"Oh my God, stop it! This is so cute!"
The girls all gush as Regina holds up a tiny green onesie that says "Hi, I'm new here" in cursive scrawl.
This is probably the 20th outfit she's unwrapped and she's committed to changing Mango three times a day just to make sure she gets photos in all of these before she grows out of them.
"That is so precious, where did you find it?"
"Regina, I discovered Etsy and it's changed my life," Kathryn sounds mesmerized between sips of her mimosa and she vows to learn more about this Etsy.
"Wow, this is so cute. Thank you all so much."
She looks around the table at all the women in her life who are beginning to feel more and more like family.
Belle, Ashley, Aurora and Katryn have all worked together to put together this adorable baby shower and she's never been so grateful. Despite it just being the 4 of them, she's got a pile of gifts next to the table in their private dining area.
The pile is complete with clothes for her, clothes for Mango, a foot massager, a pack and play, bottles, blankets and a myriad of books, all thoughtfully tailored towards children with two moms.
It's hard to keep from bawling but these days, she's always crying.
Emma made breakfast for her, remaking her egg twice until she got it right and she cried.
Emma had told her she looked beautiful in a shirt that was officially too small for her and had offered her an oversized hoodie until she could get home to grab another, looser shirt. She cried.
Emma had dropped her off here with a kiss on the cheek and a reminder to enjoy herself and enjoy all the attention.
She ugly cried.
And every time Emma had chuckled, kissed her forehead and pulled her in for a hug, rubbing her back understandingly until the tears subsided.
It never ceases to amaze her how flawed Emma can be while simultaneously being perfect.
"Thank you all again, really. This is too much."
"Again, and I cannot stress this enough, the proper thanks is naming the baby after me," Aurora chimes in, refilling her glass.
"Ha! Well, as always, we'll add it to the list for consideration. Thank you for submitting that request."
"Mm, but seriously, have you guys picked a name yet? You only have two months to go before you meet her, you can't call her Mango forever!"
Belle makes a great point and she grimaces.
"No, definitely not. I mean, we talked about it last week but we can't seem to agree on anything. She likes unisex names and I prefer the more traditional ones so we just haven't been able to agree and nothing has jumped out at us."
"Well, what are you considering? What does the list look like right now?"
She takes out her phone, knowing she just texted Emma her most up-to-date list the other day.
"Okay, well personally, I love Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Olivia, Alexandra."
Everyone nods politely but it's clear that none of them are really in love with her options.
"Okay, well, don't love them all at once."
"Well...Mia Swan-Mills could be cute!" Kat says supportively.
"They're just so old-fashioned! Take it from someone named Ashley, sometimes it's nice to spice it up. What's on Emma's list? Maybe we can help you find a sweet spot."
She rolls her eyes and scrolls down to the next message Emma has sent her for her top 5.
"Jesus, this woman. Okay, Emma's list for our baby girl:
"Okay, so I'm thinking Finley," Emma says between bites.
"...like the new toxic Shane on L Word: Gen Q?" She shrugs having no clue who that even is.
"Like the murdered one?"
"Clarke, which of course is inspired by The 100. Such a badass," Ruby and Sadie both nod in agreement.
"Clarke, which is from a show she loves, I guess. Then there's…"
"Phoenix and Atlas, which I thought would be kinda cool for a girl, right?" Ruby looks unconvinced but Sadie nods politely, probably too early in their friendship to feel like she can be 100% honest.
Belle looks like she's doing her best to hold back her comments and Aurora doesn't even attempt to hold her laughter in.
"Okay, those are literally two ends of the baby name spectrum!"
"Right?! And it's like...how do you compromise on these?! I'm not naming my baby after a city or a BOOK about MAPS!"
The room finally erupts in laughter and she's glad to know she's not the only one who isn't sold on Emma's list.
"Yeah, I mean, those names definitely scream Emma! Any way to combine? Pick one for her first name and one for her middle?" Belle asks, reaching for another brownie, which inspires her to do the same.
At 7 months pregnant, she's officially given up on caring about gobbling down sweets. She'll go back to being on her best behavior once Mango arrives, but for now, her sweet tooth rages on.
