Synopsis: A series of cooking and dining encounters give Emma and Regina food for thought about their relationship going forward.
Setting: Post S02E16 'The Miller's Daughter', in the continuance of Finding Common Ground.
Rating: The story is rated T.
Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.
Emma is pouting thoroughly, insulted at Regina's mirth and her being potentially right. "I am not that terrible! I can do breakfast pretty damn well!"
"You just informed me that his dinner was reheated ramen and undercooked chicken. I will not have you making Henry ill!"
"Okay, so the chicken was a little pink in the middle," Emma protests, but Regina interrupts her.
"Pink is for steaks! You have to be more careful! He could get sick." Regina has begun moving around her own kitchen, and the racket of pans echoes off the tile and cabinets. Emma cups her ears protectively.
"What are you doing?" Emma eyes Regina curiously.
"Trust you not to recognize cooking," Regina mutters. She has turned her back on Emma and goes to the refrigerator, gathering vegetables and chicken breasts.
"You're cooking now?" Emma looks dumbfounded.
"It's supper time," Regina replies. "Would you get a bottle of white wine from the rack over there and put it in the refrigerator while I start cutting the vegetables?"
"Sure." Emma walks over to the rack. "What are you making?" she asks, her irritation all but forgotten.
"Sautéed chicken and vegetables with rice," Regina answers almost absently as she bends down to her dry goods cabinet and retrieves the rice.
"That sounds good." Emma smiles. "You're going to make me hungry." She walks away from the refrigerator and finds herself a part of counter to hop on.
"You're staying, and you're helping. I will not have you endangering our son." Regina blinks in surprise at her choice of words, missing Emma's own blink. She shakes it off and takes out her frustration on the hapless vegetables.
Emma shrugs off her jacket, rolls her sleeves and takes off her holster with her Smith & Wesson secured in it.
"Not on my counter, Miss Swan!" Regina's outburst freezes Emma mid-motion. "Take it out to the parlor." She doesn't pause in her chopping.
"I'm sorry, Regina," Emma says regretfully. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." She gathers her things and adds, "We should maybe have a drawer or something, in the parlor that is, for when I visit and Henry is here."
The suggestion of Emma keeping something of hers in this house makes Regina's stomach twist in a not entirely uncomfortable way. She says nothing, however, and moves back to the stove where she begins setting up the pot for rice.
"I mean." Emma draws herself up and Regina realizes the blonde is going to offer something. "If it makes you feel safer. I have a locked box in my closet at the loft."
Regina accepts the olive branch. "Many things would make me feel safer, Miss Swan. However, that would perhaps be a start." She can't bring herself to look at Emma, however, and continues to focus on the pots and pans before her. "Now, can you cook rice?"
"Uhm…yes...no...maybe?" Emma grimaces and blushes profusely.
"Then you will learn. It's an excellent source of nutrition, and relatively easy to make." Regina measures out two cups of water. "The ratio of water to rice is two-to-one. Two cups of water to one cup of rice."
"Oh," Emma remarks, causing Regina to look over her shoulder. "How do you know if it'll be enough rice for us?"
Regina is caught off guard by Emma's voice right next to her ear and spills some of the rice as she measures it. She cleans up the few grains and takes the bowl of rice to the sink, running it under the tap with a flourish of her fingers through the grains. "I generally figure a half cup per person, but I'm making enough for leftovers you can take to Henry."
"So if it's just Henry and me, I am supposed to measure one cup of rice, for two cups of water, right?" Emma seems to be thinking for a moment more and adds, "Where do I get the right cup?" She takes the cup from Regina's hand under the faucet, pressing herself lightly into Regina's back.
Regina gathers herself a bit before she can find it in herself to speak. "A measuring cup is generally a standard kitchen item. I'm certain your…roommate has one."
"My roommate is moving out." Emma drops it lightly, looking at her hand close to Regina's.
"She is?" Regina says, and she's surprised by the high note in her voice.
"Yeah." Emma doesn't extrapolate. Regina realizes she might have liked Emma to say more. That she even wants that surprises her. Emma Swan, despite the way they have been interacting lately, remains a mystery to her.
"I'm surprised Snow would leave, but perhaps it is for the best." Regina finds herself encouraging Emma.
"It's kind of cramped in there." Emma shrugs and moves over to the stove. "Which one do I put it in?"
"This one," Regina replies, studying the back of the blonde head with a small but pleasantly unexpected smile. "The water has to come to a boil first." Stepping forward, she takes the cup of rice from Emma's hands and sets it down on the counter. "We'll start the chicken in the skillet." She retrieves a different knife from the butcher block and hands it to Emma. "Cut it into strips, please."
While Emma starts cutting the meat, Regina fetches a few spices from the cabinet. She turns back toward the stove and pauses at the sight of Emma. The blonde's head is bent to her task, golden hair falling across her cheeks. The action is automatic, but once her hands are entangled in Emma's hair, pulling it back, she finds herself rubbing the strands between her fingertips. Emma turns her head, green gaze meeting Regina's; the sound of the knife stops.
"Make sure to look at your hands, Miss Swan." Regina nods toward the kitchen island. "We wouldn't want you bleeding all over dinner."
"Uh, yeah." Emma releases the knife and reaches into a pocket, fishing out a hair band. Regina takes the band from her hand. Emma doesn't move as Regina's fingers comb through her hair, gathering it into a loose ponytail against her neck.
Emma shivers at Regina's touch on her skin. Regina inhales, surprised by her own actions. Emma's scent washes over her. She can only breathe deeper, wanting more. Emma is all cleanliness and honesty. The scent is different from the sweat when they were out at the dock, but no less intoxicating, Regina realizes.
Taking a step back, Regina is distracted from Emma by the blurp sounds she is hearing coming from the stove. The water is boiling. She turns away from Emma and adds the rice, stirring it once, covering it with a lid before lowering the gas flame and plucking the egg timer from the back of the stove.
To Emma's questioning look Regina answers, "Twenty minutes on low heat."
"Regina..." Emma begins.
"We need those chicken strips," Regina interrupts.
Regina pours a small amount of olive oil into the skillet, with fresh thyme, rosemary and minced garlic.
Behind her, Emma finishes cutting the chicken and brings it over to the stove. Standing at Regina's shoulder, Emma slides the board onto the counter.
"Here," she offers.
Regina turns her head and catches Emma's eye. The blonde's distress is easy to read, and Regina takes a moment to caress the top of Emma's hand as she moves to take the cutting board.
"Thank you," Regina says quietly.
She places the strips in the sizzling skillet and lets them brown quickly. She then adds the cut vegetables from earlier, onions and mushrooms.
"Would you get the white wine from the refrigerator and open it for me?" Regina asks gently.
"I can do that," Emma says quickly. Regina realizes her awkwardness has deeply confused Emma. But she doesn't know what to do about it.
There is no doubt that she and Emma have come to an understanding, even growing closer over the last few weeks after that morning coffee at their bench on the pier. If she is honest with herself, Regina knows she has been seeking Emma's presence, but she hasn't navigated relationships, even friendships, in so many years, she is hesitant to allow herself what she knows she desires.
