The Massachusetts General Hospital that morning was full of movement.
Dr. Emma Swan, one of the most renowned pediatricians in the place was running down the halls faster than usual, her mind lost in the case that had come to her office that morning.
The prospect of what she had to do next didn't thrill her at all, but it was absolutely necessary if she wanted to save the life of her new patient. She was heading towards her office.
The neurosurgeon named Regina Mills, or as the entire hospital called her behind her back, the Evil Queen; she was the chief of surgery, recognized for her ability to make the toughest doctors bow before her, but also (as Emma had to admit) known to be the most brilliant surgeon of her generation. And her skills was all the blonde needed, she would handle the problem of her temper later.
Emma knocked firmely at Dr. Mills door, a flat "Come in" was heard from the inside.
Leting herself in, she scanned the other woman's office.
The place looked pristine and sterile. The decorations were monochromatic, no portraits or something reflecting the personality of its occupant. Dr. Mills was behind a massive desk made of heavy black wood. Her eyes lost in a chart where she was scribbling with quick movements of her skilled hands. Emma was momentarily lost in the vision before her, she really looked like a queen.
Noting the lack of words in her guest, Regina looked up to see what happened. She hated when interns entered her domains to make a query and then keep quiet or begin to stutter.
But before her there was no intern. The one and only Emma Swan was there, standing uncomfortably in her office. She had never seen her in person but her reputation preceded her, intelligent, insightful, friendly ... everyone loved her.
"Dr. Swan, I hope you have a good reason to stand there without uttering a word. My time is valuable"
Emma regained her composure, remembering why she had voluntarily gotten into this predicament.
"Yes, Dr. Mills. Is one of my patients. A difficult case but if my diagnosis is correct we do not have much time and I'm afraid you're the only one who can help him"
Regina said nothing, just reached for the chart Emma was holding, to read all patient data.
Emma sighed, approaching her. If Regina accepted the case, Henry could have a chance.
Regina carefully scanned the medical record that the blonde gave her.
"The reason for medical consultation is a fall from a ladder?"
"That's what the guy who brought him said"
The dismissive tone used by Dr. Swan didn't go unnoticed by the surgeon
"Care to explain?"
Emma sighed deeply.
"The boy is an orphan, this guy is just another one in a list of foster homes he's been latlty. Apparently, the attitude of the 10 year old boy wasn't something a big guy like him could handle so he tried to pass it off as an accidental fall"
"You're basing that opinion on a mere assumption Dr. Swan?"
Emma took another step toward Regina's desk and sat in one of the chairs in front of her.
"I spent most of the morning with the boy, Dr. Mills, the physical exam was thorough, his wounds and bruises have long standing. Someone have been hitting this kid for a while"
It was almost imperceptible but Emma was able to detect a change in the eyes of the brunette, her eyes hardened and her jaw muscles tightened.
"Where can I find... Henry now?" She said, reading the boy's name in the papers before her.
"He is in the observation room, I wouldn't want to return him to that ape yet"
Regina nodded and got up from her chair.
"Let's go see him," she said, putting on her white coat "You can continue telling me the results of the studies that you've done so far on the way"
Both doctors moved decisively through the corridors of the hospital, Emma admired Regina as the tide of people would instantly move when she approached. The brunette 's eyes were lost in the papers detailing Henry medical history.
"Tell me how you came to this diagnosis?" Regina said, pointing to the paper where Emma nearly illegible handwriting described the pathology she believed to be responsible for the poor health of the child.
"First there were symptoms that caught my attention" the blonde began. "Supposedly, after the fall from the stairs, the boy began with nausea and dizziness, vision problems and irritability"
"Sounds like a brain injury"
"I thought so until I started to see the old bruises on Henry's body. Anyway, I ordered a MRI to rule out brain bleeding. When I was accompanying the boy back with his adoptive parents, I asked him some questions. It turns out that all this started at least 6 months, that's why they beat him so much"
"They thought it was all the fault of the unstable nature of the child?" Regina asked surprised.
"So it seems, that gorilla who calls himself a father was furious when I said I wanted to ask for a consultation with you," Emma said as a disheveled guy appeared a few steps from them.
