Being told by her parents that her real birthday was Valentines Day had only given Emma 48 hours to find an excuse to avoid whatever surprise party they had planned. It wasn’t her fault that after she had been found the foster agency thought she was a couple of days older than she was. There was probably even some kind of time difference between this world and the Enchanted Forest meaning that the day she had been celebrating was in fact her real birthday. Thankfully, Ruby’s words came back to her and she was able to avoid upsetting her parents too much.
“I signed up for the speed dating event. Ruby’s going and she invited me. Why don’t we celebrate today, we could go out for a family meal together? I’ve always celebrated my birthday on the 12th anyway.”
“We didn’t realise.” David told her, looking ready to accept her excuse.
Her mother was little more reluctant to give up. “It will be the first birthday we get to spend with you. I wanted to do something special.”
“Well, it’s not until 7pm, so we can still spend time together.”
“Why don’t we all take the day off work and go somewhere?” David suggested, diplomatically.
“Henry has to go to school and I have to teach.”
“I’m sure they’ll understand. Someone can cover for you. Why not have a mother-daughter day then? Just you and Emma. I’ll speak to Belle.” He gave Emma a pleading look, begging her to agree.
“I guess, if you don’t mind covering for me at work.” Emma told him.
Together they looked at Mary Margaret. Faced with both her husband and daughter she quickly gave in.
“So Ruby, what exactly is this Storybrooke speed dating thing?” Emma asked as she met her friend outside The Rabbit Hole. “And do I look okay?”
“No idea, and yes you look great! Blue put up a flyer in the diner window but I forgot to ask. We’ll probably just sit at little tables and be rotated round to give us a chance to meet other people.”
“Promise you’ll sit next to me?”
“Of course. We’ll need a signal if we need help or an excuse to run away.”
Emma laughed. “I’m sure your werewolf hearing will come in handy for that. My codeword can be, um… horses.”
“Well I’m not going to use it by accident but I can fit it into a sentence easily – I don’t like horses, or I’ve never ridden a horse. You?”
Ruby took a second to think. “Burger… no, ketchup. I can tell them I really like it or something.”
“Time to go in.” Emma looked at the doors. “After you.”
The bar was busy. Emma followed Ruby through the crowds to a small table where Blue was seated behind two stacks of forms.
“We’re here!” Ruby told her.
Blue looked up. “Ruby? Do you need a form?”
“No, I signed up last week, remember?”
Quickly flicking through some of the papers, Blue located one. “Right, now I just need you to put on this yellow sticker and head into the room with the yellow sign on the door. Everyone has been into groups. We’ve had more interest than expected.”
“Sure. Emma’ll need a yellow sticker too.”
Blue looked up. “Emma, right.” She took another look for Emma’s form. “You’re in green.”
“Can’t we both be yellow?”
“We’ve sorted by age and interests. I’m afraid that’s put you in different rooms.”
“But I didn’t fill out a form with my interests.” Emma told her.
“That would be my fault.” Ruby confessed. “I filled it out for you, back when you weren’t sure if you wanted to come. I just thought it’d save time when you finally gave in.”
“What did you put?”
“Ladies, we don’t have time for this.” Blue interrupted them. “In five more minutes the rooms will be closed to new-comers. I suggest you decide if you want to stay or not.”
“We’re staying.” Ruby told her, pulling Emma away.
Once they were out of sight of the fairy, she pulled off her sticker. “Don’t worry, I’m coming with you.”
“Like anyone’s going to check…”
Ruby opened the door with the green sticker and ushered Emma inside. The room was a quarter the size of the main bar area, but not too crowded with a dozen people inside. Emma recognised most of the faces, which included Dr. Whale. Ruby quickly led her away, muttering something about Mary Margaret. There were large red hearts cut out of paper hanging from the ceiling and stuck on the walls around the room. Soft music was playing, though Emma couldn’t name the tune.
“Time to start mingling.” Ruby whispered, her eye catching someone else’s across the room.
Emma was too late. Ruby had already gone. She turned in a slow circle, hoping to see some other friendly faces but most of the people in the room had their backs to her as they conversed with someone else. The bar stood out at one side so she headed over and took a seat on one of the barstools before realising exactly who she was sitting down next to.
As Regina turned to see who had come to join her, Emma’s eyes were drawn to the low cut dress hugging the mayor’s well-proportioned curves. “Wow, you look…”
“And I see you made an effort too.” Regina replied, without waiting for Emma to finish her sentence.
“What are you doing here? I mean, obviously you’re here to find a date, but…”
“I promised Daniel.”
“Daniel? You mean…”
“When Whale temporarily resurrected him. He said he wanted me to find love again, so here I am. I should have known fairies couldn’t be trusted to organise something like this. It’s not like they can fall in love.”
Emma couldn’t believe that Regina was actually opening up to her like this. How much had she had to drink already? Then her mind registered the fact that she’d been put in the same room as the Mayor, suggesting that they had something in common. She hoped it wasn’t just an age and job thing.
Feeling brave, she tried to continue the conversation. “Have you actually tried talking to anyone?”
“I haven’t seen anyone I’d care to talk to.”
“Well, we’re talking…”
“Because you sat next to me. I assumed you would order a drink and be on your way soon enough.”
Emma smiled. “What about Whale? He’s a doctor, isn’t he your type?”
Regina’s eyes narrowed. “Are you sure you’re in the right room? I would have hoped the fairies set some kind of standard in here.”
“Look, green sticker.” Emma held it out so she could see it. “Maybe we should change the conversation. Wanna talk about Henry?”
She caught the change in Regina’s expression, though the other woman tried to hide it and knew she’d won.
The barman finally refused to sell them any more drinks. Blue even came around to remind everyone that the rooms had only been booked for a couple of hours and it was time to leave.
Ruby stumbled over to Emma and hugged her. “This was amazing! Thank you so much for coming with me.”
Emma tried steadying her, but Ruby was wearing heels and they didn’t mix well with alcohol. She gave an apologetic look towards Regina, but the mayor just nodded as though she hadn’t expected the conversation to continue much further anyway.
“I’d better walk her home. Come on, Ruby.”
As they emerged into the corridor, the other rooms were also filtering out. Suddenly Ruby stopped walking and spun around.
“Granny!” She yelled, pushing Emma into other passers-by.
“Sorry, I thought I could smell her.” Ruby explained and waved at her grandmother.
Granny had gone slightly red after hearing her granddaughter yelling at her. Emma suspected it had more to do with Marco’s arm through hers than the indoor temperature.
“I see you took advantage of another night out to get drunk. Why you choose to do so when you know you’re working the early shift...”
“I can’t believe you came here.” Ruby finally glanced at Marco. “And you found a date!”
“Oh lord, I can see I’m going to have to walk you home.” Granny took her arm from Marco with an apologetic look for him. “I’m sorry.”
“Family, I understand. Perhaps I could escort you two ladies home?”
“What about Emma?” Ruby asked.
Holding her hands up, not wanting to give Granny and Marco more of an audience, Emma smiled. “I’m fine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She watched the way Marco held the doors open for Granny and Ruby as they left and sighed. At least someone had found a date on Valentines Day.
Her eyes picked out Regina heading towards the door. She realised that she wanted to do something, if only to help her realise that Daniel wanted her to be happy again. Emma ducked back into the room and grabbed one of the hearts from the wall. She ran out to find Regina, just as she unlocked the door to her car.
“Here.” Emma thrust the heart into her hands. “So you know you had someone thinking about you on Valentines Day. I know you were hoping to meet…”
“Hey, Emma, I almost forgot! Happy birthday!” Archie called out, waving goodbye.
“Thanks.” Emma returned the way, then turned back to Regina. “Looks like everyone turned up to this thing. Was he in our room?”
Her words were cut off by Regina grabbing the front of her coat and pulling her into a rough kiss. She could taste apples on the mayor’s lips and was too stunned to pull away. When Regina released her, Emma just stared back.
“Happy birthday Miss Swan, and thank you for the heart.”
“Yeah, well…” Suddenly Emma felt embarrassed. “Are you okay to drive?”
She couldn’t remember how much Regina had been drinking. She wondered if she should offer to walk her home, just in case. It would be an interesting turn of events if she had to arrest Regina for drink driving, considering…
Regina opened the car door and put the paper heart on the passenger seat, before turning back to Emma. “Valentine’s Day isn’t over yet. Do you have any other plans?”
“Um… no?” Was that an invitation?
Regina slipped into the drivers seat. She lowered the window and looked out at Emma, expectantly.
“Are you coming?”
Emma didn’t have to be asked twice. She moved around the car, remembering to move the paper heart before sitting down. There was a smile on Regina’s face as she sped away.
As soon as the front door to the mansion closed behind them, Regina’s hands moved to take Emma’s coat. Emma felt Regina’s fingers against the skin on her arms and she couldn’t help herself. She spun around, grabbing the mayor’s arms and pulling her in for another kiss. Regina tried taking a few steps to the side, trying to hang the coat up, but Emma manoeuvred them so that her back was against the wall.
“You can just drop the coat on the floor.” She whispered, pressing her body against the mayors.
Her hands moved away from Regina’s arms, now she had her trapped. Regina’s dress was so thin she could trace every outline and, when Regina didn’t stop her, she slipped the straps over her shoulders.
“Not here.” Regina managed to tell her, breathing heavily.
Regina nodded. Emma let her lead the way to one of the rooms, not sure if it was Regina’s own bedroom.
“You realise this is just one night…” Regina began, looking nervously at Emma. “Nothing more.”
“Just the end to Valentines Day.” Emma agreed.
“Good.” Regina unzipped her dress and let it pool around her ankles.
Emma just started, open-mouthed.
It was probably the hottest July in Storybrooke record. Hemlines were higher and sleeves banished to the back of the closet. Regina had installed air-conditioning in her mansion a long time ago and had it checked each year to ensure it would be working when the warmer weather arrived. She wanted nothing more than to be sitting at home with an icy drink in her hand, relaxing in the most shaded area of her garden. Instead, she was spending the day at the stables with the horses, mucking out the stalls and topping up the animal’s water supply. When she had first created Storybrooke, she had put the stables here because she couldn’t imagine a form of travel without them. Despite what had happened to Daniel, being around the horses comforted her. The smell reminded her of him and the time they had spent together. Now the work was the only thing keeping her busy. Storybrooke didn’t need a mayor anymore. It had Snow White as the leader.
Regina stopped for a break as the heat began to get to her. She sat down and removed an apple from her bag. As she turned it over in her hand, trying to decide the best place for the first bite, she felt her body sway. Her eyes lost their focus and her stomach felt like it was twisting inside her. She turned to the side just in time, as the contents of her stomach splattered over the orange tiles.
“Urgh.” She took a deep breath and tried to see if her stomach wanted a repeat performance.
Looking woefully at the floor she had only just finished sweeping, she knew she would have to clean it up. Telling herself that it was probably just the heat and that she really should have been drinking more, Regina returned the apple to her bag and went to find a glass of water.
She had walked to the stables, so after she had finished cleaning up Regina prepared herself for the long walk home. Her stomach still felt a little queasy, but she had been forcing herself to keep drinking glasses of water throughout the day and was hoping to get some sleep when she finally arrived home. She was just saying goodbye to the horses when she heard the sound of Henry’s laughter and followed it outside.
“Henry?” She called, recognising Emma’s yellow car.
“Regina?” A blonde head appeared from around the corner and Emma smiled as she walked towards her. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see the horses. Shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I’m just dropping Henry off for his riding lesson with David.”
“Henry’s going to learn to ride?” Regina wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or annoyed at that.
Teaching him to ride would have brought back too many sad memories, but the idea of David teaching Henry reminded her that she wasn’t part of his life anymore. Emma just shrugged as though it wasn’t a big deal and kept starting at Regina.
“I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“It’s a big town.” Regina wished Emma could have picked a better time or place to try and have this conversation.
She knew where the Sheriff was heading and wished Henry would appear to distract them both. It was too hot and she was too tired to try and be polite to Emma. She just wanted to go home.
“We never got a chance to talk…”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“No.” Regina quickly stopped her. “The past is in the past, remember? One night…”
“There is no ‘we’. There is you and there is me. I thought that was perfectly clear.”
“I still want to discuss it.”
Regina was saved by Henry. He slammed the door to the room where the riding gear was stored having located a helmet. He came out wearing the helmet on his head and trying to get the strap to close under his chin.
“Are you sure you have the right size?” Emma asked, distracted from her conversation with Regina.
“Yeah, they’ve got number on them and this is the one gramps gave me last time. Can you help me?” Henry finally looked up and realised his mother was not alone. “Hey, are you here to go riding too?”
Regina shook her head. “No, I’m just leaving. I have to get home.”
“Do you want to stay and watch me? It’s not very exciting, grandpa still holds the reins and the horse is only allowed to walk in a circle…”
“Maybe next time.” Regina didn’t want to miss watching Henry ride a horse, but if she left now she could avoid Emma.
“I didn’t see your car, if you wait I’ll give you a lift.” Emma offered.
“I’m looking forward to the walk.”
Henry looked between them. “I thought you were trying to get along now?”
“We are.” Regina assured him, blushing as she realised just how well they had already ‘gotten along’.
The sound of another car door closing signalled David’s arrival. He smiled as he saw Emma and Henry waiting for him, giving Regina a more guarded nod of his head.
“You’re looking well.” He told her.
“Thank you. Henry seems excited about the horse riding. How is he getting on?”
“He’s a natural. Shouldn’t be long before I let him hold the reins.”
“That’s good.” Regina forced herself to keep looking at David and not at Emma like she wanted. “I should get going, it was nice seeing you again.”
Henry came over to give Regina a hug. She suddenly realised how much he had grown and felt a little sad.
“You’ll come for the next lesson, won’t you?” He asked her.
It was a small thing. Even though she knew he wasn’t hers anymore, a question like that could make her forget that he had gone to find Emma.
“If I can.”
She headed for the narrow lane. It was a longer route home but she knew Emma wouldn’t be able to follow in her car.
The shaded path was cooler than the stables had been and Regina slowed her pace to enjoy it. It was places like this which reminded her most of home. As Queen she had to ride through without stopping to really see them, as Regina she could walk through with Daniel and point out the birds, the flowers, everything.
“Hey Regina, wait up!”
Of course she recognised the voice. Why was Emma following her? She looked over her shoulder without slowing down but couldn’t see the familiar mop of blonde curls. If she stayed on the path, Emma would catch up to her. She still had time to head further into the forest and go the long way around, but her feet were aching and it was too hot to run.
“There you are.” Emma sounded relieved when she found her.
Regina was resting under a tree, her shoes placed neatly at her side and her eyes closed. “Always stating the obvious, Miss Swan. I said I was looking forward to walking home and you saw me head in this direction, so here I am.”
Emma was a little annoyed that Regina wasn’t looking at her. She wondered if their night together really hadn’t meant anything to the ex-Queen. There was something different about Regina today. Emma couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“You wanna know something else that’s obvious? You’ve been avoiding me, since Valentines…”
“Just because our paths don’t cross…”
“They always used to.”
“Yes, when you were trying to take Henry away from me.”
“He’s my son…”
“Whom I legally adopted.” Regina pointed out, finally opening her eyes.
“It’s not really legal if you lie on the forms.”
“Shouldn’t you be working?”
Emma smiled and crossed her arms. “Can you stop changing the subject?”
“Oh? Did you want to keep arguing?”
“I wanted to talk.”
“Then find someone who wants to talk with you.”
“I’m not sure this is a conversation I want to have with Ruby or my parents.”
Regina’s eyes narrowed as she realised Emma might tell someone what had happened. “You wouldn’t…”
“No.” Emma was quick to reply. “I want to talk to you about it.”
“There’s nothing to say.”
“Listen…” Emma sat down so that she could look Regina in the eyes and try to understand the truth.
“It was just one night. One stupid, foolish, drunken night…”
“I don’t think either of us was drunk.”
“Whatever. I’m not going to argue with you. I told you then, it was just the one night. It’s not my problem it you couldn’t handle that.”
“You think because it felt good I’m looking for more? It’s not just about the sex. I want to understand why it happened.”
Regina ran a hand through her hair, wishing for a breeze or something to help cool her down. “Just let it go.”
“Did it mean nothing to you? Were you just lonely or…”
“Emma!.. I mean, Miss Swan.” Regina sat away from the tree and went to reach for her shoes, but the movement made her feel light-headed. “Just go back to work and leave me alone.”
“You don’t look well.” Emma knelt down, getting closer to Regina.
“In case you hadn’t noticed it’s warm today and I’ve been working at the stables. I’m probably just a little dehydrated. Once I get home I’ll drink plenty of water and I’ll be fine.”
“You’re forgetting about my inbuilt lie detector.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Tell me why you kissed me.”
Regina didn’t answer. Slowly, Emma edged towards her. When she was close enough, she leant forward and allowed her lips to hover in front of Regina’s, just stopping them from touching. She wasn’t sure who made the final move to kiss the other, but she closed her eyes as they did.
Regina only allowed the kiss to last a few seconds before breaking away. Emma moved back and stood up again, looking down at Regina and waiting for her to speak. The mayor just pressed her lips into a thin line and shook her head.
“Fine.” Emma shrugged. “I tried.”
Regina reached for her shoes again. This time her stomach rebelled and she threw up inches from her precious footwear.
“Ew.” Emma couldn’t stop herself; she had never been comfortable around vomit.
She held out her hand to help Regina up. Regina just looked at her as though the idea of touching Emma made her feel worse.
“Come on.” Emma grabbed Regina’s shoes and reached for her arm. “No arguments, I’m giving you a lift home.”
Regina allowed Emma to pull her to her feet. She wasn’t used to feeling ill. Meekly, she followed Emma back to her car and let her drive her home.
When they reached the front door, she let herself in and quickly closed the door before Emma could try and enter. She heard Emma call to her but she flipped the lock and sank to the floor, wishing for the strength to move further.
A few days later, still feeling ill, Regina went for a little drive. She couldn’t face Dr Whale, so she drove over the town border and to the nearest hospital. Using magic to transfer her medical record to their computers and making it look like she had medical insurance to cover any bills, Regina allowed the doctors to take some blood samples and left with the telephone number she would have to ring to find out the results. She stopped on the way back at a little diner, knowing she had to try and eat dinner. The food was nowhere near the standard she’d come to expect from Granny’s. Her waitress was rude and her drink was not the way she had requested. Regina headed back to Storybrooke feeling a little nervous about the blood tests. She just hoped the spell held up and kept her medical records available for when she rang back.
One week later.
“Hello? Are you still there?” The concerned voice on the other end of the phone repeated.
Regina raised the receiver to her ear and nodded. “Thank you.”
“Would you like to schedule an appointment with the doctor?”
“No, that will be fine. I… I have to go.” She hung up and turned to look at her reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall.
It wasn’t possible. She tried counting back the time in her head, refusing to believe that one moment of… weakness, insanity…
“Oh, Daniel.” Regina closed her eyes as she whispered his name.
What was she going to do?
Regina sat on the bench in her garden, tilting her head to avoid the glaring sunlight. If she had a choice, she would be inside the house, but she knew sunlight was important for babies. She still had all the books she read after getting Henry. Part of her worried about someone seeing them, even knowing that no-one could take this child from her. This was her baby. Only hers.
During the worst part of the contractions she had caved and called Dr Whale to help deliver the baby. She had sworn him to secrecy, wanting as much time alone with just her daughter as possible. He agreed, but explained he would come back and check up on them at some point, just to make sure there were no problems. Regina knew there weren’t. Her daughter was perfect.
When he asked about the father, she explained that she had met with Daniel before the incident in the stables with Henry and David. He believed her. All their groceries were home delivered and so far no-one had seemed to miss her presence in the town.
Regina stroked a tender finger over the little curls at the top of her daughter’s head and smiled. She was just so amazing.
“Oh my god…”
Regina pulled the baby towards her protectively, and looked up. “Henry?”
“Mom, where did you get the baby?”
“She’s mine.” Regina felt calm as she spoke, but quickly realised that he might take that the wrong way. “I mean, she’s my daughter.”
“You adopted again?”
Regina suddenly panicked, trying to remember if Henry knew where babies came from. She was saved from answering by Emma, who had obviously come over with Henry. For some reason, the sight of the Saviour didn’t ease her.
“Hey kid, did you find your stuff yet?”
Henry couldn’t take his eyes off Regina and the baby, so Emma finally shifted for a better look. She stared at the former Evil Queen in about as much shock as her son. It took Regina a moment to compose herself and repeat the story she had given Whale about Daniel.
“Whale helped deliver her, in case you were wondering.” She added.
“Save it. We’re doing fine and no you don’t need to tell anyone else. Especially not your parents.”
“Can I see her?” Henry asked.
Regina’s face softened. “She’s your sister, of course you can.”
He smiled and Emma watched Regina cradle the baby, turning her so Henry could get a better view. Emma realised she didn’t need to worry. Regina had gone through this before, raising Henry. She knew what she was doing. There was something about the way Regina looked at her daughter that gave Emma a strange feeling.
Henry reached out to touch the edge of the soft blanket wrapped around the baby. “She’s so cute. What’s her name?”
“Her name?” Regina laughed. “I haven’t thought about it. Everything has happened so fast and I…”
“She needs a name.” Henry persisted. “When was she born?”
“A day or two ago. Between the nappy changes and feeding I haven’t kept track of the time. What day is it today?”
“Saturday. That’s why I’m not at school. We came over to get some of my stuff. Hey, mom can we go and get something for the baby? If I’m going to be a big brother I should buy her a present, right?”
“You don’t have to…” Regina started, but his words caught her when she realised that he meant them.
She looked at Emma. The last thing she wanted was for anyone else to know about her daughter. Emma had been trying to take Henry from her since she arrived in Storybrooke. How would she take his wish to be a brother?
“Yeah, we can go shopping. Is there anything you need?” Emma kept her eyes on Regina, instead of the baby.
She was remembering that she had missed out on Henry at this age. Part of her wanted to know what that had felt like. She knew that if she looked at the baby she might want to hold it and that would be a bad idea. Her actions in the past had to stay there. Regrets wouldn’t help anybody.
“I still have Henry’s baby things and anything else I can order online and get it delivered. Thank you.” Regina looked back at her son. “Henry, do you understand? I want to keep this a secret?”
“Why? It’s wonderful.”
“It is... She is, but it’s best for everyone if we’re left alone.”
Emma put a hand on his shoulder. “Henry, if that’s what Regina wants...”
“You can’t keep yourself locked up here forever. What about when she grows up?”
“People still need time to get over what I did. I don’t want my daughter getting hurt. Eventually, maybe…”
“I don’t like keeping secrets.”
“It’s Regina’s choice…”
Henry shrugged Emma’s hand away and finally turned to face her. “So, what? I’m supposed to come and visit her in secret? She’s going to grow up only knowing three people? Don’t you think anyone else will wonder what’s going on?”
“No-one noticed I haven’t been around for the last few months.” Regina reminded him. “Since I started showing and decided to stay at home. Dr Whale can come and give her any inoculations she needs and you’re welcome to visit anytime.”
