During lunch, it became clear to Emma that the only four people who remembered anything from the weird alternate Enchanted Forest were herself, Killian, Regina, and Robin. Everyone else just seemed pleasantly surprised that the cost of putting Regina back together had been easier than the Dragon had made it sound. But the four of them kept exchanging anxious glances.
After lunch, Regina beckoned Emma over to the back hallway of the diner. "Can I talk to you for a minute? It's about Henry," she added quickly. Emma followed.
"This isn't about Henry, is it?" she asked knowingly after checking to make sure they were out of earshot.
"Of course not," Regina said, rolling her eyes. "What do you think we should do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, we just spent two months in an alternate universe!"
"I know, but they don't know that!"
Regina paused. "You don't think we should tell them?"
"I mean …" She shrugged. "What's the point?"
And what was the point? Sure, it had been incredibly messed up and emotionally fraught, but there didn't seem any reason that they had to tell the whole, long story to everyone. They didn't remember how Regina's actions had affected them, and more importantly, all of it had been undone anyway.
"Besides," she continued, "Gold's already pissed as hell. Why let him know that you did something to make his life worse?"
"That's true," Regina said. "It's just … a bit strange, knowing something that only you, Robin, and Hook know about."
"Maybe we'll tell them someday," Emma admitted. "Just … not today."
"Why do you think it happened that way?" Emma asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I thought that you would just … be Evil Queen all the way again, and it would be like when I first came to Storybrooke. Why did we end up in the Enchanted Forest?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "But … honestly, in a roundabout way, the original curse was my happy ending. Thanks to Henry—to you—I was able to become the person I am now. Without it, I would have stayed in the Enchanted Forest, miserable and, well … evil."
Emma nodded. "Well, I don't know if I can really thank you for causing my parents to stick me in a wardrobe and send me away for twenty-eight years, but I will say, I'm glad that this is the reality we live in. I like it a lot better."
Regina snorted, but she smiled.
"So, you and Robin need to get Roland," Emma continued.
"Yeah." Regina sighed. "Getting the damn wand from Gold's going to be a chore."
"Belle will help," Emma reminded her. "Anyway, I know I was weirdly hyperfocused on the how before, but I want you to know, I'm really happy that Robin is back."
Regina smiled. "Thank you. I'm just … well, I guess you know exactly how this feels."
Emma laughed. "Maybe not exactly, but yeah, I know the overall feeling."
"It was Zeus," Regina said quietly.
Emma frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Robin told me." Emma stiffened a bit, not in fear, but in anticipation. Regina continued. "When his spirit had freed itself from the crystal, he went to the Underworld, just like he should have. And when he was down there, he found out about the whole serum thing—it kept him from moving on, thinking that his death had caused me to do it. Once I was able to reconcile myself, he moved on and …"
"Zeus sent him where he belonged," Emma said knowingly.
Regina nodded. "As far as Zeus was concerned, Robin's death shouldn't have happened. So he was just … righting a wrong."
Emma reached out and put her hand on Regina's shoulder. "Good. Now, let's go get that damn wand."
Negotiations with Gold went as smoothly as they possibly could, and by the end of the afternoon, Roland was back from the Enchanted Forest. The kid was beyond ecstatic to be reunited with his whole family—his father, Regina, and his baby sister.
Meanwhile, Emma felt weirdly in denial. It was hard to believe that everything was … well, over.
When they returned home, Henry headed up to his room to work on his homework, and Emma plopped down on the couch with a sigh. They were home for real now. In their house, in Storybrooke, with everything … okay.
"You all right, love?" Killian removed his shoes and jacket before joining her on the couch. "You seem agitated."
"I'm fine." He raised an eyebrow at her skeptically. "Just … I feel like there's got to be something else that comes up."
"The next fight, you mean?"
"Yeah. Robin's back, the Evil Queen is gone—or, not gone, I guess, just … back where she's supposed to be? I'm not gonna die, there are no more problems right now. I mean, except for Gold, I guess."
Killian chuckled. "Alas, the Crocodile has always been a problem, and I'm sure he'll provide us with another conflict soon enough."
"Yeah, can you imagine how pissed he would be if he knew what had really happened?"
"Which is why I agree with you that we should keep this a secret," he said firmly. "We have enough trouble with him as it is."
She nodded before something occurred to her. "Why do you think no one else remembers? Besides us, Robin and Regina, I mean."
"We broke the curse—or spell, whatever it was," he suggested.
"Robin and Regina broke the curse or spell or whatever."
He rolled his eyes. "After we broke part of it, the part keeping our memories from us."
"You think it's as simple as that?"
"I suppose. Does it matter?"
"I guess not," she grumbled. She didn't like not knowing things for sure.
"So what now?" he asked, stretching his legs out.
"I don't know," she said. "I guess we just try to keep an eye on Gold. We also have to keep helping people from the Land of Untold Stories—I know a lot of them are still dealing with some significant culture shock. And I promised Aladdin that if he and Jasmine needed any help with Jafar, he could get in touch with me. But assuming that Gold behaves and everything in Agrabah is fine, I guess we'll actually just be able to be … normal." He laughed. "What? Things could be normal. You keep saying I should be more optimistic!"
