The Meet Cute

"We have no food," Henry announced when Emma stepped out of her room the next morning.

"Not even cereal?" She asked as she pulled her freshly curled hair back into a loose ponytail.

"Nope, nada."

"I guess magical renovations don't cover groceries."

"Maybe they just weren't sure when we'd be back?"

"Maybe," Emma muttered. "Go get dressed. We'll have breakfast and Granny's and go shopping."

"Um, while we're out, we should maybe pick me up some more clothes?"

"What's wrong with the ones you have?"

"Well, there's only what I had packed; everything else. . ."

"Is gone," Emma finished when he trailed off. Magic was such a pain in her ass, "Right. Okay, grocery shopping and clothes shopping, my favorite things."

Henry smirked and dashed up the stairs while Emma looked around the apartment again. The past few months had been a constant roller coaster of adjustment for Emma; from the curse being broken to winding up in fairy tale land, and then getting hauled off to Manhattan. Now normal was being redefined yet again, and now included learning to be a full-time mom, the sole provider and caretaker for an eleven year old.

"Hey kid, throw down your dirty clothes! I'll start a load of laundry."

"They're all dirty!"

They'd sent out the laundry for the hotel service to take care of during their trip, but it had been a week since the last time they'd done that.

"Then pick the cleanest ones and give me the rest!"


The next thing Emma knew jeans, t-shirts, socks and underwear were raining down on her from the upper loft.

"Hey! Be careful," She yelled when a pair of jeans nearly took out a decorative bowl that was sitting on the kitchen counter.

"You said throw 'em down," Henry griped as he descended the stairs seconds later, pulling a long sleeved t-shirt over his head as he went.

"In a pile maybe? It's not dodgeball."

"Sorry," Henry mumbled as he helped her gather his clothes.

The washer and dryer were still stacked in a closet in the bathroom. Emma dropped the pile of clothes in front of it and hauled open the closet door and noted new appliances had replaced the old ones.

"Add laundry detergent to the list of stuff we need," she announced.

"We have a list?"

"Yeah –it says 'everything' and 'laundry detergent'."

"We'd better get going."

"Hey Emma, Henry! Welcome back," Ruby called out from behind the counter at Granny's. "Sit down, I'll be right with you."

"Thanks Ruby," Emma said as Henry led the way to their usual table. The diner was fairly crowded with other Sunday brunchers, but none Emma recognized, though she traded polite nods with a few they passed.

"Hello Mr. Swan, it's good to see you again."

"Hi Principal Hubbard," Henry replied to the aging woman whose table shared a bench with theirs. She had silver-white hair, cat-eye glasses and appeared to have just come from church.

"I trust we'll see you back in school now that you've returned to Storybrooke?"

"Yes ma'am, I'll be there tomorrow. We're going shopping to pick up new uniforms."

"Oh? What happened to your old ones?"

"They were," Henry realized she didn't know about the spell and changed his explanation, "Lost. In the laundry. You know how dryers are."

"Oh," Principal Hubbard sniffed and eyed Emma over the rims of her glasses. "Well, these things happen. I look forward to seeing you in class once more. I'm sure Mr. Crane will be happy to work with your mother to help you catch up on all that you have missed these passed weeks."

"Definitely, see you tomorrow."

"Good day to you, Mr. Swan." She returned his smile; her face slid back into a stern expression as she added, "Miss Swan."

Emma forced a tight smile to her face as she nudged Henry straight passed their usual booth to the one behind it; as far away from Principal Hubbard as they could get without obviously trying to find a table away from hers.

"You didn't tell me Professor McGonagall was your principal Mr. Swan," Emma whispered as they took off their coats and sat down.

Henry laughed but quieted when his mother glared at him and glanced over her shoulder to see if the principal had heard.

"Seriously, kid."

"You've read Harry Potter?"

"That's what you took from this? Of course I've read Harry Potter; hasn't everybody?"

"I just hadn't figured you for the type I guess."

She wasn't actually, but the prison library had been limited to donated books and they'd gotten about fifty copies of the series after the demand for them eased a bit. The story of a boy who'd been left on a doorstep had resonated for obvious reasons. She'd read the first three to Henry; it had helped with the loneliness without making her feel like she was crazy for talking to her stomach. After he'd been born and she'd returned to the solitary cell the fourth book had gotten her through her post-partum depression.

"Well, I made an exception."

"She does kinda remind me of McGonagall," Henry said as he pondered it. "Too bad she's not a witch. Do you think wizards could be real? I mean if the fairy tales were…"

"Kid the last thing this world needs is more magical people running around in it. It's just as well we don't have Lord Voldemort to deal with on top of Rumplestiltskin and Cora."

