Disclaimer in Chapter One
AN: The response to the last chapter was phenomenal. I could not ask for better readers. I really appreciate every single one of you who has read, reviewed, favourited or alerted the story or myself. I haven't written a fic in, I think, a year or so, and I'm so glad to share this with such incredible readers. I'm sad to say this chapter will wrap up our SwanQueen journey, but I really, really hope inspiration strikes again to share another story with such fabulous readers. Thank you so much!
Chapter Eight: Tell You Something
The damn alarm clock blared at 5:30 in the morning. Neither woman moved. The clock was rendered useless since both occupants in the bed had been wide awake for hours now. The past few days left them with inconsolable tears, unexplained absences and eerily quietness. Despite needing their space to grieve, they always managed to crawl their way back into bed with each other.
Regina was the first move, robotically pushing the snooze button, disengaging the screeching of the alarm and resumed her initial position of staring at the ceiling. Emma could almost hear what was going on inside Regina's head. It was the same thing that went on in Emma's for the past three days.
The hum of the flat line resonated throughout the room. For a unified moment, it was as if every person in the room held their breath. The silence was unbearable.
"No . . ." Regina whimpered, stepping forward towards the still, lifeless body of Henry.
"Call it," Dr. Whale sighed sadly, refusing to meet the eye of the Mayor or the Sheriff.
Attendants pulled off the wires and removed the breathing tubes from Henry's nose. He wouldn't need them anymore. The monitor was turned off, and the only sound was the short breathing of the mothers. A nurse took up a chart and solemnly announced, "Time of death: 5:42 am."
Regina's anguish cry filled the room as she collapsed into a frozen Emma's arms.
Silently, the two women made the bed together. They did not look at each other, nor did they offer up any form of conversation. All they did was smooth out the comforter and arrange the pillows into their rightful spot. As if on cue, the women parted, Regina to the closet to set aside their clothes for the day and Emma to the kitchen to whip up breakfast.
She glanced at Henry's half opened bedroom door and fought back tears before turning and heading down the stairs. She didn't need another meltdown.
Regina woke, her cheeks tear stained, her hair sticking every which way and still clothed in her mayoral suit. On any other day, the mayor would be embarrassed that she had allowed herself to fall asleep in such a state, but as it was, this was no ordinary day. This day would get ingrained in her mind for all time. She automatically searched the bed for her blonde wife only to find it empty. A sense of panic set in. She had just lost Henry. If Emma ran off, so help her . . .
She exited their room, finding the moon cast an almost peaceful glow to the hallway. It shone on family portraits that lined the hallways, but Regina wasn't ready to look on them yet. The hours' old heartbreak was still too fresh. A sniffle caught the brunette's attention. Her head whipped in the direction of the sound and found herself staring at Henry's bedroom door. She knew who the occupant in the room was, but her disbelief and hope prayed it was her little boy lying in bed with a case of the cold.
She pushed open the door and wasn't surprised to find her wife curled up in their son's bed clutching the large leather bound fairy tale book he loved so much. Allowing Emma time to grieve, Regina turned to silently creep out when a hoarse voice called out to her. "Am I a bad mother?"
The brunette halted in her movements and turned back towards the blonde. Emma sat up, her back against the headboard, her knees to her chest with the book cradled protectively in between. She didn't look at Regina when she continued to speak. "When I found out he wasn't going to get better, my first instinct was to run and forget. What kind of mother runs away from her sick child?"
It was true that when Emma and Regina had fought that night, the same question ran through the mayor's mind. It was strange for Regina to see Emma so crestfallen and broken. During their initial dating, it was, ironically, Emma, the woman who had one night stands and never ever had a solid relationship, who was the one to quell all of Regina's fears of intimacy and commitment, and although Regina didn't have the perfect template on how be a mother, it was she who was the one comforting Emma on the fears she had on motherhood. She sat facing the blonde, perfect posture as usual, but the intimate act of her grasping Emma's hand was a well-loved gesture Emma had harboured in her wife. "The kind of mother that loves her son so much she can't bear to have anything happen to him."
Emma met Regina's eyes, not satisfied with the answer. "That doesn't make it acceptable."
Regina shook her head in agreement. "But you didn't leave. And you're not leaving now."
The latter sentence was more encouragement than demand. Regina thumbed away a stray tear from Emma's face. Emma leaned into Regina's warmth. She closed her eyes and forced out a devastated, "It's not fair."
At that, Regina broke too. At first, she tried to squash her need to curl into a ball and die, but as soon as she saw Emma drop her head onto her knees in defeat, her lip began to tremble and her chin quivered. Opening her mouth, she released a breathy cry and wrapped around her only source of comfort. Their shaking hands found each other as their fingers dug desperately into the other's skin. Regina spoke muffled against Emma's hair. "He didn't deserve it. He was so good."
The blonde nodded her agreement. "It should have been me."
