Tinkerbell was less than impressed to discover that none of them had come to Neverland with a plan to get back. In their defense, however, they had all been in a hurry to rescue Henry before something terrible happened to him.
She'd actually threatened a mutiny before Rumple had produced a magic compass he'd found in Pan's pocket before Regina had poofed them on board the Jolly Roger. It had been amusing to watch them squabble, Regina thought, mostly because she wasn't actually involved. She'd kept herself out of the conversation, and though she expected she'd receive a few comments from Tink later, she enjoyed watching her chew out the rest of the inhabitants of the ship.
They arrived back in Storybrooke unscathed, luckily, and a crowd was waiting to meet them by the time they reached the dock. Henry, who had been uncharacteristically subdued since they'd rescued him, brightened at the sight of everyone, especially Ruby who was waiting like a lapdog at the front of the crowd.
She was one of them few people that had happily welcomed Regina back – or even acknowledged her at all, most of them ignored her existence – and Regina had actually gave her a genuine smile in thanks. Apparently, she'd taken it upon herself to fill Emma's shoes as acting sheriff in their absence, and she told Regina that Belle had taken over the mayor's job. Regina made a mental note to thank Miss French when she found a moment to.
Regina could only take so long being actively ignored by the majority of the town, so a few minutes after Ruby moved to talk to Snow and Charming, Regina turned and slipped away without anyone noticing.
She hadn't been as subtle as she thought, though, because she only made it around the corner before she heard footsteps and turned back to see Henry hurrying after her.
"Hey!" he called, and she stopped walking to wait on him. She was surprised he'd come after her, considering the rest of his family was still at the docks. "Are you going home?" he asked, and the eagerness on his face was enough to kill whatever bitterness she was feeling.
"Yes, I am," she said, and without another word, he closed the distance between them and grabbed her hand again.
Her shock must have showed on her face because Henry grinned widely up at her before walking and tugging at her hand. "C'mon!" he chirped. He pulled her down the street, and she couldn't help but smile at his enthusiasm.
She'd seen him start to become antsy under all the attention at the docks, and she'd worried that Neverland might have had more long-term effects on them than they had initially suspected but he seemed perfectly ordinary now, if a lot more friendlier to her than he'd been in over a year – the reminder of how long it had been felt like someone was squeezing her heart, a feeling she unfortunately knew all too well.
She squeezed his hand as they turned the corner onto Main Street, and he stepped closer so that he was almost walking on her toes. She didn't mind though; it had been way too long since he'd been like this with her.
There was a knock on the front door over an hour later, and Regina paused in her scouring of her kitchen for any food that wasn't expired to answer it. She really shouldn't have been surprised with who she found on the other side, but her low expectations meant she was.
Emma scowled at her. "If you call me that again, I'm going to set your hair on fire." There was a pause, then Emma added, "Because I can do that now."
Regina couldn't help the small smile that broke through, and she stepped back without another word to let Emma pass. She did so with an impossibly large grin, and Henry flung himself at her when he saw her, almost sending the containers in her hands flying.
"Hey, kid," she said, ruffling his hair affectionately.
As the two of them disappeared into the kitchen, Regina turned to shut the door only to stop when she saw Tinkerbell standing on her doorstep looking sheepish. Regina suspected she'd be asked not far in the future if she had a spare bedroom that could be used, and she also suspected she'd be saying yes.
She shut the door behind Tinkerbell and followed them into the kitchen where Henry was peeking inside all of the containers to see what was inside. As she passed him, she nudged him to go set them on the table, and he scurried off with the plates of food stacked in his hands.
"There's an empty guest room across the hall from my bedroom," she told Tinkerbell as she passed, and Tink smiled gratefully at her.
Almost two hours later, Henry was curled at the end of the living room couch fast asleep. Next to him, Emma was nursing her second cup of hot chocolate with a drowsy expression, and if she wasn't careful, she'd fall asleep with her face in the mug.
"I believe it's the children's bed time," Regina said amusedly as Emma began leaning forward only to jerk upright and attempt to act like she hadn't almost fallen asleep sitting up.
