The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Part 2

Previously: Part 1 [X]

Regina understands everyone. Rated AA.

* * * * *

“Mom?” Henry asked as he stood in the hallway, his backpack over his shoulder, waiting for Regina to walk him to school.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Regina wasn’t paying full attention, distracted by checking that she had everything with her for her day’s meetings with Snow.

“Is Emma going to move in with us?”

Regina’s spine stiffened. She turned to face him, and tilted her head. She didn’t think that she would ever stop thinking of him as her little boy, but she tried, whenever possible, to treat him as an intelligent young man and not a child.

“Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “I know she stays over and she was here last night. And I know you two are,” he scrunched his face in mild distaste, “like, together, but I don’t get why you’re hiding it from me. I don’t mind. I think it’s a good thing.” His cheeks flushed. No child really wanted to discuss his parents’ sex life, especially, she suspected, when he had two mothers. She wondered what they had done—or not done—to tip him off. She thought they had been very careful about hiding their relationship.

She walked towards him and tucked her finger under his chin. “I think it’s a good thing, too. And we’re not trying to hide it from you. What your mother and I have, it’s not about you.” She shook her head, not wishing to make him feel excluded. “I mean, it’s not about our being your mothers. You are the best part of our lives, but sometimes adults need something that is just for themselves. It doesn’t mean that it’s a secret or it’s bad, just that it’s not something they want to share with the rest of the world. Can you understand that?”

“Kind of. Not really.” He scuffed his foot along the floor and took a step back from her. “Why wouldn’t you want to tell people?” A few years ago, he would have hated her for keeping secrets from him, but he didn’t seem angry, just confused.

“Well, that’s a difficult thing to explain, because there are many reasons. For a start, being the Evil Queen and the Saviour comes with certain expectations, and people don’t like it when their expectations are not met. People are going to assume that your mother should want better than me, and that I don’t deserve her.” She often agreed with that assessment, but she also knew that she was the only one who truly understood Emma. Emma had chosen her: that mattered more than anyone else’s opinion to Regina. “Some may still feel that I don’t deserve any happiness at all.”

“But you’re not the Evil Queen anymore. I don’t get why everyone doesn’t see that.” He chewed his lip in a very Emma-like manner. He was trying to understand, but Regina didn’t fully understand her relationship with Emma, so how could Henry? “Is it because you’re gay?”

“No, it’s not that.” She wasn’t even sure that gay was the right label to apply to either her or Emma. “Certainly, it may be an issue for others that we’re both women, but not for your mother or me. Does it bother you?”

“No! That bit’s okay.” He looked away and then back at her, torn between embarrassment and curiosity. “I mean, I like it when it’s just the three of us, and there’s not other people.” He had never really liked Hook, and he hadn’t had his full memories during Regina’s time with Robin, but Regina knew that many children disliked their parents’ partners on principle alone.

“So, what is troubling you?” She hoped that it was something they could work through. Henry had his thinking look on, the steady, measuring, wounded look he used to have when he was trying to prove that she was the Evil Queen. Regina had not missed that look at all.

“Does Emma make you happy, Mom?”

“Oh, yes.” It was a question which didn’t need any thought. “She does. Almost as happy as you do.”

“But?” He folded his arms over his chest. So perceptive, their little boy, with Emma’s scepticism and Regina’s desire to push things.

“Happiness is hard for adults, sweetheart. It takes time and effort and an awful lot of hard work. And, even then, it sometimes doesn’t work out. Because wanting something badly or loving someone as much as you can isn’t always enough. Sometimes, the obstacles are too great.”

“You love Emma, right?”

“I—” She swallowed, her mouth dry. “Yes, I do. I love her very much.”

“Well, why didn’t you both just tell me? I get that you don’t want everyone to know, but I’m not everyone! I’m your son.”

“You’re right, of course. We should have told you.” She nodded and clasped her hands together. “I’m very sorry about that.” She should have pushed Emma harder about telling Henry. Keeping the truth from him was never a good idea, even if she had done it to help Emma feel in control of her world. “I promise I will talk to her about this, and then we can all sit down and discuss it, if that’s what you want.”

“Jeez! It’s not that big a deal, Mom. I don’t need it explained to me like I’m still a little kid.” He rolled his eyes like the teenager he was, and then, almost instantly, became her little boy again as he shrugged. “I just think that maybe it would be okay if she stayed over sometimes, like at weekends, and we could do things together as a family.”

