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Family through FIre

Chapter Text

“Swan! It’s your turn to make lunch.”

Emma groaned, she hated cooking duty, the one thing she truly hated about her job. “Come on L.T. you know I hate to cook. Besides I don’t think, scratch that, I know none of you like my cooking.” She shot back.

“True as it may be Swan, it’s only fair. How do you expect to settle down if you never learn to make a decent meal.” Her lieutenant teased nudging her shoulder. The guys always teased her lack of commitment. Her longest relationship was a week, maybe two at the most. She’d learned early on in life not to get attached, because people she loved and were supposed to love her back always left. She had everything she was looking for in life in her team, she didn’t need a woman by her side to make her feel whole.

“Did I hear you right mate, Swan settle down. Swan settling down is as likely as her learning to cook, or I believe the expression is when pigs fly. Heart breaker this one, I thought I had a way with the ladies.” Killian Jones, one of Emma’s coworkers winked at her giving her his most charming smile. Their relationship had started out rocky, he’d tried really hard at first, he’d been one of those men that thought they could get any woman they set their sights on, it had been a hard pill to swallow when he’d figured out he couldn’t get Swan to “switch teams”.

“Shut it Jones.” Emma snapped moving into the kitchen area. It had been a quiet day and now more than ever she wished for a call, even a bullshit call would be okay. Anything to get her out of cooking duty and get her through to six o’clock when her shift would end. Normally her shift wouldn’t end until the next morning but seeing that it was her birthday her lieutenant had told her to leave early, it was something he tried to do with all his firefighters when staffing and call volume permitted. “I hope you like grilled cheese sandwiches. Again.” She laughed at the unanimous groan from the rest of the crew. As much teasing and crap they gave her about her cooking annoyed her, she wouldn’t have it any other way. The group was the only family she knew. They were a brotherhood, not related by blood but by fire. Joining the department close to a decade ago had been the greatest decision she had made for herself. She’d found something none of her foster homes had been able to give her. A family.

She laughed as the Nolan brothers, James and David fought over the remote, if not for the scar on David’s chin and James’ more flirtatious personality, it was impossible to tell the two apart. Killian Jones sat back his legs kicked up on the coffee table looking through a magazine, knowing his taste, the women inside said magazine would be poorly dressed. Neal Cassidy sat beside Killian commenting on the attractiveness of the women, this was his time to look without getting in trouble with his wife of three years, Tamara. Ruby Lucas sat with a grin on her face adding her smart ass remarks every so often. Her Lieutenant, August Booth who often took the fatherly role in their little group, just watched on in amusement.  

Emma sighed in content, she loved her family, as dysfunctional and untraditional as it was. It had taken her 28 years to finally have one and she was thankful for them. Tones dropped just as she’d placed all the ingredients for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on the countertop. The relief she felt at not having to cook quickly disappeared after the fifth tone. ‘Wonderful.’ She thought. ‘I just had to jinx us.’ She quickly put everything away as two more tones dropped and ran toward the bay that housed their gear and apparatus’.

“Swan. I want you to ride the ambulance with Lucas. You have the most experience with medical but be prepared to go in when we get there.” Emma nodded to her lieutenant loading her gear in the ambulance. She had been covering the ambulance while Belle Gold was on vacation, her husband Rumple had surprised her for their two year anniversary. Belle was the mother figure her crew often looked to for advice. Emma didn’t mind riding the ambulance as long as she got to play when the good calls came in.

“Sounds pretty bad.” Her partner commented as they followed the Engine out of the firehouse. Emma nodded her mind already on what they were about to face.

“Is it just me or do our calls seem to be getting worse, who blows up a Women’s Clinic in the middle of the afternoon.” Ruby had not been doing this job as long as Emma, it still amazed her the extent people would go to hurt each other. Both Emma and Ruby were familiar with the Women’s Clinic, it offered affordable healthcare to women and children and assisted women in starting over. They provided alcohol, drug and abuse support groups, healthcare and nutrition knowledge to mothers to be. The two had taken several battered women there instead of the hospital.  The clinic had staff available 24 hours a day, a counselor and family advocate on standby at all hours.

Emma agreed. “Let’s just hope we don’t have too many victims.” That was part of the job she hated most. The people they couldn’t save. She’d learned early on that not everyone could be saved, there would come a time where casualties occurred and there was nothing that could be done to change the outcome. As best as she could, she detached herself from those calls, but they still managed to haunt her for weeks, sometimes even months. Calls involving children were always the worst. There weren’t many firefighters that could honestly say child calls didn’t get to them.

Ruby turned west still a few blocks away from the scene, they both saw a large column of dark smoke. Immediately they heard their Lieutenant’s voice come across the radio.

“Lt 3 dispatch, I have heavy dark column of smoke, upgrade to a second alarm, I also want additional 3 additional ambulances added.“ The ambulance crew listened as their Lieutenant asked for additional units, he was never one to waste time, he was known to be cautious, he would rather have too many units and place them in service than need more and not have them available to him. “Engine 3 to dispatch.”

Ruby parked the ambulance out of the way of the fire trucks. Emma finished dressing in her bunker gear, donning her SCBA pack listening to the Lieutenant’s on scene report.

“On scene of a medium sized 3 story commercial structure. I have smoke coming from sides bravo and charlie. I need the next due engine to go to the charlie side and give me a size up, third due truck hit the hydrant at the corner of Harrison and Massachusetts with a forward lay and supply Engine 3 on the alpha side. We’ll be on an offensive attack, I will be establishing clinic command on the alpha side until the command vehicle arrives.”

Emma regrouped with her crew at the front of the building, often referred to as the alpha side. She grabbed a new york hook and prepared to follow her team inside.

“Swan.” She paused several feet from the door. “I want you to join 5’s crew, they’re short one today, I want a primary search done on the first floor, I’ve been told everyone got out on the first floor but just make sure,  then proceed to search the fire floor, 7’s crew will assist when they come in.” Emma nodded in understanding, the first floor held the clinical offices, where patients were brought and seen, the second floor held most of the administrative offices, and the third floor she’d never been to because they kept that secure. Emma stepped back and watched as Jones and David took one hand line in and James and Cassidy took a second hand line. Once 5’s crew arrived Emma donned her face piece and entered the smoke filled structure. She was thankful she could somewhat make out the outlines of desks, beds and doors, it made the search slightly easier. With the first floor search completed they notified command that they were proceeding to the second floor. “Command is copies, ground floor primary search complete, moving to the second, be advised we have confirmed victims trapped on the second floor.”

Emma and her partner conducted a right hand search while the other two members from 5 started on the left side of the room.  Everything in the fire world was done in twos, two in two out, you never did anything without a partner, someone always had your six. A right handed search is done with the firefighter begins at the right side of the door keeping in touch with the wall by a tool or a body part such as their arm or leg as they progressed through the room. Emma swept her 6 foot new york hook across the floor as she and her partner crawled keeping contact with the wall at all times.  Emma checked her Heads Up Display (HUD) every so often making sure she was good on her air supply. It was in calls like this she was glad she was in top shape. Controlling her breathing helped her draw out the duration of her air, making it last longer. 

“I got something.” Her partner called to her. An unconscious male lay with a desk on top of his legs.  With her partners help they removed the desk and radiod into command. Emma left her tool to mark their place. The two dragged the male to the top of the stairs where a crew from 7 took him. They crawled back to Emma’s tool and continued their search. They found another male, barely conscious. They assisted him to the top of the stairs, 7’s crew continued the search while Emma and her partner took the victim to get checked out by medical. Replacing their air cylinders the two returned inside as 7 and the other crew from 5 emerged with 3 people. As they continued the search, the visibility worsened as water was being put on the fire. With the rest of the floor searched confirming they had no more victims the two crews existed to refill their air bottles.

Since there was only one floor left the crews from 7 took over for the firefighters on the nozzle. Crews from six were arriving on scene and would assist in the search momentarily. Emma and the firefighter from station 5 continued to the third floor. The third floor had one long hallway with three door on each side and two at the end of the hallway. Again Emma and her partner started on the right while the other team started on the left. Reaching the first door Emma crawled inside, her partner notified her that she’d be searching the next room. The room wasn’t very large. It had a bunkbed and a single twin size bed. She searched the top and bottom bunks, making sure to check under the bed, she found no one. Emma continued her search, finding the second bed empty she reached the closet. Finding that also empty she continued to the door, checking to make sure there was no one behind it.  Most often when victims were found they were located behind doorways, children hid under their beds or in the closets. It had been ingrained in her to check those areas thoroughly. Emma met up with her partner outside the second room. Together they moved to the next room. Emma’s partner motioned that she was going in while Emma searched the office to the right. The second crew had reached the same point of their search on the left side of the hallway. 

Emma entered a room finding one female. Freeing her from the debris she radiod her partner. Her partner notified her that she also had one victim. “Lets grab them both.” Her partner moved her own victim to the door.

Emma moved to her victim. Thankful she was conscious, that would make getting her out easier.

“My son, I have to get my son.” Emma’s victim was frantic.

“Is he here,” Emma asked hoping to god the answer was no.

“No, but I have to get to him, please.” Her victim coughed, smoke filling her lungs.

“What’s your name.” Emma had learned long ago that having someone’s name and using it was the quickest way to draw someone out of panic or hysteria.

“Regina. Regina Mills.”

“Ok Regina, can you crawl,” She asked.

The woman shook her head no, holding up her arm. Emma needed to hurry the smoke in the office was getting worse. Thinking fast she unclasped the top D-ring of her coat and opened it up.  She sat up resting on the heels of her feet. “Okay Regina, I want you to wrap your legs around me, with your good hand I want you to hold on to my neck, keep your face tucked inside my coat.” Emma spoke as loudly and as clearly as she could through her face piece, the voice amplifying device helping her come across better.

Regina nodded, moving towards Emma and doing as instructed. Regina tucked her head into the firefighter’s coat, her entire body screamed in pain. She held on tight as the blond got on all fours and began crawling towards the door, once there she followed her partner out of the building. At the top of the stairs she stopped and picked up the brunette, carrying her rest of the way outside. Regina kept her head tucked into Emma’s coat trying to avoid as much smoke as possible. Her throat and lungs burned from the smoke she’d already inhaled.

Chapter Text

“Swan, you and Lucas are going to transport that one, It’ll give you a break. All that’s left is recovery.” Lt Booth told them.

Emma nodded, recovery meant all the live victims had been rescued, the rest had passed. Ruby met her with the gurney and Emma lowered Regina onto it.  Regina started fighting the moment Ruby attempted to strap her down.  Emma took off her helmet and face piece and got at eye level with Regina.

“Hey Regina you need to stay still, you’re hurt, Ruby is just trying to make sure you don’t fall off of the gurney on our way to the hospital.” Emma explained, they were used to people fighting them, mostly because they were afraid and some because they had drugs or alcohol in their system.

“No I’m fine. I’ll go on my own, I need to get my son.” Emma looked into the woman’s chocolate colored eyes, there was so much fear and anxiety in them. “Please, I have no one that can get him. I need to get him.” She pled her eyes filling with tears.

“Alright Regina, I’ll make you a deal, you let Ruby and I get you to the hospital and I’ll make sure your son gets to you.” Emma shocked herself. ‘Since when do you make deals that involve your time off Swan?’ She berated herself. The brunette stopped struggling. 

“How,” Regina asked, hopeful.

“You let me worry about that, do we have a deal.” She watched as the brunette weighed her options noting the fear and distrust in her eyes.

“Okay.” She finally agreed.  She knew she was in no condition to drive, not that she’d be able to get to get to her car with all the fire trucks that surrounded the clinic. With it being a bombing, she was sure everything was evidence.

“Great. Now will you please lay back down and let us take care of you.” She smiled when Regina nodded, laying back down. Something about the firefighter’s smile eased her fears.

“You saved my life.” Regina said, it had just occurred to her. She could’ve died and left her son without a mother. The thought of her son being alone scared her more than anything. She and his aunt Kathryn were all Henry knew. The only two people he fully trusted and loved.

Emma smiled, it had taken some time getting used to people thanking her, some firefighters replied with the company line of, it was all part of the job but she always made sure to sound genuine in her responses. Saving people was the part of her job she loved the most, she made a difference in people’s lives and it made all the hard work and pain worth it.

Regina nodded her thanks and laid down to allow for Emma and Ruby to strap her down and put her in the back of the ambulance. Ruby established an IV while Emma doffed her self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and coat. Once she was done Ruby took up the driver seat while Emma assessed their patient. Emma wordlessly started taking Regina’s vitals, noting the lower than what would be considered normal oxygen levels, she put her on oxygen. “Regina what’s your last name.”

Regina held the oxygen mask to her face. “Mills.”

Emma nodded filling in her report. “Besides your arm, do you hurt anywhere else.” Emma was amazed that the woman seemed unfazed by the broken arm. She chucked it off to adrenaline and shock.

“I believe it would be quicker if I simply told you what didn’t hurt dear.” Regina closed her eyes taking in a deep breath, an action she learned very quickly, was a mistake.

Emma smiled, this woman was sassy, she liked that. “So your ribs then,” Emma asked making a note in her report.

“My arm is the worst. Everything else I think is just bruising.” Unfortunately, Regina had not been a stranger to the pains she was experiencing at the moment. Besides the smoke inhalation, she’d survived through numerous bruises, breaks and fractures.

“It’s probably broken, they’ll need to x-ray it to be sure.” With the amount of patients being taken in Emma gave her patient care report to the hospital as early on as she could so they’d be able to prepare a bed. “So how old is your son,” She asked once she’d gotten everything she needed for her report.

Just thinking about her son brought a smile to her face. He was the one thing that kept her going, that had pushed her to start over, to leave her old life behind. She never wanted to experience the hate and violence she’d had to endure as a child and in marriage. “He turned five a few weeks ago, his name is Henry.”

Emma noticed the smile that spread across the woman’s face as she spoke of her son, her eyes lighting up. Good, she could use that, Henry was exactly what she needed to put the woman at ease while they rode to the hospital.

“That’s a fun age.” Emma commented. 

“You have children,” Regina asked, Emma seemed like the type of person children would love. She had this light and happy energy to her that was sure to attract people to her. Her smile alone had caught Regina’s attention. She was sure in another time, she’d have been drawn in by her smile alone.

Emma shook her head. While she didn’t have kids, both David and Neal did. She’d spent a lot of time with them during cookouts and family gatherings. The kids loved their Aunt Emma. Her lieutenant, August, always reminded her it was because she herself was a kid at heart. “I don’t have any but several of the guys on my shift do. I’m the honorary fun aunt. Tell me about Henry.”

“He has a wild imagination and a sense of humor to match. He’s too smart for his own good.” Regina smiled fondly thinking of her little prince.

Though Emma didn’t know the woman at all she had an idea where the boy got his personality. Emma continued asking questions about the five year old that was clearly the center of her patient’s world. She looked through her phone for the school Regina mentioned he went to. “I don’t get off until six maybe even later with the bombing, but I’ll make sure Henry gets to you.”

Regina nodded her eyes filling up once again. She didn’t know what she’d do if this firefighter hadn’t offered to get her son to her. The only other person she had close by was her mother and she would only call her if she absolutely had no other choice. She’d rather choose this stranger she’d just met over her mother any day. “Thank you.”

Emma smiled dialing the number to the school handing the phone to Regina. ‘What are you getting yourself into Swan?’  She wondered not for the first time. She was pulled from her thoughts by Regina asking for her name.

“Emma Swan.” She told her.

Regina smiled, finally having a name for her savior. She continued talking to the administrator at the school for another minute before disconnecting and handing the phone back to Emma. “Before I forget, the password is mongoose, Henry won’t go with you otherwise.”

“Mongoose. Got it.” Emma repeated the password and made a note of it in her phone.

Regina felt the impact of the day on her body, her biggest concern having been taken care of, she closed her eyes letting the darkness claim her.

Emma watched the woman in front of her. ‘What is it with this woman, you have rules in place for a reason Swan! Never get attached to a victim.’ She had learned firsthand that getting involved with a victim was a big mistake. Yet here she was unable to take her eyes off the brunette.

They pulled into the hospital’s loading bay shortly after. Ruby opened the doors to the back of the ambulance, an eyebrow raised. “So Emma.” Ruby started.

“Not now Ruby.” Emma knew where Ruby was going with the sentence and she wasn’t ready to be teased. It wasn’t unusual for her to go out of her way for people, as a matter of fact she did it often, mostly for her team, but being that this woman was definitely the type of woman Emma would go out with gave Ruby ammunition. The two wheeled the gurney inside and transferred Regina to one of the hospital beds allowing the hospital nurses and doctor to take over.

They returned to the scene of the bombing and assisted other crews with salvage and overhaul.  The fire investigator confirmed what they already knew. A small bomb was set off on the second floor near the offices. Emma’s mind wondered to the office she’d found Regina in. Her office was directly above where the bomb had been set off. She shook her head ridding herself of the image of the woman she’d rescued.

The bomb squad worked on retrieving as many pieces of the bomb as they could in hopes of finding out who made it or at the very least where the supplies were purchased. It was just after 6 when command released her crew and she could not be happier, other crews would be there a few more hours. They returned to the station exhausted, each going to their lockers for spare uniforms.  The shower helped rid her of the suet and some of the smoke smell though she’d need a couple more showers to rid herself of it completely.

“Get out of here Swan.” Her lieutenant told her. 

“Are you sure,” she asked, she didn’t like leaving her shift at a time like this.

“Yes, go, it’s your birthday. Try and enjoy it, or what’s left of it.” Being one person short was something they could work with, he’d move one person from the engine to the ambulance, Emma never took time off and he wanted her to enjoy her birthday with some time to herself.

She agreed, she’d planned on working the rest of her shift due to the bombing, she was going to pick up Henry, take him to his mother and return to work, but her Lieutenant was determined to send her off. She wished she could go home and curl up on the couch with a plotless movie. At her level of exhaustion, she didn’t care if she watched infomercials. She sat in her truck, head leaning back, eyes closed. With a deep sigh she sat up, grabbed her phone and punched in the address for the school. Fifteen minutes later she pulled into the school parking lot and found the lot empty except for two cars. Cars she assumed, belonged to the employees waiting for her.

“You must be Emma Swan.” The woman at the front desk perked up.

Any other day Emma would have been all over her, today however, she was far too tired. “That would be me.” She forced a smile. She didn’t want to encourage the woman by being too nice and having her mistake it for flirting. “Do you happen to have a booster seat I can use,” she asked.

“Of course. Just bring it back whenever you can, I know you’re pretty busy what with being a firefighter and all.” She winked at Emma sticking out her chest. 

“Thank you.” Emma smiled politely. She needed to get out of there and soon. She knew these types of women, they did not give up once they had their eyes set on someone. While she was flattered, she was just not interested. At that moment all she wanted to do was get the boy, take him to his mother and go home to her dog.

“I just need your number.” At Emma’s confused look she clarified. “So I can sign a car seat out to you.”

Emma nodded giving her the information requested. Emma took the booster seat to her truck before returning for the boy.

“Follow me and I’ll take you to Henry. Marian already told him that you’d be picking him up, just to warn you though he can be a bit shy when it comes to new people.”

“Marian Locksley,” Emma asked.

Tina smiled. “That would be the one, you must know her husband.”

Emma nodded, she’d known Marian worked at a school, she hadn’t known which one. She and the Locksley knew each other but they weren’t extremely close. The fire and police world didn’t interact too much outside of work functions. Their son Roland had taken an immediate liking to Emma which had been why she’d befriended the couple. She followed the woman wondering what she’d gotten herself into not for the first time that day. Her good deeds were done for the year she told herself. After this, she would go back to being her usual carefree self that worried about no one.

“Hello Emma,” Marian greeted the blonde with a smile. She’d been surprised when she’d received a note that Emma would be picking Henry up, Regina wasn’t one to trust anyone with him. It was clear Regina had come from a bad situation and so she’d shared with Regina that her husband worked for the local police department and had offered a meeting with her him. After their meeting Regina had been more at ease with enrolling her son at the school. “Henry, this is Emma, she’s going to take you to your mom.” She patted the child’s hair encouraging him to come out of his hiding spot.

The little boy poked his head from around his teacher’s legs, his eyes scanning the woman from head to toe, then back.

“Hi Emma!” Roland ran up wrapping his arms around her legs.

“Hello Roland.” Emma returned the hug. “Hi Henry, I’m Emma, your mom sent me to pick you up.”

He didn’t say anything for a while, he stayed hidden behind Marian. “Where is your fire stuff.” He looked confused. 

Emma couldn’t help but smile at the little brunet boy, he looked so much like his mother. She took a knee to get at his level. “Well Henry I had to take it off, I don’t wear it unless I’m on a call.”

“When you’re on the phone.” He scrunched up his face. That didn’t make any sense.

“No, I mean when I’m out helping people.” She clarified. She was used to simplifying fire terms so that kids would understand. October was after all, fire prevention month and her shift had gone to multiple day cares and elementary schools to talk about fire safety.

“Oh.” He said it as if it suddenly all made sense to him, clearly happy with her answer.

“You ready to go see your mom, I’m sure she’s missing you.” At the mention of seeing his mother the boy perked up letting out a ‘yeah’ as he ran to the door and stopped abruptly. “What’s the password.” His mom always warned him about going with someone he didn’t know and even if he knew them, if they didn’t have the password he was not to go with them.

She motioned for him to come closer, when he did she leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Mongoose.”

Pleased with her answer he ran back to the door. “Let’s go see mom. Bye Roland, Bye Ms. Tina, Mrs. Marian.”

“Thank you for staying late Marian.” Emma thanked the teacher.

“It’s no problem, I have a feeling it’s going to be a long work day for Robin.” Her husband had recently been promoted to Captain and more likely than not, he was on scene of the bombing still. On incidents like today command staff put in as many hours on scene and behind the scene as the patrol officers.

“It’s a mess.” Emma commented. She thanked both women again and followed the boy out. After strapping Henry in his seat Emma pulled away from the school, making her way to the hospital.

“Do you have a fire truck Emma,” Henry asked, he was full of questions. He was so excited to meet an actual firefighter. Sure he’d seen them at his old daycare before but he’d never had one all to himself.

“I have one at work.” Emma couldn’t help but like the boy, he had eyes dark like his mothers, shaggy brown hair that covered his forehead and an adorable smile. He spoke extremely well for his age.

“Can we go see it. Pleeeeaaase.” He begged.

“Not today buddy, we have to get you to your mom so she doesn’t worry about where you are.”

“Oh.”

That seemed to be his response to most of her answers. He wasn’t happy about being told no, she could tell by the pout, she was surprised and thankful that’s all she received. She’d seen so many kids throw fits when not getting their way. Henry however, seemed to accept her answer and move on very quickly.

“You wanna be my friend.” He leaned towards the front of the truck as far as his seat belt would allow, anxiously waiting for Emma’s response.

Emma was conflicted, wondering the best way to answer his question. To say yes would be a lie as she would probably never see him again, but to say no would break his little heart and she was not ready to see this little boy cry.

“Yes Henry, I’d love to be your friend.” She’d deal with the consequence of her answer later.

“Cool.” The smile on his face was worth it. Henry couldn’t wait to tell his mom about the new friend he’d made. He knew his mom would be okay with his new friend, after all she’d given her the password, which reminded him, “we need a new password,” he said suddenly, he didn’t like that there were others in the room that had heard his password.

“Maybe you and your mom can come up with one when we get to the hospital.” Emma had not grown up in traditional homes, they’d never had a meeting point, a fire plan and definitely no talks of passwords to protect her from strangers, the people she lived with were often complete strangers. This little boy was very lucky to have a mom that was so determined to keep him safe.

“No, you help me.” He wanted to get this done before he forgot.

“Alright.” She paused. “How about…” She put her index finger to her chin as she thought about a word. “Oh, I know, how about cobra.”

He contemplated the new password option for only a second before happily agreeing to it.

Emma parked the truck in a visitor’s space and turned to face the boy. “Remember Henry, your mom is hurt her arm so you have to be extra careful okay.” Henry nodded. The two walked into the hospital hand in hand. With a quick stop at the nurse’s station to get the room number the two found Regina’s room.

Chapter Text

“Knock knock.” Emma announced her presence, sticking her head into the room. She did a double take at the woman lying in the hospital bed. ‘Shit, you’re in trouble Swan.’ The woman she had rescued earlier all cleaned up and suet free was breathtaking. Unlike anyone she had ever been with or seen for that matter. No one should look that good, especially while in the hospital after surviving a bombing.

“Mommy!” Henry let go of Emma’s hand and ran to his mother. Unbeknownst to the blonde Regina was having similar thoughts. The woman that had saved her only hours before was beautiful. She hadn’t paid too much attention past the blondes smile this morning, she’d been more concerned about getting to Henry.

“Hello my little prince, were you good for Miss Swan,” she asked, she knew he’d been good. She’d been blessed with Henry. Besides the typical tantrums of a five year old, he was extremely kind and did all that he could to make her happy, to help her, even though he was limited to what he could do due to his age.

Henry nodded yes as he tried climbing onto the bed. Struggling, Emma helped lift him the rest of the way.

“Emma! What are you doing here.” Regina’s nurse, Mary Margaret walked in a smile on her face. She hugged the blonde inhaling the scent of smoke.

Regina frowned, it wasn’t often she witnessed that. She wondered what the pairs relationship was.

