When Regina rings the doorbell at Emma’s apartment, bottle of wine in hand, she’ll admit she’s a little nervous.
When Emma invites her in, all flushed cheeks and bright eyes and wordless, breathless excitement, she might go so far as to admit tobeing, fine, more than a little nervous. Emma just hugs her, and Regina feels the air leave her lungs as she automatically wraps her arms around Emma’s shoulders. They’ve never really been casual huggers, certainly not with each other. She thinks, watching Emma step back with a wide smile and a bright, high laugh, that maybe Emma’s over-compensating. That maybe Regina is not the only one who’s nervous.
When Regina walks into the kitchen, and sees the already-assembled dinner party, she stops, brought up short.
Mary Margaret and David, distracted by a squirming Ruth and a boisterous Neal; Henry, who shoots her a long-suffering look while Roland jabbers away next to him; Robin, studiously avoiding eye contact, and Tink looking resplendent beside him; and Hook, sitting at the head of the table like he belongs there and looking more smug than she’s seen him in a long while.
Not the quiet, nerves-inducing dinner-for-two Regina has been wrestling with ever since Emma invited her, three days ago.
For a few moments, she just stops, and stares.
“Mom!” Henry jumps to her rescue, and hurries over for a hug.
“Henry,” she manages, pressing her face into the top of his hair and taking the opportunity to assume a neutral expression. “How was school?”
“Fine,” Henry says, extracting himself from the hug and pulling her towards the table. “C’mon, sit, they wouldn’t let us start before you got here.”
“He means us,” Emma quips; Regina hadn’t heard her come in again, but now she’s moved to the head of the table, bearing an oven tray massed with roast vegetables.
Regina bites the echoing us? back just in time; and then Hook is taking the tray out of Emma’s hands, placing it squarely on the dining table – their dining table, the table they share in the apartment they share, the apartment that Regina’s always just thought of as Emma’s - and really, it’s been three years.
She lets Henry pull her into a seat next to Roland; he’s just brimming with stories from his first few weeks at school, and a long-winded discussion about the lunch menu takes them all the way through the main course without Regina being required to make small talk. She still feels off-balance, though, and the two glasses of wine she drank a little too quickly aren’t really helping. It’s not that she was expecting anything dramatic, she tells herself, over and over, listening to Emma laughing brightly, three seats away. It’s just that…
It’s just that, lately, there’s been a significant drop in the amount of times Emma will drop in over lunch, and the number of evenings they’ll spend watching movies together with Henry, and the number of texts Emma might send her in the course of a day’s work for the police department. She’s been meaning to figure out a way to bring it up, as casually as anything, except of course there’s no way to make that casual, not with Emma; Emma Swan could turn a disagreement over what to serve for dinner into a teachable moment, complete with a clumsy desert-based metaphor. Besides, what is there to say, really? I feel like you’re avoiding me and I’d like to know why is so very dangerously close to I miss you, and the reasons why that particular conversation can’t ever, ever happen… Those reasons have been sitting at Emma’s dining table for three years now, making vaguely inappropriate conversation with her father and luring her son away with sailing lessons and fresh fish.
Luring. She needs to get a grip.
Regina takes another gulp of wine, and forces herself to taste the food she’s been mechanically shovelling into her mouth to avoid conversation for the past few minutes. There’s a kind of ringing in her ears.
She shakes her head to dislodge it, but it’s still there, still ringing –
Except no, it’s not in her ears; someone is tapping a spoon against glass, and the general hubbub of conversation dies down a little.
When Regina looks up, she’s less than surprised to see Hook standing with a wine glass in his hand, his hook tapping against it lightly, commanding everyone’s attention with an entitled sort of look that brokers no discussion; silence falls, and then Emma is back, holding a bottle of champagne.
“You’re probably wondering why we’ve called you all here today,” Hook says, gesturing around at them all with his hook in what seems to be an attempt at roguish, unplanned charm. Regina can feel the beginnings of a headache coming on, and busies herself by smoothing out and refolding her napkin.
And then –
She doesn’t know what does it. Maybe it’s the look on Emma’s face, pink-cheeked and soft, while Hook rambles through an insufferable series of jokes and hints. Maybe it’s the way Mary Margaret looks like she’s about to burst, she’s practically bouncing in her seat; only David’s hand on her knee is keeping her still, and really, has anyone in this family ever been capable of keeping a secret?
And then it’s the moment where Emma is pouring champagne for everyone, and she goes to pour her own glass, and Hook –
It’s a brief moment, over in a heartbeat and the smallest of gestures, but Regina doesn’t miss the unspoken reminder – the reprimand – that passes from him to her, in the lightest of touches to her wrist.
Emma sets the bottle down, and picks up her glass of water, and Regina… Regina knows.
