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Everything that once was lost

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Everything that once was lost

 

 

Will we rise or will we fall
the look on your face said it all

 

*

 

She forgot her cell phone at home in the hurry to leave, but she knows the number by heart of course. Still, she fumbles with the buttons of the payphone because she can’t help the way her suddenly cold sweat-covered hands keep shaking. It takes her three tries to get the number right.

The payphone at the hospital is from the 80s and the sound quality is crackling at best, but she still has to close her eyes and breathe deep, deep so that she doesn’t break down when she hears the Hello?” from the other end of the line.

What can she say? This is not a call she wants to be making. But it’s… It’s something that needs to be done.

"Hello?" That voice again. That familiar voice, slightly tinny, a little distorted, but so familiar.

Finally she gets her tongue to work. “It’s… It’s me.”

"It’s you."

She can almost imagine the confused, slightly irritated expression that accompanies that tone. “You… I…” When exactly did forming words become so hard?

"Did something happen?" The voice is suddenly concerned and entirely devoid of irritation.

"It’s Henry… He’s… He’s in the hospital."

What? What happened?”

"He’s sick. He’s…" No.

"Is it serious?"

"Yes, they said they don’t know if he’ll…" No. She can’t do this. She has to bite her lip to contain the horrible, horrible feeling (what if? what if?) that’s threatening to overcome her once again.

"I’m on my way."

"Emma…"

"No, Regina, I’m on my way."

*

She hasn’t seen her in over a year – there’s no need, not now when Henry is old enough to travel back and forth on his own. He likes taking the bus and with one parent driving him to the bus station in Storybrooke and one parent waiting for him in Boston they have been able to avoid the inevitable awkwardness. And the yelling. There’s been considerably little yelling lately. So, all in all, it’s been a working arrangement.

Emma looks different. A brown leather jacket she hasn’t seen before and dark roots in her hair. She wonders what that means.

"Hey," Emma says and pulls her into a hug. She buries her face into Emma’s shoulder, inhales, doesn’t recognize the scent. The feeling of Emma’s arms around her is, however, exactly as she remembers. "How is he?" Emma murmurs against her hair.

"No one knows. But right now they think he’ll live." That’s the extent of updates from Dr. Whale since the phone call she made four hours earlier.

"Can we see him?"

"Not until later. He’s in the ICU." She sighs. Somehow speaking is easier now that Emma is actually here and not just a tinny voice on the phone. She wonders how someone so insufferable can also be so comforting when need be. But this is not the first time she’s asked herself that question. For a while it was a conundrum that plagued her days and nights. That was at the time when neither of them were quite willing to admit that maybe there was something more to their relationship than mutual life-saving and co-parenting their son.

"What do they think he has?"

"Apparently it’s some kind of a systemic infection. They are giving him fluids and antibiotics. I… He had a cold, but I didn’t think it was… I didn’t realize it was…"

"Shhh," Emma says and rubs circles on her back. "You couldn’t have known."

"I should have known."

Emma’s chest vibrates with the low chuckle that emerges. “Even if you might think otherwise, you can’t always know everything.”

"Oh, I know. I’ve made mistakes before." She looks up at Emma, glares pointedly.

"And here I thought we were actually getting along for a change."

She can’t help smiling and shaking her head at that. Two minutes in the same room and already there’s a storm brewing. “What’s with the hair?”

"My hair?" Emma looks confused. "I thought I’d try something different."

"Why?"

"What are you really asking?"

"Is there something I should be asking?"

"Oh my god, Regina, just spit it out."

"Well, I suppose it’s none of my business, right?"

Oh my god." Emma throws up her hands.I’m getting a coffee. You want anything?”

"No."

*

She sighs when Emma hands her a paper coffee cup.

"I’m not seeing anyone," Emma says.

"Our son is in the ICU. This is hardly the time to discuss your love life."

"I know. But since you brought it up… I’m just saying."

The coffee is far from decent but the sugar-to-milk ratio is exactly to her liking so she supposes she can’t blame Emma for the crappy quality of the coffee itself. Or she could, of course, but that would be foolish.

Emma’s eyes narrow. “Are you?”

"What?"

"Seeing anyone?"

Before she has time to answer (or, as would be more likely, snort derisively), Dr. Whale emerges from the hallway and suddenly everything else except for whatever it is he’s got to say is insignificant.

Whale nods at Emma. “Been a long time, Sheriff.”

Emma makes a vague grunting sound that’s probably supposed to be a greeting. “How’s the kid?”

"You can go see for yourselves. He’s out of the ICU, but he’s tired so better make it a short visit, alright?"

The feeling of relief that passes through her body is so much that she almost needs to lean against the wall for a while. She knows, she knows before she even glances at Emma that the expression on her face conveys that exact same relief. A warm hand, the palm slightly sweaty, finds hers, squeezes, and she squeezes back.

*

Henry squints at her. “Mom?” Then he notices Emma behind her. “Moms? You are both here.”

"Of course we are both here," Emma says.

"How are you feeling?" she asks.

"Everything hurts," he says and once again she finds herself thinking about how strange it is how deep his voice is getting. He’s fourteen and both so small and so big at the same time and there’s an IV line connected to the cannula on his hand.

She smiles at him through the tears that come from nowhere.