"It's not that, darling," he said, still chuckling. "I was thinking more along the lines of what now tonight."
"Oh." She covered her face with her hands. "Jesus. Yeah. I guess we should have dinner."
"That is likely the best plan," he said, standing up and heading into the kitchen. "By the way, don't think I haven't noticed you've still got your shoes and coat on, love."
She chuckled and got up to put her jacket and boots away. "So strict."
Once she was done, she went back to the couch and curled up on it, watching him as he made dinner. In the short time they'd been living together, he'd expressed a serious interest in learning to cook in a modern kitchen; it had been fun to teach him, and nice to share some of the responsibility (even if she had to constantly convince him to try some more appetizing recipes—Henry continued to complain about what he referred to as the "Mackerel Incident").
"Need any help?"
"Thank you, darling, but I think I'm all set."
"Don't we have leftovers?"
"Unfortunately, no. It's too bad; this would be the perfect night for them."
"So what are you making?"
"Stir-fry. Although—bloody hell, are we out of rice?"
"No, there should be another bag."
"Are you sure? Oh, never mind, I see it. Thank you."
It was so strange that within the past few hours, she'd lived what felt like a whole lifetime in the Enchanted Forest. And now everything was … normal. She was home, relaxing on the couch while her boyfriend cooked a late dinner and her teenaged son did his homework. This could just be her life.
She could just wake up every day next to Killian, and enjoy breakfast with him, and Henry when she had him. She could go to work and deal with mundane bullshit, like animal control or bar fights. She could grab lunch with her parents or Regina or Killian. She could have dinner at home, just like this, or go to Granny's or the loft to eat with her family, or maybe she and Killian could get dressed up and go out on dates, just for fun. She could go for a run, or stay home and watch Netflix, or reread Harry Potter for the millionth time, or take Killian to see the world outside of Storybrooke.
And she could go to sleep next to him every night, and make love to him, and have him whisper into her ear how much he loved her, even though it always made her blush like crazy.
"Okay," she said out loud.
"What's that, Swan?"
"Okay, let's get married." He didn't turn towards her. "I said, let's get married," she repeated.
"I heard you, Swan."
She frowned. "So?"
He turned around and raised an eyebrow at her. "That's it? Just, 'Let's get married?' That's your proposal?"
"Hey, come on! You said you were ready to marry me, and that all I needed to do was tell you I was ready. Well, I am, so … let's get married."
He shook his head and went back to chopping up peppers. "I might not have been such a young man during that conversation, my darling, but I do recall it with clarity. And I believe I told you more than once that I was expecting something more romantic when you proposed."
She opened her mouth to argue, but remembered that he had, in fact, said that. "So you're saying no?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't say yes."
"That's true. You're very astute, Swan."
"So if I actually asked, 'Will you marry me?' what would you say?"
"Give it a go."
"Will you marry me?"
"That's the whole proposal?"
She groaned. "Killian, you have to answer yes or no!"
"I do not." He went over to the fridge to grab the chicken.
"Yes, you do!"
"See, if I say no, it lacks nuance," he explained as he continued to make dinner. "It implies that I will not ever say yes, and while it's true that I'll wait until your proposal is adequate, I doubt you'd punish me or yourself by never making such a proposal. So it's likely that I will eventually say yes, hence why I can't answer no."
"I didn't realize I was getting a TED talk, but okay."
"A yes, however, also lacks the necessary nuance," he continued, ignoring her. "What I mean to say is 'Yes, I will marry you once you propose properly.' But if you know I will eventually say yes, you'll refuse to put any effort into your proposal. You know me well enough to know that I do love me a dramatic romantic gesture."
"I went to the Underworld to bring you back from the dead. I was going to split my heart in two and share it with you."
"That's true, but you didn't propose then, did you?"
"So it doesn't count."
She lay back on the couch with a groan. "You're impossible."
"And you love me for it," he replied affectionately.
Soon, the smell of stir-fry filled the air. "You might want to get Henry. Supper will be ready soon, and it's his job to set the table."
"Okay." But before she headed for the stairs, she walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "Killian?"
"Yes, my love?"
"When I do ask—will you say yes?"
He set down the tongs on the spoon rest and wrapped his arms around her. "Yes, Swan. I will."
She grinned. "That counts!"
His frustrated sputtering as she went to get Henry was entirely worth it.
I'd like to thank you all for reading this story. I'm grateful for all the support and feedback, and for the love shown for this story on Tumblr in the CS Fan Fic Awards! I hope that you found the ending satisfying.
Thank you again to my beta-readers: zengoalie, scapeartist, and optomisticgirl. And of course, all my thanks and love to swankkat, not just for the phenomenal artwork or the additional beta-reading, but for her incredible friendship. Please check out her Tumblr to see the artwork, including a lovely piece for this epilogue.
This is the last update I'll be posting on FFnet. Please check out my AO3 page or my Tumblr for new stories!