let me be your ruler (you can call me queen)

Author: Sanetwin1-2

Notes: a sequel is in the cards. This is before the curse breaks and it will end before it does, too. I may continue with one in this universe with the curse in process of breaking or already broken.


"Is that so?" Her fingers tighten around the phone and a tight coil of nervousness wraps around her stomach. It's uncomfortable, but she doesn't shift away, she doesn't move. This is absolutely the last thing she needs to hear, after all the trouble Miss Swan has made for her, her refusal to her demands and her constant shaking of her every attempt to shoo her away -of course it should all come back to her like this. Being in cursed land means isolation, it means solitude, and it means protection from the outside land. Yet, since Miss Swan's arrival, it seems she and her little sample of magic-less fairy tales are up to public use, if any of the world should find them.

So, to walk into her office this morning and find a missed call from the state of Maine, calling about the whereabouts of a missing ex-criminal who had missed an appointment with her parole officer and dropped her life in Boston without a word, she felt a thunderous panic strike her. One that moved her to restlessness. Sure, it wasn't an investigator coming to determine the license of her town, but it was close.

The tired, weary voice of some marginal department is on the phone with her now, warning her of everything she already knows: that an ex-criminal is among her town's population, that when they sent their men to check her apartment, they found that Emma hasn't stepped into it for well over a month, that her landlady is squawking about missed rent and that her business employer is hunting for her blood. With everyone is in such a panic, the state of Maine issued permission to check the new whereabouts of their missing girl.

Her mouth twists with displeasure, but she keeps her voice pleasant and indifferent, as though the very balance of her town's existence wasn't in distress. "I really don't think this is necessary, Mr. Geyser." What a ridiculous name. The man sighs in response, making the phone crackle, but Regina does even shift.

"Yes, well I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Miss Mills, but I'm afraid we have to check up on her." The man sounds weak and Regina feels displeasure curdle in her stomach at just the sound of him. He sighs, and she can hear the wet palm of his hand move against the very probable chance of a bald head. "She missed one of her appointments and disappeared without a word. She knows her conditions, she's not allowed off of our record until she turns thirty. She has to attend these appointments, Miss Mills. If she misses one, I'm afraid the state has to send some people to check up on her."

Regina smiles, and she forces her words to lift into a sweetness, like juice from a peach, sugary and inviting. "Of course. I understand."

She can practically hear the man's relief and Regina's mouth turns down in displeasure. "Thank you for being so reasonable."

"Don't thank me yet, dear. Though you may, should you like what I have to propose." The words sound playful and the man laughs a little in response, allowing for her to continue, "You have to understand, I am a mayor of a very small town. I'm not sure if you've ever experienced the small town life, Mr. Geyser, but it is easily excitable. I'm afraid it would be detrimental to its health should my people hear of such a scandal, that our very own hardworking Sheriff has to be sent away. Or checked up on."

"I see." Mr. Geyser's voice lowers, and Regina can hear his hands shift around on the desk, maybe flipping through a few papers. "Well, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what you want me to do about that. I can't very well make an exception. You understand, right? A hard working lady like yourself has to know when there is simply nothing more that can be done."

The clear curves of her nails tap against the desk in thought and Regina tries to run through as many possibilities as she can, of getting anything out of the man other than outsiders coming into her town, out of her curse to investigate this matter. She can't have them come in, and she won't let them take Miss Swan out. What if it could lead back to her? The strange events that happen here, the small town that nobody has heard of before - who knows what investigation could spring up from this? No, they cannot take Miss Swan away. As much of a problem she is inside of their little town, she'd be more of a mess out of it, than in.

"Mr. Geyser, there must be something we can come up with." Though she cannot be seen, and Mr. Geyser has no idea what she looks like, the tone of her voice dips into the seductive trap that she's learned to sharpen her words into, learned to shape so that men of weak will can be lead. She can hear his sharp intake of breath. "I am the mayor of this town, I assure you that I am very capable of keeping you well updated with Miss Swan's whereabouts."

He hesitates, but then, after a little while, he sighs and rubs his head again, "I'm really sorry, Miss Mills, but-"

"Mr. Geyser, I insist." Magic may be torn from her limbs and leached from her bloodstream, but she can feel its power in her voice, like a flame boiling water, imperceptible changing the locked forms of atoms quicker and quicker. "Whatever you need from Miss Swan is easily in my power to give to you. There is no need to send reinforcements. Miss Swan has settled into a job and has taken roots into my town. I will not have outsiders come in and tear it away and threaten the very foundation that we've helped build here."

She can hear him bending, hear the push of his spine in his sigh and how he wants to appease, always please, and she smiles in victory. She hasn't heard what he's about to say, but she can feel it before he even opens his mouth to speak. The sweat he wipes away on his forehead with a wet meaty palm is unseen to her, but she relishes in her strength, still, her power over them.

Her manicured fingers press the phone a little closer, so that she can hear the low mutter of a conspiratorial voice, "Okay..."

-x-

The pavement is wet and slick from the rain. The clouds above them threaten with the faint smell of rain. Regina moves swiftly through the crowds of people nearly unseen, matching the darkness all around them with a sleek black coat and a scarf that wraps tightly around her throat. It only takes her a few minutes to reach the Sheriff station. She pauses to look around her, to check that all other people have left for lunch, that the cell is empty and that the Sheriff is alone. Stepping in closer, she pulls the blinds away from the window and peeks in, pleased to see Emma Swan all alone, resting her head back, trying to read through the papers she was issued just this morning.

A sharp stab of excitement warms her stomach, but she smothers all signs of her pleasure with a welcoming breath of air and quick, short steps to the Sheriff's office. Her heels are loud against the floor and she watches in pleasure as Emma's shoulders stiffen and the round bulbs of her spine presses visibly against her skin.

"Sheriff, a word?" Emma slowly turns in her chair and raises an eyebrow, her face already settling in displeasure upon seeing her. Regina shoulders the brief flash of irritation and smiles, "Oh come now, Miss Swan, I come baring good news."

Emma rolls her eyes and sinks into her chair, lifting a leg to rest against the desk. "Yeah, sure you do." Her voice is low and gruff and it makes Regina's smirk grow. A shiver of excitement prickles between her shoulder blades and crawls down her spine. Her morning has turned from unpleasant to surprisingly well, for her, anyway. This position allows her an entirely new reign of control that she's never had before, not against Emma, at least, someone who stands up to everything that she is and doesn't even blink.

Regina has to control herself with deep breath, but she manages to convert it into a little sigh of disappointment, "Must I remain standing, or will you offer me a seat?"

Emma snorts, "You can sit in the cell if you'd like." She grins and leans back into her own chair, waiting for Regina to settle herself into the room. Tilting her head in acknowledgement, Regina takes the few steps to Emma's desk and slides herself on the very corner. It's a little too close for comfort, and she can see how it affects Miss Swan, how she tries not to let her discomfort show. But her eyes flicker to her legs and how close they are to hers and a brief rosy blush colors the tops of her cheeks, and Regina can't help but find it deliciously pleasing.

Shrugging, Emma smoothly moves on and pretends like she doesn't care. It's almost seamless, the way she can cover it all under a mask, "You were saying, Madam Mayor?"

The corner of her mouth slowly lifts up and Regina leans in a little closer. "I received a call, today." She whispers it, like it's a secret that she wants only the two of them to share, and she catches Emma trying to lean closer to hear it. Her eyes are almost grey in the dim light and it makes them all the more appealing. "It was from the Department of Criminal Justice." The look in Emma's eyes sends that prickling excitement across her skin, again. Regina smiles, "What a surprise it was hearing from them. Apparently, one of their ex-criminals have gone missing. Dropped without so much of a word, can you believe it?"

Emma sinks into her chair, but does not break eye contact. Her eyes have hardened into dark shells, crusted over with resentment. Admittedly, it was a little harder to love that. "What do you want Regina?"

"Oh, Miss Swan, I haven't gotten to the good news, yet." She says warmly and with a little flick of her hand, repositions her hair, sliding it behind her ear. "I was concerned of course. I was speaking to the Head Department and he seemed very upset with your case, in particular. You must have been making quite a habit of not showing up to your parole appointments, Miss Swan." She smiles a little with the ticking in Emma's jaw, the way the muscles move underneath the skin.

"Anyway," she says before Emma can interrupt her again. "With all their talk of dragging you out of town, or worse, having supervisors coming here to live with you, I felt like something had to be done. Especially since this...scandal would probably only end up centering around my son, as it often tends to with your mistakes." Unintentionally, she feels her body react with her words, with the curl of anger that rises inside of her like smoke; her lip curls and her fingers dig into the wooden desk. Quickly, she struggles to reconcile her expression, covering over the brief burst of passion, covering a shaky breath with thick plaster of a smile. Just in time. "So I had a little chat with the man. If only to spare my town the unrest your disappearance would cause."

Emma's fingers are curled and pointed against the arms of her chair and her voice is a low growl, "And?"

"We came up with an agreement. One that I think will benefit us both." Regina takes the time to appreciate the nearly animalistic frustration in Miss Swan, the way her muscles twitch under her skin and how forcibly she has to control her breathing, just to hide her anger. "I convinced him to let me supervise you, instead."

"How in the hell does that benefit me then, Madam Mayor?" Emma all but spits out, furious.

She can't help it. She shifts closer, leaning in to feel it just a little bit more, loving the hot breath that nearly hisses from the mouth she speaks to. "Why, you get to stay in town, dear. And you won't have the shame of some big lumbering shadow hovering over you. I would have thought you'd be relieved. You wouldn't want the entire town to see the real Sheriff Swan, would you?"

"This isn't even legal." Emma's voice is thick and rich with anger. She sits up quickly in her chair and comes nearly nose to nose with Regina, her voice a low growl "And completelyinappropriate. You'll lie through your teeth. You'll make up stories and get me in trouble. How did anyone actually approve of this?"

"You would actually think I would do that, Miss Swan?" Regina forces herself to lean away, away from those dark eyes and that snarling mouth. "What stories could I possibly make up? Without proof they'd only be stories, like how you broke into my house and left a shovel with your fingerprints, or the mutilation of my apple tree, or maybe just a single word from me about your interaction with my son, a poor boy upset about his adoption and how his birth mother has tried to steal him from me." Emma's eyes are wide but her mouth is hard. "Why, I guess one bad word from me would get you thrown away again, wouldn't it?" Her smile is vicious, "But really, Miss Swan, you have to think. What could I possibly gain from your disappearance?"

Even to her ears, she can hear how her voice becomes something else, something less than human; it's more of a hiss than anything else, it is like those slithering creatures from her homeland with a tongue that can make you bend with their rich, coarse language. Beautiful, but terrifying. When she looks at Emma again, she tries to reconstruct herself, create the picture that she was before, recompose, but she can see in Emma's eyes that she has exposed something that she can't hide.

Emma is almost dazed, her eyes wide and disbelieving. "You'll destroy me." Her voice is assuming and even a little scared, but Regina feels no reason to worry her more, there are no stock in her words - she wouldn't bring those men here, it would be far too risky. She just wanted to scare her, to make her complacent. To make her understand the gravity of her situation. But this, this next part is what she is really trying to get to, to express her point.

"Of course not, Miss Swan." She breathes out, and sounds almost comforting. Her hand comes up without her consent and presses her thumb against the thin trembling of Emma's lip. At the first touch, Emma's eyes widen, and Regina nearly jerks her touch away, but she can't now, it'll look like weakness, like cowardice. "I have pride in what I do. I am Mayor of this town and I will protect it from outside influence as best as I can."

Emma's forehead crinkles, "Then what-?"

"You will do as I say, you will listen and you will follow my every command. Is that understood?" Emma only blinks, but Regina can see the tiny gears in her head begin to spin, working through the thick underling threat of her words. Her mouth curves in just a hint of a smirk, and her thumb presses with more force. "In other words, Miss Swan, if you are good, I will say that you are good." She lets her thumb trace down her lip so she can firmly grasp her chin. "But, if you retaliate, if you refuse to work with me..."

"You'll destroy me." Emma echoes again, only with a little more understanding. It mimics one of their first conversations, Regina's threat going unheard, I will destroy you if it's the last thing I'll do.

Regina smiles and presses her thumb against the little crevice in Emma's chin. "Good girl." The skin along Emma's eyes tighten and her face hardens into anger, smoothing her skin with any unfamiliar lines of distress. It isn't long before she's just touching stone, and with the look in Emma's eyes, she knows this argument has the potential to become something so much more dangerous - so with reluctance, she slides her hand away and slips from the desk. She slides her hands along her dress, smoothing the crinkles, letting herself regain whatever human appearance she has lost in their conversation.

With a snap of her fingers, she points to the paperwork on Emma's desk, "Get it done tonight, Miss Swan." She turns and strides from her office, her skin prickling with excitement. It's only when she leaves the Station does she let it affect her: the short breath and excitable heartbeat. It

courses

through her, and it's such a relief, like a little breeze in the stiff air of heat. She smirks and makes her way back to her office.

-x-

She only has to wait three dial tones before there is a click and a gruff welcome of "What do you want."

Regina doesn't reply right away. She's enjoying this too much. Instead, she shifts her chair closer and keeps her eyes on the budget reports in front of her, moving through the list. Her only movement is the quick and precise stabs of her pen, cutting a few of the already-drowning businesses from her concerns. Finally, just when she thinks Emma will snap at her, she says, "I am thirsty."