"Or you could do what Phillip and I did! We agreed he could pick the boys' names and I'd pick the girls' names. Within reason of course. I've put a hard limit on Phillip Junior. I'm not raising a kid named PJ."
"Oh, yeah, don't do it girl," Kat chimes in.
"I won't do it girl, I was just thinking about it," Belle, Ashley and Aurora all burst into laughter while she and Kat sit there looking clueless.
"Wait, you guys haven't seen that Tik Tok?"
"Tic Tac?" Kat says and it's in this moment that she feels the age difference between them. Belle and her friends are all Emma's age and the five-year difference occasionally rears its ugly head.
"Oh my god, noooo! Tik Tok! It's an app, it's huge right now. I cannot believe you haven't heard of Tik Tok. Phones out ladies. You have SO much to catch up on."
"So, you guys are pretty sure you're having a girl but haven't checked yet?"
"No, we want to be surprised but I can feel it. She's a total angel AND she loves the sound of my voice and tummy kisses and yoga. She's very active during yoga."
"Regina's doing yoga now?"
"Yeah, just prenatal yoga though, nothing intense or off-limits. It's supposed to help her stretch and relax. She seems to like it so we've been doing it together in the mornings on the balcony."
"You….you have been doing...yoga?"
She rolls her eyes and grabs another nacho from the stack they're sharing.
"Yes, it's actually kind of nice. Relaxing."
Ruby smirks and looks over at Sadie who seems to be doing something with her hands. It takes her a minute before she realizes she's miming something and she's still completely clueless until Sadie pretends to tighten the invisible thing and then pretends to crack said whip on the table, making a pretty accurate noise while doing so.
"Yeah, okay fuck you guys."
"No no, it's cute. I love it. It's just funny cuz remember this time like a year ago when you were insisting she was just a hookup and this time two years ago when you were literally having sex in club bathrooms with girls?"
She grimaces and rolls her eyes, still pretty embarrassed about that particular lapse in judgment.
"Yikes. Glad I narrowly avoided that," Sadie adds in.
"That was one time. I was trashed and -ACTUALLY. I don't need to explain myself to you two."
They both laugh at her but it's Ruby who decides to cut her a break.
"Alright, fine. Well, I know you said no gifts because my presence is a gift-,"
"Literally never said that," Emma interjects.
"But you're my best friend and you're about to be a mom so here you go."
The gift is so poorly wrapped it hurts. Ruby has so many strengths but over the years, she's proven that gift wrapping isn't one of them.
Like herself, neither of them are particularly frilly and, if it was acceptable, she'd leave naked gifts under the tree.
She rips the lopsided paper off and holds up the item, squinting trying to figure out what she's looking at.
"It's a baby wrap. For...wrapping the baby up with," Ruby says it like a question.
"For sleep?" She asks, flipping it over to read how it works.
"Oh my God, what is wrong with you two?! You've seriously never seen these before?" Sadie pulls it from her hands looking it over then nodding.
"Yeah, this is a wrap that goes around your torso so you can carry the baby around in it while you do other things or shop or whatever."
Emma's eyes widen as she takes it back and looks at all the ways she could wrap the baby up.
"No, what? Are they insane? I'm not putting Mango in that?! What if it breaks?!"
Ruby's eyes widen comically too. "Well, no I think...they can't still be in business if the babies are just falling out all the time right? Parents would probably sue right?"
Ruby looks frantically between her and Sadie like they're supposed to know.
"Did it have a safety rating? Or reviews? Did people say their babies fell?"
"I...I didn't read the reviews. I just Googled the best gifts for moms of infants and this was in the top five."
"Okay, well I can't see how it makes it in the top five if babies are falling out of it but how do I know it's safe?"
Sadie rolls her eyes and sighs. "Jesus. I can't deal with you two. Who in the hell gave you permission to have a baby?"
"This cannot be right."
"Trust me, it's right. I followed the instructions to the letter. It's right. Ruby, get the lamp."
"How heavy is it, you think?"
"I'd say 10 pounds maybe?"
"Okay, that's probably what Mango will be."
