A/N: This one got crazy long, but I decided to leave it all as one giant chapter. Apologies for the delay - I blame the LChat ladies for distracting me.

Anyway, I hope that this conclusion to this little tale of my satisfies. I appreciate all the kind words received throughout. They have been well received.

As an aside, I'll be doing a re-edit very soon.

Content note: some salty language, and some very mild sexual situations.

Again, thank you very much.


It's the smell of cooking bacon that pulls her out of the peaceful slumber that she's been enjoying for the last few hours. Slowly, lazily, Emma opens up her bleary green eyes and looks around her. For the second time since she arrived here, she finds herself slightly disorientated, but the feeling clears up quicker on this go-round. She knows where she is, however improbable it might be. She's in the bedroom of the former Evil Queen. More specifically, she's in Regina's bed.

The almost unbelievable events of the day prior flow over her like warm water, and a dopey smile pushes its way forth as she recalls rather vividly the frantic touches, passionate kisses and erotic sounds of the previous night. She hadn't come to Boston with Henry expecting to spend the evening with her former lover, but then, she hadn't actually expected to ever see Regina again, either.

Certainly not after five years of looking for her and coming up painfully empty.

She frowns at this. When this is all over, she thinks, she and Eddie Wilton are going to have themselves a bit of a talk. While she's well aware of Regina's manipulative abilities, she's none too pleased at her former boss for lying to her.

However well intentioned his reasons might have been.

The sound of joyous laughter peels her away from these darker thoughts. She pushes herself up from the bed, sighing at the pleasant soreness in her muscles. She shakes out her shoulders and back, allowing for a soft moan as her body all but sighs in pleasant relief. It's not as though she's been celibate for the last five years, but there's something incredibly relaxing and freeing about spending the night with the one person in the world that you actually want to be with.

It certainly doesn't hurt when that person is hell on wheels in the sack.

Emma chuckles at this, silently mocking her own cloying (if somewhat classless) sentimentality. It's not at all like her to be so romantically inclined, and yet right now, if doing so would guarantee that she would never lose Regina again, she knows damn well that she'd get her ass up and run herself down to the nearest florist in order to buy up every flower they had just because she could.

She won't, though, because such grand romantic gestures are not her (nor is Regina the type to be touched or awed by flowers – at least the old Regina hadn't been - and it seems to her that both she and the former queen have spent more than enough time being people that they're not. Regina isn't this quiet and docile Gina Mills and Emma, well she's not a woman who can just pretend that she's all right with losing someone that she loves.

She thinks that maybe she's pretended enough. They both have.

Emma looks around the room for her clothing – those which had been messily and hastily discarded during the events of the previous evening. She isn't one bit surprised to find the jeans and sweatshirt that she'd been wearing neatly folded up for her on the dresser. She is, however, a bit thrown when she sees a pair of men's boxer shorts - colored blue - sitting atop the pile. She notes with relief that they're still taped up, which indicates that no one has worn them previously.

Trying not to wonder about who these boxer shorts were bought for, she dresses quickly and then exits the bedroom, coming to an abrupt (and thankfully for once, quiet) halt in the doorway as she sees what's happening in the kitchen.

Mother and son are standing there together, the two of them at the grill. Regina is slightly bent forward, flipping bacon and making pancakes. Well, at least she's trying to do these things. Henry is behind her, an arm looped casually around her waist, both annoying her and keeping her from being able to cook efficiently.

And they're both laughing about it.

Teasing each other in a way that seems oddly familiar. Especially considering that Emma knows she's never seen this level of easy interaction between them before. It makes her wonder - certainly not for the first time - about what their relationship had been like before Henry had become aware of the book.

It's Regina who notices her first. The brunette is turning slightly away from Henry, reaching out to grab a few more pieces of raw bacon, when her dark eyes settle upon Emma, who is still leaning against the doorframe, a smile on her lips.

"Morning, Sheriff," Regina says with a small almost shy smile. It doesn't look right on her, but Emma finds the expression ridiculously adorable just the same.

"Morning. Smells good." She lifts her chin towards the grill.

"Yes, well, you're in luck," the brunette replies, turning back to face the grill. "I went shopping two days ago. Otherwise we'd be having bagels for breakfast."

"Which would still have been more than what we usually have at home. Ma and I usually have Captain Crunch for breakfast," Henry states with a wide grin. Then, in a conspiratorial whisper, he concludes with, "She still can't cook at all."

"Hey! You don't have to tell her all of my secrets so quickly," Emma admonishes.

Regina looks over at her, a perfectly sculpted eyebrow (some things haven't changed) rising up in an amusement. "Did you think that was a secret, dear? I'd assumed your gross ineptitude into the kitchen was a well known fact."

"Okay, so true, but I don't think we need to actually rub it in," Emma grouses, moving deeper into the kitchen. It's weird, but as much as she loves seeing Henry with an arm slung around his adopted mother, she finds herself rather selfishly wishing that she could take his place right about now.

"Perhaps not," Regina agrees with her trademark smirk. She then laughs and playfully swats Henry's hand away from her. "Go set the table, you little brat."

"Whatever you want, Mom," he says, releasing his hold on his brunette mother, and then reluctantly stepping back. Then, with an entirely too cheeky smile, the boy who still has her son's eyes, but now - five long years later - has a much different personality, says, "I'm sure you two want to pick up where you left off."

"What's that mean?" Emma asks, eyes wide with something that looks like panic. What's worse is that she knows that she's probably blushing more than a little bit.

It's a problem that Regina doesn't seem to be sharing. In fact, the former queen has a look on her face that seems oddly curious, and just a little bit proud.

Henry chuckles in response. "Thin walls," he says with a dismissive way of his hand and then turns and heads away, off to go set the table as instructed.

"Miss Swan, what the hell have you done to our son?" Regina demands, but she's clearly teasing, her tone light and her eyes brighter than they've been in years. Perhaps this is the meaning of true happiness, Regina thinks to herself.

And maybe all of that ends later on today – once they return home - but for now, she's completely content to just be sharing space with Emma and Henry. Completely content to have them back with her. To be able to show love again.

"He grew up," Emma answers gently, and because she knows her words will hurt no matter the tone she utilizes, she tries to soften them up by taking Henry's place behind Regina, and pulling the older woman to her chest, enjoying the feel of warm soft curves against her lean body. She presses a light kiss to Regina's neck, allowing her lips to linger there for a few seconds. "You smell good."

"Well since I'm not wearing anything yet, I think what you think you're smelling, my dear Sheriff, is that of bacon cooking," Regina answers breathily, her head lolling back slightly so as to offer Emma just a little bit more skin to play with.

