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Prologue

 

Their first ‘date’ had been a disaster.

 

When Emma had arrived wearing that pink dress, Regina had told her to go home and change before slamming the door in Emma’s face. They’d had a heated argument about the dress either side of the door, which was firmly locked by this point, for such a long time and at such a volume that David had been called, presumably by one of Regina’s neighbours, and warned them that they were ‘disturbing the peace.’ 

 

He’d managed to negotiate Emma’s admittance into Regina’s home on the conditions that Emma would not wear that dress again and that he and Snow would take down the framed photograph of Emma and Hook on their ‘first date’ where Emma could be seen wearing the same, distinctly ‘un-Emma-like garment’. But by that point dinner had been burnt, and Regina had started drinking the expensive Barbera, that she’d purchased specially to pair with their meal, by herself. 

 

(Regina was pleased to note, however, after Emma was left swearing, sweating, and spent on her bedsheets that she gave ‘the best fucking head [Emma had] ever received’ and that their make up sex had definitely been worth the neighbours calling the Sheriff’s Station because Regina was ‘so fucking unreasonable’ and that Emma had ‘literally met less stubborn mules’). 

 

Their second ‘first’ date didn’t go much better.

 

Admittedly Regina had allowed Emma to drive her to the restaurant despite ‘that floral monstrosity of a blouse’ she was wearing. Honestly, Emma, stop allowing your mother to dress you for dates if you expect to see me naked at the end of them. However, that was as far as they got as Regina flat out refused to get out of the car when Emma had pulled up outside Tony‘s.

 

“What’s a matter now?” Emma had asked through gritted teeth after five minutes of bickering, “You like Italian food!”

 

“Yes,” Regina has acknowledged, “but I prefer to eat somewhere that dogs don’t get served in the back alley and incompetent pirates haven’t fondled you in the bathroom.”

 

“Oh my god!” Emma had pounded her hands down on the steering wheel before getting out and slamming the door to her car shut so ferociously that the entire Bug had shaken.

 

“What do you want from me?” Emma had snapped at her once Regina had joined her, albeit disdainfully, in sitting on the curb.

 

“I just want you to be you,” Regina had answered quietly, inspecting her nail varnish rather than look at the woman beside her. “You don’t need to dress like you’re going to a 1950s prom or treat me to some sort of Hollywood clichéd, rose-tinted, mythologized version of romance.”

 

“I thought you’d like this,” Emma had sighed, “you always bang on about how you’re this refined queen; figured I should wine and dine you.”

 

“One,” Regina had turned to look at her, only to see Emma looking small and vulnerable. She’d rolled her eyes, annoyed with herself for making Emma feel this way, before shifting so she could wrap an arm around her, pull Emma close, and then finally Regina dropped her voice down to the octave that she knew drove Emma wild, “we already fuck so I don’t need seducing. Two,” she had started pulling Emma’s lobe taught with her teeth by this point, “if you are going to seduce me, perhaps, don’t bring me to restaurants that’s been given a two-star Yelp reviews by your ex.”

 

“Perhaps,” Emma had rearranged herself so she was able to pin Regina’s roaming hands against her body, “when you next decide to curse a realm full of innocents, you should build a town with more than one restaurant.”

 

They didn’t try dating again.

 

Regina didn’t mind though.

 

Regina revelled in it.

 

Gone were Emma’s slumped shoulders, gone was Emma’s quick acquiescence and conflict avoidance. Emma has replaced them with an arrogant swagger and was standing tall once more, as if any moment she might take another chainsaw to one of Regina’s belongings.

 

Occasionally Emma smiled.

 

Regina found it was Emma’s smiles that she loved most about the woman.

 

It was a weird sort of irony that had her fall in love with the mother of her child. Admittedly most people fell in love and then produced children. Only she and Emma would have done it the other way round. 

 

Regina liked that. 

 

She loved that their love was unconventional.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

One

 

Regina sat on the bench staring down at her rapidly swelling hand, the skin hadn’t torn so there was no blood to deal with, but her knuckles were already starting to change colour. Even in the near darkness she could see that much. The bruising would be more than evident by the time she got home. Emma would ask questions.

 

Emma always asked questions.

 

Most times they were innocuous enough.

 

If the curse brought you to Maine in 1983 and time stood still, how come you guys had the internet and cell phones?

 

How come Henry’s seen all of the Star Wars movies even though the prequels didn’t come out until, like, the Nineties or something?

 

How come my mom, an elementary school teacher, is still teaching the kid now he’s in high school?

 

Where did mom get her teaching qualification from?

 

How come Ruby dressed like Julia Roberts at the start of Pretty Woman but Red dresses like Julia Roberts in Notting Hill? 

 

Did you pick everyone’s outfits?

 

Oh my God, do you have a thing for Red?

 

And usually she could answer the questions by reminding Emma that she only enacted the curse, that if Emma wanted to know the nuances of it she would need to track down Mr Gold. However, Emma’s questions usually came just as they were drifting off to sleep and Regina found Emma didn’t care so much for the answers in the morning.

 

(Except for the one about Ruby. Regina had been able to answer that question with a demonstration of exactly how much she preferred her women blonde.)

 

Sometimes Emma’s questions were more complex and required more of Regina than she was willing to give.

 

How did you get that scar on your lip?

 

Why did you adopt? Why didn’t you just have a baby with Graham? I mean, you were sleeping with him anyway.

 

Why didn’t you just leave my grandfather?

 

Questions like that, despite how Regina detested them, were answered nonetheless. Usually twice. She would give Emma the short, curt, version at the time of asking—My mother Regina found satisfied most of the queries Emma posed—and then, a couple of days later after Regina had removed the memories from the metaphorical box

 

 

 

because if she didn’t think about them, didn’t talk about them, couldn’t see them; they weren’t real. They hadn’t happened. All the emotional abuse belonged to some other Regina. Because she hadn’t been abused, hadn’t been forced into a marriage at sixteen, hadn’t—

 

 

 

she kept them in, relived them, and buried them back down, deep within herself, she found she was able to give Emma the whole truth. Not the diluted and sanitised version that The Author might produce, but her truth. How Regina remembered them. 

 

She would cry, Emma would hold her, kiss her, love her. Oh, how Emma loved her. Because this Regina, Regina Mills Mayor of Storybrooke, was loved.

 

Regina flexed her fingers, wiggled them, balled and unballed them; they weren’t broken, they hurt like hell, but they weren’t broken.

 

She put a glamour to cover the bruising that would come, hid her crime beneath her magic, but she didn’t heal her hand. Regina needed it to hurt, she had punched someone, she had punched Emma’s mother no less, she needed it to hurt.

 

She rose from the bench and went to find Snow and Charming in the clearing. She knew they hadn’t left because she could hear him fawning over her as if she was a wilting flower. She could hear her quietly crying, bemoaning her own existence, terrified of what she’d done, but unable to admit the truth.

 

Regina straightened her clothes before stepping back out and standing in front of the pair of them. She beckoned Snow towards her, who dutifully stepped closer like the good little step-daughter she’d always claimed to be. Regina took Snow’s chin in her left hand—satisfied by the slight hiss of discomfort that came from the younger woman’s mouth—Regina moved Snow’s head, examining the damage her fist had caused before waving her hand and healing the woman’s lip.

 

“One condition,” Regina told her dropping Snow’s chin so suddenly that Snow momentarily lost her balance, “you get Emma to agree to this.”

 

“Why?” David asked, one foot of his wife, one hand on his Sheriff badge the other resting on his gun as if he feared Regina would punch his beloved again.

 

“Because you might feel comfortable lying-”

 

“Not lying,” Snow was quick to interject, “just not telling her everything.”

 

“-lying to your daughter,” Regina carried on regardless, “but I will not. Emma is going to notice I’m disappearing for long periods of time, she will have questions, she will want answers.”

 

For so long Regina had imagined what it would be like to have Snow White beg before her. To grovel. To lay down everything before her as the wretched princess admitted all her failings and foibles. Regina imagined standing tall, ready to deny Snow White everything so she could have her revenge.

 

In all the ways Regina had pictured it, had rehearsed the lines in her head countless times as she’d preened in front of her mirror, she had never prepared for the fact she might feel nauseous. Not once did she think that Snow prostrating herself before her could lead to Regina fearing that she might loose yet another person she loved to the younger woman.

 

“Emma can’t know.”

 

“Believe me,” Regina bit back a bitter laugh, “as someone that put her own child in therapy to protect a terrible secret, Emma will find out.”

 

“Please Regina,” it was David begging now.

 

The shepherd prince. The man who had so often tried to be the architect of her death. Sentenced her to execution just to have his wife undermine him and put him back in his pen.

 

“Just buy us some time at least.”

 

“One week,” Regina held up her index finger to emphasise her point, “one week if Emma agrees.”

 

“What happens after the week?” David asked.

 

“You need to tell Emma that you traded an innocent child’s future for hers.”

 

*

 

Regina regretted using magic to get home the moment she appeared in her entrance way. Taking off her shoes and coat, emptying her pockets into the dish on the sideboard and seeing her car keys amongst them she realised she’d have to pick up the Mercedes from the park in the morning.

 

At the time it seemed the most logical thing to do, she wanted away from the Charmings and to be back home with Emma in as quick a time as possible. She just wanted to curl up on the sofa, she wanted to pretend to be annoyed with Emma for ignoring the dishes in lieu of playing Xbox with their son, and half heartedly scold Henry for staying up late on a school night.

 

Mainly she just wanted to be home with her family.

 

“Not only have I TiVo’ed a documentary on the Salem Witch Trials I thought you’d like, but I’ve put the dishes away and I sent Henry to bed,” Regina waited as Emma checked her watch, “forty-two minutes ago.”

 

“Thank you,” Regina moved towards her, not even caring about the smug smile plastered across Emma’s face, and pulled her away from the doorframe and into a hug.

 

Emma obliged and wrapped her own arms tight around her.

 

Regina revelled in the moment, the feeling of warmth and security of being in Emma’s arms, that Emma might be able to protect her. Regina hadn’t needed or wanted protecting for decades now, she enjoyed the fact that Emma would regardless.

 

“So,” Emma stepped back so she could look at her, “what was the big emergency that pulled you away from watching Hen kick my butt at Diablo.”

 

“Your parents wanted to run something by me.”

 

“Oh God,” Emma frowned, taking Regina’s hand and leading her towards the living room.

 

Regina held firm, however, and nodded, instead, up the stairs, “Can we just go to bed?”

 

“Of course,” Emma quickly agreed and continued holding her hand as they ascended the stairs, “but if Mom’s pregnant again will you just tell me now so I can get used to it before they tell me.”

 

“I’ve invited them over for breakfast,” Regina let out as she opened the door to their bedroom.

 

Emma hadn’t moved in, Emma was far from ready to move in, but that didn’t stop Regina from considering it ‘their’ bedroom. 

 

Emma had a growing collection of clothes and belongings nestled in her wardrobe, in and on chests of drawers, there was even a god-awful clock radio on Emma’s side of the bed because the blonde claimed no other devise could wake her in the mornings.

 

Regina found that her sleep during the week, on the working days she was unable to persuade Emma to stay, was deteriorating. It was often broken when she rolled over and found Emma missing, if she could get off at all. Invariably she lay awake contemplating the best way to get Emma to live with her full time without scaring her-

 

 

 

Regina hated the world ‘girlfriend’. She was too old to have a girlfriend. They weren’t dating, they were in love—Fated Love, if Emma was to be believed—they weren’t girlfriends. 

 

Nor did she like the word partner, that didn’t sit well with Regina either. It sounded like they were in some sort of business arrangement. When she was married off to Leopold, that was a business arrangement; but she and he definitely weren’t partners. They couldn’t be when she was just sixteen and he’d lived over three of her lifetimes.

 

Emma was never going to be Regina’s wife. They hadn’t spoken about it but she imagined Emma to have similar views on marriage as she did. At this point it was archaic and pointless in her mind. She might be in America now, but she still feared for her freedom if she was to marry again. Not that Emma would trap, suffocate, and extinguish her as her first marriage had; but she could still fell the ring he’d placed on her hand, the hollow crown he’d had her wear, the performance and pageantry weighed her down heavily.

 

 

 

She couldn’t articulate what Emma was to her, nor did she know what she was to Emma, but the largest bedroom in her home was their’s.

 

“they can tell you then,” she told Emma wearily sitting down before her dressing table and inspecting herself in the mirror.

 

She swore she didn’t look this old when she left the house just a couple of hours ago when she was summoned by Snow’s urgent text. 

 

Snow was going to be the death of her. 

 

If only she’d managed to kill that pointless princess years ago and then none of this would have happened. Then again, neither would Emma and Henry. Maybe she owed the obsequious brat a debt of gratitude, perhaps thats why she was doing this.  

 

“If they call this next baby Killian I’m disowning them. You, me and Henry, we’ll move away and start again. I can’t have another brother named after an ex.”

 

“And if this hypothetical baby they’re having is a girl?” Regina questioned, taking out her earrings and placing them neatly on her vanity.

 

“They wouldn’t name her Chloe Charming,” Regina watched Emma get undressed in the mirror, throwing her clothes near the hamper, her bra managing to hand precariously over the edge threatening to join Emma’s other clothes in the heap on the floor. “My parents are nuts, but they’re not psychopaths.”

 

“What about your other girlfriend you mentioned-”

 

“Lily?” Regina met Emma’s eyes in the mirror and nodded. “Amazingly enough I don’t spent much time talking to my parents about my delinquent youth-”

 

“I told you it was delinquent,” Regina found herself smiling despite herself as she turned to face Emma properly, she was wearing some of Regina’s old work-out clothes that Emma had commandeered for pyjamas, and tying up her hair in preparation to wash her face.

 

“-and consequently, I’ve never mentioned the girl I met shoplifting.”

 

For a moment Regina allowed herself to believe that Snow was pregnant again, and Emma’s biggest worry was whether another sibling would surpass and usurp her. Emma would be sad for a while, but she’d remember that Neal had not replaced her and even if he had she had a family of her own that loved and cared for her.

 

This belief was so easy to fall into that she could see Emma turning to her one night in the future and asking

 

Should we have another one?

 

Regina would be tired, her eyes heavy as she neared close to sleep, she would reply: Another what? unable to follow Emma’s butterfly mind.

 

Another child? It doesn’t have to be a baby, we could adopt, or foster?

 

This question would pull Regina back into consciousness and she would sit up on her elbows, turn her head and see a wide smile on Emma’s face—not one of Emma’s true smiles, those Emma saved for bear claws, or Henry, or the promise of doing that ‘thing’ she’d enquired about months ago when they next got the house to themselves—but a smile Emma often wore to show people that she could be ‘good’ and ‘good girls’ got praised, or rewarded, or adopted.

 

Regina quickly shook her head. She couldn’t imagine this fantasy. Snow wasn’t pregnant and Regina wouldn’t have any more children.

 

*

 

True to their word, the Charmings arrived promptly at 7:25, early enough to see Henry before he walked to the school bus but not too early so that he would be around for their conversation. He was satisfied with snagging a bear claw from the Granny’s bag but did demand to know everything about the Family Meeting when he got home at 3:30.

 

Regina had coffee poured for everyone and serviettes placed both next to, and under, the Granny’s bag on her dining room table—her mood with the Charmings worsening when not even Mary Margaret used one to eat her pastry with. Emma’s knee had spent most of the small talk bouncing up and down, but Emma could only last until the weather forecast for the weekend before she begged her parents to explain what was going on.

 

Mary Margaret had shot Regina one last pleading look before finally deferring to David to explain what they wanted to do. The three of them sat around the table as if this breakfast was an everyday occurrence and not one that required Snow White to seek permission from Storybrooke High’s principle to miss home room and possibly first period too. Regina stood in the corner, her arms tightly folded across her chest, hating that she felt like an interloper in her own home. 

 

“You want my girlfriend to go undercover with someone who can turn into a dragon because you guys have a weird feeling?”

 

“They’re villains, Emma,” Regina watched the mother put a hand on her daughter’s knee and try to placate her, “and they brought Maleficent back from the dead, we need someone on the inside to find out why!”

 

“I used to be a bail-bonds person, pretending to be someone else was part of my job!”

 

“Yes but Regina used to be a villain too.” Regina rolled her eyes, of course David would bring that up. “They’re more likely to trust her than The Saviour.”

 

Regina ran a hand through her hair before taking a seat next to Emma, drawing the blonde’s attention to her and away from her parents.

 

“Before I do this,” Regina moved so she could hold both Emma’s hands in hers, “there’s something crucial you need to know.”

 

“Regina!” her name was practically spat out by the Charmings in near perfect rhythm.

 

“The reason I’m better suited for this task than you, my dear,” Regina ploughed on regardless, “is because Mal and I share some history.”

 

“What kind of history?” Emma asked, her tone suggesting she’d already worked out the answer.

 

“When I was nineteen, I turned to her for help with magic but-”

 

“I’m guessing you two did more than just magic together.”

 

Regina had barely started to nod her head when she was, for the second time in two minutes, being chastised by Snow White in her own home.

 

“But you were married to Daddy then?”

 

“Yes, because nothing says monogamy like a forced marriage,” she snapped back at her step daughter before completing her conversion with Emma: “You see why it needs to be me that goes undercover in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Tramps?”

 

“I don’t like this,” Emma took back her hands and folded them across her chest, “like, if I was to play nice with Hook to find out his nefarious schemes you’d have a hissy fit and there would definitely be fireballs before dawn, but-“ Emma quickly put her hand over Regina’s mouth, clearly sensing Regina’s imminent interjections about Hook’s ability for scheming, nefarious or otherwise, “this is your choice and if you think it needs to be done, then you know I’ll not only support you but help as well.”

 

Regina shot a look quickly to Mary Margaret and David before leaning forward and kissing Emma firmly on the lips.

 

“Don’t think that we’re not going to have a conversation about the fact you brought your ex girlfriend with you when you cursed everyone, and had me slay her, when this is over.”

 

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Regina nodded.

Chapter Text

Two

 

Regina felt sick. 

 

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d drunk that much, in fact she wasn’t sure she’d ever drunk that much. Perhaps, had she always lived in America, had she had teenage years where she’d been able to escape from her mother and hang out in pubs and bars, had she been able to go to college and joined a sorority—a simple dorm party would have sufficed—she might have had experience of drinking hard liquor, of chugging beers, and shooting tequila, she might even have taken recreational drugs; spent the night coked up and the morning smoking marijuana with friends complaining about all the stupid decisions they’d made the night before.

 

Instead Regina was raised in the Enchanted Forest; as a child she drank diluted mead or ale because it was cleaner than water, as a royal she drank some of the finest red wines in the realm, on feast days they celebrated with beer. Spirits were saved for balancing the humours; she was treated with brandy once for a spell of melancholy, but she was never left to drink it without an order from the physician. 

 

By the time she’d arrived in this world she had such a tolerance for alcohol that she’d taken to making her own cider. However, with no one to drink with, getting drunk seemed rather fruitless. Besides, if she wanted to feel something other than numb she had Graham, and sleeping with Graham didn’t come with a headache in the morning.

 

Her vault was a mess. 

 

She’d woken, dress not only dishevelled but had risen up to just below her breasts (had her pantyhose not remained in tact she might have worried about how the night had transpired, but her body wasn’t telling her that she’d done anything other than drink too much), her jacket crumpled and dirty on the floor. Her back, as well as her head, was killing her from a night of discomfort sleeping on the chaise lounge. She didn’t remember the Axis of Evil leaving, though she had a vague recollection of Cruella mentioning something about the docks and finding themselves some sculpted fishermen before the tide went out. Regina wasn’t sure how she’d managed to talk her way out of that escapade, but judging but the state of her clothes, she worried she’d simply passed out drunk.

 

She gingerly stood up, not wanting to rise too quickly in case she threw up (her vault was a state enough without adding her vomit to the mix), and headed across to her jacket. Crouching to retrieve it from the floor, again not trusting her stomach to bend, she fumbled for her cell phone.

 

She found countless messages from from Emma and an embarrassingly large amount of missed calls. Looking at the time she wasn’t surprised; she’d have been apoplectic if she’d not heard from Emma had their roles been reversed. Apoplectic was an understatement, Regina would have torn Storybrooke, and it’s residents, apart looking for her, needing to know that the blonde had survived the night with self-described Villains.

 

She put her cell back in her pocket, she couldn’t quite face talking to Emma yet (the messages from Snow could definitely wait until she’d had some coffee and a shower), and put her jacket back on, while she was down on the floor she thought it best if she start picking up some of the empty bottles too.

 

“Sorry, we couldn't stay to clean,” Regina looked up and found Maleficent looking untouched by last night’s activities, dressed far too impeccably for a curtesy call.

 

“Oh,” Regina tried to form a smile that at least hinted at sincere, “that's okay. You need the beauty sleep more than I do.”

 

“It's good to see you again, Regina. Hope you had fun last night.” 

 

“Last night? Yes,” Regina lied easily.

 

The night had been utterly pointless: the four of them had drunk like a bachelorette party in Vegas; she stupidly got into a car with Cruella behind the wheel—the woman couldn’t drive sober, to the point Henry had created less havoc when David had recklessly let him drive his truck—and the ludicrous game of chicken on the train tracks was just… well, Regina didn’t have the words to articulate that yet, she wasn’t sure she was every going to be able describe that portion of the night. None of their evening came close to explaining how or, more importantly, why the two idiots had managed to resurrect Maleficent. 

 

“This morning? No.” 

 

“Hmm. Maybe I can help,” Regina looked up from where she’d been buttoning her jacket (lying to Maleficent, she’d leant very quickly, was easier when eye contact was avoided) to see Mal fiddling with the inside pocket of her own jacket, “with this world's version of magic.” The, much, older woman opened her hand to reveal two small, white pills, “Don't worry,” she added as Regina only responded with a skeptical look, “they're not poison: they're aspirin. They help with the pain.” she added when Regina still didn’t move to take them from her.

 

“I know what they are,” Regina rolled her eyes, the use of willow bark to treat headaches was hardly revolutionary, but held out her hand for Mal to drop the pills into nonetheless, “it’s just you're not usually nice.”

 

Regina had used many words to describe Maleficent since their first encounter, but ‘nice’ had seldom been used.

 

Maleficent had been a drug addled wreck, when Regina first met her, sobering up just long enough to concoct another sleeping curse and dilute it with seaweed and toadstool. When Regina managed to get the old dragon off of the poison, Regina found she turned into a hedonistic fool; chasing highs after years spent wallowing in insufferable lows.

 

Regina might not have been the naive girl that had watched her first love die; three years trapped in court with a husband that just wanted to make his kingdom happy with a male heir, combined with her tutelage from The Dark One had quickly put pay to that; but Regina had never come across anyone, or anything, like Maleficent before.