"Sorry it took so long," Ruby interrupted before Henry could reply. She set down two plates loaded with pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon, as well as two mugs of cocoa (requisite whip cream and cinnamon included). "We ran out of batter, Granny had to make a new batch. How was New York?"

"Awesome!" Henry declared around a mouthful of pancake.

"It was an adventure," Emma conceded.

"Did you find Mr. Gold's son?"

"Yeah, it was an interesting reunion." Emma wasn't sure how many details she wanted to give in the diner. She knew Ruby could keep quiet, despite her ear for gossip, but she wasn't sure about the rest of the patrons.

"We'll have a girls' night," Ruby caught the hint. "We're overdue. You can tell me all about it."


"Eat up then; I've got tables to bus. I'll text you."

"Thanks Ruby," Henry and Emma chorused.

"So where do you go to get clothes around here?" Emma asked as she tucked in. She hadn't been subjected to such shopping in Storybrooke yet and it wasn't as if they had a JC Penney's.

"Mom usually takes –took," Henry corrected himself, "me to Weaver's Emporium."

"We'll start there then," Emma decided. "And get groceries last, so they don't have to sit in the car."

Not that anything would spoil if it was left outside in Maine in March.

"Good plan," Henry said.

They finished their food in comfortable silence and Emma left enough cash to cover their bill and tip on the table before they waved to Ruby and headed out.

Weaver's Clothing Emporium was a large store by Storybrooke standards and Emma was glad Henry knew where he was going. She followed him to the boys' section where there was a rack devoted to school uniform items and he immediately picked out the necessary pants and polos to replace the ones he'd lost.

Emma stood back and let him make his selections. How many clothes did eleven-year-olds need? She was pretty sure Regina had done all the shopping for Henry in the past and given the mayor's fashion sense and rampant perfectionism Emma was also pretty sure her son was used to having more clothes than a young boy would ever care to wear.

"Can I get an Avengers shirt?" Henry interrupted her musings.

Emma eyed the stack of clothes in the cart. "Sure, but let's trade it for like four of those button downs okay?"

This was going to be a very expensive outing but it wasn't the money that made her insides squirm. Emma Swan just wasn't a spender. It was easier to move money than stuff, so she'd never accumulated much of the latter, preferring to spend what she earned on housing outside of neighborhoods like the ones she'd grown up in, and save the rest in order to pack up and leave with the change of the winds. Stuff just tied you down.

She looked at her son who was choosing between an Iron Man shirt and one with the whole Avengers team on it and reminded herself that she was a mom now; her kid needed more stability than that. Stuff was stability.

"Get 'em both kid," she told him. The bright "Thanks!" and smile replaced the squirmy feeling with warm –dare she think it- maternal ones.

The rest of the stop for clothing went quickly. Henry was a lot more practical than she had been at eleven and he made quick, prudent choices to replace his vanished wardrobe. They were nearly to the car with their purchases when Emma's phone rang. She juggled her keys and the bags she was carrying to one hand and fished the device out of her back pocket.

"Hello?" She waved the keys at Henry, gesturing for him to pop the hood on the bug so they could stow the bags.

"Emma, it's David, I just wanted to let you know Snow and I drove out to Stablebrooke to introduce ourselves."

Emma rolled her eyes as she transferred the phone to her other ear as she got in the car so she could take the keys back from Henry and start it. She wondered whether her parents' overzealous sense of friendliness came from the Storybrooke or fairy tale side of their personalities.

"Did you ask about Henry's horse?" she asked to clue the kid into what the call was about.

"We did. Henry is still welcome to use Apollo anytime."

"Great, he'll be happy to hear that," Emma gave a thumbs-up to Henry, who danced a little in his seat while he put the belt on. "Um, are you going to be continuing his lessons? 'Cause I know princes and princesses are supposed to be naturals or whatever at this sort of thing but I gotta tell you my riding skills range from zero to non-existent."

And Henry had told her about his last venture to the stables. She was no expert but "let the horse tell you when to ride" did not qualify as instruction in her book.

"Well, that's the thing. Your mom thought you might appreciate more-

"Supervised!" Snow yelled in the background.

"-Formal lessons," David said. Emma could tell by his tone that he'd already gotten a talking-to about the definition of riding lessons. "Anyway, the woman who bought Stablebrooke-

"Woman? I thought you said it was a man?"

"We assumed it was a man from what the Gordons told us," Snow, who was clearly now on speaker, replied.

"Right," David continued. "Apparently Elena is an accomplished rider and trainer in this world and she bought Stablebrooke intending to start a riding school."

