Right There All the Time, Part 2

Previously: Part 1 [U]

Henry’s moms aren’t getting any less oblivious.
Rated U.

* * * * *

When he got home that afternoon, both of his mothers were in the kitchen being suspicious. Mom was whisking cake batter, while Emma sipped at a coffee. They weren’t talking, although that wasn’t the weird bit, because they were often quiet in each other’s company, as if proximity itself were enough for them. It wasn’t even four o’clock yet, so Mom wasn’t due home for another couple of hours, and they were both dressed casually—sweats and a t-shirt for Emma, yoga pants and a loose tunic-thing which probably had a proper name for Mom—which meant they’d been home for a while, but even that wasn’t unheard of, either. The suspicious thing was that they were avoiding looking at each other. Emma was staring into her cup, while Mom was focused on the cake batter. For two people who could barely keep their eyes off the other for more than a few seconds, this set alarm bells ringing for Henry.

Usually, he would go to his room until dinner was ready, but this situation was worthy of further investigation.

“Hey.” He tried to sound nonchalant, sitting down across from Emma. “What’s up?”

“How was your day, sweetheart?’ Mom asked, still not turning around, while Emma just curled her lip at him.

“Nothing special. How come you’re home so early?”

Mom barked out a strangled, mangled squeal, and Emma said, “Don’t.”

“Why don’t you ask Emma how her day was?” Mom’s voice was really high, and her shoulders were shaking. He tilted his head at Emma, waiting for her to speak, but she was busy growling at Mom’s back.

“For the last time, there’s nothing funny about this,” Emma said.

“Of course not.” Mom pressed a hand to her mouth.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Bae wasn’t well,” Emma said, which earned another snort from Mom, and another glare from Emma. “I’m not going to warn you again, Regina.”

When Emma turned to him, he gave her what he hoped was a good approximation of Mom’s patented eyebrow lift.

“Fine, I’ll tell you.” Emma rolled her eyes and slumped down into her chair. “Your grandma dropped him off just after you guys left, and we watched a bit of Yo Gabba Gabba, had a snack and a nap together, then we played with his firetruck—”

“Did you wear the hat?” he asked. Emma had bought him an FDNY Fire Marshall baseball cap while they lived in New York, and she often put it on while she was playing with Neal’s fire station set.

“Maybe.”

“Oh, she wore the hat,” Mom said, as she poured the cake mix into two tins which were laid out on the counter. “You know she always wears the hat.”

“At least my brother appreciates the authenticity.” Emma was trying to scowl at Mom, but Mom busted out her Aren’t You Adorable face, and Emma couldn’t withstand that look any more than Henry could these days. “Yes, I wore the hat.” She shifted in her seat. “So, anyway, we went out into the backyard just before lunchtime so I could clean the gutters—”

Henry sniggered because of their ‘whipped’ conversation, but Emma shook her head, warning him not to push his luck.

“I was nearly finished when he made this godawful wailing noise, like, way worse than a dragon, and you know I’ve heard dragons wailing, and by the time I got down to his level, it was running down his legs.”

“He had an accident?” he asked.

“No,” Emma flinched, “an accident is when we go pee-pee and Emma has to change the big-boy pull-up diaper. This was an epic of Biblical proportions. He expelled more liquid poop in twenty seconds than an adult human being can hold in their whole body. And I cannot describe the colour or the smell or the—”

“Eww, TMI.” He shook his head and held out his hand. “I don’t need the detail.”

“Okay, Little Miss Sensitive. Anyway, I took him upstairs to your Mom’s bathroom, and called her for help with the poop volcano. She came home and fixed everything, like she always does, then your grandma came and got him, then we went grocery shopping and then we came home again. The end.”

Mom put the cake tins in the oven and joined them at the table, still smiling at Emma. “Your mother is leaving out quite a lot of detail.”

“Shut up.” Emma’s arms were crossed over her chest, but there was a grin forming at the corners of her mouth, and she was shifting in her chair, edging closer to Mom as if pulled by magnetism.

Mom reached across the table for her phone and slid her finger across the screen, pulling up a text conversation with Emma, and passed to it him. There were two texts and a picture. The first text said ‘SOS’. The second, the one with the attachment, was time-stamped only a few seconds later and said ‘Code Blue now!’ In the picture, his uncle was standing in what appeared to be the bath in the master bedroom. He was wearing a strange black diaper, tears running down his face. Everything in view, including Uncle Neal, was streaked with stains which Henry didn’t want to think about. Despite the little boy’s obvious misery, Henry started to laugh, because this was definitely one of those things which only seemed to happen to Emma.

