I don't own these characters; Disney does.
A/N: this is the sequel to Right Here and picks up a few months after that story left off. It has two betas, Kylie and TBev, both of whom are awesome. If you see any mistakes, though, that's all me.
Public Service Announcement: there will be a point in this story with Emma and Hook in a relationship. Consider yourself warned, but also understand this story is SwanQueen all the way through.
As usual, come say hi to me on Facebook.
1: Perfectly Normal
Noise through the baby monitor had replaced the need for an alarm for Regina. At six months, Nathan woke up at an hour that was workable for her. The groan next to her was enough to take her fully from her sleep before Nathan even cried from loneliness and hunger. She reached out, hand on Emma's back, soothing her back to sleep.
"You have an hour. I have the baby," Regina said.
Emma garbled something that might have been a language once upon a time. Regina smiled and gave her dozing partner a kiss on the cheek before easing out of bed. Emma grunted and was definitely out before Regina put on her robe. She paused at the door to listen to Emma's light snoring, which brought a smile to her face and a light feeling to her entire being. A loud coo from the baby monitor got her moving again.
She made her way to the nursery and found Nathan turned in his crib, pressed up against the mahogany bars. Regina shook her head as she lifted him up. He looked up at her with deep brown eyes, as if he was surprised he was being rescued.
"You would think we didn't do this every morning, my sweet precious miracle." Regina purred as she kissed his cheek. He giggled and tried to clap, but he was not coordinated enough to pull it off. "I'm going to have to wrap you in plastic when you start to walk if you get any more like your Mama."
He blew a raspberry at her, one of his favorite pastimes. She was certain Emma taught him how to do it, but she missed her chance to prove that about a month ago. Now, he did it whenever the urge overcame him and treated spitting like it was a hobby. It was almost as if he knew she did not approve, so he did it as much as possible.
"Another thing you get from your Mama," Regina sighed, shoulders slumping as if she were long suffering. Of course, she would never think that now. While she looked forward to seeing what traits Nathan might pick up from her, she delighted in seeing him do anything that reminded her of Emma. "Your mama who loves you so very much." Nathan smiled a cute, toothless grin at that.
She and Emma worked out well with Nathan's schedule. Regina did not mind getting up in the morning, never having changed her sleep schedule from when she lived in the Enchanted Forest. Emma was more than happy to stay up late when Nathan woke up at midnight. She had Nathan during the day and when Emma came home from work, she had him then.
"I know your mama misses spending all day with you," Regina said as she put Nathan in his walker. It was Mickey Mouse, purchased by his grandmother. Emma had to physically hold Regina back when Snow White asked if she loved it. Emma could not stop her from explaining how she would love to set in on fire, though. Nathan liked it well enough, using it to navigate the kitchen and dining room while Regina started her morning routine.
Before anything, Regina got Nathan his morning bottle. She grabbed one from the refrigerator and set about warming it up. She put on water for the bottle and also water for coffee. Nathan crashed into her legs a couple of times, but she only smiled at him. His feet barely touched the floor and he had no idea how to negotiate the thing, but it was adorable to watch him try, especially when his little brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to work out why he could not go through the wall.
She plucked him out of the walker once the bottle was done. He gave her a gummy smile and something like a happy cheer before grabbing the bottle and shoving it into his mouth. She kissed the side of his head, getting a mouthful of curly blond hair for her trouble. She sat him down in his bouncer chair, which thankfully had not been purchased by his grandmother, so was not covered in Disney characters. Instead, zoo animals kept him company while he sat on the counter.
"Here, you hold this." Regina tried to get him to hold his bottle on his own. Sometimes, he would, and other times he had problems with it.
Nathan took hold of his bottle at the bottom, palming it as best a chubby little hand could and put his other hand on the side. She was not sure where he got the technique from, but it was one of the reasons why he sometimes had trouble holding the bottle. She did not bother to correct his grip, instead moving on to get breakfast started. He distracted her, dropping his bottle a couple of times. She helped him out, but left him to hold his meal the whole time. Halfway through his bottle, he began wiggling and turning, wanting to get down. He would finish the bottle soon enough, so she returned him to the walker to focus on her other duties. She could hear him crashing into things.
