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18 November 2013 @ 03:09 pm
Dangerous is the Vexed God (5/?)  

Title: Dangerous is the Vexed God (5/?)

Author: maggiemerc

Rating: M

Spoilers: Veers from canon after the third episode of season 2.

Disclaimer: Of course I don’t own them. All the lady loving would be hella canon if I did.

Summary: Emma Swan just wants to adjust to life in a post-Curse Storybrooke. She wants to get to know her kid. Get to know her parents. And maybe learn how to use her magic. But the town has an epidemic of flying monkeys, there’s a drunk pirate walking down Main half naked, Regina Mills keeps looking at her like she’s seen her naked,  and, oh yeah, someone’s killing off fairy godmothers.

Author’s Note: Yes some unpopular characters MAY make appearances. You may be annoyed but I'm flipping JAZZED. Also this chapter was going to be enormous, but it really needed to be split for a variety of reasons. So another chapter will be up in the next two days.

Chapter Five

One minute Emma was on the beach with Regina about to do something really stupid and the next they were appearing in the middle of the clambake in a puff of purple smoke and everyone was staring at them. Then someone else screamed and Regina poofed them again, this time behind one of the tents that backed up to the parking lot.

Regina immediately let go of Emma’s hand.

Emma hadn’t even realized Regina had grabbed it.

Mother Superior was the one screaming, and a guy in a hoody had stopped about a foot in front of her. His hands were raised above his head and something shiny was clutched in one.

Emma reached for her gun with one hand and stretched her other out before her. “Hey,” she called. She crept forward, training her sights on the guy.

The Mother Superior was terrified. She was clutching her rosary and slowly backing away. “He’s trying—“

“Drop the knife,” Emma shouted.

Regina came up beside her, “It isn’t a knife. It’s a wand.”

A wand—where the hell did the guy get a wand?

“Drop the wand,” she amended.

The man looked over his shoulder at them, glassy eyes freezing Emma in place. Haunted eyes. Familiar in a way she couldn’t quite peg.

The Mother Superior used his and Emma’s distraction as an opportunity. She yanked her own wand out, slashing it violently in his direction.

The ensuring blast of magic put the fairy on her back and sent the man sailing through the air. He crashed onto someone’s ancient Volkswagen Rabbit, the hood crumpling and the windshield smashing beneath him. Emma kept her gun trained on him as she backed up to check on the nun.

“You okay?”

She nodded, “Yes, but Crysta… I heard her screaming and came around the corner to check. He hit her with something.”

“Something fatal,” Regina noted.

The other nun had fallen to the ground, her arms stretched out in front of her as if to block something and her face frozen in a scream. The handle of her wand reflected the light from the parking lot. She hadn’t even had a chance to draw it from its holster on her waist.

Emma grimaced, “There’s nothing we can do?”

Regina shook her head, “Not for whatever he hit her with.”

The Mother Superior looked so angry Emma half expected her to turn into a dragon or something. “This is the second woman under my protection he’s murdered.” Something intangible and distinctly magical swelled around the woman and she pushed Regina and Emma apart to stalk towards the man.

“Woah! Hey. No vigilantism Sister.” She jumped in front of the nun to physically block her. “I don’t care what he's done."

"You never care what they’ve done!” It was practically a snarl. Emma stepped back in surprise.

Regina, behind the Mother Superior, raised an eyebrow, crossed her arms, and asked dryly, "Why do I feel this little tantrum is about more than the fairy killer?”

"Sheriff," Mother Superior ignored Regina. "Step aside."

Emma holstered her gun but didn't move. "Not if it means you killing him." She jabbed her finger at Regina, "And you don't antagonize her."

Regina rolled her eyes. "I'm not antagonizing, I’m simply—“ Suddenly her smirk turned into an expression of horror. She shouted Emma's name, yanked the Mother Superior back and reached over Emma's shoulder with one hand.

Their cheeks brushed.

Which was a stupid thing to notice. Just like it was stupid to notice how nice Regina pressed against her felt or how nice she smelled or how Emma could have sworn she saw a single gray hair at Regina's temple.

Because Regina had shoved the Mother Superior out of the way and reached over Emma to stop a bolt of magic from hitting Emma in the back.

And for just a second Regina was breathing hard and her mouth was about a quarter of an inch from Emma's and it was really, really nice.