The mayor let out another sob just thinking about Emma's hypothetical. If she was on the border of depression when Emma had moved out, Regina couldn't even fathom how she would be if Emma had died. Their vocal cords refused to work after the amount of crying they had done in the mere hours of the worst event of their life. So Regina and Emma held onto each other for dear life, as if clinging to the other would protect them from any harm.
The couple drove quietly, Regina not putting up a fight when Emma had grabbed the keys to her bug. Although no words were exchanged on the drive to the funeral home, when Emma reached out her hand in search of Regina's, the mayor readily met it, fingers entwining.
The mayor was aggravated by all the people coming up to her and Emma expressing their condolences and apologies. As soon as they had arrived, Regina was in control mode making sure everything from the brunch to the flower arrangements were exactly as she had ordered them. Emma knew it was her way to deal, but it still made her wary of how little emotion Regina was displaying. But when a procession of people had begun to greet them, Regina was livid. They had no idea what they were going through, yet person after person came up to them dressed in black with sad, sorrowful faces, most with tears or watery eyes, and it drove Regina up the wall. They cry as if they lost a child too. They didn't know Henry well enough to be that upset. They didn't know Henry like she did. Henry wasn't their son, he was hers. They shouldn't – a familiar touch on her lower back removed the train of thought from her brain. She turned her previously blazing eyes to her wife. Emma regarded her as if she could read her mind, and at times, Regina swore she could. The blonde gave her an understanding but pleading look, and when Regina glanced into the parlour where her son now lay in an intricately designed coffin, she swallowed her pride and nodded sincerely to the next person in line.
A few people had offered to speak at Henry's eulogy. No matter who was speaking, neither mother was listening as they stared at the open coffin. Emma stared so hard she could have sworn she saw chest movements, but when she looked to Regina for confirmation, she found the brunette was staring just as glassy eyed, her hands clenched tightly in her lap as if willing him to come back to life. Regina looked up when Archie called her name, announcing he had finished his speech and was calling her up.
The mayor didn't realize she stood and automatically made her way over to Henry's casket. She dusted off imaginary specks from his suit and straightened his outfit with shaking hands before squeezing his as if gaining encouragement from him.
She exhaled to prepare herself and removed a handful of index cards from her blazer jacket. Ever the politician, Emma thought as she watched her wife take the podium. Regina cleared her throat and steeled her expression to show enough dignified pain despite the agony she was feeling inside.
"Twelve years ago was when Emma and I first discussed having children," the mayor began reading as if campaigning. "One year later when we found out Emma was pregnant –" Regina made the mistake of looking away from her audience and turned toward the wake. Henry's lifeless body was too cruel to look at, and the usually polished and emotionless mayor broke under the emotional turmoil flooding every synapse of her brain.
Emma immediately got up and made her way to her wife, forcing Regina to face her and cradled her face between her safe palms. Regina eyed Emma, forgetting about everyone in the room. "I can't."
"Yes, you can," Emma said confidently, wiping away the tears. "Henry wants to hear his story."
"Stay with me," Regina almost begged.
"Always." Emma removed her hands from the brunette's cheeks and trailed them down her arms to take a hold of her waist.
Regina faced the crowd again, their expression more solemn as they witnessed, not only their prestigious mayor crumble, but witnessed the fall of a mother who lost her son. She set aside her cue cards and turned to Henry, as if speaking only to him. "I have to admit, I was terrified when we spoke of having children. I didn't want to end up like – I didn't want to make mistakes with you. That's why I was so cautious whenever it came to your safety. You were the greatest gift to me, to both of us, and as soon as I held you in my arms I knew that I had nothing to be afraid of. I knew that I wanted to keep you safe, make sure nothing bad ever happened to you."
Regina glanced down and laughed coldly once. "Despite my best efforts, I couldn't even do that right. You were the best son anyone could ask for. Perfect, in fact. So bright and eager." Regina chuckled at a memory. "You used to climb into our bed, your mother wouldn't wake because she slept so heavily, but you would drag your fairy tale book with you. It seemed to be as heavy as you at one point, and you would beg and cry for just one more story, and as hard as I tried to resist, you always got me to read you one more story.
"You grew up too fast." Regina moaned into her hand and took a steadying breath to continue. "I wish I could take back all the times I scolded you, or grounded you, or said no to you. I would give you everything if I could. I'd give up everything just to see your infectious smile, or to hear you laugh, or just whisper 'good night' to me one more time."
Regina turned back towards the crowd, noticeably more confident. "I've been mayor for a long time, and I know who I am and how I am. But Henry, my son, and my wife, they gave me the most important gift anyone could have. They gave me love. Henry was filled to the brim with it. I am so thankful and privileged to have spent eleven amazing years with my little boy. There won't ever be another boy like him."
The mayor extracted herself from Emma's grip and made her way back to the casket. She stared lovingly at him for a long while before lowering her lips to his cheek and whispered only for him to hear. "I love you."