 

Regina found herself getting drunk on Maleficent. The power she expelled and the way she toyed with it was intoxicating. And Regina found she lapped it up.

 

Mother wanted power to control.

 

Rumpelstiltskin wanted power for leverage.

 

Maleficent had more power than the both of them, yet wanted none of it.

 

Mal taught her more than magic, for Mal magic wasn’t a thing to possess, wasn’t a tool to be harness and used, but rather a way to bring pleasure.

 

Regina didn’t know much about Maleficent’s time in the world before they met, but she knew they’d brought her great sadness. As a consequence, once Mal got her fire back, she focused solely on maintaining her pleasure. 

 

Mal spoke to her at length about ancient civilisations in far away realms that thought the only universal truth was that pleasure was momentary, that whatever had occurred in the past was irrelevant and what might be in the future merely hypothetical. All that mattered were the moments of pleasure.

 

For a while Regina had believed this idea, got swept up in, and found herself engulfed in finding moments of pleasure with this ancient, seemingly all powerful, fairy.

 

But Regina found that even pleasure wasn’t enough. She needed happiness too. A happiness she thought could only be granted by getting revenge.

 

“Nice has nothing to do with it,” Maleficent moved away and started inspecting herself in the mirror, straightened her tie, primped her hair, “I need you sharp tonight.” 

 

“For what?” Regina popped the pills into her mouth and swallowed them dry, they grated down her throat leaving a vile taste in their wake. “More ga-” 

 

But she was cut off by her name being called by a fresh voice and footsteps coming from above them rapidly heading to the stairs. The hairs on the back of her neck rose on edge and bile quickly replaced the taste of the tiny pills. 

 

Recently the sound of that voice calling her name was relaxing, soothing, sometimes—usually in the dark and in the throes of passion—that voice calling her name could cause ecstasy; now though Emma’s quick approach only brought panic.

 

Regina risked a look at Maleficent, unsure if she knew the voice too. Mal had been a dragon last time she and Emma had interacted; did Mal, could Mal, recall the voice of the woman Regina had sent to slay her? 

 

The simper slowly gracing the dark fey’s face gave Regina her answer.

 

Emma appeared round the corner, a coffee in each hand, relief instantly crossing her features as her eyes met Regina’s.

 

“Thought I’d find you h-“ before she could say anymore, before Emma said something stupid, Regina waved her hand and froze her to the spot. 

 

Had Regina not been terrified of Mal’s reaction to The Saviour’s arrival, she might have found Emma’s statuesque stance amusing, the way Emma had one hand extended to pass Regina a coffee and the other raised to her mouth about to take a sip.

 

“My, my,” Maleficent practically purred as she circled the new presence, “the other two weren’t joking, you really are sleeping with the enemy.” Regina opened her mouth to protest her innocence, “Don’t deny it, my dear,” Mal crooned taking the extra coffee from Emma’s solid grip and inspecting it, “she positively reeks of you.”

 

“Yes, well,” Regina bristled snatching the drink destined for her back from her former lover and placing it down on a side, “when itches need to be scratched you turn to an expert on their back.”

 

“You always did have a predilection for blondes,” Regina tried to contain her displeasure as she watched Mal toy with Emma’s hair, “at least mine’s natural, though.”

 

“Please,” Regina scoffed, “there’s been nothing natural about you for at least two centuries.”

 

“Tell me, dear,” Maleficent moved away from Emma and towards Regina, “how did you get The Saviour into bed exactly? Did you promise to help her find her fire too?”

 

“If I remember correctly it was you who got me into bed,” she tried to stand tall, tried not to have her skin crawl with every fresh touch from Maleficent, “and recaptured fire had little to do with it.” Regina side stepped the older woman and towards the younger, cupping Emma’s cheek in her hand, “Ms. Swan merely passes the time and, while doing all sorts of depraved things Snow White’s daughter may not have been the revenge I’d intended, it certainly works.” 

 

She was staring directly into Emma’s eyes, knowing that Emma was awake and present for the entirety of the conversation taking place around her, praying that Emma understood her words to be nothing but a pantomime for their unwanted audience.

 

“Well, I’ll leave you two to it,” Mal brushed a hand along Regina’s shoulder blade as she walked passed her and to the steps out, “I’ll have Ursula contact you later with details of where to meet us, I have a little job for you tonight.”

 

Regina waited until she’d heard the doors to her mausoleum bang behind Maleficent’s exit before quickly unfreezing Emma; one hand steadying her, the other to help hold the cup in case Emma dropped it.

 

“I am so sorry, are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Emma nodded cautiously, clearly stiff from where she’d been held in a forced position for so long, “that was fun!” she released the last word slowly and deliberately as if it had taken her a while to choose the best noun articulate the experience. “What did she mean she could smell you on me? The Kid and I stayed at mine last night, my bedsheets were fresh on...”

 

“It’s a,” Regina paused, embarrassed by the reappearance of a past relationship so obviously being flaunted in front of Emma, “dragon thing.”

 

“And you slept with her?” Regina bit her lip and averted her gaze. “You are not allowed to make any more jokes about Hook. At least he was human!”

 

“Didn’t smell like one though.”

 

“Neither do you right now,” Emma scolded. “What exactly did you all do last night and to my cruiser? Like, how do I even fill out the insurance paperwork for that? Dad is livid!”

 

Emma’s relief that Regina was safe was long gone, there was only anger now. Regina had been out of reach for hours, the town in a mess, only to be found exchanging a seemingly pleasant conversation with a former lover. Regina knew she was perilously close to having a chainsaw driven through a cherished memory from her childhood. 

 

She understood Emma’s anger.

 

She flexed the fingers of her right hand. Her knuckles remained sore from punching Snow the other evening.

 

She didn’t, however, comprehend David’s. He had no right to be indignant. She was doing this for him after all. She was going into the belly of the beast, offered up as the sacrificial lamb, to protect his secret.

 

She wriggled her fingers again, her knuckles remained sore.

 

“Sorry about the car, it’s Mal’s idea of a good time; some drinking, some burning, lots of destruction.”

 

“I really don’t like this,” Emma shook her head, turning away from Regina and she watched as the blonde inspected the damage to her precious vault. “I know I said it was your choice, and it totally is, but I don’t understand why you’re doing this for my parents. There’s something they’re not telling me, and now you’re not telling me either.”

 

“An ancient evil is raised from the dead, you have to expect them to be nervy,” she skirted around Emma’s worries as she started picking up some more debris from the floor, but found nausea quickly overcame her and she was forced to sit down once more.

 

“An ancient evil you used to fuck,” she heard Emma mutter before: “Here,” Emma had retrieved the coffee she’d purchased for her from the trunk Regina had set it upon, “I got you a black one and shovelled it full of sugar given you drank Granny’s dry last night.”

 

Regina took the drink happily, pleased that it had cooled sufficiently that she could drink straight from it. Emma sat down beside her and finished her own cup.

 

“Aside from my raging headache and possible onset of cirrhosis in my liver, I’m fine,” she tried to reassure.

 

“And what are they up to? Are they even up to anything or are my parents just paranoid?”

 

“They’re hiding something, something incredibly powerful,” Regina admitted, “but I don’t know what.”

 

“And tonight?”

 

“Tonight I’ll find out what it is.”

 

“Okay,” Emma nodded, taking Regina’s empty coffee cup as she stood and stacking it into her own before tossing them down at the foot of the steps freeing her hands to put them on her hips, “but not on your own. I shouldn’t have let you go alone last night, it’s not happening again.”

 

Regina had been alone for so much of her life, she was still struggling to adjust now that she had people—at least two on a bad day, possibly four on a good one—that cared about her welfare.

 

Regina, as she did most things in life, not only anticipated this conversation but rehearsed her lines for it as well.

 

No, it’s too dangerous. She would say.

 

Emma would protest. She might bring up Operation Mongoose, but she doubted it, especially now that Emma was so fixated on their Fated Love.

 

I understand your concern. Regina would reiterate before coming out with the knock out blow: Your magic is temperamental and whatever bails bond training school you went to. She would be forced to pause as Emma rolled her eyes, but she would not be deterred. has you ill equipped to face a demon fairy, a sea bitch, and a sociopathic slapper.

 

When Regina had imagined it she would have Snow and David to back her up; they would be able to throw in a couple of She’s rights or a Regina is a villain too, she knows how they work.

 

However, she’s alone with Emma in her vault. Her Emma constantly caught between the constant juxtaposition of wanting to run away from all ties that bind but believes so heavily in their Fated Love that she’s framed a hastily drawn family tree and hung it above her bed. 

 

(Regina worried that, should Emma ever gain confidence enough to move to Mifflin Street, should she ever gain confidence enough to ask Emma to stay, that wretched family tree will be hung above their bed.)

 

It’s just Emma in her vault though. Her Emma who had sent countless messages and made an embarrassingly large amount of calls worried about Regina’s whereabouts. Her Emma that cares about her despite all her fears and insecurities. Her Emma that cares about her in spite of everything.

 

“That seems reasonable,” Regina said instead.

 

“Your stupid ex-girlfriend is literally a fire breathing dragon, and she-“ Emma stopped suddenly, her pacing forgotten. “Wait, you’re agreeing?”

 

“Yes, do you not want me to?”

 

“I had a whole speech worked out, there was going to be some yelling, I was going to call them bitches and possibly some words that can only be used in R rated movies.”

 

“That sounds fun,” Regina rolled her eyes, bracing herself to stand once more, “are you able to lecture me and help tidy up?”

 

“Oh no,” Emma laughed scornfully, “now I’m satisfied your safe and well; you can clean by yourself, I’ve got to go to the station try and persuade the mayor to buy me a new squad car.”

 

“Good luck with that,” she sighed, looking around at the destruction. 

 

Had her head not been hurting so much, has she not wasted so much energy last night trying to prove herself to be just as nefarious as her peers, she might have just waved her hand put everything back in its place and gone to bed. However, her head did hurt and magic always came with a price. 

 

“-I hear your boss is a real hard ass.”

 

“You have no idea,” Emma called out to her, having already started climbing the stairs, leaving the empty coffee cups as the sign that she cared.

Chapter Text

Three

 

Steal that little boy.

 

Of course. Why wouldn’t it be about stealing someone’s child? Maleficent’s mission for Regina to truly prove herself and be welcomed back in to the Girl Scouts of Anarchy, only she wasn’t selling Thin Mints to fund a new club house, was to steal an innocent child to torture for information about The Author (knowing Maleficent was involved they definitely wouldn’t be trading stories while braiding each other’s hair).

 

It seemed like a lifetime ago she and Robin had been looking for The Author themselves. When she’d been having an affair with a married man as his wife and thought finding The Author might get her a Happy Ending of her own. She knew it wasn’t going to be with Robin, despite the prophesies of soulmates and the illustrations of kisses that might have been. No one sleeps with a married man thinking of Happily Ever After. Except maybe Mary Margaret Blanchard, but she had been a simpering idiot.

 

Maybe if the ring had been on the other finger, if she and Robin had met while she was married to Leopold, if their star crossed lovers encounter had begun in the Enchanted Forest when she first learnt that he was her soulmate they might have had a Happy Ending. Robin of Loxley could have rescued the queen from the castle, robbed the king of his wealth, they could have ridden away into the sunset together, had a family, had a life. 

 

But she chose not to be rescued by him.

 

She chose to rescue herself.

 

She made countless of choices—from the tiny, seemingly insignificant ones, to the realm changing, world destroying ones—that had all led her down this path, to this moment.

 

She chose to make her own Happy Ending.

 

Loving Emma Swan might not have been a Happy Ending that Tinkerbell had envisioned. It might not even be The Happy Ending.

 

But this Happy Ending was of her own choosing; she didn’t need The Author to write it down to be real, this was all hers.

 

Steal that little boy.

 

Of course. Why wouldn’t it be about stealing someone’s child?

 

Snow and Charming had stolen Maleficent’s to guarantee the purity of their own.

 

Regina, had she reached the castle soon enough, might have stolen Snow’s to seal her revenge.

 

Emma has threatened countless times that she would steal Henry.

 

And now Maleficent wanted Pinocchio to help her find The Author.

 

What next? Marco would steal Aurora’s to fill the gap in his heart? Aurora would steal someone else’s in turn? The game going on and on until the music stops and the one left without a baby in their arms loses?

 

Regina only played games to win: in this one there was too much at stake, it was too big of a gamble; especially if Maleficent was in charge the rules and holding the cards.

 

No, Regina decided, the cycle must be broken. The game needed to end; she was going stop music herself.

 

She watched, for a moment, taking in the idyllic scene in front of her of a father passing down his craft to the next generation; Marco teaching Pinocchio how to create art, to create life, out of wood.

 

Perhaps, had she made different choices she might have enlisted Pinocchio’s help herself; demanded he tell her everything he knew of The Author so she might get a Happy Ending. But she didn’t need the boy to lead her to a mythological person with pen and paper to create what she had found—what she had chosen—for herself.

 

Regina coughed quietly from the sidelines, to allow the father and son to see her watching on, before stepping into the garage. She raised a tentative finger to her mouth, before quickly sweeping her right hand in the direction of the boy. She watched him slump slowly to the floor, as if the strings keeping him standing had been cut, and he fell into a blissfully ignorant sleep.

 

Marco—as any father would—tried to rush to his son’s aid, but Regina was faster than the ageing man and was able to grab him by his wrist.

 

“You’re going to go into the house and pack a bag,” she whispered urgently to him, hoping she could get out all she needed before he (or anyone else) interrupted, “you need enough clothes for yourself and Pinocchio to stay at the monastery for a few days.”

 

“My boy?” he snatched his wrist away and bent down to cradle his sleeping son in his arms.

 

“Is safe, it’s a simple spell to make him sleep-“

 

“Like you did with Snow White?” she watched the colour drain from his features and his eyes narrow with the familiar mix of fear and distrust that Regina had come accustomed too.

 

“No,” she joined Marco crouched on the floor and tentatively moved some hair that had fallen across Pinocchio’s face as he fell, “this is a spell not a curse, it will wear off soon. Please Marco, you have to hurry, I don’t know how long we ha-“

 

The both turned as the side door crashed open, Regina had risen quickly so she could be between Marco and whatever threat had halted her pleas for haste, but it was only Emma rushing in to save the day.

 

“I've been watching you,” she stated simply as if her entrance should have been expected, head fervently turning in every direction trying to scan the garage in as quick a time as possible to find the danger. “I saw you casting a sleeping spell, and my gut said something was wrong.”

 

“Now The Saviour is here,” Regina spat at Marco, “will you pack those bags like a good little carpenter?”

 

She watched him turn to Emma, who nodded her agreement, before he climbed to his feet and left for the main house. Regina tried not to hate that her dignity was walking out with him. Tried not to hate the fact that it had taken Emma rescuing her to enable her rescue him.

 

“You’re going to take them to the nuns, that officious sprite and her cronies will protect them.”

 

“You okay?” Emma questioned, bending down so she could scoop the boy into her arms.

 

“Of course,” Regina was being terse, she knew she was, she also knew Emma was going to call her out on it, but she couldn’t stop herself anyway.

 

“You put Pinocchio to sleep-“

 

“I thought it would be easier and less stressful for him this way,” the hair had fallen into his eyes again, his fringe needed cutting she noted. She wondered if that was why the boy was forever wearing that stupid hat, to help him keep the hair from the obscuring his vision.

 

“You also didn’t use alliteration,” Emma notes, pulling Regina’s gaze from the child and up to her’s, “you adore alliteration.”

 

“I struggled for a synonym.”

 

Emma adjusted the child in her arms so she could cup Regina’s cheek, “you okay?” she repeated pulling quickly back, clearly having found the child to be too heavy to support one handed.

 

“It doesn’t bother you that I’m a villain?”

 

“You’re not a-“

 

“We’re ready,” Marco announced, a bag in each hand as he reentered the room, interrupting the lie Emma was about to tell.

 

“Meet me at your parents afterwards,” Regina kissed Emma on the cheek before leaving in a cloud of smoke.

 

She reappeared in the doorway of the bedroom Henry had at his grandparents. He had his head buried in a book, she couldn’t see if it was for pleasure or for his studies. She walked over to the bed and sat down beside him, reading the page of the novel along side him. She scanned the text but couldn’t pick out any details to recognise it.

 

“What’s it about?” she asked him, turning to him so she could comb the hair out of his eyes. She wondered if he would ever need glasses, as Emma had needed glasses as a child. Maybe by keeping the hair out of his line of sight would help prevent that.

 

Henry closed the book so she could see the cover, Orbiting Jupiter she read, “This kid had a baby at 13, but never got to meet her, he and his friend are searching for her,” he summarised for his mother, “I have to finish chapter five before English tomorrow.”

 

She brushed, once again, the hair out of his eyes before standing up, “Have you got your iPod?” he nodded dutifully, “Come downstairs, continue reading there, have your music up too loud.”

 

“You want me in your eye-line but not to listen in.”

 

“Yes,” she straightened her dress under her coat, “bring your stuff, I want us to be ready to leave as soon as possible.”

 

“Mom,” he grabbed her arm just as she was turning to leave, “what’s going on?”

 

“I’ve disobeyed Maleficent, I don’t know how long we have before she comes looking for me.”

 

“It’s okay,” he released her to grab his school bag from the back of his desk chair, “Ma will protect us,” he told her, with all the faith of The Truest Believer, as he shouldered the rucksack to head down stairs.

 

“I know,” she lied, straightening the collar of his school uniform, “I’m just going to check on your uncle and I’ll be down. Tell your grandparents to put on some tea, they’ll want to be soothed for this discussion.”

 

*

 

Regina didn’t remember falling asleep, but as noisy engine of a motorcycle drove down her road and abruptly stopped outside her house she was awake. 

 

She hadn’t been a sound sleeper since her mother had accepted an old man’s marriage proposal. 

 

That first night she was plagued by a nightmare so vivid that to this day she wasn’t entirely sure it hadn’t happened; a faceless visitor standing over her as a crowd clapped and cheered from around her bed. She knew the visitor was the king but she didn’t know why her brain stripped him of his face.  It was that detail, and that detail alone, that had her doubt the veracity of her memory. Had the nightmare been real she’d have seen the king’s face above her, felt his stubble on her cheek; as it was the visitor was just a ghost and the applause surrounding them apocryphal.

 

Since then her sleep had always been weary, her brain never fully relaxing enough for her to sleep through the night: any and all bumps that might occur having her sit bolt upright as her body tensed for danger around her.

 

The motorcycle was new.

 

The noises of her life in the Enchanted Forest were those of footsteps in the castle, wind whistling through the stones, wooden supports shifting with the temperature. The loudest sounds that might wake her in the forest belong to the rumble of thunder and the inevitable crack of lightening that accompanied it.

 

She’d spent nearly every night since The Curse in her bedroom on Mifflin Street (there was the time in Neverland, but Regina knew that only Pan could sleep soundly there and Pan never slept). The sounds of a wealthy street in a well kept town in Maine leant themselves to fireworks on holidays, territorial cats squabbling over land, and neighbours’ cars either leaving early or arriving home late. None of them drove a motorcycle.

 

The motorcycle was new.

 

She‘d intended to keep vigil over Henry in the night. She may have cast a protection spell over the house, but she didn’t trust Maleficent not to come crashing through it. So, as Henry agonised as to where his other mother was, fighting off the sleep his body so desperately craved, Regina sat watch over him in a chair by his bed.

 

Regina didn’t remember falling asleep, but the motorcycle stopping outside of her house in the middle of the night had her quickly awake.

 

She peered out of the window to see Emma unbuckling a saddle bag from the back of the bike. Regina turned to check on Henry—his ability to sleep through the night, undeterred by anything going on around his despite the numerous traumas he, too, had endured, comforted her—before going downstairs to meet Emma at the front door.

 

“Where the hell have you been?” she hissed at the younger woman as Emma toed off her boots, too relieved to have her back to complain about the lack of safety gear she’d worn to steal August’s bike.

 

“Docks.” Emma shrugged, turning over the bag and emptying the contents on the floor. “Marco’s. Here now.” was the rest of the grunted response Regina received as Emma dropped to her knees and sifted through August’s possessions. “Think any of this will help us find The Author?”

 

The conversation at the Charming’s had gone almost as Regina had anticipated. Regina had managed to persuade the pair of them that it was time for Emma to learn the truth about what they had done all those years ago to Maleficent’s child. Emma had arrived, tired and depleted after helping the fairies secure the monastery from any possible attack from Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella, and whatever great power they had stored away. Snow had started crying practically as soon as Emma had sat down, David stoically holding his wife’s hand as she justified their actions. That much Regina had predicted.

 

What she had not foreseen was how Emma would react. Regina knew the news would not be welcomed, would not be brushed aside and forgiven with hugs, kisses; there would be no gratitude or declarations of love for her parents, no claims that they did what they had to do.

 

She, however, should have predicted that Emma would run. But Regina thought Emma had learnt to stop running; she had naively believed that with her by her side, Emma might stay.

 

“No,” Regina knelt down beside her and took a notebook scribbles and theories out of Emma’s hand, “but nor do I think we need him.”

 

“Of course we need him, Regina,” Emma spat back at her, scooping up a handful of paper and throwing it against the wall, “he deals in fate and mine was tampered with.”

 

“I thought fate was a good thing?” Regina said.

 

“Not if it means that everything good in my life: you, Henry, you,” Emma repeated dejectedly, “came at the expense of someone else because my parents didn’t trust that I could make good choices.”

 

Regina didn’t have a response for that though. None of the conversations she’d prepared for and rehearsed in her head came with a response for that.

 

She flexed the fingers of her right hand. Her knuckles still hurt, but not as much as they had yesterday, and the pain would be even less tomorrow.

 

“You’ve been doing that since your clandestine meeting with Mom the other evening,” Emma told her, taking Regina’s hand in her own and removing the glamour, “by the way Dad spent much of the conversation staring at you his arm tighter around Mom than usual, I’m guessing it was her you punched rather than him.”

 

Emma lifted her own right hand over Regina’s now visibly bruised knuckles, “Don’t,” she told Emma before she could heal it, “I should be in pain.”

 

“Because you punched Snow White, your mortal enemy for the past however many years?” Emma questioned with a cock of her eyebrow.

 

“Because I punched the woman I love’s mother,” Regina corrected.

 

“Question is why. It’s not because of what she did,” Emma released her hand, letting it fall limply on Regina’s knee, “you would have done the same for Henry. You would still do the same for Henry.”

 

“In a heartbeat.”

 

“Then why?” 

 

“Because of when she choose to tell me.”

