I don't own these characters.
A/N: without giving away the chapter, I would like to apologize in advance for anyone who thinks it's cheesy.
5: The Swan Princess
3 years later…
Regina awoke first as always. It was easy to detach herself from Emma as she was often the big spoon. She did not mind, finding it better to hold than to be held, even though she did not mind being held. The fact that the ultra-independent sheriff allowed herself to be held by Regina and found safety in her arms was an added bonus. Regina doubted she would grow weary of holding the younger woman.
Over the years, her emotions had ordered themselves in a way she saw coming, but fought against every step of the way… sort of. It was hard to say she fought when she let Emma live there and stay in her bed until Emma found it within herself to move out, which lasted all of six months. While Emma had been moved out, she still sought Regina out and they still spent time together. Regina had not known it at the time, had not realized it, but she had been dating Emma Swan. She had gotten to know the woman who grew up from the six-year-old that had enchanted her for a week. And, may the gods help her, she found she liked the woman… to a degree.
She and Emma still had spats and sometimes all out verbal battles, but it was the way they communicated. They did their best to keep their verbal combat between the two of them, but sometimes Henry overheard. She had spoken to him early on because he had been scared they would fall back into older habits – Emma would leave and Regina would pluck out hearts and cast curses. Of course, none of those things would happen, but fear was not rational, especially in a teenage boy.
She needed to make sure Henry understood they were two very dysfunctional people and a real relationship should not work like this; after all, she had never argued so much with Daniel. Of course, she had not been with him as long as she had Emma, but that was neither here nor there as far as she was concerned. Emma was the same, finding she had never argued with a partner so much, but she did not have any positive relationships to back up her words. Over time, the fighting had lessened, but it was still passionate. They still did their best not to argue in front of Henry, even though he seemed to ignore them most of the time they were upset with each other anyway.
When not arguing, Emma remained her "sweetling." She knew the term of endearment bolstered Emma, so she used it to chase away despair, to strengthen her warrior, and remind Emma she was loved despite the many screw ups she had already done and would do in the future. Of course, she was still reprimanded to the tune of a sharp "Miss Swan," even though the moniker was highly inaccurate now.
Regina left the room to get ready for the day and prepare breakfast. On her way downstairs, she poked her head into Henry's room. It was a pigsty, which she was told to expect of a fifteen-year-old boy, but she still was not ready. She would force him to clean it later, which would consist of him shoving everything under the bed; it was a trick he started at seven. For now, she watched him sleep, laid flat out on his bed and snoring slightly. She smiled.
She looked into the room across him next. There was no clutter or snoring, just a tiny body tucked into a fetal position holding a plush duck for dear life on her small canopy bed. Golden hair was fanned out over a fluffy pillow. Another smile settled on her face and then she went to make breakfast. Emma would make sure they got down on time.
Breakfast was barely on the table before Regina heard the clamor of the Mills' clan charging downstairs. Everyone was fully dressed and all of their clothing was pressed and neat thanks to Regina. Emma held Odette's hand and heaved her into her usual chair at the table.
"Morning, Mommy," Odette grinned.
"Good morning, cherub," Regina replied and leaned down to kiss Odette's cheek. She moved onto kiss Henry's forehead. Henry grunted. "What happened to the son who was a morning person with me?" she sighed. Henry only frowned.
"This is what happens when you turn into a teenager. You need, like, twenty hours of sleep," Emma joked. Henry gave them a dazed nod of agreement.
"You'll wake up once you eat," Regina said. Henry just nodded again. It was true that he needed more sleep than he used to, but it might have been that he stayed up later than he used to. Whatever the case, breakfast usually woke him up completely. But, then again, once he was awake, he then ate like a starving man.
"We should start giving him coffee," Emma suggested with a grin. She had been transformed into a morning person through her environment, but she still required coffee to keep her going.
"So, he can just have caffeine crashes at night like you, dear?" Regina inquired with a smirk and arched eyebrow. "Because we all know, you don't exactly fall asleep as much as you lapse into a withdrawal coma."
Odette giggled because she seemed to always take Regina's side in these things, even when she had no clue what was going on. There was only so much a four-year-old could understand, after all.
"Hey, what have I told you about aligning yourself with your Mommy?" Emma poked the child in the side and earned another titter.
"Mommy and Mama are funny," Odette stated with a clap.
"Hilarious," Henry said dryly. He had already devoured half of his breakfast while they sat there talking. "Ma, don't forget, driving lessons after school."
Emma's face scrunched up. "Not me, your mom." She pointed to Regina. "I'm taking Odette to hang out with Alex and Neal." She turned to Regina. "Right?"
"That is correct," Regina confirmed. "Odette has a play date, Henry, so you'll be driving with me today." He groaned loudly in complaint and Emma laughed. "Miss Swan," she said, not wanting Emma to encourage his poor behavior.
