DISCLAIMER:: do not own. just borrowing for purpose of creative expression. no profit obtained.

A/N:: this is long and there's something i love about it though it has no rhyme or reason, but then again, so did i never told you and look how big that got.

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Ten fingers. Ten toes. One head. One face with all the correct features in all the right places. Little tuft of hair. She'd made that, with help of course, but that was beside the point. As far as he was concerned, he was a miracle baby, just like that dude in the bible. If she had any say in it, he would never know his father, but he would certainly know her. The moment she'd held him for the first time, she'd known that she couldn't do what her mother did.

Deep in that small place in the back of her mind, the place that still believed fantastical things were possible, she still held onto the hope that her mother had done all this for the right reasons. Maybe there had been some circumstance, something beyond her control that forced her to give her little baby girl up. That small part in her brain still believed in that truth.

But the bigger and much more practical part of her brain knew that her mother had most likely been just another coke whore who'd made a mistake with one of her johns and had decided to relieve herself of said mistake on the side of the road to rectify the problem. She hadn't even loved her enough to fork over the dough for a proper basket. All she'd had was that baby blanket that had honestly most likely been some baby shower gift from an estranged aunt that her mom hadn't wanted to keep around as a reminder.

That blanket had been both her curse and her blessing for the last seventeen years. It was a reminder, a lingering hope that proved (gaudy gift from a relative or not) that her mother had once cared enough to name her. But therein was an even deeper pain. Because, if her mother had cared enough to name her, and she obviously had, then when had things changed? When had her caring disappeared? Had it been when she was born? Had her mother taken one look at her and not liked what she'd seen? It hurt her to ponder all the possible scenarios, especially when most of them reached the same conclusion: that she hadn't been good enough.

She looked down at the letter again.

To Whom It May Concern:

That sounds so informal for what we are soon to be to each other, but the agency refuses to give my attorney or myself your name. They have, however, agreed to give you this letter on my behalf. I know we don't know each other yet, but we will soon share something that will link us forever. We will share a beautiful baby boy. I appreciate that you've allowed the agency to send me copies of all the sonograms. I feel as if you've allowed me to be a part of his life from the very first step. I don't know your reasoning behind this decision… my lawyer informs me you are quite young, so perhaps that is it… but I am happy you decided to make it, whatever brought you to this conclusion. My husband, may he rest in pieces (Emma was sure that must be a typo), and I never had the opportunity to have children before he passed. In the years since, the chance to remarry has never arose, and even if it did, well, children are no longer a possibility. It wasn't my intention to drag on, so I shall come to the point of this letter: thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you are about to give me. Thank you, for Henry.

She couldn't make out the letters in the fancy scrawl of the woman's signature, save the first of each name. RM, those were her initials, this widowed woman who, up until this morning, was to be the baby's adoptive mother. This woman who had selected a name for him already. But when she'd held that serene baby boy all bundled in white and blue in her arms, she'd done something she'd never even considered as a possibility… she'd changed her mind.

Emma Swan was keeping her son.

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Regina Mills paced back and forth across the pristine flooring of her foyer, her heels tapping a staccato rhythm against the hardwood floor. He'd been born three days ago, Gold had told her that much. Beyond that, she didn't know anything more. For all she knew, the baby was on the brink of death in an incubator in some hospital somewhere.

She'd been waiting for the knock for so long that when it actually came it scared her nearly out of her skin. She jumped what seemed to be several feet into the air and then made a mad dash for the front door. She threw it open, an expectant look on her face but it fell to the vicinity of her feet right along with her heart when Regina saw Gold on her stoop holding a white envelope instead of her son.

"Any news?" Regina eyed him suspiciously.

"The agency gave me this to be passed on to you." He handed her the white envelope which she now saw had two letters written on its face in blocky black ink. RM.

She held the envelope, pinched between thumb and forefinger as if it were some vile object that she wanted to touch as little of her skin as possible. "And what exactly is this supposed to be?"

"Well Madame Mayor, I'd venture to say it's a letter."

She rolled her eyes, not for the first time wondering why she even bothered with the shady businessman at all. Oh yeah, because he is the one with a law degree in this world. And she had to admit that despite his less than savoury reputation, he was somebody who knew how to get things done. He'd connected her with this young mother looking to give up her baby boy less than a week after she'd hired him. Now she had a framed sonogram picture in her in-home office upstairs and a fully furnished nursery in the spare room next to her own. She'd spent the last five months reading every published expert opinion on how to be a proper mother. She'd practised warming bottles of formula to just the right temperature and doing an oscillated rock-n-walk. Anything and everything to make herself into the perfect mother.

"Well, I'll leave you to it then." Gold turned without another word and strolled (if one truly can stroll with a slight limp) back up her front walk.

She glared after him a moment before closing the door and turning for her parlour. She had a feeling this was going to be something that would require a drink.

She tossed the offensive white envelope onto the table. As it landed face up, those two black letters glared back at her in accusation as she made her way to the sidebar, removed a tumbler and poured herself a generous glass of cider.

She brought the decanter with her as she took a seat on the couch in front of the letter. She took a huge gulp of her cider before setting it down and picking up the taunting envelope. She turned it around and around in her hands, both dying to know its contents and dreading the same. Deep in the pit of her stomach she already knew what it was destined to say. After all, wasn't it her curse that the happy moments in her life weren't allowed to last long?

Finally, with a sigh, she slid her nail along the seal, breaking it. She pulled out the single sheet of paper, written in the same fashion as the letters on the face of the envelope.

Dear RM,

I'm not sure what to say here. I could tell you I'm sorry a million times over but would it really matter? If I were you, that's not what I'd want to hear. I never intended to love him, just as I'm sure you would have were he in your arms. He's so small, so fragile, so vulnerable, but strong underneath it all. I know you probably hate me now, think I'm heartless. I just wanted to write this and let you know why I've decided to keep him. My mother abandoned me on the side of the road after she had me. I'm not trying to get sympathy, just understanding. She left me and the thought that I was about to turn around and do the exact same to him… I couldn't. I can't. I may suck royally at motherhood; I'm only seventeen. But I owe it to him to try. He deserves that. Enclosed is a picture of him to do with what you want. It's his first. I named him Henry… for you.