"I certainly hope I'm not giving birth to a 10-pound baby, dear."
They all look up at her wide-eyed and it makes her wonder, not for the first time since walking in a full minute ago, what's going on.
"Gina. Hey. Hey." Emma quickly tries to untie the wrap from her shoulder but Sadie stops her.
"Um, no. Down girl. We literally just figured it out. You can wait 2 minutes for your hello kiss."
She comes down the two steps into the living room and smiles, putting her purse on the entryway table.
"No need to wait. I don't mind coming to you."
As if entranced, Emma meets her in the middle of the living room and bends down to kiss her.
"Hi baby," Emma whispers against her lips, which only makes her want more.
She reaches up to her neck and pulls her in deeper, tongue inching out before a shuffle reminds her that they're not alone.
"Hi Emma," she whispers back as she pulls away.
"Hi. Hey," Emma sounds utterly breathless and it brings her so much joy.
"So, what are we up to exactly?"
"Ruby got me this baby wrap thing, but I think it's faulty."
"You haven't even tried it."
"Well, let's keep going but Gina, you have my word, our kid isn't going into this thing until it's lamp tested and Emma-approved."
She chuckles at that, surprised that Emma's even on board with the baby wrap.
"Mmm, well, I suppose I'll leave you to it. I'm going to run a bath and then dinner?"
"Yeah, definitely. I took some chicken out so I can make skewers!"
Emma's forehead crinkles. "Oh, uhh, okay. Well, I could make something else."
"Not necessary, I already ordered Thai. It'll be here by 7."
Emma's eyebrows shoot up, probably because this is the third time she's initiated takeout this week, but she lifts her eyebrow as a challenge as well and her mouth closes instantly.
She smiles widely and just nods, getting better every day at reading the room.
"Glad to hear that. I'm going to run a bath, my feet are killing me. Come get me when the food arrives?"
"Of course," Emma practically whispers out and it takes everything in her not to smirk until she's turned around and out of their view.
This is how it's been for the last month or so. Emma is all but entranced with her.
If the word didn't sound so negative, she would say Emma's behavior was borderline obsessive.
Despite having her own place, Emma had offered up her home nearly every day of the week for the past month since the school year ended for the summer. And on the few occasions that Regina had insisted on going home to get more clothes or even just to check in and make sure nothing was awry, Emma had insisted on tagging along and ultimately staying the night over there.
Not that she minded. At all.
The closeness has done them such a world of good. She knows Emma better than she ever has before and somehow, she manages to find new ways to love her every day.
She wakes up to Emma bringing her breakfast in bed.
She sits next to Emma on the couch and shops for small, random items the books have told her to already have on hand while Emma watches t.v.
And, even then, when it seems like she couldn't care less, she still looks over when prompted, and gives a supportive "Yeah, put it in the cart."
While she had assumed Emma was just trusting her judgment, she quickly learned after their first round of purchases that Emma spent most of her hours awake in the middle of the night researching the things they'd bought.
And she only knows that because one following morning, Emma had brought her a full breakfast in bed and casually let her know that when the pacifiers arrived, they'd have to return them because once (more than 4 years ago) a baby swallowed a piece of the pacifier that had detached and choked. Despite the recent glowing reviews and the reality that it only ever happened the one time, Emma had let her know they weren't keeping them and that she'd ordered a "safer" option that Mango would love.
She had all but jumped her bones in that moment, putting the fruit aside for something sweeter: Emma, herself.
"Hey, just wanted you to know, food is here. And check it out?"
She opens her eyes to find Emma staring down at her, arms wide and grinning around a lamp that is tucked securely against her chest.
"We figured it out. We figure this is probably a solid 10 pounds and look!" Emma hops up and down and jumps from side to side wildly, yet the lamp remains tightly tucked into the baby wrap.
"Super secure! And, obviously, I would never jump around with our baby in here, swear. But good to know right? That she's not just gonna like, slip through the bottom?"
She has to let out a laugh at that, "I was never concerned about that dear, but I'm glad to know you're satisfied."
Emma laughs and pulls the lamp out of the wrap. "Well, yeah this kid's not getting hurt ever, but especially not on my watch."
