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Sleepless in Storybrooke

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Present - Christmas Eve, Storybrooke

Shit, shit, shit. Emma is late. Not that she normally isn’t because she’s got a subscription to always coming in at least five minutes after something's started - no clue why that is - but this time, it really isn’t her fault. 

Her flight from Seattle was severely delayed. Then, when she wanted to pick up her rental car, they’d made a mistake with her booking, so there weren’t any free cars. It cost her another hour to call other rental companies and get a last minute car. She should’ve taken Regina up on her offer to pick her up from the airport, but she hadn't wanted Regina to leave home at Christmas eve and well, what’s done is done. At least she’d remembered to call ahead, so Regina and Henry knew she would be late.

She snorts. She's been late since their relationship started. If Henry hadn't forgotten his bag a the Empire State Building, almost a year ago... she shivers. 

Previously, February 14th

“What would you have done when we hadn’t returned?”

Emma shot Regina a sheepish smile. “Well. I would probably have returned to my friends, shouted at them for pushing me to go and getting my hopes up, and then I would’ve gotten pretty angry with myself for having only the tiniest flickers of hope because fate doesn’t exist and I was stupid for ever believing it might be real, anyway.”

There’s a silence that lingered on, up to the moment when Emma couldn’t stand it anymore. She got up from the comfy chair in the Manhattan hotel she’d booked with her friends. It was all still surreal, like she’d told Regina before in the elevator. After they’d stepped out of the Empire State Building, her friends looked at her with wide eyes before Jacinda and Belle started squealing and Sabine only looked at Regina with narrowed eyes. Henry had get along with all of them instantly, and Belle had offered to take him for a bit so Regina and Emma could figure things out.

Regina had flat out refused, the disappearance of her son still fresh in mind. Henry had reluctantly told them that he’d run away and Regina was not going to leave him out of her sight again.

Sabine suggested that since it was late already, Regina and Henry could book a room in the same hotel they were staying in, so that Henry could stay in Regina’s room while the two of them could take one of the girls’. Reluctantly, Regina had complied but only because Henry was two doors down and Belle had to promise to call her as soon as Henry started to act up. 

Now, they were sitting across from each other. Emma was a bit hesitant to share her side of the story, fearing it would be too stalker-y. But Regina had reached for her hand, laced their fingers and with an amused shimmer in her eyes, said she wasn’t going anywhere tonight, anyway.

Emma had started with her drive home at Christmas Eve, how she’d heard an enticing voice on the radio that had swept her off her feet. She talked about the  letter she had started to write, had deleted and that her friend had sent it anyway - she’d learned that Henry had answered it on their way to the hotel, because he was very proud of it. She felt stupid for ever thinking that Regina had had a hand in writing it, now. She told Regina that her friends had forced her to go to Storybrooke and how she had seen her with someone else, and had just wanted her to be happy and not interfere at all and so, she’d fled the scene. 

She talked about the way she had tried to forget all about it. But how everything came rushing back when she’d seen the Empire State Building and then, quietly she told Regina how stupid she felt for being too late.

Regina’s fingers had tightened around hers, and she’d softly said that Emma hadn’t been late. She’d been just in time.

Regina got up when Emma did. It was instinctive, she mused. Her body didn’t want to be away from Emma, not even one second, and she complied.

“I have never believed in fate, either,” she said, “nor do I believe in higher powers. But this…” she made a waving gesture with her hand, “this is all too…. coincidental.” 

Emma smiled. “It is, isn’t it?” She still wasn’t a big fan of fate, but maybe, just maybe, one could say something about fate helping a tiny little bit. And she was never ever going to admit it to Mary Margaret because she wouldn’t hear the end of it.

They stood across from each other now. “You… you didn’t think it was weird… that it was me?” Emma said. “Because I kind of feared that you might see me as a stalker.” She warily looked at the brunette, smiling sheepishly.

Regina grinned and reached for Emma’s hand. “I admit, it is an... odd tale. But if there’s something I learned very recently is that you shouldn’t waste time on futilities because god knows what can happen.” 