 

*

 

Regina was unsurprised when she woke up to find her bed empty. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Emma upstairs and changed into sleepwear in the first place, Regina hadn’t expected Emma to actually allow herself to relax enough to rest as well.

 

Emma seldom slept well, Regina found. She thought that another reason why they were so well suited.

 

“Do you have a way of reaching Maleficent?” Regina looked around, searching for Emma’s voice. She found her hugging her knees staring out of the window, even with the distance between them Regina could see the dark rings around Emma’s eyes.

 

“Why?” she asked sitting up and mirroring Emma’s position.

 

“We’re going to help her find out what happened to her baby.”

Chapter Text

Four

 

The Dark One was back and terrorising the fairies trying to get to Pinocchio, as he had been throughout the night, yet she and Emma were just sat in the library doing little more than twiddling their thumbs as they waited.

 

Regina had pulled Henry from school, remaining adamant that he was not going to leave her sight until she could guarantee that Maleficent, Gold, or anyone with even a remotely blackened heart wasn’t going to use him as a bargaining chip to gain entry into the monastery.

 

Henry was alternating his time between reading more of the novel he’d been assigned for English, and his algebra homework. She may not have allowed him to attend school but Regina was not going to let him fall behind.

 

Henry had blithely tried to point out that neither of his mothers had gone to high school, but he had quickly been shut down by Emma suggesting that getting his GED in prison was nothing to aspire to. Regina had shot her a warning look—Emma was the ‘allowing ice cream before dinner’ parent and the ‘don’t tell your Mom but let’s watch this age inappropriate movie’ parent; Regina was left to be the strict, overbearing, occasionally sarcastic parent; Emma’s lack of sleep and stress should not account for a shift in their roles—before reminding Henry that unless he wanted to spend the rest of his life trapped in a tiny town in Maine, he needed to graduate from high school.

 

Emma went back to just sitting, staring at the front doors, practically catatonic, waiting for Maleficent to meet them. It was only Emma’s constant, impatient tapping of her fingers on the table that allowed Regina near definitive proof that Emma wasn’t suffering from a complete mental block.

 

“You’re late,” Emma snapped at Maleficent when she finally decided to grace them with her presence.

 

Regina ignored the pair of them and turned to Henry, “iPod, I know,” he sighed at her, unravelling his headphones and promptly returning to his homework.

 

“Yes, well,” Regina turned back to see Mal removing her hat and coat as if to hand them to a servant, finding none the old woman was forced to drape her jacket over her arm, “Rumple asked for some assistance trying to swat away those moths you enlisted to protect the puppet. Besides,” her tone was unnervingly blasé, “Regina should have told you I don’t do well at being summoned.”

 

“Yes, well,” Regina quickly moved from her seat and grabbed Emma by the elbow; Emma’s tone was dangerously biting— she’d already, somewhat cruelly, taken out her lack of sleep on Henry, trying to do the same with Maleficent was simply idiotic—Regina wanted Emma to feel her presence with her in the room, ground her, remind her that she was safe, that she was loved, “until you’re actually Angelina Jolie, I’m going to treat you like everyone else.”

 

“This is why I got a pet, Regina,” Maleficent had her gaze fixed on her, but the woman’s hand was lazily twirling Emma’s blonde hair, “they’re a lot easier to tame,” Regina watched Emma recoil from Maleficent’s touch and attention, but the old sorceress kept her eyes fixed on her making sure Regina knew her words were meant for her. “Do you need help breaking her i-“

 

Regina didn’t know when she’d started punching people. She was sure she’d gone her entire life without punching anyone; then Emma Swan arrived in her town and it seemed it was becoming a new character trait. Emma, either directly or indirectly, was the reason for each punch Regina threw; she would need to examine that development at some point in the future.

 

Regina regretted lashing out in an instant, though. Not because she’d punched Mal, mainly because by Regina knocking her down it saved Emma from doing so, but because her right hand was still recovering from punching Snow White.

 

Instinctively she flexed her fingers, relieved that all of them were still mobile. She chanced a look at Maleficent, the fact that Regina had not instantly been flung into a shelf of books spoke volumes. Either the old woman was going soft or she lacked the power she once had. Maleficent may have been reborn but, apparently, not to her former glory.

 

Mal was hunched on the floor, her weight supported by her left arm as her right hand dabbed at her lip. Seeing the blood on Mal’s fingers Regina looked down at her own hand—it too was bleeding; she’d clearly caught the dragon’s whetted teeth when she’d swung at the woman’s mouth.

 

“Stay down,” Regina warned her, not caring much for the throb of her knuckles, “now you’re here for two reasons; the first being that you and the Dark One can’t break into the bee hive, leading to the second: you want to know if what the Saviour is selling is better than what the Imp is offering. So stay down, stay quiet, and listen to the pitch before I find another unicorn of yours to kill.”

 

“Unicorns are real?” Regina spun round to see Henry peering over the table to get a better look at the fabled fairy on the floor, his headphones decidedly not in his ears.

 

“iPod!” both she and Emma snapped at him.

 

“I know, I know,” he mumbled, hands raised defensively as he sat back down, “but if you didn’t want to draw my attention to your conversation, you probably shouldn’t hit people down to the ground.”

 

Emma motioned to her son to sit before circling the woman on the floor, her hands on her hips in The Saviour’s favoured power stance: “I don’t know what Gold has told you about me, but before I came to this town I used to be a bail bondsperson,” Regina watched Mal open her mouth to question the statement, but Emma silenced her with a wave of her hand as she used the other to help the woman to her feet. “It means I’m very good at finding people.”

 

“And think that you, rather than The Dark One or I, are better equipped at finding The Author?” Maleficent responded sceptically, an arch of her eyebrow for emphasis.

 

“No, I think I can help find out what happened to your baby.”

 

Mal leaned back against the check-in counter as she allowed a moment to process the words put before her.

 

“My parents said the egg was sent off to a Land Without Magic. Presumably, its this Land Without Magic, and presumably on the egg’s arrival, given we have no dragons here, and the baby survived the journey, it would be human.”

 

Emma hadn’t relayed any of her assumptions to Regina, she had simply been told to arrange a meeting with her former friend and foe. Regina had no idea how little Emma had slept the previous night, nor just how much thought she’d put into her parent’s actions and the consequences, therein.

 

“I’m also assuming that for Gold to get you as an ally, he made a deal,” Regina could do little but watch the interaction between the pair, watch as Emma stood tall—despite the discomfort of objectification she’d been put through, regardless of the parental issues she was once again going through, despite the bags betraying her exhaustion—her hands straying to her back pockets as if she had these types of conversations so often now that she found them to be mundane, “I’m assuming he traded information about your child for your cooperation?”

 

“Just,” Maleficent removed herself from the counter and tried to match Emma for height, “that she was banished to this world thirty years ago, to a place called Minnesota, where she was adopted by a couple. And they named her Lilith.”

 

“No,” Emma visibly paled and collapsed into the nearest chair; another action that pulled Henry away from his music.

 

“Ma?”

 

But Regina was already at her side, rubbing quick circles on her lover’s back, trying to sooth Emma and keep her from her thoughts; because Regina knew exactly where Emma’s mind had taken her to

 

That damned notion of fate. 


*

Regina had always had her father to talk to.

 

He was her best friend and sole ally in the manor against her mother. They would read together, he showed her how to play chess, and taught her the language of her grandfather as he told her of the kingdom he came from but would never rule.

 

As she grew up, as she found her love of horses and the outdoors was safer than playing chess in the house with her father, she found their relationship waned. Especially as she discovered herself falling in love with the stable boy. She so wanted to tell her father, to confide this great secret in another, but she knew her father was powerless against her mother’s intrusive questions—and her mother could never know.

 

Once in court, she found her father emasculated further.

 

He had to be.

 

He had to be weak, because he certainly wasn’t ignorant.

 

Her father was a prince, he knew the ways of court. He knew that kingdoms needed male heirs—her father was the third son after all, he was the insurance in case two terrible accidents might befall his homeland.

 

Her father was one of the smartest men she’d ever known. He could speak countless languages, he’d been a diplomat and an ambassador until his hand was given to the woman who could spin straw into gold.

 

Therefore he had to be powerless, because otherwise he knew what was happening to her, he knew what was happening to his child, his only child, and yet chose to do nothing about it.

 

Regina refused to believe her father willingly allowed the King into her bed chamber night after night to consummate and cement their marriage, to secure the power of the White Kingdom by impregnating her with a male heir. Consequently, her father, her best friend, her confidant, and sole ally against her mother must have been powerless to stop it.

 

It became another thing she never spoke to him about; instead she focussed her time and energy on gaining power for the both of them.

 

Once her mother was gone, she was able to tell her father everything again, she was able to share her plans with him. But she found as her power grew she tired of his placations; no longer her best friend but the man that stood aside, aiding and abetting her abuse with his silence.

 

Once Leopold was dead she found another, a better, stronger friend in the world. Her mirror became her sounding board, a sycophantic genie that would grant her her every wish if only she’d utter the words to him. And so often she did.

 

She would tell the mirror everything and he worshipped every word.

 

Emma never had any of that though.

 

She’d never had a friend, or an ally of any sort, never had anyone to talk to. Emma faced her problems on her own.

 

So Regina left her to it. She gave Emma the time she needed to process this new information, because Emma had spent so much more of her life alone than she had with a family.

 

Well, she granted Emma an hour anyway.

 

She gave Henry his cell back and allowed him to play whatever his game of the moment was. Usually she rued the year in New York that had him obsessed with video games, his eyes seemingly always glued to one screen or another. Yet, just as it proved to be a useful tool to distract him from asking too many questions about Zelena, Regina hoped he had enough battery left to keep him occupied while he spoke to Emma in the next room. That the screen would quiet his curious mind, just long enough that she might be able to comfort and soothe his mother’s.

 

She found Emma, more or less, as she’d imagined; slumped in a chair, arms folded rigidly across her chest, a deep frown marring her gentle features as she stared at a microfiche.

 

“Is it as you feared?” she asked her softly, moving to stand behind her so she could rub some of the tension out of Emma’s shoulders. She felt Emma nod into her, as she leant her head against her arm. Regina kept her eyes glued to the newspaper  story on the screen ahead of them though. “How can you be so sure?”

 

Emma lifted her arm and pointed at the picture of a swaddled child, “See that?” she asked, voice horse and barely above a whisper. Regina leaned in closer and saw peculiar, probably unique, birthmark almost shaped like a star— almost . “I said she was like Harry Potter and I picked up a marker and drew something similar on my own wrist.”

 

Emma shifted, moving her left hand to place on her right shoulder, seeking out Regina’s hand and interlocking their fingers. Regina looked down, Emma’s sleeve was taught, it revealed the delicate flower tattoo Emma had replaced the memory with.

 

“Of all the kids in the world,” Emma released her hand so she was able to spin round in her chair, Regina nearly wept with how despondent she looked, “the one I end up friends with is the one my parents banished?”

 

“So let’s go find this girl to redeem your parents,” she offered.

 

“You’ve barely letting Henry out of your sight, but now we’re going to leave town?

 

“I was expecting to take Henry with us.” Emma arched an eyebrow up at Regina, “What you can take him out of school to find Gold’s son, I can’t take him out to find Mal’s daughter?” Emma continued to look up at her with disbelief. “His mothers are the mayor and the sheriff respectively,” Emma offered up her hand to take Regina’s; pulling her onto her lap, either softening to the idea or needing more physical contact between them, probably both knowing Emma, “not to mention the fact his grandmother is a teacher at the high school, I don’t think we’re going to have the truancy officer after us.”

 

“Can’t believe you want a family road trip,” Emma sighed leaning her head on Regina’s shoulder.

 

“Only this one we don’t bring Henry back any more relatives.”

 

“The kid’s already related to Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, Peter Pan,” Emma reeled off on her fingers, “can’t be any more fairy tale creatures left?”

 

“Thor?”

 

“Nah, I think Dad would have said something if he knew Thor,” Emma smiled half half-heartedly. Regina could only be relieved to see a little light returning behind the blonde’s eyes.

 

*

 

Regina hadn’t read a national newspaper since 2001.

 

She’d subsequently ordered a frame for it, the scowling Congressman on the front page was gathering dust in her attic. Now that time moved forward, she supposed she could probably hang it up as she’d always intended; but then again she imagined Emma probably wouldn’t want a visible reminder of the day her son was adopted hanging in the study.

 

They had barely made it across the state line before Henry started complaining about the fullness of his bladder. Regina had berated him about the fact she’d told him to go before they left, but Emma pointed to a diner in the distance and noted how many times she’d been forced to pull over when she’d made the journey with a ten-year-old.

 

Regina was trying to read the newspaper.

 

Storybrooke didn’t get national papers, and the drivel in The Mirror hardly constituted as news anyway, but it was hard to concentrate on the articles when Emma was staring at (it appeared to be only an open mouth and salivating short of ogling) the waitress that she’s ordered coffees from.

 

When Henry had emerged from the restroom, looking a far sight happier than when he’d gone in, Emma had pulled a crumpled $20 bill from her pocket and told him to grab some candy from the gas station for the rest of the ride.

 

Regina was trying so hard to read the paper but between biting her tongue at the amount of money Emma had handed over for sugared rubbish, and watching Emma’s gaze flit between Henry’s retreating figure and the woman behind the counter, Regina was having little success.

 

“I’m about to ask you some questions,” Emma said as soon as the door closed, and the bell jangled, behind their son, her hand pulling down the paper so Regina was forced to look at her, “you need to answer the honestly and quickly because I don’t know how long Henry is going to be.”

 

Regina frowned at her erratic behaviour, “And it was definitely Advil the server gave you, not some sort of meth amphetamine?”

 

Emma shook her head, signifying she would not be deterred from her train of thought: “When did you last sleep with Malife-“ Emma suddenly dropped her voice and looked frantically around the small dinner to see if anyone was listening, “-Angelina?” she corrected.

 

“I told you I was nineteen.” She folded the paper, it was not going to be read any time soon. “Why?”

 

“And was that before or after you took... birth control?” Regina tried to translate the conversation they were having into a language she understood, but was getting nowhere. “You know, the very strong birth control meaning you had to adopt...”

 

“Must we really do this now? In a diner?”

 

“Yes,” Emma hissed frantically, “answer the question.”

 

Regina rolled her eyes but acquiesced nonetheless, “Before,” she sighed out reluctantly.

 

“And you promise you and Angelina didn’t meet up for even one night shortly before you moved to America?”

 

She started rubbing her temple, the questions were exhausting and she found herself wondering where Emma had put the painkillers she’d purchased, why on Earth the waitress was being so slow with their drinks or Henry was choosing this moment in all of his life to dawdle over buying candy; Regina wanted something to end Emma’s line of questioning.

 

“You know the answers to all of this,” Regina found herself spitting back at her, “why is it suddenly so imperative we go over this here and now?”

 

Emma didn’t answer though, just looked back at the woman bringing their drinks over. The waitress was somewhere between Emma’s age and the age Regina looked, her name tag read Starla , and she too was visibly exhausted, bags under her eyes heavier than Emma’s even, her skin pale and worn. Not someone Regina would have thought to be Emma’s type and defiantly not one that warranted the level of attention Emma was paying her.

 

The woman put down their coffees, looked nervously between them, before pulling out her pad.

 

“You want to order any food?”

 

“Not right now, but maybe when the kid gets back,” Emma gave Starla one of her false smiles, the type she responded to ‘Is Pepsi okay?’ with or when Dopey came into the station complaining Mr Kibbles was stuck up a tree again.

 

“Just wave if you need anything,” Starla nodded back before heading back to the counter.

 

Regina waited for Emma to continue their conversation, but found the blonde was still objectifying their server. Regina added two spoons of sugar to one of the coffees and pushed it towards Emma, before adding a little to her own and taking a sip.

 

“You don’t see it, do you?” Emma asked in disbelief.

 

“See what, dear?” Regina asked, pleased Emma’s butterfly mind had moved them on from talk of Maleficent.

 

“The waitress-“

 

“Starla?”

 

Emma nodded worrying her bottom lip, “she looks like you.”

 

Regina studied the woman once more; when she stood at certain angles, her profile reminded Regina of a portrait of her mother’s that used to hang at the manor, but only vaguely. Their colouring was similar but not enough to be significant. Nothing to explain Emma’s odd behaviour or the Spanish Inquisition she’d just endured about a past relationship.

 

“Around fifteen percent of the American population has Latino or Hispanic heritage,” Regina told her cooly, “at best you’re acting like a misogynist in a strip club, at worst you’re coming off racist.” She downed the rest of her coffee before standing abruptly. “I’m going to settle the bill, you make sure Henry hasn’t spent the entirety of that $20 on chocolate, and we’ll meet at the car.”

 

“Regina.”

 

“Car,” she simply pointed, using the tone she new brokered no argument.

 

Her father was darker than her, her grandfather darker still. Despite the fact her mother had married into royalty, she never seemed content with the crown she’d found. Perhaps it was because this lineage was so poor, maybe because her husband would never see the throne; but Regina always thought it was because of the colour of their skin and the fact that English wasn’t her grandfather’s native tongue.

 

Upon discovering her sibling, her very much caucasian sibling from the unplanned pregnancy that had come before, Regina’s worst thoughts about her mother’s feeling towards the family she married into were confirmed. Henry wasn’t the man Cora had wanted; Cora had wanted to marry White. All the emotional and physical abuse she’d been forced to endure was because Regina looked a little more like Daddy than she did Mother.

 

Regina shook her head away from the troubling thoughts of her childhood, and started looking through her purse to pay. She could see Starla in her peripheral vision but paid her no mind until she saw the woman tear off a sheet from the pad and place it on the counter in front of her itemising the cost of the two coffees.

 

It was only then did she understand Emma’s near frantic level of questioning, only when she saw the peculiar, probably unique, birthmark on the waitress’ wrist did she comprehend what had fascinated Emma so about their waitress.

 

“Lily,” Regina managed to breath out as she  looked properly at the server’s eyes for the first time only to see dark brown orbs, so like her own, staring back at her.

Chapter Text

Five

 

“Lily,” Regina managed to breath out as she  looked properly at the server’s eyes for the first time only to see dark brown orbs, so like her own, staring back at her.

 

She hastily threw down two crisp five dollar bills, not caring that she’d tipped the woman far in excess of what either the two dollar coffee or the service warranted, and escaped out of the door trying to manage her breathing until she made it to the Bug at least.

 

She manically pulled at the handle of the passenger side, hoping that this would be the day Emma’s infernal car gave up the ghost and unlocked through sheer will power alone; but the Bug, like the universe it felt, was conspiring against her and so she could only lean limply over the rusting paint as she tried to stave off her panic attack.

 

She’d had several in her life. 

 

Though before Storybrooke they weren’t labelled as such. In the Enchanted Forest she been plagued with hysteria, her suffering only heightened by going to court as a teenager—that was one of the reasons the physicians thought she’d been unable to produce a son for the king.

 

(Nothing to do with the fact he struggled to maintain an erection in his old age, nor that he might have a low sperm count which would explain why Snow was an only child; no, the issue was clearly hers, and hers alone).

 

In Storybrooke, she’d more or less been free of them; she’d had a couple on the rare occasions Graham forgot himself and went on top; Henry had accidentally induced a couple as a child, if not from his continuous crying as baby and her lack of faith in herself, when he fell off the jungle gym, the time he disappeared for a day and returned with his birth mother...

 

But they had lessened as she’d grown, she’d found ways to manage them, she’d sought power to make sure that she was in control of situations. If she was in control then nothing could startle her, nothing could sneak up and create panic.

 

She was not in control of this situation.

 

Maleficent’s daughter had served her coffee and she looked too much like Regina for her to be able to rationalise. Not that she wasn’t trying; following Emma’s train of thought from the diner it was impossible not to: Regina had been nineteen when she had her affair, for lack of a better word, with Mal; she’d cast the curse when she was thirty, meaning it wasn’t until around a decade later that Snow and Maleficent conceived their babies.

 

It simply wasn’t possible.

 

And that’s before she even reminded herself of the fact that only in this world could two women get pregnant together and that involved money, a willing third-party (anonymous or no), and trips to the doctor.

 

Two women creating a child together required a very different brand of magic that the Enchanted Forest simply didn’t have.

 

Her breathing under control, under her control, she started to piece back the world around her. She felt the stupid, rusting paint of the car under her fingers; the gravel under her feet; she smelt the fumes from the road combining with the scents of the gas station and the pine trees behind her; she heard the traffic rushing by as well as her family conversing as they approached.

 

“Hey, got you Milk Duds,” Henry rummaged through his plastic bag and shoved the candy towards her, “Ma says we don’t need to keep driving down to Massachusetts; that our server was Lily.” He looked between them and then back to the diner, “So what she say?”

 

“‘We’ve found your birth mother and she’s a fairytale creature.’ isn’t exactly something you tell someone at their place of work,” Regina told him, pulling him into a tight hug, wanting nothing more than to feel her child, her only child, in her arms.

 

“You mom’s right, Kid,” Emma nudged him with her shoulder, “that’s the kind of news you save for someone when they’re trapped in a car driving to the middle of nowhere.”

 

Henry was caught between them, looking back and forth once more, “You two okay? You’re being kind of weird.”

 

“We’re good,” Emma assured him, “get in the car, start reading one of those comics you brought, while we work out our next move.” 

 

Regina stepped aside to allow Emma to unlock it and Henry to climb into the back seat, making sure he was settled before putting the passenger chair back and closing the door on him.

 

“You saw it did you?” Emma asked her as soon as their son was safely enclosed in the car, “That’s why I watched you peeling paint off my beautiful Bug.”

 

“Whatever I saw, or thought I saw,” Regina corrected hastily, turning so her back was leaning against the Volkswagen, folding her arms across her chest, “isn’t possible. The timings don’t match up, and even if they did, my world didn’t exactly come with fertility centres. Mal clearly has a type,” she added with a shrug of her shoulders. “It’s a coincidence, nothing more.”

 

“Okay, you say it’s not possible, then it’s not possible, you’re the expert at the magic stuff.” Regina’s eyes rolled despite her best efforts to control them, trust Emma to boil down most of her life’s studies, years of mastering her craft into ‘magic stuff’. “You can understand why I freaked though,” Emma smiled at her, before pulling at one of Regina’s arms so she could be wrapped into an embrace, “I don’t know why you two broke up, but it worked out pretty well for me,” she concluded with a satisfied grin and a kiss to Regina’s lips.

 

Regina held her closer relishing the feel of woman in her arms, “You’ve certainly perked up.” 

 

This was her family, this woman and the son they shared sat watching them from the car.