The relief that all he wanted was to be included in some way flooded through Regina. She had worried ceaselessly about how he might take the news that his mothers were in a relationship.

“I should like that very much.”

“Can I ask her today?”

She shook her head. “I think it’s better that I talk to her first, let her know that we’ve had this discussion.” He looked so hopeful that Regina couldn’t outright refuse him. “But it’s Friday, so you could invite her over for dinner tonight, and tell her that I’m making lasagna. And then I will talk to her alone, after you’ve gone to bed.” She beamed down at him. “Does that seem like a reasonable compromise?”

He seemed happy enough with that, and didn’t ask any further questions on the walk to school, but Regina worried the whole way about how Emma might react to this new change.

+

“We should have a proper dinner,” Emma said, as Regina stood behind her, rinsing the shampoo from Emma’s hair and randomly massaging her scalp as she did so.

It had become their routine in the beginning for Emma to show up after Henry had gone to sleep, and for them to lose themselves in hours of increasingly demanding sex before taking a shower together. Regina enjoyed it because it was one of the few times she got to touch Emma in a way which wasn’t sexual; however, it also meant that Emma would be leaving soon, dressing immediately afterwards and transporting herself home. Magic, they’d found, was a much better way of sneaking around than parking the police cruiser or the Volkswagen two blocks away where anyone could see.

The most surprising part of Henry knowing about them was that Emma adapted immediately, and had become more relaxed, perhaps due to the pressure of having to hide things from their son being lifted. This evening, Emma had shown up at the front door, straight after her shift, and they’d had dinner together around the kitchen table as a family. Then, Emma had played some computer game with Henry while Regina had read a book. It had been normal and domestic and easy. Now that Henry had gone to his room for the night, she and Emma were having a shower before going to bed. It was even possible that they might not have sex. Regina wouldn’t mind either way, because she always wanted Emma, always responded instinctively to her physicality, but she enjoyed just being near her, too. The simple intimacy of being together was an unexpected gift in her life. Getting to wake up with Emma in the morning and revel in the warmth of their closeness was one of Regina’s greatest pleasures.

“What’s a proper dinner?” She was momentarily distracted by the desire to bury her face in Emma’s neck and mark her the way that Emma always marked her, so she didn’t immediately pick up on Emma’s far-too-casual tone.

“Fuck, you’re good at that,” Emma said as Regina’s thumbs worked into the tight cords of her neck. “I mean the three of us, for Henry’s thing.”

“Ah.” Henry had been learning the clarinet and had a solo in the upcoming school pageant. ‘The saxophone would get him more chicks,’ Emma had said, winking at her in a way which implied that she knew this for a fact, and Regina hadn’t pushed for details because she didn’t care to be jealous of Emma’s past when she was the one who had her now.

“I spoke to him about it. He wants to have dinner with us, here, beforehand. He said something about some pudding thing that takes days to make.”

Arroz con dulce.” She smiled at the memory of seven-year-old Henry weighing out rice to be steeped in coconut milk and spices overnight. “I haven’t made him that in years.” She wondered if Emma had that memory, too. “You eat here all the time, Emma. What makes this dinner any different?”

“I was thinking it could be like a date.” Emma tipped her head back to let Regina wash away the last of the shampoo. “Like, we could dress up and eat in the dining room and make it special, you know?”

“You don’t normally find my cooking special?”

“That’s not what I—” Emma blew out a frustrated breath, and craned her head back to see Regina grinning at her. “You’re fucking with me.”

“Maybe a little.” She nodded, turning Emma in her arms to face her, aware more than ever that Emma was still dropping weight. She made a mental note to make her meals higher in both calories and protein. She bussed her lips across Emma’s. “But, yes, I like that idea.”

“So, you wanna go on a date with me?”

“I think we can probably handle one real date.”

“Even if it’s with our son?”

“He goes to bed eventually.” Regina looked between them to their naked bodies. “And will you be wearing a dress to this date?”

Emma flushed, biting her lip between her teeth. “Would you like that?”

“I like every version of you, whatever you’re wearing.” She tipped her head to kiss along Emma’s cheek towards her ear. “Or not wearing.” Maybe they would have sex this evening, after all, she thought, as Emma’s hand tightened on her hip and then skirted downwards, her fingers squeezing Regina’s ass. “But I think I’d enjoy seeing you in a dress, spending the whole evening contemplating how easy it would be to slide it up over your hips and have my way with you.”

“Oh, fuck, that’s—” Emma moaned. “Right, I’ll definitely speak to my mother, then.”

