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OUAT Fanfic: The Favor Ch. 3

Title: The Favor or What's a Girl Like You Doing on a (White) Knight Like This?
By: Pink Rabbit Productions
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Chapter: 3
Date: 8 Feb, 2015

Author's Note: I apologize for being so slow getting this up on LJ. Having some formatting issues, so it goes slow. However, I'm also posting it on Archive of Our Own. It's currently several chapters ahead. http://archiveofourown.org/works/3134657

Disclaimer: Hmmm, characters, not mine, situation, mine-ish (there was a story challenge that stuck and my brain started writing on its own). Sex? Implied at the very least is highly likely. Comedy ... well, I'm trying.
Summary: Emma talks Regina into pretending they're dating. Havoc ensues.


The Favor
What's a Girl Like You Doing on a (White) Knight Like This?

Chapter Three

Emma’s stomach was still doing a roller-coaster-swoop-and-dive as reality snapped back into existence with an ear-popping shift of air pressure and enough disorientation to leave her momentarily stumbly. It was overwhelming enough that she was grateful for the steadying hands at her chest and hip and the stable presence against her back.

"Easy," Regina whispered, her tone surprisingly gentle. "That sort of thing can be—

"Moms!" The startled yelp was at least two octaves above Henry’s current register, even with its recent tendency to make random shifts at the most unpredictable times.

In that instant, two things struck Emma at once. One, they had arrived in Regina’s foyer at the exact same time the kid came home from school, and two, it was amazing how fast two adults could move with the right inspiration — like getting caught in a compromising position by their adolescent son.

Regina squealed a decidedly un-Evil-Queen-like squeal, yanked her hands free and leapt backwards at least four feet. Her heels banged into the bottom of the stairs and her arms momentarily pinwheeled as she fought a losing battle for balance that ended up with her sitting on the stairs in a vaguely ungainly sprawl, and trying to look like that had been her plan all along.

Emma meanwhile, threw up her hands, bounded forward until she almost ran the poor kid over and shook her head in denial. "Kid, this isn’t what it looks like." Though, exactly what it looked like, she wasn’t entirely certain. Did he think Regina was trying to kill her or that they were well on their way to having sex? And if she was honest, if it was the latter choice, her hormones kinda disagreed it hadn’t been an option.

"I ... Mom ... Emma?" Henry leaned sideways a bit to peer at his adopted mother around his birth mother’s arm. "Mom?" He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and shook his head as if rebooting something inside his brain, then opened his eyes ... only to find that, yeah, everything was exactly the same. "Mom?" he repeated a little helplessly.

Regina sighed softly. It had been her idea that they needed to tell Henry, but faced with the prospect of actually doing so, she experienced a wash of trepidation. "This was Miss Sw — your mother’s idea—" she began.

"What was her idea?" Henry asked as his gaze swung back and forth between his two mothers.

"Well ... see..." Emma began, then paused to massage the back of her neck to gain a little time. Or maybe get over her need to panic. Which didn’t happen. She turned a pleading look Regina’s direction.

"Apparently Captain Hook is attracted to your mother," Regina began at last, opting to keep it simple and reasonably honest. "And has been ... ahm ... pursuing her with some vigor."

Emma’s brows rose. That was one way of putting it.

"However, she doesn’t share his feelings," Regina continued. "Since her efforts to inform him have fallen on deaf ears, she’s opted for another ... approach to ... discouraging ... him..." She sputtered to a halt as she tried to decide how to explain the rest. Really, it was a bad sitcom, she decided. Three’s Company would have discarded this plot as too ridiculous.

"What approach?" Henry asked

Deciding she was entirely too sober for this little event, Regina summoned a glass of scotch with the tiniest twist of her wrist and took a sip, heaving a sigh as the warmth hit her throat and stomach. It didn’t change anything of course, but she felt better. Then she smoothed her skirt and patted the stair next to her hip, smiling tenderly as her son took a seat next to her.