 

She and Emma may not have been together that long, but she’d been in love with her for so many more months, invited her into her home, they were a family.

 

“Sugar high,” Emma brushed the comment aside, “Kid got me Skittles.”

 

“Go,” she released Emma from her arms and pushed her towards the diner, “go get reacquainted with your ex so we can take her back to see mine.”

 

“We were fifteen,” Emma frowned, “and we were barely girlfriends, I’d hardly say she was my first lov-“ she cut herself off quickly and clamped her hands over her mouth clearly having realised what she’d said.

 

Regina met Daniel when she was fifteen and Emma knew this.

 

Daniel was so unlike all the other staff and servants in her parents’ employ. Daniel never shied away from speaking his mind to her, never failed to tell her when she was being stupid and stubborn, he treated her as an equal—not even that when they were on horseback and he was issuing instructions—rather than as a minor royal. 

 

Daniel didn’t care of her wealth or status, not fussed by her father’s name or that her grandfather was a king, unafraid of the rumours and whispers in the kingdom of her mother’s power. All Daniel wanted from her was that she learnt to ride a horse, and that she excelled under his tutelage. 

 

He wanted nothing in return from her and there was nothing she could give him; she would never inherit the crown, her father’s two older brothers and their children keeping her far away from the capital; her mother was never going to teach Regina magic, unwilling to share her power or risk it being diluted by another. Regina had nothing to offer him except her love. So that’s what she gave him.

 

Maybe that’s why it took her so long to realise that she loved Emma because she didn’t want to acknowledge that the love she’d had for Daniel could be replicated and given to another.

 

Emma had never been intimidated by Regina, never saw her an enemy needing to be defeated—yes, there was the matter of Henry’s custody, but Emma had always been all bark, lacking any of Regina’s bite to follow through—Emma was so wonderfully refreshing after nearly thirty-five years of sycophants and scared peasants.

 

Emma saw her as an equal. Emma wanted nothing from her, had no demands of her (except, of course, access to Henry) but Regina found she wanted to give her something nonetheless.

 

Once again, without a title or power to offer the younger woman, Regina found all she could give was her love.

 

“It’s okay,” Regina told her taking Emma in her arms once more so she could kiss her on the cheek, “now go talk to Lily, Henry and I will wait here.” she dismissed her by opening the car again and dropping down into the passenger seat.

 

Henry managed to wait nearly all of three seconds before not so gracefully clambering up into the front seat beside her.

 

“How much do you know, either through having overheard, worked out for yourself, or read in that damned book of yours?” she asked him, finally opening the pack of chocolate Henry had bought her.

 

“You mean aside from the fact that Ma’s first girlfriend is the daughter of your first girlfriend and Grandma and Grandpa separated them to make sure Ma became The Saviour and able to break your curse?” he asked her casually, leaning over the gear stick to steal some of her candy, “Not much.”

 

Regina merely swatted him away, despite the fact she didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, she’d developed quite a taste for Milk Duds since Emma had introduced them to her.

 

“What I can’t work out is why Lily looks so much like you,” he told her after a beat. “I overheard Grandma complaining that you and Maleficent were together while you were married to my great-grandfather, but that would have been years before she was pregnant with Ma and when Lily was an egg and-”

 

“Lily doesn’t look like me,” Regina told him before he could say anymore, folding over the bag of candy and putting it in the glove box for later. She’d suddenly lost interest in the chocolate.

 

“You know in Game of Thrones-“

 

“Emma has not let you watch Game of Thrones?” Regina asked furiously, spinning in her chair so she could look at him properly so she’d be able to better assess his answer for truth.

 

“No,” he held his arms up defensively, “Ma has a strict ‘No HBO before I’m 18’ rule.”

 

“If only she had a strict ‘Vegetables with every meal’ rule,” she muttered, but relieved that Emma shared her views on what constituted suitable television for their son.

 

“I may have found the books on her Kindle and I may have read them instead of the book she wanted me to read.” Regina rolled her eyes, but she supposed the novels couldn’t be as graphic as she’d heard Ruby discussing with customers at Granny’s. “Anyway, George R. R. Martin writes that fertilised dragon eggs can exist for decades, centuries even, before hatching.”

 

Regina desperately wished she’d asked Emma for the packet of Advil she’d purchased with their coffees, the tension headache that had been developing in the diner was threatening to rear its ugly head again.

 

She loved her son, just as she loved his mother, she just wished that some days they weren’t so similar. If they weren’t asking questions, they were providing answers and theories, desperate to show her how they’d solved every mystery. From what she’d been able to read of the newspaper earlier she wondered if they could put their minds to solving the conflict in the Middle East rather than trying to work out impossible hypotheticals.

 

“That’s a story, darling, a hybrid of fantasy and almost histories,” she reminded him, watching Emma interact with Lily in the distance. 

 

She wondered if their conversation was as trying as this one. However, catching up with an old friend, possibly foe, depending on which story Emma told, after over fifteen years apart solely so they could be whisked off to meet a birth parent could not be sunshine and roses. Regina knew that regardless of how much discomfort she was feeling in the car, Emma had the much more daunting task.

 

“Yeah,” Henry nodded his agreement, “because sorcery, massive ice walls, and dragons definitely aren’t real!” Regina rubbed her temples, of course The Truest Believer would find fact in ever bit of fiction. “In bio,” he continued, obviously not wishing to be deterred, “Grandma was teaching us about some birds and reptiles that have the ability to store sperm, meaning that mating and fertilisation don’t always happens in the same environment; it also gives the female more control over genes she passes down.”

 

“Henry Daniel Mills!” 

 

“What?” he asked her, clearly unsure of what had finally caused her to snap.

 

“Even if that is all true, and despite what the transphobic graffiti about me down at the docks wishes my constituents to believe, I am and always have been female. I have no sperm. No sperm; no baby, dragon or otherwise.”

 

“Okay, okay,” he smiled sheepishly at her, leaning back against the door of the car putting a little distance between them aware that he’d pushed too far, “I just think it’s freaky how much she looks like you.”

 

“She doesn’t,” she reiterated looking back at the parking lot and seeing it devoid of people. “Did you see where Emma went?” Regina asked him as she stepped out of the car.

 

“No,” he admitted climbing out after her, “after you shouted ‘sperm’ at me I kind of started focussing on my feet.”

 

Regina was about to... well she wasn’t quite sure, to be honest. Her son was thirteen, practically fourteen, he knew about where babies came from, he knew about the changes in his body and what all that meant; but she was also fairly certain that any child, in any realm, would be horrified to have their mother talk to them about sperm, or lack thereof. She opened her mouth to apologise but found herself stopping as she watched Emma exiting from the back of the diner, a piece of paper in hand, looking over her shoulder as she made a quick dash towards them.

 

“Get back in the car, darling, I think your mother has just stolen something.”

 

*

 

Emma had, as Regina suspected, stolen something, because she was Emma Swan and that seemed to be the only way she operated. It had been ‘Starla’s’ time card with Lily’s current address on. Emma had spent the entire drive to the trailer park muttering about her ‘superpower’ and the fact that Lily had only ever lied to her in the past, and hardly about to break the habit of a lifetime. Regina, had her hand on Emma’s knee as they drove, far too erratically with their son in the back for her to be comfortable with.

 

(However, as they were doing the journey in the godforsaken Beetle, Regina was never going to be entirely happy but Emma had won the argument about who's car they would be taking in two moves. The first, that Henry would have slightly more room in the back in the Bug; the second being that if they took the Mercedes Regina would be forced to do all the driving as they both knew there was no way Emma would be let behind the wheel of her precious Benz).

 

Emma had told Henry to keep watch as they broke into Lily’s, though Regina had told him as they stepped out that given the state of the place no one would notice or care.

 

“No kid's stuff,” Emma said triumphantly before Regina had even been able to fully cross the threshold the mobile home. “No sign of a husband.”

 

“I’m not telling you we’re right, you get all smug and self satisfied like I owe you a cookie or something,” she sighed taking in the tiny space for all of its mould infested glory. “Why did I go through the trouble of creating Storybrooke when I could have cursed everyone to live here?”

 

“Thought you just enacted the curse, Madam Mayor?” she heard Emma mutter as the blonde continued to explore the front room; not that Regina felt it was large enough to warrant the descriptor of ‘room’ nor that she thought there was anything to explore. “Can't blame her for running off. I was about to tell her she was Maleficent's daughter.”

 

“At least when Henry told you, your mom was the ‘good guy’.”

 

Emma turned round and smiled softly at her, “Just because you didn’t use air quotes, doesn’t mean I didn’t see them.”

 

“When we get back you need to talk to her,” but that sentence just pushed Emma back to the task at hand, spinning back round and resuming her search.

 

“You know how long it took for me to believe,” she deflected, rummaging through Lily’s bathroom cabinets, “and that was in Storybrooke. For her,” Emma continued her thought, despite the fact Regina had moved on to the next room, “it's not gonna be simple.”

 

She was only partially listening though, most of her attention was on the pin board in front of her. The pages torn out of story books, post-it notes, photographs of castles, of Emma as a teenager, fingerprints even (though she couldn’t tell who’s they were), all nicely tied together with ribbon.

 

What worried Regina most though was the map of Maine with four possible locations for Storybrooke circled. One of the them dead on the mark.

 

“Emma!” she summoned.

 

“What?”

 

“It might be simpler than you think,” she pointed to the chart neatly mapped out on the wall in front of them.

 

“Son of a...” Emma breathed out, moving passed her and closer to the board. “She knew. She already knew.”

 

“And she was looking for you,” she added somewhat needlessly, given the old photograph of Emma joining the illustrations from children’s books.

 

“No,” Emma drew her attention to the drawings of Snow White and Charming, but more specifically a detail Regina hadn’t seen before—the fact they were crossed through. “My parents. She knew everything. She wants rev-“ but whatever Emma thought Lily wanted was cut off when they heard the family sound of the Bug’s engine stirring outside causing both women to bolt back to the front door. “Really?!”

 

Emma had tried, in vain, to shout for the woman to stop and they sped down the enclosed entrance way, but by the time they’d made it onto the gravel the car had already turned and Lily was speeding away.

 

Regina, always a step behind Emma, pulled her back to her, desperate to articulate her racing mind, but found her brain unable to cooperate. “Emma,” was all she could manage as she clutched at the blonde’s hand, desperate for Emma to translate her pleas.

 

“The Apprentice's scroll,” Emma was fixating, clearly it hadn’t dawned on her yet. “It was in my bag in the car! She wanted a way into Storybrooke. Now she's got one.”

 

“Emma!” Regina repeated, her heart now thundering in her chest, “Henry’s in the car.”

Chapter Text

Six

 

Regina sat in the car staring down at her swollen hand, scabs had formed over the torn skin after her altercation with Maleficent, bruising surrounded each one covering most of her knuckles. Regina flexed her fingers, wiggled them, balled and unballed them; they weren’t broken, they hurt like hell, but they weren’t broken. 

 

However, hat wasn’t why she was fixated with her hand. She just kept staring down at it, wishing for the familiar spark of magic to flow from her fingers. She’d tried palm up, focusing on creating a fireball—perhaps summoning a specific charm might be easier in The World Without Magic—but she had quickly given up on that; hoping that simply conjuring anything might bring magic back to her.

 

Emma had put a wrench through the window of a car in the trailer park. On any other day Regina would have noticed the make, the model, but today she wasn’t even sure of the colour. On any other day she would have scolded Emma for her rash and reckless behaviour. But on any other day they wouldn’t be in a stolen car chasing their kidnapped son across state lines.

 

She had brought Henry along to protect him; convinced that only under her watchful eye would he be safe. She didn’t trust Snow and Charming, they may have outlasted her in the Enchanted Forest, but they had no actual power—especially if the Dark One wanted something and thought Henry might be the means to get it.

 

She had brought Henry along to keep him safe; believing that with his mothers, and his mothers alone, he would be secure. Only a mother’s love was strong enough; and Henry had two.

 

Yet she had failed.

 

So concerned with what was happening in Storybrooke—so distracted by the thoughts that he would be taken and used as leverage, a pawn to be traded for Pinocchio and thus The Author—that she had lost sight of the dangers in the rest of the world.

 

She had missed the madwoman stolen before birth and corrupted down a dark and dangerous path. Deranged. Delusional. Damaged.

 

She prayed to any deity that would listen, she didn’t mind which or who since she’d long stopped believing in God, that she would feel the familiar spark of magic flow through her veins.

 

She would have continued to flex her fingers, wiggle them, ball and unball them until she felt something—anything—had it not been for their stolen car suddenly coming to a halt.

 

She looked across at Emma, trying to work out why the pursuit had ended from her face alone,  before her eyes went to the road up head of them; she saw a yellow Volkswagen Beetle facing towards them, half on the road and half in the adjacent field, having left alarming tire tracks in its wake.

 

She was at the driver’s side door pulling Lily out of the car before she realised she’d even left her own seat.

 

“Have you worked out who I am?” she asked her through gritted teeth as she pushed the woman roughly against rusting car.

 

Lily shook her head and mutely fought against her grip as if trying to stand tall, trying to gain control of the situation; refusing to play the passive captive.

 

“I’m sorry, I clearly forgot my manners,” Regina squeezed Lily’s shoulders, tightening her grip on the woman until she could practically feel the flow of her blood, “allow me to introduce myself: I’m the Evil Qu-“

 

“Mom!” 

 

She looked over the vehicle and saw Henry freeing himself from Emma’s worried hands, clearly while she had been focused on Lily Emma had been assessing Henry for injuries. 

 

“It’s fine, I’m fine,” he clarified as he rushed to Lily’s side, “I pulled the hand break, I stopped the car.”

 

“I didn’t know he was in the back seat,” Lily spoke for the first time, her chest heaving with the effort of trying to remain in defiant grace against her captor. “I swear, I wouldn’t steal a kid.”

 

“But you would steal my car,” Emma was at her side too now, arms folded tightly across her chest.

 

“You broke into my place.”

 

“Wouldn’t have needed to if you’d told me the truth at the diner,” Lily merely rolled her eyes, in act of insolence that Regina felt compelled to shove the woman roughly against the car again. Regina revelled in hearing the hiss she emitted as her shoulder blades connected with the rough metal of Emma’s rusting car. “Regina,” Emma warned, a hand on her own encouraging her to lessen her hold on Lily. 

 

“What was your plan?” Emma continued once Regina had let go entirely, allowing the woman to not only slump slightly but also rub where Regina’s grip had assaulted her. She knew there would be bruising, that pleased Regina no end. “Just drive into Middle of Nowhere Maine and hope a magical town would just appear so you could reap your revenge on Snow White?”

 

“Given they don’t have magic, shouldn’t be hard.”

 

“You’d be surprised,” Regina sighed, stepping away from Lily and closer to Henry; if she wasn’t allowed to intimidate Maleficent’s child, she would make sure she did a better job of protecting her own, “she’s proved quite capable of escaping her comeuppance.”

 

“Not helping Regina,” Emma glared at her.

 

“Besides, you can’t exactly kill my grandma; had she not banished you, you’d have been trapped as an egg, possibly forever, if Ma hadn’t been able to break the curse.”

 

“And with that logic,” Regina turned to Henry, “we ask you to wait in the car again.”

 

“Hold on,” Emma pulled Regina back by the arm, “the Kid’s got a point.”

 

“Like hell he does!” Lily laughed bitterly at them. “Your parents are monsters, Emma. They banished me and threw you in a wardrobe. And now here you are, justifying their position, because you're so perfect! The Saviour! Well, they deserve to be punished-“

 

“Yes they do,” Regina agreed causing all eyes to turn to her. “Start with them. Then I’ll need some sort of retribution for enacting The Dark Curse.” 

 

She knew the three of them were captivated with her words, she slipped so quickly back into the role of Evil Queen and was holding court. The part of the countryside Henry had stopped them in could almost place them in the Enchanted Forest. She just needed to be flanked by her faceless Royal Guard, a scribe recording her every sentence in case she proclaimed a new decree. 

 

“Of course you’ll have to try an incarcerate Rumpelstiltskin because he manipulated me into doing it,” she was nodding as she ticked off the names involved, revelling in the part she was playing once more. “Presumably, you’ll want to go after The Author and The Apprentice next, I mean they weren’t involved in the curse but they convinced Snow White and Charming that their saviour might not be The Saviour. Not to mention Ursula and Cruella; had they been better guard dogs your little egg wouldn’t have been poached-“

 

“Okay I get it!”

 

“Do you?” Regina asked the woman; this tired woman that looked so much older than her thirty years at this moment, exhausted from all the years of hate and self loathing, of bad decisions and wretched luck. “Because I was about to add your mother’s name to the list.”

 

“What?”

 

“Where did you think I got the curse from, dear?” Regina watched Lily’s expression suddenly change, as if Regina was witnessing the caste iron resolve that had clearly fuelled this woman for so many years slip from her features. “Now, as much as I’m usually loathed to return children to their birth parents, why don’t you come back to Storybrooke as a guest rather than a villain and meet your mother?”

 

“My mom?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Emma suddenly piped up, scratching nervously at the back of her neck, “she’s kinda why we’re here, I said I’d help find her daughter.”

 

“You,” Henry added somewhat needlessly.

 

“Thanks Kid,” Emma nodded at him, “but I think we’ve got that one covered.”

 

“Come on,” Regina wrapped an arm round him and angled him away, “let’s allow them some time to catch up, properly this time,” she added looking at the two women.

 

*

 

Regina had watched the two women reconnect, sat on giant plastic tubing abandoned to the middle of nowhere; the symmetry of the scene not lost on her, both the women felt they had been cast aside as children. As she sat in the car, Henry reading his comic in the passenger seat beside her, she imagined their conversation. 

 

They would start by talking about their shared past; adventures, misdeeds, and misunderstandings. They would move on to the years in between; out of the window she saw Emma gesture to the car and then pull out her cell phone no doubt going on and on about Henry; how he’d come back into her life and every minor achievement of his since that night had her beam with pride a little bit more with each retelling. She would tell Lily of her love for her son, though she might leave out the part about slaying a dragon for him.

 

She put words in their mouths and heard their voices as they recounted their stories to each other.

 

However, Regina came undone when it came to her own role in the story. She didn’t know at what point it had changed from Emma’s arm pressed against her neck, spitting rage and grief, to family dinners and hands meeting in popcorn bowls as Milk Duds melted.

 

She wasn’t entirely sure when hate and fear changed to love and hope in her own story, she dreaded to think when the change occurred in Emma’s retelling. Maybe Regina, much like the pirate before her, had simply worn Emma down. Showed her enough attention that the blonde, so long neglected by others, confused her gratitude for love.

 

Regina shuddered at the thought. 

 

Her love for Emma was so real, so raw, that sometimes she wanted to remove her heart and stow it away—anything that meant she could feel it, even a little, less.

 

She didn’t know if Emma’s love for her was the same, but she hoped it was more than simply familiarity and a sense of obligation. It had to be; otherwise why would she have run from it?

 

Emma ran from things she was scared of and what, possibly, could be scarier than love?

 

She reached out and felt for Henry’s hand to hold. “What do you think they’re taking about?” she asked him softly, not taking her eyes from the pair.

 

“The sick move I pulled by yanking on the hand break and forcing her to doughnut,” he replied so casually that she doubted he’d even looked up from the comic. 

 

“They’re talking about their moms,” he said after such a long break and so softly that Regina wasn’t sure if that wasn’t simply another imagined sentence her mind played to her.

 

She turned away from the women, hugging now, and towards her son, his hand gently squeezing hers as he tried to tidy away his comic one handed.

 

“Was it so awful?” she asked him.

 

“What?” his eyes furrowed in such concentration that he became a mirror of his birth mother.

 

“Growing up with me, rather than Emma,” she asked him quietly, because maybe—just maybe—if he didn’t hear the question she wouldn’t have to listen to the answer.

 

“It was quiet,” he admitted, “sometimes lonely. Especially,” she watched a sad smile cross his face, “when I noticed I was the only one having birthdays and, you know, the whole you lying to me all the time and making me think I was crazy.”

 

She released his hand and clasped her own, digits digging in deep, worrying crescent moons appearing on her skin as she buried her hands into her lap. 

 

“But my life with Ma would have been quiet too,” he told her reaching back out for her, “there might have been more birthday parties and friends over, but I think it still would have been quite lonely. 

 

“You two are so similar it’s scary. Neither of you like letting people in, so scared of getting hurt,” she chanced a glance up at him and found the sad smile she’d seen last time replaced with a smile that showed only care and affection, “it’s amazing you two ever managed to get together at all, really.”

 

“It took her living on a dreary dinghy first.”

 

“After how many months of you tiptoeing round the fact you worshipped the ground she walked on?” he countered.

 

“I did no such thing.”

 

“Not to mention the way you looked at Hook,” he laughed, but stopped quickly clearly sensing the hurt her face was no doubt showing. “Don’t worry, Mom, she looked at Robin the same way. I think that’s probably the only reason she started dating Hook, to try and make you equally jealous.”

 

“How did you get to be so wise?”

 

“You,” he told her, not missing a beat or betraying any sense doubt, another squeeze to her hand as he did so. “With you as my mom, how could I have been anything else?”

 

*

 

Regina was impressed with how long Henry had managed in the suffocating silence of their journey back to Storybrooke before he finally broke and started to bombard Lily with questions. Most of them about her shared youth with Emma, all of them curtly shot down by Emma stating Don’t answer that as her grip around the steering wheel tightened. Lily responded with a it doesn’t matter when Henry asked how she figured everything out, he really lost his patience.

 

“Jeez guys, lets save something to talk about at Thanksgiving!”

 

“Wow,” Regina looked across at Lily to see a smile across her face, it almost looked as if the woman was impressed, “sarcasm; he really is your kid.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

She and Emma responded simultaneously causing Lily to break into laughter, Regina looked across at the woman sat in the back with her (having not relished the thought of her near neither Henry nor Emma for a drawn out period of time).

 

“What?” Lily shrugged, “You’ve got to admit that it’s kinda fuc- funny,” she corrected after receiving a glare from Regina.

 

“It won’t be if that framed family tree ever makes it into my house.”

 

“You love it really,” Emma smiled at her through the rear view mirror, “Hen drew me an intricate family tree to show that Regina and I were fated to be together,” she added for Lily’s benefit. “It hangs above my bed.”

 

“But you don’t believe in fate?” Lily questioned, looking at Regina.

 

“I believe in being able to make own choices. Like, I chose to adopt Henry.”

 

“But Mr Gold found me for you,” Henry chimed in, not helping in the slightest.

 

“Perhaps,” she acknowledged, “but I chose to keep you,” she caught Emma’s eye in the rear view again after the blonde made a strange noise, Regina arched her eyebrow in question.