And then the world ramped back into motion again and Regina was quickly shoving Emma aside and blocking two more bolts with her hand before waving her other hand and sending a car flying into the masked guy's face.


Regina smirked. "Not quite."

The man's feet protruded comically out from under the edge of the car.

"The idea was to not kill him."

"I saved your life, but please, let's argue over whether that very just murder was just."

"It wasn't!"

"I can't believe I'm saying it," Mother Superior took a deep breath and glanced at Regina with a combination of revulsion and respect, "but I agree with Regina."

Regina snorted.

"He murdered two of the women in my charge."

"You heard the nun. I was justified."

"You're a fairy and you’re an evil queen. Pretty sure both your moral compasses are skewed." Regina smirked again and the Mother Superior looked deeply offended. "Besides—"

Metal screeched as the car that had landed on the man turned into a cloud of tiny metal dust motes. The man, his face still hidden by his hood, rose up, waved his own wand menacingly, and then launched the cloud at them.

Moving on instinct Emma grabbed the woman closest to her and shielded her body from the oncoming cloud of what she was pretty sure was death. Regina seemed completely fragile in the moment. Tight and tiny and a little bony in Emma's arms.

The Mother Superior—or Blue—or whatever the hell she was going by, leapt forward and turned the cloud of metal into a flock of birds with a flick of her own wand. When they'd all fluttered away the guy was racing down the street, long legs eating up pavement like he was an Olympic runner.

The fairy nun waved her wand again and a tree reached out to grab the man, but he twirled and annihilated it with a swish and flick.

If she could have cursed Emma was pretty sure the nun would have.

Emma, accidentally, gave Regina a quick squeeze before pushing away and chasing after him. She was spryer than most of the people she knew and not even winded as her feet pounded hard against the ungiving pavement. She ducked her head to put on another burst of speed. Another foot and she’d be close enough to tackle the bastard.

Chasing guys down the street? That was natural. That was something Emma had been doing since she was barely out of prison. She didn’t even have to think to do it.

She sprang forward shoulder first to knock the guy to his knees.

And then he seemed to

Well, he flickered.

Like a ghost image on an old UHF station. Suddenly he was a hundred feet further ahead and Emma was landing hands first on the pavement. Stray specs of gravel bit into her palms.

She pushed up and looked through her disheveled hair to watch the guy flicker forward again—even further out of reach.

She staggered to her feet and loped from a limp into a jog after him again.

Then a cloud of purple appeared between the two of them and Regina was walking towards the guy, fearless like a freaking terminator. He spun back around to shoot crap out of his wand. Fire. Ice. A flipping snake.

Regina just calmly cast them aside (or sent them into Emma's face in the case of the snake—that had Emma pausing to catch it, throw it into some bushes and squirm—because snake to the face).

The guy flickered forward again, and Regina poofed forward. Soon they were both out of sight and Emma was finally winded.

Headlights behind her drew her attention, and David’s truck squealed to a stop beside her. He jerked his head to the bed of his pickup. "Get in."

She barely had her ass over the lip of the truck before he was gunning it.

She managed to wrench open the sliding window between the cab and the bed of the truck despite David taking turns like they were in the Indy 500. His jaw was set firmly and his one eye narrowed with unerring focus.

“How’d you know where we were?”

“Blue pointed this way. Are you okay?”

“Not dead. Don’t know if I can say the same for the guy we’re chasing. If Regina gets to him first—“

The whole truck swung wide to avoid a six foot long slug flopping in the middle of the road.

“I’m more worried more about their collateral damage,” David grunted.

Emma had to agree.

And hope the slug wasn’t someone she knew.

Or the flock of seagulls.

Or the tiny monkey angrily banging two cymbals together.

“What the hell kind of sorcerer is this guy,” she shouted.

“How should I know?”

He swerved around a pit of boiling tar that used to be the intersection between Main and Harvard.

Far, far ahead Emma could see the puff of smoke from Regina’s teleportation and she could feel the tug on her necklace with each leap—like it was begging her to just tear through time and space to provide Regina some back up.

She leaned back into the cab, “If you can get a little closer I think I can teleport up there ahead and give Regina some help.”


He swerved to avoid a ferociously barking fur covered car.

“I’ll figure that out. Just see what you can do.”

