Characters aren't mine. They belong to ABC, Disney, and other assorted entities of importance. I gain nothing from writing these stories but the fun of doing it. Please don't sue me.
"Pick up your toys," Regina chastised while she made a final sweep around her house. "Henry will be here any moment, and you know how I feel about an untidy house."
Pongo huffed but walked around the study to pick up the few toys he'd scattered. One by one, he moved them from their spots on the floor to place them in the little wicker basket where they belonged. After dropping the final toy in the basket, he dug his rawhide from under the sofa and sulked to the corner where Regina kept a blanket for him. After making a few circles, he dropped down and began to gnaw at the rawhide.
"I really don't understand why you're pouting," she said with a sigh. "Henry adores you. In fact, I think he only comes here to see you."
The dog grunted and violently pulled up on the rawhide.
"He's just a boy," she said more to herself than the dog. "He can't really be faulted for all of his behavior. There's still much he has to learn about the world." She sighed. "Life is hard." Her eyes took on a distant look as her mind raced through her own life. She mumbled to herself, "Life is tough, and then you die."
Pongo's wet nose on her hand pulled her back, and she glanced down to see him looking steadily up at her. She bent over to give him a gentle scratch behind the ear just as the doorbell rang. "Here we go," she muttered as she straightened up. "I suppose a supervised visit is better than none at all."
From below at her side, she could hear the dog give another disgruntled huff.
"Pongo!" Henry's face lit up and he bounded for the dog almost immediately after Regina opened the door. Pongo, for his part, took a few steps backward before reluctantly allowing the boy scratch and pet him.
"Ms. Swan," Regina greeted, voice cold and unwavering.
"Regina," Emma replied back in an equally cold tone. "Dinner's at 5:30."
The former mayor narrowed her eyes while her mind did the quick math. That would only give her two hours with her son. "Understood." She stepped back to allow the other woman into her home before she closed the door. "Henry," her voice warmed, "would you like to go into the backyard so you and Pongo could play?"
"Yes!" The boy hopped to his feet and made a beeline for the back. "Come on, Pongo."
The dog looked up to Regina. His eyes were wary and his tail drooped just a touch.
Regina rolled her eyes. "Go play with Henry." Pongo groaned. "Stop it. It's only for a short time. Ms. Swan and I will be out momentarily. Go on. Don't make me have to tell you again."
Tail low and to one side and head lowered, Pongo turned and left, going toward the backyard to go play with the boy.
"If I didn't know any better," the sheriff said with a touch of humor in her voice, "I'd say that dog actually understands you."
"What makes you think he doesn't?" Regina asked in her characteristically callus manner before she turned to join her dog and her son in the backyard.
"Fetch," Henry called before tossing a red ball across the backyard. Pongo happily bounded for it, running around the apple a tree a couple of times in his chase to catch it.
Regina and Emma watched from the comfort of the patio, each with a glass of water in their hand. The silence stretched between them, and, as it grew more and more uncomfortable, the blonde squirmed more and more in her seat.
Finally tired of the distraction, Regina broke the silence. "I won't be offended in the least if you decide you want to play with your phone, sheriff. You're not here to keep me company. You're here to keep an eye on me to make sure I don't do anything to my son," she rolled her eyes, "which is absurd."
The blonde stopped fidgeting. "I'm not having that argument with you again, Regina." She set her glass down on the table between them. "It's either this way or no way. Which would you prefer?"
"My way, if you must know." The older woman casually sipped at her water, not bothering to make eye contact with her unwanted guest.
"Yeah, well, if it makes you feel any better, I don't want to be here either." Emma huffed. "I skipped lunch, I'm starving because the dwarves decided to start drinking early today, which means I had to lock them up earlier to dry out, and I haven't slept well in weeks. Not that you care, but I'm about 99.9% certain this town is determined to keep me from getting a good night's sleep. I swear I haven't had one since the night before the morning you knocked on my door to offer me an apple and give me the first of I don't know how many thinly veiled threats."
"You're correct," Regina snorted in disdain. "I don't care."