 

“Like you would have given him up,” she scoffed her explanation, “I wouldn’t have, had I had the choice.”

 

The way Emma pronounced the word ‘choice’ told Regina the discussion was one centred around fate rather than one of regret. To which Regina was grateful for, not only did she not have the energy for two trying conversations about Henry’s upbringing in two hours, she definitely didn’t want to have it with a stranger present.

 

She was equally thankful for the fact that they’d found themselves on Main Street bringing them both home and to a welcomed change of topic.

 

“Oh good, all of The Three Evilteers are here,” she pointed out noticing Maleficent had Ursula and Cruella beside her, with Snow and Charming stood a little to their side. She was surprised Emma’s parents hadn’t unfurled a Welcome Home banner after their brief sojourn out of Storybrooke.

 

“Bloody hell, Mal darling,” she heard Cruella’s crisp English accent proclaim as she tried to climb out of the back of the Bug with some, any, semblance of dignity, “you could have told us your spawn was Regina’s.” as the four of them came together to meet their homecoming committee on the sidewalk.

Chapter Text

Seven

 

Before Emma had descended into her vault, Regina had looked at her watch having heard Emma’s unmistakably heavy feet make their way down the steps. She’d been allowed barely half an hour before being sought out. 

 

Presumably those thirty minutes had involved quick introductions between Maleficent and Lily, a handover of Henry to the Charmings, a cursory check of the Mayoral Mansion on Mifflin, before Emma had come thundering into the vault to seek her out. To make sure that she was ‘alright’.

 

Of course Regina wasn’t ‘alright’, not that she ever used the word. But nor was she satisfactory, acceptable, passable, or any synonym for the ridiculous amalgamation of a word.

 

Rather than allowing Emma to ask any questions, for both fear of the answers and the platitudes she might get in return, she had chosen to push Emma against the nearest wall and put the blonde’s mouth to better use.

 

“I’m guessing,” Emma was able to breath out between each fresh assault on her lips from Regina, “you don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Regina pinned Emma’s hands above her head and manoeuvred her head to the side with her own so she had better access to the spot on the blonde’s neck that usually saw Regina rewarded with all of her darkest desires.

 

Emma tried to release Regina’s hold on her so she could be an active participant, but Regina was having none of it and was relieved that Emma stopped fidgeting as soon she’d popped the button of Emma’s pants and dropped her hand inside.

 

“I would have topped you sooner,” Regina practically purred as her digits slid easily between Emma’s folds, “if I knew it had this effect on you.” 

 

She allowed Emma to open her mouth, presumably to form a response, probably a joke about pillow princesses at her expense, before curling her index finger upwards and tantalisingly slowly started to rub against Emma’s clit. Regina dropped Emma’s hands and found that once free they quickly pulled her closer, as if proximity might hasten Regina’s movements. She was pleased to see that whatever Emma had been going to say, the words had died on her lips.

 

Regina clumsily conjured an object in her left hand as she continued her ministrations with her more practiced right. She resumed kissing Emma, delighted by the confused gasp that escaped the blonde’s mouth into her own as Emma felt the new object gently being pressed into one of her own hands.

 

Emma gently tried to move Regina away, despite the fact Regina’s hand was still trapped in the tight confines of Emma’s jeans meaning there could be little space between them, undoubtedly to get a better look at the object she’d been passed.

 

“You want me to wear this?” Emma asked, examining the purple phallus Regina had placed in her hand, “Oh,” Emma exclaimed when Regina, rather than answering, moved her hand so she was toying with Emma’s entrance, “you want to wear this?”

 

“We’ve got the chaise longue if you’d rather be lying down,” Regina pointed out as she started to pull down Emma’s jeans so she could more easily, and more importantly more pleasurably, penetrate her.

 

But rather than being granted access she found she was pushed roughly away.

 

“You’re topping me and you want to fuck me with a strap on,” Regina was annoyed to watch the dildo thrown away before Emma’s pants were hastily refastened, “but, of course, this has nothing to do with what you don’t want to talk about?”

 

“No,” Regina turned to the mirror and tidied her hair rather than looking at Emma.

 

“Well maybe next time maybe pick a less penis-y way of avoiding talking about the fact that everyone thinks you managed to impregnate your ex-girlfriend.”

 

“I told you it’s-“

 

“Not possible, I know,” Emma’s tone had dropped, no longer one of offence but seemingly more of understanding, “and I believe you,” Regina felt herself being pulled from her reflection so they were looking at each other once again, “but I do think you need to talk to Maleficent before Leroy goes running into Granny’s shooting his mouth off.”

 

“And while I’m doing that, you’ll talk to your parents no doubt,” Regina wrapped an arm around Emma’s middle and pulled her close, practically whispering in her ear as she toyed once again with the top of her jeans, “the three of you can bury the hatchet, forget that they cursed an innocent to guarantee your purity.”

 

“Screw you, Regina,” Emma stepped back, her voice returned to the bite of before.

 

“Please,” Regina summoned the chaise longue towards them with a lazy wave of her right hand so it collided with the back of Emma’s knees, forcing the younger woman to collapse back into the soft cushions, “that had been my intention.”

 

However, Emma was back on her feet before Regina could take advantage, “I’m heading to the loft,” she told her, adjusting her pants and straightening her top, “call me when you’re done with The All Powerful Bitch routine and return to being my girlfriend and woman that I love.”

 

Regina had simply rolled her eyes at the use of the word ‘girlfriend.’ She was far too old to be anyone’s girlfriend.

 

However, when not even Henry appeared back at Mifflin Street for supper, Regina had relented. Knocking on the door of the loft and offering Emma both an apology and a freshly baked lasagna.

 

Emma had eyed both her and the meal with suspicion, before opening the door farther and allowing admittance.

 

“Had that been anything to do with apples, you’d still be in the hallway,” she’d been warned before Emma’s attention went to the second floor, “Kid, come down and wash up, your mom’s brought dinner over.”

 

“Oh, thank god!” Regina had been pleased to hear their son proclaim as he headed to the stairs.

 

They’d sat and shared Regina’s home cooked meal, the conversation remaining terse between the two women as Henry chatted happily, and seemingly obliviously, between them. 

 

“When you’re in a better place,” Emma had told her once they were settled in bed, the godforsaken Family Tree of Fate hanging above them, “we can explore the possibility of that strap on.” 

 

Emma had kissed her goodnight before she rolled away from her and onto her side, pulling Regina’s arm across her middle so the blonde was wrapped in her warm embrace. Despite the fact that Emma preferred dominance in sex, she would always rather be the little spoon when they slept.

 

“But if you think you’re going to be the one wearing it,” Regina thought she’d heard Emma mumble as she fell into sleep, “you’ve got another thing coming.”

 

But only Emma managed any rest that night.

 

Regina put it down to sleeping at the loft, she never slept well at the loft and underneath the wretched, hastily drawn genealogy of Henry’s.

 

*

 

Regina had stepped into the diner to pick up a cup of coffee; she wasn’t sleeping well and thought the combination of a walk and an afternoon cappuccino might help her regain her focus on the rezoning proposal.

 

She was mildly irritated to see the Sheriff out of their office too, at least one of the town’s employees should be working, but she instantly softened when she saw Henry’s head pop up from behind the booth revealing to Emma something from his school bag.

 

Her order hadn’t been taken yet; Regina could take an extra twenty minutes out of the office, have her coffee in the diner, spend some time with her family. 

 

Just as she’d made up her mind to drink in rather than take out, Lily emerged from the restrooms and joined Emma and Henry at their table, taking Henry’s schoolwork from him as if the three of them had done this every afternoon since Lily’s arrival in Storybrooke.

 

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Mrs Lucas said, pulling Regina’s attention away from the table and back to the counter, “That they get on so well,” the older woman added when Regina remained mute.

 

“They were friends as teenagers,” Regina hummed.

 

“It’s remarkable how similar she is to Henry,” Mrs Lucas continued her musings, “given they’re not actually biologically related. Funny how families work out.”

 

Regina had left without ordering a drink or even saying another word.

 

*

 

Snow had appeared on her doorstep Neal asleep in his stroller, she’d claimed that he’d been a cantankerous mood all evening and that walking was the only way to settle him. Regina remained as watch keeper over her door before Snow finally admitted her true reason for being there and asked for admittance.

 

“Emma’s at the loft,” Regina confessed, “I’ve not been sleeping well since our little road trip and thought it was unfair to disturb hers any further too.”

 

“I know,” Snow nodded, tilting Neal so she could get his stroller onto the front step, “I saw her lights on as we walked.”

 

“And yet it’s my bell you ring?” she sighed, stepping aside to allow Snow entrance.

 

They’d exchanged small talk, commented on the fact that Gold had made no further move on the monastery, both women sceptical about his sudden disappearance, and speculated about where Ursula and Cruella’s allegiances might lie now. They did quite well at not discussing Emma for two whole glasses of Regina's cider, until Snow broke the spell and stated:

 

“She’s still not talking to me.”

 

With nothing to add Regina topped up their glasses and remained silent.

 

“I thought she would when you returned with Lily, that she might see it as the damage repaired,” Regina looked up and saw the beginnings of tears starting to form in Snow’s eyes, “but now it turns out it wasn’t just Maleficent’s daughter I damned but yours as well-“

 

Regina wasn’t sleeping.

 

Emma had tried to help: initially Emma just held her tighter at night, I’ll be like your weighted blanket or something she’d whispered into her ear before she fell fast asleep and snored into Regina’s ear instead. Emma had tried exhausting Regina with sex, but that, too, had ended with Emma snoring in her ear. After a week, Emma had gone to the drug store and got some over the counter sleeping tablets, however, not even those could touch Regina’s busy mind.

 

All that happened when night fell was an end to the day’s distractions that stopped her thinking of Mal and Lily. In the darkness there was nothing to keep her mind occupied and away from treacherous thoughts of Lily’s ancestry.

 

“If that’s all that’s keeping you from Emma,” Regina sipped from her drink to buy for time, “then I can assure you, Lily is not mine.”

 

“Regina,” she hated it when Snow said her name like that; slowly and deliberately as if each syllable was dripped in pity, “you can’t ignore the fact that she looks like a practically a perfect mix of you and Cora.”

 

“I can because it’s. not. possible.”

 

“You know, there are some birds and reptiles that have-“

 

Regina pictured the small victories that she’d achieved over Snow White: getting her to not just eat the apple, but to do so willingly (though admittedly leaving her sleeping body unguarded was a mistake); cursing her apart from her precious Charming for years, albeit 28 tedious years; framing her for murder; and so forth. Regina thought back to those moments, hoping they would grant her patience in this one.

 

“I’m going to say to you the same thing I had to tell my son a few days ago,” Regina said painstakingly slowly, praying her voice didn’t betray her, “I don’t have any sperm.”

 

“What about True Love?”

 

Regina regretted having taken another sip because it was spat out across her coffee table. Snow grabbed a couple of Kleenex and helped Regina clear up.

 

“Even in the height of your pathetic naivety, you can’t think that Mal and I shared True Love?”

 

“How else do you explain it?”

 

“I don’t, but nor do I intend to,” she passed the soggy tissues to Snow, pleased to see the woman squirm at the wet touch, forcing her into a quick stand looking for the nearest trash can.

 

“Why are you avoiding this?” Snow called out from the kitchen.

 

“And why are you so hellbent on me facing it?” Regina asked, following her in with the glasses. “It would just be another way in which you screwed me over in the Enchanted Forest.”

 

“I assumed that’s why you punched me,” she said softly, rinsing of her hands after the alcohol soaked Kleenex.

 

“I punched you because I was annoyed you waited until after Emma and I got together to tell me, asking me to keep it secret, knowing it could damage our relationship.” 

 

“You could have used your words.”

 

“But actions speak so much louder,” she smirked as she moved Snow aside so she could wash up.

 

*

 

Regina looked up from her paperwork having heard a tentative knock on her office door. Seeing the visitor, she rued the fact that she’d failed to find someone to cover Charlotte’s maternity leave meaning she had no one to run interference on her visitors.

 

“Emma said you have a drop in clinic, around now?” Lily stated stepping across the threshold.

 

Regina glanced at her watch, “But much like Granny’s breakfast menu, it finished at 11.”

 

“Emma also said you’d say something to politely make me leave and that I shouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

 

“What if I said something impolite?” Regina asked, but Lily had already taken the seat in front of her desk, forcing the politician in Regina to do the same, plaster on her best plastic smile and ask: “How can I help you this morning, Ms. Page?”

 

“I told Emma that I’m thinking of sticking around and that I’d need a job, she said-“

 

“I’m afraid you don’t have the qualifications to fill Ms. La Bouff’s absence,” Regina cut her off, pleased to be able to rise to a stand and she gesture back to the open door.

 

“First, rude! You don’t know shit about my qualifications,” Lily scowled yet remained unmoved in her seat, if anything the younger woman was making herself more comfortable, “Second, I’m not actually here about a job, I wondered if,” she paused as she pulled her necklace out from under her T-shirt, “you recognised this?”

 

“Can’t  say I do,” Regina remained standing, the belief that Lily might get the hint that she was not going to be staying, “but I assume that’s the necklace Emma mentioned in the same story as ‘hepatitis’ and ‘rat-infested’.”

 

“It's a piece of the egg I was hatched from,” Lily continued, eyes fixated on the crescent moon the was fingering as she spoke. “It's also the only clue I have as to who my father is.”

 

“I assume you’ve asked your mother.”

 

“She doesn't know, either, but,” Lily looked up at her, those dark brown eyes so like Regina’s own searching her out as if trying to see within her very soul, “I can’t help but wondering if Henry’s not the only kid around here with two moms.”

 

That forced Regina back into her chair, it was one thing to have the town gossiping behind her back and speculating within her earshot, but quite another to have cause of such rumours calmly sat in her office trying to confront her.

 

Regina looked around the room, it suddenly felt too small, her clothes too tight, the air too thin. Everything was too much.

 

“I know you’re new to a life of magic,” she said as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear trying to maintain her composure, “but even you must hear that sentence for the impossibility that it is.”

 

“Why is it?”

 

“Did whatever home you grow up in not teach you about the birds and the bees?”

 

“Yeah,” she nodded, “as did eighth grade health class; but none of those lessons covered dragons and witches.”

 

“How about basic math? You are, what, 31? 32, perhaps?” She didn’t bother waiting for the woman to respond, she didn’t care for the answer, “I was nineteen when was fucking-“ she pronounced the word steadily and full of venom, so there could be no mistaking hers and Mal’s dalliance for anything other than sexual. There were no feelings, no love was made, no hearts were invested. “-that frightful fey that laid and lost you. I am not your mother. Frankly, Maleficent spread her legs so freely you could be any Tom, Dick, or Harry’s. Now,” Regina took to her feet once more, ushering the door to her office open once more with a flick of her wrist, “if you’re planning on becoming a resident of my town I suggest you stop irritating me.”

 

“But-“

 

“Enough!” she roared, slamming her palms down on her desk, rattling all that was sat upon it, and sending the chair, and Lily in it, flying backwards towards the door.

 

As her insomnia had worsened she’d started to place more faith the rumours that weren't so quietly circulating the town. 

 

With Emma out of her bed at night she was free to stare into the glow of her BlackBerry well into the night; she’d Googled female sperm storage and understood the basics of the academic articles, an understanding increased when she read them side by side with the Wikipedia pages on the matter. 

 

When that didn’t account for Lily’s likeness to her own she Googled George R. R. Martin; she’d crept into Henry’s room, trying her best not to wake him, and searched for Emma’s Kindle to read A Game of Thrones. That had occupied two of her sleepless nights. By the third she was too preoccupied by staring at Martin’s picture trying to work out if she’d come across him in the Enchanted Forest. Perhaps he was the mythical author that Gold had terrorised the fairies for.

 

But Lily was not her child.

 

She had Emma’s child. If there was to be a second, they would be Emma’s too. This desire to grow their family, to share everything with Emma, was so strong, she ached for the blonde to return to her bed. She thought back the daydream she’d now perfected

 

Emma would turn to her, her hair splayed across the pillow, that ghastly old white T-shirt she favoured—so old it was no longer white and the collar had stretched out of shape and recognition from too many washes and too little care—would be hanging low across her shoulders revealing her left clavicle. She would ask

 

Should we have another one?

 

Regina would be tired, her eyes heavy as she neared close to sleep, she would reply: Another what? unable to follow Emma’s butterfly mind.

 

Another child? Regina would open one eye, the eye not pressed into her pillow ready for sleep to take her, and see Emma worrying her lip before she continued her train of thought: It doesn’t have to be a baby, we could adopt, or foster?

 

This question would pull Regina back into consciousness and she would sit up on her elbows, turn her head and see a wide smile on Emma’s face—not one of Emma’s true smiles, those Emma saved for bear claws, or Henry, or the promise of doing that ‘thing’ she’d enquired about months ago when they next got the house to themselves—but one of the smiles Emma often wore to show people that she could be ‘good’ and ‘good girls’ got praised, or rewarded, or adopted.

 

And how would we make a baby together? Regina would roll towards her, sleep now far from her mind, as she would start nipping at the exposed flesh of Emma’s shoulder as a hand danced on Emma’s hip, toying with—but never actually slipping beneath—the hem of her panties.

 

Emma would shrug, a move that would make Regina’s head move from her collar bone and up to her face. Regina would take her lower lip between her own, the hand on Emma’s hip no longer teasing but easing the thin material—Regina could practically feel it, the daydream so practised, so perfected by now—to the side and guide her index finger along Emma’s soft folds.

 

Perhaps we should practice. Regina would suggested entering Emma as she kissed her again.

 

But this was all a fantasy. 

 

A creation of her overactive imagination. 

 

Regina couldn’t have children, she’d seem to it herself. Besides, Regina had a child, she had Emma’s child, she needed no more in her life to love.

 

Yet even the romantic escapism she’d created couldn’t dispel the notion that, nor any explain as to why, Lily looked so much like her. The younger woman’s eyes practically carbon copies of her own. The angular, hard features, crafted from a no doubt unforgiving life, of the woman’s face near identical to the miller’s daughter that had clawed her way into royalty.

 

Yes, she was Maleficent’s daughter, but she was also so unmistakably hers.

 

“Regina?” she looked up and found Emma holding  two coffees balanced in a cardboard holder in one hand Lily’s vacant chair in the other, “what’s wrong?”

 

Regina managed to hold it together for as long as Emma’s hands were occupied, but once Emma had put down the coffees, replaced the chair to its original position, and wrapped her arms around her, Regina was inconsolable.

 

“I don’t want to talk to Mal,” she said softly into Emma’s shoulder as she continued to cry into her jacket.

 

“Then don’t,” Emma was rubbing soothing circles into her back, seemingly not caring that her leather was trailing with tears and mucus.

 

“But I need to know.”

Chapter Text

Eight

 

She didn’t know how long they’d been sat on the floor, backs against the radiator under her window. 

 

Nor did she know what the time was. 

 

She had a vague recollection of Emma sending a text to Charming to cover her shift as well as doing something to the office phone and computer to make them stop making noise, but aside from that Regina didn’t have a clue of how much time had passed since she’d so dramatically, and literally, thrown Lily out of her office.

 

She knew it wasn’t yet three, her internal body clock having not sensed the need to check in on Henry after school, but aside from that she knew very little.

 

Emma’s hand was in hers. Occasionally a thumb would rub against the tender skin of the back of her hand, reminding Regina that she wasn’t alone. Emma would sometimes move beside her, she’d stretch out her legs after too long of being sat cross legged, but soon return them to the child like pose that Emma so often favoured. Regina might see Emma fiddle on her phone, but it was never for long and always just a text to someone or other, no doubt making sure everything was running smoothly at the station, or giving Henry instructions on what to do once he left school for the afternoon.

 

But mainly Emma just sat next to her, on the floor of her office, back pressed uncomfortably against the sharp metal ridges of the radiator beneath her drafty window, and simply waited.

 

“Did you sleep with her?”

 

“Who Lily?” Emma replied after a moment clearly not expecting her to break her silence. Regina hummed her assertion. “No. Well nearly,” Emma added having thought about it.

 

This caused Regina to look at Emma for the first time since she’d collapsed on the floor.

 

Emma looked tired, her hair dishevelled, her clothes wrinkled. 

 

“Had her dad found us, like, ten minutes later that’s how things probably would have ended,” Emma conceded.

 

“Ten minutes?”

 

“We were teenagers, would have been lucky if it had lasted five,” she tried to joke, a small nudge to Regina’s side as if that might help her find it funny too.

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

“You already know it all.”

 

“Tell me anyway.”

 

They’d moved to the sofa, she had her head in Emma’s lap and fingers were running through her hair. It would make it greasy, she’d have to wash it sooner than planned, but she didn’t care. 

 

When Henry was a child and he was too young to stay awake through a whole movie, they’d end up like this; his head in her lap as she’d lazily comb through his hair with her fingers. Invariably she would flick off the television and read a book, but her fingers would remain toying with his soft brown hair.

 

Emma had never had that as a child, nor a child to do that too. She wondered where Emma had picked up the habit or if it was just one of those innate methods of comfort that all mothers fell back to.

 

“I get it, you know,” Emma spoke softly as if fearing talking normally might cause Regina to dissolve into tears again. “I didn’t want to know Henry. I didn’t want to know anything about him. Not his name, nothing. I hated that he’d come barging into my home, my life, forcing me to know him; to know what he looked like so I’d have to see his face in my memories everyday from then on.”

 

Regina stayed quiet, unwilling to break the spell of Emma’s sudden soliloquy.

 

“I would have left. I tried to. I wanted to drive as far away as humanly possible. Would have given up my apartment, my job, and started over somewhere new for fear of him finding me again. Then I wake up, not at in another state, not far away, but locked up in a stupid jail cell.”

 

Regina smiled despite herself, and rolled from her side to her back so she was looking up at Emma. Those kind, soft, hazel eyes staring down at her.

 

“I believe your predecessor had you arrested for drink driving.”

 

“Drink that you supplied,” Emma reminded her needlessly. “But that wasn’t what caused the crash, there was a wolf in the road; I had to swerve to avoid it.”

 

“What changed your mind? What caused you to stay?”

 

“Because you so desperately wanted me to leave,” Emma was back to running her fingers through her hair. “Had you just been normal, responded to the situation in a regular way I probably would have driven to Seattle or somewhere else impossibly far away.”

 

“So, it’s my fault I’m stuck with you?”

 

“That,” Emma nodded, dropping down and placing a tender kiss on her lips, “and the fact that I knew what the kid looked like. No amount of miles would have been able to shake that. He would have haunted me.”

