Note: Thank you all so much for the response to the last chapter! Especially to guest reviewers who I can't respond to individually. Sorry for the wait on this, hope it was worth it. Without further ado...

Taste of Forbidden Fruit


Henry didn't respond but Emma could see him moving like he might slow his horse; like he might be willing to let her catch up.

"Slow down and talk to me," she yelled again.

"Whoa!" She heard him say and this time he definitely tugged on his reins but Apollo only tossed his head and continued on. He yelped when the abrupt movement made his balance falter and he bounced violently in the saddle as he tried to regain it while the horse just kept going.

"Emma!" He called nervously over his shoulder, hauling back on his reins though Apollo paid him no heed. "I can't slow down!"

Emma kicked Sue's sides but her horse was already racing after him as fast as he could and the gap between them wasn't closing; if anything it was getting bigger.

"'Ma! Emma! Help!"

Her heart plummeted. Henry curled over Apollo's neck and sent a panicked glance over his shoulder, struggling to slow the horse and hang onto his saddle at the same time. She gasped as he looked at the road below him like he wasn't sure whether or not to stay on his runaway horse or take his chances jumping off into the grassy embankment on the side of the road.

"You stay on that horse Henry! Just hang on!"

She started breathing again when she saw him nod and cling tighter to the horse's neck but it was fleeting; they were still going way too fast and she wasn't sure where Apollo was going to decide to stop. What if the horse bucked or tripped with Henry on his back? Horrific possibilities flashed through her mind. The thudding in her chest matched the beat of Sue's hooves on the asphalt. She was straining to keep her seat, not sure if she even had control of Sue or if she was just pretending. It didn't matter, either way she wasn't any closer to catching up to Henry.

She watched the distance between Henry and the turn to Stablebrooke disappear and she worried what she'd do if Apollo shot passed it and what Henry would do if he didn't. If the horse took the corner into the drive at the speed he was going the kid would probably fly off like someone who hadn't been properly buckled into a Tilt-a-Whirl.

"Emma!" He screeched.

"Hang on Henry!"

The radio on her belt bounced uselessly against her hip; she thought about trying to reach Elena on it but she wasn't sure she could unclip it and hang on to her own horse at the same time. What would Elena to do short of a miracle anyway?

For the first time she wished she knew how to access her own magic like she had when Cora had attempted to take her heart. She'd give anything now to just be able to teleport Henry safely to the ground.

"Whoa!" Henry cried as his horse slowed just a hair and careened around the corner onto Stablebrooke's drive. One of his reins streamed through the air when he dropped it in favor of hanging onto his saddle and the horse's mane. Once on the dirt road toward the barn Apollo put on another burst of speed, leaving Emma and Sue to eat his dust.

"Shit!" Emma threw her body to the right as Sue took the corner; the horse leaned so far to the left that Emma thought he would wipe out entirely but he recovered and she managed to stay on as he picked up into a gallop once more.

Henry and Apollo were a hundred yards ahead of her now, nearly to the parking lot and she could hear him pleading with the animal to stop.

"Mom! Help!" Henry screamed as he tried to catch the rein trailing near horse's flanks.

Apollo paid him no heed as they crossed the parking lot and passed the bug toward the open barn door.

Helpless, Emma just prayed that Henry would stay on through one more turn and a stop inside the barn.

A flash of blue and white caught Emma's eye and she sagged in relief as Elena appeared in the doorway and ran out to intercept the horse; stretching her arms wide and calling out to the animal in a loud but soothing voice. Finally, Apollo slowed; he slid to a stop three feet in front of the trainer and scuttled backwards to counter the sudden halt. Elena ignored him, crossing to his side where Henry practically fell into her arms and clutched her tightly like she'd disappear if he didn't hold on.

"What happened?" She demanded, even as she tightened her hold on the eleven-year-old to soften her words. "Henry, are you alright?"

Henry bobbed his head against the crook of her shoulder but didn't loosen his hold. Elena looked up from Henry to Emma as she galloped towards them, confusion written on the lines of her face.

Emma tugged back on Sue's reins as they approached and was grateful when he immediately began to slow down and she hopped out of his saddle as he stopped, completely intent on reaching her son.

"Shit!" Emma swore again when legs betrayed her on the uneven ground and she flung an arm around Sue's neck to keep from falling flat on her face.

Some hero.

Her entire body was shaking with adrenalin and she felt as though she'd sprinted the mile and change from the bean patch to the barn. Sue gave an irritated nicker but let her lean on him until while she tried to regain her balance.

