Work Header

That Drunken Night (I Hardly Remember)

Chapter Text

"Mom, hey, listen. Could you..."
"Emma?" It was not her mother's voice on the other end of the line. It was deeper, had an authoratative ring to it, and was also sexy as hell. Emma took her phone from her ear and looked at its display. Mayor Mills, it said. Emma giggled and put her phone back to her ear.
"My bad, wrong number. Sorry, Regina, I meant to call my mom," she apologized, though it may not have come out all that clear as Emma was more than a little inebriated.
"I figured," Regina answered after a short moment in which she sorted through Emma's slurry words.
"Yeah, you would. You're smart like that," Emma said grinning to herself.
"Well, thank you, Emma. Do you want to call your mother now?"
"Nah, I've got time. Hey, do you miss Neverland yet?" Emma asked as if they'd been chatting for hours, or as if they were the kind of people who chatted on the phone with each other. Regina frowned.
"Missing Neverland? Are you serious?"
"What? Like nothing? I mean, not even the fresh air or the... humidity, or something? It's pretty cold in Storybrooke, Maine," Emma babbled.
"It wasn't exactly a pleasurable vacation, Emma," Regina snapped.
"No, I know. I mean, I really do know. But we came back okay, all in one piece and all that. Dad's all right, too, now. Did you know?"
"Yeah, I heard."
"It's good... it's... we were pretty rad on that island, weren't we? We totally kicked Pan's ass!" Emma giggled again.
"That we did," Regina agreed finding herself slightly amused by Emma's drunkenness.
"We moved heaven and earth to get our son back," the blonde continued. "He messed with the wrong set of mothers."
Regina just barely kept from laughing at this. She rolled her eyes at herself. Since when did Emma Swan make her laugh, since when were they chatting on the phone like friends? Shouldn't she be scolding her about something?
"May I ask where Henry is while you're out on the town?"
"Oh, he's here with me, we're having some beers at The Rabbit Hole," Emma answered promptly and laughed when she heard the shocked silence from the other woman. "Gotcha!" she called.
"Emma," Regina warned testily.
"Relax, Henry's with my parents. We're still all holed up at Mary Margaret's little apartment. We should really get our own place, though. What do you think?"
"Henry could always move in with me if it gets to crowded at your parents'," Regina suggested.
"You don't happen to rent rooms at the mansion, do you? I'm almost ready to... nah, never mind." Emma seemed to think better of whatever she had wanted to say. Her voice hinted that she wasn't very happy with the living arrangements at the moment. A lot had been said and done on the island, things needed to be talked about, solved somehow. But obviously not tonight.
"Hadn't you better call your mother now?" Regina asked into the thoughtful pause Emma had left open.
"No, I don't want her to see me like this. She'll just gonna asked what happened and why I was drinking and all that stuff mothers ask. I don't need that right now. Say, why're you still up?"
"It's only 9.30, Emma. Not yet my bedtime," Regina answered, once again rolling her eyes.
"Oh, good. Then you wouldn't mind giving me a lift, would you?"
"Excuse me?"
"Robby here has taken the keys to my bug. He says I'm not supposed to drive anymore. Who does he think he is, it's not like I could get arrested... I'm the sheriff," Emma ranted.
"It's a small town, Emma. I think you can walk to your parents' from The Rabbit Hole," Regina told her.
"I don't know if I can walk... I'm not sure I can stand," Emma answered somehow sounding proud of herself.
Regina sighed. She could just hang up and pretend this phone call hadn't happened. Of course, Emma could just redial. Or she could hang up and call the idiots, one of them would surely get Emma and bring her home. Or she could - and she couldn't quite believe herself that she was contemplating this - drive down to The Rabbit Hole, put Emma in her car and drive her home.
"All right, I'll come down there, wait for me," Regina commanded and tried not to think about why she would even do that.
"Really?" Emma asked. Her voice sounded... impossibly young and vulnerable, surprised and thankful.
'It was only one word, Regina. It wasn't like she wrote a thank-you-letter for services rendered,' the dark-haired woman scolded herself.
"Yeah, really. Sit tight," and then Regina hung up the phone.

Regina entered The Rabbit Hole and looked around. This wasn't an establishment she had spend much time in. She had been here once with Graham... on an almost date, one could probably say. It had been a bust. She'd had a ridiculous notion that night that she needed some romance in her life but had overlooked that the man didn't have a heart and thus no real capacity for romance. Or maybe they just hadn't clicked. No, they hadn't clicked, Regina had never clicked with anyone but Daniel, and that had been a long time ago...
Regina snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the clear laughter of one Emma Swan from the bar and saw the blonde beating the counter.
"That's hilarious, man," she said to the dwarf at her side. It was... Happy? Regina wasn't even sure but he grinned as if he was.
"He might be Happy but he won't get Lucky tonight," Regina mumbled and walked over to where Emma sat with the dwarf.
"Emma," she said and the blonde's head whipped around at the sound, too fast, it seemed. Emma held her arms out to steady herself but she stll swayed. Regina held onto one of them.
"Whoa, what a trip. Hey," she said. Then she looked Regina up and down and smirked. "Hey," she repeated.
Regina lifted an eyebrow at the other woman.
"What?" she challenged.
"You're wearing jeans," Emma said. "I didn't even think you had a pair of those," she added still grinning.
"I have several. Can we leave now?"
"Dontchu wanna drink?" Emma slured and it came out so messed up that she had to giggle at her own words. "Don't you want to have a drink?" she repeated.
"No, thank you. I came here to drive you home," Regina replied testily and looked over at the dwarf who had been talking to Emma and was now looking at her. "Is there a problem, half-pint?"
Happy smiled at her but he didn't seem happy at the moment.
"No problem," he said and turned back to the bar. He put both hands around his beer.
"That wasn't very nice, Regina," Emma scolded. "Tell him you're sorry."
Happy looked back at the dark-haired woman hopefully.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Happy, is it?" he nodded. "I'm sorry that once again someone normally-sized swoops in and gets you not laid but we have to go," she told the dwarf and grabbed Emma by her elbow. She pulled the blonde from her stool but steadied her enough so that she could walk.
"This was such a bad idea," she grumbled as she maneuvered Emma out of the bar.
"Hey, hey... not so... damn, Regina, this isn't a race. I thought you weren't busy tonight," Emma complained as they walked over the parking lot to the dark Mercedes that was parked two rows away. And then she stumbled, and then she fell onto her knees.
"Emma? Are you... I'm sorry," Regina was still holding onto the blonde's arm but the appendant body was kneeling on the floor.
"Ow," Emma said.
"Can you get up?"
"Can you help me?" Emma asked and looked up at the other woman with pleading eyes. Regina felt like the wind was being knocked out of her. She also felt stupid of how she had behaved. It wasn't Emma's fault that the dwarf had hit on her, it wasn't even Happy's fault that it had made Regina mad. And she didn't even know why it had made her angry. All those men around Emma Swan were always so... hopeful. They seemed to think that they deserved her attention, earned it somehow, that them being completely enamored with her made her owe them her attention. Or maybe... maybe Regina was just jealous that Emma was getting all the attention? Yeah, maybe. It was as good an explanation as any.
Regina helped Emma to her feet and the blonde put and arm around her shoulders to steady herself.
"My knees hurt," she said.
"I'm sorry, I was... careful now. Let's just get into the car, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," Emma agreed and leaned onto Regina as they walked to the Mercedes.
"I like that car," she chatted. "It's really classy. There's a lot about you that's really classy, you know. The haircut, the clothes... not the jeans, really... or maybe even they are. You're one classy chick, Regina Mills."
Regina couldn't help but smile at this. She shook her head but her teeth still showed.
"Thank you, Emma. I guess I had a good teacher."
"My mother?"
"Oh, now, she's a piece of work," Emma said almost reverently. "She was, that is... I... I'm sorry, Regina, but she was..."
"Evil?" Regina asked sarcastically. They came to the car and Regina leaned Emma against it as she opened the door to the passenger seat. She looked at Emma who nodded. "Kind of runs in the family," the dark-haired woman said and held the door open for Emma. The blonde looked at it then at Regina.
"I don't believe that. You dad wasn't, was he?"
Regina shook her head.
"No, my dad was... a good man. Weak, yes, but... good and kind."
"You're his daughter, too," Emma said thoughtfully.
"I guess," but it didn't sound convinced and Regina did what she ofted did when a conversation wasn't going the way she wanted it to: she pushed her hair back out of her face and lifted her chin, straightened her shoulders. As if she was still in control - of everything. "Need help getting into the car?"
"No, I... can manage," Emma answered and climbed a little laboriously onto the passenger seat. "All good," she then said and Regina closed the door.
When she slipped into her own seat, Emma asked:
"Why did you come and get me tonight? You could have just called my dad."
"And believe me, I wanted to," Regina murmured.
"But you didn't," Emma stated the obvious.
"No, I didn't. I thought... I don't even know what I thought."
"You like me, don't you?"
"Excuse me?" Regina said not for the first time that evening and looked over at a smirking blonde.
"It's okay, I like you, too."
"You're out of your mind, Miss Swan," Regina said and started her car.
"That's not the first time I heard that tonight. Neal said it, too, without the 'Miss Swan'-part" she told Regina.
"Neal was at the bar?"
"We were there together until... we started fighting," Emma informed the other woman.
"You were on a date?"
"Yeah, and it was... a bad idea."
"Where are you going?" Emma asked as Regina maneuvered her vehicle into the street where her parents lived, where she herself lived.
"Your parents'. Where else would I be going?"
"Don't drive me there, please," Emma begged and lay her hand on Regina's arm. "Pleeease?"
"Where do you want me to go?" Regina asked but the other woman just shrugged her shoulders.
"Not there," Emma answered sullenly and Regina pulled the car to the curb to park.
"Emma," she started and turned toward the blonde after she'd turned down the engine.
"They talked me into this stupid date. They will be sooo... they will ask me what went wrong and I don't know what went wrong. I just... I don't even know who that guy is anymore. And he knows zilch about me," Emma whined.
"Well, that's what dates are for, to get to know each other, aren't they?" Regina said and felt like a fish out of water. She wasn't exactly an expert in dating.
"But I know him, and I don't. I can't explain but... we don't fit anymore," Emma told Regina. She moved her shoulders as if she was uncomfortable and Regina interpreted that Emma was uncomfortable with Neal, with entering into a relationship with him.
"You don't have to be with him just because your parents think it's a good idea, you know?"
"I kinda know but... he's still Henry's dad." Emma sighed.
"Henry's got a lot of parents to chose from these days," Regina remarked sarcastically.
"Yes but... Neal has never been a parent. He doesn't know... he can't make the decisions. We have to make the decisions," Emma said and looked earnestly at Regina.
"Both of us?"
"Of course."
Regina nodded.
"Then we will," she agreed.
"Good, now... can you drive me to Granny's?" Regina looked at Emma quizzically but then shrugged her shoulders.
"All right," she said and restarted the car.

"I guess one should be you if one wanted a career as thief in Storybrooke," Emma whispered as Regina helped her through the door of Granny's B&B.
"That wasn't the idea behind this bunch of keys," Regina said. "Won't Ruby hear us?"
"Probably. Hey, Rubes, it's just me and Regina. I'm gonna crash on the couch tonight. There," Emma said and grinned at the other woman. "What was the idea behind the keys?"
"Control, I guess," Regina answered truthfully.
"Everything about Storybrooke is about control, isn't it?" They stumbled into the living room. "You're all about control, aren't you?"
"I guess."
"No, you know. Regina is all about control. You should let your hair down more often, you should... like dance more," Emma suggested and started to wriggle as Regina let go of her and she landed on the couch.
"I should dance more?"
"Yeah, and... I don't know... other stuff," Emma said suddenly evasive.
Regina sighed again and sat next to Emma on the couch.
"Other stuff?"
"Other stuff," Emma just repeated and shrugged.
"Is 'getting drunk' other stuff?" Regina asked and Emma thought about it.
"Yeah, I think it is. And... going out and having fun."
"And dancing." Emma nodded.
"Do you like dancing?" she asked.
"Yeah, I... I do like dancing," Regina agreed and a small smile appeared on her face.
"I bet you have some moves," Emma said and grinned rakishly. Regina opened her mouth to give a retort but then she squinted her eyes at the blonde.
"We're not really talking about dancing, are we?" she asked suspiciously.
"Why, were you about to show me some of your moves?"
Regina sighed exasperately.
"Goodnight, Emma," she said and was about to get up but Emma held onto her arm, pulling her back down on the sofa cushion.
"Wait, I.. I wanted to thank you," the blonde said. "For... coming to the bar tonight and getting me. I... couldn't face my parents, so thank you."
"You're welcome," Regina gave back and was surprised when Emma hugged her spontaneously. She froze as she felt the muscular body of the blonde against hers. It was such a strange sensation, so alien, so uncomfortable, so... warm and soft.
"It's okay, Regina. People hug on occasion," Emma whispered into her ear and that caused another strange sensation. one that made the former evil queen even warmer than before.
The brunette patted Emma on the back, twice, stiffly and the sheriff let go of her.
"We gotta do that more often so you get the hang of it," Emma said. "I didn't like it myself at first but... it's kinda nice with people you like."
"Yeah, so I hear," Regina acknowledged but didn't sound thrilled about the prospect.
"I told you that I like you," Emma said. "I know you like me."
"I do?" Emma nodded.
"You like me against your will but you still do," the blonde told the mayor and they looked at each other.
"I don't know what to do with you... or about you," Regina uttered. Emma shrugged.
"Just let go," she suggested. And then she leaned in and touched her lips to Regina's, completely unexpectedly for both of them.
They seemed to stay there, pressed against Regina's, for an eternity and then they pressed a little tighter, opened a little, nipped at that other pair of lips.
Regina wanted to push Emma away but as her hands went up to Emma's collar, they didn't push her away like they were supposed to, they grabbed at the soft, worn fabric and pulled Emma closer. The kiss deepened quickly, with tongues joining the wild frenzy. Their whole bodies seemed to push and pull at each other, trying to get closer or away or on top.
Then suddenly, Emma was thrown back into the corner of the couch and Regina stumbled to her feet. She looked at Emma in shock for a moment, then angrily.
"Don't ever...," she said but her voice shook with passion, the passion she suddenly felt for the blonde. She blushed furiously at her own weakness, what she saw as weakness. "I have to go," she said.
"Regina?" Emma found her own voice again but she felt unable to get up from the couch as Regina fled the B&B.

Regina entered the diner the next morning and wasn't surprised to see Emma sitting at a table in the corner, nursing a cup of coffee in her hand. She took a deep breath and walked right over.
"Sheriff," she greeted and Emma looked slightly taken aback at the formality of it.
"Regina, good morning," she said.
"I wanted... it's... About last night," Regina found some words that seemed to state that she meant business, despite the tumultuous emotions she felt at the mere sight of Emma Swan.
"Last night? I... I'm sorry, Regina. Did I say something, do something? I'm afraid I drank way beyond my limit and, honestly, I can't even remember that we saw each other. Were you at the bar?" Emma asked confusedly and Regina stopped dead in whatever she had to say to the other woman.
"I...," she tried but then stopped. She looked at Emma, not certain that she believed that Emma could have forgotten... everything. Including that kiss. "You don't remember... anything?"
"I'm sorry. Did I say something to you or...?" Emma seemed clearly embarrassed and also worried that she could have done something... and she had.
But it certainly wasn't wise to remind her, was it? But shouldn't she remember? How could she have forgotten? A drunken tryst... nothing more. Regina closed her eyes for a second.
"No, I... I drove you to Granny's, you were really drunk and... I don't think that's very commendable behavior for a sheriff, Emma," Regina scolded.
"I know and I'm really sorry. It won't happen again," Emma promised.
"Good," Regina said and then looked around. She had been awake for most of the night and thought about what she would say to Emma Swan, how she would make it clear that something like what had happened between them on Granny's couch would never happen again. She had been so pumped with telling Emma off that she now felt impossibly bloated with words she was never going to say. She also felt bone-tired because she hadn't had a wink of sleep.
"Regina?" She turned back to Emma who was smiling up at her. "Will you join me for a cup of coffee? You look about as tired as I am."
But Regina shook her head quickly.
"No, I... I really have to go," Regina said and left the diner again.
Emma looked after her, her forehead furrowed. She didn't notice Ruby until the the other woman spoke.
"You are a chicken, Emma Swan," the waitress said. Emma turned to her.
"Excuse me?"
"You heard me. And I heard you last night, the two of you getting it on on the couch... I mean, I don't know what you were thinking but... to tell her you don't remember? That's just cowardly, Emma," Ruby told her friend.
"She just would have told me that it was never to happen again and... damn, Ruby, I...." Emma shook her head.
"So you want her, big deal. And she wants you just as bad, Emma... you guys have to deal with that eventually."
"How do you know she wants me?" Emma asked not at all sure that the young woman was on the right track here.
"I smell things. I hear things... and the mayor's heart was beating so wildly when she saw you just now I was prepared to give CPR in case it gave out," Ruby told Emma. She looked at the blonde for a long moment.
"I don't think she'll ever admit to it,"Emma said.
"Probably not. Certainly not before you."
Ruby topped Emma's coffee off and gave the sheriff an encouraging smile.
"Don't tell my mom, please," the blonde asked of her friend before she could turn and leave the table.
"I won't," Ruby promised and then walked over to some other patrons in the diner. Emma stared into her black coffee, smelled its enticing aroma and wished... that things had gone a little bit differently this morning.

Chapter Text

Emma was sitting in her office, staring out of the window. It was a slow day, so far she'd made only one arrest - one of the Lost Boys had stolen from his 'foster family' and tried to leave Storybrooke. Emma had thought about letting him go over the town line and see what would happen. Would the Lost Boys still remember the years in Neverland? Would they remember where they'd come from and just go home? Or would they just forget about everything and become even more lost than they already were? She couldn't take the risk so she had taken him into custody for the time being. A night in jail might just straighten him out enough to not go stealing from people who tried to help him.
He was now shooting daggers at her, of course, and she really couldn't care less because her mind was eagerly engaged in recalling details of last night. It hadn't been a complete lie when she'd told Regina that she couldn't remember anything because there were a couple of blanks her mind hadn't filled yet. She didn't remember Regina coming into the bar, for example. This morning when she was getting up off Granny's couch to run for the bathroom, her knees had her groan in pain. When she later looked at them they had shone in multiple shades of purple. She must have fallen but she didn't remember when or where.
With all that she couldn't remember about last night, there was one thing she would never forget: kissing Regina Mills. Man, what a trip! What a completely heady, glorious, mind-blowing trip. She'd kissed before, hell, she'd kissed women before but... that woman was a volcano. She didn't take any prisoners, she'd just...
The sheriff was in such a hurry to pull her boots from her desk and wipe that smirk off her face that she almost fell off her chair. In the end, the chair fell without her as she stood to greet her mother.
"Hi," she said and tried a smile but it didn't quite make its way around the guilty look in her eyes.
"Are you okay?" Snow asked with a sidelong glance at the chair on the floor.
"Sure, I'm good. Why you ask?"
"Because I'm your mother and I love you," Snow answered with a smile and touched her hand to Emma's cheek. There was a noise from the occupied cell where the lost boy stood at the bars. He smirked at Emma and she shot him a dirty look.
"You better sit your ass down, kiddo, or you'll be a long time standing," she told him and he stepped away from the bars. "Could you maybe not do that when I'm working?" Emma asked Snow in a hushed voice, she seemed embarrassed.
"I'm sorry. It won't happen again," the older woman said. She looked at her daughter intently for a moment. "So, are you going to tell me?"
"Tell you?"
"About your date," Snow said excitedly but kept her voice low. She wasn't out to embarrass Emma any further in front of the adolescent in his cell.
"Date," Emma repeated and for a second panic rose fom her chest before she rememered that she had been on an actual date the night before - with Neal - and that her mother knew nothing about the impromptu making-out session with the mayor afterwards. "Right, erm... it didn't go so well. We hadn't even had our drinks before we... started fighting," she told her mother.
"What were you fighting about?" Snow asked frowning.
"Oh, well... his participation in our life, Henry and mine, I guess. He thinks that now that he's here in Storybrooke - and probably here to stay - we could just... be a family, live in his dad's house. Just a cozy little arrangement to put on Christmas cards," Emma added sarcastically.
"And that's not what you want?"
"Even if I did - and I'm not quite sure about what I want at the moment except time with Henry and you guys - it's not really possible. Henry's got another parent - Regina. We can't just pretend that she didn't raise him for ten years and keep Henry away from her. But Neal acts like the first ten years of Henry's life were just a minor bump in the road and that now everything should be good between us. That's... well, it's not how it is," Emma finished. She picked up her chair and sat down on it. Snow pulled a chair up next to her.
"Do you think maybe he just wants... some time with the people he loves? I mean, his dad just died..."
"I get that, mom. And I'm sorry for him, truly, I am. If he wants to spend time with Henry we can work that out but... I'm not part of that deal. I can't be with him... not right now," Emma told her mother.
"I thought you loved him. That's what you said after..."
"He supposedly died? Yeah, I love him... he was my first love, he's Henry's father and I'll always love him just for that but... I'm not in love with him and I honestly don't want to be ever again. We could have been a family but he blew it. He left, he sent me to jail... there's no way to come back from there. I thought we could for a while but... I can't."
"I'm sorry, Emma," her mother said and just barely kept from hugging her. She looked over to the cells and saw the young man lying on his cot, staring at the ceiling. She reached out for Emma's hand that lay on her thigh and squeezed it.
"It's okay. I just want to spend some time with Henry and you guys, waiting for the next disaster to strike," Emma joked half-heartedly.
"Let's try and be a little more optimistic than that," Snow asked of her.
"I wish I could but we've only been back here for twenty-four hours before Pan tried to curse us all. If Regina hadn't had the foresight to remove Felix' heart, he would have succeeded, too."
"I know and I really wish we wouldn't owe Regina our lives all over again. Of course, if she hadn't cursed us in the first place...," Snow growled testily.
"If she hadn't cursed you I wouldn't have Henry, so excuse me if I'm not jumping on the wetch-hunt wagon today," Emma gave back in the same tone. Snow looked at her, surprised, taken aback.
"I'm... sorry, I didn't mean to..."
"I know and I'm sorry but... Regina..." Emma didn't finish the sentence, she wasn't sure how. She felt like she needed to defend the woman she'd been in a lip-lock with just about 12 hours ago. At the same time, she knew that Snow would get suspicious if she did it too eloquently, too passionately. She already looked slightly probing at her.
"You said it, she saved our lives. And she's Henry's mother and..."
"Don't mistake her for a nice person, Emma. She's not. She has her reasons to helping us now because she wants Henry to like her but... that doesn't make her a nice person," Snow warned.
Emma didn't answer, she wasn't sure how she felt about Snow saying this about Regina. There was an acid-y feeling in her stomach and it could just be from last night's drinking but it hadn't been there before. She knew that her mom was right, Regina wasn't nice but... was that even important, or necessariy? Emma was pretty sure that people wouldn't have characterized her as nice, either, at least not in Boston where she had worked. She had been a pain in many asses before she'd come to Storybrooke and sometimes that was just how things were done. With all her faults, Regina had that one quality that Emma could undrstand above all other: she loved Henry. She was also one hell of a kisser...
Emma's jawmuscles worked as she kept from remembering last night's drunken tryst too vividly.
"Well, I think Regina deserves some thanks for what she did lately and... I think it should be more time with Henry. I'm going to work out a regular schedule with her," Emma informed her mother.
"Do you think that's wise?"
"I think it's fair... and that's what we're all about, right?" Emma said and it sounded like she was mocking her mother and by the look on Snow's face not just to her own ears. "I... I really have to get back to work, you know, make the rounds?"
Snow nodded and got up off her chair.
"Of course," she said.
"I'll be a little later tonight. Don't wait with dinner for me, okay?"
"Okay, sure."
"I'll walk out with you. Hey, kiddo, I'm making my rounds but I'll be back in an hour." Emma called out to the adolescent in his cell who in answer flipped her the bird. "Yeah, that was very mature. I see you walking out here in no time."
Mother and daughter left the police station.

Regina opened the door to the sight of her laughing son and his other mother who ruffled his hair.
"Hey, mom," Henry greeted and stepped toward her. They hugged and Regina looked questioningly at Emma who smiled.
"Regina," she greeted.
"Emma, I didn't expect to see you tonight. Either one of you, to be honest."
"Yeah, the kid wanted to get something from his room and I thought if we came here anyway, he could sleep over. If that's okay with you?" Emma said and Regina raised an eyebrow at her.
"You're not planning another out on the town, are you, sheriff?" the dark-haired woman asked with a slight smirk but then sobered. She remembered that she probably shouldn't be teasing the other woman if she wanted to remain professional with her.
"No, I just thought... it would be nice for you to have him over," Emma answered.
"Hey, I'll be upstairs. What's for dinner tonight?" Henry asked and was already moving toward the stairs. Emma had asked him to leave them for awhile because she wanted to talk to his other mom. He wasn't sure what this was all about but he had seen Emma fidget over a tiny speck of mayonnaise on her shirt earlier and Emma wasn't usually one to fidget, so he assumed it was serious.
"I had planned on some escargot but since you're here now I'm thinking steak?"
"Sounds good," Henry called back to Regina and walked upstairs.
"So," Regina said and was about ready to say her goodbyes to Emma when the blonde said:
"I need to talk to you."
"So, bringing Henry was just a ploy to get into the house?" Regina asked in mock outrage. "Come on in, sheriff." She left the door open as she turned and walked futher into the house. Emma followed, closing the door behind her.
Regina walked into the living room with its toasty fire and a book lying open on its pages. Emma was surprised to see it was a Harry Potter-novel.
"The Goblet of Fire?" she asked amused.
Regina simply turned caramel-colored eyes on her, staring her down.
"None of my business?"
"That's right. So what did you want to talk about?"
They sat down on opposing couches, facing each other like the first time Emma was in this room. It felt a little like it had felt then, she was nervous and intimidated by the powerful woman across from her.
"I was gonna say, about Henry, and, in truth, we should talk about him but... I guess, I should first come clean with something," Emma babbled.
"If you think you must," Regina encouraged but barely.
"I lied to you this morning, about not remembering last night. I don't remember all of it but... some things I do remember."
Regina's eyes turned stone cold at this and she was about to unleash some harsh words on Emma but the blonde lifted her hand.
"I'm sorry, I... I knew what was coming, what you were about to say and I... I guess I didn't wanna hear it. Last night was... I was out of line and I'm not even sure where it was coming from. I was drunk, as you know. I have no better excuse for... kissing you. I'm not saying that it wasn't... interesting... or... nice..."
"Emma." Even that one word sounded like a warning from the dark-haired woman, her eyes now blazing.
"You're an amazing kisser... I know that something like that is never going to happen again and that's... a good thing, really. I don't need my life to get anymore complicated and hooking up with you... I know it's not gonna happen, I just... I don't want things between us to get awkward, you know?"
"Don't you think they already are?" Regina asked testily.
"I think they've gotten better but... I don't want them to get worse again. I want Henry to know that we're his parents, that we make the decisions concerning him and that he can count on us," Emma said. She was wearing that pleading frown between her eyes that Regina had seen on many an occasion now but hardly ever directed at her. She was serious.
"I know I shouldn't have lied to you. I was hung over, a little grouchy, I guess, and I thought it would be easier to... let you think I didn't remember the whole thing. I'm sorry," she added sincerely.
"What changed your mind?"
"Well... I actually thought about how little flattering it was to have someone forget a kiss like that and I didn't want you to think I would. I mean..."
"It's really not necessary to recount all the particulars. We've both been there," Regina interrupted the other woman who smirked slightly. Regina raised both eyebrows this time in a silent threat and Emma pursed her lips to keep from doing it.
"Anyway, I... want us to get along. Do you think that would be possible, for Henry?"
"I do think so, yes, even though... What you did was... I don't even have a word for how inappropriate it was. You were drunk but that shouldn't be an apology for that kind of behavior. I can accept your apology, however, and trust that it won't happen again," Regina acknowleged graciously. "And that nobody will ever know about it."
"My lips are sealed," Emma said and just barely kept from smiling again. Regina saw it, of course.
"No pun intended, I'm sure," she groused.
"None," Emma gave back and now she did grin. "One thing, though, before we never speak of last night again."
"If you ask if I enjoyed it, I'm going to throw out of my house, sheriff. You better chose your words wisely," Regina warned.
"I just wondered if you knew how I bruised my knees. I must have fallen, or something?"
Regina closed her eyes and shook her head.
"I really can't say," she answered.
"Well, I guess it must have happened before... you picked me up? See, I don't remember all of it - just the highlights," Emma teased.
"You called me by mistake and asked if I could drive you home. I had an errand to run anyway and thought I'd give you a lift," Regina explained.
"Have I thanked you yet?"
"You have."
"Good, then... well, I... you want me to go, don't you?" Emma asked.
"I think that would be advisable," Regina answered. She seemed angry but there was something else... Emma couldn't quite tell what it was.
"Then we'll talk about Henry some other time?"
"You could come by my office. Sometime next week?"
"Sure, just give me a call," Emma suggested.
"That I will do," Regina answered formally.
Emma rose from the couch but Regina stayed seated.
"I'm confident you can find your way out?"
Now it was Emma who lifted an eyebrow. Maybe she had annoyed the other woman more than she'd realized?
Emma nodded.
"I'll pick Henry up from school tomorrow," she said.
Now Regina nodded and Emma walked toward the door. She hoped that Regina would say something else, something that would keep them talking or arguing or bickering, whatever they had been doing before. She also would have liked to know... that Regina had enjoyed the kiss just like she had. She herself had made it clear that it had been pleasurable, couldn't Regina just do the same?
She obviously couldn't and Emma left the room without another word. She left the house shortly after, deep in thought and more than a little disappointed.

Chapter Text

Regina rose from the couch and walked over to her liquor cabinet. She picked up a highball, put some whiskey into it and added soda. Then she walked back to the couch and sat down, her back against one of it's arms, her legs stretched over its length. She pulled a blanket over her legs and sipped slowly at her drink.
She did all of this very deliberately while she felt the inner turmoil of conflicting emotions rage within her. She tried to compartmentalize them as the alcohol started to dull her senses.
She was angry. That had been the first emotion she'd felt. Angry at Emma for lying to her. This particular lie she'd told had cost the mayor a whole day at work where she hadn't been able to concentrate on anything but the question how Emma could have forgotten that kiss.
She was also angry at herself because of the disappointment she'd felt. Yes, she'd tried to bury her emotions deeply, she'd tried to not think about the kiss she'd shared with the sheriff but she had failed miserably. Somehow... it had meant something. Maybe it was just because she was lonely, or maybe just because it had been such a long time since she'd felt any kind of passion but that kiss... it had stirred something deep inside her. Was it physical? Emotional?
The fact that Emma had been so sweet and adorable while she had been drunk hadn't helped at all. She just had to think about the blonde telling her that she liked her and she felt it all again. She hadn't heard anyone say anything like this in a long time. Nobody liked her, she was the evil queen. Even accepting something like friendship from any of the people she'd cursed seemed impossible. And she had cursed Emma - to a life without her parents, to a childhood in foster care.
How could they come back from there?
It seemed impossible, any kind of bond with anyone in Storybrooke. And yet... she'd had a confidant in Archie for some years now. There were people who worked for her, looked up to her. If nothing else, everybody knew that she was a dedicated mayor. But she didn't have friends.
She never thought she would miss that, it hadn't seemed all that important in the Enchanted Forest. She'd had allies them, she'd had her guard, her subjects, and, of course, her father. But no friends. Daniel seemed to have been the only person who had ever been willing to make that effort - except for Snow, maybe... and now, Emma. Or had she?
Emma had been drunk that night. Yes, she had said that she liked her, and she had said that she wanted Regina to have more fun, to let her hair down, and she had also kissed her. But was any of it even real if Emma had forgotten some of it, remembered some of it incorrectly or blurred or...
And did any of this matter at all?
Did Regina want Emma Swan as her friend? Did she need a friend like Emma Swan? She was Snow White's daughter, after all, what kind of friend could she possibly be?
Of course, Henry was their son and they would have to work out something to... be the kind of parents to him that he deserved but... beyond that?
Regina sighed. She didn't want to have to need anyone - anyone besides Henry. She didn't want to yearn for... a conversation or maybe even a hug. Emma had hugged her last night and it had felt awkward. Why would she want something like that? Why would she even waste time thinking about it?
And yet she did.
It was all a very confusing conundrum of human emotions. Regina didn't know where they suddenly came from, she felt overwhelmed and wanted them gone again. But that night didn't erase itself, the memories were clear in her mind, the emotions just under the surface. She would have to deal with them eventually.
Regina looked up as the clock on her mantel chimed seven times. She became aware of her surroundings again, the surroundings of the mansion where the mayor of Storybrooke lived. She didn't think it possible that the life of Regina Mills would change her so much. She had thought that she would just be the evil queen, that she would reign over some amnesiac idiots who had forgotten their former life, that they would look up to her, would fear her. But Storybrooke had changed her. Henry had changed her, too. She was now more Regina Mills than she had ever been the Evil Queen. Whether it was good or bad... she didn't know. But she would probably find out.
Regina sighed again and looked at the book that was lying on the coffee table. She picked it up. Henry had talked her into reading the series and she found that she enjoyed it immensely. Sure, the way they practiced magic seemed... amateurish and foolish but it was still entertaining.
She turned the book to where she had stopped reading and was about to continue when there was a knock on the doorframe.
"Mom?" Henry asked.
"Henry, I... come in," she told him and smiled at her son. "Did you want something?"
"Yeah, I... I'm actually hungry," he told her.
"Of course, you are. I'm sorry. I was thinking about something. You wanna help me cook?"
"Sure," he said and Regina rose from the couch. She lay her arm around him as they left the living room. "What were you thinking about?" Henry asked as they entered the kitchen.
"Just... stuff," she said. "Nothing terribly important."

Emma entered the diner. She smiled politely at some of the other customers as she made her way to the counter and sat down. Ruby nodded at her as she picked up the coffee pot and topped off Grumpy's cup. The dwarf mumbled his thanks but didn't even look up from his paper. Ruby came over to her friend.
"Hey," she said smiling.
"Hey, am I too late for dinner?" Emma asked as she looked at the clock on the wall. It was already after nine. She had driven around town for awhile, not as part of her duties as sheriff but just because she hadn't wanted to drive home, until her stomach had started grumbling in protest. She knew that Granny usually closed the kitchen at nine but hoped that Ruby would show some pity.
"You're never to late. What will you have?" The brunette asked and Emma smiled thankfully at her.
"Lasagna and a coke?"
"Be right back," Ruby told her and went into the kitchen.
Emma looked around a little. She knew most of the patrons due to her being the sheriff but except for Grumpy who didn't seem in the mood to talk there weren't any of her friends around. That suited Emma just fine, she wasn't in a chatty mood either. Or so she told herself.
She had been thinking about Regina while driving around, of course. How could she not? That woman was... infuriating and quite... impossible. And Emma didn't even know why she should care, and yet she did.
She wasn't sure what had changed. Well, obviously a lot of things had changed when they were in Neverland, but how did these changes effect her and Regina? They had fought for their son, they had... magicked an eclipse which was a pretty astounding accomplishment, sure. But they had done it all for Henry, he was at the center of their... complicated... acquaintance. What else could there possibly be?
An attraction, Emma had to confess. Regina was a stunningly beautiful woman and she had been aware of it the moment they'd met. That's why she had been a little tongue-tied at first. She could admit to it, she could say that, yes, she found Regina insanely attractive.
But that hadn't been the reason for her hugging the other woman last night, she now reminded herself and only just remembered the hug in that instance. She had hugged Regina and it had been pretty awkward, mostly for Regina since Emma had been beyond caring. Had she actually suggested that she would do it again, that they were... about to become friends? Emma seemed to recall it but had she actually meant it?
Emma lay her head into her hand and sighed. That was the moment, a plate of deliciously smelling lasagna appeared before her. She looked up at the woman who had placed it before her. She tried a smile.
"Thank you, Ruby," she said heartfelt and the other woman smiled at her.
"I still got a piece of that cherry pie you love so much, in case you're up for desert," she infromed the blonde with a suggestive wriggle of her eyebrows. Emma laughed.
"I think I might be," she said as Ruby went back to serving other patrons with coffee and after-dinner snacks.
Emma meanwhile put her thoughts on hold and enjoyed her dinner. Her hunger had her empty her plate quickly and she had only just devoured the last piece when Ruby appeared again.
"Desert?" she asked and Emma nodded. By now most of the customers had paid and left. There was only one table still occupied and they seemed to be ready to leave, too. Ruby brought Emma her pie after adding some cream to its top.
"This looks like a little piece of heave," Emma said as Ruby handed her a small fork. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome."
"Bye, Ruby," one of the men that had occupied that last table called out while the other waved. Ruby waved back.
"Night, guys, drive carefully," she told them and they laughed. From their attire they were easily recognized as mechanics. They left the diner.
"This is fantastic," Emma informed Ruby after her first forkful of pie.
"I know, Granny's original recipe. I try to talk her into writing a cookbook but she says that if everybody knew how to make her food, nobody would come here to eat anymore. She may be right," Ruby said and grinned. But then she sobered. "You looked a little... down earlier or was that just my imagination?"
"Oh, I... you know, I went over to Regina's tonight and told her... that I remembered..."
"And you're still able to walk? I'm amazed," Ruby said and by the look on her face she was only half joking.
"I'm not saying she wasn't angry. I... tried to explain... I mean... it's not like I don't know what the bottom line is here. She's not interested, even if she were she would never admit to it, it will never happen again... and all of that."
"But that's not how it is for you," Ruby guessed at Emma's disappointed face.
"I'm not in love or something, it's just... she's interesting. And she's... attractive. And she can kiss..."
"A little more than that, I would say from the noises I've heard you make last night." Ruby smirked as Emma looked up at her with a surprised expression. The blonde blushed.
"We just kissed," she defended herself.
"Yeah, for just over half an hour. I'd say that qualifies as a little bit more than kissing, sweety."
"Half. An. Hour. But... no... it wasn't that long, I mean... no way," Emma stammered but Ruby nodded.
"Way," she contradicted her friend.
Emma frowned.
"Really?" Ruby nodded. "Wow... I mean, I thought it had been like... five minutes, tops. I mean I don't remember the whole night too well but... I thought I remembered that part... half an hour... there was some groping, sure, I think I almost lay on top of... not that you need to know that," Emma interrupted herself and Ruby grinned.
"Believe me, I already know more about that encounter than I need to. It's not like I can just tune out my ears and I really tried not to eavesdrop but... well, when you moaned her name... I could hardly overhear that, sorry."
"Okay, okay, just stop it," Emma said blusing furiously. "Maybe it was a little more than a simple kiss... I think I may have made it to second base but... it doesn't really matter, does it? We won't ever be lovers, I doubt we can make it to friends," Emma said and she could hear the pout in her own voice. Ruby must have heard it, too.
"Do you wanna be her friend?" she asked.
Emma looked at her. She scrabed the last of her pie from the plate and put it into her mouth before she answered.
"I do," she simply said.
"Then be it."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah, sure. All you need to do is be nice to someone, pay attention to them, send them a text, make them realize you care. I think Regina couldn't make a better friend and I also think she needs one, desperately. So go for it," the brunette told Emma. "The worst she can do is turn you down... again."
"Yeah, like that isn't bad enough."
"You'll never know if you don't give it a chance," Ruby encouraged and Emma thought about it for a long moment. The brunette collected Emma's dirty dishes and brought them into the kitchen to load into the dishwasher. When she reappeared, Emma said:
"You're right. I will try being her friend."
"Good, maybe you'll even get some sugar along the way," Ruby teased.
"That's not what I'm doing it for. I think you were right about her needing a friend. I think she's lonely... I mean... man, if you repeat any of this to my mom..."
"I won't, Emma. Okay? Your mom is my best friend but you're my friend, too. And I won't tell her anything you told me... at least not things that you don't want her to know. And certainly nothing that concerns Regina. I think that goes without saying," Ruby said a little annoyed.
"I'm sorry, Rubes, It's just... if she should find out about... last night... I don't wanna hurt her."
"Neither do I." Emma nodded.
"I've got something else... that Snow doesn't need to know just now. I mean, I'm going to tell her but... you don't happen to know about... an apartment or a little house for rent?"
"You want to move out of the apartment?" Emma nodded again.
"Well, I know about Graham's cottage in the woods. But it's pretty hard to find and not easily accessible. I don't think it would be ideal for raising a kid," Ruby told Emma.
"I didn't even know about that," Emma said thoughtfully.
"I guess it isn't common knowledge though Graham lived there. He was the lone wolf type... if there is such a type. Wolves are actually more the big family-type. Just... well..." Emma smiled at the slight blush Ruby was sporting. "Inside knowledge."
"I get it but... well, you're probably right about the cottage, though I would actually like to have a look at it. Do you think you can show me where it is one of these days?"
"Sure, if you're interested. If you want to find something to live, though, you should probably ask... the mayor."
"Regina?" Ruby nodded.
"This is not your average small town, Emma. The town was pretty much build for the people Regina cursed and I don't think there is much additional space, you know?"
"I haven't thought about that. I would probably have to build and... well, that's not really in my budget," the sheriff said.
"Regina would know," Ruby said.
"I guess... well, we've already made plans to meet next week to talk about Henry so... I guess I'll find out soon enough."
"I think you should give Snow a warning," Ruby told her earnestly. "She likes to have you around, you and Henry."
"It's so crowded in that small apartment," Emma argued.
"Still, I think you should tell her before you go to Regina. You know how the mayor is... she might mention it to Snow and... well... that would hurt her."
Emma nodded.
"You're right. Thanks for listening... and advising, Ruby. I appreciate it." Ruby smiled.
"I know you'd do the same for me," she said.
"You're right. Well, I guess I'll go back to the station, see how Tink is adjusting to her new job," Emma said and slipped from her stool
"So you really made her your deputy? Shouldn't she be one of the nuns now?" Emma laughed.
"I don't think she is nun-material, really. But I think she'll be good at law enforcement. We'll see how it goes. Night, Ruby."
"Night, Emma. Tell your family hi from me," Ruby called after her as she left the diner and Emma raised a hand in acknowledgement.

Chapter Text

A couple of days later, Emma was sitting at the counter in the diner. She had just finished a delicious club sandwich for lunch when Ruby stepped up to her.
"You know there's a last piece of your favorite cherry pie in the kitchen. Think you have some room for it left?"
"I really shouldn't, you know. Between you and my mom feeding me, I'm bound to get fat," Emma answered but smiled.
"Well, I could just leave the whipped cream," Ruby suggested.
"Don't you dare," Emma told her and they laughed.
The bell over the door chimed to announce another customer and Ruby's attention shifted. She frowned at the newcomer.
"Uh-oh, someone's having a bad day," she murmured and Emma turned to watch Regina make her way through the crowded room to her favorite table in the corner. She wasn't looking very happy, in fact, she looked annoyed. Fortunately, the table was empty - it usually was at this time of day since the inhabitants of Storybrooke had adjusted to the mayor's schedule a long time ago - and she let herself practially fall onto the chair. That was when her purse slipped from her fingers and landed on the floor, spilling its contents.
"Goddammit," the mayor cursed and a few heads turned as she ducked under the table to retrieve her items.
Nobody got up to help, everybody seemed eager to turn away again so that Regina didn't see them stare at her. Emma frowned.
"I'll better get over there with some coffee. She seems to need it," Ruby said and walked away from the sheriff.
Emma watched from her place as Ruby served Regina the coffee but saw the mayor shake her head in question if she wanted anything else. She rarely did. When Ruby returned to the counter Emma waved her over.
"The pie," Ruby said remembering but Emma shook her head. Ruby looked at her questioningly.
"Would you.. serve Regina that piece of pie?"
"Regina? But..."
"I think she needs it more than I do right now," Emma said lifting her eyebrows meaningfully.
"I'm doubtful that she'll except it, though."
"Let's just try," the blonde asked of her friend who then nodded. Ruby left Emma for the kitchen and emerged a moment later with a generous piece of pie crowned by an equally generous amount of whipped cream on top. She walked over to Regina's table and put it before her. Regina looked at the treat for a moment, then up at Ruby.
"I didn't order this," she said.
"I know. The sheriff asked me to give it to you. She thought.... you might like it," Ruby said.
Regina had still been busy rearranging her things in her purse but she now simply shoved everything into it and put the purse down on the table. Her expression darkened.
"I wasn't aware that this was the kind of place where people picked other people up by ordering pie for them. If I had been..."
"Hello, Regina," Emma interrupted her as she appeared next to Ruby. "Thanks, Ruby," she said and the waitress left the table quickly. For a moment she had thought that she would have to endure the shame of Regina's little speech. She wasn't prepared to take the blame for anything as harmless and inconsequential as Emma being nice to Regina.
At the table she had just left Emma smiled down at Regina.
"I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish here, sheriff," Regina said. "I don't think..."
"Listen, Regina. I...," Emma interrupted. She lowered her voice as she noticed some other patrons looking over curiously. She leaned down, placing her hand on the table. "It's good pie, you looked like you were having a bad day, so I thought you could use it. If you don't want it, I'll have Ruby box it and take it to the station with me. No big deal."
They looked at each other for a long moment. Then Regina looked at the pie again.
"It's good?" she asked and Emma nodded.
"Best one they got," she told the mayor.
Regina picked up the fork and pushed the cream off the pie. Then she put just the smallest amount of pie on the fork and ate it. She took her time, all the while looking contemplative.
"You were right, this is good pie... and I am having a bad day," she admitted. "Thank you."
"You should try it with cream, it's even better," Emma suggested, grinning.
"Let's not go overboard now," Regina warned but Emma could see the smallest hint of a smile working on the corners of Regina's mouth. She shook her head amusedly.
"Well, I hope your day'll get better and I see you tomorrow. Madam Mayor," the blonde said and nodded at Regina.
"Sheriff Swan," she answered in way of goodbye and Emma left her table and then the diner. Regina looked after her and then shook her head. She smiled mischievously as she put some cream and more pie on her fork and ate it. It was indeed 'even better,' and she enjoyed the rest of it, leaving only a little bit of cream on the plate to show some sort of resistance to the sheriff's charms. She wasn't sure what Emma meant to accomplish with this gesture, she was far from trusting it but it had been nice to see that somebody cared that she was having a bad day, that Emma had wanted to make her feel better. Maybe... but Regina didn't want to speculate over things that may happen and she wasn't going to encourage any kind of confidentialities between herself and Emma.

When Emma came home that same evening, she found her parents in the kitchen... canoodling - her mind refused to call it anything other than that. Emma sighed dramatically as they hadn't noticed her yet and they pulled away from each other. David grinned sheepishly while Snow tried to look busy preparing dinner.
"Yeah," Emma said. "We really need to talk."
"Oh, come on, Emma, it can't be that big of a deal. I mean... you haven't walked in on us since that one time and..."
"That's not... I mean, it is only part of what's going on. I really want to talk to you," Emma said. She was glad Henry was at Regina's that day. He seemed to have found his own schedule of alternating between his two living spaces and Emma had been okay with it for the last week as long as he told her where he would be. She couldn't blame him that he sometimes felt the need to... escape the apartment, she herself would have liked to do so these past couple of weeks since they'd been back. Neverland had changed things, maybe they had all grown up a little. Some illusions about how their lives should be had been left behind on that island and Emma found it impossible to pretend that everything was as it had been before. She couldn't be the child her parents so desperately wanted and they couldn't be the parents she had once needed. They were all adults and the apartment was too tight a space to have them all live together and still have their privacy. And now that Henry was growing into a teen, it was time for them all to face the reality that they all needed more space, more privacy.
"So..." David said as he sat down at the counter. Snow was still standing in the kitchen but she was ready to listen, too. Emma came over and sat next to David.
"I've been thinking," Emma started. She hadn't planned on having this talk just now, she had actually first wanted to talk to Regina to see if there was even space to move into before she dumped this on Snow and David. But she felt that if there wasn't space already she would make some because she desperately needed some for herself. "I think I should get my own place, an apartment, a house. I'm not sure what's available but I think it's time."
She watched David look at his wife, her mother's eyes lower as she fought to not look sad or disappointed, Emma wasn't sure which would be the more dominant emotion.
"Emma, we're sorry if we've embarrassed you... with displaying our... love...," David stammered awkwardly but Emma interrupted.
"It's not about that, not just about that. I mean... I know you guys want another baby and I'm... happy for you. I think you should... I mean I would like... a brother or sister. It's... We're all adults, right? I mean I know I am. And I know that you guys are and... god, this is... You need time alone. You haven't been married for a long time and I know you're in love and all that. You should have more time alone. And you shouldn't feel bad about that," Emma finally found her words. "And I shouldn't feel bad about wanting my own place. I know you like having me around and I like being around but I don't think it's very healthy for three adults to live in such small quarters. And when you add a growing teen, it just gets crowded."
"It's not like we don't know, it's just... like you said, we want to have you around as much as possible. You're our daughter," Snow said.
"And I'll always be your daughter, even if I live... I don't know... down the street, or two streets over. Storybrooke isn't that big, you know."
"We know, Emma, it's just... you won't be here," David said.
"That sounds pathetic but... we love you and we'll miss you," Snow agreed.
"I'll miss you, too. Sometimes. But at the moment, it's really hard for me... I've always lived alone, from the moment I was allowed to, that is. Before that I had to share a room with two or three girls at foster homes. You see it was either a lot of people or me alone and I think I would like to see how it is to... live in a... home. With Henry. To have something... enough space for two people without us being strangers. I know you want me as part of your family, and I'll always be that, but... I also need my own family, a home for Henry and me."
Snow and David looked at each other. Emma knew that they understood but that they were still hurt. This wasn't easy, for either one of them. They tried to be a family but Emma's past kind of got in the way, the fact that she had a past, the fact that she was old enough to have one.
"I wanted you to know that I'm looking for a place for myself and Henry," she finally said.
"That's... good, Emma. We want that for you, you know. We want you to be happy," David said.
"I am happy, dad. I have a family now and that makes me happy," Emma told him. "Happiness isn't the issue here. It's got more to do with sanity. We all have lived our own lives before and we need to do that again. You're part of my life now but... I still need to be able to be an adult, to be Henry's mother. I can't just be your daughter."
"We know," Snow said. "I'm sorry that we're... acting like you have to explain... I guess we didn't really see this coming, or we didn't want to. We don't want you to feel like... we're trying to replace you with a new baby... or...."
"I know, mom. You don't have to worry about that. I think we all have... our issues with... my childhood. We all wished we could have been together then but... wishing won't make it so. I want you to be happy and to have a family, maybe half a dozen children, maybe even more... I don't know what you had planned but... well, I'll always be your first-born and, of course, I'll expect you to leave anything valuable you may own to me," Emma said and grinned.
"You want my collection of Hummel figurines, don't you?" David asked and grinned.
"That's right," Emma agreed. They laughed. "I love you guys and that's never gonna change again."
"We love you, too, Emma," her father said and rose from his stool. He hugged Emma and Snow came around the kitchen counter to wrap her own arms around husband and daughter. They stood like that for awhile, a whle longer than Emma was comfortable with it, actually, but she resigned herself to the fact that her parents would always hold on to her a little tigher than she may be comfortable with. They had lost her once, and she knew how that felt - in a way. She found that she could live with that love, that it was special and that she needed it, too. She also found that she would have to be the one to draw bounderies or her parents might just smother her with that love.
"Okay, that's... enough," she said and her parents slowly let go of her. "It's okay. I won't move out tomorrow or even the day after. I still have to find a place. You guys can help me," Emma suggested.
She watched her parents look at each other again, then David shook his head.
"Sorry, sweetheart, but that's not gonna happen. Your mother and I agree that you need to learn to take responsibility for yourself, we can't always be there for you. It's time for you to stand on your own two feet," he lectured her in a wiser-than-thou deep father's voice.
Emma had to laugh.
"Thanks, dad... yeah, right," she shook her head.
"We'll be keeping our eyes and ears open but... if you really want to move out in less than say 16 years you should probably not count on us," Snow told her, smiling.
"You're not going to make this easy on me, are you?"
"No," David answered for them both. Emma nodded.
"It's still gonna happen. I appreciate you now wanting to let me go, though," she told her parents and then hugged them again individually.

Chapter Text

There was a knock on her office door and Regina looked up from her work. Her eyes fell on the clock and she was surprised to see that it was already four, time for her talk with Emma about Henry. This morning she had actually fretted over what to wear, she had thought that the hours until the sheriff would come by would probably be slow and laborious... but they hadn't been. The day had actually flown by with only a short break for lunch at the diner.
"Come in," Regina called out and the door opened. Emma came in and closed the door behind her.
"I was always wondering about this - why don't you have a secretary? You're the mayor, shouldn't you have some kind of staff?"
"You know, it's a lot easier to be a villain if nobody can find you out?"
"You're not a villain, Regina, not anymore," Emma argued.
"You shouldn't be too sure about that. I may be tamed but I still got my claws," Regina gave back. There was no heat behind this argument, though. Instead, they seemed to connect over it, their eyes locked and neither one felt the need or inclination to look away.
"You may want to overthink that last statement. I'm here to talk about Henry, remember?"
"Right, in that case: I'm harmless. Please sit," Regina motioned to the chairs in front of her desk and Emma sat down in one.
"For serious, though, why don't you have a secretary?"
"It's about resources, Emma. Storybrooke is pretty much self-sufficient. Sure, it's integrated into Maine's electricity and water supplies but apart from that... food doesn't just appear out of thin air, sheriff. I had to... arrange the human resources to cover what kind of work I needed done and a secretary for me wasn't on the top of the list. Plus, there's wasn't really anyone I trusted besides Sidney... well, he was very useful for some time. Not anymore, though."
"What did happen to him?" Emma now asked as if she'd never really thought about his fate. "You didn't... kill him, did you?"
"No, he's alive and taken good care of."
"You know, someday I'm going to find out all of your secrets," Emma said with a touch of earnestness.
"I don't think that's going to happen but you can keep trying. It will be interesting to see how far you're going to get," Regina countered and smiled.
Emma smiled, too, she couldn't help to. She knew there were some serious implications, there were things so deeply burried underneath Storybrooke that she would probably need a bulldozer to uncover them. And a part of her didn't want to dig too deep, didn't want to know it all. But she wanted to know Regina, and knowing Regina would ultimately mean to know what she was really capable of, what she hid behind those enticing caramel-colored eyes, that sexy smile of hers.
Emma shook her head to clear it. Sexy smile? Okay, yes, but that wasn't why she was here today.
"Henry," she said as if to remind herself why she was here and Regina nodded as if her mind had been just as far away as Emma's had been.
"You wanted to talk about him," Regina agreed.
"Yes, I did. I think after all that happened in Neverland we should talk about some kind of... schedule, a kind of... joined custody thing? With Gold... gone, there's not really anyone in town to... draw up something close to leagally binding but I would like to... maybe work something out between us?"
"You said joined custody. That doesn't just mean that he comes to visit me every once in awhile, it means that he would live with me part-time?" Regina asked slowly, deliberately.
"Yes, I think... it's what Henry wants. I mean we haven't really talked about it but I know he... misses you and... well, he doesn't want to hurt either one of us but I know that he wants us both around. If we could show him that... we can get along, that we can work something out permanently, that would be good for him. I think that would be good for all of us," Emma explained.
Regina looked at Emma for a long moment, she seemed thoughtful.
"You want us to share Henry in a kind of... agreed-upon yet not legally binding joined custody agreement that gives us both rights as his parents? Is that it?"
Emma nodded.
"We could make it legal if you insist. We can leave Storybrooke, have lawyers work on it. It's just... our case is kind of unique and, well, I'm not sure how you feel about... involving outsiders," she said.
"I don't want outsiders to meddle in Storybrooke, you know that... just...," Regina licked her lips, then she raised an eyebrow. "Where's the catch, sheriff?"
"The catch?"
"Yes. I know you come from a long line of people who trust just about anyone with a friendly smile but... you know me better than to do that. So... where's the catch?" Regina wanted to know.
Emma looked at her earnestly.
"There is no... catch, as you put it. I'm doing what's best for Henry. I think from what happened on Neverland, it's quite clear that we work well together when it comes to our son, better than when we're fighting each other. We moved the earth to save him. I'm not saying that... I trust you completely, but I trust that you will do anything in your power to protect Henry. You want him to be happy, and that's what I want, too. I think we should start working on that together, don't you?"
"That's what you said that night, that you wanted us to make the decisions for him together," Regina mused.
"Well, yeah. It was on my mind then," Emma agreed.
"This is not about... I mean you wouldn't use Henry to..."
"To what?"
"Get close to me? Try to seduce me, perhaps?" Regina asked suspiciously and Emma's mouth fell open.
"Excuse me?"
"You kissed me that night. I think you wanted thigs to go even further but I... stopped you. You're not trying to.. use Henry to..."
"Get into your pants?" Emma interrupted and bellowed an insulted laugh. "You're not serious! And if I remember correctly it wasn't just me kissing you that night, so stop pretending that it was all one-sided!"
They stared at each other, Regina pushed her chin forward in hurt indignation but Emma wasn't giving in this time, she stared back just as determinedly.
"For someone who only wants to forget about that night, you sure have a penchant for bringing it up," she said in a calmer voice, it was also lower and just hinted on seductive.
"In my experience you don't get anything for free. I know that's now how your family sees the world but I always had to pay for everything... especially the things that looked like gifts. I just want to know the price on this," Regina countered in a no-nonsense voice.
"Well, it's not sleeping with me, okay? I'm not saying that.... geez Louise! I am attracted to you, Regina! And from how you kissed me that night...."
"Come one, just say it: you liked it," Emma challenged her.
"You're out of line, sheriff," Regina warned.
"I'm not the sheriff, right now. And you're not the mayor. We're Regina and Emma, we have a son and... well, there's something between us. Obviously we're not going to give into it but... denying it will only make it stronger. So..."
Regina looked at Emma blankly. She wasn't going to crave on this one and she shook her head slightly to let Emma know that. The blonde let out her breath explosively in frustration.
"All right, then let's try something else instead: if I remember 'that night' correctly, I told you that I like you... and I do. It has nothing to do with sexual attraction, I just... like you. And I think you like me, too. So, for Henry's sake, for him to see that his parents can get along... I'm suggesting that we're gonna try and be... friends."
"Yeah, consider it the price to pay for this joined custody agreement. We'll be friendly," Emma suggested.
Regina raised an eyebrow at the other woman.
"What exactly does that include?"
"Well, for one we'll be greeting each other on the street when we see each other," Emma said.
"We're already doing that," Regina countered.
"Yes, I know. For another, when we're both at the diner, every once in awhile, we're gonna sit together and have a conversation. That might include any kind of topics, Henry, of course, but maybe I will ask you how your day was and you can ask about mine... I think that's it for now. We may expand on that when we get the hang of it," Emma told Regina, trying not to smile at this strange bargain they were making.
"I think I can do that," Regina said. "There's not gonna be any hugging, though."
"I didn't say anything about hugging," Emma gave back, slightly puzzled.
"Something you said that night," Regina reminded Emma but the blonde didn't seem to recall. "Anyway, I assume you already have an idea about this joined custody agreement, how we're gonna arrange that?"
"Yes, I thought we split the week. You'll have Henry from Monday to Wednesday, I'm gonna have him from Thursday to Sunday. The holidays..."
"One moment. That would mean that you're not only going to have him for four days a week but you would have him for the whole weekend. I hardly think that's fair," Regina argued.
"You had him for the first ten years of his life," Emma gave back.
"You gave him up for adoption, Emma. Legally..."
"I know," Emma interrupred before Regina could remind her that legally she had no claim on Henry at all. "Okay, how about, you'll have him from Sunday to Tuesday. This way, you have part of the weekend. I would bring him along Saturday night... unless something came up like... a late show at the movies in Bangor, maybe. Then I would get him to you by Sunday morning?"
"In which case I would bring him back to you Wednesday morning," Regina added. They looked at each other challengingly but then smiled.
"Sounds like a plan," Emma agreed.
"What about the holidays? Henry and I have some... family traditions that I wouldn't want to miss out on."
"Well, I think if it's not a major holiday thing, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, we should stick to the original plan and... well, maybe... we could at least spend part of those holidays... together? I mean, you said it, they're family traditions, right?"
"Are you suggesting that we're a family now, Emma?"
"It beats sitting under the Christmas tree alone, doesn't it?" Emma asked.
"We'll have to talk about this some more because if this... family thing involves your parents..."
"It wouldn't," Emma said and Regina raised an eyebrow. "I'm not saying that... I don't wanna spend time with my parents during the holidays but... well, we also don't have to spend every minute of every holiday together," Emma explained lamely. She blushed just a little and fidgeted in her chair.
"So we're going to spend whatever part of the holidays we spend together at the mansion?"
"Not necessarily. I'm actually looking for... a place for me and Henry. I thought, maybe, you... could help?"
Regina looked at Emma surprised but a moment later she seemed to think Emma's request over.
"I might know about something but... well, I'd have to talk to someone first. I will get back to you on it, if that's okay? I mean if you really want to move out of your parents' apartment?"
"I do," Emma assured the other woman but deliberately left out any kind of reasoning. Regina remembered that Emma had already said something like this to her on 'that night,' and she didn't ask any further.
"I think it's a good idea," she said instead and Emma merely nodded noncommittal.
"Okay, then. I think that's all we needed to talk about for now, right?" Emma asked and Regina nodded.
"Yes, I think that's it," she agreed and Emma stood.
"Good. If it's okay, I'll bring Henry by Sunday morning?"
"That'll work for me," Regina assented.
Emma nodded once with an attempt at a smile and then walked to the door. Before she could leave, however, Regina called out to her:
The blonde turned once again, already grabbing the doorknob. Regina wasn't looking at her.
"That... kiss. It wasn't the most horrible experience of my life, either. In fact, it was... pleasurable. I haven't...," Regina lifted her head to look directly into Emma's widening eyes. "It's been a while for me," she finally confessed.
"Yor're an attr...," Emma started to say but Regina lifted a hand, interrupting the sheriff.
"That's all," she said, dismissing the other woman.
Emma nodded, smiling self-deprecatingly to herself.
"Madam Mayor," she said with a nod of her head.
"Sheriff Swan," Regina answered in fashion and the blonde left her.

Emma knocked on the beam she leaned against, making Henry aware of her presence. She had watched him for a moment, sitting on his bed, engrossed in a book - not surprisingly it was a Potter-novel, The Half-Blood Prince. It was his favorite, Emma knew.
"Hey, may I come in," she asked as he smiled up at her. He nodded. She walked through the about door-wide gap between the curtains that seperated their private spaces upstairs in the apartment. They had said it was a temporary solution, that they would build some more permanent walls into the space, possibly a bathroom, too. But so far none of the adults in this household had had time for this, and now Emma thought, they wouldn't have to make time. Getting their own place would be the best solution for everyone.
"Sure, I was just reading," Henry said in answer to her question.
"You finished your homework yet?"
"Yeah, I have," Henry answered with an eyeroll as Emma sat down on his bed cross-legged.
"Want me to look it over?" She offered and he shrugged.
"If you want," he agreed and was leaning down toward his backpack. "Math and some grammar stuff," he said as he pushed his ring binder at her.
She took it but then just folded her hands above it and looked at her son.
"What?" he asked. "Did I do something?"
"Not as far as I know," Emma answered with a grin and he gave her his own back. "I talked to Regina today," she then told him.
"We have agreed on... a schedule for you. I know you like to just go over whenever but I... well, we think that you need some more stability in your life, that is about where you live and when you live there, who's responsible for you and all that," Emma said.
"O-kay," Henry said suspiciously.
"You will be living part of the week at Regina's and the other part here... as long as I haven't found a place for us. I'm looking for something, you know?"
"Really?" Henry asked excitedly but then seemed to think about it. "For us? Just you and me? We're leaving grandma and grandpa?"
Emma nodded.
"Yeah, I think it's time we got our own place, you and me. Don't worry, you can always visit, you know that. We'll be here all the time, just not living here anymore," Emma explained.
"Did you have a fight?"
"No, we didn't. It's just... this was all supposed to be temporary and it's... it's crowded here. I think we all need some more space."
Henry seemed to think about this.
"I like it here but... well, sometimes it's... it's been so strange since we've been back. You all act so weird sometimes."
"We do?" Emma asked surprised.
"Yeah, like... you're watching them when they cuddle when we're all watching tv and then you sigh and they would look at each other and then watch you while you're staring at the tv. Then they pull away from each other... it's so exhausing. It's like you feel like you're all living in a box and you can barely stand each other," Henry told Emma and she frowned.
"Is that why you wanted to go over to Regina's so often?"
"I like being at the mansion. I got most of my stuff there and I like spending time with mom but sometimes... sometimes I just wanna get away from you all watching each other," he confessed in a small voice, not even able to look at his mother.
"I'm so sorry, Henry. You should have said something," she said and changed her position so that she was sitting next to him. "Come here," she said, opening her arms to him and leaning back. He sank into her arms, laying his head on her shoulder.
"I thought that something had happened in Neverland and that... you would work it out," he said.
"You know, sometimes adults are... not really insightful, I guess. I'm not sure what it is... but you're right, it feels like we're living in a box."
"Is that why you want me to live with Regina?" Henry asked.
"No, I want you to live with her because I think it's what you want... and also what you need. You do want to spend time with her, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. I just don't want you to think that... I want to spend time with her more than I want to spend time with you," he anwered honestly.
"I don't think that. You know, I understood something in Neverland that I didn't want to see before," Emma said thoughtfully.
"What's that?"
"That we're both your mothers, and that you need us both. We should be a team, not enemies."
"Sounds sensible," Henry mused and Emma smiled down at him. She kissed his head.
"Well, I'm glad you agree."
"Have you told Snow and David that you want to move out?"
"Yeah, I have. They don't exactly like it but... it's gonna be alright. We'll still be a family but... I think we need to be a family with Regina, too, the three of us," Emma mused.
"Like how? I mean... your parents won't like that and... we're not gonna move into the mansion together, are we?" Henry asked confused.
"No, I... not like that but... I don't know. I would like to see if Regina and I can be friends. I... would like that, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, sure. I'm not sure how though," Henry gave back. "So far, you've mostly been fighting."
"I know but... Ruby says if you want to be friends with someone you just have to be it. I'll see if that works," Emma told him.
"I could help you," Henry suggested.
"Not sure but I know my mom. I could give you some pointers," he said grinning up at Emma. She smiled.
"I would appreciate the help," she said.
They sat for a while, thinking to themselves, holding onto each other. Emma felt peaceful, probably for the first time since they'd been back from Neverland.
"When am I gonna go stay with mom?" Henry asked into the silence.
"Sunday. We agreed that you'd stay with her Sundays to Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to Saturdays with me," she told him.
He nodded.
"I think it would be good for mom to have a friend," he said after another while. "Most people here don't like her."
Emma nodded. She didn't say anything but she silently agreed with his words.
"Snow's probaly almost finished with dinner. We should wash up," Emma suggested.
"Yeah, we should," Henry answered but neither of them moved. Emma started laughing and Henry joined her.
"Come on, get," she told him and started to tickle him. He practically jumped from her arms and fled the bed.
"Not fair," he groused still smiling.
"I never said I was," she gave back to him as she rose from the bed herself. "Go ahead, I'll be right down," she told him and he left his room. She followed right after but walked into her own space. She went to her nightstand and took a notebook and a pen from it. She opened it to an empty page:
"How to become Regina's friend," she wrote. "1. Be nice. 2. Pay attention. 3. Convince her that you care." Emma wrote from memory what Ruby had told her. She underlined the last one twice then nodded to herself before she followed Henry downstairs.

Chapter Text

On Saturday, Regina was sitting in her home office working over some finances. She was also, at intervals, looking out her window at a beautiful early spring day and sipping her Earl Grey tea. But the work needed to be done and she wasn't one to procrastinate.
The phone rang at about 10.40 a.m. and it surprised her into picking up without even looking at caller id.
"Good morning, Regina," greeted the sheriff and the mayor felt taken aback.
"Emma, it's... is everything alright with Henry?"
"Yes, of course. We were just talking about what to do today and it's so beautiful out and he thought it would be fun to take a walk on the beach. And I was wondering if you wanted to come," Emma let out without taking a breath.
"You thought I would like to take a walk on the beach... with you?"
"And Henry," Emma added.
Regina opened her mouth to speak but then thought better of it. Instead she turned in her chair and looked outside at a beautiful sunny day, just the day for a walk when the breeze from the water had you wear warm clothes but the sun made you feel warm and toasty. Regina loved this kind of weather, she loved the juxtaposition of being out in the cold but warm at the same time. It would also smell differently now that spring was fast approaching.
"Yes," the dark-haired woman answered.
"So will you come with us?"
"I just said yes," Regina told Emma.
"Oh, I thought, well, never mind. How about we meet at the pier in half an hour and go from there?" the blonde suggested smiling. Regina could hear the smile and she didn't mind her own making an appearance.
"Half an hour, I'll be there."
"Great. See you," Emma said and Regina disconnected the call.

They were walking side by side while Henry ran along the beach, his arms outstretched and laughing.
"Well, he sure has a lot of excess energy," Emma said smiling.
"Isn't this how we all feel these first days of spring, like running and just..." Regina closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun, she was also smiling while breathing deeply.
"I wouldn't have pegged you for a nature child," Emma teased and laughed at Regina's comical face.
"Hardly a nature child but... well, at home this would have been a day to go out riding. I loved to do that," the dark-haired woman admitted.
Henry came over to them, pulling his jacket off and handing it to Emma.
"Can you hold that?" he asked and ran off before she could even answer. He ran over to where Archie was standing with his dog, Pongo. They talked for awhile and the therapist looked over to where the women were walking together. Emma waved at him while Regina just gave him a short nod. Archie waved back before he squatted to unleash his dog. Boy and dog were soon running along the beach together with Henry throwing some kind of chew toy for his dotted friend.
His mothers watched Henry while walking close to the water. For a while they weren't talking then Emma asked:
"You learned how to ride a horse early, right?"
"Yes, I did. You know how some people answer that they did something before they could even walk or talk? Well, that would be riding for me," Regina said but she seemed detached from the memory somehow, telling of something she knew rather than wanting to remember it seemed.
"And you loved it," Emma stated.
"Yes, I did. Why does that interest you?"
"I just want to get to know you a little better, that's all," Emma answered folding Henry's jacket over her arm.
"But why?" Regina asked.
Emma shrugged.
"Just part of... our agreement, I guess. Does it make you uncomfortable?"
"I'm just not sure what it's good for, why you care," Regina answered honestly and looked questioningly at Emma.
"Isn't it enough that I do?"
Regina didn't answer for a long while then she asked:
"What do you want to know?"
"Would you tell me about your childhood? I would like to know how you grew up," Emma took what had sounded like an invitation but Regina wasn't giving in so easily.
"Are you trying to uncover how I became evil? You know I already have a therapist," she said.
"I don't wanna be your therapist, Regina, I just wanna be your friend," Emma countered looking at Regina with open, curious eyes.
"Hmm," Regina made and they walked for another while before she said:
"You met my mother... she has always been very ambitious for me. My father was different, a kind man and he loved both of us very much."
"But you grew up with both of them, a happy family," Emma said thoughtfully.
"Unlike you, you want to say. And that's my fault, of course," Regina interpreted Emma's words and her own came out harshly.
"That wasn't... I'm... no, I'm not sorry. I didn't mean it as an attack, Regina, I just... want to know. But if you'd rather not talk about it, we can talk about something else... or not at all," the blonde added. Talking to Regina felt like a gauntlet and maybe it was an idiotic idea to even try.
"I'm sorry, I'm not really used to... someone being interested in... anything as mundane as my childhood at least. I... I grew up with both my parents, yes, but my mother was often away. I guess you could say that she saw herself as some kind of diplomat or ambassador. She spent a lot of time at the kings' courts, talked to everyone, made business deals. I'm not sure what those were but they were lucrative for my father. He became richer than he ever wanted to be. I don't think that it was ever enough for my mother, though. She... didn't love my father but he was a king's son - unfortunately, not the first born."
"So you spent a lot of time with him?"
"As much as he could spare. He had to work, we had a lot of land and he visited the tenants, listened to their problems, sometimes solving them. I had governesses, of course, but... well, I guess you could say I grew up into a kind of tomboy, always out riding or even walking. I spent a lot of time outside, I just loved it," Regina smiled for now she was actually remembering and again she leaned her head back to smile - eyes closed - at the sun.
"So you were a nature child," Emma teased and Regina laughed.
"Maybe... I wasn't much of a reader. I actually only took this hobby up after I came here. A lot of time and not a lot to do..."
"When time stands still...," Emma started to say.
"... one has a lot of time to read the classics," Regina finished but not quite as Emma would have done it.
"I guess," the blonde said.
"I also didn't have any friends," Regina then said and Emma made a comical face.
"If you curse people...," she started but was again interrupted by the other woman.
"Growing up, I didn't have a lot of friends. That is, I didn't have any."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I mean... in a way, I can relate. When I was in foster care, there were always children around, of course, but... I wasn't the most popular kid. I was awkward, from a certain age on I also changed homes a lot so...." Regina nodded.
"We lived in a big house with a lot of land. Our next door neighbors were about two and a half hours away. If you have to spend two and a half hours in a coach just to get to a playdate, by the time you get there you're not the most enthusiastic companion," Regina smiled self-deprecatingly. "Also, I thought tea parties were stupid. I didn't want to play family because...," she stopped.
"They always made me play the daddy," Regina admitted and Emma laughed lightly.
"The tomboy thing?"
"Yes, the tomboy thing. I didn't wear my hair short or anything, and I didn't wear pants like everyone does in this realm... I just didn't wear dresses the way I was supposed to wear them. I didn't have grace, I actually wore a dress like I would wear my riding pants." Now Regina laughed. "I was quite the klutz," she admitted.
"I can't really imagine you as not graceful, not... feminine," Emma admitted.
"Well, if you don't believe that you wouldn't believe some of the things your mother did, either. She could be quite the tomboy, too, by the way. And the next moment she would be a perfect little princess... I guess she was more like my mother would have wanted me to be," she then said thoughtfully.
"I'm sure your mother loved you," Emma said but it sounded empty, probably because everybody knew that the queen of hearts didn't have one beating in her own chest.
"My mother... loved me," Regina agreed and it didn't sound empty from her, she believed it. "She wanted my life to be better than hers had been and that's why she worked so hard to give me a life she would have liked to have... only I don't think she would have liked it any more than I did. For most of my youth she wasn't there and when she finally realized that I had grown into a young woman, a graceless young woman, she tried to... give me some much needed social polish. But I guess it was too late by then," Regina mused. "Anyway, she was disappointed."
"That was hardly your fault," Emma said.
"She had hired the best teachers, dancing, cooking, basic school subjects, too, of course. Needlework, people who were supposed to teach me how to walk and talk, be charming... I just had a knack to escape those lessons. My father didn't care, my mother was away and the teachers were too afraid to tell her that I skipped... to go riding, most of the time..."
"It's still not your fault," Emma insisted.
"Some of it was but I was a child... I didn't care. I just wanted... to do what I wanted to do, so I did," Regina said. "Got many people in trouble over it, too. I didn't care."
"As you say, you were a child. Children are selfish... not our son, of course, but every other child," Emma said and they both laughed.
"No, Henry is perfect," Regina said quite seriously and they nodded at each other while they watched the boy playing with Archie's dog.
"When did you meet Daniel?" Emma asked after a while. She had been surprised that Regina hadn't mentioned him so far as she was talking about riding and Daniel had been the stable boy.
"I don't remember when we first met," Regina answered thoughtfully. Emma could tell that her mood had changed from one moment to the other, she seemed sad now or maybe rather withdrawn. "He was the stewart's son, three years older then I, so he had always seemed to be around the place. I... didn't pay much attention to him. He was just an older boy, stupid for all I knew, as all boys were stupid... but we became sort of friends when I would sneak to the stable at any time of the day to ride. He helped me become a better rider in those days... faster, wilder, I guess, and by the time I was thirteen I had a major crush on him. Three years later I was madly in love with him... and he with me," she added and now she was sad. She turned her head to the water, a frown between her eyes.
Emma wanted to say something, she wanted to tell Regina that it was okay if she didn't want to talk about him, that she would listen if she did, that it was okay. But Regina continued talking before she had a chance:
"It seems ridiculous now but... Daniel was the love of my life. We tell kids that they can't possibly know what love is at sixteen. Every infatuation feels like true love, every break up like the end of the world but... I... I still feel that I loved Daniel. And he was my only love... romantic love," she corrected herself looking back at Henry for a moment then at Emma. "As a parent I guess I can understand my mother better now... not the killing, of course not the killing but... how could she have known that he was really my love? That's not an excuse, I would never do that to Henry, no matter how old he is... but... would either of us believe him if he said with sixteen that he found the love of his life? We probably wouldn't."
"I don't know. I mean, we would have to get to know her..."
"We wouldn't, Emma. Because it's not how it's supposed to be. You're not supposed to meet your great love so young, not in this society anyway. And I guess, my mother thought the same thing. Only that it wasn't really about our age, it was about him being a stable boy and her wanting me to marry a king... but I guess it's the same difference if you don't want your child to throw their life away." Regina took a deep breath and turned fully to the water. She had stopped walking and was now just staring at the horizon. Emma watched her for a while, then she took the few steps to stand beside her and laid a hand on the other woman's arm.
"What your mother did was wrong," she said. "Even if she hadn't killed Daniel but... broken you up, it still would have been wrong. I guess we just have to... be better parents than that and we will be when the time comes."
"I guess," Regina said. "But think about this: I found my love with 16... your mother wasn't much older when she met David, you... was Neal your... first?"
"He was my first but... I wouldn't say he's my... true love. I'm not even sure I believe in it for myself."
"How old were you?" Regina asked.
"17," Emma answered and her companion nodded as if that proved a point.
"We were all fairly young. For me it was my great love, for your mother it was her only love... and even you don't seem to be able to get rid of the boy you were with when you were 17..."
"That doesn't mean Henry has to go the same way," Emma argued.
"No, it doesn't but it seems likely," Regina gave back.
"Hey, let's cross that bridge when we come to it, okay?" Emma suggested and Regina nodded.
"So... Daniel was... your first?" Emma asked after awhile and Regina looked over at her, one eyebrow raised. "What? You asked me if Neal was mine."
"Yes, Daniel was my first and it was... beautiful," she said then sighed.
"You are lucky you grew up in FairyTale Land. First times aren't usually 'beautiful.' Not in the real world," Emma told Regina.
"The Enchanted Forest is 'the real world,' Emma. You've been there, remember?"
"Yeah, don't remind me. I was almost killed by an ogre...," Emma said then smirked.
"So your first time wasn't great? Is that what you're saying?" Emma sobered and looked at Regina. This was a rather private admission and she knew that Neal wouldn't be thrilled to have Regina know this. But for Emma it was also a moment that decided if she trusted Regina with a secret, a possibly embarrassing one.
"No, it wasn't. Not because of him, he... was experienced, I wasn't. And... I guess you could say I wasn't very good at trusting people... and it turned out really awkward... and painful," Emma confessed.
"I'm sorry," Regina said and it didn't feel like a mechanical answer, either. Emma shrugged.
"It's okay. I got better at it," and she smirked again. She laughed as Regina rolled her eyes at her, deservedly so.
"That's comforting to know," Regina said and then stopped to roll her eyes at herself. Emma just kept laughing. "I didn't mean it that way," Regina growled and resumed their walk. Emma joined her, still grinning.
"You shouldn't be embarrassed about it," she teased the dark-haired woman.
"I'm not embarrassed," Regina gave back not quite as annoyed as she wanted to seem.
"Was that even a thing where you come from? Like... did you know that homosexuality existed before you came here?" Emma asked curiously.
"Yes, I did. I mean... it's 'a thing' in the Enchanted Forest. It's just not something that is talked about at length, it just is."
"Lika, as long as people don't talk about it, it's not real?"
"More like, it's a fact of life and everybody knows that," Regina explained.
"So your mother told you about the bees and the... bees at one point, or..."
Regina grinned and then blushed a little.
"I told you my mother wasn't around much. I found out another way...," the mayor let it hang there and Emma's eyes opened widely to all kinds of possibilities her words could imply. Regina laughed.
That was when Henry came up behind them.
"Hey," he said. "What's so funny?" His mothers turned and he tried not to look cold but he actually shivered a little.
"Henry, here, put your jacket back on," Regina took it from Emma and helped Henry into it. She even made sure he zipped it and rubbed his arms. "You're not taking it off again, young man."
"I'm alright, mom. It's just when the sun's behind clouds it gets cold. So what were you laughing about?"
"Your mom was just telling me something from her childhood," Emma said quickly and Regina looked up at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Emma is curious about how things were in the Enchanted Forest."
"Have you told her about the unicorns yet?" Henry asked excitedly.
"I was just about to," Regina answered and smiled.
"You know I'm kinda getting hungry," Henry said with a guilty look.
"Then we should turn back toward the diner," Emma suggested.
"Great." Henry smiled at his mothers and then ran back to where Archie was putting Pongo back on a leash. He waited for Henry to rejoin him and they walked together toward the pier. Emma and Regina also turned but didn't yet resume their conversation.
"About those unicorns..."
"Have you told Henry...," they started at the same time and broke up to look questioningly at the other woman. Emma pointed at Regina to go first.
"Have you told Henry that you're bisexual?" she asked and Emma blinked stupidly at her.
"No, I... I mean, I'm not even sure I..."
"You shouldn't be embarrassed about it," Regina repeated Emma's earlier words and the blonde squinted her eyes threateningly at the other woman. Regina simply smiled.
"I'm not embarrassed. I'm just not sure I would label myself as bi..."
"So kissing me was just... experimental? A thing you do when you're drunk? Or...?"
"No, I... I've been with women, I just... I don't know. I'm not thinking of myself in these terms, not straight, or bi, or gay, just me being with whom I want to be with," Emma explained.
"I wasn't serious about you telling Henry, you know that, right?" Regina smiled.
"Yeah, I kinda got that, thanks. But you were going to tell me about those unicorns, right?"
"Ah, the unicorns. They were two maids at our home..."
"Two?" Emma interrupted, wide-eyed again.
Regina rolled her eyes.
"Yes, Emma. They were maids, they were in love and... one day I... came upon them kissing each other... they were at it pretty... heavily... and I watched... for a while," Regina admitted and blushed again.
"You didn't participate, though?" Emma asked.
"Of course not. I was... 14 and had never seen... two girls kiss..."
Emma smiled.
"How did it make you feel?"
"Oh, come on, Emma. I was 14... I felt... intrigued..."
"But you're not... into women? You've never...," she started saying but was interrupted.
"Once. And no, I'm not gonna tell you about it," Regina said and smiled sweetly.
"Hm," Emma made.
"How about you? When did you find out that you liked girls?" Regina asked and watched Emma fighting with herself whether she should tell her the story. Then she watched her give in:
"Foster home when I was 15. I shared a room with a girl named Josephine, Josie for short. She was... pretty butch... there were a lot of kids, big house but no teenage boys because the foster mom, Mrs. McGough, didn't want them around 'her girls.' Josie and I were the oldest at the time and shared a room," Emma said with a wriggle of her eyebrows. Regina smiled.
"So because there were no boys you two hooked up?"
"No, that's not how it was. Josie wasn't into guys at all... she didn't like me at first, she... thought I was a princess..."
Regina burst out laughing and Emma frowned at her until she realized that Josie had been right, literally.
"Laugh it up, evil queen," she told Regina who calmed herself enough so that Emma continued.
"Well, she was always wearing guy's clothes and, of course, there were people around school who would bully her. She was slight, tall but slight, and one day some guys roughed her up... they didn't really beat her but she got scared and she wouldn't tell anyone. When I came home from school, she... sat on her bed, crying. I comforted her... you know how those things happen. It didn't take us very long before we... started kissing, making out. Nothing beyond second base but... it was nice."
"Until you were caught," Regina guessed but Emma shook her head.
"No, we were never caught which was just short of a miracle. The younger kids had a knack for bursting into our room. Mrs. McGough decided at some point that Josie was too much like an adolescent boy... and she had to leave. You know, there were a lot of things that could happen in foster homes, that are still happening - foster dads with wandering hands, peeping foster brothers, drugs, all kinds of abuse - Josie was just... something nice that happened to me. But because she already knew who she was then, she had to go. We kept in touch a little, she made it out of the system alright... at least she was when I was arrested. We lost touch then. I hope she has a good life," Emma said and smiled.
Regina was silent as they walked up to the pier where Henry waited for them. Archie had already left and Henry was drawing something into the sand with a stick. Emma was about to fasten her pace and look at what he was drawing but then Regina touched her arm and stopped walking. Emma looked back at her then also stopped.
"Were you... I mean... I know the foster system is... not ideal but... I had no idea... were you abused while in a foster home, Emma?" Regina's eyes seemed to blaze with anger, at the same time she held Emma's with its caramel-colored warmth, and Emma felt perfectly safe.
"No, I... I would make a phone call to my social worker whenever I felt someone getting a little too interested. She was one of the really invested ones and would always get me out... I had to fight off two foster brothers... successfully... I guess I was lucky that way," Emma said and laid a hand on Regina's arm again. She felt the nervous energy that radiated from her, there was so much anger but there was also compassion and the need to protect.
"I'm so sorry," Regina said, her voice low and raspy.
"It's not your fault."
"I bet your parents would beg to differ," Regina argued.
"And you do, too? Regina... Growing up in the foster system is bad, really bad. I wouldn't wish it on anyone... but I survived. Better than many other kids. Today I'm happier than I've ever been. And that's what counts. Let's not dwell on the past, okay?" Regina nodded and Emma took a step toward her. "Thanks for caring," she whispered and looked into those soulful brown eyes.
The mayor simply nodded and after a long moment forced herself to break eye-contact with the blonde. She looked over to where Henry crouched in the sand. He was looking over at them with a thoughtful expression.
"I think Henry is about ready to faint from hunger, we better get a burger into him," Regina said quickly and stepped away from Emma. They walked over to Henry.
"Hey, kid, what've you been up to?"
"Nothing, just..." Henry stood and looked down at his drawing in the sand. Emma looked at it, too.
"Is that a hook?"
"Yeah, and that's a heart... and that's a watch," he said.
Emma looked at Henry quizzically.
"Is that a puzzle?"
"Maybe," he said and pushed some sand over his drawing with his foot. "Can we go eat now?"
"Sure, come on."
"You two go ahead. I still got some work to do at home," Regina said before they could take off.
"You're not gonna come to Granny's with us?" Emma asked surprised as she turned to the other woman who shook her head.
"Rain-check," she said.
"Oh," Emma made and Henry went over to hug his dark-haired mother.
"I'll see you Sunday," she told him but included Emma with a look. "Bright and early," she added with a slight grin.
"Bright or early, I don't think you can expect both on a Sunday morning," Henry quipped.
Regina only shook her head and waved as she walked away down the street. Emma laid an arm around Henry's shoulders and steered him across the street to Granny's Diner.

