Author's Note: So I'd been toying with an idea for another fic and then this mid-season finale came and that fic has become this glorious beast. Enjoy! I hope. And as always, feedback is excepted with open arms and squeals of delight.
She sipped her coffee-so hot as to scald and roasted just past burning and brimming with artificial cream-and watched his reaction to what she'd outlined.
"It's a terrible plan."
She raised one eyebrow and tried not to look amused. "And you getting kneed in the groin was a good plan?"
He shifted uncomfortably, the ice on his groin rattling loudly. "It wasn't supposed to end up that way."
"No. Of course not. She was supposed to go doe eyed over the strange man kissing her good morning."
"You pretending to be Henry's teacher isn't much better. What happens when you kidnap her son?"
"Nothing because I'm not going to kidnap my son. I'm going to just…connect with him."
He didn't believe her and looked as skeptic as everyone else had when she'd announced her plan to return.
"Really," she insisted.
Finally he shrugged, "I suppose it did work before."
Before being Emma and Henry forging a connection over a book and finding proof in an ill-timed apple turnover.
"And it will work again. I'm his mother."
"And I was her…"
"Whatever. Don't compare them. Ten years trumps half a month of stupid looks any day."
He fiddled with his ice and grimaced again. "Fine. But first thing's first. What say we get out of these conspicuous clothes? People are staring."
"Because you're icing your crotch.
"Or because your dress is cut so low I can nearly see areola."
True. Her numerous petticoats, mile high hair and excellent eye makeup and his eye liner and in-serious-need-of-a-dry-cleaners coat were a little conspicious.
"Fine." She stood and helped him to his feet, enjoying his loud groan of pain.
Then they bolted out on the check as neither of them had any of the currency necessary for the two stacks of pancakes, eggs, juice and coffee they'd just imbibed. Regina hiked up her skirts and Hook ran bow legged and both of them silently agreed with a near telepathic look to never discuss the image they'd presented to the world ever again.
Then they robbed a Macy's.
"What's the matter kid?"
Henry wasn't surly-because her son was never surly. But he was definitely thoughtful and staring back at the school.
"We got a new teacher today."
She raised an eyebrow. "Not the teacher's pet anymore?"
He rolled his eyes. "No, that's not it." He'd always be the teacher's pet. She had no idea where he got it from. "She's just…I don't know." He frowned.
"Scary," she prodded, "Creepy?"
"No." And he didn't elaborate on what she actually was, just kept looking out the bug's window at the school entrance.
Emma looked over his head and tried to spy the teacher that was making her son so-so pensive.
"Which one is she," she stage whispered. She was close enough that they were cheek to cheek. He was getting old enough to hate it when she did it-but not old enough to tell her no.
Henry pressed his finger into the glass. "There," he said. "In the expensive coat."
And she saw her.
Her back was to them and her arms crossed as she talked to two other teachers. Wind racing down the narrow street caught in her dark hair and she raised a hand to tuck it back behind her ear. Then she turned and Emma got her first full look of the woman in her slate gray coat and long slacks and too high high heels. Too sleek and clean cut, and the coat alone must have been worth-
"That's your new teacher?"
"Doesn't dress like any of my teachers ever did." Ever.
"She's a writer or something. I think she's just here for the semester. She's really good at teaching."
And her kid's school was really too fancy. Hiring professional writers to teach middle school English? If the place didn't have a reputation for getting kids into Ivy Leagues she never would have even had him there.
The teacher seemed to realize she was being stared at because one moment Emma was studying the woman and wondering what the hell kind of writer took that kind of job and the next she was looking into dark eyes that reflected the low hanging sun like polished stone.
She didn't even realize she'd sighed until Henry turned around to look at her.
Emma couldn't put a finger on what was going on inside of her. It wasn't terror. And it wasn't happiness. It was complicated and it ached and felt good and whatever else it was it was feelings. Raw and potent.
The teacher's eyes seemed to water and then she blinked and the unshed tears were gone and she was smiling incadescently.
Maybe at her and Henry. Maybe at nothing.
Emma blindly reached for the stick to shift the car into gear and the whole Bug leapt forward as it went into first.
She chanced a glance back in the rearview as they drove away. The woman's gloved hand was up to her temple, holding her hair at bay so it would get in her face while she stared after them looking…
Maybe like she had the same gamut of stuff exploding inside of her. Emma rounded the corner and pushed it from her head.
"You want to do chicken tonight?"
"No sir. I feel the need to bake."
