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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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Yeah, it was possible that Emma had been all kinds of cocky when she nonchalantly had invited Henry to come to the harvest festival along with Regina, but now she was feeling nervous. She felt awkward around kids. She had always felt awkward around kids. What was she supposed to say to him? She knew that this wasn’t exactly a date with Regina, but still, Emma wanted to do well with the kid. She wanted to show Regina that she knew how to be around a ten year old. But she was terrified of somehow putting her foot in it and screwing up. After all, that was one of her special powers. She could tell when someone was lying, and she said the wrong things. What if Henry wouldn’t like her? What if he could somehow sense that she wanted to be more than friends with his mom and was against it? Emma could come up with plenty of horrifying things that could turn the night into a disaster. God damn it, she had never dated anyone who had a kid before. She had no idea how to do this, and she was afraid it would be painfully obvious. It didn’t help much that there still was some time left before the harvest festival. Emma knew herself. And she knew that she could easily manage to drive herself crazy before the time was up. She tried to stay positive. She and Regina were on for the harvest festival. They were going together. That was something. Emma tried to focus on that, but every time she thought about the prospect of spending time with Regina’s son, her heart started thudding uncomfortably in her chest. It was so, so important that Henry liked her. He was the ultimate judge.

Emma could barely recognize herself. Normally, she wasn’t this nervous. But then again normally she didn’t date women who had kids. And normally, she didn’t get this worked up about things. And this wasn’t even a date. At least not yet. It was an agreement between two friends. She never got this worked up about something that wasn’t even a date. But of course it was different with Regina. Everything was different with Regina. Emma had never felt like this with anyone before. Not even Lily. It seemed ridiculous, really. She and Lily had been together for two years. Emma had thought that their relationship had been heading towards an engagement. But now, in hindsight when she really thought about it, she couldn’t imagine being engaged to Lily. The thought didn’t fill her with happiness. It didn’t fill her with anything. Hell, she didn’t even think about Lily anymore. Incredible. The woman she had spend two years of her life with had just vanished from her thoughts. And all because of Regina.

All because what Emma was feeling for Regina was stronger than what she had been feeling for Lily, and honestly, that scared Emma a little bit.

She wasn’t one for falling head over heels in love. That wasn’t her thing. For a long while, one nightstands had been as far as she has gone. Until Lily. But even with Lily, Emma had been hesitant. Cautious.

Emma hadn’t been the one to pursue. Lily had. And it had taken quite a while before Emma had agreed to go on a date with her.

And now here Emma was. In the exact same situation. Eager to get a date with Regina.

Emma had decided to let the harvest festival decide it. Meaning that she would wait and see how everything went at the festival. Having coffee together was one thing. Going to a harvest festival was something else, and even though it wasn’t a terribly formal occasion or anything, but nevertheless, Emma would let everything depend on how that went. And what Henry thought of her. If everything went well, and if the kid seemed to like her, she was gonna pluck up the courage and ask Regina out. On an actual date. Not a half-appointment. A proper date. At a restaurant. With white tablecloth on the table and lit candles. Now that she was actually making money, she could afford that. Emma hoped that the harvest festival would go well. She really wanted to ask Regina out. In fact she couldn’t remember the last time she had wanted something so badly. But it wasn’t just because she was enjoying the thrill of the chase. No, this was something bigger. Something that Emma had thought would never happen to her. The feeling of being in love. Actually being in love.

Emma had spent a long time thinking about that. Had she been with Lily for the wrong reasons? Because she had been afraid of being alone at the time?

Yes, maybe. The fear of being alone was something Mary Margaret had instilled within her when she kicked Emma out of her house. And for a long time after Emma had looked for confirmation, the feeling of being wanted. But she hadn’t found it. Until she had met Lily. Lily had wanted her. Lily had made her feel loved. It had been far too easy for Emma to just cling on too tightly to Lily. Exactly like Mary Margaret was clinging on too tightly to her. History was repeating itself.

Emma was hellbent on breaking that pattern. She refused to be like Mary Margaret. And she kept telling herself that she had never been as extreme as Mary Margaret ever had been. She was not like her adoptive mother. But the fear of becoming like her would always be there.

Emma had tried to stop thinking too much about Mary Margaret. It wasn’t good for her. More than once, Emma had woken up, bathed in sweat and gasping for air after having endured another nightmare about her crazy adoptive mother. And then she had chuckled darkly. It would appear that young Henry wasn’t the only one suffering from night terrors. Now Emma did too. But fortunately enough, she had the perfect cure. Thinking about Regina. Thinking about her smile and her messages. That always seemed to do the trick. And Emma was grateful for that.
And nightmares and overthinking aside, everything else was going smoothly. Emma was still very much satisfied with her work. She loved living in Steveston, and she had quietly started to look around for a more permanent place to live. She liked Eugenia’s Inn, and honestly, waking up to a cup of hot chocolate and a bear claw every morning was pretty incredible, but Emma knew that she sooner or later needed to find another place to live. A proper one. One where she cooked her own breakfast and made her own coffee. One where she had actual responsibility. That was a very important part of her delayed “growing up”-process. Mary Margaret had infantilized her for such a long time. Emma had barely learned to cook her own breakfast when she was kicked out at seventeen. At that point Emma had already seen her adoptive mother loose control a few times, but her freak out when she kicked Emma out had definitely been the worst. She had looked like something straight out of a horror movie as she had stood there screaming at Emma in her girlish, flower patterned skirt and neat white blouse and with her eyes bloodshot. That sight had been haunting Emma for quite a while after that. That was when the blonde first had started seeing Archie. And the psychiatrist had helped enormously. He had taught Emma that none of this had been her fault. But still, when he had asked Emma if she wished to report Mary Margaret to the police, Emma had backpedaled and mumbled something about not wanting to stir up more trouble.

