The last chapter is finally here! Sorry it took so long. It was a combination of me not wanting it to end and trying to make sure it came out the way I wanted it to. A big thank you to my best friend for his help in achieving exactly what I wanted. Having a second pair of eyes (and an opinion to go with them) was invaluable!
I'm already partway into the second chapter of my next Evil Charming story. I think I might wait until I have a few more before I start posting. (Don't want to make you all wait horrible amounts of time between updates.) Unless you'd rather it be waiting between updates than for me to start posting? Let me know your preferences.
I've loved working on this story! A huge thank you to all of you wonderful readers who've reviewed, favorited and followed. You've made this my most popular story, not to mention a joy to write. It's always easier when you know people are waiting for more.
Enjoy, and I hope this ending is as satisfying for you to read as it was for me to write.
Chapter 20: Our Happy Ending
Two Months Later...
It had now been a month since David had officially moved into Regina's house. He'd stayed in the guest room the first week, being very careful of boundaries with Regina - but she'd asked him to stay. It had been a gradual, but natural transition into him sharing her bedroom. While he stayed there every night and spent all of his time off with Regina, it took a few more weeks for her to ask him to stay permanently - still an incredibly fast transition for their relationship. But they both agreed it felt right.
It had only taken about a week for the Regina David knew and loved to appear. He'd gradually worked his way over the wall she kept in place.
Regina was much happier for it. Every day, she found herself more trusting that David was here to stay. He made her feel safe and loved, and surprisingly, he had the ability to make her laugh - really laugh. He took the opportunity to do so as often as possible.
The new couple spent most of the first few weeks holed up in the house just talking. The town (as expected) had an extremely adverse reaction to the idea of the two of them having a relationship. They already hated Regina because of who she was and what she'd done, but finding out that she'd stolen Snow White's Prince Charming made it even worse. Regina hadn't thought that it was possible for anyone to hate her more than they already did. It didn't help that almost all of them solely blamed Regina for the relationship. They thought that maybe she had him under some sort of spell, or that she'd tricked him in some way. A lot of them thought that this was all part of some elaborate plan she had to bring about more destruction somehow. Only a select few blamed David - most of them being the closest friends of Snow White.
David was angry a lot in public, which was a side of him that Regina was completely unused to seeing. He snapped at people he'd once been friendly with and glared at people who passed by with any kind of judgment on their faces. He was extremely defensive of Regina, which both irritated her and felt nice. It was something to get used to.
Eventually, they were able to go out more often. People saw the way the couple interacted and even the people most against the relationship couldn't deny that these two appeared to be made for each other. Their conversations and laughter came easily. They often could be seen walking down the main street hand in hand, smiling and laughing, most of the time with Henry bouncing around them telling them about his day. It had become a daily routine that they picked him up from school and walked him to Granny's, where they'd have an after-school snack and spend some time together before taking him to Emma's.
Henry had taken a while to come around to the idea and become comfortable with it. He'd been accepting of it from the start, of course, but it took a little while for the idea not to bother him.
Snow and Emma were the most difficult obstacles, as anticipated. Snow didn't seem like she would ever stop hating them for what they'd done, and no one blamed her. Her husband had fallen in love with her mortal enemy, her step-mother, a woman who'd wanted her dead for decades. Against all expectation, however, she'd gradually stopped glaring and spitting hateful words. As much as it hurt, even she could see how happy they made each other. She, unlike everyone else in town, had seen this Regina before. Not since she was a child, but she'd never forgotten that woman or stopped missing her. David brought out the Regina who'd saved her life, picked her up off the ground, dusting her off and telling her about true love. It was more painful than she could imagine realizing that that love now existed with the man she'd thought was hers, but the tiny flame of love she'd always carried for Regina couldn't allow her to completely hate the woman, even now; especially now that she was the Regina that had loved her back. She still avoided seeing them whenever possible, but when she did happen to run into them, the encounters were far from hostile.
