Ever since her father died last January, Regina stopped going to her childhood home. Her mother, Cora, told her that avoiding going to their house would only make her grief last longer, but Regina couldn't bear the thought of going to the house and not have her father waiting for her with open arms.
In fact, Regina buried herself in work and neglected almost all aspects of her personal life. It was not as if someone was missing her, other than her mother. At the age of thirty, Regina had no partner and no prospects of getting one. And sure, she knew there was a piece missing in her life but she would not settle for a relationship that didn't feel perfect just because she didn't like coming home to a dark and cold apartment.
Sidney, her PR manager, told her that she should make some plans for Christmas as the holidays approached. He told her that it would be great for her image for the upcoming elections if she did something for the citizens of Storybrooke on Christmas Day. That people would see her as human and not as a robot, which was her current image. And that, maybe they'd have a chance against the current mayor, Robert Gold.
Regina knew her father loved doing humanitarian work and always has encouraged her to do it. He'd tell her that someone's smile was more precious than anything money could buy. And so, Regina agreed with the tactic, not because of the elections, but because she wanted to live by what her father often preached about.
And so, it was arranged for Regina to spend Christmas Day at the shelter for homeless people.
On December 25th, Regina entered the shelter and looked around. There were around 50 people. She had no idea on how many people in Storybooke were homeless. The numbers were astounding for a small town. If she got elected, she'd definitely do something about it.
A nun named Astrid approached her and told her the different activities they'll be doing as the day went on. She asked Regina if she needed help getting settled into some activity or if Regina could manage by herself. Regina, sensing the nun was rather busy opted for the latter. Sister Astrid smiled at her and left to tend some elderly people.
Regina studied the people, trying to figure out who would be in need of some company. She spotted a child sitting by his own in a corner. He was studying something that was on the table. His forehead was furrowed as he tried to figure something out.
"May I sit here?" she asked the child. He unglued his eyes from the puzzle he was trying to arrange to look up to Regina.
"Sowy," the boy's cheeks blushed, "Mommy says not to speak to stwangews."
Regina smiled at the boy's pronunciation. "Your mother is right," Regina nodded, she was about to try some other approach when a blonde caught her attention.
Her curly mane was down, blonde strands falling without any care. As she approached Regina noticed the blonde wasn't wearing a bit of make up, making her look naturally beautiful. She was carrying a plate with food on her hand and a coffee in the other.
"Hi!" the blonde said, "Is he being rude to you?"
"On the contrary, he apologized but he told me his mother told him not to speak to strangers," Regina told her and noticed that the blonde blushed, much like the boy had done seconds ago and Regina's brain caught up with the situation, "You're his mother?"
"I try to be."
"I'd say you're doing a great job."
She huffed, "Yeah... A great job... If you, you know, neglect that we live in the back of my car,"
"Hey, we all have our ups and downs in life," Regina tried to cheer her up, because suddenly she felt like the blonde was a precious and fragile creature and had to be protected.
"Well, my life has downs and downs," the blonde shrugged and placed a dish in front of the child, "Eat up, Henry."
The blonde sat next to her son and motioned Regina to join them. She kissed Henry's forehead before she introduced herself to Regina.
"I'm Emma, Emma Swan," she extended her hand to Regina, and Regina shook it as she said her name to the blonde. "And this is Henry," Emma added, ruffling Henry's hair.
"My father's name was Henry," Regina commented as she studied the child with fondness.
"He's name after a man who saved us," Emma snaked her hand around her son. "My water broke and I decided to drive myself to the hospital. During one of the contractions, I had to pull over quickly because the pain didn't let me see things straight. Then, out of the blue, this man parks behind me and rushes over to ask if I was okay," she retells the story of the scariest day of her life, "He took me to the hospital and stayed with me after I told him I had no one. He was the first person who was truly kind to me, so I named my son after him."
Regina's eyes teared, because she had heard this story before, just from another perspective. She had completely forgotten about it, but now that someone mentioned it, she remembered the day her father was late for dinner and how angry her mother was until she heard the reason.
"Mommy, is she alwight?" Henry's voice brought Regina back to reality.
The brunette noticed that both Swans were looking at her with matching worried faces, not understanding what triggered Regina's reaction. She cleared her throat and reached her wallet in her purse, she always carried a picture of her father with her.
"Is this the man?" she asked, pulling the picture out and passing it to Emma.
Emma studied the picture before looking up at Regina, "Do you know him?"
"He's my father."
It was Emma's turn to tear a little. She turned to Henry and showed him the picture and told her son that he was named after this man.
"Would it be too much to ask if we could see him? I'd like to thank him. My life is a mess but Henry is the greatest thing I've got."
Regina pursed her lips and fought her tears. "My father died last January," she explained, "I couldn't bear going home and he always spoke fondly about volunteering, so I decided to celebrate the holidays like this, to honor him."
Emma held a finger up as if she was signing Regina to wait a second. She ran towards the food and beverages table and came back with another cup of coffee. She sat on the seat she had previously occupied as she placed the cup in front of Regina. Then she took the cup she had brought before and waited until Regina did the same.
"To Henry, the kindest man!" she toasted with her coffee, Regina gently crashed her own cup against Emma and said, "To Henry, the greatest father."
Next to them, Henry raised both of his hands and said, "To me," with enough enthusiasm to make both women laugh.
And it was there, drinking her coffee, helping Henry solving the puzzle, and sharing funny stories with Emma, when her father's words made sense to her. The missing piece in Regina's heart was fulfilled, even if it was just for one second.