Regina finds herself in an odd predicament. She would like the younger woman to feel good in her presence. She is reluctant to hurt Emma, reluctant to take chances with Emma's well being. She isn't used to feeling that way about anyone other than Henry. She is reluctant to jeopardize the simple, quiet comfort they have established.
Regina smiles softly at Emma who's coming to her with the wine.
"You want a glass?" Emma asks, sounding unsure what she is to do next.
"Most definitely." Regina chuckles. "But for now, I would like you to pour some wine in the pan, please."
Emma approaches diligently and asks studiously, "How much?"
"Enough to make the vegetables float a little, maybe a third of the bottle," Regina answers, observing Emma's focus and finding it rather endearing.
"Good," Regina encourages, "Now, we need you to grab that lemon over there and cut it in half."
Emma follows instructions and comes back to the stove with both halves of a lemon.
"Press both and leave them in the pan." Regina walks to the refrigerator and gets out the Dijon mustard. She pulls a spoon from a drawer and drops two spoonfuls of mustard into the pan.
"Let's give it a stir." She watches Emma use the wooden spoon to stir the vegetables and meat in the pan.
"Now all we have to do is let it reduce." Regina leans forward to inhale the odors from the stove only to encounter Emma's head there as well. Regina smiles nervously at Emma who smiles back. "Cover it with the lid, and we can have that glass of wine while it...does its thing, as you would say."
Regina gets two glasses out of the cabinet and pours the wine, passing the second glass to Emma. Emma's fingers brush over hers as they find purchase on the stem, sending a shiver down Regina's spine. A surprisingly girlish feeling settles deep in her stomach.
She clinks her glass to Emma's and in toast says, "Congratulations, on your first cooked meal."
"It's not done yet," Emma replies. Regina lifts her eyebrow in acknowledgment.
"Indeed," Regina inclines her head, "but well on its way." She releases a slightly longer breath in hopes of finding some calm within the swarm of butterflies taking flight in her belly. "You are doing well, Emma."
"Am I?" Emma asks softly. She takes a step closer to Regina, reaching delicately for Regina's waist with her fingertips.
The timer buzzes loudly. Both women jump. Regina looks at Emma sheepishly, then offers a reassuring smile. "The rice," she says.
She goes to the stove, turns off the flame, and leaves the pot after a glance at the sautéing chicken. Regina lifts the lid and gives the chicken a good stir.
"Emma, would you come and pour more wine in the pan? Just a bit, so you can really feel the taste." Emma rapidly obeys and looks at the results. Regina adds a dash of cream to thicken the sauce and, using the wooden spoon, she scoops a little of the dish. "Here," She places her second hand under the spoon and blows on its contents to cool it down before she moves the spoon to Emma's lips. "Always taste what you are making. It's the key to any good cooking." She'd learned that the hard way, Regina remembers, thinking of her earliest cooking attempts in this new world.
Emma opens her mouth and Regina allows her a taste. She then brings the spoon back to her own mouth and wraps her lips around it.
Regina closes her eyes for a second, frowning as she analyzes what she is tasting, and then lets go of the spoon.
"What do you think?" Regina asks a slightly flustered Emma.
"It tastes awesome?" Emma offers. Regina chuckles.
"We forgot to add some sea salt and black pepper." Regina arches an amused eyebrow.
"This is fantastic. Do we have to? Isn't salt supposed to be bad for you?"
"Just a pinch. It brings out the flavors," Regina explains, fetching the salt and pepper mill. "It makes things more interesting."
"You want me to do it?" Emma asks.
"Very much so," Regina answers, her voice lower than she expected it to be.
"What's a pinch?" Emma takes the grinder in her hands and looks over her shoulder at Regina.
Regina takes Emma's hands in her own and turns the grinder twice. "No more than that, I think," she says. Their gazes catch one another and Emma offers up a shy quirk of her lips. Regina's smile in return is surprisingly easy. She finds Emma's thoughts so plain on her face, and - she smiles inwardly at the irony - charming. "Stir it in," she says quietly.
Emma stirs the skillet's contents. "Ready?" she asks.
"Yes, dear." Regina agrees by turning the gas off. "Ready."
She walks over to another cabinet and gets two plates for their meal. "Where would you like to eat?" She realizes she doesn't quite feel like the formal setting of the dining room.
"You, uh, you're letting me choose?" Emma looks around. "It was looking to be a nice night. You got a picnic table outside?"
Regina is surprised, but nods. "There's a small table on the back patio." She serves them well proportioned plates of food and follows Emma outside.
"Why don't you sit down?" Emma asks, pulling a chair and dusting it for Regina to sit on. "I'll go get whatever else we need." She smiles, adding, "And the wine."
Regina's hesitance must be plain on her face because Emma adds quickly, "Don't worry, I'll find my way around."
Alone on her back patio, Regina looks around at her yard. She hasn't been out here in weeks. The night sky is clear and there are birds whistling between some of the trees. The sound of the door opening once again draws Regina's attention. Emma steps back outside with her arms full of necessary items for their improvised dinner under the sunset. There's napkins and silverware. Regina notices that Emma found some of the fresh bread she likes to bake. Tucked under an elbow are their two glasses and the bottle of wine against her chest.
Regina extends her hands and frees Emma from some of her burden. "Let's eat before it gets cold," she offers, with a grateful nod.
After dusting her chair energetically, Emma sits down. She picks up her silverware and with a hungry smile that reminds Regina of Henry, she tucks into her plate. After only a bite, however, she stops. Regina pauses in her own eating, suddenly crushed at the idea that Emma could actually dislike the meal they prepared together. "Something the matter, Miss Swan?"
"No, no! This is great. The chicken is fantastic. I just realized how...Henry has you."
Regina feels her chest squeeze at the knowledge that Emma hadn't had anyone to teach her how to cook and take care of her in such simple ways. It makes Regina's earlier gibes at Emma taste crass in her mouth. She puts down her fork. "I'll keep teaching you. If you like."
Emma's smile in reply is enough, but she says it anyway, "I'd like." Regina and Emma both return to their meals, eating in companionable quiet.
The door opens and closes in Henry's enthusiastic fashion, as he rushes in, kicks off his shoes, drops his backpack and jacket, before running back to his shoes and putting them at the door.
He, of course, forgets all about his jacket and backpack in his attempt to be good about his sneakers.
"Pick those up, and put them away. I've got dinner coming up in a minute," Emma says. Henry looks at her startled. She's setting the table.
"Silverware and plates? Where's the plastic and paper?" Henry asks.
"None of that tonight, Kid. We're having something special." She looks up at him with seriousness.
"Is Neal coming over?"
Emma frowns. Rather than say something she might regret, she flaps her hands at her son. "Shoo, go wash your hands and all."
Henry turns around and proceeds to do what he's told, but not without a curious expression on his face - a mix of suspicion, and his insatiable need to know.
Emma lights up the candles at the counter, putting the final touch to her dinner date with her son.
"So what's this special dinner?" Henry asks, taking a seat in front of an empty space between a fork and a knife.
