The following Monday was a slow one at the station. Emma had taken the day shift and spent most of it reading through David's lackluster reports to catch up on what had been going on in town while she was away. She wasn't sure if their brevity was a David thing or if it was a nothing-much-to-report thing. Either way it didn't take up enough time and so she found herself leaning back in her chair, shooting wadded up scrap paper at the garbage can across the room to occupy herself until she could clock off in time to take Henry to his riding lesson. Which was why, when the phone rang and startled her, she tipped the seat over as she scrambled to answer the device on the desk.

"Sheriff Swan speaking," she managed to answer professionally.

"Emma, I need you to come to the diner, we sort of have a situation," Ruby's voice sounded tinny and a little panicked over the line.

Shit, something would happen in the last hour of her shift.

"A sort of situation? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, just get over here."

Granny's was only around the block but Emma took the cruiser just in case. She double parked in front of the diner and burst through the door, not sure whether to expect a robbery or a drunken dwarf strip teasing while singing "Sixteen Tons." Again.

She was not prepared to find the diner's solitary patron pointing her towards the back room. She crept around the doorway and found Ruby calmly washing dishes while Granny stood near the back door with her cross bow trained down the hallway.

"Whoa! What is going on?" Emma demanded, striding up to Granny's side in order to see who she was aiming at.

"I want you to arrest this moronic muckraker right now Sheriff," Granny replied.

The man cowering in front of the freezer lifted his face out of trembling hands and Emma realized who it was.

"Granny, put that down. Mr. Mendel, you can stand up, no one is going to shoot you."

"Yet anyway," Granny mumbled but she lowered the cross bow.

"You wanna tell me what's going on here?"

"We caught this nincompoop trespassing –in broad daylight I might add- and taking photos of God knows what and I want you to arrest him."

Emma looked at the pathetic creature in the corner and then back to Granny but the older woman just stared resolutely back at her with a set jaw and a twitchy trigger finger.

"Mr. Mendel," she sighed as she approached him, pulling her cuffs from the holder on her belt as she went. "I'm afraid you're under arrest."

"Are you kidding me?" He protested but didn't resist when Emma snapped the shackles on his wrists –in front, there was no need to go all Law & Order on him. "This is a violation of my constitutional rights. She's only doing this because she knows I've found a story here. The Fifth Estate-

"Mr. Mendel, you have a right to remain silent…" Emma rambled out his rights as she directed him out of the diner towards her parked cruiser.

Granny and Ruby followed them out and when Greg was tucked into the back seat Emma turned to them and spoke quietly.

"You know pressing charges and taking him to court isn't exactly keeping things on the down low? You're only gonna get a couple hundred in fines out of him at the most. I'm all for you feeling like you got justice for violation of your property and whatever but I'm not sure it's worth putting the limelight on Storybrooke right now. Especially if he did see something –what could he have seen?"

"I don't want to actually press charges," Granny assured her. "I just want him to hand over the pictures he took of my diner."

Emma crossed her arms and leaned back. "Why? Are you worried a health inspector might see them?"

"Emma Swan! You know I run a perfectly clean establishment! See if you get any more cocoa on the house."

"She's worried about me," Ruby interjected.

"I haven't gotten a new freezer door yet," Granny admitted soberly.

Emma stared at her blankly, waiting for a further explanation.

"I tried to ride out my first full moon in there," Ruby explained. "Turns out the warranty doesn't cover werewolf-" she whispered "-damage."

"The claw marks and a broken hinge are a little out of place. I don't want him finding out what caused them," Granny muttered, her knuckles white where they clutched her crossbow.

"Oh. So you are worried someone might find out what you keep in cold storage," Emma smirked at Ruby. She had forgotten what Henry's book explained about Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf. "Any clue how he knew exactly where to look for trouble?"

They both shook their heads.

"I'll see what I can find out." She dropped her arms and backed towards her car. "I guess that explains why he was snooping around during business hours. I wouldn't want to get caught around here at night either."

"Em, I know what time of the month it is," Ruby said, "But I promise I've got it under control. You can ask David, he'll tell you."

