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Whatever This Is

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*****

It’s weird, this whole... kinda-sorta being friends with Regina thing. She supposes it’s good, for Henry anyway, but... still really, really weird.

It started after the welcome home party at Granny’s. Regina called to thank her again for the invite, and to apologize (in her own, Regina-ish, not-really-an-apology way) for their minor tiff outside the diner. Emma had been so thrown off by the gesture, also maybe by the 3 drinks she had, that she just stupidly blurted out, “We should do that again.”

She had to bite down on her lip to keep from swearing, so much so that she drew a little blood. The pain wasn't helped by the stunned silence on the other end of the line. She was about to check to see if the call had been dropped when Regina finally replied.

“What - bicker in front of a diner?”

The tone was so dry, so perfectly Regina, that Emma couldn't help rolling her eyes. “No. I mean, hang out.”

Another pregnant pause had lingered between them -- she had used the time to wonder just how strong Granny mixed her drinks.

“I... suppose a camaraderie would be beneficial to Henry.”

So they kinda started... hanging out. Just in small increments at first. Regina had a virus on her computer and was ready to throw it out the window when Emma mentioned knowing how to fix it. So she’d gone over to fix it and left when she was through. It wasn't unbearably awkward, nor was it overly-friendly.

The next time was when she and Mary Margaret ran into Regina at the grocery store. Things had been tense between the three of them, and Mary Margaret had finished her shopping quite quickly. Emma decided to hang back, ignoring the confused look she got from her mother, and completed her shopping trip alongside Regina. They had bickered when Emma reached for snack-size brownies to pack in Henry’s lunch (Regina all but forced her to buy baby carrots and celery sticks for him instead), but the bickering had been comfortable.

Now, they get together for lunch on a weekly basis. Emma keeps her updated on Henry and Regina does her best to smile. She knows it’s still a sore subject, and she’s sure Regina’s still smarting from what she’d said in front of the diner weeks before, but somehow they keep things civil.

“What do you like to drink, Miss Swan?” Regina asks her one day at lunch, while jabbing her fork through lettuce and a slice of tomato.

Emma watches as the fork dips into a small plastic cup of dressing (always balsamic vinaigrette and always on the side) before she stammers, “Uhh... uh, beer I guess.” She furrows her brows, watching as Regina looks down at her small salad plate and jabs at it again. “Why?”

A simple shrug rolls off Regina’s shoulders, the movement as fluid as the charcoal silk blouse she’s wearing today. One that looks eerily similar to the one she’d let Emma keep so long ago.

“Enjoy my shirt... because that’s all you’re getting.”

Was it really just a year ago when they were striving to get back at one another constantly? Now here they are, sharing a small table at a deli. It’s run by one of the dwarves (she thinks it might be ‘Bashful’ - the guy always looks embarrassed about something) and they’re known for their Reuben. She’s not a fan of sauerkraut but she’s a sucker for corned beef and rye bread, so she picks hers up off the plate (no sauerkraut) and takes a big bite.

“Seriously, why?” she asks again around a mouthful of corned beef.

Regina gives her a look - she can’t figure out whether she’s annoyed at her talking with her mouth full or if the reason for her question should be obvious.

“I hope you’re not passing your table etiquette on to my son,” she quips, one slim eyebrow arching sharply.

Emma rolls her eyes, but finishes chewing and swallowing before she speaks again nonetheless. “Don’t worry, he’s still polite as can be.”

“Good,” Regina huffs, and she thinks she hears a note of relief. After a moment, she gets around to answering Emma’s question. “I was going to see if you... wanted to stop by tomorrow night. For a bit.” She slowly lifts her eyes, gauging the reaction.

Emma just stares, thinking of the last time they had a drink together -- not since they first met -- and how quickly things went downhill.

She stares for so long that Regina ducks her head, spears another bite of salad, and mutters, “You can say no if you wish.”

“No,” Emma replies, and Regina looks shocked for a minute before she clarifies, “No, I-I mean... sure, I’d love to come over.” She grimaces to herself when Regina looks away again -- love to?

“Great,” Regina replies, and gives her a closed-lip smile, one that Emma can’t help returning before she tears off another chunk of sandwich.

Regina huffs again and says, “Honestly, were you raised in a barn?” and Emma laughs, giving the toe of Regina’s boot a nudge under the table.

“Come on, you can’t tell me you were a prim and proper lady all the time,” she teases.

Regina quirks a brow, but Emma doesn't miss the smirk to curl her lips. “You do recall who my mother is, don’t you Miss Swan?”

She tells her then and there to start calling her Emma, and they finish their lunch in a (really weirdly) comfortable silence.

 

*****

“You’re going over to Regina’s... alone?”

Emma tilts her head at Mary Margaret, who’s arranging a vase of freshly-clipped flowers. “You say it like she’s gonna poison me.”

One look is enough to get her to amend her statement. “Okay fine, so she tried to do that already--”

“And put your son’s life in jeopardy--”

Regardless,” Emma cuts her off with a sharp look, then allows her features to relax. “She’s trying to turn herself around for Henry’s sake, and...” She shrugs one shoulder. “And I think having a friend might help her stay on the right track. Plus, this will be good for Henry.”

Mary Margaret quirks a brow but says nothing, turning her attention instead to the flower arrangement.

Emma sighs, leaning her elbows on the kitchen island. “Look. I know you guys have your own past, and in your land she was the Evil Queen, but... here, she’s Regina. And she and I spent all of last year fighting and trying to get back at each other. Henry was put in the middle of that and both of us almost lost him. I don’t want that to continue and I don’t think she does, either. Which is why she’s probably extending this... olive branch, of sorts.” She nods once, as if that will convince her mother.

David, who up until that point had been dutifully cleaning their dishes from lunch, turns around now and leans against the sink, towel over his shoulder as he folds his arms. “Emma, I think that’s a great idea.”

Mary Margaret tosses her husband a glance over her shoulder. “David...”

“I’m sorry,” he shrugs, patting her shoulder placatingly. “But she has a point. This constant tension between the two of them will only hurt Henry. It will only reinforce the ‘Evil Queen’ image he’s been carrying around for the last year.”

“She is the Evil Queen.”

“To you,” Emma points out softly. “But she was Henry’s mom -- his only mom -- for the first ten years of his life. And she loves him more than anything. I know she does.”

Mary Margaret keeps her gaze on her husband as she says lowly, “I can’t believe you’re going along with this. Do you not remember all that she’s done to us?”

“I do.”

“She’s the reason we are only now just getting to know our daughter,” she gestures toward Emma, “after twenty-eight years!”

“Snow...” he cajoles, falling back on their old personas. “I will never forget all that she’s put us through. The ways in which she hurt you, over and over.” Bracing his hands on her shoulders, he lifts his brows and asks softly, “But if she is truly attempting to make a change for the better -- to let go of all of the darkness her mother instilled in her -- don’t you think she should have that chance?”

“I’m through giving her chances.”

“Well I’m not,” Emma tells her, drawing her gaze. “If you want to hold a grudge against her like she did with you, then that’s your decision. But she and I being... friends, acquaintances, whatever this is...” She holds her mother’s gaze, attempting to reassure her. “It’s a good thing. And it’s going to be okay.”

Maybe somewhere along the way to Regina’s, she can start to believe that herself. Because right now, she’s not all that convinced that this is a good thing.

 

TBC