now it's too late,
now love's a letter stamped "return to sender,"
stamped "surrender" on delivery.
-- Ai Ogawa
"Mom? Are you okay?"
My lips open, but just as quickly close without a sound. It feels like several minutes go by as I watch the highway race past my trusty yellow Bug, bringing us ever closer to Storybrooke. To home. But am I too late?
"Sorry, kid," I finally say, giving him a brief smile. "Just a lot on my mind, I guess."
From the corner of my eye, I can see him nodding, face scrunched up in that frown that is so reminiscent of his other mother. Eyes returning to the road, I take a deep breath and just try to concentrate on getting us both home without any further trouble. The sensation of his hand gently squeezing my forearm makes me smile and ease off the gas a little, signaling to take the next exit.
"Just need to stretch my legs, Henry, and I thought maybe we could get something to eat at the gas station."
He grins then, and I'm sure he's already planning on soaking me for a whole bunch of junk food that he'll scarf down before we even hit the town line. Regina's going to kill me if he gets a cavity on my watch.
What the hell am I going to be in for when we get back to Storybrooke?
Henry starts to get antsy as he sees the trees that we last saw one year ago as we drove out of Storybrooke to have a life together in New York. A life that was good and fulfilling; but it was a lie, and also without our family and our memories.
"Mom, come on! Hurry up."
The excitement in his voice is helping to buoy my spirits, but I remember the things Hook told me when I drank that potion and got my memories back. I know what we're coming back to, what I kept from Henry. There was enough of the memory potion for both of us, thank god, but he doesn't need to worry any more than he already has.
"I'm not going to speed, Henry. We're going to be there soon enough."
"You're the sheriff, Mom," he says with a laugh. "It's not like anyone's going to pull you over. Besides, everybody knows your Bug."
"That's beside the point, kid."
The Welcome to Storybrooke sign comes into view, and Henry starts chanting, "We're home! We're home! We're home!"
I can't help but get a little caught up in his enthusiasm. "Easy there, tiger. No distracting the driver. Your mom would kick my butt if I brought you home dinged up or in any way less than the way I left with you."
He rolls his eyes -- okay, I know that's from both of us -- and settles back in his seat. "Fine." He chews at his bottom lip for a moment, then smiles shyly when he catches me looking at him. "Do--" He hesitates, and I can see the little boy from the memories Regina supplied me with. "Do you think Mom missed me?"
"Are you kidding me?" Grateful for the red light, I turn to look at him for a moment. "Henry, your mom loves you more than anyone or anything in any land you can find. You know that."
"But we forgot all about her."
"Hey," I say, gripping his chin to force his gaze to mine again. "That was the curse. In your heart, you didn't really forget her, Henry."
And neither did I.
"Are you sure?"
"What do you feel here?" I shift my hand to rest over his heart. I can feel the slightly fast pace at which it's beating, but I can also feel the magical tug of the heart of the truest believer. "Do you honestly think your mom wouldn't miss u-- you?"
Damn it, Swan!
He giggles in that way he did when I first met him and the years melt away, like this is the first time I'm bringing him home. Home. God, but it feels good to say that.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I mean, she gave us good memories from when I grew up with her, right?"
"That's right, kid. Your mom really loves you."
"Okay," I say, staring at my parents, "where is she?"
Snow glances around the loft, looking for Henry, who is safely down the street at Granny's, probably being spoiled rotten with junk food. Regina's going to kill me. Oh, wait…
"And what in the hell happened to you?" I gesture vaguely at her stomach.
"I don't really think I have to explain the birds and the bees to you, do I?" she asks, confusion plain on her face. "I mean, you had Henry and--"
Holding up a hand to silence her, I run my other hand through my hair. "Look, I don't really care how you got knocked up, okay? Hook already explained that we need to come back to wake her up. I need to know exactly how she ended up like this so I know how to stop it."
Snow splutters, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Thankfully, David steps in and picks up the slack. "All we know is what Robin Hood told us."