“You’re still smoky. I can’t wait to get home.”  Mary Margaret loved it when her husband came home after a fire. It was odd for anyone that didn’t love a firefighter or that wasn’t in the fire service to understand. It was a rite of passage, if you couldn’t love the smell, you would not last in that relationship. After a good fire her husband would smell like smoke for days. Their gear, the fire trucks and the station would have a lingering smoke smell.  Mary Margaret often joked about finding a way to bottle up the scent.

“Well, you better be ready M&M, because David is going to need a massage.” Emma gave the woman another squeeze before releasing her.

“He told me he got hit with some falling debris, but he’s stubborn and says he’s good to finish the rest of the shift.” Mary Margaret said grimly. She was always afraid he wouldn’t come home from a shift.

“He’s tough, but knowing him he’ll milk this for some extra attention from his loving wife.” Emma teased. Both women laughed.

It was true, David did like to get babied on occasion. It was a softer side that Mary Margaret adored and encouraged. “You’re still coming over tomorrow for your birthday dinner right,” she asked.

The only birthdays Emma remembered celebrating were with the Nolan’s, after they’d unofficially adopted her. Mary Margaret had been shocked and sad to learn that Emma had never really celebrated her birthday so she’d made it her mission to celebrate each year.

“Yes M&M, but please don’t make it as big as last year. Small gathering. That’s it.” Every year Emma would remind Mary Margaret not to go overboard with the cake and celebration, every year Mary Margaret would agree, and every year, she would invite half the department.

Mary Margaret nodded but made no promises. It was hard for her to keep the parties small, especially since Emma never had anyone who truly celebrated her, Emma often forgot to celebrate herself, so she’d made sure Emma was reminded how loved she was as often as she could. “You’ll bring Ember,” she asked.

“Yes, I’ll bring Ember.” The Nolan’s loved her dog and she was glad they did, she hated leaving her home alone on her days off, her neighbor helped take care of her when she worked but still she felt bad.

“I am so sorry Regina. I’m being so rude. How are you feeling.” Mary Margaret apologized and walked to her patient’s bedside, the birthday party all but forgotten, she had been completely sidetracked by Emma’s presence.

“It’s quite alright dear, have you found out about what I asked earlier.” She hadn’t minded Mary Margret being distracted with Emma, it had given her the opportunity to observe the blonde freely.

Emma recognized that hopeful look, this had something to do with Henry.

Mary Margaret sighed. “I have, I’m sorry Regina, hospital policy will not allow him to stay the night.”

Regina frowned. This day was getting worse by the second. “It’s alright.” She picked up the phone by her bedside dialing the number to her best friend. “Kathryn.” She didn’t have a chance to say more.

“Regina, thank god, I’ve been blowing up your phone, oh my god, that was a terrible choice in words, are you okay,” she asked.

“I’m okay Kathryn, I am at the hospital though and I need someone to watch Henry, just until I’m released tomorrow.” She closed her eyes, praying her friend was free.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Give the little guy a hug for me. I’m glad you’re okay Gina.”

“Thank you Kathryn, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She was thankful for her best friend. She’d stuck by her side through everything she’d been through and had helped her in restarting her life. “Mary Margaret can you see if I can keep him until Kathryn can get him. She’s about 4-5 hours away.”

Mary Margaret nodded leaving the trio. She hoped she had better news than the last time.

“Mommy, Emma’s a fire fighter.” Henry had been patiently waiting to tell his mother this, but the grownups would not stop talking.

“I know. She saved my life.” The brunette looked to the woman that had saved her.

“That true Emma,” he asked excitedly. 

Emma couldn’t help but smile at him, he was just so cute. “Your mom did all the work. I just led the way.” She shrugged as if it was no big deal.

“Wow.”

Mary Margaret returned a frown on her face.  She didn’t need to say anything, both Emma and Regina knew the answer. “Regina I’m sorry, they won’t allow him to stay without an adult to watch him.”

“I can watch him.” Regina protested.

“Regina you’re hurt, there is no way you’d be able to watch him in your condition.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.” Regina snapped.

Emma’s eyes immediately shot up to her. The pure shock on Regina’s face let her know she had not intended to let that bit of information slip out. Emma put an arm around Mary Margaret’s shoulders. “Give us a minute,” she asked.

Mary Margaret nodded feeling terrible for delivering bad news. If she could she’d watch the child herself, but she had far too many patients and the hospital would not allow it.

“Regina. It’s not her fault.” Emma stepped closer to the bed, she knew Mary Margaret was upset and felt guilty already.

 “I know. I didn’t mean to snap, I have a lot on my mind.” She apologized and reached for the phone. “I suppose I could call my mother, she’s closer.” She knew she’d get an earful from her mother for being so close and never going to see her or allow her to see her grandson. She knew deep down her mother could care less if the pair was in her life but she was very big on appearance and her daughter keeping her grandson away from her didn’t make her look good at all.

“No!” Henry cried snatching the phone out of his mother’s hand. “I don’t want her, she doesn’t like me mommy.” He held the phone behind him keeping it away from his mother.

“Henry, you know that’s not true.” Her heart broke for her son. He should never feel as though he wasn’t wanted.  She could live with her mother not accepting her and the decisions she’d made but taking it out on her son was not acceptable. “Henry darling it’s only until Aunt Kat gets here. I promise.” She wiped at the tears that ran down his little cheeks.

Emma’s heart broke. She herself knew rejection well and someone as young as Henry shouldn’t have to endure it, especially from his own grandmother.

“I’ll go with Emma.” His eyes turned to Emma pleadingly.

“Henry, you can’t go with Emma, she has to go to her house.” She reasoned with him.

“But she’s my friend, right Emma,” he asked. “You’re my friend.”

Emma smiled at the tear stained face.

“Henry.” Regina tried but her son wasn’t having it.

“Please Emma. I’ll be really good. Please.” He begged.

Those words struck a chord with Emma. She remembered using similar words every time she was being returned to the group home. “I don’t mind. If, it’s alright with you.” The words were out of her mouth before she thought them over. ‘What the hell Emma. Stop it.’ She couldn’t believe what she’d just offered. “Just until his aunt can get him,” Emma added.

“I couldn’t ask you to do that, you’ve done so much already.” Emma couldn’t believe this beautiful stranger was going out of her way for her.

“It’s just a couple hours.” Emma confirmed. 

“Please Mommy.”

Regina sighed looking at the woman who had already done so much for her.

“I wanna go with Emma.”

“You’re sure,” she asked. “ I don’t want to abuse your kindness.” Regina only trusted a handful of people in her life, and of those people there was only one person she trusted to take care of Henry and that was Kathryn.

“You’re not, I’m offering.” At the brunettes raised eyebrow she added. “Okay, so I had a little help, can you blame me though, it’s pretty hard to say no to my new friend.” She winked at Henry.

“Indeed it is. You’re sure,” she asked again.

Emma nodded. Was she sure? No probably not, but she’d already agreed, besides she didn’t want to be the cause for the boys tears.

“If you would like you can stay at my house it’s not too far from here. I have keys in a car parked in the mall lot, with another booster seat in it.”

‘Who has cars randomly stored throughout the city.’ She wondered. This woman was definitely not the typical type she met. The fear and anxiety she’d seen in those brown eyes spoke volumes. She was cautious, borderline paranoid. Emma knew from experience how the past could haunt and affect your everyday life. She didn’t ask why the woman had a car stored at the mall, it wasn’t her business, she settled for the description and the location of the keys. 

The next hour and a half was spent in a somewhat awkward silence that was made less so by the energetic five year old. He sat on his mother’s bed telling her about his day and the crafts he’d created while he ate. Emma watched the duo on the bed. She envied the little boy. What she wouldn’t give to have had a mother that loved her as much as this woman loved her son. He was a lucky kid.  She stretched her tightening muscles attempting to conceal the yawn and failed.

“Henry perhaps you and Miss Swan should get going. It’s almost your bedtime.” Regina herself was tired, she knew that the firefighter sitting beside her had to be exhausted. “Let me give you Kathryn’s number. If you could message her so that she has yours.” Emma unlocked her phone and gave it to Regina. She also found a blank piece of paper and wrote her number on it for Regina to have, just in case she needed to reach her before Kathryn got there. 

“Emma I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for Henry and I.” She could never put into words how thankful she was.

“Don’t sweat it.” Emma herself wasn’t sure what had come over her but she knew one thing, she did not like seeing the pair in front of her upset or in tears. The feeling was completely new to her. The only people she truly cared about were the people she worked with. With final goodbyes Emma and Henry left Regina to sleep. With a quick detour to the mall, Emma found the car just as Regina had described it with the keys hidden inside. Along with the keys she also took the booster seat that sat in the back. 

While enroute to Regina’s she called her neighbor to have her feed her dog, thanks to the doggy door she’d had her lieutenant install she worried less about being gone for 12 to 24 hours, Ember was free to roam about the house and yard. As she’d expected, her neighbor offered to take her for the night. She was lucky to have Granny, Ruby’s grandmother so close.

Regina’s house was warm, cozy and tidy. “Alright little man what do you say we get you to bed,” she asked and waited for an argument.

Henry scrunched up his face but didn’t argue, he was not going to risk giving Emma a hard time and ending up with his grandmother. He led the way to his bathroom. After brushing his teeth he convinced Emma to read him a book and tuck him in. 

“Good night Henry.  I’ll be in the living room if you need anything.” She stood and left for the door.

“Kiss.” He called out after her.

“What.” She had not expected that.

“Mommy always gives me a good night kiss.” He clarified.

Emma froze. ‘This is definitely the last time I do anything like this.’ She bent down and kissed his forehead. “Goodnight buddy.”

“Night Emma.”

Emma settled on the couch. Checking her phone she noted she still had a few hours before Kathryn would arrive. She flipped through the channels on television in search of a show or movie to pass the time, exhaustion taking over she drifted off.

“Emma.” Emma groaned as a finger poked at her face. “Emma.”

Eyes snapped open. She’d forgotten where she was.  “Henry what’s wrong.” Henry stood with his blanket in one arm his stuffed animal in the other.

“I miss mommy.” His bottom lip trembled. She sat up and pulled the boy on the couch.

“I know you do buddy, but you’ll see her tomorrow.” 

“Can I stay with you.”

If that was all it would take to ease his mind she wasn’t about to deny him.  She nodded and laid back down pulling him with her.  She used the blanket to cover him. Eyeing the clock she reached for her phone and checked her messages.  Kathryn was late. 

‘Emma, I’m so sorry, there’s a really bad wreck, traffic has not moved for an hour.’

Emma responded with a quick message saying she understood. She set the phone down and wrapped her arm around the boy.

Kathryn made it to the house two hours later, she entered the house quietly in search of Emma. She had texted saying she was close, but Emma had not responded. Walking into the living room she discovered why. She couldn’t help but smile. Emma and Henry were fast asleep snuggled up on the couch. If she knew for sure the flash would not wake the blonde she’d have taken a picture to show her best friend. She reached for Henry instead, she’d allow the woman to continue to sleep.  Pain shot through her wrist as a hand clasped around it. She gasped. This woman was unbelievably strong. “Emma.” Kathryn hissed trying to free her wrist. “Emma.” She said this time louder.

“Kathryn,” Emma asked eyes barely open. 

“Yes. Can I please have my wrist back.”

Emma gasped in apology releasing the wrist she’d been holding. She hadn’t even known she’d been doing it. 

Kathryn rubbed the area Emma had taken hold of. “I’m gonna put him in bed.” Kathryn motioned to the still sleeping boy.

Emma nodded and sat up once Kathryn lifted Henry.

“You don’t have to leave, you must be exhausted.” 

Emma thought about it, she really wanted to be in her own bed, at the same time she knew she was in no condition to drive, her eyes felt as though they had sand in them, she was exhausted. “Regina won’t mind,” she asked. She didn’t want to overstay her welcome.

Kathryn laughed. “After everything you did for her today, she wouldn’t care if you moved in.” Kathryn had talked to Regina on her drive. She’d told her how Emma had saved her and then had picked up Henry from the school and how she’d offered to watch him until she got there. Kathryn didn’t know Emma but, she knew she liked her already. Anyone willing to go out of their way like this for her friend was alright in her book.

“I’ll refrain from moving in but, I will take the couch.” After Emma refused to take the guest bed Kathryn brought out a pillow and a blanket.  Emma took her work shirt off and laid it on the back of the couch, thankful for the tank top underneath. She rarely slept in anything but her bra and underwear, being in someone else’s home though told her she had to dress appropriately.

Emma woke a few hours later to a finger poking at her face once again. She smiled at the shaggy haired boy. “Good Morning Henry.”

“We’re gonna go get mommy.” He whispered excitedly. 

“Henry.” Kathryn scolded. “I told you to let Emma sleep.” 

“S’alright.  I should probably head out.” Emma sat up.

“You don’t have to, it’s still early.  Regina managed to talk her doctors into releasing her at the crack of dawn.” She rolled her eyes. Her friend didn’t know how to rest.

Emma was actually impressed by this. She thought on how she’d gone out of her way for the brunette, it was no surprise the doctors and the nurses at the hospital had done the same.  She figured Mary Margaret had a hand in her early release.

“Go back to sleep. I’ll only be an hour. I do need the booster seat though.”

“What do you drive,” she asked.

“A convertible.”

Emma frowned at this. “Two door,” She asked. Her frown deepened at Kathryn’s nod. She’d encountered far too many accidents with entrapments and fatalities with small sports cars. She eyed the little boy then turned back to Kathryn. “Just take my truck. It’s safer.” Kathryn wanted to argue but Emma shook her head. “It’ll make me feel better.”

“Okay, but you’ll have to stay for breakfast. It’s the least we can do to thank you.”

Emma thought about this for a moment. “Alright.” Breakfast wouldn’t be bad right? Then she could be on her way to spend some quality time with her dog and go on business as usual.

Chapter Text

Kathryn wheeled Regina out of the hospital. Regina had fought to walk out but the nurses had not budged. She’d finally conceded. She would suffer the humiliation of the short wheelchair ride out, if it meant she could leave the dreaded hospital. She looked around for her friend’s bright yellow convertible but could not locate it. She was surprised when Kathryn pushed her towards a green truck instead. She’d known Kathryn for a long time and never known her to be the truck type. “When did you get this.” She couldn’t believe Kathryn had parted from her beloved convertible.

“I didn’t, its Emma’s.” Kathryn opened the passenger door. She took Henry from Regina’s lap and helped buckled him in. He was at the point where he wanted to buckle himself in, so she held onto the base of the buckle so it would not sink between the seats.

Regina only nodded. She stepped into the truck and settled herself into the passenger seat. There it was again. The faint smell of vanilla, she’d smelt it on Emma when she’d tucked her face in her coat. She inhaled again. Vanilla with a hint of smoke. She found the scent very relaxing, now understanding why her nurse had inhaled the scent in the same way she just did. She was pulled from her thoughts by the slamming of the driver side door. Several minutes into the drive the bruise on Kathryn’s wrist caught her eye. “Kathryn what happened.”

“What are you..” Kathryn followed Regina’s gaze. A bruise in the shape of a hand print covered her wrist. “Oh that.” She smiled. “I hit some traffic and got in late last night. When I got there, Emma was asleep on the couch with Henry beside her, apparently he missed his mommy,” she said the last party quietly so not to embarrass Henry. “I went to grab him, to put him in his bed and she had a hold on me before her eyes even opened. That girl has a grip.”

Regina couldn’t hide the smile. She felt bad for her friend but she was grateful her son had been well protected. She’d never trusted Henry with anyone except for Kathryn, she was thankful Emma had been the one to rescue her from the fire, she wouldn’t have been able to go through the night knowing Henry was miserable with her mother. “So why the truck.”

“Emma didn’t think my car was safe for little ones. She didn’t say it but I saw it in her eyes.  She’s probably seen a lot of bad accidents.”

“Finally someone else who agrees with me.” Regina preferred her SUV. It was safer and could hold more for when she travelled with Henry.

“Momma, Emma’s gonna have breakfast with us.” Henry interrupted excitedly. Regina looked to Kathryn for confirmation.

“Uh, I kinda promised her breakfast.” Regina nodded. “I know you’re tired we can just pick something up.”

“No, no, breakfast is fine. She’s gone out of her way for me, the least I can do is feed her.” She was beyond grateful for the blonde. It wasn’t like her to trust anyone and the fact that she felt she could trust her spoke volumes.

“Good, I’ve missed your cooking.” Regina was by far Kathryn’s favorite cook.

“I suppose I can make your favorite. You did make a long, last minute trip.” Regina was an exceptional cook and Kathryn reminded her every chance she got.

“Don’t tease me Regina.” She looked over to her right, eyes big and hopeful.

“I don’t tease.” Kathryn raised an eyebrow and gave her a pointed look. “Often.” Regina corrected. They drove in silence for the remainder of the trip. Silence with the occasional chatter from the backseat that is.

“Eight thirty think she’s still asleep.” Kathryn wondered.

“Possibly. I can’t imagine how tired she must be from yesterday. They rescued over a dozen people, they were there for hours.” Regina knew as tired as she was, the fire fighters would be even more so. Kathryn parked the truck in the driveway. Regina told Henry to keep it down when they entered the house. He unbuckled himself and jumped out of the backseat. The trio entered the silent house quietly. All three walked into the living room and spotted the still sleeping blonde. Henry pouted, he’d really hoped she’d be awake to play with him. Emma lay with the blanket covering her from the waist down. Regina couldn’t help but eye the form fitting tank top. Her eyes raked over the flat stomach, up towards her breasts, she paused as she stared at the almost serene face, she noted the worry lines across her forehead. The arm bent behind her head drew her attention as it flexed. Regina figured the blonde was dreaming as her pupils moved under the closed lids, her muscles flexing occasionally.  She was so engrossed with the woman before her she jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. The blush she felt was quickly concealed with a wince. She’d been caught staring by her best friend. That only meant one thing, endless teasing, pushing and questioning. She turned to leave the living room ushering the other two of its occupants with her. Regina busied herself with making breakfast ignoring the look Kathryn was sending her way. 

***

Emma woke to the most delightful smell. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d woken up to something so wonderfully delicious. She stretched her tight muscles making a mental note to take ibuprofen when she got home. She pulled her work shirt over her head and followed the smell of food.

“Emma!” Henry squealed jumping off his seat running to her. “Mommy made breakfast.” He grabbed her hand tugging her to the chair that sat beside his.

“It smells amazing.” Emma’s eyes connected with the cook.

Kathryn watched as both women stared at each other. ‘Interesting.’ She thought.

“I hope you like french toast, its Kathryn’s favorite.” Regina felt nervous under the woman’s intense gaze as she waited for a response.

“I love french toast. It’s better than anything I can microwave.” She took the plate Regina offered and took her seat next to Henry. Regina fixed herself a plate and took a seat beside Kathryn, across from Emma.

“You can’t be that bad.”

“Oh no, I am. Ask the guys. They hate when it’s my turn to cook, thankfully the lieutenant gives me lunch shifts. I make them eat grilled cheese sandwiches.” She paused. “Every. Time.”  This caused both women to chuckle.

“Well prepare yourself for the best food you’ll have ever tasted, Regina can cook better than anyone I know.” Kathryn bragged taking a bite of her food.

“Mmmm.” Emma moaned at the first bite. “This is by far the best french toast I have ever had.” She took another bite this one larger than the last. The first two bites made the inconvenience of the night all worth it. “Regina this is seriously amazing.”

Regina’s cheeks had turned a shade of red after Emma’s moan, her continued compliments only added to her darkening cheeks.

With breakfast complete Emma offered to do the dishes so that Regina could keep her cast dry. Shortly after she found herself at the door getting ready to leave. “Make sure you actually get rest and stay away from burning buildings.” She joked lamely.

“I’ll do my best though I make no promises.” Regina smiled. A genuine smile Kathryn noted. One she had not seen in years.

“Kathryn it was nice to meet you, I really am sorry about the wrist.” She motioned towards the forming bruise.

Kathryn waved her concern taking the blame for startling her. “I was actually hoping for one more favor. Do you think you can drop me off at the mall so I can pick Regina’s SUV.” Kathryn wanted some one on one time with the blonde, she needed more information.

“Kathryn we can get that later, I won’t be going anywhere today.” Regina did not want to inconvenience the blonde any more than they already had.

“It’s not a problem Regina, besides the SUV is safer.” Emma hadn’t thought about Regina needing a car and was glad Kathryn would be bringing the car back, she didn’t feel comfortable having a child in a convertible. “Besides, it’s on the way home, so it’s no problem at all.”

“Well if you’re sure.” Regina conceded.

“I am.”

“Thank you again Emma, I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.” Regina didn’t feel like she’d ever be able to repay her, not after all she’d done, they were complete strangers to her and she’d gone out of her way for them like no other person besides Kathryn had ever done, not even her mother would have troubled herself as much.

“Well I wouldn’t say no to any of your cooking.” Emma winked.

It was at that moment that Henry decided it was time for him to speak. “Emma, can you take me to see your fire truck.” Henry had been patiently waiting for the adults to stop talking, he didn’t think they ever would, so when there was a pause in conversation he jumped in.

Emma didn’t know what to say, she looked at the boy’s mother for an answer. That didn’t help, it seemed as though his mother would also like to know the answer.

“How about your mom messages me when she’s feeling better and I’ll set it up so you can see the trucks.” The answer seemed to please him. Few minutes later she was on the road with the blonde as her passenger. “What,” Emma finally asked. She’d been doing her best to ignore the blonde’s stare, she just couldn’t take it anymore.

“Sorry.” Kathryn chuckled. “I didn’t mean to stare. I really appreciate all that you did for Regina. She keeps herself pretty closed off, I’m glad she met you. She’s never trusted Henry with anyone.”

“She didn’t really have a choice in the matter, it was me or her mother, and I don’t have to be a genius to know that their relationship is less than friendly.” Emma remembered the desperate and panicked look in the brunette’s eyes. “Besides, Henry is a good kid.”

“That he is. So Emma, your boyfriend doesn’t mind that we kept you from going home for so long.” Kathryn snooped.

Emma smiled, she wasn’t stupid, she knew Kathryn was fishing. “Actually I don’t have a boyfriend,” she paused, “or a girlfriend for that matter.” She winked.

“Oh, OH.” It clicked, this was perfect. “Well Emma thank you for everything. Don’t be a stranger.” Kathryn got out, taking the booster seats with her. They’d take the extra one back to the school so Emma didn’t have to.

Emma shook her head and chuckled, she liked Kathryn. She was very carefree and energetic.

“Drive safe Kathryn.” Emma pulled away when Kathryn started the SUV. She needed to get home, while she didn’t have a girlfriend waiting for her, she did have a very excited and lonely dog waiting. Even though Ember would spend some of the time she was at work with Granny she could always tell when she was lonely. Granny was older she couldn’t keep up with the energetic dog. She’d thought about getting her a companion many times, but she wasn’t sure she could handle two dogs. Running with one was a workout in itself. She checked her watch, 11 am, Ember would more than likely be back at her house. Emma had barely made it through the front door when 70 pounds of fur came at her. “Hey Ember.” She greeted her dog, the dog stood on her back paws resting her front ones on Emma’s arms in a hug. Emma set her duffle bag down and gave her long haired German Sheppard some love. “I missed you too girl.” She kissed the dog’s muzzle.

Ember had been in her life just under 2 years. She’d rescued her from a home they’d responded to for medical call. The home owner had been a hoarder, and several other animals had been found. Ember had been found chained in the backyard, the chain digging into her neck. She’d immediately called law enforcement who’d then contacted animal control. “Alright girl, let me get changed.” She patted the dogs head. Familiar with the days Emma worked overnight Ember jumped down and ran for the door grabbing the leash from the hook beside it. With the leash in her mouth she ran to Emma’s room.

Emma and Ember returned from their morning run an hour later, both worn out. After a long hot shower she decided she’d catch up on some much needed sleep before going to the Nolan’s house for the get together, after all these years it was still hard for her to call it a birthday party. Securing all the blackout curtains she snuggled up under her comforter. Ember wasted no time in climbing on the bed and curling up beside her owner.

***

“So she’s single.”  Kathryn commented as she and Regina sat in the living room later that afternoon.

Regina groaned she should’ve known her friend had gone to get the car to get information.

“Oh don’t give me that look Regina. We both know you find her attractive. Don’t think I didn’t see you eyeing those arms.” She teased.

“Shut up.” Regina swatted at her friend, her cheeks turning red once again. 

“She’s also gay.” Kathryn wiggled her eyebrows. She enjoyed teasing her best friend, it wasn’t often that she had an opportunity to, especially not when it came to people Regina found attractive, people she could actually be into.

“Kathryn as much as you’d like for things to progress I’ve just met her, I have to think about Henry.”

“Regina, we both know Henry already likes her. What are you really worried about.” Kathryn knew her best friend had been through hell with Henry’s father but she just wanted her to be happy and she really thought that Emma could make her happy.

“I’m not sure I’m ready.” Regina admitted, her gaze fell to her lap as she nervously played with the crease of her jeans.

Kathryn scooted beside her friend and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Okay I’m sorry, I won’t push. I just want you to be happy.” She gave her shoulders a squeeze.

“I know.” Regina sighed leaning into her friend. “I just worry that once I relax he’ll come back. I can’t become complacent. I know I haven’t heard from him in years but still.” They sat in silence for several minutes before Regina broke it. “She does have nice arms.” She remembered those arms carrying her out of the building and to the ambulance, lifting Henry up on the bed, flexing as she slept.