"Well, I am hungry," the blonde admits as she grazes teeth over warm flesh. The soft moan she gets in answer to this is enough to make her close her eyes.

"You know, I was actually joking about the two of you doing…you know, more stuff," Henry chuckles as he re-enters. He sweeps past them, smirks knowingly, picks up three plates, and then exits again, shaking his head in mock dismay.

"Cockblocked," Emma groans.

Regina's eyebrow shoots up. "Classy as always, I see."

"Yeah. Well, you try living with a sixteen year old boy who…" Emma stops then, realizing what she was about to say. She clears her throat and offers a slightly apologetic smile instead, not really sure what else to do.

"It's quite all right," Regina assures her, turning in Emma's arms so as to face the blonde full on. That she doesn't actually break the hold is something Emma both notices and is extremely thankful for. "I'm still a terribly jealous and vengeful woman underneath all of this…well whatever I've become over the last five years, but even I understand the need for…companionship from time to time."

"And have you?" Emma asks. "Had companionship? Is that who the boxer shorts I'm wearing belong to?" She winces a bit in disgust as she says this.

Regina laughs. "No. I wouldn't keep…" She shudders. "Just, no. I threw your own undergarments are into the wash with another load I had going. Your jeans and sweatshirt seemed to be all right. Everything else should be ready shortly."

"Thanks. So, if these boxers don't belong to an ex-lover, whose are they?"

Regina sighs, and then shrugs her shoulders. "They belong to the young man who was here last night - Judo. He has the worst taste in clothes. Worse than yours even. I tried shopping for him once, but as it turns out he prefers briefs to boxers." She chuckles a bit affectionately at the thought of this.

"He means something to you, doesn't he?"

"I suppose he does. Judo is certainly not Henry, but he's a young foolish boy with a good heart who grew up without a mother, and he let me…he let me be that for him. Because of him having to help me set up my new ID, and keep you off my trail, we worked together a lot in the first few weeks. I realized he had no one. He came along at a time when I needed someone to need me, I guess."

"So you bought him underwear?" Emma asks with a lifted eyebrow.

"And vegetables. Pretty sure he didn't eat them, though," the brunette laughs.

"You're such a mom," Emma says, and it's meant to be a compliment, but the slightly sad look Regina shoots her (disguised as a smile) makes her change subjects in a hurry. "Well, I'm glad you had someone, but I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous that you talked to him. Sometimes you wouldn't even talk to me."

"When did you start talking so freely about your feelings?" Regina queries.

"Time changes everyone."

"So, I see." Then, with another shrug. "You know who I am, Emma. Who I really am. He doesn't. Talking to him was easy. He doesn't know what a monster I am."

"You're right: I do know who you are," Emma nods, tightening her hold again. "And even if you are a monster – which you're not anymore - I love you right now as much as I loved you five years ago."

"Time has made you sentimental as well, my dear."

"I missed you."

"I know," Regina says softly. "But I won't apologize anymore. You don't agree, but I still believe that I did what I had to do. For once, I did what I thought was the honorable thing and I tried to think about someone else besides myself."

"If you say so, but I guess none of that really matters anyway because…"

"If you dare say because you found me, I will kill you where you stand," Regina threatens, the look just dangerous enough to be honest.

"Wouldn't think of it," Emma chuckles before leaning forward and pressing her mouth against Regina's, earning her another soft muffled groan.

"I am so not going to get to eat breakfast this morning, am I?" Henry asks with a put-upon sigh as he enters once more, this time to grab silverware.

"You're not wrong," Regina drawls once Henry is out of the room again, "He is a cockblocker." She rests her forehead against Emma's, sighing at the contact.

"Told you. Our boy is nothing if not…crafty."

"So I see," Regina replies, then shakes her head, dismay suddenly shining in her eyes. "I've missed so much of his life. I've missed how he became this man."

"He's not a man yet. No matter what he thinks," Emma replies, the tone dry. It seems clear that she and Henry have gone a few rounds over this. The boy is headstrong and stubborn, and likely thinks he's beyond the need for parenting.

Of course, his quest to find Regina, and reunite his mothers says otherwise.

"Isn't he? He went against Rumple. And won," Regina reminds her.

"And he still reads comic books on the toilet and eats Oreo cookies in bed."

Regina wrinkles her nose at this. "You really have been a bad influence on him."

"Probably, but I clearly did something right, too. Both of us did."

She glances towards the area where Henry is setting the table, all the while pretending that he can't hear the conversation that his mothers are having. "Was he angry at me when you told him I'd left? Did he hate me even more?"

Emma considers lying, but then finally shrugs her shoulders. There has been enough lies and distractions to last a life time. If they're going to face what they need to in order to return home and break the curse, they both know that they need to start being honest with each other. "No, he was heartbroken."


Five Years Earlier.

Henry Mills is an intelligent boy. Even at ten – almost eleven – he's smart enough to know when something is very wrong. It looks a whole lot like being woken up at five in the morning, and then dropped off with Red while his birth mother, who looks like she's about to burst into tears, takes off in a rush of squealing tires.

When he asks questions, he gets deflectionary non-answers, and vague assurances that everything will work out as it should. Red – who seems entirely too sympathetic for the promises to actually be true - offers him cocoa and video games, but right now, he's a small child again and all he wants is his mother.

Either of them.

Both of them preferably.

When Emma finally arrives (alone, he notices with a sharp pang of fear) to pick him up, it is almost late afternoon, and she looks terrible. Her eyes are rimmed bright red, and he's seen his adoptive mother cry enough (this is an unsettling revelation for him) to know that Emma has clearly had one hell of a bad day.

He knows without being told that the reason Emma is upset is somehow related to something that his dark-haired mother had done. What's weird, he notices, is that Emma doesn't look angry like she usually does when the former mayor has pissed her off by picking a stupid fight.

No, to his eyes, Emma looks upset. And really sad.

"Emma?" he says as she walks him to the car. His hand is clutched tight in hers, which is odd enough. Emma hugs him more than Regina does, but she's still not much for abundant touching. This feels a bit clingy, a bit like she needs him.

And frankly, this scares the shit out of him.

Perhaps even more so than realizing that the Evil Queen had adopted him had.

"Emma," he repeats after several long seconds of thundering silence have passed without a word from the blonde. "What's going on? Where's my mom?"

"Let's get home," Emma suggests, and then pulls him towards the Bug.

He stops moving, digging his heels into the cement. "No. Tell me now." And in that moment, he sounds exactly like his adoptive mother. Firm and unwavering.

