AN: Because every author is writing a bench-fic. This was also a prompt from Tumblr, and I can't remember if it was an anon or someone, but they wanted Emma to confront Regina about Daniel after the events in 2x12. Hope you enjoy!
The wind blew softly as Emma folded her legs underneath her, sitting cross-legged on a bench by Storybrooke's harbor and setting her disposable coffee cup down beside her as she flipped to the next page of Henry's book. It was still quite early, but the gloom of the grey sky and hint of fog betrayed the fact that it was breaching seven in the morning.
She needed this. She needed this moment alone, away from magic, away from Neal, away from overprotective parents. She returned from Manhattan a few days prior with Neal - correction, Baelfire - in tow, and despite her obvious objections, people kept insisting that she should give him another chance. She scoffed at the thought when she came across a story titled "The Miller's Daughter". Succumbing to the opportunity of being immersed into another world, even if it was technically real, Emma let her mind be consumed with the story.
". . .despite gaining all that she wanted, the Miller's daughter remained dissatisfied. Her little taste of power left a flickering flame deep within her. She wanted more. More power, more wealth, more magic. Little did she know that the key to that was growing inside her womb."
Emma furrowed her brow and turned the page. That's it? That's how it ended? It was the basic Rumplestiltskin story that even she knew. Something was missing. She skimmed the pages of the story, hoping to find something that she overlooked.
Emma glanced up at the unexpected voice, not hearing Regina approach. "Regina." There was no malice in her voice, just polite greeting. She hadn't seen the woman since they accused her of murder, and here she was, out in the open, hovering over her.
"Welcome back." Emma quirked her eyebrow before Regina beat her to the punch. "Your parents informed me of your little getaway. With my son."
Emma rolled her eyes. "I wasn't about to leave him here with your mother running around."
"Yes, but you trust Rumplestiltskin to be with my son and you bring back Henry's father with you?" Regina laughed lightly. "Did old sparks fly?"
The blonde grounded her teeth before setting her jaw. "No."
"That's not what I hear."
"You heard wrong." Emma's tone was nothing to be taken lightly. "He was a thing of the past and nothing more."
The brunette was taken aback by her forceful words, meeting Emma's steely and determined gaze. She remained standing when the blonde looked down to the book in her lap.
"Do you know this story?" Emma asked tilting her head to the pages.
Regina glanced down and saw a cartoon drawing of her mother in her younger years. She gasped quietly, masking the action with a tug of her coat before sitting down on the adjacent bench, facing the waters with a frigid posture. "The Miller's Daughter?"
Emma nodded and took a sip of her coffee. "She's pregnant and it just ends."
Regina scoffed to herself. "It didn't just end."
Catching Regina's far off look before the brunette could mask it, Emma turned her head to fully face the older woman. Her features were schooled, but Emma could see the distance in her eyes. "It's your story."
Brown hair whipped to the side when Regina turned abruptly. "What makes you say that?"
"Yours isn't in here."
"Why would my story be in a book of fairy tales, dear?" Regina asked with her patented smile.
Emma studied the drawing in front of her, her gaze zeroing in on the daughter's stomach. She bit her lip in contemplation before shutting the book and returning to face Regina. "Who's Daniel?"
Emma saw the abrupt change in the former Mayor's face as if it were being played in front of her frame by frame. The brunette's smile immediately disappeared, her hands clenched and her shoulders hunched, red lips parted ever so briefly, and the eyes that once held fire now moistened with pain.
The clipped word was so harsh but so quiet that Emma could hardly believe it was coming from the brunette.
Regina laughed coldly. "David. The son of a shepherd. Well, I suppose he's told half the town by now."
"I thought he was nobody," Emma replied softly, attempting to analyze the brunette's reaction.
She still remained tense and more than once did Emma witness her gulp behind her pashmina.
"You probably care as much as your father," spat Regina as she pushed off the bench to stand.
Emma didn't know why she reached out to grab the brunette's hand, not her arm, but her hand. She reasoned it was the closest thing to her, but she held on and tugged her back gently and still remained holding it as Regina stood looking everywhere but the blonde.
"He came back?" Her question was gentle, not quite pressing but allowed room for Regina to ignore her should she choose to. "Where did he go?"
It was long minutes of distant foghorns, wind blowing, and water pressing up against the side of the docks. Every so often a seagull would caw, but Regina remained standing, her hand slack in Emma's as time went on.
Finally, much to the Sheriff's surprise, Regina spoke. "He died."
Emma nodded having picked up that much. Her hand slipped from Regina's grasp as the older woman took her spot on the bench, this time facing the blonde.
"Twice." Regina's lips barely twitched that Emma almost didn't realize she spoke.
Instead of asking how, as Regina so suspected she would, Emma asked something entirely different. "Who was he to you?"
Emma already knew the answer, but there was something about hearing it from Regina herself that made her want to believe it.
The brunette's eyes widened imperceptibly before darkening, her guard going up immediately. "Why do you care?"
"'Cause you're not in the story," she answered simply.
"I think I know better than anybody that there's two sides to any story."
"You didn't when you accused me of killing the cricket," Regina reminded, her tone not harbouring anger but sadness.
"That was a moment of bad judgment," Emma admitted.
"Your moment of bad judgment caused my son to hate me," Regina said. "Why should I tell you anything?"
Emma sighed. "You're right. You shouldn't."
Moments passed that left the two women in an uncomfortable silence which the brunette broke in a quiet tone. "How's Henry?"
"Honestly?" Emma chuckled dryly. "He's pissed at me."
"Oh?" Regina asked amused. "Did the great Savior not meet his expectations?"
The blonde inclined her head to motion to the older woman. "He said I was like you."
"Oh." Her amusement quickly faded.
"I didn't tell him about Neal. Now he's all over him," the younger woman admitted rather sadly.
"I know the feeling," Regina responded dryly.
Emma smirked at that. Another moment of silence passed before Regina dusted off imaginary specks from her pants and stood.
"He was my fiancé," Regina muttered adjusting the scarf that didn't need adjusting, "and your mother was responsible for his death."
She managed to get a few steps before Emma's voice caught her off guard. "What about the second time?"
Regina remained with her back to the blonde, her head tilted ever so slightly acknowledging Emma's question. Emma wouldn't have heard her quiet whimper of an answer if the wind hadn't carried it. "I let him go."
Emma watched as Regina walked away, her trench coat swaying in the breeze behind her. If she hadn't just been talking to the brunette, she would have assumed that Regina was still on her high horse with her posture so dignified, but Emma was willing to bet her life savings that if she stopped Regina and took a look, she'd find unshed tears in her eyes.
By the time Regina was nothing more than a speck in the distance, Emma returned her eyes to the book in her lap. There was more to her story, Emma was sure of it. Nobody has a mother like Regina's, a love twice lost, or undeniable anger coursing through them without a story behind it. She didn't know when she'd find out the rest, but she took this rare moment she had with the brunette as a blessing. She'd find out one day.