Regina stiffened her spine and took a deep breath as she heard her guests coming through the door. Knowing that they were expected Henry didn't bother to knock and they came right in. David and Henry were laughing, Snow was blushing.
“Hey Mom,” Henry said as he gave her a hug.
“The golf cart was really neat. We all took turns driving it!”
David leaned in and gave her a quick hello peck on the cheek. Regina was startled but not offended by the gesture.
“If we’re going to let Snow drive I think you should leave us bumper cars next time.” David said.
Snow gave an exasperated huff as Regina smirked and Henry broke into giggles. The two women nodded at each other. Their relationship was not yet up to physical signs of affection.
Regina glanced back towards the door, noticing it was closed. She looked at David expectantly.
“Emma isn’t feeling well and decided not to come.” He paused, “She was sure whatever we decided would be agreeable.”
Henry looked down at his feet. He was clearly upset by both the lie and his birth mother’s absence.
“I see,” Regina said stiffly.
“Please come in.” She gestured towards the couch.
“I have some hors d’oeuvres for you.” She turned to her son. “Henry please get your grandparents a drink while I freshen up.”
She headed through the door to her bedroom. Once she was alone Regina put her hand to her forehead conflicted about what she was going to do. She ran her fingers through her hair and then waved her hand. A moment later she appeared on the mansion front porch and knocked on the door.
To say Emma was taken aback when she answered the door would be an understatement. She stood in the doorway slack jawed waiting for Regina to speak.
“You appear to be feeling better,” Regina said. “I was hoping I could change your mind about dinner.”
With an embarrassingly fake cough Emma shook her head no. “Sore throat,” she whispered.
Regina studied the younger woman.
“I know it has been a hard year,” she said with obvious discomfort. “I know that we are in an uncomfortable situation.” Regina put her hand on Emma’s shoulder pretending to ignore Emma’s flinch at the contact.
“I am aware that this is a situation of my making.” Sincere brown eyes locked with green. “We need to start somewhere if sharing Henry is going to work.”
Emma broke contact and looked at her hands.
“Please come to dinner.” Regina asked.
When Emma didn't reply Regina opened her previously empty hand to show a throat lozenge.
“I hear this particular brand works like Magic.”
The women studied each other again. Emma spoke with an edge to her voice.
“You were supposed to be my friend but you deserted me. Now you show up and expect me to fall into line with your wishes. You ignore me for a year and a half and then just expect me to jump at your invitation, an invitation that would never have been given if Henry hadn't pushed you in to it.” Emma stared at Regina daring her to deny it.
“You know things I never wanted anyone to know. You told the entire town things I never wanted anyone to know.” Regina said as she looked at Emma pleading for her to understand. “My whole world had gone to hell. I wasn't even sure who I was anymore and you laid me out naked for all to see.”
“But before that,” Emma said. “Before the trial you put yourself to sleep, waiting to die. You weren't even going to say goodbye to me.” Emma’s voice got a little louder, “You didn't even give me a chance to say goodbye.”
“I was hurting …I…” Regina closed her eyes. “I know you’re angry but I can’t do this right now. I have a king waiting to be served lasagna back at my house.” She sent Emma a gentle smile. “Will you come? Henry tells me watching your mother drive a golf cart is something worth seeing.”
“Snow drove a golf cart?” Emma was engaged against her will. “I guess I am sorry to have missed that.”
“I am sure you can get a repeat performance after the meal.” Regina replied with hope in her voice.
Emma flashed a shy half smile and tossed the cough drop into her mouth. After sucking on it for a moment she spoke. “Wow, it really works good.”
Emma nodded but the smile dropped from her face.
“You’ll stop avoiding me?”
Regina closed her eyes, “I don't want to talk about…things.” She took a deep breath, “I need to pretend you don't know the things you know.” Looking at her hands she continued, “I know it is affecting you but…”
Emma nodded solemnly, “When you are ready.”
