Emma Swan is the Savior, that's a documented fact. Some insist on also calling her a hero, because she pulls people from burning buildings and steps in to calm even the rowdiest of fights when her position as Sheriff calls for it. Hell, she's even stood her ground against ogres, pirates and the scariest witch this side of Anjelica Huston, so her courage is definitely, absolutely not in question.
Well, except for the fact that she is far, far too scared to go anywhere near the kitchen right now.
Besides, what's the point of having a fifteen year-old son if you can't use him as a human shield, right? Emma has the humanity to at least follow him downstairs, promising faithfully (and maybe just lying a little bit) that she'll rush in and save him if things get messy. He glares at her, because apparently that whole bullshit detection power is hereditary.
Still, Henry is a little white knight in training, because he pushes that door open and marches in like he owns the place. It occurs to Emma that someday he will. Or, at least, he'll share it with the little brother or sister currently kicking her bladder like it's a field goal that has to clear at least forty yards. But that means, Emma realizes too late, that Regina would have to be... gone.
Emma curses under her breath as she pulls a tissue from where it's balled up in the sleeve of the red cashmere sweater Regina insisted she wear to dinner. This whole hormone thing is getting a little out of control.
Thankfully, Emma has a tighter grip on her horses when Regina comes storming out of the kitchen. Her apron is still spotless, but her hair is showing signs of being grabbed in frustration, and she still has a ladle in her hand.
"Did you send our son in to spy on me?" Regina demands.
"No," Emma protests, as Henry comes rushing past, muttering 'traitor' under his breath. "I just thought you might need some help. And since I'm not much use in the kitchen, especially with Bumpy here getting in the way..."
"You feeling okay?" Regina asks, switching from demented to caring in that slightly unsettling way she has. Maybe it's just that they're in Maine, but Regina's moods can be so hair-trigger sometimes that it's not unlike living with a Stephen King character; although admittedly, a very, very hot one.
"I'm fine," Emma says, smiling as Regina places a tentative palm over Emma's stomach. It was a foregone conclusion that Regina would be great at the pregnancy thing-reading every book, buying every necessity, all of which is easier now that she's regained her position as Mayor and the salary to go along with it-but Emma underestimated how much Regina would actually care. As in every waking minute and probably most of her sleeping ones, too.
And it's not like those creepy prison guards and nuns who had fussed over Emma when she was pregnant with Henry. Back then-to those people-she'd simply been a vessel to bring a healthy baby into the world, one that would bring someone a serious wad of cash. This time around Regina is obsessed with all things baby, but when she talks to Emma, the love and concern for Emma herself can be so quietly obvious, so blinding in its certainty, that Emma has to look away, clutching Regina's hand with something like gratitude.
Well, apart from the two solid months of morning sickness. Even Regina has her limits, and she was conspicuously absent with any offers of holding back Emma's hair for her.
"Why did you send Henry in?" Regina asks, masking her little gasp at the baby's kick with a stern expression that fools no one. "I'm not cursing the apple pie, if that's what you're worried about."
"You're... serving apple pie?" Emma asks nervously, suddenly finding it very hard to swallow.
"Of course not," Regina sighs, removing her hand and rolling her eyes with her usual dramatic flair. "Pumpkin and cherry are both on the menu, though."
"Really?" Emma asks and she can feel her own face lighting up. Regina's pumpkin pies should be a controlled substance, they're so good. Emma spent all of last fall pleading for a new one every other day. It was a wonder she could still fit into any of her jeans, which this year is being taken care of by Junior. Emma looks down in disgust at the gray maternity slacks Regina picked out for her, elasticated waist and all.
"You look quite nice," Regina says with her usual faint praise. "Although you might consider putting your hair up."
Emma crosses her arms over her chest, wincing at how much harder that is to do at the moment, Mommy pilates or not. They have this argument almost every time they go out or entertain.
It's not that Regina dislikes the whole tousled, tumbling curls thing (and hey, if there's one part of being a Princess that Emma actually understands, it's the hair) In fact Regina likes it a little too much, judging by the way she strokes and pulls at it in more passionate moments. It's that when Regina likes something, she doesn't enjoy sharing it with others, a habit Emma's been trying to ease her out of before the baby is born, because nobody wants to live through a nursery barricade situation with Regina keeping the new kid all to herself.