Then, she raised her hands and cupped Emma’s face, intention evident in her eyes when she closed the distance between them. Emma leaned into the touch and closed her eyes briefly, wondering what she’d done to deserve this. Something good, at least. Regina leaned forward, catching Emma’s soft lips with her own. Tentative, as if it was a question, but when Emma softly whimpered and opened her mouth just a little, Regina smiled against Emma’s lips and deepened the kiss, running her tongue softly over Emma’s lips before investigating further. It was not until much later when they were able to continue their talk.

Present

There were a few things Emma had to take care of in Seattle before she could travel back to Storybrooke for Christmas, and then there was the yearly Christmas Eve dinner with her parents and Neal - one day early this year, because Emma wanted to spend Christmas in Storybrooke.  They’d all met Regina before, and of course, Regina and Henry had been invited, but as the mayor’s office was about to close for a week, there were all sorts of pressing matters to be resolved. Regina had promised to make it up to Mary Margaret, David and Neal, and they’d already set a date. 

At least this year, her mom hadn’t asked her if she was going to marry Neal. This year, her mom had tried to convince her to wear her own, over the top princess-y wedding dress, “just to try if it fits.”

Emma had respectfully declined. 

She smiles to the empty road. She loves her parents, and at first, she felt a little guilty for breaking tradition on Christmas Eve, but she’s found a new home. And she wants to get there as soon as she can, she thinks, tapping along with Jingle Bells on the radio, humming along with it. Sometimes even sings, while she steps on the gas. 

Home.

No matter how big Regina’s mansion is, it does feel like home. It’s not the place, it’s the people who live there.

And it’s not just Regina and Henry, who’ve welcomed her with open arms into their lives, but the entire town has been really friendly. To Emma’s relief, Regina’s best friends weren’t that bad. She’d expected them to be… snobby, maybe, but she’d instantly liked them.

Previously, February 26th

“Are you ready?” 

Emma nervously grasped Regina’s hand. They were standing in front of Granny’s Diner. Inside, they were going to meet Regina’s friends for the first time. “Uh, never, probably, but I guess we can’t leave.” 

Regina smiled. “No, we can’t. Don’t worry, they’ll like you.” And with that, she stepped forward and pushed the door open.

I knew it!” Ruby yelled as soon as they stepped into Granny’s Diner. “I thought it was just a very weird coincidence but somewhere inside i knew it was not! Emma from Seattle,” she snorted, while looking at the blonde pointedly. 

“Hi, Ruby,” Emma smiled sheepishly as Ruby dashed forward and enveloped them both in a hug. “And Regina! I’m so happy for you.” she said, squeezing her shoulder. “And where’s the little monster that set this all up?” 

Regina quirked an eyebrow. “He won’t be here tonight, but he will come over tomorrow to sincerely apologize to you.” She had told Emma the story of the imaginary spider and the several talks Henry and she had had, and how Henry had treated Ruby during the process.

Ruby waved it away. “Kids are stubborn,” she said, “Don’t mention it.”

“Oh, but I do,” Regina insisted. “You have become my friend, so it is important to me. Besides, I have not raised him to be disrespectful to others. He will come in tomorrow. Even if I have to carry him in here myself.” 

Emma, who’d watched the discussion with some amusement, was somewhat relieved that the focus had shifted away from her. Not for long, though, because behind Ruby, two woman had risen and one of them eyed her curiously. The one she’d seen in the park, Emma realized, and she swallowed thickly when the woman approached her with watchful eyes. 

“Emma,” Regina said extending an arm to the brunette and blonde in front of them, “These are Marian and Kathryn, two of my oldest friends.” Emma forced a smile on her face, and wiped her suddenly clammy hand on her pants. 

“Hi,” she said, eyeing them a little wary.

“So! Emma,” Kathryn grinned, ignoring the uneasiness, “Do we have to give you the speech that if you hurt her, we’ll hunt you down till the end of the world?” 

“Kathryn,” Regina rolled her eyes in an exasperated way.

“Well,” Emma quipped, instantly more at ease because of the direct question, “You can try, but as a detective I know all the tricks to hide until the end of times. You’ll never find me.” 

