"Nurse!" David calls out, striding across the waiting room with purpose in his stride, almost as surely as if he held a sword at his side, rather than it being locked securely in the back of his truck.
"Your Majesty," the dark-haired woman says, and although she uses the title appropriately, there's not a whole lot of respect on her pinched face. "Can I help you?"
"I want to see my wife," he says, with complete conviction. He can feel Henry's eyes boring into his back, even though the kid is pretending to read a comic book. "Take me to her."
"I'm afraid I can't do that. Her Majesty gave very specific instructions," the nurse replies, delighting in denying him.
"She's in pain, she doesn't know what she's saying," David protests. He feels as useless as he did the first time around, with curses and dwarves and the end of the world on his shoulders.
"I really think she does," the nurse argues. "The sheer variety of curse words alone suggests she's very much in charge of her speech."
"I'm going in," he decides, reaching for the swing door with all the right and power that marrying a Queen can give him. "Ow!" He yelps as the nurse smacks his hand away with a force that could easily have broken it.
"I suggest you take a seat," she warns.
"What about my daughter?" He calls out as she retreats into the delivery room.
"You'll have to ask her," the nurse says, disappearing into the green room. David drops his chin to his chest, and sighs.
"Henry?" He summons his grandson, who jumps right into action, comic instantly forgotten.
"Yeah, Gramps?" Henry asks, looking up at David in anticipation. The kid doesn't look much like he got dragged out of bed at 3am, but David is certainly feeling it.
"What do you say we take you to your Moms, huh?" David tries to make it sound like a trip to the stables, or a day in the park, but Henry has more smarts than the rest of his biological family put together, and he sees right through it.
"I don't think I want to see... you know... baby stuff," Henry hedges, already looking wistfully at the chair he was so quick to abandon. "I mean, it's pretty gross, right?"
"Come on, Henry," David says, ignoring the perfectly valid argument. "You're practically a man now, and men can handle all this kind of stuff."
"You sure?" Henry says, propelled along by David's hand on his shoulder.
"Absolutely," David assures him, turning the corner and pushing his way through the doors of the room Emma currently occupies.
"Gramps?" Henry whispers five minutes later, when they're back in their waiting room chairs, and the trembling has pretty much stopped. "What exactly is a co-"
"Never mind, Henry," David cuts him off. "Emma was just in a lot of pain, okay?"
"I don't think all of those were real words," Henry says, shaking his head.
"So, uh, my parents are coming. Here. For lunch," Emma blurts out, face pressed against the steamy tile of the shower stall. Regina's fingers, currently rubbing a soapy lather over Emma's lower back muscles that she gave such a thorough workout to last night, stall instantly.
"Here?" Is all she repeats.
"I don't want to hide anymore," Emma says, wriggling against Regina's hands, urging her to continue. "And you missed a spot. Remember how the third time my back arched like, you know..."
Regina's fingers move slightly to the left, and resume their massage.
"Well, now that you've finally agreed to staying over here once in a while, I thought today would work," Emma continues. "And they need to bring Henry back anyway."
"So we tell Henry, too?" Regina digs a little harder at that, her fingers betraying her discomfort. "I thought we agreed to wait-"
"For what?" Emma asks, despairing as she turns around, the spray of the shower hitting her full in the face and ruining some of her indignation with sputtering. Regina, naturally, is smirking when Emma wipes her eyes and faces her again.
"I... well, I suppose they probably all know, anyway," Regina concedes. "I think they might be humoring us."
"Yeah," Emma agrees, wet hands gripping Regina's hipbones, seeking out contact unconsciously even though they're already naked and very, very together. "I'm ready."
"Me too," Regina says, closing her eyes for a moment before pressing Emma back against the tiles. "But it can't hurt to put ourselves in a good mood, first, right?"
"Chaaaaaarming!" Comes the cry as the doors fly open, the previously pinched nurse looking wild-eyed and a little desperate. David's already in motion by the time she waves him over, and a moment later he's by his wife's side.
"Hey," he says, in what he hopes is a calming, soothing kind of way. He smooths short, dark hair from Snow's damp forehead, enjoying the way she sighs and relaxes into the touch. "How's he doing?" David asks, once the room has quieted again.
"I don't want to do this anymore," Snow whispers. "Emma, she came so quickly but this... he's killing me, Charming."
"Not long now," David soothes, looking at the midwife who nods in confirmation. The strong-looking woman is hunched over, just her head above the sheet preserving Snow's modesty, but she winks at him in a kind way. "You think you could push one more time?"
"I don't want to," Snow says, crying harder now, her body shaking with the effort of expelling a few tears.
"I'd do it for you, if I could," David says, and he truly means it.
"How's Emma?" Snow asks, brightening suddenly. "Has she confessed about boy or girl yet?"
"Still going," David says, squeezing his eyes shut to erase the image of his screaming daughter. "I'm sure we'll, uh, hear, when there's news."
"One more push?" Snow says plaintively.
"That's right," David agrees, taking her much smaller hand in hers. "Now let's do this. No curses, nobody waiting to take our little boy from us. You ready?"
"Yes," Snow says firmly, gritting her teeth as the next contraction hits.
"You really don't need to help me pack," Emma assures her mother for the third time, shoving some shot glasses that Regina will loathe on sight into an already overstuffed box. She's been in Storybrooke for three years and still all her possessions will barely fill the backseat of her increasingly unreliable Bug.
"It was my apartment for a long time," Snow says, twisting her mouth in that way she does right before asking an awkward question. Since lunch last month, every question has been kind of awkward, and Emma finds herself quietly wishing for one of those silent, brooding parents who simply disapprove in silence. "And I can't believe you're giving up the independence of it."
"It makes sense," Emma says, like she hasn't had a queasy feeling in her stomach since she and Regina decided on the move two weeks ago. It can be exhausting, sometimes, compensating for the ways in which Regina doesn't like ever letting go of something she... well, the love thing is apparently a done deal, although Emma still doesn't like saying the words, even to herself. (When she says I love you, people go away. When she says I love you, worlds shift and rearrange and it's too much power for just three words to hold.)
"For Henry, sure," Snow says, nodding like she's addressing a class of fourth graders again. "But is it really what you want? I mean, you've dated other people and never gotten this serious."
"Neal doesn't count," Emma says, because her mother could never resist the romance of a returning father, like Neal had been off in some heroic battle instead of helping get her thrown in jail. "I know you like him, but you've got to let it go."
"It's just..." Snow seems at a loss for words as she wraps some photo frames in bubble wrap. "Regina? I understand you two had a lot of tension to work out. You know I'm no prude, Emma. But settling down? How's Henry going to feel when the fights spill over and you're sleeping on the sofa half the time?"
