This episode of "Come On, Be Nice" will cover events from episodes 9-13 (from "True North" through "What Happened to Frederick" of season 1, focusing on Emma's and Regina's arcs in those episodes.

"Why have you detained my son?" Regina pitched her voice dark. Mr. Clark – one of Snow's damn dwarves, she was sure – wiped his nose and had smarts enough to look sheepish.

"I'm sorry, madam mayor, but your son was shoplifting."

Turning to Henry, who stood shoulders straight. "Were you?"

Henry shook his head. She couldn't tell if he was afraid of her believing him, or disbelieving him.

The druggist Mr. Clark said, "Well, look for yourself." He pointed to a bench which held Henry's backpack and some goods taken from it.

Rifling through the stack of Apollo bars and immediately looked at Mr. Clark. "My son doesn't eat candy. And he knows better than to steal." Looking around as she picked up Henry's backpack and zipped, she noticed two other children. The girl was blonde with unkempt curls. The boy dark-haired like Henry. Something niggled in her mind about who they really were. But she was done with Clark's accusations. "It was obviously those two. We're going." Regina opened the door. But her way out was blocked as Emma Swan entered.

Emma looked from Regina to Henry to Mr. Clark. "Henry? What happened?"

Regina had taken care of it and didn't need Emma backing her up this time. "Miss Swan, must I remind you that genetics mean nothing? You are not his mother and it's all taken care of."

The green eyes narrowed at her, and she looked surprised that Regina would "pull rank." Emma shook her head and said, "I'm here because I'm the sheriff."

Regina was surprised, but only for a moment. Logically, it was probably true that Mr. Clark called the Sheriff's office when he first caught what he suspected were shoplifters before he'd called her. "Oh, that's right. Go on, do your job." She pointed at the other two children. "Take care of those miscreants." She grabbed Henry's shoulder and nudged him out the door ahead of her.

Emma only spared one last look after Regina before she decided it was better to do her job than pursue what bee had gotten under the mayor's bonnet this time. Damn prickly woman. "Did you call their parents?"

"The number they gave me was disconnected."

After Mr. Clark walked away, Emma looked at the collection of things taken from Henry's backpack, then at the kids. Their bulky jackets for the nearly spring morning seemed...off somehow. The boy's hand skimmed the front of his pocket and she recognized it for a smoothing motion. Ah, okay. "Out with the rest of it."

The girl frowned but both of them emptied their pockets onto the counter. Among the candy was toothpaste, several packages of cheese crackers, and Slim Jims. Emma's gut told her this was about to go down a painful path, recalling her own sticky fingers days. And the reasons for it.

Keeping her voice light and calm, she asked, "Did you guys give Mr. Clark a fake number?" She smiled at them then tucked her hands in her back pockets in an effort to look less "lawman" and more "concerned friend." The kids however shook their heads. "Then why is it disconnected?"

The girl – Emma saw herself in the blonde, just a bit taller than her brother – lifted her chin as if daring Emma to make fun of them. "'Cause our parents couldn't pay the bill."

Emma picked up the box of toothpaste. "You guys are just trying to help out, huh?"

The girl's nod was slow, evidence she was still being cautious about how much information she gave out. "Please, please don't arrest us. It will just make things worse for our parents."

Emma wondered if the parents were bad, the situation was bad, or if she was being lied to. "All right, come on, I'll take you home and have a talk with them."

Just as she started to turn away, she caught the boy look up at his sister, the expression a mix of worry and sadness. Oh yeah, this was going to be interesting. "I'll let you run the siren in the cruiser," she added to the boy as he passed through the door in front of her.

His expression suddenly burst with open excitement. Then his sister nudged him in the ribs and he dropped his eyes.

Emma put her hand on the boy's back and lifted her chin toward the cruiser. "Right this way." The girl followed them.

Behind the wheel of the cruiser, looking at the kids sharing the front passenger seat, Emma asked, "What's your names?"

"I'm Nicholas, and this is Ava."

Emma mentally patted herself on the back. The kid had definitely loosened up when she let him briefly run the siren. She headed into the neighborhood behind the pharmacy and started looking at the houses. "So which is your house?"

