Regina giggled. That was the first thing Emma noticed when she and the Mayor had begun seeing each other on the sly. Regina, current Mayor of Storybrooke and reformed Evil Queen would suddenly turn into a giggling teenage sap whenever she was happy. And did Emma enjoy finding ways to make her happy. Not only would a nip of her earlobe have her pressing herself fully against Emma and emitting a pleased cry, but even when the blonde would surprise her with a single lily, no note and no name but understanding, Emma could hear the faint giggle under her breath as she breathed in the flower's scent.
After over eight months of stolen kisses and unfortunate walks of shame (though really they were poofs since Emma had mastered the art of magicking herself away), Emma really wanted to be able to hear those giggles kind of forever.
It should have scared her. She should have been running for the hills, and her brain should have screamed that nothing lasts forever. But as she stood in the mansion's foyer, arms wrapped around the giggler in question and their lips locked in a tired but sensual good morning/goodbye kiss, Emma wanted roots to grow her feet and plant her firmly in the mansion.
"Henry's going to wake soon," Regina whispered against her lips but didn't stop her movements of bringing Emma's bottom lip into her mouth.
Emma nodded then tugged Regina in closer. The bathrobe the Mayor was sporting did little to make Emma want to leave. If she slipped her hand right, maybe she could stay for a little while longer. Regina gasped breathily. Emma grinned. Jackpot.
"Miss Swan," Regina warned, though her half-closed lids proved nonthreatening.
"I know," the blonde whispered then nipped Regina's earlobe winning that giggle once more. "Henry's going to wake soon."
She retracted her hand from the robe and didn't hesitate to lick the finger clean. Regina groaned, and Emma mentally added that to her list of favourite sounds Regina made.
"You're testing me." The brunette pouted, using both hands to draw Emma in by the back of her neck and rest their foreheads together.
"That's what you like so much about me."
Regina murmured but didn't deny the claim.
"You and Henry are coming to Christmas dinner with my parents, right?"
"Your father dressed as a poor imitation of Santa and your mother looking like a Link-cosplayer?"
"Don't forget Bae in his elf costume."
Regina tilted her head appreciatively. "I suppose he is a tolerable Charming."
"You're his favourite," Emma reminded her, "and don't act like you didn't get my mom that Kitchen Aid she wanted or my dad the fly fishing rod."
"It's a re-gift," the Mayor insisted.
Emma laughed and pecked her once more before suddenly growing shy. "I, uh, I got you something."
And there that giggle was again, softer this time almost as if she was saying oh Emma with just the vibration of her vocal chords. "I did as well." She played with the hairs on the back of Emma's neck, her forehead wrinkling like she wanted to say more. "You're busy Christmas morning?"
Emma searched her eyes looking for more blatant clarification. The eight months of sneaking around had initially been because they couldn't understand what to label themselves that first night they had kissed. The uncertainty turned into a bubble neither wanted to break, and though they refrained from hand holding and kissing in public, they had date nights, in the form of Emma's thrice a week invite to join the Mills for dinner or whenever Henry was out for a sleepover, the couple would have one on their own. They risked it some nights, like last night when they had been too exhausted from more vigorous activities to consider Emma leaving. They had been doing that a lot lately. Opting on time with each other with the risk of blowing their cover.
They suspected their son already had an inkling, and though Snow and David had made their peace with Regina, Emma was certain her mother would be more upset at the fact that she was kept in the dark rather than they indulged in a secret relationship.
She hoped this Christmas would change things.
"Mom wants to bake," Emma explained apologetically before she added hesitantly, "…but if you're not busy…?"
"Henry and I have—"
"—Christmas traditions," Emma finished off for her. "Cocoa and waffles and some presents."
Emma had half a mind to ditch baking with Mary Margaret, but they were all in a good place now after they had expelled the darkness from her. It had been a rocky year for sure, but one sacrifice after another got her to this spot right here, didn't it? Next year, Emma promised herself. Next year she'd be having cocoa and waffles in the morning with Regina and Henry before the trio would set off to her parents' house for Christmas dinner. Maybe by the time the holidays were over they'd be able to be a public couple, if Regina was ready for it.