Kathryn’s eyes grew wide. “Oh! I like this one,” she laughed. “Keep her, Regina!” 

“Don’t worry, though,” Emma smirked back, “I don’t plan on ever hurting her.” It earned her a soft squeeze from Regina’s hand, and when she looked up to meet Regina’s eyes, there was a quiet appreciation that took her breath away. She felt so lucky and sometimes, she still had to pinch herself to see if it really wasn’t a dream.

“Well, you can if she’ll allow it,” Kathryn winked, and Regina scoffed.

“We’re happy to meet you,” Marian interfered, and Emma directed her smile to the brunette. 

“Likewise,” she nodded.

“Also,” Ruby told her with a wink, “I know our mayor is a hottie, but try not to get hit by a car when you’re staring at her, okay?” 

Present

The back seat has a suitcase filled with presents for her family. Her family. Sometimes it still feels strange to think about it that way, despite the fact that she felt at home with them right away. Emma smiles when she thinks about about how right it felt from the start to be with Regina. It was as if they’d known each other for years, even though they had just met. 

And still, they had been cautious. Neither of them believed in love at first sight, so they hadn't wanted to make any more life altering changes. When they really started their dating adventure, last year, Emma had told Regina she didn't just want to pack her things and leave Seattle because her family and friends lived there and what's more, her company was situated in Seattle. They didn't know what would come from their... infatuation, so they agreed on travelling up and down but it was mostly Emma who had to take the trips. Regina's work as Storybrooke's mayor hadn't left her much space to return the favor. Travelling up and down to Seattle for the past ten months has been harder than Emma thought it would be. Having to leave her family every time was something she had started to dread.

Hopefully, all of that will soon come to an end, Emma thinks with a lopsided smile. She has a present for Regina and Henry, something she's been keeping from them for quite some time - and boy, had she been tempted many times to spill it -  and hopes they’ll like it.

Previously, August 26th

“Earth to Emma, hello?”

Emma blinked. “Sorry, what?” 

Belle was watching her, eyebrow raised, arms folded. “I’ve asked you twice what job you wanted to tackle first, as we’ve got two of them waiting.” 

The blonde shrugged. “I don’t care. Pick one, call them, and I’ll do it.” Her heart hadn’t really been into it lately. She picked up a pen and started tapping with it, to keep her fingers from fidgeting. All it did was turn Belle’s raised eyebrows into a frown.

“Emma…” She looked at her friend and rolled her own chair to the other side of Emma's desk. “Do you still want to do this?” 

“Do what?”

“This. All of this.” Belle waved at the office. “You’re tired from travelling to Maine and back and honestly, sometimes I wonder if this still is what you want to do. If this is where you want to be. Because I believe you’d rather be in Storybrooke than here.” Her eyes softened and she raised her hand when Emma wanted to protest. “Listen. We have a nice company, and we’re doing great - there’s nothing to complain about, financially, but we’ve always said that if we wanted to do something else, we’d go for it.”

Emma sighed. It was true. For the last few months, she’d hated leaving Maine behind. She had just returned from a vacation with Regina and Henry, and she missed them already, so much that it hurt. She’d left her heart in Storybrooke and felt like an empty shell, every time she had to go back to Seattle.

“I know what we agreed on,” Emma murmured. “But what about you? I don’t want to leave you hanging. We boarded this ship together.” 

Belle shrugged. “I’ll find something else, you really don’t have to worry about me. And who knows, maybe I’ll join you in Storybrooke. I’ve been there once, and I liked it. Plus, no more creepy Mr. Gold to deal with.” The both of them shuddered simultaneously and laughed about their own antics.

When they’d recovered, Belle sighed happily. “It’s so romantic, your story.” 

Emma snorted. “I still think it’s weird and stalker-y on my part, and it’s hard work, maintaining a long distance relationship and traveling back and forth like we do, but I’m really happy Regina didn’t walk out on me when I confessed to it all. I’d totally have understood if she would have.” 

Belle leaned forward, elbows on the desk and chin resting on her hands. “You have something rare. You both know it.” She smiled at her friend, before she sat up. “Now, let’s talk about selling this business. I have a few contacts who might be interested in taking over. Until then, let’s try not to ruin our company and put our backs into it, all right?”

