I began writing this directly after season 4A. There are some minor canonical references in the first few chapters, however basically everything afterwards doesn't have any resemblance to seasonal changes in plot or character dynamics.
Emma watched David sticky-tape the seams of the last cardboard boxes. Most of her belongings had already been transported to the mansion and were sprawled across Regina's marble floor in stacked heaps.
"No problem," her father assured. He had known for a while that Emma would choose to move out sooner or later, although didn't predict she'd become housemates with Henry's other mother. Or perhaps he did. It made sense, nonetheless, but the Blanchard apartment was beginning to feel a little emptier on the inside.
Mary Margaret was sitting on an armchair with baby Neal in her arms, cradling him. David was hastening with the boxes now. Emma was scheduled to arrive at Regina's that afternoon and she promised she'd join Henry on his way home from school. It started to hit her that the mansion would soon become her home too.
"We can go pile these up in your car," David suggested, hauling up the final possessions into his arms.
"Wait!" Mary Margaret ensued, putting the baby down. "Emma…"
She walked towards them and cupped her hands around her daughter's cheeks. "I knew this day would come. But I'm going to miss you. I'm going to miss you as my daughter and as my friend."
Emma gave her a timid smile. "I know. I'll miss you too."
"Guys," David croaked, muscles hurting. "I need to put these down before my arms fall off."
"Right." Mary Margaret held Emma's shoulders. "It'll be great. I'm sure of it."
"I hope so," Emma anticipated. She looked at her father before they left through the apartment door, hands full of boxes, stumbling down the hallway.
Upon reaching the street, they loaded them into Emma's car. David didn't hesitate to hug his daughter tightly, and she softened into the embrace.
"Are you sure you haven't left anything?" he questioned.
She looked at her watch and panicked. Ten minutes until Henry was due to hop off the bus.
"Hey, kid!" she called, leaning against the car-door as Henry came towards her.
He waved his hand and quickened his pace. "I'm not a kid, anymore, you know–"
"Ok kid." Emma silenced him with a hug. She had no patience for his rebuttal.
Henry glanced through the windows of her car and made a face. "Is that the last of your stuff?"
"Yeah," Emma said confidently. "Excited for more junk on your living room floor?"
He shrugged. "I don't care. Maybe we could build a fort."
"That would be pretty awesome," she agreed, opening the passenger door to let him in. "But let's not add fuel to the fire."
Regina had reluctantly agreed to let Emma stay on the premise that she wanted to be closer to Henry. She was becoming distanced from her son, distracted by curses and sheriff-duties and barnacle-Hook clouding her life. Besides, the mansion was so gigantic it could probably even house those rowdy dwarfs with ease.
"She won't be home until five." Henry guaranteed at least an hour of fun.
"Is that so?" his mother queried as she started the engine.
They cracked jokes and laughed at each other as Emma drove home, which was only a little way away, the mansion springing up from the street like a white castle amidst the trees.
"You're stronger than I thought," Emma said, surprised at Henry's ability to transport more boxes of her stuff through the door than she could herself.
"I told you I wasn't a kid anymore," he chuckled, closing it behind him. They luxuriated in the cool air of the living room. Which looked like a dumpsite.
Emma tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear and examined it all. "Regina might kill me."
"Don't be stupid," Henry teased and ran over to the hoard of mess. "This is perfect."
His mother couldn't resist the endearing charm. "I know!" she called out. Her voice echoed off the walls; she wasn't used to residing in such a spacious abode.
Henry began stacking cardboard boxes in rows and columns until a framework of two walls was set up.
"Kid…" Emma disciplined, or at least tried to, before she went over to partake in the construction.
"You're doing it all wrong," she scoffed light-heartedly, shoving Henry away.
"Hey!" he barked. "Am not."
Emma was piling up the boxes into a masterpiece. The two parallel walls were joined up and then an entrance was constructed. She even erected a beam in the middle so that a makeshift ceiling could be created. The entire thing turned into a giant cardboard enclosure with a small cubbyhole in the front, decorated with random items from around the area.
Henry grabbed a torch and threw it inside. "There we go," he said. "Our secret hiding place."
Their fort took up the majority of the living room. "Yeah, she'll never notice it," Emma jeered.
He rolled his eyes. Something he had inherited from both his mothers. "We need some pillows…"
Emma jumped into the impromptu blockhouse and set up the cushions her son was ripping off the lounge around the floor. They even threw in a blanket, because such a floor wasn't the comfiest surface in the world.
Finally, Henry jumped in after her, nearly knocking the whole structure down.
"Careful Henry," Emma muttered. "You're not a kid anymore. You're not small enough for one of these–"
He nudged her with his shoulder and Emma crashed into the pillows. It was rather dark in there but Henry managed to hang his torch from the cardboard ceiling.
