I don't own these characters; ABC/Disney does.
"Are you going to wake her up?" Henry asked Emma from his spot on the living room floor.
Regina had fallen asleep against Emma during family movie time. They tried to have a family movie night at least three times a week. They each chose a film and they would sit down as a family. It was strange to Emma once upon a time, but totally normal for them now. She was fairly certain that they all appreciated it, even if Regina had fallen asleep during the movie. But, then again, they had seen the Avengers at least a billion times by now.
Regina had been finding ways to keep busy while Henry and Emma were gone during the day and sometimes she was the first asleep now. She was curled into Emma's body and Emma was thoroughly enjoying the feel, so, no, she was not going to wake her up. She hugged Regina closer, pulling the older woman into her lap practically, and she smiled as Regina cuddled into her.
Before she could reply, Lady hopped up and yawned. Emma glanced at the clock and then back down at Lady. It was hard to believe the full-grown dog was the same runt that she pulled out of a sinkhole a little less than a year ago. She was still surprised that no one ever claimed to have lost a cocker spaniel. It was like Lady fell out of the sky for Regina and saved her like any angel would.
"Let's watch something else for a few minutes," Emma said before kissing the top of Regina's head. Henry rolled his eyes to the display, but put on cartoons. Emma was fairly certain she could see amusement on his face. His parents, his mothers' relationship, amused him, in a good way.
Henry woke up in the middle of the night, panting and his heart racing. It occasionally happened to him. He had dreams and nightmares that usually vanished when he woke up, but still unsettled him. When he was little, he would run to his mom. Every now and then, she would be dazed enough to let him asleep next to her. The memory brought a smile to his face. He was not sure when he stopped going to her, but he was certain it was after he figured out he was adopted. Then, he had more nightmares, still could not remember them, but then settled himself with midnight snacks.
While it was tempting to go to his mom's room, if only to show her that they were all right, he was definitely too old for that now. So, midnight snack it was. Cautiously, he moved Lady to make sure the puppy did not wake up. As he made his way to the door, he noticed a light on in the hallway.
"That's weird," he muttered. His mother should be in the bed, so all of the lights should be out. Deciding to proceed with caution, he tiptoed to the stairs.
All the lights were still on downstairs. For a moment, he thought they were being robbed, but he could not see who was stupid enough to not only rob the former Evil Queen, but also turn the lights on to do it. Continuing being stealthy, he made his way down far enough to look into the living room. He could hear voices, but it sounded like whispering. He wondered if his mothers were still up. It was not hard to believe with Emma, but his mom was usually in bed no later than eleven.
Feeling bolder … and more than a little curious … Henry moved quietly down the stairs until he could completely see into the living room. And he almost went blind as he saw what he could only describe as his mothers trying to eat each other's faces. Once his mind caught up with his eyes, he realized they were kissing and ran back upstairs, nearly forgetting to be quiet. While he did not make as much noises as a herd of wild horses, he still feared they heard him.
He dived into bed, careful of Lady again. It was a good thing that he did because less than a minute later, he could hear them coming down the hallway. The door opened and he pretended to be sound asleep.
"Told you that you were hearing things," he heard Emma brag.
"It would appear you were correct for once," Regina replied dryly.
"Yeah, well, it was bound to happen once or twice in this lifetime. Maybe I should get going. I'm probably going to have to answer a billion questions about why I was out this late." The door eased shut.
"You should simply tell them that you were spending time with your family," Regina remarked as they walked away from the room.
Henry blinked as the word hit him – family. They were a family. And his mothers were not just his mothers, but they were together! Together and kissing! He groaned and wished that there were such a thing as brain bleach. But, it was cool that they were a family.
"But, why didn't they tell me? Maybe they think I won't be cool with it," he mused. Well, he would fix that quickly.
In the morning, Henry rushed downstairs before his mothers came to collect Lady, who he woke up too. Lady was not far behind him as he went into the dining room. He joined Emma at the table where she was eating her morning meal and enjoying a cup of coffee. They eyed him curiously as he smiled through breakfast.
"I've never seen you this happy to have oatmeal," Regina commented with a soft smile. She stood by Emma, which she did often now.
Henry could not believe he never noticed it. And then he thought all their walks and how close they always were to each other. He recalled seeing them hold hands. Whenever they watched a movie, they did not sit close, but they always touched. Oh, god, how long have they been together and how could I not notice?! Henry figured that he could never consider himself brilliant again.
"Well, you make really good oatmeal, Mom. And I'm always happy for a good meal," he grinned.
"Uh … yeah, yay nutrition," Emma remarked with an awkward face. Regina chuckled a bit and softly hit Emma on the shoulder.
"No, more like yay being together and being a pretty good family," Henry decided to say. They gawked at him, but only briefly. They then smiled, too.
"I'll yay to that," Emma said.
Regina tipped her cup of coffee. "I'll drink to that." She sipped her coffee and then eyed the boy, who could not help smirking at her. Emma spoke up before she could say anything.
"All right, kid, spill. What do you know? And stop doing the 'Regina' smirk," the Sheriff ordered.
Henry chuckled. "I know you guys were making out on the couch last night." Both women groaned and seemed at a lost for words. He laughed more. "It's okay! Just don't make out on the couch anymore unless you want me going back to Archie!"
They stared at him, but he only smiled at them. He went on eating. He liked having a family.
