Chapter 1: Story of Us
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.
Chapter 2: I Got You
"That was one time, and you know it." Emma said through clenched teeth.
"Oh, do I?" Regina laughed coldly. "I only have your word to take for it, and you lied to me for weeks about it."
"I made a mistake, Regina!" Emma's voice rose immediately. "That's what people do, they make mistakes."
"Yes, and you will pay for that mistake." Regina said, throwing the dish towel into the sink, allowing her cut some air.
Before she knew it, Emma was directly in her face. That's how it always was with them when they fought. They invaded each other's personal space and opened up wounds and said things they didn't mean. Then one would break, kissing the other to make them understand, and all would be forgiven. But that wasn't the case this time. This time, a kiss would not be enough to mend their broken hearts.
"I have been paying for it." Emma's green eyes glared directly into the brunette's chocolate ones. "For the last two years. You think I haven't gone through hell ever since you kicked me out?"
"Oh, don't go and make this about you." Regina scoffed with authority. "You are the one who tore our family apart. You are the one who was unfaithful. You are the one who made it very clear that I wasn't good enough."
Regina's eyes watered briefly, but the feared politician quickly masked her emotions and remained hard.
"Mom?" Henry's timid voice sounded through the yelling, and both women turned at being called.
Regina placed a hand on Emma giving her a gentle yet firm push away.
"That's what happened?" Henry asked quietly, his face expressing that his world would be torn apart based on their answer.
"I put you to bed," Emma said pointedly at her son.
"Your yelling must have awoken him." Regina said sharply.
Emma turned to face the brunette. "Hey, I wasn't the only one raising my voice here."
"You're the only one who was inconsiderate and selfish and slept with a man who told you exactly what you wanted to hear to get you in his bed!" Regina snapped
"Stop it!" Henry yelled, his face flushed in anger.
Although their anger for each other was still present, both women regarded their son with shame. They were usually very good at not fighting in front of him, and when they did, it was playful teasing.
He cast his eyes downward, shuffling in plaid pyjamas and muttered a quiet, "You're both still my moms."
No matter what Henry really said, both Emma and Regina heard what he really meant. He didn't care what they did, he would always forgive them for the yelling and the fighting, and in Emma's case as Henry found out, the cheating. Yet neither woman had anything to say to each other as they watched Henry trudge back up the stairs and shut his bedroom door.
Henry made sure to wake up extra early. The night before had rattled him quite a bit, but he knew his moms. If it was true and Emma did cheat on Regina, and judging by the look of anger on Regina's face and the sorrow on Emma's it was, then Henry would find it in his heart to forgive them. He loved his mothers more than anything, and he was keen on proving to them the exact same thing. So he headed to Dr. Hopper's that morning like he was supposed to bi-weekly for the past year or so, but instead of doing his regular session, he had another plan in mind.
All plans of leaving were dashed out the window. Emma couldn't leave when her kid was upset with her. She had to find him and do something. Maybe buy him ice cream when Regina wasn't looking. So Emma had stayed yet another night in Storybrooke, but this time, she had booked a room at Granny's Bed and Breakfast, carefully avoiding eye contact with August Booth as he helped his father fix Granny's rickety staircase. Jacket and boots on, Emma was ready to go talk with Henry when she opened the door and found Regina standing there, looking like she was about to give hell.
"Where is he?" Regina demanded, pushing into Emma's room and scanning it to find Emma as the only occupant.
"What do you mean? He's not with you?" Emma asked confused.
"If he was with me, do you think I would be here asking you of his whereabouts?" Regina said shortly. "He was supposed to be seeing Dr. Hopper this morning, but when I went to go pick him up, the secretary informed me that Henry had run off before they could get started."
"What's he doing with Archie?" Emma asked.
Before Regina could dismiss Emma's question, a loud rumble shook all of Storybrooke. Regina teetered on her high heel pumps and collapsed against Emma who had to pull the both of them against a dresser to steady them. As soon as the ground was stable again, the brunette looked up at Emma who was still holding her protectively and straightened upright stepping away from the blonde.
"You okay?" Emma asked, but was interrupted by the ringing of Regina's cell phone.
Regina gave Emma a stare that told her to be quiet and pressed the phone to her ear. "Mayor Mills. I obviously felt the earthquake."
Emma smirked at Regina's remark. She had to admit, the woman had sass.
"As soon as the rubble clears, we'll demolish the mine," Regina spoke into her phone. But Emma saw the blood drain from her face. "What do you mean you think you saw my son go into the mine?"
Emma's eyes flashed wide and connected with Regina's, trying to fully comprehend the meaning of her question to the unknown caller. In a flash, Emma had grabbed her keys that had dropped during the quake and headed out the door with Regina hot on her heels.
Regina had felt true fear in her life only twice. The first time was growing up with a mother like hers. Cora had been strict, to say the least, and whenever she got mad, Regina was on the receiving end of those blows. The second time was when she heard through the rumor mill of a certain mayor's wife being seen in the company of the carpenter's son. For weeks, she had conflicted with doubt and fear, scared that Emma had actually been unfaithful but praying to any god who would listen that the rumors were just that.
But this fear, the fear that currently possessed Regina as she watched the local sheriff, fire department and any other hands they could get on deck as they taped off the collapsed abandoned mine area and strategized a way to get her Henry out safely, completely consumed her, so much so that her knees shook and she collapsed.
But not before Emma had reached out to break her fall and allow Regina to lean on her. Regina pushed Emma away and held herself, fuming and shrieked, "This is your fault!"
Emma stood there, shell shocked at the sudden burst of anger.
"If you had just left last night this wouldn't have happened! He wouldn't have run off!" Regina spat.
"I was leaving last night! You were the one who started a fight and continued it right in front of him!" Emma yelled, recovering from her momentary paralysis.
"Oh, please lecture me until his oxygen runs out!"
Regina stalked away from Emma, hugging herself as worry lines etched on her face and tears clouded her vision. The gentlest of tugs forced her to turn back to Emma, who held the brunette's shoulder and whispered, "We'll get him back. I promise."
Regina searched Emma's eyes and nodded.
"Archie's in there with him, he'll keep him safe until he comes home with us," Emma reassured.
Regina nodded, oblivious to the fact that Emma had called their house a home where they would be a family. She nodded because her statement was the truest thing in the world.
Who knew a dog would be the key to saving Henry that day? Regina didn't know it, and she made a mental note to stop making anonymous calls to animal control whenever Pongo snuck out of Archie's backyard. The clever dog started barking wildly, and when Emma released him from the tow truck, he ran directly to the hidden air shaft.
Now, Regina was reunited with her precious son, and she couldn't have been happier. She stayed closely as paramedics tended to Henry thoroughly, under the request and careful watch of the mayor. She glanced up to see Emma, who was waving off the medical attention of a paramedic. It was then that Regina noticed Emma's palms, scraped from the rope burn when she had lowered herself without question down the hidden air shaft to retrieve their son.
Regina would never admit it, but watching Emma go down the unstable shaft brought about another round of fear. The seventeen minutes and thirty four seconds from the time Emma was lowered to when she rose carrying their son was the longest wait in her life. One wrong shift of her elbow, and Emma could have been trapped down there for good. The thought of that was unbearable.
When the paramedic deemed the young boy as physically fine, just a little shook, Regina engulfed her son in one of many tight hugs. "I thought I lost you."
"I'm still here, Mom," Henry reassured her as she wiped dirt and dust from his face.
Emma joined the brunette pair and crouched down like Regina had, wrapping a hand around the shoulder Regina was not already cradling. "What the hell were you doing down there?"
Regina scowled at Emma's harsh tone to her son, but she too wanted to know what possessed Henry to travel deep into the mines.
"I came to set up for our picnic," Henry said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. When both his mothers gave him a confused look, he sighed and pointed up a small hill where a lone large tree stood. In the midst of panic, no one noticed the picnic basket sitting under it.
Realization dawned on both women as they glanced up at the tree. Henry continued with his explanation, "I told Archie that every year on your anniversary we'd have a picnic by that tree, so I told him I was going to do that today, but he said I shouldn't, so I just left and he came after me."
"That doesn't explain how you got in the mine," Regina said raising an eyebrow.
"It looked cool," Henry admitted sheepishly.
"Henry, what have I-," Regina stopped and gathered herself. Her son was safe and that was all she could ask for. She gave him a one-armed hug since Emma was clutching his other shoulder. "Thank God you're safe."
Emma joined in on the hug and added, "Don't scare us like that again."
Henry wrapped his arms around both of his mothers, grinning. Although being trapped in a mine with his doctor as his mothers set aside differences in order to get him out was not his original plan, it worked just as well.
Regina, ever the overprotective parent, was firmly against a celebration at her home with various citizens of Storybrooke, but the look on Henry's face got her to allow him to stay up past his bedtime. The two mothers and their son treated themselves to Henry's choice of dinner and events: pizza, a trip down to the ice cream shop, and a night of Marvel movies.
Throughout the course of the evening, Emma found herself falling into a sort of routine with Regina. Regina had allowed Emma to place the order while Regina showered for the evening. Emma had known to order Regina's half of the pizza with spinach and feta while Emma and Henry shared a meatlovers. But it wasn't just her own actions that spooked her. During ice cream, Emma had dug into her cone of maple walnut and effectively managed to get an ice cream mustache and then some.
Rolling her eyes, Regina had muttered, almost affectionately it sounded to Emma, "Must you eat like a barbarian?"
Emma inhaled sharply when Regina wiped Emma's face free of ice cream. Regina noticed the intimate gesture and quickly pulled her hand back and engaged Henry in asking how he enjoyed his cone. Emma had no idea what to think of that gesture.
Now the three were situated on the couch in front of Regina's expanse television with Henry stretched out comfortably between his mothers, his head leaning against Regina with his legs stretched over Emma's lap. They were halfway through the second X-Men movie when Regina noticed Henry's eyes drooping.
"Is it someone's bedtime?" Regina whispered to him softly.
Emma chuckled when Henry tiredly shook his head. She gently lifted up his legs and bent over to lift him. "I'll take him up."
Regina nodded her gratitude as she watched Emma carry their son up the stairs. She stood up, sighing at the mess of popcorn her son and her wife – correction, ex-wife – had made. The mess brought back to mind the slip up she had done at the ice cream shop. She only wiped Emma's mouth clean because it was disgusting to look at. That was all. If she was truly honest with herself, it was far too easy to slip back into a couple with Emma. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't hear Emma enter the living.
"Trying to get me to leave?" Emma teased motioning to the noticeably cleaner room.
"I'm trying to avoid watching the movie while sitting in a pig sty," Regina answered smartly with her infamous smirk.
Emma pressed her lips together suppressing a chuckle and began to pick up the pop cans that Regina surprised everyone by allowing them to drink and put on her mahogany coffee table without coasters.
"Oh? You're cleaning now?" Regina teased. "I must have trained you well."
"Well, I learned from the best." Emma grinned and placed the cans in the empty bowl Regina was carrying into the kitchen but missed the grin on Regina's face as she walked away.
Regina found Emma sitting on the couch, sipping on a cola that was still half full and fully engrossed in the movie.
"You're staying," she said in surprise.
Emma looked up with the can halfway to her lips. "Unless you want me to leave."
"I just assumed that once Henry was in bed you'd want to leave," Regina explained as she took a seat on the opposite end of the couch.
Emma's face scrunched as if trying to figure out her words. "I almost lost Henry today. I'd like to stay."
After living with Regina for nearly ten years, Emma was an expert in the minute subtle expressions of Regina Mills. She noticed her expression softening as if wanting to tell her something, but instead Regina just nodded.
They relaxed into the couch staring at the TV in companionable silence, neither truly watching. It was true the two women were at each other's throat just the previous night, but almost losing their son created a silent agreement that they would be civil towards each other. Apparently to Regina Mills and Emma Swan, civil meant flirtatious comments, teasing insults and lingering looks.
Emma kept stealing glances over at the woman on the other end of the couch and would turn back to the TV when Regina would catch her, which was every time. Regina just smirked at the blonde who was acting like a pre-pubescent boy on his first date. Which this was not. They were just two divorcees watching a movie on civil terms.
"You know I don't have cooties," Emma said some time later. "You can sit near me."
"So you can yawn and drape an arm over me?" Regina retorted.
"Hey, if it works," Emma grinned, appreciating the light banter the two women were currently engaging in.
"Which it never did."
"I got you to marry me, didn't I?"
Regina eyed the blonde with a critical eye, wondering what she was getting at. "Yes."
Emma turned back to the TV, closing her eyes and kicking herself in the head. She had a chance and she blew it. Better not risk her chances of being kicked out prematurely, Emma thought. Out of the corner of her eye, Emma saw Regina scoot a little inward, closer to Emma. When Emma raised her eyebrow in amusement, Regina simply replied with, "You have the throw blanket."
Emma smirked and moved closer to Regina throwing the blanket over both of their laps.
When Henry awoke the next morning, he was disappointed at finding an empty kitchen, but was delighted when he peaked into the living room and saw his sleeping mothers nestled together on the couch.
Chapter 3: Ache
Needless to say, Emma had decided on staying in Storybrooke for a while. Maybe even permanently as Henry had suggested on an almost daily basis. Henry's eleventh birthday was right around the corner, and Emma had no problem in staying an extra few weeks to hang out with her kid. But of course, there was the matter of Regina.
Regina had not forbidden her from seeing Henry, that wasn't the case. The problem was that she had no idea what to think of their mending relationship. It was two weeks back when Emma and Regina stayed up after the mine incident, and the pair found themselves cuddled together on the couch in their sleep. Regina had her head pressed against Emma's chest as Emma leaned into the length of the armrest in her sleep, an arm draped protectively over the brunette. The clutter of dishware as Henry tried to silently pour himself a bowl of cereal woke the sleeping pair, and upon realization of their scandalous position, pulled apart as if either woman was on fire. No words were said as Regina quickly made her way to the kitchen to help her son fix a proper breakfast while Emma lingered confused in the hallway.
Ever since then, Henry had made a valiant effort to treat his mothers as if they weren't separated by making comments on how they were constantly making googly eyes at each other and that it was okay if they wanted to hold hands in front of him, he didn't mind. However, both Regina and Emma made it a point to keep things between them separate, with Emma extending her room stay at Granny's and Regina allowing Emma to drop off and pick up Henry from school. But the clever boy had his own plans.
A week prior to Henry's birthday party, he had requested his mothers to work together in order to plan the festivities. Regina and Emma working together very rarely worked out, but it was their son asking it of them, and for his birthday no less, that the women, who were working very hard at avoiding each other, found themselves sitting in a booth at Granny's on Regina's lunch break, planning their son's party.
"Why does there have to be a theme?" Emma asked for the third time.
"So that the decorations and cake and lootbags will match," Regina answered exasperated. "This is why I always planned his birthdays."
"I thought you planned them because you were a control freak," Emma said with a smirk as she popped a French fry in her mouth.
"I planned them because you are incompetent. Now pay attention."
"Well aren't you two just a beautiful couple," Ruby smirked as she set down a large apple pie topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.
"Miss Lucas," Regina began in her cold tone that let everyone know the recipient of her talking to was in big trouble. "Not only are Miss Swan and I not a couple, but we did not order this, so I suggest you take it and get back to your job."
Emma stifled a chuckle as Ruby just grinned at the mayor and said, "I know, but you two always liked it, plus it's on the house."
With a sway of her hips, Ruby walked away with the empty dishes of their booth. Emma shrugged looking at the pie and forked a piece into her mouth.
"What?" Emma said muffled, pie crust peeking out from her mouth from the rather large bite. "It's good."
Regina rolled her eyes as she opened up a fully stocked binder which included various cake designs, themes, and even ads and postings of entertainment. She glared when she heard Emma's laugh. "What now, Miss Swan?"
"Seriously?" Emma asked, scooping up whipped cream on her finger and licking it. "It's an eleven-year old birthday party, not a debutante ball. Buy a cake, set up some streamers and let the kids go wild in the backyard."
"Forgive me for wanting my son to have the best," Regina argued as her craving got the better of her and she too began picking at the apple pie.
