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As Fate Would Have It

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Excerpt:

“ENOUGH!” Zelena shouted, standing up and gripping both women by their arms, dragging them into the back hall that led to other rooms. When she finally stopped, she whirled around and fixed the two women with a glare of her own, crossing her arms and shifting her weight to one foot. “Do I need to get you two a room, because you’re fighting like some old married couple!”

Regina and Emma dragged their eyes to look at each other across the distance they had placed between them. Regina felt something nagging at her as she looked at Emma’s red face, but she pushed it down and shifted her gaze to her sister as she continued.


 

 

Regina pinched the bridge of her nose against the headache that had a death grip on the back of her eyes. It had been almost a month since she laid Robin Hood to rest in the Storybrooke Cemetery, the rest of the townspeople crowded around her in sympathy, her sister Zelena by her side, with newly named baby Robin, through the whole service.

Everyone.....except Emma.

Regina sighed. She knew Emma had been there for as long as she could, but as the actual burial took place, Regina couldn't fault her for wandering to the grave of her own love, the famous pirate, Killian Jones, more commonly known as Captain Hook. Regina let out a humorless laugh as she thought about her and Emma’s apparent taste for thieves.

Seems best friends really do share everything.

The sudden tingle in the air had the corners of her lips twitching as she felt the familiar tendrils of magic pulling at her. The pain behind her eyes eased away into nothingness, her mind becoming less cloudy as she pushed the thoughts of Robin’s funeral to the back of her mind. She opened her eyes and focused on the woman propped against the doorframe to her study, arms folded across her chest, feet crossed at the ankles. The only light on in the study was her desk lamp, but she didn’t need the light to see the woman’s head of loose, golden curls, and the small smirk on her face for having snuck up on Regina.

Speak of the devil. Er, think.

“You know, you might not get a headache straining to read those papers if you actually turned some more lights on.” The lights suddenly flicked on and Regina saw that smirk that she knew was on Emma’s face, even if it was smaller these days.

“Maybe I like reading in the dark?” Regina said, rolling her eyes.

“Yeah? And I like bear claws, but you don’t see me eating them twenty-four seven.  Some things are bad for you.”

Regina quirked an eyebrow at the other woman, the corners of her mouth turning up in a small smile. Shuffling the papers on her desk, she shook her head at Emma and went back to reading over the town planning papers Mary Margaret had dropped off earlier, asking her to look over them for the next council meeting. Emma let out a low chuckle when Regina didn’t respond to her remark and pushed off from the wall, crossing over to the desk and coming up behind her. She frowned when she saw the paperwork.

“Are you taking over as Mayor again?” she asked.

“No, I’m just reviewing these for your mother. I guess I’m a reserve mayor or something.” Regina frowned. “Though now that I think about it, this really isn’t my job anymore. I don’t know why I’m taking it this seriously.”

It’s one thing if she was getting paid to do it, but she wasn’t. Yeah, yeah, she could do a nice thing, but this was the third file Mary Margaret had dropped off this week, and it was only Thursday. Still frowning, she gathered the papers up and put them back in the file. The new Mayor needed to learn how to maneuver city planning on her own, like Regina did when they first arrived in Storybrooke. Besides, Regina didn’t have this kind of help, and though she didn’t necessarily mind helping out, she had other things going on in her life right now she should be focusing on. Like finding a new job, connecting with her sister, or like spending time with Henry.

Or what the hell Emma was doing here anyway.

Regina let the breath out she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and stood up. Emma took several steps back so as not to get hit by the desk chair as Regina turned to face her.

“Regardless, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

Emma leaned back, shoving her hands in her back pockets. “We were supposed to meet everyone at Granny’s half an hour ago....?”

Regina’s face fell. She had forgotten all about the family dinner Henry had asked to have at Granny’s earlier in the week. Family meaning Zelena and baby Robin, Mary Margaret and David with baby Neal, Emma, Henry, and Regina herself. Here she was complaining about the paperwork keeping her away from her family when in reality, it was her keeping her distance. If she was being honest with herself, she was putting her walls back up. It was easier to handle the sympathetic looks and sideways glances that way, though it would be easier if Henry and Emma weren’t the two people in this town who could crash through her walls with a toothpick.