Now she was having serious seconds thoughts about that. Maybe now was the exactly right time to stir up some trouble. Maybe it was time to take that confrontation Emma had been avoiding for years.

Maybe it was time to set the record straight and be rid of Mary Margaret once and for all.

Emma thought a lot about that too at night when her thoughts about Regina were bordering on inappropriate. Being completely rid of Mary Margaret would be incredible, but Emma had read enough about stalking online to know that the authorities couldn’t do much unless Mary Margaret had actually done something to her. The grey station car she had spotted in the rearview mirror wasn’t enough proof. She needed more solid evidence, she knew that. And if she thought about it from a policeman’s point of view, she couldn’t actually know for sure whether she had been followed or not. That grey car tailing her could have been a crazy coincidence.

Emma knew it wasn’t, but she could imagine the police would tell her something like that. And that was why she hadn’t contacted the police. A grey car in the rearview mirror was not solid evidence.

But what was solid evidence then? An open palmed slap when she was seventeen? Mary Margaret was so manipulative. She could easily write that off as an accident. She probably could convince the authorities that she hadn’t meant to do it.

Bullshit. Utter bullshit.

 

**************************

 

Emma leaned back in her office chair and stretched her legs a bit. She had been sitting in the same position since this morning, and now she was starting to feel it in her neck and shoulders. Today Malena had asked her to look at a manuscript that needed one last editing, and Emma was more than happy to do that. She liked how much her new job variated. Her days were never completely similar. Emma liked the fact that she was given different tasks and more responsibility. That meant Malena trusted her, and Emma appreciated that very much.

The blonde rose from her chair and went over to the window. Even though it was a pretty nippy day, the little office she was sitting in quickly got cluttered and warm. Emma wrestled the window open and poked her head out. The cold breeze felt nice. It cleared her mind. Emma had been editing all morning, and her mind was beginning to go over so slightly blind. This was exactly the boost of energy she needed in order to solider on. Emma had a secret mission about finishing editing the manuscript today. She aimed for being an effective employee. And she aimed for impressing Malena as well. Maybe because Emma could still perfectly remember that she had gotten this job because she knew Regina. Not because of her skills. Emma wanted to proof her worth. To really show that she knew what she was doing and hadn’t been hired because of her connection with someone Malena happened to be friends with.

Emma absentmindedly looked out of the window, and as so many times before, her thoughts quickly wandered to Regina. She hadn’t seen the beautiful brunette since their coffee appointment a few weeks ago, and she probably wouldn’t either. Regina was in full swing with the house hunting process, and that had proved to be very difficult. Emma and she had obviously texted a lot since, and from what Emma could understand, Regina and Henry hadn’t found a castle yet. That still amused Emma. To think that the ten year old actually demanded to live in a castle. Regina didn’t quite share his enthusiasm though. She was more leaning towards a penthouse apartment. At least that was what she had texted Emma. And she had also texted that she was beginning to panic a little because she and Henry still didn’t have their own place to live. She had mentioned something about a last possibility if they really couldn’t find a place to live. But the last possibility was too far away, she had written. Too remote and isolated. Both she and Henry would probably go crazy if they had to live there.

Obviously, Emma had offered lots of encouragement and texted that she was certain that Regina and Henry soon would find a place to live. Regina had expressed how much she hoped that was true. If she had to live with her sister for the rest of her life, she would probably go insane. At least that was what she had written to Emma.

That had amused Emma quite a bit. She had actually ended up laughing herself to sleep that night, and she hadn’t had any nightmares either. Texting Regina before bedtime really was the perfect cure, and she had refused to listen to Ella when she a few days later claimed that texting Regina that late was practically the same thing as a booty call.

Emma had categorically rejected that. It was NOT a booty call at all. She and Regina were simply texting each other late because Regina didn’t have the time to text earlier because of Henry. That was all.

But obviously, thinking about booty calls and Regina and then mixing up the two things so late at night had been a bad idea. Emma hadn’t laughed herself to sleep that night. She hadn’t had any nightmares either. Instead she had ended up dreaming things she definitely not had any business dreaming about. At least not yet. And she had woken up with pink cheeks and a racing heart to match. Safe to say that a cold shower had been strongly in favor that particular morning.

Emma breathed in the fresh air one more time, and then smiled a little. Shaking her head, she realized that she was dawdling. She was thinking about Regina instead of doing her job. She was wasting time.

But then again how could thinking about Regina ever be categorized as “wasting time”? Emma refused to believe that was the case. Thinking about Regina had to be one of the best things ever. But maybe not right now though. She was at work right now. She was being paid for editing the manuscript waiting on her laptop. Not thinking about Regina.

