There is a town in Maine where a family once lived that were loving and happy. This family consisted of a pair of opposites that the fates would allow to fall in love with each other. These opposites were the brunette, a strong, powerful woman, and her counterpart blonde wife, a wanderer, in every sense of the word, but incredibly loyal and determined. Together, they brought a gift to their world. A son. But this story is not a fairy tale. The door does not close after the happily ever after. In fact, the happily ever after will never completely come to this family. But because of their son, the two strong-headed women will get close to it.
Emma stumbled into her one bedroom apartment in Boston, a small cardboard box clutched in her arm containing a birthday cupcake she bought on a whim. It was the aroma that caught her attention when she walked by the small bakery. Floods of memories engulfed Emma's mind as scenes of flour fights and the coming home to fresh bread raced through her mind. It reminded her of home, of her son, of her. So she bought the cupcake.
Placing it on the counter, she gently inserted a blue star candle perfectly in the center and lit it. Her eyes closed automatically as she recalled precious birthdays where she was surrounded by close friends and family. Her family. The sound of her son and wife singing off-key to the tune of happy birthday flooded her ears only to realize the eerily sound of silence as she opened her eyes.
"If only," she whispered and blew out the candle.
"Mom?" Emma picked up the candle and licked the frosting but swore she could hear Henry's voice. Then a knock came.
Her eyes darted to the door as the voice called out again. "Mom!"
Moving swiftly, Emma closed the gap between her kitchen counter and her front door in three strides and pulled open the door to reveal her ten year old son, grinning from ear to ear.
"Mom!" Henry yelled squeezing her middle as soon as she opened the door wide enough. "Happy birthday!"
"Henry, what are you doing here?" She asked confused as she knelt down to inspect her son. "Does your mother know you're here?"
Instead of answering, Henry just walked straight into her kitchen and dropped his backpack on the counter. "Not yet. Can I have the cupcake?"
She gave him a playful glare but eventually conceded. "Just a bite."
Emma leaned against her kitchen sink, watching as Henry devoured the cupcake. She knew Regina would kill her if she found out Henry was eating sweets so late. Regina would kill her for just having Henry in her apartment. Emma was dead for sure.
"Easy, kid," she smirked when she caught Henry licking the icing off the wrapper. "You do look a little thin. On second thought, go for it."
With a grin, his lips smacked around the last sugar-covered finger. "Now, on to business."
"You have to come home with me." He said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
She sighed, having heard this plea numerous times over the last two years. "Henry, your mom and I, we've just grown apart, and that's okay."
"It's not okay!" He whined like a four year old demanding sweets. "You two are meant for each other."
"You didn't think to call?" Emma asked, changing the subject.
Henry shrugged, "You change your number every couple of months. It's hard to keep track."
Feeling guilt ridden, she leaned down to kiss his forehead, her lips brushing against the thin hair that flopped over his face from a recent haircut. "Come on, kid. Let's take you home."
Henry almost instantly felt better when Emma had referred to his lifelong house in Storybrooke home. He wasn't completely better though. He still had to bring his moms back together.
"Henry!" Regina called out even before Emma and Henry were halfway up the path. She raced down the walkway and engulfed her son in a bone crushing hug.
"I'm okay, Mom," he choked, hugging her back. "Uh, Mom? Can't breathe."
Regina released him immediately and caressed his face. She whispered hoarsely, her voice cracking through her tears. "I thought I lost you."
"I found Mom," Henry proudly stated, motioning to Emma who was a few steps behind, giving the brunette pair a moment alone.
Regina immediately straightened and glared at Emma. "Ms. Swan."
Emma winced at the emphasis of her last name. Ever since their divorce was finalized, Emma had switched from the shared name of Mills-Swan back to her maiden name.
"Hi," Emma said meekly. The last time she had seen Regina was their first Christmas apart, and even then, it was just a glimpse of Regina kissing Henry goodbye after dropping him off at her current rundown apartment.
Sensing the tension, Sheriff Graham, who had remained quiet up until then, stepped forward taking Henry by the shoulders in a paternal fashion. A little too paternal for Emma's liking. "Come along, Henry. Let's put you to bed."