"She has guest rooms," Emma says, trying very hard not to grit her teeth in the process. A mother's love is so welcome after so long, but it's suffocating in its own way. "And we really don't fight that often, not anymore."
"Well, Red said she overheard you yelling at each other in the grocery store last week and-"
"You gossip about us with your friends?" Emma challenges, her hands gripping the counter to calm her, to keep the sudden surge of anger in check. It's something she's learned from Regina, fighting her own daily battle against obliterating every person who's ever been cruel to her.
"It's not gossip," Snow corrects. "I worry about you Emma. I worry about you every day."
Emma bites her tongue and doesn't bring up the twenty-eight years, because it hurts everyone and changes nothing. She looks at the spaces on the walls where two lives have bled out of this apartment into new homes, and sighs.
"Regina doesn't like people talking about her," Emma reminds her mother, who is one of the few people who probably knows Regina better than Emma herself does. Theirs is a tangled history, and the tentative peace is more than any of them dared hope for when they came back through the portal. It took Cora, and Rumplestiltskin, to show them all what a real threat meant, and the alliance has lasted (almost intact) ever since.
"Regina doesn't like a lot of things," Snow says. "And my darling girl, you are not the neatest of housemates."
"Hey!" Emma says, although half her packing time has been picking stuff off the floor and from the bottom of the closet and a hundred other places things weren't technically supposed to go. "She knows that."
"I just want you to be happy," Snow says, walking around the counter and taking Emma's blushing face in her hands. "Can you promise that you will be?"
"Honestly?" Emma says, forcing herself not to duck her head, not to hide behind her hair like a child. "I think it's the only way I will be."
"Oh," Snow says, realization dawning at last. "My little girl's in love."
Henry is getting a little nervous, now.
Gramps has been in with Grammy for a long time, and still nobody's coming out to give him any news. And as for his moms, well, he'd rather wait until there's a nice, cleaned up baby to look at. Anything else is kind of horrifying, like when-Ruby-doesn't-put-her-cloak-on horrible.
The good thing about all the grown-ups being either in pain or freaking out is that Henry can pretty much do what he wants. He counts out some of the change Gramps shoved at him when they first got there and crosses to the vending machines to buy the most sugar-loaded, processed crap he can find.
Luckily he hears his Mom coming down the hall and has time to stash the newly-bought bad food in his backpack before she appears. She's talking in that really bossy way to someone, maybe a doctor, and it sounds way more Evil Queen than the nicer person she's been since she started dating Emma.
"Henry!" She says, rushing over to gather him up in a big hug. She's dressed kind of funny, for Mom. Instead of a suit or a dress she's wearing the soft black pants that he's only ever seen her wear around the house, along with one of Emma's favorite hoodies, the one with a hole near the cuff, that she won't throw out no matter how many times Mom tries to sneak it out of the laundry pile and into the trash.
"Is she okay?" Henry asks, voice muffled against his Mom's shoulder. "She looked pretty mad when we came in."
"Just a little longer," Mom says, and it sounds really reassuring, the way she says it, like cocoa at bedtime or lighting a fire when there's a storm outside. "You ready to meet your brother or sister?"
"Yeah!" Henry says, because he knows that he's supposed to be excited, that much is obvious. He just can't help wondering that not just one but two new babies can't mean much attention for him. Paige says that's great-he'll be able to sneak out and do whatever he wants-but Henry's just getting used to having the full attention of two parents, and having grandparents. He isn't sure sharing is all that fair. "Do I get to come in?"
"Once the baby is here," Mom says, smoothing his hair down. She looks so tired, but maybe the happiest he's seen her since the day he said he wanted to move back home but still see Emma every day. "You're okay? Did you want some juice? I think there's some in the car..."
"I'm fine, Mom," he sighs, because she can't help herself with the fussing. "You should go back, before Emma gets mad at you."
"When did you get so sensible?" Mom asks him, grabbing one more quick hug before heading back towards the room.
Emma follows the sound of hammering around the house towards the back garden, and she discovers her father there, surrounded by planks of wood, nailing two of them together with a look of extreme concentration etched onto his face.
"Hey," she says when the noise lets up for a minute, offering him an awkward wave with her left hand before shoving both in the pockets of her jacket. It's a deliciously clear day, but the wind is vicious, tugging at the ponytail Emma's been forced to adopt most days this week just to see where she's going.
"Emma!" He says, dropping the hammer on the grass and jogging over to hug her. She tries not to tense up, but he has the good sense not to hold on too long. "Were we expecting you? Not that you need to announce yourself-"
"I was on my way to the store," she clarifies.
"That's where your Mom is right now," he explains. "You want to come in for coffee?"
"I'm fine. I can help with the uh..." Emma trails off because it's really just pieces of wood right now.
"Rabbit hutch," David explains with a reluctant grin. "I wanted a dog, but apparently bunnies make great pets too."
"If you say so," Emma says, dragging the toe of her boot through the loose earth around the edge of the lawn.
"Are you hiding from Regina?" he asks, picking the hammer up with ease. Despite the cold, her dad isn't wearing anything more substantial than a t-shirt and jeans; apparently Maine isn't that cold after sleeping outdoors with the sheep.
"No," Emma admits. "I wanted to talk to you, actually."
"That sounds ominous," David replies, selecting another nail from the box. "Is it Henry? Time for the man-to-man talks?"
"It's kind of about Henry," she says. "Well, it's more about me. And Regina."
"Spit it out," David says, pausing with the hammer raised. "Things not working out over there? Because we have a room here if you don't want to share with Ruby at your old place."
"Dad!" Emma yelps, frustrated with his insistence on trouble. This isn't going at all like she planned. "It's... you know how you guys like to tell me stories about your life, before I was born?"
"Yeah," he says, before hammering the nail into place with three strong whacks.
"Well there's one story I don't think you told me... how did you ask Snow... when did you guys get engaged? I mean, you did that, right?"
"We did," he confirms, lining up another piece of wood for what now appears to be a roof. "Didn't we talk about that at Christmas?"
"Nope," Emma says. "Unless maybe you told Henry? But not me."
"Well, not to toot my own horn," he begins, leaning against the work bench. "But I'd just got done escaping an evil dragon."
"Eh, haven't we all?" Emma teases. "I mean, I killed mine, but escaping is pretty cool, too."
"Cheeky," David says, shaking his head. "But I got myself into some smart clothes, found your Mom, woke her from the sleeping curse and then I proposed on the beach. With your grandmother's ring. That's what helped me find her."
"Huh," Emma says. "Sounds pretty low-key."
"Well, when you think your true love is going to be asleep forever, popping the question gets less scary," he explains. "Why did you want to know, anyway?"