Emma rolled her eyes. "Miss Swan," she muttered mockingly, making a face. Odette laughed again and Emma winked at her. "You drive like an old lady, which is why he doesn't want to drive with you."
"And you make me nervous about everything," Henry admitted, throwing his hands up.
"Well, you should be. Being behind the wheel of a car is a huge responsibility," Regina argued.
Henry waved her off, having heard all of this before. Regina did not mind that he preferred driving with Emma. Honestly, it made her anxious to be in the car with him behind the wheel. Emma seemed to be able to handle it no problem, but there was no way she would be the one to take Odette to her play date. While Snow and David were not a problem, Cinderella and her husband still held a grudge, like most of the town. Stubborn jackasses, the lot of them.
"Odie, when you can drive, let Ma teach you," Henry told his little sister.
"Don't call her that," Regina objected. She knew it was the name of some cartoon dog and the last thing she wanted was for anyone to assume Odette was named after a dog.
"Odie!" Odette cheered.
"I'm completely surrounded," Regina muttered, shaking her head.
"Ah, but you love it," Emma said, moving to give Regina a soft kiss. "I'll see you at lunch. If nothing too drastic happens, we can swap Odie."
Regina glared. "Stop calling her that." Emma only smiled.
Emma made her way into Granny's a little earlier than she needed to, but this just meant she had a chance to down some hot chocolate before Regina showed up to tease her about it. Ruby noticed her come in alone and worked on the cup before she even sat down. She might actually have time to finish it. The thought should not have brought her so much glee, she figured, as she sat down at a table.
"Where's your mini-me?" Ruby asked as she slid the mug in front of Emma.
"She spent the morning with Regina, so they'll be swaggering in together," Emma answered and then took a long swig of her hot chocolate.
"Are they wearing matching outfits today?" Ruby grinned.
Emma laughed. Every now and then, Regina dressed Odette in miniature versions of her clothes or even Emma's clothes. Everyone got a kick out of it, Odette especially. Actually, Emma was not sure who loved matching outfits more – Regina or Odette.
"No, they're not. I dressed her today, so Odie looks like a regular kid and not a three foot high boss bitch," Emma replied with a fond smile.
"I know Regina kills you with her eyes every time you call her Odie," Ruby chuckled.
"Hey, I named her. I can call her any damn thing I want," Emma joked. She would never say this to Regina, of course.
She had, in fact, named Odette. Years ago, when the town tried to settle into being a regular town, she learned they brought some of the worst habits with them from the Enchanted Forest. Parents abandoned children in the woods like it was going out of style. In their first quiet month, Emma had been called about no less than three children left to… she guessed die… in the woods. Parents could not feed or afford or just did not want their children and left them all over the place, but the woods was the preferred dumping grounds.
Odette was one of those children. Not the first, though. The first few, Emma tried to return to their parents, too stupid to realize they abandoned those kids on purpose, left them to die on purpose. This horrified her and she quickly proposed a safe haven act and learned there were perks to sleeping with the then mayor. Regina approved the bill so fast Emma thought there would be scorch marks on it.
Odette had been left in the park, just before the Safe Haven law went into effect, which allowed people to leave children up to the age of five at hospitals, the fire station, and even the sheriff's office without any questions asked. Emma thought it was shame they had to go up to the age of five, but Regina assured her if they did not put an age on it, someone would leave a teenager at the hospital and if they went too young a bunch of toddlers would be lost in the woods. Emma believed her considering the kids she had seen abandoned. She could only wonder what type of people did this. Who abandoned Odette in the park? Who left a baby to die? Thankfully, almost all abandoned children were reported and found before the worst happened.
There was a call about Odette being left in the park on a cold day and when Emma saw her, she laughed. Odette was blonde with green eyes, like Emma's kindred spirit. She had to show the child to Regina, so she called Regina once she got to the hospital. Regina smiled and cooed at the baby. Emma could only wonder why someone would leave such a perfect kid, but Regina was the one who figured out why someone would abandon Odette rather quickly. The baby had hearing problems. Not perfect.
Unlike the other kids, who might never be claimed by their parents, but probably would be adopted or at least taken in by decent people, Regina told her Odette would not experience this. While the old world could tolerate a mute, deaf and blind people were pariahs. Those senses were essential and without them a person was seen as useless. And while Odette was not completely deaf, she was close enough.
Emma hated to see Regina was right. No one fawned over Odette like they did the other kids. No one bothered to see her or cuddle her. Well, no one but Regina and Emma anyway. Henry got curious about her and he would visit her, too, but they were the only ones.
