pounding with a pleasantly familiar pulse that was doing nothing to bring her down from her high.
The Queen covered her eyelids with her hand in an attempt to shut out the woman beside her who had become so quickly attuned to her body. She needed time to mentally build back up her walls after being so unspeakably vulnerable in front of another person.
But her whole being was alive and practically singing with post-orgasmic energy, and when Emma's fingers ghosted gently down her forearm, the Queen's entire form shivered in response.
Regina exhaled a shaky breath as she tried to ignore the sensation and suddenly the heat of a warm palm was resting over her own. Emma's fingers slowly peeled away the hand covering the brunette's amusingly distraught features, smiling lightly as she did so.
Watery brown eyes were met by twin puddles of empathetic green and Regina could have sworn that she saw a sparkle of adoration hidden somewhere in there.
She probably had the same look on her face as well.
Emma brought the delicate hand to her lips and kissed each of the Queen's battered knuckles before she pulled Regina into a fierce hug, enfolding her arms protectively around the brunette and holding the woman's fragile frame flush against her own overheated body. Regina buried her face into the chest of the black turtleneck and curled in on herself as much as her protesting spine would allow.
"I'm sorry," Emma whispered, resting her chin lightly on top of Regina's head.
There were too many grievances between them to be sorry about for Regina to even begin to guess what this was in reference to. This apology could literally be for anything: from regret that she had just fucked the Queen in her mother's bed to sincere remorse for something in the brunette's past. So the Queen pulled her head back just enough to glance up at the blonde's face.
"For what?" she inquired honestly.
Regina settled her nose back into the valley of warm fabric and permitted the calming circles being rubbed into her back to begin to soothe her inner turmoil.
"Me too," she murmured back.
They laid there in silence for a long while, the Queen finding tranquility in the way the steady beating of the heart under her ear mixed with the relaxed breathing of the woman it belonged to. They stayed like that for so long in fact that Regina thought that Emma might have finally fallen asleep.
But then a quiet confession fell from the blonde's mouth so softly, that had her lips not been nearly pressed against Regina's ear, the brunette was positive that she wouldn't have heard it at all.
"I'm so happy you're not dead."
It was the nicest thing anyone could have said to her.
A single tear slid down the Queen's cheek as she allowed Emma to hold her tighter, to wrap her arms around her and block out the rest of the angry world; her cascade of blonde hair falling messily over the brunette's pained expression.
Regina's weakened arms wouldn't listen to the commands her brain was sending and they adamantly refused to return the blonde's embrace despite her most earnest attempts to do so. But in a moment of brilliant defiance, her fingers did manage to twitch closed around the hem of the Savior's turtleneck in a loosened grip and stay clutched around the fabric they'd found purchase in.
Emma must have felt the back of Regina's knuckles pressing against her belly because the brunette felt the woman's steadied breathing hitch ever-so-slightly in response.
A weak smile tugged fleetingly at the corner of painted lips before it disappeared under the guise of fatigue. "Thank you," Regina mumbled breathily, and letting out a weary sigh of gratitude, she realized that for once she actually felt safe.
Sleeping was actually rather pleasant when you didn't have to do it alone.
Regina had been accused of many things in her previous life and in her current one, and being called the owner of a blackened and useless heart was one of the insults that had hurt the most. She had been told countless times that she was evil, that she had no soul, and that she would never be forgiven for the crimes she'd committed.
And all of that contempt can weigh heavy on a heart. On a soul. On a person.
It's those kind of words that can twist a person's self-worth until they become just as dark as everyone believes them to be.
But in that moment, wrapped snugly in the Savior's arms, Regina knew without a doubt that a little bit of the light had just been let back in.