Her words are a demand and leave no room for the interpretation of this call. There is a long, silent pause, and Regina almost thinks Emma has hung up on her, but then she hears a long, drawn out sigh and delights in the clear sound of her irritation, "You have got to be kidding me."

"I'm afraid I'm not known for my humor, dear."

There is a low mumbling, and she suspects probably some coarse language, but Emma speaks up to answer her, "No, I imagine not." There's some motion on the other side of the phone Regina strains to hear it, wondering what Emma could possibly be doing that would be creating so much commotion. There's just the sound of her boots clacking against the floor and then the clinking of metal against metal, and then finally - yes, the telltale sound of a dart hitting a board. "And I'm not doing it."

Regina smirks, "Oh, but you are."

Emma sounds unconcerned, and Regina wonders, curiously, after all that's happened between them, if she really isn't scared of her. "And what makes you think that?"

"Do you remember our conversation yesterday?" She smiles and leans back into a relaxed position in her chair. Reviewing over the papers can wait. She's enjoying the harsh sound of the Sheriff's voice far too much to distract herself, "Here, dear, if it helps, I can help you picture the new turn our relationship has taken. Think of yourself as a lapdog. When I say fetch, you fetch, and if you're good, you get a treat." Her lips twitch into a smirk as she waits patiently for Emma's response.

The silence crackles against her ear, but finally, Emma responds with a low, snapping, "Fine." The smile slowly falls from Regina's face and her body deflates a little in disappointment. She thought surely that response would get her a comeback. "Who do you want me to kill?"

Regina frowns, a little startled. "Kill?"

"Yeah, I assume that's in your appetite, the young virginal blood of innocents." She can hear the faint slamming of a door as Emma probably storms out of her office, "Or maybe the hot, fresh blood of your countless cursed victims?"

Regina hums, biting her bottom lip and pulling it in, trying to keep herself from smiling. "Well, Sheriff, today you're off the hook, I in want of something cool and sweet. You may try that new smoothie place that opened up downtown." Picking up her pen again, she remembers something, and smiles, "Oh and Sheriff?"

"Yeah?"

"I'd like something with apples."

Regina thinks that silence will be her only response, but then there's a low voice in her ear that sounds almost like a growl, "Yes, Your Majesty." The words are supposed to bite, but Regina feels the tide of something far away pull her under, a warmth and sudden fierceness that bares its teeth and ramps through her bloodstream. Quickly, she presses the cancel button and tries to ignore it, tries to get back to work, but the words on the paper blurs in her eyes while the words in her head repeats hotly in her ears, repeating again and again in a low voice: Your Majesty, Your Majesty, Your Majesty.

She doesn't entirely remember this feeling, twenty-eight years having dulled down her passion, her wits, and desires, but like a tide that swells around her feet, pulling the ground from beneath her, it pulls her deeper, and it makes her think that maybe it's hunger.

-x-

The days have passed by, forming weeks of undulated control that Regina can wrap around her finger, look at with appreciation, the string that keeps her Sheriff dangling. Regina thinks she enjoys it the more she uses it, tapping into it like a secret box of indulgences - this ability to lord over Emma Swan. Over the last few days, Emma has been at her side like a dog on a leash, either to argue their arrangements or finally fulfill one of her orders. And if they are not together face to face, often, they are on the phone, arguing. It has been about as fun as Regina imagined it would be, and it's a strange occurrence now and days, to feel satisfaction.

Today, however, is a bit of a disappointment. The town has gone through new arrangements and with her new budget cuts, or in other words, a few businesses have plunged into non-existence and she has to file it. They were feeble and only weakening the hard growth of their small town economy, and anyway, their death has helped fertilize the ones surrounding it, helping them expand and breathe with new customers. So Regina doesn't regret it, she's actually quite proud with her townspeople's success, but this absorption of businesses means that new paperwork needs to be filled and registered and organized.

Which means another late night in her office filing. It's not her favorite thing to do, and she regrets the time spent a part from her son, but with a quick call from Emma, she gets the Sheriff to drop her son off at Kathryn's and come in and join her, to speed up the process is her excuse, but the hope is that she won't be alone.

Emma doesn't seem to appreciate her company like Regina does, however. "I don't see how this fits under our agreement." She grumbles as she struggles to stick the tab on yet another manila folder, her fingers trembling with the past two hours of pressing, ripping and eradicating past mistakes on the other files.

"Really?" Regina hums, not even looking up from her work, trying to fit in the name of each establishment and its owner on one little tab. "And how do you suppose that?"

"Um," Emma stills her struggle with remembering the alphabet and looks up at her. ""Maybe the fact that these people just want to make sure I'm following the rules? Me being a good citizen and not stepping out of line doesn't exactly mean I'm your little bitch."

The use of Emma's course language raises an eyebrow, but not her eyes. Those remain trained on her work as she answers, "Actually dear, I think you'll find that it does" Her lips twitch, and she briefly lifts her gaze just in time to see Emma rolls her eyes and return to shuffling uselessly with the files. "If you're not aware, Miss Swan, I am black mailing you. I understand if you've never been black mailed before, but it usually means you are under my thumb until my reign over you is obsolete."

Emma mutters, "Yeah, but this sucks." To express her frustration, she slides two folders apart and tries to fit another one in between them, the corners worn from hitting the sides and metal corners of the cabinet. "I mean, getting you coffee and lunch is one thing, but we've literally been filing papers for more than two hours. There is nothing this important in your office that requires this amount of diligence."

"You'll find that I disagree." Regina presses the tip of her pen forcibly into the paper and sighs, "And it's alphabetical, dear. G is before M."

She can hear Emma's groan of frustration as she shuffles through her papers again, "This is ridiculous. I am probably the worst person you could have asked to help you with this." Emma grumbles out, ticking through the files with impatient fingers, her voice continuing into a low grumble of complaints.

Regina does not usually cave into complaints, especially when they are derived from only self-pity, but even she has to agree that Miss Swan is no master at organization. Its taking its affect on her, the hours of trying to organize something Emma doesn't understand, her hair is beginning to tangle by the amount of times she whisks her fingers through her hair. Through the thin fabric of her shirt, she can see the muscles clench underneath, uncomfortable and seeking a new position.

But Emma doesn't move, and hasn't in a while: she sits on her knees with her toes bent towards each other, shifting through countless papers with only an elbow to support her bent position over the filing cabinet.

It's almost sweet how frustrated Emma is with not being of help to Regina. Oh, Regina knows Emma could probably happily watch her go through countless nights like this, alone and hurting at the joints and ankles, which she usually does, but tonight has allowed for an exception. Still, the little free will she has does not keep her from wanting to be of some use to somebody, even if to the aid of the Mayor. If she had a proper substitute for the real reason Emma is being confined in her office for long, tedious hours, she would explain that Emma certainly doesn't need to stress over whether or not she is being useful - her presence is valued in Regina's indulgence of her, moments that hopefully go unseen. Moments where Regina can look up from her papers and watch Emma's muscles flex underneath her skin, and how her slim, bare arms bend and curve with each motion.

She blames it on the mood. Nighttime has always had such a strange effect on her, when shadows stretch their long fingers across her room and refines the human body into something warm and beautiful and sweet. In the dark, when nothing else can be seen.

"Is there a chance that you're actually going to help me, Madam Mayor?" Emma calls out from her place on her floor, and Regina blinks, stumbling a little ungracefully on her last thought. But, shaking her head, she is able to meet Emma's eyes, raising an eyebrow to the low challenge that rolls in the undercurrent of her voice. "Or is this casual labor meant for just the peasants?"

Regina sighs. "You forget dear, that this peasant's work is often only done by me." Putting down her pen, Regina pushes back her chair and stands up, the corner of her mouth lifting up when Emma looks at her in surprise, obviously not expecting Regina to follow through with her request. She gathers the papers into her hands and tips a pack of manila folders under her arm as she makes her way to Emma, stalling right behind her so that she may enjoy the sensible shiver that jumps under Emma's skin at their proximity.

Bending, Regina smoothly sits right beside Emma, only a little displeased by the cracking of her joints and the unpleasant pinching of her toes as she sits on her heels. But her body is used to this position, it settles into a familiar discomfort as she gently takes the file from Emma's hand and ignores the glare from the other woman. This is the worst part of the filing - the cramped feeling in her bones and how her knees tremble against the hard floor. But she stays. And it has nothing to do with the fact that Emma's leg sometimes presses against her own if she reaches over the filing cabinet, too far; for whatever reason, Regina does not move, forgetting for the moment her domineering position above her.

Emma survives the silence for only a few minutes before she sighs and breaks it again, "So why are we filing these things, anyway?"

Regina doesn't even look up. "Because they need to be filed, Miss Swan."

"Yeah, I know that." Emma bites her lip as she tries to scratch off a tab she put on the wrong way, moving it with her thumb nail. "But don't you have secretaries? Isn't this kind of their only job?"

Regina's nails accidentally scrape against Emma's skin as she rips the tab off for her, and as incidental as it is, she tries to make it seem purposeful with a glare. "I have no use for them. I have someone to record missed calls and keep anyone from barging into my room unannounced. Anything else would suggest laziness."

"Oh, and what does black mailing me to do your biding suggest, then?" The words sound almost playful, though it wouldn't fit the words. Yet, when Regina looks up, she sees the faint glimmer in Emma's eyes, something she has seen countless times before in others, between friends and lovers, suggesting mirth and affection. It's an alluring thought and Regina finds herself leaning towards it.

Her mouth curves into a smirk. "Not laziness."

Emma chuckles, and the faint light they share allows Regina to see the way her face becomes unfamiliar, how the skin crinkles, and the eyes squint, shining with an emotion that is unlike suspicion or anger or callousness, becoming warmer. It loosens something in her chest and Regina feels herself unravel, just a little.

They return to their work, but Regina's attention is not on her hands, her eyes slide away to watch Emma from the side, enjoying the rough profile of her nose and jaw, how her long eyelashes look pale against her skin and that their legs can occasionally brush as they pass each folder to the other's hand. And though she knows she shouldn't, she lets herself indulge in the moment, feeding something that looms just underneath, letting her eyes wander from the strong curve of her nose to the gentle pink of her lips, enjoying the delicious skin that shivers into view, wanting more, always just a little more.

-x-

"Mr. Geyser." Regina sighs and presses her fingers against her temple, "Is there a reason why you are calling me in the middle of my work day?"

She can practically hear the stiffening of the old man's muscles and how his fingers clutch heavily against the phone. "Oh. I'm sorry Miss Mills, I wasn't aware there was another phone you wanted me to contact you on. You only provided your work phone."

"Yes, dear." Her voice falls back into its thick trap, capable of curdling blood or stopping a heart, for a few seconds, "And any other time would have been preferable."

"I'm sorry, Miss Mills. I'll keep that in mind." Regina just nods and waits for the rest to come, looking up, only to sigh in irritation. Her door is wide open. With a quiet hiss, she snaps her fingers to get her receptionists' attention and points to the door when she finally does. The woman jumps with the fear of a startled deer, quickly hurrying to close her office to any eavesdroppers. "But I'm afraid it's very important."

Regina tries to sweeten her voice, trying to break through the block of thick disinterest in the man's obvious concern. "Of course, Mr. Geyser. How can I help."

"I need to talk to Miss Swan."

Regina stiffens. "What?" She hisses and her fingers curl like claws around her phone. She needs something to hold onto, something to keep her still, because she can feel it: the flicker of a rekindled passion, pressing up against her skin. It feels dark and possessive and cruel. "That is not our agreement."

The man clearly hears the change in her voice, the creature that struggles just beneath her facade of being human. She can hear his breath stall in his throat and the nervous ticking of his pen, but she doesn't cover her tracks or try to hide the darkness speared in her voice. "Well. Miss Mills, I'm sorry, bu-but she owes her land lady rent. It's way overdue. I need to speak to her to help make the transfer possible."

She can feel the curve of her lip, but her voice is calmer than it was before. "Send me the bill. I will take care of it."

The man clears his voice, "I'm sorry Miss Mills, but I can't do that." The man's voice is shaky and uncertain, but his words are stronger than he is and Regina knows this time she can't work her fingers under it to roll him over. She resigns, not everything can be changed by her charm or threats.

Pressing her lips together, she sighs, "Fine." Her eyes flicker across her room and trail up the bookcase, watching as the pale sunlight filters in through the window, making all the delicate treasures on her bookcase twinkle with light. Another option comes to her. "I'll send a check to Miss Swan's land lady."

This time the man shows considerable hesitance and Regina feels the soft spot in his words. She can work through it, dig her fingers in and turn him over. Mr. Geyser clears his throat, clearly uncomfortable. "I'm not sure…if that's a good idea, Miss Mills."

She rolls her eyes, but no longer feels threatened. Something settles in her stomach and she slides back into her chair, her limbs loose and relaxed. "I'm not sure what the problem is, Mr. Geyser." Her voice is smooth and sweet, "I will be standing in for Miss Swan's debt. Her rent will be paid. That was your concern, was it not, Mr. Geyser?"

"Yes, it is. Was…but." He sighs and she can hear his flustered movements over the phone, the shuffling paper and moving drawers. Regina doesn't know what he's doing, but she hopes it's has to do with mailing this land lady's address to her and quickening this progress. If not, he's just wasting her time. "I just don't understand why. It's really not necessary."