“Your mother?” Regina bristled, trying not to get defensive at any mention of Snow, but failing. She pulled back and stared at Emma, who took a few seconds to adjust to the abrupt change in mood.

“She wants to do this big family thing at Granny’s.”

“So you want to take me on a date—to my own house, no less—to avoid your mother, is that it?”

“No. It’s not like that.” Emma slid her arm around Regina’s waist and tried to pull them together again, but Regina twisted away.

“Tell me what this is really about.” Regina slapped at Emma’s roaming hand. “And we’re done in here, so we should get out now.” She reached past Emma and turned the taps off, leaving the shower and putting her robe on. Emma huffed a little before heading back into the bedroom.

Regina stood before the mirror and combed her hair back before starting to apply eye serum and night cream. Emma reappeared wearing a tank-top and pair of Regina’s pyjama bottoms, and vigorously towelling her hair dry.

“So, here’s the thing,” Emma said, hopping up onto the counter next to the sink. “Snow’s just assuming that we’ll all have a big dinner, like, with half the town there, but I’d already decided that I wanted it to be just the three of us. And so then I thought it’s not really about me or her, or even about you, I guess, but about what Henry wants. So, I asked him what he wanted, and he mentioned the dessert thing and how he wants us to be a family more, and that’s what I want, too. And I do want to do something special with you, because,” she shrugged, “you know.” Emma furrowed her brow and wrung the towel she was holding in her hands. “I want to do this better. Us. You and me.”

“Oh.” She checked in the mirror for any remaining cream on her face and turned to Emma, who was staring at her hands, cheeks flushed. Regina put on her fondest smile, the one which soothed teething pains in little boys and indulged grown Sheriffs with emotional issues. Emma’s legs were swinging against the counter, but they stopped when Regina moved to stand between them, bringing Emma’s face to her own for a soft kiss. “You do more than fine as it is.”

“Yeah?” Emma crinkled her nose and squinted through half-shut eyes, trying not to break their kiss.

“Yes, you do. And you’ll definitely get lucky if you wear a dress on our date.” She had to close to her eyes for a second to calm herself. The thought of a date with Emma, even in their own home, even after every way they had been together already, was making her giddy with girlish anticipation.

“How lucky?” Emma whispered against her lips.

“Wear the dress and find out.” She kissed Emma quickly, and then stepped back.

“Tease.”

“Yes.” Regina held out her hand to lead Emma through to the bedroom. Emma took it and jumped down from the counter, pulling Regina back against her and nuzzling her neck as they moved slowly from the bathroom, turning until they were facing each other and Emma was walking her backwards towards the bed.

“So, what should I do about this thing?”

It was a much bigger question than it sounded, and a much bigger step than Emma had taken before, because she almost never discussed her issues with Snow, and she rarely asked for advice of any kind. But it was still about giving Emma control, about letting her own her choices. Regina stroked across the fabric of Emma’s top with her fingernails.

“I’m sure I could manage through one evening with your parents, if that’s what you want.” Snow and David were her family now, linked by Henry and Emma and so many complex threads which they could never unravel. “I just want you and Henry to be happy.”

“He wants to be here with us. I want to be here with you.”

She angled her head to kiss Emma’s temple. “Then, that’s what we’ll do.” She sighed. “And I’ll even speak to your mother about it if you don’t want to.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“I’d do almost anything for you,” she answered honestly. Without even trying, Emma filled her heart with love, and Regina wanted to wrap Emma up in that love and never let her go.

“Okay, so I’m filing that one away for later.” Emma waggled her eyebrows. “But, no, it’s okay. I said I’d go over to see Snow and David on Saturday, so I’ll speak to them myself then.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m positive.” Emma started pulling the tie of Regina’s robe apart, and leaned her head forward to kiss along her clavicle. “But I really don’t want to talk about my parents right now.”

“No?” Regina’s breath hitched as she felt Emma’s warm hands against her cooling skin. “What would you prefer to discuss, then?”

Emma bit into her neck, suckling and marking her. “Less talking, more fucking.”

+

As soon as Regina saw Snow on her doorstep with tears in her eyes, she knew what had happened. She had expected it as soon as she had received a text the previous evening stating that Emma would not be dropping by.

“Emma’s gone, isn’t she?” Sighing, she stood aside and opened the door wider, ushering the other woman inside. She hadn’t even closed the door properly when she was pulled into an awkward hug, Snow’s cries echoing through the hallway. Grudgingly, she wrapped her arms around Snow.