"Oh, I wasn't worried about you, Rubes," Emma said as she rounded the hood and grabbed her door handle. "I'm more concerned about Quick Draw McGranny. Do you have a permit for that thing?"

"Sure Sheriff, come back when you have more time, I'll show you where you can put it."

"That's what I thought. Stay out of trouble you two. Have a nice run Ruby," she said loudly as she sank into the driver's seat.


"What were you talking about?" Greg asked as she pulled away from the curb.

"I needed their official statements."

"Didn't look very official."

"The Lucas's don't stand much on formality."

"How long have you known them?"

"As long as I've been in Storybrooke."

"And how long is that exactly?"

"Just over a year."

"And before that you lived…?"

"You got a lot of questions for someone who's in police custody," Emma said as she braked at Storybrooke's only stoplight and twisted in her seat to look at him directly.

Greg flinched. "I'm curious; it's in the job description. And don't think I don't know that I'm here on ridiculous charges."

"You were trespassing on private property, remember how I arrested you for that?" She turned back toward the road.

"It's a restaurant. I got lost on the way to the bathroom," Greg explained. "The doors weren't marked."

Emma glared at him in the rearview.

"So you were just documenting your adventure through the dangerous wilds of the backroom at Granny's? Shouldn't you have gone back to Pennsylvania by now?"

"I found a few reasons to stick around. Granny's back room is a very interesting place."

"I'm sure she'll be thrilled to hear you think so," Emma grumbled as she parked the car in front of the station. She got out and opened the door for Greg, who had slid over to her side. He unfolded himself from the car, hampered by his hobbled wrists.

"You're really going to do this?"

"Give it a break. I told Granny she should drop the charges but until she does I have to follow procedure."

"Just until she covers the evidence," he muttered. "You're not from around here then right? You don't think this town is just a little bit strange?"

"All small towns are strange," Emma quipped as they walked towards her office. "Isolation makes ya quirky."

"No, no; I cover strange towns for a living and I've never been anywhere weirder than Storybrooke. You know it's not even on a map? Nobody I've talked to has ever heard of it. It's like it just...blew in one day on the wind."

Emma twisted to give him a what-the-hell look.

"And you found "evidence" of that in a restaurant stock room?"

Greg decided that was a good time to utilize his Miranda rights and clam up, which was fine by Emma who only bothered with chit chat to gain information. Since he wasn't being very forthcoming she'd just as soon he didn't run his mouth. He definitely knew something though, or at least thought he did. She couldn't say she was disappointed to have him confined to a cell in the station; at least for the duration of the full moon.

The booking process went quickly, especially since Emma had zero intention of completing all the paperwork if Granny was just going to drop the charges anyway. But it wouldn't hurt to have the guy's prints on file just in case he decided to be stealthier about his snooping in the future.

"You got anything in those pockets that'll hurt me?" She asked, as she patted down the subjects in question.

"No," he sighed. She couldn't feel anything out of the ordinary so she fished out his wallet and a pack of gum from his jeans, followed by his cellphone, a small notebook and pen from his tweed coat.

"Your new suite," she unlocked the left cell and gestured for Greg to step inside. When he had he turned and she took off his cuffs. "It's not the worst place to spend a night or two."

"Sure, I've had worse."

She popped open a locker to put his personal items inside but paused with his wallet. It hadn't been among the things she'd had time to look at during the chaos of his arrival in Storybrooke. She unfolded the black leather and hooked a finger under the clear plastic pocket to retrieve Greg's I.D.

She read two words and chucked the wallet in the locker and slammed the door shut with enough force to rock the top stack in its setting. Greg shrank back in his cell, eyes wide with surprise and fear as she stalked to the bars and brandished the little card at him.

"What the hell is this Owen?"

The man in the cell visibly gulped.

"You wanna explain why I've been operating under the assumption that your name is Greg Mendel?"

"Sure, sure, yeah," he stammered. "I use my penname. I write for a travel magazine, and it's easier to use the name people recognize when I'm following a story."