Emma had been confused, then angry, then finally, appeared indifferent. David didn't blame her. He was her father after all, as confusing as that in itself was for Emma. She'd gone her whole life without parents, only to find out that they were fairytale characters about the same age as she was. That would have been hard enough to get used to, except that, shortly after finding out that her parents were the inseparable Snow White and Prince Charming, they'd done just that; separated. And not just because they'd grown apart. Because Prince Charming had fallen in love with the Evil Queen. As much as Emma tried to ignore the fact that everyone in this town had an alternate, fairytale identity, she couldn't overcome this particular hurdle. It had been easier to see Regina as the Evil Queen since the curse had been broken. The way she treated people, her attitude, everything about her had shifted to queen-mode. She hadn't been pleasant before, but it had been entirely different once everyone remembered. Seeing her with the man that was her father was frustrating. And she shouldn't be sharing a step-mother with her own mother. It was just wrong. Then again, there were many other things about the whole Storybrooke situation that were far more disturbing. And in any case, Regina was much younger than any stepmother should be. (Emma often wondered in the back of her mind how someone so young had ended up married to the king with a daughter not much younger than his new wife. No one had ever bothered to tell her the story.) Still, she'd only just found her parents, and as awkward as it was, she wanted to get to know them. She couldn't let something like relationship status get in the way of coming to know her father. And so, gradually, Emma had stopped avoiding him and begrudgingly tolerated the relationship he had with her former rival.
This more than anything else is what had made it easier for the rest of the town. If Snow White and Emma could overcome their hatred of the pair, surely the rest of them could, too? David was extremely grateful for this. It's what had allowed them to start venturing out into the town more. Without that acceptance, it would have been much harder for Regina to spend time with her son.
Today, exactly one month since David had moved his things into Regina's house, the small, odd family was sitting in a booth at Granny's. Henry had been quiet, sipping a milkshake with an unusual distractedness.
Regina and David, sitting across from him, exchanged curious and worried glances before turning back to watch him.
"Henry?" Regina finally asked quietly. "Is everything alright?"
Henry looked up, appearing startled by her question. "Um, yeah. It's fine. Why?"
"Well," she glanced again at David. "You just seem a little distracted today. Is there something bothering you?"
"No," Henry said. He picked up a few french fries, munching silently.
Regina opened her mouth to ask more when the bell on the door sounded and in walked Emma and Mary Margaret.
Regina and David were both surprised when, rather than looking suddenly uncomfortable about their presence, the pair searched the diner before laying their eyes on them and headed directly over. They were even more surprised when Henry gave a sigh of relief and said, "Finally! You're late."
"Sorry, kid," Emma said sheepishly. "Last minute thing at the station I had to take care of." She waved her hand at him until he slid out of the booth, allowing her to slide in first. She shook her arms out of her coat as Henry climbed in next to her again and Mary Margaret sat awkwardly at the end next to him.
Emma looked up at Regina across from her and said, "You know, I miss you being the Mayor. People expect me to deal with all of their problems now. I don't know how you did it."
"Well I had a few years to practice," Regina said dazedly. What was happening? She looked at Henry who only smiled at her, offering no explanations.
Emma chuckled wryly. "Yeah, I suppose that's true." More seriously, she said, "Still, you were good at it. Most of the time," she added with an eye roll.
Mary Margaret, who'd been staring intently at a water spot on the table, glanced up to look at Regina.
There was a tense moment of silence, broken by the sound of Henry slurping the last of his milkshake through the straw.
"Was there something you needed to talk to us about?" David finally asked. It sounded curious, not mean. He still loved Snow, just not in the way he had before. And yes, things had been extremely tense with Emma, but she'd come around. It was just, they'd never openly sought a conversation the way they were doing now. There must be something important happening. It made him curious - not to mention a little on edge. What would bring Snow to the same table as he and Regina?
Regina seemed to be having the same thoughts, as her slightly shocked expression began to morph into one of concern. "Is something wrong?" she asked. Had something happened in town? Someone else they knew had crossed the town line? Gold was causing trouble? The portal had been closed for over a month now, but could it somehow have been opened again? Had someone come through? She sat up rigidly straight as she thought suddenly of her mother.
"Cora?" she asked weakly. Surely they wouldn't have been so casual in their conversation to begin with if this involved the woman they'd tried so hard to keep out?