The two women had come to the waiting room where Henry's adoptive family sat. At that distance they all looked visibly repulsive, the dad was beyond description, the mother smoked in the waiting room even when there was a really big sign that forbid it, and at least 3 kids were running around causing all sorts of problems for people who were also waiting at the place, their parents didn't seem to mind at all.
Regina's lips curled into a disapproving gesture.
"Do you have the results of the MRI?" She asked, turning to Emma's office , led by the blonde.
"Yes, that's why I called you"
Both entered the office, in every corner there were toys scattered carelessly, brightly colored posters covered the walls, famous cartoon characters smiling from their places on the shelves.
"I had ordered the MRI to rule out bleeding but I found this"
Regina took the image the pediatrician extended her and went to the window looking for a light source, what she saw made her frown in concern.
"A tumor," she said, while analyzing the brain images "seems to be located in the birth of the fourth pair of cranial nerves"
"Yes ," Emma said, standing behind her "it has defined edges and the image is much more opaque than is usually found in carcinoma... I think it may be benign at least I hope so"
Regina nodded, looking at the blonde.
"Very good diagnosis Dr. Swan"
Emma couldn'thelp but blush and smile at the compliment from renowned surgeon.
"We should make a biopsy after we remove this tumor" the brunette continued, "to ensure that it is benign"
"So... you'll do the surgery?" Emma asked.
"Of course," she said the other woman.
"They don't have money to pay for the procedure," Emma said, feeling guilty for not mentioning before, " they don't have health insurance either, and I doubt they can pay for days the kid need to be hospitalized"
Regina looked at Emma and a small smile crossed her lips.
"I could guess that as soon as I saw his parents, Dr. Swan, and am aware that the surgery will be done outside of my fee. I don't know what kind of heartless person you think I am"
Emma smiled back, that woman wasn't the evil queen everyone talked about.
"I'm sure everything will be fine and this child will recover, but it will take many days of neurological and physical rehabilitation"
"I know, I'll be responsible for Henry until he can return to his parents. Well, maybe not with the same parents, I'll find a good home for him," the doctor said, convinced that she wascdoing the right thing .
"All right, let's meet our boy"
As you know the characters are not mine, any resemblance to reality, other shows, or your own wet dreams are mere coincidences.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Both doctors went to the observation room where a dark-haired boy was waiting. He was surrounded by nurses who apparently, in short time had grown fond of him. The child kept smiling as one of the technicians drew blood out of one of his slim arms, to run some lab tests that Emma had requested.
"He doesn't look like an ill boy", Regina, watching him from the doorway, said.
Emma saw the small smile in the brunette lips, it wasn't meant to be a harsh comment, the surgeon understood the scene unfolding before them. The little boy was so lacking in affection and attention, that even if he t felt sick he still was happy to have a group of people around him, looking after him.
"Let's run another physical and neurological exam, shall we?" the blonde said as she approached the boy.
The kid's eyes lit up when he saw her.
"Emma!, you're back!" he said excitedly.
"Yeah, kid! I told you I would. And a brought a friend with me. She's Dr. Regina Mills, and we're both gonna take care of you"
The boy smile grew impossibly wide.
"Hello, Henry. Nice to meet you" Regina said with a big smile of her own as she extended her hand.
The boy took it and politely answered.
"Hi, Dr. Mills. Nice to meet you too"
And with that, Emma knew Regina was sold.
"Well, aren't' you a little gentleman?" she said.
"Oh, he is" Emma intervened, smiling proudly at the boy. "Hey, Henry, would you mind if Dr. Mills and I run some exams on you?"
"Ok" he answered with and easy smile.
The nurses watched amazed as the evil queen melted before the child smiles, but it was not surprising because in just a few minutes, Henry had captured the heart of all the staff in the observation room.
With diligent hands, both doctors evaluated the neuronal functions of the child checking for signs of disease. They assessed his coordination, his ability to walk normally, and how well the muscles, senses, and reflexes worked.
They exchanged no feedback during the exam, worried about treating the child with the utmost care, making him feel comfortable and, above all, safe.
When they had finished, they exchanged a glance over Henry's bed.
"Dr. Mills, if you want, we can go to my office to discuss the next steps in the treatment." Emma said, trying not to alarm the child with unnecessary medical jargon.
