Snow sends the text message with an uppity, annoyed punch of a button, and sets her phone down on the counter. “Honestly, Emma. I was going to use that today.”
Emma blows her messy curls out of her face and looks at her mother sheepishly, holding a curved piece of plastic in her hand that looks like it came from the base of the blender. “I can still fix it. I think.”
Snow sighs and frowns and can't help but love her. Emma is grown-up and cranky and occasionally destructive, but still hers. Still the sweet infant she'd held in her arms, still the brave princess who had come back to her. “That won't be necessary,” she says.
Her phone beeps. Who is this?
Your girlfriend's mother, she taps out quickly, rolling her eyes at the absurdity of it.
“I'll buy you a new one,” Emma promises, still trying to arrange the pieces in front of her into something resembling the shape of a functioning kitchen appliance.
“No, you won't, but Regina will,” she says as her phone beeps again.
How did you get this number?
Snow ignores the question. Every time you fight with Emma, I come home to find that she's taken it out on my kitchen. It's becoming costly. I expect to receive a new blender ASAP.
Emma slouches. “She's impossible. I don't know why I ever thought it would be a good idea to move in with her.” She pauses, scowling. “She probably put me under her thrall.”
A new message pops up on Snow's phone. It's not my fault that Emma is unable to handle her anger properly.
Blender, Snow repeats, and then switches her phone to silent. She pats Emma's hand and then brushes her daughter's hair out of her face where it's fallen once again, allowing herself to comb through it with her fingers for a few moments. “Come on. Let's clear this mess away and I'll make you some cocoa.”
2. Panini Press
How often could you possibly use a panini press?
Often enough. Still waiting on that blender, by the way.
Feel free to hold your breath.
The panini press is in two pieces on the counter, and Emma looks like a puppy who's been caught eating a shoe. “Sorry. I really didn't think I was going to break this one.”
Snow wants to ask how such a notion got into Emma's head, but instead she asks, “What did you fight about this time?”
“Nothing,” Emma grumbles. “I'm just a crappy girlfriend and a terrible sheriff and probably the worst mom there ever was.”
“She said those things?” Snow feels herself gearing up to become a fierce mother lion, but Emma shakes her head.
“No, but she probably thinks them.”
“I'm sure she doesn't,” Snow says, as she comes to stand next to Emma and rubs her back. Emma deflates a bit, content to let her mother comfort her. Snow doesn't get to do this often, doesn't get to be a mom in the way that she understands how, but she and Emma are figuring it out, bit by bit. They're a family, whatever shape.
“Since when do you not think the worst of Regina?” Emma asks, casting a suspicious glance at Snow.
“Oh, you'd be surprised.”
It's funny, how curses work. It's been a very long time since Snow was a young girl, and still she remembers it so much more clearly now than she can remember any of the 28 years that time stood still.
She remembers Regina's wedding to her father, and how she had known, then, that something was wrong. Weddings were supposed to be happy, but Regina didn't look happy. She tried to seem that way, and she was a very good liar, but Snow didn't think her smile quite reached her eyes. And though Cora had seemed very kind at first, Snow had begun to notice how Regina would freeze whenever her mother got too close, and so Snow, too, had begun to feel anxious in her presence.
Snow loved Regina, and wanted nothing more than to be loved in return—but no matter how good she was, no matter how pretty and polite and sweet, Regina was never the same with her as she had been before Snow had told her secret.
“You're supposed to be on my side,” Emma says with just the hint of a whine.
Snow laughs at that, and pulls Emma into a hug. “I'm always on your side, silly girl. Even when you break my things.”
“I really will buy you a new one,” Emma tells her, trying to fit the pieces back together in vain.
“Regina will buy me a new one.”
“I don't know, Mom, that might just be a beautiful pipe dream,” Emma says, but Snow doesn't hear anything past her daughter calling her “Mom.”
For a moment she just stares at Emma, mouth slightly open in shock, tears gathering in her eyes.
“Oh,” Emma says, realizing what she's done. She doesn't call Snow “Mom.” She tries carefully not to call her anything, Snow has noticed, and it makes sense. She knows it's hard for Emma to think of her as Snow White instead of Mary Margaret, to gain a mother and try not to lose a friend. Not to mention getting to know David as her father instead of just the guy who keeps making her roommate sad. “I—are you okay?”