Emma brings out a plate of food and sets it in front of him.
She looks up for a second, looking for her words. "They're very refined leftovers," she tells him quite proudly.
"From Granny's?" Henry's nose crunches up.
"I actually cooked the meal, if you must know." Emma is pleased as punch.
Henry approaches the dish with his fork as though it might try to attack him. Spearing a piece of chicken, he sniffs it then puts it in his mouth. His eyes widen and he chews and smiles. "Wow, this is great!"
"Don't talk with your mouth full," Emma tells him, very Regina like. Henry actually looks at her out of the corner of his eye suspiciously.
He chews and swallows before speaking. "When did you cook this? We haven't had it before? How can it be leftovers?"
"One question at a time, kid. I cooked it over at your mom's house last night." She pauses. "You know what, that answers all three of your questions. So there."
Henry chuckles and Emma smiles as he continues to eat with gusto.
"So my mom is letting you cook at her house?" Henry asks, looking perplexed.
"Yeah, we, uh, had a disagreement about what you're eating while you're staying here." Emma grimaces at the memory.
"You had a fight, you mean."
Actually it hadn't been much of a fight, not by their usual standards, Emma muses. She and Regina have been having more encounters that are nice rather than nasty. She likes it.
"No, it was a disagreement. Your mom and I, we haven't fought in a while." Emma smiles.
"So, she taught you how to cook this?" he asks.
"Yep. It was really cool. She knows her stuff, your mom." Emma takes a large bite of food and enjoys it thoroughly.
Henry pauses in his eating and stares at his food. "There's this dish she always made for me…" He shakes himself and stops talking. Emma watches him.
After a few more seconds of silence she asks him, "You wanna go see your mom some time soon?"
Henry's head snaps up at her question. There's a flicker of pleading that surprisingly reminds Emma of Regina even in the way it is abruptly pushed away in favor of a more dour look. "She's evil, Emma. Grams and Gramps say so."
"Even though she helped me cook this wonderful meal for you? She made sure we had enough for leftovers, just for us."
He looks at the meal and there's no mistaking the conflicting emotions on his face. He looks about ready to cry. Emma is up around the table, wrapping her arms around him before he completely falls apart. "We'll fix everything, Henry. I promise we will." He's sobbing into the waistline of her top.
"Can you fix her, too? She's been bad for so long."
"I think you're a key to that, kid." Emma pulls herself back from him and looks down into his upturned face. "You willing to try?"
"I miss her sometimes." Henry admits, "She wasn't exactly mean, or bad, it's just..." He thinks harder for a moment and Emma watches his features darken with focus, "She was scared, I think, all the time. She was scared I wouldn't be with her."
"Shh," Emma cuts off Henry with fingers over his lips. "It's all right. Maybe you need to hear this more than my parents do, Henry. She may have been the Evil Queen over there. But here she's just Regina. She's your mom, kid."
"I don't want my mom to be the Evil Queen," Henry says firmly.
"I think she's been trying to put that behind her, too. You're proof of that." Emma ruffles his hair sensing he needs a light buffing to regain his emotions.
"Well I am at least glad for one thing," he chuckles to himself with a sniffle.
"What's that?" Emma asks.
"At least the food is gonna get a lot better." Henry bursts into laughter, brushing away the last of his tears.
Emma laughs as well, giving him a final hard squeeze before letting him go back to his seat.
"Why don't you finish up, and then we can pick a movie," she offers, walking over to the refrigerator. "With some of this…" Emma produces a pint of chocolate cookie dough ice cream.
Henry literally bounces on his seat with excitement and starts shoveling the rest of his food in his mouth.
"Easy, there, kid! You're gonna make yourself sick." Emma smiles though; these are the moments she craves most with getting to know her son. "We'll make sundaes when you're done, just take it easy, all right?"
He slows down, though not by much, and by the time Emma has all the ingredients for some killer sundaes out on the counter, he's bringing their plates from the table to the sink. Henry gets out two large spoons and their cereal bowls for the treats.
"You think that'll be big enough?" Emma humors him.
"I couldn't find anything bigger," he replies. Emma knows. Couple bowls, couple plates, a handful of silverware. Their dishes are a pitiful supply. But it does include the measuring cup Regina had been sure her mother had.
Snow and David's moving supplies are still laying in the corner under the stairs. Emma doesn't know how she wants to handle their leaving yet. She is relieved, but she also can't help but feel rejected somehow, and that makes her feel childish.
"Don't worry about it, kid. I think these will do." Emma scoops a big round blob of ice cream in Henry's bowl, and then hers. He unscrews the cap of their real maple syrup, and pours generously into both bowls. Emma uncaps the cinnamon with the usual 'clap' sounds they both enjoy so much and sprinkles furiously on top their very awesome sugary goodness. "All right." Emma grins. "Let's do this!"
"We're watching Iron Man!" Henry squeals in delight as Emma walks over to the coffee table with the sundaes.
Emma groans. It's the third time in less than ten days for that particular superhero flick. "Not even Captain America?"
Henry ponders the offer for a moment, "All right, but then we'll do the Avengers!"
"Ugh, kid, you run a tough bargain…" She pretends to be torn and makes a face. He looks at her with doe eyes and she yields, "Deal."
Blankets are thrown and pillows fluffed on the couch. Henry is in charge of the remote, and they both have a bowl in their lap, with a couple kitchen cloths available to catch spills.
Emma is grateful when the movie is over and she sends Henry upstairs to his bed. The combination of adrenaline and sugar rush caused him to crash for the last twenty minutes of the film. The good thing is she didn't even have to negotiate watching the second movie on another night.
Emma rolls over, suddenly feeling a jabbing in her hip. She fishes out what turns out to be her phone from her pocket.
She calls Regina, whose voice answers her with a curious, "Hello?" after a couple of rings.
"Hi, I know it's late, but I thought you might like to know Henry loved the leftovers." Emma is smiling as she says it.
"I'm sure he enjoyed that you made them."
"I told him you helped me."
"You did?" There's clear surprise in Regina's voice.
"Well, yeah. There would have been no meal without you." Emma rolls her eyes. "He seriously is looking forward to you teaching me more."
Regina again surprises Emma, with a chuckle. "Henry was always easy to make happy through his stomach."
"They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, maybe it's the same with little boys."
Emma can hear Regina's smile through the phone and she closes her eyes searching her memory for an image of the beautiful woman with smiling lips. "He's certainly a fan of ice cream. We had sundaes for dessert."
"I never let him have sugar after seven o'clock. He never sleeps well."
Emma glances toward the stairs. "He was out like a light before the end of the movie."
"Well then, perhaps in this, too, Emma Swan, you will be luckier than I."
Emma frets. She can hear Regina's mood shift and the defensiveness in her voice. "He wants to see you," she says quickly. "We talked about that tonight."
Regina doesn't say anything. Emma worries her teeth at her bottom lip as she tries to figure out what to say. "Regina?"
"Yes, Miss Swan?" finally comes back filled with every note of caution.
"I think we can figure out a time for Henry to go to your house for dinner." She wants to add herself to the list of guests, desperately, even demand it, but…
Regina's voice interrupts her thoughts. "You would do that?"
