A/N: I apologize for the delay. I had half of it written within a week of posting my last chapter but then my life just went off the rails and I wasn't able to focus on anything. Those of you who follow me on twitter will know I had a really bad month that's sort of still ongoing.
Let me know what you guys think of this chapter in particular but also this story as a whole. It was fun writing it and I'm happy I managed to finish it. There's nothing worse than unfinished fanfic.
"Hey, Swan, any plans for the holidays? Taking the missus anywhere special this year?"
Ah, really? You don't go meet family for one Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone now expects the rebel to come out again, and miss another one. Yeah, no. Emma has decided she won't run away from her problems, not that she could even if she wanted too. Regina won't let her run away from issues. But it's not her fault it was easier to go to Las Vegas after they just moved from Storybrooke. Apparently that was a no-no, or looked more like some sort of rebellious behaviour, but her new colleagues were impressed. Oh, well, they'll have to be disappointed. She wasn't actually rebellious, she just didn't have shit to do that time, and convinced Regina to go to Las Vegas.
"Nah, just visiting my parents, and spending time with the family. The kid will join us as well. How about you?"
But his answer doesn't register. She hears something about the in-laws, and Aunt Mauriel, and it sounds like tedious, but really it's not that bad. Try having Thanksgiving with Snow White, Prince Charming, the Wicked Witch, Belle, and Rumpelstiltskin, while your wife is the former Evil Queen. Yeah, Emma is positive nothing can beat that.
Later, when she's alone behind her desk, she has a few moments to think of what her life has become. She knows her family dynamics are quite funny, quite unmatched by anyone she knows. She's a lot more relaxed about all this now. Having been away from Storybrooke for three years helped her relax, and get a new perspective on her life. The pressure to live up to some pre-destined life is gone. She's just Emma Swan-Mills now, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Three years ago they left Storybrooke. Emma found a job in the police force. Initially she wanted to work in the bail bonds field, trying to use her old contacts from Boston and New York. She got a pretty quick veto from Regina on that for being too dangerous. So, she just became a police officer, but with support from Regina, she did a few courses to become a detective. She decided to specialise in helping women and children come out of abusive relationships. It felt right. She could help women who were in a similar situation she was not so long ago.
Physical and emotional abuse are all too real, and women need a support system to not only recognise the pattern, but to leave an abusive lover behind. She's learned that somehow she was a lucky case, that it usually takes women an average of seven violent incidents before they even consider leaving their abusive partners. Emma mostly endured emotional abuse, and even so it took her a few months to see the pattern. It creeps on you, especially if you're desperate for love, as she found many of these women are. Regina was of the opinion that certain books and movies don't help women break the pattern of abuse and only make it worse by romanticizing it. Emma agreed, after all she left herself be emotionally abused time and time again under a notion of what true love should be like.
Regina has adapted quite well to life outside Storybrooke. She has advanced quite well on the ranks in Treasury in a very short term. Emma knows that Regina's plan is to become the Chief Executive of IRS within the next ten years. Nice plan, as she's still young. Regina is not the type to sit too idle, and as per Regina's own words, she was idle for twenty-eight years, it was time to move up that ladder. Regina just has a lot of ambition, and it rubs off on Emma, as well. Regina was the reason Emma became a detective, and now Emma wouldn't have it any other way. It's a challenging job, but she works in her field where her strengths of finding people and clues are used to the max. Emma remembers early on that Regina was afraid to be too ambitious. She was afraid it's all because of Cora's influence, and was afraid to not become a copy of Cora. It took Regina some time to get over the fact that being ambitious is a positive trait, not a negative one, that one should not usually settle for less, and that really their previous relationships were miserable because they thought they couldn't do better.
Henry is at university in New York. In the beginning Regina used to call or text him daily, but then she thought maybe she'll suffocate him so she eased up on the calls. It turned out that Henry liked the calls and texts, and Emma teased him for being a Mama's boy, while secretly being so happy for the two of them. She's not complaining, not really, except that Henry sometimes tends to call at different hours requesting advice on this and that, and how do I make this recipe, because he was trying to impress a girl.
The move was good for all three of them.
As for the people they left behind, Belle and Rumple were surprisingly supportive. Or not really that surprising, since Rumple and Belle also managed to leave town, and relocated to Neal's apartment in New York. Rumple said it was better for all, including their baby. It was for the good of his family to not be part of such a town, not with his history. He was probably sick of always being blackmailed into doing one thing or another by various people. Goodness, both Emma and Regina were guilty of blackmailing him to get stuff out of him, and using his love for Belle nonetheless. There's only so much anyone would take before they snap.
It wasn't surprising Rumple looked at ways of getting his family to safety. Surprisingly both Rumple and Belle became invested in Henry's life, taking that grandparent role quite seriously. Regina wasn't too taken with the idea in the beginning, but she came around when she realised that it would be beneficial for the kid. Plus, Belle made sure Henry would eat home cooked meals at least once a week, as Regina was convinced that student life meant Henry was prone to order take away, unless he tried to impress.