Lady tucked herself under Henry's arm and rested her head on his thigh. The cartoon played, but as funny things happened, Emma noted that her son was not laughing. Henry was starting to drift off, his eyes fluttering shut every few seconds and he blinked trying to keep them open. Emma figured now would be a good time for them all to call it a day, even though she really was not tired. She herded everyone upstairs. Henry flopped into his bed with Lady pressing against his side.
Lady looked bigger than usual, taking up more space on the bed. Henry did not complain, but that was probably because he was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Thankfully, Regina always made him brush his teeth and all of that stuff before they started watching a movie on movie night. Lady was almost dangling off of the bed, though.
"Regina, I think Lady's getting fat," Emma commented as they moved toward their bedroom, formerly Regina's bedroom. She pressed the smaller woman close to her to make sure Regina stayed on her feet. She dared not try to carry Regina because she tried that before and the former mayor went off about how she could go to bed on her own. Emma took all of her steam after she told Regina that she thought the rant was cute. Of course, it did almost cost her a night on the sofa. Still, Regina did not like being carried, especially bridal style and definitely not the fireman's carry.
"She can't be," Regina mumbled indignantly. "We all make sure she gets plenty of exercise and I'm extremely careful about her diet for that very reason."
The blonde shrugged. "Maybe it's her hair then and she looks poofy."
"I will groom her tomorrow."
Emma let the matter drop, especially Regina was sleeping on her feet. She helped the ex-mayor into her nightclothes and then they slid into bed together. Regina snuggled into her immediately and she chuckled.
"No comments about my cuddling," Regina ordered in a dazed tone.
"Yes, dear." Emma often commented that it shocked and amazed her that Regina was a cuddler. Of course, it flattered her to learn that Regina only cuddled with her. Regina only felt safe and secure with her. Awesome.
"Keep it up and you'll be sleeping on the sofa. Your pillow can be cuddled instead."
Emma chuckled. "I'll be good. Why are you so tired? It's hard to keep track of you now that people don't call 911 every time you move." That had taken a while, but now mostly people just ignored the former queen or they were semi-friendly with her, often out of respect for Emma.
Regina smiled against her collarbone. "I checked on the public garden and greenhouse. I was able to get in some gardening there." Those were the things got people to get semi-friendly with her. She had started a public garden and a greenhouse. The person getting extremely close to her from that was Granny, strangely enough because Granny liked to plant and grow spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables for her bed and breakfast. Granny was one of the rest people to stake out an area in the garden and for a while, only she and Regina gardened there.
Emma was surprised to learn when it came down to it, Granny actually had very little against Regina except that Granny was allied with Snow White. The Evil Queen had actually never harmed Granny back in the "old world," mostly because Granny had not lived in Regina's kingdom and she never heard about Granny harboring Snow White. Now, the pair swapped recipes and gardening techniques. Emma would probably go as far as saying that Granny was Regina's best friend, which was a little weird considering Ruby was Emma's best friend.
"That's it?" Emma asked, a little shocked. Regina usually kept busier than that.
"I had an appointment with Doctor Hopper, as you well know. He sends his greetings to you as always. Playing with Lady in the park is a workout along with grocery shopping and cleaning after you and Henry. Not to mention, making dinner and cleaning up after that. Is that enough for me to deserve a rest now?"
Emma laughed again and decided against teasing Regina any further. "That's more than enough. I hope you got some joy out of it."
"Of course. How was your day?" Regina asked, her voice low and drifting. Emma suspected Regina might fall asleep while she answered that question.
"You know, the usual."
"Rumpel's son turned out to be Henry's father again?" Regina joked.
Emma chuckled. "Don't bring him up before he wanders back into town. Bad enough when he finally did come back he brought his crazy fiancée and caused another adventure I didn't want to go on and almost killed you."
"I wouldn't say almost."
"Okay, Wonder Woman. You totally weren't almost killed and the town wasn't almost destroyed." Emma rolled her eyes. "Neal brings a lot of bad luck with him. But, thankfully, he's not in town again, so my day wasn't that exciting. I'm going to arrest Peter Rabbit or Peter Leveret or whatever the hell he calls himself if I see his ass again, though. And, really, that's the name the curse came up with for him? Why not make him a chocolatier while it was at it? Oh, and I hate you for making me know what the hell a chocolatier is and why I know 'Leveret' is a crappy name for him while I'm at it," she remarked.
Regina laughed and pushed herself up a little, placing a gentle kiss to Emma's chin. She then settled back down against Emma's body, putting her head on Emma's shoulder. She threw a leg over Emma for good measure and the blonde practically had to bite her tongue to keep from mentioning how much Regina loved to snuggle. It was nice, except for in the summer because Regina generated body heat like an oven, but at least Regina was her oven.
She kissed the top of Regina's head and ran her hands through soft chocolate locks. What a difference a year makes. Things had been normal for the most part … in their little family anyway. Storybrooke itself continued to be one moment of insanity after another. Neal's fiancée and a guy from Regina's past brought on the biggest moment. They had almost killed Regina and burned the magic bean field that was almost ready to take whoever wanted to go back to "the old world." They also tried to destroy the town and came pretty close, but the Savior saved everyone with the help of her girlfriend, not that anyone really wanted to acknowledge that, and help from her parents.
Even though everything turned out all right, Emma had trouble processing the whole thing when it was over. Her family, parents included, helped her cope. Having support in itself was a little jarring, but she would not trade it for the world. She occasionally visited Archie from professional help, but mostly her family helped see her through things.
