Summary for chapter: Charming had missed out on the time-honored tradition of fathers creatively scaring away potential suitors of their daughters. Unfortunately for all involved, this only means the over-protective father in him has been lying in wait for twenty-nine years.
This is a very silly follow-up to a mostly serious first two chapters; it's complete fluff (occasionally bordering on crack), and really inconsequential, but I sure enjoyed writing it, and I figured I should share it here.
So you're the boy I've heard so much about from my daughter's open mouth?
Well, she's described for me wild fantasies of true love and ancient prophecies.
Did you think you could waltz right and steal the princess for yourself?
Seducing her with empty dreams and a rusting ring?
Well I'm the King, it won't be that easy.
(Meet the King by Forgive Duram)
"Will you stop sulking?"
"I'm not sulking," Charming said, his lips pursed and arms crossed in a manner that no one in their right mind would describe as anything but 100% sulking.
"You are. You have been for a solid week. Ever since…"
"Don't. I can't even hear it."
"…Ever since Emma…"
"…ever since she…"
"Ack! Stop it!"
There was a pause. Charming felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise.
Snow gave him The Look. The Look was never a particularly good thing, but when employed in conjunction with his actual name, it was a look that could not, under any circumstances, be ignored. In fact, if it was answered with anything other than complete obedience, it was usually followed by a few very lonely days/nights. Charming wasn't about to test fate.
His wife sipped at her hot cocoa, peering at him over the rim of the mug.
Charming fidgeted. "It's just…"
Snow placed her mug down, her stare not abating in the least.
"It's just—Snow! It's Regina!"
"Oh, Regina?" Charming winced at the all-too innocent tone. "The Regina you spent weeks convincing me had changed? The Regina you said had done so much to bring our daughter back? The Regina who, and I quote, 'clearly still has love in her heart despite all the horrible things she's done'? That Regina?"
"…Yes." He swallowed. "But—but that was all before….before…"
"…Emma moved in with her?" Snow finished with a raised an eyebrow.
Sinking further into the booth, Charming grumbled under his breath. "It's a phase. Not worth mentioning. Emma is going to…"
Snow sighed. "Dear. Sweet Charming. You know I love you with all my heart. But you are being—and this is me putting it delicately—a complete and utter ass."
Charming sputtered; Snow ignored him.
"Emma is twenty-nine years old. She has a son. A son who is also Regina's."
"Oh, come on! That's more of a technicality than anything. You don't have to go making it sound like…"
"And," Snow continued, speaking over him. "…as much as I wish it were otherwise, due to the complicated history I have with the woman… Regina makes her happy. Isn't that all we should want for our daughter?"
Well, there really wasn't more than one way to answer that question.
"Good." Snow picked her cocoa up once again. "Look, I'm not crazy about it either. But, Charming, have you seen them? They're… well, you and I know better than anyone what they are. I know it's hard, but do try to not mope around so much."
Charming resumed his sulking. Snow rolled her eyes and pointedly ignored him.
A day later, Charming was still brooding. It was not a particularly good look for him.
"You really look like you could really use some coffee."
Charming sighed, but offered a tired smile to Ruby as he accepted the cup of steaming liquid. "Thanks. You're probably right."
"So…" Ruby began, faux-casual. "What's up? Town business getting you down? Troubles with the wifey? Or, maybe…" A knowing smile in place, she gestured to the view through the window of Granny's. Charming nearly groaned at the timing of it all.
It was Emma and Regina. Of course.
They weren't doing anything—not really—merely standing outside of the country bread shop across the street. Emma leaned her back against the front window of the shop, while the Mayor stood, hip cocked, alongside her. They were not touching in any way, but were closer, perhaps, than friends would stand, and Charming felt the frown creep across his features at the sight.
Ruby, always the solid friend, slid into the booth, her face a picture of innocent support. Of course, it was all a very clever ploy, Charming quickly realized. "So, they're, like, together-together, now? Emma and Regina?"
Charming groaned. "I don't even know what that means, Red."
"Sure you do!" She leaned over the table conspiratorially. "I mean, are they an honest-to-god-Facebook-official couple now?"
Ruby received no answer from Charming, but as they continued to watch the two women through the window, Regina leaned closer to her blonde companion and whispered something in her ear. Judging from the fact that the resulting blush on Emma's cheeks could be seen even from Charming's viewpoint, the brunette's words were something he would never, ever want to hear directed at his daughter. His scowl deepened, but Ruby simply raised an eyebrow.
"Well, I guess that answers that question."
