Synopsis: Emma and Regina are growing closer than ever, Henry's play is a catalyst for their newfound family routine but also the occasion for the Charmings, and the rest of Storybrooke, to take offense at the women's apparent rapprochement.

Setting: Post S02E16 'The Miller's Daughter', AU in Storybrooke and in the continuance of Shower Me With Attention. The events in this installment are situated around May 2012.

Rating: The story is rated M.

Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.


"Okay…red…" Emma is digging out shirts one after the other. "No Regina said she likes burgundy which is deeper." Emma flushes a little at the remembered appreciation in Regina's brown eyes as she opened Emma's blouse the other night. She sighs. Repeat performances aren't allowed. She goes through a few more blouses in her paltry closet. She eyes the black dress, off one shoulder and sleeveless which she knows is a killer pickup dress and really shows off her arms and other assets. Regina might appreciate it. Scandalous. Emma hangs her head. But she can't wear something like that to a school play.

No black dress. No burgundy blouse. The rest is mostly work-functional blue, black, and dark green Oxford cut shirts. Suddenly Emma wishes she'd been close enough to Mary Margaret before the curse broke to, at least once, go girly shopping even to a discount store. She sighs. It will have to be blue then, she realizes but… grits her teeth. Damn. Her jeans are blue. Maybe she should wear the grey slacks. Is Regina going to like her in slacks? Because she teases Emma about the jeans but... "AAAARGHHH!"

"Hey Em? You okay in there?" Ruby's voice asks from the living room. "You need help?"

"Yeah, no, I'm good. I am…How are we on time?"

"We gotta go in ten if we want to be on time."

"Shit!" Emma throws on the gray slacks and and decides on a navy blue shirt she's kept from her day as a fake personal assistant to a fraudulent thug she was happy to throw in jail for two thousand dollars.

She bumps her toe on her closet door, "OW! Shit! Shit! Shit!" She tries to keep it low.

"Okay, Emma, that's it. I'm coming in." Ruby barges in through the door.

Emma looks up into brown eyes already filled with amused commiseration. Ruby is holding back laughter, though she sounds sincere when she says, "Aww...You poor thing."

"I don't have the right shoes." Emma is rubbing her pinky toe, sitting down on the edge of her bed.

"Whatcha wearing on top?"

Emma lifts a hanger with a deep navy blue chiffon button-up shirt. At least it's fine with wrinkles, seeing it's supposed to be.

"All right…" Ruby muses, head tilted to the side. She gives Emma a pensive once-over, complete with fingertips tapping her chin as she scans the clothing haphazardly flung on the room's surfaces.

"What? I'm sure I can find something else."

"No, it's fine actually. Color goes very well with your hair."

"Oh, well then. But I still don't know what shoes to wear."

"Put your undershirt on, I'll take care of the shoes."

Emma dresses as she observes Ruby pick a pair of dark loafers and dig in her jewelry box on top of the dresser.

"Here," She hands Emma the loafers. "We need to do something about your hair. What about makeup?"

"I don't do makeup much. What did you get in my jewelry box?"

"Your small golden ring earrings. They'll go nicely with your ring necklace."

Emma's done putting her shoes on. She goes on, giving her hair a good brush and of course she just has to catch the hairbrush into the tightest knot. "Fuck." She whines and drops on her bed in despair.

"I'll do your hair." Ruby doesn't wait for Emma's approval. She untangles the knot in a jiffy and starts an intricate braid Emma can't really follow with only her eyes going up. Ruby has already tsked a couple times, signalling for Emma not to move her head.

"When you take Regina out the first time, you might want to give me a call."

"Wha...What?"

"You know, if you ever take her out for dinner or something. She's going to want to see that little black number."

"You...I should take her out for dinner. She's expecting that, isn't she?" Emma gives an agonizing laugh and decides to roll with Ruby's openness about Emma's relationship. It seems Ruby is in the know and comfortable with the idea. Way more comfortable than anyone else, and Emma could really use someone to talk to.

"Babe, have you met your girlfriend?" Ruby chuckles. "I don't think she's expecting the royal treatment, but this is Regina Mills we're talking about."

"Since when did you become a Regina Mills expert?" Ruby rolls her eyes and pats Emma's cheek.

"Stop pouting. Salad at Granny's ain't that special. The woman does talk, on occasion." She pats her shoulder. "All done. Let's put some mascara and lipstick on you, and get out of here, 'cause one thing I know about Regina is that you don't want to be late for anything Henry."

"Yup."

###

Ruby pulls her cherry red convertible into a slot in the second row of the parking lot. She grasps the fidgeting hands in Emma's lap next to her. "You are such a wreck. So glad I drove."

"Do you see Regina's car?"

Ruby twists around and then steps out onto the pavement, looking around with Emma's gaze glued to her face. "Nada, but then again, she might have parked outta sight, y'know?"

"Yeah, I should go find her."

"Chill, she's here."

Emma rises and checks her pants, brushing away specks of glitter she can't believe were all over Ruby's seat. "You okay there?"

"I'm coming with you. You might fall on your face or something. You gotta chill. You seriously need a sidekick."

Emma checks her pockets and pats them, assured the tickets are present. Regina had entrusted her with that task while she took care of getting Henry ready.

Suddenly Emma spots Regina walking briskly toward them both. She nods at Ruby with a small smile, "Miss Lucas."

"Regina," Ruby sasses, "Don't you look regal?"

Emma takes in the dress Regina is wearing and regal is definitely the description. It's navy blue like her own blouse, simple cut, scoop neckline, and shows off the woman's arms. Emma never thought of herself as an arm woman, but Regina's, well...Emma delights in being held by those arms. The simple chain at her throat is gold twists. Her makeup is understated, like Emma's, she's surprised to note. A little mascara and eyeshadow brings out her eyes, and a lip gloss with a little color, the foundation accentuates the deep tones of Regina's natural coloring.

Emma's suddenly craving to be alone with Regina, but it's a pleasant feeling, rather than an annoyance. "Hi. You…you look amazing. Very elegant."

"Emma," and Emma isn't imagining it. Regina's tone is warm and clearly appreciative. "You look lovely." Regina glances toward Ruby and then steps toward Emma. Ruby steps back. "I like what you've done with your hair." Emma instinctively puts her hand at her head.

Feeling the heat in her cheeks, Emma drops her gaze. "Ruby helped."

"I am glad she did," Regina's voice drops an octave, "She had a spectacular canvas to work with," Regina offers quietly. "You're beautiful."

Emma looks up, eyes darting to Ruby and then meeting Regina's gaze. She smiles. "Thanks."

Regina steps back and Emma watches her look around, surprised to see the brown eyes disturbed. "Henry's inside, getting ready," and there's something a bit distant in the tone. Emma misses their intimacy already. She looks around for the cause of the change.