Later, she couldn’t honestly say she remembers much of the rest of the evening. There are tears, and heartfelt congratulations, and a lot of excited gabbling that Regina mostly tunes out. And later, when Henry’s watching TV, with Roland and Neal half-asleep in the bunk beds and Ruth curled up in her travel cot, and Hook and David and Robin have gone out to discuss the new porch, or whatever excuse it is they used to get away from the baby talk, Emma brings out a giant tray of brownies and they move to the couch.
“I’m so happy for you,” Mary Margaret says, for what must be the hundredth time. “So happy, Emma.”
“Yeah, we’re pretty excited.” Emma grins briefly, handing the brownies around and settling herself down with a pillow.
“How far along did you say…?”
“I didn’t,” Emma says, a little self-conscious under her mother’s interrogation. “But coming up to sixteen weeks.”
“Sixteen!” Mary Margaret looks outraged, and privately Regina can’t help but agree; a rapid calculation has whirred through her mind, that’s five months left. “That’s so long! Emma!”
“We’re telling you now,” Emma mumbles, avoiding eye contact. “And you’ve known for like a week, okay?”
“I didn’t realise you were already fifteen weeks along,” Mary Margaret says, looking hurt. Emma sighs, and reaches out to hold her hand.
“I didn’t want to – “she stops, and corrects herself. “We thought it’d be better, you know, to wait.” There’s a short pause, before Emma fixes her eyes on her knees and adds, “Stuff can go wrong.”
Regina thinks she can actually see the switch flip in Mary Margaret’s facial expression as she goes from hurt friend to worried mother in an instant. “Oh, Emma…”
“It’s cool,” Emma says quickly, smiling at the room in general. “Just, you know, medical advice for the first trimester, didn’t want to jinx it.”
The glib remark is probably intended to be just that – glib – but Regina thinks she can hear something else behind it; something that’s terrified, irrationally and completely understandably terrified, of bad luck, and omens, and curses. Mary Margaret, of all people, surely understands – but then Mary Margaret has never been afraid to wave off past experiences with a hope speech; the evidence of her ability to move on is fast asleep in the next room, two new pieces of hope in matching footie pyjamas in their nephew’s bedroom.
And Emma’s – Emma’s trying, really hard, and Regina’s not sure how much longer she’s going to last under Mary Margaret’s particular brand of reproaching gentleness. “I for one am surprised you managed to keep your mouth shut for a whole seven days,” she says, earning herself an elbow to the ribs from Emma, and – when Mary Margaret swivels, and fixes those wide eyes on her instead – a grateful nudge instead.
The conversation moves on, to ultrasounds and baby names and weird cravings, and Regina spends most of the following half hour arranging the crumbs of brownie into various shapes on her paper plate. She manages a decent attempt at her old castle, and is proud of herself until she catches sight of Emma watching her, and hastily focuses again.
“He’s so thrilled,” Tink is saying, from her spot on the rug. “I can tell.”
“Well, yeah,” Emma laughs. “He’s been bursting to tell for weeks.”
“He’s wanted this for a long time, hasn’t he,” Mary Margaret says, with a gentle smile, and god, Regina wants to throttle her. “He’ll make a wonderful father.”
Emma grins, puts her hands on her hips in mock hurt. “Glad one of us is getting the mark of approval.”
“Emma!” Mary Margaret smiles, only slightly brittle. “You know I didn’t mean that! Just that I’ve seen how he is with Ruthie, it’s just obvious he’s… Happy.”
“Happy,” Emma echoes. “Yeah, I’d say he is.”
“Finally,” Tink says, and Regina expands her to-throttle list by one more meddling well-wisher, although Tink at least has the decency to look abashed when Emma raises her eyebrows. “You know I knew him before.”
“He used to talk about Milah, all the time,” Tink shrugs, and Regina feels rather than sees a stillness settle over Emma, her leg still pressed against hers on the couch.“Get drunk, start yelling about all the babies they were going to have… He usually ended up threatening to kill the Dark One, and passing out below deck.”
Regina snorts at the – admittedly amusing – mental image, but she doesn’t miss the way Emma’s eyes soften with something that looks a lot like regret. Like she’s to blame for Hook’s past hurts, like if only she’d loved him sooner – never mind that she was several hundred years out from being born when Rumpelstiltskin crushed Milah’s heart and set Hook on his path of vengeance.
“He’s happy,” Emma repeats, like it’s a mantra.
“You did that,” Mary Margaret tells her. “You gave him that, Emma. You know that, right?”
Regina is the only one sitting directly next to Emma, which is probably why she’s the only one who catches the way her shoulders tense, just a little. “I know.”
“I’ve never seen him like this,” Tink says, and Emma laughs, a little self-conscious now. “He’s glowing.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be me?” Emma quips, raising an eyebrow; Regina snorts, and Emma looks around at her, smiling only slightly warily. “Regina?”
“I don’t think anyone’s supposed to be anything,” she says, and Emma ducks her head. “Besides, you seem to have that taken care of.”
As soon as the words leave her mouth, she knows it’s too much. Emma’s eyes are so, so open, and she’s seen right through the light tone, hasn’t she, and Mary Margaret is smiling at them from the armchair like this is all she’s ever wanted, her big sister and her grown up daughter, finally friends.