Henry's door opened with the unmistakable creak of his hinges, and the women ducked lower under the alcove of the doorway and lowered their voices to whispers.
"I forgot to fix his door," the blonde confessed, looking sheepishly up where their son was walking sleepily toward the bathroom.
"Lucky for us, I suppose." They kissed once more before Regina pushed Emma back a step. "You have to go."
"We'll be there."
Emma never usually liked Christmas. Growing up in foster homes, they never got to do anything special like decorate the house or take a picture with Santa. When she ran away, she never had any money to get anyone anything, not that she had people to give to, and by the time she straightened herself out, she usually spent the holiday drinking away her loneliness.
This year was different.
This year, everything and everyone had ceased their fighting and their old grudges and now she actually had a family to spend it with. Two, actually, which irked her just a tad when she realized she wanted them all to spend it together, but she wasn't about to break Henry and Regina's tradition when the previous year Emma had had him in New York and oblivious to his adoptive mother. This year they were all going to come together.
Emma couldn't wait.
She could, however, take a lesson in gift wrapping. Henry's gift had been easy enough. She wrapped his sweater in tissue paper and stuffed it in a bag, and his video game which he'd open the morning of Christmas with Regina was easy enough to wrap. She even managed to add extra paper to make it look just as fancy as Snow's. Neal's gift was more of a hassle. Her brother, almost two, had picked out a toy computer. That would have been fine ordinarily but the box it came in was an open face so kids could cause a ruckus in the store, and on Emma's first attempt, she ripped her gift wrap across the top. A bow easily hid the gaping tear, and it wasn't like Neal was going to care anyway. David's present was trickier to get. She had no idea, really, what the man liked aside from swords and danger and his family. Try as she might, Emma considered getting him a snow globe with the family picture inside it and a mini David statue inside fighting a dragon that guarded the photo. It was cute in her head but non-existent in real life, even to the Internet world. She settled on a tackle box to go with Regina's "re-gift" of a fishing pole, and when Emma took one look at her remaining gift wrap and the size of the tackle box, she put the wrap aside and stuck a bow on the box. David wasn't a huge fan of surprises anyway.
Her mother's gift had been an easy buy. In her motherhood, Snow had taken up knitting, insisting she was going to make all of Neal's clothing. Already she had made him house booties and a matching hat which Emma had to admit was all kinds of adorable. So Emma found a knitting book, teaching the reader more advanced ways to knit and perl and the difference between worsted yarn and fingering. Thank god that had been a book because it was a breeze after Neal's computer.
The final gift, however, was for Regina. Emma had toyed with the idea of getting her girlfriend jewelry. Regina had an affinity for online shopping, and on more than one occasion did Emma catch her adding a ridiculous amount of accessories into her shopping cart even if she just came away with a pair of shoes or a purse. She even wondered about doing something for the brunette. A weekend away, just the two of them, or maybe a holiday trip bringing Henry along. They could see the Christmas lights in New York or even find some warmth in Florida. But Emma wanted to give Regina something she could hold on to. A token of her affection, her brain told her, but that sounded just a bit too sappy for her liking. A photo album was her choice, and the preparation that had gone into making the present warranted its careful wrapping. For months, Emma had been planning the perfect gift, and she was finally ready to give it to her.
It wasn't particularly large, and the leather was soft against the wrapping. With every taped edge and careful crease of the wrap, Emma grinned and nodded when all her Christmas shopping had finally been complete.
In true Emma Swan fashion, however, she didn't have To/From stickers on hand. She made a mental note to buy them before Christmas Day at the end of the week, but with work, babysitting Neal because her mother seemed to be getting gifts for each and every person she ever knew, and an obligatory Town Hall Christmas dinner on the 23rd where Regina spent most of the evening with her hand high on Emma's thigh under the table, the blonde forgot about the stickers until the 24th came, and she had to sneak away from the mansion once more to make a stop at the stationary shop.
