Emma woke to a stirring brunette who had been previously sleeping comfortably in her arms. Emma cracked a reluctant eye open only to be met by the unpleasant stream of sunlight cutting through the partially open shades that adorned the bedroom window.
“What time is it?” Emma groaned in a sleepy voice as she covered her eyes with the back of her arm.
Regina rolled over to face the blonde and reached out, pulling her flush against her.
“Henry will be up soon, dear. Someone has to feed our son and get him off to school.” Regina explained softly, running her fingers through the blonde’s messy locks.
Emma hummed at the gentle touch of Regina’s fingertips along her scalp.
“Can’t we stay in bed just a little while longer? I’ve got the late shift tonight.” Emma implored.
“Well, we do have a little bit of time…but I don’t think that is time well spent if you insist upon trying to sleep.” Regina replied coyly in a low sultry voice as she slipped a hand up Emma’s thin tank top and ran her fingers along her ridiculously toned abdomen.
Emma pulled her arm down from her face and cupped her hand behind Regina’s neck.
“I could get used to waking up like this.” Emma said as she pulled Regina in for a kiss.
Regina melted into the kiss, as she always did when she felt the blonde’s lips against hers. Her stomach clenched, however, at the mention of making their sleeping arrangements a regular habit. She thought back to what Mary Margaret had said and was still reluctant to bring any of it up to the Emma. Upsetting the blonde was the very last thing she wished to do.
Her thoughts were interrupted when a suddenly very awake Emma had maneuvered her way on top of Regina, placing a trail of kisses down her neck while eagerly unbuttoning the brunette’s silk pajama top.
The jarring ring of Emma’s cell phone caused both women to nearly jump out of their skin.
Emma groaned and sat up, reaching and bending as far as she could to pull the cell phone off of the nightstand to see who the caller was.
“Who is it?” Regina asked with genuine concern.
“For fuck’s sake…it’s Mary Margaret.” Emma explained impatiently. “This better be important.” she mumbled as she accepted the call and pressed the phone to her ear.
Regina tensed at the mention of Mary Margaret and hoped that she wouldn’t assume they’d already spoken about their current living arrangements.
“Swan.” Emma answered flatly.
“Hi Emma, it’s your moth-, uh Mary Margaret.”
“What can I do for you? I’ve got the late shift tonight so I really need to be getting back to bed…”
“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know that you were working tonight. I was calling to see if you and maybe even Henry would like to help out with the Miner’s Day preparations this year.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“Um, no, why would I be kidding?”
“Because you just called me at the ass crack of dawn when I should be sleeping, to ask me if I want to help out with – of all things - event planning. What part of that question isn’t a joke?”
Regina was relieved to hear that the conversation was not about what Mary Margaret had asked her the previous day. She instead tried to calm the blonde down by running her hand up and down her free arm and leaning up to press gentle kisses behind her ear while Emma listened intently to her mother.
“You don’t have to be so disrespectful, Emma. I know things aren’t easy between us right now but we used to be friends. I’m just trying to spend time with you and Henry.”
Emma took a deep breath before answering. Even though Mary Margaret had the worst timing ever, she really was trying in her own twisted way. If Emma hoped to have any relationship with either of her parents, she was going to have to attempt to exercise some patience and keep an open mind.
“Fine. I’m sorry. But honestly, how are we still having Miner’s Day with god knows who lurking around Storybrooke? Plus, didn’t Regina always handle the planning with that anyway?”
Emma could almost hear Mary Margaret working herself up into a fit over the open air of the line at her mention of Regina. Perhaps she should have left that part out…
“I understand that Regina used to be Mayor and that she used to run Storybrooke, but things have since changed. I used to rule an entire kingdom, Emma, I think I can coordinate a small town event.”
Doing her best not to retaliate against her mother’s biting words, Emma rubbed at her eyes and took in a deep breath.
“I’m sure you can handle it, I just don’t see what I could possibly contribute. I’d be happy to help out in my official capacity as Sherriff, but beyond that I don’t really think I’d be of any real use.”
”I know that you haven’t done this sort of thing in the past, but this is a whole new chapter of your life. You’re a princess and our daughter and there are responsibilities and obligations that need to be fulfilled. We need to show everyone that Storybrooke has returned to the order of the Enchanted Forest and this is the perfect place to start.”
Emma stuffed her balled up fist into her mouth and bit down hard, trying not to scream.
“Tell her you need to go.” Regina mouthed silently to Emma before the blonde opened her mouth to respond to her mother.