Nicholas opened his mouth then Emma saw him snap his jaw shut. His sister, she noted, had gripped his hand so hard it appeared white around her fingers.

"It's on the next street," Ava said quickly.

So Emma turned the next corner, still watching the kids. Looking out the passenger window Nicholas brightened suddenly, but didn't say anything. "Is this it?" she asked. There were three houses within view and any of them could be where the kids were staying. She wasn't about to say it was their "home" suspecting already she was dealing with "street kids." She cut the engine and reached for her belt.

Ava and Nicholas were pushing out of the passenger door before she could finish extricating her key. "Please no," Ava said. "If our parents see you, they'll be so embarrassed."

Getting out of the car anyway, Emma looked them over a moment. "Did Henry tell you about my superpower?"

Nicholas shook his head but he also looked curious and excited. Ava once again grabbed his hand. "We only just met him," she said, answering for them both.

"Well," she again tucked her hands into her back pockets. "I have the ability to tell when anybody is lying." Nicholas's face fell. "Tell me the truth. Money problems aside, is everything okay at home?"

"Yeah, we're great!" Ava said quickly. "Can we go now?"

"Alright."

Getting back in the cruiser, Emma noted the street name and numbers as she watched Ava and Nicholas mount the steps to the front door of a pretty sizable place, 3 stories, probably 4-5 bedrooms. Even a basement. It was run down a bit, kind of like a lot of things in this town, but it wasn't the house of a family with two kids who also struggled to make ends meet. She kept watch in the rearview mirror as she drove slowly away.

Just as she reached the end of the street, she noticed the kids dive off the front steps and go between the houses, headed for the alley. Quickly she circled the cruiser around, parked it at the corner out of sight, and hustled to follow where they had disappeared.

She followed her instincts and entered the house. Yep, basement, she noticed. There were scattered Apollo bars on the kitchen table and abandoned pots in the sink with a stepladder next to the cabinet. Squatters.

The door to the basement rattled and she turned to see Nicholas and Ava spill out into the kitchen. Their eyes were wide and scared when they met hers. "Why did you guys lie to me? Where are your parents?"

Ava, who had, until this moment been defiant and strong, had tears in her eyes. "We don't have any."

Well, shit. Emma leaned back against the counter.

Henry ran away from Regina the minute they arrived home. "Henry!" she shouted after him.

"I've got homework!" he shouted back.

She ground her teeth. He was probably looking up those children in that blasted storybook. She'd cursed untold thousands and couldn't be bothered to remember them all, but she sat down in her study with a glass of cider and sighed, trying to cast her mind back and pin it down. She needed to know, because she was certain, just like with Graham, Emma Swan's presence and interference would 'awaken' these children as well. Then where would she be? Another step closer to her curse breaking.

Stealing children. She frowned. She'd never kidnapped children, but oh...yes, she'd gotten some children to steal for her. Oh. Oh, damn.

She hurried out the door and got into her car.

At the loft while the children sat at Mary Margaret's table eating cereal and leftovers, Emma asked her, "Do you know them? Do they go to your school?"

Mary Margaret looked over at the children, her face a study in confusion. "I've seen them, but I had no idea, none of us did."

Emma read from a file she'd printed at the station. "Ava and Nicholas Zimmer." Scanning further she added, "So their mother was a woman named Dory Zimmer. She died a few years ago."

Mary Margaret shook her head.

Emma fretted. "No one seems to know her or remember her." Each person she'd asked, the neighbors, the kids' teachers, the attendant at the playground, all had the same foggy recollection. They knew of her, but no one could describe her beyond, "Well her kids look like her." Since one was brunette and one blonde, that left Emma with not even a clear description to post to a BOLO feed or the state's Bureau of Missing Persons. And she didn't want to go that far...for reasons.

Mary Margaret asked, "And the father?"

"There isn't one, at least not one that they know." Probably had skipped out when they were too young to have any recall of him. Single motherhood had probably put their mother in that early grave.

