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A Second Chance (From An Unlikely Place)

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          Regina Mills purses her lips, and a furrow forms in her brow as she scrolls through the internet history of the web browser. She is at the family computer, her own work laptop being worked on by someone in the IT department at City Hall after it crashed on her that afternoon.

She doesn’t even mean to snoop; she just wanted to find a recipe she’d forgotten to bookmark. What she finds instead are a long line of website searches with names like PeopleFinder, PeopleRecords, AnyWho, and People Search. She’s never been to any of the sites, so she knows exactly who has. What has her confused is why Henry would be searching for someone named ‘Emma Swan’.

As she clicks through a number of his recent searches, she finds a pattern of his searches ending with a particular Emma Swan who lives in some apartment in Boston, who is in her late twenties. “What are you up to, Henry?” She murmurs softly, and drums her fingers on the wooden desk. No matter how much she scours her mind, the name Emma Swan is not familiar to her.

A search further through the internet history and his Facebook – she doesn’t like snooping there, but she has to make sure – account doesn’t give her any hint toward one of the fears she had when she first saw the history – that her son may be targeted by some predator. There’s no sign of him having spoken to anyone other than his school friends.

Regina sighs and pushes herself back from the desk, knowing the only way to get to the bottom of this is to ask Henry herself. She pads across the room on stockinged feet, her fingers reaching out in habit to run along the smooth wood of the tall grandfather clock that her father had given her and Daniel as a wedding gift so many years ago. Back when both of them were still alive.

She blinks back the tears that will always come when she thinks of them and leaves the room, and starts up the stairs. Her father’s death is more fresh – he’d died of a heart attack nearly two years ago, and she’d never even had the chance to say goodbye. He and her mother lived in DC, Cora a Senator and Henry Sr. the rich heir of an international shipping company, Mills Global. He’d died while she was here, many miles away in Storybrooke. Daniel’s death ten years ago is not as fresh and raw, but hurts just as much. He’d been the love of her life, and they’d married over her mother’s objections that she was ruining her future, and that she should marry Leopold White – a man old enough to be her father – or one of the other matches she’d tried to arrange. But a drunk driver had ended Regina and Daniel’s happy life together just a year into their marriage.

Regina stops at the top of the stairs and takes a slow, calming breath. She doesn’t want to confront Henry while upset. She’s worked so hard to be the mother to him that her own never was to her. Whenever she fears she is slipping toward becoming that person she stops and asks herself, ‘What would Papi say?’ or ‘What would Papi do?’. That or think of what her mother would do, and do the complete opposite for Henry. More often than not, those ended up being the same.

Henry’s door is open a crack when she steps in front of it, and she slowly opens it. Her ten-year-old son is sitting on his desk chair, stuffing something into his school backpack. He has his earbuds in his ears, listening to whatever music is in the IPod she bought him for Christmas.

“Henry,” Regina says, and then louder when he doesn’t seem to hear her. “Henry.”

He jumps in his seat and drops the backpack, his eyes wide and guilty as he whirls around to look at her. Her own gaze turns to the floor where the contents of the bag have spilled out. Clothes, several bags of candy, his phone and IPod chargers are strewn around the mouth of the backpack, but an open envelope catches her eye. The corner of what looks like a ticket peeks out at her and she looks back to her son as she bends down to pick it up.

His face is white, and she feels her stomach clench as she pulls out the object. A bus ticket to Boston. For tonight, a half hour after his bedtime. Boston, where this Emma Swan is. Her fears of an internet predator are back in full force.

“Henry…” She says, her voice breaking slightly in her fear for her son. “What is this? Why are you packing, and why do you have a ticket to Boston?”

She watches his pale little face shut down, and turn away from her, and she feels her heart break a little. “Henry, please. Please, cariñito, you know you can talk to me about anything.”

His head turns back toward her at the endearment, enough that she can see tears in his eyes that match her own, but his lips remain firmly pressed together.