"You are so much like your mama. She influences you, even when she's not around," Regina said. Poor Emma wanted to be around, but she had work. She spent as much time with their boys as she could, though. It was easier to be with Henry since he could pop up at the station whenever he had time, but Emma always made sure she got in time with Nathan, too. She smiled as she thought about Emma with Nathan.
"Look at you my little chubby Duckling," Emma cooed as she tickled two-month-old Nathan under his chin. He drooled in response and wiggled a little. "Regina, you see my duckling's rolls?" He was in an onesie with a t-rex on it, proclaiming him "King of the crib." Emma was determined he would be a "dinosaur kid," whatever that meant.
Regina was tucked under a blanket on the couch. She was supposed to take a nap, but it was impossible to do with Emma and Nathan in view. She loved watching them, loved how much Emma utterly adored him. It seemed insane to her that just a few months ago, she thought this would all end tragically and leave nothing but despair and agony in its wake. Nathan was the exact opposite of despair and agony.
"He is not a duckling," Regina groused, blanket under her chin.
"Tell that to his bird hair." Emma curled Nathan's wild, blond hair around her finger. His hair had gotten longer since he was born and it did odd, gravity defying things no matter how much Regina brushed it. Emma liked to fashion it into a mohawk or braid his hair whenever she could get him to sit still for a few minutes.
Regina yawned. She could not believe how tired she was, how exhausted she always was and had been since before Nathan was born. It had not been like this with Henry. "He's going to have princess curls like you."
Emma laughed. "Then, I'll have to teach him to flat iron his hair. No one mistaking us for any princesses over here."
Regina snickered and shook her head. Emma bounced Nathan on her knee and kissed his chubby cheek. He gargled. Emma cuddled him to her chest. Regina would have taken a picture if she had her phone with her or if Henry was around, but she had so many pictures of Emma hugging their sons, this one would have been a drop in a massive bucket.
"We should probably go. Mommy is tired and we're only making it worse," Emma said, speaking into Nathan's ear. Nathan let out a squeal as his response.
Regina reached out, touching Emma's bicep. "No, don't go. This is relaxing." She would never tire of seeing her partner with their children.
Emma smiled and leaned over to kiss Regina. The small show of affection had the strangest affect on Regina — it made her eyes drift shut. She was so tired. It was something beyond what she was used to. It was not like she could feel it in her bones, like weariness, but like it was smeared onto her skin. She could press on when they had company or when she had to take care of their children, but when Emma was around, she was able to slow down and drift.
"Me and Nathan are going to handle lunch. You take your nap," Emma said.
"Let him handle any knives. I don't want any accidents like before," Regina replied in a drowsy tone. Emma had almost sliced her thumb off when she made dinner about a week ago. She was banned from dinner for the moment. Lunch should not involve sharp knives, so it should be safe.
Emma chuckled. "You hear that, Duckling? Mommy trusts you more than Mama with knives. She's gonna have you babysitting me soon enough." She snuggled Nathan close to her as she vanished into the kitchen.
Regina wanted to sleep, but she wanted to see Emma with Nathan. She always wanted to see Emma with Nathan. It was only made better to see Emma with Nathan and Henry. Henry was out, though. He had a life now, being a teenager and all. Regina was asleep before Emma came back in with Nathan.
"At least you don't have to supervise me in the kitchen, hmm, Nathan?" Regina asked as he crashed into the kitchen wall. "You drive like your mama, too. Who knew driving was affected by nurture."
Nathan yelped loud enough for Regina to take it as a response. He almost sounded offended. She eyed him with a narrow gaze, but he was too busy banging into the wall to notice. Apparently, he was upset the wall did not get out of his way. With a smile, she shook her head.
She turned her attention to the pan in front of her as she made omelets. She tried to do vegetable omelets at least twice a week, not just for her, as she slowly but surely regained her old figure, but also for Emma and Henry. She already knew Emma's diet was poor, but Henry was trying to follow his birth mother's lead on abysmal nutrition. It did not help that Regina kept several cravings from her pregnancy, so there were nights when they had cheeseburgers with fries and onion rings, washed down with chocolate milkshakes. She had to get that under control one day. But, not any time soon.