Regina frantically grabbed for the envelope and turned it upside down, shaking it. Slowly, the photo fell out onto her lap. She tossed the envelope aside and picked it up. There he was. His small face was scrunched but his hazel eyes were open and wise, taking in the world around him and processing it. She saw a shock of soft brown hair peeking out from beneath his light green cap. His white onesie had little jungle animals on it in pastels. He was absolutely perfect.

She stood, ignoring the unsigned letter as it drifted from her lap to the floor, and headed upstairs. She found an empty frame in the storage closet and placed the photo into it with care. Then she carried the framed photograph into her office. It took the place of sonogram on her desk, the place of honour. The sonorgram would go into the nursery that now would never be used.

She sat down at the desk and picked up her landline, dialing a number that had become familiar in the last couple months.

"Gold's Pawn Shop."

"Mr. Gold, it's Mayor Mills calling." She had a feeling he was already well aware of who was calling but said the line for politeness sake.

"Madame Mayor. What can I do for you?"

"I need you to establish a relationship with the agency. I don't care how you do it, but I want this woman's address. If she insists on making this mistake, I refuse to let my son suffer as a result of her selfishness."

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Emma closed the mailbox, locking it back up, and headed towards the stairs up to the flat as she shuffled through the small collection of bills and such in her hands. There it was, last one in the stack right after the gas bill, just as she had known it would be, just as it always was, like clockwork. She got them twice a year, once on Henry's birthday and one halfway to the next. Each was addressed the same, a plain manila envelope with Henry's name and their address. No last name. Inside was always six thousand dollars, a six with three zeros following it. There was no stamp, no postmark. It was hand delivered every time.

The first time it had happened, she'd been confused beyond belief. Henry had only been two months old; it was the only time the delivery hadn't followed the pattern. She'd been living in a halfway house at the time. It had surprised her when the director had come in and tossed the envelope on her bed, completely ignoring that Henry was feeding at that particular moment in time. Henry, c/o The Mason House, 501 Duncan St, Phoenix, AZ, 85108. When she'd asked where it had come from, Mrs. Linky had just shrugged and said someone delivered it. She had opened the envelope to find sixty crisp, clean one hundred dollar notes. She'd been so shocked she'd dropped the envelope. There was no return address, no letter to explain what the money was for. A trip to the bank the next day proved the money was all legal tender and not listed by serial number as stolen. Emma made a decision right then and there to take the blessing for what it was. Eighteen year old Emma Swan opened up a bank account in Henry Swan's name, depositing half the money in it. The other half she used to pick her little family of two out of the gutter.

It was a hard road the first four years, barely struggling to make ends meet, even with three jobs. Some days she went without so Henry could stay well fed. Whenever she received the money it went into Henry's account in its entirety. And in the rare moments she did find extra money in her own account at the end of the month, she took it out and deposited it in his account, intent to repay the three thousand she'd borrowed. It took her all four years to do so.

Once Henry reached school age at five, things began to get easier. She didn't have to pay for as much child care, freeing up more money for the necessities. They fell into the steady rhythm of working single mother and child. Life became comfortable. They never had a lot, but they always had enough.

They moved around a lot. Ever since she'd bounced around from foster home to foster home as a child, she'd become accustomed to wandering. Staying in one place for too long, forming roots, the very thought terrified her. After the first couple moves, when the envelopes still magically seemed to find them, she began to feel more secure about all the moving. They never stayed anywhere longer than half a year.

The flavour of this particular half year was Boston. And here it was, as always. Henry, 31 State Street Apt 12, Boston, MA, 02116. She put the key in the door, opening it.

"Hey mom." Henry waved from where he was reading an old looking brown book at the island.

"Hey birthday boy." She set down the rest of the mail on the counter, eyeing the book. Near him there was torn brown paper and bubble wrap. "What's that?"

Henry shrugged, not even pausing in his reading. "Birthday present. The UPS guy delivered it an hour ago."

Emma's eyes widened, her eyebrows shooting sky high in worry. "I thought we talked about not opening the door for strangers."

Henry rolled his eyes. "Chill out mom, I waited until he was gone before I went out and grabbed the package."

"And you opened it because...?"

"It was addressed to me." He held up the ripped brown paper for her inspection.

She grabbed the wrapping and studied the address. This was sent to Mr. Henry Swan, Birthday Boy. There was no return address but the writing was not that of their mysterious financial benefactor. No, someone else entirely had sent this. She didn't have time to deal with that now. "Fine. I'm going to go clean up and then it's you and me and some birthday fun."

"Sure mom." He wasn't even paying attention, his focus back on his book already.

She sighed, trudging into her bedroom.

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She stared down at the bank receipt. Account balance: 124,522.44. She'd never seen that much money in her life at once. Her own savings account had a hefty sum in it, thanks to the surprisingly lucrative career bounty hunting had proven to be and, even more surprising, how successful she happened to be at it. Still, just because they now could, didn't mean she'd ever encourage that they start living beyond their means. Things could easily change in a flash. Emma Swan knew enough to know there was no such thing as impenetrable security, financial or otherwise.

Henry had insisted on bringing his new book to dinner, barely putting it down long enough to eat his fill. Now his head was still buried in it as they walked back towards the flat with the ugly telltale pink bakery box that contained his dragon themed cake.

"So what's this book about?"

Henry finally looked up. "Fairytales."

She raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you a little old to be reading fairytales kid?"

"Everyone should believe in magic and happily ever after mom." He launched into a description of all he'd read so far. He didn't finish until she had stuck her key in the lock to their flat.