And, okay, sometimes Regina gets this dreamy look when she's playing with Emma's hair, and it's on the tip of Emma's tongue to just ask 'so really, did you bang Rapunzel or something?' but some things are definitely best left unknown.
"I like my hair down," Emma says evenly. "Now, is there just one pumpkin pie? Or am I going to have to come in there and investigate?" She can tease, now, because neither Regina nor Henry has given any sign that preparing Thanksgiving dinner has caused Regina's fragile temper to snap.
"There may be a second one, just for us," Regina says, meaning just for Emma, who will demolish it in midnight snack and inappropriate breakfast portions. The doorbell chimes then, sounding like Big Ben in the echoing entryway. Many times Emma's floated the idea of moving somewhere more... modest, a little less like a display at the Smithsonian, but Regina being reelected has kicked that plan in the ass, probably once and for all.
"I'll get it," Emma says, although Regina's already on her way back into the kitchen, untying her apron as she goes. In that moment Emma considers how stupid they are to have guests, because she could have sent Henry to his grandparents and spent the day in bed with Regina and some buttery, crumbly pumpkin pie. Still, too late now.
Henry beats her to the door, and Emma can't help thinking he's a little too desperate for company besides his slightly-crazy mothers. She's still trying to find a way to tell him that a new baby won't change the way they feel about him, but words like that just aren't in Emma's vocabulary. It's all she can do to manage a gruff 'love ya, kid' when he kisses her goodnight or brings home another report card with so many As it's like reading a cartoon character falling off a cliff.
Before Emma can start obsessing over all the things Regina does to make their son seem on track to turn into an impressive young man (and all the ways Emma just about manages not to fuck that up) she's hit by the usual torrent of family feelings that her parents bring with them.
Ruby hangs back on the porch, Michael's arm casually around her shoulders. Ava and Nicholas (like so many people, they prefer the names of this world and refused to go back) are sulky teens straight out of Emma's own memories, and while Nicholas is single-handedly trying to bring grunge back, his sister is shivering in not enough clothes and God knows how that argument went before they all left the modest apartment above the garage.
"Mom," Emma mumbles as Snow comes towards her like a grandchild-seeking missile. Her hug would be bone-crushing if the bump weren't in the way to reduce the impact. David looks like he's trying to resist, but then he wraps big arms around them in one of those weird group hugs that seem to keep happening, no matter how much Emma squirms.
"Come in," she calls to the others, wriggling backwards out of her parents' embrace. "Regina's just finishing up in the kitchen, but we can have a drink through here."
Five years ago, Emma would have been locked in her bedroom with a bottle of Scotch, ignoring the damn holiday. Now she's just about house-trained enough to show everyone into the formal sitting room (not that the other one is actually any less formal) and at least offer them drinks before Henry turns on the quiet kiss-ass mode Regina taught him and starts doing the pouring. Emma sinks into an armchair that cost more than her car with something that might be relief, if the swelling in her ankles is any indication.
Which, of course, makes it open season on the baby talk. It takes every last scrap of willpower, but she doesn't roll her eyes even a little.
"Not long now," Snow says, practically bouncing on the sofa with her barely-contained glee. "And if you want to come home for a few days, just after the baby's born-"
Emma signals just in time to end that particular conversation, because a moment later Regina sweeps into the room, a vision in her dark green dress, hair once again in place and the apron banished to the kitchen for good.
"Dinner won't be too long," she says, accepting the glass of bourbon that Henry pours her, the heavy crystal looking good wrapped in her elegant fingers. Emma just stares, pointedly, as Regina raises the glass to her mouth. "Oh," Regina amends, handing the glass back to Henry. "Just some water for me, dear."
Emma smirks in silent victory. Ever since they decided on this whole baby idea, she's been quite determined that carrying the baby wouldn't mean making all the sacrifices. Although she is considering relenting today, letting Regina have some wine with dinner, because it's way less likely someone will end up impaled with a carving knife that way.
"Thanks again for inviting us," Ruby says, patting Michael's hand to prompt him to smile.
"Right," he agrees. "Otherwise we were just having pizza in front of the game."
"The game?" Regina asks in that dangerous fake-sweet tone of hers. Emma notices she's not the only one bristling at it, Snow recognizes the danger, too.
"You know, the football? Patriots are playing the-"
"Well, we can put that on next door," Regina says, in full pod-person mode. "David, I suppose you'll want to watch too?"
