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Emma eyed the way Regina had switched her focus to coaxing the lodge’s contrary ragdoll cat, Duchess to sit in her lap, while ignoring everyone around her and figured it was probably time to retreat for the afternoon. They were in the living room of her parent’s condo where they’d been since they finished their light lunch. Various relatives had come and gone, saying “hi” and needing to be introduced to Regina each time.

Unfortunately, it looked like no one else new had come this year, which left Regina the sole focus of that sort of familial attention. Merida had been coming with Elsa for years now, the wedding was more of a formality to everyone—she was already family. Ella Lucas and Thomas were married last year, although they certainly suffered all the baby attention. Viktor never brought anyone ever. Archie had a bad break up months ago he was obviously still dealing with. Even August, who tended to bring a new girlfriend each year had come stag—apparently his last girlfriend had done a number on him and he was mining his sadness for a book or something.

Ruby was as opaque as always about her dating life in front of everyone, she could go from bringing someone new each year to bringing no one for years in a row, but Emma knew her cousin would talk more freely when they were on their own.

Everyone else was either too old or too young to be bringing someone new. Emma silently vowed she wouldn’t put up a single word of protest when she found out what crappy corporate event Regina dragged her to in revenge for this—she would deserve it.

“Wow, really?” Emma replied automatically to her uncle Leroy as he continued to tell her about a trip he’d taken with her aunt to Europe. She glanced around for a clock, knowing if she tried to look at her phone her mother would appear to scold her for ignoring family, and hoped it was starting to get close enough to dinner that her and Regina could make excuses about needing to get ready so they could have some time to themselves to recharge.

“Yes, Merida was so kind to give us some tips on all the best places to go,” Aunt Astrid said, drawing Merida, Elsa, and Mary Margaret into their conversation.

“’Course,” Merida said with a wide grin. “Always happy to point family in the right direction.”

The conversation continued for a few more moments before her savior came in the form of her sister. Merida had whispered something in her ear that had caused Elsa to run her fingers through her hair in her typical nervous gesture only to realize she’d forgotten her hair was braided. Her blush at realizing this led to an even larger smirk on Merida’s face.

Elsa sighed and began undoing her hopeless braid, “Sorry, Mom. I think we need to head up to get ready. My hair’s hopeless.”

Merida rolled her eyes, “Your hair is what’s hopeless?”

Elsa didn’t even bother to glance at Merida’s mass of curls. “Yes,” she replied firmly.

Merida laughed, “Whatever you say, sweetheart.”

Emma took that opportunity to speak up, “Yeah, I think we’ll, uh, head up too.”

Her mom and Elsa turned to her in surprise—Emma was notorious for taking the shortest amount of time possible to get ready, but Emma was quick to reach down and put a hand on Regina’s shoulder.

Emma glanced down, surprised to see Regina had actually managed to succeed in convincing Duchess to sit on her lap and was even petting the persnickety cat, who looked like she was greatly enjoying the treatment she was receiving from Regina. Regina looked up at Emma’s hand on her shoulder with a brief grateful look, before speaking up, “Yes, I’m afraid I hadn’t realized how late it had gotten.”

Emma nearly laughed at the outraged expression that had briefly crossed her mom’s face when she noticed the cat—Mary Margaret had been trying for years to make friends with Duchess and had never been able to touch her, except for the one time she’d found the cat sleeping and had gotten swiped at for her attempt. She exchanged a glance with Elsa who had noticed too and the sisters shared a smile at their mother’s need for animal approval.

“Here,” Mary Margaret offered eagerly, reaching for Duchess, “Why don’t I take her—” as soon as MM got close enough, Duchess reared back with a hiss and jumped off Regina’s lap to the back of the couch.

Emma could barely keep from laughing at the crestfallen look on her mom’s face. Regina had raised an eyebrow at Mary Margaret’s behavior and now she brushed some invisible fluff off her lap. “Excuse me,” she said to Mary Margaret, who was still close from her attempt to pet Duchess and blocking Regina from standing up.

“Oh, of course,” Mary Margaret finally backed off and Regina stood, moving close to Emma, who let the hand she’d had on Regina’s shoulder move to the small of her back.

“Thank you,” Regina said with a quick, insincere smile. Regina turned her head to face Emma, unused to being so close to the other woman, but she didn’t let that stop her from saying, “Let’s retire upstairs.” Regina winced as soon as she had said that and glared at Emma, daring her to make a comment.

Emma had once told Regina that whenever she became nervous, her words got more formal—to a rather absurd degree. Regina had always denied it. The look in Emma’s eyes told Regina that this would be used as an ammunition against her in the future. “Yes,” Emma said, keeping her laughter to herself until they got some privacy so she could tease Regina. “Let’s retire for the evening.” Well, tease her more.

