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Well, Then

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Henry says fifteen is far too old to go trick-or-treating, so they agree to let him go to the Tillman twins’ on Halloween instead. He dresses up for the party, but when your Ma is a white knight and your Mom a queen, and every fairytale creature actually exists, costume options are limited.

“What are you kid?” Emma asks when he opens the door to the mansion to let her in. It may be Halloween, but it’s still Thursday, which means Emma’s come over for her weekly meeting with Regina. Once more the Mayor [actually elected this time; the people do love having their roads maintained and basic infrastructure kept up] after the debacle that was Snow White’s two-year shitshow [“Miss Swan. Language.”] of a term, Regina insists they meet to go over any necessary paperwork before the weekly town planning meeting on Friday mornings. And who’s Emma to argue when she gets a free meal, and usually time with her kid, and well, time with Regina, too.

“8 ½ x 11, college ruled.” He announces, pointing to the blue lines drawn across his white shirt.

“Funny,” Emma mutters. She’d call him a nerd, but Regina had reprimanded her fiercely last time, and she’s not exactly in the mood for her son’s other mother to tear her a new one.

“C’mon in,” he opens the door wider. “Mom’s in the kitchen still. Did you bring candy?”

“I still can’t believe your mother tries to give out apples. Has she even read her own story?”

Henry grins, before dashing towards the stairs. “I’ve gotta finish getting ready,” he calls. “Paige is coming over in ten minutes.”

“Right,” Emma glares at his retreating form. “Paige.” She’s still a little sore about the whole my-son-is-dating-the-girl-whose-psycho-father-kidnapped-me-thing. Four years should be enough time to let it go, Regina tried to tell her last month, but Emma just stared at her because, seriously. Wasn’t there something about moving an entire world to fucking Maine because Regina couldn’t ‘let it go?’ She takes a deep breath though, counts to five, lets it out. Paige is a nice girl. And she and Henry are cute together, blushing whenever Emma or Regina walk in on them studying at the kitchen table or holding hands at the diner. It’s cute, puppy love, and she’s happy for the Kid, despite the fact that his choice in potential in-laws leaves something to be desired.

“Hey,” she says as she enters the kitchen, heading straight for the cupboard where the largest mixing bowl is kept. This is the second year in a row she’s been at the mansion for Halloween, and the second year in a row she’s brought enough candy to give every kid in Storybrooke a cavity. So, she knows where the bowl is that’ll go outside the front door with a note, “Happy Halloween! – 2 Pieces Each, Please”; Regina still gets annoyed at the constant ringing of the doorbell, and parents are still a little leery about letting their kids get too close to the inside of the Evil Queen’s house to let them go knocking on the door of 108 Mifflin. (Plus there was the whole apple thing. No one wants fruit on Halloween, especially not potentially poisoned fruit. Not that Regina, Emma’s Reg – well, the Regina that Emma’s kind of friends with now – would poison kids. Well, not anymore.) So the bowl on the edge of the front porch is a compromise, and, as Regina likes to remind her, it’s Emma’s responsibility to fill it if she, as the sheriff, wishes to also take responsibility for the damage done by any children high on a sugar rush.

“Hello,” Regina smiles from her place at the stove. Emma sniffs appreciatively at the smells emanating from the pot Regina’s working over. “Did you like Henry’s costume?” she asks.

“It was…clever,” Emma agrees carefully.

Regina lifts a single eyebrow, and the blonde wants to squirm, but then painted lips turn up at the corners and her son’s mother looks back down to the cookbook lying flat on the counter beside her. “He’s a clever boy,” she agrees smoothly.

“Yeah,” Emma rubs the back of her neck awkwardly. “I’m gonna drop this outside,” she lifts the now full bowl, not waiting for a reply before heading back to the foyer. The doorbell rings as she’s reaching for the handle, and it’s Paige on the other side, dressed as, of all things, a teapot.

“Hey, Paige,” Emma tries not to grin at the girl’s costume. “Henry’ll be right do-“

But she doesn’t finish because suddenly there’s a herd of elephants galloping down the stairs and Regina’s raised voice from the kitchen, “No. Running. In. This. House!”

