A/N: Alright, as promised and before Christmas- I bring all my lovely readers and the last and closing chapter to this fun filled story! It pains me to have finished it, but I am very happy with the direction I took this chapter. I hope you all feel it in your hearts reading it as much as I did writing it. Thank you all for being so amazing and patient. More of my updates for other of my stories are to come now that I am done with this one. I wish every one of you a safe and Merry Christmas! :)
After that sudden and unexpected proposal, Regina had to step outside for a moment. Only she needed more than a breather this time.
Her head turned once she heard the front door open, seeing Emma coming out with an already apologetic look, "So… we're engaged now?" She asked her, very much like Emma asked her when she just dropped the act of them dating in front of her family.
"I'm sorry." Was all Emma could really say.
Regina chuckled, making a noise that was a mixture with a scoff included, "Emma…" She paused, trying to find the right words to use, "I really like you. But, when I agreed to make this- us into something official… what about that gave you the impression that I was ready to get married?"
"I mean, you do understand that it was a very unexpected question, right?" Asked Regina, not at all angry but still in shock, "You placed me in a very awkward position with my family- I couldn't possibly say no, it would crush them."
"I know-" Emma nodded, "I'm sorry, it was the only thing I could think of to do in the moment to get them off your back. I wasn't expecting it either, I mean I've never proposed to anyone before- that was…" She chuckled, releasing a long held in breath, "Pretty terrifying."
The brunette chuckled, shaking her head, "Well…" She saw things more calmly, "Just because we're engaged now, it doesn't mean we have to start preparing the wedding tomorrow or in a month."
"Right." Emma nodded, smiling. "You're absolutely right. We don't. Not even in a year. People put engagements on hold all the time, we could just tell everyone that it's too soon and not make it into a big deal."
Regina's face squinted a little in thought, "Except to everyone inside it is a huge deal. But, you're right. I mean, why get married at all yet?"
"Exactly!" Emma smiled, feeling a weight being lifted off of her chest. "It's too soon."
"Way too soon." Regina nodded, she paused, drawing in a breath, "So… we both… agree, we're not getting married?"
Emma nodded, motioning towards the brunette, "Yet, for everyone's sake."
"Right, right," Regina nodded, "Yet."
After a moment of both women taking in much needed breaths of relief and gathering their thoughts together. The brunette couldn't help but look down at the sparkling ring she wore on her finger.
Her brows furrowed as another realization suddenly hit her, "Where did you even get an engagement ring from?"
Emma's jaw clenched, her tongue wetting her lips, her hands stuffing themselves inside the pockets of her jacket, while her feet dared to take a few steps towards the brunette.
"Um…" Her throat cleared, "Regina, there is something you should know about me," She held up her hands, "and before you say that my past to you isn't important- I know that. But, this is something that you really need to know about me and for me it's important that I tell you."
"Okay…?" Regina blinked, seeing the serious look in the blonde's face.
Emma sighed, finding it harder to speak about her past more than she thought it would be. She paced several turns that her boots thudded a little loud against the deck.
She paced until she finally gathered enough courage to face the brunette, "Alright," She held onto her hands, not for her own sake but for Regina's, because the last thing she wanted was to lose her forever. Not after all they've been through. Even if it was only for a week. "Remember when I told you that I was in the foster system?"
Regina nodded, her eyes locking onto green ones that were filled with fear, "Yeah."
Emma drew in another breath, "Well, when I was finally let go to fend for myself…" She paused, her heart leaping into her throat, "Regina, I didn't always make the right choices in life." Her hands squeezed at the brunette's hands gently.
Regina could feel the blonde's palms beginning to sweat. She could even swear, she felt her hands shaking. "Emma…" Her palm rested on the blonde's cheek, her thumb lightly stroking away.
A gentle touch the blonde welcomedly leaned into.
"Whatever it is. You can tell me." She gave her a warm smile. A smile that gave her hope that maybe everything was going to be alright. No matter how dark her past had been.
A tiny smile crept onto the blonde's lips, her hand grabbing a hold of the brunette's again, "Regina…" She swallowed her heart back up, which had jumped into her throat again, "I've been wanting to tell you that I-"
"Oh! They're out here!" Zelena smiled at both of them, a smile very much like Regina's and Cora's, "Come on inside, father opened up this fancy bottle of wine he had stored away, says he wants to make a toast." She beckoned them, heading back inside and shutting the door.