"Mom?" he said when she still hadn’t spoken a moment later, his tone asking a dozen questions at once. Ever observant, he was more than smart and sensitive enough to realize something was up.

"I just want it understood that this was your mother’s idea," Regina said carefully when she finally spoke. She peered at Emma. "Your other mother," she added to make the point that she wasn’t in on the planning stage.

Emma cringed, though that wasn’t her sole contribution. She also let out a tiny whimper, hunched her shoulders and threatened to hide her face in her shoulder.

Henry watched the response with a deepening frown, then looked back to his adoptive mother expectantly. "Ok-ay."

"She thought it would discourage Hook if she and I made it appear as though we were..." she paused to hunt for an appropriate term to use with her twelve year-old son. "Ahm ... courting," she finally answered, falling back on the semantics of her old world.

"Courting?" Henry and Emma repeated at the same time as they shared a look. Mostly Regina looked and sounded like a reasonably modern woman — then there were the times she went and used a term like courting.

Emma snorted, while Henry just looked blank, not getting the idea at all.

"Dating," Emma clarified to her confused son.

Henry froze, then his face took on the nauseous cast of an adolescent contemplating his parents and sex for the first time. Also, he’d experienced enough of Hook’s boys-will-be-boys banter to suspect dating wouldn’t cut it at all. "Don’t you mean—"

"Dating," Emma said sharply, cutting off whatever he might have said. "We mean dating." She looked over at Regina who had an oddly triumphant expression on her face as it occurred to her that the other woman had been correct about the need to at least appear like all was right and proper. "It’s not some sleazy thing," she reassured the boy. "And it’s fake anyway," she added. "Just for Hook’s benefit."

Regina made a small toasting motion with her glass, then took another sip of scotch before speaking. Possibly not her best idea. "Sadly, Hook’s definition of benefit differed from your mother’s." As she spoke, she winced and shook out her right hand again.

Henry’s expression had started to smooth out, but at that comment, it twisted back into a frown of confusion.

Emma glared at Regina. "Not helping," she complained.

Regina shrugged and made another toasting motion. "Not particularly trying."

Henry, meanwhile, sat considering it all while his mothers glared at each other. "Um?" he exhaled after a beat. "Okay, so you’re faking a thing to discourage Hook ... but what does that have to do with you two being all..." his voice faded as he made a swirling gesture with one hand to indicate how they’d been wrapped up in one another. "...in our foyer?"

"That—" Regina began carefully "—is a very good question." She paused. Actually, it wasn’t so much a pause as a verbal splat into a brick wall as it struck her that she had no sane way of describing the scene at Granny’s. Finally, she looked at Emma and shook her head. "Sorry, can’t do it. Your turn."

Emma whimpered softly, but made a game try. "We ... uh ... it’s complicated. But Hook ... he ... well ... he sort of ... well, he ... and then we ... your mom and I, I mean ... we ... and then he ... and it’s complicated," she repeated hopelessly.

"Well, that should clear it up," Regina drawled through a soft snort of laughter.

Emma’s puppy-dog look faded into an expression of annoyance. "Still not helping," she complained.

"Still not trying." The former Evil Queen offered another cheery toast, then took a sip of scotch and let out a soft, satisfied sigh. "By the way, this is an excellent Royal Lochnagar," she taunted.

"Bitch," Emma grumbled enviously — she would have killed for a drink — her voice too soft for Henry to hear, though she knew Regina’s freakish hearing had picked it up from the winning smile the other woman offered.

"Soooo..." Henry said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. "Hook ... Granny’s?" he prompted his mother when she didn’t immediately start speaking. "The Foyer?"

Shoulders sagging, Emma heaved a sigh. Damn, she wished he was a bit less tenacious for once. She threw a begging look Regina’s way.

"Oh, for..." Regina rolled her eyes. The alcohol was starting to hit, making things much easier, though it occurred to her that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. "Your mother and I were at Granny’s discussing this plan of hers when Hook showed up and ... well ... he was very inappropriate—"

"Which reminds me," Emma broke in, suddenly curious as to what had set the other woman off. "What exactly did he do?"