“Sorry, Mom!” Henry bellows and Emma winces. “Hey, Paige,” he skids to a stop in front of the two of them, zipping up his coat as he does. “Ready to go? I like your costume.” And Emma really does grin when her son pecks his girlfriend on the cheek.

“Wait!” Emma grabs his arm before they can go merrily off to do whatever it is teenagers do at Halloween parties these days. “Your Mom will want a picture.”

“Mom, we’re leaving!” Henry calls back into the house.

“Have fun, dear.” His mother returns, still not emerging from the kitchen.

“Well, I want a picture,” Emma tries not to pout, reaching for her phone in her back pocket.

“We’re already late, Ma. I’ll be back by one.”

“Eleven,” she argues automatically. “School night.”

“Midnight,” he tries.

“Fine,” she agrees, smiling at Paige. “But you’re the one who gets to deal with your mother about the late curfew.”

“Deal,” he nods readily.

“And here,” she adds, handing him the bowl of candy, “put this out on the step. Have fun you two,” she waves them off before closing the door firmly and retreating back to the warmth of the kitchen.

“Did you get any pictures?” Regina asks as she reenters the room. She’s pulled down plates and bowls from the cupboards, and piled the silverware alongside. Emma sets their places quickly, accepting the warm cider Regina hands her with a mumbled thank you. They’ve stopped bothering with the dining room when Henry’s out, preferring to eat at the kitchen island when it’s just the two of them. Emma tries not to notice that it’s a much more intimate setting than the long table built to sit ten, or that sometimes her elbow bumps the Mayor’s while they’re eating, or that when Regina reaches past her for more vegetables, she sometimes catches a whiff of the other woman’s perfume: apples and cinnamon.

The kitchen is one of her favorite rooms in the house – clean and organized, but warm, almost cozy, with Henry’s latest report card on the fridge, a messy drawing of what might be a flower that he did when he was little, “For Mommy” printed neatly along the bottom, and pictures, pictures everywhere: on the fridge, over the sink, framed on the island countertop. There are even a few new additions with her in them, Emma’s noticed – one of her and Henry at the diner is stuck to the fridge, and there’s the photograph framed above the sink, taken last Christmas, Regina and Emma with Henry squashed in between his mothers, his arms wrapped around both of their waists, all of them smiling bright and happy and easy. Emma doesn’t mention the pictures, but they make her feel warm inside anyway, and maybe a little giddy, like there are butterflies swooping around in her stomach every time she looks at them.

“No pics; they were in a hurry,” it comes out a little repentant, like maybe she’s messed up in the mom department, a fear she still, even now, can’t quite dispose of completely in such situations.

“That’s alright,” Regina’s voice is deep, soothing. “It’s not his best costume,” and Emma laughs a bit at that. So, Regina does agree that their son is a nerd. She knew it.

Dinner is delicious, and quiet, and they don’t talk about the paperwork Emma’s brought over. It’s all minor stuff anyway, and they haven’t really used these dinners as business meetings in months. They talk about baby Neal, and Henry’s PSAT test, the one he’d insisted on taking, despite the fact that it’s not required for sophomores. They talk about Roland, too, and what time his soccer game is on Saturday, because she and Robin have pretty much figured out this whole platonic soulmate thing and Roland’s a cute kid, anyone would admit it. Regina asks about Hook, but Emma honestly isn’t sure what the former pirate is up to these days; she hasn’t seen him in a few weeks. And it’s dark outside before they know it, leftovers packed up. Emma’s stacked the dishwasher before she even processes the fact that she knows exactly how Regina prefers it done. Emma wants to wonder when she got quite so comfortable in this house, in this kitchen that was, once upon a time, purely Regina’s domain, but instead she shuts down her inner monologue and follows the Mayor’s soft form into the study.

They’re three glasses of cider in, a fire crackling merrily, “He was a pumpkin? How original of you, Madame Mayor.” Emma’s laughing, her heart warm and content in this place she tries not to think of as home, despite the fact that she eats more meals here than in her own small apartment.