“What’s he wearing?” he said, passing the phone back.

“Emma?” Mom reached her hand out to rest on Emma’s forearm.

“A hefty bag,” Emma said, her voice barely audible, as she turned her face away, blushing and wincing at the same time.

“You put him in a what?” he said.

“Look, I didn’t want to be trailing toxic baby shit all through our house, so I stripped all his clothes in the yard and I made him a diaper out of a hefty bag,” Emma said, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. She raised her hands as her voice rose, and that dislodged Mom’s hand, but she resettled it on Emma’s thigh, rubbing soothing circles. “At least I took him to the bathroom. My first thought was to put him in the kitchen sink, and then we’d all have had to move house, because we could never have eaten in here again! As it is, we just need a small bonfire for a few towels and all of my clothes.”

“Oh, Henry, you should have seen them.” Mom turned to Emma and shook her head, but her eyes were bright and shining with love. “When I came home, Bae was in the bath, wailing and crying, and your mother was wailing at me about how your grandmother was going to kill her for ‘breaking her baby boy’, and they honestly looked like there had been an explosion.”

“There was an explosion,” Emma said. “I said that already.”

He tuned out their running commentary, Mom explaining how she had to clean up both Emma and Bae, and Emma grumbling that Mom was making her sound incompetent because she could have magicked the bathroom clean herself, thank you very much. He concentrated on their body language, which was at least three pages’ worth of Totally Married Touches and Very Lingering Looks. They shifted slowly, morphing from two people sitting in separate chairs to a single Mom-and-Emma unit, pressed together all along one side, their eyes constantly searching each other out, and only flicking back to him occasionally. Mom’s hand travelled from Emma’s thigh to her knee to her arm in a constant motion of reassurance, while Emma, who was always more reserved than Mom with touch, leaned into it and angled herself to be more receptive and open. Emma’s only concession to touching was to rest her arm along the back of Mom’s chair, her thumb reaching out and finding Mom’s shoulder. He watched, fascinated, as Emma’s arm adjusted constantly to maintain that one point of contact.

Seeing them all up in each other’s space didn’t even gross him out, not like at school when he rounded a corner and unexpectedly came across some older kids making out, which made him feel all tight and wrong and desperate to be anywhere else. Mom and Emma were so much like home and The Way Things Should Be that he didn’t even point out the more obvious issues with their story, like why Emma had immediately called Mom instead of Grandma, or why Mom had dropped everything, rearranging her whole day to come home for Emma. He filed away two other points for his Big Book of Gay: one, that Emma was getting a special cake baked for her, because Mom expressed her love through food just as much as she did through touch; and, two, that Mom referred to his Uncle Neal as ‘Bae’ because she was always careful with Emma’s feelings.

Mom laughed while she was talking, sometimes high with delight at teasing Emma, and sometimes in a low tone, rich with love and other things that he so didn’t want to think about if Emma’s half-closed eyes and glazed expression were anything to go by. Still, they sounded like the family he had always wanted.

He sat and watched and listened for maybe twenty minutes before Mom decided to check on the cake, which he took as his own cue to leave. Before he did, he circled around the table and gave Emma a one-armed hug, and stopped at the counter to give Mom a peck on the cheek. They might be clueless, but he loved them all the same.

As he walked across the hall, he heard Mom ask Emma, “What do you think that was about?”

“I have no idea.” Emma replied. “Maybe he’s after something or maybe it’s a full moon. I’ve given up trying to figure out what motivates our live-in teenager.”

There was a pause, and Henry stopped with his foot on the bottom stair, waiting to hear what came next.

“How did you ever cope when Henry was sick?” Emma said. “I couldn’t have got through today without you, and I can’t imagine having to handle that sort of terror on my own when it was our son.”

“Honestly? When it’s your own child, you’re just so caught up in making him all better and happy again that you block the rest of it out. You don’t even notice the mess or the smell or any of that. I can’t tell you the number of times in those early years when I went into work with baby sick down my back.”

“I would’ve liked to have seen that.”

And Mom used her special Only for Emma voice when she said, “I would’ve liked that, too.”