Chapter Text

When they entered the diner, Henry greeted Ruby who was just collecting some dishes from their usual table.
"You're lucky, Doc and Happy just left," the dark-haired woman said and gave them both a wide smile.
"Thanks, Ruby. Can I have a coke and... a cheeseburger, fries... the works."
"All right. What about you, Henry?"
"I'll have iced tea and a quarter pounder with fries," Henry answered without even having looked at the menu.
"Coming right up, guys." Ruby said and went to give Granny the orders.
"Did you have a good time playing with Pongo?" Emma asked her son and he nodded.
"He's so smart, he just does everything i tell him to do," Henry enthused. "Pongo's a great dog."
"Some people would argue that if they do what you want they can't be that smart," Emma said thoughtfully.
"Who says that?" Henry asked.
Emma shook her head.
"Never mind... just some basic dog-person vs. cat-person argument. I take it you're a dog-person," she stated and he nodded.
"I totally am. And I actually wanted to talk to you about that."
"You wanted to talk to me about... dogs?" He nodded. "Is this about you wanting a pet?" He smiled.
"Wouldn't it be great to have a... a watch dog? I mean you're the sheriff. You could totally take him on patrol with you... when he's older and well trained that is. And we're getting our own place, right? So we'd have some space and..."
"Hold on, Henry. Have you ever talked to Regina about this? You wanting a dog?" The enthusiasm withered on his young face.
"Yeah, I have but... mom wouldn't let me have a dog. She said I should first learn to take care of a smaller animal, a fish... I don't want a fish, I want a dog," Henry complained.
"Well, it's not just my decision, Henry. I mean, I can talk to Regina and see where she stands with this. When have you talked to her last about this?"
"That was... a couple of years ago. I mean with you coming to Storybrooke and everything that's been happening after I kinda lost track but... I really wanna have a dog," he pleaded and looked at her with puppy dog eyes that strangely reminded Emma of Regina's. Emma shook her head to clear it of that thought.
"You can't just say no. I mean, that's totally unfair, ma...," Henry started but Emma lifted a hand.
"I wasn't shaking my head to the idea of a dog, Henry, I... I'd really have to talk to your mom about it and then we'll decide together. That's what parents do," Emma said and it felt right but also a little strange. Who would have thought that she and Regina would ever just sit down, have a talk and then decide what was best for Henry? Probably nobody who currently lived in Storybrooke. But it was happening and Emma felt it was a good thing.
"What were you and mom talking about on the beach? Did she really tell you about her childhood?"
"Yeah, she did. She... told me about her... mom and dad... about Daniel..."
"She told you about Daniel?" He asked surprised. "What did she tell you about him?"
Henry seemed eager to know about this but Emma hesitated.
"I'm... not sure I should tell you. I mean... I don't know, I guess it was kind of... just between the two of us," Emma said.
Henry seemed to think about this.
"Was it about sex?" he asked thoughfully.
"No, I... I mean, no. Not exactly... it's just... it seemed private. I think it was private," she argued, not even sure if she was right.
Would Regina be cool with Henry knowing about some of the things they'd talked about. Probably not about the thing with the two maids and Regina's... intrigue. But about her mother being negligent? About her being a lonely child?
"Have you guys been riding... like, do you know if she's ever been out at the stable since..."
"Since the thing with zombie-Daniel? No, I don't think so. Why?"
"She said something about how this would have been a day for riding back home," Emma told him.
"As far as I know she's never been riding here. Do you know how to? Ride, I mean."
"Yeah, I do. I worked on a ranch in Texas for a spell," Emma said and smiled.
"Really, you never told me." He seemed to think it was cool but it hadn't been all that cool for Emma. It had mostly been hot and smelly and exhausting. She'd only done it for one summer but it sure taught her to ride, and ride hard.
Ruby came to their table to bring them their drinks.
"One coke, one iced tea. The burgers will be ready shortly," she informed them and went to the next table. It was lunch time on a Saturday, a lot of hungry mouths to feed so Ruby had no time to chat. Emma took a sip from her coke.
"It was one summer, one very exhausting summer."
"Did you go on a trek?"
"No, kid, I... I mostly mucked out stalls and helped repair fences, that kind of thing. The riding was great, though. The land was beautiful... I just wished the guy who owned it all had appreciated it more," she reminsced.
"You haven't been riding here, though, have you?" Emma shook her head. "Why not?"
"I didn't even know Storybrooke had stables and, well, since David told me... we've all been a little busy so... But I would like to go. Maybe we can all go together one of these days. When it's a little warmer," Emma suggested.
"That would be great. You're really trying to become friends with mom, aren't you?"
"I told you I wanted to be, didn't I?"
"Yeah, I know but... well, you were kinda being nicer to each other before and then... Cora came to Storybrooke and then you hated each other again," Henry said with a frown.
"I know. Things were getting out of hand there... but I'm trying, Henry. And Regina's trying, too. We want you to have as... normal a family-life as possible. And we know that with... all the things that have been happening, the way Storybrooke is, it's difficult but we're working on it... together," she smiled at him and he answered her with his own.
"You know my life would be so much more normal if I had a dog," he then said, grinning.
"Nice try, kid," she told him. Ruby came with their food a short time later and they dug in, both hungry from their morning walk.

Regina opened the door before Henry and Emma had even knocked. She was trying not to smile but neither her son nor his other mother looked especially awake this morning.
“You were not kidding when you said bright or early, were you?” she asked and Henry threw her a dirty look.
“I think I’m going back to bed,” he grumbled.
“No breakfast?” she asked as he walked by her. She ruffled his hair a little but he didn’t seem in the mood for any kind of affection.
“Maybe later… when I’m awake,” he answered.
“How about you, Emma? You look like you use a cup of coffee,” Regina turned her attention to the blonde.
"Sounds heavenly,” the sheriff answered and Regina pushed the door open to let Emma enter.
Henry was already walking up the stairs as Emma slipped out of her jacket. "Remember the project, Henry. It's due Wednesday and mom said she won't give you an extension on it, okay?"
"Yeah, right...," Henry answered in a low grumble.
Emma turned to Regina, rolling her eyes at their son.
"Quite perfect," she said and Regina nodded. They made their way to the kitchen where Regina filled two cups with coffee.
“What kind of project is that you were talking about? I thought I had a pretty good grip on Henry's schoolwork," Regina asked as they sat down at her kitchen island.
"It's a kind of book report but it's not just about the book. It's also about the author and whatever they can find out about the story behind the story. And Snow made it a requirement that it's a book they haven't read before and haven't told anything about in class before. That means that Henry can't talk about Harry Potter...," Emma explained.
"Oh," Regina said knowingly. "And they're Henry's favorites at the moment."
"He doesn't really read anything else lately. It's also the reason why he's so grumpy this morning."
"Because he won't be able to use them for his project?" Regina asked.
"No, because he's been up reading half the night," Emma answered. She took a sip of her coffee, closing her eyes when the first shot of caffeine of the day hit her. It was just after eight and she and Henry hadn't even been up for an hour yet because they overslept. "I guess he's got too much fresh air yesterday. He was out with David after we came back from the diner. I'm not sure where they were but... Henry was wide awake by the time he was supposed to go to bed. I told him he could read for another hour... that was a mistake."
"How long?"
"I fell asleep over some reports and woke around half past two... his light was still on."
Regina sighed.
"You send him to bed then?"
"Yeah, immediately, no finishing the chapter... though I'm not sure he could have. He looked about ready to pass out," Emma said.
"Did you go to bed, too?" Regina asked because Emma seemed even more tired than Henry and she was holding the mug with her coffee like a lifeline.
"Not quite, I had to finish going through Tink's reports... which reminds me. I wanted to ask... learning to read and write, it wasn't very high on anybody's list back in the Enchanted Forest, was it?"
"Well, for princesses and princes, children of rich citizens it was... I'm not sure about pixies, though," Regina answered. "Is her diction very bad?"
"It's not really bad. She knows a lot of words, she just... writes them differently."
"That's quite common. I sometimes have to remind myself how to write words here because we wrote them differently home. You shouldn't be to hard on her for that," Regina advised.
"I wasn't going to, it just takes me longer to get through the reports. Can I leave them like that, though? I mean, you would understand them, right? Pretty much everyone who were to read them here would?"
Regina nodded her head.
"Yes, everyone here would... the question is... should there be others to come to live here..."
"Do you think that will happen?" Regina shrugged her shoulders. "I'm going to get Tink a dictionary and tell her to look things up. She'll learn eventually, I guess, and Storybrooke won't change in a day," Emma suggested and Regina nodded.
For a moment, Emma thought they would run out of topics to talk about and she looked into her cup a little awkwardly. She was already wrecking her brain for something to say or wondering if she should just finish her coffee and leave when Regina said:
"I think I may have found a house for you."
"Really?" Emma's head came up so suddenly she felt a little dizzy. She blinked a few times and Regina smiled at her.
"Really. Did you doubt me?"
"No, no, absolutely not. I just... I just know you have a lot to do and I didn't think you would make this a priority," Emma tried to explain.
"My son is always my highest priority, Emma. Never doubt that," Regina told the blonde, her smile gone.
"That's not what I... I didn't mean to imply... I'm sorry," she finally settled on and Regina nodded. "So about the house..."
"Yes. I don't know if you knew but the dwarfs, they moved back in together while we were in Neverland. They are used to living together and since Sneezy rents the whole apothecary, they moved in there."
"Really? Wow, I... Grumpy actually lives with the others in such close quarters?" Emma asked surprised.
"I heard he lives in the attic while the others share the second floor. Anyway, their former residences are empty and Doc had rented a house before. It's a nice place, I've already looked it over. Two bedrooms, a nice living room, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and not too expensive. It should be quite comfortable for you and Henry... maybe even a third person if... you were to... if there was a man you wanted to share it with," Regina finally decided on her words. She didn't look at Emma or she would have seen raised eyebrows.
"Not in the near future," Emma said without missing a beat and Regina looked at her.
"Well, it's... accomodating, I guess you could say... albeit everything's a little bit smaller on account of a dwarf having lived there," Regina added.
Emma's eyes went wide.
"For reals? Their houses are smaller? Like... do they have like, little cups and beds and..." Regina's laughter interrupted Emma and the sheriff threw a dirty look at the mayor. "You're making fun of me," she stated.
"Sorry, I wanted to see if you'd fall for it. Have you seen any of the dwarfs eat with special sets of silver ware at the diner? They're not even really smaller than everybody else," Regina said and grinned.
"I know, it's just... the original story."
"The expectations they raise are too extraordinary to be fulfilled in real life, Emma. You should know that by now."
"I do know. Especially when it comes to a certain evil queen. Who would have thought she has a wicked sense of humor?" Emma said smiling at the other woman.
"Don't fool yourself, savior. When it comes to me, the stories don't come close to how evil I really am," Regina answered but missed the playful note of Emma's words. Her underlying note seemed thoughtful, maybe even sad.
"I don't believe you. You're not that woman anymore," Emma argued.
"I'm afraid she's still around," Regina gave back and the sheriff looked at her for a long moment.
"You really are, aren't you?" she asked and Regina raised a questioning eyebrow at her. "Afraid. You're afraid you'll turn into her again."
Regina matched Emma's inquiring gaze and then nodded.
Emma reached over the table and took Regina's hand into hers, squeezing it.
"I won't let that happen. Henry won't let it happen, and you won't let it happen for Henry's sake," she told the older woman.
"I will never be safe... I can't really be trusted," Regina argued.
"I trust you," Emma said with conviction.
They both looked at their combined hands on the kitchen island, deep in thought.
"You probably wouldn't if you knew... everything," Regina said in a low voice.
"Some day I will, and I'll still trust you," Emma promised. Regina's lips lifted in a very small smile but it seemed also sad, not quite believing Emma's words.
"I'm not gonna hold you to it," she said and pulled her hand from Emma's. The blonde wanted to argue her point but Regina lifted her hand, silencing her. "I'm sorry. I don't always know when... or why I... bring this up. I guess I sometimes need to be reassured," she apologized for something she considered neediness.
"That's what I'm here for," Emma answered with a smile, her green eyes sparkling with... goodness. Regina was inclined to believe in it, she was also inclined to simply drown in those pools, to let them soothe her wounds. But instead she cleared her throat and sat up straighter.
"About the house," she said and reminded them both of what they'd been talking about. "Doc rented it but the lease is up and he isn't going to renew it. You would have to talk to the owner about it."
"Who's the owner?" Emma asked and Regina made a face.
"Mostly all the properties in Storybrooke - with the exception of the mansion and the library - were owned by one man..."
"Gold," Emma said and leaned her head back to look at the ceiling "Which means that now they belong to... Neal."
Regina nodded but Emma didn't even see it. She had closed her eyes.
"That's just... brilliant," she said sarcastically.
"I'm sorry, I... probably should have said something earlier."
"No, I already kind of knew. I mean I knew Gold owned a lot of the businesses here... it only makes sense," Emma acknowledged. "I'm going to have to talk to Neal."
"I could... I guess if you'd rather I could go talk to him as a kind of advocate. Tell him it's for a... friend...."
"That's sweet but... he'll find out eventually anyway. It would be kind of cowardly to send you," Emma said and smiled at Regina in thanks.
"And that's something a Charming can never be...," Regina couldn't help commenting on.
"No, never," Emma admitted self-deprecatingly. "It would also be unfair to Neal. He's a good guy and he'll probably won't make a big deal out of it... it's just... an awkward situation."
"Because he wants you and Henry to move in with him rather than you and Henry move into one of his houses," Regina said and Emma nodded. "You don't think he's gonna fight you on this?"
"I don't think so but, well, I guess you never know. I would like to look at the house first, though. Make sure it's... a place I would want to live at before I go to Neal."
"I have a key," Regina said and they smiled at each other. Of course, Emma had known as much and had counted on Regina to offer to show it to her. "Whenever you got time," the dark-haired woman offered.
"I'll call you next week about it. I haven't quite gotten to work out a schedule for the station yet."
"Do you need help with that?" Regina offered and Emma smiled at her.
"No, that's my job. Your job is to reprimand me for failing at my law-enforcement duties, madam mayor."
"I will not be lectured by the sheriff on what my job includes, sheriff Swan. You'll be well advised to remember that," Regina told Emma in a stern voice but her eyes were too playful to be serious.
"Of course, madam mayor. I apologize for overstepping my jurisdiction," Emma answered but couldn't help the smirk that appeared on her face.
"Hmmm," Regina answered with a suspicious look. "One might get the impression you're enjoying being reprimanded a little too much, sheriff," she said in her most authoritative of tones.
"One might," Emma answered, still smirking. They looked at each other again but the undercurrent mood changed from an amiable companionship to an electric attraction. They'd been flirting and they were once again reminded that - much as magic - it came with a price. The price of hearts beating faster, stomachs clenching in need of what they were denied, of hands wanting to reach out but couldn't. The price of fighting what they both wanted and conquering their desires, suppressing their needs.
"I should probably...," Emma started saying and slipped from her stool.
"Yes, I guess... ," Regina said and stood, too. "I'll see you sometime next week about the house."
"I'll call you," Emma said and they left the kitchen. Regina walked behind Emma and shook her head over herself, over both of them. She wasn't one to dwell on this kind of thing, on an attraction, she was quite capable of dealing with loneliness and desire and wanting something she couldn't have. She had to in the past... but Emma Swan seemed quite insistantly irresistable and she would have to work harder to... not give into... something that was impossible to gain, to have, to hold onto.
Emma slipped into her jacket and then nodded at Regina.
"I'll see you," she said and Regina merely answered her nod. She closed the door behind the retreating figure of the sheriff.
"That woman is so much trouble," she murmured as she leaned against the closed door, feeling almost breathless as she remembered the dark green temptation of Emma Swan's eyes.

Chapter Text

On Monday morning, Regina and Henry hurried out the door of the mansion and toward the Mercedes when Henry noticed something stuck under one of the windshield wipers.
"Mom, there's a paper under your wiper," he pointed it out to Regina and she pulled the white note free. She opened it and read:
'I know it's a Monday but I still hope it's a good morning. Driving by this morning I noticed that your tires need some air - hence the note. Sheriff Swan'
Regina couldn't help but smile as she read the note while Henry was waiting a little impatiently by the passenger's door. The weather had taken a turn toward colder last night and it was windy, too.
"Mom, we're already late," he called out to her. "Who's the note from?"
Regina looked over.
"Oh, it's... nothing important. Sorry," she said quickly and unlocked her door. She slipped in and reached over to open the door for Henry. When he finally sat beside her, she asked:
"Have you noticed the sheriff's cruiser driving by this morning?"
"No. Is that note from ma?" Henry asked slightly smiling.
"Yes, she... noticed that my tires needed some air," Regina told him and he nodded.
"Good," he said and they drove the short way to Henry's school in silence.

The note was the beginning but it was by no means the last Regina heard of the sheriff that week. On Tuesday, Regina sat down at a table at the diner for her morning coffee and got more than she had ordered: a plate overrunning with delicious pancakes and a smirking Ruby who informed her that the sheriff had ordered breakfast for her - since she knew Regina had missed hers that morning.
Regina wasn't sure how she felt about Ruby becoming part of something that was going on between Emma and her... this strange but somehow comfortable friendship-thing Emma had started. She still enjoyed the pancakes and took the time to thank Emma for them via text:
'I see you have a spy in my own house. Do I need to have a serious talk to our son about ratting me out to you? I ate all the pancakes and blame you for possible weight-gain. And thank you - the mayor.'
On receiving the text, Emma grinned mischievously. She was sitting in the station, still trying to work out a permanent work schedule for herself and her new deputy but not getting very far. She welcomed the break and texted back immediately:
'You're very welcome. I think you should let Henry off the hook this time, it was just out of worry for your health that he told me. How're your tires, btw? - a concerned citizen.'
Regina waited until she was back at her office before she answered Emma's text:
'Dear concerned citizen. I have already driven by the shop and my tires are good until summer for which I have made an appointment to have them changed. I'm trying to stay on top of things but appreciate the reminder. I won't have that talk with Henry, then... for now. But any more indiscretions on his part and all bets are off - same goes for you, concerned citizen. I'm a woman who likes her privacy, the mayor.'
Regina smiled as she sent the text and put her phone next to the file she was reading. She was looking at it from time to time, not even admitting to herself that she was waiting for an answer.
It came about two hours later when Emma had finished her rounds. She was surprised that Regina was indulging her by answering, she was even more surprised at the playfulness the dark-haired woman exhibited.
'Dear Madam Mayor - your privacy shall remain intact, no indiscretions shall ever cross my lips but care and friendship shall be shown, by both our son and me. You better get used to them. I'm glad you take such good care of your car - and by extension, the safety of the good people of Storybrooke. The sheriff.'
Regina read Emma's answer and shook her head bemusedly.
"Nothing but trouble," she murmured to herself, then typed her answer:
'Dear Sheriff, it's commendable that you care about the safety of the 'good people' of Storybrooke so much, just be certain to not overstep boundaries. I'm not sure I should trust an offer of friendship from anyone in this town, least of all you... but I'm trying to roll with it, as Henry would say - for his sake, of course. And now I have to remind you that there's a job that needs to be done, a sheriff's job. The 'good people' of Storybrooke are not paying you for texting all day, nor for keeping the mayor from her job as well - the mayor (who's also a concerned citizen)'
Emma grinned as she read the text and thought of just going back to work, showing Regina that she could be a responsible adult - but that didn't sit too well with the rebellious blonde. She answered:
'You started it - an obnoxious brat.'
Regina was laughing at the answer, she couldn't help herself. But she proved that she was the responsible adult by not texting back. She also proved to herself more sentimental than she'd ever thought possible by not deleting Emma's texts like she usually would but reading them over before she went to bed that night.

Wednesday evening, Emma fell onto her bed moaning loudly. She'd worked most of the day on that schedule and had finally finished it. When she had made her rounds, she had come across that lost boy again, the one she had incarcerated once already, as he was climbing out a window - and it hadn't been the window of his foster parents' house, either. She had given chase by foot and that was when she had for the first time felt like she was thirty. He was half her years and faster but she had known Storybrooke longer and had almost caught him when she had underestimated the depth of a puddle she stepped into. She had been lucky she didn't break of twist anything because her foot and ankle disappeared completely in the dark brown water and the mud at its base almost sucked her boot right off. She had to stop and work it free and by then the boy, Gordon, had been gone of course.
Emma pulled her leg toward her and felt her ankle, the one that had stuck in the mud. It seemed okay now but had hurt earlier. Or maybe it had simply been her overall crankiness with how this day had progressed. The fact that her socks and feet had been drenched by muddy water was just the cherry on top and she had made her way, her left boot squelching, to the nearest shoe store. New boots, boots that she needed to break in, boots that would hurt her feet for the next few days, and the loss of those fantastically comfortable boots she'd worn until now. Her back that hurt from sitting at her desk for the remainder of the day. Tink's critical expression when she had presented the new working schedule to her... it all added up to a really bad day.
And then her mom had come to her and told her that Henry had just barely gotten a C on his book project.
Emma sighed. She just wanted to close her eyes and go to sleep while her family was still downstairs eating. She had excused herself saying that she had had dinner at the diner which wasn't true but she didn't want to have that serious talk with Henry about his homework tonight. She didn't want to think that she had failed at the mother-thing again and that her son was turning into a slacker. But then again, Henry wasn't just her son, he was Regina's son as well and the dark-haired woman would probably not be too thrilled that Henry had done so poorly on his project. She would also want to know, Emma mused.
She pushed her hand into her pocket and pulled out her phone. She searched for the mayor's number in her directory and then made the connection. The phone rang about half a dozen times before it was picked up:
"Emma?" Regina asked.
"Yeah, hey. How's business?" Emma started the conversation a little awkwardly and flinched at her choice of words.
"How's business? Really? Well, business was good today. I talked the nuns into organizing a Valentine's bazaar and the dwarfs into setting up the booths - all for free I might add. At least the labor... good people are talked so easily into doing things for free," Regina told Emma and the blonde could tell the other woman was smiling.
"That's great. A bazaar on Valentine's Day, I didn't know that was a thing here," Emma mused.
"We had them in the past. Not every year but sometimes. It's nice."
"Will there be a kissing booth?" Emma heard herself asking and rolled her eyes at herself.
"Why? Are you volunteering?" Regina teased and then laughed when Emma didn't immediately answer.
"Oh, you wish," Emma finally said and flinched. She waited for a snide reprimand which never came.
"Well, it would make the organisation easier," the mayor simply said. "But I guess that's the nuns' problem now. So how was your day?"
Emma moaned.
"Don't ask," she told Regina.
"So bad?"
"Yeah, it was pretty bad. I mean, not a complete catastrophe, just... work and that lost boy, Gordon... and, well, Henry had to present his project today, the book project," Emma told Regina.
"He didn't do very well. Poorly, is how mom phrased it."
"Really? But... he's been working on it since Sunday afternoon... at least, that's what he told me," Regina said sounding displeased. "He's been lying to me."
"That's a new thing?" Emma asked carefully.
"Well, he had a... difficult phase just before he contacted you until... well, recently, I guess. But I thought things had gotten better after we came back from Neverland. I... has he told you anything? Did I do something to... upset him?" Regina asked and she sounded disturbed, sad.
"Not that I know and I doubt that's it. Maybe it was just about not being able to do this about his favorite books," Emma suggested.
"You haven't talked to him about it yet?"
"No, not yet. I... after the day I had, I didn't want to go off on him just as he came through the door. They're downstairs now, having dinner." Emma told Regina.
"Without you?"
"I'm not really good company today."
Silence filled the line for a long moment.
"Is this just about having a bad day, or is there something else?" Regina finally asked.
"I'm not sure," Emma said. "I wanted to call you about looking at Doc's house but... I can't really bring myself to start this when I know that I'll have to talk to Neal about the house, and to my parents about moving out again... I should be excited about this but I'm dreading what I might be starting here. Does that make any sense?"
"It does. But you shouldn't feel bad about going for what you want, Emma. Your parents will survive you moving and Neal, well, he'll just have to get over the fact that you don't want to be with him... at the moment. It's time for everyone to grow up a little," Regina said.
"Including me," Emma sighed.
"Most definately," Regina agreed and Emma had to laugh.
"You're referring to my last text from Tuesday, aren't you?"
"Oh, I've almost forgotten about that," Regina said quickly then laughed at herself. "Or maybe not."
"Well, I'm taking a first step toward adulthood by asking you to show me the house tomorrow afternoon - that is, if you're free?"
"I can manage," Regina agreed.
"Good, let's meet at the house at... say five?"
"All right, I'll bring my keys," the mayor said.
"Where is it, the house? You never said."
"The address is 127, Mifflin Street," Regina answered.
"Mifflin? The same Mifflin Street where the mayor lives by chance?" Emma asked surprised and then grinned.
"I don't know about chance but the same, yes. There's only one Mifflin Street in Storybrooke and you know it."
"So we're gonna be neighbors?" Emma asked and felt her spirit lift considerably for the first time that day.
"It's not like you'll be living next door, sheriff. I just thought it would make some things easier... for Henry. And also for us in organizing his schedule," Regina explained - too much, as it seemed to Emma. And that made her smile a little brighter still because Regina wouldn't admit that she wanted her near. At least that was how Emma chose to interpret Regina's words.
"Good thinking," she said.
"I like to stay on top of things," Regina answered dismissively.
"I know and I appreciate it. About Henry, though...," Emma continued but wasn't even sure what she wanted to say. She only knew that she didn't want their conversation to be over so soon. "... I'm not sure how to... talk to him about his book project. I haven't done that kind of parenting yet. Do you have any advice?" She finally found herself asking.
"What do you think you should tell him?"
"That it's not okay to lie to you, first of all, no matter how much he hates his assignments. And that he should always make an effort even if things bore or annoy him... and that we still love him, even if he screws up," Emma said and she could hear Regina smile through the phone line.
"That should do it, though I think there's some punishment in order, too. For the lying."
"No dessert when we're next at Granny's?"
"No tv after dinner for the next two days? You know, he's still growing. He needs his nutrients," Regina suggested and Emma had to laugh.
"You're just as bad in punishing him as I am, aren't you?" Regina laughed, too.
"I guess," she admitted.
They were quiet for a while after this, both thinking about what to say to elongate the conversation. Regina came up blank and she was about to wish Emma a pleasant evening and hang up when Emma said:
"If I were to volunteer for the kissing booth would you pay to kiss me again?"
There was a breathless pause, no doubt generated by what Regina would think Emma's audacity to even ask such a question. But there was no huffy indignity in Regina's answer when she said:
"Why would I pay good money for something you're obviously eager to give freely?"
It was a dare, it was a flirtation, it was the last thing Regina said before disconnecting the line.

Chapter Text

Thursday morning saw a tired-looking sheriff entering the diner just after Ruby had unlocked the door.
"You're early," the brunette greeted Emma who sat down at the counter, grumbling. "Coffee?"
"Please," Emma asked of Ruby who obliged with a slight smile.
"Long night?" she asked as she put the mug with the coffee in front of Emma.
"Yeah, kinda... I've been thinking about... stuff," the blonde said and took a first sip of the hot brew. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy its wakening effect and decided she needed another sip to help the first one along.
"Stuff? Does some of that stuff include a certain dark-haired politician?" Ruby asked while busying herself with refilling the salt and pepper shakers.
Emma looked at her but didn't answer. She thought that Ruby probably already knew too much about this whole thing with Regina.
"Some of it," Emma answered non-committally.
"It's okay if you don't wanna talk about it, Emma, but don't shut me out because you think I might tell your mom about it. Or that I might judge you. I'm good at keeping secrets and I... I've learned the hard way that you can't choose who you're attracted to," Ruby told her friend looking openly into her green eyes.
"The hard way? Who is it?" Emma asked curiously.
"Between the two of us...," Ruby turned her keen hearing toward the kitchen but she obviously couldn't hear her grandmother and continued. "... Belle."
Emma's eyes went round at this news, then she smiled. She reached over the counter and squeezed Ruby's hand in silent sympathy.
"How is she?" Emma asked after Ruby's friend.
"I don't know. Not really any better. She loved that... she loved Mr. Gold, he was her true love," the waitress related with sad eyes.
"I'm sorry... for her and you," the blonde said but Ruby shook her long mane.
"Don't be sorry for me. Belle is my friend and... that's more than some people have from the person they love. It's hard to see her in so much pain and not being able to help her."
"I'm sure you help her more than you're aware of. Everything else needs time," Emma mused.
"I hope so... that time will help... I'm not sure it will, though. She's... not doing much. I can barely get her to get up in the morning. She doesn't read, she doesn't do anything besides sitting on the sofa and staring into nothing. Archie tried talking to her but so far without success."
"I didn't know it was so bad, Rubes. I'm... Is there anything I can do?"
Ruby shook her head no.
"I don't think there is anything anyone can do. Bae... Neal comes over sometimes and sits with her. He tells her of Rumple... how he was before he became the Dark One. I'm not even sure she hears him but he hasn't tired of it yet," she told Emma.
"Neal is a good guy," Emma commented.
"He is," Ruby agreed and they looked at each other.
"And a much better choice for the savior?" Emma asked.
"I told you I don't judge. Neal is the guy your mother would like you to be with, though. But I think you know that already, don't you?"
Emma nodded.
"I know but it's not happening for me at the moment. He's an okay guy but... some things that he did, I just can't get over them."
"What about the things Regina did? Are you over them?"
Emma smiled.
"Regina doesn't want me to marry her. She... I don't know what she wants from me... probably only to be an amiable co-parent and otherwise leave her alone. I'm the one who insists on making this co-parenting-thing something more of a friendship... though there are moments... she flirts with me," Emma finally blurted out.
"Regina flirts with you?" Ruby asked grinning.
"Yeah, she kinda does. I'm sure she doesn't mean to but then... it just happens, on both sides. She has a wicked sense of humor and... the antagonism we always had between us kinda makes us tease each other now that we don't hate each other anymore. It's strange but it feels... good. It doesn't make any sense, really, but that's how it is," she finished her sort-of-explanation without understanding it any better herself.
"Where is this going?" Ruby asked and Emma shook her head.
"Nowhere. It's not gonna happen, and that's something we actually agree upon."
"Because you don't want it to happen?" Ruby kept on and Emma sighed.
"Are you kidding me? If it was just about the two of us... I would totally go for it. I can't... I can't stop... oh, God, I can't stop thinking about that kiss. It kept me awake half the night and the prospect of it happening again... damn... but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in our lives would go haywire... it's not worth it, it would be insane. My parents would never forgive me..."
"Hey!" Ruby interrupted Emma's ramblings which bordered on panicky. She laid her hand on Emma's to calm her down. "You know, I've known your parents a little longer than you. They've always come through so far and... well, they had to deal with pretty weird stuff."
"Weird is one thing, Ruby, me hooking up with Regina... that's so far out there there's not even a word for it," Emma stated.
"There're plenty of words for it but I don't think you're ready to face them yet," Ruby argued.
"Don't even go there," Emma warned and Ruby shrugged.
"I won't but you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. Storybrooke has its own kind of magic and its pretty powerful stuff. Things that are supposed to happen, will happen. So maybe you'll even get another one of those fantastic kisses," Ruby said and smirked. Emma whimpered, then she cleared her throat.
"If anyone besides you should ever find out about this... all hell will break lose," she said after a moment's thought.
"Sounds dramatic but I doubt it. Most of the people here are used to change. You and Regina hooking up... would be surprise, a big one, but the world won't stop spinning because of it. At least, that's what I think," Ruby told Emma. "Of course I could be wrong," she added smiling.
"Thanks, Rubes, that's not helpful at all," Emma answered with a self-deprecating smile. "Well, I have to get to work. Could you...," Emma started saying, then rolled her eyes at herself but she continued. "I think Regina's gonna come for lunch today. Could you serve her some of Granny's apple pie for dessert?"
"Apple pie? Regina doesn't eat Granny's apple pie, Emma. She only eats her own because she thinks it's better," Ruby said and tsked the idea.
"Just try it, okay?" Emma asked of her and slipped from her stool.
"All right, I'll try. But I can already tell you it's not gonna happen."
"We'll see," Emma gave back as she walked toward the door waving at her friend who merely shook her head at the blonde.

Emma sat on the garden wall of 127, Mifflin Street, watching Regina cross the street from the other side. She smiled lazily at the other woman.
"Sheriff Swan," Regina greeted her impassively.
"Good afternoon," Emma answered and hopped off her perch.
"I take it you have looked at the outside by now?" Regina asked all business and Emma nodded. "Good, let's go inside." Regina opened her purse and took a bundle of keys from it. She chose one seemingly at random as they all looked alike.
"How do you know which one it is?" Emma asked as they went up the walk.
"I'm a witch, Emma," Regina simply informed her and the blonde rolled her eyes behind her back. They were back to exchanging basic need-to-know information, nothing personal, nothing... friendly. Regina had taken a step back again and Emma berated herself for being surprised and being disappointed.
Regina unlocked the door and they stepped into the house.
They found themselves in a vestibule from which stairs across the door ascended to the second story. There was a room to the left that might have been the living room, and a door to the right.
"That's the kitchen," Regina said and opened the door. She walked into the room and Emma followed her. The kitchen had all the usual appliances, a dishwasher, a stove, a microwave. They looked used but well cared-for. Doc kept a tidy house.
"Looks good," Emma commented.
"Well, there's plenty of room for cereals and microwave popcorn. I take it that's all you're able to cook?" Regina asked and showed a small smile.
"I can burn water if you challenge me," Emma gave back looking around. The drawers and cupboards were empty.
"Through that door is the laundry room, there's a back door leading into the garden from there," Regina continued the tour and opened the door she'd just been pointing at into a small room that held a washing machine and dryer.
Emma nodded.
"Do you want to see the garden?" Regina asked and was already pulling out her key chain from her coat pocket.
"That's okay. I take it it's well kept?"
"Of course. Doc has quite the green thumb, kept his lawn impeccable and the flower beds colorful," Regina said in a matter-of-fact voice that was starting to grate on Emma's sensibilities. She missed the woman who had flirted with her the other night over the phone.
"Don't tell me he's a better gardener than you are," she challenged.
"Don't be ridiculous, sheriff," Regina gave back and then turned back toward the door that had led them into the kitchen. She didn't turn to see if Emma was following her, she simiply left the room and re-entered the vestibule. Emma followed albeit reluctantly. She had already decided that she liked the house, it all looked friendly, there was air and light and it was tidy and not too big for her and Henry. It was perfect.
Regina, on the other hand, was giving her mixed signals. Or maybe she was giving her a very clear signal to keep it professional and Emma didn't like this one bit. She felt tossed around, pulled close, pushed away. And it made her impatient, angry even.
"That door to the left is the second bathroom," Regina pointed at a door further down the corridor before she entered the living room.
"Spacious," Emma noticed and Regina nodded.
"The living room. The fireplace is functional. I think there was a window that jams but I'm not sure which one it was," Regina told Emma. "You'd have to talk to Neal about that."
"How do you know so much about this place? I didn't think you and Doc would have socialized much?" Emma asked and the dark-haired woman turned to her. They looked at each other and Regina seemed to contemplate if she actually wanted to talk to Emma, instead of just talking at her.
"We didn't but... well, I was the mayor. Sometimes I talked to people and what else would I have talked to Doc about? The weather, gardening, and the state of your house were always safe topics...," Regina explained.
"Did you never have a conversation with anyone that was actually meaningful?"
Regina turned toward the window, looking out but not really seeing anything.
"Sometimes," she answered in a low voice before she turned back to Emma. "But mostly it was small-talk."
"For 28 years? That sounds depressing, not to mention boring," the blonde said.
"It was... but I actually hoped that it wouldn't change."
"I don't wanna talk about it," Regina said and her eyes glazed over with an impenetrable forcefield that was supposed to keep Emma at bay. Regina walked by her but Emma had enough of this tug-of-war, she had enough of Regina playing the ice-queen. She grabbed Regina's arm, pulling her close.
"What...?" But that was all Regina was able to utter as Emma took a step toward her. Regina took a step back and felt herself backed against the wall, Emma so close she could feel her body heat. They looked at each other.
"Stop doing that," Emma growled at her.
"What are you talking about? What is wrong with you?!" Regina gave back.
"Stop pushing me away, I'm trying to be your friend."
"Friends don't push each other against walls, Miss Swan," the dark-haired woman accused.
"Friends don't talk to each other like real estate agents, either," Emma said, her green eyes darkened by her anger but also by the close proximity to the mayor. She could smell her perfume, feel the heat that emanated from her body... feel parts of that body. And then there were those lips which she had spent too much time last night thinking about. They were moist and enticing and entirely too close for comfort. And Emma could think of nothing but to feel them against her own but before she could lean in to claim her prize, Regina's voice cut through the tension-filled silence.
"Emma," she said and her voice wasn't cold anymore. It was pleading. "We need to stop this... right now." Her hand pushed at Emma's flat stomach and the blonde took a step back.
"I'm sorry," she said, her voice raspy. She cleared her throat as she turned away, trying to gain some semblence of control over her body and thoughts.
"I thought we agreed that this wasn't going to happen again," Regina reminded the sheriff and her voice sounded breathless to Emma's ears.
"I know," Emma simply said pushing her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. She looked at the ceiling. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... man-handle you."
"You didn't. If I had seriously thought you were trying to hurt me I would have just thrown you against the opposing wall," Regina informed Emma and the blonde turned.
"You're doing it again. You're... closing down," she accused the dark-haired woman.
"I'm... maybe I am. I'm not used to... someone invading my personal space. And I mean that in a literal and metaphorical way. I'm not good at... letting people in. But you knew that already. So why are you even trying?"
"Because I like you," Emma said and Regina looked at her as if confused.
"Because you're... a better person than you give yourself credit for, at least you can be. You're Henry's mom and you did a damn good job at raising him. He's amazing which makes me think that you're amazing, too. And I wanna be friends with a person like that," Emma told Regina.
The mayor turned away, her hands stemmed into her sides. She looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time or not seeing it at all.
"Fine," she finally said. "Let's try to be friends. But that's all. No more... kissing or any other funny business. If we're going to be friends that's all we're going to be."
"Okay," Emma agreed. "But you'll have to stop flirting with me."
A surprised laugh escaped Regina.
"I'm flirting with you?"
"You are," Emma declared.
"Well, if I was I wasn't the only one," Regina gave back. "Was I?"
"All right, I will try to... not flirt with you in the future. If you try the same."
"I think I can handle myself. You're not as irresistable as you think, you know?" Regina told Emma.
"Oh, really," Emma said and took the few steps toward Regina and pulling the other woman toward her. She was running against Regina's hand that once again pushed at her stomach.
"That wasn't meant as a challenge, Emma," Regina clarified and Emma took a step back.
"Damn, woman, just... why can't you...," the blonde growled in frustration.
"What?" and from the questioning tone of her voice Regina really didn't know what Emma wanted from her.
"Why can't you just... admit...," Emma started. She worked her jaw, her hands once again stuck in her back pockets. Regina looked at her questioningly. "Just admit that you're attracted to me. Is that seriously so hard?"
"What would that accomplish?" Regina asked.
"I wouldn't feel quite so idiotic...," Emma told the older woman.
"So you want us to both feel foolish, is that it?"
"I want you to say that you're attracted to me so I can stop wanting to prove it to you," Emma said.
Regina looked at Emma for a long moment then she took a step toward the blonde.
"If there wasn't anything there, between us, we would never have kissed. We wouldn't have this conversation, either. The thing is that it doesn't matter because it's never going to happen. We will never happen," Regina clarified.
"I'm with you there, Regina. I just... I needed to hear you say it."
"Do you think it'll be easier now to... move on?"
"No, not really. I mean... wow," Emma grinned sheepishly and Regina found herself rolling her eyes at the blonde but smiling at the same time. "But it feels good to know it."
"So it was just for your ego?" Emma shrugged.
"Do you want to see the rest of the house?" Regina asked after a short while.
"Two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs?" The mayor nodded. "All tidy and nice and pretty much in the same condition as the downstairs?"
"Then I'll pass. Let's get out of here," Emma said and walked toward the front door.
"Emma?" Regina put a hand on Emma's arm and the blonde stopped, looking questioningly back at the mayor. "I didn't just suggest this house because of the close proximity to the mansion, you know? It's the best option for you. It's big enough but not too big, it's a really nice house and... I think Henry would like it here, too," Regina said earnestly.
"I know, that's why I want it," Emma told her.
"Oh, I thought... right." Regina smiled. "Great," she added, nodding at Emma encouragingly. Emma smiled back at her friend because this was actually the first time she felt like they were getting there - to being friends.
"I forgot to ask, how was lunch today?" She found herself asking. She saw that the question threw Regina for a second but then a mischievous glint entered the mayor's eyes and Emma couldn't help but laugh.
"Dessert was a little dry," Regina complained.
"You should try it with whipped cream next time," Emma suggested as she hurried to exit the house.
"There's not going to be a next time, savior," Regina answered indignantly, closing the front door a little more forcefully than she had intended to.

Chapter Text

That evening Emma found herself standing once again in the opening to Henry's improv bedroom knocking on one of the beams. Her son looked up from his book and tried a smile but he looked like he already knew he was in trouble.
"Hey, Henry," Emma said. "Can I come in?"
"You're asking permission to give me a lecture now?" He asked in a sharper voice than he had intended to. He sighed. "Sorry. Sure, come in."
"I take it, you already knew what I want to talk to you about," Emma said as she sat down at the foot of his bed. Henry nodded in answer.
"My book project," he said.
"That's right. Snow says, you did poorly and that that's not like you at all because you love stories and books. So what happened?"
"I didn't really have enough time to... research everything," Henry said but he wasn't looking at her, he was looking down at the book that now lay closed in his lap.
"Well, that's strange because Regina told me you were pretty much working on it most of the time you were with her this week, including Sunday evening."
Henry looked up at Emma, his lower lip slighly protruding over his upper one.
"Is this how it's gonna be now, you two ganging up on me?" he asked in a miffed voice.
"No one's ganging up on you. I... didn't quite know what to say to you, to be honest. We haven't been at this point yet and I... needed parenting advice, that's all," Emma explained calmly and Henry immediately looked contrite.
"I'm sorry. I... I wasn't working on the project the whole time I was at mom's. I have... another thing that... it's a secret," he told her and she raised an eyebrow.
"A secret? It's not another mission, is it?"
"It kinda is, maybe. I mean... I can't really talk about it just yet but I've been thinking about it and... I wanted to do the project but..."
"This new mission of yours was more important than your schoolwork?" Emma asked, trying very hard not to make it sound like his missions weren't important. They obviously were for him. She just didn't want him to put them before his other responsibilities, and school was probably the most important one.
"It's not more important. It's just... something I hadn't thought of before and... it just took up a lot of time this week. It's not bad or anything, it's just something I need to think about a little, you know?"
"I wish you would share it with me, you know you can always tell me everything, right?" Emma told Henry.
"I have to think this through by myself first but I know. I'll tell you... at some point," he promised and smiled.
"Good. And no more ditching of responsibilities because of it, right?" Henry nodded. "Okay, that leaves the matter that you lied to your mom," Emma said and Henry groaned.
"I didn't mean to, it was just..."
"Easier?" Emma helped him out. He nodded reluctantly. "Well, that's why we lie, to make our lives easier but that doesn't mean we should. And after all that happened... your mom needs to know that she can trust you just as much as you need to trust her, you know."
Henry hung his head.
"I know. I'm not gonna do it again."
"Good. And you will tell her you're sorry. Now, for your punishment...," Henry looked up at the word wide-eyed. "You get to choose between not watching tv tonight and tomorrow or no dessert next time we're at Granny's," Emma told him in a stern voice. The boy tried hard not to grin.
"I take the tv-thing," he said after a moment's contemplation.
"Which makes your mom officially better at punishing people," Emma said then smiled. "But I guess we already knew that." Henry grinned.
"Actually, I think your punishment was worse that why I took hers," he said.
"Yeah, that makes sense, although I guess most boys your age would rather go without dessert than tv."
"I've got my books," Henry said lifting the one from his lap, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
"How many times have you read that now?"
"When I finish this, I have read the whole series three times," he told her. "Have you read them?" Emma nodded.
"But only once so far," she said. "Who's your favorite? Harry?"
"Ron, actually. He's not born to fulfill a prophecy, he's one in too many siblings but he still helps Harry with everything and is his best friend. The fact that he's mediocre makes him extraordinary, I think."
"And you always thought like that?"
"No, I guess it's what I learned in Neverland. That sometimes it's not the big gesture that makes one a hero," he said and they smiled at each other.
"Who's your favorite?" Henry then asked.
"Hermione, of course. And I like Luna a lot," Emma answered without thinking about it. Henry nodded.
"There's something else I wanted to talk to you about," Emma said after a while in which they had just sat and talked about the book series. Henry looked questioningly at her. "I may have found a place for us to live."
"Really? Already?"
"Your mom helped. She suggested Doc's old place, you know it?"
"Yeah, I've been there a couple of times, helped Doc in the garden and stuff. It's a nice house," he said.
"It is but I'll have to talk to... some people about it. I just wanted to give you the heads up." Henry nodded.
"Cool. Have you told grandma and granddad yet?"
"Not yet, I'll have to talk to... your dad about it first. Because obviously he's the owner now that... Mr. Gold is dead." Emma explained.
"Oh, right... that means that most of Storybrooke belongs to him, right?" Emma nodded, only now registering herself what Regina had told her. She looked at Henry and he at her, both wide-eyed.
"Wow," she let out slowly.
"He's rich, isn't he?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I mean, owning almost all of Storybrooke is not like owning other places, I guess. I mean... Storybrooke's economy is a pretty closed off...," Emma tried to explain. "But compared to everyone else... except your mom, I guess. This place is so weird," she finally concluded. Henry laughed.
"You're only finding that out now?" he asked.
"I guess the werewolf-waitress and the pixie-nuns should have given me a clue, huh?" Emma grinned.
"Yeah," Henry gave back. "So, have you looked at the house yet?"
"Regina showed it to me today," Emma said nodding. "It's cute... very well-kept. I was actually surprised but didn't want to mention it. In the Disney movie the dwarfs are such slobs."
"Not in the original fairy tale. They're actually very good at keeping house but they still keep Snow... I guess because they're nice." Henry said.
"Makes sense."
"When did you guys meet to look at the house?" Henry asked.
"Just before I came home... I didn't want to say anything over dinner... I have a feeling I need to ease your grandparents into this, especially since...," but Emma stopped there looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Since what?"
"Since the house is on Mifflin Street," Emma finished with a meaningful look.
"Where mom lives." Emma nodded. "Do you think they'll ever be able to forgive her - and she them?"
"I don't know, Henry. They've been through a lot... with each other, and not in a good way."
"But she's trying to change, she has... she has changed," he argued.
"You don't have to convince me of that, I know it. But it's more difficult to accept for Snow and David... and everybody else, I guess."
"They don't know her... they don't know how... hard it is for her now that she lives in this town where everyone hates her. And they're supposed to be the good people," Henry said sadly.
"They are... that's why they'll probably forgive her at some point. But it takes time, kid," Emma told him and rubbed his knee.
"Have you forgiven her?"
"As far as I'm concerned, Regina and I are friends... but I guess, the Fairy Talers know a different woman. From what I've heard and read in your book, the evil queen wasn't very likable," Emma explained.
"But mom is? To you, I mean?"
"I like her... she's different from how she wants to appear. More... vulnerable, less conceited. I like her sense of humor and... I like her," Emma closed because she didn't quite trust herself not to say something she rather wouldn't have Henry know.
"Good," he said and smiled.
"You wanna go back to your book?" she asked and he nodded. Emma rose from Henry's bed and was about to leave his 'room' when she looked back and found him watching her curiously. "Everything alright?" she asked and he nodded.
She looked quizzically at him but he only smiled at her.
"Okay, good night, Henry."
"Night, ma," he answered and she left him to his book.

Emma Swan didn't like to procrastinate on things that needed to be done. And thus she found herself visiting her ex the very next afternoon to talk about Doc's house. He was surprised to see her but caught on quickly what she wanted of him. He agreed to rent her the house immediately and the two of them spent the next half hour arguing about the rent. Neal wanted to just give her the house for free, then said he wanted Henry to have it. She told him to get an overview of everything his father left him and see if he couldn't think of something else to give Henry when he came of age. In the end, her rent wasn't even half what Doc had paid Mr. Gold but Emma realized she wouldn't get Neal to go any higher. Remembering that she needed to furnish the whole place, she let it go. But she made it clear that she didn't owe him anything, that she would be his tenant and that was it.
Neal consented and they met again on Saturday to draw up a lease. Emma got the key to the place and looked it over, wrote down some things she thought needed paint or plaster but mostly the house was in good shape.
That left talking to her parents which she did on Wednesday. Snow and David weren't happy about it but they agreed that they all needed some more space.
In the end, it didn't even take two weeks from the moment Regina had mentioned the house to Emma to her and Henry moving in. On Saturday, they met with their friends from Storybrooke and moved what little Emma and Henry owned into the house. And then they moved some things in that Emma didn't even own because everyone wanted to help and everyone had some end table, lamp, book shelf they didn't need anymore.
When the men carried in a heavy leather couch, Emma turned toward Ruby who smirked at her. It was the leather couch from the inn's living room - the one she and Regina had made out on.
"Is this a joke?"
"No, I figured since you already almost defiled it you might take it as... say inspiration?" Ruby grinned.
"I'm getting the indistinct feeling that you're trying to set me up with Regina. What's up with that?" Emma whispered as she didn't want anyone else to overhear her.
"It's not about setting you up, it's about you having some good and adult fun. And since you don't seem especially interested in the two guys who practically pine after you... might as well be the only person you've shown any interest in since you've been back from Neverland. And that's Regina," Ruby explained.
"It's not going into the living room," she told the men who were already heading in that direction. "It's going upstairs, bedroom on the right," she told them and received some grumbled complaints in return.
"I know it's awefully heavy, boys, but the lassie sure doesn't want the beast in her living room," Granny told them. Then she turned to Emma. "I've been wanting to get rid of this thing for years but Ruby says, it's a great couch, so I keep it. Now she tells me, Emma might want it. I don't know why. But I already got my new one and if you really want it..." She looked at Emma questioningly.
"It's comfortable and I need one in my bedroom anyways," Emma said quickly reassuring Granny and receiving another wicked grin from Ruby.
"Told you so," Ruby said to her grandmother.
"Ah, the girl, but she's got a head for business and she likes to help people out," Granny said as Ruby went by her. "Wish she was getting a husband, though. She's too stubborn, a lad could still correct that, I venture."
"Maybe she doesn't want a husband," Emma mused.
"A lad, a lassie, I don't care, as long as... they love her, and are good to her. And make her a little less stubborn." Granny gave back and then grinned. Emma laughed. She hadn't expected Granny to be so open-minded but then she remembered what Regina had told her about homosexuality in the Enchanted Forest and how it was just taken as a fact of life. And now she was actually ready to believe it.

Chapter Text

Emma was coming down the stairs, her hair still wet from her shower. Henry stood in the doorway to their living room that as of yet missed some sitting arrangement but Tom from the furniture store had promised to bring the couch and armchairs early the next day. Emma stepped behind her son and looked at what he was looking at.
"Do you like the new house?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's great," he answered and she could hear the smile in his voice. She could understand him well, she too felt a kind of elation that they had their own space now. It scared her a little to settle down but not as much as the prospect of it had in the past. It was like a new adventure, one that didn't threaten with eminent death by poison. She found she liked it.
"Are you getting on with unpacking?" she asked. The troup of movers had only left them about an hour ago, everybody had been in high spirits albeit tired from moving furnutre and boxes around. And now Emma and Henry were alone in their new home.
"I don't have enough shelves for my books," he answered and Emma lay her arms around him.
"Why am I not surprised? Tell you what, we ask Marco to build some, okay?" Henry nodded. He didn't seem to mind his mother hugging him tightly and she held onto him, realizing now that he had grown quite a bit in Neverland and since.
"When is mom expecting me home?" he asked after a short while.
"She's not. She has agreed to let you stay tonight, our first night in our new home. You can go over tomorrow morning," she told him.
"Great," he enthused. "Is it too warm to light a fire tonight?"
"Never," she told him. "Can you do it?" He nodded.
"Good. I'm going over to the diner and get us something to eat and then we can have a picknick in the living room. Sounds good?"
"Yeah, sounds great. Get loads of fries and... cherry pie with cream and... I want a hot dog, or maybe... two?"
"I just get one of all your favorites. Tonight we feast like royalty, my prince," Emma told Henry and he laughed. "Get to lighten the fire and try not to burn the house down, okay?"
"Yeah, right," he said with an eyeroll Regina would have been proud of. Emma shook her head over herself. Lately, when she looked at Henry she sometimes caught a gesture that reminded her of his other mom. It was a little strange but at the same completely natural for Henry.
Emma slipped into her blue leather jacket and left the house after checking for her car keys.

When Emma re-entered her new home almost an hour later, she heard voices from the living room. She was walking there as she was saying:
"Henry, do we need to have a conversation about letting... strangers into the house?" she finished as she stood in the doorway and encountered her son and his other mother. "Regina," she said and found that it not only sounded surprised but also delighted to find the woman here in her living room.
"Emma," Regina answered and smiled up at her. She was sitting on a blanket that Emma suspected Henry had put there for their picknick. He had also already gotten some plates, silverware and drinks for two. Henry was sitting next to Regina and he was looking into a basket with... things. Emma lifted her eyebrows questioningly.
"I wanted to see how you were doing in your new home and bring... a house-warming gift," the dark-haired woman said pointing at the basket. She got up from her perch on the blanket and Emma stepped closer.
"That was... sweet of you," she said, stepping toward Regina and attempting a slightly awkward hug. Regina answered it just as awkwardly and then they stood a little perplexed at what had transpired.
"I should probably... leave you to your... picknick," Regina then said and moved toward the door.
"Why don't you stay? We have plenty to eat." Emma heard herself say and looked from Regina to their son. "Would that be okay, Henry?"
"Sure, I mean, we're a family, right?" Both women looked at their son, wondering if that might possibly be true. Were they a family? Well, not some standard parents, two-point-four kids, a cat and a dog family but in an it's-complicated-kinda way they were just that.
"I'd love to stay," Regina surprised herself by saying and caught Emma's wide smile at her words.
"Great. Could you get another plate, Henry? And... a soda?" she asked Regina.
"Yes, that'll be good."
"Sure," Henry answered, leaving the living room for the kitchen.
"Please, sit. I'm sorry but the rest of our furniture will only be getting here tomorrow. I bought a couch," she added and felt stupid for it, especially when she remembered the one upstairs in her bedroom.
"That's okay. I've gotten used to not sitting on a throne since we all arrived in Storybrooke," Regina answered what was supposed to be a joke but fell flat.
They both felt self-conscious as they said down. A thick quiet fell between them as they looked around the room and not at each other.
"I take it the move went well?" Regina finally said and Emma nodded.
"It went okay. We had a lot of help.. not that we couldn't have done with an additional pair of hands," Emma added looking meaningfully at Regina's who were folded in her lap.
"I'm sure there were a lot more capable hands around than mine. All available men in town were probably falling over each other to carry all you boxes into... the house," Regina said but seemed to trip over that last part as if she had wanted to say something else.
"It was just family and friends," Emma said and then remembered the food. She busied herself opening the big white bag holding it. "Do you like a burger... or hot dog... lasagna?" She asked as Henry came back into the room. He settled down with his moms and they shared a rich dinner of all things yummy and mostly unhealthy from the diner.
Their conversation was light and amiable during dinner. Regina felt like she had stepped into something with her last remark and didn't even know why she'd said it. It was easier to keep a conversation going with Henry around, even though he was mostly too busy eating than adding to the conversation.
"Pie?" Emma asked popping the last of her fries into her mouth.
"Is it apple?" Regina asked suspiciously and Emma laughed.
"No, it's cherry. We can share my piece," she answered taking the last container from the bag and opening it.
"I shouldn't. I've already eaten more than I should at this hour," Regina said but her argument seemed weak. She was also eyeing the pie like it was a piece of... pie. Emma pushed the container in her direction as if luring the other woman with it.
"You're a very bad woman, sheriff Swan," Regina growled in a low voice and Emma felt herself swallow at the sexy sound. She looked over at Henry but he was actually eyeing the pie just like his dark-haired mother did.
"God, you two must be related," Emma exclaimed and they all had to laugh at that.
In the end, Emma did share her piece of cherry pie with Regina while Henry ate his own piece. And afterwards they were all sitting around sluggishly in front of the toasty fire. Emma pushed her legs out from under herself and lay onto her side, watching Henry put together the dishes and trash that inhabited the blanket. It was easier to look at him than at their guest. Emma had noticed earlier that the light from the fire did something magical to Regina's eyes, they seemed to melt like chocolate, it was almost too delicious to watch and Emma had felt her stomach muscles contract at the sight. She had known at that moment that she would probably never be able to just be friends with Regina. She was just too damn sexy, too luscious, too... much like a fire on a cold winter night. Get too close, you feel uncomfortably hot, sit away too far, you only feel a little heat and want more. She would have to find the right distance toward her to not get hot nor get needy for her warmth...
"Mom?" Henry waved his hand in front of her face.
"What?" she asked puzzled.
"I asked if you'd like to play a game, maybe?" He repeated what he had already said twice.
"Sure, whatever you like, son."
"Now that was easy," Henry said as he stood and picked up the dirty dishes to carry into the kitchen.
"You seem tired," Regina mentioned and Emma looked up at her from her lying position, her head comfortably resting in her hand.
"Exhausted, actually, but also too wired to sleep," she said and smiled.
"This is the first time you ever really had something like a home, right?"
"Hmmm... well, yeah. At least in my adult life. It's nice but also a little scary," Emma agreed.
"I'm glad you chose to... find something for yourself. I think it gives Henry some stability to know... that you're going to stay."
"Do you think he was still worried about me leaving?" the blonde asked surprised.
"I'm not sure but... I can't imagine that you mother's small apartment felt much like home. And he's kind of used to... a home, a house..."
"A mansion," Emma said. Regina shrugged.
"I'm aware that the mere place doesn't make it a home, Emma. I know that people are important, family... but I still think that this is better for him than living under the some roof with a curtain for privacy," she said.
"I agree, though I think he's gonna miss having Snow and David around. I know I will."
"They're living ten minutes away from here," Regina argued.
"Ten minutes more than before," Emma gave back smiling. "I seem to remember somebody saying something about a house-warming gift... where is...," she said before Regina could answer anything and started looking for the basket Regina had brought. It stood under an end table that stood pretty much in the middle of the room with a lamp on it. It was the only light source in the living room so far but they hadn't turned it on because of the fire.
Emma moved to retrieve the basked and then back to the blanket, sitting cross-legged before the gift basket.
"Let's see," she mused. "A bottle of - I presume - the best apple cider I have ever tasted?" She looked at the other woman who nodded with a smile. "And a... cookbook... Cooking for Dummies? Really?" She scolded Regina who couldn't help laughing.
"This is only for you, by the way. Henry knows how not to burn water," she told the blonde who rolled her eyes.
"One of these days I'll make you eat something I cooked, just you wait and see," Emma warned and took another smaller book from the basket. "How to grow your own tree?" she asked ominously. "There are no trees in the garden."
"I know. I wanted to... give you a sapling of my apple tree but since you and Henry both pretend not to like apples... I thought you could get one for a cherry tree, perhaps, and plant it in the back yard?"
Emma looked up from the book and into Regina's eyes. She just fell into the insecurity and wonder and worry and love in those eyes. They showed her how deeply Regina cared, how she wanted special things for Henry, things she herself had felt important in her own life back home. And a tree was part of that, it seemed.
"We could do that," Emma said nodding and Regina smiled.
"Good, then you can learn how to make your own jam," the dark-haired woman said and then laughed.
"That's very funny. I feel a little domesticated by your gifts, actually. Cooking, growing tress... and what's this?" Emma lifted the last present from the basket and looked at a picture of Regina and Henry. She stilled. The picture had been taken the day Regina had kept Pan from cursing them all. The day Henry had gotten his body back. The day Mr. Gold had died. She didn't know who had taken it but it showed Henry and Regina smiling into a camera, Regina's arms around her son.
"That's a great picture of the two of you," Emma said.
"Dr. Hopper took it. I felt... I felt like I needed to... have something of the two of us... to hold onto. I felt like things could fall apart the very next moment," Regina admitted frowning.
"I know... I... think most of us felt it that day. Like things were about to end... maybe it was just Mr. Gold and Pan dying but... I think it was something more. It didn't happen, though," Emma said and Regina nodded.
"Things got better," she agreed.
"Yes, better." Emma stood and took the picture with her, placing it on the mantle. She looked down at Regina. "Looks good," she said.
Regina smiled.
"Thank you, Emma," she simply said and reached up. She squeezed Emma's hand for a moment, looking into her eyes.
The moment was broken by Henry entering the living room with an armload of games.
"I wasn't sure what you'd like to play so I brought them all," he said, not even able to look over the pile of games he carried.

Henry yawned violently.
"Hm, I'm beat," he said looking up from his cards. "I'm going to bed." He put his cards down and turned toward Regina.
"Night, mom," he said and hugged her. "Thanks for coming over and everything."
"You're welcome, Henry. I'll see you tomorrow." She kissed him on the cheek and smiled as he rubbed the spot immediately to get rid of any possible lipstick residue. She wasn't even wearing any.
"Night, ma," Henry leaned over to Emma and hugged her also. She ruffled his hair.
"Sleep tight, kid."
He smiled at her weakly and then got up from the floor where they had been playing games for the last two hours. He waved at them before trudging out of the room and up the stairs. Emma picked up Henry's cards and put them with her own. Regina handed her the ones she was holding and Emma put them away in their box. They didn't talk until Emma had made a neat pile of all the games that Henry had brought downstairs with the card game on top and shoved it under the end table.
"I should be going," Regina then said but didn't move. She had stretched her legs in front of her and was leaning on her hands now.
"Just stay a little longer," Emma asked of her and they fell silent again, none of them moving to get up or home or upstairs.
"The fire's burning down," Regina noticed after a while.
"Could you kindle it?" Emma asked from her lying position, her head once again propped up by her hand. Regina shrugged her shoulder and got up to do as Emma had asked. She knew how to do this, it was no problem for her.
"You can stop staring at my ass any time now," she told the blonde. She turned around and winked at Emma who blushed.
"It's not my fault," the sheriff said, lying back on her back and staring at the ceiling.
"Are you saying it's mine? Or are you gonna blame it on genetics... which would actually be a good argument, considering..."
"Considering that my parents are... like the most normal people in this and their world?"
"Considering that your mom seduced your dad into cheating on his wife," Regina answered.
"Which Kathryn was not since you only made everyone believe that she was," Emma argued.
"You mother still slept with Whale, though," Regina gave back as she sat down next to Emma.
"Don't remind me, that guy's a creep."
"No argument there," Regina agreed. "It still leaves us with your overt sexual tendencies."
"My overt sexual tendencies? What about yours?"
"Mine? Please, be serious," Regina said in mock outrage.
"Yeah, let's talk about you wearing jeans again. That's just flaunting your sexuality around. And what's with your eyes and them melting like chocolate in the fire light. It's totally distracting," Emma accused with a wide grin.
"Melting chocolate?"
"Yeah, it's... really...," Emma looked up and into those melting brown eyes.
"We got to stop doing this, Emma," Regina warned and broke the eye-contact.
"I know," the sheriff agreed and sighed. "Do you want a beer?"
"You don't have food in the house but beer? Should I be worried about our son's safety?"
"Hook brought a six-pack as a kind-of house-warming present," Emma explained.
"Of course, the pirate was here helping move furniture, no doubt showing off his sculpted, hairy torso."
"You probably have seen more of that torso than I have, Regina. So, beer?" Emma repeated the question and Regina nodded. The blonde went to the kitchen and returned with two bottles. She opened one and handed it to the brunette.
"You must think I'm a hypocrite," Regina said.
"Then you have slept with Killian?" Emma asked looking down at the other woman before taking a sip from her beer.
"Not because of that and, no, I've never had sex with the pirate," she clarified and Emma nodded. She plopped down onto the blanket again, sitting cross-legged now. "I mean because I'm insisting on us being friends and coming across as... jealous."
"Coming across as? You mean you're not?"
"Just because I don't like the idea... of you and Killian, doesn't mean I'm jealous," Regina said. "But it's not just that... it's about Henry."
"Henry? Now that I gotta hear? How is Killian being here and - admittedly - flirting with me about Henry?"
"It's not really just about Killian. It's... if you decide to be with a man... there's always a chance that Henry is getting a father, or having his father actually being with his mother... it would change things... for me," Regina admitted.
"Well, I'm not thinking about being with Hook or Neal at the moment. And I'm not the only one who could start dating, you know? What about you?"
"In a town where everyone hates me, Emma? Yeah, there's a really good chance for me to find romance."
"I bet Archie wouldn't mind filling that particular role for you," Emma gave back. Regina looked at her surprised.
"Dr. Hopper? Don't be ridiculous," she told the blonde.
"I'm not."
Regina frowned.
"That wasn't really helpful... I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything," Emma apologized seeing that Regina had no idea that the psychiatrist more than liked her.
"Well, considering that he's my psychiatrist and I tell him things I don't tell anyone else, no, that wasn't helful at all," Regina agreed and shook her head. "It doesn't matter. It's not like... he's not my type."
"Who is?" Emma asked and flinched. It was just how they were with each other, always bantering back and forth, sometimes aggressively so. And this definately bordered on aggressive. She didn't like it but she couldn't stop herself either.
"You just want to hear me say that you are. This is getting us nowhere... do you always ask your guests to tend to your fire... I mean, that one," she said blushing and pointed at the fireplace.
"I didn't think you'd mind," Emma said without commenting on the change of topic.
"I don't, I just think it's odd."
"I... burned myself. When I was fourteen," Emma said after a moment's hesitation. She pushed up her sleeve just above the elbow and showed Regina a scar on the back of her arm just below it. Regina reached out and touched it.
"That must have hurt," she said rubbing the rough patch of skin.
"It wouldn't have if my foster mom hadn't thought I had brought it onto myself and... refused to give me a cream or something."
"She did that?" Regina asked, an angry frown forming between her eyebrows. She was still touching Emma's arm, not even aware that she was caressing it with both hadns now. Emma pulled it away awkwardly and pushed down her sweater.
"It was a long time ago," she said.
They fell silent for quite a while. Regina was staring into the fire, Emma at her hands in her lap.
"Are we ever gonna stop... doing that and just be friends?" Regina broke the silence.
"I don't know. Maybe if one of us... starts dating."
"If you start dating," Regina corrected and Emma sighed in exasperation.
"If one of us is dating, we would probably stop considering each other as an option," she said.
"But you're not an option for me. You shouldn't be," Regina mused.
"And you shouldn't be for me and yet... I like when you flirt with me."
"You asked me to stop, remember?"
"That was stupid of me," Emma said.
"No, it wasn't. We shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't sit here and have beer and... think about kissing each other."
"And yet we are."
And they were, and they had been since Henry went upstairs, probably a few times even before then. Emma thought about the couch upstairs, the passion it had seen between her and Regina and she couldn't not think about kissing her. The fire in the hearth, the way the brunette looked at her. It all brought her back to that moment and though she should be forgetting about it by now, she remembered it better than ever before. And she wanted it to happen again.
"I'm leaving," Regina interrupted her and got up from the floor.
"Wait," Emma jumped up and reached for Regina's hand, pulling her close. They stood like that for a second, so close... to leaning in and taking their prize. But then Regina did something that surprised both of them: she hugged the younger woman. And for the first time it wasn't even awkward, it was warm and nice and... calming. Emma hugged Regina back and then they parted.
They looked at each other and Regina pushed a strand of hair from Emma's forehead.
"We're friends," she said.
Emma nodded automatically. This was, after all, what she had wanted to be, Regina's friend.
"Goodnight, Emma."
"Night, Regina," Emma answered around a lump in her throat. She watched the other woman leave the living room and then the house.

Chapter Text

There was no knock that preceded Regina entering, there usually wasn't. She would just walk into his office as if she owned it - since there were never any patients with him at these moments, Dr. Hopper suspected that she actually waited for a possible patient to leave before she came barging in. He appreciated her consideration in this matter and he didn't mind her need to make an appearance at all.
This morning, however, something was different than usual. Even though she just came in without knocking, it lacked her usual flair and she didn't start talking at him immediately but instead stood at his file cabinet, her back turned to him. Archie waited, he knew she would speak to him, she would never come here if there wasn't something pressing on her mind.
"Do you remember when you asked me about my sex life and I told you it's well taken care of?" She finally asked in her no-nonsense tone of voice. She sounded calm which told the psychiatrist that she wasn't really.
"I remember, you told me to mind my own business and if I should ever ask you a personal..."
"I remember what I said," Regina dismissed his words with an impatient wave of her hand. She still hadn't turned toward him and what he could see of her face was a working jawmuscle. "I've got a problem," Regina started saying. "Or maybe...." She turned and looked at him but didn't continue.
"Is this a physical problem? Then maybe you should consult..."
"If it was a physical problem, I would go see a medical doctor, not you. I don't have a physical problem. Everything's working as it should, I assure you."
With any other patient, Archie might have smiled in acknowledgment and encouraged them to go on with a nod but not with Regina. He was too scared of her temper to attempt anything like a smile in her presence. He just looked at her with what he hoped was a attentively intelligent expression.
"There's someone I met a while ago and... this person... I can't stop thinking about this person. We kissed... a while ago and I want to do it again. I just can't and it... drives me crazy," Regina finally admitted. "It interferes with my work, my sleep... I'm a careful driver but suddenly I run over stop signs that I have had installed in this town."
"So you're attracted to someone. That shouldn't be a bad thing. Most people find..."
"Most people are not the mayor of this town. Anyway, it's impossible. This person is... unattainable," Regina told Archie with a stern look.
"Is this person married?"
Regina shook her head.
"Engaged? Or with someone?"
"No, and no, but it doesn't matter. Let me put it this way: If you thought, things in Storybrooke were chaotic before with curses and magical purple dust, this thing might blow this whole town up, literally," Regina said and Archie's eyes went round. He pushed back into the comfortable cushions of his arm chair as his eyes became unfocused and she could see his mind working for something to say, to effuse, to reassure - probably more himself than her.
"You're wondering who this person might be, who might be the other evil one in this equation but you seem to be forgetting the simplest mathematical rule: two negatives become a positive. It's when a negative," Regina pointed at herself. "... engages with a positive that the outcome will be another negative."
"But you're not a negative anymore," Archie argued and Regina raised her eyebrows at him. She had thought the metaphor quite perfect and now the quack was poking holes into it.
"You're not suggesting I'm a positive," she gave back.
"How about we call you neutral, in that case... engaging with a positive..."
"Results in a positive," Regina murmured. She closed her eyes for a moment, shaking her head as if fighting this 'simplest mathematical rule.'
"I take it, you won't tell me his name?" Archie asked into her thoughts and Regina opened her eyes again. She smiled condescendingly at him, as if he'd missed the punch line of a joke.
"No. We both know that doctor's confidentiality is not your forte. I should know, I've made you break it a couple of times in the past," Regina said.
"Do you honestly think I would tell on you?" He asked with emphasis on the last word.
"Probably not, but let's not tempt fate, shall we?"
"Did this conversation help you, Regina? You seem... more relaxed," he noted.
"I'm not sure. You made a valid point and I'll have to think about it."
"Maybe you should talk to... this person about it and see what they say," Archie suggested. Regina looked at him suspiciously. The pause before 'this person' made her suspect that he might have gotten a clue at the gender of 'this person' at least. It was better to leave now before he could weasel another clue out of her.
"Maybe I will," she said and gave him a curt nod.
"Your hour isn't up yet."
"No, but your time is, doctor," she told him and smiled. Then she left his office to him sighing. At least, he understood how she felt about this person who was driving her crazy.

About a week later, Storybrooke's First Annual Spring Carnival took place. What Regina had originally thought of as a bazaar on a Sunday, the nuns turned into a weekend-long carnival with music, a small dance floor - and, of course, a kissing booth. Mostly everybody in town had helped with the preparations and everybody was excited - maybe except for one sheriff who wasn't much for big social events.
Snow had talked Emma into going as a family and the blonde had just barely kept from wondering aloud if she shouldn't ask Regina to join them then. She had been grumpy the whole week because she had rarely seen the mayor. They had only run into each other once at city hall when Emma had delivered some reports. One was about the lost Lost Boy, Gordon. She was struggling to find a home for the boy. She had picked him up twice more since the time he's spend the night in her prison cell and they had talked a little. Gordon wasn't stupid, he was actually quite clever but he had a hard time adjusting to rules. He'd been kidnapped by Pan when he was about three and had never really known any rules. Emma symathized with him and she wanted to find him a new home - the foster parents who had taken him in after they had all returned from Neverland had jumped ship, so to speak - not just a bed in the orphanage which barely deserved the name.
The worry over the boy and the question where she stood with Regina nagged at Emma and she couldn't help but nag at others in return. Tinkerbell was the major recipient of Emma's bad mood but her mother had also noted that something was off. While David and Henry went exploring the fair this Saturday afternoon, Snow hooked her arm in Emma's. They strolled after the two male members of the family at a leisurely pace.
"You seem preoccupied," Snow said.
"Exactly," the dark-haired woman said and smiled.
"I'm sorry, ma, it's... that boy Gordon, one of the lost boys. He tried to make a run for it again last night. Me and Tink were out searching for him for three hours, in the rain. I don't know what to do about him," Emma told her with a worried face.
"I'm so sorry. Are there no families in Storybrooke who would take him in?"
"We've already tried that but he... pretty much did as he pleased, stole some things - nothing major - and ran around town. Luckily there's nothing much to do here, no way to get into a lot of trouble."
"How old is he?" Snow asked.
"15 going on 27. And he's clever, he would do well in school. I hate to think that Pan not only took him from his parents but also his whole life from him. The others seem to adjust well, it's just Gordon... sorry, I didn't mean to worry you, too."
"No, I mean, we're responsible for him. We told the boys we would find a home for them, a family. The least I can do is talk to some of the people, see if anyone would be able to care for a boy like him," Snow smiled encouragingly at Emma who nodded.
They kept walking, Snow pointing out some things to Emma but the blonde still seemed far away.
"Is there something else that's bothering you, honey?" Snow asked after a while.
"No," Emma answered too quickly and too vehemently. Her mother raised her eyebrows at her but Emma chose to ignore the gesture. She looked around the fair ground, maybe even wondering if she might see... the mayor?
"How're things between you and Neal?" It wasn't like her mother to just leave things alone. She wanted to help, Emma knew, but with this problem she simply couldn't help. She could only make it worse.
"We haven't talked much since I rented the house. He spends some time with Belle, talking to her about Rum... Mr. Gold. Did you know that?"
"Ruby has mentioned it. I think it's really nice that he tries to connect with her, to keep his father's memory alive."
"He is nice," Emma agreed but it was clear from the answer that she didn't have any more feelings for him now.
"Have you seen a lot of Hook since you moved?"
Emma shook her long mane.
"He came by once... no, twice. Checking in, as he put it. We talked a little, he spent some time with Henry. I think he's getting restless... but he hasn't found a way to leave Storybrooke yet," Emma told her mother.
"Is that why you keep your distance, because you think he'll leave as soon as he's found a way?"
"No, and I'm not really keeping my distance, either. It's... I'm not interested at the moment, okay?" Emma gave back more annoyed than she had realized she was. But why was Snow always pushing her into the direction of some... love interest. Emma was thirty years old, she could find a companion, lover, husband... or wife on her own. Or maybe not. She had all the family she needed in Henry, he was more important right now than hooking up with anyone.
"I'm sorry, Emma, I didn't mean to..."
"I know but... I'm just not interested at the moment. I'd like to... settle down a little, spend time with Henry and you. I don't need a man just now," Emma interrupted and Snow nodded.
"I didn't mean to imply that you need a man. I just want you to be happy and... you don't seem especially happy at the moment. You seem restless," Snow explained her worry.
"I'm not... I... I just got a lot on my mind. Work, mostly," Emma answered evasively. Snow nodded but it was clear to them both that she didn't quite believe Emma. And that they would talk about this again soon.

They had to meet eventually, Storybrooke was too small a community for them not to. And Emma felt she was lucky that her family wasn't around when she heard the low tones that had lately started to make her stomach tingle in a not too unpleasant manner:
"Sheriff Swan," and it sounded like a purr. Emma turned.
"Madam Mayor," she answered in the expected fashion. And then they looked at each other and all the confusion Emma had felt the last few days, her anger and irritability, they just went away and she found herself smiling.
And Regina smiled, too.
"What do you think of the fair?" she asked of the blonde who looked around approvingly.
"It's a nice thing for the town. Everybody seems to be enjoying it," she said. "You did a good job."
"I would love to take the praise but it wasn't me. Blue... ah, Mother Superior and the other nuns organized it all, everybody pitched in, not just the dwarfs... the whole town came together."
"Yeah, but it was your idea," Emma argued and Regina smiled in a way that told her that the dark-haired woman was well aware of it and proud of her effort.
"Are you here alone?" Regina then asked.
"No, Henry's over there with David, he's trying to teach him how to shoot bow and arrow and Snow... over there talking to Granny."
"You know, I'm not sure I want my son learning how to shoot weapons," Regina said and then immediately put a hand up to say: "Our son, of course. I know that... it may come in handy along the way, I'm not that naive but... shouldn't Snow be the one teaching him that? As I recall she had the much better aim with that kind of weapon."
"I'll ask if you want. Speaking of... if you don't want Henry to learn how to use weapons... you wouldn't be teaching him any magic, would you?" She probed and Regina looked back at her immediately and with blazing eyes.
"Never," she said.
"I didn't mean to accuse... I wasn't sure..."
"Magic can be very persuasive and with him liking the Potter-books so much... Henry and I talked about it and I told him that I wouldn't teach him magic," Regina told Emma.
"Not even the good kind?"
"That's the thing, I'm not sure there is a good kind, Emma. Sure, the fairies think their magic is holier than the word of the lord but... all magic has its price, right? And I know its corruptive power, I'm not gonna expose Henry to it."
Emma nodded.
"What if it comes naturally to him... like with me?" she asked.
"That's what he asked, too, and I told him we'd cross that bridge when we come to it... Unless, of course... you want him to learn magic?"
"No, I mean... I agree with you. But next time, maybe, if you're talking about something so important... I could be part of the conversation?"
Regina smiled softly, her look almost felt like a caress on Emma's face.
"I think that can be arranged," Regina agreed and Emma nodded.
"Good," she said.
"Hey, Emma, listen... oh, hello, madam Mayor," Ruby greeted them both and then grinned a very toothy wolfish grin.
"Ruby, hey. You're looking like you're having fun."
"I do, you know there's this guy who brews a devillish punch... I may have had a cup or two," she admitted. "Of course, it's also because of the fair, it's great, everybody's here."
"So it seems," Regina agreed looking around. "I haven't seen Miss French, though. How is she?" The question threw a wet blanket over Ruby's enthusiasm and Emma would have liked to soften the blow but it wasn't like Regina had done this on purpose or out of malace. At least, Emma hoped so.
"She's... at home. She hasn't gone out much since Mr. Gold died," Ruby answered working her jaws.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Do you think there's something I can do to help?" Regina asked and the other two women looked at her surprised. Emma's face turned from surprised to proud while Ruby's stayed a little perplexed as she said:
"I don't think there's anything that can be done for her at the moment. She's talking to Neal about him but... she doesn't like to be around people these days."
"I understand. Where does she live? With you and your grandmother, I presume?"
"No, she moved back into her own apartment above the library. She wants it that way," Ruby said and it wasn't hard to deduce that she'd rather Belle had stayed at the inn.
"Well, when you see her tell her that we're thinking of her and hope she'll...," but Regina stopped. Her eyes clouded with sadness for a moment before she hid it behind a fake smile. "Tell her we miss her."
"I... I will, thank you, madam Mayor."
Regina nodded.
"Excuse me, I... I think I'm gonna see to it that Henry doesn't poke one of his eyes out with those arrows," she then said, smiled at Emma and walked away.
Emma followed her with her eyes, her thoughts, she was smiling, too.
"Whoa, there, tiger. You better check your vision. People might notice," she heard Ruby whisper into her ear and doing little to hide the glee in those words.
Emma looked at her.
"It's just... what she just said was pretty... nice, right?"
"It was more than nice, actually. Hard to believe that the woman who had Belle locked up in a cell for nearly thirty years would care so much," she said.
"I think she cares," Emma said. "I know she did... evil things in the past but I do think she cares."
"You know, I think you're right. Either that or... she just wants to get into your pants and figures 'nice' is the way to do it," Ruby said and grinned again.
"You're quite drunk, aren't you?"
"That punch is really good," the dark-haired woman merely answered and then pulled Emma in the direction of the tent with the refreshmants.

Chapter Text

"Mom? What're you doing?" Emma asked as she cut the line at the kissing booth where Snow had just given Bashful a mighty smack on the mouth. He was grinning - and blushing furiously.
"I'm working," Snow said smiling. "Okay, that sounded kind of wrong. It's for charity, Emma. You should sign up, too. All the princesses have," she added with a wink and received an eyeroll.
"Hey, blondie, either kiss her or step back. We've all paid for the priviledge," someone behind Emma called and she turned. It was Hook, not surprisingly. "Hello, luv." He gave her a wink and Emma turned back to her mother.
"I'm certainly not signing up for this when he's around. And I've seen Neal earlier. With my luck they would get into a fight over who first and how long and how much tongue," she said in an annoyed and rather audible tone.
"Mom!" The disgusted voice of her son rose over the noise of the fair and Emma looked over. Henry stood just a few feet away, Regina behind him. The dark-haired woman had a comical expression on her face.
"Oh, hey, kid," Emma said weakly and exchanged a look with her mom who just barely kept from laughing. "See you later. Save some for dad," she threw back over her shoulder before she joined Henry and Regina.
"Hey, I see you have rescued our son from shooting himself in the foot?" Emma said to Regina who smiled. Henry huffed indignantly.
"And just in time, too," Regina joked.
"Please," Henry waved her away, rolling his eyes.
"He's almost perfected that eyeroll of yours, Regina. You better watch out," Emma said grinning.
"Oh, please," and now Regina rolled her caramel-colored eyes and it was indeed quite a bit more impressive than Henry's. Emma laughed.
"Where have you left my dad?" She then asked looking around.
"He's going to give a speech," Henry said and both woman looked at him questioningly.
"A speech? David?" Regina asked and their son nodded.
"Yeah, he said something about... trying to find a way back to Fairy Tale Land, or something... he was talking to Grumpy about it."
Emma and Regina looked at each other.
"Leave it to Prince Charming to make something as festive as a spring celebration into a reminder how miserable everyone is here," Regina grumbled.
"I'm sure that's not how he'll put it," Emma said but wasn't really sure what David was up to. It was the first time she heard about this, too. But she also hadn't known that her mother had signed up for the kissing booth. She had paid little attention to the preparations of the fair where it didn't touch on her job.
"I hope not. I was kind of getting used to Saturday night's without a mob at my front door," Regina gave back.
And that was the moment a drum roll from the stage was heard all around the carnival ground. Everbody turned toward it and the man rising from the drums - David Nolan. He stepped up to a microphone and Regina gave Emma a look that could only mean 'Your dad is a douche.' Or that was, at least, how Emma interpreted it.
"Let's see if we can get a better look," Emma suggested and pointed at a relatively free space not too far from the stage.
"I'd rather head for the exit, to be honest," Regina gave back but followed Emma and Henry forward.
"Good evening, everyone. I hope everybody is having a great time. I know I am," David said and some people applauded. "It's a great fair and I think we should take a moment to thank everbody involved. Mother Superior, the nuns... or fairies," he said with a wink and some people laughed. "Grumpy, you did a great job on the light, as always. Everybody else who worked tirelessly on building booths and this stage, the dancefloor. You all did an amazing job. And, of course, a special thank you for Madam Mayor who initiated the fair. Come on, give it up to everyone who helped," David called into the mic and started clapping his hands as well. Everybody joined him and Emma was whistling on her fingers, winking at Regina. The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes again but she was also smiling. She was aware that a year ago nobody would have clapped their hands for her, or even thanked her for this kind of effort.
"You did great," Emma said leaning over.
"Thank you," Regina mouthed with a small smile that was just for the sheriff. Then she lay an arm around Henry's shoulders and he smiled up at her.
"That's right, everyone did a great job. But I know - I know because I feel the same way - that most of us are here today with mixed feelings. Celebrating a season reminds me of the same season I'm missing home. Yeah, I know, we could lay blame again, we could point our fingers at the guilty party but that's not why I'm saying this. We're here now but I think we're all missing home, wherever that may be. And I think today would be the perfect day to start something... a search, a promise to find a way back home - for those of us who want to go back, that is."
There were agreeing murmurs from the crowd, some people clapped, other looked over at Regina with dark looks. David once again seemed to express what most people were thinking, feeling. He was a great motivational speaker - sometimes too good and Emma looked back at the crowd darkly, just in case someone decided to lay blame or point fingers or do something more drastic.
"I think it is an aim we should work toward, whether we want to stay here or go back. Storybrooke is a good place to live. I think we can agree that we got all the amenities and few of the downsides this country has to offer. But it's not home... it is a home and we could probably live here comfortably for generations. But I for one would like to see the Enchanted Forest again. I would like to raise my children there and come visit here whenever we can. I know some, probably most of you, feel the same way. And the rest can certainly sympathize."
Emma felt a tug at her left sleeve and turned her head towars her mother who was just joining them. She smiled proudly at the man on the stage as she pushed her arm through Emma's.
"I know we've already talked about finding a way back but it seems to me that so far we've done nothing but talk. I think we should start looking for a way home. I'm sure you all know Neal Cassidy by now. He's a relatively new part of this community and some may even know him better by the name Baelfire. He's Rumplestiltskin's son and he has agreed to let us look through his late father's shop to maybe find some... device that could help us get home."
There was murmuring all around the fair ground now. Emma felt Regina stir at the news and looked at her but the mayor's eyes were on David.
"I know. All magic comes at a price. Believe me, I know. But we have some people in our midst who can make magic work and I'm not talking dark magic... the fairies have alread agreed to help. I'm pretty sure our daughter Emma will do what she can and I now want to ask - with your permission, of course - Regina Mills, the mayor, also known as... the evil queen for her help."
While the fair ground had been abuzz with murmurings and calling outs from people through most of his speech, everyone instantly fell silent at those last words. And after a moment's shock they all turned to where Regina stood with Henry and Emma and Snow. Regina still had her eyes on David, perplexed, blinking rapidly now that his words registered. Then she looked at Emma with something akin to panic.
"It's okay," Emma mouthed and rubbed the arm that lay on their son's shoulder. "We can do this together." She nodded encouragingly at the dark-haired woman and Regina started to mimic the gesture. Then she stopped and closed her eyes for a short moment. When she opened them, she looked up at the stage at David and nodded again.
"I'll help," she mouthed and David smiled at her.
"She said she'll help," David told everyone. The murmuring resumed. "Then I suggest, we mark this day as official Fairy Tale Day in Storybrooke. We will try to find a way back home but should we not succeed for whatever reason... I think we should come back here each year and celebrate, find new strength with each other, talk about home, remember. Happy Fairy Tale Day, Storybrooke." David lifted a mug with beer and saluted the town. Most of the people in the crowd answered his call with one of their own, but some looked a little displeased and then there were those who looked outright hostile at Regina.
Emma looked at Regina, too, and the mayor found Emma's eyes again as soon as she turned from David.
"Fairy Tale Day?" she asked with a frown.
"It's an awesome idea," Henry exclaimed and Snow nodded.
From Regina's look Emma could easily guess that she didn't think it awesome at all and she smiled at the other woman.
"I guess you could always veto the official notion," she whispered at Regina.
"I just might," Regina gave back at the same volume and they smiled at each other.