"He. Was. In-Appro-Priate," Regina ground out, one syllable at a time, a flush sliding over her cheeks as she suddenly found the floor between her feet absolutely fascinating.


Tipping her head up, Regina glared the sort of glare the Evil Queen had once glared.

Emma snapped her mouth shut and it was her turn to study her feet with unusual care.

"Um ... Hook ... Granny’s?" Henry prompted yet again when his mothers still hadn’t spoken a moment later. "Foyer?"

"Here’s the thing, Hen—" Emma said at last, then the perfect explanation struck "—He’s like Pepé Le Pew."

Henry considered that answer for a moment, then quietly asked, "And you’re the cat?"

Emma bobbed her head in confirmation.

Regina nearly threw her hands up as Henry responded with a solemn nod, clearly understanding this strange animation-based code his birth mother chose to use.

"And now you’re faking being a couple to get him to leave you alone?" Henry asked, his tone serious.

Emma nodded.

Regina waved a hand at Emma. "Her idea."

Henry smirked. As if he needed to be told that.

"Nothing else worked," Emma said by way of defense.

Henry thought about that for a moment, then tipped his chin up and studied his two mothers for a long moment as he considered the situation. They both looked pensive, maybe a little nervous. And there was something else, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. "Okay, so I get all that," he said at last. "But it still doesn’t explain the..." he trailed off as he again made the swirling gesture to indicate the spot where the two women had been tangled up in each other. "Y’know ... that."

Emma let out a tiny sigh. She kept hoping he’d forget that topic. No such luck.

As if reading her mind, Regina chuckled grimly. "Not so much fun when you’re the one on the receiving end, is it?" she taunted under her breath.

Green eyes narrowed and Emma hissed softly through gritted teeth. "Some help would be appreciated," she complained.

Regina seriously considered several snarky responses, but noted Henry’s worried expression before the words could escape. She deflated with a soft sigh. "As I said," she murmured at last, going to back to the start of the story, "your mother and I were discussing her plan in Granny’s when Captain Hook arrived and did something very inappropriate ... and I ... perhaps ... didn’t handle it as calmly as I might have—"

"You tried to kill him," Henry translated.

"No!" Regina quickly denied the charge, then wilted in the face of Henry’s doubtful expression. Without thinking, she worked her sore hand, then flinched as she noted the way her son eyed the gesture. "I hardly hurt him," she denied the accusation implicit in that look.

"Only because I pinned your hands so you couldn’t hurl any fireballs," Emma broke in. "Which is why we were kinda tangled up," she added in what she thought was a rather inspired explanation.

Henry arched an eyebrow in an expression eerily reminiscent of his adoptive mother, but didn’t otherwise offer an opinion.

Which only intensified Emma’s tendency to babble when under stress. "Unfortunately, Hook ... he kinda ... well, he sorta misunderstood."

Green eyes narrowed faintly. "He decided you’re both in love with him, didn’t he?" Henry said at last, the proclamation emphasized by his sharp laugh and knowing grin.

Regina just smirked and took another sip of scotch. Her baby boy might have gotten Emma’s chin, but thankfully, he’d managed to buck genetics and inherit her intellect.

Emma dropped her face into her hands and whimpered. "Kinda," she admitted.

"At which point," Regina added, her tone wry enough to suggest she wasn’t necessarily entirely serious when she said, "I pointed out that homicide would be entirely justifiable."

"Regina," Emma growled in warning.

"Your mother disagreed," the former queen sighed with the faintest inclination of her head. "So, I thought it best we make a fast exit. Hence..." She mimicked Henry’s swirling hand gesture to indicate their method of leaving the diner.

"She poofed us home," Emma clarified, smirking as she heard Regina’s annoyed snort. The queen really hated it when people called it ‘poofing’.

Henry’s gaze swung back and forth between the two, something suspicious in his expression even though he wasn’t sure what he was suspicious of. "Okay," he said at last. "I guess that makes sense." Though his frown suggested it didn’t really.