Kathryn laughed. “I knew you were checking her out. Hell I was checking her out.”

“So then you date her.” Regina sat up.

“Nu uh.” Kathryn pulled the brunette back. “We both know I don’t swing that way, and of the two of us, you’re the only one that jumped ship.”

Regina rolled her eyes. “That was college.”

Kathryn shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, it’s like riding a bike. Besides she was checking you out not me. Just promise that if the opportunity arises you’ll give it a chance.”

“You’ll drop the subject if I agree,” She asked.

Kathryn nodded.

“Then I agree, if it arises, but I’m not initiating anything. When are you headed back.” She changed the subject.

“I took the rest of the week off, figured it’s been a while since I’ve seen you and my godson.”

“That’s wonderful. Henry will be ecstatic to learn his favorite aunt is staying a couple more days.” She herself was very happy Kathryn would be staying.

“I’m his only aunt, Regina.”

Regina shrugged instantly regretting the action. “Why don’t you get a nap in while Henry is taking one. I’m sure you’re tired.”

Regina didn’t argue. She was exhausted and the medication she’d been given for the pain had only furthered her drowsiness.

Chapter Text

It was hours later before either woman woke up. Regina lay in her bed thinking about her conversation with Kathryn. Was she ready to try love again? Was she ready to put Henry through it? He was older this time, he’d remember the heartache of a bad relationship. He’d been two when she’d left his father, he hadn’t had to witness his fits of drunken rage. Emma wasn’t like that she was sure, but then again she’d been sure about Leo too. She let out a big sigh, Emma was beautiful, she could have anyone in the world, what would she want to do with a burdened woman and a child.

“You’re overthinking things.” Her head snapped to the door where Kathryn stood. “You’re amazing, any person would be lucky to have you in their life.” Kathryn hated that Regina doubted herself, while she was confident in most departments, she didn’t trust herself when in came to love. Leo had really done a number on her.

Regine smiled, Kathryn always knew when she was doubting herself, or having a battle within herself. “Where is Henry.” She pulled herself up to a sitting position, her ribs throbbed as she settled against the headboard.

 “Watching a movie and snacking on some apples.” Kathryn moved to sit beside her friend. “Here.” She handed a phone to Regina.

Regina grabbed the device, it was her spare phone, Kathryn must have activated it for her. Noting the blue flashing light, she unlocked the phone, going to her messages screen.

“Whatcha looking at.” She sat beside Regina taking a peek at the phone.

“It’s a message from Emma, but how did she.” She didn’t finish, the answer was in the first text message.

‘Regina, I hope you don’t mind, Kathryn gave me this number, she said, and I quote “in case of future emergencies ;)” and yes she winked, your friend is very sneaky. I just wanted to let you know I made it home, thank you for breakfast, it was one the best meals I think I’ve ever had. Get well soon.’

Regina read the message several times, she’d told Kathryn she’d not make the first move and so her best friend had made the move for her. She really knew how to find loopholes. She couldn’t be mad at her for her meddling. She knew she only did it because she wanted her to be happy.

“Wow she actually texted you, I mean, I was hoping she would but I didn’t think she’d actually do it. This is so exciting, so what are you going to say,” Kathryn asked moving in even closer trying to take a peek at Regina’s response. “Heyyyy.” Kathryn protested the first part of the message. “Wait, yesterday was her birthday?! She spent the night with you and Henry instead of going out and celebrating!” Regina only nodded. “Regina, you owe her big.”

Regina knew she owed the woman. She’d completely forgotten that it was her birthday, worrying about where Henry would stay had been the only thing she had thought about. “I only found out because my nurse mentioned it.” Regina set the phone on the nightstand. “I do owe her, I don’t know what I would have done had she not been there.”

***

Not too far from Regina’s place Emma lay awake in her bed debating whether she should get up. She still had a few hours until her birthday dinner. Ember lay beside her with her head resting on her chest, patiently waiting for her owner to get up. “Hey sweet girl.” She rubbed the dogs head making sure to get behind her ear. “Ready to get this day started.” Ember lifted her head letting out a slow rumble. “Alright come on.” Emma stretched her sore muscles, tightening and relaxing each one. 

Emma reached for her phone, she had two voicemails and a text message. She checked her voicemails first. The first message was from Mary Margaret reminding her of the party, telling her not to be late and to not try and get out of it. She laughed hearing David in the background telling her to get her ass up. The second was from Ruby, asking for details on what had occurred with Regina after work. Her exact words, ‘Details woman, I need details!’ Of course Ruby would want details. Ruby would never believe that nothing had happened, her friend could be so nosy sometimes, she loved her nonetheless. After all, Ruby had saved her from some very scary women, women who had gone as far as showing up at her work to see her. The next message was simple yet it made her smile.

‘Emma, I’d forgotten this morning that it was your birthday, I’m sure you’d had better plans than babysitting my son and putting up with Kathryn. I cannot thank you enough for everything you did for us. Happy Birthday.’

Everything deep down told her to cut ties, to not get involved, not more than she already had that is. But she couldn’t help herself, she was drawn to the pair. So against her better judgment she replied.

‘I’ve never been big on celebrating my birthday, Mary Margaret kind of makes me. Besides, breakfast was wonderful.’

Emma didn’t have to wait long to receive a reply.

‘You don’t celebrate your birthday? Oh dear, better not let Henry hear you say that. He wishes you a Happy Birthday as well, though he’s upset you didn’t tell him. Let me assure you, he is more upset at missing the opportunity to eat cake.’

Emma laughed.  Ember looked at her as though she’d lost her mind. ‘Hmm sounds like a certain dog of mine. She enjoys my birthday more than I do. Any chance to sneak off with some cake.’ She spoke the message aloud as she typed it. At the mention of cake Ember immediately got up and jumped off the bed, she returned a minute later with Emma’s shoe in her mouth. Emma took a picture of the dog. ‘See what I mean, she heard the word cake.’  Emma attached the photo.

Emma set the phone down and started getting ready.

“You’re late.” Was the first thing Mary Margaret said when she opened the door. “Hey sweetheart.” She knelt down to pet Ember. Ember lifted her front paws putting them on Mary Margaret’s knees licking her face. 

“EMBER!!!” Four little voices yelled running to the front door. Ember abandoned the adults for the more playful kids. She bounced around them being careful not to knock them over. She allowed them to climb on top of her taking her to the ground.

“Hello to you too!” Emma yelled towards the kids.

“Hi Aunty Emma, Happy Birthday!” The four yelled in unison returning their attention to the canine.

Emma just shook her head, she knew if it ever came down to picking her or the dog, Ember would win. Ember always won, she had a way about her that made everyone love her. It was a good thing she loved her.

“How did things go with Regina, Kathryn make it in okay,” Mary Margaret asked.

“Yeah how did things go with Regina.” Ruby jumped into the conversation slinging an arm over Emma’s shoulders.

“Things went fine, Kathryn was a bit late because of traffic.” She told Mary Margaret. “And no nothing happened Ruby.” Her friend could be relentless.

“You know Emma, I think you’re losing your touch, your age is starting to show.” Ruby Teased.

Emma groaned, if ruby kept up like this, it was going to be a long night. “I need a drink.”

“Awe come on Em, you know I love you. I want nothing but the best for you.” Ruby trailed behind Emma.

“Emma, we didn’t think you’d show.” The guys sat around a poker table.

From the looks of it Killian was kicking butt, everyone seemed to be holding their own except Neal. From what Emma could see he only had two poker chips left. “Tamara you’re letting him play,” Emma asked Neal’s wife.

“They’re not playing with real money, otherwise his behind would be watching from the sideline.” Tamara knew better than to let her husband play with real money, they weren’t hurting for money but sometimes Neal competitive side egged on by Killian caused him to get carried away.

“I’m sitting right here.” Neal argued. If their shift wasn’t such a tight group he’d have felt embarrassed that his wife bossed him around in front of them.

“Yes you are love.” Tamara kissed him on the head before following the women to the kitchen for a refill. Tonight was her night to drink, Neal had offered to drive so that she could enjoy herself. “So Emma, tell me about this new girl.” She said after pouring herself a drink.

“Seriously Rubes.” Emma pinched Ruby’s side.

“Owe! What?! I was just telling them about the fire and how you, Emma Swam, went out of your way to make sure the woman got her kid. That’s all. I didn’t say anything about how hot she was, even when covered in suet.” Ruby defended herself.

“Ruby for the love of god, please stop. It wasn’t like that, she needed help that’s all.” Emma had never been in a situation like this before. She didn’t feel right talking about Regina like she was any other woman she’d been with, a thing to be bragged about.

“And that fact that you watched Henry last night,” Tamara asked.

“You.” Emma turned to Mary Margaret accusingly. “You told! God! Does anyone keep secrets anymore.” Emma downed her drink, filling up her glass. She couldn’t trust any of her friends to keep from talking.

“Come on Emma, we’re just messing with you. It’s not like we told the guys or anything.” Ruby reassured.

“There is nothing to tell, the woman needed help, so I helped her. End of story.” She was getting irritated.

“Alright, alright, time for cake.” Mary Margaret quickly put an end to the discussion before Emma retreated into her shell. She could always tell when Emma was at her limits. If they pushed or teased her any further she’d stop talking and withdraw from all conversation. She didn’t want that tonight, it was her birthday celebration after all. The kids ran in having heard cake, Ember following closely behind them.

Emma was thankful Mary Margaret had put an end to the Regina talk. “Not too much cake today Ember, remember what happened last year.” She told her dog, the reminder was more for everyone else in the room. They had a habit of spoiling her dog, Ember loved it, but Emma did not enjoy taking care of her sick dog the year before. The dog avoided eye contact and let out a low howl. Against her request to forgo the song, everyone sang happy birthday before having cake.

With everyone gone Emma and Mary Margaret sat in the living room with Ember curled up by Emma’s feet. “Emma you know we only want you to be happy right,” she asked the blonde.

“I am happy.” She defended.

“Not what I meant and I think you know that.” Mary Margaret gave her a pointed look.

“I know, but for now can we just let this go, I helped her out, it’s not like I asked her out or anything.” It had been a long time since Emma asked anyone out, women normally asked her out and she was always upfront in telling them she was not looking for a relationship.

“Well do you think that maybe you should,” she asked. “Emma whether you want to admit it or not, I know what I saw, and it wasn’t just you, I saw the way she looked you.” She waited patient for Emma to think about her words.

Emma always teased Mary Margaret about her ability to spot true love, of course she was going to use that against her now. “I know close to nothing about her.” Emma argued.

“That’s what dates are for sweetie. To get to know someone. Do you think that maybe you date these mindless women because deep down you know the relationships won’t work out, so you don’t let yourself get close, that way you won’t end up hurt and alone? I think this is why you’re fighting this one. You can feel that there could be more and that scares you.”

Emma said nothing for a few minutes. She hated to admit it but Mary Margaret was right, she’d been afraid of putting herself out there and getting hurt in the process. The thought of putting herself out there really scared her. “I hate when you go mom mode on me.”

“Just give it a try,” Mary Margaret asked placing a hand on Emma’s knee.

“Will it get you to stop.” At Mary Margaret’s nod she agreed. “I’ll give it a try and see where it goes.” She would make an effort with Regina if she ran into her again or if Regina contacted her. She wasn’t going to tell Mary Margaret that though because knowing her, she’d find a way of getting Regina and her in the same room.

“That’s all I ask.” She patted Emma’s knee.

Emma sighed leaning into Mary Margaret. She was the closest thing to a mother she’d ever known. She always knew how to talk to her and get her to talk about her feelings without any fear of judgement.

Chapter Text

“Swan,” August called from the Radio Room. He’d just gotten off the phone from one of the local schools requesting a fire truck.

“Yeah L.T.,” Emma popped her head into the room curious as to what she’d done this time.

“Storybrooke Elementary called requesting a truck.” He held up a hand before she could argue. “I know you’ve done the last three but Tina specifically requested you.”

“Okay.” She knew the school her lieutenant was referring to. It was the same one she’d picked up Henry from the week before. She also knew exactly who Tina was. She’d hoped by having Regina return the car seat, the woman would have forgotten about her. “When,” she asked.

“Today, the weather is nice, so they can take the kids outside and I figured we’d get it over with since we’re not busy. She knows we’ll have to go if we get a call since this was done last minute. Think you can swing by your place and get our mascot? I’ll have the guys meet you at the school.”

“Who’s going,” she asked. They normally ran a 3 man crew, one to speak two to dress up and show the kids what firefighters looked like with all their gear.

“Besides you, I’m thinking David and Ruby. You remember how disastrous it was the last time I sent James and Killian to one of these things.” He cringed thinking about it.

Emma laughed, it had been quite memorable. The lieutenant had to field several calls from parents the next day. It was apparent the two had forgotten the age group they were talking to. “Okay, tell the guys to grab my gear just in case.” With that she left for her home to pick up Ember. It had taken a few months to master, but Ember had learned the stop, drop, cover and roll and could do it on command. The kids loved it and her dog loved the attention. Emma was not looking forward to dealing with Tina, but she was looking forward to seeing Henry, she and Regina had occasionally messaged each other throughout the week but their conversations were always light and short. They’d yet to set a date to bring Henry by the station. She hadn’t wanted to push the issue and waited for Regina to bring it up.

The Rescue Engine arrived several minutes before Emma. The teachers brought out the five, six and seven year olds and lined them up in the school’s parking lot. “Hello.” A blonde woman approached the duo. She looked past them as if looking for someone. Ruby gave David a knowing smile.  “I thought Firefighter Swan would be here.” The blonde told them disappointedly.

“She’ll be here. She had to pick someone up.” Ruby assured the woman. She wanted to laugh at the relieved look that crossed the blonde’s face. ‘Emma you dog. How do you do it?’ This woman had no chance with her friend and she knew it. It was going to be painful to watch for sure, but that did not mean she didn’t want a front row seat. While waiting for Emma, David and Ruby set up the gear Emma and David would be using. Emma pulled up moments later with her canine companion in tow. Emma gave Ember the down command near the truck and moved to the group.

“Emma!” She felt the impact of a little body hit her as soon as she’d walked towards the group.

“Hey buddy.” Emma knelt down giving her tiny friend a hug.

“Henry.” His teacher, Marian scolded. “What did we discuss before the firefighters got here,” She asked.

Henry looked down, avoiding eye contact.

Emma pulled away. “Henry, look at me.”

Henry looked up with unshed tears in his eyes.

“What did Mrs. Marian talk about before we got here,” she asked keeping her voice soft.

“Not to leave the group and not to run towards the trucks.” He sniffled. “I just wanted to say hi, I missed you.” He defended giving Emma his best pout.

It took all of Emma’s will power not to break down and tell him what he’d done was alright. She couldn’t allow this boy, who she’d only met twice have her wrapped around his tiny little pinky, though she didn’t think it would take much. His sweet little face and puppy dog eyes were hard to resist.  “I know you did buddy, but it’s not safe, do you understand.”

He nodded, giving Emma a quick hug. “I’m sorry Mrs. Marian, I won’t do it again.” He apologized to his teacher.

“It’s alright Henry, if Emma has time after and if it’s okay with your mom, maybe you can talk to Emma then okay.” She’d never known Henry to disobey her rules so she let him off with a warning.

Henry looked to Emma to see if that was okay, at her nod he agreed with a quick okay and ran back to join the rest of his group. She smiled when she heard him talk to his classmates referring to her as his friend.

“Hi guys, how are we doing today.” Emma put on her energetic voice for the kids.

“Goood!” The kids yelled back to her.

“I can’t hear you! I said, how are we doing today.” She cupped a hand behind her ear leaning towards the group.

“GOOD!!” They all screamed. 

Emma pulled back as though their shouts had blown her away. “That’s what I like to hear. My name is Firefighter Emma and these are my friends, Firefighter David and Firefighter Ruby, can we say hi to them.” She introduced David and Ruby to the kids.

The children erupted once again greeting David and Ruby. Several parents started pulling up and joined together in a group off to the side enjoying the presentation being put on by the fire department.

“Now I know we all wanna see what’s inside the firetruck but first we have to go over some very important things. Show of hands, what number do you call if you have an emergency.” She wasn’t surprised when every hand shot up. This was the one question most kids knew. “Okay most of you know this one, together, what is it.” 

“911!”

“Great job, we call 911 when we have an emergency and we want the police, an ambulance or a firetruck to show up. Who has a smoke alarm in their house.” Again most of the hands went up, she figured the ones not going up were probably still too young to know what a smoke alarm was. “Do we know what sound a smoke detector makes.” The older kids nodded. “Well, let’s hear it.” The group took that as permission to make obnoxious noises. “Very good. Now if you guys hear that really loud and annoying sound, you have to leave the house. Do you and your family have a place you’re supposed to meet.” The kids started shouting out several meeting areas. “Good, good, if you don’t have a meeting place, guess what I want you to do,” she paused to make sure she had all of their attentions. “I want you to go home and set up a meeting place with your parents.” She made sure to look at the parents, her eyes caught sight of Regina. ‘Wow, if I thought she looked good before, you are in so much trouble Swan.’

Emma smiled and returned her attention back to the kids. “Alright, we’re going to go over one more thing before we dress up in our fire gear so you all know what firefighters look like when there is a fire. I want you all to stay sitting down, okay.” She waited for their nods and turned to where she’d left her dog. “Ember, come.” She slapped her hand against her thigh. Immediately Ember got up and moved to sit beside her. “Good girl.” She scratched behind Ember’s ear. “Everyone, this is my dog Ember, can we give her a quiet welcome.” Emma pet the dogs head and adjusted her fire department bowtie.

The kids scream whispered in their best whisper voice and waved. “Hi Ember!”

Emma raised her palm up and the dog sat back, her front paws raised. “Say hello Ember.” She commanded.

Ember barked, using her right paw to wave.

“Good girl.” Emma praised the dog. “Now guys, we all know not to play with matches and lighters right,” she asked. The kids nodded. “We have some super smart friends.” She told Ember. “It’s important not to play with matches because our clothes can catch fire. Do you know what to do if our clothes catch fire.” Instantly hands went up. She picked a young redhead that’d stayed quiet most of the time.

“You stop, drop, cover and roll.” Her voice grew louder as she gained confidence.

“That’s right, you stop running, you drop to the ground, you cover your face and you roll around until the fire is out.” She turned to Ember, this was usually a crowd please. “Okay Ember, you ready to show them how it’s done,” she asked.

The dog barked, letting her know she was ready. She began pacing, waiting for Emma’s next command.

“Okay Ember, stop.”

The dog ceased all movement.

“Drop.” The dog fell to the ground and rolled onto her back, playing dead.

“Cover.” The dog brought her paws to cover her face.

“What’s next guys,” she asked the group.

“Roll.” They yelled in unison. And so Ember rolled first to one side, then to the other.

“Let’s give Ember a round of applause for doing such a great job.” She began clapping and the kids followed. Ember took that as her que, she bowed her head. Emma led Ember near the fire truck again and gave her the command to stay. She returned to the kids and smiled as most of their attention was still on her dog. Everyone loved her. “Guys remember Firefighter Ruby,” she asked getting them to focus on her once again. “Well she’s going to tell you about what we wear, while Firefighter David and I will get dressed in our fire gear.”

“Hi Everyone!” Ruby greeted. Emma had already gotten the kids excited, this made her job easier. “We all know fires can be very hot right so we wear clothes that protect us from the hot fire and they keep us from getting hurt. I want you to remember Firefighter David and Firefighter Emma okay, they’re gonna look different but it’s still them.” The kids nodded. “First we wear our pants and boots.” She explained as Emma and David got dressed in their bunker pants and boots. “They keep our legs and feet safe.” She explained. “Next we wear a hood, that way we don’t burn our hair, we’d look kind of silly with burned hair right.” She made a face. The kids yelled in agreeance with her. “Next we put on our jacket.” She waited as Emma and David put their coat on and connected the d-rings. “Now they’re going to put on the pack, this pack helps them breath that way they don’t get smoke in the mouth.” Emma and David turned on their SCBA packs, lifting them over their heads, slipping them on their backs tightening the straps like backpacks.

“You still remember what Firefighters David and Emma look like right,” she asked to make sure the kids weren’t afraid of the pair. Again they responded in a yes. “Okay, okay, good, now they’re going to put their mask on, you’re not gonna see as much of their face, I don’t want you to be scared, you guys ready,” this was usually the time that tears would started to spill. A few of the students backed up.

Emma and David slid the hoods back and placed the masks over their face. They tightened the straps. “We can still see you.” One child called out, that was all it took for others to start repeating the phrase.

“You can,” Ruby asked as if shocked. Emma and David placed the hood back over their heads. “Now their ears are protected. Anyone scared? You still remember Firefighter David and Firefighter Emma.” She waited for several nods before continuing. “Good, now, Firefighters David and Emma are going to put on their helmets, do we know why we need helmets,” she asked.

A little boy raised his hand. “That way if they fall, they don’t get hurt.”

“That’s right! Just like when you ride your bikes, you have to wear a helmet, we have to wear one for work. Next they’re going to put on their gloves and finally they’re going to breath using their air packs that look like backpacks. I want you guys to listen closely and tell me who they sound like when they breath.” Emma and David plugged in their regulators and as expected several kids pulled back and a few started crying while others shouted Darth Vader! 

“Remember it’s just Firefighters David and Emma, if you want you can give them high fives.” As the two firefighters began to crawl around the kids warmed up to them slowly and started feeling their gear. “Remember in case of fire, they’re going to show up dressed like this and we’ll be crawling around just like they are now, so we don’t want you to be scared.” Once the kids got their fill of the firefighters, Emma and David undressed leaving their bunker pants on, Ruby led the kids through the firetruck giving them a tour of the outside and allowing them and some of the parents inside, a few made their way to the dog, giving her plenty of love and attention.

“That went well.” David commented putting away his gear in a side compartment since he’d be driving the truck.

Emma nodded, it had gone very well, it always went smoothly with a cooperative class. It helped having older kids there, the young ones followed their lead.

“Emma, thank you so much for coming by on such short notice.” Tina rested her hand on Emma’s forearm.

‘To think it was going so well.’ Emma thought to herself. She went to make eye contact with David, to send him a help me look, but of course the traitor was gone. ‘Where is the loyalty.’ She smiled. “It was no problem. We weren’t doing anything.” Emma took a step back using her hand to push back the strands of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail.

“That’s what your Lieutenant said, I just felt terrible for waiting until the last minute.” Again, her hand landed on Emma’s arm. “Let me take you out to lunch as a thank you.”

‘Oh boy. How do I let her down gently.’ Emma racked her brain for ideas. “Emma,” Henry exclaimed running up to her. ‘Thank you Henry.’  Emma pulled her arm away turning her attention to her savior. “I appreciate the offer, really I do, but it’s not necessary.” Emma didn’t wait for a response, instead she turned to Henry picking him up. “Hello handsome. Did you learn something today.”

He nodded and started listening off things he’d learned. “Ember is so cute. And she’s so smart.” He complimented.  Of course he’d fallen in love with Ember, everyone did. When it came to her dog she really didn’t stand a chance.

“She really is a great dog, you’ve done a wonderful job with her.” Tina commented from beside her.

Emma groaned internally. “Thank you.” she forced out. “It took several months of training.”

“Mommy.” Henry waved down his mother. “Mommy, it’s Emma,” He told his mom as though she hadn’t seen for herself.

“Hello Emma, Miss Bell,” Regina greeted the pair, she’d been watching the interaction between the two blondes, something about it had sparked a seed of jealousy. She had no right to be jealous, after all, she and Emma were just friends so she waited to see how the situation played out. She’d been relieved to see Emma step back uncomfortably, she hadn’t missed the look of pure relief on Emma’s face when Henry had arrived. “You did a wonderful job.” Regina looked Emma up and down, something about her in her fire gear was so alluring.

“Thank you. It takes a lot of practice,” she smiled once Regina’s attention returned to her face, clearly having enjoyed the view. Tina took that as her cue to walk away, it was clear they were not going to include her in on the conversation. “Thank you,” Emma whispered.

“Mommy I want a picture,” Henry piped up feeling ignored.

“What do you say.” She shot him a, you know better look.

“Pleeeease Mommy!”

“Do you mind,” she asked the blonde, though she already knew the answer.

“Not at all,” she pulled Henry closer and smiled for the camera.

“Now all of us,” Henry squealed.

“Henry.” Regina began to protest.

“It’s okay,” Emma interrupted. “I don’t bite.” She wanted to kick herself the minute the words left her mouth. She didn’t know Regina well enough to say things like that.

Regina smirked, enjoying herself. “Well that makes one of us,” she moved in close to Emma and Henry and took the photo.

Emma snapped out of it too late. Her eyes had been on Regina and not the camera. “Hey no fair, I wasn’t ready,” Emma whined.

“Henry, what do I always say,” she asked.

“Sorry Emma, you snooze, you lose.” Henry gave her an apologetic smile.

“So not fair.” Emma smiled.

“Emma we’re due on an auto accident with multiple entrapments,” David yelled for her.

Emma nodded, “I have to take Ember home.” She should’ve known this was going to happen. She set Henry down and called for Ember.

“We’ll watch her Emma.” Henry offered giving the dog a hug. “Mommy can we,” he asked.

Emma looked to the boy, the truck, then to his mother. Regina saw the frazzled look. “Go. Get her when you’re done.”

“You’re sure,” Emma asked, she did not want to burden Regina, at the same time she didn’t want to leave her crew a man short.