“What?” Regina snaps at Tink, the easiest target, if only because she’s sitting on the floor and Regina can tower over her. “She is, it’s hormonal. No need to start weeping about it.”
“I’m not weeping,” Tink says, baffled, and Regina wants to yell, or maybe break something, and why does this have to be so difficult.
“I guess we’re both happy,” Emma says, mostly to smooth over the silence. Regina blinks away the thought that she sounds like she’s working hard to convince herself, because that kind of observation isn’t helpful; or accurate, she reminds herself.
Mary Margaret laughs, a bright and bubbly sound, keen to move back into calmer, simpler territory. “Well, of course you are!”
“Yeah,” Emma says, eyes skittering away from Regina’s a moment too late. “Of course we are.”
The next couple of days are remarkable for how unremarkable they are. Regina divides her time between work and home; Henry’s back with her for the week, and they make time for movie nights and family dinners between homework and talks about the future. They’re starting to talk about college at school, and that thought alone is enough to fill Regina’s head, take up so much space that everything else is crowded out. Henry isn’t quite sure, yet, what it is he’ll want to do; he’s mentioned history, and anthropology, and world literature, and Regina sometimes worries that he’ll be looking for fairy tales his whole life. But then he’ll talk about this great foreign exchange program that lets sophomores take a semester in Italy and another in England, and a bigger, more pressing concern fights its way to the forefront of her mind.
She’s working hard on being supportive; sometimes, the enthusiasm sounds so real she almost convinces herself that she’s excited for him.
“That sounds wonderful, Henry,” Regina says, flicking through the prospectus with the tips of her fingers, eyes firmly fixed on the pages in front of her. “But those programs must be very competitive. You’ll have to make sure you work hard this year, get off to a good start with your essays, take some placement tests…”
“I know, Mom,” Henry says patiently. He takes the hint, though, and lopes off to make a start on his biology assignment.
When she’s quite sure he’s out of earshot, Regina slams the prospectus shut and collapses onto a chair.
She’s not going to be the smothering parent. She’s not. It’s just hard, sometimes, to remember why. The memories are dim, now, worn out after decades of resentment and the last few years of slow, steady healing. But that doesn’t mean Regina can’t remember the feeling of being just that little bit afraid, every time she had to eat or drink at a ball, of ruining her gown; the branches winding their way around her limbs, holding her tight, keeping her captive; her mother’s fingers at the laces of her corset, tugging and tugging until she fits into her wedding dress. The ferocity of that kind of love, the sheer single-minded conviction that this was the right thing to do.
If it’s going to end - and it has to end, for Henry’s sake - it has to end with her.
Twenty minutes later, Regina is still sitting there, staring blankly at the wall in front of her; but the shaking seems to have subsided, at least.
Henry’s quiet at dinner, avoiding all mentions of college admissions and speaking to her in an oddly gentle tone, and Regina is reminded, not for the first time, that he’s always been the only one (no, not the only one, she thinks, and then wishes she hadn’t) able to see right through her.
“You’re all ready for the weekend?” Regina asks, keeping her voice deliberately even. They spend three nights apart almost every week, sometimes four; they can do separation, she can do separation, she’s not clinging, she’s not going to be left reeling –
“Yeah,” Henry says, with a bright smile; keen, now, to talk about something lighter. “Killian’s taking Roland out with us on Sunday. He’s so excited. He’s got a life vest and he wore it to class today.”
Regina smiles. “That sounds nice.”
“It’ll be fun!” Henry grins at her; another oddity in a seventeen-year old boy, to be so enthusiastic about family time, but probably understandable in Henry. “We might go tomorrow, too, Mom’s getting in all the trips she can.”
“Oh?” Regina asks, staring very hard at her water glass.
“You know,” Henry shrugs, standing up to clear the plates and touching her shoulder lightly as he goes. “Don’t think Killian’s gonna want her on the Jolly Roger when she’s all – ” He falls short.
“All what?” Regina prompts, her voice a shade too sharp.
Henry squirms under her gaze. “Expecting.”
“Expecting,” Regina echoes, laughing a little. “Henry. You’re not embarrassed!”
Henry shrugs, all at once a teenager from head to toe. “It’s just new,” he says diplomatically, escaping to the kitchen – though which of his mothers he’s trying to protect with the evasion, Regina’s not sure.
“Henry…” When he doesn’t respond, head bent low over the sink, she tries a different tack. “Do you feel like – is it difficult for you, with Emma and Hook – “ Regina stops and corrects herself, tongue stumbling over the alien syllables, to add, “With Killian?”
“Not difficult,” Henry says quietly. “Just new, Mom.”
“She’s having a baby,” he shrugs, drying his hands and starting towards the hallway. “It’s new for everyone.”
“Henry – “Regina half rises from her chair, watching his back retreat up the stairs. When he doesn’t respond, she sits back down, and listens to the sound of his bedroom door swinging shut.