Emma frowned a little. "Are you really sure though? You seem... overly happy to get rid of me, all of a sudden."

Belle laughed. "Well, to be honest, I also think it's time for a change. We've been doing this for a couple of years now. There's so much we can do, or can't do. I think I'll take a vacation first. Visit Europe. I've always wanted to see Paris."

Emma smiled and leaned back in her chair. Traveling to Maine and back did take its toll on her, and she always returned with a heavy heart. She’d played with the thought of selling the business earlier, but never moved forward with it. Happy that Belle was on the same page, she said: “Let’s not tell Regina yet. I’ll make it a surprise.”

Present

Last week, the both of them worked hard to complete the sale of their business. It means that now, both Emma and Belle are officially unemployed, but the reputation and address book of the company made it sell really well. Emma doesn’t have to work for a while if she doesn’t want to, but Ruby informed her of a vacant sheriff position in Storybrooke since their previous one quit and they hadn’t found a new one yet. Of course, she hasn't been able to apply yet, since the major would totally be informed. The job won't be as thrilling as her previous one, but it'll be enough. She's okay with saving cats from trees and saving people from the town's drunk.

This is what she wants. She wants a life with Regina and Henry, wants Storybrooke to be her base, being able to visit her friends and family at the other side of the country every once in a while. Everything else, they’ll figure out along the way. 

She sighs in relief when she finally passes the “Welcome in Storybrooke” sign and she is happy when it coincides with her favorite Christmas song. Gleefully, she starts singing along with Mariah while she closes the distance between herself and the place she calls home.

~*~

“When’s she here?” Henry asks for the thousandth time, and Regina sighs, rolling with her eyes. He hasn’t stopped bouncing from the Christmas tree to the window and back, to count his presents again and to contemplate which one he’s opening tonight, before moving back to the window, willing Emma to arrive. 

“When she’s here,” she dismissively says. “She called from the airport almost two hours ago. Any moment now.” 

“Can’t we call her?” Henry's brown eyes are pleading her.

“She’s not allowed to have a phone in the car, Henry.” 

Henry sighs dramatically. “People do have car kits, mom,” he says exasperated. Sometimes, grown ups are so dumb. 

“Yes, yes they do. But this is a rental and Emma probably forgot to take her headset out of her bag.” She’s known Emma for almost a year now and she’s fairly sure she’s right. Also, because Regina’s tried to call Emma fifteen minutes or so ago, and she didn’t pick up. It still makes her nervous, when Emma doesn’t pick up. 

Previously, September 21st

Regina had called her several times now, but Emma hadn’t answered her phone. The anxious feeling in her stomach had nested there and hour or so ago, which was why she called her the first time. It wasn’t uncommon for Emma to not answer her phone when she was working, but she would always text her something reassuringly. She would always tell her that she’d call her back. This time, she didn’t. It worried her. What’s more, it ate at her. She bit her nails and when she became aware of it, sat on her hands.   

After another hour, she started to pace up and down her office, glancing at her phone every few seconds. She knew it was pointless. But she was restless. She was annoyed and insanely worried at the same time. Panic built up inside her and she recognized it as a panic attack, and she knew she should sit down and -

Her phone rang.

Emma, the caller ID said.

Relief washed over her in waves as she accepted the call. “Emma, finally, thank god,” she breathed, but there was an eerie silence at the other side.

“Regina?”

Regina’s heart skipped a beat. 

“It’s Belle,” the woman softly said, voice thick. “Emma… There’s been an accident. She’s in the hospital.” 

Regina didn’t hear anything else as she sank to the floor, phone slipping from her hand onto a small glass table. The panic attack came back in full force, her peripheral view blackened and her chest tightened, while she tried to heave oxygen into her system.

It was how Kathryn, alerted by the phone falling on the table, found her seconds later. She immediately sat behind Regina, raised Regina’s arms, and told her to breathe with her. In and out. Concentrate. Regina complied automatically, focussing on Kathryn’s voice and breathing until she calmed somewhat. She was still concentrating on her breathing when Kathryn picked up the dropped phone, wrote down some details - Belle had apparently been waiting on the phone all this time - and told Belle they would call her back. When she hung up, she turned to Regina.