“There’s not much further to go. We’re nearly to the town line. He goes through and he’s cursed again.”

Which would solve one problem. But create another. Stopping a killer was important, but with the fairies being weird and all the bad guys talking about oncoming war Emma kind of wanted to know why the guy was offing people.

“Then maybe—“ he swerved around living trees that reached out for the car with gnarled branches— “step up on it David!”


Regina wasn’t winded, but she was monumentally irritated and her magic reserves were depleted. The only thing keeping her from full on wrath was the bright orange line on the ground indicating the edge of the curse. The hooded man was standing before it, his shoulders rising and falling.

The chase was done.

“End of the road,” she didn’t quite crow. “We both know that all you can do with that wand are little distractions. So drop it and surrender and I’ll only turn you into a…cat or something. You can hunt mice at the sheriff’s station.”

His back still to her he held his wand out at his side. His wrist was loose—as though he were about to drop it.

“There’s a war coming,” he said in a voice so deep it had to be fake.

Regina rolled her eyes, “Of course there is. If you all wanted it to be a secret you should really stop talking about it.”

His head turned, as if he was looking over his shoulder. “What side will you choose Queen?”

“The side that keeps the people I love alive.”

A car was coming. Headlights illuminated the man.


Cars. One coming from the town and one coming from beyond it. To Storybrooke.

Regina couldn’t see the man’s mouth but she could hear the pleasure in his voice. “Good.”

“What is that supposed to—“

He suddenly flung the wand at her. It sliced through the air like a dart. Out of reflex she caught it. Her own magic, dark and oily and too hot and cold met with the potent fairy magic that charged the wand. The build up lasted just a split second. Long enough to watch the man spin on his heel, bow deeply, and step backwards over the line as the car coming up behind him swerved to avoid him.

He disappeared into the darkness and the car smashed into a tree and the wand exploded in Regina’s hand, launching her ten feet into the air.

She heard someone call her name. Or she thought she did. The world was just energy in the moment. Energy and chaos and a weightless feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Her head smacked into the pavement and lights flashed in her eyes and her teeth clashed painfully together.

Bells rung in her ears.

Time stopped. Or maybe it ran too quickly.


She heard her name and tried to open her eyes, but it just made her head hurt more.


She felt knees pressed against her side and chilly, pleasant hands touch her. A palm against the flat of her chest. One on her cheek. Then she was being pulled up against a body that smelled like leather and bonfire smoke and fingers were prodding the back of her head which she knew existed but which, for the moment, just felt sort of white.

Her brain wasn’t working right.

“She’s bleeding—David call an ambulance!”

“This guy over here needs one too. Hit his head pretty bad when he wrecked his car.”

Emma. That’s who was holding her.


The hand in her hair stilled then tilted her head up so that when she cracked open her eyes she could see Emma Swan haloed by moonlight. And she looked terrified.

“He went over the line. You need to go after him.”

Two whole sentences earned her one of Emma’s very rare and never directed at her looks of relief. It was followed by an even more unheard of hug as Emma pressed Regina’s head into her chest and sighed. Her cool hand was gently cupping the back of Regina’s head, but was mindful of whatever giant lump was forming there.

“I thought I was gonna have to tell Henry—”

“Not today,” she said—her voice muffled by Emma’s chest.

It must have felt weird having someone speaking into her chest because Emma froze again and then gently laid Regina back down and ignored commenting on what had been, unequivocally an embrace.

She was so pleasantly surprised by the moment that she didn’t realize she was passing out until perhaps a second before darkness claimed her.


Emma didn’t have time to think about the very real concern she’d felt for Regina when she’d seen her struck. She didn’t have the luxury of time. Not with Regina passed out again and the murderer on the other side of the barrier and the town’s first official visitor half buried under the welcome sign.

God. She wouldn’t ever have time. Every day seemed to be a new gigantic blow to her brain and she was pretty sure one of these days they were gonna knock her on her ass permanently.

That’d be it. The end of Emma Swan. Killed by information overload.

She stripped off her jacket and used it as a pillow for Regina’s head. Her breathing seemed steady enough. She seemed alive enough. Just unconscious.

The guy in the car was a different story. David was kneeling next to the open car door and looking as grim as he always did with that damn eye patch. “Out cold, and—“ He peeled back the guy’s lip. His teeth were stained red.