 

Regina moved so she was sat properly, her heels had long been removed so she turned raising her feet onto the couch and pressing her back against Emma’s side. Emma wrapped an arm protectively, possessively almost, across her; holding Regina close.

 

Regina didn’t think she’d ever want to be held.

 

Not that anyone had ever held her.

 

Her father had sat her on his knee and read to her, her mother had gripped her by the shoulders and commanded her.

 

With Daniel she’d had stolen kisses and almost moments, but they’d never had time enough for him to hold her.

 

The King had never wanted to. Once he’d done what he’d come to do, he’d leave and return to his own quarters. Their marriage was functionary at best. A fraud. A crime. An abomination the rest of the time.

 

The idea of being held by Maleficent, the idea of cuddling in front of firelight, of exchanging dreams and secrets, hopes and ambitions: that was laughable. Mal had shown her a great many things—pleasure, power, pain, and lust—but care and affection was never in store for them.

 

As Queen she’d taken people to her bed. Conquests all of them. Those that went willingly, the thought of pleasuring and pleasing the queen in hope for reward, they said the right things but they never held her—they never wanted to, most either too consumed with greed for what they could be or disgust at what they had become.

 

There had been The Huntsman. She could have told him to hold her. She could have commanded. She could have spoken a script of sonnets direct into his heart and heard them repeated back to her in his Irish lilt. But what would the point have been?

 

Robin had tried. 

 

But by that point she was already in love with Emma.

 

She didn’t want to be held by Robin.

 

She thought she might find being held suffocating. Remind her of all those times she felt small, trapped, and powerless. Yet being held by Emma made her feel safe. 

 

It felt like coming home after a long day, it felt like finally stepping out of her heels, it felt like Christmas in front of the fireplace, it felt like watching the rain fall outside knowing she didn’t need to leave the house.

 

It felt like everything.

 

“Do you ever think about having another?”

 

“Another what?”

 

“Another child.”

 

“Oh,” Regina felt the hold on her go limp, Emma didn’t move, she wasn’t trying to get away, she simply wasn’t holding her as closely as before. “Oh,” Emma repeated, quieter than before.

 

“You don’t, do you?” Regina asked not sure that she wanted to know the answer, the daydream she'd created having become so real she wasn't sure she was ready for anything to shatter the illusion. Not even Emma. Especially not Emma.

 

This wasn’t how she’d rehearsed it. This wasn’t how it was meant to go. She’d rushed in scenes before they were ready, got her lines all muddled. She was playing the wrong part and now it had no way of ending but badly.

 

“I remember New York,” Emma eventually replied. “I remember that because it happened. It was real. We lived it. I remember having memories of Henry growing up. I remember happy memories, just he and I. But I couldn’t tell you what they were now.” 

 

Emma had moved slightly, but her grip on Regina was strong again, as if Emma would never let go regardless of how their stories ended. Emma held her as if she would hold her forever more, long past the curtain falling.

 

“I no longer remember raising Henry, watching him grow up,” she continued softly, turning her head towards Regina as if she was whispering sweet nothings rather than a possible last confession. “And that’s how it should be. I gave him up, I didn’t get to raise him, I shouldn’t have the best of both worlds—the happy memories without any of the hard work and pain that come with raising a child. And,” they were so close Regina heard Emma swallow, “I hope he doesn’t remember it either.”

 

Regina tried to turn, tried to look at her. Regina could feel Emma’s tears on her cheeks, flowing from her hazel eyes onto Regina’s skin. But Emma remained steadfast in her hold on her, kept her in place, kept Regina from seeing her cry.

 

“I didn’t raise him. You did,” Emma continued, words audibly catching in her throat. “The smart, inquisitive, kind, passionate young man that he’s becoming is all down to you, not me. He needs to know that.”

 

“But why-“

 

“You have done such an amazing job raising Henry, but I worry that if I had a child, if we had a baby together, he would be jealous that they get to have both of us. I don’t want-“

 

“Him to look at our child like you look at your brother,” Regina finished when Emma was unable to.

 

Another hour might have passed. Maybe two. Then again, it could have only been minutes, barely a moment, before Regina finally asked:

 

“Why didn’t you want to know Henry?”

 

“I didn’t want to know if I’d made the wrong choice when I was 17. I didn’t want to know if he’d ended up with a childhood like mine. I didn’t want to know if I caused the cycle to continue.”

 

At some point their positions had shifted and Regina had become the one comforting Emma, she was the one holding on tight; a silent promise that she’d never let go either.

 

“But worse,” Emma continued, “I didn’t want to know that I’d made the right choice; that my kid was better off without me. Now,” she pulled Regina’s arm closer, if Regina was forced to hold her any more securely she worried Emma might suffocate under the pressure, “I know the choice was never mine. It was all predetermined as if Gold was some sort of god, and we were no more than pawns to move around his board so he could win the game.”

 

Regina leaned in to bury her face in Emma’s curls, she could loose herself in the scent of Emma’s shampoo. It came in a bottle that looked like it would hold orange juice, but it smelt of papaya fruit. 

 

If Regina remained pressed into Emma’s hair long enough she might escape her office, leave Storybrooke for a while, they would be in on a beach in some Central American country—she didn’t mind which—she would be laying beside Emma basking on beach towels and enjoying the sun. Emma might suggest swimming, make a lewd comment about getting her bikini bottoms wet. Regina would confess that she’d never gone swimming in the sea before. Well, Madame Mayor, let’s rectify that. Emma would extend her hand and help Regina to her feet and lead her into the water. They would stay in the water until one of them got too cold or too wrinkled, before returning to their towels. Emma would help dry her off, spending too much time and energy on Regina’s breasts. Got to get every drop, can’t have you catching a cold. It’s practically 80° how do you propose I catch a cold? Can never be too careful.

 

“You wouldn’t have had a choice when it came to Lily either,” Emma said with such a sadness that Regina couldn’t have been any further from a beach in the tropics.

 

Regina turned and looked out of the window, it was grey and dreary outside. Of course it was. It was due to rain later, if she’d remembered the forecast properly. There would be no bikini clad trips to the beach this day.

 

“Do you think me terrible for hoping against hope that she’s not mine?” Regina asked, eyes still fixed on the weather outside her window. The weather in Maine always seemed to be so miserable, dank and horrible, perhaps that was all part of the curse; pulling people away from their Happy Endings surrounded by the lush of the forest for the concrete of a small, isolated town. Not even sun could reach them in this part of the world, not even the sun could find them and rescue them from their sadness that Regina had imposed upon them all.

 

"Henry was so wanted. So loved. But then I found out he was yours, the thought filled me with dread because I knew, I knew you would come and destroy it all. Henry was, is, so wanted, so loved but I never wanted to have your child," she continued  I took a potion to forget, now? Now, I don’t want a child that’s not yours.”

 

“I don’t want her to be yours either.”

 

“I’ve spent so many years hating your mother, I don’t want a reason to be angry with her again.”

 

“I know.”

 

“What will we do?”

 

“What we always do,” Emma moved Regina’s hand towards her, brushing soft kisses against the healing wounds marring Regina’s knuckles, “work it out. Together.”

Chapter Text

Nine

 

There is literally a horror film named after this. Emma had muttered as they’d headed to Gold’s cabin in the woods. Like I can’t remember if everyone dies at the end, but it’s a horror film so I doubt the pretty blonde girl survived. Emma had continued. Regina knew the words were just meant as a distraction, meaningless babbles to fill the silence and lessen the tension that had been pooling around them ever since she’d decided it was time to talk to Maleficent.

 

Emma had asked Lily who’d told her she’s in some cabin in the forest. Some creepy old man’s who’s out of town for a while. Again, through Lily Emma had arranged a time for Regina and Mal to talk, Regina unwilling to use Ursula as an intermediary for this. If she’s just going to call her a slut again, Lily had toothlessly warned, your girlfriend can shove it. Regina had managed to hold her tongue; she hated being referred to as Emma’s ‘girlfriend’. she was far too old to be anyone’s girlfriend. and promised to play nice. An apology for what had happened between them in her office formed in her mind, but unable to make it out of her mouth.

 

There had been yelling. 

 

A veritable screaming match between two formidable women but no one had died in the cabin. Nothing caught fire. Nothing was destroyed. There was no repeat of their last fight three decades previously. But Regina hadn’t said a word since emerging from it. She’d simply taken Emma’s hand in hers and walked them to the Mercedes to drive them both home.

 

Emma had tried to talk to her, but Regina had lost her voice. 

 

Regina hadn’t allowed anyone to take her words since she’d rid herself of the shackles of her marriage. Yet upon leaving the Gold’s cabin, though her body had walked out, her words were forced to remain.

 

The conversation she’d had with Mal had gone as expected, it was the explanation that left her speechless.

 

Such was Emma’s concern that Regina had even overheard a conversation between her and Snow. A phone call made behind a closed kitchen door and intended to be far from Regina’s ears. She’s not okay, Mom. Like she’s ‘three glasses of red wine, a pack of Marlboros, and Tori Amos CD away from a complete breakdown’ not okay. Regina still struggled with all of Emma’s references—she didn’t know who Tori Amos was having lived most of her life trapped, by her own volition granted, in 1983 and then only waking up for Obama’s second term—but she understood from Emma’s tone to her mother that it wasn’t a good thing.

 

Regina was alone in a lukewarm bath, the bubbles had long since disappeared, sat up and hugging her knees she was far from relaxed as Emma had promised she would be. The visit to the Gold’s cabin had been hours ago, and the pretty blonde girl didn’t die but Regina couldn't shake the feeling that the pretty blonde girl was still going to get hurt in the end.

 

Emma didn’t want any more children and Emma certainly didn’t want any child that she used to be friends with. Regina had seen from afar the damage that losing Mary Margret to Snow White had done; for Emma to have her best friend ripped so brutally from her to be replaced with a mother than had abandoned her on a song and a prayer. Regina didn't think Emma would be able to handle loosing another friend to have them replaced as a relative.

 

Emma didn’t want anymore children and Regina didn’t want any child that wasn’t Emma’s.

 

“Mom’s happy to have Hen for a few nights, if you want? Or he can stay with me at the loft if you really want some space.” 

 

A towel was handed to her; just the day before she’d fantasised about Emma drying the warm Caribbean Sea from her, making jokes and innuendoes about salt water on her breasts, but the towel being handed to her now she as merely to help her out of the bath. 

 

Regina looked at her palms, they had pruned beyond recognition, Emma was right, she had been in the water far too long.

 

She shook her head as she accepted the towel, warm from the airing cupboard and still smelling of the coconut of the softener, yet coconuts were hard to find in Storybrooke, Maine.

 

“No to me? No to Henry?” Emma pushed as she rubbed the cotton up and down Regina’s arms to help dry her.

 

“No, you’ll stay here. Both of you,” she heard herself explain, her voice sounded odd. She was speaking, but the words didn’t sound like they were coming from her. 

 

Instead Regina looked down and wriggled her toes on the bath mat. The softness permeating the soles of her feet. “I’ve got chorizo and bell peppers, I’ll fry up some rice and peas,” she continued watching her toes interact with the the tiny pom-poms that adorned the mat.

 

“But it’s Friday-“ Emma stopped talking when Regina looked up and accidentally cut her off with the simple gesture of meeting her eyes.

 

She watched Emma swallow. Emma was uncomfortable but Regina couldn’t fathom why. Emma hadn’t been in Gold’s cabin. Emma hadn’t had the conversation with Maleficent. Emma wasn’t yet forced to confront the obvious. Emma didn’t have to work out how to live her life with this new truth.

 

Emma didn’t yet know that Regina had a child without her.

 

“It’s Friday,” Emma started again, “we eat fish like good Catholics.”

 

“But you’re not Catholic.”

 

“No,” Emma conceded.

 

Her hands were still on Regina’s arms, but they’d long since stopped drying her. All they were doing now was keeping the towel in place. Hiding Regina’s modesty as if she hadn’t seen it all before. The towel wasn’t as soft at the bath mat, Regina realised. Perhaps it was time to get new ones.

 

“But you are, and Henry.”

 

“I’ve got chorizo and bell peppers, I’ll fry up some rice and peas,” Regina repeated hoping that would be the end to it.

 

However, when she went to cook she found something pulled her to her freezer. Inside she spotted the five steaks, purchased a while ago when moods seemed so happy that nothing could touch them. 

 

The steaks had been bought sometime after she and Emma had sat Henry down and told him that they were seeing each other Emma had settled on. What? We’ve always seen each other Regina had frowned. Emma had merely rolled her eyes and squeezed her hand it’s a phrase, it means we’re dating. Utterly ridiculous Regina had folded her arms across her before sending a worried look to their son. 

 

His smile was like nothing she’d ever seen before. Like she and Emma had just hung the moon and agreed to get him a puppy. ‘Bout time was all he said though.

 

They’d gone round to the Charmings’ house to tell them that same afternoon. She’d ignored Emma and Henry trading bets on Snow’s reaction as the three of them leisurely walked across town. I’m just glad I didn’t have to explain what pansexuality is again Emma mumbled as she handed over five dollars to Henry who had correctly predicted ‘happy tears’. 

 

David had looked at her like he was about to give her The Speech but his stupid grin betrayed him as he asked does this mean we’ll finally get an invite to the mansion for dinner? instead.

 

Regina had struggled on what to cook for them, but had decided that having lived most of his life as a poor shepherd she wouldn’t need to provide him with anything more than meat and potatoes to satisfy his pallet (especially given the bland meals of Snow’s he was was used to). A few weeks had passed by the time she’d seen Angus steaks on offer at the co-op, seemingly perfect for a Sunday lunch and a family meal she’d almost forgotten she’d agreed to host.

 

But then the two idiots needed to ruin it all, confess to their crime years ago.

 

She’d moved the steaks from the fridge into the freezer, much like Thanksgiving before, there would be no sedate supper. No anecdotes to be happily passed round the table along with the vegetables. No jokes exchanged at each other’s expense as they bonded over warm food and drinks that were reserved for a special occasion.

 

Regina removed the beef from its hiding place amongst the frozen vegetables she kept for emergencies and the ice cream she’d started stocking for Emma, and placed it on the counter before firing off a text to Snow inviting them over for the long overdue supper. If she was about to have one of the worst conversations of her life, she was only going to do it once.

 

The six of them sitting around her dining table each of them toying with their food—Neal more literally than the rest of them—was a tense affair. 

 

Regina believed the meals she’d been forced to endure, pretending that she was anything more than a passive participant, as her mother and the King organised the wedding might have been less strained. Nodding along as it was decided which dignitaries would be invited, which kingdoms would be honoured, how many days feasting there should be to celebrate. She’d asked that her paternal grandfather might be allowed to attend, her mother had shut her down. It was to be a White wedding and nothing, especially another king, was to overshadow that.

 

“Are you dying, Mom?” Henry finally ventured after too many minutes of prolonged silence that had been punctuated only by a toddler, platitudes about the cut of the meat and the sweetness of the sauce, the sound of expensive cutlery scrapping against her good china.

 

“Henry!” Emma chastised, as three sets of cutlery clattered to the table. David’s even managed to fall to the floor, causing much delight and a repeat performance from Neal.

 

“Well, is she? You were the one that said she was acting like a Stepford Wife earlier, and none of you,” Regina watched as Henry looked pointedly at the other adults around the table as she sipped from her wine, “will tell me why.”

 

“I’m not dying, my prince. Promise,” she added, putting her glass down and squeezing his hand for added reassurance.

 

“Are you and Ma splitting up, then?”

 

“No!” Emma was again quick to answer, before checking with Regina, “we’re not, are we?” she asked her quietly.

 

“No, dear, not if it’s within my power,” Regina found she was suddenly stretched across the table holding both their hands.

 

“So this is about Lily?” Henry asked her in a tone so nonplussed it made Regina’s heart ache; no teenager should be seemingly so unmoved  by the coming conversation. But then, she imagined, there were few children in the world—this or any other—that has a family shaped quite like his.

 

“Yes,” she pushed her plate away. 

 

In retrospect cooking a meal had been a somewhat foolish plan, even garnishing it with a peppercorn sauce wasn’t going to coax an appetite from her or seemingly anyone around the table.

 

“It seems Lily is indeed my daughter and thus, as well as having an uncle younger than you, you now have a sister older than your mother... and grandmother,” Regina added with a grimace.

 

She let go of both his and Emma’s hand choosing to find comfort in her wine glass instead. 

 

There was something about the coolness of the glass, the smoothness of it’s round stem, the fragility of its structure that she could take succour from. If she squeezed too hard it would shatter, glass and contents spilling across her plate, across the table. A terrible mess would be made. The guests would jump up, the chairs would scrape and screech across her mahogany floor. 

 

She was in control, she got to decide the grip upon brittle chalice; she got to decide if it remain intact, if it would see another meal. 

 

Had this been a town meeting she would have printed out an agenda for them all itemising how the conversation was going to go. Had this been a town meeting she might have said I will now allow questions from the floor. However, had this been a town meeting she would not have wasted her time cooking a meal she knew none of the participants were probably going to eat. Had this been a town meeting they certainly would not be discussing the parentage of one of the town’s residents.

 

“Are we allowed to ask how?” Snow asked after possibly the most pregnant pause Regina had ever encountered.

 

“Mom,” Emma played peacekeeper once again, “let’s not.”

 

“The graffiti down at the docks?”

 

“DAD!”

 

“It’s okay,” Regina sighed, “I knew there would be questions and that’s why I choose for this setting, so they’d all come at once.”

 

“But,” Emma took the wine glass from her hand as if that might allow her more attention, “with my parents? They’re the rea-“

 

“Half the town is already talking,” she cut her off before Emma could say anything more, “gossiping no less, about me; the very least you can allow me is the control of how I disseminate the truth,” Regina bit back at her, instantly ashamed at how she had responded.

 

“Okay,” Emma acquiesced with an exhale that demoted she was anything but pleased, “if you’re sure.”

 

Regina turned away from Emma and back to Henry, choosing to release the frail wine glass to hold his small hand.

 

“What did your book tell you of my marriage to the King? To your,” she closed her eyes and allowed herself a moment, she hated the links between her precious son and her heir hungry husband, “great-grandfather?”

 

“Not much,” he shrugged, “only that you tricked the genie into killing him for you.”

 

“And it didn’t say why?” Henry shook his head. Regina took in a deep breath, as if buying herself a little more time before: “When I was only a little older than you are now, I was forced to marry him-“

 

“Regina,” Snow implored.

 

“I’m not saying this to hurt you, Snow, I’m saying this because it explains so much that happened.”

 

“Do you really want us here for this?” she was asked in return.

 

“You’re only going to find out later anyway, I’d rather it be me who gets to steer the narrative,” Regina responded simply, before turning her attention back to Henry. “I was desperately unhappy in the castle. My fiancé, the man from whom you get your middle name, had...” she wasn’t aware of when Emma had stood, but she was grateful for the fact Emma was behind her, having laid comforting hands on both shoulders. “Your Grandmother Cora had murdered him in front of me and I was trapped as queen on a throne I’d never wanted. I was powerless and I hated the feeling. So I sought out power. 

 

“Your book has no doubt told you that I learnt my magic from Rumplestiltskin?” she watched Henry look up at Emma before his eyes fell back to hers and he nodded. “He was teaching me slowly, too slowly, so looked for someone from whom I might learn quicker.”

 

“Maleficent?”

 

“Yes. When I met her she was a drug addict. In America we might consider it an opioid addiction. I helped her get off it, but she just swapped one drug for another. And I, being a teenager and horribly unhappy, envied the freedom she seemed to possess. So when she asked if I wanted some too, I said yes.” 

 

She felt a squeeze on her shoulders as if she was saying too much, after years of shielding and even gaslighting her son, she was now over compensating and telling him too much. She looked up to see Emma worrying her bottom lip before shrugging her shoulders, a silent agreement that he needed to know.

 

“Moms?” Henry asked, “This is super weird for me, can we just...”

 

“One of the drugs we took replicated the feeling of total and utter euphoria. You know what that means?”

 

“Like happy?”

 

“The greatest happiness,” Regina agreed. “Mal explained it to me that it would have fooled our brains into thinking we were in love. But because of the strength of it made me feel so good about myself, so filled with ecstasy that it was more than love-“

 

“True Love.” Regina looked up and saw Snow clutching at Charming’s hand. “You thought you two had True Love.”

 

Regina turned to Emma and nodded slowly, “that feeling, combined with my fledgling magic...”

 

“But you were nineteen,” Emma had found her chair again and slumped into it, “years before Mom and Dad-“

 

“Have you actually read those Game Of Thrones books on your Kindle?”

 

“Fuck,” but Regina was too tired to reprimand Emma for swearing in front of Henry.

 

*

 

“Can I meet her?” Henry asked long after the Charmings had left and they had nothing but the dishes to occupy them.

 

She and Henry had, for whatever reason, elected to do them by hand, they’d fallen into the routine they’d honed and crafted when he was younger; she would wash, he would dry. Emma was stood, leaning against the doorframe, mutely tapping away at her phone.

 

“You’ve already met her, several times from what I garnered from Mrs Lucas.”

 

“Yeah, but that was as Ma’s friend, not as my sister.”

 

“Hopefully she’ll remain your mother’s friend,” she replied softly handing him the last dish.

 

“Yeah, she doesn’t really have many given Pinocchio is younger than me and Ruby’s left Storybrooke.”

 

“I can hear you both, you know,” Regina turned to Emma as she dried her hands. Emma hadn’t moved since she’d last looked at her, head down, thumbs still busy on her cell.

 

“I’m going to go up and see if I can get another gym badge before bed.”

 

“I have no idea what that means, but I assume it’s something to do with your Nintendo.” 

 

Henry merely smiled, before enveloping her into a hug, “Night Mom.”

 

“Night my prince.”

 

Regina watched him do the same to Emma, finally looking up from her phone, she kissed him on the head and muttered something about no screens after 9:30 before Henry slipped into the hall and could be heard thundering up the stairs, the same measure of storm and unnecessary noise as his birth mother.

 

“Do you know where I can get access to my health insurance information?” Emma asked, almost as soon as they’d heard Henry’s door close, eyes once again glued to her screen.

 

“As a town employee, Storybrooke General already has all of your information.”

 

“I’ve, uh,” Emma looked up timidly, “found a clinic that takes walk-ins out of town.”

 

Regina sighed and braced herself against the island preparing for what was to come next.

 

“I can look up your information when I’m in the office on Monday.”

 

“Thank you,” Emma smiled. Not one of her happy smiles but rather one of her ‘I’m The Saviour’ smiles, one of her ‘I don’t need much sleep’ smiles, one of her ‘I just don’t eat carrots’ smiles.