“Henry, why are you trying to go to Boston? Who is Emma Swan?” His eyes go so wide it would almost be comical if this weren’t so serious. “I saw your internet searches, Henry, and I came up here to ask you who she was, and I find this… Henry, has she been talking to you online? You know I’ve told you not to trust strangers, especially online.”

“N-no!” Henry finally says – nearly shouts – breaking his silence. “She hasn’t, Mami. That’s not… she doesn’t even know me.”

“Then who is she? Why are you trying to leave to see her if she doesn’t even know you?” She reaches out and curls her fingers under his chin, bringing his eyes up to fully meet hers. “Please, Henry, you’re scaring me.”

“She’s my mom!” He blurts out, and then his cheeks turn a bright red. He lowers his eyes. “She’s my birth mom. I didn’t… I didn’t want to hurt you so I kept it a secret. I just wanted… I needed to meet her.”

Regina’s hand drops from his chin, and falls limply on her lap as she stares at her son. His birth mother. Everything was clicking into place now. She had never expected Henry. She and Daniel had applied for adoption after a doctor’s visit revealed she couldn’t have children of her own. It had been mere weeks after his death that the approval letter had come, and after a visit with the baby that should have been theirs, she had gone through with the adoption. She knew it was what Daniel would have wanted, and she had dedicated herself to raising little Henry the way they had dreamt of.

It was a year ago that she had told Henry after he began to ask questions about why he didn’t exactly look like her or the father he’d never met, or even his grandparents. She had thought he had taken it well enough, and they had both made sure in the following months to reassure one another that they were family and they loved one another, even if they weren’t related by blood.

But now… to find that he’s spent so much time and energy to look for his birth mother, it leaves a foul twisting in her stomach. The idea that he wants to meet this Emma Swan – if she even is his birth mother – that he might want to leave her.

“H-how do you know, Henry? The adoption was closed. How would you even know her name?”

Henry looks up, chagrin painted across his features. “Mr. Gold helped me. He knew someone who could look at the records and he found her name for me, and helped me look for her. It’s her. She had a kid on my birth date and gave him up for adoption.”

Regina’s fingers twitch and she imagines them wrapping around Gold’s throat. The slimy little man had been instrumental in her mother’s rise to politics and always a ‘family friend’, but she hated his meddling into their family. But now, to have done this behind her back… There will be hell to pay, she promises herself.

She reaches up to rub at the bridge of her nose, more to keep her tears at bay than to soothe the headache she can already feel growing and pounding behind her temples. “Why?” She asks, and finds that it’s all her voice is willing to say.

Henry, sweet little headstrong Henry, seems to notice no matter how much she tries to keep from crying. He rushes forward and throws his arms around her, holding onto her for dear life. “I’m sorry, Mami. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to make you sad. I just… I have to meet her. I want to talk to her. I want to know why she gave me up. Why she didn’t want me. I still love you more than anything, Mami, and you’re still my mom, but she’s my mom too.”

“Oh, Henry, I love you too. So, so much,” Regina half-sobs into the top of his head as she holds him, tears dripping down into his hair. “You should have told me. I would have helped you, mijo. Even if it hurts to think about, I would have helped you no matter what. Please, don’t ever hide something like this from me again. Did you even stop to think how I would feel if I came to your room and found you gone?”

She feels him stiffen in her grasp, and then deflate completely. “No, I-I guess I didn’t,” his embarrassment rife in his voice. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs again as she cradles him against her.

“I know,” she whispers, and runs a hand up to card her fingers through his hair. “Promise me you’ll talk to me in the future. Promise.”

“I promise.” He pulls back slightly, his expression unsure now. “Can… can I still go see her? The ticket…”

Regina frowns, and looks at the ticket once more. “How did you buy it?”

Now Henry looks truly embarrassed, and bites his lip. “Um… I may have taken Mary Margaret’s credit card at school when she wasn’t looking?”