“Maybe he bit his tongue,” Emma said hopefully.

“Not with our luck.” He wagged the phone he was holding in his other hand. “Called the hospital. EMTs should be here any—“ The distant wail of sirens rang through the night— “second. Mulan and Aurora are on their way too.”

“Good. We’ll go after the guy. He’s on foot and probably in the woods with no magic. So he shouldn’t be hard to find. Can you handle things here?”

He was offended. “Sure,” and grouchy looking, “I’ll try to keep this guy’s arrival low key. Hopefully most people will still be at the clam bake and we can get this guy in and out of town in a couple of hours.”

And if that didn’t work there was a six foot slug and a furry car and a whole host of other junk flying around town after the murderer’s escape. Between all of that and Regina’s major embarrassment on the dance floor the town gossip was gonna be overpacked.

Well…at least she hoped it’d be.


It wasn’t. After four hours wandering the woods outside of town and coming up with no murderer and then chasing a giant slug down Main with a bag of salt Emma made her way to the hospital and found Mary Margaret, the Mother Superior, every frickin’ dwarf in town, David, Ruby, and, inexplicably, Dr. Hopper waiting for her.

They turned as one and when she walked through the sliding doors, and it was only with immense effort on her part that she didn’t walk right back out into the night.

“Who’s watching Henry?”

“Granny,” Ruby supplied.

“And the rest of you are skipping the clam bake because…?”

“It’s after midnight and we got a stranger in town,” Leroy said.

Emma shot David a dirty look and he waved helplessly at his wife. “They needed to know,” Mary Margaret somehow said both urgently and lamely. Woman couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it.

“There’s a time and a place,” Emma snapped.

Mary Margaret wilted and her husband tried to put his arm on her shoulders. She shrugged it off and backed away from the group hugging herself.

None of the rest noticed. They all stepped forward as one, firing off questions like they were entitled and it wasn’t the end of a really, really, really long day.

Lots of questions. Half of which she had no answers for.

“Enough,” she shouted. “I know you are all…concerned, and curious, but it’s police business not,” she waved at them, “town busy body business.”

“Did you miss the part where he’s a stranger,” one of the dwarves (Happy?) asked.

“And the part where this is a town of magic,” Leroy followed up. “Did you not see Splash?”

“Of course I saw—you guys aren’t mermaids and no one is kidnapping you for experiments.”

“Yet,” Ruby said, “but this guy sees me trotting around on a full moon and we’ve got problems.”

“So don’t go for a walk on a full moon?”

Ruby glared.

“Here’s the thing, no one is getting kidnapped. Okay? I mean as far as this guy knows we’re just a tiny town with a lot of very concerned citizens.” She made a point of making eye contact with each of them, “Right?”

“That’s what you think he knows,” Leroy countered. “But he could be a spy or another murderer or the Evil Queen’s minion for all we know.”

Shitty minion of the last one was the case.

“I don’t—I looked in his car okay? Gas receipts for up and down the coast of Maine and a half eaten lobster roll. Not the stuff you’d find in a spy’s car.”

“That’s what he wants you to think,” another dwarf said.

She sighed, “Fine. David you got his phone?”

“Sure,” He’d stuck it in an evidence bag and had it in his back pocket. He produced it quickly. “It’s password protected though. We couldn’t get through.”

“He tried to get me to hack it,” Leroy grumbled.

She shot David an incredulous look. “With what? A pickaxe?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Luckily for you I’m a really good bail bonds woman and not a tiny miner.” She pulled out the usb fob she kept on her keyring. It was illegal pretty much everywhere and definitely, positively, not appropriate for an upstanding sheriff to have, but for a bail bonds person who lived bounty to bounty it had saved her bacon more that once.

“What’s that,” Mary Margaret asked.

“Me being awesome,” she said casually. She plugged it into his phone where it quickly made short work of the four digit passcode he’d used. “We might have been in trouble if he’d added another digit or two to this code, but fortunately for us—“ his home screen popped up and she flipped through dialed calls and his photos, “he’s an ordinary joe. Not a spy, a minion, a murderer or even,” a grainy photo of some dry looking steak scrolled by, “a particularly good photographer. I think we’re in the clear.”

Blue jutted out her chin, “Perhaps where it concerns our visitor. But what about the other one. Where’s the man who is murdering my sisters?”