"Kid…"

"Don't 'kid' me, Emma, what's going on? Where's my mom?"

She sighs deeply, and then finally, she turns to face him, choosing to then drop to a knee in front of him. She places a shaking hand on each of his shoulders, the motion allowing her a few more moment to collect her thoughts. She licks her lips, and tries to find the words to explain a situation that she herself hasn't even begun to wrap her mind around.

"She's gone, Henry," Emma says finally, and she feels her heart creak and crack almost unimaginably as the words leave her dry lips.

He shakes his head. "Gone…gone where?"

"She left town."

He gives her a look like he thinks she's gone completely mad. It's vaguely patronizing, somewhat indulgent. "No, she can't. The curse stops everyone."

"Not everyone apparently. Your mom cast the curse so she wasn't held here by those rules. She was able to cross the town line without forgetting who she was."

"Okay, fine, but why…why would she do that? You're here and I'm here. We're the only two things in the world she wants. You know that."

"I do," Emma says, and she blinks several times rapidly because she's suddenly quite certain that she's about to start crying again, and that's the very last thing that Henry needs to see. He needs her to be strong for him.

"So did she have to meet with someone out there? When is she coming back?"

"She's not."

"What?"

"Henry, your mom isn't coming back."

"No. You're wrong. She wouldn't leave me," he insists, his tone suddenly very young and quite desperate. She thinks she sees his chin wobbling a bit.

"She didn't think she had a choice," Emma tells him, and though this feels like a lie to her own troubled mind, she needs him to believe what she's telling him.

"Why not?" he demands. When she starts to speak, starts to weave a tale made for a child, he interrupts harshly. "No, don't lie to me. Tell me the truth. Why not?"

She takes a deep breath, and then looks her son right in the eyes, seeing his mirrored pain and heartbreak there. "Do you recall the group of people that went to see your mom after the curse broke?" She knows that she's underselling what those idiots led by Whale had actually been intending, but if Henry doesn't already know what they had meant to do to Regina, she isn't going to tell him.

He nods his head, the wheels in his head turning rapidly. He cocks his head. "What did they do to her? Did they hurt her?" He suddenly seems defiant and full of anger, a little boy acting as though if given the chance, he'd gladly don a full suit of armor to protect the woman that not too long ago he'd treated terribly.

But that'd been before, when everything had been black and white, and Evil Queens hadn't shown the desire to redeem themselves for the sake of love.

Now, in the space of a five-minute conversation, it seems to her that he's suddenly grown so much older. In heart and mind if not body.

Emma winces at his question. "No, they didn't do anything. She's all right. She's not hurt. Not physically anyway. She just…she had to leave. They…Henry, do you know what exile means? Have you ever heard that word before?"

She wonders if she has any business having such an honest conversation with him. Regina would probably lose her damned mind if she could hear this, but then again, Regina is currently wherever the hell she is. She'd skipped town leaving only a couple of goodbye letters and legal papers behind.

Leaving Emma as Henry's sole mother.

Which means it's now her job to decide how to talk to Henry, and how much to tell him. Apparently, her mind is overriding her heart and deciding to tell all.

"I think so. It means…it means they…they kicked her out of Storybrooke?" Off Emma's nod, he again asks, "But why? Why would they do that?"

Why seems to be the question of the goddamned hour. Emma doesn't bother telling him that it's the same question that she, too, has been asking since she'd woken up alone earlier that day. Problem is, she's starting to understand that there is no easy answer. This world that they're in now, it has different rules.

Rules that don't bend even when your lover is the Evil Queen and you yourself are the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

"Your mother did…she did some bad things," Emma says finally, lamely.

"I know, but she was trying to redeem herself," comes the impatient answer.

"And I think as far as you and I were concerned, she was doing a good job of it, but she hurt a lot of people very badly, and some of those people weren't as forgiving as we are."

"You mean people like grandma and gramps."

"It's complicated," Emma hedges because as pissed off as she is at Snow and Charming right about now, she doesn't want to shift more anger towards them. That's what had stared this whole mess to begin with. Misplaced rage and blame.

It's time for this vicious cycle to come to an end.

"It's not. It's…she could have told them no. She could have refused to leave."

Emma bites her lip. This is where she draws the line on truth. There's no way that she's going to tell her son that Regina's only options were pretty much exile or death. That's too much honesty, and even she isn't dealing well with it.

Especially since there actually was a third option on the table that she absolutely has no intention of telling Henry about. She can't imagine him dealing with Regina choosing to leave without them any better than she has.

"She didn't feel like she could," Emma says simply. "She felt like she had to do this to protect us." That's at least somewhat true, she reasons.

"No. No, that's bullshit. Protecting us means staying with us. That's what's moms do," Henry whispers, tears now cascading down his face.

She doesn't bother admonishing him for his rare use of profanity. "Henry…"

He's breaking completely now, and she with him. "She's my mom. I love her."

"I know. I do, too."

"Then you have to find her. You're the Savior. That's what you do."

"Baby…"

"You have to, Emma. You have to save her. You have to bring her home."

She leans in then, her hand moving up to touch his face. "Okay. Okay. Listen to me. Your mom did what she felt like she had to do, but you're right, I don't accept that. And I am the Savior so I'm going to look for her, and I will keep looking until I find her. We are going to be a family, the three of us. I promise you that."

She's fairly certain that that's not what Regina would have wanted her to say to Henry. Her brunette lover (ex, she tells herself with a hint of anger and then takes it back almost immediately) would probably have wanted her to tell Henry that everything was going to be okay, and that the two of them would be enough to take on the world together. Or some other self-loathing bullshit like that.

But Regina doesn't get to the run the show from the road.

"Yeah?" Henry prompts, eyes wide and hopeful.

"Yeah," she nods. "I promise."

He practically falls into her arms, then, and though they're in view of anyone who happens to walk by – she knows that Red is watching from the diner – she lets him cry. In fact, they have a good damn cry together.


"You made the wrong choice," Emma tells her, weaving her fingers into Regina's and squeezing. The decidedly warm gesture is meant to show forgiveness.

"I've had a lot of practice in doing that," the brunette answers dryly. "But for what it's worth, it seemed like the right one at the time." She looks towards Henry. "And it seems like it worked out better than I could have ever imagined."

She sighs then.

"What?" Emma prompts.

"There's a very strong part of me that wants to say to hell with Storybrooke. It says let's just stay here, just the three of us."

"Okay," Emma shrugs. "Then let's do that."