"It'd make Henry happy," Emma says. "That's all I ever want." Now she's the reticent one. She can't continue the conversation, so she just ends the call with a heavy sweep of her thumb.
Regina wants Henry in her life, Henry needs Regina in his life. But Emma can't stand the idea of losing Henry now that she's gotten to know him. What is she going to do? She lays down on her couch, pulling a blanket over her face which muffles her tears.
Even as she raps her knuckles against the hardwood, Regina can't believe she is standing at the door of the loft. The last time she did, it was to find out that Emma had left town, with Henry, to find Gold's son. That had not turned out well. Especially given that now she has to count a third parent in Henry's life. Sharing her son is not something she ever wanted to do, certainly not with Emma Swan, but she has become accustomed to it. Neal with his relation to Gold, the man she realized had never done anything for her, only used her, was not going to be easy.
Regina is surprised not to recognize Emma's steps coming to answer the door. She knocks a little harder. Nothing moves in the building. Regina tries the door knob finding it unlocked. Alarm bells sound in her head and she steps quickly over the threshold. "Emma?" she calls out cautiously.
She looks about her and notices Emma's leg over the arm of the couch; she's covered in blankets, which would explain why she didn't hear Regina's entrance. Regina approaches Emma's sleeping form.
"Miss Swan?" Regina bends down to pull away the blankets. She mutters under her breath. "If you went on a bender after talking to me, so help me, I'll…"
"Huh? What?" Emma jerks upright, blankets discarded. Regina stumbles backward, falling to half-sit on the small coffee table next to the couch. "Regina? What are you doing here? You okay?"
"I was going to ask you the same question. What are you doing here?"
"In my house?" Emma asks, visibly confused.
"No, dear, on your couch." Regina rolls her eyes, "Don't you have a bed? Or did your parents take that, too, when they left?"
"My parents? Wha? No." Emma is, Regina is surprised to find, rather adorable when she's still mostly asleep. The younger woman shakes her head and Regina resists the urge to brush the unruly curls away from the woman's face.
"Focus, Miss Swan," Regina requests. "Why are you sleeping on your couch?"
Emma rubs the heels of her hands into her eyes and groans, then stretches. Regina is unable to prevent her eyes from drifting down the body suddenly on display before her.
"I fell asleep after we talked on the phone," Emma answers and then she looks up with a question of her own. "What are you doing here?"
"You ended our call rather abruptly. I was…concerned."
"Wait…you felt bad?" Emma muses, unfiltered.
Regina sighs. "If you were anyone else, I would deny it. But you're important to Henry."
"Well sit down," Emma offers, the sound of her bare feet slaps the wooden floors. "You can take your coat off, too. It'll be more comfortable to talk."
"You're fine. I should go." Regina starts to rise instead. Emma grasps her wrist. The contact startles them both and Regina's gaze snaps to meet Emma's.
In response to the look, Regina is drifting down, this time to the couch cushions before Emma can say a word. It's just like at the pier, she realizes. This is why she came over here tonight. They understand each other, and Emma is in pain. Though Regina doesn't know about what exactly, she feels driven to fix it.
Her hand delicately brushes Emma's cheek with the back of her fingers, gaze never falling from Emma's. Pulling back, she finds her palm cupping the satin skin instead. Her breath catches at the intimacy; this is terrifyingly new. Emma's eyes widen. Regina sucks in her lower lip. She wants to speak.
Something stumbling down the stairs almost sounds like it's crashing into the wall. Regina's gaze snaps around as Emma's fingertips caress her hand. Henry's face appears down the stairwell. She straightens herself, removing her hand from Emma's. Heat suffuses her face, and a side glance at Emma finds the other woman doing the same.
"Mom?" Henry exclaims. "Emma, what's going on?" His voice is filled with worry.
Regina starts to her feet, ready to leave. She wants to spare him the discomfort.
But Emma's hand is suddenly on her wrist, again, a silent request to stay.
"Hey, kid. Sorry we woke you up." Emma smiles with what Regina recognizes to be reassurance. "You can go back to bed. We're all good here."
Henry twists his face and absently rubs his stomach. "I heard noise, but I was in the bathroom."
Regina looks at Emma in reaction to her son's expression and raises an eyebrow. I told you so. Then she's across the room. "We should get you back in bed where it's warm." She tentatively brushes the hair from his face, feeling his forehead. Henry takes her hand.
"It's not that bad," Henry says, casting his head down. Regina steps back, relinquishing her touch, hurt by his dismissal.
"Hey, you know what, your mom's right, let's get you back to bed."
Unexpectedly as he turns, Henry takes Regina's hand. She freezes for a moment, looking at her son's hand in her own, reveling in the feeling of his solid hold on her. Emma is alongside them in two strides. The stairs are only wide enough for one of them to walk up alongside Henry, and Emma steps behind Regina, allowing her that honor.
Halfway up the staircase, Regina is surprised to feel Emma's hand on the small of her back, accompanying her forward. They reach the second landing and Henry leads the way to the small room where he's been sleeping here.
Regina stops herself at the door. Emma's hand is strong at her back, and she steps inside as Henry crosses the floor to the bed. She watches him climb onto the bed. Regina looks at Emma over her shoulder to see that the other woman has crossed her arms over her chest and leaned on the door frame. Henry is fussing with his covers when she turns around and Regina walks forward to tuck him in.
She takes in a deep breath and sits on the edge of his bed, staring down at his face looking up at her and then over at Emma curiously.
Regina flattens the wrinkles of his covers about him and rubs a few circles over his tummy.
"Close your eyes, now. You'll feel better in the morning after you sleep," she says gently. She brushes her fingers over his forehead, and leans forward, pressing her lips to his hair in a comforting goodnight kiss.
She pulls back slowly when she feels him tense a little beneath her. But he's smiling when she opens her eyes.
Speechless, she is grateful to hear Emma's softened voice speak gently next to her: "Sleep tight, kid." Emma places her hand on Regina's shoulder while bending down to press her own kiss to Henry's forehead.
The hand slips from Regina's shoulder only to be presented to her. She takes it without comment and allows the other woman's quiet strength to pull her to her feet.
Neither speaks until they are downstairs, Emma leading the way.
Regina feels torn about what to say. She is overwhelmed by the rushing emotions of the last several minutes. Her exchange with Henry feels surreal with how positive it was. She would like the time to fully grasp it, but she is enjoying Emma's reassuring and generous support. Much to her astonishment, she finds herself quite receptive to Emma's comfort. Regina doesn't want to leave, she only feels that she must.
"I think I should be going," Regina just says, "would you let me know how Henry fares in the morning?"
"Why don't you stay and find out at breakfast?" Emma offers simply, smiling at her.
"We could have a girls' night," Emma jokes.
"A girls' night?" Regina is perplexed.
"Yeah, girls' night," Emma throws, visibly amused, "Chick flick, chocolate, y'know?"
"I have never done such a thing." Regina rebukes.