She shakes her head in laughter and leans forward, ready to get out, and Emma quickly comes to her side to help. She's got quite the belly now but is fortunately still able to do most things on her own. Even still, she'll never say no to Emma being chivalrous.
"Thank you, baby."
"Also, kids get hurt. You can't control that."
Emma's eyes narrow at that. "Yeah, no I know but not on my watch."
"Okay and you thought I was going to be the crazy one. Let's just be honest, dear. You're going to hover."
Emma looks more than a little indignant. "Wha-no, no I'm not, I just don't want her to ever get hurt."
"Okay," she kisses Emma's cheek.
"Okay?" Emma says hesitantly, and it's obvious that she's not sure if she's won the argument or not.
"Okay." She ends their conversation with a solid kiss on her lips before leaving to put on pajamas, shaking her head the entire time.
Each day she becomes more certain of three things:
Emma is going to be overprotective.
Mango is going to have Emma wrapped around her finger.
She's never been more in love and she never will be.
"Okay, we really need to get serious about this."
"I am serious."
"No, we're not naming her Mango."
"Just as a middle name!"
"Ugh, fine. Here."
She hands over the computer and gets up to grab another glass of wine, already exhausted by this daunting task of naming their child.
"And we're sure it's a girl?" She says upon returning.
"Well not sure, but supremely confident. Everything I've read so far about how I'm feeling, thinking, what I'm craving, all of it...the internet says is in line with giving birth to girls."
"Okay, good because I custom-ordered this newborn outfit today online. I was thinking she could wear it home from the hospital."
She pulls up her emails and shows her the final product, an adorable pink onesie with a swan wearing a crown on it, with the words "princess" written in gold underneath.
"Aww, Em, this is so cute."
"Yeah? You like it? I thought..you know if we're Swan Queen, then she can be-,"
"The princess. Yes, I love it. This is definitely the heading home outfit. Thank you, dear."
Regina leans down and kisses her softly, before getting back to the original task at hand.
"You're welcome," she whispers almost breathlessly. Kissing Regina never gets old.
"Okay. I took our two lists and tried to find a way to compromise. I couldn't. I hated them all together. But I have come up with a solution. I found a website where you put in the last name and it generates some suggestions. So, we're going to generate names tonight until we land on something. Got it?"
"Got it, boss." She says as she leans back against the headboard. "Hit me with it. What do we got?"
"Alright, I'm going to read them off, if there's anything you like, just say so and then I can add in the name we like as either a first name or a middle name and it'll create more variations using the new name."
"Okay, let's do it, babe."
"First up, Alana Riley Swan-Mills. Chloe Haven Swan-Mills. London Marie Swan-Mills. Hayden Arabella Swan-Mills. Let me know when you hear something you like. Addison Mara Swan-Mills. Sofia Adele Swan-Mills. Feel free to jump in anytime. Amelia June Swan-Mills. Haley Rose Swan-Mills. Okay, so we're going to be here awhile, got it."
She laughs and snuggles into her side even more, hunkering down for the long night ahead.
"OKAY. This clearly isn't working. What about going old-fashioned, sentimental with this? I know you don't have a ton of family, but maybe something in honor of Ingrid? Or Ruby? You guys have been friends for a while?"
"Oh, yeah...I mean, Ingrid has been great. She's...she's the best. I'd...love to do something like that. If you were okay with it?"
Regina attempts to turn her way as best she can and smiles widely, "Of course dear. I think it would be really sweet. What about Ingrid Rose or something?"
"Well, I don't know, that feels a little confusing right? Having them both named Ingrid?"
Regina laughs, "I don't think it's too complicated, but we can do whatever you'd like with it. We can make Ingrid a middle name? Or even just call her by her middle name?"
"Yeah, sure! Okay, let's try those in the generator, maybe we'll get some better options!"
"Sure! Finally, we're getting somewhere."
"Wait….is this the one?"
"This might be the one."
"Are you serious? You don't hate it?"
"No, I actually don't. Do you?"
"No, I...kinda love it actually."
"Are you sure? It feels very outside of your comfort zone."