“I’m sure. Now go, save lives.” Regina waived her off.

“Thank you Regina, Henry. Ember be good. My truck is unlocked, her bag is in the backseat.” she ran and jumped in the officer seat of the Rescue Engine and marked up responding.

Chapter Text

The scene they arrived to was a mess, a tractor and trailer sat jack-knifed in the middle of the highway, three vehicles smashed against its side.

“Lieutenant 3 to dispatch, I have 4 confirmed patients, two with heavy entrapment, I need an additional engine, an ambulance, and check the availability of two helos.” Accidents on the highway normally had one ambulance and two engines respond. The first engine was in charge of the scene while the second blocked traffic to keep other cars from hitting the first responders.

The crews from station 3 set to work stabilizing the vehicle that had entrapped occupants. With the vehicle stabilized they set to work removing the roof of the car to gain better access to the patients. Once the roof was removed they had a view of both patients and could better assess their injuries.

^^^

It was after seven when Emma messaged Regina to let her know she was on her way. They’d spent close to an hour extracting the victims. The two from the entrapment had been flown out to a trauma center, the other two transported via ambulance to a local hospital.

She knocked softly and waited. It didn’t take long to hear several sets of feet come to the door. “Emma,” Henry showed the most excitement of the trio that greeted her.

“Hey bud,” Emma ruffled his hair. Ember feeling ignored barked. “Hi babygirl,” she greeted the dog who jumped up against her in a hug. “I missed you too.” She kissed the dog’s nose. She had really spoiled her dog. “Hello Regina,” Emma smiled not leaving anyone out.

“Emma,” Regina greeted. “Would you like to come in,” Regina looked out behind the blonde. She didn’t like standing in doorways, she preferred the safety of her home especially when it was dark. Daytime wasn’t so bad because it was easier to keep an eye on her surroundings, the shadows were great at concealing things at night.

Emma, sensing her discomfort walked in shutting the door behind her.

“Henry, get ready for bed please.” Regina had delayed the process so that he’d spend more time with Ember. Her son had grown fond  of the blonde’s dog in such a short time. She couldn’t blame him though, Ember was very easy to go attached to.

“But I want to hang out with Emma,” he didn’t finish his argument. The look his mother gave him screamed don’t argue. “Fine,” He sighed stomping towards his bedroom, not pleased at having to go to bed just when Emma finally got there.

“He feels like he’ll miss out on the world if he sleeps. I can’t keep up with his energy sometimes,” Regina ushered Emma further into the house. “Would you like something to drink,” she asked.

“Do you have anything non-alcoholic, unfortunately I have to go back to work once I get Ember home.” She wished she didn’t have to cut the trip short but she needed to get to get back to the station.

“Why didn’t you say so, I’d have kept her till you got off,” Regina handed Emma a glass of apple juice. She’d have been more than willing to watch the canine while her owner worked.

“I couldn’t ask you to do that Regina.” She knew the woman had meant the offer but she felt bad pushing her dog on her.

“Oh don’t be ridiculous Emma, after everything you’ve done for me, it’s the least I can do.” She waved her off. She could tell the blonde was about to argue when she heard tiny footsteps running towards them.

Henry ran back, now dressed in his pajamas. “Mommy I’m ready.”

“Can you stay for a few minutes,” she asked. When Emma nodded she led her into the living room. “Say goodnight Henry.”

“Night Emma. Night Ember,” he gave the pair a hug and walked to his room followed by his mother. Ember followed behind them slowly. Emma made herself comfortable on the couch as she waited for Regina.

Regina returned less than ten minutes later. “He spared me with only one story tonight.” Regina took a seat at the other end of the couch. “It would appear Ember has attached herself, she is keeping guard outside his room.” Regina had thought it adorable, Ember had plopped down and watched as she and Henry had gone through their nightly routine.

“She’s a good guard dog,” Emma took a slow sip of her juice. “I got her when she was a puppy. The family that had her had chained her out in the yard, her living conditions were awful, her skin had grown into the chain around her neck, she was malnourished, and terrified of people. She spent several nights in the hospital. It had taken two week for me to go through animal control and the courts to get custody.” She let out a chuckle. “We literally fought for custody, of course the odds were in my favor, once the judge saw pictures of her living conditions he allowed for me to take her, fined the original owners and made them pay for her hospital bills. She’s been with me ever since, the lieutenant allowed me to bring her to the station while she was healing and I had to work. It took a while before she was able to trust me and my shirt. She’s been really good to me.” She smiled remembering those first few months, and the first day Ember had come to her tail wagging and no sign of fear in her dark chocolate eyes.

Regina smiled, it was clear that Emma loved her dog very much. Her face lit up speaking of her, she wondered if that was what she looked like when she spoke about Henry. “I’m sure she appreciates you giving her a safe and loving home.”

“Mm, I remember as a kid, that’s all I’d wanted, a good home,” she thought back to days in the system, she didn’t talk about those days too often, especially with people she’d just met, sitting with Regina though, she felt comfortable, the words flowed out effortlessly. “I was moved from one foster home to another as a kid,” she explained. In a way she and Ember had a lot in common. She waited for the usual ‘I’m sorry’ and the pitying looks but neither came. She took another sip of the juice. “Sorry,” she apologized.

“Don’t be.” Regina smiled, she was honored that Emma had trusted her enough to share such a personal story, it didn’t seem to be something she openly spoke of. “Thank you for telling me.”

“Um, so you’re sure you want to keep Ember until morning,” Emma asked changing the subject, she was feeling extremely exposed. She didn’t make it a habit of sharing her life story with other people and doing so now with Regina made her feel vulnerable.

“Of course.” Regina assured her. “You can get her in the morning, I’m sure, besides, Henry would love it and he’ll be happy to see you.”

A part of Emma wanted to ask if Henry would be the only one glad to see her but decided against it. She didn’t want to push things. “Ember will enjoy having people around, thank you. So how are you healing,” she asked.

“I’m sore, but that’s to be expected. I should be able to get this monstrosity off in five weeks.” She held up her wrist. “Henry wanted to draw on it, I was able to convince him to wait until the last week.” She said in relief.

Emma laughed. “I don’t see you as someone who’d walk around with a decorated cast. No offense.”

“None taken.” Emma had been right. She would not be walking around with the art of a five year old on her cast, especially not when she had to go to work.

“Can I ask you a question,” Emma asked, she’d had been curious since the bombing but had not wanted to ask over text message. “The third floor, has that always been there,” she asked. “We’ve been taking patients there for years now. I’ve never noticed it closed off until the past few years.”

“No, that started when I took over.” She’d taken over the clinic two years before. “When I first took over the clinic, it was just the first floor, the other two floors were mostly empty, with grants and donations we were able to raise enough money to take them over. I had the third floor remodeled to look as it does now.”

“That’s pretty amazing. We always brought the more serious cases to the clinic.  I’ve wondered what happened to the women after.” She thought aloud.

“We provide counseling and short term shelter. If they’re serious about starting over and escaping we assist them, our second floor houses counselors and pro bono lawyers that assist them in taking custody, we have offices we work with in most states.” She explained, she had put in a lot of work into getting the clinic to where it was now. She hated that one cruel act would shut them down for weeks.

“Wow. I didn’t know you did so much. Regina, wow.” She was at a loss for words. That explained why they were never dispatched back to most of the residences where the victims had been brought to the clinic. 

Regina smiled. Not many people knew the extent of all that happened at the clinic, she knew the information would be safe with Emma.

“You’re kind of amazing.” Emma told her.

“Kind of,” Regina feigned hurt.

“Seriously Regina, you don’t understand how much impact that clinic has, knowing what I know now I can see why. You’ve given so many families hope.” She couldn’t believe all that Regina had just told her.

Regina stayed silent for a few minutes, she was nervous to share a part of her only Kathryn knew of. ‘Emma shared a part of her past it’s only fair you do the same.’ She thought to herself pushing herself to share. “Shortly after Henry was born, his father, Leo, went through a depression. He hadn’t realized how much life would change after becoming a parent. He started going out more, drinking, partying.” She took a deep breath to steady herself. “His late nights drinking and two DUI’s later led to him losing his job. At first it wasn’t a big deal, we were well off, we both had good jobs, but as time passed and he became bored, he started gambling. When the debt started growing his drinking worsened, he became angry and at times violent,” she didn’t need to spell it out, by the angry look on Emma’s face, she’d received the message loud and clear. “He went after Henry one night, Henry had been sick and would not stop crying, I decided that night that enough was enough, I couldn’t allow my son to grow up in a home filled with violence.” She shivered thinking of that night, of all the things that could’ve gone wrong. “Anyway, it was a similar program that got me where I am today.” She played with the edging of her sweater nervously. “We really know how to have a light conversation don’t we,” she laughed nervously.

“Yup, you’re amazing.” She decided. “I take back the kind of part,” Emma joked to lighten the heaviness that surrounded them. As if sensing she was needed Ember walked in and jumped up on the couch and stretched out between the two ladies, laying her head in Regina’s lap. Regina’s hand mindlessly moved to the dog’s neck. Emma looked at the dog, she knew better than to jump on furniture, especially in other people’s houses.

“I may have allowed her on the couch earlier.” Regina defended the dog before she got in trouble with her mother.

Emma laughed. “Spoiled.” She was almost jealous that her dog was laying with her head in the brunette’s lap. “I hope you don’t mind dog hair.” Emma was used it, she did her best to brush Ember but she still managed to find hair around her house. Being that it was winter time helped, she tended to lose less hair. Chunks would fall off of her during the months leading up to the summer as her new coat would come in.

“Nothing that can’t be vacuumed.” She dismissed, her fingers still running through the dog’s fur. Ember stretched turning on her back, enjoying the attention. “She’s very therapeutic. I may have to borrow her for the office.” She leaned down giving the dog a kiss.

‘Yup definitely jealous of my dog right now.’ She couldn’t believe how comfortable Ember was with Regina. “I’m sure she’d love that, maybe on a day I’m working, I hate leaving her home alone.”

“How does your schedule work exactly.” Regina wasn’t sure what a normal work week was for firefighters. She knew some worked overnight but that was the extent of it.

“I work 24 hours on, 24 off, 24 on and 72 off, the days I work constantly change which is nice so that one crew isn’t always forced to work weekends and holidays.” The schedule was one of the things she loved about her job. She worked 10 to 13 days a month.

“What happens with Ember on the days you work.” Regina looked down at the canine in question.

“Well, she has a doggy door, and my neighbor watches her and even takes her some days. She’s older though so she can’t really keep up with her so we go on morning runs when I’m off, it helps her burn off some the excess energy.”

Regina contemplated what she was going to say next. She didn’t want to be too forward since they’d only known each other for a few weeks, but she wanted to help the blonde who’d done so much for her already. “If you’d like, you can bring her by on the days you work so she’s not home alone. Henry loves her already, she doesn’t exactly make it hard.” When Emma didn’t immediately respond, Regina began to have second thoughts. “Of course you don’t have to it’s just an idea.” Regina quickly gave her an out.

“No, no, she’d love that. I really do hate leaving her alone for so long. Besides, it’ll give me an excuse to see Henry, and you of course,” she winked.

Regina found it easy to relax, she’d thought it’d be much harder, but something about Emma made it all easy. “Mm” Regina sipped her drink. “I can see why Miss Bell is so taken with you.”

‘Was that jealousy?’ Emma thought she’d imagined it. “You noticed that too huh, you know she personally requested me today,” she asked. “Henry saved me earlier. You have no idea.”

Regina had noticed Emma backing away, it had made her happy, seeing Tina putting her hand on her arm had sparked a jealousy she hadn’t known existed within her, not for someone she wasn’t seeing and had no claim over.

It took Emma a moment to realize that not only had Regina been jealous, but she’d also seen Tina making her uncomfortable and had not done anything. “So let me get this straight.” Emma sat up further facing Regina. “You saw me struggling and yet you did nothing,” she gasped.

“I don’t know what you expected me to do Miss Swan. It’s not like I was the only one that noticed your discomfort.” She held back a laugh, she hated to admit it, she’d enjoyed watching Emma continuously pull away from Tina.

“Yeah I know, David left me high and dry.” She’d give him a piece of her mind later.

“Actually I was referring to the other female that was with you. The brunette, she seemed to enjoy the show more than I did.” This time Regina did laugh. The look on Emma’s face was priceless.

“What?! Ruby!!” She yelled. “I mean Ruby.” She lowered her voice remembering there was a little one sleeping. “Unbelievable. I mean you I can understand, you’ve known me for a minute but they have known me for years, years. No loyalty.” She shook her head in disbelief.

Regina found this to be quite entertaining. “You handled yourself very well dear.”  Regina assured her, patting her arm.

“Yeah, thanks to Henry, my only loyal friend.” She gestured towards the dog that had already replaced her.

“Don’t be mad at this sweet girl, she has good taste.” Regina rubbed behind the dogs ear.

“That she does.” Emma patted the dogs belly her eyes never leaving Regina’s. “So.” She cleared her throat, breaking eye contact, it had gotten too intense. “When do you go back to work,” she asked.

“We’re shut down for another few weeks. I’ve been going by the office to make sure the construction continues on schedule, I’ve put a rush on the construction crews; they don’t seem to like it. I don’t like the clinic being closed for so long. Captain Locksley is aware of what we do, he’s still working on the reason behind the bombing. The police believe it had to do with a woman we’d just transferred out of state with her kids, they’re looking at the ex-husband. He has quite a history of violence.”

“If he is in fact behind this then I’m really glad she got out when she did.” If a man was willing to blow up a building, there was no telling what else he was capable of. Neither woman said anything for some time. “Would you like to have a picnic with Ember and I on Saturday.” She blurted out before she could change her mind. “Henry too, of course.”

Regina thought about it for a split second. “We would love to.” She realized after she’d answered that she hadn’t said yes because she’d promised Kathryn, no, she’d done it because she wanted to. She wanted to spend more time with the woman who’d dog lay in her lap.

“Great!” Emma stood up, she needed to get back to work before the lieutenant started calling her. “I need to get back to work. You’re sure you don’t mind keeping her,” she asked once again.

“I’m sure. Now go.” She chuckled.

“Thank you Regina. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You’re welcome, stay safe.”

“Will do.” Emma left with a smile on her face. Never in a million years did Emma think she’d be pursuing a woman. The remainder of her shift went with very few calls. She had gotten plenty of sleep and was eager to make it to Regina’s after her shift. She’d learned several things about Regina the night before and each new thing only worked to make her more attracted to the woman.

^^^

“Good Morning Emma,” Regina greeted.  “You’re just in time for breakfast.”

“First you watch my dog all night and then you feed me, I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into. I may be no expert at cooking, but I am an expert at eating.” Emma’s stomach growled. She could never turn down food.

Regina looked the blonde up and down, if she ate a lot her body gave no indication of it. “Perhaps we should allow Henry to eat first,” she teased as she led Emma to the kitchen. “Henry, breakfast,” she called down the hallway. She didn’t hear movement. “You better hurry before Emma eats it all.” As expected he ran out of his room, the dog immediately behind him.

“Hi Emma, you’re having breakfast with us,” he asked excitedly. His morning was getting better and better.

“Yes, is that okay, are you willing to share your food with me.”

He thought about it for a few seconds then smiled. “I suppose. Mom says it’s nice to share.”

“It is.” Emma confirmed. 

“Emma guess what,” Henry said as he stuffed food in his mouth.

Emma took a bite of her pancakes “What.”

“Ember…”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Regina first looked at Henry then Emma. Emma blushed, and Henry looked down.

“Sorry,” they said together once they’d swallowed their food. 

Regina shook her head, she had two kids on her hands. “Now Henry what were you saying.”

“Emma, Ember slept with me, in my room.”

“Did she hog the bed like she does with me,” she asked, there couldn’t have been much room on Henry’s small bed with the two of them sharing it.

“Kinda, but I don’t mind. She just missed her mommy so I let her stay with me.” He shrugged as if it hadn’t been a big deal.

Regina sat back enjoying the chatter between Emma and her son, she recalled Kathryn telling her Henry had slept with Emma the night she’d been in the hospital because he’d missed her. 

“That’s very nice of you Henry, thank you.” Emma smiled turning her attention to Regina, she’d felt her gaze on her as she’d talked with Henry. Emma’s smile turned shy the longer she kept eye contact with Regina.

Chapter Text

“Emma.” Mary Margaret greeted her. “Is everything okay.” Emma had asked to have lunch with her, it wasn’t unusual for them to meet up for lunch when Emma was off but, her maternal side always worried.

“Everything is fine. Just wanted to have lunch.” She held a bag from the local diner Ruby’s grandmother owned. It was a place they went to often. It helped that the crew knew the owner well.

“Okay, come on then, let’s enjoy the fresh air while I have time.” She hooked her arm through Emma’s and led her to a picnic bench outside. She loved spending alone time with Emma, it gave her the opportunity to see how the blonde was really doing.

They sat in silence enjoying the food for a while before Emma spoke. “So I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said.” She nervously moved her food around her container. “About being happy.” She didn’t know why she was nervous, this was Mary Margaret she was talking to after all.

Immediately Mary Margaret’s face lit up. “You asked her out!” She squealed, she wrapped her arms around Emma giving her a tight squeeze. “I’m so glad, wait did she say yes, please tell me she said yes.” She would hunt the woman down if she’d turned her down, this was such a huge step for Emma. Women usually threw themselves at her, this time she’d gone out of her comfort zone and asked the woman out.

Emma laughed, she really did love Mary Margaret, even if she wasn’t giving her a chance to talk. “I asked her and Henry to join me for a picnic on Sunday.” She held up her hand to keep Mary Margaret from interrupting. “She said she’d love to, here’s the problem though.” She’d been struggling with this since she’d left Regina’s.

“You have no idea what to make for a picnic.” Mary Margaret interrupted.

“Exactly.” She had never needed to pack a picnic basket, none of her relationships got to that point, if she ever did anything the other party usually planned and harassed her until she conceded. She’d never really made an attempt at keeping relationships going or even starting for that matter.

“You let me worry about the food, you swing by before your picnic and pick it up. You just get a blanket, and things for Ember.” Mary Margaret was beyond happy, she tried extra hard to contain her excitement, she didn’t want Emma to feel embarrassed. This was a huge step for her, she was glad their talk had not fallen on deaf ears.

“Thank you MM, can you please not tell David though? I’m not ready for the guys at the station to tease and harass me.” She could already hear the jokes and she was sure there would be plenty of them. She wasn’t ashamed of Regina by any means but she didn’t want the guys talking about her as they did the other women she fooled around with. Regina was different, she felt protective of her, the other women she cared little about.

“My lips are sealed.” She made the gesture of sealing her lips. “For now.” She added.

Emma laughed, she knew Mary Margaret well enough to know she had maybe a week before she let it slip. She couldn’t help herself. “Thank you.”

“Anything for you Emma, you know that. Now I hate to do this but I have to get back to work.” She packed her trash and stood up. “I’m so proud of you for taking the first step.” She gave Emma a hug and stood on her toes to give her a kiss on the forehead before returning to work.

After her lunch with Mary Margaret she’d gone to the store and picked a large comfortable picnic blanket, a soccer ball, and a Frisbee. Ember had chewed up her old one. She’d gone as far as searching the internet for things done at a picnic, she couldn’t remember ever going to one, she’d seen plenty on TV and in the movies, but they all seemed so fake.

^^^

Emma couldn’t believe how nervous she was. Saturday morning had come and she didn’t know if she was ready. If today went well which she hoped it did, then she would be embarking on something she’d never done before and that was be in a committed relationship. The thought terrified and excited her all at the same time. She went out to the store and picked up everything she’d need and went to Mary Margaret’s to pick up the picnic basket she’d prepared. 

“You’ll be fine.” Mary Margaret assured her. She was beyond proud of Emma for taking this step. She had a really good feeling about her and Regina, though she didn’t want to scare Emma too much about talks of true love.

Emma gave her a nervous chuckle. Mary Margaret could always see through her façade. “I can’t help it. What if I mess this up,” she asked nervously.

“You won’t.” She squeezed her hand. “Emma you deserve this, you deserve to be happy. You are an amazing woman and Regina will see that, if she doesn’t then it’s her loss.”

For all her confidence, Emma felt insecure when it came to Regina. She was out of her league and definitely out of her comfort zone.  Mary Margaret always knew how to encourage her and lift her spirits. “Thanks MM.” She hugged her.

“Let me know how it goes.” She told Emma as she walked away. She would anxiously wait for the call.  Emma was like a daughter to her and seeing her take a step towards happiness made her beyond happy. “Have fun Emma.”

A few minutes later Emma parked outside of Regina’s house. She took a deep breath and turned off the engine. She could do this. She figured if she repeated it to herself enough times she’d believe it. She jumped when there was a tap on her driver side window. She wanted to sink into her seat when she looked up to find Regina with a smirk on her face and Henry by her side standing outside her truck. She smiled shyly and opened the door slowly so not to hit either of them. “Hi.” She waved, putting her hands in her front pockets. A nervous habit she’d always had.

“Hi Emma,” Henry squealed giving her a hug immediately setting her at ease.

“Hi buddy, you guys ready,” she asked. 

Henry nodded excitedly. He’d been looking forward to their picnic since his mom had told him about it. He couldn’t wait to spend time with his firefighter friend and her dog.

“We are, are you sure I don’t need to bring anything else,” Regina asked holding a backpack with Henry’s things.

“I’m sure. Do you want to take your car or mine.” Emma wanted to give Regina the option, remembering what Regina had told her about her past she knew she would feel more comfortable having her vehicle and having a getaway option if she needed it. From the relieved look on Regina’s face she knew she’d made the right decision.

Regina smiled, she appreciated the thoughtful gesture. It wasn’t anything major to most people but to her it was. It helped her relax a little bit more so that she could enjoy her time with Emma. “Mine, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, why don’t you get little man loaded and I’ll get Ember and the picnic basket.” Emma ruffled Henry’s hair before moving to the passenger side of the her truck to get the basket, Ember’s bag along with the blanket and loaded them into the back of Regina’s SUV. She loaded Ember lastly before getting into the passenger seat.

“Henry stay where I can see you please.” Regina called out to him once they’d gotten situated at the park.

“Okay Mommy,” he yelled back, throwing the ball and racing Ember for it.

“I have to say Emma, you really thought of everything,” Regina said taking everything out of the basket.

Emma bit her lip. “I may have had some help.” She didn’t feel right taking credit for something she didn’t do.

“Oh,” she questioned, “do tell.” Regina could not believe how embarrassed Emma was. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?

“Mary Margaret helped a little,” she smiled shyly. “Okay she helped a lot.” She paused taking in a breath to calm her nerves. “The thing is, this is all new to me. My relationships don’t get to the picnic having stage and I didn’t exactly grow up having family picnics on Sundays.” Emma wanted this relationship to work and she knew the one way of making that happen was communication. So she made it a point to be open and honest with Regina.

Regina squeezed her hand. “It’s lovely Emma, we appreciate you going through all this trouble for us.” She was relieved Emma was just as anxious about this as she was. It was apparent this was a big move on both their ends.

Emma smiled putting her head down. Maybe she had a chance of making this work after all. “Let’s hope I don’t mess it up.” She’d meant those words to be internal, she had not intended to say them out loud.

“Emma this is as scary for me as it is for you.” Regina reassured her. “This is all new to me too, and I have Henry to worry about. It wasn’t easy taking this step but I am so glad that I did. Let’s just take things slow and see where things go.” She smiled at the comforted look, she thought it was cute that the confident woman, who women threw themselves at, needed assurance when it came to dating.

“I like that.” Emma was relieved. In a way the pressure would always be there because for the first time in a long time she was worrying about someone other than herself, two others in this case, but she had a feeling it would be okay, they’d take it a step at a time.

“Mommy.” Henry ran over to the duo. “Ember loves to play catch.” He sat down beside them out of breath. Ember followed after him sitting between him and Emma.

“You seem to have tired her out.” Emma pet the dogs belly feeling her labored breathing.

“She is super fast.” He laid down resting his head against his mother’s leg.

“Are you having fun Henry,” Regina asked running her fingers through his now sweaty hairline.

The smile on his face grew as he nodded his head. “Best picnic ever.”

The trio spent the remainder of the time kicking the soccer ball and eating the food Mary Margaret had made for them.

“So Emma, why the fire department,” Regina asked once Henry had ran off to place fetch with Ember. Most people had a story behind their career, especially first responders and members of the military. She was curious about Emma’s.

Emma didn’t immediately answer. Her answer to most people was that she’d wanted to help people and make a difference but Regina wasn’t most people. She wanted her to know the real reason, she wanted to share as Regina had shared with her about her painful past. She took a deep breath before starting. “I told you I grew up in the system,” she asked and waited for the head nod before continuing. “Some of the homes I was placed in didn’t really care about me, I was just another paycheck for the family. I was in and out of the hospital until I was about sixteen. The families were always able to explain away the injuries and the medical staff and social services believed them because I was a “troubled” child.” She been labeled that after her second move, it was a hard title to get away from once it was attached to your name. “I had been in and out of homes more frequently than other kids.” She explained why she’d gotten that title to Regina. She squeezed the comforting hand Regina placed on her thigh.