Regina shared a knowing smile with Emma.
"You know if we don't go, she'll just-"
"Come right back." Emma nodded, her voice soft with a hint of disappointment that once again, they had been interrupted.
"Yeah." Regina chuckled, taking the blonde's hand, which was still a drench sweat but no longer shaking, as they headed inside to the brunette's family's greeting smiles and welcomed embraces.
Henry Sr beamed at the sight of both women entering the home, his arms spread out with absolute joy- way more than a few minutes ago when Zelena and Robin announced their pregnancy, he held two filled champagne glasses. His special occasional drink.
"This has been the best Christmas this year!" He handed Regina a glass of champagne, his eyes looking at the blonde, "Which is a cause for celebrating." He handed the other to Emma, while everyone held a glass of their own already.
"Oh, no. Thank you, but I-" Emma wanted to protest, tried, but failed.
"Emma, please." Henry insisted, placing the drink before her, "It's to celebrate your engagement to my beautiful daughter." His smile spread, "You have to have one drink, at least."
The blonde chuckled nervously, hesitantly accepting the offered drink. Something Regina quickly noticed.
"Now, listen," Henry Sr continued, wrapping both of his arms loosely around both women's shoulders, holding them close to him, "I'm not sure if you two have decided where you want the wedding to be, but I was thinking we could-"
"Let's not get too overwhelmed with the whole wedding yet, dad." Regina cut in, still holding her glass of champagne.
"What?" Cora asked, shocked that they didn't seem too excited about planning their wedding.
"Why not?" Henry asked, "It's your wedding, Regina."
"I realize that," Regina nodded, her eyes on Emma, "but I really think this is a topic Emma and I should be discussing first. As a couple, you understand." Her head turned towards Zelena, "Besides, we wouldn't want to take the gloat away from Zelena and Robin's big news." She smiled.
"Well, you are right, dear." Cora smiled, "But, we can still celebrate, can't we? After all…" Her smile grew, "We do have two reasons to do so tonight."
"We certainly do." Zelena moved in, beaming, "And you know, I just got news over social media that the town is having a Christmas party tomorrow afternoon. We should all attend!"
"That's a great idea!" Kathryn smiled, "I love the sound of that."
"I second that." Jefferson smiled down at Grace, who smiled back at him.
"It's settled then." Cora smiled brightly, holding up her glass of champagne, "To Robin and Zelena's pregnancy and Regina and Emma's engagement."
"Cheers!" Everyone held up their glasses, clinking them together in a family toast, all taking sips from their glasses. Even Emma, that sip being the only one she took for that entire night. She didn't need more.
It had been an emotional and overwhelming night for everyone, Emma decided not to press on about their talk. After all, what was one more day of waiting it out?
Everyone decided to enjoy a nice breakfast in town, given that they would head in anyway, spending all their Christmas morning and evening roaming around and buying Christmas items for next year that happened to be placed at a reasonable discount.
The town was crowded, more than usual and music was already blasting live by 6:00pm.
And as much as Emma was continuously enjoying herself, she carried something she needed to get off her chest. And as much as she loved this family time, she really wanted a chance to catch the brunette alone, which at the moment was proving to be a little impossible.
"Hey, I'll be right back." Said Kathryn, leaving Graham alone for a while as she reunited with Regina, both friends sporting matching grins as they walked along. "So… how does it feel to be engaged?"
Regina chuckled, leaning into her friend, her voice a whisper, "You know, we aren't really engaged."
"But, you're actually dating now, which could turn into a marriage later down the road." Kathryn beamed, "Besides, I think that was pretty romantic what Emma did. This whole ordeal has been pretty romantic!"
"I suppose it has." Regina chuckled once again.
"Suppose?" This time a chuckle escaped the blonde, "You have a stranger who you've fallen madly in love with giving all her time for you, giving you the perfect Christmas and an ex-boyfriend who just won't take no for an answer."
The brunette sighed.
"Where is he anyway?" Asked Kathryn, "Have you heard from him?"
Regina shook her head, "No, and I prefer to keep it that way."
"Knock on wood, huh?" Kathryn crossed her fingers on both hands, for luck. "How is Henry handling this supposed engagement?"