Regina elbowed her lightly in the side and made a beeline for the stairs. Emma let her hand fall to her side as she moved to follow her, a little behind. She turned to give a little wave to her family, partially so that she wouldn’t be tempted to stare at Regina’s ass as she went up the stairs in front of her, “See ya for dinner.”

-x-x-x-

There was a knock on their door that disrupted the comfortable silence that had fallen over them as Emma played on her phone and Regina read her book. Neither of them had needed as much time as they’d snuck away for and both were trying to recharge for the socializing still to come.

 Emma frowned in confusion before getting up off the bed to answer it. Regina shot her a look that communicated if she was to spend the next several hours with Emma’s family, she needed to not talk to anyone until she had to. Emma smiled to say she understood and watched Regina retreat into the bathroom from the corner of her eye before opening the door.

Mary Margaret’s hair was freshly washed, but she was otherwise not dressed yet for dinner and she was carrying a yellow dress on a hanger. Emma said, “Hey mom, what’s up?”

Mary Margaret smiled at her daughter and held out the dress, “You forgot to stop by our room to pick up your dress.” Emma could feel her face freeze as she didn’t reach out to grab the dress, studying it with a mixture of horror and relief. It was bright yellow, with bits of glitter and sewn beads. Not only did it not belong any where near a ski lodge, it also belonged no where near Emma. It likely would have looked good on Mary Margaret during the spring, but Emma knew it would not look good on her.

“I…” she stuttered. Sure, she had planned no to where what her mom had picked out, but she’d forgotten she’d have to actually tell her mom that. “I didn’t forget, I—”

Mary Margaret gave her a look of fond exasperation, “Then why haven’t you come to pick it up yet? I know you don’t think you need a lot of time to get ready, but still…” She again, held out the dress to Emma.

“She won’t be needing that,” Regina said smoothly as she appeared out of nowhere behind Emma, placing a steadying right hand on the small of Emma’s back. Emma was glad she’d changed her mind about hiding in the bathroom to come out and help her.

Mary Margaret almost reared back and frowned. Her eyes darted back to Emma’s face, “What does she mean?”

“Emma mentioned this little dinner to me,” Regina replied before Emma could and Mary Margaret’s gaze switched back to the other brunette woman. Regina’s voice was cool and her gaze was sharp as she continued, “And how she never had the right thing to wear for it so I picked up a dress for her.”

Mary Margaret’s eyes went wide, “You bought Emma a dress for dinner tonight?”

“Of course,” Regina smiled with all her teeth as the hand not on Emma’s back latched onto Emma’s right arm almost possessively. “I wanted my girlfriend to look her best.”

“I… see,” Mary Margaret said slowly, clearly angry and yet knowing she had no reason to be. She took a deep breath and drew herself together, “Well, I wish you had mentioned it earlier, Emma. Then I wouldn’t have spent money on this dress.”

Emma frowned, normally she would have just let a comment like that pass, but she hated when anyone implied she was wasteful, “I told you not to bother this year.”

Mary Margaret rolled her eyes, “Of course, sweetie. I suppose the tags are still on and I’m sure I still have the receipt.” She gave a little laugh as she tried to restore her previously cheery mood, “Alls well that ends well, I guess. You’ll be ready in time to leave? We only have an hour or so left.”

“Yes, mom,” Emma replied, beginning to feel her frustration with how Mary Margaret always made her feel like a careless child. “We leave at the same time every year – I’ve never late before.”

“Wonderful,” Mary Margaret said with a false smile. “I’ll see you both downstairs.”

“See you then,” Emma said, hoping she didn’t look as awkward as she felt before she shut the door. She deflated against the door. To her surprise, Regina kept her hold of Emma, although it became a lot less showy and possessive and more comforting.

Regina rubbed a small circle in Emma’s back, “There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” The look in her eyes clearly communicated that she did understand how hard it was for Emma to even come close to saying “no” to her mother.

“Right, piece of cake,” Emma replied weakly. She was starting to panic, just a little. It was abruptly all very real, her whole plan to bring a fake girlfriend along. What was she doing, rocking the boat like this, lying to them about a girlfriend? They were just going find out and think she was even more of a screw up than they already did.

“Oh, Emma,” Regina said, pulling her friend into a hug. “Do you want to go home? We don’t have to be here.”

Emma sank into the hug, never understanding how Regina gave such good ones, so warm and safe, but grateful away. After a minute, she shook her head into Regina’s shoulder. “No, no. I’m fine, really. I don’t know why that made me so…” She pulled back and shrugged, putting some distance between them. “She just can make me feel guilty for stupid stuff so easily.”

“I understand,” Regina said, wrapping her arms around her own stomach so that she wouldn’t be tempted to reach back for her friend. Emma’s mother was very different from her own, and yet, she certainly understood the sentiment all too well.

Emma gave her a small smile, knowing Regina really did understand. “I know, really. I want to be here—I happy to see everyone. I’m looking forward to hitting the slopes tomorrow. And I’m really glad you’re here,” she added at the end, suddenly feeling the need to make sure Regina understood that.

