Ok, this chapter is un-beta-ed; I'm hoping that it is still ok, an there aren't too many mistakes or that no one is OOC. In this chapter we're going to be seeing other points of view as well as John's. Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, faved and alerted this story! I hope that everyone's holidays are going great and if not that they get better! Now settle down with a nice cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon and I hope you enjoy the chapter!

Hot Chocolate Christmas Part 1

John sat across from Henry in their usual booth, chess game in progress between them. Henry had been learning very quickly; John knew it would be years before the boy was as good as Sean or himself, but for someone who had just started learning the game he was doing very well.

The door to the diner opened and they could hear a pair of familiar voices arguing; they looked up to see Emma and Mary going back and forth about something, Emma gestured to Ruby for "two", which the waitress just nodded to.

"I don't see why we have to do this," Emma said as they approached the table.

"Because it's Christmas, Emma," Mary patiently told her friend as the slid into the booth, the dark haired woman next to John and the blond one next to Henry.

The man watched the two of them with raised eyebrows. "What's going on?"

"Mary wants to have a 'gathering' on Christmas Day with a bunch of people," Emma stated, eyes still on her roommate; she turned to him briefly. "I think this is your invite to Christmas, by the way."

John hid a grin behind his hand.

Mary turned to him. "Don't you think it's a good idea, John?"

He looked back and forth between the two women, one the woman he was in love with and the other was his boss. "Is there any way I can answer this and not get in trouble?"

"Yes." "No." were the simultaneous, contradicting answers.

Mary gave Emma a look.

He rubbed a hand over his mouth, clearing his throat. "I think I'll abstain. Though, I do have a question for you, Emma."

The blond woman cocked an eyebrow at him. "What?"

He leaned toward her on his elbows, raising an eyebrow of his own. "How long are you going to keep pretending you aren't going to let her have this party?"

Henry was nearly lying on the table with giggles.

Emma glared at John; he just smirked back.

The sheriff looked away, grumbling as Ruby set down the two hot chocolates; the women thanked her.

"Are you guys going to decorate for it and everything?" Henry asked hopefully.

"Mm hmm," Mary confirmed, which Emma didn't refute.

Longing was etched on the boy's face. "I wish I could help."

Emma looked at him, frowning. "Aren't you and Madam Mayor," she said the title mockingly, having never been fond of the woman but even less so since the most recent incidents with her, "going to decorate together?"

Her son shook his head. "She doesn't really like Christmas; she just has professional decorators come because everyone expects her to decorate for it."

Emma's lips became a thin line. "You've never gotten to decorate for Christmas?"

"No," he shook his head mournfully.

Emma wasn't pleased with this answer. "We're getting a tree this afternoon," she stated, leaving no room for debate. "You're going to help us pick it out, kid, and then tomorrow you're going to help us decorate it."

Henry's eyes lit up. "Really?"

"Yup," she told him definitively.

"Can I go to your party too?" he asked hopefully

Emma gave him a regretful half-smile. "Probably not, kid; the Mayor'll probably want you with her for Christmas. But maybe we can do something Christmas Eve."

Henry didn't seem completely pleased with this, but was at least mollified with the solution; he perked up, "What time're we going to get the tree?" he asked eagerly.

"After lunch," Mary told him with a warm smile. She looked at John. "Would you like to come with us?"

There was a warm glow in his chest at her invitation and smile. "I would love to."

Her smile brightened further. "Great."

"What about this one?" Henry ran up to a very tall tree, staring up at it.

Emma sauntered up next to him, hands stuffed into the pockets of her coat. "I think that's a little too tall, kid." She smiled wryly at him. She loved seeing the pure joy on his face, moments like this her heart ached for the years with him that she wished had been hers.

"Ok," he easily shrugged off that one, grabbing her hand and pulling her off after him.