Henry giggled as he watched her from Elena's arms and Emma forgot to be embarrassed at her clumsy attempt at a rescue. He was laughing at her and he was okay. He was laughing at her and he wasn't scarred for life. He was laughing at her and magic beans didn't matter.

"Gotta learn to stick the landing, huh?" She asked with a self-deprecating grin, feeling numb to everything but total relief now that Henry was safe on the ground rather than lying in a broken heap on the side of the road or blazing down Main Street on a rampant steed.

When she was sure that her legs weren't going to give out, Emma gave Sue a haphazard pat and let him join Apollo near the barn so she could walk the last few steps to Henry. He didn't seem keen to let go of Elena entirely but he did stretch an arm out to include Emma in the hug.

She took a deep breath before wrapping her left arm around him and hesitantly rested her right around Elena's shoulders; acutely aware that the last time she had tried this Regina had literally shoved her away and told her to start crowd clearing. She felt the muscles under her hand tense and fully expected the brunette to pull back but to her surprise Elena just shifted to get her own arm more comfortably under Emma's and lightly pull her closer so Henry could snuggle between them.

Henry relaxed against them, safe and loved, and a wave of peace broke over Emma, washing away the frustration from her parents' revelation and the anxiety brought on by a runaway horse. She tangled her fingers in Henry's sweat damp hair and kissed the top of his head; her cheek brushed against Elena's forehead as she did so, but the brunette didn't seem to mind; Emma could feel her thumb tracing against her shoulder blade the same way it had against her wrist a few hours ago.

This was how it should have been at the mines and in the hospital; at the well and on the bench when they had thought Archie murdered. This was what Emma had missed out on and longed for her whole life before coming to Storybrooke. This was what being a family felt like.

This was a lie.

It wouldn't happen, Emma reminded herself, if Regina was here mentally as well as physically. Elena was an illusion of magic, a beautiful story that had been woven into their lives and the truth made a mockery of this very moment. The truth made Emma's chest ache because now that she'd had a single taste of this feeling how was she going to live without it?

Emma did the only thing she knew how to do in this situation: she started running.


"You have got to stop scaring me like that kid," she said and self-consciously extracted herself from the group hug.

"I'm sorry," Henry mumbled, finally raising his head to look at her thought he left an arm tucked around his other mother; obviously reluctant, given the circumstances, to let her go.

"What happened?" Elena asked again.

"I think I scared him," Henry said sheepishly. "We were going so fast and I panicked. I broke rule number two."

"But you stayed on," Elena replied gently. "Rule number one is the most important."

Henry gave her a tentative smile.

"You two weren't playing tag again were you?"

"No." Henry stared at his shoes and admitted, "I was running away."

"Running away? From what?" Elena split a concerned look between him and Emma.

Emma fumbled for a response that didn't involve magic beans and other worlds and came up blank.

"They said something about my mom, and I got upset," Henry explained. "I should have controlled my temper better. I'm sorry for scaring everyone."

"It's okay kid," Emma said. Her heart cracked because he was looking at Elena when he said it and she knew he was searching for any hint of his mother to find and hold on to for moments when it seemed like he was never going to get her back, not really.

"We're just glad you're all right," the brunette added, giving his shoulder another squeeze before dropping her arm and Henry gave her a grateful but sad little smile in return.

The sound of hooves on gravel growing closer made them look up to see David and Mary Margaret coming down the road and Henry's eye's found Emma's and she saw her wish to not deal with this right now reflected in them. She knew he was sorry for the way he'd reacted but that didn't mean he felt ready to confront his well-meaning but oblivious grandparents about it.

"How about I take your horses to the arena for a cool down," Elena suggested. "You can come back and join me whenever you're ready."

"Why don't you go with her Henry," Emma said, because being a parent meant taking one for the team sometimes. "I'll talk to Mary Margaret and David."

Henry nodded gratefully and he and Elena collected both horses before disappearing into the barn. She turned back to the road just as her parents rounded the last paddock and steeled herself for the oncoming conversation.

They hadn't meant to hurt Henry. Not that that assuaged the inner mama bear she barely knew existed. Her best plan of action was to assure them that everything was fine and then get rid of them as quickly as possible.

"Is Henry okay?" Mary Margaret implored as she slid from her saddle and reached out to grasp Emma's hand.

"He's fine," Emma said, squeezing her mother's fingers briefly before dropping them.

"I don't understand what happened? I know you don't really want to go back to the Enchanted Forest but I thought maybe you'd give us a chance? And I thought Henry would be excited?"

"He is –was," Emma corrected herself. "But this is the only home he's ever known; you can't just expect him to want to leave it behind entirely."