Emma didn’t like to correct her. Of course people had noticed she wasn’t around. Most mentioned it in private. Quite a few commented it on it aloud. Either way, they were all relieved she hadn’t sought revenge after the curse broke and she regained her powers.
“You’re not using your magic, are you?” Emma asked.
“What makes you ask that?” Regina asked, unable to hide a guilty look in her eyes or the blush along her cheeks.
“Mom, you promised!” Henry scolded her.
“I did what I had to.” Regina explained. “It was just a small spell, no-one was hurt.”
Emma folded her arms. “What spell?”
“Nothing you’d know.”
“Then tell me, what did it do?”
Regina looked down at her daughter, remembering Emma’s lie detector. “You don’t have to worry. It was just one spell. For the good of everyone, really.”
She had been desperate when she used magic to help her get the blood tests done. Now that she’d had time to let the news sink in, she was panicking. If only she had slept with Emma closer to Daniel’s return this would have been so much easier. Now the months were off and with Emma remembering what had happened between them the blonde would put magic and sex together and figure out that she had some link to the baby. Not that Regina intended to share another child with that Swan woman. Just because she had given in to her…lust, loneliness… for one night, it didn’t mean there would be more between them.
So she came up with a plan. It was difficult, because so many people in Storybrooke had been at the bar and because they all knew exactly how long ago Whale had resurrected Daniel. Despite the all magic involved, Regina cast the spell. It required a lot of her strength, but she knew she had to do it.
She erased everyone’s memories of her presence at the Valentines mixer, altered their memories of exactly when Daniel had returned and hid herself away in her mansion, intending to enjoy every moment of her impending motherhood.
Regina hadn’t planned on exactly how agonising childbirth would be. She hoped a little magic would ease the pain, but for some reason labour interfered with her powers and she had to call for help.
So she lied. She told them Daniel was the father. If she had things her way, he would have been. And no-one knew the truth.
The baby was sleeping when Henry returned with his gift. Emma had brought him over. Regina kept her distance, focusing on Henry as she spoke. He whispered when talking to Regina, even though the baby was upstairs and they were downstairs.
“Can I see her?”
“If you promise to be quiet.”
“Which room is hers?”
“I put her cot in my room, until she’s older. Then I’ll paint one of the spare rooms.”
“So you’re not giving her my room?”
“Why would I do that? It’s your room.”
Henry smiled. “Have you chosen a name yet?”
“I wanted to call her Daniella, but I’m not sure.”
Emma smiled. “That’s a nice name.”
“Yes, well, I’m still thinking about it.”
“What about Henrietta?” Henry suggested with a grin.
Regina laughed. “That was somewhere behind Cora on the list.” Then she grew serious. “Daniel and I never had a chance to discuss baby names. I don’t think we ever discussed having children.”
“I’m sorry.” Emma reached out to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but Regina moved away.
“Come, Henry. Why don’t we take your present up?”
“Can I go too?” Emma asked.
Regina hesitated, but Henry nudged her.
“She’ll be quiet.” He promised.
“Follow me, then.”
At the top of the stairs, Henry waited for Regina to open the door to her room. She felt nervous, remembering the last time she had been in the room with Emma. Her eyes glanced in the Sheriffs direction, but there was no reaction to suggest that she remembered anything.
Regina pushed open the door to her room and Henry and Emma followed her inside. The plain crib was decorated with little red dots. As they moved closer, Emma could make them out and realised they were apples. Henry hovered over the edge, looking down at the little girl inside, smiling at her. Regina watched him, managing to keep her thoughts from her face. Emma stood awkwardly to one side, wondering if she should speak.
“Do you want to open her present?” Henry whispered, turning to look at Regina.
Regina nodded and stepped closer to take the bag from him. She pulled out the pink tissue paper and found a box underneath.
“You gotta be careful with it.” Henry added.
Regina knelt down to lay the box on the floor and gently lifted the lid. The contents were hidden by even more tissue paper, which she smoothed away to the side. When she saw the present Henry had chosen, she rocked back and looked up at him.
Henry nodded. “I saw it in Mr Gold’s shop, but I didn’t tell him why I wanted it. Do you like it?”
She recognised the little glass unicorns, of course. Gold had hung them in his shop for nearly three decades.
Regina turned to Emma. “Did you know about this?”
“This was yours. You mother hung it over your crib when she was expecting you.”
Emma stammered as the information sunk in. “Gold mentioned something to me once, but…”
“That’s great.” Henry raised his voice in the excitement.
“Sh.” Regina reminded him.
“Sorry.” He brought his voice back to a whisper. “But that means it belongs to our family and I’m sharing it with my sister, who is part of my family too.”
“Perhaps you should return it to Mary Margaret.” Regina suggested.
“Regina! The kid just gave his sister a gift, you can’t reject it like that.”
“I’m not and please keep your voice down. I was merely suggesting that it belongs to your mother and perhaps she would like to keep it.”
“You just don’t want anything of hers around here, do you? Or is it because it was mine? I’m here because I’m trying to share Henry with you, you don’t have to…” Emma trailed off as the baby began to cry.
“Now look what you’ve done.” Regina rushed to the crib and picked up her daughter. “Sh, it’s all right darling.”
“I’m sorry.” Emma began, looking to Henry for support. “I didn’t mean to…”
He just stood there, watching Regina as if trying to remember if she had been as gentle holding him when he was a baby. Gradually the baby’s cries lessened and Regina’s face relaxed.
She managed to smile at Henry. “I’m just a little tired, I shouldn’t have said that about the present. It’s lovely. I’ll hang it over the crib later.”
“’S’okay.” Henry shrugged.
“You know I still love you?” Regina asked, placing the baby back in the crib.
She was wide awake now, but seemed content to lie there looking up at the ceiling. Henry just shrugged again.
“Henry, you will always be my son.” Regina told him. “Like I said earlier, this will always be your home.”
Henry nodded and looked at the crib. “When can I hold her?”
Regina hesitated at the answer, but she knew she would have to let him to prove her earlier words. “She’s awake now, so if you sit down you may hold her for a little while.”
Henry grinned and looked for somewhere comfortable. There was a large chair next to the crib where Regina had been sitting to watch her sleep and read her stories from. He pushed himself to the back of the chair, sitting up straight and holding out his hands. Regina lifted the baby from the crib and explained how to hold his arms as she transferred her into them.
“That’s it, always support her head.”
“Because babies need help.” Henry nodded, his full concentration on the tiny little face below his. “She doesn’t have much hair.”
“Neither did you at that age.” Regina told him.
“Did I have hair when I was born?” He asked Emma.
Emma wanted to look away. How could she tell him that she hadn’t even seen him before she gave him up? Perhaps Regina sensed Emma’s panic, or perhaps she just wanted to turn Henry’s attention back to her, when she spoke.
“You should be more worried about how much hair you’ll have when you’re older.” She joked. “David’s hairline has already started receding and those things can be inherited.”
“Huh?” Henry looked confused, and Emma’s smile didn’t help.
“Okay, I think that’s enough for one day.” Regina told him, scooping her daughter back up into her arms as she noticed that Henry had stopped paying complete attention to what he was doing.
He stretched out his arms and looked up at her in amazement. “She didn’t feel that heavy when I was holding her, but now my arms ache.”
“We’ll have to take you down the gym, lifting weights. Get you some muscles.” Emma teased him.
“Can I come back tomorrow? Maybe if I keep holding her I’ll get strong enough to hold her standing up? Please?”
“You’re welcome anytime, but I think you should leave the standing up with babies for the grownups. She wriggles sometimes and if you’re not ready you might drop… not that I think you would, not on purpose, but…”
“It’s okay, I understand. When I’m older, right?”
Regina nodded and led them from the room. “But I want you to come back and see her again.”
Henry looked to Emma, who nodded. “It’s Sunday tomorrow. Are you sure we can’t bring you anything?”
“What about lunch?” Henry suggested. “We could get you something fresh from Granny’s.”
“Thank you, but I have everything here.”
“Well, okay then.” Henry hugged her when they reached the front door. “See you tomorrow.”
When Emma dropped Henry off at the mansion, she apologised to Regina, saying she had to investigate a disturbance in the town. Regina was pleased at the idea of having Henry all to herself, though all he wanted to do was see his new baby sister. He spent a few moments waving a small pink teddy bear over the crib, trying to make her smile but she looked about as impressed with his attempts as Regina did, watching him.
“Can I read to her?” He finally asked.
“Sure. Will you be okay while I go and make lunch?”
“Remember, no picking her up. I’ve got a monitor with me, I’ll come up if she starts crying.”
As Regina walked down the stairs she heard him begin his story. She recognised the words from his book and was relieved when he read Cinderella instead of Snow White. Once she had made lunch, she would have to lay a few ground rules.
Regina was on the phone when Emma arrived. She waited politely downstairs while Regina finished the call, though secretly she wanted to go up and see the baby again.
“Who was that?” She asked, trying to make conversation when Regina finally turned her attention to her.
“The doctor I went to see during the pregnancy. I didn’t want to have the check-ups with anyone here so I had to leave town. She wanted to make sure everything was all right.”
“That was nice. I didn’t realise they did that.”
“I was paying privately. After I found out I was pregnant I was a little worried about using too much magic, so I had to.”
The memory spell had exhausted her too much and even when she wasn’t trying to hurt anyone her magic still held an edge of darkness to it. She didn’t want her child to feel that. Part of her worried that her mother had used magic while she was pregnant and that was why she had enjoyed using it so much. Sometimes it had just felt so natural… Regina suddenly realised Emma was talking to her.
“Is that Henry on the baby monitor?”
“Yes, he’s reading from his story book. We’ve had lunch but I made you a sandwich, just in case.”
“Great, I’m starving.”
“It’s in the kitchen, I’ll go and tell Henry you’re here.” Regina headed for the stairs, not giving Emma the chance to argue.
When she reached the room, she hovered in the doorway. There was something about watching Henry read to his sister that stopped her from wanting to interrupt them. Time passed a little quicker than she realised, and eventually Emma finished her sandwich and came to stand beside her in the doorway beside her.
“He looks so happy.”
Regina nearly jumped out of her skin when Emma spoke. “Yes, he really loves that book.”
“And his sister.”
“And you.” Emma added softly.
Regina didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know if Emma’s words were genuine. Henry looked up at their voices and smiled.
“Did you catch the bad guys?”
“None to catch. Turns out it was a false alarm. The paperwork’s gonna be a nightmare.”
Regina moved into the room, smiling at she looked down at her daughter. Calm, blue eyes stared back up at her. As she wasn’t indicating that she wanted to be picked up, Regina turned her attention towards Henry. She’d already asked him about school over lunch, but she wanted an excuse to keep him here a little longer.
“I’ve been thinking about baby names.”
Henry smiled at her. “Me too.”
“I looked online. What do you think about Carys? It means ‘love’ or ‘beloved’.”
“Yeah, it’s okay, but how about Brooke? After Storybrooke?”
“Or you could just pick a name that sounds nice. Why worry about it’s meaning?” Emma asked.
Henry and Regina just gave her an identical look and she threw up her hands in surrender, deciding not to offer any more suggestions.
“Would you like to…” Regina was interrupted by the telephone ringing. “Who is it now?”
“You get it, I’ll watch the kids.” Emma told her.
Regina frowned, but knew she couldn’t say anything. “I’ll be right back.”
The only other person who might be ringing her would be Whale. Or maybe Sydney. He’d already left a couple of messages on her mobile asking where she was.
It was Whale. Trying to arrange a visit to check on her. Wanting to make sure everything was fine with her daughter, she agreed to a date and time. As she made her way back to her room, she heard the baby start to cry.
“Don’t worry, I’m coming.” She called, hoping Henry would remember not to pick her up.
The crying stopped as she neared the room. Had Henry distracted his sister with the teddy bear? Regina raced to the door. She was just in time to watch Emma lean over the crib and reach inside.
“No.” Her voice was weak, coming out in a whisper.
Emma didn’t hear it. All Regina could think about was Snow White finding out she had a granddaughter. She didn’t want her child anywhere near that woman. Suddenly she felt the urge to run. She was so scared. She hadn’t felt this way since she became Queen and she didn’t like it.
Emma picked up her daughter and the crying stopped. Regina felt a sharp pain as if a shard of her spell had broken off and lodged in her body.
“Henry, would you mind getting her… blanket. I think I left it downstairs. Or it might be in the garden.”
Regina needed him out of the room. If Emma knew the truth and he heard…
When he was out of the room she went to reclaim her daughter. Emma stumbled back into a chair and looked up at Regina.
Regina waited, mentally preparing herself to poof herself away in a cloud of smoke before Emma knew what was happening.
“We kissed… Near the stables. You were sitting under a tree.”
“You kissed me.”
“Because…” Emma shook her head. “Why did I forget? Have you used magic on me?”
“You refused to leave me alone. I did what I had to.”
“God Regina, I… we…” Emma’s eyes widened and she glanced at the bed. “In that bed?”
Regina nodded, laying her daughter back in the crib. “Can you try to finish this before Henry returns?”
“Why am I starting to remember?”
“You’re a child of True Love and you have your own magic. Being in this room again probably just broke the spell.”
Emma looked as if she was considering Regina’s words. “And that’s it? The spell didn’t break until I was holding…”
Regina forced herself to laugh. “Really, Miss Swan? You think that somehow, after one drunken night we…” She laughed again.
“But is it possible? With magic.”
“I’ve already told you, Daniel and I…”
Emma had just two words for her. “Lie detector.”
She sprang from her chair, grabbing Regina’s arm before she could magic herself away.
“Get your hand off me.” Regina screamed at her.
“No.” Emma panted her feet on the ground as she had been taught in self-defence classes and held on. “Now, tell me the truth. Remember, I’ll know if you’re lying.”
The second Emma relaxed her hold, Regina pulled away. They both turned to look at Henry.
“What’s going on?”
“Emma is leaving.” Regina explained. “She is not welcome in this house.”
“I want answers Regina.”
“I’ve given you them. Now, this is private property and if you try to come here again making idiotic accusations I will use magic to protect myself.”
“Um, guys…” Henry struggled to understand why they were suddenly fighting.
“You are still welcome here, Henry.” Regina told him.
“What about a DNA test?” Emma suggested.
“I don’t have any of Daniel’s DNA available.”
“I wasn’t suggesting we use his.”
As their voices escalated, the floor shook and the walls trembled. Regina didn’t seem to notice, though Emma looked around trying to remember if Maine had earthquakes.
“Henry, stay in the doorway.” She told him. “Regina, if it’s you doing this, you need to stop.”
“I don’t understand why you can’t just leave me alone. First you take Henry and now you want to take my daughter. Just like your mother, you…”
The windows shattered. Emma ran to protect Henry while Regina’s magic shielded the crib from the maelstrom of flying debris. There were little flashes of light as her magic grew out of control and sparked a kind of lightning effect in the room. Emma tried to back Henry out of the way, but he was trying to get Regina to hear him.
Remembering what she had been taught about magic, Emma focused on her love for him and raised a protective barrier around them. She watched as one branch from the magical lightning struck the window. Shards of glass flew into the room. One headed straight for Regina.
Emma was too slow to react with her magic. She blinked and one moment the room was a howling chaos, the next blood was dripping from a wound on Regina’s body and she was lying slumped on the floor.
Everything was still. The glass had all succumbed to gravity and Emma released Henry from her grip. He ran to his mother.
“Call 911.” He told Emma, his hands brushing Regina’s hair away from her face. “It’s going to be okay.”
Emma ran out of the room, to find a phone, before realising she had her cell. She made the call in the hallway, only re-entering when the operator asked her about Regina’s injury.
She followed their instructions, examining the piece of glass and telling Henry to go downstairs and wait by the front door for the ambulance. It was only when the paramedics arrived that she remembered the baby. Emma watched them carry Regina out on the stretcher before turning back to the crib. She gripped the edge of the wood as she looked down at her daughter, feeling her mind sway at the term.
It had only been one night, it shouldn’t be possible.
What if Regina was telling the truth?
But then why use that spell?
Emma reached one hand towards the baby, a little afraid what memories further contact would bring back. Wide eyes stared back at her but the little girl made no effort to reach towards her.
“Mom?” Henry watched from the doorway. “Can we go with her to the hospital?”
“We should be there when she wakes up.”
“It wasn’t her fault. She just got mad, but she didn’t know what she was doing. Maybe because she hasn’t been using her magic it just built up inside her and got out of control.”
Emma wasn’t sure who his excuses were meant to convince. “I need to call someone to take care of the baby, then I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“Why can’t we take her with us?”
“I don’t know how to look after a baby… and I don’t have a car seat.”
“You can’t tell grandma. She doesn’t want her to know.”
“What about Granny? According to the book she practically raised Ruby and she was a mother so she knows what she’s doing. Please?”
Emma pulled her hand out of the crib and nodded at Henry.
Emma sat on a chair in the hallway with Henry, waiting for Whale to examine Regina. He wouldn’t let them into her room until he had finished, and then when he emerged he wouldn’t tell them anything. Technically, Henry was her next of kin, but he was too young to be given any medical details. Telling Emma might breach doctor-patient confidentiality. Whale had suggested Snow White, as Regina’s step-daughter… Emma had quickly pointed out that if he valued his life he would forget it. She knew Regina would not like to hear that idea.
“You hungry?” Emma asked Henry, searching for something to say.
“How can you ask that?”
Emma stretched out her legs, wishing she could do something. “Just checking. Maybe when she wakes up I should go talk to her first.”
“In case her magic gets out of control again. She wouldn’t want you to get hurt accidentally.”
“Are you going to upset her again?”
That was the million-dollar question. Emma wasn’t sure she wanted to ask Regina any more questions; she had always trusted her ability to tell when someone was lying to her.
What if the baby is Daniels?
Emma slipped her hand into her pocket and checked her cell.
“Looks like I have a missed call. I’d better check it out.” She lied to Henry, standing up. “Stay here until I get back.”
“Don’t forget to check in on Granny and the baby.”
“Sure, good idea.”
After walking down the corridor, far enough out of Henry’s earshot, Emma dialled the number for Regina’s secretary. The woman was very helpful once she realised it was the Sheriff calling. She asked her to check Regina’s diary for the last seven to nine months, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Immediately the secretary noticed that the entire month of February was missing.
“All the pages have been ripped out. I’m sorry Sheriff…”
“What about an electronic diary, something on her computer? Can you access that?”
She listened to the whirring noise of the computer loading up and the tapping of long nails on the keyboard.
“Everything looks normal, the monthly and weekly meetings are always set to automatically reoccur. She had meetings with several town officials… although, that’s strange.”
“What is it?”
“On Valentines Day, she has the letters SBDN listed as a reminder. I don’t know anyone with those initials. Your father is David Nolan, but Snow and Sydney’s surnames started with W and G.”
“SBDN?” Emma repeated the letters, trying to work it out for herself.
“Is everything alright?”
“Nothing for you to worry about. Thank you.”
Emma walked back towards Henry, not sure whether she should ask for his help with this or wait for Regina. The ‘D’ could stand for Daniel, SB – stable boy? She doubted Regina would still refer to him as that, but she didn’t know his last name. Perhaps her mother would. No, she reminded herself, the fewer people involved the better.
Regina woke to the beeping sound of the hospital machines monitoring her vital signs. At first she thought it was all part of a dream, but gradually she remembered. She looked down at the bandage on her leg, at the place where the blood had partially soaked through despite the stitches. Concentrating, Regina began trying to heal it with her magic. Nothing happened.
She pushed herself up into a sitting position on the bed and tried again. The monitors picked up her distress, sending a signal to a nurse’s station and a few moments later the door to her room opened, admitting hospital staff. She didn’t notice Henry and Emma slip in behind them.
“Take these things off me, I need to get home.” Regina ordered them, pointing at the various wires.
Regina yanked them out herself, wincing in pain as she did so. A nurse began trying to fuss over her.
Henry’s tentative voice caught her attention and she waved the nurse away. “Henry?”
“You’re okay.” He dodged the other people in the room to come and give her a hug.
She turned to keep her injured leg out of the way and hugged him back. As she looked up, she saw Emma. Her arm dropped away from Henry.
“I left Granny with… at your house.” Emma told her. “We need to finish our chat. Can you do that without magic or do I have to arrest you?”
Regina’s eyes narrowed. “I have to get home.”
“Everything there is fine. We can either talk in front of everyone, or get them to leave and give us some privacy. It’s up to you.”
Regina flexed her hands, testing for her magic. Nothing.
“I guess I don’t have a choice.” She told Emma, plastering a fake smile on her face.
The room cleared quickly at the sight. Emma shooed Henry to the door. When he tried to protest, Regina asked him to go. Shrugging his shoulders, he reminded them he would be right outside, watching them.
Emma dragged a chair across the room, so that she could sit closer to the bed. She motioned for Regina to make herself comfortable and sat down.
“Okay, here are the rules. I’m going to ask you some questions and you are going to answer them honestly. If you don’t…”
“You’ll know because you can detect lies, blah blah blah…”
“And I will let everyone know about your daughter… our daughter…”
“She’s not…” Regina stopped herself before finishing that sentence, quickly changing her words. “Telling everyone will put my daughter in danger. Is that what you want?”
Ignoring her, Emma began. “Question 1: Is Daniel her father?”
“He… I told you, he returned to Storybrooke.”
“That’s not an answer. Try again. Question 2: Is she my daughter?”
“I have never heard of two women having a child together, without magical aid from a fairy wish. As I know I would never make that wish and I assume that you…”
“I didn’t really get a lot of notice that we would be…”
“Did I pass your lie detector? Can I go now?”
“The dates still don’t match.”
“Daniel’s return was too far away, whereas we… I can’t remember exactly when…”
“I didn’t exactly keep track of the date myself. Nor when you kissed me…”
“So what does SBDN stand for?”
“Where did you get that from?”
“Answer the question.”
As hard as she tried, Regina couldn’t think of a good enough lie and without her magic she couldn’t make Emma believe it. “Stoybrooke Date Night. The fairies were holding a singles meeting thing and after Daniel told me to find love again I thought I’d give it a try.”
“On Valentines Day. My birthday.”
“The anniversary of the curse.” Regina pointed out.
“And that’s when we…”
“You were avoiding your parents, clearly you have issues deciding to come home with me instead of returning to them to celebrate. I had been talking to you about Henry, not interested in dating anyone there.”
“I think you’ll have to break down those sentences, there was a lie in there somewhere.”
“I’m not going to sit here so you can check every little detail. I have to get home to my daughter. Speaking of which, why did you leave her with Granny?”
“Let me understand this, you thought she was your daughter and yet when you had a chance to be with her, you ran away again bringing Henry here to see me. Is that correct?”
“Hey, you’re the one who wants to keep her hidden away like some princess locked in a tower…”
“I don’t know why you didn’t announce it to everyone. Honestly, did you swear Granny to secrecy using your lie detector? That woman spreads gossip faster than…”
“It was either Granny or my mother. I knew you’d want someone reliable to look after her…”
“Oh really, those were your two choices?”
“I’ve never looked after a baby before!” Emma finally began to raise her voice, getting even more irritated when Regina just smiled in victory.
“Take me home, Miss Swan.”