"No reason," Emma answers, just a fraction too quickly.
"Emma!" He gasps.
"Don't," she warns. "If you're going to talk me out of it..."
"No," he corrects. "I just... really? You? You're going to ask?"
Emma frowns at the implication, her hands in her pockets balling into fists. She's been scared a thousand times in her life, and she can handle it, but it's now she realizes that asking Regina isn't the terrifying part, not even close. It's the thought of what these people will say to her, or perhaps even still try to do to her, if Emma wants Regina for a wife.
"What's so weird about that?" She challenges, and she's ready to fight, even the man who gave her life and loves her mother so deeply. Even now, after twenty-eight years of waiting to be loved, to be mothered and fathered both, Emma knows she'd give it up for Regina and Henry. If she had to.
"It's just... well, I figured if you ever got married, Regina would just tell you when and where."
"Ha ha," Emma fires back. "Are you calling me whipped?"
"Takes one to know one," David says at the sound of the car in the drive. "Are we telling your Mom?"
"Not yet," Emma decides. "I think I want to ask Regina first."
Baby Lance enters the world a little after six, as the sun is struggling up over the horizon. Henry's just getting comfortable again after his Mom's latest hug attack when Gramps comes through the swing doors again, looking kinda funny like he did at Christmas when Grammy left him in charge of the eggnog, something she claims she is never, ever doing again.
"Henry," he says, and this time when he speaks he doesn't sound like a prince or a king. He sounds young and happy and so completely normal that Henry feels his heart squeeze in a funny way. Fairytales, it turns out, are a lot easier to deal with when they're trapped in a book and not your living, breathing relatives and friends. Real people cause so much damage to each other, and Henry still hasn't worked out a way to stop that. "Come and meet your uncle," Gramps says, and Henry feels his legs move before he even tells them to.
"I wasn't sure you'd go for a dress," Ruby says through the curtain, fussing with some other monstrosity. Emma looks at herself in the full-length mirror, wearing just the simple white underwear that Ruby insisted would be practical for their mission. It feels a lot like something they should have done in Boston, but a trip to Bangor isn't so bad. Ruby's just glad to be able to leave town at all, and it seems like the novelty isn't ever going to wear off.
"Well, I'm only doing this once," Emma replies, running a hand over her stomach. She's been neglecting her crunches lately, because frankly Regina's attentions are workout enough. Add in a full-time job and running after Henry, who seems to think that turning thirteen is a license to never pick up a single thing, ever again, and she should be about as fit as she's ever been. "And no matter how many times my mother sighs about me, I am definitely a girl."
"You didn't want to bring her?" Ruby asks, something that's clearly been on the tip of her tongue all morning. "She would like all this."
"She's still a little... something about it," Emma explains. "You know how she is about Regina. And the fact that we're going for small and quick... well, I don't really need the whole princess thing, you know?"
"I never liked Snow's wedding dress," Ruby confesses, the hint of a giggle at the edge of her voice. "I mean, she looked great. But feathers? I don't know, it made me think of finding her in the chicken coop."
"Well, that's another good reason," Emma says. "Okay, give me the next Project Runway reject."
Ruby passes the simple ivory shift dress through the curtain, sleeveless with a fitted middle bit. No fussy patterns, no flowers, just sleek, clean lines.
Emma holds it up to the light, scowling a little at the lump in her throat.
"Hey Rubes?" She says, a moment later, with a voice that's still a little thick.
"Yeah?" Ruby replies, not quite removing the 'what's wrong now' edge from the single word.
"I think we just found my wedding dress."
David laughs at Henry's confusion, and even harder at his poorly-hidden disgust. Maybe babies aren't beautiful to anyone but their parents, at least when they've just arrived in the world.
Snow encourages Henry to lean in and say 'hi', the schoolteacher patience shining through even though there are dark circles under her eyes and she's even paler than the legends ever described. It's not that David finds her more beautiful, exactly, but he looks at her and loves her so much that his brain just stops.
"What do you think of your nephew, Lance?" He asks, leaning over Henry to kiss the baby's forehead again, with one for Snow on the way back.
"And Emma?" Snow asks. "I want to see her. She has to meet her brother."
"I spoke to the nurse," David soothes. "They'll bring Emma into your room once you're both done and cleaned up."
"Mom said it would be a while longer," Henry chimes in, because he doesn't know much about any of this, and he seems pleased to be able to share one solid fact.
"I'll go find out," David says, already planning to find a nicer nurse and send her in to check. His daughter's language is one thing, but the sight of Regina in protective mode sent a chill of recognition down his spine. If there's one thing nobody needs today, it's the return of the Evil Queen.
"Tell her I love her," Snow says, already tearful as she cradles their new son. David understands the impulse, recognizes her disappointment that even on this important day in their daughter's life, they're once again compromised by another vital distraction. Nobody will leave her today, she won't be crying and helpless and alone, but David resolves they can be there for her now.
"I will," he promises, heading out towards the other room.
It's a pointless tradition, but Regina insists on it.
"Don't make me go," Emma says, and her reluctance to leave is at least partly hormonal. She's still having a tough time believing it, but their moving in together celebrations were especially boozy (Regina has a thing, it turns out, for getting creative with really good champagne and all the ways she likes to drink it) and that in turn left Regina a little careless with her magic.
So at their wedding tomorrow afternoon, Emma will have to hope no one notices she's toasting with ginger ale, because they're not quite at the twelve-week mark and telling people seems to be tempting fate a little too hard when your baby was conceived through magic.
"I will not sleep with you the night before the wedding," Regina huffs, throwing some clean pajamas into Emma's still-unpacked overnight bag. Her wedding dress has been retrieved, still zipped in its bag to hide it from Regina's eyes. "Besides, I think your mother wants one last attempt at talking you out of it."
"She can't," Emma insists, moving in behind Regina and slipping arms around her waist. "You're my baby mama now, remember?"
"And I told you that if you use that term around me again, I'll revoke your all access-pass."
"What are you, Madison Square Garden now?" Emma teases, letting her hands drift over Regina's hipbones. "Now, I can accept you're not going to sleep with me tonight," Emma continues, her fingertips grazing the tops of Regina's thighs through the blue dress she's been driving Emma mad in for hours. "But how about a little fun before I leave?"
"That's not exactly the-" Regina begins, but Emma's mouth on her neck disrupts that train of thought. Regina tastes faintly like peaches, which means she's been using Emma's shower stuff again, something that makes Emma feel oddly happy, as connected as the baby in her belly or the rings they're exchanging tomorrow (brand new, simple, untainted by history or family).
There's no resistance when Emma trails a hand north, slipping easily beneath the wrapped neckline of the dress, just simple cotton that proves no barrier.