Emma filled her nostrils with the fresh air one last time and then put her hands on the windowsill as she stretched her neck just a bit. Seriously, one of these days she had to book an appointment at the spa center. Because she had learned that Steveston did in fact have a spa center. And apparently a very good one too. That was at least what everyone claimed.

Emma sighed as she reminded herself to get back to work. She could practically hear the manuscript screaming to be finished. Reluctantly, she pulled her head back.

That was when she spotted it. Out of the corner of her eye. Just the slightest of movements. So brief, Emma barely believed it was there. And when she stuck her head out of the window again there was no sign of it. But Emma was sure it had been there a second ago. The grey station car. She squints, strain her eyes and her neck as she carefully scans the parking lot. Nothing. It’s gone now. But again, she was sure it was there a moment ago. Just a brief sighting. Something she could see out of the corner of her eye.

The blonde’s heart started thudding uncomfortably in her chest.

“And how are things going in here?”

Emma heard the door open, and she was well aware that the question was aimed at her, but right now she couldn’t concentrate on answering. She was much too focused on looking out of the window, desperately checking if she could see that damned grey station car.

“Miss Swan?”

Emma stopped looking out of the window, and she turned around to face Malena instead.

“Is everything alright?” Malena asked and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“Yeah,” Emma said quickly, cracking a smile at her boss. “I was just getting a bit of fresh air.”

“I see,” Malena nodded. “This office is a bit cluttered. Maybe we’ll have to find you another office. A better one.”

“Really?”

“Yes, indeed,” Malena and smiled. “How is the editing going?”

“It’s going well,” Emma assured. “I’m always half-way done.”

“Excellent. I must say you’re very effective, miss Swan,” Malena said, offering another smile before she turned around and went back towards the door.

“Malena?” Emma said.

The older blonde turned around and faced Emma. “Yes?”

“Have you...” Emma swallowed something. “Have you or anyone else noticed a grey station car today? Or any other day for that matter?”

“A grey station car?” Malena echoed and raised an eyebrow in confusion. “No, I don’t believe so. Why do you ask?”

Emma offered a nonchalant shrug. “No reason. Just... asking.”

Malena frowned slightly now. “Is there a problem, miss Swan?”

“No,” Emma said quickly. “Not at all.”

“Very well then,” Malena said, offering Emma another smile, and then she left the office again.

Emma returned to her seat and turned her attention back to the laptop screen in front of her. Her heart was still thudding in her chest. But again, a brief sighting of a grey car driving away from the building wasn’t enough proof. She couldn’t know for sure that it was the same grey station car. It could have been a coincidence. Another coincidence. It was possible that that grey car didn’t have anything to do with her.

But it was entirely possible that Emma would take the bus tomorrow. And she would be extra weary of grey station cars. She flexed her fingers a bit as she continued the editing. She refused to be afraid.

 

*************

 

The weeks flew by in a busy blur of editing, proofreading and numerous text messages exchanged. Emma had plenty of things to do. Her life had become a well-oiled machine, and she actually didn’t mind that. She was very satisfied with this level of stability. She loved her work and she loved retiring to her room after a long day and then texting Regina to tell her about her day. Regina happily asked questions, and told Emma about the books she were reading, how Henry were doing, and how frustrating their house hunting was. But apart from that, she didn’t tell much. Not really. She gave no reason why she was busy. She never actually revealed exactly what she was doing.

But even so, Emma was very happy with the rhythm they had fallen into. She loved the fact that she and Regina were in constant contact.

And the grey station car remained absent. Emma was still watchful and checked the parking lot at Dragon Publishing thoroughly, but she didn’t see the grey car again. It would have been easy to simply chalk the incident up to having been a coincidence. A twist of fate or something like that, but Emma refused to let her guard down that easily. If Mary Margaret really had been the one behind the wheel in that car, that could very well be her endgame. To lull Emma into some false sense of security and the strike when the blonde was vulnerable.

She was watchful, but she wasn’t obsessed. She didn’t frantically check her windows or jump up whenever she heard a sound. She was aware that there was a problem, but she refused to turn it into an even bigger problem than it already was. She wouldn’t stop living her life. If this would end in confrontation, then fine. So be it. Emma was prepared for whatever battle about to happen. And she kept telling herself that she wasn’t scared. And she wasn’t. Until she started thinking about the insane look in Mary Margaret’s eyes that day, she had kicked Emma out. That was something that could make
Emma feel afraid and truly wonder what Mary Margaret was capable of doing.

But again, the texts from Regina did wonders. Texting Regina made Emma forget about grey cars following her and crazy adoptive mothers. When she texted Regina, she only thought about good things.
The rapidly approaching harvest festival, for instance. Hell, she even forgot about how nervous she was about meeting Regina’s son again.

Regina could make everything bad disappear, and Emma still stood by her “fairy godmother”-assumption.

And suddenly, the day was there. The day of the harvest festival. As by magic, Steveston was turned into Pumpkin Town. Or so it felt. Little stalls popped up everywhere. A huge carrousel was maneuvered to the square along with a little Ferris wheel that actually wasn’t that little. There was the distinct smell of popcorn and hotdogs hanging in the air. Fairy lights were wrapped around every tree, and at night, when the lights were dimmed, Steveston looked like a fairytale town, with all the trees lighting up in different colors. One afternoon everyone in town, including Emma, headed out to the forest and gathered wood to create the massive bonfire that was to be lit down at the harbor. Everyone were smiling and looked excited as they talked about the upcoming festival. Everything was so wonderful. Everything was so idyllic. So perfect.

