Author's Note: I've had this bit written and waiting for a while, waiting for me to add more. But I'm just going to publish this now and get it out of my drafts so there's some sort of update. (Hopefully there aren't too many errors.)

Chapter 3

The whirling purple smoke dissipated slowly. River blinked a few times, waving the remaining swirls from her line of sight. She took in the room around her. It was the foyer of an opulent mansion. The walls were beige, the floors hardwood, the wood accents white and dark brown. The décor was restrained, but beautiful. Much like the woman who made this place her home.

Regina was observing River's appraisal of her immodest abode. She'd taken the decorating very seriously during the settling of Storybrooke's finer details. But she'd had no new visitors in 28 years to show it off to. Emma Swan didn't exactly have an appreciation for interior design. Nor a willingness to indulge Regina's ego.

"Your home is lovely, Regina." River said finally, turning back to her host with a grin.

"Thank you. I do take pride in it. Although it's not much fun when there's no one to share it with," Regina said.

"Then I'm glad I can be of service, your majesty." River made a little show of bowing, eliciting a gentle laugh from Regina's lips.

River grinned at the sound and then bit her lip for a moment, hesitating. Regina took note and quirked an eyebrow.


"I hate to abuse your hospitality so soon, but could I pop in the shower? I haven't used a proper one in a couple months now."

"No showers in Stormcage?" Regina asked.

"They've got the communal, don't-drop-the-soap kind. And while it is more than interesting for the study of various alien anatomy, it is not altogether as comfortable as I would like," River replied. Regina laughed again.

"I could get used to that." River said.

"Used to what?"

"Hearing you laugh."

Regina's expression softened, her smile faltering only slightly at the unexpected admission.

"It's nice to have a reason to." Regina responded quietly. "You can use the shower off of the master bedroom. Take a right at the top of the stairs, first door on your left. Towels should be in there."

"Perfect," River said. She turned towards the stairs, about to bound up them, then turned back. "I know I'm pushing my luck, but could I also borrow some clothes?" Her eyes spent themselves over Regina's body, considering the suit that fit her like a second skin. "Second thought it might be hard to find something in your wardrobe that'd fit me."

"I'm sure I can find you something. Though it will be difficult to contain your curves, Ms. Song." Regina's eyes roamed down the woman's form appreciatively.

"I trust your judgement," River replied with a smirk.

River's eyes bulged at the shining display that was the master bathroom. There was a massive walk-in shower with a grey tiled floor and a removable shower head that made River's eyebrows raise in delight. She shucked her clothes frantically and tested the water temperature, stepping all the way inside when it was good and hot.

She let out a dramatic moan of pleasure as she stepped under the heavy stream. She surveyed the overwhelming selection of products on the shelf against the wall. She eyed each bottle carefully and picked what she could find to suit her curls. She'd probably end up with her abundance of hair coiling out towards the ceiling anyway.

Regina entered the master bedroom and caught a whiff of her magnolia shampoo from the bathroom. She smiled. It was her favourite.

She scoured her closet and drawers for something for River to wear. It was oddly exciting to be able to choose the woman's outfit and she had to resist the urge to choose items that would leave the time traveler's body scantily displayed.

She settled on a pair of loose, grey sweatpants – the ones she reserved for very, very relaxing days – and a purple camisole. She reluctantly tossed a zip-up sweater on the pile, hoping the woman would opt not to wear it.

When she had set aside the clothes on the bed, she was hit by a sudden wave of exhaustion. She submitted to it and lay down on top of the duvet to rest her head.

River stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a large beige towel, drying her hair with a smaller white one. She smiled at the sleeping form on the bed. Regina looked divine and innocent asleep, the worry chased from her features, her brow smooth and calm. River thought she could get used to this, too.

She reached for the clothes left on the bed, then reconsidered. Regina had arrived in the middle of her restless sleep so River was rather tired herself. She gently pulled the duvet back and attempted to cover Regina without waking her. The brunette stirred anyway.

"I guess I fell asleep. Sorry." Regina said drowsily.

"Nonsense. Go back to sleep if you can. I'll join you." River didn't second-guess that she'd sleep in the woman's bed. It seemed an unspoken decision. Still, she hesitated for a moment until Regina smiled and agreed.

"I'd like that."

River stepped to the other side of the bed and dropped her towel, slinking under the covers wearing nothing but a foolish grin.

Regina felt the woman's bare body press up against her suit jacket and shivered in arousal.

"I hope you don't mind," River spoke low and close to Regina's ear. "I sleep a bit warm."