Henry agreed and Emma started planning a dinner. Something a little too extravagant for a Monday night and perfect for pushing away thoughts of sleek teachers with shining eyes and smiles that could leave a person breathless.
"I saw them."
She kicked her shoes off and slumped into the other chair in their underfurnished kitchen.
"Both of them?"
She groaned as all the blood rushed back into her toes. Heels that high would not be worn in the future while teaching. She didn't have Mary Margaret's gigantic peasant feet to handling the standing all day.
"Yes. Henry during class and Emma afterwards. She picks him up from school-though what she's doing driving in a city with the finest public transportation known to man is beyond me-"
"Hey! Details-not another rant about that beast underground."
Of course. She nodded. "Henry is a straight A student and very serious but prone to daydreaming. His mother is single, a well-paid private detective and…"
"And they're happy Hook. They're both happy." They'd looked like a family watching her from their car. A small and content and cohesive unit.
Hook grimaced. "And here we are out to destroy that happiness."
It was a lance of pain straight through Regina's middle. "If they knew they'd help," she countered. She sounded far, far more sure then she'd ever feel about the matter.
He sighed and pushed back from the table. "Aye, and if they knew I wouldn't be working on this bloody book." He waved with his hook down at the paper and pens she'd purchased for him with the advance from her first paycheck.
The idea was…the idea was to give Henry a book. A storybook that told him the truth with fairytales and pictures and provided answers for a longing she could only hope he felt.
It had worked before and Regina had hoped that it would work again. She'd present him with the book and he'd see the life he and Emma had once lived and it would all click.
They could be a family and they could deal with what waited for them beyond magic barriers and all would be well.
But there were problems.
One. Regina's original spell may have made Henry too happy. She'd never planned to come back and had built no backdoor because it would have been a cruel and senseless thing to do. Her son had a quick smile now and a jocularity with his many friends that he'd never had when she'd been his sole parent.
Two. Regina wasn't the best writer to ever put pen to paper and the narrative flow was off.
Most importantly. Three. Hook was a miserable artist.
"I've seen the portraits of Emma you've got all over your stupid ship. How is this that difficult?"
"You asked me to draw the final moments of the last curse. That was just a-" he waved his hand around- "cloud. How the hell am I supposed to illustrate that?"
"I don't know-show us watching them from the cloud?"
He quickly sketched something into the blob she took for a cloud.
"Not yourself. Henry barely knows you."
"Emma knows me."
"Her knee knows your groin. That's different."
"Maybe if I had some prose to go off of that wasn't so bloody purple. You're trying to make the boy's memories click, not put him to sleep."
"What's wrong with what I wrote?"
"There's more adjectives then sentence."
"I'm describing what happen."
"Wonder you ever get anything done if your head has to go through that many words just to form a bloody-"
She thumped him.
"Very mature your majesty."
"Oh whatever. Draw me. Or us. Or Mary Margaret and David for all I care! Just something that will click for Henry. I'm going to the store to by groceries."
"You only just got back."
"And if I have to listen to your copyediting I'll murder someone." She slipped a pair of tennis shoes on that clashed terribly with her pants but felt wonderful. "You want anything in particular for dinner?"
"A writing partner with talent?"
Sure. Oreos. She did a double take at his hopeful expression. "Really?"
"I like the creme in the middle." He illustrated with his hook, spinning it in a little circle.
The woman at the other end of the aisle was putting a lot of reduced fat Oreos in her cart. Enough that Emma opened her mouth to make a crack about the gym just because you didn't buy that many packages of the crappy Oreos without a story.
Then she saw her face.
It was Henry's new teacher, her face screwed up in thought as she gleefully put every last bag of Oreos in her cart. She seem unware of Emma staring and jumped when she crept closer with her own cart and said "Sweet tooth?"
She looked up in such surprise her hand, honest to God, flew to her chest. "I-" she worked her mouth inertly, her eyes wide and almost starstruck.
"Emma Swan, you're Henry's new teacher right?"
"At St. Andrews on the Upper East Side?"
She nodded slowly, then her brain started working again. "Oh! Henry Swan right?"
"That's my son. He treating you all right?"
"Wonderfully," she nodded enthusiastically. "He's a brilliant, brilliant boy."
She tried a lopsided grin to get the woman to relax, "Yeah, I've no idea where he got it from."
"His mother I hope," she relaxed quick enough and flashed her own easy smile. It was sharp though-with something glinting just beneath the surface.
"Maybe." She glanced down at the woman's cart again, "So, I mean, I don't want to be rude, but what's up with the Oreos?"
