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A house is not a home

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“We have a new guest with us today,” Archie says, shifting in his seat. There are a half dozen others sitting in the circle of chairs and couches, and they watch him curiously at his discomfort. “I want you to treat her as you would anyone else in our support group.” 

 

“It’s not that lion lady, is it?” Leroy says, turning in his seat to face the door as she steps in. “Oh, hell no.” 

 

Regina’s teeth are already clamped together, and she can’t do this. She can’t go through this nonsense support group because Archie thinks Post-Curse Stress Disorder is a real thing, and she certainly isn’t going to sit here with eight people sneering at her over it. “Wrong room,” she says tersely. “Sorry for the interruption.” 

 

Archie frowns at her. “Regina.”

 

Mayor Mills,” she hisses, glaring at them all. 

 

“I thought Peter Pan was the mayor now,” Ashley Boyd says, brow furrowing. “If he cast the new curse, it’s only fair–“

 

Leroy snorts. “Have you ever known the Evil Queen to fight fair?”

 

“That’s enough,” Archie finally intervenes, and Regina burns with humiliation and stands her ground, white-knuckled and furious at all of them. “Regina is a victim of this particular curse, just like all of you. And whatever she may have done in the past, she’s also the one who broke it, so she’s a welcome participant in this room. This is a safe space.” 

 

Leroy growls out something huffy and Regina grinds her teeth and takes a seat on the other side of the circle, between Marco and a woman she doesn’t know. Archie sits back, satisfied. “Now, Regina, why don’t you introduce yourself?” She opens her mouth– Evil Queen. Runs this town. Saved your asses– when Archie hastily amends, “First name only, along with your curse identity. Second curse.” 

 

She closes her eyes, irritated with this and Archie himself for foisting this support group onto her, and when she opens them again it’s to six hostile faces and one professionally interested (and pained. Very pained). “Regina,” she says curtly. “I ran the stables during the second curse.”

 

“Now there’s a punishment,” the woman beside her says, wrinkling her nose. Regina is silent. It hadn’t been a punishment, no matter how demeaning Pan had meant for it to be. It’s the only thing about that whole false life that had been…not awful. But the woman beside her looks almost sympathetic. “Between that and your marriage, you got a little taste of what you put us through, huh?” 

 

Well. Maybe not sympathetic. Regina ignores her, turning back to Archie. Archie says, “Your marriage?” as though that isn’t why he’d insisted she come to this group in the first place.

 

She finds her voice again, makes sure it won’t crack before she spits out, “I have nothing to say about that.” And her traitorous voice keeps going. “It’s not my first time being forced into a sham of a marriage with that family.”

 

Archie’s eyebrows rise. “I can see how both situations might feel comparable,” he allows. “Though in this case, your spouse had no choice in the matter, either.”

 

Regina’s eyes narrow, angry and frustrated and helpless to do a thing about it but lash out. “I’m sorry, am I paying your exorbitant fees to sit in a circle and listen to you defend Emma Swan?” 

 

Archie clears his throat. “We’re talking about–“

 

“No, you’re talking,” Regina cuts him off. “Go back to playing nursemaid to the Lost Boys. I’m done.”

 

She stalks from the room, ignoring pitying and scornful stares alike, and she gets into her car, seething and fuming until there’s nothing left but drained exhaustion with every factor that has combined to create this new hell for her.

 


 

She notices she’s being followed when she’s halfway home. Old habits die hard, and somehow she’d registered the distinctive car behind her in her mirrors and thought nothing of it until she’d turned the corner to her side of town. 

 

Her eyes narrow and dammit, she’s so tired of being provoked all the time, of having to be furious when she’s just exhausted. Isn’t Emma tired yet?

 

She twists the wheel of the car at a stop sign a block from her house and careens around, blocking off the street before the yellow Bug can pass her, and she breathes in twice before she parks and exits the car. “Are you following me now?” she demands.

 

Emma Swan is pale, dark circles under her eyes, and someone who hadn’t had knowledge of her implanted into their mind might not have seen it all. “Oh,” Emma says, staring at her and then the house up ahead of them. Her hand tightens on her open car door. “I…I forgot again.”

 

“Forgot?” Regina repeats disbelievingly. “Forgot what? That stalking is a punishable offense? That Henry isn’t even here right now?” 