Her relationship with her parents had along slowly, but surely. Of course, her parents really refused to associate with Regina, so they did not have family gatherings. She and Henry tended to hang out with her parents on their own outside. It was cool. She had learned to enjoy and cherish their time together. She held out the hope that one day her parents and Regina could work out their issues, but she definitely was not holding her breath over it.
Emma stared at the front door of her home. Well, not really her home anymore. Technically, her home … she did not want to think about it, even though she knew that she needed to. She had to stop burying stuff; Regina told her that all the time. It's really bad when the person you thought was the most messed up is giving you advice on how not to be messed up. Making it worse, it turned out Regina gave pretty good advice. They were both learning they were more the "do as I say, not as I do" types, which they knew they had to get out of if they wanted to raise Henry properly.
"And I'm just going through all of this to stall going inside. Maybe I should've brought Regina with me. Of course, that probably would've insured we never talk about what we need to," Emma muttered as she put her key in the lock.
"Emma, you're home early," Mary Margaret noted as the blonde entered the house.
"Uh … yeah," Emma agreed, even though she knew that she should say more than that. She closed the door behind her and tried to think of some way to start the conversation, but nothing game to mind.
"You finally wised up and stop hanging out with Regina all the time?" David asked with a smile.
"Uh … I wouldn't say that," Emma replied and again was happy that she did not bring Regina with her, even though the former mayor had been very insistent.
"Are you okay, Emma?" Mary Margaret inquired, stepping closer to the sheriff. She reached out and felt Emma's forehead.
Emma stepped away. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm not sick or anything."
"Then why are you acting so weird?" David asked.
"Uh …" Emma twiddled her fingers for a moment. "So … here's the thing …" She chewed on her bottom lip for a second. I gotta do this like a band-aid. "I'mgonnamoveinwithRegina!" There, that wasn't so hard.
Mary Margaret squinted in confusion. "What did you just say?"
"It sounded like she said she was going to move in with Regina, but she couldn't have said that," David insisted.
"No, because that would be totally insane!" Mary Margaret shouted.
"Completely insane," David concurred.
"It's not completely insane. I've basically been staying with her anyway for, like, the past three months," Emma explained.
"What?" her parents screamed.
"Uh … yeah, sometimes I just come here to shower. I actually have clothes there and everything already," Emma admitted with a grimace.
"You said you and Regina were friends," Mary Margaret huffed.
"Well … we were … a lot of months ago. It sorta … well, evolved into some other stuff," Emma explained as best she could. Everything happened so slowly and gradually that it was really hard to pin anything down.
"And now you're just going to move in with her? You would think after everything we told you and you've learned about her since the curse broke and she almost got herself killed and nearly destroyed the town, you'd be a little reluctant to move in with her," David pointed out.
"Hey!" Emma barked. "She almost got killed because of something that happened almost thirty years ago. She is not that woman anymore! And you act like she triggered the failsafe. They tortured it out of her! Did you forget the torture? Or maybe you forgot that she was ready to kill herself to save crazytown here?"
"If she hadn't made the failsafe it wouldn't have come to that," David stated.
"Uh … yeah, and if she hadn't been born none of this wouldn't have happened. We're not going to argue this way. Actually, you know what, not even going to argue. I'm moving in with Regina and Henry. I want to be with my family and I don't want to sneak around like it's a dirty little secret," Emma proclaimed.
Both of her parents flinched. "Fa-family?" Mary Margaret managed to utter.
"Yes, Regina and Henry are my family. I mean, you're my family, definitely, and, of course, Henry is my family, but it's more than that. Regina and Henry are like my family that I made for myself. It took me a while to notice it, but we've been a family for a long while. It freaked me out, but it's a nice feeling. I love them. I love being with them. I want to be with them," Emma said.
David gaped at her while Mary Margaret exhaled. "Why-why didn't you say anything earlier? Why does it have to come to you moving out?"
"Are you sure?" David finally managed to ask.
"I'm sure and I've been damned nervous about this. Everything's been going good with me and Regina and I didn't want to mess it up. Everything around here is always so nuts, but everything with Regina and Henry once we go into the house is calm. It's home," Emma tried to explain.
She could not tell her parents that the apartment actually stopped feeling like home when the curse broke. Life in the Mills' home was different, but it was home. She wanted to wake up there every morning and sleep there every night. She did not want to have to worry about sneaking in to avoid waking her parents like she was some teenager who broke curfew.
"I'm sure," Emma said with a solid nod.
David frowned. "Regina? Really? You have to move in with her of all people?" he huffed. Clearly, he was ready to respect her decision to move out, just not who she was going to live with.
"David, you know you can't help who you fall in love with," Mary Margaret pointed out. "But, Emma, I can't approve of this either. While Regina doesn't seem to be dangerous anymore, I still don't want you to be with someone like her."
"Someone like her?" Emma echoed.
"Regina could snap at any moment. We all know that. You deserve someone that's probably not going to flip out and possibly kill you," Mary Margaret stated.
Emma frowned. "You know what, anybody can snap. That's why it's called snapping. One day you guys are going to have to get over your problem with Regina. She's not thinking about you anymore. I don't see why I have to keep telling you that she's changed."
"We've heard it a bunch of times, Emma. We've just heard it a bunch of times," Mary Margaret sighed.
