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the math doesn't change

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In the end, what gets Emma to stop calling them all delusional cult freaks are the photos Regina has in her wallet (still, always, forever).  Infant Henry and toddler Henry and just-turned-six Henry and nine-and-a-half Henry, and every time wrapped up in her arms or draping his whole small body over hers with love and trust that can’t be posed or Photoshopped.

She told them it would take photographic proof.  Imbecilic heroes, trusting in blind faith as if they’d never met Emma Swan before.

Emma doesn’t let Henry look at the photos, though, just folds the wallet back up and hands it to Regina with wild and frightened eyes.  “Guyliner said other mother.”

Imbecilic heroes, sending Hook to do delicate work.  “I suppose that’s the best his remedial vocabulary could come up with.”

Henry wrinkles his nose and shoots Hook another dark glare.  “Is bath in that vocabulary, at all?”

“Henry!”  The admonition comes from Emma, and from Snow, and Hook lets out a disgruntled yelp, but Regina—Regina smiles and smiles and smiles.

“Sadly, no.  Laundry didn’t make the cut, either.”

“Gross,” Henry says, but he grins at her, and she just might float away with how her whole body fills up with light.

Emma looks between the two of them and her gaze lingers on Regina for a beat, and longer still.  “Everybody out,” she finally demands, and when no one moves, she wraps a protective arm around Henry’s shoulders and barks the command again.  “I said out.”

Snow and Hook and Charming all trudge towards the door, but when Snow sees that Regina isn’t moving, she balks.  “Regina, Emma needs—“

“She stays,” Emma cuts in, before Regina can say a word.  

Henry adds, with a somewhat disgusted scowl, “And isn’t this her house, anyway?”

He’s still her son.  Always and forever and still her son.

It takes a few more minutes of a stare-down between Snow and Emma and Snow and herself before the imbeciles finally leave, and then Regina doesn’t know what to do, at all, because Emma and Henry are both staring at her.

They’re here, they’re home, and they don’t remember a thing.

Finally, Emma sighs, loosens her grip on Henry.  “Lucy,” she says, and sounds so tired, “you got some 'splaining to do.”

They end up in the study, and there’s a certain hesitation to Emma’s body when she goes to sit down with a glass of whiskey that makes hope flicker in the pit of Regina’s stomach, but when their eyes meet again, none of the cool and quiet trust from the end is there.  There’s not even the obsequious meekness of their first meeting.  It’s a solid wall of nothingness, broken only when Emma looks to the door to see which room Henry is exploring next.

“You’re really okay with a teenager just… going through your house?”

“It’s his home,” she says unthinkingly, and watches as Emma flinches like it’s a full body blow.  “I—Sorry.  I know I should… refrain from saying things like that.”

Emma stares at her, and something in her eyes changes, but Regina’s forgotten how to read her when her walls are up this high.  “This is a lot to take in.  My whole—everything I know says he’s my son.  He has my mouth and the shape of my eyes and my blood type and… And nothing.  Because apparently, he’s ours.  Yours and mine.”

Two years of possessive determiner wars rush back into her mind all at once, and she has to close her eyes, look away.  “Yes.  He’s ours.”

Emma nods slowly, rotates her glass on her knee.  “We must’ve been insane,” she whispers, and Regina freezes.

“Wh—what?  Why—what?”

And Emma scoffs, lets her head roll back onto the sofa back.  “I mean, the math doesn’t change.  He’s still thirteen now, I’m still just barely thirty, you can’t be a day over thirty five and that’s pushing it—I was eighteen and you were early twenties and we were, what, so doped up on puppy love that we thought we could have a kid together?”

Oh, God.  Oh, sweet merciful Heaven, how in the hell did this all go so wrong.

“No—Emma, that’s not—“

And then Emma looks at her, and her voice just vanishes.  “So—not puppy love?” Emma whispers, and her voice cracks.  “Because—shit, Guyliner said us fighting was as reliable as sunrise, but—but I figured he meant we were young and stupid and completely incompatible but tethered together by a kid, but—but if you’re saying it—that we worked, but—“

She knows what she should be saying.  She knows.  She can taste the words as they line up on her tongue but nothing comes out, nothing comes out, because—

Because she wants to hear the story.  She wants to hear a fairy tale where she’s simply human.

“Regina,” Emma says softly, and puts her glass on the coffee table, with a coaster.  “I don’t get it.  I mean, we’re clearly separated, and you haven’t seen Henry in a year, and everything we remember about our lives doesn’t include you and all of those pictures you have don’t include me so—so what happened to us?  Is this—God, is this some fucked up version of Eternal Sunshine where you nixed me and I nixed you and—but then why Henry, and—what happened?”

She tries again.  She really does: moistens her lips, clears her throat, swallows again and again.  “Emma,” she starts, “I think you’ve misunderstood—“

“Did I fuck it up?”

And damn it, Emma sounds so defeated and resigned and unsurprised that Regina’s only option is to practically shout, “No!” loud enough to make them both jump, to bring Henry across the foyer and into the doorway.  “Honey—I’m sorry.  It’s okay,” Regina stammers out, and gets up to refill her glass, gets up to get distance and perspective and a grip on reality.  “We’re okay.”

He nods slowly and almost turns to the door before he catches himself, turns to look at Emma for confirmation, and from the look on her face, she caught it all.  “We’re okay,” Emma echoes, and Henry glances back towards Regina before shuffling away again.

Regina stays by the drinks cart, grips the metal edge with both hands to remember what’s real.  “We were never together, Emma.  There’s no grand love story here.  That’s not how any of it happened.”

“Bullshit.”

“Excuse me?”  Regina whirls to glare at her, because the confidence in that drawl—it sounds like a chainsaw and a dragon and whirling wraith all at once.

And Emma’s smirking at her.  “Okay, maybe we were never together.  You know, that actually—that explains the pictures, then.  But no grand love story?  Bullshit.”

Honest to God, these Charmings.

“People don’t look at other people the way you’ve been looking at me if there’s no love there.  And even if—even if I don’t remember you, something in me does, Regina, because the second you showed up, all the noise in my head just shut up.  The second I saw you, everything just went calm.”

Oh.  Oh.  Oh, but that can’t be—“That’s impossible,” she whispers, and reaches back for the cart to steady herself.

Emma’s up and moving, slowly coming in closer.  “So, okay, we never got our act together, I’ll buy it.  Lord knows I’ve got enough failures under my belt, and yeah, for you to be this hot, commitment phobe seems like a fair trade.”  She reaches out to hold Regina’s hand and that, right then, is when Regina decides this is a dream version of what will surely be a horrible and disastrous reunion.

So she laughs.

Except she doesn’t wake up, and Emma doesn’t do anything but draw closer still.  “Do that again,” Emma whispers, and puts a hand on her hip, and Regina looks at that hand for a long moment.

“There’s no love story, Emma,” she tries, one last time.

“Not that.  The part where you laugh.”

“When you get your memories back, I won’t be held responsible for this.”

“Commitment phobe.  Definitely.”

“Shut up and kiss m—“

There is a blinding flash of gold light all throughout Storybrooke.

 “Oh—oh, shit.  Regina, I am—Jesus, I swear I didn’t mean to grope you—wait a second.”

“For the record, you kissed me.”

“You ordered me to!”

“Mom!?  Ma!?”

Henry,” they say together, and if Emma’s still holding her hand when Henry rushes into her arms, Regina sees no reason to complain.