 

Emma’s gaze is blank, drawn and vulnerable and still unreadable. “I forgot that I don’t live here anymore,” she says, raising her eyes to stare at the mayoral mansion, and for a protracted moment, there’s raw agony on Emma’s face beneath a veneer of hardness.

 

Regina hesitates mid-scathing retort and gives up, something scratching at her throat for purchase. She makes her way back to her car with measured steps, right-foot-left-foot-onward until she can duck back into it.

 

A moment before she’s free, Emma says in a small voice, “I got an apartment.” 

 

“What?” For one ridiculous moment, Regina thinks it’s an…invitation or something, which is absurd, because they were barely even allies before a six-month delusion. And Emma wants as little to do with Regina now as Regina does her, all that soured for them both.

 

But no, this is about Henry. “You said…I get that you don’t want him to stay at the loft. There won’t be much space there anyway when…” She pauses and Regina remembers a night four months ago, Snow’s face shining and Emma’s movements dull and mechanical as they’d wished their congratulations to her. They’d gone home and Emma had curled up in her arms in bed, I don’t know why I’m so upset. I don’t know how our…our friends having a baby matters to me– and Regina had cradled her and not understood the dread pooling in her own stomach, either. 

 

Pan’s curse had been built too quickly, too sloppily; and while Regina’s had been crafted over years of work and been seamless until she’d introduced one unpredictable element– a little boy who’d smiled up at her and her defenses had drained away– Pan’s had had too many little imperfections to hold up for long. 

 

Somehow, her false marriage had been one of the few things about the curse that had seemed genuine and safe until she’d picked up that damned book and a tsunami of doubt had devastated her unsuspecting heart in an instant. 

 

She bottles the rage that had been the only survivor of those waves and uncorks it whenever her heart falters. “When their precious baby comes,” she sneers, and that rage never quite directs itself at Emma when she means it to. Emma flinches anyway. “So you moved out.”

 

“I thought he could stay with me on weekends, like we talked about.” They’re discussing custody arrangements in the middle of the street, Emma’s face still pale but determined. It’s absurd. It’s all...

 

Regina is no less stubborn than Emma. “He needs a stable environment. You had him for two months before Neverland and you managed to kidnap him to New York and then lose him–“

 

“You poisoned him!” Emma shoots back, and the rage burns hot and true now. “If we’re going to posture about–“ She stops herself, her hands trembling against the car door. “Please, Regina. I know it was all a lie, but I just…the past six months were…” She pinches the bridge of her nose and Regina shakes with fury and loss and despair. “I can’t lose him again,” she whispers, catching Regina’s gaze with pleading eyes.

 

“I didn’t adopt as a single mother to play divorced lesbian mommies with my son,” Regina says, drawing herself up and keeping her back very straight. This is a farce and they both know it, because nothing good comes out of trying to force Henry to pick one of them. And it had been a goddamned miracle that he’d even chosen to stay on Mifflin after this curse had broken and she isn’t going to risk that now. “Every other weekend,” she bites out instead. “He can come to the station after school during the week as long as he’s home for dinner.”

 

Emma’s eyes light up at her and it’s like gazing into the sun in an eclipse, scorching her eyes before she can turn away. “Regina–“ Emma starts, and Regina can’t.

 

She sinks into her seat and slams her car door instead, driving the fifty feet to her driveway and turning back only once she’s made it in. Emma is still standing in front of her car, watching her unabashedly, and Regina stalks into her house and shuts the door before she sinks to the ground to sob into her knees.

 


 

By the time Henry makes it home that evening, she’s wearing a new face of makeup and has dinner ready in the oven. “You’ll be spending weekends at Emma’s apartment,” she informs him, pressing a kiss to his temple. It’s getting to be more of a stretch to reach it, and she determinedly doesn’t think about that, either. “Is that okay with you?” 

 

“She said every other weekend.” He doesn’t sound unhappy, exactly, but he doesn’t sound enthused either. She looks at him askance.

 

“She must have heard wrong. Here, set down these plates.” She’s taken out three on automatic and she shoves one back into the cabinet, perhaps with a bit too much force. Henry watches her solemnly. “Are you okay with this?” 

 

“Not really, no,” Henry says, and victory shouldn’t feel this much like defeat. “I don’t…I don’t want you to be alone every weekend.” He looks pale and defiant, Emma in miniature. “I don’t want Ma to be alone all the rest of the week, either. I don’t get why we can’t just…” He bites at his lip and says nothing and she sets down the pot roast and says nothing and there are too many leftovers again. She packages them up into Tupperware and doesn’t use the small containers that she’d sent Emma to work with every day for six months.

