Author's Note: Wow. I started posting this story in February, and here it is last Saturday in July, with the conclusion. I thank everyone who has followed, favorited, and commented throughout. ~ LZ

Chapter 25

Regina felt like she was swimming up through molasses as she awoke. Arms and legs felt leaden; her eyelids dragged with ten ton weights. Flexing her fingers, she found cotton fabric between them. Attempting to move her head and open her eyes to see what was in her hands, she winced at the stiffness in her back and neck.

"Hey." Emma's voice sounded so close. Regina wondered how the blonde was with her.

Then, she remembered the delivery, laying among bed pillows, Emma cradling her against her body and breathing with her. Her stomach tensed in memory of the contractions and seemingly endless pain. Then she felt again the pressure release the moment she saw and felt Star slide free. Even before Whale had scooped Star into his hands, the little girl's squalling pierced the air and Regina could hardly see her through the sheets of tears falling from her eyes.

"Hey," she murmured to answer Emma and then blinked her eyes open. The lights where they were had been lowered and she fretted only that she didn't have a sense of the time.

"It's almost sundown." Emma answered her unspoken thought. "How are you feeling?" Green eyes smiled at her, filled with so much love it made Regina blush.

"I could sleep for a month." She tried to sit up only to strangely still feel pregnant, her chest heavy and weighted. She tilted her gaze down and found a dark head of hair lay against her bare breast. Her left arm and Emma's right hand were both atop blankets wrapped around Star resting on her chest. Regina tried to moved to better see Star's face, but had to stop and rest her head on Emma's shoulder.

"Is she… is Star all right?" Regina moved her hand on Star's back, concerned the baby wasn't moving.

"She's great. She came back from her tests sound asleep."

Regina didn't remember the baby being taken away nor her return. "Tests?"

"Yeah, everything… You kinda fell asleep quick, but Star...she's perfect." Emma's lips brushed Regina's eyes. "Just like her mom."

"I feel… drugged," Regina said slowly. "Why don't I remember this? Did they give me something?"

"No drugs. You're just exhausted. Adrenaline wore off from delivery." Emma lifted onto her elbow and looked down at Regina, brushing hair from her cheek. Regina felt something wriggle against her chest and against her aching abdomen. "Looks like Star's awake finally," Emma said.

"Oh." Regina tried to adjust her hands, as Emma leaned back, but her arm muscles still didn't quite cooperate, and she could only limply pat the baby's back. The weakness was terrifying. She bit her lip and tears trickled out of the corners of her eyes. "I can't pick her up," she whimpered.

"Probably just your position. You were fine earlier, but you've slipped down a bit." Emma asked. "I'll help you sit up."

"Thank you."

Emma pulled herself with envious ease off the bed and Regina awkwardly hugged around Star while pillows and cushions were rearranged and she was gradually elevated to a sitting position. Her abdomen protested, but she felt vastly more in control by the time she and Emma together adjusted her hold on Star. Tugging aside the corner of the baby's swaddling, Regina finally could look at the baby's face.

Emma's hand adjusting the blanket made her look up at the blonde. "Thank you," she said.

Emma lifted her green eyes from Star and Regina choked on giddiness she couldn't control, didn't want to control. She smiled widely.

"No. Thank you, Regina. Thank you for accepting me, for giving me a second chance... at everything." Emma leaned forward. Their noses brushed. "I truly love you."

"Truly?" Regina's wry delivery made Emma chuckle. Brown eyes rolled and Emma cupped her cheek. Regina tilted her head so their lips could meet.

Star's eyelids fluttered. Her first close up view on the world was her mothers kissing.


Late afternoon the next day...

When Emma took Star from her arms to buckle the baby into the backseat child carrier, Regina pushed up out of the wheelchair and stood to get in the Mercedes. She still felt tender in many muscles and tired. But she smiled; her family was going home. Suddenly, she felt a breeze across her skin and brushed her arms against the chill. Strangely though there was no wind, she realized when she saw no trees shifting nearby.

Once they were buckled into the front seat, Regina's gaze found Emma's. "What was that?"

"People crossing the town line." Emma's answer was quick enough for Regina to realize she had been prepared for whatever it was.

"Who," Regina asked, "is at the town line? And why aren't you?"

"Neal's traveling back to New York today."

"Oh." Regina felt relief at hearing Henry's father would not be underfoot any longer.

"He took his father with him."

Rumplestiltskin is gone from Storybrooke? Perhaps that explained the magic backwash she'd felt. "Today was the day?"

After the Blue Fairy's suggestion, Emma had demanded specifics and to be part of whatever was planned.

"Yeah, we had the final ingredients last week and then Blue said at the full moon she could cast it."

"That's why you were late coming home two nights ago. Potion mixing without me?" It had been only a small portion of the magic practice they'd done together, but suddenly Regina felt like she'd lost out on part of Emma's development.

Emma reached across the gear shift and grasped Regina's fingers. "Yeah, learning magic without you, I know. But it means I'm sure he'll just be Rupert Gold one of the idle rich in New York."

"Can he ever return?"

"Even if he did, Blue assures that crossing the line will fully separate his magic. Belle is keeping the Dagger here."

Regina resolved as soon as possible to have a talk with the librarian and find a permanent way to secure the ancient magic.


Emma parked the Mercedes in the driveway at Mifflin Street. She helped Regina out of the car and passed Star to her. "Wait for me," she said at the brunette started toward the front door.

"All right."

Grabbing the bag full of baby supplies and Regina's overnight bag, Emma shifted both handles into one hand before she hurried around the end of the car. She put her hand across Regina's back, guiding her as they walked up the steps together to the front door.

It opened before Emma could reach for the knob.

"Welcome home!" Snow and Henry stood in the doorway.

Regina blinked. "Snow? Henry?"

"Can I see my sister?" Henry asked.

"Of course, dear." Regina stepped forward and Henry backed up. She tugged back the edge of the swaddling. From next to her mother, Emma saw Henry's face light up with a huge smile.

"Hey, Star," he said, awe filling his voice as he reached for a tiny moving hand.

"Are Neal and Gold gone?" Emma asked her mother.

"Yes. Belle decided she should also go," Snow replied.

"Oh?" That hadn't been the plan when Emma had left the group to collect Regina from the hospital.

"She said she couldn't be happy without him," Snow said. "He's her True Love." Snow turned to Regina. "Blue said she wants to consult with Emma and you when you're up to it, about the Dagger."

"Where is it now?" Regina asked.

"Blue encased it in a stone. Says no one can get it out except the Savior." Snow looked at Emma. "I hope that's all right?"

Emma turned her gaze from watching Regina and Henry looking at Star. "Just so I know it won't harm my family."

Snow nodded. "She assured me only you can touch it now." She looked toward Henry and Regina then back to Emma. "I should get home myself. Henry helped me put a casserole together. It's in the oven on warm."

Emma's gaze followed her mother to the end of the walkway. "Mom?"

"Yes?"

"Bring Dad by next week? Dinner? I'll grill."

Her mother's eyes lit up. "Your father will want to help."

"I know."

"I do love you, Emma."

"I know. I love you, too, Mom."

"Ma!"

Hearing Henry's voice, Snow nudged Emma's arm. "You'd better get inside. To your family."

"Yeah." Emma turned, reentered the home, closed the door, and started up the stairs.

"Emma," Regina called from somewhere upstairs.

With a smile, Emma lifted her hand and snapped her fingers together, vanishing in a poof of white smoke.

She reappeared in the nursery where Regina was just laying Star in her cradle. Henry smiled at them from across the other side while Emma took Regina's hand and together they looked down at their daughter.

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