She plucked the last one and made her way back to the loft, sneaking in quietly and slapping the stickers on her wrapped presents underneath the pencil tree. Hastily scribbling down its recipients, Emma breathed easy. Now she was officially done her Christmas shopping.
"Emmy!" Neal thrust a cookie towards Emma's mouth despite the fact that his older sister was already chewing on the gingerbread he had forced her to eat not two minutes ago. "Try this!"
"'m awready ea'in," she mumbled through the food.
He pushed the sugar cookie against her lips. "It's good!"
She chewed hastily and swallowed, the gingerbread sticking in her throat for a moment before she pushed it down with a glass of milk. When she opened her mouth to calm him down, he shoved the cookie in with gleeful delight.
She glared but took a bite and pulled the rest of the cookie away. "You're right, kid. It's really good."
"When's 'gina and Henry coming?" He questioned, playing with the cotton ball at the end of her Santa hat.
Emma smiled softly at him and subtly glanced at the clock beside the door. When she had woken this morning with a picture message from her girlfriend, she grinned seeing that it was two pairs of feet with ridiculous Christmas slippers on both of them. Regina wore snowmen while Henry's were reindeer, complete with antlers and a red nose. The message wishing Emma a Merry Christmas (with a kiss emoji, she may add) was followed by: There's a pair for you as well. Your son wanted us to match.
They had bantered back and forth, light teasing and not so subtle promises of repeats from what happened the night before. Gift labelled, Emma had went over to the Mills mansion on Christmas Eve with the intention of dropping off the photo album for Regina and the video game for Henry. She didn't want the brunette to open it in a room full of their family lest they find out about the couple prematurely, and hopefully with the gift, they'd be able to talk about finally coming out together. Hindsight had her desperately finding another gift for Regina to open with them that night. A pair of boots. Practical and didn't really scream more than platonic friends. However, her quick drop off was interrupted when she found her girlfriend waiting for her in the bathroom, the gift left on the vanity forgotten in favour of Regina, smooth tanned flesh barely encased in a red and white negligee. It was the sheer red garter and stocking set that propelled Emma forward. She couldn't stay the night, and texting her now, she really wished she had. Cocoa and presents and matching slippers. Soon, she promised herself when Neal came jingling into her room just as Regina announced she'd be opening her gift. The bells on his hat and elf booties announced his presence before the door slammed open in his wake.
"Mama say you wake up now," he demanded pointedly, crawling into Emma's bed and pushing her cheeks around to get her up. She retaliated with kisses before getting an idea and taking a picture of her own, sending Regina herself and the little elf.
That had been hours ago though and not another peep from Regina was heard.
She settled Neal more firmly on her lap. "I dunno, kid, did you invite her?"
His eyes widened comically. "You did!"
She gasped, feigning ignorance. "Was I supposed to?"
She laughed as Bae escaped from her lap and ran over to the breakfast table, no doubt to pilfer more sweets. She checked her phone once more, bothered by the fact that Regina hadn't messaged her any further after opening the gift. She was hoping a heart eyes emoji or a phone call, not complete silence. Maybe Emma had pushed too forward. Oh god, what if Emma blew it?
A knock sounded, interrupting her wallowing thoughts, and when Neal rushed to the door, crumbs trailing behind him, Emma had an inkling who it was. Regina and Henry stepped in, arms laden with gifts and dishes, and immediately the apartment that had smelled like butter and sugar started to waft like lasagna and ham. God, Emma nearly forgot she was making lasagna.
She stood from her spot on the couch, hat bobbing at her shoulders, and even though a second ago she was having a panic attack, seeing Neal tug on Regina's coat begging to be picked up, and Henry easily maneuvering the hot dishes over to the island made Emma feel more at ease.
"Hey," Emma grinned, stealing Neal from under his arms even as the boy squirmed.
"Lemme go, Em," he whined, looking to Regina for saving.