Of course, Henry was the one to talk them into adopting Odette after pointing out how often his mothers visited her. He was sold when he found out Emma named her, finding it hard to be use the term "kid" as an actual name. Odette fit her, Emma looked it up; it meant "wealthy one." Maybe the townsfolk did not know it, but Odette was wealthy, loved by Emma, Regina, and Henry. She was a part of their family before they realized it, but once Henry mentioned adoption, it seemed like the obvious thing.
By then, she and Regina were already married, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, it led to Henry teasing them about being "U-haul" lesbians even more. Regina, thankfully, did not get it and Emma threatened to take his phone and his computer, so he could stop talking to his New York friends and learning terrible habits. One day, it was going to bite him in the ass because Regina would figure out what he was talking about.
"I'm going to bring Belle by Safe Place if that's cool," Ruby said as Emma took another gulp of hot chocolate. Emma grunted as it burned her throat and Ruby laughed. "You don't have to drink it like she's going to snatch it from you the moment she walks in."
Emma scoffed. "You never know with her."
Ruby laughed again. "You're awful. I don't see how the hell you two stand each other with the way you go on about her and how she swears you're incompetent."
Emma smiled a bit, love swelling in her heart. She and Regina were horrible most of the time, as far as people could see, but their back and forth amused them. Maybe others could not tell, but whenever she and Regina got into it with each other, there was a light in their eyes. She could feel a tug inside of her and she knew Regina felt the tug, too. It pulled them closer together… and they just made even more fun of each other.
"Anyway, so like I said, I'm bring Belle with me to Safe Place," Ruby stated once more.
Emma shrugged. "As long as you don't bring Gold, I'm sure Regina won't mind. She won't tell you, but she loves it when you guys come and read to the kids."
Ruby grinned. "It's fun. I like them."
"You should take one home with you."
Ruby snickered. "Granny would kill me and I damn sure don't make enough money doing this job to get my own place. But, you just reminded me, I promised to take Amber to the mall this weekend."
"How is your mini-me?" Emma asked. Amber was a little girl, age nine, at Safe Place that Ruby jokingly said imprinted on her. Emma felt like that was the solid truth.
Safe Place was an organization and home that now housed all of the abandoned children of Storybrooke. It was like a group home, but so much more, and so much bigger. Emma and Regina had started it, but Regina now ran the day to day operations after losing her bid for reelection a couple of years ago. Emma was certain this work fulfilled Regina more than being mayor ever did, but Regina was a sore loser and would run again until she eventually won back her throne, as she often put it.
For now, Regina ruled over a sprawling campus of abandoned children and Lost Boys. She made sure they went to school and got proper meals. She had volunteers come in to work with them. She made sure they had recreation space, as well as games inside. She arranged social events to help the children know their community as well as have the community know them. Thanks to her efforts, people came by often, if not to adopt children or foster them, then to at least visit with the ones they had grown close to, like Ruby had.
"Amber is great. Regina okayed it for her to stay with me this weekend. So, we're going to do some shopping and go to the movies. Fun stuff," Ruby answered with a grin and a little bounce in her step.
"Enjoy, Mama wolf," Emma teased.
Ruby only grinned and then had to get back to work. Emma thought it was wonderful that Ruby had taken to Safe Place the way that she did. She was attached to many of the children, but like a lot of people who frequented the place, she had one special child. For her, it was Amber. Belle had one as well, a bookish little boy with thick glasses named Jake. Several other friends went to Safe Place often and were the same.
Emma was glad that Ruby remained her friend since she had lost quite a few after people realized she and the Charming family had a split. It was not so bad that she lost her bid for reelection as sheriff, but all of the dwarves looked at her with a tilt and she could not walk past the convent without the nuns glaring at her, except Tink, who Emma felt should be struck by lightning just for daring to put on a habit. It was hard to claim to be a nun, even in the strange way the fairies did, when Tinkerbell's best friend remained Regina, despite the rough waters they had when Tink fought out Regina would not fight for Robin Hood.
"Speaking of Mama wolf," Ruby said, nodding toward the front door.
Emma turned just in time to see Regina and Odette enter. Odette giggled at the bell chime. Not too long ago, she could not hear it, but Regina had researched like crazy when Odette first entered their lives and found the best hearing specialists on the east coast to take care of Odette. There were a lot of trips out of town, but the last one resulted in Odette getting implants to hear things that were at least close by. Regina, ever the worrywort, was not sure if that would be enough and was already learning sign language, just in case. Emma figured she would learn if necessary, but the implants seemed to be doing their job.
"Mama!" Odette cried as she hugged Emma around the legs. She was loud, always had been and probably always would be.
Emma laughed and hugged Odette back, picking her up. "How's my little duckling?"
"I'm fine and so is Duckie," Odette declared, holding out the plushie.