"What does, uh, what does social services say?"

Emma looked away from her to the kids.

Mary Margaret said, "You didn't report them."

Emma frowned but she leaned close and whispered, "I report them, I can't help them. They go into the system."

The schoolteacher brightened. "The system that's supposed to help."

"Yeah, says the woman who wasn't in it for sixteen years." Emma resented the bright cheerful woman in that moment. She had no idea. "Do you know what happens? They get thrown into homes where they earn meal ticket, nothing more. These families get paid for these kids and as soon as they're too much work, they get tossed out and have to start all over again."

"But not all are like that."

Emma retorted, "All the ones I was in."

Mary Margaret studied Emma's face for a long quiet moment. "What, then?" She sat back. "We're just gonna adopt them?"

Emma put the file on the table and shook her head. "I want to look for their father. They don't know him. He may not know they exist."

"And you think if he knows, he'll want them."

"I don't know. But what I do know is that it's hard enough finding foster families to take one kid that isn't theirs, let alone two. It's the best shot, or—"

Ava burst up next to Emma startling her. "...we're gonna be separated?"

Emma reached for her shoulder. The girl pulled quickly out of reach. "No, that's not gonna happen."

"Please, please don't let it." She looked to her brother, then back to Emma.

"I'm gonna do my best, kid," Emma promised.

Emma walked into the mayor's office. "You summoned?"

She was thoroughly annoyed. City Hall records had been a dead end. The kids' birth certificates didn't exist. Henry had said he was absolutely certain their father would be in Storybrooke, going on again with the "no one ever leaves," when the mayor's secretary called and told her the mayor wanted to see her "promptly."

Regina turned where she stood across the office space a folder in her hand. Regina: Don't worry, Miss Swan, you can relax. I've contacted the social services. Turns out these kids are on their own. They need help."

Emma rolled her eyes. Of course, the mayor knew everything. Hadn't she learned yet? Though disgusted with herself for forgetting that fact, Emma defended her plan. "Which is exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to find their father."

"Well, he doesn't exist."

"He has to."

"Of course, biologically, he exists. But there's no record of him, which means we have no choice. These children need a home, so they will be put in the foster system."

"Storybrooke has a foster system?"

"No, but I have contacted the state. Maine's group homes unfortunately are filled. But they put us in touch with two homes in Boston. Boy's home and a girl's."

"They're separating them?"

"I don't like it either, but we've got no choice," Regina said and Emma's sixth sense pinged. She started to call the woman on it when Regina completely blindsided her. "You need to have them in Boston tonight."

"Me?" Why would Regina want her to take the kids to Boston? Emma narrowed her eyes. It would be a quick way to get Emma out of town. But if the sheriff were to go missing… Certainly Regina didn't want the kind of trouble that would bring down on her head?

"Well, you wanted to be sheriff. This is what sheriffs do. Yes, you're taking them." Emma was surprised to notice Regina finishing the words as if they were distasteful. So she didn't actually want Emma to leave town? Regina might not be the Evil Queen of Henry's fairytales, but damned if she wasn't the queen of mixed signals.

She pushed, hoping to get Regina to back down and tell her what was really going on. "No, I promised them they wouldn't be separated."

Regina bit her lip but then squared her shoulders. "Then you should stop making promises you can't keep." She walked up to Emma and handed her the file. "These children need a home. I'm just trying to find the best one."

"Regina, look. It'd be better for them if I can find their father."

"You've already looked through their birth certificates. They're blank."

"But I'm sure I can find them. Give me some time." Regina frowned. Emma reached out a hand. "Remember, I want to do good," she said. "If you know something you could help. How did you get the files so fast?"

"I'm the mayor, dear."

"Yeah, but…"

"Emma, they're not your concern."

"I kinda see myself in them, you know." Emma stepped forward. "Maybe they've got something that can help me find their father. Or I don't know, maybe Archie can hypnotize them, give us a clue."

"There's no time. Tonight, Emma." Regina looked down at where Emma had grasped her hand. She looked up and Emma bit her lip to prevent a premature show of triumph.