She gives him half an hour, then follows him upstairs; when she knocks gently on his door, his answering “Come in!” is more of a relief than Regina would care to admit.
He’s actually studying, and she feels a rush of affection for this smart, quiet, brave boy; this young man she’s raised, seemingly by accident, to do homework voluntarily and clear the table without being asked.
“Henry, come here,” Regina says softly, sitting down on Henry’s bed – a single bed here, with matching covers that match the walls, and not a race car or rocket ship in sight. Still, it’s hard not to think of pastel blankets and soft nightlights when he curls up into her side, his chin leaning against her shoulder, warm and steady and so, so hers. She swallows back the bitter taste lingering at the back of her throat; that has no place in this bedroom, this conversation. “Henry, I wanted to talk to you about your – mother.”
“Yes, Emma,” Regina nods, with a quiet laugh. “How many mothers do you have?”
“At least double the expected amount,” Henry shoots back, with a smirk. “So I think asking is valid.”
Regina has to laugh at that. He’s so grown up, making jokes and smirking at her while she cracks up; her son. “Well, all right,” she concedes. “But I’m hardly going to refer to myself in the third person, am I?”
“I don’t know!” Henry’s eyes are wide and innocent. “Isn’t that a royal thing? The queen is not amused?”
“Very funny,” Regina says flatly, with some difficulty, because it is. “Now listen.”
He at least has the decency to look a little contrite. “Sorry.”
Regina smiles, and smooths over his hair. “I know your mother and – Killian – having another child must be… Strange, to think about,” she starts, slowly.
“You can call him Hook if it’s easier,” Henry tells her, with another grin; Regina ignores this, and carries on, speaking directly to a point somewhere above Henry’s left ear.
“But this isn’t because your mother is replacing you, or anything like that, you understand?”
“I know,” Henry says, sounding baffled. “I’m seventeen, Mom, I’m not gonna compete with a baby.”
Regina’s chest aches. Trust Henry to take this so well. “Well,” she tries again. “You’ve said it’s difficult being around the two of them now, with Emma expecting a baby…”
“No,” Henry says slowly. “You said it must be difficult, I just said it was new.”
Did she really say that? Regina thinks she probably did. “I see.”
“And it is,” Henry shrugs. “New, I mean. But they’re both really happy, and…” He falls silent.
Regina touches his arm, lightly. “And?”
“I saw how happy Mary Margaret and David were,” he says quietly. “When they had Neal, and now with Ruthie. They got another chance to be parents.”
“Henry…” Suddenly, Regina feels oddly guilty. There’s a small, mean voice deep in her chest that’s glad he’s admitting to some mixed feelings; because that means she was right, that she’s guessed at his feelings accurately, perhaps even before he had a word for them. Because she’s his mother, and that’s what she does. “Emma did get – she is a parent. She’s your mother.”
“I know,” Henry says, with a small smile. “And now she gets to do it for real, from the start.”
“Yes,” Regina says. “But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t – you’re just as much her son, her family. That’s not going away.”
Henry leans into her side, and she wraps her arms around him. He’s oddly still against her, like he’s being careful – like he’s guarding something. And then he says, “Yeah, but, it’s not like I’m gonna be going on sleepovers every week anyway, right? I’ll be in school soon.”
“Well, yes,” Regina says, forcing her voice to remain even, in control. “Of course. But you’re not going for a while yet, Henry, there’s a whole year left, and there’s going to be a lot of changes in that year, and – “
“Mom?” Henry interrupts her quietly.
Regina freezes. She knows that tone. “Yes?”
“What is?” Regina snaps, and then regrets her tone, because sharpness is still her first defence in the face of uncomfortable confrontations, but she never means to take it out on Henry. She tries again. “What do you mean, Henry?”
He’s silent for a long moment, and then – studiously inspecting his fingernails, giving her the space to react without making eye contact, and how did she ever raise this wonderful, kind boy? – he says carefully, “Emma’s not replacing us, I know.”
Regina takes a long time – too long – to regain control of her facial expression, but when she does speak, she’s glad to hear that her voice is even and neutral. “I’m glad you know that.”
“Of course I know that,” Henry says softly, and is she imagining the emphasis on the word I? He sounds like he’s smiling, and then she feels him reaching for her hand, his fingers lacing through hers, and for a minute they just sit like that.
Henry’s presence is comforting, grounding; but Regina can feel the blood rushing through her ears, can hear her heart beating too loudly against her ribs.
“Well,” she says finally, because she can’t just say nothing. “I’m glad you’re feeling alright about it, then.”
“I am!” Henry insists, lifting his head up to look at her with those wide, honest eyes. “It’s better than alright, Mom! It’s a baby!”
Regina manages a smile. “Quite.”
“I never, like, really wanted a little brother or sister,” Henry says casually, with a faint smile. “But having Roland around was cool, and it’s… I like it.”