There was a noise at the window. Regina lay very still in her bed and listened for it to come again. There it was. What was it? Her heart beat loudly and she couldn't hear very well over it. Was it...?
"Regina," a voice called from outside. "Oh, Madam Mayor." The same voice came again and now Regina knew exactly who it belonged to.
"I can't believe this," Regina exclaimed and swung her legs out of bed. She went to the window and looked outside. There was someone in her backyard, someone very familiar who now waved up at her with a huge smile on her face. Regina opened the window.
"Emma," she called down but tried to keep her voice low at the same time so as not to wake Henry. The name came out as a hiss.
"Hey," Emma's voice came back. "Can I come in?" She asked hopefully and there was a slight slur in her voice. The fact that she was trying very hard to lean leasurly against a tree convinced Regina that the sheriff was drunk.
"It's late, Emma. Go home before you wake Henry," the mayor gave back in another hiss.
"Henry's sleeping at the other side of the house," Emma lectured Regina on the layout of the mansion. "I can't go home. I think I lost my keys... or the way... or something. I don't know where my bug is," she added for good measure, as if that would convince Regina to open the door for her.
Regina rolled her eyes.
"Go to the front door and be quiet," the mayor hissed at the blonde and then closed her window.
"For heaven's sake," she mumbled under her breath as she slipped into her robe and left her bedroom. Her bare feet barely made a sound on the carpet in the hall and she slipped silently downstairs to open the front door. There stood Emma, again leaning seemingly lazily against one of the pillars in the entrance.
"Hi," she said grinning.
Regina didn't look very pleased, her look was scolding.
"What are you doing here?"
"I told you, I lost my keys and I don't know where I live and... erm..."
"You can't find your bug?" Regina reminded her.
"Yeah, that too," Emma said and nodded eagerly.
"Come in. You can sleep in the guest room. But you have to be very quiet when we walk up the stairs," Regina told the blonde and took her arm. Emma wobbled a little and Regina lay her arm around her own shoulders.
"I'm quiet, very quiet. See... not a sound," Emma was whispering as they walked up the stairs. "Nobody can hear me, I'm so quiet. Don't you think I'm quiet, 'Gina?"
Regina sighed audibly.
"Psst, you must be quiet, too," Emma berated her.
They made it upstairs with only one panicky moment of Regina almost losing hold of Emma. And the blonde was still mumbling her mantra of quietness as they made their way down the hall to the guest bedroom. Regina opened the door and maneuvered them both inside.
"Do I have to sleep here? It's dark," Emma said tightening her hold on Regina's waist. Regina reached out an arm and the light went on. She pushed the door behind her nearly closed.
"Better?" she asked sarcastically as Emma squinted against the sudden light.
"Ow," the blonde said. "It smells funny," she said petulantly.
"It doesn't... I'll open the window."
"But then it'll be cold," Emma pouted. Regina looked at her for a moment.
"What have you been drinking Emma?" she asked.
Regina hadn't stayed very long after David's little speech. She had left with Henry but had felt the looks of the Storybrookies in the back of her head. She had actually been relieved when Tinkerbell had approached her in the parking lot, telling her that Emma had asked her to follow her home. Regina had wanted to decline the offer but had thought better of it when she looked down at her son. Tink had followed them home in a cruiser and then promised to drive by the house every half hour to make sure everything was okay. Regina had protested weakly but Tink had insisted that the sheriff would have her hide if she let anything happen to Henry or her. And that was the last she had heard of the sheriff - that she was worried. Now she was drunk.
"It's all Ruby's fault. She knows this guy... and he made punch, yummy punch with... fruit," Emma said looking like she should remember what kind of fruit but not quite able to.
"That's great, I will thank Ms. Lucas when I see her at church tomorrow," Regina said as she helped Emma sit down on the bed. "Window open or closed?" She asked looking down at the blonde with a no-nonsense expression.
"Can't I sleep in your room?"
"I'm not going to sleep in the guest room in my own house," Regina gave back.
"I didn't think you would," Emma said with a mischievous grin and Regina couldn't help but laugh. She leaned down and laid both hands on Emma's thighs, their faces so close they were almost touching. Emma looked a little cross-eyed at the other woman but started to lean in when Regina said.
"You can hardly stand without help, I think seduction is a little out of your range of abilities tonight, Ms. Swan," the latina purred and stood.
"I think I can manage," Emma gave back as Regina turned to walk out the door.
"I would barely trust you to keep up with me sober... drunk? I might kill you," the mayor said with a sexy smile on her face. Emma's eyes went round, her mouth opened.
"Goodnight, sheriff," Regina threw over her shoulder as she left the room and closed the door silently.

Chapter Text

It wasn't even half an hour later when the door to Regina's bedroom opened and the silhouette of Emma Swan stood in the doorway. Regina looked at her, surprised to find Emma wearing only a tank top and briefs. She worked her jawmuscles in a desperate attempt to tell Emma to leave her bedroom.
"May I come in?" Emma's small voice came from the door and Regina wondered if she would go away if she pretended to be asleep. But Emma just stood there and after a minute of it, her feet started to rub each other in an attempt to keep warm.
"Come in," Regina whispered and Emma slipped into the room. She closed the door behind her and walked to the bed, not quite as gingerly as she probably had hoped but without falling down, either.
Regina sighed before she pushed herself up off her side of the bed to make room for the blonde. She lay back down on her stomach on the cooler side, pulling the pillow under her head, not once looking away from Emma as the sheriff slipped under the warm covers. Emma mimicked Regina's position on her stomach but lay her hand between them. Regina lay hers next to Emma's, only their pinkies touched.
"Have you been thinking about what David said at the fair?" Emma asked after a while and to Regina's surprise.
"I have been thinking of little else. That's why I'm still awake at..." she lifted her head to look past Emma at her alarm. "2.30 in the morning."
"Should I talk to him? Tell him...," but she wasn't sure what she should tell David. To back off, maybe?
"I do want to help, Emma. If there's a way I can... undo what I've done, I want to do it. It's just..."
"He should have talked to you first, give you the heads up. It was stupid of him to do it like that," Emma said and she sounded angry at her dad.
"I'm sure he didn't mean it to be as intimidating as it was... for me," Regina said.
"That's just so... Prince Charming. He thinks he's got a sway of these people, with his smile and boyishness. But he forgets that these people are not just... fairy tale characters who hang on his every word, they're also the people who live in this town and... he underestimates their anger and frustration. It could have become dangerous. I'll have to talk to him," Emma argued and was surprised when Regina didn't fight her on this.
"Thank you for understanding," the dark-haired woman whispered and her pinky ran lightly over Emma's.
"I was scared, too," Emma admitted.
"Is that why you were drinking tonight?"
"Dad was pretty... obnoxious about it all. People were slapping his shoulder and mom gave him a kiss. You can probably imagine it and... I just went to find Ruby and we got good and drunk," she said that last part proudly and grinned into the darkness.
"Mhhhh," Regina made and buried her face in her pillow.
"Don't you ever just let go, madam Mayor?" Emma asked and watched Regina turn her head back to her.
"Of course, I do. But I make sure that nobody sees me at those times," she told Emma.
The sheriff seemed to be contemplating this.
"I would like to watch you let go some day," she said her eyes penetrating the darkness and staring into Regina's. "I want to... touch you so bad."
"Emma," Regina breathed the name into the small space between them and Emma lifted herself up to close it, to take Regina into her arms, to kiss her but Regina held her hand up. She laid it on Emma's shoulder, feeling the muscles jump under her touch. "Please, don't try to... seduce me tonight," she asked of the blonde.
"Why not?" The question came out raspy and breathless.
"Because I won't be able to say no," Regina answered just as breathless, just as wanting as Emma. "And then tomorrow I will be a bitch to you and... I don't want to be a bitch."
Emma took a deep, trembling breath and lay back down on the bed. She took Regina's hand from her shoulder and laid it back down on the matress between them, placing her own just beside it.
"Okay," she said.
Minutes passed as Emma tried to slow down her heart beat, make herself not reach out to Regina and pull her close. She wanted her. She knew she could blame it all on the alcohol or on Ruby teasing her earlier tonight. The waitress had grinned at her in a knowing way all evening and told her to go straight home tonight, no detours by big houses... and all Emma had thought about was to walk right here, to the mansion and see Regina. And it was all about that, about the dark-haired beauty she couldn't stop thinking about.
"Will you tell me something?" Emma heard herself asking just to keep from thinking about... what she had thought about all evening.
"All my secrets?" Regina teased and smiled.
"Just one tonight," Emma answered.
"Which one?"
"The one about you and another woman...," the blonde said and felt her blood shoot from her body to her head and make her light-headed. She hadn't known she would say this, it hadn't been constantly on her mind since Regina had told her about it. But it had been at the back of her mind, it had conjured up pictures of Regina and a... voluptuous redhead... a feisty blonde... a dark and mysterious brunette, all on different days but about the same time - when Emma was lying in bed, unable to sleep at night.
"Do you think that's... wise? I...." Regina licked her lips looking up at Emma through long lashes.
Emma just barely suppressed a moan at the sight but she knew that Regina wasn't doing it on purpose this time. She was actually being... shy.
"I'll behave myself if you do," Emma answered with a smile. Regina answered it.
"All right, but it's not... it's not an altogether nice story, Emma. I was married when I... was with another woman. Married to your grandfather," the former queen reminded Emma.
"I sometimes forget about that. I mean, I've never met him," Emma said.
"I can never forget about him." Her voice sounded sad, at the same time angry and... full of pain.
"If you don't want to talk about..."
"It's okay. I already agreed to tell you. But I have to... tell you a little about my marriage first so you'll understand." Emma nodded in the semi-darkness they both could see through at this point and look at each other.
"I was very unhappily married. I guess that's no surprise... you know the fairy tale and you know about Daniel... You have to understand that Leopold was a much loved man, among his subjects, his peers and, of course, by his daughter. But I hated him... more than I have even words for." Regina closed her eyes for a moment, just breathing as she felt some of the feelings she'd had for Snow White's father coming back to her. "He was good to his people, he was a good father when he was around. I don't know if he was a good husband to his first wife but then... I'm sure he ever considered me more than... his possession, his whore."
Emma let her hand slide over Regina's then turned it around so that their palms touched. She entwined their fingers and Regina squeezed hers tightly.
"I was barely 18 when we married, he was 56... much older... and not really good looking. His first wife had been younger, I was much younger and he... enjoyed my company... often in our first year of marriage. When I wouldn't get pregnant and... my doctor told him that I was... barren... he still visited me... but he was... not gentle anymore. I became even less of a woman to him because I couldn't be a mother."
"I'm so sorry," Emma whispered. She had tears in her eyes but by the detemined set of her jaw Regina could see that she was not just sad, she was angry, too.
"You know what I did, don't you? I had your grandfather killed," Regina said very slowly, very deliberately and without remorse.
"He wasn't my grandfather, Regina. If I'd been there and known what he did to you I would've..." but Regina silenced Emma with a finger to her lips.
"Shhh, you would never kill anyone, much less someone who meant so much to your mother," she said and Emma knew she was right. But she was so angry at the man.
"I hate him," she said with a pout and Regina smiled.
"Don't tell you mom that, though. I think she has a right to the memories of her father, just as I have a right to mine and my hatred for him." Emma nodded. "Now... there were always entertainers coming to the castles. Musicians, clowns, actors. She was one of a group of travelling actors, her father was... their leader, so to speak. They came to a town, a castle and asked if they could play for the people. These actors were very good. If Shakespeare had been known there, they would have performed his plays," Regina told Emma of a world so different from the one they now lived in. "She wasn't a beauty, really, but she was a great actress. Young and vivacious, full of life. You just couldn't look away from her. Leopold, he loved all things theatrical, the costumes, the drama... and often enough some pretty young thing with half the talent of... Sandrine, that was her name. I had never enjoyed plays much, they usually bored me. But even I was... enchanted by her... as was Leopold."
Emma's brows rose at this.
"I know," Regina agreed. "But it didn't turn out as dramatic as you might think. As I said, she wasn't really a beauty. She had strong features, a square jaw, big teeth and a lot of them. She had the most brilliant laugh. She also had dark blue eyes and beautiful brown hair, also a lot of it," Regina remembered and there was such a wistfulness in her tone, a yearning almost, that Emma felt her chest tighten in a sudden attack of... jealousy. She squeezed Regina's hand unconsciously.
"Emma?" the dark-haired woman asked.
"You alright?"
"Did you love her?" the blonde asked and felt stupid the next moment. She knew that she wouldn't have asked this if she had been sober but drunken Emma had no such restrictions and she'd wanted to know.
"No... or... no. But I had a crush on her. It was the first time I had felt anything like that since Daniel died... it confused me but I let it happen. I was so lonely." Emma nodded but wasn't really reassured. Her chest still felt tight but she losened her grip on Regina's hand and let her continue. She had, after all, asked for this secret.
"As I said, Leopold liked her but only as long as she was on stage. She lost all her magic to him when he saw her without her costume and make-up. She wasn't pretty enough for him. But I found her... wonderfully refreshing when she sat next to me at the dinner table. We talked... for a long time after dinner... everybody else excused themselves. I'm not even sure who Leopold spend the night with and I was usually very observant after whom he left a... party, gathering. These things weren't especially formal, a little like... you see in movies about romans, when they were just sitting around settees eating grapes - without the grapes... we were there after everyone else had left. A single servant girl remained and I told her to go to bed. It was late, we didn't need anything more..."
Regina paused at this point. She was aware of Emma's rapt attention, the light touch of her fingers around her own.
"Sandrine surprised me. I had just told the servant girl to leave us, the door wasn't even closed yet, when she took my face in her hands and... kissed me. When I say I was surprised then I was surprised at her timing, her... abandon. not at what she did because I knew... deep inside, I knew that it would happen. If we were happening to be alone together - which was in no way a sure thing, it was actually rather surprising considering I was a married woman and she had a protective father and three brothers she travelled with - I knew we would... kiss, at least. And kissing was really the least we did."
She said, blushing lightly.
"You're not gonna let hang there, right?" Emma asked quietly and Regina laughed lightly.
"Are you asking for details, sheriff Swan?" she asked teasingly.
"You bet I do," Emma gave back seriously staring into Regina's eyes.
"It was... passionate. I've never felt so overwhelmed, so needy, so.... aroused."
Emma closed her eyes, her breath ragged.
"It was different from when I was with Daniel," she heard Regina say and opened her eyes again. "He had been... loving, tender. and it had been beautiful, like a fairy tale. I felt loved... with Sandrine, it was different. I felt wanted but not oppressed. There was only passion, not love, but need and want... and she was sooo good at it!" Regina exclaimed and then clamped her mouth shut.
Emma grinned at the blushing mayor who listened to any sound that might be coming from beyond her bedroom door. But all was quiet.
"You've got to be really quiet," Emma teased her.
"Stop it, you," Regina warned and laughed into her pillow. She looked back at Emma smiling. The blonde unclasped their hands and pushed a strand of hair from Regina's face.
"You're so beautiful when you're laughing," she said, her hand lingering and caressing Regina's cheek.
"You promised not to seduce me, remember?" Regina asked in a low voice.
"I remember. I'm gullible when I'm drunk," she added and grinned. But she also took her hand away from Regina's face and laid it back into the brunette's. "Did you ever see her... Sandrine again?" she asked after a while.
Regina shook her head.
"Distances were pretty far in the Enchanted Forest and they travelled by foot. Years would pass before you watched the same company of actors again, unless they had a place of their own in some city or were employed at a court. When the actors came the next time years later, her father told me that Sandrine had died a couple of years prior of pneumonia... which could, of course, mean any number of things. Not that pneumonia was unlikely given their way of life but it was also a ready-made lie. She could have run away and her father might have been ashamed of the circumstances... which would mean that it involved a young or a young woman she ran away with. I'd like to think that she did. She could also have died in childbirth, again, unmarried... I don't know what happened but I never saw her again. We had one night but it was... perfect."
Regina smiled into the dark.
"And you've never found... another woman you wanted to be with?" Emma asked in a small voice. She didn't want to be needy and jealous but she also couldn't fight it. She wanted to have that kind of perfect night... but not just once. She wanted it every night... and that realisation took her breath away.
It couldn't be, could it? It was only an attraction, they wanted each other. It couldn't possibly be that... Emma was in love?
Emma closed her eyes but then she felt a hand on her face.
"You know there's at least one other woman like that," Regina said as Emma's eyes blinked open.
"But you won't let me have you," Emma argued.
"Because it could hurt more than it might... satisfy us. We could hurt our son... you family and friends. It could... ruin you chances to be with... Neal or Hook or whoever you might want to be with in the future."
"Or it might simply make us very happy... for one night, or... two...," Emma said but felt her throat close over what she really wanted. One night, two nights weren't nearly enough for her.
"I... I'm not ready for that," Regina said with a note of desperation in her voice that neither woman could explain or interpret. It left them silent for a long moment.
"Tell me about your first time," the mayor asked of Emma breaking the silence.
"You wanna hear about me and Neal?" Emma asked.
"No, your first time with a woman, sheriff," Regina said with an small smile. She knew that Emma was just teasing, trying to lighted the mood. And it worked.
"My first time of many with a woman... I see," the blonde mused.
"How many exactly?"
"Are you jealous?"
"No, I thought I just give you the chance to impress with you sexual prowess," Regina gave back chuckling.
"It was millions, actually, but who's counting," Emma said in the same light tone and they lay there giggling for awhile. "No, there were a couple of women... I... it wasn't like it was for you with Sandrine. It was never perfect. It was just sex."
Regina didn't say anything to this, even though Emma waited for her to comment on this confession. After a short while, Emma continued.
"You might think that it happened when I was in jail but... it didn't. Jail was... rough but I got through it without...," she broke off and shook her head. "Not that kind of story, sorry," she finally said and grinned. Regina looked at her seriously and for a moment she just looked back, feeling secure and... liked if not loved.
"I was 23 and working for a P.I. in Texas. He was an ass, mostly, but it was relatively easy and good money. And I got to... work on some angerment issues. Most of the job was scoping out cheating spouses and there was this one woman... Georgia Sykes, she was... a tall redhead, very sophisticated but kinda cold. She hired us to find out if her husband was cheating. There were ominous payments on one of the credit cards. But Mr. Sykes wasn't cheating, not at the time, at least. He visited strip clubs a lot... also illegal gambling venues where scantilly clad women served drinks. And he looked... a lot and lost a lot of money, too. I guess it was only a matter of time until he would... pay another woman for sex but he hadn't as of yet. So I went over to their suburban house to tell her. She was... emotionless about what my boss and I had found out. That's the best way to describe it."
Emma made a pause, remembering.
"Well, I thought that maybe the lack of emotion was just an act. Sometimes these women just waited for the husbands to come home and go all psycho on their asses, you know. And he had lost a lot of money gambling, after all. So I stayed a little, talked to her. To be honest, I was intrigued by her. She was... attractive, in her late thirties... reserved, kinda untouchable. She told me that she had hoped that he would cheat on her so that she could... do something, you know. Divorce him, probably, or just yell at him, get emotional. She wanted to see if him cheating and her knowing would... make her care. She didn't care about the strip clubs, that was obvious. And they obviously could manage without the money... but she was unhappy..."
"A desperate housewife?" Regina asked into a pause that Emma made.
"Yeah, I guess you could put it that way. It was a mistake, of course... but we talked and I.. I felt like I owed her... those emotions she was seeking. She started talking about her sex life, about a college experience she'd had with another woman. And she told it in... excrutiating detail... and before I knew it I was lying on top of her, my hand up her skirt... fucking her."
Emma looked unblinkingly into Regina's eyes.
"That's all it was," Emma said.
"Are you looking for a reaction?"
"You could at least pretend that it affects you in some way," Emma gave back and there was a noticable pout in her voice.
"Do you think that imagining you... doing another woman leaves me cold?"
"I can't tell," Emma answered honestly.
"It doesn't," Regina simply said.
"For most of my life, I had sex with people. The only person I've been with and loved was Neal and that was a long time ago..."
"And can you see how that might give me pause?"
"You didn't have a problem with it when it was Graham," Emma said.
"No, I didn't because it was all I needed then," Regina admitted.
"What is it you need now?"
"I don't even know but... I think it might not just be sex. Or maybe it is... maybe it is with someone I don't care about. I care about you, Emma."
"The bottom line is we're never gonna do it, right?" Emma asked not even registering what Regina had said to her.
"That's the bottom line," Regina confirmed.
They lay in silence for a while, thinking about this, thinking about things to say to this.
"Isn't this the moment where you tell me what I'll be missing?"
Emma shook her head.
"I want you but I'm not gonna talk you into it. If you want to sleep with me you'll have to come to me now," Emma told Regina who looked back at her surprised.
"I hear you," she then acknowledged Emma's words. "We should probably go to sleep."
Emma nodded.
"Goodnight, Emma," Regina whispered into the night and leaned forward, pressing a kiss on the other woman's lips.
It was more than a simple goodnight kiss but it was less than both women wanted and when Regina pulled away Emma followed, ready to recapture those elusive lips. But once again there was a raised hand that stopped her. "Goodnight," Regina repeated and then turned onto her side, away from the blonde who once again had to reign in her emotions and her wildly beating heart.
She lay down, looking at the pyjama-clad back of the mayor, her dark hair. She could smell the residue of the shampoo she used, could feel the radiating heat from her body. And she could feel the soft fabric of her pyjamas where her hand touched Regina's back.
"Goodnight, Regina," she whispered into the darkness before she closed her eyes to sleep.

Chapter Text

When Emma woke the next morning she was disoriented. The sun fell through the wrong windows, the sheets were softer than she was used to and there was carpet where there should have been polished wood. But then she registered something that felt right and it was an arm that was snaked around her waist and the accompanying body that was spooning her. Emma closed her eyes again, a soft smile touching her lip. She didn't even need to turn around to know who was holding her, she just knew and it made her feel... nauseous.
Emma opened her eyes in panic and slapped her hand over her mouth. Her stomach recoiled and she slipped gracelessly from the bed and with a thud onto the floor. She picked herself up and dashed toward one of the doors, hoping more than knowing that it was the one to the bathroom. She groaned as a headache hit her with force as she stumbled into what was - luckily - the bathroom. She barely registered the voice behind her, softly calling her name, before she kneeled in front of the toilet to empty the contents of her stomach.
She heard footsteps behind her and then two hands were softly gathering her blonde locks which had fallen around her face.
"Shhh, it's okay." Regina said, rubbing her back.
Emma convulsed in another wave of nausea but her stomach was empty and she merely spit into the white bowl. She leaned back against two steady legs, looking up and into compassionate brown eyes.
"The alcohol," she said seemingly reminding herself that she had been drinking last night and that the reaction of her body had nothing to do with being held by Regina.
The mayor nodded. She leaned over and retrieved a glass from her cabinet, filling it with water.
"Here, drink this," she said handing it to Emma as she crouched down beside her. Emma shifted and leaned against a wall, closing the toilet and leaning on it. Regina pulled the lever to flush while Emma drank the water.
"Hmmm," she made and leaned her head against the cool tiles at her back.
"Want some more?" Regina asked, taking the glass from her. Emma shook her head.
"I can't believe I... ow, my head," she said and put a hand to her temple. Regina let her hand drift to her other temple caressing it gently. "You must be disgusted with me," Emma said in a small, sad voice.
"I've been drunk," the older woman said.
"Yeah, but you've been drunk in Fairy Tale Land. I can hardly imagine people puking their guts out all over the place. It's probably butterflies and rainbow kisses where you come from."
Regina laughed at the image but sobered quickly.
"You have no idea where I come from," she then said introspectively.
"You could tell me," Emma suggested.
"You know the fairy tales and... I'm pretty sure you know that they're medieval tales from Europe so... that's pretty much how it was.. well, besides there being real magic and magical creatures. Poor people drank water... for the rich it was wine or beer. For most people being drunk was pretty much a way of being. Of course, getting drunk took a while but... well, the reaction to that was pretty much the same. We're not Disney characters, Emma, though some of our... traditions and folklore might have been affected by those tales as well," Regina explained.
"I'm clueless... I mean, I've been there. I've been in the Enchanted Forest but... it wasn't like we were feasting at a banquet or anything. Mainly, we just trudged through the woods trying to find a way home," Emma said.
Regina nodded.
"I'm sorry, I'm such a baby about this," Emma then said.
"You're hungover, that's as close to being a baby as you can get - apart from being sick, that is. So... it's okay."
Emma wanted to make a reply but they both looked up when they heard a door close somewhere on the floor.
"Did you close the door to the guest bedroom?" Regina asked in a low voice.
"I'm not sure... I think so," Emma gave back in the same suppressed tone.
There was a knock on Regina's bedroom door.
"Mom, you awake?" It was Henry, of course, and he sounded slightly puzzled. Emma assumed that it didn't happen very often that he was awake before his mother was.
Regina rose from her place beside Emma and slipped out of the bathroom. She went to her bedroom door and opened it.
"Morning, Henry," Emma heard her say.
"Hey, morning... I thought you might still be asleep."
"No, just running a little late. We should both hurry or we'll be late for service," Regina told Henry. She tried to smile but she was aware that it kind of failed in the face of how nervous she was. This was exactly the kind of situation she had wanted to avoid in not getting involved with Emma, that Henry could somehow catch them, be confused about it. He didn't need this kind of confusion in his life and neither did Regina herself.
"Alright, I get dressed," he said and turned. He looked back at her once more before he went back into his own bathroom and Regina tried another smile, more successful this time. He closed the door behind him and Regina took a deep breath before she looked along the corridor to the guest bedroom. The door was closed and Regina let the air out of her lungs in a relieved huff.
She closed the door and went back into her bathroom where Emma said on the closed toilet and held her head in both hands. Regina refilled the glass with water and searched in the cabinet for some aspirin. She found them and handed them to Emma with the water.
"Thanks," Emma said and swallowed the pills.
"Would you... stay in the bedroom while I... shower?" Regina asked and seemed somehow embarrassed about it.
"I hadn't planned on joining you. I mean, not that I wouldn't... I mean...," Emma stammered and then blushed.
"I didn't mean that. I just... I don't want Henry to know you're here. In the house... not to mention my bedroom," Regina explained.
"Oh, no. No, I don't want him to know, either," Emma instantly agreed. "He would only be... confused. It's... confusing," she said and seemed to share this particular notion.
"Thank you," Regina just said and waited for Emma to leave the bathroom so she could take a shower.

Emma was walking along the gangway past the Jolly Rogers. She could already see her dad standing near the benches further down the way. He'd agreed to meet her here when she called him ealier.
She had dressed and left the mansion this morning after Regina and Henry had gone to church. Regina had given her a spare key to lock up and she was now fingering the small item in the pocket of her coat. She knew that Regina would want it back but for now it was nice to believe she had a right to carry it. The morning had been turbulent for her, emotions had dropped into her lap without any warning as she remembered the events of the night before.
She wasn't sure what to make of it all, she wasn't sure if she was really feeling what she seemed to be feeling or if it had something to do with alcohol or attraction or sexual frustration. But she knew that she liked Regina and that she wanted her in her life. And that was why she had to talk to her father now.
"Hey," she greeted him and he smiled at her. He came toward her in this way of his, hands already reaching for her but she took a conscious step back and he looked at her surprised.
"Emma? Are you okay?"
"I'm good, a little hung-over from yesterday," she answered and then turned for one of the benches. She sat and he didn't hesitate to sit down next to her.
"I heard Ruby and you had quite the celebration," David said and grinned.
"Well, we sure drank a lot, I'm not sure about the celebration-thing."
"Oh, really? I thought you were enjoying Fairy Tale Day," he said looking indefinately pleased with himself that he had come up with the idea and the moniker. She knew that he didn't try to be obnoxious or self-congratulatory. He was just... priviledged and though she knew he'd come from a poor family and had to work hard most of his life, he still was male and white and straight and those things did help him in his society as it did in the one he was living in now. And he wasn't aware of it, he wasn't aware that his boyish good looks and his charm didn't help with some of the resentment people felt. You couldn't smile away hatred.
"I'm not sure Fairy Tale Day was such a good idea, dad," Emma said frowning.
"Really? I'm sorry to hear that. I mean... I'm sorry. I haven't even stopped and thought about how you would feel about this. I know it sounds like we're unhappy here and can't wait to get back home but... well, we were actually hoping that you would come with us. Back home."
Emma didn't know what to say to this. They had never talked about it and she had never even considered leaving this world to become a princess. She had thought her parents knew that. Sure, she was born in the Enchanted Forest but those few weeks she had spent there so far hadn't instilled any kind of home sickness in her. And, of course, this wasn't even the point, she had to remind herself.
"That's not what I meant. I was talking about you pressuring Regina into agreeing to help you... and not even realizing that some people wouldn't want her to, that some people wouldn't want her anywhere near Rumple's magic," Emma explained.
David looked at her a little stunned then he frowned.
"I didn't mean to pressure Regina into helping us. I thought she'd want to, I thought..."
"She does want to help, dad. And if you'd asked her privately she wouldn't have batted an eye and told you so. But you haven't seen the looks some of the people gave her... and she was standing there with Henry. People still feel the same kind of hostility toward her that they always have. They're afraid of her, yes, but... in a way, the fact that she tries to be a good person now... might be dangerous for her," Emma explained.
"I haven't thought about that... I thought, everyone would be pleased," David said.
"I don't know what kind of stuff Rumple has in his shop and... I don't know, his apartment but... he was the Dark One, after all. I don't think many people would want Regina near that stuff."
David nodded.
"Do you think she would... use it against us?"
"No, dad. That's not what I'm saying. She's not interested in doing anything harmful but people might think she does," Emma said in a rather annoyed tone. David didn't seem to get that the people of Storybrooke, his friends, might break out the pitchforks to go on a witch hunt.
"Well, she brought that onto herself, you know? The distrust... I don't see that I did anything wrong here, Emma. If she wants to help then that's great. If she thinks she's safer if she stays away from it... well, we could probably find a solution without her. It might just take longer."
"And you don't care that she might be in danger because of what you said yesterday?"
"If Regina's in danger, she brought it on herself, Emma. She was the one cursing us all," David argued.
"So much for not pointing fingers or laying blame," Emma said and stood. She went to the water that was lapping at the gangway. She looked out onto the grayness of it, the day was overcast and it already smelled like rain. It fit Emma's mood.
Her father stepped next to her. He looked at her with a thoughtful expression.
"What's going on, Emma? Before we went to Neverland you could have cared less if some people looked at Regina resentfully. You did that yourself quite frequently as I recall."
"Neverland changed things, dad. It's about Henry. We're both his parents and... that makes Regina part of my family. I have to make sure she's safe," Emma told her father and he nodded.
"Okay, but I guess there's no going back now. She has agreed to help but... well, we had some kind of council back in the Enchanted Forest. It would probably be good for us to sit down around a table again and duscuss what should be done about getting us home and Rumple's possessions. Regina should be part of that, she is, after all, the mayor of this town."
Emma nodded.
"That's probably a good idea."
"You should be there, too," David told her with a smile.
"In my official capacity as sheriff? I don't know," Emma said but David shook his head.
"In your official capacity as savior," he corrected her and she rolled her eyes at him.
"Let me think about that... before you send out invites to your council," she told him and turned back to staring over the water.
"You're still angry with me. Look, Emma, I'm sorry but we all know a very different Regina. Some have suffered a great deal under her, others less... you have only known her for two years."
"And yet you still want her help," Emma accused him.
"Yes, because she was Rumple's student and knew some of his magic... better than anybody else here. We need her to get home."
"So she's merely useful? That doesn't sound like you. She's a human being, you know. She has a son... we have a son and if people are threatening her, they're threatening him." Emma was slowly losing patience over this discussion and she was balling her hands to fists and working her jaw.
"I don't see that anyone has threatened her as of yet, Emma. People have been looking at her with hatred for a long time."
"It was different last night," Emma pressed through her teeth.
"How different?" David asked but she wasn't sure what to tell him. She had seen the way people looked at Regina before, she had looked at Regina angrily, resentfully. But last night... they had threatened someone Emma... loved and it had frightened her.
Emma looked away from David, she couldn't look him into the eyes anymore. It wasn't altogether his fault. Things had changed for her, the people in this town hadn't. And why would they? Why would they be touched by a kiss beyond passion, a flirtatious wink or the vulnerability of an abused wife, the pain of a young girl whose lover was killed by her own mother. They didn't know Regina like she did, they didn't want to know her like she did.
The blonde shook her head, bringing herself back to the moment.
"I'm sorry, I'm really hung over," she said and tried a small smile.
"Is that all it is? You look pale," he said and lay a hand on her shoulder.
"Stress at work, too," she said.
"Snow told me about the boy. Will he be alright?"
It was a spark, an idea that came so suddenly to her that it almost made her laugh out loud.
"Yeah, I think... Dad, do you think you guys could take Gordon in?"
"Excuse me?" David looked at her puzzled.
"Gordon, the lost boy mom told you about. He's fifteen, pretty smart but has some... well, I would say his biggest problem is attitude. He's never really had any rules in his life but... I think that he respects you, mom and you. We were all on Neverland, you were practically the first authority figures he got to know besides Pan... and that guy was toxic. I mean... you could be a positive force in this boy's life," Emma enthused.
"Emma, I... I mean, you know we're trying to have a baby... not a fifteen-year old orphan."
"But couldn't you have both. He's... a great kid. He just needs guidance and you're potentially the best parents anyone could have. You have so much love to give and I know... I really know that you want to be someone's parents, to teach them values. It's a little late for me. I love you guys but... I pretty much got my ducks in a row, but Gordon hasn't and... well, I think it's the right thing to do," she said with a grin.
"Are you mocking me?"
"Just a little but think about it and tell me I'm wrong. Plus, now that Henry and I have moved out, you have the space," she told him.
"I'd have to talk to your mom about it. And.. we'd have to meet the kid... I don't know, Emma..." David heaved a sigh.
"I know you wanted to... focus on yourself for awhile, on your relationship with Snow... on having a new baby. But this boy needs your help. And I don't think he would be a big... disruptor of your plans. He could be helpful, someone to try out parenting on. Look, you could try it, okay? I'm not saying, he has to stay with you until he's legal but you could at least try it," Emma argued.
David looked at her thoughtfully, seemingly contemplating her words for the first time. She knew it was a good idea. She felt that David and Snow would be amazing parents and not just to their own children. They could help Gordon and he might even help them in some small way.
"I'll talk to your mother about him. But we really need to meet him first, talk to him. So this is not a yes, it's a maybe, okay? And only if your mother agrees," he said and she lifted her arms in a triumphant gesture.
"Yes!" she exclaimed and then hugged David. "It'll be great... okay, maybe not great but it'll be good. You'll see. You will like him, he's an okay boy," Emma told David excitedly.
"We'll see," he said trying to calm her enthusiasm but she could see in the tiniest smile around his lips that he was starting to like the idea.

Chapter Text

Regina and Henry entered the diner and made their way over to where the sheriff was already seated at her usual table.
Emma had texted Regina just before service was over asking if she and Henry would join her for lunch. Regina had left the decision to Henry, whispering to him during the last hymn of the day. He had looked up at her grinning and had nodded - of course. She had smiled, too, and she was smiling at Emma now. The blonde felt her stomach flutter at the sight and she stood as her two favorite people approached.
"Hey, you made it," she said. "Hey, kid," she greeted Henry who slipped onto the bench across from Emma with a wave.
"Didn't you get my text?" Regina asked because of Emma's greeting.
"Yes, I did... I just, erm, I wasn't sure when church would be over," she said quickly.
"The same time as every Sunday, ma," Henry said and grinned.
"Yeah, I... I know that, I just didn't know if your mom would... like, talk to the reverend or to some folks, you know, like good Christians do," Emma rambled and then laughed. "Sorry, I... I had a late night last night... at the fair. You look nice, by the way," she told Regina to save the appearance that they hadn't seen each other yet today.
"Thank you, sheriff," Regina answered and made eye contact with Emma for a moment before she looked into the menu.
"Are you on duty today?" Henry asked.
"What do you think?" Emma gave back and rose just enough for him to see the badge.
"Then you have to go back to work later?"
"Yeah, I'm just here for lunch. I'll be heading over to the fair grounds later. If we keep having events like this one we should probably talk about hiring another deputy," she said and Regina raised an eyebrow.
"You just got one. Is Tinkerbell not doing her job?"
"She is, she's actually a very good deputy. But... I'm mostly putting her in for nightshifts because I can't do them when Henry is with me and... well, I would've liked to have at least two people on site at an event like the fair," Emma explained.
"Have you thought about a possible candidate yet?" Regina asked all business now.
"I'm not sure... I think I'd offer it to David first but I'm not sure he'd take it..."
"What is he doing these days, anyway? Does he even have a job?" Regina asked a little bewildered.
"He does plenty, don't worry. He's kinda turned into a Jack of all trades... but I think he likes it," Emma answered with a shrug.
"Hm," Regina just made and it was sure to both Emma and their son that she didn't approve.
"And if he doesn't want to be a deputy... I thought... maybe... Hook?" Emma looked up at Regina through her lashes, not sure how the other woman would react to the idea. And indeed, one of Regina's dark eyebrows rose.
"It's ultimately your decision, Emma, but... do you think it would be wise to ask a pirate to... uphold the law?"
"He's bored, at least this way he would be busy... too busy to get into trouble," Emma argued.
"I'm only worried that he'll be more trouble than help," Regina gave back and then looked up at Ruby who had come to their table.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting, guys. It seems nobody's eating at home these days. What can I get you?"
They gave their order and Ruby hurried to the next customer.
"Well, I'll keep thinking about possible candidates... if not Hook," Emma said and gave Regina a small smile.
"You do that," Regina gave back, giving the other woman her own lazy smile.
It was like a language all its own, these looks and smiles. They hadn't even really been talking about a new deputy, Emma had tried to see if Regina would get jealous if she suggested Hook as her new colleague. And Regina had looked right through it, of course... they seemed to know what the other was thinking, it was like a game of chess and Emma was pretty sure she'd never win against a formidable opponent like the queen... good thing, this game wasn't about winning, it was about playing.
"Why are people in Storybrooke going to church?" Henry asked in a lull of conversation and looked at his dark-haired mother. Regina looked quizzically back at him.
"It's what people in America do, Henry," she then answered, not wanting to insult his intelligence with platitudes about faith and God.
"So, it's part of the curse?"
"It originally was, yes, but I guess people liked it. They meet other people, they gossip, they get to think about the things they can do to help others. It does more good than harm so, I guess, people are keeping it up," she told him.
"Hm," he made. "Then why are you going?" Henry asked because he knew that Regina wasn't going for any of those reasons.
"I'm the mayor. I'm expected to. Plus, it keeps the gossip about me to a minimum," she reasoned and he nodded. That made sense.
"Really? Like, nobody here believes in God?" Emma asked surprised. "That's..."
She was interrupted by a young man who stepped up to the table. She didn't know him, though she was sure she had seen him working at one of the stores. He nodded at her:
"Sheriff," he said in way of greeting then turned toward Regina.
"Madam Mayor." Regina looked up at him.
"Mr. Dwyer. Is there something I can do for you?"
"Yeah... yeah, there is. You can keep your filthy hands off the Dark One's magic! You caused enough trouble for all of us! We don't trust you and we don't want you near any of that stuff that's in the shop. I'm warning you," he said bending toward Regina and putting a finger up to emphasize his word. That was when he was forcefully pulled away from the mayor and pushed backwards. He stumbled and fell onto a table whose patrons rose immediately. Everybody seemed dazed at what was happening, everybody was staring at the sheriff who had pushed the young man.
Emma pushed her jacket from the badge on her waist so that everyone could see it, not that anybody in Storybrooke didn't know who she was.
"That's enough! Don't you dare threaten her! Don't anyone of you dare! This is getting insane! My dad may have made a mistake in asking her to help, I don't know. But I know that I trust her! I trust her to do what she said she would and help you all get home. That's what she wants to do! If you got a problem with all of this, if you don't want her help... David... Price Charming has talked about a council... I'm sure you know more about this than I do but he's planning a meeting. You can all talk to whoever's on that council and tell them about your concerns. But you will not, I repeat, you will abso-fucking-lutely NOT threaten the mayor!" Emma yelled at Dwyer, his friends who hadn't kept him from coming over and the rest of the room. Her eyes blazed, her jaw was set. She wasn't going to stand by and have anyone threaten Regina - ever again.
Dwyer picked himself up off the table around which all kinds of food were now lying. He glanced unsurely up at Emma who stared at him angrily.
"Do you understand me?" she asked the man and he nodded.
"I'm...," but he couldn't say he was sorry. Instead his face turned an unbecoming red shade and he clamped down his jaw. He turned and left the diner, trying to save some of his righteous indignity.
Emma looked around the room at the people who were still staring at her. Then she turned toward her table. Henry looked up at her bright-eyed, Regina with a frown.
"I'm sorry," she apologized for her outburst and slipped back onto her bench.
"Not at all, Emma," Regina assured her.
"That was awesome. You threw that guy through the room," Henry exclaimed as most people were getting back to minding their own business.
"Hardly," Emma said. "Listen, kid, you know that... violence is not okay." She then tried to save what little she could from the situation.
"But you're the sheriff and that guy was threatening mom," he argued.
"Yeah, he was," Emma simply said staring for a moment at the table top before her. Then she lifted her head and looked up at the other woman. "I'm sorry. I know you can... fend for yourself," she apologized.
"That's quite alright, Emma. Thank you for your help."

Regina closed the door to the mansion after having watched the sheriff's cruiser drive off. Emma had insisted on driving them home and Regina hadn't fought her for once. The scene at the diner had spooked her. not because someone had threatened her - she was quite used to that by now - but because... she hadn't known what to do about it. Sure, she could have just made the man fly through the room and out the door, then she would have swept tables, chairs and patrons into a corner with a wipe of her hand and that would have been that. No words would have been necessary. But that hadn't been an option.
Regina would have to think and think hard about what her options were at this point. She could deal with threats the way she'd done when she didn't have any magic: stare people down. Luckily, most of the people of Storybrooke were still scared enough of her to not want to cross her. But what if they used more than words? What if Henry was with her when that happened? She knew she wouldn't let them hurt him, or her when she was with him. But what would she do? What couldn't she do to anyone who threatened her son?
Regina turned to Henry who was hanging up his coat just now.
"Hm?" He looked at her questioningly.
"Would you like to continue our game of chess from last week?"
Henry seemed to think about that.
"Maybe later? There's something I gotta do... for school," he said.
"I thought you were finished with your homework," Regina reminded him of what he'd told her.
"I just remembered but it shouldn't take long. We could play in... half an hour or so?"
"Alright." She nodded at him and watched him go upstairs. He turned halfway up and asked:
"Who do you think should be Emma's new deputy?"
"I haven't really thought about it, Henry."
"But if you were thinking about it... who do you think it should be?" he insisted on an answer.
"How about I'll tell you when you come back down after doing the rest of your homework? I'll think about an answer in the meantime," she asked of him.
"Okay, but I wanna know," he said and ran up the rest of the way.
His room was just to the right of the stairs which was why he couldn't really miss anyone coming up. Even if it was late at night and the person tried to be very quiet, or persons. Like the persons who had come up the stairs last night, his moms. Henry smiled to himself remembering how Emma had repeated how they needed to be quiet.
Henry closed the door behind him and went to his bed. The book was already lying there, just like he had left it. It wasn't one of his Potter-novels, this was actually his favorite book. The fairy tale book Snow had given him three years ago.
He opened it to his all time favorite - the story of how Emma was born and how his mothers had nearly met for the first time. But, of course, if they had met he wouldn't even exist. A folded paper lay inside the pages and he took it out, opening it and looking at what he had written:

Operation Apple Pie

Finding True Love for S. and Q.

- seems to like pirate, I'm not sure (he likes her A LOT)
- likes dad but only as friend (I don't think that's going to change anytime soon, though he likes her)
- wants to be friends with Q... ???

- I'm not sure she likes anyone
- the doctor likes her (not the surgeon!)
- she seems to like 'green' (I'm not sure but I think they're just friends)
- S.???

S. and Q.???
- S. says she wants to be Q's friend
- they talked on the beach, they laughed together
- S. asked me stuff about Q. (nothing important, just regular stuff)
- I think they're texting
- Q. came over to the house, they looked at each other a lot, Q. stayed after I had gone upstairs, they talked for a long time
- I think S. likes Q. (really likes her, she shared her favorite pie with Q.), not sure about Q. liking S.
- they ARE texting, and they're talking a lot, they look at each other a lot, Q. rolls her eyes at S. a lot, but they're smiling at each other, too

That was as far as Henry had come so far in determining whether his mothers liked each other. But he'd added that last item before last night happened and now he wrote:

- S. came to the house last night, I think she was drunk, Q. put her in guest bedroom but S. slipped into Q's bedroom, she spent the night there!!! (I think they had sex)

I'm sure they like each other - but is it True Love?

- S. defended Q. against some guy
- Q. let S. defend her!

Henry looked over his list again, wondering if he had forgotten something. Then his eyes rested on the underlined phrase for a while. True love. He hadn't thought a lot about what that actually meant before he wondered if what was going on between his mothers was true love. It was something he saw every day between his grandparents but he didn't really know much about it. It was just there with Charming and Snow and they weren't shy about it. His moms, on the other hand, seemed to hide a lot of what was going on even from each other. How could he ever be sure if¬¬¬¬¬ they truly loved each other?
Henry sighed.
Maybe he should ask an expert on the matter. The only question was: which of his grandparents should he be asking?

Chapter Text

"Hey, Rubes," the waitress heard the greeting from behind her and turned.
"Emma, hey. Could you help me with this?" she asked and pointed at the wooden stand-up display that showed that day's specials.
"Sure," Emma agreed and they lifted the display and carried it together into the diner.
"You're closing up late today," Emma said looking at her watch. They left the diner and Ruby locked it.
"Some guys came around after the fair closed. They were in desperate need for some fries to soak up the alcohol they had consumed so..."
"They didn't bully you into serving them, did they?" Emma asked because Ruby didn't seem too happy about her late customers.
"There are few people who would mess with a werewolf like that, Emma," the waitress answered with a toothy grin.
"Yeah, I suppose," Emma agreed laughing lightly. "So you just did it because you're a nice person?"
"Well, yeah. That and... one of them was your new best friend Dwyer," Ruby told Emma and watch the sheriff stiffen at the name.
"Hm," she made but didn't say anything. It wasn't necessary, Ruby was very perceptive when it came to body-language - among other things - and she could easily detect that Emma was still angry at the man. "What did he want?"
"Care to join me on my evening walk?" Ruby asked pointing down the street.
"'Course not."
"Well, he wanted fries but... people also know that I'm part of the council you mentioned so, I guess, he and his friend were also happy to have me overhear their conversation," Ruby told Emma.
"You're on the council?"
"Why are you surprised? Your mom's my best friend," Ruby said.
"I figured that Granny would probably be on the council, you know... one per family, or something. That would make you, Granny..." Ruby nodded. "The dwarfs, erm, blue, Archie... who else?"
"Geppetto... Marco to you. At home, there were some knights but I think only two of them made it back here... I'm not even sure if they'll be there. This is not exactly a security issue," Ruby completed the list.
"Right... so what did they say? Was Dwyer angry at me?" Emma asked.
"They didn't talk about you at all, actually," Ruby answered.
"Really? Huh. That's kinda disappointing. I hoped to have intimidated the lot..."
"I don't know about intimidating them, Emma... I think Dwyer was actually sorry at how he approached the mayor, or rather, that he did it in front of you and Henry," Ruby tried to explain.
"Well, he'd better be sorry and not do it again."
"What I'm getting at... the people of this town respect you, Emma. You're the savior and they want you on their side. Regina... she represents the other side, she is... their enemy," Ruby tried again and saw Emma frown at her words. The sheriff stopped their leasurely walk and turned fully to her friend.
"She's not. She's trying to help."
"They don't want her to. At least not Dwyer and his friends. These guys don't want her help at all. But I had others talking to me. Some think Regina might be helpful but I don't think they want her near Rumple's shop, either."
"What do you think?" Emma asked and by the open look on her face she wanted an honest answer.
"I've been asked that a couple of times today... I think at the moment Regina would do pretty much everything for you."
"You mean, for Henry?" Emma corrected but Ruby shook her long mane.
"No... I mean, she would do anything for Henry but that's not what I meant. I think she would do anything you asked of her," Ruby clarified.
"That's not... she wants to help, to undo what she did. That has nothing to do with me," Emma protested and then resumed their walk. Ruby followed but didn't say anything more. She let Emma think about her words for now. "She's just... these people don't understand her. She's trying so hard... to prove herself... to Henry. She wants to change but nobody's giving her a chance. I'm trying to do that," Emma rambled, then stopped abruptly.
"Why do you think she would do anything for me? I mean, she hasn't said anything to you, right?"
"The mayor and I are not exactly on friendly terms, Emma, though... I guess we've come to respect each other. It's the way she looks at you. She likes you..."
"We're friends," Emma interrupted.
"She more than likes you, then," Ruby clarified but Emma shook her head.
"You're wrong... she... no." Emma kept shaking her head as she was trying hard to swallow some feelings that were working themselves free.
"Emma, what...?"
"I'm in love with her, dammit," Emma burst out.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Ruby smiled softly.
"I thought you might be," she said and by the look of her she was proud of Emma for finally acknowledging it.
"That's not really a reason to celebrate, Rubes. She doesn't love me, she... wants us to be friends and that's... I mean, I wanted to be her friend but I also want... her. And that's not gonna happen. And, I guess, it's actually the sensible thing to do - or not do. We would be a disaster together... but... I can't help but want... that disaster... I don't even make any sense," Emma exclaimed frustrated.
"You do make sense to me," Ruby disagreed. "But I think you're wrong. I think you would be good together and I think she wants you, too."
Emma shook her head.
"She could have had me last night...."
"You did go to the mansion!" Ruby exclaimed wide-eyed. Emma nodded. "You were almost durnk out of your boots... did she throw you out?"
"No, she... put me in her guest bedroom," Emma said but didn't confess that she spent the night in Regina's bed.
"You can't even see how special you are to her, can you?" Ruby asked shaking her head at the blonde.
"Yes, special. Today in the diner, that man threatened her. He was luck she didn't barbecue him right then and there. But not only that, she stood by while you defended her... that's completely unheard of. You were so drunk last night you could hardly walk and she lets you into her house... while Henry was there, too? That's... almost beyond belief, Emma. She likes you. I'm almost willing to bet that she loves you, too," Ruby argued. "Can't you see?"
"I only know what she tells me. And that is a big, fat NO," Emma gave back. She breathed deeply and turned to resume their walk but for the moment she just stood, breathing. Ruby lay a hand on her back, rubbing it.
"I don't know if she will but... I hope she'll come around. I think you'd be good together. I think you would make each other very happy," Ruby said and Emma smiled at her gratefully.
"Thanks, Ruby. I... I haven't told anyone else... I wasn't even sure until what happened at the diner. I wanted to take that guy's head off."
"These people aren't your enemies, Emma. They're just scared," Ruby argued.
"Of the woman I love," Emma said sadly. "Is there nobody who... trusts her?"
"Not that I heard. I think Granny would... if she could stand behind her with a crossbow the whole time," she tried to lighten the mood but saw at Emma's face that she failed. "I'm just kidding."
"And yet she wouldn't trust her, though Regina's probably everybody's only chance to get home," Emma said.
"Not everybody wants to go back?" Ruby mused and she started walking again. Emma joined her.
"You don't?"
Ruby shook her head.
"Not to the Enchanted Forest, anyway. I mean... it probably sounds selfish. Granny wants to go back, Snow and Charming... but I want to... see more. I also want to get Belle out of here. I think if she could just get away from here where everything reminds her of Rumple... I've asked Hook if he'd found a way yet but he hasn't. Though I think it might be a good idea to... travel with him," Ruby said.
"On a ship? Ruby, you're a werewolf," the blonde reminded her friend - as if she needed a reminder.
"I'm aware but this... I can't watch Belle just... sleep away her life. She's so young, so full of life... or she was. I want for her to have adventures she'd been dreaming about before. I want her to have... an exciting life, a full life. Here... she'll just going to... function in that man's dead shadow."
"I wish there was something I could do," Emma said and the words sounded hollow and meaningless to her.
"There is," Ruby said and Emma looked at her. "Involve Regina. I don't care. I know she will do anything for you and she's the one who's going to find a way... I want her to. I want for her to help Belle get better, get away from here - with or without me."
Emma lay an arm around Ruby's shoulders and they kept walking for awhile.
"I'll make sure she has excess to Rumple's magic. We'll find a way together," Emma promised Ruby and the brunette gave her a small smile for it. They had rounded the block and were almost at the library now.
"I think I'm going to see if Belle's still up," Ruby said with a sigh.
"There's no light on," Emma pointed out.
"She doesn't always turn on the light. Sometimes she just sits in the living room in the dark at this hour. And if I don't get her to go to bed, she'll fall asleep on the couch and still be there in the morning. She... simply doesn't care anymore."
"I wish I could..."
"Just help Regina find a way to cross realms. It'll help," Ruby told Emma who nodded.
"Okay. Give Belle a hug from me and tell her that we miss having her around," Emma said and then hugged Ruby tightly.
Ruby answered the hug in kind and they parted.

It was his cell phone ringing that roused him from sleep and he blinked dazedly at the green digital number of his alarm. Almost midnight. Who would call him at this hour? he wondered and picked up his phone.
"Ma?" he answered it a moment later in a sleepy voice.
"I'm so sorry, Henry. Did I wake you?"
"It's almost midnight, of course you woke me. What is wrong?" he asked believing that Emma wouldn't call him at this hour if it wasn't important.
"I... It's nothing... you should go back to sleep. Night..."
"Wait! What were you calling about?" Henry insisted on knowing.
"Nothing important. It can wait till tomorrow. I wasn't aware of how late it is. I'm sorry," Emma said hurriedly, rolling her eyes at herself for having been so impulsive, so stupid.
"I won't be able to go to sleep until you tell me why you called," Henry argued.
Emma sighed.
"It's... stupid. I just... your mom said something the other night that had me thinking about... music, what kind of music she liked. See, it's silly. Go back to bed," Emma told her son but waited for him to answer, possibly tell her to get a life and hang up on her.
"She likes classical music," Henry said after a moment's hesitation.
"Yeah, that's what she listens to most of the time... at least when I'm around. I know she likes it but I think she also wants me to like it. Kind of an educational thing," Henry explained.
"Does she just like all the stuff or... does she have a favorite composer?"
"Chaupin is her favorite," Henry told her. "But she also likes guitar music... you know, the kind of stuff they play in South America, that kind of thing. I don't remember any of the names of the guys but... she likes latin music, rhythmic stuff. She also listens to this blonde singer... what's her name?"
"I don't know... Britney Spears?"
"Shakira!" Henry called out.
"Shhh, your mother might hear you," Emma warned him.
She heard the whisper of covers moving through the line and Henry quietly walking.
"What are you doing?"
But there was only breathing coming from the other end of the line and the noises Henry was making. It sounded like he was opening his bedroom door and then he seemed to step out onto the landing.
"She's still downstairs," Henry whispered and Emma could hear him return to his room.
He hadn't needed to tell her this, though, she already knew. Emma was standing in the shadow of the mansions garden hedge, watching Regina through the window. The mayor was sitting comfortably in one of her plush armchairs with head phones over her ears. She seemed to be working on something while also listening to her music. Every now and then she would simply close her eyes and nod her head to the music, tapping her pen on her bend leg. She looked adorable and so lost in what she was listening to, Emma had to know what it might be. That's why she had called Henry.
"Shakira?" she now found herself asking. At least, that was someone she knew.
"Yeah, especially her Spanish stuff. She sometimes turns it up loud and dances to it, too. But only when she thinks I'm not home," he told Emma in a conspiratorial tone.
"You sneak around a lot more than your mom's aware of, don't you?"
"I sneak around a lot more than anyone's aware of," Henry gave back and Emma could hear some mischief in that voice.
"I'll make a note of that and will keep a close eye on you in the future," Emma gave back but she was smiling.
"You can try," he only said and Emma laughed. "I let you go back to sleep now, Henry."
"No, wait. Don't you wanna know her favorite song?"
"Her favorite song?" Emma was intrigued.
"It's the song she's set to wake her in the morning," Henry said. "It's 'Underneath Your Clothes.'"
"I know it," Emma said.
"So... did you just want to know to know or... have you something planned. Some... friendship-thing?" Henry asked curiously.
"I may have something planned but I'll have to... work on the details yet," she said leaving him to wonder what she might be up to.
"Are you going to make her a mixed tape?" he couldn't help asking and just barely kept from giggling.
"I.. I... no, I mean... who's got tapes anymore? I... I think you should really go to bed now," she then told him and he could hear that she was flustered.
"I'm already in bed, ma."
"Then go to sleep now. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Night, ma," he said.
"Night, Henry. Love you," she told him.
"Love you, too," he answered and then the line went dead.
Emma put her phone away and looked back at the house. Regina wasn't sitting in the arm chair anymore but Emma couldn't see her at the moment. When she reappeared in Emma's line of vision, she was coming toward the window looking outside. Emma froze for a second but then pushed herself deeper into the shadow of the hedge. Her heart beat so fast, even though her breathing seemed to stop. She knew if Regina detected her she would probably... be angry beyong reason, and rightfully so. Emma had no business being here, this was stalking. But she had just wanted to know... what Regina was doing at this hour, why she was still awake. And if... if she was thinking about her, maybe?
Regina stood in the window looking out but seemingly not looking at anything in particular. She was probably seeing little beyond the reflections from the lighted room behind her. And she was so... breathtakingly beautiful in her shiny blue pyjamas, her hair unusually wild now at the end of the day after she'd run her hands through it so often. So relaxed, so... at home.
Emma closed her eyes, leaning her head back into the hedge. She was beyond control, beyond reason. She couldn't possibly think that this woman, this amazing, beautiful woman could love her. And yet, she wasn't altogether unaffected by her, either. What was going on behind those caramel-colored eyes?
When Emma opened her eyes again and looked back at the house, the lights downstairs had been turned off. Regina had gone to bed and Emma decided that she would do the same. She would also not come back here to spy on Regina ever again. Stalking was against the law, she should know. But she knew it would be hard to stay away with someone as tempting to lure her back there as Regina Mills.

Chapter Text

It was undoubtedly the most beautiful day Storybrooke had seen so far this year. The sun was shining, the sky clear and the people seemed in an altogether better mood than usual. It was actually so nice today that Emma had donned her red leather jacket in an anticipatory mood that she wasn't going to need her winter coat any longer.
She was making her way down main street as she didn't want to spend this beautiful day cooped up at the station. And she congratulated herself on that notion when she saw a certain dark-haired mayor walking on the other side of the street.
"Regina," she called out before she could even think about it and waved at the other woman who looked around at the voice that had called her name. Regina was smilling when she recognized Emma and the blonde hurried to catch up with her.
"Sheriff Swan," Regina greeted her in their accustomed fashion.
"Madam Mayor. It's a beatiful day," Emma gave back smiling easily. The sunny weather was doing wonders to her mood. She had been full of doubt and beating herself up over stalking Regina the night before but this day looked so much brighter, and Regina looked even more beautiful this afternoon. And she was smiling at Emma and the blonde took this as a good sign.
"That it most certainly is," Regina agreed. She was carrying a basket over her arm, the kind she had given Emma as a house-warming gift.
"This looks like a mission. Is this another house-warming gift?" Emma asked pointing at it.
"It's... more of a... business meeting I'm going to," Regina answered, as it seemed to Emma, evasively.
"A business meeting? Regina, I think I've known you long enough to know that you're not bringing presents to a business meeting."
The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes impatiently but then said:
"Alright, I'm on my way to the library. I wanted to... talk to Miss French."
"Talk to Belle? What about?" Emma asked.
"You know what's most annoying about good people? They think the have a right to know about other people's business," Regina commented but Emma only smiled at her. "I wanted to talk to her about the library. Whether or not she was still thinking about opening it. If she didn't... well, I rented her the apartment on the condition that she would work at the library and if she doesn't..."
"You're telling me, you're thinking about throwing Belle out on the street?" For a moment, Emma felt irritated with the other woman and her anger stirred. But as she looked at Regina she noted that the picture didn't quite fit. Nobody brought a gift basket to an eviction notification. Then there was the fact that Regina had only shown compassion where Belle was concerned. She frowned at Regina.
"Don't make it sound so dramatic, I'm sure Granny will always have a place for Miss French... but I'm not a charity," Regina said trying to force some of her snark and aloofness into her voice.
"Is that your strategy? To tell Belle you'll evict her if she doesn't work at the library... which you know she loves doing... which just might give her a purpose or at least something to do while she copes with Rumple's death?" Emma asked and her smile returned.
"You're making these things up as you go, don't you?" Regina asked seemingly annoyed but the sheriff simply laughed at her stubbornness.
"No, I'm just looking through you. It's very sweet what you're trying to do," Emma told the mayor.
"Hm," Regina just made and started walking in the direction of the library. Emma joined her. "I wouldn't want this to get around but... I like Miss French. I feel... bad about incarcerating her for so long just to get back at Rumplestiltskin. I used her and I'm sorry. I'd really like to help her if I can. I know what it's like to lose the man you love," she said in a low voice, seemingly afraid that someone could overhear.
"I'm proud of you," Emma said, her eyes on the dark-haired woman.
Regina threw a look and a smile at her as they kept walking.
"I was wondering," the sheriff changed the subject after a short moment of silence. "Do I need to apologize about the other night?"
"The other night?"
"When I was drunk and... invading your privacy?" Emma clarified.
Regina seemed to think about it for a moment then she shook her head.
"No, it was... I wouldn't have invited you into my... privacy if I didn't want you there. I know it makes our friendship... complicated but I... I'm glad we had that conversation. I'm glad you know a little more about me now," the mayor confessed haltingly and Emma nodded.
She was glad, too. That night meant a lot to her. Sure, she had been drunk and not everything about that night was entirely clear but she remembered the intimacy. It had felt right to be there at that moment, to talk to Regina about things they wouldn't under normal circumstances. She was also dwelling on the simple gestures that had gone beyond friendship, she couldn't not interpret them now that she was sure about her feelings for the other woman.
"I enjoyed it, too," she simply said as they crossed the street to the library and stood before it.
"Where're you heading, by the way?"
"Oh, I... I didn't wanna hang around the office all day. Nobody's in the cells, so I thought I go out and have a look around."
"And possibly arrest someone?" Regina asked smiling.
"I hope not," Emma said with shake of her head.
"I understand, I've been in the office most of the day and was actually looking forward to getting out. That's why I walked here. I'm... noticing you're already dressing for spring, as well," the mayor said with a look at Emma's jacket.
"Yeah, I... I love this old thing."
"You were wearing it the night we met," Regina said thoughtfully.
"You remember." They smiled at each other and Regina reached out her hand touching Emma's arm, feeling the material of her attire.
"It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen," she finally said and Emma huffed indignantly.
"It's not ugly, it's... vintage."
"I'm sorry, Emma, but this jacket... I'll give you the blue one, it brings out your eyes, but this... no," Regina argued shaking her head. She was also smiling.
"The blue one brings out my eyes?" Emma caught the compliment and could watch the mayor blush a moment later.
"Really, this is what you've decided to focus on?"
"It was a compliment," Emma noted.
Regina rolled her eyes at this but then said quite unexpectedly.
"You have beautiful eyes."
Once again, they looked at each other but this time it was like they couldn't help it. They just stared into each other's eyes getting lost for a moment, losing grip on time and place. They could have been back in Regina's bedroom lying side by side as they felt the same kind of intimacy building between them.
A car honking nearby pulled them both back to the present and they looked around a little embarrassed and back at each other awkwardly.
"That was..."
"Your father called me this morning," Regina blurted out as she just remembered that she had wanted to talk to Emma about this.
"Dad called you? About what?" Emma asked but at the same time almost panicking at the implication. Had he noticed something about her that told him about her feelings for Regina? Had he possibly told Regina that he thought she loved her?
"The council meeting," Regina answered and Emma's anxiety vanished leaving only a slight queasiness behind.
"Oh, right. He said that he wanted you there. I forgot to tell you... over what happened at the diner yesterday," she said.
"He said you'd be there, too?"
"I told him I'd think about it. I'm not sure... it seems all so... Enchanted Forest and nothing to do with me. I don't know," Emma told Regina and rolled her eyes over her dad thinking that she would just give in. "Are you going to go?"
"Yes, I've told him I'd come and suggested that he invite Tinkerbell as well," Regina said.
"Tink? But Mother Superior would be there. Shouldn't that pretty much cover the fairy citizenry?"
Regina smiled.
"Fairy citizenry? You just made that up, didn't you?"
"Well, it stands to reason that there would be such a thing. Just as there's a dwarf citizenry, and..." but Emma interrupted herself with her own laugher. "Okay, okay. But why do you think Tink should be there?"
"I thought it would be good to have an ally, or at least a friend there. I also think she wouldn't appreciate being thrown in with the other fairies. I think she's trying to remain independent from the others. And since she's not a nun..."
"You're probably right. It's a good idea... it also might shake things lose a little bit. Maybe we should have someone there who's not from the Enchanted Forest, too. Hook or Whale, just to get their perspective," Emma mused.
"Does this mean you're gonna be there, too? As... a sort of representitive for the American population?" Regina asked smiling.
"Well, I guess there's no need fighting this any longer. I'll be there. Has he set a date yet?"
"Friday at 8 pm, we're meeting at City Hall, conference room," Regina told her.
"I guess that makes it rather official, huh? Very..."
"Charming taking over," the mayor suggested a term.
"I'm not sure that that's what it's about," Emma said but thought that Regina might have a point.
"I've been waiting for this to happen, actually. We'll see...," she mused. Then she looked up at the library. "I should probably go or I'll run into Miss Lucas and she won't be happy to see me here, I'm sure."
"Well, I could be heading over to the diner and... keep her occupied."
"A favor? And how will I ever be able to thank you for it?" Regina gave back not even pretending that she wasn't flirting with Emma.
The blonde blushed slightly.
"I'm sure you'll think of something... maybe dinner at the mansion one of these days?"
Regina laughed.
"Well, one of us seemed to have already thought about it. But, why not? I bet Henry will love to have you join us tomorrow night," she agreed and Emma had to laugh, too. It wasn't quite the setting she had had in mind, that was, if she had actually thought about it. Her idea would have been more intimate, more date-like. But dinner at the mansion with her two favorite people sounded pretty good, too.
"It's a date," she heard herself say and once again blushed.
"No, that it won't be," Regina answered seriously but not really annoyed, as Emma had feared she would be.
"I'll see you tomorrow night, then," Emma said and without thought leaned into Regina, her hand touching the mayor's. She blinked as she realized what she was about to, she was about to kiss her, and she panicked. They both did for just a second, in which their upper bodies touched and they ended in an awkward kind of hug, their cheeks touching, their hand trappeds between their bodies.
"Tomorrow," Regina repeated as the parted instantly, even too embarrassed to look around if anyone had seen this awkward exchange.

At lunch that day, Henry had joined Snow White for lunch. He did that sometimes, as did some other students. But Henry only joined her if she sat alone. He usually wanted to know more about the Enchanted Forest and since the other children had lived there, he wasn't comfortable talking to her in front of them. She also thought that he'd rather have her to himself but maybe that was mere grandmotherly indulgence on her part. This day he hadn't come to her with a question about her former home, however, today he had asked:
"What is true love exactly?"
Snow had been surprised to say the least but also didn't see any harm in answering - or try to answer - his question.
"It's... hmmmm, that's a difficult question, Henry. Why are you asking?"
"Oh, just... I've been thinking about it. I mean... mom loved Neal, right? But was it true love or was it just... regular love? And what about Regina and Daniel? I don't know, I'm just curious," Henry had said.
"Well... I guess, you're right in thinking there are different kind of loves. I've never loved anyone, romantically, but Charming. But I loved my father and my mother... my friends."
"How did you know that Charming was your true love?" Henry had asked.
"Hmmm, I think things in the Enchanted Forest have been a little bit more clear-cut. You just assume that the one you fall in love with is the real thing and if time and circumstances confirm it... you're in the clear, so to speak. Charming and I shared true love's kiss, it saved my life and I guess, until that moment I couldn't have been sure... only, I was," Snow had tried to explain and smiled at her grandson. But he had kept a thoughtful expression.
"Did anyone else, like, see that it was true love? How would they have known?"
"Ruby says that she saw it right away just from the way we looked at each other... but it's easy to say that in hindsight, I guess. But she had a point, it's in the way people look at each other. That's how I could tell about Ariel. But, of course, she had told me about Eric before so... Those are really tough questions, Henry. What made you think about this?"
Henry had shrugged and Snow had assumed that maybe there was a girl... and she had felt almost giddy with the fact that he had come to her for information.
"What do people do... when they're in love?" Henry had asked next and Snow's eyebrows had shot upwards. "I know about sex but that's not what I mean. I mean... what do they do?"
"They spend time together, as much time as possible under the most feeble pretenses. And then they'll look at each other a lot, blush... seemingly without reason. Same goes for smiling and... I noticed that only when I found Charming again here in Storybrooke, one will always want to touch the other person... make contact, hold their hand. Any excuse will do, too. You make them up in your mind," Snow had explained further and Henry had nodded as if checking off a mental list.
"There's only one true love, right?"
"That's why it's called true love. I haven't heard of a case where someone had found two true love's probably because you'll stay with them forever."
"But what if your true love died... like Mr. Gold? What if Belle found another true love?" Henry had insisted.
"I don't know... I mean, I know too little about that relationship. I know that Rumple was married a long time before he met Belle to... well, your grandmother, Neal's mother. Then she fell in love with Hook and he claims that their love was... true. Now he's in love with Emma.. I really..."
"So the really complicated part is to decide whether it's true love because there're so many other kinds of love?" Henry had cut through Snow's embarrassment about the strange relations within their family tree.
"I guess, yeah."
"What about someone who calls, like, really late. And they're not even aware how late it is but just to ask about something another person might like. Nothing important, just something simple, like, favorite color or music, or something?" Henry had specified and had looked at Snow attentively.
"I think... that someone definately has feelings for that other person. Are we talking about someone I know?" Snow had asked and seen Henry blush.
"No, she's... I mean, they're just... made up."
But Snow had known better and was now on her way home, thinking about that conversation and smiling. She was sure that Henry had his first crush and just in time for spring.
Snow just reached main street and was about to turn left when she noticed Emma talking to someone in front of the library. She wanted to wave and call out to her but something made her stop in mid-motion. There was something... in Emma's look, in her smile. She seemed absorbed, completely unaware of her surroundings. Her eyes, her face, her... self seemed to glow with... love, Snow recognized and blinked to diffuse the picture. But it wouldn't go away and she now noticed who her daughter was talking to and it left her standing open-mouthed.
Snow blinked her eyes and blinked them again, trying to unsee what was now obvious to her. And suddenly Henry's curiosity about true love got a new meaning, he hadn't ask because he was in love, he had asked because he had seen what Snow was seeing now - two people in love. Or at least one, her mind reminded her when Regina reached out to touch Emma's arm. It stunned Snow.
Henry had said that he had wondered about love because of his moms... and their loves, Neal and Daniel. How could she have been so blind as not to see this coming? Was this... happening? Had it already happened? What was she supposed to do about it?
But she knew that there was nothing she could do. If this was love - if this was true love - it would find a way, no matter what she did, wanted or felt about it. And there was the fact that Emma looked happy. She was smiling at Regina, there were so many emotions crossing her features and then she laughed and Regina laughed and, although Snow couldn't see the other woman's face, she was sure she looked just as... absorbed and wide-eyed happy as Emma did.
Snow reached up and touched where her heart beat under clothes and skin and ribs. She knew there was a blackened part on it that wanted this thing that was happening between Emma and Regina to stop. But she also knew that most of her heart was beating wildly now because she was as excited for her daughter as she had been hours before when she had thought Henry was in love. And there was another part, too, that was happy for Regina.
Snow shook her head a little. She saw how Emma and Regina parted... it looked like they bumped into each other more than hugged. They were so awkward and yet so adorable. And Snow felt it, she felt... very conflicting emotions. There were two things she knew, however. One was, that this wasn't about her and definately not about her feud with Regina, one that had gone on too long already. The other was that this was the beginning of a struggle for Emma and Regina because no one, she herself included, would just let them be... happy together.

Chapter Text

Emma was nervous. She was standing in her bedroom in her underwear and was fidgeting over what to wear over a simple dinner with Regina and Henry.
It had all felt so great. From the moment they had parted the day before in front of the library, she had smiled. Because she had known... that things were changing between them. Yes, Regina had said that this wasn't a date but... it sure had felt like they were heading in that direction. And she had been excited. And then she had woken up this morning, smiling at first but then... panicking.
A date. A date with Regina Mills. But it wasn't a date, Henry would be there. And still... what was she gonna wear? What would they be talking about? They hadn't had many lapses in conversaton since they started this friendship-thing but they had talked alone mostly, some pretty intimate stuff. They wouldn't be able to talk about these things in front of Henry. So they would have to go back to... what, small talk? She was bad at small talk...
Emma looked into her closet then at the alarm clock next to her bed. She had half an hour to change and dry her hair from the shower she'd taken. Half an hour to come up with some conversational topics over dinner. She guessed they could always concentrate on Henry... and whatever was going on with their respective works. But she didn't want that, that's what they usually did. This evening should be different somehow - if she could only say how exactly.
Emma turned to her bed where her phone lay and looked at it. It had been suspiciously quiet all day.
Yesterday, Emma had sent Regina a message to reassure her that she had Ruby occupied at the diner while Regina talked to Belle. The mayor hadn't answered right away but later she had sent her a 'Thank you for the favor. I'll make sure, dinner tomorrow night will mirror your efforts today' - Emma had read it as a tease. And she had answered:
'You're welcome. If you're talking food I would be satisfied with mashed potatoes, if not... I trust you to give it your best shot.'
'I was talking about food, Miss Swan. And I trust you to get your head out of the gutter before dinner tomorrow - a minor will be present. And I think I can manage mashed potatoes - just as you like them.'
That message had sent a wave of naughty images to Emma's brain and she hadn't answered for a while. When she had taken up her phone again, she had typed the following message:
'I trust you with my taste buds. I have yet to taste anything more delicious than what you had to offer. And I will get my head out of that particular gutter just in time for dinner - promise.'
There had been no answer, Emma had checked a gazillion times since then. She had probably overstepped some invisible line once again but that's what they did, both of them. And Regina hadn't revoked the invitation so they were probably good... or Emma would get served another apple turnover tonight.
She picked up her phone now and tapped on a single item. She put the phone to her ear as it connected her to the mansion.
"Hey, ma. You're not going to cancel dinner, are you?"
"No, I'm not. What's up with you?" Emma asked, mildly amused that Henry seemed as nervous as she was.
"Nothing, I... mom's spent some time in the kitchen. She didn't even let me help today. I think she makes something special and it would have been... a bummer if you'd cancelled, is all," Henry explained and Emma found herself smiling.
Regina was doing something special tonight? Hmmm, not a date indeed. Then she remembered why she had called.
"Well, I'm looking forward to whatever your mom's brewing up. I'm starving... I was wondering... erm. This may sound a little weird but... erm..."
"What is it, ma? Is this about that mixed tape again?"
"No, I told you there won't be a mixed tape... I thought... what is your mom wearing?"
The immediate answer Emma received was silence and she rolled her eyes at herself. Then Henry answered:
"Clothes," and the words seemed stretched, a little ominous.
"It's... I was just... wondering because I'm about to dress and... I don't want our clothes to clash, that's all. It's a girl-thing. Now, come on, you know your mom's closet. What exactly is she wearing?"
Henry sighed.
"She's wearing that dark red, shimmery blouse and a black skirt," he answered reluctantly.
"Heels or boots?"
"Heels," he answered as if that was obvious.
"Okay, which skirt?"
"Ma, it's black, I told you. I don't know what kind of material it is," he argued.
"How... long is it?" Emma found herself asking and closed her eyes tightly. Her son must think she was a freak - or worse, a pervert. But he wouldn't think she was perving after his mom, right? Could Henry have any idea what was going on between them? But that was ridiculous, they didn't even know themselves what was going on.
"Ma, what...? It's a skirt, it... ends just above her knee, I think."
"Thank you, Henry," Emma said.
"Yeah, whatever. It's the tight one, I think she likes how... she looks in it," he added now that she wasn't pestering him anymore.
"I know which one, thanks, kid. So what're you gonna wear?" she asked and her smile was obvious in her voice.
"Last year's Halloween costume. I'm going as Batman," he answered with an eyeroll and received a laugh for his efforts. "It's just dinner, ma," he reminded her and she nodded to herself.
"I know, it's just... your mom has never asked me over to dinner before, you know. Not like this. I don't want her to think I'm socially challenged and that I only have jeans and shirts to wear."
"You do only have jeans and shirts to wear," he gave back.
"That's not true. I have... a pair of tan slacks right here. I'm gonna wear them tonight, you'll see," she told him.
"Tan slacks? Won't they clash with mom's black skirt?" he challenged with a chuckle.
"Very funny. I'm gonna see you in... twenty minutes, fuck... I mean, damn. I need to hurry. Later, kid," she called out and disconnected the phone. She pulled the slacks and a blue shirt out of her closet and hurried into the bathroom.

She was still fidgeting when she rang the bell to the mansion that evening. She pushed her hands into her trench coat to keep from wringing eath other and waited. It seemed like a long time passed and Emma wondered for a moment if Regina had forgotten that she was coming, or that she hadn't heard the bell ring, or that maybe she was just making Emma wait. But then the door opened and... there stood Henry smiling at her.
"Hi, ma," he greeted her.
"Hey, kid. I almost didn't recognize you. I thought you were going as Batman," she joked.
"Yeah, yeah," he gave back as she stepped into the house. "You actually do own a pair of slacks, I'm impressed."
"Thanks. I didn't have time to press them, do they look okay?" Emma asked as she slipped out of her coat.
"They look fine. Why're you so nervous?"
"Hello, Emma," she heard from behind her and turned.
Regina looked amazing. Of course, she did, and she knew it, too, by the confident look in her eyes, the slight sway in her step as she came over and took Emma's coat.
"You look nice. I didn't know you owned a pair of sensible pants," the mayor said as she hung Emma's coat. "Very becoming."
The once-over Regina gave her took Emma's breath away.
"Thank you. You look... fantastic," she said and had to fight several impulses at once - one, to simply pull the other woman into her arms and kiss her senseless, two, to faint dead, three, to turn and run.
Regina gave her a smile and then leaned in to kiss her cheek as a greeting. It was less awkward then the bumping into each other the day before when they had tried for a similar gesture but it still felt forced and unnatural, like they had to prove to the world that them being friends was no big deal. And that they could actually do it. Maybe that last part was something they had to prove to themselves more than anyone else.
"It smells great, by the way. So what have you been cooking?"
"That's a surprise and you're not invited into the kitchen tonight so you and Henry better go into the dining room. I'll be with you shortly. Henry, make sure to ask Emma if she likes something to drink," Regina instructed their son.
Henry looked after her until she disappeared in the kitchen.
"Why's she so formal, it's just you?" he said and looked at his other mother for an answer.
"I don't know. I guess... we'll just have to live through it. Come on, it won't be half bad. Let's go into the dining room," she suggested.
But on entering the room, Emma thought that she may have made a mistake in telling Henry it wouln't be half bad. Regina had broken out the good china, the silverware seemed to be actual silver, the glasses... crystal?
"Geez, it looks like your mom's going all out. Where did she even get all this stuff?"
"She used to be a queen, remember?" he said and took his usual seat at his mom's right. He looked up at Emma with a frown.
"I'm gonna fix this," Emma told him and left the room.

When Emma entered the kitchen, Regina was just filling a bowl with mashed potatoes. She looked up as Emma came sauntering in and leaned against the kitchen island watching her.
"I told you you weren't welcome here tonight. So would you please go back into the dining room and wait till I'm finished?" She said putting the pot down but almost losing hold of it. "Get a drink," she then suggested with a fake smile.
"Regina, the dining room looks like you were expecting the Queen of England. What's going on?"
"I just wanted to have a nice dinner with... you and Henry. I..." but she stopped talking when Emma took a step toward her and took a step back. She looked up at Emma as if she'd been caught at something and Emma understood that Regina was just as nervous about this as she was.
"I'm nervous, too. Look, I even wear slacks... you said this wasn't a date and..."
"It's not a date," Regina snapped.
"Then why are we behaving like it is?" Emma gave back.
They looked at each other for a long moment.
"I changed three times," Regina confessed with a self-deprecating smile. "Then I couldn't get the sauce right. I had to make it over two times before I had figured out that I had added olive oil instead of wine."
Emma smiled but then she saw Regina shake her head and the deep frown on her face.
"I don't know how to behave with you anymore, Emma. This was a bad idea," she said and turned.
"No, no, it wasn't. And you do know how to behave with me. We've been doing it for some time now," Emma argued. She took two steps forward and stood directly behind the other woman. She hesitated but then she put her hands on Regina's upper arms.
"Yes, we're doing it. When we're alone... it's so easy. But not when other people are around."
"It's not other people, it's just Henry," Emma argued.
"Just Henry?" Regina turned and Emma's arms fell back to her side. "What if he picks up on something? What if he already knows?"
"Has he said anything?"
"No, but he's a clever boy and he picks up things pretty fast. I just... I have to do this my way, Emma. I... would you please go back into the dining room?"
Emma thought about this and tried to come up with a way to make this easier for both of them. Maybe she should just go home, then neither of them would have to go through an awkward dinner. But she knew Henry would find that odd and there was really no reason why they shouldn't be able to have a family dinner, one where they didn't have to think about how to behave and just be themselves.
"Okay, but... try to relax. Just be yourself," she told Regina and already knew a comment like this wouldn't help. "You may also wanna stop flirting with me. I almost swallowed my tongue earlier," she added with a smile.
"I wasn't... flirting," Regina gave back but then smirked. "Much," she added and winked at the blonde.
"We're gonna be fine," Emma said fom the doorway looking back at the mayor one more time and caught her looking... at her assets.
Emma laughed lightly as she came back into the dining room where Henry still sat a little dejectedly at the table.
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, your mom just overdid it a little. I think we're gonna be fine but... cut her some slack, huh?"
Henry shrugged. He didn't mind the setting as long as they wouldn't have to behave any differently than they normally would. He just wanted his moms to have a nice time and to get to know each other better.

But that wasn't really happening that evening. And it wasn't like they weren't trying, Henry could see this, they just seemed to try to hard. And after a while, they stopped talking to each other altogether and focused on him - which was worse.
Henry didn't understand what was wrong. From what he could surmise from talking to Snow White, his moms were in love - possibly, they even were each other's true love. But right now they behaved as if sitting down to dinner together was like an appointment at the dentist's when you knew you had a cavity. It shouldn't be like this, they should be smiling and looking at each other a lot and mainly forget that he was there. But they didn't. He even kept from taking seconds just so that none of them would encourage him to take more and say something like him growing into a strong young man... or something equally embarrassing.
Henry was wondering when he would be able to just up and leave them alone in their awkwardness and hoped it would be soon.
But there was dessert to be had and then Regina started to talk at him of his school accomplishments from years ago and that was unbearable. He cleared his throat.
"I should clean the table," he said.
"You don't need to do that tonight, Henry," Regina said and was rising herself.
"But you already cooked and set the table. It's the least I can do," he insisted. He looked at his mother and she at him. There was no annoyance in her look, she wasn't about to dismiss him or even praise him for his manners. She just looked at him with this fearful expression and it alsmot made him sit down again.
"Let me do this," he asked of her and she nodded. He started clearing the table and when he was finally in the kitchen he felt that he could breathe again. But he didn't understand why his mom would be afraid or what she was afraid of. He started filling the dishwasher but prolonged the task and when he was about to return to the dining room he approached it timidly. He could hear the two women talking.
"... sorry about tonight. I..."
"It's okay, I'm not fairing much better. Poor Henry," he heard Emma say but Regina just sighed.
"This whole thing confuses me, Emma. I don't want to be confused."
"We need to talk about this. I mean, something seems to be happenng whether we want it to, or not," Emma told Regina.
"That's nonsense. We are doing this, whatever this is. And it has to stop," Regina snapped. "I think it'll be better if we don't see each other for awhile... socially, I mean. It's not like we'll be able to avoid each other completely in this sandbox of a town."
There was a pause and he could only imagine what was going on. He wanted them to look deeply into each others eyes and... solve their problem like that. It's how it was done in movies. But then he heard a chair being pushed back from the table.
"We'll have to talk about this eventually, Regina. You know where to find me," Emma said and Henry pushed himself into a nook between kitchen and dining-room. He didn't even need to have bothered, Emma just stormed past him and out the door. She didn't even retrieve her coat. Henry looked after her and then turned for the dining room but it was empty, Regina had left through another door.