"Well, then you oughta." Emma clears the dishes to the sink. Regina stands in the middle of the living room space, watching Emma in the kitchen. "We'll pick out a good movie - did you know your son wants to watch Iron Man three times a week?"
"Oh, I see, so now he's my son?" Regina feels the amused smirk on her lips and the arch of her eyebrow.
"Staying up late, causing trouble. Yep." Emma comes out with a container of ice cream in her hands, two spoons and a crooked smile.
"Where are the bowls?"
"Dirty." Emma chuckles. "Besides this is the way a girls' night goes." Emma hands her a spoon and the ice cream. "Now don't eat it all while I get us a movie."
"I wouldn't." Regina's mouth tightens in offense. "Unlike you," she snarks, "I do happen to have manners."
"Oh but I have excellent manners," Emma retorts, "Just seldom felt the need to extend them to you."
"Is this the way a girls' night goes as well? Veiled insults?" Regina inquires.
"Oh, you have no idea. Most girls…catty is the name of the game." Emma bends down to inspect the DVD collection. Regina's gaze slips away from blonde head and falls on the rounded curves of Emma's bottom. She jerks her head up to see Emma has made a selection and is waving it in front of her. A blonde eyebrow arches. "Here."
She feeds the DVD of "The American President" to the player and sits on the couch, grabbing Regina's arm with the ice cream. "Sit. Gimme my spoon."
Regina almost falls to the couch, again caught up in several emotions at once. "What are we watching?"
"You'll see. Shh." Emma digs her spoon into the ice cream surface and Regina is watching her. The spoon is suddenly presented to Regina.
"What?" Regina eyes Emma's hand cautiously.
"Taste." Emma cups a hand under the ice cream which has already begun to melt around the edges of the spoon.
Regina's eyes dart in all directions but she manages to shyly open her mouth; she likes Emma's attention and doesn't want to undermine their fragile connection. Opening her mouth, she's aware only of Emma's eyes and her own heartbeat in her ears when cool and sweet slips onto her tongue.
"It isn't that hard, is it?" Emma asks quietly.
But it is, Regina thinks to herself. She wishes she could find a way to have Emma understand how deliciously and excruciatingly torn she feels, between her vibrating, Regina can barely tolerate the conflicting thoughts: intense desire to allow Emma so close to her, and the violent, compulsive need to push her away.
Then she's swallowing and the sound of the movie's opening music catches her attention. It's swelling, not unlike her heart, and she looks toward the screen. "A movie about a president?"
Emma smiles. "Yeah. Shh." Emma sits back and Regina follows suit, their shoulders touching as they lean back into the couch cushions.
Emma eats twice as much ice cream as Regina, but several times their spoons duel in the depths of the container. Regina is surprised at the complexity of the movie. The layers of politics and romance would not have been something she would have thought interesting to Emma.
She glances toward the other woman only to notice Emma has her hand on her stomach and a distressed look on her face.
"Emma?" Regina asks, worry darkening her tone. "Are you ill?"
"I, uh…just a little uncomfortable."
Regina can't help the smirk. She knows that face; it's Henry's of only just that evening. "Too much ice cream it would seem."
"Yeah." Emma lowers her head down, just like their son earlier.
"Come here," Regina says without showing the incredulity she feels at her impulsive spontaneity. She turns toward Emma and takes the spoon and ice cream from her hands, placing them on the table.
"What?" Emma shifts, but she isn't feeling well, and the movement becomes a fall, toward Regina's lap.
"Just come here." Regina rolls her eyes. She runs her fingers through the ends of Emma's hair and guides her head to her shoulder as she places her other hand on Emma's stomach, rubbing gentle circles in the same fashion she had comforted Henry a couple hours before.
Emma's hand covers hers. Regina hesitates, wondering if the woman wants her to stop. "Don't stop," Emma moans, "feels good."
Regina wraps her arm around Emma's shoulders and gently leans them back in the pillows at the end of the couch where the younger woman was sleeping before. She pulls the heavy blankets over them both, tucking them around Emma's body. She smiles atop Emma's head and presses her lips to the crown of Emma's hair.
"Close your eyes now, dear," Regina repeats, "You will feel better in the morning after you sleep."
"He's a lucky kid." Emma nudges at Regina's neck, snuggling into the most comfortable position to allow for them both to rest.
Eyes closed, finally acknowledging the need to relax against Emma's body as she drifts to sleep, Regina feels a drop of wet against her throat. Suddenly concerned it's Emma's, she ever so tenderly brushes her thumb against Emma's cheek, only to find the skin soft and dry.
"I promised your mother she would see you at breakfast and know you are okay," Emma says.
"So why are we shopping, again?" Henry asks, visibly confused.
"Because." Emma grins. "I am cooking breakfast in your mom's kitchen."
"You can't do that." Henry exclaims. "She'll kill you. Then she'll kill me for letting you do it. And then she'll kill you again."
Emma laughs. "I'll use some of my charming ways."
"Just don't tell her that." He shakes his head. "It'll make it worse." Henry groans, but he's laughing.
They finish their purchases and Emma drives them to Granny's. She hands Henry a bill. "Just ask Ruby for two of my usual," Emma instructs, "make that to go, and get yourself a hot chocolate, too, all right, kid?"
Henry rushes off and comes back a few minutes later carrying a to-go tray of lid covered drinks.
Emma drives them to 108 Mifflin next. Putting her car in neutral and pulling the brake, she takes in the stateliness of the home, surprised as always at the grandeur that represents the life her son acquired when he was adopted by the woman within.
"You get the door," Emma tells Henry, "I've got the stuff."
He pushes out of the car quickly and is up the walk like a shot. Emma negotiates the walk more carefully with the groceries and the drinks. He's already checked the knob and is pushing his way inside when Emma reaches the threshold.
Regina is only just coming down the stairs as Emma steps into the house. "Henry?" Regina is clearly surprised.
Emma apologizes. "He's in the kitchen. He let himself in."
"He's welcome," she observes. "What are you doing here?"
"Brought breakfast." Emma draws attention to her full hands. "Coffee from Granny's and makings for breakfast. I'm cooking."
"No you're not." Regina seems somewhat horrified, no doubt at the mental imagery.
"I promised you breakfast. You left. We're still having it." Emma isn't adding more. Not finding Regina still in the loft when she awoke on the couch in the morning, she had been disturbed to feel a distinct loss and the sting of rejection.
"Henry's here," she says as a way to divert Regina's attention and she takes herself to the kitchen.
Regina follows. Henry fishes out his cocoa as soon as Emma put the tray of drinks on the counter. Emma hands Regina one of the two identical coffees. She then sets about emptying the grocery bag onto the counter.
"Miss Swan," Regina objects.
"Sit," Emma orders. "I can find my way around the kitchen." Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Henry stop drinking and stare at them both. She turns away and lets mother and son watch as she skillfully gets out a pan and prepares French toast and slices of smoked Virginia ham that she browns in the skillet. The piece de résistance, Emma thinks with a smile, as she fills the skillet with an inch of water, is her favorite: poached eggs.
Within twenty minutes she is bringing platters to the small table there in the kitchen, telling Henry to arrange place settings. "Breakfast is served."