Emma searched his face for any hint of a lie in his explanation but his open expression betrayed only that she'd startled him. Even though her inner lie detector wasn't going off something about him was still telling her that Greg was going to continue to be a pain in her ass. As if her life wasn't complicated enough.

"And you didn't think that would be relevant to mention before now?"

"I didn't –I mean I wasn't really thinking. I'm sorry I just…I wasn't thinking."

David picked that moment to arrive and Emma's glower eased away, but not her determination to find out more about the man in her holding cell.

"Hey Emma, are you…" David trailed off as he spotted the occupied cell. "What's up?"

"Our friend here is not a very gracious guest," she answered with a shrug. She rounded her desk and pulled out an empty file to assemble the paperwork she hadn't actually planned to do. She tucked the prints she'd taken and his mug shots inside and then paper clipped the license to the file. "He's taken care of until we hear from Granny or someone posts his bail. I'll finish the file in the morning. Normal day otherwise."

"Fun filled and exciting times in your very own Storybrooke," David nodded casually, though she could see him watching Greg out of the corner of his eye. "You're off to the stables?"

"Yeah, I've got to go. Henry hates being late."

Emma tossed him the keys to the cruiser and then retrieved her own from her office. She dropped the file on her desk and pulled the locked door shut as she walked back out, shooting David a look that said she'd explain later.

"Have fun," David said.

"See ya," she hollered over her shoulder as she sauntered out, leaving David to chat with their new visitor.

The familiar thrill of a new chase made her want to jog out of the building and immediately start looking for information on Greg Mendel AND Owen Flynn. Screw being a fairy tale savior, this was what she was good at, this she knew how to do. She took a deep breath a buried it though. Work would wait. Henry's riding lesson would not.

"Hey kid! Are you ready?" Emma yelled as she entered the apartment.

"I'm right here," Henry replied, clomping down the stairs in jeans and Doc Martins.

"Those are school shoes," she said, putting her hands on her hips and raising a skeptical eyebrow at him.

"Grandma said heeled shoes are the best for riding," Henry explained. "Have you called her back yet?"

"I texted her, yeah. Remind me we gotta get you some actual riding shoes."

"Okay. I can ask Elena if I need boots after class," he said as he reached for his pea coat.

"Hoodie!" Emma corrected him, pointing to the thick blue one on the hook next to the coat and almost twitching at the thought of having to figure out how to wash the latter. She had definitely not anticipated how much laundry the kid would go through until he started living with her full time. Henry turned and gave her a glare worthy of his other mother.

"I like this one," he protested.

"You'll have to unbutton it to climb on your horse."

Who'd have thought a year ago that she'd ever have an argument with her son about his choice of wardrobe? Hell, a week ago when they were buying him new clothes she had thought she'd have nothing to worry about in that department. Henry dressed better than she did. Then again that was the problem.

"Fine," Henry mumbled and pulled his red hoodie of the next hook. "I don't see what the big deal with looking nice is."

"You're going horseback riding, kid; I think wearing stuff that's easy to wash is required."

"Whatever, let's go."

Emma rolled her eyes and followed him out.

Henry chattered excitedly on the drive out to Stablebrooke and Emma was grateful, not for the first time, that though he'd inherited both his mothers' temper and tendency towards stubbornness he seemed to let go of things and bounce back to his usual positive attitude without a hitch.

When they arrived Henry was out of the door before Emma put the parking brake on.

"Hi Henry!" Ava Tilman called from where she stood with her brother and father in front of the entrance.

"Hi," Henry replied as he joined them.

Emma traded greetings with Michael whom she'd only seen in passing since convincing him to claim custody of his kids. An arrangement that had apparently worked out well even before the curse broke and they remembered that they had always been a family.

Henry and the twins led the way into the barn and Emma suppressed a grin as she heard her son humble-brag about his visit the previous week and how he'd already led his horse around the farm and seen the arena where their lessons would take place. He still didn't really have friends from school and she hoped things would settle down now enough that that could change.

"Henry seems excited," Michael said casually as they stopped and watched him introduce Ava and Nicholas to Apollo.