She has to bite her cheek to keep from snapping. Instead, she slides her words over to him like it's just another document they have to transfer. "Just send me the mailing address and it will be taken care of."

"But why?"

Her voice curls deliciously over her response, "Because Miss Swan is under my supervision." And to anyone else it may sound like simply what she has said, but inside Regina's head, a voice rehashes her meaning and repeats it into what she could have said, what it sounded like, Because Miss Swan is mine.

-x-

"Absolutely not." Emma's voice crackles harshly over the phone.

Regina is driving to pick up Henry from school and drop off his bag of clothes so he can get ready for his basketball game, so, unfortunately, she does not have time to argue with Emma face to face. But even over the phone, she can hear the spine in Emma's voice, the overwhelming pride that makes her what she is, makes her functional, and stand up straight, "Have you already forgotten our agreement?" She thinks she might love dangling it in front of Emma more than actually acting on it.

"I'm not your freaking handyman, Regina." It's pride that makes Emma act out, and Regina doesn't think she'd want to break that. It makes their conversations so much more enjoyable. Regina hums lowly, flicking on her turn signal and slowly sliding into the farthest right lane. Emma is always so amusing. It's been more than a month of their arrangement and Emma still doesn't know her place, after countless runs for lunch items or grocery shopping or even just company - she still reacts with such indignation whenever Regina tells her to do something.

"Dear, you are anything I want you to be." Briefly, she enjoys the dark implications of her words, her mind wandering before she grudgingly adds the rest, "As long as we are under this agreement, at least."

She can hear the frustrated huff over the phone, "Okay, but can I remind you that this is fucking illegal?"

"You can dear.," She smiles and pulls up to the school, turning off the engine. She doesn't get out, though she knows Henry is waiting for her. The clock ticks away her time in bright green numbers on her dashboard and Regina tries to reschedule it. She has a few minutes left, and she wants to extend this conversation, if only for a few more seconds. "But I'll remind you that this is your life, now. Unless you want it to be somewhere else."

Regina knows that despite how much Emma hates this arrangement, she would choose it if faced with its only alternative: away from her son. As infuriating as the thought may be, it's her safety line, the hook that keeps Emma dangling. Parents should give everything to their children, anyway, and as galling as the idea of Emma being any sort of mother to Henry is, sometimes she remembers that love could have been enough, that it would have been enough for her, if it was available, if she had known it better.

"This is bull shit." Emma grumbles and Regina blinks, clearing her head and pressing the phone closer to her ear. Though the phone reception isn't strong, she can still hear Emma sigh and move about in her office, grabbing her jacket and maybe something else she can't recognize over the rustling of Emma's movements and the low buzzing between them.

"Don't worry, dear. I'm sure you will get used to it." She says, though she wouldn't mind if she didn't . She does love these arguments. "It will be a long two years, if you don't."

She's almost surprised by the low sputtering of Emma's voice, "What?"

Her brows crinkle. "You didn't know?" She asks and feels just the littlest twinge of guilt. "It is the details to your own release, Miss Swan." She can hear the silence grow, how it surrounds them both. Two years is a blink of the eye to the decades she has lived, to the slow, monotonous push and pull of a small town world. "You're on their records until you are thirty."

But, to Emma Swan, it must seem like an eternity. The line has becomes silent, but Regina knows it isn't dead. She can hear Emma's breathing on the other side, the slow push of air that means she's far less panicked than she should be. When she speaks again, her words are hidden in a thick layer of confidence that protects her. "I don't think you'll be able to do it." She can hear Emma's smirk.

Well, that's interesting. "What makes you think that, dear?" Regina smiles and leans back into her seat, glancing quickly out through her window just to ensure that her son hasn't started searching for her. His suspicion of her has only grown in the past month, with Emma always at her heels, on the phone or simply passing by; she has seen Henry's resentment harden.

Over the phone, there's the sound of a car sputtering to life and the loud growl of an old engine. Regina expects for Emma to roll off something about morality or something else that Regina supposedly has, an instinctual block that's supposed to keep her from stepping too far into wrongdoings. That's what she prepares herself for, at least, but it's not what she gets.

Emma simply says, "Two years is a long time." And it is, it could be, for Emma, which is probably why she assumes Regina will get bored of her. It's all in her voice, she expects two years to be an unbearable limit to somebody's patience, but to her, it's just a long afternoon in her office. And there is another thing that Emma will not understand about their arrangement – that it's not her compliance that she longs for, but her fight.

Regina hums, "Yes, it is." And it sounds a little too much like relief. It makes the other side of the line go still and for the muscles underneath her skin feel too tight, and like they might prickle, as if she still had magic. She distracts them both. "Do I have to go over the list again, dear?"

There's a grumbling on the other side, but it breaks their moment and Regina is thankful for it. "Nope, I got it."

Regina hums, and says, "Repeat it to me." Because she can, and maybe she simply likes hearing Emma complain.

Emma huffs. "Trim the bushes, clip roses and mow the lawn..." She drifts off, and then with what sounds like a smirk, says: "would you like me to trim the tree, too? It looks could probably use it."

"Do not touch my apple tree." Regina grinds out, feeling her fingers flex over the phone. Perhaps this isn't a good idea. Miss Swan is prone to pranks: the incorrect coffee orders, the bleach stains on her favorite shirt, the mango smoothie when she had clearly asked for peach. She really doesn't need to come home and see only a stump where her gorgeous tree had stood.

"Yeah, alright." Emma chuckles, but it doesn't make Regina feel any better. She can't dwell on it, however. Her dashboard is flashing with the bright green numbers of her clock, warning her that she is approaching a dangerous territory with her son. Never one to say goodbye, she simply pulls the phone from her ear and is about to end the call when Emma's voice drifts out again. It's just a mumble of words that she doesn't understand. Confused, Regina keeps her thumb hovering over the button and only moves it again when she hears the soft confusion in Emma's voice, drifting out again with words she can't quite decipher in the silence.

She raises the phone back to her ear. "I'm sorry, dear, what was that?"

Emma's voice is more hesitant than she has ever heard it before, and it makes her press the phone close. "Don't you like tending to your garden? Henry says that you do."

Her voice is curious and actually kind of sweet, and maybe Regina is more touched than angered that Henry talks about her to Emma, and rather seeing just a name and a picture and the hand that holds her back, Emma connects her to a relatable person with hobbies and routines and disappointment of her own.

It makes Regina forget for a moment that she's supposed to be leaving and lean against her seat, "I do, actually." She smiles, and Emma hums as she muddles around in her car, the familiar sound of a gear sliding into place coming through the phone. There is also the faint sound of the FM radio and some broadcasters' voice that is only a little familiar warns them about the change in the weather. "I guess I just haven't had the time."

"That sucks." Emma agrees and Regina rolls her eyes, but smiles a little anyway. "I thought it looked pretty. When I'm not destroying it, at least." She chuckles, but her voice sounds friendly, so Regina doesn't think she is meant to feel threatened. "Where are you, anyway?"

Regina hums, remembering it herself, "Henry has a basketball game." She breathes out as she unlocks her door, cracking it open so she can feel the cool air brush across her face. It smells salty and faintly like orchids, the flowers finally deciding to bloom. It was the only variation in her life before Henry, how the flowers always decided on their own whether or not they would grow.

"Henry has a basketball game?" Emma repeats in surprise, and Regina realizes her mistake, sensing the faint desperation to be included, for Regina to open the invitation and defy the only rules she has ever made for herself: to keep the things that are hers, at whatever cost. "Can I come?"

It sends a prickling anger across her skin. It sets her teeth on edge and makes her jaw clench. But the strangest part of it, before all of that, is that Regina almost considers it. It's all because of Emma's voice, the yearning she can clearly pick out in her words. It makes her body want to bend, as if she were something soft and pliable, as if she could melt like warm clay into somebody else's hands.

And it makes her so angry that she has to remind herself that she is the one in power. "Miss Swan, do I need to remind you of your place?"

The moment her voice becomes hostile, it changes the moment between them, changes Emma, changes her, as well. And Regina hates that she is mourns it, the moment they shared, the one she has to discard because Emma Swan couldn't keep her mouth shut. She can hear Emma's jaw snap shut, and it frustrates her so much, hearing the hard resentment in her words, "No, I got it, Madam Mayor. I'm the lap dog."

"Good." Regina snaps, running her hands through her hair. She is stepping from her car when she realizes that she can't hang up, that she can't let it end like this. She's talking before she even completely knows what she's about to say. "You will stay there until I return, is that understood?"

"Wait, like at your house?" Emma stammers, and then a sigh forces back the irritation in her words, only half hiding the nervousness. "Well, when will you be back?"

"I'm not sure, Miss Swan. That's not something you should worry about." She's gripping Henry's bag too tightly and she thinks maybe she should stall just a little bit more, because she still can't end her call, and for some reason Emma won't either. And as ridiculous as it is, she thinks maybe it is because Emma's voice had sounded so soft, so sweet that she decided she wanted more of it, wanted to hear more, and she can't let go of it yet, because she doesn't know how to do that yet, after all these years of living. So, despite everything that she is, Regina finds herself giving a little more, bending. Her voice is soft. "I haven't worked in my garden for more than a month, it may take you a few hours to finish, but Henry's game won't take too much longer. We may finish at the same time, and I doubt it will be before dark."

"Fine." Emma's voice is closed off and obviously just wanting for the conversation to end so Regina snaps "Fine." back and stabs the cancel button, because she is better than thisand slides the cell deep into her purse so she doesn't have to think about it, or the unhappy flush in her stomach.

She slips into the gym and sees Henry far off in the corner, resting his shoulders against the locker room door, his head tilted to the ceiling as though he's trying to count the dots on the tiles. The knots in her stomach loosens and Regina smiles a little, walking closer and shifting the duffle bag in front of her like a peace treaty to the incoming argument they will surely have. It's all they ever have, now and days, but Regina still thinks it's better than the cold, stony silence that have lead up to this, the cold glares and eyes that looked up with only resentment.

"Henry," Regina smiles and her son looks up with a mix of irritation and relief. For a moment, she thinks the relief might be directed at her, and it makes her heart beat a little faster. But then he grabs his bag, and everything else moves away, shifting behind his face so all that is left is just his disappointment.

"You're late." Henry frowns and looks at her with suspicion that he doesn't bother to hide anymore. It makes her feel like she's sinking in cement, like her whole body is weighed down by his anger. Especially when she can still remembers when it wasn't there, back when he thought she was made just for him, the mother she forced herself be, and not the monster that haunted his dreams.

She reaches for his chin and is glad when he doesn't jerk it away, allowing her to press her fingers against his soft skin. "I'm sorry, Henry. I was held up." She tries to restrain the feelings inside, the ones that jump up in a confused jumble with the mentioning of what exactly kept her busy. "Are you excited for your big game?"

Henry just shrugs and looks down at his bag, fiddling with the bag until it completely unzips and he can make sure everything is securely packed and pressed into order. She bends a little to watch him, hoping to see something like happiness, but she knows better – she did raise him. His face remains still and watchful – and as frustrating as it is, she always did like his focus, how he can sit and watch as though he is a small animal taking notice of his surroundings within his small burrow of a body, just two large eyes from underneath ground watching everything unseen, keeping everything in memory.

She knows his watchful nature; she knows his suspicions and his anger. So she's not that surprised when after he zips everything up again, he turns to her with those big, brown eyes and stares, watching her keenly. He frowns, "What are you doing to Emma?"

She's not surprised, but it's almost effortless to act like it. It's purely on impulse now, to react with lies, to speak them like truths, to live in them like homes. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Henry."

Her son doesn't look away from her. He just shoulders the little strap and stares up at her like he's trying to figure out the last word to his cross puzzle. "You put a spell on her, didn't you?" His voice is hard with accusation, but his face is still soft with that boyish fat and brown hair that curls around his ears.

"I did not put a spell on her." Regina sighs and is glad, for once, it isn't a lie. But the truth isn't any better, is it?

Henry presses his lips together and regards her seriously. Regina doesn't dare reach out for him this time, knowing if she did, it would be quickly brushed off. There is the sound of the whistle in some far away distance and Regina's eyes dart down the hall anxiously, wondering what would be worse: if Henry missed his game or if he didn't, and left her with that familiar ache in her chest, throbbing like a heart. With a small smile, Regina tries to step closer, but she doesn't get any closer - Henry knows her patterns and steps away from her as though he is pushed by gravity. "She's always with you now. People think she likes you, but I know you're just trying to trick her, like you did with everyone else. You can't love her. You can't love anything."

The words shake something in her, and maybe it's just the way Emma has managed to reach through her and pull at things that aren't meant to be touched, aren't meant to be reached, she feels something tremble inside at his words, something more than hurt or anger or frustration, something that aches with a familiarity she thought maybe she once had. It's what makes her take the few steps between them and press down on one knee, grasping at his chin and keeping his eyes on hers.

"I can love." She feels the words run along her tongue as they leave, and they taste bitter in her mouth, and it makes her stomach clench and her fingers dig into Henry's small chin. "I can love." She repeats, because it stuns her to find that it's not a lie that her mouth isn't filling with the sweetness that comes with her way of life, the way she hides. It's bitter and truthful and tastes like metal.

He watches her for a few minutes, his eyes sliding from side to side, from eye to eye, looking at her with the seriousness Regina thinks he must have been born with. Her reasons for hiding her heart were wanderlust in their pursuit for power, but she thinks maybe, even though there is nothing to perpetrate it, that love finds new ways, force new paths through a body without prior experience.