"No, it's pretty. It's unique, I like it. I love it actually. And I think it fits. It feels good."
"Agreed. Alright? So we're doing it?"
"We're doing it. Ingrid Elliot Swan-Mills? Elle for short?"
"Hear that Mango, you've got yourself a real name," Emma places a gentle kiss on her stomach and she hears her say her new, full name a few times to let it roll off the tongue.
It's nearly 1am now, but Mango is somehow as awake as they are and kicks wholeheartedly.
"Oooh, I think the name is now Ingrid Elle-approved."
"Regina, we need to get going or we're going to be late."
"I'm not going, Emma, I've already told you that."
"And I've told you, that's not an option. My parents have invited us to dinner but I'll be honest, I don't think she gives two fucks if I show up. She literally just wants to give you a bunch of gifts and fawn over you. So….kinda can't go without you."
She tries her best to keep her tone even. She tries to take deep breaths.
"I literally don't care," Regina shoots back mockingly through the door and she realizes that the deep breaths didn't help at all.
It's 5:44, she's starving and she's about to lose her shit.
"Gina, come on. I don't know what's got you in such a fucking mooood but we need to go."
She hears Regina scoff and knows that she's touched a nerve in an already dangerous minefield.
Okay Em. I know you don't want to but you're going to have to try the soft approach.
She rolls her eyes at herself. She's hangry and so she bypassed nicely pleading for Regina to emerge from the bathroom, but at 5:46, she's quickly running out of options. The drive to her mom's is at least an hour and they were supposed to be there at 6:30.
She takes another deep, steadying breath and leans on the door, making sure that she'll be heard as she lowers her voice, "Baby, can you please just open the door? Whatever it is, whatever the problem is, I can fix it. I promise."
The fact that she almost falls flat on her face as the door is abruptly opened is forgotten almost immediately because Regina is standing in front of her, basically naked, in nothing but a sheer bra that her tits are pouring out of and matching panties.
If they weren't in such a time crunch and if she wasn't still recovering from the fear of falling, she's certain she'd be hard in an instant.
Even with her fully rounded belly, with just 7 weeks to go until d-day, Regina is still the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. More so really knowing that she's carrying their child.
"Stop staring at me, Emma."
Her eyes widen. "Uh, how am I not supposed to stare? Your whole body is just so…," she moves her hands around at a loss for words.
Gorgeous. Magnificent. Breath-taking.
But before she even has a chance to pick one, Regina scowls and grabs a robe from the hook on the wall, covering herself.
"Fat? Disgusting? What, Emma? Jesus. You have some real nerve."
Her eyes widen immediately at that. "What? No, that's not at all-,"
"Oh please. You were staring, Miss Swan. Like I did this to myself. This is your fault, Emma, the least you can do is pretend to be understanding."
She opens her mouth to say something, but she's not really sure what to say.
Sure, Regina's not wrong, this is Emma's fault. And she was staring. But not in a bad way.
"Not in a bad way!" She says helplessly and it doesn't even make sense aloud but it doesn't matter either way because Regina just speaks right over her.
"I get it. I'm not the thin, sexy woman you first met but God, would it kill you to pretend to still be attracted to me?"
"I am attracted to you?" She regrets the upward inflection immediately because it makes it sound like a question when really she's just so confused as to what this is about.
"God, you'd make a terrible actress. Not that I'd believe you anyway. You…," Regina visibility swallows and ties the belt on her robe, "You haven't even bothered to touch me in months."
"What are you talking about?! That's insane, I touch you all the time."
"No, you touch Mango, you rub my stomach and talk to Mango but you barely even look at me."
"Sorry, when am I supposed to look at you exactly? You're being-"
Regina's eyes narrow dangerously and she shuts her mouth immediately.
They stand there silently for a moment, in a complete stand-off until finally she caves.
Hands tossed up, she spins and heads back to the couch.
"I'll call my mom and tell her we'll be late."
The door slams as her heel hits the threshold and she groans.
"Jesus fucking Christ."
"Should we talk about the elephant in the room?"
The moment it leaves her mouth, it's obvious Emma regrets it.