"We don't," David protested. "With the crop we can have a continuous supply of beans we can use to travel back and forth anytime we need to."

"That's just great. But it doesn't mean the Enchanted Forest is a place for children right now and it probably won't be for a long time," Emma argued. "I get that it's your home and you want it back but the reality is that it's not safe and there are a lot of people who shouldn't go back there until it is. Including Henry. Especially Henry."

"We don't know that it's any safer here, at least there we know what we're dealing with."

"Yeah! Ogres and chimaera and dragons! I don't know about you but I prefer tourists."

"That's not what it's really about though is it?" Mary Margaret interjected. "Henry was excited until he found out we were going to leave Elena behind? What's really going on here Emma?"

There were times when Emma truly wished that her parents were actually the idiots that Regina thought they were. Because whenever they decided to use their heads it usually wound up being a pain in her ass.

"She's…it's complicated."

"Complicated how?" Mary Margaret demanded suspiciously. "What aren't you telling us?"

"Okay, you are really not the one who gets to be angry and defensive about this," Emma snapped, putting her hands on her hips and squaring herself against the two of them.


"Don't Emma me. I leave town for five minutes and you had the Blue Fairy use her hocus pocus on her and now you can't remember who she is. That is not my fault but now it's my problem, so you can put your perfect Charmings act away right the hell now."

"What, you mean we cursed her?" David asked incredulously.

"The Blue Fairy can't cast curses," Mary Margaret insisted. "And why would we do that?"

"Believe me, I would love to know. But this is really not the time or the place for this interrogation so I'd appreciate it if you'd just back off."

A pout blossomed over Mary Margaret's face and David just looked flummoxed.

"Look," Emma sighed because she found herself utterly incapable of pushing them away completely. "I'm sure you had reasons for doing what you did, and you probably even thought they were good ones, but Elena is not who you think she is and until I've sorted that out I can't even think about magic beans or fairy-freaking-tale land but I know for sure we are not leaving her alone in Storybrooke regardless of whatever else we do."

Mary Margaret gaped at her.

"Well, who is she?" She asked timidly, sounding more like her meek, cursed, self than the passionate warrior princess who Emma had gotten to know a world away; and though Emma loved both –she did- it was still hard to reconcile the two as her mother.

She pursed her lips and tried not to scowl at her.

"Henry's mother," she revealed flatly.


She tried hard not to roll her eyes, she really did.

"Like I said, it's complicated. But we're not dealing with that right now. I need to get back to Henry. You guys should probably just…head home."

"But what about-

"We should apologize-" They protested at once and Emma held her hands up.

"No," she said firmly. "Guys, I really need to not do this right now. Henry's upset and I need to go to him. Please just give me today."

Mary Margaret still looked torn.

"We can do brunch or something tomorrow," Emma promised. "Henry will calm down and I can explain then."

"He knows what we did and we don't even know?"

Her mother looked heartbroken but whether it was because she felt left out or if she felt guilty for a sin she couldn't remember committing, Emma didn't know.

David still looked like he hadn't quite put all the pieces together yet; which was fair as he was still missing several of them.

"The Blue Fairy's blessing didn't affect us because we weren't in Storybrooke when she cast it. We're the only ones who remember who Elena was."

"But she's from Storybrooke? She's from our land?"

Emma nodded and knew the next question would be about who Elena was so she headed it off.

"Tomorrow," she promised. "I will explain everything tomorrow. I promise. I gotta go take care of my kid."

"Emma, for what it's worth," Mary Margaret said earnestly, "I'm sorry."

Emma gave her a wan smile.

She wanted to believe that. She'd been telling herself for weeks that they'd had the best intentions when they'd "blessed" Regina. But, the voice in the back of her mind told her that wasn't the whole story. That's why she'd been avoiding them and this conversation. They had been wrong about Regina before and punished her anyway and Emma's gut told her that they had made a mistake again.

At least she'd bought herself another day before she really had to confront that.

"Here, I'll take your horses in so you can get going," she offered, holding her hand out for them to hand her their reins, which they did reluctantly.

"I'm sorry this turned out so terribly, I guess we didn't think this through very well," Mary Margaret apologized again and her woeful tone made Emma itch to get back to Henry and Elena.

"Hey, it was fun until the last thirty minutes. Henry will be less upset tomorrow, he's just worried about his mom. We'll figure out the rest later."

She could tell that her mother was about to burst from the questions she wanted to ask and that David was still reeling from the ones she had answered. It was obviously going to take a little more to get them moving.