“One day after an incident I was taken into the ER and Mary Margaret was my nurse. She took one look at me and shook her head. I hadn’t understood it then but now I know it’s her way of expressing as something was unacceptable. Anyway, she promised me she could help me if only I talked to her. At that point I was tired of telling adults my story and having them not believe me, it only made things worse when I returned to the home. It normally led to another beating followed by another home.” She shook her head remembering how much she hated life back then. How often she’d thought about ending it, to be free of the pain and misery she was constantly in. “After an hour of persuading, I finally told her what had been going on and I am so glad that I did. She immediately got on the phone with one of her contacts at the police department, a woman she’d worked with in the past.” She and Reul had been friends for years, over time she became like a god mother to Emma, checking on her and making sure things were going well. “Between the two of them, I was taken out of the home. Mary Margaret and her husband David took custody of me. He was the firefighter at Henry’s school.” She explained. David would take me to the station and let me go on ride a longs. He taught me everything about the fire service, so by the time I turned eighteen I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Regina smiled, “That’s a beautiful story Emma, thank you for sharing it with me. I’m glad Mary Margaret and David came into your life.” She couldn’t believe how easy going and happy Emma was considering all she’d been through. Had she not told her, she’d never had known the extent of the heartache Emma suffered as a child.

“I didn’t mean to kill the mood,” she apologized.

“Nonsense, I asked, I’m glad you told me.” She leaned in placing a quick kiss to Emma’s cheek. “Thank you.”

Emma immediately smiled, the dark memories she’s just been talking about all but forgotten for the time being.

“Mommy, Emma,” Henry yelled running for them. “Look at the camp fire I made.” He led the duo to a pile of rocks surrounding some twigs and leaves.

“That’s pretty awesome little man. You know what would make the fire go longer,” she asked.

He shook his head in the negative.

“If you stack the wood like this.” She rearranged the sticks to form a tepee.

“Wow, mommy did you see that, our fire will last longer now.” He jumped up and down excitedly.

They spent another hour at the park before deciding to go home.  It would give Regina time bathe Henry and prepare dinner before it got too late.

After dinner and putting Henry to bed Emma and Regina sat side by side and talked. With this being new to both of them they discussed where their relationship was headed and what they wanted out of it. In the end they’d decided to take it one day at a time, to take things slow and not rush into anything they were not ready for. Regina walked Emma to the door once it started getting late and Emma had work the next day. Regina convinced Emma to leave Ember with her so she wasn’t home alone while Emma worked. Emma didn’t argue, Regina keeping Ember meant she’d have a reason to come over the morning after her shift. She realized she could just message Regina now, she really didn’t need an excuse to come over. This was definitely something to get used to.

“I had a really great day.” Regina smiled when they made it to the door.

“I did too,” Emma told her, “The most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

“Henry too.” Regina took a step closer. “Thank you for including him in our outing.”

“Of course.” She really liked the little guy. She could never leave him out, not after the life she’d lived. He and his mother were a packaged deal and she was more than okay with that. “I’ll message you during down time tomorrow.” She gave Regina a hug, the pair pulled apart after a few seconds but did not fully release their hold on one another. They both smiled, their gaze travelling from each other’s eyes to their mouths. “I’m gonna kiss you now,” Emma told her moving in closer. She waited for the small nod before completely closing the gap.

The kiss was slow and gentle, something Emma wasn’t used to, in the past it had never been about feelings, it was always a physical need that needed to be filled. She groaned when she felt a small nip at her lip. They broke apart after a minute, Emma rested her forehead against Regina’s as they both tried to catch their breaths. “I should go.” Everything in her was telling her to stay, but she knew it would be too soon, she’d promised to take things slow, go at Regina’s pace. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” She gave her a quick peck to the lips and walked out the door before she was tempted to kiss Regina again and end up staying there longer.

Regina watched her until she made it to her car and drove off. She shut the door locking it behind her, the smile on her face only growing and she ran her fingers across her lips remembering Emma’s being there. The smile did not leave her face as she moved around the house ensuring each door and window was secured before getting ready for bed.

Chapter Text

Her shift had started at 0800 that morning and it was only 1300 hours. The shift was going extremely slow. She’d talked to Regina on her way to work and off and on again throughout the morning via text. Her phone vibrated in her pocket. She smiled every time the screen indicated it was a message from Regina. This time it was a picture message of Henry and Ember playing together.

“They are so cute, I’m jealous I’m the only one working.” She replied back to the photo of Henry and Ember.

“Swan who are you texting.” Killian who’d been sitting beside her leaned over to look at her phone.

“Your sister. She wants to go for round two.” She shoved him away from her with a sly smile.

“What.” He sat up. “Wait, when did round one happen, you know what, I don’t want to know. Stay away from my sister Swan.” He warned. The rest of the crew laughed at the worried look on his face. “I’m serious Swan. Don’t you even go near her.”

“So sensitive.” She hit the top of his head as she stood up and moved away. She wanted to check her messages without Killian looking over her shoulder.

“Would it make you feel better knowing we’re not doing much of anything at the moment?” Another picture was attached. Ember lay on the floor with Henry laid on his back his head resting against her watching a movie.

“No, no it doesn’t.” She sent a smiley face so Regina knew she wasn’t serious. “Got a call.” She put her phone away and put her gear on, she sure was glad Belle had returned. She’d gotten tired of riding the ambulance. There was a certain rush that came from being in a fire truck.

“When will people learn to cook.” Jones nudged her slipping on his air pack. According to the initial dispatch, a fire had started in the kitchen while the caller was frying chicken. The fire was supposed to be out but there was heavy smoke inside the structure.

“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Emma was used to the cooking jokes, there was a time when they bothered her, that time had long passed, now she took them as declarations of love. She’d learned early on that the teasing was a form of acceptance. Family love, Belle had explained. 

The crew arrived on scene already knowing their assigned tasks, depending on where in the apparatus they sat that determined their assignment. Emma grabbed the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) and a set of Irons.

An elderly woman approached them. “I’m so glad you’re here, there was so much smoke, I just had to get out.”

“Is there anyone inside,” The lieutenant asked.

She shook her head no. “No, it was just me. Everyone was to come later for dinner.”

“Alright ma’am, I want you to stand back, my crew will go inside and check everything out.” Once she was out a safe distance he gave his team the go ahead, advising them the house was vacant.

Cassidy grabbed a hook and followed Emma to the family home. Emma checked the door, opening it slowly. There was a good amount of smoke inside, she shut the door and put on her face piece, Cassidy followed her lead. James grabbed a line and made his way to the house with Jones right behind him.  As the driver, David stayed back and manned the pumps.

“Engine 3’s interior to command, fire is out, we need a couple fans for ventilation.” Emma told the Lieutenant.

“Command copies. Dispatch place all other units responding in service we can handle with what’s on scene.”

Thirty minutes of ventilation and the house was free of smoke.

“And that is why I don’t cook.” Emma commented once they’d all settled inside the truck. After they cleaned up from their structure fire Emma checked her phone. ‘God, I’m like a teenager with a crush.’ She checked her unread message.

“Stay safe.” She smiled at the text. It felt nice to have someone outside her work family be concerned for her safety.

“Jones, Swan, I can only assume this is directed at one of you two. Who’s family member did you two wrong recently.” He held up a white sheet of paper with magazine style letters glued on it. The letter read, ‘She’s not yours’.

“I don’t know L.T. the only person I’ve been messing with is Jones’ sister.” Emma winked at Killian nudging him with her shoulder. She looked over the letter for any sign that she knew the sender.

“Not funny Swan.” Killian took the letter from her. “I haven’t done anything. Nothing I can think of anyway.” Emma wasn’t the only one popular with the ladies, Killian was known to be a bit of a heart breaker himself. Emma always teased him that it was his accent, without it, she’d told him he’d have no chance.

Emma waited for Jones to leave before she approached August. “L.T. I think you should pass that on to Locksley. The PD thinks the bombing was targeted towards one of the recent victims the clinic helped.” She didn’t share the details of what it was that the clinic did, but she figured it was important for Locksley to get this letter.

“Okay, I’ll get in touch with him. Why do I have a feeling you know more about this place than you’re letting on.” He regarded her for a few minutes.

“It’s not my place to tell. Some of the services the clinic provides are not publicized.” She couldn’t give him more, she just hoped he understood what she was telling him. “Locksley knows, just give him the letter.”

“Alright Emma, I trust your judgement.” He turned away and made a call to the police department.

She took out her phone to reply to Regina once the Lieutenant was done with her. “Small kitchen fire, nothing big, calls like this remind me why I don’t cook. I almost burned my kitchen down once.”

Emma didn’t have to wait long for a response.

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what exactly were you trying to make?”

Emma’s face turned red. She was glad Regina couldn’t see her at that moment.

“You are not allowed to laugh…spaghetti.” She didn’t get a response for several minutes. “You’re laughing right now aren’t you?”

“No, absolutely not. I was simply trying to remember how to breath.”

Emma just shook her head. Regina had jokes. “How are things going?” She changed the subject. It wasn’t long before her phone vibrated. She smiled at the picture. Henry and Ember both lay in the grass legs up in the sky.

“What’s got you smiling.” Belle and Ruby moved in on her. She hadn’t wanted them to find out but she didn’t think she’d be able to stay off her phone, so much for Mary Margaret ratting her out. She held the phone out to the pair to see the latest picture Regina had sent.

“Awe he is so precious.” Belle took the phone holding it close to her face.

“Wait is that Henry,” Ruby asked. “She’s watching your dog. What happened and why am I just now finding out,” she asked, she couldn’t believe Emma had been holding out on her.

“Who’s Henry,” Belle asked, she hadn’t been given the details of all that had gone on while she’d been vacationing.

“Take a breath Ruby geez, and please keep it down, I don’t feel like dealing with the guys.” Emma looked around to make sure the guys had not been close enough to hear anything.

“Okay, okay, sorry. But you have to answer some questions,” Ruby told her.

“Fine, but you promise not to tease, especially in front of the guys.” Belle she wasn’t so worried about, Ruby could be ruthless. For the next hour the trio talked about everything that had led up to Emma asking Regina out to a picnic and how the picnic had gone the day before.

“Emma that’s wonderful, I’m so happy for you. We are happy for you.” Belle gave her the same happy motherly look she’d received from Mary Margaret.

^^^

It was weeks later that Emma was finally ready to tell the rest of the crew about her relationship. She and Regina had talked about it the night before, they agreed they were both ready for the next step, they were ready for Emma to introduce her and Henry to her work family. They would use it as an opportunity to take Henry to see the trucks. He’d been asking to go to the station every day since the day of the picnic and she felt bad that she’d kept putting it off.

“You nervous,” Ruby asked when Regina pulled into the parking lot.

“Nah,” she smiled. She’d originally been nervous but as the time grew closer she grew more excited than nervous.

The minute Henry’s feet hit the ground he started running towards Emma leaving his mother and Ember at the car. “Emma,” he yelled arms outstretched.

Emma knelt down. “Hey buddy,” she said picking him up. “How was school,” she asked while she hugged him.

“It was good, I told Roland I was coming here and he wanted to come but his mommy said no,” he said excitedly.

“Well I’m so glad you’re here. You ready to look at all the trucks,” she asked even though she knew the answer. It’s all Henry talked about.

He nodded eagerly wiggling out of her hold. “I can’t wait to see all the trucks.”

“Hello darling.” Regina made it to the duo with Ember close behind her. She gave Emma a quick kiss allowing for Ember to get some attention too. “He’s a bit excited.” She smiled towards Henry.

“Hi.” Emma smiled at Regina before giving her dog some love.

Having received the attention required Ember walked off towards the station. The place was a second home to her. She made her way to the rest of the shift that had stood by watching the scene between Emma, her girlfriend and son. None of them could believe that this was their Emma. They’d never seen Emma in a relationship, not one serious enough to bring to the station. They were used to the surprise visitors that continued to try and pursue her after she’d had her night with them but this was different, Emma had actually wanted Regina there.

“Ready to meet everyone,” she asked.

“Looks like someone already has.” She motions towards Henry. He was already at the entrance of the station shaking hands with the crew. “Which reminds me, you told me it was your turn to make lunch so I brought some lasagna.” She handed the dish to Emma.

Emma hummed in excitement. The thought of not having to cook was very thrilling. She couldn’t wait to dig into Regina’s lasagna, she’d made it once before and Emma had been begging her to make it again. Emma took Regina’s hand in her free hand and led her to the rest of the crew and made some introductions. She was surprised when they didn’t give her a hard time or tease. What Emma didn’t know was that Mary Margaret had warned David about teasing Emma and had made sure to pass the warning to the rest of the crew. As if that hadn’t been enough, Belle had also talked to them while Emma had been outside with Henry and Regina.

After a tour of all the trucks the shift sat down to eat. “Regina, feel free to cook anytime it’s Emma’s turn for lunch, we’ll all tired of grilled cheese sandwiches,” Neal told her. They’d been warned about teasing Emma about dating, her cooking skills or lack thereof were fair game.

Emma rolled her eyes. It was a good thing she was used to the cooking jokes. “Keep it up Cassidy and I’ll take the piece you have.” 

He guarded the plate with his arm taking a large bite. The group laughed continuing their delicious lunch. This was the best meal any of them had had while working.

There was a unanimous groan when tones dropped. Henry jumped into his mother’s lap.

“It’s okay buddy,” Emma reassured him ruffling his hair. “This just means we have a call.”

The group stood up one by one. Leaving their plates on the table.

“Working house fire,” Emma explained. “We might be a while, sorry,” she apologized to Regina, she’d been hoping for a quiet few hours while Regina and Henry were there.

“It’s your job Emma, you don’t need to apologize, just stay safe. We’ll take care of things here.” She motioned towards the table they’d been sitting at.

“Thank you.” She was grateful Regina was understanding. She cupped her cheek giving her a quick kiss before following the rest of her team to her gear.

“Is it just me or have we been getting a lot of structures lately,” Killian asked once they were all seated in the truck.

The rest of the team nodded. They’d been receiving at least one or two structure fires a week. It wasn’t unheard of during the winter, a lot of chimney fires happened but it was still too early for those.

Emma messaged Regina a few hours later to let her know that she was safe. She knew she’d be worried otherwise.

“Emma, don’t you dare let this one go, seriously.” James told her taking his food out of the fridge. Regina had put away everyone’s food and labeled each individual container.

Emma smiled feeling over the moon. She was glad the crew had accepted Henry and Regina so quickly. Her phone buzzed. “Hope everyone is alright.”

“Just property damage. BTW, the guys love you. You didn’t have to clean up.”

“It was no trouble at all, I didn’t want it to be stale by the time you got back.”

She smiled at her phone. “You’re wonderful, thank you.”

After that day Regina brought Henry to the station once a week. The crew adopted the duo as part of their family. Emma had never imagined her family growing in this way. She’d just thought she’d spend her life alone. Having Regina and Henry in her life had changed it for the better. She looked forward to her days off and took less overtime. There were a few times that Kathryn would join the duo at the station. It was the second time that Kathryn visited with Henry and Regina that Emma had noticed the extra attention James paid towards her. She’d nudged Regina and motioned towards the pair. Regina had raised an eyebrow and smiled. It seemed her friend was smitten. From then on Regina and Henry would visit twice as often while Kathryn was in town.

In the weeks that passed, the clinic reopened, its construction even better than before, Regina returned to work taking Ember with her on the days Emma worked, the staff and clients loved her, she was therapeutic for everyone. Her cast came off and while Regina had been beyond ready for the cast to come off, Henry had not shared her joy. He'd made the argument that his "art" would also be taken off. It had taken dozens of pictures to finally have him agree that it was okay for her to remove it. He had needed reassurance that his art would live on. His art was not the only thing he'd insisted on having pictures taken of. He wanted pictures of a certain firefighter’s signature and drawing also. Things seemed to be going back to normal. 

^^^

“You look awful darling.” Regina had opened the door before Emma could knock. While things had been back to normal for Regina, it had been quite the opposite for Emma. For Emma it seemed each shift was twice as long as the one before. From the moment her shift would start, they’d respond from one call to another. It had begun with the multiple structures a week to at least one a shift, to numerous hit and run injury accidents, assaults, smoke investigations, and fires in dumpsters or open fields. Emma spent her mornings at Regina’s after each shift, often too drained, even for breakfast.

Emma leaned against the door giving her a tired smile. “It never stopped. I don’t know what’s going on lately.” She leaned into the hug Regina offered her. It seemed every arsonist in the city chose their nights on duty to start fires.

Regina held onto her tightly. She could feel Emma’s tense muscles. She could also smell the scent of smoke, which she knew meant that they’d had another structure fire. “Let’s get you inside. Breakfast is ready, after we get you fed, you can get some sleep. You’re too tired to drive home.” She knew Emma was truly exhausted when she didn’t argue. She just nodded her head still resting in the crook of Regina’s neck.  “Come on.” Regina took a hold of Emma’s hand and led her inside.

“Emma,” Henry yelled running up to give her a hug.

“Hi buddy, did Ember behave last night.” She picked him up squeezing him tight. Henry always brightened her mornings after a grueling shift.

He giggled and nodded. “She slept with me again.” He loved having Ember over.

Emma felt exhausted, eating had been a chore. She knew she had to eat otherwise she’d wake up mid nap in search of food.

Once Regina had the blonde tucked in she sat beside her on the bed. “I’m going to drop Henry off at school and swing by the clinic to make sure everything is running smoothly, then I’ll be back and we can be lazy. Do you need anything,” she asked.

Emma shook her head in the negative her eyes already half closed.

“Okay.”  She kissed her forehead. “Get some rest.” She stood up and adjusted the blankets around Emma again. She pet Ember, who’d settled beside Emma, behind the ear giving her a kiss on the head also.

When Emma woke a few hours later she realized she wasn’t alone in the bed. While Ember was curled up at her feet, Regina was asleep beside her. She stretched out and wrapped her arms around Regina.

“Hey you,” Regina mumbled nuzzling into Emma. “Did you get some rest,” she asked. She pulled away to look at Emma.

She hummed and nodded. “I don’t know what’s going on, our shift has been getting hit hard lately. The fires have definitely been arson, the police department is still tracking down a few leads but so far they’ve come up with nothing.”

“I’m sorry darling, I wish there was something I could do.” Regina ran the back of her fingers down Emma’s cheek.

Emma turned into the touch drawing comfort from it. “This helps.” She smiled. “Is everything okay at the clinic,” she asked.

“Yes, business as usual. I have a hard working staff.” She was really proud of her employees. Once she’d gone into work she’d been tempted to stay but they’d convinced her to take the day off.

“So I have you for the rest of the day,” Emma asked smiling.

“You do.”

Emma hummed. “Good, because I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry Emma.” Regina had never met anyone who could eat as much the blonde could.

“Not that kind of hungry.” Emma smiled mischievously pulling Regina to her.

Chapter Text

It had been almost six months, six months since her office had been bombed, six months since Regina had had the dreadful cast put on her broken arm and then removed. Six months since her life had changed, six months since her heart started to open as the walls around it crumbled and her defenses faded. Six months since she’d met her savior, Emma Swan. She’d never imagined her life going so well. She and Henry were the happiest they’d ever been. Her clinic was growing and today she would meet with the head of the local hospital to work out a contract that would allow more nurses and doctors to help out when needed. The staff would also act as on call for people that had been relocated or those unable to come to the clinic. Needless to say, life was good, things were finally looking up. She and Henry walked through the front doors of the hospital hand in hand, with Emma at work and school being out for the weekend, Regina had no choice but to bring him with her.

Walking past the ER waiting room Henry stopped to survey the people sitting around.

"Come along Henry." Regina tugged on his hand. Several people were coughing and hacking, she did not want to risk him getting sick or herself for that matter.

"Mommy look!" Henry yelled excitedly. He released his hold on her hand and ran towards a group.

"Henry Mills get back here this instant!" She hissed. The boy stopped in his tracks at hearing the tone in his mother’s voice. He knew he was in trouble. He turned around and faced his mother avoiding eye contact. "What have I told you about running off Henry," she asked, it was very rarely that Henry ran off, she’d drilled into him how dangerous it was.

He pouted. "Not to do it."

"And why don't we do it," she asked, now crouched down to be at his level.

"Cause it’s not safe." His bottom lip trembled as tears filled his eyes. He hated disappointing his mother.

"That's right. Now do you want to tell me where it was you were running off to." She gave him the chance to explain himself. A chance her mother had never given her as a child. It was always punishment first and then if she was lucky, which rarely happened, explanations. She'd sworn she would never be like her mother, she would be a better mother. Her son would always feel safe, loved, accepted and something she never had, heard. She wanted him to always know that she’d listen no matter what it is he had to say.

"I want to see if Emma is here." He explained. He’d thought that maybe if she was and he’d found her quickly then his mother would not have minded him running off as he had.

"Henry, Emma is at work, at station, if you want, I can see if she's busy later so that you can see her. How does that sound." It amazed her how much time Henry liked to spend with Emma, it didn’t matter if he’d had hours with her, it was never enough for him. She had been beyond pleased that Emma enjoyed her time with him also. She’d come to their house after work and if he was home from school she would play and talk with him for hours, even when she was exhausted and the past few months, it was more often than not.

"No mommy she’s here. See." He pointed to the group huddled in a semicircle, some still in their bunker pants, others in the department issued navy blue polos with the department logo on the back and cargo pants.

Regina stood taking a step towards the group looking for blonde hair. When she didn't immediately find it her heart sped up as it filled with dread. Emma’s job was dangerous, she knew the chances of her getting hurt were higher than the average person’s job, but she always hoped Emma would be kept from harm’s way. 'Don't jump to conclusions.' She told herself. 'Maybe Emma just stepped away for a minute.’ She tried to ease her mind. ‘But then she’d have messaged.' Her mind argued. With a nod to Henry, the boy took off towards the group calling out Emma's name. Walking towards the group Regina immediately recognized Emma's Lieutenant, August and slowly the remainder of the crew, the crew had become like a family to her and Henry.

"Regina. What are you doing here." August was surprised to see the brunette there. He'd known she and Emma had gotten close in the few months they’d been together, Regina and little Henry had spent a lot of time with the crew, the crew loved the pair, they especially loved Regina’s cooking. The days Emma had to cook used to be dreaded, the team loved them now. He’d wanted to call her, tell her about the incident, but he’d also wanted to wait for Emma to be fully awake and letting her talk to her herself. He knew the brunette would worry knowing Emma was injured but not the extent of her injuries.

“I’m meeting with the hospital coordinator for the clinic. Where is Emma, is she alright,” she asked. Her meeting could wait, right now, her only concern was Emma.

"L.T. where is Emma," Henry asked his search for the blonde continuing.

August smiled at the use of his rank. Something Emma had taught him. "She's resting in a hospital room." August looked at Regina. She got the message. There was a lot more that he wasn't saying because of Henry. "Henry would you be okay hanging out with the team while I talked to your mom, I think they could use some cheering up."

Henry looked to his mother for permission. Receiving a nod, he hurried towards the group, greeting them all with hugs. Emma's team welcomed the distraction that Henry provided. They all held onto him as he hugged them. His energetic and happy personality lightened the darkness that surrounded them as they waited on word for their team members. It helped that Henry had already spent so much time with the group. He settled beside David and Ruby, and asked about where James was. Ruby and David exchanged a quick glance before quickly changing the subject and doing their best to distract him.

"What's going on, where is Emma, is she alright." Regina fired one question after another, it had taken everything in her to wait until Henry was out of ear shot before drilling the Lieutenant with questions regarding her girlfriend.

"Emma will be fine. She's just resting, they gave her something for the pain. She should be released in a few hours." He assured her.

"Who else," Regina asked. It had only been six months since she'd been rescued by company 3's C-Shift and in that time she’d learned about each team member through her visits at the station and from the stories Emma shared with her. She cared about each one of them because they were Emma’s family which made them her family.

"Emma's told you we've had an influx of fires lately," he asked. His team had been hit hard the past few months. It wasn’t uncommon for a shift to be busy for weeks at a time but never like this, they’d been running nonstop. He waited for the nod before he continued. "We had a house fire a few hours ago. The arsonist used accelerants, things went bad, fast. The reporting party who called 911 said there were people inside. The conditions were not ideal. If I didn't know for a fact that there was someone inside I wouldn't have sent them in." August ran his hand down his face. "Emma and James went in through the bedroom window where the victim was supposed to be in. They said a juvenile, who was home alone was trapped." He explained his actions. He'd gone over every decision he'd made. Trying to figure out where he'd gone wrong, if he'd missed any signs. "Conditions in the room got worse. They had to bail out of the window. Emma received some second degree burns on her arm and leg."

Regina gasped at this, bringing a hand to her mouth. "Flashover," she whispered. “She’ll be okay though,” she asked.

August was impressed. Not many people knew what a flashover was. He figured it was another thing Emma had taught the Mills family. He nodded. She was correct. "James wasn't as lucky. His injuries were worse. He was in longer. We are still waiting on word on him." He took a deep breath to center himself. It was the first time in his career that he’d had members of his team end up in the hospital for anything other than minor injuries.

"Oh my god,” Regina paused. “Kathryn, I need to let Kathryn know.” Since their visits to the station, Kathryn and James had gotten very close. They’d tried not to show it but the group hadn’t missed their growing attraction. Kathryn had later confessed to Regina that she’d liked him, telling Regina had made it easier for her and James to go out on dates while she was visiting, it gave her and James alone time without feeling like she was lying to her best friend.

August waited as Regina made the call to Kathryn promising to keep her updated with any news. "Would you like to see Emma," he asked, already knowing the answer.
She nodded. “If I could, I’d like to see her.” She wanted to see Emma for herself. To make sure she was okay.