“I may never be.” Regina said quietly.
“I understand, I won't push.”
Regina hmmed her agreement. “We don't have time for a golf cart ride.”
Emma shrugged her shoulders indicating permission for Regina to use magical transportation.
When they arrived back at Regina’s the savior and the queen found them selves in close quarters. Their bodies were pressed together in a very small space. Instead of landing in the front hallway as Regina had planned they arrived in the small half bath off of the living room.
Regina took a step back stuttering, “I am sorry Ms. Swan I don't know how we ended up here. It was not my intention.”
“I hate how you revert to calling me Ms Swan any time things are awkward.” Emma snapped.
Regina was blushing as she continued. “I do not know what could have disrupted my magic.”
Now it was Emma’s turn to blush. “I think it was mine.”
“I think my magic interfered with yours.”
“Why would it do that?” Regina asked surprised.
Emma looked down at her hands blushing even harder. “I’ve gotta go.”
“You've got to go where?”
Emma glanced at the toilet in reply. Regina almost tripped over her self opening the door. “Well, I’ll just go. I mean out there, I’ll go out there.”
No one noticed that Regina came out of a door different from the last one she went in. Henry looked up and asked, “What’s for dinner?”
Upon her reply of eggplant parmesan David’s face fell. He glared at her with a look of utter betrayal. Regina grinned at him. “And for those who don’t like eggplant there is lasagna.”
Everyone jumped when a voice behind them asked. “Is there garlic bread? It’s just not right to eat lasagna without garlic bread.”
“Shepard,” Regina said to David, “there goes that final sliver of doubt about her parentage.” Everyone chuckled and she continued. “I’m glad you could join us Ms….Emma.”
“Just Emma is fine Regina.”
Regina rolled her eyes and waved everyone to the table. The other guests instinctively knew not to bring up Emma’s odd arrival. Dinner was only a little awkward. Henry and David kept the conversation flowing. As he reached for his second helping David looked at Regina hopefully.
“Do I need to save room for dessert?”
“Of course dear,” Regina replied. “We have apple pie, apple crumble and an apple tart?” Regina looked over at Snow and grinned at her pained expression. “If that doesn't suit I have a blueberry cheesecake.”
During desert the mothers discussed the custody situation with Henry. Regina proposed that on Friday and Saturday nights he should be in town in case he wanted to see his friends.
“He could come back here with me on Sunday evening and we could switch back Wednesday or Thursday.”
David, Snow and Henry watched fascinated as the women negotiated. Each was trying to outdo the other with her flexibility.
“But Regina, that means you won’t see him on the weekend.”
“I don’t have a regular job, dear. I will have as much time as I need during the week. You would hardly see him with your work schedule if he were here on the weekend.”
When they started to talk about holidays and birthdays Henry chimed in. He had both hands up in the air palms out as he said, “Wait just wait. This is not what I want.”
Regina felt a stab of pain and responded quickly. “I’m sorry dear, I misunderstood. We can leave things as they are. You could just call me when you want a visit.”
Henry shook his head. “What I want is not to feel like I have divorced parents.”
Emma looked at him eyebrows furrowed, “Meaning?”
“First on the switch day, let’s say Wednesday, we have dinner together to talk about the week.”
Emma stuttered as she replied, “You want us to have dinner together every week?”
“Yup, we can make sure everyone’s plans work out. Like if you,” he nodded at Emma, “are going to go out on a date or something I can spend extra time with mom.”
Regina’s stomach felt a little queazy at the idea of Emma going out on dates. Henry continued, “Or if you,” he nodded at Regina, “have something special to do during the week I can stay with mom. Changes won’t be a big deal because we will be talking about it every week.”
“Why is she the one who gets to go on dates?” Regina asked with her eyebrows arched.
Henry smiled and patted her on the hand. “I figured since you only just started talking to people again it would be a while before you’d want to do kissing and stuff.”
