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It’s not even January, but the wind is frigid and Emma feels like there are a thousand shards of glass slicing into her cheeks every time she steps outside. It’s almost January, almost. It’s a few days before Christmas and she’s almost fucking done working night shifts.

 

It’s nearly ten pm when Emma runs into Regina outside her office.

 

“Regina, what’s up?” Emma jogs toward the door, keys hanging from her left hand.

 

“Robin’s off in the woods, some sleepover for grown men,” Regina rolls her eyes and fluffs the navy blue scarf around her neck. “I don’t know.”

 

“You do know I’m on the clock, right?” Emma unlocks the front door to the station and steps aside to allow Regina in first. “I can’t really hang out and play Parcheesi.”

 

Regina barks out a laugh, “As if I would ever play a board game boasting chase, race, and capture. You, by this point, should know that’s something I enjoy much more on horseback.”

 

Emma stutters out something she hopes sounds more like a cough than actual choking. She remembers the illustrations of Regina in Henry’s book. The ones with the horses and the leather pants. She’s only fucking human.

 

“So, what are you doing here after dark?” Emma shrugs out of her jacket and tosses it over the back of David’s desk chair. “Don’t you have kids and a bedtime?”

 

Regina gives her a look before she carefully drapes her coat over the arm of the chair across from Emma’s desk.

 

“So no bedtime,” Emma sinks down into her chair, rolls around a little bit for good measure. “Kids?”

 

“Roland’s with Robin,” Regina picks some lint off her grey cashmere sweater. “Henry’s babysitting for your parents. Which leaves me bored and entirely sick of bleaching all the sinks in the house.”

 

“Wow, wild night. And that doesn’t answer my first question.”

 

“You’ve asked several since I arrived, Emma.”

 

“What are you doing here?” Emma leans back, clasps her fingers together and rests her hands, palms down, on her stomach.

 

“Crime’s been at an all time low,” Regina starts.

 

Emma snorts, “Yeah, a miracle.”

 

“I had a few topics I felt we should discuss.”

 

“Great,” Emma’s almost willing to let it go. But it’s still sort of late and Regina’s still just pretty married and they don’t do this. Not really.

 

“Christmas,” the thumb of Regina’s left hand starts to rub across the diamonds on her ring finger. A new nervous habit. “We’re hosting because my husband wants to drink mulled cider and eggnog and reminisce with the Merry Men in front of our fireplace. God forbid he speak about this privately with me, instead of in public where your mother can hear. And then invite herself. So we’re hosting a full family affair.”

 

“I take it you’re way less than pleased.”

 

“I was hoping for a quiet night. Just us and the children, setting out cookies for Santa and sending them off to bed. I was planning on inviting you over Christmas morning, providing a meal and facilitating gift opening—”

 

“Facilitating? Who are you?”

 

Regina rolls her eyes.

 

“Do you ever have fun? I mean, you don’t like Parcheesi, you want to facilitate gift opening on Christmas,” Emma’s eyes narrow. “What is your idea of fun Ms. Mills.”

 

Regina doesn’t bother to correct her, nor does she bother to answer the question. “But instead, I will be cooking a literal feast and entertaining into the wee hours of the morning. No doubt all of the Merry Men will be sleeping on my living room floor.”

 

“Is it sometimes like you married nine men instead of one?” Emma grins, cheeky and bright.

 

Regina glares at her and really, Regina can’t manage malice anymore. Emma just thinks it’s sort of cute.

 

“As I was saying,” Regina continues. “If you could be so helpful as to discourage your parents from bringing any edible items to my home on Christmas Eve, it would be quite a favor. I would, as you would say, ‘owe you big time’?”

 

“Wait, I'm confused. You’re sort of complaining about cooking a feast, but you don’t want my parents to bring anything that would make the feast preparation easier for you?”

 

Regina sighs, as if Emma is maybe the dumbest person on earth, “I have a plan. An entire meal plan and if your mother so much as brings a pan of sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows on top, I will curse us all to yet another realm.”

 

“No mini marshmallows. Got it,” Emma nods and gives a thumbs up. “Anything else?”

 

“Bring booze. Lots of it.”

 

“Who says booze anymore? What is this, a 1920s speakeasy?”