"Very well," Regina replied while reaching to Amanda, the head of nurses. "Could you take Henry to get a CT scan?"
"Consider it done, Dr. Mills" she replied.
"Thank you" she said "Dr. Swan and I would be taking care of this child from now on. He will be admitted in the pediatric ward, at our expense. Now we are going to inform his parents, I will appreciate if you could take him to a room and watch over him until we're done"
In all the years Amanda worked in that hospital, in all the shifts she had shared with Regina Mills, she never saw her being so polite and concerned. Smiling at the pleasant change, she nodded at her instructions and watched as both doctors headed towards the pediatric offices.
"Ok, little man. Let's get you to the nicest room." She said to a smiling Henry.
Emma and Regina entered the office in complete silence, both lost in thought.
"So, what do you think?" Emma asked after reaching her desk.
"I think it was a good decision on your part to call me" Regina answered with a smirk playing in her lips.
Emma could not help but smile back. And to think that everyone treated her like a cold and unfeeling person, when all that Emma had been observed in women was tenderness and affection for a child who did not know. The blonde remembered as the caring hands of the surgeon treated the child with care and love.
"And I think we have a Craniopharyngioma in hand" the brunette proceeded.
"Developed in the region of the pituitary gland near the hypothalamus. We can order an x-ray to see if it shows calcium deposits" Emma continued.
"Yes. They are usually benign but Henry's balance disorder, fatigue and headaches tells me that its pressing on the cranial nerves is increasing"
"He also said he couldn't see well, maybe we should call an ophthalmologist to make sure he doesn't have bitemporal hemianopia"
"I agree. I will consult to my surgical team for available dates to do the procedure as soon as possible" Regina said, raising from her seat and heading to the door.
"I will put all his papers in order for the pro-bono request; I hope the board doesn't get too dense with the details"
"I'll sign the petition as well, if the two of us are in charge, nobody will question"
Emma smiled at the brunette's confidence.
"Thank you" Emma almost whispered as the surgeon left.
Regina had been delayed a few minutes reviewing the results of Henry's CT scan when she heard screams coming from one of the nearby rooms. Apparently someone was very angry.
She normally didn't care about the hospitals ruckus, but it caught her attention instantly when she heard Emma's voice almost drowned out by the voice of a man who seemed to have lost his mind.
With the results of the CT scan in her hands, Regina entered the room from which the scandal came.
Henry was curled up into a ball in his bed, his eyes tightly closed, hands in his ears. Emma tried to stay calm and explain Henry's the situation to a man who looked annoying.
"Just fix him! " he continued shouting as he gestured towards Henry. "So I can take him home"
"Mr. Jones, you don't understand, Henry needs medical help"
"He fell from the ladder for disobeying my orders, but he only got a bump on his head. Give us a pill or something so we can leave!"
The man screamed louder, but Emma didn't looked intimidated.
"We believe Henry has a benign tumor in his brain. He needs surgery and a lot of care to recover"
"The boy is fine, he need absolutely nothing. You just want to get money from us!"
The man approached the bed and with a violent pull, tore the child from between the sheets"
"Put the child in the bed immediately"
Regina had given the order without raising her voice but her words reverberated across the room with the weight of her authority, the man obeyed promptly. Dismissing his presence, Regina talked to Emma.
"Dr. Swan, I was reading the CT scan results, the tumor is close to the pituitary gand and that makes the removal very difficult, there's risk of injury to the adjacent brain tissue"
"It can cause problems with his hormones, appetite and even mess up his emotions during recovering" Emma added.
"Not to mention possible adherences to arteries that supply blood to vital areas. The good thing is that I won't need to use the Gamma Knife."
"No radiation therapy, then. That's really good."
The man looked at them with absolutely no understanding of what they were talking about. And that didn't help his anger to subside. Every word the women talked to each other, completely ignoring him, only increased his irritation. He was in charge here and no one would tell him what to do, much less two women, he was who always made the decisions.
"You are not going to do what you please with this kid. He's mine. I make the decisions for him"
But Emma was having enough of this petulant man and his macho tendencies.
"You will not be in control of Henry's life a second longer; I already filed a complaint against you. A social worker will arrive at any moment and he will be taken from your custody. I'll be in charge of his health from now on and I hope not to have to endure another minute of you presence in this hospital. Get out of here, right now!"