The brunette caught green eyes and smirked before taking the child, swapping the bag of presents for him. "Is she bothering you?"
He nodded, wrapping his arms around her neck even tighter. They chuckled before he pressed his palms against her cheeks forcing her attention. "Santa came today."
"I know," Regina agreed in awe. "I think he got lost a little bit because he left a present for you at my house."
His eyes widened amazed. "Really?"
She nodded and giggled, and Emma's heart just about soared at the sound before Regina set him down where he immediately began pulling at the bag Emma was holding in an eager search for his gifts.
Emma held the bag over his head. "Hold up, kid. We gotta wait till after dinner, remember?"
"Why?" He pouted, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Because Mom said."
"That's the firm parenting," Regina commented when Neal stormed away.
"He's not digging into presents, is he?"
"I suppose you're right."
They stood there, catching each other's gaze under shy glances. They were usually much better at being out in public together like this, but maybe it was the holiday or the gift giving, but they suddenly felt shy and exposed.
"Can I take your jacket?" Emma asked suddenly.
"Oh," Regina looked down and began unbuttoning as if suddenly recalling she was still in her outerwear. "Yes, of course."
She gently placed the bag on the ground and helped Regina out of her jacket. Apparently the Mayor hadn't gotten the ugly Christmas sweater memo, or rather not look like a million bucks. Emma's own sweater was a Mary Margaret original, but Regina, in her deep emerald green dress and nylons made Emma feel reminiscent of their beginning days. Fiery passion and too-tight blouses.
"Are you okay, dear?"
Emma snapped herself out of her stunned reverie and pushed aside the need to kiss her. She was her girlfriend after all. She was well within the allowance of being able to do so. If they were making their relationship known, that is. Instead, she moved quickly to hang up Regina's coat on the rack. "Nothing. You just—you look nice."
Regina laughed, throaty and low, and that did nothing to pull her eyes away from her all-too-sexy girlfriend. Regina reached out to tug the hem of Emma's sweater and grinned at the shapeless design. "And you look—"
"Don't even," the blonde warned. "My mom made it."
"All the more reason to tease."
Emma picked up the bag once more and led Regina over to the living room to put the gifts under the tree. "If I knew you were going to look like that I would have kept my suit from the gala."
Regina waited until they were seated side by side each other on the couch to whisper. "If you had kept your suit from the gala, we probably would have been in your room by now."
Emma blushed, her cheeks turning just as red as the Santa hat on her head, and dammit, Regina giggled and that just made her blush deepen. So maybe the brunette wasn't upset with her about the gift.
"Don't," Emma warned again, suppressing her groan. "Or I will go and put that suit on."
Regina's eyes twinkled as if daring the blonde to do so, and Emma was half a second away from accepting when Henry stuck his head in between the two of them. "Grams said dinner is ready. If we eat fast we can open presents."
"You mean if we eat quickly you can continue playing your video game?" Regina offered instead.
"Gramps wants to play it too," the teen defended before bolting to set the table.
Regina was about to stand at the summons, but Emma caught her wrist to make her stay.
"Hey," she whispered quietly. Regina raised a questioning eyebrow as Emma continued on shyly. "Did you open my gift?"
Understanding flooded her features, and Emma wasn't sure whether that brief widening of her eyes was guilt or confusion. "Oh. Yes, I did."
She waited a beat. In her mind, Regina opening her photo album was supposed to bring tears of joy, kisses most definitely, and perhaps a tiny bit of trepidation, though Emma was certain that wouldn't be the case with them. However, the Mayor just looked at her without nothing more to say. "And?" The blonde prompted, feeling her heart fall to her gut. Oh god, what if Regina really didn't like it?
The brunette squeezed her forearm, and it was much too casual for Emma's liking. "It was lovely."
Lovely? Emma squinted and scrunched up her nose. Yeah, it was, but she was hoping for a bit more than lovely. "Yeah, I just thought it would be a good idea and something nice for you to have."
Regina shook her head. Yup, she definitely had trepidations with the scrapbook. She seemed to be fighting with herself before she finally questioned hesitantly. "What am I supposed to do with it?"