Oh, Emma groans internally. Her parents are coming up the sidewalk. Ruby tenses as Snow clearly identifies the trio of women clustered together; her lips turn darkly downward. Snow's hand goes quickly to David's arm, and she must have squeezed because Emma sees him actually wince.

Ruby says nothing, and that surprises Emma. Snow says nothing either, and that surprises Emma even more. The glare between Regina and Snow is old news. David looks as misplaced as Emma.

"Hi," Emma tries.

"Hey, Emma, you look very pretty." David smiles at her gently. "Henry already here?"

"Yes, he's already getting ready. Regina brought him earlier." Emma hears Snow's teeth grind.

"Uh, yeah." Emma steps back from her father, gathering her composure since no one else is talking, and digs the tickets out of her pocket to keep herself focused on why they are all here. "Hey, should we go in?"

David flips out his wallet and reveals their tickets. "Yeah. Let's find our seats."

Snow drops David's arm and stalks off. He quickly follows, sharing a sheepish look with Ruby, who follows them at a calm pace.

Emma stares at the tickets. Regina takes one, gently separating her fingers. "It's to be expected, dear," she says quietly, only for Emma's ears.

"Awkward much?" Emma wants to be funny but she exhales in defeat. "I want to joke about it, but it's…too close, y'know?"

"Darling," Regina offers under her breath, "you handled it as well as could be done. Let's go see our son."

Emma flashes a smile. That is why they are here. Yeah. She is pleasantly surprised by the warm feeling that follows Regina's calling her 'darling' and saying 'our son.' It's just like the family she's always wanted. Her spine straightens proudly. "C'mon. I want good seats."

"The tickets have our seat numbers." Regina chuckles. Emma glances quickly enough to see the brown eyes roll and has to chuckle herself.

"Yeah, but I don't want to step on some dwarf to get there, and it's looking pretty crowded."

"This is the biggest thing the town has experienced in 30 years." Regina muses, and inhales as if to say something but stops, obviously thinking better of it.

"What?"

"Nothing. Just something I remembered I have to do."

"You're lying."

"Tough." Regina smiles widely now.

Emma studies her for a moment longer. "It's not gonna be something trippy, is it?"

"Trippy? Of course not!" She's clearly pretending to be offended and mocking Emma.

"You are so still evil at times," and Emma's making it clear in her tone she's joking. "All right, so keep your secrets. For now. I will find out."

"Oh I will." Regina smirks. Emma freezes as she feels a hand touching her back and slip down to her behind giving it a pat. "Still nice."

Regina steps past Emma and all that fills Emma's mind is 'she touched my ass in public'' followed by 'my girlfriend is so hot.' She grins to herself and follows Regina into the auditorium, ignoring the stares as she pushes through several clusters to catch up to her date.

###

Inside the auditorium, Regina glances down at the ticket in her hand and figures out their placement. Emma is behind her a few steps when she reaches the usher. He doesn't reach out for her ticket and instead reaches past her for another patron's piece of paper. "Yes, right this way," he says, guiding a couple to come around Regina's left side and follow him.

Emma takes the ticket from Regina's hand and says, "I've got this. We don't need him."

"Your mother was the tracker, dear," Regina says. Emma shakes her head but smiles, and Regina knows they are simply making do in circumstances as they both know how to do so well.

The auditorium lights are low. Regina feels Emma take her hand. It's shaking, but then after a squeeze it firms with the determination Emma is so well-known for. And truth be told, one of the many qualities Regina admires in the other woman.

Emma finds their seats in no time. Regina notices Snow and her Prince Charming are already seated in the center of the rows. Granny and Leroy are sitting beside them. Regina realizes they will be sharing the same row. Emma lets her enter first, with the lower seat number. Regina can't help but smile at Emma's gallantry. She's making sure Regina is the closest to the center as possible.

Then she sees that she will be sitting next to Leroy.

Closing her eyes she plasters on her best diplomatic face and fake smile, taking a quick breath. Emma's hand is suddenly on her back. She's noticed a catastrophe is in the making, too.

"You sure you got the right seat, sister?" Leroy says as Regina approaches. Regina lifts her ticket.

"It's you who got it wrong, Leroy." Ruby is right there beside them suddenly, although Regina hadn't seen Ruby anywhere in sight the second before. "That's my seat."

"No, it's not." The dwarf flashes his ticket, but Ruby's reflexes are startlingly fast.

His ticket is suddenly in her hand and Ruby has shoved hers in his chest instead, knocking him down a notch.

"Now it is." She growls.

Leroy's eyes are wide, and he pushes his way down the row to take his newly "assigned" seat with a deepening grumble. "Fine."

Regina settles to her seat to find Emma on one side and Ruby on the other.

"Thanks, Rubes," Emma says across Regina's lap.

Regina lifts her hand to find Ruby's on the shared arm of their chairs. "Thank you, Miss Lucas."

Ruby dips her head. "No problemo. It's your kid up there. Enjoy."

Regina turns to gauge how Emma is taking the easy comments by Ruby, a little startled herself at the waitress's comfortable banter and bravado. But then again, Ruby has become…a friend, perhaps, since working with Regina on controlling Red, Ruby's wolf side.

There is no more time for talk or banter as the auditorium's lights are extinguished and a spotlight hits the center of the opening curtain. The play begins.

###

At intermission, Emma leads Regina out to the small foyer. She offers to get them both something to drink as they move to the side. There's agitation in this crowd and Emma's law enforcement instincts are sensing a potential catastrophe brewing. There's sharp disagreement being voiced about magic and technology and some people are clearly disgruntled by the "fake" magic wielded by the Yankee. It's not hatred of Henry, and for that Emma's grateful, but it is sounding a lot like they blame Regina for "softening" the Savior's son toward magic. "He can't believe it's a good thing!" someone says.

She elbows her way back to Regina, handing her the ginger ale she wanted. "This thing is turning sour." Emma looks at Regina with concern. "I don't like it."

"His mother, that bitch, probably made him do it," says someone and Emma turns to identify the derogatory speaker. It's Michael Tillman, Ava and Nicholas's father. Emma groans. She recalls easily the attack on the street during rehearsal and starts stalking toward the crowd where he's made himself the center.

Seeing Regina's face fall makes Emma stop. She has a drink in her hand, and Regina's pained expression, though fleeting and immediately covered with an indifferent mask, has marred the beauty with a fearful furrow in the brow. Vowing internally to address Michael Tillman later, Emma turns to guide Regina back into the auditorium.

"You know what, let's get back to our friends. It's too crowded in here." She gives Regina what she wants to be a kind and reassuring smile.

Regina nods her agreement; her lips are tight. When the women turn, they stumble directly into Snow White.

Holding up her own soda before her mother can speak. "Hey, we've got our drinks. Crazy crush in here? We're gonna go back and sit down. Yeah."

Damage control is all Emma can do for now. They're here for Henry, she repeats to herself. She doesn't want the play to be spoiled for neither her son nor his mother.