"Just a reminder," Emma murmurs, grasping Regina's breast and enjoying the contented sigh that provokes. "But if you really want me to go..."
"Fine," Regina groans. "This, first."
"Better," Emma says, kissing the back of Regina's neck now, the longer, dark hair pushed aside in an instant. Emma lets her hand slip gradually back to Regina's side, before sliding down onto her knees. "Bend," Emma instructs, with an encouraging pat on Regina's ass. It's said now as a word that Regina finally understands, now that Emma has shown her time and again that she can bend without breaking, without being broken in return.
Emma pushes the dress up without much ceremony, and when Regina rests her forearms on the bed for balance, Emma places hot wet kisses at the base of her spine, tugging panties down at the same time.
Regina's already wet when Emma parts those lower lips with her thumbs, and they both moan at the first swipe of Emma's tongue.
"So ready," Emma murmurs between long, slow licks. "And you were going to send me away without this?"
"Please," Regina says between gritted teeth. She's so eloquent everywhere else in life, but during sex Emma reduces her to single words and grunted syllables mostly. It's intoxicating, to have that power.
"I've got you," Emma whispers, clutching Regina's thighs now, stroking her thumbs along the more sensitive insides while her tongue works punishing figure 8s over Regina's clit. She pushes back against Emma's mouthing, gasping when a sudden, sharp climax overtakes her.
Emma forces herself back to standing, wincing at the stiffness of her knees. She rubs reassuringly circles on Regina's back as she collects herself, but resists when she tries to pull Emma down onto the bed with her.
"I want to wait," Emma says, even as her body thrums in disagreement. "Tomorrow night, okay?"
Regina rolls onto her back, smiling but rolling her eyes at Emma's whims.
"You won't change your mind in the morning?" Regina asks as Emma lifts her bag from the foot of the bed.
"Do you remember the last time you asked me that?" Emma fires back.
"No," Regina lies.
"You asked me right after you asked me to stay the night for the first time," Emma reminds her. "And my answer is still the same."
"I won't if you make pancakes?" Regina says, propped up on her elbows.
"Oh, I thought I just said 'I won't'," Emma says, feeling just a little sheepish. She remembers now that Regina did, in fact, make the pancakes, after pretending for Henry's sake that Emma had just dropped by for breakfast. It seems a hundred years ago and not just a few months.
"This is how fights start," Regina says.
"Not tonight," Emma counters, leaning in for one last kiss. For a second she thinks Regina is going to turn her head, refuse the gesture. She's still not an easy woman to love, and Emma still chafes sometimes at the way Regina mistakes clinging to a person for affection, but their failed attempts at staying apart litter the recent past.
"I love you," Regina whispers against Emma's cheek before she pulls away.
David's approaching Emma's room when a commotion inside makes him pause. A second later Emma's being wheeled out at speed, whisked down the hall to what looks like an operating room.
"Emma!" Regina cries out as she comes hurtling into the hall. She looks blankly at David, not seeing him at all, before a nurse comes back and tries to direct her to the waiting area.
"What's wrong?" David demands, taking Regina's arm to save her from the nurse's grip. "Regina?"
"The heart," Regina says, and she looks as though she's speaking in a foreign language. "The baby... the cord."
The nurse steps in, and seeing Regina's shock seems to prompt her to be a little kinder.
"The baby's heart rate was slowing down. The safest thing to do is an emergency Caesarean. Emma should be just fine, let the doctors work."
"And the baby?" David pounces, noticing what she left out.
"The procedure is usually very successful," the nurses says. "Please, wait over by the chairs. I'll come and get you as soon as we know more."
David leads Regina there in her daze, and at one point it seems like her knees will give out on her. He's panicking about what to tell Snow, and he can't take Regina in to see a newborn during a time like this. He's frozen in place, unconsciously rubbing Regina's back as she gasps for air between sobs, when Henry comes strolling out.
"Mom!" He yelps, panicking at the sight of her. He slides on his knees in front of her, grabbing her shoulders and making her look at him.
"Emma needs surgery," Regina says. "Your Mom needs surgery. But she'll be fine," she says, wiping her tears. "And the baby will, too."
"What are we gonna tell Grammy?" Henry asks David. "They're cleaning her up and they're going to move her to her room."
"Then we'll tell her," David says, knowing it's going to break his heart to tell Snow, to see her helpless to go to their daughter. It feels like another penance for giving her up, to even think that they could lose Emma today makes him want to throw up, right there on the scraped and faded linoleum.
"Ms Mills?" A new nurse appears, looking solemn. "They're set up now, if you want to come in for the delivery. Emma's been given a general anesthetic, there wasn't time to wait for anything else."
"I'm coming," Regina says, already in motion. Her stride is regal, determined, and David's never been happier to see her look so strong. Where once it might have terrified him, he'll take whatever version of Regina they need for everyone to get through this day.
"Good luck," he calls after her, and she simply raises an arm in acknowledgment, not once looking back.
June (1st, early hours)
Emma has a spring in her step when she shows up at her parents' house, turning down the wine that Snow offers with the excuse of not wanting to be hungover for the big day. Ruby already hosted a bachelorette party that scandalized most of the town, and even without the secret she's keeping, Emma would be reluctant to indulge again. Plus, no matter how old she is and how close they are, getting drunk with her Mom would never not be weirder than a really weird thing.
They turn in early, after Emma dozes her way through most of Steel Magnolias. Snow's preference for weepies isn't exactly news, but Emma finds herself wishing they'd just raided Henry's collection for the Avengers or something.
"Last night as a single lady," Snow mutters as they hug goodnight. "And remember-"
"Don't tell me I can change my mind," Emma groans. "We've been through this."
"Well, the Town Hall looked lovely when I left earlier. The gazebo is a lovely choice," Snow changes tack. "I'm still surprised Regina chose it, but I suppose you never know with that woman."
"Nope," Emma confirms, and she's questioned the decision herself. Regina is quite content now in her new role as the owner of the stables. She's talking about training a racehorse, maybe, but for now caring for the horses and teaching people how to ride is making her happy enough not to hurt.
A lot of people were reluctant to trust her, especially with their children, and plenty still mutter in the corners of Granny's or the Rabbit Hole, but Emma has a Sheriff's badge and a gun, and the town knows she's not afraid to use either.
She doesn't sleep well in the guest room, and she regrets leaving Regina's when the next wave of cravings hits. It's been easy enough to conceal the pregnancy so far, with no morning sickness, but the compulsion for certain foods drives Emma half-crazy on a daily basis.