Whatever Mary Margaret had said clearly upset Emma, and the best option appeared to be to end the call and deal with it later.
Emma nodded in agreement at Regina and took a moment before responding her mother calmly.
“I really don’t think this is a conversation we should be having right now. I need to get to sleep, so can we talk about this another time?”
“Okay, honey. Just promise me that you’ll consider it?”
“Thank you. Sleep well.”
Emma hung up the line and threw her phone across the room in anger. Regina held up a hand reflexively to stop the phone from colliding with the wall and exploding into thousands of pieces, letting the phone drop to the floor in a protected cushion of purple magic.
“I still can’t believe that woman is my mother.” Emma snapped, rolling off of Regina and pressing a pillow over her own face and groaning into it in frustration.
Regina gave Emma a sympathetic look.
“Neither can I, my dear. What did that infernal woman say to upset you this time?” she asked as she gently pried the pillow out of the blonde’s tense grip and tossed it to the other side of the bed.
Emma sighed audibly, and turned to look a Regina. The brunette could see how she was fighting back tears. Regina wanted nothing more than to eviscerate Mary Margaret for causing Emma that kind of pain. If anyone was hurting Emma by their actions it was Mary Margaret.
Regina reached out to the blonde, grabbing her hand and giving it a tender squeeze, silently urging her to open up.
Emma chewed a bit at her bottom lip as she contemplated sharing her true feelings with Regina. For a moment, she considered burying the whole thing and just moving on. Things were going really well with Regina and the last thing she wanted was for Mary Margaret to get in the way of that. However, the concerned look she saw in Regina’s eyes compelled reconsider. It was obvious that Regina cared about her and the brunette deserved openness and honesty regardless of how vulnerable or uncomfortable it made her feel.
“She thinks that I’m just going to do whatever she wants now because she’s the queen and I’m the princess. We used to be friends, but now I don’t feel like she knows me at all. There is nothing that I would hate more than to be forced into that type of life. I don’t like people telling me what I can or can’t do, or how I should act. I just want to be me, and I want her to understand that. I want her to care about me for the person that I am…like she used to…not for what I mean to her reputation and the future of her kingdom. It’s as though I went from being a person to being property and it just…makes me sick.”
Regina knew all too well what it felt like to be treated as property. Her mother had groomed her since birth to one day become queen. Unfortunately for Regina, the laws of the Enchanted Forest made it difficult to escape her mother’s grasp. As a result, she ended up the queen of a much older man and the mother of a bratty over-indulged Snow White.
“Your mother always had a way of making everything about her. I suppose she had no chance of ever becoming something that resembles a considerate person given how indulged she was as a child. I’m afraid that may be something that your mother will never grow out of.”
Emma threw up her arms dramatically in exasperation.
“This isn’t the Enchanted Forest. I don’t know where she gets off thinking she can just pretend like she’s queen of freaking coastal Maine.”
Glancing at the time, Regina sighed and pulled herself out of bed and made her way to the bathroom to wash up. She raised the volume of her voice slightly to be heard in the other room by Emma who was now sitting up on the edge of the bed with her face buried in her hands.
“Royals don’t take easily to being stripped of their power or title. We may be in Storybrooke now but with the restoration of their memories also comes their thirst for power.”
“Well I don’t want to be one of them.” Emma whined, dragging herself up from the bed and walking over to where Regina had been bent over the sink while washing her face. Emma leaned against the doorway, arms folded, continuing to pout as she spoke.
“I may have been royalty for like five minutes but that doesn’t mean I can just drop everything and assume that life. I can’t imagine being a princess after 28 years of living alone as an orphan in a different world with a made up last name and only enough belongings to carry around in a trash bag.”
Regina dried off her face and hands with a towel and reached out to tenderly cup the blonde’s cheek, stroking it gently with her thumb, and starting intently into her eyes.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, dear. Your mother may be persistent in her efforts but never abandon who you are for someone else. It may be difficult for your parents at first, but they need to accept you for who you are.”
Emma seemed to understand where Regina was coming from, but then her expression morphed from accepting to perplexed.
“Why aren’t you like them? You’re a royal.”
Regina dropped her hand and exhaled deeply. She turned to pull her robe off of the hook on the back of the bathroom door and pulled it tightly around herself.
“I wasn’t always a royal, nor did I ever want to be one. That was my mother’s dream, not mine. I may have ended up becoming the queen, but I never wanted to be anyone but Regina.”