 

Regina picks up her jacket and heads for the door without another word.

 

 

Regina and Robin have been married for two and a half months now. Their thank you notes were signed Robin and Regina. But the return address said The Locksleys.

 

Emma tries not to think about it. Because she promised Regina she’d do better, she’d be better.

 

She has been better. For two and a half months, she’s been better.

 

Emma dreams less, of something like family, of something like love. But sometimes she dreams about dark eyes full of unshed tears and words not said, and dark eyes that feel like drowning. And a smile that holds so much promise and so much faith. And there’s a dark honey voice that says Of course I loved you before Emma wakes, her breath heavy and her chest aching.

 

But she’s been better. So she says yes to Christmas and yes to copious amounts of alcohol, and yes to a night full of the Merry Men and The Locksleys.

 

 

There is a turkey when Emma arrives. Regina is busy basting and Roland is watching very intently from his spot at the kitchen island.

 

“What are you doing?” he asks, squirms around in his seat.

 

“It’s so the turkey doesn’t dry out,” Regina explains, pushes the roasting pan back into the oven. “We wouldn’t want to eat it then. So every so often, we take the turkey out of the oven, and pour the juice in the bottom of the pan over it like I just did. It’s called basting.”

 

“Oh,” Roland ponders this for a minute. “I see.”

 

Henry is next to Regina at the counter, a very large knife in one hand. “Hey Ma.”

 

“Hey kid,” Emma heaves a bag onto the counter. The sound of clinking glass makes Regina cringe. “Mom put you to work, huh?”

 

“She says I’m old enough for the big knives this year,” Henry holds up the knife proudly and Regina rolls her eyes.

 

“Careful with that, young man.”

 

“It’s not like I’m gonna stab anybody,” Henry heaves a large sigh and continues to half the brussels sprouts.

 

Emma grins and places a large bottle of bourbon on the counter next to Robin. “For the eggnog.”

 

“You’re a lifesaver,” he nods his thanks and heads over to an space of counter near the stove. There’s a carton of eggs, half gone, a few mixing bowls, a carton of milk, various Christmas spices, and a bowl of sugar.

 

“Oh, crap, you’re making it from scratch?” Emma follows him over to take a look.

 

“Regina insisted. Join me in the libation creation?” Robin hands her an electric hand mixer and Emma mock salutes.

 

Henry is chopping vegetables and Roland is doing something with some dough at his kitchen space. Emma gets the distinct feeling that nothing will actually be done with that dough, but he is happily poking holes in it as she sets to work with some egg whites. Regina is at the stove, stirring this and that, she smiles at Emma when she catches her eye.

 

“Thank you for coming early,” she pours Emma a glass of wine. “As you can see, everyone’s been quite helpful, but I could use another set of hands.”

 

Emma takes the offered glass with a grateful smile turns the mixer up to medium. “Not a problem. My parents were doing that awful thing where they tried to dress up Leo as a Christmas elf. I had to get out.”

 

Regina rolls her eyes and sets her wine glass down on the counter. “Of course they did.” She nudges Henry aside with her hip and he makes a small sound of protest before realizing he’s finished his task. “Thank you, mijo. Can you peel the potatoes?”

 

“Can I mash them later too?” he makes his way over to the sink and reaches for an opened can of Coke sitting next to a colander of carrots.

 

Regina nods, “Of course you can.”

 

“I’ve never done this,” Emma places the bowl of egg whites next to Robin. “I mean, I’ve never made a holiday meal with anyone before.”

 

Regina’s hand is at the small of her back for a moment as she reaches for a dishcloth, “I’m happy you’re here with us.”

 

Emma smiles then, a little watery and a little in love. “Thanks.”

 

 

The eggnog is amazing. And the bourbon to dairy ratio is pretty much perfect. Emma and Robin sampled the first glasses with a toast to holidays and cheer and bullshit. Emma’s on her second glass and has just watched Regina make some of the most amazing gravy she’s ever sampled.

 

“I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but you seem really at home in the kitchen,” Emma comments. Robin has taken the boys into the living room to make sure everything is in order and that no one has done any gift peeking.

 

“It relaxes me,” Regina smiles and removes a bowl of dough from the fridge. “When I complain about this,” she gestures grandly with her free hand. “It’s not so much the task of it.”

