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Here The Whole Time

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“You can’t throw your husband out of the car,” Emma says.

 

“This game is so heteronormative,” Regina replies, casually eschewing with her little blue husband peg near an image of a lake. Henry laughs.

 

I married a lady,” Emma says.

 

“And then had four children with her,” Regina responds. “Need I remind you that that’s generally biologically impossible?”

 

“I’m very fertile,” Emma says and Henry makes a noise of absolute disgust and horror. “You’re just bitter that I got the Victorian manor before you.”

 

“You live in a studio apartment,” Regina says. “It is so not your style.”

 

“Guys,” Henry says. “Can we just play the game?” He’s winning, which is the reason for his eagerness. Somehow, Henry got the best job, the cheapest house and keeps winning any windfalls on the board. Emma, who only bought the Victorian manor because she knew it’d piss Regina off, is now regretting not taking the beach house. The insurance is exorbitant.

 

“Of course, dear,” Regina says and spins. “Aha! I’m adopting a little boy. I knew losing the husband would give me good luck.” And she sticks a blue peg in the back seat of her formerly empty car. “I shall call him Lionel.”

 

Emma laughs. It’s been five weeks since she broke her arm, the plaster cast swapped for fiberglass and even that’ll be coming off in a week. She and Regina have been dating. Emma brings her lunch most days and eats with her at her office, there have been several meals at Granny’s, one movie and, recently, they spend a lot of time at Regina and Henry’s house. Tonight Emma’s brought around her old copy of The Game of Life, which Henry and Regina have never encountered before.

 

Emma’s happy and she thinks Regina is too.

 

“Emma,” Henry says. “It’s your turn.” So she spins. Then, she picks up her phone and sends a quick text. Want to kiss you <3

 

Regina’s phone beeps and she smiles, looking over at Emma and mouthing ‘same’. Henry notices. “Seriously?” he says. “Are you guys texting each other while you’re in the same room? You are such girls.” This is said with a tone of absolute revulsion.

 

Regina reaches over and ruffles his hair. “Would you rather we talked mushy in front of you?” she asks and Emma laughs at the petrified look on his face.

 

“Can we have ice cream?” Henry asks and Regina nods.

 

“One scoop,” she says to Henry’s retreating back.

 

Emma scooches over, wraps her good arm around Regina’s waist. Regina turns to face her and says, “Back, scoundrel. You stole my house.”

 

Emma laughs. “Well, you took my career.” Emma’s always the celebrity when she plays The Game of Life. She’s had to be the artist this time and it sucks. But it was that or accountant or teacher and Emma has some imaginary professional pride.

 

“Good luck getting those four kids through college on an artist’s salary,” Regina says.

 

“I don’t think that’s part of the game,” she replies.

 

“I live in hope of you being bankrupt,” Regina says and kisses her. She tastes of coffee.

 

Henry returns with a bowl that definitely contains more than one scoop of strawberry ice cream. “Gross,” he observes.

 

“Sorry, kid,” Emma says. “Your mom just can’t contain herself around me.” Regina glares though the terrifying nature of it is punctured somewhat by the need in her lips and the fact that she still has a hand in Emma’s hair. “You looking forward to staying with Mary Margaret and David tomorrow?”

 

Henry grins. “Yeah. David’s going to teach me to play poker.”

 

“Be careful,” Emma warns. “He’ll get all your money if you let him.” She’s been burnt before, playing for pennies when she was about Henry’s age, and losing a whole dollar of her pocket money. The sting didn’t go away even when David used the coins to buy her an ice cream.

 

“I’m so pleased Henry’s grandparents are teaching him to gamble,” Regina says but there’s no malice in her tone. Emma knows that as long as Henry loves having grandparents so much, Regina will never say another word against them.

 

Henry’s seeing Archie weekly to sort out all this new information and part of what came from that was the suggestion that he might find comfort in having grandparents. He and Emma are just getting comfortable with each other and they still don’t really talk about how she’s his biological mother. Maybe one day.

 

Emma’s actually started seeing Archie herself – though not at his offices. He comes to The Hub and they chat in the courtyard while Emma works and Emma pays him. Regina hasn’t said anything outright but Emma can read between the lines and knows she’s talking to a therapist in a nearby town.

 

So basically they’re all a bit fucked up.

 

Later, after Henry and Regina have joined forces to kick Emma out of their millionaires’ retirement village (she’s pretty sure that’s not in the rules), Regina puts Henry to bed and then walks Emma out to her car. She’s got work the next day. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Emma says. “Come by at seven. Dress warm.”

 

In response, Regina pushes Emma up against the yellow bug and kisses her, biting her lower lip and humming against her skin so that Emma throbs with need. She wraps both arms around Regina’s neck, pulling her closer, needing to feel the press of her body, the curve of her breasts and hips.

 It’s freezing outside and Emma’s bundled up in a woollen sweater, scarf and hat, but Regina keeps her warm.