Regina smiled, before it shifted to a smirk—confidence replacing concern. “Of course you are. If I wasn’t, you’d be stuck wearing that yellow monstrosity.”

Emma laughed, “Exactly.”

“Would you like to see what you’ll actually be wearing?”

Emma’s eyes lit up, she liked surprise gifts. “Can I?”

Regina’s smirk softened back to a fond smile. “Obviously, you’re supposed to be wearing it soon. The black garment bag is yours. Have at it.”

Emma smiled and went over to the closet to open it up. This was the dress that Regina’d asked Emma questions about and studied Emma’s style before choosing—that she’d paid special attention to and thought about. Emma slid down the zipper, revealing the dress Regina had gotten, just for her—because she wanted to make Emma happy.

“What do you think?” Regina asked.

“I like it.”

-x-x-x-

“Hm, I don’t know what could be taking Emma so long—we’re going to be late,” Mary Margaret fretted, looking between her watch and the stairs.

Elsa and Merida, who’d only come down a moment earlier ignored her. Evan rolled his eyes and pulled at his shirt. David rested a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulder, “We don’t leave for another few minutes.”

“Emma never takes this long,” Mary Margaret repeated. “Maybe whatever she brought to wear isn’t working out, and I should check and make sure she doesn’t want the dress I brought…”

“Mom,” Elsa said as she finished smoothing down her hair, amused at her mother’s typical fussing—she should have expected this with Emma’s first time bringing someone serious. MM always reverted back to treating her like she was ten whenever Elsa did something that reminded her mother she was in fact an adult now. “Relax, if they don’t come down on time, I’ll go check on Emma. I promise.”

Mary Margaret smiled at her daughter, monetarily distracted, “You’re so sweet, sweetie.”

Elsa barely refrained from rolling her eyes at that, “Thanks, mom.”

The platitude only worked for a few more seconds before Mary Margaret was back to staring at the stairs, “It must be the Mills girl who’s taking so long.”

David raised his eyes brows at that, “Do you not like Emma’s girlfriend? She’s seemed polite enough so far.”

Mary Margaret frowned, “I just don’t think she’s Emma’s type. She seems very stuck up, bragging about her law job earlier with the Knights.” Elsa was surprised to hear genuine dislike in her mother’s voice. Mary Margaret usually loved everyone—even when they didn’t deserve it. It must be another side effect of her nervousness over Emma finally having a serious partner. Mary Margaret had never acted this way about Merida, but then again, Elsa and Merida had been friends before they’d dated and Mary Margaret had first met her back then.

“She dressed impractically for a ski lodge, if you ask me,” Mary Margaret continued, without noticing anyone’s reactions to her words. “And she seemed like she was just pretending to be polite. Like she was too good to be here.”

David exchanged a look with Elsa and knew they were on the same page regarding Mary Margaret’s unusual attitude. “I didn’t get that impression,” he said mildly, knowing how to pick his battles. “And maybe it’s a good thing she isn’t Emma’s usual type—they haven’t always been the best for her in the past.”

Merida spoke up next, “I love these trips now, but they were a mite overwhelming the first time Elsa invited me along—you’ve got more family than you know what to do with. She’d have to be off her head not to be nervous, even if she don’t show it.”

“I suppose,” Mary Margaret allowed reluctantly, not liking everyone already seemed won over by this…this interloper.

“Let’s wait until after we’ve talked to her more before we decide if she’s good enough for our Emma, alright sweetheart?” David said, wrapping his arm around Mary Margaret’s shoulders and giving her a reassuring squeeze.

His wife melted in his arms, “Of course, I only want Emma to be happy.”

Just as she said so, they all heard a door open and shut upstairs, along with footsteps.

“Finally!” Evan said overdramatically as he flung himself down on the couch.

Everyone laughed and Merida ruffled his hair, he reminded her of her own brothers so much.

Regina appeared first, her high heeled black boot touching the floor at exactly 6:30—Regina Mills was always perfectly on time. She fiddled briefly with her red clutch which matched her high-collared, red dress as she eyed the crowd of Blanchard’s waiting in the living room.

Emma followed in a lovely dress, which consisted of a cream, skin colored underdress with a transparent overlay of black lace designs that made it deceptively appear more revealing at first glance. Her hair was done in cleaned up loose, long curls which were similar to the loose waves in Regina’s own, shorter hair.

Emma was obviously a little nervous and so Elsa spoke up first, “I love your dress.” It wasn’t her sister’s usual style, but then again Emma rarely switched from her usual comfortable style. The few other times Elsa had seen her dressed up in any sense of the word besides these dinners where their mother choose had been when she’d visit Emma.

