2005

Henry squirms in his chair, even with the cushion to make him tall enough to eat at the big table. Regina watches, raising her fork repeatedly with each newly stabbed mouthful, waiting for the chaos to spill over. It does, sooner rather than later; when she reaches for her glass, Henry reaches for his plastic cup, spilling water all over the waxed oak of the dinner table.

Regina counts to ten, silently. And then she counts to ten again.

"Henry," she says, her voice just a little strangled. She can let it go, she can, because this is not a house where spilling your water is a punishable offense. "What is wrong with you today?"

"Nothing, Mom," he mutters, glaring at where the water has dripped onto his shirt. Regina mops up the water, returning the wet cloth to the kitchen. When she returns, Henry is absent, his little legs having carried him elsewhere in the house. She'll go looking for him, in a moment, but in a life of relentless efficiency, she knows to take the chance to clear the plates.

The dishwasher is loaded when she hears the squeak of his sneakers on the tiled kitchen floor.

"Dinner is all done," she says quietly, wiping her hands on a fresh, white dish towel.

"I couldn't wait," Henry says, hands behind his back. "Sunday is too long, Mommy."

"Too long for what?" She asks, something like fear clenching in her chest.

"For your card," Henry says, running across the room to thrust some bright, pink paper into her hands. Regina just stares for a long moment, until the scribbles and crayon letters make sense.

She knows about Mothers' Day, of course. Last year Graham brought her flowers (straight in the trash, thank you) because apparently that's what 'father figures' do when the children themselves are still too young. There's no equivalent back home, it's just another quirk of this world that Regina still struggles to understand.

For some reason this—more than the changing of diapers or the singing of lullabies—makes her feel like a mother at last. Regina can't see much beyond a pink blur now, because the tears have welled up quite without her permission. Mother is—for the first time—a word of happiness, a word of safety. She puts the card down carefully on the counter, as though it might dissolve should she so much as breathe on it.

"Why are you sad?" Henry asks, his little face crumpling and turning red. Regina scoops him up in a hug, ignoring the twinge in her lower back that says her little boy is not so little anymore.

"I'm not sad," she says as she kisses his forehead. "I'm very, very happy."


2010

"Henry?" Regina calls out of her bedroom door. It's already nine and she has to get up and get on with her Sunday. There's no answer, no noise from downstairs either. In fact, Regina is annoyed to notice, his bedroom door is still firmly closed.

Shuffling along the hall, still in her pajamas and slippers, Regina knocks sharply on the closed door.

"Time to get up, sleepyhead," she calls. There's no answer, and so she opens the door to wake him once and for all. Instead of a sleeping child she's greeted with a big poster pinned to the easel she bought Henry for his last birthday. Amidst colorful apples and a smiling face she (just about) recognizes as her own, Regina sees the words she was expecting to be brought to her on a card like the previous years.

"Happy Mothers' Day!" Henry cries, jumping up from behind his bed. Regina reaches out to touch the poster, feeling the familiar rasp of dried acrylic paint, offering silent thanks that her creative little monster saw fit to stick to paper and not redecorate the walls instead.

"Thank you, Henry," she says, bracing herself as he hugs her at a run. His head is at her ribcage now, a sure sign of how big he's getting, of how much time is passing as she fails to find a way to stop it changing him. "No breakfast this year?" She asks, pouting as he pulls away in excitement.

"Of course!" He says, pointing towards his bed. "And you even get to eat it in the blanket fort with me!"

Regina doesn't roll her eyes, because Henry's blanket fort is his sanctuary. She's the only person who knows it exists, and she's not usually invited.

"On one condition," she warns, hands on hips. "I want your new Hulk comic to read with my breakfast."

"Fine," Henry nods. "I've read it anyway." He screws up his eyes and makes a pissy little expression that Regina recognizes in an instant. She's seen it in the mirror often enough.

"Oh, Henry," she says softly, crawling onto the bed beside him. "Thank you."


2012

She sleeps late, because there'll be nothing to wake up for.

Emma Swan has threatened to take Henry from her, and Regina has been choking down the acid of silent fear ever since.