 

“You’re not so much about the entertaining.”

 

“No, I’m not. I prefer family dinners, a dinner guest or two, not an entire holiday of my husband’s friends and… well,” Regina sighs, sprinkles some sugar across an empty space on the counter.

 

“Who’s coming?”

 

“Well,” Regina begins to roll out the dough. “It’ll be the Merry Men, your parents and Leo. I forbade your mother from inviting all the dwarves as well.”

 

“I don’t think I’ve met all of the Merry Men,” Emma sets her empty glass down in front of her.

 

“Keep Much away from the eggnog,” Regina warns, begins to roll the dough onto itself.

 

“Right, I met Much. The night before your wedding. Kid can put it away.”

 

“Barely,” Regina snorts.

 

“What are you making?”

 

“Palmiers, elephant ears, to go with dessert.” Regina places the dough in the freezer. “How’s the eggnog?”

 

“Amazing,” Emma licks her lips and pushes her glass forward until she can’t reach it anymore. “I think I should take a break. Save the real drinking for social hour.”

 

“We hung the mistletoe!” Henry bounds back into the kitchen.

 

“Wonderful, did anyone give it a good test run?” Regina looks at him expectantly.

 

“Not yet, but Roland was insistent you meet him under it asap,” Henry nods at his mother.

 

Regina sighs and follows Henry toward the living room. Emma joins them a minute later, a refill on the eggnog more pressing if mistletoe was now part of the equation. She joins the group in time to see Roland place a sloppy kiss to Regina’s cheek. Regina laughs and reaches for the little boy. He’s all too excited to jump up into her arms to receive a kiss of his own. It’s disgusting it’s so cute.

 

“Papa, you too!” Roland claps his hands and reaches for Robin.

 

Robin laughs and moves forward to wrap one arm around his son, the other around Regina’s waist. He kisses Roland’s cheek with a fond smile, and the little boy claps his hands again. And then Robin’s leaning toward Regina and they’re smiling at each other like two idiots and Emma wishes she could look away. But she can’t, so she sees, really sees, when Robin presses a gentle kiss to Regina’s lips. And Regina is radiant and she’s still wearing her apron, and fuck.

 

 

Little John is the first one there and despite having had minimal contact up to this point, he hugs Emma like a long lost sister. He’s friendly and actually hilarious, so he and Emma talk for a while. They bond over the eggnog and Little John teases Robin about his cable knit sweater.

 

Much the Miller’s Son is sheepish for a while, until he has a couple glasses of eggnog and claps Emma on the back like he’s not barely legal. She hasn’t seen him since the morning after the rehearsal dinner incident. She thinks she should cut him off after a few more.

 

Her parents arrive somewhere in the middle and Emma scoops up Leo and tickles him until he can’t stop laughing. He’s still dressed like a fucking Christmas elf, but he’s so damn cute that Emma doesn’t mind all that much. Regina makes no comment but flicks the bell at the end of his floppy elf hat and gives him several kisses to both cheeks.

 

Dinner is served promptly at six and Regina allows Robin to carve the turkey. He gives one drumstick to Roland, the other to Henry, and the two look so proud of their plates that Emma snaps a photo or two with her phone. Regina’s outdone herself, really, but it’s no surprise at all. There’s a four cheese mac and cheese and Emma is allowed first choice, so she chooses one of the corners where the cheese has melted perfectly with the breadcrumbs. There are brussels sprouts with sherry and thick-cut bacon, buttery mashed potatoes, there’s a loaf of bread that Emma knows is homemade but never watched Regina bake, and by the end of the fucking meal, Emma is so full and so close to drunk that she doesn’t even care that Robin and Regina are holding hands on top of the table.

 

 

It’s somewhere in the middle of gift exchanges that Emma ends up with a small package with no card or label. It’s wrapped in gold paper and she’s so careful when she unwraps it. The box is black velvet and when she opens it, she almost cries. There’s a little gold pendant, Polaris, dangling from a gold chain. There is a little cluster of diamonds (are they diamonds?) and there’s a small note, written in Regina’s script, so you can always find home. wherever it may be. love, h&r.

 

She looks up and catches Regina’s eye and Regina smiles, “Merry Christmas, Emma.”

 

Well, shit.