 

Henry goes upstairs after dinner, stomping on the stairs as he ascends, and Regina sits in her study and stares blankly at the book at the corner of her desk. Once Upon a Time, it reads, but it’s a very different book than the one Henry keeps upstairs. The pictures within it are no less indistinct, fuzzy memories of a town that had been before Pan, and it had been her blessing and her curse to be the one to receive it.

 

“You saved us all with that book,” says a voice from the doorway, and Regina sighs heavily and says, “I’m changing the locks.”

 

“Oh, come on, Regina, we were friends,” Snow protests, making herself comfortable on the couch. 

 

“We were cursed!”

 

“We were friends.” Snow pats the spot next to her like she thinks– like this is three weeks ago and they’re all having drinks together while David plays ball with Henry in the yard. Like Regina is rolling her eyes at Snow from beside her and Emma is giving Regina a warning be nice glare that she’ll reluctantly obey. “After everything we’ve been through, wasn’t it a relief to get to be happy together?” 

 

“It was a lie,” Regina says flatly.

 

Snow smiles. “Some lies are worth holding onto.” It’s so damned arrogant and privileged and Regina sits in stony silence, glaring at an unimpressed Snow. “Thank you,” Snow says. “For getting Emma out of the apartment.” 

 

“I didn’t get her anywhere. I don’t give a damn about her.” 

 

“Mm-hm. So I told you she was miserable last week.” Snow leans back. “And you immediately gave her an ultimatum. And now she has an apartment of her own.” 

 

“Your family squabbles have nothing to do with my son’s wellbeing,” Regina says coolly. “And I don’t need Henry dealing with his other mother’s abandonment issues because her parents are too busy replacing her to focus on her.” 

 

Snow flinches. For a moment. Her face tightens and her eyes are tired but she says instead, “I wish you’d talk to her. Can’t you see that you need each other?” 

 

“Your delusions about whatever happened during the curse being real are not a reason to be anywhere around someone who violated me,” Regina shoots back, affronted. She wants to force Snow out of her house, out of her life, to call the police and–

 

She can't call the police and bring more Charmings into this. She hasn’t felt this trapped and defeated since Daniel’s death. 

 

And Snow has the audacity to shake her head. “I saw you in Neverland,” she says, her voice gentle. “Both of you. I saw the way you looked at each other when you didn’t know anyone was watching.”

 

“Get out,” Regina snarls, her throat hoarse.

 

Snow doesn’t move. “Peter Pan violated you– both of you. But all Emma did was love you.”

 

“Get out,” Regina says, rising– and she can fight with fists and fireballs, hurl them at a woman who has no right to be here, disappoint her son and feel savage satisfaction on behalf of a woman she doesn’t give a damn about. “You can stand here and talk about– talk about this like you’re nobly interested in my–“ She shakes her head. “I know what you’re thinking. I know what all of you are thinking,” she grinds out, stalking toward Snow.

 

Snow stares up at her, her expression unchanging. “I don’t think you do.” 

 

“You’re thinking that no one deserves this more than I do. That every violation– that I deserved all of this for what I did to you,” Regina hisses. Her fists are quivering with fury and pain and too many nights awake pushing intrusive thoughts from her mind, you did this, you deserve this, you are this– “And you’re right! You think I don’t recognize that? You don't have the monopoly in hypocrisy in this fam–“ She freezes. A moment too late.

 

Snow echoes it in a whisper. “In this family.” And her eyes are shining like she’s fought for this and won, like it’s a confession that resonates through their lives instead of a twisted relic of a curse, and Regina feels bile rise in her throat and sandpaper-dry eyes scraping out new tears.

 

“Get out,” she says again, her throat thick, and she flees to her room before Snow can speak again.

 


 

Regina paces back and forth in her office on Friday, contemplating an empty house and a stack of paperwork and a bottle of wine before she lets out a frustrated sigh and heads down the stairs and toward Archie’s office.

 

The support group meets biweekly, and she’s being billed for the full week so. So. She slips into the room, focusing on entering unseen, and she successfully makes it to an empty little sofa before she notices who’s speaking. 