Emma liked to convince her that she should indulge every now and then and Regina took that to heart. It was better for her to treat herself to her dietary desires rather than how she used to indulge herself not too long ago. Beyond that, it was good bonding time when they sat around and had a junk food meal. They shared a lot more, trying each other's food, and talking about other bad decisions they would make when it came to food soon enough.
Once she finished the spinach omelets, she got started on pancakes. She tried not to make them too big, as both Henry and Emma would swallow four or five of them regardless of the size. She did not want to weigh them down with a heavy breakfast, even though it was a good way to get Emma to come home for lunch, complaining about a stomachache and how only cuddling could cure it.
"She's so ridiculous," Regina muttered to herself. Of course, she loved it when Emma showed up for lunchtime snuggling.
She diced some fruit after the pancakes were done and then turned her attention to Nathan. It was time for him to finish his breakfast. She made him a little bowl of cereal and grabbed his bottle. Plucking him from his walker, which he finally managed to get out of the corner, she carried him to the table to give him the rest of his bottle. While she was breastfeeding, she used the bottle most of the time because Emma openly stared in envy if she saw Nathan latched onto Regina. Not that Regina wanted him to suckle, as her breasts were still overly sensitive.
Nathan cheered loudly when she put the cereal spoon to his mouth. "Sounds like my chunky butt is eating," Emma said, her voice coming from the stairs.
Even though Regina never said so aloud, she agreed Nathan was chunky. He still had all his cute little baby rolls. He did not have a wrist, just lines were his hands met his arms. The same with his ankles; they were nonexistent. He was dense, so much heavier than Regina remembering a six-month-old being. He had not met a meal he did not like. Yes, he would pause in drinking his bottle occasionally, but he always went back to it to finish it before long.
"Good morning." Emma greeted her with a minty fresh kiss. She then kissed Nathan's forehead and he grunted. They both chuckled. "I'm sorry, chunky. Am I coming between you and your meal? Now, you know how I feel about your hoarding something I want."
Regina rolled her eyes. Emma's desire for her breasts was a complaint she heard almost daily. Emma would not be able to sample the wares for quite a while. Regina planned to breastfeed for a year and her breasts were way too sensitive for Emma to do more than lightly touch on occasion, and even that was too much most of the time.
"You're lucky I love you, Duckling, or I might be upset," Emma said, twirling a lock of Nathan's hair on her index finger. He did not pay her any mind, hurrying through his cereal, so he could finish his bottle.
Regina smiled. "Did you get Henry up?"
"Had to threaten him with my gun to get him in the shower," Emma said with a grin and then her eyes drifted to the kitchen. "Oh, pancakes!"
Regina turned her attention to Nathan. "You had to get your enthusiasm for food from your mama."
"Says the woman who used to devour steak after steak while she was pregnant," Emma retorted from the kitchen.
"I'm still not convinced I didn't somehow get your appetite while I was pregnant," Regina replied. It was a joke, but not really. She had never eaten like that before, never had cravings like that before, even when she was pregnant before. Had the wish influenced her cravings to help her get closer to Emma through food? They would probably never know.
"It's possible. You were carrying my kid, after all." Emma gave her a cute, elfish smile.
Regina scoffed and focused back on Nathan as he fumbled with his bottle. The narrative they like to tell, to themselves and everyone else, was that Regina had carried Emma's baby. It was not a lie as far as they were concerned. Nathan was Emma's child as much as Henry was Regina's son. But, they knew their meaning went beyond that and that was a lie, but one Regina wanted to tell herself until it was somehow the truth.
There were ways for Emma to have "fathered" Nathan, but Regina knew they had done none of them. Even if she tried to think of ways for them to have accidentally done any of them, she came up short. But, Nathan was already so much like Emma, it was easy to pretend.
"Did you eat?" Emma asked as she sat down with a plate. She took more diced fruit than Regina expected, but it might have to do with months of nagging from Regina to get her to eat better, if only to see their sons live to adulthood.
