She wouldn't go so far as to say she's being "distant," but she's certainly been less present.

She's not a deadbeat, she's checked in each day to see how she and Mango are doing, but she really can't bring herself to face Regina.

Not yet, at least.

Eventually, they're going to have to talk about it. About how Regina hasn't told her own family that she's having a baby. About how she's embarrassed to tell her mother she's having a baby with a woman. Using said woman's own sperm.

And it's not like she blames her. Honestly, she gets it and it makes her almost unsure of what she's angry about.

Maybe it's the lack of conversation about it. Or Regina's defensiveness. Or maybe it's the fact that at the end of the day, she has no one to vent to about this. She's been so busy most days that she hasn't had the time to consider Neal's absence, but it hits particularly hard today.

After discussing it with Regina, she had determined that she wanted to try to figure things out with him but she wasn't sure what that looked like. Her reaching out? Her waiting for him to do it?

Would he? ….Would she?

"What's on your mind, kiddo?"

Her eyes narrow so quickly that David immediately puts his hands up.

"I regretted it as soon as I said it."

She rolls her eyes but decides to cut him some slack. He's definitely been growing on her over the last few months. And, unlike her mother, he didn't even try to remind her they'd had a baby already when she insisted they get CPR certified. He'd nodded and said 'of course' and she'd appreciated that more than she could put into words.

So he's officially okay in her book. And maybe that's why she feels like talking, opening up for once.

"I...Regina and I kinda...had a fight, so I'm just sort of trying to figure out what to do."

"I suggest flowers. Is she the flowers type?"

She chuckles to herself, remembering the one time she'd brought Regina flowers. "Yes, she is. But I don't think I owe her an apology this time. If you can believe it."

He smirks and comes around on the other side of the couch, taking a seat at the other end. "Now this I have to hear. What did she do?" He leans back with his arm over the back of the couch and she turns towards him, actually grateful to have someone as a sounding board.

"Well, we had an appointment Thursday and so we're sitting there and I asked her about what her family thought about the whole baby thing because, David, she literally never talks about them."

"Are they not close?"

"It honestly sounds like just her mom. Her dad passed away years ago and she's never mentioned any other family."

"That's weird. That's weird right?"

"I don't know? I mean, I guess I'd just have Ingrid if she never got with you and had August so I guess...no?"

He nods in agreement.

"But still, the point is that she's 6 months pregnant and still hasn't told her mom yet. Now that's weird, right?"

He nods again. "Yeah, that's weird. Did she say why?"

She scoffs. "That's the kicker. She doesn't want to have to explain the details to her mom."

"Details?"

Her eyes flick down so his do too and it takes only another minute after she raises her eyebrows.

His eyes widen and he takes a deep breath. "Oookay, well, if we're gonna do this, I'm gonna grab a beer. Want a beer? I'll get you a beer."

Her mouth opens and closes again and she just nods, but he's already gone anyway.

He returns with two bottles of Guinness and they awkwardly cheers before taking a few sips.

"I know I should probably cut her some slack, but," she clears her throat, "my...feelings are a little hurt."

She's not sure if he's a feelings guy. They've never talked about them, but one thing she's finding is that she can't keep things inside anymore. It's not healthy and she has to be that. She and all of her relationships have to be that because there's a baby involved now.

So she grits her teeth. And she opens up to a guy she used to wish would disappear.

"Because it feels like she's ashamed of me. And I've felt that before and I just don't want to feel that with her, the mother of my child. She's kinda...it, ya know?"

He takes another sip and nods. "I hear ya."

She sighs and sinks into the couch a little more.

"And then it's like, do I care if she tells her mom at all? Her mom seems like a bitch so it's not like we'll be asking her to babysit. So is that what I'm mad about? What are we even fighting about?"

He takes another drink and she wonders if he's actually not a feelings guy after all.

"Sorry, I'm...unloading this all onto you. I just-,"

"Don't worry about it. You never have to be sorry for feeling things."

She lets out a breath and takes a small sip of her own drink. "Thanks."

He shrugs. "Sure."

After a drawn-out silence, that's not nearly as uncomfortable as it used to be, she speaks up again.

"I don't want to be mad at her though. I hate being distant or feeling distant, and feeling like we're fighting and being in the same city but feeling thousands of miles apart." She sighs and takes a long drink.

"God, this is so hard."