"Nope, no way, you two," Henry says as he enters the room. He walks towards his mothers, a small confident smile playing on his lips. "No more hiding. No more running. We are going home, and you two are going to break the curse."

"Henry, you're old enough to know now what they were going to do to me if I didn't leave town willingly," Regina tells him. She can feel Emma stiffen at the words, but curiously, the blonde doesn't actually deny them.

"I know," Henry nods. "They would have hung you." He says the words so matter-of-factly that neither mother is able to suppress the twin shudders that wind through their bodies. A boy his age should not be so blunt about execution.

"Yes," Regina admits, "And by the terms I agreed to with your grandmother, they have the right to put me back on trial again. And if convicted, I could face…"

She stops then because even although five years is a hell of a lot less than twenty-eight, she's changed enough to really feel like someone different. Where once there was pure fury and rage always boiling within her, now there's sadness and regret. But for once, with these two so close, there's hope as well.

She's not sure that she's strong enough to gamble with that hope.

"You won't be, don't worry," Henry assures her, reaching out to rest a warm palm atop her forearm. He squeezes, and says, "There won't be a trial. You two are going to break the curse, and then everything is going to be forgiven. People who want to leave and move on with their lives can. And we can get on with ours."

"And what if we want to get on with our lives here?" Emma suggests even though she knows that this conversation is already over. Henry has, if anything, gotten more stubborn over the years. When he makes a decision, he never lets it go.

He takes after both of his mothers in that way.

"You don't. You like having a close relationship with grandma and gramps. You even like being the sheriff of a little town. And mom, this isn't you."

"Maybe it is. What am I there?"

"You can be the mayor again."

"I'm sure your grandmother is that."

"No, actually," Emma says. "She did a two-year term, and pretty much hated it. Apparently being a mayor isn't the same thing as being a queen after all."

"Well, I could have told her that. But honestly, do you really think they'd re-elect me? I'm all for this…fairytale…of forgiveness, but…"

"I think you'll see that a lot of the people there have changed, too, mom," Henry says solemnly. "Just like when Emma came to town, when you left, things, well things happened. People changed. Everyone changed."

"Changed how?"

"I think some of them finally woke up and realized that they didn't want to go back to the past," Emma offers with a bit of a shrug. "I think maybe some of them finally understood that whatever your reasons for cursing everyone, some of them were actually better off because of it."

"I'm sure your mother loved that," Regina chuckles.

"I think you might be amazed at just how my mother has changed as well."


Three Years Earlier.

Perhaps if her mother wasn't the one running this ridiculous circus, she could have allowed herself to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all, but doing so right now would likely just upset Snow even more than she already is. And considering the fact that what Emma would really like to do right now is take out her gun and start shooting people, well it's probably best not to do anything at all.

So she listens, all the while silently mocking almost everyone who speaks. She rather wishes that Henry was here with right now. He's developed quite the sense of whimsy, and would probably find much of this quite amusing.

Not tonight, though. Tonight, her thirteen-year-old son is on his first date, and she's stuck here listening to a bunch of fairytale character bitch at each other.

Honestly, she doesn't recall City Counsel meetings being quite this interesting when Regina had been the one with the gavel.

Well except for the time that she'd walked right into one Regina's traps.

This, on the other hand, is chaos.

Turns out that after two years of trying, a portal to "home" has finally been opened on the edge of town. It seems stable, but no one really believes it is because from time to time, it belches out purple smoke. There's the genuine fear amongst everyone that the doorway back to the old world could close very soon.

Or that perhaps it should be closed now.

That's what this meeting is about. That's what these people are fighting about.

Some want it kept open, and want to return home to their supposed happily ever afters. They seem to think that back there, they won't be lowly plumbers anymore. Nevermind that before Storybrooke, they hadn't even been lowly.

Others, like Archie, want to stay here and be who they are now.

And then there are those like Michael Tillman. He wants to take his twins into the big world lurking on the other side of the line; he wants to see what there is to see. He wants them to go on a grand adventure together. He wants them to have the world, and here, that's actually possible in a way that wasn't in the old land.

But still they argue.

And her mother, for all the things she does well and all the respect she has amongst folks, can't seem to heal this fracture between her people. She can't seem to bring them to any kind of consensus or understanding with each other.

She starts to speak, gets interrupted, and then tries again.

She's a former queen, but she'd been adored there and people had listened because of her title. She'd had her way, but she'd still been a queen, and no matter how much she wishes being a mayor were like that, it isn't at all.

Afterwards, she walks with Charming and Emma down the hallway, back towards the redecorated – and hideously bright – mayor's office. "She was good at this," Snow mutters, and there's a look of surprise mixed with annoyance on her face.

"Regina?" Charming prompts, his tone gentle.

"Yes. Psychopath that she was, she was good at this. And I'm not."

"You're fine," he assures her. "You're doing fine."

She looks to Emma. "Do you think I am? Do you think I'm doing fine?"

Emma stalls for a moment because she knows that this is a loaded question. Regina has stood between them for the last two years, the one thing that Emma has technically forgiven her mother for, and yet still holds her responsible for. They rarely speak of the former queen, so this is certainly fragile ground.

"You can tell me the truth," Snow says, stopping suddenly in the hallway. "You think she was better at this than I am."

"I didn't say that."

"But you know what? You wouldn't be the first," Snow laughs. "Can you believe that? Half of those people out there wanted to hang her in the middle of the town, and now, they wish she was still their mayor." She shakes her head in disgust.

"We're at a crossroads," Charming suggests.

Unfortunately for him, the one thing he hadn't done was deny her words. Snow spins on him, eyes wide. "You agree with them."

"What?"

"You think that if she was still here, this issue would be resolved, don't you?"

"Snow…"

"Oh my God…"

Charming looks to his daughter for help, but Emma just holds up her hand, and shakes her head. She's trying hard not to laugh because if doing so during the meeting would have been inappropriate, doing so now would be doubly so.

"Honey, I didn't actually say anything."

"That fucking woman," Snow growls. Then her eyes snap to Emma. "And I didn't mean that in the way that you were."

"Wow, all right," Emma nods. "I think you need to sit down and take a breath."

"I think she's right, Snow. You're pretty agitated, honey."

"I know what I am," the brunette growls. "I'm sick of trying to lead these…people around when all they want to do is whine and complain and…"

"Easier to do it when you didn't actually have to listen unless you wanted to, huh?" Emma interrupts, cutting Snow off before the rant builds and explodes.

"I don't know what you mean by that. I have always listened."

"Yeah, but they knew you didn't have to. You were the Good Queen, but you were still a queen. I've heard the stories. I know how much power you had back in your world. You never had to answer to the people there. You do here."