Snow blinks and lets the tears trail down her face, and she's never noticed it until quite recently, but they are a family who really seems to do a lot of crying. “Of course I'm okay.”
“I don't wanna make a big deal about it,” Emma mumbles, looking away.
Snow shakes her head, swiftly wiping her tears away. “No, of course. It's fine, Emma.”
“I don't wanna make it weird,” she says, embarrassed, suddenly fascinated by her own hands.
Snow laughs, then. “If 29 years in another world has taught me anything, it's that everything about our family is a little bit weird.”
Emma offers her a lopsided smile. “You know what I mean.”
“I do,” Snow confirms, thinking of how she could have, should have been the mother to a perfect little princess with golden ringlets and fancy dresses, who would have grown up in a castle surrounded by love.
“This doesn't come naturally to me,” Emma says.
“I know. Emma, it's all right.”
“But I do, um.” She stops, and starts again. “You're important to me.”
And just like that, the ghost of a life Snow lost seems to matter a little less, faced with the version of Emma she has, who she couldn't love more if she tried. She smiles, and leans in to kiss her daughter's cheek. “I love you too, Emma.”
The reply comes several minutes later, while Emma is still carefully sweeping up shards of glass from the floor. You don't own a Keurig. I asked Henry.
No, but I no longer have a regular coffee pot, either, and that's what I'd like to replace it. “Be careful,” Snow says absently, not looking up as she types the text message. “Don't cut yourself.”
I bought you a blender. I bought you a panini press, which I'm not convinced is a piece of equipment that anyone needs. I am not buying you a $200 coffee maker when I had no part in the destruction of the one you already owned.
Oh, don't be silly. They're not all $200, there are several more affordably priced models. I'm not picky.
No, is all Regina says, and Snow would never, ever admit it, but she enjoys messing with her, just a little. They will never be friends, will never quite trust each other, but what they have now is a great deal less stressful than the days when they actively plotted against one another.
“So,” she says as Emma puts the broom away. “Are you going to tell me what the fight was about this time?”
Emma frowns. “I did something stupid,” she says, and she looks so miserable that Snow takes a few steps forward and opens her arms. Emma steps into the hug willingly.
“What happened?” Snow asks as she lets go.
Emma leans against the kitchen counter, looking contrite. “Henry asked if we were going to get married.”
“Ah. You had different answers.”
“I laughed,” she says, grimacing.
Snow can't help the giggle that escapes her throat, then. “Oh, Emma.”
“I know! Believe me, I know.”
“I'm assuming she didn't take it well.”
Emma opens the refrigerator and starts rifling through. “She took it the wrong way! It's not like I... I mean, it's funny, right? The idea of me getting married. To Regina.” She grabs the carton of milk and then goes straight for Snow's cookie jar, and Snow bites back a comment about Emma spoiling her dinner.
“I don't know that I'd call it funny, no.”
“Well, I think it is,” Emma says, and shoves a cookie in her mouth.
Snow pulls a glass down from the cabinet and pours it full of milk, so Emma won't be tempted to skip that cumbersome step and drink straight from the carton. “But you love her, don't you?”
“Yes. I do. But it's not that simple, it's not like it was with you and Dad,” she says, barely tripping over the word at all.
“Emma, sweetheart, I know you haven't read the whole book, but surely you know it wasn't simple with your father and me.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “I know, I just meant... where you're from, people met and fell in love and got married and that's just how it was, that's what people did.”
Snow reaches for her own cookie. “I think you're making a generalization, but go on.”
“I just.” Emma sighs. “Before Regina, I'd never had a relationship that lasted more than one night. I never had anyone to show me what a good relationship was supposed to look like. And we have all this baggage between us, and we have Henry, and I'm afraid if we changed anything... I'd fuck it all up.”
“Did you tell her that?”
Snow takes a bite of cookie and chews thoughtfully. “It's not easy for Regina to let people in, you know.”
“She's been through a lot of loss. I think she must be very afraid of losing you, too. She probably thinks that if you don't want to marry her, you don't plan on staying with her.”
Emma shakes her head. “I'm not running. I can't, anymore. I don't want to.”
Snow reaches to cup Emma's face with her hand. “Oh, my sweet girl. Your family is very happy about that.”