"I can feel that," Regina replied. "And I don't mind one bit." She pressed her body further back into the other woman, her ass coming to rest in the cradle of River's hips. River hummed in approval, wrapping an arm around Regina's waist.

"I can't wait to spend the day with you." River said, drifting off.

"Just the day?"

"We can play it by ear."

Waking up in someone's arms was not a new sensation for either woman.

River had had her fair share of flings – one-night or otherwise – and had experienced lovers from various planets, timestreams, and gender combinations. Being married to a timelord wasn't really all that stimulating to any organ but the brain.

Regina had been a similar animal after having her husband killed. The dark magic had brought out desires and attitudes she'd never dreamt of expressing before. Of course in most cases, she didn't dare to let any lover linger long enough to express affectionate behavior.

Regina awoke with her head against River's chest, the woman's chin resting gently on the top of her head. She was tucked in so closely to her partner's body that she had trouble extricating herself. Not that she really wanted to leave the bare body in her bed.

"Morning," River mumbled as Regina moved. Regina stopped and put her head back down in front of River's.

"Good morning," she replied as she leaned in and planted a kiss on River's lips. It was slow and explorative, less heated than their frantic act the night before. River pulled the woman back in close to her body again, slipping a thigh between Regina's legs.

"Why are you still wearing clothes," River said against her lips.

"As a barrier to your insatiable appetite. I can't stay in bed all day, as much as I'd like to." Regina said, though she made no move to leave.

"Mmm, doesn't have to be the whole day. But we can have a little fun, can't we?" Without waiting for permission, River rolled over so she could straddle Regina's hips. She leaned down and captured the brunette's mouth again, thrusting her tongue deeply. River's hips rocked gently against the front of Regina's trousers. The texture of the fabric was nicely stimulating.

Regina let her hands roam the supple body above her. She palmed the woman's breasts in both hands, grinning at the perfect weight of them.

"You enjoying yourself?" River asked when she felt the smirk against her lips.

"Oh, no. I'm miserable," Regina replied. She let her hands slide down the woman's stomach and around to her back, coming to rest on the firm cheeks of River's ass. She gave a little squeeze, causing River to buck down harder against her, grinding her hips in circles.

The doorbell ringing downstairs slowed her for a moment before she picked up speed again.

"Ignore it." River growled.

Regina was inclined to comply until it rang again.

River slumped against her in defeat, giving up the chase. She rolled off of her host reluctantly.

"We can pick this back up as soon as I get rid of whoever that is," Regina assured her. She straightened her clothes a bit, a bit perturbed by how ruffled she looked, but with no time to change. She fluffed her hair in the mirror and made her way to the front door.

The doorbell rang again and Regina rolled her eyes at the intruder's impatience. Who the hell was calling on her in the morning anyway?

She opened the door to find Mr. Gold impatiently staring back at her. He stepped past her without invitation.

She blinked at his abruptness.

"And just what has you so busy you can't answer the door promptly?" Gold said bitterly. His brows raised as he took in the mayor's slept-in appearance.

"I was in the backyard. Is there something I can help you with? I didn't think you made trips outside of your shop, especially now that everyone knows what you are." Regina said.

Meanwhile, River had tossed on Regina's blue robe and was coming down the stairs. She couldn't resist seeing which fairy tale character had come to call. She padded quietly down the steps and approached Regina, laying a hand on the small of her back.

River met Gold's gaze and lit up.

"Ooohh this is fun! Let me guess..." River tilted her head to the side and gave Gold a once-over. "Are you one of the dwarves?"

Gold pulled a deep frown and looked from the stranger back to the former mayor.

"Who the hell is she?" He snapped.

"Sounds like Grumpy to me," River said to Regina, completely disregarding the fact that Gold could hear her every word. Regina suppressed a laugh.

"She's a friend and none of your concern. Now what do you want?" Regina folded her arms across her chest.

"To speak with you." Gold said, then turned to River. "In private."

"I'll go make coffee," River suggested. Regina gave her a little nod and a small smile and the blonde retreated in the direction of the kitchen. Or rather, the direction of where she assumed the kitchen was. She ended up wandering through the dining room, poking her head in the room containing a piano (some kind of lounge - how many lounge-like rooms could one house possibly contain?) until she finally found the immaculate kitchen, neat and spacious. It was certainly River's new favourite room. She couldn't wait to cook something marvelous in it.

Regina guided her unwelcome guest into the sitting room, but she didn't sit. He sat down anyway, resting his sore leg. It was clear that he'd tried to run to her front door from his car. He kept quiet for a touch too long, as if he were afraid to voice whatever he'd come to say.

"What is it, Rumple? Let's hear the bad news," she said dryly.