"Sure, he should have a good party, but is a petting zoo, clown and Hulk impersonator all really necessary for an eleven year old birthday party?" Emma argued, pointing out various ads.
Regina scooped some pie and whipped cream onto a spoon and ate it before answering. She licked a stray of whipped cream from the corner of her lips, and Emma was quick to notice. "Perhaps you have already forgotten, but I've come to an understanding that time with Henry is precious, and I plan on throwing him a perfect birthday party whether you want to help or not."
"You're right," Emma conceded.
"When am I not?" Regina smirked.
Emma rolled her eyes and effectively battled Regina's spoon for the last bite of pie. Smirking with the apple and crust positioned on her fork, Emma made a show of putting it in her mouth. That is she would have if Regina hadn't quickly leaned over the table and engulfed Emma's hard-fought treat in her mouth with a victorious grin. "Thank you for lunch, Ms. Swan."
Regina stood and exited the diner as Ruby came by with the bill.
"Shut up," Emma growled as she opened her wallet while the waitress stood there, grinning knowingly.
Emma knocked on Henry's door a few hours before the party only to find the boy still in bed with his palms cradling his head. "Hey, kid. What's wrong?"
She set his carefully selected present on his nightstand and sat beside her son feeling his forehead. He winced when light seeped into his hand-created cave of darkness.
"Just a migraine," he moaned bravely, but his mother knew otherwise.
She kissed his forehead and rested her head beside his. "Wait here. I'm gonna call your mom up."
"No!" Henry winced at his own sudden movement. "I'm feeling better."
Emma raised an eyebrow, clearly not believing him.
"Honest, I am. Too much candy, I guess."
"Candy wouldn't give you a migraine, and I know your mother wouldn't allow you candy just yet," Emma reasoned, but she sighed when Henry gave his infamous puppy dog look. "Fine, but I am not responsible for what happens to you if and when Regina finds out she wasn't notified."
He grinned toothily, albeit, painfully as he hugged his blonde mother. "So what did you get me?"
Emma grinned and sat back down on the bed, handing the poorly wrapped present to Henry. "Maybe you should wait."
Before she could finish her sentence, Henry tore through the wrapping paper and his once pale face instantly brightened when he spotted the walkie talkies through the protective plastic covering. "Cool!"
"I figured we could use them so we know when to meet up at our secret castle," she conspired in a whisper.
"Thanks!" Henry wrapped his arms tightly around Emma's middle and felt the kiss she had dropped on his hair.
"Thanks for having the kids over, Regina," Michael said as he snacked on some hors d'oeuvres, courtesy of Regina, while also picking up a pizza slice, which Emma had convinced her to get since kids wouldn't want to eat mini quiches all day.
"My pleasure," Regina said, giving the mechanic only half of her attention. The man was tolerated, but Henry enjoyed the company of his twin son and daughter, so they were, of course, on the top of the invite list.
Regina remained silent as she watched Henry, Nicholas, Ava and various children from Henry's class run around the backyard playing a small game of soccer. Halfway through, Emma had come into the game challenging the children to face her, and Regina rolled her eyes with an amused grin as she watched Emma looking ridiculous against the child sized soccer net.
Henry groaned as Emma taunted him at his attempt to score on her, but Regina found herself truly smiling while watching her son enjoy himself. Slipping out of its own accord, Regina began cheering. "Run, Henry! Score on her!"
Emma straightened from her goalie position and looked at Regina in amusement. "Are you cheering against me?"
"On the contrary, I'm cheering for our son," Regina answered, not noticing she had stated Henry as theirs.
Apparently Emma caught on to this and stared at Regina. Henry took the opportunity to score against his blonde mother, jumping up and cheering with his friends. Emma, shaken from her daze, looked on at the celebration then turned back to Regina. "You did that on purpose."
Regina smirked before Emma turned to the group of kids, pumping them up for the upcoming reptile man and his scaly friends. It was Michael's voice that brought Regina back to the present. "When did you two get back together?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Michael immediately hesitated and wondered if his eyes deceived him. He, along with many other Storybrooke citizens had noticed the usually rigid mayor was happier, albeit more tense at the same time, ever since the blonde bombshell came back into her life. "You and Emma, you are back together, right?"
Picking up the hors d'oeuvres tray that Michael was using frequently to refill his plate, Regina said a simple, "No." and walked away.
"Hey," Emma greeted, finding Regina in the kitchen getting ready to bring out the cake. Regina made a noise of acknowledgement as she carefully placed the eleven candles on the Iron Man cake in a decorative fashion.
Emma opened the fridge and pulled out a chilled water bottle and began to drain it. With a smack of her lips, Emma placed the bottle on her warmed flesh on her collarbone and relaxed as her temperature dropped from all the running she was doing with the kids. It was an action Regina was fully aware of but made careful work not to be caught ogling. Instead, she headed for her go-to response: an insult. "Must you wear a tank top to your son's birthday or is it in your nature to always look indecent?"
"Good try, Madame Mayor," Emma smirked. "I see you checking me out. By the way, what's up with Henry? He seems more sluggish than usual."
Regina tensed as she lit the last of the candles. The thought of her son ill was enough to send her nerves into a frenzy. "He's not particularly interested in sports, if that's what you're asking, though he did manage to score on you several times."
"I let him."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night, dear." She lifted the cake effortlessly on her forearms and left the kitchen with an amused Emma at her heels.
The smile on Henry's face was worth all the hours Emma had to endure with Regina as they planned, or rather butted heads planning his party. If she was honest with herself, the time spent planning wasn't terrible, in fact she found them amusing, but the truth of the matter is that Emma Swan is not honest with herself. She watched as his classmates and parents who had chosen to stay joined in on singing happy birthday while Regina kissed him happily on the cheek. Neither woman joined in on the singing, Emma watching contently while Regina scurried to get the cake plates ready to serve.
The cake itself was beautiful, even for a superhero cake. Made by the best baker Storybrooke had to offer, Ms. Ginger, the cake was vanilla with a fudge middle, Henry's favourite, while it was frosted in white buttercream with Iron Man red and yellow accents and insignias throughout. The beautiful cursive written on top read "Happy birthday Henry!" with an odd spot of red just over the last half of Henry's name. Emma winced seeing the stain, scoffing and inwardly making jokes about how Ms. Ginger's treats are to die for, as Regina so dramatically put it. The lady couldn't even clean up the food colouring properly. Then she noticed another drop had fallen just under the cursive. Squinting, she looked up at Henry whose nose had started to bleed, dripping on the cake.
"Oh my God, kid," Emma rushed forward grabbing the napkin out of a parent's hand and pressed it against his nose.
The surrounding children made sounds of disgust and disappointment as they slowly began to realize that they would not be able to have cake. Seeing the children back away from Henry and Emma, Regina dropped the plastic cake plates to the ground and gasped as she saw the blood leak through the napkin. She rushed to get Henry out of the room, asking him questions of what happened and who did it, leaving Emma to stand alone in a room full of parents and children.
She chuckled awkwardly, "Well, thanks for coming."
Three days later, Henry lay in his room looking at a comic to appear busy. Emma had confessed that Henry had a migraine on the day of his party and wasn't up to it which gave Regina the motive to drag Henry to every doctor to make sure he was fine. For two nights, he could hear his mothers arguing in hushed whispers about whether Regina was going overboard with his health. Kids got headaches and nose bleeds. It happens.
It was the third night, or late afternoon rather, that Henry heard the door open and close. It was precisely 4:30 PM, and Regina would make her way to his room to check his homework and to get started on dinner. He heard her knock on the door, but when he turned he was pleasantly surprised to find Emma behind his brunette mother as well.
"Feeling better, kid?" Emma asked.
"Good," Regina said, grabbing his jacket off of his coat rack, "because we have a surprise for you."
"You do?" Henry asked skeptical. "Both of you?"
Emma laughed, "Told you he wouldn't believe us."
"Put your coat on, it'll be brisk where we're going." Regina replied, ignoring Emma's remark. Henry eagerly jumped up out of bed and slipped on his jacket.
After a brief argument over which car to take, Regina refusing to climb into Emma's hideous barely running yellow bug, and Emma pointing out the Mercedes fits only two comfortably, Henry was seated in the backseat of Emma's car as she drove down the path which lead to the mine Henry got himself trapped in. He hid his smile when he heard his brunette mother mumbling about letting Emma walk next time as she wiped down the dust from the door and dashboard and scowled as Emma hit a particularly large pothole in the ground.
"So," Henry leaned forward in his seat, "where are we going?"
"Patience is a virtue, Henry." Regina reminded.
Emma stopped the bug near the bottom of a hill and motioned for Henry to follow her and Regina. He eagerly took hold of both mother's hand and pulled them up the hill, his mind forming as to what the surprise could be.
And he was right.
Under the lone oak tree sat a generic red and white checkered picnic blanket with a basket holding it down.
"No way!" Henry exclaimed as her rushed to their spot. "How'd you guys know?"
"A special boy like you deserves a special treat," Regina answered and ruffled his hair as she kneeled down on the blanket.
Emma sat cross-legged, zipping her jacket all the way up. "It was your mom's idea."
"But Emma planned it and set it up," Regina was quick to compliment.
Both women widened their eyes as they noticed Regina had moved from calling Emma the formal Miss Swan. Clearing her throat, Regina pulled out of the basket a selection on Henry's favourites, and to top it all off, a thermos of Granny's famous hot chocolate.
"This is even better than the party," Henry said excitedly. He looked up meaningfully at his moms. "Thanks."
"Anything for the birthday boy," Emma grinned and playfully nudged him.
"But as an extra special treat," Regina said and removed a cupcake version of Henry's party cake with a ridiculously large number 11 candle sitting on top of it, "you may eat your birthday cake before dinner."
Henry beamed as Emma leaned over to light it, covering the candle with her palm to protect it from the light breeze that had picked up. She caught Regina's eye and together, the women began a quiet but meaningful happy birthday to the boy that brought so much joy in their lives. "Make a wish."
He shut his eyes tight and thought of the one thing he wanted most in the entire world. He blew out the candle with a grin.
"So Henry," Regina removed the topper and handed the cupcake to her son, "what did you wish for?"
He took a big bite of the cake, fudge smeared over his top lip. "Not telling. I want this one to come true."
The picnic went off without a hitch. The hot chocolate kept the family warm, and Henry regaled the two women with stories about school or his friends or tales he had created in his mind. It seemed like their not so little boy contained quite the imagination. Every so often, Regina and Emma would engage each other in genuine conversation about work or their everyday lives when they forgot they were supposed to be mad at each other. Henry didn't mind one bit.
When the leftovers were packed and the last chocolate mustache wiped clean from faces, the family began packing up. Regina grabbed the basket and went ahead to the death trap of a car while Emma and Henry stayed to fold the blanket.
"So if you were busy planning this all day, what do you do every other day after you drop me off?" Henry asked, holding the length of the blanket as Emma walked towards him to fold it in half.
She chuckled when she revealed her answer. "I've been down at the station helping Graham with odd jobs. I need something to do before your school lets out."
"Why don't you just become his deputy?"
"I was Sheriff before him," Emma wrinkled her nose, folding the blanket another time. "That'd be like a demotion."
"You get paid." Henry said obviously.
Emma laughed draping an arm around her son as they walked back to the car.
On her way to drop off the basket, Regina's trip was interrupted by the sound of her cell phone. Archibald Hopper. Concerned, Regina answered promptly.
"Madame Mayor? We need to talk."
Chapter 4: Broken
Henry's walkie talkie crackled to life a little while after he was done his homework. He had been in an exceptionally good mood since his surprise birthday picnic, and even though he was feeling a bit under the weather, the memory alone of his family reunited under the oak tree made him feel that much better. He pushed away from his desk and leapt over his bed to retrieve the gift from a safe box under it.
"Kid," Emma whispered like a secret agent, which did nothing but make Henry shake his head at his foolish mother. "Come in, kid."
"Hey." Henry whispered back.
"Meet in ten minutes. You know where." With that, the crackle of the walkie talkie died as Henry shot up from his bed and made a mad dash for the door.
Emma waited at their castle with two hot chocolates in hand. She sipped one and allowed the other to warm her hand from the chill the dying winter was producing. The sound of gravel crunching sliced through the air, and soon enough, Henry was running to their castle and dropped down beside her.
"I called you eight minutes ago, were you excited or something?" Emma teased as she handed her son the chocolate and cinnamon concoction.
"It's just nice to see you so often again," Henry explained truthfully, sipping his drink.
Emma noticed the perspiration forming on Henry's forehead and neck and laughed. "Well, don't worry because I think I may be here a while."
The joy on Henry's face was priceless, and it almost broke Emma's heart that it took something as simple as staying to lift up his spirits. "Really?"
She nodded happily.
"So you and Mom . . .?" Henry asked obviously.
"Are still apart," She answered pointedly. "But we're good. I hope. She's letting me take you for the rest of the day as long as you're home in time for bed."
"It's a start," Henry said swinging out his legs. "But I think you should ask her out on a date. She doesn't get out much ever since . . ."
Henry let his sentence draw out as Emma closed her eyes with a chuckle. It's true that she and Regina had been on better terms since the mine incident and downright close to friends since Henry's birthday. Flirtatious friends, Emma snorted to herself. Sure, she had thought about getting back together with Regina once or twice, or every other day if she was honest, but she knew Regina, and Regina would never take her back.
Henry knew his mothers better than they would like to admit, and currently, he could see the conflict clouding Emma's eyes. Sometimes it was frustrating to have to be the mediator between the two. All they needed was a swift kick in the behind to show them what they really wanted, and Henry gladly took it upon himself to be that kick. "She would like it."
"Well, the last time I was eating out with your mother, she stuck me with the bill, so date accomplished." Emma said into her drink.
"Yeah, and you bought her pie, right?" Henry smiled relaying the conversation he had had with Regina about how the party planning was going.
"I didn't buy it, she stole the last –" Emma squinted. "How do you know?"
Henry simply shrugged. "She told me."
So Regina had enjoyed their little lunch, had she? Enough to regale Henry with a story of putting Emma in a positive light? Emma internally groaned. That woman and her mixed signals. Shaking her head, she hopped off of the castle and offered her hand to her son. "Come on, kid. There's lots of fun to be had."
Regina hung her head over her office desk, wiping away the tears that stained her cheeks and breathing heavily from the sobs that currently wracked her body. With great strength, she straightened and nursed her second apple cider. Today had been a particularly hard day. There were no unusual disruptions at Town Hall, the laws she had pushed for were being accepted, and she had received a call from Ms. Blanchard stating that Henry had been nominated for a prestigious award at school. The day had run smoothly, but it was the thought of what today was that broke Regina down. Two years ago to date was the day she had found out about Emma's infidelity. A betrayal like that lingered deep in the soul, and Regina was quick to shut herself off from the world and escape through any means necessary.
By the time she had gotten off the phone with Dr. Hopper an hour earlier, she was in sore need of a drink. Unfortunately, Henry was due back from his day with Emma soon, and having anything stronger would tarnish the image of the respectable and feared woman she tried so hard to maintain. She gulped down her drink and was already pouring herself a third when she heard the front door open.
There was no ruckus, and since it was just passed 9:30, Regina was right to assume that Emma had allowed herself and a sleeping Henry into the house and was putting him to bed right away. She sat on the couch, leaning her arms on her knees trying to wipe the weakness away from her face. God, she hoped Emma would just yell a quick goodbye and leave. She was the last person Regina wanted to see right now.
The thought about Emma Swan brought about another round of sobs. She was sad and hurt by Emma, and she was sad for Henry having to go through what he did. Inhaling deeply in an attempt to quiet her tears, Regina leaned towards the coffee table to grab her much needed drink.
"Regina?" Regina closed her eyes, pausing with the drink to her lips as she felt the blonde come into her study. She immediately felt the couch shift as Emma sat beside her, a hand on Regina's knee and worry in her eyes. "What's wrong?"
