Halfway Through The Wood

the-charmings asked me a very long while ago now for Swan Queen based on the same premise as the Jason Issacs' show 'Awake'. Thanks to shemadehimwaffles, I think I've finally found a way to make that idea happen.

SwanQueen Prompt: Emma eats the pastry instead of Henry. Later, Regina kisses her and she wakes up. Bonus points if Henry sees it happen.

"It's the tragedy of loving, you can't love anything more than something you miss."
Jonathan Safran Foer

"Martha Stewart puts cherries in her apple turnovers," Regina says, shattering the silence. "Did you know that?"

Archie looks up from his notepad, apparently surprised that she's chosen this session to finally speak. She can tell from his worried expression that this is not the topic he was hoping for. Regina thinks he probably wishes he'd turned back into an insect, after all.

"I... did not know that," he admits. "I know some people add currants," he adds, after a long moment.

"She does that too," Regina says scornfully, lapsing back into her familiar silence. She twists the ring on her right hand, until the red stone is facing up, catching the light.

The clock on Archie's wall is creeping slowly towards the ten, meaning her fifty-minute hour will eventually end. Regina taps her foot against the leg of the coffee table, and waits.

The light has always been somehow...wrong...in this world. Regina supposes it might be the lack of magic, or perhaps because the atmosphere is filled with car exhausts instead of fairy dust; no doubt there'll be some 'science' to explain it all.

Doctor Whale clears his throat when he comes to stand beside her, drawing Regina's attention away from the window and the rain running down it. Wettest summer on record, the television says; it's been raining every day since all this started.

"Mayor Mills," he says, in that mockingly respectful way of his. "I just wanted to update you on the latest round of tests."

"Any change?" Regina asks, her voice hoarse from lack of use.

"I'm afraid not," he replies, laying his hand on hers for a fleeting moment, his palm obscuring the green stone of her ring. "Perhaps you should get some rest."

"I'll leave when Henry leaves," Regina sighs, turning back towards the window. "And he won't leave her side."

"Of course," Dr. Whale says, already turning, already walking away.

Emma's waiting: leaning against her ugly, battered car. The sun makes the yellow and chrome unbearable to look at, and it's hot enough for the leather jackets to finally be abandoned. Warmest summer in fifty years, so they say. Regina is chilled to the bone in her simple green sundress.

"I'll take you," she says, voice hoarse and her eyes noticeably red.

"I don't need a taxi service," Regina says, the refusal as natural as breathing. "I can walk."

Emma's turning away, kicking out at her own front tire when something in Regina gives, just a little something that craves the human contact.

"But if you have nothing better to do," she says, lifting her shoulders to show her nonchalance. Instead she finds herself tensing again, the tears coming without her permission.

And it's Emma-goddamned Emma Swan-who's there with her arms and her awkward hugs and her whispered compassion, not a scrap of which Regina deserves.

"We can go tomorrow," Emma mutters against Regina's ear, as if anything like this is acceptable standing in the middle of Main Street. "There's always tomorrow."

"No," Regina chokes on the word. "I always go on Wednesdays."

"Henry," Regina says as she gently shakes him. "Henry, come on."

"Leave me alone," he mutters. "I'm never coming home with you."

"Emma wouldn't want this," Regina blurts out, already at the last resort. "She'd want you to be comfortable, and healthy."

"You just want to poison me like you did to her," Henry accuses, wide awake now and every bit as angry. "I saw her collapse."

"Henry!" Regina cries out, already weary of the constant condemnation. "You heard what the doctors said-all of them. There was nothing wrong with that turnover."

"The doctors are under your curse, just like everyone else," Henry sighs, curling up in the visitor's chair again, cradling his book like a shield.

Regina should be used to it by now, but the rejection feels like being stabbed in the heart just the same, over and over with a ragged, broken blade; perhaps it's how it would feel if he picked up one of the mirror shards she's broken over the years.

Another time she might have gotten angry, lashed out with punishments and threats, but all she can see is his lifeless body that haunts her other, waking dreams and all is forgiven in a heartbeat. He is her son, and she loves him. It's better that he keep hurting her than not do anything at all.

"Wait here," Regina says, rubbing her thumb nervously over the emerald on her finger. "I need to speak to Dr. Whale about some tests."