She closed and locked the door behind them and set the cake box on the counter, pulling plates and utensils from cupboards and drawers. "So, I was thinking that my birthday is coming up in a month and a half. What do you say we blow this joint early?"

Henry frowned. "What's wrong with Boston?"

Emma matched his frown. "Nothing. It's just time to move on."

When he was a little kid, Henry always saw packing up their meagre possessions into their beaten down old yellow beetle and taking off to some new destination as an adventure. But as more time passed and he got older, he began to see past the adventure to what it really was, running, a lack of stability. His mother's inability to form attachments, to people or places.

Emma pouted. "Come on kid, I'll even let you pick the place this time."

Henry looked down at his book with a smile. "Alright. I know exactly where we can go."

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Augusta? Out of all the cities in the United States, hell toss in Canada and Europe too, she wasn't picky, and he had to pick Augusta? Maine? What was there for them in Maine? Had Maine even joined the rest of the world? Did they have running water? She briefly imagined pulling water up in a bucket from a well, but then shook it off. Of course they had running water. This wasn't medieval times after all. And, regardless, the decision was made. She couldn't go back now without her son feeling resentful and betrayed.

She looked at the bed, where she'd placed her one duffel of clothes and her locked chest and her two cardboard boxes. She kept her possessions to the bare minimum. The locked chest was most important. In it were all things Henry as well as her letter. Emma had never stopped thinking about the woman she still referred to as Henry's other mother. Emma never forgot the opportunity she stole from the woman she knew only as RM. She owed so much to that woman. She had immediately started to document everything in Henry's life, saving it in the locked chest. She knew it was impossible to meet that woman. She had tried but the agency refused to reveal her identity. So she did the only thing she could, document his life for the mother that never was.

"Are you ready mom?"

She turned to find Henry standing in the doorway, looking at her expectantly. A huge rolling suitcase, nearly as tall as him, was standing by his side. A folded dinosaur blanket, ratty from years of use, was folded neatly on top. His new book was tucked under an arm. It struck her like a sock to the gut when she realised how routine this was for him. Not for the first time, Emma found herself wondering if maybe she'd done wrong by dragging him around all these years.

"Mom?"

She realised she had yet to answer him. "Yea kid, I'm ready." She grabbed the handle of the chest and her duffel. She'd have to make another trip to get the boxes. She walked over to Henry. "Augusta kid? You sure?"

Henry nodded, a mischievous sparkle in his eye. "Yep."

Emma sighed. "Alright. Let's get this show on the road then."

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"Are you sure this is the right way kid?" She looked around the tree lined road they'd been traveling for the better part of an hour. "This is rather off the beaten path. Shouldn't Augusta be closer to the highway than this?"

Henry, who had his head buried in the map beside her, looked at her with a grin, nodding. "We're going the right way."

"Okay." She tried her best to sound convinced but it just wasn't working that well. She had yet to see any sign for Augusta. Maybe he was reading it upside down or something.

"Turn left up here." Henry pointed to an approaching turn.

She signaled before turning onto a tree lined roadway even more barren than the one they had just turned off on. At least this one had a sign. "Storybrooke, 7 miles. Is that near Augusta?" She'd never heard of it, but then again, the geography of Maine wasn't exactly on her radar.

"Not exactly."

She tensed. She could already hear the mixture of guilt and hope in his voice. Oh dear. Henry, you got some splainin' to do. "What's in Storybrooke?"

Henry looked at her hopefully. "Our destiny."

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The diner was quaint, just like the rest of Storybrooke. It was all small shops, like one of those cute little historic towns that time forgot. Even the clock tower in the center of town was broken. Granny's Diner, as the sign over the door proclaimed, was the best option for stopping. They were hungry from all the hours on the road anyway.

The place was only half full. Dinner rush time was still an hour off yet.

"Just grab a spot anywhere." The mumble came from a distracted blur of red as she rushed by, coffeepot in hand.

Henry picked a booth towards the back, though not quite all the way there. He slid into one side, leaving her to snag the other.

The waitress from moments before appeared out of nowhere. She was too distracted to look at them fully. "What'll it be?"

Emma frowned. "Can we see a menu first?"

The waitress stopped and finally focused on them for the first time. As she did, her brown eyes grew wide. "Oh, you're not… I mean, menus, of course." She rushed over to a small stack by the till and brought them two. "Sorry, it's just… we don't really get many customers who aren't local."

Emma chuckled. "Shocker, considering this place is so convenient to get to."

The waitress giggled, picking up on the sarcasm. She was pretty with long brown hair that had a thick read streak through it, long legs on display thanks to short red shorts, all topped off with a tight white t-shirt. She had red lips and wore an apron folded and tied around her waist. The nametag on her shirt claimed her name was Ruby. How fitting. "I'll give you two a moment to look things over."

Emma watched her depart curiously. She had truly seemed amazed by their presence, as if she'd never seen a tourist before. She turned back to her menu.

They decided on grilled cheese sandwiches and root beer floats.

After they'd finished an awesome meal, Ruby brought by the checque. "You staying in town or just passing through?"

Emma glanced at Henry's hopeful face before answering. "We'll be here for at least a few days."

Ruby smiled. "The mayor'll love that." Her tone implied the exact opposite.

"The mayor?" Emma raised an eyebrow.

Ruby nodded. "She's not exactly… fond of change."

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So that was what led him here. He stared up at the big white house in wonder. It was by far the biggest and grandest he'd seen in town so far. So this was how the other half lived in a small town like Storybrooke.

"Are you lost young man?"

Henry nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the stern, though not unkind, voice. He looked to its source and saw a brunette woman standing next to a sleek black Mercedes in the driveway of the huge house. She was about his mom's height, but that's where their similarities ended however. His mom was fair with long wavy blonde hair and light green eyes, her complexion pale like cream. In contrast, this woman was dark. Her hair was short and near black, her skin a deep tan. Her eyes were dark, piercing, and intense. She was thinner than his mom but the difference was barely noticeable. She was dressed formally in pressed slacks and a deep purple silk button up beneath a blazer that matched her slacks. She looked much as her office would suggest.

