"Hey Mom," Henry called out, pushing open the substantial wooden door to his mother's house and making his way inside. "I'm home."
He wondered if she was preoccupied when there wasn't a quick response. Henry doubted she was upset with him for spending a night that was supposed to be theirs with his grandparents and other mom. Henry couldn't have left Emma; not after she had wanted to give up her powers, not after he hadn't seen her since she hurt him. He had needed to stay with her and show her that he was alright and not afraid. Mom had reminded him of that.
If she were mad, she couldn't be that mad. The house smelt of her apple pancakes. Henry hadn't known he had missed them all the time he had been apart from her until her love had broken the last curse. His love of all things apple and obsession with the apple tree in Central Park all made much more sense. Dropping his backpack in its spot in the hall, he made his way to the kitchen. His mom was doing way better than he expected considering she had let Robin Hood go and was working on a new happy ending.
It would be easier, Henry thought to himself, if only one of his moms had a crisis at a time. Keeping up with both of them at once was almost too much.
Turning the corner to the kitchen, Henry stopped dead in his tracks. Inside his kitchen was his mother and there were apple pancakes but she was not alone. Pressing his mother against the counter, was Robin Hood, in a tank top and pants. His hands were on the counter on either side of her and his lips were pressed to his mother's neck and he really did not need to be seeing this.
He began to back out of the kitchen as his mother giggled (giggled, she actually giggled) and said, "Really, Robin, I am going to burn these pancakes if you don't-"
Closing his eyes and backing away slowly had not been a good idea as Henry smacked right into the door jamb behind him. The loud thwack reverberated through the kitchen. He opened his eyes cautiously and found his mom gaping at him over Robin's shoulder. Henry felt the wince form on his face as he said "Hi, Mom." He paused and then said, "Robin Hood," with a nod as the man turned around.
It couldn't have been more than a few seconds but it seemed to stretch like hours as the three of them stood in the kitchen staring at each other. Henry wants his mother's happiness more than anything, both of theirs, but this wasn't...she had given Robin Hood up, or he her, and now... Henry wasn't sure what to make of it. Their relationship had formed when he had not remembered her and they has been pretty discrete once he remembered.
"I..." Mom was rarely ever at a loss for words, but her mouth worked open and closed a few times while she pulled the edge of her robe up her shoulder. Her mouth snapped shut and she grabbed "We didn't hear you come..." She broke off her statement, dropped Robin's hand and exclaimed "Damn!" and grabbed the spatula off the counter
The sweet smell took a bitter edge and Regina muttered under her breath the whole time as she tried to salvage the pancakes. How many mornings, Henry wondered, had he woken up to her making breakfast in this kitchen? How many had he resented her while she did it? Today was not the same though, as there was another man watching his mother frown at the food she had been making.
"Well," Mom muttered, picking all of the pancakes up with one spatula, "Those are ruined."
Robin reached a hand out and stopped her before she could slide them into the trash barrel. Henry felt his nose wrinkle at the touch. "I have eaten blacker food for my meals before, Regina. I am sure they are still quite edible."
The look she shot Robin was one he knows well, imperial but also affectionate, "Edible is not quite what I was aiming for. There's more batter," she turned her head and offered Henry the smile he is quite familiar with. "More than enough. Sit, both of you."
The blackened disks slide neatly into the trash. Oddly, Henry felt as if he had no right to be in his own house interrupting their privacy. "I can-"
Before he could say the word go, his mom cut him off. "Certainly sit and have one of your favorite breakfasts and humor your mother."
Robin began shooting looks between both Regina and Henry. "I can go, Regina," Robin said, tentatively, "I have been away from camp and-"
His mother sniffed and Henry knew that noise to mean that her temper was stretched thin. "If Little John is tired of watching Roland you can have him dropped off here for breakfast." She sighed, wiping the burnt remains off of the griddle pan. She threw the paper towels into the trash before going into the fridge for the carafe of orange and grabbed a glass from the cupboard. "After the past twenty-four hours I believe our discretion is a thing of the past."