August nodded, he’d noticed a major change in the blonde since the brunette had come into the picture. A change he was happy for. Maybe seeing Regina would bring her spirits up, she hated being confined to a bed while her team waited for word on James, she fought the drugs that were supposed to help her rest. "She'll be happy to see you." He assured.

"Okay let me just get Henry." She started to move towards the rest of the group.

"Leave him. The team loves the little guy. Besides he's helping lighten the mood. I don't think any one of them can be in a bad mood around him." He directed her away from the group with a quick word to his team to keep an eye on Henry. The pair walked in silence to Emma’s room. Regina jumped when her phone alerted her of an incoming message, she’d been so focused on seeing Emma the vibration had startled her. She ignored the message and continued to follow August. After a second and a third message she knew she couldn’t ignore it. There were only two people she kept in constant contact with and one was in the hospital, worried something could be wrong with Kathryn she checked her phone. She pulled her phone out unlocking the screen. She gasped reading the multiple messages as they continued to come through.

“Regina, Regina.” August had stopped walking once they’d reached Emma’s room. “Regina. What’s going on.” He walked back to where Regina stood still staring at her screen. “Regina what are you.” The question died on his tongue as he read the message on the screen. “You.” He pointed at her. “You’re the, her.” He grabbed the phone reading the last three messages.

‘YOU’RE MINE.’

“Damn it Regina you’re the ‘her’.” He raised her voice.

Regina jumped, startled, she noticed for the first time her hand was empty and she no longer held her phone. It was now in August’s hand. “What.” She was sure he’d been talking to her, she just couldn’t figure out what it was he’d said. “I need to get Henry.” She said suddenly, her heart was racing, her vision darkening.

“We need to talk to Emma.” He urged her.

“No, no, you don’t understand, he’s not safe, I need to get to Henry.” Tears filled her eyes.

“He’s safe, my team won’t let anything happen to him, I promise you. We really need to talk to Emma though.” He placed his hand on her back and guided her inside Emma’s room. The pair walked in quietly, Emma lay on her side, watching the news, her eyes half closed.

“Really Swan, news, don’t you ever get sick of it,” he asked. Emma was constantly watching the news. Even on her days off.

Emma blinked a few times, waking herself up. “There is nothing on L.T.” She turned her attention to her lieutenant giving up on the small TV. “Regina, what are you doing here, what’s wrong,” She sat up slowly and carefully when she noticed the tear filled eyes, her drowsiness all but gone. She hoped Regina hadn’t been mad about her not calling her, she’d wanted to wait for word on James before she worried Regina and Kathryn too much.

“I came for a meeting with the hospital coordinator when Henry spotted your team. Are you alright.” She moved in closer to Emma, putting distance between herself and August.

“I’m fine, a bit drugged, where is the little man.” Emma looked behind her, she wanted some Henry loving, his hugs always make everything better.

“He’s waiting with the team, we need to talk.” August spoke, his tone serious.

Emma didn’t like where this was going. It was rare for her lieutenant to use that tone, especially outside of work.

“She’s the ‘her’. The ‘her’ in all the letters.” He explained to Emma, he waited as recognition crossed her features.

Chapter Text

“Oh my god,” she gasped as realization hit her. She’d known a little bit about Henry’s father, but hadn’t thought for one second that he could be behind all this. “He found you,” she questioned. It was a dumb question and she knew that but she needed to hear it from Regina.

Regina remained silent a single tear running down her face, five minutes ago she’d been ready to let Emma have it for being in the hospital and not calling her, now that seemed so trivial. She’d been the cause for Emma being in the hospital in the first place.

“Regina.” Emma looked to her for confirmation, but it seemed that the brunette wasn’t mentally there. “Regina.” Emma called out, louder this time getting the woman’s attention. “Come here.” She patted the bed.

Regina moved closer sitting on the edge of the bed, being careful not to touch Emma’s burns. “I’ve been so careful, I changed my last name, I stayed off of social media, I haven’t kept in touch with anyone from my old life except Kathryn, even then we were so careful.” Regina went over every decision she’d made in the past few years. Tears welled up in her eyes. She’d been the reason Emma’s shift had been going non-stop on the days they worked. The reason Emma and James were in the hospital. “I’m so sorry Emma. I didn’t know.”

Emma reached for her hand taking it in her own. “Hey, this isn’t your fault, none of it, do you understand.” Emma’s concern only grew. “Regina look at me please.”

Regina did, making eye contact only seemed to make things worse as more tears rolled down her face. “I am so sorry Emma. We’ll be out of your hair soon, you don’t have to worry.” She moved to stand up.

“Whoa, where do you think you’re going, you’re not leaving, not because of this.” Emma held on, she couldn’t believe what she’d just heard.

“Emma, it’s not safe, you’re in the hospital because he’s after me,” She argued. She needed Emma to understand that this was hard for her too. She’d finally made a connection with someone she could see a future with. “I’m not safe to be around.”

“Do you honestly think you leaving is going to keep me safe? Regina if it isn’t obvious I’m already on his list. I’ve been getting threatening letters for months now, we just didn’t know they were for me specifically and that they came from him. You leaving will change nothing, you have to know that.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt. Not because of me, not again.” She ran her hand down the side of Emma’s face, caressing her cheek.

August started walking towards the door, he felt like he was intruding on an intimate moment. “I’m calling Locksley.” He told them on his way out, he was pretty sure neither heard him.

Emma took Regina’s hand in hers holding it to her face. “I don’t want you to keep me safe, I want you to let me in. Regina, I know I haven’t known you long but never in my life have I wanted to tie myself down to anyone, not until you and Henry. I don’t think I can go back to how it used to be, so please don’t make me. Please stay.” She kissed the inside of the brunette’s palm.

Regina sighed, every fiber of being told her to pack up her bags and leave, it was the only way to keep those she loved safe but sitting here with Emma inches from her made it impossible to walk away. “Emma Swan you make it very hard to walk away.”

“So you’ll stay,” Emma questioned nervously.

“I don’t want you to get hurt because of me.” She didn’t think she could ever live with herself if anything happened to Emma.

“And I don’t want to lose you or Henry. Besides, Ember would be really upset with me.” She added, her dog had fallen in love with the pair, though that hadn’t surprised her, she herself was falling in love with them.

“Well I can’t have your canine companion be upset.” She leaned in. She took a deep breath becoming serious once again, she appreciated that Emma why trying to lighten the mood but she needed to make sure Emma realized what they were up against. “You’ve seen what he’s capable of, it’s only going to get worse if I stay.”

“Running isn’t going to stop him, here you have people who care about you, who will help you, and we have many friends in the police department.” She rested her forehead against Regina’s. “Stay.” Emma closed the gap between them.

“YUCK! Emma, mommy stop kissing!” The two sprang apart at the sound of the little voice. Henry stood in the doorway his hand in Ruby’s.

“If you two are done, Henry wanted to come say hi.” Ruby teased, ushering the boy in, she didn’t wait for a response from either adult, she enjoyed teasing them, the blush on their face was enough of a response.

“Hi Emma! You okay.” Henry ran up to the bed. Regina lifted him into her lab so he could be closer.

“I’m okay buddy, I’ll be out of here in no time.” She ruffled his hair.

“Are you sure, everyone is really sad.” He motioned towards the waiting room.

“I’m sure, they’re worried about James, he was hurt more than me.” She figured that answer was safe. Henry was too young to be worried about life and death situations. He’d grown pretty close to her team, especially James since he spent so much time with Kathryn.

“Do you have to stay here tonight,” he asked.

“Nope, I’ll get to go home soon.” She smiled.

“So you’re not going to work.” He clarified.

“No, someone else is going to cover the rest of my shift.”

“Oh.” He didn’t seem too happy with that answer.

Emma looked to Regina who shrugged. She had no idea what her son was upset about, then she thought about her earlier conversation with him. Henry had wanted to go to Emma’s work and look at the trucks again after she’d had her cast removed. Which reminded her as she looked at her watch she was about to miss her appointment. “I promised Henry that I’d talk to you about maybe going to the station later.”

“Ah.” Emma smiled in understanding. “Since we can’t go see the fire trucks would you like to hang out with me while your mom goes to her meeting,” she asked, she knew she should’ve probably asked Regina first but she didn’t think she’d mind. She’d caught Regina looking at her watch. It gave her hope that Regina was serious about staying.

“Can I mom.” Henry perked up.

“Sure. I’ll try and get back as soon as I can, make sure you let Emma rest.” She could tell whatever medication Emma was on was making her drowsy. “Thank you.” She mouthed to Emma, who didn’t notice since her whole attention had turned to her chatty son. With one final glance at the two she left for her own appointment knowing Henry would be safe with Emma.

“Emma you like mommy a lot huh.” Was the last thing Regina heard as she walked away.

Regina returned close to an hour later, she was relieved everything had worked out with the appointment. The clinic would finally have enough staffing to run at all hours. Even if she ended up leaving the clinic would be taken care of. She stood in the entrance to Emma’s room unable to move. Tears filled her eyes.

“It’s quite a sight.” August stood beside her.

Regina tensed having been snuck up on.

“I didn’t mean to startle you.” August apologized. “I just came to let her know James will be okay. David called Kathryn and let her know. She should be here soon.”

Regina nodded her thanks, her eyes still on the pair laying on the bed. Emma was fast asleep on her side with Henry beside her, her arm wrapped around him holding him close.

“I hope you don’t plan on leaving.” August stood beside her, their shoulders touching.

Regina sighed heavily. “I don’t want her to get hurt, not because of me, not again.” A tear slipped down her cheek. Leaving would break her son’s heart, she was sure it would tear hers apart.

“Every time we put that gear on and set foot on the trucks we know there is a chance we may not come home. We do this job knowing the dangers that come with it. Now that we know what and who we’re up against we will be better prepared. I am not planning on any more of my members getting hurt. Regina if you leave you will hurt her more than anything he could do. You think you’re protecting her but you’re not. How much has Emma told you about her life,” he asked.

“She told me about her life in the foster system, how she came to live with David and Mary Margaret.” She leaned her head against the doorframe.

“Emma comes off strong and carefree but she’s not. People have been leaving her all her life. Her parents abandoned her, she was moved from foster home to foster home. You’ve only been together a few short months but let me tell you, this is the closest I’ve seen her to settling down.” He wrapped an arm around Regina’s shoulders. “Can you really separate that.” He pointed to the still sleeping pair. Henry turned to Emma curling further into her, Emma readjusted resting her cheek on the top of his head.

She shook her head no. She couldn’t uproot her son, not again, he was young the first time around, this time he’d remember. His little heart would break. “What if she gets hurt again,” she asked looking up at August worriedly.

“What if you leave and she still gets hurt.” She didn’t answer. “I’ve already spoken to Locksley. He wants you to call him later.” He handed her a card with Locksley’s personal cell number on it. “I speak for the whole team when I say we want you to stay. We all care about Emma, she’s happy, we want it to stay that way. Emma is family, and Emma’s family is our family, we take care of our own.” When she didn’t answer he gave her shoulders a squeeze and walked away.

Regina stood in the doorway a few more minutes thinking about the new information Emma’s lieutenant had given her. She was tired of doing things on her own, tired of running, tired of living in fear.

“Penny for you thought.” A drowsy voice drew her from her thoughts.

She smiled, moving into the room. “Hello sleepyhead.” She sat on the edge of the bed.

“Hi.” Emma stretched turning on her back to face Regina, taking her hand in hers. “What’s on your mind.” She was almost afraid to ask.

Regina smiled, she’d done the thinking she needed, there was only one decision that needed to be made. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.” She paused for dramatic effect.

“And you decided.” Emma waited impatiently.

“That’s the thing, I can’t decide. Should we go to your place or mine once you’re released.” She waited for her words to sink in.

“Wait, does that, you mean.” She sat up ignoring the pain that came with the action. “You’ll stay.” Her smile was the biggest Regina had seen it. “You’ll stay.” She repeated. “I had a whole other speech prepared to convince you if you’d decided to leave.”

“Maybe you can tell me it later.”

“No, because you’re not going to change your mind, not now, not later.” She pulled her in closer.

“Emmmmma.”

Emma pulled away, she hadn’t seen him wake up. “Yes Henry.”

“Did you ask mommy.” He sat up and looked at the pair eagerly.

“Ask mommy what,” Regina asked.

“Henry and I were wondering if we could have a sleepover.” She already knew the answer, she asked for Henry’s benefit.

“Well let’s see.” She pretended to think about it.

“Mommy please.” He begged.

“I supposed that’d be alright.”

“Yes.” He pumped his fist in the air. “And Ember too,” he asked.

“Yes, Ember too.” Regina loved seeing her son this happy. She had been so close to taking that happiness away from him.

Chapter Text

It was few hours later that Emma was finally released to go home. The trio had decided to stay at Regina's so that Henry would have his bed and toys. Emma and Ember had their belongings there too, all they needed was to pick up Ember and they'd be able to settle in for the evening and maybe try and relax after the stressful afternoon they'd all had. Kathryn had opted to stay at the hospital and be with James, she hadn't felt right leaving him alone since the rest of the crew had returned to work.

"Oh my god." Emma gasped as they turned onto her street, there was a large column of smoke a few houses in, her house to be exact. "Shit, Regina call 911." Emma cursed completely forgetting the little ears in the car. She jumped out of the car before it came to full stop. Adrenaline kicked in as she ran towards her house.

"Emma. Emma, thank god you're okay, I called 911, the fire department is on its way." Emma's neighbor intercepted her.

"Ember, Granny where is Ember." She looked around frantically for her dog. She hoped now more than ever that Ember had been with Granny. She was filled with dread when Granny shook her head.

"I don't know. I just got off the phone. I checked on her a few hours ago."

Regine moved the car to the neighbor's driveway. "Stay in here Henry." She rushed to Emma, grabbing her bicep. "Emma."

"Ember, I need to get Ember." Emma started moving towards the house.

"You can't go in there. It's not safe." The fire that could be seen from the roof was now visible from the front and side windows of the house.

Emma pulled her arm free. "Ember," she yelled running towards the house. She needed to get Ember, she was the one constant in her life, she couldn't imagine losing her, not like this. "Ember." She continued to yell for the dog. Not forgetting her training she touched the front door's handle with the back of her hand. It was hot to the touch. "Please hold on Ember." She knew not to open the door so she ran to the fenced in backyard continuously calling for the dog. She could hear sirens in the distance, they couldn't get there soon enough. "Ember." She screamed.

"Emma." August called out to her. "Emma back up, let us do our job." This one was personal, to all of them. The team was getting ready to make entry with other companies as he did his 360 around the house, to get a better perspective on the fire.

"L.T. Ember, I don't know where she is, you have to find her, please." She begged him. She didn't care about the house, she could rebuild it, her dog she could never replace. "Please find her."

"Emma. Come here." Regina pulled Emma back.

"Lt3 to dispatch, on scene of a 2 story residential structure, flames on the first floor, fire showing from sides alpha bravo, charlie, and the roof. We have two crews of three making entry on the delta side." Two crews went through the gate entrance and through the side door. Crews from other companies arrived and an attack on the fire was made through the front door. Ideally he'd have preferred not to send anyone in but Ember was family to all of them, his team would take the risk if it meant saving the dog.

"Engine 3 interior to command we have the dog, prep the airbags we're exiting on the delta side.

"Command copies."

Belle and Ruby ran to the fence with the Animal Resuscitation Kit. Emma and Regina ran after them. Jones came out carrying the dog. He knelt down putting her on the ground. Ruby and Belle went to work immediately. They placed a large pet mask to Ember's muzzle and started the flow of oxygen.

"Come on babygirl." Several minutes passed and nothing happened. "Come on girl." Emma rubbed the dog's side repeatedly. "Come on Ember. There you go. Good girl." She cried. "That's my girl." Ember took a small breath as she started to regain consciousness and let out a small whine.

"Take her to the animal hospital, just to make sure her lungs are clear." Belle told her. "Emma." She tried to get the blonde's attention.

Emma nodded. "Do you, uh do you want to come with me or do you want to take me to get my truck first." She asked Regina.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't ask me that. I'll get Henry." Regina squeezed her shoulder and left for the neighbor's house. Ruby's grandmother, Granny, had taken Henry inside the moment she'd realized the child was in the car. Regina buckled Henry in and waited for Emma.

"We'll take care of everything here, go take care of Ember, and your little family." Belle gave her a hug. "And Emma, let them take care of you." She'd known Emma long enough to know she'd put on a brave face and deal with things on her own. "Did you hear me Emma Swan," she asked.

"Yes mom, I heard." She looked at her house or what was left of it. 'It's just a house.' She reminded herself. "Keep me posted." With help from Killian she carried Ember to the backseat of Regina's car. "Thank you Killian."

"You're welcome love." He turned to Regina. "Take care of our girl."

Regina nodded. "Why don't you sit in the back with Ember."

Emma was on the verge of a breakdown, so she just nodded and sat in the backseat cradling the dog in her lap.

"Is Ember okay," Henry asked as he pet the dog.

"We're going to take her to the hospital to make sure she is." Regina answered for Emma. Regina called Kathryn on her way to the animal hospital to update her. Kathryn offered to leave the hospital and join them but Regina told her to stay and be with James. She knew if it was Emma in the hospital she would not want to leave her side.

It was 9 o'clock by the time they made it back to Regina's. They'd stopped by the station and picked Emma's truck on their way back to the house. Ember had been kept on oxygen and finally released after three hours, they'd been warned she'd be lethargic for a few days.

"Henry darling go get ready for bed while I make us something for dinner." Regina told her tired son. She was extremely proud of him, it was way past his bedtime.

Emma followed Regina to the kitchen with Ember close behind her. She went to the cabinet Regina had designated as Ember's and pulled out a can of wet food. "Your food I can't mess up." She pet the dog and continued to watch for a few seconds to make sure she ate. "What're you making, do you need any help." She moved to stand beside Regina.

"I'm making something you're quite good at. Would you like to help," she asked in hopes to get Emma's mind off of things, at least until after dinner and after Henry was in bed. When they were alone and able to talk freely.

"Sure." Anything to help herself distracted, something told her it was the exact reason Regina had chosen this meal for dinner. "I'll do the sandwiches since you like to make your fancy soup."

Regina laughed. "It's hardly fancy dear, it's just not canned."

Emma rolled her eyes. "Tomato, tomahto."

The trio finally sat down after a long day. "Emma, can Ember sleep with me tonight," Henry asked between bites.

"Sure kid." Emma wasn't sure why he even asked, she couldn't drag Ember away from him if she tried, the dog had chosen her favorite and that was Henry, she and Regina tied for second place, she was probably in third place, she was never sure when the Mills' were around.

"Henry would like to say good night to you. I can put away the dishes." Regina walked back into the kitchen having put Henry to bed.

"I'm just about done." Emma put away the last of the dishes. Since she couldn't help with most of the meals without setting off the smoke detector she'd taken on the responsibility of washing and putting away the dishes. "You all settled kiddo." Emma tucked the blanket around him.

"Emma, you can live with mommy and me. I asked her already and she said we had to talk to you about it."

"This isn't because you want Ember to live with you is it." She knew his offer was serious by the way his brows came together.

"No, only a little bit. I like it when you're here, mommy does too. You should think about it." He sat up giving her a hug.

"Thank you Henry, I will. Time for bed."

"Night Emma. Love you."

"I love you too kiddo." Emma kissed the top of his head. "Sleep tight." She tucked him in once again. She wiped the few tears that slipped. Regina set the cider on the coffee table and patted the cushion beside her. Emma sat down slowly and let out a heavy sigh. "He said he loved me." She told her.

"He does." She confirmed. "Emma."

"Don't." Emma stopped her. She didn't want her apologizing for something she had no control over. "This isn't your fault. So I don't want to hear the words 'I'm sorry' come out of that pretty little mouth of yours." She took a long drink of Regina's cider. "Wow. This is strong."

"Sip." She covered the top of the glass with her hand.

"Today kind of sucked didn't it." She took another sip, this one smaller, she laid her head against Regina's shoulder.

"It did." She kissed the top of Emma's head and ran her fingers through the blonde's hair. "I know you don't want to hear it but I am truly sorry Emma, this is happening because of me. I don't know how he could've found me. I have been so careful, I changed my name to my father's last name, I even moved closer to my mother, he knows I would never live within driving distance of her."

"That bad huh," Emma asked.

"Having my father always made things easier but he passed away when I was 12, so my mother changed our names back to her maiden name, the name Leo knew me by." Regina took the cider from Emma and took a drink. Emma didn't seem to care, she was too comfortable to move. "My mother liked Leo very much. She likes the rich types, something to brag about. She was highly upset with me when I went through the divorce process."

"Your mother sounds like a piece of work. She didn't happen to be a foster parent did she, I may have stayed with her a time or two." Emma joked.

"Doubtful, you'd never talk with food in your mouth."

Emma rolled her eyes. One time, one time she'd talked with food in her mouth. She blamed Henry for that one.

"Don't roll your eyes." Regina scolded jokingly. "Emma." She started, she wanted to talk about everything that had happened but Emma put a finger to her lips to stop her.

Emma gave her a warning look. She knew Regina was sorry, knew that she felt responsible but Emma didn't see it that way. She was going to do her best to remind Regina that. "This is not your fault and I don't blame you, not one bit."

She nodded, she'd drop it for now. "Let's change the dressing on your burns and get to bed, we have a five year old that doesn't understand the words, sleeping in."

Emma nodded and followed Regina to her bedroom.

"Can I ask you a question," she asked as she took off the dressing the hospital had applied.

"Sure."

"The burns." She nodded towards them.

"Why are they only on one side," Emma asked.

Regina nodded.

"When it's a bad situation and we don't have time to exit, we try and protect as much of our body as we can, I hung on the side of the window, these were the only parts of my body that were exposed to the fire."

"Do they hurt." She cringed, they looked pretty painful.

"It's not too bad, not the first time I've gotten burned." She should have known better than to say that. "I really need to learn to keep my mouth shut."

Regina said nothing. She carefully and silently changed the rest of the bandages. "All set." She kissed the top of Emma's head. "Let's go to bed."

Chapter Text

Once the pair was ready for bed, Regina made her rounds around the house making sure all the doors and windows were locked. She looked outside at the police cruiser that sat down the street from them. Their presence easing her mind if only a little bit. Locksley had promised extra patrols on her street until Leo as captured. She settled beside Emma after one final check on Henry and Ember.

“Everything okay.” Emma asked.

“Everything is secure, Locksley has a few officers sitting down the street. She couldn’t believe this was once again her world. It had taken her so long to get away from Leo the first time.

“Regina.” Emma scooted closer to her. “Will you come with me tomorrow, to go through the house.” She’d been debating asking since dinner, she wasn’t used to asking for help. She also didn’t want Regina seeing the damage during the daylight hours, feeling guilty, blaming herself for it and changing her mind and deciding to leave. “I understand if you need to be at work.”

“Emma, stop, yes I’ll go with you.” She couldn’t believe how nervous Emma sounded.

“Thank you.” She lay her head on Regina’s shoulder, the events of the day finally catching up to her. She tried hard but she couldn’t hold back the sniffles and the tears that fell.

“I have you.” Regina wrapped her arms tightly around her. It broke her heart that Emma was in tears, tears that her ex-husband had caused. “Emma.”

“If you’re going to apologize again, I don’t want to hear it because this isn’t your fault.” She sniffled, trying to get herself together. “I’m just, if something had happened to Ember, I don’t know what I would have done.” Her dog had been a bigger concern for her than the house.

“Would it make you feel better if she were in here.” She would do anything to take away the pain her girlfriend was feeling.

Emma shook her head. “No, you make me feel better, besides Henry likes protecting her.”

“Speaking of Henry, he asked if you and Ember could move in with us.” Regina wasn’t surprised her son had brought up the move when he’d learned what had happened to Emma’s house and what had landed Ember in the hospital. “I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.” ‘Just come out and say it Regina Mills, for goodness sake, you’re the reason she’s in this mess.’ Regina scolded herself. “What I mean is, I would like for you to move in also, if that is what you would like, while your place is getting worked on of course.” She couldn’t believe how hard this was to talk about. She could understand if she and Emma had just started dating but it had been almost six months. They were past the new couple jitters.

“At least there wouldn’t be an argument of who’s stuff goes where.” Emma joked. “Sorry.” She apologized once she saw Regina’s sorrowful face. “I can be a sarcastic asshole sometimes.” She sat up. “If you’re serious, then yes, thank you for the offer, just until I have some remodeling done. I don’t want you to do it because you think this is your fault though, because it isn’t.” She didn’t want Regina inviting her to move in out of guilt or pity. She had other places to live if that was the case.

“Emma Swan would you and Ember move in with me and never sleep in another day in your life due to an active five year old that adores you both.” She asked with a smile on her face.

“I’m pretty sure he’s only asking me to come because of Ember.” She knew it wasn’t true, Henry was always excited to see her and made sure to give her love every time he saw her.

“Doubtful, he asks about you when you’re not around. Ember is an added bonus. We can go tomorrow and see what we can salvage and go from there.”

Emma nodded. “Regina, I’m really happy you decided to stay, I don’t think I could’ve handled losing you and Henry on top of everything else.” She snuggled into Regina, nuzzling her neck. She could live without her house, she couldn’t live without her new family.

