When Regina wakes up that morning, Emma’s arms are curled around her waist and for a moment Regina doesn’t have the presence of mind to push her away.
When she gets up, Emma stirs and groans. “Babe, it’s early,” she mutters.
“Why do you call me that?” Regina asks softly.
Emma pushes herself up onto her elbows. “What, ‘babe’? You used to hate it. When we were first going out you would withhold sex every time I called you that.” Emma pauses when she sees the spots of color appear on Regina’s cheeks. “But it grew on you. I guess it’s just habit by now.”
Regina clears her throat. “Right.”
“Do you… want me to stop?”
“You may call me whatever you wish.”
Emma frowns. “I don’t wanna call you ‘babe’ if it makes you uncomfortable. I can stop. If that’s what you want.”
Emma grins. “Okay.”
Regina swallows hard. “I need to get ready.”
“You going somewhere?”
“If you must know, I have an appointment with Dr. Hopper at 10:00. He’s going to try to help me recover my memories.”
A wounded look appears on Emma’s face. “I thought I was doing that.”
Regina sighs. “You are. I just thought I would be good to have a professional helping me as well.”
“Yeah, no, that’s smart. Do you think maybe… afterward, I thought I might pick you up and you could hang out with me and the girls.” Emma looks at her with hopeful eyes.
“I was planning on taking today to spend time with Henry… I missed seven years of his life, after all.”
“Right. Of course. It’s not like Ellie and Victoria are your kids too or anything.”
Regina narrows her eyes. “Henry is the only one of our children that I currently know. I woke up yesterday and he was seven years older than I remember him, so excuse me for wanting to catch up on that first and foremost.”
Emma stands all the way up to match Regina’s height. “Yeah, but you missed our daughters’ entire lives. Don’t you think that’s a little more drastic?”
Regina steps close enough that her face is just inches away from Emma’s. “In my head, where I am right now, Henry is the only person in this family that matters to me. He is everything. And he is my priority, whatever happens between us or in my mind.”
“You know what, fine. I’ll tell the girls myself that their mother is acting weird because she doesn’t know who they are, and doesn’t want to.”
“You know that’s not-”
“No. I heard you. You said that Henry was the only one that mattered to you. So go. But when you realize that you need me, I’ll be here waiting for you. It’s not gonna be like last time.”
That makes Regina stop. “What happened last time?” she asks, her voice so quiet it’s barely audible.
“God, no… I don’t want to talk about that. Ever again.”
“Emma…” Regina steps forward and tentatively rests a hand on Emma’s elbow. “I’m sorry about what I said. I really am. But if I’m to return to this life, I need to know about everything that’s happened between us. Not just the times we were happy, but also the times we weren’t.”
Emma sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “I know. But just… not that one. Not yet. Please.”
Regina gently squeezes Emma’s arm and goes toward the bathroom to take her shower before her appointment.
When she comes out of the bathroom half an hour later, Emma’s on the phone.
“…around noon?... yeah, I’m thinking a family dinner tonight. Simple, not too overwhelming… okay, thank you so much… yeah, love you too.” She hangs up and turns around to see Regina. “That was my mom.”
Regina slowly sits on the bed beside Emma. “May I ask you something?”
Emma smiles. “Of course. You know you can ask me anything.”
“When did the curse break? How did the curse break?”
“It wasn’t us, if that’s what you’re thinking. We’re not true loves.”
Regina raises her eyebrows. “We’re not?”
Emma shakes her head. “I asked Blue about it. She said that true love is pure and untainted.” She laughs. “We’ve got way too many issues for that.”
Regina chuckles softly. “That we do.”
“It was Henry.”
Emma swallows hard. “He was under a sleeping curse. I kissed his forehead and… it broke. Along with the big curse.”
“How the hell did he get put under a sleeping curse?” Regina’s voice rises an octave with worry.
Emma bites her lip. “It was supposed to be me.” Her voice is quiet, but Regina can clearly hear the reluctance in it, the unwillingness to tell the story. But Regina needs to hear it. “I did something bad. And you were understandably pissed. So you… you baked me a turnover. With the same apple you used on my mom. Only I didn’t eat it; Henry did.”
Regina recoils as though she was physically struck. “I put him under a sleeping curse?”
“Not on purpose! And we both forgave you for it. A long time ago.”
“I suppose you must have.” Regina’s voice is hollow. “But did I?”