"I'm awake," Emma slurred, and Tink snickered into her own hot chocolate.
Regina stood up and crossed to take the mug from Emma before she spilled it all over the couch and herself and likely their son depending on which direction she tilted. Initially, Emma protested, but after Regina gave her a pointed look, she loosened her grip and allowed Regina to take the mug from her.
When she returned from the kitchen, Emma had Henry cradled in her arms and was heading for the staircase. Regina considered following them, but as she watched Emma disappear into Henry's room, she motioned at Tink to follow her instead.
Tinkerbell was extremely grateful to Regina for letting her stay, and by the time Regina left her to sleep and kissed her sleeping son on the forehead, Emma had already pulled on her jacket – that horrible red leather one – and was lingering by the front door, looking more awake than she had but still rather drowsy.
"You're going to wind up in a ditch," Regina said as Emma listed sideways briefly before she righted herself. "How many hours of sleep have you gotten in the last week?"
"Not enough," Emma mumbled in reply, and Regina sighed and wondered how this woman had managed to survive to adulthood. "Hey, Regina, what's the deal with the tattoo?"
The question seemed to come out of nowhere, but when Regina cut her eyes at Emma, her curious expression made her think that Emma had been sitting on this since she'd overheard them talking while she was supposed to be asleep.
So Regina sighed and set her hands on her hips, wondering how best to explain how something that had happened before Emma was even a thought had apparently affected her life. Even before she'd been born, she'd still been connected to Regina.
Finally, she just sighed again and turned to head back to the living room, "Come with me. I'm going to need some alcohol to tell this story."
Telling the story was as difficult as Regina had expected, and by the time she was done, Emma was staring off into space with a frown on her face.
"So," Emma finally said after several minutes of complete silence between them, "you're not actually sure I'm your soul mate."
Regina cleared her throat and looked away, even though Emma made no motion to look up from the floor. "Magic can be very uncertain," she replied slowly, weighing every one of her words before she spoke. "It is possible that I was mistaken in drawing this conclusion."
"But you don't think you are," Emma added, and Regina shook her head stiffly.
"I never met the man; I have no idea who he is. He might not even be in Storybrooke. And anyway, I stopped trusting in magic long ago; it always lies."
Emma sighed and reached up to rub a hand over her face. "I totally get that. I've seen the Disney versions, and things don't always go as planned in those, either."
At the mention of the ridiculous children's versions of their lives, Regina rolled her eyes and resisted the urge to scoff. She'd seem some of those versions over the years, and they were so completely off she'd barely been able to stomach them.
"So what do we do?"
Regina's eyes finally snapped to Emma to see her watching her with an expression she couldn't quite decipher. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you and Tink both seem to think we're soul mates, so what are we going to do?"
"Who says we have to do anything?" Regina snapped, getting to her feet and quickly striding to the door to the kitchen without a backward glance. She heard Emma sigh and start to follow her, but she ignored her and began rinsing out her wine glass.
Emma's footsteps stopped, and Regina could feel her standing behind her and tensed preemptively, waiting for Emma's inevitable questions. They didn't come though, and after a minute, she heard Emma slowly step closer.
"I told you the truth back in Neverland, Regina," she said quietly. "If this is about you worrying you're going to ruin my life again, you're not. I mean, my parents and Henry expect me to still be in love with Neal and become a happy family together, and Hook's not exactly being subtle."
"So I'm your last choice?" Regina spat bitterly, and Emma sighed.
"That's not what I said, so just let me finish," Emma said firmly. "Relationships aren't really my thing; hell, I chased people across the country for ten years because I didn't feel comfortable staying in one place for too long. And I don't love Neal anymore, no matter what everybody else seems to assume. He's Henry's father, that's all."
Regina felt a hesitant hand on her shoulder, and she grudgingly turned to face Emma, who was watching her closely. "So what point are you trying to make?" she eventually asked after Emma's arm had fallen back to her side.
"That you can't ruin something that's already broken, and if you really think I'm your soul mate then," she shrugged awkwardly, "okay."