"I'll do it after Nathan is done. Are you sure Henry went to take a shower?" Regina glanced in the direction of the stairs. He should have been down by now. She did not want him to get into the habit having to eat everything on the run. She had only just broke Emma of that habit.
"Positive." Emma cut up her pancakes, five of them as expected. They dripped with syrup. Emma liked to drown her food in condiments and sauces if she could. She did it less and less as time went on, so Regina suspected it had something to do with Emma's youth, perhaps needing to add flavor to whatever she managed to eat that day. "Don't worry about the kid so much. He's never late for anything."
Regina smirked while grabbing a cloth to wipe Nathan's face. "Unlike his Ma."
Emma rolled her eyes. "I'm on time for important stuff."
Regina would have disputed that, but Henry came in. He kissed their cheeks as greetings and pretended to punch Nathan, stopping just shy of his cheek. A terrible habit he picked up from his grandfather. One day soon, Regina would have to remember to destroy Snow White and Prince Charming before they turned both her children into barbarians. Snow White would get it soon if she continued to buy Nathan Disney-themed everything.
Henry's eyes lit up as they fell to Emma's plate. "Oh, pancakes." He rubbed his palms together, like he had plans for those pancakes.
"Make sure you eat an omelet, too," Regina said, speaking to both of them as Emma devoured her pancakes, but the eggs and spinach were not even in front of her.
Emma nodded. "So, what do you have planned for today?" She shoved several pieces of pancakes into her mouth.
Regina shook her head. "Nothing much. Some cleaning. I have the usual video conference with Kathryn and some paperwork to finish up. Marian and Mulan should be over this afternoon with Roland." These were her days much of the time for the past few months.
Emma licked syrup from the corner of her mouth. Regina had to use a lot of willpower to keep her mind from drifting somewhere dirty. Emma did not seem to notice or an insufferable smirk would have made its way onto her face. "I'll try to come by during lunch, then."
Regina smiled a little and Emma smiled back. Even though they had all agreed to let Roland get to know Nathan, Regina and Marian were still somewhat awkward with each other. Mulan was not much help, as she was awkward with almost everyone. Emma was good buffer for all of them.
"You two are gross, you know?" Henry sat down across from Emma with five pancakes himself and an omelet. He slid an omelet in front of Emma, who nodded her thanks.
Emma stuck her tongue out at him. "One day you're going to be this gross around someone and I'm going to tease you merciless for it." That was a promise if never there was one.
"Well, for now, it's my turn," Henry replied with a smug wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Okay, one, we are not gross. Two, you will never be this gross with anyone, ever. In fact, you are now banned from growing up," Regina stated. Part of her wished she could ban Henry from growing up. She missed her darling little boy when he was a toddler, but it was fascinating to watch him become an adult. It was intriguing to see pieces of herself in him. He took bits of her and made them better.
Henry snickered and tapped his fork against his plate. "Good luck with that, Mom."
"I'd like to see this trick. Not the reverse aging BS the Blue Fairy pulled with August, but legit keeping Henry at thirteen. It'd be nice to not have to buy him new shoes every three months," Emma said.
Regina wagged her finger at both of them as Henry opened his mouth to fire back. "Eat both of you. You have to leave soon."
There was no argument. Emma and Henry dug in while Regina put Nathan back in his walker after he wiggled in her arms for too long. A coo escaped him as he crashed into Emma's chair. Emma grinned down at him and tickled his cheek. Regina's heart swelled as she went to grab her breakfast, an omelet and a respectable two pancakes with her fruit.
"He's driving under the influence," Henry remarked. "You gotta fine him, Ma."
Emma chuckled. "Fine him? He doesn't even get an allowance yet. You wanna spot him a few bucks?"
Henry scoffed. "And how is he gonna pay me back? You just said he doesn't get an allowance."
They laughed a bit and Regina smiled at the scene. Her heart beat with deep satisfaction. This was her family. This cute little intimate group and everyone got along and loved each other. Who could ever want more? She had never wanted more for sure.
"These pancakes are always so good," Emma said once her plate was clear. "And the omelet looks good, too." She jumped into it.
"Mom, you are the best cook," Henry said with a nod.