"That's love, Em. And I wish I could tell you it gets easier over time, but I haven't found that to be true."

"Then why do you stay?"

He smiles over at her. "Because it's love. It doesn't leave me when I'm at my worst, so I'm not going to abandon it either when it's not all I thought it was when I fell into it."

Her brow crinkles at that and he must sense her confusion.

"Em, can I offer you a piece of advice that you can take or leave?"

She nods.

"You shouldn't think of it as an either-or. You don't have to love her or fight with her. It's not either she tells her mom and loves you or doesn't tell her and so she's embarrassed by you. Things are almost always more complicated than that and I just...I don't want you to give up on it or her because you think love means perfect and that if it's not perfect, then it's not love. Because there's still love in the fighting and in the distance and the miscommunication."

Lately, she's been so quick to cry that you'd think she was the pregnant one. She takes a few deep breaths and blinks back the tears that threaten to spill.

Finally, when she's sure she's good, she looks up at him. "Thanks."

It's just one word, but she can tell by the look on his face, it means everything.

And for the first time in her entire life, she wonders what this has been like for him.

Inheriting a kid that hated you.

Having another one you loved who adored you.

Sitting at a dinner table trying to make small talk with one angry teen, while the other begs for your attention.

Picking out Christmas gifts for someone who will view you as the villain of the story, regardless of what's under the wrapping paper.

She'd never thought about him. Never considered that he'd been trying to do this, be this, for years.

But she suddenly is flooded with so much guilt that when Ingrid walks in dressed and ready to go and asks what they're doing, he actually ruffles her hair and she actually lets him.

"Just having a chat with the kiddo." He smirks over at her and she rolls her eyes, but can't help but laugh.

"Yeah, good talk. Thanks pops." She playfully punches him in the arm but his eyes light up so much so that she thinks she could've punched him in the junk and it still wouldn't have wiped the smile off of his face.

She looks over at her mom, who also looks pleasantly surprised, and decides she's officially done with this.

She knows she's been a bitch the last... every day since she's known him, but it's not like she spits on him every time she sees him. She's been nice so this reaction seems wildly dramatic.

"Alriiiight well I'll be in the car," she stands quickly and heads towards the kitchen to throw her bottle away.

No one says anything, but as she's preparing to head out of the other side of the kitchen towards the door, she hears them quietly.

"What was that?"

"I have not a clue, but...and I'm going to knock on wood right after I say this, but...I think she might actually like me."

"Progress."

"Progress."

She swears she hears them high five and she actually laughs a little to herself as she walks outside, considering the idea that she might actually like him.


"Okay, fine I'm just going to say it! Someone at this table feels awfully mopey for brunch."

She scoffs and rolls her eyes, knowing it's her being called out.

"Yeahhhh, I didn't want to say anything, but damn, Regina."

Ah, so they're not even trying to beat around the bush. They're close enough now to call her out by name with absolutely no qualms.

She sits her water back on the table and sighs. How does she say this? What is she even trying to say?

"Come on, spit it out," Kat says in a way that's both sincere and abrasive all at once.

"Emma and I had a fight."

"About what?" Kat asks, not sounding the least bit surprised.

"I was being stupid and I think I upset her."

That causes everyone's eyebrows to raise and suddenly, even Ashley puts down her phone to listen in.

"Wait, what? How?"

"We…," she sighs, embarrassed to even have to replay this, "We were at an appointment and she had asked when I was going to tell my family and I just...snapped at her. Ultimately told her my mom wasn't going to be happy either way and that I had no interest in explaining how this baby came to be and it just...I think it just rubbed her the wrong way. I didn't mean for it to sound like I was ashamed of her, I'm certainly not. It's just...my mother is so old-fashioned and occasionally downright cruel and I have zero interest in subjecting Emma to that so I wanted to shut down the conversation, but I haven't seen her in days so safe to say she's upset."

Kat whistles.

Ashley looks hungry for more details.

Belle looks disappointed and somehow that's probably the worst part.

"Wow, well...huh. Wow. Who would've thought you'd be the one in the dog house?" Kat's attempt at a joke falls flat with everyone and that just makes her feel even worse.

"I know, I know. And I really don't know what to say now. I mean, my position is the same. There's no reason to tell my mom, but I think I've been so afraid to broach the topic because I don't even know what to say."

"You have to apologize Regina."

