A/N: Well, sometime ago a reader, thedivinemissk, won a contest on my story "When I See You Again" by guessing that the chapter titles were all linked to Stevie Nicks. As a prize, she won a custom one shot based on her prompt. This is the result. I hope you love it as much as I do, although it is quite a bit more than a one shot at this point. I am posting two chapters today and will post at least one more within the week.
If you like it, if you hate it... let me know. Writers need to hear from there readers to feel inspired to go on. As always, I own only the story. Everything else belongs to Once Upon a Time.
It had been a long day.
Henry Mills may be the son of the Queen and the Savior, but he was realizing he was also a typical teenager. All he really wanted was something to eat and for school to start after lunch so he could sleep late.
As it stood though, he had been up since six. Regina had left his lunch on the counter as she ran to an early meeting. That meal had long since disappeared. If wishes came true, Henry wished that his mother would have dinner ready when he got home. Lasagna…
Henry dropped his satchel and jacket on the bottom of the stairs and dashed to the kitchen. It was dark and quiet. Henry groaned. Dinner would be late tonight. He grabbed a soda from the fridge and started looking for something to eat. Where is mom?
In the back of the pantry, amongst all the healthy options his brunette mom kept for him was a bag of Cheetos he and Emma had hidden there "for emergencies." Regina knew it was there, and despite the fact it was not on her list of acceptable snacks, she pretended not to see it. Henry kicked the pantry door shut and headed into the living room to watch a little TV while he waited for Regina to come home.
Henry stopped in the doorway to the living area. Regina was laying awkwardly on the sofa. Her soft, even breathing said she was in a deep sleep. The deep scowl on her sleeping face said it wasn't a restful one. Henry carefully approached her, not wanting to wake her.
She must be sick. She never sleeps in the daytime unless she's sick… except when—
Henry carefully placed his snack and drink down on the table, remembering belatedly to put the drink on a coaster. She never slept during the day, except when all that drama had gone on with Robin and Zelena and the baby.
Henry studied his mother's face. She had frowned in her sleep a lot back then. It had been a blow to her heart and her ego to learn that everything was a giant lie. Robin never loved her. He had been in league with her sister to once and for all destroy her. Robin had known about Marian's death and had made a deal with Zelena to do as much emotional damage as he could in the name of his dead wife.
It had been a remarkable plan the two had enacted. And Regina had swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. She had been so desperate to be loved and wanted by someone—anyone—that she had ignored the obvious and had changed into someone nobody recognized.
When the truth bomb had fallen—Robin and Zelena were lovers, the baby was one they both planned and wanted, destroying Regina had brought them together—Regina had fallen into a very deep depression. She had admitted to Emma that it wasn't so much because Robin had lied or left her, it was that she had let her own need to feel loved and desired and important to someone blind her to the truth. She felt like a fool for having been made a fool by them both.
Henry had been ecstatic that his two mothers had become so close during Emma's months under the Dark One's curse, never more so than when Regina had cloistered herself away after the truth was revealed about Robin. Regina had stood by Emma in her darkness despite the danger and had given her the tough love she needed. While Snow cried, David tried to baby her and Hook brooded like an angst-ridden teenager, Regina had told her to get her shit together and had pulled Emma back from the brink by helping her control the darkness for her family and for Henry. Things had righted themselves as Emma had responded well to Regina's careful aggression.
So when Robin turned out to be the douche Henry and Emma had long suspected him of being, Emma had been there to help Regina get back to life. She'd given Regina some of her own medicine (get your shit together, Regina… for Henry, for our family) and Regina had responded by throwing Emma out on her ass. Henry remembered the way Emma had smiled telling him about it. It seems Emma knew Regina would be alright because the fire was in her eyes again. If she would fight with Emma, she would fight for herself.
Henry smiled now thinking of it. Emma had been right. By the end of the week Regina had gone back to the Mayor's office to work and had fired two assistants by the end of the month. Things had been pretty much back to normal.
But that had been over a year ago. Regina hadn't even mentioned Robin in so long it felt strange to Henry to even think of him. Henry followed the crease in his mother's forehead with his eyes. What's that?
Tracks down her perfect olive skin showed the path tears had taken recently. Had she been crying over Robin? Was something else wrong? Henry's expression now mirrored his sleeping mother's as he frowned in worry.