Snow looks at Emma, her pain is obvious too. "Henry's…doing good," his grandmother says, too brightly, and Emma closes her eyes and nods.

"Yeah, he's great."

David is frowning. Emma realizes he must have heard Tillman. He gives a quick look at Regina who is standing by Emma's side. "You want me to stick around for a bit?"

Regina looks up from her drink and then at Emma. Emma shakes her head. "Just talk, right?" Emma shrugs. "People don't have to like the play. But the kids worked hard."

"Yeah, yeah, they did," David confirms and he has just a little bit of forced affability.

"The children are doing a wonderful job," Snow says and her voice is reaching and authoritative. Emma blinks at that, sure her mother was about to criticize. Good thing for kids, Emma thinks.

"Yes, all the children are performing well," Regina answers in kind. Emma looks between both women and realizes this is what diplomacy and politics look like.

Snow's gaze snaps to Regina, and Emma can practically hear the gears twisting as they speed to catch up and find the threat in Regina's words. But they agree, and there is no threat. It's almost surreal to hear.

"David, I think we should get back to our seats," Snow says and her voice is bright and big. Emma can practically feel Regina's fidgeting though they aren't touching. God, is this the way it's always going to be?

She's going to need a drink. A real drink. She downs her soda quick and tosses the plastic cup in a recycling bin. If she makes it out of Town Hall alive.

###

Henry steps quickly off the stage after the curtain calls, and looks around for his mothers. He's excited. They promised a big restaurant dinner out afterward and his stomach has been growling through the entire second act, and he's been afraid people could hear. His mom had offered to make his favorite lunch before the play, but he'd been too nervous to eat.

Pushing his way out to the edge of the parents gathering their kids, Henry finally spots Emma and his mom talking to one another against one of the auditorium walls. He runs up to them and in the space of the second it takes for them to turn, he sees their faces aren't smiling, though it's gone so fast it could have been his imagination.

"Hey!"

Mom bends down to greet him, and he throws his arms around her. "Henry, sweetheart." she whispers into his hair, squeezing him slightly, and in that he recognizes her sadness. "You were wonderful," she says to him and he can tell her voice is too bright.

"I know I forgot a line, but I made one up that worked okay."

"You did great, kid." Emma puts a warm hand on his shoulder. Emma isn't good at acting. She looks sad, too.

"What's going on?" he asks, because clearly something is.

"Why don't you go change while we wait for the crowd to clear and then we can take off for that awesome dinner." Emma is giving him the 'I'll tell you later, just roll with it' look.

Henry turns at a short bark. Archie is moving through the crowd with Pongo on his leash. He's excited to see his friend. Ever since Cora had pretended to kill Archie, Henry had been anxious about having his friends where he can keep an eye on them. He likes that Archie and Pongo often meet him and his moms on their beachfront walks. Henry smiles as Pongo sniffs the hem of his mom's dress. She looks pretty, and apparently Pongo likes it, too.

His mother distractedly brushes the top of the dalmatian's head and greets Archie. "Good evening, Dr. Hopper."

"Good evening, Regina. Wonderful play. I thought all the children did a very good job."

"They did," Mom replies, and her tone is unmistakably warm.

"It's good to see you, as well. Your dress is very nice."

Henry doesn't miss Emma's push with the toe of her shoe at Pongo's side. Pongo totally ignores her and Henry swallows a giggle, because Emma, who cleaned up nicely, too, looks like she's ready for a hot dog.

"Yeah," Henry gets back into the conversation, "You look very pretty, Mom."

His mom hadn't said anything to Dr. Hopper but her smile is positively beaming with Henry's words.

"Mom, doesn't Emma looks pretty, too?" Henry doesn't want Emma to feel left out.

"Yes, Henry." Mom's smile is warm and tender this time. "Emma looks lovely."

"What would you know about beauty, sister? She's got the goods inside."

Henry spins to find himself almost face-to-face with Grumpy. This isn't Leroy, the Storybrooke drunk Graham was always complaining about, or that Emma had sloshed into the back seat of the cruiser once or twice. This is the angry, disgruntled, never happy little man of Snow White's fairy tale. It's never been more apparent to him.

"Mom and Emma are friends," Henry says.

"Friends?! Shi...Shoot, kid. You drink the kool-aid backstage or somethin'? Your moms -" and there's derision in Grumpy's tone. "Are the Savior and the Evil Queen. Get your sides straight."

"Don't call me kid." Henry is getting really angry now. Why is everybody so stupid? Can't they see his mom is being so good? "She isn't the Evil Queen anymore. She's my mom!"

"Henry, that's impolite. Apologize."

His mom's correction of him makes Henry turn his head. "But Mom! He was-"

"It's not your role to defend me, sweetheart." She rests her hand on his shoulder and then she cups his chin. "And you know better than to be disrespectful or raise your voice."

"Leroy, get your drunk ass outta here!" Emma says. Henry turns to see Emma has her hands in tight fists, clearly spoiling for a fight. She's swearing.

"It's about time somebody tells you what's what, Savior. You're shaming your mother."

Snow and David are suddenly at Leroy's side. "Get your hand off him!" says Snow.

Henry wonders who his grandma is talking to. Nobody is hurting him.

"Emma, do you want us to take Henry?"

"No!" Henry hears Emma's denial at the same time he speaks up. "We're going to dinner," he tells his grandparents.

"Henry," Emma speaks and her voice is calm, but dark. He'd almost call it dangerous. He's never heard her use that tone. And she's not looking at him, she's looking at Grumpy. "Why don't you go get changed like we said."

"Emma?"

"Go on, kid." She flashes him a momentary smile, and it is as fake as she ever has offered him. Emma's afraid, and angry, and Henry realizes she needs him not to see her like this.

"But Emma," he tries.

His mom's hand returns to his shoulder. "It's going to be all right, Henry. Do as your mother tells you."

Henry looks between his moms.

"I'm glad you finally accepted the reality," Snow snaps. "Emma's your mother, Henry. Come with us and we'll go get some ice cream."

"They're going to dinner," Ruby says. She's at Snow's shoulder.

Henry's head is spinning as more and more people move in, surrounding them, seeming to side up like dodgeball at school. He sees Pongo nosing into the crowd and follows the leash upward. He grimaces toward Archie with a plea in his eyes.

"Everyone, everyone," Archie tries. The dog barks once, and it is like the gun at the start of a race.

Snow turns to Archie and yells, "Butt out!" She turns to Ruby and grouses, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Snow!" Emma sounds upset.

"Henry?" Henry turns to see his mom is holding out her hand. Before he can reach for the hand, Snow has slapped Regina's away and pulled Henry toward her.

"Let go of the kid," Ruby barks, and it is a bark, followed by a growl. Pongo's barking constantly.

Everyone freezes in place. Henry breaks free of his grandmother's hold, out of reach. Emma is there and her arms go around his shoulders. "C'mon, kid."