She bristles a bit at that, her instincts telling her not to allow anyone else to tell her what to do. But Belle's voice is unwavering and she reminds herself that these women are her friends. That their advice isn't self-serving, it's out of love. An idea she's still getting used to after years of having only her mother's opinion to rely on.

"I know, I just...don't know where to begin. I'm not used to being the one to apologize." She chuckles a little at the irony of it all.

"Just say sorry. Emma's not going to play hard to get with you, she just wants to know you didn't mean it. And I'm sure she owes you an apology too. She can't just disappear the second you two get into a tiff. There's a baby involved now."

She sighs and somehow feels worse. "That's the kicker. She still checks in every day and asks if I need anything and if Mango's moving around a lot. She's still sending screenshots of recipes and cute names she comes across."

"Damn," Kat says, sounding downright impressed.

"Yeah what the hell Regina? You need to apologize to that amazing woman," Ashley says with a playful smirk.

She laughs at that and nods. "I will. I will. I'd be crazy to let her go."

"Yes, you really would. Literally, the only time Phillip sends me recipes is when he wants me to make something. And he assumes I have all this time on my hands because I work from home, but it's like...noooo, I'm taking care of YOUR child and running a business."

Kat rolls her eyes, "Men. They literally think we're put on this earth to make sure they're taken care of. Jeff is the neediest guy I've ever met, doesn't know how to work a single thing in our kitchen or laundry room. He's lucky he knows how to work a screwdriver. And the uh...size of his hammer doesn't hurt either."

They all laugh heartily at that and just like that, brunch is back on a lighter topic and Regina finds herself laughing harder than ever while hearing about Phil and Jeff's antics.


She ends up catching a ride with Belle, who has once again managed to sneak Ruby's Maserati away, so that she can go back to Emma's.

She chuckles, wondering aloud, "Is there anything Ruby wouldn't do for you?"

Belle smiles easily, dreamily really, and shakes her head. "No, I don't think there is."

She nods and leans back in her seat, with her hands laying gently where Mango's head was just a few days ago.

"Is there anything Emma wouldn't do for you?"

She's about to respond in kind, but then she remembers there is one thing. "She wouldn't marry me."

Belle purses her lips and turns towards her, probably gauging how she feels about that.

"I used to think the same thing about Ruby."

She laughs a little, always amazed at the similarities, "Was that after Ruby explicitly said she would never get married?"

"Yes, actually. When we first got together, she was still spending a lot of time with her single friends and swore she'd never want to get married. Said it seemed pointless."

She nods, having heard that before.

"And now?"

Belle can hardly contain her grin. "And now there's a ring box hidden under some old mail in her nightstand."

She nearly chokes on that information. "Seriously?!"

Belle nods, clearly excited to be able to tell someone. "I didn't open it because I didn't want to ruin at least that for her, but I have a feeling she's going to propose for our 3 year anniversary. It's coming up in a few weeks."

"B, that is awesome! I'm so happy for you."

She nods, "I really really am too. You know, it's funny, I thought when we started this it was going to be rocky and complicated forever, and yes, sometimes it's bumpy and we get off-course, but all roads still led us here. And I never would've gotten here if I hadn't stuck with it, you know?"

"Yeah, I know exactly what you mean."

And she does. Emma is nothing if not steep hills and dangerous terrain, but she's found that sticking with it has already yielded so many wonderful rewards.

Not only did her recurring Wednesday one night stand turn into a love she's never known, but they share a child together now and that….that is the single greatest thing Emma could've given her.

That alone makes all the bumpy moments worth it, but to have Emma too? That feels like a dream come true.

They park in silence and part on Ruby's floor, Belle hugging her with the reassurance that she and Emma will be fine.

She takes the remaining floors as an opportunity to do some deep breathing.

The walk down the hall is filled with the sound of her footsteps and possibly the sound of her thudding heartbeat, and when she finally makes it to her door, she takes a deep breath and pats her ever-growing tummy.

"Okay Mango. This is going to be a rare occurrence, but we're going to go inside and apologize to mommy. Please do not get used to this. You ready?"

It still amazes her when she feels a light kick to her abdomen and she pats the spot once more before using her other hand to knock firmly.

The wait feels next to unbearable, but she uses it to run through her apology one more time.

She focuses so hard on it that when the door opens, it actually takes her a minute to realize it's not Emma standing there.

"Uh, hi?"

The blonde stranger smiles at her, seemingly confused as to what she's doing there.