“She, I, we had a fight and she, there was a note, and—” Snow was close to hyperventilating, her words staccato and punctuated by harsh tiny little breaths. It was only then that Regina noticed the crushed sheet of paper in Snow’s hand. She eased her fingers apart and took it, holding it at arm’s length so she might read Emma’s familiar scrawl without her glasses. It didn’t say anything which Regina couldn’t have guessed: Emma loved them, but she needed some time and space, and they shouldn’t try to find her, but she’d be back when she was ready.

Regina patted Snow’s back, her mind immediately switching to damage control mode. She wondered if Neal was with David at the Sheriff’s station. If so, she should probably go fetch him so that David could do his job without a baby in tow. Another temporary deputy to help out for as long as Emma was gone probably wouldn’t hurt, either. She’d been meaning to discuss extra staff with Snow and Emma anyway because it was ridiculous that the entire police force was Snow’s husband and child. If anything were to happen to them both—well, Regina knew what it felt like to have to live without Emma and Henry.

“Shhh. Calm down now.” Why was this her family? This infuriating, selfish young girl—for Regina never really thought of Snow as a grown woman because she so rarely acted like one—and her wayward brood were the most important people in Regina’s life, and that must surely be her greatest irony.

“Mom?”

She looked up, and Henry was leaning over the balcony, his bottom lip between his teeth, unsure of how to react to the sight of his grandmother sobbing in his mother’s arms. And that was why this was her family, because of this perfect boy who united all of them, and because of his less-than-perfect mother, whom they all loved to distraction in their own ways. Emma and Henry were the heart of Regina’s and Snow’s lives—the heart of the whole town, in fact.

“Go put the kettle on and make your grandmother some tea,” she said. “We’ll join you in a moment.”

He narrowed his eyes, that Emma stare where he weighed up what was being said against the visual cues around him, then nodded his head. He padded down the stairs and headed into the kitchen, giving them a sad smile over his shoulder. Regina have a weak smile in reassurance.

“Would you like some tea, hmm?” She pulled the other woman back and brushed the hair from her forehead. “And then you can tell us everything.”

“But, Henry?” Snow’s brow furrowed.

“Is going to find out soon enough, and it’s better that he hears it from us.”

She turned Snow around and pushed her gently in the direction of the kitchen, placing her hand on her back and leading her there. Henry was standing by the stove, setting out the teapot and two cups. He looked up as they entered.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Regina held up a finger, silently asking him to wait a moment while she ushered Snow into a chair at the kitchen table. She moved to stand next him.

“Your mother has left town for a day or two,” she said, hoping that it wasn’t a lie and Emma would return as soon as her head cleared, “and your grandmother blames herself.”

“Oh.” He bowed his head. Like Emma, he showed all his pain in his eyes and Regina knew he was blaming himself for Emma’s disappearance.

“It’s not anyone’s fault, sweetheart.” She smoothed his hair and rubbed her cheek across the top of his head, the way she always did with Emma, too. She kept her voice deliberately low, just for Henry and not for Snow. “It’s been really hard for her since you both came back from New York, and she’s trying her very best to do the right thing for everybody. We have to respect that. We have to let her deal with everything in her own way, and this is her way.”

“She’ll come back, though, won’t she, Mom?”

“Of course she will, darling boy. She couldn’t be away from you for long.” And that much at least was the truth, even if Regina couldn’t put a figure on how many days or weeks ‘long’ might be. “And she definitely wouldn’t miss your big show.”

They didn’t speak further as they worked together to prepare tea for Snow and Regina, and a glass of apple juice for Henry. Snow, meanwhile, continued to hyperventilate, a snivelling mass of woolly cardigan and red-eyed tears, until a cup was placed in front of her.

“I love her so much,” Snow said, sipping at the hot drink and wincing a little as it met her lips. “And my love is just never going to be enough for her, is it?”

“Actually, it’s quite the opposite.” Regina didn’t even have it in her to point out that Snow was making Emma’s disappearance all about her own feelings. She glanced to Henry, and he gave her a look somewhere between a grin and an eye roll, a conspiratorial acknowledgement that he shared her belief that Snow was a self-obsessed drama queen, and Regina felt her heart constrict with love for him and yearning for Emma. “I think it’s too much for her to comprehend.”

“B-b-but, how can love be too much?”