“I’m glad we stayed too. I don’t want to go back to the way things used to be.” Regina was thankful that August had talked to her, she was sure if he hadn’t then she’d have taken Henry and left, starting over somewhere new. She knew she couldn’t continue running. It wasn’t fair to any of them. Henry needed a stable home, the older he got the harder it would be explaining why they were constantly moving. Why his mom was always sheltering him from the outside world. She knew eventually that he would be too old for her to keep him safe. He’d be on his own. She sighed hugging Emma to her. “Good night Emma.” She kissed the top of her head. She smiled sadly when she realized Emma was already asleep, the day having caught up with her.

The next morning, Emma and Regina dropped Henry off at school. Before leaving the school they talked to the front office, reiterating that no one was to pick up Henry unless it was Emma, Regina and Kathryn. They picked up Emma’s truck and went to the scorched house. As Emma had expected, there was not much left to salvage. Emma threw another destroyed piece of furniture. It seemed that Leo had put accelerant on everything she owned. She was getting more frustrated with each room they checked. She wanted to give up after checking a third of the house but Regina would not have it.

“Emma darling, I know you’re frustrated, you have every right to be, if you’d like I can keep looking.” Regina offered, she’d known first-hand what it was like losing everything. Having to leave everything she owned and loved behind.

Emma sighed and wrapped her arms around Regina apologizing. “I’m sorry Regina, I know I’m moody, I’m just, this is everything I’ve worked for. First place of my own.” She pointed to the ruins around them. “It’s just hard to see it all destroyed.”

“I know darling and you have nothing to apologize for. You have every right to be upset, moody and even emotional. I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I’m sorry I brought him into your life. You don’t deserve the hardship that I’ve brought on you.” Regina returned Emma’s hug. She hated that her girlfriend had to go through all of this.

“I don’t care about him, I’m just glad you’re in my life. You and Henry are all that matter. I can’t imagine my life without you two in it.” If someone had told her a year ago that she’d be settled down with a family of her own she’d have laughed at the outlandish idea.

“It means so much for me to hear you say that.” Regina smiled. Emma had never given her a reason to doubt her affection for both of them, but she appreciated hearing that she wanted them in her life, especially after everything she’d been through. “Henry and I both love you very much Emma, we would be devastated if you weren’t in our life.” She kissed Emma on her forehead.

“You, you love me,” she asked. She wasn’t sure she’d heard her correctly. “You love me.” She repeated a smile spreading on her face.

Regina hadn’t realized what she’d said until now, she’d meant it, but she hadn’t been prepared to say it out loud, now that she had and saw the smile on Emma’s face she was not going to take it back, it was the first real smile she’d seen in hours. “I do,” she said confidently.

“You love me.” She repeated a goofy smile spreading on her face.

“Yes Emma, I love you.” She was really enjoying the look on Emma’s face.

“I love you too.” Emma kissed her. “God, I love you.” She repeated, kissing her again, forgetting the destruction she was standing in the middle of. She couldn’t wipe the smile from her face. “I guess we should keep looking,” she said with new found motivation.

They continued their search not finding anything of value intact. Emma was becoming dejected once again.

“How about we go check your bedroom and then we can call it quits.” Regina offered. It was obvious this was becoming too much for Emma.

“Yes ma’am.” Emma very carefully moved to her bedroom with Regina close behind her. She picked up the picture frame on her bedside table. It was one of her and Ember, she wiped the soot from the glass. The center of the picture was intact. She took the photo out of the frame and tossed the frame on the floor.

“Emma,” Regina called out. She held up a photo album. “The edges are pretty burnt and there is some water damage but I think we can save a few pictures.

Emma nodded. She would take whatever she could get. She moved to search her closet. Almost all her clothes were burnt, she was glad she’d been leaving clothes at Regina’s over the past few months. She didn’t have to rush to replace her wardrobe. She bent down to look at the trunk hidden in the back of her closet. She slowly opened the lid afraid to see the damage inside.

“What’s in there,” Regina asked stepping in behind Emma.

Emma took out a vacuum sealed bag grateful that Mary Margret had sealed it for her. Her eyes filled with tears. “It’s my baby blanket. It’s silly, considering my birth parents didn’t want me, but it’s the only thing I have left of them. The one thing that had my name on it.” She held up the blanket for Regina to see.

“It’s not silly Emma, it’s a part of who you are, a piece of your identity.” She took the bag from Emma so that her hands were free. By the time they were done Emma had a suitcase of clothes and a few pictures that could be salvaged. Regina couldn’t bear the look of grief on Emma’s face as they stood outside looking at what was once her home. “Emma.”

“Don’t, please don’t apologize. This is not your fault, I’ll keep telling you that till you believe it. He is doing this to drive us apart, to ruin the family we’ve created. He’s angry you’re happy.” Emma’s heart ached to see her whole life’s work in ruins but she was glad she didn’t have to do it alone. She had a family now. “Let’s go.” After dropping off her clothes at the cleaners the pair went to the store to buy essentials for Emma.

Chapter Text

Things between Emma and Regina only grew in the months they lived together while Emma's house was under construction. The police still had no leads on Leo and though he'd laid low since setting Emma's house on fire and had made no contact, the couple and Emma's work family stayed vigilant. They couldn't afford for anyone else to get hurt, not if they could help it. Officers continue to patrol Regina's residence, office, and Henry's school, day and night. Kathryn had decided to move closer after the incident with James and while she'd been staying with Regina and looking for a place of her own, James had asked her to move in with him. The move had not come as a surprise to most of them. Regina loved having Kathryn so close and welcomed the new change. In all the negativity brought on by her ex it was a nice to have family and friends to turn to in her times of need. She was able to visit with her friend often and Henry loved having his aunt near them also, because when Emma and Regina could not pick him up, James or Kathryn did, which meant, them taking him out for some hang out time. James took on the role of honorary godfather and Henry simply adored him. Henry, Regina and Kathryn fit right in at the shift's quarterly family BBQ held at their Lieutenants house. For the first time in a long time Regina felt like she belonged. Felt as though she was part of a family, not the family one she was forced to pretend to enjoy growing up. She'd never seen Henry so happy and playing with children his age. She'd always been so protective of him because of his father, it was nice to see that he still played well with others outside of school. Outside of not knowing where Leo was and when he'd strike next, things had been going really well.

"Ma," Henry called out from his room. He would be spending the night with his aunt while his mom and Emma went on their date.

"Yes Henry." Regina checked to see what he needed.

Henry sighed, "Not you mommy, Emma."

"Emma," she questioned.

"Yes, Emma." He raised an eyebrow wondering what was up with his mom.

"I'm sorry honey I guess I'm just confused." Regina looked at Emma who was down the hall. By the shocked look on her face, she'd heard Henry. "You called Emma, Ma."

Henry nodded now worried he'd done something wrong. "Michael at school has two dads, and he said he calls one of them Dad and the other Pop. I have two mommies, did I do something bad," he asked fearfully, he didn't want to get in trouble and have his sleepover cancelled.

"No, no sweetheart, you did nothing wrong." She hugged him. "I just hadn't realized that that's what you wanted to call Emma, that's all." She smiled at her son. It made her heart melt that Henry thought of Emma as another mother. She couldn't ask for a better person for her son to look to as a mom.

"Is it okay if I call her that," he asked.

"Why don't we ask her." Regina was about to call for Emma but she was already there, standing in the doorway with tears in her eyes. "Go ahead Henry." She let go of him and gave him a gentle nudge towards Emma.

"Emma, is it okay if I call you Ma since you're kinda like my mommy now," he asked.

Emma's smile couldn't get any bigger if she tried. She'd thought of Henry as her son for a while now, but she never expected this, she was overwhelmed that he saw her as a mother. "Of course little man. I'd be honored to be you Ma." She hugged him tightly, looking at Regina over his shoulder.

"Emma," he choked out. "Too tight." He tapped her shoulder.

Emma laughed and released him. "Sorry buddy, it's just that you make me so happy."

He groaned. "Now you sound just like mommy."

"I do, don't I." She scrunched up her nose. "You had a question." She reminded him.

"Yes, can Ember come with me to Aunty Kat and Uncle James' house," he asked. Ember normally stayed home when he was gone but he really wanted her to go with him. James had promised to play catch with him.

"Let me call Kathryn and make sure it's okay with her, if it is, then I have no problem with it."

"Yay!" He ran and hugged Ember. "Come on Ember let's pack your bag just in case." He ran out of the room with Ember following close behind him.

"Uncle James," Emma questioned turning to Regina, that was new too.

"They're learning about families at school. I believe he's connecting the dots." Regina had never thought that her son would have another mother or father let alone a mom, multiple aunts and uncles, and serval cousins. She couldn't be happier that Emma's entire crew had adopted them.

"James and Kathryn are gonna love it, speaking of which can you call Kathryn while I make sure he doesn't pack everything Ember owns," she asked, she needed to get to Henry before he packed Ember's water bowl while it was still full, like he did the last time they went out and he put himself in charge of her things.

"Of course, anything for my son's Ma." Regina grinned. She loved that Henry saw Emma as his mother. "I like the sound of that."

Emma grinned. "Me too." She kissed Regina. "Call Kathryn, I need to see what kind of mess our son just made." She said after hearing a crashing sound in the kitchen. As she'd guessed, Henry had tried to stuff everything in Ember's bag and had dropped it. Her bowls and cans of food were scattered on the floor.

Regina came into the kitchen several minutes later. "Kathryn says it's okay."

"Awesome!" Henry exclaimed as he repacked Ember's bag this time with Emma's supervision.

The trip to James and Kathryn's wasn't long, which made it extremely convenient when they watched Henry. It had taken some convincing and a lot of planning from Emma for Regina to allow Henry out of her sight.

"Be good Henry," Regina warned when Kathryn opened the door.

"I'm always good, right Ma," he asked turning to Emma for confirmation.

"You sure are little man. Now come here and give me some love." She knelt down and hugged him. "I love you Henry."

"Love you too Ma, have fun on your date. Remember to open the door for Mommy and to pull out her chair." He instructed.

"Of course." Emma felt extremely proud of the little gentleman that Henry was turning out to be. She didn't care that he was only five, they were going to teach him while he was young, they didn't want a mini Killian running around.

"Ma," Kathryn mouthed, looking at Regina questioningly.

Regina nodded. "Just wait." She said.

"For what," Kathryn asked.

"You'll see." Regina knelt down giving Henry a hug and a kiss. "Have a great time my little prince."

"You too Mommy. Hi Aunty Kat." He hugged her before running inside taking Ember with him. "Uncle James, Uncle James," he yelled. "I brought Ember with me can we play catch."

"Uncle," Kathryn asked putting a hand over her heart. It was just too cute. "Oh my god, he is so adorable, I could cry." She couldn't believe how cute the words sounded out of his little mouth. She wished she could see the look on James' face. She was sure he'd be thrilled.

Emma and Regina laughed knowing exactly how she felt, they went through the same emotions she was feeling now. Henry had a way of melting everyone's hearts.

"Ugh I'm so emotional, don't let me delay your date night, have fun you two, I'd say use protection but I guess it's not necessary." She teased.

Emma rolled her eyes and chuckled, she was now used to Kathryn's teasing.

"Good night Kathryn, thank you for watching Henry." There was no one Regina trusted more with her son. The first time she'd left him with Kathryn and James had been extremely hard, especially with Leo being out there. It had gotten easier over time. She hadn't felt the need to check on him every ten minutes after the third time they'd dropped him off. They wanted things to be as normal for him as possible, he was too young to worry about the danger his biological father posed.

Emma led Regina to the truck and as Henry had instructed her to, she opened the passenger door for her date with a smile.

"Chivalry is not dead," Regina teased, though Emma had always made sure to get the door for her.

"I have strict orders to open doors, I must comply or face the wrath of an angry five year old." Emma gave her a kiss before gently shutting the door and quickly moving to her side.

"Speaking of said five year old, his birthday is in a month and you can guess the theme he wants." Regina told her once Emma was seated in the truck.

"I think we can make it the best birthday party ever." Emma's smile was wide. She loved that Henry loved everything about the fire department. She was sure the guys would jump at the idea of helping make his day.

***

"Thank you for tonight," Regina took Emma's hand into hers as they pulled up to the house. "And for everything else." She could never thank Emma enough for the positive change she'd brought into her life.

Emma smiled as she got out of her seat and moved to the other side to open Regina's door. "I love you," she said once she had her door open. "You have made me the happiest I've ever been. Now, let's get inside so I can show you how happy you make me." Emma leaned inside the truck capturing Regina's lips. "You are so beautiful," she whispered, resting her forehead against Regina's. She took a step and held her hand out for Regina to take as she stepped out of the truck.

Chapter Text

Emma and Regina walked hand in hand to the door, happy with the ending of another successful date night though their night was far from over. One of the perk of Henry staying with Kathryn and James meant they didn’t have to worry about the six am wake up nudge from their five year old.

“It’s beautiful out,” Regina commented. She was really glad Emma had convinced her to keep up with their date nights even after Leo’s attacks. It had been so hard for her to try and resume a normal schedule with the threat of him attacking looming over them.

“It is, but it has nothing on you.” She gave Regina a cheesy smile.

Regina rolled her eyes playfully hitting Emma’s abdomen with her free hand. “You’re ridiculous.” She teased Emma when she made corny comments but she wouldn’t have her any other way. “It’s a good thing I love you.” She brought the hand she’d been holding to her lips.

“It sure is.” Emma’s smile grew at the gesture. It made her really happy to be able to be herself. Regina encouraged her romantic silly side. “Shoot, I forgot my phone in the truck, be right back. I want you to be wearing less clothes when I come back.” She winked. She unlocked the truck and handed Regina the keys, after giving her a peck on the cheek she turned back to the truck.

Regina shook her head continuing to smile, she’d never get used to how happy Emma made her. With one last look at Emma she unlocked the door going inside.

Emma was still smiling when she shut the door to her truck. She forced herself not to skip to the house in excitement. No one had ever made her feel as giddy and loved as Regina did. She’d been worried that after a few months the honeymoon phase would fizzle out but they were coming up on a year and still going very strong. It still felt like the first month of their relationship. Her smile dropped when the door slammed shut, Regina would have left the door open for her. Her first instinct was to run to it but she thought better of it, with Leo out there still she didn’t risk rushing into anything, she and Regina had talked at length about him. She unlocked her phone going to her emergency contact list. “Locksley, it’s Emma. Hey this might be nothing but if you don’t hear from me in five minutes I need you to start a few cars to Regina’s.” She reassured him several times that it was just a hunch but she felt better knowing someone would get help if they needed it. She tucked her phone in her pocket before trying the door handle. She cursed when she found it locked. She wished at the moment that she’d held onto the keys and had just made Regina wait for her.

Emma went around the side of the house looking for anything out of place. Her heartrate picked up at the sight of the broken doorknob. She checked her phone for missed calls, the alarm company should’ve called, they paid good money for it. Everything in her was telling her to run in, to get to Regina but she knew she couldn’t do that. She pushed the door open and looked around the immediate area before stepping inside. She did her best not to make any noise, she was sure Leo was expecting her but she didn’t want to make it too easy for him. She looked at the alarm panel, seeing it was deactivated and without power she cursed, she should’ve still gotten a call. She redialed Locksley before moving further into the house, she left the line open and put the phone back in her pocket.  She listened for clues that would lead her to Regina. Her heart stopped when she heard Regina let out a pained cry. She rushed towards Henry’s room where she was sure she heard the noise. Emma could hear a male’s voice, a male she assumed was Leo, Regina’s ex-husband.

“You really thought you could just take my son and leave.” He yelled at her.

“He’s not your son Leopold, he never was, you were never in his life, you wanted nothing to do with him or have you forgotten.” Regina fired back. It angered her that he’d come into her life after terrorizing her and her family and act as though she’d wronged him for taking Henry from him. He’d wanted nothing to do with him as an infant, he’d not wanted anything to do with him when he started crawling, or walking, or even when he said his first words. She remembered that night vividly. She’d been so excited to hear Henry attempt his first word and so she’d recorded it to show Leo but he’d only gotten angry because Henry’s first word had been momma. He’d claimed she was poisoning their son to hate him, to want nothing to do with him. Any time Henry rejected him he directed his anger at Regina.

“God damn it,” he yelled, striking her across the face. “Why do you make me hurt you.”

The question pissed Regina off, he’d asked her that several times before angrily beating her. Regina stood her ground not flinching. “You are delusional Leo,” She yelled at him no longer afraid. She couldn’t believe he had not only broken into her house but into Henry’s room. She took a step back when he turned the knife towards her.

“You’ve grown a backbone.” He laughed bitterly. “Must be that bitch you’re seeing.”

“Don’t you call her that you good for nothing bastard. She has done more for Henry and is more family to us than you ever were.” She shot back, she regretted her words, she knew they’d do nothing but escalate the situation. She jumped back when he swung the knife at her catching her arm. She cried out in pain, grabbing her bleeding arm.

“Get away from her,” Emma ran into the room putting herself between Regina and Leo.

“This doesn’t concern you bitch. Get the hell out of the way, I have to teach my wife a lesson,” he yelled at her. He’d been livid when he’d seen Regina with the tall blonde. He’d made it his mission to make her as miserable as he could. He’d been discreet at first, he hadn’t wanted for Regina to know he was back but the blonde had seemed unfazed, it had not effected their relationship in the least so he’d had to up his game. He wished he’d just killed her when he’d had the chance.

Emma circled her arm behind her wrapping it around Regina, keeping her out of his reach. “You’re very wrong.” She took a step towards him pushing Regina towards the door while she had him distracted. “Every bit of this concerns me, because it’s my family you’re attacking.” While she didn’t want to aggravate him she did want to distract him and turn his attention from Regina to herself.

“They’re not your family,” he yelled taking a step towards her. “They’re my family and you have no right to them.” His face contorted in anger as he lunged towards her.

“Regina run,” Emma yelled, pushing her out the door as Leo connected with her side knocking them out of the room. She rolled unto her back wrestling him off of her, using both her hands to keep the knife from her face. 

“If I can’t have her, then no one will.” He used his body weight to push the knife down slicing Emma’s cheek. “When I’m done with you, I’m gonna have my way with her before I go and get my son back.” He brought his hand back getting ready to strike her again.

Emma fought back with all her strength, she couldn’t fail and let him go after Henry and Regina, she needed to figure out a way to get the upper hand. There was no way she was going to let this horrid man influence Henry in any way. Emma raised her arms up trying to keep him from striking her again when she heard footsteps, everything happened quickly after that. One second the dagger was coming towards her the next Leo was grunting and falling over. She shoved him off of her and looked up at the person behind him. “I thought I told you to run.” She took the hand Regina was offering her.

“Like I said before, I’m done running. I was not going to allow him to take the person I love from me.” She pulled Emma into her arms holding onto her not believing that years of running and terror were finally coming to an end. The couple jumped when Leo grunted.

“Emma, Regina. It’s Locksley.” Captain Locksley walked in, gun drawn with three other officers following. “You two okay,” he asked the couple. The minute Emma had called him he’d called dispatch and had officers sent to the house, when she’d called him the second time leaving the line open he’d had them step up their response to emergent. 

“We’re okay, good timing by the way.” Emma commented as Leo started regaining consciousness and two of the officers worked to get him handcuffed.

Locksley nodded. “Where is Henry,” he asked looking for the young boy.

“With Kathryn and James.” Regina was thankful he hadn’t been there, she was sure things would have gone much differently if Henry was there. Leo may have just taken him and disappeared, tearing her world apart.

“Hey, hey, you’re okay.” Emma engulfed her when she felt Regina shudder. “We’re okay, you’re safe now, we all are.” She kissed the top of her head.

Regina shook as she thought of all the ways this could have gone badly. “He could’ve.” She didn’t finish the sentence, the thought making her sick. She’d been terrified when he’d put the knife against her throat when she’d passed through the front door ordering her to Henry’s room. She’d imagined all the terrible outcomes, none of the scenarios that had gone through her head were even close to how lucky they’d gotten.

“He didn’t, you can’t think about the what ifs love, you’ll drive yourself mad.” Emma’s mind was also whirling with what ifs, she was doing her best not to think about them now. All that mattered was that they were safe and they could now live without looking over their shoulders. “We’ll go see Henry soon.” She reminded the brunette. She hugged her once again before letting her go to talk to the approaching police captain.

Regina nodded, she wanted nothing more than to go see her son.

“You two okay, Emma you should get that looked at.” He pointed towards her cheek.

The pair nodded. “I’m assuming we don’t have to worry about him posting bond,” Emma asked already knowing the answer.

“No, there is no chance of bond, since we learned who he was we were able to tie a lot of the freak accidents and arsons to him. He was careful but our CSI’s are good at their job. We’ll try and get a confession out of him, good thinking on the open line, I started recording the minute I realized what was going on. You’re safe now.” He smiled at the worried couple.

“Captain.” One of the officers called out coming from the master bedroom wearing latex gloves and carrying a gas can. “He dowsed almost the entire bedroom, there are a few more of these in the bedroom and the hallway. My guess is.” He stopped when the Captain shook his head to stop him not wanting to scare the couple any more than they already were.

“You have somewhere you can stay,” Locksley asked the couple. “We want to bring dogs through just in case.” With Leo’s history he didn’t want to leave anything up to chance.

They nodded. “We’ll go to Kathryn’s.” After packing a bag for Henry and Ember and one for them they left the house for the officers to continue to go through. They took Emma’s truck to Kathryn’s, and called her to let her know they were on their way and that they’d explain everything when they got there.

“Hey, what happened, Emma what happened to your face.” Kathryn looked worriedly at the couple. Ember came up behind Kathryn licking both Emma and Regina’s hands.

“We’ll explain it all in a minute, first I want to get Emma’s face cleaned up and we want to see Henry.” Regina hugged Kathryn and reassured her once again that they were okay.  They pet the dog giving her attention, letting her know they were okay.

“Everything okay,” James asked when they all entered the living room. “You alright Em.” He got up and grabbed the first aid kit. “Sit.” He pointed to the couch.

“We’re okay.” Emma nodded taking a seat. “Get Regina’s arm first.”

James nodded and motioned for Regina to sit.

Regina took off the light jacket she’d been wearing and allowed James to clean and bandage the gash on her arm. “Thank you James.”

“You’re welcome, come on Emma your turn.” He patted the seat beside Regina.

Regina stood up vacating the seat for Emma. “Emma.” Regina motioned towards the room Henry was asleep in.

“Go, I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She knew Regina was dying to see Henry.

She mouthed a thank you before going to check on their son with Ember following behind closely.

“Leo was at the house when we got back from our date,” Emma explained, she wanted to tell them and then join Regina and Henry. She knew it would be hard for both of them to leave his side tonight. She took a deep breath trying to calm her nerves. “I forgot my phone in the truck so I went back to grab it, when I got back the front door was locked, I went around back and noticed it had been pried open. He had a knife pointed at her by the time I reached them. God, he could’ve killed her.” She shivered at the thought. “He was planning on burning the place down and taking Henry.” The thought of Leo touching Regina and then taking Henry made her sick to her stomach. She shook her head ridding herself of the awful thought once again reminding herself it was all over. “Anyways, Regina was able to hit him over the head while he and I wrestled.” She pointed to the cheek James had just bandaged.

“But you two are okay,” Kathryn asked, she wanted to go check on her friend but knew that right now she needed Emma and Henry more than anyone else.

“We will be, I don’t think we’ve had time to process everything yet.” She was sure there would be a lot more emotions once they processed it all, they were both fairly calm for everything they’d been through.

“You’re all set, I’m glad you’re okay Em. Both of you.” James patted her knee.

“If you guys need anything, let us know, the little guy is tuckered out, he and James played catch for quite some time and then jousted with foam noodles.” It had made her heart happy to see James and Henry play.

“Thanks guys, for everything.” Emma hugged the pair and grabbed her and Regina’s bag and went into Henry’s room shutting the door behind her. She found Regina lying beside Henry with a protective arm draped across his little body.

Regina turned to look over her shoulder when Emma walked in, grateful for the nightlight that allowed her to see the blonde. “Hey,” she whispered.

Emma sat behind Regina’s bent legs, her hand reaching for her face, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s over.” She leaned in and kissed Regina.

Regina turned into Emma’s hand drawing comfort from her touch. “I almost,” she sniffled. “I could’ve lost you and Henry.”

“But you didn’t. You can’t think like that.” She rested her forehead against Regina’s. “We’re safe.”

Regina nodded. “We’re safe.” She repeated.

“We are.” Emma smiled. “How about we get some rest before our son wakes us up.”

Regina smiled, she didn’t think she’d ever tire hearing Emma refer to Henry as their son.

 

Chapter Text

“Ma.” Henry poked at Emma’s uninjured cheek early the next morning.

“Henry,” James whispered from the doorway. “Let them sleep, let’s watch some cartoons.” He was normally up with the sun so he figured he’d give the women some much needed rest after the night they had. After so many sleepovers he’d learned Henry’s schedule.

“Okay uncle James.” He started to climb over Regina.

“Henry, where are you going,” Regina asked. Wrapping an arm around her son.

“Watch cartoons with Uncle James.” He pointed to James in the doorway. “Why are you and Emma here,” he asked.

“Because we missed you so much.” She kissed his tiny cheek and turned her head to look behind her. “You sure,” she asked James. She didn’t want him to have to babysit so early in the morning not while she and Emma were there.

“I’m sure. Get some rest. Henry and I are going to have some dude time.” He smiled, picking Henry up.

