The sharp knock on the door interrupted their breakfast. Groaning, Emma stood up from the table and allowed Regina into her home. The worried woman immediately stalked over to Henry, ignoring Emma and her family, checking him for burns.
"Are you okay? You should have called me earlier! Why isn't your necklace working anymore? Were you wearing it?" Regina babbled as she healed her sons shoulder.
"I'm fine mom, I just… forgot to put it on last night." The boy replied warily, before turning his attention back to his pile of pancakes. This statement turned Regina onto Emma.
"And why didn't you remind him to wear it? You are his mother aren't you?" Regina snidely spat at Emma before rounding on the others at the table. "And what wonderful grandparents you seem to be!" she continued, her focus on Snow and Charming, before she turned and noticed Neal sitting next to Henry. "I don't even want to know what you're doing here, in what appears to be yesterday's clothing," she pointedly glared at Neal. "Obviously not setting a great example for my son" she mumbled before turning on Emma again. "I hope you are at least being careful with how you're delving into this new relationship. I thought we agreed our focus would be on Henry."
"Okay lady – shut up" Emma interrupted before Regina could find more ways to insult them. If anything she was the bad example for Henry. Obviously Regina was worried about Henry's burns, and the magic that seemed to trap him in nightmares, but she needed to calm down.
Regina raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth to retaliate, however was stopped by Mary Margaret. "What Emma meant," Snow begun, with a pointed glare at her daughter, "is would you like to join us for breakfast? We have pancakes and bacon and coffee."
Regina looked slightly taken aback, and raised her eyebrows at Emma who was surreptitiously rolling her eyes. She cleared her throat, "Really," Regina stated skeptically, "I'm sure that is not what your daughter meant." Turning, she made to leave.
"Wait!" Emma said, earning curious glances from 5 pairs of eyes. "Please do stay Regina." There was something about the usually callous and ruthless women that made her feel sympathetic. Emma used to be the mother who was looking in on her son's life from an outsider's perspective. She knew how bad that felt. And if she, Neal and Regina were all going to be involved in Henry's life, then they had to at least try to include one another. Clearing her throat Emma continued "I'm sure Henry would love to tell you about his recent horse riding experience."
This stopped Regina. Her face softened immediately as she glanced at Henry. "You rode a horse?" she asked him sweetly, with a small but detectable undertone of sadness. Regina loved horses, but hadn't ridden one since she left the enchanted forest. A part of her had always assumed she would get Henry involved with the sport 'when he was older.' But it appeared she had missed her shot. Her son, who now had his real parents and even grandparents in his life seemed to be experiencing new things without her. For years they were all each other had. And now, Henry was happily surrounded by family. And Regina, well, she had no one. The whole town was either scared of her, or wanted to kill her. And her son, the baby she had raised wanted nothing to do with her.
"Yeah! It was so much fun!" Henry replied, pulling Regina from her haze of desperation.
As Henry began giving Regina a blow-by-blow recount of his first horse ride, Emma grabbed a clean plate and cup from the kitchen, and motioned for Regina to take her seat next to Henry. Regina gave her a small grateful smile, as Emma moved to sit between Neal and Charming.
The table had been cleared and all the dishes were washed. Henry was seated next to his father, and opposite his moms. After breakfast, Snow and David had left him and his parents to 'talk.' Henry was just hoping they weren't asking him to choose between them again. He didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
He had tuned out their discussion ages ago. They were talking about adult stuff that he had no interest in. He had already heard so much about Regina being the mayor, and why she was forced to step down. He knew every detail of Emma's trip to the enchanted forest off by heart. And to be honest, he didn't really care about their extensive discussion on the weather. All he truly cared for in that moment was the fact that his parents were all in one room, and having a civilized conversation. Who knew this was where he would be? Not him that's for sure. 1 year ago he was silently suffering as Henry Mills, the son of the brutal town mayor. A loner at school and lonely at home. He thought his adoptive mom didn't love him and that his parents didn't care. When Ms Blanchard had given him his book… she had saved his life. She had given him hope, which gave him a purpose to fulfill. She had given him what he needed to find happiness.
Unfortunately Henry was forced back into their conversation when he heard his name.
"Why don't we ask Henry?" he heard Emma say.
"Ask me what?" Henry countered
"Well…" Neal begun, turning to look at his son with a supportive smile on his face, "your moms want to know if you felt like changing your living arrangements."
Henry felt his stomach drop. He looked upwards at Emma, who looked as nervous as he felt, and over to Regina, who looked hopeful, yet guarded. What was he supposed to say?
As he took a deep breath, Henry felt Neal's hand grasping his shoulder reassuringly, and remembered their conversation from Granny's diner. "it's hard to go against someone you love, but you need to consider what's best for you and your happiness."