Emma sucked in a breath. She so did not expect that response. "You look at it. Go through the pictures. There are anecdotes in there."
"Well, I can definitely learn a lot from it," Regina acknowledged politically, though the drawl of her voice reeked with hesitation. Emma mentally screamed to abort this mission and quickly. Regina didn't like the album at all. Months of slaving over her computer to perfect the pictures she so painstakingly chose, all for it to be a "hmm" in Regina's vocabulary. They should just go back to last night before she had bared her soul to the woman in front of her.
"Moms!" Henry called again, and when they turned, everyone save for the duo was seated at the table.
Releasing her wrist, the two women stood. Once again, that air of awkwardness settled around them as they took the only two seats left at the table.
Dinner had been pleasant enough. Over the months, whenever both women were attending one of Mary Margaret's many family dinners, they were very good at keeping their togetherness at bay. Usually. A hand on a knee, a look held too long, or quiet whispers in the other's ear when conversation around them grew in volume to afford them some degree of privacy. Tonight, however, they had kept their hands and harmless flirtations to themselves, and it was driving Emma mad. Never before had she questioned what Regina was up to. Well, that wasn't true. Their first year meeting had the blonde's head consumed with thoughts of what the manipulative Mayor was doing next, be it setting Emma up for embarrassment in front of the whole town or digging into her past. She snorted to herself. Oh, those were simpler times. But this was different. For some reason, Emma felt like they were fighting, but she couldn't figure out why. Maybe Regina just really hated photo albums.
"Daddy." Neal tugged at the seatbelt of his booster.
"Who?" David feigned, readjusting the Santa beard he had tugged from his face in order to eat. "I'm Saint Nick!"
His son laughed with a shake of his head. "Santa came already," he insisted. "Can we check now?"
Looking to Snow for the affirmative, David helped the boy out of his booster while Emma and Snow cleared the dishes. Regina had tried, but it was her former step-daughter who levelled her with a warning glare to make herself comfortable on the couch.
As soon as they were gathered around the tree, David distributed the presents. It was no surprise the two youngest boys had quite a pile between them. Already one of Neal's presents was singing under its gift wrap prison, and Henry was clutching a small collection of what were no doubt video games. Emma's forgotten sweater she had given him to open with them that evening sidelined by his newfound love of role playing games.
The boys tore into their gifts. Neal squealed with delight when Regina had given him a stuffed bear. Not only was it dressed in chainmail and armour, but thanks to a little bit of magic, the bear glowed warm with every hug, and when he pressed his ear to its chest, its insides beat softly like a heart.
"That's my mom's heartbeat, isn't it?" Emma teased as Neal hugged the toy to his chest.
"You forget I've held it in my hand," Regina answered with a wry smirk.
"Well, it's very thoughtful, Regina," Mary Margaret smiled gratefully.
"See?" Regina rolled a dignified shoulder. "It's thoughtful."
"My gift was thoughtful," Emma muttered to herself before she could reel it in. It clearly wasn't softly enough for Regina snapped her head to her and cocked an eyebrow.
"Emma," the brunette whispered, placing a hand over Emma's forearm. Lucky for them the rest of the family was distracted by Neal opening the last of his presents. "I really loved your gift."
"You don't need to lie to me, Regina," she mumbled, cheeks flaring red.
"It was…" Emma glanced at her from under her Santa hat as the Mayor struggled to find the right word. "Sweet."
The blonde laughed bitterly to herself and avoided her gaze. She knew she was probably blowing this way out of proportion, but it meant something to her. She thought if anyone, Regina would be the one to validate her feelings.
"Emma," Regina pleaded, but when their son heard the hiss and looked up from his unwrapping, she quieted and scooted closer. "Honestly, I don't care for presents. Spending time right now is better than any gift."
She knew she had a point, and generally Emma felt the same way. But this one was different. She was about to ask her what she didn't like about it before presents dropped at their feet.