Maybe it is not the love Henry wants, or the type of love anybody would want – it feels thick and hot and uncomfortable, and it makes her wonder if she even wants it, sitting angrily in the gap she has made in her chest, having forced its way through her, finding new passageways, new veins to travel and new ways to make her miserable.

But when Henry tips his chin to escape her grip, he looks at her with something new in his eyes, something like disbelief, something like hope, something that makes her knees tremble and feel weak against the floor. She watches as he shoulders his bag and walks down the hallway, burdened and confused, but looking over his shoulder at her before disappearing through the door.

She eventually finds a way to stand again, shoving pieces inside of herself so that she can function again, walking unevenly to the gymnasium so that she can settle weakly against the wall and watch her son dribble to half-court. It takes all of her will-power not to think of Miss Swan again, and she's thankful when she sees Kathryn nervously settle beside her, luring her attention into things that don't matter so that the things that do can disappear for just a little while longer.

When the game is over, Henry is too excited with his involvement in their grade's winning score that he forgets that he is supposed to be angry at her and talks excitably through the whole car drive. He even makes swooshing gestures and sound effects, and it sounds so much like the boy she used to know that Regina feels herself holding on too tightly to her steering wheel, fighting back the urge to cry. It's been a strange night. But as she pulls up to the house, she rests her hand on Henry's back and he doesn't shrug it off or run away, they walk side-by-side to the house in comfortable silence.

Opening the door sends a trill of panic through her, however. She remembers that she had asked Emma to stay until they came home and watches with wide eyes as her son dashes through the house. If he finds her in the house, this would surely ruin whatever she has gained in the past few hours. Especially if Miss Swan is still angry at her. If they argue, these conditions Regina has created will be exposed and Henry will side with Emma and she will just be their Evil Queen.

She doesn't have to worry for too long, though. Before she can even step fully into her house, Henry comes bounding out of the bathroom in just his sleepwear, dashing up the stairs with a hurried, "Night, mom." It's a relief and it makes her limbs loose and relaxed. She closes the door behind her blindly, hearing it click into place.

Hopefully Emma did decide to stay – Regina was hoping she could reason with her, that there is no reason to let just a little bit of bad blood spoil what they have fallen into. As strange as it is, Regina likes to think that they had struck up a certain pattern, a routine way to speak to each other, and it's oddly friendly and enjoyable. It's an anomaly to the town, but Regina wants to keep it.

With a small, calming breath, she runs her fingers through her hair and smooths it just behind her ears. She might as well look presentable. She follows the impulse of her fingers to the state of her dress and quickly smooths out its crinkles.

Walking into the kitchen, she's disappointed to find it empty. She tries out the rest of her house, peeking through rooms and empty hallways. But, by the time she finds herself back in her kitchen, she is still alone and sulking, already hoping to intercept Emma on her way home so she can just see how she managed the very nerve of it.

From the corner of her eye, however, she catches just the slightest of movement and she turns with it, squinting through the dark window to see the flash of white and the glint of metal through its hazy glass. In just a few hasty steps, she's opened the window and leaned outside, her hair fluttering with the salty breeze and her eyes squinting from its strain. "Miss Swan?"

The sun has descended past the buildings, but the sky is still a pale orange, filling the bottom of wispy clouds with finger like streaks. But it's enough light to see the curve of a hunched figure, crouching over her shrubs. At her voice, Emma starts to stand, the slow move of a spine straightening out severely slowing down her pace.

Regina can't help but smile with the sight of her, though. She's dressed up in her red gardening gloves, dirt streaking across her wrists and knees, her hair pinned up messily atop her head. From this distance, she can't tell if Emma is smiling or grimacing, but as she watches her amble across the lawn and up the steps, she thinks she might have seen something pleasant and warm settle across the woman's face, the sun making her skin shine like honey and look flushed with its colors.

"Don't track dirt in." Regina orders, but gently presses her hand against Emma's back as she enters, leading her to a stool beside her kitchen's island. As Emma tries to take off her gardening gloves, Regina takes note of the rosy red of her cheeks and the dry cracks along her lower lip. Pressing her lips together, Regina moves in a flutter of movements across her kitchen, taking out the pitcher of water, a single glass and a block of frozen ice from the freezer, cracking each cube from its container, working quickly seeing as the obliviously dehydrated woman wasn't about to get any water for herself.

When Regina sets the glass in front of her, Emma sighs with appreciation, already gulping it down thirstily. She's relevantly successful, seeing as most of the water reaches her mouth, but Regina sees no harm in appreciating the small stream of water that runs down her chin and mixes with the sweet salt of her skin. It's a journey from her mouth to the path along her neck to jaunting collarbones before disappearing beneath a somewhat familiar shirt.

Very familiar. Frowning, she looks at the needlework, the black buttons and the silky collar. Pressing her lips together, Regina regards the shirt with barely concealed skepticism. Rolling her eyes, she looks back up at an obviously smug Emma Swan, hiding her smile just below the lip of her water glass.

"Did you enjoy my shirt, Miss Swan?" She sighs and watches as the corner of Emma's mouth curves up into a very alluring smile.

"I did." Emma's fingers run teasingly along the cuffs of her shirt. Regina regards her with narrowed eyes, but doesn't dare tell her to take it off – that is a demand that would only backfire. She has come to understand Emma a little more through their arrangement, and she finds that Emma's confidence is something that thrives off the discomfort of others, and with Regina, it would too easy to get the upper hand if she catches her flustered, as she surely would be with the sight of Emma stripping the shirt off right in front of her, with bare skin and only a bra. So she bites her tongue and keeps her words trapped inside her mouth.

Though, she can't say she's entirely displeased. With Emma's long torso and bold shoulders, her shirt fits almost perfectly around her, hugging to the smooth curve of her back and the bulge in her arms.

"So." Emma drifts off and Regina looks up as she takes another sip, looking at her from the top of her glass. She raises an eyebrow and Emma shifts a little on her seat. "I stayed."

The corner of her mouth curves up at that. "You did."

Emma regards her with a look that is almost identical to Henry's, with a smooth forehead and thin lips, she keeps most of her confusion restrained to just her eyes while the rest of her hides it in smooth motions and a tick of a smile – it looks playful, but she shows no teeth and Regina hasn't known her long enough to determine if that is good or not. "Is there a particular reason why?"

Because you have no choice, is quite clearly the obvious answer, but that's not what Regina says; either to ensure the repair of their arrangement or because Regina hopes it's not entirely true, she's not sure. "We ended our conversation in an unpleasing way." She runs her tongue nervously along the back of her teeth and hides it with a smile. "I wanted to make sure you didn't think of any creative ways to pay me back."

Emma's mouth ticks up and she rolls her eyes. "Well I didn't destroy your tree, if that's what you mean." Regina hadn't even thought of it, but with a panicked glance to her window, she is assured in the familiar bend of her apple tree. Through the window, she can see how it tilts to the side, its branches reaching out clumsily to the sky. "And anyway, stealing your clothes is so much easier."

"Yes," Regina can't help but sigh with her relief, dragging her eyes back to Emma. "I can deal with a few missing shirts." She concedes and watches as the steel in Emma's shoulders start to relax, melting into the rest of her body, forgiving (or at least forgetting) the stress that had worked itself in her muscles.

Regina watches this closely, and thinks, maybe, that she is being forgiven. The idea fills her with warmth and makes her lean into the counter with whatever relief she allows herself to feel – that is, until Emma lifts her limbs in tired, sore movements and makes to stand from her seat, just barely hiding a yawn from her cupped hand. It's all in movements familiar to her, motions that indicate an escape route, ways in which Henry has escaped evenings with her and other dinner guests have retired to their own homes without the pains of any further interaction.

It makes an impulse jump from her mouth, all in the form of words. "Would you like to stay, Miss Swan?" The words sound so unfamiliar to her, but it is her mouth that moves, and it's her voice that she recognizes, so she puts claim to what she says with just the smallest of smiles, toeing the line of a shyness she hasn't felt in years. Emma blinks in surprise. Before Regina can even see the minute desire to escape, she interrupts again, "I can make you dessert."

This gets Emma's full attention. Regina watches as she becomes something else underneath her eyes, her face softening and the skin around her eyes and mouth crinkling as a small pleasant smile makes its way on her face. It makes her look oddly youthful. "Is this a favor, Madam Mayor?" Emma's expression hardens a little and she tips her head in apprehension. "I didn't think dogs got special treatment."

Regina clears her throat and jerks her chin away, trying to ignore the sudden flush of displeasure. "Well, you can clean the kitchen afterwards, if it makes you feel uncomfortable." Emma's expression doesn't change other than a small twitch in her eyebrow, as though waiting for something else, and Regina knows her future company relies on what she says next. It should be an insult. She should feel offended that Emma feels like she can control this situation at all. She is underneath. She is under Regina's control. But she can't help it. She feels her spine bending, how she moves with the impression of Emma's expectations. She sighs and her mouth curves in a small, shy smile. "Maybe I like dogs more than most others."

Too much. She gave too much. Emma is looking at her with raised eyebrows, and the small parted curve of her mouth is widening, and Regina's cheeks are the color of a rose, just to make it all worse.

Regina is about to dissolve this entire circumstance and kick Emma out when she looks up to see Emma settling back into her chair, her bottom hitting the seat a little more unevenly this time. "Okay." Emma mutters quietly, speaking through the hand that is curled around her lips. But Regina sees through the gaps of her fingers the warm shyness that colors her cheeks and pulls on her mouth, filled with something close to gratitude.

She no idea what she is doing, but when Regina turns around and bends to pick a few pans from her bottom shelf, she feels oddly content, as though she hadn't just slipped on her thin, hollow slate of power and allowed Emma to control her from underneath. She should feel ashamed, but there is nothing but the warm tickling that passes through her body, an excited flush of something else, a new type of heaviness, unconcerned with her loosening grip on the lives she in her hands.

They settle into a comfortable silence, one disturbed only by the sounds of cooking, of pans being set out as bowls are filled with mixing utensils. Dusk falls softly and it fills the room with a pale silvery light. Flour coats Regina's fingers as she preps and prods a complying ball of dough into a texture and shape of her liking.

It's only when she has it all rolled out and trying to pinch it with her fingers when Emma finally breaks her silence. "So if I am going to stay here with you, that means I can use your bath, too, right?"

"Of course not." Regina says simply and doesn't even look up, pushing her prepared pan to the side so she can grab the sweetened mixture of apples, caramelized with sugar and cinnamon. She mixes them again, adding just a dash of salt as she whisks them into the right color: a light amber, if done correctly. Her wrist aches with the effort, moving in quick redundant circles.

Emma leans her elbows onto the counter and watches her. "Or, I will, and you will graciously show me the way."

Regina doesn't move her head, but her eyes flicker up to look up, and from this angle she is certain she looks menacing. But Emma doesn't even blink, her mouth pinned into a cute, teasing smile. Regina sighs and pauses, feeling the ache in her wrist. "And how do you figure that, dear?"

Emma just shrugs, tilting her head to the side to watch her with a barely suppressed smile. "Because I missed my chance at getting a warm shower at Mary Margret's apartment. Though, it was very worth hearing you try to apologize for being such an asshole, I stink of fertilizer, sweat and probably my own blood." The skin around Emma's eyes crinkle and through the pink lips and white teeth, she can see the poke of a tongue that she bites, a smile that Regina has never seen before, sweet and playful and childish.

The ground she is standing on is crumbling, her power, it is slipping and everything that she holds onto is in danger, but still, through this threat, Regina can feel herself bend, her spine malleable like hot, fresh cement, vulnerable to the softness in Emma, hiding in the corners of her mouth and in the flush in her cheeks and the smile that she can give so willingly.

It makes her sigh and return that young smile with a tired one of her own, sweeping her hand to the stairwell as Emma grins and stands up to follow the directions. And just to assure she doesn't get lost, she calls after, "Up the stairs and to your left, dear. And don't use all of my conditioner, it is running low."

She watches Emma climb the stairs, watching until she is out of sight. Things are getting out of control. Out of her reach. She thinks maybe Emma is better at manipulating than she first gave her credit for, and maybe it is genuine, maybe Emma keeps accidently finding her weak spots, but it doesn't make it any less menacing.

The apple turnover is ready and being pulled out of the oven when it occurs to Regina that Emma did not bring any fresh clothes to change into, and that she probably won't want to change into her dirty clothes after such a long and luxurious shower. Rolling her eyes, Regina takes off her oven mitts and quickly punctures the pastry with a wooden taster to see if it is as perfectly cook as it smells before quickly untying her apron and turning towards the stairwell.

She has an old sleep shirt and left over boxers from when Graham had stayed over a lifetime ago when she hears the shower turn off. It's all that she plans on doing, just knocking on the door and telling her where she put the clothes, but when she takes her last step and has her hand pressed against the door, instead of knocking, she feels her knuckles brushing against the wood as it reaches for the handle instead, wrapping around the cool metal and pulling with the success of an unlocked door.

Steam brushes across her face and blinds her for a moment, but as she pushes the door farther, it quickly dissipates and lets her vision clear to the familiar curve of the bathtub lip and the checkered bathroom tiles.