Emma stood up and pushed the chair away from the bed. “Get there yourself. Henry and I are leaving.”
She was turning the handle on the door when she heard Regina try to stand. As it opened and Henry came to see what was happening, there was a curse and thud. Emma looked back over her shoulder. Regina was sitting on the floor, looking a little dazed.
Henry pushed past Emma and went to her side. “What happened?”
“I just stood up too fast. It’s nothing, I’m fine.”
“Here, let me…”
Emma watched as Henry put a hand under Regina’s elbow to help her stand. She sighed and leaned out into the hallway, looking for someone to come and help. It was typical of Regina, refusing to show vulnerability. Why she didn’t just use her magic…
“Hey, you…” Emma realised she didn’t know the nurses’ name.
“We need your help in here.”
The nurse muttered something about being kicked out of the room before, but Emma just ignored her. Regina was sitting on the edge of the bed, her feet touching the floor. Henry was standing at her side, looking a little worried. The nurse tried to examine her leg, but Regina waved her away.
“Let her look at you.”
Regina looked over and glared at Emma. “I’m fine.” She insisted.
Emma just folded her arms and tilted her head, looking amused at Regina’s words. “Then prove it. Walk to the door.”
Regina tried pushing herself off the bed, but the injured one bent at the knee and struggled to right itself. She had to hold onto the bed and Henry helped her to sit back down.
“Get me a wheelchair.” Regina ordered the nurse.
“You’re still bleeding.” Henry told her, looking down at her leg.
“I can heal at home.” She turned to look at the nurse. “Go.”
Emma rolled her eyes as the woman rushed out past her and Henry fussed around Regina. “And who’s going to look after you while you’re healing?”
“You have stairs in your house.”
“Everything I need can be brought downstairs.”
“I can help,” Henry turned to Emma. “Can’t I, mom?”
“You have school.” Regina reminded him.
Henry looked at Emma, trying to encourage her to offer. Regina wasn’t about to let that happen.
“Emma has work. If I need help I can hire someone. My magic is exhausted from what happened, as soon as it’s back to full strength I can heal my leg and be back to normal.”
An orderly brought in a wheelchair and helped Regina to sit in it. She was still in pain with her leg and Emma kept expecting her to ask about some medication to take home.
“I’ll need to call a cab.” Regina informed the orderly.
“We can take you home.” Henry offered.
“I refuse to go in that yellow monstrosity. It’s not safe.”
“It has seatbelts.” Emma countered. “Plus if we take you home Granny is less likely to ask questions.”
“I can handle her.”
Emma winked at Henry as they reached the elevator and he pressed the button. “Maybe she could help out until you’re on your feet?”
“Just get me home.” Regina surrendered.
A nurse brought Regina some paperwork to sign; then the orderly wheeled her out to the car park.
“This is a hospital wheelchair, so I have to take it back once you get to your car.” He warned her.
“How many wheelchairs do you have?” Emma asked.
“I dunno. Ten, twenty maybe.”
“And how many times have they been needed?”
“That’s what I thought. I’m sure Dr. Whale won’t mind if Regina borrows this one, at least until she can get her own.”
“I’d have to check.”
Emma smiled. “You go do that.”
He looked nervously at the chair. “You’ll wait right here?”
“Oh no, we don’t have time. Whale knows where I live, if he wants it back.” Regina told him, tugging on a door handle.
There was a creaking sound as it opened.
“Just needs a little oil, not a safety hazard.” Emma assured her.
“Why don’t you sit in the back with me?” Henry offered.
“I want to see exactly what speed your mother does on these roads. Just because she’s the Sheriff…”
“I would never speed with Henry in the car.”
“Plus the bug makes a funny noise if it goes too fast. I remember when I brought Emma to Storybrooke…” Henry joked.
Regina frowned and held her arm out to the orderly to help her into the car. “Maybe put an ambulance on standby.”
It felt like it took forever to get from the car to the front door. The wheelchair wouldn’t have made it up the steps so Emma helped Regina while Henry struggled to hold it and open the door for them.
“I’ll tell Granny we’re home.” Emma promised, setting Regina in the wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs.
“Why don’t I make you a drink.” Henry offered, heading into the kitchen and leaving Regina alone.
She sat at the bottom of the stairs, listening out for any conversation Emma and Granny might be having, but there was only silence. Eventually, Granny walked down the stairs carrying the baby. She took a moment to look Regina in the eye before handing her over.
“Thank you for watching her.” Regina eventually spoke, her heartbeat slowing as she looked down at her daughter.
She expected questions, comments, something. Granny just nodded.
“You need a babysitter again, I’m just down the road.”
Regina raised an eyebrow. Granny gave her a small smile and a nod before heading for the front door. Emma appeared at the top of the stairs, carrying several items.
“I’ll have to get Henry to help carry the cot down here. I’ve got nappies and a couple of other things. You’ll have to let me know what else you need.” She explained, watching her step as she descended.
At the bottom of the stairs, Emma looked towards Regina. Watching her hold the baby reminded her of what Regina had said at the hospital. Had she really been running away when she left her here? There hadn’t been much time to think, with Henry wanting to go with Regina.
“I hope you’re not going to restart your questioning again.” Regina told her, noting the thoughtful look on Emma’s face.
“No.” Emma began carrying the items into the nearest room. “I believe you.”
Regina felt a small spark of guilt as she held her daughter close.
Emma and Henry visited every day. Regina seemed to be perfectly capable of looking after the both of them, but Henry had insisted. He’d programmed Emma’s cell phone number into the speed dial of all Regina’s phones, just in case.
By the end of the first week, Regina was desperate to get out of the house, but she was unable to get into the garden in her wheelchair. Henry brought over a sheet of wood he’d asked Marco to cut specially, which would fit over the steps and provide a ramp for her. She still needed Emma to push her back up into the house, though with the baby in a special sling her hands were free.
Whale visited telling her she should attend physiotherapy. Regina promised to try some of the exercises from home. She wouldn’t accept his help at first, but he told her she would need someone with her, just in case. So he visited after his hospital shift, telling her he owed her for lying about trying to help Daniel – but that this made them even.
Within a month, she was preparing to leave the wheelchair behind. Her magic still hadn’t returned but her leg was almost healed. She could walk around the house with the help of a stick if she moved slowly.
“How long are you going to keep up the pretence, dearie?”
“Get out, Gold.” Regina didn’t turn around as she tucked the tiny pink blanket around her sleeping child.
“What if she starts to look like Emma? You don’t think people will wonder…”
It didn’t surprise her that he knew. She knew her memory spell wasn’t strong enough to affect him, but assumed that if he hadn’t seen her at the date night he wouldn’t know who the other parent of her child was.
“If you don’t stay away from my child I will…”
“What?” Gold grinned as Regina faced him. “You’re powerless at the moment, aren’t you?”
“How do you… Is this your doing?”
“Now why would I bother myself…”
“I don’t know why you do any of the things you do.”
“Have you named her yet? Myself, I think Cora might suit…”
“Maybe Emma will have some suggestions.”
“Are you going to tell her?”
“And spoil all the fun? I want to watch you tell her.” He edged a little closer to the crib, trying to get a better look.
“That will never happen.” Regina stood in his way, though he didn’t back down.
“You can never be too sure, that word is a funny one.”
“What do you know?”
“Many things.” He smiled and turned to walk away. “So many things.”
“First I want something from you.”
“Her name. I know you’ve chosen one. So like Snow White. You call her that in secret, but never tell anyone.”
“If you know so much, then why don’t you know it already?”
“I need to hear you say it.”
Without her powers, Regina had no hope of defending herself. They both knew it. Still, she wasn’t going to give in that easily. She made him make a promise to never harm her family, including Henry, and to never help her daughter find the darkness he had shown her.
When Emma brought her lunch, Regina asked her to stay a while. Her conversation with Gold left her to think things through. She didn’t want Emma to find out the truth where Gold, or anyone else, could witness it. Her leg was feeling better, she was almost off the medication and every time she looked into her daughters eyes she was reminded of the Sheriff.
“Her name is Valentina.” Regina told her, starting with something simple. “Tina for short.”
“Why that name?” Emma asked, feeling her heart flutter in her chest.
“Because…” Regina took a deep breath, scared of the truth. “She was conceived on Valentines Day.”
“I knew it!” Emma sank into the chair, her voice dropping to a whisper as she repeated: “I knew it.”
“All this time and…”
“Do you have any idea how hard this is for me?”
Regina stood up from the wheelchair, finding her balance before carrying Valentina over to Emma. She held out their daughter.
“Gold knows. He came to see me and told me I should tell you.”
“So that’s why you’re telling me?”
Emma stared at the tiny face and tiny hands. She wanted to hold her and at the same time was afraid. The moment she held her, it would all be real.
Regina didn’t pull away. She knew she had to give Emma time, but hoped that holding the baby would show her that she was trying.
“I don’t trust you.” Regina confessed. “All I can think is that you’ll take her from me, the way you took Henry.”
There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. Emma saw them and reached out for Valentina. Regina settled her in Emma’s arms.
“Tina sounds a little too much like Regina. She’s my daughter too. If you want to name her Valentina, that’s fine, but can we call her Lettie for short?”
Emma gave Regina a chance to consider it. “And we have to tell Henry.”
“He needs to know the truth.”
“That we produced a child together? How do you think that conversation will go? And will this need to tell the truth extend to the rest of Storybrooke?” Regina’s hands itched to reclaim her child.
“One thing at a time.” Emma told her. “I’m going to want to spend time with her. I shared Henry with you…”
“I’m her mother…”
“You can visit.”
“What about taking her outside?”
“She doesn’t leave this house without me.”
“What are you so worried about? I can protect her.”
Regina reached for Lettie. Emma relinquished her hold, marvelling at how her arms ached after such a short time. She watched Regina lay the baby down in her crib and realised what it meant to her.
“Thank you for telling me the truth. Is it just because Gold knows?”
“Partly. Though I made him promise not to tempt her with dark magic, I don’t trust him.”
“So she’ll have magic too?”
“It’s not guaranteed, but yes it’s possible.”
“How are your legs?”
“I can walk if I move slowly. You won’t need to bring me anything else, I’m going to get it delivered now that I can put it all away and start making proper meals again.”
“I still want to come around every day. To see Lettie.”
Regina looked over at the crib as she began to cry. “Then you can start helping with her now. She either wants to be held or needs to have her nappy changed.”
Emma pulled a face. “I’ve never changed a nappy.”
“Then you will start now. If you want to spend time with her you need to learn how to take care of a baby.”
Emma picked up Lettie, taking a cautious sniff as she had seen Regina do before. Just her luck.
“We’re telling Henry tonight.”
“Nappies and the changing mat are by the crib.”
Emma knelt down and opened the large bag Regina had pointed to. “What is all this stuff?”
Regina rolled her eyes. “I’ll show you.”
Emma looked at the clock and back at Regina. Henry would be back from school soon.
“So what do we tell him?”
“It’s your idea, I’m leaving it all to you.”
“Really helpful, thanks.”
“Fine, tell him the truth. We got really drunk and made a mistake. Perhaps tell him the dangers of alcohol.”
“You didn’t seem that drunk when we…um, you know.”
“I think there are certain details we should leave out.”
“Oh God, have you had the sex talk with him yet?”
Regina just laughed. “I don’t think the details are that important.”
“So just the ‘love has consequences’ bit?”
“I don’t think we’re talking about love here, Miss Swan.”
“Then why did you invite me home with you that night?”
“Yes. It’s not like we would have ended up together without it.”
“But there must have been something involved for...”
“Magic backfires sometimes, but I doubt we were supposed to have another child tying us together.”
“We were at a dating event run by fairies on Valentines Day. They must have been using something to encourage those kinds of things… we should blame them for putting us in the same room.”
“Did that same magic still affect us after we came here? It must have lasted a long time, considering how many times we…”
“We have more pressing matters.” Regina interrupted her. “I’m sure once you’ve told Henry that you are Lettie’s mother he won’t care about the details.”
“When I’m better at looking after her, can she come and stay with me?”
“And what will you tell your parents?”
“By then they’ll know the truth.”
“How do you think they’ll feel about us sleeping together?”
“Hopefully they’ll focus on having a granddaughter to love.”
“And encourage you to take her away from me?”
As light above them trembled, Emma looked up at it. “You need to stop doing that.”
“I’m not doing it on purpose. I can’t control it. My magic only seems to emerge when I’m around you.”
“I thought you were trained to use your magic.”
Regina sounded irritated. “I am, but since I hurt my leg it’s not working properly.”
“Maybe you should go and see Gold.”
“And let him know I’m vulnerable?”
“That isn’t a word I would ever use to describe you, Regina. Not even when you were lying unconscious in the hospital bed.”
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
Emma smiled at her. “If you give me a chance, I want to show you that we can work this parenting thing out together. I want to be in Lettie’s life.”
“You don’t even have the room for you and Henry to live at your mothers.”
“I have been thinking about moving out. Maybe renting two rooms at Granny’s B&B for me and Henry.”
The sound of Henry opening the front door stopped Regina from having to reply. He raced into the room, dropping his school bag on the floor and greeting his mothers with a swift glance before moving over to his real target – his baby sister.
“Henry, we need to talk.” Emma began.
“Have you been a good girl today?” He asked looking down into the crib.
“Yeah?” He craned his neck around, grinning at her.
“Perhaps he should sit down.” Regina suggested.
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Why don’t you do it, kid.”
Regina made up her mind right then that she didn’t want Emma referring to their daughter as ‘kid’.
“Is it mom’s leg? I thought it was getting better.”
“My leg will be fine.” Regina smiled at him. “Thank you.”
“It’s about your sister.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Nothing,” Regina assured him. “Dr Whale has confirmed that Valentina is perfectly healthy.”
“Valentina? Cool name.”
“Lettie for short.” Emma added. “It’s about her … other parent.”
“No, Daniel isn’t her father.”
Henry looked at Regina, confused. “But you said…”
“I lied.” Regina admitted. “I’m sorry, I had to.”
“You see…” Emma hoped she wasn’t about to make a big mistake. “It’s me. I’m her other mother.”
“But how? When?”
“On my birthday. We met at the Rabbit Hole and it wasn’t planned… we just…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, so ended it with: “…and now we have Lettie.”
“So are you guys going to get together?”
“Definitely not.” Regina confirmed.
“Who else knows?”
“How long are you going to keep it a secret?”
“Your other mother wants to tell everyone.”
“Grandma and Gramps will be so happy, though I suppose with your history it could be awkward… but I don’t care.”
“We still need to work out how to share time with her…”
“It’s a bit cramped at home, why don’t Emma and I move in here?”
“What?” The thought hadn’t crossed Emma’s mind. “I don’t think…”
“Why not? Mom doesn’t want her out of sight and there’s plenty of rooms...”
“I know you don’t always get along, but it’s not really about you is it?” Then he turned to Regina. “Think how much extra help it will be to have us around mom.”
“And the extra cooking and cleaning up after Miss Swan?”
“You see, she doesn’t want me here.”
“You’d actually consider it?” Regina sounded surprised.
“If it meant seeing Lettie more. I notice you only lost control of your magic at the thought of losing her, but if you don’t want me to…”
“I need time to think.”
Henry smiled. “Even if it’s just while Lettie is a baby…”
“We’d have to have rules.” Regina relented.
“Maybe a schedule for taking care of her?” Emma teased.
“Well, you will be working.”
“Yes!” Henry beamed around at them. “This is going to be awesome.”
“Wait until Lettie wakes you up with her crying every two hours.” Regina warned him.
“Henry could sleep through an earthquake.” Emma reminded her. “Trying to wake him up for school sometimes is a nightmare.”
“I hope you don’t have the same problem.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if you’re going to stay here, every second feeding will be your responsibility.”
Henry laughed at the look on Emma’s face. “I guess that means Emma will have to sleep close to Lettie’s room.”
“Lettie sleeps in my room…” Regina suddenly realised what that would mean. “Perhaps it’s time to finish decorating hers.”
“I’ll help. I’m pretty handy with a paintbrush, had to decorate most of my apartments over the years.” Emma offered. “It’s not all pink and girly, is it? Or are you continuing the apple theme from the crib?”
“The walls are white, not pink. I just need to finish painting the red swirling pattern across the centre and move her things into the room. There are some pictures in the attic which were in Henry’s room when he was a baby, I was going to bring them down…”
“If you tell me where they are, I can get them.”
“Do you have to tell your parents the truth about why you’re moving in?”
“What else can I tell them?”
“Maybe we should wait a little while longer.”
“Regina, you can’t put this off forever. Either I move in to spend time with Lettie, or…” Emma remembered what happened the last time she voiced the alternative, from the look in her eyes Regina knew what she had been about to say so she finished with: “Either way, they’re going to find out.”
Regina took a deep breath. She tried to tell herself that running and hiding, living in the secret rooms under the mausoleum, was not the right way to raise a child. Her stomach churned at the thought of facing Snow and Charming once they knew the truth. She fought to get herself under control. In the end, she had to fall back on her mothers training, forcing her face to appear calm.
“Invite them around. We’ll tell them together.”
“Really?” Emma looked surprised.
Battles fought on the home ground were best. With Henry and Lettie around they would have to think before speaking. Regina nodded.
“Okay, I’ll call them now. Let’s get it over with.”
While they waited for her parents to arrive, Emma lifted Lettie out of the crib and sat on the sofa, cradling her in her arms. Regina was in the kitchen with Henry, putting the kettle on and laying out a few biscuits for their guests. She adjusted the position of Lettie’s head on her arm and softly stroked the fine hairs. Lettie’s eyes opened and she blinked up at her mother.
“Hi there.” Emma greeted her in a whisper.
Lettie yawned, her tiny mouth making the cutest little ‘o’ shape she had ever seen. Emma watched her wave her fists around in the air, putting her own hand out and watching in amazement as one of her fingers was captured. Lettie pulled it down towards her, with a strong grip that was surprising.
There was a knock at the front door. Emma heard Henry call out that it was open and heard him meet their visitors as they entered. She looked up as Henry brought her parents into the room, closely followed by Regina.
At first they stared at her, not knowing what to say, then they turned back to look at Regina.
“Who…?” David spoke first.
“She’s my daughter.” Regina told them, wanting to make that clear.
Emma gave them a moment to let it sink in before adding: “Mine too.”
“Tea anyone?” Henry asked, looking into the room. “Water’s ready mom.”
“Thank you Henry. Snow, Charming? Tea or coffee?”
Finally they spoke, this time in unison. “Baby?”
“It’s a long story...” Emma began.
“But not that complicated. I’m sure they understand where babies come from.” Regina reminded her.
“Wait a minute, are you saying you’re both the biological parents or are you… what are you…?” David stuttered.
Emma waved Regina away. “Go make drinks, let me explain it to them.”
“Do you think coffee will be strong enough?”
“Just go.” Emma turned back to her parents. “This is Lettie. Valentina, really.”
Regina hobbled out of the room, only slightly needing to lean on the walking stick. It was probably best to leave them with Emma. She wasn’t up to dealing with their stupid questions. Still, she kept her ears open in case Lettie started to cry and her eyes kept darting back to the door.
She had told Henry he was still too young to pour the drinks, she didn’t want him to burn himself with the hot water. Instead, she gave him the plate of biscuits and placed the hot drinks on a tray. She figured she could just about manage that, especially now her leg was feeling better. It was all a matter of balance.
Returning to the room, she could hear raised voices. Lifting her chin, Regina entered to face them and calmly placed the tray down. Snow and David turned to her, preparing goodness only knew what to say. Ignoring them, Regina turned to Emma, lifted Lettie from her and headed out of the room. This was not something she wanted her child to hear. Either of her children, in fact.
“Henry, would you mind watching your sister for a little while. I’m going to take her upstairs.” She called out.
Emma exited the room just behind her. “I’ll carry her. You haven’t had much practice on the stairs yet.”
“I can manage.”
“Look, you take diaper bag and I’ll take Lettie. She’s heavy and if she wriggles you might lose your balance.”
Henry came out of the kitchen. “Need any help?”
“No, thank you. Just tell your mother that I can carry my own daughter up one flight of stairs.”
“Uh…” Henry looked at Emma for help.
“Don’t put Henry in the middle of this.” She told Regina.
“You see,” David told Snow as they followed their daughter out of the room. “They can’t even go five minutes without arguing…”
“Stay out of this.” Regina cut him off.
Emma went to stand beside her, to show her parents they were wrong. “Yeah, we’re going to be fine.”
“Really? So you’ve discussed all the little details involved in raising a child? You know who’s going to be responsible for…”
“We’re going to share taking care of her. Regina’s had experience with Henry and I’m going to learn.”
David put an arm around his wife. “And when you find something you don’t agree on? Like how old she’ll have to be before you let her have chocolate? Or Regina carrying her up the stairs? You still haven’t explained how she was injured…. What are you going to do then? Stand around arguing all day?”
“We brought you here to tell you about Lettie.” Emma folded her arms as she spoke. “I thought… we thought, you might want to know about her, maybe be part of her life. But you need to remember that Regina is her mother too and we’re in this together. We might make mistakes, and obviously there will be times we clash over decisions. The important thing is that we are going to try because we both want to be there for our daughter.”
Regina had been looking at Emma as she spoke. She smiled when Emma glanced in her direction, a warm feeling spread through her body. She couldn’t believe Emma was standing up to her parents like this. The Charming’s looked at each other, then back at Emma.
“I think we all need to take some time to let this sink in.” Snow apologised.
“I still have to come over to collect a few of mine and Henry’s things.”
“You’re moving out tonight?”
“I think that’s best.”
“Come on, Snow.” David put a hand under her elbow and led her to the door.
She turned back one last time, looking at Emma. “We love you. It’s just…”
David escorted her out before she could finish, leaving Emma looking after them with a hurt expression on her face. When she turned around, Henry had gone back into the kitchen and Regina was watching her.
“I’ll get the bag.” Emma told her.
“Perhaps you should take Lettie up.”
“Just up the stairs. I’ll take her back off you at the top.”
“You don’t have to…”
“You were right, I need to practice carrying other thing up and down the stairs first. I can start with the diaper bag.”
“No, let’s save our arguments for the important things.”
Emma smiled. “How old was Henry when you first let him eat chocolate?”
“Bring Lettie upstairs and I’ll tell you the story.”
“Uh oh, that doesn’t sound good.”
“It depends whether you find the story funny or looking after a child’s first stomach-ache from cramming in so much chocolate.”
Emma laughed. “I definitely want to hear that story.”
Emma made daily trips back and forth to her parents apartment. She had moved all of her things out the first day, it all still fit into the boxes she had brought with her. On the days she took Henry it felt less awkward as everyone tried to be civil for his sake. She was beginning to suspect that he was leaving things there on purpose, as if waiting for peace to settle and them all to make friends. Emma knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
One morning, she was rushing around getting ready for work and calling Henry to see if he was awake, when the doorbell rang. Emma opened the door without thinking. In one arm she held Lettie and in the other she had a spatula from where she had been cooking the breakfast and picked up Lettie in her haste to leave the kitchen forgetting to put the spatula down.
Snow stood on the doorstep, looking around as if worried that someone might see her there. By now the town knew Emma had moved out. Before she could speak, an alarm sounded in the kitchen and Regina came rushing down the stairs.