Noticing her coffee is finished, Emma looks around and realizes they'll need something to drink. She remembers the fresh juice purchased earlier from the market. "Orange juice," she announces, bringing over the stoppered glass jar. "Freshly squeezed."
"Thoughtful," Regina says and smiles. Emma feels like she just ran a marathon and came in first, greeted by Regina at the finish line.
"Told you I could cook some things." Emma teases.
Henry sits at the table between Emma and Regina. "It's pretty good, Mom," he says to his mother. Regina smiles at him and picks up her fork.
"It certainly looks the part, sweetheart." She lifts the forked bit of French toast to her lips, pausing to chew with elegance. Regina closes her eyes and Emma watches her for signs of approval. There's a small tip up to the corners of the former queen's mouth and Emma knows she has done well.
"Does breakfast meets Her Majesty's standards?" Emma's voice is light, but she wants a reaction, verbally, from Regina and she's willing to poke to get it. Regina doesn't disappoint, her response is all that Emma could hope for.
The dark eyes flash at the honorific, but the smile remains in place as Regina says, "It passes muster, Miss Swan." Emma's smile widens.
As they eat, Emma notices Regina does watch Henry, who consumes his breakfast quietly but without any signs of his overindulgence in sweets the night before. Emma wishes the two of them would talk, but this nevertheless feels like a step in the right direction.
Henry takes their dishes to the sink as Emma and Regina are sipping the last of their orange juice. "After that breakfast, I could use a run," Emma says.
"So that's how it is." Regina lifts an eyebrow in feigned indignation, as the smile on her lips would indicate. "You leave me to clean up after you."
"I was actually thinking we could all go," Emma says.
"Running?" Regina lets out an incredulous chuckle.
"Well, how about just a walk then? We can go out to the playground for a while. Let Henry run around."
Henry looks at Emma. "Now?"
"Yeah, we were gonna go to the park anyway, remember? You wanted me to show you some softball pitches."
"Oh yeah, cool!" And Henry is off to the front of the house.
"All right, we can go for a walk," Regina acquiesces, as Emma suspected she would when her son's excitement is so clear.
By the time Emma and Regina exit the house, Henry is bouncing from foot to foot, tossing a ball between his hand and a glove. On his head is a pair of Boston Red Sox caps. Emma swipes them both from his head and attempts to put one on Regina's head.
The brunette ducks the attempt and scowls. "What on earth!?"
Emma puts the cap on her own head instead and steps closer to speak in quiet confidence, "It's part of the package deal. Me, Henry, baseball, baseball caps. See?"
Regina is blushing when Emma steps back. She takes the second cap from Emma's hand and gingerly places it on her head. The effect is of such innocence and sensuality that Emma bites her lip to keep from saying anything that could end the perfect moment.
As Regina turns away, Emma spies a lick of hair sticking out from the cap. Without thinking through the motion, Emma lifts the edge of the cap, smooths the lock of hair and resettles the cap. Regina turns as Emma is lowering her hands and Emma shoves her hands in her pockets somewhat awkwardly as they walk along, now shoulder to shoulder. Henry is already running several feet ahead on the sidewalk.
The walk is quiet for the most part, filled with only the sounds of the Saturday morning, reminding Emma of their walks to the pier. She looks over at Regina. Is the woman remembering the same? They're going to end up walking through the waterfront to get to the playground, she realizes.
As the waterfront comes into view, Emma is surprised to feel Regina's hand slip into hers.
Henry is kicking up sand on the beach, as Emma and Regina walk on the wooden pier. The clang of sail rigging and the sounds of seagulls surround them.
A dog's bark announces the arrival of Pongo on the beach. The dalmatian greets Henry excitedly by running around him a couple of times before spotting Regina. Pongo launches himself, aiming again for the former queen. He only slows down upon seeing Emma. His big body slips between Emma and Regina, circling Regina's legs, widening the space between the two women.
"I swear," Emma huffs, "the damn dog has a crush on you!" She's certainly not letting him push her away from Regina. There are no bench to fall from but even then, she's not losing to a dog twice.
"Pongo is a nice dog." Regina smiles.
"He certainly likes you." Emma would roll her eyes if it didn't give away so easily as to how she is actually jealous of the stupid thing.
"A dog's affections are easily won or lost, Emma," Regina appeases.
"He's got no problems letting you know." She laughs a little.
Emma feels Regina's fingers tighten rather than release her and Emma pulls Regina into her arms in order to keep her steady on her feet. Emma is content when Pongo starts circling both of them instead of separating her from the other woman. He barks. She lowers her eyebrow. He drops his head, message received.
"Hello, Pongo," Regina says with a smile. Pongo wags his tail and lifts his muzzle to her hand. She pets him affectionately.
Archie strides up and Henry comes in from the sand. "Good morning," he says to them.
"Good morning, Archie," Emma says.
"Good morning, doctor." Regina inclines her head slightly in peaceful greeting.
"Nice morning, isn't it?" Archie offers for small talk. Emma finds herself hoping the beach and pier could have been hers, just this once.
"Henry," Regina interrupts Emma's grouchy thought. "Why don't you play baseball with Pongo? It will be good for him."
Henry rubs Pongo's head, standing easily at his mother's side. Emma can't help the smile. When the dog nuzzles at the ball and Henry takes off to play fetch with Pongo, she takes a breath.
Archie looks approvingly at the two playing. "He seems to be better."
Regina eyes him warily, Emma recognizes the questioning in the former queen's behavior as she addresses her. "Something has been wrong with Henry?"
"I don't need to tell you he's been struggling. But he looks like he's happier," Archie answers, visibly oblivious to whom Regina is truly asking.
"He was quite shaken when I explained to him what happened to his grandmother," Emma simply states.
Regina's expression immediately darkens into a face Emma knows well. "If anything happened, it wasn't to Snow."
"No, I meant your mother," Emma replies gently, "Henry's grandmother."
"Oh." Regina is at a loss for words.
"Yeah," Emma acknowledges. "So I thought maybe Archie could help Henry again?"
"I see," Regina answers softly, "Thank you."
Emma realizes Archie is still standing to the side. She tucks her hands into her pockets. "Thanks, Archie. Yeah, Henry's doing better."
"I'm glad that I could help." Archie smiles. He calls Pongo to his side and the dog lopes over with Henry's ball in his mouth.
Emma claims the ball, dog slobber and all. Regina chuckles as Emma lifts the tail of her shirt and wipes her hands clean. Regina pets Pongo's head and says, "What a good dog."
Emma drops her brow at Regina darkly. Henry grimaces, "Ew, gross. Don't touch me with that hand!"
Instead, Emma reaches for Regina's hand, getting the scowl sent back at her. Regina's laughter chimes playfully. Emma can't help but think that it is the most pleasant thing she's heard in a long time. She never wants to stop causing it.
Regina's smile is not leaving her. It hasn't since Henry came to meet her by her car after school. She had been waiting for him. They are having a date tonight. "Mother and son bonding time" Emma calls it. Henry is staying the night. That, too, has Regina smiling unashamedly.
"Like that, Mom?" Henry's question interrupts her rêverie.