Chapter Text

Emma was already in her bedroom, tearing at the bottons of her shirt and slipping out of those goddamned slacks, when she remembered that it was Tuesday evening, and that she had been supposed to take Henry home that night.
"Damn, damn, damn... that woman!" she ground out and started searching for her phone in her pants pockets. She found it and dialled Henry's extension but there was no answer.
"Come on, pick up, kid. I'm sorry," she said into the device even thought there was no one to hear her. She finally hung up and contemplated her next steps. She could dress and walk back over, it wasn't that far. But she seemed to lose all her energy at the mere thought of it. She lay down on her bed in her underwear and stared at her phone, at the icons - one of them showed her Henry's face, another her sheriff's badge. Those were the two lines of communication she always wanted to keep open and now one of them didn't answer.
Emma sighed.
She opened her phone directory and skipped to 'M' finding 'Mayor Mills' just under 'Mary Margaret.' She had saved these contacts after she'd first come to Storybrooke and she had never bothered to change them... into 'Regina' and 'Mom' or 'Snow.' And there were no pictures next to them, either, just their names, their numbers.
Emma tapped at the display and held the phone to her ear. It seemed to take half an eternity for the call to get picked up but it finally was.
"Was there something else you needed, sheriff Swan?" the snide voice came over the line and Emma was clenching her jaw to keep from answering in the same fashion.
"I tried to call Henry, I... was supposed to take him home tonight and I... forgot. Now he's not answering. Would you tell him that... I'm sorry and that I'll pick him up before school tomorrow? Please," she added.
The other end of the line remained suspiciously silent but Emma could hear Regina breathing.
"We've made quite a mess of this, haven't we?"
Emma could have argued that it was mostly Regina who'd made the mess but she felt too emotional right now to be even sure that this was true. Maybe she had been pushing too hard, maybe they did indeed need a time-out, some space to overthink all of this.
"Yeah, we have," she answered instead.
"I will tell him."
"Tell him... I love him, okay?" Emma asked of Regina.
"I'm sure he knows that... but I will."
"Good," and then there was another prolonged silence but neither woman was disconnecting the line.
"I meant to ask," Emma said after a while. "how did your conversation with Belle go?"
"It was... difficult. She's quite broken," Regina said slowly, thoughfully. "I asked her about the library and she didn't... seem to respond at all. I was surprised she even let me in, to be honest. And then she asked me... she asked about Daniel..."
"That... that must have been hard," Emma said.
"I thought so, too, at first but... I guess she needed to hear that it gets... better. It was easier to talk about him than it's ever been," the mayor said but she sounded a little sad.
"Are you still missing him?" Emma found herself asking and closed her eyes unsure of whether she wanted to have an answer.
"I will always miss him, Emma. But..." she stopped. "He would want me to be happy," she said after a longer pause.
Emma contemplated this but felt unable to respond. What was she supposed to say? That she wanted for Regina to be happy, too? That she wanted to make her happy? She didn't quite feel that happiness was in their cards right now, she felt that whether they were together or not, it wouldn't make them entirely happy. There were too many obstacles... it wasn't wise at all to even want to be together, much less even considering it.
"Do you think that it helped Belle?" she finally asked.
"I'm not sure. I want to think there was some life in her eyes by the time I left but... maybe that was just me wanting it to be there."
"Well, I hope you got through to her. Ruby was pretty hopeless when we last talked about Belle. She wants us to... find a way to cross realms so that Belle would be able to... travel, have some adventures. She wants her to get out of here so that she wouldn't be reminded of Gold everywhere," Emma told Regina.
"Does that mean that Miss Lucas wants me to help? That she wants me to have access to Rumple's shop?"
"Yes, that's what it means. She'd do anything to help Belle," the blonde said.
"I see," Regina said after a short moment.
"Do you?" Emma asked.
"She loves her, doesn't she? Like a friend AND a lover," Regina surmised but only silence was her answer. "I'm not surprised and I'd wish for Belle's sake that... she could be able to... receive that love."
"It will take her a long time to... get over Gold."
"If she ever does, but then...," but Regina stopped herself once again.
"I'm... not sure she'll have to."
Regina couldn't see it but she suspected that Emma was frowning right now and she was right. The sheriff looked at her phone questioningly.
"What are you taking about?"
"You can't repeat this to anyone, it's... just a hunch I have but... I think it's possible that... Rumple and Pan aren't dead," she finally said.
"What! How do you... why..."
"I told you, it's just a hunch but... think about it: they're such powerful men, their magic... endured for hundreds of years. I can't imagine it or them just dying. It doesn't make sense to me," Regina argued.
"But the dagger," Emma gave back.
"I know. It was supposed to kill the Dark One but... as far as I know, no Dark One ever attempted to kill themselves, not to mention another powerful... magical creature at the same time. It could have failed, there were no bodies."
"You didn't tell Belle that, did you?"
"No, of course not. It would be cruel to make her hope... I should know," Regina said.
"Have you... done anything to... confirm your suspicion?" Emma then asked.
"I'm not sure how to do that. There might be something in the shop that could... help but I'm not even sure about that."
"Would you want to... look for him, Gold, if you could?"
"That's a good question and I'm not sure. He's Henry's grandfather... Belle is lost without him. I might do it for them... but I wouldn't want them to know. On the other hand, Rumple might be even better equipped to help everyone get home. He was, after all, the one who created the curse that brought us here."
Emma contemplated this and then she noticed something else: they were talking. Just talking. It felt so natural to be doing this, even at this hour and with her lying in her underwear on her bed, and them both being frustrated with their own situation. And yet they were still able to talk. Emma smiled at this realization, she thought it was a good sign.
"He might be able to help, but what about Pan? Would we be bringing him back, too?"
"We? I thought this was something I was maybe able to do."
"Don't you want help?" Emma asked.
"I might need it... but there's still the possibility that we might fail... or that I'm wrong. Maybe they are dead," she contemplated.
"I have an inkling we're going to find out... together."
"Yes, we probably will," Regina said once again thoughtful.
They were quiet for another while listening to the other woman breathe, to the rustling of sheets, to whatever sounds they were making or not making. And they felt comfortable. But Emma also detected a sense of... longing and loneliness in herself she'd never known, not even in those first weeks after she'd gone to jail or after she'd given up Henry. Maybe it was different because she had thought that she wouldn't see either Neil or Henry again but she knew she would see Regina... she would see her and not be able to... be with her. The realization seemed to rip her heart right out of her chest and she barely kept from moaning at the sudden sensation. She closed her eyes tightly and clamped her mouth shut but her breath now came rapidly through her nose.
"Emma? Are you alright?" Regina asked.
"I... I miss you already," the blonde managed to utter through welling tears.
For a moment it was quiet on the other end, Emma couldn't even hear Regina breathing and she thought she'd hung up on her. But then the slightly raspy voice came back to her:
"I miss you, too. I wish... there was a way to solve this without... hurting each other or ourselves, I do. But... you're the savior and I'm the evil queen. We're not meant to be."
"And yet it hurts to not be together. How is that possible?"
"I don't know, Emma. I wish I did... I wish...," but then she didn't and maybe it was better this way because all magic came at a price. Wishing might make it so but who knew what they would have to pay for a wish that would change their world?
"I'll see you at the council meeting on Friday," Regina said next and after another long pause.
"Yeah, I'll see you there. Don't forget to tell Henry..."
"I'll do it right now," Regina assured her and then disconnected the line.
Emma lay the hand with her telephone between her breasts, for a moment just breathing. The pain in her chest seemed to dull to a throbbing ache. She felt empty and yet full of feelings and emotions and pain. And she couldn't help knowing that this was not how it was supposed to be. But was there even such a things as fate? Did it create her for Regina and Regina for her? Or was this all coincidence, were their feelings just picked out of thin air and did they just need to stop... feeling!
Emma wished she knew how this was supposed to work. Love... possibly even true love... or lust... no, not just lust. It was love - seemingly unwanted... but not unrequited because she was sure that Regina felt it, too.
Before Emma went to bed that night, she went down to the living room and retrieved a photo from the mantle. It was the photo Regina had given her as house-warming gift, the one of Regina and Henry. She placed it on her nightstand and she looked at it until she fell asleep.

When Regina left city hall on Thursday evening, she took a moment to breathe. It was a lusty night, the smell of spring was all around her but there was something more than that. Breathing had become incredibly important these last few days. Deep, even breaths to calm her heart. Because it was hurting, and then it was burning and she needed to cool it, beating wildly and she needed to calm it. Deep, even breaths helped - for a moment.
Regina walked to her car and didn't even see the plastic bag hanging from the side mirror at the driver's door until she had pulled out her key. She looked around herself, seeing if anyone was watching her.
Who would...? But she knew who would leave her something by her car. Someone who hadn't come near her for the last 48 hours.
Regina pulled the bag from her mirror and got inside the car before she opened it. It took considerable patience to even wait that long but she had to be alone, she knew. There was a note inside, and an ipod.
'A while ago, I came by the mansion and saw you through the window. You were listening to music and you seemed so wrapped up and content. There are some songs on the ipod I thought you might like. You probably think me sentimental, and some of the songs are. Others are danceable. But mostly, they are song that make me think of you.'
The note wasn't adressed and it wasn't signed but it didn't need to be. There was only one person in this town who would care enough, only one person who would watch her through a window - though Regina felt that she should probably talk to Emma about that.
Regina sighed.
They hadn't talked, not even on the phone. They hadn't texted and only seen each other from afar. And it had been so hard. Receiving this, a present, a thoughtful gesture... was sweet. But it was also hard. Regina yearned for Emma, that was a simple truth. She wanted her, she felt she needed her. And by now, she was almost sure that she loved her.
'Almost,' she thought as she unravelled the headphones of the music player and put the buds into her ears. She smiled a comical smile. She knew better than to lie to herself. And as the first chords of her favorite song filled her ears, she sat back in her seat and just listened.
She listened for almost an hour before she finally started her car. She listened to songs that were romantic, and heartbreaking, and sentimental, maybe, and some were indeed danceable. But all were from Emma to her, and they had been chosen with care. They told a story of love... and desire. And they filled Regina anew with both for Emma.

Chapter Text

Regina entered the conference room just a couple of minutes before the council meeting was about to start. She had decided to stay at the office since Henry was with Emma on Friday nights (of course, tonight he wouldn't be because Emma would be at the meeting, too) and she had wanted to work but she hadn't. Her thoughts were ajumble, not just since last night but since last night especially. The songs Emma had saved on the ipod for her... some of them just replayed in her mind, lyrics came to her at any hour of the day and some were so fitting to their situation that she could hardly breathe.
And it had been such a sweet idea, at the same time it was an impossibly heart-breaking execution of same idea.
And then there had been the question whether Emma would come early and maybe stop by the office which she hadn't done. It was probably a good thing, Regina had asked her to keep her distance and she was. Only, Regina missed her... and she was nervous when she entered the conference room.
Regina noticed Emma the moment she entered, she was the only one who was already sitting at the table and as she saw her Emma looked up and found her eyes immediately. They smiled at each other and Emma rose. She pulled back the chair next to hers and Regina walked over.
"Sheriff Swan," she greeted the blonde.
"Madam Mayor," Emma gave back and they sat down.
For just a moment they were silently looking at each other then Regina said:
"I wanted to thank you... for the ipod. The songs are... beautiful and... I can't get that second one out of my mind. Let Her Go? It's..."
"I know... I heard it and... I thought of you," Emma said in a low voice. They were already turned toward each other but now they inclined their heads like teenagers who were discussing secrets.
"All those songs...," Regina mused.
"Every single one... and I hadn't even listened to Shakira before but Henry said you liked her."
"I do, she has... energy and her lyrics are... sexy and mature."
Emma nodded. She couldn't keep her eyes off Regina. Sexy and mature, indeed.
"It's a pretty good turnout, isn't it?" They were interrupted in their conversation and thoughts by Tinkerbell. "I didn't know Hook would be here, too."
"Dad thought it was a good idea. I'm not so sure," Emma said.
"Why, I mean... he probably knows more about crossing the realms than anyone else," Tink argued.
"I'm actually more surprised to see... Mr. Cassidy here," Regina noted. "I wasn't aware that he had powers beyond looking at you like a lost puppy."
Emma raised her eyesbrows at Regina's words, surprised but not entirely dissatisfied by the jealous edge in them.
"Well, he's not the only one doing that. I'm not sure if it's the badge or the long wavy hair or whatever... but when the sheriff walks through town... heads are turning," Tink threw in and grinned at Emma.
Regina turned to her then to Emma, raising her own eyebrows now.
"You're exaggerating, Tink," the sheriff told her deputy.
"Right, and Hook is looking at you because he's hoping to discover the secret behind your perfectly plugged eyebrows. Not to mention Bash..."
"Tink, it doesn't matter. It's not like I'm interested," Emma put an edge into her words and the fairy looked at her.
"I'm sorry, but I think you need to face the fact that you're this town's... fairest of them all."
Emma and Regina both looked at Tinkerbell but the fairy only smiled.
"You should probably talk to your mother about that. She may wanna have it out with you," Regina quipped grinning at Emma.
"Well, until that question is solved I'm not gonna accept any more apples from you, my queen," Emma gave back and then blushed furiously. "Did I just call you that?" She asked as David told everyone to take a seat. Her voice was too low now for anyone but Regina to hear and the dark-haired woman merely winked at her in answer.
They turned their attention to David who was waiting for everone to settle down and then spoke.
"Thank you all for coming here tonight. I know this is an unusual setting for some of you but I thought this council might be a good idea to get us started on our search for a way home - wherever home may be," he said. "I'm not looking to undermine the position of the mayor here, this council isn't about the town, it's about our... other selves, some of which want to go back to the Enchanted Forest. And it's about the means, any ideas to get there. I'm talking about the Enchanted Forest but I'm aware that not everyone is from there. But if we can find a way to... cross realms everyone should get to the place they want to go."
David looked around the table and then sat down.
"I've already told you all that Neal has agreed to share whatever magic can be found in his father's shop with us. I understand there are some concerns, however, whether or not... Regina should have access to that magic."
"I don't see why this should just be about Regina," Emma piped up and everybody looked at her. "We're talking about the Dark One's magic. If we're concerned about Regina possibly using that magic, we should be concerned about using that magic at all. As I understand it, Gold was kind of the expert on all things magic, not just in Storybrooke but anywhere... and Regina was his student. If anyone would understand his magic, it would be her."
"I wouldn't say he was the expert. Fairy magic has existed longer than he had been the Dark One," Blue argued indignantly.
"But the Dark One... the original Dark One, that magic precedes you, doesn't it?" Emma gave back and the fairy inclined her head in agreement.
"I don't care whose magic came first, I only know that the people of this town are scared of... the evil queen getting anywhere near that shop of Gold's," Grumpy said.
"She's not the evil queen anymore, she's..."
"Emma," Regina interrupted the sheriff and lay a hand on her arm. Emma looked at Regina. For a moment, a silent conversation seemed to flow between them, then Emma nodded. "I understand everyone's concern, I'm not... sure myself I could handle Rumple's magic and I'm not sure I should. But I promised I'd help. If you want my help, I'll do it. If not... I won't."
"You talk like you don't have any investment in this but I'm not buying it. Like you wouldn't wanna get home," Granny piped up.
"I am home," Regina answered before anyone else could say anything. They were all looking at her.
"You...?" but the question died on Emma's lips and Regina ddn't need to hear it to know what the sheriff was asking.
"I'll be staying," she said to the room in general but really answering Emma.
The room went ominously quiet after this revelation.
"I... I never would have thought that you... would want to stay," Snow finally said.
"It's not like I have a lot to go back to. Now, could we stay focused on the problem here?"
"I don't think we're going to get anywhere without Regina's help. I think she should have full access to Rumple's magic," Ruby said next.
And with that a wild discussion started around the table. Everybody seemed to have a say in the matter, everybody but Emma and Regina, because they weren't saying anything.
"You're really not going back? I mean... my parents want me to go but... I never even thought about it," Emma said as things around the table got heated.
"Well... I would probably go if... you and Henry will... but... I thought you'd stay here. It's about Henry," Regina said as if emphasizing it would make it the whole truth instead of only a part of it.
"Of course," Emma said but she smiled at Regina. The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes at Emma but she couldn't help but answer her smile.
"... would be completely irresponsible. She's the one who brought us here, remember?" Happy was saying.
"With Rumple's curse!" Ruby argued. "If anyone had forgotten."
"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You made it sound like it's my dad's fault. It was his curse but he didn't use it. That was her!" Neal pointed at Regina.
"She has a name, you know, it's Regina. And from what I know about your father, he may have orchestrated this whole thing just to find you... in fact, I'm almost sure of it, okay? So back off!" Emma told Neal.
"But he didn't curse everyone," Neal gave back.
"Because he couldn't make the sacrifice!"
"Okay, everyone... Emma, calm down, okay?" David asked and looked at Emma. She was staring at Neal but then addressed the whole room.
"You said we wouldn't be pointing fingers here, dad. But... we're at the same point where usually all discussion ends. We're all aware that Regina cursed everyone in town... well, with a few exceptions... but she's trying to help now. And I think we should let her. I'm with Ruby. She knows the magic better than anyone else here and I would try to help her... I'm not sure what I can do but I trust her. I trust Regina. Now you all have to decide if you do, too."
The room went quiet again.
"Well, I for one don't trust the queen," Granny said after a long moment of silence.
"Granny...," Ruby said and the two women looked at each other. Ruby had an imploring, almost begging, look in her eyes and several people wondered at it.
"But I trust Emma," Granny added. "If she's with Regina when she's doing the magic then I won't argue having Regina in Gold's shop."
That seemed to be a solution mostly everyone could live with.
"Seems like we're going to spend some time together in the future," Emma said under her breath while everyone debated the kind of access Regina should have to Rumple's magic.
"Doing magic, Emma," Regina reminded her then looked at the blonde with a frown. "Even I'm not sure what my point was just now," she admitted and Emma just barely kept from laughing. She put her hand over her mouth, looking around the table. She caught her mother's eyes. Snow had been mostly quiet and Emma wasn't sure if that was how it usually was at these councils. But she knew that her mother wasn't one to hide her opinion. Snow looked at her, or maybe she was watching her closely and the sheriff sobered. She looked back questioningly at her mother but Snow only smiled, as it seemed to Emma, a little sadly.

The council had gone on for a while longer but it was agreed upon that Regina would help find a way home but that Emma would always be present when she was working in Rumple's shop. Blue had insisted that she should also have access to the magic. Tink had rolled her eyes at this but everyone had agreed that the fairies were trustworthy. Hook had agreed to talk to David about the different ways he knew how to cross realms, and Neal had said he would do the same, even though he admitted that his knowledge was limited.
David had reminded everyone that honesty and talking to each other was key and that nobody should be afraid to offer their opinions. He was going to talk to the people of the town about their dicision to let Regina help find a way home and Emma had urged hiim to do this as quickly as possible. She hadn't missed the opportunity to point out to everyone that Regina was helping them at a risk and she made everyone promise to call her should they hear of anyone threatening the mayor.
The council had dissolved after this. Emma and Regina had been among the first to leave while mostly everyone else had lagged behind to talk. Now there were only two people left in the conference room - Snow and David. David was leaning over his chair while Snow still sat in her seat.
"I don't know what's up with Emma these days. She seems more concerned about Regina's safety than about anything else. She's being irrational," David said.
"You really don't know?" Snow asked. She hadn't talked to him about her suspicion yet. She had felt it was too vague and she hadn't wanted to worry him. But she had watched Emma closely that evening and she had watched Regina, too. They were... it was like they existed in a bubble all their own. She had seen them talking when everyone else was discussing things and, even though she had strained her ears, she hadn't heard a single word of what they had been saying. As if they had used magic to tune everyone out... and they might not even have been aware of it. The way they had looked at each other, smiled, stared... and nobody else seemed to have noticed or cared, not even David.
"What do you mean?" he now asked her and she looked up at him with a frown.
"I think Emma's in love," she said and David looked puzzled.
"In love with whom?"
"You really can't tell?"
He shook his head.
"I think she's in love with Regina," Snow said slowly and with a meningful look into her husband's eyes.
"What? Snow, no... that's... that can't be right," he said but his words seemed to lose conviction at the end. She could see him think about this, remembering things Emma had said, even before this evening. "That's just not right."
Snow reached up and took one of David's hands in her own.
"Why would you... think that?" he asked, his eyes imploring her to take it back and make it untrue.
"I... I saw them in town the other day, they were... talking and... it's like they only see each other, only want to talk to each other. Even tonight with everyone around them... they seemed... engrossed in each other."
"That's all? They talk and you think they're in love?" But David's voice seemed too high for him, his eyes seemed to be searching hers for a different answer.
"It's the way they're looking at each other, David. Emma's... looking at Regina like you look at me, like you looked at me that moment I first thought you might be in love with me... I saw it the other day, I've seen it again today."
David stood up straight, he wanted to pull his hand free from Snow but she held onto it, looking into his eyes.
"Are you okay with this?" he asked in a sharp tone. "You are, aren't you? She's the evil queen, Snow. How can you even...?"
"Charming," she stopped him, squeezing his hand. She stood and stepped beside him, touching his cheek softly. "I know exactly who Regina is and I know who she was. I knew her when she was good and... I see some of that returning. I don't think she can be the girl she once was, the one who saved my life but... I'm not happy about this, either, David. But I don't think there's anything we can do to stop it. I... I think it might be true love," she then said and he looked down at her with such a desperate expression that it pained her to see it.
"It can't be, Snow. She's not capable...," he started saying.
"I think she is."
"And we're supposed to just stand by, Snow? I mean... are we not even going to talk to Emma, see if we can... talk her out of it?"
Snow shook her head.
"True love is the most powerful magic of all, David. I don't think you can just talk it away."
"What if you're wrong? Maybe it's not true love, maybe..."
"It's just love? Or attraction? Lust? It would still have to run it's course," Snow said.
"You don't think... Regina has put a love spell on Emma, do you?" David then asked and seemed to actually perk up at the idea.
Snow flinched, his hopefulness at any explanation than what was right in front of him was heart-breaking.
"No, I don't think so... Emma wouldn't even try to hide it then... and I don't see why Regina would do that, either."
"She might be lonely or... maybe Emma said somethng or did something... I don't know why Regina does things but... I don't know how Emma could... love someone like that. She's evil!" David finally called out and now he pulled away from Snow and started walking the room.
"Emma doesn't think so. You heard her, she trusts Regina," Snow reminded David and sighed.
"I won't except this, Snow. I can't. Regina was the reason Emma was taken from us, the reason we didn't get to see her grow up. She's not gonna... have our daughter!"
Snow merely looked at David with sad eyes. She knew there was no way to talk David out of his convictions, she herself would probably fight this if she knew a way how. Or maybe she wouldn't... the look on Emma's face. She was happy when she was with Regina and so far only one other person had made her so completely happy and that was Henry. But Snow didn't want for Emma to spend her life without the kind of love she herself knew, the love of a lover... but she also didn't want David to suffer, she couldn't stand him to suffer.
"David," she said and he interrupted his pacing. "I'm almost sure they're not... together... yet. I don't know what is going on but... I think Emma would have told us. Maybe it won't happen, maybe..."
"If it's true love, it'll find a way," he argued.
"Exactly, and then there's nothing we can do. But if it's not - and I could be wrong - then... maybe they'll fight it, both of them. Maybe nothing will happen or they'll... discover that they don't fit together," she tried to convince him.
"You don't want to do anything? You just wanna stand by while that... woman steals our daughter from us?"
"No, I just want to see... I want to see if this could make Emma happy, David. I know this is torturing you, it's not easy for me, either, but... what if Regina is the person who can make Emma happy?" Snow implored.
"But she's evil, Snow... she... she isn't capable of love."
"She loves Henry," Snow argued.
David clamped his jaw together and looked at his wife sternly. He shook his head.
"Emma deserves better," he said.
Snow didn't argue this point, she didn't want to argue anymore at all. She knew she wasn't getting anywhere with David, not tonight. They would continue to talk about it, maybe they would involve Emma into the discussion. For now, Snow had to resign to the fact that David couldn't accept a possible love between Emma and Regina and that there might be more hurt and pain in all their futures.

Chapter Text

They had stopped at Regina's office for the maor's coat and were now leaving city hall together. Emma waved at some of her friends who were still standing and talking to each other. Ruby was among them and the sheriff had to endure another wink and wide smile from her friend. But she didn't mind.
They hadn't talked about it, they weren't going to, they were just walking home together.
"Where is Henry tonight?" Regina asked after a short while of silence.
"Sleepover... with the juvenile delinquents," Emma admitted.
Regina sighed.
"In case you hadn't noticed but my whole family was kinda occupied tonight. He would have stayed with Neal if he hadn't been at the meeting," the sheriff defended herself.
"Maybe next time we should just have Henry join the meeting, too. As a spokesperson for the juvenile delinquent citizenry," Regina said teasingly. She smiled at Emma who had to laugh.
"I bet he would like that."
"He would love it," Regina agreed. She pushed her arm through Emma's as they were walking and not even aware that she was doing it. She pressed into Emma in a kind of unselfconscious happiness, as if walking with her, being with her was the most natural thing in the world - until she became aware of it. She wanted to pull back but Emma took hold of her hand that was about to inch out of her arm.
"It's okay," she said as if talking about the weather.
Regina looked at Emma, her profile in the dimly lit night and decided that Emma was right. It was okay.
"I really loved what you did with the music, Emma. I feel like... it's special..."
"I wanted it to be," Emma said.
"I never would have thought you were so old school," Regina admitted with a smile.
Emma looked at her.
"What kind of music did you think I'd like?"
"I don't know... more rock, less soft jazzy tones... not to mention those rhythmic pieces. I didn't even know that Jennifer Lopez recorded songs in Spanish," she answered.
"I like the occasional rock ballad... I guess I'm not as badass as you think I am," Emma gave back.
"I guess I'm just now discovering this side of you... a softer side."
They walked for a while just listening to the noise their steps made on the pavement. They felt... alone in the world but very together. Like this was how it should always be. It had felt that way all evening. Everybody else just fell away when they were talking or looking at each other.
More than once Regina had just barely kept from drowning in Emma's lush green orbs. And she had felt that she wanted to do more, that she wanted to reach out - under the table - and take Emma's hand, though she hadn't. She had thought about it, she had stretched her fingers in Emma's direction but didn't even touch. She knew she was indulgent, she knew she should finally take that necessary step away, put the distance between them, a distance she was always telling Emma to keep. But it was useless. She couldn't keep away. The moment they looked at each other, the moment Emma smiled at her, all distance fell away and they reached out, they talked, they flirted. Or they enjoyed each other's company in silence.
"Do you llike dancing, Regina?"
"Are you asking me... out to dance, Emma?"
"No, I... I wasn't... though I would love to. I just wanted to know if you liked to dance," Emma stumbled over her words but then caught herself. There was no reason to lie or take things back, she had already told Regina how she felt... through the songs. She felt that they could be very honest now.
"I love to dance... there are just so few occasions to do it," Regina admitted.
"There's dancing at The Rabbit Hole every night," Emma said.
"And who would I be dancing with?"
"Preferably with me," the sheriff answered.
"I would like that but..."
"It's impossible?"
"Maybe. I... Emma, I...." Regina stopped walking. In the distance she could see the upper windows of the mansion, the way they reflected the light of the street lamps. She turned to Emma and they looked at each other for a long moment. "You said tonight that you trust me. Is that true?"
"Of course, it is."
"I want to... trust you, too," Regina said. She put her hand up and caressed Emma's cheek, finally reaching, finally touching her. "With all my secrets... one at a time."
Emma's lips formed a soft smile, she took Regina's hand and pressed a kiss into its palm. Once again their eyes simply stared into each other, losing all grip on reality, on surroundings. They were both roused from this by the howl of a wolf. They looked around themselves, slightly spooked.
"Sometimes this town is... so weird," Emma said.
"You don't think it was Miss Lucas, do you?" Regina asked.
"No full moon. That was probably just a wolf... maybe the one who kept me in town that first night."
"Do you believe in coincidences like this?"
"Maybe it wasn't a coincidence at all. Maybe it was fate," Emma said. She held her arm out to Regina and the mayor took it. They walked again in silence.
"Do you wanna start... telling me your secrets tonight?" the blonde asked after a while as they were already passing the hedge surrounding the mansion.
"I don't think there would be any talking happening if I... invited you into the house tonight," Regina answered with a slight smile.
"That sounds like you're contemplating whether to seduce me or send me home," Emma said.
Emma held the gate for Regina before follwing her through. They walked down the short garden path to the front steps of the mansion where Regina turned toward Emma. They stood close and Regina smiled into the warmth, the smell of the other woman.
"I want to have you tonight, Emma. More than... even you can imagine," she admitted, her hand taking hold of Emma's collar.
"I feel a 'but' coming my way," the blonde breathed before her breath was completely taken by Regina pressing her lips to her own.
It wasn't simply a kiss they shared. It was weeks of denial, weeks of pushing and pulling at each other, days spent yearning, hours without sleep but disturbingly vivid imagery of them loving each other. They had dreamed about this moment, they had fantasized and argued it away. They had wanted, needed, missed this opportunity and for once they didn't hold back.
Emma pshed Regina against one of the mansion's pillars, pressing her whole body against the other woman and receiving an encouraging moan in response. Regina's hands lost themselves in the folds of Emma's clothes, trying to get hold of a heated patch of skin. They couldn't breathe, their hearts beat so violently they were sure to wake the whole town with their thunder.
But there was something underneath even their too long withheld passion. It was time, the knowledge that they had it, that they needed it and that tonight wasn't the right one. And so their kisses lost their initial fervor, the heat of it lingered in their bodies as they became aware of their surroundings again.
"There was a 'but' in there somewhere," Regina admitted her breath erratic. "I just can't seem to remember what it was." She laughed lightly and Emma joined her.
"I know what it was," the blonde said.
"I wish you didn't. I wish you would come into the house and... take me," the mayor confessed in a raspy voice that sent erotic shivers down the back of Emma's thighs.
She moaned in frustration.
"You are evil, woman," she told Regina who smiled almost innocently.
"I do want you, Emma."
"And I want you..." There was a 'but' in there somewhere and even though they were unable to name it, they knew it was there. Emma took a small step back from Regina and smiled shyly at her.
"I have missed your passion, Emma," Regina told her and ran a hand down her front as she made her way around the blonde.
"I'm glad I remember yours now," she gave back the reference to their first kiss. "When will you tell me... the first of your secrets?" she then asked.
Regina stood at the door and was about to unlock it.
"You could come by tomorrow," she said.
"Do you want to try that dinner-thing again?" Emma asked with a teasing smile.
"When were you planning on picking up Henry tomorrow?"
"I told him I would call him, we haven't set a time. You know those kids, they'll talk half the night and probably sleep in," Emma said.
"You could come over for breakfast then," Regina invited her and Emma walked slowly over to her. They leaned against the still closed door, looking at each other, feeling the other woman's nearness. Then Emma leaned in and they kissed again with a slowburning lingering heat that just barely held their emotions.
"I'll see you in the morning," Emma said into the kiss before she pulled back.
A whimper was her reward and then she could watch Regina roll her eyes at her own weakness, her desire for the sheriff.
"Make it 8 a.m. sharp," the mayor commanded and Emma nodded.
She pushed back from the door and sauntered away, her hands in her jacket pocket.
"Think of me tonight," she said turning around and walking a few steps backwards. She saw Regina giving her a dirty look.
"I'll think of you so hard, you're going to feel it, savior," she gave back and Emma could already feel it, in her whole body. It was like a fever under her skin and she was tempted to run back to the door, push it open as Regina was now closing it, and... take her... But how clicheed romance novel would that be?

Chapter Text

Emma smiled happily at Regina as the door to the mansion opened.
"It looks like someone is in a good mood today," the mayor commented but couldn't keep her own smile in check.
"Must be like looking into a mirror," Emma gave back and held up a white paper bag. "Bear claw?"
"When I invited you to breakfast, I didn't mean for you to bring your own."
"I needed a treat this morning," Emma said as she walked through the door that Regina held open for her.
"And seeing me isn't treat enough?"
Regina closed the door and turned to an impatiently waiting sheriff. The dark-haired woman nodded encouragingly and Emma closed the distance between them, putting her hand to Regina's cheek, looking at her, no, drinking her in.
"Seeing you... isn't a treat... it's... it takes my breath away. May I kiss you?" she added quickly before she embarrassed herself any more with her ramblings.
"Yes, of course," Regina answered and then their lips were put to better use than talking.
They were sweet kisses they shared, a way of exchanging an extended hello, i missed you, won't you come in and kiss me senseless?
"I... I'm... I don't know what to say," Emma admitted when they parted for breath.
"I know we've been... teasing a lot, banter, flirt... but I want you to know that I'm taking this seriously, Emma. You're not just a flirt for me. We've both been hurt in love and we're both good at..."
"Hiding behind walls?"
Regina nodded.
"I'm not playing around with you. That's why I need to tell you some things," she said looking earnestly at Emma.
"I'm not playing around, either. I... have a hard time opening up. It's gotten better, I guess, but... you're right, we need to talk about some things. And then, maybe, we could kiss some more?" She wasn't joking, she was trying to set the mood to one where Regina could tell her everything. She didn't want this whole thing to turn into a confession with Regina feeling... less than Emma because she had made mistakes.
"Well, I certainly hope so," Regina answered Emma's question and let the blonde lead her into the living room, holding her hand. It was a curious sensation, because it was such a small gesture and yet felt very intimate.
They sat down on a couch facing each other. They were still holding hands and Regina was caressing Emma's with her thumb.
"I've been laying awake for... half the night, wondering where to start, what to tell you. You know who I was and I'm not sure how much your parents have told you... about my evil deeds. I'm not trying to... mock anyone, or belittle what I've done... I don't know if you understand when I say that things were very different in the Enchanted Forest."
"I think I do... understand. Good and evil were the only ways to go, no gray area, a balance of sort. You can tell me everything or anything. I'm not going to judge you," Emma added quickly but Regina shook her head.
"I think most of the things I did back home are too... far away, even for me. I regret them but it feels like I've done them in a different life. I know you would... forgive them, understand them. That's why... I'll have to start here, in Storybrooke. With something... I did to you. I don't want..." Regina frowned. It was obviously hard for her to talk about this.
Emma nodded in encouragement. She had thought about this, too, Regina telling her her secrets. She had thought about what Regina had done to her or her loved ones, her friends, since she had discovered that she had feelings for Regina. At first, these thoughts had been supposed to keep her away from the other woman. But it hadn't worked, she had only wondered at how much Regina must have hurt to do all these things.
"I regret what I've done every day. This one thing... is unforgiveable and yet I hope you'll find it in yourself to forgive me," Regina said and looked earnestly into Emma's trustful green eyes. She was afraid, and Emma oculd see it. "It's about Graham."
Emma felt a slight stab in her chest. She hadn't expected the former sheriff to come up. Somehow, she had put him to rest in her memory as one she could have loved but didn't have time to really know. Having Regina bring him up now unsettled Emma. She looked into caramel-colored eyes, eyes that were sad and regretful and afraid to lose her and she knew... she knew what Regina wanted to tell her and she felt all air leave her body and being replaced by a desperate voice that didn't want to hear anything.
Emma blinked her eyes at Regina as if she had already told her and was refusing to understand. And Regina felt Emma's hand slip out of her own, her body retreat.
"I don't wanna hear it," the blonde said. "I can't." And then she rose from the couch, circled it and fled the living room.
"Emma, please," Regina called out and followed her into the foyer. But she wasn't able to stop the sheriff as she opened the front door and ran outside and away.
Regina looked after her, her hand gripping the doorframe she leaned against. She had known but she had wanted to hope... that her deeds were forgiveable. Apparantly, they were not.

Emma wasn't sure where she was going until she arrived at her destination - Granny's diner. She barged through the door with tears in her eyes, barely able to see beyond her... grief and anger. Her loss.
"Emma?" Ruby approached her cautiously, sensing the anger in her friend.
"I need you to take me somwhere," Emma said.
"Graham's place," Emma told her.
Ruby looked at Emma, she didn't even seem to be the same woman who about half an hour earlier had bought two bear claws, and left with a wide smile and a definate swag to her walk. Ruby had thought, no, she had known by Emma's smell alone that she was in love, that things between her and the mayor were progressing. Obviously they had progressed in the wrong direction.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I... I need to see it," Emma said rubbing angrily at her teary eyes.
Ruby nodded.
"Just let me get my jacket and tell Granny," she said and Emma nodded.
She sat down at the table next to the door, waiting. She noticed the two customers in one of the booths and hid her face behind a hand. She didn't need anyone to see her cry and then tell the rest of Storybrooke about it. She had probably already been seen running from the mansion all the way down here as if the devil was after her. The devil.
She couldn't fathom that Henry had been right, that Regina was somehow responsible for Graham's death. But she hadn't known about Regina what she knew now: that she was capable of taking a heart, of making people do things, of being able to crush it. And yet she had never made the connection, she hadn't known...
Ruby came back into the diner with her jacket. She went to the pass-through to the kitchen.
"Gran, I'll be out for a few hours," she told the older woman who looked back at her.
"Just be back before the lunch crowd stomps in here."
"I'm not sure I'm gonna make the lunch crowd. Emma... the sheriff needs my help. Call Laurie, she's gonna help out," Ruby told her grandmother who looked past her at Emma.
"She okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Probably just allergies," Ruby gave back.
"Right," Granny said with an 'I know better'-look at her relative.
"It's gonna be fine, Gran. I'll be definately back before the dinner crowd, okay?"
"Take care, Ruby," her grandmother told her and she gave her a short smile. Then she crossed the diner. Emma stood and they left together.
"I can't talk about this, Rubes, not now," Emma said but didn't even turn around. Then she seemed to remember something: "Do you have a car?"
"Sure, over there," Ruby pointed at a dark-blue beat up Pick-up.
"You're driving, then."
They crossed the street, Ruby always one step behind Emma who didn't want her to see the hurt... or the confusion, anything she felt. She didn't know that all her feelings came off her in waves and that Ruby's heightened werewolf-senses could read them perfectly.
Ruby didn't know what was going on, what had happened between the secret lovers but it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that it was bad, that Emma was hurting and that Regina was the cause.
Ruby unlocked her truck and got inside. She leaned over and opened the passenger door for her friend.
"Thanks for doing this," Emma said as she slipped inside.
"I told you I would," Ruby gave back and started the truck. "Where's Henry today?" she then asked to start a conversation that could possibly divert Emma's attention from what had happened.
"Damn!" Emma exclaimed. "No, keep on driving. I just have to call... David."
She did and from what Ruby could say from Emma's side of the conversation, she had forgotten to pick Henry up from his sleepover. And David didn't seem too happy with Emma's forgetfulness either from the way Emma tried to defend herself.
"Could you just do this for me, please, dad?" she asked and once again tears filled her eyes. Ruby looked over worriedly, then back at the road because she felt Emma's embarrassment.
Ruby's acute hearing could definately make out the word 'fine' barked into the line from the other end. And then she could see Emma looking at her phone in surprise.
"He hung up on me," she said.
"Have you two been fighting?"
"No, I haven't seen him since the meeting last night."
"Hmmmm," Ruby made.
"Hmmm, what? What do you know?" Emma demanded to know. She seemed frazzled, the weight of whatever had happened between her and Regina already weighing her down. And David's behavior hadn't helped either.
"I don't know anything, not definately. It's just... Regina and you... yesterday at the meeting, you seemed pretty cozy. And I'm sure at least Snow has caught up on it."
"You think... she... what?" Emma said, her eyes looking positively haunted now.
"Emma, please, calm down. I think, Snow knows something. I haven't told her but I saw her looking at you and Regina yesterday... a lot."
"Oh, my God... this... why...?" The sheriff leaned back into her seat, eyes closed.
"I don't think she's too upset about it, though," Ruby added and squeezed Emma's arm for a moment.
Emma rolled her head sideways to look at the brunette.
"How do you know? Have you talked to her about it?"
"No, I haven't. It's just... I have my wolfie-senses to help me with reading people and she didn't seem upset to me."
Emma contemplated Ruby's words for a long moment.
"There's nothing to be upset about anymore... it's all over," she said.

Emma sat on the steps to Graham's hut in the woods. Ruby had brought her here earlier and left her to 'go for a walk.' Emma hadn't been inside yet, she wasn't even sure she wanted to go and look at Graham's things... probably his more personal belongings that hadn't been in his apartment in town. She was trying to wrap her head around the fact that... Regina had killed him... or why? And why hadn't she made the connection earlier?
She wouldn't have fallen for Regina if she had known, she was sure of it. And yet... and yet.
Emma rubbed her chest, breathing hurt. It hurt as much as it had after Graham's death and yet it was different. She hadn't been in love then, but she was in love now. And losing Regina hurt. She didn't want it to, she had come here to think about Graham. But she couldn't stop... seeing Regina's eyes. How they had begged her to forgive her, even though she had never uttered the words. Had they been hopeful that she would, had they lost all hope when she had pulled her hand away?
How could Regina hope she would forgive her? She had killed - killed! - Graham, a good man, a kind man. It didn't make any sense!
And why! Why had she killed him? Had she been jealous? Had she loved him? Had Regina... loved Graham?
Emma closed her eyes and a new wave of tears worked itself lose, rolling down her cheeks.
"Damn you, Regina! Get out of my head...," she demanded as sobs wrecked her body.
Emma wrapped her arms around her legs and put her head on her knees, still crying. She tried to calm down, concentrating on her tears, to let them flow, to breathe somehow normally despite of the hurt in her chest.
When she lifted her head from her knees she felt calmer but that only lasted until she noticed a wolf standing on a fallen tree trunk and watching her.
"Oh, God," she breathed and leaned back into the stair behind her. She made to slowly retreat and get into the cabin but then she heard a familiar voice.
"It's okay, Emma. He only wants to say hello."
There was movement to her right and Emma saw her friend walking into the small clearing around the cottage. The wolf looked lazily from Emma to the other woman, a were-woman. He jumped from his place to the earthy floor and came closer, slowly. Ruby walked just as slowly toward Emma.
"He's been friends with Graham," Ruby said and his ears seemed to perk up at the name. He stopped a few feet from Emma and looked at her.
"I was his friend, too. You.. I've seen you in town and you... did you stand in the street when I wanted to leave that first night?" the sheriff asked and then looked up at Ruby as if she was a translator.
"I can't communicate with him as human. That's not how it works. But I'm pretty sure he's the only real wolf in the state of Maine, so it probably was him," she told Emma.
"Does he understand what I'm saying?"
"Not in the way I do but... on some level he understands that you were close to Graham."
Emma nodded.
The wolf looked at her attentively, then up at the cottage. His eyes seemed to linger but then he simply turned and walked off.
"He's beautiful," Emma pondered as she watched him go. "So... calm and... I don't know."
"Do you see Graham in him?" Ruby asked as she sat down next to Emma.
"Graham in him?"
"Graham... the huntsman, that is, was raised by wolves and I think, since there are no native wolves in Maine, he must have come here from the Enchanted Forest," Ruby explained.
"You mean, I possibly met one of Graham's... parents?"
"Certainly one of his pack, yes," Ruby said.
"I don't know, Ruby... it's... I guess it makes sense when I think about Graham. He seemed like a lone wolf, somehow."
"You know that that's a misnomer, right? Wolves are not loners, they live in families."
"I didn't mean to insult," Emma told her friend and lay a hand on her back.
"I'm not insulted. It's just... I see him out here everytime I'm... changed. He is kind of a loner because he lost his family, Graham was the only one left for him. He seems lonely to me," the brunette said.
"Just another thing Regina is responsible for." It came out venomous but Ruby saw Emma turn her head away to wipe at an errand tear.
"I take it, you had a fight?"
"No, she was just about to... tell me something... of her past. I guessed what it was and... that was all," Emma said and shrugged.
"You didn't give her time to explain?"
"There's nothing to explain, Ruby. It's... I know that you want us to help Belle together and I will do eveything I can... but... not with Regina. I can't," Emma told her friend.
"You think this is all about Belle for me? You're my friend, too, you know. And I've seen how happy you were... I've never seen you that way. And it was because of Regina, because you love her."
"But I can't forgive her, not this," Emma blurted out.
"What did she do?"
"She killed Graham, that's what she did. She took his heart... that's why he... couldn't feel anything. And she crushed it... because... I don't know why. But she killed him." Renewed tears made it impossible for Emma to say more. She saw Ruby frown, then look into the wood.
"I take it you didn't know? I mean... you've known for some time..."
"I didn't think about it. If I had...." Emma shook her head. It was so fruitless to think about this, to talk about it. She had been a fool, that was the bottom line. And she couldn't safe Graham from Regina because she didn't believe him... or Henry.
"Are you sure about this?"
"About what? That she killed him, yes..."
"No, that you didn't know? Deep inside, I mean. You were aware of many bad things Regina has done, including trying to kill your parents multiple times over, framing Snow for murder on Kathryn, you knew these things and yet... you fell for her. Didn't you even suspect that Regina might have been involved?"
Emma looked at Ruby with a frown.
"What are you saying? That I knew and didn't care?"
"I know you cared for Graham, Emma. But you love Regina and I think that before today... a part of you must have already forgiven her for what she did. All of it."
"If I had why... why can't I forgive this now?" Emma argued.
"Maybe you're scared," was Ruby's answer.
Emma frowned and looked away from Ruby.
Why did everone always assume that she was afraid of love? Was that the town's go-to analysis of her psychological status: afraid of relationships, intimacy issues, demaged?
Just this morning, she had heard Regina tell her that it was serious, that she wasn't playing around. And she hadn't panicked, she had felt happy and loved. This wasn't about her walls, this was about... Graham. The fact that he had been good and was now dead because of it. Henry had been right... and yet, even Henry had forgiven his mom.

Chapter Text

They were on their way back to town. Emma was staring out the window of Ruby's truck. She hadn't been able to bring herself to enter Graham's cottage, ti seemed too personal, somehow invasive.
"You know, maybe you should get away for a couple of days. You could go back to the hut. Henry's with... Regina, right?"
"Yeah, I asked David to take him. He's probably already there."
"Then take a few days off," Ruby suggested but Emma shook her head.
"I'm a city child, Ruby. Do you know what I did as a kid when I wanted to be alone? I went to a mall and just walked through the stores, looked at things, sometimes I took something... nothing big and I was never caught."
"That sounds awful," Ruby said with a shiver and Emma smiled - for just a moment. "We lived pretty much in the woods. There was a village nearby but... well, we kept to ourselves, of course. But whenever I wanted to escape there were the woods, a tree to climb or a fallen log, a small cave to crawl into among the roots of a giant tree."
"Sounds awful," Emma gave back and Ruby gave her a big smile.
"It was heaven," the waitress said. "And these woods... they are very much like the ones at home. It's like they came with the curse," Ruby pondered.
A vibration interrupted the following silence and Emma went through her pockets to find her phone. It wasn't there. Ruby reached between their seats and pulled it free.
"Must have lost it," she said.
"I didn't even have it on me at the cabin," Emma murmured and checked it. "Three phone calls from... Henry. And a message."
"It probably just came to life again. There's no connection so far in the woods," Ruby said while Emma read the text her son had send her.
'Mom's been crying. Did you two have a fight? Where are you?'
Emma started typing a response.
'I'm out of town for a few hours - sheriff's business. Yes, we' but she didn't know what to tell him about what had happened between Regina and her. Should she tell him that his mother killed Graham? It wasn't like he hadn't known and yet... it seemed too cruel. He was still a boy, he still needed to be protected. But she didn't want to lie to him. So instead she simply deleted the message completely and didn't tell him anything. She knew she would have to talk to him at some point... about why she wasn't even friends with Regina anymore... but she couldn't just now.
"Hey?" Ruby roused her from her thoughts.
"I thought if you didn't want to spend time at the hut you could... leave Storybrooke for a couple of days. Go to... Boston or New York. As far as I remember you didn't have a decent vacation since you started working as sheriff."
Emma looked at Ruby for a long moment.
"I can't just up and leave right now, Rubes. I can't leave Henry... I don't know, it would feel like running away. And I'm so done running," she explained.
Ruby nodded.
Emma lay a hand on her friend's shoulder.
"Thank you, though. You know... you were so great these past weeks. I could always talk to you, and you were there to give me advice. You're a great friend, Ruby."
"So are you... and your mom. I couldn't have lived, literally, without her. You two are very much alike and I... I kinda feel like your godmother... I may have been your godmother, under different circumstances," Ruby said and smiled at Emma.
"That's one of those Storybrooke paradoxes, isn't it? I mean... you're younger than I am."
"Only in years, Emma," Ruby gave back with a wicked grin and they both laughed.
"I wish I could... help you, you know. With Belle."
"I know and I'm far from giving up hope, especially... I think she's getting better. And I think I have Regina to thank for it," the brunette said with a sidelong glance at Emma.
"You know that she talked to her?" Emma asked without pretending that she didn't know about any of this.
"Yeah, Belle told me. And I know you were keeping me busy at the diner that day, didn't you?"
"Regina thought you wouldn't like if she talked to Belle and I didn't have anything else to do so...," Emma said with a frown.
"So you conspired against me?"
"No, I.. I just thought...," Emma tried to explain but Ruby grabbed her hand and squeezed it before she returned it to the steering wheel.
"It's okay... because it helped. Belle was down in the library while we had our council meeting yesterday. I found her there among her books when I dropped by afterwards. She told me that she had talked to Regina... about Rumple and... Regina's lover, I don't know his name..."
"Daniel," Emma provided after a short pause.
"Yes, Daniel. She also told me... that she thought Regina was in love."
"What?" For a moment, all color drained from Emma's face but then she realized that Ruby was talking about her, she was the one Regina was - supposedly - in love with.
"Did Regina tell her?"
"No, but apparently Regina got a text while they were talking and Belle said that... her face simply lit up. Belle asked her if it was from Henry and Regina said that it was from you."
"Oh," Emma said.
"Yeah," Ruby agreed. "It seems it's gotten to the point where it's become pretty obvious," she continued carefully.
"Well, it should be obvious pretty soon that... that nothing's going on anymore," Emma gave back with a set jaw, her eyes straying out the window again.
"Do you really want it to be over?"
"Want it? No, but... how can I be with her, Ruby? She killed... a friend, a... someone I might have fallen in love back then. He was... a great guy, and she just... I think she was jealous, and how ironic is that? She thought I was taking him away from her and now... but it's over."
Ruby watched Emma rub at her face, wiping away tears that had started falling again.
"I liked him, too, you know. We weren't really friends which is... also ironic, I guess, considering that we were both wolves in a way... I guess I'm more used to thinking bad of Regina than you are. Most of us are and I guess, after we got our memories back... we went back to thinking the worst of her."
Emma nodded, she could understand this so much better now. But Ruby wasn't finished talking:
"But, you know, yesterday when I came back to the library... Belle sat among some books and she... looked content, not happy but content. And you know what she said? That seeing Regina... smile when she received your text, it gave her hope that... things would be better, that she could remember Rumple at some point and not be in pain. Regina gave her this and she may also be the person who could help us get away from here. I hope you don't think I'm disloyal... to you or Graham but... I'm thankful to Regina. And the next time she's at the diner I will serve her a generous slice of cherry pie with cream because I know she likes it."
She looked over at Emma for a moment then back at the road. They drove in silence for a while.
"I don't think you're disloyal, Ruby. And I'm glad, Belle is doing better."
Ruby nodded.
"She's not all bad, you know that," she argued for Regina.
Emma didn't answer, she just kept staring out the window for the remainder of their drive back into town.

The following days were hard for Emma. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard dressing for work and actually going. It was hard to not see Henry because he refused any attempts she made. She had finally sent him a message that she'd been out of town on sheriff's business that evening, that had been all. He had asked again if his moms had been fighting and she simply said, yes, and that she didn't want to talk about it. He had tried again but she hadn't even answered that text, and she felt bad about it but... it was just another hard thing to do.
And then there was David. He didn't speak to her, either, and Emma wasn't even sure why. He was just dodging her calls and when she asked her mom about what was going on, Snow said that David was wrapped up in his mission to get everyone home.
Emma knew that her father's reaction could have something to do with what Ruby had said was 'obvious,' that something had been going on between her and Regina. But she found herself unable to talk about it to anyone but the waitress. She couldn't just go to her parents and say, yes, I had feelings for her but not anymore. She couldn't get either confession across her lips in front of her parents.
She couldn't even admit to herself that she was thinking about Regina. A lot. Not just about what she had done to Graham and how betrayed she felt about it... but she thought about her smile when she had opened the door Saturday morning. She thought about how she had wanted to kiss her right then but had waited - impatiently - for permission to do it. It had been so frail... and then it was gone, or destroyed... or maybe she had just pushed it away. This love.

Regina wasn't feeling any better than Emma but she had Henry to think about. She didn't want him to see her cry, even though she knew he could see the residue of it each morning. And he had asked her about it that first day. And he had asked if she and Emma had been fighting. Regina hadn't admitted to it, she had just said that it was a misunderstanding, that it would be okay. But she didn't think it would be and he had probably seen it, too. And now he was avoiding her as much as he could.
She had lied to him again and she felt bad about it. She knew that it hadn't even been about protecting him, it had been about protecting herself. But she felt unable to talk about Emma, even though she was constantly on her mind. The look in her eyes when she had understood what Regina hadn't been able to say. There was so much hurt, so much pain. And maybe, Regina thought, she had taken something from Emma back then that... her love was no substitute for. Maybe Emma had loved Graham more than she could ever love her.
If that was the case, it was probably best that it all ended now. That at least was what Regina told herself. But she still lay awake each night, crying bitter tears about what she had destroyed. That was how far honesty got you, for her... and yet, she had known that she couldn't be with Emma if she wasnt't honest. Looking at it this way, the end was inevitable. And maybe it was really better that it ended now... as long as nobody knew, as long as Henry didn't know what had been going on... what had almost happened.

Tuesday evening, Emma sat in the living room and waited for Henry to come home. It was already late, past the usual time he would come home but she hadn't heard from him or Regina that he would stay at the mansion longer. So she waited. And finally she heard a key in the front door and rose from the couch. She stood in the doorway to the living room when he entered.
"Hey, kid," she greeted him but he only looked at her angrily. He let his backpack fall to the floor and slipped out of his jacket. "Can we talk about this?"
"You didn't wanna talk about it before. Why would you now? You don't have to explain yourself to a silly child who doesn't understand anything! That's what you're thinking, isn't it!" he accused her, yelling at her, angry tears already running down his face. She could see that he had probably held all these emotions in as long as he'd been with Regina but now they broke free - because they could. "But I understand more than you think! I know that you love her!"
Emma took a momentary step back. She felt like she'd been hit. Henry stood and stared at her for a moment, waiting for an answer but Emma was too stunned.
"I know you love her," he repeated and started for the stairs, only wanting to run to his room.
"Henry, wait... I... please," Emma asked him and he turned. She came over to him and put her arms around his shoulders. She hugged him tightly. "I'm sorry," she said.
"What happened?"
"I... let's sit down," Emma directed them to sit down on the stairs. She still had an arm around his shoulders when she said:
"Your mom... no... both of us, we thought that... we were having feelings for each other."
"You thought that?" Henry asked.
"Well, we felt it, I guess... but... we were wrong. We're too different," Emma tried to explain.
"What have you been fighting about, ma?"
"Henry, please," Emma almost begged.
"Tell me. I have a right to know," he insisted and she smiled at his choice of words but then sobered again.
Did he have a right to know? He was their son, their relationship - whether it was good or bad, whether they were fighting each other or trying to be friends - affected him. She had made that clear when she first told him that she wanted to be friends with Regina. But now it seemed too personal to share what had happened with him. And she didn't want to ruin his own relationship with either of them.
"It's got to do with Regina's past... she told me something and..." Emma shook her head.
"What did she do?" Henry asked and now he sounded wary of the answer.
"It's not important," Emma tried but he shook his head.
"It obviously is to you," he argued.
"I don't want... Henry, it's bad."
"Most of the things mom did were. I know that, I've known for a long time. But she has changed. Doesn't she regret what she's done?"
"She does," Emma answered.
"You said you wanted to talk but you don't want to talk. You just want for me to shut up and let you... get away with... not being together. But you're in love. You love her," his tears were coming in earnest now and hers were falling, too. "I think it is true love. And you can't fight true love!" he yelled again. He shook off her arm and ran up the stairs, slamming his door behind him as he entered his room.
True love? Emma thought. Why would he think that?
But then, how could he not think it? His grandparents were exhibit a, weren't they? It was the predictable ending to every romance in his book, it was the culmination of everything anybody ever wanted. And, of course, he wanted his two mothers to have it - possibly even with each other.
But it wasn't true. It couldn't be true. Emma wasn't even sure it existed... apart from her parents. And who knew, maybe it even got lost when the curse took effect and it just wasn't possible in Storybrooke. After all, there had been a line of guys she could have fallen in love with... Graham, August, Neal, Hook... but she just didn't feel for them the way... she felt for Regina.
But that didn't mean... anything anymore. She couldn't love a woman like that... she shouldn't love a woman like that.
Emma put her head to her knees like she had done sitting in front of Graham's cabin and she tried to suppress those feelings. They weren't real, they weren't true. She couldn't go on having them and not... have that love.
"Damn you, Regina, damn you," she whispered as she got up from the stairs and went back to the living room, engulfing herself in a blanket on the couch in front of a blazing fire.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Henry informed Emma that he would go camping with Daivid. That was all he said before he started packing his backpack.
"You should tell your mom where you're going," she told him as she watched him from the doorway to his room.
"Why don't you do it?" he gave back angrily.
"Henry, I know you're hurt. You... want a family, two parents who live in the same house and... love each other. I get that, you know that I do. But it's not that easy sometimes."
"You said you were gonna be her friend. You knew she's done horrible things but you said you wanted to get to know her. And then you did and now you love her," Henry argued.
"I don't..."
"Don't lie to me!" Henry yelled at her as he picked up his backpack. He stormed by her and down the stairs.
"Henry, please, let's talk about this."
But he didn't stop until he was at the door and pulling his jacket from the wardrobe. Emma came down the stairs and he looked back at her.
"You have to fix this," he told her then he opened the door and was gone. Emma ran to the door but all she could see were the taillights of David's truck as it pulled out of her drive.

Regina sat at the bar at The Rabbit Hole nursing a drink. She wasn't much of a drinker, even though she liked some strong spirits and the proprietor of the local bar had become a sort of expert on procuring her favorite brand of scotch. She could, of course, have taken a bottle home with her but she already knew that if she drank at home and alone, she would start crying again - and she was done crying. So she tried something else and stayed at the bar but mostly stared at the drink in front of her.
Nobody was talking to her and that wasn't surprising. The clientel who visited The Rabbit Hole weren't usually the ones Regina interacted with. Few knew her beyond the fact that she was the evil queen who had them all stranded here, and nobody wanted anything to do with her.
But there were always exceptions to the rule and one of those sat down next to her.
"What a sight for sore eyes, the evil queen has left her tower to join the peasants. And in something other than her boring business suits, too," Killian noted with an appraising look at the sleek burgundy dress Regina was wearing.
Regina turned in her seat and squinted her eyes at the man.
He smiled what she presumed he thought of a disarming smile. It wasn't, she merely changed her look from sqinting to lifting an eyebrow at him.
"I'm sorry, luv, I think I've been out of the loop as far as niceties in Storybrooke are concerned. Should I be calling you Madam Mayor?"
"Call me uninterested and find yourself a barmaid instead," Regina suggested.
"Now, now. You know there's really only one dame in town who holds my interest. But I guess I'm out of luck there. She's in the business of saving people and I'm not really the lad to join that particular branch of fun."
"Have you ever tried it, Hook? Maybe it could be good for you. I hear it builds character," Regina gave back sarcastically and he grinned.
"That's not who I am. And that's not who you are, either. What is going on with the evil queen these days, Regina? Has she lost her bite?"
"She's lost something... but not her bite, I assure you."
"Hmmm... drinking alone... and on a Sunday, too. In a dress that could only be called an invitation. I'd say the lady's lonely," Hook mused.
Regina took a sip of her drink, it burned away the sting of tears.
"I'm not my mother, pirate. I don't have the taste for bad boys so you better remove your hand or I'll do it for you," Regina warned and Hook lifted his hand off her thigh with a grin.
"Too bad, really," he said. He turned to the room and watched the other patrons for awhile.
Regina emptied her drink and wondered if she should leave. She really had no interest in spending any more time with Hook and his conviction that he was irresistible. Of course, he could be a distraction... what was she even thinking? There was only one person she wanted and it was most certainly not Hook. But maybe... Regina smiled.
"I was wondering," she said and Killian turned to her. "What is your interest in all of this, David's newest save-the-world mission? Is it just to get out of here?"
"Well, I know the town is kind of your pet project but... it's not exactly the place I want to spend the rest of my days."
"Unless you could spend it with a certain blonde?" Regina asked.
"I know people think that where you are doesn't matter, if you're there with the person you love, I mean, Snow would have stayed with David in Neverland if they hadn't found a way off the island but... I'd rather leave here alone than not being able to leave here at all."
"That's why you offered your help," Regina pondered.
"It's not like I've grown all soft all of a sudden," he said with a smirk. "I'm taking care of myself, thank you very much. You said you haven't lost your bite but... at the council meeting you and the savior seemed pretty tight. What's your agenda with this whole rescue-mission? Do you just want them all out of your hair?"
Regina smiled.
"My agenda is... my business, Hook. I'm not in the habit of sharing."
"Too bad, really, for as they say, like mother, like daughter. But...," he lifted a hand to stop her from interrupting. "I don't have a problem with seperating business from pleasure. And I do think we could help each other on the business-end. You're gonna have access to Rumple's shop and I think I might know of a thing that the crocodile might have had..."
"We should definately talk about that, dear. Why don't you order us another drink while I go to the ladies room." Regina smiled at Hook in a way she was so accustomed to it had been second nature. Only now it felt wrong and meaningless. It seemed 'evil' had lost its appeal...

Snow had called Emma earlier that day to see if she wanted to spend some time with her. Emma had been evasive and told her mother that she was behind with her reports - which was true, she hadn't been in much of a mood to do paperwork the past week - but Snow had suggested that she should just bring them and work on them at her place since she had some papers to grade, too. They could watch a movie afterwards or just talk.
Just talk. Emma had had an inkling of what that mean if Ruby was right about her suspicions. But she had thought that maybe it was a good time to come clean with her mother, to tell her what she'd felt and what she wasn't feeling anymore, that things between her and Regina were over.
Emma had agreed to come over that evening and they were now sitting at Snow kitchen table and worked - or in Emma's case, pretended to work. She was looking at her mother through her bangs, expecting some kind of sudden attack from behind those papers she was grading.
But that wasn't the only thing that kept her from concentrating on her work. Whenever she thought of what she would say to Snow, explain that she didn't have any more feelings for the mayor, her throat closed and she felt tears sting her eyes. It felt like lying, even though she hadn't said a single word. She could think of telling her mother that she had had feelings for Regina, she could think of explaining where those feelings had come from but she felt breathless and heart-achy when she thought of explaining them away. Because they were not away, they were still there - even though they shouldn't be.
Emma sighed for the umteenth time that evening and Snow looked up at her.
"Is everthing all right, Emma? You keep sighing," she told her daughter.
"Really? I'm sorry, I... haven't even noticed," she said truthfully.
"It's okay. I just wish... if there's something that's bothering you, or something you just want to talk about, I wish you would."
Emma looked at Snow for a searching moment.
"Why is dad angry with me?" she then asked and it seemed neither of them had expected that particular question to come out.
"He's no...," but Snow stopped her automatic answer and made a face. "He thinks that you're keeping something from us. We both think that but he's... having a more difficult time with what it might be," she finally answered diplomatically.
Emma looked down at her report and wished she hadn't asked the question. Now it would all have to come out.
"You can talk to me, Emma. I'm your mother and... no matter, what you're gonna tell me, I'll still love you."
Emma nodded at Snow's reassurance but wasn't at all sure that it would still be true after they'd had this conversation. She tried to find reassurance in what Ruby had told her, that her mother didn't seem too upset seeing Emma and Regina... but it hurt too much to think about what she'd almost had with Regina. Emma pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes to keep from crying - again.
"Something has happened," she then heard herself say, slowly, hesitantly. "I don't even know... I... don't think you will like it but it just..." And then she was interrupted by her phone vibrating on the table. They both looked at it and Emma read the name on the display, she paled.
"Is it her?" Snow asked and Emma looked up. She felt like all breath was pulled from her lungs with the realisation that Snow did know, that she knew... everything... which was quite impossible, of course, but Emma still believed it at that moment.
"You don't have to answer it," Snow said seeing her daughter lose all color.
But the vibration continued and Emma finally reached out and picked up her phone. She rose from her seat and turned away from the inquiring eyes of her mother.
"What is it?" she answered the call and was putting her other hand to her ear when she heard the background noise of wherever Regina was.
"And a good evening to you, too, savior," Regina's voice came a little slurred over the line. She sounded cheerful.
"Is there something you need, Madam Mayor? Because this is really not a good time," Emma said in a formal tone.
"Something I need?" Regina asked sexily as the background noise seemed to be muffled by a closing door. "Yes, there something I need. I need a lift home and I think you owe me one."
"Where are you?"
"At The Rabbit Hole.. with a certain devilishly handsome pirate who's set on forgetting a cerain blond sheriff... if only for one night," Regina informed Emma, her voice sounded cruelly gleeful.
Emma ground her teeth together, trying to drown out the stab of jealousy to her gut at the words.
"I'll give you half an hour to save my reputation, Sheriff Swan, then I'll take Hook home," Regina told her plainly and then hung up.
Emma leaned heavily agsinst a beam, her innards feeling like liquid fire. She couldn't believe Regina would do this to her. Sleeping with Hook just to... get back at her? But she was obviously drunk and Emma wasn't gonna let her do this to herself, either.
"Emma?" Snow asked. "Is everything all right?"
"No, I have to... get Regina. She's drunk and... I owe her a ride home," Emma said unwillingly.
"You don't have to do that, you know? She's an adult and I'm pretty sure she could find someone else..."
"Yeah, that someone else would be Killian... and I bet he'd love that particular ride," Emma gave back sharply and Snow seemed taken aback. "I'm sorry. I have to go. We'll continue this... another time," Emma said and pulled her jacket from the wardrobe. Then she left her mother's apartment for The Rabbit Hole.

Emma entered The Rabbit Hole to the usual noise of this place, the juke box playing, billard balls clinking, and, of course, a lot of conversations going on at the same time. The sheriff scanned the room and found Regina easily, she was sitting at the end of the bar, her arm leaning conspiratorally over Killian's shoulder as they talked to each other in a familiar fashion.
Emma set her jaw and walked over, coming to stand behind the mayor.
"Regina," she said, though she was sure the other woman already knew that she was there.
Regina turned her head toward her, smiling.
"It's the sheriff," she said to Hook and he turned also. Nether of them seemed inclined to break their intimate chat, they were obviously comfortable with each other even if it seemed a little forced, showy to Emma.
"Can we go now?"
"If you need to be somewhere else, sheriff, don't let me keep you," Regina said but then seemed to think better of it. She turned in her chair and Emma became very aware of the dress she was wearing as Regina laboriously tried to keep her legs mostly covered. Her false modesty had the desired effect, Emma stared at her and they both experienced a moment of rekindled desire and acknowledged it by staring into each other's eyes.
"I'm here to drive you home," Emma said around the lump in her throat.
Now Killian turned, too, and smiled easily at Emma.
"Why, Emma, really. Busting in on this private party like that. It may seem like you're jealous," he said looking at her curiously.
"I don't care how it looks, I'm taking her home," Emma answered but Killian slipped from his stool. He stood before her.
"A word with you," he asked with that devilish grin of his.
Emma looked at Regina who also stood now.
"You go ahead," she told Emma. "I'm gonna be... oh, I love that song. I think I'm gonna dance," she said and then half dance, half walked to the dance floor.
Emma's eyes lingered on her sexily moving form. She was enchanted, even though she was incredibly angry at the woman. The mixture made for an intriguing turn-on and for a flash of a second she saw herself taking Regina against a wall at the mansion in an angry passion.
She blushed at the thought and turned to Killian.
"What do you want?" she asked him through clenched teeth.
"Well, for once I want you not to - as they say in this realm - cock-block me. You know it's really sweet that you're storming in here all jealous but if you're not interested in procuring... my services for yourself, there's an interested party over there who..."
"Who called me to pick her up and get her home," Emma interrupted.
"She called you?"
"Yes, and seeing that she is a little too drunk to think straight, I think I better go with her wishes and take her home."
Hook looked thoughtfully from Emma to Regina.
"Hmmm, that's curious," he said. "You know I'm pretty sure she didn't have more than two drinks but... has it occured to you that maybe she called you to have you join our private party?" He grinned but Emma just looked at him with a stony expression.
"No, it hasn't and it won't happen."
"Too bad, I find the idea alone quite... inspiring," he told her smirking.
"I don't," she answered truthfully. "If you'll excuse me. I'm gonna get Regina home now."
Emma turned toward the dance floor where Regina still moved to the music in a unself-conscious circle of sexy moves. Emma breathed deeply and walked over.
Regina saw her coming and smiled at her. She made come hither motions with her hands. Emma tried to grab one of those hands but instead her own hand was taken, pulled at and finally held by a strong hand behind her own back. Regina's other hand rested on her hip, her body moved against Emma's in a slight sway.
"You said you wanted to dance with me," Regina whispered, her breath caressing Emma's face.
For a moment they remained like this, breathing into their nearness, relishing the contact, forgetting where they were, who they were. Then Emma closed her eyes and a moment later she stepped away and around. And she pulled Regina after her by her hand, that she was now holding.
"I'm driving you home," she said determindly.
"Wait, wait, I need my jacket and purse," Regina argued pulling at the hand that had hers in a tight grip. Emma gave in and they went back to Regina's seat. She picked up her things and Emma helped her slip into her leather jacket.
"I didn't know you had one of those," she found herself saying.
"We arrived here during the 80s, dear, everyone has one of those," Regina gave back smiling but it vanished when she saw Emma shake her head impatiently.
"Can we go now?"
"Yes," Regina answered and they left the bar.

Chapter Text

They drove in silence with Emma staring intently at the street ahead of them and Regina looking at Emma's stony face. The sheriff tried to ignore Regina but she felt her insides melt and at the same time her anger and impatience increased. She didn't need this, she didn't want this and she feared that it would always be like this from now on. That she would be angry all the time and starting to hate the other woman as much as she wanted her.
Emma pulled the bug into the mansion's driveway and was tempted to heave a sigh; breathing had become impossibly difficult these days.
"Well, that was a pleasant ride. We should do it again sometimes," Regina chirped and leaned over, kissing Emma on the cheek.
"Drop the act, Regina, I know you're not drunk." Emma sounded annoyed and she looked over at the brunette with cold eyes.
Regina already had her hand on the handle to the bug and Emma was sure she would just leave her sitting here but then the mayor leaned back, taking a deep breath.
"I could say I'm sorry, Emma, but I'm sure you won't believe me... and maybe I'm not. Manipulating people is what I do," she said but then she shook her head. She didn't want to act this way anymore, she didn't want to have to act at all.
"I... I can't let go of this..." She pointed between Emma and herself. "Not without having at least... talked about it. And I'm not leaving this car until we have," she added determindly.
Emma leaned her head back against the head rest and closed her eyes. She didn't want Regina to leave the car but did it always have to be this... aggravating between them? She wanted to talk, too. These last few days had been torturous because while she had known that Regina had killed Graham, she hadn't known why or... anything. And she needed to know Regina's side. At first it had seemed irrelevant because it was just wrong but now she needed to know because... she wanted to forgive Regina.
"Henry thinks we're in love," she heard herself say and Regina gasped.
"Did you tell him?"
"No, he... you said it, he picks things up pretty fast. He's angry with us but... well, mostly with me. I told him that you did something that I cannot forgive you," Emma explained the situation.
"You didn't tell him what it was?"
Emma shook her head and heard Regina sniff.
"I don't wanna lie to Henry but... well, after it happened he said that he thought you were responsible for Graham's death. I didn't want to... dig this up again."
"He thought I had... of course, he did. I'm the evil queen... I'll always be the evil queen," Regina said dabbing at her eyes but trying to put up an indignant front at the same time.
"You did these things, Regina. You're responsible," Emma said.
"I know that. And I'm not running from it... it's just harder to face the consequence when it could mean losing Henry again."
Emma nodded. She reached over and was about to take Regina's hand when she remembered that she wasn't her friend anymore, that they weren't doing the touching and talking-thing anymore. She pulled her hand back and folded her other hand around it.
"What else did you tell him?" Regina asked.
"That... we thought we had feelings for each other but... that we don't now. He doesn't buy it, though. He thinks we're in love."
"Is that why he's suddenly interested in camping? He wanted to get away... from both of us?"
Emma nodded.
"Yeah, I guess. He told me to fix this... but I can't."
"Because you hate me," Regina whispered.
"No, I... I can't hate you, although if we keep this up... I don't wanna play games, I don't want you to try and make me jealous because... I am jealous and then I'm angry with you for manipulating me and... Hook is a friend. Yes, he's sometimes very annoying with the flirting and all but I almost decked him tonight! I don't wanna be that person, Regina." Emma looked at the mayor with desperate eyes, her jaw set in an angry line.
"I needed to see you... I thought it was the only way," Regina said and maybe it was an apology, Emma wasn't sure. "I thought if you... had feelings for either one of us you would come."
"I don't have feelings for Hook, you know that."
"Does that mean you still have them for me?" Regina asked with a hopeful expression in her chocolaty brown eyes.
"I...," but Emma shook her head. "You wanted to talk about Graham," she finally reminded Regina, a frown settling between her eyes.
"Yes. I killed him, and you probably know by now how I did that."
"You crushed his heart... you know I can't believe... how do you even do such a thing? And why? Were you in love with him?" Emma rambled turning towards Regina in her seat. They looked at each other and Emma could see the regret in the mayor's eyes.
"No, but... I wanted him to be in love with me." she admitted.
Emma looked at Regina questioningly but didn't say anything.
"Graham... he was good. You know, his alter ego, the huntsman, hadn't been. He was a killer but, still, when I send him to... kill... Snow, he wouldn't do it. He looked past whatever he hated in people at something worthwhile - her sacrifice, perhaps. I wanted him to do the same for me. I wanted him to look past the evil queen and see...," she sighed. "The girl Daniel had loved. I wanted to know that she was still there and that somebody could still love her. But I was wrong, that girl is dead."
"Maybe he could have seen her if... you hadn't taken his heart," Emma argued.
"I took his heart because he failed to bring me Snow White's. I kept it because I knew he was the kind of man who would only give his heart to a very special woman, and I crushed it because he was about to fall for that special woman without even having a heart."
They looked at each other for a long moment while Regina's words registered in Emma's mind.
"Were you in love with him, Emma?" Regina asked and the words came out in a breathy whisper. She looked like she feared the answer, she looked like she didn't really want to know but Emma answered:
"No, but I think I could have fallen in love with him if I had known him better. There wasn't enough time."
"That's why you can't forgive me, because I... stole another person from you, someone you might have loved," Regina mused still in that low voice staring at her hands in her lap..
"I have no way of knowing if I'd have ended up with Graham, Regina. I liked him but... things were complicated even then. And I'm not sure I can't forgive you," Emma said.
"You would have loved him, he was your type." Regina said convinced.
"I have a type?"
"You don't know that? Bad boys who... are not really bad, just misguided," Regina explained but Emma shook her head. She looked at Regina wondering if she had even heard her say that she might forgive her.
Emma reached out her hand and cupped Regina's cheek. The mayor looked up at her in surprise as Emma pulled her closer.
"Right now, I'm only interested in one person... a bad woman who isn't really bad. I can see your heart, Regina. I know you regret and I know your love," she said and put her other hand over Regina's heart.
Regina looked at Emma longingly, her heart beating fast against Emma's hand..
They sat with their foreheads touching, once again just breathing each other in, relishing the closeness.
"Is this real?" Regina asked.
"I shouldn't have run away, Regina. I should have stayed and listened to you, and I'm sorry. I missed you so much," Emma whispered.
"You forgive me?"
"Yeah, I think I already have... and I feel bad toward Graham because... he was a good guy and I didn't believe him when he told me that he didn't have a heart... but nothing I feel toward him can make me... unlove you. I thought it would but it doesn't." Emma pushed forward a little, bringing their faces together and kissing Regina's cheek.
"You're not just saying this because of Henry, right? To fix things?"
"No, I... now that I think about it I'm so thrilled that he wants for us to be together but... I wouldn't set either one of you up for the heartache if I didn't love you, Regina. Do you hear me? I love you," Emma said.
"I love you," Regina answered and smiled. So did Emma.
"May I kiss you now?" she asked and Regina rolled her eyes at her.
"From now on you don't have to ask permission if you want to kiss me, okay?"
Emma answered by bringing their lips together in a heartachingly slow kiss. She seemed to just want to cherish the softness, the warmth, the love of them. But the slow burn of her love was soon enflamed by their passion and the kiss got positively fiery.
Emma was leaning far over Regina, pressing her into the door while trying to get around the gear shift of the bug. Regina finally pushed her away enough to breathlessly say:
"I'm not gonna have sex in this death trap, savior. Get me naked and into my bed."
It was a command and, for once, Emma was okay with it. She grinned at Regina.
"As you wish, my queen." She wanted to pull away to get out of the car but Regina held on until Emma was looking into her eyes again.
"I'm not your queen, Emma, I'm your woman. I don't want to be a queen ever again."
Emma smiled.
"Come on, woman, let's make love," she said and Regina laughed.
"Now, that sounds much better."

They were holding each other, revelling in the nakedness of their new relationship. Sweat was lingering on their bodies, their breathing still erratic.
Emma let her right hand glide over Regina's side, feeling the heat of her skin with just her fingertips.
"You feel amazing," she said
"I certainly do," Regina gave back with a wide smile. She nestled closer to Emma, laying her head in the crook of her arm, kissing the patches of skin she could reach from there.
"I'm cooling off. Do you think you could find one of the covers?"
Emma chuckled and turned away for a moment, reaching over the edge of the bed to retrieve a blanket.
"Here you go," she said as she wrapped them both in it.
"Hold me," Regina told her and Emma pulled her deeper into the cocoon of her body. Then she kissed her and once again all their surroundings seemed to fall away while their passions took over. They ignited so quickly and so completely that neither one seemed prepared in another way than that they had been doing this for hours now and just held onto each other. Their bodies rocked against each other in desperate need to be closer, their mouths hardly ever parted to even take breaths. Regina pulled Emma on top of her, her fingers digging into her shoulder blades.
There had never been love like this for her, not combined with the desperate need to touch and be touched, to feel Emma.
There had never been such an intesity of emotions for Emma, nor the desire to care and protect, and to give pleasure more than to receive it.
They spent their bodies, they shared their love, they came together and came again.
Regina held Emma's exhausted body to hers as they both struggled to return to normal breathing.
"How will I ever be able to get out of bed in the morning?" she wondered aloud and Emma chuckled.
"You could call in sick and... wait a second, who would you call if you were to call in sick? You don't even have a secretary."
"Well, I would call whoever I had the first appointment with tomo... today. If I'm not mistaken that's... Leroy at 9.30 a.m."
Emma lifted her head from Regina's chest and looked at the alarm clock.
"Not quite five hours from now. Maybe we should get some sleep. Or are you thinking of cancelling?" Emma asked with a hopeful smile.
"I would love to but Leroy has been pestering me for this appointment for over two weeks now. I'm loathe to put this off any longer, he's kind of my go-to-dwarf whenever anything around town needs quick and inexpensive repairing."
"What does he want to talk about?" Emma asked settling down on her former spot.
Regina's hands started to caress Emma's cheek and comb through her blond locks, eliciting a contented sigh from the sheriff.
"I'm not sure but if he's suggesting the erection of a Prince Charming statue in front of City Hall, I'm throwing him out of my office. Quick and inexpensive, or not," Regina answered with a wicked grin.
Emma laughed which turned out to be contagious and they had a hard time stopping.
"It wasn't even that funny," Regina said as they were both regaining control.
"No... I'm just so happy... honey," Emma said and seemed thoughtful about the nickname. "Sweetheart," she tried.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to come up with a term of endearment that'll fit you... babe."
"Babe?" Regina raised an eyebrow at her lover.
"Sugar pie," Emma tried grinning.
"Now you're losing your mind."
"Don't you like nicknames?"
"I just barely keep from correcting you every time you call our son 'kid,' darling, I don't think..."
"Did you just call me 'darling'?" Emma interrupted Regina who looked puzzled for a moment.
"I think I did. But I've called you 'dear' before and believe me that wasn't meant as a term of endearment."
"Darling. I like it. You can call me that, little woman," Emma said.
"Call me that again and you're gonna end this night on the couch in the living room. And I'm not kidding," Regina gave back.
Emma pushed herself up on one arm, looking down at Regina.
"I called you 'woman' earlier and you seemed to like it. And... well, by the look and feel of you, you're just that. All woman..."
Emma let her free hand wander over the warm plains of Regina luscious body.
"Would you resent me calling you that, woman?"
"You sound like some drunk in a bar pulling a barmaid into her lap," Regina said and Emma flashed her a smile that was curiously accompanied by a light blush. "It's crude but... just a little sexy," Regina said with a blush of her own.
"I love you, woman," Emma said and it wasn't just to hear how it sounded, she meant it with all her heart.
"And I love you, darling," Regina answered and they kissed.
"Hmmm," Emma sighed contentedly. "We're pretty good at this... establishing a relationship-thing."
"Apart from all the drama we've created around it," Regina reminded Emma.
"Yeah, that... I'm still so sorry for acting... like an ass. I told you to trust me and then... I let you down."
"I kind of... expected that reaction, maybe I even provoked it. I thought if I told you the worst... worst for your personally, that is, and you couldn't take it... then it would end before it really started. I didn't expect it to... hurt so much, though. I could hardly breathe these last few days," Regina admitted.
She pulled Emma closer and the blonde held her tight.
"I have another secret to share with you," Regina said after a while. She could feel Emma tense just a little in apprehension. "It isn't anything about me, nothing about my past." Regina told her and Emma relaxed again.
"Sorry, I just... I don't wanna lose you again. I think I can deal with your past... but only in small dosages. I know I sound like a coward but..."
"No, you don't. There are still things... that will shock you. We're probably going to fight over some of them. I just want you to know that I'm sorry... for most of them, at least. You know how I feel about Leopold's death and there are some things I've done I can't feel any remorse over because I feel they were justified. You won't think so... and I hope we can agree to disagree on some of those things." Regina looked up at Emma hopefully.
The sheriff nodded.
"Yeah, I hope so, too," she agreed. "So what's the secret you wanted to tell me?"
"When I talked to Hook tonight he said there might be something... as I understood it a device or artifact of some kind in Rumple's shop that could help us get everyone home. He wasn't sure Rumple had it but thought it was possible. That's as far as I got with him when we... were interrupted," she said with a meaningful look.
"So you weren't flirting with him to make me jealous, you tried to get information?"
"Oh, I wanted to make you jealous, darling. But it just so happened that the man has information to share. He offered me a partnership," Regina related.
"I might yet have to punch him. He wants to play pirate again, huh?"
"It seems that way. I don't know if he's actively planning on leaving everyone else behind but he wants to get out of Storybrooke and figures I'm his ticket."
Emma sighed.
"Why can't we all just get along?" she asked and Regina laughed. "Is that such a naive question?"
"We're human, Emma, which means we're different."
"We had our differences and look where we are now," Emma challenged with a grin.
"We're naked in my bed but that can hardly be the solution to all disagreements," Regina gave back. "Not to mention that we had to agree on something to get here."
"And what was that?"
"That we're better together, of course," Regina answered with a soft smile.
"That we are," Emma said and leaned down to kiss her lover. "Did you agree to Hook's offer?"
Regina shrugged.
"He thinks I did and I'm sure I'll have to dodge his attempts at a closer partnership but he knows I'm not interested in him. It's just a question of making him think we want the same thing."
Emma nodded.
"You don't like it, do you?" Regina asked.
"I hate it, actually. I don't want for you to have to pretend to still be the evil queen. You're not and you said earlier that you don't want to be her anymore," Emma reasoned.
"I know but... I think it's a small price to pay to... help get everyone back home."
Emma nodded but she didn't look very happy with the plan.
"You wanna go to sleep now?" she asked and kissed Regina on the forehead.
The mayor nodded and Emma settled down beside her, pulling Regina more securely into her arms.
"I love holding you," she whispered into Regina's ear.
"Good. Then don't let go."