“All right, Regina, listen. Emma’s alive, but apparently, she’s had a bad run in with someone she was chasing. He threw her off the stairs, which left her with three broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken upper arm. She’ll be fine, though.” She squatted in front of Regina, cupping her friend's face with her hands, forcing Regina to look at her. “Emma will be all right. She’s alive and will be for a very long time.” 

Regina was still dazed, eyes glassy, and she wasn't really registering what Kathryn was saying. “The last time they’d called to inform me…” she muttered shakily, and she didn’t even have to finish the sentence. Daniel had been sick for a while, but when the call came that he’d taken a turn for the worse and had passed without her being present, Kathryn had found her the same way. 

“I wasn't there,” Regina whispered. "I'm not there. I should've been."

“Then go to her now,” Kathryn gently said, “We’ll manage a few days without you.” 

And Regina'd gone to Seattle. 

She had booked the first flight she could, had taken the information Kathryn had written down and made her way to UW Medical Center within half a day. And during those hours of travelling in anxiety, her emotions had swayed from fear of losing Emma to being outraged with her for being careless. She was angry, no, furious, when she arrived at the hospital. And she barged into the hallway, barely noticing how Emma’s friends jumped up from their chairs upon seeing her.

“Where is she?” Regina demanded to know when she finally recognized them.

“She was awake, but almost fell asleep when we just left the room,” Sabine informed her, pointing at the room across from them, but Regina hardly took notice before she stomped off to Emma’s room. When she opened the door and saw Emma, pale under her bruises, small in her hospital bed, attached to several wires accompanied by steady beeps on monitors, only fueled her fury. Especially when Emma's eyes widened in surprise and then smiled sheepishly when she recognized her girlfriend.

“MISS SWAN,” Regina barked, marching on until she reached the bed, and if she could have, Emma would probably have jumped.

“What the HELL were you thinking?! You nearly scared me to death!”

“I’m sorry?” Emma winced as Regina came closer. Regina had balled her hands into fists and if she could have, she’d hit Emma in the chest. But with her punctured lung and broken ribs, that might not be the best option so instead, she helplessly punched the mattress next to her with every following word. 

“Do you know how worried I was? How scared? Good god, I sensed something was off and you didn’t call me back and I hated -”

A tear rolled over her cheek and outraged, she wiped it away. She was angry, not sad, she scowled at both herself and Emma. She wanted to hold on to her anger because it was easier, she wanted to shake Emma vigorously to make her understand what Regina had went through, wanted to knock some sense into her girlfriend for taking on dangerous jobs, but she couldn’t, because Emma’s hand sought out Regina’s. The gesture took her by surprise and she watched how Emma's fingers curled around her fist.

A sob escaped Regina's throat. Then, another one, when she registered the warmth of Emma's hand. And then, the floodgates opened. She’d needed the touch to believe that Emma indeed was going to be fine and now it was there, she couldn’t do anything but cry. From shock, anger, fear, relief. Sinking into the chair next to Emma’s bed, she sobbed while grabbing Emma’s hand with both her own as if it was a lifeline. She rested her head against her own hands, clinging to Emma's hands and felt how her tears wet the bed, wet her own hands, made them all slippery. Emma's thumb rubbed Regina's, hummed comforting words until Regina regained her voice.

“I thought I’d lost you,” Regina whispered, shuddering. 

“I’m not going anywhere. Got places to be, ‘specially at the other side of this country,” Emma murmured, and Regina looked up with red rimmed, wet eyes, smiling through her tears. But her face crunched quickly again.

“I know I shouldn’t say it, but I really, really hate your job,” she blurted out. Emma’s work had been the topic of heated discussions for the past two months already, because it was always risky business and every time the blonde had to step out to chase a perp who had skipped his bail, Regina had been worried that something like this might happen. And now it had.

“Not so fond of it myself, either, right now.” Emma pulled a face and wanted to try and keep it light, but Regina was not in the mood for jokes.