Knowing her son, Regina was certain he was as placated as he was likely to get. In fact, given a few minutes to think about it, he was quite likely to go back to asking uncomfortable questions. Henry could be like a dog with a bone when he was of a mind. "And now," she began, hoping to distract him from an uncomfortable line of questioning. She fixed a sharp gaze on Emma and her smirking smile had a definite hint of victory to it. "You, my dear, have a phone call to make."

The blonde blanched. "Maybe I should wait and see—"

Regina made a show of checking her watch. "Leroy’s had close to an hour to spread the word." She paused for effect, though her attempt to play it serious was badly damaged by the glee that kept ghosting across her face. "He’s fairly low-tech, so the news isn’t likely on Facebook or Twitter ... yet," she mused, running the numbers in her head as she spoke. "He’ll be distracted by Astrid at the nunnery ... but even with that delay, he’s probably no more than an hour from knocking on your parents’ door. You wouldn’t want them to hear about the latest love of your life that way ... would you?"

Now this, Henry understood. One mother taunting, teasing, or otherwise disturbing his other mother was pretty much par for the course. He sighed softly. "Mo-om."

"What?" she asked, her tone as innocent as she knew how to make it — which wasn’t very. There was a reason everyone had thought she’d killed Archie even though she hadn’t. "Isn’t it better if they hear it from their daughter rather than careless gossip?"

Henry narrowed his eyes, this expression less like Regina and far more like Emma when she was suspicious or annoyed.

Her normally perfect posture drooped slightly, but Regina didn’t back down, though she suddenly found the contents of her glass quite fascinating. "I’m merely pointing out that this relationship will be considered much more respectable if it all appears to be on the up and up." She heard the soft sound Emma made — half snort, half mocking laughter by the sound of it — but refused to look up, comfortably certain she’d now be getting that look in stereo.

Another soft snort and then Emma murmured, "All of which would be much more believable if you hadn’t made one of your conditions for doing this that you get to be there when I tell my parents ... and I can’t let them in on the secret that it’s not real."

Despite her intention to maintain the façade of total innocence, Regina couldn’t quite hold back a faint twist of a smile. "Just trying to help you pull this off, Miss Swan," she teased as she flashed a doe-eyed look Emma’s way. "You should thank me. I’ve no idea who would win a gossip-spreading race between your mother and Leroy."

The Savior rolled her eyes — yeah, Mary Margaret wasn’t great at keeping secrets, but she wasn’t that bad — mostly — though she drew out her phone and peered at the screen for a moment, paging through her messages and was relieved not to find any. "Well, nothing from my parents, so at least they probably haven’t heard yet." She tipped her chin up to peer at Regina for a moment.

The brunette held her drink up in a toast. "You know I’m right."

Emma made a face. "Yeah," she grumbled. Even if Regina’s motives were anything but pure, she was quite correct that it would be easier if she explained things before the gossip reached her parents. Or more correctly, before Leroy reached them. Or possibly Ruby, Emma realized as she remembered the waitress’ little speech. If she thought Emma wasn’t moving fast enough, she was more than capable of just doing it herself. Which, it occurred to Emma, she really should warn Regina about. She started to, even had her mouth open to speak, and then Regina shifted her upper body.

Which exposed some rather lovely cleavage. Which promptly worked its magic, freezing the savior in place. Emma’s gaze zeroed in and her mouth hung open. She would have sworn her silence only last a second, two at the most, but...

"Ahem." Regina pointedly cleared her throat when Emma still hadn’t moved several beats later.

Emma blinked, yanking free of her paralysis. "Oh, fine," she grumped, any thoughts about Ruby utterly forgotten. Ignoring the other woman’s triumphant grin, she hit the autodial for her mother’s number and held the phone to her ear. "Hey, Mom," she said when Mary Margaret picked up.

Regina leaned back on the stairs, elbow on a tread a couple of steps up, lips still twisted in a hint of a smile as she listened to Emma greet her mother and chat briefly about her baby brother. Apparently sleep was still a distant memory for dear Snow White. Regina could live with that. Even minor irritations were better than nothing.