"In Storybrooke, Maine," Emma said skeptically as she started the car and pulled away from the curb. "Which didn't exist on any map until about three months ago?"

"She said the Gordons offer was too good to pass up. Right place, right time kinda thing."

That did not dispel Emma's feeling that it was all a little too coincidental.

"So is Storybrooke going to be the horse hub now or what?"

"Well, Elena said she was hoping to pull out of the equestrian world for the most part. It sounds like she'll travel a bit but she isn't planning to bring a lot of people around," Snow said.

"If we have to deal with outsiders, better they're like her," David added.

"Right," Emma said. "Well, I'm sure Henry's up for it. We'll talk about it and I'll give her a call. What did you say her name was again?"

"Elena LaVerne," Snow replied. "But we already signed him up. I mean –well, we thought since David was going to work with him after school anyway, we might as well since we were out there."

Emma opened and closed her mouth, but no response came readily.

"Great," she finally said. "Uh, when do they start?"

"Officially? Next week. But Elena said you're welcome to take Henry out anytime."

"Fantastic," Emma said, and then hoped her mother wouldn't notice she was mocking her enthusiasm.

If she did, Snow ignored it. "You know, if you'd like to learn I'm sure you could take lessons too, or David or I could teach you?"

"That's- That's definitely something to think about," she said, braking a little harder than she intended as she wheeled into a parking spot outside the market. "So Henry and I are just about to walk into the store, can I call you later?"

"Yeah, I-

"Great! I'll talk to you soon, bye." Emma hung up and let the phone drop into the console.

"Everything okay?" Henry asked.

"Oh, yeah," Emma said. "Just dandy. We're one big happy family. Everything is awesome."

She felt bad as soon as the words were out because, sarcasm aside, the words were basically true. So what if they were a little dysfunctional? Dysfunctional beat the holy crap out of nonexistent.

"Sorry," she amended. "Your grandparents are pretty psyched about this horse thing. They signed you up for lessons."


"Glad you think so."

"You don't?"

"They could have asked first."

"But you already said Gramps could. What's the big deal?"

"It's not; it's just nice to be asked sometimes. I mean they don't even know this lady, she could be a serial killer, or a circus clown…"

Henry laughed, "You sound like my mom."

The paradox of that though seemed sobering because his laughter turned into a deep frown seconds after it started.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Emma asked.

Henry sighed. "A good thing."

"It's okay to miss her y'know?"

Henry nodded.

"Do you think it's possible for someone to be a bad person but be a good mom?" He asked.

Emma shut the engine off and leaned back heavily into her seat, bracing for another deep talk as if it were a head on collision.

"I think it's pretty possible yeah," she said finally. "But…I mean maybe your mom wasn't really a bad person?"

"She was an evil queen," Henry said with damning authority.

"Yeah, but…how old was she when she became the evil queen?"

Henry shrugged.

"I've been thinking about this a lot, because she was your mom, and kid, she did a heck of a job at it for ten years. Look at how great you turned out? I was thinking last night –she was probably your mom almost as long as she was the Evil Queen. And she was just the super uptight, cranky, bossy, mayor for even longer than that right?"

"But she framed Mary Margaret; she made it look like Kathryn died."

"I know; she made a lot of bad choices. But the thing is we all make bad choices sometimes. And I really, really believe she was trying to change her life because she loved you."

Henry didn't answer, but she could practically hear the gears in his head processing what she'd said.

"I know it's pretty messed up. I wish I had easy answers for you."

Henry sighed again and stared at the dashboard as if it held the absolution he sought.

"I think they made a really bad choice when they erased her," he said in a small voice that broke Emma's heart to hear.

"Me too kid, but I promised we're gonna get her back and I have a feeling we're gonna find her real soon."

Like, as soon as she could get to a computer and Google Elena Laverne.

"You've got a lead already? How?"

"I've got a hunch," Emma admitted. "Don't get your hopes up. I'll let you know if it pans out."

"Aw, c'mon!"

"No way," she made a zipping motion across her lips.

She was thrilled that he was able to bounce quickly out of his bouts of sadness. She knew he was beginning to miss Regina desperately and that he felt guilty they hadn't parted on better terms. But she took it as a good sign that he hadn't lost his faith that all would be happy in the end and that he seemed to be taking everything in stride. Hopefully that meant he'd turn out okay.

"Let's go, we've got groceries to buy and dinner to make. All these deep and philosophical conversations make me hungry."

They climbed out of the car and Emma draped her arm around his shoulders as they crossed the parking lot into the market.

"Yeah? Who's cooking? Are we gonna take it back to Grandma's?"

"Har har. I can cook. I made tacos the other night didn't I?"