"I don't care," Henry says.

"Did it help?" Emma asks as they walk through the park. It's too hot, anyway, for a car without air-con. Regina can feel it on the tip of her tongue to say 'leave me alone' but somehow the words don't form.

"No," she admits. "It never does."

"Do you..." Emma stares at the ground as they walk, hands shoved in the pockets of her jeans. "Do you talk about him?"

"I... talked about baking, today," Regina says. "It's what was on my mind, I suppose."

"People are worried," Emma says, her lips pursing around the statement, eyes inscrutable behind the black and gold sunglasses that sit on her face as though made exclusively for her. "Archie can't discuss your sessions, but he asked me the other day if you're sleeping."

"Of course I'm sleeping," Regina snaps. "What else is there for me to do, now?"

"I spoke to, you know, my parents," Emma says, unusually hesitant. "Now that things are calmer around here, maybe you could think about-"

"No," Regina says, frustrated to the point of tears with another well-meaning suggestion. She forgot this about good people, somewhere along the way, that they'll insist on helping at every possible turn.

"Mayor Mills, this is highly unorthodox," he protests as she walks ahead of him into the Imaging Suite. "Perhaps if we could discuss your symptoms first."

"No," Regina snaps. "I need an MRI. Once I see the results we can talk about it."

"But if I know what I'm looking for-" he continues.

"Do it!" Regina snaps, her control not what it once was. She's on edge every moment of every day, even her sleep is no longer a respite, her world shifting and reforming in dreams she doesn't want to understand (what she doesn't say-what she must inot/i say-is that she can no longer tell the difference).

"Okay," the doctor relents, his smooth forehead creased in annoyance. "You can change behind the screen. Don't forget-all jewelry off. It's just a big magnet, Madam Mayor."

Regina snorts at the instruction, already slipping out of her dark blazer and hanging it over the screen. "I'm well aware," she says, pulling her watch off and slipping the emerald ring into her pocket beside it. In a matter of moments she's pulling on the thin paper gown, and laying on the strange plastic gurney to begin her test.

"Now," Whale's voice sounds tinny over the intercom. "Before we begin-"

"Just get on with it," she snaps, and finally the machine whirs into life.

The mausoleum is deliciously cool as they slip inside. Emma hangs back, as ever, unsure if this time will be the time that Regina snaps and throws her out of this private sphere of grief. Regina knows how easy it would be to say something, to reassure Emma that Regina is finally at peace with Emma having lost something too, but the words are beyond her now.

They don't bring flowers.

Emma did, the first time Regina invited her, but the lilies had been too morbid, too adult for the young (so very young) loss they were intended to mark. Now they bring nothing but the bare palms that lay, side-by-side on the cool stone.

"Miss you, kid," Emma mutters in a voice thickened with tears.

Regina says nothing, letting the tears fall instead. It's only when Emma turns to her, wiping Regina's tears with one hand and her own tears with the other, that Regina finds words at all.

"Let's go," she says. Henry isn't really here, anyway.

"And at this point in the story so many things have gone wrong, so many bad decisions made, that it's a wonder anyone would want to continue reading." Richard Siken

Regina listens to the rain as she waits in Dr. Whale's office. Another of the near-constant headaches has settled in behind her eyes and she rubs her temples more in hope than expectation. Maybe if there's something-a tumor, an injury of some kind-they'll give her something to clear her head at last. It would be so nice to think without the crackle of interference, to stop feeling like her thoughts exist only in the dead air between radio stations.

"Mayor Mills," he says, walking into the office and flicking a switch to illuminate the box on the wall. Dr. Whale places two large, black films on there, and it takes Regina a long moment to recognise the shape of her own skull, in that blurry white outline. Impressive, once she understands. They have magic of their own here, after all.

"Well?" She demands, at a loss with the intricate portrait of her brain. She wants to look away. After years of invading with mirrors and magic, she has finally found something too intimate to spy on.

"I have good news," Dr. Whale says, steepling his fingers in front if his lips. Regina wonders idly which television doctor he stole that move from. "Your scans are completely clear."

"So the headaches?" Regina presses.

