Regina knocked on the apartment door and stepped back nervously, bouncing on her heels. When the door didn't open immediately, she knocked again impatiently. It suddenly occurred to her that Emma might not be home, or that she might have the wrong apartment. She hadn't come all this way only to be dissuaded by an apartment number.
When the door finally swung open Regina couldn't hold back a relieved smile. It was Emma, at long last. Regina was glad to see that she looked happy, healthy.
"Emma." The name was as much an exhalation as a statement, letting go of a breath she'd been holding since that moment at the town line one long year ago.
"Uh, yes?" Confusion was evident on Emma's face, but Regina could tell that Emma was less guarded when her memories of the last twelve years were of Henry and not of bail-skippers and dragons. She knew from experience the healing effect the love of a son could have.
"May I come in?" Regina tried to ignore her embarrassment at showing up early enough in the morning that Emma was still in pajamas, but this was kind of important.
"Do I know you?"
Regina saw confusion morph into irritation in Emma's expression, so she decided to skip to the point.
"Listen, something terrible has happened and we need your help. Your family is in trouble."
Emma gestured behind her. "My family is right here."
Regina's eyes softened. "Henry's here?"
Emma tried to stop her as she pushed her way into the apartment, but now that Regina had confirmation that her son was really here, feet away, nothing would stop her from seeing him.
Henry turned around, mouth full of pancake, as he heard footsteps in the hall. "Mom, who was at the door?"
Regina's eyes shone with happy tears as she grinned at her son. "Henry. You're okay, you're safe. Are you happy?"
"Mom, who is this?" Henry stood up, looking between Emma and Regina.
"No idea, she just… Do you know her? She seems familiar, like someone I've seen before, but I can't place her."
Excitement swelled in Regina, with a fair helping of hope. If Emma recognized her, convincing her of who she was may not be as much of a problem as she thought.
"We've met, but you probably don't remember. Do you remember a town called Storybrooke?"
"You know, I think I had a dream once where I crashed my car into a sign that said 'Welcome to Storybrooke'. I have these dreams sometimes, really weird ones, after we watch Disney movies too close to bedtime. It's strange…" Emma paused. "Wait, why am I telling you this? How did you know about Storybrooke? I couldn't find it on any map. Who are you?"
"An old friend, sort of. My name is Regina," she smiled ruefully. "though you've really been the only one who saw me as such. I am, well was, the mayor of Storybrooke."
"But it doesn't exist," Henry piped up. "She googles it like once a week."
"It does! Well, it did. But you two do know me, and I know you!" Regina pointed to Henry's mug. "that will be hot chocolate with cinnamon. And you're going to eat your pancake first, without syrup, and then put the syrup on the eggs. And you're mildly lactose intolerant but you always seem to eat dairy anyway, and when you sneeze you always sneeze three times, and when you have a cold or the flu or something you always crave chocolate pudding."
"How do you know that? Have you been watching us?" Emma looked somewhat startled and moved to stand between Regina and Henry.
"I know you too. You're incredibly stubborn. You like bearclaws and have a ridiculously high metabolism. You have a penchant for silly hats and you have a favorite red leather jacket."
Regina stepped closer to Emma and her voice level dropped. "You were found on the side of a road in Maine as an infant, in a blanket that said 'Emma'. You bounced around the foster system until you left, and then you bounced around the country. You were a petty thief, as was Henry's father. You two travelled around in that beat-up Bug of yours until you were arrested. You gave birth to Henry in jail."
Emma stepped closer to Regina, now more than a little pissed off. "How the hell do you know all that?"
"Henry said you have a superpower. You can tell when people are lying. Just hear me out and see if I'm lying." Regina searched Emma's expression, somewhat panicked that this wasn't going as planned.
Regina took Emma's prolonged silence as an invitation to continue. "I'm Henry's mother, and I need your help to save your parents because you're the Savior."
Emma stared hard at Regina, confusion written all over her face.
"She's telling the truth, isn't she? You're not saying anything, which means she isn't lying. How is that possible?" Henry turned to Regina. "How can you be my mother? Did you use to be a man, are you the one who got my mom pregnant?"
"Henry!" Emma admonished. She eyed Regina. "Just because you believe what you're saying doesn't make it true. I need you to leave, my son needs to get ready for school."
"I'll go, I just…" Regina reached into her oversized bag, smiling at Henry. "I found your book."
Henry took it without saying anything, but he immediately opened it up next to his plate and began reading as he finished his pancake.
Emma followed Regina to the door. Regina went quietly, until Emma was about to close the door behind her.
Emma closed the door and locked it, returning to the table.
"Mom, I don't have to go to school today. It's Saturday."
"Yeah, and I'm glad she didn't realize that. Let me see that." She leaned over Henry to see the oversized book, leafing quickly through the pages. What she found on the inside of the front cover, scrawled in her son's handwriting, gave her pause.