Regina doesn’t say anything to that, mostly because she doesn’t quite trust herself to. She just tousles his hair, and gets up from the bed, smoothing down the creases in her pants and clearing her throat. Henry leans back against the space on the mattress she’s just vacated, and gives her a sleepy smile.
“I’ll finish homework later,” he promises, misreading her pause as the precursor to a discussion. “Just gonna read for a bit.”
“Not too late,” Regina says, tight-lipped; then, making sure to keep her smile set in place while she watches him dig out his book, she flees the room.
It’s not until she’s made it to the safety of her bedroom, the door swinging shut behind her, that Regina allows the trembling to take over her hands. She sits down slowly, sliding down the back of the door until she reaches the carpet.
This isn’t something she is going to feel guilty about.
But she thinks about Henry helping Roland into his life jacket; she remembers last weekend, when he was put in charge of feeding Ruthie her afternoon mush, and wiped every last blob of banana out of her ears with infinite patience. Unbidden, images of the first hospital visit come to mind. Henry, cradling an infant brother or sister, and Emma smiling at them both, and -
Her cheeks are wet.
She’s going to be fine in a few minutes; she’s going to go pour herself a drink, and go upstairs to help Henry through his History assignment, and then they’re going to watch an episode of Buffy together and he’ll go to bed, and so will she.
In a few minutes, her hands will stop shaking and she’ll be able to wipe away any hint of redness around her eyes, and she’s going to be fine.
For now, though, Regina can only find the energy to form one painfully coherent thought. Maybe Henry’s right, and he’s got nothing to worry about. Maybe it’s not the two of them that’s going to get replaced.
Granny’s is quiet at this time of day; the only other people in here are two young mothers with strollers and coffees - Regina recognises one of them, and she has a feeling she might be Thumbelina, but honestly at this point how is she supposed to keep track - and an assortment of dwarves playing darts.
“Here you go,” Marian says, placing a plate onto the table and then sliding into the booth. “Coffee’s on its way.”
“Thank you,” Regina says, and a companionable silence falls as they each reach for a croissant and start tearing off little bits of fluffy pastry. Roland, perched on the bench next to his mother, barely bothers looking up from his DS long enough to swipe a donut and then ignore them again.
These coffee mornings are a new, slightly unexpected addition to what Emma has taken to dubbing Keeping up with the Mills-Hoods. Robin had been adamant that he wouldn’t stand in the way of Regina staying in Roland’s life, but he’d been equally resistant to actually attending these meetings, preferring to simply call ahead and tell Regina where to meet Roland, usually through a third party. This third party, more often than not, happened to be Marian.
And when, two years into working hard to make their marriage work for Roland’s sake, Marian had quietly and firmly decided to stop being both the cause and consolation prize for Robin’s happiness, well, Regina and Marian had simply cut out the middleman, and started meeting up with increasing regularity, Roland usually in tow. It’s been an unexpectedly bright spot in all of this; Regina hadn’t counted on finding an ally in Marian, had in fact strongly resisted the very idea of it, but now that they’ve settled into it, she thinks it was sort of inevitable. They understand each other, and they sort of share Roland now (Regina’s pretty sure he sees her more often than he sees his father) - and, more than that, she likes Marian. She is unavoidably, and slightly frustratingly, simply a likeable person.
And now, apparently, her friend.
“How’s school?” Regina asks, and waits for Marian to nudge Roland out his console-induced stupor.
“Good,” he tells her, and then - when he seems to sense that this wasn’t enough, he twists his lips into a small scowl and puts the DS to one side. “I like the paintings, and we’re gonna watch birds.”
Regina rolls her eyes. Sometimes she’s not sure if promoting Mary Margaret to principal was a good idea. The whole school seems to have developed a startling bias for bird-related education, and if she has to go through another six years of bird drawings, bird houses, bird baths and birds’ nests, all brought home with a toothy smile and an expectant look, she’s not sure she can muster the required enthusiasm.
But she just smiles, and says, “That sounds fun. And I hear you’re going sailing now?”
Roland’s face lights up; he’s all dimples and sparkling eyes, and she shouldn’t resent the source of that excitement, she really shouldn’t.
“I got to drop the - the - the - “ his little face screws up in concentration. “Anchor.”
Regina forces a laugh. “How lovely,” she says, and swiftly looks to change the topic. “And how’s your father?”
Roland shrugs, the studied nonchalance that only a seven-year-old can muster. “Good.”
“Good?” Regina prompts, and waits; she knows, from years of drawing conversation out of Henry, how to wait for him to speak.
“He’s busy,” Roland says lightly.
The pause before Roland nods and says, “Yep!” tells Regina everything she needs, or wants, to know. Marian’s comforting hand on her son’s back is only confirmation of what she’s already guessed.
“And Tink - “
“Her too,” Roland says, his face twisting with what seems like a concerted effort to keep smiling. “Can I have cocoa?”
“Sure, honey,” Regina says, half-standing up already - and then she remembers herself, and looks to Marian. “If your mom says that’s alright.”