"And I suck at it," Snow says, shoulders sagging.

"No, you don't," Charming tells her. "It's just maybe…"

"Maybe here you're a teacher and not a mayor," Emma suggests, her tone soft now. This is no longer about Regina, no matter how much Snow tries to push the former queen into the conversation. This is about Snow and who she is now.

And she's not a mayor or a queen.

These days, she's Mary Margaret with the ability to shoot a bow and arrow. Or at least she wishes she were that person. Emma kind of wishes she were as well.

"They need me to be more," Snow says softly.

"Who cares what they need," Charming tells her, and yes, this is easier for him because he's fully embraced his job as Emma's deputy (nevermind the odd squabbles and debates that they get into from time to time thanks to that decidedly atypical working arrangement), but he still understands the conflict.

Going from a prince (almost a king) to a cop had been a strange change.

But one that he finds suits him.

He doesn't mind leading into battle, but he finds that he lacks the desire to stare at pages full of numbers. Budgets and requisition forms are things he could frankly do without ever seeing again, and he suspects Snow could as well.

"But…" Snow protests weakly.

"No buts. Go back to what you love," Emma prompts. "You're in this new world as much as everyone else is. And I know you don't want to go back over there."

"I don't," she admits.

"Then finish out your term, and let this be someone else's problem. I'm sure there are other leaders in this town. People who like numbers," Emma insists.

"They'll all be compared to her."

Emma shrugs her shoulders. "You know what? If that means that one day they forgive her and let go of their hatred of her, that's fine by me."

"You're still looking for her, aren't you?" Snow queries, looking up at her daughter with a curious expression in her eyes.

"I always will."

"Emma…"

"Let's not do this, okay? You know where I stand, and I know where you stand. I just…I hope that one day both of you will stand somewhere else so that I can bring my son's mother home."

"I don't think I ever will."

"Ever is a long time."

Snow shakes her head. "I just want you happy. Both you and Henry."

"It's what we want to. And David and I, we want you happy. And this job doesn't make you happy. You're not a queen anymore than Regina is. Not anymore."

Snow laughs. "Emma, you know better. She will always be the Queen."

Emma shrugs at that, but can't manage to suppress the smile that forms there.

"Oh, Emma…that's, that's actually kind of…disturbing."

"Sorry. Are we done here? I could use a couple shots to help me forget about that meeting. And Henry should be getting home from his date soon."

"Yeah, we're done. Give Henry our love. And remember, be appropriate."

"I'm offended," Emma laughs. "It's not like I've given him the birds and bees talk."

"That's a…strange relief."

Yeah. Hey, if you need to talk about this job thing…"

"I know. And if you need to…"

"Don't offer what you can't give me. I want her home, but I'll never force you to pretend like you approve of what I feel for her. That's not fair to anyone."

"Thank you. I love you. You know that, right?"

"I do."

Snow nods, and then steps away, heading into her office with Charming right behind her. Emma's pretty sure that as she heads down the stairs, towards the door that years earlier had exploded open nearly killing both she and Regina, she hears her mother says once more, "That fucking woman."

And she laughs because she's pretty sure she no longer hears hatred or anger there, but rather exasperation and perhaps even an odd hint of respect.


It's amazing, actually. They're three hours into their drive back to Storybrooke, and both women are as close to nervous wrecks as they can possibly get, but Henry? Well he's dead out in the backseat of Regina's Lexus (the Benz, though given to her son as a present, only seats two), an arm slung over his eyes.

"He always did sleep heavy," Regina notes, glancing over her shoulder. She's riding shotgun – reluctantly – and is fidgeting like crazy. She's not used to being the passenger. It exposes her to a lack of control that even now she doesn't care much for. Some things never change. The need for control is one of them.

Still, there's a reason why she's not driving right now.

Might have something to do with wildly her shaking hands. The ones that have been trembling almost since the moment the three of them had exited the loft together. The fantastic breakfast they'd shared together is but a memory now.

Everything else is so much more vivid.

The past and all of its' frightening memories.

"Breathe," Emma says softly, and then reaches out and puts a hand over Regina's. "We're in this together." She squeezes, and then does it again.

"No offense, my dear, but it's not your neck on the actual line."

"Not yours either, Regina. No one is hurting you. If they even try, after I'm done kicking their asses, we'll turn around and leave. Curse or no curse."

"You better keep it down," the brunette says with a smile meant to hide the emotions surging through her – these ones much more positive than the fear that continues to shake her. "You'll wake our son up, and he'll lecture us again."

"He is persistent."

"And persuasive."

"Trust me, I know," Emma admits. "Why don't you close your eyes and try to get some rest. We'll still about an hour out."

"I don't want to dream," the brunette answers honestly. "Nightmares."

"Okay, then why don't you talk to me instead?"

"What about?"

"The last five years. Tell me everything you've been up to."

"You first, Sheriff."


The last hour of the drive back to Storybrooke goes by surprisingly fast thanks to the mutual exchange of stories. Both women stay clear of the more dramatic and emotional tales, those are ones for a time when they're able to lay in each other's arms and enjoy the peace of the night. Instead, they exchange light-hearted memories and tease each other over missteps and mild embarrassments.

It's easy, and comfortable and even rather fun, and Regina finds herself wondering how she could have ever walked away from a woman who makes her feel so much. Be it rage or joy, Emma has always made her feel something.

Which then again, she reminds herself, is exactly why she'd left.

Because this woman and Henry had meant everything to her.

That time has come and gone, though. It's time to face the past.

"Storybrooke," Henry says almost on cue, suddenly sitting up in the backseat, his always messy brown hair sticking up in several places. It takes everything Regina has not to reach out and pat it down or worse, lick her fingers and do so.

He's sixteen, she reminds herself. No longer a boy, but still her little man.

"Yep, we're home," Emma confirms, bringing the Lexus to a complete stop in front of the Welcome To Storybrooke sign. It's cracked and peeling, and though it's absurd, Regina finds herself annoyed at this.

This is her town, she thinks. How dare these morons allow it to fall into disarray?

"Who's the mayor now?" she asks, her tone discouraging questions.

"Believe it or not, Maid Marion," Emma chuckles. "Her approval rating is pretty piss poor. I don't see her going for a second term."

"Yes, well, she always was a loud-mouthed twit," Regina grumbles.

"Can we maybe focus on your control-freak nature later?" Emma suggests.

"Fine. What about my magic?"

"What? What about it?"

"You're wondering if you're going to get it back the moment we step into town, aren't you?" Henry inquires. "And you're worried you won't be able to control it."