Almost a dozen eyes swiveled back to zero in on Emma. “We haven’t found him, but I’ve got Aurora and Mulan still looking—“ Leroy rolled his eyes— “for him.”

“Great,” Leroy mumbled, “how are the pillow princess and her cross dressing girlfriend gonna find him?”

“With their eyeballs Leroy, just like anyone else would. Only, you know, Mulan is a famous warrior tracker so she’s probably better than a grumpy janitor.”

Dopey (she thought—she had no idea for sure though) laughed. “She’s got you there buddy.” A few of the other dwarves snickered and the high energy of the group dwindled.

With the mob settled Emma bought a stale coffee from the vending machine and went on a hunt for Dr. Whale. David and Mary Margaret trailed after her and Mary Margaret kept opening her mouth to apologize and then not saying anything.

They eventually found the doctor slipping out of a room and looking way too furtive for Emma’s comfort.

“Everything all right,” Mary Margaret asked him.

He jumped in surprise and straightened his tie and smoothed his hair. “Oh yes. Fine.”

“How’s the patient?”

“She’s well enough. She has a lot of bruises but no concussion. With her magic she’ll heal just fine at home—“

“We meant the car crash guy,” David said, looping his thumbs into his belt loops and posturing. He must have been tired because he usually didn’t get so macho with Whale.

Or maybe it was because his wife slept with the guy and was standing right next to him.

“Asleep, for now. We repaired the internal bleeding la—“ Emma’s eyes glazed over as he talked about medical stuff none of them understood. The gist, as well as she could gather, was that the guy was asleep and would be stuck in a hospital bed for the next week.

“Is he conscious,” she asked.

He looked exasperated. Like he’d already explained, “No,” he said slowly. “But he should be awake within the hour. One of you can speak with him then.”

They agreed to meet outside the guy’s door by two o’clock. David and Mary Margaret went home for real coffee and to check on Henry. Knowing she couldn’t go home because she’d pass out as soon as she crossed the threshold Emma opted to stay at the hospital.

Making sure Regina was okay had nothing to do with it.

That’s just where her aching feet took her. To the room she’d seen Whale step out of.

She’d assumed Regina would be sleeping with the head bump and the late hour so she didn’t bother peeking in first.

She got an eyeful of half-naked Regina for her trouble. Regina was wincing and pulling back on her shirt giving Emma a brief glimpse of stomach and expensive bra in the process. It was black, and navy blue, and lacy.

“Can I help you,” a testy Regina asked. She glared at Emma with one raised eyebrow.

“I…” Emma tried to force anything out of her mouth. Nothing came.

Regina put her hands on her hips, and with the unbuttoned shirt and all that skin it was doing things to Emma’s addled brain.

The kind of things that had her pretty sure she was the one with the bump on her head.

“This is where you turn around to be polite Emma. Not where you continue to gape at me.”

“Right, sorry.” She turned around. “I’m just trying to figure out how that bra isn’t showing through your shirt. ”

“Thick fabric—shouldn’t you be at home by now?”

“Waiting on the car crash victim to wake up.”

“Whale said he’s from beyond the town.”

“That’s what his license and registration say too. I want to just make sure he keeps thinking he crashed in Podunk, Maine instead of super magical Storybrooke, Maine. Thought I’d check up on you while I wait.”

Regina gave her her “I’m fine but really I’m not fine” smile. “No concussion. But half my body and the back of my skull apparently match my bra.”


Emma’s palms felt a little sweaty and she stuck them both in her back pockets. “You uh…need a ride home? I got time.”

Regina carefully buttoned up her shirt. The bandage that had become a permanent fixture on one hand was smudged with road sludge and looked like it needed to be changed. “I don’t think that’s best, do you?”

Emma looked back up at her face in surprise. “What? Why?”

She was very plaintive looking—as though a stare could communicate whatever was going on in her head.

“Because of the beach,” Emma ventured.

Regina tilted her head. “You seemed…confused. Somehow I don’t think helping me to bed and playing nursemaid will help.”

“Who said anything about a bed?”

“Well with my back I don’t think doing those kind of activities on the stairs would be advisable.”