As if to fill the empty silence that fell between them, Emma's stomach began to growl. Just as Regina started to comment on it, a red ball suddenly appeared in her lap followed just as quickly by a physics impaired Pongo.
"Sorry Mom," Henry winced as he watch the dog leap for the ball, realize he was about to land in Regina's lap, try to stop himself, and then awkwardly land in the brunette's lap.
The glass of water she'd been holding went flying out of her hand to land water across her silk shirt and over her cleanly pressed slacks. As the glass rolled along the lawn below her, Pongo tried to back up and away from her only to stumble backwards and land next to glass with a thud.
Regina held her arms out at her sides and glanced down at her damp and wrinkling clothes with a look caught somewhere between anger and surprise.
Pongo looked regretful. With his head down and his tail tucked between his legs, he started whining in apology.
Henry ran up to his moms and stood uncomfortably in front of them, unsure of what to do and scared of what might happen next.
Emma laughed so hard she snorted.
"Of course you'd see this as funny," Regina snarled as she slowly stood up, leaning forward to let the water that hadn't already soaked into her cloths fall off of her. "I'm going inside to change. This is probably as good of a time as any to wash the dog."
At the phrase 'wash the dog', Pongo leapt up to go hide, but Regina was quicker as she bent over to grab him by the collar. "Henry, will pull out the tub and other supplies while I change?"
The boy was slightly puzzled. This was far from the response he was expecting. He blinked a few times before answering in an unsure tone, "Yeah, but can I change, too? I don't want to get my jeans wet."
She nodded, and he ran into the house. Looking to the blonde, she asked in a flustered tone, "Sheriff, will you hold him until Henry and I come back outside. The dog has a way of disappearing whenever he knows he's about to be bathed."
Emma chuckled, "Kind of like the kid, huh?"
Pongo gave a little growl, but both women ignored him.
"Yes, well, Henry is finally starting to grow out of that phase, thankfully." The older woman squatted down to look the dog in the eye. "You knew this was going to happen sooner or later. At least we're not alone in the chore today." He whined. "I don't know why you're complaining. Once we start, you almost always enjoy the bath, and the weather is perfect for it today. Now, go sit next to Ms. Swan until I return."
With what could be considered grumbling, the dog slowly made his way to Emma's side to lie down next to her in grass. He gave a huff and rested his head atop his paws, refusing to look at Regina.
"I think you've trained him better than Archie," Emma said in an awed voice. "How did you do that?"
"Animals," Regina answered in an authoritative tone, "like people, respond to the Alpha. I would hardly call the bug much of an Alpha, would you?"
"Well," the blonde started to defend Archie's honor only to quickly realize she couldn't, "we're not all made to be leaders," she muttered with a grimace.
Regina gave an approving smirk, having won the argument. "I'll be back in a moment. Henry knows where everything is."
"You own a pair of shorts and a t-shirt? I can't believe it." Emma's face was the very picture of surprised. "And you're barefoot!"
Regina rolled her eyes. "I'm about to wash the dog, Ms. Swan. Do you really think I'd attempt to do that in my normal clothes?"
At seeing the older woman step outside, Pongo pushed up from his place by Emma and began walking slowly over the tub Henry had begun filling with water. With a grunt, he jumped in and sat down, compliant to what was to come.
"Mom?" Henry held the hose over the dog, letting the water run over his coat. "Do you think Pongo's skin is spotted like his fur?"
Giving at indulgent smile, Regina chose to ignore the sheriff's presence and, instead, focus on her son and the dog who was sitting patiently in the tub of soapy water. "I know that some animals have spotted skin beneath their fur," she answered lightly as she settled on her knees beside the tub and squirted shampoo into her hand. "It's possible Pongo's skin is the same." She smirked. "I suppose we could shave him and see."
Pongo's head quickly swiveled toward her, and he let out a little yelp.
"Mom!" Despite the intonation in his voice, Henry's eyes danced with humor.
"Oh, relax, darling," she gave her son a radiant smile, "you know I'd never shave the dog." She looked at Pongo. "You know I only keep you around because you match my décor. What good would you be as decoration if I shaved you?"
The dog blew air into her face and turned to look away from her.