 

 

Mary Margaret and David bow out first. Leo needs his sleep. So the guests begin to trickle out. The Merry Men leave in twos and threes, until it’s just Little John. He hangs out with Emma, makes her nearly snort eggnog out of her nose while Regina and Robin put the boys to bed. And it’s good and it doesn’t hurt.

 

When Regina and Robin return, hands clasped together between them, Little John hands Robin a fresh glass of eggnog, nods his head toward the back door. Robin nods his agreement and they head out back, into the snow.

 

“Can I help you clean up?” Emma gets to her feet slowly. She’s drunk, too drunk to be alone around Regina, but she doesn’t want to go home. Not yet.

 

Regina’s drunk too, her eyes are hazy and her smile is slow and sweet. “If you really want to.”

 

“I do,” Emma nods and starts to gather empty plates and cups from the floor. “That wasn’t so bad, was it? It was actually kind of fun.”

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a house so full of mirth,” Regina looks around at the mess of crumpled wrapping paper and empty boxes littering her usually pristine living room. She smiles at it all, lets her eyes linger on every single thing, “It’s what I always wanted. A house full of laughter and people. People that are living and loving.”

 

“You have that now,” Emma gives her a crooked smile as she places a small stack of dessert plates on a side table. “You deserve that.”

 

“Thank you,” Regina has a stack of cups in each hand. “Your parents were even tolerable.”

 

Emma laughs, “I think they’ve been more than tolerable for a while. For you.”

 

“Don’t ever tell them,” Regina sighs and heads toward the kitchen.

 

Emma picks up her stack of plates and follows, “I hate to break it to you, Regina. But I’m pretty sure they know.”

 

Regina shakes her head and places all of the cups in the sink. “They know nothing.” She pours herself another glass of wine and one for Emma as well.

 

“I shouldn’t.”

 

“But you will. The guest room is yours. You might as well stay, Santa won’t come if you don’t.”

 

Emma gives Regina a look, “Santa isn’t coming for me, Regina. Santa isn’t real.”

 

Regina rolls her eyes and motions for Emma to follow her back into the living room. She stops in the doorway to look around again, as if she can’t really believe there were ever people laughing and sharing with her not an hour ago. It breaks Emma’s heart a little bit and at the same time she falls even more in love.

 

“You deserve it,” she rests a gentle hand on Regina’s forearm. “You deserve friends and a family and a husband and kids. You deserve all of it, Regina.”

 

“You do too, you know,” Regina turns to look up at Emma. She shed her heels after all the gifts had been opened, and Emma can see the dark purple polish on her toenails through her sheer black stockings.

 

“I’d rather a wife than a husband, and I think I might be set on kids, but maybe,” Emma shrugs, rubs her thumb against the bare skin of Regina’s arm. “Thanks for letting me be here.”

 

Regina smiles, sweet, radiant, beautiful, and her eyes drift above Emma’s head. Emma tilts her chin up too, wants to see what Regina’s looking at. The god damn mistletoe is just above them and Emma can’t breathe. She should step away from fucking glowing radiant drunk Regina. She should step away and say goodnight. She doesn’t though. She leans in and presses a soft kiss to Regina’s cheek. Too close to the corner of her mouth, dangerously close to her mouth. Regina’s still smiling, dazed and her eyes flutter closed.

 

So Emma does it again. But this time, she catches the corner of Regina’s mouth with her lips, lingers there, “You’re beautiful when you’re happy.” She smiles too. “I mean,” her lips brush against Regina’s and she loses all fucking rational thought. “You’re really beautiful all the time, but,” she can’t breathe. She can’t think. “You’re exceptionally beautiful right now.”

 

“Emma,” there’s a hint of warning, but Regina leans in closer, brushes her lips against Emma’s again.

 

Emma’s nose bumps against Regina’s and she lets out a slow breath. “I’m gonna go upstairs. And I’m gonna go to bed.”

 

“Okay,” Regina shivers and Emma takes a step back. “Okay.”

 

“Thank you,” Emma’s hand moves to the new pendant around her neck. “Really.”

 

“You’re welcome, querida.”

 

Emma wants to die.

 

 

Emma wakes up with a headache and a pinch in her lower back. But she wakes up to Henry at the foot of her bed, a fuzzy robe thrown over his flannel pajamas. He’s got a Santa hat on too, and he nudges her foot with one knee.