Charming made a noise of disgust. "Why couldn't Emma have found someone nice and comfortable and not formerly-evil? Someone like…" He trailed off, eyeing Ruby's attire (still not quite as chaste as it had been in the Old World). "Um… someone different." Ruby shot him an amused smirk, and he continued hurriedly. "I just don't get it! What's the appeal?"
"Of Regina?" Ruby stared across the street for a short moment. "Um, she's super sexy. Like—all dark and yummy. I'd totally tap that."
Charming sputtered on his coffee (this was apparently becoming an unfortunate habit). "Red!"
"But then," she added with a wicked smile and an exaggerated head nod toward Emma. "I'd totally tap that as well."
Charming began coughing.
"In fact," Ruby continued, showing not even a modicum of mercy. "If you want an insider's opinion, I bet I could convince Emma to talk to Regina about inviting me for a…"
"Gah! Stop! That's my little girl you're talking about."
Ruby rolled her eyes. "Look, Charming. I know you're royalty, and I probably shouldn't say this... But you're being an ass."
"Why do people keep saying that?"
Ruby stood, her smile sympathetic. "I get it—Emma's your daughter. You missed out on the whole 'Lemme show you my gun collection' bit, but now's not the time. Emma knows what she's doing. You should trust her. I mean—just look at them."
At Ruby's gesture, Charming once again looked out the window; apparently the two women had been waiting for Emma's (Charming did not even like to think 'their') son, for as soon as Henry came running out of the shop, a pastry in hand, Emma pushed off of the wall, and the trio began to walk down the sidewalk. The young boy was chattering excited in-between his two mothers, hands gesturing wildly, and as Charming watched, the two women exchanged a warm glance over the top of Henry's head. And, as they fell a step behind the boy, Emma reached for Regina's hand, threading their fingers together. This time, it was the brunette who flushed and ducked her head, but Charming had never seen the woman look more pleased.
When he pulled himself away from the scene, Ruby was still standing by his table, the same understanding smile in place. "You don't mess with something like that, Charming. Don't you know that by now?"
Charming did know—very well—the futility of interfering with… well, 'something like that'. But that didn't stop him from knocking on Regina's door a few days later, after he had stewed over things for too long.
Regina opened the door, and Charming was struck by how well she looked; the impeccably pressed clothing and perfectly styled hair was back, of course, but the woman before him was a far-cry from—of course— the mess she had been during Snow and Emma's disappearance, but also from the mayor he had known before the curses' breaking (and even from the Queen before its creation in the first place). It was in the small things—in the lightness in her eyes and the way she stood, seemingly comfortable in her skin for the first time in as long as Charming had known her.
Not that it stopped her from greeting him with her typical smug expression. "Charming. How lovely to have you here. At my home. Once again."
The brunette sighed. "Is this going to be some over-protective spiel about Emma, your Highness?"
"Um…" Charming paused, caught off guard. "Well, yes."
"I thought it might. Apologies, but I do not have time for such drivel."
And before Charming could say any more, Regina flicked her fingers, causing a purple mist to surround him.
He was cut off by his abrupt transformation into a frog.
Regina stared down at him in satisfaction. "Best hop home, Charming. True Love's kiss breaks any spell, after all."
At his next visit to the Mayor's Mansion it was, fortunately, Emma that answered his knock. Unfortunately, she was wearing a smirk that was as far from sympathetic as was possible.
"So…I heard Regina turned you into a frog."
"I was stuck like that for a full day, you know."
Charming pouted. "Snow refused to kiss me. She said I deserved it."
"Not you too!"
"You did come here to verbally assault my girlfriend."
His left eye twitched at the label. "'Verbally assault' is a bit overkill, Emma. It was more like a… fair warning. I don't know why everyone is so willing to just go along with you dating someone like Regina. I know—I know very well—that she tried to help bring you and your mother back. And I know she seems very different, but Emma, you're moving so fast, and I think that—"
"I love her."
Charming opened his mouth, the reflex to protest the declaration overwhelming, but he held back, and after a moment, his entire countenance deflated.
"And—and Henry loves her too. David...or…Charming …" Emma sighed. "Dad. They're my family. They're my family too."
Rant forgotten, Charming stared at his daughter for a long moment before nodding.
"Okay?" Emma repeated, both eyebrows rising. "That's it?"
"Emma… I—I know this is all… impossible. You going your entire life without—without us, and now, you have us—have us completely—but you've known Snow and I as friends or roommates or even the subject of gossip. Not to mention we look—well, we look about your age."