Taking a large gulp and tilting her head in an attempt to subtly wipe the smearing mascara from her face, Regina spoke in a tone meant to sound venomous but came out as vulnerable. "What do you care, Ms. Swan?"
Emma raised an eyebrow, took the glass from Regina's hand and put it on the side table furthest from her. "We're back to formalities now?"
Regina scoffed and moved to grab the cider bottle. She scowled and glared when Emma took that from her too.
Emma searched Regina's eyes and grabbed her hand, holding it tighter still when Regina attempted to forcibly remove it. Keeping her stare, she whispered sorrowfully. "I know."
The widening of Regina's eyes for the briefest of moments would have been missed if Emma had not been so attentively looking at her. "What do you know?"
"I know that today sucks," Emma said, hoping to convey her meaning without bringing up the event in question.
Regina seemed to relax and laughed coldly, though not at Emma. "You have no idea."
"Regina," Emma said softly, tilting the brunette's chin to make her face her. "We can talk."
Regina closed her eyes as a tear trickled down her cheek. She relaxed instantly when she felt Emma's thumb wipe the offending tear. "What's wrong?"
Regina leaned into Emma's palm and revealed her red-rimmed eyes. "You."
She felt Emma tense and quickly shook her head. "Do you have any idea how much energy I spend being mad at you when all I want is for you to tell me it's going to be okay?"
Emma inhaled sharply allowing Regina to continue. "I've been a mess ever since you left, ever since I made you leave, and the only person I know who can provide me comfort and safety is the one person I'm furious with."
Emma leaned closer still, her heart throbbing in her ears as she heard Regina's unsaid message: Regina still loves her. Emma knew that if it wasn't for the stronger than natural cider, Regina would never admit to her feelings, so Emma gave a silent thanks to whoever taught Regina to make the infamous drink, for if it weren't for the cider loosening Regina's inhibitions, Emma would not have had the courage and confirmation to tilt Regina's chin up, move her head closer, and capture her lips in a gentle yet meaningful kiss.
A moment passed of Regina not responding, and then another one, and when Emma was sure she had read the signs wrong and attempted to pull away, she felt Regina's hands, one clutching the collar of her blue jacket and the other pulling her in by the back of the neck,
Regina kissed her deeply, a desperate, needy kiss, a kiss that made her want to feel something. And feel something she did when Emma nibbled on Regina's bottom lip enough to make her gasp and pull Emma on top of her in an attempt to get closer. Regina moaned when Emma trailed her hand down the mayor's torso and allowed a few fingers to play with the exposed flesh at her midsection. The contrast of the ever soft touch and the ferocity of the kiss was enough to make Regina call do-over on their divorce.
It was Regina who deepened their kiss, swiping her tongue across the blonde's bottom lip demanding entrance, which she so readily gave. Emma sucked on her tongue, flicking it with her own, heightening Regina's senses. God she had missed this. She missed making Regina desperate, and she missed being the only one who could satisfy her need. She had wanted to kiss Regina and beg her to take her back the second she stepped back into Storybrooke, but she was sure the brunette wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. The past few weeks progressively changed her mind, but this, Regina shoving her tongue down Emma's throat in an attempt to get as close as possible, this was the confirmation Emma needed that she still had a place in the mayor's heart.
Emma grinned against the lobe of Regina's ear when she pulled away from the kiss and heard the desperate whimpering of the brunette below her. She peppered kisses just under Regina's ear knowing very well how sensitive the mayor was when she did that. So she did it again, licking, nipping and kissing as Regina dug her nails into Emma's back and dragged them down. The blonde leaned back groaning delightfully and stared down at the woman below her. Their breath mingled in the space between them, and their eyes were darkened by lust.
God, she's beautiful, Emma thought, removing her hand from under Regina's shirt where it had automatically traveled to her breast and caressed away the few tears that still lingered there. Sad, happy, furious, or Emma's personal favourite, thoroughly had, Regina was beautiful always, so Emma made a promise to herself, as she leaned in closer to the mother of her child, that she would win Regina back.
Regina, however, had other plans. When she felt Emma's hand caress her face for a second time that night, she knew she couldn't let herself fall too deep again. She couldn't bear the thought of losing another person, let alone the same person twice. So instead of meeting Emma halfway when she lowered her head to resume like she so badly wanted to, she sat up and gently pushed a very confused looking Emma away.
Emma froze, unsure what to do as the mayor stood and fluffed out her mussed up hair and pulled down her skirt that inevitably got hiked up. Finally, Regina turned to face Emma, looking as cold and professional as the first time Emma met her. "It's getting late, Ms. Swan. I think you should go."
Embarrassed, confused and more than a little angry, Emma instantly felt as if a bucket of cold water had been doused on her, and it had in the form of Regina. She nodded curtly and stood. "Sorry to keep you up so late, Mayor Mills."
Regina didn't move from her place in the middle of the room as she watched Emma storm out of her study and fiercely slammed the front door. She closed her eyes, sagging against her desk. It had to be done, she poorly tried to convince herself. She couldn't lose any more people.
Living in a small town like Storybrooke where the biggest thing to happen in the history of the town was a fire in Town Hall where the newly appointed Sheriff rescued the diligent mayor more than ten years ago was pretty dull. A dart board was installed in the Sheriff station a few weeks before that historic fire when Emma had become Sheriff and discovered she had too much time on her hands waiting for someone's cat to get stuck in a tree. Emma had a decent throw, nothing compared to the level of skill Graham had at it, but above average nonetheless. However on this particular morning as she threw the dart with more ferocity than needed, she found she could stand up to Graham and challenge him as she kept hitting the red bullseye.
"Did you have a go at Regina?" Graham walked into the station carrying a box of donuts and two coffees.
Emma's eyes narrowed at the sound of the name. She released the dart. Bullseye. "Why do you say that?"
"I've been working with you for years, Emma." Graham said as he gathered the darts firmly embedded on the board and walked over to his blonde friend. "You play well when you're angry, and you're a damn professional when it's at Regina. What happened this time?"
She scoffed as she dropped into a chair and grabbed a bear claw. "Nothing."
He raised an eyebrow, clearly disbelieving.
Emma swallowed the pastry and leaned forward in her chair. The memory of the kiss lingered in her mind along with the aftermath. She could have sworn Regina wanted more too. Regina's indecisive teasing made Emma's blood boil. "Did she forget everything that happened between me and her before I moved out? Did she just totally erase from her mind every memory I was in? She can be such a cold-hearted bitch who's mean and rude and ugh! She drives me crazy!"
"But you love her," Graham said obviously and casually, biting into a donut of his own as he sat adjacent to his former boss.
Emma gnawed at her bear claw. "I didn't say that."
"You don't have to."
"You know what? I have been happy living on my own, doing the dishes when I want to, having an exciting career and not giving a damn about proper etiquette. There's so many rules with her and I'm too tired to keep up with them." Emma ranted, waving her arms animated.
"Is that why you're staying?" Graham asked.
"I'm staying for Henry."
"That may be so, but it's not uncommon to see you and Regina alone together or you staying longer at the mayor's house more than just dropping off Henry." Graham pointed out.
Emma stood up, pacing back and forth and having an internal conflict in her head. Finally she stopped and stood in front of Graham. "I kissed her the other day."
Graham leaned forward with a grin. "And?"
Emma rolled her eyes at the man. "And she kissed me back, and she really enjoyed it, and then nothing."
"You're upset she didn't take you to bed?" Graham asked amused.
"No," Emma glared. "She pushed me away and got really cold and indifferent and that was it. She's been avoiding me for a week, and I literally only see Henry to walk him to school and back."
Graham started to laugh. Emma crossed her arms not amused by the unexpected response. "You are acting like such a woman."
"I am one," Emma said aggravated.
"And so is she," Graham explained. "You hurt her, Emma. Not only that, you embarrassed her, the mayor, in front of her entire town. She's not going to want to be anything serious with you if there's a possibility that you're just going to hurt and leave her again. She's taking it easy on you, if you ask me."
Emma paused, soaking in what he had just said. She knew she had hurt Regina by her actions, but she never fully comprehended just how much that hurt extended. For the first time in two years, Emma was able to feel what Regina was feeling. Betrayed, abandoned, and made to feel worthless by the person she loved and displayed for all to see.
Loosening his suddenly uncomfortable tie, Graham sat up, looking seriously at Emma. "You've no idea what she was like when you left. She was holding on by a string, and the only reason she was able to make it through was because of the son you both brought into this world."
Emma knew she didn't deserve a second chance, but she was known for her stubbornness, that's how she got Regina to go out with her in the first place. Winning her back would take far longer than expected. She held herself, significantly calmer and dropped down into her rolling chair. "How do I make it better?"
"Talk to her," Graham coughed out, reaching for his coffee to ease the burn in his chest and making a mental note to lay off the pastries. "I'm sure she has no idea how you were when you were away."
"I don't think she cares," Emma admitted sadly.
"Of course she does." Graham reached into his drawer pulling out a file folder with only a few loose leafs in it. "She had me find you, but trust me, you are one difficult person to locate."
Emma rifled through the small file, realizing that Regina had found out when she had moved from Storybrooke to Vermont and then Delware, but after that, the files just stopped. Panic settled into Emma as she wondered that maybe Regina had just given up on finding her. Or maybe Emma had tried exceptionally hard not to be found. At precisely 8:15, Henry arrived at the station, jarring Emma out of her thoughts. He looked pale and tired and not his normally cheerful self.
"Morning, Henry." Graham coughed and wheezed trying to take in deeper breathes. "Feeling okay?"
"Are you?" Henry asked as Graham winced in pain and looked uncomfortable.
Emma moved towards him, offering him a glass of water. "Graham? Are you – oh my God, Graham!"
Graham had clutched his chest as his entire body stiffened. Henry backed away terrified as the Sheriff lay on the ground unmoving. "What's wrong with him? Is he okay?"
Emma moved quickly, pushing down the panic and worry as she dialed an ambulance and left her phone on speaker in order to perform CPR on her friend.
Emma shook as she sat in the hospital waiting room. She had been there for hours now, not waiting for news but mourning. A heart attack. A heart attack had captured the life of her friend and former Deputy. She couldn't comprehend how quickly things changed. One moment she was eating a bear claw ranting about the love of her life, and the next minute he's gone. Emma knew it even before the paramedics had entered, and in the midst of the panic, Henry had run off. Must have gotten that from me, she thought dryly.
She inhaled deeply, trying to steady her breathing, when she heard the familiar clicking of high heel shoes. Too emotionally drained, Emma spoke when Regina was close enough. "I don't know where he is."
Emma looked up when Regina hadn't had a snappy remark to say. Instead, she found the brunette with unshed tears looking and feeling quite similar to Emma. "He was my friend too."
Emma stood and engulfed the mayor in a much needed hug for the both of them. She closed her eyes realizing that for all the time she was gone, it was Graham who got Regina through the rough patches, cheered her up when she needed cheering, and was there for Henry in any way he could. That's how he knew so much about Regina and Henry in her absence. Graham was there. Emma wasn't. The thought made Emma guilty so she clutched tighter to her ex-wife.
Both women held each other for another long second before mutually backing away. Emma sniffled while Regina carefully wiped her eyes. "How's Henry?"
Regina's expression changed from mournful to frightened. "Come to the house."
Emma followed Regina silently into the mansion when a blur pushed the two women together in a desperate hug. Henry hid his face in between his mothers and cried, "Please don't leave."
Emma unraveled herself from Henry and crouched down, wiping his tears in the same fashion she had wiped Regina's. "I'm not going anywhere. I promised, remember?"
Regina looked up when Archie stepped out of the living room. They made eye contact and Regina closed her eyes in a defeated nod.
"I saw the Sheriff, he was dead," Henry bawled. "I don't want to be like that."
Emma hugged her son to her chest, his body burning up, probably due to all the crying. She could understand the fear Henry felt, witnessing the death of a friend, especially at such a young age. It was traumatizing, and she couldn't blame the kid for freaking out. Clutching him so tightly, Emma felt him sag into her, as if supporting himself was too much of an effort. "You won't, not anytime soon."
Henry cried harder into her neck.
"Emma?" Archie asked, making his presence known to her for the first time since she stepped into the mansion. "May we have a word?"
Emma chanced a look at Regina who had a single tear running down her cheek. The tension in the air thickened, and Emma knew something was wrong.
Emma and Regina had spent the better part of an hour calming Henry down, and only in Regina's bed would he fall asleep. Emma had attempted to ask Regina why Archie was there and what was going on, but Regina shook her head while looking at Henry. By the time both women were seated in front of Dr. Hopper in their living room, Emma was on edge.
"What's going on, Archie?" Emma asked bluntly.
"First of all, I'm terribly sorry to hear about the Sheriff. I know Graham was a personally good friend to the both of you." Both women nodded. Archie paused and spoke deliberately. "It's about Henry."
Emma saw Regina stiffen and felt cold herself. "What about Henry?"
"About a year and a half ago, Henry was diagnosed with leukemia." He said slowly.
Emma gasped. This had to be a cruel prank. "What do you mean? He's fine."
Archie removed his glasses and wiped his face, clearly troubled himself. "He was, up until a month ago. When he was first diagnosed, Henry did well going through the chemo. He was incredibly strong. But it came back."
Emma looked at Regina, angry that she had kept something this monumental from her. "You can fight it, right? Just put him through another round of chemo?"
Archie nodded, a little too animated for Emma's liking. "That's the plan, he's been maintaining his therapy with me twice a month since he was in remission, but the cancer cells seem to be increasing far too quickly. It's scary for a little boy to be going through something like this."
"Damn right it's scary." Emma practically yelled. She turned to Regina, her glare deathly. "Why the hell couldn't you tell me any of this sooner? He's my son too."
"Not now," Regina muttered, staring at the wall past Archie.
"Children suffering from leukemia have a 90% remission rate, so we're very hopeful for Henry. We want to get him back on his therapy as soon as possible. We've been running tests on him for the past week, and like I've said, we've just noticed an abnormally high cancer cell count."
Emma nodded, rattled and shaken. "Do what you have to do, just make sure he's okay."
Archie nodded and stood. Grabbing his umbrella, he lingered quietly. "I'm sorry you had to find out like this."
Emma stood, pulling at her hair as soon as the doctor had left. This can't be happening. Henry couldn't be sick, he was – her mind raced as she recalled his birthday, his nose bleeding, the migraine, and God, look how thin he was. How couldn't she have known?
She pulled Regina to her feet and pushed her against the wall, the brunette almost letting her, but still maintaining her patented glare. "You hid that from me?! You didn't think it was important enough to pick up a phone and tell me our kid's sick?! What kind of person are you?"
Regina shoved Emma away. "I did call you. Forgive me if running away from your problems is more important than telling your ex-wife and son that you've changed your number. You had three different addresses in the first six months, Emma. I wasn't going to spend my time and energy tracking you down when our son needed me!"
"He needed me too!" Emma screeched. She shook her head, still in disbelief. "No, I saw him the first Christmas, he was fine."
Regina shook her head, tensing at the memories of the fateful day only six months after Emma moved out when the doctors revealed Henry's condition. "We didn't start his chemo until after he returned from visiting you."
"So you made him suffer just so you could keep me out of his life?" Emma's eyes bugged as she pushed her way into Regina's personal space.
She snarled, bumping closer. "I wanted to put him on it the second I found out. He was the one who didn't want to be sick while he was visiting you on the first Christmas he had to be separated. Your son cares so much about you that he didn't want to burden you."
Emma breathed in a shaky breathe, rubbing the back of her hand against her eyes as she thought about her small little nine-year old boy, small and frail from illness, not wanting to upset his mother. "You should have told me."
Regina closed her eyes defeated. "I know, but when he got back, I had to do everything to make him better, and I couldn't travel halfway across the country to bring you home."
Emma paced the room, shaking. "He can't be sick. He's perfect, he's healthy, he's, he's our son, he's fine!"
She shut her mouth and wiped away the tears that seemed to never stop ending. She sat down hard on the sofa when her legs gave way. "Henry's sick." She said still in disbelief. She covered her face in her hands and let out a gut wrenching sob. "Oh God, Henry's sick, and I wasn't there because I'm a coward."