"Most likely stress. I can prescribe a more effective painkiller, but returning to some kind of routine might be more effective. Sleep deprivation-"

"I sleep fine," Regina lies. She lets him squirm for a moment, not daring to give voice to the rest of his little lecture. "Anyway, all this... upheaval has been to support Henry." She adds one of her practiced mothering smiles, and the feeling slightly frazzled doesn't have to be faked.

"Madam Mayor, you both spend more time in this building than I do." Regina stares him down, feeling her old petulance creep in like a sudden chill. "And I'm sorry to say it so bluntly, but I don't think your visits are making the slightest difference to Ms. Swan."

Ordinarily, Regina would bite his head off for that, tell him that she certainly doesn't care one way or another if Emma Swan ever opens her eyes again. It's why she made the damn turnover in the first place, isn't it? But of course, the curse that protects her so perfectly has removed the possibility of anyone identifying the magical poison; the only person who might think to test it lies motionless in a hospital bed.

The thought of Emma, like that (not the Emma when she closes her eyes-sad, and broken, but awake and walking around) sets Regina's last remaining scraps of remorse into overdrive. Her imagined version of how Emma came to take the poisoned treat is hazy, compiled from the garbled yells of Henry and the stammering confusion of Snow White in her meek, cursed form.

But as Regina pictures Emma (so willing, so blind) biting lustily into flaky pastry, her face flickers and is overlaid by crying, defiant Snow (so willing, so pointlessly noble). Mother and daughter, both alike in ruining Regina's every attempt at happiness, every attempt at peace.

"Then perhaps it's time I take Henry home," Regina concedes, already resigned to the next round of the battle.

"I'm fine," Regina insists, for what must be the tenth time since stepping back out into the midday heat. They're approaching her house now, this new revulsion on seeing it smashes into her like a wave, and it's all Regina can do to keep standing.

This is where she lost him, where they took him from in their ugly, inadequate ambulance (and it's where they brought him back to, in that horribly, heartbreakingly white box).

Yes, this is the house that Regina built-with her mind, with magic, with the blood of everyone who died to bring her another failure-but it's the house that Henry brought tumbling down, even if the bricks and mortar mock her by continuing to stand.

"I'm coming in," Emma says. The gate swings closed with a squeak of neglect, with Emma on the same side as Regina. This is different, at least, to all those weeks ago, when Emma kicked down the front door. (At least she didn't huff, or puff, or blow it down, Regina supposes-although Red could have given her some pointers.)

"If you must," Regina says, fumbling in her purse for her keys. Still, her reactions feel dulled, and her mind almost entirely blunt. The damage around the lock remains from Emma's break-in, and the wood is as splintered as the version of Regina that Emma found, half-mad and struck dumb with grief on the kitchen floor. Regina doesn't remember much about that day, besides the expectation of being dragged before a newly-awoken town waiting to punish her; instead Emma's slightly rough hands had comforted her in their awkward way, before dragging Regina into a shower and forcing her, step by step, to re-enter the world.

And if Regina scorns the righteous anger of the townsfolk, if she rejected their reluctant forgiveness orchestrated by Snow, that's nothing compared to the scalding shame she feels every time she's confronted with their pity.

Emma, however, retains only her anger and something that might one day be mistaken for understanding. She alone knows the truth of the turnover that Henry ate, and although there have been times when Regina wants to check her own drink for more conventional poisons, so far she's survived unscathed. The town's decision included the mandatory therapy, and so Regina finds herself trapped twice a week in the care of a man so ill-equipped to deal with confrontation that he begged to be transformed into an insect. If she were on top of her game, it might actually do her good to crush him beneath her heel.

Instead she sits silently through each session, today being the first-and last, if she has anything to say about it-exception. Regina complains about the waste of her time, but Emma is a self-appointed warden and the closest thing Regina has to... anything, and she shakes her head and waits outside Jiminy's office every Wednesday and Friday.

The nights are harder, and Regina drinks her fill to get through them. Because Emma can't take any kind of a hint, she stays more often than not, helping herself to the constantly refilled decanters around the house. They never raise their glass to each other's, they rarely mention Henry at all until the Scotch is gone and the yelling has begun.