"I'm glad. You have to take good care of Duckie. He's the holder of all the secrets." Emma smiled. From the moment she first saw Regina whisper to the little plush toy, she had truly believed he listened to everything. Until the moment she gave it to Odette, Emma had used the toy to tell her fears, insecurities, and worries to until she could share them, usually with Regina. It was amazing the things that stuck to a six-year-old, even when the child was an adult.
"I know. He's still keeping the secret of who ate all the cookies," Odette said with a grin.
Regina gave her a look before leaning in to give Emma a kiss on the cheek. "Believe me, that's no secret," she said with a smirk.
"Why is it always me? Henry is, like, six feet now and a bottomless pit. Why do you never believe he eats everything?" Emma pretended to huff as they sat down at a booth. Odette was situated next to Emma, on the outside, so Ruby could get to the kid easily, and probably tickle her when she least expected it. It also allowed Odette easy access to the remains of Emma's hot chocolate, which she wasted no time drinking.
"Because Henry is fifteen and leaves evidence trails in the forms of crumbs and garbage. When there is no evidence, it is evidence," Regina said, eyes tracking Odette's movements with the mug.
"Then I'm just going to stop picking up after myself," Emma stated with a shrug.
Odette gasped, eyes wide with horror. "No, Mama. That's a not a good move."
Her parents smiled at the words. The term had stuck with Emma from her time as a child with Regina and she found herself using it when disciplining Henry one day, causing him to look at her as if she had gone mad. Once they both got over the shock, they silently decided to go with it. Regina joined in and they all used more when Odette came along, finding it easier than scolding her or making her think she had done something bad. She understood it much better than being told she had done something bad, as well. Sometimes, the adults even found themselves using the term with each other.
"Yes, sweetling, I believe that would not be a good move," Regina concurred with a wicked purr.
Emma sighed and her shoulders slumped. "You don't fight fair." She would do anything Regina wanted when she called her sweetling.
"We established that a long time ago and yet you married me anyway," Regina remarked with a smirk.
"I was half-out of my mind when that happened," Emma teased. "I mean, that explains why I took your last name, huh?"
Regina did not answer that one. Only Emma was allowed to poke fun at this particular thing, like a few other things in their lives. Her surname "Swan" had come from her first family that she thought would be her forever family, but obviously that had not panned out. This was her forever family, so she was more than happy to be Emma Mills. They were the Mills family.
"I've packed everything you should need for her play date," Regina said, passing Emma the "baby bag," which was a regular, but stylish, black leather satchel. Emma wondered how long they would need a "baby bag." Knowing Regina, Odette would have a "baby bag" until she was fifteen. Knowing Odette, she would not care, as long as her Mommy thought it was a brilliant idea.
"Regina, it's just playing in a park. She doesn't need things," Emma argued. She wanted their kid to run, jump, play, skin her knees, and things like that, which Odette did often with her.
"Yeah, I do!" Odette declared, puffing out her chest.
Regina smiled. "There's water, juice, snacks, and a change of clothes."
Emma silently conceded, they might need those things. Odette tore through clothes like nobody's business when she was with Emma. Maybe it was because Emma was always the one that took her to the park. Of course, Regina took her out for outdoor, active activities, too, and somehow her clothing remained intact, which Regina never failed to point out.
"Could you back me up, just once?" Emma pretended to pout at Odette.
"But, Mommy's always right! Except when she's not," the little girl replied.
Emma laughed and she looked at Regina, thinking back to three years ago when Regina knew everything she needed. "Yeah, she is," she agreed in a low tone.
"Emma…" Regina paused as Ruby brought over their usual lunch orders.
"Hey, duckling," Ruby said, leaning down to kiss Odette's forehead.
Odette giggled. "My ribbons!"
"I'm careful of your ribbons as always, duckling. I imagine your Mommy wouldn't be too happy with me if I ruined your pretty hair," Ruby commented and then threw a wink Regina's way. Regina rolled her eyes.
Ruby merely grinned. She was Odette's godmother and often watched the child when Henry was too busy being a cool teenager and Emma and Regina wanted a quiet night.
Ruby turned her attention back to Odette and she tweaked her nose. "You be good when you go play with my main man, Neal. No roughhousing."
Odette gave a grin, which they all knew meant no good. Instead of telling a fib, Odette began eating. Ruby smiled down at her and rubbed her head again, mussing her golden curls and sliding one of her ribbons down. She made sure to pat everything down, though, and fix the ribbon. Regina would have a fit if Odette's hair was messed up in public.
"Don't give your grandparents any problems either," Ruby said before walking off.
Emma tensed at the mention of "grandparents." Regina reached over and the table, taking Emma's hand in her own. Emma sighed at the contact, her safe place.
"You don't have to interact with them, only your brother," Regina said.