“Emma…” she all but whispered, “When Belle called… I thought I’d never see you again. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost you. I’m not sure if I could have survived another-”  Her voice broke, and she felt how Emma's fingers tightened around her own.

“Hey,” Emma softly said, breaking Regina’s line of thought. “You didn’t. I’m still here. And I’m not going anywhere. Both figuratively and literally, for a little while.” She winced.

“Yes, but for how long?” Regina felt a familiar feeling of dread and loss, one she hadn't felt since that evening on the Empire State building. She could vividly imagine its full return, even if it hadn’t happened yet. But it almost had. It made her angry again. Angry, because that was always easier than showing fear. “When you’re back on your feet, and chasing the next lowlife who fails to show up in court? What if you’re not so lucky next time?” She bit out the words, hearing how despair lined her tone of voice.

Emma’s hand moved from Regina’s hands, which had loosened their grip somewhat, to her chin. She nudged Regina head up to look at her face. “I can’t lose you, Emma,” Regina murmured, leaning into the touch of Emma’s hand, shining brown eyes, filled with more unshed tears, gazing into bright green’s. “I love you.” It’s barely a whisper.

Emma tightened her grip around Regina’s chin and for a moment, there was a silence between them as Regina’s words sunk in. “Regina?” she murmured.

The brunette blinked her tears away. “Yes?” Her voice was rough, crooked from worry and crying.

“Marry me?”

“W-what?” Regina was baffled by the sudden change of subject - and the subject itself, as well. She looked at Emma with wide, teary eyes - Emma, whose cheeks had turned pink just a little bit, and when she realized that she was gaping at Emma with her mouth open, she snapped her jaws shut.

“I just… life’s too short to not do what you want, right?” Emma said, and she winced when her chest hurt. “I love you, and I want to be with you and if I learned anything today is that I don’t want to spend my dead days regretting that I didn’t ask it.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds, making Regina realize how tired Emma really was. Still, Emma raised her hand and touched Regina’s face, as if she wanted to make sure she was really there. “This wasn’t how I had imagined ever asking you to marry me, but I promise I’ll make it up to you later, all right?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Yes, you idiot. I’ll marry you.” There were new tears springing from her eyes and she rapidly blinked. Emma lifted her head just a little to look at her, eyes a bit reserved.

“Really? You’re not saying yes because I’m in a hospital bed?” Despite the fact that the bruises and scratches on her face must hurt like hell, her face broke into a wide smile.

“Well... I have one condition.”

“Once a politician… what is it?” Emma rolled her eyes. Winced again when she breathed in too deeply from anxiety.

“You lose the bounty hunting job. Do your PI work for all I care, but no more chasing thugs skipping bail.” Regina lifted her chin, challenging Emma to disagree. Her heart beat loudly in her chest. It might be selfish, but Regina knew she would never sleep again any time she knew Emma would be out there, trying to catch one of those scumbags.

“I think I can manage that.” Emma smiled, and Regina exhaled in utter relief. Then, she felt how Emma’s hand slipped from her face and saw how her eyes started to droop. “Sleep now, darling,” Regina whispered, leaning over to press a kiss on her forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Her heart fluttered in her chest when she sat back down in the chair, and watched how her fiance fell asleep with a smile on her bruised face and wondered how on earth this woman was able to convert her fear and anger to the warm, fuzzy feelings mixed with a heartfelt relief in only a few heartbeats.

Apparently, love did that to you.

Present

Regina places her hands on the edge of the kitchen counter and stares out of the window. The family swing sways lonely in the wind and she follows its movements with her eyes. It’s near dark. Dinner has been ready a while now. She hates that Emma has to travel up and down. She hates the times that they are apart. Especially after the accident and the recovery, it’s been harder to let Emma go back to Seattle.

Regina softly sighs, feels suddenly a bit gloomy. She’s always worried, nowadays. Feels almost… possessive. Sometimes even clingy. She can’t remember feeling that way with Daniel.

Daniel didn’t have a job which nearly got him killed, she snorts. 