"Now what?" he asked, scratching his head.
Emma grinned from ear to ear, eyes twinkling. She picked up a pillow and struck him across the chest with it.
"No way," Henry cautioned, recovering from the blow.
Emma was laughing in the corner. She couldn't help but giggle at her son's shocked expression. She laughed with her whole body, throwing her head back and then– WHACK. Henry hit her with another pillow. A war had begun.
Regina was having one of those long, boring days. Mary Margaret had enlisted her that morning to go through some of the mayoral duties that she still failed to understand. Getting Henry up and ready for school was a bore. General conversation with people in Storybrooke was a bore. Between time-travel and monsters and witches and curses, the town wasn't as alive as it should be. Nothing was thrilling. No dangerous adventures. No tracking down the enemy. No magic. At least, it wasn't as necessary.
She was spending the afternoon with Tinker Bell. Regina finally had the chance to enjoy this simple life in a way that she had never been able to do before. However, they had talked about 'happy endings' for a while and before long, it became another boring conversation to add to the list. She checked the time on the wall and sighed.
"Sorry, I really have to get going," she apologised, reaching for her jacket.
"Wait a second," Tink urged, standing up. "Why?"
Regina headed for the door. "Emma's coming over with her things."
"What things?" The fairy was perplexed.
Regina could tell she had made a mistake by letting the information slip. Tinker Bell was notorious for digging into her personal life and relationships.
"And you neglected to tell me this all afternoon?" she interrogated flintily.
"It isn't a big deal," Regina hummed, now wanting to sprint out the door.
Tink was unyielding. "I knew it."
"I knew Emma would move in eventually."
Regina was staring at her friend blankly. "You are not the prophet of my destiny, dear."
Tinker Bell shook her head and looked up at the ceiling like she had just had an epiphany.
"You and Emma!"
"Excuse me?" Regina jibed.
"I knew it all along." She was hopping around with delight, the words rolling off her tongue. "I knew the sparks were there!"
Regina arched a brow. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"Nothing," the fairy giggled. "Nothing at all."
"I hope you know…" Regina paused, turning to head outside. "We are doing this for Henry's sake."
She left without hearing a reply, while Tink was laughing under her breath.
"Henry!" Emma bellowed across the living room. He was hiding behind a stack of boxes. Their fort had become slightly deconstructed as they decided to have a war of extremes. "Where are you?"
She didn't know where the rascal had concealed himself. The saviour was perched behind the side of the lounge with a pillow in hand. "Henry?"
"That's it." She stood up and turned around, only for Henry's pillow to smash against her face. Emma was so shocked that she tumbled to the floor, dragging a glass lamp down with her, which shattered on the surface.
"Oh god," Henry gasped, cupping a hand to his mouth and dropping the cushion.
Emma rubbed her forehead. "It's alright. It was a good shot."
She looked at the floor around her, which was teeming with white shards. "Shit," she said. "Oh, sorry Henry."
He reached out a hand and pulled her up off the ground. They stared at the mess.
"I bet that it was expensive," Emma mentioned, which wasn't helping the situation. Her mouth was gaping in disbelief.
Just then, the sound of key-in-lock came into the space. Front door. Regina. Regina was home.
Shit, Emma thought, her body tensing up. Henry glanced up at her, alarmed, and quickly bolted up the stairs to his room.
"Coward!" she shouted. "Henry!"
But Emma was already in deep water. It wasn't exactly the best way to start this new chapter of her life.
Regina strolled through the entrance, heels clicking against the marble.
"What the hell?" she choked as she saw the state of the area.
Emma's jaw dropped. "I can explain."
Regina walked into the living room, which held the aftermath of all chaos. "Please do."
The other woman composed herself, standing among the rubble. "I will firstly apologise sincerely and with great regret for the mess I have created here especially because–"
"Oh, stop," Regina interrupted, scanning over the boxes. "How could I expect anything less from you?"
Emma gulped. "And Henry."
Regina turned to her and sneered. "You're selling out your own son?"
"It was his idea. But I take full responsibility for it."
"Fine. But…" She caught sight of the broken lamp. "Oh no."
The air in the room was suffocating. Regina sat down on one of the boxes and placed her fingertips on her temples.
"I'm so sorry, Regina."
The older woman sat in silence for a moment, ruminating over the mayhem. Finally, she said something in quiet tones. "It's quite alright."
Emma felt awful.
"I'll show you to the guestroom."
She rose up and waved a hand at Emma, who followed her obligingly up the stairs. She walked slowly and the sheriff admired for the thousandth time how good she looked in black.
"Henry!" she called. The boy was hiding away in his room, sharing Emma's guilt.