She was looking at him expectantly and he fidgeted beneath her gaze. "Sorry." He wasn't quite sure what he was apologising for, he just felt as if he should.

The woman shouldered the grocery sack and closed her car door with her free hand. "What's your name?" Again her tone was stern but not unkind.

"Henry Swan."

The bag slipped from her grasp and its contents spilled out across the lawn.

Henry rushed forward, picking up the box of whole wheat pasta, the bag of tomatoes, the quart of cream, all the groceries she had dropped. He brought them over to where she was rearranging the sack.

She took the items from him. "Thank you… Henry." She put them back in the sack. "Where are your parents?"

He shrugged. "My mom is taking a nap at the Bed and Breakfast."

The woman looked appalled. "She lets you roam the streets alone in a strange town?"

Henry couldn't hide the guilt on his face. "I snuck out."

The woman's eyebrow raised, obviously surprised by his confession and honesty. "And your father?"

"I don't know him."

"So just you and your mother then?" She seemed intrigued. "How old are you Henry?"

"I just turned ten last week."

The woman seemed to pale slightly, staring at him curiously as if she were seeing a ghost.

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Emma sighed as she looked up at the huge house. It was beautiful. She could just imagine being happy growing up in a place like that, a big house in a small town with a loving family. Not for the first time she wondered if that would have been Henry's life had she given him up like she was supposed to. She shook the thought away. Despite all their struggles, she didn't regret keeping her son for a moment.

She took a deep breath and walked through the hedge gate and up the walkway to the pristine white front door with the shining gold numbers. 108. She knocked before her nerves could get the better of her.

It took a long moment for the mayor to answer. She wore a power suit and a dark purple silk button up that looked quite at home in a politician's wardrobe.

Emma had to hold back a gasp. She was absolutely breathtaking, from her dark hair, to the liquid chocolate of her eyes, and down to the berry lips that fell into a natural pout. They were so kissable. Everything about her was delicious.

"Miss Swan I presume?" She kept one hand on the door, leaning out just a little, enough that Emma caught her scent. She smelled of apples and something faintly spicy and floral that Emma couldn't place.

The blonde seemed to remember herself then. She put out her hand. "Uh, yea, call me Emma." She shook her head gently to clear her mind of her impure thoughts.

The woman took her hand and shook it firmly. "I'm Mayor Regina Mills. Let me be the first to welcome you to Storybrooke Miss Swan." Regina stepped back, opening the door the rest of the way, a clear invitation for her to come in.

Emma stepped cautiously inside. She suddenly felt ridiculous being here. When Regina had phoned and asked her to come over to discuss staying in town, she had immediately agreed, desperate to make Henry happy. But now it just felt silly. Whatever happened to free will? What was this place… Oz? Did she really have to come see the wonderful wizard (or mayor as the case may be here) to grant her wish?

Regina indicated a door on the right.

Emma stepped through it and entered a lushly furnished room, a parlour. "You have a beautiful home."

Regina smiled. "Thank you. Please, take a seat. Would you like a drink?"

Emma sat down on one of the couches. "Perhaps a small one."

Regina turned to the sidebar. "I know just the thing." She grabbed two tumblers and a decanter. "It's my own recipe." She handed one of the now half-filled glasses to Emma. "I hope you like apples."

Emma accepted the offered glass. "Thanks. I love them."

Regina sat across from her. "So what brought you to Storybrooke?"

"My son actually. I told him he could pick any place and this is where he led us."

"Yes, I met Henry earlier. He seems like a bright boy."

Emma beamed proudly. "Yes, he is. I always say he gets his street smarts from me and his book smarts from…" She trailed off, the smile slipping from her face.

"His father?"

Emma shook her head. "No… it's not important."

Regina looked about to push the subject but then seemed to think better of it. "So you're planning on staying in Storybrooke then?"

The blonde nodded. "Nothing permanent of course. We're just passing through. Staying for a few months at most."

Regina nodded slowly. "Well Miss Swan, I'm afraid the only flats in town are all rented out."

Emma frowned. Had she sounded… disappointed? "I'm sure we'll find something."

Regina studied her for a long moment, something unreadable in her probing gaze. "I hope you do."

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It didn't take long to enroll Henry in the local elementary school or to find the job. After all, finding things, including loopholes, was her specialty. Storybrooke was in need of a deputy and she was in need of some income. The Sheriff, Graham, was a nice enough guy and Henry was just happy enough to have a reason to stay.

"I see you're managing to make yourself comfortable Miss Swan."

Emma's gaze shot up in surprise. Regina stood next to her booth at Granny's, looking just as regal as the night they met. "Madam Mayor."

Regina indicated the seat across from her. "May I?"

Emma nodded. "By all means; I could use the company."

The mayor sat down. She had no idea why she was here. There was just something about the blonde that called to her, drawing her in. "The Sheriff informs me you've taken the deputy position."

"Yep, Deputy Emma Swan, that's me." She fingered the bedge sitting next to her mug of hot cocoa. "I got Henry enrolled in school too." She noticed Regina's rigid posture and frown. "Are you okay?"

Regina seemed to shake away from her thoughts. "I'd like to invite you and your son to dinner at my house tonight, if you're agreeable of course."

Emma was a little thrown by the sudden invitation but she found herself nodding. "Sounds great."

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Regina wasn't sure when she'd been this apprehensive about a dinner. She'd grown accustomed to moving through life alone in the past few decades. But the possibility that this was actually him… that somehow the life that she'd been denied a decade ago was now delivered to her, filled her with anxiousness and hope.

She hadn't anticipated Emma Swan, her beauty, her confidence. Regina had always thought of the woman who robbed her of her son as someone ugly and horrid. She hadn't expected the blonde haired, green eyed vision who'd shown up on her doorstep. And she certainly hadn't expected to want her so much.