“Not again! What did I tell you about the toast setting?”
“Your smoke alarm’s too sensitive.” Emma called back, grinning as she turned around.
They could hear Regina struggling to reach the smoke detector and switch the alarm off. A few minutes later she called back that she was throwing the burnt toast away, then walked into the hallway to see why Emma hadn’t returned to finish making Henry’s breakfast.
“Oh yes,” Snow said, watching her from the doorway. “I can see this will work out really well.” Then… “I’d like to see my granddaughter now, please.”
Emma looked to Regina, as if for permission. Regina gave a slight nod and Emma stepped aside to inviter her in.
“I have to finish getting ready for work.” Emma explained, passing Lettie to Snow once the door was closed.
“Why don’t you come and sit down.” Regina offered, leading Snow into the living room.
She heard Emma tell Henry his grandmother was downstairs as they sat down. Regina just watched Snow holding Lettie, not speaking. Snow seemed quite happy with this arrangement, running her hands gently across her granddaughter’s soft hair. She smiled when Lettie’s fist waved in the air, wiggling her fingers to see Lettie’s reaction. They didn’t notice Henry finally come downstairs. He poked his head around the door and, satisfied that they weren’t arguing, went back out again. Emma gave them another ten minutes before she went to check on them.
“I can’t stay long.” Snow said when Emma came to ask if she wanted something to drink.
“I’m off to work in five minutes…” Emma looked at Regina, trying to gauge her thoughts.
Regina looked a little panicked at the idea of being left alone with Snow. “I’m sure if won’t matter if you’re a little late.”
She worried that something the other woman said could set her magic off again, the same way it had when Emma had been close to finding out about Lettie. It was also tiring having a baby around, she had forgotten how often Henry used to wake up. The idea of arguing with Snow, or having her try to persuade Emma to leave and take Lettie with her…
Emma jumped as Lettie began to cry. Regina was instantly on her feet, but didn’t move towards Snow. She looked to Emma, wanting her to ask for their child back. Emma sighed. She had thought Snow coming for a visit was a good sign. Regina needed to relax.
“Why don’t I take her?” Emma offered, holding her arms out.
A little reluctantly, Snow returned her grandchild. She watched as Emma held Lettie close, walking her up and down the room, whispering soothing words to her. She had missed out on Emma as a baby, she had even missed out on Henry because Regina had always kept him at a distance and she hadn’t known he was her grandson.
“I don’t want to miss out on this.” Snow told them.
“On what?” Emma continued walking, but kept her head turned towards her mother.
“You, Henry and Lettie. I want to be part of your lives and be a family.”
“We are a family.”
“Now that you’re living here we’ll never get to see you.”
Emma slowed as Lettie stopped crying. “No-one lives with their parents forever. You and dad just need to accept that Regina is also Lettie’s family. Henry and I are staying here because we need to be together for her, but I want you to be a part of her lives too.”
Snow looked at Regina, who had sat back down again. “And you’re happy with this?”
“Lettie deserves to know both her parents. I realise that if I had continued to lie to her and she found out, it would only hurt her and I didn’t want her to hate me.”
“I meant, happy with me spending time with her?”
Regina took a moment to compose her words. “I know it’s important for Emma and Henry to spend time with you… You may come to visit Lettie if you wish.”
“I know it isn’t easy, there is a lot of history between us…”
“If it would make you more comfortable, you could arrange your visits with Emma and I will stay out of the way.”
Snow turned to Emma. “We could take her into town. Ruby’s been dying to see her…”
“Or we could stay here. You wouldn’t mind Ruby coming over, would you?” Emma asked Regina.
Regina’s eyes narrowed at the thought of half of Storybrooke turning up in her home invited there by Snow. “I don’t have a problem with Miss Lucas stopping by. If you want to sit in the garden I can use the time to go through some old boxes in the attic. Or, if you’d rather spend the time in here I can catch up on tending the garden.”
Emma smiled gratefully at her, then looked at the clock. “I’m sure that would be fine. Is that the time, I really should get going.”
Snow looked at her watch. “Me too.”
Emma walked her to the door, still carrying Lettie. She let her mother have one last look at the baby and watched her kiss Lettie’s forehead. Snow called out goodbye to Henry and finally left.
Emma closed the front door feeling relieved. She hadn’t asked where her father was. He was stubborn, so she knew it might take him a little more time to accept the situation but she hoped that his heart would win out in the end. Perhaps her mother would be able to help; now she’d arranged to come back for another visit.
“Thank you for staying.” Regina interrupted Emma’s thoughts, though she didn’t move towards her.
Emma smiled at her. “Thank you for… for agreeing to all of that.”
Regina just nodded. She wanted to tell Emma that she was still afraid, but couldn’t. Emma kissed Lettie and passed her to Regina.
“She’ll be hungry by 1, if you want to come back and feed her.” Regina reminded her.
“You just want me back to change the diaper.” Emma teased.
“If you want, you can stay at home with her all day and I’ll go to work. Then you’ll have more than one to change.”
Emma wondered whether she was serious. She had secretly thought about suggesting it. Regina could probably afford to take care of Lettie without working, but Emma needed the money. If she stayed at home, she would be relying on Regina too much.
“Maybe I could speak to dad about reducing my hours a little, he seemed to prefer the job to his last one… and that would give you some free time while I take care of Lettie. Perhaps one afternoon a week, or something?”
“If you want to…”
“We’ll talk more about it tonight.” Emma looked at her watch. “I really have to go.”
“Have a good day.”
Emma smiled. It had really sounded like Regina meant it. She couldn’t believe how quickly things had been changing since she moved in. Sometimes she wondered if Regina realised it too.
Regina took her time carefully laying out the table. She would only have to make a salad for dinner today, because Emma had insisted on bringing home burgers from the diner as a treat for Henry’s excellent school report. Apparently her homemade burgers didn’t taste the same as the grease-laden ones Granny cooked. She was trying to think positively, telling herself that looking after Lettie kept her too busy and exhausted to insist on making them. Of course, letting Emma ‘win’ and feed Henry junk food once in a while was a small price to pay for getting to spend so much time with him. There was always an hour or so before Emma got back from work where she had him all to herself.
Lettie sleeping in the spare crib Regina had set up downstairs. She checked on her as soon as the table was set out, and then went to stand at the back door looking out at her garden. It needed tending too. Since Lettie had been born she hadn’t been bothering with it as much as she liked. Perhaps if Emma was looking after Lettie at the weekend she could tackle the weeds. At least the colder weather wouldn’t affect her apple tree.
She couldn’t wait for the holidays to begin. Christmas was coming up. She’d never thought she could have that with Henry again. Emma had asked if she celebrated Thanksgiving. That was only a few days away, and she hadn’t really planned anything special for it. Of course Emma had been taught about the holiday growing up so Regina supposed it was only natural that she wanted the traditional meal and festivities. Was that why Snow had finally come around? Would she ask Emma and Henry to her place for the dinner? She felt certain that Emma and Henry would want to stay for Christmas, only to be with Lettie, but would Thanksgiving be different?
Regina was surprised by her sudden desire to have Emma stay. If she cooked the large meal Emma wouldn’t want to eat at her parent’s. Turning away from the garden, Regina went to make a new shopping list.
Emma locked herself in her office. There was only so much silent treatment she could take from her father before it was her only option. When she asked if he would mind her reducing her hours, taking an afternoon off once a week he had simply shrugged and said if that’s what she wanted…
She had seen the way Henry acted around Regina after she came to town. She thought his actions were just because he was a child, but now she realised they were genetic. David seemed capable of out ‘grumping’ Leroy. She reached for the phone and called Ruby.
“What’s up?” The cheery waitress answered her cell amid the clink of glasses and diner chatter.
“I need some advice.”
“My dad. You knew him before Storybrooke, right?”
“Hang on a sec,” the background noise died down. “Just taking a quick break, if Granny asks.” A door opened and closed. “Go ahead, Em.”
“I understand why he’s upset but this thing with Regina... but it’s not like I planned it. It’s just that I need to know, is he going to be like this forever?”
“You have to understand, there’s so much in their past. She tried to kill your mother and…”
“Yeah, yeah I get it, she’s the reason I got stuffed in a tree and sent here alone as a baby.” Emma picked up a pen and began doodling on a scrap piece of paper.
“Exactly. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you. He’s probably more angry at Regina, thinking she…”
“Then why isn’t he talking to me?”
“Just give him a little time.” Someone called her name from the diner. “I gotta go. Sorry.”
“Come by the diner later to finish this if you want?”
Emma listened to the silence as Ruby ended the call and put the cell back in her pocket. She stared at her random drawings. She had only gotten used to the fact that she had found her parents. They had seemed so happy to have her in their lives once the curse broke. This sudden change just reminded her of foster homes. The grownups always seemed so happy to have her at first, then after a while they’d realise they wanted their own children or that she wasn’t the sort of child they wanted. She had found it too exhausting, pretending to be happy with them just to stay a little while longer. In the end she gave up and her placements were with families less bothered about her and more interested in the little extra money they had for putting a roof over her head.
Emma didn’t want that again. She wanted to give Henry more than that. Perhaps it was wrong to expect Disney-perfection from her own parents. Just because their lives were chronicled in a fairy tale didn’t mean it was all true. She only had to look at the parts that had been conveniently glossed over… Like Regina. She wasn’t completely evil - look at the way she loved Henry and had loved Daniel. That wasn’t in Henry’s book. So maybe her parents weren’t going to love her just because she was their daughter. At least they weren’t like Cora. She should be happy she got to meet them and find out the reason she had grown up alone. Now she could stopping wondering and move on with her life.
Emma grabbed her jacket and opened her office door.
“I’m going out on patrol.” She called over her shoulder, not surprised when there was no reply.
Emma sat on a bench overlooking the beach. It was cold but that was good. She felt clear-headed and allowed the sight of the waves pounding against the shore to match her breathing.
Two small figures crossed her line of sight and as she looked closer she smiled. The smile grew to a grin as she recognised them. Granny and Marco walking hand-in-hand. No wonder Ruby sounded busy at the diner. Was this an official date? She wasn’t sure if anyone else knew about them.
Granny’s head turned in her direction. Emma raised her hand and waved. The couple waved back. Granny said something to Marco, he nodded and headed on down the beach as she began walking up to Emma. She wondered if they were going to ask her to keep it a secret.
“How’s Lettie?” Granny asked sitting down beside her.
Thrown off a little, Emma took a moment to reply. “She’s fine.”
“Never thought when I was babysitting Regina’s child it was also yours.”
“I didn’t know either.” Emma tried to explain, Granny’s tone had sounded a little accusatory. “At least, not back then.”
“Big decision that was, moving in with her.”
“It was Henry’s idea.”
“You didn’t want to?”
“I want to be there for Lettie. I’m her mother too, though it feels strange saying that when I wasn’t the one pregnant for nine months.”
“The price of magic I suppose.”
Emma shrugged. “Whale couldn’t explain it with his science, but he said he’d confirm it with DNA tests.”
“Regina treating you okay?”
“Yes, we’ve got a routine going for looking after Lettie.”
“I wasn’t referring to that. It can’t be easy living with her…”
“Why does everyone assume Regina is still evil? For twenty-eight years she managed to avoid killing everyone, she helped save Henry from Pan. I think it’s safe to say she’s changed.”
Granny smiled. “I just meant if she was doing or saying anything to make you want to leave…”
“Good. It can’t be easy, for either of you. You’re both used to having things your own way and throwing two children into the mix, well…”
“The only problems are the ones my parents have. At least Sn… mom, she came around this morning. She wanted to see Lettie.”
“You don’t think she wanted to see you too? Lettie might have been an excuse, an olive branch.”
“I’m the Sheriff, she can see me anytime she wants.”
“But if the argument was caused by this new situation, coming to see Lettie lets you know that she’s sorry.”
“You think so?”
Granny looked at the expression of hope on Emma’s face and put an arm around her shoulder. “I’ve known her a long time. She loves you and nothing can change that. Your dad, too. He can act smart enough when on a battlefield, but when it comes to emotions it takes him a while to sort through them. Did he ever tell you how long it took before he realised how much he loved your mother?”
Emma had read it in Henry’s book, but she shook her head anyway. There was something comforting in Granny’s voice and she wanted to hear the story.
Emma was late home for lunch that day. Regina didn’t say anything, but when Emma returned in the afternoon without the cheeseburgers she asked her what was wrong.
“Nothing.” Emma replied, hanging her jacket on the hook with a distant look in her eyes.
“Granny run out of burgers?” Regina tried.
“You don’t like Henry eating that stuff.”
Regina just stared at her. “Did something happen at work today?”
“No, it was quiet. Got through some paperwork and patrolled for a while.”
“Emma, if something’s wrong…”
“Everything is fine.” Emma snapped.
“Then why did you forget Henry’s cheeseburger?”
“Damn.” Emma’s hand reached for her jacket.
“If you ever want someone to talk to…”
Emma stuffed her arms into the jacket. “I should get to the diner. Henry will be hungry.”
Regina let her go.
Snow turned up again Saturday morning. Without a word, she followed Regina into the house and sat down to wait for Emma or Henry. Lettie was upstairs with Emma, Regina was giving them a little time alone together. It was only fair, she had Lettie to herself during the week and this way she was showing Emma that she trusted her with their daughter. She called up to Emma and Henry, not sure if their son was even awake yet.
“Would you like something to eat or drink?” Regina asked Snow as they waited.
“No, thank you.”
Regina considered leaving Snow alone. Then she remembered that this was her house, and she wasn’t about to let Snow make her feel uncomfortable in it. She ran through a dozen things to say to make idle chitchat, but couldn’t choose one so she hovered in the doorway and almost missed Snow’s question.
“Did you do this to get Henry back in your life?”
“Sorry?” Regina’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open a little at the accusation.
“I wondered whether you decided to have a baby with my daughter just to get Henry back.”
“Of course not.”
“Then what happened? I thought you hated Emma.”
Regina turned to look at the stairs, but there was no sign of an impending rescue from Snow’s questions. “It was one night. Alcohol was involved and none of this was planned. For some reason, magic gave us a child. I don’t know why.”
Snow didn’t look convinced.
Regina decided it was time to ask her own questions. “Why are you here? Is it really to see your grandchild, or because you miss Henry and Emma?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes. I don’t want Lettie growing up wondering why you love Henry and not her. If you can’t see past the fact that I’m also her mother, you need to find another place to spend time with them. This is her home and I won’t let you hurt her like that.”
“She’s my granddaughter. Of course I love her.” Snow glared at Regina, offended that the other woman would assume she wouldn’t love Lettie.
“Good.” Regina nodded and walked out the room to see what was taking Emma so long.
Snow stayed for nearly an hour. Regina spent the time in the garden, avoiding the house. When she had left, Emma went outside to find her, carrying Lettie. Regina’s dark hair seemed to glow in the sunlight. She wondered whether she should interrupt. Regina looked a little sad as she sat on the garden bench and she wished she had asked her mother what they had discussed before she came downstairs.
“It’s safe to come in now.” Emma joked in a soft voice.
Regina turned her head slightly, the corners of her mouth turning up into a smile. “That obvious, hmm?”
“You okay?” Emma moved over, passing Lettie to Regina and sitting down next to her.
“Yes.” Regina looked down at Lettie, smoothing out the non-existent wrinkles on her daughter’s outfit.
Emma didn’t need her superpower to tell her Regina was lying. “You know, you haven’t left the house in ages, why don’t we all go for a walk later. Just you, me, Lettie and Henry?”
“I went to the hospital. That’s leaving the house.”
“What about Lettie? Don’t you think she wants to see the outside world?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? Too many people?”
Regina shrugged. “What if we run into your parents?”
“Then we’ll drive somewhere quiet. You can’t stay here forever.”
“We don’t have a car seat for Lettie.”
“I brought one. It’s in my car.”
Regina frowned as Emma tried not to smile. “When?”
“During my lunch break.” She tried to sound casual. “And yes, it’s a good make and I know how put it safely in your car if you’d rather drive.”
Regina bit the inside of her lip as she looked down at Lettie. Her daughter’s eyes stared back up at her and she realised that she was being silly. Emma was right.
“Come on, a change of scene keeps people sane.” Emma encouraged her.
“Is that why you moved around so much before you came to Storybrooke?”
Emma grinned. “It worked, didn’t it?”
Regina laughed. “Somewhere quiet, then. We’ll take my car.”
“I’ll tell Henry.”
Henry sat in the back seat, explaining to Lettie all the different things he could see from his window. When Emma had brought the car seat, she had also purchased a plain black sunshade to go on the window, so Lettie couldn’t actually see any of the things they were passing. She seemed content with Henry talking to her, appearing to listen to his descriptions.
Regina gave Emma directions as she drove. She had made a phone call to her insurer and paid a small fee to add Emma on to her policy. It made sense. She wasn’t sure that she would be up for a long drive and then a walk, and this way she got to take her car.
They had a pleasant time. Regina enjoyed the short walk they took, in a quiet place away from the main area of Storybrooke. Emma pulled onto the grass where Regina indicated and they didn’t see anyone else while they were out. Emma carried Lettie and Henry walked between them and Regina. They set out a blanket that Regina kept in the boot of her car on the grass to rest for a while. Henry kept the conversation going. Regina wasn’t sure how long they had been out before Emma suggested they head back. Her lunch break was over.
She knew she was happy. She knew she was safe. Regina knew there was currently no reason for her to need her magic back. Still, she reached out towards the apple and twisted her wrist.
There was a knock at the front door. Regina wasn’t expecting anyone. Snow had already visited for the day and the appointment with Whale wasn’t for another week. Emma and Henry had their own keys. No-one else came to the house.
Wary, she looked through the peephole on the door.
“I know you’re in there dear.” Granny called through. “So are you going to keep me waiting on the doorstep?”
Regina smiled and let her in.
“How’re things going?” Granny asked as she settled onto a stool in the kitchen, watching as Regina filled the kettle.
“Fine…Lettie’s asleep upstairs. Did you want to see her?”
“I came to see you, actually. Wondered why you haven’t taken me up on the babysitting offer I made the last time I was here.”
Regina shrugged, pulled out two mugs and set them on the side. “Emma and I have our routine. We don’t need any help.”
“What about when the two of you want some time alone?”
Regina frowned. “What do you mean?”
“When you just want to be around other adults, no children. Have a chance to clear your heads and get away? Unless you’re asking Snow to watch them?”
“This situation with Emma’s parents…”
“That’s Emma’s business.”
“With Lettie and Henry to consider, it’s yours too. She told me David hasn’t come around yet. It upsets her. She tried not to show it, but I could tell.”
“You think I should do something about it? I’m the last person either of her parents wants to see right now. Snow accused me of having Lettie on purpose, to keep Henry in my life.”
“I’m sure she knows that’s not true.”
“None of this was planned. Emma was the last person….” Regina broke off when Granny chuckled at her words. “What?”
“Oh, please. Before the curse broke Ruby tried to bet me that the two of you would either kill each other or kiss by the years end. I refused to take her up on it.”
Regina shook her head and turned away to make the tea Granny had requested. “I tried to give her the sleeping curse in an apple turnover. Not quite killing her, but close enough.”
“And now you have Lettie. Perhaps that’s what worries Emma’s parents.”
“That Emma could fall in love with me?” Regina scoffed. “We were drunk, it wasn’t meant to happen and while I don’t regret having Lettie, there will never be anything more between Miss Swan and I.”
Granny didn’t answer. She took the tea Regina offered and gently blew on it to cool it down. Perhaps it was time to change the subject.
“I am the Evil Queen, after all.” Regina added as an afterthought. “Maybe you could speak to them, if they’re so concerned. Remind them that they’re supposed to love their daughter, that she isn’t ‘evil-by-association’ or something. As you said, it upsets Emma and Henry not having them around.”
“What about Lettie?”
“She’s my daughter, if they can’t deal with that fact…”
“I meant, what if they want to see her properly, not here but outside. Would you let them look after her?”
“Maybe… if Emma was there.”
Thank goodness she didn’t have to think about that. Emma hadn’t pressed the issue yet.
Granny sipped at her tea. “Must be easier having Emma here, helping you with the baby.”
“Sometimes.” Regina acknowledged. “She’s learning quickly.”
“Any problems? Sometimes it helps to have someone neutral to talk to in these situations.”
Regina raised an eyebrow. “You?”
“I might have fought with Snow against the…Queen, but I also remember the Mayor of Storybrooke. I saw you trying to change for Henry, I doubt Lettie will hinder that goal. You forget, I was an adult when you were still a child. I remember hearing that you were to marry the King, and a lot of other things that were happening. Mostly, Regina, I want to help because I’ve had children of my own. Ruby may be my granddaughter but I was there to raise her. I did that on my own and I know it isn’t easy.”
“I had Henry…”
“I know. No-one saying you didn’t do a good job, but we both know it gets lonely…”
“I told you, there’s nothing between…”
“Not that kind of lonely. The support of family and friends is important. I’m just saying, if you need me…”
“We will be fine.”
Granny nodded, putting down her empty mug. “Thanks for the tea. I should get back to the diner.”
“Thank you for your offer of support.”
“You know where to find me.”
Regina smiled. “Well, it isn’t like you can leave town.”
Emma was sitting on the couch, her eyes beginning to close, when Regina walked into the room. She’d just finished tucking Lettie into her crib and checked that Henry was doing his homework before coming back downstairs to try and relax.
“I’m exhausted.” Emma told her, closing her eyes and wishing she didn’t have to walk up the stairs to go to bed. “How did you manage on your own with Henry and a full-time job?”
Regina smiled and settled into a chair where she could watch Emma. “You get used to it. I must say I’m a little out of practice myself, Henry was just getting out of that early morning stage… Thank you for lunch. Was it busy when you went back to work?”
“Not really. David went out on patrol leaving me to sign off some paperwork.”
“You should get some sleep.” Regina advised, watching Emma yawn.
“Not yet. It’s too early.”
“If you’re tired…”
“I don’t think I can make it upstairs yet.” She admitted. “Do you mind if I just take a nap here? If Lettie wakes…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get up.”
“No, I want to…”
“Emma it’s okay. You’ve been working…”
“Can’t you just use your magic and send me upstairs? Just this once?”
Emma smiled when Regina shook her head. “For Henry?”
“Actually I’m having a little trouble getting it to work. The last time anything happened was around you, but I couldn’t control it.”
Regina was used to drawing on her anger to use her magic, but now that failed. She knew magic needed an emotional focus, but the fear causing the last outbursts were too hard to command.
“Maybe it’s for the best, it stops you from being tempted.”
“And what if I need to use it to protect Lettie or Henry?”
“You said you got Gold to promise not to harm them. I can help you deal with anything else.”
Regina wanted to believe her. Emma hadn’t run when the curse broke and found out the truth about Storybrooke. She had saved Henry, and stood between her and a wraith intent on stealing her soul. She still remembered Emma giving her the heart on Valentines Day and the look that the younger woman had given her. There hadn’t been a hidden agenda behind the gift, which surprised her. Mostly, what made her try to believe was the way Emma hadn’t pushed her over Lettie, agreeing to share the parenting.