+

Saturday was quiet because Emma was working a double shift and had left before Henry even woke up. Mom was in the study when he came downstairs, so he had cereal and toast for breakfast rather than disturb her. He popped his head around the door to say goodbye before he went out, but she was caught up in whatever she was doing. That was cool, because he’d had an idea which could give him more evidence for his files, and he didn’t want to have to lie about where he was going.

He rode his bike to Main Street and stowed it behind Granny’s. There was no need for a padlock because he had one mother who was the Sheriff and one who had been the Evil Queen. People did not mess with his shit. Period. When the First Curse had broken—and how weird was it that they had to number the curses just to keep them straight?—some of the kids at school had made rough comments about Mom within his hearing, but that had died down a lot. Some days, though, he missed the ‘Henry’s Mom eats live snakes for breakfast’ rumours because these days he was far more likely to overhear how his schoolmates wanted to see one or other of his moms naked. And he really didn’t need to know how smoking hot they were because they were his moms, and they were in love with each other, so it wasn’t right that anyone objectified them like that.

Checking up and down the street to make sure that no-one was watching, Henry ducked into Game of Thorns and greeted Moe French with a wave.

“Hi, Mr French, how are you?”

The florist wiped his hands on a towel and looked up at him. “I’m fine, Henry. What brings you in here today?”

“My mom’s birthday is coming up,” technically not for several months, but, still, that was in the future, “and I wanted to work out how much allowance I’d need to save up to get her some really nice flowers.” He looked around the shop to see if there were any which looked familiar, but they all just looked like flowers to him.

Mr French rubbed his hand over his jaw in contemplation. He blew some air of his cheeks, then walked over to an area with what looked like some potted stems. “These house orchids start from only twenty-five dollars each, but should grow well in any warm, well-lit room.” He gestured with his left hand towards some pre-made bouquets. “Or, these are all around thirty dollars, and would be a very handsome present. Is that what you had in mind?”

“Maybe.” They looked pretty enough, he supposed, but not what he was looking for. “I know she loves the ones that Emma brings home, so maybe we could start with those?”

“Well, now, they’re more of a special order for a good customer.”

“Really?” Heh. He knew Emma had been lying when she said she noticed the flowers in passing. He fished into his backpack for his notebook to record this fact. “Okay, so, how much for ones like Emma buys?”

Mr French shook his head. “I suspect they’d be more than a little out of your price range.”

“Oh. How much?”

“I don’t know that I should tell you that.” He folded his arms over his chest. “The Sheriff and I have a little florist-customer privilege arrangement going on.”

“But if I wanted ones like the ones Emma buys for Mom,” and he noticed that Mr French wasn’t surprised to hear that Emma bought the flowers for his mother, “not those exact ones, you understand, but ones like that, then what sort of price range would I be talking about?”

“That would depend on how many of the flowers had to be brought in on special order.”

“Special order?” Emma’s ‘just passing by’ lie was getting bigger and bigger by the second.

“The Sheriff is very particular about what she buys. We’ve spent a long time perfecting the right mix of colour and texture. And they’re not the sort of flowers a young man buys for his mother anyway.” Mr French was giving him a Significant Look. Henry took that to mean Emma bought flowers which had a romantic meaning, but, then, that made no sense because Emma didn’t know that she was in love with Mom. Parents were hard work sometimes, especially his moms, and clearly deductive skills were not genetic. He decided to ask outright. It was a risk, but he didn’t see that he had any choice but to trust Mr French if he wanted to know what he really wanted to know.

“Mr French, may I be honest with you?”

“What? You mean you haven’t been honest up till now? I’m shocked.” He winked at him.

“I just want to know if Emma bringing Mom flowers means what I think it means, and if Emma wants it to mean what I think it means.” He shrugged. “Or if Emma even knows that it means what I think it means. Do you know what I mean?”

The older man laughed, tipping his head back as his large chest rumbled. “I know exactly what you mean, son.” He walked back over to his counter, and leaned against it, turning more thoughtful. “I think you’re an intuitive young man, probably more so than either of your mothers realises. My answer to you is that, in her heart, Sheriff Swan knows. The rest of her, I can’t be sure of.”

“Thank you.” Henry smiled and wrote that quote down in his book. “Really, Mr French, that helps a lot.”

By the time he’d put his notebook away, Mr French was holding the door open for him.