Chapter Text

The alarm clock woke them both at 7 a.m. but while Emma buried her face deeper in a pillow, Regina extricated herself from her lover and got up.
"Go back to sleep. I'll wake you when I'm ready to leave," the mayor said in a soft voice and was about to slip into the bathroom when she heard Emma behind her.
The dark-haired woman turned and saw Emma holding her hand out to her. She smiled and walked back to the bed where she sat down. Emma put her hand on Regina's naked thigh.
"I haven't had my good-morning-kiss yet," she said with an adorable little pout.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, darling," Regina apologized and leaned down. They kissed and kissed some more.
"Mh-hm," Emma hummed into the kiss and lifted herself up onto one elbow to deepen the contact.
Regina giggled into her mouth.
"If you keep this up, I'll be late."
"And nobody would even notice," Emma challenged. "Come on," she said and lifted the covers from her naked body. "Just for a few more hours... I mean, minutes."
Regina let her eyes roam her lover's naked body and Emma could see that she wanted to give in. She took hold of Regina arm and pulled her into bed. Regina laughed.
"You're naughty, savior," she told Emma who instantly began her loving assault on Regina's neck.
They snuggled into each other and exchanged slow lingering kisses that started to wake their passion.
"I wouldn't have thought you were a morning person," Regina murmured as Emma nipped at her neck.
"I think with you I'll just have to be a 24/7-person. I can't believe how much I want you," Emma whispered at her ear and then proceeded to tickle Regina's earlobe with her tongue. Her playfulness was rewarded with a deep laughter that tugged at Emma's heartstrings. It was the loveliest sound she could even imagine hearing.
"Mhhh, this feels so good, Emma... but... rghrrr," Regina growled in frustration and put her hand against Emma's chest just as the blonde tried to slip on top of her. "We should both get going. Somebody's going to notice if we both go missing, you know."
Emma rolled back onto her back with a frustrated grumbling of her own.
"And we wouldn't want that, right?" she said and her voice had an edge to it.
Regina looked at her.
"You want to tell everone? Go ahead," she challenged her lover and raised an eyebrow at her.
Emma rolled her head and looked back at Regina.
"I'm sorry, I... it's something we haven't really talked about, right?"
"No, we haven't but I figured that you wanted to tell your parents before anyone else... that is, we should probably talk to Henry first."
"Yeah, definitely. How about you come over tonight and we'll talk to him? He's gonna be thrilled," Emma said with a wide smile and rolled onto her side again. She took Regina's hand and entwined their fingers.
"You're sure about this? I mean... I've never talked to him about... homosexuality? I... it's strange to think about it in those terms, in the Enchanted Forest it was just love."
"And that's what it is and I think Henry looks at it that way, too. He was pretty angry when I told him that we... wouldn't be together," Emma told Regina.
"What did he say?"
"More like yelling. He kept repeating that we were in love... that we were making excuses to not be together."
"He's got the smarts from my side of the family and the temper from yours. And we can't just let him get that way whenever he wants something. You can't just let him yell at you, Emma," Regina lectured.
"I know... but it's so... I still feel guilty for giving him up and... it's a scary concept to have to tell him... no. It broke my heart to have to tell him that we won't be the kind of family he wants."
"I know. believe me I do but now we have each other. We will talk to him together, it'll be alright."
"Can you be the bad cop?" Emma asked with another one of her pouts.
"Please don't do that. You remind me of Snow when you do that."
Emma protested at this comparison.
"Way to kill the mood," she said and Regina laughed at her. "It's not funny. Bringing up my mother when we're naked and in bed together is a no-no, you hear?"
"Maybe we shouldn't talk at all when we're naked and in bed together. It seems a waste of time we could spend so much better," Regina said in a low, sexy purr and pulled Emma closer at their combined hands.
"If I remember correctly," Emma tried to get out through renewed kissing. "You were the one who insisted that we get up and to work."
Regina pulled away.
"Right, I forgot," she said and gave Emma a peck on the lips before attempting to get up. She couldn't, Emma held her tight.
"You told me to not let go last night. I'm just complying to your wishes, woman," she told the mayor and they mock faught over control.
Regina finally ended up on top of Emma, pinning the blonde beneath her.
"And now what?" Emma asked with a suggestive raise of her eyebrow.
Regina leaned down and kissed her, then kissed her again.
"When does your shift end today?"
"Five-ish," Emma answered.
"Come to City Hall when you're finished. I'll let you drive me to The Rabbit Hole to get my car and then we can drive home," Regina suggested.
"Your place, if you prefer," Regina said but Emma shook her head.
"I like home better," she admitted.
"Will Snow bring Henry there or are you going to get him?"
"I usually get him after work but I can ask her to bring him over at six," Emma answered.
"Good." Regina gave Emma another kiss and then lifted herself off of her.
Emma pouted again.
"What have I told you about that pout?" Regina asked.
"Since I'm not getting any I might as well," Emma gave back and watched Regina walk across the room to the bathroom door.
"Or you could stop pouting and join me in the shower," the mayor threw back over her shoulder and Emma was quick to get up and follow Regina into the bathroom.

Emma was sitting on the stairs in the foyer when Henry came in. It was late, way past six when Emma had expected Henry and the boy looked indeed like he was sneaking into the house.
"Hey, kid," Emma said from the dark since she hadn't turned on the light.
"Hey," Henry gave back. He didn't look at her and he seemed contrite rather than angry.
"Hello, Henry," came the voice of his other mother from the doorway to the living room and he looked at her surprised.
"Mom," he said before he looked from one woman to the other. "Does that mean you're talking again?" he asked and the hopeful tone in his voice moved both of them.
"Yes, we're talking. And that's exactly why we want to talk to you now," Regina said. "Come on, living room," she told Henry and he walked by her with a lowered head.
Emma followed both of them and sat down in an arm chair while Regina sat with Henry on the couch. The boy sat between them and was looking from Regina back to Emma.
"Emma told me that you've been yelling at her, is that right?"
Henry nodded.
"Yes, I have and... I'm sorry. I was just so angry," he said.
"You didn't tell me you were angry, though," Regina reminded him.
"You... you were upset and I... didn't want to upset you even more. I know you've been crying a lot," he answered, his head lowered so that it seemed he was talking to his jeans.
Regina reached her hand out and pushed some of Henry's hair out of his eyes.
"You're right, I was upset but so was Emma. And even if we hadn't been, you can't just yell at us and then leave for some camping trip."
"Look, kid," Emma now said and sat forward to take Henry's hand. He looked up at her. "things won't always work out the way we want them to. And we can't always go around yelling at people for it. I know you were hurt but... so was I, so was Regina. But we talked about things... it took us awhile but we talked. Next time, you might just want to come to one of us and ask what was going on, okay?"
"I tried, ma, I... but I wanted...." He was close to tears now and they both saw it. He looked up at Regina. "Did Emma tell you why I was angry?" he asked in a meak voice.
She nodded and he lowered his head again. Regina put an arm around Henry and pulled him to her while Emma still held his hand.
"Emma and I talked about things and... well, you were right, we... do love each other."
Henry's head whipped up at this and he smiled through his tears.
"You do?"
Regina nodded.
"Very much," she said and then looked at Emma.
Henry looked between his moms, youthful laughter breaking free of him.
"I knew it," he called out and hugged Regina.
Emma slipped over onto the couch and lay her arms around both of them. They sat like that for a long moment then Henry became a little uncomfortable, his adolescent discomfort with this kind 'mushiness' broke through. They spread on on the couch more evenly and Henry settled between them.
"I'm really sorry I yelled at you. It was just so frustrating to see you... fight. And you said you wanted to know her and then..."
"I know and I also know that it's hard to understand but there's... a part of our relationship," and Emma made a motion between herself and Regina. "that exists outside of this family-thing we got. It's... Regina and I had to work this out alone and if we would have decided that... we couldn't be together then you've had to accept that, you know?"
"I just... wanted you to be happy," Henry said.
"We know that, Henry, and we're very happy that you are okay with us being together. Before Emma told me I wouldn't even have expected that," Regina told him.
"After the whole thing with Pan I... I thought that maybe ma would get together with Neal... dad. But... then it didn't look like that was going to happen. And then we had that day at the beach and you wanted to get to know mom... and then you slept over...," Henry blushed as he said that last part and Emma looked at him surprised.
"You knew about that?"
Henry nodded and blushed some more.
"I thought then that you were together and just not telling me... because... I'm just a kid."
"We weren't together then, Henry," Regina said.
"And we don't simply not tell you things because we think you're too young to understand. Some things... they happen between two people and it's difficult sometimes. We were talking about it and each of us was thinking about it... it just takes time."
Henry nodded.
"I'm sorry I just took off like that and came back so late," he then said.
"Wait, you were just now coming back from the camping trip?" Regina asked.
Henry looked up at her with wide eyes, it seemed he hadn't wanted her to know that part. But then he lowered his head again and nodded.
"What about school?" his mom kept going.
Henry shrugged.
"Henry," Emma said with a sigh.
"You can't just skip school, Henry. No matter, how bad it is, your education is too important to...," but Regina stopped when Emma squeezed her hand. She looked up at the blonde who asked her silently to let her handle this part. Regina gave her a little nod, though she didn't seem to happy to let go of this.
"Did your granddad drive you over?"
Henry nodded.
"And you just came back?"
"He called grandma this morning and said I'd be back at school tomorrow... that we needed some... time to...," but then he shrugged again.
"You need to have a talk with your father," Regina said to Emma.
Emma sighed.
"I know. I think he might know about us," she then said and Regina raised an eyebrow at her.
"Since when?" she asked.
"The last few days when we weren't talking. He was pretty short with me and... Ruby said that Snow watched us during the council meeting so..."
Emma looked at Regina a little guiltily.
"Okay, let me get this straight, so to speak. Ruby knows about us?"
"Remember that night... you drove me home from The Rabbit Hole and where we... talked?"
Regina blushed just a little at the reminder.
"She heard us, of course. She's a werewolf."
"What were you talking about?" Henry asked.
"Remember, some things are between your mom and me?"
He looked from one to the other and then grinned.
"Yeah," he said knowingly.
Regina took a deep breath and looked accusingly at Emma who simply laughed.
"Well, that's how Ruby knew and... I talked to her..."
"And she brought me the pie..."
Emma nodded.
"Alright, what about Snow? Did you talk to her, too?"
"No, but she seems to know. She said something the other day just before you called. I'll have to talk to her and dad," Emma said and made a face. She wished this conversation was already over.
They sat for a while, all thinking about what had been said and done. Henry seemed quite happy just to sit and think about how things were going to be from now on.
"Are you going to move into the mansion now?" he asked into the thoughtful silence.
Both women looked at him surprised.
"Erm... I... no, not just now. We... we haven't talked about that, Henry, and... I think we need more time to... get to know each other," Emma stammered an answer and looked at Regina for confirmation.
"Emma's right but... we will talk about it, okay?"
Henry nodded while his mothers looked at each other over his head. Emma lay an arm over the back of the couch and brushed Regina's hair back from her face lovingly. She caressed her temple.
Henry cleared his throat and once again they looked at him.
"You haven't forgotten that I'm here, right?" he asked.
Emma smiled.
"No, son."
"Because it looked like you did. And I think I'd rather not be here when that happens," he said with a meaningful look.
Regina laughed.
"Have you eaten?" she then asked him.
"Yeah, we stopped at the diner on the way here."
"Okay, why don't you go wash up and unpack your backpack," Emma told him and he got off the couch. He was about to leave the room when she called after him:
"Hey, you wanna watch a movie tonight?"
"No, I think... I'll just make it an early night," he said and yawned rather theatrically.
"Very subtle, son. Don't forget to put your dirty laundry in the hamper, please," Emma said.
"Will do. Night, moms," he said with a wave and a happy smile.
"Night, kid."
"Goodnight, Henry," Regina emphasized and Emma looked at her grinning.
"So," she said when Henry's footfalls on the steps faded and they could hear him close his bedroom door.
"So, why don't you come a little closer?" Regina asked with a sexy smile.
She didn't need to ask a second time, Emma scooted closer on the couch. She made an even more theatrical display of yawning than Henry earlier, her arms outstretched over her head until one fell - as if coincidentally - over Regina's shoulders.
"Really?" the dark-haired woman asked.
"Subtlety isn't exactly a family trade," Emma apologized.
"No, it isn't and I really can't imagine what would possess your father to act the way he did," Regina came back to something from their earlier conversation which was still occupying her mind.
"I know and I'll talk to him, to both of them."
"That was irresponsible, Emma," Regina said.
"I know that and I'm just as angry as you are, believe me. I just... I'm trying to understand why he did it," Emma explained.
"Because he hates me and if he thinks there's something going on between us he... will possibly try to... do something about it."
"No, he wouldn't," Emma argued.
"You sure about that?"
The sheriff sighed and then shook her head.
"But I won't let him break us up," she said determinedly.
Regina put her hand on Emma's cheek, she could feel the tension in her lover's jaw, the way she clamped her teeth together. She pulled Emma's head to her and then kissed her softly.
"Neither will I, that goes for David and anybody else who wants to come between us," she said in a quiet vow. "I got my love. I deserve this love," she added after another series of kisses.
"Yes, you do," Emma agreed. "But let me deal with David, okay?"
Regina nodded.
They started kissing again, softly, languidly and Emma slowly leaned over Regina until they lay on the couch, kissing and touching. Their exchange got heated and they both tried hard not to let it get out of hand.
"Will you stay here tonight?" Emma whispered into Regina's ear before kissing it.
"What will the neighbors say?"
"I don't know, you're one of my neighbors, what do you say?"
Regina laughed lightly.
"Very clever, darling."
"I have my moments," Emma gave back with a wicked smile. "Please stay," she asked of Regina.
"What if someone sees me leaving the house in the morning? This is a small town, Emma. I'm the mayor and... the evil queen, at least to the people who live here. They won't like this," Regina answered seriously.
"I don't care what they like. You're my woman and I'm yours. I won't go sneaking around."
"I think you should talk to your parents before me make any bold declarations, Emma."
"I don't want to make a 'bold declaration,' Regina, I just want you to stay the night. I wanna make love to you again. It has been too long," she said opening a botton of Regina's blouse and slipping her hand inside. At the same time, she kissed the other woman's jaw then captured her lips in a passionate kiss.
Regina moaned under Emma and opened her legs for Emma's to slip between them. She pushed one hand underneath Emma's top at her back while the other cupped the sheriff's backside.
"We need to take this upstairs," Emma said between kisses.
"I know," Regina gave back but several minutes passed in which they continued to kiss and touch and grind into each other.
"Okay," Emma then said and pushed herself off Regina. She felt lightheaded as she sat up, Regina still trapped underneath her. "The things you do to me, the things you make me do to you."
Regina smiled.
"My pleasure," she said.
"My woman," Emma gave back playfully and lifted herself up. She stood next to the couch and held a hand out to Regina.
"So you're staying?"
Regina took Emma's hand and let herself get pulled up until she stood next to her.
"There's no way I'm leaving now," she answered and pulled Emma into a hug. "You make me go naughty and all soft inside at the same time, you know? How do you do that?"
"I wish I knew, I'd be doing it all the time," Emma admitted.
They kissed.
"Upstairs," Emma had to remind them both after several minutes.
"Take me to bed, savior."
And that's what Emma did.

Chapter Text

It wasn't even 6 a.m. when Regina and Emma sneaked downstairs. Emma was still in her jammies, Regina in yesterday's clothes with her shoes in her hand. She slipped into them at the foot of the stairs.
"Do you think he knows I spent the night?" she asked with a look at the upstairs.
"Oh, I'm sure of it," Emma answered and at the questioning look of her lover:
"Don't worry, he sleeps with his headphones a lot." Emma grinned and Regina caught on to what Emma was talking about. She blushed and gave Emma a light jab.
"Ow," Emma whined and rubbed her arm.
"If I was really that loud, I'm sure it was your fault," Regina told her.
"You were pretty loud and I'm glad I was responsible for it," Emma gave back and lay her arms around the dark-haired woman. She alloted tiny kisses to Regina's face and made her girlfriend squirm in her arms. They started giggling and then their lips found each other and all sound was muffled.
"I just can't get enough of you, woman," Emma murmured and applied more kisses to Regina's neck. "You smell so good... and you taste even better."
"Mhhh-mh. If you keep this up, we'll have to go back upstairs."
"There's a couch down here, you know. We have a kitchen counter. And this door looks pretty damn comfortable right now, too," Emma argued as she pushed Regina against the latter.
"I wouldn't say comfortable, really," Regina said and put her hand flat against Emma's tummy. "This is not going to happen, sweety. Not with Henry upstairs and us already having had too little sleep."
Emma sighed but then grinned.
"Did I tire you out?"
"Completely. You're sooo good," Regina said with a sarcastic wink.
"Now you're making fun of me? Good luck finding someone tending to your desires next time you might need it," Emma gave back but couldn't keep a straight face. She smirked.
"Do you really need reassurance of how much I enjoy your... ministrations?"
"No, I can still hear you begging me to..." but before she could finish that sentence Regina shut her mouth with another passionate kiss.
"I think we both know that you are that good," Regina whispered into her ear as she embraced her. "Will I see you later?" She asked as they parted.
"I hope so but I'll be trying to see if I can meet with my parents at some point."
"You want to tell them today?"
"Yeah, no reason to put it off... other than being scared as hell," Emma tried to joke but Regina could see the truth behind it and pulled Emma back into her arms.
"They love you, Emma. And they want you to be happy, I'm sure of that," she told the blonde holding her tightly.
Emma buried her face in Regina's neck as Regina stood a little taller than her when she wore heels.
"I don't know about David... he's been so... antagonistic these last few days. I'm not sure he's going to handle this well," Emma uttered her fear.
"And you think Snow will?" Regina asked surprised and lifted Emma's face to hers. They looked into each other's eyes.
"I think she will, as strange as that might sound."
"If you need me, you call me, okay? I'll just... ride up on my broom and rescue you," Regina half joked but Emma knew that the other woman would indeed do that if she needed her to.
"Do you even have a broom?" she asked with a slight smile.
"As much of one as you have a white steed, savior. But that won't stop me, you know that."
"I know," Emma answered and cupped Regina's cheek. They shared loving kisses that now conveyed their emotions rather than their passions. "I love you, Regina."
"And I love you. How about you come to the mansion after work, or after you talked to your parents, whatever takes longer and I'll make dinner. Don't worry, I won't take out the good china this time? What do you think?"
"Sounds like home," Emma said. "I like it."
"I should go or someone might yet see me."
Regina kissed Emma one more time and then turned to the door.
"Woman?" Emma whispered into her ear and lay both of her hands against the door, trapping Regina between her arms.
Regina turned her head, smiling.
"Thank you," Emma simply said and kissed Regina on the cheek.
"You're welcome," Regina gave back and opened the door after Emma took her hands away. "Be brave, savior," she told the blonde before she slipped out the door.
Emma closed it behind her lover and leaned her head against it.
"I'll try," she vowed quietly.

When Emma reached the pier that led to the Jolly Rogers, she could see David strolling toward her. She had tried to reach him on the phone for most of the morning and then run into Leroy who had told her that he'd seen Davind on Hook's ship, talking to the pirate. Emma stopped and waited for her father to catch up with her but she could already see that he wasn't too happy she'd found him.
"Hey, dad."
"Hello, Emma. What brings you out here this early? Official sheriff business?" he asked and tried to his usual good-natured self; he failed as did his smile.
"Official mom business, more like. Walk with me?" she asked him and they set out in the direction of the town's center.
"Did you talk to Killian about portals?"
"Yeah, I did. He told me how he and Cora got here, though that won't help us any, I'm afraid."
"So no new intel for your mission?" Emma asked as she wondered how to broach any of the subjects they needed to talk about.
"My mission? I thought it was everybody's mission, actually."
"You know what I mean," she gave back and pushed her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
"Yeah, I guess I do. You mean that you're not interested in leaving here now, don't you?"
"Dad, can we not..." but she stopped herself and then him. They faced each other. "Listen, I haven't really thought about leaving. The Enchanted Forest is just not my home. I consider this realm my home."
"You were born there," he argued.
"I know but I lived here all my life and that's probably not gonna change. I mean I might change my mind yet but I don't really see that happening now."
"As long as you're happy," he said with a shrug and wanted to resume their walk but she stopped him.
"We have to talk about Henry, dad. You know, I thought that when you were taking him on a camping trip you would make sure he was back for school the next morning, but he wasn't."
David looked at her for a long moment.
"We kind of overslept. I called Snow and told her that he wouldn't be at school," he then explained off-handedly.
Emma felt her anger stir at this. She wasn't sure if he just tried to go the way of least resistance with her, or if he acutally thought it was alright for him to do this but, either way, his attitude rubbed her the wrong way.
"And you didn't think of calling me, too? Or Regina? We're his mothers, you know?"
And now she could plainly see that he got angry. He pushed his hands into his side and worked his jaw. He looked around himself for a moment, then back at her.
"I am aware," he said through clenched teeth.
"You are aware of what, dad? You are aware that you just up and took Henry on a camping trip without talking to me about it first? Or, you are aware that you should have told me when you knew he wasn't going to make it to school? Are you aware of these things?"
"Are you aware that Henry is unhappy, Emma?"
The sheiff took a step back as if she'd been slapped.
"Excuse me?" she asked perplexed.
"Henry needed to get away from you... and Regina. I didn't get him to talk about what exactly was bothering him but I think it has something to do with... the both of you," David told her with a meaningful look.
"Do you really wanna talk about this? All of this?" she gave back and for a moment he looked a little unsure of himself. But then he nodded.
"Yeah, let's talk."
"All right, then I'm gonna tell you why Henry was so unhappy. He... he was sure that.. Regina and I had fallen in love with each other but I told him that it wasn't true. That's why he was upset. He wanted us to be together, see?"
David raised his eyebrows disbelievingly at his daughter.
"He wanst for you to... be with Regina?"
"Of course he does, dad. Isn't that what every kid wants? For his parents to be happy together under one roof, as one family? That's what I wanted," she added and now he felt her words as a blow.
"We wanted that, too, you know that," he told her and she looked contrite.
"I know... well, that was what Henry was upset about."
David thought about it for a moment.
"I thought he'd rather see you and Neal together," he then said.
"No, that's what you and mom would rather see."
"He's a nice guy. I talked to him the other day and I'm certain he still wants that, you know? For you all to be a family."
Emma shook her head.
"It's not gonna happen, dad. I'm sorry but... no, I'm actually not sorry. Henry isn't upset anymore, you know? Because... because Regina and I are together. I'm in love with her - and she with me."
The look of utter horror on David's face hurt Emma. She had known it would be a shock for him, that he would maybe deny the truth of it, but she never thought she'd see him so distraught over the fact that she loved soemone.
"This is supposed to be a good thing," she said meekly.
"Have you forgotten what she's done?" he asked in a similarly defeated voice.
"No, I haven't, dad. But I love her despite what she's done. I love her for who she is now. She's changed."
"I don't believe that. I think that maybe you're under her curse right now. Or maybe she seduced you to get back at your mother and me. Regina can't love, Emma, she just can't," David said shaking his head.
"You think I'm under some kind of love spell? That's... ridiculous, dad! I... I could tell you of all the things she's done, all the things she is, the reasons I fell for her, as well as the moments I realized my feelings for her. This is not... a spell. And I know she loves me, too. This has nothing to do with you and mom... it's just... two people who realized that they're better together - and not just at saving their son. It's... she loves me, dad. And it makes me happy," Emma pleaded for him to understand.
"You weren't even an hour old," he seemed to remember something and Emma looked back at him, puzzled. "You were so tiny, all red and squawking, when she came to the castle with her soldiers and her curse. She came to kill you, Emma. Did you know that? The only chance we had was to put you in that magical wardrobe so that you would live."
"She wouldn't have killed me. I don't believe that."
"Then what do you think she would have done? You were destined to break that curse," David argued.
"Then I was destined to escape her, too. But Regina wouldn't have been able to kill an innocent child, not even when she was the evil queen," Emma gave back, the desperate need to convince him written in her eyes.
"If you believe that then you don't know her at all," was his answer.
They looked at each other for a long moment and Emma knew this wasn't going to be resolved in a single conversation. She would have to come back, she would have to talk to him over and over again to convince him that she was right - and he was wrong. And she would do it because there was no way she could just let her father believe she loved someone who was unworthy of her love.
"I know her, dad, and I love her. And that's not gonna change... even if you don't like it," she told him.
He looked at her sadly.
"I don't like it," he said and lifted his hands as if he was powerless to change it. Then he turned and walked away, leaving a heart-broken Emma behind.

Regina didn't even look up when the door to her office opened. She kept looking at some report and then said:
"I know you've been a king in your former life but even peasants know how to knock." Then she did look up and right into the red-rimmed eyes of her love.
"Emma, what...?"
"I talked to dad," the sheriff said and fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Oh, darling, I...." Regina got up from behind her desk and came over to Emma. She put her hands to the blonde's cheeks and brushed the tears away. "Come here, let's sit."
She led Emma to the couch and they sat down. Regina immediately put her arms around Emma and held her while the younger woman cried.
"I don't know... I mean I know... but...," she got out in between sobs.
"I know, sweety, I know."
"Do you?" Emma asked looking up at her. She looked into sad caramel-colored eyes that still held all the love for her.
"Of course I do. He thinks I'm not good enough for you... that I'm no good at all. I'm not saying he's wrong... but we tried not loving each other and... that was a bust. So I figured I'm not letting you go ever again," Regina told her with a small smile. "No matter, what your parents say."
"You're good, Regina. You're... MY good, okay?"
"That doesn't make any sense," Regina said.
"No, it doesn't but you're all mine, the good, the bad, the wickedly sexy and no one's gonna take you away from me."
They kissed but were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Urgh, that's Eric... sorry. Let me just get rid of him," Regina said as she got up from the couch.
"You don't have to...," Emma was about to say but Regina put up a finger.
"Just a second."
Regina opened the door just a bit and looked through.
"Madam Mayor. We... erm, have an appointment," Eric said with an unsure smile as if she needed reminding.
"I'm aware but... well, something's come up and I don't really have time right now. We'll have to reschedule," she told him.
"I specifically made time today. I'll have to be on the dogger again tomorrow," he argued and it didn't seem like he was going to let it go.
"Well, I have a family emergency and I can't make time right now," she told him plainly and he seemed to consider this.
"I can't just up and leave work every time you see fit to maybe see me. I have a business to run and a family of my own."
Regina pushed her upper body through the door and got into his face.
"If I recall there's something you want from me, Eric, so you better drop the act or I might reconsider giving you that new fishing permit you need to run that little business of yours. Call me tomorrow and we'll reschedule."
"You know if you weren't the may..."
"But I am, Eric. I'm the mayor. If you seek to change that you can always run for the job yourself at the next election. It's only another year. Of course, by then you all might not be here anymore so you'll probably have to just let me get away with it... again," Regina said lifting an eyebrow at him. "If you'll excuse me now."
It wasn't a question and she didn't wait for an answer, either, she simply shut the door in his face.
"I'm sorry, darling," she said when she turned to Emma. "Oh, don't look at me that way. You don't know how insolent these guys have gotten since they remembered they were kings and princes. They're always trying to tell me how to run this town."
Emma attempted a smile but it failed.
"Okay, tell me what David said to you, just so I can throw it back in his face the next time I see him." Regina came back to the couch and took both of Emma's hands in hers.
"He thinks that you put a spell on me, a love spell."
"Well, I don't think he really believes it but... I guess to him it's better than thinking I really loved you," Emma said with a sigh.
"And suddenly they're all experts on magic. I mean, a spell... could never produce what we have. You know that, right?"
"Of course, I do. I mean, I'm no expert on magic either but... I figured it would be different. You have to teach me these things at some point, you know."
"And I will... though maybe not love spells," Regina added with a raised eyebrow.
"You jealous?"
"Well, sometimes. But seeing as every other male - and I dare say some female - inhabitants of this town are all over you, I don't think you'll need any love spells," Regina explained.
"That's an exaggeration," Emma said but smiled just a little. "And who are those female inhabitants anyway?" She added with a smirk.
"Well, there's the mayor for one, she's got both eyes on you, always."
"Is that so?"
They leaned toward each other, their noses almost touching.
Regina nodded.
"I'd love to have her hands on me, too. You think she'd be into that?"
Regina put her hands to Emma's shirt collar and let them slowly slide down the sheriff's front.
"Oh, I know she is. I bet she wouldn't mind if you were to..." Regina put her lips to Emma's ear and whispered to her.
Emma purred appreciatively at the suggestion Regina made. Her hands went from her lover's waist to her thighs, letting her thumbs slide along her instep.
Regina sighed.
"Are we really going to do it here?" Emma asked with a wicked gleam in her eyes.
"You want to head home? It's not even noon but I'd be up to it," Regina said with a wink.
"Are you just doing this to cheer me up?"
Regina looked a little offended at this but then she sighed again, not from pleasure this time.
"I want to cheer you up, yes, but... I would never do it 'just' to cheer you up. I'm pretty selfish that way."
"I appreciate the effort but... you have to get back to work and so do I.. and... I don't know, I already feel better. Just seeing you and knowing that you care, cheers me up," Emma told her.
"Now that's disappointing. Are you just going to leave me high and dry?"
"Oh, I bet you're anything but dry," Emma said with a wicked grin.
"How very delicate," Regina said with a disapproving frown but already smiled again a moment later. "You're not wrong. Do I get another kiss, though? That would cheer me up, you know?"
She didn't have to ask twice, Emma leaned in and captured her lips immediately, pulling Regina close. For minutes they let their lips get reaquainted before the ringing of Regina's telephone interrupted them.
"Some days, I really hate my job," Regina grumbled.
"No, you love it," Emma disagreed with a smile.
"Don't go anywhere," Regina instructed and walked back to her desk to answer the phone. "The mayor's office, Mayor Mills speaking."
Regina listened intently into the phone for a moment.
"Why call me, call a plumber," she told the person on the other end and then listened some more.
"I see... I'll call him myself. Thank you, Bridget." Regina disconnected the phone and then called a number from memory.
"Everything okay?"
"A problem with the hospital's plumbing," Regina answered. "Yes, Mr. Briggs, this is the mayor speaking. As you may have heard...," but she was interrupted and started frowning.
Emma got up from the couch and came over. She rubbed her thumb over her lover's brow until the frown disappeared. Regina smiled at her while she listened to the man on the other end of the phone.
"Gotta go. I love you," Emma whispered and kissed Regina's cheek.
"One second, Mr. Briggs," Regina said into the receiver already grabbing Emma's shirt then pulling her in for another kiss.
"I love you and we're gonna talk some more after dinner tonight, okay? We still have a date, right?"
Emma smiled.
"Most definitely," Emma answered and they shared another kiss. "I let you get back to work."
Regina put the receiver back to her ear.
"Yes, Mr. Briggs, you were saying?"
Regina followed Emma with her eyes as the blonde went to the door. Emma turned and smiled at her before she left the mayor's office.

Chapter Text

That afternoon Emma entered Granny's with a frown. She'd been trying not to think about what her father had said that morning and she had failed. His words had come back to her while she'd filled out reports, when she'd answered a call from Ken, the proprietor of The Rabbit Hole, about a break-in, and still haunted her as she sat down at the counter and waved at Ruby. The waitress smiled brightly at her and came over from where she'd been talking to Archie.
"Hey, Emma, haven't seen you in a couple of days. You look... like you could use some cocoa and a bear claw?"
"That sounds about right," Emma answered with a sigh and Ruby reached out her hand to touch Emma's.
"Are things still not better between you and..." with a careful look around the diner: "you know who?" Ruby seemed oblivious to the literary implication she'd put into the question.
"Actually, things between the queen and I are great. We're together now and," Emma said with a smile. "I couldn't be happier about that."
Ruby squealed, she pushed herself up onto the counter and leaned over to kiss Emma on the cheek.
"That's great, Emma, I'm so happy for you. How's Henry about this?"
"Ecstatic," Emma said with a laugh. Ruby's enthusiasm surprised her just a little but it shouldn't have. She'd been such a great thing through all of this and seemed genuinely happy that Emma was, too.
"That's wonderful. He didn't seem too happy the other day when he was here with David," Ruby related and Emma's face fell instantly.
"We had a fight about... well, he'd caught on to what was going on and I told him it wasn't going to happen after... the thing about Graham. He was really angry and went camping with... his granddad..."
"Yeah, David said they'd been out in the woods. He seemed upset, too, so I take it this is about him?"
Emma nodded.
"I talked to him this morning. He doesn't accept it," the sheriff said and her frown was back in place.
"I'm so sorry, Emma." Ruby held Emma's hand again and that was the moment another hand touched Emma's back. It was Snow and she gave her daughter a small, sad smile when she turned.
"Mom," Emma exclaimed and then felt herself engulfed in a tight hug.
Emma hadn't even realized how much she needed this hug, how much she needed her mother's support in this. But she had and now she felt it. She buried her face in the soft material of her mother's coat.
Ruby gave them some space and busied herself with Emma's order.
"You talked to dad?" Emma asked when she finally let go of her mother.
Snow nodded.
"Yes, he came by the school at lunch. He was pretty crushed."
"Well, he's not the only one," Emma gave back sharply.
"Hey, I'm not here to... condemn you for... being in love, Emma. But I can understand your father, too, you know?"
Emma nodded.
"Come on, let's sit down, let's talk, okay?" Snow took Emma's hand and pulled her from her stool. They went over to a booth and sat down. Ruby brought Emma's order.
"Anything for you, Snow?" she asked.
"Coffee and... I think I'll take one of those things, too," Snow said poiting at Emma's baked treat.
"One coffee and one bear claw coming right up." Ruby left them again.
Emma took a sip of her cocoa and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again she looked into her mother's compassionate ones.
"I'm in love with Regina," Emma found herself saying as if she wanted the blow of that confession out of the way right away, in case, her mother hadn't known.
"I know, I saw you two... I don't know, I think about two weeks ago. You were standing in front of the library and... the way you looked at each other, I was pretty certain about it then and what I observed at the council meeting confirmed it."
"Oh," Emma said, trying to determine what her mother might have seen that day in front of the library that made her think she'd been in love with Regina then. She had been but... she didn't think it could have been obvious for other people. "What made you think... I had feelings for her?"
"The way you looked at her. You...," Snow halted her words when Ruby placed her order in front of her. "Thanks, Ruby."
The waitress smiled at Snow and then put a hand to Emma's shoulder in silent support. The blonde looked up.
"It's okay," Emma told her and Ruby went to tend to her other customers.
"Does Ruby know?" Snow asked surprised, interpreting the care her best friend took with her daughter.
"Yeah, she does... she... she's been a great friend these last few days. I asked her not to tell you. I wanted to do that myself," Emma explained.
Snow blinked a couple of times, then smiled.
"She is a great friend," she agreed. "Where... right, the way you looked at Regina. It reminded me of how your father looks at me. And at the council meeting, you were really wrapped up in each other. You were tuning everyone out, I think you used magic... it was... obvious and I talked to David about it afterwards."
"That's when he started to get all weird with me," Emma said. "You think Regina and I used magic... at the council meeting?"
Snow nodded.
"When you were talking, I couldn't... hear you. Of course, everybody was talking at once most of the time but... I don't know, there seemed to be some kind of bubble around you and... unless you already knew there was something going on, you couldn't see it. David didn't, and nobody else I talked to about the meeting saw anything either."
Emma frowned at this.
"I didn't... we didn't... maybe Regina, I don't know," she stammered.
Snow reached over the table and grabbed Emma's hand, she squeezed it.
"It's okay, I... I think I understand. You know... I knew Regina before she became the evil queen. She was a lovely girl, full of life, ful of love. I know I'm partly responsible for... taking that love from her. I was a child and... Cora used me. I know that now, I know now how devious that woman was even then and why Regina was so scared of Cora finding out about Daniel... she was a lovely person, that Regina. Quiet lovable."
"She still is that. She's not the girl you knew but she's still lovable," Emma said and she thought it was important that her mother understood that.
"I guess it's easier for me to see that... quality in her than for David. I mean... he didn't know her back then. He only knew her when she was already... chasing me, then both of us. He knows that she tried to kill me and almost succeeded. He also didn't see her with Henry when he was little... because he was in a coma. You see... he never saw her good side, her gentleness, her... pain," Snow tried to explain and her eyes implored Emma to understand.
"I get that... I mean... but... he's supposed to be the good guy. Shouldn't he believe that people can change? That they deserve second chances?" Emma argued.
"Regina has refused to change many times, Emma. We've given her those chances, she never took them."
"Because she had nothing... nothing..."
"To gain?" Snow asked but Emma shook her head.
"No, not that. I mean it, she had nothing but her crown and her magic to hold onto. Why should she have still believed in good when everything good had been taken from her? I...," Emma stopped herself because she found it difficult to control her emotions, to not make a passionate plea for her lover that would certainly gain the attention of the whole room.
"Mom, I... I know you love dad and I know he thinks he's right but... he's not. I love Regina. I tried not to but... she's amazing and she's giving. And she loves me and... she's fierce and wants to protect me," Emma said.
"So does your dad," Snow argued.
"If he should try to... break us up, he's going to have to fight both of us, mom. I don't want that but I will do it. She's my happy ending," the sheriff told her mother.
Snow breathed deeply, then nodded.
"David said he... doesn't want Regina's help anymore, that we're going to find a solution without her."
"No, she's gonna help. The council already agreed on this and he can't just change these things because he doesn't... agree with us being together."
Snow shook her head sadly.
"I can't believe this is happening, Emma. After all we've been through to be a family again," she said and tears now glistened in her eyes.
"I'm sorry, mom, but I... can't have dad... walk all over Regina. He said some things this morning... I still can't believe he said them, mom."
They sat in silence for a long moment after this, their hands still holding each other.
"We... we've decided to take in Gordon, did you know that?" Snow then said and Emma looked at her surprised.
"Yeah, we... we met him a couple of times at the orphanage. He's... a smart boy, like you said, but... he's angry and... lost. We've agreed that we're going to try to help him," Snow said with a small smile.
"That's great for Gordon. I'm glad you're doing this," Emma answered but her enthusiasm seemed to have vanished now that things had changed so dramatically between her and her father.
"He's coming to us on Monday. Do you think you could come over, maybe bring Henry... just for dinner?"
"Can I bring Regina, too?" Emma asked sarcastically and looked at her mother.
"Emma, please, don't do this," her mother asked of her.
"I want for you... to like her, to see that she's not the evil queen anymore. She's... my woman, Henry's mom, she's probably the one who will find a way for you all to return home. What else do you want from her?"
"I'm going to talk to your father, Emma. I will keep talking to him but... it's going to take time. We'll be having dinner together at some point, all of us, as a family... but not as soon as Monday. I'm sorry," Snow said.
Emma nodded.
"I don't think I can do this right now, mom. I... love you, both of you, but... I can't ask Regina to stay home when we're doing something with the family... and I'm not gonna ask Henry to... attend a family dinner without Regina. He's so thrilled that we're a family now, mom. He's... happy."
"I'm glad, Emma. I saw him today and you're right, he seems very happy. And I understand... I just... it would be great if the boys could... be friends, maybe."
"I can talk to him about it but... he knows that David isn't supportive of us and... we probably shouldn't have talked about it in front of him but... I don't think we should keep it from him, either. I don't know," Emma said.
"Would you mind me talking to him about it? Just for him to understand where David is coming from?"
"You can try but... he's gonna defend his mom," Emma told Snow who nodded.
"I think we should all keep talking about this. I'd like to talk to Regina, too. Maybe we could... salvage something from those early days when we didn't hate each other."
Emma smiled.
"I'd like that... but it's her decision."
They kept talking like this for some time until Snow said it was time for her to go home and prepare dinner. Emma returned to the station but Tinkerbell was already there and they only talked briefly before Emma headed home to change for her own family dinner at the mansion.

Henry opened the door for Emma and grinned.
"Isn't it time for you to have a key?" he asked.
"Oh, I do have a key... damn, I totally forgot about giving it back," Emma said and searched her pockets for it only to discover that she'd left it in a different jacket. "Where's your mom... she isn't cooking yet, is she?" Emma smelled the air that was suspiciously void of delicious food smells. She looked puzzled at Henry.
"Mom had been on the phone pretty much since we've come home. I think the hospital blew some pipes and now they have water demage."
"Yeah, I heard about that," Emma said. "Where is she?"
"Living room," he answered. "She already ordered some pizzas, though, so we won't starve."
"Good thinking. Let me just see how she is and...," but there the doorbell interrupted her. "Can you get that? Here," Emma pushed her wallet at Henry and went in search of Regina. She found her where Henry had said she'd be, sitting on the couch, talking to someone on the phone and rubbing her temple. Emma walked behind her and lay her hands on her shoulders. Regina looked up at her and her eyes went from stone cold to gratefully warm in a second. Emma started kneading her lover's tense shoulders.
"Yes, thank you, Leroy. I'll talk to Whale about it," she said into the receiver. "Bye." Regina disconnected the phone and leaned her head back.
"Ohhhh, this feels good," she told Emma. The blonde smiled and leaned down to take adventage of the position of her lover's head. She kissed her.
"Yes, it does," she agreed.
"You know, it's become such a drag to try to make people do what you want when they've ceased to be afraid of you. It's like pulling teeth," the mayor complained.
"I think you have to work on your people-skills, woman," Emma teased.
"Come here, sit with me," Regina told Emma and tapped the seat beside her. "And I have excellent people-skills, the people of Storybrooke are just not receptive to them because they hate me."
"Not everyone hates you," Emma said sitting down. She immediately pulled Regina into her arms and began kissing her.
"At least one doesn't," Regina noted when they came up for air. But it was only a short moment before they recaptured each other's lips and let themselves fall completely into each other. They forgot the world for a while, they forgot about Charming and his reservations against Regina, they forgot about leaking pipes and water demage, angry doctors and desperate plumbers. Until they heard a loud cough from the doorway and quickly parted.
Henry grinned back at them, a plate with several slices of pizza in his hand.
"I just thought I'd tell you that dinner's ready. I'm upstairs if you need me, not that I think you will," he added with a wink.
"No, wait, Henry. Let's all eat together," Regina asked him.
"Yeah, come on, kid. We can eat here, right?" Emma asked Regina who didn't look too happy but nodded her head.
"Sure, just... try not to get any pizza on the upholstering, please."
"I'm not five anymore, mom," Henry said rolling his eyes.
"You stay here, I'll get us both plates," Emma said rising from her seat. "You want something to drink?"
"A beer, please," Regina gave back with a sigh.
"Pizza and beer, I like the sound of that," Emma agreed and went into the kitchen.
Henry, meanwhile, sat across from Regina, munching his pizza happily.
"How was school, Henry?"
"It was okay... I saw David there at lunch. He and Snow were talking... I think they were talking about you," he admitted and looked at her earnestly.
"Emma talked to him this morning. He's not... happy with her being with me. This isn't about you, though, Henry. He's still your grandfather and he loves you very much, you know that," she told him.
"He should just get over it. This isn't about him," Henry said frowning.
"No, but it's about his daughter and he has every right not to trust me with her."
"It should be enough for him that I trust you," Emma said from the door and came over handing Regina a plate and a beer.
"Thank you, darling."
They started eating and for a short while all conversation was suspended as they settled into a comfortable family evening. Henry rose at some point to get himself more pizza and after he'd left the room Emma said:
"I talked to mom today. I met her at the diner."
"Dare I ask?"
"Well, I'm not in tears, am I?" Emma gave back with a small smile.
"So you think she's okay with... us?" Regina asked. She seemed cautious in her phrasing and Emma understood.
"I think she is, yes. I mean... she understands why dad has his... problems with it and she's defending him but... I think she understands what is going on between us."
"Hm," Regina made but Emma could see that she wasn't convinced.
"She promised to keep talking to dad, to convince him that... we belong together," Emma continued.
Regina put her plate on the coffee table and turned more fully to Emma.
"I know that your parents' approval is important to you, Emma, I... I'm not going to indulge David in his... believe that he has any say in this, though." She took one of Emma's hand between her own. "This is our relationship, not his, and I'll be damned if I give him any kind of... veto over it."
Emma leaned over and kissed Regina.
"Neither will I, love, but... you're right, his approval is important to me. And I'll keep talking to him until he sees that you make me happy. I'm very happy," she told her lover and kissed her again.
"God, two minutes and you're already in a clinch again," Henry said upon entering, grinning at his mothers.
"You haven't seen us in a clinch yet, son," Regina gave back.
Henry protested at this and they continued teasing each other for a while.
"I talked to Snow earlier today, kid. And she wants to talk to you... actually, she wants to talk to both of you at some point. It seems that... she wants us all to be a big happy family," Emma then told them.
"She wants to talk to me? Oh, yippi. She's probably going to give me the treat-her-well-or-I'm-gonna-make-your-life-hell-speech."
"It's not like you've got anything to worry about then, do you?" Emma asked Regina with a smile.
Regina sighed.
"I guess I haven't thought this relationship through... I underestimated the involvement your parents would have in it," she rolled her eyes at Emma.
"They're not part of this relationship, love, but... well, they're part of both our lives."
"Hm," Regina made and looked at Henry. "I guess I'll be working extra-hard on finding a way back to the Enchanted Forest from now on."
Henry grinned.
"Then we can all go home," he said and his mothers looked at him in surprise.
"Erm, Henry... erm, we haven't really..."
"The Enchanted Forest is not your home, Henry, Storybrooke is," Regina told their son.
"You mean we're not going with everyone else?" he asked perplexed.
"No, I mean... we'll probably be visiting but... we're not gonna live there," Emma said.
Henry looked at them, stunned as it seemed.
"But...," he tried but stopped himself. "We're gonna visit? I mean, aren't we even... going to go with them at first... just to see?"
"Well... we've both been in the Enchanted Forest. We have seen it." Emma looked at Regina for support.
"Henry," his dark-haired mother adressed him and he looked from Emma to her. "I'm not going to go back to the Enchanted Forest - ever. There are too many things... I'm trying to leave behind. The evil queen. I can't go back. But as Emma said, you'll be visiting your grandparents and friends. I'd really like for you to wait... until things have... settled a little. Emma told you how it is there now, it's practically a war zone. It will take time to... rebuild everything."
Henry looked disappointed.
"I thought we'd be going," he said. "All our friends..." but he didn't finish that thought. He just got up and started to leave the room.
"Henry," Regina called after him and he turned to her, his eyes sad. "I'm sorry."
He nodded but then resumed his way.
His mothers looked after him before Emma turned and looked at Regina.
"He's gonna get over it," she said.
"I hope so... I... if I'd only known, Emma. If I'd known that I was going to have a son... I never meant to hurt him... and yet I wouldn't have him if it wasn't for the curse." She sighed.
"We both have him because of that curse... and we have each other because of it, too" Emma said. She cupped Regina's cheek and pulled her close. "We're gonna be fine, love. We already are."
"I love you, Emma Swan. You're my happy ending," Regina vowed.
"And you're mine, Regina Mills," Emma answered and they kissed.

Chapter Text

Regina entered her bedroom, smiling at the sight before her. Emma had made herself quite comfortable in the mayor's bed with several pillows in her back and dressed in Regina's torquoise robe. She was reading a book.
"What are you reading?"
"Hm? Oh, Henry borrowed me this. Potter, year 5... though I think it's my least favorite," Emma anwered and closed the book without marking the page she'd been at.
"You could have asked me for something to read. I have several shelves of classic... are you naked under that?" Regina had been crossing the room and her attention had been caught by the patch of skin that her robe left exposed on Emma's upper body.
"Well, I'm glad you got your priorities sorted," Emma said with a smirk and saw Regina blush as a result. "And yes, I am naked under this. I haven't got anything to sleep in."
"I could... lend you some pyjamas," Regina answered with little enthusiasm. "If you want them."
"I pass," Emma answered and put the book on the nightstand. She took off her glasses and lay them folded on top of it.
Regina smiled at her.
"We should probably leave some necessities at each other's homes if we keep spending our nights together," she suggested as she took out her earrings.
"Good idea. Of course, I could just keep wearing your robe and you could... borrow a tank top...," Emma said in a dreamy voice.
"A tank top?"
"Yeah, why not. I bet you'd look hot in them."
"No doubt," Regina answered with a quick smile at her lover. She was unbottoning her blouse and was delightfully aware of Emma's eyes on her as she revealed more and more of her body. She could hardly believe how sexy it felt to have an audience while performing the most mundane tasks.
"Then again, who needs tank tops," Emma murmured as Regina slipped out of her blouse and opened the button of her pants.
Regina smiled and slipped out of them, too. She folded her clothes and put them on a small stool. Then she went to her closet and pulled out a red robe. She slipped into it.
"You have too many robes," Emma noted and Regina laughed.
"And you have a one-track mind."
"Only when I'm with you," Emma gave back and received another wide smile for her efforts.
"Did you find everything you needed in the bathroom?"
"Yes, thank you," Emma said as Regina walked into mentioned room.
Emma busied herself adjusting their sleeping arrangements until she was satisfied that no extra pillows would get between her and Regina. Then she slipped out of the robe and threw it towards the stool that held Regina's clothes. She missed it and wondered if she should get up to pick it up when Regina re-entered the room. Her eyes fell on the discarded piece of clothing on the floor.
"I was about to pick it up," Emma said quickly and Regina smiled.
"I'll do it," she said and proceeded with the garment as with her own. Then she slipped out of her own robe and heard a gasp coming from the woman in her bed. She'd shed her underwear in the bathroom and was now standing revealed to Emma's appreciative gaze in the middle of the room.
"You're a goddess," the blonde breathed.
"No, I'm a woman. I'm your woman, remember?"
"I remember, though I'm not sure how I got so lucky," Emma gave back as Regina made her way to the bed.
"You must have been a good girl... or maybe a very naughty one."
Emma laughed.
"The latter, probably," she said as Regina slipped between the sheets.
Emma didn't lose any time to engulf her lover in an embrace and felt her body come alive with the sensation of skin touching skin.
"At some point we'll have to have a whole night's sleep again, you know?"
"Does that mean tonight?" Emma asked pulling Regina closer.
"No," the mayor simply said. They smiled at each other.
"I like this. I mean, not just... being naked with you, although that's... the most amazing thing in itself but... going to bed with you, watching you undress... even listening to you brush your teeth," Emma said. "I haven't been this domestic with anyone ever and it... makes me happy. Is that strange?"
"Well, if it is then we're both strange, darling. I enjoy it, too," Regina told Emma.
Emma let her hands roam Regina's body, eliciting appreciative purrs and answering touches to her own skin. They kept it light and playful for now, resisting the urge to bring their lips together for a searing kiss. It was what always ignited their passions, a kiss. As if their lips and tongues were the most sensitive to the other's touch.
"You smell so good," Emma murmured as she kissed Regina's neck, licking and nipping at her pulse point.
"And you feel good," Regina answered in the same occupied tone as she pulled the other woman on top of her.
Their ministrations got more elaborate, their breathings erratic and, finally, their lips found each other to consume their bodies in the heat of passion.

"Are you still awake?" Regina's voice was merely a whisper touching at the silence in the room.
"Yes," Emma answered just barely audible.
They lay quiet for another long moment before their bodies started shifting closer and Regina's head came to lie on Emma's shoulder.
"We should probably go to sleep," she said.
But then Emma sighed and it told Regina that she wasn't even close to falling asleep, that she was thinking about her day and what had passed between her and her father.
"He'll come around, darling, you'll see," she told her lover and pulled her closer.
"I don't know. He seemed pretty... determined not to."
"Can you really blame him?" Regina asked accompanied by a sigh of her own.
"Yes, I can," Emma gave back.
Regina lifted herself up on one elbow and looked down at her lover.
"He believes in love, Regina. But he obviously thinks that only certain people are able to love, or should be able to love. That's the same fucked up reasoning people in this country use when they tell queer people they can't get married. He thinks his love is better than ours, he also thinks I'm kind of delusional - or cursed - to even think I love you. That's why I blame him. He's my father, he can't tell me who to love or not to love," Emma said with determination but Regina could tell there was a world of pain behind her words.
"I'm sorry, darling. I wish... that loving me would come without these kinds of side effect. I hate to see you hurt," she said and caressed Emma's cheek, her hand trailed over her skin until it came to lie over Emma's heart. "I wish I could protect you better."
"You don't need to protect me, woman. We were both aware that... people might have a problem with 'us.' That's one of the reasons we almost didn't become an 'us' remember? It just hurts more when someone you love... can't accept what makes you happy."
"I wonder what my mother would say... she'd probably try to kill you. Talking of an 'unsuitable match,'" Regina gave a small smile.
"For me, you mean. Don't forget I'm a princess," Emma said laying her own hand on top of Regina's.
"That's right. My mother would be thrilled... and would probably think it the perfect revenge on Snow... not that it is. I... You know I love you. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's okay, Regina. I know this has nothing to do with my mother... though it's something dad has brought up, too, when we talked," Emma told Regina.
"He thinks it's about him? Why am I not surprised?"
"Now be fair... he's just..."
"Trying to protect you?" Regina asked with a raised eyebrow. "Are you saying that he has every right to do that and I don't?"
Emma sighed in frustration.
"No, he... I don't know. You have such a long history, you and my parents. Snow told me today that she remembers the girl you were, a lovable young woman... that's why she thinks dad has a harder time accepting us, because he's never seen that side of you. I'm not sure that's true. I just want... everybody to be as happy as I am. Because people not being happy about us takes away some of my happiness and that's just not fair."
"Maybe, just for the moment, we should concentrate on our little family, the people who are happy?" Regina suggested.
She gave Emma a peck on the lips and was rewarded with a smile.
"I can do that," the blonde said. "For the moment."
She slipped her arms around Regina's waist and pulled her closer.
"One more thing and then we should probably go to sleep... or make love again," Emma said and wiggled her eyebrows.
"You're insatiable, savior... and I love it," Regina purred, already leaning down to kiss her love.
"Ah, that thing first... I talked to Neal today about when we were planning to come to the shop. I told him that we could probably make it this weekend. What do you think?"
"The weekend should work for me... as long as I got the hospital up and running again by Friday. I'd probably have to go there tomorrow and look at all the demage..." Regina breathed in deeply. "There's something... one of my secrets... I think I should show you and... since I'm going there tomorrow anyway, maybe you will accompany me?"
"To the hospital?"
Regina nodded.
"It's a wing... and I use the term losely, that only few people know about," Regina said lowering her eyes. She wasn't sure what Emma would think of this, she was almost sure that Emma wouldn't be happy about it. But she promised her she would tell her secrets and she didn't want to put this off indefinitely.
Emma lay two fingers under Regina's chin and lifted her head so that they were looking into each other's eyes again.
"Is it bad?" Emma asked.
"It's... not good," Regina answered.
Emma nodded.
"Okay, then we should probably go there first thing in the morning," Emma suggested and Regina nodded.
"I love you, woman," Emma said to reassure her.
"And I love you... I love you so much, Emma."
There was more love-making that night, desperate, breathless, clingy love-making. They needed to feel each other, to reassure themselves that they could face anything together - even Emma's family, even Regina's past.

They entered the hospital together, both women wearing serious expressions to hide their emotions. But Emma knew Regina was scared and Regina knew Emma was wary of this secret. They walked past nurses and a couple of dwarfs who seemed in deep contemplation over the water demage and up to Doctor Whale.
"Doctor," Regina interrupted a conversation between the man and a nurse.
"Madam Mayor... Sheriff," he greeted them both but seemed surprised to see Emma.
"Whale," she said and started looking around. It seemed that the ICU had been cleared of patients and several maintenance people were busy mopping the floor.
"As you can see, it's been the worst in the ICU. Some of the medical equipment was demaged beyond repair," Whale told Regina seemingly continuing a conversation they'd been having.
"Make me a list. I'm not sure I'll be able to get us everything at once but I'll do what I can. Have you done what I'd asked you to do, about our special patients?"
"Of course," Whale answered with a sidelong glance at Emma who was still looking around.
"Have the dwarfs given you an estimate yet on how long the repairs are going to take?" Regina diverted his attemtion and he shook his head.
"They're still discussing the matter. Do you want to talk to them?"
"Yes, later. Sheriff Swan and I have... something to attend to first. Tell Leroy to meet me in the doctor's lounge in half in hour and make sure the doctor's are lounging somewhere else then," Regina told Whale. He gave her a fake smile and walked off.
"Can we do something about this?" Emma asked and pointed at the water stains at the ceiling and walls.
"I already am, sheriff," Regina answered.
"No, I mean..." Emma looked about herself and then pulled Regina a little away in case anyone was listening. "I mean, could we do something about this with... magic?"
"Hmmm," Regina made and looked at some of the demage herself now. "I'd have to talk to Leroy first, see how deep the it goes... we'll need new plumbing anyway but if... we're doing it wrong we could set the whole hospital under water, Emma."
"We've made an eclipse once, shouldn't this be... child's play compared to that?" Emma asked.
"Actually this is much more advanced magic because it's more delicate. Moving a moon of solid rock is crude work compared to this."
Emma nodded.
"Could we try it, though?"
Regina smiled at Emma.
"Yes, we can try... later. Now, I want you to... come with me, please," the mayor said, looking meaningfully at her lover.
"Sure, lead the way." Emma was about to reach out and take Regina's hand to reassure her but then she remembered that their relationship was still very much a secret. So she simply nodded at the dark-haired woman encouragingly and Regina walked out of the ICU and to the left. They followed the main corridor before they turned left again. They came to a door with an exit sign and security panel. Regina typed in a security code and the door's lock clicked.
Regina turned to Emma.
"Are you ready?" she asked. Her eyes locked onto Emma's pleadingly and the blonde wasn't sure whether Regina wanted her to reassure her or asked her to not do this now - or ever. She couldn't do the latter but she smiled at the mayor.
"Yes, and it won't be like last time, I promise," she said.
Regina nodded and opened the door.
They went down a flight of stairs and came to an abandoned nurse's station.
"It's cool down here," Emma noted.
"They had to shut down the heating because of the water demage, it's usually warmer. I don't want you to think... that I haven't been taking care of... the people who...," but Regina stopped and looked down the corridor she would have to walk shortly to show Emma the... cells.
"What is this place, Regina?" Emma asked, finally able to reach out and touch the other woman now that they were alone. She put her hand on Regina's arm and squeezed it.
"It's listed in the hospital's directory as the psych ward but... this is where I kept Belle all these years," Regina told Emma.
"So it's basically a dungeon?"
Regina nodded.
"A dungeon with around-the-clock medical care and a psychiatrist on call. Except for Belle, the people who... who are being treated down here, have mental problems, Emma. Including Sidney Glass," Regina added.
"Sidney is down here?" Emma asked surprised.
"Not right now. The water demage made it advisable to remove the patients and relocate them in a different part of the building." Regina took Emma's hand and let her down a corridor. It was a dreary place to begin with, the moist atmosphere added to this effect and it felt very much like a dungeon now.
"How many... patients were treated down here?" Emma asked and tried to keep her voice neutral but this place gave her the creeps. It was so... typical Storybrooke, translated from a fairy tale and made as horrific as possible.
"Seven," Regina answered in the same flat tone Emma had used. She stopped in front of one of the doors, using a key from a key chain she'd been carrying to open it. "This was Belle's... cell," she said and stepped aside so that Emma could take a look at it.
The sheriff looked at Regina. She seemed cool, reserved, but Emma knew that her lover was anything but; a war was raging behind those lovely eyes, a war with her former self who didn't want to care. But Emma knew that she did, and Emma knew that the way Regina acted was as open and unforgiving to herself as she could be. Regina was showing her this to make her understand who she'd been. She didn't expect forgiveness, she probably didn't even want it, she simply wanted to have Emma know... everything.
The sheriff turned toward the cell and walked inside. It wasn't a nice place, it wasn't cosy or warm. It was a cell and it was depressing.
Emma turned toward Regina.
"You were right, this is not good," Emma said sadly.
Regina nodded.
"That's why we're shutting it down. I have already talked to Whale about... opening a more modern psych facility, something that looks less like a... dungeon or a 1950s asylum."
"That's good," Emma said leaving the cell.
"Too little, too late," Regina disagreed. She made to walk by Emma to leave again but Emma took hold of her arm. They looked at each other.
"You're disappointed, I can see it in your eyes," Regina said and set her jaw as if she expected a blow.
"I'm not happy with all this, no, how could I be? But... it doesn't change my feelings for you, woman."
"I wonder how many of my secrets it will take to change them."
Emma put her arm around Regina's waist and pulled her close. This was certainly not a place that invited one to linger and get cosy with your lover. Emma had never been in a more dreary place and she's served a sentence in an Arizona prison. But she felt that she needed to reassure Regina, that she needed to be close to her. They wouldn't get the chance once they left here and re-entered the hospital's busy first floor.
"This is an ugly place, I'm not lying... thinking that Belle spent almost 30 years down here, makes me sick to my stomach. But... you're not the woman who did all this, you're different now. I know that. How could I love you and not forgive you? The woman I love talked Belle into re-opening the library... you know that's she's doing that, right?"
"I heard of it," Regina said.
"And you're gonna help her even more when we found a way to cross realms. She'll be able to leave and travel, have adventures... and if you're right and Rumple is still alive, she may even find him again," Emma said and cupped Regina's cheek. "You will make this possible."
"With your help," the mayor insisted.
"Yeah, we do it together," she agreed. She kissed Regina and put her forehead to her lover's. "I love you, no secret that you'll reveal to me will ever gonna change that."
"I wish you wouldn't promise something like that," Regina said. "You might yet change your mind."
"People fall out of love, that's a reality I've come to live with, Regina. And maybe it will be you leaving me one day, maybe we'll see that this is not working for some reason, or maybe we'll stay together for the rest of our lives. But I will not let your past come between us anymore... and I hope you won't let my past get between us, either. I haven't been exactly a saint, you know?"
Regina tried a small smile.
"We're not gonna argue about who's been worse, are we?"
"No, not ever because that's behind us. Our future is together with our son. And some day soon, I'm gonna hold your hand as we walk down Main Street so that everyone can see that it's you I love," Emma vowed.

Chapter Text

On Friday, Emma and Regina had returned to the hospital and magically repaired the ceilings, walls and floors that had sustained water demage. It had been an exhilarating experience for Emma who tapped into magic like a child playing with finger paint for the first time. And it had made Regina happy to see that side of Emma as well as doing something worthwhile with her magic. They had brought those feelings home to Emma's and had made love for most of the night - both grateful that Henry had been at his dad's where they were to meet him early the next day.
It wasn't really that early anymore when Emma parked Regina's mercedes in front of Gold's shop which was now Neal's shop, of course. Neal hadn't re-opened it yet and Emma was doubtful that he would. Most of the belongings in the shop had come to this realm via the curse and everybody already knew that most of these things weren't even Gold's to begin with. Neal thought of giving them back to their rightful owners - once everything was sorted through and hopefully a way home found.
Emma tried the door to the shop and it opened. They stepped in and found Henry looking curiously into a display cases. He smiled at them.
"Morning, moms," he said.
"Hey, kid. What're you looking at?" Emma came over to join the boy.
"Just some old jewellery. It's pretty, don't you think?" He pointed at a necklace.
"Yeah, it's very pretty," Emma agreed. "I think it would look gorgeous on your mom," she added in a whisper.
"Maybe you should get it for her," Henry whispered back and they smiled at each other.
"What are you two whispering about? Are you trying to get our son into trouble, savior?" Regina asked as she looked at them from behind the counter where she was looking at a glass cabinet.
"Would I do that?" Emma gave back playfully and Regina raised an eyebrow at her.
At that moment, Neal entered.
"Hey, you're already here. I didn't hear you come in," he said, completely focused on Emma. He hadn't yet seen Regina because he stood in the doorway and the mayor was hidden from his view by the cabinet.
"Hey, Neal. We've just arrived," Emma told him and looked at Regina.
Neal took a step forward and could now see the other woman as well.
"Good morning, Mr. Cassidy," Regina greeted him cordially and he tried a smile.
"Good morning. I... erm... haven't found a key to that particular cabinet yet," he said, looking at the possibly valuable things Regina had just been looking at.
"I'm pretty sure you won't find one. This lock isn't meant to be opened by a key, Mr. Cassidy," Regina told him and touched the lock. There was a slight stirring in the air that Emma immediately recognized as magical. Then there was a click and the cabinet opened.
"Well, I can see where a talent like that might come in handy," Neal said with a look of utter distaste on his face.
"It's not strictly speaking a talent. Everybody can learn magic if determined enough."
"I didn't learn it," Emma argued.
"No, you were given it which is even rarer than talent in these matters. Still, you have to learn how to control your powers," Regina lectured but then smiled. "You did very well with it yesterday, though."
Emma smiled at the pride that she could detect in Regina's voice.
"Did you repair the hospital?" Henry asked.
"Yeah, we did, kid. It was... great. Your mom is truly amazing," Emma told their son beaming with pride... and something else that Neal could only wonder at. So far, he had thought that Emma and Regina merely tolerated each other because of Henry. Yes, they had worked some mind-blowing magic in Neverland but even then, they had done it for Henry and because of Henry. Neal never would have thought that the two women would work together on a regular basis - and without the imminent threat of someone dying.
"Neal, have you found some kind of... inventory in your dad's papers?"
"No, I've been looking for it most of last week but... dad wasn't especially organized. Sorry," he said.
"That's hardly your fault. What're you thinking, Regina?"
Regina was looking around the room, her eyes straying over items but not looking at anything in particular.
"I'm not sure... nothing stands out so far. Knowing Rumple, I doubt that he'd display anything really worthwhile in plain sight... of course, he was shrewd like that and you never know. I'm pretty sure he'd have some... hiding places, maybe an alcove behind one of the cabinets or under our feet. There's so much stuff here, so many possibilities to hide something," Regina mused. She looked back at Emma and Henry. "I'm not sure Henry should be here," she then said.
"What? But.. he was my grandfather and... I can help," Henry protested.
"Henry, come here," Regina asked of him and he came over to her unwillingly, his head lowered. He seemed to already know that this was an argument that he couldn't win. "I know you liked Rumple... but he... was The Dark One. I'm sure, your father would agree that it wasn't always safe to be around him?" Regina looked over at Neal who merely shrugged non-commitally.
"He could have had all kinds of magical traps hidden here and... though he wouldn't want for you to get injured by it, he would have protected his most valued possessions from... well, me, mainly."
"But then it's dangerous for you, too," Henry argued.
"Yes, it may be but I have my magic to protect me, same with Emma."
Henry made a face.
Regina looked at Neal.
"I think from now on, the shop and the backroom should only be open for people with magical powers, just to be on the safe side. We can't have everybody just traipsing around here and possibly falling victim to a curse. Do you agree?"
"That would mean me too?" Neal asked.
Regina nodded.
"This is my shop now, you can't just shut me out. I'll stay at my own risk, thank you very much," Neal told the mayor.
"That's your decision, of course." It was evident that Regina didn't approve of it, though.
Emma looked from her ex to her lover. They were looking at each other suspiciously and Emma would have liked to roll her eyes at them but she already knew that she was probably part of whatever was going on just now.
"Well, if it's so dangerous... one of us should probably get Henry over to my parents?" she suggested and the others looked at her. Then the two women looked at Neal and he let out his breath in an angry huff.
"Sure, I'll do it," he said. "Come on, son, let's get our jackets and get out of the witches' hair."
He said it with an easy smile, as if he was making a joke, but for some reason Emma didn't buy his nonchalance. She could understand why magical powers bothered him, they made him lose both his parents, but hers weren't a threat. She would never harm anyone, and she certainly didn't see herself as a witch. And by the look of Regina's face there was yet another layer to his passive aggressiveness: calling Henry 'son' had its aggrevating effect on the dark-haired woman. She didn't say anything but Emma could detect a dark energy emanating from Regina.
"I'll see you later," Henry said with little enthusiasm and followed Neal into the backroom.
"We won't be too long," Emma promised him and then went over to where Regina stood rigidly staring into a display case. She came up behind her, laying both her hands on the display case, trapping Regina between them.
"Hey," she said.
Regina turned her head toward her.
"Hey," she answered.
"Don't let Neal get to you, woman. He's... not important."
"He's Henry's father," Regina argued.
"So far, he hasn't done much to earn him that title. He's more of a friend to Henry than a parent. We're Henry's parents and he knows that."
"He wants you back."
"I don't care what Neal wants, he's not gonna get me or Henry," Emma promised. "You know, last night... was amazing. I've never felt so close to anyone, Regina. And even though, it scares me how... deeply I feel for you... I want more of you, I want all of you."
The mayor smiled shyly at her lover and Emma could feel the dark energy dissipate and something far more precious taking its place - love. She could see it Regina's chocolaty brown eyes and it made her smile in answer.
"You're quite remarkable, Emma."
"You say that like you're surprised," Emma teased.
"Positively so," Regina gave back. She lifted a hand to Emma's cheek and cupped it. "So beautiful," she mused as Emma closed her eyes, enjoying the touch. She opened them again when Regina kissed her.
"You know we can be seen from outside," Emma reminded her lover.
"I don't care who sees us. Do you?"
Emma shook her head.
"Though I would hate for some people to just stumble across us or being told by others," she said.
"Including Neal?"
"Including Neal," Emma admitted. She lay her arms around Regina and held her close laying her chin on the other woman's shoulder. "I'm gonna tell him... soon, I promise. And Hook and... I'm not sure who else..."
"I think Bashful has a thing for you, too," Regina said.
"Is there nobody you'd want to tell in person?" Emma asked.
"Maybe... Dr. Hopper.. though I already... told him in confidence that there's someone... I'm attracted to."
"You told Archie about me?"
"I had nobody else to... talk to when I realized that I liked you," Regina admitted and blushed.
"But you didn't tell him who I was?"
"No, though I'm almost sure he guessed that I was talking about a woman," Regina said.
"Really? And what did he have to say to that?" Emma asked with a smile.
"I didn't really give him the chance to comment on it."
"You know that from now I'll always be here for you, right? I want us to be able to talk about anything," Emma told Regina.
"Even if I'm irrationally jealous of one of your... admirers?"
"Yes, and I'll promise you to reassure you that you're the only one I want," Emma said. She kissed Regina on her cheek.
"Good. Now, we should probably have a closer look at all this junk and see if we can find something that might be helpful, just in case Rumple actually put something worthwhile on display... for everyone to see but no one to know."
"Just as soon as you've given me a decent kiss," Emma whispered into the other woman's ear.
"Alright, but just one. It's not like you've done anything to earn it yet," Regina teased.
"You're so demanding. How will I ever be able to keep up with you?"
"Practice, practice, practice," Regina answered smiling. She turned within Emma's embrace and kissed her lovingly. "Though you're sure good at this," she murmured against Emma's lips and they intensified their loving exploration.
The backdoor falling into its lock interrupted them a short while later and they parted when they heard footsteps coming their way. A moment later, Neal reappeared in the doorway, looking at two rather flushed faces.
"Henry's safe and sound at your parents'. He wasn't happy, though, to just get dumped there," he said with a suspicious look at Regina.
"We're not dumping him, we're getting him to safety. That's what parents do," Regina told him.
"He's my so..."
"Neal," Emma interrupted. "You know since you insist on staying, maybe you could, like... make a list, an inventory of stuff in the back. You probably shouldn't touch anything, just to be on the safe side, but you could look over things and write them down. Regina could look it over later and see if there's anything there that could be helpful?"
Neal looked at Emma then back at Regina. He didn't seem too happy with Emma's suggestion but what was he supposed to say? I'd rather stay here with you guys and glare at Regina?
"Sure, I'll do that," he finally said. He walked into the back room and picked up something to write.
"Thank you, darling," Regina said in a low voice when she was sure he couldn't overhear them. She threw Emma a slight smile.
"You're welcome, love," Emma said in an equally low voice and answered the smile, too.

"One of these days, we're going to cook in that kitchen of yours. And that's not a threat, it's a promise," Regina said as they entered the house, referring to the bags of take-out Emma was carrying.
"I still need so many things for the kitchen, like... a spatula and... stuff," Emma argued as she carried their dinner into the kitchen.
"I've got plenty of extras, I'll just give you what you need from my kitchen," Regina gave back.
"Or we could just all move into the mansion," Henry suggested and looked up at his moms with a wise-crack expression.
"Henry, we talked..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. You need time and all that. For two people who've just gotten together you sure bicker like an old married couple," he told them.
Henry hadn't been too happy when Emma had picked him up at her parents'. But it wasn't about his moms dumping him, he'd gotten over that as he had talked to Snow about it. There was something else that was bothering him and Emma hadn't yet found out what it was. He seemed fine now and she had the hope that he'd tell them over dinner.
"You're not wrong," Emma said before Regina could argue against it. She smiled at her lover and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You guys wanna watch a movie tonight?"
"Only if I get to pick," Henry piped up.
"Only if it's something other than Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings," Regina told him and he made a face but only for a second.
"The Golden Compass," he suggested and Regina rolled her eyes.
"I'm looking forward to a time when you'll feel too old to watch fairy tales," she murmured. "I think I'm going to have a glass of wine with dinner? You?"
"Nah, I'll have a beer," Emma said and took one from the fridge. "Kid?"
"Juice," he told her and she handed him the carton.
They puttered around the kitchen for a while longer. Emma and Henry left while Regina poured herself a glass of her favorite red wine.
"You know, Henry, today... we wouldn't have sent you to your grandparents if it hadn't been for your safety. You know that, right?"
"Yeah, I know. I kinda wish I could learn about all that stuff... magic. But I guess, The Dark One's a little too advanced to start at. But I'd really like to... know about some stuff."
"You still haven't given up on going to Hogwarts, have you?"
Henry made a face.
"I didn't get my letter. So either Hogwarts doesn't exist or I'm this family's squib... I'm not sure what's worse," he said.
"You've already done magic, Henry. When you gave Pan your heart," Emma argued.
"I'm not sure that was about me, maybe it was Pan."
"Well, I'll talk to your mom about... teaching you something and then we'll find out."
Henry nodded.
Regina came into the living room and put her food and drink down on the coffee table. She let herself fall into an arm chair with a deep sigh.
"You alright, love?" Emma asked.
"I'm exhausted... it's been a long day," Regina added for Henry's benefit since Emma knew full well that the night before had been exhausting, too.
"Have you found anything in Gold's shop?" Henry asked.
"Well, we found plenty useful things but nothing that can help us cross realms, not yet," Emma answered and watched Regina pick at her food. The mayor didn't seem very hungry, and she looked bone-tired. The ringing of a cell phone made them all look up.
"Oh, that's mine. Excuse me," Regina said and rose from her seat.
"There are rules about that at the mansion," Henry murmured.
"We're not at the mansion, Henry," Regina gave back as she left the room.
"It could be about the hospital," Emma said to him and he nodded.
"I guess."
"Are you alright? You seem... upset?"
"It's nothing," Henry said a little too quickly.
"Did something happen at your grandma's?"
Henry sighed, pushing his plate from him. Emma put a hand on his back and he looked back at her.
"David and I talked, you know, just... talk and then I mentioned something... it wasn't much, just that you two get along so great and... he just got up and left."
"He did what?"
"He... didn't say anything. I mean, one minute we're just talking and the next he... looks really upset and I wasn't even aware what I'd said at first. But then he got up from the table and left the apartment. Snow said he does that sometimes and not to take it personally but... he's really upset about you and mom being together, isn't he?" Henry asked Emma.
She could see how sad he was. Henry loved his grandfather - David was probably more like a father to him than Neal - but Henry was happy that his mothers were together. And David was not.
"He is upset, yes," Emma answered his question.
"I don't get it. Shouldn't he be happy for you?"
"I don't get it, either, Henry. It's... not easy for him to see me with your mom, to know that I love someone who... tried to destroy his family."
"But she's not that person anymore," Henry argued fervently.
"I know that, kid, but David... he can't except it, not yet. He needs more time to... see that she's doing good, or at least not evil."
"But even Snow has forgiven her, why can't David?"
"I guess, it's about... being a man, thinking that he has to be the protector of his family. Your mom made that impossible for him, kid. I mean, it's a little archaic but I think she hurt his male pride," Emma said.
"For real?" Henry asked and rolled his eyes.
Emma smiled at him.
"That's part of what being a hero is about, at least, it is for your grandfather," his mother told him.
"He never had the same problem with Gold, though," Henry argued.
"Well, he wasn't really my type, so..."
Now Henry rolled his eyes at Emma but then he seemed to think of something:
"You don't think it has anything to do with mom being...," but he didn't finish the sentence, he merely looked at Emma meaningfully.
"Your mom being...?"
"A woman?" Henry finally finished his thought.
"No," Emma said without even thinking about it. Then she did think about it for a moment. "No, I don't think... I can't imagine that... Regina told me that... homosexuality isn't such a big deal in the Enchanted Forest as it is here, or rather, as it is made here."
"There still might be some people who don't like it," Henry argued.
"But I can't imagine your grandfather being one of them. He's... I can't imagine anyone from my family being a phobe," Emma mused. "I mean, he seems cool with people being different, right?"
"I guess," Henry said and shrugged.
"How do you feel about that? I mean, I know you wanted for us to be together but... have you thought about... us being two women?"
"For a second or so... I mean, at first when I thought about who either one of you could be dating I thought about... men. But then... I watched you together and it made sense to me, more sense than you being with Neal. Was it strange for you... falling in love with mom?" Henry asked.
"No, but... well, there have been women in my life, so..."
They were interrupted by Regina clearing her throat. She stood in the doorway watching them.
"I'm not sure that's something Henry needs to know about," she said.
"Oh, come on, mom. You taught me it's okay to ask questions about sex," Henry protested.
"This isn't about sex, it's about Emma's past. And I think some things should be private."
"I wasn't going to spill any details," Emma said smiling. She could plainly see that Regina really didn't want to hear anything about her being with other women, or other people for that matter.
"So are you bisexual?" Henry asked his blond mother.
"I guess," she said and nodded.
"How about you?" Henry turned to Regina.
Regina came over and took her earlier seat.
"I'm... I really don't like the kind of labels that are so common in this realm. I'm a human being in love with another human being, and that's all you need to know,"she told her son after some contemplation.
"Fair enough," he agreed. "Are you, like, going to tell everybody? Dad doesn't know yet, does he?"
"No, he doesn't but... yeah, I'm gonna tell him, we're gonna tell people but... we'd like to do that... ourselves," Emma tried to explain.
"I'm not gonna tell anyone... well, I told Gretel yesterday but she promised she wouldn't tell anyone else," he said looking at his moms a little guiltily.
Emma looked at Regina.
"It's okay, Henry. I guess we all need someone to confide in, especially when something good happens," Regina said and he smiled at her.
"Yeah, it's good," he agreed. "Gretel thinks you guys are really cool and make a really beautiful couple."
"She said that?" Emma asked beaming with pride.
Henry nodded.
"She did, and she's right," he said blushing. He got up from his seat to turn on the equipment for their movie night.
Emma looked at Regina behind his back.
'We are a beautiful couple,' she mouthed at her lover.
'Yes, we are,' came the silent confirmation from Regina.

"Regina, love. Wake up," Emma whispered and rubbed her lover's back.
"It's late," the blonde said and Regina lifted her head from where it had been lying on Emma's chest.
"Where's Henry?"
"He's already in bed, I guess. We both fell asleep during the movie."
"Hmmmm," Regina made and put her head back down where she could hear Emma's heart beating. It was a strangely comforting sound.
"You're not gonna fall back to sleep, are you?"
"Maybe," Regina whispered drowsily.
Emma smiled and tightened her hold on the dark-haired woman.
"I love you," she said.
"Because I'm such a great cuddler?"
And now Emma laughed.
"Yes," she answered and Regina lifted her head again. She looked at Emma, her warm brown eyes seemingly drinking her in and Emma felt completely lost and yet safely found.
"Let's go to bed. I'm beat."
"I can tell but... can we lie a little longer. There's something...," Emma started but then seemed to think better of it. She shook her head and tried to sit up but Regina was still lying mostly on top of her and her hand pressed against Emma's chest.
"What is it? Is it about Henry?"
"No, it's... about you," Emma said.
"What about me?" Regina asked.
They looked at each other for a moment then Regina raised an eyebrow at Emma, urging her to continue.
"There was something today... at the shop. I thought... well, I didn't think much of it at first but... you seem... drained tonight. Rumple's magic, it affects you, doesn't it? I mean more than it does me?"
Regina took a deep breath and tried to sit up but Emma held her.
"Please, Regina, just talk to me," she pleaded with her lover and Regina lay back down on Emma's chest. She could hear Emma's heart beating faster now as if anticipating something bad.
"Yes, Rumple's magic affects me. Some of the items... you must have felt it, too... they... exude bad mojo, I guess you could call it," Regina said.
"I did feel somethng but it was more... about you. Before Neal took Henry over to my parents' he called him 'son' and you... there was something, it was like dark energy coming from you."
"Emma," Regina pleaded and worked herself free of her lover's embrace.
"Regina, please. What is it?"
"It's... magic, the bad kind. I... have it under control but... it's more difficult when I'm surrounded with so much dark magic," Regina said unwillingly.
"Is that why you wanted Henry out of the place?" Emma asked.
"No, I wanted him out of there because of why I said I didn't want him there. I... I guess I didn't even realize how much it affected me... other than... having some rather disturbing thoughts about... Neal."
"He was ogling you the whole time we were there," Regina argued.
"He didn't..."
"Yes, he did and I... I wanted to... This is not good, Emma," Regina said and rose from the couch. Emma got up, too, taking Regina's hands in her own.
The mayor looked at their hands, a frown forming between her eyes. Then she looked up and Emma could see the same kind of sadness there she had seen earlier in Henry's eyes and - just as before - she wanted to desperately make everything better. But Regina wasn't just sad, she was frightened, too.
"You wanted to hurt Neal?" Emma asked and Regina nodded.
"He made me... so mad. But it wasn't all me or him, it was the magic around us. I can control it but... I guess, it just surprised me how powerful it's sway was," Regina explained.
"You shouldn't be there. If it effects you so much..."
"No, that's exactly why I should be there. It's a test I have to pass... to prove that I can be... stronger than the dark magic inside me."
They looked at each other, holding a silent conversation for awhile before Regina asked:
"Do you trust me, Emma?"
"Yes," without hesitation. "I trust you."
Regina nodded.
"Then I can do it. I just might... need a few more hugs than usual," she told her lover with a slight smile.
"I'll throw in some intense make-out sessions if it makes you feel better," Emma suggested.
"Our make-out sessions always make me feel pretty fantastic."
Emma hugged Regina to her and it seemed to her that her lover held on for dear life.
"Are you sure about this?" Emma asked.
"Yes, I'm sure but... if you feel... me getting out of control... tell me."
Emma nodded. She put her hands to Regina's face, cupping it.
"You shouldn't feel like you have to risk this," she said.
"I wouldn't do it if I thought I couldn't make it, darling. I'm stronger than I've ever been to resist the... darkness inside me. I know it'll never go away but... I'm in control, not the evil queen."
"You're amazing, woman. I can't tell you how proud I am of you or how much I love you. And I'm here for you, always."
Emma kissed Regina, trying hard to convey the emotions behind her words.

Chapter Text

"Are you angry with me?" Ruby asked her best friend over a cup of coffee they were sharing at the diner.
"I told you, I'm not angry, Ruby. Do I wish Emma had come to me when she knew she had feelings for Regina, yes, but I'm glad she had someone to talk to. You're a good friend, you've always been that to me and now you're being it to Emma, too," the short-haired woman said. She smiled at the waitress.
"If it's any consolation, if it hadn't been for my heightened wolfie-senses, I wouldn't even have known and Emma wouldn't have told me anything."
"Well, I only had my mother-senses and they... worked it out somehow," Snow answered. "Emma is a very private person but I wish she would confide in me more. But I see how it would have been difficult for her with her having feelings for Regina."
"I wasn't sure how you would react to that particular news... I never would have thought you... were just going to be okay with it," Ruby said with an apologetic smile.
"Well... I'm not sure I'm 100 per cent... but then... I don't know, Ruby, I mean, they're obviously in love and how could I...," but there she stopped as she had noticed someone coming through the door. It was one of the people she'd been talking about and the dark-haired beauty nodded at her in greeting.
Ruby turned and also looked at Regina, she smiled at her.
"Madam Mayor, hello. What can I do for you?" She rose from her seat while Regina walked toward her.
"I'd like to have a couple of sandwiches, rye bread, one chicken salad, one turkey. To go, please."
"Coming right up," Ruby said and was already turning for the pass-through to give the order to Granny when Regina added:
"Oh, and two slices of cherry pie."
"Having a late lunch with Emma?" Ruby asked conversationally.
Regina looked from Ruby to Snow, she seemed to stiffen for just a moment but then she nodded.
"Yes," she simply said.
"Regina, won't you sit with me while you wait?" Snow asked her after a moment's contemplation.
Regina inclined her head in assent and slipped into the booth across from Snow. Emma had already told her that Snow wanted to talk to her, though, she had thought that the other woman would prefer a more private setting - somewhere where she could tell Regina honestly what she thought of her relationship with her daughter.
"So you got Emma to eat rye bread? How did you manage that?" Snow started the conversation.
"She eats just a little healthy with a lot unhealthy. I'm bribing her with the cherry pie," Regina answered.
"Of course," Snow said.
They looked at each other as they both contemplated what to say next.
"Is Emma at the station?"
"No, she's at the shop... Gold's shop. We're looking through everything. I needed a break and we both needed to eat," Regina explained.
"Right, and how is it going? Have you found anything yet? Anything helpful, I mean?"
Regina shook her head.
"Not so far," she said.
It seemed to Snow that Regina was tired and yet nervous. She kept tapping the table top with her finger nails.
"Is it... as you know, I don't really know about magic but... is it taxing work? You seem tired," Snow commented.
"It's... a little... exhausting. Gold has a lot of... stuff. I've already come across some things from... the castle. There was a jewellery box, I think it was your mother's - it had her initials. It was empty, though," Regina told Snow and the younger woman nodded.
"I think I remember the one you mean. Do you think... I could have it?"
"You'd have to ask Neal, it's his shop now."
Snow nodded.
They sat for a moment in silence again. To say that things felt awkward between them would be an understatement. Every conversation they had or could have seemed to inevitable end up in a reminder of what had happened between them over the years, the things done and said.
"I meant to talk to you about Emma," Snow finally said.
"I know," Regina answered. She wasn't very forthcoming. Emma said Snow was 'okay' with them being together but the dark-haired woman wasn't sure what that meant, she wasn't even sure it was the truth. She couldn't imagine that Snow could be happy that Emma loved her; David's reaction, though it hurt Emma, made more sense to Regina.
"I'm happy for Emma. I wanted her to find love and I see that you make her happy. I'm also glad for you, that you found love again."
"But you're not happy that we love each other," Regina guessed at the core of Snow's words. She raised a challenging eyebrow at the younger woman.
Snow sighed.
"I'm... I don't doubt that you love each other, Regina. I can see that you do. I just... it's difficult to accept," she wrestled with the truth.
"Well, I'm glad you're honest with me. Let me be honest, too. I love Emma. I don't feel that I need either your acceptance or your permission to do so but I'm glad for Emma that she feels she has both from you. But Snow, I swear, should you or David take this away from me... Emma or Henry, or both of them... I will not let that happen ever again. Do you understand me?"
"Regina...," Snow started but Regina interrupted her:
"Do you understand?"
"Yes, I understand but... we're not out to destroy your happiness, Regina. We never were," the teacher argued.
"Well, you were successful in the past without even trying," Regina gave back and they looked at each other.
Ruby interrupted their silent appraisal as she brought Regina's order.
"Here you go," she said and then noticed the tension between the two women. "Is everything alright?"
Regina closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply.
"Thank you, Ruby. I think... I thought we could at least be... civil, Regina. I know..."
"No," Regina interrupted Snow once again. The following words seemed to come out strained. "I'm sorry. Working around Rumple's magic puts me on edge... I know you mean well, Snow, you always do..." She opened her eyes again. "All you need to know is that I love Emma. And I won't hurt her, ever."
Snow looked at Regina for a long moment. Then she nodded.
"Good, I think we're on the same page then. But... what about this magic-stuff... is it alright for you to work in the shop if it... effects that way?"
"We'll only be working there on the weekends. I should be fine," Regina told Snow.
"Hey, would you maybe like a hot chocolate to go? You could bring one for Emma, too. I know chocolate always makes me feel better," Ruby suggested. She was still standing at their table since there were only a few other patrons and she had been listening.
"That would be... it's probably a good idea," Regina contemplated and gave Ruby a small smile.
"It'll only take a minute," the waitress said with a smile and went back to her counter.
"Hot chocolate?" Snow asked as if she had been left out of an inside joke. She'd never seen Regina drink hot chocolate before.
"It worked for Harry Potter against the dementors," Regina answered and Snow had to laugh.
"Magical remedies by J.K. Rowling?" she asked.
"It can't hurt to try. Magic is a lot about believing... and as Ruby says, chocolate usually makes us feel better, doesn't it?"
Snow nodded.
"It certainly does," she agreed.
"I wanted to ask," Regina then said as she seemed to have worked through her resentment from before. "David. Do you think he'll... come around? About Emma and I?"
Snow was obviously surprised by the question and had to think about what to say in answer to it.
"It's because of Emma, she... takes it hard that he's so set against us. And Henry, too," Regina added, explaining her worry.
"I don't know, Regina. Sometimes I think he just needs time but... he's brooding and that usually doesn't help. It's a downward spiral. I think at this point the only thing that will help is time and... you being good to Emma."
"I'm not planning on being anything but good to her," Regina agreed.
Ruby came back with two cups of hot cocoa.
"One for you and one with cinnamon for the sheriff. I put it all on Emma's tap," she said and smiled at the mayor.
"Thank you, Miss Lucas."
"I'm Ruby," the waitress said as Regina rose from her seat. The mayor looked at the younger woman for a moment and then she smiled.
"I'm Regina," she said and picked up her order. "Thank you, Ruby. Snow," she greeted and then left.
"You seem to like her," Snow said to her friend who took the now vacant seat across from her.
"She helped Belle and... well, she's good for Emma. So as long as she's nice to everyone, I'm gonna be nice to her," Ruby explained. "I hope that's okay?" she added a little unsure.
"Of course, it is. You can be friends with whoever you want, Ruby. I just hope that you'll always be my friend because I need... you. You're a good person, Rubes," Snow answered.
Ruby blushed at the compliment.
"I'm not sure Regina and I will be friends but I like to get along with her. And I'll always be your best friend, as long as you'll have me."
"Forever then," Snow said and lifted her coffee cup.
"Forever works for me," Ruby answered and clinked her own mug to Snow's.