“It's not that I don't want to marry her. Someday. I mean, she's pretty much it, for me. She's my true love, or whatever.”
Snow thinks of Regina when they were both much younger, how she had wanted Regina to stay, but had wanted her to be happy, too. How she wants the same for Emma, now. “You should make sure she knows that.”
Emma looks confused, brows furrowed, and Snow can't quite believe how much she looks like her father, in these moments. “You know, you're really being surprisingly supportive about me maybe marrying the woman who cursed you and everyone you ever knew.”
“I want you to have your happy ending,” Snow tells her, and reaches for her hand. “I want you to have everything.”
Snow waits for a reply, but nothing comes, and she wonders if Regina's had her number blocked. She's just hitting send on another message--She nearly electrocuted herself. Please solve this.--when she hears Emma sniffle from the couch.
Emma's hand rests on the swell of her belly, and as ever, the ring on her finger is still somewhat of a shock to Snow. “Emma. Emma, it's all right,” she says as she sits down and reaches to brush her daughter's tears away from her cheeks.
“I know. It's just hormones, I'm fine. Really,” Emma insists, but she lays her head down on Snow's shoulder and makes no attempt to stop the tears that spill out of her eyes and onto her mother's shirt.
Snow places her palm on Emma's stomach, just below Emma's own hand. “You can cry, if you need to. I'm right here.” As a general rule, Emma is uncomfortable with anyone but Regina touching her stomach, but for her mother, she makes certain allowances. For her father, too, who talks to the baby and cries and embarrasses Emma more often than he doesn't, but Snow can tell, when she watches her, that she's happy.
Snow can never say it even to David, and she hates herself a bit for even thinking it, but she is jealous of Emma, just a little. She'll have a baby she can keep, a child who will know her right from the start.
There was a great deal of mercy in Regina's curse, she is forced to admit. She was alone, for 28 years, the ache of her empty womb a constant reminder of a loneliness that she didn't quite understand, but when she thinks what it would have been like to know that Emma was gone—she doesn't think she would have survived it. She doesn't think she would be here today.
She could have another baby, she and David. They're still young—and there is mercy in that, too. But she doesn't know if she wants another child, after Emma. She doesn't know if she will ever be ready to try again.
But this baby. This baby is something good.
“It's, um. It's a girl,” Emma says, still leaning against her. “We found out yesterday.”
There is a warmth inside Snow's heart that seems to swell and spread. “A little girl,” she almost whispers. “Have you picked out a name?”
Emma starts to shake her head, but that's when the front door flies open and Regina is stalking into the living room, looking frantic, glancing behind them to see the microwave with its door hanging open, wires sticking out of the back.
“Regina!” Emma says as she stands up quickly.
“Are you all right?” Regina asks, sounding so frightened that Emma rushes quickly into her arms, murmuring that she's fine, everything is fine. Snow stands and watches Regina close her eyes as she holds onto Emma tightly. “And the baby?” she asks as she finally pulls away.
“She's fine,” Emma assures her. “I'm not gonna fry our baby, don't worry.”
“Yes. Well. Apparently that's not a foregone conclusion,” Regina says, but then looks guilty. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't--”
“It's fine,” Emma interrupts. “I know you don't actually think I'm going to screw this up, and I'm just projecting my crazy hormonal freak-outs onto you, or something.”
Regina looks over Emma's shoulder at Snow, acutely aware of her audience, and yet for once seeming to allow herself not to care. “You won't screw it up. You're going to be wonderful.” She smiles at Emma, and it's hardly even surprising anymore, for Snow to witness these moments of tenderness in Regina. She had always, under everything, had a great capacity to love, and Snow had seen it when they first met.
And in Emma, she had seen a love big enough to break curses, a love big enough to save even an evil queen.
“I'll buy you a new microwave,” Regina tells Snow, with barely any bite to her tone.
“No,” Emma says, turning around to face her mother. “I'll get it. I should have left it alone when you told me to.”
“It doesn't matter,” Snow says. “You're off the hook this time, I think.” She knows her impulse to forgive still drives Regina crazy, but she thinks she might not mind, in this case.
“Very well,” Regina says, shrugging. “Though if I were you, I'd consider banning Emma from your kitchen. I expect it would simplify all of our lives considerably.”