"Wait. Robin Hood? Seriously?" I shake my head. "Of course, you're serious. Okay, so what did he say?"
"All we know is that she was devastated at losing Henry--"
"And you, Emma," Snow cuts in. "Don't forget that part, David."
Shit! The look on David's face probably matches mine right now. It's great when your parents know more about your love life than you do.
"Yes, your mother's right. Regina was in a horrible depression from the moment you drove over the town line. She tried to take her heart out and bury it, but your mother stopped her. And then she somehow managed to make the potion for the sleeping curse and pricked herself with a needle before Robin could stop her."
"She said that if she couldn't have the two of you," Snow says, taking over, "she'd rather sleep for eternity so that she could be with you in her dreams. She said that" -- she stumbles over her words, glancing uneasily at David, who won't meet her gaze -- "that Henry was clearly her true love and that only he could break the sleeping curse."
Okay, my superpower is definitely pinging now.
"So where is she and how do you want to do this?"
"She's at the mansion. Ruby's sitting with her right now. She and Granny have been helping out with keeping watch over her when we can't. I guess we just have Henry try to kiss her to wake her up, like you did when you broke the curse?"
More pinging. For a supposedly sweet and innocent woman, Snow White can lie like the best of the bail jumpers I used to chase. We're gonna have a nice long chat when all of this is over, I can see that now.
"Okay. Let me go try to explain this to Henry, then we'll head over to the mansion. If you two want to be there, that's fine. If you need to warn Ruby that we're coming, that's fine, too."
"So wait," he says, eyebrows scrunched together in that way that she always did. "Mom willingly put herself under the sleeping curse because of us?"
"Yeah, kid, she did."
"And it's up to us to wake her up then? So like Operation Cobra or something?" The conflicting emotions of despair and hope shine brightly in his eyes.
"Something like that." I take a deep breath and reach across the table to squeeze his hand. "She said that you were her true love and that only you could break the sleeping curse. You up for this?"
He chews at his bottom lip for a moment, then smiles brightly at me. "When do we leave for the mansion? Are we taking your car or are we walking?"
"We can walk if you want. It's still light enough outside."
Before I can say anything else, Henry gets up and goes to the counter, pulling his wallet from his back pocket. I can see him talking to Granny, who keeps pushing his hand away and shaking her head. Clearly she's chosen not to let him pay for his food. Not that I'm surprised. She winks at me as he turns around to face me. I wave to Granny as I join Henry to head for the door, and then we're outside and making our way up Main Street toward Mifflin Drive. Toward the beacon that guides us home, even if she's unconscious and unaware of our presence.
Only when we walk up to the front door does Henry break the silence. "Do you think Mom changed the locks? I mean, I know where she kept the spare and everything."
"I highly doubt it, considering they were sent right back to the Enchanted Forest when she broke Pan's curse. But Ruby knows--"
And then the door opens to reveal Snow standing there, nervous tension creating crow's feet at her temples. "Oh good, I thought I heard voices out here. Come on in. Ruby's sitting with Regina at the moment."
"Where's my mom?"
"She's up in her bedroom."
Before the words are out of her mouth, we're both racing for the stairs. If anyone asks, I'll just tell them that I'm making sure Henry doesn't kill himself on the way up. No one needs to know that I won't be able to breathe until I actually see her. We pause outside the bedroom to catch our breath, then Henry opens the door and we finally see her for the first time in a year.
She's lying on the bed in one of those elaborate dresses from Henry's book, hair up in a scary updo that looks painful, but sexy as hell. Shit! Focus, Emma! The scariest part is just how young she looks in sleep. It's like years of pain and sadness have been erased.
"She's so pretty."
"This face is what I remember when I was little and would sneak in to sleep with her," Henry says, making me realize that I spoke those words aloud. "Can-- Can I try to wake her up?"
"Go ahead, Henry," I reply, squeezing his shoulder.