"Well, you'll keep hearing it until you believe it because it's the truth. She's changed and she's going to remain that way. I've got stuff to get," Emma said and then she trotted up to her room. Silently, she admitted that went better than she expected. She told them about her relationship and about moving in and there was hardly even any yelling.
She knew she would just have to wait as far as them accepting her relationship with Regina. She liked to think that eventually they would see that Regina was not the person they remembered. It would just take time. More time. Or so she hoped.
Regina awoke first as always. She pressed a soft kiss to Emma's chin, earning a few low whimpers, but not waking her. In the time of finding out that she was a "cuddle monster" as Emma liked to call her, she had also learned how to unwrap herself from Emma without waking her. Emma called her that ridiculous name to be annoying and it worked, but a small part of Regina delighted that Emma was comfortable enough with her to playfully tease her. Besides, it was fairly accurate considering how she draped herself on the blonde.
Until Emma, Regina had never enjoyed body contact in general. She barely hugged Henry when he was younger. Emma was quite touchy, though, and that seemed to affect Regina, especially when it was just them around. Touching Emma was a solid reminder that the sheriff was there and that made her believe that everything would be as fine as possible.
Easing out of bed, Regina set about her morning routine. She brushed her teeth and things before going downstairs. The house was dark as the sun was only now coming up. She opened the backdoor because Lady would be up soon to go do her business. There was a doggie door, but Regina just preferred for Lady to use the regular door. She went to prepare breakfast. As she was finishing up, Lady came down and she saw what Emma was talking about.
"I'm sure she just needs grooming," Regina convinced herself because there was no reason for Lady to be getting fat.
Breakfast was set on the table by the time her lover and their son wandered down, rubbing their eyes and clearly not bothering to brush their hair. So, Lady was not the only one that needed grooming in the house. Messy hair and all, Regina gave them both kisses on the forehead as a morning greeting.
"Good morning, loves," Regina smiled at both of them.
"Morning," Henry said through a yawn.
Emma could not even manage that. Regina was happy that Emma managed to wake up without her having to go back upstairs. There were days when the sheriff slept right through her alarm. No matter what it seemed like Emma would never be a morning person. She was always the last person to fall asleep, though. She stuffed her mouth with pancakes and scrambled eggs. Regina only smiled. It was fine as long as Emma did not attempt to talk with her mouth full.
"I didn't know you could make strawberry pancakes, Mom," Henry said, remembering his manners and swallowing before saying anything.
"I only just decided to try today. I'm glad you approve," Regina said, checking to make sure Lady was at her dish for her breakfast. She then sat down to eat with her family. Family. The thought still made her head spin every now and then.
Regina never would have thought that her lowest point in life would bring her to this moment. She supposed that one could only gain after losing everything, but she never imagined that she would ever have a family. She loved being the happy homemaker for them, which was really all she ever wanted. Of course, Archie had warned her early on that her life needed to involve more than just Emma, Henry, and Lady. At first, she brushed him off, but then she began to feel depression set in when Emma and Henry were gone during the day and she could see how she was depending on them too much for her own happiness. It was not fair to them or her.
Once she saw that Archie had been right all along, she started the public garden. She owned quite a bit of land in Storybrooke. Not on the level of Mister Gold, but enough for her to make a few moves and also earn some money with rent. She began the garden, at first it was just going to be for her, but then Archie suggested that it might be a way for her to make friends, so she made it a public garden. Growing things helped soothe her and eventually people did trickle in. Not even a handful spoke to her, except for the widow Lucas. The woman was fearless … or maybe crazy. Regina was not totally sure which. Not that it mattered. She delighted in the woman's company and believed the feeling was mutual.
So, not only did Regina have a family, but she had a friend as well. No, actually she had friends. It was a short list consisting of the widow Lucas, Emma, and something of a friendship was coming along with Kathryn. Even though Emma was her lover, she counted Emma as her best friend. She supposed it was a little ironic that her other friend was Granny. They were practically the same age, after all.
Regina stopped thinking about the garden and her friends as Emma drank her coffee. It was a sign that she was waking up completely. She reached over and patted Emma's thigh. The blonde smiled at her.
"Can we have breakfast later?" Emma inquired.
"I think what you would prefer is brunch," Regina remarked.
"She'd probably prefer dinner," Henry chimed in.
Emma made a face. "You're not funny, Regina. And Henry don't encourage her to not be funny."
Mother and son laughed. Regina was surprised that over the course of the year, she had found something of a playful sense of humor … but only with Emma. She would never think to joke around with anyone else, not in this manner anyway. She also played around with Henry some, but it was touch and go with him as he did not totally get her sense of humor all the time.
"But, speaking of breakfast being dinner, have either of you ever had midnight breakfast?" Emma inquired. The laughter stopped as the pair was intrigued now.
"What's midnight breakfast?" Henry countered.
Emma grinned. "It's when you have breakfast for dinner. Maybe somebody could make us pancakes or French toast or waffles for dinner. One day."
Regina's gaze narrowed since she knew whom that was directed to. A year ago she would have balked at the idea and declared Emma a savage, but that was a year ago. Now, with Emma and their son staring at her with similar expressions of hope mixed with begging, she could only smile softly.
"I'll think about it. For now, I want you both to eat breakfast for breakfast," she replied.