They’d gone to a couple clubs and bars in Boston over the past few years. For those, Emma either went for a nicer version of her everyday—with tighter pants and more expensive leather jackets or dresses of the little black or red variety. This looked good on her though, more sophisticated and older. It was clear Regina had picked the dress out given what Elsa knew about Emma’s dislike of shopping and Regina’s obvious taste, but Elsa could tell she’d picked it out for Emma specifically. How her mother had never managed to pick something that actually felt like Emma would wear ever again, she’d never understand.

“Thanks,” Emma said with a smaller smile than her usual confident grin. She reached to her waist, pulled out her phone, and waved it at them, “It’s got pockets.”

“That’s always dead useful,” Merida agreed, pushing her hands into her own dress pockets with a grin. “You make a nice pair.”

“Thank you,” Regina accepted graciously, choosing to focus on how nice it was to hear that, rather than on the fact that it was all pretend, no matter her wishes. “You two look lovely as well.” Emma’s sister and her fiancé were in light and dark blue respectively, dresses that suited them very well, although she’d half expected to see Merida in a suit like she had been in some of the pictures Emma had shown her.

David leaned over to give Emma a kiss on the cheek, “You’re as pretty as always, sweetie.”

Mary Margaret was clearly put out by the obvious approval from everyone else and was trying to refrain from mentioning that while Regina’s neckline was more than conservative, the long opening from the collar to under her chest made it anything but. Still, she managed to only say, “Are you sure your arms won’t be cold, Emma?”

“I have my coat for when we’re outside,” Emma replied mildly. She was too pleased with everyone else’s reaction to start arguing when they hadn’t even left the house yet. She was barely able to keep from adding that, if she was remembering right, her mom’s choice of a dress hadn’t had long sleeves either.

“Besides, you know how Emma always runs hot,” Regina added, unable to resist poking Mary Margaret, especially since she was confident she’d won the unofficial dress competition. “And I do confess I enjoy the sight of her arms far too much to pick something that didn’t show them off,” Regina replied with a heated glance coupled with a squeeze to one of the biceps in question. Emma felt unexpected heat run through her at the compliment, the feeling only mildly diminished by the failed wink Regina added which was more adorable than salacious. Regina ignored the shocked look on Mary Margaret’s face as she went to gather her coat.

Evan didn’t care about clothes at all and finally spoke up, “Come on, Em. I’m starving!” He grabbed his sister’s hand to try and pull her faster towards the car.

Emma laughed, “You know you never need to drag me to food, Ev. Let’s go.”

-x-x-x-

They arrived at the restaurant without any trouble and headed for their private room, the approximately thirty family members who came to this vacation necessitated their own room. They were one of the first families to arrive, only the Huas, Grandpa Nolan, and Granny Lucas were there before them. Evan ran over to play with his cousins, PJ and Rose, and Emma decided to introduce Regina to the older folks since they hadn’t come by the house earlier.

She wasn’t particularly close with her dad’s father since he was kind of a dick, but she did hope Granny would like Regina, for all the Lucas’ were not technically related by blood—Granny had been good friends with her mother’s mom and MM and Red had been close friends. When her grandma Eva had died, before Emma was even born,, Granny had helped raise Mary Margaret so they had more than earned the right to be family.

“Hi Grandpa George, Granny. I wanted to introduce you to my girlfriend, Regina Mills.”

Regina exchanged greetings with both of them. Grandpa George quickly lost interest when Emma’s uncle and his family showed up. He’d always played favorites with his twin sons that he never seemed interested in hiding. Granny however, was definitely interested in the first person Emma had deemed important enough to bring to the lodge.

“So, how did you two meet?” Granny asked, eyes sharp, but friendly.

“It’s sort of a funny story,” Emma confessed with a laugh. Her and Regina had talked through this in the car ride up. They decided to stick relatively close to the truth for ease of remembering. “The guy in the apartment next to me had been making a lot of noise and Regina had put in some complaints, but about my apartment by accident.”

Regina’s tone was genuinely self-deprecating as she continued the story, “I found that out when Emma came up to yell at me since they weren’t actually about her.” She gave her friend a wry smile, “Luckily, we figured out what happened and managed to fix everything with the building management.”

Emma cut in, “And I was thrilled that the hot girl in 402 didn’t actually hate me and my obnoxious neighbor was gone in, like, a week.”

“I asked her to join me for dinner to make it up to her since I still felt bad,” Regina explained, keeping the pleased flush at Emma’s casual compliment from breaking out.

“And little did Regina know she’d hit on my weakness to good food and we’ve been friends ever since.” Emma was getting into their story, it was pretty cute, even if they weren’t actually dating. They’d told shorter versions to some others back at the Blanchard’s condo, but not a real story. She’d heard her mom, sister, and friends tell stories like this for years, it was fun to be on the other side of it. “A few months later, when Regina started a short relationship with someone else, I realized that I liked her. So when she and Marian broke up, I decided to take a chance and ask her out a couple weeks later.”