“Of course,” Marian smiles, and Regina can breathe again, because Roland isn’t Henry, and Marian isn’t Emma, and it’s okay, and right now a cup of cocoa isn’t a bargaining chip or leverage; right now it’s just a cup of cocoa.
“Why don’t you go up and order it yourself,” Marian says then, digging out a few crumpled bills from her purse and patting Roland on the arm. “See if you can sweet-talk Granny into sending over some more of these croissants.”
Roland slides out of his chair and heads off towards the counter. Regina smiles, watching him go. His legs are starting to lose their toddler’s pudge, but he’s still somewhere between a wobble and a walk; Regina’s reminded of Henry at that age, bright-eyed and running towards her at the school gates. She’s jerked out of her thoughts when Marian leans forwards, fixing her with a challenging kind of look.
Regina shifts, uncomfortably aware of what they might be about to discuss. “What?”
“Do you think he’s happy?”
“Robin,” Marian says, her face dropping just a little. “With her, with - Tinker Bell.”
“I think…” Regina pauses, searching for the right words. “I think he’s looking for his happiness, and he’s not sure where to start.”
“But he had it,” Marian sighs. “He had it twice.”
“Yes,” Regina says, weighing her words carefully; she’s had nearly three years to come to grips with what ending a relationship with her soulmate means, and Marian’s barely had six months. The wounds are rawer, still. “And he never really - had a choice.”
“Yes, he did,” Marian says, sounding suddenly resentful. “He had a choice when he came back to me.”
“Because you were married,” Regina says, not unkindly; she leans across the diner table, and takes Marian’s hand lightly in hers. “And because he loved you, of course he did - and it’s not that he was happier with me, but - “
“But he came back because he felt like he had to,” Marian sighs. “I know.”
Regina watches her carefully. “Marian, it was you who ended things,” she reminds her; not that it needs saying. “I thought you were… I thought it was your choice.”
“It was,” Marian says. “I just didn’t expect - “
She cuts herself off, with a hollow laugh, and masks the ensuing pause by taking an unnecessarily long sip of coffee. Regina just watches her; watches as she puts her mug down, blots invisible stains from her lips with a serviette, and then starts tearing it into tiny pieces. When it becomes apparent that Marian isn’t about to finish her sentence, Regina sighs.
“You didn’t expect him to move on so fast.”
Marian smiles; a small, bitter smile, a pale imitation of her habitual brightness. “That’s pathetic, isn’t it.”
“No,” Regina tells her quickly. “Just… Not helpful, to you.”
Regina fixes her with an appraising stare. “And he’s being awful,” she says, her tone of voice allowing for no arguments. “Barely seeing Roland. Parading Tink around in front of you, in front of me like I’m going to get jealous now, too - “
“He’s trying to move on,” Marian says, although she sounds fairly timid; Regina shakes her head fiercely.
“No. Besides, if this is his idea of a rebound then that’s a - “ she struggles, for a minute, to come up with the right words. Emma might call it a dick move, but Regina Mills refuses to let those words ever pass her lips. “Foul, foul thing to do to Tink.”
“I miss him,” Marian admits quietly. “I miss what we were.”
“We really were happy,” Marian says, and then, avoiding Regina’s eyes: “But you were always… If I hadn’t come back, he would have stayed with you.”
“I know,” Regina says again, and really, that’s all there is to say.
“And now he’s with Tink,” Marian says, suddenly vicious. Her hands are clawing at the shredded remnants of serviette now, and Regina is reminded all at once that this woman was once a runaway; an outlaw’s lover; bride to a thief, married at dead of night with two witnesses and a fierce sense of freedom in her heart. “I don’t understand - “
“He’s trying too hard to find someone for forever,” Regina says, with a dismissive shrug. “It’s perfectly textbook behaviour.”
Marian stares at her for a long moment, and then lets out a shaky laugh. “Poor Tink.”
“I think she knows,” Regina says carefully. “I think she doesn’t care.”
“But - “
“She swore, years ago,” Regina says, the words heavy on her tongue. “To bring him his happy ending. And I think she blames herself, for how that...turned out. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s trying to fix it herself, now. Make him happy.”
She thinks, suddenly, that they make quite a trio; the soulmate, the wife, and the magic fairy, all orbiting around this one man who never asked for or deserved all this devotion. And she thinks about happy endings, and how all too often they seem to involve love as some kind of reward for goodness.
And then Regina’s mind goes a little blank, and she absolutely, determinedly doesn’t think of anything else.
Marian, perhaps sensing that she’s asked for a little too much reassurance and struck some kind of tender spot, gives Regina’s hand a gentle squeeze; and then her phone buzzes, and she gives Regina an apologetic sort of grimace before going to check it.
“We should go,” Marian says, too brightly, standing up and looking around for Roland, who is perched on a stool by the bar, and charming Granny into parting with candy from the jars behind her cash register. “Roland! Come on, honey, do you want to go play?”
“Okay,” he says, with a chocolate-smeared smile, and Marian turns back to Regina.