They are cooking together. They are making Henry's favorite: fresh pasta and meatballs, with her secret pomerol marinara sauce. Henry specifically requested it. Miss Swan had phoned the previous Tuesday evening.
Regina had gone to the fresh market and grocery store. Then to the school to pick her son up. In the car he had noticed the bag and asked if it was for their cooking lesson together. He had gotten very excited and insisted they would make enough for him to take "very refined leftovers for Emma."
Henry had also been vehement that they should make dessert. "Something with cinnamon!" he'd chipped in. And so they were going to make a tarte tatin, a delicious double crusted apple pie baked in cinnamon and handmade caramel.
She smiles a softer smile; Emma will like it.
They had picked the apples in the garden, from her tree. She hadn't really realized they actually were there until her hand was resting on the mutilated limb of her magnificent specimen. Henry had frozen in hesitation, clearly worried to see if she would snap in anger and sulk, or if she would move on.
She had smiled, again, and shaken her head slightly at Henry.
"I think Emma would be embarrassed if she saw it now," Regina had offered Henry, "I think she wanted to show me she wasn't intimidated, but she never meant to hurt the tree that badly."
"You're not mad?" Henry had asked, surprised.
Regina distinctly remembers the fullness of his fluffy and unruly brown hair when she had run her fingers through it a few times right then.
"I was astonished at her defiance when she attacked my tree," Regina had mused, and still does, "I was outraged, as well, yet I can't seem to stay angry at Miss Swan very long."
"That's...good, no?" Henry had ventured.
"Yes, sweetheart, it is good." Regina had bent and kissed his cheek, her heart missing a beat in hope that he wouldn't withdraw. He had simply smiled in response, and actually kissed her in turn.
"Will it ever grow back?" he had asked, curious.
"No," she had said right away, "but it has healed, and now the rest of the tree is growing stronger."
It is true for herself, as well, she understands then, hands full of flour as she kneads the pasta dough. The tree's stump has healed, and now the tree is growing stronger than ever before. She wants to be like her apple tree. Cut her losses and heal. Stronger, more of who she is and less of who she has been made to be.
She wants, simply, to be Henry's mom. A part of her whispers a formless What of Emma? in her ear.
"Yes, sweetheart." Regina nods at Henry who is elbow deep in a large bowl full of meat, eggs, bread crumbs and other sinequanon ingredients to her delicious meatballs. "Keep mixing all the ingredients until you feel they're integrated."
"And then what?" he asks with a slight impatience in his voice, "My nose's itchy!"
Regina chuckles. "I find that will happen every time I have both my hands in relatively compromising cooking ingredients."
"Like meatballs?" Henry suggests.
"Precisely," Regina concurs. "Be brave, we're almost done. I will come and rescue you shortly."
"Hey now," Henry playfully scolds, "I'm not a damsel in distress. I don't mind getting my hands dirty. I am a Prince, Gramps says." Henry is looking at Regina with all of Emma's stubbornness, although Regina is quite certain her son's mother would be insisting she is no princess instead. "I should do the saving, just like Emma!"
"You are very brave, Henry," Regina looks at him intently, "you do look like Emma."
Regina finishes the dough, and goes to help Henry. They roll the meatballs and make the pasta. They put what needs to cook in the oven, then set to prepare the tarte tatin Regina wants to try.
"Mom?" Henry asks, with a seriousness that lets Regina know he is not going to ask about baking apple pies. Despite the tightness in her throat, she looks at Henry. "Why are you helping Emma learn how to cook?"
She wants to tell him about worrying for him, and that he has to eat healthily, but that would be stalling. She considers a moment that he is a child, she is the adult and she should shape how he perceives the world because she is Henry's mother. She did that once, she remembers, and it led Henry to believe she was labeling him crazy.
That's not what she wants his world to be like anymore, full of lies and restraints, and pain. She never meant for him to be hurt, but he was. He is still hurting, and she is more of her mother than she ever wanted to be.
"I did it because your…Emma," she concedes, "Emma wants to take care of you properly."
"She wants to be my mom," Henry agrees.
The pain in her heart resonates like a plucked harp string all the way into her fingertips, "I haven't always been a good mother to you, Henry." It's a terrible thing to acknowledge to your child, she thinks then. "I love you, and I always have, from the moment you were put into my arms."
Henry doesn't say anything and Regina realizes he doesn't know how to take that. She offers more of herself; a peace offering to the child who filled her with purpose again.
"I wanted you so much." She smiles then, as water gathers in her eyes, reminiscing about seeing Henry's little face for the first time within the bundle of blankets. "I know now, that Miss...Emma, wanted you, too. She wanted you to have the best chance to be a happy little boy, and I think for a while, you were."
Henry looks down at their hands working the pie crust together. "I was…I…am. I want to be." His stumbling is so very painful to hear.
"You're not home right now." She tries to hold her tears inside. "I haven't been a good mother in a while, Henry, but I think helping Emma is helping me too."
"I…guess?" He looks up at her and there's a small smile she recognizes from the diner reunion party. Henry, Regina realizes, wants to believe in her. The sickening tightness in her chest eases a little.
"So you see." She smiles at him, her voice wavering slightly less. "That's why I'm teaching Emma how to cook. First, so that she doesn't kill you or herself in the process, and also because it makes you happy."
"You care what happens to Emma?"
"She's…important. To you. I realize she's not going away."
And that, Regina is aware, is a surprise. As much of a runner as she accused Emma Swan to be in the beginning, the woman has stubbornly stuck around. At first that was terrifying. Now, Regina feels…secure in the knowledge.
"I want to do right by you, Henry." Regina tells him with resolve, "Helping Emma to be your mother is the right thing to do."
The tentative smile on her son's face shifts and widens. His eyes light up. Regina almost can't believe what she's seeing. He's unreservedly smiling at her. "Thank you, Mom." Henry says.
"You're welcome, Henry."
They resume peeling the apples, and Regina asks Henry to arrange them on the pie crust as she is making caramel.
"Don't forget to sprinkle them with some of the cinnamon and brown sugar in the bowl next to you, sweetheart." Regina offers over her shoulder.
"I got it." Henry shares a confident smile.
Regina walks over with the hot contents and, warning Henry to step back, she pours it over the pie. "Now we cover it with the other crust, and in the oven it goes."
"I am hungry." Henry's stomach supports his statement with a growl.
"Meatballs should be ready," Regina tells him, "let's eat."
They set the kitchen table together, foregoing the old habit of using the formal dining room table. Their dinner is comfortable and filled with Henry's tales of his recent adventures. Regina is content to listen and encourage him to say more, happy to hear his joyful voice warm her heart and home once more.
As she cleans up, she suggests, "You should go take your shower and put some pajamas on. There will be a warm slice of apple pie for you before bed, don't worry."
The house smells deliciously of apples and cinnamon. It will be interesting to see how much of the pie she will be able to save for Miss Swan the next day.
"I'll be right back!" Henry chimes, on his way to the staircase, looking satisfied and patting a round stomach.
The doorbell rings as Regina moves quickly down the staircase. Henry is safely in the shower and she's going to check on the pie.