 

*

 

Emma’s Saturday at work is frantic, so many people getting coffee and hot beignets and sticking around, instead of taking them to go, because it’s freezing out. They’ve people sharing tables, huddled up together and queues until after lunch. Emma’s got pretty good at working one handed, though she can’t quite manage making coffee during rush hour so she sticks to the till.

 

Mary Margaret comes in just before closing, when Belle and Tiana are cleaning up and Emma’s looking in horror at the space behind the counter. So much ground coffee on the floor. “Hey, Ma!” she says, grateful for the distraction from the mess. “You brought it?”

 

Mary Margaret passes her a large Tupperware container. “You really need to learn to cook.”

 

“I made dessert,” Emma says.

 

Ruby snorts. “Graham made dessert. You ate pastry.”

 

“Shut up, Ruby, I’ll dock your pay,” Emma says. “Thanks, Ma. And thanks for having Henry tonight.”

 

“It’s no problem,” Mary Margaret says. “We love spending time with Henry, your father especially.” Henry and Mary Margaret have found their shifting relationship slightly awkward though they’re getting better every day but Henry idolises David and Emma feels a lump in her throat when she watches them together.

 

“We’ll pick him up tomorrow,” Emma says.

 

“Emma,” her mother says. “I have something to ask you.” Emma nods, though she isn’t sure what it’s about. “I wonder – would you consider changing your name back to Blanchard?”

 

Emma tilts her head, considering. Her mother had kept her name when she’d married and, more than that, had passed her own name on to Emma. “It’s a feminist thing,” she’d told Emma when Emma had asked as a child, aware that it wasn’t usual amongst her classmates. “I love my name and your dad wasn’t bothered so long as your middle name was Ruth.” Emma knows that Mary Margaret’s father – who died before he could see his daughter married – is a big part of why ‘Blanchard’ is such an important name for her.

 

“If you don’t want to that’s fine,” Mary Margaret says.

 

“No, no,” Emma says. “It’s just, I’ve been a Swan for a while.”

 

“Just have a think,” her mother says and Emma smiles at her in an effort to reassure her.

 

“I definitely will,” she says. “Thank you so much for the food.”

 

At seven, there’s a knock at the door of her apartment and Emma opens it to find Regina, a bottle of red wine in one hand. “Hey,” Emma says, kissing her. “We’re going downstairs.”

 

“Please tell me dinner is not cinnamon buns and coffee,” Regina says, taking off her coat. She’s wearing a grey woollen dress, tights and heels, make-up and hair immaculate.

 

Emma grabs her hand. “You’d love that.”

 

She leads Regina into the courtyard. She’s strung lights up, the heater is blasting and Belle has helped her set up the speakers to play music. She’s had to drag one of the coffee shop’s tables out because she still doesn’t have furniture for the courtyard but she’s pretty proud of how it’s turned out.

 

“It’s lovely,” Regina says. “Did you do this for me?” She sounds so shocked that Emma might do something nice for her.

 

“Course,” Emma says. “Do you know what else I did? Not cook.”

 

“My hero,” Regina replies dryly and sits down.

 

“Back in a moment,” Emma says, though she doesn’t leave quite yet, staring at Regina, the lights playing against her skin. She wants to say ‘screw dinner, let’s go upstairs’ but she restrains herself. This is going to be perfect.

 

They haven’t slept together yet, not this time round. Things had got a bit hot and heavy pretty early on and Regina had pushed away from her, distancing herself from her on the couch and looking at her with horror etched on her face. “I’ll just go, shall I?” Emma had said, unable to keep the hurt from her voice.

 

She’d got to the car by the time Regina had run after her, grabbing her arm. “I don’t want you to think that this is just physical for me,” she said and there had been such desperation in her eyes. Emma remembered that awful night (stress relief, no future, tears) and got it.

 

“We got into that pretty quickly first time round. We’ve got all the time in the world,” Emma had said and the relief on Regina’s face had been palpable.

 

“Come back inside. Please,” Regina had said and Emma had followed her.

 

There have been other miscommunications over the past month, too many moments where Emma remembers what Regina said and did and she wants to hurt her like she was hurt (forgiveness, Emma has discovered, does not come as naturally to her as it does to her parents), moments where Emma asks too much of her and Regina responds in anger, moments where Emma thinks that maybe it’d be easier if she just ran. But then she remembers that she knows what Regina looks like without make up and that she still bears the scars of her childhood and that she’s terrible at saying sorry and that they love each other and that being apart would definitely be more difficult.

 

They’re getting there.

 

The lasagne is hot – she’s using the coffee shop kitchen for dinner – and she plates it with salad. Fortunately, her waitressing experience allows her to carry two plates on one arm. Regina leaps up to help her. “Can you open the wine?” Emma asks her, the one job she’ll struggle to do on her own. So Regina pours them each a generous glass of merlot.