It's only when she sneaks down to the kitchen, sometime around three, that she realizes she won't be able to satisfy the craving here. After all, it's not like Snow White is going to have a bowl of apples on hand. Emma throws open the fridge in exasperation, not sure how she'll distract herself, when she's greeted with what looks like... no. It can't be.
She pokes at the crust experimentally and the pie gives way to reveal a filling of apples, and it looks almost as delicious as Regina's baking. There was a grim silence the first time Emma realized her craving, because like her mother she went off the fruit around the time it put someone in a cursed sleep. There's no ignoring biology though, and Emma pulls the pie out and places it on the counter with a twist of guilt somewhere in her gut.
As she raises the knife to cut a slice, her Mom's voice startles her from the kitchen door.
"You're eating apples?" Snow accuses, her face so very pale in the moonlight from the window.
"Uh," Emma hesitates, the reflexive guilt of a thief tensing her entire body. "Hey, wait a minute... you have apples? You told me you haven't eaten a single one since you were pregnant with...oh."
"Emma..." Snow seems at a loss, but the way her hand moves protectively to her stomach fills in the remaining blanks.
"Funny story," Emma says, her voice dull with unexpected jealousy. She feels sick at the thought, although she always knew it was likely, given that her parents haven't aged. "But why do you think I'm committing Grand Theft Apple Pie?"
"Emma!" Snow gasps. "But how?"
"Marrying a witch, Mom," Emma sasses right back. "I thought I was supposed to be the dummy about this stuff."
"Is that okay?" Snow asks, coming fully into the kitchen now. "I mean, is it... normal?"
"Due in November, just like the regular kind would be," Emma says. "Although if Regina can make it any easier on me than Henry was, I'm not exactly gonna complain."
"November," Snow says, her voice trembling just a little. "Oh, Emma. Me, too."
It's her punishment, Regina decides. Who was she kidding, thinking that a couple of years of grudging apologies and service to her former subjects would really do anything to clear the debts she incurred? Returning hearts, curing the ill, would that ever be enough to make up for the lives taken, the sins committed in the name of her own pain?
She will not lose Emma. That much has been decided. The baby has to be born, has to be happy and beautiful and every bit as loved as Henry was when he was placed in Regina's arms. She's prepared to do any magic, not matter the promises she's made not to use it for personal gain, and if it comes to it she'll make a deal with Gold or the devil himself to take her instead of her wife.
She lost Daniel by not acting quickly enough, making bargains when she should have made threats, and Regina will not make those mistakes again. The blue gown and ridiculous cap they dress her in barely register, all that matters is when they open the door and let her see the table that holds Emma. At least she looks peaceful, beneath their masks and contraptions. Without them, she'd look just as rested as on a Sunday morning, feigning another half hour of sleep before Regina dragged her out of bed for more wholesome activities.
Regina moves towards her on instinct but the nurse holds her back.
"Not that close, dear. Let them work."
The doctor and other staff are quiet and efficient, although they move fast they don't seem to be panicked. Regina drinks in that professional calm like a tonic, using it to steel herself against the chemical smells of cleanliness and then the unmistakable tang of blood in the air, metallic and unwelcome.
Before she can do much more than hold Emma's limp hand, a half-hearted cry rends the air from somewhere on the other side of the blue sheet.
Regina's heart stops.
Breathe, she tells herself. Blink, she tries, and slowly, slowly control of her body returns. And just in time, as one of the nurses wraps the squalling baby in a sheet and places her in one of their plastic cots.
"She's just fine," the nurse says gently, nodding towards Regina's frozen arms. "But she'll be out for a while, the anesthetic affects her too. It's good that she cried. The doctor's happy with everything."
"Yes," Regina says, with the conviction of a woman who's ruled and destroyed a kingdom, but lost and found love with a power even greater than that. "She?" She repeats, bottom lip beginning to tremble, giving her away.
"She," the nurse says. "We'll clean her up properly, do some more checks in the NICU and then we'll bring her to you and your wife in the recovery room."
"Okay," Regina says, as the nurse leads her towards the impossibly tiny bundle, blinking furiously to stop the tears from blurring everything. She won't let a single thing spoil seeing that face for the first time.
Regina looks down at the little person who's been nine long months in the making, red-faced and unseeing, sticky and grumpy. As sure as if someone had reached into her chest with magic, Regina feels the squeeze around her heart. This time, though, it doesn't make her tremble in fear or shudder with rage.
It's love, in its purest form.
"Hello, baby girl," she whispers. "You gave us quite a scare."
Regina looks at Emma, still oblivious and feels a pang of guilt at getting this special moment first. If she were awake Emma would no doubt insist on it, because she's become adept at managing Regina's spite and jealousy, promising all along that they would be equal parents as they've become with Henry, but they're both experienced enough to have doubts.
"I'll take her now," the nurse says, and Regina feels that primal urge to refuse, to demand another moment. Hell, it's taking half her willpower not to grab the trolley and bolt from the room so no one can separate her from her daughter ever again. "Emma will be awake in a little while, and once we check her she can go back to the postnatal room."
"I should go tell the family," Regina says, surprised at how easy it is, at how much she doesn't need to qualify the term.
"That's good, dear," the nurse says, the baby once more in her hands. "They'll want to hear it from you."
"Uh huh," Regina says, crying freely as they wheel her daughter away.
Ruby throws another pair of jeans out onto the floor, reaching for her beer bottle.
"You're really giving all of this away?" She asks for the third time.
"There's no way I'm fitting into those jeans in the next year," Emma says, nodding towards her growing bump. "And I dunno, I kind of feel like a change."
"Well, I mostly wear skirts, but you've got some nice denim here," Ruby muses, poking at the pile of clothes with her toes. "It's so cool to be hanging out here."
"Really?" Emma asks. "Most people still shy away from here like it's haunted, or something."
"I always loved the Mayor's house," Ruby tells her. "I didn't get to come here much, but I would stay as long as I could, try and poke around."
"If that's a hint, you can deal with Regina later," Emma warns. "She's still very private."
"Do you like it here?" Ruby asks. "I mean, for real? It feels a bit like living in a magazine photo."
"It doesn't when Henry's got every book and piece of clothing he owns all over the floor," Emma grumbles. "But yeah, I do. It's all very Regina, but I like that. My woman has taste, you can't deny that."
"She definitely does," Ruby agrees. "Except for her taste in women, of course."
"Hey!" Emma says from where she's flopped out on the chaise. She throws a cushion, for good measure. "Be nice or I'll call and ask her to come home early."
"You know," Ruby says carefully. "I don't think I'd mind. She's actually pretty fun, when you get her going."
Emma tries not to give it away, but she feels herself glowing at the unexpected compliment. Slowly but surely, Regina is winning over the people in Emma's life, even if it's still rocky in a lot of places.