"Okay?" Regina echoed blankly, her brain struggling to comprehend Emma's words. It was like it had been cemented in the last few minutes, and her thoughts were being blocked from forming.
"Okay as in you're a hell of a lot better choice than anyone else that's interested in me."
Emma gave her a crooked smile and it was a sign of how far they'd come that she just rolled her eyes when Regina made an incredible recovery and asked loftily, "Well, who ever said I was interested in you, dear?"
The corners of Emma's lips quirked up at the final word. "I've missed that," she said, and then Regina felt all the previous tension seep out of her body as Emma leaned forward and pressed their lips together.
The look on confusion on Henry's face was completely understandable when he wandered into the kitchen in the morning. "Why is Emma on the couch?" he asked as he hopped up on a stool at the island, and Regina found it remarkable that he only sounded half as confused as he looked.
"She was asleep on her feet last night, and the last thing we needed was a trip to the emergency room because she fell asleep at the wheel," Regina replied easily as she slid a plate of eggs across the counter to Henry, who began to eagerly devour them.
"Oh," he said between mouthfuls like it wasn't a big deal. "I thought it was because she kissed you."
Regina almost dropped a full cup of chocolate milk in her surprise; Henry didn't look up from his breakfast but seemed to realize he'd said something wrong and began stuffing large amounts of egg into his mouth so he had an excuse to not talk.
"Where did that come from?" Regina asked evenly, setting Henry's drink in front of him and leaning against the counter.
He didn't look up, but he swallowed his mouthful of egg and mumbled, "I got thirsty."
Of course. She couldn't have a serious conversation with anyone these days without someone overhearing.
She stifled her irritation, however, and watched her son eat as she debated on what to tell him. As it was, she couldn't just outright lie to him, but she didn't exactly know what her relationship was with Emma right now and she didn't want to tell him the wrong thing and then have to fix things later.
"We came to an understanding," she finally decided on, and Henry gave her a look like she'd just said the sky wasn't blue.
"By talking," she corrected, then added at Henry's raised eyebrow – no surprise where he'd gotten that from, "And a kiss."
He looked triumphant at being proven right and returned to his eating with renewed vigor, and she watched him in amusement for a minute before she moved to pour herself a cup of coffee.
"So you're okay with this?" she asked cautiously, and he frowned at her with genuine confusion.
"Should I not be?" He continued before Regina could say anything, picking at the remainder of his breakfast as he spoke. "I mean, I know you two haven't always gotten along in the past, but you seem to now, so." He shrugged and shoved the last of his egg into his mouth.
She watched as he hopped down from his stool and slipped past her to where more eggs were sitting next to the stove, smiling. He'd taken the news far better than she had expected; she could only hope everyone else would take it just as well, though the odds were definitely against them.
Just as Henry had sat back down, Emma wandered in looking rather lost, lured in, Regina expected, by the smell of food. Sure enough, she shuffled over to where the food was and began piling a plate high with it without a word.
Henry, however, didn't seem to be bothered by her silence in the slightest. "Morning, Emma!" he chirped with a grin, and Emma mumbled something under her breath and sank onto the nearest stool and began shoveling food into her mouth.
While they'd been on their rescue mission, Regina had learned first-hand that Emma Swan was most definitely not a morning person. If it was possible, the two of them were even more volatile when Emma hadn't been awake long; it was amazing they hadn't blown up the Jolly Roger the first morning after leaving Storybrooke.
"So I saw you and Mom kissing last night," Henry said without preamble, and Emma choked on her food and scrambled for a drink, which Regina helpfully handed to her. If she hadn't been so concerned about what Emma's reaction would be, Regina might have been amused.
"There's this thing called tact, kid," Emma manages after she's drained the entire cup of coffee. "I'm sure your mom taught you at some point."
Henry shrugged, and Regina made a mental note to inform Emma that she had taught her son tact, but he seemed to be inclined to not use it, a trait he had no doubt picked up from his birth mother.