Henry set the hose down beside him and carefully pointed it away from anyone before he joined his mom in lathering up the dog. "Do you think he likes it? Having a bath, I mean."
"Well," Regina couldn't help the smile that continued to beam across her face. It was the first time in a long while that she could recall having a somewhat normal moment with her son. It was nice. "Whenever you didn't want a bath but I gave you one anyway, did you like it?"
The boy seemed to think about it for second or two. "Sometimes, but not always. There was that one time you scrubbed me for, like, an hour." He made a face.
She gave him an annoyed look. "That's because you covered every exposed inch of yourself with permanent marker. You were more spotted than Pongo."
"I was going for the camouflaged look. I figured that, if I covered myself in green and brown, I'd mix in with the leaves and stuff. You know, like soldiers do." He shrugged and reached for the hose to start rinsing the dog off.
"Henry," Regina's voice was amused though she still held a lilt of annoyance in her tone, "soldiers wear camouflaged clothing. They don't paint their entire body in permanent marker."
He ducked his head and gave her a bashful smile. "It made sense at the time."
"No doubt," she replied with a chuckle.
They carefully worked to make sure Pongo was thoroughly cleaned and dried. It took most of the two hours to do, and by the end, they were both wet from bathing the dog and tired to go along with it.
Henry sat in the grass so he could brush out the dog's fur while Regina tended to the dog's toenails, taking time to neatly trim them to keep them from tearing up her floors.
"It's about time to go," Emma's voice cut into the mother/son bonding moment.
Pongo growled at her as he sat down almost in Henry's lap.
"Pongo," Henry chastised, "she's not going to hurt us."
"That's a matter of opinion," Regina muttered under her breath before speaking a bit louder to the dog, "Ms. Swan only gave us two hours, dog. Our time is up."
Emma's stomach growled again, and she rolled her eyes. "Look, I'm starving, kid. Come on, let's get going. Mary Margaret said she'd have something waiting by the time we got home."
For the first time a very long while, Henry looked upset at the idea of going. "Can't we just have dinner here?" He looked to Regina with pleading eyes.
Pongo turned to look at her too, and she would swear the same look was in his beady little eyes.
"That's not up to me, "she answered as she finished with the dog's last paw and began to stand. Looking to the sheriff, she answered without emotion, "I would not be opposed to cooking for Henry tonight, Ms. Swan, and you're welcomed to eat as well, I suppose."
From his spot in Henry's lap, Pongo gave a little bark.
"Come on, Mom, say yes. See? Pongo wants us to stay." Henry looked up at Emma with big, round puppy dog eyes while Pongo turned to her with big, round doggy eyes.
At hearing her son call Emma 'Mom', Regina tried and failed not to flinch. She bit her lip to keep from saying something to ruin the possibility that her son might stay for dinner and, instead, focused on cleaning up the mess from washing the dog.
"Well," Emma gave a sideways glance to the older woman, whose face was emotionless as she finished cleanup, "let me call Mary Margaret and let her know we're staying here for dinner."
"Great!" Henry jumped up, pushing the dog out of his lap, to hug the blonde only to be stopped by a hand held up to hold him at bay.
The sheriff wrinkled her nose. "You're wet, kid."
"Henry, why don't you go take a shower and change into something dry?" Regina looked down at her own clothes and noted they were just as wet. "After we're both clean, I'll cook us dinner. What would you like?"
He thought about it for a moment. "Something with beef? Grams cooks a lot of chicken, and I'm kind of tired of it."
"How about steak? I've got some in the freezer I should probably cook soon." She tilted her head to the side and added, "I'll refrain from making a comment about being what you eat."
Henry pulled his brow down into a thinking face. "But, didn't you just do that? I mean, what do you… Oh, come on, Mom. You're supposed to be better."
"I didn't actually make the comment," she said with a raise of her eyebrow. "So, steak?"
Pongo barked excitedly and bounced around her.
"I think that means yes," Henry said with a smile before he ran to the back door to go shower and change.
"Well, Mary Margaret told me to watch you like a hawk to make sure you don't poison anything," Emma said as she stepped up to take the spot Henry had been standing in.