"Yes!" Henry and Emma exchanged a high-five. Apparently, they thought the "midnight breakfast" thing was as good as done. Regina could not help wondering if they had her all figured. The idea made her smile.
She supposed one day she would surprise them with this so-called "midnight breakfast." Maybe for a birthday or something of the kind. It seemed like a strange notion, but she could imagine how Emma and Henry would look, so she had to try it at least once. Besides, if Emma had not taught her anything else, she needed step back sometime and just live.
Once breakfast was done, they all dressed and Henry grabbed Lady's leash. They left the mansion, which was now just home rather than the "mayoral mansion." As it turned out, Regina's name was on the deed, so she could not be forced to move. They walked Lady as a family in the morning and sometimes in the evening.
Henry still walked Lady after school. Occasionally, Regina joined him, but he liked the responsibility and trust of doing it on his own. Regina cherished the few evenings when she and Emma handled the walking, where they would talk or just silently hold hands. In fact, she reached out for Emma's hand, holding it tightly. Emma smiled at her before taking a sip of her coffee.
"This is probably why you stay up all hours of the night. How much coffee do you drink in a day?" Regina teased.
"Don't start. It's too early," Emma groused. Regina only smiled and then focused on Henry and Lady. This is a good life.
Regina smiled, even though Emma was frowning. She took Emma's hand from across the table, trying to silently assure Emma that everything was fine. The expression did not lift.
"I just want to take you on a freaking date now that my parents know I'm with you and this stupid town makes it impossible to even do that," Emma grumbled.
"It's fine, Emma. If you want, we can go to Granny's. At least we know we'll be served," Regina pointed out.
They had been out on a date that was clearly going to end much sooner than Emma planned. At the restaurant, the host almost tripped over himself to seat them, but no one dared come to take their order. Regina suspected it was only a matter of time before someone came to ask them to leave.
"I don't want to take you out for a burger. I wanted real food in a real place with atmosphere and stuff. Is that too much to fucking ask?" Emma growled.
This was their first official date, so Regina knew that Emma wanted it to be special. The blonde did not want to accept that the town would not allow such a thing to happen. Most places refused to serve Regina, even if she was with the Savior and even if she helped save the town. She smiled at Emma again.
"I have an idea," Regina stated.
"And what's that?" Emma asked, twisting her mouth up. She looked like she was ready to get up and go throttle someone.
"We leave here and we go home. You let me work on our first date," Regina proposed.
Emma narrowed her gaze on Regina, but did not object. It would seem that she accepted the fact that they would not get any food in the restaurant unless they beat up several people. So, they got up and left. Regina could have sworn she heard the whole place sigh in relief after she crossed the threshold of the door.
When they got home, Regina parked Emma on the sofa. She turned on the television and left Emma to find something to watch while she went to work on their first date. She made a shrimp dish that Emma enjoyed and knew the sheriff had to smell it, but she did not disturb Regina. The former queen then used her magic to fill the dining room with candles.
"Emma, darling," Regina called softly.
"Regina, you didn't have to cook," Emma said as she walked over and then stopped dead in her tracks. "Whoa, wow. You didn't have to do all of this."
Regina smirked. "Oh, but I did. This is our first date. Well, first acknowledged date. You worked so hard on trying to provide a romantic dinner, well, here we are. Should I make the table smaller?"
They were not going to use the dining room table. She had actually conjured a small circular table because she wanted to be able to reach for Emma's hand and pat her leg. Emma glanced at the new table and shook her head.
"It's perfect," Emma whispered.
Regina smiled. "That's good. Now, sit before everything gets cold."
Emma nodded and they had a wonderful candlelight dinner. Emma did not sulk over the fact that they had to improvise and they just enjoyed each other's company. Emma actually piggybacked off of the idea and picked a movie for them to watch, so their first date was a rather typical one of dinner and a movie.
"Do you think this is corny?" Emma inquired as they curled up together on the couch. Regina was leaning against her and she had heard arms around Regina's shoulders.
"I think this is perfect. Perhaps we could do a date night next week similar to this one?"
Emma shrugged. "I'll see if the 'rents will watch Henry again. If not, I'm sure Granny and Ruby will practically kidnap him to help us out."
Regina chuckled. "Ruby is always willing to lend a helping hand when you're trying to get lucky."
The sheriff nodded and smiled almost proudly. "Ruby is one hell of a wingman." Being willing to take an eleven-year-old boy and a dog for the night just to help Emma get laid definitely was something.
The movie kept their attention for a few more minutes, but Regina never expected to make it through the whole thing. It started with them each gently caressing the other's arm. That evolved into kissing and it was a good thing that Henry was out of the house or he definitely would have been going back to Archie.
"This is by far the best first date I have ever had," Emma commented as she pulled away for air. She was posed atop Regina now, who was panting.
"It would be much better if we continued the date upstairs," Regina replied.
"Why? Have you ever done it on a couch before?" Emma asked with a smirk.
"No, and we shall not be rutting like savages on the sofa either. This is Italian leather."
"Oh, we definitely gotta do it on here now. It's just so decadent!"
Before Regina could object, Emma's glorious mouth was on her again. Kissing Emma always sent sparks through her and clouded her mind with enough pleasure that she could not voice any objections to Emma's actions. So, along with their first date, Regina experienced another first. She was thankful and somewhat shocked that they did not stain the sofa.