And if she had even an ounce of energy left in her, she'd fight about it but her feet are killing her. Her back feels like it's hanging on by a thread and Mango is not just sitting on her blatter, she's kicking it with everything she has.
It's after midnight and Mango is normally asleep but alas, wide awake and looking for attention clearly. It's as if she knows there's tension in the air and she refuses to sleep until it's resolved but she thinks this is one of the rare times that they just need to go to bed angry and work it out in the morning.
So she doesn't respond. She just sighs and makes her way to the bedroom. She wants to cut the walk short and collapse on the couch but the couch is made to look nice. Not exactly cozy. Though, in Emma's defense...
It used to be cozy. Less so now that the only comfortable position is on my side with a pillow between my legs.
She moves as quickly as she can with an ache-y back and when she gets to the room, she doesn't even have the energy to take off her clothes. She sits and it feels like it takes up all her energy.
Everything these days takes up so much energy. And somehow she's supposed to get bigger? Ache-ier? More irritable?
"Hey, you okay?"
Emma knocks lightly even though the door is open and she can barely look at her.
It's been like this all day since she finally emerged in a pair of loose joggers and a too-tight t-shirt. Emma kissed her soundly, swore she looked beautiful then ushered them as quickly as humanly possible to the car.
They were nearly an hour and a half late for the shower/dinner Emma's mother threw for her. And, while Ingrid had insisted that it was fine, the food had grown cold and they had all waited on her to eat then her anger turned to sheer embarrassment at making them wait.
The food, once heated, was delicious and the gifts were many and it had been a wonderful opportunity to get to know Ingrid and David better. And she left feeling like she'd finally had the family she'd been craving this entire time and that led to a long car ride of crying and "you okay?" and "I told you I'm fine" and it's just too much for today.
"I...I know you said you were okay but I just...feel like maybe we should talk?"
"I really don't want to, dear." She reaches over to remove her shoes and it feels like it's somehow become more difficult since she put them on 6 hours ago.
"Did I...do something wrong?"
"No." She gives up on the shoes and rubs her temple.
"Well let me help with that-,"
And the one straw, the thin, tiny miniscule straw holding her together just...breaks.
"Emma, stop. Seriously! I know you care and you worry and you want to fix every little thing all the fucking time but I'm so tired and I just want to be left alone. I just want a break for two seconds where you're not hovering and asking 'are you sure you're okay?'" she mocks, "Two seconds! Can you give me that?!"
She doesn't know what Emma's thinking or feeling because she says nothing. It's probably written all over her face but she cannot bring herself to look.
She never yells. She doesn't have to. Emma is sweet and compliant and wonderful and perfect.
Plus she knows how much Emma doesn't like it. Doesn't respond well to it. She knows that from their late-night balcony chats. She knows her triggers because Emma had bravely told her in therapy.
Yelling is a no for Emma and, more than that, she doesn't deserve to be yelled at but it feels like a dam breaking in her body and she's just...tired. Surely that's it.
"Emma, I just…," she sighs and looks up ready to apologize or provide some sort of explanation for her outburst but Emma is gone and the door is closed behind her with what she swears is a murmured "sorry."
And that just makes it all even worse. Because now she has to get up to go apologize. She won't actually get any rest if she lets this linger between them.
So she heaves another sigh and makes her way out to the living room but Emma is not there.
Nor is she in the kitchen, bathroom, or even her gym.
No she did not leave me. The thought triggers her fear which just resurfaces her anger from before.
Because worse than a stage 5 clinger for a partner is a quitter for a co-parent. Someone who just leaves when things get frustrating? No. That's not going to work.
She finds her phone within seconds and calls her.
No answer. She tries two more times and then, all of the emotions boil over at once.
She throws the phone to the ground and doesn't have to look to know that the screen has smashed which does not at all ease her anger.
She looks up at the ceiling, a sorry attempt to keep the tears inside but they flow from her regardless.
Then the door clicks open and Emma walks in with her arms filled with the gifts from Ingrid.
The one's Emma said she'd come back for so Regina could get upstairs and to bed sooner.
A doorman she's come to recognize from the overnight shift follows after her and places everything on the floor in the foyer and she says the first thing that comes to her mind and out of her mouth.