Emma rolled her eyes, “Jesus. This?” She waved between them, “Was not me hitting on you. It’s me being polite. What happened on the beach was me being too polite so you stop molesting me with your eyes every time we’re in the same room and I’ll stop being confused.” She did air quotes around the last word. “Deal?”

Regina leaned down to tug on her boots. The position just happened to present a view of her ass that, until recently, Emma would not have considered glorious. “And curious,” Regina reminded her, “don’t forget curious.”

She popped back up and Emma’s eyes were drawn to the locket on Regina’s chest. Regina tapped it. “You wanted to know about this. Remember?”

“Fine. You don’t molest me with your eyes. I don’t do whatever it is that seems to be leading you on.”

Regina then dragged her eyes up and down Emma’s body before smiling. “Fine.”


She shrugged, “Fine.”

“You’re not…hurt?”

She cocked her head, “Should I be?”

“Well, I mean,” Emma rubbed her nose and looked down, “Because of what happened in the forest the other day.”

“Ah. That.”

“Yeah. That.” Archenemy mother of your child kisses weren’t supposed to be that pleasant.

Or magical.

“The truth is I didn’t think what I did would work because you, the one standing here sneaking looks at my ass, are not the person that I might, conceivably, be hurt by. So you putting an end to things really has no bearings on my feelings in the long run.”

“Because I’m not h—“

Regina shook her head, “No questions remember.” She waved her hand up and down between them like there was an invisible wall, “Cessation of…things.”


“That means you stop staring Emma.” She twirled her finger, “You turn around and walk out.”


“And whatever you do? Don’t look back.”

Emma did walk out. But she looked back too. So she saw Regina’s shoulders sag and she saw her twist one hand in the other. And she saw the look on her face.

Emma had a gift for seeing lies. And Regina had just told a whopper.


The car crash victim was named Greg Mendell. Mulan helpfully told Regina all about it over slices of apple pie and steaming mugs of fresh brewed coffee. She’d stopped by Sunday morning to check on Regina and had stayed until nearly noon, chatting and helping with the cider brewing downstairs.

Though chatting wasn’t the best term to use. Mulan, while far from the stoic warrior stereotype people constantly painted her as, still possessed a particular efficiency of conversation. When alone with her Regina often found herself slipping into a similar habit. So after the coffee and pie and updates on the night’s events (no sign of the murderer and no threat from Mendell) they worked in pleasant silence.

The work itself kept Regina’s mind off her headache.

And Emma Swan.

It was as though she’d been cursed to think of her constantly. Sifting through every conversation with every version of her. Remembering little details like how her lower lip jutted out when she was flabbergasted by the town and how she stuck her hands in her back pockets when she was trying not to be flirtatious.

Thinking about her wasn’t healthy. Mulan, Aurora and even Killian would have happily told Regina as much.

But it didn’t stop her mind from drifting. Didn’t stop the ache when the impossibility of her struck Regina. And it didn’t stop the little smile when she thought of those moments. The good ones. When they’d kissed. When they’d shared. When she’d not just seen but felt Emma’s concern.

Mulan was crushing apples in the press and spinning the handle with gusto and Regina knelt next to a keg to pour a sample from a recently (and hopefully well aged) batch. The boozy fumes helped her headache, and the crisp scent of apples soothed her.

Her locket blazed briefly. Which meant somewhere in town someone had said something that had pissed Emma off. It happened often enough that Regina usually just funneled the swell of Emma’s magic into herself. A kind of unconscious habit she’d been forced to develop with the other Emma.

But her head was throbbing from the day before and funneling the magic only made it worse. She winced.

Mulan looked up sharply. Never missing a thing. “You okay?”

“Of course.”

“Either the cider is bad or you’re hurt.”

“I’m was punted across the highway last night by a stolen fairy wand,” she grumbled, “okay is relative at the moment.”

“You should take it easy.”

“Thank you mother.” Knowing Regina’s mother Mulan was offended. “A figure of speech,” she quickly said.

“Thank you Hitler,” Mulan deadpanned. Nice to know she was brushing up on the new world’s history.

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Fine. Stalin?”

“You’re just spouting off the names of well known genocidal despots.”

“If the shoe fits.”

It did. Technically.


Sort of.

Was it genocide if they were wood sprites?

Regina went back to sampling cider and Mulan went back to preparing the next batch. At noon the door to the outside was flung open and sunlight poured in. They shaded and their eyes and blinked up at the incursion.