They were not able to keep up date night on a weekly basis, but they did their best. Ruby was definitely willing and eager to help. Of course, it did take a little convincing to get Lady to stay with Ruby. They had to give Lady treats before they left her with Ruby and Ruby had to bury her wolf-pride and back down when Lady growled at her whenever she got too close to Regina and Emma.
It was the weekend; time to relax. Emma was taking in one of the few nice days that had decided to grace the great state of Maine at the end of autumn and almost spit out her coffee as she stepped out onto the patio. She coughed, trying her best to keep it low as to not disturb the scene before her.
"Regina, come here," Emma hissed, waving for the former queen to come over.
"Emma, what are you doing?" Regina inquired, moving from the bookshelf where she was trying to find something to read. The plan had been for them to share the sofa while Regina read and Emma was probably going to nap. "What is so interesting in the backyard?"
"Oh, just proof that you should have probably gotten Lady spayed," Emma commented with a chuckle. She outright laughed at how wide Regina's eyes went when she saw Lady nuzzling with a mystery, shaggy grey dog.
"What the? Lady, you get away from that –" Regina started, but Emma cut in.
"Don't you dare say it!" Emma begged, forcing herself not laugh, even though she wanted to. In such a situation, really, all she could do was laugh that she was living in a freaking cartoon. Every time she thought she escaped back into the real world, they pulled her back in!
"Lady, get away from that mangy mongrel!" Regina barked, marching into the yard to shoo the dog away. "You are much too good for that –"
"Don't you say it!"
Emma was doing her best not to bust as gut as the other dog ran circles around Regina, who was trying her best to not use magic with any malicious intent, even toward an unwanted dog. The noise attracted Henry, who had been eating breakfast. He stood next to her and stared into the backyard.
"What's going on?" the boy inquired. He did his best to hold in a laugh and failed miserably when he saw what was happening. Of course, this made his blonde mother crack and she laughed at the scene.
"Turns out Lady might not just be getting fat and I don't think your mom is happy with her chosen one," Emma answered. "Maybe I should go help her."
"Nah, I think she has it." Of course, the way the other dog was jumping and bouncing away from Regina, he could be wrong.
Henry nodded absently, watching the scene for a while. "You know, they're like you and Mom at first sight."
This caused Emma's brow to crease. "What do you mean?"
"Well, based on looks, Mom would be Lady and you'd be –"
Her gaze narrowed. "You better not say it either."
He laughed and held up a hand as an apology. "You'd be the stray. But, by people's perception, you'd be Lady and Mom would be the stray. People just don't think you go together. Either way, you guys picked each other and you don't care what people think."
Emma smiled and nodded, rubbing the top of Henry's head. Soon, he'll be towering over Regina and then, maybe, he'll be towering over me. "Just don't tell your mom you compared her to a dog."
"I'm not an idiot," he replied with an impish smile.
She laughed and so did he. They watched Regina for a moment longer, noting that her effort was far from reaching its potential. After a few minutes, Regina herded Lady in, scolding her on being more selective on who would father her puppies. Of course, it was too late for that and Doctor de Vil confirmed that later that day.
"She told you to spay her," Emma pointed out again as the family returned home.
"It's not that simple," Regina argued in a tense tone.
Henry looked between the two of them and excused himself, with Lady, to his room. Obviously, Emma and Regina needed to talk if Henry was making himself scarce and taking the dog with him. Emma moved Regina to couch.
"Okay, why isn't it simple? Why are you so touchy about having Lady spayed?" Emma inquired.
Regina took a deep breath. "I just believe that she should have the chance to have puppies."
"So, it's nothing personal? I mean, I know life has generally sucked for you and I know a thing or two about not being able to have a kid. Are you sure this isn't something you want to talk about?"
"There's nothing really to discuss, Emma. I have spoken with this to Doctor Hopper. Yes, it is linked to something personal. Emma, do you realize all I wanted in life was to be married to the one I love and have a child of my own? I never had that chance until now. Well, we're not married."
Emma smirked. "Was that a proposal?"
"No, it was not a proposal. God, no. I would never propose to you in such a roundabout manner and you deserve some romance. I would like to believe I have shown you that I can be romantic as well."
"You definitely are romantic," Emma concurred.
"Yes, so when I do propose to you, I promise that you will not have to ask. Now, was my answer satisfactory?"
"Yeah, and I hate to tell you, but that was pretty damn simple."
Regina chuckled and kissed Emma softly. "No, you got the simple answer. Doctor Hopper will tell you, nothing about me is ever simple. Now, we need to do research on what to expect when Lady has these puppies."
Emma groaned, even though they both knew that Regina would probably do most of the research. Well, Henry would also jump in more than likely. Emma would be there for moral support and to ask when they were going to have dinner.
"Lady, seriously, couldn't you have chosen a much better suitor?" Regina asked with a sigh. The stray had stayed in the backyard after Regina basically locked Lady out of it. After a few days of him starving and Lady whining, Regina let him in. She fed him and now they suddenly had another dog that Regina did not like much, but Emma and Henry seemed taken with his street charm.
Regina and Lady were on the sofa. Lady was lying against Regina, taking space that Emma looked upon longingly from the other side o the couch. Henry was playing tug of war with the other dog, who had been to the vet and then had tons of items purchased for him from the pet shop. So, they were apparently keeping him, much to Regina's dismay.
"We need to name him," Henry said, almost falling over as the new dog yanked rather hard.