"Hi. Can I help you?"

She wants to say "hell no" but actually she does need some help understanding this because this woman is in nothing but a sports bra and the skimpiest pair of shorts she's ever seen. Her hair is glued to her forehead and she's panting, looking like she's just run a marathon.

She's surprised to find that her mind only partially jumps to a worst-case scenario. No one has sex in gym clothes, right?

Right?

But it is still a bit jarring to find another woman in her...well, Emma's home.

"Is Emma home?"

Part of her wants her initial theory to be true, Emma borrowed the scantily decorated apartment from someone else because even that is preferable to this weird reality right now.

"Oh yeah yeah, come on in!"

She shouts for Emma, telling her she has company, and for her part, the stranger seems to be open and inviting, she certainly doesn't act like she was just sleeping with someone else's...someone.

She internally rolls her eyes at her inability to put a name on what they are to each other, but as Emma comes bounding from the hallway, she puts that aside and gives her a once over.

She's happy to see that Emma is in yoga pants, a Nike tank top, and her hands are wrapped in white tap. So clearly they weren't doing that before she arrived.

"Hyeh baby," she says before rolling her eyes playfully and removing her mouthguard.

"Hey, hi," Emma says again and sounds equal parts excited and surprised.

"Hello, Ms. Swan."

Emma's eyebrows crinkle at that and she sees her guard come up, just an inch.

She chides herself then, remembering that she's here to apologize, not make things worse.

"Hi. You guys okay?"

At first, she thinks Emma means both her and the mystery woman then considers that Emma hasn't taken her eyes off of her since walking in the room, so she reasons that she must mean her and Mango.

"Oh yes yes, sorry. We're alright. Great actually. I just...stopped by in the hopes that we could talk. But I see…," she doesn't finish that thought partially because she's not sure what she's seeing and in other parts because she wants Emma to explain this.

She's proud of herself for not jumping to conclusions but she certainly wants a thorough explanation for this sweaty, hot woman prancing around in next to nothing.

"Oh yeah, I'm sorry, this is Sadie. She and I met a while back at a bar then again at the gym. She texted a couple of days ago saying she had lost her sparring partner to law school so I volunteered to kick her ass a couple of times a week."

They both laugh at the joke and Sadie punches her playfully in the shoulder, "You wish, punk."

Emma laughs and rolls her eyes again.

"Anywaaay, you must be Regina." Sadie is all smiles as she reaches out to shake her hand and she politely reaches out as well.

"It's nice to finally meet you. I don't think Emma has shut up about you since I met her."

Her eyebrows raise just slightly at that and her heart warms at the idea that Emma might rant and rave about her in the same way she does to her friends.

"Is that so?"

Emma shakes her head but steps closer to her, placing a hand on her back and she hates that it's so simple yet so comforting.

"I'd hardly say that, but yeahhh this is my girl," Emma beans down at her and she finds herself giving up a genuine smile of her own, and it's filled with sheer joy at being called Emma's girl.

"Both of my girls really," Emma says as she leans down to blow a raspberry on her stomach, through her shirt and she feels Mango kick like she always does at the sound of Emma's voice.

She places a hand on her belly out of habit and another on Emma's shoulder, gently pushing her away, "Don't rile her up. She loves those, you're going to get her excited and she'll be kicking me for the next ten hours looking for more."

Emma laughs and stands to full height, and a quick glance over to Sadie tells her she's amazed as well, probably never having seen Emma so...maternal.

"Well, I should definitely go. I'll just grab my stuff and let you two…," no one cares that she doesn't finish that thought, as she backs away towards the hallway and Emma looks back down at her, eyes more wary now that they're alone.

"You sure you're okay?"

"Yes, of course. I just didn't realize you'd have company. I didn't mean-," but Emma cuts her off with an adamant shake of the head.

"Oh no no, you're not interrupting at all. We were just fucking around."

The second it leaves her mouth, her eyes widen comically. "Not literally."

She laughs, "I should hope not," and it comes out much less strained than it was said in her head.

"No yeah, I swear. We were just sparring."

"How long have you two been doing this?"

"Literally today was the first time. And we'll be at the gym from now on, we just didn't realize the ring was a book online, no walk-ins situation so I just threw out we could come back here and use my mat for today but it won't happen again."