"Thanks for understanding guys," she said and stepped forward to give them each a one armed hug. David returned it awkwardly and, as always, Mary Margaret acted like she didn't want to let her go. It struck Emma how different hugging them felt from the group hug with Henry and Elena. She pulled away and waved absently as she headed toward the barn. They waved back automatically but otherwise stood still, staring after her in something close to shock.

Emma let out a huff frustration once she was safely inside the barn and pushed back at curls that weren't there out of habit. She wondered if the horses she was leading needed a cool down too or if that had just been Elena's excuse to give them some privacy. She decided it that it was probably not a good idea to put the horses away sweaty even if it was fairly warm in the stables so she stopped them near the tack area and pulled off their saddles before leading them out the back of the barn.

Rather than in the arena, she found Elena leading Sue around the yard while Henry was riding Apollo next to her. They were deep in conversation and neither noticed Emma's arrival as she watched them from the doorway.

"You won't tell the kids in class what happened or use me as an example of what not to do will you?" She heard Henry asking nervously.

"No, I promise," Elena assured him, patting his leg gently. "Your mistakes are your own to share or not as you like."

Emma caught the glum look on the kid's face but his shoulders released their tension at her promise.

"Is this a private party or do you let just anyone walk with you?" She interrupted lightly, letting them know she was there as she cut across the gravel to join them.

Elena smiled at her, "Oh private definitely, but I believe you were invited. Would you like your horse back?"

"Nah," Emma motioned with Monroe and Lightyear's ropes. "I'll walk with these guys."

"Come on then, they don't need much of a cool down. Henry just needs a chance to feel comfortable with Apollo again. I believe it's important to get right back on the horse after scary experiences and face any fear head on."

"How ya doin' kid?"

"Fine. I think Apollo freaked out more than me," he answered, giving the horse's withers a forgiving pat.

"I think he got excited because you were running home, sometimes that happens, that's why I like to have you mount and dismount in the arena rather than the barn."

"Well I definitely won't be doing that again," Henry said resolutely.

"Glad to hear it."

To Emma's immense relief Elena still didn't pry at the reasons behind Henry's sudden flight back to the barn. She seemed content with his brief explanation and peppered them both with light hearted questions about the rest of their ride and picnic and Emma let Henry answer most of them as they wandered around the yard until the horses were dry and docile. Then they went back to the barn and all worked together to put the animals and equipment away.

Emma noticed Henry was reluctant to leave and didn't really blame him. She was aware that he'd been missing Regina particularly this week, even before today's misunderstanding. He clearly enjoyed spending time with Elena, and was currently charming her into letting him help feed and water their horses. It seemed Henry's initial reluctance to get to know Elena had been for good reason because now breaking the spell would mean choosing Regina over Elena. They had to; of course they would, because this wasn't real.

But as she watched Elena help him lift a pitch fork full of hay into the rack inside Apollo's stall she wanted it to be. She wanted both, she realized. Regina and Elena, reconciled into one, like Snow and Mary Margaret. If cursed people were the worst versions of themselves, and blessed were the best, then Emma wanted normal, normal people with strengths and weaknesses.

For Henry, because Regina had been a good mother and he deserved to have an easy relationship with her. But also for Regina herself, because Regina had been The Queen and The Mayor, but she had been just Regina too, and she deserved to remember that she had overcome the former versions, that she had been the best of herself without magic once.

Henry held out grain filled hands and chestnut mare leaned out of her stall to lip it from his fingers, nickering for more when it was gone. Henry's giggle filled the barn and Elena, hovering protectively behind him, smiled wistfully. She turned her head, catching Emma staring and her smile brightened as she met the blonde's eyes and Emma was finally completely, uncomfortably honest with herself. She wanted it too.

They needed to break this spell. Because Emma needed to know if this was a fluke, if this was a trick of magic to make her believe the lie. She couldn't feel this way about Elena. She wanted normal. She wanted real. She wanted Regina.


She couldn't deal with this right now. Not here. Not while Elena was smiling at her like that.

"Hey kid, we need to get going!"

"Emmaaa," Henry groaned as he turned away from his work.

"Sorry dude," she said resolutely, "We've been here all day and you have homework."

He schlumped and sighed and quickly fed the last of the oats in his hands to the horse before turning to Elena and throwing his arms around her, this time she didn't even look surprised.

"This was the best day," he whispered, squeezing her tight. "Thank you."

"I'm glad you thought so, even with your adventure."

"I lived," he said with false-bravado. "It'll make a great story."

"So it will," Elena agreed as she let him go.

