We Can Love Again

Operation Santa

All he could do was stare back at her in disbelief.

"You want me to do... What?"

"Okay, look- it'll only be for an hour or so. Roland really wants to tell him what he wants for Christmas, and I still don't know what to get him." Regina pressed. "Come on Neal, where's your holiday spirit?"

"Don't pin the whole holiday spirit thing on me," he replied coldly, "I care about the kid, but not enough to put on a Santa suit and impersonate a person that doesn't exist."

Rolling her eyes, she resulted in her fallback plan- her wallet. "Alright, how much do you want?"

Neal's eyes lit up slightly, despite his unwillingness. He watched as she began pulling hundred dollar bills from the black leather wallet.

"He'll know it's me," he argued, "I can't see why he wouldn't."

Setting three hundred dollars on the table, Regina couldn't help but release a sly smile. "Which is why I'll just do magic on you. He'll never know then."

Neal gave her a look. "But you can't do magic, Regina."

"I know," she shrugged, "but... She can."

"Hey Neal." Emma smiled, emerging from the shadows with her arms crossed.

"Emma? What- what are you doing here?" His eyes couldn't have gotten any bigger.

The blonde stood by Regina's side. "Roland wants to see Santa," she told him, exchanging a look with Regina.

"You're not going to... You know, turn me into an old guy right?" She could've sworn she heard his voice falter.

"You remember the spell, right?" Regina asked, stepping back to give her the spotlight.

Emma nodded. Seconds later, despite Neal's protests, the room was filled with a purple light. When the man was brave enough to open his eyes, he didn't feel any different. He had to look down at his hands to make sure he wasn't turned into a mutant or anything. When Neal glanced up again, Emma had a mirror clutched in his hands. He gasped.

"Oh my God! Emma... You made me a raisin."

Both women burst out laughing. "You don't look that bad!" The blonde persisted, though she feared she would collapse due to pure enjoyment. His eye sockets were sunken in, making him look like a dead man walking. Hair once short and brown was now white, frazzled, and long. Not to mention he was dressed in a red velvet suit.

"Follow me to the car, Santa, my son is expecting you in ten minutes." Regina told him, trying to act professional, but failing miserably at it.

"Don't forget your money on the way out."

Neal bit back countless swear words as he swiped the money from the table, following her and Emma out the door. Though, with his giant potbelly in the way, his walk was more like a struggled waddle. Regina fit him in the passenger seat of her car, and they were off back towards the house.

Roland was waiting less than patiently for them to arrive. His mother had told him to stay at the house until she came back, but it was proving to be a hard task to uphold. Also, for some reason, Charming, Hook, Will, and Ruby showed up, all seeming excited.

The five year old was more than excited himself, but he distinctly remembered his mother telling him that Santa gave most of his presents to little boys and girls. Henry wasn't saying much either; his brother wondered if he were hiding something.

"Mommy! Mommy did you pick up Santa Claus?!" He asked, excitement ringing in his voice.

Regina found it extremely hard to keep the act going. "Yes, I did. But you have to sit in the living room and wait patiently if you want to have a talk with him."

The boy didn't even respond, he simply nodded before turning back and speeding for the couch.

"I don't remember inviting a crowd," she smirked, noticing everyone that had inconspicuously shown up.

"Word does get around pretty fast," David reasoned, his phone out and ready. "In a few minutes, Santa's visit will be all over the internet."

Rolling her eyes, Regina knew she couldn't object. So she turned back around and headed back to the car where she had made Neal stay.

"I really can't recognize you like that," she told him, "I think we can pull this off. Just remember, he really thinks your Santa. So don't crush his dreams. Or you'll have to deal with me."

Neal rolled his eyes. "Emma didn't just make me look old, I feel old too. Is it normal to get exhausted this quickly?"

"You should try being pregnant sometime," Regina muttered, taking his hand and pulling him out of the car.

"No matter what- he can't know you're... You."

When they entered the house, their company bombarded them with pictures. She could tell Neal probably wanted to hurt her, but surprisingly he kept the calm act steady.

"Are you going to use those pictures to spread holiday cheer?" He asked the three of them, in a surprisingly accurate voice, deep and jolly.

"I request a talk with you after Roland does," Killian snickered.

"Sorry, I came only on the account of a five year old who wanted to request his wishes for Christmas." Neal- Santa replied, pushing past them to enter the living room.

"Roland Hood, is that you?"

She could almost hear her boy gasp with surprise. "Santa! You came!"

"Of course I did. Your mother told me a lot about you, says you've been a really good boy this year."

Regina took a seat down at the kitchen table, getting everyone else to the same. It was difficult getting them all to stay quiet, but she didn't want to miss seeing her son so happy.

"I have! I have I promise! Even Henry said so!"

"Henry said so, huh? Well, I believe you."

Roland couldn't have beamed any brighter. "Do you visit all the boys and girls?"

Neal chuckled heartily. "I don't have time for visiting everyone," he told him, "only the special ones. And you Roland, you're very special."

Will then pulled out his phone, dialing up his brother. "There is no way Robin can miss this," he muttered to Regina, who shushed him immediately.

"Robin's at work, he can't come." She whispered towards him. "Now pay attention, I have to know what he wants so I can buy it for him."

Roland was practically on the edge of his seat.

"Do you know what you want for Christmas?" Neal asked softly.

The boy swung his legs back and forth. "Well..." He began as though he was nervous to tell him. "I want some coloring books so I can draw good like my friend Neal."

He raised his eyebrows at him, slightly taken aback. "So... He can draw? Your friend?"

Roland nodded fervently. "He drew me a picture of me as a superhero for my birthday and I really liked it."

Neal tried not to show his pride too much. "Well, I'll see what I can do. I know how much you like superheroes."

"Yay!" He exclaimed, not hesitating to throw his arms around the man's neck. "Thank you Santa!"

"Anytime," Neal said back, stealing a quick glance towards Regina. "Like I said, you're one good kid. You promise me you'll stay good for your parents for a long time."

"I promise," Roland replied quickly, smiling brightly.

Neal patted him on the back before turning around to face the others. "Now, who's next?"

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