Regina rarely remembers the words, but she remembers the desperate way Emma's fingers press into her arms, and the times they've clawed at Regina's face. Sometimes, they kiss, but only when they find a way to make it hurt. Hurt breaks through the fog, makes Regina remember that this is her life now, not the cruel dreams where Henry lives, and hates her more than ever.

Nobody else understands why Emma stays so often, and Regina feels she is least qualified of all to guess. But it means she eats, and exchanges words (oh, and touch, irreplaceable touch) with another human being; as deals go, Regina has struck far worse.

"I'm going to take a nap," Regina announces, once they step inside the cool foyer. It's rude, perhaps, but it's not like they've ever been polite with one another. She expects Emma to leave, or do what she so often does and go to lie down herself, in Henry's bed. Regina protested the first time Emma slept there, muttering about how it would ruin what little she had left of him; only in Emma's frustrated tears did Regina find someone clinging on to even less.

And so they share him, as they never could in life.

"Me too," Emma says, but when she follows Regina up the stairs, she stays by her side until they're both in Regina's bedroom. Emma pulls her hair back into some kind of knot, fixing it with a band she wears around her wrist. She kneels on the bed first, waiting for Regina to choose her spot.

They lie, side by side, on top of Regina's unmade bed (so many things don't matter, these days). Emma reaches for Regina's hand, and today she allows Emma to take it.

"Sweet dreams," Emma murmurs, as Regina's eyes close.

"I hope you're having nice dreams," Henry is saying to Emma's lifeless form. Regina holds back in the doorway, fascinated by the openness she barely remembers seeing in him, and hating herself for the spike of jealousy. "Snow White was fine when Prince Charming woke her up, so maybe it's not that bad."

Snow White was not fine, Regina knows, but then the impossible girl did summon the strength to reclaim a Kingdom anyway. Of all the comfort Regina has engineered here, seeing Mary Margaret stripped of that indomitable spirit is among the most satisfying.

"Henry," Regina says softly, and she hears her father in the meekness of it. "It's time to go home."


"We'll come back after school tomorrow," Regina continues. "We can still come every day, if you like. We just can't stay here every free hour."

"I'll stay with her, Henry," says that familiar voice that still freezes the blood in Regina's veins.

"Thank you, Miss Blanchard," Regina manages to say, and maybe nobody else notices that she's gritting her teeth. "Come along, Henry."

"We'll come back tomorrow?" Henry asks, his hand going automatically to his backpack.

"I promise," Regina says, and she means it all the more when she sees the tears in his eyes.

Henry comes willingly, then, although he sulks in silence during the short journey home. They've both eaten hideous canteen food, their regular diet these past few weeks, and so when they enter the house Henry runs straight for the stairs.

Regina takes her time over the essential tasks-there's no mess to tidy when they're scarcely here to make any-and she turns the air-conditioning down because the evening is cold as well as rainy. She takes her new pills with a long drink of water, leaving the glass in the sink with the hint of her faded lipstick still on it.

She changes in her own room before checking in on Henry, heartbroken to find him crying over his damn book, already dressed in his pajamas.

"Henry," she says, voice breaking. "I really am sorry."

"If you were sorry, you'd bring her back," Henry says. "And if you loved me, you would never have done it."

"I didn't-" she starts again, but tonight the fight isn't in her. "Henry, I ido/i love you, no matter what you think. I just hope one day that you'll understand how much."

"I'm tired," he says quietly, and his fluttering eyelids bear that out. Regina pries the book from barely resisting fingers and sets it on the floor. It holds no secrets about reviving this poisoned savior, and she wonders if that will finally be enough to crush Henry's belief; he believes in everything but her love for him.

"Henry," she says again, smoothing his hair and smiling when he doesn't shrug off the contact. "I think I'm going to sleep in here with you, tonight." She holds her breath, waits for the scrunch of his nose and the pout before he says no.

"'Kay," he mumbles into his pillow, and Regina wriggles into place beside him.

"Thank you," she whispers, and closes her eyes.

"Regina!" Emma is shaking her when Regina's eyes snap open. The room is dark, and something must be wrong with the air conditioner again, because the summer heat is surrounding them like the murky air of a swamp.

"What?" She asks, groggy and not quite willing to part with Henry yet. Maybe if she just keeps her eyes closed, she'll get back to him. But Emma is leaning over her, and moments later Regina feels the warm splash of tears on her shoulder.