And Emma was nervous as hell. Where had the time gone? How could it already be tonight? She wasn’t ready, damn it!

Well actually, she was. At least physically. She had gone out and bought a new dress. Not anything extravagant obviously. Just an olive colored mini leather dress she could wear with black leggings. She was NOT dressing up for Regina. Because this WASN’T a date. So yes, physically, she was ready. She had even been silly enough to google “what do I talk to a ten year old boy about”. Yep, she had actually googled that. Neither website had been very helpful, so Emma had just decided to go with her first choice and talk fairytales with him.

Yes, physically she was well prepared. Mentally? Not so much.

She was actually a wreck. And she kept obsessing over her hair. Should she let it hang loose or put it up in a ponytail? If she let it hang loose would it then look like she was trying too hard? Or if she put it up in a ponytail, would it then look like she wasn’t trying at all? Everything about this not-date was suddenly scary as hell, and Emma felt so nervous she could die as she inspected her reflection in the mirror. Her green eyes were too big, too bright. Her cheeks were too rosy, anxiety coloring them. And her hair looked like a disaster. Instead of soft curls, the shower had left Emma with a frizzy golden mess that refused to be tamed. Once or twice she had been tempted to throw the hairbrush into the wall. She had tried pulling her hair back in a bun, a ponytail, even a braid, but none of it had worked out the way she wanted it to. So she had settled for this. Messy curls spilling down her back. As always. Oh well. At least the dress she had bought for tonight was nice. It was pretty without being too over the top. It was casual without being boring. And the color suited her eyes nicely. She would definitely start to wear more green.

She and Regina had decided to meet at the square at seven, and Emma quickly checked her watch. She had to get a move on. Otherwise she would end up being late. And being late for this not-date would be awful.

Emma had aimed for being at the square at in good time, but that quickly proved to be an impossible task. Steveston was crawling with people on this crisp autumn evening. It seemed as though every last tourist in the world had seemed to come here, and Emma’s normally well-developed elbows of steel proved to be ineffective. She was stopped multiple times. First by Isabelle who formally introduced Emma to her husband, Robert Gold. He had greeted Emma with ice cold politeness and Emma had felt tempted to ask why he had a stick up his rear.

Next she was stopped by Billy from the garage who wanted to know if she was still satisfied with the bug and if the radio was still working. Emma had said that she was very happy with her little car, but Billy had found it necessary to give her a long speech about the engine. It had taken almost ten minutes for her to get away, but not even then she could get to the square. The next person to stop her had been Ruby. The young waitress playfully asked if Emma was on her way to meet someone, and when Emma had made the stupid mistake of saying “yes”, the waitress had been relentless. She had tried to coax out of Emma who it was, but Emma hadn’t been particularly interested in telling Ruby who it was. At least not until she had an official date with Regina.

Just as Emma thought she had finally escaped; she had been stopped by Graham. The sheriff had smiled at her and then asked if she wanted a cup of coffee. Emma had returned the smile and then politely declined. She was actually on her way to meet someone, so....

That’s when she finally had escaped for good and made her way to the square. Horribly late. And she had cursed involuntarily because of it. She had so wanted to be on time.

But it quickly turned out that Regina and Henry weren’t there either. At first Emma had been relieved about it, but as five minutes crept by, she gradually started to look around. She shifted a bit in the cold. It was actually a bit too chilly to wear a dress, and she was only wearing her leather jacket over it.

Ten minutes later, Emma reached inside her pocket and found her phone. There were no messages from Regina, so the blonde had to assume that everything was fine, but now she was actually beginning to wonder. Weren’t they supposed to be here now? Or am I an hour too early or something? But Emma knew that she wasn’t. She and Regina had agreed to meet now. So where was Regina? Emma pursed her lips as she shifted to stay warm. Regina would have texted if something had gotten in the way, right? Yes. Emma was sure of that. Regina was not the type who would stand her up. Emma refused to believe that.

She checked her phone again. Just to be sure. But there was still no messages. Emma was starting to freeze more and more. Maybe she should have accepted Graham’s offer about coffee anyway. But it had seemed so impolite to indulge before Regina and Henry arrived.

But what if they’re not coming?

Emma clenched her jaw. Shut up, she ordered that irritating little voice in the back of her head. Of course Regina and Henry would show. Emma refused to believe anything else. Regina would never stand her up. She would message Emma if something had gotten in the way.

She shoved her hands inside her pockets. She had forgotten her gloves. And scarf. She had totally underestimated how cold it actually was. For a moment she considered whether she had time to double back home and fetch her scarf and gloves and possibly a hat too.

It definitely seemed like she had all the time in the world. There was still no sign of Regina nor Henry. They’re not coming, they’re not coming, they’re not coming.

No. Emma stubbornly refused to believe that. She refused to believe that Regina had stood her up. Regina would never do that... Would she? As she stood here shivering in the cold, Emma was sort of starting to doubt it. A bitter taste filled her mouth. Twenty minutes had passed now. Maybe she should just abandon ship and creep back to her room at Eugenia’s and pretend that this had never happened.

