Regina watches them play in the backyard, leaning tiredly against the doorjamb to the hallway. Effy, with unending energy, bounds around in circles before she pounces on Ruby’s back, giving a frustrated whine when she’s easily shaken off by the larger wolf, who sits nonplussed, stretched out across the grass with its head resting on its paws. She wonders when the last time Ruby got more than three consecutive hours of sleep was, trying to count back the days. But they’re all lost in a hazy blur of diapers, bottles, and soccer practice. The mayor glances back at the baby across the room and assumes her partner’s last good rest hasn’t been in the past ten days.
His eyes are blue, so bright and clear that they look nothing at all like Ruby’s own hazel ones, but he instead allows Granny to walk around with the air of sophistication of having a great grandson who takes after her. Definitely Granny’s eyes, not at all like Cora’s, Regina decides. Cool, not cold. She just hopes they don’t change into something like her mother’s – it’d take some time to get used to seeing that reflected back at her every day. Turning back to the scene, Regina can’t help but grin as she watches Effy jump to tug on Ruby’s ear, earning her a huff from her shapeshifting mother.
The older woman had told her to take the time to get to bed early since she was giving up so many naps for the still-recovering Regina during the days. But Ruby had insisted on spending the evening with Effy, as she had promised to do earlier that day. The poor girl was already spending so many of her evenings at the Inn with Granny, anything to help her oversensitive ears get away from the high-pitched cries of her brother. But as the old grandfather clock strikes nine, Ruby pins her fast-paced daughter down with a great paw and picks her up by the scruff of her neck to carry her towards the open door and Regina. When they’re close enough, she drops the pup onto the ground and shifts back into her natural state while Regina slips Effy’s necklace around her head until their daughter appears.
“But it’s still early,” Effy whines as she stands on two feet so she can stamp one angrily.
“Don’t,” Regina snaps, drained and impatient from days of unrest, not to mention the general ache that has set into her bones. “You’ll wake your brother.”
“Everything wakes him,” Effy replies just as quickly, just as impertinent. Ruby sighs as she sees the matching glares they wear, made all the more eerily similar by Effy’s ever-rounding cheeks. She’s only eight but already gorgeous, so much so that the waitress is more than apprehensive about her teenage years, and what bombshell with a cross of personalities between Regina’s and Ruby’s will inflict upon the world. The werewolf shivers but blames it on the cool air, reaching over to close the door. “The wind wakes him.”
“Eli–” Regina’s undoubtedly cross retort is cut off by a ringing coming from the open laptop on the kitchen island. The mayor squints and seems to let out a breath when she sees the name of who’s calling them, but Effy’s response is far more vocal, a loud squeal before she runs towards the computer, oblivious to her brother’s crying as a result.
“Auntie Kathryn!” She coos after hitting the answer button, grabbing the laptop possessively and walking away from the ruckus behind her, desperate for the attention from the woman despite the fact that she had been in the house earlier that day.
“Elizabeth,” Kathryn replies in kind, a grin on her face. “I guess I called at a bad time – your brother’s awake.”
“He’s always awake and always doing that,” Effy replies with a sniff as she settles herself on the bottom step of the winding stairs in their foyer. The cries are cut off, and Regina enters with a glare, the boy in her arms calmed for the moment by the bottle in his mouth.
“Maybe he’s so cranky because he doesn’t have a name yet.”
“Kathryn,” Regina greets with feigned civility, though she’s glaring at her daughter. “How was your flight home?”
“I slept through it. So I suppose it was quite blissful.”
“I don’t see why we can’t go with Charles.”
“I call Charlotte ‘Charlie’, I can’t be having two Charlies in my life, Regina.”
Regina huffs in her seat, undoubtedly chalking another misery in her life up to the Charmings as she all but inhales a cheeseburger. Giving birth has improved her appetite it would seem, even two weeks after. Ruby looks down at the little black-haired boy in the car seat next to her, adjusting the blanket around the nameless child just to have him kick it away again. Already with the attitude.