"What?" She repeats, surrendering the last wisps of sleep. "Emma, what?"

"St-stop it," Emma stammers through her tears. She's a messy crier, Regina remembers now: red-faced and snotty and open-mouthed; there's not a lot of dignity in it. "Stop."

"Stop what?" Regina asks, pushing Emma away with one arm and leveraging herself up with the other.

"His... you keep saying it. Stop it," Emma sobs.

"What am I saying?" Regina sighs, but she reaches for the omnipresent box of tissues, this time on the nightstand. Emma clutches a handful of them, dabbing ineffectively at her face as she kneels on the bed next to Regina.

"You keep saying his name, in your sleep," Emma says, and there's something in her tone that reminds Regina of her childhood steed, the day he broke his leg. It's not just sadness, not just pain, but the resigned sound something makes when there's nothing to be done.

"Am I?" Regina challenges, as though this is something Emma would lie about, as though this is something either one of them could contemplate until it happened. "I'm..."

And maybe she is sorry.

She says it to Henry in her other life, in the other world that might be either waking or dreaming. Regina's losing the ability to keep track, and although she held two worlds in her head for twenty-nine years, it's only now that she understands how it can drive a person mad. She thinks of Jefferson, reunited with his daughter and drained of all his venom. She wonders if he, too, felt like this every day and every night, not knowing which boundary to push at, never knowing the weak point to push right through.

Awake fully now, Regina feels her loss all over again, like a rock that's lodging itself in her stomach. The weight of it, the inescapable weight that makes her feel like she'll never quite sit up straight ever again, dragging her down to a position where she is bent, where she is broken.

Regina remembers this loss, feels it as constantly as an amputated limb. But where the pain had dulled over time, through the acts of vengeance petty and dramatic that were supposed to ease it, now it is sharp again, tearing through her thoughts and through her skin. Every breath feels like she is gasping for more air, as if her lungs have already decided that she will not, that she icannot/i survive this again. She hasn't felt so much, too much, in this way since she ripped a world apart just to soothe the rage of senseless loss.

"Emma," she gasps, her own tears falling as she touches the other woman's damp face. "I don't want to feel like this anymore."

"Me either," Emma agrees. "Everything ihurts/i. Breathing, blinking; the fucking air hurts, Regina."

"You've been so strong," Regina says, her voice little more than a whisper as she stares, greedily, at Emma's sad green eyes and the slight tremble in her lips. "You played savior again, for me."

"I didn't mean to," Emma confesses, leaning into Regina's fingers as they caress Emma's cheek. "I just needed to do something. He would have wanted me to do something."

"Ssh," Regina warns, because for the first time since it happened, since his little chest stopped rising and the light left his eyes, she is ready to think about something (about ianything/i) else. "I'm sorry," she says, at last.

"I know you are," Emma admits, and when her hand reaches out it's tugging on Regina's neck, pulling her into the first kiss they've shared that doesn't seem intended to bruise or to draw blood. It's tender, almost forgiving in and of itself, and Regina feels her body start to respond with something less terrifying than the usual desperation.

Emma feels comforting, as she undoes the buttons of Regina's simple green dress. The room is already too hot, and Regina can feel the trickle of sweat down her spine already as the cotton peels away. She tugs at Emma's tank top in turn, watching the cascade of blonde curls when it's pulled up and over her head.

"You're beautiful," Regina says, and though she doesn't mean to, she sounds a little annoyed by the fact. It makes Emma laugh, weakly, but it's still a laugh. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you that before."

Emma responds by kissing Regina's collarbone, peppering the line of it with fluttering, almost ticklish traces of her lips.

"We need to feel better," Emma whispers against Regina's skin. "Just a little bit. Just for a little while."

"Yes," Regina sighs, with something that could be mistaken for contentment. She reaches for Emma's hand, entwining their fingers in a promise she doesn't entirely understand. It's when her ring glints in the dim light that Regina finally puts the pieces together.

She fell asleep, sated and sweaty in Emma's arms, but Regina's happy to wake up clean and cool in Henry's bed. This is how it works, she realizes now. She pulls her hand out from beneath the pillow, relieved to see the pale green stone resting on it.