“I think Emma was more surprised than I was when I said yes,” Regina said with a little laugh she hoped didn’t sound too fake. It was harder than she thought to tell this story, it was hitting very close to home. Always a glutton for punishment, she slipped an arm around Emma’s waist, unable to help herself when she could. She tried to hide her constant delight at the way Emma leaned into her touch so naturally. “I hadn’t realized Emma was interested in me at all, so that she asked was the surprise for me. We’ve been together ever since.”

Granny’s eyes had bounced back and forth as they told their story and, for just a moment, both of them thought she was about to call bullshit, when instead she smiled. Whatever she’d seen had pleased her, “Wonderful, I’m glad to see you so happy, Emma. How’s everything else going?”

The three of them chatted until the rest of the Lucas’ showed up, which resulted in an easier time for Emma and Regina of listening, rather than talking. Emma genuinely enjoyed hearing how her cousins and other family members were doing and Regina found she liked the Lucas’ far more than the Blanchard. Perhaps it was because during all their talks to prep for this trip, they were often the people Emma had the most good things to say about.

After an hour of everyone talking as they all arrived, it was time to sit down for the meal. Since the three long tables seated eleven, Emma ended up with her immediate family as well as her dad’s sister’s family, the Knights which consisted of her aunt, her uncle, and their kids.

Evan, Henry, and Melody were quick to tune out the adults at their end of the table, heads bent over either phones or a game as they pointed at each other’s screens. Her dad was talking animatedly about some sports game with Aunt Abigail and Uncle Jim. Elsa and Merida had asked Emma something, which left Mary Margaret focusing in on Regina.

“So,” Mary Margaret said, clearly aiming for casual and missing by a mile. “Are you like Emma too?”

“Pardon?” Regina frowned. She couldn’t tell where this was going, but Regina was sure it wasn’t anywhere good.

Mary Margaret made a vague gesture, “Dating boys and girls, I mean. Elsa only likes girls, but Emma says she likes both. You’re the first girlfriend we’ve meet though.” She clearly expected that to throw Regina off.

“I’m not a fan of labels,” Regina said since it was her standard response and meant to encourage people to stop asking questions. Then she remembered why she was here and clarified, “However, I don’t date men.”

“Oh.” Mary Margaret had figured Regina would also claim to be bisexual. Her brow wrinkled in genuine confusion, “Does it bother you then?”

“Does what bother me?” Regina’s voice was hard and exasperated, wishing the older woman would just get to the point.

“That Emma dates both,” Mary Margaret clarified as though it should have been obvious. “I know I’ve read somewhere that some people don’t like the extra competition.” It was clear she was trying to play it as if she was vetting Regina, but Regina knew from what Emma told her that Mary Margaret believed at least something like this.

Regina’s eyes hardened at the comment before she gave a shrug that managed to appear regal, “No. After all, she’s with me right now. Why should the gender of her previous partners matter in the present?”

MM opened her mouth to respond, “Because you’re not a man and Emma likes men.”

Regina had never understood this sort of attitude towards people who were bisexual and after all Emma had told her about her own experiences and the experiences of some of her friends, she had absolutely no patience for it now. “That’s as senseless as saying I should be jealous or insecure of all blue-eyed people since Emma used to date someone with a different eye color than me. Or was taller than me. Or was in any other way different than me.”

While Mary Margaret clearly didn’t have any rebuttal for that statement, she still looked as if she was going to protest again so Regina cut her off before she could.  “I don’t care about anything other than the fact that Emma managed to wise up enough to realize she should be dating me,” Regina punctuated the teasing statement with a half-smile at Emma. “I’m very confident in my ability to keep her interest, regardless of my gender.” Emma silently agreed with that, if she was actually dating Regina, she was certain she wouldn’t even notice anyone else.

The vague hint to sex was enough to make Mary Margaret back off, “Of course.” She plastered on a fake smile, “I’m glad to hear that.”

Emma had tuned into the conversation in time to hear Regina response and was suddenly so grateful that she had brought her. Nothing made her more glad than to have her friend at her side, defending her. Any other anxiety over the fact that she had brought Regina to pretend to be her girlfriend felt justified in the face her mother.

“Glad to hear what?” Emma said.

“Oh nothing,” Mary Margaret said with a wave of her hand. “What was Elsa talking to you about?”

“She was just trying to figure out when it was easiest for me to take time off.”

“You know,” Mary Margaret said, as confiding a secret, “That’s probably since Elsa and Merida’s wedding is coming up next year.”

Emma just raised an eyebrow, why was her mother pointing out the obvious—she knew why Elsa had been asking her.

Mary Margaret gave her a look, as if the question was obvious. “Do you think you’ll be taking Regina?”

Emma stiffened, and snapped without thinking, “They haven’t even picked a date yet.”