"My roommate really like the cream in them."
"So you're getting them the ones with the really gross cream?"
"He also forgets to pay rent."
She grinned, "You're an evil genius."
The woman looked striken.
"That was a joke…" Most people would have used the gap to introduce themselves. Henry's teacher didn't. "Sorry," Emma said, "Henry's didn't actually say your name."
"Oh. Regina, Regina Mills."
"Okay, Regina Mills, you're an evil genius. In a good way."
"Is that a fact?"
"Sure. In fact, if Henry goes snotty when the testosterone starts pumping through him I'll have to remember that. He loves the cream in the middle too."
"Must be a guy thing."
"I like it too," she said with a shrug.
Regina looked down at the cookies, "You know? I do as well."
"You should get a bag of the good ones for yourself. Really rub it in by slipping a few into his bags. Will make him think he's going crazy."
She laughed, "Who's the evil genius now?"
"It can't be me. My laser sharks are still on layaway."
"And my evil lair is really more morally ambiguous," the side of Regina's mouth curled up when she said it. Like it was a conspiracy just between the two of them.
Emma, doing something she never did when running into people she sort of knew at the grocery story, motioned for Regina to join her. The other woman spun her cart around and they walked down the aisle.
"Judging from the excessive amounts of cookies I take it you live around here?"
"Very astute detctive." She smiled at Emma's surprise. It was another private one. "Henry mentioned it at school. He's very proud of you."
"I'm just a P.I. that takes pictures of cheating spouses. Not like I'm a cop or something."
"Now. Maybe you could be sheriff one day."
"That could be fun. Except for the uniforms. They're a little too boxy for these hips."
Regina's eyes followed Emma's gesturing hands and then she stared longer than she'd wanted too, because she blinked in surprise and blushed.
It was Emma's turn to give a private smile. She still had it.
"What-uh how exactyly did you get into the PI business?"
"Want to know for one of your books?"
Regina cocked her head to the side, "I'm sorry?"
"Henry said you were a writer?"
"Oh. Yes. Technically. Not quite published yet."
"I was wondering what a published writer was doing teaching middle schoolers."
"Something wrong with teachers?"
She felt her embarassement burn up her cheeks. "No. No. Definitely not. Teachers are fantastic."
"I'm just joking Emma. I knew what you meant."
"It's the coat-if you don't mind me saying. I know St. Andrews pays well but that's-it's a nice coat."
"Stole it from a department store at 3 am with a one armed pirate and a lot of luck."
"But back to my question. Detective?"
"I was a bounty hunter first, but Henry was spending most of his time with babysitters when he wasn't in school. Detective was sort of a lateral move. Pay isn't as great, and I spend a lot more time sitting in my car lookig at people through camera lenses but," she shrugged.
"But you get to spend time with your son."
"It's worth it." It wasn't a question.
"What about you? You have kids?"
It was the way the good humor drained from her face that struck Emma. Not the soft "not any more" or the downcast expression that followed. But that first initial shift from someone happy to someone totally, utterly
"Not like you're to blame." She took a deep breath. "And I write now. It's good for me."
"And the roommate is he-" She forgot how to say "your husband/lover/special friend" and she almost-almost-created a hole with one hand and stuck her finger in it to illustrate.
But she didn't.
Regina laughed again-the ache dissolving. "God no. A friend. Barely. He's the illustrator for my book."
"Work and live together. That can be rough."
She agreed and motioned down at the cookies.
"What about you?"
"I've got Henry. That's all the family I need."
Regina smiled. One of those rare and genuine smiles Emma never saw in her line of work. "I'm glad," she said softly. "Truly."
They arrived at the check out aisle and Regina looked down at her cart, it was just cookies and canned peas and she blushed again. "I seemed to have forgotten how to shop."
"That does look a little starch heavy," Emma observed.
"I should go-"
Regina started to back her cart away and out of the blue Emma heard herself call after her. "You want to get coffee?"
"We get along, and I never get a chance to socialize with people besides Henry and clients. I know you're his teacher but-"
"I have a free period tomorrow at 2:30?" Henry was done with class at 3:30. That'd give Emma plenty of time to make it back.
"I'll meet you at the front of the school?"
"Perfect." She smiled again. This one a little tremulous, and she actually ducked her head in a half bow. "I'll see you tomorrow at 2:30 Miss Swan."
"It's a date."
She didn't see the way Regina froze mid bow at the word "date." And she didn't see the look of horror or confusion. She was too busy being happy.