She finds Emma with her back turned to her. Blonde hair sticks to her skin, slick with water; it drips off her hair and rolls off her skin, and as she moves, the press of her spine becomes visible against the smooth curve of her back. Her skin is a milk paleness now, in the months of Storybook, the color of the sun has been slowly sapped from her flesh, but it remains warm; simply looking at it gives Regina the heat of a sun she hasn't felt in the warmest of summers. Her mouth goes dry and her mind stalls like an old car engine, her hands dropping to her sides.

Something pulls in her chest, and she takes a step forward, her heel clicking against the tile. Her body hums with a want she can't resist any longer, wanting this, wanting more, wanting the heat of Emma's skin against hers. She makes only a few more steps before the sound is noticed and Emma jumps, whipping around to look behind her, her eyes wide and confused as they stare at Regina.

And Regina can't hide it in time. The want. The desire. What usually hid behind a tight lock and key came swirling in a hazy cloud in her eyes, tightening her mouth and moving her muscles, carrying her the few steps to the bathtub, her calves pressing against the cool marble lip. She watches the way Emma's eyes flicker and how her mouth tightens as she regards the situation, something hardening every part of her expression.

She knows Emma can see it, the bare, naked want. The desire that ramps through her bloodstream and pools in her dark eyes and prickles across her skin, an animal of its own, wild, untamed and for the first time, unrestrained. Looking up into the dark grey eyes above her, she can see her own want reflects back - the dark mist of her eyes, barely visible in Emma's own, but it still sends a shiver across her skin, almost in terror.

Emma moves, and for a moment, a delicious, breathless moment, she thinks Emma is about to kiss her. But when she feels skin brush against her own, it's not with a kiss, but only in passing, Emma's shoulder brushing against hers as she hurriedly steps out of the tub, bending to pick up the clothes Regina has dropped on the floor and hastily departs. Regina is left frozen in that breathless moment: with Emma's shoulder pressing against her own as she tries to escape; it makes her neck stiff and her eyes hard as she stares wordlessly across the now empty bathtub, the water still filled to the top, still smelling faintly of roses and scented soap.

She doesn't flinch at the sound of the door closing, though she's sure everything inside of her moves with the sound, unseen, they clench and coil and knot into unrecognizable shapes, hurt and humiliated.

Regina has pushed lands apart and created prisons in the shape of new life, kept everyone she has ever hated into their confined cells, locked away into a world they believe to be their own. They follow her lead and bend to her will, and they stay, their misery shackled with her own. But while she is good at taking prisoners, the fact remains that Regina has never been able to hold onto the people that she wants to stay, the people she likes, the people she could love, if ever she knew how to become anything more than their prison.

-x-

"You've been spending a lot of time with the Sheriff, lately." Regina's eyebrows tick up in surprise as she raises her head to look at the man above her. He looks as he always has, with his easy, gummy smile and glassy eyes, but he's carrying a notebook and fidgeting with a pen and acting as though he hadn't just tried to nonchalantly bring up the subject that has been dined on in every table conversation and chewed on in every coffee house and gossip group.

But Sydney is wrong. She hasn't seen the Sheriff lately, at all. Not since two nights ago, but still, the town chews on gossip until there is only just the bones that remain. And still they pursue.

"Mr. Glass. It's nice to see you." She smiles thinly, but returns to her tree, reaching above her again to tug delicately on one of the firmer looking fruits. It falls easily into her palm, its skin a healthy sheen of red and it is just as welcoming as it has always been: the smell of apples in the warmth of the day. "Have you ever tasted anything so wonderful as an apple grown in your own backyard?"

Sydney doesn't answer and Regina doesn't look to see if he is uncomfortable. She presses her lips softly against the apples skin before tucking it away into her basket. It's getting heavier to carry so she shifts it to her other arm, moving deeper into her tree's branches to ignore how Sydney walks silently beside her, waiting by her side, tugging closer, always closer, like he's attached to her by a string.

He holds his hands behind his back and clears his throat. "I only ask because I feel it is my duty to be informed about your life. As your friend."

"Of course, Sydney." Regina repeats the old dry script between them and manages to turn just in time to see his eyes flash with excitement, how his white teeth glimmer too brightly in his mouth. "Though, I prefer it when my friends don't record every word that I say to sell to their next buying audience." When she looks up again, Mr. Glass has already shifted into his other form, his big smile shrinking into tightly pressed lips that hide his nervousness, his eyes flickering to the floor, to the tree stump or to her legs, but anything but her eyes.

Regina closes her eyes for a moment, exhausted by his anxiousness, how quickly these people bend to her – it's all just an act, their confidence is just a thin layer of skin that hides the nervousness just underneath it all, looking out of them like a burrowing animal in the earth. Her desire to talk to others in this town has been dictated by Regina's only other desire, to escape them.

She hates how she misses Miss Swan. It's something she has to struggle down, dig her fingers into its spine until it can buckle and fall back down again. But it's always there, just a breath away, in her thoughts and in the mindless wanderings of her words, she finds her way back to Emma. It's only been two day since that night, and the humiliation is still as fresh and painful as it was in the second Emma brushed by her in her haste to leave.

Avoiding her is strangely easy, which makes it all the more difficult. All it takes is for Regina not to call her anymore, follow her or demand her company, and Emma's presence is nonexistent. And maybe that's the most humiliating part of it all. That that's all it takes to avoid Emma, is to keep from demanding her presence, and it's hard not to do so, even with her embarrassment still so fresh and gaping inside.

Pressing her lips together, Regina breathes through her nose and reaches up to cup another fruit, feeling the firm skin against her fingers as she twists it from a branch. Her basket is getting too heavy to carry on her own, so she figures this will be the last one. Kathryn probably doesn't need this many apples, it's just one apple pie, but Regina has many give and had gathered them quite absently.

Walking to her back gate, she reaches up to lift the small metal latch and pushes the door open until it can give way to the small cobble stone path behind it, leading to Main Street. Sydney follows her mindlessly, holding his hands behind his back as he wanders just a few feet behind her, his designer shoes making an unpleasant clicking sound along the loose stones.

He continues to speak, and Regina finds that she only ever half-listens to what others have to say. "I hope you understand. Being the only newspaper in town, there is a lot of pressure to get the stories that people want to read. With the recent development between you and the Sheriff, we are all curious"

The basket digs into her skin, and she moves it higher absently. "I hardly see how this is anyone's business, Sydney."

"Of course." Sydney quickly concedes, his brow creased with worry as he nods. They walk along the road in near silence, the shifting of rocks between them and the cracks of leaves beneath their feet. If Regina closes her eyes, she can almost imagine herself alone…or maybe, just someone else walking beside her. Mr. Glass clears his throat. "I was just hoping…"

"Nothing is going on between myself and Miss Swan, is that understood?" Regina bites out between bared teeth, tossing her head to issue a glare in his direction, "Now, if you still want to still have a paper to write, you will carry this basket to Kathryn." Looking around, she is pleased to see that they have already reached the cement of the city's sidewalks. "She is having a bake sale and had asked for some contributions."

She lifts the basket and effortlessly slips it into Sydney's awaiting arm, bending to her will without his command. "Oh." Sydney blinks as he struggles with the weight of the basket on his own. "May I ask why you are not bringing it to her yourself?"

Regina huffs and tosses her hair out of her way, "I am very busy, Mr. Glass. I can't be expected to run all of my errands." She says, but presses the soft pads of her fingers along the bruising skin on her arm. She hasn't had to carry anything in a while, and her skin is sensitive and soft, having grown used to the pampered care of having someone else do all of the heavy lifting.

She is already turning to amble back up the cobbled path when she hears the mumble from behind her, "Why not call Emma to do it for you?" She pauses and feels a heavy hand of dread press down on her stomach, the flash of humiliation sparking through the sore and tender spots in her bones. Anger is very quickly behind it, though, and she covers for her breathlessness by quickly turning around to face the already trembling form of Sydney Glass, quick snarl of hatred on her lips.

"Must I remind you of your position, Sydney? If you ever speak to me in that manner again, the last thing you will be writing is your resignation letter, dear." Regina's words are stripped of any humanly softness, left with just the sharp bones of her true self, the anger and the loathing that holds tighter than anything else she has ever known.

Sydney's impulsive bravery has already dissolved and left him shackled again by the cowardice that has gripped him his entire life one that keeps him from meeting her eyes, the nervousness forming around his mouth and clouding his eyes into the shady submission Regina has only ever known of him.

"Got here just in time." Regina stiffens, every muscle in her body becoming stone under her skin. "Are you giving your dog speech? That's my favorite." She forces herself to look over Sydney's hunched shoulder and meet the dark grey eyes of the person she has tortured herself with, like an instrumental knife, pulling the blade along her side, her very image makes her shiver.

Her eyes are calm and Regina wishes desperately she can peek into that skull of hers, the one that surely has her thoughts in a disorganized display. But she is but a slate of skin, with eyes that do not leave hers. They capture her like a trap hidden along the leaves, she's stepped too far and gotten strung in the nets and barbed wire. Emma steps closer and Regina has to keep herself from physically retreating.

"What are you doing here?" She tries to keep her voice as authorative as possible, as blank of the real emotion just underneath, the humiliation, the fear, the anger, and god, the hope, as well.

"I needed to speak to you."

She can feel Sydney's interests being peeked. She can almost feel the story he is writing inside his head, his fingers itching to tap that recorder strapped in his belt and step back so the scene can unroll as naturally as possible. The vile snake.

She lifts her chin and makes herself feel strong with that stance, as if she doesn't care that she's practically bent in half wanting another chance to explain. "I have nothing to say to you."

Emma's eyebrows raises and she just looks so knowing that the humiliation Regina has tried to wrestle down is nearly just as unavoidable as the tight clenching in her chest. She knows it can be seen, the flash of embarrassment and the quickly chasing anger that follows it. But she can't hide it, and she certainly can't do this. Not now, not with Sydney two steps away, and with her still feeling so humiliated, with her pride having been slashed when she once thought it was unbreakable.

She looks to Sydney and nods, "Take that to Kathryn." Her eyes are a warning of itself, and when she passes her gaze to Emma, she stares until she can feel herself harden again, feel strong enough to leave. "I have nothing to say." She says again, forgetting the blade in her voice so it sounds soft. She's almost surprised by the way Emma reacts, how her eyes soften and the tight press of her lips part, how she steps closer, as if she wants to stop her, as if this conversation they will have will be anything more than mortification.

But Regina doesn't let herself stay. She already has her back to them and is ambling back up the old pathway, trying to forget how wildly her heart beats. How she waits to hear if anyone is following her. But nobody does, and she knows that her relief is also disappointment, as it always seems to be.

-x-

Regina has spent the late afternoon in her office. She's supposed to be touring the local businesses today, to chart their growth and make any revisions, if possible. But she hasn't seen Miss Swan in a few days now, and she's sure she can make it a bit longer if she is careful. It was easy before, when Miss Swan evidently didn't want to see her. But now, it seems Regina is always looking behind her shoulder, just to make sure Emma hasn't caught up to her, yet.

She avoids certain roads now, walk ways that she knows are a part of Emma's every day routine: there is the general route to and from work, the roads she takes when paroling the streets, and the occasional walk to Granny's for lunch or dinner, when she has time. It began with just avoiding certain street names, or public places, but when Emma became creative and started branching out into unsearched territories, (even walking around her home), Regina did too – she started staying indoors.

Shame floods through Regina as she drops her eyes to her computer screen again. Her fingers are poised over the keyboard, and though it is as simple as a formal apology to the business managers she's cancelling today on, it feels as though she is trying to prepare a full apology to the rest of her body, an explanation as to why she's stalled, and still, and gone into hiding over a girl. But even that she couldn't write up, poised and ready, she still would be without words, without a way to explain where she went wrong.

It had been so simple before, in those easy years before Miss Swan, before the clock started to tick, before her mistakes began to be remembered – before, when the only other person she had to worry about remembering if she snapped was Henry, and as a small child, he forgave her misgivings easily, without thought or precaution.

Miss Swan will not, though. She had seen her open and bare, broken free of the thin sheet of her act. She saw what lied beneath: the loneliness, the hunger, the want. Now Regina has no idea how to cover herself up – she has revealed the stitches along her sides and down her back, the ones that make up the mask of Mayor Regina Mills, to cover to up the thing she has really become.

"A lonely, foolish woman." Regina growls and slips her hands from her desk, leaning against her chair for a moment of support. She lets her eyes fall close and lays her head against the back of her chair, listening to the quiet ticking of the clock above her head.

She has counted only two minutes of the ticking when suddenly the doors slam open and she snaps up with stiff limbs to watch a confident Emma Swan stride well into the center of her room with a very flustered receptionist follow right behind her; the poor woman's skin is a cherry red and she keeps bouncing her eyes from Emma to Regina with terror. "Miss Swan, I told you, already! If you do not have an appointment, you ca-"

"Yeah, Yeah, I know." Emma just waves the rest of it away, her eyes trained on Regina. "But I already told you that I'm not leaving until I talk to the Mayor, here."

Her receptionist huffs and looks like she might actually be considering trying to physically remove Emma Swan from her office; it could be amusing to watch, but it wouldn't last long enough to really please anyone. It would end before it began: Miss Swan has a body built of hardships and her receptionist is a princess to a country who can only think good thoughts of her.

With a sigh, Regina scoots her chair back and positions herself straighter and as more composed than what they both briskly walked into. "It's fine, dear."

"But…" Her receptionist presses her lips together and glares at Emma. "You have an appointment in ten minutes."