Emma shut her eyes watching the display. As strong as she had forced Regina to be, Emma wasn't sure she could say the same for herself. She was relieved when her wife returned to her side, weaving their fingers together and giving her an encouraging look.
The Sheriff nodded minutely and stepped toward the stand. "I should have gone first." Emma muttered in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the crowd. It received a few stifled chuckles and watery smiles. "Regina's right. Henry did teach us how to love again. But most of all, he taught me to remember. When he wants something, he will fight tooth and nail to get it."
She offered a small smile to Regina. "Must have gotten that from you."
Regina regarded her warmly and squeezed the blonde's arm to continue.
"I have a problem with running away from what scares me," Emma began. "I run to forget. But when Henry showed up at my door unexpectedly just this January – God has it been that short – Sorry. When he came, he basically hit me over the head with memories and forced me to remember the good, and even the bad. I've been trying to shove memories away hoping that if I forget them, it didn't happen. But I refuse to do that now. Henry showed me that a part of us lives in those memories. They help us not only remember the past but remember who we are. And like Regina said, love resided in those memories. Not just love for each other, but for our son and our family. If I can honestly say why I'm standing up here with my wife right now, it's because of our son. Thank God he inherited our stubbornness."
The room, including Regina, laughed. Emma glanced at her wife and their son, and an odd sense of peace washed over Emma. She looked on in gratitude at Henry before turning back towards their friends and family. "I won't forget Henry. I won't forget all that he was, everything he's taught me, all the love that came out of him. He may be gone, but I know he's not hurting anymore, and I am so happy for that. Even though his body isn't here, his memory still lives on."
Three Years Later
" . . .and they all lived happily ever after." Regina cooed to little Evangeline as she yawned and nestled her chestnut brown curls against Regina's neck.
"'Gain?" The two-year old asked already flipping the leather bound book open to the first page. Regina laughed lightly placing a kiss on both of her daughter's chocolate brown eyes. "It's time for bed, dear."
Evangeline pouted and promptly crossed her arms. Clearly a habit she had picked up from Emma, but despite copying her blonde mother's mannerisms, it was amazing how alike their daughter looked like Henry.
After Henry's death, the couple had moved closer together, communicating more effectively and never did either doubt that the other would not be there. They had their arguments as normal couples do, but their bond grew stronger with each passing day. They loved more, and laughed more, and although they still withheld public displays of affection, their proximity to each other in public, along with meaningful gazes, and of course, secret hand holding under tables, the couple valued the time they had with one another.
It was nearly a year after his burial when Regina brought up the idea of another child. It shocked Emma that Regina was the one to broach the subject since it was she who had to do the convincing the last time around. Emma had grinned and pulled her wife in for an endearing kiss and said, "Just say when."
However this time around, Regina had been the one to carry the baby. Strategically enough, they had chosen the same sperm donor, and with the birth of their daughter, their family was intricately woven in a web full of love, adoration and gratitude.
Regina grinned at her daughter and tapped her nose. "You look like your brother when you do that."
"Henry!" Evangeline crawled off her mother's lap and stood on her tippy toes to reach a framed photograph of Henry sitting proud on a dresser. She toddled back towards Regina when out of nowhere, Emma swooped in to pick her up, throwing her in the air haphazardly.
"Mommy!" Evangeline laughed loudly, clutching the frame by her fingertips. "Henry fall."
Emma grinned, rocketshipping her daughter into her bed and adjusting the frame so she had a better grip. "Angie has Henry right?"
The little girl clutched the picture of her brother to her chest. "Mine."
Regina joined her family at the edge of the bed and tucked the covers around their princess. "He's watching over you, remember? So you must go to sleep, sweetie."
Emma leaned over to pick up a stuffed unicorn and placed it under the covers with Evangeline. She gently removed the girl's grip from the fame and set it on her nightstand. Regina and Emma almost teared up when their daughter turned towards the picture and waved mumbling a tired "Night, night."
From the moment Regina found out she was pregnant, the women had regaled their daughter with stories about her brother. Some nights Emma would lay her head on Regina's swollen baby bump and read a story, proclaiming it as Henry's favourite. When she was born and Regina was on maternity leave, they would spend hours every day watching Henry's home movies that eventually Evangeline grew up to adore her big brother, even though she had never met him.
Every year on Henry's birthday and the anniversary of his death, the family would head down to his grave and set flowers down. This was the first year Evangeline had made something of her own: a drawing of herself and her brother underneath a rainbow of many colours.
As painful as it was for the mothers to continue living without their son, let alone have another child, they kept his memory alive through pictures, through conversations about him, through their daughter and her love for him and likeness to him. His name was never a topic of taboo. On the contrary, they spoke of him as if he was just away, and in a sense, Regina and Emma realized, it was true. They didn't really say goodbye to Henry. How could they when his very presence lingered within his mothers and a part of him was left in everything he came in contact with? No, this was not forever. This was just the beginning. Henry would be waiting for them to join him with a smile plastered on his lightly freckled face and an "I told you so."
Thank you so much for reading!