With a glance back at his mothers, Henry allowed Graham to lead him inside.
The two women continued to stand in the front yard, one shifting awkwardly and the other burning a hole into the blonde with her gaze.
Finally, Regina broke the silence with a curt offer. "I assume you're tired from driving my son back home. Would you like to take a moment to rest?"
Emma opened her mouth to immediately reject the offer, but Graham interrupted by exiting the house. "Madame Mayor, all is well. Henry is sound asleep in his room."
Regina turned and regarded the Sheriff with more warmth than she was currently showing her ex-wife. With a touch on his shoulder, she nodded her gratitude and made her way back into her mansion, unaffected by the possibility of Emma not following.
"Emma," Graham greeted with his eyes downcast. "Enjoy your ride with Henry?"
Emma couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of jealousy of Graham. It was clear that her family had moved on with her former Deputy, but still, that was her family. Pursing her lips, Emma made her way towards the door which Regina had shut. "Night, Graham."
The house looked exactly the same since the last time Emma was in it, save for the more recent family pictures and the lack of pictures that once included her. She stood in the foyer, where she once stood with her bags packed and Regina screeching at her telling her to leave. Regina's murmurs floated down to Emma's ears, shaking her out of her memory. The stairs didn't creak when Emma ascended up the staircase and silently made her way to lean against the open doorway. For the briefest of moments, it was as if the past two years didn't happen. Emma envisioned the countless times Regina had checked in on Henry throughout the night, reading to him, or soothing to any and all illnesses. For the briefest of moments, Emma's heart ached for the return of those precious memories, but the look of indifference Regina had just cast her way was a cruel reminder that she was better off without her.
Brushing past her, Regina walked out of Henry's room purposefully and spoke with indignation, "I trust you remember where the guest room is."
"Yeah, I remember. That's where I slept for the last couple months," Emma huffed avoiding Regina's eye roll and following her past the guest room to the master bedroom. "So what's up with you and Graham?"
Regina turned sharply, her grey dress flowing about the knees with the swiftness of her twirl. "I don't need to explain myself to the likes of you, Ms. Swan. What goes on in my private life is none of your concern anymore."
With each word, Regina had advanced toward Emma, making her backpedal in the direction of the guest room. "And for your information, I am not sleeping around. Unlike someone I have the displeasure of knowing."
Regina's face hardened, and Emma barely caught the look of pain, heartbreak and anger etched onto Regina's careful mask. Steeling her expression, Regina straightened and smoothed out her dress. "Good night, Ms. Swan."
The last that Emma saw of Regina was her slamming her bedroom door shut.
Regina was stressed. Her usually tidy desk was stacked with paperwork and her goddamn secretary didn't know how to take a message. Not only did she have a town to run and a son to take care of, but to top it off, her ex-wife had come waltzing into town demanding to know what was going on in her life based on an assumption and jealousy. Regina had noticed the green in Emma's eyes, and that was not due to their natural colour. But she obviously had no problem being oblivious and uncaring for the last two years. Regina closed her eyes, seething. Nothing to worry about, she thought. She'll leave, that's what she's good at.
In a moment of weakness, Regina opened up her bottom desk drawer, pushing aside various pictures she had collected of Henry's artwork to the framed picture she had once proudly displayed on her desk. She lifted up the silver frame reverently, caressing a thumb over the picture it protected.
It was their first family picture, technically. Emma was seven months pregnant with Henry, and never one for pictures, probably due to the fact that she didn't like her presence lingering, let alone immortalized on film, gave in to the pestering of The Mirror's Editor-in-Chief Sidney Glass to take the picture of Madame Mayor's growing family at the annual Mayoral Banquet.
