Title: Be Our Guest (1/?)
Summary: Emma has never actually SEEN Regina being a bad mother...
Spoilers: After 1x08, "Desperate Souls"
Emma and Regina sat without speaking for a minute, silently daring each other to give in and be the one to speak first. "So," Emma finally said, already getting bored, "are we going to try working together, or are you just going to undermine my authority at every turn?"
"I'm sorry, Sheriff Swan, but I was under the impression that's what YOU have been doing since you first arrived in my town. Isn't that why you ran against my own handpicked candidate?"
"Guess that's a 'no' on working together then," Emma muttered.
"You may have pulled the wool over everyone's eyes," Regina retorted, "and as an elected official your job is safe from me. But don't get the idea that this means you'll be able to take my son away from me."
Emma threw up her hands. "For the last time – one, he's my son too, and two, I'm not trying to take Henry away from you! If you want to blame someone here, blame yourself. If you were a better mother, maybe Henry wouldn't be sneaking away to see me three times a day."
Regina's eyes grew even colder, if that was possible. "If I was a better MOTHER?" She sneered at Emma. "Fine. Enlighten me. Tell me how I can be a better mother. You have an infinite well of personal experience to draw from, after all."
Emma scowled. "I can still tell a good parent apart from a bad one. It's called common sense."
"And you can tell how?"
"Well, there's . . . " Emma paused, stymied. Truth be told, she had never personally witnessed Regina ever being cruel or abusive to Henry. She had barely witnessed them interacting at all, in fact.
Regina's sneer became a smirk. "You can't think of anything, can you? Henry told you what a horrible mother I am, and you just accepted it, right?"
"So what, Henry LIES about you?" Emma shook her head. "I know when people are lying, and Henry isn't."
"He's TEN, Sheriff Swan. Ten-year-old boys tell their mothers they're mean if they don't buy them candy on a supermarket aisle! I realize you never had parents of your own, Swan, but in case you haven't noticed," Regina snapped, "parents spend a lot of time telling their children 'no'. I should be grateful Henry isn't a sixteen-year-old girl, I suppose."
"I can't think of any times I saw you being a GOOD mother either," Emma shot back. "In case YOU haven't noticed, whenever the three of us are in a room together, you're always trying to chase me away."
"Yes, well, if I allowed you to spend a day with us, you'd see that my son – "
"Is exaggerating how horrible his life is…" Regina trailed off. Then she smiled humorlessly at Emma. "That's an excellent idea, actually. A distasteful one, but excellent nonetheless."
"What?" Emma asked, not liking her expression.
"You'll spend the day with us – no, two days – how about a week?"
Emma's jaw dropped, her wit deserting her. "Wha?"
"Yes, that would be best." Regina sighed. "You'll have to stay in the guestroom."
"I'm sorry, but did you say GUESTROOM?"
"Well, you know what they say about guests and fish," Regina said. "Although you'll start stinking after three minutes."
"Could you back up please?"
Regina rolled her eyes. "You will stay with us for one week, Sheriff Swan. You will get up when we do. You will eat breakfast with us. We will walk him to school. We will pick him up from school. We will spend the evening together. And we will put him to bed together. And you can decide for yourself just how miserable his life really is."
Emma still couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You actually think we could stand being around each other for an entire week?"
"I think it will be fun," Regina replied insincerely. "You probably live like a slob. I cannot wait for Henry to see that."
"I am NOT a slob!"
"You answered your door to a complete stranger in a T-shirt and panties, I seem to recall. I never knew Henry had redneck DNA."
Emma flushed bright red, remembering Regina and the basket of apples. "This is bullshit, Regina. You'll be Mrs. Brady and Donna Reed rolled into one as long as I'm there."
"Ask Henry. I'm sure he'll be HAPPY to tell you if I'm acting out of character," Regina said bitterly.
"And you're serious about this?" Emma asked slowly.
"You'll get a week of unfettered access to my – "
"If I agree to do this," Emma interrupted, "you're going to have to stop referring to him as YOUR son."
Regina glared at her. "Unfettered access to OUR son, then. And I'll be able to wipe that smirk off your face when you realize I'm a better mother than you could ever have been or will be."
Emma thought for a second. It was an insane idea, but Regina was right. It WOULD mean plenty of time with Henry, getting to see things she'd never seen before. Henry would be thrilled too. And maybe she did owe it to both Henry and Regina to get all the facts before she started throwing stones.
"All right," Emma said. "I'll do it."