Snow shook her head violently, understanding where Regina's thoughts had gone. "No, no. Nothing like that. The portal is still safely sealed," she assured her.
Regina let out a breath of relief and felt David's hand grasp hers under the table. Even the thought of her mother was still enough to terrify her. He gave her hand a light squeeze in support, rubbing the back of it with his thumb.
"Actually..." Henry said nervously, "they're here to talk about me."
Regina looked between Henry, Emma and Snow, trying to decipher what was going on, but their expressions weren't giving anything away. They didn't look unhappy, but they didn't look particularly happy either. Henry's gaze had shifted self-consciously to the tabletop.
"It's about his living arrangements," Emma said.
Regina's stomach clenched. This was it. They were going to take her son away from her permanently. They wanted to make it official. It had been hard not having Henry in the house this past month. Yes, he'd been allowed to stay overnight from time to time, but that was the extent of it. David's optimism had proven false. She'd always had some small amount of hope that they might change their mind about her and allow her to spend more than just afternoons with her son, but now that hope was quickly fading. It was even more painful than she'd imagined it would be. Even worse was the seeming indifference about the topic in Henry's expression. That is, until he looked up at her and saw her expression.
The pain had become clear on Regina's face and her eyes were shining with unshed tears. She looked like she was about to fall apart.
"Mom!" Henry said, suddenly looking horrified. "What's the matter?"
Regina couldn't speak for fear that she really would fall apart.
Emma and Snow noticed the look as well and Snow quickly spoke up. "We're not taking him, Regina."
Regina turned her wide eyes on Snow, slow to comprehend what had been said. Mostly because she couldn't bring herself to believe what she'd heard.
"No," Emma said firmly. "We wouldn't do that."
"Then what..." Regina cleared her throat, trying to rid it of the shaky emotions. "What are you going to do?"
"Well, actually," Emma started picking at a dried spot of ketchup on the table. "Henry's asked if it would be alright to move in with you again. Permanently."
Regina blinked at her and looked at Henry who was looking at her hopefully. It seems he'd been afraid to ask her himself. He still seemed nervous about what was going on.
Not wanting to build up her hopes only to have them torn down, Regina looked again at Emma. "And you're okay with this?"
Emma nodded, but it was Snow who spoke. "We actually thought it might be a good idea." She smiled down at Henry, quickly adding, "Not that we don't love having him." She turned back to Regina. "My apartment is small, not meant for a child to grow up in. Emma has to work a lot, especially since the curse has been broken, and Henry and I already spend all day together at the school. Besides," she added more quietly. "He should be with his mother."
Emma didn't even wince. It seemed that she and Snow had already had a discussion about this. They had, in fact, and while there was no question that Emma was also Henry's mom, Regina had been his mother his entire life. She'd raised him from birth and they couldn't ignore that fact. As quickly as Emma had come to know and love her son, and as much as Henry now needed both his mothers in his life, they knew that it was Regina who should have custody of him. She was the one who knew how to cook his favorite meals, exactly what to say when he was having a bad day and how to make his nightmares go away. Henry had tried to hide it while living with them, but they could tell that he wasn't truly happy. The way that he'd stare at his plate at dinner and was quiet during breakfast; how he'd eventually stopped asking them to come in and say goodnight. They were his family and they loved him, as he did them, but there was one major issue. They weren't Regina.
Snow had brought this conversation up at one point, no longer able to stand the tense silences. It was clear that Henry wasn't happy, he was just too polite to say so. At first, Snow and Emma had discussed it amongst themselves, but then they'd brought Henry into the conversation. They'd made the decision that Henry should move back home. He and Emma could still spend a lot of time together and hang out on the weekends, but he should spend the majority of his time in the house he grew up in, with the daily routine he'd known his whole life and the mother who'd raised him. Henry had simply been afraid to ask Regina. Snow and Emma knew that she'd welcome him home with open arms. The only thing she'd fought for since the breaking of the curse was Henry. He was the most important thing in her life. They understood, though, that Henry was still a child. He still had a hard time thinking about things that weren't black and white. He had a nagging fear that because of the way he'd treated his mom ever since finding that book, how he hadn't trusted her, she maybe wouldn't want him living with her. He might remind her of all the painful things that had happened because of him.