She wants to laugh at just how serious Emma sounds but honestly, she's happy to hear that this hasn't been an ongoing thing, nor will it be. Not that she doesn't trust Emma, but they are in a fragile place. It makes her feel better knowing that Emma is conscious of that too and cares about what things look like to her.

"Sounds good," she mumbles before boldly leaning forward to kiss her. She accepts it easily and they only pull apart when Sadie comes back around the corner, clutching her gym bag over her shoulder.

"Right well, it was nice meeting you Regina. And uh, congrats on the baby! That's gotta be really exciting."

She thanks her politely (or at least she hopes it sounds polite) and Emma sees her out.

The door clicks shut and Emma seems to take a deep breath before turning around.

"So...you said you wanted to talk?"


She's torn between immediately wanting to put a wall up again and forgiving her without ever hearing an apology.

She wonders, not for the first time, if this is what real, true love is. Wanting to see it through so badly that you overlook the small things, even at the expense of your own feelings.

She wonders if that's what Regina felt like she had to do all those months when they first started sleeping together and then...sort of...dating.

"I'm just going to say it: I'm sorry," Regina sighs heavily as she says it and her heart feels full and light again instantly.

"That's something I don't hear too often," she laughs a little, walking over towards the couch and plopping down.

She watches Regina take a more careful seat and smiles involuntarily.

"Well, like I was telling Mango before we got here, do not get used to this."

She has to laugh at that, lifting her feet underneath her and turning towards Regina.

"But...I do know how to admit when I'm wrong and I was wrong to be so cold and insensitive the other day at Dr. Wilkins' office. It's a totally fair request that I tell my mom, but I just...I don't want anything she says to impact this. Us. We're good right now, our little family, and I know that she wouldn't understand or accept it. Not me being with a woman and certainly not you having the necessary anatomy to lead us to a biological child. Still, I'll apologize for how I spoke to you the other day, and even for not having this conversation sooner."

"Well, I-,"

"However," she presses on, "I'm not wavering on the matter itself. You've had enough people making you feel like you're less than, I'm not going to walk us into that same situation with someone who doesn't know the meaning of unconditional love. And I'm not going to invite her into our child's life either. Because even if she loved Mango wholeheartedly, it's not fair to take one without the other. We are a package deal now and she either accepts all of us or none of us."

Regina huffs as she finishes her tirade and honestly, it's adorable as all hell.

She gives it a few seconds, letting Regina (clearly) sweat it out, as she picks at nonexistent lint on her pants and avoids eye contact.

Finally, she sighs. "Okay. I forgive you."

Regina's eyes lift instantly, squinting in skepticism. "Is that...it? Just...that's it?"

She laughs at that and eases back into the couch, getting comfortable as she places a hand on Regina's knee.

"Well, yeah. I mean, really you're the one who likes to talk our problems to death so that's all I have to say on it, but ultimately, it's your decision and it's not like I can argue with your reasoning. Sure, we could've talked about this sooner. It probably would've…," she clears her throat, still feeling a little uncomfortable talking so candidly about her matters of the heart. "It wouldn't have hurt my feelings as much if you had just said all of this to me in the first place, but I get it so I forgive you and we're good."

She smiles languidly and even opens her arms so that Regina can cuddle in with her.

Slowly she takes her up on her offer and she leans into her side. She kisses her hair, breathing in the familiar apple shampoo, and sighs.

"This feels too easy."

"Literally what I say every time I fuck up with you and you keep loving me anyway."

"When the baby is born, we're starting a swear jar."

"I'm not respecting that until I hear a swear word from her mouth."

"By then, it'll be too late."

She hums noncommittally, refusing to donate to herself in the form of a swear jar.

She doesn't know how long they sit there, just content to exist in each other's arms, until she remembers what David had mentioned earlier, and thinks it can't hurt to reassure Regina. It's what she would want in a moment like this.

"I still like you even when we fight," she says it quietly but it's absolutely silent around them so she knows Regina's heard, especially when she snuggles in closer.

"Good. And I still love you even when sexy, sweaty girls answer your door."

The joke catches her more than a little off guard, so when she laughs, it wracks her whole body.

"But look at you not jumping to conclusions and turning into a psycho!"

"Yes, I did manage to tamp down my inner 'psycho'," she goes out of her way to use air quotes, "Aren't you proud of me, dear?"

She chuckles again and places another kiss on her head, "So proud, baby"


They'd had a good night. They'd ordered soup and sandwiches from a deli around the corner. They enjoyed some Trader Joe's peach cobbler and watched a movie in bed until she had inevitably fallen asleep.