"Yeah, and everybody ate the Evil Queen's lasagna instead."

"Keep it up buddy," Emma warned as she pulled a cart out of the line. "Just remember who has the power to ground you now."

"I'm really scared."

"You should be. I have keys to jail cells and I'm not afraid to use them."

Henry laughed and put his hand on the corner of the bar as she pushed it towards the aisles of food.

"What kind of food does your mom usually buy?"

"The usual kind I guess," he shrugged.

"Like milk, eggs?"

Henry nodded.

"We'll start at one end and stock up as we go," she decided with more confidence than she felt.

The truth was she could cook she just usually didn't. Just like she could shop and just usually didn't. What was the point of cooking for one? And Mary Margaret had done nearly all of the cooking and shopping in the year that she'd lived with her so Emma felt out of practice.

They wandered up and down the aisles, grabbing various necessities and continuing the easy banter they'd gotten so good at in New York. Emma steered away from boxed foods as much as possible but capitulated on potato chips and deemed cereal a basic food group.

"What vegetables do you like?"

Emma just stared at her son as though he'd turned into a dragon before her eyes.

"Hey," Henry said with a piercing look. "If I gotta eat 'em you gotta eat 'em. Who's the adult here?"

She was pretty sure it was her son, the sixty year old.

"Here, can't go wrong with salad." He threw a bag of mixed greens in the cart and a jar of dressing quickly followed.

"I like cucumbers," Emma offered, and a sack with three of the vegetables was added to their overflowing cart.

Henry put in a bunch of bananas and after sharing a look with Emma he added a bag full of honeycrisp apples. Emma didn't comment but she did ruffle his hair as she reached to spin the cart around.

The next thing she knew there was a loud clank that she felt all the way up to her shoulders as the cart smashed hard into another.

"Sorry I-

"I'm so sorry!"

Emma gaped at the familiar voice and didn't have to look to know Henry was doing the same. Regina Mills stood before them, with a bag of apples in each hand.

"H-hi." Emma knew she was gawking, she sincerely hoped that the woman with the dazzling smile standing before her would ignore it. She shook her head, trying to jump start her brain. "I'm sorry, I should've looked."

"No, it's my fault. I shouldn't have crowded in," the woman insisted in a voice that sounded like Regina's but with a deferential tone Emma had never heard her use. She smiled again, another brilliant one that short-circuited Emma's brain and caused her to gawk dumbly once more. The smile faltered a bit when Emma's failure to respond lasted long enough to grow awkward.

"I'm Elena," She said, sticking out a hand, "Elena Quijano."

"Re- Right," Emma fumbled for the proper response, but managed to grasp the offered hand. "I'm Emma…and this is my son, Henry."

Recognition flared in Elena's eyes and Emma wondered if their names could possibly break the enchantment.

"Emma and Henry Swan?"

Of course it couldn't.

Emma nodded, and felt Henry round the cart to stand at her side. She tucked him under her arm –to support him, she told herself, though it felt like a fib.

"Your sister, Mary Margaret, and her husband stopped by my place this morning," Elena told them. "They said Henry was interested in riding lessons?"

"Oh! Right," Emma's mind whirled; she felt like she was expected to follow a script she'd never seen before. "Yeah, they said they'd talked to you. Sorry, David said equestrian I was expecting…"

She trailed off, certain she'd jammed her foot in her mouth and she wasn't sure how to get it back out.

"A snooty aristocrat with a jock-complex and jodphurs," Elena finished for her with a knowing smirk. "I'm familiar with the type. Sorry to disappoint." She gestured to her faded jeans and scuffed cowboy boots.

"No! That's not it at all," Emma recovered. "He just, um, said your name was Elena LaVerne?"

"Oh, right. Well, the short of the long, sordid, story is since retiring from the circuit I've started using my father's surname again but I've found it helps to drop my professional name with potential clients. You know how it is."

"Sounds like having multiple personalities. Must be a good story though."

The smile became self-deprecating and Emma marveled at how open this Regina's face was.

"Mm, definitely like having multiple personalities," Elena agreed. "And it's a dramatic one anyway."

She quickly turned her focus to Henry. "In any case, I'm thrilled you're interested in riding. I told David you're welcome to stop by any time to see Apollo. I mean that."

"Thanks," Henry replied softly. "Maybe I can stop by after school tomorrow?"

"Absolutely, as long as that's okay with your mom."

Emma had to swallow an incredulous scoff at the irony of that statement.

"Sure," she said. "We'll call as soon as my shift at the station ends."