No matter how hard Regina tried to move on, everything always led back to Daniel. Despite all of the years that had passed, and even after all of the good that came into her life with Henry and now Emma – there was a part of her that clung desperately to the pain and the anger. The part of her was scared that if she finally did let go of it all, that it would be revealed that nothing of who she used to be all those years ago still remained.
It didn’t escape Emma how Regina’s demeanor darkened every time she spoke of her mother. The brunette was holding back something and she yearned desperately to understand, wanting nothing more than to comfort Regina.
“I know what happened to your dad, I mean, I know he’s passed since I saw you visiting him that night in the cemetery…but what about your mom? You always talk about her, but obviously she’s not here in Storybrooke so…where is she?”
At the mention of her mother specifically, Regina seemed to instantly withdraw. Emma’s heart began to race and she panicked briefly before Regina reached out and grabbed the blonde’s hand. Emma’s touch comforted Regina, and it provided her with the courage to discuss the darker corners of her past.
“After I had married the king, in time I realized that I could no longer bear to live another moment trapped within the confines of my mother’s control. I chose to - purge - my mother’s influence from my life, but by that point it was already too late for me. I had wasted so many years trying to be everything that my mother wished me to be and all I had to show for it was a dark heart, an empty soul and a misguided curse. Don’t make the same mistakes as I did, Emma. Don’t let your parents rob you of your ability to choose what your happy ending shall be.”
Emma’s heart clenched inside her chest, nearly robbing her of her breath as she read between the lines. Regina had been driven to such a point of misery that she had to kill her own mother in order to pursue her own chance at happiness. Emma felt like a complete idiot for complaining about Mary Margaret when what Regina had gone through with her mother was clearly so much worse.
“I’m sorry, Regina…I didn’t know…I didn’t mean to –“ Emma stuttered apologetically.
“It’s alright, dear. You couldn’t have known.” Regina reassured her, offering the blonde a weak smile and a squeeze of her hand.
The brunette dropped her gaze while loosening the hold on Emma’s hand as she moved to step around her. Emma clamped down on Regina’s hand and pulled her back in before she could escape. Regina tentatively lifted her head and met the blonde’s tear glossed hazel eyes.
“For what it’s worth…even though I know you’ve been through a lot, and I can’t even imagine what it was like for you - it all brought you here, gave us Henry, and…maybe I’m a selfish asshole but I wouldn’t give up our family for anything in the world.” Emma stammered out, flushing a bit at her embarrassing lack of eloquence.
“Neither would I – now why don’t you head back to bed dear, you’re going to have a long night ahead of you. I’ll see to Henry.” Regina said, leaning in to place a chaste kiss on Emma’s lips before pulling away and leaving the blonde by herself in the bedroom.
Emma sighed loudly after she watched Regina depart and trudged back towards the bed, plopping down face first.
Emma felt as though she could never get anything right these days. As hard as she tried to please and care for everyone, she always managed to say or do the wrong thing. Regina didn’t appear angry with her, but she was certainly saddened by having to discuss her past and her mother.
As the blonde shut her eyes and tried to force her troubles temporarily from her mind, she resolved that she would figure out a way to make it up to Regina.
Gold had been tinkering around with various artifacts in his shop when a purple cloud of magic appeared in front of him, dissipating to reveal the all too familiar form of Cora Mills.
“Hello, Rumple.” Cora purred through a grin.
Gold on the other hand, didn’t seem as delighted to see her.
“I knew that news of your untimely demise was simply too good to be true. Regina was indeed a remarkable student, but neither her power nor her cunning were quite your equal match.”
Gold studied Cora’s expression carefully as he stepped out from behind the counter and approached the older brunette.
“We both know you aren’t here simply to reminisce, so what do I owe the pleasure?” Gold asked directly, not inclined to entertain Cora longer than he had to.
Cora tilted her head and clicked her tongue, still smiling as brightly as a cheshire cat.
“Why so cross? Does it bother you that I was able to move between realms with ease when the same task took you a dark curse and decades of scheming to achieve?”
Gold scowled at his former apprentice. He didn’t have the time or the patience to deal with Cora’s games, as he was preoccupied with other more important tasks.
He repeated his question, this time much firmer in order to demonstrate that her next utterance should be the answer he is looking for.
“Why are you here?” he asked with a clear bite to his tone.
“I’m not here for you, my dear Rumple -” she reassured him, stepping forward and gently caressing his cheek with the back of her hand.
“- I’m here for my daughter.” she revealed, dropping her hand and turning to examine various objects around the shop.
“How observant of you. I knew it wouldn’t take you long to realize that I was the one here in Storybrooke.” Cora replied as she picked up a trinket from a nearby bookshelf and pretended to examine it with interest.
