All mistakes are my own. This fic came to be on a whim and thus it was written but I feel as though this could be multi-chaptered if there was enough interest.
Dedicated to the lovely Summer. Welcome to the dark side, love.
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing.
Emma was never more grateful to her father than when he called a break in the war council meeting; if she had to listen to one more argument between Red and Grumpy the princess was going to scream. She leaned heavily against the porcelain sink in the bathroom, slipping her cellphone out of her pocket and seeing that she had a new message. Quickly, she unlocked the screen and thumbed it open, smiling when she noted that it was from her husband. The video attached was grainy and dark, dimly lit by the morning light seeping through the blinds in her son's room. She heard her husband's voice then, "Hey Princess." She rolled her eyes at the way he used her title for a nickname. "I know how you hate those meetings and, honestly, we hate them too – we'd much rather have you here with us. So I wanted to remind you what's waiting for you when you get home."
The tell-tale squeaking of springs told her that he'd sat down on the edge of the bed and the light reflected off his golden wedding band as he shook the lump that was fully concealed under the covers. "Jamie. James. James Marco."
"No, daddy." The small, sleepy voice mumbled from under the covers. A tiny hand slipped from under the covers to swat at his father and causing her to laugh.
"Quick, little prince. Tell your mama that you love her."
The fair haired boy tossed back his covers and she could make out the grainy shape of his face in the poor lighting, her heart clenching as she wished she could be there to help wake him up. She watched as he opened one eye and smiled through the pull of slumber. "Love you, mama." His hand smacked against his dry lips and swung out toward the camera and, gods help her, she pretended to catch it while she stood alone in the bathroom. She watched as his eye closed and he threw the covers back over himself, barely catching his muttering of "Ni-night."
"I'll wake him up again in a little bit," her husband explained. Then she was greeted with the too bright light of their hallway, camera turning to catch his face. She smiled at his morning look – stubble casting a shadow across his face, hair stuck up every which way, and chest bare – and she bit her lip because, damn, she wanted to be there with him. "I'd wake the teenager but he's already gone – helping my father and then off to help Belle with some filing, I believe. We'll see you later. I love you, Emma."
And the video clicked off.
Emma's teeth sunk into her lower lip as she sunk against the counter. "I love you too."
"Emma?" A soft knock came from the other side of the door and she knew immediately that it was her mother. "Sweetheart, are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Emma opened the door and smiled at the brunette. "August sent a video of Jamie being disturbingly cute under the guise of cheering me up but I'm pretty sure it's sole intent was to make me want to play hooky."
Snow laughed and nudged her daughter, nodding her head toward the door. "Go."
"Ma?" Emma cocked an eyebrow. "You sure?"
"Go, Emma. Your father and I can handle the meeting ourselves and it sounds to me like your boys are waiting for you."
The blond kissed her mother's cheek and squeezed her forearm. "Love you!"
"Love you too." Snow called after her quickly retreating form.
Emma slipped quietly into the loft they'd appropriated from her mother four years earlier. Laughter greeted her like a warm hug and she smiled as she closed the door to find her husband and son, still in their pajamas, at the stove. She watched quietly as August swiped pancake batter down the little boy's nose and how Jamie tried to make his tongue reach the goop. The love she had for them sometimes blinded her and standing there, barely in the door, she was assaulted with the love that she held for her family, a love that she wasn't capable of seven years earlier.
"Hey princess." August faced the stove, pouring more batter into the skillet. "You going to join us or just stand there and observe us like we're monkeys at the zoo."
Wordlessly, she toed off her shoes and shed her coat before making her way across the wood floor to slip her arms around his waist, resting her chin against his shoulder. "Hi."
"Hello." He placed the pancake on a plate and turned to wrap his arms around her. "Meeting end early?"
"My ma let me cut out early." Emma pressed a kiss beneath his clavicle. "Too distracted by someone's video to do any good at a war council meeting."