While tears were more common than they had been before the curse broke and Regina began to heal from old wounds and become more like her true self, crying herself to sleep wasn't something Henry had seen. Even when she'd napped because she couldn't sleep at night in the weeks following the Robin Hood debacle, she hadn't cried herself to sleep—at least not to his knowledge.
Henry smiled slightly. Naturally if she had done that, she would have hidden it to protect him, to shield him from the painful realities of life. He had seen so much but she still wanted to protect what innocence he still possessed. Watching her sleep now Henry felt genuine love and respect swell in his chest for her. She wasn't perfect by any means, but she loved him so completely and that was more than he had ever wished for as a child who believed her love a lie for so long.
Deciding to let her sleep undisturbed, Henry turned his attention back to his Cheetos and soda. He would slip upstairs and do some homework and maybe she would wake up feeling better. She would be embarrassed if she knew how he had studied her in her sleep. His fingers ghosted the top of his soda can and he glanced back at his mother. He was too old to do it now, but he recalled many nights as a small boy, cuddling up to her when a storm blew in from the sea or a monster rumbled in his closet. She'd saved the day and been his hero—until he found out she was the Evil Queen.
Henry regretted so many things that he had said and done, but both his mother's had assured him that his belief in her being evil had been the match that lit the candle showing Emma the way home to end the curse and set things right for them all. He smiled again, still crouched to pick up the can, gazing back at his sleeping mother. Sleep tight, mom.
As he reached again for the soda can without looking, his mind misjudged the distance and the can toppled from its perch on the coaster on the table to the rug below. Henry flailed his hands out gracelessly to stop the can's descent, knocking the Cheetos off as well. He grasped for them and in what could only be a mannerism he inherited from Emma, Henry Mills fell face first into the floor himself with a loud grunt.
"Huh? What? Henry! What's going on?" Regina's sleep heavy voice called. Henry opened his eyes as his mother was yanked from her sleep into wakefulness by his tumble.
He opened his mouth in apology without yet lifting his head from the rug but was silenced by a small, white rectangular paper fluttering down from the sofa to the ground beside him as if in slow motion. It was a photograph. Regina had apparently been clutching it to her chest as she slept and her sudden jolt upright at the sound of his accident momentarily freed it. Henry raised up a bit as Regina's coffee irises followed his gaze.
It was a photograph of Regina… and Emma.
Regina reached for the photo but Henry's youth and location afforded him an advantage and he sat up beside the coffee table and gazed curiously between the photo and his brunette mother. Was this what she had been crying over? Emma?
"Mom?" Henry looked at her with genuine confusion in his wide green eyes, so like Emma's.
"What?" Regina sat fully up now and swung her feet to the floor. "Are you ok, dear? I must have dozed off. I'm sure you are starving. Dinner will obviously be late. I'll just—"
"Mom, wait." Henry's voice stopped her rambling before she could stand and make her exit.
"What is it, dear? Are you hurt?" Henry couldn't identify the emotion crossing her face as she tried desperately to mask it. But she was failing. Fear? Was that it? But fear of what?
"No, mom. I'm fine. But…" Henry paused as she looked anywhere but at him. She was more fully awake and gaining back control of her features lost in the suddenness of their situation.
"But what, dear? You should be happy that soda wasn't open. You could have ruined my rug. And really Henry, with all the money I spend on perfectly healthy snacks, why must you choose Cheetos of all things. I should throw them out." Ahhh, there it was. Her first line of defense—attack before you are attacked, be angry, and turn the tables. Something must be very wrong.
"I'm sorry, Mom. You were just sleeping so deeply and I didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry." Henry reached out a hand and touched her bare foot. It was the closest thing to him as he still sat on the floor. His apologetic face, the timbre of his voice, the contact of his hand… he knew how to calm her and stop her from shutting him out. She was his mother and they had done this dance before.
"Oh, Henry. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you. I'll… I'll start dinner." She stood now and started to the kitchen, ruffling his hair as she went. She stooped and picked up the Cheetos bag. Henry knew it would mysteriously find its way back into the pantry despite her threat to throw it out.