She looked back at the sounds of smothered laughter from the pair trailing along behind them; she gave Mary and John a mock glare over her shoulder. They responded with Mary pressing her lips together to contain her laughter and John giving her a half-grin. It was strange. She'd never had a real Christmas in her life but she wanted to be sure her son got everything she didn't have, and it seemed like, in trying to give him that she was having her first real Christmas. When John told her weeks ago that she was a good friend to Mary her first instinct had been to refute that saying she didn't have friends, but then she'd really thought about it and realized that Mary was her friend, as were John, Sean and Ashley.

And Graham. Her heart twisted at that quiet whisper of a thought, she was still raw over his death; her friends were being careful not to talk too much about him just yet. She did what she always did and pushed the pain to the side, concentrating on the here and now, with her son and two friends who were still living.

When she had stepped foot into this town she'd never imagined that she would decide to plant roots here; that she would finally have real friends…family, because that's what they were becoming to her if she was honest with herself, the family she'd never had, but always longed for.

She was quite happy to allow herself to be dragged from one tree to another, discussing the pros and cons of each with Henry, with Mary and John putting in their two cents.

It was frightening in a way how attached she was becoming to all of these people, after so many years of being on her own. She was a loner, she didn't rely on others, but she was quickly finding herself becoming more and more dependent on these people. She was so used to coming home to Mary making dinner, chatting with her over a cup of cocoa, bemoaning things over a glass of alcohol, sitting around on the couches folding laundry together. Knowing John had her back both at work and outside it, that he was a good, positive male role model for Henry, and when Emma couldn't fix something for their loved ones he would do his level best to do so. And Henry, her son, what brought her to this strange town in the first place; he opened her up to these people and this place, he looked up at her so trustingly and hopefully, making her finally begin to think that she could be the person and mother she wished but never believed she could be. For the first time in her 28 years of life she was looking forward to the holidays.

"Oh, my gosh!" Henry cried and Emma found herself being, once again, dragged forward to stop in front of a tree. "This one!"

She looked the tree up and down. "It's not too tall."

Mary and John came to a stop beside them.

"It's perfect," Mary said quietly; she reached out to break a few needles off and lifted them to her nose with a smile.

Emma nodded looking the thick tree over, it really was rather picture perfect. "All right. This is our tree." She reached down and ruffled her son's hair. "Way to go, kid."

Henry grinned up at her broadly. "So we're gonna buy it?"

"That's right," Emma told him. "You and me're gonna get this paid for while Mary and John grab some wreaths."

"Cool!" he declared.

"Cool," Emma agreed with a smile.

"You and Emma are really making his Christmas," John quietly commented as they wandered down the row of wreaths.

Mary blushed, "All children deserve a real Christmas," she said. "Henry has it harder than a lot of kids, though," added sadly.

John clenched his jaw. "The Mayor has some serious problems."

She could tell he was holding back a lot about how he really felt. "When I first met Emma she called Mayor Mills a 'hard ass'."

He snorted. "She told me that she was a control freak and bitch after what she said to you. Then everything with Graham…" he trailed off, they were both worried about their emotionally walled up friend who had yet to really deal with the former sheriff's death. "And from her reaction when Henry told her that he didn't get a real Christmas I think her opinion has fallen even farther," he continued after a moment.

Mary bit her lip, unable to argue with Emma's assessment, but the woman still unnerved her. It really bothered her that she allowed Mayor Mills to get to her but she couldn't seem to stop it. "I wish I had the courage to stand up to her the way you and Emma, and even Henry, have," she voiced wistfully.

He caught her hand, causing her to stop beside him and turn to face him; his gaze was intense, catching her breath in her chest. "Don't ever say you aren't strong or brave," he told her sharply.

She looked down. "I didn't even defend myself to her."

He placed a finger under her chin; her heart skipped a beat at the contact, he lifted her face to look at him. "Would you have let her tear down Emma or Henry?"

Everything in her cried out against Emma or Henry being treated that way; she shook her head. "No."

"That's what really matters," he told her simply. His hand lingered on her chin for several moments before he finally, reluctantly allowed it to fall to his side.