She checked on the pork loin for the billionth time. It looked much as it had the last time she checked three minutes prior. She wanted everything to be perfect. If all went well, maybe she'd get her child after all, and possibly his mother too.

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"Stop pulling at your clothes." Emma slapped his hand away from his collar. She'd made him put on his Sunday Best for the occasion and he'd been complaining non-stop.

"But it itches!" Henry once again made to yank at the collar of his white dress shirt.

Emma sighed and pulled down the hem of her own dress. It was modest enough, going down to just above her knee. But it was also meant to be sexy, hugging her body tightly in all the right places. She wasn't quite sure what she was trying to accomplish. Regina Mills had given no indication that she was even remotely interested and coming on to the mayor of the small town you were currently trying to establish yourself in was not the brightest of ideas. Yet here she was.

She slapped Henry's hand away once more before reaching up to ring the bell. The door opened immediately as if Regina had been just on the other side.

Regina couldn't stop her gaze from wandering over the woman on the stoop appreciatively. The dark green satin dress fit the blonde exquisitely, like a glove, and before she could stop it, her mind envisioned a scenario in which she was peeling that dress off the blonde's body. She blinked rapidly for a moment to clear it from her mind. "Come in."

Emma was busy with some appreciating of her own. Regina was in a simple black dress, one easily convertible from conservative to casual, but despite being versatile, it was sophisticated, especially on her. "You look very…" She was unable to form a coherent thought much less offer an adequate adjective.

Regina smiled, closing the door behind them. "Thank you." She led the way towards the dining room where the table was already all set, the food laid out family style.

There was a place setting at the head of the table and one to its right and left side respectively. Before she could stop him, Henry took the seat at the head of the table, leaving the two across from each other for the women. Emma was about to force him to move but Regina's hand on her forearm stopped her. The brunette took the seat to Henry's left, leaving Emma to go around to the right.

Emma remained silent through the majority of dinner, choosing instead to watch Regina interact with Henry. The brunette seemed genuinely interested in every little story, every detail, no matter how insignificant, in his life. Emma felt a warmth suffuse her, a dangerously growing affection for this woman she barely knew.

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When dinner was finished, Regina took Henry to the den to start a movie while Emma started to clean up.

"You don't have to do that." Regina appeared behind her.

Emma shrugged, carrying the last plate to the sink. "You cooked; the least I can do is clean up the mess."

Regina tried to help but Emma gently knocked her hands away. "If you want to help, why not bring me a glass of your cider?"

The brunette nodded and disappeared, coming back a couple minutes later with the drink. She set it beside the sink.

Regina lifted herself up to sit on the counter a couple feet away, nursing her own glass as she watched Emma work. "You raised Henry well. He's a good boy." She sounded almost sad.

Emma shrugged, glancing sideways at her. "I tried my best. From the moment I decided to keep him, I knew I had big shoes to fill. He was supposed to go to this wonderful woman… and I knew I had to be a mom worthy of her level." Emma gave a small half-smile. "In a way I feel like she's raised Henry right along with me. I can only hope I did half the job she would have."

Regina raised an eyebrow. "Do you know who she is?"

The blonde shook her head sadly. "No, just her initials, but, I don't know… it may seem crazy but I feel her with me, every single day." She laughed it off as her own weirdness.

Regina smiled to herself.

Emma continued as if she hadn't noticed, though she had, and was puzzled. She had, however, decided not to read into it. "I saved everything from his life; I guess I've sort of been collecting it for her."

There was a gasp followed closely by the sound of shattering glass. Emma's gaze shot over to where Regina was just crouching down to retrieve the shattered fragments of the broken porcelain plate. Emma wiped her hands off and immediately got down to help her.

Regina looked unsteady as she gathered the bigger pieces in her hand. She tossed them into the rubbish bin by her head.

Emma swept some smaller pieces into her hand, feeling the prickling of the little pointed ends against her palm. "Be careful, they're sharp."

Regina rolled her eyes. "I'm aware they're sharp. Don't speak to me like I'm a chi… Ow!" She immediately dropped the shard that had cut her, bringing her hand to her mouth and sucking on the wound.

"Here, let me see it."

Regina shook her head. "Not necessary."

But Emma wouldn't be deterred. She reached out and grabbed Regina's hand, inspecting the small stinging cut. She blew on it softly, the action effectively silencing all Regina's protests. She blew a little more and then kissed the offending cut. She looked up at Regina through her lashes. "All better?"

Regina nodded, not breaking eye contact with Emma as she pulled her hand away slowly.

Emma smiled. "Good." She resumed picking up the fragments of the plate.

"May I ask why?"

Emma raised an eyebrow. "Why what?"

"Why save all that stuff for her?"

Emma shrugged. "Just because I decided to keep him, doesn't mean she ever stopped being his mom too."

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"He fell asleep." Regina returned to the parlour where Emma was nursing her fourth glass of cider.

Emma looked up with a sigh. "I'll go wake him."

Regina sat beside her. "You will do no such thing. I already put him in one of the guest rooms."

Emma shook her head. "I really shouldn't impose."

Regina took Emma's glass from her and set it on the side table. She slid closer. "I wish you would." She leaned forward, bringing her lips within an inch of Emma's, giving her the option to accept or refuse what Regina was offering.

Emma felt Regina's breath against her lips, almost urging them open. This was dangerous territory. This woman was the mayor. She was, for all intents and purposes, her boss' boss. Never mix work with pleasure. That's what her mind said even as she brought her lips to the brunette's.

Regina felt a rush quite unlike any she'd ever felt before at the touch of the blonde's lips. She sank deeper into the contact, pressing her body firmly against the soft but solid one beside hers. Her hand slid, unbidden, up Emma's arm and neck to tangle in the golden tresses, pressing the blonde's head forward so their mouths were forced more firmly together.