"He is," Emma agreed. "He's been waiting years to do 'real fairy tale things;' or so he tells me."

"Nick and Ava are as well. We didn't have a horse back home, and of course they didn't here."

"You're not much of a horse person either then?" Emma asked; relieved that she wasn't the only parent who had no experience with the animals.

"Hell no," Michael grinned. "Actually, I think you'll find most of Storybrooke's residents aren't. Horses are for royalty, and knights, and rich merchants. Not peasants."

"Hadn't pegged you as a peasant, I guess."

"Most of us are, or were, rather. Now that our memories are back, I can appreciate that the Dark One's curse brought me better fortune than anything else in the old world."

"So you wouldn't go back if you could?" Emma nearly whispered the question. She hadn't expected to have this conversation with anyone, much less someone who was nearly a stranger or to find one who wasn't as eager to get "home" as David seemed to be.

"Not back no. Not as a poor woodsman, barely scraping by on what can be scavenged from the forest."

"As something else then? Like the royal carriage towman or whatever?"

Michael laughed.

"Uh-yeah no. Not that it isn't an honor princess, but I don't think there's a lot of business to be had as a tow-carriage operator."

Emma grimaced at the title, but decided to take it as the joke it was intended as.

"Well, it's just speculation at this point anyway right?"

"Right, I'll enjoy living here as long as I can and if there's another option on the table someday…well, we'll decide as a family whether or not we want to take it."

"Sounds like a good idea," Emma replied and they lapsed into comfortable silence as they watched the children and their parents interact.

A few other kids Emma didn't recognize had joined Henry in front of Apollo's stall but as interested as they all were in petting the different horses all the kids were anxiously waiting for their lesson to actually begin.

Emma glanced at her watch and looked around for Elena but her office door was shut and no light showed beneath it. She was about to comment on her absence when the tall door at the other end of the barn slid open; daylight spilled in and three people entered. Emma squinted at the silhouettes, she recognized Elena –Regina's regal stride hadn't changed along with her name and memories. The other two remained a mystery until the door slid shut once more, revealing Jefferson and a young girl who Emma realized was his daughter. His hands were behind his back and he seemed to be intently listening to Elena as she spoke, illustrating whatever she was saying with her hands in a way that was starkly different to Regina's reserved and deliberate body language.

"Problem?" Michael asked, catching her expression and following her gaze.

"Not sure yet," Emma admitted as she continued to observe the pair, wary of the mad man who had been kicked out a third story window and disappeared completely.

A thin smile that seemed decidedly saner than she remembered drifted across his face as he nodded at Elena and shook her hand before he nudged the girl on his other side toward the gaggle of children. He slipped to the back of the group of parents as Elena turned and caught Emma's gaze. A broad smile, brighter than the professional one she'd just bestowed upon Jefferson, dawned on her face and she winked at Emma, whose brain promptly did a hard reboot –her default response to this woman who was and wasn't Regina and her smiles that lit up the room.

"Thank you all for your patience," Elena said loudly over the chatter of kids and their parents who all stopped abruptly and turned toward her. "And thank you all for coming. I'm excited to get started and I hope you are too, but before we do we need to lay some ground rules and talk safety. I'm sure this won't be a problem for any of you and I know it's boring," she leveled a stare at the kids, "but if you fail to follow the rules you'll be asked to leave immediately and we'll have to discuss whether or not you'll be welcomed back."

For a moment, Emma felt as though she was facing the stern mayor who was as regal and authoritative here in a barn, wearing riding boots and fitted pants offset by an old Tony Lama t-shirt and denim jacket as she had been in an expensive suit and her pristine office.

The other parents listened in rapt attention with the children as Elena went over rules and safety protocols. They all seemed pretty standard to Emma who took the lecture as an opportunity to openly study Elena without it being obvious that that was what she was doing. Henry had been on to something when he said the main difference between Elena and Regina was happiness. Even while rattling off rules and answering inane questions from children and their parents Elena teemed with it. It was as if there was sunshine in her soul and she couldn't help but dazzle her audience.