"What the hell is wrong with you, Red?!"

Clearly getting herself under control, Ruby cuts straight to the point. "You're so hung up on Regina being evil that you can't even see you're hurting everybody you love in the process."

"Regina's not your friend!" Snow shoots back. "Why are you defending her?"

"It's not always about her, Snow! You're not yourself anymore." Ruby seems so sad, Henry thinks she's going to cry.

"Hey, you don't talk to Snow that way!" Grumpy belligerently gets in between Ruby and Snow.

"Leroy," Ruby growls a warning; she won't give another.

"Oh yeah? What you gonna do, sister?" Henry has always known Grumpy is an idiot.

"Ruby!" Emma's frantic. She's pulled Henry to the side, and now he can't see as Emma steps in front of him toward Ruby and his grandmother.

Ruby punches Leroy, a single punch, and Henry's shocked to see the dwarf hit the ground. He's out cold.

The other dwarves surround Grumpy right away. They look ready for a fight.

"Red!" Snow's shout is aggrieved. Within the crowding adults Henry hears a wolf's snarl, and then Snow screams. David falls back out of the crowd, pulling Snow with him, and Henry's shocked to see a black and gray wolf, but he's not scared.

He knows Red is under control now, his mom told him.

The wolf stalks and people back up, so that she's between Emma and Henry and everyone else. "Red?" he whispers, just to be sure. The wolf turns to him and dips its head. Oh wow, Henry thinks, caught between 'this is so cool!' and 'oh my god, it's a wolf!'

"Where's my mom?" He feels Emma's hands squeeze his shoulder and looks around. His mom is nowhere in sight.

Red's big brown eyes are looking at him and Emma. She sniffs at his hand.

"We gotta find Mom," Henry says. "Maybe Mr. Tillman might try to hurt her again."

Red takes off.

######

The sunset is just fading in the west. Shadows are deep, but there's enough of her porchlight to make it feel like she's as alone as she feels. Looking at the sky she asks the star what she has been doing wrong lately for life to be going like this…

Happiness is slipping through her fingers. Again. She is certain that the incident at the auditorium ends anything she might have had with Emma before it can really begin. Regina looks at her heels in her hand, her thighs curled under her on the back deck.

She's no Cinderella, but being with Emma, and Henry, for those few precious minutes has started to feel like a nice time. The broken shoe will not bring her Charming princess to her door.

There is the sound of padded feet rustling through the foliage in the forest just at the edge of her property. Regina tenses and straightens, then spies a gray and black pelt and sighs. She's been found. Of course. She went home. It's not exactly hiding. Ruby stands from behind a tree, naked, and walks up to the porch, nonchalance and ingénue, a vision from a magazine. One could so easily forget how lethal she is.

Her prelude causes Regina to lift an eyebrow. "I ate Leroy for you. Does that make you feel better?"

"You're going to be sick," Regina replies dryly.

"Maybe." Ruby shrugs. "But it felt good."

She sits herself close to Regina, resting her temple against the edge of Regina's shoulder.

The warmth from the woman seeps into Regina's chilled skin. She hadn't realized how cold she had become. "Snow will be cross."

"That must make you feel better."

Regina shakes her head. "Emma is hurt."

"Emma's tough. She can take it."

"Idiots," Regina mutters under her breath.

"White can be kind of blinding. Hard to see the gray."

"Is that what I am now? Gray?"

"At least you're not Red."

Regina chuckles.

"Snow needs to see you for who you are, Regina, and that's not the Evil Queen.

Sometimes...sometimes I think maybe you never truly were."

Regina recalls saying something similar to Snow. 'It was you who added Evil to my name.' She'd not believed it when she said it, but hearing Ruby say it...a tiny kernel of something forms in her chest at the thought of being understood, right next to the warm space filled with thoughts of Emma and Henry.

Lifting her head from its close proximity to Regina's Ruby sniffs slightly then smiles. "Emma is here."

To Regina's surprised look, Ruby stands and kisses her cheek affectionately. Regina wiggles her fingers. When Ruby steps back she is clothed. "Thanks," she tells Regina. "Wouldn't want Henry to see me butt naked in your lap."

"Protecting my reputation now?"

"Nah, just eleven year old eyes. Your rep's doing just fine without my help."

"That ship has sailed, Miss Lucas." Regina rises slowly, not sure what to do with her broken heel, but fidgeting at the prospect of seeing Emma again.

"Hey guys." Emma gives them a tired smile.

"Hey, Ems." Ruby points dramatically at Regina. "Found her."

Regina rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "Where's Henry?"

"Left him raiding the fridge." Emma fluffs the back of her neck, and speaks gingerly, "I kinda wanted a chance to talk to you alone for a minute?"

Ruby says, "I'll be in the kitchen. Raiding the fridge."

"Wait, no, Rubes. I guess. You…I need…stick around a minute, huh?" Emma is clearly flustered, and Regina wants to go to her, but there's something awkward with Emma right now, and she's looking very fragile.

"I can go," Ruby says, gesturing away in general.

"No, Emma says you can stay. Please," Regina says. "It's all right."

"Yeah, yeah, please. You were there, too. I need… Some backup, 'kay?"

"Whatever you need, Ems. What's on your mind?"

"What happened tonight. It all happened in front of Henry." Emma closes her eyes and her face is reddening and a tear slips onto her cheek. Regina closes her hands into fists. Emma fights to speak. "I just… Damn it. I just spent the last ten minutes trying to figure out what to say to Henry. He doesn't understand. I don't understand. I can't make it stop. I can't-"

Regina cuts off Emma's jagged speaking pulling her into her arms, wrapping her hand around the back of the blonde head and squeezing tightly. "Shh, shh. I'm sorry I left you to face that alone."

Emma shakes in her arms, and her head is moving. "No, no, I know why you left. Why you had to leave. I do. But, but, Henry… Shit, Regina. I'm scared. I screwed everything up."

Regina is hearing her own thoughts coming back at her in Emma's broken voice. They are so similar, so staggeringly broken, it is a wonder they haven't shattered together in a million pieces. "Emma, I'm sorry. I don't know how to fix it either. Not right away. It's not magic."

Ruby's shuffling draws Regina's attention. "Do I really…should I be here?"

"You know Snow," Emma says. "I know you and she go way back. Why can't I talk with her?"

"You're asking me to explain Snow?" Ruby shakes her head. "She yelled at me. She's never yelled at me like that. It's like it's touched off a phobia or something. She's irrational."

"Is it my fault?" Regina asks.

"History is your fault, Regina, but this. Today. Is not your fault." Ruby sounds determined.

Emma hasn't left the comfort of Regina's arms and Regina's grateful for that as she keeps her own center of calm brushing her fingertips over Emma's nape.

"She's in denial." Ruby kicks an invisible stone. "That's what it feels like."

"It's gotta be about what she did to Cora," Emma agrees, "but it's done. Why would she strike out at everyone because of something she did?"