 

Emma had, at least, finally pocketed her phone and stepped towards her, reaching out to touch Regina for the first time in what felt like hours.

 

“I’m going to go back onto birth control,” Emma admitted, their bodies pressed side by side as they remained uncomfortable in the kitchen  “and I didn’t think you’d want me to get it sorted from Frankenstein.”

 

“Do you think that’s necessary?”

 

Emma shrugged by way of response, “but short of someone cursing something and us seeing if we can break it, I don’t know how else we’d know until-“

 

“And you don’t want another one,” Regina finished for her, resting her head on Emma’s shoulder and relieved when Emma, not only, didn’t shy away but actually moved in closer.

 

“It’s not you.”

 

“I know,” Regina acknowledged dolefully, because she did know. It wasn’t that Emma didn’t want to have a baby with Regina, it’s that Emma never wanted Henry to look at a sibling like she looked at hers. They’d had that conversation; her daydream thoroughly dampened. “I am sorry about all of this.”

 

“I’ve looked into the implant, I think it’s better suited for our chaotic lifestyle than the Pill,” Emma deflected. “We don’t know the next time some Big Bad might suck us into another land, or where Gold’s disappeared to and what he’s got in store for us when he returns.”

 

“Emma.”

 

“I can last up to three-“

 

“Emma.”

 

“Please Regina, I’m not ready to talk about it.”

 

“But you said we’d deal with it together.”

 

“And we will,” Emma took her cheek in her hand, “but I allowed you your silence, please let me have mine.”

 

Regina pinned Emma’s hand with her own, unwilling to lose the feel of Emma’s touch against her face.

 

“You’ll stay here tonight?”

 

“Of course.”

Chapter Text

Ten

 

She hadn’t expected to wake up alone, nor for Emma’s side of the bed to feel so cold to touch. She looked at the display on the clock radio Emma had insisted on having and found it was alarmingly late in the morning.

 

She tried to shower off the memories from the previous day, not to mention the couple too many glasses of wine she’d consumed after Henry had gone to bed, before dressing and heading downstairs.

 

She found Henry, as she should have anticipated, sat cross legged in front of the television, game controller seemingly glued between his hands.

 

“Ma’s at the station, before you ask,” he told her as she bent down to kiss his cheek. “She made you that fancy coffee that requires the French Press and everything before she left but,” he paused his game and clicked on his phone to illuminate the time, “that was at least an hour ago so it might be cold.”

 

“Do you want to cover Ms La Bouff’s maternity leave?” she joked as she stepped into the kitchen to pour a cup, “that’s the most competent application I’ve had so far.”

 

“Paid?”

 

“Internship?” she continued the easy make believe as she returned and sat on the sofa behind him.

 

“So no,” he’d resumed his game and was deftly sword fighting some mysterious creature, “think I’ll stick with high school.”

 

“What are you playing?” she asked after taking a sip; the coffee wasn’t cold, but it would need drinking quickly if she wanted any heat to it.

 

She watched him try and stifle his displeasure at having to stop the game again, this time going as far as to put down the controller and turn to face her - mainly, she thought, so she’d be better able to see the narrowing of his eyes.

 

“Are you asking because you care or because you want to make sure I know I’m still love and worshipped even though you have a biological child of your own?”

 

“She’s not my child,” she rolled her eyes and she heard herself—she knew she’d been saying nothing else since they’d come across Lily at the diner; then, at least, she’d had plausible deniability—before finishing the coffee so she could move down on the floor to sit besides Henry. “I mean she is, but she’s not my baby like you are,” she pulled him into a cuddle that she knew he was much too old for and relished in the fact that rather than fighting it, he relaxed into it, not even protesting the word ‘baby’.

 

“I don’t know her,” she continued, “I’ve got even less of a connection to her than I had my half sister. She might be biologically related to me, but that doesn’t make her my family and, given I’ve said some pretty awful things to her,” she released the tight hold she had on him, yet he remained close, “she might not want us to be a family.”

 

“Me and Dad didn’t know we existed and we got on alright,” Henry said after a while.

 

“You two at least had a reasonable age-“ she stopped herself when she realised that Baelfire was actually a couple of centuries older than herself.

 

“It’s not like you’ve never made a friend before.”

 

“Actually,” she felt herself taking her lip between her teeth, a habit she was picking up from Emma and one that her mother would have smacked out of her, “I have people that were useful to me and then I’ve had people that just wouldn’t leave me alone.”

 

“Ma and Grams?” Regina nodded. “What about Kathryn?”

 

“She was useful for keeping your grandparents separate.”

 

“Oh yeah,” he sounded dejected before quickly suggesting: “Mr Glass?”

 

“Honey, he was the genie in my mirror.”

 

“Of course,” Henry sprang apart from her as if a jolt of electricity had run through him, “Sidney Glass editor of The Mirror. That one should have been as obvious as Dr Hopper the therapist.”

 

Perhaps he had been struck by an electric volt, she could practically see the lightbulb flash above his head. 

 

“You should have seen Lily’s place,” she mused thinking about his enthusiasm and dangerously inquisitive mind, “it was akin to an episode of Cagney & Lacey, she had pictures on a cork board, push pins, strings, the whole nine yards.”

 

“She knew who everyone was?”

 

“Just Old World names and illustrations from children’s books.”

 

“Still, pretty impressive.”

 

“You should tell her that,” she sighed, pulling him in close again. 

 

One day he would be too old for cuddles from his mother. But there had also been the time he didn’t want to be anywhere near her. She needed to squeeze in as many as she could to make up for lost time with him, “could be a way for you to get to know her; comparing how you two solved the secret.”

 

He shrugged and wriggled free of her embrace, choosing to return to his game.

 

“She might not want a younger brother,” he told her after a while of senseless violence, in her mind, and sword play with an unidentifiable foe, “I mean, your older sister really didn’t like you.”

 

“True,” she conceded as she watched him play, “but mine was green. And English. English people seldom seem to like anyone.”

 

She stopped watching the television screen and started to brush his ever lengthening hair from his eyes where is constantly seemed to be falling. She wished he’d get it cut. He tried to swat her away but she would not be deterred.

 

“Mom, if you’re going to be like this all day I’d rather you go to the station and bother Ma.”

 

“Not a chance, my prince,” she laughed as she continued to play with his hair. She watched him roll his eyes at the attention being thrust upon him, but he stopped fidgeting and continued with his game, so Regina took that as a sign she was allowed to continue.

 

He was partially right, she did want him to know he was still, as he’d put it, loved and worshipped even though she had a child—a biological child—of her own; because Henry was loved and worshipped, he would always be loved and worshipped, and Henry certainly was a child of her own. Regina didn’t need to have given birth to him or had any role in his conception for him to be her world.

 

She’d nearly lost him—so many times that she shuddered at the count—to have him home, to have his love, she wanted to bathe in it, to soak it all in case...

 

There could be no end to that sentence.

 

Henry was her everything.

 

She would not lose him.

 

Henry had been her pillar of sanity in a crazy world she'd built. Nothing had made sense in America. She thought that living each day the same she'd eventually garner comprehension, but that never came - not until her life was given purpose; not from something dark like casting a curse, but from something light.

 

Being given the opportunity to love again was the lightest of all magic.

 

*

 

By the time Emma retuned, Regina was busy in the kitchen readying supper. She’d heard Henry and Emma interacting in the living room, each asking after each other’s days before their voices dropped conspicuously. 

 

She knew they were talking about her, and no doubt Lily too, a suspicion confirmed when she heard Henry’s voice proclaim She let me have ice cream at lunch, she never lets me have ice cream at lunch. It was said in the same tones he used to trumpet she’s evil! as if to prove their belief that something was wrong and she wasn’t coping as well as she’d been constantly assuring. A shared worry that that she was just one breath away from falling into self loathing and destruction; one moment away from once again cursing them all to a new life in a new realm.

 

Yet she was still here, as was the town and it’s populace. She had an apron tied round her, hands mucky with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs as she prepared food for her family. She was here.

 

Her family was here.

 

“I hope it wasn’t my ice cream you gave Henry for lunch,” Emma said by way of ‘hello’, placing an old (and far too dirty for Regina’s pleasure) storage box on the island as she went to the fridge.

 

“Not for lunch. Never for lunch,” she corrected watching Emma uncap a beer and drink most of it in seemingly one sip. “I didn’t think you were working this Saturday.” 

 

“No, but I owed it to Dad given he covered for me the past two days at such short notice,” Emma played with the bottle as if she were about to say more, but nothing came.

 

Regina tried not to let her heart slip.

 

They had barely spoken as they’d got ready for bed the night before, there was little to say after Emma’s revelation that she was going to go on to birth control. Regina, so worried that Emma was going to return to the loft and leave her to sleep alone, had bitten back all of what she wanted to say—nay, to shout—she had allowed herself to become meek, to become small; but unlike her childhood, when she shrank hoping to disappear, she retreated in the hope that Emma would see her.

 

Emma withdrew, she knew this. Regina had suffered this before. So long had the blonde had only herself to rely upon that she still didn’t seem to know how to manage with people—with a family no less—that cared about her. 

 

So, with nothing to add, she returned her attention to the fish cakes she was making. 

 

“What’s for dinner?”

 

Regina looked up from her work, the beer bottle was empty; condensation still dripped down its side, the labelled picked off, nails being drawn through the weak glue that remained.

 

“Fish cakes, asparagus on the side.”

 

“Fish?” Emma was back in the fridge, a second beer in her hand, “that some kind of residual Catholic guilt for the steaks we had last night? Wait,” Emma stopped halfway through uncapping her bottle, “you’re Catholic-“

 

“My paternal grandfather was, my mother wasn’t keen and actively discouraged my father from keeping the practices, somewhere around year six of the curse I found myself missing the rituals of it.”

 

Emma shook her head though as if to say that wasn’t her point, “I’m just trying to picture the Popemobile bombing around the Enchanted Forest.”

 

“Please,” Regina rolled her eyes as she returned to moulding her fish cakes, “his carriage was nothing on mine.”

 

“Having seen you in your Evil Queen garb-“

 

Regina tried to focus on shaping the fish reading it to dip into the eggs to coat in breadcrumbs, rather than the fact Emma had referred to her as the Evil Queen. Emma had never called her that. Emma had called her a lot of things in anger, usually spitting Madame Mayor at her, but she had never called her the Evil Queen.

 

“-I can imagine,” she finished, finally taking a sip from her drink.

 

Regina had five fish cakes made up, she only needed one more and she could put them in the oven, she could escape the small confines of her kitchen. She could escape from the woman who she had pined for all day, the woman who had been avoiding her in equal measure, the woman that had called her the Evil Queen.

 

Emma had demanded time to process their lives now now there was a new person thrust into it, connected to her by blood. And whenever Regina had a blood relative in town, Emma's family usually suffered.

 

But she and Emma were family.

 

She, Emma, and Henry.

 

Yet, she had opted to spend the day at work rather than enjoy a Saturday at home with she and Henry. Emma had, evidently, spent her day deciding that Regina was the Evil Queen.

 

Regina, having longed to have Emma at home and by her side all day, suddenly wanted to be as far away from her as possible.

 

“You don’t remember meeting me do you?”

 

“Of course I remember meeting you,” Regina tried to maintain her composure, focussing on the task in hand. Shape the mixture of fish. Dip it in egg. Coat it in breadcrumbs. There would be six. Two each. “My son had been missing all day and suddenly shows up with this blonde woman in a pleather jacket he claims is his ‘real’ mother.” The fish was in her hands, she just needed to dip it in the egg, coat it in the breadcrumbs. Put them in the oven. 400° 30 minutes. Turn once. “Not something I’ll forget.”

 

“No.” 

 

Regina looked up, Emma’s voice had dropped. 

 

It was soft, the touch of nerves that hung round its edges took nothing from its warmth. This wasn’t an accusatory tone. This wasn’t a tone to summon the villagers to burn the witch. Demanding a military coup to rid the land of the monarchy. This was almost childlike. This was the tone Emma had said Come watch the fireworks a little after midnight a couple of January’s ago. The words with me left unsaid in case Regina had refused her and left her standing alone on her doorstep. 

 

As if Regina could deny Emma anything.

 

“No,” Emma repeated, “that wasn’t the first time you met me. It wasn’t here in Storybrooke; the first time you met me was in the Enchanted Forest.”

 

“We never-“ Emma was close now, beer bottle forgotten, a finger pressed against Regina’s lips to silence her.

 

She allowed Emma to take her words.

 

“King Midas was holding a ball, Kathryn-“

 

“Abigail,” Regina interjected from behind Emma’s finger.

 

“-was going to marry Dad-“

 

“Prince James,” this interruption saw Emma remove her touch from Regina’s lips. Regina instantly missed the contact, as she’d missed Emma all day.

 

“Whatever, people were celebrating,” Emma waved the interruption away, never seeming able to fully reconcile the duality of people’s lives in Storybrooke. “I’d never been to a ball. Gold had dressed me in the finest gown I’ve ever worn. It was red like my favourite jacket, laces at the back, corseted to cinch my waist, the sleeves ran down my arms tapering off at the fingers. He put a tiara in my hair. I was a princess.” Emma had been talking with her hands, miming the cinch of her waist, running her hands down her arms to demonstrate the sleeves, toying with her hair as she described the ornate jewellery. 

 

Regina had never heard Emma talk of clothes, especially not dresses, she didn’t know such a topic could bring such light to her eyes as she spoke. 

 

“I’ve felt hot before, like I’ve dressed up for dates, either my own or to catch a perp, and I’ve known I’ve looked good,” Emma paused to allow a smile to play along her lips, “but that night I felt beautiful. You know?”

 

Regina remembered times she’d felt beautiful, they were long ago, they’d been state balls, an occasion so grand that even the third son of the King and his family were expected to be at court. Mother had hired dress makers each time, and when they were finished Regina would twirl before her father and then they’d practice her waltz before travelling to the capital.

 

She hadn’t felt beautiful in years.

 

She’d felt hot, as Emma has so eloquently phrased it, and she had the ability to look tantalisingly seductive. She knew she could turn heads, to the point could have anyone she pleased. But there was a difference between looking enticing and looking beautiful. Beauty was something else entirely.

 

She hadn’t wanted to look beautiful since the King had proposed to her all those years ago.

 

Beauty could be dangerous.

 

“Killian,” Emma said his name as though it still hurt—Not a hurt borne of loss, but one that came of being discarded—“he was teaching me to dance, leading me across the floor as if he owned it. And then... and then you walked in and you were all I could see.”

 

Regina remembered this night. 

 

She remembered Midas’ sycophantic welcome, guests falling over themselves to bow before her. She remembered a woman wearing a vermillion robe that did her no justice. She remembered this woman adorned with jewels not nearly as precious as her. She remembered this woman that called her by the name her mother had chosen; for Regina was Latin for queen and her mother had made sure that Regina was to be a queen one day.

 

She did not, however, remember Emma Swan in that dress. At that ball.

 

She had this mysterious and beautiful woman taken away—for beauty was danger—on a promise that her night had just begun.

 

She would have remembered if that woman was Emma. She would never have forgotten Emma. She could never forget Emma Swan.

 

“Of course,” Emma had picked up her bottle again and taken a sip, “I spent the night in a dank dungeon; it was probably more memorable for me than you.”

 

“I would have-“

 

Emma shook her head cutting her off once again, “Gold did something, disguised our forms or...,” she shrugged, Regina doubted she would ever be able to fully articulate the wonders of magic, “You couldn’t possibly remember meeting me, because it wasn’t me you would have seen.”

 

“I remember a woman in this most incredible gown, but more than that,” it was Regina now that stepped forward. Her hand, covered in stray flakes of fish, slightly sticky from the eggs, errant breadcrumbs clinging to her skin, reached out to take Emma’s cheek. To touch the woman she’d longed to have beside her since she’d woken alone that morning, “I remember a woman that dared to speak my name. No one had called me Regina in years. So consumed by my power, that even my own father barely recognised me and would seldom use my name to address me. Yet this woman, you it would appear,” Emma clutched Regina’s hand, holding it closer to her skin either not noticing or caring that it was dirtied with ingredients, “had the audacity, the courage, the-“

 

“Stupidity?”

 

“To say my name.”

 

Emma had never seen her as an Evil Queen, even when they’d met all those years ago and she had been a tyrant, Emma had only ever seen her as Regina.

 

“I may not have the capacity to remember meeting you, Ms Swan, but I damn well should have remembered the way you say my name.”

Chapter Text

Eleven

 

They’d reminisced in the kitchen, spoken about Leia, about Emma’s brief transformation into a Disney fucking princess, Regina. You are a princess, Emma; though I’m not sure Disney have run out of stories to want to animate yours yet , they’d laughed and played in the kitchen— Get your fishy fingers away from me! and for a while it was akin to the early stage of their relationship. Regina was allowed to pretend they were back to the stolen kisses, the discrete fondles against counter tops, the promises made to each other about what would happen once Henry went to bed.

 

Regina was allowed that for a while.

 

However, Emma kept drinking.

 

The second beer became a third as the three of them ate supper. There was a forth while the dishes were done and the kitchen tidied. A fifth accompanied the film Henry had selected on Netflix.

 

Regina watched Emma drink.

 

The blonde was being careful, despite the speed in which she’d had the first, the rest were sipped at a measured pace. Emma was not drinking to get drunk, but she was evidently drinking to take the edge off.

 

Regina was forced to watch and work out what ‘the edge’ might be. She feared it was the fact that Emma’s childhood friend, a friend she’d been working hard to reconnect with, was now Regina’s daughter. A daughter that Regina had never raised or even knew possible, but a daughter nonetheless.

 

Regina knew how families worked.

 

Or didn’t.

 

She had blood relatives that she couldn’t stand, that terrified her, that had bullied her, and had tried to kill her. Yet, however much she might want to, there was a link that couldn’t be broken. A bond that meant that she still craved her mother’s love and mourned the mysterious death of her half sister.

 

Then Regina had a son; a boy that shared nothing with her but a surname and a home. She loved him more than any blood relative. She would give up everything for him, cross realms for him, move satellites in the sky for him, ultimately she would die for him if it came to it. And unlike her blood relatives, she knew he would do the same for her.

 

Regina knew that blood didn’t make a family.

 

Emma, on the other hand, she’d grown up with no one to care for her.  In those who’s job it was to look after her, Emma had been taught, time and time again, that often even a monetary incentive wasn’t enough. Emma’s experiences had shown her that only a family member could ever love her which is why she had tried for so long to find her parents. She needed to know why they had abandoned her; she needed them to have a good reason as to why she’d been forced to grow up without a family.

 

Where Regina’s life had shown her that chosen families were so much greater than the one a person is born into; Emma had had it constantly reinforced into her that without blood there was nothing to connect people.

 

Emma had hung Henry’s hastily drawn family tree above her bed in the loft, framed it, preserved it in case her faith ever weakened she might have it there to look upon. Emma needed that to remind her that Regina would always love her because they were connected through Henry.

 

But Regina had another child now. A child of her own. She might not want Henry anymore—just as Emma had been put back in the system when her adoption had fallen through because the couple had conceived a child of their own—Henry might be given back too. And thus the link between them severed. If Henry was surplus to requirements, Emma definitely would be.

 

When Henry went to bed, Emma disappeared into the kitchen and returned with beer number six and the battered storage box.

 

“I had two visitors at work today,” Emma told her as she sat cross legged in front of the sofa. “First, Mom. All guilt ridden and apologetic. Not for damning Lily, but rather that I found out. I’m trying to figure out if this is better or worse than her Wardrobe righteousness, hence:” she held up her beer in a silent toast to the night, downing a significant portion of it.

 

“I’ve not heard from Dad, but you know what he’s like, he’ll follow the party line,” she continued at breakneck speed, as if she was speaking more to herself than to Regina, as if she worried pacing herself might cause her to stumble; to stop entirely and never get the words out at all.

 

“They’re never going to apologise for putting me in a wardrobe, they’re definitely never going to apologise for what the did to Lily. In some fucked up way,” Emma looked up at her, “probably think their actions were even more justifiable, now they know Lily is yours too. You were cursing them, they cursed your kid. Scales balanced.”

 

“Emma.”

 

“Don’t say my name like that.”

 

“Like what?” Regina asked softly, moving down onto the carpet so she and Emma could be at the same level.

 

“Like you’ve been saying it for ages now, like you think I should talk to them and move on. That this is just another Enchanted Forest Thing that Emma can’t possibly get because she was raised in an actual fucking democracy with human rights and electricity.” She moved to take the beer from Emma’s hand but Emma was far quicker and moved the bottle far out of Regina’s reach, “Don’t!”

 

“You said you had two visitors today?” Regina tried instead.

 

“Lily,” Emma responded simply. “Luckily she and Mom didn’t cross paths. Not sure how that would have worked out.”

 

“What did she-“ Regina stopped herself before she said want as if it was an accusation. As if Lily had an agenda in seeking Emma out. As if they couldn’t be friends . “Is she okay?” she corrected, opting to look at her hands rather than Emma.

 

“She told me I better not be one of those cruel,” the word was said deliberately, the first syllable overly harsh, as if compensating for not using the word ‘evil’ “step-mothers that TV warned us about.” Regina looked up and found Emma staring dolefully back at her. “Yeah,” Emma nodded, “it appears Maleficent was waiting to tell you before she told Lily.”

 

Regina didn’t know when Emma had finished her beer, perhaps she’d simply put it down, either way both of Emma’s hand were gently running along Regina’s thighs.

 

“I brought you something, I don’t know if it will help,” Emma shrugged, rubbing Regina’s legs a final time before moving to the battered box and lifting its lid. “You’ve, uh, seen the end of it,” she held up an old videocamera, “but I think-“

 

Regina wasn’t really listening though. She could vaguely hear the words Emma was saying but her eyes were fixed on an old white blanket, her hands reaching out to touch it before her mouth could ask permission.

 

She unfurled it to be able to see it properly for what it was. A baby blanket, purple ribbon running down one side, Emma stitched into it in a matching thread.

 

“This is how they knew your name.” It wasn’t a question, there was no need for it to be. “Who named Lily?”

 

“Her parents.”

 

Regina’s head shot up at the answer. Not because of what Emma had said, but because she didn’t realise she’d voiced her question.

 

“Lily was adopted,” Emma’s hands were back to touching Regina, the videocamera seemingly forgotten. “I told you her dad found us, the house Lily and I broke into was actually her parent’s lake house. That’s why we fell out-“

 

“I thought you said she stole from your foster parents?”

 

“That was the second time.”

 

“But Lily was adopted?” Regina was still holding Emma’s baby blanket close to her as it it was hers or Henry’s.

 

“Lily was adopted,” Emma nodded. “Would you like to see her happy?”