 

“This is lovely,” Regina says, between bites.

 

“Thank Ma when you see her tomorrow,” Emma says.

 

“I will.”

 

“What did you guys get up to today?”

 

“Henry made me play wii tennis,” Regina says, shuddering, and Emma laughs.

 

“Did you win?” The only person allowed to beat Regina at games is Henry (and even then not too often) as Emma found out when they’d played Singstar one evening and Emma had cracked Regina’s high score on ‘Mr Brightside’ and Regina had sulked for the rest of the evening. Emma’s not allowed to play Singstar anymore.

 

“We called it a draw,” Regina says.

 

“So Henry won.”

 

Regina sniffs.

 

“Ma and Dad are really excited to have him for a whole night,” Emma says.

 

“I’m glad he has grandparents. My father died before Henry could know him and my mother, well, you know.” Emma doesn't know the whole story, but she knows enough. Cora's threats to tell Henry he was adopted, the fights every family holiday, the tutor when Regina was 17 who was run out of town for having the audacity to like Regina and be loved in return...

 

When dinner is finished, Emma takes her hand. “I want a dance,” she says. “I didn’t get to dance with you at the ball because we were busy hating on each other.”

 

She turns the volume up and she’s holding Regina close, smelling her hair, feeling the press of their bodies, Regina’s arm around her waist, swaying to something classical, when the song changes and the ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ blasts from the speakers. Regina’s face is tense in its desperate desire not to laugh, not to ruin the moment more than it’s been trampled with steel-cap boots. “I might kill Belle,” Emma says conversationally. “I said classical music.”

 

“Well, it is big band,” Regina says and, with perfect rhythm, starts sweeping Emma quickly around the courtyard, until they’re both laughing so hard they have to stop.

 

Despite the heater, though, it’s freezing and Emma’s cheeks are starting to feel numb. She grabs Regina’s hand and pulls her inside – dishes will keep until tomorrow – and upstairs. “There’s pie,” she says. “Graham made it.” And Regina, who is addicted to Graham’s cherry pie, smiles beatifically.

 

But when they get upstairs, Emma kisses Regina and as if by some mystical force they end up on the bed, Regina straddling her, biting and licking at her neck, sending shudders through Emma’s body. “This okay?” Regina asks and Emma nods so fervently that she hits her head against the headboard.

 

“Ow, Christ!”

 

Regina sits up, still straddling her and laughs; it’s a deep, throaty chuckle. “Ms Swan,” she says, shaking her head.

 

“Might not be Ms Swan for much longer,” Emma says because apparently verbal diarrhoea’s her thing. “Ma’s asked me to change back to Blanchard.”

 

“You’ll always be Ms Swan to me,” Regina says and that really should not be so seductive. Regina pulling her dress off, however, is just as sexy as it should be. Emma can’t help the growl that comes out when she takes in the scraps of black silk and, holy shit, is that a garter belt and stockings? Emma’s suddenly feeling horrifically under-dressed. She strokes a finger along the bare skin of her upper thigh.

 

Emma kicks off her shoes, one of Ruby’s red heels flying too far and hitting the wall. “This is going to be less dignified,” she warns Regina. “I’m doing this one handed.”

 

“Let me then,” Regina purrs and pulls Emma’s shirt off, though the effect is somewhat ruined when she gets it stuck on her cast. Then she’s unclasping her bra and has her mouth around one of Emma’s nipples and all Emma can do is gasp and let it happen.

 

So Regina moves lower, unbuttoning Emma’s trousers and Emma has just enough brainpower left to lift her hips so that Regina call pull her trousers and underpants down. And then, oh God, then she licks.

 

When Emma’s come down from her high, she returns the favour and it is very, very satisfying to make someone so put together fall apart.

 

“Emma,” Regina whispers and Emma wonders if this is going to be some sort of serious declaration.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can we eat pie now?” So they lie in bed, mostly naked (Regina’s kept the stockings on when she saw Emma’s face) and eat cherry pie straight from the dish. And if some of the pie ends up being eaten from Emma’s body, well, Emma’s not complaining.

 

Henry eyes them warily when they pick him up the next morning. He’s a perceptive kid and he’s probably worked out his mom’s wearing a pair of Emma’s jeans and a woollen cardigan that she deemed “not entirely terrible”.

 

“Breakfast, kid?” she asks and Henry nods, even though she knows Mary Margaret will have made him a proper cooked breakfast. They go to Granny’s and Regina orders muesli but steals Emma’s hash browns. She texts Get your own greasy delicacies food hog <3 but Regina only smirks. Henry tells them that he beat David at poker and that Mary Margaret made chilli for dinner.

 

Then Emma’s phone beeps: Stress relief was great. Want to do it forever? And Emma can’t help but laugh, which relieves Regina who has been eyeing her anxiously as she reads. 

 

Yeah, they’re going to be okay.