Regina choked on her coffee and Emma burst out laughing at the horrified look on her face. She rubbed Henry on the top of his head. “I don't think your mom is ready to handle you talking about ‘and stuff’!”
“And,” Henry said resolutely. “We spend holidays together. Even if you are seeing other people it’s not like you guys were together so there is no reason they should be uncomfortable with how our family is.”
Regina opened her mouth to speak. Henry stopped her with a raised hand.
“You two,” he pointed between Regina and Snow, “don’t hate each other. I think you actually like each other.” He shook his head in wonderment. “Surprising but true, and you two,” He waved his finger between Regina and David, “are like best friends or something.” He looked skyward. “That one’s a real shocker.”
The adults waited quietly to see what he would come up with next.
“It’s Thursday so I am going home with mom.” He nodded towards Emma and then continued. “On Sunday I will come back here with mom.” He nodded towards Regina. “On Wednesday we will meet to discuss the next week, Ok?”
Regina and Emma nodded a little dazed. Snow and David grinned at the young man’s audacity. After a few moments of discussing what Henry would bring back and forth and what would be duplicated Henry said, “Mom.”
Both women immediately answered, “What?”
“See,” Regina said to her son. “It is confusing for both of us to be mom. I just think- ”
“No,” Henry said emphatically. “My friend Dan has two mothers and it works for them. And they all live together all the time!”
Regina tried again, “But Henry I just think-“
“No, don't think. I have two moms. Maybe not for the traditional reason but I do.” Suddenly that impish smile that both mothers love was on his face. “Come on, having two people called mom is nowhere near the strangest part of our family. I was thinking the other day. Do you know I could be my own uncle?”
Regina slapped herself on the forehead as everyone else burst out laughing.
While David was showing Emma the golf cart Snow pulled Henry off to the side.
“You are a very clever boy! Really, dinner every week and making your mom think about Emma dating.” They grinned at each other. “What are you calling this? Operation get a clue?” Henry giggled and Snow continued. “Talking about Dan and his lesbian moms was a stroke of genius.” She gave him a wink and headed for the cart hoping to drive again.
Emma’s phone rang. Her hand shook slightly when she saw Regina’s name on the caller i.d. She tried to sound confidant when she answered,
“Ms Swan we have not finalized any plans for tomorrow’s drop off.” Regina got right to the point.”
“Regina you are calling to make dinner plans. Don’tcha think calling me Emma would be ok?”
“Yes, well Emma,” Regina responded clearly uncomfortable. “How do you suggest we handle Henry’s request?”
“Oh, um I guess we could do Pizza at the mansion.”
There was a long silence before Regina responded.
“I don't do Pizza.”
“Ok, how about dinner at Granny’s?”
Regina huffed, “Don’t you feel that’s a little too public?”
“Fine Regina I’ll call Snow. I am sure she would love to have all of us over. She has a new tuna casserole recipe she has been wanting to try.”
“You are joking, right?”
“Look Regina, I’m not going to invite myself to your place. I’ve provided all the options I have. When you have something that you want to contribute give me a call!” With that Emma hung up the phone.
Two seconds later the phone rang again. Noting the caller i.d. Emma answered, “Hello Regina.”
“Hello Emma, I was thinking that you and Henry might like to come to dinner for the drop off.”
“We would love to, thanks for the invite. Should we bring anything?”
Emma heard Regina burst into laughter and she hung up the phone.
David closed his eyes in bliss as he took a bite of an oatmeal raisin cookie.
“God I am so glad you chose cooking as a hobby.”
“Hmm,” Regina replied continuing to arrange her offerings in the freezer. “I was thinking of needle point but it reminded me too much of the old world.”
They both laughed.
“When I was younger I used to go to the kitchens early, before mother got up. Sometimes the cook would let me help.”
Regina shook her head sadly.
“When Mother found out that stopped. She said a woman of my station shouldn't be in the kitchens.”