 

“Come on, Santa came!”

 

She’s as helpless as Regina, so she throws off the blankets and follows him downstairs. Regina’s in the kitchen humming along to Sinatra’s rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. She joins the rest of them in the living room, a tray of coffees and hot chocolates in her hands.

 

Roland scampers forward to claim his hot cocoa and settles himself on Robin’s lap. Henry is far less restrained and has already begun distributing gifts, a pile for Roland, a pile for himself.

 

“Roly Poly, don’t forget your stocking,” he grins and reaches for his own hot chocolate.

 

Roland giggles at the nickname and is very careful to place his little mug on the coffee table with both hands. “Did Santa eat the cookies?”

 

“Let’s look!”

 

Both boys scamper over to the plate they had left the night before, carrots for the reindeer too.

 

“They’re all gone!”

 

Robin pats his stomach and winks conspiratorially at Emma. She laughs and Regina shakes her head, though she’s smiling the entire time.

 

“How can he eat so many cookies in one night?” Roland reaches up for his stocking, overflowing with treats. “Doesn’t he get a tummy ache?”

 

“Santa is a very special gentleman, my boy.” Robin’s coffee mug is halfway to his lips. “He is on a very special diet that allows him to eat so many cookies on Christmas Eve. Only he and Mrs. Claus know the secret to eating so many. Not even the elves know.”

 

“Not even the elves?” Roland looks up with wide eyes.

 

“Not even the elves,” Robin nods and sips his coffee.

 

Somewhere along the way, Henry’s Santa hat makes it onto Emma’s head, and Robin has somehow found another for Regina. It’s disgusting really. She grumbles about it for a minute until Roland jumps up onto her lap with his new Batmobile toy and a candy cane that he has already unwrapped for her. She says something about too much sugar in the morning, but takes the damn thing anyway.

 

Emma realizes both she and Robin are staring like two idiots because Regina is nothing short of adorable. Flannel pajamas and a Santa hat, candy cane in one hand, little Roland curled up under her other arm.

 

Fuck.

 

“It looks like Santa really outdid himself this year,” Regina turns to look at Robin, who gives a sheepish smile in return. They’re both bad at this, Emma can tell, spoiling Henry and Roland is a habit neither will soon break.

 

“Santa is the best!” Roland throws both hands up in the air in excitement. “I love Santa!”

 

“Santa knows how good you both were this year,” Regina reaches for her coffee with her left hand. Emma catches sight of another band of diamonds, a third band, on her ring finger. Seriously? Gross.

 

There are still a few gifts left under the tree, a few for Regina and Robin, two for Emma.

 

There’s a scarf, the softest cashmere Emma’s ever felt, from Regina and Robin, (although she’s guessing mostly Regina,) and a pair of mittens from Henry and Roland. Mittens that look like little foxes and Regina can’t contain her chuckle. 

 

“The boys insisted.”

 

“I love them.”

 

The boys or the mittens, she’s not entirely sure which.

 

 

“Emma Swan!” Little John’s voice booms through her phone and she holds it away from her ear while she fumbles for the volume button.

 

“Little John!”

 

“We’re having a party, the Merry Men, out at our camp to celebrate the new year! Come join us! After sundown tonight, dress warmly and we’ll provide the rest.”

 

“Sweet,” Emma throws a pencil across her desk at David. “I’ll see you then.”

 

David looks up and throws the pencil right back, “You’re going to a party?”

 

“In the woods. With the Merry Men.”

 

“I wish I got invited to parties,” David looks wistful for a moment. “Anyhow, have fun.”

 

“I will,” Emma starts to put on her jacket. “You cool if I head out early?”

 

“No problem, it’s a holiday, I think I can cover it.”

 

She feels bad for a minute, wonders if she should invite her parents, but there’s Leo and who invites their parents to a party in the woods?

 

 

She’s bundled in the warmest coat she owns, her new scarf, her little fox mittens, and a puffball hat. She follows the path toward the Merry Men’s camp, nearly slipping and falling on her ass only once. She can hear them all before she sees them, laughing and joking, she can hear Little John proclaim that this is the best party of them all and she can hear Robin agree with a hearty laugh. There are three fires blazing in the middle of camp, Regina and Robin are seated toward the farthest one, Little John and Alan-a-Dale on either side.