"She is," Emma agrees. "Now, come on, what are you taking?"
She feels much stronger as she strides along the corridor. She asked a nurse to update the Charmings in the end, unwilling to go any further than the room they set aside for Emma to come round in. Now, the waiting area is empty, the doors to Snow's delivery room half-open to show an unoccupied space. Regina hesitates for a moment, because after all this time she still has to brace herself before being in Snow's company, particularly on days when emotion is running high.
Henry sees her coming, throwing the postnatal room door open and rushing towards her. She wants to cry all over again just seeing him.
"It's all okay," Regina tells him, still stunned by how tall he's getting, that she no longer needs to bend to plant a kiss on top of his head. "Emma woke up, but she's resting, they're bringing her through soon."
"What about my little brother?" Henry asks, arms wrapped around her in the kind of clingy hug she thought he'd outgrown.
"Nice try," she scolds. "Your little sister is just perfect. If you want some male company, you have your uncle."
"You should come and tell them," Henry reminds her. "Grammy already took a swing at a few people when they said she couldn't go see Emma."
"Oh for Gods' sakes," Regina mutters, but she peels Henry off her and walks the rest of the way into the room.
"Mother and baby are fine," she announces. "They're bringing them both through, when Emma's painkillers start to work."
"What did Emma say?" Snow demands. "Did you two pick a name?"
"Well, it won't be Cora," Regina says, mouth pinched. "But they had to knock her out. We haven't talked much yet."
"But they'll bring her here?" David confirms.
"Yes," Regina agrees. "I need to make a call," she lies, stepping back out into the hall and jogging towards the nearest exit. There she clutches the cold metal railing and takes huge, gulping breaths. Once again, they'll all have to wait for a sleeping princess to wake, but it feels like the worst is already over.
Regina hears Ruby open the door and the agitated murmuring that takes place before Snow enters. With grim determination, Regina keeps stirring the mug of tea she's made, not that she has any intention of drinking it.
"Regina!" Snow calls out as she crosses the living room of her former apartment. "A word?"
A few choice ones come to mind, but Regina simply shrugs. She's done nothing wrong here, and won't be made to feel that she has.
"What are you doing here, Regina?" Snow asks, easing her pregnant body onto a stool at the counter. "This isn't your home."
"I'll make a more permanent arrangement," Regina snaps. "But I wanted Emma to have the house."
"You're really walking out on her? After what, three months of marriage?" Snow demands. She looks angrier than Regina expected, after all, this is what the Charmings have secretly been rooting for, surely?
"It's not walking out," Regina explains. "But the stress of all the fighting can't be good for her, or the baby. And I promised her that she would never be without a home again, never have to rely on anyone else to put a roof over her head."
"Regina," Snow says, and she sounds like her younger self in the lilting way that she says it. "What's wrong with you?"
"I'm making her miserable," Regina sighs. "We argue and nothing makes her happy."
"And you leaving makes her happy?" Snow persists.
"It will, in the long run," Regina says. "It has for everyone else." She's tired of hiding her bitterness from Snow, of choking back decades of resentment to allow everyone to share the occasional meal in peace.
"Self-pity doesn't suit you," Snow says. "Now, maybe you've never gotten to the part of a relationship that takes work," she continues. "But when it gets tough, you have to just grin and bear it sometimes."
"Never gotten to it?" Regina spits, the roar of rage in her head like shells from the shore. "Why might that be? Oh, that's right, you got my first love killed. And if you don't think being married to your father was difficult, then you really were the spoiled, self-centered brat I took you for."
Snow's face hardens at that, the flare of belief in her own goodness as clear to Regina as a firework exploding in the night sky.
"Regardless," Snow says. "You made a promise to my daughter. And you're scaring the hell out of Ruby."
"She can tear a man limb from limb once a month if she wishes," Regina counters. "I can't be that scary."
"You kind of are," Ruby pipes up from over by the door. "Sorry."
"Go home, Regina," Snow finishes, getting back off the stool. "And we'll say no more about it."
"I don't take orders from you, Snow," Regina reminds her, but she's already crumbling. She wants nothing more than to go back to her home and slip beneath the covers with Emma, even if there's no way to know if she'll be welcome.
"I know," Snow replies. "But you should go home, anyway."
Regina comes back inside just in time for the nurse to bring the baby in her strange little hospital cot. It looks so flimsy compared to the wooden one they have in the nursery at home, ready and waiting, and the first twinge of panic about their daughter's safety courses through Regina.
The room lights up at the presence of a second baby, but Regina knows the most important introduction she has to make.
"Sit down," she says kindly to Henry, nodding towards the visitor chair beside him. "And bring your arms up like this," she says, demonstrating before lifting the little girl from her cot.
"Henry," Regina says, lingering for just a second longer than she should, gazing at the sleeping baby. "It's time for you to meet your sister."
She places the baby in his waiting arms, showing him how to support her head and letting go only when he seems confident in the hold.
"Hey, sis," Henry says, staring down at her with a puzzled expression. "You've got the same birthday as your uncle."
David laughs at that, the sudden warmth of it startling Regina and Snow both.
"Did you want to hold Lance?" Snow asks a moment later, as they all watch Henry gently rock his sister. "Meet him officially, I mean."
"Later," Regina answers, with as much grace as she can muster. "I want to focus on her, at least until Emma is awake again."
As though summoned by the sound of her name, Emma is wheeled in then on a gurney and swiftly tucked into the other, empty bed. Leads are connected and a few last checks are performed before the doctor takes his leave, obviously satisfied.
"She'll be with you in a little while," the nurse says. "We'll check on her as often as we can, but press the button if you need anything."
Regina looks around the room for a moment, considering the vacant chairs and all the places she could put herself. Without a care for the audience, she kicks off her shoes and climbs up onto Emma's bed, stretching out on her side and pressing carefully against Emma. Consideration for her stitches and pain means Regina can't wrap an arm around her wife, no matter how desperately she wants to.
"Let the baby meet her grandparents, Henry," Regina says, feeling her eyelids getting heavy.
It's been a really long night, and now they're somewhere way past breakfast. She'll just close her eyes for a moment.
"Henry!" Regina screeches up the stairs for the third time, but the only person prodded into action is Emma. She shrugs on her new fluffy robe, partly revenge against Regina for waking her and rattles Henry's bedroom door with a police officer's knock before padding downstairs.
"What's up with the early bird?" Emma asks with a yawn, approaching Regina at the foot of the staircase. "Used to be every weekend he'd drag us out of bed before dawn."
"Teenager," Regina says through her gritted teeth. As Emma gets closer she notices the sparks flying from Regina's fingers, and Emma quickly takes Regina's hands in her own, making the magic slow to a stop.