Regina was still staring back and forth between the three people on the opposite side of the table.
"Mom?" Henry asked nervously. "Is that okay?"
She gave a little choked sound, fighting back tears. "Henry, of course it's okay. I would love for you to move back in with me. Are you sure this is what you want?" She still was afraid that it was too good to be true.
"Yeah," Henry said, as if it were obvious. "I miss you and my room, and I think it would be cool to live with David," he added a little sheepishly. "We've never had a guy in the house."
Regina smiled warmly at him. "No, we haven't, have we?" She couldn't believe this was happening. "You can move back whenever you'd like Henry. It's your home. You never needed permission."
David smiled as well. He'd spent a lot of time with Henry while Snow and Emma were trapped in the Enchanted Forest, and he'd missed him since he'd been living with Regina. Having missed his own child growing up, he'd rather enjoyed having a second chance with Henry.
"It's settled then," Emma said. "How about tomorrow? Henry doesn't have a lot of things at the apartment, so it shouldn't take too long to move it back to the house." She was sad that Henry would be leaving, but she knew that he wouldn't want to wait. He'd done enough waiting. And it wasn't like she was never going to see him again; he'd just be living a few blocks away. "Does that sound okay to you Henry?"
Henry nodded eagerly, practically bouncing in his seat. "I'm so excited!" he said loudly, drawing a few looks from other customers in the diner. "I have a surprise for you, too!" He said happily to Regina. Now that he knew she wanted him back and that he would soon be living at home again, he'd gone right back to his normal self. Talkative, excited, engaged in the conversation.
Regina smiled at seeing her son re-emerge. "I can't wait," she told him happily. She was just happy to have her son back – especially after the fear that he would be taken away forever.
Red chose that moment to sidle up to the table, notepad in hand and a curious expression on her face. She hadn't expected to see Emma and her best friend occupying the same booth as Regina and David. She wasn't the only one who'd noticed, either. They were receiving several strange looks from the other customers. Snow White and the Evil Queen at the same table? Red's curiosity was starting to get to her. "Can I get you guys anything?" she asked Emma and Snow.
Snow shook her head. "Actually, I think I'd better get going. I have some papers to grade."
Henry pouted. "Please stay, Snow. Please? You just got here."
Everyone's eyes shifted to Regina. They all knew the real reason Snow was anxious to leave.
To all of their surprise, Regina gave a small nod. "You should stay."
No one looked more shocked than Snow, although even Regina seemed surprised by what she'd said.
"Al...Alright," Snow stammered. "I guess I'll have a grilled cheese."
Red snapped out of her open-mouthed stare and jotted the order down quickly, tearing her eyes from Regina to look at Emma.
"Burger and fries. Oh and a chocolate shake." She eyed the pie case across the diner. "Do you have any cherry pie?"
Red nodded, an amused smile on her face.
"A slice of that, too."
"Emma!' Snow said, looking incredulously at her daughter.
"What?" Emma asked innocently. "I haven't had anything to eat all day long. Being the only person in the sheriff's department is a busy job."
"I'm sure there's room in the budget for some help," Regina commented casually, taking a sip of her water.
Emma glanced at her, surprised that Regina had said anything. "That may be true, but without anyone actually running the budget, it's kind of tough to get ahold of any of it."
Regina actually looked concerned at the news. "No one's in charge of the budget?"
Emma shook her head, glancing around the table, looking as if this shouldn't be news to anyone. "Has everyone but me failed to notice that there's really no one in charge in this town? Seriously?"
"Well, we've..." Snow trailed off in thought.
"Yeah," Emma said. "God, it's no wonder no one understands why I'm so stressed out. I've been pulling double duty trying to solve issues that are normally the mayor's purview. You guys asked Regina to step down, but you didn't have anyone to take her position." She reached across the table to pick a fry off of David's plate and frowned when he slapped her hand away.
"Get your own," he said, putting his hands over his plate.