“Should we go to the park?” Her voice is slightly too high-pitched to be entirely natural, and Regina barely contains the impulse to roll her eyes.
“I want another coffee,” she says, pointedly staying sat on the bench. “Sit down, Marian, we’ve got time.”
“Of course we have,” Marian says, far too enthusiastically. “But it’s such a wonderful day! Should we get coffees to go?”
“No,” Regina tells her, smiling sweetly and enjoying herself perhaps disproportionately when Marian grows even more flustered. “I’d like to stay here. Why don’t we order some lunch?”
“We could - “ Marian sounds practically manic, her cheerful facade betraying an ever-growing desperation. “We could go somewhere else for lunch, I could cook something for us, or - “
But then the door jangles open, and Regina squares her shoulders
She’d suspected something the minute that text message arrived. She’d had a good idea as soon as Marian started encouraging her to leave with that panicked tone of voice. And from Marian’s painfully feeble attempt at subtlety, Regina had known that someone was going to walk through that door - and she almost welcomes it. Spending time with Marian and Roland always puts her in a slightly confrontational mood, like she’s going to finally yell at him, three years after the fact -
But it’s not Robin who saunters into the diner and greets her with a smile and a wave. It isn’t even Tinker Bell.
Regina stares at Marian, heart hammering sickly against her ribs.
“How - “ she starts, her lips shaking; she’s going to be sick, she’s going to be sick right here in Granny’s diner, how, how, how - “Emma! Hello!”
“Hi,” Emma grins, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Marian’s cheek before sliding into Regina’s side of the bench. “Move.”
“Excuse me,” Regina manages, lips pressed tightly together. “Manners, Swan.”
Emma nudges her, none-too-gently, in the ribs. “Pregnant.”
Regina clenches her hands into fists, hidden in her lap; and then she moves up, careful to give Emma as much space as she possibly can. “Fine.”
There is a pause which probably only seems strained to Regina; and then Marian is asking Emma after her parents, her new dishwasher, and her plans for the weekend, and the silence is filled with pleasantries, and Regina has time to regain control of her lungs.
When she’s sure she’s breathing normally again, she risks a sideways glance at Emma; and that’s almost enough to set her nerves trembling again, because Emma is pregnant.
Of course she’s pregnant, you idiot.
Of course Emma is pregnant; Regina’s known this for weeks now. And sure, in the brief moments she’d seen Emma, picking up Henry or driving past in the patrol car or shopping for groceries, she’d been very much aware of the fact.
But this is the first time she’s spent any time at all with Emma, in the three weeks since that dinner party, and in those three weeks, Emma has somehow gone from the subtle kind of pregnant you only saw if you knew what you were looking for to…
She’s glowing. It’s a cliché, and Regina feels like she should roll her eyes at it, but it’s true. There’s a new rosiness in her cheeks, a new softness to all her angles; and the bump, swelling beneath the knitted fabric of a scoop-necked sweater, is unmissable.
Emma’s still talking to Marian, her eyes bright and hands gesturing animatedly while she describes her plans for the sheriff station’s next renovation; apparently, the cells could really do with a new coat of paint, and the bunks are, like, super uncomfortable, she’d forgotten until the other day, when she got really tired and tried to have a nap in one of them -
Regina puts all thoughts of nesting out of her mind, and just watches her talk.
“And you, Regina?” Emma says suddenly, turning to Regina and fixing her with a keen smile. “Been a while! How’s it going?”
“Well, thanks,” Regina says, a little stiffly. “How are you feeling?”
If Emma’s disappointed by the non-answer, she doesn’t let on; just smiles, cheeks dimpling. “I’m great,” she says, her voice dropping a few notches into honesty. “Just came back from my second scan.”
She doesn’t want to have this conversation; she doesn’t, she doesn’t, she won’t have this conversation; she should have run, should have gone to the bathroom, should have let Marian steer her out of the diner before this happened -
But all Regina says is, “That’s wonderful.”
“Yeah,” Emma smiles, her eyes soft. “There was such a change, we could see the face, and the hands, and everything, it was...“
“Good?” Marian fills in, when Emma falls silent.
“Killian cried,” she adds, with some satisfaction.
And then, because Regina’s morning couldn’t possibly get any worse, the door swings open yet again, and in walks Killian, craning his neck and shouting at the diner at large.
“Over here,” Emma calls, meeting Regina’s gaze with a smirk; Regina, who doesn’t much feel like conspiring in winding up the father-to-be, just takes another sip of long-cold coffee.
“There you are,” Hook says, sauntering up and pressing what Regina can only think of as a careless kiss to Emma’s cheek. “She told you where we’ve just been?”
His voice is a strange mix of smug pride and genuine, palpable excitement, and for a full ten seconds she almost feels bad for the dislike she’s been nursing. And then he says, “She’s so damn beautiful, Swan,” and Emma’s face drops, and everything falls to pieces.