The boy took a moment to glance at his father, who nodded encouragingly, before opening his mouth to reply.
"I love you both." Henry stated simply, staring between Emma and Regina before dropping his gaze to the table. "And I know you both love me a lot… but... I think I just want to stay here with Emma and Gran and Gramps." Henry continued, looking up at Regina's morose face.
"You are my mom," he said to Regina, "and you always will be. But Emma is as well. And… at the moment, I think I need her more. Being here with not only Emma but Grandma and Grandpa, it makes me feel whole. The only better feeling is when I can be with all three of you" Henry pauses, looking around at Regina, Emma and Neal. The adults are shocked by his statement. Although they felt that they could barely manage a quick meal without awkward moments and hesitant conversation, it seemed to make Henry happy that they could at least try.
"But I know it is impossible to be together every day, so… for now… my decision is to live here." Henry reasoned. "I'm not choosing between the two of you… I'm choosing here as in; at this time, in this place. If I change my mind down the road, then things can change. Storybrooke isn't exactly big and we see each other almost every day anyway so… we will stay close." Henry explained
Regina nodded, "I understand" she croaked, reaching her hand across the table in hope that Henry would accept it. Henry immediately reached for Regina, and the pair held hands as Henry finished speaking.
"I want all of you in my life. I want to have sleepovers at home" Henry said looking at Regina and squeezing her hand. "But I also want to go on a road trip in the bug with you two." He said, looking between Emma and Neal, who shared a surprised look. "And I want family dinners and a whole bunch of stuff, and I want it because I love all of you, and want to see you all, all the time." Henry finished with the eloquence of an 11 year old.
Emma smiling at her son nodded, "I think we can manage all that" she replied, getting out of her chair and walking around to Henry for a hug. After pulling away from him and placing a kiss on his forehead, Regina walked over for a hug as well. She already had tears streaming down her face as she embraced her son. Therefore, when Regina started whispering sweet nothings into her son's ear Emma and Neal watched as the pair started sobbing in each other's arms.
It was decided shortly after their heart to heart that Henry would spend the evening with Regina. And although Emma felt that painful tug in her chest, as she watched Regina walk away with Henry, she knew she had to share. She couldn't keep him away from somebody he loves, it wouldn't be fair.
"She won't hurt him, right?" came Neal's voice from behind her. He sounded vulnerable, as if the wrong answer would send him into a flurry of worry.
"No… she wouldn't hesitate to hurt anybody in general but when it comes to Henry, she would do anything to keep him safe." Emma replied softly.
Noticing they were all alone in the loft, Emma became instantly uncomfortable. Her relationship with Neal was definitely improving, but she didn't know where to go from here. It appeared they were at a crossroads, and they could take an array of different paths. They most certainly were not the same people they had been 11 years ago, but they had something in common. A very big, important something. Henry. He was made from their love, and together, they needed to be his parents. It was about time they both stepped up and did what they should have done from the start. Be a family. Emma needed to knock down her walls and let him in, as a part of her family for Henry's sake. And for her own. Whether that meant they had a future as a couple, or whether they could manage being just friends. They would figure that out over time.
"Do you want to go get a coffee?" Emma asked.
Neal observed her, a small smile grew on his face as he looked her up and down. "Maybe you should change first" Neal jested. "You look a bit rumpled; I wouldn't be caught dead sitting next to you at Granny's"
Emma raised her eyebrows and put a hand on her hip, "what, you don't like the 'homeless' look anymore?... someone's getting a bit picky with old age" she quipped, before turning around to go change, leaving Neal standing in the middle of the loft.
"It's too 2001. You know I can't deal with outdated items - that includes style!" Neal shouted to her sarcastically.
As he waited for her by the front door, a smile stretched across his face. He didn't care what happened; as long as he had Emma and Henry in his life he knew he could be happy. He didn't need Emma to fall in love with him, however much he might want her to. Having her back as a friend, as part of his own little family was good enough for him. He loved her and he would be whatever she needed him to be.
Exiting her room, looking much tidier, with her messy hair pulled back in a loose pony tail, Neal thought Emma could have been 17 again. She approached him, grabbing a soft looking grey jacket from the coat rack and opening the door. Stretching out her hand for him to take, she looked at him mischievously before saying, "now, how about that drink?"
Ok… well … there we are – that's the end.
I wanted to finish this story with showing Emma's acceptance of Neal, of her beginning to let him back into her life. That's what the main theme of this story has been… and I had to put the regina stuff in there because it shows that regina/emma/neal are starting to work together as parents as a family for Henry.
Anyway I hope you all enjoyed this story and it helped you get through the winter hiatus… THANKGOD ouat comes back out today – I've been slowly dying without it…
Let me know how you think this chap/fic went and if you would like me to start another story. (I'm bound to get tons of inspiration from the next episode…)