“Why don’t you sleep now, and you can get up with Lettie a couple of extra times at the weekend.” Regina suggested as she stood herself.
Feeling stubborn, Emma shook her head and yawned, determined to be upstairs when her daughter woke. She made it to the stairs without stumbling, but when her foot missed the edge of a step Regina’s hand shot out to catch her.
“Thanks.” Emma looked down at the hand on her elbow then up into frightened eyes.
“You should have stayed down there.”
“Will you help me the rest of the way?”
Regina rolled her eyes but agreed, muttering about idiocy being an inherited trait. Emma was careful to watch where she was going from then on, though Regina’s hand remained in contact with her arm, just in case.
Regina opened her eyes to the sound of her daughter’s cries and couldn’t remember if it was her turn to go. She woke every time Lettie cried, but it was leaving her too tired to recall if Emma had gone last or if she had. Emma seemed to take it personally if she got there first, as though she was checking up on her, but Regina just hated the idea that Lettie was upset and she wasn’t there to comfort her.
Her hand clenched at her sides and her foot twitched as she counted to five. She couldn’t hear Emma moving about. That decided it for her. She slipped out of bed, pulling the dressing gown from the back of the door around her as she left the room. The door to Lettie’s room was ajar, and the soft glow from the night-light framed the doorway. Regina pushed the door further open and found Emma with Lettie already in her arms. She was walking up and down near the crib, whispering as she tried to help Lettie get back to sleep.
“Sorry.” Regina whispered when Emma looked around. “I thought it was my turn.”
“It is,” Emma told her, “but I fell asleep in the chair after mine, I was too tired to go back to my room. When she started crying again I figured I was here so…”
She had put the comfy armchair in the room for that purpose, and Regina told herself that it didn’t matter. Emma hadn’t done it on purpose.
“Here…” Emma held out her arms. “Perhaps she wants you. I’ve checked her nappy and it’s too soon for her to need another feeding…”
Regina surprised herself with a shake of the head. “No, you were doing fine.”
“But she’s still crying.”
Taking in the expression on Emma’s face, Regina forced her hands to remain at her sides. “Take a deep breath.”
“Miss S…Emma.” Regina rolled her eyes at the concession that still came hard to her. “You need to relax. Take a deep breath and calm down. She’s probably picking up on the fact that you’re tired and getting worried. You can do this.”
“But what if…”
“Sit down.” Regina pointed to the chair, waiting until Emma obeyed before moving closer. “Now, look down at her and clear your mind of everything but her face.”
Emma’s eyes darted up questioningly. When she saw Regina gazing calmly back at her, she quickly looked back down.
“If you want, you can talk to her. Use a soothing tone. It doesn’t matter what you say, she doesn’t understand. Just…”
“Talk to her.” Emma finished, almost hypnotised by Regina’s voice.
Regina nodded, even though Emma was no longer watching her and tiptoed from the room to give her some privacy. As she closed the door to her room, she realised her daughters cries had quietened.
“We should do more stuff together.” Henry suggested, between bites of his breakfast. “As a family, like the other day.”
Regina paused in the middle of washing up and turned her head to show she was listening, while Emma looked up from settling Lettie into her special baby seat at the table. Henry smiled as his sister kicked her legs, making the cushioned chair bounce a little.
“We’re having breakfast together.” Regina pointed out.
“Yeah, but other stuff…outside the house. Remember when I was little and you used to take me places, like the park… we should give Lettie those sorts of memories.”
“We will, when she’s old enough to remember them. She’s only a baby Henry.”
“That’s why cameras were invented.” He left the ‘duh’ unspoken, knowing it could get him in trouble.
Regina looked at Emma for some sign about what she wanted. “I know you’re busy with work…”
“It’s fine, unless you don’t want to go?”
“It doesn’t have to be the park.” Henry interrupted. “There’s the beach, or walking in the forest, or…”
Emma shrugged and waited for Regina to speak. Lettie had grabbed one of her fingers so she couldn’t move away, - not that she wanted to. She looked down at her daughter and smiled at her strong grip.
Abandoning the washing up, Regina moved closer to them. “Well, it’s your idea Henry, what do think? Was there something in particular you wanted to do?”
“We could drive out of Storybrooke to a zoo or something…” he hesitated, looking a little worried about her reaction and turned to Emma for support. “I just thought if no-one knows us they won’t interrupt by asking you to go back to work, you know?”
“I’d like that. A day away from everyone who knows I’m Snow White’s daughter sounds great. Regina?”
It took a little while, but eventually she gave a small nod of assent. “Yes, I suppose. Lettie might like the zoo, if it isn’t too far away.”
“I’ll go look it up.” Henry promised, pushing his plate away.
“It’s too late to set out today, but I’ll ask dad to cover tomorrow for me. Is that okay with you?”
Regina smiled as Henry remembered to clear the table before heading up to his room. “I didn’t have any plans.”
“Good.” Emma smiled back at her.
Regina stood beside the car, shivering as she waited for Emma to finish reading the sign. She had made Henry wait in the car with Lettie, but hadn’t realised how much the temperature had begun to drop as winter approached. Of course, she had come prepared with warm clothes for the children, but other than a coat she had forgotten her own hat, scarf and gloves. When Henry had been a baby it had been the same way. She was always too busy thinking about him, worrying about him, that her own needs were pushed aside. As he grew up, he became more and more independent, wanting to choose his own clothes so that she finally had time to consider her own comfort again.
“Well?” She asked, arms folded as Emma came back to them.
The blonde grinned sheepishly and shrugged. “Looks like we’re too late, the opening season ended a couple of months ago.”
Without a word, Regina got back into the car and closed her door. She held her hands over the air vents to try and warm them.
“What’s wrong?” Henry asked, leaning forwards.
“It’s closed until next year.” Regina told him, avoiding eye contact as Emma returned to the drivers seat.
“Did you have a back-up plan, kid?” Emma turned around as she spoke. “Somewhere nearby?”
“After I saw the pictures for this place I didn’t really bother…”
“No problem, why don’t we drive around then? I think I saw a sign on the way, we could go check it out…”
Regina cleared her throat. Henry and Emma looked at her, expecting to hear a request to go home, but she surprised them by reminding them that they had passed a beach and that it would be a good place to eat their lunch – in the car. She didn’t want Lettie to get cold staying outside too long.
As Emma turned the car around, Regina watched Henry out of the corners of eyes and tried not to smile.
Regina watched from her bedroom window as the town began setting up festive decorations. She knew that sooner or later Henry and Emma would suggest decorating the mansion. It would feel different this year, with a new baby in the house, and now Emma in residence.
Thanksgiving had passed without that happening, but Snow was now a regular visitor and Regina was waiting for Emma to suggest taking Lettie to meet with her somewhere in town. They had enjoyed a quiet family meal, only the food suggesting that the day was a special one, and had time together before Emma was called out to work. By the time she returned Henry was asleep, but Regina had saved her leftovers for a snack in case she was hungry.
Regina wondered if they would want to spend the holiday with Snow and Charming. The holiday season would be just the time for the idiot to apologise to Emma and make them a happy little family again. It wasn’t the first time the idea had occurred to her. Snow had been coming around so often that Regina was sure Emma’s father wouldn’t be far behind. She wasn’t sure whether she should mention it. If they did leave for Christmas, would she have to send Henry’s presents with them or could he wait and open them when they came back?
Lettie’s cries came over the baby monitor and she hurried into the other room to check on her daughter. She would need to know their plans so that she didn’t over-order on the food. There would be so much to do. Henry would need her to take him shopping for Emma’s present and she wanted to get him a few things without worrying about taking Lettie around with her. She remembered trying to shop with baby Henry – back then she had thankfully been able to rope Sydney or Graham into help carry things, otherwise she would have struggled to manage. That first Christmas with him she had splashed out on so many presents. She wanted to do the same for Lettie, but knew that she would have to discuss it with Emma, because the blonde would want to give her just as many.
“Whatever happens, we’ll spend Christmas together,” she promised Lettie, picking her up and rocking her gently in her arms.
Henry settled onto the couch between his mothers, swapping the remote control for the bowl of popcorn Emma was holding. Lettie was upstairs asleep and the three of them were settling into a new Saturday routine – watching a movie together before Henry went to bed. When she thought no-one was looking, Regina’s hand hovered the bowl and took a piece of popcorn to try.
While she didn’t enjoy the film as much as Emma or Henry, Regina did enjoy their company and even found herself smiling at some of the jokes. They let Henry watch right up to the credits, with Regina making a silent resolution to check the length of the film next time. It had been nice. She began clearing away their glasses while Emma picked up a few stray kernels of popcorn on the floor and between the cushions of the couch. When she returned, Emma had gathered the stray popcorn back into the bowl and was carrying it towards her.
“Do you want to...?” Emma paused as the words left her mouth and she saw the questioning look in Regina’s eyes.
“I…um, I thought maybe we could just sit and talk for a bit, the two of us. I know you don’t have much company, adult company, while you’re here all day and…”
Regina looked a little stunned at Emma’s suggestion, before smiling at her. “I would like that.”
“Good.” Emma looked relieved. “Why don’t I pour us some drinks first.”
“It’s a little late…”
“I meant hot chocolate or something, I know Lettie’ll wake up in a couple of hours…”
“Okay,” Regina tried to take the bowl of popcorn from Emma, but the blonde didn’t let go.
“I can take it out.”
Regina just smiled at her, “it’s fine, I’ve got it.”
Emma shook her head, “you shouldn’t have to clear up on your own.”
“I’ve been doing it for nearly thirty years.”
“I want to help.”
Regina released the bowl with a sigh and a look that said she was just humouring Emma, then allowed her to proceed towards the kitchen to make the hot drinks. She sat down on a stool as she watched Emma move from cupboard to cupboard pulling out cups and spoons, wondering when the knowledge settled into her subconscious allowing her to find everything so quickly. How long had Emma been living here?
“What did you want to talk about?” Regina asked, as they waited for the kettle to boil.
“I don’t know, I just thought it would be nice to have some quiet no-kids time. We’re living together now, so… oh, milk…” Emma headed towards the fridge, taking out the nearly empty milk bottle in one hand and some whipped cream in the other.
“You’re going to have that this late at night?” Regina asked, seeing the second item.
“It’s not hot chocolate without it,” she explained, spooning out chocolate powder into the two cups.
“There is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Yes, how is the town coping with Mary Margaret in charge?”
“The summer election…”
“Don’t try to avoid the question. I care about this town…”
“…just not all of the inhabitants?”
Regina smiled, “true, but as the people I care about live in this town I want to make sure there aren’t any problems. As the town Sheriff you get to see more of what goes on.”
“Not really, I’m usually just on patrol and filling out paperwork.”
“But the town meetings, and reports between the mayor and Sheriff’s office…”
Emma poured hot water into the cups, expertly stirring so there were no lumps at the bottom, “I just figured you did all that stuff to annoy me.”
Regina frowned, “so you haven’t had anything like that since Mary Margaret took over?”
“I was living with her, we’d just chat after work sometimes, nothing official. Everything’s fine.”
“Has she sorted out the budget for road repairs? Set a timetable for the gritters to begin preparing for the snow?”
Emma shrugged, “no idea. Do you want me to ask?”
“Well, you could wait until it’s snowing and you’re called out to work… no wait, you won’t be able to go because your car will be stuck in the driveway, in the snow.”
“Okay, I’ll ask. Here.” Emma pushed a cup over to Regina.
“Anything else on your mind?”
“Oh, yeah, I meant to talk to you about that.”
“Yep. Are we buying the kids presents together? I mean, we don’t want to end up buying them the same stuff and I know you’ll have opinions on whatever I pick out…”
“That game was not appropriate for someone of Henry’s age.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“There’s an age minimum on the case.”
“That’s just an advisory thing, like saying something’s suitable for over fifteen’s when a mature enough twelve year old…”
“Do you want to have this argument again?”
“Then let’s get back to the future presents.”
“Okay.” Emma watched as Regina took a sip of her hot chocolate. “Why don’t I take an afternoon off work while Henry’s at school and we can go shopping. We could take Lettie, I mean it’s not like she’s going to know what we’re doing… or we could leave her with Mary Margaret or Granny…”
“Granny,” Regina quickly agreed.
“Fine. Means we both have two hands to carry stuff.”
“What does Henry have on his wish list this year?”
“He hasn’t shown me yet. I think he’s still working on it.”
“Try to hurry him up, otherwise we’ll be facing off the crowds of last-minute shoppers. Ordering online is easy enough, but delivery can be slow.”
“We could head up to Boston, have a little more choice, if you don’t mind the journey?”
“I don’t know if I could leave Lettie that long.”
“What if I get Ruby to come with us? We could all take turns looking after Lettie while we shop, I know she’d love the chance to see somewhere new.”
“Maybe,” Regina looked at her watch, “it’s getting late.”
Emma watched her drain the last of the hot chocolate and swiped her cup from the counter before Regina could object. She took it over to the sink with hers and washed them up.
“I had another question about Christmas, before we go to sleep,” Regina stopped as she reached the kitchen door.
“Yeah?” Emma turned her head as she placed the second cup on the draining board.
“I understand if you want to visit your parents, or spend time with them Christmas morning, but Lettie is staying here with me.”
“We’re not going there,” Emma told her with a shrug, “so you’ll be stuck with us.”
“I just thought…”
“I know it means mom’ll turn up here, but if David doesn’t want to see us I’m not going to force him.”
Snow White in her house on Christmas Day? Regina wanted to object, but she realised Emma was already distancing herself from her father by using his name. “Just tell her to come around while I’m cooking in the kitchen, that will keep everyone happy.”
Emma smiled, “at least you’re not suggesting locking her out.”
“She’s your family,” emphasis on the ‘your’, Regina mused, “and I want Henry to enjoy Christmas.”
Granny invited – no, insisted was a more accurate word – Snow and Charming to the B&B for dinner. They all knew what she was going to talk to them about. David was just surprised that Archie wasn’t there.
“I hear you’ve been dating Marco,” David began, desperate to start on a different topic and wanting to throw the old woman off track.
“You have?” Snow was surprised, why hadn’t David shared the rumour? “When did all this happen? Why don’t I know about it?”
“It’s no secret that we’re good friends. We’ve been spending a lot of time together, but not to the point either of us would call it dating,” Granny defended herself as she passed around the dish containing the vegetables.
“Not yet,” David gave her a knowing grin as he poured a generous helping of gravy over the meat on his plate.
“What does Ruby think?” Snow asked her.
Granny shrugged, “she’s not said much, but I don’t think she’d mind. How’s Henry? Do you see him much?”
“Not like when I was his teacher, but he seems happy.”
“And the two of you? How is your relationship?”
“Uh, we’re fine,” Snow stuttered, looking nervously at David as though silently asking him to confirm.
“Yeah, no problems,” he agreed, eying the wine glass on the table.
Granny paused before asking: “…And Emma?”
David took a drink, letting Snow answer.
“I saw her the other day, she looked a little tired.”
“And you, David?”
“It’s been a while.” Then, when his glass was empty: “but I think you already knew that.”
“Yes, I did.”
“And you have an opinion you’d like to share?”
“David!” Snow put a hand on his arm, wanting to remind him of everything Granny had done for them over the years.
“I have some advice I think you need to hear.”
“Emma’s your family, so’s Henry. You spent twenty-eight years without a family, so did Snow. I was lucky, I got to keep my Ruby close to me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t understand what you went through. My daughter chose her wolf heritage over living like a human, she went away and I never saw her again. Just because she chose that life doesn’t mean I stopped loving her. I told myself if she ever came back I would welcome her.”
“If Emma comes to her senses, she’s welcome to come home,” David told her. “I still love her.”
Snow moved closer to him, “David, I told you she’s only there for Lettie.”
“She’s living with Regina. I know you said you don’t care how it happened, or why, but they had a child together. Don’t tell me that doesn’t mean something isn’t going on.”
“We missed watching Emma growing up and you were in a coma for most of Henry’s childhood. Lettie is our granddaughter and Emma is her mother. We should be there for them.”
“I want to be, I’m just worried that Regina will hurt them and I don’t want to let that happen.”
“She won’t,” Snow promised, “Regina has changed.”
“You can’t know that, not for sure.”
Granny thought it was time to interrupt them. “Is that why you’ve been ignoring Emma? You think she’ll blame you if Regina hurts her? That she doesn’t understand the risk of who she used to be? David, I’m a werewolf, so’s Ruby. We’re just as dangerous, we’ve both done things in the past…”
“It’s different, you want to be good.”
“Maybe Regina does too. She’s finally found something she didn’t have before.”
“A real family. People who love her and see the good in her.”
“Henry and Lettie are just children, they don’t know everything…” David frowned as he looked at Granny, realisation dawning on his face, “but you aren’t just talking about them, are you?”
“Emma’s been very upset recently. Your behaviour hurt her. All that girl wanted was to find her parents, and there you were promising you loved her but within five minutes of reuniting you’ve done what every other adult has done to her all her life – you pushed her away as though she wasn’t good enough.”
“She’s talked to you about her past?”
“She needed someone to talk to, and I listened.”
“Did she also talk about Regina?”
“A little, but if you keep focusing on what feelings she might or might not have you’ll never work things out with Emma though.”
This time Snow interrupted him. “No ‘buts’ Charming. You need to decide: do you love our daughter, or not?”
“Of course I love her. Henry too.”
“If she’s my granddaughter, no question.”
“Whale carried out a DNA test,” Snow informed him.
He sat back in his chair, looking suddenly tired, so Granny poured him another glass of wine. Instead of drinking it, he just stared into the liquid as if it could offer up the answers he wanted.
It was getting late. The children were in bed, asleep, and Emma had popped off on some supposedly urgent errand without explaining exactly what that was to Regina. Assuming the blonde would return before she locked the door for the night, Regina settled down in her favourite chair to read.
“Good news and bad news!” Emma whispered with glee as she snuck back into the house. “I’ve got the list!”
“What list?” Regina asked, wondering what had caused her to go out into the dark night.
“The one in the letter Henry wrote to Santa. He put it in the mailbox but I used your skeleton key to open it and get it back out.”
“Is that the good news or the bad news?” Then, after a moments contemplation: “And isn’t it against the law to do that?”
“Technically the letter is to us, as we’ll be buying his presents, so unless you brought Santa Claus over with your curse we haven’t stolen anyone else’s mail. Bad news is, there was more than one letter addressed to Santa and my torch wasn’t bright enough to tell which was Henry’s handwriting. I was in kind of a rush and didn’t want anyone to see me, so I just grabbed them all.”
“You stole other children’s letters to Santa?” Regina couldn’t help it; she had to laugh.
Emma frowned, “I’m going to put them back tomorrow.”
“So which one’s Henry’s?”
The kid was smart, she had to give him that. Since finding out the characters in his storybook were real, he’d begun questioning whether Santa could be real or not. Regina assured Emma she had let him believe in the red-suited man as long as she could. It was just that other children, in the last year or so, had begun to tease him about it. Emma had tried asking why he still believed in Snow White when he stopped believing in Santa, but he couldn’t explain it. Then again, he’d never told anyone else about his fairy tale theories. Last year, he’d told Emma that the only way to prove Santa was real was to send his list and not tell anyone what was on it. That way if he got the things he asked for, he’d know Santa was real. If not, he could go back to not believing. After everything that had happened, Emma wanted to give him a happy Christmas, but he’d caught her reading the list before he could post it. This year, he’d posted it as soon as he’d written it, keeping the list with him until he got to the mailbox.
Emma spread the envelopes out on the table so that Regina could see too. She was so glad Henry was asleep – she had checked on him before leaving. Regina passed her the hot chocolate she had made before Emma left. It was still warm, though the whipped cream had melted, and Emma happily drank it down to the bottom of the cup. Regina easily picked out Henry’s letter, turning the envelope over to reveal his name and the return address of the mansion.
“You stole it, you’d better open it,” Regina told her.
“Don’t you want to see Henry’s face when he gets what he asked for?”
“Yes, but I think he’s had enough believing in children’s stories.”
“Stories that turned out to be true… well, maybe not 100%, but he was right about the curse.”
“Just open the letter, you know you want to.”
Emma smiled, “you know, you’re not actually trying to stop me. I think you like my idea.”
“I want Henry to be happy.”
Without another word, Emma opened the envelope and skimmed over Henry’s words. When she had finished, she looked back up and Regina, passing over the letter without comment. Regina hesitated at first. As long as Emma knew what to buy, did she really need to read it as well? The blonde insisted, holding the paper out to her, and eventually Regina accepted it.
What did Henry want for Christmas?
She had selected her most expensive coffee for Granny to drink. They had started meeting up semi-regularly, just to talk. Regina found it easier than going to see Archie, though it wasn’t really about therapy. They’d discuss raising Ruby and Henry, or the town, little things that they had in common without going into anything tied to bad emotions. Granny arrived on time and settled down by Lettie, entertaining her with soft words while Regina poured the coffee.
The coffee wasn’t about showing off. It was a way of sharing something with the older woman, letting her know that Regina liked their chats. They alternated baking the snacks to go with the drinks, and Regina would often make extras for when Emma and Henry returned home. She enjoyed being able to talk to Lettie as she cooked - the few times her daughter was awake – and imagined the day when she would be watching her little girl stir in the ingredients for her first cakes. Henry had been impatient with stirring the mixture and watching the timer for the cakes to be ready. He preferred helping at the end, when the icing only took a moment to prepare and the toppings had to be sprinkled on.
“With Christmas on its way, everyone’s thinking about decorating and shopping and all of that. Have you and Emma made plans?”
“Yes, we’ll celebrate here. She’s hoping Snow will come around for a little while to see the children and I’ll be busy with the dinner so…”
“I saw Snow and David the other day. I think he’s ready to start building bridges with Emma.”
“It’s about time.”
“Hopefully you’ll have one more visitor for Christmas morning. What about presents for the little ones?”
“We’ve agreed to go shopping together to pick them out.”
“Good idea. Just let me know the date and I’ll get Ruby to cover the diner so I can watch Lettie for you.”
“I was going to ask…” Regina began, smiling when she saw the knowing look on Granny’s face, “thank you.”
“No problem, I enjoy looking after this little one.”
Regina’s smile grew as she looked over at her daughter, feeling her heart fill with love and unable to remember what life had been like before she was born. It had been the same way with Henry, except then she had been all alone, she hadn’t wanted anyone’s help. Now she had Emma and Granny and… well, Emma had Snow to help her, there was no way Snow was going on her list. She supposed she had Henry to help as well, though he was so young she worried that he would try to pick Lettie up and drop her.
There was a white paper bag on her desk. Emma opened it and smiled when she saw the bear claw from Granny’s Diner. Ruby must have dropped it off at lunchtime when she was out chasing down Pongo - again. She needed to suggest to Snow that they build a large fence around the park so that Pongo could be let off his lead in a smaller, confined area.
Emma picked up the small piece of paper, folded in front of the bag, wondering if the note was from Ruby too. It wasn’t. She recognised her fathers writing and was surprised when the note revealed he had brought the pastry. The note was a semi-apology, not really admitting he was at fault for anything, just:
For you, I’m sorry.