“Because Emma lived without love for most of her life, and she’s had such a short time with all of us in comparison. And within that short time, she also had a whole year without us, when she didn’t even know there was an us to miss. And then a pirate shows up with a memory potion and suddenly she’s ripped from a happy life of just her and her son and brought back here to save us all. Again. And there’s magic and fairytales and a never-ending supply of foes whom she is expected to defeat. She has same-age parents and a new baby brother and a town who look to her as their leader. Everyone loves her, but everyone expects things of her because of that. She’s their princess, their Saviour. You must see that it is a lot for anyone to take in, an incredible amount of pressure on one so fragile.”

“My daughter is not fragile.”

“Yes, she is. She’s brave and strong and fearless, but she’s also human, Snow. She’s not coping.” There were so many things which Regina could point out to Snow, so many little signs which the other woman had missed, but she found that she didn’t wish to be hurtful. “Have you not noticed how gaunt she has been getting?”

Snow frowned. “What do you mean?”

“The weight loss, the tiredness.”

“She’s been busy.” Snow blew over her tea, trying to play off her discomfort. “So, sometimes she works late and skips the occasional meal.”

“Because being Sheriff of Storybrooke is a non-stop whirlwind of high-tech crime solving.” Just because she was trying to be kind didn’t mean that Regina could hold all of her irritation inside.

“Well, if she’s not eating regularly, then I don’t understand why she would pick a fight with me about having a big family meal next week!” Snow let her cup clatter back into the saucer, tea slopping over the edge of the cup. Henry immediately reached over with a dish towel and cleaned it up.

“Because I asked for a family dinner with just my Moms,” he said, slumping back in his chair. Regina reached over and cupped the back of his neck, her fingers trailing through his too-long hair. It wasn’t his fault. None of this was his fault.

“But we just wanted to do something special,” Snow said.

“Dinner with my moms is special.” He folded his arms over his chest.

“Oh, I mean, yes, of course it is, but wouldn’t you prefer to be with all of us?”

“We have dinner with you all the time.”

“We just want to be a part of your life, Henry.”

“I know, but Mom promised to make me arroz con dulce because it’s my favourite, and we don’t have it very often because it takes forever to cook.”

Regina watched them both, Henry struggling to hide his frustration and Snow pushing him, and she was positive that this was becoming a replay of the conversation between Emma and her parents from the previous evening. She could even see that Snow’s sense of her own rightness had caused her tears to all but evaporate. She retracted her hand from Henry’s neck and folded her hands on her lap. She pressed the fingernail of her right hand onto her left palm, an old trick to calm her emotions and give her focus.

“Snow,” she said, her smile fixed and her voice level, “please don’t think that you can come into my house and try to win an argument you lost with your daughter by fighting it a second time through her son.”

“But that’s not—”

“Don’t.” Regina held up her hand, cutting the other woman off. She picked up her own cup of tea and sipped at it, knowing that a pause would provide emphasis to whatever she chose to say next. It would also give her a moment or two to pick her words carefully. Releasing a long breath, she placed the cup back down. “Who eats what with whom and when is not important. I’m sure, as adults, we could have worked something out between us. Perhaps Emma and I could eat with Henry beforehand and then we can all go to Granny’s after the concert for a second dessert.” She smiled sideways at Henry. “If there’s one thing I know about your daughter and grandson, it’s that they always have room for a second dessert.” Henry nodded at the suggestion, and it was almost painful how much he looked like Emma and how much that made Regina love them both even more.

“Can I go back upstairs, Mom? I’ve got homework to finish.” His sheepish grin—pure Emma—combined with his raised eyebrow—that one, he definitely got from her—and the fact that he never did homework on a Sunday morning of his own volition all pointed to his telling a white lie so that he could leave the women to talk alone. She was so lucky to be blessed with such a good, decent boy.

“Of course, sweetheart.” She winked at him, thanking him with her eyes for his consideration. “And perhaps you could call your grandfather and tell him to drop the baby off here?”

“Sure.” He clambered from his chair with all the awkwardness of the growing teen he was, limbs and torso twisting in ways they were still learning. “See you later, Grams.”

Snow smiled up at him, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

Regina remained silent until she was sure Henry was out of earshot, and then she pushed herself from her chair.

“I’ll just freshen the tea,” she said.

“I don’t want any more.”

“I do.”