Henry laughs, but that results in a coughing fit.

"Take it easy, kid. What’s so funny anyway?" Emma asks.

"You two are not yelling at each other," Henry says.

"That’s funny?" she asks.

"No, it’s… It’s nice. It’s nice that you’re both here."

*

Barely five minutes, maybe ten, pass before Whale comes back and says, “Henry, you’d better get some rest now. Your mothers will be back in the morning.”

"But…" all three of them say simultaneously.

"No buts. It’s almost midnight and you two should get some rest, too. He’s going to be just fine. His fever is down and the antibiotics seem to be working. Now all he needs is some shuteye."

*

"Where’s your car?" Emma asks.

"It’s not here. I rode in the ambulance with him."

"Come on, I’ll give you a ride home."

"No, I can walk."

"No, come on. Like Whale said, it’s getting late."

*

The car ride is quiet, but when they reach 108 Mifflin Street, Emma parks the car and stares at the house with an unreadable expression.

She doesn’t really know what she’s supposed to say so she says, “Would you like to…” at the same time as Emma says, “I was actually wondering if…” She gestures at Emma to go first.

"No, never mind, I… I can get a room at Granny’s."

She sighs. “No, as you might remember, there are plenty of rooms in our house.”

Our house. It falls from her lips so easily. Fortunately Emma doesn’t seem to be thinking she’s said anything weird. “Yeah?” Emma asks.

"Sure. I made you drive all the way from Boston. You can stay for the night."

"I’m glad you called. It’s… It could have been much worse, you know?"

"I know." She doesn’t really even want to think about the possibility of Henry… No. "He’s a fighter."

"I wonder where he gets that from," Emma says. Her smile is thin, tender. It’s almost exactly the same smile that Emma had that night when she asked her the question she couldn’t help answering with a shaky, barely audible yes even though every bit of reason and personal history kept telling her otherwise.

She can’t look Emma in the eye. Not when Emma is smiling like that and her heart suddenly feels very heavy.

*

"Have you eaten?" she asks.

"Huh?" Emma asks. She’s standing in the middle of the kitchen, looking around, lost in some kind of inner turmoil if her expression is any indication.

"I asked if you have eaten."

"Oh, there’s no need…"

"Nonsense. You get grumpy if you’re not fed regularly. You and Henry are the same way."

"And we can’t have that, right? The kid said no yelling." Emma smiles. "It’s just weird being here. It’s been a long time."

"It has, yes." A long time since the last time Emma was in this kitchen, chopping onions, reading the paper, spilling coffee over piles of paperwork, wrapping her arms around her from behind, whispering, "Come on. The dishes can wait till morning."

She purses her lips, determined not to think these thoughts. “There’s leftover chicken in the fridge.”

*

She’s sitting in the study, attempting to read, but her thoughts keep going around in circles. Henry is in the hospital. Emma is here. Those two thoughts and every single feeling they evoke in her keep her from being able to concentrate on anything else.

She looks up when she hears footsteps from the hallway.

Emma’s hair is in a messy ponytail and she’s wearing a faded gray t-shirt. “You’re still up,” Emma says.

"So are you, it seems."

"The bed in the guestroom is not as comfortable as, well, you know," Emma says.

Right. She forgot. “Oh.”

"Oh?"

"I may have bought that mattress specifically for those times your parents were watching Henry overnight." Like during their it’s-not-a-honeymoon (they both insisted on calling it that, both for their own reasons) trip that just happened to occur a few days after the simple ceremony at town hall.

"Oh no, you didn’t.” The expression on Emma’s face is a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

She shrugs and Emma laughs. Then Emma spots something in the bookcase. “Hey, you did get my present.”

She’s suddenly as confused as she was in February when the book arrived in the mail. They never really used to buy each other birthday presents or, really, presents of any kind so it felt especially curious now, after everything. “Yes,” she says. “I told Henry to say thank you for me.” It was even a genuine thank you. The book was a surprisingly entertaining read. Who knew Emma was even aware of her interest in art history.

"Oh, he did. I just…" Emma’s voice trails off.

"What?"

"I thought he was just saying that. To maintain peace in the family, you know?" Emma shrugs. "Anyway, I thought of you when I saw it and… Well, you know."

"Thank you." She offers Emma a small smile.

"You also kept my shirt," Emma says, pointing at the miserable item of clothing she’s wearing.

She raises an eyebrow. “What’s your point?” She could say she forgot to throw the t-shirt away, but maybe it wouldn’t be entirely true.

Emma rubs her neck. “I guess sometimes I think… How did we get here?”

"Do you really want to have that discussion now?"

"I guess not. Having that discussion never did any good, did it?"

"If you call what we used to do having a discussion,” she says. Well, to be fair, sometimes they did start by talking, then it turned into yelling and then things could go in one of two possible directions. Either there would be some angry sex or days and days of angry silence.

Judging by the way Emma blushes, it’s clear which option she’s remembering. “Right.”

"Come on," she says."Let’s get some sleep."

*

"I miss you." The words are quiet, not much more than a puff of air against her hair.

"Go to sleep, Emma," she says, but something in her shatters a little. She squeezes the hand that’s resting on her shoulder.

She’s been thinking in terms of what ifs all day long. What’s one more?