Regina’s eyes widen at her son’s actions, and she’s not sure whether she wants to laugh at the annoyingly perfect school teacher finding a charge on her credit card, or be mortified at her son being a thief.

“Okay, Henry. I’ll straighten things up with her and pay for the cost. You, however, young man, will be apologizing to her, and every cent of your allowance will be used to work off that amount. And no, you will not be traveling to Boston tonight, especially not after your bedtime.”

His expression falls, especially at that last, and she reaches out to touch his cheek. “I, however, will be taking a bus ride to Boston while your aunt babysits you tonight. I will speak to this Miss Swan, and we will see about the possibility of you meeting her.”

“Really? You will?” Henry asks, his gloom turning instantaneously to excitement.

“Yes. But Henry… you have to understand this was a closed adoption. Most people who do it don’t want to meet the kids they gave up. If I talk to her and she doesn’t want to, we have to respect her wishes. Especially considering that what Mr. Gold did for you was likely not very legal.” She puts a finger to his lips when he opens his mouth to speak. “We’ll respect her wishes, but I will try my hardest to convince her to at least meet you, even if it’s just once and we promise to never bother her again.”

“Promise?”

“I promise, cariñito,” she says, and draws an “x” over her heart, and then over his, and he grins goofily up at her.

“Now, I believe you still need to take out the trash and clean up this messy room before bed tonight to begin paying off your debt, my dear. Hop to it.”

She kisses his forehead, ignoring his groans, and leaves the room with the bus ticket in hand. She has a call to make, and a bus to catch.

-=<=(__)=>=-

“Are you sure about this, sis?” Zelena asks, toying with a strand of her long red hair as she watches Regina pack a small bag with enough to last her a night or two in Boston should she need to stay that long.

While Regina was a disappointment to their mother for her lack of desire of rising beyond her life as mayor in the small town of Storybrooke, Zelena was truly the black sheep. Cora had all but disowned Regina’s older sister the moment she learned that Zelena had dropped out of law school and went to another to become a veterinarian. Cora and Zelena still talk very little, and that shunning by Cora had brought the two sisters even closer over the last few years, especially when Zelena moved to Storybrooke to take over the town’s veterinary practice when its owner retired.

“Yes, dear, I’m sure. Henry needs this. And… I think I might need it as well. I can’t spend the rest of my life afraid that he’ll try this again. And I’d like the chance to meet the woman who gave me my beautiful baby.”

Zelena sighs, her full lips pouting. “Okay, I’ll watch him, and take him to school tomorrow. But you had better keep me updated. And don’t go and get yourself arrested. What you told Henry was right, she has the right to sue you for violating the closed adoption if she wants to, and Gold definitely got into something illegal to find her.”

Regina smiles, and presses a kiss to her sister’s cheek. “I know. If she asks me to leave, I will.” She turns to zip up her small duffel bag, and slings it over her shoulder. “Now I need to hurry or I’ll miss my bus.”

Zelena follows her downstairs to the entrance hall, and Henry is already waiting there. He launches himself into Regina’s arms, hugging her as tightly as he can. “Love you, Mami.”

“I love you too, Henry. Behave for your Aunt, and I don’t want to hear a word about any complaining about bedtime. You’re still in trouble.”

Henry pouts, but nods and lets go of her as Zelena walks over to the pair and ruffles his hair.

“Stay safe.”

Regina smiles, and blows them both a kiss before she opens the front door and takes her first step toward Boston.

-=<=(__)=>=-

The bus ride to Boston is long and uncomfortable. The seats are too close together, and smell of the thousands of people who sat in them before her, amalgamated together. She is one of the only passengers for much of the trip, until they begin to near Boston and more people begin to board in each suburb. She finds herself feeling out of place amongst her casually-dressed fellow riders, and wishes she had opted for something other than the gray-blue dress she’d chosen, but she had found herself wanting to make the best first impression on this Emma Swan that she could. For Henry.