Emma frowned. Maybe she shouldn’t be so judgmental. Maybe there was another reason why Regina and Henry hadn’t arrived. Maybe something had happened. Maybe there had been an emergency of sorts. There could be. Maybe Henry had fallen ill or something like that. Or maybe Regina had. Emma snorted quietly and rolled her eyes as her imagination went into overdrive and she came up with Thirty Horrible Things That Could Have Happened. Calm down, Swan. Settle for using your imagination when you write. Not in everyday situations. This was an everyday situation. And unfortunately a very cliché one too. She had been stood up. Of course she had. Regina had officially flaked on her. Emma gave a nearby rock a firm kick. Damn it. Emma wondered if this was her own fault. Had she been too eager? Too pushy? Was it possible that she had said something wrong? She was good at that? Or had Regina backpedaled because Emma had invited Henry as well? Had Regina thought that it was too soon? But this wasn’t a date. Nor was it a “partner meets son”-situation. Not at all. It was just a casual get-together. Nothing more.

Emma sighed quietly as she slowly turned around. What was the point in waiting five more minutes? It was pretty obvious that Regina and Henry wasn’t gonna show up. Why drag out the torture further?

The blonde slowly began to push her way away from the square, and she might have been a bit aggressive and ruthless as she forced her way through the crowd, but she didn’t care. Her good mood was officially ruined. She had been so excited about tonight, and now... What a fucking disaster.

Emma’s jaw remained firmly clenched as she tried her best to make her way back to Eugenia’s Inn. There were too many fucking people everywhere. She just wanted to go home, damn it! She wanted to go home and drink a bottle of something strong. Something that would send her right off to dreamland. Something that would make her forget tonight’s failure. It would have been nice if she could just have taken a potion and forgotten about tonight entirely. For good. Emma knew that this would haunt her for the next long, long while.

“Hi.”

Emma immediately turned around on the spot and found herself face to face with a young boy wearing a black coat and a checkered scard. A young boy with brown hair and brown eyes. A boy she had met before.

“Hey, Henry,” she greeted with a smile and felt relief seep through her body. Thank god! “where’s your mom?”

“Right there,” Henry said, and just as he said it, Emma saw Regina cross the square. The brunette was wearing a black coat with a fur collar that went all the way up to her chin. Her hair was smooth and
shiny as always, but as she came closer, Emma could see that she was scowling slightly. She made eye contact with Henry, and then her fingers danced in the air for a moment.

Henry frowned and then proclaimed: “I didn’t run away. I just... walked fast.”

Emma almost chuckled at that.

Regina sighed quietly, and then her fingers moved in the air once more.

“Sorry we’re late,” Henry translated. “The traffic was... awful?”

Regina nodded and flashed him a smile.

“That’s totally fine,” Emma said.

Regina’s fingers moved in the air again, and Henry asked for her: “have you waited a long time?”

“No-no, I’ve just got there,” Emma lied. There was really no reason to let Regina know that she had been on the verge of freaking out.

Regina smiled again and then did this little gesture with her head, indicating that they should walk.

Emma willingly followed Regina as they walked back towards the festival and all the lights. It really looked pretty with all the lights. Emma glanced at Regina and then smiled a little. The lights were
definitely pretty, but she could easily think of something prettier.

“Can I have a corndog?” Henry asked as they walked. His eyes were gleaming as he looked at the carrousel.

Regina nodded and then signed something.

“Fiiiine,” Henry said. “I’ll wait until after I’ve tried the carousel.”

Regina ruffled his hair slightly and then she looked up and flashed Emma a little smile.

Emma smiled back, but she was beginning to realize how difficult this had to be for Regina. She couldn’t very well write on post-it notes while she was walking, and having to find her phone every single time she wanted to say something to Emma...

Emma remembered that she had planned on stopping by the library tomorrow. Maybe she should check if there were any books about sign language. It would be really neat to be able to communicate with
Regina like that. They could communicate while they walked. If Emma knew sign language, Regina wouldn’t be forced to find her phone and write a message every time she had something to say. And they wouldn’t need the post-its either. Emma knew that Regina had expressed that she wasn’t bothered by that way of communicating, but still, Emma was positive it would be easier if she could learn sign language. That was really something worth considering.

Regina had stopped walking, and Emma quickly realized that they had stopped right by the public bathrooms.

Regina glanced at Henry and then signed something.

“I won’t wander off. I’ll stay right here with miss Swan,” Henry said in response.

Regina smiled and then found her phone in her pocket. Tapped for a moment and then turned the screen towards Emma who quickly read: ‘I won’t be a moment.’

“We’ll stay right here,” Emma promised. Now suddenly nervous at the prospect of being left alone with Henry.

Regina flashed her a reassuring smile and then she turned around and disappeared into the bathroom. Now Emma was suddenly very much alone with Henry. The ten year old gave a nearby rock a little kick, and then he stuffed his glove clads hands into the pockets of his coat. He looked up at Emma, and Emma returned the look, flashed him a little smile. She hoped she didn’t look half as nervous as she felt right now.

“Do you like corndogs?” Henry asked.

Emma was slightly taken aback by the random question, but she managed to grin and say: “yeah, I love corndogs.”

“Cool. What about Ferris wheels?” Henry inquired. “Mom hates going on Ferris wheels. She’s afraid of heights.”