 

“Emma Swan!” Little John stands, waves one mittened hand at her. “Join us!”

 

She does, squeezes into the space between Little John and Regina. Regina rests a gentle hand on her knee in greeting and Robin reaches over to clap her on the back.

 

“I’m glad you’re here,” Regina’s voice is low.

 

“It’s kind of a sausage fest, not totally your scene, am I right?”

 

“Something like that,” Regina shrugs and passes Emma a red Solo cup.

 

“Oh no, it’s like a frat party,” Emma groans and reaches for the bottle of whiskey near Little John’s feet.

 

Regina chuckles and Emma knows, she doesn’t mind the Merry Men. Not as much as she wants everyone to think. Emma knows because Emma watched Regina smile at each of them in turn during dinner. A warm sweet smile for each one. Because even though they’re a rag tag group of grown men, camping in the woods like boy scouts and drinking out of red Solo cups, they’re all so god damn endearing.

 

“You kind of like it though, don’t you?” Emma smiles softly, nudges Regina with her knees.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Regina scoffs, takes a generous sip of whatever she’s got in her cup.

 

“You’re included, it’s special. Don’t worry, I won’t tell.” Emma holds up the bottle, looks at the label. “Gross, John. You’re drinking Old Crow? Don’t tell me this is what you’re serving Regina too.”

 

“Regina brought her own, smart lady,” Little John raises his cup in a toast.

 

Regina raises her own glass in response and takes a slow sip. “If you’re so inclined, Miss Swan, Robin’s hiding a bottle of Glenmorangie somewhere.”

 

“Shit, that’s what you bring to a party in the woods?” Emma tosses the bottle of Old Crow back at Little John. “Give me some of that.”

 

Robin passes over the bottle and Emma wastes no time in helping herself.

 

“You can’t even do camping in the woods casually,” Emma hands the bottle back, takes a look at Regina. She’s wearing a black shearling coat and a little black beanie. She’s still adorable. Emma takes a slow sip of her scotch, “Shit, that’s great.”

 

 

There’s music and Robin is dancing with Regina, spinning her around between the fires, and she is laughing and reaching for him and her cheeks are pink and god damn it she’s beautiful.

 

Much the Miller’s Son makes his way toward Emma. He’s still awkward around her, mostly because he drunk wept in the tank during Robin and Regina’s rehearsal dinner. He’s still trying to make amends. Emma’s almost forgotten it, but Much hasn’t really. He bows and offers a hand, “A dance, Sheriff Swan?”

 

“Sure,” Emma gets to her feet. “Why the hell not?”

 

He spins her once, then twice, and it’s some sort of Enchanted Forest party dance that Emma knows nothing of. Regina eventually takes pity on her and tries to teach her something, but then Regina is spinning her around and she’s a little breathless and very sweet.

 

“You’ve almost got it, Emma!” Robin cheers from where he is refilling drinks and opening packages of sparklers.

 

“I’ve got two left feet,” Emma calls in response, gripping Regina’s forearms tighter to keep from falling. “And absolutely no sense of rhythm. But I always wanted to be in a band. A Nirvana cover band.”

 

“Of course you did,” Regina rolls her eyes as the song finally comes to an end. 

 

“I would play bass maybe,” Emma picks up her drink. “I don’t have that Kurt Cobain vibe.”

 

“Something you should be thankful for,” Regina finds her own drink as well.

 

“It’s ten minutes to midnight,” Robin finds them, wraps an arm around Regina’s waist, kisses her temple.

 

“Were there special traditions in the Enchanted Forest? Like watching the ball drop in Times Square and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve?” Emma tugs her hat back down over her ears. It’s cold, but she’s sweating now. The dancing, the fires, Regina being so damn close, and her first layer of clothing is uncomfortably damp.

 

“Not like here,” Regina shifts closer to Robin but keeps both of her hands clasped firmly around her cup. “There was never any kissing at midnight, or any of that. There were parties and balls, and people celebrated, but it was never so required.”