Impatient, Regina waves her away, "Yes, dear. I'll try to remember my own schedule." She watches as the tops of the woman's cheeks flush as she turns on her heels and quickly darts out of the room. Looking over to Emma, she is impressed by her ability to swallow the nervousness that clutches around her throat and manage one quick command with an indifferent wave of her hand, "Close the door, dear."

Emma does so without complaint. But when she turns around, her eyes are cool and attentive, watching her like a cat with its prey. Regina manages to return the stare, but none with the confidence that Emma surely feels.

"You wanted to speak to me?" Her fingers tremble, so she folds her hands together and keeps them still.

"Yeah, I did." Her voice is cool and soft and much too similar to a mask, covering everything that could semblance emotion. The smooth plane of her forehead crinkles, and she shrugs, "I'm not much for words though."

"I can tell, dear." She says because insults are her way to escape this conversation.

Emma rolls her eyes. "Right, because you are so much better." Her voice is a mocking and she presses her lips together in a shape that makes Regina want to shift in her chair, her ankle rolling anxiously beneath her desk, her body coiling in stress. "You haven't said much in the past week." Emma challenges, "You've been hiding from me." The words pull at Regina like a puppet string, and she hates that she reacts so quickly.

"I have not." She feels the affronted scoff bubble in her throat and regrets it a heartbeat later. She knows what denial is, and how quickly it can point out truth. She sighs, because she is far better at lying than this. But she is being held together by small metal pins, the denial and fear of humiliation makes her move with a stiffness that is completely unfamiliar to her. Finally, she sighs. "Why are you here, Miss Swan?"

"Because you want me." Emma says simply, stepping closer without even the slightest inclination that she understands the power of her words.

Regina stiffens. It catches her off guard – she had expected Emma to roll off her many offenses, not dive into the very heart of it all without thought or even a subtle inclination. She isn't prepared to handle this situation. People have chased after her for decades with new sharp accusations in hopes of keeping her bound and locked away, in shame or in prison, but their offense is lost if they can be proven otherwise, and if they can't, then the bodies that carry their message are always willing to lose their conviction.

But this is entirely different. She does want Emma. She can't escape this trap; it's digging into her heels with metal teeth.

"That is ridiculous." She says it too late, and though she tries to keep eye contact, she can feel the weight of her embarrassment pulling her away. Shame floods through her and her eyes find the delicate line of trinkets aligned on her bookshelf, anything but those light eyes, that knowing look that hides beneath her eyelashes and in the very corners of her mouth.

"I don't think it is." Emma slips closer, walking steadily closer to her desk. Regina can't help but watch this progress with some anxiety. Her fingers dig into the smooth leather of her chair, her eyes flickering from the bookcase to the floor, to the combat boots, and only hesitantly to the dark eyes that stare back at her. "You want me. But you put yourself in a rather difficult situation, didn't you, Madam Mayor?"

Her jaw snaps shut and her fingers curl. She will not be made a mockery of, as humiliating as this is; her limit is being laughed at in her face. She straightens her spine and feels the heat of her anger warming her words, "I promise, Sheriff, the only one who is putting themselves in a difficult situation is you. If you continue with this ridiculous notion, I will be forced to-"

"You'll what? Destroy me?" Emma tosses back and Regina can't help but blink at the familiar words. She parts her lips, unsure of what to say, but Emma interrupts her anyway, "I am trying to make sense of this arrangement for you, what you really got out of this. I thought at first that it was just some power play for you, that you get a kick from ordering people around."

Regina restrains her wince into just a twitch of her mouth, but when she raises her eyes again, she knows Emma sees it, those eyes now dusky and attentive. "It stopped making sense after a few calls to join you in some event or another. I just thought they were a waste of time. Like in the middle of some boring ass meeting of yours, I'd have to come along to take notes, even though we both know you'd just do it yourself."

Regina hates that her skin flushes. Her voice sticks uncomfortably when she speaks. "What is your point, Miss Swan?"

"My point is that you don't like people that much, or at all. But for some reason you want me around for two long years to do useless things that I don't even do well." The self-depreciating tone of her voice doesn't give Regina enough time to relax, as her next words already press into her like little needles. "Quite the power play, you've come up with, Madam Mayor."

With Regina's silence, the words sticking painfully in her throat, Emma takes a few more steps, nearing the corner of her desk. She can see her boots from the corner of her eyes, but she doesn't move to face her. She just turns her head to eye her new position with trepidation. It's like they are playing monopoly, and every successive gamble takes Miss Swan just a little bit closer.

"You wanted my company." Emma's voice is boasting and warm, but her words still prickle across her skin. "Which is about twice as crazy as you just wanting sex."

Regina clears her throat and looks down at her papers, her fingers smoothing some of the crinkles that she has made. "Very well, Miss Swan." She closes her eyes, but cannot bare to say that she has made her point. The words stick oddly in her throat and she has to swallow over them just to get the ones she wants through her properly. "What do you want?"

There is only a moment of silence before the floorboards creak again and Emma takes the few steps to the arm of her chair. Regina's eyes quickly snap open, confused to see Emma so close to her. She had figured Emma would take a more business position once her point had been made, to strike and then retreat, place out her desires like papers waiting to be signed off.

Regina tilts her head and finds Emma looking at her closely, watching for minute expressions and tiny nuances in her face like a kid looking for fish in a small tide pool. She's watching for the beast she saw before, the one of naked want and starved with lust.

And then slowly, slowly, just when Regina thinks all that Emma will do is look at her, she smirks, the line of her mouth curving into something mysterious. Regina breathes out slowly, feeling helpless. Because Emma knows everything, but she's just staring at her and Regina just doesn't have it in her to fight it anymore.

Her lip curls, and she manages with a voice just barely above a snarl, "What do you want, Miss Swan."

Emma doesn't answer her with so much as words but with motion, moving with the sleek, lazy danger of a panther, sliding from the desk to the floor. The sudden change of position pushes all of the air out of Regina's lungs. Her neck hurts from the way her head snaps down to look at Emma, positioned now between her legs. Emma hides a smile behind her knee, pressing the flat of her hands against her calves, moving steadily up, up, up, until Regina's breathing is hard and shallow. The trail ends at the hem of her dress and Emma's thumb strokes the undiscovered skin beneath it. Regina has to struggle to subdue the growl in her chest, the wild beating of her heart, the desire that purrs in her ears and makes her eyelids flutter.

"What…" Regina's lips twitch at the sound of her voice, and she shifts in her seat to refocus herself, desperately trying to ignore the warm thumbs that are pressing firmly against her thighs. "What are you doing?"

She watches through the haze in her eyes as Emma dips lower, again, leaving her answer to the sly motion of her body. Her long blonde hair falls like silken sheets against her thighs and her legs jerk wider in a desperate, involuntary motion to welcome Emma closer. Emma moves quickly to push her dress up, revealing intimate, pale skin beneath as the material bunches around her hips.

With a gasp, her eyes shoot to the door, just to make sure it's still closed. But in all reality, even if it were open, Regina wouldn't be able to stand to close it, or be at all willing to do so. She's ensnared by the warmth of this trap. God whatever this is, she's not leaving it.

She somehow resists sliding her hand through Emma's golden hair. Every part of her body burns for her to attack, her tongue tingling, her fingers curling, they want to bend and give in. But she can't. She can't because she doesn't understand any of it – Emma clearly wants something. She can see it through the dark cover of her eyelashes, looking up at her from between her legs, her mouth warm and wet against her skin. There is something she wants, but Regina isn't sure of what. Which puts her in an awkward position of having her own desire flaunted in every part of her body, in the dress that is bunched around her hips, and how she can't seem to stop clinging to the chairs arms, and god, she just spread her legs, just now, didn't she? But all Regina can see is the determination in Emma's face, and it makes her heart falter unsteadily in her chest

Regina can't help but fear it's for revenge, that Emma's past humiliation will be compensated with the complete demolition of Regina's power over her. And what a perfect opportunity - she's trapped her to a chair she doesn't even want to get up from.

"If you…" Regina's voice sticks awkwardly in her throat and she has to clear her throat just to make it work again. "are trying to embarrass me, Miss Swan…"

Emma snorts and nuzzles her nose against her thigh, the vibration of her laughter making Regina's insides clench helplessly. She gasps and feels the ticklish drag of Emma's mouth trail along her skin. "Clearly, I am trying to embarrass you, Madam Mayor." She mumbles with a smile, her mouth sending the words to the inside of her thigh with a delicious swab of her tongue and oh god.

Her dress is bunched up around her hips and Emma is kissing her steadily up -up -oh, god, all she wants to do is give up, but with a loathsome amount of reluctance, she manages to clamp her thighs together and push Emma away with her knees. It's all done in strangled, jumpy movements, but Emma slips from her skin and looks up with dark, wide eyes, surprised. She's panting, herself, and it helps soothe Regina, a little, that even if her intentions are not genuine, Emma is just as affected by this as she is.

"I know we have disagreements. But, if you want to…" Regina struggles to find the word in the mist of her hungry mind. "Get back at me for something." Regina manages to rasp out, her voice hoarse and sounding strange to her ears, "I would hope that this would not be the way."

Emma blinks and her mouth parts a little in surprise. Her eyes are still dark, but she can see, past the misty haze that she knows must be in her own, a flash of recognition and sympathy. With her dress bunched around her hips and her legs trembling and beginning to feel sticky with warm trail of arousal she can feel between her legs, she tries her best not to feel vulnerable. But she feels chained against the wall with those eyes that never waver and feels the most bare she has felt in years.

The hands on her thighs slip away and Regina almost follows them, but she keeps the impulse inside with a painful pinch of her thumb and only watches Emma slips away with a dull sort of ache. There is a shallow moment of silence while Regina is consciously trying to keep herself from taking it back and saying it doesn't matter if its for revenge, she respects her determination, and god, just go back to touching her. The words are on the top of her tongue when she feels heat brush against her lips in a small, fleeting touch. It's only a moment later when the touch has already left that Regina realizes, breathlessly, that it was Emma's mouth brushing against her own.

"Hey." The words come with their own touch and this time Regina tries to follow the mouth that quickly retreats again. She doesn't reach it; Emma clearly has more to say. "I am not trying to embarrass you."

Regina can't see how that can be possible. Emma may pride herself on being a better person, but it can't be possible that she would let up on such a wonderful opportunity to rub it in her face. She can't make sense of it, that Emma could possibly be here because she felt something, too. That her want is returned. But as she looks at Emma's face, watches as that once sly, smirking mouth softens into something warm and careful, the sort of smile she saw in her kitchen, with the pale sunlight filtering through her windows and flour on her fingers, it loosens something in her chest.

It leaves a sweet taste in her mouth, like sipping good wine. A sigh leaves her in a slow, relaxing release, and it gives her the strength to reach forward. Her hand slips along the soft curve of Emma's neck, sliding behind the silky hair so that she can thread it between her fingers. It's a good grip, and she uses it to push that small, smiling mouth to hers, finally.

It's a kiss that bumps against their mouths, graceless, but not without its charms. Their mouths slant against each other, pressing closer until there is no space between, just a gasp of air to nip at before entangling again. It's almost effortless falling into a rhythm, there is nearly no struggle and surprisingly no fight for dominance; it is a gentle war that gives when the other wants to take. Regina's fingers are twisting in her hair and Emma's hands have found skin again, sliding closer to where she feels the twitch of desire beneath all their clothes and space and time, the months of wanting the pattern of their bodies.

They break apart only by accident; still human, one decides they need to breathe, only done so if given willingly, so the other gives just enough space to gasp desperately against their lips. Regina forgets what is separating them, that there are clothes and space and an unfortunate meeting on her schedule for 3:00, and runs her hands down Emma's back and brushes her mouth against the curve of her jaw, her fingers curling into whatever skin is available. Emma gasps and slides her hands to Regina's arms, pushing away, feeling almost consumed by the want she can feel surrounding her: in the mouth along her jaw, in the fingers in her hair, in the nails that rake along her back, pushing her closer, impossibly closer.

Regina hears her name being gasped out against her ear and lets out a sigh, bending with the simple pleasure. She falls back against her chair with the gentle push of Emma's hand.

She thinks she likes the Sheriff the most like this: with her lips bruised and her eyes dark and hooded and her skin flushed with desire. Yes, this is what she wanted all along. With Emma gasping for breath and her nails digging into her skin.

Regina watches with heavy, dark eyes as Emma lowers herself to the ground again, her hands sliding down her thighs before firmly gripping behind her knees. Her body curls with the movement, her legs twitching open, wider, just barely suppressing an eagerness she hasn't felt in years. With Emma on her knees again, some of the early evening sun slides across her skin, bathing her forehead and the curve of her nose with pale sunlight. Regina admires it, how it warms her skin with the color of honey, how it looks as though if she brushed her lips against the curve of her cheeks, she would taste the sun there, warm and sweet against her mouth.

Emma dips her head between her legs, the only visible part of her being the top of her head. Regina can't see what she is doing, but she can feel it. She can feel the warm ticklish drag of Emma's mouth creeping higher, and higher, and higher. Her breath falters and she dips into the back of the chair, limbless. A nose presses against sweet, salty skin and it makes her feel as though she is carved from those warm and steady hands, making a path up and down her skin, defining her by what she feels, making her into something light and fluttering and free.

