Emma watched with amusement as Henry wolfed down his fries and milkshake without even taking a breath.
“Your mom usually doesn’t allow you that kind of food does she?”
Henry halted, some fries suspended in the air halfway to his mouth, his large innocent eyes gazing at Emma.
“It’s okay, I won’t tell if you don’t.”
Emma smiled and Henry nodded at that, shoving the fries into his mouth. She took a sip from her coffee and leaned back, looking around the small diner. It was pretty empty and only a few people had taken up seats at the counter or the booths around them. Emma had discovered the diner a month ago when she’d returned to the hotel for reasons she wasn’t even willing to admit to herself.
“So, is there anyone we should call? I mean is someone waiting for you guys?” Emma asked.
Regina had told her that night there wasn’t anyone, at least not in that sense but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a dad somewhere in the picture. Henry closed his lips around the straw and slurped the rest of his milkshake noisily before shaking his head.
“No not really.”
“What about your dad?” Emma couldn’t resist asking.
Henry scrunched up his face and looked at her as if she’d just asked him to stick a cucumber into his ear.
“It’s just me and my mom.”
Emma tapped her fingertips on the table, ignoring the happy flutter in her chest. She looked around the diner again, the clock on the wall telling her that they’d been here for about half an hour. She wanted to give Regina a little more time to rest, frowning at the thought of how Regina had turned a ghostly shade of white the moment she’d seen her. Yeah she had come back to the hotel, secretly hoping to see her again, but she’d never thought they’d cross paths again. It was almost too big of a coincidence to be just that.
“Can I get a hot chocolate?”
Emma gazed at Henry and could barely contain her smile at the hopeful look on his face. She had no idea how Regina managed to deny him anything.
Emma waved the waitress over and smiled at her before cocking her head in Henry’s direction, encouraging him to order.
“A hot chocolate please. And could you put some cinnamon on it?”
Emma’s eyes widened at the request. She’d never met anyone else who had their hot cocoa with cinnamon. The waitress turned to her.
“Anything else for you?”
“I’ll have the same, thanks.”
Henry smiled at her.
“You like yours with cinnamon too?”
They grinned at each other before Henry’s face fell and he sighed.
“I’m worried about my mom. She never gets sick, like ever. I mean not like that. She even goes to work when she has a cold with fever.”
“I guess I wouldn’t have expected anything else, your mom seems really tough. And I think she really just needs to rest for a bit and she’ll be as good as new. No need to worry.”
“ I mean we had a pretty busy weekend and I took a nap in the car.”
The waitress returned with their hot cocoas and Emma hummed in appreciation at the taste of the hot liquid.
“So how do you and my mom know each other? You don’t live in Storybrooke.”
Emma almost chocked on the whipped cream atop her hot chocolate as she took a surprised breath. She leaned to the side and coughed before turning to Henry with warmth rising along her cheeks.
“Well…uh…we kind of met by accident I would say, and uh… your mom was nice enough to give me a ride because my car was broken at the time.”
There, that was close enough to the truth. Emma didn’t want to lie to Henry but she could hardly tell him the entire story. She had a pretty good idea how Regina would react if she told her son some promiscuous story about how his mom met a stranger by the side of the road and had sex with her in a hotel room.
Emma blushed at her own crude thoughts. Somehow she hoped it had been more than just meaningless sex. She knew it was more wishful thinking on her part than anything else, but she had met Regina again when she never expected that to happen. And that must at least mean something. Hell she was having dinner with her son. That definitely meant something.
Henry seemed happy with her explanation and nodded. He probably assumed Regina had just met her on one of her trips to the city, which was mostly true.
“Should we go back?” Henry asked.
He put is empty mug on the table and smiled happily. Emma glanced at her own hot chocolate. Where had the kid put the entire cup in less than a minute? He was like a black hole. Emma took another quick swig and nodded.
She headed over to the counter and paid for their meals before following Henry out of diner and back up the street to the hotel. Everything was pretty quiet and only a few cars passed them as on their short trek. It seemed like the hotel didn’t have much business but the owner had told her that they’d been open for more than ten years when she’d stayed for a couple of days in last month. Emma sighed. She had come to this hotel two months in a row during the same time, hoping to meet a woman who’d left her a note saying not to follow her or search for her. The stupid note was still in her wallet. Oh boy.