"Yes, and yes. I presume magic still exists here."

"It does," Emma nods. "Remind me to tell you about Dopey trying to learn it."

Regina rolls her eyes. "Wonderful."

"It's less now," Henry tells her. "Magic is still here, but it's not like it was. You're going to be okay. I believe in you."

"I appreciate that more than you know," she says, blinking back tears. Then, pulling herself together, "So you believe that Emma and I can break the curse merely by kissing each other once we're inside the city limits, is that the plan here?" It sounds so clinical, and her voice is seeped in doubt.

She knows that she loves Emma, but she still doubts her heart, and it's ability to love true and selflessly no matter the sacrifices she has made.

She doubts her ability to actually be good enough for true love's kiss.

"No, it's not quite that easy," Henry chuckles. "There has to be an extreme amount of emotion on display for it to work. It can't just be any kind of kiss." And then he makes a face. "And I don't mean that like French kiss kind, you know."

"Got it. So how do you plan on making this great kiss happen?" Emma drawls.

"With a golden rope binding."

"What?" Regina snaps. "No."

"It'll work. I've done the research. I've –"

"I don't care. Absolutely not."

"Come on! Mom, you know it will work."

"Someone want to tell me what the hell is going on?" Emma demands, her eyes jumping between mother and son. They're both staring each other down, apparently choosing now to make up for five years of lost arguments.

"Our son has been speaking to Rumple a bit too much for my liking," Regina snaps out, but her eyes are still on Henry. She'd be proud of him for his devious resourcefulness if she wasn't so pissed off and worried.

"About what?"

"About the one thing all of us agree on now, dearie," an accented voice says. They turn to see Gold walking towards them, his hand wrapped around the head of his cane. He, of course, being who he is, hasn't aged a day, but clearly the stress of spending five years unable to get to his son has worn on him.

He looks tired. He's also, of course, completely on the Storybrooke side of the line, trapped there by the curse still. He taps the line with his cane and sighs.

"Welcome home, Your Majesty," he says with that damnable smirk. "It's been so terribly long since we've had the pleasure of seeing each other."

"Not nearly long enough," she grits out, her fists clenching at her sides. "What is it that you think we agree upon, you spiteful little imp?"

"The need to break the curse, of course," he answers. He then turns his attention towards Henry and chuckles coldly, "You've got quite the boy here. Not many would have the guts to stand up to me as he did. And not just once, but twice."


Three Days Earlier.

"I gave you the address," Gold reminds him as he stares the boy who is now pacing back and forth in front of him. "That was my part of the deal."

"And my part was to bring my mother home so she can break the curse, but we both know it's more complicated than that, don't we?" Henry challenges, turning to glare at Gold with a look of indignant disgust that is pure Regina. "A simple kiss isn't going to be enough to get it done, is it?"

Gold just smiles at him in response.

"You're a dick, you know that."

"Such language, son."

"I'm not your son, I'm hers. I'm also the only way you're ever going to see your son," Henry growls as he leans over the desk, his eyes glittering. "Now, stop fucking around with me, and tell me what needs to happen once I have my mothers back here together. How do I get them to do True Love's Kiss?"

"Well," Gold shrugs, acting like he's supremely unimpressed with the tall boy in front of him. This isn't the Henry Mills of five years before. He still has a good heart and a righteous soul, but he's wiser now. He understands more.

And he burns with the same kind of bold passion that Regina had when she'd been but a young girl. The difference is, Henry has had Emma to guide him.

And protect him.

Shame, really, because Gold can feel power leaping off this boy, too.

"Well, what?"

"You could always maim one of them," Gold suggests with a knowing smirk. "That usually gets the other one to drop the kiss down. Did with you."

"Yeah, I'm thinking no. Next idea."

Gold suddenly grows very serious. "You could bind them."

"What's that mean?"

"It's a spiritual connection forged between two souls that share true love." Were it anyone else saying these words, they'd sound ridiculous, but despite all of Rumple's failings, he's actually quite the ambassador of the concept of true love.

"Like marriage? Because I don't think my mother – after what she went through back in the old world – would ever agree to marry again."

"Hmm. She did have a rough time of it, didn't she?" Gold taunts, and he gets what he wants; the boy's jaw clenches and anger floods him.

For a moment, he wonders about just how hard it would be to corrupt Henry Mills. He really has no reason to do so beyond it being moderately fun.

And a way to piss off the protégé he still detests.

But then again, there's Emma.

And he has a vague idea that were Henry actually in danger of being corrupted, nothing in this world or any other could keep Regina from returning to protect her child. Gold isn't afraid of the Queen, but perhaps – knowing exactly what he'd done to find Bae – he's just a little bit apprehensive of the Mother.

"What does it mean?" Henry repeats.

"No, no, it's not marriage," Gold tells him. "Not exactly. It's much much deeper than even that, actually. It's a connection between souls. It's…perfect harmony."

"Harmony sounds like a good thing. So what's the drawback?"

"Good question. The Queen has a very damaged soul. It's seldom wise to anchor another one so broken. It can only end badly for both…lovers."

"Bad, how?"

"Death."

"You're telling me this binding means if one dies, the other ones?"

"It's not quite so dramatic," Gold chuckles, but then his expression morphs to one far uglier. "It means that when one heart breaks or hurts, the other does. It means that when one feels pain beyond words, the other does. And when you consider what is in the Queen's corrupted heart, are you really willing to put Miss Swan through that kind of hell?" He shakes his head. "I think not."

"I think maybe you don't understand either of my mothers at all. You certainly don't understand…the Queen" Henry leans in then, "And that's a good thing. Now, you'd best find the whatever it is I need to help my mothers do this binding, and then get ready to watch the rest of your curse break."


"Are you serious?" Emma asks, eyes wide as she looks from face to face. Henry is smiling widely, Gold is smirking, but it's Regina who looks truly horrified.

"No, he's not," Regina says immediately. "We're not doing this."

"Then the curse doesn't break," Gold tells them. "And I was promised a curse breaking as payment for my services." He looks over at Henry when he says this.

"You really are a dick," Emma growls.

"I see where he gets his lack of manners from," Gold sighs, then looks right at Regina. "Your boy is wonderfully brave, Your Majesty, but even that won't keep me from collecting a different form of payment if you two refuse to pay up now."

"You even think about touching my son, Gold, and I will rip you apart until you're nothing but blood and guts under my boot," Regina growls, taking a step towards her old teacher. She can feel magic lurking on the other side of the line, and though the thought is absurd, she's willing to tackle Gold across the city limits if that's what she needs to do to take him down.