"Hello, luv," came the voice from behind and to her right as Regina exited the diner. Hook was leaning casually against the building smiling up at the mayor as she descended the stairs.
"What are you doing here? I told you I'd call you," Regina said looking over her shoulder into the diner. Everybody seemed well occupied with food and conversation.
"And I told you I had to talk to you in person," he said and made a come-hither motion.
"Don't try to be cute with me, Hook. Just tell me what's so important."
"You're working in the shop," he said.
"Yes, Emma and I... well, and Neal if you can call staring at Emma working," she told him and had to remind herself that her jealousy wasn't something she wanted Hook to know about. "But I guess as it's his shop he can do as he pleases."
"Have you found anything yet?"
"Nothing worthwhile, at least not for someone who's set on leaving here. And it's not like you've given me anything to work with. I'm not sure what I'm even looking for," Regina gave back.
"Right. I... have been thinking about... conversations I've had with Cora."
"Spare me the details of your pillow talk, please," the dark-haired woman said with a fake smile.
Hook laughed lightly.
"Believe me, I wouldn't share those if you paid me to but... we talked about Rumple a great deal... and you, how he stole you from her and made you his student?"
"It's not like she ever offered to teach me," Regina argued.
"And she certainly regretted that. Especially in the moment when you pushed her through that... portal? What was it, she never said, but she was sure you got it from Rumple."
"A mirror," Regina said thoughtfully. "But it only worked once."
"Yes, because he enchanted it... with something. A spell, maybe?" Hook asked.
"I don't know. He gave me the mirror and told me how to use it. I didn't get to see what he did to it."
"It stands to reason, though, that if he could enchant one mirror..."
"... he would have been able to do it with others as well. Unless... he obtained the mirror when it was already enchanted," Regina argued.
"Cora seemed to think he could do it himself, that he could make portals."
They looked at each other and then they both smiled.
"It's probably a spell or an object... maybe another mirror," Regina contemplated.
"Then you know what you're looking for now. And when you find it you'll give to me?"
"Maybe I'll use it myself," Regina gave back with a wicked grin.
"I thought you wanted to stay here... playing mayor to an empty town?"
"I have been known to lie to people, especially the Charmings, dear," Regina told Hook.
"But you'll let me use the thing... whatever it is, to get away from here, right? I don't have to say that you have a standing invitation on board of the Jolly Rogers, do I?"
Regina gave him a knowing smile.
"I'll see that you get to leave here, Hook, but I'm not going to set foot on that ship ever again. Now, I should get back to the shop. Emma's probably wondering what's taking me so long," she said.
"I'd say Neal is keeping her plenty busy or he wouldn't be the guy I know. We'll talk again, soon," Hook told her then inclined his head in a goodbye before he turned and walked away.
Regina watched him go, the smile gone now from her face. She felt tired of this cat-and-mouse game but it at least gave her some information she could use. There was something stirring inside her, though. Talking to Hook like she was still the evil queen seemed to wake the dragon within. Regina knew that it was all the result of working in the shop but she wondered if she had underestimated the effect it would have on her. Running into Snow hadn't helped... but maybe the cocoa in her hand could. She took a sip, then another. At first the creamy beverage made her frown in disapproval but as she emptied the small cup she found that it made her indeed feel better, warming her. It lasted only for a short while, as Regina entered the shop to Emma laughing with her ex.

"I'm glad to see you both so hard at work," Regina commented as she walked through the jumble of Rumplestiltskin's former possessions. He had kept a tidy place - except for the backroom - but now things lay around haphazardly, every possible surface was laden with objects big and small and many had already found their ways to the floor.
"We were just taking a break, talking about the past a little," Neal said easily.
"That same past when you had Emma arrested?" Regina asked conversationally and saw Neal stiffen. She smiled at him and handed Emma her cup of cocoa.
"Regina," the blonde warned and then smelled the rich aroma of chocolate. "You brought me cocoa?"
"It was Ruby's idea," Regina said and put their lunch down, clearing a spot from a small jewellery box. "I talked to Snow at the diner and told her about this. She may want it, it was her mother's." She said as she handed the box to Neal.
He took it.
"How do you know?" Neal asked looking at the box.
"Her mother's initials," Regina answered as she tapped on the lid where three letters were carved into the wood.
Emma looked at the box, intrigued.
"This was my grandmother's?"
"Yes, dear. Leopold kept it along with all her possessions in a locked room in the castle. Like so many other things it made its way here and into Rumple's shop."
Regina looked around as she said this. There were many things she remembered all around her, other things she knew about, and the rare thing she didn't know existed but still intrigued her now. The stirring in her chest was back and she grabbed onto the glass case with both hands.
"You okay?" Emma asked.
"Yes," Regina gave back automatically but as she looked at Emma, the sheriff could see that she was not. There was a coldness in those eyes she remembered from her early days in town but they already seemed to melt as she was looking into them.
"Maybe we should call it a day," she suggested.
"You've only been here for two hours," Neal argued, seemingly just to remind the two women that he was still in the room.
"Neal, I think... Ruby forgot to pack plastic forks for the pie, could you maybe...?" Regina asked him.
"Oh, okay. I'll be right back," he answered and left the room for the back. Neal was living in the apartment above the shop, a place Rumple had used as additional storage space but also to cook and sometimes sleep at when he stayed late.
"Come here," Emma said as soon as Neal was out of sight and pulled Regina into her arms. "This place isn't good for you, love. We should just let someone else rifle through all this junk," she said.
"I might actually know what we're looking for now," Regina said savoring the tight hug from her lover. They stood like that for a moment, then Emma pulled back a little to kiss Regina. It should have been just a small kiss, reassuring, loving but it became clear at first lip contact that Regina needed more and Emma wasn't one to disappoint. They parted breathlessly when they heard Neal's clomping footsteps on the stairs.
"You were saying," Emma said with a slight smirk and Regina laughed.
"Later," she said quietly as Neal entered the room.
"Here you go," he said and handed two small forks to Regina.
"Thank you, Neal. How about... we take our lunch outside. It's nice and warm and we've been cooped up here for long enough."
"That's a good idea," Emma agreed. "I'll probably be back later," she told Neal.
"Okay, I'll just... keep working some more, see what I can find. Maybe I'll get this over to your mom later." He said lifting the jewellery box.
"I'm sure she'll be happy to get it back," Regina said as she picked up their lunch and walked to the door.
Emma waved at her ex as she opened the door for Regina and they exited. Neal was left looking after the two women. He still wasn't sure what was going on with them but he was now sure that he didn't like it at all.

Chapter Text

Regina was hurrying down the street. She had chosen the way out of town toward the city limits and Emma had a hard time keeping up with her.
"You must be hungry," she commented and Regina looked at her.
She breathed in deeply, then out with a sigh. She slowed herself to a more moderate pace.
"I just want to get out of town for a short while," she said as they passed the last house to their left. It was the convent.
Emma held her hand out for Regina to take and the dark-haired woman intwined their fingers. They walked for a while longer until they came to a bench.
"Is this where you were headed?"
"It is," Regina said and they sat down. "I used to come here when Henry was a baby and I just needed to get away from everything. I would push his stroller here and just sit and think, holding him. Later when he was learning to walk I would walk with him in a small circle. We still came here when he was older. He would play explorer in those woods and I watched him from here or we... we played hide and seek... I haven't been here for a couple of years, though."
"I can just picture you. I wish I had been here to experience these things with you," Emma said and looked a little sadly at her lover.
"That would have been nice if I... had been different then but I wasn't. I was still full of hate, full of... rage. I'm feeling it again and...." Regina shook her head. She handed Emma the bag with their sandwiches. "Let's have lunch."
"Hey, it's okay, you can talk to me about this. I'm not going to run for the hills, or something. Not again," she promised and cupped Regina's cheek.
"Remember when you promised me hugs and kisses for when I'm feeling the side effects of Rumple's magic? I think I need some of that now."
Emma smiled.
"My pleasure," she said and held her arms out for Regina to snuggle in. Before long they forgot the world around them as they were engrossed in a make-out session.
"Mhhhhmmm," Regina made as she put her head on Emma's shoulder a while later. "I'm feeling much better. You're better than chocolate," she teased.
"Wow, that's quite the compliment. I mean, chocolate!" Emma teased back and they laughed.
"Well, I know how much you value your sweets, darling. I would never ask for a compliment like that."
"No, no, I must say, you're definately better than chocolate, too. Even hot chocolate with cinnamon... I think you're better than just about anything... I've ever tasted," she said with emphasis.
"Mhhm, I think someone's going to get lucky tonight," Regina said smiling but Emma made a face.
"I promised Tink that I would take the night shift tonight. Sorry."
"Well, I'm pretty sure you'll be more sorry than I'll be when the clock turns ten-thirty and you'll know that I'm at home, alone... probably thinking about you," Regina told Emma looking up at her almost coyly.
"Now you're just being cruel, woman. It's sad how easily you'll have me replaced by... what exactly?" Emma asked lifting an eyebrow at her lover.
"I wouldn't say replace, Emma, but I'm definately going to... do you really want to know the intimate details of... this personal ritual of mine?"
"Personal ritual? Is that what you used to call masturbation in the Enchanted Forest?" Emma asked laughing.
"I see you don't want to know, you just want to make fun of me. Have it your way," Regina said mock angrily, pulling herself up and out of Emma's arms.
"I wasn't making fun of you, love, really... I..." Emma scooted closer to Regina, sliding her arms back around her and whispering hotly into her ear. "And I really, really want to know about your... personal ritual."
They leaned back into the bench.
"Alright," Regina said. "But I won't tell you now." She saw Emma pout and kissed her lips. "There's a time and place for everything and this isn't it."
"Probably best. Getting all worked up and then having to wait over twenty-four hours to have you naked again... that's torture," Emma agreed.
They sat quietly for awhile, just holding each other, their hands entwined.
"I ran into your mother at Granny's," Regina then said.
"You mentioned it earlier. You talked?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure it went too well. I was... well, I was honest with her but... not very nice. And I'm not sure it was just me being on edge about Rumple's magic. Sometimes... the things she says, the way she says them, rub me the wrong way. Do you understand?"
"I understand that you two have a lot of old baggage to work through. You didn't... like fight, or anything, did you?" Emma asked with a frown.
"Of course not. We were... civilized. It was... okay, I guess, for us," Regina said with a small smile. "Ruby was sweet, though. I think... I'm not sure but I can imagine... maybe, being friends with her?"
"That's great. I think she likes you... I mean, despite everything, she... never said that I shouldn't be in love with you. She was really great and she appreciates what you did for Belle," Emma said.
Regina lay her head back on Emma's shoulder and Emma could tell that Regina didn't want to talk about what she did for Belle. She knew her girlfriend considered it as too little in the face of what she did to her years ago. But for Emma it was one of the steps Regina took in the right direction and she was proud of her.
"Your mother wasn't the only one I walked into today. Hook was waiting for me outside the diner," Regina then told her.
"Really, what did he want?"
"You remember the call I got the other night when we were at your place? He said he needed to talk to me. He's always either cloak-and-dagger or let's-get-down, I thought he just wanted to... continue where he and my mother left off but he actually had some thoughts about... whatever it is that might get everyone home," Regina told Emma.
"Well, I can understand anyone wanting to get down with you," Emma said with an easy smile. "What did he tell you?"
"He thinks it's something that turns mirrors into portals," Regina said.
"Like 'Alice in Wonderland'?"
"More like 'Cora in Wonderland.' It's how my mother came to be there," Regina gave back but didn't say that it was her who pushed her mother through.
"And Rumple made that portal?"
"That's what Hook thinks and what my mother thought... according to Hook."
Emma contemplated this.
"So what is it? A spell?"
"Or some kind of device. It could be a mirror. I know it doesn't sound like this is narrowing it down but it actually helps to know what it does. I'll just have to search for something that reacts with a mirror, or a spell. Our search has just gotten easier," Regina said confidently.
"If Rumple had it, that is," Emma argued.
"I think it's safe to assume that he did. He orchestrated everything perfectly, it would be foolish to think he hadn't thought of some way to go back."
"But why hasn't he done that? He could have left as soon as he found Neal," Emma said.
"Yes, but at that time Belle wasn't quite herself and he would have to have left her behind. And when Belle was herself again..."
"Neal was presumably dead and we were all going off to Neverland," Emma remembered.
Regina nodded.
"Would you do me a favor?" Emma asked after she thought about everything for awhile.
"What kind of favor?" Regina asked suspiciously. Emma looked like she wasn't going to like what she was going to ask of her and she wasn't one to just give a promise because someone asked her to.
"Don't come back to the shop with me today. Just go home. I want you to... get Henry, go home, relax. I don't want you near that shop until next weekend. Those things... all that magic... does things to you. I," she hesitated for a moment. "I don't wanna lose you, Regina."
To Emma's surprise, Regina nodded.
"Really? It's worse than you thought, isn't it?" Emma asked in a high-pitched voice that bordered on panic.
"It's... bad, yes. I told you I can handle myself and I do but... it effects me more than I thought it would. But now that we know what we're looking for, or, at least, have an idea... I guess you can look for yourself a while. You could look at the mirrors today. You can test them by... putting your hand to the glass. You should make sure to stand securely, don't lean into it, hold onto something with your other hand. Just to be safe, okay?"
"Okay," Emma said and nodded. She could tell that Regina was more worried for her than for herself.
"Don't hold onto Neal, though. It should be something that doesn't swoon when you touch it," Regina warned with a raised eyebrow and Emma had to laugh.
"And if I find the right mirror, should I push him through just to make sure it works properly?" She asked with a smile.
"That's always an option but I would want to be present at a test-run," Regina gave back easily.
"And do the honors?"
"No, I left those days behind me." And suddenly it wasn't funny anymore, it was serious and Emma could see the color of Regina's eyes darken as she seemed to remember something.
"Your mom?" she asked knowingly.
Regina nodded her head.
"I didn't even stop to consider where she might end up. I just wanted her gone," she said in a grave voice.
"She did horrible things to you," Emma argued.
"She was my mother," Regina gave back but let herself held by the blonde.
"Cora knew you loved her, Regina," Emma said. She pulled away a little to look into her lover's eyes again. "I love you," she said and kissed her.
"I love you, too, Emma."

Emma walked into the station whistling. She had spent two more hours at the shop that afternoon but hadn't found anything - and she had checked every mirror for prossible portal-making abilities before she had called it a day. She found that she still had some time before she was supposed to be at the station and went to the mansion instead of home. Her reward had been another hour of making out with her woman before she had to leave for work - needless to say, it had put her in a good mood.
"Someone's happy. If staying here all night gives you such pleasure, you're free to do it every night, Emma," Tinkerbell greeted her and grinned.
"I bet you'd like that but it's not gonna happen. And believe me, come morning I'll be as grumpy as... Grumpy," she said with a smile of her own.
"If it's not work that makes you so happy... may I take a wild guess at a certain beautiful mayor?"
Emma stopped in her tracks as she was about to hang her jacket over the back of her chair.
"I saw you two today... out by the convent, holding hands. Blue... Mother Superior asked me there. She still hasn't given up on me joining the 'sisters,' like I would volunteer for nun-duty!" Tink said, rolling her eyes at the other fairy. She noticed that Emma had sobered at her words. "Come on, Emma. If you didn't want anyone to know you shouldn't be making out in public. And yes, I saw you two when I left the convent again. You make a pretty couple, nothing to be ashamed of."
"I'm not ashamed," Emma said quickly. "It's... just... I haven't told everyone I think should know. You're right, we're not exactly hiding... and yes, we are a couple," Emma admitted with a shy smile.
"I'll say, and good for you. Does that mean that Killian is still in the dark about your... coupling?"
Emma rolled her eyes at her colleague and someone she would very much like to call a friend in the future.
"He doesn't know and... I would like to tell him myself, if it's all the same to you."
"Hey, I don't gossip. And I know how the man gets when he's heartbroken... not a pretty sight," Tink told Emma.
"He'll get over it."
"Without a doubt but I don't wanna be the bearer of bad news."
Tink took her boots from her desk and rose from her seat. She stretched before she pulled her own jacket from the rack and slipped into it.
"Mother Superior wants you to join the convent? Just because you're a fellow fairy? I don't even get why they keep up the charade, it's not like they actually believe in God, is it?"
"She said something about... everybody being two people in Storybrooke. I don't quite get it but obviously that other her believes in a benevolent Christian God. It's all bunkum, if you ask me. Fairy Nuns? That's just what this or any other world needs!" Tink scoffed.
Emma smiled.
"Does that mean that you don't think fairy magic is good magic?"
"Good, bad, it's all the same. I don't think magic has a conscience, or rather, it has a conscience but it doesn't have a moral. The only thing it wants is something in return when you use it," Tink said.
"All magic comes at a price," Emma quoted.
"You can put it that way. The difference is the price you're willing to pay. Usually the higher the price the shadier the person who works the magic."
"So you think it's the person who is good or evil?" Emma asked.
"Isn't that always the case? But not only bad people are willing to pay a high price to get what they want out of magic, Emma. Sometimes people are just desperate, hurt, or have nothing to lose. Fairies don't ask much of magic and they're not willing to give a lot... except for the dwarves' lives that is... but then they make them," Tink explained.
"What do you mean with the dwarves' lives? They don't kill them, do they?"
"Not actively, but the dwarves work in the mines their whole lives. And not a very long life. Grumpy and the others are older than any I have ever seen but they've left the mines."
Emma thought about this.
"So if they go back... to the mines in the Enchanted Forest, back to their work, they will die?"
Tink nodded.
"Yes. It seems unfair that fairies pay their magic in dwarves's lives, doesn't it? But from what I hear of that Rumple fellow, he had a way of coaxing other people to pay for his magic, too," the fairy commented.
"That he did," Emma agreed.
"Well, I'll see you in the morning. Make sure to stop by The Rabbit Hole when you make your rounds. I'll be there later, maybe we can have a beer together," Tink suggested.
"Or a coke," Emma gave back and the fairy waved her hand.
"Rules, rules, rules," Emma heard her say as she left.

An hour later, Tinkerbell entered Granny's for an early dinner. She was surprised to see Belle sitting at the counter, she hadn't seen the young woman since the day that Rumple-fellow had killed Pan and himself with that sinister-looking dagger.
"Hello," she greeted the few patrons cheerfully.
Besides Belle there were only five other people present - Ruby, of course, Granny, that red-haired head-doctor and two dwarves, Grumpy and Sneezy, if Tink recalled correctly.
"Hey, Tink. You're early tonight," Ruby greeted her.
"Wanted to beat the crowd. Seems I was only so successful. I'll have a quarter-pounder cheese, the works, and a soda."
Belle smiled at the fairy.
"You sound like you've always been living around here," she said.
"I'm good at fitting in," the blonde gave back. "You all look like I've interrupted some secret conversation. You all don't plan a heist, do you? Not that I care, I'm off duty," she said shrugging.
They had been talking, or rather, Sneezy had come up with a theory and some of them had pitched their five cents in while others had been been suspiciously quiet over the matter. And so it was Sneezy again who said:
"Say, you're working at the station with Emma. She been different lately, maybe... preoccupied?"
"I don't know. Emma has seemed preoccupied to me since I met her. Always out saving people, that girl," Tink gave back. "What about her?"
"Sneezy, this is humbug and if Snow heard you talking like that about Emma... well, she wouldn't be happy," Grumpy told his friend.
"I don't see why she wouldn't be, Grumpy. If what Sneezy says it's true, it's a good thing, isn't it?" Belle wondered aloud.
"A good thing? THAT is supposed to be a good thing? You're forgetting who we're talking about here," Grumpy gave back.
"What are you even talking about?" Tink asked.
"The savior and the evil queen. They've been awfully chummy lately. VERRRY chummy, if you get my drift," Sneezy said with a grin.
Tinkerbell looked from the dwarf to Ruby who didn't look very happy, neither did her Grandmother.
"That's idle gossip and you better not go spreading it around," the old woman said and went into the kitchen. "Ruby, the soda," she reminded the younger woman. Ruby nodded and moved to get Tink her drink.
"I'm not spreading anything around," Sneezy said. "I'm just sayin'."
"Say it in your own four walls then," Grumpy told him and slipped from his stool. He pulled his cap over his head and smiled a little at Belle. "Good to see you," he mumbled before he turned to the door. He stopped.
"Neal," he said. "Ahhh, haven't seen you there. You alright, buddy?" he asked the man who stood as if thunder-struck by the door.
"Hey, Bae, wanna join me for dinner?" Tink turned and greeted the man.
"No, I'm... no, I've got something else to do first," he said and left the diner.
Grumpy turned to Sneezy.
"Now you did it," he said and walked out, his friend following him - sneezing.
"What was that about?" Tinkerbell asked.
"You know that Neal is Henry's father, right?" Belle asked.
"Sure, I... oh, and Emma... right, they were together. But they aren't anymore, are they?"
"No, but that doesn't mean he's over her," Ruby said as she put the soda in front of the fairy.
"And now she's with...," Tink started saying but stopped herself. She looked at the remaining patrons but everybody looked at her like they already knew what she didn't say. "I see," she said and took a drink of her soda.

Chapter Text

Regina was in the kitchen when she heard the knock on the front door. She was rinsing out a wine glass. After Henry had gone to bed, Regina had settled down with a glass of her favorite Bordeaux and novel but had found that she couldn't concentrate on the book. Her mind had been filled with memories from the Enchanted Forest, with things she'd done. They weren't pleasant memories but they were necessary ones, reminding Regina of the kind of person she'd been and never wanted to be again.
Now she was ready to go to bed and she had planned on calling Emma to have her listen in on her... private ritual. But those thoughts vanished as Regina heard the knock, hoping that it would be Emma who would join her in person tonight. Regina was smiling as she opened the door.
It wasn't Emma who stood before her, it was Neal and he looked up at her in that sheepish way he had, hands in his pants pockets, shoulders haunched as if apologizing for his mere existence.
"Mr. Cassidy," Regina greeted in a not too friendly voice and lifted an eyebrow in question as to what he was doing at her doorstep.
"Good evening, Madam Mayor. I know it's late but I wanted to talk to you about something."
"If you wanted to see Henry, he is already in bed," she told him.
"I'm aware of that. It's important."
Regina was reluctant to open her door at this time of night and especially to someone she wouldn't even trust as far as she could throw him but something in his demeanor told her that he had something important to say. She suppposed it had something to do with what they were looking for, why else would he come here at this hour?
Regina opened the door for Neal and he stepped inside.
"If you go on ahead into the living room?" she pointed as she closed the door. She thought of offering him a drink but she had detected a whiff of liquor on his breath as he'd walked past her and decided against it.
They walked into the living room and Regina closed that door as well, as she didn't want for them to wake Henry.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Cassidy?" she asked as he stood by the mantle and looked at the pictures there. He took one, looking at it intently.
Regina could see that it was a shot of Henry and Emma. She was about to repeat her question when he said:
"You can leave my family alone," he said and looked over at her.
"Excuse me?"
He held up the picture.
"They're my family," he said.
"Have you talked to Emma about this? She may have a word to say about it," Regina gave back seemingly cool but there was a fire slowly building in the pit of her stomach.
"Don't give me that. Emma loves me, she told me so in Neverland."
"She also told you that she wished you were dead, yet here you are," Regina said with a sweet smile, the flame inside her burning at her intestines now. She wasn't going to let this guy tell her who Emma loved, she knew it better than anyone.
"She loves me," he insisted.
"I would rather you leave now, Mr. Cassidy," she told him.
Neal still held the picture as he came toward Regina.
"You're not going to get my family, evil queen. Henry is not your son, he's mine and Em..."
She was in his face so quickly, he didn't even see her move but her hand was firmly on his collar holding him in place.
"Say again that I'm not Henry's mother and I'm going to show you how evil I can get, Mr. Cassidy," she said as he gripped the hand holding him to free himself. He found that he couldn't and she was pressing his windpipe. "Listen closely, you son of an imp. Henry's mine, I raised him, I loved him when you didn't even know he existed and couldn't care less. If you so much as try to take him from me... and Emma, I'm going to reunite you with another part of your family - your parents. Do you understand?"
Neal was still clutching at her hand, trying to free himself, his face had taken on an unbecoming red color.
"Nod if you understand," she told him and he did. She let go of him immediately and he began coughing, gulping air and coughing some more.
Regina looked from the man at her hand which was shaking, her whole body seemed to take its clue from the hand as she felt a blistering cold surge through her body.
"This isn't over yet," Neal ground out as soon as he was able to speak but she looked at him with those dark menacing eyes and he fled the mansion, the picture he had taken from the mantle still in his hand.

Emma was running up the walk to the mansion in a wild panic, her hair flying. The front door stood ajar and she pushed through it, stopping short when she saw her lover. The picture that presented itself to Emma stole her breath and every coherent thought but her emotions were on overdrive. There was fear, there was rage, there was... so much love and the need to protect it at all cost.
"Regina," she uttered breathlessly and ran toward her.
The dark-haired woman was sitting on the lowest step of the stairs clutching the banister, sobbing heart-wrenchingly.
Emma kneeled in front of her, taking her hands from their wooden hold and pulling Regina into her arms.
"Emma," came the sob-choken voice of her love but not in it's usual deep alto but a panic-y octave higher.
"I'm here, love. Everything's gonna be alright. Shhhh, you're alright."
"I...," but another series of sobs made it impossible for Regina to say more.
Emma kissed Regina's hair, her cheek, her eyes. Her hands rubbed her back soothingly until the sobs finally ceased.
"What happened?" she then asked as she hadn't been able to make any sense of the phone call she had received from Regina earlier.
Regina took a steadying breath and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she looked down at her hands that were held by Emma's once again.
"I... choked Neal... I... almost killed him," she then said.
"What?" Emma asked and in the unsure second when her hands let go of Regina's, the dark-haired woman pulled them from Emma to look at them. "No," the blonde said and covered Regina's hands with her own. "Tell me what happened. Start at the beginning."
She looked at Regina imploringly and the mayor found herself unable not to comply, she had hardly ever been able to resist those green eyes even when they had been - or should have been - sworn enemies.
"He came here... Neal. He'd been drinking but he seemed sober enough. We talked, he told me to stay away from... 'his family.' And then I choked him," Regina said.
"He... what the hell?! Has he lost his mind?" Emma called out.
"He? Did he lose his mind? What about my mind? I almost killed him, Emma," Regina argued.
"Yes, because he came into your house and threatened to take the people you love away from you. I'm not saying... it was right to... I mean... but you..."
"I'm losing it, Emma. I'm losing control," she said.
They looked at each other for a long moment. Then Emma smiled.
"No, you're not," she said.
"You did not lose control tonight, did you? You stopped. Neal's alive because you have control over the evil queen, not the other way around. She may be pushing you, she may be lurking in your shadows but she's not here right now, is she?"
Regina shook her head slowly thinking about what Emma was saying.
"It's just you and me, babe. You fought your worst enemy tonight and you beat her. And you will beat her again, and again, because it's what's best for Henry."
"I think I told you not to call me that," Regina said automatically and in answer to Emma's questioning face: "Babe - don't call me that."
Emma laughed.
"Never again, love," she said and then leaned forward and kissed Regina. "You're alright and you're still in charge."
Regina smiled weakly.
"At least one of us is convinced of that," she said.
"I'll make you believe it, too, I promise. But not tonight, it's late." Emma stood and pulled Regina up with her. She hugged her tightly and then took her time to kiss her lovingly. "I love you, woman, and I'm proud of you."
"I love you, too, Emma. It's scary how much."
"It doesn't scare me," Emma said and looked at Regina. There was such confidence in her eyes that Regina had to believe her words. "Come on, let's get you to bed. You have an early day tomorrow."
"Will you stay?"
"Sorry, I have to go back to work. It's a hazard to be as dutiful as us but somebody's got to do the job," she said as they were climbing the stairs.
Regina gave a small smile and Emma gave her one of her own.
"I'm staying until you've fallen asleep, okay?" And she did. When she was sure that Regina was fast asleep, her body safely tucked under the covers, she kissed her temple and left her side. She walked across the hall and was about to descend the stairs when she stopped looking at Henry's bedroom door. She tiptoed toward it and then opened it carefully. There was no light on and she couldn't see inside the darkness. She wasn't even sure, Henry was asleep but she had to tell him one thing now because she knew what she was going to do next would hurt him, or at the very least confuse him:
"I'm sorry, kid," she said and then closed the door again. A few moments later she left the mansion.

Emma noticed Neal upon entering. He was sitting in the same seat Regina had sat that night that had changed their lives and the sheriff sensed that this night might change hers again. But not as positively.
She had been looking for her ex at his apartment and had even driven out to Gold's house but he hadn't been there. So instead of going on a wild goose chase through town, she had texted Tink and asked if she'd seen him. The answer had come only a minute later:
'He's at the rabbit hole and drinking like one 2. If I was taking a guess I'd say it was about something he overheard at Grannys earlier, some folks have been talking bout you and your lady love.'
It was the answer to several questions Emma had had and she'd driven over to the local bar.
She now crossed the room and without any words of warning, grabbed the back of Neal's jacket collar, pulling him from his stool.
"Hey, what...?" he started protesting but as he struggled to remain upright he looked into her eyes and fell silent.
"You were saying?" she asked him as he stood before her.
"Listen, Emma, it's not..."
"What I'm thinking? Well, I've done my thinking and it looks like you're guilty of something. I'm gonna arrest you now," she told him and he looked at her bewildered.
"For what?"
"Oh, well, let's see. Trespassing, assault, oh, and..." she took a step towards the bar and picked up the picture frame that lay there. "Theft," she added to her list.
"Emma...," he tried to reason but she interrupted him:
"Will you come peacefully or do I have to cuff you?"
Neal took a deep breath and for a second it looked like the alcohol he had consumed might make him brave enough to resist her but then he smply exhaled and lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"Good. Walk," she told him pointing in the direction of the exit.
He did as she had told him and she followed him aware of the stares at her back.
Emma put Neal in the backseat and ignored his apologies and accusations for the ride to the station. She wasn't really sure she wanted to talk to him at all but not talking to him had brought them here and to him threatening Regina. She wasn't going to make that same mistake again.
They entered the station and she walked straight to the cells opening the door for him.
"Emma, is this really necessary? I told you..."
"In," she ordered and he stomped by her into the cell. She closed the door and then locked it.
They were looking at each other through the metal confinements of his cell. They were both angry and they knew each other well enough to be able to seize the extension of the other's anger. That was probably why Neal fell silent, he sensed that her anger far outweighed his own indignity.
"How does it feel, Neal? Being put behind bars by the one you love?" she asked him.
"Emma," he pleaded.
"Now imagine being 18 and pregnant and thinking that you have been so gullible to believe that he loved you."
"I did love you, I still do," he argued.
"Really? You loved me when you let a stranger talk you into giving me up for a crime you've committed? You know, between you, your dad, Whale, Jefferson, and August you've manipulated Regina and myself into doing the most horrific things... and yet you still stand there and feel superior. You still think you're so much better than her, don't you?"
"At least I didn't kill people," he gave back.
"No, people like you never have to. You're just going to grow up as the spitting image of your father and have others do your dirty work," she accused.
"I'm not like him!"
"No, you lack his finesse or you would have been able to manipule Regina into leaving me out of her own free will, so to speak. Maybe you should take notes for the next time you don't approve of my life choices," she said sarcastically.
"Are you sure you actually made that choice? Could it have been...?"
"If you suggest that she's cursed me or put a love spell on me, forget it, my dad already tried that reasoning and it blew up in his face," Emma interrupted him. "Why is it so hard to understand that I love her? I love her, you hear me?"
"And how can you? She's the Evil Queen!"
"Oh, and your dad is Santa Clause, is he? Your mother never cheated on hm and you weren't in love with a woman who later turned out to be a kidnapper! And let me not even start with you! Check your priviledge at the door, Neal Cassidy, this is not Fairy Tale Land, this is Storybrooke, Maine. There are no saints here, only a lot of slightly demaged, slightly enchanted people... for God's sake, you haven't even met the Evil Queen, have you? What makes you such an expert on who's good and who's not?" Emma took a deep breath after her little speech and looked at Neal. He was wearing a frown and she was almost sure she knew what he was going to say next. She already heard his whiny voice in her head before he even opened his mouth.
"I know about evil because I've lived with the evilest of all, Emma. Don't tell me about how manipulative he was, I experienced it first hand."
"And you decided to continue the family tradition?" she gave back.
"I'm not the one manipulating you," he said.
"No, you just go behind my back and threaten the woman I love. Did you honestly think that a stunt like that would make me want to be with you? But then... did you even stop to consider what I'm feeling? What I want?"
"I was worried about you," he said in way of an apology that he hadn't really thought about what Emma might want.
"Right," she said. She turned from him and walked to her desk. She simply stood there for a moment collecting her thoughts. "Here's how it is, Neal," she started again and turned. "I'm in love with Regina. She's... amazing and caring and loving..."
"She almost choked me to death," he interrupted her and just for a second there was a patronizing glint in his eyes but it vanished as his remark failed to shock her.
"You came into her house and threatened to take away the people she loved, what did you expect she'd do? Invite you to dinner?"
"She almost killed me!" he repeated. "Are you so deeply in her thrall that you don't even care what she does?"
"You threatened a woman who is stressed out of her mind because she tries to undo the bad she's done, Neal. And you actually wonder that she doesn't cave and cry but comes out fighting? That's ridiculous! It's exactly how she became the woman she is - in fighting back! First against her mother, then against everybody else because nobody was on her side. You know nothing about her! And considering that your father was the one who introduced her to magic, manipulated her into cursing everyone so that he could find you, I think you're the last person who should judge her!" Emma yelled at him.
She took a step back and bumped into her desk. She turned and looked at the thing as if seeing it for the first time. She was so angry, she was mad with anger and she knew that it wasn't going to solve anything if they kept screaming at each other. But then, they seemed beyond the point of solving anything between them.
"I should have told you about Regina and I," she said in a low voice and he looked up surprised. "I should have just told you but... I didn't want to have this discussion with you, the same discussion I had with David. That's why I didn't. I don't think I have to defend myself for loving someone. And Regina is an exceptional woman. Henry and her and I, we are a family and I'm happier than I've ever been," she told him.
"She's evil, Emma," he said into her pause.
"It doesn't matter what you think of her, Neal, because you... have no say in who I'm with. I don't know you anymore and I don't want to know you. You can come and see Henry but only if you refrain from saying anything about Regina to him. If you upset him with... whatever you think is the truth, you're not gonna see him again. Regina and I are his mothers and that's all you need to know and respect. If you can't... you don't have a son anymore."
He looked at her in shock, his mouth slightly open, his eyes wide.
"You can't do that," he whispered.
"I can and I will if you don't leave her alone, Neal. I love her and I'll protect her. Do you understand?"
Neal had an unpleasant flashback to earlier when Regina had his hand on his neck but this time it was Emma who was forcing the breath out of him - with her words alone.
"Do you understand that, Neal?"
"Yes, I understand," he said, his voice still low; he was too stunt to speak up.
Emma nodded and went back to his cell; she unlocked it.
"Go home, Neal. I'll see you next weekend."
"You're still going to..."
"Help everyone find a way home, that was the deal," she said. "Would you rather we didn't and everybody stayed here?"
He shook his head.
"No," he said and then left - the cell, the station, Emma's life as someone she had once love but didn't anymore.

Chapter Text

Regina woke when someone slipped under the covers behind her.
"Shhh, it's okay, it's just me. Go back to sleep," Emma whispered and put her arms around Regina's slim form.
Instead of heeding Emma's words Regina turned and faced her lover. She caught a glimpse at the alarm clock over Emma's shoulder.
"You're early. Your shift doesn't end for another two hours," she said sleepily and snuggled deeply into their embrace.
"I cut it short. I couldn't stop thinking about you and worrying. Your safety won out over everybody else's."
"That doesn't make for a very good sheriff, sheriff," Regina told her. "But it makes for a good girlfriend."
Regina kissed the nearest patch of skin she could reach which was at the blonde's sensitive neck.
"Mhm, that's nice. Do you think of me that way - your girlfriend?"
"Would you rather I thought of you as my dirty little secret?" Regina gave back and bit lightly at Emma's chin.
The blonde giggled at Regina's playfulness, it was such a surprising change to when she'd seen her earlier. And Emma was glad for it. She cupped Regina's cheek and guided her face so that they could look at each other through the semi-darkness that surrounded them.
"No, no more secrecy at all, I promise. Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow at the diner?"
"Is that an invitation to come out, Ms. Swan?"
Emma laughed.
"Yes, let's show this town what love is made of," she said and kissed Regina.
"Well, I guess I'm free for lunch," the mayor said between more kissing.
"Mhm, good," Emma gave back but it wasn't quite clear what she meant by that as she was busying herself with the buttons on Regina's pyjama top.. Emma slid the half-open top from Regina's shoulder and kissed the newly exposed skin there.
Regina sighed. She glided her hand up Emma's neck and entangled it in her long locks pulling her closer.
"I love what you do there," she moaned.
"I love how you taste and smell, woman." Emma's hand resumed her work at Regina's pyjama top buttons, finally opening the last of them and pushing the garment from her lover's upper body. She pulled Regina closer, kissing her passionately.
"Let me help you with your top," the dark-haired woman whispered into their kiss. Her hand lifted the white top but their bodies were too close, their limbs too entwined to make much headway.
"Mhhmhh," Regina made and started giggling. Her laughter interrupted the intensity of the moment.
"What?" Emma asked grinning.
"I was just thinking of something," Regina said. She pushed Emma onto her back and flattened the top over her belly. Her hand slid over Emma's panties and came to rest on her thigh. "That first morning you were in Storybrooke, when I brought you the apple basket... you weren't wearing any pants," she explained and started giggling again.
"Oh, you noticed that, did you?" Emma started laughing but muffled it when she put both her hands to her face rubbing it.
"I did, I mean... I wasn't really consciously thinking about it."
"You didn't find me attractive then?" Emma asked.
"I was too scared of you to think about your looks, really. But I kind of appreciated the sight of your naked legs for just a second," Regina admitted.
"Well, I appreciated your looks from the start. It irritated me that... we were supposed to be enemies and that I would still find you attractive. I don't want you to take this the wrong way but... part of that attraction was the fact that... you were evil, or supposedly so."
"Oh, really? You got a thing for the bad guy, that's surprising seeing how your ex was a thief and it looked for a while like you had it in for the pirate as well," Regina teased. Her hand moved in distracting circles on Emma's thigh then upwards sliding under Emma's top.
"Well, whatever pulled me to Neal, that's over with and Hook... I don't know, that kiss in Neverland... I wanted to see if there was something there but... I think at that point it was more about denying that I had a thing for you... a thing that seemed to be the worst idea ever but turned out to be... ouch..."
"You talk too much, savior," Regina told her lover after pinching her. She leaned over Emma and kissed her. "And I love you, too."
They deepened the kiss and Emma pulled Regina fully on top of her.
"Make love to me, Emma," Regina asked of her.
"Always," came the whispered reply and then all words were lost.

Emma opened the door to the diner and motioned for Regina to walk through ahead of her.
"Please, Madam Mayor," she said in an attempt at chivalry but grinned at her lover.
"Thank you, sheriff," Regina answered and her eyes twinkled mischievously.
They could hardly keep straight faces as they walked through the lunch crowd to Emma's favorite table which was empty due to a 'reserved'-sign.
"That's cute. Was that your idea?" Regina asked as she pointed at the sign.
"I called ahead."
"Very thoughtful," Regina observed as she slipped into the booth.
Emma took the seat across from her.
Ruby walked by them, both arms laden with lunch dishes.
"I'm right with you," she called out to them.
"Take your time," Emma gave back. "So what are you having?" She asked Regina and took one of the menus lying on the table.
"Don't tell me you haven't already memorized the whole thing," Regina said.
"I have. I'm just trying to find out inconspicuously whether or not people are staring at us...," Emma looked over the rim of her menu. "And they do."
"The hazard of living in a small town, Ms. Swa... Emma," Regina corrected herself and smiled at her girlfriend.
"One might get the idea that they've never seen us together."
"The point is that they have and yet never suspected we could be more than... frenemies, is that the phrase?"
Emma nodded, grinning.
"And now there's a rumor going around that we are," she confirmed.
"I figured," Regina said as Ruby came to their table.
"So what can I get you today?" she asked with a wide smile.
"I'll have a burger, extra bacon, fries and a coke," Emma said with an answering smile.
"Caesar salad and a soda," Regina ordered.
The waitress smiled at both of them, then she looked around and inclined her head toward the two, whispering.
"I think it's great that you're here today, together. There's been some talk, as you probably already know... after what happened yesterday," she looked meaningfully at Emma. "I think it's good that you two are open about your relationship." She straightened again and added in her normal voice: "I'll be right back with your drinks."
"Thank you, Ruby," Regina said.
Ruby left their table and Regina turned her attention back to Emma.
"Did you tell Ruby about... what happened with Neal yesterday?" she asked and could see Emma fidget in her seat.
"No, I... I don't think she was referring to that. She probably heard about what happened at The Rabbit Hole last night," the blonde said slowly. She started playing with her silverware.
"Emma? What happened at the bar?"
"I might... have arrested Neal," she admitted.
"You... you mean, you put him in jail for... what?"
Emma looked a little contrite as she said:
"He's not still in jail, okay? I... let him go after we talked. I was just... so angry at him for what he did to you."
"You can't just go around arresting people because they don't like me," Regina argued.
"I know, I just... I wasn't thinking clearly and... it actually felt good to.. lock that door on him," she said with a sheepish grin.
"Oh, Emma," Regina said with a sigh and then reached across the table to take her hand. The moment she moved, though, the two patrons at the next table slid their chairs away from their table hastily, looking at the mayor in arrested expectancy as to what she was going to do.
Emma and Regina looked at them, then at everybody else as people had stopped talking and were now staring at the two women in their booth.
"It's okay, everyone, I was just about to take my girlfriend's hand. See?" Regina reached out her hand now and took Emma's. "And now, if you don't mind, this is a private conversation," she told the two men at the next table. She wasn't even sure who they were. Had they been guards at Charming's castle?
For a moment longer people stared.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, get a grip at yourself and leave them alone, will you?" Granny ground out from the pass-through to the kitchen. And then to Ruby: "And you better start serving those plates, the food gets cold."
Ruby rolled her eyes, possibly at herself for having fallen in with the crowd and staring at her friends. She roused herself and started serving again as everybody else was going back to eating and chatting. But the diner was a little more quiet now, the mood a little subdued and some patrons left it mid-meal, mid-conversation. They thought they were making a statement but the people who were supposed to care were looking at each other now.
"This is how it feels to date the town's villain," Regina told Emma. "You ready to quit yet?"
Emma looked around the room for a moment. She shook her head, gripping Regina's hand tighter.
"Not even close," she gave her answer.
"From their reaction you might have thought I was in the habit of launching fireballs at everybody on a daily basis."
"Maybe Neal has been telling people about what happened at the mansion," Emma said. "About that... I'm sorry about how I handled it all and I should have told you... and Henry this morning. I wanted to last night but you were... in such a good mood, relaxed, playful, I didn't wanna ruin that."
"You haven't told Henry that you arrested his father?" Regina asked with a raised eyebrow and Emma shook her head.
"I was a chicken this morning," she admitted.
"He's probably going to hear about it at school," Regina said with a sigh.
"I'll talk to him tonight," Emma said and looked up as Ruby came back to their table with their drinks.
"Food will be done in a moment. Sorry about earlier," she apologized seemingly for everybody in the diner.
"No need to apologize," Regina said with a smile. "I guess it was my fault."
"No," Ruby gave back. "It's just... everybody's been talking about stuff... Neal was here for breakfast and he... talked a lot. I've never seen him so... animated, actually. Granny gave him quite the put-down and send him on his way just about an hour ago. But people were still talking about it."
"Talked about how I... choked him," Regina clarefied. "I did," she then said.
"Regina," Emma tried to stop her but the mayor shook her head at her.
"I did do it, Emma. The hard part about... wanting to change is that you're under constant observation and when you slip you have to explain," she said and looked up at Ruby who didn't seem very comfortable being part of this conversation. "I don't know what Neal told everyone but we had a fight and I... I guess you could say I had a dark magic-relapse. I don't usually care what people think of me but... I hope you don't think less of me for... slipping," she told the waitress.
Ruby shook her head.
"I know a little about that, Regina," Ruby said. "I'm part wolf, remember?"
"I know."
"Well, you're still welcome here and if people don't like it... they'll just have to cook for themselves for a change."
The three women smiled at one another.
"Thanks, Rubes," Emma said.
The waitress merely shrugged and then left them again.
Emma looked at Regina.
"You don't have to explain yourself like that everytime, love," she said.
"I don't know, sometimes it seems important... with some people. With you, certainly, and with Henry. And I guess I can add Ruby to that list now. I just want... people to see that I'm not who I was. I don't want them to... fear me anymore."
"That'll take some time... and work," Emma said.
"I know that." She gave Emma's hand a squeeze and let go of it. She took a sip of her soda. "You know that people will look at you differently now, don't you?"
"I guess," Emma agreed.
"No, they definately do. You're going to have to prove yourself to them again."
Emma rolled her eyes.
"And I will. Don't worry about me, Regina."
"That's what lovers do, apparently," the mayor gave back with a slight smile.
Emma smiled in answer.
"We're gonna be fine," she said with confidence.

"Hey, kid," Emma greeted Henry as he was walking toward her deep in conversation with two of his friends.
He looked up and his brow creased.
"I see you tomorrow," he said to the other boys who looked at Emma furtively and then sauntered off.
"You heard?" Emma asked at the cold shoulder her son was giving her.
"Heard? Oh, you mean that my ma arrested my dad? Yeah, I heard that," he told her and wanted to walk past her. Emma put a hand on his shoulder and he stopped looking up at her.
"Will you let me explain?" she asked.
"You had time for that this morning, you know. You drove me to school and you didn't say a word to me," he gave back.
"I'm sorry, Henry, I really am. Can we sit down," she looked around and then pointed at a bench on the school yard. "Over there?"
Henry let his breath out explosively but then turned and walked to where Emma had suggested they talk.
Emma followed. She sat down next to Henry, not too closely. He sure had his father's temper, hard to ignite but once you did it burned hot.
"What have you heard?"
"Why? Are you planning to tell me only as much as you have to?" Henry gave back.
"No, I just wondered if you know why I arrested Neal," Emma said keeping an even tone.
"Nobody seemed to know, just that you came into The Rabbit Hole last night, slapped the cuffs on him and dragged him out to your cruiser. Some say, you hit him. Did you hit him?"
"What? No, of course not. I... didn't even use the cuffs, I promise."
That seemed to appease her son somewhat and he nodded at her to tell her what had happened.
"Your dad found out about your mom and I yesterday. He... overheard some gossip and I guess, from what he's seen this weekend working with us, he knew it to be true. And he wasn't happy about it," Emma started explaining.
"You didn't think he would be, did you? I mean, he still loves you. A blind person could see that," Henry said.
"Yeah, I know. I just didn't think he would... do what he did. I thought he'd come to me but he went to the mansion," Emma said.
"He did?" Henry looked up at her a little ominously but since he knew that all his parents were alive and accounted for he seemed to run out of ideas what could have happened at the mansion.
"He... wasn't entirely sober and he... told your mom to... leave his family alone."
"His family?" Henry asked disbelievingly.
"Yeah, and you can imagine.. what your mom thought of that. I don't know if you noticed but Regina... the work at the shop is getting to her. Rumple's magic is kind of affecting her and...."
"Yeah, I think I noticed. Yesterday when she got me.. she was more like... I mean, there was something in her eyes. She was like before you came to Storybrooke, I guess... I mean, not to me, just her whole... way. I don't know," Henry had a hard time explaining the feeling.
"I understand, kid. She's trying to control it but it's hard on her. She really needs us to be there for her, okay?"
Henry nodded.
"Sure, I guess. I mean, I tried to cheer her up and it seemed to work mostly," he said.
Emma smiled proudly at him and then ruffled his hair.
"Hey, I still don't know what all of this has to do with you arresting dad, okay?" he ducked his head out of her touch, frowning at her.
"Alright, so your dad got into your mom's face and she... she kinda lost it and she choked him. Not... well, I think it was bad. The way she told me."
"You mean, she tried to kill him?"
"No, if she had really tried she would have succeeded but she stopped herself, Henry. She... regained control over... whatever makes her do evil things and she let him go," Emma tried to explain. She watched Henry process this information.
"Is she alright?" he then asked looking up.
"Yeah, she's... well, now she is. She wasn't last night, she...," but Emma simply shook her head, the sight of Regina crying and clutching the bannister had unsettled her and still was.
"Where was I during all of this?" Henry exclaimed.
"You were already in bed," Emma told him.
"Why didn't she wake me?"
"She didn't want you to see her that way. She was afraid... she is afraid that you see her as the Evil Queen again," she said.
Henry let his head fall.
"I wish I had still been awake. She never would have done that if I had been around," he said miserably.
"You can't protect your mother from... herself, Henry. She is... fighting this and she's going to go on fighting her evil self. The only thing we can do is be there for her, give her lot of hugs and tell her how amazing she is."
Henry nodded.
"I guess I don't have to ask why you arrested dad now," he said.
"Well, I was angry at him but I guess I should have told him sooner. I made a mess of things and I'm sorry," she told him.
"Dad made a mess, too," Henry said.
"Yeah, and now he's telling everyone who wants to hear it that your mom tried to kill him. I mean, he's angry, too, but... damn! I'm sorry we're so messed up. Your friends will have a field day with all of this."
"You have no idea the kind of crap I had to listen to today," Henry saiid. "And they're not even funny or original, you know, just stupid."
"Did they make really lame jokes about who's wearing the pants in our family?" she asked and he had to smile.
"Yeah, but they were off by a long shot. It's mom," he said.
"Who gave you that... well, whoever did give you that idea they're right," Emma admitted and they laughed lightly. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you all this this morning. There seemed too little time, or maybe I was just being a chicken about it."
"You were a chicken but... I guess I understand now. I'm glad you didn't cuff him, though. Takes the kinky sex jokes out of the whole situation," he said and saw his mother roll his eyes.
"Oh, God, your classmates are so lame," she said.
"Some of them are, others were, like, more supportive. Grandma told some of them off," Henry told her.
"Oh, right. I guess I will have to explain this again and again, huh?"
"Looks like," he agreed.
"Are we good?" Emma then asked looking at him with a puppy dog expression.
"Yeah, we're good. I'm glad you stand up for mom, it's what the hero does."
"She would have done the same for me," Emma said. "Because we love each other."
"I guess that makes you both heroes."
Emma thought about that and nodded.
"I guess you're right," she told Henry. She lay an arm around his shoulders and they both stood. "Wanna go for ice cream?"
"Yeah," he said and grinned.

Chapter Text

Emma entered the kitchen where Regina was making a sandwich.
"Hey," she said and walked behind the other woman to lay her arms around her.
"Hello, darling. Where's Henry?"
"Remember, I told you that he would be at my parents tonight? That dinner thing with Gordon?"
"If I remember correctly, you were invited, too," Regina gave back, ignoring Emma's attempt at nuzzling her neck.
"I was but... well, you weren't invited and I wanted to make a stand. I also didn't want to deal with my dad looking disappointed at me over dinner."
"So you left our son to deal with it alone?" Regina asked.
"He said he was gonna be okay," Emma argued with a pout. "He's sleeping over, by the way, which means we're gonna be alone tonight," she added and tightened her embrace on Regina.
Regina leaned back into her, her arms going around Emma's at her middle.
"What would you like to do tonight, lover?" Emma whispered into her ear.
"Mhm, cuddle," the answer came and Emma had to laugh.
"Yeah, I like cuddling," the dark-haired woman gave back. "What?" she then asked because Emma was still laughing. She turned within the embrace to look at the blonde.
"Nothing, it's just... I never would have pegged you for the mushy kind, you know?"
"Well, I never had this. Someone I could just be... comfortable with. And I like my mush, I have a right to my mush," Regina claimed and now they were both laughing. "Do you want a sandwich?" She then asked Emma and turned again.
"Hey, wait. I thought I was going to get my 'hello, love, how was work'-kiss first," Emma pouted and now Regina laughed.
"Right, and I'm the one who's mushy," she said but turned toward Emma again. She put her hands flat against Emma's collarbones. "How was work, darling?"
"I wasn't at work today, remember, I had the night shift?"
"Don't tell me you got the night shift again tonight?"
"No, I actually recruited Jack from the car shop for tonight. We really need another deputy if the station's supposed to be manned at night," Emma said.
"Do you still want your dad to get that job?" Regina asked her.
"That would only be temporary at best since he and mom're gonna be the first ones to leave for the Enchanted Forest when we've found a way."
"That could still be months even years away, Emma," Regina said. She could see that her lover was conflicted about this topic and she leaned forward and kissed her. "They'll only be a step through a mirror away, darling," she told her.
"I know. It's just so weird. Tonight I didn't even want to have dinner with them but when I think about them leaving... I miss them already."
"They're your parents and you love them. That's not weird," Regina told her. "Come on, let's go into the living room. Do you want a sandwich now?"
"I just take half of yours," Emma said with a small smile as Regina put the food back into the fridge.
"Fair enough," Regina answered and they went into the living room.
"How do you feel about everyone leaving?" Emma asked as they settled down on a couch.
"I'm not sure everyone will be leaving," Regina gave back.
"Well, probably not everyone but... most of them, don't you think?"
Regina shrugged.
"Not everyone was a princess or king, most of the folks who live here weren't. I'd expect your parents, Arielle and Eric, Cinderella and Whatwashisface? to leave. Then probably their closest friends, Ruby, Granny, the dwarfs and I suspect the fairies as well.... about everyone else, I'm not so sure. Especially the women who have jobs here, who can decide for themselves who they want to marry, if they want to marry at all."
"I never thought about that," Emma said.
"Medieval Europe, remember?"
"Yeah, I guess that makes sense. On the other hand, it's their home," the sheriff argued.
"Storybrooke is home, too. Mostly everyone is two people here."
Emma thought about this.
"Must be hard to decide," she mused.
"For some, for others it isn't," Regina acknowledged.
They had both finished their dinner by now and Emma leaned back. She held her arms out.
"You wanted to cuddle?" she asked with a grin.
"Yes," Regina answered and snuggled into the embrace. They were silent for a while.
"You really don't want to go, right? I mean, you don't want to live there?"
"No," Emma answered without hesitation. "What about you?"
"No," Regina answered just as confidently. "Life here is so much better than it has ever been back 'home.' There are too many painful memories."

They made love that night. Slowly. Lovingly.
Emma had never felt so at peace with herself and the world. She wasn't running anymore, neither from nor to. She was home. There was little wanting and she felt that the things in life that were not perfect yet would be okay in time. Or maybe they wouldn't. She could let go of little things, she could let go of grudges and offences that had bothered her in the past and could live in the moment. This moment, in Regina's arms.
Regina found a different kind of peace in their love-making, in the warmth and safety of Emma's body. She found love, all the love she could ever want - apart from the one of her son - all the love she could ever crave or need, Emma would give it to her. And she would give her own to Emma without hesitation. It was marvellously simple, the concept, and yet she had never given and taken so completely. She filled herself up with Emma's love like taking a breath, and gave the same amount back as if breathing out again. And while their mouths fused, their bodies trembled against each other in ecstacy, tears left her eyes. Tears of joy.
"Are you okay?" Emma breathed heavily against the side of her face.
"Never better, and I mean it," Regina gave back and wasn't even trying to hold back the bubble of laugher that burst forth.
"That's wonderful," Emma said and kissed her cheek.
Regina turned her head and gave the kiss back and their lips moved wordlessly, endlessly, over each others faces until they found each other and nothing else existed beside the kiss they shared.

They were sitting at breakfast when the front door opened.
"Henry, is that you?" Regina called and a moment later he stuck his head into the room.
"Morning," he said and smiled at the sight of both his mothers in their jammies and eating omelettes.
"Morning, kid. What're you doing here? I thought Snow was gonna take you to school today?"
"I forgot a book, David's waiting for me outside. He's gonna give me a ride over," he said. He came into the room and took the fork from Emma. He took a bite of her breakfast. "Good," he said, grinning.
"I know and it's mine," Emma chastised him but not seriously.
"Go get your book and I make you your own," Regina told him. "Didn't your grandparents feed you?"
"I had cereal but I could do with an omelette," he said innocently. "I'm growing, you know?" he said cheekily and then turned to leave the kitchen.
Regina looked at Emma.
"Your dad's outside," she said.
"And what am I gonna do about that?"
"Well, you could go and invite him in," she said as she busied herself with Henry's breakfast. "And if he doesn't want to come in you could at least talk to him," she suggested.
Emma wanted to argue, she wanted to tell Regina that she wasn't going to indulge David in his pouting because she had done nothing wrong. But she didn't. Instead she took a deep breath and blew it out explosively. Then she slipped from her stool and went into the hall. She slipped into a pair of sneakers - Henry's apparently - and left the house. She went down the paved walk in Regina's red pyjama bottoms, her tank top and those borrowed Sneakers that fit her suprisingly well.
When she stepped through the hedges and onto the sidewalk she came face to face with David who had been waiting just beyond Regina's domain.
"Do you wanna come in? Regina's making omelettes, they're good," she told him.
"Henry's already had breakfast," David said.
"He says he's growing. So do you wanna come in?"
He shook his head.
"Is this how it's gonna be from now on, dad? You standing outside the hedge because you don't wanna give the impression that you approve of our relationship? It doesn't matter, you know, because I won't stop loving her just because you don't like it," she told him.
"You told me that already," he answered.
"Then I'll just keep repeating it until you understand."
"I understand," he gave back but she knew he didn't. There was a certain set to his jaw, a defiance in his stance, in his look, that spoke of denial. The need to not accept them as a couple seemed more important than her happiness somehow and that was something she didn't understand.
He was looking at her and his brow furrowed.
"You look tired," he noticed.
"We didn't get much sleep last nght," she said and her intonation made it perfectly clear why they hadn't slept much. She looked him straight in the eyes, not wanting to be sorry that she'd said it. But she saw the hurt in his eyes and took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, David. I'm... in love, okay? Madly in love and... you know how that feels. You know how much you want people to be happy for you and when they're not...," she pleaded for him to understand. She felt suddenly cold as a gust of wind engulfed her and she put her arms around herself.
"You shouldn't be standing out here in your... jammies," he said and his voice seemed even cooler than the air.
"No, I shouldn't," she agreed. "Tell Snow I said hi, and drive carefully. I'm gonna bring our son to school myself," she told him.
"That's not..."
"Yes, it is necessary, dad. You're not gonna out-righteous me with your silent indignation. People will side against us as it is, I don't need them pitying you because you play strong, wounded hero at the defiance of your daughter. I won't have it. If you want to see Henry, fine! But you won't play the martyr while our son is watching on," she yelled at him. Her arms had come undone from around herself and her hands were balled into fists now.
He looked at her for a long moment then he looked down at the pavement. For a moment, she thought he was maybe ashamed but then he nodded.
"Alright," he said and then turned toward his truck. He got in and started it.
Emma was sure he would look at her, was sure he would look back and let her know that it wasn't as bad as it seemed now. But he didn't, he simply rode off without another glance at her.

Emma re-entered the kitchen. She tried to look like she may have when she left but she wasn't sure how to do that and yet she didn't want Henry to see how hurt she was.
"I'm almost finished," Henry said.
"Take your time, I still need to get dressed," Emma answered.
"I thought David would give me a lift."
"No, he's gone." Emma looked at her half-eaten omelette and felt tears threated to flood her eyes. She turned and left the kitchen again.
"Ma?" Henry asked and was about to go after her when Regina put her hand on his arm.
"Finish your breakfast, Henry. I'll go."
Regina followed Emma up to her bedroom and found the blonde holding herself and sobbing in the middle of the room. She crossed to her and then took her in her arms.
"Shhh, darling, what happened?"
"He will never," Emma began but was interrupted by more sobs.
"But he will, I'm sure of it," Regina argued.
"How can you be sure. You know how much...," but she couldn't say it, instead she held onto Regina tighter and squinted her eyes shut.
"I know because he loves you. And I know because he is a good person - or sees himself as good, anyway," Regina said. She rubbed her lover's back in slow even circles and they calmed Emma more than words could.
"He is good," Emma said with conviction.
"But even good people have been wrong on occasion, sweety. And it's not right, the way he treats you."
"He's just...," but then Emma realized that she was defending David, that she was taking his side when Regina was taking hers. It didn't make any sense and she stopped. "I love you," she said instead.
"I love you, too," Regina said and pulled out of the tight embrace to look into Emma's eyes as she continued:
"And one day soon, your dad will acknowledge it, too. You'll see."
"What if he doesn't?" Emma asked and she looked fearful.
Regina took her hands in her own.
"Then it's just going to be the three of us at family gatherings - or maybe Snow and Gordon, too, if they care to join us."
"We are a family," Emma said and Regina nodded.
"Yes. And... I'm not sure... maybe it's too early but... I want to marry you, Emma. Not tomorrow or the day after but... I want to marry you," she told the blonde and for a moment they looked at each other in wonder.
"Are you... like asking?"
"It's more like I'm," Regina swallowed visibly. "I'm informing you of my intentions," she settled on a phrase and Emma had to smile.
"I want to marry you, too, Regina. I also wanna have more kids and... maybe a dog?"
"Or a cat?" Regina suggested.
"Well, at least you're not fighting me on the kids," Emma said and grinned sheepishly.
"Not as long as you're having them because... I can't."
Emma nodded and wondered at the way she had said it now and when they first talked about it. The meaning had changed for her, for both of them as a couple.
"I know," she said and now she put her arms around Regina.
They stood like that for a long moment, holding each other. Then they heard Henry clear his throat from somewhere outside the room.
"Are you decent?" he called toward the half-open door.
"Yes, Henry, we are decent," Regina told him and they heard him approach the door. He peeked in.
"I'll be late," he said.
"Right, you need a ride to school. I'll be down in a minute," Emma said.
Henry looked at them, they had both turned but were still holding onto each other.
"Is everything all right?" he asked.
"Come here," Regina told him and he didn't hesitate but came into the room. His mothers opened their embrace for him, included him.
"David has his problems with us being together," Emma said.
"I know."
"Has he said something to you about it while you were there?"
"No, he doesn't talk about it at all, he just glowers," Henry said.
"He shouldn't dump this on you, I'm sorry," Emma told him.
"It's not your fault. If he wants to be an... to be immature about it, that's his problem," Henry said wisely.
"We'll probably move in together soon," Regina informed their son and he looked up.
"Really?" He was smiling, looking from Regina to Emma who nodded.
"Yeah. And at some point, we're gonna get married and... and you're probably gonna have siblings," she added.
Henry was laughing.
"That's so cool," he said and tightened his hold on the two women for a moment. Then he let go. "Are we gonna... I don't know, celebrate this? Maybe tonight with pizza and a movie? Or we could go out?"
"Go out? In Storybrooke?"
"Sure. We could go to The Rabbit Hole and have a few drinks," he said and grinned mischievously.
"You do realize that I'm the sheriff, right?"
He laughed and his happiness turned out to be contagious, Emma found herself laughing, too. Regina joined them.
"I'm so happy for you, moms," Henry said.
"You're part of this, kid. You brought us together."
"Then I'm happy for all of us," he gave back. "And now I really, really need to get to school."
"Okay, wait for me downstairs."
Henry went to the door but then turned.
"Are you coming, too, mom?" he asked Regina.
"I figured, ma's getting dressed without you here would probably go faster," he said cheekily.
"Then you're out of luck. But I'll write a note explaining why you're late if you insist," Regina told him with a smirk.
"Yeah, I bet grandma wants to know all about that," Henry said sarcastically and left them.
"He's got that from you," Regina said as she turned to Emma.
"I was gonna say the same thing," Emma answered with a laugh and kissed Regina before she went into the bathroom to get ready.

Chapter Text

A few days passed. The Swan-Mills family did go out to celebrate on Tuesday - with ice-cream and a long walk on the beach. It was the first time the town could observe the three of them together and what they saw surprised most and troubled some. They had certainly never seen 'the Evil Queen' so relaxed, smiling so much, laughing at the antics of both her son and her lover. Emma, too, seemed far from the usual reserved if friendly woman they had learned to respect. She was goofy and playful as she chased Henry across the sand, and charming and loving when she put her arms around the woman she loved. It was obvious that these three were happy. If anyone had their doubts about how Henry was feeling about his moms being together now, these doubts became a certainty that he loved it and that he finally found the family he wanted to have.
Of course, that menat for some that they would stay on the outside. Neal really had a bad day that day and he seemed to sense that this wouldn't change for awhile. The thought of simply leaving, going back to New York, crossed his mind but he knew how it felt to be abandoned by his father and he didn't want to do that to Henry. The idea of Emma and Regina bothered him still. Naturally, as he thought, since Regina was evil... but some of what Emma had said to him, the memory of what his father had been and that he still had been loved and loved in return, gave him pause.
Charming, meanwhile, hadn't caught sight of Emma and Regina and Henry - he was keeping clear of having to witness anything that was going on in his daughter's life. He spent some tme with Gordon, other times working an odd job but mostly he was out at the mines with the dwarfs. They were looking for fairy dust again. It was one of the things they had started working on again after David had encouraged everybody to be more active in the search for a way home. David felt secure in his belief that fairy magic was the 'good magic' that would help them all get home. Nobody would have to pay a price, nobody would have to do anything they didn't want to do. And he was busy walking the shafts underneath the town while Emma was doing whatever with that witch...
The morning Regina found him, it was Friday, he was once again standing over maps of the Storybrooke mining system, talking to Grumpy.
"Have we cleared the rubble from this..." he was about to ask when the noise of an arriving car made them both look up.
"What does she want?" Grumpy grumbled into his beard.
"You know how she is, she's probably gonna ask if we got permission to be here. Her town and all that," David gave back.
"Can she lock us out?" Grumpy asked.
"I'd like to see her try."
Regina parked her car and got out. She looked over at the two men but didn't come any closer, instead she leaned against the hood of her Mercedes and waited.
"What now?" Grumpy asked his friend.
"Let her wait," David said. "Have we cleared this passage of the rubble yet?" He came back to his question and pointed at the map.
"Bash, Happy, and Sleepy are still at it but it should be done by the end of the day. It's a dead end, though, see?"
"Yes, but...," a honk interrupted him.
Regina was standing at her open car window and smiled at him. She raised an eyebrow as he looked at her.
David sighed.
"Better go see what she wants. She's not gonna let us work in peace unless she's had her say," Grumpy said and David nodded once.
"Come on then," he said and they both trudged over to where Regina had resumed her earlier post against the hood of her car.
"So nice of you to join me, gentlemen," she said when they were close enough to hear.
"What do you want, Regina?" David asked.
"I want to talk to you, David," she simply said.
Regina looked from David to Grumpy for a moment, then back at the blond man.
"Emma," she said.
Grumpy considered himself a loyal friend to Snow and Charming, he certainly had the scars to prove it, but he wasn't really comfortable discussing their daughter. While Emma was a nice enough girl and had shown that she was just as much a hero as her parents, for him she lacked their natural warmth. She seemed distrusting, rarely smiled - and he wasn't even aware how hypocritical it was of him to judge anyone by those traits that he certainly shared. Since Sneezy's suspicions about the savior and the evil queen had turned out to be correct, he found even less reasons to like her. He thought it was unbecoming of a hero to keep the company of a villain - much less sleep with them. But he would never tell his friends this and kept a respectful silence on the subject. And he could certainly do without hearing any more of this subject his brothers wouldn't shut up about.
He was looking up at Charming with a frown.
"There's nothing to talk about," David said and turned.
"So you're just going to make her more miserable because you can?" Regina asked and David stopped mid-step.
He turned toward Grumpy.
"Could you give us a minute?"
"Sure thing," the dwarf agreed eagerly and left them.
"All right, have your say, Regina," David told her.
"I'm not going to stand here and talk my head off if you're not willing to listen, David. Emma is hurtung, you're hurting her, and I'm not having it," she told him.
"I'm hurting her? You sure about that?"
Regina looked at David for a long moment. He had folded his arms over his chest, his legs firmly pressed into the grassy earth. He was most certainly the symbolization of righteousness, a statue for the stand-up guy, everybody's hero. Too bad he was also an idiot!
"You're going to leave her again," she said.
"Excuse me?"
"You're going to leave her again. You're set on finding a way to the Enchanted Forest and yet you know that Emma isn't going to come with you. That's hurting her. You're trying to have another baby and now you're adopting a boy you hardly know. For her those are signs that you're replacing her and it's hurting her. She knows that you can't help these thing, she herself told you to take Gordon in and she would never tell you how she feels about it because she doesn't want you to give up your home or your wish to have a bigger family. Still, she's hurting. And instead of being a father, being a friend, you're condemning her for something that makes her happy. So yes, I'm sure it's you who is hurting her," Regina told David.
"How do you... has she said... what... do you want, Regina?"
"I want you to get over yourself. You don't have to love me, David, you don't even have to like me. But don't treat Emma like a child who doesn't know what is good for. My mother treated me like that and you know how that ended. Emma loves me and I love her and as far as I'm concerned, it's forever. So the sooner you get over that big dumb ego of yours the better for all of us."
"Ego? This is hardly about my ego, Regina! It's about you...," but she interrupted him:
"Being evil? Well, that was my ego and I got over that. Now it's your turn to... forgive that I seperated you from your family, that I put you in a coma for nearly 30 years, that I emasculated you, in short." David was about to interrupt her but she held up a hand and continued. "Your daughter needs you. She may not be a child anymore but she still needs you and Snow as her parents and as her friends. As I said, you don't have to like me but you'll have to find a way to... tolerate me in your daughter's life. Or you're going to lose her," she added.
"I'm not going to simply lose her, am I? You're taking her away from me," he accused and she rolled her eyes at him.
"I had an inkling you would turn this around on me. Let me put it in terms that you're going to understand: Emma loves you. Emma loves me. You don't like me, that makes Emma sad. In order to make her not sad anymore you'll have to treat her like an adult and accept her decision of loving me. That's all."
He didn't say anything but just glared at her.
"And they call me evil," Regina said as she pushed away from her car and went around it to the driver's door. "If you change your mind, you know where to find her. But if you don't... just keep away from her. The last thing she needs are your disappointed puppy eyes and that unbecoming pout you're sporting," she threw at him before she got into her car and drove away.

Emma looked up from some paperwork when she heard footsteps in the hall. She was obviously getting company and was quickly surveying her desk and then getting rid of an empty bag that had contained chips. She also wiped some crumbs from her shirt.
"Hey, ma," she heard a greeting from the door and smiled. She looked up to see Henry and her mother enter.
"Hey, you two, this is a surprise," she said and rose from her desk. She hugged Henry and then Snow.
"Henry saw the cruiser outside and wanted to say hi," Snow said smiling.
"That's all right with me, I'm doing paperwork." Emma rolled her eyes and Henry snickered.
"Behind again?" he chastised her in a tone that would have made his other mother proud. "You know if I made my homework like you do your paperwork... well, I would get in a lot of trouble with at least three women," he finished the sentence when he saw the looks on mother and daughter's faces. He grinned.
"Yes, you would, and don't you forget it," Emma told him. "Lucky for me, I'm only getting in trouble with Regina."
"Lucky for you, you're slee... dating her," Henry quickly amended.
"Lucky for me, indeed," Emma gave back with a saucy smile and Henry rolled his eyes.
"Okay, that's really more than I need to know. I'm gonna go lie down in that cell over there," he pointed.
"Take the other one. Lou threw up on that one just last week," Emma told him and saw his son make a disgusted face. But he still went into one of the cells and lay down.
Emma, meanwhile, turned to Snow smiling.
"He's growing into a young man," the dark-haired woman said.
"Right before our eyes. It's a little disconcerting but he's... I don't know, I guess, you could just say, he's a good boy."
"That he certainly is and I'm glad to report that he's also a good student. And he's been really happy these last few weeks," Snow said.
"We all are," Emma told Snow. "Here, sit down," she pulled a chair from another desk and pushed it closer to her own. Then she sat down herself.
"I'm glad everything is going so well between you and Regina."
"It really is, you know. We're thinking of moving in together," Emma told her mother.
Snow nodded but she had a thoughtful expression on her face.
"This is about dad, isn't it?" Emma asked after a short moment.
"Yes, he's really... I've never seen him like this. He's not even talking to me. He's gone most of the day, moody when he comes home. I don't know what to do about it," Snow said and she looked very sad.
"Is this the moment when you... withdraw your support and tell me you wished I wasn't with Regina? Wasn't happy?" Emma asked and tried to steel herself for the answer. But somehow she couldn't, somehow she just wanted to break down and cry because she felt like she was losing both her parents.
"No, Emma, not that. I'm just... I don't know what to do to help you anymore. He won't talk to me," Snow tried to explain and Emma felt a little better.
"He doesn't talk to me either," she said.
"I know. I wish there was something... maybe something like they do on tv. An intervention?"
Emma gave her a small smile.
"Stupid idea?" Snow asked.
"No, not stupid but I doubt it will help. I don't know dad as well as you do but... if he's anything like me he needs time to think about this. And if he doesn't come around... I don't think there's anything we can do," Emma said honestly.
"I can't just give up. You're my family, both of you... and Henry... and Regina, I guess."
"How is it going with Gordon?" Emma asked, changing the topic for the moment.
"Good so far. David's spent a lot of time with him this week and I think they're bonding. I try to get him to open up a little but that's difficult. But he's a good boy, certainly bright. And he and Henry seem to get along, too."
Emma nodded.
"Yeah, Henry likes him, despite all the... Neverland-drama."
Snow smiled.
"I guess kids bounce back faster from these kind of things than adults," she mused.
"Maybe. I think Henry still dreams about Neverland on occasion. I'm not sure how he sees it, though. I tend to think of it as this sinister island with tropic temperatures and Pan lurking in the shadows... most literally. But I don't think that's how Henry remembers it. He's still exchanging emails with Wendy, did you know?"
"I think he mentioned it, yes," Snow said.
They both looked over at the boy who was now sitting up on the cot and read a book. He was concentrating but also smiling as he usually did when he was reading a good story.
"Do you think... would you be willing to talk to him again, Emma? David, I mean?"
"I don't know what else to say to him, mom," Emma gave back but saw how desperately her mother needed her to keep trying to get through to David. She sighed.
"I know it's a lot to ask," Snow said. "But he loves you. He just needs to see that you're happy with Regina."
"Then maybe we should just come over to dinner some night and have him see it," Emma suggested but Snow made a face.
"I don't think Regina would help the cause much at this point. Seeing her... will probably only aggrevate him. I'm sorry."
Emma nodded.
"Alright, I see that I'm gonna talk to him. Maybe you can get him to go for a drink at The Rabbit Hole this weekend. We could meet on neutral ground," she said.
"Thank you, Emma," Snow said hopefully and reached for her daughter's hands. She squeezed them.
"Don't get your hopes up. We've talked before and it didn't help at all."
"I think it did. I think he's thinking about it all. It just... takes a little while."
Emma raised an eyebrow at her mother and Snow smiled.
"He's... stubborn that way," she said.
"Right," Emma agreed. "Hey, kid," she then called over toward her son.
Henry looked up at them.
"You done gossiping?"
"You better not let your mom hear you talk sexism or she's gonna have your priviledged hide, sonny," Emma gave back as Henry rose from the cot and came over. He put his book into his backpack and slung it over one shoulder.
"That wasn't sexist that was mock-sexist. I'm aware of the stereotype and am commenting on it's ridiculousness," he gave back smartly and grinned.
"And she would still have your hide," Emma told him.
"I guess you're right," he said shrugging.
"Let's head home, Gordon't probably gonna be there in another hour," Snow said and rose.
"'Kay. You gonna get me after work?" Henry asked his mother.
"Probably, unless your mom gets home earlier. Then she'll come get you," she told him.
"I'll see you tonight," he said as he walked out the door.
"Tonight," she said and sat down at her desk again. She sighed thinking about the promise she had given her mother. She really didn't want to start fighting with David again. But she also really didn't want to lose him.

Chapter Text

Regina picked up a piece of chocolate and looked at it.
"If we don't find what we're looking for soon, I'm gonna get fat," she told Emma who looked over at her from where she sat among more of Gold's assorted treasures. She smiled.
"I don't think that's anything to smile about, savior."
"Why not? More to love," Emma answered and stood. She brushed dirt from her jeans and then came over to where Regina stood in front of the book shelf.
It was Saturday and they were once again sifting through Rumple's shop. Emma had the indistinct feeling that things appeared out of thin air. Just when she thought she had looked at every piece about three times there was something she'd never seen before. It was just a little disconcerting and a lot annoying.
Emma picked up a piece of chocolate for herself and put it in her mouth.
"Mhhhhm," she made and grinned at Regina.
"Easy for you to say with your metabolism. But wait till I get you pregnant. We'll see how much you're gonna like that," Regina told her with an easy smile.
"I'd love that," Emma answered at her lover's raised eyebrow. "You getting me pregnant, I would love that," she clarefied and stepped closer to Regina.
"It's not impossible, you know," Regina said but was interrupted by Neal who had taken to clearing his throat before enterig a room where Emma and Regina were searching. Not that anything had happened to warrant it, he hadn't walked in on them making out or anything like it. He just did it and it was grating on Regina's nerves. Emma merely smiled at her lover whenever Neal did it, like it was a private joke between them, like Neal's behavior really didn't matter.
"If he could get the job done, I'm sure everybody can," Regina murmured, still on the subject of impregnating Emma. The blonde looked at her with some confusion, not sure whether she was joking or not.
"We're gonna talk about that," she told Regina as Neal entered and then added: "Later."
"Look what I found," Rumple's son said as he put a small box on the glass counter. "It was at the house, hidden," he added with a significant look.
Emma and Regina stepped closer but when Emma reached out her hand to touch the box, Regina said:
"Don't touch that."
"Why not?"
"Don't you feel it? Bad mojo," Regina said and held her hand just over the box. "It's... did you open it?" she asked Neal.
"I couldn't. I thought you might be able to," he told her.
"Not a good idea. Whatever or whoever is in there... you don't want to meet," she told them both and stepped back from the box.
"So, is this another Pandora's Box?" Emma asked.
"I suspect it's something similar, yes."
"It's a little like Ghostbusters," Neal said and smiled at Emma. This was another thing he did, reminding Emma of thngs they had shared, movies they had watched, places they'd been together.
Regina rolled her eyes as she turned away.
"Yeah, a little," Emma said awkwardly. "Where did you find it?"
"Under a floorboard in dad's kitchen. I spilled some milk yesterday and it dribbled between two board. I looked and discovered a hiding place," he related proudly.
"What do you think is in it?" Emma asked turning to her girlfriend.
Regina looked around from where she was looking through another book for any kind of clue or secret hiding place. She shook her head.
"Impossible to know. Could be a curse, a creature... a very, very evil person. The vibe I get is just dark and disturbing," the dark-haired woman said.
Emma held her own hand over the box and concentrated on it. There was certainly something... negative about this but Emma didn't even get the clear distinctions that Regina did, her magic was still very unevolved.
"Can we just let it sit here?"
"Whatever is in can't come out or it would have already," Regina said. "Just let it sit. I'll see if I can get a clearer reading on it later. I just want to get through these books first."
Emma turned toward Regina. There was a strain to the other woman's voice she hadn't noticed before.
"What if this is what we're looking for?" Neal asked.
"We'll deal with it. Thank you, Neal," Emma said and he looked at her intently. She gave him one of her stares and he sighed. Then he turned on his heel and left the women to keep looking at things in the back.
"Regina?" Emma asked but then she were interrupted by the box on the counter moving. "What the...?" Emma started and Regina turned to see the box fall from the counter.
Emma crouched to pick it up again but Regina called out:
"Don't touch it!"
They looked at each other. The box was simply lying there, not moving. Regina went over and kneeled beside Emma.
"What we're gonna do?" Emma asked quietly.
"Hold my hand," Regina said and held out her left hand for Emma to take. She did it and they entwined their fingers. Then Regina did what she had done earlier, putting her hand just over the box. She closed her eyes and Emma saw the frown form between her lover's eyes.
Her answer was Regina's thumb who rubbed over the back of her hand reassuringly.
"What is it?" Emma asked because she really had no patience when her lover dabbled in dark magic when she really shouldn't.
"It's not... it wasn't coming from inside, the movement," Regina mused and opened her eyes again. "There's something in the room with us," she said and looked around. And like if on cue the unicorn mobile tinkled.
"It got out?" Emma asked and her eyes whipped around the room.
"No. Whatever is here with us didn't come from inside the box," Regina answered and the unicorns tinkled again.
"What is it then? A ghost?" Emma asked. The box on the floor jumped up and then whizzed through the air. It hit the door and fell to the floor again.
"I don't think so," Regina said and rose. Emma followed and they stood looking at the box. Then Regina asked:
"Rumple?" and Emma looked at her surprised. The tinkle from the unicorns was her answer.
"So we're going to assume that means yes?" Emma asked and as if in answer the unicorns tinkled again. "That is so creepy," she said to her lover.
"It is and..."
"We probably shouldn't trust it," Regina said.
At this the box rose from the floor again and then flew across the room, this time it crashed into the bookshelf.
"Whoever you are, take it easy with that box, okay?" Emma said aloud to something she couldn't see and wasn't sure she believed in. "Does this mean Rumple's dead?" she asked turning to Regina.
"No, I don't...." but the mayor was interrupted by something else flying; it was a book this time and it just barely missed Emma.
"Whoa, I said take it easy with those flying things," she called out angrily.
"You said to take it easy with the box, honey," Regina gave back and Emma looked at her in outrage. The mayor smiled. She put a hand on Emma's arm and squeezed it.
"It seems our friend is not quite dead," she said.
"How do we know it's really him?" Emma asked.
"We don't."
That was the cue for whatever spirit had come into the shop that day to produce evidence and it came in the shape of pages of a book turning rapidly until it stopped. The two women stepped up to the book which had been lying on the counter from Regina's earlier inspection. Emma looked at the page without comprehension but Regina read the title and closed her eyes for a moment.
"It is Rumple," she said.
"How do you know?"
"The story... it's a fable. He... told it to me once. I remember because... it was when he began teaching me and I had doubted him, his powers."
The unicorns tinkled. But this time they didn't stop, the whole mobile seemed to have been set in motion, the unicorns started flying, strainging agains the strings that held them in place. And then - with one violent burst - the whole structure ruptured as if from an explosion and pieces of the mobile shattered across the whole room.
"Watch out!" Emma called out and threw herself over Regina as they both ducked under the flying unicorn missiles.
They shattered against walls, windows, floors and then everything was eerily quiet except for footsteps that came from the backroom.
"What the hell?" Neal said as he entered the room. "Emma, are you alright?" He called out as he came over to where Emma and Regina slowly got up from the floor.
"Regina, are you okay?" Emma asked and looked her lover over.
"Yes, I'm..." Regina started but then noticed something on Emma's neck. "You're bleeding," she said and reached for the wound. Emma's hand was faster as she felt at her neck. She winced when she touched the cut. Then she felt for something in her hair. It was the head of one of the unicorns which had entangled in her hair after it had cut her.
"What happened?" Neal asked and took another step toward Emma, seemingly wanting to look at the wound more closely, look at Emma more closely, but there stood Regina - in his place.
"Do you have a first aid kid? Some adhesive tape?" She asked him and he took a step back.
"Yeah, sure, be right back."
"That's not necessary," Emma protested but Neal was still leaving and Regina led her over to a stool.
"Here, sit. Let me take a look at it."
"It's nothing, Regina, really," Emma told her and tried to ward off her hands.
"Let me," Regina told her in a commanding voice and Emma stopped fighting. "Now, that's a good savior. Let me have a look." Regina pushed Emma's locks from her neck and looked closely at the wound.
"It's not deep but... it's a long cut," Regina told her but Emma wasn't really listening. She was just putting her hands on Regina's hips, interpreting the present closeness as an invitation to get cosy. "Emma," Regina warned but only half-serious. She smiled.
Emma put her arms around Regina's waist and pulled her closer.
"You could have just said that you wanted to get into my personal space, you know?"
"I only wanted to see if you needed stitches, actually. The personal space was an added bonus," Regina answered matching Emma's flirtatious tone.
"I'd say," Emma gave back and kissed Regina.
And that's how Neal found them minutes later, holding each other, kissing, and completely oblivious to his presence. He cleared his throat and they parted, but only just.
"First aid kid," he said in an uncomfortably raspy voice and held the small box up.
"Thank you, Neal," Regina said and took it from him.
She didn't pay any more attention to him as she rummaged through the contents of the box but Emma saw him looking at her with deeply hurt eyes. The look she gave him back was pitying but stern. It said that she didn't love him anymore and maybe for the first time since they met again he actually believed it. Neal turned and left the room.
"Is he alright?" Regina asked when she finally attended to Emma's wound.
"He will be," she said with a pained smile.
"I hope so," Regina gave back. "And so will you."
"Thank you, nurse Mills," Emma said with a slight grin.
"You just had naughty thoughts, didn't you?" Emma's grin grew wider in answer and then she laughed. So did Regina for a moment before they looked around themselves and remembered what had just happened.
"Is he still here?" Emma asked.
But there was no answer, nothing moved, nothing tinkled or exploded or otherwise.
"He seems to be gone?"
"Do you think he'll be back?" Emma asked.
"I hope so," Regina answered and at the questioning glance of her lover. "Then he can help us find what we're looking for."