Regina kneeled by Emma pulling her hands away from her face and held them in her own shaking hands. The blonde was usually always the one to stay calm and level-headed, and for the positions to be switched was eye-opening for Regina. The pain Emma was feeling as her body wracked with sobs and her mind filled with self-loathing was the exact same feeling Regina had gone through when she found out about Henry's illness. She gulped and the conflict in her head resigned for the sake of sanity. Henry needed his mothers to be strong, and their strongest was when they were fighting together. Her son, their son, was much more important than their bruised egos, and Regina was going to have to accept that. So as a silent forgiveness, Regina tilted Emma's head up, just as she had done to her several nights past and placed the softest of kisses on her lips. They tasted salt as their tears mingled, and Regina broke the kiss to brush her lips against the blonde's as their foreheads pressed together. "You can be here now."
Like they had done hours earlier, mourning over a lost friend, both women embraced each other desperately, praying for a miracle.
Chapter 5: For the First Time
Emma and Regina lay in the large queen sized bed in the master bedroom, stretched out on opposite sides of an exhausted Henry. Both women were incredibly tired themselves, their emotions boiling at an all-time high, but in the midst of anger, panic and deep sorrow, an understanding and the makings of forgiveness formed between the ex-lovers. No matter how tired either of them was, they both stayed wide awake, their fingers clasped together at the head of the bed and spoke in soft whispers.
"How did you do it?" Emma asked as she stroked back Henry's hair, thin because of the radiation he had undergone.
"Hair grows back, dear. I'm not magic," Regina answered playful and tired.
Her eyes locked on Regina, her expression still understandably fearful. "How did you handle all of this . . .alone?"
Regina's thumb absent-mindedly began stroking Emma's backhand. Regina had mulled over this question in her mind several times, and even once in a while, it kept her awake. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "The time span of you leaving and Henry getting sick was less than a year, and all I knew was that I needed to be strong for him. He looked so helpless."
Emma laid a protective hand over Henry as if that could erase the year of pain he had gone through not just from the emotional turmoil of his warring mothers, but of the battle going on inside his body. Henry needed his mothers' support, and for that to happen, Emma knew she had to completely mend her relationship. Graham's words echoed in Emma's mind.
"Talk to her."
Biting down on the fear of an escalating fight, Emma sat up in bed, removing her hand from Regina's grasp as she used it to prop herself up. "Regina, we need to talk."
She raised an eyebrow as she lay her head down on her arm, facing Emma. "Breaking up with me already?"
"That's the thing," Emma gulped. "Are we back together?"
Regina averted her eyes to Henry. "Henry would be thrilled."
"But would you?"
She looked up, her eyes capturing Emma's. She seemed to almost hesitate before the look of confidence and assurance filled her brown orbs. "Yes."
Emma exhaled a breath she wasn't aware she was holding. Regina smirked. "Then we should get everything on the table. I want us to be good, not just for Henry. For us."
Regina rested her hand over Emma's, adding extra security to their son. She squeezed it for good measure. "Go on."
"About August –"
"I already forgave you." Regina interrupted, sounding on the verge of irritable. Regina did forgive Emma for her actions, yet that didn't mean she didn't hate hearing the man's name.
"Just hear me out." She continued when the brunette nodded. "I could give you a list of excuses to explain myself, but none of that would ever make up for what I did. Being drunk and being in a fight with you doesn't make it okay. I betrayed you, I betrayed your trust, I broke your heart, and I did everything I promised I wouldn't do. But when we got married, I promised you for better or for worse, and I know my promises mean nothing right now, but I will spend the rest of my life proving to you that you are the one I want to be with. I don't know if you're just saying you forgive me for the sake of Henry, that –" Here she gulped at the thought, "God forbid, anything gets worse with him that it'll tear us down again, but I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Regina."
Regina took a minute to stare intently into Emma's eyes. The sting of the betrayal still hurt, and there was no doubt in either of the woman's mind that the pain it caused would lay deep within, but sometimes it was way too hard to give a damn about the ache when the suffering of being separated was far worse. Regina held Emma's gaze as she made deliberate movements, snaking her hand around her neck and revealing a chain she wore in secret. Emma gasped as she saw their wedding band looped through the sterling silver. Emma had convinced herself Regina had pawned it to Mr. Gold or threw it deep into the forest, but there it lay between Regina's breasts, nestled beside her heart. "I guess I couldn't completely let you go."
Regina held Emma's right palm, the warmth radiating from it becoming such a familiar relief and rubbed her thumb over Emma's band. "And I see you haven't let me go either."
The tremendous burden on Emma's shoulders lifted and she instantly felt lighter. "It's impossible to do that."
Henry wasn't surprised when he woke up to a strong arm wrapped firmly around his middle. For a few months after Emma moved out when Regina would cry herself to sleep, he would crawl into his mother's bed and find that Regina had curled an arm around him in her sleep. She told him it was because she liked to keep him safe, but he knew that Regina needed a sense of comfort and stability, and he was glad to fill that void for his mother. He was surprised, however, that the arm wound tightly around him did not belong to Regina, but to Emma.
He sat up slowly as not to wake the blonde, but the movement jarred her suddenly. Not one for early mornings, she took a while to stretch and get her bearings.
"I didn't mean to wake you," Henry said sheepishly. He took a moment to realize that Emma was sleeping in his mother's bed. He suddenly broke into a grin. "You're back together?"
Emma couldn't contain the grin from appearing on her face. Henry sat up and punched the air. "I knew it!"
Emma laughed and sat cross-legged facing her son. She suddenly got very serious. "Why didn't you want me to know?"
He played with his hands in his lap. "Because whenever I got to visit you it seemed like I didn't have it. You weren't babying me and freaking out if I sneezed." He shrugged. "When I got better I just wanted things to get back to normal."
Emma looked at Henry sadly. For such a young boy, he had held back so much just to consider his parents' feelings. He was stronger than she'd ever given him credit for. She wrapped him in her arms kissing the top of his head. "They will be. Now come on and see if Mom made us breakfast."
Henry and Emma travelled down the steps and breathed in the delightful smell of waffles and coffee. Henry couldn't contain his enthusiasm at the newfound knowledge of the reunion of his mothers. He observed them work around each other in the kitchen. Although they weren't overtly intimate, especially in the presence of others, the energy the two gave off was intense. They communicated subtly, using their body language and movement of their eyes to let the other know that they were there.
Henry grinned into his chocolate milk when Regina had placed a platter of waffles and sausage in front of him, and Emma had come just behind Regina, placing a hand on her waist while setting down a bowl of fruit for their son. They glanced at each other in appreciation before they sat down adjacent to each other and began eating. Henry would never admit it, for the sake of his mothers' embarrassment, but he always caught them holding hands under the table. Today, mere hours after their overdue reunion, was no different.
The following week had the family stressed. Not only did Henry begin his first cycle of chemo, but Regina had taken it upon herself to organize the beloved Sheriff's funeral. She wouldn't have gotten through any of it if Emma hadn't been there for her to come home to with half a glass of cider and a warm embrace and then some.
The town had come out in support of Graham Humbert. The news of his sudden death spread like wildfire, and almost everyone had shown up in attendance. Several close friends spoke at his eulogy, the mayor and the former Sheriff included. Regina spoke of his compassion and his support in her greatest time of darkness, while Emma spoke of his friendship and how grateful she and the town were to have had a protector in him. When they finally lowered the casket into the grave, Henry watched stoic and firmly clutched his mothers' hands. Although he had been eerily quiet for the duration of that day, he, along with the rest of his family – he smiled, he could finally call them a family again – gradually began to heal after their loss.
Precisely two weeks after Graham's death, the same two weeks after Emma discovering Henry's illness and his relapse, and two weeks of finally being a couple again, Regina found Emma in the Sheriff station, sorting through any of Graham's belongings.
"Hey," Emma glanced up at the brunette, enjoying the view of her legs under her skirt.
Regina stopped in front of the bent over blonde. "I have an offer for you."
"Always so professional," Emma teased.
"Always so immature," Regina responded smartly. She took a step forward, causing Emma to rise in concern. "You are staying?"
Emma set the hunting magazines on the table, hearing the faintest trace of doubt and vulnerability. "Of course I am. My family's here."
This seemed to relax Regina considerably since she nodded. "Then I was hoping you would fill in as Sheriff." Regina offered the shiny gold badge, and it gleamed in the fluorescent lighting of the station. "You have experience and it was the obvious choice."
Emma took a moment to inspect the badge in Regina's outstretched hand. The last time she had it was when she was setting it on the mayoral desk in Town Hall telling a cold, furious Regina she was resigning. She took the badge and clipped it onto her belt, offering a smile up to Regina.
She grinned professionally and straightened. "Now that that's settled, congratulations Sheriff."
Emma laughed inwardly at the title. Whenever Regina said it like that, it was downright sexy. Her breath hitched when Regina lowered her voice an octave and stepped closer. "Perhaps a celebration is in order."
"What did you have in mind?" Emma's face heated up.
"Surprise me." Regina grinned mere millimetres from Emma's face and turned just as swiftly with a sway of her hips.
Emma watched her go, forcing her body to cool down. Damn that woman and the effect she had on her. Emma grinned. She wouldn't have it any other way.
"I really don't appreciate being blindfolded, Ms. Swan," Regina said for the second time as Emma lead her out of the car. When Emma had mentioned to Henry that she and Regina might have dinner alone that night, he was quick to encourage their date and had even dialed Ms. Blanchard, Emma's former roommate, to babysit. Once Mary Margaret had picked up Henry and had given Emma a few cooking tips, Emma had locked herself in the kitchen attempting to make a home-cooked meal. Dinner packed, Emma drove over to Regina's office, and after much persuasion with a few kisses and purposeful touches here and there, Regina had allowed Emma to blindfold her.
"Just a few more steps." Emma said as she led the brunette to her secret location.
Regina guessed that they had driven to the other side of town given the amount of time spent in the car, but the damp grass she felt under her heeled feet had her confused. She guessed the woods, but it felt as if they were in open space, save for the branch that had just hit her in the face.
"Ow." She said voicing her displeasure.
"Sorry," Emma winced at the same time holding in her laughter.
Regina felt Emma's presence disappear and had a brief moment of hesitation until she heard the blond shuffle a few feet in front of her. "You can take it off now."
Removing the blindfold, Regina's eyes widened as she gazed at the spectacle that was now her backyard. Lights were strewn across the hedges and the top creating artificial starlight, and underneath her beloved Honey Crisp tree was a small patio table with two chairs, dinner and a bottle of Regina's favourite wine. As tacky and cliché as the lights and dinner under the moonlight were, Regina grinned at the effort that Emma had put into it to make the night special.
"We had our first kiss under here," Emma said standing directly under the tree, just off to the side of the patio set. "I thought it would be fitting if we had our first date here, you know, after everything."
Regina couldn't help but laugh. "You drove in circles in an attempt to confuse me, didn't you?"
"Did it work?"
She stepped toward the blonde, invading her personal space as she so loved to do. "For your ego's sake, yes."
Emma pulled out a chair for the older woman to sit and took the one opposite from her after pouring wine for the table.
"You cooked," Regina said sipping her wine.
"I only do that for special occasions," Emma admitted sheepishly.
"Here I thought this celebration was for your new job."
"You can honour me later," she said with a wink. "But this is because I want to do something nice for you."
Regina couldn't contain the smile that was threatening her lips.
Regina arched her back and moaned loudly as Emma brought her to yet another orgasm. She clutched her chest in an attempt to steady her breathing as the blonde kissed her way up the mayor's toned body before indulging in a passionate kiss. Regina hummed her content into the kiss, reliving every moment of the night in vivid detail.
To say the night had been magical would be an understatement. It was everything the couple needed to rekindle their romance and allow each other back into their hearts. Emma's surprise and effort on their second "first date" made Regina feel special and someone worth fighting for. It wasn't as if they had picked up right where they left off before the incident two years ago. On the contrary, dinner involved the couple getting to know each other again and reacquainting themselves with one another. They laughed as they brought up old stories, spoke about mundane everyday things such as work and the fact that Ruby was starting to show more and more skin, and of course, their innuendo-laced banter spiked up both of their desires. It didn't help that the mayor would incessantly rub her foot against the newly appointed Sheriff's leg throughout the night. There was a clear sense of familiarity as the lovers leaned in for a kiss when the dishes were put away, and the kiss had escalated to playful touching, and playful touching had moved into the bedroom.
It was always intense whenever Emma and Regina made love, hell they tore each other's clothes off with their eyes alone whenever one of them was angry, but this time, this time was like the first time. There were no fumbled fingers or awkward movements; there was just passion, need and love.
Emma rolled onto her back as Regina began kissing up and down Emma's neck and torso. Finally, the brunette laid on top of the blonde with her head nestled warmly on Emma's chest. Their fingers found each other, and Regina relaxed, allowing her eyes to drop as the blonde gently ran her fingers through the mayor's mussed up hair.
"I missed this," Emma admitted, playing with a strand of Regina's hair.
Regina laughed heartily as her breathing became more even. "The sex."
Emma snorted and playfully smacked her arm. "This, just being in bed with you."
"Me too," Regina admitted quietly. After a few moments, the mayor lifted her head to lean over the blonde, gazing at her intently. "Are you going to stay?"
She had used the word 'stay' in such an ambiguous term. To some who had known Regina as the strong personality of the mayor, staying would mean to stay the night. But Emma knew better than that. She knew the woman rarely opened herself up to people, and when she did, it was on her terms, hidden behind mixed messages and intent gazes. Emma knew Regina was asking if she was going to stay in her life, for good. No more running, no more being scared. Cupping the mayor's face in her palm, Emma kissed her softly, mimicking the kiss Regina had given to her the night she had discovered about Henry.
"Yes." Her answer was confident and doubtless, making Regina grin inwardly and engulf the blonde in another passionate kiss and effectively made her way down the Sheriff's body.
By the time the women had collapsed from exhaustion late in the late - or rather morning - they wrapped their tangled and satisfied limbs around each other, kissing eye lids shut and renewing promises as sleep overtook them.
Chapter 6: Never Grow Up
The sound of the alarm clock blared at 5:30 in the morning interrupting Emma's sleep. The sun started to peak through their window despite the slight overcast in the July sky. It had been three months since Emma had officially moved back into her house, and despite Regina waking up at the godforsaken hour every morning, except of course when she was thoroughly drained from the night before, Emma still, in all of her twelve years of living with Regina, never got used to that damn alarm clock. She groaned and rolled over, tugging Regina to her as the brunette attempted to rise from bed. "Must you do this every morning?"
"Saturday. No work." Emma said muffled into the brunette's back.
"You must always be on call, Sheriff." Regina had managed to wiggle her way out of Emma's grasp, earning a playful moan from the blonde.
"Not since Ruby's been helping out," Emma yawned.
Regina made a noise of acknowledgement at Emma's part-time deputy. The blonde sat up in bed, reading her body language. "Are you jealous?"
"Of that ridiculous waitress? Of course not." Regina answered much too venomous. She moved near Emma's side of the bed, picking up the clothes the sheriff had removed, obviously too lazy to put them in the proper laundry bin. Emma tugged Regina closer, making the brunette lean her head in to Emma's. "Don't be. You're hotter in your pencil skirts than she is in her booty shorts."
Regina laughed once, hiding the pleased blush forming on her cheeks. "I actually do have to work today, Emma. Council meeting."
"What about Henry's chemo?" Emma asked, sitting up straighter. As much as she hated to admit it, Emma had never taken Henry to any of his therapy sessions. The idea of watching her little boy strapped to IVs with medicine forced through him while in a room with other patients of similar circumstance made Emma's flesh tingle. So she carefully and conveniently avoided the duty up until now it seemed.
"You have to take him," Regina said as she slipped into a silk black robe, preparing to get into the shower. "It's not that scary."
Regina rolled her eyes seeing the blonde still hesitant. "You are able to drop him off and pick him up, you know that?"