She collected their cups and rinsed them in the sink, the running water barely covering the heavy sighs from Snow. Regina ignored them. She genuinely didn’t think that Snow was purposely trying to make things all about herself. She told herself that Snow was a product of her father’s over-indulgence of her every whim, just as much as Cora’s intolerance and cruelty had shaped Regina. She even tried to think of Snow as a loving mother and grandmother who just wanted to be surrounded by her family. Still, it was impossible for Regina not to conclude that Snow was putting her own wishes before those of Emma and Henry, and their needs were above all others for Regina.

“Everything I try to do with her is wrong,” Snow said. “She’s my daughter, and she can’t even bear to be in the same room as me.”

Regina stilled at the counter. She knew that heartbreak. She remembered the looks and the accusations and Henry’s hurt and pain. She pictured her little boy, pulling away from her, flinching from her touch. Even though Snow had encouraged that behaviour, had wanted Henry taken from Regina after the first curse was broken, Regina couldn’t wish her own pain on Snow any more. They were past that. What was best for Emma and Henry was their whole family, working to support them, she told herself.

She brought the cups back to the table and pushed one towards Snow.

“Emma needs time to adjust.”

“To what? What’s so bad about our family that we’re not what she wants?”

“She needs to adjust to what she has now, and to the knowledge that she did not have it for the best part of thirty years. That she had it for a year, and then it was ripped away from her. That it might be taken from her again, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t accept and embrace it while she has it.”

Snow narrowed her eyes, and Regina could read the accusation, the unspoken ‘And that is your fault’ which lay there. She couldn’t and wouldn’t disagree. It was her burden to bear, though, and she was trying to make amends for it in the only way she knew how, by loving Emma and Henry with everything that she had. Happiness, as she had told Henry, took hard work and patience, but Regina had learned the rewards of both.

“Why would she not want our love?” Snow didn’t understand what a life without love felt like. She could not comprehend that love could be difficult to accept, a burden which seized you with responsibility. She still did not understand the resentment caused by being told who you had to love, and in what way you should love them. Had Snow remained merely Regina’s young friend, she could have loved her so much. Had she remained Mary Margaret, Emma’s best friend, Emma could have loved her so much.

“She does, but you cannot force her to feel like you do. All you can do is love her, and stand by her without expectation or judgement, and let her come to you in her own way.” She smiled to herself. “Emma is that wild thing that you have to set free and trust that she will come back. And she will come back, because she loves you. But you have to let her accept that and know it and understand what it means for her. You cannot give her words, Snow, and expect her to believe them. She has been promised things and lied to her whole life. Every family she has known has been taken away from her. Every time she has settled somewhere, she has been sent away. Even we did that to her, sending her and Henry to New York.”

“But that was for her own good! We were protecting her!”

Regina nodded. “We were, and we did. But you must see that this makes her wary to trust in all of this again. What if there’s another curse? What if we leave her again? How will that make her feel?”

But Snow still didn’t comprehend, so Regina patiently talked to her about her daughter and what it meant to feel unwanted, even when that wasn’t the case. She tried to explain without giving away too much of Emma’s fears, because some things were for Emma to discuss with Snow herself, and not for Regina to point out.

She was glad when the doorbell rang and it gave her an excuse to leave the kitchen. It was, as she expected, David and the baby. Neal was asleep in his carrier, his tiny hands balled in front of his face.

“Henry called,” David said, looking down at the baby and then back to Regina. “You sure you’re okay with this?”

“You need to work, and he needs to be looked after.” She took the carrier from David’s hand and the baby bag from his shoulder. She walked into the hallway, trusting that he would follow. She left Neal in the carrier, hopeful that he would remain asleep, and placed both child and bag on the table, then turned back to face David.

“So, how’re things?” He looked over Regina’s shoulder in the direction of the kitchen.

“About as well as can be expected.”

“That good, huh?” He grimaced, but his cheeks were red, and not just from the cold, and he had an evasiveness about his eyes, a gesture which Regina instantly recognised from his daughter and grandson. The way he curled his shoulders and pushed his hands into his back pockets was all Emma, too.

“What’s she not telling me that I need to know?” She gave him a brief smile to indicate that she wasn’t being confrontational.

David’s shoulders slumped and then he lifted one in a half-shrug. “Emma was trying to tell her about you, but I don’t think she heard it.”

“About me?” She had the urge to fold her arms across her chest, but resisted, and she kept her voice low because of the sleeping child.

“I don’t know if she just didn’t know what Emma was trying to say, or if she wasn’t willing to hear, but I,” he shrugged again, “I work with her, so I see more of what’s going on in her life.” He nodded and looked Regina in the eye. “I already knew how Emma feels about you.”