Suddenly, slender hands cover her eyes and she nearly jumps. “Guess who,” she hears a soft voice, but even before she registers the words, her lips have already curve into a smile because her her skin tingles where the hands touch. Feelings of relief and anticipation wash over her as she turns, and she cups Emma’s face before pressing her lips on the blonde’s. “That’s no fun,” Emma pouts, a little breathless after Regina pulls back a little, “You should play along.” Her hands travel over Regina's back, up to her shoulders and Emma buries her face in her neck, pulling Regina in a tight hug. “I’ve missed you, and I’m sorry I’m late,” she murmurs

Regina’s fingers trail the lines of Emma’s shoulders. “You’re here now,” she whispers, “That’s all that matters.” Sometimes, she thinks when she breathes in Emma’s scent, she wonders when exactly she's become this sappy. “We should eat, you must be starving. I have a nine year old who I can’t control much longer anymore... and who's asked for you a million times in the past twenty minutes.”

Emma laughs, and pulls back. “You put the food on the table, I’ll quickly unpack my car.” She gives Regina a quick kiss on her cheek before calling out to Henry. “Hey kid, come help me unload the presents before dinner real quick?” A gleeful squeak erupts from the living room, and reluctantly, Emma lets go of the brunette when Henry storms in and launches himself into her arms. 

“You’re here!” he yells, sound muffled because he pushes his face into her stomach and she laughs about his antics. It only takes a second before he grabs her hand. “Let’s get the presents! I can open one tonight, I’m allowed to every year.” As he pulls her away, Emma looks back at Regina and they exchange a glance of understanding. 

Regina is happy, so happy that both Emma and herself are finally home.

~*~ 

Later that night, after dinner and after Henry’s opened his first gift, Emma and Regina are sitting on the couch, huddled closely together. Henry has just gone up to bed, when Emma takes out an envelope and quietly hands it to Regina. “I want you to look at this,” she says, and she’s suddenly a bit tense. “And let me know what you think.”

Regina eyes her warily. Something's wrong, she thinks, otherwise Emma wouldn't tense up like she just has. Carefully, she takes the envelope and opens it. It only contains two pieces of paper. She searches for Emma’s eyes, the question plain and clear in her eyes as her slender fingers remove the sheets from the envelope, but Emma only smiles meekly. “Read,” she murmurs, while clasping her hands in front of her. Regina registers the gesture and realizes how nervous Emma is and she arches an eyebrow, before she turns her gaze to the papers in front of her and starts to read.

It takes her a little while to figure out what she’s reading, because it isn’t something she ever thought she would see. Her forehead wrinkles as she skims through it again and she looks up, searching for Emma’s green eyes. For a moment, there’s only silence as Regina’s mind is processing the information she just read.

“You sold your company?” she asks Emma in disbelief.

“Yes. Well, we did. Belle and I.” Emma smiles lopsidedly. 

Regina is stunned. “But… why?” she stammers, not being able to fully grasp what this means yet.

“Can’t you guess?” Emma shifts a little, so that she’s now directly looking at Regina. “I always hate when I have to leave you, so in the summer Belle and I talked and we agreed to sell. We always said that if one of us had enough of it, we would look at other possibilities. Turned out we were both on the same page. And right after my… accident,” she grimaces, “we found a buyer. Yesterday, all the papers were  signed. So I’m officially unemployed, for a little while anyway.” She smiles sheepishly.

“Oh.” Regina, the ever so eloquent mayor of Storybrooke, is speechless.

The lingering silence makes Emma nervous. “And I also know how much you hated my job, especially after…” She shrugs helplessly. Sometimes, she can still feel it when she moves her arm at a certain way. Or when it’s going to rain. “I wanted it to be a surprise,” she adds, but it sounds more like a question. There’s an uncertainty in her posture now. “But maybe I’m wrong and you don’t-”

“No! No, Emma, you’re not,” Regina hurries to explain, “I was just…” Surprised. Relieved. Ecstatic. She didn’t know where to begin. Suddenly, she hits Emma with the papers.

"Ow! What'd you do that for?" 

"You've been sitting on this news for months? Months and months in which I worried every time you went back to Seattle?" Regina snaps.

"Well... kinda. Yeah." Emma smiles sheepishly. "Surprise?"