"No one say that name," Emma insisted. Henry had taunted her with it earlier.
"Don't worry. I don't think any of us want to be in the park screaming for the tramp," Regina commented dryly. "I most assuredly don't want Henry doing it."
Emma nodded in agreement. "That makes two of us."
"Actually, while I think about it, I doubly don't want you doing it," Regina stated. It would leave Emma open to many snide remarks, as many people in town had no problem badmouthing their relationship to Emma's face despite the fact that Regina had not bothered a single soul in over a year and had helped solve several problems when Emma requested her input.
"How about we name him Knight? Therefore this Lady has her Knight," Henry said and, of course, the mongrel barked.
Emma groaned. "Why must our dogs names be so cheesy?" she asked with a dramatic sigh.
"Why? What do you want to call him?" Henry asked.
"I dunno, Fido? Butch?" Emma ordered and the mongrel snorted while Henry cringed. "What do you want from me? This is my first time trying to name a pet." She frowned until Regina leaned over and rubbed her thigh.
"How about Hero?" Henry proposed.
Regina loathed to admit that she liked that name, now if only she liked the dog that went with it. But, with his bark and Lady raising her head, Regina gave the name her blessing. Emma caved since it was clearly four against one. Regina wondered if that would be her with this new dog, especially when he came out of nowhere and nuzzled Lady. She had to resist the urge to pull Lady away.
"He's good with her," Emma noted.
"He's already living here. You don't have to sell it any more," Regina pointed out, absently scratching Lady's ears.
Emma only smiled and reached out for Regina this time. With a new dog in the house and Lady pregnant, the family found that sleeping arrangements changed. Suddenly, Lady liked her pet bed and shared it with … Hero. Henry had to adjust because he was used to Lady sleeping in his bed. Regina and Emma also had to adjust because Lady favored the pet bed in their bedroom rather than the one in the study that also held a crate that Lady never used.
Emma did not think it would be a real problem until she tried to do things with Regina in bed. She got away with a few kisses, but when her fingers began to pop open buttons on Regina's pajama shirt, Regina put a stop to everything by grabbing the sheriff's hands and holding them tightly to prevent them from moving. Emma pulled back, needing to see Regina's face.
"What's wrong?" Emma inquired, having never been stopped before.
"I can't. Lady's in here," Regina answered.
"Lady doesn't know what's going on," the blonde pointed out.
"No, but I don't feel comfortable with the dogs in the room. I also don't think it's a good idea as you know Lady will come up here to inspect the noise."
"Dammit," Emma cursed under her breath because Regina was right. The last thing she needed was to be nice and sweaty with a panting Regina underneath her for Lady to suddenly show up, whining and needing Regina's attention. "Dogs are getting locked out tomorrow."
Regina only smiled. Emma had to start experimenting on different things to keep dogs out and then remember to let them back in because Lady would not sleep unless she was on that pet bed. They learned that the hard way after Emma forgot to open the door again at two in the morning. Lady scratched and howled at the bedroom door, waking the whole house out of a dead sleep. Henry had run out into the hallway with a bat in his hand as if they were being robbed. Emma was not much better, emerging with heavy-duty flashlight. Lady and Hero looked at them both as if they were idiots.
"Whose idea was it to have dogs?" Emma groused, waving Henry back into his room and letting the dogs in. From that moment on, she did not forget to open the door after she and Regina had a little privacy.
Lady gave birth to four puppies and, as much as she loved them, Regina refused to have four more puppies for any longer than they needed to keep them. Lady was spayed as soon as possible; Hero had been neutered the second it was decided he was living with them. The family sat down and pondered to whom they would give the puppies.
"Do you think Ruby wants one?" Henry wondered, sitting on the floor with the only puppy that took after its father, also the only boy of the group. Henry was partial to him, mostly because that was the adventurous pup that liked to get into everything. Henry decided that such a courageous pup needed a brave name, so he called the puppy Thor.
Emma snorted. "I doubt Granny would let her have one. I can hear the lecture about the health hazards already. Besides, she's more than likely not going to want a puppy that's probably going to growl at her the whole time they're together. Regina, did you convince Kathryn to take one?"
"She'll be by to pick up Annette tomorrow," Regina confirmed. Kathryn had actually come to Regina a few months ago to congratulate her on her change and somehow a friendship developed … or revived.
Regina had named the other three puppies in the litter, all girls. They were Annette, Collette, and Danielle. Of course, Henry thought those were all boring names because they were normal. His belief seemed to be that pets needed interesting names. Emma still had no talent in naming pets and happily allowed her lover to name the puppies.
Collette was the youngest and smallest of the bunch. She stuck close to Regina, often taking Lady's place in her lap. She snuggled into Regina and enjoyed it when Regina read aloud. Lady did not seem to mind, but she did watch Regina, as if she knew soon she could reclaim her human. Annette and Danielle were slightly more independent and occasionally snuggled with Emma, but Collette was only interested in Regina as far as the humans in the house went.
All of the puppies played with Henry, but his favorite always lasted the longest. Collette was often trampled over because she was the smallest and she would run to Regina minutes into any game. Emma thought it was cute and she worried that Regina, despite saying she did not want to keep any of the puppies because it would be hard to have three dogs, would want to keep Collette.
"I think the nuns might want one. Sister Astrid was asking me about them a lot," Emma reported as Annette busied herself by trying to jump into Emma's lap. This amused the blonde to no end and she would treat the dog if she ever made it up on the sofa. Annette continuously crashed into the sofa cushions.