Emma walked across the parking lot with Henry by her side. She rested a hand on his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t running into any oncoming cars in his attempt to quickly get back to his mom. Turned out he wasn’t hurrying to get back to Regina but to go to the bathroom. He shouted at Emma that she could wake his mom up while he was making a trip to the restroom. Emma watched him scurry off and chewed on the inside of her cheek. Why not?
She walked to the door and carefully slid the key into the lock, opening the door as quietly as she could. The room was dark safe for the few rays of sunshine sneaking through the blinds. Regina had pulled the blanket up and over her body, her shoes and coat now on the ground and at the foot of the bed respectively.
Emma quietly moved closer to the sleeping woman until she could gaze at her face. Her features were relaxed in sleep and her lips parted with every breath she took. Emma immediately felt heat rising to her cheeks. She remembered watching Regina after she’d fallen asleep that night, trying to memorize every little detail about this gorgeous woman. She had been sure she would never see her again, but still she’d come back to the hotel, maybe just to reminisce about the best night of her life for a bit. She’d had her share of meaningless one-night stands, but this had felt like something else entirely.
What if Regina felt the same way? What if she didn’t? Why had she come back, with her son no less? Judging by the way Regina reacted when she’d seen Emma she hadn’t expected them to cross paths again either.
Emma smiled and leaned down to brush a few strands of dark hair away from Regina’s brow. Her fingertips danced along her temple over her cheek and down to her jaw. Oh yeah, Emma was in a shitload of trouble, that much was certain.
“Hey,” she whispered, leaning even closer, “time to wake up.”
Regina’s brow furrowed and she mumbled something, turning away from Emma’s voice, further snuggling the side of her face into the warm hand cupping it.
“Come on, you have to get up. Henry will be here any moment.”
The mentioning of her son’s name caused Regina to stir. She sleepily blinked her eyes open and stared at Emma, obviously not yet seeing anything clearly.
“Hey,” she mumbled.
Several seconds passed until Regina finally realized what was happening and jerked away from Emma, almost throwing herself over the other side of the bed.
“What…what are you doing?”
Emma straightened and took two smalls steps backward, her smile faltering.
“I was just trying to wake you up. Henry went to the restroom he’ll be…”
Henry chose that moment to come through the door, hurling himself onto the bed beside Regina.
“Hey mom, are you feeling better? I had dinner with Emma, it was really good.”
Regina’s brown eyes flickered from Emma to her son and a smile tugged at her lips.
“That’s great, and I am feeling much better, thank you.”
“Do you think you can drive us back to Storybrooke?”
Regina nodded and raised her hands to fuss with sleep-tousled hair. Emma thought she’d never seen anything more adorable. Regina in her wrinkled turtleneck, one leg of her black jeans pushed up to her knee, trying to look presentable again.
“Yes. I’ll definitely be able to drive back. Tomorrow’s a school day.”
Henry wrinkled his nose and hopped down from the bed.
“I know. Hey Emma, are you going the same way?”
“Uh… I don’t know, why?”
“I think it would be kind of nice if you were around, you know if mom starts feeling bad again. Storybrooke’s not far really, like less than two hours, and we have a Bed and Breakfast there too. Granny makes the best pancakes ever.”
Regina got up from the bed. “Oh Henry dear, no, I’m sure… Miss Swan has somewhere else to be.”
“Actually I don’t,” Emma said, looking just as shocked as Regina whose brown eyes snapped up to regard her darkly.
“Listen, I think Henry has a point, I really wouldn’t want you two to get stuck in the middle of nowhere in case this might just be the beginning of a twenty-four hour flu. Been there, done that. They’re not pretty.”
“No, really, I don’t think that will be necessary -” Regina began but was interrupted by a very excited Henry.
“But when Emma comes to Storybrooke we can show her around. You told me just the other day that there are like absolutely no people coming to Storybrooke anymore to see the town, so Emma could be the first to visit.”
“Regina,” Emma said quietly, nervous brown eyes settling on her, “I just want to make sure both of you get home safe, okay? I won’t stick around.”
Emma knew she sounded like someone had just kicked her puppy, but she couldn’t help it. She truly just wanted to be sure that Henry and Regina were alright, but it was obvious that the other woman didn’t want her to do so. But what had she expected really? She was just a dirty little secret that had to be kept after all. She would bring them back to their quaint little town and turn right back around to get on with her life, that was all there was to it.
Regina sighed quietly and nodded.
“Alright fine, I see the logic in your argument Miss Swan,” she answered eventually. It seemed like she couldn’t refuse when Henry and Emma were joining forces to convince her of something. Henry grinned at Emma who answered with a small wink.