Aurora poked her head in, “Why are you two down here all alone?”

“I’m giving your girlfriend tips.”

“Please don’t. I’d rather not think of you in bed.”

Cider tips dear. Get your head out of the gutter.”

Two and a half years on a boat with Killian had sapped Aurora of all her potential to feel shame. She hadn’t even blushed at Regina’s failed double entendre. “Mind if I borrow Mulan? I have an idea for finding our missing murderer.”

“I though you lost the trail when he rounded back to the road last night?”

“I did?”

They both looked at Aurora curiously.

“I’m not telling you my idea because you’ll tell me I’m stupid and I already got enough eye rolling from Emma this morning rounding up that furry dog car.”

“Fine. You two have fun wandering the forest again then.”

Aurora nodded like Regina had given her an order. “We will. Also Henry’s upstairs and there aren’t any Charmings around. I’m pretty sure he ran away again.”


Henry had not run away.

He did, however, walk across town just to check on his mother.

And get some comic books.

And his winter coat.

And spend the night.

A call to Emma confirmed his plans.

Though Emma also sounded like she didn’t actually know about the plan until Regina and Henry called and she just wanted Regina to think she was a good mom.

That would teach her to think parenting Henry would be easy. Regina was a fantastic mother and Henry had once given her the slip and fled to Boston. Mom for six weeks Emma didn’t stand chance.

To celebrate her son pulling one over on Emma Regina offered to make an elaborate lunch, but she got dizzy boiling water for the rice so they settled on sandwiches and ate on stools in the kitchen.

Henry dangled his feet and happily munched on his ham on sourdough. She’d need to get more bread soon.

“Emma told me what happened,” he said. He was trying to sound much older than he was, but he had both elbows on the counter top and was holding his sandwich in both hands. A glop of mayo slid out the bottom and onto his plate and there was a small smear of it on the corner of his mouth.

“I’m sure she put her spin on it,” Regina groused.

“She said you were chasing the guy who’s killing the nuns and he tried to blow you up.”

“That’s…” Actually very accurate.

He grinned—looking younger than he was, “I’m glad.”

That she’d nearly been blown up?

“That you were helping,” he quickly amended when he realized what it sounded like he’d said.

She could see how he wanted to say more. Maybe tell her how proud he was of her for changing. He didn’t. More than two months living with one Charming or another but he still understood his mother’s pride and how not to wound it with earnest platitudes.

Once upon a time he would have happily said it just to see the hurt on her face. Back then it seemed like he thought hurting her was the only way he could prove to himself she cared.

She reached for the pitcher of orange juice and poured Henry another glass. “How are you finding living with Emma?”

“It’s nice,” he said reflexively. “And weird,” he added. “There’s four of us and just one bathroom and Grams takes forever when we’re getting ready for school and Gramps doesn’t put the seat down.”

She tried not to snort.

“Also Emma keeps taking me to Granny’s so Gram and Gramps can nap—which is stupid. I can be quiet.”

“I know you can.” Snow and David’s “napping” sessions must have been horrifically awkward with her heart, and thus most of her ability to love, gone.

“Emma and I share a bed, so some nights its like a sleepover. But she fidgets all night and makes the bed hot and she says I kick.”

“You’ve been that way since you were a baby. Graham used to compare you to a mule as a toddler.”

He frowned at the mention of the former sheriff and Regina felt something approaching regret. The other Henry had forgiven her for doing what she felt had been necessary. For ending a life that threatened to undo her own. She doubted a younger and more idealistic son would do the same. This Henry still used his own ethics like a sword and shield.

“They have that furry car corralled at the school bus depot, would you like to go see it,” she asked, changing the subject.

“What about your head?”

“I can’t boil water, but I think I can manage a peaceful walk with my son.”

They quickly finished their lunches and pulled on their coats. The walk to the depot would have been too long for Henry a few years ago, but now he kept jogging ahead, full of energy.

Every once in a while he’d pause and look back at her. Sometimes she thought it was with pride for the woman that saved Storybrooke and was handpicked to find a murderer. And sometimes, she was positive it was with disgust for the woman he knew killed someone he’d loved.

They never said Graham’s name after he died. And two and a half years and another Henry later she remembered why.

Regret was a sickly feeling inside of her and she didn’t like it one bit.