“You expect me to name my son ‘Jake’ of all things?”
Ruby rolls her eyes and reaches for her coffee, nursing it carefully due to the freshness of her refill. Granny doesn’t expect her to be working with a colicky newborn and a bratty eight year-old at home, but the two parents have taken to alternating half-days of work a few times a week to spare them each some sanity. Regina had come to pick her up and collapsed into a booth about an hour ago, and has yet to move since.
“You said you’d know when you saw him,” Regina replies before reaching for her milkshake.
She frowns and looks back down at him, waiting for the name to jump to her. Regina hadn’t limited it to names of royals, but she demanded something that had some prominence. Not that any other kind of names were coming to Ruby’s mind anyway. Glancing over to where her daughter sits with Adam, who is waiting for his mother to finish at school, Ruby sighs.
“You call Effy by a nickname.”
“A nickname I happened to like.”
“Because Henry chose it. Have him pick the name.”
It’s Regina’s turn to roll her eyes before she looks over at their daughter as well. “We could have her pick the name. Though, given her mood, I doubt it will be something we can say in public.”
She reaches over to kick her partner under the table, stealing a french fry from her plate while she does so. “You need to be more patient with her. This is a big change after being spoilt rotten for eight years.”
“Ruby, he’s not going anywhere, whether he has a name or not. And as he’s not going to stop being a newborn anytime soon, I cannot deal with two babies. She should be learning to be more independent anyway, not guaranteed chunks of our time whenever she’s bored.”
This was a tiring, unending, continuous conversation between them as of late, had been all through the last month of Regina’s pregnancy. But it was easy for Regina to be stern – she is unequivocally Effy’s favourite, no matter how often they fight, no matter how much time Ruby spends with the girl tearing through the forests as wolves. Not that Ruby minds, but it seems like being the fun parent by default is getting her nowhere and she finds it to be a little unfair. Glancing at her son, she decides to make sure she gets in his good graces early before Regina can charm him.
Regina doesn’t comment, as her mouth is currently full, but the look she gives Ruby across the table is a clear answer.
“I hate him.”
If Ruby wasn’t holding her wailing son, she probably would have dropped whatever was in her arms to stand in fear before the look that Regina gives their daughter. It’s fully and completely Evil Queen, terrifying and commanding once again. But Effy, despite her initial look of hesitation, sets her own look and stares her down, dark eyes furious and as cold as her mother’s.
“All he does is cry and make you guys miserable,” Effy continues stubbornly, her face twisted into as stern an expression as an eight year-old can muster. “You guys said it would be fun, you said I was a fun baby, so why isn’t he?”
“He is fourteen days old. This is what babies do, Elizabeth. And you’ll have to learn to live with it because there’s no other alternative.”
The baby continues to cry, high-pitched and demanding of the attention Ruby is denying him by watching the scene before her. But Effy is slowly turning fire engine red and the green-eyed woman can’t help but wait to see what happens when she explodes.
“I hate you.”
“Effy!” Ruby interjects immediately, only to be cut off by Regina’s cool reply.
“Regina! Jesus Christ,” she hisses, but Effy begins stamping her foot, her little fists curled into balls at her side. She turns around and reaches forward to grab one of the dining room chairs, throwing it to the ground before continuing on to the rest. Ruby moves to intercept, but Regina scoffs.
“Let her have her little tantrum,” she drawls lowly, her brown eyes dark as they glance at her daughter. “She can see who’s really acting like a baby here.”
Effy lets out a muffled scream before stomping towards the back door and throwing it open, ripping her necklace off and bounding out into the yard. Ruby glares at the woman across from her, unloading the child into her arms before taking off after their daughter while Regina stands in the foyer, holding the crying boy to her neck.
