Note: This was written for a prompt on Tumblr which was as follows: (Not Established) SwanQueen: Henry's birthday. I published it as such and intended to come up with a different title at some point, but I never did and it just became known as Henry's Birthday.
"Emma, are you sure you don't want to give these to Henry yourself?" Mary Margaret coaxed again as she looked down at the two wrapped packages Emma had placed before her.
"I'm sure." Emma nodded resolutely as she pulled on her red leather jacket. "I - Regina has made it very clear that she doesn't want me anywhere near Henry today and honestly," she looked up into the eyes of her friend, glad to see no condemnation in her gaze, "I don't know if I could really handle it anyway. So if you can just give them to him at the end of the school day, that'd be great."
Mary Margaret opened her mouth to say something else, but closed it upon seeing the look on Emma's face. Although she'd stuck around Storybrooke for Henry and was trying her hand at parenting - limited as her chances were - the blonde still struggled frequently when it came to things that cut a little close to the vest. Henry's birthday was obviously one of those things. So she offered up a small smile and scooped up the two packages, placing them in her school bag.
"And you'll tell him that one is for him and one is for Regina?" Emma asked as she opened the door.
"Of course, Emma," the teacher reassured, still surprised that one of the gifts bore the mayor's name on it. She wanted to question Emma further but also realized that on today of all days, she shouldn't pry.
Mary Margaret called Henry up to her desk at the end of the day as the other students were filing out of the room. Henry wore a confused expression as though worried he was in trouble and Mary Margaret was quick to offer him a smile of reassurance.
"Happy birthday, Henry," she said again. The whole class had wished him a happy birthday and sung for him earlier in the day before happily devouring the cupcakes Regina had sent in as a treat.
"Thanks, Miss Blanchard," Henry smiled back.
Mary Margaret pulled the two packages out of her bag and handed them over to Henry. "Emma wishes you a happy birthday, too."
At the mention of his birth mother's name, Henry's face both lit up and then fell. It was obvious that he wanted to see her for his birthday, but that he was well aware of his mother's demand that she stay away. "These are from her?"
"Yes. She wanted to make sure you got them today. One is for you and one is for your mother."
Henry's nose wrinkled at that. "For my mom? Why would Emma give Mom a present on my birthday?"
"I don't really know, Henry. All I know is that Emma asked me to give them both to you."
Henry eyed the packages and then smiled at Mary Margaret once again. "Thanks, Miss Blanchard!" He called as he raced off.
He wanted to open his present now, but he knew Regina wouldn't approve - if she approved of the gifts at all. So he headed for the car, planning to beg, plead, and cry if needed.
Regina was standing outside the school yard, leaning against her black Mercedes, watching for Henry. When he finally emerged from the building, her eyes caught on the presents in his hands and her mind floated back to the call she'd received earlier in the day.
"Madam Mayor?" Emma's voice had sounded hesitant, even over those two words.
"Miss Swan, what can I do for you?"
"I - well, I just wanted to let you know that I asked Mary Margaret to give Henry two packages from me today and -"
"Miss Swan, your presents are not necessary." She had snapped and heard the shaky intake of breath on the other end of the line.
"I know that." It sounded almost like the blonde was crying. "I know and I - I know it's not going to change anything or make up for anything but I just - I just want him to have it. Please."
It was the first time Emma had ever said that word to her, and something about the way she said it had make Regina's chest ache. "Fine."
"Thank you." She had whispered. "And um, about the gifts - one of them is for Henry and one of them is for you."
That had given Regina pause. "For me?"
"Yeah. Just um - just as a token of my - I mean - I just thought you might like to have it." Emma stumbled over the words and before Regina could reply quickly ended the call. "Goodbye, Madam Mayor."
She was shaken out of her reverie by Henry stopping in front of her. She offered him a wide smile. "Happy birthday!"
"Thanks," he replied softly, his fingers tapping against the paper of the package he clutched.
"And what are those?" She asked, wondering if Henry would tell her the truth.
He chewed on his lip for a moment before he looked up at her. "They're gifts from Emma. One for me and one for you. I didn't see her - she gave them to Miss Blanchard to give to me. Can I please open mine?"