And at some point, Emma must've fallen asleep as well.

But it's 2 am now and she's wide awake.

While she had come over to apologize to Emma, she also knew she needed to have that conversation with Emma.

The one about her childhood. The one about the mother who didn't love her and the father who left her far too soon.

But she had...what was the phrase?

Chickened out, she scoffs to herself, putting her hands inside of Emma's sweatshirt that she had stolen from the closet.

It's colder up here, even in these warmer months. There is a slight chill in the air, but the air is crisp and fresh and she needs it.

She takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. In just a few months, she'll be doing the exact same thing, likely under more stressful circumstances while being told to push, and the thought is terrifying and thrilling.

"I can't wait for you to get here."

Her hands rest on her stomach, as they've been prone to do these last few months.

"Seriously, you're going to love it. You're going to have such a great life."

There's no kick or movement at all. She knows not to expect anything this late, Mango loves her sleep, but she rubs her belly anyway, that's finally starting to really show.

"I'm going to be very honest with you though. Our shit isn't really together. Your other mother is an emotional invalid and I'm so afraid of getting this wrong that it's almost paralyzing. So I can't exactly promise that it's always going to be smooth sailing. But I can promise that we're not quitters."

"That's a dollar in the swear jar."

She turns in complete fear, one hand clutching her baby bump and the other over her heart.

"Dear God, you scared the hell out of me."

"I see that," Emma chuckles, and closes the balcony door behind her as she steps out and leans onto the railing, looking out at the night. "And that's two dollars now."

"Seems like you're rubbing off on me."

"How so?"

"First the swearing and now the middle of the night wake up calls? Sharing a witching hour?"

She smiles at that, "Seems that way. You okay?"

"Yeah...I'm okay. I just couldn't sleep."

Emma chuckles humorlessly. "Yeah, same. I feel you in my sleep."

"I...don't know what that means."

Emma shrugs. "Your body, your energy, your something. I must feel it in my sleep because eventually, I felt it leave. That's what woke me up. You were missing."

"Hardly missing dear. But you're sweet. I think what you're trying to say is you can't sleep without me."

"Mmm." Emma groans and she can't see it, but she knows she's rolled her eyes.

She pokes Emma in the ribs to let her know that she's just teasing.

"So we've determined that you woke me up but what woke you up? You sleep like a log."

"I don't think I like that phrase."

"Gina, what's wrong?"

Emma, still leaning on the railing, looks over at her, and the worry on her face is evident.

She sighs.

There isn't a single thing she doesn't want to tell Emma about herself, but this is a tough one.

She doesn't even know where to begin.

She sighs again and then just says it.

"I...had a rough childhood."

It clearly catches Emma off-guard because she opens her mouth then closes it several times before nervously letting out a breath.

"Me...too?"

"Yes, I know."

Emma then stands to full height and turns towards her completely, clearly realizing that this is a part of a larger conversation.

"Then what do you mean by rough?"

She digs her hands deeper into the pockets.

"Like, my father was a workaholic and so my mom was my primary caregiver but was the least caring person I've ever encountered. She used to tell me I was silly and foolish when I was little. She hated that I had an imagination. She hated that I talked to my dolls and that I would wait to eat dinner until my father finally got home, no matter how late it was. In my teens, she hated that I would rather enjoy a good book at home than go out with a boy. She hated that I didn't want to play chess and that I loved horseback riding. And when she finally caved and accepted my riding, she hated that I didn't want to do it competitively. I...I sometimes feel like she hated me. And...she never told me otherwise."

She doesn't even realize she's crying until Emma's right there, with strong hands cupping her face and steady fingers stroking her tears away.

"I just...I want to do better than that. I want Mango to know that she's perfect, just the way she is and that she doesn't have to change for us. I need her to know that we'll love her and that's never going to change."

"She will, we'll make sure of it."

"Will we?"

The confusion is written all over Emma's face and she's trying so hard to convey everything she means without having to say it.

"Yeah? I mean, I think it's going to take some getting used to, but I think we're going to be great at this, Gina."

She sighs and looks away. That's not what she wants to hear.

But how is she supposed to know if you don't ask her?!

The doc is usually a miracle worker, but this time he's given two different instructions and they're tough to follow: be an honest communicator but don't say what you really mean.