“Regina?”

She snapped out of her self-depreciating thoughts at the sound of Emma’s voice. She hadn’t even seen her cross the room to the door, where she stood in the doorway waiting.

“I’m sorry. I forgot.” Regina finally said, shaking herself the rest of the way out of her head. “Let me just grab my coat.”

“Already got it.” Emma grinned and held it open for Regina to slip into.

Regina rolled her eyes, a smile playing at her lips as she turned around to slip her arms into the open coat. “Always trying to rush me. Can’t let a woman have a moment to herself.”

Emma laughed as Regina brushed past her out of the study and headed for the front door. “If I recall correctly, you’re the one who has the uncanny knack of popping up everywhere in my life. To be honest though, if you didn’t want me popping up, you never should have given me the spare key to your house.”

Regina only rolled her eyes again as they exited the manor, walking down the walkway to where Emma’s old yellow VW bug was parked on the opposite side of the street. It was nice to hear Emma laugh again, as both of them rarely did so these days, really only when the other was around, or with Henry. Getting in the car, Regina checked her phone to see three missed messages from Henry.

At Granny’s. Where r u?

On the way yet? Family dinner night!

Guess u forgot. Emma’s on the way. Ordered ur favorite. 

Regina’s face fell as Emma started the car. Emma frowned, noticing the other woman’s mood. As she pulled out onto the street, she turned the radio on low to distract Regina’s mind. Music always helped Emma come out of her mind a little when she just couldn’t be around others. Regina tapped a quick answer back to her son and slipped her phone back into her pocket. She was silent for a moment, staring out the window lost in thought, before she felt a hand on her arm. Startled, Regina shifted her attention to the hand, before bringing her eyes up to its owner’s face. Emma smiled a small smile at Regina, who smiled back softly. A moment of understanding passed between the two women before Emma pulled her hand back to the steering wheel, turning her attention back to the road. Regina stared down at her arm where Emma’s hand had been, touched by the gesture. She shifted in her seat and ignored the small tinge of disappointment she felt when Emma removed it.

Pulling up at the diner, Emma parked across the street and shut the car off, getting out and locking it out of habit when Regina had shut her door. It’s not like someone in this town would steal her car, but it was a habit that couldn’t hurt.

Regina crossed the street with haste, not wanting to keep Henry waiting any longer than she already had, and quickly crossed the outdoor dining area and climbed the few steps to the door. Pushing it open and stepping inside, the smell of food hit her nose as she swung her eyes through the restaurant searching for that familiar head of brown hair.

“Mom!” Henry called, breaking into a grin and standing up from his seat next to David, motioning the two women over.

Regina smiled and crossed the diner, accepting Henry’s embrace as she reached the table. “Sorry I’m late.”

A chorus of smiles and hellos passed around the table as Regina took her seat next to Zelena, across from Henry. Emma plopped down in the last chair, at the end of the row of tables they had pushed together to accommodate the crowd, situated between Regina and their son. Zelena placed her hand on Regina’s shoulder and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek in hello before turning back to her daughter to give her a bottle.

“Caught up in paperwork again mom?” Henry asked.

Regina felt a pang in her heart at his tone, as if this was a normal occurrence. She supposed it was as of late, but the guilt she felt didn’t assure her that it was worth it. “Unfortunately,” she sighed, meeting his eyes. “but no more. I am done with paperwork for a while. I am going to spend more time with my family.”

She grabbed his hands across the table and gave them a light squeeze as he smiled at her. She felt Mary Margaret’s eyes on her, but before the pixie haired woman could speak, Ruby was arriving with the table’s orders.

“Steak with steamed veggies and a cheeseburger with onion rings.” Ruby finished, placing the last two meals in front of Regina and Emma. As the smell of her steak hits her nose, Regina’s stomach lets out a low rumble and she realizes how long it’s been since she last ate. Emma cracks a smile out the corner of her eye at her, but Regina ignores her and begins to cut her steak into smaller pieces before eating.