 

Emma connected the camera to the television and sat back down beside Regina, wrapping an arm around her, “it’s not long, maybe like thirty seconds,” she told her, brushing a kiss against her temple, “but it’s something,” she finished, hitting play on the remote.

 

“Oh my god,” Regina leaned in closer to the television, unable to fully comprehend what she was seeing.

 

“Yeah,” Emma agreed, squeezing Regina’s hand grounding her to the moment, to the room, to Emma.

 

A pale blonde girl with a broad smile plastered on her face—a smile Henry had worn when he’d come rushing into her bedroom brandishing the dollar bill the Tooth Fairy had left him; a smile he’d adorned when she and Emma told him they were together; a smile Emma wears whenever she beats Henry at Mario Kart ; a smile that covers their whole faces and shines through their eyes and so unmistakably Charming—the girl beside her, dark brown hair, practically black, with matching brown eyes sat beside her as they giggled and pulled silly faces.

 

The woman with the unique start shapes birthmark that Regina had met at the diner, that she had sat in the back of an ageing Volkswagen with, that she had literally thrown out of her office, that grown up version Lily, could be passed off as anybody’s child. They had similar features, matching eyes perhaps, but nothing that one could argue as empirical evidence that the two of them were related.   

 

This girl, laughing so freely with a fifteen year old Emma, was unmistakably Regina’s.

 

*

 

Emma Swan is a quiet person.

 

Regina had never expected that.

 

A brash woman entered her town in a bright yellow car and a lurid, red jacket. This same woman took a chainsaw to her apple tree barely days into her stay in Storybrooke. She stomps around town, clattering into people and objects alike. Shouting first, thinking second. Actions speak louder than words and Emma Swan makes sure she is always heard.

 

Yet, Emma is a quiet person.

 

That was one of the things that drew Regina most to the blonde. Emma never spoke simply for speaking’s sake. She might be headstrong and rash, but her words were always measured out as if they might, one day, run out.

 

There were times Emma wouldn’t shut up; but those were occasions saved for Henry, catching up on the ten years she missed with him; or when she would compose sonnets to Regina’s cooking at the dinner table; she was noisy in bed, but that because she was busy issuing commands and instructions daring Regina to defy her; when Emma had questions there was no holding her back, but questions were easy, they didn’t expose anything of her only asked things of others—mainly, Regina.

 

Talking, however, that was never going to be Emma’s preference. She seldom initiated conversation, proper conversations with merit and meaning; on the occasions Emma had, Regina had come to realise, it was always because Emma had evidently weighed that the consequences of staying silent were greater than the risks that came with speaking up.

 

Regina thought it might have been all the times Emma had opened up to people in the twenty-nine years before the curse broke and been burned—by foster parents, lovers, friends she thought she knew that turned out to be entirely different people once the fog of magic had been lifted.

 

Consequently, Emma’s stoicism in the face of this new turn in their lives was not surprising to Regina. What did, however, knock her off guard was Emma sputtering unintelligible words at her whilst literally foaming at the mouth, toothbrush gesticulating wildly.

 

Regina raised an eyebrow but continued turning down the bed and waited for Emma to finish in the bathroom.

 

“I said,” Emma reappeared from the en-suite having disposed of both toothpaste and brush, “this doesn’t make you like Neal.”

 

Regina liked to pride herself with the fact she could usually keep up with Emma’s butterfly mind, but it had been a while since Emma had drunk so heavily in her presence and Regina was struggling, so she continued to get ready for bed with the hope that Emma would simply continue without prompting.

 

“Like,” Emma climbed into her side of the bed, moving her pillows behind her so she was sat up comfortably, “he was over two centuries old, he knew that penis plus vagina minus condom can sometimes equal baby.”

 

That Neal,” which Regina should have worked out sooner given Emma only ever referred to her sibling as Brother.

 

Regina climbed into bed beside Emma and continued her nighttime routine.

 

“You weren’t to know that having sex with a sometimes dragon lady could cause pregnancy. I don’t know what sex-ed classes you had in the Enchanted Forest,” Emma pursued, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Regina was only half listening as she applied her nightly hand cream; Regina was tired, Emma had been drinking, this was not the time to discuss whatever it was that was playing on Emma’s mind “but I doubt it covered Contraception for Reptiles.”

 

Regina looked across at Emma; where she’d been dismissive of the blonde’s ramblings she suddenly understood them for what they were “this is why you’ve barely been speaking to me, why you opted to spend your Saturday at the station, because you were trying to ascertain if I was like the man who took advantage of you when you were a child and left you in prison.”

 

“But it’s more than just Neal,” Emma continued despite Regina’s furrowed brow. “ My parents put me in a wardrobe because you were this great evil?” Emma pointed at her, making Regina nervous as once again she’d lost Emma’s train of thought. “They abandoned me, had me go through a crappy childhood because they wanted me to save them from a life of mundanity in Maine? The most evil thing you did was forcing those cardigans on Mary Margaret.”

 

“You mean aside from the killing and the burnin-“ Emma placed a finger on Regina’s mouth.

 

“There is a point to all of this, you have to let me get there.”

 

Emma kept her finger on Regina’s lips, she shot her a warning look as if asking if Regina was going to comply; to which Regina rolled her eyes but nodded nonetheless.

 

“You didn’t abandon Lily,” Emma continued having removed her touch from Regina, “like my parents abandoned me. And you didn’t do what I did either. I gave up Henry because I didn’t think I’d be able to look after him. You may have been a queen but were still only nineteen-“

 

“That’s quite old for childbearing in my land.”

 

“But you didn’t childbear!” Emma’s hands were suddenly waving wildly, as if she thought that might better articulate her point. “You didn’t even know there was a child being beared or that one could even be beared in the first place.”

 

“That’s not how that word is used.”

 

“Regina,” Emma silenced anything more Regina wanted to say by taking her hand and holding it firm above the covers, “I’m not struggling with this because I’m angry with you or anything, I just need you to know that.”

 

Regina looked at their joined hands and for the first time really considered the fact that Emma was in her bed, just as she had been the night before, and as she would no doubt be in it the next.

 

Emma ran in situations like these. Yet Emma was next to her, was holding her hand, anchoring herself to her bed. To her home.

 

“I assumed it was because you fear I’ll no longer need Henry,” Regina spoke so quietly she might not have said the words, worried that by airing her assumptions might give credence to them, give them form for Emma to take and run with, “and and thus there would be no room for you either, if I have a biological child.”

 

Regina chanced a look at Emma and saw her worrying her lip between her teeth. Regina shifted her position, letting go of Emma’s hand as she did so, so she could not only turn to look at her properly, but tilt Emma’s head forcing the blonde to look back as her as well.

 

“Do you remember when we were in Neverland, bound to that god forsaken tree?” Emma nodded ever so slightly, if Regina hadn’t been holding her chin she might not have noticed. “Pan said that what kept us there were our regrets. What did I tell him?”

 

“That everything you did got you your son,” Emma replied quietly, able to hold Regina’s stead gaze.

 

“And today, tonight, knowing everything that I know now; I’d do it all again, because it got me my son and, amazingly, the love of his mother too.”

 

Emma leaned in and practically smashed her mouth against Regina’s, nearly knocking her back with the force of it.

 

“He is so lucky to have you,” Emma told her, stoking Regina’s cheek with her left hand.

 

“You’ve not always thought that.”

 

“Only because I didn’t know what familial love looked like.”

 

“I am sorry that you, and Lily,” Regina added after a pause, “didn’t get the childhoods that you wanted, needed, or deserved; but I can’t be sorry for Henry.”

 

“Even if it means having me too?”

 

“Especially because it means having you too. Besides,” she leant in closely so she could pepper Emma’s lips with soft touches of her own, “I thought you said we were fated to be together.”

 

Regina felt a push to her sternum as Emma moved back to inspect her, “You don’t believe in that,” Emma looked askance.

 

“I believe in you,” she interlocked their hands once more, bringing them up to her lips, tenderly kissing that stupid little tattoo Emma had inked onto her wrist.

 

A fairy had told her that she was destined to be with a man with a lion tattoo. Regina didn’t buy that. She’d been told by too many people what her life should look like, who she should be with, how she should act, talk, live and breath.

 

Regina had done everything in her power to be able to make her own choices.

 

“I choose you, Ms Swan,” she told her, once more touching her lips to the idiotic, cliched, flower covering Emma’s pulse point, “I will always choose you.”

Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

Henry, clearly tired of waiting for Emma exchange more than small talk with his grandparents, had all out demanded a family meal for his birthday.

 

He had been very firm on the parameters of the meal; they were to have the Thanksgiving dinner they’d failed to have in November - the meal itself was to be cooked by Regina, but Snow was to make the pie because she follows Martha Stewart’s recipe and she and Snoop Dogg are friends so you know it’s good.

 

Regina had overheard Emma, on a couple of occasions, trying to persuade Henry they could do something else (including trying to bribe him with a trip to Brewer for laser tag; which Regina has subsequently Googled and pleased that Henry had declined the offer). However, with each new suggestion Henry just became more steadfast in his determination for a turkey dinner. You and Mom are practically living together now, no excuses, you both owe me a Thanksgiving.

 

Regina had, despite her reticence to glorify gun violence (laser or otherwise), also tried to persuade Henry that perhaps a Mills-Swan-Charming meal was not the best way to celebrate his birthday. However, he’d returned with an annoyingly well-argued three tiered discourse.

 

The first was that given she and his grandmother were talking again, he saw little reason for Emma to still be weird about the whole ‘baby portal thing’. Regina didn’t feel the need to explain that most of the conversations she had with his grandmother centred around Snow crying and demanding updates on her daughter’s life.

 

The second was that Lily was staying in Storybrooke, she’s working at Granny’s and everything (a fact that Regina knew all too well, and, as a consequence, she was spending less on take out coffee than she had been), though I don’t think that’s why she’s staying, I think it’s more to do with the fact she can fly around as a dragon here. Regina had lost Henry on a dragon tangent for a bit before she was able to get him to circle back round to his argument which was: if Lily was staying, and neither Emma or Snow were planning on leaving; Storybrooke simply wasn’t big enough for her to keep her grudge going. Like Ma has totally forgiven you for being manipulated by Grandpa Gold, she can forgive Grandma and Grandpa for being manipulated by The Author.

 

Henry’s final argument, which Regina felt was not only the best but also more like an argument and a half, was that the last time Emma had been like this it had taken her six months to get over it. I’m simply not giving her that much time again , Henry had told her arms folded tightly across his chest looking every bit like the mother he was bored of placating. Anyway , he’d concluded, it’s not fair on Neal to miss out on that much time with his big sister.

 

It was definitely that argument that had persuaded Regina and so she managed to convince Emma that Henry’s Thanksgiving Birthday wasn’t the worst gift they could give him.

 

(It has also taken the promise that the following day they could go to Brewer and not only could she and Henry play laser tag, but Regina pledged to Emma that she would join in for at least one game too. Highest scorer wears the strap on , she’d whispered in Emma’s ear to add extra incentive; I literally carry a gun around for a living, do you not want a fair fight Madam Mayor? Oh, Regina had offered Emma her best politician’s smile, you have no idea what I’m capable of! )

 

Emma had done remarkably well at dinner, better than Regina thought even Henry believe she would be.

 

Emma had spent time playing PAW Patrol with Neal in the garden, running around with him on her back as he shouted Mighty Pups go, go, go! as Charming chased around after them. At supper, Henry managed to prevent anyone else from talking by explaining, at length and with excruciating detail, the intricate and minute—yet seemingly incredibly important—differences between Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man .

 

Presents were opened, the pumpkin pie cake had been cut, and all  was well in the house; that was until everyone was congregated in the hallway working out how best to say their good-byes. Regina and Henry sucked in and held nervous breaths as Snow went to hug her daughter and held Emma far longer than necessary. Regina wasn’t able to catch what was whispered in Emma’s ear but she able to make out the responses of I know and a somewhat delayed I love you too, Mom at which point Regina felt able to let go of her son’s hand. Emma had kept to her promise of ‘being the well behaved little princess’ her parents had always wanted.

 

Consequently, Regina had played laser tag.

 

Having spent, what seemed like, the longest four hours of her life surrounded by over zealous and over sugared teenagers (and an equally hyped up Emma) Regina was too tired to suggest an alternative diner at Granny’s or care that she was wearing jeans and sneakers in public; let alone remember what time of day it was and if Lily was on shift.

 

Only once their order had been taken by someone that was decidedly not related to her (unless her mother had another bastard child she’d failed to mention) she allowed herself to relax and bask in the happiness of Henry and Emma as the pair of them compared notes on the best part of the day as if they hadn’t spent every minute of it together. Annoyingly though, the pair of the were united in the belief that Regina being brow beaten enough to stop at Walmart so she could but a pair of jeans and sneakers to play in was the highlight of the trip. It was at this point that she started staring at the kitchen hatch hoping for their meals so that Henry and Emma would have something else to occupy their mouths with other than their words of mockery.

 

However, the only thing to emerge from the kitchen was Lily carrying a plate of food that none of them had ordered. So busy watching the newest waitress of Granny’s employ that Regina didn’t realise the conversation around her had ended and Henry was offering the woman a small, timid wave.

 

“Hey Hen,” Lily smiled back at him, appearing equally as nervous.

 

“I didn’t know you were working tonight,” Emma said as she wrapped an arm around Regina clearly designed to reassure.

 

“Just finished. Going to eat this,” Lily held up her plate, “before I head up to my room and see what fun reruns are on telly tonight.”

 

“Why don’t you join-” Regina looked around the diner at all the empty tables, but a squeeze to her should told her she should continue, “us, Ms Pa- Lily.”

 

“You sure?” Lily looked sceptically back at her, “I don’t want to interrupt or anything.”

 

Regina must have taken too long to reply because she felt a soft tap at her ankle from Henry, “No, no,” she swallowed her discomfort and motioned to the seat next to her son in the booth, “we’d-“ but she struggled to finish her sentence and looked to Emma for help.

 

“Sit down,” Emma told her friend, “Regina’s not good at invitations. Took me a year to get anything out of her and even then it was a poisoned pastry.”

 

“I believe you had my shirt many months prior.”

 

“See how she just skims over the deadly turnover?” Emma continued as Lily eventually sat down next to Henry. “Don’t let your dinner get cold, ours will be out in a minute,” though despite Emma’s words, Regina still had to slap her hand away from picking at Lily’s fries.

 

“Why are you living here?” Regina asked after she couldn’t stand the silence at the table any longer.

 

“It was this or that shack in the woods with Mom,” she answered, after the waitress had placed down the remainder of the meals. “Here’s got cable,” Lily added with a shrug as she removed the pickles from her burger and placed them on Henry’s plate with such an ease that Regina could only assume she, Emma, and Henry had continued to share meals together despite everything that had occurred. “Unlike you to join Em and Hen here.”

 

Regina adverted her gaze from Lily, her level of discomfort having risen at the directness of the statement. It was true she was frequenting Granny’s less since Lily had started nearly two months ago, she knew it was obvious to everyone in the town why, she just hoped they were discrete in stating it.

 

“Mom’s too tired to cook tonight,” Henry saved her from answering, “she kicked our butts at laser tag.”

 

“Not surprising given she’s running around with a badge and a gun most days.”

 

“No, not Ma,” he corrected Lily, “ Mom ,” pointing a fry at Regina for emphasis.

 

“Get out,” Regina risked meeting Lily’s eyes and was rewarded with, what she thought at least, was a slightly impressed smile.

 

“I don’t know why you’re all so surprised,” Regina focused on slicing her chicken, “it’s simple hand-eye coordination. Now, sword fighting, that’s a skill; which is why you seldom see Emma with one.”

 

“Forgive me for not attending a high school with a fencing team,” the blonde grumbled into her meal.

 

For a second dinner in a row Henry dominated the conversation with the pros and cons of Web Slingers, saving the topic if MJ or Gwen Stacey was endgame for dessert; and he no doubt would have continued long into the evening except for the fact Lily asked:

 

“Why any is this important?”

 

“Because there’s a new Spider-Man 2 film,” he answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

“Yeah, for years dude, with that weird scientist with tentacles like my mo-” Regina focused her attention on her apple crumble, not wanting to think too much about the fact Lily had stopped mid word, “-Malificent’s friend.”

 

“Not that Spider-Man 2 , there’s a new Spider-Man 2 .”

 

“I’m sorry,” but any tension Regina had allowed to consume her quickly dissipated as she found she had to stifle a laugh because Lily had put down her spoon, pushed away her sundae, and fully turned in her seat so she could properly look at Henry, “we’re living in a world with multiple Spider-Man 2 s? Like 2 Spiders 2 Men?”

 

“You’ve got two moms and not in a way like I’ve got two moms, but in a way like one of them is a dragon and the other is, well, Mom,” once again Regina disliked that she was being gestured at, “but you’re struggling with the fact that there are multiple films called Spider-Man 2 ?”

 

“What was wrong with the first Spider-Man 2 ?”

 

“Moms,” he wriggled back round in his seat so he was looking across the table at them, clearly tired of their silence in the matter, “can Lily come to the movies tomorrow because I just can’t have this conversation without being able to properly evidence that Toby McGuire is not the ultimate Spider-Man.”

 

“If Lily has nothing better to do and you’ve not bored her silly enough with all these Spider-Men, she’s more than welcome to join us.”

 

“You sure?” Lily repeated her question from earlier, brown eyes meeting brown, trepidation still weighing heavily on her voice.

 

Once again Regina swallowed down all of her doubts and insecurities before managing: “Of course.”

 

Regina swore she saw Emma shoot Lily a wink in her peripheral as Henry simply beamed around the table clearly impressed with himself.

 

“Look at you,” Emma squeezed Regina’s knee as she clinked their glasses together once they were finally alone.

 

Lily had retired up to her room and Henry had demanded he be able to go see his grandparents so he could retrieve his Marvel DVDs because apparently Lily has a lot to catch up on .

 

Emma had waved him away with a text us when you get there regardless of the fact she’d linked their iPhones and constantly kept track of his movements.

 

Hey Emma had defended her actions when Regina had found out there’s a tonne of Disney villains I’ve not met yet. Scar, Jafar, that chubby English man with a pug she’d reamed off. You know Star Wars is Disney ? While I’d love to meet Princess Leia, the real one, I don’t want to have to go toe to toe with Darth! And I definitely don’t want Henry to become the droid he’s looking for.

 

“-seems I’m not the only one able to play nice at a family meal,” Emma continued, having persuaded Regina to stay for another drink just the two of them. “She wants to get to know you,” Emma added more softly after a sip from her glass, “she just doesn’t know how.” Regina gave her a side glance over her whiskey. “You are kind of intimidating.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Sure you do,” Emma smiled at her, Regina felt Emma’s hand moving slightly higher. “The meaner you are, the further people stay away. They can’t hurt you if they don’t come close.”

 

“Please don’t psycho-analyse me in a place that’s only one step up from a bullet diner.”

 

“Hey,” Emma rubbed at her thigh, “you’re talking to a girl that lived a boat rather that admit she loved you. That’s why we work; we’re equally messed up.”

 

“That’s not as reassuring as you think it is,” Regina retorted, finishing her drink and encouraging Emma to do the same.

 

She guided Emma out on to the street, the pad of her thumb gently tracing love letters on the side of Emma’s hand as the walked to the car.

 

They were practically on Mifflin Street before Regina finally spoke again, “I think Lily should move into the loft. She shouldn’t be living in a Bed and Breakfast, especially now she’s moved here on a permanent basis.”

 

“It’s only a two bedroom, and I really don’t want to share a room with Henry again given he’s now fourteen and has an unhealthy relationship with his tube sock.”

 

Regina shook her head, this was not the time to discuss Henry’s laundry (though she did mentally catalogue it as an ‘Emma conversation’ that the blonde would need to have with their son sooner rather than later).

 

“Neither you or Henry have spent a night there in two months. And unless you want to tell me otherwise, you don’t even have a box of cereal by way of food in your kitchen. Furthermore, I have half of your dreadful jackets hanging in my coat closet,” she continued as they walked down her path, “it might as well be all of them at this point.”

 

“Madam Mayor,” Emma spun round, her mass of keys left dangling in the front door as it slowly swung open, “is this your way of asking me to move in?”

 

“Depends on how you react,” Regina stepped passed her and into the house, “are you going to say ‘yes’ or are you going to ignore me for six months while you hyperventilate at the prospect of domesticity and a literal white picket fence?”

 

“If I say ‘yes’,” Emma grabbed her and pushed her against the nearest wall, kicking the front door firmly closed in her wake, “my framed Family Tree of Fate is moving in with me and to be hung above our bed.”

 

“I might see to it that it gets irreparably damaged in the move,” Regina tried to protest as Emma started nipping kisses along her neck, a thigh sliding tantalisingly between her legs.

 

“Nope,” Emma continued, pinning Regina’s arms to her sides to stop her trying to slide her hands beneath Emma’s shirt, “it’s a package deal. Me and The Tree.”

 

“I’ll let you wear the strap-on,” she attempted to counter as Emma started to grind against her.

 

“Please,” Emma bit down on her shoulder, “you and I both know that while you may wear the pants, I wear the harness in this relationship. There’s no case of ‘let’. Now,” she undid the button of the terrible jeans Regina was still, inexplicably, wearing, “ask me to move in properly and I’ll reward you right now with not just a ‘yes’ but the best fuck of your life.”

 

“Ms Swan,” Regina managed to expel before a thumb roughly swiped at her clitoris, “I think you should get your mail redirected here.”

 

“Not quite what we’re looking for, Madam Mayor,” Emma took the smallest step backwards, she was still able to support Regina’s weight and hold her captive against the wall, but the pressure Regina needed was lost. “Want to have another go?” she offered, taking her earlobe between her teeth.

 

“Ms Swan,” Regina pulled her arms free so she could grab fist fulls of Emma’s T-shirt, forcing the blonde back against her body, “are you moving in or not?”

 

“I suppose that’s the best I’m going to get,” Emma laughed, sliding her right hand lower into Regina’s underwear.  Regina relaxed against the wall, her eyes closing and her head falling back, as she felt Emma tease her folds open, trailing a wet finger up and more gently starting to circle, painfully slowly, the erect collection of nerves. But just as quickly as Emma’s finger arrived it seemed to disappear:

 

“I do love you,” Emma said, pausing her ministrations once again. Regina opened her eyes to see Emma nervously staring back at her, “you know that right?”

 

“Just as you know I love you,” Regina smiled, pulling Emma closer still, practically moulding their bodies into one against her wall. “Please move in with me.”

 

“I’ve just been waiting for you to ask,” Emma kissed her slowly as she finally slid two fingers inside her.