"I thought you left."
"Oh sorry, I just figured you were headed to-," when Emma finally looks her way, her face goes from focused on gifts to instant concern.
"Woah. What's going on? You alright?"
She scrunches her eyes together but the tears just keep coming.
"Uh, okay. Okay. Thanks for the help Tommy, I'll bring a tip down later. Sorry."
The door shuts quietly just as Emma steps down into the living room to envelop her in a hug.
"Hey, hey. It's okay. You're okay, babe. You're okay. Deep breaths. That's it."
Emma's shirt is soaked with her tears but her hands are firm on her back, rubbing up and down. Her voice is soft and her breathing is even and it brings her comfort she didn't know she needed.
"What's going on babe? You're scaring me."
"I'm sorry, I just...thought you left. Like for good. I came to say sorry and you were just gone."
It brings on another round of tears and Emma pulls her in tighter if it's even possible.
"It's okay. I'm right here. Not going anywhere. Never. I promise."
Kisses to her hair and Emma's gentle sway somehow manage to knock her out because the next thing she knows, she's in bed. On her side. With a pillow between her legs.
And knowing that Emma probably carried her like fine China, knowing that Emma's attentive enough to know her preferred position just makes the idea of her leaving even more absurd.
She buries her face in her pillow out of sheer embarrassment.
When she finally works up the courage, she maneuvers herself to face the other way but quickly finds the bed empty. The sheets are untouched though which means Emma hasn't come to bed at all.
She sighs and contemplates going to look for her.
"Alexa, what time is it?"
She sighs again. She's been with Emma long enough that she's getting good at this. If it's between 1 and 3am, she's in the clear. Emma never sleeps past one am and works out for a few hours to tire herself out. But she's always back in bed by 4. Anything after that is a problem. A nightmare. A fear. Or, the rarest of them all, a fight.
If she wakes up after 4am to find Emma missing, she's learned to go looking.
So she does and finds her where she always finds her.
"We have to stop meeting like this, dear."
Emma looks her way but seems completely unamused.
"What are you doing up so late? Or early I guess."
"We've been over this. We miss each other even in our sleep. It's gross but that's who we are now."
Emma nods but gives nothing else away, turning back to the city and exhaling deeply.
"Em-," but she barely gets a word out before Emma sighs again and turns towards her, hands in her hoodie pockets.
"Regina, look, I'm sorry about early. I didn't mean to push or fight or upset you. And I didn't mean to scare you when I left for a minute."
"Oh you….no dear, you have nothing to apologize for. As much as I don't like to blame the hormones, I…was being short-tempered and irrational. I'm sorry."
Emma nods solemnly and sighs.
Sorrys out of the way still doesn't seem to lighten her mood, Emma's shoulders still sagging heavily as she looks back into the night, the sun off in the distance preparing to rise.
"Talk to me, Emma."
"I'm…," she visibly swallows and she knows it's Emma's tell as she prepares to put her pride aside. "I'm also sorry…if I haven't told you or shown you enough, but you know I think you're…everything, right?"
The way Emma exhales on 'everything' makes her furrow her brow. "Everything?"
"Yeah. Just…all of it," she presses on, this time looking directly at her.
She bites her lip, unsure of what 'all' she is exactly. Emma must sense her absolute confusion because she turns back towards the view but keeps going.
"You're the first thing I think of, you know? The last thing I want to see before I go to sleep. Shit, probably the last person I want to see before I die. I think you're smart. I think you're funny. You keep me guessing but let me get you and know you better. I think you're so fucking sexy, especially when you're carrying my baby, but also you're just sweat pants, no make-up, first thing in the morning, bad breath drop-dead gorgeous," she all but growls out the last word.
"I keep….I keep waiting to wake up and not feel like you're the most exciting thing to ever happen to me and I'm honestly starting to feel like it's never gonna happen. I'm never gonna want more than you. I'm never going to need more than this. You, me, Mango. Our family. I'm never going to want to be anywhere else than right here with you. You're never going to wake up to find no one there. I want to live with you and die with you and, after you, I don't want anyone else in any other world or reality or lifetime. I know I don't say it enough, or ever at all, but you know all that right?" Emma turns to ask.