A year in New York and she was finally making a friend her own age.
A coffee date was not a "date."
She knew this because…
Not because of movies. Coffee dates were always dates in movies.
But Emma Swan was straight.
Yes. That was it. Emma Swan was straight.
Regina was…well Regina wasn't a lesbian.
And Emma Swan had a line of suitors-or a pirate and a thief. She had people earnestly waiting for her that hadn't spent years hating her.
A coffee date, then, was just two people socializing. Perhaps talking about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and then at the end instead of kisses there could be major revelations involving magic and curses and a growing threat in a land that could have been Emma's home.
Hook was in the kitchen unloading the groceries and paused in between groans over the number of terrible cookies to poke is head in. "What happened?"
"What-nothing happened." She tugged at her sleeve. "Why would you think that?"
"You were gone for ages and all you bought were cookies, peas and hamburger meat. Something happened."
"I saw Emma."
"Again? Who's the stalker now?"
"At the grocery store! We sublet an apartment a block away and we're bound to run into her."
"We stole an apartment," he ammended, "We broke in and I changed the locks."
They'd wordlessly agreed to limit their search to apartments near Emma and Henry. It put them both at ease but it had taken them ages to find someone out of town who wasn't looking for a subletter and then break in and pretend they were the subletters. It was a fairly private building with no doorman and none of their new neighbors had asked questions…yet.
"What did you say to her?"
"Nothing! We exchanged pleasantries. Talked about Henry. I…we agreed…we're having coffee tomorrow."
He raised an eyebrow, "You and Swan? Coffee?" He was skeptical.
"To her I'm Henry's teacher-not his psychotic pseudomother."
"You keep calling yourself that and you'll start to believe it as much as I do."
She ignored him. "I'm hoping we can talk. Maybe-maybe I can get her to see-to understand."
"I gave her True Love's kiss and it didn't work. How are you, a woman she could barely stand before, supposed to convince her?"
"I have something you never had with her?"
"No, you idiot. Henry. And I think…I think she can sense it too."
The chicken, smothered in curry and mustard, sat heavy in her stomach that night. Henry did his homework and sat up on the roof watching the city while Emma tried to do her quarterlies and not think about how much fun she'd had in all of five minutes at the grocery store.
It was stupid.
She finally dragged him down from the roof and got him in bed and then collapsed on her own, where she tried to quiet her brain and get rid of the grin and just sleep.
Only she kept thinking about Henry's teacher. Regina Mills of the dark hair and expensive coats and sharp sense of humor.
Their conversation, however brief it had been, had been the first one she had with someone where it felt…it felt right.
At least since Neal.
She rolled over and hugged her pillow.
She was getting a crush on her son's teacher who smiled like Emma really freaking mattered. Like she understood her.
She closed her eyes and tried to force herself to sleep, but she kept seeing Regina. Only instead of those smiles that made her feel like she wasn't so alone there was that sad longing in Regina's eyes at the mention of a child.
All Emma wanted to do, she realized, was fix it, give someone else the happy ending Emma herself had finally found.
She rolled back onto her back and shoved her pillow into her face.
God. It figured. The first time she connects with someone since she had Henry and it was his flipping teacher.
Hopefully she wasn't a mysterious asshole destined to leave her pregnant and in jail.
Or a murder. She really didn't need to having a big fat crush on a murderer.
It wasn't healthy.
"Moooom," Henry moaned from the other room, his voice muffled by his own pillow, "go to sleep."
That was the problem with fancy loft kind of apartments. Henry could hear her every twist and turn. She hopped up and crept into his room and lay on the bed next to him. He was trying to sleep on his stomach and peered at her with one eye.
"I can't sleep," she said conspiratorily.
"I have school."
"I know. With Regina."
His one open eye got wider, "Who?"
"Your new teacher. Ms. Mills?"
"Oh. Her?" He twisted around in the bed until he was on his side, faced away from her, and hugging his pillow. "I like her."
"Because she's a good teacher."
"She's like a mom," he yawned, "only older."
She snuggled up against Henry's back and listened to his soft breathing. He was too hot to stay pressed against long, but she liked the smell of his shampoo and the way he felt so solid in her arms.
She closed her eyes and let his breathing lull her to sleep.
It was a dreamless sleep. With no pretty teachers.
Or the dragons or ogres or bloodshot green eyes that watched her with such love.
She woke up abruptly.
That was what she'd seen in Regina's eyes.
That same loss. Once consigned only to her dreams.