"Regina, these are for you." David interrupted then motioned to the blonde. "And to my baby girl."
Emma rolled her eyes affectionately as her father made his last trip to Mary Margaret. His wife pecked the only visible patch of skin on his face before they curled together on the floor by the tree. Gift wrap and tissue paper littered the floor, and half of Neal's toys were already out of its packaging while Henry had scooted his way over to his grandfather's gaming console to test drive his new games.
"Everyone, open up the ones from me," Mary Margaret urged, her eyes twinkling in delight.
The two women looked at one another, silently agreeing to halt their conversation before everyone save for Neal opened their gifts from Snow. As soon as the wrappers were ripped and they looked up to see what everyone else got, a loud chuckle roared around the room. Mary Margaret had knit everyone the same pair of house booties and hat that she had made for Neal, only this time, she weaved their initials into the grey thread with obnoxious orange yarn set against the heather grey wool.
David had grinned, pulling the hat onto his head and earning himself a peck on the cheek from his wife. Henry caught his mothers' gaze, and silently both he and Emma put their hats on as well, the blonde switching out her Santa hat for the beanie. Neal finally looked up from his presents, saw everyone in their matching headwear, then raced to put his own on. Regina was the only one staring begrudgingly at the hand-knitted hat.
"I'm not putting this on." She droppeditt to her lap and crossed her arms.
Henry laughed while Neal crawled over to the couch to thrust Regina's hat into her hands. "You gotta, 'gina!"
"Yeah, 'gina," Emma teased along with him.
The brunette growled, and though Emma was still feeling self-conscious about their minor tiff, teasing Regina always took precedent. Begrudgingly, the Mayor shoved the beanie on her head, fluffing out her hair from underneath it. Letting a smile show to Neal, she dotted his nose with a finger before giving Snow a look to proceed.
"Wait." And in true, infuriating Snow White fashion, she gathered the family in front of the couch, squeezing the two women together, and with the help of David's long arms, they took a family selfie.
"Delete that," Regina demanded as she stared at her scowl on the back of the camera.
"It's nice, Mom," Henry insisted as they dispersed once more to their piles of gifts.
With everyone invested in their own gifts, the women on the couch moved closer, lowering their voices to mere whispers.
"Cute hat," Emma chided.
"It matches your sweater," the brunette shrugged a coy shoulder before turning to face her fully. "Emma, your gift…"
"Don't worry about it," Emma shrugged with a sigh and shake of her head. No use beating a dead horse. What she had with Regina was good, and if she didn't want to take it any further than what she hoped, she was not obligated to do so. "You know what, it's nothing. Honestly. It's really not a big deal. You're right. I like spending time together, and we don't need silly pictures to do that."
"Pictures?" Regina questioned, pulling back confused.
Before Emma could say anything, Mary Margaret's voice filled the room. "And this one is from Emma."
The women looked up, shifting away from each other as their attention drew to the woman on the floor with her own mini tornado of wrapping paper around her. In her lap was Emma's gift, still wrapped, as she put aside the mug Henry had gotten her. She pulled back the wrapping with a smile on her face. "Oh this is lovely sweetie!"
Emma rolled her shoulder but grinned. "Figured you'd like it."
Her eyes widened as she lifted the book free from its gift wrap. "Look David, she made me a scrapbook."
Emma was already nodding before the words processed in her mind. Her eyes widened and her gaze zeroed in on the book in her mother's hands. That was not a knitting book. "What?"
"Isn't this sweet?" Snow crooned, moving to flip over to the first page.
"No!" But Emma was too late. Snow had already opened the front page, and there was no mistaking the fact that Emma had her head resting on Regina's shoulder, the brunette with her glasses on and eyes averted pretending not to smirk at the camera. Her cry had drawn the attention of everyone save for Neal who was still preoccupied with his new toys.