"We can walk them over to the convent tomorrow and see which one they want," Regina suggested.
The nuns surprised them and took the pup that favored Hero. Henry was heartbroken to part with his favorite puppy, but was glad that he would go to help make people happy. The nuns also hoped that the pup would bring joy to visitors of their church. Henry was welcome to visit him anytime.
The hospital ended up taking Danielle, believing the puppy would help patients convalesce. The family saw evidence of that working before they even exited the building. They were left with one pup.
"What do we do with Collette?" Emma wondered aloud while watching Henry petting the last puppy. They were back home, sitting in the living room.
Lady was shunning Regina for the moment. The ex-mayor suspected her dog was upset that her puppies were gone. Regina could understand that. After all, had she not gone through something similar with Henry? Losing a child, having a broken family, she could definitely understand why Lady would not want to be near her right now. She felt guilty over it, even though it needed to be done and she planned to take Lady to see the puppies often.
"Can't we just keep her?" Henry asked. Apparently, he would be all right with keeping any puppy.
"You getting a job to afford another dog?" the blonde countered. Henry only laughed.
"I think I know who to give Collette to," Regina said suddenly. Thinking about Lady and her broken family made her think of another broken family that could use a bridge.
"Who?" Henry asked.
"Grab her things. You'll see," Regina answered.
Henry looked at Emma, who shrugged. They both gathered the puppy's things and followed Regina to her car. She was sure they were going to think she was crazy. Maybe she was, but that did not stop her from driving.
"You want to give Collette to Grandma and Grandpa?" Henry gasped. His grandparents had recently purchased a house with a big yard and enough rooms for him and Emma to have their own if they ever stayed over. They suspected David and Snow White were planning to grow their family, but the royal couple never said anything about. Regina believed that she was going to have to help Emma prepare for that time.
Regina could only nod. She loved Collette, much like she loved Lady. She wanted the best for the puppy, but she also wanted Collette to be more than a dog, like Lady was. Lady had saved her. Maybe Collette could save a family.
"Do you think they'll take her?" Henry asked.
"One can only hope," Regina replied while Emma just let them in with her key.
"Mom? Dad?" the blonde called out. She had clearly grown close to her parents, even if they did not approve of her relationship.
"Living room," Snow answered.
The Swan-Mills family marched to the living room. Snow and David seemed to be in the middle of putting together a shelf of some kind. They were smiling when they looked up until they noticed Regina.
"Before you throw me out, I am here because I think it's time we mend what we can for Emma and Henry. So, as a show of good faith, I want you to have Lady's last puppy, Collette. Collette is my favorite of Lady's offspring and I believe she has the power to change lives and bring people together, as her mother did. So, I would like to give her to you, Snow and David," Regina explained, having to bite her tongue to avoid calling them out of their names. Archie would be so proud of her.
The royal couple appeared confused. Of course, it was no hard task in bewildering them. Snow White regained her ability to speak first.
"You're giving us a puppy?" Snow White asked incredulously, as if she did not understand.
"Collette is more than a puppy," Regina pointed out and if they did not realize that, she was taking Collette back and never reaching out again.
Snow White and David looked at each other, as if they were telepathic. This would sicken Regina if only she and Emma did not do it constantly. In fact, Henry was convinced they were communicating silently via magic and were conspiring against him. He was wrong, of course, but then again, maybe he was right. Love was the strongest magic, after all.
"Thank you. We'll take her," Snow White declared with a smile.
"Great!" Henry grinned, letting Collette down.
First, she immediately went to Regina, whining as that usually got her picked up. Regina did not move and after several minutes Collette moved on. She slowly walked around the living room, nosing everything that was on her level. She ended up at Snow's feet and whined again. That time, she got picked up and cuddled by Snow White.
"You guys have to tell us how to take care of her," David said as he reached over to pet the puppy. Collette yapped and licked his fingertips.
"All right!" Henry cheered. "I can show you everything you need to know!"
They all sat down and Henry and Emma carried the conversation. Emma held Regina's hand the whole time and that was enough to let Regina know that she had done the right thing. While Regina doubted she would ever be able to do more than tolerate Snow White and David that seemed like more than enough for the two most precious people in her life. And, at least Lady would be able to have one of her pups in the family.
"What you did today was awesome," Emma said as she and Regina settled into bed. She ran her fingers lightly down Regina's bare arm.
"You and Henry both have given me a complete family. You deserve the same," Regina explained.
"No need to thank me. I love you both and want only for your happiness."
Emma smiled. "I love you both, too." She gave Regina a brief, but adoring kiss.
She decided against mentioning that this change in their family would probably benefit Regina as well. Instead, she gathered Regina in her arms and held her as close as possible. She silently reveled in feeling Regina breathe against her skin. She was glad that Regina had found her way out of the darkness and picked her up along the way, so they both could bask in the light.
Thinking of that caused her to glance at Lady, curled up in a corner with Hero. It was amazing how simply finding a dog had changed their lives for the better. She hoped that fortune stood.
I hope you enjoyed the story. I would like to thank everyone who reviewed and fav'ed this story. I appreciate all of the support. It was a huge, but wonderful surprise to find out so many people were reading this. You're all awesome. I'm returning to my padded cell as usual. Hopefully, you guys will be back when I escape again.