"Get me time," Emma pleaded. "Call them back and tell them we're following a few leads. Twenty-four hours."

Brown eyes faltered. Regina pulled her hand away and shoved her fingers through her hair. "All right."

Impulsively, Emma pulled Regina to her and kissed her. "Thank you!"

Regina fretted and set Sidney on tailing Emma. "I want assurances she's being cost-efficient with department resources!" she snapped when he questioned her.

Damn. She touched her lips, still quivering from Emma's touch. If Emma found these children's father, then Henry might push her toward her parents again. Emma had already moved in with Snow, though she thought the woman was simply Henry's schoolteacher. And David had awakened from his coma. Graham had figured out he didn't have his heart. The cracks in the Curse were becoming more apparent.

Heart and mind racing, Regina fought down the feeling of being cornered. Then she scoffed. Emma wouldn't be able to find the children's father, or if she did, his blocked memories would result in him denying it. So he'd look like a man who abandoned his children, and Emma would fret, but she would have to give up. And, in the end, she would take the children away to Boston.

She knew Emma saw herself as an orphan, raised in this world without her parents. Regina had learned about some of the woman's scrappiness when Sidney had produced the expose during Emma's election as Sheriff. Despite herself – or perhaps because of her continued intimacy with the blonde – she had seen something to admire in the way Emma fought through her life. Like Regina herself.

Damn, this was getting her nowhere. She had first set out to drive Emma out of town, and now… Now she was developing feelings for her. This was intolerable.

Crossing the street to the school to collect Henry, Regina saw the sheriff's department vehicle at Michael's Body Shop. The blonde was talking to the man as he worked under the hood of a car.

"What's Emma doing there?" Henry asked.

Regina looked down to see him beside her. "She's supposed to be driving those miscreants who stole from Mr. Clarke to Boston."

"She's going to leave town? No! She can't!" He dashed away from Regina.

She started to follow him, only to stop herself at the curb. If she gave credence to his storybook "evidence" by protesting it too often, Emma would probably follow the dots to break the curse sooner rather than later and that process had to slow down. Regina wasn't ready to give up her happy ending.

Wondering now exactly how the Savior was destined to break the curse, she headed for the only person with the answer: Rumplestiltskin.

"Gold," she called as she crossed the threshold into his shop. "Where are you?"

"Madam Mayor? What can I do for you today?"

"I need to know something."

"Not in the business of selling information, I'm sorry. But if you're looking for any things, I'd be happy to help."

"What do you know of curses?"

"Generally speaking I try to be circumspect in my language," he replied. "Cursing is rather… uncouth."

"Fairytale curses."

"Reading children's books, Madam Mayor?" He looked at her askance for a moment and she thought his eyes gleamed. "Very well." He shrugged. "If the Grimms brothers are to be believed, they're made of evil intentions and always broken by True Love's kiss."

"I've been trying to stop a true love kiss," she grumbled, barely audible. "But it's still cracking."

"What?" he asked, looking confused.

Frustrated, Regina left.

She saw Emma coming up the street with something in her hand. Quickly she moved around the corner out of sight.

"Some kids said their mother had gotten it from their father. I thought maybe he bought it here." Emma passed over a small compass battered around the edges. "I just need a name."

Mr. Gold bent over the compass with his jeweler's glass then straightened. "Perhaps. Let me check my files."

She watched him open a small file drawer, flipping through several cards. "Ah yes," he said, lifting one card and appearing to read it. "Mr. Michael Tillman."

"The auto mechanic?" Emma's brow furrowed. She'd talked with him since the kids had been seen crisscrossing his property outside the school when they went to their old hidey hole home. He hadn't thought of them as anything other than troublemakers.

"What's this about, Sheriff?"

"Nothing. Nothing. Thanks." She picked the compass back up and walked out of the pawnshop.

Regina grumbled as she saw Snow sneaking peeks at David over her breakfast menu at Granny's. So far the Charming pair had done little more than moon-eye at each other. David's wife in this world, Kathryn had not seemed to notice her husband's straying eye, going moony instead over the physical education teacher at Henry's school where she was the principal. Damn. Knowing Rumple's penchant for loopholes in his deals, it could be either of them. She decided it was important to destroy them both.