Emma’s silent for a long time. Then, “No. You never forgave yourself.”
“I didn’t think so. Of all the people in this world against whom I hold a grudge, the only one I really truly hate is-”
“yourself,” Emma finishes softly. “You told me. And now… you’d finally learned to be happy with yourself. You were loving yourself almost as much as I love you – and that’s a lot. But now…” she trails off with a sigh. “It hurts me to see you like this. I hate that you hate yourself. I hate that you can’t see what I see in you.”
“What do you see in me?”
Emma smiles and grips Regina’s hand with the ease of someone who’s done it a thousand times. “My happy ending.”
Archie stares at her intently, pen resting against his thin lips.
Regina shifts uncomfortably. “Are we going to do anything during this session? If I wanted someone to stare at me I could get that at home for free.”
“Yes. Sorry. I was just… never mind.” He sits back in his seat. “Have you spoken to Emma about this yet?”
“Last night. We… we had a conversation. And she showed me some photo albums. To help me.”
“That’s good. Photos can definitely help. If not to restore your memories than to help you learn your own history.”
“What… what happens if I don’t remember?” Regina asks quietly, gnawing on her bottom lip.
“Then you learn to adjust to life here. You make new memories.”
“What happens to Emma? To the girls?”
Archie exhales through his nose. “At the point where you are now, you’re still a year away from the point when the two of you became an item. I’m fairly confident that you will fall in love with her again. I mean look; you’ve only known this version of your life for a day and you’re already caring for her. But there is a… a very slim, but very real possibility that you won’t love her again. In that event I’d predict there would be shared custody of all three of your children and most likely a tentative friendship would be erected between the two of you.”
Regina nods slowly. She’s almost certain that won’t happen; she can already feel herself falling in love with Emma Swan, even though the greater part of her mind is screaming at her not to. She’s really only fighting the inevitable at this point. “And if I do remember?”
“You’ll go back to your life. Although I’m sure that this experience will make you appreciate that life just a little bit more.”
“Yes,” Regina says hollowly. “I’m sure it will.”
Emma picks her up from the appointment. It’s both reliving and frustrating to see that she’s still driving that same yellow eyesore, even after all this time. “What did Archie say?”
Regina fidgets with her fingers in her lap as Emma drives them home. “He says that I’m to adjust as best I can, and that it’s unlikely I’ll ever get my memories back,” she explains bluntly. She’s never been one to sugarcoat things, and hopefully Emma knows that about her at this point.
“So I guess we have to tell the kids then.”
“I suppose we do.”
Emma’s fingers tighten around the steering wheel. “I thought we’d have a nice family dinner tonight. Just the five of us. We can tell them then.”
“That… that sounds…” Regina’s not really sure what the word is she’s looking for. “Yes,” she says finally. “We’ll do that.”
Emma pulls into the driveway of the mansion and they get out, going inside to an empty house.
“Where is everyone?”
Emma tosses her keys in the dish by the front door and shrugs her jacket off. “Henry’s at school and the girls are still at my mom’s house.”
“Oh.” It’s a school day then. And that’s when it strikes her; she doesn’t even know what day it is. Not even the month. It’s autumn outside, fast approaching winter, but she doesn’t know much else. “Emma, what day is it?”
Emma comes up behind her and gently rests a hand on Regina’s arm. “Wednesday. October fifth.”
Something as minute as a simple date shouldn’t have such an effect on her, but somehow it does. Tears spring to her eyes, and she wraps her arms around her middle. The date makes this real. The date makes everything real.
“Hey, you okay?”
“Fine,” Regina lies, wiping at her eyes. “You should be at work.”
Emma comes around to face her, hands clutching at Regina’s elbows. “I took some time off. I get leave for a family emergency, and this definitely qualifies.”
“Do you wanna look at some more pictures?”
Regina nods once, and follows Emma into the den.
“Stay here,” Emma instructs. “I’ll be right back.” She disappears from the room, returning a few minutes later with a bottle of wine, two large glasses, and a thick, leather photo album. The edges of the book are worn, Regina notices when Emma sets it on the table, as though someone has looked through it more than a few times.
Regina gratefully accepts the glass of red wine Emma hands her and takes a large sip.
Emma drums her fingers on the cover of the tome in front of them. “This one’s from pretty early,” she says carefully. “Right after we started dating. Ruby and Henry took most of them; my parents still weren’t very keen on the idea of ‘us’ back then.”