"Henry?" Regina repeated, creaking his door open.
He was sitting on his bed, swamped in miscellaneous sheets of paper. "Hi," he said with a cheesy smile.
Emma gave him a scowl from behind Regina's back.
"How was school?" his mother asked, stepping into the space and kissing him on the forehead.
"Good!" He continued with the over-enthusiasm in attempt to cover up the happenings of before.
"And what is this?" she inquired, brushing a hand over all the papers.
"English homework," he responded with a frown.
"Hmm…" Emma droned from the doorway. Already being an imposition in the household. "Very innocent."
As Regina turned her back to him, Henry poked out his tongue.
"Come along, Emma." Regina began to close the door.
Emma quickly stuck her head through the gap and looked at Henry. "I'm in trouble," she whispered.
They finally came to the guestroom.
"Here it is," she welcomed, the place done up, bed freshly made. Emma had never seen such an immaculate room.
"Wow," she replied. "This is great."
The blonde made her way onto the bed and slumped over it. She rolled around to her side and smiled at the other woman. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Regina lingered on the words for a moment. "Now I suppose we're going to have to unpack your things."
Emma's body curved against the blankets and she spread her arms out on the surface of the bed.
"Now, Emma. I don't want my house looking like a bombsite."
Emma rolled over to the floor and stood up, straightening out the bed. "Where's your room?"
Regina's eyes flickered. "Down the hall. Why?"
"Well, just in case there's an emergency."
She waved at Emma to come outside in order to start unpacking.
"And only if it's an emergency," she retorted. "I don't want you disturbing me at all hours of the night."
Emma grinned. "What makes you think I'll do that?"
They dragged Henry out of his room to help downstairs, needing all the assistance they could get.
"You seem like a person with bad sleeping habits, Emma."
Henry was apathetic. Regina had kicked off her heels. Nevertheless, they began carrying the boxes up to the guestroom, or now, it should be called Emma's room.
Emma didn't actually have a hoard of stuff at first. She wasn't sentimental. Though, she had accumulated a fair amount throughout her years of living in Storybrooke. She arrived at the town with barely anything, although sooner or later became attached to the items in her room at the Blanchard apartment, magnetised to the feeling of home.
Once they were all stacked up on the floor by the bed, Emma and Henry started to rip them open and organise her possessions around the room.
Regina leaned against the doorframe, watching her son and her– friend? Co-parent? Whatever Emma was, she was lost in the sight of the woman and her son working together.
"I'm going to start the dinner," she said with a smile.
"Kid, you are one hell of an interior decorator."
They had finished the last of the unpacking. Emma's clothes were now in the wardrobe and drawers, things lined up in rows and put in their place just like normal.
"You think Regina will mind if I put my stuff in the bathroom?"
Henry shrugged his shoulders. "Nope."
There were a few in the mansion. Henry had his own. After all, he was basically a messy teenage boy. Regina had her own, too, but her things were still scattered in the main one – perfume, makeup, fancy bath salts and soaps everywhere. Emma gawked at them as she arranged her things.
Henry poked his head through the doorway. "Is everything alright?"
"Yeah," Emma certified, turning around. "Everything's great. I should wash up before dinner."
The boy went back to his homework and awaited the lasagne his mother was making downstairs.
Emma had been having a hell of a busy day. She packed up her things early in the morning, and then raced to work, only to receive a bunch of phone calls from random townspeople complaining about various things in Storybrooke. She did paperwork. She had lunch at Granny's. She examined a case of robbery down at the docks. She ran home and got her things together, doing a few short trips over to Regina's before the final one, when she would leave her parents for good.
She scrambled around the bathroom, deciding she would have a shower. Emma didn't hesitate to blast the water pressure, fogging up the mirror with steam. Nor was she reluctant to explore Regina's products, one of them a rose-coloured wash that turned the water and steam pink. And everything smelt amazing.
After indulging herself, for once, without Snow or David or even Henry banging on the door, without timed showers and chaotic mornings in her family's apartment, she re-dressed and went to find her son. However, after peeking into his room, it became clear that he had gone down for dinner.
Emma went to investigate. Henry was watching TV. (So much for homework.)
Regina was in the kitchen, reaching up into a cupboard for plates.
"Hey," Emma greeted, sauntering in.
The other woman turned around. Eyes welcoming. The sleeves of her dress were rolled up to her elbows.
"Would you like to give me a hand?"
Emma took the plates from her. "Sure."
They set the table as Henry barked at them from the living room. Please, just a few more minutes! It's a short episode!
"Henry. Dinner. Now." Regina called to him from afar.