"I'm not just gonna leave him there all day when I'm free," Emma cringed inwardly, feeling like a bad parent. She knew that whenever Regina could, she stayed with Henry all day during his therapy sessions, bringing comics and games. However, no matter how many toys or books Regina brought, Henry was just too tired from the treatment to even engage her in lengthy conversation. There were many nights when Regina would come home with Henry after his session looking as pale as their son was. The unspoken possibility that Henry was getting worse hung in the air as the mothers tucked Henry into bed and talked about everything but his illness at night.
"He needs you," was all Regina said when she saw the conflict in the blonde's eyes.
Emma nodded, mumbling a quiet "I know."
After three months of chemo, Henry looked white as snow, incredibly thin as if malnourished and his hair had begun to wane considerably. He began wearing a beanie despite the warm summer temperature, and neither mother questioned why. His skin was extremely sensitive, and even just when his hand was held would it bruise.
He sat in the passenger seat of Emma's bug with his head leaning against the window. There were bags under his eyes from the night chills and fever that sometimes kept him up at night.
Emma glanced over at him while attempting to watch the road. She rubbed the back of his head soothingly. "You know if you ever can't sleep, you can come to our room and hang out with me and your mom."
He shrugged, the offer being said not for the first time. "I slept last night."
Emma raked her fingers through her son's hair once more for good measure and pulled away. When she put her hand back on the wheel, her mouth parted when she noticed a generous clump of Henry's light brown hair in between her fingers. She gasped quietly and looked over at the boy who hadn't felt the noticeable bald spot near the base of his neck. She quickly scraped her hand on her pants as a brief image of a frail, bald, incredibly weak Henry strapped to tubes and machines flashed before her mind. Stop it, she scolded herself. You cannot back out now. He needs you. He is more scared than you are.
Henry was polite as always when the nurse set him up in his usual chair. Emma lingered unaware of what the protocol was for guests.
"Nurse Clemments, this is my mom, Emma." Henry introduced as the nurse inserted an IV into Henry's arm. He didn't even wince. Emma did, however, when she noticed the purple bruise surrounding the needle. No doubt Henry had been pricked far too many times in the same spot.
Nurse Clemments smiled and offered her hand. "Sheriff Swan. I've heard a lot about you. Your son can get quite chatty after his rest week."
Henry's cycle called for therapy three times a week for three weeks with a week for break, and these were the weeks everyone in the family yearned for the most. By mid-week, Henry would be significantly livelier with Regina and Emma catering to his every need. But all he needed was a movie night with his moms, a scary one if he could get away with it, board games and stories to bed.
Emma shook her hand. "Good things, I hope."
"Of course," the nurse nodded. "Feel free to have a seat. The mayor usually sits beside him when she's here, but there is a waiting lounge with a vending machine just down the hall, and washrooms are that way."
Emma had automatically looked where the nurse was pointing, but she wasn't listening to any of her directions. Instead, her eyes scanned the room, noticing the few cancer patients who were mainly children. Some were even younger than Henry, all attached to machines as the kids struggled to battle this disease. What worried Emma the most was that Henry looked to be the worse one. She shook her head, upset at the thought. I'm just thinking that 'cause I'm his mother, she thought. People handle it differently, and that was no cause to be concerned.
"Okay?" Nurse Clemments asked.
Having not heard a word she said, Emma simply nodded as the nurse went to check on other patients. Emma moved the chair to position it facing Henry and sat.
"As exciting as you thought?" Henry teased with noticeably more colour in his cheeks. Though he didn't look it, he was thrilled at having Emma come with him today.
"Oh yeah, it's a real party." Emma winced internally, kicking herself for making a joke, but it made Henry laugh, so why not. She examined the tubes attached to him, making sure they were inserted properly as if she knew what she were doing. Leaning forward, resting her hand on his knee, she asked, "Does it hurt?"
The boy shrugged. "At first, but it's mainly the effects of it that bother me. The nausea sucks."
She couldn't help but smirk at her son's language. "I thought Archie was your doctor."
Henry shook his head. "Just when I was doing maintenance. Mom likes him, so they would bring everything I needed to his office just so I could talk to him."
Emma squinted. She knew it was weird the therapist had suddenly become a cancer expert. Regina must have pulled a hell of a lot of strings to allow Henry the comfort of a non-hospital setting while he was in remission. "What did you talk about?"
Henry looked down, playing with his bony hands. "You. And Mom. The divorce and stuff."
Emma closed her eyes. Of course, he did. In a time when Henry's world was falling apart, he was told that he had a life threatening disease. Adding insult to injury was a bit of an understatement.
"But it's okay now," the boy rushed to clarify. "You and Mom are back together."
She smiled affectionately and stroked his face. "Yes we are."
He nestled comfortably in his seat and relaxed. "So when are you getting married again?"
"I don't know, when do you think?" Emma mimicked her son's position in her own chair.
"You have to propose first," Henry said obviously
"I proposed last time," Emma said in mock defense.
"Do you really think Mom is going to propose?" He asked rhetorically. "She'd just take the ring off her necklace and start wearing it again and assume it meant marriage."
Emma grinned. She was sure Regina had kept that ring secret, but Henry was so observant. Plus, his idea sounded exactly like Regina to just do something and have everyone else react to her action. "You're good, kid."
"Does this mean I can be your ring bearer?" Henry asked excitedly.
An image of a healthy, happy Henry in a tux carrying a pillow with their rings on it brought a giant grin to Emma's face. "Tell you what, as soon as you get better, I'll propose to Mom and you can give us away at the wedding."
Henry's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Really?"
"Really." Emma promised.
An hour into the treatment, Henry began to doze off. Despite their pleasant and humored conversation, Emma couldn't help but get the chills as every so often, Henry would scratch around the area the needle was inserted in, or Nurse Clemments would return seeing his progress. It was a cruel reminder that this was not an average check-up at the doctor's.
When Henry had fallen asleep mid-sentence, Emma removed her sweater and draped it over her shivering son. Even with the wool sweater wrapped around him, he still shook and his forehead produced a thin film of cold sweat. It broke Emma's heart watching him sleep the past few months.
Before when Henry was small and any real or imagined boo-boos threatened the livelihood of her son, a simple kiss would take away the hurt, and Henry would run off like nothing happened. But a kiss wouldn't take it all away now. Oh, how she wished it were that simple, but Emma had never felt so helpless as she watched Henry in that chair.
She stood, thinking a walk would be helpful to clear her thoughts. She kissed his forehead before tucking the sweater tighter around him and promised she would return.
The halls of the ward were uncomfortably bare given the fact that there were so many children passing through. Down the hall, just outside the waiting lounge was a brightly colored cork board with a number of pictures on it. Emma found herself smiling happily. Welcome Home. The board was filled with pictures of children, adults and teens at celebratory parties at their homes or in their hospital rooms. Just looking at all the happy, relieved faces in the pictures made Emma hopeful.
Feeling significantly lighter, Emma continued her walk, passing the front entrance and stopped when another wall caught her attention. This one was bigger than the last, though not by much, but the content ripped the hope from her like a hand pulling her heart out. It was a memorial wall of all those who had passed due to some sort of illness. The pictures themselves were happy with the patient smiling, and in most, they were surrounded by happy family. If it were not for the heading on either board, Emma wouldn't have been able to tell who had died and who had survived. Still, she couldn't prevent the tears from forming in her eyes as she kept seeing cancer as the illness most of the patients had died from.
On cue, Emma's mind had put a picture of Henry right in the middle of the cork board. She loathed herself for easily thinking so negatively about Henry's condition, but she couldn't help it. She was freaking terrified and didn't know how to deal with it. What made matters worse was what Emma overhead next.
Intent on clearing her tears and returning to Henry before he woke, Emma turned but froze when she heard Nurse Clemments say Henry's name to other attendants at the nurse's station just behind the wall Emma was standing by.
"Poor boy," the nurse continued. "I've seen his charts, and it looks like he's getting worse."
Emma held her gasp as not to give away her location but strained to listen for more.
"Do you think it's terminal?" An unknown orderly asked. Hearing no response from Nurse Clemments and the gasp from the woman who had just spoke, Emma could only gravely assume she had nodded her head.
"At least his mothers are both in the picture now," continued the woman. "He can get as much time with them as possible."
Emma released an uncontrollable sob of breath before rushing back to Henry, not caring if the nurses became aware that she had been eavesdropping. She created quite a scene as the other patients looked up to see their sheriff running in with tears streaming down her face and her hands running frantically through her hair. Emma didn't care. She just dropped herself back into her chair and attempted to settle her breathing and relax her thoughts. It was useless.
Regina had noticed the change in atmosphere as soon as she returned home from her council meeting. The air was wrought with tension and fear. Her mind automatically went to a worst case scenario, so she let her briefcase fall where it may and rushed through the rooms in a search to find Emma and Henry. Her breathing evened when she saw Henry lying in her bed, sleeping rather peacefully than he had in a while. What concerned Regina the most was when she found Emma sitting on the floor in Henry's room with piles of pictures and drawings and little knick knacks Henry had made throughout the years surrounding her in a giant mess.
Emma's face was so red from the tears it looked as if she had been burned. Her hair was thrown back into a bun to keep the offending hair from distracting her as she rummaged through pictures and pictures of Henry. She didn't notice Regina stepping into the room. All she could see was the little baby boy in the picture, only a few hours old in her arms with Regina looking affectionately at their baby.
Regina kneeled beside Emma, careful not to step on any of the pictures. She, too, had gone through a similar phase when Henry had had a particularly high fever one night during his very first chemo cycle and was scared for her son's life. She reached for the blonde's hand slowly. "Dear?"
Emma didn't look up. Instead she picked up another picture of four year old Henry brandishing an empty paper towel roll and covered from head to foot in aluminum foil. He wanted to be a knight and had terrorized the puppy Pongo, claiming him to be a dragon in disguise.
Regina squeezed her arm and masked her expression to stay strong. They didn't both need to break down now. "Emma, it will be okay."
"It's not okay!" Emma snapped. Regina withdrew her hand as if she had been burned. "We should have looked deeper into that sperm donor's history. It could have come from him! We shouldn't have picked him. Henry wouldn't be sick now if we didn't!"
Regina remained calm, allowing Emma to stew. She responded easily. "If we didn't pick him then Henry wouldn't be Henry."
A part of Emma's mind knew the logic was sound, but she needed someone to blame dammit. This wasn't fair. Henry didn't deserve any of this. She jumped to her feet, clutching pictures in her hand so fiercely they bent. "But we would have had a healthy son!"
Regina's practised calm mask quickly shattered. She released the sneer before she could control it. "Are you saying you love him less because he's sick?"
"No!" Emma said immediately exasperated. Her hands shook. "No, no he's perfect."
"Then what is your problem?" Regina asked coldly, offended by the blonde's unintended implication.
"He's dying." Emma said bluntly. "Henry's dying and I can't sit here watching my son die. I carried him, Regina. He was with me nine more months longer than he was with you, and I just can't watch him die."
Regina's face hardened, any and all sympathy thrown out the window. "He's not dying, he's just sick, and in case you forgot, Ms. Swan, but you left for over two years. Two years I had him and was taking care of him and dealing with his sickness by myself!"
Emma looked at Regina sorrowfully, her silence saying everything. Regina's eyes flared refusing to believe it. The sheriff released the tension in her hands and smoothed out the picture of Sir Henry. She looked down as she spoke. "I'm sorry, Regina. I don't know how you did it, but I can't. I can't watch as he –"
"Stop it." Regina ordered. Her eyes reflected pain, the same pain she felt when Emma had admitted her secret, the same pain she felt when Henry was diagnosed, but her face was cold and impassive. She took a step back from Emma for the first time in an argument. "You promised. You're acting like he's –"
Regina couldn't finish her sentence and instead shifted gears. "You expect me to feel sorry for you because you got scared?" She laughed. "I was with him every single night he was kept up because of those fevers. I sat in the hospital every single time he was there. I brought him to every therapy session. I watched him lose half of his body weight. I shaved his head, Emma! It's supposed to be scary! When will you decide to grow up and be there for our son?"
Emma couldn't take it. Deep down inside, she knew Regina was right, but it was too overwhelming. She brushed past Regina who grabbed her arm and forced their noses together. "If you leave –"
"Please," Emma begged. "Give me a minute."
An intense stare down later, Regina released Emma feeling the incredible heavy burden fall back on her shoulders as she watched the blonde descend the stairs and exit the house. She hugged herself, allowing a single tear to escape before crawling into bed with Henry, still in her pencil skirt and blazer, and wrapped her arms around Henry's middle.
The sound of the door banging behind her had a harsh tone of finality to it as Emma hugged herself tightly. She was so desperate to leave that she was still only dressed in her thin, beige long sleeve that did nothing to protect her from this particularly cold night. She deserved it, she guessed. She knew she shouldn't be walking out on Henry or Regina, not now, not ever, but she couldn't stop her feet from moving automatically as she found herself outside her old apartment.
Mary Margaret opened the door partially, inspecting who could be knocking on her door rather late in the night, then pulled it open completely when she saw it was Emma, tear stained and looking like a complete mess. Mary Margaret was well aware of Henry's situation, even when he was diagnosed the first time, and finding Emma at her doorstep brought a bout of worry for the student she had grown so fond of.
"Emma," Mary Margaret pulled her in. "Is Henry okay?"
Emma nodded though she knew better. She sniffled and attempted to calm her breathing. "As okay as he'll ever be."
The brunette sat her friend down at the small breakfast table and put the water on for some tea. She sat back down, taking the blonde's hands in hers. "What's wrong?"
Emma's hands shook violently. She couldn't meet her former roommate's eye as she choked out her reply. "I don't know if I can do it."
"Watch him –" the word she wanted to use left a bitter taste in her mouth. "Watch him suffer."
"Emma," Mary Margaret started maternally. "He's your son, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the agony you and Regina are going through right now, but whatever you're thinking of doing, don't."
The blonde removed her hands and rubbed at her face. She rubbed unnecessarily hard, as if punishing herself for being so weak. "And what do you think I'm gonna do?"
"Leave." Mary Margaret said quietly and truthfully.
Emma laid her head against her palm and shut her eyes. True, she had left the mansion in a panicked state, but she hated herself that the thought of getting into her bug and driving as far away as possible crossed her mind once or twice on her walk over to Mary Margaret's.
She opened her eyes and raked her hand through her hair as if contemplating her words. "I wanted to," she quietly admitted. "But I couldn't do that to my family. Leaving when things get hard, that needs to stop for me."
The brunette gave her friend a proud smile. "Then what are you doing here? Regina must be worried sick."
Emma chuckled sadly. "We got into a fight before I left. She probably thinks I'm halfway to Boston by now."
Mary Margaret stood when the water boiled and prepared tea for herself and Emma. Glancing at the clock, she returned with the steaming mugs. "It's late now, but in the morning, go home."
Emma laughed genuinely. "You really want to get rid of me that badly? Let me guess, David's here."
"No," the teacher blushed. "Not tonight. But you clearly need to get this off your chest and you're scared to do it to Regina because she handled it by herself the first time."
Emma was slightly dumbfounded that her friend had hit the nail on the head.
"I know you too well," Mary Margaret said simply when she noted the blonde's expression. She took a sip of her tea then reached over to cover Emma's hand again. "So tell me."
The two old friends talked well into the night, Emma admitting what she had overheard. Tears were shed by both women more than once as Emma poured her soul out to her best friend. She spoke of how guilty she felt about what she did to Regina not too many years ago, how ashamed she felt at running away from Henry's illness and the guilt she was burdened with when she discovered she left her family alone to deal with it. Mary Margaret nodded and provided words of encouragement and advice. She kept the blonde's hand in her grasp throughout the entire conversation until finally Emma's eyes began to droop, and Mary Margaret convinced her to lie on the couch where she had fallen asleep immediately.
Henry woke to find his mother's arms wrapped securely around him. That was strange, he thought. Usually if he slept in his mothers' bed, they would both have an arm over him while he slept warm and snug in between them. He noticed the red staining Regina's cheek and suddenly felt a cold panic. He gently and quietly pulled himself away from his brunette mother and started searching the house for his blonde one. His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach when he inspected the last room and found she wasn't there. He had the sudden urge to throw up, though due to the fact that Emma was gone or that he was just naturally nauseous, he wasn't sure.