Emma wore a simple red long sleeve dress proudly displaying her ever growing baby bump while Regina stuck to a classic black and white print power dress fitting to every curve of her body. But it wasn't the look of them Regina was consumed with. It was the emotion expressed in the picture that made Regina close her eyes and feel the large void in the middle of her heart ache. They were both positioned facing each other, Emma with her stomach tilted just the right way so that no space could come between her and her wife. Regina had an arm wrapped around Emma's waist while the other one was placed protectively over Emma's hand which was draped across her rounded belly. The picture spoke volumes of how much either woman adored the other, what with both women gazing affectionately at each other under their lashes, but now it just served as a cruel reminder to Regina of pain and betrayal.
"Miss Mills?" Her secretary had stuck her head in, and in her haste to hide the picture that once brought her immense joy, Regina dropped it, cracking the glass. With a scowl, she turned her gaze to her now frightened secretary.
"Henry's school just called. He didn't come to class today and-"
Regina picked up the cracked picture frame, allowing it one brief glance of regret for the careless handling of it, before snapping at her secretary. "Get Miss Swan on the phone."
"Miss S-, your-"
Emma planned to leave as soon as she woke up, really she did, but Regina wasn't one to hold back on anything, let alone home décor, and the Egyptian cotton sheets surrounding her and the goose down pillow she lay on felt heavenly compared to the spring board mattress and wool comforter she had back in Boston. So she allowed herself to get a few more winks of sleep, while also avoiding Regina's strict morning routine. Two birds with one stone, she thought, chuckling to herself. By the time she had fully awoken, she was craving for something only Storybrooke had to offer: Granny's hot chocolate with cinnamon.
Walking into Granny's felt like the most natural and unfamiliar thing in the world. She was quickly greeted by the ever scantily clad Ruby who immediately set down her drink and usual meal in front of her and forced Emma to speak of what she had been doing the last two years.
Entertaining Ruby was cut short when her Granny barked at her to get back to work before throwing a smile Emma's way. Taking her hot chocolate to go, Emma found herself wandering around Storybrooke and somehow ended up at her and Henry's secret castle. She chuckled at the idea of it being secret since Regina knew about everything that went on in her town, this castle included, but Regina allowed her wife and son to have their little secret. Emma sat on the rickety wood, nursing her cooling hot chocolate when she heard the patter of feet behind her.
"I thought I'd find you here," Henry said climbing the tower and sitting beside his blonde mother.
"Shouldn't you be in school?"
"I'd rather hang out with you," he shrugged and added for good measure. "And not just on every other major holiday."
She ruffled Henry's hair, nudging against him. "I like hanging out with you too, kid."
"So I think you should stay."
She instantly tensed and opened her mouth, "Henry, your mother wouldn't like if I stayed."
"But you can work it out," he reasoned. "You always work it out."
"Not this time," she whispered. "If I know your mom, and I think I do, she wants nothing to do with me."
Before Henry could respond, the ringing of Emma's cell phone sounded through the cold air. She withdrew it from the pocket of her red leather jacket, a jacket that Regina had absolutely abhorred but learned to love because it was entirely Emma, and smirked when she saw the caller. "Speak of the devil."
"Hello, Madame Mayor," Emma answered into the phone.
"He's with you, isn't he?" Regina all but snarled.
"I didn't pull him out of class," Emma said exasperated. "I know how you are with truancy and punctuality."
"Yes, well if Henry keeps sneaking out to be with you, my son won't inherit those values now, will he?"
Emma rolled her eyes. How she ended up falling in love with Regina, she'll never know. The rip of her cell phone from her grasp startled Emma when she realized Henry had stolen the phone from her and was now conversing with Regina.
"Hi, Mom. I'm fine," Henry said into the phone. "Can Mom stay for dinner?"
Appalled, Regina answered with a quick, "No."
"But Mom, it'd be nice to have a family dinner again. Just like old times." Emma smirked when she heard Henry's manipulative soothing tone. His voice was laced with the puppy dog eyes Regina couldn't see. "I'd really like it."
The grin on Henry's face said it all, and Emma was genuinely surprised Regina had said yes. With Henry's word proclaiming Regina as the best, he ended the call and handed the phone back to Emma. She had to admit, when Henry wanted something, he knew how to get it. "You're good, kid. Really good."
"I know," he said with a smirk that was all too similar to Emma's.