 

It’s Emma, leaning against the desk and fiddling with her fingers as she talks, and she sees Regina before anyone else and stops. “Anyway,” she says, nervously licking her lips. “I think I’m kind of settling into a routine now. With Henry.” She moves toward Regina and Regina notices too late that the empty couch had been the only free seat in the room.

 

She grits her teeth. Emma presses her lips together and turns sharply, squeezing onto the couch beside her, the cushions sinking toward each other so their arms bump together. Regina slides her hands onto her lap, knees pressed together and eyes straight ahead.

 

Another woman has begun talking, though this one doesn’t stand up. “I think…the worst part for me was catering to those Lost Boys all the time,” she says, shaking her head. “It was the old world all over again. I didn’t upgrade from peasantry to serve a gaggle of spoiled little boys.” Regina recognizes her. She’s one of the local high school teachers, and a rare mother who’d lost her son to Neverland long before the first curse. She squeezes her fingers into her thigh and watches the woman's drawn face instead of Emma’s bouncing knee. 

 

“My boy left for the woods every night. He still does,” Marco says, shaking his head. “Even with the curse broken.” The couch is shaking slightly as Emma's knee pops, and Regina puts an absentminded hand on Emma’s knee to curtail it. Emma stops moving. Regina’s cheeks are hot as she snatches her hand away.

 

“Wait,” Emma says, and for a breathless moment Regina believes Emma is talking to her. “Did you say he’s still running for the woods at night?” 

 

Marco nods. “My son is doing the same,” Michael Tillman says, frowning. “I’ve asked him about it and he won’t give me a straight answer. All the boys in town have been. Haven’t you seen Henry doing it?”

 

“Henry never did,” Regina interjects. Hostile eyes turn on her and she looks to Emma instead. Emma glares back at everyone around them just as fiercely. “He…I  didn’t understand it, either,” she admits, sinking back against the couch. 

 

“Maybe because he was already in Neverland,” Emma offers weakly. They’d asked him once, early on, when the truancy problem had reached new levels and Henry had been the only boy who’d made it into school for a full week. He’d looked at them oddly. Yeah, I guess it’d be nice to be part of the gang? But why would I want to run with the Lost Boys if I’m not lost? 

 

Peter Pan hadn’t given a damn about people’s happiness and misery or crafting a new curse. He’d slapped new memories onto the old curse and given his Boys full reign of the town and only Regina and Emma and Henry had been handed a new story. 

 

Because we could break the curse, Emma had said urgently that first night after. Because I’m the savior and Henry’s the truest believer and he had to– we had to be content. We had to have our happy ending. Her eyes had been pleading, her heart on her sleeve, and Regina had been frozen in disbelief. He didn’t count on you, I guess, she’d said, her voice subdued and broken as she’d sought validation from Regina, and Regina had turned away and retreated into her home.

 

The rest of the group returns to their prior discussion, and Emma leans back so she can murmur in Regina’s ear, “Have you checked in on him at night?” 

 

No. No, she hasn’t. She’d gotten too complacent after six months and memories of happy moments before then, and she’d stopped treating every moment with Henry as another moment she’s about to lose. She clenches her jaw and Emma whispers, “I know. I get why…why you wouldn’t, if he’s back in the morning.” 

 

She turns, eyes narrowed and close enough that Emma’s even breathing is soft against her lips. (She doesn’t think of a thousand kisses that had been lies, of how many nights they’d spent curled into each other on a couch like this, trailing her hands through Emma’s hair and so disgustingly filled with overpowering adoration–) “He’s fine,” she snarls in a low voice. “I can take perfectly good care of our son, thank you very much.” 

 

“Okay,” Emma says, and it’s stifling to feel her this close, light eyes dark with emotion, lips glistening as she swipes her tongue along them again. Regina is stock-still, her whole self aching, her heart thudding reproach against her ribs.

 

Right before Pan’s curse had hit, when they’d been saying their goodbyes as they’d fled for the town line (too late, always too late), Henry had been tucked under David's arm, as safe as he could be. Regina had called forth her magic as Emma had been struggling with her own, the two of them braced against each other as green magic had swept over them, and for a moment–

 

She’d seen nothing but Emma in front of her, eyes glittering with determination even now, and her heart had raced and she’d thought maybe and hadn’t considered what that maybe had meant. Emma had leaned forward, her lips parted as she’d spoken voiceless words, and Regina had pressed her forehead to Emma’s as the smoke had billowed around them and the curse had come to take them.