Snow and David were a different story. It took them almost a year to come around, and act like the parents they always pretended to be. At Regina's insistence, Emma started calling them once a week after they moved to Washington. Regina insisted there was no point on holding a grudge. It's clear that her parents love her, but they can't get over the fact that their daughter is with Regina, and that maybe they'll come around if Emma makes the first move.
Regina was right. A year or so after they moved, Snow and David started talking with both of them on Skype, not just Emma. They found out later, from Ruby, that David cried for almost three months after Emma left. Emma couldn't muster too much sympathy for that, not when they would not speak with Regina, and still blamed Regina for moving away, despite Emma making it clear this was not Regina's decision.
But the relationships between their families improved, and this took a burden of Emma's shoulders. She loved Regina with all her heart and would never leave Regina, but it just hurt her so much to know her parents were not accepting of her wife.
Later, as Emma prepares to go home, she receives a text message from her wife.
R: So, we are on baby-sitting duty tonight. Zelena just informed me she has a date. I swear she picks these dates on purpose to make my life miserable. We have to pack.
E: Well, tell her that.
R: I did, but do you think she listens?
E: I'm sorry. I'll be home soon and you can pack while I play with the little munchkin. How's that for a plan? Do I need to grab anything?
R: Yes, grab that tea she likes. We know she's going stay over for a cup, and just go on and on about how awful the date was, and how dim-witted the other person was.
E: Oh, I can't wait. I love that part. I could make a blog about all these stories and I bet it would get popular in no time.
R: Don't encourage that, please. I have no idea where she finds them.
R: Smartass. Just get home already.
E: Coming, coming. See you in a bit.
R: Drive safely.
By the time Emma got home, Regina was already there and entertaining her six-year-old niece. Regina loved spending time with the kid, and she loved pampering her. The kid was fun and well-behaved, which was a good thing. Zelena was not a bad mother at all, she was just over dramatic. It drove Regina nuts at times, but Emma absolutely loved hearing all about the disastrous dates. She was in for a treat tonight.
"Hey, kid," Emma greeted as soon as she entered the kitchen where Regina was baking some cookies.
"Hi, Emma," her niece greeted happily and then turned her attention back to the task of shaping the cookies.
"Hey, love," Emma said sliding behind Regina, and kissing her on the cheek, "What are you guys doing?"
"Oh, I approve. We should have her over more often," Emma said, reaching into the batter mix.
"Emma, no, it's not baked yet."
"But it's still good. What's the point in making cookies if you can't have a bit of that?"
Regina just narrowed her eyes.
"Go shower and get changed. We will have dinner shortly."
"Yes, ma'am," Emma says, slapping Regina's butt in the process.
"Emma," Regina yelps, and then grins widely at Emma's retreating back.
Dinner was uneventful, and they managed to put the kid to sleep relatively quickly. Emma and Regina just managed to pack when Zelena arrived after her date. The date went well though, to Emma's slight disappointment, that she won't have some funny stories to add to the list. Zelena didn't give too many details away about the date, but Emma figured she'll get it out of her eventually.
After Zelena left, they decided to call it a night, since they were going to drive to Storybrooke the next day to have dinner with Emma's family. It was an unspoken agreement that Christmas and Thanksgiving would be spent in Storybrooke, and Emma found that she didn't mind that.
But minutes passed and neither of them was able to fall asleep.
"What are you thinking about?" Emma asked, turning to face Regina
"I asked, what are you thinking about?" Emma asked again, realising Regina was too focused on whatever she was thinking to hear Emma, "You seem really deep in thought."
"What kind of stuff?"
"Perhaps another time. It's late and we have to get up early tomorrow."
"Regina, clearly something is troubling you. What's wrong? You can tell me."
"I'm not… nothing is troubling me. I was just thinking about stuff in general."
"Like what?" Emma asks now getting up on her elbow and facing Regina.
Regina sighs, knowing she won't win this, and that Emma won't let it go away until she has an answer, so she might as well voice her thoughts.
"I was thinking that I really loved having a child in the house. It made the house look so alive."
"Like I said, this is something I would like to discuss at an earlier hour in the day."
"I would like that."
"Yes, really," Emma says with a smile, looking fondly at Regina while caressing her cheek. She then bends towards her wife, and kisses her.
When they break apart Regina is giving her a 1000 watt smile.
"Sounds like a plan," Regina says yawning, "Now come here I want to go to sleep. It's been a long day, and we will have a longer day ahead of us."
Emma scoots back in Regina's arms, and entwines her hand with Regina's, giving her a loving squeeze.
"I love you, Regina."
"I love you too, Emma."