Regina couldn't help but smile at the sight of Henry, mounted on Emma's shoulders, pointing to her the sights of every elf they spotted. "Surprisingly, he's fine. More than fine I'd say. He's quite taken with her."
Kathryn chuckled, her line of sight focused on the blonde with Henry, "Emma sure can make anyone like her, huh?" She nudged the brunette playfully, "Especially you."
"Yes, she can." Regina smiled towards Emma's direction, even more once the blonde turned to give her a glance over her shoulder. Emma sharing her own crooked smile.
"Look, Emma!" Henry pointed towards a puppy that was inside a shop. "Can we go see it?" He asked her.
"Sure." Emma looked over at Grace, "Grace, you want to come look at the puppy with us?"
"Can I dad?" Grace looked up at Jefferson.
Jefferson smiled, nudging her, "Go on, get out of here."
Emma, Grace and Henry ran off into the shop, immediately playing with the puppy as soon as they could get their hands on it.
"I'll be right back." Regina told Kathryn, heading towards the direction of the shop Emma and the kids were in.
Henry and Grace's laughter filled the shop, while the puppy attacked both of them with licks to their faces, its tail wagging uncontrollably. A scene that Regina couldn't help to smile for.
It was an adorable pup, a tiny dalmatian pup with a black spot right on it's eye and an entire black ear, along with another spot at the end of its tail.
"Mom, can we keep him?" Henry asked, "The lady from the shop says he's for sale. Please!"
Regina hated denying Henry anything, but she couldn't possibly afford to have a dog at the moment. Because let's face, even she knew that the one who would have be looking after it would be her. Not her son.
"Oh, Henry. Maybe next year we can get a dog."
Henry pouted, "But I'll take care of it!"
"Next year you can have your own dog," She kneeled to be at her son's level, "I promise."
"Aw, come on, Gina." Emma lifted the cute little pup up, her smile matching that of a kid, "I mean, look at the little guy wagging his little tail at you- how can you say no?"
The brunette chuckled, watching Emma holding and kissing the pup, "It seems someone else wants him too."
Emma smiled at the thought, "Ugh, I'd love to have this little guy." She turned to Henry, "What do you think, kid, what would be a good name for him?"
"Patch?" Emma turned the dog to face her, "What do you think, do we like it?" Her smile growing as soon as the pup barked in response.
"Excuse me." A woman tapped the blonde on the shoulder, "I'm sorry, but someone already purchased the dog. I'm afraid you'll have to put it back, they'll be coming for him shortly."
"Oh." Her smile vanished.
"Awww!" Henry and Grace frowned.
Emma hesitated a bit, but handed the canine back to the owner of the shop, waving to the puppy as it was taken away. "Bummer." She sighed, standing to her feet, "Well, nothing a couple of candy canes can't fix."
A couple of candy canes and two hyper kids later, while Henry and Grace played around throwing snowballs at each other, the adults found themselves dancing between the crowd. Emma and Regina included.
"Look at you becoming a dancing expert." Emma teased her, holding her close as they swayed to the music.
A blush crept up the brunette's cheeks, "Shut up."
"You're doing good." Emma smiled.
"Yeah, well, maybe because I had a good teacher." Replied Regina, her eyes locking onto green ones. "Well, tonight is our last night here." She paused, "Are you… busy for new years?"
"I don't know." Emma's features were serious, "Let me ask my other pretend girlfriend and her kid and get back to you." A laughter escaped her once Regina smacked her playfully on the arm, already calling her bluff.
Regina smiled, shaking her head, her eyes sparkling like the Christmas lights were shining around them.
"You know, when I was a kid and lived at the orphanage, there used to be this dog that would come by. He would only come to me." Emma's voice was just as calm as the song playing around them, "He was homeless just like I was so we connected. When I was finally able to fend for myself out in the world, no matter what mistake I made with my life, he was always there." She paused, her eyes becoming sad, "He reminded me that maybe, I was still a good enough person for someone- something to love me."
She shook her head, chuckling.
"It's silly, but, I really loved that dog."
"What happened to him?" Asked Regina, wanting to know. She wanted to know everything that happened in Emma's life.
Emma sighed, her eyes burning with unwelcomed tears, "I couldn't care for him anymore."
Her jaw clenched with worry, and suddenly, her heart was at her throat again. This was it. The moment of truth. It was now or never.