Emma was quite sure her heart had stopped in her chest, too overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of emotions to beat properly. As Regina's hand tangled in her hair and pulled her closer, the action was like a shock from the defibrillator paddles, spurring her heart back to life. She found the brunette's hips with her hands and drew the woman into her lap. As Regina's other hand went to her cheek, she ran her tongue across the woman's full bottom lip, begging entrance, which was then promptly granted. Her tongue slid against Regina's, a sensual dance of dominance.

Regina broke first, pulling back just enough to catch her breath, but keeping Emma's lips within capturing distance. "Take me to bed Emma."

Those four words of demand followed by the utterance of her name caused the blonde's sex to throb. Unable to resist the kiss-swollen lips so close to her own, she leaned forward and crashed her own against them once more. She adjusted Regina so the brunette was straddling her, encouraging her to wrap her legs around her waist. Once the brunette had obliged, she put her hand under the woman's hips to stabilize her and rose. She never broke the embrace of their hungry mouths as she carried Regina out of the parlour and up the stairs.

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Bright light assaulted Emma's senses, awakening her from a fitful sleep. She brought her arm up and draped it across her eyes with a groan. When did morning happen? Better yet, why did morning happen? Emma Swan was not a morning person at all. The world had no right to exist prior to 9am and even that was pushing it.

She, surprisingly, remembered the previous night in vivid detail. She could easily count it among one of the most memorable nights of her life. Regina's body had been exquisite, truly beautiful and she'd told her as much countless times as they'd exchanged languid kisses. Their coupling had been unrushed, each taking their time to savour the other. Regina had spent hours kissing and licking between her legs and Emma herself had felt what it was like to be buried in the brunette. It hadn't taken long for her to realise that was always where she wanted to be.

The suddenness and depth of what she felt should have scared her, and in many ways it did. She wasn't one for commitment. She'd never had a reason to stick around. Never before had she wanted to. Until now. With Regina, she felt something she never had before… safe.

She looked down at the nude woman wrapped firmly around her body. Regina's face was nuzzled firmly against her left breast, her arm wrapped securely around her torso. She kissed the halo of dark hair, burying her nose in the soft locks and inhaling that signature scent of apples.

It occurred to her to go check on Henry. It couldn't be easy for him waking up in a strange house. She was sure he probably hadn't remembered falling asleep in the mayor's house. He could be freaking out for all she knew.

She extricated herself, taking extreme care not to jostle the other woman and wake her. She got up and grabbed the silk robe draped over the chair of the vanity and wrapped it around her body. The last time Henry had accidentally walked in on her getting out of the shower and seen her naked, he hadn't been able to look her in the eye for two weeks after; she wasn't going to risk scarring her child like that again.

She exited the room and was faced with four closed doors along the hall. Which one had Henry been placed in? She hadn't thought to ask as they'd been connected at the mouth as they'd stumbled up the stairs the previous night. She listened for any sound to indicate which door he was behind, not wanting to intrude by opening more doors than were necessary. She heard nothing. Deciding her best bet was just to start with the closest door and work her way out; she opened the door nearest Regina's. What she saw inside shocked her.

Before her was a nursery, pristine from lack of use. It was decorated in tans and creams, nothing to indicate if it was intended for a boy or a girl. Expensive looking baby furniture was placed with purpose around the room. Without thinking, Emma stepped inside. She ran her hand over the furniture, taking everything in. She'd never been able to give Henry this kind of luxury. This was everything a baby should have, something she'd never be able to give a child, security, luxury.

Feeling an instant melancholy, she turned from the room and came face to face with Regina, leaning casually in the doorway. A hand flew to her chest and she gave a small yelp of surprise. "You scared me half to death."

Regina didn't say anything, her expression was unreadable.

Emma shifted uncomfortably in the silence, suddenly feeling a little apprehensive. "I was, uh, looking for Henry, to check on him. I'm sorry."

Regina's unreadable expression didn't waver but she nodded. "It's alright."

Emma bit her lip and gestured around. "I didn't know you had a child."

Regina frowned. "I don't."

Emma's eyes grew wide and fell to Regina's stomach. "You're pregnant?" Well that certainly complicated things.

Regina shook her head. "No, I… it turns out motherhood wasn't in the cards for me."

Emma didn't say a word; she stepped forward and pulled Regina into her arms, kissing her forehead soothingly.

Regina's hands grasped in the silk of the robe, clutching desperately and pulling the blonde woman tightly against her. She wanted comfort. She wanted what she had lost. She wanted Emma.

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Henry looked between the two women sitting on either side of him at the breakfast table. His mom, like him, was dressed in yesterday's clothing, now rumbled from wear. Mayor Mills was showered and dressed in a new business suit, looking formal and regal. His mom had managed to cook blueberry pancakes, one of the only breakfasts she could cook without burning something, and they were all eating quietly. He wouldn't be suspicious if it wasn't for the small glances the women stole at each other when they thought he wasn't looking. Something had changed between his mother and the woman his book told him was the Evil Queen. And he had a pretty good idea of what it was.

The book had foretold of their love. It was their destiny to be as one, to break the curse and to right the grievous wrongs together. It was why he had led them here. It was his job to bring them together, to put them in each other's path. He smiled to himself. Mission accomplished. Now it was time to just sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labours.

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"Madam Mayor, I believe it is your lunch hour, is it not?" Emma leaned against the doorway of the in-home office, a sexy smirk on her face. They'd been dating for almost a month now and she still hadn't gotten over her surprise at the reactions the brunette awoke in her every time they were in the general vicinity of each other. They were drawn together like magnets.

Regina looked up from her paperwork, rolling her eyes, but also unable to disguise the smile on her lips. "I have too much to do; I don't have time to take a break to go out."

Emma pushed away from the door and stepped into the room, closing the door behind her and locking it. "Which is precisely why I came to you." She pulled off her jacket and tossed it on the couch. She gripped the hem of her tank, sliding it sensually up, revealing inch by inch of her flesh as she approached Regina.

Regina pushed away from the desk, revealing her lap, which Emma promptly sunk onto.