She hears Henry's footsteps in the hall, even though he's clearly trying to be quiet. For a moment, Regina allows herself to hope; for a moment, she buys into the Hallmark sentiment that family will overcome anything for an arbitrary date.

But then she hears the squeak of the second-from-top stair (she must have Geppetto—Marco— come and fix it, sometime) and realizes he's sneaking out instead.

She could stop him. She could march out there right now and confine him to his bedroom for the rest of the day. But Regina doesn't want to see the card and gift he's no doubt made with painstaking care for Emma. Regina doesn't want to see him hating her, not to her face, and not today.

The front door doesn't slam, but she feels it closing anyway.


2014

Regina stirs at the creaking of her bedroom door, a sound that can rouse her from even the deepest sleep. She waits for footsteps, but hears none. Since Henry is yet to master stealth, it leaves only one culprit.

"If you're planning to jump me, think again," Regina mutters, voice still thick with sleep. She feels pleasantly worn out from last night, and the memory of Emma writhing beneath her like a woman possessed is an image Regina will be carrying around with her all day.

"I'm the advance team," Emma whispers. "Operation Resting Dragon is coming up the stairs any minute now."

"Operation What?" Regina says, forcing herself into a sitting position. "What have I told you about letting Henry name things?"

"He likes the names," Emma says, shrugging as she offers a single red rose to Regina. "This is my gift," Emma adds. "To say, you know: well done. With the raising of the kid."

"Diamonds would have killed you, huh?" Regina says, fighting a grin as she takes the flower. She sniffs the soft petals, smiling at their faint perfume. "And I don't deserve congratulations," she says, failing to keep the shadow of two years ago from her voice.

"Hey," Emma says, easing herself across Regina's legs and taking up her place in their bed. "We've been through this. What happened to Henry…"

"Was completely my fault. And it could have been you," Regina reminds her. The self-loathing crests in a new wave, and she lets the rose fall onto the sheets between them. "I still don't understand how any of you could forgive me."

"Because you were in agony, Regina," Emma says plainly. "And with everything you've done since, for all of us…you have to see that you're different now."

"Mom!" Henry says from the doorway, where he's balancing a tray laden down with breakfast. "You promised, no more getting upset over the old stuff."

"Sorry," Regina says, wiping away a stray tear. Her fingers graze the scar where the last of the magic drained from her body last year. "I'm trying, Henry."

He moves into the bedroom with cautious steps, but before Emma can get up to help he successfully places the tray at the foot of the bed, nothing spilled or broken.

"This is for both of you," Henry says, scuffing one bare foot against the carpet. "I have two moms, so today is for both of you, okay?"

He's so used to them fighting, still, that Henry can't trust them to share anything: a day, this breakfast, him. Regina looks at Emma, sees the same guilt in her eyes, and reaches for Emma's hand.

"We want to share it," Regina admits. "But we want to share it with you, too."

"I didn't bring enough coffee for three of us," Henry says, defiant in his own little way.

"Good," Emma chimes in. "Because you are way too young for a caffeine habit. You can have my juice, instead." Regina can't help herself, she leans in to kiss Emma for that.

"Fine," Henry sighs, just a touch of the dramatic about it as he pushes the tray forward and falls carefully onto the bed. "Hey Mom?"

"Yes?" Regina asks, reaching for the toast.

"It's just like my blanket fort, huh?" Henry answers, with a question of his own. It feels like a test, and Regina seizes the opportunity.

"It does," she agrees. "Do you want to tell Emma the rules, or shall I? Obviously start with the penalty for crumbs."

Henry looks up at her then, eyes shining with something that might be gratitude. She's learning (they all are) how to share a life at last.

"Right," Henry continues for her. "And then I'm going to need your comic requests, Emma. If you say X-Men, I reserve the right to ban you from the Fort."

"Nobody but Henry gets the X-Men," Regina whispers to Emma, mocking just a little. "But if you ask nicely, I'll let you have the Incredible Hulk before I take it."

"Wow," Emma says, crunching on an apple slice. "Looks like I'm living with a real couple of nerds right here."

Henry responds by throwing a bread roll at Emma's head, and when Regina tips her head back to laugh, it feels like a happy ending.