"Ok," Henry called to her retreating form as she reached the front hall. "But what about this photograph. And I know that you've been crying. What's wrong?"
Regina froze in the doorway, her grip tightening on the Cheetos bag. A near imperceptible shiver ran across her figure. She knew he had the photo in his hand but she had hoped her second line of defense—leave immediately—would stave off his curiosity. No such luck.
"It's just a photograph, dear." She did not turn to face him as she spoke and her voice carried a decidedly professional tone for a conversation with her son.
"Yes. I can see that." Henry stood now and turned more fully toward her. "A photo of you and Emma that you were holding while you slept—and cried. What's going on, Mom?"
Regina turned slowly toward him, her cheeks flushed with color. "Well, if you must know, I really like my hair in that photo. It was shorter then and I was thinking about going back to that look. I must have dozed off with it still in my hand. And I have not been crying." Regina put an unnecessary emphasis on each of those last three words.
Henry folded his arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow in his best version of her. "Oh really? That's what you're going with? Mom, you promised not to lie to me anymore. Are you seriously going to try now?"
Henry saw a crack in her armor then and sadness filled her brown eyes. She had promised not to lie and he knew hearing a reminder from him would bring the truth bubbling to the surface.
"Henry," she almost whined out his name. "Just forget it. I don't want to lie but I also am not going to discuss this with you. So please, just let it go."
"No way, Mom. Why were you holding Emma's picture and crying. Is something wrong? Is she dark again? Are you fighting?" Henry's mind began to race through all the reason's Emma could make his mother cry.
"Oh, Henry, no, nothing like that." Regina turned and made her way to her son, setting aside his forbidden cheesy snack. Her arms drew him into a hug before pulling back and looking him in the eyes, her hands firmly on his shoulders. "Your mother and I are not fighting. She just—" Regina paused as if thinking of some way to avoid this conversation. Finding none, she went on. "She just stopped by earlier to tell us something. She'd forgotten in all her excitement that you would be staying late today for the Science Club meeting. But she shared something with me that made me… I suppose you'd say, it made me nostalgic and I fell asleep holding the photo. But I did not cry myself to sleep."
"I never said you did," Henry smirked at her knowingly. He pulled his mother to the sofa and they sat slightly sideways facing each other. Regina pulled her feet up on the cushions. This was a version of her, comfortable in her home that no one but Henry (and occasionally Emma on movie nights) ever got to see. "So, what did Ma want?"
Regina blew out a slow breath, diverting her eyes once again. "I think that it is something she would prefer to tell you herself. And I prefer that as well."
"Oh, c'mon Mom. What is it? I'll act surprised. She's not pregnant is she? Or sick? Oh, no. She's not sick is she?" Henry's greatest asset was also his greatest liability—his wild imagination.
"No, Henry. No." Regina shook her head and placed a steadying hand on his arm. "It's nothing like that. It was—well she—I guess to her it is good news."
"Ooookaaay." Henry frowned at his mother's words. "So, what is it?"
Regina blew out a long sigh through her nose. This sound usually meant she was frustrated. But that was Henry's goal. A frustrated Regina would spill the beans just to shut him up.
"Mom, please. What's up?" Henry slid his hand over hers still resting on his arm.
A tiny smile formed on her lips but the sadness in her eyes tinted it with grief. Henry continued to gaze expectantly into her face.
"Ok. But promise you will act surprised when she tells you. She will be angry that I told. But frankly I don't have the energy or desire to fight you." The sadness remained in her eyes but her smile became broad. This was her third line of defense—smile in the face of danger and take it like a Queen. "Promise?"
"I promise." Henry dropped his hand as she withdrew hers and sat up straight, clearing her throat.
"Your mother… that is to say Emma…" Regina hesitated and for a moment, her voice faltered. "Well, the pirate asked her to marry him and she accepted."
Henry didn't miss the way his mother spoke of Killian, as if the word tasted bad in her mouth. She always used that tone when she mentioned him. And not once—not even once—could he recall the brunette calling him by his name. She always used some insult or other. Pirate seemed to be the friendliest term she would use to address him. Most often she simply referred to him as him or he.