There's a silence of a few seconds and it weighs heavily in the air. Then, Regina quietly asks: “So... what does this mean? Does it mean you’re going to stay in Storybrooke?” A warm feeling is spreading from her belly through her entire body as she grasps Emma’s arm. “You don’t have to leave anymore?”

“That depends.” Emma grins now, relieved by the change in Regina's tone. She shifts a little and rummages through her pockets.

“Depends on what?” Regina frowns lightly.

“On if you’re going to say yes again. Because I want you to have a different memory of being asked to marry me than of me lying all bruised and broken in a hospital bed.” 

Regina gasps as she sees the shimmering ring Emma’s dug out her pocket.

~*~

“Holy crap, guys, listen!” Jacinda turns up the volume of the radio in the diner. Both Sabine and Belle, who’s helping them to close up for Christmas, turn around when they hear a more than familiar voice on the radio. “We’ve got to call Ruby!”

Henry, are you spying on your mother… again? ” Doctor Archie Hopper sternly asks the boy, but there’s a smile in his voice. 

“Totally. They think I’m in bed but I’m watching them from the stairs.” He doesn’t even hide it and his enthusiasm is infectious. “I called you because I wanted to tell you that you were wrong.” 

“Ruby!” Jacinda yells into the phone as soon as the brunette picks up. “Turn on your radio! Henry’s calling that garbage psych show again! Yes… yes, call Kathryn and Marian!” Jacinda tightens her grip around her phone as Henry and Dr. Hopper continue their conversation. “Wait, I’m putting you on the speaker.” 

“Wrong how?”  Dr. Hopper questions.

“You told me the last time that you thought I didn’t want my mom to be dating again. You said it scared me. You were wrong. I just didn’t want her to date the wrong woman.” The boy sounds smug. Then, he gasps. “She’s going to ask her!” 

“Henry, what is going on?” Dr. Hopper suddenly seems immensely interested.

“When Emma and me went to pick up the presents from the car, she said she wanted to ask mom to marry her. And I thought it was weird because she already asked mom when Emma was in the hospital but she said she wanted to do it right and ask here again. But she said she first wanted to know if I really was okay with it.” He sounds a little impatient in having to clarify everything. "Of course I am."

“Oh my god, that’s so cute!” Ruby squeaks in the phone after Jacinda’s quickly filled her in. She has added Kathryn and Marian to the call. Kathryn can’t stop laughing. “Leave it to Henry to make it a public announcement.” 

“Well, isn’t that how they found each other in the beginning, anyway?” Belle swoons. 

“That is great, Henry-” 

“Emma is sitting on her knees now. But mom is crying. Is that a good thing?” Henry sounds a little insecure now, but Dr. Hopper is quick to assure him. As do both parties in Seattle and Storybrooke.

“Yes, a very good thing, Henry!” Kathryn shouts in the air, and Belle quickly rubs her own eyes. She loves happy endings. And if she’s not mistaken, she can hear Marian sniff as well.

“From what you’ve described, it’s very good , Henry.” The doctor sounds touched. “I’m glad you called. It’s always great to know that stories that once started on our show have a happy ending.”

“Oh, gross!” .

“What is it, Henry?”

“They’re kissing. Yuck.”

Sabine snorts with laughter, as Ruby says with a grin: “Just wait a few more years, Henry.” 

"Henry, that is a very good thing.” Then, a soft voice on the background calls out to him. “ You can come out now, Henry,”  they all hear Emma's voice, loud and clear.

Instantly, both Seattle and Storybrooke's listeners are quiet. “Oh my god, he’s so busted,” Ruby hisses. 

“Did she say yes?” the boy wants to know.

There’s a small pause, a murmur and a laugh in the background. Then, Henry is squealing in the phone. 

“She said yes!” 

“YES!” six women cry out in unison.

The connection breaks soon after, but neither Seattle’s or Storybrooke’s delegation hears how Dr. Hopper amusedly tells his audience that the connection was lost once again, as they continue to laugh and cry about the grand finale of Regina’s and Emma’s story, with the best happy ending they could’ve imagined. Or rather, the happy new beginning both woman so absolutely deserved in the first place.