 

And then she’d awakened in her bed, burrowed into Emma’s side and mumbling protests as Emma had laughingly kissed her awake. And there are no more maybes anymore.

 

She straightens, pulling away from Emma in the too-stuffy therapist’s office, and Emma follows her as she hurries from the room. “Regina, wait. Can you just wait for one–“ 

 

“What do you talk about in there?” Regina demands. “What are you telling absolute strangers about our–“

 

“Henry,” Emma says, breathing hard as she catches up to her. “I talked about Henry. Just Henry. It’s been only five sessions and I missed one, okay? I have all these memories of us being a happy family and suddenly we’re not and I haven’t been alone with our son in two and a half weeks and I just…” She shuts her eyes and opens them again, calmer as she meets Regina’s eyes. “I don’t talk about you.”

 

Regina arches an eyebrow, only half-believing. “I don’t,” Emma says again. “It’s not…it’s not a place I’d go for that, anyway.” She shrugs helplessly. “They…you know, they’re not your biggest fans. They wouldn’t get it.” 

 

“Get what?” Regina demands, which is a terrible mistake the moment she says it. Emma’s eyes crinkle like they used to when Regina would get particularly cranky about Emma skipping out on chores and Emma would– laugh into her neck, kiss away a scowl, whisper ‘you’re so unreasonable’ and Regina would roll her eyes fondly and– all of this is a lie. She shudders and Emma presses her lips together and lifts her shoulders again.

 

“Look,” Emma says, after a long pause. “I think we should…I think you should come by tonight. Come for dinner and stay so Henry doesn’t ask any questions. We’re getting along, right? We’re doing Wine Night. And then we wait and see what he does when we’re asleep.” 

 

And there’s a jolt of fear– of recriminations, of Neverland all over again– and Emma must see the way Regina’s face freezes because she reaches for her instinctively. Her fingers brush against the back of Regina’s hand and Regina’s breath is strangled in her throat and why does every step of this have to be so agonizing? “For Henry,” she says, and Emma smiles painfully and bobs her head.

 


 

The apartment is…nice. It’s really nice, actually, large with big windows that let in sunlight and a full-sized kitchen and a dining nook that connects the kitchen to the living room. It had come fully furnished and both of the two bedrooms are equipped for occupants, and Henry’s has a desk that he settles in to do homework after dinner. “I’m glad you’re getting along,” he says, leaning into Regina’s arm. 

 

Getting along might be an overstatement, but Regina had sat in silence and let Henry and Emma do the talking, so it’s…close. There had been a terrible familiarity to it, eating one of Emma’s half-dozen regular dishes (always a pasta, always cheese, sometimes a vegetable if she knows Regina’s going to be home (not home) for dinner, and sometimes she’ll put an egg in it and bake it if she wants to impress her) and listening to Emma rib Henry about another perfect math score. (“What a nerd,” she says, poking his arm. “You definitely don’t get that from my side of the–“ and she’d snapped her mouth shut, averting her eyes from Regina.)

 

And Henry counts this as positive behavior, so she smiles down at him and murmurs, not untruthful, “We’d do anything to keep you happy and safe.” She kisses his cheek and leaves the room with reluctance.

 

Emma is washing dishes in the kitchen and Regina grabs the towel automatically, drying each one off and setting it in the rack. They’re finishing up the forks when Emma breaks the silence. “So.” 

 

“So.” 

 

“How do you like the apartment?” Emma’s eyes are searching, scanning her face for her reaction. Regina wipes her face clear of emotion. “You like it,” Emma says with satisfaction.

 

She hates it. She hates it so viscerally that she finds it unsettling to be in it, and she refuses to think about why it feels so wrong to see Emma and Henry in a home together where she isn’t– “It’s tolerable,” she lies, and Emma’s forehead creases.

 

“I fucked up,” Emma admits a moment later, and Regina eyes her warily. “No, not–“ She shakes her head. “Nothing big. Just…I didn’t think. Henry isn’t going anywhere until we’re asleep, and…” She gestures toward her room. 

 

There’s only one bedroom, and Regina can already guess that there’s only one bed. This night just gets better and better. “Well, we don’t have a choice, do we?” she demands irritably. “You’ll have to sleep on the couch tonight.” At Emma’s look, she says, “Henry isn’t going to buy us sleeping in the same bed anyway, so–“ 

 

“Henry isn’t going to buy you sleeping in the apartment at all when you live five minutes away,” Emma points out. “Not unless you…you know. Have a reason to stay.” She pops out a cheap bottle of wine. “Wine night.” 