"Ma's getting married?!" Henry's voice was excited and confused. Sure, they had been dating a while but marriage wasn't exactly what he had expected. They didn't seem that close to him. "Wow. I'm not even sure what to say. Did she get a big ring? How'd he ask her? Are they going to buy a house or live on the boat? No. No, don't tell me. I'll need something to ask her to keep the super power from catching my fake surprise."
Regina stood abruptly and her voice became clipped and disinterested. "Yes, well, you can ask her all that in about an hour. She said she'd be back after dinner. Which, if you will excuse me dear, I will go prepare. I think I have a lasagna in the freezer."
Henry grabbed her hand as she tried to pass by him. "Wait. But that doesn't explain the photo, Mom. Or the crying. So, sit back down and we can order a pizza later."
Regina huffed as she sat and raised an eyebrow at her son. "No, we will not order a pizza. Cheetos, soda and now pizza. I swear Emma is such a bad influence on you."
"Yeah, yeah. Keep stalling. But you still have to tell me. What's the deal?" Henry pinned her with a direct gaze from which she could not look away.
"Oh, Henry. It's silly. I'm not even sure you will understand."
"Try me. I'm not ten anymore you know."
"Indeed I do." Regina shifted uncomfortably under his gaze and again cleared her throat. "You see, Emma… Emma is my only friend in Storybrooke. In any realm, really. And marriage. Well, marriage has a way of changing people. I know she has been involved with him for some time now, but marriage is different than dating. So, you see, I got out the photo and thought about how much she means—well, her friendship means to me and I may have teared up at the thought of that dynamic changing. You understand?"
"No." Henry said honestly.
"Well, I told you that you wouldn't. Being an adult is not as fun as it sounds Henry. So stop growing up." Regina winked at her son who she often admonished to stop aging on her. "And now, I really must go start dinner." Before he could protest again, Regina had picked up the Cheetos and disappeared into the kitchen.
Henry certainly did not understand. And while he may not have his blonde mother's super power, he could always tell when Regina was lying. But why would she lie? What was she trying to hide from him?
~ (SQ) ~
Henry stood in the doorway to the kitchen. He'd been upstairs for the last hour working on a mountain of math homework but a strange smell had pulled him away.
Regina was leaning against the kitchen island, a dishtowel hanging from her left hand. She had her arms folded across her aproned chest, thumb and pointer finger of her right hand pulling at her bottom lip. Her chocolate brown eyes seemed to be looking somewhere Henry couldn't see.
What Henry could see was their dinner burning on the stove. That must be the unusual smell he'd noticed in his room. Regina had apparently decided against lasagna and opted to pan sear two chicken breasts and toss a salad. The chicken, based on the smell alone, was ruined.
"MOM!" Henry yelled, pulling the pan from the burner and shutting off the stove.
"What? Oh!" Regina jerked back to reality with a start. Lifting the lid on the chicken she moaned, "Dammit. Henry, I'm sorry. I must've gotten distracted. Looks like pizza tonight after all."
Regina moved around the island and pulled out a menu from the drawer under the kitchen phone. "But, you will have to eat some salad with it. You need the vegetables."
Regina turned to her son then, making eye contact for the first time. "What?"
"Mom. What's going on? You just burned dinner standing literally three feet away. Are you okay?" Henry was really starting to be concerned.
"Yes, of course. I'm fine." Regina untied her apron and tossed it on the island. Seeing Henry's disbelieving eyes she went on. "I am fine, dear. As I explained earlier, Emma's announcement surprised me and today was already a tiring and difficult one. Nothing is wrong. Now, go order a pizza. I think I'm going to have a long bath."
"But, I thought Emma was coming over?" Henry followed his mom to the foot of the stairs.
"She is. I imagine she is on her way now. I told her we'd be done with dinner by now. And I am sure she will be hungry too. She thought I was cooking the lasagna so chances are she 'saved room' for some. So, get an extra-large with whatever toppings you both like. My credit card is in my wallet. Oh and make her eat some salad too. I'm sure that will be her only vegetables this week." Regina talked as she kept climbing.
Henry watched her disappear at the top of the stairs and in a moment heard her bedroom door close. He shook his head in confusion. He ordered the pizza with everything minus the mushrooms and disposed of the burned chicken. For the son of fairytale characters, life was always a little weird but today was taking the cake. What in the world is going on?