"It was a success then." His crooked a finger under chin and tilted her head to kiss her gently, slowly as they swayed gently for a moment. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," she admitted quietly. "My father is too much of a morning person – scheduling a war council meeting at sunrise when there's nothing pressing to attend to."
"Mmm. I agree." He kissed the top of her head as he pulled her flush against him. "I'm anti anything that pulls you out of our bed before daybreak."
"Ma. Ma." James Marco Booth growled from his position on the counter, demanding the attention of his parents. "Mine!"
August laughed and relinquished the grip he had on his wife so she could lavish the three year old with attention. She scooped him up, pressing kisses to his messy head of curls. "Oh, little prince. I missed you."
"Oh, I missed you." The little boy returned the affection, nuzzling in underneath her chin. Emma relished in the weight of him, sleepiness clinging to his little body and causing him to completely sink against her. She gently shifted his weight to one arm and brushed the shaggy curls from his face, the ones she couldn't bring herself to allow to be cut. "Mama, we havin' pancakes!"
His sticky hand pawed at her neck for no real reason but August always reckoned that it was to remind himself that she was still there. "That so."
"Good." She grinned and danced him over to the table. "I like pancakes and daddy makes the best ones."
"Yum," he hummed his agreement, holding on when she placed him on his seat. "No. Please, mama. Mine."
Emma acquiesced his pleas and sat on her own chair, pulling him onto her lap. "I'm not going anywhere, James."
"Mine." He murmured again. The little boy was proving to be quite the night owl and expecting him to use full sentences before noon was often too much to hope for.
"Okay," she agreed. "Yours." Emma pressed kisses to his head while gently rubbing circles on his back. "Did your brother eat before he left to work with Papa?"
August placed a plate in front of her with plenty of pancakes for her and the little prince. "There weren't any dishes when I woke up."
"Mmm." Emma frowned. "Maybe we'll take some leftovers to him after we're done."
"Henry?" Jamie perked at the mention of his big brother.
Emma used her fork to tear off a piece of pancake and held it out to him. "Yeah, baby. Henry forgot to eat his breakfast so we're going to take him some."
"Go now?" He wiggled, trying to get off her lap but she held on tightly.
"No, James Marco."
August laughed and slid into his seat across from the two. "No, little prince. We'll take some breakfast to your brother after we eat our own."
"Oh." James sighed dramatically. "Okay. I guess."
Emma took a bite of her food and rubbed her foot over her husband's ankle. "Do you love your brother, sweet baby James?"
"Oh yes." James ripped off a syrup covered piece of flapjack and began to gnaw on it. "Love hims very much."
They ate quickly, James practically diving into his food as he began to awaken more fully. Emma then scooped him up, half tossing him over her shoulder as she carried him up the stairs to the bathroom. She peeled off his Batman footie pajamas and turned on the shower, nudging him inside while he whined softly about the water. Careful of her own clothes, she worked the children's shampoo into his golden curls and then rinsed them with water from his Halloween bucket while he lathered himself up with his washcloth. When he was done playing in the water, she turned it off and wrapped him in his hooded T-Rex towel and lifted him out. "All clean, sir?"
She chuckled at his broken words and spun him around as they made their way to his bedroom that his brother had helped him clean the night before. "Maybe we should get your brother something nice for helping clean your room."
"Oh yes," he agreed as she dried him off. "Big mess, mama. Henry do."
"Henry better not have done it for you. Mama will kick his butt."
Jamie looked at the ground for a moment before smiling at her. "No. No. Jamie do. Little Prince."
"Uh-huh." Emma eyed him warily. "Mama will let it slide this time but you need to clean up your room, your brother won't always be able to do it for you."
"Henry go?" James looked horrified.
"You're too smart for your own good." Emma ruffled his hair and helped him step into his 'big boy' underwear. "Someday. Henry will have to help mama, Grandma Snow, and Grandpa James with the court."
"Yes," Emma shot back as she wrestled a striped t-shirt over his head. "And you will too."
"I do not like this."
August mocked a gasp and placed a hand over his heart in the doorway. "Was that a full sentence?"