"That's a good question, Regina." Heads turned to the familiar sound of Daniel's voice, who was standing just a few feet away, "In fact that's a good topic to bring up Emma's real story. Her truth. Isn't that right, Emma?" He smiled, a sarcastic one at that.
The brunette's brows furrowed once their dancing stopped.
"Daniel, what on earth are you still doing here?" Asked Regina, already becoming aggravated with his presence.
"I'm just trying to make you see that the person you are dating- or I'm sorry, I should say not really dating, has been lying to you."
"What's going on here?" Asked Zelena, who gathered around the brunette along with every member of their family.
Jefferson rolled his eyes, "You again? Dude, take a hint. My sister doesn't want to be with you anymore, alright? She has Emma now."
"Emma and her were never dating." Said Daniel, "In fact, even Emma has been a lie."
"Jefferson, you know him?" Cora asked him, her eyes turning to Regina, "Regina, who is this and what is he talking about?"
Regina sighed, "This is Daniel."
"Your ex-boyfriend, Daniel?" Asked Zelena.
"Yes." Regina shook her head, "And apparently he is very determined to sabotage my new relationship, which is very real- especially when we are engaged to be married." She showed off her ring.
Daniel's lips parted in shock, "You're marrying her?"
"Son," Henry Sr stepped up, "Why don't you just go home? There's no need to cause a scene here. My daughter is happy and she is marrying a good woman, who obviously cares about her."
Daniel chuckled, his eyes trained on Emma, "So everyone is okay with you being a criminal and a murderer?"
Heads turned, eyes on Emma, who was as white as a sheet of paper. Silent.
"What?" Regina's brows furrowed.
"What on earth are you talking about?" Cora asked, her eyes glancing over at Regina, "Regina, what's he talking about?"
"Tell them, Emma." Daniel urged her, "Why don't you tell them- why don't you tell your- Regina here that you have never once in your life had a home of your own."
"That you've been an orphaned all your life."
"Is this true?" Zelena asked, her eyes on Emma.
"I knew about her being in the foster system, Daniel." Regina barked, "That's nothing to be ashamed of."
"No, you're right," Daniel nodded, holding up a blue folder, "But her criminal record is."
Heads turned once again. Emma's jaw clenched.
"You see, I felt a little sketchy the night I met her in that bar with you, so I had my friend run a background check on her…" Papers rattled.
"Daniel, that's enough." Regina hissed.
"Emma Swan, orphaned until the system let her go at the age of eighteen, only to become a pick-pocket professionally. In fact it seems her greed became so big that she eventually took the road in running from the police." Heads turned, "Her crimes grew so big, that she began breaking into homes, until she was caught and ran away, committing the biggest crime of all." His eyes met with teary-angered green eyes, "You see, Regina, this is the type of person you are letting into your life, with your family. Someone who was so desperate to run from the cops after holding someone at gunpoint and stealing all their valuables in their own home, but not before shooting them." He closed the folder, "Isn't that right, Emma?"
There were a few gasping sounds, eyes on the blonde who remained quiet and completely frozen.
"Is this true?" Asked Cora, her hand on her chest.
It wasn't until Regina turned to face the blonde that she finally began to speak. A single tear rolling down her cheek.
"Regina…" She shook her head, her voice breaking, "I, I tried to tell you."
"So, it's true?" Regina asked, her voice filled with shock.
Emma nodded, "It's true." Her eyes looked at the entire family, "But I didn't kill her." Her eyes turned to Regina again, "You have to believe me, I didn't hurt anyone."
"Then why does your criminal record say otherwise?" Zelena asked.
"Zelena, shut up!" Regina barked in anger, the vein in her forehead ready to explode.
Emma swallowed the lump in her throat, her eyes trained on everyone, especially Regina, "I was planning on telling Regina everything, I tried- many times." She paused, "I did steal a lot when I was younger. I didn't exactly have a home to call my own, so… I got by doing what I was good at at the time. Unfortunately it was sealing." Her eyes trained on Regina, "I met this guy, Neal who eventually gave me a place to live, and food on the table, but he said eventually I needed to pitch in on paying rent and because I had been in trouble before with being in jail for theft, no one would hire me." She paused, a cold puff of air making its way out as she exhaled sharply.