Regina sat up a little taller. She felt like she would always feel pride swell in her chest when Henry complimented her. "Thank you."
Once breakfast was done, Emma and Henry were suddenly in a rush. They woke up with just enough time to sit down for breakfast and then act like the world was coming to an end as they tried to get out the door on time. Regina appreciated being able to sit down with them and was certain they forsook sleep to do that for her. She saw them off with Nathan in her arms. Henry got a forehead kiss and he tried to get Nathan to high-five him. Nathan was more interested in outside than anything else. Henry did not take it personal. Emma got a brief kiss on the lips from Regina and high-fived Nathan despite his disinterest.
Then, it was Regina and Nathan, as it had been since Emma went back to work four months ago. Regina was supposed to go back that many months ago as well, but could not bring herself to do it. She did not want to be away from Nathan yet. Emma liked to say "toldja so" whenever she got a chance, usually when Regina's separation anxiety was on full display.
Regina had not expected, had not anticipated feeling such a deep connection to Nathan, even after he was born, even after she felt it. She thought she would look at him and see reminders of the past, her three children who never got a chance. Instead, she looked at him and saw this beautiful light in her life. Yes, the pain of losing her three babies was there, but it had always been there. Nathan did not add to it any more than Henry had added to it. Her boys were sources of joy and love, not pain and suffering.
"All right, Nathan. I still have work to do, even if it's from home," Regina said, plucking Nathan out of the walker. He yelped and grabbed fistfuls of her shirt.
They went to her office. Nathan had toys on the floor while Regina had paperwork to get to. A smile dwelled on her face as she listened to Nathan gnaw on a stuffed duckling toy as she worked on zoning. The phone rang and she knew exactly who it was.
"Hey, Kathryn," Regina greeted her mayoral stand-in.
"Hey. How's my favorite Mini-Emma?" Kathryn asked.
Regina chuckled. Kathryn had decided Nathan was "mini-Emma" and Henry was "Regina the second." Kathryn was certain it would catch on. She was not wrong and Henry was not a fan. It had little to do with being associated with his mother, but everything to do with wanting to be an individual and be cool.
"Nathan is busy trying to swallow a duck," Regina replied, which was good description of what she was looking at.
"Of course he is. He's Emma, in mini form, so he has to be eating something in his spare time. How are you? Still feeling tired?"
"No. I'm getting better day by day." She still took naps throughout the day, but they were getting shorter and fewer as time went by.
"Take your time. I've got this covered," Kathryn said.
"Yeah, as long as I do the boring part of the job." She handled a lot of the paperwork for the mayor's office now.
"Hey, you offered."
"Because you decided to stay on for longer than we agreed."
"Because you want to be home with the wee one."
Regina tried to frown, even if Kathryn could not see, but found it impossible. She had not expected to love Nathan as much as she did, but then again, she had not expected him to survive, so she had done her best not to love him. Why love another dead baby? But, Nathan was resilient and she did not credit magic for that. Nathan was Emma's son and she learned from Henry, there was no stopping Emma's son. Emma tended to say the same thing about Regina's sons.
She and Kathryn went through their daily morning meeting, dividing the workload, going through what needed to be done, what each of them could do to get things done, and figuring out meetings. It took roughly over an hour, which was average. As soon as they hung up, a courier arrived, taking documents from Regina and delivering new ones. Some things they could email, but other things needed to be hard copies. She put Nathan down for a nap before tackling her new load of work. She and Kathryn did their video call at that time, too, going through necessary items before Nathan woke up.
Work halted at noon. She made some lunch, waiting for her guests and for Emma. By then, Nathan was up and crawling around. Well, trying to crawl around. He was not quite an expert yet, but he did his best. The sound of keys in the door got his attention and he started for the front door while she kept an eye on him from the kitchen. He cheered as the door opened, as if at six months old, he already knew it was his mama. Emma cheered right back as soon as she was in the house, louder than necessary, but definitely full of love.
"Did my duckling miss me?" Emma made kissy sounds with wide-open arms and Nathan made a happy noise.