"Don't bother," Elena waved one apple bag absently. "I'll probably be out in the barn, just holler. I'm glad I bumped into you, I'm afraid I've been a bit of a recluse since arriving here. It was so nice of your sister and brother-in-law to drop by and introduce themselves."

"Yeah, it's nice to put a face to the name. We'll let you go before your ice cream starts to melt. See you tomorrow."

"I look forward to it," Elena flashed one last smile and waved as she set the bags in her cart and maneuvered it around theirs.

Emma squeezed Henry's shoulders and wheeled their own cart away from the produce section towards the checkout line. He followed her silently but she knew an eruption of questions and astute chatter must be boiling up in him. She just wanted to get out to the car before he hit critical mass. Luckily their cashier wasn't inclined for small talk and moved them through the process quickly despite their massive amount of purchases.

When Henry was silent even after they'd loaded the groceries into the trunk and left the parking lot Emma began to search for something to say.

"I guess the 'finding her' part was easier than we thought it would be huh?" She asked finally.

Henry's shoulders heaved with the deep breath he took before answering.


"Yeah? We found your mom already and all I get is a –hfff- yeah?"

"I just –I thought we'd have more time to figure out how to break a fairy blessing before we found her," Henry said, his face screwed up with consternation as he tried to find the words to articulate what he was feeling. "She's so different."

Emma nodded. She had been expecting a watered down version of the mayor she'd met when she first came to Storybrooke. In fact, the snooty blueblood in a riding habit Elena had described wasn't far off from what Emma had pictured when she'd got the first sneaking suspicion that David's horse trainer was Regina 2.0. She wasn't prepared for Elena Quijano and her gregarious cowgirl charm.

"No kidding."

"She doesn't remember me."

"No, that would have been part of the spell."

"I just thought…I dunno, that maybe she'd see me and know who I was, or there would be a connection –like with you and Mary Margaret."

Emma sucked in a breath and blew it out slowly as she contemplated how to respond to that.

"You never know, maybe she did –she seemed pretty excited that you're starting lessons. It took some time for me and Mary Margaret to really get comfortable with each other."

"I didn't think I'd have to get to know the new her," Henry admitted. "I thought we'd just find her and turn her back."

"You don't have to go tomorrow," Emma told him gently. "You don't even have to take lessons if you don't want to."

Henry bit his lip and gazed out the window intently but Emma was sure he wasn't even seeing the passing buildings he seemed to be studying so intently. She let him think in peace, knowing that he wouldn't hesitate to speak once he'd figured out what he wanted to say. When they parked in front of their building and she'd shut down the engine he finally answered.

"No, I want to go. This is going to take more time than I thought, but I don't want to avoid her. Maybe spending time with her will help her remember."

"I think that's a good choice kid," Emma said. "And even if she doesn't, when we do break the spell she'll remember how hard you were trying and that will mean the world to her."

Henry nodded solemnly.

"How are we going to break the spell? Do you think maybe if I kissed her?"

"Well, I'd like to talk to the Blue Fairy first, but that's probably not a bad idea," Emma said as she got out of the car. "Of course, if it doesn't work we'll have to explain to your riding coach why you're so affectionate. I wonder if it's possible to file a harassment suit against an eleven-year-old in Maine?"

The comment went right over Henry's head.

"You're going to talk to the Blue Fairy about magic?"

"I can't think of anyone else to talk to about it," Emma shrugged.

"Cool! Can I come?"

"Ah, no. I'm going to stop by while I'm out on patrol and you have school tomorrow. I don't want Principal McGonagall on my tail because you were truant."

"Hubbard, her name is Principal Hubbard."

"Not the point kid."

"You never let me do fun things anymore."

That earned him a droll stare, which he tried to reflect back at her but his lips kept twitching upward.

"Well, as long as I'm gunning for World's Meanest Mom get those groceries inside."


"They're not gonna walk themselves up four flights of stairs are they?"

"There are laws against this type of thing," Henry grumbled as he went to the trunk to retrieve the bags.

"Lucky for me the sheriff in this town is grossly under qualified, and the rest of the citizens are used to a much simpler legal structure; so I think I get a free pass on this one."

"That is not how heroes behave," Henry told her sternly.

"Yeah well, I have never actually claimed to be a hero," Emma pointed out. In fact, it hadn't been all that long ago that she'd rejected the idea rather hysterically.

"You're my hero," Henry replied simply, turning wide green eyes on her full force.

Emma helped him bring the groceries in. Not that she hadn't actually intended to in the first place.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for the wait on this chapter, it turned into a monster.

Back                         Home                              Once Upon a Time Main Page                          Next

Your Name or Alias:      Your E-mail (optional):

Please type your review below. Only positive reviews and constructive criticism will be posted!