She couldn't leave now. Not when he had her back in his life. Not when they were all so happy. He noticed that her bug was still parked in the driveway and let out a breath of relief that at the very least, she was still in Storybrooke. He knew his mothers. If they had fought last night, neither of them would be the first to apologize. So once again, it was up to him to bring his mothers back together.
Despite the warm weather, he covered his entire body in long pants and sweatshirts. He'd never tell Emma or Regina but he felt sad and scared looking at his body, the bones jutting out as if one good fall could break them. He momentarily paused and winced at the discomfort in his chest. It wasn't this bad last time, he remembered. Once the pain simmered to a low numbing, he donned his beanie, took his proper morning medication, and silently escaped the house.
Emma woke to the smell of bacon and eggs, and a brief smile floated to her face as she thought that Regina had kindly made her breakfast in bed. It was the discomfort of the old couch against her back that reminded Emma that she was not home, and even if she were, after last night it would have been terribly unlikely for Regina to forgive her so easily after her meltdown.
"Coffee's on," Mary Margaret said, noticing the blonde awake and setting the plates on the table.
"Thanks," Emma mumbled, stretching her limbs and sauntering over to pour herself a fresh cup.
"Feeling better?" Mary Margaret asked, passing Emma the milk and sugar.
"Yeah, but I've got some grovelling to do," she answered into her mug. Draining half of her coffee in one go, Emma set it down and smacked her lips at the burn. "I appreciate the breakfast, but I should get back home."
Mary Margaret smiled understandingly. "Of course."
She bid her friend goodbye, sneaking a few slices of bacon in her mouth, before opening the door to an unexpected surprise. "Henry?"
He looked out of breath and even paler than usual, but he smiled up at his mother nonetheless. "I looked at the castle first."
She felt his face, and although his panting would indicate he had been walking around Storybrooke looking for her, his face was still unnaturally cold. "Come in first, warm up. How long have you been walking?"
"I didn't want you to leave," he said with the innocence of a child that Emma crouched down looking apologetic.
"I know, but I didn't this time. I stayed like I promised. I just needed to have a talk with Mary Margaret." She kissed his forehead, but when she pulled away, something about him didn't look right. His eyes were too glassy and his breathing was too strained. She needed to get him home in bed right now.
She stood and faced Mary Margaret. "Think I can borrow your car so we don't have to walk?"
The teacher was one step ahead of her and was already placing her keys in the blonde's hand when they heard a loud thump.
Henry was collapsed on the ground.
Chapter 7: Tears in Heaven
Regina was startled awake by the banging of the door. She gasped when she noticed Henry wasn't in the bed, and naturally, her mind wandered to the worst. Little did she know as she rushed down the stairs and flung open the door that her worst nightmare was about to come true.
"Regina, it's Henry," Mary Margaret huffed out of breath from clearly running all the way to her house. "You have to go to the hospital, Emma has him there."
Without a moment's hesitation, she grabbed her keys and pushed the other woman out of her way, not even allowing Mary Margaret to think about getting in the car with her as she sped off towards the hospital.
"Sheriff, you need to calm down," a nurse held a frantic Emma by the shoulders as the blonde tried to push her way into the hospital room where Dr. Whale and other attendants were tending to a still unconscious Henry.
"Calm down? How the hell am I supposed to calm down? My son's in there!" Emma spat.
"I know," the nurse said gently yet professionally. "We're going to do everything we can for him. Please, just take a seat."
Emma was about to yell again when Regina burst through the door. "Where is he? What happened?"
"Mayor Mills, we don't know as of yet, but we will keep you updated." The nurse repeated before making her way into Henry's room, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Regina just glanced at Emma emotionlessly before leaning against a wall, letting her weight collapse against it. Emma remained rooted in her spot, boring holes into the door as if her gaze could somehow open it. After long minutes of silence, she walked the few steps to stand in front of Regina.
"I thought you'd left," Regina said in a flat voice, too worried to sound cold.
"I did," Emma said quietly. "At least I was going to."
"You didn't get very far," the brunette said, looking up to take up Emma's position of staring at the door.
"I managed to clear my head, got my senses knocked into me." Emma answered sheepishly, kicking at the tile with her booted toe and stuffing her hands in her pockets.
As if a magnetic force were at play, both women stared up at each other, finally looking at one another since they both arrived at the hospital. Emma held her breath, waiting to see what Regina's verdict was. Her answer was given in the form of the brunette removing the blonde's hand from her jacket and weaving their fingers together. Her stare remained constant as she gave Emma's hand a reassured squeeze. "About damn time, Swan."
Emma barely had time to process before Regina had slumped her forehead against the sheriff's shoulder. She could hear the mayor's unsteady breathing as she attempted to refrain herself from crying. Just like that, the roles were reversed. Emma readily took the reins and immediately wrapped her arms around Regina. She didn't whisper words of encouragement or promise that Henry would be okay. Neither woman wanted the task of making a promise they had no control of keeping. She rubbed her back, keeping her jaw pressed against Regina's temple. Though they didn't say anything, they still had faith that their little boy was going to be okay. He just had to be.
The longest hour of Emma and Regina's life passed before Dr. Whale finally came out to brief them. He looked nervous as the two women stood to hear the news. "Henry's stable for now. He was awake very briefly before we put him under again to run some tests." He paused and looked around as if looking for someone to back him up. "There's a problem."
"What is it?" The mayor demanded.
"I think you should sit down." Dr. Whale said heavily.
"Why?" Emma questioned immediately. Regina and Emma remained standing as Dr. Whale looked uncomfortable. "Henry's body isn't responding to the treatment. It doesn't happen often in cases like his, but it does happen."
Regina clutched Emma's hand and all language escaped the usually smart-assed, quick with words mayor. Emma spoke up for the both of them. "So what does that mean? Is he gonna get a new treatment plan?"
Dr. Whale shook his head. "The cancer cells are reproducing too quickly, and when the body stops responding –"
"So what, that's it?!" Emma screeched, advancing on the doctor. "There's nothing you can do?!"
Regina remained paralyzed as the doctor retreated from the furious sheriff. He put his hands up in defense, ready for any attacks Emma might throw his way. "I'm sorry, but it's terminal."
"How long?" Regina croaked, breaking from her daze.
"If we're lucky, three months." Dr. Whale responded.
"Three months is lucky?!" Emma gasped.
"If we're not?" Regina said in her hoarse voice.
"His body is deteriorating rapidly. It seems since he didn't take with the chemo this time, it attacked all his good cells for nothing." The doctor explained, effectively stalling the answer he was afraid to give.
"Whale!" Emma yelled.
"One to three months," he spat out. "I'm so sorry Madame Mayor, Sheriff. You're welcome to see him as long as you'd like."
With that the good doctor turned and left, amazed he had gotten out relatively unscathed. Emma stood a few paces ahead of Regina, just as paralyzed. The words of Dr. Whale seeped into their brains and burned a memory into them they would never forget.
It's cancer . . .reproducing too quickly . . .terminal . . .one month . . .body stopped responding . . .terminal.
Emma forced herself to turn towards Regina. The act alone was enough to make her head spin, but when she saw Regina's glassy eyes and parted lips, she took the extra step towards her, immediately holding each other's forearms and pressing their foreheads together. They both wore the same expression.
The sound of Henry's heart monitor beeped rhythmically in his private hospital room. His mothers sat side by side on the couch they had pushed next to Henry's bed, only speaking to go for coffee and washroom breaks. It was mere hours ago that Dr. Whale had dropped the atomic bomb on the couple, and not long after that did they have to break the news to their son themselves. Both women ached when they saw their son attempt to stifle his fear and tears, but as soon as they both engulfed him in an intimate embrace, he released every emotion he had felt since Emma walked out of their house. They had talked to him about what was expected, and he listened like the brave little boy they knew he was. Sometimes they would catch him hiding his tears, and eventually the emotional turmoil had knocked him right out. And so they sat in a catatonic state waiting for their Henry to wake up.
Regina watched her son, her head tilted onto Emma's shoulder. She was the first to break the silence with an off script comment. "He looks so small."
Emma nodded and reached over for his hand, purple and green from the bruises he had received from the doctors poking and prodding him. Her heart weighed heavy just thinking about all the promises she had made to him that she had yet to fulfill. She was going to take him paintballing, behind Regina's back of course, and she was going to be the one who was cool with the first girl he would bring home, and she was going to give him the bug the day he turned sixteen, and she was supposed to propose as soon as he got better. The thought made her heart ache.
"I suck at promises." She whispered out loud.
"I broke all my promises to you, and I can't keep the ones I made to him." She sniffed back tears. "I told him that if he gets better he can give us away."
Regina lifted her head and put her palm over Emma's. "He won't be mad." She forced Emma to look at her for good measure. "And it's okay."
Emma nodded. She had to get over the past if she was going to savour the present. The oh so short present she was privileged to have with Henry, and Regina for the matter.
Regina could see the guilt forming in the blonde's green eyes and sat up straighter. She removed the clasp of her necklace and let her wedding band fall into her palm. Emma watched, curious as to what the brunette was going to do.
The mayor held her ring between her thumb and forefinger and held it up to Emma. "I have an offer for you, Ms. Swan."
Emma raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"If you swear to love me and be with me, and be with Henry, through everything, I'll allow you to marry me." Regina said absolutely serious.
The blonde watched shocked. This was as close to a wedding proposal as Regina was going to get, and Emma jumped on the opportunity. "I may make bad on my promises, but I do know a thing or two about swearing."
Regina rolled her eyes playfully. "So?"
Emma took the ring from Regina, who was smiling despite everything. "I swear to be everything you need and want and deserve and more. For you and our family. Will you marry me again?"
"Of course, Emma." Regina kissed her as Emma slid the ring back onto Regina's left hand. When they pulled back, Regina removed Emma's own band and did the same.
Movement interrupted the couple's moment, though they were thrilled at that. Henry moaned quietly and cracked his eyes open. He offered a small smile, albeit strained since it was difficult for him to breathe due to the swelling of his abdomen. "Miss anything?"
Regina kissed her son sweetly on the forehead. "Looks like you're getting your birthday wish."
Henry sat up and squinted when he noticed that his mothers were sporting their wedding rings again. He grinned. "I didn't wish for that."
Emma made a face. "Seriously?
He chuckled and nodded.
Before either woman could question what his wish was, a mass of balloons and stuffed animals came bounding in through the door followed by the people carrying it. Mary Margaret and David had come with flowers, a novel and an airwalker balloon. Ruby followed shortly after with a batch of Granny's cookies and a life sized stuffed animal of a wolf, its tongue sticking out and a wolf pup in between its paws.
"It's the dog you never had," Ruby said cheerfully, earning her a laugh and a thanks for Henry.
Within the hour, close friends of Henry, Regina and Emma had dropped in and out of Henry's room bearing gifts and well wishes. No one in the family had released the information of what they learned about Henry's status, and the hope that filled the room with each passing guest made them zip their lips.
Ava and Nicholas had come with some comics while Archie had brought a 'Get Well' balloon and spent the majority of his time talking with Henry who thoroughly enjoyed his company.
Emma had left to pick up dinner just as Archie was arriving and was still absent by the time the doctor left. Regina shut the door after him and sat in the chair beside Henry, who was on the brink of sleep. She stroked his hair away from his face and felt the burn from the fever he hadn't complained about. She wished it was her instead of Henry. She couldn't bear watching her son suffer and would give anything to trade places with him.
He slowly reached his hand up to hold the hand that was still stroking his face. "Mom?"
She leaned forward still. "I'm here. Get some rest, I'll be here when you wake."
She felt the attempt at a squeeze in her hand and kissed the back of Henry's, bringing their conjoined palms to rest against the side of her cheek.
"I want," he breathed deeply fighting sleep and pain. "I want to show you something."
"What is it, sweetie?"
His eyes closed fully, and Regina was sure he had fallen asleep. She heard him breathe out a single word. "Castle."
Regina's mouth parted slightly, and she smiled lovingly at her son. He wanted to share his and Emma's secret place with her. Her eyes flashed with determination as she mentally concocted a plan for Henry to get his wish. More than one of them if she was lucky.
Being Mayor had its privileges, as did being the Sheriff. Regina could bully anyone into anything she wanted, and Emma could flash her badge and threaten to get a warrant. They were the definition of a power couple. However, they didn't use their special privileges for themselves. On the contrary, they did it for their son.
After a week of Henry being cooped up in the hospital, Emma had cornered Dr. Whale demanding Henry to be released for a couple of hours, and he was quick to comply. The nurses helped a fatigued Henry into warmer clothes than the simple hospital gown, ignoring his questions of "where am I going?"
The sound of a wheelchair with one rusty wheel sounded just outside Henry's room and amplified when Emma pushed the chair into it. She wasn't in her usual jeans and a tank top. For some reason, she was wearing an eggshell white sundress, her hair done up in a ponytail with a fashionable braid wrapped around it. Although she looked elegant and put together, her gruff "get in" was all Emma.
Henry raised an eyebrow before positioning himself in the wheelchair. The innocent, eleven year old boy inside him was thrilled at being in one with his mind filling with pictures of racing in them. "Cool."
Emma smirked as she tucked a blanket around her son and wheeled him out of the hospital.
Henry stared out of the window of Emma's bug, trying to decipher where his blonde mother was taking him. When he saw the horizon of the lake with the clock tower standing proud in the background, he knew they could only be in one place.
"What are we doing here?" He asked confused, his voice hoarse and frail.
Emma just smiled before unbuckling her belt and withdrew the wheelchair from the trunk. She helped Henry into the chair, allowing him as much independence as he was able to do. Pushing him over the rocky terrain, she was careful to take the smoothest possible path as their secret castle slowly came into view.
"Mom?" Henry asked again.
Emma patted his shoulder before rounding the corner of the castle where Regina stood in a long, flowing, white beach dress, completely done up and looking as exquisite as always. Just behind her was the judge who married Henry's mothers over a decade ago.
Henry's eyes widened as much as they could when Regina glided over to them with a beautiful smile plastered on her face. He looked up at his brunette mother who stood beside him, mirroring the position of Emma as each took a hold of one of his chair handles. "What's going on?"
"I said you could give us away," Emma said simply, smiling softly at her boy.
Regina bent closer to his face and whispered, "Can I share your secret too?"
He grinned and nodded. She pecked his cheek and stood straighter. Sharing an affectionate look with Emma, the family made their way towards the judge. In a few short but purposeful steps, they reached the short, balding man.
He bent slightly, looking at Henry intently. "And who gives away these women?"
Henry sat straighter, holding his mothers' hands. He spoke clearly, his enthusiasm leaking through. "I do."
Both Emma and Regina placed a kiss on their son's face before stepping forward towards the judge, their fingers entwined together.
Twelve years ago when Regina and Emma had first got married, their ceremony and reception was the grandest wedding Storybrooke had ever seen in a while, thanks to Regina. They had acquired the biggest hall in town, inviting prestigious and respected delegates and politicians, the owner of the town, Mr. Gold, of course, and almost every person Regina remotely tolerated or Emma effectively convinced her to invite. Needless to say, it was the talk of the town for weeks with it being the wedding of the century and all.
But this wedding, the wedding involving only the couple, their son and an officiator was a thousand times more meaningful and memorable. There was no fancy tables, expensive dresses or over the top ice sculptures. There was no stress of worrying about flower arrangements, if Leroy had prematurely taken advantage of the open bar, or if the caterers were late. They just had simple dresses, old wedding rings, the background of a broken down castle playground, and their son beaming from ear to ear, looking his happiest in months. All that the couple was concerned about was whether the other would say "I do", and they had absolutely no doubt about that.
When it was Regina's turn respond and confirm her vows, she grinned, clasping Emma's hands tighter. They gazed at each other for a moment that lasted forever in their minds. She held the blonde's gaze and answered, "I do."