This is her Storybrooke, the real Storybrooke that Regina cursed into existence all those years ago. This is the ring she brought with her, the first trinket she bought with her wealth as a newly reigning Queen; a token of her independence and belonging to nobody but her.

She should have recognized the ruby sooner, but her grief blinded her for so long. That ring was a bequest from her mother, the red stone too reminiscent of the hearts that Cora stole. Regina wore it for exactly one hour before throwing it down a well in Leopold's palace grounds. She feels certain it made no journey to this world.

Regina looks down at Henry's sleeping face, and makes her decision. She slips out of bed and readies herself for the day, an hour ahead of schedule and pretending that nothing is out of the ordinary, even to herself. Soon enough Henry is getting ready for school with his usual reluctance, and as he slumps over a bowl of oatmeal, it's all Regina can do to contain herself from rushing him out the door.

"It's too early for school," he whines when he finally looks at the clock in the car.

"We're making a stop first, Henry," Regina says with practiced patience. "We're going to the hospital."

It's hardly any time at all until they're walking onto the ward, approaching Emma's hospital room. Regina sees Snow (still Mary Margaret, still blissfully unaware) curled up on the room's uncomfortable sofa.

"Miss Blanchard," Regina barks, waking her up with a fright. "Sorry to wake you, but I need you to take Henry for a few minutes."

"Mom!" Henry protests. "I thought I was here to see Emma." He looks, his face anguished, at the unconscious figure on the bed.

"You will, Henry," Regina promises. "But I need a few moments alone first."

"Are you going to kill her?" Henry demands, his face already contorting in rage. She remembers that red-faced grimace from a hundred squealing tantrums, and the familiarity of it catches in her throat.

"Henry," she says, crouching down and pulling him close enough to whisper. "If you really believe I did it, with the apple... if you really believe that, do you know what will save her?"

"A kiss," Henry says quickly, because he's always been an excellent student. "But I've tried every day for weeks. It doesn't work."

"Then I have to try something else," Regina says, quite sincerely. "Will you give me some privacy to try?"

"Yes!" Henry says, running towards his sleepy teacher. "Come on, Miss Blanchard! Let's go get some coffee."

"You'll be okay?" Snow asks, her face childish with sleep and too close to the girl Regina has hated for most of her life.

"Go," Regina snaps, already feeling her resolve begin to waver.

They flee the room at that, and Regina finds herself alone with a lifeless body and the syncopated beeping of the various machines. Here, in the stark light of day (a real day, not an imagined one populated by her worst nightmares) the plan seems far from foolproof.

Regina closes her eyes and remembers the Emma who's consoled her and yelled at her and been a constant in a way that Regina's life has never had the capacity for. Imagined or not, it's what she wants; it's the happy ending she must have wanted when she brought them all here, whether she knew it or not.

"I did this to you," Regina confesses as she takes Emma's hand and squeezes, careful to avoid the IV. "And if I can wake you up, we'll have to deal with that; I won't lie to you, not now. But I've seen a world where we need each other."

Regina pauses then, feeling ridiculous and thinking that it's not too late to walk out and pretend none of this ever happened. Perhaps her dreams will be contact enough. She hears the squeak of sneakers in the hallway and a gentle thud against the glass wall that says Henry is back, watching them both.

"When the worst possible thing happened, you were there, Emma Swan. You were a goddamned Savior when nobody asked you to be. And it might not really have happened, at least not in a way that I can explain, but I know it as surely as I know my own name: that's what you would have done for me, there."

Emma doesn't stir, but Regina holds her hand anyway.

"You made me feel just a little better," Regina says softly. "Nothing's ever done that for me before. Except Henry. You made me feel like I might actually be happy again one day."

The monitors continue to beep, and the rasp of the ventilator matches Regina's own labored breathing.

"If this doesn't work," she whispers, leaning in close. "Please know that I really am sorry."

She kisses Emma's cheek, eyes closed and fingers clenched.

Nothing happens.

Regina pulls away, turning towards the window with an apology for Henry, when the first tiny choking noise escapes. She looks back, hardly daring to believe, and watches Emma open her eyes for the first time since tasting the forbidden fruit.

"Welcome back," Regina says, withdrawing as Henry and then the medical team come pouring into the room.

