Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any recognizable characters
AN: Written for StarvingLunatic. Hope you like it!
"Jump in, Henry."
The three-year old cowered on the ledge of Storybrooke's Recreation Center pool, inching his way to the side and back towards the lockers while his mother was in the waist-deep water with her hands stretched out.
"Come on, sweetie," Regina cooed. "I thought you wanted to swim."
That summer, Storybrooke had been a scorcher, and nearly every day for three weeks did the brunette mother and son find themselves outside in the backyard with Henry playing in the sprinklers. Upon Henry's request, she had attempted to bring him to the rec center nearly two weeks ago, but as soon as Regina walked into the pool, leading Henry by the hand, the boy had used all his strength to pull his mother back out. She had asked him if he wanted lessons, and judging by the jumping up and down yelling "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!", he agreed.
For two weeks, Henry had paraded around the house in his Incredible Hulk swimming trunks while wearing the goggles, snorkel and flipper set Regina had bought for some unknown reason. He would jump from his bed to the floor when he thought his mother couldn't see and would pretend to swim the deep, dark ocean, swimming with sharks and finding treasure.
All that excitement faded when he stepped back into the rec center.
Now Henry stood, inching to the side of the ledge in an attempt to escape.
"Come on, Henry," Regina soothed closing the gap. "I'll catch you."
"Don't want to." The boy was stubborn. He sat on his bottom, attempting to turn to climb out and flee to safety.
"Hey there, little guy." The teenage red-headed instructor came over and crouched by Henry, catching him with an arm before sitting him back down on the ledge. "See the other kids? They're not afraid. It's fun!"
Henry struggled in her grasp, losing his footing slightly from the slippery ledge and startling him into distress. "No! Don't want to!"
Regina's eyes flashed and her hands were securely on Henry's waist in a matter of moments. She glared at the girl. "Don't touch him."
She gulped and stood, all but running back to the other end of the pool where the other children were jumping in carelessly.
"Don't want to," Henry whined again, climbing his mother like a tree until his legs were well above her shoulders, refusing to touch the water.
She sighed and waded to the stairs, finding no reason to explain their reason for leaving.
By the time both mother and son were dressed and in their car with the air conditioning on full blast, Regina noticed the boy in the back was staring down into his lap, playing lazily with his action figures.
"Why so quiet back there?"
Henry shrugged. "I want swim," he mumbled quietly.
"You want to swim? You didn't want to come into the pool, dear," she reminded him, catching his gaze in the rearview. "Were you a little bit frightened?"
He shook his head defiantly, but Regina knew better.
"Would you like to try again next week?"
He finally looked up with a toothy grin and nodded.
The next week was progressively better. Henry refused to jump in, but as soon as Regina had her hands under his arms and splashed his legs in rocket ship-style, the boy was clapping and wanting more. He finally got the nerve to step off the ledge himself where he plopped half his body into the pool only to be stopped by Regina's waiting hands.
The instructor blew her whistle. "All right mommies and swimmers, we're going to let the kids go underwater. Give them a quick dunk to get a feel for it if you're both comfortable."
"I beg your pardon?" Regina asked appalled.
The smile on the teen's face quickly fade. "It's only if you're comfortable with it, Madame Mayor."
Regina scowled, clutching Henry tight to her waist as she watched the other mothers bring their children underwater for less than a second before popping them back up.
She bit the inside of her cheek in contemplation before chancing a glance at her son who was eyeing the other children just as hard, clinging closer to his mother. "Shall we try?"
He stared for another moment before nodding hesitantly.
She hid her reluctant sigh before smiling reassuringly and moving him to her front, her hands under his arms as she slowly rocked him up and down. "1. . .2. . .3!"
She nearly gasped when she saw Henry open his mouth just before she dunked him, presumably to scream. His head was barely under the surface before she yanked him back out and into her arms, rubbing his back as he coughed violently from the water he had swallowed.
"Are you okay?" She asked frantically, patting her son's back. She threw a glare at the red-headed teen who had hesitantly waded over to see what the commotion was. "What kind of program are you running here?"
The instructor held out her hands terrified. "It's normal, Ms. Mills. It helps the kids-"
"To what?" Regina screeched as she waded toward the steps, doing her best to look authoritative despite the water slowing her down. "Let them learn how to drown?"