They had both been treading carefully when it came to physical contact between them since the kiss. The chemistry between them was intense and the magnetic attraction undeniable; when they were alone it made it especially hard to resist.

He cleared his throat. "We'd better get those wreaths."

"Right," she agreed a little breathlessly.

He placed a hand at the small of her back as they turned to continue perusing the selections, and left it there. A small concession to their desire, need, to be close.

They ended up choosing several small ones to hang on the windows and a larger one for the door; all of them were just plain evergreen, Mary said that this way they could decorate them as they wished with supplies that she already had back home. Mary and Henry managed to carry the wreaths between the two of them, while Emma and John lugged the tree back to the two women's apartment.

"Archie!" Henry waved at his therapist enthusiastically; the bespectacled man raised his umbrella in response. "We've got a tree!" the boy enthused.

"I see that," the man smiled at the group. "Hello, Emma, Mary, John."

John nodded to the other man; it felt a little strange seeing his shrink outside of their sessions but he was really beginning to actually like the man. It had taken a little convincing but Archie had started calling him John instead of David.

The psychiatrist inspected the tree with a bright smile. "That looks like a very fine tree."

"I picked it out!" Henry told him proudly.

"Is that so?" he gave the other three adults an amused smile which they returned.

Emma ruffled the boy's hair. "He sure did."

Henry looked up at his mother, adoration obvious in his eyes; then included the other two in his gaze. "And we're going to decorate it tomorrow, right?"

"That's right," John grinned; he was enjoying being included in this family they were building. He looked back at Archie, whose eyes were roving over the group interestedly.

The therapist looked at the other man, a satisfied smile spreading across his face. "Good to see you getting involved, John."

He gave him one of his patent half-smiles. "I just do as I'm told by the 'bosses'." He nodded in the direction of the two women.

Henry snickered at the comment and Mary rolled her eyes.

Emma cocked an eyebrow at him. "Call me boss again and see if you're still wearing that badge," she threatened.

He grinned back at her charmingly.

Mary shook her head at their antics, turning her attention back to Archie. "Do you have any plans for Christmas?"

"Here we go," Emma muttered under her breath to John, who cleared his throat to cover a cough.

"Not really," the man said.

"Well," the teacher began brightly, "if you're interested we're having a gathering Christmas day and you are more than welcome to come." She glanced down at the Dalmatian beside the therapist, "Pongo can come too. And if he isn't doing anything we'd love to have Marco as well."

Archie looked at her, almost wonderingly. "Well, thank you." He turned his eyes to them all; even Emma was smiling wryly at him. "I would be happy to come. What time?"

"Oh, it's an open invitation; you can come at any point during the day really."

"Thank you very much. I will talk to Marco, but you can definitely count Pongo and I in."

Mary smiled at him brilliantly. "Wonderful! We look forward to it!"

They exchanged goodbyes and parted ways.

Archie watched as the group walked down the sidewalk, chatting amongst themselves. Henry had been lamenting not being able to decorate for Christmas and how the Mayor doesn't like the holiday. Now the boy was glowing and bouncing along with the three adults; basking in the attention and affection that they lavished on him. They let him be a child, accepted his beliefs and constructs, going along with his idea of everyone being fairytale characters and were working to help him grow out of it in his own time, not forcing him to.

John/David had been so lost when he had first started coming to Archie; so confused, frustrated and at times angry. Trying to deal with the loss of his memories, feeling trapped in a life that he didn't choose and the fact that he felt like someone entirely different than whom he was being told he was; that he wanted different things. Archie had watched the man's stumbling footsteps progress to a firm, sure tread. Going from the confused, torn amnesiac he had been when he first awoke to the now confident man who sported a deputy badge, mentored the ten year old boy with them and was looking forward to starting a life with the town's beautiful, sweet fourth grade teacher. And it was in no small part to the people who were walking with him.

The two women of the group he didn't treat, but had been watching as well.