Regina doesn’t think Hook realises at once that something is wrong - he’s turned to Marian, and starts talking about the scan. How they got to see her fingers, and her toes, and how her heartbeat is nice and strong, which is a good thing, and isn’t technology marvellous, really, how did we ever do without it -
Emma is staring at her knees, and Regina thinks she sees a solitary tear splash against her hands, her knuckles a shock of white against the navy blue of her jeans.
Slowly, silently, she reaches over and slides a hand over Emma’s.
Hook is still talking, and now Roland has wandered back over, his face smeared with chocolate frosting, and of course Hook takes this as his cue to start the whole story again. And Emma still hasn’t said a word, but her thumb has tucked over Regina’s, and she’s started breathing again.
When Hook finally turns to his left, and catches sight of Emma’s pale cheeks - and Regina’s hand, curled around hers in a gesture which can only be described as protective - he just raises an eyebrow. “Love?”
For a second, Regina doesn’t think Emma’s going to say anything; and then she says one word, and everything makes a horrifying amount of sense. “She?”
Hook just stares at her. “Yes? Our baby, Emma, I’m not going to call her it.”
“You - “ Emma cuts herself off swiftly, and Regina feels a new, fiercely angry grip around her fingers. “We - we agreed.”
“Emma, I don’t…” Hook looks uncomfortable. “What’s got you upset, love?”
Emma laughs flatly, and the sound is so horribly defeated that Regina almost flinches; in the pause that follows, she’s dimly aware of Marian hustling Roland out of his seat and into his coat, hurrying away with a few mumbled words of goodbye - and she’s still trapped against the wall of the booth. She considers standing up, asking them both to let her leave them alone - but Emma’s fingers are tight around hers, and Regina stays, keeping her head bowed and her hand where it is.
“What did you do?” Emma’s asking now, her eyes fixed on Hook. “Go back and ask Whale while I was in the bathroom?”
Now, at last, Hook seems to gain some comprehension of what he’s done. “I might have asked for another look, yeah.” he says, and he doesn’t even have the decency to fake a hint of regret. “Can’t remember if it was with you there, it was all a bit of a blur...“
“After we talked about it?” Emma asks, voice steely, and Regina feels a surge of fierce, raw pride. “After I said, this morning, after we agreed not to find out?”
“I didn’t think it was that important to you - “
“I told you!” Emma snaps, her voice suddenly loud - Hook goes to shush her, but some modicum of self-preservation clearly stops him just in time. “I told you - I told you - “
“Let’s talk outside,” Hook suggests, with a meaningful glance towards Regina. “Alright?”
“No,” Emma tells him, and Regina sees him flinch back. “No, I’ll see you at home. Later,” she adds, with a sharp emphasis that, finally, seems to sink in. Hook stares at her for a few seconds longer, and then abruptly stands up.
“I didn’t think you’d get this upset,” he says, somewhat uselessly. “I just didn’t see the point in waiting.”
“The point was - no,” Emma shakes her head again; now that Hook’s stood up, all the anger seems to be draining out of her, fast enough for her to slide smoothly back into damage control. “No, I said we’ll talk later, okay? It’s fine. I just didn’t expect to find out like - in Granny’s, you know?”
Hook smiles faintly, and nods. “Alright, if you’re sure.”
Emma dredges up the ghost of a smile; Regina thinks she can see the effort it takes her. “I’m sure,” she says quietly. “I know you were just…excited.”
“Bloody ecstatic,” Hook nods, confirming his complete and utter failure to get the point. “I’ll see you at home, then.”
“Bye.” Emma leans up a little, tipping her face up to let him kiss her, and then he’s gone, and they’re alone.
Regina doesn’t quite trust herself to speak straight away; instead, she just concentrates on rubbing tiny circles against Emma’s wrist with her thumb, and focuses on the warmth of their shoulders, pressed together, and waits.
“Don’t,” Emma says suddenly, surprisingly; Regina lifts an eyebrow.
“I know he messed up,” Emma says, looking away and pulling her hand from Regina’s. “And he knows he messed up.” When Regina barely manages to conceal a scoff, she grimaces. “Kind of. I think.”
“You didn’t want to find out,” Regina says quietly, and she doesn’t want to start this conversation but they seem to be having it anyway.
Emma shrugs; when Regina fixes her with a stare, she twists her fingers in her lap, and ducks her head, and starts talking. “Everything’s always been decided, you know? Coming back from New York was because of the memory spell. Going to New York was because of the curse. Henry bringing me here in the first place. Neal. Lily. August found me in the woods when I was a day old - “ she laughs, clearly surprised at herself. “God, I don’t know, is it crazy that I just wanted to let something happen?”
“No,” Regina says quietly, holding herself very still when Emma leans further into her side, and thinking about the day she’d found out who Henry was; how much she’d loved having this one thing completely on her terms, small and perfectly-formed and hers, hers all alone. And then the betrayal; the hurt and the fear and the sense of sickening inevitability, to discover they hadn’t been her terms at all. “No, it doesn’t sound crazy.”