He takes a deep breath, then walks over to the bed. No, he's creeping over, like he's afraid to wake her up. And a memory bubbles to the surface of him doing this to me once when he thought I was asleep. He must have been all of about four years old. No, wait! That must have been one of Regina's memories that she gave me.
"Hi, Mom," he says softly. "Hook gave us our memories so we could come back to you. So it's time to wake up now, Mom." He takes another deep breath and presses a kiss to her cheek, but nothing happens. He tries again, this time on her forehead, but still she sleeps on.
"Try one more time, Henry, okay?" Snow is ever the optimist, isn't she?
Henry frowns, then hesitantly leans in to press his lips to his mother's. When he pulls back to see no change in her state, I can see the tears forming in his eyes.
"If I'm not her true love, then who is?" he asks tearfully as he runs back to wrap his arms around my waist, head buried against my collarbone. "Is my mom never going to wake up now?"
Snow stares at me, her eyes then dragging over to the motionless woman on the bed, then back to me. Dear god, she doesn't do subtle, does she? When she repeats the motions again, I roll my eyes.
"Hey, Henry, how about you let me try something this time? Maybe my Savior magic can help?"
He leans back to stare at me for a moment, looking as skeptical as his mother would, then shrugs and smiles. "Yeah, you're right. Savior magic is powerful. Give it a shot, Mom."
When he steps away, I turn to look at the bed again, and the unconscious woman on it. After a moment, I move to sit gingerly on the mattress next to her and take her hand in mine. "Listen, Regina, I know this sounds crazy and we didn't really talk about it much, but we both know I've got to give it a shot, right? And if my theory is true, then I hope you don't hate me for this."
With that, I close my eyes and lean forward to press my lips lightly to hers, just like Prince Charming did to Snow White in the Disney cartoon I grew up with. Her lips feel warm and soft, just like I imagined they would. And they move just slightly against mine, just like I imagined they wou-- I pull back in shock to find eyes the color of burnt sienna slowly focusing on me.
"Mom! You're awake!"
Henry's body shakes the bed as he climbs up and crawls over to the other side. His arms go around her as he hugs her, tears even more evident by the tracks on his cheeks. Her eyes move from mine to Henry's face, and her smile grows broader.
"Oh, Henry, you're here." She kisses the top of his head, rubbing his back as he cries into her top. "Shh, it's okay, honey. I'm okay." She returns her gaze to me, a curious smile on her now tear-streaked face, and all I can do is squeeze her arm. "Emma?"
"Hi." With a single word, I'm transported back to the first night I met her.
She smiles and shifts to take my hand. "You-- You broke the curse, Emma."
"I guess I did."
"You know what that means?"
"Snow White, you have the worst timing in the entire world!"
Henry's muffled laugh sets me off. Mine sounds a little manic at the moment, the realization of what's just happened only really starting to set in.
"Leave, Snow. I will not have you babbling on while I reunite with my loves."
To my surprise, Snow does as asked without further comment. Amusingly, she drags both David and Ruby with her. When the door closes behind them, I feel a tug at my hand.
"How are you feeling?" I ask softly, not sure what else to say. Well, I know what I want to say, but I'm not sure I should. Not yet.
"Better now that the sleeping curse has been broken. Thank you. I thought Henry…"
"Yeah, I know. I did, too."
"So does this mean my moms are really gonna be my moms?" Henry asks, grinning up at me. "Like we'll really be a family?"
My eyes go from his to hers, and I feel myself getting lost in the flecks of gold in hers. "I guess that's up to your mom here, kid." I smile shyly then. "So what do you say, Regina? Wanna make an honest family of the three of us? Make our son's dream come true?"
She takes her time, staring first at Henry, then at me. Finally a broad smile lights up her face as she squeezes my hand again. "Who am I to deny my son his greatest dream when I've been granted mine?"
Without thought, I lean down and surrender to the desire to press another kiss to her lips, wrapping my arms around her and Henry to keep them both close.