Henry peered at her for a moment, then shook his head. "You really made Emma promise to tell Grandma and Grandpa in front of you?" he asked, his tone somewhere between disapproving and wry.

Dropping the pretense of innocence, she shrugged, gaze dipping to her glass. "Aren’t I allowed a little fun now and then?"

A long moment and then Henry offered a shrug of his own. "I guess it’s better than blowing up half the town," he sighed, then added, "You know I’m coming along, right?"

"I’m not sure that’s—" Regina started to argue, but he cut her off.

"I wasn’t asking," he informed her.

Dark brows shot up as she considered her son. His body language and tone were surprisingly firm for his age, particularly since his mother had been the Evil Queen in another life. But then he never had been intimidated by much. She smiled in spite of any irritation and reached out to smooth dark hair out of his eyes. "All right, but you have to keep the secret."

Startled at the lack of a battle, he grinned. "And I’m having pie for dessert," he added a moment later, purposely using the same stern tone.

Dark eyes narrowed and Regina shook her head, though a smile still tugged at her lips. "I think not."

He shrugged. "It was worth a try."

Then Regina waved him silent as she heard Emma’s tone shift, no longer light and chatty.

"Uh, yeah ... about that," Emma said, her tone hesitant, her anxiety coming through loud and clear. "What? No, nothing’s wrong. Nothing like that ... at all." She massaged the back of her neck. Yet another move in what was becoming an impressive array of nervous ticks. "It’s just ... well ... ahm..."

Regina held up her drink, a grin curving full lips as she mouthed, "Remember our deal."

She got an annoyed glare and pursed lips in return, then Emma twitched and refocused on her phone. "What ... no ... it’s just..."

"Breathe, dear," Regina mouthed.

More glaring, though Emma paused and took a breath and it did seem to help. "Actually, I was wondering if you and Dad would meet me for dinner ... I’ve got some news for you and ... well ... it’s just that I think it would be better in person."

Noting that Emma was again looking rather pale, Regina made a sweeping gesture up her torso and pointedly filled her lungs as she again mouthed, "Breathe."

Despite a defiant streak a mile wide, Emma did as told. It seemed to help with the lightheadedness. "No ... really ... okay ... it’s just ... I’ll explain everything over dinner ... I think it’ll be good ... y’know ... for the future," she added in a rush. "Something like that," she answered whatever question Snow asked. "I just think it would be better if we all sat down and talked about it."

Dark brows shot up as Regina stared at the other woman. Well, well. She smirked and took another sip of scotch. She’d been starting to worry that Miss Swan might just pass out before she could get the words out.

"Yeah, I know," Emma sighed and went back to massaging the back of her neck. "Really, I think it’s for the best ... how about Granny’s in an hour?"

A pause followed, long enough that Regina was comfortably certain that Snow was cajoling, wheedling, and borderline bullying in an effort to get more information out of her daughter. That women never could handle being out of the loop. "Our deal," she mouthed to Emma in warning, afraid Mary Margaret’s pressure might soften the younger woman’s spine.

"I know, I know," Emma shot back just as silently, then she blinked and refocused on the phone. "Look, Mom, just ... y’know ... trust me."

Firming her own spine, Regina reminded herself that she was not now or at any time to feel any sympathy over that tiny questioning note in Emma’s voice. Nor would she feel any relief over the way Emma’s shoulders sagged and her tense expression relaxed in response to something her mother said — clearly something positive.

"Thanks," Emma murmured, a smile tugging at her lips, obviously pleased with whatever she was hearing.

Which is none of your business, Regina reminded herself firmly, and no reason for you to smile encouragingly at Miss Swan — even though she could feel her facial muscles pulling at the corners of her mouth. And if you are smiling, it’s merely glee that you get to break Snow White’s heart by making her think you and her darling Savior are True Loves. That. Is. All.