She gets to the door and opens it to find Emma pacing on the porch.
"Emma?" she questions the pacing and visibly anxious woman at her front door. "What are you doing here?" She can't help but panic momentarily at the thought that maybe Emma changed her mind and came to take Henry from her.
"Hey, Regina. Uhm, hey." Emma threshes her hands through her hair and turns rapidly. "I just…" Emma interrupts herself. "I know I…Your time with Henry."
"Yes?" Regina encourages her. "Did you need something?"
"You, uh, haven't…" Emma starts but then stops again. "Never mind."
She is pacing again. Climbing the couple stairs of the porch, then getting back down, then back to where Regina stands, watching the distress roll off of Emma's demeanor.
"Did something happen?" Regina asks. "Something with your parents?"
"What?" Emma looks at her questioningly, "Snow's fine. Considering, you know? She is just...it's like David will love her to a better place or something."
"You did say they were talking a great deal about going back to the Enchanted Forest. Is that still the case?" Regina can't shake the raging force inside of her that repulses at the idea of Emma leaving Storybrooke with Henry to follow her parents.
"If they are, they're not talking to me about it. No, this is…" Emma shakes her head. "It's different. I…just really need to see you."
"I'm here, Emma," Regina reassures her softly.
Emma takes a couple of deep breaths. She seems to be struggling with something incredibly straining on her emotional well being. Regina is conflicted on what it is she should do to help. Seeing the younger woman in such upset is disturbing her in ways Regina had not suspected she could feel, apart from Henry.
"The coffee," Emma starts. "You didn't…I asked Ruby where it came from. Why didn't you stay to see me?"
Regina remembers her conversation with Ruby. Had the wolf-girl already talked with Emma when she came to see Regina? Maybe Emma had even suggested it.
She had told Ruby about her promise to Henry not to use magic when Ruby had asked for help, but the wolf-girl had shrugged that off too. She'd pointed out that Henry is eleven, and he is not in charge. Regina had said she'd think about it. She looks at Emma now. Is the Savior here to plead Ruby's case?
"What about Ruby?" Regina asks.
"Yes," Emma answers, "Well, no. But…" The younger woman seems to be restless. "I meant to say thank you." Emma starts again, "For the coffee." She tucks her hands into her pocket.
"The coffee?" Regina nods after a moment, remembering the coffee she left on the sheriff's desk that Tuesday. She'd walked out of Granny's with two orders in her hands, having almost absently ordered one for herself and Emma at the same time.
"Yeah, that," Emma agrees. "And the food, too. Ruby, uh, told me."
"You have to eat," Regina explains simply. "Henry says you have been cooking for him more."
"Right," Emma confirms. "Trying to at least." She laughs nervously. "I overcooked the steaks on Thursday and managed to burn the potatoes."
"Practice makes perfect," Regina sympathizes.
"We ordered pizza." Emma looks down at her shoes. Regina wonders if the sheepish look in Emma's eyes is a manifestation of shame.
"Well," Regina wants to ease Emma's conscience, "pizza isn't the worst choice you could have made. As long as it remains a rare occasion."
"It had ham, onions and mushrooms on it," Emma adds, looking up.
"Much better than pepperoni," Regina agrees.
"Still, you didn't have to bring me lunch at the Station," Emma insists, "so thanks."
Regina cannot help but recognize her growing concern for Emma. The younger woman seems completely out of sorts.
"I am glad you enjoyed it," she offers in acknowledgement. "Was there something else?"
"You're okay, right? Haven't had any…trouble? Henry's good?" Emma sounds like she's stalling now.
"I've had visitors, but nothing I couldn't handle." Regina smiles, pleased to hear the concern, but aware Emma is not just checking on her well being. "And Henry is upstairs taking a shower before we have some pie."
"He didn't…" Emma cuts herself off.
"Emma." Regina can't take much more of Emma's distress, "What is it? Tell me."
"I just keep thinking about you. Henry…He's…But I...You…"
Emma reaches for Regina's hand. She studies their interlocked fingers while Regina is busy simply absorbing the sensation of their hands, warm and softly tangled. Emma tugs on her wrist and suddenly Regina is against the younger woman, their lips meeting softly.
"Oh," she murmurs, surprised, but she closes her eyes and sinks into the sensations. Her stomach is flipping and her heart is pounding so hard it might be trying to leave her chest on its own. Emma's other fingers are suddenly in Regina's hair, holding their faces together, as Emma parts from her lips for the barest of seconds. Regina gasps. "I thought you'd never…"
Emma smiles and Regina lifts her own free hand to Emma's face, kissing her more. Emma tastes of springtime and freedom, sunshine and the softness of dandelion fluff floating on a breeze. A million things Regina had forgotten exist flow through her mind as their kiss lingers. Emma lingers. Regina presses herself closer, their curves fitting seamlessly together.
"I haven't been able to think of anything else," Emma murmurs against Regina's lips. She opens her eyes to find green softly smiling at her.
Emma's palm is warm on the back of her head and presses her face gently into the curve of Emma's neck and shoulder. Regina inhales the scent of Emma and feels something sliding into place. Tears well in her eyes and she presses her eyes into the fabric of Emma's collar. Finally she speaks around the lump in her throat. "I'm glad you finally found your words."
Emma's hand cups Regina's cheek and lifts her face so they are looking intently to one another. They both hear a door open upstairs. Emma steps back. "I…I just wanted to…Say that." She steps back with a sheepish smile. "Enjoy the rest of your time with Henry."
"Emma," Regina steps toward the front door where Emma stands in partial silhouette from the porch light. "Wait, I…"
Henry's footsteps can be heard. "Mom?" comes his voice from the landing.
"Yes, Henry?" Regina turns to look up over her shoulder.
"Emma?" Henry clomps down the steps. Regina notes he is in his pajamas and his hair is damp. "What's up?"
"Nothing, kid. I'm just dropping by to say good night," Emma replies easily. "See you in the morning."
Regina looks at Emma and sees the woman's smile. There's a light in the green eyes that makes Regina smile in return.
"You should join us for breakfast," Regina invites.
She is more intent on Emma's surprise, than Henry's when her son reaches her side.
"You…I…" Emma shakes her head. "It's your time with Henry. I don't want to get in the way."
"We would both be glad to have you, dear," Regina replies firmly, "Won't we, Henry?"
"I'd like that," Henry says.
"Then it's settled." Regina nods resolutely, "Miss Swan, please do the Mills family the honor of joining us for breakfast. Say 8:30 tomorrow morning?"
Emma looks a little flustered, but finally she nods her agreement. "Ah? All right."
When the younger woman has left the porch, Regina closes the door quietly, studying the doorknob in her hand a moment before turning around.
She gathers herself with a smile at Henry and asks, "Are you ready for pie?"
Henry hugs her abruptly with a huge smile on his face before racing into the kitchen.
Regina's equilibrium, again, takes a hit as she puts her hand to her stomach to quell the swarm of butterflies surging through her. She's not certain; it's been a very long time, but that feeling…
It feels an awful lot like hope.