"You're all I've been able to think about all morning." Emma placed hot kisses along Regina's jaw. It wasn't an admission she made lightly. She didn't often admit that she had need of anything she herself couldn't provide. She especially never admitted to needing anyone. But with each passing day, her comfort with this woman only intensified. She could stay in this place forever, as long as Regina was here to spend forever with.

Regina rewarded the confession by cupping the blonde through her jeans as their mouths came together. She wanted nothing more than to fall completely into Emma. The other mother of her son had become such a permanent fixture in her life. The thought of losing Emma wrenched her heart in her chest. It was precisely the reason why she had yet to tell Emma the truth. There were so many things the blonde still didn't know, secrets, the least of which would send her newfound family running for the hills. She had never wanted so badly to keep something as she did this. She pulled away just enough to look up into Emma's face. "I love you Emma."

She was shocked by her own words. She hadn't loved anything, not truly, since Daniel. It was scary to admit, but the second the words left her mouth, something settled inside her, shifting into its proper place. She did love Emma Swan. It was the truest thing to leave her mouth since coming to this barren world.

Emma's head tilted to the side as she studied the woman before her, her beautiful face, left vulnerable at the admission. She stroked her fingertips along the brunette's face, gently running them over her lips and jaw. "I love you too."

For Regina, those words were a call to action. She scooted the chair back over to her desk and set Emma atop it, scattering her paperwork and the personal items on its surface as she undid the deputy's jeans, sliding them down along with her underwear. She didn't hesitate to seek the apex of her thighs, wanting to taste Emma, to fill her mouth with her essence.

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The office was a mess, but neither woman regretted the events of their lunch hour. They'd taken each other on nearly every available surface, a fire of want and need fueling their passion. There had been no pausing for breath, no hesitation whatsoever, just continuous flow of one into the other.

Now, Regina lay spent, her clothes askew, in Emma's arms. She placed a kiss on the blonde's shoulder as she forced herself to get up. She didn't want to move but work was calling her back and the mess they'd made was already going to put her even further behind.

Emma knew better than to try and hold onto the brunette; she would just be denied. Work was a part of being an adult and they were both expected to return to their respective duties. As she sat up and surveyed the damage, she began to help clean up. It was the least she could do. She retrieved several scattered files, placing them carefully on the corner of the desk. She reached for a framed photograph she'd knocked over as Regina had worked magic between her thighs on the desktop, relieved when she saw the glass wasn't broken. But as she focused on the picture within, she froze.

A baby, inquisitive and curious in expression as he glanced at the camera, his brown hair peeking out from beneath a green cap, his jungle print onesie loosely fitting. She knew this baby. This was her baby. She hadn't seen this photograph since…. It all slid into place then. The abandoned nursery with no baby, Regina's lost shot at motherhood. RM, Regina Mills.

The acid in her stomach turned sour and threatened to come back up. Regina knew. She had to know. How could she not tell her the truth? Had everything been a lie? Had sleeping with her just been some ploy to get closer to her son? Her heart was screaming no, but the practical part of her brain was unable to ignore the evidence staring it in the face. Regina had lied to her.

"It's going to take me hours to clean all this up and get it reorganized." The complaint was half-hearted. Her back was still to the blonde; she was completely unaware of Emma's discovery.

And Emma intended to keep it that way. She silently set the photograph down on the desk, wiping her hands on her jeans. "I should get back to work."

Regina nodded, finally turning and stealing a kiss from the blonde.

Emma tried her best to return it with her usual passion, not quite sure if she fully succeeded. The look on Regina's face told her she hadn't been entirely successful.

"I was thinking we could have something casual and easy for dinner tonight, maybe curl up afterward with a movie. You and Henry could sleep over." She smiled. "How does that sound?" Regina's hands ran softly up and down her sides.

"Sounds good." Emma managed a smile genuine enough to not trigger Regina's suspicions.

"I'll see you back here after work then?" Regina kissed the side of her mouth, a promise of something more to come later.

Emma nodded. "Of course."

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She watched the clock count down the minutes. Never in her life had she wished for work to continue. She was always anxious to get home to her son; work was never so important that her small family didn't supersede it. That became even more true when she'd first met Regina. She couldn't wait for work to end because it was more time with her. But today, she wished she had more time to lose herself in the monotony. She wasn't ready to confront what she'd discovered today.

"You've been off for fifteen minutes, you know?"

She broke from her thoughts to glance at Graham. "You sure there's nothing else you need me to do?"

His heart broke at the hopeful look on her face. She'd been off-kilter ever since she'd returned from lunch, distant and distracted. "I wish I could say yes."

Emma sighed. She had known before she even asked that there'd be nothing else for her to do. Most days were slow as it was and today had been especially lax, barely enough work to fill her entire shift. She stood, pushing in her chair and grabbing her jacket and keys.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Graham wasn't used to the friendly thing, he was more of a lone wolf if he were being honest, but Emma had been a bright spot in an otherwise dull world for the past couple months and there was a part of him that wanted to protect and support her.

Emma smiled, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder reassuringly. "Ask me again tomorrow." She brushed past him and sauntered off to confront her fate.

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"It's because I told you I love you, isn't it?"

Emma glanced up at the woman in the doorway to the bedroom. She had been avoiding the brunette all night, finding every excuse imaginable to keep from being alone with her. She didn't want to discuss it, didn't want to hear her excuses, or worse, even more lies. So she'd focused all her attentions on Henry, asking him more questions about school than usual at dinner to avoid talking to Regina and then getting overly into the movie they'd decided on, which wasn't totally out of character for her had it been something in her age level, but being that engrossed in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had obviously aroused Regina's suspicions.

It seems she could run no longer. Regina had just returned from setting up Henry in the spare room that had, for all intents and purposes, pretty much become his room. All his stuff was there. Though they officially still lived at the Bed and Breakfast, they spent most of their nights at Regina's house now. Now, Regina had cornered her in the master suite with nowhere else to run, no excuses to hide behind. "No, that's not it. In fact, that's why I'm here right now, because I want to believe it." She sat down on the edge of the bed, unable to make eye contact with this woman she never thought she'd meet.