Regina placed a hand on Emma’s arm under the table, which helped Emma steady her annoyance at her mother’s inappropriate nosiness. “I’ll decide when I get the official invitation.” She took a deep breath and remembered part of the point of the dinner was to impress upon her mother her commitment with Regina. Emma forced a smile, “But if we did get it today, then yes—of course, I would be bringing Regina.”

“Wonderful,” Mary Margaret replied cheerily while carefully observing Regina’s polite mask to see if Emma’s response affected her. Would be offended by Emma’s initial defensive outburst or would Regina think Emma was moving too quickly to assume they would be going to a wedding so far in advance? She was disappointed either way since Regina remained calmly polite.

Elsa too was surprised her mother had asked, but then again, maybe she wasn’t. Mom was overly protective and, well, nosy. She was probably just trying to make sure Regina was good enough for Emma—that didn’t mean Elsa thought it was okay though. She gave Emma a sympathetic look and tried to redirect the conversation to an actual discussion of specific wedding preparations.

Talk of dates, possible venues, and various other arrangements were able to last all the way through ordering their food and receiving their salads, but the peace wasn’t to last. Elsa and Merida, as the lucky few sitting next to the kids, were drawn into arbitrating some dispute, leaving an opening.

Once more Mary Margaret attempted to catch Emma and Regina off guard to better understand what she saw as an unlikely relationship. To test her theory that Regina was too…too snobby for Emma, she asked, “Doesn’t that all sound lovely?”

“I suppose,” Regina gave a small, noncommittal shrug. Truthfully, the plans did seem nice, although even Regina could already seem that Mary Margaret had her own specific ideas about her daughter’s wedding and didn’t seem to realize Elsa didn’t agree with all of them. “To each their own.”

Mary Margaret’s gaze sharpened on the hint of disapproval Regina had let enter her tone. “Oh, not to your tastes?”

“Not particularly,” Regina replied evenly, sipping at her wine and resisting the urge to order something stronger. She hadn’t had to deal with this much passive-aggressive bullshit since her mother was alive—even networking events for the firm weren’t this bad. At least here, Emma had given her permission to be disagreeable—she could always win these types of games when she wasn’t trying to make someone like her, rather than respect her. She’d had plenty of practice.

“What sort of wedding would you have?” Mary Margaret asked, leaning in for the metaphorical kill. “Let’s say, if you and Emma were to get married?”

Emma coughed a bit as she swallowed a bite of salad, her eyes wide at her mother asking such a question, especially given the story that her and Regina had been dating less than a year. “Mom! You can’t just ask us that.” Emma was suddenly very glad she’d never actually brought anyone she was dating here—a question like that would have sent most of them running for the hills.

“It’s fine, Emma,” Regina reassured her friend, patting her leg. Their eyes met and Emma could see the calculation in them. Regina had something planned. They’d discussed that some wedding questions might come up due to Elsa’s engagement, but Emma hadn’t thought even Mary Margaret would be tactless enough to ask something quite like this.

Regina turned back to Mary Margaret. “Well,” Regina said, as if considering it for the first time. Truthfully, Regina had heard enough stories of Emma’s mother even before they’d started planning this trip and she had expected something like this—not to mention some idle day dreams she’d had over the years. “If Emma and I were to get married, I don’t think we’d have a wedding with so many people in attendance. Likely only a handful, really.”

Mary Margaret seemed taken aback by Regina’s non-reaction and ready answer. She’d expected any girl dating Emma to act uncomfortable given Emma’s dating history, “Excuse me?”

“Oh, come now,” Regina leaned forward, as if they shared a secret. “You know Emma, Ms. Blanchard.” Regina could barely stop from remarking on the irony of that statement.  She was determined to force the woman to actually learn about some of the parts of Emma that she seemed unable to notice. “She hates being the center of attention. And it’s such a big fuss over one night—so expensive too. No, I think we’d have, have a destination wedding with only our closest friends and family, around ten people—yourself included of course.”

Before Mary Margaret could respond, Regina continued. “Actually,” Regina made a show of tapping her finger against her cheek as if thinking, now she was just aiming to make Mary Margaret uncomfortable. “Perhaps we’d simply elope—much simpler, don’t you think? So much more fun to skip right to the honeymoon.” She turned toward Emma and ran her eyes up and down her with no small amount of heat in her eyes. Emma gulped and suppressed a shiver for what felt like the fourth or fifth time this evening. “Wouldn’t you agree, darling?”

Mary Margaret had gone from pale with shock and horror to red from embarrassment so fast Emma might have been concerned for if she wasn’t completely mesmerized by Regina eyeing her like she wanted to eat her up. Also, could Regina only call her darling for the rest of her life?

It took more than a few seconds and muffled chuckle from Merida to realize she was expected to answer, “Right, I mean, I’m not sure, um. I haven’t thought about weddings much. Except Elsa’s, obviously.” She made a sort of nervous gesture with her fork, nearly taking Merida’s eyes out.