The smile on her mother's face faltered as her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. But Snow, always so curious, continued to skim through the pages. "What is this?" She questioned, and then there was a picture of Henry being held by Regina, the boy three weeks old and wailing at the camera. It was a picture that adorned Regina's study at the mansion, and it was a scene Emma was all too familiar with ever since Regina had gifted her with memories of raising Henry, but the difference was the crudely photoshopped image of Emma in the background, staring down at the bundle.
"It's not for you," Emma hastily explained, marching over to snag the book and hold it close to her chest. The room was quiet now, and if Emma thought she was embarrassed by Regina not liking her gift before, nothing compared to how she felt with all eyes on her. Oh god, she must have slapped the wrong label on Snow and Regina's gifts.
Regina's eyes shined with curiosity, and as if they simultaneously came to the same conclusion, understanding. Emma hid her face on the front of the scrapbook. "Please don't tell me you opened up a knitting book from me."
"Yeah, I thought that was weird." Henry was the one to answer. "Mom cross-stitches. She doesn't knit."
"Oh, you got Regina a knitting book?" Snow exclaimed. "We can make a quilt together."
"No," came the low groan from Emma as she hid her face in the scrapbook.
"Emma." The woman in question winced as Regina stood from her spot on the couch. "Can I see it?"
"Isn't it mine?" Regina questions quietly.
"What is it?" Neal exclaimed.
"Maybe we should go decorate some cookies," David suggested though everyone remained rooted in their spot.
"Is there something you want to tell us?" Snow enticed, and if Emma had looked up from the book she would have seen the hint of a knowing smile form on her mother's face, but all she could think of was that their secret was out, and she was pretty sure Regina would be pissed at her.
She felt a familiar arm on her shoulder, and Emma looked up to see concern splashed across Regina's face.
"Definitely time for cookies," David announced, tugging his wife and son up to their feet. Henry followed suit, giving his moms a double thumbs up before the Charmings retreated to the kitchen.
Really, the privacy was only ten feet away from where they were now, but Emma led them to the sitting nook by the window, her lips pressed in a thin line. "You thought I got you a knitting book? And you pretended to like it?"
"You were very excited to give your present. I liked it because you gave it to me."
"What were you going to do with a knitting book?" Emma scrunched her nose.
Regina snorted, and the air between them relaxed as they both chuckled. "That's what I asked you before you got upset earlier."
"Well, yeah," Emma agreed before pulling the book away from her chest so Regina could see. "Do you know how hard it is to photoshop?"
"Can I see?" Regina asked again, taking the seat beside Emma on the nook.
"It is yours." She handed it to Regina, and sitting on both their laps was the scrapbook Emma had made.
The front cover was a replica of Henry's storybook, the one that started them on this whirlwind adventure, and when Regina opened it to the inside of the cover where the picture of herself and Emma was glued, she noticed the writing on the left side that Mary Margaret had bypassed on her initial inspection.
"It's corny," Emma prefaced, her fingers fidgeting with the hem of her sweater, but Regina tucked her hair behind her ear and leaned over to read it anyway.
We've been together for a while, but it kinda feels like this was a long time coming. A year ago you gave me a gift that meant more to me than words can ever say. You gave me our son, and you shared with me everything from the first time we held him, to his first smile, and his first step, and when he said our name the first time. Every tantrum, we were there, and every fever we soothed. I remember all of this because of you. It's like we were always a family, right from the beginning. Consider this the start to a photo album. I hope we can add to it over the years. Merry Christmas, Regina.
Regina glanced up with a soft smile, and then the brunette giggled, and somewhere in that laugh and in that smile, Emma felt relief wash over her. She could tell this woman she loved her, and in the quiet of the night when Emma was too comfy in Regina's bed to do anything other than cuddle, she could whisper promises that she really meant to keep. But she had put much of herself into this gift. Literally.
Regina turned the page, greeted once more by the crudely photoshopped picture of Emma in the background as the brunette held their infant son, but as she continued to flip through the page, she found copies of old pictures she kept hidden in a photo album in her study. Henry a toddler, holding Regina's hand with each careful step, but there Emma was, crouched on the ground ready to receive him. Henry on his first day of school and an anecdote written beside it reminding Regina how she had choked on his first day of school and refused to leave. However, Emma remembered it a little bit differently. She was the one pulling Regina back, reassuring her that Henry would be fine.