Regina inclined her head. "As soon as we get home, you may."
Henry's eyes widened a bit at her response, but he quickly hopped in the car, not willing to chance her changing her mind.
As soon as the front door opened, Henry rushed for the stairs, only to be stopped by Regina's voice. "Into the living room, Henry. I'd like to see what it is that Miss Swan got you."
Henry's shoulders slumped just a bit, but he quickly changed directions and practically dove on the couch. He dropped the present with Regina's name post-it noted on it to the couch, and began to pull the paper off his own gift.
Regina watched him as she settled down beside him, picking up her own package. When the paper was cleared away, it revealed a small white box that Henry quickly pulled the lid off of, only to stop suddenly at the sight of the contents.
"What is it, Henry?" Regina asked, leaning over and wondering what Emma could have possibly gotten Henry that would cause that reaction.
"It's a picture," the little boy breathed, gently removing the picture frame from the box, "of us."
Inside the simple black frame, Regina could see a worn and faded photograph that showed the wrinkles of time and had a few splotches on it that could easily be accounted for by tears. But it wasn't the quality of the photograph that had Henry - and if she admitted it, herself - captivated. It was the image of a much younger Emma, holding a tiny baby Henry against her chest.
Regina could see that the young woman was holding him with one arm only, the other obscured by a blanket, but - she was certain - handcuffed to the hospital bed. She remembered the look on Emma's face when she'd taunted her about Henry being born in prison, and suddenly she felt ashamed for her words. The girl in the photograph - for that's truly what she was - was obviously frightened and alone, unsure of the world around her. But she was gazing down at the tiny baby with a look so full of love and fear that it pierced Regina.
Henry wouldn't see it, wouldn't understand it the way she did. All that he saw was a photo of him with his mother the day he was born, her looking down at him with a small smile on her lips. But Regina could see all of it and understood it in ways Henry never would, even when he was older. Emma said she'd given Henry up to give him his best chance, and for the first time, Regina understood that she'd been telling the truth.
"What did you get?" Henry's voice cut through Regina's thoughts and she jumped just slightly.
"Oh, I -" Regina looked down to the box in her lap. "I don't know."
"Well, open it!" Henry pushed, wanting to see what it was that his birth mother could've possibly given his adoptive mother.
Carefully Regina pulled the paper away, revealing a white box almost identical to Henry's own. When she lifted the lid of it, she felt her breath suddenly leave her body.
"What is it?" Henry demanded, leaning over to look at the contents, just like Regina had with him.
"It's pictures," Regina said quietly, lifting them out of the box gently, "of you."
Henry glanced at them and frowned just a bit. "Those aren't pictures of me. They're just black and white blobs."
"No," Regina whispered reverently as she flipped through the images, "they're you, before you were born. These are your ultrasound pictures."
They were worn and faded, just as the picture in Henry's frame had been, but there was no mistaking what they were. Regina's eyes took them in hungrily, amazed at the images of her son before he'd been born and even more amazed that they were hers now.
"There's more stuff in here." Henry said, looking down at the box, where two more items lay. "Look."
Regina tore her eyes away from the ultrasound pictures to find herself staring at a card that had two tiny handprints and two tiny footprints on it. Typed at the bottom were the words 'Baby Boy Swan', although Regina could see that the word Swan had been crossed off and the word Mills written above it in Emma's handwriting.
"Are those mine?" Henry asked, his fingers brushing over the ink stained paper.
"Yes," Regina murmured, "from the day you were born."
Regina nodded, but found that a lump had taken up residence in her throat that made it impossible for her to speak. When she'd adopted Henry, she'd gotten copies of all the legal papers, including the change in his birth certificate, but none of the personal, sentimental things like this. She'd assumed that they were long lost and now to have them in front of her - being given to her by Emma - she felt emotion overwhelm her.
"What's this?" Henry pulled an envelope out of the box. It was sealed, but wasn't addressed to anyone. It was beginning to yellow around the edges.