“He was so cute though,” the other woman rebuts. “Here,” she slides her stockinged feet out from under her small frame, her heels kicked off at the end of the sofa ages ago, and walks over to the bookshelf in the corner to retrieve a leatherbound photo album. “Look at those cheeks,” she coos, plopping rather gracelessly beside the sheriff and flipping open the cover to the correct page immediately.

Emma grins, but her hand tightens around her cider glass, and she’s not sure she’s getting the requisite amount of oxygen. Regina’s got her head resting on the blonde’s shoulder, a single finger tracing their son’s one-year-old cheek, round and shining out from his pumpkin suit. Their bodies are touching from shoulder to thigh to knee and it isn’t fair, Emma thinks. It isn’t fair that this is her son’s other mother and that they’re friends now and maybe she wants to be more than friends, but they only sit this close when Henry isn’t home and they’ve both had something to drink. And it isn’t fair.

“He was adorable,” she murmurs, and hands the album back to Regina, shifts forward to set her now empty glass on the table. It’s an excuse to gain some distance, to separate herself from the woman practically glued to her side. Because this can’t happen; this is not something she’ll let happen. She isn’t going to ruin this. Because they’re finally … happy, both of them. Or content at least. And no one’s trying to kill them or steal their son, and they’re not trying to kill each other, and people call her Sheriff more often than Saviour now, and Regina was elected by the same people who probably wanted to burn her at the stake not three years ago. And things are better. Things are simple. And anything else would just fuck it up. Emma Swan does not want to fuck this up.

“Where’d you go?” Regina murmurs softly, her voice husky from the alcohol and the late hour.

“Hmm?” Emma asks, looking up from where her head’s hanging between her shoulders, her arms resting on her knees.

Regina’s staring at her, her dark eyes lost in shadow, but Emma can practically feel the other woman’s gaze on her skin, hot and pointed, and paying attention. Regina’s always paying such close attention.

“Where’d you go?” the mayor repeats. “You were here and then you weren’t. You do that sometimes.”

“It’s late,” Emma attempts to deflect. “You’re always saying I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel.”

But, Regina only moves forward, until once again their knees are touching, and Emma’s skin might be burning through her jeans. Maybe. They’re close; she closes her eyes, licks her lips, tries not to move, but every muscle in her body is screaming for her to do something. Fly away. Run. Lean forward. Oh, just lean forward.

“Emma, I – “ Regina reaches out a slim hand as though to tuck a loose blonde curl behind a soft, curved ear.

But, then Emma does move. “Don’t,” she murmurs, catching the fingers in her own light grip. She tries to smirk, but it’s more of a grimace. “Please don’t.” They’ve been shying around this for months now she knows. Always this strange dance around one another. Flirting, maybe. Something anyhow. But she can’t. She won’t fuck it up.

Regina sighs, her breath warm on Emma’s cheek. “Alright,” she nods.

“I should go,” Emma whispers. “Henry will be home soon.”

“Alright,” Regina murmurs again, not fighting, not arguing, not acknowledging the late curfew. They share a son. They’re friends. Maybe.

“Alright,” Emma echoes, but she hasn’t let go of Regina’s hand, and she hasn’t moved, and this is ridiculous. The savior. The evil queen. Alone together on Halloween. It’s not even a real holiday, bastardized beyond the point of recognition, an excuse for kids to get a sugar high, and disgruntled teens to egg their teacher’s houses, which means Sheriff Swan isn’t a huge fan of the day after Halloween either.

“Emma,” Regina breathes, immobile in the other woman’s loose hold. She swallows, and Emma can see her tanned throat clench and unclench and her own body contracts in response. “Emma, this, this isn’t – we could – “

Mayor Mills, at a loss for words. “We shouldn’t,” Emma tries to finish for her.

“No,” Regina shakes her head gently. “We shouldn’t,” but she glances up at Emma from beneath long, dark lashes, and Emma really, really doesn’t give a fuck anymore.