“So how did you learn?” David asked.
“The first 17 years of the curse were rather boring. You’re lucky you slept through it. I had become quite good at potion making in the old world and cooking is not too different.”
David nodded. “So dinner with Emma tomorrow?”
“And Henry,” Regina added quickly.
“What are you serving?”
“Tacos, Henry loves them.”
David looked a Regina intently.
“Are you ok? It’s a big leap from no contact to living with Henry again and dinner with Emma every week.”
“I’m not sure really, but I am not going to give up this chance of having Henry in my life again.” She looked sad. “I am glad he thinks he wants to be with me and I will enjoy it for as long as it lasts.”
David’s voice was laced with irritation when he replied.
“You guys worked it out. What do you mean thinks he wants to be with you? I know he doesn't hold your past against you or consider you the evil queen any more. If you think he is being insincere I assure you he is not!”
Regina turned and leaned her back against the kitchen counter.
“I know we have moved past the evil queen and have forgiven each other. But that doesn't change who I am. That doesn't change what I know about myself. That thing that is missing in me was missing before I cast my first spell. One has nothing to do with the other.”
David was somber as he replied. “Regina you can’t honestly believe you are unloved? You can’t still believe that.”
“What? Do you think that just because we can make nice and play family I am not me? Don't be an idiot. I thought we were beyond these games.”
“I saw your face when Henry mentioned Emma dating. You care for her. I think you may even love her.”
“My feelings are not at issue here. Honestly David am I truly what you want for you precious princess? She needs to be with someone she can love. Thanks to me her life has not had much of that, but when she really falls in love she will know the difference.”
“Actually Regina you are absolutely not what I want for my daughter. I want a knight in shining armor on a white charger. I want all of the good things that come to princesses in Henry’s book.” He reached out and grabbed her shoulder. “But it doesn't matter what I want. My precious princess has chosen a bitchy sorceress with a golf cart and I’ll support her in that.”
Regina shrugged her arm away. “You just want cookies.”
“Regina you know that’s not true. Cora is gone, Rumple and Leopold are gone. All of the people that hurt you when they should have loved you are gone. Don't let them define your future. Henry and Emma love you. You’ve got to believe that.”
Regina shook her head in annoyance and started to pack up her bags and David continued.
“She truly does love you, I’m convinced of it. I know trusting is hard but you need to try because even though she loves you a person can only take so much rejection. People aren't meant to be alone and she has been alone for a long time. Regina If you don't give her a chance at some point you’ll be getting those extra Friday nights with Henry.”
Regina stilled, closed her eyes and shook her head as if to shake out the vision of that future.
“Henry was right about one thing. We are best friends. Snow White is my one true love so I know what that feels like. My mother was devoted to me and I adored her so I know what that feels like. And I have had friends, close friends and I know what that kind of love feels like too.”
He put his hands on both her shoulders to keep her from moving away.
“You say you have never been loved. But that is not true. You are my friend not an acquaintance or a buddy but a friend in the truest deepest sense. You don't think you are loved but you are. You don't think you know what it is like to be loved but I love you Regina. We are friends and I love you, so now you know.”
Regina tried to pull away but somehow found herself engulfed in David’s arms instead. She struggled to keep from crying but the tears came just the same. She wasn't sobbing just allowing her pain to manifest itself in tears that fell silently down her face. For the first time in her memory she felt safe even cared for. After a moment she pulled away.
Regina cleared her throat and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I guess you really did like that blueberry cheese cake.”
David chuckled, “Actually I liked that apple pie best but I knew Snow would never let me bring home the leftovers.”
Regina waved her hand and a half eaten apple pie appeared.
“You could drop it off at the station she’d never know.”
“Thank you,” he said eyes bright. “Think about it ok?”
She handed him the pie and squeezed his free hand with hers.
“Thank you,” she said and as always she was gone in a puff of purple smoke.