 

Regina fumes in silence and Emma leads her to the bedroom. “I’m not giving him false hope,” Regina says darkly, stalking after her. “He already thinks that we should go back to being cursed pod people.” 

 

“Come,” Emma says patiently. “Sit down on the bed, watch some TV. I’ll take care of the rest.” 

 

It’s too domestic. It’s too familiar, a night just like every other, and Emma is sitting beside her with a bottle of wine and two glasses when Henry peers in at them. “Are you two back together?” he says hopefully.

 

Emma gives him a reproachful look. “No, kid. Just celebrating the weekend as friends. Cheers.” She knows exactly how to subdue Regina because this had always been their Friday night routine– wine, a bad movie in bed until Regina passes out, and Regina’s half asleep by the time Emma clinks her glass against hers and grins at Henry. “Have a good night.” 

 

“Right,” Henry says, still staring at them. “You guys are weird, you know that?” He retreats, shutting the door behind him, and Emma snatches away Regina’s glass before her eyes can drift closed.

 

“Uh-uh. We have a stakeout. I know Friday night wine is your narcoleptic.”

 

“I’m going to need a lot more of it to deal with you for the next few hours,” Regina mutters, but she stretches out under the comforter and watches Emma as she shuts off the light.

 

“Relax,” she says, sliding under the comforter beside Regina and watching Regina stiffen. “It’s not like we haven’t done this hundreds of times.” Her eyes are the first thing Regina sees when her eyes adjust to the dark, gleaming at Regina with a defiant cast to them. 

 

Their hands brush against each other under the blanket and Regina is the first to retract hers. “And you’re…you’re comfortable with that?” she says, her eyes narrowed. “With any of this?” 

 

She can feel Emma’s shoulders hunch, see her eyes drop. Can hear her shallow breathing in time with Regina’s own breath. “Everyone keeps telling me this isn’t your fault,” Regina says, staring at the ceiling. “But I don’t see how it isn’t when it was all about your happiness.” 

 

“Was it so terrible?” Emma whispers, and her voice is small and vulnerable again. A month ago, Regina would have taken her into her arms and kissed her just below her earlobe where it makes her shiver. A month ago, Emma would have curled up against Regina and listened to her heartbeat as she’d drifted off to sleep. “Getting to be happy together?” 

 

Tonight, they lie stiffly on a bed too small for the two of them, side-by-side with a yawning gulf of words unspoken between them. Emma shifts to lie on her side and Regina reaches to her, brushes the tips of her fingers against Emma’s forehead as Emma inhales shakily. And her eyes still glitter like they had in the moment before the curse had taken them. Regina whispers back, “Did we ever have a choice?”

 

Emma doesn’t answer. Bright, bright eyes gleam in the darkness and Regina strokes Emma's forehead and can’t tear away her eyes or fingers or heart until Emma’s clock is displaying three o’clock in the morning and Regina jerks awake. “Dammit!” she hisses, poking Emma hard.

 

Emma yawns, squinting up at her like she can’t quite remember where she is. “Babe? What’s wrong?” 

 

“I will set you on fire,” Regina hisses, scrambling out of the bed. She stalks across the room in the dark, throws open the door, and tiptoes to Henry’s room.

 

There’s a lump under the blanket but the window’s open, and Regina crosses the room in three quick steps and uncovers Henry’s overnight bag tucked beneath his comforter. “He’s gone,” Emma says from the doorway. It isn’t a question.

 

“We fell asleep.” Her first impulse is to rage, to turn on Emma and blame her for losing Henry. But that impulse has never served her well. “I can’t–” She closes her eyes and moves to the window, searching with all her magic for their son. And there’s nothing, only a faint presence that fades at the woods. “I can’t find him.” 

 

Emma stands rigid behind her. “What?” 

 

“No, it’s–“ She shuts her eyes again, casting out a glow that fades when it touches the woods. “Whatever the Lost Boys are doing, magic won’t work in the woods anymore.”

 

“Then I’ll take my gun out there,” Emma says, turning for the door. 