There was a pastry and her kid’s birthfather, and Neverland and a pirate and 28 fucking years of being alone. And there’s the Kid. Her son. Their son. And she’s the sheriff and she has a brother who is 30 years younger than her. And this woman, right here, is evil. Was evil. Did horrible things, and raised her son to be smart and kind and strong. Killed people, and dressed their son as a pumpkin for Halloween. Grows apples she used to use to put people to sleep, and makes the best damn apple pie Emma’s ever tasted. And she’s smart and strong and even kind sometimes, when she isn’t being sarcastic or demeaning or flat-out rude.

And Emma is a mother now. And a sheriff. And a daughter. And a friend. She used to be a runner, but she’s not. Not anymore. She has responsibilities where she didn’t have them before, and who the fuck cares about titles anymore anyway.

“We shouldn’t,” Regina says again, but even as she takes a deep breath, she’s preparing herself to lean away. Regina’s always just the smallest bit ready to lean away, always a little bit tense, ready and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So, Emma finds herself leaning forward, because fuck it. They’re friends. And they share a son. And this could go horribly, horribly wrong. But Regina’s here, and she’s soft like warm cotton drying on the line in the summertime, and she smells like apples and cinnamon, and her hand is a little clammy in Emma’s grasp, but strong. And Emma doesn’t want Regina to have to lean away, she doesn’t want to see the loss in those deep brown eyes, eyes that have seen so much and lost enough to last three lifetimes. And fuck it. Emma leans in, because she stopped running awhile ago, and this is something she doesn’t want to run from, not anymore.

Regina tastes like the cider, sharp and smooth all at once. And Emma smiles, even as she kisses her, because damn, if this doesn’t feel like finally, finally coming home. It’s a little sloppy and a little awkward, and that’s okay. The butterflies in Emma’s stomach have finally stopped flapping around, and her chest feels looser than it has in weeks. Regina’s tangled one hand in Emma’s hair, resting on her neck, and Emma can’t help but moan a little when the other woman’s teeth nip teasingly at her bottom lip.

She vaguely hears the front door open and thunk closed some time later, but it isn’t until, “Moms? Moms! I’m home,” does she pull away, regretfully, feeling the loss of contact immediately. Her lips feel swollen, and she has to work to regulate her breathing. Regina’s eyes are open, reflecting the firelight, deep and dark and full of life. Emma might be a little bit drunk, but she’s sober enough to know that this isn’t something she’s going to regret in the morning. This could never be something she’d regret because her chest feels right: loose, but like her heart’s swelling and swelling and swelling. And it may be ridiculous and corny, but it’s also pretty damn exact.

“Moms?” Henry pokes his head around the study door, and then steps fully into the room.

Her hand is still on Regina’s thigh, but she doesn’t move it, even as she looks at her son, tall and strong in the doorway. “Hey, kid,” the fact that her voice doesn’t crack surprises her to no end. “How was the party?”

Regina hasn’t moved, except to bring one manicured hand up to her lips, as though she’s holding onto the kiss, memorizing it.

“Good,” he answers. And then, “Have you guys been making out?”

“What?” she asks dumbly. Because, what?

“You’ve got,” he points, “lipstick.”

She reaches up and feels it smear beneath her fingertips and across her bottom lip. “Oh.” She panics for half a second because she’s just been caught making out with her son’s other parent, and her fifteen year old kid doesn’t look at all surprised or embarrassed and the woman beside her, still as a statue, has yet to say anything. “We,” she begins, unsure how to even address this situation. This is more Regina’s territory.

“I mean finally,” he huffs. She’s staring and this jerks Regina back to life as she turns to stare at their son, too. “Took you long enough.” He grins, not at all ashamed of his boldness. Then he crosses the room in four long strides; when did he get so tall? He bends to kiss the top of Emma’s head and then drops a quick kiss to Regina’s as well. “Goodnight, moms. Happy Halloween.” He might be smirking. Their teenage son might actually be smirking at them.

“Goodnight, Henry,” Regina murmurs.

“Night, Kid,” Emma manages. As he leaves the room, she turns her wide-eyed stare to the woman beside her. “Well, that was – “ But Regina cuts her off, surging forward to capture Emma’s lips with her own. And Emma can feel her smiling now, Regina’s hand once more wrapping around the back of her neck, pulling Emma in closer, deeper. Well, then.