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I have just one life, and just one love

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“I HATE EMMA! It’s all her fault!” Henry had screamed after being sent home from school for hitting Lewis, who had apparently been saying crude things to him about her and Emma. Emma had run away again leaving Henry blaming himself. Regina didn’t know where Emma had gone, but suspected it was not that far, given that she’d heard about Lewis’s bike being TP’d for the next three days in a row.

Regina is angry with Emma for running as soon as things started to affect Henry, and she doesn’t know if she has the energy to keep fighting when everything seems stacked against them. Then Henry tells her that Lewis has also been bullying Ava and accusing her of being a lesbian. Ava is having a hard time at school and Henry wants Regina to talk to her. Regina doesn’t think she is the right person to give an uplifting hope speech, but Emma’s not here and Henry is counting on her, so she agrees to try.

Ava comes round for dinner and it seems she doesn’t expect a hope speech, she just wants to hear the story of how Regina and Emma’s relationship developed.
********
At the start of their relationship being in love with Emma was giddy and Regina felt light at times in a way she didn’t know was possible. Loving someone she had chosen instead of someone that had been chosen for her was freeing, and being loved back by that person was intoxicating. She suddenly understood then why Emma had held out for this.
Being in love with someone who had chosen her was also petrifying, because if Emma was with her through choice it was only logical to acknowledge that Emma could also leave her by choice when things got too difficult. After all Emma had a history of avoiding attachment and Regina was not arrogant enough to think that she was somehow special enough to make Emma change. Regina was well aware that she was a difficult person to love.

Sometimes Regina got scared and avoided Emma or tried to push her away with acerbic comments, but Emma kept patiently loving her like she didn’t know any other way to exist and eventually Regina would melt and think that maybe Emma really wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Loving Emma, who adores Henry, who tries so hard to be good, who is tough and vulnerable, impulsive and ridiculous and who believes so much in Regina was easy. Loving a woman was not easy. Often when they went out people would stare at them and Regina would bristle and want to march the three of them away from the scrutiny, but Emma would just square her shoulders and insist with actions rather than words that they stay put and be themselves and Regina learnt that sometimes being publicly happy and impervious to the stares could be a very satisfying form of defiance.

Other times people didn’t even realise they were a couple.

“So, I see you’ve booked a family room for you, your sister and your son, how lovely” the hotel receptionist had said to her the first time the three of them went on holiday together. Regina just gave her a withering glare because the insularity required to assume that two women who looked like her and Emma were sisters was astounding.

“Emma’s not Mom’s sister, she’s her girlfriend” Henry had piped up even though she didn’t think she’d yet defined their relationship to him.

“Oh really? And where’s your father?” asked the receptionist.

“He’s dead” Henry had replied cheerful, at which point she had sensed Emma shaking with not very well repressed laughter.

Regina worried about how their unconventional relationship would affect Henry, but Henry has always been their truest believer. From the beginning of their relationship Henry thought they were true loves or that they were soulmates who only didn’t get matched together because Emma opted out. Henry thought that they were Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After, young Henry thought that they were destined to choose each other and were the perfect representation of love. His innocent belief in them had been adorable but misguided, at that age he didn’t realise that they were two flawed individuals with messed up childhoods finally trying to take control of their own lives without damaging him or each other whilst they did so.

They had been together for a few years before Emma agreed to move in with them and when she did so Regina was expecting it to be a positive change, however it wasn’t like that. Emma became so neat and so quiet that Regina kept needling her to get a reaction, but instead of biting back Emma just became quieter. Even though Regina owned a dishwasher Emma insisted on doing all of the washing up until she broke one of Regina’s expensive wine glasses and then she was so apologetic Regina couldn’t stand it. Then one day Regina had a late meeting at work and Emma was supposed to collect Henry from school, but she received a call from the school saying he was still there. She raced to the school worrying that he would be feeling abandoned but he was fine; he was completely unfazed and was happily chatting to Mrs Shah when she arrived.

Once Regina had established the Henry was okay she allowed herself to worry what had happened to Emma. She anxiously called her and Emma answered,

“Hey”

“Emma, are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine, just gathering some information for work. Why?” There was a pause and then,

“Shit, shit, Henry! I forgot, I’m sorry!”

“It’s fine, I wouldn’t want to disturb your work,” Regina had replied icily, “it’s obviously too important for you to take the time to collect my son” she’d added, hanging up.

Regina had been furious. Leo had had no time for or interest in Henry, Robin’s efforts had been half-hearted at best, but she had thought Emma was different. She took Henry home and Emma arrived only a few minutes later.

“Regina I’m so, so sorry” she’d said, the moment she walked through the door. “Is Henry okay?”

“Henry is fine. When the school contacted me to say he was still waiting to be collected I left my meeting and came to get him, because my son is more important than my work” Regina, had replied, emphasising the “my” like her love for Henry was a weapon.

“It was an accident. I’ll do better. Since I moved in I have been trying so hard not to let you down, to be tidy and considerate so you didn’t regret asking me to live with you, but I knew I’d screw it up eventually.”

“Emma, that’s not what I want” Regina had sighed, frustrated.

Emma had looked resigned, packed an overnight bag and walked out without saying anything else. Regina tried to call and send messages, but got no reply, until a couple of days later she’d received a message from Emma’s friend Mary Margaret informing her that Emma was there. Apparently Emma had broken a toaster and a cuckoo clock, the latter of which Regina thought anyone with any sense would be grateful to see the back of, and that Regina was to come and get Emma before she broke anything else.

After that things were better. Regina managed to convince Emma that she didn’t want a Stepford Wife living with her. Emma started being her usual self and as exasperating as it was to have shoes left lying around, a kitchen cupboard full of junk food and thundering steps on the stairs when Regina was trying to have a lie-in, she was glad for these signs that Emma felt at home.

It wasn’t the last time that Emma had runaway after a major argument, but since then she’s always come back within a few hours, looking sheepish, until now. It’s been five days now since Emma had run away following Henry’s outburst.
****
Ava asks her when Emma is coming back.

“I don’t know if she is” replies Regina.

“Then you need to convince her.” Ava is adamant. “This is the point in the story when you are supposed to tell me that all the difficulties have been worth it because you love each other”.

Regina is not usually one to let a child tell her what to do, but she complies and sends Emma a text message.

REGINA: You need to come back, our son needs someone to beat at his computer games. He misses you. In addition it transpires that Ava Zimmer probably likes girls and seems to have decided we are some kind of role models.

EMMA: And you really think I am a suitable role model?

REGINA: Well I do question her judgement, but it’s been ages since you punched anyone in the face and we haven’t engaged in any debauchery for some time.

EMMA: Does being a role model mean no more debauchery?

REGINA: Being a role model means age appropriate advice for Ava if required, and secret debauchery for us.

Emma comes home.

“Can we skip the serious conversation about not running away when things are difficult and go straight for the debauchery?” she asks, waggling her eyebrows suggestively whilst kicking her boots off.

“No.”