Emma glanced helplessly at Regina, who just stared back and sipped at her own coffee, eager to see how Emma would respond to this. She'd already been through the same thing this morning; now it was Emma's turn to be put on the spot.
With the realization that she was on her own, Emma turned back to Henry, who was looking at her expectantly as well. She cleared her throat, opened her mouth, shut it, was still for a moment, and then opened her mouth again, but all that came out was a strangled sound like an animal being stepped on.
"I think I broke her," Henry said earnestly, and Regina had to quash the urge to smirk when he turned to her, looking genuinely concerned.
"She's fine," Regina simply said, and Emma turned a betrayed look on her to which she returned a faux-sweet smile.
"Traitor," Emma mumbled darkly into her plate, and Henry giggled in what Regina suspected was mostly relief that she was still okay. "What am I supposed to say to that?" she muttered, reaching up and rubbing at her forehead.
She looked so torn that Regina decided to have mercy on her, but before she could, Tinkerbell entered the room and distracted Henry from pestering his birth mother. Henry had been almost smitten with her since first meeting her and realizing who she was, and Emma took advantage of his distraction to turn a glare on Regina.
"Relax," Regina said, returning Emma's glare with a smirk. "I've already spoken with him about it. He's just teasing you."
"Jerk," Emma mumbled, sounding remarkably like a petulant child, which was an apt comparison, Regina thought as she watched Emma push out her lip and pout at her like Henry had when he was younger – and did even now when he thought he could convince her.
With Henry, pouting sometimes worked for what he wanted it to, but it didn't quite have the same effect with Emma. She scowled when Regina simply gave her a wicked smirk in reply and sipped at her coffee, and she turned back to her breakfast and stabbed at it moodily.
"I think Henry had a nightmare last night," Tinkerbell said when Emma and Henry had left to visit Snow and Charming. Regina froze and turned to Tinkerbell, who grimaced and traced a finger around the rim of her cup as she spoke. "I thought I heard him moving around in his room very early this morning, and when I got up to check, there was a light on in his room."
"And you think he had a nightmare, and that was why he was awake?"
Tink nodded. "I wouldn't doubt it. From what we've managed to get out of him, he's been through enough to cause them. I can't imagine what Pan put him through." She shuddered, and Regina felt sympathetic at the sight of the haunted look in Tinkerbell's eyes.
She knew all too well the pain of not being able to sleep without being haunted by the past. Her own nightmares had only gotten worse after the curse had broken, as if it had stifled the effects of her past while it was active. She'd had more than a few sleepless nights immediately after the curse breaking.
"I'll talk to him about it," she said quietly, and Tinkerbell set a hand on top of hers.
When the two of them got home and after informing Emma of the situation, Regina cautiously approached her son, who shifted under her gaze and skirted the subject for a few minutes before finally giving in and telling her that despite him sleeping without problem on the Jolly Roger, he had been woken by a nightmare he had barely remembered after waking.
Her heart had broken at how small he'd sounded, and she'd hugged him so hard she was surprised he hadn't complained at being squeezed too tightly. He'd just let her and had curled against her and buried his face in her neck.
Emma had been upset to hear the news but said she had expected it. With everything Henry had been through, she would have been surprised if he hadn't had nightmares.
"So what do we do?" Emma asked tiredly, her arm wrapped around Regina's waist and Regina's head tipped onto her shoulder.
Regina sighed and tilted her head to press a kiss to Emma's shoulder. "What we should have done all along," she finally replied quietly. "We be there for him and comfort him when he needs it."
"And what about us?" Emma added after a pause, and Regina could feel her tense slightly where she was leaned against her.
For a long minute, Regina was silent, turning her thoughts over in her mind and trying to find the best plan of action. After a moment, she just sighed again and reached over to take Emma's hand and slide her fingers between Emma's.
"One day at a time," she finally whispered, and Emma squeezed her hand in reply.
Thanks to everyone who followed, favorited, or reviewed and especially to those who pushed me to continue this! I'm horrible about finishing things, so I'm going to leave this story here at a place where we're all (hopefully) happy.
I sincerely hope you all enjoyed, and maybe I'll see you guys again.