The closer they get, the more anxious she feels as thoughts flick through her head, imagining the upcoming meeting, trying to plan what she will say. The worst is trying to imagine what this woman will say. Will she be friendly and agreeable? Will she be angry that she was sought out after all these years? She hopes for the former but plans for the latter and has already planned to place as much blame as possible on Gold.

The address Henry found sees Regina getting off the bus in a neighborhood that looks a bit worse for wear, and as she approaches the decades-old apartment building that houses Emma Swan, she finds herself more and more wary about just who she will be encountering. She only hopes the woman is not some sort of criminal, because while she would hate to break Henry’s heart, she won’t let him be exposed to that.

Regina enters the building hesitantly, and makes her way to the apartment that belongs to her son’s mother. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and knocks twice on the door.

“Just a minute!” a woman’s voice calls out, muffled by the door.

Regina takes a half-step back as the door opens, and then her vision is filled by Emma Swan. She feels her breath leave her chest as she takes in the sight of the other woman, long curled blond hair draped over her shoulders, a tight magenta dress that hugs each and every one of her rather lovely curves and dips low enough in the front to give Regina an alarmingly nice view of her cleavage. She is barefoot, and Regina sees a pair of heels resting along the wall just behind her.

“Hi there,” Emma Swan says, a disarming smile on her pink lips, one eyebrow quirked up in curiosity as her blue eyes look Regina up and down. “You a new neighbor or something?”

“N-No,” Regina says quickly, realizing she’s been outright staring at the woman in front of her. “I’m sorry… are you Emma Swan?”

Regina watches Emma’s smile dim slightly, and her arms cross in front of her chest. “Depends. Who’s askin’?”

“I’m Regina Mills, Miss Swan,” she says, offering the woman her hand.

Emma grasps Regina’s hand in her own, dark red polish on her fingernails Regina finds herself noting, and shakes it firmly. Regina feels the rough work-hardened skin of the other woman’s fingers slide against her palm, and hopes she isn’t blushing too noticeably. She’s never been so instantly attracted to anyone. Not since Daniel.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Regina, and believe me I don’t usually complain if a pretty woman comes knockin’ on my door, but… what is it you want?”

Regina’s eyes widen slightly at the first comment, and this time she’s certain her cheeks are red, but she knows she needs to focus. Henry first. Attractive biological mother to Henry driving me to feel like a lovestruck teenager second.

“Did you give up a young baby boy for adoption ten years ago?” Regina asks, deciding to go straight for the truth of why she’s here.

Emma’s eyes widen, her lashes fluttering with several rapid blinks, and she lets go of Regina’s hand. “Oh. Shit.”

-=<=(__)=>=-

Emma Swan has had quite the birthday. While most people go out and celebrate, she spent hers getting dressed up for a ‘date’ with her latest target. That was her life as a bail bondsperson. That had been her life long before as well. Growing up being bounced from group home to group home, family to family, running away when she finally got fed up with the system. She’d never really had anyone, never gotten close enough with anyone to celebrate a birthday with.

The only one she had – Neal Cassidy – had stomped on her heart and fed it to a mulcher, and left her to serve his time in jail while pregnant with his kid. She’d once thought he was the best thing to happen to her, that she was madly in love with him. She’d learned the hard way that some people just use you and throw you away.

So this evening she had dressed up, gone on a date, got wine spilled all over her dress, and taken down the sleazeball she’d been after. A stop to splurge on a gourmet cupcake, and here she was, alone in her apartment. She takes out the cupcake and sets it on the counter, placing a candle in it and lighting it.

“Another banner year,” she murmurs, arms crossed and resting on the countertop, head level with her cupcake. She closes her eyes and wishes, as she does every year, that she doesn’t have to be alone on her birthday anymore. She blows out the candle, and sighs, resting her chin on her crossed arms.

Two sharp knocks at her apartment door break the dark silence of the apartment, and Emma pushes off from the counter, wondering who it could be at this time of night.