“You alright there, Swan,” Merida said, a knowing glint in her eyes.

Emma gave up on eating her salad and glared at her future sister-in-law. “Shut up.”

“Ooooh,” Evan teased, “Emma said a bad word.”

Emma frowned before a glare from her mother made her stick on an apologetic look, “Right, yeah. Uh, be quiet? Sorry about that.”

Merida rolled her eyes, “No problem, I knew what you meant.”

“Very good, Evan,” Mary Margaret told her son. “We all need to remember to speak nicely to people and to apologize when we make mistakes. Just like we need to remember to eat all our veggies.” He was the only kid who’d been ordered a salad and he’d been trying to ignore it.

The next few minutes were full of a childish distraction and Emma and Regina took advantage of it to talk to each other about easy things, without any pretense. Eventually, they were pulled back into the conversation, but for a far lighter topic—Emma was far happier to talk about Mario Kart than weddings.

As the entrees began arriving, Henry asked Merida out of the blue, “What’s your last name again?”

“DunBroch,” Merida said, wondering at his curiosity. “Why?”

“Since you and Elsa are getting married, I was wondering what your last name is going to be,” Henry asked. “Are you gonna be a Blanchard or is she going to be a DunBroch?”

Mary Margaret turned to look at her daughter, a raised eyebrow. Elsa ignored the look, already knowing that she wanted Elsa to keep their last name. “We’re not sure ourselves,” Elsa explained. “There a lot of different ways we could do it. We could each keep our names. We’ve also been considering using both our last names, like Blanchard-DunBroch.” Elsa explained to her cousin.

“DunBroch-Blanchard,” Merida corrected automatically before smiling. “But that’s a mouthful.”

Melody spoke up from next to Merida, her eyes lighting up, “You could make a new last name. Like Dunchard.”

Everyone got a good laugh from that and started coming up with their combinations. Unknowingly, this conversation gave Mary Margaret

“What would you do about a last name?” Mary Margaret asked suddenly, turning to Emma and Regina, and startling them from the light hearted conversation.

The faux couple was actually sort of ready for this question, primarily because they’d discussed the matter months ago when Elsa first mentioned her discussions with Merida to Emma. As women who dated other women, the potential question had occurred to them each before.

On the car ride up, Emma had brought it up as a joke, never actually thinking her mom would really bring it up. Both had said they’d prefer to keep their own last name, but then decide for kids when the time came after talking it through with whoever their partner was at the time.

So Emma wasn’t surprised when Regina didn’t miss a beat. She volleyed back confidently, “Oh, hyphens get so messy, don’t they? No, I’d take Emma’s last name.” That did throw Emma off, she turned to face Regina more closely. This wasn’t what they’d discussed.

Regina felt Emma’s gaze but kept her eyes focused on Mary Margaret. “I have no particular attachment to my own last name and Swan has such a wonderful ring to it, don’t you think? I know how much it means to her,” Regina gave Emma a genuine smile that was more tender than any expression Emma seen on her before. It made her breath catch.

“Thanks,” Emma breathed, an answering smile spreading across her face without her noticing. How had Regina known she didn’t really ever want to change her last name? It was all that was left of the woman who’d raised her those first short, but happy years of her life. It was all she’d had when Emma was in the foster system, something to prove she’d had a family once that she’d belonged to.

Maybe Regina had just realized it would bother Mary Margaret, who’d tried to get Emma to change her last name to “Blanchard” once Emma had moved in. It was one of the only things Emma had been confident enough to argue with her about at the time.

When Emma had first moved in, she’d been so glad to have a family and so shocked that she was wanted, she’d let Mary Margaret kind of take over her personality. Emma was too worried that the Blanchard’s would change their mind and send her away. Elsa had seemed like such a perfect daughter already that she’d over compensated. Her name was the one thing she wouldn’t budge on. Luckily, after a few months she’d felt comfortable enough to start acting like herself again, but Emma sometimes wonders if she’d been able act like herself the whole time, maybe her mom would understand her better. Sometimes Emma thought her mom thought the way she’d originally acted was the real her and everything after was the front.

Emma pulled herself out of her thoughts and eyed Regina’s triumphant smile at the offended look on Mary Margaret’s face. Maybe it was a bit of both—Regina was a multi-tasker.

“I see,” Mary Margaret replied, unable to argue with the gratitude in Emma’s voice. “I suppose its always good for the whole family to have the same name. It’s certainly less confusing.” She then launched into a genuinely funny story about her time as a school teacher, before was mayor that involved confusing a child’s grandfather for his father and his actual father for his uncle which had resulted in an extremely confused mother. Similar stories from Mary Margaret’s teaching career lasted until they ordered desert which kept the calm nicely.

“Speaking of children,” Mary Margaret asked, eyes bright. She was certain this would throw Regina off and then she’d see her true colors. “Do you think you want your own family?”