Her fingers wind desperately through Emma's hair, pulling her closer, wanting more of her, wanting to feel more of this, as though she were somebody else completely. She sighs with the wet touch of a tongue, hot against her skin, retreating too quickly to really be felt.

She knows Emma is enjoying this, she can feel her chuckle against her skin, the almost disbelieving smile when she presses a nose against the wet, lacy material of her underwear and feels Regina nearly tear her hair out, the noise that slips from her throat sounding almost inhuman. Regina has no time to feel ashamed for the noises she is making, the delicious pressure on her body having slipped away again, dissolving into kisses that wander up her thigh, almost idly, to a place that is not as desperate. The hiss in her throat is primal and thick as she tugs at Emma again, trying to get her closer, winding her fingers into her hair as though it were the reigns to a horse that she can gain control over through the helpless, involuntary jerks of her hands.

"Emma." Regina rasps, realizing her insistence will only butt heads against Emma's preference. Her head lolls to the side and her chest heaves with heavy breaths, "Stop teasing." Her voice is harsh and unrecognizable in the thick undertone of her desire, a growl breaking up from her words like metal from hard, splitting ground.

She can feel Emma's lips twitch against her skin. But just when she thinks she will move in, push aside the thin fabric between them, a sharp beeping sound flicks on as the quiet, timid voice of her receptionist fills the previously silent air, once thick with their heavy breathing is now still with tension, "Madam Mayor, your 3:00 is here."

The words do not register. They muddle through her brain while the rest of her body drives her to distraction. It's only until she starts to feel Emma pull away that the words make impact, flashing through her head with a flaring panic. A heavy hand of despair wraps its fingers around her throat. "No." She gasps; her voice is thick and desperate, fisting Emma's hair in a possessive grip. Her other hand slaps against the intercom and reopens the connection, "Cancel my meetings, Sherry."

Her voice sticks in her throat and she sounds a little too desperate to be recognized, but after a moment of silence, there is a soft clearing of her throat and the sugary voice of a good principle. "Madam Mayor, I can't cancel the meeting." Regina's fingers are holding on too tightly. She can feel the small sound of protest against her leg as Emma tries to retreat, but she can't let go, her fingers are beginning to feel like talons, piercing through the soft malleable flesh of her prey. But that is not what Emma is to her, not anymore, she isn't something she intends to trap and lock behind glass, like a hunter's showcase, but the only thing Regina has learned is to hold tighter when someone is trying to escape.

"And why is that, Sherry?" Her voice is a low snarl, leaning in to the desk. She gasps when Emma's protest turns into a bite, pinching just along her inner thigh. It smarts and, in response, she loses her grip, her fingers slipping through her hair. Quickly glancing down, she catches the hot and flustered eyes that glare up at her and with a gentle, apologetic hand, she manages to smooths the crinkled skin on her almost lover's forehead. It straightens with her touch, and gently, the woman huffs, but relaxes back in the trap between her legs.

The intercom crackles and Regina's eyes snap to the little black box. "You told me that they were very important, Madam Mayor. That they shouldn't be pushed off or delayed." Sherry's voice is starting to get into the high octave of worry, her words belaying her distress. "They're already seated, Madam Mayor, I don't know what you want me to do."

Regina's lip curls, because she did say that – but only to keep her receptionist from allowing walk-ins, such as the case with Emma Swan, and since she has failed so radically with that, to hold strong to this one demand seems completely out of order to her. Hot breath puffs against her thigh and she can feel Emma trying to push away. She can't help it, her fingers tighten and she's holding Emma between her legs like a prisoner. She's not sure if Emma had intended to make this more than a one-time thing, but since Regina certainly does, if this becomes a chase, Regina isn't certain she will be able to play fair. She's learned from experience, and Emma very well may know by now, yearning gives her fangs.

Emma must notice the bitter twist in her mood, because she lifts to press a nibbling kiss on the corner of Regina's lip. It shuts down thought and Regina sighs against it.

"It's okay." Emma mumbles against her mouth, and Regina tries to bite the words from coming out, "You got important stuff to do." She says with a half smile and manages to slide away, rising from the floor. Unthinkingly, Regina presses a cool hand against the Emma's neck and pulls her back down. The sound of Emma's knees landing clumsily back to the floor is louder than she expects it to be, and she tries to soothe it quickly with the cool pads of her thumbs, tracing the back of her neck.

Her eyes rove quickly across Emma's face: the smooth curves of her cheeks, the curve of a strong nose, the soft skin that sinks with her touch. Regina slowly lets out a breath; it is certainly a strange turn of events. She didn't mean for this to happen, or to become so attached to a woman she is meant to hate, but however unintentional, Miss Swan has become just another one of those things she wants to hold onto, keep for as long as she can, even if she isn't supposed to. Even if she isn't meant to be kept.

So when she presses the intercom button again, leaning in to say, "Very well, Miss Vander, I will be out shortly," she does not release her grip on Emma. When the crackle of the intercom falls silent, she slides her thumb along the sensitive, pink skin of her lip. "You, however, will be at my house, Miss Swan. Until I return."

Emma lifts an eyebrow, her eyes bright and an almost hazy green. "Will you make me dessert?"

Regina feels the tug of her smirk as she slides a hand from the back of Emma's neck to the front, lifting to cup her chin. "Miss Swan, you will be the dessert," She purrs, pressing a thumb against the little crevice in her chin. "If you are good."

Regina delights in the warm flush of blood that pools beneath Emma's skin, coloring the tops of her cheeks and warming the pads of her fingers. Emma hums, and even with a blush and a small shy smile, she can still dig her fingers into Regina's back and make her bend. She leans over her chair as she stands, whispering against her ear, "You should hope that Iam good, Madam Mayor." Shivers spark across her skin when teeth just barely graze her earlobe. "I just might not stay."

And then she is up and out of her door, her hips swaying from side to side, the curly locks of her hair bouncing with the small, indiscrete excitement that straightens her shoulders and moves her gracefully across the floor.

Regina, now alone, scoffs to an empty room, nearly offended by the mess Miss Swan has left in her wake. She has to wait a few more minutes, probably putting her poor receptionist through the ringer again, but she simply can't fathom the idea of standing and walking on her own two feet, and actually surviving the next few hours. It all seems so unreachable.

But she is Mayor, the Evil Queen, and sometimes, more than she lets herself admit, she is simply Regina Mills. So she stands up and remembers to straighten her crinkled dress just in time before quickly tapping the intercom as a fair warning to her distractions just on the other side.

It's slow. It's painfully slow. The meeting takes longer than she wants it too, though at any other day, at any other time, she would have considered it efficient and even bee pleased with the progress made. But to her frazzled mind, her notes are just letters and jumbled up numbers, with equations that work out pleasingly to an economy she can't focus on anymore. She bumps through the rest of her day, playing the motions as she sits in her own mind and thinks of an entirely different place with a warm mouth on her own and exciting new patterns to wander and discover.

By the time she is leaving to pick up Henry, Regina has already departed into the musky warmth of her mind's sweet escape, smelling of sweet pine and salty skin, she basks in the gentle motion of two bodies and wonders just when she had started craving for the softness of lovemaking when all her heart had called for before was the taste of metal and blood and the dark, dirt that covers the miles of the old battlefield she buried her heart in.

When pulling up to the mansion, Regina manages to keep herself from dashing to the door. She looks out the window to watch Henry bound up the few steps to the door, his backpack bouncing heavily on his shoulders as he moves. He has already slammed the door shut again by the time Regina makes her way to the front, jiggling the keys in her hands. As she turns the door knob, she looks behind her to quickly check for any familiar car or transportation, that awful bug or the patrol car Emma sometimes rides instead.

Seeing nothing, Regina tries to ignore the other possibility to this night, Emma's words bouncing around in her head. I just might not stay. It's a possibility of equal disaster to the chance that she is there; that this should continue and Regina spoil herself so with an indulgence that has the capability of absolute destruction. And yet, she can't help but prefer it to the one where she nurtures to a cup of whiskey till the early morning and tries not to wallow in self-pity.

Brushing the thoughts from her head, Regina steps through her door and briefly questions whether she should take her heels off or not. If Emma is here, then she wants to remain in them – it's a protection she doesn't understand, maybe a need to simply remain taller while everything else can be conquered. If Emma did not stay, well, then her heels will hardly matter anyway.

She takes a gamble and climbs the stairs in sharp pointed heels, flicking off lights as she goes, plunging the house into darkness as she climbs the steps. Her floorboards creak and her eyes flicker to each door, to the walls and to the floor as if there should be signs of Emma's presence pinned up on the wall or slinking along the floor.

Quietly, she enters her bedroom, opening and closing the door in one blind, fluid motion. Walking in, the first thing she notices is that her bedroom is completely empty. There isn't even an impression of a body once being here. But her eyes peruse the room, anyway, jumping first to the bed, then to the chair, to the wardrobe and everywhere else as though Emma's absence is but a well-played trickery of light and if she looks again, she will find the woman sitting, waiting for her with willing, wanting limbs, slack with relaxation against her bed.

Her eyes snap back to the large four-poster bed at the thought and analyze the plush cushions and untouched comforters. Emma certainly had not stepped into her room, there would be proof otherwise, Regina is sure of it – footprints or a jacket or boots or something that signified a semblance of activity. But there is nothing, and it makes something feral and wild bristle inside. She sighs and tries to tamp down the instinct of mindless ruination in the face of fear, to act again in a pointless throe of passion and rip the curtains from their ringers and tear apart the silky sheets of her bed.

It's hard to fight down, in the face of the fact that Emma apparently plans to toy with her. Regina bristles with the very idea, and, like a tiger in a cage, her thoughts roam; they, growls with agitation and flick with an already thin and weary patience like a bristling tail. It is what makes Regina miss the sound of the door opening, Emma slipping in with bare feet and wet, curly hair that sticks to her back with still-dripping water. But her body's natural attentiveness does not fail her twice and Regina snaps in alarm as the door clicks loudly in the silence.

Whirling around, Regina stares with wide, dark eyes at the near naked form of Emma Swan, her hair damp and curly, smelling faintly of her soap and lather. Little droplets of water drip down her arms and slide down the thin material of lace that hugs to her chest and hips. It's such a tempting sight, this taste of new skin, her flesh pale and milky against the stark black of her undergarments.

Regina rakes her eyes hungrily down Emma's body, the delicate blooming skin, the golden hair, the heavy, hooded eyelashes - it soothes her, the boldness of her bare skin. She takes a step closer and starts to circle the woman, feeling the predator inside, searching for a prize spot to mark her claim. Her fingers are just about to reach out to touch the tantalizing exposure of skin when the black lace catches her eye again.

It makes her sigh. Her finger dips into the thin elastic band around Emma's hips and snaps it against her skin, "These are mine, aren't they?"

Emma smirks and jerks her head, stalking forward to surrender into the room. Pale, slender fingers snag through her hair and waft the sweet scent of lavender after her. "Yeah," Emma tosses the words over her shoulder carelessly, "I also used all your conditioner."

Such a remark before tonight might have caused her some irritation, but now, all she feels is the slight tickle across her skin, the voice light like a feather in the switchboard of her oversensitive arousal.

Regina hums and watches closely as Emma moves around her room. "I should warn you, my dear." She is pulled by the gravity of Emma's movements, moving closer with shallow breaths and dark eyes. She feels the low, predatory drop of her voice and knows it must be something dark and hungry that looks out of her now, like a skeleton stripped away of skin. "I am not fond of sharing."

Emma doesn't even blink, her mouth already curving into something familiar as she meets Regina's darkness with a smile, "But I am fond of stealing." And as though she only moves to prove her claim, Emma slinks closer and presses that warm, open mouth against hers, stealing the position Regina only assumed would be hers, having played this scenario a dozen times in her mind.

Now, though, it is once again Emma that pushes them towards this dangerous place where passion licks up her skin like flames, her back pressing against the wall, her heart beats wildly for something that isn't the race of another's' life. It is something she doesn't fully understand - sex is a tool. It's purpose is to escape punishment or act as substitute to some other daunting form of forfeiture. It never felt like this: never yearned for, or needed, or demanded with such baleful desperation.

And yet, as Emma slides her hands along her arms and presses her knee firmly against the space between her thighs, there is a strong thrum of desire that burns in her blood and chants in her brain like a foreign language, translated only through her heavy breathing and the quiet noises she can only try to suppress. Emma is a mold against her body; each touch is moving as though with a desire to leave an impression, as if the trail of her warm mouth could change the very shape and definition of the person underneath.

Regina gasps against her mouth as Emma's fingers travel the smooth curve of her hips, pressing the long front of her body against her own; it's a delicious reminder to the amount of layers that separate them, the bare and warm skin that is mostly available keeps brushing against her own, her dress moving up again, bunching around her hips.

Emma can't get it passed her hips, though. Which causes for the break of their heated mouths, and for Emma to growl against her shoulder, frustrated again. Her breathing is hot against her skin and Regina has to force her attention away from it, to the frustrated paths of her hands, moving up and down in confusion. "You're going to ruin my dress, dear."

"It needs to be off." Emma huffs as her mouth brushes the line of her jaw, apparently not frustrated enough to forget that skin tastes good against her lips. Regina groans and tries to slide a hand underneath the tight grip on her dress, quickly finding the hidden zipper on her hip and sliding it as far down as it can go. Emma takes over when she realizes that the tricky part is done and she can now just rip clothes off her body and press herself against newly exposed skin.