Regina stepped out of the kitchen with sandwiches in hand to see Emma had Nathan in hand. Regina had to pause and take in the sight. Her heart thumped in her chest, filling her with affection. She put the platter of sandwiches down and went to hug her partner and son. Emma welcomed her, burying her nose in Regina's hair as soon as she could while Regina wrapped her arms around Emma's waist.
"I missed you so much," Emma said.
Regina made a small noise in the back of her throat. Emma said that every time she came home, be it for lunch or at the end of the day, and Regina believed her each time. How was it possible to love someone so much? Someone who was not her child. Regina did not know and did not care. She thought her capacity to feel so much had died with Daniel, but she was so very wrong.
"I missed you, too. I'm glad you came in for lunch," Regina replied.
They did not get a chance to say more as there was a knock at the door. Emma moved to answer it, keeping a hold on Nathan, who busied himself by slapping his poor mama in the neck. Regina went to arrange lunch on the coffee table, knowing it was Nathan's guest. Marian stepped in with Roland's hand in her own and Mulan behind them.
In the brief moment Regina was allowed to take them in, she thought they were a striking family. Modernity agreed with Marian, whose hair was always perfect, and she wore business casual like body armor. Mulan had finally shed her actual armor and wore something that was almost like a uniform. Mulan tended to dress in black and navy blue now, always neat and well put together. Meanwhile, Roland dressed like the average five-year-old, which was good. They were all making an effort to fit in rather than hide in the woods like Robin and his Men continued to do.
"Regina!" Roland shot at her and latched onto her waist.
Regina smiled and rubbed his back before releasing him. "Hey, honey. You're here to have fun with Nathan?" She took a step back, knowing it still made Marian a bit uncomfortable to see her show affection to Roland. She could respect that.
"I brought my favorite storybook!" Roland shucked off his backpack and held it up, the book bag, not the book.
Regina could not help smiling. "Oh, how sweet. I'm sure he'll love it." Nathan had better grow up to love reading with how many people read to him on a daily basis, or at least enjoyed sharing books with him. Roland was a kindergarten class away from knowing how to read.
Marian and Mulan settled on the sofa while Regina and Emma occupied an armchair. Nathan was on the floor and Roland sat down with him, going into his book bag for his favorite book. Regina would love to see how much Roland could "read."
Emma nodded toward Mulan and kicked her boot. "Who said you could take a lunch break?"
"My boss was not paying attention. She is not the most attentive," Mulan said with a grin.
"She's such a bad influence on you," Regina said, patting Emma's thigh. She witnessed the slow change in Mulan since she befriended Emma. She opened up, well to Emma and Marian anyway. She was still the same Mulan that Regina remembered from their year in the Enchanted Forest, but she seemed more at ease now.
Emma sat up tall. "Nah, you only think that. I'm a great influence on everyone around me."
"I can list several examples as to why that is incorrect," Regina replied.
"Would this be a bad time to mention she showed me how to cheat on doing the police reports?" Mulan inquired and she actually winked at Emma.
Emma gasped, putting her hand to her chest. "I would never cheat on those reports!"
Mulan snickered as Regina gave Emma a very weak glare. Emma smiled back and pulled Regina to her. Regina snorted and pushed away. She turned her attention to Roland and Nathan while Emma grinned.
"Thanks a lot, Mulan. You got me in trouble. You're going to have to do inventory to make up for this," Emma said.
"I have been doing inventory anyway. You and David are terrible at organizing," Mulan replied quite seriously.
"You have a point," Emma conceded with a smile.
The conversation faded for a moment as their guests and Emma had sandwiches and lemonade. The visit was nice, and short. Roland tried to "read" to Nathan, but more recited what he recalled from the book. Eventually, he climbed onto Marian's lap for "help." Marian read the story and held Roland while Mulan held Nathan, at Emma's urging. Nathan busied himself trying to eat Mulan's hair while Roland explained all the best parts to him. Regina was sad to see them go, but everyone had work to get back to.
"Miss you." Emma gave her a kiss and was gone. It was her and Nathan again. A smile never left her face as she moved to straighten up as well as get Nathan some food for his little tummy.
Next time: Regina and Emma spend some time with friends without their children involved.