“Off to Storybrooke then,” Emma said, forcing some cheeriness into her voice.
Emma brought the key to her room, which she’d paid for but wouldn’t be using, back to the front desk while Henry and Regina walked to their car. She half expected Regina to simply take off without her, but was glad to find them sitting inside the black Benz, waiting. Impatiently.
Regina motioned with her hand for Emma to hurry it up and she smirked as she got into her yellow Bug and followed after Regina’s car as they left the hotel’s parking lot.
Emma kept an eye on the black car ahead of her, making sure she didn’t lose it when the traffic became heavier at certain points. She imagined Regina looking into her rearview mirror and scowling every time she saw her yellow baby.
Emma had no idea why the thought of annoying Regina like that was so delightful. During the two hour drive she fantasized about Storybrooke and what the little town might look like. Small houses, perfect lawns and people who knew one another by their first names. Emma shuddered.
That was certainly not her cup of tea but she wasn’t planning on staying anyway. She would get a good night’s sleep at the Bed and Breakfast, try the pancakes Henry had talked about and by the time lunch rolled around the next day she would be gone, back on her way to her own life. Not that anyone was waiting for her, but she had things to do, people to see, just like everyone else. Like Regina. She seemed to be the personification of importance, whatever the hell her job was. Judging by the outfit she’d last seen her in, she was probably a lawyer or something equally annoying.
Emma was listening to a country song when she passed the ‘Welcome to Storybrooke’ sign by the side of the road. She flexed her fingers around the steering wheel.
“Here we are.”
She was glad that the trip had gone by without any incidents, but as they approached the first few small town houses Emma felt something close to apprehension trickling down her spine. She was going to get the full dose of happy little town filled with happy little families.
She followed Regina’s car, unsure of where exactly they were going, until the black Benz stopped in front of a small diner, a sign in front of it read ‘Granny’s’ in big red letters.
Regina got out and Henry followed right after. They both turned to watch Emma who sat in her car gazing at the diner. She only snapped out of her reverie when Regina tapped against her side window, obviously huffing in annoyance.
“If you go inside and ask for a room I am sure Granny will have one available. Henry and I will be leaving. I trust you can find your way out of town tomorrow morning.”
With that Regina turned to walk back to her own car so Emma hastily scrambled out from behind the steering wheel and followed Regina several steps.
“I…uh… I might stay for a day or two. See the town, you know.”
Wait what? Emma blinked at her own words but smiled when she saw Henry’s excited grin.
“Awesome. We have a small fair the day after tomorrow, there’ll be lots of food and some games. You can come.”
“Thanks. It sounds like…,” Emma took a step back when Regina suddenly approached her, moving right into her personal space, “…fun.”
“Miss Swan, I don’t know what exactly you are trying to do here, but I assure you that it is not going to work. This is my town, and I will not allow you to bring any more chaos into my life than you already have,” Regina hissed.
Emma raised her eyebrows at Regina’s words, mulling them over in her head. Did that mean Regina had been thinking about her? About their night together? Sounded like it to Emma. She could work with that. She was about to ask what Regina meant with ‘my town’ when a man came hurrying across the street toward them, a slightly creepy smile on his face.
“Madame Mayor, I’m glad you are back. I wanted to speak with you about next week’s issue.”
He eventually trailed off when he saw Regina glaring at him while Emma’s brows had risen even further up her forehead.
“Wait, you are the mayor?”
Regina scowled and raised an eyebrow at Emma.
“You sound surprised dear.”
“Well I am, but it makes sense I guess.”
“Is that so?”
Emma smirked. “Yeah, you’re bossy and you know what you want, so controlling an entire town is right on top of the list of your favorite things to do right?”
Regina’s eyes blazed as she stared Emma down.
“Miss Swan we are not finished here, but I have to take Henry home. Sydney, I will speak with you tomorrow, understood?”
The man nodded quickly and tipped his hat toward both of them before scurrying off. Regina stalked back to her car and got in without a backward glance. Emma raised her hand as Henry waved goodbye before getting into the car.
“Oh this is going to be interesting,” Emma mumbled to herself after taking a deep breath and releasing it in a huff.
She turned and walked over to Granny’s diner.
She already had her hand stretched out to push the door open when she stopped mid-movement, her entire body freezing and her mouth falling open.
She’d never told Regina her last name but the woman had repeatedly called her Miss Swan over the past couple of hours.
“What the hell?”