“Of course they weren’t,” Regina says dryly.
“Well, what else did you expect? You spent thirty years trying to kill my mom. That tends to make a person think twice about letting their daughter date you.”
Regina sniffs. “I never wanted her dead,” she says simply.
Emma gives her that look, the one that says you’re lying, but says nothing and opens the photo album.
The first picture they see is one of Emma looking extremely embarrassed and Regina a bit like she’s about to be sick. Emma laughs out loud next to her. “That was right after we told everyone. Henry was the only one that knew before. He thought our faces were so funny he just had to take a picture.”
Regina smiles slightly at that. They look like they’re standing in the loft apartment, and Regina can easily picture Snow and David’s horrified expressions as they sit on the couch in front of where Emma and Regina stand.
It’s almost enough to make her laugh.
Emma flips through the pages, explaining a few photos as she goes, until Regina stops her. “Why does Henry look older in this one?” she asks. There are two photos on the page, between which Henry has significantly aged. He’s also standing much closer to Emma than he is Regina, unlike in the one above it, where each of them have an arm around him.
Emma shifts uncomfortably. “Neverland,” she says quietly. “We’d only been together for two months. Henry was taken.” And she tells Regina everything, the story of the pirate ship and trekking through the jungle to save their son, and about Pan’s curse. About how they forgot about her for an entire year.
“You gave us good memories,” Emma says softly. “But they were more than just good memories. They were your memories. All the best things you remembered about raising Henry, I remembered them too. I carried them in my head for a year.”
Regina traces her finger through the space in the photo between Henry and herself.
“He doesn’t remember you in that picture,” Emma explains, as though reading her mind. “When we came back to Storybrooke there was only enough memory potion for me. So we had to introduce you to him as Mayor Mills. It… it was really tough for you.”
“What about us?” Regina asks softly. “What happened to you and me when you returned?”
“We… it was pretty rocky. There were mistakes made on both our parts. I… I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“Is this the ‘last time’ you mentioned earlier?”
“Yeah.” Emma’s voice is barely audible, but Regina can make out the break in even just the one word.
Regina rubs Emma’s arm almost as a reflex, but chooses not to read into it. “Later. But not never.”
“Not never,” Emma agrees, and turns the page of the album. She laughs once. “I remember there was one day when we came back and you took Henry out for ice cream while I went on patrol with David. He came back and he asked me ‘Ma, is the Mayor your ex-girlfriend?’”
Regina’s eyes widen. “Why would he ask that?”
“Well, this is all secondhand from Henry, but apparently when you guys were talking and he mentioned the guy I dated while we were in New York, you got super jealous. Honestly, I’m surprised you weren’t the one who turned green.”
“What?” Regina asks, eyebrows knitting together.
Emma goes quiet. “Some other time. I’ll tell you all about Zelena. But today is a day to talk about happy memories. Good times.”
Regina nods. “So. You had a boyfriend.”
“In my defense, I didn’t remember you. And he was basically just a male version of you. Dark hair, nice suits, lot of money, pretty sure he was like one-sixteenth Latin. And he was a neat-freak.”
“I am not a neat-freak!”
Emma raises both eyebrows, but continues as though Regina hadn’t said anything. “Anyway, Henry said you couldn’t even say his name without looking like you were gonna kill someone. And all I could think was ‘wow, way to be subtle in front of the kid’.”
“We didn’t… we didn’t get back together? When you returned from New York?”
Emma bites her lip. “You’re getting into unhappy-land, ‘Gina. That’s a conversation for another day. That’s a whiskey conversation.” She holds up her wine glass as if to prove a point, draining the small amount of liquid still in the glass.
“I think that’s enough for today,” Regina sighs, closing the book. “Maybe I can handle more later tonight.”
Emma smiles and covers Regina’s hand with her own. “Just let me know when it’s too much, okay? I don’t want to overwhelm you.”
And there it is again, that tug in the pit of her stomach, and Regina has the sudden urge to close the distance between them. And upon realizing that she can, she does.
Emma smiles into the kiss, but doesn’t move to deepen it; doesn’t allow it to be anything but brief and chaste. “Baby steps,” she murmurs, fingers brushing lightly across the scar on the back of Regina’s neck. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.”
And as she watches Emma walk away, Regina may even allow herself to believe her.