Emma nodded. The only reason she agreed to meet with Snow and David was to see Neal. She still considered him her brother, even if she did not consider them her parents. Years later, they still did not seem to accept it. It made things tough when she worked with David, but now she worked for him. He had been the one to win the mayoral election. Suffice to say, it did not make him or Snow more tolerable, for her or Regina, especially when they tried to boot Regina out of the mayoral mansion. Turned out, the mansion was only "mayoral" when Regina was the mayor. Any other time, it was just Regina's house, said so right there on the deed. Some Storybrooke denizens did not agree with that, but they could not do anything about it.
"I thought we'd make good friends," Emma sighed, swallowing around a lump in her throat. It was surprising that even now the rejection of even friendship from the Charmings hurt. It was all or nothing with them and she took nothing because there was no "all."
"I, for one, am happy you didn't make good friends with Charming. I can just imagine the so-called fun you'd have." Regina rolled her eyes. "I don't need that headache." She made show of flipping her hair.
Emma chuckled, but this was one of the reasons it actually hurt. She would have loved to be David's friend. They were so similar. There were so many adventures to be had, silly things to do, and so much trouble to get into.
But, Ruby filled the same role and laughed with her. Ruby did not condescend to her either. And, she had made a few other friends, like Prince Philip, who was like David, but not her biological father and therefore less protective and preachy. He was fun, as was Prince Thomas. Mulan enjoyed her company. So, she had friends. But, the estrangement was still weird.
"You're still sore about the bug being parked on the lawn, huh?" Emma grinned.
"I still don't understand why you allowed Philip to drive. The man can barely mount a horse," Regina sighed.
Emma continued to grin. "You'd think driving a car would be simpler, wouldn't you?"
"I think you should learn to choose a better quality of companionship."
Emma just smiled. They had their usual lunch and caught up with each other's day. She was not surprised to find Odette had spent the day taking Regina from her work, pulling her to interact with the children at Safe Place. Regina acted like she resented it, but Emma knew she loved it. Regina loved mothering people. Emma supposed it came from a longing to have her own mother take care of her, but she never voiced that opinion. She doubted Regina ever analyzed and it would not help to start. After their lunch, Emma left with Odette.
"Hey, Odie!" Robin Hood slapped the child a high-five when she came into the station with Emma.
"Odie, the only toddler with street cred," Emma chuckled. "You finished your rounds?" she asked Robin.
"All quiet as always. Mulan called in. She's sick," Robin reported.
"I told her not to trust that takeout," Emma said as she went to her office.
"You and everybody else. Her and her iron stomach," Robin scoffed.
The sheriff's station had grown to hold three deputies. Mulan and Little John had the night shift. They were cool and Emma liked working with them, Mulan especially. Mulan was probably going to be out for a few days because Emma was certain she had food poison. One of the Merry Men might stand in for Mulan or a couple of the older Lost Boys. Emma was never short of volunteers to help the station. Robin worked with Emma on the day shift.
At first, she honestly disliked the guy, but it was just because he dated Regina. Getting to know him, she was all right with him now. It was nice to know he did not bear any grudge against her for pushing Roland when she was a child. It actually helped because a few days later he had come to talk to Regina, trying to clear the air between them. It took some time, but it worked. Sometimes, Odette even hung out with Roland, even though he was twice her age. Robin had another son, but he was only two. Eventually, Odette would probably be friends with him as well.
"Did you have a good time with your mothers?" Robin asked Odette, taking her by the hand to get her into trouble around the station. This would give Emma a chance to do some paperwork.
"It was the best! Aunt Ruby was there, too!" Odette replied.
Emma listened to Odette giggle. The sound put a smile on Emma's face. The sound of her children laughing always made it seem like light hugged her heart. Actually, her family's laughter did this because hearing Regina laugh was like having the heavens shine on her.
After her shift was over, Emma took Odette to the park for her play date. She ran off to play with Neal and Alexandria. Emma went over to Thomas and Cinderella, who she still called Ashley. She and Thomas did a fist bump while she hugged Ashley. She nodded to Snow and David, who were on the opposite end of the bench.
"Let me go run amongst the goobers and then I want to talk about us tricking Regina into babysitting this Saturday," Emma said. It would teach her to imply Emma got into trouble while hanging out with her friends.
Thomas and Ashley laughed. Emma gave out crushing hugs to Neal and Alex before she ran after the kids for almost a half-hour before sitting back down. Her friends were talking to Snow and David, so she took that time to catch her breath.
"So, I was telling David about going out Saturday," Thomas said. Emma snorted and rolled her eyes.
"He's acting like you were planning a guys' night," Ashley huffed, pretending to be offended.