Emma wasn’t sure what to do. If she ate the pastry it would show she had forgiven him. She worried that if she did that, then they wouldn’t talk about the problem behind his recent behaviour. David was stubborn, just like her, but she needed him to understand that Lettie was an important part of her life. So she put the pastry to one side and did the first thing that came to mind. She rang Regina.
Regina was used to the idea of talking to Emma about the house, the children, even plans for Henry’s presents. She wasn’t prepared for a discussion on the psychology behind David’s apology-food, or to give advice to Emma about what to do next. As Emma had just launched into the dilemma without giving her a chance to speak, Regina still had a little time to think about this. She had no idea what to say, or if she should really be getting involved. Emotional family problems were Archie’s area of expertise and as much as she wanted Emma to be reunited with her father, she wasn’t impressed with his token of guilt. Of course, she knew Emma wanted this reunion and Granny had suggested that it was genuine, so…
“You should talk to him. Put the bear claw in your drawer, thank him and see what happens. If he really means it then he’ll listen. Give him one more chance.”
“Well for someone called Prince Charming, it’s not the most charming apology I’ve ever heard of, but then again I call him an idiot so it may be genuine.”
Emma laughed down the phone, making Regina smile. “Thanks.”
“Well, I assumed you called me because you wanted a honest answer?”
“Yeah, I guess. You’re also the mother of my children, so…”
“Giving birth to Lettie and raising Henry makes me an expert on parents?”
“I just meant… I trust you.”
“Oh, well…” Regina was stumped on a reply to that one.
“Thanks Regina, I’ll talk to you later, yeah?”
Regina heard Emma laugh again as she ended the call and she shook her head as she looked down at Lettie. “She trusts me?”
Lettie didn’t have an answer for her. She waved her little arms up in the air and Regina reached down to allow her to grab one of her fingers. Feeling the little fist tighten around her forefinger, she smiled. It was nice to feel wanted.
They didn’t talk about it in front of Henry. Emma sent him off to start his homework as soon as she arrived home and sat down in the kitchen watching Regina finish making their dinner.
“How did it go?” Regina asked, adjusting the heat on the pan of vegetables.
“I think it went okay. He seems in a much better mood, we talked for a bit and then got back to work as though the last couple of months hadn’t happened.”
“Did he say anything about Lettie?”
“He wants to see her, but didn’t really say when. I thought I could take her to the loft to visit mom and then he could be there too.”
“Will you take Henry?”
“I thought he should stay here with you. That way if he changes his mind… I know you haven’t let me take her out on my own, but…”
“I suppose if I can leave her with Granny while we go Christmas shopping I should let you take her out for a little while, maybe just an hour and after her feed…”
“You asked Granny to baby sit?”
“She offered. They’ll stay here of course, we’ve got everything she’ll need to look after Lettie, and then if we’re late back she can watch over Henry too.”
“Okay,” Emma agreed, realising this was a big step for Regina.
She hadn’t expected this so soon. At least there was a baby seat in her car. Or should she walk to her parents? Regina was giving her an hour, but was that from the time she left or the time she arrived at the loft? She didn’t want to be late back; god only knew what Regina would do. Probably teleport over to see what was keeping them, panicking that something was wrong.
“Why don’t you take Lettie into the other room, spend some time together while I finish up in here,” Regina suggested. “I’ll help you pack a few things after dinner.”
Emma didn’t need to think about it. She just scooped up her daughter, the motion feeling natural now, and kissed her forehead. As she walked into the other room, holding Lettie close to her chest, she wondered how she would have coped with a baby Henry and was so glad she didn’t have to raise Lettie alone.
After a few brief words from Emma before she left, Henry planned to keep his other mother occupied while Lettie was out of the house. He knew it would be difficult for her – he remembered the way she had been when he first went to kindergarten, and even his first day at school. He was proud of her for letting go, for trusting Emma, even if she’d set a time limit. An hour, that was all it was.
“Have you done your homework?” she asked when he wandered into her study when Emma left.
Watching them leave would have been too hard, she had kissed Lettie once she was sure Emma had a few essential items and then retreated to her study. That way she wouldn’t hear the door close, or run to an upstairs window to watch them as far as that view would allow. Emma’s cell was fully charged, there were two spare diapers, a spare bottle of milk, a first aid kit and baby wipes in the small bag she had used with Henry. The blonde had refused to take any more, reminding Regina that they would only be gone sixty minutes.
“Most of it. I needed a break and thought you might want to play with me, there’s a great new racing game...”
Regina raised an eyebrow, “you know the rules. No games consoles until all the homework is complete.”
“There’s nothing left that’s due in tomorrow. I’ve got plenty of time.”
“Finish your homework first.”
“I thought you might want a break too. We could play something educational.”
“Did Emma buy anything that could be classed as that?”
Henry had to think for a moment, then shrugged, “teamwork’s educational, so if you helped…”
She understood then why he was asking. “Just for an hour?”
“Then I’ll finish my homework. Promise.”
It took Regina a little while to settle into the game, but eventually she picked up the desire to win and gripped the controller until her knuckles turned white. Henry was a little glad he’d avoided the racing game; he didn’t want his mom to get to the top of the leader board the first time round. He knew she was still sneaking glances at the clock to check the time and as the hour drew closer to an end, he found himself listening for the sound of Emma’s car pulling into the driveway, or the front door opening.
In the end, it was Henry who ran to the front door when Emma returned. Regina made herself count to ten before heading after him, but her eyes were on Lettie as soon as Emma carried her inside.
“How did it go?” Regina asked, trying to sound casual.
Emma handed Lettie over to her and smiled, “not too bad. We’re not late are we?”
“No,” Regina lied, it was only ten minutes and she wanted to show Emma that she trusted her.
“What have you been up to?”
Henry grabbed her arm, “you’ve gotta come see, mom and I have been playing that new game…”
“Homework, Henry,” Regina reminded him.
“Oh… Let me just show Emma the scores, please?”
Regina nodded, hoping to send Henry upstairs so that she could talk to Emma. She had relaxed as soon as she held Lettie in her arms. After taking a moment to look at her daughter, to reassure herself that everything was okay, Regina followed them.
Henry was chatting away to Emma, scrolling up and then down the score page, revealing the highlights for her. She allowed them five minutes before reminding him about his homework. Once he was upstairs, and she had placed Lettie down to sleep, she sought out Emma and went to find out how her evening had really gone.
The blonde smiled as she entered and pointed to the kettle that had just finished boiling, “tea, coffee, hot chocolate?”
“Hot chocolate, please.”
“The orange flavour, right?”
Regina nodded and sat at on one of the kitchen stools, surprised Emma knew. She had started drinking the sweet hot drink when she was pregnant, not wanting too much coffee in her system. The decaffeinated coffee just wasn’t the same, and until she didn’t need an early night – Lettie seemed to know when she stayed up late – real coffee after 3pm was out.
“Thanks for today,” Emma finally spoke once the two drinks were ready and she had taken a seat opposite Regina.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You didn’t make a fuss about me taking Lettie out on my own for the first time to my parents – I was expecting a list of ‘do’s and don’t’s’ at least, possibly you waiting in the car outside the apartment...”
“I trust you.”
Bundling Emma off so quickly hadn’t given her much time to think about what she was doing. If the visit had been delayed things might have been different.
“Most of all, you were there for me. You let me talk about this thing with my parents and you just listened without judging or telling me what to do.”
“You’re a grown woman, with your own mind.”
“Regina, I’m trying to thank you here.”
“You’re welcome,” Regina tried to brush off the uncomfortable feeling she had every time Emma said those two words, other than teaching Henry to say them they hadn’t been directed at her for a long time. “Now, why don’t you tell me how it went – if you want to – and then you should check your diary for the best day to go shopping. Granny said as she’s the boss she can take practically any day off, but the other waitresses want Christmas shopping days too so I can give her your list tomorrow.”
Regina kept close to Emma, afraid of being lost in the mad rush of people. Christmas decorations were up, assorted cheerful songs were blasted from every shop doorway and everyone carried at least two large bags of presents.
She had planned on the shopping taking an hour or two in Storybrooke, already having some ideas of the shop contents and the presents she wanted to buy, but somehow Emma persuaded her to leave the little town and head to Boston where the journey and larger stores would keep them away almost the whole day.
Emma seemed like a different person, more confident than when they were in Storybrooke. She knew large cities, she’d lived in this world – Regina understood that while on the surface Storybrooke appeared to fit in, really the place and its inhabitants had no idea what it meant to exist in this world – and Emma had no trouble elbowing her way through the crowds, or grabbing the best bargains off a shelf for her inspection before another shopper finished reading the price tag.
They had agreed to buy the presents together, splitting the cost of each one was the only way to avoid the awkward ‘better-present-buying-parent’ drama on Christmas morning. So far Emma had chosen ten of the fourteen presents for Henry and six of the nine presents for Lettie. Regina had also picked out presents for a handful of Storybrooke residents, surprising Emma.
“Jenny was my secretary for thirty years, it’s just habit,” she explained, “and the others I knew back in the Enchanted Forest and they’ve visited me since the curse broke. Have you thought about presents for your parents?”
“What do Snow White and Prince Charming want for Christmas?”
Regina smiled, “lumps of coal in their stockings?”
Emma shook her head, “that better be hunger talking. We should stop for lunch, I know a great place nearby…”
“I’m serious, you could use your magic to sneak into the loft and replace whatever sickly-sweet gifts they’ve gotten each other with lumps of coal. We could watch their reactions in one of my enchanted mirrors… I can’t believe I didn’t think of it during the curse years. Those skeleton keys were wasted.”
“Hmmm. Lets take the bags back to the car, so we’re not carrying them around longer than we have to. How many presents do you usually buy Henry?” Emma headed down a shortcut, leaving Regina to follow.
“It depends. Before he started liking expensive games and things I’d get clothes to fill up space under the tree and little toys – the kind you pick up with pocket-money – for his stocking. Now though, I think he understands that Santa only brings a couple of presents from his wish list and I get the rest.”
“That sounds like a lot of wrapping paper.”
“I mean, you need a lot to wrap all those presents.”
“It takes time. Usually I get bits and pieces over a couple of days or weeks, then I can wrap them while he’s at school. I don’t think we need a lot for Lettie, it’s her first Christmas but she won’t really understand it. A few presents from Santa, and a few from us and that’s it for this year.”
“Did you buy Henry a lot of presents for his first Christmas?”
Regina smiled at the memory, “I might have overdone it a little, but I soon realised he preferred looking at the paper and scrunching it up in his hands more than the presents. We’ll buy her more next year, I promise, and she already has everything she needs.”
Emma noticed when Regina began to slow as they entered another toyshop. She saw how the other woman shifted her shopping bags and remembered the leg only recently healed. Now that she was watching for it, she noticed an almost imperceptible limp in Regina’s walk.
“Why don’t I take some of those bags, I think you’ve got all the heavy ones,” Emma offered.
“It’s okay if you want to take a break. Boston’s a lot bigger than Storybrooke…”
“I am perfectly capable of going shopping wherever I like, and while I may not have indulged in this kind of marathon shopping expedition since coming to this world as Queen I stood for hours being fitted for dresses.”
“That’s not really the same thing, though is it? And your leg…”
“Whale said it is healed.”
“But you still need to be careful.”
“I am not an invalid.”
“I didn’t say you were… but it’s getting late perhaps we should think about heading back.”
“Do we have everything from Henry’s list?”
Emma unfolded the piece of paper she had tucked into her pocket, “pretty much. The rest we can get back home.”
“We’re here now. We might as well finish…”
“Regina you need to rest, I can tell your leg is hurting...”
“I’m just not used to walking this much, not since the accident anyway, I will be fine. There’s an hour and a half car ride home where I can rest.”
Regina raised an eyebrow in surprise at Emma’s defiance, “no?”
“We’re going home now. I promise to bring you back another day if there’s anything else you want, but I should have thought about your leg earlier.”
“It’s too far, we should make the most of the day…”
But Emma had already taken some bags from Regina’s hand and turned towards the shop exit. She knew the brunette would follow.
Emma took the cell phone from her jacket pocket and sent a text to Granny to let her know they were on their way back. They were going to hide the presents at her parents’ apartment, until they had time to wrap them – a last minute agreement by all parties concerned. Regina suggested it as a good way for Emma to spend time with them, dropping off new presents and picking them up in batches while Henry was at school so they could wrap them at the mansion together.
They drove back with the radio the only sound between them. Eventually, Emma suggested Regina could close her eyes, knowing how little sleep she had while looking after Lettie, but the ex-mayor refused. The rule for the radio meant they could each choose a station every thirty minutes. As it slipped past an hour into their drive home, Regina began tuning it to find something she liked.
“We could stop for dinner before we get to Storybrooke, if you like,” Emma offered, “Granny won’t mind.”
Regina looked at her watch, “I don’t remember passing anywhere…”
“Oh, nothing fancy, just a diner or café or whatever. I thought it might be a good idea, Henry’ll probably have something at Granny’s and this way there’s no tidying up when we get back.”
“I suppose, if you’re hungry and the place is…”
“Clean?” Emma teased.
“I meant, so long as it has a decent menu, as in healthy food.”
“Sure you did,” Emma grinned, “I think I saw a small town around here…”
Emma began indicating, to signal to the other drivers that they were turning off the road, slowing enough that two cars overtook them. She was beginning to turn the wheel when Regina glanced ahead and saw another car hurtling towards them travelling in the wrong lane as it attempted to overtake a slow lorry.
In her mind she screamed ‘Emma, watch out!’ but it was her magic that reacted, sending the other car back into the right lane and narrowly missing the lorry. The other driver swerved as they found their car had moved out of their control and frightened that it might happen again. Emma watched for a second in the rear view mirror as it travelled onto the hard shoulder and back again, but then they were leaving the road and the other car was out of sight.
“Did what I think happened just happen?” she asked Regina, sneaking a glance at the brunette out of the corner of her eye.
The ex-mayor was pale and speechless. Emma found a safe place to pull over and stopped the car. She was used to the death-wish speeds of drivers on the larger roads, but she realised Regina would have only travelled along them when she went to collect Henry. Storybrooke traffic went at a snails pace compared to those speeds.
They were in the car park of a small roadside diner, one of only two cars there. Emma undid her seatbelt and turned to Regina, reaching out to put a hand on her closest shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
“That was your magic, wasn’t it?”
Another nod, and a whispered: “I think so”.
“Thank you. You probably saved our lives; at the very least you saved my car. I doubt it would have survived a crash at whatever speed that idiot was doing.”
“If we had been in Storybrooke I would have insisted that you arrest them,” Regina commented, finding strength in the idea. “Maybe I would also use my magic to crush their beloved vehicle down to the size of a small tin can.”
Emma smiled, realising Regina was getting over her shock. “We should get you something to eat, take a break from the road for a while.”
Looking out of the window, Regina noticed the diner, “I suppose it will do.”
As the left the car and headed towards the bright-lit windows, Emma commented, “I haven’t seen you use magic for a while. Last time you said you were having trouble controlling it.”
“I am. For some reason I have returned to a point where it only reacts to my emotions, whether or not I wish it to.”
Emma held the door open for Regina, “is there anything I can do to help?”
“I’m confident that I can figure it out on my own.”
Shaking her head at Regina’s stubbornness, Emma looked around for a quiet place to sit. There was plenty of choice. A few patrons were seated on stools at the counter, but the booths and tables were almost completely free.
“We should sit by the window here,” Regina tapped Emma on the shoulder and pointed to a table, “so that we can keep an eye on the car.”
“No-one’s going to steal it.”
“While I agree that there are more… impressive vehicles, I am more concerned with the Christmas presents and being able to get back home.”
“Hey, that car’s a classic,” Emma grumbled as she followed Regina’s directions, “and it’s already been stolen once…twice,” first by Neal, and then by herself.
Regina smiled as she picked up the menu, choosing not to argue with Emma about it any further for now. The items were similar to those available at Granny’s, but after the long day she wanted something more substantial than her usual lunchtime order of a salad.
“What are you going to have?” she asked Emma, praying that the blonde would suggest something other than a greasy burger.
“Mac n cheese,” Emma grinned, “can’t really go wrong with that in a place like this. That’s always the first thing I try in a new place, especially when you can’t check out other people’s meals first. You should have something other than a salad, keep your strength up.”
“You don’t have to treat me like child,” Regina snapped. “I am an adult and I can choose my own meals.”
Emma stared at her in surprise, “I didn’t mean…”
“I know, and I apologise,” Regina quickly interrupted her. “I overreacted. It’s just that too many people in my life have told me what to do, and…”
“It’s only because I care…” Emma began, frowning as she realised it was true and that Regina looked sceptical.
Before she could expand on that, a waitress came to stand by their table with a pen and notepad ready. She was very different to those who served in Granny’s diner, Regina noticed. Her uniform had dried food stains and a tear at the bottom of the skirt, she looked tired and the corners of her mouth were turned down as though she resented having to travel over to take their order.
“Mac n cheese and hot coffee,” Emma ordered. “Can I get some bacon on the side, too?”
The waitress nodded, not making eye contact as she scribbled it down. As her pen hovered over the paper, Regina realised she was waiting for her order.
“I’ll have the macaroni and cheese too. No bacon, but if you have any vegetables that would be great. With a glass of apple juice, thank you.”
Emma looked at Regina, who nodded, “yes.”
The waitress wandered towards the kitchen, telling the woman behind the counter their drinks order. Emma smiled.
“Mac n cheese? Are you sure?”
“No, but I can always eat the vegetables.”
“Unless they’re cold and overcooked.”
A different waitress brought over their drinks, placing them in front of Regina as though she had forgotten which was which.
Regina lifted them both, passing the coffee to Emma, “tell the truth, should we have gone elsewhere?”
“Nah, this place is good. It’ll be easy to get back on the main road to go home.”
“That fills me with confidence,” Regina joked, making Emma’s smile widen into a grin and they both took a sip of their drinks, feeling thirsty.
“You’re probably the most confident person I’ve ever met,” Emma admitted, “nothing seems to stop you once you set your mind to it.”
“Is that your way of telling me you think I’m stubborn?”
“Hey, it’s a fault I share too. The stubbornness, not the confidence thing.”
“Part of the royal training is accepting that you are better than everyone else, that everything you do is right and that anyone who doesn’t agree is wrong. Take your mother for example, she refused to give up the fight for her kingdom and the crown even though I had magic.”
“I was thinking about the way you walk into a room, knowing that people used to fear you, and refusing to let their words bother you.”
“Is that what you think?”
“I’ve seen you. At the diner, in the town… unless you’re with Henry, then you’re in defensive-mom-mode which is slightly different.”
“Usually if you’re alone you act all cool and aloof, but if Henry’s around you’re trying to show your soft side for him and glaring blazing daggers at anyone who whispers behind your back.”
Regina looked amused, “blazing daggers?”
“Or imaginary fireballs. Take your pick.”
“You have different sides yourself.”
“Yeah?” Emma was pleased that Regina didn’t seem offended, for some reason the words were just coming out of her mouth before she could filter them today.
“You seem most relaxed around Henry, more like the real you I imagine you to be, ready to laugh with him and at the same time unconsciously parenting him as well.”
“I’m not finished, but I will explain if you wish. I mean that you want to take care of him, and now Lettie, but you don’t have to think about it first. You act on instinct, doing or saying what is needed in the moment. Sometimes I wonder if you see it for yourself, or whether you try to brush it away in the same manner you do when you spend time with your parents. That brings me to the other side of the Emma coin. The daughter. You still don’t feel comfortable around them, at least not when they try to act like your parents. You could handle them as friends, putting them to one side emotionally when you’d had enough because there was nothing tying them to you, but now you know that you’re biologically linked it’s different. They’ve shown that they want to be in your life, and now that you’ve met them you’ll always know that you have parents who love you. So while you’re waiting for them to disappoint you, you’re being careful how much of yourself you show them.”
As she finished, Emma stood up and walked towards the back of the diner, heading into the restroom. Regina sat in silence. She wasn’t sure where all of that had come from. She had only meant to comment on the ways Emma was a good parent. The rest had been a surprise.
She took another drink of the apple juice, then frowned. When she took the first sip, there had been something a little off in the taste, which she assumed was due to the inferior apples because they hadn’t come from her tree. Now that she was alone and able to concentrate on it, she was a bit more suspicious.
Focusing her magic on the drink, she probed the contents and was surprised to find traces of magic. Her magic. After looking around to ensure no-one was watching, she waved a hand over her glass. Biting back bad language when nothing happened, Regina tried again. This time the enchantment revealed itself: a simple truth spell. Pulling Emma’s cup towards her, she repeated the process with the blonde’s coffee, getting the same result.
Knowing she had to tell Emma, and apologise, Regina headed to the restroom. There were two cubicles; only one indicating it was locked. She knocked on the door and took a step back.
“Emma I didn’t mean to say all of that.”
Silence stared back at her. The grey metal of the door scratched with random initials of past visitors and mis-spelt words. Regina was glad no-one dared to vandalise the ones at Granny’s diner. She would have hated Henry growing up thinking it was okay to add his name on other people’s property.
“Please talk to me. I’m sorry.”
The metal lock scraped back and Emma opened the door, staring out at Regina with eyes bloodshot from crying, “don’t you think I’m trying?”
“I…?” Regina looked confused.
“It’s not easy finding your parents after you’ve given up on ever knowing them. The other kids used to tell me I was just an orphan, and that if I wasn’t – if my parents were still alive – they’d left me because they didn’t want me. I’ve spent all these years believing that was true, finding out time and again that allowing myself to get close to someone leads to nothing but heartache.”
Emma pushed past Regina, turning the cold tap on the sink and splashing water on her face. Regina reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, not sure how Emma expected to dry her face with only electric hand dryers available.
“It’s clean, ” she assured Emma.
“Each time I was made to feel like it was my fault,” Emma continued, before dabbing at her face and passing the handkerchief back, “thank you. I know I’m not the daughter they wanted, but I’m trying to be.”
“You shouldn’t have to change who you are to suit other people’s wants. Emma, your parents are naïve idiots who are happy just looking at a rainbow. Of course they wanted to raise you, and they had dreams about what that would be like, but really all they care about is finding you now and spending time with you. They understand it’s going to take time, but they’re willing to wait until you’re ready to see that too.” Regina sighed, “this is all my fault.”
“No it’s mine.”
“No, my magic… somehow it slipped out again, it put a spell on our drinks to make us tell the truth. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I drank the most and it made me say things I didn’t intend to.”
“It was still the truth.”
“Only from my point of view, and what do I know? I cursed Archie with the psych. qualifications.”
Emma smiled, “then I guess you’re very perceptive.”
“There was something I wanted to say to you, and the magic is still in my system so you’ll know it’s the truth.”
“I was going to praise you, before you finish that joke. You are a great mother, to both of our children. I think you deserve to hear that.”
“Now, our dinner is probably getting cold and royalty do not hang around in restrooms so we should go back out there.”
“Okay. Promise me something first?”
“What is it?”
“That thing you said I do, about hiding my real self from my family?”
“Promise you won’t do that with me. I know you don’t with the children, but I’m kinda part of your family now – I am their other mother and we’re all living together…”
“If you’ll try and do the same for me.”