He laughs. "I'd never hurt the boy, Regina. You know that."

"Enough," Emma says, stepping between them. "No more threats. What do we need to do to make this binding thing break the curse?"

"Simple really. You step across the line to where I am and you tie this –" he holds up what appears to be a simple thick golden rope – "around both of your wrists. Magic and what's inside of your hearts and souls will do everything else. That is, of course, assuming it actually works. If it does work, if Regina is actually your True Love, Miss Swan, then the curse will break." He twirls his hand for flair.

"Emma, no," Regina protests, grabbing her arm. "You don't understand."

"Then explain this to me because you are freaking out like I just got down on bended knee, and while that I can understand, this I don't. What's wrong?"

"You don't want your soul tied to mine," Regina tells her. "I will destroy you."

"You've told me that before. In fact, on the first night we met. And yet here I am."

"This is different."

"How?"

"Because my soul isn't like yours. It's not good. It's…"

"Ugly?"

"Yes." Regina swallows hard. "Yes."

"I don't care. I never have."

"Emma, please…" she steps over to the blonde and places a hand on either side of the sheriff's face. "Please, for once, listen to me. You don't want this."

Neither one of them seems to notice that they still have an audience. Neither seems to see the twin smiles that Gold and Henry are wearing. Of course, the intent behind the expressions are far different, but both see victory at hand.

"I want you home," Emma tells her, and then lifts up a hand to touch the skin of Regina's jaw, running a thumb across olive colored flesh.

"I know, but we don't have to do this. We can go back to Boston, and we can be very happy like we should have been for the last five years." She's desperate now, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Please."

"I love you, Regina. Do you love me?"

The brunette closes her eyes. "Yes."

"Then give me your hand, and let's do this. Together."

Regina opens her eyes and looks at Gold, snarling as she says to him, "You've done a thousand horrible things to me, but I will never forgive you for this."

"This, Regina? It seems to me that this is the one thing I can't be blamed for. If the Sheriff gets hurt by what's inside of you, well that's all on you, dearie."

"Yeah, well, the Sheriff has no intention of getting hurt," Emma retorts. "Throw me the goddamned rope, Gold and shut up." Before Gold can respond, Emma looks over at the former queen, and offers her a warm smile. "Trust me."

"It's not you I don't trust."

"Then trust us. Trust our son who believes in both of us."

"She's right, Mom," Henry shrugs. "I want my family back." He steps across the line to Gold, takes the rope from him and holds it up. "I want you back."

Slowly, unable to continue resisting even though she knows that she probably should, Regina nods. She puts out her left hand, watching as Emma extends her right. Henry approaches both of them, his smile growing in a way that is utterly child-like and yet somehow strangely mature far beyond his years. He takes the rope and winds it around their wrists, giving it a hard tug as he ties it.

"Here we go," he says with a look that reminds Emma of the first time she'd met him, back in that little Boston loft. So very hopeful.

A moment later, though, the look fades and confusion takes its place.

"It's not doing anything," Henry states, anger peppering his tone. Instinctively, both of his mothers reach out to touch him and calm him.

"That's because they have to cross the line back into Storybrooke," Gold chuckles, like he's talking to a stupid child. "No magic out there, and no matter how strong your hearts may be, the binding still needs actual old magic."

The two women exchange a humorless somewhat exhausted look, slide their hands together, and then step together across the painted line.

Almost immediately, they both feel it.

It starts out warm and like they've been surrounded by overwhelmingly large and fluffy blankets. It's a bit suffocating, but also strangely comfortable.

And then the memories start to rush back and forth, like a stream passing water up and down, over the rocks and past all obstacles.

It's emotions beyond all invented words. It's the pounding of a hundred heartbeats in sync. It's screaming and pain, and the sound of childbirth. It's laughter and the smell of fresh cut grass on a warm summer evening. It's tears and heartbreak and loneliness. It's love and comfort and sudden happiness.

It's the feeling of arms wrapped tight, and soft kisses along warm flesh.

It's I love you said a thousand times, and in a hundred different ways.

It's absolute peace and complete harmony.

Apparently, True Love's Kiss doesn't actually require a kiss because thirty seconds after they step across the line, a burst of light tears through both of them. It would have knocked them both back had they not been connected together by the golden rope (which they both note is actually glowing now).

"It worked," Henry says, sounding almost breathless. He watches then as Gold steps towards the line, the look on his face no longer twisted, but rather curious and hopeful. And maybe just a little bit scared as well.

A moment later, Gold is over the line, on the opposite side, and looking at Henry with something like amazement in his eyes. "You did it," he tells Henry.

"Then our business is done. Your business with my family is done." His words are harsh, but his tone isn't. Just one more thing to put into the past.

"Indeed it is," Gold nods, and then steps back across the line and walks past Regina and Emma, who are both simply staring at each other, as if in a trance.

Henry watches him go, and thinks that very soon, Rumple won't be heard from again. At least not for a very long time.

It's the sight of his moms still staring at each other that brings Henry abruptly back to the here and now. "Mom? Ma?" he calls out, moving towards them. He places a hand on each of their shoulders. "Are you guys okay?"

"Are you?" Emma asks after a few long seconds, looking at Regina, eyes wide.

"Now I am," the brunette answers, and then moves in as if for a kiss.

"Yeah, hold off on that. My parents just arrived."

"Lovely."

The former queen turns then, as if to face the newcomers, but before she can move even as much as an inch, Emma's pulling her back, wrapping her arms tight around her and whispering into her ear, "I love you. We're in this together."

It's borrowed strength, but it's enough for this.

"Emma? We saw the blast of energy. What's going on here?" Snow demands. Then, seeing who her daughter is with. "Regina?"

"Snow," Regina greets, and somehow manages not to sound disdainful. In fact, she's a bit surprised by just how muted her normal feelings towards the woman are. Normally, she'd feel rage and hatred, but all of this is quiet now.

She feels peaceful.

"What happened?" Snow asks once more.

"They broke the curse," Henry announces. "Everyone in this town can now come and go as they please. My moms broke the curse."

"The two of you?" Charming asks, but he doesn't seem all that shocked to be honest. Five years ago, he'd known about this love affair and for five years since, he's watched his daughter fight like hell – like he would have for Snow – to bring Regina back home. "With True Love's Kiss?"

"Us," Emma confirms, then shrugs, because it's kind of crazy when she stops to think about the fact that she's now broken two curses. Sure, they were two parts of the same, but still, it's not exactly normal or sane. But none of this is. "But no, not with a kiss. Not exactly anyway." She chooses not to elaborate for the time being, but knows that eventually, she'll be pushed to.