He tumbled over the side of the lounge and trudged over to the dining table. His mood quickly lightened when he saw three settings, having wanted both his mothers planted firmly in his life for some time now. It was the epitome of family, and he revelled in the relief that they were at least friends.
"Looks fantastic," Emma complimented as they took their seats.
Regina thanked her. She then turned to her son.
"So, I received an email from your English teacher today."
He was looking down innocently, but feverishly scanning the day's events for any sign of trouble at school.
"I didn't do it, I swear," he confessed stonily.
"Henry," his mother laughed. "Don't worry. She simply told me that you're getting rather ahead. And perhaps you would suit the class of the year above better."
"Oh," he sighed, putting down his fork. "Yeah, she told me too."
The rhythm of school had only just begun to dawn on him. He had been off on various adventures of all kinds in the past year or so, unable to stay at the place for more than a few weeks before the next danger would knock on Storybrooke's door. Besides, his mothers were always distracted. Although not anymore.
"That's great Henry!" Emma congratulated, patting him on the back. He was beaming on the inside.
The boy had gone off to watch TV again. It was a Friday night and neither of his mothers could be bothered to make him do anything productive. The dynamic took some getting used-to.
"Maybe we should assign a good-cop and a bad-cop," Emma suggested as they stacked the plates on the dining table.
Regina wrinkled up her face. "I don't think so."
"Why not?" she urged. "You can be good-cop. I'll be the evil one."
The other woman noticed the reference.
"You know I'm only joking, right?" Emma assured.
Regina took the crockery and walked to the kitchen, singing out "I know!" on her way. She opened the dishwasher and turned on the sink's tap, rinsing the dishes.
Emma followed her, glancing over at the TV in the distance. She couldn't make out what Henry was watching. Besides, she was pretty behind the times these days, even with movies. Didn't need the things when she lived among the characters themselves.
Regina was lining plates in the dishwasher.
"Oh!" she whirred when she felt Emma's hand on her back.
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" the woman asked, resisting contact when she felt the surprise.
Regina's body softened. "No. I can manage three plates…" She felt Emma's presence close behind her, mildly, and then all of a sudden she was gone, over to hang out with Henry.
It was late. Regina had joined the others at the TV, and Henry was feverishly flicking through channels. They were hardly watching. Emma was fumbling around on her phone and Regina had reading-glasses on and a book in-hand, their son sitting between them on the lounge.
A fact suddenly emerged in his mind. "You guys," he summoned, his mothers' eyes rising from their respective recreations. "Do you realise that you're going to be with each other forever?"
"Excuse me?" Regina inquired, wide-eyed.
"I mean that you'll always be in each other's lives. And so will I."
Emma shrugged her shoulders. "So what?"
"Forever is a long time," Henry pondered.
"What do you mean so what?" Regina flared at Emma. "There are many people who would kill to be in my presence every day."
Emma laughed it off and nudged Henry's side with her elbow. "Hear that, kid? It's the sound of people lining up."
"Well…" Regina rasped, her voice falling an octave lower. "Not anymore."
"What do you mean?" the others questioned in unison.
"Having two children living in my house now?" she goaded sarcastically, pointing at them. "Must be very attractive to all my suitors."
"Too bad," Emma blurted out from the other end of the lounge. "There are only two cops in this household."
"But only one sheriff," Henry pointed out, holding up the TV remote like a trident.
Emma giggled and looked at Regina, her head buried in the book, which covered her face. The moment had passed and she sunk into the lounge, feeling languid from the day's chaos.
"I'm going to call it a night," said the sheriff, standing up and stretching out her arms.
"You sure?" asked her son.
"Yeah." Emma reached for him and bent over to lightly kiss his forehead.
And then the pages of Regina's book obstructed her faint voice as she said: "Goodnight, Emma."
Emma walked away, brushing her hand over the other woman's shoulder as she passed. "Night," she called from outside the room.
"I guess she must have been really tired," Henry considered, still fiddling with the remote.
"I guess so," his mother said slowly. Emma wasn't as much of a household imposition as she previously thought. All the worries she had concocted in her head before were smothered by the blonde's pleasantness. It occurred to Regina that she was desperately trying to find reasons Emma shouldn't be the most fitting of parents. Or partners. But that was out of the question.
"I think I'll go to bed too," Henry declared.
Regina raised her eyebrows. "Well, this is a first."
"Too much excitement for one day, I think," he mumbled to himself. His mother decided that there was no point hanging around alone, so she too would go to her room.
The lights and TV were turned off and they made their way up the stairs. Henry went to change and Regina glanced down the hall at the open door to the guestroom, which was now filled with the one person she couldn't quite make out her feelings for. She sighed as she walked to her own room, which was empty and had been for seasons long, breathing in the scent of the evening. Which was withering, but hadn't wilted yet.