Emma just nodded.
Christmas was advancing on Storybrooke. Snow covered the ground, barely an inch thick, but enough for Regina to worry about venturing outside with Lettie. The forecast predicted another flurry by nightfall and as the local weatherman was magically-attuned to such things Regina believed him.
Emma had brought some Christmas decorations and the mansion looked even more festive than ever. When Regina saw the new additions she bit her tongue. There was enough new tinsel to fill Emma’s car.
“I’ve ordered the food and there’s plenty of apple cider for those brave enough to try some. Do you have any preferences for alcohol on Christmas day?” she asked Emma as they ate breakfast.
“No, whatever you’re drinking is fine with me.”
“What about the others? Are you still okay if we invite Granny and Ruby?”
“Sure,” Emma agreed.
Regina had suggested inviting their friends for lunch on Christmas day. She knew Emma would want to invite her parents, whether or not they would accept had yet to be established, so in the hope of speeding things along Regina had asked whether Emma wanted to invite anyone else. All it took was a small hint that Granny and Ruby would be alone for Emma to agree. Maybe it was the idea of back-up in case Snow and Charming attended.
“Don’t forget to invite your parents too.”
“Anyone else? I think Granny’s still dating Marco. Not sure about Ruby.”
“Invite your parents first, then Granny and Ruby. Marco is fine, but we’ll need more chairs if they’ll be any more people.”
When the meal was over, Emma went to check on Lettie while Regina cleared the table. Emma called out to hurry Henry along; she would drop him at the bus stop on her way to the station.
“Have a good day,” Regina stood at the door to the mansion and waved them to Emma’s car.
“I’ll be back this afternoon to help look after Lettie,” Emma reminded her.
The new schedule she had agreed with her father was going well. If only she could convince Regina to let her take Lettie out for a walk this afternoon. Maybe they could show her the large Christmas tree now lit up in the centre of town.
It wasn’t the town, but it was still outside. Emma smiled as she sat in the garden with Lettie and pushed the stroller over the recently cleared grass. Regina had insisted she remove the snow from the ground first, and wrap their daughter in the warmest outfit she could find, before going outside. Emma knew Regina would be waiting for them to re-enter the house, where she could hover over Lettie and check that she hadn’t become cold. To reassure herself of the same, Emma slipped one hand from its glove and stroked it against the baby’s face. Still warm.
On the one hand she liked that Henry and Lettie had that, a parent who cared about them more than any foster family had cared about her. On the other hand, she worried that Regina was too overprotective sometimes. Getting fresh air was important. Having that conversation would probably lead to a fight, and she didn’t like fighting with Regina.
She took Lettie for one more turn about the garden; then headed inside. With luck, Regina would allow them to do the same tomorrow. Unless it was snowing: she didn’t hold out any hope for taking her out in the snow.
Regina sat at the kitchen counter, sipping from a steaming mug. She didn’t stand when Emma manoeuvred the stroller through the door, though her eyes followed every movement. Emma failed to hide her surprise.
“I’ve made you a coffee,” Regina nodded to a second mug on the counter.
Emma removed her hat, coat, gloves and scarf before extricating Lettie from her various layers. She carried the baby over to the counter and waited for Regina to offer to take her. The brunette smiled at her.
“We agreed, it’s your afternoon to take care of her. Unless I’m worried about something, she’s all yours.”
“O-kaaay,” Emma slowed the word to show her confusion, then descended onto a stool with Lettie still in her arms.
They finished their drinks in silence.
Henry had wanted to go to the stables and show off his riding skills as soon as he returned from school, but with the bad weather neither of his mom’s thought it safe enough. Instead they agreed to take him to see his horse – and continue his duties regarding care of the animal. He was excited to point out the steed to his baby sister, explaining everything to her as he worked mucking out the stall and brushing the horse.
Emma was content to watch from a safe distance, while Regina pitched in and went to look after some of the other animals. They were a little over an hour at the stables, before Regina agreed it was time to leave. She took Henry to wash up in the special area set aside while Emma waited with Lettie.
“You know, I think I’ll get my Christmas wish this year,” he confided as the soap bubbled over his palms.
“What did you wish for?”
Henry laughed, “that’s not how wishes work, mom. I can’t tell you.”
“Well is there anything I can do to help speed things along?”
They rinsed their hands under the taps and Regina smiled as she followed him back to Emma and Lettie. It was just like old times, having Henry back in her life and joking with her.
“You guys ready to go?” Emma asked.
“Yep, can we stop for hot chocolate on the way back? Pretty please?”
The blonde looked to Regina for permission, but the brunette just shrugged and smiled leaving the decision to her.
“Why don’t I make us some when we get home?” Emma suggested.
“We’re out remember, you drank the last of it yesterday,” Henry reminded her.
“I’ll stop at the store,” Emma yawned, “it’s been a long day, kid.”
“If you sulk we go straight home without stopping,” Emma warned him.
Immediately Henry’s face lost the grumpy look, “sorry mom.”
Emma turned her head slightly and winked at Regina, “so do we need any other groceries or just the hot chocolate?”
It was finally Christmas Eve. Emma, Regina and Henry were all enjoying hot chocolates at the diner, while Granny fed Lettie – having warmed her bottle of milk in the kitchen. They were meeting the Charming’s for a little pre-Christmas celebration. Emma’s parents had accepted their daughter’s invitation for Christmas lunch, and as Emma still seemed a little nervous about it Granny had suggested to Regina – during one of their chats – that they just needed to spend a little more time together. The offer of the diner as neutral ground was supposed to put everyone at ease and with Granny there in the background, to monitor the situation, Regina was feeling confident.
Ruby greeted Snow when they arrived, and the newcomers joined them at the table. The diner had been officially closed as of 5.30 that afternoon, so there were no gawkers at the other tables. When she returned with hot chocolate for Snow and Charming, Ruby coaxed Henry away from the grownups with hints that there were leftover holiday cookies in the kitchen, leaving the four adults to talk privately.
“Ruby says there’s something magical about the hot chocolate at this time of year,” Regina tried to end the silence.
“That’s just sales hype to get more people to buy it,” Emma joked.
Charming smiled, and Snow relaxed. They made small talk, swapped gossip about the towns festivities, none of them venturing into serious subjects. Ruby managed to distract Henry for nearly an hour, getting him to assist Granny with Lettie’s diaper change by insisting that her enhanced werewolf sense of smell made the task much worse for her. By the time he went to join his family, most of the earlier tension had gone.
They walked home afterwards, Lettie wrapped up warm against the cold, reminding Henry that he still had to go to bed at the normal time. Emma went to settle Lettie in her room while Regina prepared everything in the kitchen ready for Christmas day, with Henry’s help. When Emma came down, they put on a Christmas movie and Regina made a small bowl of popcorn for them to share. It ran over Henry’s bedtime, by half an hour, but although Regina noticed she didn’t say anything.
As soon as he went to his room, Emma moved to fill the gap he had vacated and offered Regina the last of the popcorn from the bowl in her lap.
“Want to watch another movie?” Emma asked.
Regina ignored the bowl and shrugged. She wasn’t tired yet, but tomorrow required an early start... also they needed to wait for Henry to fall asleep before bringing his Christmas presents down.
“I know, there’s an old animated one I used to love as a kid, under an hour long,” Emma told her. “I was going to wait to show it to Henry tomorrow, but…”
“Very well,” Regina agreed, frowning as Emma placed the bowl in her lap while she went to set up the new film.
The second Emma returned, Regina passed back the popcorn and tried to ignore the way Emma grabbed a handful of the stuff before putting it in her mouth. With the contents empty just a few seconds into the opening of the film, Emma put the bowl on the table in front of them and relaxed into the comfortable cushions beside her. When she checked on Regina during the film, she saw the mayor was smiling which pleased her. She reached for the soft blanket folded on the armchair next to them, laying it over her lap and offering half to Regina who accepted.
Regina found the music very soothing, she hadn’t realised how late it was getting. She told herself that she was just going to close her eyes for a moment, to give them a rest. The film must be nearly over, and she could hear it well enough to discuss it with Emma if the blonde so desired.
As it neared the credits, Emma dared a final peek at Regina. The mayor’s head had come to rest on her shoulder a little while before, which had surprised her. She was a little pleased Regina felt comfortable enough for the slight contact though and hadn’t said anything. Craning her neck around, Emma smiled as she realised Regina was asleep. Rather than try to wake her, Emma switched off the film and pulled the blanket up around Regina’s neck to keep her warm.
It was nearly midnight when Regina woke. They’d switched the lights off when watching the first film with Henry, but the Christmas tree lights were on and there was another light on in the hallway - Emma had been unwilling to get up in case she woke Regina. Emma felt the mayor stir and reached down to brush away a strand of hair that had moved close to Regina’s eye, mere seconds before she opened them.
“I’m so sorry, I can’t believe I fell asleep,” Regina apologised, lifting her head from Emma’s shoulder.
“That’s okay,” Emma reassured her, “Lettie hasn’t woken yet – it must be a Christmas miracle.”
Regina smiled and yawned, stretching out her legs. She looked at her watch; it was nearly Christmas morning.
“Time to get the Christmas presents down before we forget,” she advised, removing the blanket.
“Where did you hide them in the end?” Emma asked, folding it up and then checking the popcorn bowl just in case a few more pieces had magically appeared.
“You didn’t find them?”
“Henry and I looked, but…”
She had only collected them from Snow and Charming’s apartment the day before, when Emma and Henry had been out, but apparently that was enough time for two curious people to being searching. It was good to know that Emma hadn’t found her present though.
“Maybe I should leave you to tidy up in here while I get them. I might need the same hiding place next year.”
“Nah, you shouldn’t try carrying them all. I’ll help.”
Regina nodded and Emma followed her out of the room. Perhaps by next year she’d be able to use her magic to hide them.
It didn’t take them long to lay the presents out under the tree. Regina had wanted to organise them so each person had their own pile of presents, but Emma dismissed the idea as ‘anti-Christmassy’ and mixed them up at random. They were sitting on the floor, positioning the last gifts, when Emma looked over at Regina and noticed how close they were to one another as they both reached towards the same present.
“You know, we never talk about what happened between us. The night we made Lettie…”
The lights on the Christmas tree flickered and Regina’s hand fell away, “I know.”
“And your magic is still unstable, it reacts to your emotions so that must mean…”
“I’m sorry. I should have more control of it by now, I guess the effects of the pregnancy are still there and…”
“I don’t mean to push you, but…”
“Regina, you once told me that hiding emotions can affect magic and I just wondered how you felt about it.”
“I would never want to change having Lettie.”
“Me either, but we’ve avoided this conversation and this is the first time we’re really alone without the chance of anyone interrupting.”
“Henry could wake, or Lettie.”
“I went to see Archie yesterday. I intended to talk about the recent problems with my parents, but somehow it came back to this… us, and what happened.”
Regina was silent.
“I guess we’ve been so busy taking care of Lettie and Henry, working and Christmas stuff, plus the memory loss thing, that I haven’t sat down to think about it. Except those few seconds before we told Henry about Lettie.”
Regina thought back, “I believe I explained it was the alcohol.”
“And I didn’t buy it. You weren’t drunk.”
“My other theory was that the fairies used magic.”
“As far as I know we’re the only two to have had a baby nine months later. The only other couple I saw paired up that night were Granny and Marco and there’s no way I’m asking either of them if something happened.”
Regina smiled, “me neither.”
“So we’re back to the questions: if it wasn’t alcohol, and it wasn’t magic, what happened? Why did you invite me home with you?”
Regina considered brushing it off as ‘loneliness’, which might hurt Emma’s feelings, but she didn’t have another answer that would satisfy the blonde’s curiosity.
The hallway clock struck midnight. It was officially Christmas.
“Happy Christmas, Regina.”
“Happy Christmas,” she replied automatically.
Emma stood up and held out a hand to help Regina. The gesture was accepted after a moments pause and as they stood in front of each other there was an awkward silence.
“We agreed…” Regina began, looking away first.
“I know, Henry’s Christmas wish,” Emma released Regina’s hand.
They departed the room in silence, Regina stopping to switch off the lights and close the door. Henry knew to wait for her to wake before heading down to look at the presents; she always liked to see his face when he opened the door. Today would be Lettie’s first Christmas. That thought reminded her of Henry’s and with her mind firmly on her children and their happiness she went to bed. It was Christmas day; nothing was allowed to go wrong.
Regina yawned as she moved around the kitchen, getting breakfast ready for her family. Emma was in the other room with the children, who had been allowed to open one present with which to play while she brewed two strong cups of coffee and prepared three bowls of cereal. They always ate so much during the rest of the day, and Henry was always so eager to get on with opening his presents, that she had intended to make boiled eggs and toast but Henry had asked for cereal when she suggested it and Emma asked for the same… At least Lettie couldn’t request a change in her breakfast.
Emma came into the kitchen when she heard the kettle boiling, and offered to take the cereal bowls. When she saw how tired Regina looked, she changed her mind.
“Why don’t you go back upstairs for another hour or two. I’ll watch the kids and put everything into the oven.”
“I can’t, it’s Christmas… I want to watch the children open their presents.”
“Henry can wait a while longer, I encouraged him to open a new video game and I can play it with him while Lettie watches us.”
“But the dinner…”
“You’ve already prepared it. Just remind me about the temperatures and timings.”
“You’ll enjoy the day more if you’re not tired, and we were up late sorting the presents.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. I’ll grab a pen and paper…”
“Use this,” Regina opened a drawer and pulled out a thick black book. “It’s my recipe book. I’ll leave it open on the right page. Heat the oven first, then put in the meat. It doesn’t need to go in for another half hour, but I’ll set you a timer just in case. Promise you’ll wake me in an hour?”
“Take two. I can manage both kids ‘til then.”
Henry had woken up later than usual, which she was grateful for, but that meant they had even less time before their guests would arrive. As usual on Christmas morning, they were all in their nightwear with slippers and dressing gowns to keep them warm. She wondered whether to suggest that Henry and Emma get dressed. They had brought Lettie a special first-Christmas outfit, which was wrapped up under the tree.
Emma smiled and shook her head, “fine, one hour.”
Regina quickly made Emma’s coffee, leaving her mug empty on the side, “thank you.”
In truth, Emma was a little too busy watching the two children and checking on the food to remember to wake Regina after an hour. It was nearly two hours later when Regina woke on her own and saw the time. She had an hour before everyone would start arriving. That wasn’t enough time to get through all of the presents, tidy up all the ripped wrapping paper and get them all dressed. Muttering curses about the blonde’s ability to follow simple requests, Regina ran a brush through her hair and quickly changed into a pair of jeans and casual jumper – red, suitable for the holiday.
She headed downstairs and went straight to the kitchen first, crossing her fingers that everything was on schedule. Regina let out a slow breath in relief when she saw everything cooking nicely. Emma had even set a timer, as per the recipe book. Seeing it was about to go off, Regina turned it forward thirty minutes and put the two trays of roast potatoes in the oven.
Emma and Henry didn’t notice her come into the room, too busy playing Henry’s new game. Lettie, her back to the television screen, saw her though and smiled, her hands reaching out. Regina picked her up and gave her a hug, just as Emma and Henry realised she was there.
“Presents!” Henry crowed, pausing the game and putting the controller on the ground.
“Then you have to go and get dressed, your grandparents and our other guests will be here in an hour.”
Emma looked up at the clock on the wall, “sorry, I meant to wake you but I just lost track of the time…”
“We totally crashed through the first four levels,” Henry boasted, “you should have seen us.”
“Everything’s on track in the kitchen, I set the timer and it’ll go off any minute.”
Regina smiled at Emma, “I saw, thank you.”
They gathered around the tree and Henry passed them each a present before selecting one for himself. Emma dressed Lettie as soon as they reached her Christmas outfit, and then Henry insisted on taking a picture while Regina held her. Emma had brought them all Christmas jumpers and Regina was surprised to find that she didn’t hate hers. Regina had brought Emma a locket with photos of Lettie and Henry inside. Henry gave them his usual school-made presents; Emma was impressed with his jam jar Christmas scene, and with his pocket money had brought them a Christmas scarf each and a toy for Lettie.
With only fifteen minutes until their guests were due to arrive, Regina suggested they get dressed and save the rest to open with the others. Grabbing armfuls of the abandoned wrapping paper, she tidied the room before going to change into her Christmas jumper.
Regina hovered on the upper landing, holding a freshly-changed Lettie in her arms. She could hear Christmas music playing – from a multi-disc CD Snow had brought with her – and the sounds of laughter and conversation. For the first time since coming to this world, her house was full for the winter holiday and it reminded her of less-happy times and other crowded parties.
Then Emma appeared at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at her, breaking the spell of melancholy and allowing Regina to begin her descent.
“Mom got worried, I know she’s monopolising Lettie but…”
“It’s fine. Why don’t you take her for a while, I should check on the food,” Regina passed Lettie over.
“Is everything all right? Up there, you looked a little… I don’t know?”
“I’m just not used to all these people for Christmas. It was just Henry and myself for a decade, before that I didn’t really celebrate…”
“I understand. I’ve been alone a Christmas before, even when I was in some of the foster homes there wasn’t the same sort of Christmas spirit they have,” she indicated the room where the others were gathered.
Regina smiled, “I think your mother has her own special category of holiday ‘spirit’. As a child she had more enthusiasm than anyone else I knew, and even when she was a teenager...” she broke off, realising that she was about to share memories of her then enemy. “I’ll be in the kitchen if anyone needs anything.”
Emma watched her go; wishing Regina didn’t feel so awkward around her. Lettie grabbed at her jumper, tiny fingers entangling themselves in blonde curls and Emma patiently reclaimed her hair a few strands at a time, distracting her daughter with compliments.
As the track changed on Snow’s CD, Emma closed her eyes. Today was just as hard for her as it was for Regina, worse because everyone was expecting her to be part of the family and fit in with their celebrations.
“Perhaps we should go with mama to hide out for a bit?” she asked Lettie, taking her daughters smile for an agreement.
Emma followed Regina to the kitchen, pushing the door open and closing it behind her.
“Lettie wants to help,” Emma explained when Regina turned to see who was there.
“You should be in there, with your family.”
“There must be something I can do.”
Regina wanted to tell her to take Lettie to Snow before she came to the kitchen looking for her, instead she shook her head, “sorry.”
Emma placed Lettie in her seat and walked around to Regina. The workspace in front of her was empty.
“Looks like you have some time to come and join us.”
“This time my organisational skills proved to be a curse,” Regina admitted with a smile, “I’ve run out of excuses to stay here – at least until the next timer sounds.”
“I’ll go in there if you will,” Emma smiled back and placed a hand on the countertop, leaning onto the surface.
The silver ladle resting nearby shook and Regina took a step away, “I don’t think I should. My magic…”
“Only gets out of control around me.”
As if to prove a point, a few utensils hanging behind Regina fell off their hooks. She ignored them, keeping her eyes on Emma. The blonde hadn’t moved.
“I’m sure that if you spoke to Archie he could help.”
Regina shook her head, “he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t have magic.”
“Maybe it’s not the magic that’s the problem. You told me magic works from your emotions, what if its really something else causing this? He could help.”
“I’ve tried. I went to see Archie and…”
“And?” Emma prompted after Regina failed to finish her sentence.
“He told me he couldn’t help.”
His actual words had been along the lines of “you’re still hiding and I can’t help until you open up” just because there were things she didn’t want to talk to him about.
Regina frowned when she saw Emma’s sceptical look, “what?”
“I just didn’t think he would give up so easily.”
“Despite what everyone in this town thinks, the man is a cricket and not a real psychiatrist.”
“Well, you could always talk to me. I’ve got magic too, and…”
“The only things you know about magic I taught you, and even that has been a struggle.”
“I care about you Regina, and I wouldn’t give up on you. If you want my help, you’ve got it.”
Regina shook her head again, “everything will be fine. I just need a little more time to get it under control. Until then, you should keep your distance.”
“Is that really what you want?” Emma took a step forward and had to duck as one of the serving spoons shot across the room.
“I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Please, just return to the other room.”
“I’m not scared, Regina.”
Her heart was beating too quickly, she felt short of breath. Her hands trembled as she raised them in front of her, to stop Emma getting any closer.
“Emma…” Regina winced as the light above them flicked and went out, “remember Henry’s Christmas wish.”
The blonde stopped then, and sighed. She shook her head in defeat and stepped away from Regina. Perhaps she was right, this wasn’t the best day to confront Regina’s problem.
“I’m sorry,” she apologised, before picking up Lettie and taking her into the other room.
The meal was uneventful. Granny proposed a toast, Regina and Emma were encouraged to say a few words as the hosts and Snow gave a speech about family which was only kept short by Lettie’s hungry cries. Archie had to put Pongo in a different room to stop everyone giving in to his begging eyes and feeding him some of their dinner.
After Emma fed Lettie, they went to open more presents – to and from their guests, which had been Snow’s idea because she wanted to see Henry and Emma opening them. Regina was finally allowed to hold her daughter while Snow opened her piles of gifts, and Henry offered to help unwrap Regina’s for her.
“I left your mothers present upstairs,” Regina went to hand Lettie to Emma, “I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll go, you cooked all that food and did so much running around today…”
Regina could feel the others watching them and gave in, quickly explaining where she had left the present in her room. When a few minutes passed and Emma didn’t return, Regina assumed she was having trouble finding the present and rather than have the blonde rifle through more of her things than necessary she passed Lettie to Snow and went upstairs.
She found Emma sitting on her bed, her back to the door, “are you all right?”
Emma turned around at Regina’s voice and stood up. She was holding something in her hands, and when Regina saw it she didn’t know what to say.
“You kept it?” Emma held the paper heart in both hands, looking down at it in surprise while Snow’s present lay forgotten on the side.
It was the paper heart Emma had given her at the Storybrooke Date Night, a little over ten months ago. Emma smiled at her and Regina wanted to tell her that whatever she was thinking, she was wrong and it didn’t mean anything.
“Talk to me Regina.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“The truth would be good.”
“The truth is… we have a room full of people downstairs wondering why it’s taking so long to find one little present.”
“You know what I mean. This,” Emma waved the heart at her.
“When you gave it to me you said it was so I would know that someone was thinking about me. Having your help, your friendship I suppose, it reminds me that I’m not alone.”
“We are friends, Regina.”
Regina smiled, “I suppose we are.”
It was Christmas. Emma decided to take a bold step. She could always blame it on the eggnog – after all Regina blamed their night together on alcohol.
“Do you ever think we could be more than friends?”
Regina bit her bottom lip. Emma took that for a yes, and moved closer.
“Just because I thought about it, doesn’t mean anything should happen.”
“What if we both want it to?”
Emma let the heart drop onto the bed behind her. She reached out for Regina, smiling when the other woman returned the gesture and took her hand.
“Are you sure about this?” Regina whispered.
“Yes,” Emma leaned in, closing her eyes to kiss her.
There was a pause, but then soft, warm lips met hers in a light, chaste kiss. Regina pulled back, opening her eyes to check Emma’s reaction. She was relieved to find the blonde still smiling. Neither spoke, not wanting to break the lingering happiness.