Emma tore her eyes away and looked over to Henry who seemed no more immune to Elena's charms than the rest of the kids. But the smile on his face was a little bittersweet and it sent a pang to Emma's heart. She made a note to ask him what was going on in his head and wondered if it was because this version of his other mother was a stranger –or if it was because she wasn't.

He'd never told her how he'd known Regina was the Evil Queen of his storybook. After a full day of dealing with Regina's aggressive brand of scheming Emma had thought it was obvious. However, after the curse broke and Regina had been taken down a notch or ten, her vulnerability showed through and Emma realized she'd only been getting glimpses of the woman who was not the Evil Queen or Mayor Mills but just Regina. She obviously loved Henry, something Emma had always doubted before then. The detailed photo journals Emma had been pouring over every night after Henry went to bed offered another glimpse of his the woman who had been his Mom as she had captured every one of her son's milestones for over nine years and what seemed like all of the funny, sweet, and even the normal moments in between.

As she watched Elena joke with one little girl who had shyly asked which was the nicest horse she could imagine that Elena was the part of Regina Mills that had brought joy to Henry thousands of times in his childhood and then had given him the record of those moments as one final proof that she had always, always loved him. Elena was the part of Regina Mills that had disappeared when Emma Swan came to Storybrooke.

"Emma," Henry hissed, ripping her from her thoughts to the present. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just spaced out," she assured him but made a note to ask him about his Evil Queen epiphany as she turned her attention back to Elena's lecture.

"There are helmets available for anyone who would like to wear them." She grinned, and added, "Or who would like their child to wear them, but it's not required."

Most of the parents were nodding appreciatively and Emma wondered how much of a fight it would be to talk Henry into wearing one and whether or not Regina would have made him. Probably. And if they ever managed to lift this damn spell Emma was sure Regina would give her hell's fury if she didn't.

"Now, I'll show you how to get your horse out and saddle them and then we'll get to the fun stuff alright?"

The kids all nodded eagerly and Elena turned to Henry.

"Would you mind being my guinea pig?"

"Sure!" Henry agreed eagerly.

"Perfect. Let's get Apollo out."

She narrated instructions similar to the one's she'd given Henry the week before as he put a halter on the horse and led him down to the tack area while everyone else watched. After Henry quickly but thoroughly brushed Apollo she showed him and the rest of the kids how to put on the saddle and bridle.

"You're ready to ride," she announced when Henry had fastened the final buckle. "We have about an hour, each of you grab a halter and pick a horse –don't fight over them, all horses are equal in this barn, the only one off limits is in the locked stall across from my office. Any questions?"

None of her new disciples spoke up so she waved them off to find their steeds. Emma stood near Henry and absently patted Apollo as they both watched Elena supervise the others as they worked.

"Hey, do you know her?" Emma asked, subtly directing Henry's attention from Elena to the girl Jefferson was helping to saddle a bay mare at the other end of the barn.

"Yeah, Paige –well, she goes by Grace now. And that's her dad Jefferson."

"Do you know him?" Her protective instinct flared to life.

"Sure, when you and Mary Margaret were away David tried to get him to help us use the hat to bring you back."

"Oh really?" Emma's eyebrows shot up as she looked down at Henry. David had never mentioned that part of his quest to bring them home.

"Uh-huh, but he couldn't make it work. But I helped him talk to Grace anyway. Families should be together."

"What about her other family?" Emma asked, remembering the happy couple she'd seen through the telescope in Jefferson's study.

Henry shrugged. "She still sees them I guess."

"You guess?"

"I don't really know, we don't talk a lot. She's in seventh grade," he said as if that explained everything. "Why do you ask?"

"Just…trying to put things together I guess," she replied, deciding Jefferson was one more person she'd have to keep tabs on. Henry looked at her like he knew there was something she wasn't telling him but she didn't think he really needed to know the details of her experience with Jefferson and Elena had stepped back out into the center of the hallway to gather everyone again anyway.