It was simple enough to buy a can of spray paint. "I'm refreshing the paint on my gate," she told Mr. Plotz, the dwarf Bashful, who owned the home improvement store on Main Street. She found Snow's station wagon and spray painted it front to back with "Tramp" on both sides. Tossing the can in the trash at Kathryn's home, she walked to the school and collected Henry for an afternoon treat at Granny's so she could watch the fireworks go down.

"Hi, Emma," Henry said.

Regina looked over her shoulder to see Emma entering the diner. "Sheriff Swan," she greeted, her voice tight.

"Hey, guys." Emma walked over and invited herself to sit down on the bench next to Henry, her gaze on Regina for the longest moment before she turned to smile at her son.

"Have you found Hansel and Gretel's dad yet?" Henry asked.

Regina frowned, but was surprised to see Emma do the same. "I've got a lead," Emma said, "on Ava and Nicholas's father, yeah."

"You have only a few hours left for this lead to pan out, Sheriff."

"Oh, yeah, no, I'm just waiting for Mary Margaret's car to get repainted. Then I can talk to him."

Behind her coffee, Regina bit her lip, keeping her gaze level with Emma's.

"Who is it?" Henry's excitement dug at Regina's chest with every word.

Without taking her eyes off Regina, Emma said, "Let me worry about that, kid." She brushed his hair with her hand and, as she stood, kissed the top of his head. "See ya later."

"Miss Swan?"

"The sheriff will deliver her report later, Madam Mayor." Emma smirked and walked away. Regina's stomach roiled.

Regina sent Henry home with instructions to complete his homework before dinner, telling him she had work to do at the office. A spray paint can sat on the corner of her secretary's desk. Nervously, she looked around.

"Something I can help you with, Mayor Mills?" Her secretary entered from the corridor beyond her office's welcome area.

"Where've you been?"

"I...uh, just stepped out to use the restroom. I had the phone forwarded to Mindy's desk." The young woman cowered in the face of Regina's anger.

"Fine. Where's the sheriff?"

"I assume the sheriff is in her office? Or maybe on patrol?"

"I just saw her at the diner."

"Well, she's not here," Mindy said. "You want me to call around and find her?"

"What? No." Regina turned so quickly the paint can knocked to the floor.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Mindy said, leaning over to pick it up. "I hope you didn't get any on you."

"No, of course not. This is yours?"

"I was going to repaint the flower pots in the foyer this afternoon."

Regina exhaled and snapped her relief. "Fine."

As she headed for her office, Mindy asked, "Did you need me to find Sheriff Swan?"

"No."

"Alright."

Regina slammed her inner office door and threw herself to her couch.

"Madam Mayor."

Startled, Regina turned and found the bedeviling Savior standing in the shadowed corner by the hat and coat stand.

"Did I hear you looking for me?"

"What the hell are you doing here? How'd you get in here?" Regina hissed.

"Just walked in." Emma stepped forward, hands sliding down her hips and thumbs hooking into her belt, just barely caressing the Sheriff's badge attached to it.

Regina's gaze snapped up to Emma's. The sheriff was studying her.

"Thought I'd give you an update on my search for the kids' father. Pretty sure I found him."

"'Pretty sure' doesn't mean those children will have a proper home by nightfall, Sheriff."

"Something distracted me in our conversation, but I'm headed back over there now." Emma's left arm moved and Regina was distracted from Emma's gaze to look at it. "Recognize this?"

"It looks like a toy."

"Well, it's actually a pretty rare artifact because of today's technology...it's a compass."

Regina lifted her chin and schooled her features before turning to Emma. "Something you should use to find your way back home to Boston?"

"Or for a pair of kids to find their way back home," Emma said. "I wonder what will happen when I give this to Mr. Tillman?"

Regina knew items from the Enchanted Forest could hold magic. She had a vault full. And Rumple had his in the pawnshop. But without magic here, how could it be powerful enough to break her curse? It wasn't True Love's Kiss. She snapped, "Even if he is their father, living with a man who is already barely making a living won't be any kind of good life for those children. You should take them to the homes in Boston."