Emma, when she first arrived, had sported such obvious, thick walls around herself that it hadn't taken him more than a glance to notice them in her very body language. She still had the walls, but not with everyone. Henry had wormed his way around them entirely and she so obviously loved him; when Archie had told the Mayor that she might have a custody battle on her hands he wasn't just threatening her. Emma and Henry were growing closer and closer as the days went by and Archie could see the boy's birth mother becoming steadily more disturbed with the Mayor's parenting methods. And if he was honest with himself he had to admit that should she bring a suit he was inclined to side with her for the child's mental and emotional wellbeing. Henry wasn't the only one who had made it past at least some of her defenses. She and Mary Margaret had grown remarkably close over the time that Emma had been there; Archie would even term them best friends now. John hadn't entirely worked his way past the walls but he had a strong foot in the door and it was obvious that the blond woman trusted him to a degree that would have been alien to her before coming here.

Mary Margaret, Archie couldn't remember a time that he didn't know the sweet, gentle school teacher; he had treated several of her students over the years so they had interacted frequently. Mary had always been so quiet and shy; so unsure of herself outside of the warm, safe, colorful worlds she created in her classroom and apartment. Since the moment that Emma blew into town Mary's hesitant steps had gained a surety that they had lacked before. She looked less lonely, and he had observed fewer bouts of depression in her. Slowly her confidence was building up and the man in their little group had a definite influence on that as well. He looked at her as if she was the only woman in the world, which, Archie was nearly positive, Mary had never experienced.

Henry skipped along going on and on about making cocoa tomorrow when they decorated and Christmas music to play; the adults watched him with affectionate, indulgent smiles.

They looked like a family, Archie mused. Perhaps not a conventional one, but the ties that bound them were surprisingly strong for the short time they'd known each other and their affection for each other was genuine. Henry thrived under the joint love and care of the adults, John found strength to no longer just follow but lead, Emma stopped running and was settling into a home, and Mary stood taller and found hope and joy that she'd been missing. They did that for each other; they fit.

"Ya know," Henry commented the next day while they were all decorating, "I was just thinking that we can't do presents on Christmas Eve." He snuck another popcorn kernel from the bowl that Mary was making a chain with.

"Why's that, kid?" Emma asked, holding the ladder steady for John who was hanging a garland over the door.

"Because Santa won't have come yet," the boy said matter-of-factly.

All three adults glanced at each other.

John cleared his throat. "He's got a point," he said, his lips twitching.

Mary smothered a grin, keeping her attention on the kernels she was stringing. "Well I suppose that we could get together the day after instead."

Emma pursed her lips, forcing herself not to grin. "Yeah, I guess that'll have to work."

"Why can't we get together both days?" Henry finally burst out.

"Hmm," John commented with put-upon thoughtfulness, "I don't know if we can manage that…"

"Yeah," Emma mock agreed, "that's a lot of time with people hanging around this place."

Henry looked around at the adults his expression confused. "You guys don't want to spend time with me?"

They all burst into laughter; Mary reached up and pulled him down onto the sofa in a hug. "Henry, what on earth else would we want to do on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas?"

"If we could swing it, kid, we'd have you for Christmas day," Emma assured her son with a half-grin.

Henry found himself rolling his eyes at the three adults, but grinning just as broadly as they were. He snagged another popcorn kernel from Mary's bowl.

Mary gently swatted his hand away. "Henry if you keep eating those there won't be enough for the tree!" she scolded him laughingly.

"But they're good, Ms. Blanchard!" he was still grinning.

She rolled her eyes. "If you promise to stop eating this bowl of popcorn I'll make you another later."

"Ok!" he immediately accepted. "Thanks, Ms. Blanchard!"

"And Henry, how about when it's just the four of us you can call me 'Mary'," she offered.

The boy's eyes went wide. "Really?"

She nodded. "It's a little strange in such an informal setting and since you call John and Emma by their first names."

"Ok, Ms. – I mean Mary!" He bounced off the couch and headed over to a box of ornaments, which he began to go through.