"He was fine," Regina murmured, running her fingers over the four-year old with his oversized backpack.
"Yeah," the blonde agreed. "And then he came home with a drawing for us."
"He drew a horse."
"Really?" Emma turned to face her, eyes clouding in memory "I remember getting a dragon."
She turned another page to see Henry a little bit older now as the boy made a sandcastle at the beach with Regina, kneeling in her beach dress and sun hat. The picture was grainy since it was a screenshot of a home movie taken on an old camcorder, but Emma had done her best to insert herself into the picture. Really, she cropped her head onto a sand body, and it was so obviously tampered with it made the brunette snort.
Emma nudged her playfully, but they continued looking through the book together. Finally, near the end, Regina tilted her head at pictures she hadn't seen before. Henry, a teenager in an apartment she wasn't familiar with, and Emma, heads pressed together as they sat on a couch, and there Regina was on Henry's other side. Then Henry and Emma, standing by a sparsely decorated Christmas tree in the same apartment, but there Regina was in her mayoral outfit standing next to their son.
"Where is this from?" She wondered.
"New York," Emma answered simply. "I wanted to give you the year we were away. I couldn't figure out what spell you used to do it to me, so this was the next best thing."
"You wanted to include me?" The brunette gaped.
"I know it's nothing like having him grow up with both of us," Emma hastily explained, her hands waving as if pushing her point across, "but it's a year, and you deserve to have every minute with him."
"Emma," the brunette awed in wonder, but the younger woman continued. "And I meant what I said. That I want to fill this book with stupid selfies and family trips, and I know we don't know what we are, but I think it's pretty clear we're a family, and—"
She didn't get to finish. Before she knew it, Regina's lips were pressed against hers, and Emma didn't even have the cognition to be frightened that their family was less than ten feet away in the other room, already suspicious. All she knew was that Regina pressing against her, palm on her cheek and foreheads and chests pressed like they couldn't get any closer. She gasped into the brunette's mouth, whether to warn her or to get some air, she couldn't remember at that point, but Regina used the opportunity to deepen the kiss. While just north of indecent, it was Neal's squeal of second hand embarrassment that pulled the women apart as the boy buried his face in his hands.
"You're gross!" He exclaimed and turned pointedly away from them on his bar stool.
The women chuckled, and when Emma looked back finally remembering her parents who should have been in the dark of their relationship, she saw unsurprised faces. She ran a hand through her hair, knocking the knitted hat off her head in the process, before she stood and swayed on the spot. "Mom, Dad, Regina and I—"
"We're not idiots," David interrupted before giving a pointed stare to the brunette behind his daughter, "despite what some people say."
"You knew?" Regina appeared dumbfounded, clutching the photo album to her chest when she stood behind Emma.
"I may be terrible at keeping secrets, but you wear your heart on your sleeve, Regina," Snow countered with a smug smile then added, "but we can still make a quilt if you are up for it."
The blonde draped an arm around Regina's shoulder, blocking out the family in the kitchen once more. "So, is my gift still lovely?"
Regina pushed her back lightly but grinned nonetheless. "Yes, and very thoughtful. I love it."
"So," Emma smiled back taking a step forward, "can I tell people you're my girlfriend?"
"How else are we going to fill up this book with real photos?" Regina tugged Emma towards her through the loop of her jeans, but the blonde reared back
"Hey, I spend a long time on those photos—"
She didn't get to finish. Regina giggled and Emma stammered before she was pulled in all the way for their lips to touch once more. She could feel the vibration against her as the brunette continued to laugh happily into her mouth, and all Emma could do was smile and thank her lucky stars that she'd get to have this forever.
Regina pulled back with the promise of another kiss before she turned her attention to Snow. "Send me that ridiculous family picture. I have a place to put it."
Emma was the one to giggle this time.