Light banter is struck up around the table, Zelena and Mary Margaret discussing burping techniques; David, having taken over the Storybrooke Animal Shelter, telling Henry and Emma about a dog who got loose from the bath and ran all over the clinic, Henry’s nose wrinkling up as he laughed. Regina smiled at her son and glanced at Emma. The blonde’s eyes met hers and smirked at her, before shoveling three onion rings in her mouth. Regina scrunched her face up at the other woman’s eating habits, rolling her eyes and turning back to finish her meal. Emma’s light laughter reached her ears and Regina shook her head, the corners of her lips twitching in amusement. Ruby came by not long after that, clearing away the empty plates before returning with a tray of coffee and two hot chocolates, with whipped cream and cinnamon, for Henry and Emma.

Zelena had just excused herself from discussing job opportunities with her sister to use the bathroom when Mary Margaret turned her attention to Regina over Zelena’s empty seat.

“How did the town planning paperwork look, Regina?” she asked.

“I was meaning to talk to you about that. It looks fine, but I think I’m going to have to let this be the last papers I look over.” Regina looked up at the woman from where she had been cooing at her niece. Mary Margaret frowned slightly, but Regina continued. “It’s not that I mind much, but I think you can tackle this without outside help. Besides, I need to take some time and focus on other areas of my life right now, namely my son, so I don’t have the time to look over your work.”

Regina rocked baby Robin’s car seat while she studied the woman’s face. She had chosen her words carefully, not wanting to be rude. Their old rivalry in the past, Regina had actually come to like the woman, somewhat, though she’d be the last to admit it. And maybe not even then.

The pixie haired woman nodded, “I understand. You need to take some time to enjoy life and your family.” Mary Margaret stretched her hand across the table and covered Regina’s free one. “How are you doing?”

Irritation flared up inside Regina. There it was. The sympathy in her eyes, the pained smile on her face. The soft and hesitant tone she used as if she was afraid that if she talked at a normal level, she’d shatter through whatever fragile emotions Regina had and break her into a million pieces. It was the same look, the same smile, the same tone she’d gotten from everyone in town every time she stepped outside her door. She couldn’t go to the grocery store, walk down the street, or even pick her son up from school without getting that look from everyone she passed. If she was honest with herself, this was one of the biggest reasons she had thrown herself into the town’s paperwork, to avoid going out and dealing with the same routine over and over. Regina wasn’t a child, and she wasn’t some fragile piece of art that could break at any moment.

“I’m just fine, thank you.” Regina snatched her hand from Mary Margaret’s. “I can handle things just fine.”

The other woman started, sitting up straight and blinking at Regina with wide eyes. Regina glared at her before noticing the table had gone quiet. She turned her head to see Henry, David, and Emma staring at her, David and Henry’s mouths pressed into thin lines. Emma’s eyes bored into Regina, her brows gathered low over her eyes in annoyance.

“Well damn, Regina. Calm down. It was only a question.”

Regina sat back in her chair, looking down at her hands as she folded them in her lap. “I am calm. I simply answered her question.”

Zelena chose to return to the table then, pausing and lowering herself slowly into her seat at the obvious tension in the air. “What’d I miss?”

“Nothing,” Emma answered. “Just Regina biting my mother’s head off for asking a question.”

Regina shot the blonde woman a glare. “I was not! I answered her truthfully. If she didn’t want my answer, she shouldn’t have asked.”

“That’s no reason to be rude!” Emma’s hands slapped the table. “Would you rather she not give a rat’s ass about your feelings?!”

“I’d rather she mind her own business! That’s all anyone can say to me anymore! If they can’t think of anything else to say, then they shouldn’t say anything at all!”

Emma jumped up from her seat, voice rising. “You hardly talk to anyone! You barely come out of your house anymore! How is anyone supposed to know how you’re doing unless they ask?!”

Regina stood as well, pressing her palms down flat on the table as she leaned towards the blonde woman. Neal began to cry from the other end of the table. “Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe I don’t want to be talked to?! Maybe I stay in my house to get away from everyone and their incessant questions?!”