“I like Ferris wheels,” Emma assured with a grin.

Henry looked doubtfully up at her. “Will you go with me then? It’s no fun riding the Ferris wheel alone.”

“I- sure,” Emma said surprised, but delighted. “Yeah. I’d love to.”

“Cool,” Henry said and gave another rock a light kick. “Do you know if there’s gonna be a bonfire tonight?”

“I think there’s gonna be a bonfire down at the harbor,” Emma replied, pretty impressed at how well she was making small talk with Henry.

Henry smiled. “And fireworks too?”

“Yep, pretty sure there’s gonna be fireworks too,” Emma confirmed.

He grinned at that, then asked: “do you work for auntie Mal?”

Auntie Mal. “Yeah, I do,” Emma nodded.

He frowned a bit. “Does that mean you don’t write fairytales anymore?”

“No, god no!” Emma said quickly. “No, I’m still writing on them. Definitely.”

“Oh. Good,” Henry said, smiling again. “How many fairytales have you written so far?”

Emma quickly explained a bit about her twisted tales and how she had changed some of them. Like how the ugly duckling for instance was a little orphan girl in her version story.

“How come the ugly duckling is a girl in your story?” Henry asked curiously.

“Well...” Emma said, shrugging lightly. “I suppose I tried to make the story a little bit about myself.”

“Are you an orphan?” Henry asked.

Emma raised an eyebrow, surprised but not angry at the boy’s bluntness.

The tips of the boy’s ears turned pink rapidly. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s fine,” Emma said. “I’m actually adopted.”

“Adopted,” Henry echoed. “Do you know who your real mom and dad are then?”

“No,” Emma said, shrugging again. She had thought about it many times, but she had always been too afraid to start searching after her real parents. She was afraid that they somehow would be way worse than Mary Margaret and David.

“I don’t know my dad either,” Henry said and fiddled with the bottom of his scarf.

“Oh,” Emma said simply. She wasn’t completely sure what else she could say.

“But I don’t think my mom does either,” Henry said thoughtfully and scratched his cheek. “At least that’s what I heard auntie Z say once. Mom got pretty angry about it, though.”

“Oh,” Emma said again and felt herself flush slightly. Exactly what was she supposed to deduce from that? That Henry was the result of a one night-

“Do you like working for auntie Mal?” Henry asked, interrupting Emma’s train of curious thoughts.

“Yeah,” Emma said and nodded. “She’s really nice. Everyone is.”

“It’s been a long time since I saw auntie Mal,” Henry mused.

“It has?” Emma said, trying her best to make conversation.

“Mhmm,” the boy said. “Mom keeps saying that she’ll invite her soon, but she never does.”

“Do you know why?” Emma asked. She was honest to god just trying to make conversation. She wasn’t trying to snoop or anything.

“She doesn’t like seeing people,” Henry said and now he sounded quite serious. “Only me and auntie Z. Zelena keeps telling her that she should go out more and see other people, but mom doesn’t want too. She hasn’t wanted to since the acci- oh, hey mom! Can we go try the Ferris wheel, please?”

Emma looked up and saw that Regina had come back from the bathroom. She had a hand on her son’s shoulder, and she was frowning slightly. She had clearly heard what Henry had just said.

“Mom? Can we try the Ferris wheel?” Henry repeated and then glanced at Emma. “Miss Swan said that she wants to go with me!”

“Emma,” the blonde corrected. Henry didn’t have to address her as “miss Swan”.

Regina nodded and Henry lead the way as they walked towards the Ferris wheel. Regina was still frowning a bit though, and Emma noted that the brunette also looked a bit sad. That send surges of panic through Emma. She didn’t want Regina to look sad. She didn’t want the brunette to feel bad.

“He’s a sweet kid,” Emma said.

Regina’s head snapped up at that, and she was quick to find her phone in her pocket. She tapped on the screen and then turned it towards Emma.

And Emma was quick to read what the brunette had written: ‘and a little chatterbox too, I’m afraid.’

Emma offered a small chuckle at that. “It’s cool. I don’t mind.”

Regina shook her head and Emma wondered how much of the conversation she had heard.

But before she could think further about it, Henry claimed their attention by pointing to one of the food stalls. One that happened to sell popcorn. And he looked pretty disappointed when Regina signed that he would have to wait until having tried the carousel.

“Then lets go!” he insisted.

Regina raised an eyebrow.

“Please,” he quickly amended.

Regina smiled and nodded at that, and then she and Emma walked towards the carousel. He was as proud as could be when he mounted the wooden black horse. The carousel started going round and round, and Regina acted every bit as a proud mom as she found her phone and snapped pictures of her son on the carousel.

Emma wasn’t nearly as nervous anymore. Henry was a pretty great kid. He was sweet, and Emma could immediately feel the close bond there was between him and his mother. Maybe that should make her
nervous again. She wondered what he would think if she and Regina started seeing each other? Like REALLY seeing each other.

“He’s having a great time,” Emma said, quickly interrupting her own train of thoughts before she got ahead of herself.

Regina nodded and smiled at that.

“I think he was looking forward to the bonfire later,” Emma said. “And he asked if I could ride the Ferris wheel with him. Is that alright with you?”