"Killing someone in cold blood is not for the faint of heart."

"It changes you," Ruby adds, clearly speaking from experience.

Emma exhales, and Regina feels more of her weight against her shoulder. "It's like she's not even herself anymore."

"Snow came to me. After," Regina doesn't feel the need to explain after what. Both women's gazes snap to her.

"She wanted to die." Ruby breathes it out incredulously.

"She offered to let me take her heart, to end our feud, yes." Emma is stiffening in her arms. Regina closes her eyes. "I almost did," she admits, her hand flexes on Emma's hip as she feels a slight separation of their bodies. "I saw her heart."

Just as hard as it was for Emma earlier, Regina can feel her own voice refusing to form the words.

"You did not make her do these things, say these things, Regina, don't take that on yourself." Emma's tension is suddenly demanding.

"It has a black spot, Emma. Snow corrupted her heart killing my mother."

"Well that explains some things." Ruby nods to Regina. "But not everything. I've never known Snow to be a coward, but that's how she's acting right now."

Regina feels Emma push away from her, and mourns the loss like a piercing knife between her ribs. "She's fucking afraid?" Emma pitches darkly. "What the hell does she have to fear? She's got David, she's got her curse broke, she's got her best friend, she's even got her fucking dwarves. Everyone thinks she's god's gift to happy endings!"

"Emma!" Regina puts a steadying hand on Emma's arm, stopping the flailing. "Emma, stop." It's not that she doesn't feel validated, but Emma doesn't need to hate her own mother; on that path lies only darkness, as Regina well knows.

"Regina, I called my mother an ass where Henry could hear! His Sainted Snow White, and I hate her. I hate what she's doing, I hate the way she makes me feel." Emma covers her face, breathing hard. Tears leak out between her fingers. Regina pulls her in again.

"Shit," Ruby says. "Em, Regina, maybe I really need to get Henry out of here for a while. You…"

"Emma," Regina ducks her head to catch Emma's eyes. "We need to go see Henry." With a flourish, Regina materializes a handkerchief.

"Handy," Ruby remarks. Regina rolls her eyes. Emma punctuates the thought with a snorting blow of her nose. "Yeah, Ems?"

"Yeah," Emma speaks nasally and her blotchy face is devastating to Regina. Emma sniffles loudly and blots at her eyes. "Gotta pull it together."

"I know just the thing." Ruby marches toward them. "Group hug!"

Regina stares wild-eyed at the top of Ruby's head in her bosom and wriggles against the firm arms around her shoulder. "Do you have a death wish, Miss Lucas? Unhand me."

"What? It works well enough on you."

The sound of Emma's short bark of laughter turns Regina's head to her.

Emma untangles them. "Thanks, Rubes. I appreciate it."

"No worries, babe. Now, you probably better get in there. I think I hear him rooting through the dry goods cabinet."

Regina, with Emma and Ruby flanking her, enters the kitchen through the back door. "Henry!"

Their eleven year old son is on the floor, arm inside the cabinet where Regina keeps the dry cereal. He looks up at all three of them with wide eyes, and a mouth stuffed with cereal. At least, Regina thinks, she knows it has nutritional value. "Yeah, Mom?"

And, of course, he speaks with his mouth full. Regina shoots Emma a dirty look. You taught him that, she thinks, possibly loudly enough to be heard, because Emma blushes and drops her eyes.

"Did you eat all the leftovers already?" she asks Henry. He's dusting off his hands and scrambling to his feet.

"There were leftovers?"

"Yes, dear." Regina goes to the refrigerator and retrieves a casserole from earlier in the week. "Now, tell me what you and Emma have been up to?" Her invitation is clear and Henry sits at the counter, taking a fork from the drawer beneath.

"But Regina…" Emma says.

"What happened after I left, Henry?" Regina asks gently.

"I didn't know you'd left, Mom. Why'd you go?" Regina winces. She'd known she was opening herself, them all really, to questions by doing it this way, but she knew immediately what his concern was, at least.

"It was your day, sweetheart. People were angry at me. I decided it was better to take away the source of their anger. I knew you'd be all right with Emma."

"I thought maybe Mr. Tillman had…" Henry trails off. She brushes his hair at the back of his head tenderly. "I was scared for you."

"I'm sorry I scared you."

"But that's just it. You…everyone else…why are they acting so weird? Emma…Emma said she hates Snow."

"Henry," Emma tries. "I…I'm having trouble with Snow, but…I was…I was wrong. I don't…I don't hate her."

"And Snow is just hurting a lot right now," Ruby adds.

"Why? Doesn't she want everyone's happy endings?" Henry stares at Ruby.

"Why would you think that Snow being hurt means she doesn't want other people's happy endings, Henry?" Regina pensively awaits his answer. She knows how smart he is. She's beginning to think he may already know what they can't find it in themselves to tell him.

"Because she killed your mom." Henry frowns. "You were hurt and you wanted to hurt other people. And now Grandma's doing sorta the same thing."

"Henry, what did your storybook tell you about…hearts." Regina studies him closely. He does know.

"Black hearts are evil. Killing…people," he adds slowly, "It…it blackens hearts, doesn't it?"

Regina nods. "Sometimes."

"So, is Grandma's heart black now?"

Regina can't tell him, as she told Emma, that she took it out. At least not out loud. She nods. "Just a little."

"Well, that's okay then, we can fix it. Yours has to be much better now that you're not evil anymore and you're my mom, and friends with Emma and, y'know? So…we just gotta remind Grandma to focus on the good stuff."

Emma covers her face with a long swipe of her hand. "You've known all this, all this time? Kid…"

"Well yeah," Henry rolls his eyes at Emma. Regina loves it when he sounds like her. "It makes sense." He shrugs.

Ruby looks at Henry's leftovers and her stomach makes a noise. "Miss Lucas, can I get you something?" Regina smiles.

"How about Henry and I go raid the fridge at Granny's. Leave you two to figure out how to deal with a kid who's apparently sixteen steps ahead of everybody."

Henry sighs. "I'll go get my stuff." Regina is surprised a bit when he steps off the stool directly into wrapping his arms around her waist. "You guys promise to tell me what you're gonna do?"

"Yes, dear, I promise."

Henry turns to Emma. "Emma?"

"What?"

"You have to promise our son you will not call your mother names the next time you see her, Miss Swan."

"Oh, that. Yeah, kid. I gotcha. I promise."

"Thanks, Emma." Henry releases Regina's waist only to fall into Emma's arms and Regina watches as Emma kisses the top of his head.

Emma does a double-take. "Um, yeah, Ruby. Here's the keys. I kinda took your car."

Ruby takes the keys with a laugh. "How about my clothes?"

"Back seat." Emma laughs.

"Typical," Regina adds. Ruby stares at her.

"We'll call you guys later?" Ruby suggests.