"Excellent work everyone. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll have time to ride today but I would like to go over mounting and dismounting in the arena so that next week we can get in as much saddle time as possible. If you would all take your lead ropes like Henry showed you and follow him and Apollo out to the Arena?" Her eyes met Henry's to make sure he was willing to assist once more. Henry beamed back at her and he and Apollo strutted down the walkway towards the carriage doors that led outside while Emma hung back to watch.

"Remember to keep a horse length or so between your horse and the one in front of you," Elena instructed as her students shuffled into a line following Henry. "We don't want anybody getting spooked or causing trouble."

Most of the parents continued walking next to their own children as they filed out of the barn, including Michael who stopped in the tack area to grab a pair of helmets for Nick and Ava. Since Jefferson was the only other parent to do so and Elena hadn't been very insistent on it, Emma decided that Henry could go without. This time anyway, since they weren't really going to be riding.

"April, don't let Sarabi get ahead of you. You're leading her, not the other way around," Elena told the last girl in line, the same one, Emma noticed, who had asked after the nicest horse.

She watched as April's mother, a short woman with brittle brown hair and a hawkish face, tapped her daughter and urged her forward in a way that wasn't exactly mean but wasn't gentle either.

"Sorry," April mumbled and picked up her step to keep up with her wayward steed.

Emma watched in rapt attention as Elena strode forward between mother and daughter.

"There's nothing to apologize for dear, you're here to learn," she said kindly as she reached out an arm and tapped the buckle under the mare's chin. "Move your hand up here just a bit. That's the way. Now can you feel how she's moved to match your pace?"

April nodded excitedly.

"You've got it," Elena praised as she held the door for April and Sarabi to pass through. Emma smirked when the girl's mother tried to look reproachful as she walked by Elena but cowed when the trainer met her gaze with a chilly expression that dared a to challenge her method.

The expression melted into a broad smile as Emma followed the trio outside. She opened her mouth to speak but something over Emma's shoulder caught her eye and instead she waved and gestured for someone behind Emma to join them.

"Sorry I'm so late," Mary Margaret said as she trotted up.

"Hey, you made it," Emma said, she'd had her doubts when her mother hadn't answered her text and hadn't met them at the barn.

"Hi again, both of you," Elena said quickly, she bussed Emma's forearm as she turned away. "Sorry, they're waiting on me."

Emma watched her go, briefly cross with Mary Margaret for her bad timing but let it go as they joined the others.

"Did I miss anything?" Mary Margaret asked. "David called as I was walking out of the office, to let me know about Greg Mendel."

"No, Henry's been showing off a little but they haven't really done anything yet," Emma assured her, ignoring the Greg Mendel conversation for now.

"Oh, good," she said as she waved to Henry. The boy returned it enthusiastically before focusing on Elena who was asking to borrow his horse.

There were benches around the outside of the arena but Emma passed them to lean directly on the fence, folding her arms across the top bar and watching intently as Elena demonstrated how to get onto the saddle.

"She's kind of amazing isn't she?" Mary Margaret asked quietly. "She was riding when David and I stopped by last week. She raced the car up the road and then jumped her horse and cleared the fence over there," she pointed to the pastures in front of the barn, "to meet us in the parking lot."

Emma was suitably impressed; those fences were even taller than the one she was leaning against.

"Did you ride much, back home?" She asked to keep the conversation going.

Mary Margaret shrugged. "Not like that. I mean I could, we had to, but a horse took off with me when I was a little girl and I fell off." She squinted, as if the memory was distant and out of focus. "I lost my taste for it after that and only rode when I absolutely had to."

Emma wondered if that had been when Snow had originally met Regina. She'd only heard tidbits of the story but she doubted her mother's horse could have run away with her many times, and the trouble recalling the memory was probably because the blessing had affected it.

"You know the more I hear about horses, the less convinced I am that it's a good idea to let my eleven-year-old anywhere near one."

"Oh it's not that bad. Elena's horses are gentle and they're in a fenced arena. There's nowhere to run."

"Yeah, unless his decides to hop the fence one day."