She doesn't know how she's supposed to do both, but she needs to hear it. She doesn't want to guess, she needs reassurance.

But if you hurt her feelings again by comparing her to your unloving mother, Dr. Hopper is right. She's going to be upset and she might be less forgiving than she was earlier tonight.

"Baby, please just tell me what's wrong. Whatever it is, I'm-"

"Do you love this baby, Emma?"

Fuck.

Both of their eyes widen at the same time.

That's not what she means to say. It's probably the last thing actually that she wanted to come out of her mouth.

And now that it's out there, the hurt is written all over Emma's face. She immediately reaches out to her to pull her close, not wanting that to linger between them any longer than it needs to.

"That's not what I meant. I didn't mean to ask that...like that."

Emma is stiff as a board, closer now but still looking down at her with an unreadable expression.

"Em, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that."

"Yes, you did." Emma's voice is low and strained and pained.

"No, no I swear I didn't. I know you love her. I know you love us. I was just being ridiculous"

Emma takes a deep breath and steps back.

"Why…," she swallows thickly, "What is it going to take for you to trust me, Regina?"

She sighs. "I do trust you, Em."

Emma's laugh is without mirth. "You don't. You clearly don't. You don't trust me to stick around, you don't trust me to take care of you or Mango. You don't trust me to do the right thing here."

"That's not true."

"Then what the fuck, Regina? What is this about?"

The growing frustration is evident in the way she raises her voice. It's obvious in the way she waves her hands around haphazardly.

"I just want-,"

She cuts herself off. Does she even know?

The rational part of her says she has nothing to worry about. Dr. Hopper is 100% correct.

She knows who Emma is. She knows her flaws. She knows her weaknesses.

But she also knows all the strength and the kindness and love she holds in her heart. A blind, deaf man could see it.

So what is she so concerned about?

"Let me fix it, or prove it or whatever you need, Regina. Let me just try. I swear I'm not going to let you down. I would never. If…if there's too much pressure to try and work on us and raise a baby at the same time, then let's just put us aside for a minute. Let's just-,"

She shakes her head immediately at that.

She doesn't want fewer hugs or kisses. She doesn't want to go back to feeling like just another someone to Emma.

"No, no that's not what I need."

"Then what?" Emma grinds out.

Sigh. Okay, sorry Dr. Hopper but she tried. She tried to have this conversation subtly and it didn't work. Then she tried to have it honestly and that almost led to a... break-up? A breakdown?

So no. She'll just have to report back that she's a failure but she's not about to lose Emma over her own insecurities.

"I just need you to keep doing what you're doing. I just need consistency. And I think that will make it easier to know you're in it for the long haul."

Not a complete lie.

Emma softens at that, clearly not wanting a fight either.

"I get that. My track record isn't great, with you or just about anyone for that matter. So I'll just keep showing up and being fantastic and you'll see, okay?"

She laughs at that and lifts her arms, more than ready to eliminate the distance between them. And Emma obliges easily, leaning down to scoop her up.

"I'm gonna be so good for you two. I promise, baby."

She snuggles in closer, with her ear right over Emma's heart, and what she hears surprises her.

It's soft and steady where she expected to find thrumming.

The fast-paced beats she's used to now quietly lull her back to sleep before she even realizes it.

"Let's get back to bed, love," Emma whispers peacefully in her hair and she sighs, still refusing to open her eyes.

If she couldn't do the other thing honestly, she can at least do this. She can at least say this.

"I'm so in love with you, Emma Swan."

She doesn't get a response, nor does she expect one.

But somehow, knowing exactly what it means, she gets something better.

She feels and hears both at once. Emma's heartbeat speeds up and her arms tighten around her shoulders. Her lips graze against her forehead and the warm breath feels like home as Emma speaks softly. "I didn't know it but I waited for you my entire life."

She wants to cry.

Everyone had asked why she stayed. She'd asked herself why she stayed. What about Emma was worth sticking around for? But it's this right here. It's the quiet moments together on her balcony. It's the whisperings of anything but sweet nothings. It's the promises made for her ears only.

"I didn't know it either but I spent my whole life searching for you."

"Thank you for finding me, Regina."

"I will always find you, Emma."

######

Okay okay. We needed to get some feelings out of the way but now we've got a few more months before this baby arrives and it's time to have a little more fun with it! ALMOST THERE Y'ALL!

Hope you're staying safe and healthy. Until next time!