The dog growled and settled to the right of Regina. Sitting at attention, he kept his eyes steadily on the sheriff.
"I'll try to refrain," the older woman answered in a flippant voice. "While I clean up, will you run to the store for a liter of Coke? I don't keep any in the house, but I know Henry will want some." The blonde narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "Oh do come off of it, Ms. Swan. You'll be gone for less time than it takes for me to shower. If it makes you feel any better, you may take the dog as collateral."
Pongo looked up at her with a disapproving huff.
"Fine." Emma's frown deepened. "But, if you and Henry aren't here when I get back…"
Pongo bounced up to stand on all fours and bark at her. Lowering his head and straightening his tail out, he let out a series of barks and growls, which took the sheriff by surprise. Eyes growing wide, she looked down to the normally friendly animal and blinked at him in disbelief.
"I believe that's Pongo's way of saying her doesn't appreciate your insinuations, sheriff," Regina stated in a smug voice. "Go with her, Pongo. Make sure she gets the right kind of Coke."
He gave another low, menacing bark before trotting over to the sheriff and looking up at her with an air of expectancy.
"He's not going to attack me, is he?" Emma was clearly rattled.
"Only if you attack me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to shower. I expect you to be back, with my dog, by the time I come back down to start dinner." With that final command, Regina turned and walked into the house.
"So," Emma drew the word out as she looked down at the dog, "I guess you're riding shotgun?"
Pongo blew air at her as if to say he thought she'd asked a very unintelligent question as he walked past her and toward her car.
"I'll take that as a yes," she muttered as she followed.
"That wasn't so bad," Regina said with a sigh as she settled into bed. "Although Ms. Swan could do with a few lessons in manners. I really do hope she doesn't influence Henry too badly. Her table manners are atrocious."
From his place on the bed, Pongo grunted as if to confirm her comment.
"I'm glad you're getting along better with Henry. He really does like you." She reached out and patted the empty space on the bed immediately beside her.
Pushing up from his place at the foot of the bed and picking up his stuffed rabbit up, Pongo walked up the mattress and plopped down in the spot she indicated. He dropped the rabbit down between them and laid his head on top of her hand.
She chuckled and pulled her hand free to gently scratch his head and rub behind his ears. In a thoughtful voice, she commented into the silence, "I'm glad you decided to stay, dog. The house is less empty with you here." He remained still, allowing her to gently pet him as she let herself think aloud. "It was almost a normal day, wasn't it? The sheriff isn't so insufferable when she's not being influenced by the town or those two idiots."
Pongo grunted and nosed at her hand to get her to start petting him again.
She rolled her eyes but complied. "Maybe Doctor Hopper is correct? Maybe I should consider at least calling a truce between us? Not Snow, of course." She glanced down at the dog as if looking for approval, and found him looking up at her with unblinking eyes. "Time doesn't heal all wounds," she snapped. He grunted and shifted his head slightly. "But I suppose I could learn to be civil for Henry's sake. It would be nice for him to feely come and go from here as he pleased without having to be supervised by anyone except you and me."
Pongo raised his head and looked at her again.
"Not a word. Just because I included you in the 'we' doesn't mean I think you're a furry person. You're still an animal who shouldn't be on my furniture." She rolled her eyes. "As I keep telling you, furniture is for people, and Ms. Swan. It's not for pets."
The dog rolled over onto his side, legs facing toward Regina.
She frowned at him but began to give him a tummy rub. "You're spoiled. Do you know that?" He closed his eyes. "Alright, enough of this. It's time to go to sleep. We have things to do tomorrow."
With a final scratch behind the ears, she turned on her side, flicked the light off, and closed her eyes. For the first time in a long time, there was kernel of hope that something good might come in the near future, and the feeling allowed her to peacefully drift off to sleep.
I guess this is going to turn into a series of one shots. Also, writing scenes between Henry and Regina where Henry is not a little shit gives me all kinds of Evil Regal feels. I just want Regina, Emma, and Henry to be one, big happy family. :-/ IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?! *sobs uncontrollably*