Emma's skin is warm and soft and still smells sweetly of her special lavender soap, her hair wet against her cheek. Her fingers rake up the bare, curve of Emma's back in the excitement of this new feeling, of the prickling of their skin and the tickle of a mouth against her neck. It sends her in a dizzying desire to touch and feel and bite and mark; her mouth brushes against the gentle curve of Emma's neck to lavish her with this new passion.

Right against her ear, she can hear Emma whimper, weak and strangled in the thickness of her throat. And though it is soft, and could easily be lost in the other sounds, the sounds of slick skin and brushing contact, of Regina's back bumping against the wall and the low gasps of lost breath, it is this sound that makes Regina snap. She gasps and her fingers curl against Emma's arms, restraining movement and keeping them separate with this brief and faltering, spineless space.

It's just enough time for Emma to tilt her head and catch the look in Regina's eyes, the hunger of a woman long lost and strangled beneath the years of will lost and dull dread, a look of the starved and lost, darkness looking out from the irises of her eyes.

All of the carefully restrained passion rushes in her blood, pulses with the desire for motion, to strive forward and strike; so with a firm push, she sends Emma stumbling backwards, her heels nearly catching on the carpet as she struggles for balance. Regina doesn't allow her time to right herself, she moves with the terrible grace of a starving lion, the ribs pressing against skin as each breath shows a little more of the fangs that hide beneath, she stalks forward, her gaze dark and flashing.

Emma's eyes widen as she looks at her from across the room, the pale light of the moon filtering in through slim rays, casting dark shadows everywhere else – it makes Regina's pursuit seem more like the stalk for prey than the intimacy of what they have stumbled into. With dark eyes, Regina advances, pushing Emma roughly onto the bed and straddling her hips.

Unable to wait, Regina slides her palms up Emma's stomach and underneath the soft fabric to wrench the bra up and over Emma's head; Regina hums with delight, her body falling into the space between, her lips finding the tender spot where the neck and shoulder meet. It makes Emma shiver and squirm underneath her, spurring her on, sucking until she can nearly taste the blood that pools beneath the skin.

She can feel Emma's breath hitch in her chest beneath her, heaving against her own, the breath presses against her neck as Emma's wandering fingers dig deeply into her shoulder. It's almost soundless, the way Emma squirms and writhes beneath her, only letting out soft and quiet sighs, disrupted by the sudden gasp. Regina thinks she makes more noise giving pleasure than receiving it, and she's wiling to test that hypothesis later, if Emma ever dares to wait her turn.

"Regina.." Emma rasps against her ear, the sound making Regina's fingers curl, her nails dragging down a warm, quivering stomach. Regina finds that there is always something more to learn about a person; such as in this intimate setting, with the woman's back pressed against the bed and her body trapped underneath Regina's, she is still completely in motion, knocking against her thighs and pressing against her body, rolling her shoulders and sliding her hands to new and unexplored places. It's something Regina finds with delight, humming against skin as Emma's knee lifts and sinks between her knees.

It makes her skin prickle, her fingers sinking into soft flesh, pressing deeper until she can feel the rapid pulse of Emma's heart in the many veins and capillaries. The thigh pressed against her is synchronous to the wild and unpredictable movements of the rest of her body, dizzied by friction and pleasure, her hips follow the small, involuntary jerks with grinding, thrusts of her own.

She allows a few more seconds of this disoriented pleasure before she ends it, pressing that thigh down against the bed again. Emma makes a low, desperate sound in back of her throat and moves her fingers along Regina's ribs, looking for a place to grab. She doesn't give her the chance. Bending, Regina drags her teeth along newly exposed skin, taking in the way Emma moves beneath her: her chin pointing to the ceiling, twisting her head, her hair spilling across her pearly white pillows, her body bending.

Her skin is creamy and pale, and with a turn of her head, she traps it with her teeth, sucking the skin into her mouth and loving the way it twitches, the wild jump of her pulse point. Emma is moving against her in wild and desperate motions, as though the bed was an ocean and she just a stranded woman stuck in the middle, searching for a place to grab onto. Her hands drag down her back and dig her slender fingers like dotted points into her shoulders, grasping at her elbows and pulling her closer. Her hips move in their own rhythm, canting from the bed, they graze against the sharp curve of Regina's pelvis and immediately try to make a routine of it.

Pressing her hand against Emma's hip, she stills the movement and breathes heavily against the poor, trembling woman's neck. Emma has been reduced to soft, whispering pleads, gasping against her ear as though words could act like strings, pulling at every one of Regina's actions and movements and feelings, and direct them to become her own.

And maybe Emma does have some power in her blood, some unknown magic she hides from the world, because it isn't long before those words start to mold Regina into what Emma wants of her, bending her into her own hungry wills. Emma's fingers are digging into her shoulder blades and her mouth is gasping demands into her ear and Regina wonders how her body - so used to strain and resistance and pursuing victory - can buckle so easily to the soft, breathless demands of somebody trapped beneath her.

"Touch me…" Emma gasps, bucking against her restraint, her fingers digging into her skin. Regina nips at her lips to cut off the rest of her words, but she can already feel its effect, how the command slips under her skin and sinks seamlessly into the rest of her, spreading through blood and breath and carbon dioxide to manifest the desire as her own: to touch, to touch, to touch.

Her legs tighten around Emma's narrow hips, but with little space she has, Regina manages to work her fingers beneath the silky black material and feel the warm, hot heat press against her fingers. It's almost unsettling how wet it is, and it tugs a moan from the depths of her chest to burn hotly against Emma's neck, the noise vibrating loudly against their skin.

Emma's hips rise, lifting skyward at the first flush of contact, their hot flesh pressing together and filling the room with inescapable sounds of pleasure; Regina's fingers sink into Emma, deeply, to her knuckles. It rips a sound from Emma's throat, so unlike any sound Regina has ever heard, stripped to the hungry core of every person, removed of any reservations or human consideration, just the greedy need that sticks out of her like bones in skin.

And it's so satisfying to hear that Regina feels a sudden, and strange affection flood through her, so completely different to the jagged arousal that prickles across her skin, pulling her under the riptide of blood and emotion. It pulls her lips back, baring her teeth, she dives deeper, moving with compulsive limbs to bring Emma pleasure. Wanting her pleasure, wanting that bend and the wracking, weak limbs and bulging vulnerability. She wants all of it.

Her fingers curl, deep inside, falling into a consistent pattern, sliding through silky, velvet flesh.

Regina watches with satisfaction as Emma falls into a frenzy, her body's disbelief, and the final peak: her hands tremble, her body bending to impressive angles, everything just one large spasm as she looks at her with wild, glazed eyes. She doesn't make any sounds other than the heavy breathing that breaks into surprised, deep gasps, sucking in air greedily as her body spirals and bends into new, unsure shapes.

When Emma's hips settle onto the bed again, her breath hitched and her body wracking with aftershocks, Regina settles on top of her, basking in the heavy, musk of Emma's recovery. It's a pleasant sight, with the woman sprawled upon the sheets, breathless and twitching, she curves her arm over her eyes to provide some comfort from the rest of her that is shaking. On top of her, Regina sits, crouched perfectly still, watching with dark, attentive eyes, her fingers dragging idly down her quivering stomach.

It takes a few minutes for Emma to recover, or at least breathe normally; Regina watches as her eyelashes flutter, wanting to see the sleepy, tired exhaustion that comes with a ravished body, the pleasant hum of satisfaction and the hooded eyelashes.

But when her eyes do open, slowly, Regina is surprised by what she sees; in the shiny darkness of her gaze, there is a haze that circles her irises and channels everything her body feels, the darkness, the hunger, the pleasure, fusing together with bone and muscle and skin, flushed against her own.

It makes her breathless, and with this moment of weakness, she lets Emma pull the tight clasp of her thighs from her hips, feeling her shift; it happens all within a second, the push of impressive strength, warm skin pressing against her own, fingers digging into her arms, she flips their positions and traps Regina with her legs, breathing harshly across her neck.

It's a surprise, because there is something familiar in it this time, the look she sees, she has seen it in her own – in the reflection of others' eyes, in flat, glass mirrors – something that feels like unrestrained darkness, the struggle of hunger and pain and pleasure and the wanting of freedom. She feels it in her hands as she clasps around her wrists, and the move of her mouth as she travels from neck to cheek to neck again. She wonders, not for the first time, as she lifts to cup the back of her head, just what Emma could be to her.

-x-

"Mr. Geyser. I thought we agreed that we would not contact each other in the middle of a busy work day."

The man stumbles, "Oh, yes, of course." She can hear the hollow slap of his hand against the desk, tapping worriedly, "Would you like me to call back another time?"

Regina prefers if she never hear from the likes of him again, but to suggest so may very well steal the fortunate position she has settled in, so she seals her lips and only sighs, "Well, you have me now. What is it?"

As Mr. Geyser takes a breath, her eyes quickly flicker to the opening door. She is about to snap at the intruder before a familiar head of curly blonde hair peeks through with a bag of Granny's take out in hand, moving with her usual grace as she knocks her boot against the door to close it behind her. Briefly, Regina feels a small clench of dread closing its fingers around her stomach: though Regina no longer threatens it, the blackmail sits above them, undisturbed, like a wall that can be pulled down at any second if Regina feels threatened. But even when she does, Emma reacts with only mild frustration - not the hot, angry hatred that Regina was once certain must live between them, thriving and growing in the dark of their contempt.

Now, Regina knows better, their relationship having progressed in a very appealing rate – relatively the same, with Regina making demands and Emma fighting against each one of them, the only difference is how they manage to fit sex into their difficult schedules and sometimes, how they spend their early mornings and late evenings, wrapped up in each other with the grogginess of sleep to protect them from its meaning.

But they have yet to regard the position Mr. Geyser has in their relationship, bulging between them like an undigested rat in the coils of a snake.

As Emma advances, Regina overcomes her impulse to end the call and pretend the caller to be someone else. It would not bode well, probably creating an entirely unnecessary suspicion between them, so instead, she shifts in her seat and presses the phone closer to her ear, settling with just a disapproving glare to her still smirking lover.

"Miss Mills?" Regina blinks and presses the phone closer, "Were you listening?"

"Of course I was listening, Mr. Geyser." She snaps, and glares at Emma as the woman loudly tries to unwrap her lunch right in front of her. Since she hadn't heard what he said, Regina guesses an appropriate response and carries through with it. "What do you expect me to do about it, Mr. Geyser?"

She waits and with the man's spluttering words, she smiles smugly. Emma snorts at her. "Well, I was hoping it would be just a quick transference, like the rent. The documents that validate Miss Swan's current situation as Sheriff should be just a quick mailing effort, or if you wish to fax it...I'm sure I can even send someone to pick it up..."

Irritation bubbles and Regina sighs to let it out of her lungs, pressing a hand against her forehead, just to keep the throbbing at bay. "Again, Mr. Geyser, that is entirelyunnecessary." She can hear Emma chewing on her burger, and how her mouth's movement gradually slow, trying to listen in to her conversation, "I can just as easily fax it to you."

Emma nudges her with the tip of her boot, and on the second touch, Regina forces her eyes to meet the confused ones across from her. Emma's mouth is creased into a small frown and the corner of her lips are smeared with ketchup, and as distracting as that may be, the light grey of her eyes pulls her attention away; she stares unblinkingly at her, as though her eyes can word her question far better than her voice can - and it can, it can. Regina bends.

Sighing, she presses a hand against the phone's receiver, blocking Mr. Geyser's hearing. "It's your case worker, dear."

Emma lifts an eyebrow and Regina looks away, returning to the conversation as if it is of no importance: the fact that she is talking to the heavy flesh of her blackmail's material. She feels her throat tighten and shifts in her chair, suddenly too stiff and too uncomfortable to keep still. The floor creaks quietly and it is only when she feels the soft weight of Emma's hand on her shoulder that she looks up, startled.

She expects to see anger, frustration or for exasperation to finally break through her skin, for it must surely be building to a boil by now. But Miss Swan is always a surprise: what she sees is the slow curve of a familiar smirk. Her eyes widen as Emma moves around her legs and climbs into Regina's lap, her thighs pressing against each arm of her chair.

Mr. Geyser is speaking, but his words become only a soft background that hums in lulling inflections and other quiet, soothing nuances. She tips her head back and feels the ticklish drag of Emma's mouth against her skin. Her hand slides to a denim covered leg and she drags her fingers down, slipping them into the warmth of a bent knee.

"So how is she?" The words are articulated and poke through her haze, but Emma's fingers are dragging down her arms and a warm mouth is making a trail across her skin - it's these sensations that pull her under, the teeth and the press of lips, and the scent of lavender against her nose, and the soft pads of fingers that turn to a drag of nails.

But the words repeat and Regina manages to wrangle away the cloudy haze and manages a few quiet, words. "How is Miss Swan?" She can feel Emma's smirk against her throat and it makes her weak.

The voice in her ear is sweet and devilish, her teeth brushing against her skin with each form of another word. "Yes, Madam Mayor. How am I?"

Mr. Geyser waits on the other line, but all it takes is a whisper of her skin against hers, and Regina drives herself to this dismantling distraction. Her fingers trail up an arm and Regina struggles to produce words through the warm haze in her head. "Good." Regina sighs, feeling the soft lips travel along what must be familiar to her now, this skin. "She is very good."

"Hmm," Emma's mouth brushes the line of her jaw. She smirks, "Is that so?"