Emma looked pointedly at Red who was still standing there, listening to the conversation. "Right!" she said, spinning around to fill the new orders.
Emma crossed her arms on the table and looked back at Regina. "Seriously, though - this town needs help. Would you be willing to consider coming back?"
Snow gaped at her daughter openly. Even David looked surprised. Henry just looked around innocently, watching all of their reactions.
"I suppose I could," Regina said. "But don't you think everyone would be against it?"
Emma shrugged. "You've run this town for twenty-eight years and let's face it, you weren't the most pleasant person, but you got the job done."
Regina raised an eyebrow.
"You were actually a pretty decent mayor," Emma continued, ignoring the look, "and I think that people - if given the facts about the direction this town is taking without a proper system in place - could be convinced to let you back into the position."
"You don't think they'd want to elect someone a little more...well-liked? At least someone they didn't outwardly hate?" Regina finished, not being able to think of a delicate way to put it.
Emma sighed. "You've been changing. You're not as creepy-controlling as you were before and you still have all of the political knowledge required for the job. You'd have to train anyone else who might step up for the role, and I don't think anybody's going to be willing to do that at this point. Maybe a year down the road, but not now. I know there'd be a lot of resistance, but ultimately, I think it would be best for the town if you were the mayor again."
Henry turned, a fry halfway to his mouth, to look at his mom again.
The surprises just kept coming today, Regina thought. Who'd have expected when she sat down in the diner today that she'd be asked if Henry could move back in with her and if she'd consider resuming her position as mayor of Storybrooke?
"I actually think that would be best," Snow said quietly, looking back at Regina. "You know what you're doing, and we really do need someone in the position."
Regina stared at them both for another minute and then nodded. "Alright. If you can convince the town not to string me up, I'd step into the position again."
"Cool," Emma said simply. Shifting topics completely, she turned to look at Henry. "So I heard from a certain someone that grades had been passed out today at school."
Henry gave an exasperated sigh. "Having your grandma as a teacher sucks sometimes," he said and the adults chuckled.
"Come on, Henry," Snow said. "They were good grades."
"Yeah, but I got a B on one of my tests," he said, slumping back into the booth.
David laughed. "You're mad about a B? Buddy, that's great. When I was your age, I almost never got a B." A confused look came over his face. "Or David never did? Or at least I think... I don't know. It might be the coma... or the fact that I didn't actually grow up here." He looked into the air, pondering how that worked. He looked at Regina. "Actually, how is that? I don't really remember my past here, but I have a general feeling about things."
A corner of Regina's mouth went up in a partial smile. "Well, having the curse create a full and detailed set of memories for everyone would have been rather complicated, so yes, everyone's memories are sort of hazy. Yours I imagine would be quite a different story because of the amnesia. Actually, I'm not sure myself how your memories would work."
"So I'm special?" David asked, grinning at her.
"Mmm," Regina said, chuckling. "Don't go getting a big head or anything."
Snow let out an audible breath of relief when Red suddenly appeared with a tray of food, setting a plate down in front of her. "Thank god," she muttered.
They went back to talking about Henry's projects in class and his new friendships with a few of his classmates.
Regina was watching Snow eat her grilled cheese, when she suddenly looked up, meeting her eyes.
David, Emma and Henry didn't notice, as they were all now in an argument about the rules of dodgeball.
They stared at each other for a moment, before Regina offered a small timid smile. It was an olive branch; a door to perhaps working on their complicated pasts at some point in the future. It was a way to tell her that there was no longer the pure animosity that had existed between them before.
Snow smiled back. Yes, it hurt - as it would for a long time to come - but things were also going to improve. They both knew that now.
"That's the last of it," Henry said, setting down a small box of a few random items.
"That's all you had at Emma's?" David asked him. They'd only brought up a few small boxes, mostly containing clothes.
"Yeah, well, everything I have is here," he said, looking at Regina, "in my room."
She smiled and pulled him in for a hug. "I'm so glad you're back, sweetheart. I've missed you."
Henry giggled and hugged her back. "We've seen each other almost every day." Then, squeezing her more tightly, he said, "But I know what you mean. I missed you, too."