 

“This is what we always did,” Robin gestures to the festivities around them. “We’re a family here. We like to reminisce about the year past, and send good will for what lies ahead. You, Emma Swan, are now part of the family. Little John and I insist.” Robin hands her a sparkler, then one to Regina. “To new family and friends,” Robin raises his glass.

 

“Hear, hear!” Emma raises her own glass.

 

The three of them reach forward, Red cups coming together in a rather unimpressive hollow sound. Regina lights her sparkler first, reaches out tentatively and allows the thing to light. And she stands back, Robin’s arm still wrapped around her. She smiles at Emma, watches her light her own sparkler before Little John announces, “Happy New Year!”

 

“Happy New Year,” Regina echoes, turns her face up toward Robin’s. He smiles down at her, nuzzles her nose with his before pressing a soft kiss to her lips.

 

Emma shouldn’t be watching, not really, but she can’t really help it when they’re right there. She’s half repulsed and half interested. She just wants to understand, really. Why he works for Regina, why they work together.

 

“Happy New Year, Emma,” Regina’s leaning forward, pressing her cheek to Emma’s, her breath warm against Emma’s ear.

 

“Happy New Year,” Emma nods, feels Regina’s lips, a little chapped but still softer than anything she’s ever felt, against her cheek. I’m sort of still in love with you. She doesn’t say it, can’t say it, not while Robin and Little John are hugging it out next to them. Not while Robin’s been so willing to welcome her into his space, his family, his friends. Even though it’s so clear to anyone with eyes that Emma is smitten and can’t look at anyone but his wife.

 

Regina pulls back and smiles, allows Emma to refill her cup, “I’m glad you’re here.”

 

Emma wants to say she’s glad too, wants to tell Regina just how much Christmas meant to her, just how much the fucking gold and diamonds around her neck mean to her, but it all falls flat. It gets stuck in her throat because it’s fucking trite and wrong.

 

Regina can see, Regina’s not blind, “What’s wrong?”

 

Emma can feel her own smile faltering, turning down, can feel her heart hammering in her chest, and she’s looking at Regina like of course I loved you again.

 

She has to get out, she can’t be here anymore, not with Regina smiling and laughing and kissing her cheek. Not with the Merry Men who can’t possibly understand. Not with Robin, who knows and says nothing. Not with the fucking Locksleys and this easy marriage they’ve somehow slipped into. This marriage where Regina isn’t Regina unless she’s with Emma. Because who is the fucking Stepford that Emma’s been saying hello to on the street. Who is this woman that cooks for nine men and allows them to trample all over her carpet in their boots. Emma doesn’t know her.

 

“This isn’t right,” Emma mumbles. “None of this is right.”

 

“What’s not right?” Regina’s concerned then, reaching out to Emma. “Emma, what’s wrong?”

 

“I wanted to be better, do better, let you have this, because you’re really fucking happy.”

 

“Oh, no.” Regina’s voice drops, so does her hand. “Oh, no. Emma.”

 

It’s too late, the damage has been done. Stupid, stupid.

 

“Happy New Year, I’ll see you when I see you,” is all she can think of to say as she turns, heads back the way she came. She walks, boots heavy and it’s so fucking cold.

 

She’s almost to her car when she hears Regina, “Emma, wait.”

 

“I can’t be around you right now,” Emma stops, but she doesn’t turn around. The bug is ten feet ahead of her, Regina ten behind. “I can’t really be good for you right now.”

 

“I don’t want you to be good for me, Emma.” She can hear Regina taking a step forward. “I want you to be good for you.”

 

“I’ve tried to be better and do better and not inter-fucking-fere.” She shoves a hand into her pocket for her keys. “But the things that have been happening, the things you’ve been doing? Christmas, the presents, the family, letting me be a part of something, part of a family. Letting me fucking kiss you.”

 

“I didn’t mean—”

 

“The things you gave me, I mean, the necklace, but I also mean the other — you can’t just do that and expect me to be okay. You can’t treat me like I’m someone you want like that.” She turns around to face Regina then, but it’s a fucking mistake because it’s the shores of Neverland all over again.

 

“You’re so important to me. To us. To me.”

 

“You’re important to me too, you know that.”

 

“You belong here, you belong with us, you have family and friends and I just wanted, want. I want you to be happy. I want you to have all of it too.” Regina reaches for Emma, palms up. “I want a life with you in it, where you’re part of my family too.”