 

And Regina’s gripped with a memory of another time– of Emma running from their bed into the woods after the station had gotten complaints about the Lost Boys, about her vanishing for the remainder of the night and the panic and the way she’d returned bruised and bloody– “No,” she says sharply, and Emma looks at her askance. 

 

“He’ll be back,” she says, sinking down onto Henry's bed. That’s the one thing that she’s certain of, that never changes with the boys who disappear in Storybrooke. “In the morning.”

 

Emma huddles down beside her. “He’s always there in the morning.” Regina leans against her arm, shivering in the cool air that wafts in from the window, and Emma silently wraps Henry’s blanket around them both as they wait.

 


 

Somehow, she falls asleep again. She hadn’t thought she would.

 

She’s wrapped in the blanket when she awakens, her head resting on Emma’s lap and Emma’s hand cupping the back of it, and Emma murmurs, “Sunrise. He’s coming back in.” 

 

That’s why she’d awakened. There’s a sound of scrabbling at the window, a hand reaching over the ledge; and Henry tumbles into the room– no, hovers, the gleam of pixie dust around him as he moves through the window– and he lands on the ground in a crouch.

 

He stares up at them. “Moms? What are you doing in my room?”

 

“What are we doing?” Emma demands. “What the hell are you doing?” 

 

Henry’s eyes darken. “That’s what this is about? Spying on me? I thought you two had finally gotten your act together?” He’s bristling with indignation, the kind that Regina would have met with her own indignation a couple of years ago. Today, the fear that had been gone during the second curse has returned in full force and she can’t bring herself to start a fight with him under those accusing eyes. 

 

Emma takes the mantle, surging forward. “Peter Pan is locked up in the asylum. The Lost Boys are disbanded. How long have you been going out to the woods? What are you doing there?” She turns to Regina, seeking backup, and Regina stiffens.

 

Henry sees it too and his eyes glow with victory. “It’s none of your business,” he snaps. “Every other boy in town goes out at night, too. We’re fine.” 

 

Emma shakes her head disbelievingly. “You never did before!” 

 

“Yeah, well, I was happy here before you and Mom decided to be idiots about this whole thing,” he says, and he’s angrier now, an adolescent with a chip on his shoulder like he’d aged into his teenage years over the course of two weeks. “But now you can’t even be in the same room unless it’s about punishing me, so you know what? I’m done.” There’s still pixie dust glittering around him, the aftereffects in his voice and face, and he stands up. “And you can just fuck off.” 

 

Emma flinches. “That’s enough, Henry,” Regina says, her voice sharp, and his jaw sets as he stares at her. She forces herself to remain still, her spine straight and her eyes flashing, and the defiance surges in Henry’s eyes but he doesn’t say a word. “You’re grounded. You will not leave this house until Monday morning, and you will come back home– to Mifflin Street–“ She stumbles over the words. “Monday after school. You will not go to the woods again.” She flicks her wrist and a barrier shimmers around the windows of the room. 

 

Henry glares at her and spits out, vitriol in every word, “I hate you.” 

 

She reels back and Emma puts a hand on her arm, glaring right back at Henry as he storms from the room and slams the bathroom door. “He’s jumped up on pixie dust and whatever the Lost Boys do in the woods,” she murmurs. “He doesn’t mean it.”

 

“He always meant it,” Regina mutters, her eyes on the door. “And this…adjustment has been…” 

 

“Rough. Yeah.” Emma stands. “I’ll go talk to him.” 

 

“He’ll need some time. Let me do it first,” Regina says, because this Henry she knows better than Emma ever will. They can commiserate together over their lost happy endings when Regina isn’t around, still the villain who’d torn it apart instead of–

 

She waits until Emma’s digging through boxes in the pantry, searching for cereal, before she knocks on the bathroom door. “It’s Mom,” she says, hesitant, and there’s a pause before Henry mutters, “Come in.”

 

He’s sitting on the floor in front of the toilet, green with nausea instead of pixie dust, and she rests a hand on his back as he vomits into the toilet. “I don’t know,” he whimpers when he’s done retching, and he burrows into her side like he’s a tiny child again. “I can’t remember any of it anymore. I don’t…I don’t know what’s happening to me.” 

 

The curse lances out like a spiderweb, drawing terrible new endings for them even after its center has been broken. “We’re going to figure it out,” she murmurs, holding him tightly. Emma drifts to the door, their eyes locking in determination toward the one thing they’ll always agree on, through curses and loathing and despair. “I promise.”