"Your mother is the bad news."

Regina instantly stiffened, the colour draining from her face.

"What do you mean?"

"Henry began having nightmares while you were away, and in them he met someone from our homeland. One Princess Aurora, to be exact."

"He's having nightmares?" Regina said weakly. She recalled the side effects of recovering from a sleeping curse. She felt the sting of the harm she'd done to her son all over again.

"Yes. Bad ones. He goes straight to a burning room in the Netherworld. Not a very pleasant place." Gold said.

"What about Aurora? What does she have to do with anything?" Regina didn't know much about the girl, other than that Maleficent had been obsessed with her.

"She's with Snow and Emma. And they've run into Cora. Who I thought was dead."

Regina's throat seized up. She moved swiftly to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a tumbler of scotch. She took a healthy gulp to steel herself. Never too early for a hard drink in the face of peril.

"So did I." She said darkly. "How can we help them from here?"

"Help them? Dearie, we have to help ourselves. If Cora sets foot in this town, you know how the story will end," Gold said as he stood. He leaned heavily on his cane, his voice raising slightly in volume.

"And if anything happens to Emma or Snow, Henry will hate me for the rest of his life. He's worth the risk." Regina said.

They stood for a few moments, neither willing to give ground, until Gold finally relented.

"Fine. I may have something that can help them. I left something in my cell that will come in handy. If Henry goes back under and tells Aurora where to find it, they may have a chance." Gold said.

"And just what would that something be?"

"Ink. Enchanted ink."

"And what, pray-tell, will this ink do to protect them?" Regina huffed. She hated when the man was uselessly vague.

"It's what trapped me. And it's what they could use to trap her." Gold said with a sideways smile.

Regina considered this as she took another sip of scotch.

"I don't want Henry to do it." Regina said.

"We don't have much of a choice. Besides, it won't take long."

"And what will we do about Cora?" Regina asked.

"Give me a little time to figure that one out. In the meantime, you may want to prepare just in case. Whatever magic you have left will be needed." Gold said, moving towards the foyer. He turned just before he left. "Henry can speak to Aurora tonight. I'll inform Charming. I'll ask him to bring the boy here tonight." Regina nodded and Gold took his leave.

She couldn't move from her spot, still leaning against the liquor cabinet. She needed to speak to Henry, to make sure he was all right. She put the glass down hastily and made her way up the stairs to her bedroom to retrieve her phone. She sat on the bed and dialed hurriedly.

James picked up after one ring.


"May I speak with my son?" Regina asked quickly.

"Yes, I tried calling last night but it said your phone was disconnected." James said, a little ire in his tone.

"Well clearly, it has re-connected. So will you please put Henry on." Regina replied.

"I'm here," Henry's voice came through softly. He must have picked up another phone. Regina waited as James sighed and finally hung up, leaving her alone on the line with her son.

"Are you okay? Did anything harm you?" Regina asked. She sat on her bed and dug the nails of her free hand into her leg.

"I'm fine. Where were you last night?" Henry replied.

"I was here, but my phone must have died. I'm sorry," Regina held back tears. She felt guilty now. She'd been selfish and indulgent, just like she'd been for so many years. And it had meant that she wasn't there when her son needed her.

"It's okay." Henry offered. He didn't sound too angry, only a little worn-out.

"Mr. Gold's going to come by shortly and give you information to pass along to Aurora. But I want you to know that if you don't want to do it, for any reason, you don't have to." Regina soothed.

"I do have to though. For Emma and Snow. They need me, mom." Henry said adamantly.

Regina smiled at his confidence and the maternal moniker.

"Okay. But just this once. And then we get Dr. Hopper to begin therapy to get you out of the nightmares." Regina suddenly remembered that the cricket wasn't really a doctor. She shook her head. Anyway, he'd probably be able to help regardless. No doubt there was some merit in his work.

"Okay." Henry covered the phone for a moment. "Are you going to come tonight? When I go back?"

"Of course. I was actually thinking you'd come here. Mr. Gold will explain." Regina said. "I'll see you tonight."

"See you." Henry said.

Regina hung up the phone and stared at it in her hands for a while. She didn't register the presence of the woman in her bedroom doorway until her accent drifted into the room.

"I take it that wasn't a social call." River said softly.

"No." Regina confirmed. She didn't turn her head up. River stepped across the rug and sat beside Regina on the bed. She loosened one of the hands from the phone and wound their fingers together, soothing her thumb over the woman's skin.

"Why don't you come downstairs for breakfast. I was just in the process of throwing something together."

Regina nodded and was led promptly, but gently, to the kitchen.