Emma had approached the man pointing her index finger to emphasize each word.
Regina looked amazed and quite pleased, how the pediatrician unfolded in situations of stress. She had never had the opportunity to work with Emma Swan and had only heard that she was a very kind person. But now she could see the blonde was also a fierce advocate for her patients, full of principles and values that any doctor would envy, and, above all, very cute when she was angry.
The man made a rude gesture.
"That child will be a burden to anyone," he said, almost spitting the words and left.
Emma and Regina felt an immense desire to hit the guy in the head with some heavy object, but breathed deep (almost in unison) and turned to Henry's bed to try to do some damage control.
The boy looked at them with tears in his eyes.
"I have to go back to the system?" he whispered.
"We'll find a good family that will take care of you, don't worry" Regina told him while sitting beside him. Emma sat on the other side of the bed and put her arm around him, trying to comfort him.
"No one will want me. Nobody wants a sick kid"
Both doctors exchanged a worried look.
"We will take care of you until you're healthy and you'll see how many people fight to be your parents"
"Promise?" Henry said, looking intently at Emma.
A/N 1: Please, don't expect the medical content be totally accurate, I've researched about the pathology that affects Henry health, but I didn't write it as serious as it can be irl.
A/N 2: as I usually clarify in every fanfic, English is not my native language, so it's likely you'll find many spelling and grammatical errors. I apologize for that.
So sorry for the delay in the update, work is killing me (just as much as OUaT writers)!
Emma paced back and forth in the waiting room.
Regina had entered the operating room with Henry 3 hours ago and still hadn't come out. The blonde was in such a state of nervousness that almost bordered on hysteria, in less than 48 hours the child had gotten under her skin, she cared for him more than she had ever worried about any of her other patients. Even Regina had been visibly worried throughout the planning process.
- flashback -
It was 2 in the morning and both were reviewing the surgery action plan that Regina and her team would develop later. Emma never had the opportunity to work so closely with the surgeon but she already admired the dedication that the brunette put on her work.
After a busy day, regarding to their little patient, both still had a long journey ahead.
Emma looked up for a moment from all the paperwork she still need to finish and stretched her back loudly, ending with a long, deep breath . When she opened her eyes she found a funny looking brunette, staring at her.
"We have reached the stage where we leave the formalities aside, Dr. Swan?"
"Sorry," Emma replied trying to look contrite. "But I lost the formalities somewhere between the fight with the boy's adoptive father and the meeting with the board of directors that I authorized the surgery... and please call me Emma"
"Very well..., Emma" Regina approved, still smiling, "How about if we take a break? The coffee quality at the cafeteria improves greatly at this hour of the night"
Emma smiled from ear to ear, getting up quickly.
"Ahh , coffee.. That's a magic word for me"
"I see you still have energy," the older woman observed, rising gracefully and following her. Regina was beginning to suspect that the kind pediatrician had the same energy levels of her little patients.
The hospital was deserted in those cold and long hours before dawn, only some employees roamed the hallways. Both doctors found a quiet spot in one of the waiting rooms that looked over Fruit Street. The cool night air, coming from one of the opened windows, seemed to infuse a much needed energy into their systems.
"Are you ready for the surgery?" Emma asked suddenly.
"As ready as I can be concerning this type of procedure" Regina replied, mentally going over the list of what she needed to do on the operation table. "The removal is difficult without causing an injury to the adjacent brain tissue" she continued "if the tumor is attached to the walls of a near-by artery, there are chances of stroke"
"He can develop hormone, appetite and emotions problems later on in his life as well," Emma pointed, "I know..."
"Indeed, but the surgery is completely necessary if we want to relieve the intracranial pressure"
"The follow-up care will not be easy either"
"No, but we can start by giving that little boy the best chance possible. I've already contacted all the specialists I know to put together the best team for the surgery; they agreed to do it pro bono"
"So the only ones who opposed to this procedure were the assholes of the administration?"
"Yes, but that was to be expected" Regina said after a long sip of her steaming coffee "Those people, only think about numbers, not human lives, it's one of the many things that are wrong with this system"
Emma nodded, both women staring at the incipient human activity in the street in front of them.
"Thank you for the help in the board meeting" Regina mumbled, breaking the comfortable silence that had settled between them "You definitely have a strong personality."