Emma chuckled. It was funny how it was a "guys' night" when she hung out with Thomas and Philip, even though Mulan was usually there, too. Of course, when it was just them, they tended to do things that resulted in her car being parked on the lawn. Strangely enough, this never happened when Ashley or Belle was there.
"That's all right. We wouldn't want Regina watching Neal anyway," David said.
Emma bit her tongue from saying something biting. David and Snow acted like Regina would steal Neal if she was in his company. But, then again, they seemed to think Regina stole Emma from them. It had ruined a lot of the progress Regina had made with her parents, but Regina did not seem to mind.
"Your loss. I swear, we left Alex with her one day and she suddenly knew how to bake cupcakes," Ashley joked.
"Does she know how to conduct a proper tea party? Because that's Odie's thing. Heaven help you if you use the wrong spoon, sit in the wrong seat, or bite the scone before time." Emma made a fist and raised it high.
Thomas smiled. "She'll be a trip when she gets older. I hope they're best friends."
Emma nodded. "Me, too. They're already a terror."
"Unless they're with Regina. She's trained 'em well," Ashley laughed and then made a whip noise.
"They're debutants with her," Thomas said, putting his chin in the air. "If Storybrooke keeps it's high society, when they come out, it'll be hilarious."
"I can already hear Odie screaming at the top of her lungs and Alex encouraging her by asking her to repeat herself every three seconds," Ashley chuckled.
"You can't seriously believe Odette would be a debutant," Snow suddenly said.
"Why not? Her mother was the queen and the former mayor and her other mother is a princess. It seems like a given," Ashley pointed out.
"And, even I, a crown prince, feel classless when standing next to her in her suits with her purse," Thomas added with a grin.
Emma glared and Snow shook her head, wisely keeping her mouth shut. One of the reasons Emma had not made up with Snow yet was Odette. While Snow was not mean to the child in any way and seemed to consider Odette as a grandchild, she treated Odette so completely different from other children because of the hearing problems. Odette did not need to be treated like something was wrong with her or as if she was made of glass. Okay, she had trouble hearing, but it did not slow her down. If it were up to Snow, Odette would have been locked in her room and her room would have been wrapped in plastic or padded as if Odette were in an asylum.
"Shouldn't you just be more careful with her?" David asked. This question came up more often than Emma would ever like.
"Odie's fine," Emma replied, waving him off. She wished they would just shut up about it. Odette was perfectly fine and a regular kid, doing regular kid things. In fact, Odette was currently swinging from the monkey bars right along with her best friend and her uncle.
"You won't be if Regina knows you're the one who started this Odie thing," Ashley teased.
Emma's eyes narrowed and she pointed at Ashley. "If you dare tell her that, I will never babysit for you again." She could imagine Regina's wrath and it was not pretty. Ashley held up her hands in surrender.
"She's not fine. She could get hurt out here. You shouldn't just have her out like this," Snow argued, motioning to the playground. The kids all seemed fine, racing each other down the slides now.
"No, I should have just left her in the woods where I found her, right?" Emma snapped. This ended conversation between them for a while.
They focused on the children, watching poor Neal be terrorized by the two girls, who were an unstoppable duo. They chased him around and took his turn on the slides, poked him while he was on the monkey bars, and tried to tickle him whenever they could. Neal liked the attention and was used to the torment, so he was a good sport about it all. Emma hoped to God he grew out of it or she was certain he would end up dating some very weird women when he was older.
"So, yeah, David, you should come out with us," Thomas said, trying to get them through the awkwardness. This was the trouble when Emma shared friends with Snow and David. Thankfully, Ruby at least did not try to mediate. Ruby just split her time, claiming she understood where Emma was coming from, but she loved Snow no matter what.
"I've got work to do. The town was left in a mess after those goblins came through," David replied.
"That was, like, four months ago," Thomas pointed out.
David just glared at him, as if that answered the question. Emma knew what was on Thomas' mind because it was on hers as well – Regina would have cleaned this up months ago. They had seen evidence of that when a group of death worms somehow ended up in the sewers a couple of years ago. Regina had that in hand before regular citizens knew there were death worms in the realm. There were other bits of evidence as well. As it turned out, when Regina got enough space and time, she was a fairly effective mayor, especially since she was trying. David was not a fan of having to live up to her since he felt she usurped her power in the Enchanted Forest. Emma did not care about that.
"How's Safe Place going?" Ashley asked, once again trying to get through the awkwardness.
Emma smiled. "It's doing good." Then she shook her head. "I'm surprised at home many kids we have. I never thought when we started it we'd have almost a hundred kids there. I mean, I know Storybrooke is larger than it seems, but a hundred abandoned kids is a lot."
Ashley shook her head. "That's sad, but I'm glad you started it. It was really disturbing to find out people leave their kids in the woods. I don't care what the reasons."