Regina nodded and smiled again. Then she found her phone in her pocket and began tapping again. It didn’t take long before the screen was turned towards Emma: ‘yes, that’s completely fine with me. As long as you don’t mind doing it.’

“Not at all,” Emma assured and grinned. “It’s been years since I’ve tried a Ferris wheel. I’m kinda looking forward to trying it again.”

Regina chuckled mutely at that and then tapped on her phone again. Soon Emma was presented with a question: ‘do you want a pumpkin spice once he’s done riding the carousel? My treat.’

“Yeah, that sounds good, but you don’t have to buy me-“ Emma didn’t finish the sentence when she saw Regina shake her head firmly. The subject clearly wasn’t up for debate.

“Alright, alright. Your treat,” Emma surrendered and grinned.

Regina smiled in a rather triumphant manner at that.

Emma rubbed her hands as they stood and watched Henry on the carousel. Regina had stopped taking pictures, and now she was settling for just watching. Emma saw her smile as the black horse Henry was sitting on passed them, and she saw Henry wave at his mother. Regina waved back and smiled.

Emma rubbed her hands again. Jeez, it was really cold tonight! More autumn than winter, really. This should be called the winter festival instead of harvest festival. Emma almost chuckled, and she felt tempted to bring her hands up to her mouth to blow hot air on them. It would look silly, but it would probably help a bit with the cold.

That was when she felt the lightest of taps on the top of her shoulder. Emma looked up and blinked slightly in surprise. Regina was holding a pair of spare gloves out towards her. The brunette’s eyebrow was raised, and Emma figured that saying no wasn’t an option.

“Thanks,” Emma said as she took the gloves from Regina. “I forgot my own at the hotel room.”

Regina tapped a few sentences on her phone, and then turned the screen towards Emma: ‘good thing I had an extra pair then.’

“Yeah,” Emma nodded and slipped the gloves on. That was better. “You’re still adding to my fairy godmother theory.”

Regina smiled and shook her head in a manner that more than suggested that Emma was being silly.

Emma didn’t care whether she was being silly or not. She felt completely warm. And it had very little to do with the gloves. Even though it felt nice to have warm hands again.

Henry was very excited when he got off the carousel. And he was grinning broadly when he asked his mother: “can I have a corndog now?”

Regina gestured towards the Ferris wheel.

“I think I’d like a corndog first. Please?” Henry replied.

Regina nodded in a very surrendering manner, and then her fingers moved in the air for a moment.

Henry immediately looked at Emma. “She’s asking if you’d like a corndog too?”

Emma’s attention switched from Henry to Regina as she said: “you really don’t have to buy me one.”

Regina’s fingers danced in the air again, and then Henry said: “she says she insists.”

“Oh,” Emma grinned, feeling how her cheeks pinked slightly. “Well, in that case... Yeah, I’d like a corndog.”

Regina seemed delighted with that answer, and off they went towards one of the food stalls. Henry got his corndog, and he couldn’t have been happier about. Neither could Emma when she took her first
bite. It was actually very good. But she felt a bit guilty. Regina hadn’t bought a corndog for herself.

“You don’t like corndogs?” Emma asked.

Regina offered a light shrug in response.

“She’s waiting for us to pass the pie stall,” Henry piped up. “She loves pies. Right, mom?”

Regina put a hand on her heart in mock offense, and then she playfully whacked Henry’s shoulder.

“Ow!” Henry said, feigning sadness. “Emma, she punched me!”

Emma chuckled. “Yeah. I saw it.”

Regina flashed a playful little smile, and Henry muttered something about his mom being mean, and then he took another bite of his corndog, informing his mom that she was “missing out”.

Regina didn’t seem convinced and even had the audacity to wrinkle her nose in response.

 

**********************

 

The rest of the evening was wonderful. Pure and simple.

Emma and Henry tried the Ferris wheel, and Henry was delighted. And truthfully, so was Emma. She could feel the child within her jump with excitement. It was only on school trips to funfairs she had
been allowed to try things such as Ferris wheels. Mary Margaret had never allowed it. She had been so deathly afraid that Emma somehow would end up hurting herself.

But obviously, no such thing had ever happened. Nor did it happen tonight, and Emma and Henry had a great deal of fun as they swung back and forward in the air. Every time they neared the ground, Henry waved at his mom, and every time Regina made a point out of either clutching her heart in mock fear or cover her eyes. Henry laughed loudly every time she did that.

Emma felt as though she was bursting with happiness. Had she ever been so happy before? She was starting to doubt it. She even felt relaxed talking to Henry as he asked her more about her twisted fairytales.

“Can I read them sometimes?” he asked eagerly.

“If they get published, you can read all of them,” Emma grinned.

“Can I read them before they get published?” he asked and looked at her with big brown eyes. “Please?”

“Yeah,” Emma surrendered without grace. “You can be my beta reader.”

“What’s a beta reader?” Henry asked and wrinkled his nose in confusion.

“It’s someone who reads a story before it’s published to make sure there aren’t any spelling errors,” Emma explained. “Are you good at spelling?”

“I’m the best in my class,” Henry said proudly.

“Great,” Emma grinned. “Then you can definitely be my beta reader.”

“Cool!” Henry exclaimed and then grinned as they neared the ground once more. “Look, there’s mom!”

“Yep, she sure is,” Emma nodded.

“Help me wave to her?” Henry asked.