Regina stepped into the room and closed the door. "Do you not love me back? Did you feel pressured into saying it? Is that what all this is about?" She sounded vulnerable again.

Emma shook her head. "I do love you, Regina, that's why I'm struggling. This wouldn't hurt this much if I didn't care."

"Tell me."

Emma closed her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me it was you I took him from? The morning after, when I found the nursery… it was the perfect opportunity. Was it all part of some plan to take him away from me?" She shook her head, not even wanting to consider the possibility that that could be true.

Regina was stunned for a moment of inactivity before she sprang forward, crouching in front of the blonde and taking her hands into her own. "I didn't want you to find out like this. I was going to tell you, but I… how do you explain something like that? How do you tell someone that the child they decided to keep was the child they took from you? At first, I thought maybe you knew. Maybe you had traced the money back to me somehow, found me through the agency. But then I knew that it was just an impossible coincidence, that you had no idea and I became afraid. I didn't want to lose you Emma; I don't want to lose you, or Henry."

The money? Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. The money she'd been receiving. It had all come from Regina. She'd been supporting their son from afar for his entire life. There had been a small part of Emma that had believed it was Henry's dead beat father trying to make things right. That was why she'd never tried to investigate, figuring it was just what he'd pay in child support anyway. But this…

"Please, Emma, this changes nothing."

Emma pulled her hands away, glaring down into Regina's face in disbelief. "It changes everything!" She ran her hands through her hair.

"Why? Why does it change anything? If I had been your girlfriend from Henry's birth, I would have done much the same, supported him and you exactly how I have. He's always been our son; it just took you both a while to find your way home."

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The room was empty when Regina awoke. She had expected it would be. When Emma had relented and curled up with her the night before, she had felt the distance. Nothing had changed; things were still different now. She'd finally fell into an uneasy sleep, knowing sleep would not find the blonde who held her.

She was unsurprised when she found the guest room empty as well. It was too early for Henry to be up for school but Emma wouldn't have left him alone here, not after last night.

She sighed and went downstairs to the kitchen. Coffee was needed to even begin to process how to rectify the situation. She had to convince Emma that it didn't matter, that she loved her. She had to find a way to earn back the blonde's trust and quickly.

It was there, sitting on the kitchen island, a small chest with a white envelope taped to its surface. Her blood ran cold at the sight of it.

With shaky hands, she plucked the envelope from its perch and opened it. Inside was a sheet of paper and a key. The paper was a check made out to her for nearly 125,000 dollars. She set the check aside and fingered the key. She stuck it in the lock of the chest and opened it.

She thought she'd be prepared for what she'd find but she was wrong. Inside was a tangible timeline of Henry's life… photos, report cards, drawings… the entire world of her son saved for her to relive every moment she'd missed. Tears stung her eyes, blurring her vision as she stared down at the contents of the box.

She reached down and plucked out a random photograph. Henry was maybe six in it, grinning toothily at the camera from the lap of twenty four year old Emma as he held up an unbroken sand dollar. She could see the golden gate bridge in the distance behind them.

She set it aside and fished out another. This one showed Henry as an eight year old, trying to hail a cab from the corner of Times Square, his little hand reaching up to be seen despite the much taller people doing the same all around him.

The next one she retrieved showed Henry at no more than three, his eyes wide as he pointed out the Space Needle for the camera.

Her little traveler. Every photo was a new adventure. Emma Swan had given him the world, all without the help of her money. She suddenly felt foolish for ever thinking the blonde would need it, for all the times she had doubted that the young mother who'd decided to keep their child would be bad at motherhood.

She tossed the photos back in the chest, closed it, and locked it. She wiped her eyes and headed for the door. She'd be damned if she was going to sit idly by and let Emma Swan walk right out of her life. She could only hope that she wasn't already too late.

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"Hurry up kid. We need to get out of here." Emma shoved the last of her clothes into her duffel bag and zipped it up. Their window of opportunity to escape unmolested was slowly closing and Henry had been dragging his feet ever since she'd woken him from sleep at Regina's house.

"Why are we leaving so soon?" Henry trudged about.

"I'll tell you on the road, I promise. But we need to get out of here before…" She couldn't bring herself to utter the woman's name. Regina didn't seem like the type to just roll over and give up. She'd come for him.

"Mom…"

"Henry, please, just trust me." She looked at him pleadingly.

Finally, Henry nodded. "Okay mom." he picked up the pace, tossing things quickly into his suitcase. It took him less than five minutes to gather everything together.

"Ready?"

Henry nodded. "Let's go."

Emma pulled open the door and took Henry's free hand. They checked out quickly and were at the car when she appeared.

"Emma!"

Emma froze. No, she was so close to getting away without trouble. With a sigh, she looked at Henry. "Stay in the car. This will only take a minute." She closed the door and turned to see the mayor storming towards her. "What can I do for you Madam Mayor?"

Regina came to a stop before her.

Emma bit her lip. "Nothing you could say would change my mind."

So Regina didn't say anything. She did something instead. She grabbed the sides of Emma's face firmly and crashed their lips together. Everything she was went into her kiss, all she wanted, all she needed, all she felt.

Emma felt the ice that had wrapped around her heart in the past twenty four hours start to melt. She returned the kiss, sinking against the warm mouth against hers. She felt Regina's pain, her anguish, all that she had lost in her life, her fear, her weakness and her strength. She felt everything. The sheer volume of what she felt overwhelmed her and she tried to break away, but Regina held her there, she made her feel it. Tears broke free from Emma's eyes, rolling down her cheeks as she stopped fighting it.

Regina finally broke away. Her chest heaved with the effort, her hands staying stationary, holding the sides of Emma's face as she exposed her heart in a last ditch effort to keep her happy ending. "I love you. Don't go."