"Uh... sure," David says, looking to Snow for guidance. "I mean, we don't want to interrupt the meal or anything."
"It'll be a while yet," Regina says. "I've made some snacks... Henry, can you set everything up for the game? The beer is in the fridge."
"Sure, Mom," Henry says. "Ava can give me a hand, right?"
"You want to watch the game?" Ruby asks her kind-of stepdaughter.
"Yeah," Ava drawls. "Can't get enough of those Patriots, right?" But she's smiling as she leaves the room with Henry.
"Can I do anything to help?" Snow asks, presenting Regina with the wine they've brought. A week of frantic, whispered telephone arguments between Emma and her mother mean there's no dessert or side dish to go with that, because Regina would rather let run rampant in her kitchen than admit another woman's cooking.
"I don't recall you caring much for cooking," Regina chides, and there's that permanent undercurrent crackling between the two women again. Emma brokered the best truce she could think of, thirty minutes after the first time her mother walked in on Emma in bed with Regina, and for almost four years now it's been a daily battle towards something like acceptance.
"Well, I've learned a lot here," Snow snaps back, the implication of being forced to obvious to all of them.
"Did I smell pumpkin pie on the way in?" Ruby asks, attempting to diffuse the tension. Emma would high-five her if it wouldn't give the game away. She's also grateful that nobody shifts uncomfortably at the mention of Ruby's heightened sense of smell.
"You did," Regina admits, suppressing a smile. "Although I'm warning you all, if you thought Emma was territorial about pie last fall..."
"Are you kidding?" Ruby asks. "I still have scars from where she stabbed me with a fork at Granny's." She pauses for a moment, and the room holds its breath while her lower lip trembles. "I mean, at the diner," Ruby amends, gathering herself again.
"I didn't stab you!" Emma protests. "But I've told you, Rubes. Emma doesn't share food."
"Anyway," Regina says, rolling her eyes. "Perhaps we should find something for the non-sports fans to pass the time. I was thinking of breaking out Monopoly?"
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Emma asks, in a sudden panic. She's remembering the few ill-fated attempts of playing board games with Regina and Henry, where hotels get bewitched into castles and chutes and ladders becomes a game of life and death on the living room floor. Regina really didn't mean for that thing with the vipers to happen, Emma knows, but it hadn't made it any less terrifying to see one coming towards her.
"Sounds lovely," Snow lies smoothly. "Are you playing, Emma?"
The responsible thing to do is join the game, which Regina has discreetly summoned onto the coffee table with a silent spell of some kind. Emma looks at the familiar box, considers her options for a long moment and then opts to save herself.
"You know, the Patriots really do look good this year. I'll go make sure nobody spills anything in the den," she says, prompting a panicked look from Regina. "You girls will be fine, but I think Nicholas will probably kick your asses."
Emma stands up carefully, the bump still leaving her a little off-balance. Snow is at her side in a second, fussing until Emma gently shrugs off the attention. Ruby grins at her in sympathy, knowing exactly how Emma feels about being treated like a piece of fine china.
"I've still got a month to go," Emma says, trying not to sound ungrateful. "But I'm not totally useless yet." She pats her mom on the shoulder, nodding towards Regina. "Play nicely, okay?"
"Of course," Snow says, looking offended. Her hair is growing out at last, down to her shoulders already, and Emma really sees the princess thing now. Not that the concept of royalty has exactly survived here in new Storybrooke, but in running the school Snow has found her true calling.
Emma hesitates a moment longer, but Ruby and Nicholas have the pieces out on the table already. How badly can a game of Monopoly really go?
The Patriots have barely made it to a third down when Emma is up from her seat next to her father, almost spilling the ginger ale Henry thoughtfully poured for her. The noise from back in the sitting room is too raucous for Emma's liking, so she excuses herself while everyone else argues about a fumble.
She opens her mouth to demand an explanation for the noise, but as Emma walks back into the monochrome sitting room, she's stunned into silence by the sight of Snow and Regina holding court on one side of a very altered Monopoly board. Ruby is protesting loudly about some kind of cheating, which only makes Regina laugh, and that in turn makes the pieces on the board start to dance around a tiny tree that has somehow sprouted where the Go To Jail square should be.