 

Emma reaches out for Regina’s hand without thinking. Takes it in hers, holds on tight. Regina’s eyes are glassy and her nose is red from the cold, the drinking too, “It’s not gonna work like that. It can’t work like that. You made a choice, so now I’m making a choice. I can’t really do this. I don’t wanna have casual dinners with your family anymore, I don’t wanna hang out.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“I thought I was still being selfish,” Emma shakes her head, squeezes Regina’s hand. “I thought I was still being really fucking selfish. But you’re being selfish too. You can’t have this weird domestic thing with Robin Hood and then fucking — you don’t get to treat me like that.”

 

“Emma?”

 

“You can’t look at me like you looked at me under the fucking mistletoe. That’s not what you do when you’re married to a fucking great guy like Robin Locksley who lets me come hang out with you guys even though I’m in love with you and you’re sort of in love with me. It’s so fucked up, Regina!”

 

“I thought we were friends.”

 

“That’s not what friends do, Regina. I’m gonna take a step or five back. I just want space, a lot of it, for a while.” Emma sighs, steps forward and pulls Regina close. “Go be happy, love your husband, get pregnant, whatever.”

 

Regina pushes at Emma’s arms, won’t be held for a second longer. “Don’t. Don’t.”

 

“If you love something, set it free, right? I’m really trying to do that. Because you asked me to. Can you maybe try to do that for me?”

 

“I don’t love you, Emma. I don’t.” Regina’s pulling away, won’t meet her eyes.

 

“Yeah? Well I love you. A whole fucking lot.”

 

Emma’s turning when Regina grabs her arm, pushes her back against the bug. And then Regina’s lips are on hers and her shaking hands are reaching for any part of Emma they can find. Her arms, her cheeks, her hips. She’s lips and teeth and jesus, tongue, and they don’t break apart until they hear Robin, calling Regina’s name.

 

“I don’t think I want to see you anymore either,” Regina pushes herself off of Emma, tugs at some of Emma’s hair. “You’d really want that?”

 

“Want what?” Emma can’t breathe, can’t think, and she’s going to collapse in on herself the second Regina turns away.

 

“Me. Pregnant.”

 

Emma falls forward at that, one hand reaches out to steady herself agains the bug, the other moves to her stomach. “Fuck.”

 

“I hate you,” Regina takes a step back.

 

“You don’t.”

 

“Regina?” Robin’s jogging out of the woods. “Is everything alright?”

 

“Emma’s not feeling well,” Regina turns to him, reaches for his hand. “She’s just heading home.”

 

“Thanks for having me,” Emma manages to straighten up again and she yanks open the driver’s side door. “It was a real great time.”

 

“Are you okay to drive?” Robin reaches out.

 

“I’m fine,” Emma shrugs him off and gets into the car. “Happy New Year.”

 

“What’s wrong?” Robin’s looking at Regina, pulling her close.

 

“Nothing at all, dear,” Regina shakes her head, allows herself to be held this time.

 

“Did you and Emma have a fight?” is the last thing Emma hears as she drives away.

 

 

They don’t speak. Not on the street, not at the diner, not when Emma drops Henry off for Regina’s weeks. Regina doesn’t even look at her anymore. Emma didn’t look at first either. But now she’s looking again. Because fuck Regina. Fuck Regina and fuck Robin and fuck The Locksleys.

 

“What’s going on with you and my mom?” Henry’s slouched in the front seat with his new iPhone. A guilt gift from Regina.

 

“Your mom and I need some space for a while,” Emma sighs, turns off Smells Like Teen Spirit.

 

“Because of Robin?”

 

“Sort of. But because of a lot of things. We weren’t treating each other very well, weren’t respecting boundaries and really didn’t have very many of those to begin with. So. I told her it would be best if we maybe didn’t hang out for a while.” Emma looks over at him. “You okay with that?”

 

“I mean, yeah. She was mad for a while. But I think she’s okay now.”

 

“Good,” Emma nods, tries to believe it.

 

“Loving people really sucks sometimes,” Henry looks up finally. Smiles at Emma, wide and bright like he used to. “But hey, I love you. And that doesn’t suck.”

 

“Nah, kid. It doesn’t suck at all.”