"Daddy is not funny."
Emma barked out a laugh. "And that was another one. I'm so proud."
"Encourage this, please.".
"All day, every day."
People had been bowing in her presence for six years and it never stopped feeling odd. They walked down the street, kicking at the fallen autumn leaves, with Jamie hanging from their hands between them. Every few steps they stopped and swung him, allowing him to kick at the leaves that seemed to be piled everywhere – she made a mental note to tell her father to stop preparing for a war that might never happen and spend more time maintaining the town. Jamie laughed as he kicked a pile of leaves and they fluttered in the October wind, creating an orange and red whirlwind around them. He threw his head back and looked up at her. "Mama. Mama. Mama."
"I know, little prince."
August caught her eye over their son's head and he smiled at her; four years into their marriage and he still managed to knock the breath from her chest. She smiled back and, in spite of herself, blushed. He laughed and took a second to lean over and kiss her cheek, pausing to whisper, "I love you."
"I love you too."
"MINE HENRY!" Jamie interrupted their moment with his piercing yell as he dropped both their hands and sprinted down the sidewalk toward the former Marco's repair shop. Geppetto continued to work on cars but he placed no limit on the things he could fix or build, Henry had found himself apprenticing for the last few years.
Emma watched her seventeen year old son climb down from the grill of her father's pickup and wipe his hands on a grease rag before kneeling to catch his little brother. No matter how much Jamie's speech improved, his brother always found 'mine' smashed in front of his name when they were together. As if the little prince wanted to stake claim for the rest of the world to know, Henry belonged to him. She watched, finding it unfathomable that the handsome young man before her was the same baby she'd given up all those years ago. He picked his little brother up and placed him on his shoulders, walking over to greet his parents. "Hey guys."
"Hey kid." Emma reached up to brush his shaggy chocolate locks from his face and fought the pang in her heart because she used to reach down to ruffle them. "You forgot breakfast."
"You know the rule," August added.
Henry nodded. "Sorry, dad."
August had adopted Henry shortly after their wedding and the boy's thirteenth birthday but he'd been calling August 'dad' for years before that. Emma had found out shortly after they'd began to date when she'd overheard them talking while August worked on Henry's bike. August had asked her son if it was okay that they were dating and the teenager had thrown back the fact that he'd been calling August 'dad' for a few months at that point. August had told him that he didn't think the two were necessarily synonymous. And in that moment, Emma knew that she was going to marry him.
"Think that Grandpa will let you cut out early," she asked.
"I can take a break," Henry replied. "I told Grandpa James that I would have his brakes done and drop the truck off before going to help Belle at the library."
Henry handed Jamie over to his father and wrapped an arm around his mother's shoulders, leading her over to the picnic table that was shoved up against the garage wall. "Did the War Council meeting go well?"
"I don't know." Emma shrugged. "Red and Grumpy were duking it out when I left."
"Aren't they always?" He dove into his pancakes in a fashion similar to his three year old brother's. "Did Grandma and Grandpa let you go early or did you duck out when no one paid attention?"
"I resent the accusation, young man." Emma huffed dramatically and playfully tapped the toe of her boot against his shin. "Your grandmother let me go because your father tempted me."
August reached out and cuffed him lightly. "Not like that but it's good to know where your head is, Henry."
"We had this talk already!" Henry covered his ears and hummed to himself which made Jamie laugh heartily while trying to copy him.
Emma sighed and laughed softly. "I didn't realize that we had two toddlers."
"Me either." He mumbled and leaned over to kiss her while their boys made gagging noises. She cupped his chin and pulled him back in when he tried to back away, holding on for a few extra seconds.
"Alright." Henry cleared his throat. "Enough of that."
Jamie stole a piece of his brother's pancake as he shook his head. "Yucky, mama. Yucky, daddy. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck."
August smirked and wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Aren't you glad you played hooky for this?"
"I wouldn't miss this for the world."
And she wouldn't. She wouldn't trade a single moment of her life now for the way things used to be.