Emma and Regina exchange a look and both nod in agreement.

"You gonna be okay, Moms?" Henry looks earnestly at Regina and Emma.

"We love you," Regina says.

"I know." He smiles at her. She can feel herself smiling long after he and Ruby have gone out of sight. Then she hears them. Henry says, "Why did you punch Leroy? Man, I can't believe you laid him out with one punch!"

"We won't tell your mom about that, right?" Ruby says conspiratorily.

"I heard that," Regina says, loudly enough for her voice to carry.

"Oops!" Two voices shout and then there is the sound of running feet.

"Ruby punched Leroy?" Regina looks at Emma who winces.

"Yeah, she kinda did," Emma explains.

"She told me she ate him. I suppose a punch was better. She might have gotten food poisoning."

Emma rolls her eyes but is smiling as she reaches for Regina. "I'm sorry you had to bug out like that."

"It's called poofing, dear."

######

"Oh, so that's how Ruby knows about us," Emma says as she takes a bite of her sandwich. Regina made it and she'll be damned, but even Regina's sandwiches are the best. "She shouldn't have to take that from her best friend."

"Ruby had left the diner just as Snow was paying. It would seem Snow is jealous."

"Jealous? Of what?"

"Of me, I suppose. Ruby came out to check on me. Emma, you've been with me, and Henry too. Maybe to Snow it seems I'm taking her loved ones away from her."

"That's possessiveness, not jealousy."

"The two are very close, Emma. I should know. I was jealous and possessive toward many things in my life, too."

"You're being very understanding," Emma replies. "That's really weird, Regina. I think she'd pull out her own tongue before Snow allows herself to admit that you understand her."

"I'd love to have that. For my collection." Emma gives her a smirk. "Okay, I don't really have a collection. The truth is, you've made me look outside myself and care about someone other than Henry."

"You're doing that all on your own. I'm just in your life."

"Yes, and I'm not trying to take you away from your mother."

"I know that. Told Snow it was your idea Henry and I go to dinner. Because we're family. I thought maybe it would make a difference. But she…"

"That must have gone over well…"

"It pissed her off real good. Judging by tonight, sleeping on it didn't help much."

"I have apologized to Ruby for complicating her relationship with Snow, and I chose to remove myself from the conflict tonight. It seems the more appropriately I behave, the more upset she gets."

"Uhm, no more apologies from you. I'm glad you got the hang of it, really. But your smart mouth is just fine."

"Had I known my being good would drive your mother insane, I'd have tried this approach a long time ago."

Emma laughs. "Don't get too good. I love you just the way you are."

Regina actually winks at Emma as she chuckles. They both know what Emma just said, and that's okay. Who knew the Evil Queen could be easygoing.

"Ruby seemed okay with us." Regina sounds content.

Emma moves to the sink, and starts to clean up their dishes while Regina dries. A quiet moment lingers.

"What?" There is something adorably cute about Regina's lack of patience and curiosity.

Emma smiles. "You've made a friend."

"I have had friends before, Miss Swan." Regina's getting haughty; that too is adorable. And entertaining.

"Kathryn called me a friend."

"Was that before or after you used her to frame Mary Margaret?" She keeps her tone light.

"I'd just told her to go out and get David back."

"OK. Now see, in any other town, trying to help is actually a good thing."

"But I was trying to manipulate them, and end David's relationship with your mother. Out of spite."

"Yeah, OK." Emma bumps her hips to hers. "You're not helping me here."

Regina sighs, "Ruby says I'm gray?"

They're back to Ruby, Emma realizes, wondering what Regina is thinking. Then she guesses. "What should we do to help Ruby?" Emma asks. "This isn't fair to her to get dragged into our conflict."

"I am not fixing your mother. Even I have limits."

"That's OK." Emma comes back to the kitchen island, taking Regina in her arms. "Besides, maybe the kid is right. She just needs to find her way back to being herself, and that's not our job."

Emma's distracted for a moment by the sheer physicality of their contact and remarks, "I really love this dress. Your arms," she says, "are just wonderful."

Regina gives Emma's bottom a playful squeeze. "I enjoyed the gray slacks."

Adrenaline draining away associated with the comfort of being in Regina's arms make Emma sigh in contentment and exhaustion, it's been a long day. She's where she belongs. Agreeing with herself, she tucks her face in the soft warmth of Regina's neck. The delicate, spicy and musky fragrance of Regina's perfume is mesmerizing, it suits her. Emma's eyes flutter shut as she can almost taste sandalwood and cinnamon on her tongue.

Emma feels Regina's hands move up her back and fingers slowly teasing out the braid, feathering out the tresses. The sensations make Emma relax even more.

"Princess hair," Regina talks softly, "I've always thought your hair beautiful." Emma feels Regina's breath against her ear. "The way you had it tonight, though, took my breath away."

"Ruby helped me with it."

"Ruby should be allowed to do it again."

"She suggested we need to go on a date," Emma's murmurs are barely audible now. The sensations are just too good.

"What's this? We're alone. No distractions." Regina kisses Emma and the way she takes her lower lip between her own is clear invitation even for Emma's slowing brain.

Regina's hand holds hers and Emma follows Regina out of the kitchen to the parlor. It's where they first sat and shared drinks, and Emma always thinks of it as special for that reason. Now, Regina gestures for Emma to join her crouching in front of the fireplace. From their joined hands, Emma feels a tiny spark of magic and fire suddenly licks at the logs. Emma stands and takes a candle off the mantel. "Go on," Regina says.

Emma focuses on the wick, imagining it dancing with flame. There's a twitch in her chest and with a tiny wave of a finger suddenly it's lit. She laughs and Regina smiles.

"Another, dear?" Regina brings a box from beside the fireplace and reveals it's full of candles.

Emma settles to the fur rug before the fireplace and takes the box. "Can I?"

"Whatever you want, darling." Regina settles to the rug nearby, tucking her feet underneath herself, eyes a warm cocoa as she watches Emma.

The process gets easier with each candle and it amuses Emma until she is surrounded by nearly two dozen candles all burning brightly in a ring around her and Regina.

"A fairy circle," Regina muses, looking around at the light.

"What's a fairy circle?" Emma asks, curling her own feet beneath herself.

"It's said to be a place in the forest ringed by light in which the most magical things imaginable can happen," Regina says.

"You're being romantic, Regina."

"Well, that's another blot on my reputation." Emma laughs.

"Did I jinx it?" Emma leans in to kiss her on the lips.

"Maybe not entirely…" Regina smirks a little

Emma laces their fingers together. "Light this one with me?" She holds the one remaining unlit candle from the box. "Can you do that?"

"Of course I can do that."

"Without thinking of anything but how good this moment is?" Emma holds Regina's gaze. She watches Regina swallow.

"What do you think I do to produce magic?"

"I know you look focused, cold, like you need something or you want something and there is nothing that will be allowed to get in your way. You will it and it becomes. But when we're together, when we touch, we don't do that."