Emma smiled as he trudged over to her while the other woman followed him with a much less beleaguered walk and a smile on her face that made Emma want to give in and stay but reminded her why she needed to leave right now at the same time.

"Thank you," she echoed her son's words, "For teaching us, and for saving him."

"He would have been fine without me," Elena said, bestowing a warm smile on Henry who beamed back at her before she met Emma's gaze and held it. "And it was my pleasure to teach you, I had a lot of fun this morning."

"Me too," Emma found herself saying, unable to break the gaze though alarms were going off in her head, warning her of dangerous waters. She stood awkwardly with Henry, hands in her pockets, trying to remember why going in for a hug of her own would be a very, very bad idea.

"Right," she said and forced herself to tear her eyes away from the liquid brown depths of Elena's –Regina's- and put a hand on Henry's shoulder to steer him toward the door.

"See you Monday?" Elena inquired as she walked them out.

"Monday? Oh, for the lesson, right. See you Monday."

"See ya!" Henry called out too as he dropped into the passenger seat of the bug.

Emma couldn't resist one more shared grin and new from the conspiratory look in Elena's eyes that at least she wasn't alone in this heady feeling that was so impossible to resist.

It's not real; her new mantra. The smile dissolved from her face as she sank into her seat and she focused on the motions of starting the car and pulling out of the parking lot so she wouldn't have to think about her own inner turmoil.

"Are you okay?" She asked Henry as they headed toward town.

"Sure. I was scared, but getting back on Apollo and having nothing go wrong helped," he answered easily.

"What about okay about the beans?"

The happy-go-lucky expression on his face dwindled, replaced by a look too tired for an eleven-year-old to wear.

"We're not gonna leave her are we?" He asked. "I mean, even if we break the blessing and she remembers who she is. We're not gonna go there and leave her here because she was the Evil Queen?"

Emma kicked herself because that hadn't even crossed her mind and it should have. That was exactly the kind of fairytale vengeance the people in town had displayed a thirst for, even her parents and their friends.

"No," she promised. "We're not leaving her; we're not going there at all."

"What? Why not?"

"Not until it's safe," Emma amended, deciding she'd be better off not saying 'never'.

"But Grandma and Grandpa want to go."

Emma had mixed feelings about that, none of which she intended to vent to her son.

"I know. But I think here feels like home to them too. So maybe they'll decide it's not worth it."

"You know," Henry began, "When we first started Operation Cobra I thought we'd be there, riding horses and having swordfights by now."

Emma gave him a sideways glance but didn't reply.

"I guess really though, riding horses and learning to sword fight and still having Xbox and comics is kind of awesome.

"I'm glad you feel that way kid," she told him. "Because I'm all for having the best of both worlds in this one."

"Speaking of operations," she said casually as they parked and walked into their building. "How do you think Operation Elephant is coming?"

Henry grinned.

"Great! I think we skipped a couple steps today," he said, skipping a few on the walk up to the apartment for good measure. "I guess that's the upside to almost becoming road-pancake?"

"Yeah, do me a favor and don't try that again. Even to skip a couple steps," Emma scolded him as she jammed her key into the lock.

"I won't," Henry promised. "But even you gotta admit today was nice right?"

They walked in and shed their layers, hanging up coats and kicking off shoes.

"It was," Emma admitted.

"Do you like riding?"

"Yeah, when you're not scaring me out of my wits, it's a lot of fun."

"And do you like Elena?"

Emma twisted sharply to look at him. His expression was innocent but his eyes were regarding her too shrewdly for her to believe it had been a simple slip.

"You do, I can tell," he said when she didn't answer right away. "It's okay."

"It doesn't mean I don't want you to break the blessing," she assured him.

"Do you think you could be friends with my mom, like you are with Elena?"

A sympathetic smile graced Emma's lips.

"I hope so Henry, I really do."

He smiled back at her and threw himself into a hug.

"I hope I can break it soon," he wished.

"Me too, kid," she said and poured every ounce of hope that she had for him into the hug.

"Whew! You smell like horse sweat," she told him when she felt him start to pull away.

"You do too!"

"Shower time then dinner?" She suggested, raising her eyebrows at him in question.

"Definitely. Can we go to Granny's?"

"We're going there in the morning, I think Snow and David are gonna crash brunch."

"Okay," he said happily and Emma was glad that his unease with them had apparently worn off.

"How about pizza?"

Emma rolled her eyes but pizza did sound pretty good.

"I'll call Tony's."

"Yes!" Henry crowed, he pumped his fist and raced up the stairs towards his room and a hot shower.

Emma just shook her head and grinned as she pulled out her cell phone to carry out their plan.

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