“It was nice to see you, Henry. Don’t forget to drop by in January, in time for your mother’s actual birthday, and we’ll sort something out.”

+

He went to the park and hung out with his friends for a few hours, only heading home when it was nearly six o’clock. And that was when he got his second piece of evidence of the day.

Mom was wearing a t-shirt, which wasn’t a rare occurrence at weekends, especially since Emma had moved in with them and things had become more haphazard and relaxed, but it was a Storybrooke Sheriff’s Department t-shirt, navy with gold lettering above the departmental crest.

Emma worked every other Saturday, and a quick check of his notebook revealed that on the previous Saturday he’d observed when Mom was home without Emma, she had put on one of Emma’s overshirts while she was gardening.

He added a new category to his notation system: Wearing Emma’s Clothes [WEC].

“What are you scribbling now?” Mom asked, looking over her shoulder at him.

“Just some ideas for a thing.” He didn’t close the book in case that looked like he had something to hide. Instead, he turned to a blank page and placed the book face down on the counter, as if, hey, he was finished whatever he was doing, which was Totally Not a Big Deal.

“A story or a new Operation?”

“Nothing like that. It’s an assignment I’m working on.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“Nah, you’re good.” He sniffed the air, wanting to change the subject. “What’s for dinner?”

“Chilli and garlic bread for us, and I was about to make up some sandwiches for Emma in case she drops by later.”

He almost laughed out loud. In case Emma dropped by. Yeah, right. He didn’t have to check his notes to know that Emma swung by the house whenever she was on back shift and that Mom always made up a snack for her. Emma’s sandwiches came with coleslaw and a side salad right on the plate, alongside a pile of tortilla chips, just like at the diner. And then she’d sit in the living room with them, and change the TV to whatever she wanted to watch, and Mom never, ever complained about that. She sometimes rolled her eyes at him—‘See what I have to put up with’—but she never said anything to Emma, just fixed her another coffee and asked her about her day.

“What do you think Emma would like in her sandwich?” Mom asked.

“Anything you make for her.” Mom could serve Emma ground glass, and Emma would eat it with the Dopey Adoring Face.

“Maybe I should drop it off for her. She might be busy.”

There were no circumstances in any realm under which Emma would ever be too busy to make time for Mom. He gave it an hour before Emma texted to say she was on her way. Two hours, tops.

+

He knew Sunday was Mom’s favourite day of the week, although she would never admit that to anyone. On Sundays, the three of them met up with Grandpa and Uncle Neal, and they went to the duck pond together so that Grandma could have a few hours to herself. Grandpa had started the tradition when he bumped into them one Sunday morning while he was pushing Uncle Neal in his stroller, and invited them to join them for a walk. It had progressed to a regular occurrence, and Mom packed a basket for their lunch, with healthy snacks and some special treats for everyone, even herself.

He and Emma were fencing with tree branches while Uncle Neal rode Emma’s shoulders when he looked over and saw Mom watching them. He grinned at her, his attention wavering enough that Emma took advantage to swat him hard on the ass with her ‘sword’, making Uncle Neal laugh and laugh and laugh. Emma was laughing too, but her gaze drifted over to Mom to check that she wasn’t in trouble for going too far. She was so whipped.

“I’m hungry,” he said, heading over to the picnic table, ignoring Emma’s taunts that he was a sore loser.

“A sore loser with a sore behind, eh, kiddo?” Emma said to Neal, who didn’t really know what she meant, but liked being included anyway.

He sat down next to Grandpa, facing Mom.

“I never thought I’d be this lucky,” Grandpa was saying, finishing off a chicken salad sandwich and licking the mayo from his fingers. “One perfect child is a blessing, but, two?” He nudged Henry with his shoulder. “And a handsome grandson who is far too tall.” Grandpa folded his hands together. “We’ve done okay, though, haven’t we? They’re all good kids.”

Mom watched Emma and Uncle Neal roll around in the grass, and Henry knew she was doing her best not to grin at the sight. “Well, your daughter still needs some work, but I think the boys are a credit to us.”

“Do you ever think about having another? Adopting again?”

“No.” Mom shook her head. “Henry is enough. Henry has always been more than enough for me.” The total Mom way she was smiling at him made Henry want to squirm and look away because he was almost a grown man now, but he remembered all the times that Emma had told him he should consider himself lucky to have a Mom whose most embarrassing habit was loving him so much.