“I'll give that some thought,” Snow answers, raising an eyebrow.
“Mom!” Emma complains, sounding petulant. “I'd just find something else to break,” she adds, grumbling.
Snow's mouth curves up in a smirk, and Emma laughs, and even Regina looks content as she slides her arm around Emma's waist.
Yes, Snow thinks. This baby is something good, for all of them.
5. Salad Spinner
Snow pauses, then deletes the unsent message, remembering that no one's actually fighting, today. Emma's no longer allowed in her kitchen when she's had a fight with Regina—and aside from a couple of broken remote controls, it's almost completely eliminated the need for her to replace anything at all. Snow had assumed that with a baby in her arms, Emma might keep herself out of trouble, but she and David are both leaning over the broken salad spinner, identically baffled.
David pokes it. “I don't know what happened.”
Emma looks up, cuddling Amelia close as if she plans to use her own baby as a human shield. “We were making salad!”
Snow sighs. “I gave you one job. I thought surely, between the two of you, you could make a salad. Without destroying anything.”
“We're sorry,” David says, so clearly remorseful that Snow has to try very hard not to laugh.
Emma shifts Amelia in her arms and asks, “Would it be wrong to blame the baby?”
Snow reaches out for her granddaughter. “Give her to me. You two clean up your mess.”
Emma hands the baby off and Snow takes her into the living room, whispering, “What are we going to do with them, hm?” Amelia is eight months old and has a head full of dark hair, and while this probably just means she's going to look more like Regina than Emma, Snow likes to insist that Amelia takes after her grandmother. She likes to think she's passed something down.
She bounces Amelia a couple of times to make her smile, and she's kissing her and telling her “I love you, little one,” when Henry knocks twice and enters without waiting for an invitation, his mother following reluctantly behind him. Regina has assumed the vaguely displeased expression that she wears whenever she enters Snow's home, but in a few minutes it will fade. Snow and Regina are part of the same family once more, and there are things they've learned to deal with. For Emma's sake, and now for Amelia's.
“I'm starving,” is Henry's only greeting. “When's dinner?”
“Soon,” Snow says, as Emma looks up at her family, frowning.
“I broke the salad.”
Regina blinks. “How on Earth did you manage that?”
“The salad spinner,” she clarifies. “The push-down part won't go.”
“Can't you just take the lettuce out?” Henry asks.
“Well, yeah, but. I really think I can fix this one,” Emma says as she takes off the lid and examines it. David studies it as well, squinting.
Snow rolls her eyes, and so does Regina. They catch each other's gaze by accident, and for a moment it's as if there isn't decades of anger and pain and mistrust between them. Snow hands Amelia over to her mother, and Regina takes her gratefully.
“Hello, darling,” she coos at the baby, and Snow marvels at just how right they look together. She tries to remember if she'd ever seen Regina with Henry as a baby, but those years are still so hazy, and it makes her head ache if she tries to think back much further than giving Henry the book. But still, it must have looked something like this.
There's a sound of plastic clicking into place from the kitchen, and then Emma's triumphant cheer. “I did it!”
“Hey!” David says, patting her on the shoulder. “Good job.”
Emma looks so pleased that she's finally fixed something for once, and Snow doesn't mean to ruin this moment for herself, this silly, comfortable moment, but she can't help wondering if Emma had ever had anyone, in her whole childhood, tell her they were proud of her. Snow would have been so proud, every day.
“Well, David,” she says, keeping her tone casual. “Our little girl's a genius.”
“I wouldn't go that far,” Regina disagrees, and Emma tries to scowl at her but just grins, instead.
“You should be nice to me,” she says. “I could withhold this salad if I wanted to.”
“However would I survive?”
Emma goes out to the living room to kiss her wife and daughter, ruffling Henry's hair along the way. Snow takes Emma's place in the kitchen.
“At least we didn't lose another appliance, today,” she says to David. He nods, though she suspects he doesn't tend to devote much thought to the ongoing saga of their kitchen. She sighs, and he presses a kiss to the top of her head, before reaching for her hand and lacing their fingers together.
“It's nice,” he says, looking out at their daughter, their grandchildren, and the woman they'd once called their enemy. “Isn't it?”
“Yes,” she agrees. “It is.”