"You say that as if you're surprised" she told the brunette with a genuine smile playing on her lips.
"I must admit it's not something I expected of Emma Swan, the saint"
"So, that's what they call me?"
Regina nodded, smiling back.
"You know what they call you, right?"
"Oh, yes. The Evil Queen" Regina said with a laugh, "I'm afraid I let that nickname spread"
"Why?, instilling fear?" Emma said, amused. After a hectic day, a bit of relaxing talk was a welcome by both.
"Not fear, I like to see it as respect. Many surgeons don't have a predilection for taking orders from a younger colleague, much less if it's a female. Now, if they think that said colleague can sever their heads at the slightest insubordination, that's when they follow orders"
Emma laughed heartily.
"I think your looks might help as well" she said after a few seconds.
"What do you mean?"
Emma blushed visibly but continued. "Well, if you add the Evil Queen is an extremely attractive woman... I mean..., I would follow your orders immediately..."
The brunette's eyes seemed to darken for a split second before, with a smirk, answer the compliment.
"Well, I must admit, Emma, you are adorable AND charming"
Emma's face couldn't get redder, the girl was speechless.
"Come on, doctor, we must return to the office and finish all this in time. If possible, I would like to rest for a few hours before the surgery… to clear the mind" and with this, Regina rose, heading to her office.
"Yeah... yes, of course!" Emma babbled, following her.
- end of flashback -
All this seemed to have happened days ago, Emma thought. She had tried to keep herself busy by doing her rounds in the pediatric ward, but her mind went back to the room 108 where little Henry awaited for the surgery that would change his life.
After completing her rounds, Emma decided it would be best to wait until the beginning of the operation by Henry side, the kid would surely need all the love and support she could give.
She signed the discharge for some of her patients and went to the small room. She didn't expect to find there the one only Regina Mills. The blonde leaned against the doorframe and smiled at the image in front of her. Regina hadn't lied about needing some rest. The surgeon was lying, fast asleep, in Henry's bed. The boy was curled on Regina's side, hugging the woman. Regina's protective arm curved around him.
Emma decided to let them rest, both could use the time together.
She used the free time to shower and change clothes. Sighing, the blonde took clean clothes of her locker, she practically lived at the hospital. When she arrived to the city she had rented a small apartment just a few blocks away. It was comfortable enough for a single person and she liked the view it had of a beautiful little square across the street. But she rarely had a chance to sleep in her own bed in the last two years. Her career was consuming her life, but that was exactly what she needed at the time.
Now, a few hours later, with no news on Henry's surgery, Emma contemplated her future, trying to forget the past, what brought her to this city.
But wasn't long until concern again invaded her mind, she had decided to stay optimistic, but it was proving something hard to do. She tried to contact all of the neurological rehabilitation centers in the city, explaining Henry's case. Most had rejected him. Only a few had given a shy 'maybe'. Heartless bastards! They're just a bunch of hypocrites, she thought, thinking in their slogans and advertisements that sought of kindness and equity in health care… Yeah, right!
Cursing softly, the blonde returned to the waiting area, a few steps away from the Operating Room number 3. It had been about 45 minutes when she saw the figure of Regina emerge from the OR, with a huge smile on a very tired face.
"The surgery was a success!" she said, "There were no adjacent tissue compromised nor clamped vasculature"
"What about the tumor?" Emma asked anxiously.
"It was completely removed. Henry will be with pain medication for a while and will need regular visits to a neurologist, but he won't suffer any side effects from the surgery or the craniopharyngioma"
"That will shorten the rehabilitation time in half!" Emma claimed happily.
"It's very likely, yes. His brain must readjust to the cranial cavity now that the tumor mass is gone. Therefore some motor functions will suffer temporarily. Beyond that, Henry is a completely healthy boy"
Emma couldn't contain her excitement and lunged towards Regina, wrapping her in a fierce hug. To her surprise, the surgeon returned the embrace with the same intensity.
After a few seconds, Emma didn't feel the hug was uncomfortable, quite the contrary, it was really gratifying to have the other woman in her arms.
"You know what...?" Regina whispered into the blond's ear "I could get used to this."
Emma smiled running a hand over Regina's back. "Me too"