Emma entered The Rabbit Hole. She was still thinking about the things that had happened in Gold's shop that afternoon and she felt shaken by the whole thing. Rumple in his shop as some sort of... what? An apparition, a ghost? But if the tinking and flying box were any indications, he wasn't dead. So where was he? What was he?
Those were the question Emma and Regina had asked themselves when they'd come home from the shop but they hadn't found an answer yet. And Emma was sure, she wasn't going to find an answer in the bar. Who she did find was her father who was sitting at the bar... next to Neal, of all people.
"Great," Emma sighed under her breath but walked over. She took the seat next to David and when he looked up at his new neighbor his eyes widened in surprise.
"Emma," he exclaimed and now Neal looked up, too.
"Hello, dad. Hey, Neal." Her ex merely nodded at her in acknowledgement. His brows were furrowed in hurt frown but his eyes seemed glazed; he was drunk. "Neal, do you think you could excuse me and David for a while? I need to talk to him," she told him.
"About what happened at the shop today that neither you or Regina took the time... to explain to me?" He got the question out and it seemed to surprise him that it actually made sense. He smiled slightly but then remembered to look slighted and resumed his earlier facial expression.
"No, about something personal? Please," she added but it sounded impatient.
Neal took his bear and slipped from his stool. He wavered slightly but then walked off in the direction of the dart boards. David looked after him.
"He said your unicorn mobile exploded in the shop?" he then said looking questioningly at her.
"Yeah, it did. We're not sure what it was about, to be honest, but we're working on it," Emma told him.
"We? You and Regina?"
"No, me and Toby the Troll. What do you think?" Emma gave back and then let out a frustrated groan. "Damn," she cursed under her breath.
This wasn't working well. She had promised her mother to talk to David again, she had wanted to herself but now she was so worked up over what had happened earlier that she felt... out of control and not really able to deal with David's... bullshit. And after all that was said and done, it was was nothing but bullshit. How did he think he could tell her who to love, who not to love? And where did he get the audacity to team up with her ex - the man who'd put her in jail and was responsible for her giving up her son - to make her feel bad about her decisions, her choices in life?
"Emma?" David's voice broke through her thoughts and she looked up at him. "You don't look so good? You alright?"
"No, I'm not, dad. I'm frustrated! I'm angry! And I really... you have no right to make me feel about who I love. I'm happy, dad! And that's more than I could have said in a good long while. I fucking love Regina! And you're not gonna make me change my mind... damn, I don't feel..." Emma looked around herself as if disoriented. She felt dizzy and wavered slightly in her chair. David took one of her arms.
"It's okay," he said but as he slipped from his chair, she practically fell against him. David flailed a little as he steadied himself, pushing his almost empty glass from the bar. It crashed to the floor and burst. Emma crouched and gave a small scream as if the glass was exploding like her mobile had exploded. The world still hadn't steadied itself and as she ducked, she lost her footing. David was still holding her but he saw that she was losing consciousness. He lifted her up in his arms.
"I got you," he whispered as he was hurrying toward the door with his precious cargo in his arms.

Chapter Text

Regina and Henry came running into the E.R. of Storybrooke General Hospital, rousing Snow, Charming and Dr. Whale from their quiet conversation.
"Where is she, where's ma?" Henry asked while the mother at his side looked around, searching silently for her lover, the fear and devastation she felt clearly written across her face.
Snow looked up and toward the room where her daughter lay. Henry followed her gaze and walked purposefully into the direction.
"She's asleep, Henry," Snow called after him.
"I won't wake her," he answered in a monotone no child should ever have to use. But Henry had learned how to suppress emotions, he had learned to cover his feelings and appear strong. He went quietly into Emma's hospital room and sat down on the bed, taking her hand and holding it.
Regina was merely watching him go, paralyzed by the sight of Emma in that colorless room, in a colorless hospital gown, no color on her usually rosy cheeks. She looked back at the three adults who hadn't resumed their conversation yet and then toward her little family. She seemed unsure of what to do.
"She's gonna be alright, Regina," Snow said.
"What happened?"
"She fainted," Snow answered but seemed unable to give more information about the medical condition of her daughter. Regina looked at Whale.
"Why did she faint?"
"I'm sorry, Madam Mayor but I don't feel comfortable discussing Ms. Swan's condition with you. Hospital regulations, you understand," he said.
Regina looked at the man perplexed, not because he had the audacity to defy her but because he so obviously enjoyed doing it. He was barely containing a smirk and Regina felt her ire rise.
"I wrote those hospital regulations, you moron," she told him.
"Then you know best that I can't talk about a patient's condition with anyone outside the family."
Regina took a step toward the man, her hands balled into fists, her eyes burning into him. She had half a mind to blow him into oblivion just because she could but instead she said:
"The sheriff and I are engaged. I am part of her family." Her voice was ice.
At her words, David's head jerked around toward her. He had seemed determined to ignore her presence but it seemed he couldn't do it any longer.
"Well, in that case," the doctor started talking again. "I'm not sure why Ms. Swan fainted. We're still running some tests, bloodwork, drugs and alcohol... When she came in I thought it might have been dehydration, that's why she's on an I.V. For now her condition remains a mystery, unless..."
"Unless her condition is less medical and more magical?" he asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.
"Are you implying that I've had something to do with what is wrong with her, doctor?" Regina asked.
"It wouldn't be the first time now, would it?" he gave back.
Oh, yes, he was enjoying himself and, yes, she was so close to fireball-ing him into the next century but in the end, and at the end of a long staring match between them, Regina simply lowered her head.
"I didn't do this," she said and looked up into Snow's eyes.
"I didn't think you did," the other woman acknowledged.
Regina nodded and then followed Henry. She went into Emma's room timidly, saying a few low words to her son. He nodded at her and she walked around the bulky bed to Emma's other side. She stood for a moment next to it, just looking down at Emma with a worried expression, then she reached her hand out, caressed Emma's cheek.
Snow, David, and the doctor all watched. Maybe the doctor was reminded of a young woman who had once begged him to bring her lover back to life, maybe Snow thought of an even younger girl whom she had surprised in a lover's embrace at the stables one evening. As for David, he had no comparison to make. He didn't know this Regina, frightened of losing someone she loved, caring, and protective of a lover. And he didn't want to know that Regina.
"Did you call her?" he asked turning to his wife.
"Yes, of course. They had to know where Emma was," Snow told him and included Henry because she knew David would understand it better this way.
"She probably had something to do with this, whatever it is," he said through clenched teeth.
"What? No, David," Snow started saying and took a step closer to him. She wanted to lay her hand on his arm but he turned away.
"I'm going to find out what she did to Emma," he said and then started leaving.
"David," Snow called after him but he didn't stop. he left the hospital.
"I'm not sure he's wrong, you know," Whale said.
"You don't know anything about this, Whale. Regina loves Emma, she would never hurt her," she told him and he inclined his head.
"You show an inordinate amount of trust in a woman who cursed us all, who tried to kill us all."
"If Regina had wanted to kill us all she would have succeeded at some point. Don't you have tests to run, doctor?"
They stared at each other for a moment, then Whale gave her a professionally empty smile and excused himself. Snow remained where she was, watching Regina and Henry sitting at Emma's side.

Emma woke to the sight of a clinically clean room and two worried faces which hung above her own, talking to each other. Her head felt fuzzy, her mouth as if she had cotton balls stuffed into it.
She wanted to say something but there was only thought enough in her head for a simple sigh. However, it made Regina and Henry realize that she was awake and that was all she had wanted to accomplish.
"Ma," Henry exclaimed and smiled relieved.
"Emma," Regina whispered and it sounded strained.
"You fainted," Henry answered the unasked question and saw Emma frown.
"What?" And this time it was mere disbelief at what she was hearing.
"Henry, honey, could you... go to the vending machine in the waiting area and get some chocolate for Emma?"
"Chocolate?" Henry asked surprised.
"Yes," Regina assured him and he looked from one of his mothers to the other.
"Alright, but I'll be right back," he said, sensing that there was something going to be said Regina didn't want him to hear. He got up from his perch next to Emma and left the room.
"Chocolate?" Emma repeated Henry's question with a raised eyebrow.
Regina sighed.
"You think this has something to do with magic? Dark magic?" Emma asked, clearing her head of the cobwebs while she tried to sit up.
"Here," Regina said, handing her the control for the bed. Emma used it to bring the headrest into a semi-declining position.
"The doctor doesn't seem to think it's medical. And I can't think of a reason you would suddenly faint, Emma."
"Unless I'm pregnant," Emma gave back with a small smile.
"That's... well, it's not impossible but I don't think it happened... I mean, I would have to consciously make an effort... unless, I didn't have anything to do with it," Regina said, raising a questioning eyebrow at Emma.
"Well, if it's not from you then it must be... a miracle of biblical proportions," Emma finished and they smiled at each other. "That means I'm not pregnant," Emma said sobering. She reached for Regina's hand which was lying on her thigh and pulled it into both of her own.
"I know you wanted to talk about this... me getting you pregnant and all but... I think we should first find out what is wrong with you and how we can prevent it from happening again," Regina told her.
Emma nodded.
"What's your theory?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," Regina said. She had thought about Whale's words while she had sat with Henry and waited for Emma to wake up. Could she have been somehow responsible for Emma fainting? Even if she hadn't wanted it? Even if she hadn't done it on purpose? Was her magic maybe toxic to Emma?
But they had done magic together before and Emma never seemed to have suffered any side effects. And Regina had never unintentionally 'leaked' some of her magic at people; she didn't think she could. But maybe something else had.
"I was thinking about the box at Gold's shop," Regina finally continued. "It's the one thing that came to mind that you had contact with today and that was... new."
"Yes, but I never even touched it," Emma argued. "And I haven't been affected by Rumple's magic at all so far. Are you sure it's about magic and not just...," she looked up at the I.V. bag dripping steadily into her veins. "I don't know, low bloodsugar?"
"Then the chocolate would help either way," Regina said.
"But you think it was the box," Emma deduced from Regina's expression and the mayor nodded.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"I... was at the bar. Neal was there with dad, drinking beer. I sat next to dad and... I got so angry that Neal was there with him. I felt... like they were talking about us, sharing their prejudices against you. It got me so mad and I... I think I yelled at my dad. But then I got dizzy and then... nothing," Emma recounted what she could remember.
"Why were you at the bar? Did Robby call the station?"
"No, I had... promised my mom to talk to David about... us. She feels like she doesn't get through to him anymore," Emma explained.
"So you went there to meet him?"
Emma nodded. She looked at Regina who had lowered her eyes to their hands which were entangled, touching each other.
"I didn't mean to keep this from you. I just..."
"I talked to David," Regina interrupted Emma.
"You did?"
"Yes," but that was all she said.
"What did you say to him?" Emma wanted to know.
Regina took a deep breath but didn't answer right away. She looked outside to where Snow was talking to Henry. She turned slowly back to Emma.
"I told him to either get over himself or butt out of... our relationship. I don't want him to hurt you anymore," she admitted.
Emma gave her a small smile and lifted one of her hands to cup her lover's cheek.
"You're precious," Emma said and pulled Regina's head to hers so that their foreheads touched.
"You're my family, Emma. I need to... make sure you're happy. And he has no right to make you feel bad about... us."
"No, he doesn't. That's why I was angry with him earlier," Emma agreed.
"How angry?" Regina asked and pulled away so as to look into Emma's eyes.
"How...? I... I was just angry," the blonde said.
"Very angry? Really mad?"
"Yeah, but..."
"Unreasonably mad?" Regina kept asking and Emma looked at her. Then she seemed to think back to before she fainted and nodded.
"Yes, I was... beyond angry. I... is that how it feels, dark magic? Like white, hot anger?"
"It can... but only if you can't control it or... well, I guess it would feel like that if you hadn't had any prior experience with it," Regina mused. "I should have known this could happen. I didn't even stop to think how it could affect you because it hadn't so far."
"This is not your fault. I was... unprepared."
"Yes, but only because I...," but she only got so far before Emma put a finger to her lips.
"Shhh, it happened. Now we know better," she said.
Emma didn't take her hand away, instead she let her finger linger on Regina's lips. She touched the prominent scar at Regina's upper lip.
"Emma," Regina warned with a sexy little smile. It still sometimes took her by surprise how fast the mood between them could change. From worried to argumentitive to playful and then breathtakingly erotic. She felt her body shift closer to Emma in sheer irresistable need to be with her. And yet she knew that they were exposed to looks from outside in the glass-walled room.
"You take my breath away, woman," Emma breathed and Regina closed her eyes. She took Emma's hand in her own and kissed its back.
"I'm so relieved you're okay," she answered, pressing her face to Emma's hand. "I don't know what I'd do if you... were hurt."
"You'd take care of Henry," Emma said and Regina opened her eyes. They looked at each other for a long moment. Regina nodded in silent promise then she leaned forward and over Emma. They kissed.
"You are aware that the walls are see-through, right?" Henry asked from the doorway a minute later.
His mothers looked at him and at Snow who stood behind him wearing a small smile.
"How are you?" she asked Emma.
"I'm okay, mom."
"Do you know what happened?"
Henry and Snow came into the room as Regina sat up again, her back suddenly rigid and uncomfortable.
Henry came over to her side of the bed and handed her the chocolate he had gotten from the vending machine.
"Thank you, Henry," she said, sorting through an assortment of different chocolate bars and handing him a Snickers.
He grinned and let himself fall into one of the visitor's chairs.
"Regina thinks something in Rumple's shop may have affected me. We don't know what, though," Emma quickly added. They had agreed that afternoon not to tell anyone about their discovery that Rumple might still be alive and Emma thought it best to keep knowledge of the little magic box a secret as well.
"Affecting you how?" Snow asked.
"I don't know, maybe it just clashed with my savior-senses... 'Gina thinks it's probably dark magic," she said looking at her lover for backup.
"I'd have to go back and look at what Emma touched today. I wouldn't want anyone else to.. touch it," Regina said.
"Won't it affect you?" Snow asked.
"Differently, probably. But I'll take some chocolate and I'll be fine. Not that anyone would notice whether I'm evil or not," she tried to joke but it fell flat. Emma squeezed her hand and she looked at her.
"I would notice," she said seriously.
"So would I," Henry said from his place and she looked over at him.
There had been few moments in her life Regina had felt this loved, this cherished and it brought tears to her eyes. Snow's presence made these awkward and she rubbed at her eyes self-consciously.
"I'll be careful," she promised Emma and Henry.

It was late when Regina and Henry entered the mansion. Dr. Whale had insisted on Emma spending the night at the hospital for observation and the sheriff had almost thrown her I.V. bag at him. Regina had talked her into staying but it had taken time and a lot of tlc until the blonde finally - poutingly - consented.
"Mom?" Henry was saying as Regina locked the front door.
Regina turned to him and lay an arm over his shoulders as they were walking toward the stairs that led to the second floor.
"What you're doing at Gold's? It's dangerous, isn't it?" he asked looking up at her with a frown.
Regina looked back at him, wondering what to tell him. She knew what he wanted to hear - the truth - but she wasn't sure it would be the most helpful thing to tell him.
"Please be honest," he asked of her and she had to smile.
He knew her well and their history seemed to allow for him to ask this of her.
"It can be dangerous, yes," Regina said. She wanted to continue but he asked:
"Then why do it?"
They were at the stairs now. Regina looked up and decided that this conversation might take longer than them reaching the second floor and their respective bedrooms. She was exhausted and knew that Henry was, too; he had almost fallen asleep during the ride home. But she also knew that Henry was worried about Emma, probably about her as well, and postponing this conversation would only deepen his fears.
She sat down on the stairs and Henry joined her.
"This is important for everyone, Henry. Rumple might have had a way for everyone to go home again. You know why I have to do this, I'm responsible for everyone being here, I should help getting them home," she told him.
"But not if it kills you," he protested.
"It's not gonna kill me, Henry. Or Emma. I would never let Emma help me if I thought... I didn't see this coming, Henry, please, believe me," she begged of him suddenly anxious that he should think her responsible for Emma getting hurt.
"I'm not blaming you. I know you would never hurt ma but... this thing, whatever it is, in the shop, it hurt her. I don't wanna lose either of you, you're my moms."
Regina pulled Henry into her arms and held him. He held onto her for a while, then pulled back again.
"I don't want you going there anymore. Every time you come back from the shop, you're moody and your eyes... they get all cold. I know you want to redeem yourself but it's not worth it if it makes you evil again. And it's not worth it if Emma or you get hurt," he told her.
He had a strong argument and she knew it, but she also knew that they couldn't give up now that they were so close to finding what they were looking for - with Rumple's help. They could also maybe bring him back and she knew that would make at least one Storybrooke citizen very happy, a Storybrooke citizen she owed some happiness.
"Listen to me, Henry," she said. She put one hand to his cheek lovingly. "There was something in the shop today, a box. I think, no, I'm sure it's what made Emma sick. We didn't want anyone to know about it because... well, it may be dangerous. I guess, what happened to Emma today proves that it is. I'm gonna take care of it, hide it where people can't find it. And then we're going to resume our search. We'll be more careful from now on, I promise you. We'll not take any chances on our health and I'm just gonna leave whenever I feel... the evil. But I can't let everyone down now. I need to do this. Do you understand?"
He looked up at her sadly but he nodded.
"You be careful, right?"
"Very. And I won't let anything else happen to Emma, you have my word," she promised him.
"Or to yourself," he added and she smiled.
"Or to myself," she vowed.
"I was scared today," he told her.
"So was I, Henry. I don't know what I'd do without you or Emma. I love you both so much."
Henry smiled sheepishly.
"There's one thing I thought about on our way to the hospital, you know. I thought it would be okay as long as you would kiss Emma when we got there. True love's kiss," he explained at her perplexed face.
"You think... I... I haven't even thought about that," she admitted.
"Good thing I have. You would have saved her, you're her true love," he said confidently and hugged her once more before he rose from his seat. "I'm tired. Goodnight, mom."
"Goodnight, Henry. Sleep tight," she told him and he climbed the stairs.
Regina remained seated. She thought about what Henry had said, she thought about the whole day, the things that had happened. Tears slipped from her eyes as the tension of the day fell from her remembering Henry's trusting exclamation that she was Emma's true love.

Chapter Text

"I really don't have time for this," Regina said opening her jacket as she waited on the back parking lot of the diner. It was empty, as it usually was, and the best place to meet people you didn't want to get seen with. Only, the person Regina was waiting for hadn't shown up yet and it was already 20 minutes late.
Regina worked her gloves in her hands. It was too warm for them but she had worn them earlier today to retrieve the box from Gold's shop. She had looked at it more closely and it was indeed very similar to 'Pandora's Box.' The coloring was different, though, and Regina was almost sure that it had held whatever was in it longer than just a few weeks. But what it was - or maybe even who - was as elusive as the imp who put it in. While in the shop, she had called for him, tried to converse by making him push things around but he hadn't shown - or not shown. Maybe he hadn't expected her back this early, maybe he wasn't even able to come back.
She heard footsteps behind her and turned to look at Hook. He was wearing jeans and a tight fitting shirt, a light jacket.
"You almost look like a regular person," she said, forgetting his unpunctuality over his strange - for him, not for any other person - garb.
"Except for this, you mean," he said and held up his hook.
"Except for the beard and the boots," Regina corrected.
"Yeah, I can't really walk in those sneaker-things. Feels like I'm walking barefoot and I never liked the sensation," he told her.
"So why the... new you? Have you finally watched 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and didn't like the association?"
"I think that guy is hilarious, actually. No, it's just... summer's not so far away and the leather and the sweating... this realm makes nice, cool fabrics," Hook said and hopped around a little. "It feels good, light. I like it."
"Hm," Regina simply made not quiet believing him but not caring enough to keep this line of questioning up. "Whatever floats your boat, so to speak." She gave him a small sarcastic grin and he had time to roll his eyes before she came to the point: "I asked you here because I want you to get rid of something."
"Let me guess, it's the little man who's constantly complaining about you," he gave back.
"Henry isn't complaining about me, wherever did you hear that?"
"I didn't mean Henry but find it interesting that you were immediately thinking of him. I was referring to Leroy. That's what he's called here, right?"
Regina squinted her eyes at Hook and he grinned.
"It's not someone I want to get rid of - or it might be Leroy - it's something. It's... made Emma sick and I think it might be dangerous to have around," she said putting on her right glove. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out the box. She held it up for Hook's inspection.
"It's dangerous and you want me to get rid of it. I'm not sure if I should feel insulted or... no, wait, I do feel insulted. Is... is the sheriff alright?" he slipped in the question as if not caring but Regina knew that he did. She was also wondering about his lack of clever remarks as to their relationship, for surely he must have heard about it by now.
"Emma's fine - now. But this thing affects her and I want it out of town. I don't care if you bury it in the woods or drop it into the ocean, just get rid of it," Regina instructed.
Killian reached out for the box but Regina pulled it back.
"And don't touch it. If it affects Emma, it could affect anyone, even you."
"But not you," Hook stated.
"There's evil inside, that much I know. And I've handled my share of evil. I think it might have clashed with Emma's... goodness." It felt strange to her how that last word tasted on her tongue, the texture of it. Emma's goodness wasn't just something to make fun of anymore, it was something Regina had come to rely on, to appreciate and love about the woman and now she was smiling because of it.
Hook noticed and raised an eyebrow.
"So how is that even working?" he asked her and she looked at him. "You and Emma?"
"What exactly are you referring to?" Regina asked because she still wasn't sure he knew about their relationship.
"When I met the fair maiden she could hardly stand to say your name and I think you weren't too fond of her, either. Neverland changed some of that, I'm sure, but you still had your... little lady-scrambles. And now... you just work side by side in a small room with lots of magic... sounds like someone should be close by with a fire hose in case of a cat-fight, yes?"
The sexual insinutation in this little speech was so thick Regina felt dazed by it and she blinked at him. Then, to his surprise, she grinned.
"Don't worry, I can handle her just fine by myself," she told him.
For a moment, he looked unsure but then he grinned.
"Now you're just teasing," he said and showed his teeth in a wide grin. "Still, the visual is somewhat... inspiring. Now, about that box. You gonna give it to me?"
"I don't want you to touch it, it's dangerous," she told him again.
"Well, then tie a bow around it and hang in on my hook, 'cause I forgot my gloves at home today, luv."
"Or I could just put it in your pocket," she said and stepped to his side. She put the box in his jacket. "Make sure to wear a glove when you retrieve it."
"If you want me to reach it at all, you should put it in my other pocket," he told her, holding up his hook.
"Right," she breathed, retrieved the box and was about to put it where he could reach it with his hand when he said:
"And if you want to make me happy, you might want to put it in my trouser pocket." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively at her.
"Believe me, you don't want this," and she held up the box, "anywhere near your... jewels collection. The same goes for my hand, by the way." She put the box in his jacket and caught him grinning again. She sighed.
"Why me?" he asked her.
"Why did you call me to get rid of this? I mean... why not do it yourself if it's so dangerous? Or why not keep it? It might come in handy at some point," he said.
"I have a son, someone who has inherited his mother's... disposition of being a nice person. I don't want him near this and I kind of figured that you might need something to do... something that borders on dangerous? You seem bored," she told him.
"I'm not, actually, though I think it's nice that you worry so about me. I'll get it out of town, don't worry. Might take the Jolly out for a little spin, might be nice," he said. "Say, how close are you to discovering what I need to get away from here?"
"I think I'm a lot closer than I was before we found that but... I can only go to the shop on weekends, so..."
"That would give me almost a week for a nice sailing trip down the coast," he finished her thoughts and she inclined her head.
Hook nodded.
"I'll see you when I get back then," he said and tipped an invisible hat. "Your Highness."
"Safe trip," she murmured as he walked away with his usual swag - which wasn't nearly as impressive now that he looked like any other guy in Storybrooke.

"Are you comfortable?" Regina asked sitting down at the end of the couch Emma was reclining on.
"I'm okay, love. Only, you've been away most of the day and I haven't gotten nearly enough love from you today," Emma said opening her arms for the other woman to cuddle into her.
Regina got up and sat back down next to Emma instead of following the invitation. She leaned over her and kissed her, however, and Emma wasn't shy to take advantage of that fact. Regina had to struggle into an upright position and looked slightly disapproving at Emma as she sat up again.
"You've just been released from the hospital," she said.
"With a clean bill of health, Regina. I'm fine," Emma said smiling. "But I figure you're never too healthy for some tlc, so..." Emma pulled Regina close again and this time the other woman didn't resist. They kissed, slowly, letting the burn between them build, linger, cool and kindle again.
"Mhm," Regina sighed as they parted. Her hands were lying against Emma's chest, her head against her shoulder. "You know, I thought a little more about what you said about another deputy and I hired that Jim-guy from the car shop."
"His name is Jack and you... you actually hired him?"
"Yes, I figured your dad was probably not going to want that job at the moment but you and Tinkerbell need help so..." But that wasn't the only reason and Emma could tell.
"Did you do that because I fainted?" Emma asked.
"I... yes... I... I want you to take a couple of days off. Just to make sure that you're really okay," she came out with the real reason, her chocolaty brown eyes pleading with the blonde.
"Regina, I am fine. It was just... that box. And it won't be there next weekend, will it?"
"No, I've gotten rid of it already," Regina told Emma who looked surprised.
"Really? Where did you... 'get rid of it,' exactly? Does Storybrooke have a toxic and magical dump site I don't know of?"
"I gave it to Hook," Regina said and made Emma look even more surprised.
"Hook? You gave a potentially dangerous magical box with a potentially dangerous magical creature inside to Hook? Explain," she asked of her lover looking puzzled.
"I told him it made you sick, so I figured he would get it as far away from Storybrooke as he could," Regina said smiling.
Emma had to laugh.
"That was kinda mean, you know?"
"I thought it was rather clever of me," Regina argued looking pleased with herself. "Have you told him about us, by the way?"
"Ah, no, I haven't seen him around lately."
"He's been a little bit more elusive than usual. And I don't think he knows about us yet... though, he didn't seem opposed to imagine us in a cat-fight. Maybe he won't mind so much," Regina mused.
"Do I wanna know?" Emma asked about the cat-fight comment and Regina shook her head.
"He's acting a little strange. When I saw him today he was wearing jeans," the mayor said.
"Really?" Emma asked wide-eyed.
"You sound like you would like to check that out."
"I would like to see it, not check it out. There's a difference, love," Emma told Regina. "No need to get jealous."
"I'm not jealous," Regina gave back a little too quickly and Emma smirked at her. Regina closed her eyes to keep from rolling her eyes at herself. "I'm a little jealous... generally, not especially of Hook," she admitted.
"Still no need for it, though," Emma said sitting up. She kissed Regina on the nose and swung her legs off the couch. "And I think I'm gonna take you up on a couple of vacation days. Two, to be exact," she then said.
"Really? Are you feeling okay?"
"Regina, I'm fine," Emma reassured her lover. "Really. I'd like to... I don't know, have a little time, go over to my parents', maybe talk to my dad again, spend some time with the kid... which reminds me. Where's Henry?"
"He's spending the night at the juvenile delinquents' house," Regina said.
"You do know they have names, right?"
"I'm aware."
They smiled at each other then Emma noticed something.
"Tomorrow's Monday. Since when is Henry allowed to stay at a friend's house on a school night?"
"Since we have to talk about something," Regina answered as she got up from the couch. She held her hand out to Emma and the blonde took it.
"Talk?" she asked.
"Yes. There was something you wanted to talk about, remember?"
For a moment, Emma looked puzzled but then the confusion in her eyes cleared and she started smiling.
"I remember," she said. "You wanted to explain to me where babies come from."
Regina laughed.
"Something like that," Regina agreed as she took Emma's hand and led the way out of the living room.

They entered Emma's bedroom, their hands still losely entangled, and Regina switched the light on. She was about to let go of Emma's hand when the blonde pulled her to her by their combined hands and wrapped her arms around her.
"I love you, you know?" she murmured into the dark recessess of Regina's hair before she pushed it away with one hand and started kissing her lover's neck.
For a moment, Regina pulled her close relishing in the feelings Emma's attentions always ignited in her, of being wanted, cherished, loved - among other things. But for now, these feelings would have to wait as Regina pushed against Emma's chest to look at her.
"We wanted to talk," she reminded the blonde.
"With our mouths," Emma agreed and pressed her lips against Regina's, smothering any further words and even most of the thoughts Regina had wanted to utter. But even though Regina's knees felt close to buckling at the passionate assault on her body, she managed to free herself from Emma and walk to the window. She opened it. Emma follwoed her, laying her arms around her slim waist and attached her lips once again to Regina's neck.
"We really do need to talk about this, you know. If we want more kids..."
"Oh," Emma made as her love-fogged mind registered Regina's words. "You really do want to tell me where babies come from? You do know that I've already had one kid and... well, I know the... mechanics of how to make them, too. So I just thought..."
Regina turned in her embrace.
"We go ahead and... just do it?" she asked wide-eyed.
Emma nodded.
"Well, yeah."
For a moment, Regina simply stood. Her mouth opened but there were no words coming out. She closed it again, swallowed, tried again:
"Tonight? You just want to... make a baby tonight?"
"I wouldn't say 'just' but, yes. I want us to make a baby. Tonight."
Regina blinked a couple of times and disentangled herself from Emma. She went over to the bed and sat down. Emma followed but didn't sit until Regina reached for her hand and pulled her down next to her. She took both of Emma's hands in her own.
"That's not what you want, though, is it?"
"I just thought..."
"Listen to me, please?" Regina pleaded and for a long moment they just looked at each other. There was hurt in Emma's eyes, there was confusion and need. She had obviously felt sure that they were on the same page about this and now realized that they weren't. But how could she have just assumed when they had never even talked about it?
"I'm listening," she said after a long pause, trying not to look too defeated in the light of imminent hopes crushed.
"I know we've done magic together before and... it always worked so far. But making an eclipse or absorbing destructive magic isn't... like making a baby, Emma. I've never done it before and I've only read about it once... in one of Rumple's books. I actually hoped that I would find the book in the shop but so far... I haven't. I remember what it said. I've... I've read it at a time when... it had been very important to me to know about it... but..."
Emma looked at Regina as her voice faltered. She was breathing easier again, realizing that they were really talking about this and not just acknowledging what they both wanted and then having to make a compromise - the way these kind of adult conversations usually went.
"Tell me," she said as she lay one of her hands on Regina's cheek, caressing it.
"It was after the doctor told me I couldn't have children. I thought... my life would be better if I could give Leopold what he so desperately wanted - a male heir. But there was no way. What's dead is dead, no magic can change that," Regina said sadly.
"I'm so sorry, love."
"I've known for a long time. And with you... it's different now. You can have children and... with our combined magic we should be able to... make a baby," Regina said and smiled. Emma smiled back.
"How?" she asked.
"You really do want to do this... now?" Regina asked, her eyes looking deeply into Emma's seemingly in search of an explanation.
"Is there anything holding us back, Regina? I mean... I'm 30 years old, I'm not getting any younger. I mean, I guess there are even ways to do that but... I'm not sure I want that and then there would be a downside, probably something like that Dorian Gray-feller went through...," she rambled.
"Emma," Regina interrupted. "Talk to me."
"Sorry, I... what I'm saying is, we already have Henry, we already have a family. I never thought I would have this. I never thought I would have a son and a... wife, a house, a regular job... these things used to scare me, I thought I'd feel tied down but... the truth is, they scared me because I didn't know if I'd... fit in, if I could find... or have people who know me and accept me the way I am. You do and Henry does. I never thought, I'd feel love like this. And I want more love, I want more of this family. And there's really no reason to wait, is there?" Emma was looking deeply into Regina's eyes, there was so much hope, so much love in the green depths Regina was staring into.
"We haven't been together for... very long, Emma. What if...?" But she couldn't even say it.
"What if things don't work out between us?" Emma asked and Regina nodded but just barely. She didn't want to think about this possibility, she didn't want to contemplate a time where she might not be with Emma anymore. "Then we'd still be our children's parents. We have Henry, Regina, and we somehow managed to become his parents, even before we had feelings for each other. For all I know and feel right now, I will love you forever. And our children will be part of that. And even if we're wrong and... we're not meant to be, we'll still love our kids. And that doesn't change, whether we have them now or in a year, two or five. I just want... I want to start now because.... I don't want to delay our life together because convention says that... we need to know each other better, that we need to settle in and be sure of each other... that we need to go on so many dates, spend so much time with each other before we can be sure of anything. I am sure now, love. I want a family with you, I want to marry you and live with you... I want it to start now because I'm ready for it."
Regina had stopped breathing, Emma's words had simiply taken her breath away and as she now felt a burning in her lungs remiding her that she was holding her breath, she filled them again hungrily. It felt like the first breath she was taking after Daniel's death, the first breath that returned to her all the hopes and the love from that time. She never thought she'd have this, never thought she'd feel so utterly complete again. But Emma was that person, she was her happy ending. And though she had said it before, had believed it before, now her body felt it, too. Instinct had told her to hold back, to observe, to wait and see how things were working out. And it had been great and yet not... complete because they had both held back - until now.
"Are you ready?" Emma asked. "Do you want to wait?"
Regina shook her head.
"No, you are right... Henry's been right," she said and at Emma's questioning look: "We are true love."
Emma smiled.
"Henry said that?"
"Yes, he... he said that he wasn't too worried about you when we went to the hospital yesterday because he knew if it was something serious I could always revive you with true love's kiss."
"Clever boy," Emma simply said and then laughed. She leaned forward and gave Regina the softest of kisses. "Let's make a baby," she breathed into the space between them. She reached out her arms and lay them around Regina's waist to pull her closer but Regina stopped her once again.
"It's not... working the way... you might think it works," she said with raised eyebrows.
"Please tell me we won't just be touching with our fingertips or something. That would be a real let-down," Emma said and Regina laughed.
"No, but... it's magic not... biology," the mayor said as a light blush covered her cheeks.
"Can we still be naked doing it?" Emma asked and now they were both laughing.
"Of course, we can. It's not like we're going to sit down in a circle of family members, chanting in the light of a full moon and sacrifice a goat."
"That's a relief." Emma said.
They looked at each other.
"It might not work the first time. I mean, neither of us has done it before. I might... have forgotten something or... we might get distracted," Regina stammered as Emma started to unbotton her blouse.
"We'll just keep trying until I'm good and pregnant. No matter how long it takes, how often we have to do it," Emma said grinning. "You really want this, right? This is not just you... indulging me?"
"Henry was... and is the greatest gift to me, Emma. You gave him to me but now that we share him... it's even better. To think that we can... add to this gift, have more love, more family... seems like a miracle. I want more, too. I know I don't deserve..."
"You deserve, Regina, believe me. You deserve all the love you can get," Emma interrupted her.
Regina smiled.
"Let's make a baby," she repeated Emma's earlier words.

Chapter Text

Emma was standing in front of the open window in an oversized Red Sox t-shirt. She leaned her head against the cool frame looking out but at nothing in particular. Her hands both rested on her abdomen which felt... warm. That had been the sensation during their magical baby-making, warmth.
They had made love and Regina had put her hand on her lower abdomen. She had kissed her and told her to think about what she wanted.
"A baby," Emma had breathed, thinking hard.
"Put your hand over mine," Regina had said and she had done it. And it had been so warm and it had grown warmer as they held their hands there, their breathing erratic, their bodies rocking against each other. But it had never grown hot, not uncomfortably so, and yet the warmth had increased. And there had been a glow, Emma had seen it at the edge of her vision. It had been orange-y, then yellow until it turned white and it had come from the place where their hands held each other in that comfortable warmth. It was like their love had created a space...
"Emma?" the blonde heard the sleepy voice of her lover behind her and turned.
"It's okay, I'm here."
"Why're you up? Come back to bed," and as Emma moved away from the window: "and close the window, it's cold."
"It's cold because you're naked," Emma disagreed and pulled her shirt over her head before she slipped back under the covers.
"It's cold because you left," Regina insisted and cuddled up against Emma. The blonde put her arms around her and pulled her closer. "Are you alright?" Regina asked and the drowsiness from sleep was gone from her voice.
"I'm... not sure. It was intense," Emma said slowly and Regina lifted herself up on one arm to look at her face.
"Do you regret it?"
"No," there was no hesitation. "I just... it surprised me. I said I was ready but I'm not sure I was ready for..." A tear slipped from her eye and she let it drip into her hair.
"We were about to make a baby and you didn't think it would be intense?" Regina asked puzzled.
"I... I guess I thought it would be more like... it had been before when I..."
"When you inadverdently made a child with Neal while having unprotected sex?" Regina finished the sentence. Now she didn't sound puzzled anymore but insulted.
"Regina," Emma pleaded as she looked deeply into her eyes. "I've never done this before. I was... out of my depth."
"So was I," Regina admitted in a slightly shaky voice. "When our hands started glowing I got so scared I almost ran."
Emma stared at Regina wide-eyed.
"That's not comforting... at all," she said.
"Well, I didn't. That should be comforting."
"Did we create... a life, Regina?" Emma asked.
"I think so, maybe... possibly," was the answer and it seemed to exhaust the mayor. She settled back into Emma's embrace and they both let the impact of that realization sink in.
"Wow!" Emma finally exclaimed.
Regina nodded.
"Yes, that's quite accurate," she agreed.
"I could be pregnant right now," Emma said.
Regina leaned on her arm again and pushed the blanket from Emma's upper body. She lay her hand on her lower abdomen again.
"Are you testing if your... magic took?"
"No, I'm just... do you feel different?" Regina asked.
"It's still slightly warm from... our magic... our love."
"So you can feel... something inside or... do you think it's just... because you want to feel that there's something?"
"I'm not a doctor, love," Emma answered and put her hand over Regina's. "I feel something but I'm not sure if it's just a residue glow or..."
"Our magic making a baby."
Emma smiled.
"I haven't been this scared when we first made magic together," she admitted.
"Probably because being a hero is less scary than being a parent," Regina teased.
"Very possibly."
They smiled at each other.
"You're a great parent, Emma," Regina said. She leaned down and kissed Emma's abdomen before she pulled the cover back up over their bodies.
"So are you," Emma gave back and they lay for a long while just thinking about what they may have created. "My parents're gonna flip," Emma then said and Regina had to chuckle.
"I think the whole town's going to flip."
"We'll have to tell Henry. I mean, if this actually worked. He has to be the first..."
"Of course. He's going to be thrilled, right? I mean, he wants to be a big brother," Regina wondered.
"Yeah, he does. He's gonna love it. Well, maybe not so much in the beginning when she'll still be little but..."
"Hm?" Emma hadn't even registered that she'd given the baby a gender.
"You think it's a she?"
Emma looked down at Regina with a puzzled expression.
"That's what I said, right?"
Regina nodded.
"Hm," Emma made. "I may have been thinking about a baby girl while we were... possibly making her," she admitted. "Did you think of a gender?"
"No, I was too busy thinking of it having ten fingers and ten toes," Regina answered.
Emma smiled sheepishly.
"I was also thinking how she would look like you," Emma said, running her hand through Regina's thick hair.
"It'll look a little like both of us... if everything went well... I hope it did."
"What if it didn't?" Emma asked and she felt her chest constrict in a sudden panic.
"Shhh, no. It's... there's either a baby or there isn't. I wouldn't have started this if it could possibly hurt you. Love is the most powerful magic of all, Emma. It doesn't create bad things. Okay?"
Emma's breathing calmed and she nodded.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have doubted you."
"I guess if we had talked about it a little longer..."
"Which you wanted to do, only, I didn't listen," Emma finished the sentence.
"I know you were excited. So was I... so am I," she said rubbing Emma's abdomen under the blanket.
"If you keep this up, there might be two babies by the end of this night," the blonde said smirking.
"Twins," Regina enthused. "Now that would be an adventure!"
"For me it would be but... I'm not sure I'm ready for that just yet. Could we..."
"I was just kidding, darling," Regina said and kissed Emma. "Though I really wouldn't mind...." Her hand went lower on Emma's body, touching her in other delicious places.
"More love?" Emma guessed between kisses.
"There can never be too much of that."

When Emma woke on Monday morning, she was sure she was the happiest person in all of Storybrooke. She was holding Regina in her arms and just remembering what they'd been doing not twelve hours before, made her wonderously giggly. She would have liked to keep this feeling through the next days but there were things and people that didn't care about her planning a family, having special quality time with her son, or simply sitting and thinking of baby names.
David was still avoiding her, more so now that he's seen her and Regina together at the hospital. Snow was having problems with Gordon who felt that things around him were falling apart, not sure if maybe it was his fault. And Emma would have liked to talk to her mother about... maybe being pregnant and all the other plans she was making with Regina and their family. She knew it wasn't a good time but she missed being able to talk to someone and it didn't feel right to tell anyone about a possible baby before she told her family.
She spent more time with Henry on her two days off and they both enjoyed it. Henry was almost 13 now, looking forward to his birthday, talking excitedly about the plans he and his friends were making for the summer. She didn't tell him about the baby yet because Regina and she wanted to do that together and Regina seemed to spend more time at the office but Emma had an inkling it just felt like longer hours because she wasn't working herself.
On Tuesday, word got around about another council meeting and on Wednesday, Snow called to ask both Emma and Regina to meet with everyone on Friday evening.
"What is this about?" Emma asked. "We haven't found anything yet."
"Well, your father thinks that we should all get together and talk about the progress everybody's making."
"Who's making progress?" Regina asked. Emma had put her mother on speaker. "The dwarfs in their mines?"
"I know it's... a difficult situation but... David tries to involve people, get everyone to help and..."
"Avoid his family as much as possible," the mayor added. She looked over at Emma who looked at her sadly.
"That's not..."
"It's true, mom," Emma said.
"I'm trying, Emma. And he was actually in a better mood this week. Maybe he'll talk to you on Friday after the meeting."
"I'm not sure I wanna talk to him," Emma answered.
"Please, Emma."
But the sheriff didn't promise anything. She wasn't even sure she wanted to go to the meeting. It was a good thing she had to work the night shift that night or she would probably have spent even more time thinking about this than she had in the last two days.

On Thursday night, the Swan-Mills family was having a movie night. Henry had wanted to see all the Transfomers-movies in a row but after the first one, Regina sighed and said:
"The best thing about this were those legs on the girl. Please, don't make me watch another one."
"We've only been together two months and you already look at other women's legs? Should I worry?" Emma teased.
"Well, at least my eyes didn't fall into her cleavage," Regina gave back.
They were smiling at each other, never noticing Henry rolling his eyes from his place in one of the arm chairs.
"Seems we all have found something to like in the future Mrs. Henry Swan-Mills then. Great!" he groused and rose from his perch. He picked up his cup and left the room. His mothers looked after him surprised. They couldn't hear his footsteps on the stairs which meant that he had gone into the kitchen.
"Seems you have upset our son," Regina said.
"You started this," Emma gave back and rose from the couch. She held out her hand to Regina. "Come on, let's see what this is about."
They went to the kitchen together, both carrying dishes from their earlier dinner. Henry was leaning against the kitchen counter as they entered. He was holding an energy drink in his hand.
"You really wanna drink this now, kid? You're not gonna be able to sleep," Emma commented.
"I thought I'd stay up and finish watching the series," he said but there was no real spite in his voice. He didn't seem to want to annoy his mothers, he seemed more... sad or exhausted, Emma couldn't really tell. But when she heard Henry sigh before he put the energy drink on the counter, she had a vague idea what this might be about.
"You have school tomorrow, Henry. There's no way..." but Regina stopped talking when Emma lay a hand on her back. Regina turned and they exchanged a look. Then Regina looked at Henry who was staring at his shufflng feet.
"Are you okay, Henry?" his dark-haired mother asked and he looked up and shrugged.
"This is not really about this Megan Fox-girl, is it?" Emma asked.
"You know her name?" Regina couldn't keep herself from asking.
"It was in the credits," Emma gave back irritably and they had another brief conversation with only their eyes that told Regina that this wasn't the time to get jealous.
Regina shook her head.
"Well, she's... a looker," Henry said.
"I think we've established that fact already," Regina said.
"Yeah, who would have known that you two liked the same women."
"This is not really about... us commenting on... the assets of some actress, right? I mean... if we make you uncomfortable with that...," Emma tried to get behind the real issue at hand but Henry shook his head.
"No, it's not about that, though I really hope you won't ever discuss another person's ass..ets in front of me again. It feels... awkward," he said grimacing.
Emma smiled.
"Can't promise you that. Sorry, kid," she said. She looked over at Regina who rolled her eyes at her. "What?"
Regina just sighed in answer and went over to Henry. She touched his arm in sympathy.
"What is this about?"
"I...," he sighed again and now his other mother had a really good idea of his troubles, too. He confirmed it a moment later. "There's... somebody I like. But I don't think they like me back."
Regina put an arm around his discouraged shoulders and pulled him close. Emma stepped closer and put her hand to Henry's cheek.
"Is it Gretel?" she asked and he looked up at her.
"What if it's Hansel?" he asked, seemingly angry for some reason. But it faded away as quickly as it had flared and he looked contrite.
"Then we would have to have a serious talk about your sleep-overs," Regina said without missing a beat. He looked at her.
"It's not Hansel," he said.
"You wouldn't think that it mattered to us either way, would you?"
He shook his head.
"No, I just... I didn't think it was that obvious," he answered.
"It's not," Emma said. "She's just the most obvious choice since you spend a lot of time over at their house."
Henry nodded.
"It's not like we see that much of each other, though. I mostly hang with Hansel, we play video games. She sometimes has a friend over but... she doesn't spend a lot of time with us. I think she thinks I'm a nerd... and she prefers to be called Ava," he added because it seemed important.
"Why do you think she thinks you're a nerd?"
"It's better to think that than think she thinks I'm just a kid. I mean, she's already 14," he said sadly.
Emma kissed Henry on the forehead. They stood like that for a while, close, until Henry seemed to become self-conscious. Emma stepped back and leaned against the opposite counter.
"It's not always clear what other people think of you, Henry. I mean, look at me and Emma. I was sure she didn't even like me until she... started showing me that she did."
"I was sure your mom could never love me but now she does," Emma pitched in and the two women smiled at each other for a second.
"Yeah, but... you were meant to be together. But... Hansel told me that they're going back... to the Enchanted Forest." This was followed by another heart-wrenching sigh.
"I'm so sorry, kid."
"Yeah, me too," he answered.
"That doesn't mean you won't see her again, you know that. And... well, sometimes people get together even if they're not... meant to be, Henry."
"I know that," he said.
"Of course you do. You've become sort of an expert on love these last few years," Emma said.
"I still didn't think it would... feel like this. It's so... heavy," he said touching his chest. "Did it feel like this when... you were not together?"
Emma nodded. She felt close to tears now that she knew he was in pain, a pain she'd been through a couple of times in her life now. She swallowed hard at the emotion that was to overwhelm her. Henry was in love - unhappy in love. She looked at Regina and saw the same kind of bare emotion on her face.
Regina held out her hand to Emma and the blonde came closer again, entwining her hand with her lover's.
"There's something... we need to tell you," Regina said.
"What? I'm not related to Ava, am I?" he asked in a near panic.
"No, you're not, don't worry," she said and he breathed deeply, relieved this time.
"Okay, what is it?"
"It's actually a good thing," the mayor said and looked at Emma.
"You know how we talked about... becoming a family and... moving in together and all that?"
Henry nodded slowly.
"Your mom and I... we may have... good news." Emma looked back at Regina, now at a loss how to continue.
"Emma might be pregnant," the dark-haired woman simply said and looked at Henry.
"Pregnant? How? I mean... have you...?" but all the questions he could have asked seemed too personal to ask your mother so he just stared at her uncomprehendingly.
Emma sighed.
"Your mom and I may have... created a baby... magically," she tried to explain.
"You can make a baby with magic?" he asked and looked from Emma to Regina. He seemed impressed.
She nodded.
"Yes. I mean, it's possible but it's not... we're not sure that we actually did it. We will need to wait a few weeks to confirm that... Emma's actually pregnant."
"Wow!" Henry exclaimed and he sounded a lot like Emma had just a couple of nights ago when she had realized what they'd done.
"I know," Emma said. "But... is it a good wow? We... kind of got overwhelmed and, erm, we just... went ahead and... did this. How do you feel about it?"
"Wow," Henry repeated and looked from one of his mothers to the other and back. "I... I mean I knew that you wanted to... have a bigger family but... I thought you would move in together first, and then get married, you know."
"Our relationship is a little unconventional, sorry, kid."
He shook his head and grinned at her.
"That's okay. If it wasn't I wouldn't have you two, would I? I mean, the way you... got together was pretty unconventional."
"I guess you could say that," Regina agreed. "But I don't think it has to be that way. I mean..." She stopped for a moment, looking at Emma. She licked her lips and then stepped closer to her love. "I want to marry you and... this is not just to tell you that I want to do it. I'm... asking you. Will you marry me?"
Emma opened her mouth to speak but there was no thought she could utter. It seemed her brain had completely shut down. She looked from Regina to Henry and they both looked expectantly at her. For a moment, there was panic building in her chest. It was the kind of panic which had made her leave her bed a few nights ago to stare out the window. But it had vanished then, and it vanished now because this was exactly what she wanted, what she needed, too.
"Yes," she said and smiled.
"You got me worried there for a second," Regina gave back but pulled Emma to her. They hugged, then kissed.
Henry cleared his throat and Emma chuckled a little embarrassed. She included him in their hug as did Regina.
"Oh God, I'm so happy," Emma breathed into Regina's hair.
Regina laughed.
"I'm so happy for you," Henry said.
Emma pulled back and looked at him. Her hand went up to his face again, brushing away at his thick hair that hung into his eyes.
"I'm glad you feel that way," she said. "You is wild sometimes. We... don't always get the one we love. Sometimes... we just get the heartache but... sometimes... it's just like this," she told him and he nodded. "And you're okay with... maybe getting a sibling, too, right?"
He grinned.
"Yeah, I guess. It'll be cool, once he's a little older... or she," he added quickly.
Regina smiled at Emma.
"We'll see," the sheriff said, not sure she should tell Henry about her wish to have a girl. They didn't yet know if she was actually pregnant, the gender really shouldn't matter. They would all love this child.

Chapter Text

Regina woke to a pair of insistent lips that were attacking her neck and left earlobe.
"Morning," Emma breathed into her ear and then continued with her sweet ministrations.
"Emma," Regina murmured and put her hand over Emma's which had sneaked inside her pyjama tops messaging warm flesh.
"Yes, my love?"
"Mhhmmm," Regina made instead of an answer as Emma sucked lightly at a sensitive pulse point.
"I like the sound of that."
Regina half turned into Emma and her lips were immediately captured by her lover's. Emma never broke the delicious contact as she gave Regina a little more room to turn onto her back and then pushed on top of her.
"What're you doing?" Regina breathed into their kiss. Emma broke it for a moment and looked down at Regina a little puzzled.
"I'm trying to make love to my fiancée. But if you have to ask, maybe I'm not doing it right?" she said with puppy eyes.
Regina smiled, then giggled.
"You're lovely, savior, but you're also an idiot," she said and laughed when Emma started pouting. "I love you."
This made Emma perk up again and she kissed the dark-haired woman slowly and lovingly.
"And I love you," she murmured against eager lips.
Her hand roamed Regina's body and finally set to open some buttons, Regina murmured her approval and they spend some time uncovering naked skin to tender explorations of hands and lips and tongues.
"You feel so amazing," Emma breathed into the hot skin between Regina's breasts relishing in the feel of softness against her cheek.
Regina breathed heavily as Emma captured a nipple between her lips, sucking it lightly.
"That feels... pretty amazing, too," she complimented the blonde who took her time making love to Regina's breasts.
"I love your boobs," she whispered.
"And they love you back."
Emma pulled herself up to look at her lover. hovering over her until Regina finally opened her eyes to look up at her.
"When are we getting married?" the sheriff asked as if that was the most important question in the world right now.
"Erm, I... I don't know. We'll have to set a date... at some point," Regina answered trying to pull herself out of the amorous mood of just moments before.
"You know, I thought I'd be the one to ask... to propose," Emma admitted.
"Are you disappointed that I asked you first?"
"No, I... I just thought... I'd be the one... I have thought about asking you but... I thought it was too early. But then... the baby-thing happened and... Are we doing this right? I mean... we are being pretty unconventional." Emma frowned, she seemed bothered by this.
"Emma, love, look at me," Regina told her and Emma did. "Everything about us has been unconventional - the way we met, the way we... got to know each other, the way we fell in love. The world around us doesn't really allow for... smooth sailing but... I don't care. I'm with you and I love you."
"I love you, too," Emma answered with a smile. "I just wish... things wouldn't get so jumbled. I have a feeling like I'm... going about this relationship all wrong... because..."
"Because your father doesn't approve?" Regina asked, now wearing a frown of her own.
"I know his approval shouldn't matter so much to me but... I feel that it's the only thing missing to make me... completely happy. Do you understand that?"
To Emma's surprise, Regina nodded. She knew her lover didn't care about the Charmings' approval of anything she did, she was beyond caring about anything anybody said or thought about her.
"I felt that way about my mother... when I was with Daniel. I so wanted to tell her... but knew I couldn't," Regina said. "But David is not like my mother. He's going to do what's right, I'm sure of it. He'll see that we're happy together and... that'll be enough."
"But he never looks at us," Emma argued.
Regina nodded thoughtfully. Then she took Emma's hand and kissed it gently. She disentangled herself from Emma who protested but let her lover get up and out of bed.
"Where are you going?"
"I have something for you," Regina said. She was only wearing her pajama bottoms now and Emma watched her half-undressed form walk the room in the semi-darkness. Regina pulled her briefcase from underneath her clothes which lay on the leather couch. She took something small from it and put the briefcase down. She returned to the bed from where Emma was watching her curiously, trying to catch a glimpse at what her lover had taken from her briefcase.
Regina put a pillow against the hardboard and settled down against it; Emma was lying on her tummy next to her, leaning on her elbows. She was looking at Regina's hands which unfolded and showed Emma a ring box.
Regina opened it and turned it so that Emma could look inside. In a velvety blue cushion lay a beautiful band of white gold which held a ruby.
"I know that diamonds are more traditional but... white and red seem to be... our colors?" Regina said shyly waiting for a reaction from her love.
"You had planned on asking me?" Emma asked.
"Yes, I... I wanted to ask you this weekend... at a romantic dinner," Regina admitted.
Emma touched the ring in its box with a hesitant finger.
"It's... perfect," she said. She pulled herself up and kissed Regina. Then she held out her left hand. "Claim me, woman," she said with a wink and Regina laughed.
The mayor took the engagement ring from the box and slipped it over Emma's finger.
"With this ring I take you as my betrothed," she said teasingly formal.
"Your betrothed, mhh, I like that," Emma gave back easily looking at the piece of jewellery from up close. "It's so beautful," she said smiling.
"It suits you."
They looked at each other.
"I never thought I could be this happy, Regina. With all that's happened... in my life, I... just thought I would be content, maybe living with someone, maybe not. I didn't dare think of the future because... I didn't think I would be able to... hold onto any kind of happiness. You changed that - you and Henry changed that. I'm yours," she added and they seemed the truest words she had ever said to anyone.
"Yes, you are," Regina agreed and leaned down for a lingering kiss.

Emma held the door to the conference room for Regina.
"Thank you, sheriff," the dark-haired woman said with a smile.
Emma merely inclined her head. She was nervous about this meeting. She was wearing her engagement ring but had let the long sleeves of her shirt fall over it. There were secrets that may reveal themselves tonight and she wasn't sure this was the right setting. But her father hadn't given her any choices. If he wasn't willing to talk to her privately, this was the only way she could communicate with him at all.
She greeted some friends before she sat down next to Regina.
"It'll be alright," her lover told her and squeezed her hand under the table. Emma held onto it, not caring if anyone saw or suspected that their hands were entwined.
Once again, David asked everyone to sit and settle down. He didn't seem as enthusiastic or at ease as he had been at their last meeting. He had watched Emma and Regina enter together, had known that they had come together from Regina's office. They gave the impression of being very much together, at ease with each other, and he didn't like it at all.
"Thank you all for coming tonight. I think there're some things we should discuss. And I think we should do it in the open so that everybody can hear and... offer an opinion," he said and the phrasing made his daughter look at him suspiciously.
But he started with telling everyone about the progress they had made in the mines. They had found some fairy dust already. It wasn't quite the lode they had hoped for but it was a beginning. He also told them about some things he had learned from talking to Neal and Hook but it wasn't very much and he seemed reluctant to give the pirate any credit at all. He seemed dismissive of the man with the hook and Emma looked at her friend questioningly. Hook was leaning against the wall - the conference table didn't hold enough chairs for everybody - and he seemed surprised by Charming's words. But just for a second, then his features morphed into his bemused mask again. He shrugged at Emma as if he was used to being treated this way.
"Well, that's all as far as our efforts went. Did you find anything at Gold's shop?" David asked but not anyone in particular. He seemed to just throw the question into the room for anyone who might have an answer.
Emma closed her eyes for a moment then she looked at Regina. Her lover gave her an encouraging smile.
"We're still looking. There're a lot of things in that shop. We've found some hiding places but so far nothing that could help us. But we keep looking," the sheriff finally said.
"You found nothing?" David asked again and then added, with a sidelong glance at Regina. "Nothing at all?"
"What're you asking, dad?" Emma's voice had an annoyed edge to it. She had had an inkling about this meeting since she'd heard about it. It seemed rushed and senseless in the light that nobody seemed to have made much progress.
"I'm just asking whether you're sure that... none of you has found anything," he gave back. He was looking at her for a moment and she could see something like triumph in his eyes, but it wasn't just that. He seemed worried, too - for her.
"I told you, we haven't found anything useful."
"Well, then I'm curious about the box Regina has given Hook on Monday... in the parking lot behind the diner?" He was seemingly reminding the mayor of the circumstances but, of course, everyone knew that it was a perfect place for shady dealings and now everyone looked at Regina. There didn't seem to be a question behind most eyes, they seemed already made up that Regina had done something... evil.
Regina smiled pleasantly at everyone. She looked up at Hook.
"I didn't tell him," he said easily.
"No, I didn't think so. Have you taken care of it?" she asked and he inclined his head in a positive answer.
"It lies at the bottom the sea," he said.
"So you did find something," David accused.
"Regina?" Snow asked unsure of where this was all going. David hadn't told her about his discovery but as the week had worn on his 'better mood' had seemed to get an edge to it. He seemed a little smug about this meeting and she had wondered what it was about. Now she knew and she was surprised at how he was handling this information but also at the information itself.
"Actually, Neal found something. Why don't you tell everyone what you found in your father's kitchen the other week," Regina asked of Neal and for a moment he looked puzzled. Then he seemed to remember, not just what he had found but something else.
"A box but... I haven't seen it since... Sunday, I think. It's not in the shop anymore."
"No, it's not," Regina confirmed.
"What was it?" David asked. He looked at Regina but it was Emma who answered:
"It was the reason why I ended up at the hospital last weekend."
Everybody looked at her now, only two people weren't surprised by what she'd said.
"I don't understand," David said. "I thought you didn't know what made you faint."
"We thought it... safer to not let anyone know what made Emma sick but we knew. I took the box from the shop on Monday and gave it to Hook to get rid of it. It was a similar box to the one in which Rumple trapped Pan - a Pandora's box. I'm pretty sure now that the name was merely an indication of its magical properties and not the genuine mythical item," she told everyone.
"But you don't know whether or not it could have helped us get home? You just... had Hook get rid of it!" David exclaimed.
"It had something evil trapped inside and it made Emma sick. That was all I needed to know," Regina gave back and seemingly dared David to question her further on this point.
He simply looked at her for a long moment.
"And that's all you found?" He asked lamely and mostly everybody became aware that they had been assembled here to watch this accusation - a fruitless one as it turned out. The realization made for an awkward pause.
Snow was looking at her husband with a frown and was about to turn to Regina to apologize for him when the mayor said:
"No, there's something else."
Now everybody looked at her surprised, even Emma and it was the blonde Regina turned to.
"I went back to the shop on Wednesday night when you were working," she told her, well aware that everyone else was listening, too.
"Why did you go there alone?" Emma asked.
"I didn't want for you to... have to go back there." Regina lowered her eyes to Emma's midsection and then up again. "I didn't want to risk you... getting sick again," she added for everyone else's benefit, though only Emma knew the real reason. She nodded for Regina to continue.
"And I found something," the dark-haired woman said. She reached for her purse and took a silver cube from it together with a compact. She lay both on the table. Everybody was looking curiously at the items. The cube had about the measurements of a Rubik's Cube but with smooth sides. It looked pretty unremarkable but even the most non-magical person in the room could feel the energy it gave off.
"What is it?" Grumpy asked. "What does it do?"
Regina opened the compact she had put next to it and turned it around so everyone could see the mirror. It didn't show their faces, it showed an empty room with stony walls, dark and kind of barren but not without shadowy beauty.
"Do you recognize it?" she asked Snow who nodded slowly.
"That's in your castle - my father's castle," she corrected herself and then wondered why she had even bothered. The castle hadn't been her father's for a while now.
"This cube can turn mirrors into portals. Look." Regina put her finger to the mirror and it disappeared into it. "Of course, this one's too small to walk through but I only wanted to see if it would work. It does."
"That's amazing. How did you find it?" Emma asked with a proud smile on her face. She was holding her hand out for the compact and Regina gave it to her. Other people were talking as well, everybody seemed to have questions or something else to say. The only one who seemed quiet just now was David. He didn't look pleased with the discovery at all, but then most people were sure it had more to do with who had found it.
"I think it's a little bit... suspicious that you've been searching the shop for weeks now but the moment you're searching alone... this little, convenient solution just drops into your hands," he finally said in a voice that rose over everybody else's.
"You know, dad, I'm so fed up with your... accusations and suspicions. Regina found this because she'd been looking for something like this for weeks. Hook told her that Rumple may have had a device like this, okay? So just back off," she told him and everybody went instantly quiet.
"Hook told you?" David asked. "Funny, how he never mentioned anything like this to me." He looked over at the pirate who gave him a little rakish smile.
"Sorry, mate. I thought the evil queen could be persuaded to share her treasure with me. Now it seems like she's sharing it with everyone but me," Killian said looking back at Regina. "I thought we had an understanding, luv."
"We do and I'll make sure you'll be able to leave here - just like everyone else who wants to," Regina said. "Even though it wasn't my fault that you got stuck here," she added with a smile.
"I appreciate it," he said with a hint at a bow.
"Alright, alright, sweet talker, let's get back to the point here. How does that cube-thing work and when can we leave for home?" Grumpy asked into the room.
"It works with a spell and all we really need is a full-length mirror as gateway." As soon as she'd said it mostly everybody started to talk excitedly again.
"We could be home for breakfast," Doc exclaimed.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay? I mean, we don't even know what's been going on in the Enchanted Forest since Snow and Emma have been there," David said.
"The castle looks peaceful, and it still stands," Sneezy argued.
"Really, we need to go at this rationally. I want to go home just as much as the rest of you but we should take some precautions. I think... I think just a few of us should go first, to have a look around, make sure things haven't gotten any worse since... Cora left." He was looking at Regina meaningfully and she gave him a very fake smile.
"I volunteer to go with Emma, if everbody's alright with that," Hook suggestd before anyone could say anything.
"Certainly not," Regina grumbled under her breath and Emma looked at her bemusedly.
"I'm not going," she then said and everybody looked at her in surprise.
"Emma, we know you don't want to live there but... you're the savior," Blue said and mostly everybody agreed with her.
Emma smiled a little bitter-sweetly. Of course, it said it all, she was the savior so everybody naturally thought she should go. There was no better reason for them to send her - but there was a better reason for her to stay where she was. She just wasn't sure if she should tell everyone.
Emma rose from her seat and looked around the room. She looked into hopeful faces, even David looked at her like he may consider her as his daughter again if she only did this. Then she looked at Regina who lifted a challenging eyebrow at her.
"I can't go," she said. "I know I'm the savior and that you... want me to be the hero but... the thing is... I may be pregnant."

Chapter Text

The first thing that could be heard in the room after several breathless seconds was a chair being pushed away from the table. Everybody looked up at David who stood and then walked over to the windows with a stony face.
Almost everybody looked after him as he stood there with his hands on the sill; there was only one pair of eyes which looked irritated at Neal and when he became aware of it, he exclaimed:
"Don't look at me, Hook. Wasn't me this time."
Killian looked at Emma who had turned away from her father and towards Regina. For a moment, he seemed ready to make a snide remark but then his expression changed into one of sudden understanding:
"Ahhh, should've known. The Evil Queen... you told me but I wasn't even considering Emma," he said.
"You didn't know? Where've you been the last couple of months?" Emma asked surprised.
"I was catching up on some tv - seeing that I never had one. There's pretty wild stuff going on there," he said shrugging.
"Not as wild as here, though," Neal commented and earned evil stares from his ex and her lover.
"A magical baby," Hook contemplated.
"I don't see how that's even possible. I mean... with two women," Grumpy said.
"Use your imagination, short stuff. It's not rocket science," the pirate gave back before anyone else could say anything. The two men engaged in a staring match that the taller one won easily.
"But you're not sure yet?" Snow asked her daughter. She seemed conflicted about this news. Her eyes glistened hopefully but then they looked sadly from Emma to her husband and it wasn't very hard to detect where her conflict lay.
"Not yet but... we're hopeful," Emma said with a smile.
Snow nodded and tried a smile of her own, it seemed bitter-sweet.
"I think it's great," Ruby said.
"Is there going to be a wedding?" Tink asked excitedly.
Emma looked at Regina barely able to conceal her excitement over the fact that some people were actually happy for them.
"Yes, there will be," she said lifting her hand and showing off her engagement ring.
"Now, that's what I call a ring," Granny exclaimed taking a closer look at it.
"It's beautiful," Snow told Regina who smiled proudly.
Not everyone was happy or thrilled for Emma and Regina, most kept their mouths wisely shut, either to not insult their king and friend or because they were not so happy about this development themselves.
Emma, however, ignored Neal's disapproving frown and Grumpy's hostile stare. She basked in the acknowledgement of forgiveness and hopeful prospects for the future. Her right hand was still held by Regina's but now they were lying on the table for everyone to see.
"There's really no limit, is there?" David interrupted the mostly cheerful mood with his louder than usual voice. He had turned from the window and was taking some steps back toward the table, staring at Regina.
"No, there's really no limit to how much I love Emma," the mayor answered. Her face was turned openly up at him, her eyes were looking unwaveringly into his.
David shook his head.
"No, there's no limit to how far you will go to destroy this family," he said.
"David," Snow pleaded but he ignored her.
"I know it's difficult for you to understand but... not everything is about you, Charming," Regina told him, emphasizing the last word sarcastically.
"Right, because you didn't curse everyone to get back at Snow and me. Tell us, Regina, when has your life not been consumed by hatred and thoughts of vengeance against Snow since she was 12?"
"Dad, don't do this," Emma tried but she didn't get through to him either.
Regina rose from her chair so as not to have to look up at David.
"I didn't say that our lives weren't... unhappily entwined. We've hurt each other so much... I'm not sure we'll be able to come back from it but I'm willing to try - for Emma, for Henry and... for the children we'll be having in the future."
"There won't be any children! You will never be part of this family! Never..." but there were no more words to be heard, not for Emma and Regina. There may have been a small flame growing from Regina's palm but Emma put her hand on it, reclaiming her hand and turning Regina toward her. There was a bubble around them, drowning out the voices from outside and this time they were both aware of it. Emma looked around, slightly confused.
"What did you do?" she asked.
"It wasn't me, savior," Regina answered. She tried a small smile but Emma had seen the anger in her face followed by a second of confusion, then shame. The dark-haired woman wasn't able to conceal her emotions, not from Emma.
"I did this?" Emma asked.
Regina nodded.
"Your magic is all wonderous instinct. You're probably the most gifted magical creature I've ever met."
Emma smiled sheepishly.
"I'm sorry about... almost losing my temper. I... I'm still feeling the side-effects of Rumple's shop but that's... no excuse. I almost barbequed your dad."
"You wouldn't have," Emma said. She pulled Regina closer by their combined hands.
"Because you... kept me from doing it."
"No, because you wouldn't have. I trust you, Regina. And I trust that your love for me, for Henry and...," she lay Regina's hand flat against her tummy. "... for the family we're going to have, will always be stronger than your dark side. I know it'll always be there, I'm not afraid of it. And neither should you."
Regina closed her eyes for a moment, seemingly contemplating what Emma had said. She smiled even before she opened her eyes to look at her love.
"You're right, it'll always be a part of me. I'm not as confident that I'll always do the right thing as you are, though."
"Well, there are few people who always do the right thing, love. We all make mistakes... even Prince Charming," Emma said and sighed.
"He better not try and come between us because that would be a mistake... he would regret," Regina answered in a deep, threatening voice.
"I want you to do something for me, Regina."
"That sounds ominous. Will you tell what or will you have me promise to do it without even knowing what it is? Because I would... because I trust you, too," Regina said. Her eyes seemed to beg Emma not to ask the impossible and Emma smiled at her lover.
"I want you to go to the Enchanted Forest with David, have a look around, see what has changed, see if it's safe," Emma asked of Regina.
"I'm pretty sure that David won't go with me, even if I were willing."
"Which you're not?"
Regina shook her head and smiled over how easily Emma could talk her into pretty much anything.
"I will go. It's probably the last time I'll see... my home. There might even be something I want to bring back from the castle," she contemplated.
"Thank you," Emma said.
"That doesn't mean you'll be able to talk your father into accompanying me, savior. I hear he can be pretty stubborn."
"He'll do the right thing," Emma gave back.
Regina merely shrugged.
"Should we rejoin the others?" she asked but the blonde detected a reluctance in the question.
"We should but... Regina?"
"Hm?" Regina looked up and into Emma's deeply green eyes.
"Going back to the shop... alone was... brave but also... stupid. I don't want you to take risks like that. I know why you did it but next time... at least tell me where you're going. I might be the one who is pregnant - maybe - but you're a parent, too. I don't even wanna think about if I ever had to tell Henry....," she didn't finish the sentence, the tears forming in her eyes told Regina enough.
"I was careful," Regina said cupping Emma's cheek. "And I wasn't alone."
For a moment, Emma looked puzzled but then she seemed to remember something.
"Rumple? He... he was there?"
Regina nodded.
"I didn't want to say anything... I'm still not sure if we should tell."
"We have to tell them. Belle and Neal, they have a right to know that he's alive," Emma argued.
"I know," Regina said but didn't look like she would want to deliver the news.
"Alright, we should really....," Emma started saying.
"Yeah, really," Regina agreed but then pulled Emma to her. She kissed the blonde and was rewarded with an enthusiastic response.
The silencing bubble that had surrounded them vanished but it was still quiet as the council members watched Emma and Regina kiss.
"I don't know about you all but I could really do without...," Grumpy started saying.
"Shut your trap, Grumpy, or you can find a new place to eat most of your meals from now on," Granny interrupted him.
"Sorry about that. I had to talk about something with Regina," Emma apologized for their temporary absence from the general conversation. "Since I can't go through the portal, I asked Regina to and she has agreed."
"Well, I guess it's you and me then, luv. A good chance to catch up and you telling me a little bit more about... that baby-making business, eh?" Hook said wiggling his eyebrows.
"While I would love to go to the Enchanted Forest with you and ignore any further requests from you to discribe naked Emma in great detail, I don't think that anyone here would trust the two of us going off alone to anywhere near their future homes, Hook. Give these good people a break," Regina told the pirate. "Who wants to go to hell with me?"
She was looking at David, in fact, everyone was looking at David. He was the most logic choice, and everybody could see that he knew that and hated the fact.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," he said through clenched teeth.
"I would promise not to say anything about Emma being naked to you," Regina baited him and Emma put a hand on her arm. They looked at each other.
"Not helpful," Emma said.
"I can't help it, I get annoyed when people are being stupid and your...," but she didn't finish the sentence. She simply smiled sweetly at Emma and took a deep breath. Before she could reason with Charming, however, Snow pulled him a little away from everybody else and spoke in low tones to him.
"Please, David, go with Regina."
"How can you even ask that of me? She could kill me, you know. She was about to just minutes ago," David told his wife.
"I don't think she would have done it. And Emma wouldn't have and didn't let her. David, this is not about you and Emma and Regina, this is about... everybody. You promised to get them home, remember? Now we have a way but we have to make sure that everybody will be safe," Snow reasoned.
And this time she actually got through to him. She could see it by the way he looked around the room, the veins standing out on his neck because he couldn't turn himself away from this truth. She asked him to do the right thing for everybody - at a high personal cost. But how could he refuse? He was the hero of their story and he couldn't let everyone down, he couldn't let himself down.
"I'll do it but I won't talk to her. And I'm gonna take my sword and if she as much as looks funny at me..."
"You won't harm her, David. Promise me. Emma loves her," Snow pleaded with him.
"I don't wanna hear it."
"I know it's hard, Charming," she said and put both hands to his face. They looked at each other, probably for the first time in days, maybe even weeks. "I know but... nothing we do will change how Emma feels. Nothing your father did ever changed how we felt, did it?"
"I'm not like my... like George!" David practically spat out.
"No, you're not. You're a far better man and you know how strong love is," Snow said.
"Their... nothing Regina feels can come close to what we feel for each other, Snow," he insisted.
Snow White just looked up at Charming with sad eyes and he frowned at the sadness. He knew he was causing it, not Emma's insistance that she loved Regina, not the Evil Queen's insufferable comments about their love life, he had put it there. But he couldn't help it, he couldn't accept this... wrongness. How could a hero ever be in love with a villain? It was not something he could wrap his head around.
"I'll go," he said and she smiled at him.
"And you'll come back safely," Snow told him. "I love you."
"And I love you, Snow."
There was only one pair of rolling eyes at the sight of Snow and Charming kissing.
"I don't get paid enough to watch that," Regina groused loud enough for only Emma to hear.
"Oh, really?" the blonde asked with a saucy smile and a raised eyebrow.
Regina couldn't help but smile back.
"You owe me, savior."
"More like, I own you, woman," Emma gave back.

The next morning, Henry stood in the doorway to Regina's bedroom watching her pack a small bag. He knocked on the doorframe and she turned.
"You're back already? That's a first. Usually you only drag your overly tired body home around lunch time," Regina commented.
"Hansel and I... we kinda had a... an argument and it was a little awkward," Henry said. He made a face and she came over to him. She lay her hand under his chin and lifted it so that he was looking at her.
"Was it about Ava?"
Henry shrugged but since his mother still didn't let go of his face, he answered her:
"Yeah, he... he kinda guessed that I liked her and... he doesn't like it."
"I'm sorry, Henry." Regina pulled Henry into a hug. It was a short one, as hugs between teenagers and their parents must be. Regina went back to her bed and her packing.
"What's all this?" Henry asked following her.
"I'm going to take a... small trip to... the Enchanted Forest," she told him.
"Really? Does that mean you found a way? Can I come?"
"Well, yes, we found a way to cross realms but... well, this is actually a... security mission. David and I are going to use a portal to go to the Enchanted Forest and see if it's safe for everybody to go back home," she explained.
"You and granddad? Who's gonna be there to protect you from him... and him from you?"
She smiled at him.
"We're going to be civil and try to... work together," she said but even her face was doubtful as to how this was supposed to work.
"It was ma's idea, wasn't it?"
Regina nodded.
"Yes, but... we agreed on this because... she can't go and... well, it's the best solution. I've got my magic, David's got... his pompous sense of self-worth. We're going to be fine."
"If you say so," Henry said but he still didn't look convinced.
Regina sighed.
"Sit with me," she told him and they sat down on her bed. "Emma's very sad that David... doesn't accept our relationship. I know you're worrying about this, too. I don't want you or your ma to feel bad about our family, ever. I'm going to try and talk to David again, see if I can't... reason with him. I hope I can make him see that he's hurting you guys and... that he needs to stop."
"And if he doesn't?"
It lay on Regina's tongue to say 'then only one of us will return' but sarcasm wasn't the best answer right now.
"Your grandparents are going to leave Storybrooke for the Enchanted Forest. They're going to go back home. It's not a solution but maybe if David... isn't living here and doesn't have to see Emma and me together... he'll come around or... as far around as his self-righteousness allows him to."
"But there's a chance that he never will," Henry guessed at what Regina didn't tell him.
She nodded.
"It won't change anything between you, right? Ma and you, you'll still be together?"
"We love each other, Henry. I mean... I can't promise you that... I want to... be with Emma forever. Sometimes things change but... God, I hope we will be together forever," Regina tried to work around her own insecurities but was only marginally successful.
"I hope so, too," he said. "You're gonna go like this?" He then asked looking at the simple dress she was wearing.
"I thought it best not to return as the Evil Queen."
"Are you gonna change... your looks, too?" he asked but she shook her head.
"I don't think we will meet many people... and certainly not many people who knew me so I think it's safe to... go like this. Don't worry about me, Henry. I can take care of myself and... well, David will look out for me, too."
"Do you have a weapon?" Henry kept asking and she smiled at him. "Something like a dagger? You should put one in your boot," he suggested.
"You know, I think you're right," she humored him. "I'm going to pick one up at Gold's shop before we go, I promise." And she intended to keep that promise.
He nodded.
They sat for a moment in silence.
"When're you leaving?" Henry then asked.
"At noon. David's going to come here and we're going to use the mirror in the hall to go to the Enchanted Forest."
"Like Alice in Wonderland?"
"Yes, like Alice. We're going to enter my castle from here and then walk to the closest village to... get some information on how things are. We'll probably be back before sunset but maybe we'll have to stay the night."
Henry nodded but he seemed thoughtful.
"We're going to be fine. After all, it's our home, Henry. We have lived there for most of our lives. And David... well, I suppose he has some street smarts and I... I've got my magic. Okay?"
He nodded more enthusiastic now but she knew he was humoring her now. He was worried.
She put her arms around him and hugged him.
"I love you, Henry," she said before kissing him on the forehead.
"I love you, too, mom."

Chapter Text

Henry opened the door for his grandfather.
"Hey, David," he greeted him.
"Hey, Henry. How are you?" David walked through the door into the wide atrium of the mayor's mansion. He gripped the boy's shoulder companionably for a moment, smiling at him. But the smiled didn't quite reach his eyes and they didn't linger on Henry. Instead David was starting to look around the hall. "Where's Regina?"
"They're up...," Henry started saying but then they both heard voices from the upper landing as Emma and Regina made their way down to them.
"Hey, David," Emma greeted. She was holding her lover's hand and it didn't feel quite as naturally as it wanted to appear. Maybe they would have come down holding hands even if David hadn't been there to see it but David seeing it gave it an additional meaning, possibly even turned it into a provocation. But Emma's father did what he'd done the last few weeks with everything he didn't like seeing - he ignored it.
"Hello, David," Regina said.
He nodded in the general direction of them but didn't say anything.
Emma and Regina reached the hall and they looked David up and down.
"Did this outfit come with a hat and bow and arrow?" Emma asked looking at the green tunic her father was wearing.
"Does it really look so much like a costume?" her father asked looking down at himself.
"Well, the leather pants and boots kinda make it a little better," Emma answered.
They had agreed that Regina and David should go back to the Enchanted Forest in simple clothes, clothes that would make them look more like peasants than the royalty they both were. But Storybrooke wasn't really equipped for the peasant life in Fairy Tale Land and the only thing David had found on such short notice was a Robin Hood costume at a local shop. He'd refused to wear the stockings that went with it but the green of the shirt still didn't look like anything anyone would have worn in their home realm.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised that your dress fits the occasion perfectly," he commented on Regina's outfit.
"That was Ruby's doing. She remembered that Belle had some dresses from our land. I went there this morning," Regina told him.
"Hm," David simply made and then they were standing around a little awkwardly.
"Why didn't mom come with you, I thought she was gonna be here?" Emma asked after a short moment.
"She's gonna be here later. She wanted to talk to Gordon about something or other."
Emma nodded.
David was readjusting the belt that held his scabbard and sword.
"You don't happen to have a cloak,do you?" Regina asked him when she noticed it.
"It's too warm for a cloak," David gave back.
"That may be but that sword looks valuable and could attract thives."
"So what do you want me to do? Leave it here? Now that would be really convenient, wouldn't it?" he rose to the criticism.
"David," Emma warned.
"My mom's not trying to kill you!" Henry yelled at David and they all turned to him.
"Of course not," Regina said and put her arms around the boy. "It's okay, Henry. We're all... under a lot of pressure. And David didn't mean that," she told him.
"Yes, he did," Henry answered in a low but angry voice.
"I'm sorry," David said. "Maybe we should call this off."
"No," Emma said. "This needs to be done and it should be done by the two of you. It's your kingdom, David, and it's Regina's magic that'll get you back there. You need each other, whether you like it or not."
David looked from Emma to Regina. Then he looked at Henry. He nodded.
"Alright, let's do this then," he said.
Regina took a deep breath, then she took the silver cube from her bag. She stepped in front of the full-length mirror and touched the cube with her index finger. The cube morphed into a small pyramid with a glowing green stone at the top. Regina aimed it at the mirror and the surface rippled, the image changed from what it mirrored in the mansion to Regina's private quarters at the castle.
"Impressive," David said.
Regina touched the pyramid with her index finger again and it morphed back into a cube. She turned.
"It's a simple spell but effective. You know how to do this, right?" she asked Emma.
"I'd still rather you take it with you, just in case," the blonde said.
"If something happens to us, the cube could get lost and you would never be able to open another portal to... find us, Emma. This stays with you. You do know how to use it, right?"
Emma nodded slowly as Regina placed the cube into her hands. They held onto it together for a moment and Regina smiled confidently at her lover.
"Good," she said. She lay a hand on Emma's cheek and then kissed her.
David turned away from them and stepped to the mirror, meaning to hurry their departure. He hadn't come here to see the Evil Queen show him that she had powers over Emma he couldn't even begin to understand.
"David?" Emma said and he turned. She walked over to him and hugged him. "Be careful and... bring her back to me," she asked of him.
He looked into her eyes. There was love there, so open, so vulnerable and yet so strong. And it wasn't just Emma's love for Regina, there was love for him and Henry. He felt overwhelmed by the feeling behind those green eyes that were so much like her mother's.
"I'll do what I can," he promised around the lump in his throat and she gave him a smile.
David turned to Regina who was standing with Henry behind him.
She nodded and he stepped through the mirror. Regina followed him but turned back to her family one last time:
"I love you two," she said. "Or three." Then she stepped through the mirror and was gone.

Regina felt an exhilirating tremor run through her as she entered her castle. She was home and for a moment, she felt like spreading her arms and twirling around and laughing from the giddy feeling in her stomach. But then she looked back through the mirror and saw Emma and Henry standing there, both with the same worried expression on their faces. She smiled back at them and put her hand to where the glass should have been.
"I'll be back," she said, knowing that they couldn't hear her but that they would be able to read the words from her lips.
"We should set out as soon as possible. Is there something you need from here?" David asked from behind her and she was hard-pressed not to roll her eyes at him.
"No, but there's something you'll need. Come with me," she told him and lead the way out of her chambers. She walked along the corridors like the queen she's been here and it worried David a little that she felt so at home once again - even after 30 years. Something else worried him, too. While the whole realm had been at sleep while the curse lasted, it had been awake for about two years now, yet no one seemed to have entered the castle and Regina didn't behave like she had expected anyone to.
"Why is no one here?" he asked ominously and she half-turned at him while still keeping her pace. She smiled.
"I sealed the castle. Nobody can enter it from outside, I've seen to that."
"So while everything else was destroyed by the curse, you made sure your own castle wouldn't even get entered by anyone that you felt didn't belong here?" he asked.
"That is correct," she told him proudly.
"Even though you didn't plan to return?"
"I thought that there might be a time I'd be back. I just didn't know when that would be and I wanted... to come back to my castle, with my things. Is that so hard to believe?"
"No, it's actually rather typical," he said.
He didn't ask any more questions until they had made their way to where Regina had set out to. They were in the guards' quarters now, David could tell by the way these were set up, the armory around the place. Regina entered a dormitory.
"There should be something for you to wear in those chests," she pointed. "Maybe you can find a scabbard that doesn't look like it belonged to a king. You can leave yours here and we can pick it up when we leave again."
She looked at him and he nodded slowly.
"Good, meet me in my garden when you're finished," she told him and left.