Henry watched as the orange liquid filled the glass. It was placed at his usual seat at the counter, and Regina swept back to the fridge to put the glass pitcher away. Looking at them over her shoulder, she once again pulled at her robe to make sure it was secure. "I am going upstairs to put on pants and then I will make a fabulous breakfast. Don't leave, either of you."
Then she swept out with a regal air only she could pull off while wearing nothing more than a nightgown and an old silk robe she had nearly Henry's whole life and her bare feet padded against the tile. This smiling, laughing, slightly embarrassed woman was his mother. He sat heavily in his stool, at least he still considered it his, and tried to wrap his mind around everything. Just two days ago she had told him there was no hope for her with Robin but she was not giving up on herself.
There had been tears in her eyes and voice as she had told him "The next time a happy ending comes around for me, I'll be ready." He had wanted to stay with her but working for Gold was all part of Operation Mongoose. So he had gone and then Emma had disappeared and he wasn't sure when everything had changed.
Silence had fallen once again in his childhood home and Robin had joined him in a stool at the kitchen counter. Robin reached out and picked up a mug that must have been filled well before Henry came home. Henry watched him take a sip of his coffee and asked, "What do you want?" before he could think better of it.
Robin choked on his drink and Henry felt strangely satisfied. Mom would have chastised him for his impertinence had she been with them and the question was one that would have been more likely to come from his mouth so easily when he was younger. Still, it was only fair he got to ask. He liked Robin. Henry felt for him, but this man had broken his mother's heart and led her to shutting herself off from everyone, including Henry. Forgiveness did not come freely when his mother's heart and happiness were at stake.
The man next to him slowly lowered his mug to the counter and moved it in circles on the marbled surface. Robin's brow furrowed deeply as his face fell into a frown.
When there was no response, Henry decided to clarify. "From my mom," he added pointedly.
Blue eyes shot up and looked at Henry. They were bright with feelings that Henry couldn't quite name, but they reminded him of his father's when they spoke of Emma. "What I want for your mom, Henry, is her happiness."
Henry wanted to believe him. He did. Regina deserved this. His mother, the hero, deserved someone who believed in her as much as he did one. Someone who believed in her no matter what, unlike Henry who had believed in the book as his mother had.
Letting go of the pain and tears her broken heart had brought wasn't so easy, though. "She said it was over between the two of you. You cannot just play with her feelings-"
"We thought..." Robin's frown deepened as he trailed off, seemingly in thought. "It seemed best to end things originally. I fear that was my mistake. I wanted to do what was right and I made no one happy. There is no cure we have found for Marian except True Love's Kiss and I cannot provide that particular cure."
"Because you're in love with my mom."
Robin's lips ghosted into a smile that as Henry stated the truth plainly. "Yes. She wanted me to forget her, to put her out of my life, mind and heart. Honest, Henry, I am not certain anyone could forget your mother, even if they tried. I did try," Robin admitted looking down into his coffee. "Because she asked."
"So?" Henry asked.
"So, we are figuring things out. I will not forget her. Your mother brought back a happiness into my life that I had not felt in years and I to her. Marian's return from the dead cannot alter my feelings and I cannot put Regina out of my life."
"She could make you forget," Henry pointed out, wondering why his mother hadn't. She had a habit of doing what she thought was best without considering the consequences. Then again she had been more open since meeting Robin Hood. Perhaps she could not bear to break her own heart.
"Henry, not only is forgetting her impossible, I have no wish to. We will find another way to wake Marian and once we do, I will explain that I cannot go back to the man who was Marian's husband. We will find this author as well and see to it that your mother can believe in herself."
Henry's eyebrows shot up and he felt his mouth fall open. "She told you about Operation Mongoose?"
If Regina was willing to trust Robin with her mission, Henry would have to, too.
"Operation..." Robin's brow furrowed and his head tilted as he tried out the word, "Mongoose?" Rather than looking past Henry, he now looked directly at him, and asked, "What is a mongoose and what does it have to do with a book?"
Henry hid a smile in his drink as he took a sip of juice and thought of how to explain. As the glass returned to the counter, he began to explain. "A mongoose is an animal that eats cobras, snakes and..." Robin continued to look confused Henry trailed off. "nothing. It has nothing to do with books," but everything to do with Regina's happy ending. Still, that piece of the story was also his mother's to share. "I'm glad she told you. The more people working on it the better."