She was grateful when he didn't pull back for several seconds. When he finally did, she smiled down at him. "I made your favorite again for dinner tonight and I bought some mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. I thought we should celebrate."
"Yes!" Henry cheered. "You're the best, mom."
The words warmed her completely. She thought statements like that had disappeared with his younger childhood. It had been years since he'd said anything of the sort to her. "Alright, well, you finish putting away your things and I'll go check on dinner."
Regina and David both started for the door when Henry said, "Oh, hey wait. I want to give you your surprise."
Regina had forgotten there was a surprise and had to admit that she was curious. "Alright," she said, smiling.
Henry unzipped his backpack and Regina wasn't sure what to think when he pulled out the book that had started it all, 'Once Upon A Time' scrawled elegantly across the cover. She looked questioningly at David, wondering if he might have some idea of what this meant.
Holding the book out to his mom, Henry saw the clear confusion on her face and said, "Just open it."
She did, flipping through all of the pages that told the stories of the people of Storybrooke; their lives in the Enchanted Forest. She tried not to wince as she passed several images of herself dressed as the Evil Queen. She was about to ask why he'd given it to her when she saw it. Right toward the end of the book, the pages were different. They were new. Still typed out in the regular font and format as the rest of the book was the story of Queen Regina and Prince Charming, accompanied by pictures of her and David printed onto the page. They were images taken over the last month and she marveled at what a difference this month had been on her. She ran her fingers gently over the images of her own smiling face next to David's, barely recognizing herself. She looked happier than she'd remembered being in years.
"How did you…" Regina breathed.
"August and Emma helped me. I thought that the book needed a happy ending."
Sure enough, the last page contained a picture that Archie had taken of the three of them a few weeks ago at the diner. Henry was squished happily between Regina and David, all of whom were laughing. Underneath, the words said, "And so, the queen had finally found her happy ending and they all lived happily ever after. The End." She wiped a tear that had fallen as David placed his hands on her shoulders, looking over to see the book for himself. Regina leaned her head sideways to nuzzle one of his hands, closing her eyes and drawing in a contented breath.
"Thank you, Henry," she said, stepping forward and leaning down in front of him. "I love it." She pulled him in for another hug, rocking him gently as she did so. "You are the most amazing boy in all the lands and I love you more than anything."
Henry buried his head in her neck, breathing in the familiar scent of his mother's perfume. He was glad to be home.
After dinner had been cleared and Henry had been tucked in for the night, Regina and David lay together on the couch, Regina's legs in his lap as he gently rubbed her feet. "This feels right, doesn't it?" Regina asked happily.
"It does," David said, nodding in agreement.
"You were right," Regina said, closing her eyes and relaxing into the pillows behind her. "Emma let Henry come home. I didn't expect that. I didn't expect Snow to agree, either." She opened her eyes and gazed at him as he continued his foot massage. After losing herself temporarily in her thoughts, she arrived back at the beginning. "How do you think you ended up in the particular dream you did when you were under the sleeping curse?"
"What do you mean?" David asked without looking up.
"When you fell in love with me, you were supposed to be living out your biggest regrets," she pointed out.
"Are you asking me if kissing you was supposed to be my biggest regret?" David asked, smiling at her.
"Actually," she said, shaking a finger in contemplation, "I've been thinking about that."
"Oh you have, have you?" he asked. This was going to be good.
"And just what, may I ask, have you come up with?"
"I've decided it's not the kissing that was your biggest regret, it was the lack of kissing."
"What?" David really was confused now.
She grinned. "That time – while the curse was still in place – I tried to kiss you, but you pulled away. I think maybe that was your biggest regret."
"You know what…" David said, pausing. Suddenly, he grasped her legs and she squeaked in surprise as he pulled her closer to him. "I think you might be right." He brought his lips to hers and she melted into him, swinging a leg over to straddle his lap.
"Mmmm," she mumbled into his mouth. "I thought so."
When they finally pulled apart for air, she rested her head against his chest, snuggling into him. "This really is my happy ending," she said softly. "I couldn't imagine a better one."
"Me, either," David said, running a hand through her hair before wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. "I love you, Regina."
"I love you, too."