"Our magic is fundamentally different."

Emma's been thinking about that. After a dozen candles she's got a different thought. She shakes her head. "I don't think it's the magic that's different. I think it's the… intention that makes it different."

"So you think if I just think good thoughts I can do good magic?"

"What is it you do with Ruby? In the yard?"

"I protect myself. I protect her. It's imperative she doesn't get hurt."

"That's my point," Emma says. "You're doing magic out of the need to protect and help her."

"But if I pull too deeply from my emotions, Ruby gets hurt, that's how the shield works. It reacts to my feelings. I have to be in control, or she'll die."

Emma's not sure how to explain any more. And since she's done just actions before and Regina's understood, she tries again. She takes Regina's hand and leans forward, delicately pressing their lips together, until she feels Regina's response, natural, warm, loving, rising up between them. She pulls back, "Hold onto that." She takes their joined hands and passes it over the flame, pushing with Regina's magic at the flame. It's warm, and loving. And Emma smiles when the flame appears.

Regina's eyes are wide when Emma chances to look up. "Now, what do you think?"

"You want me to wield magic in a different way."

Emma lays back on the furry rug, fluffing a pillow under her head and trying to relax. "Uhm, yeah. I thought…it…I want you to be happy, Regina. And you doing magic...it's part of who you are, you love it. I don't want you to have to change who you are. So…well, it was…an idea."

Regina is quiet for a long moment. She leans back as well, on a bent elbow. Emma pushes another pillow toward her, which she takes and finally, slowly, lays back staring at the ceiling. Emma sees the considering expression as the woman works out the many issues in her mind. "It's not a…bad idea. You will have to help me find that pool. You would be the teacher, Emma."

That startles Emma into half-sitting up. "I can't teach you magic! I don't even know how to do it myself!"

"You don't know how to wield it, but you know how to pull from it. You just lit two dozen candles with your little experiment."

Emma lays back looking around at the candles. She can't deny it. "Uh…"

Regina looks at her hand; she starts to reach for Emma's wrist but stops. Tiny sparks, like a holiday sparkler, dance over the tips of her fingers.

"How'd you do that?"

"Emma Swan." Regina's voice is quavering.

Awed, Emma rejoices, "Do it again."

New sparkles dance to life above them and illuminate both their faces in a myriad of colors. Emma turns her head and watches Regina. The woman's face is expressive, open, wondering, and there's a smile that Emma's never seen before. Not even for Henry.

It's altogether new, and just for her, Emma thinks in wonder. She breathes, "Don't ever stop."

Regina leans across Emma's lap, pulls Emma's head to hers and claims her lips. Emma guides her atop her body and lays back down on the rug.

Emma murmurs into Regina's ear as she slips a hand under the hem of Regina's dress. "I want to make love to you."

"Please."

Hooking the hem in the curve of her hand, Emma pushes up Regina's dress, feeling the clasp of a garter. A ragged breath falls from her shaking mouth and she kisses Regina hard, almost desperately. Her hand reflexively squeezes Regina's thigh.

"I…no more waiting."

"No more." Regina kisses the underside of Emma's jaw.

Emma pulls her hand out of the dress and grasps Regina's head. "Turn around, take it off."

Regina slips out of Emma's hands. Emma follows her up out of a desire not to let her go. But Regina reaches behind herself with both hands. Emma follows every movement until she can't stand it any longer. She grasps Regina's hands. "Let me," she pulls Regina toward her and turns her, catching the zipper under the fall of Regina's hair.

"I can't…" Emma wants to apologize. She kisses the nape of Regina's neck, her shoulder blades, "I can't…I have to." She kisses her throat and neck; she pushes and feels and kneads.

Regina's hand cups hers. "I know."

She helps Emma by pushing one side of the dress off her shoulder, guiding Emma's touch. They've been undressed with each other before, but Emma knows this time they aren't going to stop. Planting kisses and bites on the revealed skin, she finishes pulling down the zipper and pushes at Regina's lower back. "Off."

She's almost embarrassed to be monosyllabic, but then she catches Regina gazing at her over her shoulder, watching her, a small beautiful smile just bending her lips and the tip of her tongue slightly visible.

Emma nips at the exposed shoulder blade and then Regina smirks. The naturalness of that emotion shining through Regina's every gesture makes Emma's stomach flip, because this time Regina knows, she knows.

She knows because she twists slightly to her left and with her right hand slides the other side of her dress down her arm. Emma isn't missing any of it; she's memorizing every beauty mark and the grain of Regina's skin as it is revealed. She's following the curve of each of Regina's ribs as she stands on her knees and shimmies her dress down past her hips to the floor.

Emma's hands ghost along Regina's hips when she looks at the garter's belt. She wants it all off, she needs it all off. She encircles Regina's waist in her arms and pulls, but Regina resists. Soothing hands pause on her arms. Regina turns around facing Emma and, bracing on Emma's shoulders, pushes herself to her feet.

The dress falls, and falls, off legs that Emma studies like an art student absorbing her first nude. Worshipful, adoring of every musculature turn presented. Her hands slide over tendons and curves. Regina's leg lifts in her hand and Emma realizes the dress is fully off, and the shoes were kicked away with it. Emma turns her face upward, gaze slipping up over lush curves and form to meet brown eyes. Regina cups Emma's cheek with her right hand, stroking smoothly, gently guiding Emma's face to her stomach.

Emma closes her eyes. Her breath is ragged, her heart is pounding, and she is surrounded by the scent that has come to mean "home" to her. She has her arms around Regina's center, her center.

Regina's fingers are threading through her hair again, Emma feels her urgency calm down. There is time. There will always be time. For them. Like this. Her hands move steadier now. She unclasps the bra and pulls it away. She finds the clips for the garter and with a smirk of her own at the snap, she presses a kiss to a firm thigh.

Her attention is met by a soft sigh from Regina. And the aroma makes Emma nose dive into warm lace. The scent is musky, almost spicy. Regina is wet, and at the thought of tasting her, Emma feels herself trembling, her own center twitching. She has to. She glances upward, catches Regina's eye and fingers the edge of panty lace with a shaky intake of heavy air.

"These have got to go," Emma quips. She feels urgent, but also lighthearted. It's somewhat disconcerting, but Regina has always been that exception to Emma's rules and so she just goes with it. She tugs, and inhales deeper at the sight of well-kept dark curls.

Her knuckles bump and Regina gasps. Emma pulls quickly and Regina's gasp becomes a sharp cry. She stumbles, hands falling to Emma's shoulders as Emma drops her nose directly against Regina's mound.

Fully absorbed in Regina's arousal, Emma squeezes her eyes shut until it hurts, her need coming out in a strangled cry of desperation.

Regina's fingers tighten in her hair. Emma falters and slips her tongue between Regina's engorged folds, tasting her for the first time. The texture is silk, the taste is…"Oh, god," she sobs, the taste is heaven.