“Hook is simply a means to an end. He assisted me in gathering what I needed to come to this land.” Cora explained, looking around and taking in her less than impressive surroundings and replacing the trinket back on the shelf.
“So he’s what, a peace offering to ensure that I don’t interfere with your plans for Regina?”
“More like a gift in exchange for information regarding Emma and the boy Henry.”
Gold took several steps towards Cora, his cane clacking loudly against the old wooden floors with every step.
“And what makes you think I have any desire to assist you, dearie? We hardly parted on what could be considered amicable terms.”
“Oh, Rumple…I thought your little shriveled heart would have mended after all of these years.” Cora taunted him with a smile, laying the palm of her hand delicately on his chest above his heart.
Gold refused to react to Cora’s attempts at rattling him. He continued to stare icily into her eyes as he waited silently for her to continue.
“Once I have Regina back I’ll let you do whatever you wish with the pirate.”
“What makes you think that the pirate alone would be enough to satisfy such a debt?” Gold snapped back at her, stepping back out of Cora’s reach.
“We have a common purpose that bonds us. We both seek to be reunited with our estranged offspring.”
Gold was surprised how much Cora had learned about his son and his plans for the dark curse, but he wouldn’t dare reveal that to her.
“Appealing to my fatherly sentimentality won’t be enough either.”
“You haven’t changed one bit, my dear Rumple. Always a man of business.” Cora said with a chuckle as she waved her hand in the air, conjuring a large wooden from a cloud of purple smoke on the counter behind Gold.
“I have procured the means by which you can finally locate your son. Should you choose to offer your assistance, it will be yours.”
Gold turned to examine the contents of the box, his eyes widening at what was revealed inside.
Emma was gathering her belongings for her shift on patrol when she heard a light knock on the door of her office. She looked up to find David standing in the doorway with a tray of two soft drinks and a brown paper bag of what could only be some deliciously greasy dinner from Granny’s given how the contents had already begun permeating the paper.
Emma felt that there was something genuine about her father’s warm demeanor, but she was still hesitant to believe he was standing in her office without any meddling on her mother’s part.
“She didn’t send you, did she?” Emma greeted him skeptically.
David’s expression fell slightly, but his eyes maintained their sparkle and warmth. “I can’t want some one-on-one time with my daughter without it involving my wife?”
Emma shrugged as she grabbed her leather jacket from the coat rack and pulled it over her shoulders. David had respected her wishes and given her the space she asked for, so she figured she should probably throw her father a bone.
“Alright, but you’ll have to ride along with me in the cruiser because I’m about to head out to patrol.”
David smiled brightly, elated that his daughter had accepted his olive branch of dinner. He had second-guessed himself the entire way over to the station, thinking for sure that Emma would reject his gesture of good will.
“Lead the way.” He replied enthusiastically, stepping aside to let Emma guide him to the cruiser.
The first half hour into Emma’s patrol was painstakingly quiet. Thankfully, she had a double bacon burger and fries to occupy herself with to fill the uncomfortable silence. After both of them had polished off the remains of their dinner, David summoned up the courage to speak first, crumpling up the paper bag and clearing his throat awkwardly to announce his intentions.
“So, how are things with Henry…and Regina?”
Emma stiffened slightly at David’s mention of Regina. She wasn’t sure what David’s intentions were when he showed up at the station with dinner, but she didn’t expect him to breach the subject of Regina so quickly or directly. Since David was clearly making an effort to be candid with her, she supposed that she should return the gesture and answer as openly and honestly as possible.
“Things are going really well, actually. Henry is a lot happier now that he gets to spend more time with both of his moms. Plus, Regina is a great cook, so I could honestly do a lot worse…” she explained as she turned the cruiser around another quiet corner of Main Street.
David forced a smile in show his support for his daughter. As reluctant as he was about Emma spending so much of her time with Regina, all he really wanted was for his daughter to be happy. After everything Emma had been through in order to save them, they at the very least owed her that much.
“I’m glad to hear that you and Henry are well. That’s all I really want for you, Emma.”
Emma’s heart clenched in her chest as she processed her father’s kind and selfless words. Growing up in the foster system, she never had anyone truly express care or concern over her without having some sort of other vested interest. Her well being had always been directly tied to someone’s meal ticket, nothing more.
She wondered how David and Mary Margaret could actually get along with each other. They seemed to be completely different people at the core. As much as she was butting heads with her mother, she was growing to actually like her father. Briefly, she wondered if she and David would have been close if she had grown up with him.