"Wonderful," Regina replied, although Emma couldn't tell by the look on her face. "We'll meet again after school is out. And Sheriff Swan?"
"I hope you'll bring suitable sleepwear. I won't have you skipping around my home like Ellie Mae Clampett."
Emma sighed. "Yes, Ma."
Regina grumbled something profane and turned her back.
"Suitable," Emma muttered as she left the Mayor's office. "I'll show her suitable."
The look on Henry's face as his eyes swept around the interior of Regina's car, Emma thought, suggested that he expected a tiger to leap out from underneath the backseat cushions.
"Henry," Regina said from behind the wheel, exasperated, "get in the car before that annoying woman tells us we're parked in a loading zone."
Henry slowly got into the backseat next to Emma and closed the door.
"Thank you," Regina said, speeding away.
"Are you her prisoner?" Henry whispered.
Emma sighed. "No, I'm not her prisoner. I'm her guest."
Henry didn't look like he believed her. "In stories, that's what the bad guy always says their prisoner is."
What stories was he reading now, Ian Fleming?
"The sheriff will be staying at our house for the next week, Henry," Regina explained. "We both agreed that she should see for herself what kind of mother I am."
Henry just went on staring at Emma. "Huh?"
Emma shrugged her shoulders. "Your mother – ONE of your mothers – "
Regina mumbled something that sounded insulting.
"She wants to prove that you – and I, by extension - are wrong about her."
That seemed to make sense to Henry like nothing else did. "So this is some kind of test?"
"Essentially, yes," Regina said.
"She cheats," Henry muttered.
Emma couldn't miss the wounded look in Regina's eyes in the rearview mirror.
"Regina says that you'll tell me if she tries to be too nice or too lenient with you," Emma pointed out.
Henry seemed to like that. "So you're going to live with us for a whole week?"
Emma smiled at him. "I'll be there when you wake up, and I'll be there when you fall asleep."
He finally smiled back at her. "This is so cool!"
Regina's eyes this time were firmly on the road in front of her.
Emma's smile slipped just a little. She'd have to warn Henry later that this wasn't going to be "pile on Regina" week. She was going to be completely fair about this. If Regina turned out to be just another "tiger mom", then Emma would have to accept that.
In the meantime, she was going to be able to get to know her son better. One thing which she had allowed Henry to do up until now was to go on and on about the curse. Sometimes it seemed like that was all he ever talked about. Maybe now Emma could learn about other things he cared about. Maybe they could have a conversation that didn't center around the Book.
"We'll be dropping Sheriff Swan off at the police station to pick up her car," Regina said tersely. "She will then go to Ms. Blanchard's apartment to pack a bag before meeting us at our house. Sheriff?"
"Do you cook?"
"I killed a toaster the other day."
Regina sighed. "Fine. I will cook for the group, and you will clean up after us. You will also be responsible for your own laundry. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Emma said quickly, not wanting Regina to have any kind of custody over her clothes.
Regina stopped at a light and turned around in her seat. "Won't this be fun, Henry?" she asked brightly.
"Yes," Henry replied, deigning to look at her as the smile vanished from his face.
Emma winced as Regina seemed to wilt, her smile becoming forced. Her gaze flickered over to Emma briefly, filled with a combination of loathing, frustration, and jealousy, before she turned forward again.
Yeah, she'd have a talk with Henry before this turned into the end of "War of the Roses".
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"No," Emma admitted to Mary. "In fact, I'm sure it's NOT a good idea. It's a helluva risky thing to do, but risk equals reward, and the reward IS a good idea."
"I know you want to spend more time with Henry," Mary said over the phone, "but you'll be alone with him and Regina in that house every night. There's all sorts of ways Regina will try to tear you down."
"And that's different from last week how exactly?"
"Emma, do you think she's the only one being tested here? Regina is probably hoping that A. Henry will learn things about you that he won't like, or B. you'll think you can never be as good a mother as her."
Emma had to admit Mary had a point. "Yeah, but Henry will find out what my faults are sooner or later. And like I keep telling her, I'm not scheming to steal Henry away from her, so it doesn't matter who the better mother is."
"Yes, it does."
Emma sighed. Yeah, it did.
"Can't you wait until I get home from school?" Mary asked. "So we can discuss this further."
"No way am I backing out now," Emma said. "Henry will be disappointed and Regina will gloat. I have to pick up a few things on the way too. Besides, I can come by after Henry's in bed. I'm sure Regina will be thrilled to have me gone then."