The sound of loud footsteps running up the stairs broke the spell. Regina moved to the door to meet Henry and reassure him that everything was okay.
“I just forgot that I moved the present,” she lied to him.
Emma had grabbed the present and now it was in her hands, the red heart out of sight, “got it”.
When Henry raced back to the stairs, Regina called out and reminded him to walk down. He went with an exaggerated slowness that allowed his mothers to catch up. Emma ruffled his hair, a silly grin on her face. When she caught Regina’s eyes, the ex-Queen blushed.
Regina and Emma tucked Henry into bed together that night. Lettie was already asleep and it took two of them to make sure he hadn’t snuck a torch under his pillow and that the book he wanted to read was on the other side of the room.
“Did you have a good day?” Emma asked.
“Yeah, thanks mom’s. It’s nice being part of a big family isn’t it? Even when friends come around, like Ruby and Granny, the house just feels full and... happy.”
“I’m not sure I could put up with the mess every day,” Regina told him, “but yes, I know what you mean.”
“Did you get everything you asked for?”
“I think so. Even my secret wish.”
“Oh? I thought we’d explained the dangers of wishing,” Regina reminded him.
“This was a Chistmas wish, and I sent it to Santa so those rules don’t apply.”
“So you still believe in him?” Emma asked, remembering their conversation.
“Time to go to sleep,” Emma kissed the cheek closest to her, smiling when Regina kissed the other one.
They closed his bedroom door quietly and went downstairs. The two of them were finally alone together, for the first time since their kiss. Regina indicated the last half-empty bottle of wine and Emma nodded.
While Regina poured the wine into two glasses, Emma sat down, “I’m glad the kid got his wish. One day as a family with everyone just happy and no fighting.”
“Only because you read his letter, and I wish you’d stop calling him that. He has a name and it is Henry.”
Emma looked up surprised, but she could see the way Regina’s hand holding the bottle trembled and realised she was just nervous. She didn’t speak again until Regina passed her the glass and went to move away.
Reaching out, she placed a hand on Regina’s arm, “sit here, please.”
“I’m sorry,” Regina apologised as she sat down. “I’ve just been thinking about Henry’s wish – do you really think we fight so often that it’s upsetting him?”
“No! He’s probably picked up on the tension between me and Snow and David. We’ve been getting on great, haven’t we?”
Regina nodded, taking a sip of wine. She had been worried about spending the day with Emma’s parents but having a crowd meant there wasn’t time for awkwardness. It had been her idea to invite Granny and Ruby, and Emma had suggested inviting Marco because she’d seen him at the beach with Granny, then when they’d told Henry he’d reminded them that Archie would be alone – and also hinted that as both Ruby and Archie were single they’d have someone to talk to.
“So… it’s your turn make the first move,” Emma told her, placing her glass on the coffee table.
“I gave you the heart at the fairies date night thing.”
“True, but I invited you into my car and you accepted.”
“So we’re agreed that we both made our own move for this before, so why are you hesitating now?”
“Because I wasn’t thinking.”
Emma recoiled, hurt by the words. Regina shook her head and placed a hand over Emma’s before the blonde could move away.
“I just mean… I spend so much time acting with my head, but that night I didn’t. I wanted to invite you home and I did it. Now, my head is back in charge and I’m worrying over every little thing - what would your parents think? I don’t want my heart to get broken if it doesn’t work out. What if we have a big fight and you move out and all this goes away? I like having you and Henry living here. My magic still gets out of control, what if I hurt you? I’d be labelled as the Evil Queen again and then I’d lose everything…”
“Woah, slow down. No wonder you’re freaking out. How do you hold all of that inside? I’d have a headache if I worried that much.”
Regina smiled, “actually most of the time I’m around you those worries just fade away. You make me feel happy and relaxed. It’s just when I start to think about us as more than friends…”
“Would it help to talk about it, before we go any further with this I mean?”
“No, I want to be that Regina from Valentine’s Day. I might just need a little help sometimes.”
“I think I can do that,” Emma cupped one hand under Regina’s chin and kissed her.
Regina had never sat in Granny’s private rooms at the B&B, but as she was dropping Lettie off to be babysat and had some time to spare she had accepted the offer of coffee. The armchair was a little large, but so comfy and the crocheted cover very pretty.
“Daniel was right. I needed to find more people to love. I can trust Emma not to mess with my head, she doesn’t play games with my emotions or try to change me.” Regina confided as she waited for the coffee to cool. “I even think I’m gaining control of my magic at last. Just the other day it worked to help Emma, and it felt nice.”
“I’m glad,” Granny rocked Lettie in her arms, smiling at Regina as she realised how much the younger woman had changed since the curse. “So what do you have planned today?”
“Another date with Emma. Lunch and some quiet time alone, just the two of us. She used to spend this day thinking it was her birthday, but Snow is insisting on throwing a party on the 14th so I wanted to do something special for her today.”
They spoke for a little while longer, Regina checking the clock on the wall until it was time to go. She kissed Lettie and thanked Granny, who told her not to worry about what time she returned – just to enjoy her date.
It was raining when she left the B&B. Emma met her halfway to their destination and ducked under Regina’s giant umbrella as she left the station.
“We could take the bug if you want?” Emma offered.
She’d been telling Regina and Henry just that morning about her lessons with Neal as they ate breakfast together. Sharing memories of his father was important for him. She hadn’t meant for it to slip out that the car had been stolen at the time, though she reassured them that Neal had sorted that out and it was legally hers now. Regina had jokingly asked whether she’d ever had real lessons, or whether her licence was valid. Emma admitted that she’d passed the state-required test but Neal’s lessons were the only ones she could afford at the time and other than a second-hand copy of a guidebook for the test she hadn’t needed anything more.
“Let’s walk. It’s nice not worrying about the other residents driving – most of them have curse-given licences.”
Emma laughed, “that’s why I like you Regina. You just tell the truth and don’t set off my lie detector every five minutes. As Sheriff, it’s a refreshing change to my day.”
“I hope that’s not the only reason you like me, Sheriff?”
The way Emma kissed her just then reassured her that it wasn’t.
Henry was about to break up for the summer holidays and Emma couldn’t wait. She knew Regina wanted to plan a big holiday away for just the four of them, but until they found someone to help back-up David that was on hold. Snow had planned some outdoor activities, kind of like a summer camp except that without cabins the children would return home at the end of the day. She had confided to Emma that she enjoyed teaching so much and the holidays were so long that she would miss it. She had also been hinting that there was still a place if Henry wanted it.
Entering the diner, Emma didn’t realise at first that it was empty. Ruby was still setting up the menus on the tables, having only just unlocked the front door, but she smiled when she saw Emma.
“Early shift again?”
“Yeah, getting in some favour points with dad and saving up some extra hours for the holidays. Henry keeps trying to talk Regina into taking us to Disneyland, but I don’t think he’s winning.”
Ruby smiled as she checked the coffee maker, “I wonder why.”
“How’re things going with you?”
“Same as usual.”
Emma was surprised at the sad tone, “want to talk about it?”
Ruby shrugged, “not much to say.”
“Did you have a fight with Granny?”
“Is it your job? We could use more help at the station.”
“It’s just… I enjoy working here, but sometimes I wonder… should I want more? I mean, I look at people with these big fancy jobs and part of me knows they’ve got plenty of money and they’re following theirs dreams, their lives seem perfect – but I can’t imagine having to sit at a desk all day, or only speak to someone if they’re on the other end of a telephone. Here I can go from pouring coffee, to cooking, or just stop to have a chat with friends when they come in. Even covering at the B&B is relaxed.”
“Then what’s the problem? If you’ve got a job where you’re happy, you’re lucky. It took me a long time to find this role, and if you’d asked me what I wanted to do even five years ago this wouldn’t have been anywhere on the list, but it feels right. Part of me wishes I had Snow’s job so I could have the holidays off with Henry, but that’s the only part of that job I’d like.”
“But you’ve got everything figured out. You’re with Regina and you’re building a life together…”
“Is that what you’re worried about? Being single? I thought you and Archie were…”
Ruby dropped eye contact, “we’re just friends.”
“I’m pretty sure I saw the two of you kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas.”
“I think he just felt sorry for me, after Granny and Marco had kissed under it and then Snow and David…”
“And at Snow’s New Year’s Eve party?”
“He just happened to be standing next to me at midnight.”
Emma shook her head, “Ruby he’d been making his way over to you since he arrived. It was just that everyone else kept talking to him so it took a while and there wasn’t time for him to say much until then.”
“Plus the fairies didn’t even put us in the same room for Valentines Day last year.”
“They’re not exactly love experts.”
“Maybe not, but they were matching people up based on who they are. Look at you and Regina, you have important jobs and Granny and Marco own their own businesses. I’m just a waitress and Archie’s a psychiatrist, there’s a big difference.”
“Ruby, the man spent time as a cricket, his qualifications come from a magical curse. I bet the fairies just put you in the other room because you’re so much younger than us. If you’d gone to the other room you would have seen that. I’m sure that was what Blue told us when she handed out those stickers. In fact, I should be asking what you put on my form that put me in the room with Granny and Marco!”
“Okay, maybe I’ve been spending too much time with Henry but this calls for an Operation.”
“Getting Archie to ask you out.”
“I’ll let you pick the name…”
“That’s how this works.”
“I mean, no Operation. If you’re sure… if you think Archie might really like me…”
“He does,” Emma nodded, “I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this.”
“Then, no Operation.”
“Why? What are you going to do?”
Ruby lifted her chin, “I’m going to ask him out myself.”
For Lettie’s first birthday, Regina suggested a small family trip with just the four of them, but Snow insisted on throwing a party for her youngest grandchild. She had helped Emma to plan a surprise for Henry’s last birthday and wanted to do the same for her other grandchild. They compromised with a lunchtime party at the mansion, after which Regina, Emma, Henry and Lettie would have the afternoon to themselves.
“Just think, this time last year…” Snow muttered as she held up a paper garland.
“Regina was going into labour, alone,” Emma put in, standing at the foot of the ladder and wishing her mother would just stick the paper to the wall and move on to the next decoration.
David and Henry had taken Lettie out for a walk while they prepared the decorations. Regina was in the kitchen preparing a variety of child-friendly foods with Ruby helping her. Granny was bringing a cake. That left Emma and Snow to decorate the ‘party room’.
“I’m sorry,” Emma apologised, seeing the look on her mothers face. “I wasn’t thinking when I said that.”
“Well, she had Dr Whale,” Snow reminded her.
“It’s not the same as having family around. When I had Henry, it was just another reminder that I was alone too. I bet when I was born you had hundreds of servants, and friends…”
“Actually Doc helped deliver you, and your father was in the room too. I vaguely remember Gepetto coming to warn us, but I was in pain… and then it was all over.”
“Doc helped deliver me? I thought the dwarves were miners?”
“Regina and the curse were coming so everyone else was out preparing to defend us and hold her off as long as they could. Doc volunteered to stay with me.”
Emma smiled, “I suppose out of the seven dwarves…”
“They are all wonderful people,” Snow admonished, climbing down the ladder.
“Yeah but Sneezy would have annoyed you with his sneezes, Sleepy would have dozed off, Bashful would have fainted at your waters breaking, Happy would have irritated you with his cheerfulness while you were in pain, Grumpy would have moaned about how long it was taking and how you were making too much noise, and Dopey… well, I’m just glad you had Doc.”
“Me too, though I barely had time to hold you before your father took you away,” Snow wiped a tear from her left eye.
Emma avoided looking at her mother and grabbed a handful of decorations from one of the boxes before looking around for the best places to put them. Her parents never spoke about her relationship with Regina.
Emma and Regina had taken things slowly at first, spending time together and building up to the more romantic stages of a relationship. At Snow’s New Year’s party they acted as just friends, though Emma had ‘accidentally’ spilled a beer over Regina’s jumper five minutes before midnight so they could go up to Emma’s old room and steal a kiss while Regina changed clothes. No one questioned why Emma and Regina didn’t use magic to repair the damage, or why Emma still had a box of clothes at her parents.
By February, Henry had figured it out. As Emma wanted the chance to take Regina on a real date, where they could be together, hold hands and kiss if they wanted, she began working on persuading Regina to tell everyone. A week before Emma’s birthday, Regina agreed – or rather, she accidentally said “I love you” to Emma in front of everyone at the diner. It might have gone unnoticed if Ruby’s werewolf hearing hadn’t picked it up, but then she loudly announced to Granny that she owed her five bucks and one of the dwarves sitting at the counter asked what for. Granny came out of the kitchen and looked over at Emma and Regina, then Henry had nudged Regina and she nodded to Emma. “About time,” Granny had said as Emma quickly left the diner and went to find her parents.
Afterward they walked around town holding hands, or shared a look or a smile in the middle of a conversation, knowing the secret was out. When, at Emma’s birthday party, Snow sat Emma and Regina with the two children between them, neither mentioned it. As time went on, it became clear that Snow and David pretended not to notice them when they were together – they would look away or try to distract them with other conversation. Regina suggested that they just didn’t know what to say, and that at least they hadn’t spoken against it, but Emma worried. Perhaps her parents just hoped it wouldn’t last, and they didn’t want to fall out with her.
She heard the front door open and recognised Henry’s voice, followed by her father’s. Shortly after they went upstairs, to settle Lettie down for her nap.
Henry pushed open the door and David followed him inside. He hadn’t seen Lettie’s room before and wasn’t sure what to expect. The white walls with small splashes of red looked nice, much better than he’d been expecting. If Emma had been born in this world, Snow would have decorated her nursery floor to ceiling in pink, with frilly pink curtains at the windows.
“I helped mom choose the pictures,” Henry told him. “They used to be on the walls when I was little.”
David moved further into the room and noticed the mobile dangling over the crib. He recognised the glass unicorns. They’d hung over the crib he’d helped Marco build in the Enchanted Forest for Emma for months. Snow loved unicorns, they were a symbol of the goodness she strived for.
They’d missed out on so many things with Emma already, something he’d be thinking about more and more recently. He wanted to make more of an effort. He wondered if Emma had helped put Lettie’s crib together, or if Regina had asked Marco to build it. It might have been a nice father-daughter project if Emma had asked for his help, but perhaps he could offer to show her how to put up some shelves.
Then he saw the decorations on the crib and his mood changed, “are the red apples appropriate?”
“Mom really loves red applies.”
David held Lettie closer, “you know that’s not what I meant.”
Henry smiled, “I don’t think mom’s going to use a sleeping curse on her own daughter.”
Making conversation with her mother was proving difficult. Every time Emma asked her a question Snow’s replies were short, every time she made a comment about something or someone in the town Snow’s responses failed to meet her usual cheerful standards.
“Is something wrong?” Emma finally asked, freeing her hands from decorations and resting on the arm of a chair.
“Did I do something to upset you?”
“No,” Snow hesitated before replying, not convincing Emma in the slightest.
“Is it because we didn’t invite you to come with us this afternoon?”
“Of course not, I understand why you want some time alone as a family.”
“You’re family too, it’s just…”
“You’re Lettie’s parents and you want to spend time with her. That’s good.”
Snow went to turn away to answer, but shrugged and chose to face Emma instead/ She took a deep breath before answering.
“You lied to us. You didn’t tell us about Regina, and you’re still lying to us now. We’re your parents Emma…”
“So it’s my relationship with Regina. You don’t approve? You know I’ve been with Regina for the last nine months. That’s plenty of time to tell me how you feel instead of doing this …”
“Nine months? Do you really think we’re stupid Emma? Tell the truth, you’ve been seeing her a lot longer than that. Lettie was conceived over a year ago, and goodness knows how long before that you’ve been together.”
“I’m not lying. We’ve been dating since… okay, since Christmas last year but we didn’t want to tell everyone right away. Before Christmas we weren’t together, but this relationship is going to work out mom so I need to know if you’re okay with that because Regina is important to me. I love her.”
“Yes there was one night, Regina and I slept together, had sex, whatever. She’s an attractive woman and until that night I never thought she anything would happen. But afterwards she backed off, found out she was pregnant, created a magical amnesia, had Lettie, lost control of her magic and I found out I’m Lettie’s mother too. Then I moved in and that first month was really hectic, learning to look after Lettie…”
“And nothing happened in all that time?”
“Whenever I tried to talk to her, she got scared – probably because she thought people would react badly,” Emma tilted her head as she looked at her mother.
“Your father and I have accepted the idea of you dating her.”
“You’ve been distant, different towards us – towards me - since then.”
“Because we thought you’d been lying to us,” Snow raised her voice, “that you’d known about Lettie from the start, that you didn’t trust us enough to tell us back then that you were together, that you might have gone on lying if you hadn’t been found out at the diner…”
“That isn’t what happened,” Emma blinked and felt tears forming in her eyes.
Suddenly Regina was at her side, putting an arm around her shoulders. Emma turned her head and leaned against her. There were footsteps on the stairs and David entered the room.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Snow looked towards him, then back at her daughter and Regina, “nothing. Everything’s fine.”
“Except that Snow is accusing Emma of lying to her,” Regina explained.
There was nothing good in the glare Snow sent towards Regina for saying that. David took a deep breath.
“Emma, why don’t I help your mother in here while you go with Regina...”
“I think we should talk about this,” Regina interrupted him.
“Regina, it’s fine,” Emma whispered up to her. “I don’t want to fight, it’s Lettie’s birthday.”
“No, this has gone on long enough. I won’t let them upset you in your own home. Snow, David, take a seat. We are going to discuss this like adults, without raising our voices, because there are children upstairs. Okay?”
David reacted first, nodding his head and taking Snow’s hand to lead her to a chair. Emma looked at Regina, as if she had grown a second head or something. Regina just tilted her head and smiled, as if asking Emma why she seemed so surprised. They sat opposite Snow and David, Regina placing a hand over Emma’s.
“Can I go first?” Snow asked, as soon as they sat down.
“Actually, I would like to,” David told her, and then when no-one else spoke, he looked across to his daughter. “I want to apologise.”
Snow looked at him, surprised, “David?”
“You’re our daughter, we should be supporting you.”
“She lied to us!”
“We all have secrets, and maybe she did, but if we don’t support her when she tells us the truth there’s nothing to make her want to share things with us in the future. I’ve been thinking about this, thinking about all the things we’ve missed, all the things we’ll keep on missing if this goes on. I want to be here for you Emma. I want to be your father and be able to spend time with you.”
“Even knowing that I love Regina?”
“I will admit that it… surprised me, but I’ve watched you together and I’ve seen Regina with Lettie. I believe she’s changed.”
“You’re the one who said they were lying about being together when Lettie was conceived,” Snow accused him.
Emma shook her head, “how many times? We weren’t together then.”
“It. Does. Not. Matter.” David reiterated to his wife. “I’m saying that I don’t care. We’ve already missed so much with Emma. I don’t want that to continue. Do you?”
Slowly, Snow shook her head. “Of course not. I’m her mother.”
“So,” David turned back to Emma and Regina, “what can we do to fix this?”
Regina kept turning around in her seat to fuss with Lettie’s blanket. They were driving along the coast with Emma’s window slightly open to enjoy the crisp, fresh air but Regina worried every time Lettie kicked the blanket so her feet were uncovered.
“I think she’s just doing it now for the attention,” Henry told his mom’s.
“Perhaps we should close the window,” Regina suggested.
“Regina, she’s fine. Don’t worry.”
Lettie had experienced her first cold over the winter holidays and Regina had gone into super-mom mode worrying over every little detail from her temperature rising one degree on the thermometer to her adorable little sneezes.
“Regina, do you want me to pull over so you can sit in the back with Lettie?” Emma asked, suspecting that her girlfriend had brought a thermometer to check their daughter’s temperature.
Regina hesitated, but eventually shook her head. “No.”
Emma turned her head for a moment to smile at her, “she’s got her big brother looking after her.”
“True,” Regina smiled back at her.
“So who have you invited today?”
“We’re going for a meal, the four of us and your parents. I told you that.”
Emma just rolled her eyes, “then why did Leroy just pass us?”
“How am I supposed to know what he gets up to when he’s not occupying a cell at the station?”
Emma frowned, remembering when the restaurant had called to confirm the numbers for her party. She didn’t know who the other people were that Regina or her mother had chosen to invite, but she had been a little disappointed when she realised her small family meal was turning into a larger party.
Regina took out her cell, sending a text message to Snow to ask why the dwarf hadn’t followed their plan. Guests were supposed to arrive before them, or if they were running late they had been instructed to use the back roads to avoid Emma spotting them.
The restaurant was one of the most isolated in town, but with the best views of the ocean. Regina had booked the entire upper floor for Emma’s birthday celebrations, planning the event with a little input from Snow – during the last year or so of birthday parties she had discovered choosing something for Snow to do was better than Snow deciding for herself.
By the time they pulled up to the car park, Lettie was asleep and Henry had tucked the blanket around her feet. Emma began removing Lettie from the car while Henry and Regina entered the restaurant ahead of them. Mostly Regina just wanted to see if Snow had made any changes to their plans, but also it was to check everyone was ready to wish Emma a happy birthday when she entered. Regina smiled in relief when everything looked fine.
“I’ve been to the kitchen,” Snow whispered to her, “the cakes look perfect.”
“Here she comes,” Henry nudged David who was distracted, talking to Archie.
Emma plastered a smile on her face and moved into the room to greet everyone, as David came to take Lettie from her. A waitress came to take their food orders, so Snow asked everyone to take a seat at the U-shaped table – there were name cards so everyone would know where to sit.
As the meal progressed, Emma began to relax and she listened to the wild stories passed up from the guests. Regina slipped a hand onto Emma’s knee as they waited for the dessert to arrive, then leaned in to whisper to her.
“I’m sorry about the surprise, all these people. I wanted this to be special, and all these people are your friends so I wanted them to be here.”
“It’s okay. I’m enjoying the party now.”
Emma smiled and leaned in to kiss her, “yes. I’m happy.”
The servers returned, bearing a cupcake for each of the guests, with a single candle on Emma’s one. Regina took a deep breath, before turning and gently tapping her wineglass with a spoon to get everyone’s attention. When everyone had stopped talking and was looking towards them, she stood up and raised her glass.
“As you know, today is Emma’s birthday. We are all here, as her friends and family, to wish her another year of happiness. I feel very lucky to have Emma sharing my life and that is why,” Regina placed her wineglass back on the table, then turned to Emma before kneeling down and pulling a ring from her pocket, “I want to share the rest of my life with you. Emma Swan, will you marry me?”
Emma looked genuinely shocked. It would have amused Regina at any other time, but this was an important moment and she was counting it in heartbeats while she waited for an answer.
“Yes,” Emma’s reply was almost a whisper, then she smiled and her voice rose, “of course. Yes!”
Regina slipped the ring onto Emma’s finger and kissed her, to the sound of applause from the rest of the room.
Later, Emma would ask how she had managed to keep it a secret. Regina would explain that she knew the only way Emma wouldn’t figure it out was if she fed her other little secrets about the party, and if she didn’t tell anyone else - even Henry. She only wanted to propose if Emma was enjoying the party, so it would be part of a happy memory.
For now they were just ready to enjoy the party. To spend time with those they loved and to celebrate their engagement.