"I don't think that will happen," Mary Margaret said judiciously. "It takes a skilled rider to urge a horse over a fence that high, and a more spirited horse than these."

"She wasn't riding one of these when you saw her?"

"No, that horse was black. She looked like she was riding a shadow."

Emma couldn't remember seeing a black horse on the farm. There hadn't been one for the kids to choose in the main barn, but she hadn't seen one on their tour either.

"Hunh, I haven't seen that one."

"Maybe it's a stallion."

Emma looked at her mother blankly, as if that should mean something to her.

"They're usually kept away from other horses in reinforced corrals to avoid problems. They're definitely not horses for beginners."

"Good to know," Emma said.

"You should take a picture," Mary Margaret said, gesturing across the arena to where Henry was the first to attempt putting his foot in a stirrup.

Emma fumbled in her pockets for her cell phone. Even after spending a significant portion of her nights with Henry's albums she hadn't thought to bring an actual camera. Someday Regina would want to see this, even if she technically was there. Thank god for smartphones. She clicked off a couple as Henry pulled himself up onto Apollo with ease Emma hadn't expected.

"Kid's a natural."

"Of course he is," Mary Margaret said. "You probably would be too, if you wanted to try."

"Uh, after what you just told me it's enough that I let Henry within a hundred yards of one. I will stick to motorized transit thank you very much."

Snow grimaced and then literally waved as if she could physically brush off the comment.

"Maybe it's been long enough and I'm ready to get over my fear. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had when I was younger."

Emma made a face like the suggestion left a bad flavor in her mouth. "I'm not afraid of horses. I just prefer transportation that doesn't have a mind of its own."

Snow shrugged, "Well I'm sure Henry would like to go riding with you. You should think about it."

Damn her, now she was going to. He'd probably be convinced it would help them learn how to get Regina back because they'd have to spend more time with Elena. On the other hand… Emma's eyes tracked around for Elena. Henry was perched on his horse in the middle of the arena, waiting patiently for all the other kids to catch up. Elena was several horses closer to them, and was bending to help April, who was a full eight inches shorter than her other classmates, into her saddle.

"What's that face?"

"What face?" Emma said absently, as she appreciated the view.

"That face," Mary Margaret said following her gaze. "Oh."

"What?" Emma demanded, meeting her mother's eyes.

"Maybe it's not Henry you'd like to ride with."

Emma rolled her eyes and glared at her, inwardly cursing herself for getting caught looking. It was still Regina for chrissake.

"No, that was not a face," she insisted. "You make faces. I watch. Impassively."

"It was a face," Mary Margaret assured her.

"That's my normal face."

Mary Margaret folded her arms and fixed Emma with a look she'd perfected during twenty-eight years of teaching fourth graders. It wasn't working on Emma though; she just focused resolutely on Henry, who was now climbing off his horse as Elena praised all the children on their efforts.

"Next time, come right in, pick your horse and saddle-up," she told her students as they dismounted and followed Henry out of the arena once more.

Emma and Mary Margaret met Henry at the gate and walked back to the barn with him.

"You looked good up there kid," Emma said.

"Thanks, I wish we got to ride though."

"Well it sounds like you'll get to next week."

"Maybe we could come by again this weekend to see Elena and she'll let me ride?" Henry asked hopefully as he tied Apollo outside the horse's stall and began removing the saddle and blanket.

"Or maybe David and I could come out and we could all go?" Mary Margaret interjected before Emma had the chance to answer.

"That's…" Emma fumbled for an appropriate reply. She looked at Henry for help but he only nodded enthusiastically at her, with big doe eyes. Little traitor. "That sounds doable?"


"We'll have to talk to Elena, she's got a lot of work on her hands," Emma warned.

"Tell her I can help!"

Emma rolled her eyes; she should have expected that.

"I'll talk to her," she promised.

"Woohoo!" Henry bounced off to put his saddle and tack away.

"Well, you just made his week," Emma told her mother.

"Sorry, I kinda hijacked that discussion didn't I?" Mary Margaret had the grace to look contrite.

"It's okay. He would have talked me into it anyway and this way we'll all get to spend some time together."