"Okay," Emma sighed as she hung up. She nodded to Regina. "We’re on in an hour."

"I’m coming," Henry told her, his tone every bit as determined as it had been with his other mother.

"Kid, I’m not sure—"

"I told her." He pointed at Regina. "Now I’m telling you." His finger swung Emma’s way. "I’m coming. Not up for discussion."

The look Emma turned Regina’s way seemed to suggest the defiance was her fault.

The brunette threw up her hands in surrender. "Don’t look at me. He hasn’t done what I told him in ages ... as you well know ... and let’s be honest, which you wholly encouraged."

"I..." Emma snapped her mouth shut. Regina was right. "Damn," she exhaled and sank down onto the bottom step of the staircase, shoulders slumped.

Fighting the urge to crow triumphantly, Regina pushed to a standing position. Much as she would have liked to enjoy the petard hoisting going on, she had an appearance to get ready for. She grinned. And oh, what an appearance she expected it to be.

Emma twisted around to peer up at her. "Okay, that’s a scary look."

"Really, dear?" Regina blanked her expression as best she could, though her eyes still glittered with wicked lights.

"Yeah ... really," Emma confirmed.

Henry nodded his own agreement.

"Really, you two, I just need to get ready for our little meeting with your parents."

"You’re the only woman I know who puts on the warpaint and armor for a date in expectation of real bloodshed," Emma snarked.

Henry snickered while Regina turned a frosty look on the blonde. "I thought perhaps you would appreciate it if I seemed to care about my appearance when meeting your parents." One eyebrow climbed high on her forehead. "But perhaps you would prefer a more familiar dress mode." Her right hand swept upward and the magic followed in a purple tinted wave.

The thought went briefly through Henry’s brain, Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.

Then Regina Mills stood there wearing more flannel than she had probably worn during the rest of her life — combined — flannel shirt, flannel vest lined in flannel, flannel hat with little flannel ear flaps, flannel trim on the tongue of her hiking boots, flannel printed socks, and skin tight jeans with little flannel patch pockets in the back. And just for good measure, absolutely no two pieces of flannel matched. In fact, if someone had chosen them specifically to clash — and Henry suspected she had — they couldn’t have gone together less gracefully.

It was, in short, the thermonuclear armageddon of fabric battles.

Henry almost fell over backwards and it took every last bit of willpower he possessed not to collapse in a fit of giggles.

Emma, meanwhile, blinked — that was it, just blinked — as it occurred to her that she’d just assumed that Regina could wear anything and look good.

Oh, how wrong she was.

So very, very, very wrong.

No one could look good in ... that.

"Oh god, Mom," Henry gasped, his sides trembling with barely contained laughter. It was impossible to tell which mother he was referring to. Maybe both.

"So, shall we go?" Regina asked when Emma still hadn’t spoken several moments later.

More blinking. It took Emma an extra beat to get the joke — every single item Regina was wearing was a duplicate of something in Emma’s closet, something that Emma had once worn with some other article of clothing identical to what Regina was wearing. Point made. Painfully. Emma barely contained the need to wince.

Had she really looked anything like ... that? She shuddered gently, though as she angled her head and tipped her gaze up to meet Regina’s wry look, green eyes narrowed into a hard glare as she snarled, "That’s not funny."

The fact that her response shattered Henry’s control and he guffawed hard enough to leave his sides hurting, argued otherwise.

Regina peered at their son, then back to Emma. Several possible replies danced on the tip of her tongue before she remembered Emma was armed and while she was fast enough to catch arrows in mid-flight, bullets could be trickier.

Maybe some other time.

Emma, meanwhile, glared down at her son. "Traitor," she muttered under her breath.

It only made him laugh harder.

"Well, dear?" Regina questioned after a moment — hopefully allowing Emma enough time to sublimate any more murderous impulses.

"Just go get dressed ... for real this time," the Savior growled.

Regina wisely opted not to laugh as she climbed the stairs, though it took all of her self control.