“Just a minute!” she calls out as she makes her way to the door. The spyhole doesn’t reveal much other than dark brown, almost black hair directly in front of it. She opens the door slowly, to find one of the most gorgeous women she’s ever laid eyes on standing in front of her door. Her hair is short, trimmed to the nape of her neck, her eyes are dark and alluring, and her red-painted lips are parted, revealing perfect white teeth.

“Hi there,” Emma greets, smiling slightly at the woman in front of her. “You a new neighbor or something?” She really, really hopes she’s a new neighbor.

Emma’s eyes trail lazily up and down the woman who has yet to speak, a blue-gray dress covering her body, and damn does she have a body.

The woman starts, blinks, and meets Emma’s gaze. “N-No,” she says, stumbling over the word. “I’m sorry… are you Emma Swan?”

Emma feels her smile slip from her lips, and she crosses her arms, thinking furiously, trying to figure this woman out. Wife of one of the men she caught? Doubtful – she’d remember a woman like this and more often than not, she ended up talking to the wives. She was stumped, so she settled for a neutral reply. “Depends. Who’s askin’?”

The woman smiles and stretches out a hand with long, slender, manicured fingers. “I’m Regina Mills, Miss Swan,” she says, and Emma catches the barest hint of an accent creeping into her voice. Spanish?

Emma takes the woman’s soft hand and shakes it firmly, lingering her grip for a bit longer than necessary.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Regina, and believe me I don’t usually complain if a pretty woman comes knockin’ on my door, but… what is it you want?”

She bites the inside of her lip when a blush appears on Regina’s olive-toned cheeks.

Regina seems to straighten suddenly and become all business. “Did you give up a young baby boy for adoption ten years ago?”

Emma feels like the wind is knocked out of her, and her eyes go wide, blinking rapidly as her mind catches up to what the other woman said. Her baby boy. The son she’d given birth to in a prison hospital. The son she’d given up in the hopes that he’d get a better life than whatever she could give him.


          “Oh. Shit.”

Emma feels her mouth work silently for several more moments until it finds more words. “I… uh, yeah, I did. Oh, damn, is he sick or something? Does he need my kidney or something like that?” She asks, her stomach roiling at just the thought of the boy she’d given birth to, in the hospital somewhere.

Regina’s eyes widen, and she shakes her head quickly, dark tresses flying into her face. “No, nothing like that, Miss Swan, he’s perfectly healthy. I’m… I adopted him.”

“Oh,” Emma replies, looking the other woman up and down once more. While her own style tended more toward jeans and leather jackets and she felt uncomfortable enough in the dress she was now wearing, Regina seemed perfectly at ease in her designer dress and what looked like Gucci heels. Looks like he grew up without having to scrape by on ramen noodles, at least.

“Okay, so he’s alright?” Emma finally continues, and the dark-haired woman nods. “So, um, why are you here? I mean – I thought they told me it was gonna be a closed adoption.”

“I know,” Regina says calmly, and raises her hands slightly, palms toward Emma. “And I’m truly sorry for intruding into your life like this, and if you’d like me to leave, I will. Henry is… a strong-willed boy, and when he found out he was adopted he got it in his head to meet you. Apparently, he’s spent the last few months finding out who you are and tracking you down. If I hadn’t caught him tonight packing his backpack with a ticket to Boston, it would be him at the door right now.”

Emma chuckles. She can’t help it, and her chuckle turns into full laughter. “I-I guess he must get that from me. The hardheaded, tracking people down stuff. I’m a Bail Bondsperson, so finding people is sort of my thing.” She smiles, and feels the moisture in her eyes, yet to be shed. “So… Henry, huh? I like it.”

Regina seems to relax then, and a beautiful smile crosses her lips. “I named him after my father. Technically it’s Henry Junior but I didn’t want him teased at school with that, so everyone just knows him as Henry.”

Emma steps back from the door, and turns her body to let the other woman have room to enter. “Come in, let’s talk, Regina. No sense in having this conversation in the doorway.”