"So concerned about people leading a 'good' life, aren't you?"

Regina narrowed her eyes. Emma was getting at something, or at least thought she had something. "I would prefer to be mayor in a town of upstanding citizens," she replied airily.

"Of course." Emma's green gaze gleamed as she stepped closer. "You wouldn't want a tramp running around Storybrooke, would you?"

She would have preferred Emma accuse her outright than this cat-and-mouse temptation game. Firmly keeping her jaw still, Regina said nothing. Emma's eyes were so close and the breath from her lips caressed Regina's face. She inhaled and tried to step back, only to find that she was the one against the wall. Emma had neatly walked Regina into the corner. Fuck.

"I'll see you tonight," Emma said, her lips lightly brushing against Regina's cheek.

Knees weakened, threatening to send her to the floor, Regina reached back and steadied herself with her palms planted against the wall. "For what?"

"So we can be bad girls together," Emma replied with a smirk.

When Emma had left the office, closing the door behind her, Regina sagged against the wall.

"I...yeah, I think…" Tillman shook his head. "You said those two kids had this? How do you know they didn't steal it?"

"Their mother gave it to them. You said yourself that your wife died."

"Sorry. But this...Dory, she wasn't my, my... It was just once."

An affair, Emma thought, I can work with that. "Sometimes that's all it takes."

"I met her when I was camping. And, we um... No, it's not possible. I don't have twins."

"Yes, you do. You have twins that have been homeless ever since their mother passed away. Your twins have been living in an abandoned house because they don't want to be separated from each other. Your twins are about to be shipped off to Boston, unless you stepped up and take responsibility for them."

Michael rubbed his hand from catching it on something in the car chassis he was working on. "Look, I can barely manage this garage. I can't manage two kids." He walked back to his workbench. "Why are you so sure they are mine?"

Emma took out the compass. "Besides the timing? Have you ever seen this?"

Emma studied him as he took the compass. She told herself it wasn't magic she was looking for as she studied his expression closely for any tell. A lot of people had memories triggered by familiar objects. Michael looked shocked. "I lost this."

"Let me guess, twelve years and nine months ago?" Emma took the compass back. "I know it's a lot, believe me, I know. A month ago, a kid showed up on my doorstep, I gave up for adoption, asking for help with... something, I ended up moving here for him."

"I heard about that. It's the mayor's son. But staying in town is, a lot different from taking him in."

"I don't have my kid, because I don't have a choice. You do. Those kids did not ask to be brought to this world. You brought them into this world, you and their mother. And they need you. If you choose not to take them, you are going to have to answer for that every day of your life. And sooner or later when they find you, because believe me they will find you, you are going to have to answer to them."

"I'm really sorry, I am." He put the compass back into Emma's hand. "I don't know anything about being a dad. If it's a good home you're looking for, it's not with me."

Emma turned away, tucking the compass back in her pocket. She was surprised only that his reason ended up being the same one Regina had suggested in the mayor's office. Had the mayor gotten to him somehow? What would she have to gain by that, by taking these kids away from their only parent?

She thought Regina had been softening over the last several weeks. But then Graham's death had happened and now Regina was even more mercurial than she had been at the beginning of Emma's time in Storybrooke. If she had been in love with the man, Emma could possibly see it, but Regina herself had scoffed at the idea of Graham as anything more than a carnal distraction.

She was walking down Main Street to the Sheriff's station where the kids waited for her when Henry darted over. "Aren't you supposed to be at home doing your homework?"

"What did Mr. Tillman say? Did you show him the compass?"

"Yes, and I've got to admit defeat. He won't take them."

"Did he hold the compass?" Henry asked.

"Yes, he held the compass. Go on, Henry. Go home. I've got a job to do."

"You can't take them over the line, Emma, something bad will happen."

"I know that," Emma said. "But I don't have any choice."

"You're the Savior," he argued. "You can fix this."