Charming shrugged, as though apologizing he did not much look the part of the traditional grandfather. "But now, when I look at you—I see that newborn that I only knew for—for no time at all, really. And all I can think about is placing you in that cupboard—all by yourself—and I—It was the only option, but I—I couldn't protect you after that. When you needed it."
He looked away, swallowing heavily to compose himself. "And now you don't need it. Not anymore. Because you've grown into this wonderful, capable, and beautiful woman. And I'm proud of that—I'm so proud of you. But I—I just wish I had been there. To see you grow into this amazing person—to make sure that you were safe and happy and loved. But I wasn't. And that—that eats at me every day, Emma."
The blonde opened her mouth to respond, but Charming shook his head, not yet finished.
"So maybe—maybe that's why I'm… uh… overcompensating? A bit? And I know it's wrong, because you—obviously—aren't that small, tiny thing wrapped in the blanket your mother made you—not anymore. And you don't need me to hide you away from an Evil Queen that doesn't really exist anymore. But sometimes, I just can't help it—I've gone so long without being a father, and I've skipped so many steps, that I think—it's going to take some time. You're going to have to be patient with me, Emma. But I—I just want you to be happy. And loved. And if Regina is responsible for bringing both of those things into your life… If you actually love her. Well…"
Charming trailed off, because his throat was starting to feel tight, and Emma had tears pooling in her eyes, and it was really all just a bit too much.
He was almost thankful for the sound of footsteps on the curved stairs behind his daughter. It gave Emma a moment to swipe at her eyes and him a second to reign in some of those overflowing emotions.
But, of course, 'almost' was the operative word.
"I'm so glad that's all cleared up, then."
He could not have said what, exactly, his facial expression looked like the moment Regina Mills first came into view, but the double-take that resulted a few seconds later—when he realized what the brunette was wearing—was surely quite humorous. Because Charming would bet all the gold his land had once been worth that the former Mayor did not own a worn, too-large, flannel shirt, and yet that was exactly what she was wearing as she stepped onto the floor of the foyer.
Worse, was the second double-take (triple-take?) that occurred when his eyes returned to his own daughter. He hadn't noticed her attire before—there had been far more pressing things on his mind—but the silk robe was something he knew—absolutely knew for a fact—his daughter would never purchase for herself.
"What—what are you wearing?"
He wasn't sure who he directed the question to, but it was Regina who answered, walking closer and slipping her arms around Emma from behind, resting her chin on the blonde's shoulder.
"It's eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, Charming, and Henry slept over at a friend's. Perhaps you can understand why we might have been planning on sleeping in a bit after a late night."
Emma rolled her now-dry eyes (though her lips twitched in what threatened to become a smirk). "Regina…"
Charming grit his teeth. (Your daughter is happy. She loves Regina. She loves this woman who was just last night doing unspeakable... No! Nope. Don't think about that…Don't even start…) He breathed in deeply and tried again. (Your daughter is happy...She loves Regina…)
"We thought it might have been some type of emergency. What with that terrible, frantic banging on our door."
"Right…" Emma nodded. "So I, er, rushed down. But, um… we can get dressed if you want to stay for breakfast, or something?"
Regina smirked, clearly remembering their last 'family' dinner, several weeks before. That had been awkward enough, but this… Charming had said he would work on not being so over-protective, but he wasn't sure that any father would be able to sit down and have a casual breakfast with his daughter and her…her girlfriend after being so indelicately informed about activities that…
He began to mentally chant his mantra.
"Um.. no. I mean, thank you, but I—Snow. I should get back to Snow. After the whole frog thing…" (He attempted to not glare at Regina) "…Well, I should… um… go."
"Oh, how disappointing."
Emma rolled her eyes again at Regina's overly-pleasant and clearly false tone.
"Right. I'll… see you later, Emma."
He had already stepped off of the ledge of Regina's doorstep when Emma called out, causing him to nearly lose his footing as he spun around in response.
"I—thanks. Maybe we can… get dinner sometime? And…talk?"
Charming had to remind himself that Regina would never allow him to live it down if he became a blubbering mess in that moment.
"I'd really love that, Emma."
"Good. And… Dad?"
"I—I'm glad you're here… to look out for me now. Even if I don't need it. It's… nice to have."
He nodded and, for some unknown reason, his eyes shifted to meet Regina's gaze. He was reminded of the months spent, trying plan after plan; of the single-minded determination the woman had held in bringing Emma back to Storybrooke. And he realized—belatedly—that there was one other very important person looking out for Emma now.
It was this thought that made his small smile genuine as he wished the two women a good morning and walked back home.