“Thank you,” Regina inclines her head and steps gingerly inside of the apartment, eyes roving around its small space and relatively blank walls.

“I’ve got a bottle of wine, if you’d like some,” Emma offers, and then gestures at the cupcake on the counter. “Split a cupcake?”

Regina chuckles, and nods. “That sounds lovely.” Her eyes linger on the cupcake with its blown-out candle. “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s my birthday, actually,” Emma calls over her shoulder as she dusts off the wine glasses in her cabinet and grabs the bottle of cabernet, and takes it over to her couch and sets it on the dinged up coffee table she bought at a garage sale for five bucks.

“Oh! Happy Birthday,” Regina says as Emma returns to the kitchen counter.

“Thanks. Not exactly how I expected to spend it, but at least it’s ending more pleasantly than my plans of eating this cupcake alone.” Emma smiles lightly, before she grabs a knife from the knife block on the counter and neatly divides the cupcake down the middle before picking it up and gesturing with her head towards the couch.

Regina takes the invitation and sits at one end, turning as Emma sits next to her. Emma uses the corkscrew she’d snagged on the way over to pop open the wine bottle, and pours a generous amount into each glass. She pulls one glass in front of herself and offers the other to Regina, and when Regina’s fingers meet hers on the stem of the glass as the raven-haired woman accepts it, Emma feels warm tingles travel up her fingers and her arm.

She pulls her hand back and grasps her own wineglass with both hands, staring at Regina for a long moment. Emma finally raises her glass. “To stubborn kids?”

Regina chuckles again, the sound low and melodic in the still air of the apartment, and raises her wine glass and lets it tap against Emma’s.

“So…” Emma says after a long sip of the wine, enjoying the flavor as it rolls over her tongue. “I can’t imagine what this must be like for you. Hell, it seems so unreal to me. The kid was really just going to up and come here tonight?”

Regina sighs softly. “He was. So I promised him I’d come here instead, and talk to you myself. I… I know he loves me, he told me he didn’t talk to me about it because he didn’t want to hurt me, but still… There’s always been this little part of me that worries I’m not enough for him. Or that his birth mother would come back and take him from me –“

Emma straightens quickly in her seat, nearly sloshing her overfilled wine out over the rim of her glass, and she reaches out with one of her hands. Her pale fingers settle on Regina’s tanned arm, and Regina looks down at the contact, and then back up to Emma.

“Hey, you don’t have to worry about that one. I’m not really cut out to be a parent. I gave him up so he’d have a better shot than I did. So that he could have more than I could give him.” Emma cocks her head and grins, blinking back a tear. “It looks like he does. Just watching you talk about him, I can see how much you love him. And shit, you came all the way here for him. So you can put that worry to bed, Regina.”

She sees Regina’s throat move as she swallows, and then a small smile works its way onto the other woman’s lips. “Thank you. I… I suppose it’s a bit of irony that I’ve feared that since I adopted him, and here I am sitting with his birth mother to see if you would be willing to meet him.”

Emma’s eyes widen, and her hand slips off of Regina’s arm. “Wait, so you want me to meet him?”

Regina’s fingers move to rub at her forehead as she answers. “I didn’t. When I found out what he wanted to do, I wanted to forbid him, and lock him up in his room until he turned thirty. But… I can’t do that. I don’t want him to grow up with questions, or grow up hating me for keeping him from trying to get the answers.”

“Makes sense, I guess. I take it the questions he has are for me, then,” Emma says, taking another sip of her wine.

“Yes, and I promised him I’d at least try to convince you to meet him and answer them. He… wants to know what you’re like, and why you gave him up for adoption. If you’re not comfortable with meeting him, I understand completely, and I’ll tell him and you won’t be bothered by either of us again.”