A twinge of sadness passed now that this was not simply his and his mother's mission. Still, if this was what she wanted and if she trusted people beyond him, then Henry had to be happy.
The sound of his mother's heels clicking across the floor made the decision for Henry not to say anymore. Robin seemed to have had the same thought as he picked up his mug as Henry picked up his tumbler. When her head poked around the corner, she peered at the both closely. A tentative smile formed on her lips, before deepening. "Well at least you both chose to stay. Breakfast will be ready shortly."
"I can cook if you'd like to sit," Robin offered, standing, "talk with Henry?"
Regina turned and her smile deepened. "If I know either of you at all, I am certain that my ever precocious son has already asked you what he most wanted to know and you being your honorable self, told him." Her eyes and voice were full of easy affection for both of them. Had she been like this his whole life, Henry wasn't sure if her would have ever gone looking for Emma. "Henry and I will be able to talk later." The words, without you, did not cross his mother's lips, but Henry heard them all the same. It was a strange comfort to know that he still had that kind of place with his mother, where she would let him ask all of the questions he had between them.
Thinking back to what his mother had said before leaving, Henry said,"Mom, I don't think your cover is blown. I can keep a secret if you want this to be a secret." She worked so hard for redemption and happiness and he did not want her to be open to ridicule and derision again.
Regina merely snorted and shook her head, her free hair shaking with it. She lifted a ladle of batter from her bowl and poured the thick liquid onto the griddle pan. "Yes, you can. However, it has never been your grandmother's strong suit and she has always been about as subtle as a house falling from the sky when excited about things." She rolled her eyes as the ladle returned to the bowl. "I am certain the whole town will know by week's end."
"Grandma knows?" Henry asked, incredulous, vaguely remembering his mom and grandmother with their heads together on the path as they looked for Emma. He had thought they had been discussing his other mother and magic. They could have been talking about this but Regina wouldn't have just told her. "How does Grandma know?"
"That is unimportant," his mother sniffed.
Henry's gaze shifted to the other adult in the room but Robin seemed unwilling to share and was busily smiling into his coffee.
Rather than continue down that train of thought, Henry smiled at his mother's back. "So, you told Robin about our mission?"
"Yes." Regina bent to lift a pan of bacon from the oven. When she straightened, Henry watched the teasing look she sent the thief's way. "And he promptly proceeded to steal the book."
He smiled, as if this conversation had been a joke between them for awhile. "Again, Regina, you knew I was a thief when you met me and if I hadn't, we wouldn't have found the alternate page."
Regina shook her head at him, but kept her smile. "You don't know that."
Their banter was light and easy. Any lingering doubts about Robin began to fade as the light danced in his mother's eyes. Henry smiled at their happiness.
"Wait!" Henry exclaimed, their words sinking in. "You found a page from the book?" This was a major clue. Henry wanted to see the book and the new page. He knew the book like the back of his hand. It had to be some kind of message, but what?
"Yes," Robin answered, just as his mom said, "This conversation will continue after breakfast."
By the way his mom turned around to flip the pancakes, he knew she felt the subject matter was closed until she reopened it. Still, Henry turned to Robin and felt the other man would be much more likely to show him this elusive page than his mother who seemed to be reluctant to discuss it. Henry eyed his target and figured that Robin would be willing to forge ahead despite Regina's words.
"Can I see it?" He asked, a smile brightening up his face.
The thief began to stand, a warm smile gracing his own. "It's just in my bag."
Regina turned and gave both of them her best Queen look, eyebrow arched and lips pursed. Robin once again lowered himself to his stool. "I believe I said this conversation will continue after breakfast."
Two guilty faces smiled sheepishly back at her. Regina only rolled her eyes at them, muttered a stay put and turned back to her cooking. Catching a smile from Robin, Henry was certain they had found the right partner for Operation Mongoose to be a success. Hopefully his mom had been serious about taking her happy ending the next time one was presented to her. They had to make her fight for what she wanted without going dark. So long as he and Robin were fighting with her, however, Henry was sure she would stay in the light. His mom would get her happy ending.