"Because I really need you to know that."
Her immediate response is to nod, but upon second thought, she's not sure if she's ever really known all that. She knows Emma loves her. She knows that Emma is here to stay, even though she can occasionally be irrational and say otherwise. She knows that but, even still…
"It's nice to hear sometimes. I…I think I need it. I need to hear it. All of it," she admits and her emphasis paired with Emma's immediately penetrating eye contact make it clear that the 'all' is the last step for them. It's those last little three words that are anything but little.
"You have all of me. I'll gladly tell you that for the rest of our lives, Gina. I'm sure about you. You're honestly the only thing I am sure of. I…just wish that was enough."
The defeat in Emma's voice is heartwrenching and she closes her eyes and just…takes it all in for a moment.
She sighs and acknowledges that they can't stay here, in limbo like this, a constant will they, won't they? It feels like most days they're hamsters on a wheel never really going anywhere but if she's being 100% completely honest? She'd rather be in this weird purgatory of partially together and partially not than nothing at all.
And what Emma is offering is all in. And that's surely better than the 50-50 line they've been toeing the last few months.
On the other end of all in lies just friends.
But just friends isn't even really an option. It never was. And the more time passes, the deeper she falls and the more she realizes they're inevitable.
Whether or not Emma ever says she loves her, they're (hopefully) going to be doing this for the rest of their lives.
She wants morning kisses and late-night balcony chats that will likely become more frequent once they welcome Mango into the world. She wants lazy weekends with their baby, wants to leave the party early with Emma, she wants it all and she always has.
It's what she asked for nearly a year ago. Everything.
Everything Emma had to offer, that's what she wanted.
And here it is, laid bare in front of her.
Emma has managed to open up and heal herself in ways she never thought possible in order to be good for her and their baby and for once...she finally sees it for what it always was. Enough.
The realization hits her like a freight train and causes her to inhale deeply.
The urge to hold Emma suddenly becomes too much to bear and she walks to her, feet still bare, belly burgeoning between them and runs her hands down Emma's arm until they find slender fingers and lace through the spaces as if they were made to fit together.
"I love you, Emma. And if you're sure about me, then…that's good enough for me," she mumbles with her face pressed into Emma's back, but she knows she's been heard when Emma scoffs, not unkindly.
"You say that now, but…what about in 10 years? When all our friends are married? When I still can't just…say it?" The way Emma's voice cracks breaks her into a thousand pieces and she honestly wonders how she could ever convince herself that Emma felt anything less than sheer love and adoration for her.
"Then…," and she laughs to herself at just how full circle they've really come. "Then we'll show them our joint bank accounts. And do a kitchen remodel and maybe even have another kid and still manage to not be miserable. And then 10 years after that, even when one of them eventually calls a time of death on their marriage, we'll still be us. Happy. In love. Just like we always have been."
If they were chest to chest, if her head was laying on Emma's chest the way it often is when they embrace like this, she's sure Emma's heart would be pounding. She can hear it in her breathing.
It sounds heavy and quick and it takes a moment before realizing it's because Emma is…crying.
The confirmation comes from the quick rise and fall of her back as she attempts to hold it all in.
Emma hates to cry and worse, hates to have her tears acknowledged, so she only squeezes her hands and presses further into her.
"I love you, Emma. I love you so so much. I always have. I always will. Forget the words, forget a ring, I just want you."
Emma lets out a gasping cry and squeezes her hands back even harder.
"I'm sorry it took me so long to see it..so long to say it but, you..you have always been enough. "
The sob that wracks through her body is next to violent and without even looking, she knows that the tears are likely free-falling from Emma's chin and all she can do is say it again and again and again until Emma believes it.
You may not believe it but this took more than a year to write. We'd actually started this before even publishing the last chapter and we've worked on several versions of this, all with a different ending until we landed here and it just felt…right.
Even still, we're biting our nails while hitting "Publish" so please give us all the feedback, all the thoughts! Next up will be the final chapter/epilogue! Until next time!