David found Regina where she had said she'd be. What she had referred to as a garden was really a stone terrace with a hole in the center where Regina's apple tree had stood. She was sitting on a bench facing away from the castle and toward the Enchanted Forest.
He came down the steps from her chamber and approached her quietly. He didn't mean to startle her, he was just so taken by the view of... home that he walked almost reverently to where she sat. He stood beside the bench overlooking the realm.
"It's beautiful," he said.
"From up here at least," she said and he looked at her questioningly. "It might not be when we go and see it. Things will have changed, maybe there's fighting, maybe a war or two. We can't see that from here," she explained.
He nodded.
"We should probably go," she said rising from her seat.
"Really?" he asked surprised and she looked at him quizzically. "I thought you would try to... talk some sense into me again as soon as we came here."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"I have nothing to say to you," she said.
"You're not even going to try to win me over to... your perverted idea of a family?"
"Perverted?" she asked.
"You and Emma are practically related," he said with a slight smile and it was clear he was trying to get a raise out of her.
Regina turned toward the view of the country again. She looked out over it, taking a deep breath. To David she seemed calm, in complete control of her emotions but Regina felt a darkness stirring deep inside her. She knew its danger, she knew how powerful it was and how seductive to even just imagine that she could hurl this little bastard through the air and onto the hard, unforgiving ground of his own kingdom by the flick of her wrists.
"Did you know that Leopold didn't like the view from this side of the castle? His chambers were at the other end of it, where the sun shines for most of the day, where there are fields and the sea?" Regina asked David and he shook his head. "Here on this side, it's darker, cooler in the summer, yes, but darker. And the view is of the forest, also dark. Leopold thought that if enemies were to attack they would come from here. If any kind of danger would befall his kingdom it would come from this side. And, of course, there were the poor of the poor living in the woods, thieves, murderers, beggars. Leopold was afraid of things lurking, of the dark, of an unknown enemy sneaking up on him."
"Snow never told me about that," David said into a pause Regina made.
"She didn't know. I'm fairly certain that even he wasn't conscious of this fear. But it became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. You know, I didn't choose these quarters for myself, Leopold appointed them to me after we got married. He wouldn't let me live in his beloved first wife's chambers next to his. And so, the enemy did come from the dark - the darkness within his own home."
"Are you trying to say that by giving you the chambers on the north side of his castle Leopold made you kill him?" David asked with an unpleasantly condescending tone in his voice.
"No, but if you put a plant in a closet it will welk and die. I didn't become the Evil Queen overnight, David. It was a gradual process. You don't know anything about it or me from that time, so stop pretending that you do. I'm happy right now, I'm happier than I've ever been in my whole life. If you want to take that from me - well, I won't let you. And I also won't let you put me in a closet to welk and die inside. That's part of what happens when you debase my relationship to Emma. We're not related, we're in love. Deal with it or don't, I don't care. Just don't think that if you choose not to, you'll still have a right to be part of Emma's life. Or Henry's."
"I wondered how long it would take for the Evil Queen to appear once we were back here. It didn't take her long," David said.
Regina took a step toward him and for a moment his condescending smile seemed to falter as he reached for his weapon. But she merely looked up at him from up close.
"If you think this is the Evil Queen, we're in a lot of trouble should she actually make an appearance. Make no mistake, David, right now I'm just a lover and a mother, you're not ready for the Evil Queen. And neither am I," she told him and turned. She took the steps back to the castle and after a moment's hesitation David followed.

Emma and Snow were sitting in the mansion's kitchen where it was most likely to hear any noise coming from the hall. They hadn't made the decision to sit here consciously, it just felt like the best place to be for both of them. They were drinking hot chocolate because it was Emma's beverage of choice since she decided to give up her beloved coffee as long as she didn't know whether she was pregnant or not.
"Do you think they're going to be alright?" Snow said with a worried look toward the hall.
"I'm not sure. I mean... I don't think they're going to run into any trouble they can't handle but... if you ask me if they'll get along, I actually don't think so," Emma answered truthfully.
"And yet you wanted them to do this," her mother contemplated.
"The way I see it, this is their last chance to... overcome their hatred. If they don't then you will leave for the Enchanted Forest and we'll stay here and nothing else changes. Dad will be mad and maybe won't even visit. And if he does, Regina won't want to let him near me or Henry or... possible future children. That's not the kind of family I want."
Snow nodded. She smiled at Emma who had laid her arm protectively around her middle as she talked about 'possible future children.'
"Do you really think that... you're pregnant?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure... and yet not sure, you know, because... well, I've never made a magical baby and neither has Regina. Maybe it didn't take," Emma said and an adorable blush appeared on her cheeks.
"I don't want to pry but... how do you even make a 'magical baby'?" Snow asked and they looked at each other. They both started laughing, not because it was funny but because it was awkward and just a little comical to be even talking about this.
"Erm, well... I mean. It was very... intimate and... but it was basically... we lay our hands on my tummy and concentrated on what we wanted - a baby. It was intense and... it was like the whole room was just filled with love. It was overwhelming," Emma closed and looked at her mother for a reaction.
"It sounds... intense and... lovely."
"It was... it is. I can't describe the way Regina makes me feel. I've never felt what I'm feeling for her. She's my love."
Snow nodded.
"And you don't worry at all for her going back to the Enchanted Forest?"
"Of course, I do. But I know she can handle it, just like I knew she could handle being at Rumple's shop. Regina is a remarkably strong woman but she doesn't always trust her strength. She trusts herself more when I trust her first," Emma explained.
"I think you're the only person she's ever let so close and know her so well. I'm... actually amazed at your relationship," Snow said.
"So am I. I never... I mean... I...," Emma laughed at her own inability to form words. "We met under extremely emotional circumstances. She was afraid I would take Henry from her, I was afraid... to lose him again... and then everything fell apart but... that first moment, when we were both scared and vulnerable, I think it stayed with us, made us know each other... better than people usually would at first meeting - maybe. That's how I feel at least."
"I feel that way about David. Of course, our first meeting was... so different from yours but... I had a feeling of knowing him in that first instance. Soulmates," Snow recalled.
Emma nodded.
"Too bad we don't trust these first moments. Life would be so much easier if we actually believed in love at first sight," she said.
"Yes, but then we would have to overcome ourselves, our experiences, our personalities, even. For all David knew I was a thief the first time we met. For all I knew, he was someone worth robbing, someone rich who didn't care for anybody but himself. We were both wrong... well, I was a thief but I didn't just steal for myself, for profit. They were hard times but... God, I had a ball back then, living on the edge, taking risks." Snow laughed at the memory of a reckless younger self.
"You miss the Enchanted Forest, don't you?"
"I do. On the other hand, I like it here, too. If... if it wasn't for David wanting to go back so bad and... well, the responsibilities I have toward my people, I don't think I would go back, not permanently at least," Snow admitted to Emma what she hadn't told anyone, not even David or Ruby.
Emma looked at her in surprise.
"Wow, I would have thought you... couldn't wait to go back."
Snow shook her head.
"I had a long talk with Gordon today about what he wanted. Going back or coming with us... it made me realize that... I'm happy here. But I can't stay. I would never be happy without David and I wouldn't be happy if I knew I'd been selfish and let people at home suffer because of it. But Gordon has a choice."
"And what has he decided?" Emma asked.
"He hasn't yet. He's going to think about what he wants. I told him he'd be welcome to come to the Enchanted Forest with us, live in a castle, and all that. Or stay here, get an education, a job... he's such an intelligent young man and he's also good. I mean... we have our differences and he's been with Pan for a long time but... he doesn't do things out of malice or ill-will, he sometimes does... bad things because he doesn't know better."
"Do you want him to come back with you?"
"I would like that very much but it's his decision. He's 17, I think it would be wrong to drag him to the Enchanted Forest when in a few months he's of age and will just come back here because he never wanted to live there."
Emma nodded.
"You know, I think Henry would like to live in Fairy Tale Land, too. I mean he knows that Regina doesn't want to go back and that I... I'm not really into it but... I think he wants to. Of course, he's too young to decide that for himself yet but he's probably gonna visit you really soon."
"We'll love to have him, you know that. And you and... Regina. You all will always be welcome," Snow told her.
"Shouldn't you discuss that with David first?"
"I won't have my daughter think like she's not welcome in my home, not my daughter and not my daughter-in-law. David will just have to live with that," Snow said with conviction.
Emma slipped from her chair and hugged her mother.
"Thank you," she said as she pulled back again. "Now, would you like another cocoa, or maybe something else?"
"A tea or water, maybe?"
"Sure," Emma said.

Chapter Text

While Emma and Snow were talking in the kitchen, Henry and Gordon were upstairs in Henry's room reading comics. The younger boy was sitting against the hardboard of his bed while Gordon was sitting comfortably in Henry's desk chair, his feet propped up on the bed.
They were comfortable with each other as long as they didn't talk too much about Neverland. Some of the things that had happened in the group of Lost Boys while Henry was with them still left him shuttering in horror while Gordon liked to defer all responsibility to Pan. And maybe he was right, maybe he should be the only one to blame since he had brought the Lost Boys to Neverland against their will. But whenever Henry thought of Felix he had his doubts about that.
"Say, Henry," Gordon said at some point.
"Your folks're not gonna go live in the Enchanted Forest, are they?"
Henry shook his head.
"No, my moms don't wanna live there."
"Why not?"
"Well, Emma was born there but she's lived here all her life. She's used to... you know, all the stuff, like tv and video games and air planes. And Regina... she was the Evil Queen and she doesn't want to be her anymore. But people are slow to forget and forgive and they would be giving her a hard time back home - harder than here, that is - so she doesn't wanna go back."
Gordon nodded. He was a tall, lean young man of Indian heritage. His voice held a trace of a British accent but apart from that he'd seemed to have accomodated to American life pretty well.
"The Charmings asked me if I wanna go with them, y'know."
"Really? And are you going?" Henry asked excitedly. He knew that he would lose most of his friends to the big move and he envied those who would go back a little but he was also excited about it. He knew he would visit the Enchanted Forest often, the mirror in the hall would make it possible and easy to go there anytime, and he would be glad to know that Gordon was still with his grandparents, that he had a family with them.
"I'm not sure. I mean... I tried to... remember my family. It's been a long time since I was abducted by the shadow. But all I know is my first name and the region in India where I've come from. There is no way I could ever find my family with so little information... and yet I feel I should at least make an effort. If not right now then in a few years. So maybe I will go to the Enchanted Forest now and come back when I'm older."
"Have you talked to Snow and David about this?" Henry asked.
"With Snow a little today. David seems... he's kind of zoning at the moment, at least when he's home. He's been working hard on this 'going home' mission but I think he's just... I don't know," Gordon said quickly.
"He's trying to ignore the fact that my moms are together," Henry guessed at David's current state of mind.
Gordon nodded.
"I don't get it, actually. Your moms're so cool," the older boy said with a slight smile.
"They have their moments. I mean, to have a sheriff and the mayor as your parentals has its benefits," Henry said scratching his chin in 'Godfather'-fashion.
They laughed and Gordon threw a pillow at his friend.
"That was not even what I meant, you goof," he said. "I think it's cool that they're a couple. Not just because they're two women but... that also. But they're... from the extreme opposite sites of their cultural spectrum - good and evil, light and dark. It's like if... Batman had fallen for the Joker, Superman for Lex Luthor, y'know?"
"My mom's not evil anymore," Henry said.
"I know, I mean... these pairings wouldn't be possible with some kind of... redemption, right? But it happened in your moms' case. Gives one hope," he added in a low voice.
"Is there... someone... you like?" Henry asked. He tried to asked it casually but failed. He knew that some of the boys on Neverland had been in relationships with each other - at least, that was what it had sounded like on some nights when he couldn't sleep. Nobody had talked about it in the waking hours, there had been no hand-holding or other display of affection during the day. He wasn't sure if Gordon liked boys or girls or maybe both, and he knew that a person's sexuality was their business. He just wanted Gordon to know that he could talk about it if he wanted to.
"There was.... on Neverland but... well, you know how it is now. Most of us steer clear of each other. There had been too much going on there. Pan was... always the center, y'know? And he... he played all the time. Cruel games. And he loved to create... drama among the older boys... especially when they had something... going. Pan wanted to be part of... everything and when two of us... liked each other, he tended to... find a way to break them up. It was all a game to him," Gordon explained haltingly, staring at the comic book in his hands.
"I'm sorry," Henry said because he didn't know what else to say. This conversation seemed a little beyond his years of experience but he didn't want to seem like... a baby.
"It was just how it was with Pan. We got used to it." Gordon shrugged and shook his dark mood off. "Say, what about you? A girlfriend? Boyfriend?" he then asked and grinned as Henry blushed.
"No, I don't have either," the younger boy said.
"But there's someone you like, right?"
"Maybe," Henry gave back but then grinned. "Yeah, but... she's older and not interested in me."
"She pretty?"
"'Course she is. But not as pretty as your mom," Henry said with a laugh and threw the comic he'd been reading at the older boy.
"Oh, you don't wanna start the mom-game with me. Remember, you got two of them!" Gordon gave back easily. "And both of them are pretty fine."
"Urgh, stop that."
"Told yah not to start with me," Gordon said laughing at Henry's disgusted expression. "Say, if I go to the Enchanted Forest, will you visit?"
"Sure, I will. You'll live with my grandparents, remember?"
Gordon nodded.
"Is it true, they're like... royalty?"
"Yeah, they're king and queen respectively. You'll live in my mom's castle," Henry said with a grin as Gordon's eyes went round.
"Imagine that... a couple of months ago, I've been spending my nights sleeping on the ground or in a tree and in... say, a couple of weeks I'll... be prince," he said with a wide grin.
Henry laughed.
"Should I start calling you Prince Gordon the first?"
"If you want, but I think I do like Will Smith - the Fresh Prince of the Enchanted Forest, yo!" They laughed and started teasing each other with mock titles.
Henry was glad he'd had this talk with Gordon, he knew he had made a friend for life.

It was late. Sundown had come and gone and Regina and David hadn't reappeared through the mirror. It was past midnight now and Emma was sitting on the stairs in the hall. Snow had fallen asleep on a couch in the living room but Emma couldn't sleep. She was too worried about Regina - and her father, too. Maybe it had been a bad idea, maybe she shouldn't have suggested that they go together. She heard the boys upstairs, they took adventage of the situation and were still up. They seemed to be having a good time, kind of a slumber party. As well they should, Emma thought.
"Hey," came a sleepy voice from the doorway to the living room where Snow stood rubbing at her eyes. "Sorry, I fell asleep on you."
"That's okay. Maybe we should go to bed, I don't know. I mean, they're able to take care of themselves, right?"
"Of course, they are. David has his sword and his wits and Regina has her magic and her... sass," Snow said with a smile.
Emma had to laugh.
"She sure does," she agreed.
Snow sat down next to her on the stairs and took one of her daughter's hands in hers.
"You're still worried about her, though, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Emma admitted. "Not because I don't think that she's a capable woman and witch, she is. Obviously. But... because..."
"Bad things tend to happen when we're the happiest?" Snow guessed and Emma nodded.
"Yeah," came the heartfelt answer from the blonde. She leaned her head on Snow's shoulder. "Does it bother you, mom?"
"Does what bother me?"
"That I'm so happy with Regina? I mean, she's kinda your... enemy."
Snow took a deep breath before she answered.
"I thought it would bother me more, actually. But, to be honest... I look at David and I can't really understand why... he's so against it. You're obviously happy and that... is enough for me. It's actually one of the things I've hoped for from the moment you were born. And now you are and that makes me happy. Of course, David being so unhappy about your relationship makes me unhappy, too, but for different reasons."
"When I knew... when I felt that I was falling for Regina, I thought that... things would change. That things might change forever between me and you guys... but now that it has, it's still so painful. I want dad to... be happy for me," Emma said sadly.
"I know but I'm not sure anymore that even time will change how he feels," Snow answered and she sounded sad, too. "I guess, they won't be coming back tonight. It's too dark to travel, maybe they found... a barn or something to sleep in. Do you think it's okay for Gordon and I to stay here?"
"Yes, it is. You can sleep in the guest room. Gordon can sleep in Henry's room, that is if they're going to settle down at all tonight," Emma said and as if to prove her point they heard laughter from the boys upstairs.
Snow rose from her seat.
"I'll tell them to keep it down. Are you coming?"
"In a little while," Emma said and looked up at her mother. She tried a smile but the worry in her eyes dimmed it considerably.
"You should really get some sleep, Emma. You'll need it if you're really pregnant."
Emma nodded and was about to say something when she saw movement from the mirror. It had been black since sundown since there had been no light source at Regina's castle. But now there was light and shadows and Emma could make out two shadowy figures coming toward the mirror. Her first instinct was to lift her arms in a defensive posture, to think of the spell Regina had taught her that would form a fireball in her hand but then the light of a candle flickered over the beautiful features of her lover and she relaxed.
"It's them," she said just a moment before David passed through the mirror. Regina was helping him through and Snow let out a small scream as she saw the wound on David's arm.
"What happened?" she asked as she rushed to help her husband.
"It's just a fleshwound, Snow," David said and grinned rakishly.
"Are you drunk?" Emma heard her mother ask as she pulled Regina into her arms, then held her at arm's length to look her over.
"Don't worry, I'm not injured," the dark-haired woman said.
"Thank the Gods," Emma breathed. Her hands still roamed over Regina's arms and face to make absolutely sure she was alright.
The boys had been roused from the voices and were now coming downstairs.
"Hey, you're back," Henry called out running down the stairs. He hugged Regina when he reached her and Emma pulled them both in her arms. They were all more elated than they thought they would be which meant they had been more worried that they had let on.
"What happened?" Snow repeated her earlier question to her husband.
"It was just a little scramble at the inn," David said. "But I'm sure True Love's Kiss will make it all better," he said and kissed his wife. He seemed strangely spirited, even though he wasn't really drunk.
Regina rolled her eyes at him.
"It's not like you're dying, Charming," she told him.
"Yeah, like you would ever get enough of True Love's Kissing," Emma said with a smirk and then kissed Regina.
"Moms," Henry groaned embarrassed.
Gordon laughed at him.
"Laugh it up," Henry told him.
"Will somebody tell me now what happened?" Snow once again asked when she was able to take a breath from her husband's kissing-attack.
"Your husband had to have his ego stroked at the tavern and asked people what they thought of their king and queen. But some people weren't so happy about you 'abandoning' your people and Charming took offence at that and started a brawl," Regina recounted the events of the last few hours. "You should probably put something on that wound. I don't think it's very deep but I couldn't see very well and I don't even want to speculate where that knife that cut him had been before," she adviced Snow.
"Do you have a First Aid Kid?" David asked.
"In the kitchen under the sink," Regina said.
"We're going to the hospital," Snow ordered but David started protesting and he finally got her to relent by promising to have Whale look at the wound in the morning.
"Alright, we should probably all get some sleep," Emma said.
"Yeah, let's go home," David said.
Regina looked at Emma who looked at Snow.
"We're staying here tonight. In the guest room. Come on," she told her husband. They were all expecting David to outright refuse to stay at the mansion but he just looked around at Emma, gave her a little embarrassed smile and then let his wife help him into the kitchen to tend to his wound.
"Goodnight all," he said.
"Goodnight," Emma said in a surprised voice. She looked at Regina. "What happened?" she mouthed but Regina shrugged her shoulders. She didn't seem to know what had David in such a mellow mood.
"Maybe he's got blood-poisoning already," she said in a low voice.
"Maybe someone hit him over the head," Henry suggested.
Emma looked at him with raised eyebrows.
"Just an idea," he said.
"Alright, boys, up to bed now. And no more talking and laughing. Has Henry given you his sleeping bag?" she asked Gordon.
"Yeah, I'm good," he said and started climbing the stairs. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Gordon," Regina said and gave Henry a meaningful look.
"I'm going, just... you're really okay, right?" he asked and she smiled.
"Yes, Henry, I don't even have a scratch. I wasn't dumb enough to get involved in your grandfather's bar brawl."
"You didn't even help him?" Henry asked.
"Maybe I did a little magic when the numbers seemed too unfair," she admitted with a slight smile.
"You are a hero, mom," he told her and hugged her again.
"Don't let that get around. Now up to bed, young man," she told him and he finally ran up the stairs after Gordon.
Regina turned to Emma who smiled at her proudly.
"You are my hero, too," the blonde said and pulled her lover to her. They kissed.
"And now," Emma said when they parted. She linked her hand with Regina's and started climbing the stairs. "I'm going to make sure that you're really, 100 per cent intact. And it might take all night," she told the other woman.
"Go easy on me, savior, it's been a long day," Regina gave back with a smile.
Emma stopped on the stairs and turned to Regina.
"I was worried," she said.
"I know."
"I don't wanna be without you, ever again," she added and kissed her.
"Nor I without you," Regina agreed and they resumed their way to their bedroom.

Chapter Text

Emma was woken by a sweet kiss that was placed just behind her earlobe.
"Mhmm," she made as she felt the warm, naked body behind her move and arms pull her closer into their embrace.
"Morning," came the deep voice of her lover. It send an anticipatory shiver through the sheriff and she turned around to end the anticipation and start the love.
"I thought I'd worn you out last night," she said before she captured Regina's lips in a deep kiss.
"That was last night," the mayor answered when they parted lips for a moment. She pulled Emma's body flush against her own smiling wickedly at her.
"May I remind you that my parents are in the guest bedroom just down the hall."
"It didn't seem to bother you last night," Regina gave back kissing the cleft in Emma's chin. The blonde giggled.
"If I had known you would make such a ruckus..."
"Excuse me, you were the one who made me make such a ruckus," Regina interrupted and they laughed together but never disentangled. Instead Emma pulled Regina's leg up her thigh and around her waist. "And your parents weren't exactly quiet either," Regina added as Emma started kissing her neck.
The blonde halted her ministrations presently and looked up at Regina.
"I didn't hear anything," she said.
"Really? I'm surprised, your Snow is..." but Emma lay a hand over Regina's mouth.
"I don't wanna hear this," Emma pleaded with the brunette who nodded and Emma took her hand away. She exchaned it for her lips and before long they moved against each other in slow sensuality.
Noises from the hall made them both freeze in motion. There were footsteps and voices, they heard David clear his throat just outside their bedroom door.
"It sounds like he has an idea about what we're doing," Regina whispered and giggled.
"That's not funny," Emma said pouting.
"It's a little funny," Regina disagreed. She pushed away from Emma just enough that the blonde could roll onto her back then she snuggled up against her. "At least he didn't barge in here at some point last night and insist I stop dishonoring his daughter."
"He would never have done that. And just for the record, you dishonor really well," she said and grinned at her lover. "David did seem kind of mellowed out when you came back last night. Did you two talk?"
"Well, we did talk but I don't think that was what made him... 'mellow out.' I don't really know what did the trick, though, to be honest. When we set out from the castle, we didn't talk at all. He had this indignant set to his jaw the whole time, you know the one."
Emma nodded.
"We met some people on the road, talked to them. The kingdom seems... well, there was fighting for some time. The few ogres that still live around that area banded together but were defeated.... it seems secure now."
"That's good," Emma said.
"It is. It means, everybody who wants to go back can do it - probably really soon. We came to the village, talked to some more people and then we went to the tavern for some dinner. Before the food even arrived, David started talking to this man with whom he started the fight. I think he had only one sip of his beer before it started so he wasn't drunk. But he... seemed exhilarated after the fight and he insisted that we come back here immediately. He said, he wanted to see Snow. I didn't really realize that he was injured at first because he seemed fine. He started talking on our way back," Regina related what had happened in the Enchanted Forest.
"About us?"
"No, about... what we've learned, about how everyone would be able to go home soon. I suggested that we open some more portals around the kingdom and possibly neighboring kingdoms as well. He seemed excited about the idea. And that's pretty much how we came here. I don't know what... made him... it almost seemed like the fight... maybe Henry was right and someone did hit him over the head, though I didn't see it happen," Regina contemplated.
"He didn't hurt anyone in the fight, did he? I mean with his sword?"
"No, he gave it to me and then pushed me into a corner to prevent me from getting hurt. It was... a little strange. Others joined the fight, some on his side but more on his opponent's it seemed..."
"And you helped him," Emma interrupted.
"Yes, a little. A couple of guys may have flown through the air when he hit them, you know. By then the fight was so crazy, no one was really paying that much attention anymore."
Emma smiled at Regina.
"I promised you, I would get him back here in one piece. I'm actually sorry I couldn't keep him from getting hurt but... I didn't even see how he was cut."
"You don't think that it had anything to do with how... cheerful he was, do you?" Emma asked.
"I don't see how. There were only peasants in that tavern, nobody stuck out, nobody could have known that we would be there. And what would be the purpose of poisoning him... it doesn't make sense," Regina argued and Emma nodded.
"Well, I hope whatever it is and for whatever reason he's... not angry anymore it will last."
"I hope so, too. For your sake. Your father is... kind of emotional, irrational even. Your mother has a much clearer head than he does."
"Were you just complementing my mother?" Emma asked with a grin.
"I just said that between your parents, your mother is less of an idiot. That's hardly a compliment," Regina gave back wickedly.
"If my parents are idiots, does that mean, I'm one, too?"
"Hmmmm," Regina seemed to think hard about that one and Emma pinched her in the side. "Hey!" Regina protested. "No, I don't think you're an idiot, after all, you love me."
"Falling for you wasn't really a question of intelligence, love. But if it had been, it would have been the wisest decision I've ever made because: happiness," Emma said and Regina leaned over her to kiss her. Emma pulled her closer, deepening the kiss and letting her hands roam over her lover's body. "Also: mind-blowing sex," she added when they parted for air.
"Ain't that the truth!" Regina agreed.
"I think I wanna make you make a ruckus again," Emma told Regina through kisses that left them breathless.
"Let's take this into the shower, though. The boys are probably up by now," Regina suggested.
"Good idea," Emma said before she leaned herself up on her arms and over Regina. She grinned. "I race you," she called out and then jumped up and out of bed.
"Emma Swan, you cheat!" Regina accused as she raced after her love.

David was sitting at the kitchen table in the apartment. He was writing some things down in a notebook, looking up at intervals and then going back to writing. Snow had watched him for some time now. It was probably the first Sunday since Emma had told them that she was in love with Regina that he'd spent at home and she was glad about it. She was also glad that the trip to the Enchanted Forest had somehow lifted his mood. Still, there was something restless about him.
Snow got up from the couch where she had attempted to grade some papers and came over to him.
"Hey, honey," she said and he looked up at her smiling. She sighed at the realization that she had missed his smile.
"You okay?" he asked lying his arms around her waist and pulling her close.
Snow pulled his head to her carressing his hair.
"Yes, now I am. I missed you," she told him.
"I'm sorry, I've been so... miserable the last few weeks," he said.
Snow kissed David on the head and then sat down beside him at the table.
"It wasn't easy, I know," she said to console him.
"I wish I could... explain it. Looking back now, it wasn't just about Emma's... choice... or Emma falling in love with Regina, I guess. I was anxious, you know?"
"About what?"
"About us going home," he said and smiled. He took her hands from the table holding them in his bigger ones. "I... I missed home. I know you like it here... I know a lot of people like it here. But for Storybrooke is a reminder that I failed you and everybody. I wasn't able to keep Regina from cursing us," he explained and sighed.
"It wasn't your fault. She's a powerful... she was... I mean...," Snow started saying but stopped herself.
"Exactly," David said. "It's impossible, isn't it? To say who she was, who she is... I still don't trust her, not entirely, and yet... Emma loves her."
"She's changed," Snow surmised.
"Yes, she has but I didn't wanna see it."
"What made you see it? Did she talk to you?"
"Well, she tried. She's tried weeks ago but I wasn't really listening. I didn't listen much yesterday either. And then I saw her... talking to people, her former people. I thought she would... play the queen, you know, be haughty, be condescending. But she wasn't. She was actually more at ease with these people than I was. When we came to the village there was a wagon with orphans. They tried to find families for them, you know. But there were guards and people, they didn't want them there so they argued with the people in charge of the children. Regina went over to the children and... she entertained them with magic tricks, nothing elaborate, nothing to draw the adults' attention but the children were mesmerized and then... when the village elders had decided that the orphans must leave before sundown because they didn't want them sleeping in the streets, you know... she went over to a vendor and bought the kids apples, a whole sackful. I mean... I wanted to help, too, you know. I tried to intervene with the people from the village but their minds were set. But Regina just went and made the kids smile. They smiled at the Evil Queen," he said with a hint of incredulity in his voice.
"She's not the Evil Queen anymore, David."
"I'm not so sure about that but... I saw something else in her yesterday. I saw something else in myself yesterday. I was fighting with myself. I was sure she would try... to keep everyone here. I think I kind of hoped that she would so it wouldn't be my failure if we didn't find a way home. I... I was a hypocrite. I know that now. I don't trust her completely but I think... I trust myself again. That fight yesterday," he said smiling. "It was like I was fighting for my right to be king, to be a leader again. I know that Regina helped with her magic but... it felt like I was finally taking charge again, of my life, my kingdom. It felt good."
Snow smiled.
"I'm glad for you, honey."
"But?" he asked.
"Emma and Regina are a couple, they love each other. And you've hurt Emma," she told David and he frowned.
"I know. I think part of my doubts about... myself stemmed from the fact that... I thought we were losing her again. Not just because she's... with Regina but because she didn't wanna come home with us. I wish she would," he said sadly.
"So do I but... this realm is her home. We never really talked to her about going back, you know. Maybe we should. We should invite them to visit us, all of them, and maybe in time they change their minds. But even if they don't Emma will always be our daughter," Snow told David. "She loves us."
"I haven't given her much reason to lately."
"She still does, though."
"And we love her, we'll always love her," he said with a small smile and she answered it in kind.
"That's right."
"You know what I wanna do when we get back, when we've settled down? I wanna give a ball for our daughter. I want the kingdom to know their princess... and her family," he added.
Snow smiled.
"I think you should talk to Emma about that first. You know how she feels about being called a princess," she told her husband and started laughing at the pout he sported at her words.
"Most girls would be happy to be a princess," he argued.
"Emma's not a girl anymore, she's a woman... a woman who can be just as stubborn as her father," she added.
David rolled his eyes.
"I'm not that stubborn," he said but joined Snow in her laughter after a moment.
"I love you, David."
"I love you, too, Snow. And I can't wait to get back home... to our happy ending."

They had a town meeting on Wednesday where David told everyone the good news of having found a way to get home. He especially thanked Regina which raised more than a few eyebrows. Regina sat in the front row, her right hand was held by Emma's and there was no mistaking the fact that they were together. Henry sat at Regina's other side, smiling proudly at her.
They made a family picture and David took a long time looking at it that evening. He tried hard not to have his prejudices and opinions color what he saw, he tried not to blink or look away. What he saw was love and happiness and trust. And he saw it in Emma and Regina and Henry. They were a happy family and they were part of his family as well. Seeing it, accepting it - it was hard for David and he didn't feel comfortable talking about his feelings yet. Not to anyone besides Snow that is. It was easier to talk to a whole room of people about the plans they were making to set up multiple portals in the Enchanted Forest and asking for volunteers to provide space or mirrors or both.
Regina had suggested that they put up the portals in Storybrooke in the abandoned basement of the hospital. This way, nobody had to open their home to people coming and going to and from the Enchanted Forest and possible new residents of the town - if ever there were to be any - wouldn't get suspicious by people entering and exiting a public building. She also thought that the former cells of her evil life could be put to good use - and they could redecorate the whole basement, take out the heavy cell doors, paint the rooms with different scenarios of the Enchanted Forest and maybe other realms the mirrors led to. She only confided as much to Emma but the blonde thought they were good ideas.
Thus the town made plans to turn David's ambitious project into reality and everbody was eager to help. Not everyone was as eager to leave Storybrooke as David had thought, however. Grumpy and Doc were among the first to approach David with the question when everyone would be able to leave and go home but besides them nobody seemed in a hurry. David talked to Granny after the meeting - someone he thought would be happy to leave as soon as possible - but she told him that she wouldn't leave Storybrooke at all. She liked the work at the diner, she liked that she could live comfortably in her old age and that she was able to have people around all day instead of living somewhere in the woods and be fearful of every person she came across because they could uncover her secret.
The dwarfs seemed devided by the question of leaving or staying. Grumpy, Doc and Happy wanted to be among the first to leave, the others talked of sticking around Storybrooke at least a little longer. Grumpy called them traitors and some other choice words while Doc just shook his head sadly.
Storybrooke saw a radical change in the days to come and Regina felt the change first hand. People approached her, not all at once and not without hesitance but they greeted her on the street, they thanked her for her help, they asked if Storybrooke could still be their home if they decided to stay. Regina was baffled by this reaction and Emma tended to smile at her surprise after yet another citizen who had hated her the week before had approached her with a question or a remark or a simple 'hello.'
Meanwhile, Hook watched the proceedings in town with sharp eyes and an impatient tapping of his right foot. He wanted to leave as well but, so far, nobody had even indicated how he would be able to. While some people left to set up mirrors in the Enchanted Forest, he was left to watch Emma smile at Regina in a way that broke his heart several times a day. And he couldn't wait to leave Storybrooke. And he thought of multiple ways to get that portal-maker and... but there his ideas ended because he had no means to know the spell that made the cube work and he had no magical powers of his own to find out.

Chapter Text

Emma came into the diner on Friday. She was smiling.
"Morning, Rubes," she greeted her friend.
Ruby merely waved at her from where she was serving a table and Emma noticed the haunched shoulders of another friend who was sitting at the counter.
"Hey, Killian," she said, tapping him on the shoulder as she slipped onto the stool beside him.
"Sheriff," he gave back formally and rose from his chair. He took his coffee mug with him as he turned and walked over to a table and sat down there.
Emma watched him go and frowned.
"Hey, Emma. What can I get you?" Ruby said breathlessly as she stepped behind the counter.
Emma turned to her.
"A cocoa and a bear claw... you alright? Or has it already been a long day?"
"When there's things to talk about in town, they usually meet here. The last few days have been really busy," Ruby told her friend.
"I guess that will change once people start leaving for their homes. We haven't talked about this, what about you and Granny? You leaving?" Emma asked.
"Granny is staying. I'm not sure what I'll do, actually. We talked about this, remember?" Ruby looked over to where Belle sat in a booth. She was having breakfast with Neal.
"Right," Emma said and a shadow flitted over her features. She knew that she would have to talk to Belle and soon. She had a right to know that Rumple was still alive and the same went for Neal, of course. And Ruby, Emma now realized and she felt for her friend. "Could you bring me my order to that table, please. I think I'm going to have a talk with Killian," Emma then said because she didn't want to spill her beans right then. They would have to sit down and talk about the Rumple-situation in private, she owed them as much.
"Will do," Ruby said and hurried away.
Emma turned and walked over to the table where Hook sat dejectedly.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked.
The pirate looked up at her with an eyeroll.
"What do you want, Swan?" he asked.
She pulled a chair from the table and sat down.
"I would like to talk to my friend Killian? Do I still have a friend called Killian?" she asked looking at him with an open expression that she knew was disarming.
Hook took a deep breath.
"That's all you ever wanted from me, wasn't it? Friendship? You know you could have said, instead you kissed me on that damned island and I thought... well, never mind what I thought," he said.
"Come on, talk to me," Emma asked of him and lay a hand on his left arm.
"I thought I'd give you time. When we came back from Neverland, I kept my distance because I figured you needed time to sort through your feelings for Neal. I thought I owed you that... and him, too, because you have a child together. It seems I was jealous of the wrong parent. I didn't see Regina coming and just... sweeping you away."
"It wasn't like that, really. It was me, I swept her," Emma told him and he frowned at her. "I know, you don't wanna hear this. It's just... I didn't see it coming, either, Killian. Everything... I thought the same thing you did after we came back. I wanted to sort things out with Neal and really... concentrate on that part of my life, on family, on... someone I might love. And at that point, I thought if not Neal then maybe Killian... but then... something happened and it... disrupted everything. It was the craziest but also kind of most logical thing to happen...," Emma contemplated staring into the distance.
"What was it?" Hook asked and she looked at him.
"Regina and I kissed. It was the most intense thing I had ever felt," she told him and he made a face.
Ruby came to the table and placed Emma's order before her.
"Here you go, as ordered. Enjoy. Can I get you anything else, Hook?"
"Thanks, Ruby," Emma said.
"No, thank you, luv," Killian answered Ruby and she left their table again.
"Henry seems happy about it. I saw you all at the town meeting," he said.
"Henry's over the moon but I'm sure he would have been okay with me being with anybody who made me happy. The bonus is that now both his mothers are happy," Emma said.
"So it's not just for him?" Killian asked with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
"No, it's... for all of us. I love Regina and she loves me. I never would have thought this would happen but... Neverland changed everything for us. The things that happened there..."
"We kissed there," Killian reminded her with a slight pout.
"I know. I can't say it meant nothing to me, Killian, but... it didn't mean everything. The kiss I shared with Regina, that first kiss and each one after, they do. I'm sorry. I never meant to lead you on. I felt what I felt then and I feel different now. But one thing that hasn't changed is that I want us to be friends, good friends," she told him.
"There's a word for that, I heard it on some tv show... friend-zoning?" he said and frowned. "And until now I always thought that the women who did that had every right to do it... I mean the dudes they did it to were douchebags, yeah?"
Emma smiled at the words Killian used. He must have watched a lot of tv lately.
"But it's different when you're the one... getting demoted from possible lover to friend," he ended.
"It's not a demotion, Killian. Being friends has its own benefits, you'll see."
"Yes, I probably will, since I will be stuck here forever," he said in a burst of anger.
"Why would you say that? Regina promised you to get you wherever you want to go, didn't she?"
"Well, I don't see it happening, do you?" he asked her.
"Have a little faith, Killian. Regina's working on it, believe me," she told him and he looked at her suspiciously.
Killian wasn't sure if he should trust either woman, they had betrayed him before - and not just once.
"Everybody will get home," Emma said.
"I don't have a home, Swan. I only have the sea."
"The Jolly Roger is your home, isn't it?"
He nodded and she knew that he would have liked to make it her home as well. And Henry's. There was so much yearning in his eyes at that moment and she was sorry for him. But that didn't change things between them.
"Just be a little more patient. You will be able to leave here," Emma told him.
He nodded slowly. There were things he would have liked to tell her, plans he had made for them. He would have liked her to know about them, he would have used them to win her over if he had thought they could make a difference. But Emma was happy with how things were - not just between them but in her life. She did love Regina, there was just no discernible doubt in her eyes. She was exactly where she belonged.
"Well, I'll be around, then. Just whistle for me when the time is right," he said as he stood from the table.
"Killian...," she tried but he shook his head.
"You told me to be patient, luv. I'm telling you the same thing if you really want to be my friend. You can't... force my heart to mend within seconds, it needs time. And yet, it might never get over you," he said and then left.
Emma looked after him a little sadly. She might have lost him but maybe that was better than never losing him at all.

Regina was on her way into the kitchen to prepare dinner for herself and Henry. Emma had called earlier to say that she would be working late - some citizens had taken the news of going home very enthusiastically and had celebrated a little too violently and she had to take care of them. Regina had a little smile on her face thinking how Emma was now calling her to say she was being late, how she had apologized, how they were slowly growing into a very married couple and the fact that it didn't bore her or make her role her eyes but made her smile instead.
The doorbell interrupted those pleasant thoughts and Regina eyes shiftted to the clock standing on an end table in the hall. It wasn't that late but later than people usually approached her.
Regina went to the door and opened to a pleasantly smiling Snow White.
"Hello, Regina."
"Snow," Regina said surprised. "If you're looking for Emma, she's still at work."
"Oh, well, I guess...," and Snow was about to turn and maybe say her goodbyes but then she stopped herself. "Would you have a few minutes to talk?" she then asked.
"I was about to make dinner... but I guess. How good are you at chopping carrots?" Regina opened the door for Snow and the younger woman stepped inside.
"I've become quite the expert at it, actually. I've finally taken the time to learn how to cook in this realm, it's so much easier and quicker than it used to be," Snow answered.
"Too bad you'll be going back to the Enchanted Forest," Regina said over her shoulder as she entered the kitchen.
"I wouldn't say it was a bad thing but there'll be some things I'll be missing."
"Electricity, hot showers, flushing toilets?"
Snow laughed.
"Among other things, yes," she said.
Regina busied herself with getting ingredients and pots from the fridge and cabinets. She gave Snow the carrots.
"Knives are in that drawer behind you," she said pointing and Snow turned. "What did you want to talk about?" Regina asked as she put a pot with salted water on the stove. She was making risotto.
Snow turned back to the mayor looking at her with a serious expression.
"I wanted to thank you, Regina," she said and watched the other woman look up in surprise.
"Thank me?"
"Yes, for everything you did... these last few weeks. Working in the shop although it was difficult for you, finding a way to get us all home, going to the Enchanted Forest to make sure everyone will be safe and organizing groups to set up mirrors to make portals. And then working your magic to open those portals... you made all this happen and you made a lot of people very happy - including my husband."
Regina looked at Snow wondering if there was going to be a 'but' following this little speech but Snow just smiled. Regina turned back to the stove.
"I know you did all of this for Emma rather than anyone else but..."
"No," Regina interrupted Snow. "I didn't do these things for Emma. Getting everyone home is for me, my redemption. It has nothing or little to do with Emma. She helped me see that I needed to do this for myself - and the people I cursed - and then she helped me do it."
Snow nodded.
"I'm glad," she said and started her work on the vegetables.
Regina started on a salad to go with the risotto and they worked in silence for a while.
"Is David... really happy right now?" Regina asked after a while. "I mean, is he... okay with Emma and me?"
"I wouldn't say 'okay,' exactly, but... he's coming around. The trip to the Enchanted Forest changed his perspective on a few things, on you, for example. He sees you differently now," Snow said.
"I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything to help him change his mind about me," Regina argued.
"You did. Not in the way you behaved toward him but... by the way you behaved towards other people. The way you treated those orphans, for example."
"Oh," Regina said remembering. "But they were just kids. They didn't deserve how those villagers treated them, it was hardly their fault that they'd been abandoned or that their parents died."
"It wasn't and you saw that and did something about it," Snow explained.
"I adopted Henry and David only now notices that I'd do anything to protect a child? My, he is a slow learner, isn't he?"
Snow suppressed a small smile that was tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"He didn't see you with Henry before Emma came here, remember? He was in a coma," Snow said and her voice took on a scolding edge.
"Right," Regina said noncommitally. "Emma changed a great many things around here. I used to fear her, now...," Regina simply smiled.
"Now you wouldn't want to live without her, or couldn't even," Snow said and Regina nodded barely noticable. She wasn't sure she wanted to talk to Snow about her love for Emma. "She doesn't live here yet, though, does she?"
"No, I mean... we spent most of our time together but... we do it alternately here and at the house she rented. She's quite charmed with the place and...," but Regina interrupted herself. Was she really going to discuss these things with Snow White - of all people?
"It's a lovely house. Of course, it can't hold a candle to this... mansion."
"Yes, but that's the point, obviously, why Emma doesn't want to live here. It's too big, too impersonal, too... I think she feels like it's a cold place, somehow. But it's my home," Regina confided in Snow.
"I see," Snow said.
"We haven't been fighting about it but we've talked and... Emma doesn't want to move in here. I'm not sure what we will do. Maybe we will build a house but... that'll take a while. And meanwhile... we're living here for half a week and then there for half a week. That's no way to live at all, especially...," but Regina stopped herself again and looked up from cutting cherry tomatoes in half.
"Especially with a baby on the way?" Snow guessed.
"We don't know for sure yet but... yes, essentially."
Snow nodded.
"What do you think about... us having another child?" Regina probed the younger woman who would also be - strangely - her mother in law when she was going to marry Emma.
"I think... I'm happy for you both. I'm also just a little jealous because... Charming and I are still trying but didn't have any luck so far. I know that Emma is really happy about the prospect of becoming a mother again and I think she needs it, too. To have a baby she is actually raising this time. Not that she loves Henry any less because..."
"I know, Snow. She couldn't love Henry any more if she had raised him, I'm sure. And he loves her," Regina said with a proud little smile.
"I wish... Emma had come to us first, you know. That she would have told David and me before she's told... basically the whole town," Snow then said with a soft sigh.
"She wanted to and she would have if... David had been more open to listening."
"That's what I thought. I still wished she would have at least told me first. I'm her mother."
"We hadn't planned to... just tell everyone that evening. If she could have done it any other way, she would have," Regina argued for Emma.
Snow nodded. She was just finishing with the carrots and then started with peeling peas. Again, they worked in silence for awhile.
"David wants to give a ball," Snow then said.
"A ball?"
"Yes, when we're back in the Enchanted Forest and have... settled in, he wants to give a ball... for Emma," Snow said haltingly.
"For Emma?" Regina was barely suppressing her laughter and then gave up. "Oh, I can't wait to see the look on her face when she finds out."
Snow couldn't help but smile at Regina's obvious mischievousness.
"Well, if David will be able to talk her into it, you'll be invited, too, of course. And Henry. David said he wanted to introduce his daughter to his kingdom, and her family."
"He said that?" Regina asked.
"Almost word for word," Snow assured her.
"Well, I don't mind a nice ball. I actually enjoyed a couple of them. And dancing with Emma.. hmmm.. Emma in a ball gown," she said dreamily before being roused by a dancing lid on the pot she's put on the stove earlier. The water was boiling. She turned and put the rice into the water, turning down the heat under the pot. "And Henry will look quite dashing in a prince's suit," she added quickly and then turned. Her cheeks were slightly flushed and Snow doubted that it was from the heat of the stove.
"It would be a nice opportunity to wear one of my gowns again. I kind of miss my wardrobe," Regina said looking down at the blouse and pants she was wearing.
"I'm sure Emma would appreciate the opportunity," Snow said with a wicked smile and Regina raised an eyebrow at her.
The mayor didn't answer. She turned back to her salad and put the finishing touches on it while Snow finished with the peas. Regina busied herself with cleaning the appliances. There wasn't anything else to do until the rice was almost done.
"Have you decided when you'll be leaving for the Enchanted Forest?" Regina then asked turning to the younger woman.
"We'll probably be staying until all the others who want to leave have left. I think David wants to talk to some of the people who are as yet undecided whether to stay or go."
Regina nodded.
"But David is planning on a goodbye-party at The Rabbit Hole before people start leaving. He said something about next Saturday."
"That's a nice idea."
"Yes, and I hope you all will be there," Snow said indicating Regina and her family.
"We wouldn't miss it. I mean, I'm finally getting rid of everybody. That surely calls for a celebration," Regina said with a smirk.
Snow laughed.
"You'll miss us yet," she predicted.
"Maybe in another thirty years," Regina answered in the same teasing fashion.
"Well, I guess I'll be going now. Enjoy your dinner," Snow said.
"Thank you for the help," Regina said as they left the kitchen for the front door. She opened it for Snow but before the teacher left she said:
"I've been thinking," she looked around the atrium of the mansion. "Maybe if you let Emma redecorate... maybe just a room or two, maybe she would feel more at home here."
Regina looked at Snow then let her eyes roam over the interior of her house. She seemed to contemplate Snow's words.
"That's not a bad idea," she said.
"I have my moments," Snow answered. "Goodnight, Regina."
"Goodnight, Snow. Tell David I'm behind him with the ball-idea," she added with a grin and Snow waved at her as she walked down the garden path.

Chapter Text

Emma opened the door to her rented home to three sets of expectant eyes.
"Hey, you guys. Come on in," she told Belle, Ruby and Neal. They all shuffled into the small hall and Emma pointed toward the living room. "Walk right in," she said.
Neal was the first to enter and to then stop because there was already someone in the living room.
"You said she wouldn't be here," he said to Emma and she was hard-pressed not to roll her eyes at him.
"But now she is. Believe me, there's a reason for all of this. Now would you please," she argued with him and he made a face.
He still entered the living room, however, but sat as far from Regina as possible which was coincidentally also the arm chair facing the mayor.
Belle and Ruby settled next to each other on the couch with Belle closest to Regina. Emma took the last available seat next to Ruby and an awkward silence settled for a moment.
"You wanted to talk to us all?" Belle then asked. The invitation had surprised her, especially since it didn't sound like a social call.
"Yes, it's about... it's about Rumplestiltskin," Regina said. She leaned forward in her chair looking over at Emma for a moment but then concentrated on Belle again.
"Don't tell me he did something wrong from his grave? Will you ever stop blaming all your life's failures on him?" Neal burst out. He was angry, he had been little else since he's come to know about Emma and Regina's relationship.
Regina looked at him with cold eyes.
"This is not about me, and it's not about you, either, Neal. We invited you here out of curtesy because Emma thought you should hear it, too," Regina told him and turned back to Belle.
"Tell me," the librarian said in a small voice that indicated she expected bad news. She couldn't quite come up with an idea of what could possibly be bad news now that Rumple was already dead and her worst fears had been fulfilled but she braced herself nonetheless.
"We think that Gold might be alive," Emma said and all heads turned to her.
"You're serious?" were the reactions, accompanied by wide-eyed stares.
"Let me explain," Regina said. "When we were working in the shop that day when Emma fainted in the bar... you remember that day, Neal? You brought that box into the shop," she reminded him.
"I remember," he said flatly.
"Something else came into the shop, too. At first, we thought it had something to do with the box but it didn't. But that something - at first, I thought it might have been a spirit or a poltergeist, something like that - moved the box... it made it fly through the shop."
"Was that why you behaved so weird?" Neal asked Emma.
"Well, we were surprised, it happened all very fast. That thing... that spirit, it claimed to be your dad. I mean, it couldn't talk to us but there was this energy and it moved things. That's why the mobile pretty much exploded," Emma tried to explain what had happened.
"I don't understand. How could this... spirit say that it was Rumple when it couldn't talk?" Belle asked.
"It tried to communicate through moving things. And then it opened a book on a story that Rumplestiltskin had told me once, early when he was teaching me magic. I thought that it might be him because no one else would know about that story. But we weren't sure," Regina said. "I got confirmation when I searched for this device," she added and pointed at the magical cube that sat on the table. "This spirit - though it is not really a spirit - it helped me find this cube. It knew exactly where it was and there's no one who would have known except Rumple."
"So you're saying that Rumple is... a spirit? But then he would be dead," Belle objected.
"That's why I said that it's not really a spirit, it was more like... maybe an out-of-body energy displacement. Rumple is somewhere else but through his magic he could... send some of his energy into the shop. To make us aware that he was alive, to help me find the cube. And I think this is also the key to finding him. I think he might be trapped in another realm, one we need to rescue him from."
They all looked at Regina for a moment.
"You really think he's alive?" Belle asked again and now she had tears in her eyes.
Regina nodded with a small smile.
Belle turned to Ruby who tried the same kind of encouraging smile Regina wore and her friend leaned into her. Ruby hugged Belle who now let out a giddy laugh. The waitress closed her eyes.
Neal rose from his seat.
"Are you absolutely sure?" he asked Emma. He seemed determined not to talk to Regina.
"As sure as we can be. Neither one of us has been back in the shop since Regina found the cube," Emma said.
"Why didn't you say anything before? We might have already found...," Neal started but was cut off by Regina.
"There were other things to be done. We had to set priorities but we acted as fast as we could. What you have to understand is that Rumple could be anywhere. Nobody knows how many realm there are, how many possible worlds we'd have to search to find him. The truth is, we may not find him, even with the cube, even if he can find a way to ommunicate with us," she explained.
"Then we should have started the search the minute you found this," Neal argued angrily.
"Neal, please. They did everything they could," Belle tried to appease him.
"They did absolutely nothing. She just wanted to cover her ass with the whole going-home mission, so that people thought she was nice now. But she's the same old...."
"Careful, Neal! Another wrong word from you and you're out of here, I mean it! I will not have you talk that way in my house, you understand?" Emma told him. She stood and leaned toward him with angry eyes, her posture saying she was ready to throw him out should he as much as blink in a way she found offensive.
Neal clamped his jaw shut but they could all see that he was gonna have his say, even if he had to go to the bar and tell everyone who didn't want to hear.
"What can we do to get him back?" Belle asked Regina.
"We've thought about it. We think our best shot is to try and communicate with Rumple's... energy in the shop. We think that you should try it since... well, you know him best. But we also thought about... a search party of some kind."
"I will lead that search party," Neal said.
"Actually...," Emma was about to say but then the doorbell rang. "We had someone else in mind," she added as she rose to open the door.

"You whistled?" Hook said after Emma opened the door for him and raised an eyebrow. He wanted to appear cool and detached but Emma could tell that he wasn't. His posture wasn't as negligent relaxed as it usually was and there were tension lines around his eyes.
"I did. Come in, we have a preposition for you."
"We? Sounds kinky, I'm in," he said in his habitual attempt at flirting as he walked confidently into the living room. "Okay, I'm only in if you get rid of Neal," he then amended his earlier comment. Then he smiled pleasantly at everybody.
"You can't be serious," Belle said as she saw the pirate walk into the room. "He tried to kill me... and Rumple on several occasions," she started to argue and Killian looked a little confused. He didn't even know what he was supposed to do as he was pretty sure he wasn't actually here to... get up, close and personal with any of the ladies present.
"Just hold up, lassie. I haven't quite caught on to the preposition at hand, so to speak," he said and waved his hook at her. Then he looked at Emma.
"You said you wanted to leave here as soon as possible. We're thinking of giving you the cube," she said.
"Is that so? Then I can just take it and go? No, it's not as easy as all that, is it, luv? There's a catch. What's the catch?" he asked turning toward Regina.
She smiled at him in acknowledgement.
"There are two conditions," she said.
"Ah, two catches."
"One, you return to Storybrooke every year so that we can use the cube for eventual new portals or repairs, whatever needs to be done."
"That sounds reasonable which brings us to catch number two which is probably not nearly as reasonable," he said.
"Two, you help us find Rumplestiltskin."
Killian looked from Regina to Emma and then at Neal.
"The crocodile?" he said.
"Emma and Regina think he's still alive," Neal told him.
Killian changed his posture from leasurely amused to attentive. There might have been an air of a Royal Navy man about him at that moment had anyone known enough about him to look for it.
"And you want me to find him?" he asked, the frown on his face clearly indicating what he thought of the idea.
"We figured you and the Jolly Roger would be our best chance, yes," Regina answered.
"What makes you think I will not just kill him when I find him?"
"Because you're not that kind of man, Killian. And if you would have it in you to kill him you would have done it a long time ago," Emma said.
Killian smiled rather unpleasantly at her.
"Thank you for the vote of confidence in my manliness, Swan. I guess I don't have to ask who's the man in this house, do I?"
Emma rolled her eyes at him.
"That would be Henry," Regina said with a no-nonsense look on her face. "In any case, Rumple is out there. I presume he's in possession of his dagger and his magical faculties or he wouldn't have been able to contact us. What we need from you, Hook, is merely safe passage back here - and then you can go wherever you want to."
"Not so quickly. your majesty. Do you honestly propose I safe the man who killed the woman I loved and took my hand?" Hook wasn't prepared to let this go yet and Emma could tell that Regina was about to lose her temper with him.
"Killian, I know you loved Milah and...," but Emma failed to reationalize the loss of a hand to Hook. From his point of view, helping Rumple seemed ridiculous. But it also seemed ridiculous for Belle or Neal to trust Hook with the rescue of a man he so clearly hated. Maybe this had been a bad idea altogether.
"You know nothing about Milah, Swan, don't pretend you do or care," he told her.
"I know a little about my mother, though," Neal said. "And my father didn't just kill the woman you loved, he also killed the woman he loved that day. You took her from him before he took her from you and you both took her from me."
Hook looked at the other man in obvious discomfort before he lowered his eyes in something that could have been interpreted as shame.
"Let's just say, there's a lot of history here. The bottom line is, Hook is our best chance at finding Rumplestiltskin. He's been to more realms than any of us, he has the Jolly Roger, and he wants to leave."
"But I cannot leave without the cube," Hook agreed with Regina and she nodded pleasantly at him. "So it seems we need each other," he concluded and looked at Belle as he said it.
"I don't trust you," she told him and he smiled toothily at her.
"You don't have to. But I'm afraid if you don't you won't see your loved one again."
"Do you trust me?" Neal asked Belle and she looked at him.
"Of course, I do."
"Then I will make sure Hook doesn't just run off with the cube. I will come with you," he told the pirate.
"Sorry, mate, but my crew is already complete. Maybe next time."
"Killian," Emma said in a warning tone.
"What now? I'm not even allowed to choose my own crew?"
"You'll have to accomodate at least one additional passenger, anyway, Hook. Or do you have magical powers we're not aware of?" Regina asked him and he looked at her questioningly. "The cube can only be worked by someone with magical powers," she told him.
"So Emma's coming with me? Why didn't you say so in the first place, luv?" he grinned at her.
"Not Emma," Regina said testily.
"Tinkerbell," Emma told him.
"Has she agreed to this already?" he asked and Emma nodded.
"I talked to her yesterday and she has agreed to do it. For one year," the blonde added and he looked like he could live with that solution.
"Belle, I know this is... all very unexpected and probably confusing," Regina said to the redhead who looked at her. Regina reached out her hand and took one of Belle's. "We thought about it, Emma and I, and it's the only solution we could come up with. We want you to try to communicate with Rumple in the shop. If you can find out anything useful you'll be able to tell Hook via mirrors - I still have to work on those but they should work even between realms. Tink will be there to make sure Hook can get wherever we think Rumple might be and, well, Neal will make sure Hook doesn't do anything stupid," she said with a warning look at Hook. The pirate merely smirked at her and she turned back to Belle. They looked at each other for a long moment and earnest contemplation. There was a lot of history between them and Regina knew Belle had now reason to trust or even believe her. But Belle wanted to believe and had to trust, it was just difficult. The redhead looked over at her friend who had been silent during the whole exchange, seemingly sensing that her role in this was to support Belle, nothing more.
"What do you think?"
"I trust Emma and Regina, Belle. If they say, it's the only way to get Rumple... back to you, then it is. It's risky, though," the brunette said with a look at Hook. "But it's the choice between maybe getting Rumple back and definately not getting him back."
Belle nodded.
"Then we'll do it," she said.
"Killian?" Emma asked him as if he had a choice in the matter.
He smiled at her bemusedly.
"It'll at least be an adventure, yes?" he said and she raised an eyebrow at him. "Yes, I'll do it. At least, I'll get to spend some quality time with my favorite step-son," he said smiling at Neal who let out an exasperated sigh but didn't say anything. "When will we be able to set sail then?"
"I'll have those communiation mirrors ready for you in a few days."
"It would be nice if you could stay for the party on Saturday," Emma said.
"I'm not really in the mood for a party. How about you, Bae?"
"I'm ready to leave whenever you are," Neal answered.
"As soon as possible then. We can have a little private party when I come back, luv, if you're so eager to drink with me. Just keep a bottle rum handy and..."
"Hush, Killian," Emma told him as she could see Regina's color rising slowly, the firm set of her jaw indicating that she was fighting her evil self to not set him on fire.
He laughed lightly.
"How is this little toy working anyways. I mean, I doubt that the Jolly Roger will fit through a mirror," he said pointing at the cube. He refrained from taking it since Regina had both her very sharp eyes on him at the moment.
"The water will work as your mirror," the dark-haired woman answered simply and he nodded.
"Ah, right. That will work," he said. "Well, if that's all I'll just take my little friend here and be on my way, yes?"
"No, the cube stays here. Tinkerbell will bring it with her when you're going to leave."
Killian looked at Regina, their eyes locked in silent conversation of mistrust.
"Have it your way," he then said.
"I usually do," she gave back.
He turned to Emma.
"It's not like I don't get it, Swan, she's sassy enough. But, as far as I'm concerned, there's things you can't even fake with magic," he said.
"Believe me, she doesn't fake anything. She doesn't need to," Emma gave back with a confident smile and he made a gulping sound under his breath.
"I'll be in my bunk," he told them and left.
Neal got up as well, as did Belle.
"I guess I'll go packing then. Could you maybe send Henry over one of these days, I'd like to talk to him before I'll leave," Neal asked of Emma.
"He will understand, right?"
"Yes, he will. And you'll be back in a year, the latest. I hope you'll find your father sooner than that, though."
He nodded at her words and turned to Regina for a moment. He seemed to contemplate whether or not to say something to her but in the end he didn't. He turned toward the hall. "Are you two coming?" he then asked Belle and Ruby.
"Yes," Belle said and turned to Regina. She hugged her. "Thank you, Regina. The things you did... these last few weeks... you're an extraordinary woman."
"Thank you, Belle, but I'm just doing what I can to... undo what I did in the past."
"You're doing more," Belle argued.
"I'll be by so we can go to the shop together whenever you're ready. Just give me a call," the mayor told her.
Belle went over to Emma and hugged and thanked her as well. Then she turned to Ruby who still sat on the couch.
"Are you coming?"
"I wanted to talk to Emma about something else and then I'll have to be back at the diner for the lunch crowd," the brunette told her friend.
"Okay," Belle said a little dejectedly but Ruby smiled at her in that way of hers, all eyes and teeth. Belle nodded at her. "I'll see you later."
"Later," Ruby said as Belle left with Neal and her voice already took on a raspy quality that was explained by tears that fell on her face when Belle had left.
Emma went over to her immediately, sitting next to her and wrapping her arms around her friend. There were no words exchanged, Emma knew exactly what Ruby felt at that moment and she couldn't think of any words that could make Ruby's pain any easier.

A short while later the three women sat each with their hands around a cup of cocoa or tea. Regina had made them while Ruby had cried at Emma's shoulder. When she had returned, Ruby had been more composed and had thanked her for the warm beverage. She had smiled at Regina and thus made it easy for the mayor to decide to stay with them.
"I'm happy for Belle," Ruby said after a while. "I really am."
"We didn't think you weren't Ruby. We would never think that," Emma reassured her.
"I have to think of the way she was... right after, the sleepless nights, hours she spent crying. Now she'll be happy again even if it takes a while to find Rumple, she will be happy again," Ruby kept on.
"Losing someone you love is the worst kind of pain," Regina said.
"I know," Ruby said. "I mean I... ate my first boyfriend," and she looked sick just thinking about it. She took a sip from her tea. "But I guess... True Love is a different ballgame, altogether."
Regina looked at Emma over Ruby's head which still lay at the blonde's shoulder.
"Love is love, Ruby. When you lose someone a part of you dies. I think we make too much of this True Love-business. Who can really tell? Apart from my parents, that is," Emma argued but looked back and into Regina's chocolat-y eyes. They were her destiny and she knew it.
"And you two," Ruby said with a slight grin and Emma looked at her. She blushed.
"You know how it is in this world, Ruby. Here we fight about whether two women or two men should be able to get married - in the Enchanted Forest it might be the difference between ordinary love between ordinary people and True Love between princesses and princes. Why make a difference at all? We're all just people," Emma gave back.
"Yes, but Rumplestiltskin is Belle's True Love and there's no arguing with that," Ruby said.
"And if he had been dead she might have learned to love another and who could have said that wasn't True Love, too?"
"Emma's right, Ruby. True Love is only a name. If two people love each other with their whole hearts, their whole souls - it's love. none truer than another," Regina said.
"Not that it helps me now but... I guess it might some day. Who knows," Ruby said. "Thank you," she then added and tried a smile for both of her friends.
"Have you decided what you will do now? Will you return to the Enchanted Forest?" Emma asked.
Ruby shook her long mane.
"I don't think so. I mean, I guess I could go with Snow and Charming, live somewhere near the castle but... I would have to live alone, possibly hide and always be very careful come a full moon. That's no life. People know me here and they don't fear me as much as they used to. I have the woods...," she trailed off, maybe because she wanted to say something about Belle being there, of having her in her life but then she just stared into the unlit fireplace. She took a rattling breath. "I can't believe how much it hurts." Ruby leaned forward and put her mug down on the coffee table.
Emma rubbed her back in sympathy.
"Don't let it harden your heart," Regina said in a low voice. "You're such a good and loving person, Ruby. Love will come to you... eventually," she added and once again looked at Emma.
"You two are so lucky," Ruby said a little enviously.
"We may not have been if it wasn't for you, Rubes," Emma gave back. "You helped me figure it out. You were there for me when I needed you. I want to help you, too."
Ruby nodded.
"Have you thought about maybe accompanying Hook on his... quest?" Regina asked and Ruby looked at her in surprise.
"Me? On a ship? With that.. pirate and his men?"
"And Tinkerbell and Neal, they would be there, too," Emma added.
Ruby shook her head.
"What would I be doing? I think Neal can handle Hook and... Tink will be doing the magic. I would only..."
"Be getting away for a while. Do something for Belle while not having to be near her all the time," Regina gave her reasons to consider the idea.
Ruby looked back into the fireplace, staring at nothing.
"I can't leave Belle all alone. Rumple is not back yet, she..."
"Has friends who will look out for her. I'm sure Granny will see that she eats enough," Emma supported Regina's idea.
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Ruby asked jokingly.
"No, we're just trying to get you to think of yourself for a change," Emma gave back with a serious expression.
"I'm not sure I can do that, I mean, just up and leave. I...," but it seemed that she was at least considering it and that was all her friends asked her to do. "A werewolf on a ship," Ruby said thoughtfully. "That's a new one."
"It would certainly bring the crew in line," Regina said not even trying to hide her distaste for the occupation.
Emma smiled at her.
"For someone who hates boats so much, you made a pretty good sailor when we sailed the Jolly Roger," Emma commented.
"I did what needed to be done. It's not like I enjoyed it," Regina gave back.
"I've never spend a lot of time on a ship," Ruby said. "I'm not sure if I would like it. I'm not sure if I would hate it, either."
"I always liked living near the ocean. I also liked spending time at public pools when I was little, swimming," Emma said.
"I wouldn't mind seeing you in a swim suit one of these days," Regina said and then blushed. "I did say that aloud, did I?"
Ruby and Emma laughed.
"You sure did. And I would say you have good taste but I'm afraid of fireballs," Ruby said and Regina joined their laughter.
"I'm not THAT jealous," she said.
"Really? I thought you were going to skin Hook alive when he was trying to flirt with Emma."
"That wasn't jealousy, I was just annoyed by his lack of... finesse. He's just being obnoxious."
"How would you have him court me, my love?" Emma asked smiling.
"I would skin him alive if he made an honest attempt at it," Regina gave back, deliberately not smiling. "If I were to court you, on the other hand..." she started saying but then just smiled secretively to herself. Her eyes locked onto Emma's in silent seduction.
"Is it time for me to make up an excuse and leave?" Ruby asked into the sudden tension between her two companions and they snapped out of staring into each other's eyes.
"That's not necessary. We've got our whole lives for her to court me, however subtle and wonderfully artful she wants it to be."
Regina laughed.
"Be careful what you wish for, savior."
They were trying - but not very hard - to not be so obviously in love and failed. It was indeed Ruby's cue to leave them, even though they kept protesting that it wasn't necessary.
"It's okay, I have to think about some things. And I also have to get back to the diner," Ruby told them as she stood.
Emma and Regina also rose and Ruby hugged both of them in turn.
"Thank you two. It's good to... be able to talk about... things," she said.
"Anytime, Ruby," Emma said and Regina nodded.
They both walked Ruby to the door and watched her go.
"She's a strong woman," Regina said and lay her arms around Emma. The blonde closed the door and then returned the hug.
"She is. I just wish she wouldn't have to be."

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful sunny day in Storybrooke as many of its inhabitants assembled on the pier where the Jolly Roger was prepared to leave for different waters and probably some adventures. At least, that was what her captain hoped for. Adventures would be good to distract his attention from the woman he left behind but far from leaving - because she had been the one to leave him when she fell for another.
And that was who she was standing at the pier with now while he surveyed the crowd from his post by the rudder. There were other people milling around them, a certain blonde pixie who earlier had stored her belongings in one of the starboard cabins, the one she would share with another female passenger - the waitress-slash-werewolf he didn't remember inviting but who would come on this journey anyway. Neal was also still standing near his ex, his hand on his son's shoulder as he was talking to him.
Everybody was there, everybody seemed excited, or rather exhilarated for the first people to leave Storybrooke. They were the adventurers, those who would travel unknown lands while everyone else would go back to their hearths or central heating systems, depending on whether they would stay in this little town or go back to the Enchanted Forest or some other place that lacked the creature comforts of this realm. Hook saw it all but he felt detached from it and them. He didn't want to feel any of the things that might grip him should he go down and say his goodbyes - and he still wasn't sure that he would. The nostalgia for feelings that were now unwelcome, the loss and the yearning he felt for the leggy blonde who kept smiling at her dark-haired lover... or even the notion that he would miss this town a little, some of its more friendly occupants, some of the heroism a couple of citizens had appointed him with.
But he wasn't a hero, he was a pirate and it was his destiny to return to sea.
He noticed Emma looking up at him, shielding her face from the sun. She had a knowing look on her face and he couldn't help but roll his eyes at her. She was a goddamned know-it-all but he would show her that she didn't know him that well. He descended the stairs to the deck and soon he pushed through the cluster of people on the pier to remind part of his crew that he wanted to leave that same day, and not when their improv farewell-party was over.
"Ay, mate. You about ready?" he asked Neal who looked up at him.
"Erm," Neal made and looked over at Emma like she was the answer to all of his questions, too. She was looking at them as well, her eyebrow raised at Killian.
"Damn that woman," he breathed barely audible.
"I'll just say goodbye," Neal said and pulled his son into a hug.
"Yeah, so will I, I guess."
Hook made his way over to where Snow and Charming stood. On his way, he made signs to Tinkerbell that she better got going.
Tinkerbell saw Hook motioning at her and tapped Ruby on her shoulder.
"It seems the captain is getting restless. You should probably say your goodbyes," she adviced the dark-haired woman. Ruby nodded but Tink had never seen anyone look more miserable to leave a place - or maybe a certain person.
Ruby's eyes went in search of Belle who was standing talking to Granny a few feet away. She walked over.
"It seems we're about to leave," she said and Granny smiled up at her. She handed her granddaughter a small basket.
"There are some of your favorites in here. You should probably share them with that whispy blond pixie or she might get blown overboard the first time a stiff breeze catches her," Granny adviced Ruby who tried a smile.
"I will, Granny," she promised and then they hugged. To Ruby's surprise her grandmother clung to her for longer and tighter than she ever had ever done before. When they parted the older woman looked away rubbing at her eyes.
"Be careful," she said quietly.
"I will," Ruby promised and turned toward Belle.
They looked at each other for a long moment, then Belle reached for Ruby's free hand. She held it in both of her own and looked up at her friend.
Ruby took a tentative step closer, her eyes swimming in tears.
"Belle," she started saying but her voice seemed to drown in emotions.
"I know, Ruby. I...," Belle sighed and tried a smile that wasn't convincing. "I wish you wouldn't go but... it's probably best. I'll miss you."
Ruby nodded.
"What I said to you... the other night, I... meant every word," Ruby said. "But I shouldn't have told you."
"I think I knew before you said it, I just... I think I was pretty selfish these last few months, leaning on you, depending on you, and refusing to see... I think if things would have been different, if Rumple wasn't alive," she started saying but Ruby interrupted her.
"He is, and I know you're happy about it. And I'm happy for you," she said.
"I love you, Ruby," Belle said and they both knew how she meant it.
"And I love you, Belle," the taller woman said and leaned in for a chaste kiss. They hugged, Belle clinging to Ruby even more desperately than her grandmother had before.
"Take care and come back to... Storybrooke," she whispered into Ruby's ear before they parted.
Ruby nodded.
"I will," she promised. Their eyes lingered on each other, not ready to let go but sure it would only be moments before they had to part.
"Ruby?" It was Emma who interrupted the moment and she looked apologetic about it. Ruby turned to her and they hugged.
"I'll miss you, Rubes. Take good care of yourself, okay?"
"I'll miss you, too, and I'll see you in just a year, less probably," Ruby said and watched Regina give something to Belle. It looked like a compact.
"This is how you communicate," she heard the mayor say as she opened the compact and then another just like it. "See?"
Ruby and Emma both watched curiously.
"You should probably take the other one. That way you can stay in touch and if Belle has something to report to Hook you can give it to him," she told Ruby and handed her the other compact.
As Ruby looked into it she could see Belle looking back at her. They both looked up and smiled at each other.
"It only works when both mirrors are open but when one is opened the stone that is embedded on the lid of the other will light up, see," Regina demonstrated and all the people watching seemed impressed by this piece of magic.
"Why don't we have something like those, they're neat," Emma said a little enviously.
"Because we have phones, savior," Regina said with a slight grin.
"But I can't see you with a phone," Emma argued and Regina rolled her eyes in mock annoyance.
"You see me every day anyway."
But Emma was still pouting until Regina gave her a kiss.
"I don't have time to prepare two more compacts now, love. You'll have to wait another year until the Jolly Roger returns with this," she said pulling the cube from her purse. "Tink, you take this and don't let it out of your sight," Regina said handing the cube to Tinkerbell.
"I will protect it with every man's life that sails on that ship," Tinkerbell promised with a grin.
"Now that's reassuring," Neal muttered.
"Well, it's the only way back home to your son once we've left," Tink told him. "And I'm the only one who knows how to use it," she added with emphasis.
"Until we find my papa," Neal told her with a good-natured smile.
"Most of us are just mere mortals," she gave back with a shrug and he looked puzzled.
"You take care of my friend here. She tends to get herself into trouble," Tinkerbell told Emma with a sidelong glance at Regina. She hugged the sheriff. "I expect to get my job back when we return."
"You will."
"And you...," she said to Regina and hugged her, too. "I'm happy for you," she whispered into her ear.
"Alright, I'm off. Ruby?" Ruby nodded but then turned to see Snow look up at her.
"Snow," she said.
"I know, it's okay. We'll see each other in about a year. Take care of yourself," the older woman told her friend and they hugged.
"Take care," David said as he lay his arms around both women.
When they parted, Tink took Ruby's hand and pulled her through the crowd. Ruby had tears in her eyes and wiped at them as she followed the determined small blonde, not seeing and not really caring where she went now that she was leaving.
Neal said his goodbyes to Henry and Belle. Then he turned to Emma.
"Take care of our son," he said.
"I will always take care of OUR son," Emma gave back as she slid her hand into Regina's.
The mayor simply looked at Neal with a cold expression.
"Take care, dad," Henry said. He deliberately ignored the tension and the drama around him and just smiled at Neal encouragingly. "I'll see you when you get back."
"Yeah, you will," he gave back then smiled at Belle. "Bye." He followed the way through the crowd the two women had taken before him as Hook took his place among those who would be staying.
"Well, I guess it's time then. I take it, Tinkerbell has the cube and knows how to use it?" he asked turning to Regina.
"She has and she does. Bon voyage, pirate," she told him with an easy smile.
He took the hand that Emma wasn't holding in his and placed a soft kiss on it.
"Until we meet again, my queen," he said with a mocking flourish of his arm. Then he looked at Regina's companion. "Emma," he said with a nod of his head.
"Take care, Killian," she answered him.
"I always do," he said as he took a few steps backward, his eyes steady on her face as if to memorize it. Then he turned and walked toward his ship. The people around parted for him and he walked confidently up the plank that lead to his ship, calling out orders to his crew.
The Jolly Roger cast off from the pier and out to sea. It was still in sight when a reflection on the water blinded everyone who was watching for a second and a moment later the ship was gone.

Regina woke from a light slumber reaching instantly for her lover but not finding her. She lifted her head from the pillow in drowsy confusion and found Emma standing at the window her naked silhouette highlighted by moonlight.
"Hmmmm," Regina purred at the beautiful sight and Emma turned to her. "Are you trying to give the neighbors a heart-attack?"
Emma laughed lightly.
"I can't be seen by any of the neighbors, don't worry."
"Hm, then I guess you're trying to give me a heart-attack. The sight sure is breath-taking," Regina said as she rose from the bed - also naked - and joined her lover at the window.
Emma turned back to the darkness outside with a thoughtful expression and Regina put her hand to Emma's temple, carressing her face and then cupping her jaw.
"What are you thinking about?" the dark-haired woman asked.
Emma took a moment to think then she said:
Regina lifted an eyebrow and turned her head so that Emma could see it.
"Was it something I did?" the mayor asked with a smile and Emma had to laugh.
"Did I growl a little when...," she started but Emma pulled her face to hers and kissed her as they both giggled. Then she kissed her again and again and they forgot for the moment what they had been talking about as hands started their renewed leasurely exploration over naked skin. They leaned into each other as their kiss deepened, their breathing became ragged and wanting.
"I know that you're trying to distract me," Emma whispered when they parted for more air.
Regina opened her eyes and looked at Emma through the semi-darkness.
"I know you've been sad for Ruby, that you're still sad."
Emma nodded.
"It's just so incredibly unfair that... everyone is getting what they want but Ruby... she loses everything. She couldn't even stay here or go back home. She helped me so much when I was falling in love with you and I couldn't do anything for her," she said.
"I think you helped her by listening and... advising her to leave for a while," Regina argued. "And she wasn't the only one who didn't get what they wanted. I think they might as well have renamed the Jolly Roger 'Ship of Broken Dreams,'" she added.
"Are you trying to point out the trail of broken hearts I've left behind?" Emma asked and her frown deepened.
"No, I just... I'm trying to tell you that you're not responsible for everyone's happiness, Emma. You can't be. I know that the title of savior puts you under that pressure but... you couldn't make Neal and Hook and me happy at the same time, sometimes the happiness of two people means unhappiness for others. We couldn't keep our knowledge of Rumple's situation to ourselves, it wouldn't have been fair."
"I know. But I still wish there would have been another way. I wish Ruby and Belle had had more time together. Maybe Belle would have... fallen for Ruby...," but she didn't sound convinced.
"Maybe she would have but that would have made it harder for her to decide... who she wanted in the end," Regina argued. She pulled Emma closer to her, embracing her naked cooling body and carressing her hair. "Ruby will have to find someone for herself, someone whose heart is unattached."
Emma nodded against Regina's neck and lay her head on her lover's shoulder.
"You know... I'm sorry for Neal and Hook, too. I mean... I'm not sorry that I love you, I couldn't be, but I'm sorry that I... I'm who they want and cannot have."
Regina didn't say anything to this and after a long moment Emma leaned back to look into her lover's eyes.
"You don't like me talking about them, I'm sorry."
"No, I... I know you feel bad for them but I can't really. I know they wouldn't if the places were reversed. If you hadn't fallen for me but for Hook, or had gotten back with Neal... they wouldn't spare me a thought," Regina said.
"You're right but... I probably would have... that is... if I knew that you had feelings for me. Does that make any sense?"
"Things would have been very different if I had developed feelings for you and you wouldn't have for me and had instead gotten together with Neal or Hook. But I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have told you how I felt."
Emma took Regina's face between her hands and kissed her lovingly.
"I would have guessed," she said confidently.
"Your sweet brown eyes are an open book for me, woman," Emma told Regina and kissed her again, her lips increasing the pressure this time, her tongue flicking over Regina's lips.
"Is that so?" the mayor murmured into Emma's mouth as their passions ignited and they deepened the kiss, their bodies coming together in a renewed need for heat and the sheer pleasure of touch.
Emma pulled Regina toward the bed.
"I love you, savior," Regina moaned into Emma's mouth as the blonde cupped one of her breasts, grazing her nipple with the nail of her thumb.
"I love you, woman," Emma gave back as she started kissing down the mayor's neck. Her legs touched against the bed and she sat down on it, pulling Regina on top of her so that the smaller woman straddled her.
They kissed ever deeper as their bodies moved against each other and hands found their ways between them, touching, carressing, gliding over heated flesh. They loved each other, body and soul. It was a love that would never have happened in a fairy tale but maybe that made it even better.

Chapter Text


The Rabbit Hole was filled to the brim with people and since it was almost summer, the party had spilled outside as well. Most of the town was present and nobody minded the occasional child that had been brought as well. Henry was standing with his mothers and Belle and Granny near the bar. He seemed nervous and was looking at the door a lot. Emma knew why but she had been asked by her son not to tell anyone.
It was the farewell party for everyone who would soon go home to the Enchanted Forest to live there and everybody seemed to be having a good time.
"I talked to Ruby this morning," Belle was just saying. "She says that Neal and Hook spent a lot of time talking and playing card games. They've sailed some way around the Enchanted Forest, Hook wants to port there for a few days, get provisions, meet some friends."
"How does she sound?" Emma asked and Belle looked at her intently for a moment.
"Sad," she answered honestly.
"Sorry, I... I miss her," Emma said.
"So do I."
They looked at each other for a moment before Regina stole Emma's attentiion away as she whispered something in her ear. The mayor seemed determined to get good and drunk that night and she had already started on it while Emma stuck to water and juice.
"Do you know that everything started here?" Regina whispered in her ear.
"It did?"
"That night you called me by accident and asked me to get you," Regina reminded Emma who didn't really need the reminder, she remembered most of that night now. "And we ended up on Granny's couch."
Henry cleared his throat next to his mothers as he had heard that last part.
Regina smiled at him and lay a hand on his cheek.
"We just kissed, Henry, but, oh, what a kiss!" she said leaning into Emma who held her close. She looked at their son apologetically and he rolled his eyes. The next moment he grinned, however, and Emma turned to the door that hadn't left Henry's sight since they had arrived.
The Zimmermans had just walked in and Henry had started smiling at the sight of Ava. She was actually a really lovely girl, Emma had to admit, and their son was obviously smitten with her.
"Do you wanna say hello to your friends?" Emma asked.
"May I?" Henry asked as he was already bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"Yeah, but... do me a favor," Emma asked and then leaned over to whisper something in his ear. "Okay?"
"Yeah, sure. You got a quarter?" he asked and she searched her pockets for some change.
"Here you go," she said and he sauntered off.
"Where is he going?"
"The juvenile delinquents just arrived," Emma told her lover.
"I thought Henry and Hansel weren't speaking," Regina wondered aloud.
"The move back to the Enchanted Forest has mellowed Hansel some and they're friends once again," Emma told Regina.
"You're always so much better informed about our son's life, why is that?"
"He just told me earlier tonight while you were changing," Emma said looking at the slinky red number her fiancée was wearing.
"Are you saying I'm spending too much time grooming?"
"No, I would never say that. Not that you need it but I always appreciate the result. You're the most stunning woman I know," Emma told her and they kissed. That was the moment when the speed of the music changed from one song to the next and the slow, deep guitar chords of 'Underneath Your Clothes' started from the juke box.
"Oh my God," Regina practically moaned.
"Care to dance with me, woman?"
Regina laughed throatily and they walked hand in hand to the dancefloor where they started to move together in a seductive dance. They held each other losely, letting their hands room to roam, their hips moving together but not too erotically against each other. Regina spoke the words of the song softly into Emma's ear.
"You're sinful, love."
"Wait till later tonight, I'll teach you a sin you haven't known yet," Regina gave back.
"I'm looking forward to it," Emma said smiling her eyes locked tightly on Regina's until the song ended.
"That song hasn't been in that juke box before, I'm pretty sure about that," the mayor said as another slow song began and they just kept moving with it.
"I might have begged Robbie to put it in just for tonight. I wanted to dance with you to it," Emma admitted. "This is actually our first dance."
"We've danced before," Regina said with a sly smile.
"Half-naked in your bedroom to no music," Emma remembered.
"Oh, there was music alright."
They smiled at each other and then kissed.
"Hey, Emma. Regina," they were interrupted by a familiar voice next to them. Emma looked sideways at her father while Regina didn't even feel the need to acknowledge his presence, she nuzzled her face into Emma's neck. Emma barely suppressed a grin as the mayor chose her manner of provocation toward David who had avoided them both since the night he and Regina had come back from the Enchanted Forest.
"Hey, dad. Did you just arrive?"
"Yeah, and your mom, she sent me right over here."
"Snow always had a questionable sense of timing," Regina commented and pulled Emma just a little closer as she still swayed to the music.
"She thought I should... start this evening right by apologizing. I'm very sorry, I didn't... accept your relationship, Emma. I... I don't quite understand how it happened but... I guess, I don't have to. But I should have been supportive and I wasn't. I love you and nothing will change that, ever. I just wanted you to know," he said.
Emma felt Regina's grip tighten for a short moment and she knew that her lover was happy for her about what David had said. But that was the only indication from the dark-haired woman that she had even heard what David had said. She gave no other sign of acknowledgement and Emma was sure that she would give her father a hard time about... pretty much everything for a long time to come. And Emma couldn't say that she disapproved, even though, she planned to take a different route with him. She looked down at Regina.
"Excuse me, while I hug my dad for a second?" she asked with a smile.
"You get one second, no more," Regina gave back, raising her eyebrow at David challengingly.
Emma hugged him.
"Thank you, dad. I'm glad you came around."
"I want you to know that... the things you two said to me, the things Snow said to me... they weren't lost on me. I thought about them for a while and you were right, I was making everyone miserable, including myself. You have to chose your own love, your own family. And I can see that you're happy," David said as he released Emma from a short but tight hug.
Regina slid her hand into Emma's and smiled pleasantly at David. It was a start, at least.
"I am happy," Emma confirmed and, in truth, she now positively beamed at him and then at Regina. "I wanted to tell you when we were alone but... I guess this is a good time, too," she said. "I was at the doctor's yesterday and... I'm pregnant."
Regina's mouth opened but no sound came forth. She simply stared at Emma as her eyes filled with tears, her face took on a look of wonderment and then she smiled. She pressed the hand she held and pulled Emma slowly closer.
"We're going to have a baby?" she asked in a whisper that Emma could barely hear.
"Yeah, we are," she answered and put Regina's hand against her as of yet flat tummy.
Regina leaned her head against Emma's collarbone and her lover could hear her breathing.
David took this as his cue to leave. He squeezed Emma's shoulder for a second and mouthed his congratulations, then he walked over to where Snow stood at the bar.
"I'm so in love with you," Regina whispered and then a laugh burst out of her. It was contagious as Emma started laughing, too. And then they kissed and embraced and danced and celebrated. They were a beautiful sight, a happy sight.
"Your words made quite an impression, what did you say to them?" Snow asked her husband as he leaned against the bar next to her.
"It wasn't what I said, though Emma seemed glad I finally said it. Emma just told Regina that she's pregnant."
"Awww," Snow made. "That is so wonderful. You didn't tell them about our good news, yet, did you?"
"No, I figured this was their moment and I'm happy for them," he answered.
Snow slipped in front of her husband and he pulled her to him, his hands linking over her as of yet flat tummy.
"We can tell them before we leave. Let's have them over for dinner next week."
Snow turned her head to Charming and kissed his chin.
"Yes, let's have a family dinner," she agreed.

The End.