Emma grimaces, and takes a much bigger swallow of the wine. “It’s not a very pretty story. I ran away from the foster system, hung out with the wrong guy, and he hung me out to dry for something he did. I… I had Henry in prison, and I couldn’t raise him like that. Hell, I’ve had enough of a time getting to where I am now. Are you sure you want him to hear that?”

“I don’t know,” Regina confesses, her eyes looking so lost that Emma puts her hand back on the woman’s arm. “But I think he deserves the truth. If you’re willing.”

Emma sighs and looks down, feeling all of the demons of her past welling up in her, all the memories she’s fought to push away. But this is her son. By nothing but blood, but still her son. “Alright. I’ll meet him, and answer his questions if I can. He might not like some of them, but I’ll do it.”

Some wiry tension that had been in the dark-haired woman’s shoulders dissolves at that, and she can almost see the sigh of relief fill Regina. “Thank you.”

“Now, I think I promised part of a cupcake?” Emma offers, trying to lighten the mood as she sets down her wine and reaches for the plate to offer half to Regina.

“Yes, I believe you did,” Regina takes it between her fingers and gives it a dainty bite.

“So, you know what I do, what is it that you do? Lawyer?” Emma tosses out a guess.

“Mayor of Storybrooke, Maine, actually. Though my mother wishes I would follow her into higher office, even if I have no interest in that.”

“Huh, nice,” Emma says and then scrunches her nose. “Wait, you said your last name was Mills? Is your mother that Senator, Cora Mills?”

Regina smiles ruefully and nods.

“Shit, I hate that woman,” Emma finds her mouth blurting out before she cans stop it. “Sorry….”

Regina waves her hand dismissively. “Don’t be. She cares only for power. I’m a disappointment and I’ve learned to live with that. One of my rules in raising Henry has been to do exactly the opposite of what she did with me.”

Emma glances knowingly at the other woman – sees the same look in her eyes that she’s seen in her own when she thinks of most of her foster families. The longing to be loved and the sad and harsh reality that you aren’t. Something they apparently shared beyond their connection through Henry.

-=<=(__)=>=-

          “And – and then I come back home to find my sister covered in green-bean baby food, and all she had to say was, ‘He ate them and he liked them, so I kept feeding him – how was I supposed to know he’d go all Exorcist on me!’,” Regina giggles as she finishes her tale of little Henry and Zelena’s first attempt at babysitting.

          She’s very aware that she is giggling, and leaning on the couch next to Emma, and very aware of just how out of character it is for her – from how her mother raised her – but she doesn’t care. The wine certainly has helped – they’ve gone through the first bottle and Emma dug around for another in some hidden corner of her pantry, and finally a third.

          But it’s not just the wine. Talking to Emma has come so easily that they’ve been doing so for hours now, so long that she isn’t even sure what time it is other than well after midnight. Emma is colorful, vibrant, always ready with a joke or a teasing word. Regina has found herself easily befriending this woman and finds herself glad that their meeting happened how it did, rather than with the fear of a runaway Henry leading them to meet.

          Emma’s own laughter is just as loosened as her own, and Regina has found herself more and more often watching the woman, blond hair over her shoulders as she throws her head back, cheeks pink from alcohol and amusement, as the night has worn on.

          “Oh, that’s priceless,” Emma chuckles, and sloppily drinks the last of the wine straight from the bottle they’ve been sharing. She leans back, sprawled out across the couch so much like Henry does when he’s feeling lazy and comfortable, and Regina’s heart warms further at that thought.

          “Welp,” Emma sighs, and drops the wine bottle onto the floor next to the couch. “Pretty sure we just drank all I’ve got. And it’s…” She fishes out her cellphone. “almost four in the morning. I think I’m gonna call it a night.”

          Regina nods, the reminder of the time bringing a yawn to her lips that she barely covers with her hand. Emma reaches across her to grab a folded sheet and blanket from the coffee table that she’d gotten out several hours ago after offering Regina the couch. An offer she’d gladly taken, not having given much thought on what she would do after making it to Boston.