She finally made her way out of the pool, Henry clinging to her neck terrified. She didn't bother to pick up the hamper of towels she had knocked over in the process as she made her exit.
She found Henry in his room at bedtime with the pop-up version of 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea in his lap. His brows were furrowed in concentration as he studied the submarine and the colourful fish around it.
She knocked on the door before entering and sitting on his bed. "Do you still want to swim?"
He looked up at her with wide green eyes before moving his head in a half nod half shake, unsure whether to say yes or no.
The idea of going back to the little swimmers class was ghastly to the woman, but she could see how much her son wanted it despite his fears and hesitations.
She kissed his forehead and laid him down to sleep. "Then we'll swim."
A week later, Henry ran to the window in the kitchen with half of his peanut butter sandwich in his grasp as he watched Sheriff Graham fumble with a cardboard box in their backyard.
"What's that?" He asked his mother when she went to bring him back to the table.
"A surprise," she grinned knowingly.
"For special boys who finish their lunch," she teased.
He climbed into his booster, taking consecutive bites of his sandwich before his mother put a hand on his shoulder to tell him to breathe and chew.
By the time he was finishing up his milk, the Sheriff walked in through the back door, mumbled a few words to his mother before offering a high five to Henry. He winked knowingly at the boy before leaving the mansion.
Henry turned in his seat, intent to run to the window before he saw his mother shut the blinds. He pouted. "You said. I'm done lunch."
She smiled softly, moving to the table to help him down and took his hand. "I did say."
"What is it?"
"Let's get ready for swimming first?" She could see the mixture of hesitation and excitement on her son's face before he ran ahead of her, pulling her along with him.
By the time they were both dressed, Henry was waiting by the foot of the foyer stairs, his cheeks in his hands. Regina met him with their bag and offered her hand which he took promptly as they exited the mansion.
Like it had been all month, the air was sticky and hot, making those brave enough to venture outside become slick with immediate sweat. They headed towards the car in the driveway but Regina made no motion to stop.
Henry looked up confused when they walked past their car and headed into the backyard. "You missed it."
Regina chuckled lightly. "I don't think I did."
He stared at her confused before he turned to look into their backyard to find an inflatable kiddie pool. He put a hand to his mouth in surprise. "Mine?"
She nodded as he led her to the pool, leaning down to bring a hand to the cool water. Regina crouched by her son, lifting up his shirt and gently setting him into the pool where the water reached mid-calf. He grinned up at her, immediately splashing around it.
She grinned as he sat in the water, waving his hands up and down creating bigger and bigger waves. She almost forgot to put sunscreen on him until she noticed the already forming tan around her wristwatch. Regina stretched out along a patio chair, watching Henry splash wildly in his pool.
Ten minutes later, he climbed out and walked the few steps to her, yanking on her hand. "Swim."
"Henry, the pool is too small for me," she reasoned after he managed to sit her up.
"Swim," he insisted.
On the way back to the pool, he let go of his mother's hand and dragged her ottoman to the edge of the circular plastic. He grabbed Regina's hand again before directing her into the water where she kneeled awkwardly, taking up more than half of the area.
"See, Henry, there's no room." She motioned to the small, vacant space in front of her.
But the toddler didn't follow her into the pool. Instead, he climbed onto the ottoman and stood. Regina's mouth was already open to scold him to get down, but Henry crouched, preparing himself. "1. . .2. . .3!"
He jumped quite the distance into the pool where Regina just had the sense to hold out his hands should he slip. He laughed happily, splashing Regina for effect before climbing out again and repeating the process.
This time Regina didn't need to catch him.
"Nice to see you back, Henry, Ms. Mills." The swimming instructor raised a hand in greeting from a distance.
When Regina led Henry to the edge, he eyed the much deeper water with hesitance.
"You don't have to jump," she offered as she waited in the pool.
Without warning, the boy leaped off of the ledge, barely giving Regina enough time to catch him. His head fully submerged under water before the brunette mother pulled him back up.
Regina, the instructor, and all the other mothers in the class waited with bated breath as Henry coughed and wiped at his eyes. When he could finally see, he grinned widely. "I did it!"
The instructor visibly exhaled, as did Regina who reciprocated her son's smile.