Emma, meanwhile, watched the queen’s exit, annoyed to note how lush and perfect Regina’s ass looked in the clone of her jeans because she couldn’t see how hers — anybody’s, really — could possibly look that good. It was vaguely demoralizing the way it left her torn between jealousy and the profound desire to just sorta start nibbling.

Which was a very dangerous path, because Regina was already ruling her life and driving her nuts in a barely-begun fake relationship. Were that to turn real, Emma was terrified to contemplate just how whipped she’d wind up. Hell, knowing the former queen, she’d probably collar Emma, slap a brand on her ass (with a real branding iron), assign her additional duties as the sheriff, upbraid her for turning in her paperwork late, then bat her eyes, play peek-a-boo boobs and wrap Emma around her little finger without really even trying.

Emma shuddered in horror. And the worst part was she had a horrible feeling that she’d be grateful for every last moment of the abuse. Still staring after delectable curves, she sighed softly.

"Um," Henry interrupted hesitantly after his mother had disappeared and the sound of her bedroom door closing had echoed through the room.

Emma pivoted to peer at her son who looked mildly uncomfortable, his gaze everywhere but on her, a faint blush on his cheeks. "What?" she asked a little too sharply.

He raised an eyebrow and tipped his gaze up. "It’s just ... are you sure this is all ... y’know ... fake?"

"I ... uh ... wh-why would you think ... that ... I mean—"

"Because you were staring at Mom’s—" Henry pulled up short, paused and thought better of his phrasing, then started over. "You were staring at Mom." He peered over his shoulder up the stairs.

"I was just wondering ... uh ... where she ... uh ... got all the flannel," Emma lied not at all smoothly.

Henry turned back, a faintly nauseated expression on his face. "It’s just that’s the way the Brain always stares at her b- ... at her, I mean."

"The Brain?" Emma questioned, her tone one of confusion.

"Nickname," Henry explained and tried to wave it aside. "So—"

Emma, meanwhile, much preferred a discussion about Henry’s friends. "Really, and just who is this Brain? And why that nickname?" she demanded, a little horrified by the fact that she seemed to be channeling stern-disciplinarian-Regina in her desperation to avoid Henry’s questions.

"He’s the kid from The Emperor’s New Clothes—"

"So they call him Brain because he’s so smart?" Emma asked, thinking it would be a good thing if Henry found some friends a little higher on the IQ scale. Some of his buddies in New York had been more than a little obnoxious as well as entirely too inclined to stare at her chest a bit too intensely for kids.

"Not exactly," Henry said a little hesitantly.

Slim shoulders sagged. "Because he’s so dumb?" Emma asked, her tone carrying an edge of disapproval if Henry and his friends were mocking a classmate.

"No," Henry insisted. "He’s just ... a little ... odd. Look, could we get back to—"

"Henry," Emma prompted, sounding ever more like his other mother in her efforts to avoid a certain topic. "Why?"

"Because he’s the smartass who pointed out that Mom is a MILF, GILF and since Neal, a Great-GILF all in one," Henry exploded impatiently. "And you were staring at her ass the same way he does!" The instant the words were out, he slapped a hand over his mouth, eyes wide, expression horrified. He so hadn’t meant to say that. Not even a little bit. The only possible saving grace was the fact that he’d said it to Emma — really, her mouth was way fouler than his — because if his adopted mom had heard even of little of that, he’d still be grounded when they put him in an old age home.

Blonde brows shot up and Emma stared at her child for a long moment, then her eyes snapped away while her jaw hung open. "Henry," she said at last, her voice little more than a whimper. "If I promise to forget this conversation ever happened, will you do the same?"

"Deal," he promised. He knew a knew a good offer when he heard one.

They shook on it, then both dropped their gazes back to the floor and stood utterly silent.

"So ... uh ... how do you like the new Assassins Creed?" Emma asked after a beat.

"It’s ... uh ... good graphics."

More silence.

"Call of Duty?" Emma asked at last.

"It’s ... it’s ... cool," Henry responded, his gaze also still floorward.

Well, it was a start anyway.

* * * * * *