"Well, at least it's not the woods anymore," Emma pointed out. Every now and then they might find a kid in a forest, but most of Safe Place's children had gotten there from being left at the hospital or fire station.
"That doesn't make it better, so it's good that Safe Place is there now. Those kids need help," Thomas chimed in.
"Yeah, I think the townspeople need help more than the kids," Emma remarked.
"Some of them," Ashley said.
"Yeah, I know. Most folks are good eggs and help out a lot. Now, Regina's trying to get money for the place because there's always new kids coming in. Haven't these people ever heard of condoms?" Emma huffed.
"You'd be surprised. Parents who abandon kids like this tend to have other kids already," Thomas said.
And this made Emma sick. "The Enchanted Forest, giving me nightmares one new fact at a time."
"It wasn't that bad," Snow argued.
"I'm sure it wasn't too you, but the kid left in the woods might argue different," Emma snapped. "But, then again, you're also against giving Regina funds for Safe Place, so I guess you would figure it wasn't that bad."
"It's not even like that. Regina hasn't submitted the proper paperwork and there's nothing in the budget for her very private organization right now," David stated.
"I'm sure." Emma rolled her eyes. The eternal struggle of Prince Charming and the Evil Queen. At least Regina had stopped losing to the guy all the time, but she still lost the big things. Without the title of mayor, Safe Place had taken a hit financially, but since Belle was involved, she donated enough to keep the kids fed and warm. Other citizens also helped out. It was nice that all of Storybrooke did not think it was okay to abandon kids.
After a couple of hours, the group dispersed. Emma and Odette returned home. Regina had snacks out – peanut butter and jelly rolls, which remained Emma's favorite treat. It was awesome to share this with Odette. Henry came in just in time to get the last few. With Henry in the house, he was on "big brother" duty and their mothers had some time to themselves.
Henry liked playing games with Odette and reading to her. Regina worried about Odette playing his video games, but as long as the two were bonding, she never stepped in. Odette loved hanging out with her big brother, finding him cool, especially when he made little side comments about situations. Emma was certain that was Regina's influence, but Regina claimed it was Emma's.
They had a family dinner. Henry did his homework while Odette got to see some cartoons. Regina and Emma tended to sit through the cartoons as well, wanting to know what their daughter was learning. Regina took Odette away for her bath after a couple of shows. After the bath was a little Mommy/daughter time where Regina brushed Odette's hair and braided it to make sure did not tangle. Emma stayed out of that, preferring to goof off with Henry during that time.
Once Odette was tuck snuggly in the bed, Emma came up and read bedtime stories to Odette with Regina. Horton Hears a Who was always a favorite. Odette was also a fan of Oh, the Places You'll Go! Regina sat on one side of the bed and Emma the other. They left the book in front of Odette, wanting her to read along. She recognized some words at this point, which Emma thought was amazing. There were times when Regina had to literally convince Emma their children were not geniuses because of some of the things they did.
"Mommy… Mama… you gotta… you gotta… you gotta kiss Duckie good night," Odette reminded them, struggling to keep her eyes open after a couple of stories.
Regina and Emma chuckled before leaning down to do as requested. Odette smiled as they kissed her as well. Emma rubbed Odette's forehead as the child settled into her pillow and drifted off to the sleep within seconds.
"She's so adorable," Emma said as Odette held Duckie close to her chest in her sleep. Princess the puppy also had a place on the bed.
"She is that," Regina concurred and reached across the bed to rub Emma's bicep. "While I have no doubt I could do this myself, Emma, I'm glad you're here."
Emma arched an eyebrow. "You mean reading?" She knew Regina meant the whole "family/parenting" thing. Leaning across their dozing daughter, Emma kissed Regina. "I'm glad to share this with you. Thank you for having me."
Regina smirked. "As if I could get rid of you."
"I am definitely a bad rash when it comes to you."
Regina rolled her eyes, but she smiled. They parted ways. Emma went to hang out with Henry again. They played some video games once he was done with his homework. He had gotten too cool to hang out with her for long, having friends he needed to connect with on the game and girls he needed to text… not that Regina knew about the girls. Henry had a long, probably uncomfortable talk ahead of him when Regina finally did find out he had discovered girls. Until then, she teased him about it.
"How was driving?" Emma asked, leaning over as she tried to avoid being shot in the game. The movement did not help, but it was instinct for her.
"A lot of 'slow down, Henry,' 'there's a stop sign, Henry,' watch out for that – fill in the blank – Henry.'" He laughed as he jammed the buttons, as he had a habit of doing. She doubted he would be happy until one day he snapped the controller in half.
She grinned. "Oh, so the usual, eh?"
"I'm gonna drive off a cliff one day, just to freak her out," he joked.