Regina took it from him, turning it over in her hands after placing the ultrasound pictures back in the box. Carefully, she slipped a fingernail under the flap and sliced the envelope open. Inside was a letter, written on paper with a prison letterhead.
Regina unfolded the letter and read the first line - To the mother of my child - before she closed it.
"What is it?" Henry pressed, but Regina shook her head.
"Nothing. Take your present upstairs and wash up for dinner, Henry." She told him, keeping her voice from wavering.
"Mom -" he started to protest but Regina shook her head.
She watched as he got up, carrying the box with the picture frame with him. "Henry," she called out to him, "you may put your gift from Miss - Emma on your nightstand if you wish."
Henry's eyes widened, not only at his mother's use of Emma's first name, but at the concession that he'd never imagined she'd make. "Thanks, Mom," he said before quickly running up the stairs, again not wanting to tempt her to change her mind.
Once he was gone, Regina unfolded the letter again with slightly shaking hands. It was rather short and the ink was smudged in some places - more tears, Regina thought and wondered just how much Emma had cried and agonized over this decision - but Regina recognized the shaky scrawl as Emma's own, although written with a much younger hand.
To the mother of my child,
What do you say to the woman who is choosing to raise and love your child when you yourself are choosing to give him up? I've been wondering that from the moment I decided to give him up and I still haven't come up with an answer.
I guess what I want to say, more than anything else, and as cliché as it may be, is thank you. I don't know who you are or what your situation is, but I truly believe that you will love and care for my son in a way that I would never be able to. I want him to have his best chance at life, to grow up in a warm and loving environment, to never know what it's like to be hungry or scared or alone. I want him to know what it's like to be loved, to be tucked in at night, to be sung to and held. I pray that you will do all of those things, that you will love him with everything you have, that you will make him your son in every way.
I may not see him take his first steps or ever hear him call me 'Mommy', but I take comfort in the fact that you will.
Know that I am forever grateful to you for being the mother of my child.
The letter was unsigned - probably to keep in regulation with the closed adoption - but Regina could see the ghost of Emma's signature on the page and could feel it in every word.
Henry bounded back down the stairs, changed out of his school clothes and ready for dinner. "Is it time for dinner now, Mom?"
Regina glanced up at him, studying his face. "Not quite, Henry. I still need to finish up dessert and we need to wait on one other person to arrive."
Henry's brow furrowed. "Who?"
Regina offered him a small smile, the letter still clutched in her hand. "Emma."
Henry's eyes widened and he started at his mother in disbelief. "Really?"
Regina nodded. "I'm just getting ready to give her a call and invite her."
The box with the pictures and handprint card fell to the ground as Henry nearly tackled Regina with the force of his hug. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Regina smiled again. "You're welcome, Henry. Now go play for a while, okay? I'll call you when Emma arrives."
Henry scampered off as Regina pulled out her cell phone.
"Hello?" Emma answered on the second ring.
"Madam Mayor." She sounded suddenly nervous. "Did Henry - I mean, did you - what can I do for you?"
"I was calling," Regina cleared her throat, "to thank you for the very… thoughtful gifts."
"You're welcome." The reply was so quiet, Regina wondered if she'd just imagined it.
"And to ask you if you would like to join Henry and I for his birthday dinner?"
"I - wait, what?"
Regina smiled just a little at that. "Would you like to come over and have dinner with Henry and I tonight? I'm making his favorite meal and there will be cake afterwards."
There was silence for a long time and Regina wondered if the call had somehow been dropped. "Emma?"
She heard the blonde's intake of breath at her name, and then the emotion that filled her voice. "I - yes. I would love to, Regina. I - thank you."
"Dinner should be ready in half an hour."
"I'll be there." Emma promised, sounding both scared and excited by the prospect.
"We'll see you then." Regina said, ending the call.
She looked down at the box, filled with the mementos of a day eleven years ago that had set her, Henry, and Emma on a path to this very moment and smiled just a bit. Emma had given her Henry eleven years ago and had symbolically done so again today. Regina hadn't been able to thank her then, but tonight she could and would.
She would deal with the rest of their tempestuous relationship later. For now, they would celebrate the birth of the little boy that they both loved.