“What about Emma?” Grandpa asked, so busy watching Uncle Neal that he didn’t see the way Mom’s face fell. But Henry saw. Henry saw Mom’s face cloud with doubt and worry, and her eyes shifted over to Emma. Emma must have caught Mom’s look, because she started to get up from the ground, smiling at the three of them.

“Are you so eager for more grandchildren, David?” Mom’s smile was as tight as her voice.

Henry tried to picture what Emma would look like pregnant, her stomach rounding into her fifth or sixth month, like Mrs Tupper from the school office who had three boys already and kept saying that she didn’t mind what she had, as long as the baby was healthy, even though everyone knew she wanted a girl. He couldn’t make the image fit, though. He couldn’t see a future Emma without Mom. He didn’t think Mom wanted a future without Emma, either.

Emma reached the table then, swinging Uncle Neal up and into his father’s arms. She flopped down next to Mom, and Henry saw all of the tension leave Mom’s body.

“What’re you talking about?” Emma said, looking between Mom and Grandpa.

“The fact that you are the least grown-up of all of our children,” Mom said. She fished into her purse and pulled out a handkerchief, lifting it to Emma’s cheek and rubbing some dirt away. She motioned for Emma to turn her head so that she could pick some leaves out of her hair.

“I’m an adult! I’m a Sheriff and everything.”

“Yes, you’re very mature, dear,” Mom said. Grandpa chuckled.

Emma scowled at her father. “Shouldn’t you be defending me?”

“I don’t know. Should I?” He shrugged and handed Uncle Neal a celery stick to chew on. “Aren’t you the one who fed your little brother slugs the other day?”

“I did not feed him slugs! I don’t know what he ate!” Emma flushed a deep red. “That wasn’t my fault at all.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Mom said, reaching up to tuck some stray hair behind Emma’s ear. “You’re cold,” she said, as her hand brushed Emma’s cheek.

“Not really.” Emma scooted closer anyway, leaning against Mom.

“We were just discussing whether you would ever get around to giving me more grandchildren,” Grandpa said, and Mom’s face went all tight again. Emma tensed up, too, but she covered her unease by reaching out for a sandwich and unwrapping it.

“Why would we want more kids when we got it so right the first time?” She winked at Henry, and then took a huge bite of sandwich. “These are really good, by the way,” she said to Mom while she was still chewing.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Mom said, but she was doing Emma’s duck and blush move. She hadn’t missed how Emma said ‘we’, how Emma had included her in her future without even thinking. Even as Emma pushed her by leaning in and eating noisily, lips smacking right by Mom’s cheek, Mom was pouring some tortilla chips onto a plastic plate and pushing them towards Emma.

Mom never took for granted that Emma would always defend and protect her, even though that’s what had been happening for the longest time. Every time, Mom got the same look of disbelief and adoration. It was both sad and beautiful.

Of course, Emma was kind of spoiling the beauty of the moment by staring down the front of Mom’s shirt while she was leaning over her. Mom didn’t seem to mind that, though.

* * * * *

Next up: Part 3 [U]

3 Comments

  1. KB
    Posted 13 February 2015 at 10.08am | Permalink

    A tree fell on my car at work today (just a random **** you from the universe). So I can’t tell you how great it was to come home and be lifted out of my grumpy mood by another entry in Henry’s Big Book of Gay, with a poop volcano and flowers that mean what he thinks they mean, even if Emma doesn’t (though in her heart she probably does). The family dynamics you have going on and the teasing sweetness of their interactions (Henry included) is too sweet and beautiful for words. Thanks Dev!

  2. Duncan
    Posted 13 February 2015 at 8.15pm | Permalink

    Wow. Another chapter of this amazing story has really brightened my day. I love it. The way that it’s from Henry’s POV is even better Cuz of how oblivious yet not the two women are. Please update again as soon as possible. I cannot wait for more entries into the BIg Book of Gay and the moment we are all waiting for… The big reveal to his moms. I definitely think that after they figure out their feelings, Regina should have another child. I can feel it in the makes and I cannot wait for more. Update quick!

  3. Devje
    Posted 25 February 2015 at 12.41pm | Permalink

    KB and Duncan, thank you both for continually commenting. It makes my heart glad in ways I can never express.

Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s