"I'm just the sheriff, Henry." She hunched her shoulders and walked into the station.

In the sheriff's cruiser, Emma headed for the town line. Ava and Nicholas sat in the back seat. She thought over everything and frowned. Just ahead she saw the Leaving Storybrooke sign. Wait, car...mechanic… She sureptitiously twisted the key too far, making the engine grind. "You gotta be kidding me." She pumped the brakes and gas pedals erratically. The car stuttered.

Ava leaned forward from the back seat. "What happened? What's wrong?"

Just then she knocked the key back and out into her hand, and the engine died. She almost grinned, but she kept her face straight ahead and answered brusquely, "Engine stalled."

Stepping out of the car, she pulled out her cell phone from her sheriff's jacket pocket.

"Who're you calling?"

"Help." She gave the girl a small smile and stared back down the road into Storybrooke.

Michael Tillman gets out of the tow truck. "You need a tow?"

"Yeah, I gotta get these kids to Boston by midnight."

He looked past her and Emma bit her lip. "That them?"

"Yeah."

"The car's fine?" Michael approached the car carefully, almost like it might blow up in his face any second. Emma knew how he felt.

"I just wanted you to see them, just once. I didn't think I could do it either. I gave up Henry 'cause I wanted to give him his best chance. When I saw that he didn't have it, I couldn't leave. I was just as scared. More, probably. But once I saw him, got to know him, I couldn't go back."

He turned to look back at her. "You're taking them? To Boston?"

The kids faces were pressed to the windows. Emma said, "I don't have to."

He inhaled and exhaled. "No, you don't have to."

Emma smiled.

Regina stood at the window of her room, staring out at her apple tree. From around her throat, she lifted the small brass ring on its chain and kissed it softly.

A shadow moved along the wall and she turned. Emma was slipping inside the bedroom door. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Boston."

"Miss me?" Emma's cheekiness made Regina roll her eyes. Emma took off her red leather jacket and laid it over the chair at Regina's dressing table. "I told you the sheriff would make her report to the mayor later."

"The state board—" She addressed Emma's reflection in her dark window.

The blonde gave her a wide, victorious smile. "Will find that the children have been taken in by their father."

As Regina turned away from the window she tucked the ring inside her blouse. Emma smirked. Though the woodcutter had been reunited with his children, the curse hadn't broken, so Regina felt marginal relief – but also endless curiosity. Emma Swan. Savior. Enigma. "How did you do it?"

"I just made him realize what he was going to miss out on."

Regina searched Emma's green gaze. How could this woman, herself so dumped on by life – abandoned on the roadside, tossed from home to home, going to jail, giving up Henry – how could she still have so much hope? And how could Regina get some of it for herself?

Emma smiled and Regina felt a small spark in her chest.

It was not hope, she told herself sternly. It was lust.

She let Emma embrace her all the same.

The blonde's hands roamed Regina's body, slowly, sensuously, removing Regina's robe and gown until she was naked.

When she was lowered to her bed, Emma's lips burn hot and soothing across every inch of Regina's skin, her stomach, her breasts, and her throat. Her hands kneaded Regina's thighs and back, pulling her body against Emma's still-clothed one. The rough cotton teased her skin, and aroused her passion. She lifted her arms around Emma's shoulders and cupped her head. She lifted her legs around Emma's hips, rubbing her hardening clit against the denim. "Em"—she gasped—"Ah!"

Emma nibbled on the edge of Regina's ear, sending sparks hot and thick into Regina's belly.

The blonde finally stripped away her own clothes and brought their bodies together, rubbing and kneading, and stroking deeply, until Regina writhed nearly mindlessly with need.

Her orgasm was explosive and she was drifting off when Emma left the bed.

"So, are we going to have to talk about how much you like paint?"

Her eyes, which had been heavy-lidded, snapped open. A green gaze met her from just a few inches away. "What?"

"Regina, you don't have to break everything else to feel whole yourself."

"What do you mean?"

"Just…" Emma brushed her fingertips across Regina's brow before kissing lightly just above her right eyebrow. "Just give it some thought, okay?"