"Temper," Emma warns. "I can't always come defuse these little bombs, you know. I'm trying to grow a person."
"I think I liked it better when you only knew how to charge up my magic," Regina grouses, but she leans into Emma, burying her face against Emma's neck.
Their moment of peace is shattered by the thump of Henry's bedroom door finally opening, but he slinks downstairs with more reluctance than a Slinky at the end of its tumbles.
"Up and at 'em, cowboy," Emma teases, but he ducks her awkward attempt to pat him on the shoulder. "Hey!" She calls out, making him stop halfway to the kitchen. "What did I ever do to you?"
"Nothing," Henry sighs, like he's sixty, or French. "Is breakfast ready?"
"It has been for twenty minutes," Regina snaps, slipping an arm around Emma's back, pulling her close. It's both lovely and a little bit like she intends to use Emma as a human shield. "First day of school, Henry. Aren't you looking forward to it?"
"Nope," Henry says, before continuing on towards the kitchen. Emma's stunned at the change of heart, because if nothing else her kid has turned into quite the nerd, way more into school than she ever was.
"What the hell?" She asks, turning to Regina. "Did you know about this?"
"I thought he was just in a bad mood," Regina sighs. "After all, those mood swings have to be hereditary."
"I think this one is nurture, not nature," Emma snipes back. "Let's go do some damage control."
They take seats flanking Henry at the counter, and he rolls his eyes at Emma before reaching for a banana.
"What's up, kid?" Emma asks, because it's not the start of a fight now if she takes point. "How come you're not psyched about school?"
"I know you are," Henry mumbles. "You just want me out of the way."
"What?" Regina interrupts. "Why would you say that?"
"It's true," Henry replies, perfectly calm. "You just care about baby stuff, and each other. It's okay, I get it. But I liked school more when I felt like I didn't have to get out of the house."
"Listen to me," Emma says, placing a hand on his forearm. "That is crap, Henry. Total crap."
"Emma!" Regina starts to complain, but Emma soldiers on.
"I know what it's like not to feel wanted," Emma says. "It sucks. More than anything. And if we made you feel that way for a second, Henry, then I am so sorry I don't even know where to start."
"But we do still want you here," Regina carries on. "Henry, we love you. And you will always be so special, don't you see? You're the reason we're a family in the first place. And you saved me."
"Emma saved you," Henry says, staring at the counter. "She's the Savior."
"She helped," Regina admits. "But she couldn't have done it if I didn't want to be saved. And the only reason I did? Was because of you."
Emma feels herself tearing up, but she blinks it back.
"We're going to love this baby, and you will too. But we will never love him or her more than you, okay?"
"You sure?" Henry asks, finishing off his breakfast, making the words come out through a mouthful of banana.
"Well, he or she might have better table manners," Regina says, but even she can't make it sound sour. She smooths Henry's hair into place, before patting him on the back. "So, ready for school?"
"I guess so," Henry admits. "Who's taking me?"
"I am," Regina says, standing up and nodding at Emma. Regina is dressed for a day at the stables, in cream jodhpurs (a word Emma still claims she's making up) and a soft black sweater that makes Emma want to pull her close. "Emma's going in later."
The desk job thing is a concession to the baby bump, but Emma knows she could still kick some ass if required. Luckily she actually has deputies now, so that isn't necessary.
"I'll pick you up after school," Emma promises, smiling as the baby kicks at the announcement. She waits for Regina to leave the kitchen before whispering, "and there's ice cream with your name on it, if you promise not to rat me out."
"I think I can manage that," Henry agrees, his smile firmly back in place. Emma knows they haven't heard the last of it, tantrums are surely in her immediate future, but she'll take the truce for now.
"Hey," Emma says, when the world comes back into focus. The room is a pale green instead of white, and she's so thirsty she could die. But Regina is curled into her side and everything feels sort of peaceful...
Emma's body tries to jolt her upright, but the muscles won't cooperate. It's enough to stir Regina though, whose dark, panicked eyes snap open in an instant.
"Emma?" She croaks, voice more broken than husky. "What's wrong?"
"I'm awake," Emma says, her own voice a rasp. "Baby?"
"She's here," her dad says, coming into her line of sight with a tiny bundle in his arms. Regina reacts then, scrambling off the bed to take the baby from him, rocking her softly before turning back to Emma with distinctly watery eyes. Emma pops an ice chip in her mouth, grateful for the relief.
"I am already in love," Regina says darkly. "So don't ever try to take her from me, okay?"
"I won't," Emma says, cringing a little that they're having this conversation for the twentieth time in a room that she now sees contains her whole family. "Wait, her?"
"Yes," Regina says, gently placing the baby against Emma's chest, and they both gasp as the baby reaches blindly for Emma's hospital gown. Regina opts not to mention that Emma already said a groggy hello to the baby in recovery, if she can't remember it's only going to upset her. "We never did settle on a girl's name."
"There's time," Emma mutters, staring at her daughter with disbelieving eyes. A moment ago Emma felt like she'd been hit by a truck, and now it doesn't seem to matter. Regina strokes a thumb carefully over the baby's forehead before pressing a quick, slightly desperate kiss to Emma's lips.
"You should meet your brother," Regina says, and it's generous, coming from her.
"How you feeling, Mom?" Emma asks.
"Fine, honey. We were so worried, but Regina had your back the whole time," Snow says, and a look passes between the two women that Emma can't begin to understand. She'll be clinging to this moment of peace when war breaks out at Christmas again, no doubt.
Regina lifts their daughter from Emma's arms, smiling in recognition at the flash of 'no' that crosses Emma's face. A moment later her dad places another squirming little bundle in her waiting arms.
"Meet Lance," he says. "You're officially a big sister."
"After Lancelot?" Emma asks, looking at her parents. "Oh, I like that."
Lance starts to wail at that, which sets off his niece in turn. Emma, who hasn't been around a crying baby since prison, winces at the volume. Regina rolls her eyes at the reaction, gesturing for David to take his son back.
"It's probably feeding time again," Snow says over the din. "Uh, Henry-"
"I'm going to get some juice," he says, practically running for the door. David smiles in recognition. "We'll pull the curtain," he offers, and Emma's relieved because suddenly all those baby books Regina foisted on her for months have completely deserted her. She feels like she has no idea what the hell to do next.
"Don't worry," Regina says softly. "I'm told it comes naturally. But the nurses have been feeding her, you can try a bit later, when the pain lets up."
Emma reaches for Regina's hand, squeezing it where it's supporting their crying daughter.
"Thank you," Emma says, already feeling exhausted again. "I couldn't do this without you."
"You could," Regina says, placing on Emma's chest, which quiets her instantly. "But you don't have to."