Ruby catches up to Effy a block away, choosing not to stop her but instead to cut her off every now and then to direct her path in circles until she tires herself out sometime around ten. When the pup finally gives a defeated huff, Ruby nudges her back towards her their home. She waits patiently in the entryway as Ruby changes back and heads upstairs to find a replacement chain for her necklace. When she comes back down, Effy transforms from a yawning a ball of fur to a young girl tiredly rubbing her eyes when her pendant is returned to her.
“I’m going to go tidy up a bit. Go to bed.”
She’s too tired to fight and thankfully Effy is as well. The girl only nods and climbs the staircase slowly, walking quietly when she has to pass the baby’s nursery, once Henry’s room, the blue walls are now donned with pictures of animals and far off lands. She stops instead of continuing on to her corner room and Regina looks up from the rocker when she does, her son comfortably resting in her arms. When she waves her daughter over, the girl obeys at once.
“This is your baby brother,” she informs Effy when she’s settled in her lap, wrapping one arm around the brunette’s tiny waist while the baby sits in the crook of her other. “And you’re pretty much going to set the ideal for every girl he ever meets and likes in his life, and it’s an awfully big responsibility because boys can be pretty thick sometimes.” Regina reaches up to run her hand through her daughter’s wavy hair, sighing as she relaxes back into the chair. “Hopefully between the three of us, we can help him be one of the better ones.”
“He needs a name,” Effy states as she leans against Regina’s shoulder. “I know I wouldn’t stop crying if I didn’t have one.”
“That’s probably true. What do you think we should name him?”
“Pip?” Regina cracks an eye open, her nose wrinkled. “Where did you get a name like that?”
“One of mama’s books. She said he was in love with Estella.”
The mayor of the small town glances up to the woman in question, who now stands leaning against the doorjamb. “That was just a nickname. His name was Phillip Pirrup. Because Charles Dickens was just goddamn ridiculous.”
“Oh.” Effy slides off Regina’s lap in an instant, rubbing her eyes once more as she walks towards the door, passing Ruby without so much as a bat of an eyelash. “I guess that’s a nice name too. I don't hate you, mommy.”
“With one ‘l’, I think.”
“I had an uncle named Philip. He was a Prince, thank you.”
“My pardons, Your Grace. However will you forgive me?”
Regina rolls her eyes as she smoothes lotion over her forearms, glancing at Ruby over her shoulder. “I liked him. He was the one who gave me Rocinante.”
“That seems as good a reason as any,” Ruby replies as she pulls back the covers and slides under, giving a relieved sigh as her body sinks into the mattress. Her eyes don’t droop however, instead they remain intently watching Regina’s motions as she moves on to hydrating her legs. “Though, you realize you’re subjecting him to a life as ‘Phil Mills’, right?”
“Well, all the more reason for him not to shorten a perfectly good name.” Regina finishes, rubbing her hands together to get rid of the excess lotion before settling back against the mattress. “We could finally throw the Lucas hyphen in after all this time.”
Ruby blinks and takes a moment as her tired brain processes the statement. “Was that an incredibly indirect way of asking me to marry you?”
“Well, it’s been a few years now. I know they’re slow, but the town may start to talk soon.” Regina looks over with a wry smile, hands continuing their movements. “Could be the political scandal that rocks my career, being an unwed mother with three children.”
“I’m glad we’ve been able to keep the romance alive after all this time.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry, please forgive your Queen this folly.” Ruby rolls her eyes but Regina turns on her side to mirror her position, sliding a hand over the younger woman’s hip and pulling her closer. “Marry me. Some kind of ceremony to sign a license. Change their names. Make our family... more official. Ours.”
Ruby manages to catch her off guard, always an accomplishment when it involves the Evil Queen, kissing her soundly and pressing her back against the bed. It’s a weird symbol of domesticity that she’s always coveted, never pushed for, not given Regina’s own horrid experiences with marriage. But the idea that it’s going to be hers when she had given up all hope has given her a second wind.
“So that’s a yes?” Regina asks when Ruby’s lips begin to travel down her neck.