Everyone will want answers eventually.

"So you're back then," Snow says, her own tone even. She sees Emma tense, but Regina pats the blonde on the arm, as if to calm her. And it works.

"I am and…and I seek forgiveness," Regina states, adopting the most submissive tone that she can manage (which isn't much to be honest, but Snow recognizes the effort at least). In any case, this is a conversation more suited for their land than this one, but she and Snow understand what this is actually about.

This is about Emma. And love. And family.

And yes, finally, forgiveness. Perhaps for both of them.

"You seek a pardon?" Charming inquires, and his words sound dumb, and yet terribly accurate. She seeks not absolution, but the chance for redemption.

"I do. And if it is your judgment that I have not suffered enough, then I will pay whatever penance is decided upon by you as long as it's not my life or…them."

"I agree to your terms," Snow says. And it's a bit strange how fast she allows it, but then Regina remembers what Emma and Henry had told her about everyone changing, about everyone seeing the reality of their situations.

And about how Snow had returned to teaching.

"So, we can go home now?" Emma asks, sounding a bit like Henry.

"Yeah," Charming nods. "I think it's time."


"He's sleeping again," Regina notes, watching her son doze on his mattress from the doorway of his bedroom. They're back at Emma's apartment now. Everything is quiet, but they know that come morning, there will be a lot of questions.

And emotions. Some of them likely very dark.

"The last two days," Emma says with a chuckle and shake of her head.

"Yeah. You know tomorrow will be hard."

"We can deal. You and me."

"That used to drive me insane about you," Regina tells her. "How stubborn and confident you were, almost always without reason."

"And now?"

"Now I suppose I realize how much I actually like that."

"Aww."

Regina rolls her eyes. "I'm hungry, Miss Swan," she says then.

"Is that a euphemism or do you want some crackers?"

"Are crackers a euphemism?"

"Possibly," Emma grins, stepping forward to wrap her lover in her arms. "So this binding thing we did, does it mean something like when you feel extreme emotion, I will as well?" Her tone is as sexually suggestive as she can manage without it actually being vaguely creepy.

"No, dear, it doesn't actually mean that sex will be more intense," Regina answers. "Sometimes I wonder if you're a fifteen year old boy."

"Don't have the equipment for that."

"Well that's a relief at least," Regina answers, then leans up and presses her lips to Emma's, holding the contact there for a long moment. "I missed you."

It's far from the first time she's said that over the last two days, but somehow, this time, the words sound a whole lot like "and it's time to do something about it."

So they do.

Thankfully, these walls aren't thin.


"After I move all of my things out, I think I'm going to give Judo the loft," Regina says suddenly, breaking up almost fifteen minutes of pleasurable post-coital silence and calm. She's lying wrapped up in Emma's strong arms, her hand covering one of Emma's, fingers lightly stroking hard knuckles.

"You don't want to keep it? For the sake of all the fun memories?"

"Not sure what fun memories you mean, but the only ones I want are here."

"Okay. I'm cool with it. Will that make you feel better about leaving him?"

"I don't plan to completely leave Judo's life. He still needs someone to remind him to eat his vegetables from time to time," Regina chuckles, and Emma wonders how this woman could have ever been the Evil Queen.

But then the gold bracelet on Regina's wrist – a compromise between she and Snow that's meant more to calm the people who they'll have to deal with in the morning than to actually keep her from using magic that she actually has no desire to use – reminds her of everything.

This has always worked between them because she's always known who her lover was, and what she'd done. She's always recognized an imperfect soul.

And had hers recognized in response.

"What are you thinking about?" Regina asks.

"Your boobs."

"Haven't you touched those enough for one night?"

"Hardly," the blonde snorts. "I'm just taking a few minutes to catch my breath. But no, actually I was thinking about your Queen boobs."

"As in…"

"When you had them up to your eyeballs."

"Ah. Why?"

"Just the different paths we travel, I guess. Thinking about you as the Evil Queen and me as the Savior, and the things we've both done to surive."

Regina turns in her arms. "You're not regretting the binding already are you?"

"No, not at all. I didn't regret it then. You were the one who tried to stop it."

"I was trying to protect you from who I am."

"Well stop doing that, too. I'm the White Knight. Let me do the protecting."

"I'm serious, Emma. I still have all of that anger within me. I'm still capable of things that are unimaginable to most people. I always will be."

"I know, and you know what? So am I. But I don't think you need protection from me, and I sure as hell don't need any more protection from you. We lost five years to you protecting me. Enough of that. Time for us to be in this together."

"Fine."

"Fine? That's all you're going to say?"

"Mm. I'd say more but your hand has apparently decided that the breather you needed is now over." She motions down towards her chest, indicating to the palm that is now lightly squeezing one of her breasts, fingers almost lazily tweaking.

Emma grins. "So it has."

And with that, she rolls her brunette lover onto her back, and kisses her again.


The former queen is wrapped in a bright green terrycloth bathrobe now. Certainly not her preference, but comfortable enough absent her usual silk robes.

"You don't have to stand in the doorway," Henry tells her, and he's looking up at her with a small almost shy smile on his face.

"Sorry," she says before stepping into the room. "I just…"

"I know." He motions her over. "I'm tired," he says.

"Then I'll let you…"

"Will you stay with me?" he asks.

"Until you fall asleep."

"Until I wake up and know you're still here." He sounds so young, so much like the boy she remembers as opposed to the teenager who'd gone up against one of the greatest powers in the world in order to reunite his mothers.

"Always," she tells him, and then curls onto the bed beside him. He puts his head back against her chest, and she thinks that maybe they both sigh in unison.

When he finally drops off to sleep, she takes a moment to look up, and isn't a bit surprised to see Emma standing in the doorway, a cup of coffee in her hands.

"I felt that," Emma says.

"What?"

"Your happiness. I guess I needed to see it."

"I'm happy," Regina confirms. She holds out her hand.

"Mom sandwich?" Emma asks with entirely too much of a cheesy grin.

"Just come over here," Regina insists, wriggling her hand.

"You know the last time you held out your hand to me…"

"I'm not going anywhere this time. You can stay here and make sure of that as well if you'd like." She wraps her hand around Emma and pulls her to the bed.

"Mom sandwich it is."

And with that, she crawls onto the other side of Henry.

"Just don't grope each other over me," Henry grumbles into his pillow.

"You really have been a bad influence on him," Regina admonishes.

"He found you."

"Yes, he did."

-Fin