          “If y’need anything more, just wake me up. I sleep pretty deep so ya might need to whack me with a pillow or something,” Emma grins, her face still close to Regina’s.

          Regina isn’t sure what it is that makes her do it, but the next second, she’s pressing clumsy lips to Emma’s pink ones. It’s as she feels Emma stiffen and make a sound of surprise that she fully realizes what she’s done, and she begins to pull back, embarrassed. It’s been so long since she’s kissed someone, and those few seconds felt so good, but now she fears she’s ruined everything that she has come here for. Ruined everything for Henry.

          A soft touch to the back of her neck stops her, and then Emma’s lips are on hers again, warm and eager, tasting like sugary frosting and red wine. Emma’s palm on the back of her neck tangles in her short hair, and Regina’s own hands slide up to frame either side of the blonde’s face.

          It is Emma who pulls back first, before things become even more heated, more intimate. “Shit. You’re way too good at that. I…” She pulls back further and her eyes search Regina’s for a long moment.

          “I think we’re both a little drunk, and I don’t want to fuck things up. That’s usually what I do, but this time I really don’t want to. Especially with Henry…” Regina can see the conflict cross the blonde’s face – she’d agreed to drive Regina back to Storybrooke in the morning, and meet Henry.

          A sad smile crosses Regina’s lips, and she lets her hands drop from Emma’s cheeks, only for the woman to grab one of them in her own, as her other hand reaches up, the rough pad of her thumb touching Regina’s lower lip.

          “Let’s wait until we’re clear-headed… but I don’t think I’d say no to trying this – this thing between us – again. I… you’re making me feel things I haven’t felt for a long time, Regina.”

          Regina nods, probably looking far too eager, but she doesn’t care at all. “I would like that Emma. A great deal.”

          Emma’s eyes light up like a puppy who was just given a treat, and she grins goofily. “Goodnight, Regina,” she presses a soft kiss against Regina’s forehead as she stands, and disappears down the hall, leaving Regina in a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.

          An annoying buzzing sounds through the air, and it takes her a moment to realize it is her cellphone. She fumbles for it, and sees a dozen messages from her sister, the last few reading quite worried.

          Regina, still haven’t heard from you. Txt back plz

          Regina, don’t make me call the police to check on you.

          Regina feels her cheeks flush as she reads through the earlier messages and realizes she had forgotten to even tell her Zelena she’d made it to Boston, and she quickly types a reply.

          Sorry dear, I missed your messages. I’m fine, I’ve just been talking with Emma.

          A moment or two passes, and Regina feels her eyelids getting heavier, only to jerk open again at another buzz.

          Talking?!!?! That long? What did she say?

          A lot, Regina thinks, realizing that Emma opened up just as much as she had over the course of the night.

          She’s quite nice, and isn’t angry that Henry found her. She’s driving me back to Storybrooke in the morning, and is going to talk to him.

          Okay. Tell me everything.

          Regina yawns again, and shakes her head.

          Later. Tired. Was Henry good?

          Like an angel. He knows he’s in hot water. I’m holding you 2 that ‘later’. I know there’s something u aren’t telling me.

          With a drowsily typed ‘fine, goodnight dear’, Regina dropped her phone onto the coffee table. There was indeed plenty to tell, but she would be keeping much of it to herself, at least until she was certain of the connection she’d felt with Emma all night, the electric tingle of their kisses. All for this woman she just met hours before.

She knows what her mother would say. That she’s entertaining a silly childish little girl’s dream, that she’s clutching desperately for something that isn’t there. But to hell with Cora, and the voice of doubt that sounds so much like the woman in the back of Regina’s head. They’ve brought her nothing but pain.

Maybe, she thought, maybe this is my second chance. My chance to move on from Daniel. She couldn’t be sure, but she could hope. Something she hasn’t done for a long time, but something she feels in her chest now. Perhaps that birthday wish Emma had told her about, late into their evening, would come true for the both of them.