"By the power vested in me by the state of Maine, I now pronounce you joined in matrimony."
Regina pulled Emma in by the neck as they kissed, happily married again. Emma grinned when they parted, placing the softest of kisses on the mayor's lips before turning with her wife towards their son.
He clapped and smiled happily, the joy on his face bringing a youthful appearance to him. Scrunching up his face when his newly wed mothers cuddled against each other, he groaned playfully. "Don't be gross."
They chuckled as Emma took a hold of his wheelchair pushing gently with Regina looping her arm around Emma's.
Throughout the weeks, Emma and Regina had developed a system of keeping Henry company. Ruby graciously accepted to act as Sheriff unless absolutely necessary, while Regina still had her town to run, to her dismay. She would call as frequent as possible and never missed a lunch date with her wife and son. At precisely 6 every day, Regina would bring dinner for herself and Emma to eat, hoping to get Henry to do the same. His appetite dwindled significantly, and even if he was hungry, his swollen glands caused too much discomfort to eat anything except the soup the hospital provided for him. Both mothers saw how hard their son was struggling, but he would only convey any sense of pain to one mother at a time. He was smart enough to know that the other mother would help make things better.
As much as Regina hated to be away from Henry, she was happy that Emma was making up for the time she had lost with him the first time around. Yes, the days and nights were difficult and almost unbearable, especially since Henry insisted his mothers to go home and rest, but if Emma and Regina are anything, it's being stubborn. They had fashioned the couch in Henry's room into a makeshift bed where Regina would find herself lying on top of Emma, pressed against the couch. No matter how soft or lavish her queen sized bed at home was, nestling with Emma definitely felt far more comfortable.
After a particularly boring day in the office, Regina set aside files and stood to grab her coat. The weather was getting chilly rather early ever since the September month sprung about. She sighed, losing herself in thoughts as she gazed out the window, watching the breeze rustle the trees below.
Fall was Henry's favourite season. Regina mused that it was because it contained Halloween, but he insisted he loved the colours. She recalled the days when Emma would rake up a huge pile of leaves just for Henry to jump in over and over again. She even chanced a small smile when she remembered her six year old son stuffing his sweater and pants with leaves, pretending to be some Autumn snowman. It pained Regina to think that this could very well be his last Fall.
She inhaled sharply and turned towards her desk. Since Emma had moved back in, the secret photograph of their first family picture was fixed and brought back on display, but there were additional pictures under the new plastic desk covering of her marble desk. She stroked her fingers over the face of 1 year old Henry next to a giant teddy bear, courtesy of Graham, and moved them over to Henry's first day of school, clinging desperately to Regina's leg, him in Emma's lap in her ridiculous car as he pretended to drive, up until recent pictures of his latest birthday party where Emma and Regina had hugged him, looking the bit like a normal family, to being in the hospital, smiling despite everything, leaning safely against his mothers.
Regina closed her eyes and practised a routine breathing exercise to calm herself down. It barely worked. The heavy footfalls of boots snapped her eyes open where she saw Emma step in with a jingling box. Regina opened her mouth immediately, but Emma beat her to it. "He's fine. He's sleeping."
Regina exhaled and nodded as Emma made her way towards her wife. "I've been thinking."
"I appreciate the warning, Ms. Swan," Regina replied with a tilt of her lips.
"Mills-Swan, actually." Emma grinned and held up an ID. "License came in."
"Old habits," the brunette smirked and buttoned up her coat.
Emma shrugged and said meaningfully, catching the mayor's gaze, "I believe people can change."
Regina made her way over to the blonde and pecked her lips. "You're living proof of that."
Emma grinned, "Enough with making me lose my train of thought."
"Why, dear, that's not hard for you to do by yourself."
The blonde rolled her eyes. She stopped Regina when she went to exit her office. "So, it's been a month."
The women held each other's gaze. Everything unsaid was spilled forth in their eyes. The worry and the fear were nestled deep in the tresses of green and brown. "I'm aware."
"I don't know how long –" The blonde gulped and changed course. "I think we should bring Christmas early this year."
The mayor took a moment to consider it. "I'd have to agree with you on that one."
"You married me for my brains," Emma smirked.
Regina scoffed playfully before leading the way out.
Henry felt nauseated and had been for a while now. He was incredibly fatigued and every now and again his nose would spontaneously bleed. Bruises popped up on his skin from the simplest of touches, and there was a pain in his spleen that had been jabbing him for days, but he still found the energy to sit up and greet his mothers.
When his eyes opened, the room was transformed. Garland and tinsel hung around the room with bells and flashing LED lights woven through it. In the corner was a miniature two foot tree with artificial snow fluff gathered around it, a few presents waiting to be open under it. There was even mistletoe hanging under the door frame.
Henry found Regina off to one corner, humming Silent Night as she plated sugar cookies and poured milk. "Mom?"
She turned grinning, wearing a beige and red fitted Christmas sweater and made her way over to her son with her famous cookies. She kissed his forehead and offered him a cookie, which he gladly took, taking a small bite. "Merry Christmas, sweetie."
"It's September," Henry said nibbling the cookie.
"I know," she answered. "But we're going to have it now. You, me and your mom. Just like old times."
Henry grinned when he heard a jingling and a hearty, "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
He laughed for the first time in a long time when Emma walked into the room dressed in a cheap Santa costume. Her belly was clearly a pillow and she was without a beard. "I see mistletoe." She waggled her eyebrows at Regina. "Let's hope Mrs. Clause doesn't find out."
Regina rolled her eyes but smiled at Henry's laugh. Emma kept up her hearty laugh as she sat on the edge of Henry's bed. "Would you like to sit in Santa's lap?"
Henry eagerly crawled into Emma's lap, mindful of his breathing tubes and IVs. "What's your name little boy?"
"Henry Mills-Swan," he played along. Regina grinned and pulled out her camera, snapping candid shots of the two.
"Well Henry, I hear you've been a very, very good boy. You're at the very top of my nice list." Emma deepened her voice. "I'm sure I have lots of presents for you, but is there something special you want?"
Henry hesitated. His mothers watched as if hearing what he wanted so desperately. What surprised them, however, was what came out of his mouth in response. "You can't make me better, but I always wanted a sibling."
Regina froze with the camera to her face. She was not expecting that. Emma caught her eyes and shrugged, almost amused. She tilted Henry's head up when it had dropped down and grinned. "That doesn't seem like a bad idea at all," she motioned to Regina, still talking in her Santa voice. She dropped it to a whisper, "But there's never going to be a perfect little boy like you."
Henry hugged Emma before scooting back into bed. Emma stood and pushed an elf ear hat onto Regina's help. "Help Santa with the gifts."
"Santa's getting lazy," Regina smirked picking up two out of the three gifts. They sat back down on Henry's bed and laid them out for him.
He smiled up at his mothers, genuine happiness in his eyes. "If this is my last Christmas, I'm glad it's this one."
Emma turned away to regain her composure while Regina expertly steeled her expression. She grinned happily for her son and placed the first gift on his lap. "Open it."
Henry unwrapped the flat present to find a handmade quilt with his name embroidered on it. Emma grinned draping it over her son's lap. "It's like my baby blanket."
He smiled, rubbing the warm, soft, fabric against his cheek. Draping it back over his lap, he reached for the second gift, this one significantly better wrapped. His face lit up when he say the complete series of the Justice League on DVD. As much as he loved hanging out with Emma all day long, there was only so much they could do.
"Hey," Emma began. "Am I not fun enough? I mean, is Emma not fun enough?"
Regina made a playful condescending face that earned her a shove while Henry giggled. "You'll like it too."
A coughing fit interrupted their precious occasion, and Emma had to restrain Regina from alerting every single personnel in the building to attend to her son. As sudden as it came, it was quickly eased. He graciously took the water from Emma and nodded his head when asked of his well-being.
Regina still looked uneasy and placed a hand on her son's knobby knee. "There's one more."
Clearing his throat, Henry tore through the wrapping of this gift just as he did the others. His expression softened when he found a home movie titled Henry. He looked up at his mothers eagerly. "Can we watch it?"
"Lucky for you Santa brought her laptop." Emma said, digging into a satchel and produced the electronic. The family settled in with Henry in the middle, the laptop stationed in front of him as the screen switched to the feature.
"Regina, don't, I'm all gross," Emma refused to meet the camera's lens as she sat in the hospital bed, her forehead perspiring and her cheeks glowing. The camera zoomed in on the bundle in her arms.
"Happy birthday, sweetie." Regina voice cooed to the newborn, her finger reaching out to stroke his little face.
"Here, Madame Mayor, let me hold that for you." Graham's voice sounded off screen as the camera shift. Regina appeared in the shot, sitting on the edge of Emma's bed with an arm wrapped around her wife's shoulder as she brought her face down to kiss her baby boy.
Three-year old Henry stood in the pathway of the mayoral mansion covered in protective padding and a helmet.
"Wide!" He yelled, a flash of blue showing from his mouth.
"We're gonna ride soon, kid. Is that a mouth guard?" Emma's voice asked as she walked closer with the camera. "Spit it out, you don't need it."
The boy obeyed but looked up at his mother worriedly. "Mama?"
"I'll handle her, you go get on your bike, buddy," she said enthusiastically as he ran to his new tricycle.
Emma filmed as she proudly watched Henry ride on his own. He turned his head back to smile at his mother while at the same time turning the handle and riding over a curb.
"Oh sh-" Emma began before the screen flickered off then crackled to life again as it was filming from the counter. The brunette, the blonde and their son could be seen just to the right of the frame, gathered around the sink as Henry's bawling sounded loudly.
"Why did you take off his mouth guard?" Regina hissed.
"Who needs a mouth guard to ride a tricycle?" Emma said obviously.
Henry's face popped into view, his lip swollen and his mouth bloody. Regina gave Emma a pointed look. Emma looked sheepish and mumbled an apology.
Regina gave Emma the same exact look over Henry's shoulder, and the blonde responded with just a shrug. They clasped their hands behind their son's back as the movie kept playing.
The frame was blurry and shaky and was initially set on a window as very light snow began falling from the still dark sky. The sound of the camera being moved constantly shook the screen as a determined, six year old Henry briefly popped into view. Satisfied with the way he was holding it, he walked up the stairs and opened the door to his moms' room.
The mayor and the sheriff were sound asleep, Regina's head on Emma's chest. There was a few minutes of blurry image as Henry inevitably tried to climb on the bed while still holding the camera until he had some sense to lay it down, climb up and pick it back up. He dropped all his weight down on Emma's stomach as he sat, forcing the wind out of her.
She sat up suddenly, "Oooh."
Regina lifted her head up confused. "What is it?"
"Iiiiiiiii," Henry began, inhaling deeply getting ready to sing. "Wish you a merry Christmas, wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new yeeeaaarr! It's snowing! Presents time! Can we make a snowman?"
Emma groaned and effectively threw an arm around his middle, pulling him down into bed with them. The camera jarred as Regina removed it from his grasp. "Two more hours, sweetie, it's 4 in the morning."
Regina had placed the camera on the nightstand, too tired to be aware of its recording, and when it seemed as if everyone had gone back to sleep, Henry had continued into the second and third verse of the song, forcing his mothers up and out of bed prematurely.
The family laughed, and Regina leaned her head against Henry's. "You always had such a beautiful voice."
Emma scoffed teasingly. "At 4 in the morning? No thank you."
The DVD was filled with clips Regina had gotten Sidney to put together involving Henry and the family. The mayor, the sheriff and their son found themselves laughing and smiling as almost forgotten memories came back. There were scenes of Henry dressed as a questionable turkey for his school's Thanksgiving play. Much to Regina's disdain, it was the first and last time she had entrusted Emma to make their son's costume. Emma thought her multi-materialed turkey costume looked original, and Henry loved helping in the process. Needless to say, Emma was never allowed near the sewing machine again. There were older scenes of Henry's first soccer game where he scored his first goal, his birthday party at Granny's where Graham taught him how to throw darts, and even the time when Henry and Emma convinced Regina to go camping in their woods. That was an adventure Regina would not want to experience again, but she had to admit, making smores with her son and wife while Emma continuously attempted (and successfully on one occasion) to scare them was quite enjoyable. The family nestled closer together as the final clip played.
Henry, Emma and Regina were sitting in the living room with Henry holding the camera, much steadier this time around. The date showed that it was just a month before Regina would inevitably find out about Emma, but the interaction between the two women remained as passionate as ever.
"What's with the camera, kid?" Emma asked as she accepted a coffee mug from her wife who snuggled into her side.
"Found it. I want to interview you guys." His voice sounded as he shifted from sitting beside his mothers to sitting on the coffee table in front of them.
The arch of Regina's eyebrow had him moving almost instantly. Emma snickered into the brunette's hair. Regina straightened, aware she was being filmed. "Is this for school?"
"Nope." Henry zoomed in and out on his parents, clearly playing with the dials. "So, the audience wants to know. How did you two meet?"
Emma rolled her eyes as Regina raised her eyebrow again. "Come on, you never told me."
The couple looked at each other and smirked. Emma looked directly into the camera. "Regina Mills hated me when I became sheriff."
"That is far from the truth," Regina said sitting up.
"She used to ignore me in the council meetings," Emma continued.
"You used to stare at me all through them," Regina responded.
Henry laughed at his parents.
"Thank God for that fire," Emma said.
"You're happy I almost died?" The brunette questioned challengingly.
Emma pecked her wife's lips. "It gave you the perfect excuse to finally accept my date offers."
Regina couldn't stop the smiling forming on her face as they looked at each other.
Henry groaned. "Ew. Get a room."
Despite his desire to stay awake, Henry had fallen asleep halfway through the film, yet his mothers continued watching, smiling sadly at the inevitable, but thankful for all the glorious times they had with their son. As the final clip rolled and the couple saw their past selves look into one another's eyes, they magnetically leaned closer together, reassuring the other of their presence.
Although their Christmas festivities had been over for days now, Henry insisted on keeping the decorations up in his room. Not one to deny her son anything at this point, Regina happily complied.
She sat on the sofa late one night reading a novel. Emma had an emergency down at the station and was forced to go into work. As Regina flipped the pages of her book, she heard the usually rhythmic breathing of her son become laboured. She smiled when she saw Henry was awake, his thin, ghostly face illuminated by the bedside lamp. She set her book down and leaned towards her son, pushing his hair away from his forehead. "Hi, sweetie."
Henry remained quiet. Both he and his mothers knew that he was getting much too weak. His coughing fits had on a few occasions spat up pools of blood, and were it not for his breathing tubes, Regina was sure his lungs couldn't handle the task of inhaling since the pressure in his torso was becoming unbearable. He eyed his mom, holding her gaze before speaking softly and slowly. "Think . . . it'll hurt?"
"What will, dear?" Regina asked, gently massaging his temple.
"Dying." He forced out the word before another harsh cough overtook him.
Regina's hand stilled. She shook her head noiselessly. It was the first time Regina and Henry discussed the topic so openly. It was implied many times, but a part of Regina refused to accept the inevitable truth. She kissed her son's cheek keeping her mouth close to his ear so she could whisper. "When you go, all the pain goes away. It doesn't hurt anymore."
He nodded, satisfied with her answer. "Sometimes . . .I don't want . . .to sleep . . .'cause . . .I'm scared I . . won't wake up."
Regina bit her trembling lip and clutched Henry's hand. "When you were born, you were my precious baby angel. Having you was the greatest gift any mother could receive, and that goes for Mom too."
"I'll . . .be . . . an angel . . .for real," his eyes flickered to hers. "Watch . . .you . . .and . . .Mom."
"We'd love that very much." She allowed one tear to escape her eye, but she saw Henry attempt to lift his arm. He whispered hoarsely, "Don't . . .cry."
With that, Regina broke over her son's body, clutching his hospital gown in her fists. She cried out, "I love you, Henry. So much. If I could take it away, I would."
Henry shook his head, already falling back to sleep. "Love . . .you too."
"How about me?" Emma asked as she quietly made her way into the room. Seeing Henry's attempted grin, she leaned over and pecked his forehead. "I love you too."