"That will be nice," her mother agreed. "I feel like I haven't seen you at all since you got back."

She hadn't, because Emma had been avoiding her. Not that it had been hard since Mary Margaret had taken over as mayor. But Emma realized that it wasn't fair to give her family the silent treatment for something they couldn't remember doing; she knew they wouldn't have done if they had felt like they had another choice. That didn't make Emma want to undo the magic on Regina any less or make it any easier to do so but she had missed Mary Margaret; chatting with her today had felt like it had before the curse had broken and they could just talk like friends.

"I know. We'll work on that," she vowed. "I don't know what normal is yet, but I want you guys to be a part of it; for Henry and for me."

She'd done it now. Tears welled up in Mary Margaret's eyes and she pressed her lips together in an expression that Emma knew meant she wanted to sob and hug her for the next ten minutes. Not that Emma didn't appreciate the sentiment but this wasn't really the place she would have picked to hash out family drama.

"Hey, are you going to talk to her?" Henry's return saved Emma from the moment and the change in subject allowed Mary Margaret to compose herself.

"Who –oh." Emma looked over to where Elena was talking with a group of parents, including April's mother who had apparently regained her confidence and was grilling the trainer about something Emma couldn't quite hear.

"Maybe it'd be better to give her a call tomorrow kid," she decided, damned if she wasn't disappointed by it.

"Or we could come by after school," Henry suggested.

"We'll see," Emma made no promises.

"Okay, but I want to say goodbye."

He was off before she could stop him and working his adorable child skills to the max to cut through the group of parents. He interrupted April's mom mid-tirade to throw his arms around Elena and say thanks and Emma had an epiphany. Her kid was a wily one. She smirked as Elena froze and for the space of a breath looked like she had no idea what to do, but then recovered and hugged Henry back, giving him one of her winning smiles and thanking him for being her assistant as he pulled away. A second later and Henry had dashed back through the crowd, waving to Nick and Ava as he marched out to the car with Emma and Mary Margaret.

"Smooth kid," Emma commented when they had exited the barn.


"I saw that little maneuver. You have a plan."

Henry's eyes widened and his lips quirked up in a little smile that he knew would get him out of anything if wielded correctly.

"What's this one called?"

"Operation Elephant, 'cause an elephant never forgets," he announced proudly.

Emma chuckled, "Phase one: complete?"

"Phase one: success."

"What are you talking about?" Mary Margaret said with a laugh that suggested she wanted to be in on the secret.

"It's need-to-know Grandma, we'll tell you later." He hugged her and got into the bug, leaving her to gape at her daughter who shrugged.

"I just go with it," Emma said. "He'll explain when he's ready."

That didn't stop her from asking what phase two was as soon as they were on their way home.

"I'm not sure yet," Henry admitted. "I hadn't really planned to hug her that quickly."

"Solid improv skills, you seized the moment like a pro," she praised. Not that she loved it when the kid turned his powers of manipulation on her. It was gonna suck when he turned into a teenager.

"I think I'll make up my next move as I go along. She obviously wants to love me."

Emma snorted at his bravado but didn't deny it. Regina's love for Henry was obviously still there, getting Elena to feel it didn't look like it was going to be much of a challenge.

"So I think we should invite her to go horseback riding with us this weekend."

Emma groaned. She needed to go back to her Greg Mendel problem, at least that one involved staying firmly on the ground.

Notes: I'm so sorry for the wait for this chapter. Now that I am healthy and finals are over updates will be more frequent and consistent. FYI I'm now following canon up to Manhattan. Some familiar characters are going to pop up but they'll be a bit different. Neal still isn't Baelfire, sorry if this disappoints you. Also, please consider all Fairy Tale flashbacks canon but not Present World flashbacks, i.e. I'm not using most of the information we got from Welcome to Storybrooke or Selfless, Brave and True. If I've managed to thoroughly confuse you then I hope you'll trust me and let me explain in future chapters or just ask and I'll try to clear things up. I love to talk shop. Thank you for reading!

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!