“Ah.” She nodded back. He didn’t seem upset or disappointed, but she didn’t want to push it when she had one over-emotional Charming in her house already. They looked at each other for a few moments, but they weren’t the sort of people to share a deep and meaningful conversation. Despite his romantic name, Charming was more of a realist than his wife. Some things were just the way they were. There was enough in the look they shared to cover everything anyway. Emma was with Regina, and David wasn’t going to object. She looked over her shoulder towards the kitchen. “Do you want to come through?”

“No. I need to get back to work. I have to find someone to cover Emma’s nightshift.” He rubbed the back of his neck with his palm. “Are you going to talk to her about it?”

“Snow?” she said, and David nodded. It was tempting, and there had already been several points during their conversation when Regina had wanted to reveal the true depths of her feelings for Emma, and how she knew so much of the turmoil in her life. “No, I think that’s a conversation she needs to have with Emma, don’t you?”

“Probably.” He shook his head. “The world is a strange place, isn’t it?”

“I think that’s an understatement.”

“Right, well, I’d better—” He inclined his head towards the door. “Tell Snow to call me if she and the baby need a ride home.”

“I’ll walk them home later and get them settled. I think the air would do us all some good.”

She followed him across the hallway, holding the door open as he left. He stopped on the bottom step and opened and closed his mouth a few times, debating what else to say.

“You’ll look after her, won’t you?” he said, and Regina knew that he wasn’t talking about Snow.

“Always.”

“Good. That’s—” He nodded to himself, then to Regina. “She needs that.”

He walked away, and Regina closed the door, hoping that Neal’s arrival would distract Snow enough that their further conversation didn’t stray too close to the things Regina couldn’t say.

+

It was either very late or very early when she felt it, the rush of awareness she got from Emma’s closeness. It had started years before, when they had first combined their magic, and it had been growing stronger since Emma had become more of a permanent fixture in her life and her bed and her home.

Regina rose from bed and walked to her window. Downstairs, in the gazebo, Emma was sitting on a chair, bent over and resting her arms on her knees, her hands clasped before her. There was only the smallest head movement to indicate that Emma had noticed the bedroom curtain opening. Regina smiled down at the huddled figure, and let the curtain fall shut again. Crossing to her wardrobe, she looked inside for a winter coat, and picked out a long, black woollen one. Wrapping it around herself, she eased her feet into a pair of sneakers, something which would never have been found in her wardrobe prior to Emma. They were a couple of sizes too large, but neither heels nor slippers were suitable footwear for a winter’s morning in her pyjamas.

Feeling somewhat ridiculous, she moved downstairs as quietly as possible, determined not to wake Henry. She let herself out of the back door and immediately inhaled, the air sharp and tight against her face. Frost covered the grass, although dawn would chase it away in a short while. She picked her way carefully along the path, awkward in her too-large borrowed shoes, until she stood in front of Emma.

The other woman looked up, eyes red-rimmed and nose shiny from being rubbed raw, but she didn’t straighten up from her hunched position. Regina felt the tears springing behind her eyes. She held them back as best she could, always careful around Emma’s feelings.

“I don’t seem to be able to stay away from you,” Emma said.

She stepped forward until Emma’s forehead was resting against her abdomen, and she reached down with gentle hands to thread through her hair.

“I wouldn’t ever want you to try.”

Wordlessly, Emma untied the loose belt which held Regina’s coat closed, and pushed it aside. The cold air made Regina shiver, but she didn’t move or complain as Emma turned her head and pressed her cheek to Regina’s stomach, her arms slipping inside the coat and around Regina’s waist, pulling her closer. Her knees bumped the edge of the chair as Emma scooted forward, seeking out Regina’s heat and solidity.

She cradled Emma’s head to her. A faint, warm dampness spread against her belly, indicating fresh tears. Regina held her, smoothed her hair and whispered nonsense hushing noises of love and comfort until Emma took a few deeper breaths and squeezed harder.

“I spoke to my mother,” she said, her voice small and sad.

“I know, darling girl.” She leaned down as best she could and pressed a kiss to the top of Emma’s head. “I know.”

“I tried to tell her about the dinner, but she didn’t get what I was saying. She got all snippy about how she just wanted to be surrounded by her whole family, and then she wouldn’t listen to me when I said it’s a big night for the kid and he wants to be with you, not anyone else, like, all the time. And sometimes she just puts too much expectation on everything to be the way she wants it to be and for everything to be perfect when maybe it’s not. That’s a lot for a kid to live up to, you know?” Emma sniffed. “And then I tried to make her understand that it was important to me because you were important, and she wasn’t getting that either. I mean, I really tried with her, but I feel like she doesn’t ever hear what I’m saying. She just hears what she wants to hear.”