“Of course,” Emma said, unable to keep her smile at bay.

They both waved at Regina once they got close enough to the ground, and it felt as though Emma’s heart was either melting or popping out of her chest when she saw Regina wave back. She was so
beautiful as she stood there, smiling up at them. Emma couldn’t quite believe it. All of this because she had accidentally hawked someone else’s seat in a train. It seemed so impossible. So too good to be true. She had accidentally stumbled upon the most amazing woman ever. Emma had a hard time believing it. She wasn’t normally this lucky. And especially not when it came to love and relationships.
Henry waved at his mother again, and Emma grinned.

Henry had his popcorn, a large bowl of them and he munched on them as they watched the bonfire and later the fireworks. He even had a few left at the bottom when it became late and it was time for him and his mother to head home.

Emma felt completely flat at the prospect of saying goodbye to Regina and Henry. She already wanted to see them again, damn it! Henry as well as Regina. She had fallen completely for both mother and son.

“Bye, Emma,” Henry said sweetly as they made to Regina’s Mercedes.

“Bye, kid,” Emma smiled.

“Thank you for trying the Ferris wheel with me,” Henry said politely.

Emma grinned. “It was my pleasure, kid. I hope you had fun tonight.”

“I did!” Henry cried. “We both did. Right, mom?” he looked at Regina.

Regina nodded in confirmation and then gestured towards the car.

“Bye, Emma,” Henry said once again and extended his little hand out towards Emma.

Emma laughed as she shook his little hand once. He was a very polite ten year old. Emma had always thought that ten year olds were little rascals.

Henry offered one last smile and then he climbed into the backseat. He door slammed behind him, and Emma saw how he immediately reached underneath the seat and found some sort of game.

Regina looked back at him and smiled and then turned her attention back to Emma.

“I’ve had a really good time tonight,” Emma said almost shyly.

Regina nodded, and her lips mutely formed two words.

“Me, too?” Emma guessed.

Regina nodded and smiled in confirmation.

“He’s an awesome kid,” Emma said as she glanced at Henry in the car. The ten year old had put on a pair of headphones.

Regina nodded, this time a bit more eagerly.

“I’d love to hang out with him again sometimes,” Emma said and pushed a lock of blonde hair behind her ear. “Do you think he’d want that?”

Regina nodded and then found her phone again. She frowned in sheer concentration as she typed, and then she turned the screen around.

Emma was quick to read: ‘yes, I believe he’d enjoy that very much.’

“Cool,” the blonde grinned as she tugged off her borrowed gloves and handed them to Regina. “Thanks for borrowing me your gloves.”

Regina smiled a little as she stuffed the gloves back in her pockets, and Emma saw her dark eyes flicker towards the car. She could almost hear what Regina was thinking. That she should probably be going. Then the brunette was smiling at her again. Regina offered a little nod and a light touch to the top of Emma’s shoulder, and then she turned around and went towards the car.

Emma knew she had to act now. Otherwise Regina would leave. “Wait!” she blurted out.

Regina turned around again and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“I was just wondering...” Emma silently cursed. She knew she was blushing profusely.

Regina tilted her head slightly.

Emma pulled herself together and tried again: “I was just wondering if you’d like to.... go out with me sometimes. You know... maybe have dinner?”

Regina first looked surprised. Emma had sort of been expecting that, but she definitely hadn’t expected the brunette to look panicked. And panic was the exact look that crossed Regina’s face. Her dark eyes flickered anxiously, and Emma saw how her hands balled into fists.

Now Emma felt a bit panicked herself. “Nothing fancy,” she amended. “I was just thinking maybe that Italian place on Main Street? Tony’s?”

Regina looked anxious. White teeth sunk into a plump bottom lip.

Emma felt worse and worse by the second. This was definitely not going as planned. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled and scuffed the nose of her boots against the pavement. “I was just thinking...” a slight movement interrupted her, and she looked up and saw that Regina was tapping something on her phone. Emma almost held her breath until the brunette finished writing and the screen was turned towards her. A single question was written on the screen: ‘when?’

Emma felt her optimism gradually return at that. “Next Saturday? Seven o’clock?” she hopefully suggested.

Regina still looked rather nervous as she slipped the phone back in her pocket. She looked at Emma for a second and then she nodded once.

“Yeah?” Emma asked, just to be sure.

Regina nodded again and flashed Emma a nervous little smile.

“Awesome!” Emma grinned. “I’ll really look forward to that!” She could have said so much more, but she was afraid it was gonna sound silly. And like a huge cliché. Emma didn’t want to sound stupid right
now. Even though she felt like she was on the brink of exploding of pure happiness. There were no other words that could describe what she was feeling right now.

Regina nodded again, formed two words with her lips (me, too) and then she smiled and tugged her hair behind her ear. She glanced at the car again.

“I’ll... text you tomorrow?” Emma said. For somehow it came out as a question.

Regina nodded once again. She offered Emma another smile, a little wave, and then she turned around and went towards her car and waiting son again.

Emma felt a grin spread on her face as she watched the brunette walked away. Something warm and pleasant took hold in her stomach. She had a date with Regina. She really had a date with Regina! If it hadn’t been for the fact that she was standing in the middle of town, Emma would have fist pumped the air. Several times.

 

 

To Be Continued............