Despite the difficulty she was having with Mary Margaret, Emma could see that David was making his own individual effort to be a part of her life, and he deserved a chance.
“Thank you. I should apologize too. I know my attitude has been all over the place lately and you don’t deserve that. I’ve just been kind of overwhelmed with everything –“
“– and your mother really hasn’t helped at all with that, has she?” David finished for her.
Emma turned to her father and met his eyes. For the first time she realized that looking at his eyes was almost as though she were looking into a mirror. They were both so similar, how hadn’t she noticed that before? And how did he always know the right thing to say? Is this what parents are supposed to be like?
Before she was able to reveal too much emotion with her eyes, she looked back towards the road, flipped on the turn signal and took another turn down a quiet block in town. After a few beats, she let out a long puff of air before answering.
“No she hasn’t. Before, when she was just Mary Margaret, we had this – connection. But now, I feel like she’s a completely different person. It’s as though she doesn’t know me at all and that the friendship we had over the past year meant nothing.” Emma said dejectedly, unable to mask her obvious pain and disappointment.
As much as David loved his wife, he understood how Emma felt. Due to his coma, he didn’t have two sets of memories floating around in his mind like all of the others did. He could see the differences in everyone, so he could imagine how unsettling it all was for Emma. Snow White and Mary Margaret Blanchard were completely different people.
“Your mother comes from a much different world than you and I. Growing up as royalty gives you a distinctly different way of seeing the world. What I know for sure is that your mother has a good heart and she cares deeply for you – it may just take her a little longer to figure it all out.”
Emma’s face scrunched up in confusion. None of what her father just said made any sense.
“Wait – what do you mean, different worlds? You were a prince.”
David sighed and gazed out the side window of the cruiser, watching as the idle storefronts drifted by.
“There’s much you don’t know about us, Emma. I’m beginning to see how much of the truth behind our stories was omitted by Henry’s book. I spent most of my life as a lowly shepherd – I most certainly was not a prince, nor did I ever want to be one. But that’s a more complicated story better suited for another time.”
Emma was floored by her father’s revelation, so much that it took her a minute to realize that her mouth was hanging open before she snapped it shut again. No wonder why Mary Margaret and David were such different people. It all made so much sense now, and she felt foolish for not giving David much of a chance earlier, as they really did have so much in common.
Her gut told her that David was being honest about Mary Margaret, but she still couldn’t help but feel that her mother wasn’t trying at all.
“I know that you believe in Mary Margaret, but I’ve tried talking to her and she just blatantly ignores everything that I say. I’m happy with the way things have turned out with Henry and Regina but she just won’t stop with the ‘Evil Queen’ thing. It’s my life and my choices, and honestly I don’t think either of you have earned the right to have a say in who I choose to spend my time with, especially now that I’m a grown adult. That ship kind of sailed the moment you two sent me away.”
David cringed at Emma’s stab regarding her abandonment. A part of him wanted to defend himself, but he knew that if he wanted to make any progress with his daughter that now wasn’t the time. Regardless of their reasoning for sending her away, she grew up alone, without parents and without love. All of them have to bear the consequences of that choice.
“I respect that you’re an adult and that we have no power over what you are to do with your life, but that doesn’t mean we ever stop worrying about you or that we ever stop wanting to protect you from the evils in this world.”
Emma shot a side-glance at David before turning her attention back to the road. “Regina isn’t evil anymore, David.”
David shrugged. “She’s changed, that much I can see – but you didn’t know her back in our world. You haven’t seen the atrocities that Regina is capable of.”
Emma was growing tired of how everyone hung Regina’s past over her head. They were right in that she hadn’t seen what Regina was like back then, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t able to appreciate the consequences and the stigmas of someone with a less than honorable past. It took her years to overcome being judged for doing a stint in prison. For the most part, she had really turned her life around, and she can see that Regina is wholeheartedly trying to do the same.
“I know that she’s done some unforgivable things, but so have I. You don’t have any idea who I was before I came to Storybrooke, or what I’m capable of either, yet you trust me without question. Regina and I both have dark pasts but it doesn’t mean that it has to dictate our future.”
“Fair enough.” David said, holding both hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender. “I’ll talk to your mother, but I can’t make any promises, as she’s quite the stubborn woman and she usually needs to work through things in her own way. All I ask is that you show her some patience and give her a chance.”
David really wasn’t asking that much of her, so despite her feelings towards her mother, she couldn’t help but agree to his small request.
Emma let out a long exhale and nodded as she turned to glance at her father. “Yeah, I can do that.”