"So, he eventually got me into breaking into houses and stealing what we could. And that night, it was around Christmas Eve. This woman lived alone, so he saw it as an opportunity to break in, steal what we needed and be done with it. Easy." Her eyes burned again, "He sent me in, and I wasn't expecting for the woman to be up." She sighed, her voice breaking, "I couldn't, I couldn't shoot. I had the gun Neal had given me in case things went wrong, and he said it was just to scare her that it wasn't loaded, but- even after knowing that I couldn't point the gun, I couldn't kill anyone."
Regina had tears of her own rolling down her cheeks.
Emma's voice broke even more, "Neal came in, and we fought. He wanted to take the gun away from me, to do it himself but I was determined to save her. Only…" She paused, "The gun went off. I still tried saving her, I wanted her to be alright, and as soon as I heard the police- I ran- I couldn't think of what else to do. Eventually they caught us and Neal pinned the whole thing on me." She sighed for the last time, her watery, red eyes trained on the brunette, "I'm very sorry. I told you, I'm not the great person you think I am." She looked at everyone who stood in silence, "If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at me, not Regina. She didn't know. No one knew."
Green eyes looked back into brown. Locking in place.
"I had to lie to be able to get that job with August and his father. Leroy is the only one who knows, and he helped me with working at the tree lot." With fear, she stepped a few paces towards her, "But this time with you, with your family, Regina- that wasn't a lie. Me falling in love with you wasn't a lie, but I can understand if you never want to see me again."
Regina wasn't the only one shedding a few tears, but Kathryn too and even Zelena, who's hormones were kicking in like crazy ever since she delivered the news of her pregnancy.
"I'm sorry I ruined everyone's Christmas." Emma turned her back, purposely bumping her shoulder against Daniel's as she raced past him and disappearing into the crowd and distance.
Now it was Regina who stood frozen in place, watching the blonde as she slowly vanished.
And she loved her. Emma said she loved her, just like she had fallen in love with Emma.
"How could this have happened?" Cora asked, appalled at the news.
"People carry pasts, mom. No one is perfect." Said Jefferson.
"Emma was." Said Kathryn. "She was too perfect. We can't wrong her for what she did in the past."
"That's right," Said Graham, "And it's not like she actually killed that poor woman. I mean had I been her, I wouldn't want anyone knowing that part of my life either."
"Regina, you have to go after her." Kathryn told her, standing in front of the still shocked brunette. "You can't possibly let her go like this, letting her think you hate her."
"She's right, sis." Jefferson urged her, "I mean look at everything Emma's done for us this week. How she was with all of us. With Henry."
"Are you people insane?" Asked Daniel, seeing all pairs of eyes on him, "The woman killed someone for God's sake, Regina, you can't possibly want someone like her around your son."
"And why not?" Heads turned once Henry Sr spoke, standing in front of Regina, looking into her eyes, "We've all hurt someone once in our lives, we've all made a mistake that we wish we could take back. We aren't perfect, it's being human. And our mistakes…"
"Shouldn't define who we truly are." Regina finished his sentence for him, seeing a tiny knowing smile spread across his lips. "You knew?" She whispered, surprised to know that her father knew the truth about their pretend relationship all this time. "How?"
"You're my daughter." Said Henry, "And I might have overheard one of your conversations with her at the house."
Regina smiled, her head turning towards her mother who walked up to her next.
"Regina…" Cora held onto her daughter's hands, "I'm sorry if I ever made you feel pressured into making me happy. But, you never had to make me happy. I'm happy if you are, and if I pushed you it was because I wanted you to be taken care of the day we pass on. To not be alone." She smiled, "And sweetheart, that girl loves you."
"They're right, sis." Said Zelena, "She wouldn't have left otherwise."
Regina looked down towards Henry, who grabbed her now free hand.
"Go, mom." He urged her.
Regina's smile grew, letting out a small chuckle before kissing her son right on the cheek. A smear of red lipstick pressed against his skin just as she took off running.
"Regina!" Daniel grabbed onto the brunette's arm, "What are you doing? You can't possibly be in love with her."
Regina glanced over at her father, who's hand was gripped on tightly to Daniel's.
"I'd let my daughter go, unless you want to lose that arm, son." He warned him.