“Oh woe is me, Regina!” Emma rolled her eyes. “Did it ever occur to you that people might actually CARE about you? That they might actually worry about you and think of you?! NEWSFLASH, Regina! You’re not the only one who lost someone recently!”

“ENOUGH!” Zelena shouted, standing up and gripping both women by their arms, dragging them into the back hall that led to other rooms. When she finally stopped, she whirled around and fixed the two women with a glare of her own, crossing her arms and shifting her weight to one foot. “Do I need to get you two a room, because you’re fighting like some old married couple!”

Regina and Emma dragged their eyes to look at each other across the distance they had placed between them. Regina felt something nagging at her as she looked at Emma’s red face, but she pushed it down and shifted her gaze to her sister as she continued.

“No? No answer? Good. Remember this silence and go out there and play nice for your son who spent a lot of time organizing this dinner, and for me because I did not spend all this time wanting a family to watch it fall apart over stupid egos!”

The other two women looked at their feet, embarrassed but unwilling to apologize. Zelena pegged them with another glare before brushing past them and rejoining the rest of their party. Alone in the hallway, the two women looked everywhere but at each other. Emma shuffled her feet, suddenly very interested in her boots. Regina swung her arms, trying to relieve the tension in her shoulders.

Emma sighed. “She’s right, you know.”

“I’m aware.”

Emma bit back a smart remark and let out a shallow breath. “Look, let’s just call a truce. For Henry and Zelena’s sake.”

Regina finally turned to face Emma, seeing her hand outstretched for a handshake. She jutted her chin out, not wanting her agreement to this truce to mean that she was apologetic, and grabbed Emma’s hand, giving it a shake. Emma’s fingers clasped around the brunette’s hand, returning the shake, but she let her hand linger for a few extra heartbeats before releasing her grip. Regina chose to ignore the extended shake as well as the strange bundle of nerves in her stomach. Turning away, she sauntered back out into the room with Emma hot on her heels.

The awkward air that hung around the table made Regina wince, but she suppressed it before it reached her face. Mary Margaret gave her a wary look, and Regina forced a small smile at the woman. She knew she had been a bit unreasonable, but she wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Especially not in front of everyone. She could feel Emma’s eyes on her, however, so she tried to make her smile more convincing until Mary Margaret turned back to her conversation with Zelena.

“Can we mom?!” Henry’s voice brought her head back in his direction.

“I’m sorry?”

“A dog! Can we get a dog?” Henry looked at her with eyes the size of saucers and a huge grin plastered across his face.

Regina chuckled and smiled, “I’ll think about it.” Henry opened his mouth to protest. “We will discuss it when you get that history grade up, young man!”

Henry ducked his head sheepishly at his mother’s gentle scolding. Emma leaned down, “What’s this? You said you had good grades!”

“It’s not my fault history is boring.” Henry defended. “If it was the history of fairytales, I’d have an A!”

The sounds of laughter were heard around the table as the tension eased out of the group. Emma ruffled her son’s hair in response before launching into a conversation with Henry about her own schooling.

David turned to take Neal from his wife and Regina caught her eye. Feeling sheepish herself, she opened her mouth to apologize when the familiar ripple of magic in the air washed over her. Zelena stiffened in her seat and Regina heard the scrape of a chair as Emma stood up, both having felt it, too.

“Regina.....?” Emma started.

“Yeah, I felt it, too.” She stood from her seat and locked eyes with the blonde before turning and rushing for the door. She burst outside and into the street, Emma hot on her heels with Zelena close behind.

“Do you think it’s Rumplestiltskin?” Zelena asked.

Regina didn’t answer as she slowly spun in a circle, trying to zero in on where the magic was emanating from. “No, I don’t think so. Look!” She had stopped spinning when she spotted a pillar of light coming from the mayor’s office. 

“What the hell is that?!” Emma asked from behind, her voice sounding incredibly close to Regina’s ear.

The brunette gritted her teeth. “That, my dear, is a portal. Storybrooke is about to have a new visitor.”