"All right. Well, good luck then."
"Thanks." Hanging up, she glanced at her things. She'd packed everything she could think of, and if she forgot something, she could pick it up tonight. All she needed was to buy . . .
Ah yes. Something suitable for sleepwear. Something…classy.
"This will be your room for the next week," Regina said, showing her the bedroom with all the enthusiasm of an overworked museum attendant.
"Nice," Emma replied. Like everything else in this house, it was tasteful, stuffy and rather ornate.
"My room is two doors down the hall. I'll trust you to stay out."
"Like I want to see the room where you and Gr-"
Their bickering slammed into a halt. Emma felt a lump form in her throat. It was over two weeks now, and Emma had gotten good at not thinking about it, but every so often Graham's ghost leapt out at her like a Halloween lawn decoration.
"I'm sorry," Emma said to Regina, whose face had become deathly still and pale. "That was uncalled for."
"Yes," Regina said tightly. "It was."
Emma put her bag down on the bed. "Where is Henry's room?"
"The other end of the hall," Regina said as her face finally relaxed. "He's doing his homework. Follow me."
She bet Regina loved that. Giving commands and having her obey them.
Regina opened his door, letting Emma see him working at his desk. Henry had raced down to see her when she arrived at Regina's house, but after a minute Regina had sent him back to his room. "He's extremely intelligent, as you know, and he takes advanced courses for his age."
"So he's in class with older kids mostly."
Regina nodded, and Emma sighed. She was proud of the kid, and obviously he should be working at his skill level, but that must have isolated him even further from his peers.
"After he finishes his homework, he's allowed one hour of television," Regina continued.
Every fiber of Emma's being told her that this was a lie.
"Thirty minutes," Henry chimed in.
"See?" Regina said. "He'll have NO trouble keeping me honest."
That was only a test of the Regina Mills Emergency Broadcast System. "Give me a minute alone with Henry, okay? I want to go over a couple ground rules."
"Rules?" Regina asked, raising an eyebrow. "You have rules?"
Emma ground her teeth as Regina left the bedroom. Then she went over to Henry's desk and crouched down beside him.
"Is this about Operation Cobra?" Henry said, excited.
"No, uh . . . look, kid, as long as I'm staying here," Emma said quietly, "you need to ease up on Regina."
"What? Why? She's – "
"Yeah, I know, evil queen. But Henry, the longer you go on treating me like a rock star and Regina like a criminal, the angrier she's going to get. By Thursday morning she'll be putting scorpions in my bed and cyanide in my oatmeal." At least she knew she could smell cyanide. The life of a bondsperson was never humdrum.
Henry looked down. "I'm sorry. It's just hard. I hate her. She lies."
"About what?" Emma asked.
"I have to finish my homework," Henry said, changing the subject.
"Sheriff Swan," Regina said suddenly, reentering the room. "Let him do like he says. You can bare your soul to him later."
Emma frowned. Standing, she ruffled Henry's hair and turned to Regina. "Would it kill you to tone down the sarcasm for two seconds?"
Regina was silent for a few moments. Then she smiled. "There. Five seconds. Are you happy?"
"Whatever," Emma said, rolling her eyes and brushing past Regina. "And stop calling me Sheriff Swan when we're alone. It's so formal. You sound like a butler."
"Excuse me?" Regina asked as they walked back to the stairs.
"Yes, sir," Emma went on, affecting a British accent badly. "I've shown Sheriff Swan and Deputy Henderson to the library. Would you care for another brandy?"
From the look on Regina's face, she was positively scandalized that Emma had compared her to a servant. "Well, EMMA, I guess we're just not all as rude and uncouth as you. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were raised in a barn. In the Ozarks. Where did you buy that red jacket anyway? Walmart or Five Below?"
"Where did you get YOUR wardrobe?" Emma retorted. "Your mother's closet? You dress like Hillary Clinton."
Regina opened her mouth to respond, but she stopped. They faced each other in her foyer for a moment. Then she chuckled. "Fighting like schoolgirls in front of our son. Nice to know that you set as good an example for Henry as I do."
Emma flushed. "Well, obviously we bring out the worst in each other."
"Indeed. Well, excuse me while I slip into a pantsuit and then begin preparing dinner. I trust you can amuse yourself until then?"
It was only after Regina left that Emma realized she had made a joke that wasn't directed at her. Surreal. But maybe they could survive the week after all.
To be continued . . .