At six-thirty precisely, Emma knocked on the door of 108 Mifflin Street, the mayoral mansion, and although she still possessed the key to allow herself in, she had a feeling Regina wouldn't be too pleased if she just walked right in when she didn't live there anymore. So instead, she waited until they mayor herself opened the door with a content look on her face. Giving her a once over, Regina stepped aside and muttered a quiet, "Come in."
"Thanks for the invite," Emma said thickly as she hung up her jacket on the coat rack.
"Right," Emma said to the mayor's retreating figure. This was going to be a long night.
The smell of Regina's famous lasagna wafted up to Emma's nose. If there was one thing she missed about Regina it was her cooking. And their playful banter. And the way she only opened up to Emma. And how good she was with Henry. But that was it.
She sat across from Henry at one end of the table where Regina was sitting at the head. Emma didn't think too much about the fact when Regina laid an extra cheesy serving with an extra piece of garlic bread in front of her. Emma just mumbled her thanks and began to dig in. Henry, ever the fairy tale seeking boy, saw this as a sign and made it known to both his mothers, pointing out that Emma had even poured Regina her favourite brand of wine without asking. Both women just looked at the boy, who was grinning like a fool, and Regina kindly reminded him to eat his dinner.
After an hour of pleasant dinner, easy conversation and blunt jabs from Regina, Emma stood grabbing her plate to help with the dishes.
"Nonsense," Regina said, grabbing the plates from Emma. "You're a guest, and you have a long drive back to Boston. We wouldn't want something as trivial as dishes getting in your way."
Emma rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair. "So how about a story after dessert before I go?"
Henry beamed, "From both of you?"
She sighed sadly, "Just me, kid."
He nodded before looking up at Regina entering the dining room with a small cake, "Is that chocolate?"
Emma looked up, eyes wide when Regina placed the cake in front Emma.
"Happy belated birthday," Regina said formally.
"Did you put her up to this?" Emma's eyes immediately turned to Henry.
The boy's grin just widened. "Nope."
"Believe it or not Ms. Swan, but I do make it a habit of remembering important facts about my f-, well, you. As it seems I did remember your birthday." She said quickly and slicing into the cake.
"She has to blow the candles out and we have to sing," Henry complained at the breaking of tradition.
"It's fine, Henry," Emma said, still amazed that Regina had made an effort at acknowledging her birthday. She caught Regina's eye as she set a piece of cake in front of Henry and muttered a genuine, "Thank you."
Regina had no idea what she was thinking. Why had she bought a cake for that woman? She opted for washing the dishes by hand instead of simply placing them in the dishwasher so she could have time to think while Emma read Henry to sleep. Emma had hurt her, it was simple as that. Sure, she argued, it was common courtesy to acknowledge someone's birthday, but it wasn't in Regina's nature to care that much for someone who broke her heart. In fact, if Regina had her way, Emma would never see Henry or set foot inside Storybrooke ever again. But she couldn't do that to Henry.
So for an hour or so, Regina had allowed herself to play nice with Emma Swan, albeit, the subtle insults she threw the blonde's way were well-deserved, but the evening turned out rather pleasant. Perhaps she could . . .no. Allowing someone back into her life was like ripping out the knife they stabbed her with in the first place and handing it back to them for another go.
The anger she felt two years ago came flooding back through the brunette as she rinsed and dried. Holding a wine glass much too fiercely, Regina squeezed the glass as a shard sliced her palm rather nicely.
"Dammit," she hissed as she ran her palm under the cooling water and squeezed the wound with a dish towel.
"Ouch," Emma said, stepping into the kitchen with her red jacket on and her keys in hand. "That looks like it hurts."
"Brilliant observation, Ms. Swan." Regina snapped at Emma.
"Hey," Emma said, confused at the icy tone Regina had suddenly taken with her. "What's your problem?"
"My problem, Ms. Swan, is that you are still here." She hissed. "Wouldn't you rather be on your way back to Boston, or are you hoping you can find August for another late night get together?"
Emma's face hardened as Regina brought up the past and ripped open both of their wounded hearts.