Regina moans loudly "Emma," a hand shifts to Emma's shoulder. Nails dig in, and Emma licks again. Regina groans, hips arching into Emma's mouth. Emma grips the firmly muscled rear in her needy hands and kneads, lavishly moving the tip of her tongue in and out of Regina.

Emma can feel the moment Regina's knees begin shaking and she helps her lie back on the rug. She looks down as the firelight and candlelight that they made together paints Regina's olive skin in copper tones.

Resettling herself, she shifts Regina's thighs apart, and feels Regina's hand movements in her hair change from clutching to stroking which mirrors the patterns her tongue makes on Regina's intimate flesh.

Full cries and moans flow from Regina's throat and she writhes under Emma. Regina's strength and desire seems to ripple from the very pores of her skin, and makes Emma's own center throb.

Emma looks up and sees Regina's head thrown back, her mouth agape, and chest heaving. She drops her chin and lavishes more attention to Regina's clit. The cries from her throat sharpen and then seize. A gasping cry of Emma's name accompanies a flood of pleasure onto Emma's tongue.

She swallows eagerly, carefully licking Regina's labia in a soothing motion.

Emma rises up over Regina and takes in the arm flung across closed eyes. The movement seems to have been unexpected, and Emma drops her head to Regina's breast, kisses dancing around the nipple until there is a soft hand at the back of her head. She slips her lips tight and close around the nipple and the fingers in her hair squeeze in rhythmic pleasure.

Regina's skin is a hedonist's garden of delights. There are patches that are spicy, spots that are salty, and curves that taste sweeter than honey. The variety, in Emma's lust dazed head, seems to perfectly sum up the woman she has fallen in love with. She moans around the hard nipple as she sucks it, in appreciation, stroking her hand along Regina's side and ribs.

She can't stop. She kisses and suckles, aware of Regina's little huffs.

Then Regina is pushing at Emma's shoulders. She lifts up and looks with question into Regina's face.

"You okay?" Regina asks. It's a bit strange that she does, because that's what Emma wanted to ask. She looks in earnest because she's not sure she gets it.

"Come here." Regina cups her cheek and kisses her. Emma feels a hand to her hip, then a second one leaves her cheek and Regina is unfastening her gray slacks.

Emma leverages up on her arms and there's a moment of awkwardness as Emma pulls up her knee to get out of her pants. Her knee bumps Regina's mound and both women let out moans of pleasure.

Regina chuckles. "Take your shirt off. I'll take care of your pants." Emma feels her face heat as she sits back. She pulls open her blouse quickly and then Regina's hands are on her bare abdomen and Emma can't help but gasp. Emma rises to her knees and Regina pushes the pants down along with her boy shorts. Her ankle is caught in the final throw and Emma falls to her back to dive after the obstructing garment.

Regina's hands are on her again though and a cascade of sensations make Emma jerk. "Regina, I am sor..."

"I know," Regina's voice is a reassuring whisper. She knows.

Regina's fingertips trace across her abdomen. It's almost ticklish, until Regina is suddenly touching her there. Emma gasps. It feels electric, sparking. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to be this close to coming.

Regina straddles Emma's thigh as she's hoisting herself on her left forearm. Emma can't help herself, she slides her right hand between their bodies. Regina is kissing her throat, with her darting tongue and her assassin lips she's fantasized of kissing since the moment she'd met the infernal woman.

Emma's breathing is erratic like her thoughts, and Regina's mouth is on her collarbone now. She caresses the muscles in Regina's back and pulls at the nape of Regina's neck.

"I want..." Emma can't explain, Regina's fingers are parting her labia and she wishes her eyes could roll in their sockets.

"I know, darling, enter me," Regina whispers and then Emma feels her earlobe surrounded by warm lips and a tongue sending bolts directly to her entrance.

Emma pushes a hand between their bodies again. Regina is spreading her legs wider to give her access. Her hips jerk as her own arm puts pressure on her center. She curves her finger into Regina's wetness. She knows she's unfocused, but she can't help herself. "Regina," she gasps.

The heel of Regina's hand presses against Emma's apex, and then there's a welcome touch to her entrance. A push, and Regina is inside her.

And she's inside Regina. And, oh, god. Emma searches through the candlelight for Regina's eyes, finding them dancing golden in the fireplace flames. "Regina," she says again, and she can feel her throat closing around the sounds.

Their bodies are entwined and arching, and it's frantic and it's peaceful and they are suddenly, even with her fitful touch, both crashing together.

Emma feels stoned. Actual fucking colors are bursting behind her eyelids. They look like Regina's finger sparklers and she can hear herself laugh giddily. Great. Now she's looking stupid too.

Regina is nuzzling Emma's breasts. Then she stops. Emma hesitates. She moves her hand on Regina's back and tries to find words. "Regina..."

Regina kisses the corner of Emma's lips. "You're okay, Emma. We're okay."

Emma rolls to her side, partially dislodging Regina so they are side by side on the rug. She relishes the fact that Regina's calf remains tucked between her legs. She searches the shadows and finds Regina's tender smile.

"How do you…" She lowers her gaze, grateful for the dim lighting.

"It's what I love about you."

"Me being perpetually awkward?"

"It's not awkward when it's honest."

"I…" Emma lets the sound trail off. "Don't know what to say."

"Shh." Regina cups Emma's face and leans forward pressing a sweet kiss to her lips. It stems the flow of conversation, but not Emma's thoughts. "It's not necessary."

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

Regina sounds amazed and indignant. Emma bites her lip. "I don't know."

"Emma, you told me I need to stop apologizing. I think you can understand that there are some things that don't need it. This is definitely one of those times. I…making love with you is a precious experience." Emma hears a hitch in Regina's voice.

Emma sighs in defeat.

Regina traces Emma's lip with a fingertip and she realizes she is frowning. Emma pushes out her lip further, and Regina leans forward catching it between her own. The move sparks a shy smile.

"Emma," Regina whispers tenderly, "my darling Emma."

Emma suddenly feels her eyes burn with tears and she closes them. Arms go around her, warmth suffuses her, and soft humming comes from Regina's throat against her face.

She likes that. It's nice.


A/N:

We wrote sex together, and surprisingly enough, it was super professional. I mean we've both written smut before, and neither of us is the prude type, but writing sex...I was a tad nervous. We decided to leave the scene unprepared, and write it completely spontaneously in the "heat" of the moment.

We're ok with what came out of it, we hope you will be too.

Our warmest thanks to authors Carolyn McBride, NGBlue and returning author and beta Writetherest for their patience and dedication helping us edit and proofread this lengthy piece of our writing.

All three talented ladies have profiles on ffnet and on AO3, feel free to go enjoy their fic as much as we do.

As always, we appreciate your kind words and support in our co-writing adventures.

Thank you for reading and until next time…

LZClotho & Paradoxalpoised