Regina just held Emma to her, felt the heat of her breath through the silk of her pyjamas, and made gentle noises of agreement.

“And then we both said things that we probably didn’t mean and it just, it got out of hand. Well, at least, I didn’t mean what I said to her, but she just pushes my buttons so hard sometimes, because she thinks that what she wants is what’s best for everyone. And it’s not. Sometimes, people need their own thing, and that’s not the same thing at all.” She took a shallow breath. “And I’m sorry for running away, because that was a really shitty thing to do to you and Henry, and that was the thing I was trying to be better at, and I can’t even do that properly, and, and—”

“Hush now, sweet Emma.” Regina cut her off by raising her head to look up at her. Emma was confused and frustrated and fearful that her life was spiralling out of control again. “I’m here, and you’re here now, and it’s okay.” Regina smiled at her. “We’re here. Henry and I are here and we love you.” And, for all that she had told Snow that words were not enough for Emma, sometimes, things needed to be said out loud. “I love you.”

Emma blinked, swallowed, and bit her lip. “I—”

“Shhh.” She didn’t need the words from Emma. Emma was there. Emma had come back to her. Emma’s actions always spoke louder than her words. “I love you, and we will work this out. Together. You don’t have to be alone.” She kept running her fingers through Emma’s hair, calming and soothing. “Unless you want to.”

“No.” Emma buried her face back in Regina’s stomach, nudging the bottom flaps of Regina’s pyjama top aside until she found skin, and then Regina felt Emma’s words against her. “I want to be here with you.”

Regina didn’t have a hope in hell at keeping the tears from her eyes at that admission. “Then we’ll find a way to work all of this out, my sweet girl. We are all adults. You and Snow and I are too old and set in our ways to change who we really are. But, she and I have stopped trying to kill each other, so I’m sure we can keep you two from killing each other, too. Your parents love you, and you love them. You just need to learn to love each other in the right ways and accept the things you can’t change.”

“You make it sound easy.” Emma kissed her just above her belly button, and Regina shivered, but not from the cold.

“Oh, it’s not easy. None of this will be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. You deserve the life you want for yourself, Emma, and I would do anything in my power to give you that, but there are no shortcuts here. There’s no magic which can mend us all. Just patience and time, and I have all the time in the world for you.”

Emma didn’t answer immediately, so Regina waited. The sky was starting to lighten, and it wouldn’t be too long, maybe only an hour or more, before Henry was awake. She tapped Emma’s forehead to get her attention.

“Do you want to come to bed now? Just rest for a little while and then I’ll make you and Henry pancakes with chocolate chips, and some of my special hot chocolate.”

“What makes it special?” Emma looked up at her, but kept her chin resting against Regina’s skin, maintaining contact at all times.

“I make it on the stove with real chocolate, cream, cinnamon and about half a pound of sugar.”

“That sounds incredible.” Emma’s smile was wide and true and reached her eyes. “You’re incredible.”

“I would hang the moon for you, Emma Swan.” She took a step back and held out her hand. “Come to bed with me. Let me take care of you for a little while.”

Emma took her hand and let herself be pulled up from the chair. She yawned and rested her head on Regina’s shoulder as they walked, hand-in-hand, back to the house.

“What about my mother?”

“She can make her own pancakes and hot chocolate.”

“Ass.” Emma nudged her with her shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

“Don’t worry about it just now.” Regina brushed her lips across Emma’s temple and squeezed the hand held tightly in her own. “First, rest, then food, and then possibly a day spent in bed after we’ve walked Henry to school. Maybe we can plan the date you’ve promised me. Everything else will wait.” She pushed open the back door and ushered Emma into their home.

“What would I do without you?” Emma said.

“It doesn’t matter. You’ll never have to find out.”

3 Comments

  1. doug
    Posted 13 November 2014 at 1.23pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, intense and a good story.

  2. Posted 14 November 2014 at 6.40am | Permalink

    Great story It’s nice to see how Regina seems so much in control and confident. She provides stability for Emma and I love how with Henry understanding what his mothers feel for each other they can become a real proper family.

  3. maggie
    Posted 12 February 2015 at 4.06pm | Permalink

    Great chapter

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