Emma considers those words, and how Regina of all people knows exactly how much weight they carry. Even with lank hair and no makeup and a desperate urge for a shower, Emma feels loved, feels beautiful as Regina tilts her chin and looks at her.
"You're a mess," Regina says, with undisguised glee. "We'll have to clean you up for some photos. Henry's taken a ton of her already."
"Thanks," Emma mutters, leaning in to whisper as Regina leans in to watch the baby. "What if I... hurt her?"
"I would never, ever let you," Regina says, and there's a fierceness under it. "But you won't."
"What do you think of Poppy?" Emma asks. There's a long pause while Regina considers, long enough that Snow shouts out from the other side of the curtain.
"I love it!" She offers, and Emma smirks at Regina's look of disgust. That's probably one name off the list, because Regina still can't bring herself to do anything that pleases Snow White. But Regina, as goddamned ever, is full of surprises.
"Poppy," she says softly to the baby. "Yes, I think so."
"Hi, Poppy," Emma tries, and the baby just makes a strange little sucking noise in return.
"Oh look," Regina says, dry as ever. "She has your manners already."
"I told her not to call you," Regina mutters, a piece of wood in each hand. "It's not difficult."
"Emma just wants it finished," David says. "You should make use of me."
Regina watches him for a moment, considering.
"Snow threw you out again, didn't she? Getting in her way?" She asks.
"No," David lies. "She's resting, in fact. Now, about this crib?"
"I could build it, if Emma would hold the pieces she's supposed to, when I tell her to," Regina huffs. "I wanted to just do it with magic, but..."
"Nuh uh," David interrupts. "This is a rite of passage for any parent. Except the pregnant ones who need to go lie down after five minutes."
"Well," Regina says, feeling unusually charitable towards her father-in-law. "It would be a relief to just get it finished."
"That's the spirit," David says, shrugging his jacket off and throwing it into the corner. "Now, I know better than to take over, so I'll be your handsome but dumb assistant."
"What a stretch," Regina drawls, consulting her instructions one more time. "Okay, I need the thing that looks like a butterfly."
David sighs, but starts rooting through the pieces on the dresser.
"Thank you," Regina says after a moment. "This can't be... easy on you."
"Well," he admits, handing her the screw thing that she needs. "It was a bit of a shock. I mean, I always hoped to be a dad again after-"
"Yes," Regina says, acknowledging her part in the unspoken. But one apology is all he'll ever get from her.
"And Emma is... well, she knows what she wants. If she's happy, then who stands in the way of that?"
"Some parents do," Regina says darkly. She fixes part A to part B and nods for Charming to pass her the support beam they attach to.
"I'm sorry that they do," David says, with more diplomacy than he's shown her in the past.
"Hey," says Emma, appearing in the doorway. She looks a lot calmer than when she stormed out of the nursery an hour ago. "You came," she says to her father.
"Yes," he says, crossing the room to hug her briefly. Regina's a little glad that Emma still looks uncomfortable with any contact that isn't from Regina or Henry.
"It won't take long," Regina says, aiming for appeasement. "Your father is a decent assistant."
"I'll supervise," Emma says, patting Regina on the ass as she passes by, taking up residence in the rocking chair that's probably going to take two of them to get her back out of.
"Yes, princess," Regina says, the words laden with their usual sarcasm. "Come on Charming, let's get this wood put together, or your grandchild will be sleeping on the floor."
"Yes ma'am," David agrees, locking another piece into place, and for a moment Regina can pretend they're a regular family, that nobody in this room has threatened the life of the other, with swords or curses or a tearing of hearts.
Regina returns to the task at hand. Weddings and babies and the warmth of Emma in her bed every night aside, this is no time to go back to trusting sentiment.
Being hospitalized loses its appeal the moment Snow is discharged, and Emma spend the next two days bugging every member of staff to let her go. Regina, for once, is the one running around and apologizing for bad behavior and personal insults.
She takes to motherhood for a second time like a duck to water though, and Emma finds herself feeling a little jealous and a lot relieved. Being awake a couple of hours at a time is still an achievement, and besides her walks around the maternity ward and being able to go to the bathroom on her own again, she isn't exactly good for much.
But the morning finally dawns when her harassed doctor finally signs discharge papers, issuing strict instructions and prescriptions that Regina deals with in the time it takes Emma to get out of bed, slowly and with a nurse's help.
"Sorry I'm not gonna be doing much for a while," Emma says when it's just the two of them again. Henry has reluctantly gone to school, demanding a minimum of three updates a day on whether the baby can do magic, or really anything interesting. Emma's really looking forward to the part where he gets bored of all this.
"I'm happy to take care of it, dear," Regina says, as another nurse brings Poppy back from her final check-up. Regina pounces like a kid with a new toy, and Emma can't exactly blame her. She folds herself into the waiting wheelchair grudgingly, because whatever conditions they put on it, Emma is getting the hell out of there.
Pulling the baby sling over her head and into place, Emma coughs at Regina's cooing, and she reluctantly hands the baby over.
"Sorry, but I like her too," Emma teases, and Regina kisses her cheek in exasperation. While Emma is comfortable in sweats, Regina is already the picture of smart togetherness, and a little part of Emma is looking forward to how her usually immaculate wife is going to handle spit-up and diapers and flying baby food.
"With magic," Regina answers, to a question she wasn't actually asked. Emma's too tired to really guard her facial expressions, and must have been giving away her glee.
"Does that make raising babies any easier?" Emma asks, as Regina moves behind her and begins pushing the chair out into the hall. Poppy gurgles happily at the motion, and Emma snuggles the baby just a little closer.
"Only if it's used correctly," Regina says, and it's a little grim for a moment as they approach the exit. "You can always keep me in check."
"I won't need to," Emma says, and she believes it down to the marrow of her bones. Regina's temper runs as hot as ever, and her unpredictability is a daily challenge, but the pain that made her do unspeakable things has finally eased. Emma doesn't know how much of that is down to her, but a hell of a lot comes from Henry and Poppy.
"The rain eased up," Regina says as the automatic doors slide open. Outside the new SUV that Regina traded in her beloved Mercedes for is waiting, parked across two disabled bays in a way that only Regina would assume she can get away with.
"It did," Emma says, and suddenly Regina is leaning over her, touching the tiny woollen hat that protects Poppy's little head. They stay like that for a moment, still and almost entirely at peace. Emma kisses Regina firmly on the cheek.
"You ready?" Emma asks, as Regina offers a hand to help her out of the chair. Her skin is as warm as the morning is cold, and Emma finds herself holding on longer than she needs to, keen to prolong the feeling.
"As I'll ever be," Regina replies.