"Hey, look at it this way, you endure this and then she'll show you how to balance your accounts, cheat on your taxes, and budget things for when you go to college," Emma teased.
He laughed more. "Cheating on my taxes does sound pretty hardcore."
"Don't knock it. In ten years, you'll appreciate the skill a lot more than being able to kill zombie Nazis."
He grinned. "I know Mom has a million great things to teach me, but I prefer you for driving and I think she does, too. She actually had a hair out of place by the time we got out of the car."
Emma burst out laughing. "That must have been some lesson." Regina is going to kill us both one day if she ever hears Henry's wiseassery like this.
After an hour of games, Emma left Henry on his own and went to Regina's office, wanting to spend time with her again. She sat down on the chaise and Regina got up from her desk, joining Emma without a word. Emma kissed Regina and Regina returned it, making Emma feel light and loved on the inside. When they pulled away Regina went back to her paperwork, but did not leave her spot next to Emma.
"Is that for Safe Place?" Emma asked.
"David says you didn't file the paperwork for a grant."
Regina scoffed. "Do you honestly believe I skipped out on paperwork?"
Emma grinned. "Of course not. I thought it was weird, but whatever. I'm sorry I messed up whatever truce or thing you had with them."
Regina waved her off. "You didn't mess anything up, sweetling. They've made their decisions. This was their bad move. Safe Place will continue on without them. Archie has promised more of his time for counseling, Belle has gotten a couple more teachers for tutoring after school, and donations continue to come in. Safe Place will survive."
Emma hugged Regina to her. Seeing Regina pour so much of herself into Safe Place made Emma fall in love with her all over again, each and every time. She knew Regina did not do this for her, but she often took it like that and she felt special because of that. Of course, she felt special just because Regina loved her and would probably do anything for her as well.
"You know, I love you, Regina Mills," Emma said.
"I love you, too. For whatever reason," Regina replied, as if it was such a great burden. Sometimes, it probably was.
Emma chuckled and kissed Regina again. Regina paused from her duties to return the kiss with must more gusto than before. Feeling Regina's lips move against her made Emma's heart race and her skin warm. Reaching up a hand, Emma caressed Regina's cheek down to her neck. They pulled away before things go a little more heated. Regina had work to finish, after all.
Emma loved this woman who took care of her and accepted her, bad habits and all. Regina, even now, did not try to change her. Even when they clashed, Regina just fought with her and moved on. She never asked Emma to be anything other than Emma and so she never asked Regina to be anything beyond Regina. They were imperfect, but they worked and if Regina had not taught her anything else, this was enough.
"I hope you're setting this up to tell me how Odette's change of clothes were ripped along with her original outfit," Regina commented with a playful smirk.
Emma laughed. "Oh, god. You and Henry are going to kill me tonight. Look, we both know how little Odette Mills is when she's around Alex. They're going to be two tough broads."
An elegant eyebrow arched. "Did you just refer to our daughter and her best friend as broads?"
"You should hear what I call them when you're not around."
Regina frowned. "You keep this up and you'll be babysitting on Saturday while I go out with my friends."
"You wouldn't dare. Saturday is Ladies Night for you and the girls. How would they feel if you left them to us on Saturday?" Emma teased.
Regina shook her head. Emma smiled and kissed Regina once more because kissing was always a good move. Regina did have an almost standing date with their daughter on Saturday, doing what Emma had labeled "lady things." Whenever Thomas and Ashley hung out with Emma, Regina watched their daughter as well. Sometimes, she took them on little afternoon shopping trips where they would return with tales of Evelyn creating outfits for them and talks of tea and cake. It was too rich of Emma's blood.
"You are quite lucky I do love you," Regina said.
"I am well aware, Miss Mills," Emma teased. "I miss being able to say 'Madam Mayor.'"
"Give it two years."
"Confident aren't we?"
"I have all the reason to be. After all, the mess from those goblins continues to prove I shouldn't have left office. Now, you clearly still need attention and I'm never going to be able to get through this with you in here. So, how about we retire for the night?" Regina suggested.
Emma grinned and nodded eagerly. She did need Regina's attention and Regina was almost always happy to oblige her. So, they retired to their bedroom, ending their nights in the same way almost every daily. While they might not always make love, they at least kissed, cuddled, and talked about everything, from their days to their childhoods. For them both this was more intimate than anything else. This was the best attention of all. This was what they both craved and needed. This was what healed them and kept them together. They were two sides of the same marked up, scarred coin. They made each other whole. They found each other when they were lost.
Well, thank you for sticking around for another tale from this Lunatic. I'm going to return to my padded cell, but I will be back. This pairing intrigues me. I hope you return when I do. And, if you would, please, maybe check out one of my books, Scarred for Life or Please Baby. There are links on my profile. Thank you again. I appreciate all of the support.