Snow is helpless with laughter, clutching Regina's arm in what has to be an unconscious gesture, the sleeve of her burnt orange sweater brushing the fabric of Regina's dress. Nicholas is staring furiously at them, his face reddened with either embarrassment or anger.
"Uh, what the hell?" Emma asks, and Regina sobers just a little.
"Language!" Regina scolds, because she's been on Emma's ass for months about what the baby might already be picking up, and even though Emma points out that fifteen year-old boys just curse, she's taken the blame for Henry's new habit, too.
"What are you guys doing? It's been, like, ten freakin' minutes," Emma presses.
"Winning," Regina answers, and her grin is positively wicked.
"But it seems Nicholas and Ruby have forgotten the rules," Snow adds, catching her breath. "They don't seem to like the penalties for landing on our castles."
"You mean houses?" Emma tries, but there's smoke coming off the board and she already knows this is beyond her.
"No, castles," Snow insists. "You know, you should stay and learn the way we play."
"Um," Emma hedges, because part of her really wants to. It's weird enough to finally have some kind of heritage, so the fact that it's all fairytales and magic isn't that much harder to process, in the end.
"Take my spot," Regina says, standing a little too quickly. It looks a lot like she just realized who she was laughing like old friends with, and that shadow crosses her face in a way Emma recognizes all too well; the past might be all but buried for days like these, but it's one hell of a shallow grave. "I have to go check on dinner," Regina continues, forcing her best hostess smile back onto red-painted lips.
"I'll play in a minute," Emma says, nodding to placate her mother. "But I'm going to go check on my pumpkin pie first."
She follows Regina in silence down the hallway to the kitchen, and when they step through the arch Emma is greeted with great-smelling tidiness and not the chaos she's come to expect.
"You've been using magic," Emma says, and it's not quite an accusation.
"I made an exception," Regina says, shrugging as she wipes down an already spotless worktop. "Henry suggested it, in fact."
With Henry's blessing, the choice finally makes sense. Emma breathes a little easier at the revelation, placing a hand in the small of her back as she relaxes at last. Regina spots the signs of discomfort and comes back around the island counter, placing her hand over Emma's own before rubbing soft circles over everywhere that aches.
"Thank you," Emma murmurs, and although her eyes are closed she smiles when Regina's other hand lands predictably on Bumpy. "For everything."
"I haven't killed anyone," Regina says in that clipped way she has. "I'm kind of impressed with myself. But I am sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Emma asks, opening her eyes to attempt a reading of Regina's expression. It's inscrutable, as ever.
"That I'm not... good at this. I don't know how to be. Family is a poisonous concept and... I'm trying, Emma," Regina blurts it out like machine-gun fire. "I want you to have these things, so the baby can have them too."
"She will," Emma promises, and this time she lays a hand over Regina's, resting on Emma's stomach while Bumpy sleeps on, not kicking. "Or he will," Emma amends, just a fraction too late. She's known all along and Regina has long since guessed, but they've been keeping up the pretense. Secrets are sometimes the only thing they feel good at, so a harmless one can't hurt.
"But it's awkward," Regina persists. "And nobody looks comfortable, and you just know there'll be some kind of argument before we even get to dessert and-"
"Exactly," Emma cuts her off. "That's how it's supposed to be, don't you get it? I don't want the Waltons. My whole life I wanted a real family, and here it is. We don't all get along and there are grudges and some bad history, and honest to God I might still stab someone for a slice of pie. I can't promise I won't."
"This is how it's supposed to be?" Regina repeats, looking very skeptical. "It seems more like something we have to endure."
"Right," Emma agrees. "Endure it. But there'll be good bits, too. That's what we do it for. So you can laugh with Snow, even if you wouldn't on other days. And I can tell my dad not to have three beers before the food is even served, and Henry can die of embarrassment every time we acknowledge that he has a girlfriend. That's the deal."
"You really are very strange sometimes," Regina sighs, but she looks a lot calmer than she has done all morning.
"Can you blame me?" Emma asks. "Look where I came from. Look where I am now. It's all strange."
"And we're the strangest of them all?" Regina follows the thought through, and punctuates it by kissing Emma sweetly on the lips.
"Oh no," Emma says when Regina pulls away far too fast. "Get back here."
Regina, stubborn and uncompromising and implacable, decides to do exactly what she's told. And that, in the end, makes Emma feel more like a Savior than anything else ever has.