"It's okay, dad." She turned to Daniel next, "Why on earth would you think that by coming here, exposing her past like that, in front of all of us would make me not love her anymore than I already do?" She smiled, shaking her head, "In fact, I should thank you. Because by doing so you allowed me to see the amazing person she's turned out to be compared to you. I'd be stupid to let her go." She yanked her arm away from his grip.
Jefferson stepped up beside the brunette, "Uh, sis… since you're going after Emma, is it alright if I punch him now?"
"Oh, allow me."
The next thing Daniel saw coming was Regina's right hook, striking him directly on the nose. Not just her family watched with matching smiles on their faces as the man laid on the floor with a bloody nose, but people's heads- strangers, turned watching in awe.
"Way to go, mom!" Little Henry pumped his fist in the air, his face filled with excitement.
As Regina took off running, her family walked right past Daniel without a care in the world.
"Serves you right." Zelena glared down at the coward of a man, walking right by him.
Daniel grunted, feeling a kick being delivered right to his gut by Grace. Jefferson beamed at her proudly, "That's my girl."
Emma sat at the same spot she had surprised Regina with, the Christmas lights still up and shining. A single tear rolling down her eyes, quickly being wiped away. It was then that her head turned to the cry and surprisingly loud bark of the same puppy she had seen at the shop. It was running right at her, with a big ribbon tied around its neck like a collar.
"Patch?" Her brow furrowed, kneeling on the snow and quickly picking him up, feeling a little better once she felt the warm tongue of the pup lick away at her salty tears. "Where did you come from, hm?" Her head looked up, her eyes wide at the sight of Regina coming from behind two pine trees.
The brunette smiled at the sight of the puppy being held by Emma. She couldn't help it.
"Regina?" Emma called out, looking down at the puppy in her arms.
"Do you not like your present?" She asked her, "I hope you do because let me tell you, I paid a lot more than I wanted to to get him for you." She reached over, petting the dog's head, chuckling, "I have to admit he is cute. Might be cuter than you, in fact. Except I have to warn you that Henry will fight you for him, so be prepared."
Emma scoffed, not being able to produce a chuckle. She was still too surprised.
"You bought him for me?" Was all she could ask. "Why?"
"Why not?" Regina's head tilted, "You are still my girlfriend. What type of girlfriend would I be if I didn't get you anything for Christmas?"
"Still your girlfriend?" Emma breathed out a chuckle this time.
"Do you not want to be?" Regina asked her.
"No!" Emma stammered, "I mean, yes- more than anything." She sighed, "I just- I thought that after knowing the truth about my past you wouldn't want to-"
Regina's hand cupped the blonde's cheek, her eyes locking on green ones, "Emma." Her voice soft, "Has anyone ever told you that you think too much?" She asked, grinning as Emma finally smiled.
"Are you sure? No regrets?" Emma asked.
"My only regret would be to walk away from you without telling you one thing." And that's when Emma saw it, that sparkle in the brunette's eyes that she loved so much.
"That you are a thief, Emma Swan."
Emma's features became serious again.
Regina flashed an even wider smile her way, "You are also the most amazing woman I have ever known, and I have come to rescue you now the same way you did a week ago in that bar. And for that, you have the right to remain by my side for this Christmas, and next the one, and the next one," She shared a knowing chuckle with Emma, "Because you have completely stolen my heart." She paused, "No matter what mistakes you made in the past… I love you."
Emma's smile grew, tears making their way down again. "I love you too." Her voice breaking.
Their bodies came closer, careful enough not to squish the pup being held by the blonde, their lips slowly coming together in a soft and passionate kiss. It was an almost perfect moment… all that was missing was…
Their lips parted once they felt the first snow flakes hit the side of their cheeks, both looking up at the endless falling snow with matching smiles, until their eyes locked again.
"Merry Christmas, Emma."
"Merry Christmas, Regina."
Regina cuddled into the blonde's form, loving the feeling of her free arm loosely draped over shoulders as they walked their way back towards town.
"So…" Emma spoke, "Now that we are officially, officially together… can I call you pumpkin?"
"Come on… how about sweetie?"
"I'll break up with you right now."
"Alright, alright… Gina."
"...That's growing on me."
"Really? Now about our sleeping arrangements… think your parents would be okay if we slept in the same bed?"
...I think that can be arranged." Regina chuckled.