She took a seat next to Regina who wiped her face clear with the back of her hand. Emma wrapped an arm around her and spoke to Henry. "At least you got your wish right?"
His laugh was strained. "I . . .didn't wish . . . for you . . .two. A . . .sibling."
"Really?" Emma asked dumbfounded.
"Didn't . . .need to wish . . for you . . .two. You . . .always . . .get back . . . together." Henry went off to sleep with a smile on his face.
Emma leaned her head against Regina's. Their fingers laced together, Regina playing with Emma's wedding band. They said nothing as they watched Henry that night. Instead, they just waited for the inevitable. For the past few days, they had played a cruel waiting game of watching their son wither away, and with each day that passed, the game grew harder and harder.
It was 5:36 in the morning the next day. The early risers of Storybrooke went about their usual business. Granny threw a wet dish towel at Ruby who refused to wake up before the old lady went downstairs to continue making fresh bread, Archie stepped outside, Pongo in tow as they traversed the quiet streets for his morning walk, while August sat in the middle of the forest by a wishing well, typewriter nearby but notebook and pencil in hand as he jotted down inspiration. On any other normal day, Emma would be pulling Regina back into bed, cursing that damn alarm clock as Regina conned her way out with several well placed kisses.
But this was not a normal day for the couple. At 5:36 in the morning, Emma awoke to the unfamiliar erratic beeping of Henry's heart monitor. Her sudden movements stirred the brunette beside her, and the noise quickly attracted Regina's attention. Emma acted fast, running out of the room and pulling in the nearest nurse demanding to know what was wrong.
His heart monitor beeped as quickly as the pounding of his mothers' hearts. The women were pushed to the side, holding one another, as nurses and Dr. Whale stepped in with a defibrillator.
"His heart's not pumping enough blood, he's shutting down." The doctor muttered.
Regina's heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. She would have advanced if Emma hadn't held her back, but that didn't stop the screech emanating from her voice. "Do something!"
They shocked Henry once, his back completely arching off the bed, but his status remained erratic. They shocked him again. Nothing. One more shock. He flat lined.
Chapter 8: Tell You Something
The damn alarm clock blared at 5:30 in the morning. Neither woman moved. The clock was rendered useless since both occupants in the bed had been wide awake for hours now. The past few days left them with inconsolable tears, unexplained absences and eerily quietness. Despite needing their space to grieve, they always managed to crawl their way back into bed with each other.
Regina was the first move, robotically pushing the snooze button, disengaging the screeching of the alarm and resumed her initial position of staring at the ceiling. Emma could almost hear what was going on inside Regina's head. It was the same thing that went on in Emma's for the past three days.
The hum of the flat line resonated throughout the room. For a unified moment, it was as if every person in the room held their breath. The silence was unbearable.
"No . . ." Regina whimpered, stepping forward towards the still, lifeless body of Henry.
"Call it," Dr. Whale sighed sadly, refusing to meet the eye of the Mayor or the Sheriff.
Attendants pulled off the wires and removed the breathing tubes from Henry's nose. He wouldn't need them anymore. The monitor was turned off, and the only sound was the short breathing of the mothers. A nurse took up a chart and solemnly announced, "Time of death: 5:42 am."
Regina's anguish cry filled the room as she collapsed into a frozen Emma's arms.
Silently, the two women made the bed together. They did not look at each other, nor did they offer up any form of conversation. All they did was smooth out the comforter and arrange the pillows into their rightful spot. As if on cue, the women parted, Regina to the closet to set aside their clothes for the day and Emma to the kitchen to whip up breakfast.
She glanced at Henry's half opened bedroom door and fought back tears before turning and heading down the stairs. She didn't need another meltdown.
Regina woke, her cheeks tear stained, her hair sticking every which way and still clothed in her mayoral suit. On any other day, the mayor would be embarrassed that she had allowed herself to fall asleep in such a state, but as it was, this was no ordinary day. This day would get ingrained in her mind for all time. She automatically searched the bed for her blonde wife only to find it empty. A sense of panic set in. She had just lost Henry. If Emma ran off, so help her . . .
She exited their room, finding the moon cast an almost peaceful glow to the hallway. It shone on family portraits that lined the hallways, but Regina wasn't ready to look on them yet. The hours' old heartbreak was still too fresh. A sniffle caught the brunette's attention. Her head whipped in the direction of the sound and found herself staring at Henry's bedroom door. She knew who the occupant in the room was, but her disbelief and hope prayed it was her little boy lying in bed with a case of the cold.
She pushed open the door and wasn't surprised to find her wife curled up in their son's bed clutching the large leather bound fairy tale book he loved so much. Allowing Emma time to grieve, Regina turned to silently creep out when a hoarse voice called out to her. "Am I a bad mother?"
The brunette halted in her movements and turned back towards the blonde. Emma sat up, her back against the headboard, her knees to her chest with the book cradled protectively in between. She didn't look at Regina when she continued to speak. "When I found out he wasn't going to get better, my first instinct was to run and forget. What kind of mother runs away from her sick child?"
It was true that when Emma and Regina had fought that night, the same question ran through the mayor's mind. It was strange for Regina to see Emma so crestfallen and broken. During their initial dating, it was, ironically, Emma, the woman who had one night stands and never ever had a solid relationship, who was the one to quell all of Regina's fears of intimacy and commitment, and although Regina didn't have the perfect template on how be a mother, it was she who was the one comforting Emma on the fears she had on motherhood. She sat facing the blonde, perfect posture as usual, but the intimate act of her grasping Emma's hand was a well-loved gesture Emma had harboured in her wife. "The kind of mother that loves her son so much she can't bear to have anything happen to him."
Emma met Regina's eyes, not satisfied with the answer. "That doesn't make it acceptable."
Regina shook her head in agreement. "But you didn't leave. And you're not leaving now."
The latter sentence was more encouragement than demand. Regina thumbed away a stray tear from Emma's face. Emma leaned into Regina's warmth. She closed her eyes and forced out a devastated, "It's not fair."
At that, Regina broke too. At first, she tried to squash her need to curl into a ball and die, but as soon as she saw Emma drop her head onto her knees in defeat, her lip began to tremble and her chin quivered. Opening her mouth, she released a breathy cry and wrapped around her only source of comfort. Their shaking hands found each other as their fingers dug desperately into the other's skin. Regina spoke muffled against Emma's hair. "He didn't deserve it. He was so good."
The blonde nodded her agreement. "It should have been me."
The mayor let out another sob just thinking about Emma's hypothetical. If she was on the border of depression when Emma had moved out, Regina couldn't even fathom how she would be if Emma had died. Their vocal cords refused to work after the amount of crying they had done in the mere hours of the worst event of their life. So Regina and Emma held onto each other for dear life, as if clinging to the other would protect them from any harm.
The couple drove quietly, Regina not putting up a fight when Emma had grabbed the keys to her bug. Although no words were exchanged on the drive to the funeral home, when Emma reached out her hand in search of Regina's, the mayor readily met it, fingers entwining.
The mayor was aggravated by all the people coming up to her and Emma expressing their condolences and apologies. As soon as they had arrived, Regina was in control mode making sure everything from the brunch to the flower arrangements were exactly as she had ordered them. Emma knew it was her way to deal, but it still made her wary of how little emotion Regina was displaying. But when a procession of people had begun to greet them, Regina was livid. They had no idea what they were going through, yet person after person came up to them dressed in black with sad, sorrowful faces, most with tears or watery eyes, and it drove Regina up the wall. They cry as if they lost a child too. They didn't know Henry well enough to be that upset. They didn't know Henry like she did. Henry wasn't their son, he was hers. They shouldn't – a familiar touch on her lower back removed the train of thought from her brain. She turned her previously blazing eyes to her wife. Emma regarded her as if she could read her mind, and at times, Regina swore she could. The blonde gave her an understanding but pleading look, and when Regina glanced into the parlour where her son now lay in an intricately designed coffin, she swallowed her pride and nodded sincerely to the next person in line.
A few people had offered to speak at Henry's eulogy. No matter who was speaking, neither mother was listening as they stared at the open coffin. Emma stared so hard she could have sworn she saw chest movements, but when she looked to Regina for confirmation, she found the brunette was staring just as glassy eyed, her hands clenched tightly in her lap as if willing him to come back to life. Regina looked up when Archie called her name, announcing he had finished his speech and was calling her up.
The mayor didn't realize she stood and automatically made her way over to Henry's casket. She dusted off imaginary specks from his suit and straightened his outfit with shaking hands before squeezing his as if gaining encouragement from him.
She exhaled to prepare herself and removed a handful of index cards from her blazer jacket. Ever the politician, Emma thought as she watched her wife take the podium. Regina cleared her throat and steeled her expression to show enough dignified pain despite the agony she was feeling inside.
"Twelve years ago was when Emma and I first discussed having children," the mayor began reading as if campaigning. "One year later when we found out Emma was pregnant –" Regina made the mistake of looking away from her audience and turned toward the wake. Henry's lifeless body was too cruel to look at, and the usually polished and emotionless mayor broke under the emotional turmoil flooding every synapse of her brain.
Emma immediately got up and made her way to her wife, forcing Regina to face her and cradled her face between her safe palms. Regina eyed Emma, forgetting about everyone in the room. "I can't."
"Yes, you can," Emma said confidently, wiping away the tears. "Henry wants to hear his story."
"Stay with me," Regina almost begged.
"Always." Emma removed her hands from the brunette's cheeks and trailed them down her arms to take a hold of her waist.
Regina faced the crowd again, their expression more solemn as they witnessed, not only their prestigious mayor crumble, but witnessed the fall of a mother who lost her son. She set aside her cue cards and turned to Henry, as if speaking only to him. "I have to admit, I was terrified when we spoke of having children. I didn't want to end up like – I didn't want to make mistakes with you. That's why I was so cautious whenever it came to your safety. You were the greatest gift to me, to both of us, and as soon as I held you in my arms I knew that I had nothing to be afraid of. I knew that I wanted to keep you safe, make sure nothing bad ever happened to you."
Regina glanced down and laughed coldly once. "Despite my best efforts, I couldn't even do that right. You were the best son anyone could ask for. Perfect, in fact. So bright and eager." Regina chuckled at a memory. "You used to climb into our bed, your mother wouldn't wake because she slept so heavily, but you would drag your fairy tale book with you. It seemed to be as heavy as you at one point, and you would beg and cry for just one more story, and as hard as I tried to resist, you always got me to read you one more story.
"You grew up too fast." Regina moaned into her hand and took a steadying breath to continue. "I wish I could take back all the times I scolded you, or grounded you, or said no to you. I would give you everything if I could. I'd give up everything just to see your infectious smile, or to hear you laugh, or just whisper 'good night' to me one more time."
Regina turned back towards the crowd, noticeably more confident. "I've been mayor for a long time, and I know who I am and how I am. But Henry, my son, and my wife, they gave me the most important gift anyone could have. They gave me love. Henry was filled to the brim with it. I am so thankful and privileged to have spent eleven amazing years with my little boy. There won't ever be another boy like him."
The mayor extracted herself from Emma's grip and made her way back to the casket. She stared lovingly at him for a long while before lowering her lips to his cheek and whispered only for him to hear. "I love you."
Emma shut her eyes watching the display. As strong as she had forced Regina to be, Emma wasn't sure she could say the same for herself. She was relieved when her wife returned to her side, weaving their fingers together and giving her an encouraging look.
The Sheriff nodded minutely and stepped toward the stand. "I should have gone first." Emma muttered in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the crowd. It received a few stifled chuckles and watery smiles. "Regina's right. Henry did teach us how to love again. But most of all, he taught me to remember. When he wants something, he will fight tooth and nail to get it."
She offered a small smile to Regina. "Must have gotten that from you."
Regina regarded her warmly and squeezed the blonde's arm to continue.
"I have a problem with running away from what scares me," Emma began. "I run to forget. But when Henry showed up at my door unexpectedly just this January – God has it been that short – Sorry. When he came, he basically hit me over the head with memories and forced me to remember the good, and even the bad. I've been trying to shove memories away hoping that if I forget them, it didn't happen. But I refuse to do that now. Henry showed me that a part of us lives in those memories. They help us not only remember the past but remember who we are. And like Regina said, love resided in those memories. Not just love for each other, but for our son and our family. If I can honestly say why I'm standing up here with my wife right now, it's because of our son. Thank God he inherited our stubbornness."
The room, including Regina, laughed. Emma glanced at her wife and their son, and an odd sense of peace washed over Emma. She looked on in gratitude at Henry before turning back towards their friends and family. "I won't forget Henry. I won't forget all that he was, everything he's taught me, all the love that came out of him. He may be gone, but I know he's not hurting anymore, and I am so happy for that. Even though his body isn't here, his memory still lives on."
Three Years Later
" . . .and they all lived happily ever after." Regina cooed to little Evangeline as she yawned and nestled her chestnut brown curls against Regina's neck.
"'Gain?" The two-year old asked already flipping the leather bound book open to the first page. Regina laughed lightly placing a kiss on both of her daughter's chocolate brown eyes. "It's time for bed, dear."
Evangeline pouted and promptly crossed her arms. Clearly a habit she had picked up from Emma, but despite copying her blonde mother's mannerisms, it was amazing how alike their daughter looked like Henry.
After Henry's death, the couple had moved closer together, communicating more effectively and never did either doubt that the other would not be there. They had their arguments as normal couples do, but their bond grew stronger with each passing day. They loved more, and laughed more, and although they still withheld public displays of affection, their proximity to each other in public, along with meaningful gazes, and of course, secret hand holding under tables, the couple valued the time they had with one another.
It was nearly a year after his burial when Regina brought up the idea of another child. It shocked Emma that Regina was the one to broach the subject since it was she who had to do the convincing the last time around. Emma had grinned and pulled her wife in for an endearing kiss and said, "Just say when."
However this time around, Regina had been the one to carry the baby. Strategically enough, they had chosen the same sperm donor, and with the birth of their daughter, their family was intricately woven in a web full of love, adoration and gratitude.
Regina grinned at her daughter and tapped her nose. "You look like your brother when you do that."
"Henry!" Evangeline crawled off her mother's lap and stood on her tippy toes to reach a framed photograph of Henry sitting proud on a dresser. She toddled back towards Regina when out of nowhere, Emma swooped in to pick her up, throwing her in the air haphazardly.
"Mommy!" Evangeline laughed loudly, clutching the frame by her fingertips. "Henry fall."
Emma grinned, rocketshipping her daughter into her bed and adjusting the frame so she had a better grip. "Angie has Henry right?"
The little girl clutched the picture of her brother to her chest. "Mine."
Regina joined her family at the edge of the bed and tucked the covers around their princess. "He's watching over you, remember? So you must go to sleep, sweetie."
Emma leaned over to pick up a stuffed unicorn and placed it under the covers with Evangeline. She gently removed the girl's grip from the fame and set it on her nightstand. Regina and Emma almost teared up when their daughter turned towards the picture and waved mumbling a tired "Night, night."
From the moment Regina found out she was pregnant, the women had regaled their daughter with stories about her brother. Some nights Emma would lay her head on Regina's swollen baby bump and read a story, proclaiming it as Henry's favourite. When she was born and Regina was on maternity leave, they would spend hours every day watching Henry's home movies that eventually Evangeline grew up to adore her big brother, even though she had never met him.
Every year on Henry's birthday and the anniversary of his death, the family would head down to his grave and set flowers down. This was the first year Evangeline had made something of her own: a drawing of herself and her brother underneath a rainbow of many colours.
As painful as it was for the mothers to continue living without their son, let alone have another child, they kept his memory alive through pictures, through conversations about him, through their daughter and her love for him and likeness to him. His name was never a topic of taboo. On the contrary, they spoke of him as if he was just away, and in a sense, Regina and Emma realized, it was true. They didn't really say goodbye to Henry. How could they when his very presence lingered within his mothers and a part of him was left in everything he came in contact with? No, this was not forever. This was just the beginning. Henry would be waiting for them to join him with a smile plastered on his lightly freckled face and an "I told you so."