It takes endless minutes to remove tubes and to shine lights and ask inane questions, but finally the room clears again, leaving just Henry, Snow and Regina with the newly revived Emma. She looks at each of them in turn, weak watery smiles for Henry and Snow, but guarded confusion when her eyes alight on Regina.

Emma opens her mouth to speak, but at first the words won't come. She licks her cracked lips, despairing for a second; then she tries again.

"Did you do this to me?" She asks, staring Regina down.

Regina promised herself she wouldn't lie, so she takes a deep breath, and she nods.

She's fussing with her purse when the knock at her office door comes. Regina says 'come in' out of habit, but there's nothing routine about the smile that crosses her face when Henry comes charging in.

"Careful," she scolds, just a little, when he barrels into her for one of his drive-by hugs. She's about to ask why he came here straight from school when she looks up to see Emma in the doorway.

"Hey," Emma says, waggling her fingers in that sort-of-wave she does when she feels nervous. "We're going to Granny's, but Henry wanted to walk you to your appointment."

"To make sure I go?" Regina asks, hands already on her hips, ready for defiance.

"So you don't feel bad about going," Henry chimes in. "I used to hate it, so."

"Fine," Regina sighs, gathering her purse and jacket. At least the rain has stopped for now.

They make their way down Main Street at a leisurely pace, Regina chafing slightly at not being able to stride on ahead like she's used to. It's worth it, though, because Henry buzzes around her and Emma, tugging at each of their sleeves when he wants their attention for something.

"You going to be okay with this?" Emma asks when they come to a stop outside Archie's office.

"He's a shrink," Regina says calmly. "What's the worst he can do to me?"

"And an insect!" Henry adds helpfully, still smirking about being right, no matter how uncomfortable it makes Emma. The secret the three of them share hangs there in the brightening afternoon, almost tangible in its power.

"Come on, Henry," Emma says, just a little flustered. "I want that vanilla malt you owe me for helping with your math homework."

Regina raises an eyebrow at that.

"What?" Emma asks. "Gold's not the only one who can strike a deal around here. Or are you surprised that I can do sixth grade math?"

Discretion, Regina knows, is often the better part of valor, and so she keeps her mouth shut.

"I'll see you in an hour," she says, clutching the hem of her jacket and pretending to straighten it. Even three months later this feels dangerously new, far too fragile to be acknowledged directly. Henry is already across the street, in pursuit of the grease and sugar he doesn't get at home.

"Hey," Emma says quietly, placing her hand on Regina's arm. "It'll be okay. Just... talk to him."

"Sure," Regina says, pursing her lips.

"And," Emma adds, leaning in to kiss Regina right on those pursed lips. "I'll be right over there, when you're done."

"Kissing in public now?" Regina teases, lifting an eyebrow in challenge. "You really are brave."

"Don't forget, I'm also greedy," Emma points out, before stealing another kiss, warm and insistent and long enough for Regina to kiss back.

"Now I don't want to go," Regina says, quite honestly. She's just a little out of breath.

"Tough," Emma says, turning and jogging across the street to join Henry. Regina waves them away and pushes on the door to Archie's office.

Regina strides in with her usual confidence, startling Archie by arriving ten minutes early. She takes a seat in the room's big leather chair (knowing it's where he should sit) without waiting to be asked.

"Madam Mayor," he says, his nervous smile barely lifting the edges of his mouth. "You're early."

"Yes," she says, quite simply. He sighs, surrenders, and takes a seat on the couch.

"What would you like to talk about?" He asks.

"Henry," she begins, summoning up a mental list. "And Emma Swan. And vivid dreams. Oh, and the symbolism of rubies, while we're at it." She pauses, takes a breath.

"We're also going to talk, you and I, about dark curses and how to break them-and I'm afraid, Dr. Hopper that I will need your help with that. You see, Henry has actually been telling the truth all this time, and well, I suppose that makes me your Queen. But that's not what's on my mind right now."

"Uh..." Archie looks completely thunderstruck, and Regina enjoys that immensely. "So, um, what iis/i on your mind today?"

"Did you know," Regina says, leaning in with a conspiratorial wink. "That Martha Stewart puts cherries in her apple turnovers?"