“Thank you, James.” She was glad that Henry had so many male role models he could look up to and spend time with.

“Everything okay,” Emma asked pulling Regine into her arms. “Where did little man go.”

“Everything is fine, James took him so we can sleep in.” She settled against Emma, her head resting comfortably on her chest.

“I love you,” Emma whispered kissing the top of the brunettes head.

“I love you too darling.” She brought Emma’s hand to her lips kissing it. She could hear Emma’s breathing starting to even out as she was drifting back to sleep. She closed her eyes, her last thoughts being of how thankful she was for Emma and August for convincing her to stay.

***

“You’re awake,” Henry exclaimed running towards his moms when they entered the living room a few hours later. He stopped short when he saw Emma’s face. “What happened Ma, you have an owie.” He reached out to touch her face when both women knelt down to be at his level.

“I’m okay buddy. I had an accident last night. I wasn’t paying attention and I walked into a tree branch.” She didn’t think telling him the truth and scaring him would do anyone any favors so she lied. It was a lie she could live with and in the way Regina relaxed beside her, so could she.

“You’re silly Emma, you have to pay attention, right mommy,” he asked his mother. It was something she told him often.

“That’s right little prince.” She smiled at him proudly.

“Did you have mommy kiss it and make it better,” he asked, his tone serious. “She makes all my owies feel better.”

Emma looked at Regina with a grin on her face leaning her injured cheek towards Regina. Emma let out a dramatic sigh when Regina kissed it. “You’re right buddy, it feels much better.”

“Morning sleepy heads,” Kathryn greeted the couple. “There is bacon, pancakes, and coffee in the kitchen. Henry and James already ate.”

Emma’s stomach growled at the mention of food. “Mmm bacon.” Emma drooled. “Thank you, James,” she called over her shoulder making her way to the kitchen, she knew he’d been the one to make breakfast. Pancakes and bacon was something he made often at the station, though everyone appreciated that over her grilled cheese sandwiches. She figured it was because his meal had bacon involved. That had to be the only reason. Regina and Kathryn just shook their heads and followed behind.

“So what’s next,” Kathryn asked as the three of them sat around the kitchen table.

Regina sighed, she’d been asking herself that same question all morning. “I don’t know, all I know is I can’t stay in that house, he was in Henry’s room, I just can’t shake the thought of how much worse everything could’ve gone.” She shuddered at the thought of Leo being unattended in her son’s room. While he hadn’t covered the room with gasoline as he had done hers and Emma’s, he’d still been in it, touching god knows what.

“Hey.” Emma reached across the table taking her hand in hers. “My house will be ready in a few weeks, I’ve made a few adjustments to the original design, it’ll be more than enough room for the three of us. Four of us.” She corrected when Ember came in to beg for some bacon. “I had planned on surprising you but that’s out the window.” She’d had the house designed to fit her new family comfortably.

“Awe. That’s so sweet.” Kathryn gushed not caring that she was the third wheel at that moment.

“Emma, you never cease to surprise me darling.” Regina leaned across the table kissing her.

“So then you’ll move in with me,” she asked jokingly.

“We’d love to move in with you Emma.”

“Good, good, not that I wasn’t worried.” She laughed. “I say we take a mini vacation to celebrate Leo being out of our hair, and come back when the house is ready and start working on little man’s birthday. I’ve already talked to August, he’s okay with me taking off. What do you think,” she asked. She knew the vacation idea was a last minute thing and Regina liked to plan but she hoped she’d be up for it.

“When did you talk to August,” Emma had been with her all morning.

“While you were in the bathroom. So, what do you think.” Emma had sent August a message early that morning. He’d been more than happy to grant her the time off.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea Emma.” It would be nice to get away from it all and not have the threat of Leo looming around every corner.

“Great, you call work, I’ll take care of everything else.” Emma finished the last bite of food and stood up from the table kissing the top of Regina’s head. “I’ll be back in a few hours, spend some time with our son and as hard as it is for you to do, try and relax.” She took her dish to the sink, rinsing it and putting it in the dishwasher. “I love you.” She leaned down kissing Regina on the cheek before leaving.

“She’s something else,” Kathryn commented once Emma was out of the room. She was overjoyed that her best friend had found happiness.

Regina nodded. “She really is. I don’t know how we got so lucky.”

“You deserve it Regina.” Kathryn gave her forearm a squeeze. “This is the happiest I’ve seen you in a long time.”

“I’m unbelievably happy.” Regina agreed. She still couldn’t believe that this was her life now. Henry, Emma and Ember, they were her life and she couldn’t be happier.

***

“Emma, thank god.” Mary Margaret hugged her as soon as she walked in. “Are you okay, are Regina and Henry alright,” she fired one question after another.

Emma returned the hug with a smile. Mary Margaret was a worrier, even though she’d told her several times over the phone that they were all okay. “We’re all fine MM, I promise. Thankfully Henry was with James and Kathryn.” She reassured her. “This is just a scratch.” She pointed to her bandaged cheek.

“I made muffins, are you hungry,” she asked leading the blonde into the kitchen.

Emma rubbed her stomach. “I’m not hungry but we both know I can never turn down your muffins.” She grabbed a muffin and began to devour it. “I was hoping to use the cabin for the next week or so. I want to take Regina and Henry away while the house is being finished. Regina doesn’t feel comfortable staying at the house and I don’t blame her.”

“Oh I don’t blame her, I don’t know what I’d do if I was in her place. Let me grab the keys.” Mary Margaret returned a minute later with a set of keys. “I’m so happy you and Regina can finally relax and start to move forward.”

“Me too MM, I still can’t believe this is my life.” She smiled.

Mary Margaret smiled, she remembered the day Emma had come to see her for lunch nervous about planning a picnic. “You deserve it sweetheart.” Mary Margaret hugged her. “Anything else you need, let me know.”

“Will do, I love you MM. I gotta go, I need to swing by the house to pack and take care of a few things before we head out.” She hugged her, she couldn’t believe how drastically her life had changed since Mary Margaret had come in it. She would’ve been on a completely different path had she not taken the interest in her that she had.

“I love you too Emma, tell Regina and Henry I said hello.” She walked Emma to the door, she didn’t want to keep her. She knew she had a busy day ahead of her.

***

“Where are we going,” Henry asked from the backseat of the truck. He’d been extremely happy when his moms had told him he’d be out of school for a family vacation.

“It’s a surprise buddy.” Emma looked at him through the rearview mirror.

Regina smiled looking at the two people she loved the most.

“Mommy do you know where we’re going,” he asked Regina since Emma wasn’t giving him any information.

“I don’t know sweetheart, Emma wants it to be a surprise.” She’d tried to get Emma to tell her but she’d refused. She’d told her to strap Henry in and that everything else had been taken care of.

“Are we going to stay in the woods,” he asked the further into the woods they went.

“We are, is that okay,” she watched his face.

The smile on his face got bigger. “Yes, can we play swords.”

“We sure can buddy, but not until tomorrow. It’s going to be dark by the time we get there tonight. We have to make one more stop.”

“Grocery store,” Regina asked as they pulled into the parking lot.

“Yup, this part I couldn’t do on my own, I kinda need your expertise here, unless you want to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal for the next week.” Emma knew Regina would be more than happy to shop if it meant avoiding her cooking.

“That would be awesome.” Henry was all about sugar for breakfast and dunking his sandwich in ‘blood’ for lunch.

“As much as I hate to disappoint Henry, I’d be more than happy to get us real food.” Regina did not want to be subjected to grilled cheese sandwiches for an entire week.

***

After eating dinner and putting Henry to bed Regina and Emma cuddled on the couch. “This is perfect Emma.” She kissed Emma’s jawline. “Tell me darling, besides going to see Mary Margaret to get us into this beautiful cabin, what else did you sneak off to do today,” she asked. Emma had been gone for several hours, she was curious as to what Emma had been up to. She’d been extremely secretive, especially when Henry was around.

Emma shrugged, “I made an appointment with the alarm company, Ruby will be meeting them the day after tomorrow. I called a cleanup crew on my way to Mary Margaret’s. After I was done there, I went home, packed our bags and tossed everything that was destroyed on the bed and had the cleanup crew remove it. I didn’t want the house smelling like gasoline when we got back. Don’t worry, everything I threw away can be replaced.” She had been careful about what she tossed.

Regina pulled away. “Emma.” She was at a loss for words, no one had ever gone out of their way for her the way Emma continued to do so. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

“You deserve the world.” She pulled her in for a soft gentle kiss. “I love you, I want you to be happy.”

“I am happy Emma, you make me happy.” She stood up pulling Emma with her. “Take me to bed Miss Swan.”

Chapter Text

“Emma do we have to go.” Henry pouted. He followed after her from the cabin to the truck while she loaded their bags.

Emma smiled at the shaggy haired boy. “We talked about this buddy.” She brushed his hair out of his face. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Henry to go to bed the night before. After two tantrums and a lot of crying he’d finally agreed to sleep with the promise that they’d return again. “Mommy and I both have to get back to work and we have your birthday to plan for, remember.” She went back to the cabin knowing he’d follow as he’d done the last three times she’d come out to the truck.

“Yeah, but I just like it here and I like living with you and mommy.” He pouted.

Emma stopped and turned to face Henry, seeing just how sad he was for the first time that morning. “What do you mean Hen.” She placed her hands on his shoulders bringing him closer.

“I heard you and mommy talking, you said your house was ready.” His lower lip trembled as he fought back the tears that wanted to desperately fall.

“Oh buddy, is that what this is about,” she asked. “You think I’m moving back to my house.” Her heart broke for him. It was no wonder he didn’t want to leave, why he’d given them such a hard time the night before.

He nodded, tears in his eyes. “I like you staying with mommy and me. I don’t want you to leave. I love you.”

“Oh Henry, I’m not moving out, we were going to surprise you but it looks like we should have talked to you. You and mommy are going to live in my house.” There was no point in keeping it from him anymore, not when the thought of losing her was hurting him so much.

His eyes lit up. “We are,” he asked.

Emma nodded with a smile, she was glad to see the big smile on his face. “Is that okay,” she asked knowing it was more than okay for the young boy.

He nodded excitedly. “Yes,” he squealed, giving her a tight hug.

“Next time you’re upset about something, you need talk to mommy and I, okay.” She kissed his cheek, picking him up and carrying him back inside.

He nodded. “Okay Ma.” He gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

Emma walked back into the cabin with Henry in her arms. “Get Ember’s bag and we’ll hit the road.” She set him down. “Truck is loaded.” She wrapped her arms around Regina’s waist resting her chin on the brunette’s shoulder.

Regina rested her back against Emma’s chest contently. “I see a certain someone is no longer pouting.” Henry had been pouting all day, getting him out of bed that morning had been quite a battle, though nothing compared to putting him down the night before.

“He overheard us talking last night, about the house being finished, he thought I was moving out when we got back.” She explained Henry’s earlier mood. “I kinda had to give away our surprise,” she told her apologetically.

“It’s alright darling, I’m just glad to see him happy.” It was rare that Henry threw a fit, she was glad he had a good reason for his meltdown. “As much as I am looking forward to starting our lives fresh and in a new home, I am sad to be leaving this place. It’s been nice having you and Henry all to myself.” Regina hummed. “This week has been nothing short of perfect.” Regina herself hated to go back to their busy schedules. She’d gotten used to having Henry and Emma around all the time.

“We’ll come back,” Emma promised. “Now come on, I wanna get home before dark.” Emma kissed Regina’s cheek.

“I’ll buckle our son in while you get our fur baby.” Regina gave her a light peck on the lips. “Come on Henry,” she called out to him.

A few hours later the trio and their canine companion pulled into the garage of Emma’s house.

“How did my car get here,” Regina asked, her SUV was parked inside the garage beside Emma’s truck.

“Oh, I asked the guys to bring it over once I got the call the house was done.” Emma acted as if it was no big deal.

Regina could never get used to Emma’s thoughtfulness. She always went out of her way to do things for Regina, while they weren’t grand gestures they were enough to make her heart happy. Regina appreciated the little things, from Emma’s comforting hugs, random flower deliveries to waking up early with Henry on her days off so Regina could sleep in. “Thank you darling.” She leaned across the center console, giving her a quick kiss.

“You’re welcome. We should get inside before someone falls asleep.” Emma was eager to show Regina and Henry the inside of the house. She had a surprise for the both of them and could not wait to see their reactions.

“Wow,” Regina gasped. “When did you get the place furnished.” She looked around at the living room and dining room area. The furniture, while different, was very similar to the ones at her house. If she didn’t know any better she’d have thought she’d been the one to decorate it.

“I got help from everyone at work and Kathryn.” She shrugged. Everyone had been more than willing to help. “There’s more,” Emma whispered, no longer able to contain her excitement. “Wanna see your room Henry,” she asked the tired boy.

He nodded and followed after her as she led him down the hall. He squealed once he entered the room and Emma turned the light on.

“What do you think little man,” she asked, though she knew he loved it by the way he ran over to his bed and looked at the Paw Patrol characters on his walls, then to the stuffed dalmatian, toy fire trucks and miniature firehouse in the corner of the room.

Emma stiffened when she heard Regina sniffle, feeling she’d overdone it she turned to Regina. “Regina I’m so sorry, was this not okay, was it too much,” she asked.

Regina chuckled, of course Emma would think the worst. She shook her head. “Emma of course it’s okay, you are so thoughtful, and caring, and you have made our son very, very happy.” She pointed to Henry who was happily laying on his firetruck shaped red bed with fire department bedding. “These are tears of happiness Emma, you darling, you make me, make us,” she corrected. “So happy.” She reached up wiping the tears that had spilled onto Emma’s cheeks. “I know why I’m crying, why are you crying love.”

Emma laughed. “I’m just really happy too.” She turned her cheek into Regina’s palm, kissing it. “I love you, so much.” She pulled Regina into a deeper kiss.

“Ewwww mommies.” Henry made a grossed out face sticking his tongue out. “Stop making kissy faces.”

The two adults pulled apart resting their foreheads together. “How about we finish looking at the rest of the house.” Emma suggested.

“I know you want me to stop saying it Emma, but you are truly amazing. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.” Regina looked down at Emma hours later as they lay in bed. Emma had managed to furnish the house and get all the essentials they’d need until they could get the rest of their things the following day. They planned on going back to their old house the following day to salvage whatever hadn’t been ruined by Leo and the gasoline.

“I honestly wasn’t sure if you’d be upset. Afterall, I made a lot of decisions without you.” Emma chuckled.

“Normally I’d advise against that but you did well darling.” She hovered over her, showering her face with kisses.

***

A few weeks passed and the family of three settled into a new routine in their new home. Emma and Regina returned to work and Henry to school. There was a new peace that surrounded them, Regina was far more relaxed and open with Emma and things finally slowed down at the station. While Regina still worried about Emma every day that she left for work she was comforted knowing that Leo would not be putting her in the dangerous situations she faced routinely on shift.

“Henry,” Emma yelled down the hall for the birthday boy. “Uncle James is here.” She was sure that would have him sprinting to them. He’d been anxiously waiting for James to come pick him up for a new tradition of birthday breakfast and shopping for a gift of his choice.

“Uncle James,” he squealed as he ran into James’ open arms.

“Hey buddy, ready to get the day started,” he asked as he picked the boy up, giving him a tight hug.

“I’m ready, I didn’t eat breakfast.” He had been adamant about not eating anything, not even a snack. He had not wanted to ruin his appetite, a phrase he’d heard his mother use many times in the past.

“Good, you’re going to love the pancakes at the place we’re going.” He set him down to talk to his moms. “We’ll be back at one.”

“Thank you again James.” Regina still couldn’t believe Henry had gone from having only her as family to having a second mom, several aunts, uncles and cousins that loved him and treated him as part of their family.

James wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her to his side. “Think nothing of it, Henry and I will see you ladies later, and Kathryn should be here in about an hour or so.” He kissed the top of Regina’s head and gave Emma a quick hug. Once Henry said his goodbyes the duo set off to eat.

“You okay,” Emma asked worriedly.

Regina nodded, wrapping her arms around Emma. “It’s still overwhelming having a family.”

“I know the feeling.” It had all been new to Emma too when David and Mary Margaret had first taken her in. For the longest time she’d waited for them to send her back to the system and abandon her like everyone else, it had taken some time for her to realize that they were it, they were her new family.

***

James returned with Henry at exactly one, as promised.

“Mommy, Ma,” Henry yelled for his moms. “We’re home,” he called out, trying to find them.

James looked down at his phone, pretending to check his messages. “Looks like they’re in the back yard, come on.” He led him towards the back of the house.

“Surprise,” everyone yelled as he stepped onto the back porch.

Henry gasped and turned to James. “Uncle James, it’s my birthday party,” he squealed excitedly. “Did you know,” he asked.

“I sure did buddy, now go say hi to everyone.” He gave him a gentle nudge towards all his friends.

Henry ran to his mothers. “This is so awesome. Thank you.” He hugged them both before joining his friends at the firetruck shaped bounce house.

“I think this was a success.” Emma stood in front of Regina, her hands resting on Regina’s hips.

Regina turned around in Emma’s arms resting her back against Emma’s chest. “I believe you’re right.” The pair watched their son as he ran around the yard playing with his friends and family.

“You lovebirds are just so darn cute,” Killian teased the pair.

Emma glared at him while Regina just smiled. “Thank you for coming Killian.” Killian was one the few that had come that didn’t have kids.

“Of course Love, I wouldn’t miss little man’s birthday. He’s family after all, as are you.” He winked at her and walked away.

Emma was shocked but not surprised by his sentimental comment. Killian was a pain in the ass but he valued his family and friends above all else. They teased each other a lot but she knew at the end of the day, if she needed anything, he would be there for her in an instant. With Regina occupied by Mary Margaret, Emma found James, finally alone, without five or six kids climbing on top of him. “How did it go this morning,” she asked him. She was sure Henry had a great time.

“It was good. He’s an amazing kid, you know I love spending time with him. That little boy could not stop talking about you, he sure loves you.” Henry had talked about Emma the entire time they were out. “I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but he didn’t want to get a gift, he said that what he wanted for his birthday I can’t give him.”

Emma stared at him questioningly, she wasn’t sure what there was that Henry could possibly want that he didn’t already have. “Did he say what he wanted,” she asked.

“He wants you guys to be a family.” He watched as she tried to figure out what he meant by that.

She didn’t say anything for a short while. “But we already are a family.” Henry already called her mom, they lived together. She wondered what it was exactly that Henry was looking for.

“Look around you.” James pointed at the families that had come to the party. “What do you notice.”

Emma looked at all the adults that had come with their kids. “They’re married,” she commented, it was all making sense. “He wants us to get married,” she asked.

“He didn’t say it but I wouldn’t put it past him. How do you feel about that.” A year ago he didn’t think he’d ever have a conversation with Emma about getting married and settling down with a family, but then again, he never thought he’d be in a committed relationship either.

She knew exactly what he was thinking and he was right. Had someone told her a year ago she’d be thinking about marriage she’d have laughed in their face. “I think I’ll be able to give him just that, but not today.” A plan was already beginning to come together. She’d have to have a talk with Henry when Regina wasn’t around.

***

“Did you have a good birthday my little prince,” Regina asked Henry as she and Emma tucked him in.

He smiled tiredly at his parents and nodded. “Bestest birthday ever.” He yawned and burrowed into his many stuffed animals and curled around Ember. It had taken some convincing for Henry to allow them to put his tougher, larger toys beside his bed instead of in it. “I love you mommies.” He lay an arm over Ember hugging her. “I love you Ember.” The dog wagged her tail and licked his face before resting her head on his pillow.

“We love you too little prince.” The duo kissed him on the forehead and kissed Ember on the head before exiting his room, leaving his bedroom door cracked.

“Henry and I would like to take you to dinner.” Emma held Regina close as they lay in bed.

“What’s the occasion,” she asked, the pair taking her out wasn’t rare but there was always a reason. The occasions varied, a bad day at the clinic, a thank you because she’d taken care of Emma and Henry when they’d gotten sick, or her favorite just because dinners. Because they both loved her and wanted her to know it. She had a feeling this was Henry’s doing, she’d seen the pair sitting together and talking for some time during the party. They didn’t make it a habit to go out, she was never one for eating other people’s cooking, not when she could make the meal herself at a decent price and she knew for sure the cleanliness of it but Henry always insisted she deserved a break from cooking and Emma deserved a break from washing dishes.

“A thank you for an awesome birthday party.”

“Well in that case we should be taking you out to dinner, you put in as much work as I did,” Regina replied. This had been one of the best and biggest birthday’s Henry had and that was all thanks to Emma and the family that had taken them in as their own.

Emma pretended to think about it for a second before nodding. “I guess you’re right,” she joked. “How about we make this a just because family dinner then.”

“That is a grand idea dear.” Regina kissed her cheek.

“Ma.” Henry came into their bedroom a few minutes after they’d fallen asleep with Ember right behind him. “Are you awake,” he asked, his face an inch away from hers. “Ma,” he whispered again when she didn’t respond.

Regina nudged Emma and sat up. “What’s wrong Henry, did you have a bad dream.”

He shook his head in the negative. “No, I need to talk to Ma.” He climbed onto the bed and settled in Emma’s lap. “Ma,” he whispered loudly. He leaned in cupping his hand around her ear. “I’m too excited to sleep, I can’t wait.”

“Henry, we agreed on tomorrow buddy.” Emma didn’t whisper, she was sure Regina had heard every word Henry had said. He hadn’t mastered the art of whispering yet.

“But my birthday will be over, please Emma, please,” he begged.

Emma looked at Regina’s questioning face for a second before standing up from the bed, keeping Henry in her arms. “Excuse us for a minute.” She carried Henry out of the room to talk to him privately.

Regina didn’t have a chance to respond as the pair exited the room. She sat in bed more confused than ever. She smiled at Ember who decided to make herself comfortable on the bed. “They’re up to something aren’t they babygirl.” She pet the dog.

Ember gave a half whine, half bark in response.

“That’s what I thought.” Regina was half tempted to go check on them but she knew Emma could handle whatever it was. Emma and Henry returned minutes later, Henry had big smile on his face and Emma, well Emma looked like she might be sick at any moment. “Are you alright darling, you look a bit pale.”

Emma chuckled nervously, she knew this was what she wanted, she was sure Regina would say yes, but she’d hoped to have more time to get over her nerves. “I’m fine love, Henry and I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“You do,” she questioned. She sat up and moved aside to allow the pair to sit beside her.

“Mommy.” Henry started, “I want us to be a family, and I know we’re a family already but I want us to be a real family.”

“Henry we are a family, a real family. What’s going on.”

Henry looked at Emma, when she nodded her go ahead, he climbed out of her lap and onto Regina’s. “Mommy, will you marry Emma.”

Regina’s jaw dropped as she looked between Henry and Emma. She had not seen this coming, sure she knew that one day she and Emma would one day get engaged, she just hadn’t expected that day to be today. “Emma,” she asked. She needed to make sure this was what she wanted, not something she was doing because Henry had asked.

“Hold that thought.” Emma held up a finger and stood up from the bed. She went into her nightstand and pulled out a small box that she’d tucked in the back of the drawer. “I’ve had this for a month.” She opened the box showing the ring to Regina. “We were going to do this tomorrow, but someone was too excited to wait and he wanted it as a birthday present.” She took the ring out and held it out to Regina. “Regina you know I love you and Henry, you are the family I have always wanted but never imagined I would actually have. You have given me something I thought impossible. Mary Margaret and David showed me that true love existed but I knew it was rare, I thought I could never have a fraction of what they have and I had come to accept that, I hadn’t expected to fall fully in love with someone, not the way I have with you. You, Henry and Ember, you are everything to me. I love every part of you with every fiber of my being, so what do you say, Regina will you marry me.” She held her breath as she waited for Regina’s response. She’d been worried she hadn’t prepared a speech but the words had flowed the minute she’d opened her mouth.

Regina was at a loss for words, Emma always told her she was better with actions than she was words but she was so wrong. She wiped at the few tears of happiness that fell. “Yes Emma, of course I’ll marry you. How could I say no to someone who has opened my heart to love again.” She extended her left hand out for Emma to place the ring on her finger. She looked at her hand for a second before cupping Emma’s cheek. “I love you Emma Swan, we love you.” She motioned towards Henry. “Thank you for loving Henry as if he were your own and for loving me like no one has before. After Leo I didn’t think I could trust anyone enough to give them not only my heart but that of my son’s. I’ve lived my life without you in it and I never want to live that way again.” She pulled Emma towards her and leaned in to capture her lips, Henry sitting between them with a grin on his face.

“Best birthday ever,” he repeated his earlier statement this time more enthusiastically. He hugging them both tightly. “Can we sleep with you,” he asked motioning to Ember. He was too excited to go back to his room, he wanted to stay with his moms instead.

Regina looked over his head at Emma making sure it was okay, she knew the blonde would want to celebrate, she knew she did. Emma smiled and nodded. “You two can stay, but you have to promise to go to bed.

“Promise.” Henry moved to lay between the pair.

Regina gave Emma another kiss before lying down.

“How are we going to top this next year,” Emma asked Regina a few minutes later.

“You can give me a sister.” Henry was ready with an answer.

Regina shared a look with Emma before nudging Henry. “Go to sleep Henry.” She extended her arm across his body taking a hold of Emma’s. They didn’t need to discuss their future plans tonight, they had their whole life ahead them.

THE END