“Mom,” Emma hissed, actually angry at Mary Margaret.

“What? I just mean in general,” Mary Margaret tried to play it off as if the question wasn’t a big deal. “I know some people these days aren’t interested in children. I figured you already knew something that important about each other.”

Emma gritted her teeth, “We do. I don’t see how it’s any of your business right now, but both Regina and I would like to have a kid or two sometime in the very distant future.”

“Wonderful,” Mary Margaret clapped her hands together. “Of course, I expect Elsa to give me my first grandchildren, but I’d expect you to be next. Certainly before Evan.” She laughed before directing her next question to Regina, “How would you plan on starting a family? Hypothetically, of course.”

“Adoption,” Regina said flatly, trying to discourage talking about this particular topic. “I’ve always planned to adopt and Emma feels the same after her time in the foster system. Since we agree, we haven’t discussed much further than that.”

“Were you in the system too?” Mary Margaret was genuinely curious to hear Regina say that as it wasn’t the impression she had received at all.

Regina refused to rise to the bait and simply said, “No.”

Trying to get the tight-lipped brunette to say reveal more, Mary Margaret said, “Elsa’s been talking about in vitro, would you ever consider that?”

“No,” Emma replied, it was her turn to put her hand on Regina’s upper arm. Emma knew from previous conversations that this was a touchier subject for Regina since she couldn’t have children. “I don’t want to get pregnant—especially not when kids already out there who need a home.”

“I—” Mary Margaret tried to continue, since this was the first questions either other them had ever really pushed back against.

“No, mom.” She could stand her mother making her feel uncomfortable and, if Regina had actually been her girlfriend and not her friend she’d specifically brought along to deal with her mother, she would have cut her mother off far sooner in this conversation. Her mother’s nosiness wasn’t allowed if there was even the slightest chance that she could actually be making Regina uncomfortable. Her voice left no room for argument, “New topic.”

Luckily, that’s when their desserts came and they started talking back up with David, leading to an abridged version of their meeting once again.

“So, you two still live in the same apartment building?” David asked. “That must be nice.”

“Convenient,” Merida added, causing Elsa and Aunt Abigail to laugh.

“Sure,” Emma agreed easily, not rising to the bait. “Although it doesn’t limit the arguing over who should pick up who as much as you’d think.” Emma put her hand up as if to shield Regina from her words and said in a loud whisper, “Regina hates my car.”

Regina rolled her eyes, “Only because it’s a death trap on wheels.”

That sparked a car conversation, until Mary Margaret managed another question, “Do you think you two might move in together soon?”

“Perhaps,” Regina replied evenly. “Emma’s lease expires in two months. As long as everything’s still going as wonderfully as it is now, she could move in with me. Then we could move into our own apartment when my own lease is up. Wouldn’t that be nice, dear?”

Emma almost laughed at the falseness in Regina’s voice, “Of course, honey.”

Her cousin Victor, sitting back to back to their table must have been eavesdropping, since he coughed something that sounded like “u-haul” under his breath and she abruptly pushed her chair back into his. Ignoring his muffled yelp, she stalked off to the bathroom.

David had noticed the invasive question this time and managed to draw Mary Margaret into his other conversation, winking at Regina. By the time Emma got back, Regina, Merida, and Elsa were discussing a TV show they all watched. For the remainder of the night, the conversation was limited to very light topics to Regina and Emma’s profound relief.

-x-x-x-

Closing the door to their room once they arrive back home felt like an immediate decrease in pressure.

“Thank god,” Emma said, leaning wearily back against the door.

Regina set down her purse and sat on the bed, nodding in silent agreement. “Your mother certainly is relentless.”

“Did you mean obnoxious? Who actually says stuff like that? I am so glad I never actually brought anyone to this thing, I can’t imagine how badly it would have gone.”

Regina laughed, “Yes, I’d have to agree.”

“And I know I thought some of our prep was overkill, but clearly not. Thanks for insisting we talk about so much ahead of time,” Emma said, smiling gratefully at her friend.

“You’re welcome,” Regina replied. They both began getting ready for bed, changing into pajamas, brushing their teeth, and all sorts of nighttime routines.

Regina pulled out her book to read as Emma finished up in the bathroom. Regina was surprisingly tired despite not doing much today, but she needed to think about anything else, even corporate team building (her current book) if she ever hoped to get to sleep.

When Emma came out, she immediately got under the covers. She checked a few things on her phone before giving up and deciding to go to sleep, even if it was earlier than usual for her. “Don’t worry about the light,” she said through a yawn. “I can sleep through anything. ‘Night.”

Regina paused from moving to turn out the light, pleased Emma had guessed her actions so well. “Good night, Emma,” Regina said quietly as she tried to focus on the words on the page, hyper aware of how close Emma was.

A muffled, unintelligible noise from the pillow next her was her only reply.