"Not afraid of a breakdown in authority from that?" John asked teasingly as he sat down beside her.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "From Henry, no…" There was a teasing glint in her eyes as she sipped her cocoa.

John grinned at her implication. "Me?" he gave her a look of injured innocence.

"Are you two going to be verbally copulating?" Emma inquired lowly, as she settled down on the ground near them. "Because if you are I really don't think I want to hear it…"

Mary choked on her drink.

John raised an eyebrow. "'Verbally copulating'?"

The blond woman gave him a look as she pulled out a string of lights. "And what do you call it?" She stood up and moved over to the tree. "Hey, kid, give me a hand with these," she told her son, who eagerly did as she said.

Mary had buried her face in her hands.

John leaned over and muttered to her, "Here's what I say we do," Mary turned to him, eyebrows raised, "in the middle of the night sneak in and steal her red, leather jacket and donate it to the dog shelter for a chew toy."

The dark haired woman smothered a laugh, while trying to glare convincingly at the man beside her.

He grinned at her unrepentantly.

Henry didn't know what holidays they had in Fairy Tale Land, but regardless of what they were, he had a feeling that were they there this was very much like how they would be. Laughing and teasing, jokes flowing freely, his mom splitting her time between encouraging him and trying to keep him in line. His grandfather teaching him about what happens when pine needles are lit on fire, much to the cursing of his mom and scolding of his grandmother. Having his grandmother teach him how to properly aim and flick cranberries and popcorn kernels; most of the time at his grandfather or mother, followed by the pair chasing them down and a cranberry-popcorn battle occurring. Afterward them all cleaning up the mess with his grandmother running the vacuum to get up the crushed popcorn. Making hot chocolate and his mom offering him a spoonful of whipped cream and then smearing it all over his nose and cheeks. Watching his grandparents making, what his mom disgustedly calls, "gooey" eyes at each other. His grandfather holding his struggling mom still, while Henry and his grandmother attempted to decorate her like a tree. The snapping of the camera by the various people, trying to capture all of the moments and smiles. This was what he's sure holidays are supposed to be like. And when the time comes for Emma to return him to the Evil Queen's house before he's missed it takes everything in him not to beg for her to let him stay; knowing that it would just make things even harder for them all and that his mom had no choice.

They pulled up in front of the Evil Queen's house; he stared up at it, every day it was getting harder and harder to return to the prison.

His mom's hand on his head drew his attention back to her.

She gave him that half-smile that was just like her father's. "I'll see you tomorrow, kid, ok?"

"Ok," he agreed, smiling. He leaned over and hugged his mom tightly; she returned the embrace just as strongly. "See you tomorrow," he told her, not daring to call her anything at the moment, because it was getting harder and harder not to slipup with her and call her "Mom", and somehow he wasn't sure she was quite ready for that. He got out and jogged up to the front door, waving to her over his shoulder.

John wandered around town; he was shopping for Christmas gifts, unsure of where to go or what to get for the three people who had become so important to him in the short time since he'd woken from the coma. He'd already bought gifts for Sean, Ashley, Alexandra, Archie, Granny, Red and even Louis, his lawyer. This was his first Christmas that he could remember, his first Christmas as John and his first Christmas with the three people who had become family to him. He had no idea what to get for any of them and nothing that he had seen seemed right.

"Hey John!"

He looked behind him to see Sean jogging lightly from where he had just exited a jewelry shop; he stopped and waited for the younger man. "Sean, merry Christmas."

Sean grinned. "Merry Christmas. Out doing some Christmas shopping?"

John blew out a breath. "Yeah, and not having much luck actually."

The younger man frowned. "Not finding what you're looking for?"

"Not exactly. More like I have no idea what to get them and I haven't seen anything yet that seems right."

"Ah," Sean nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I'm having the same problem with my dad."

John shoved his hands into his pockets. "There aren't a lot of choices as far as stores around here," he commented. He looked down at the bag in Sean's hands. "What's that?" He raised an eyebrow at the small bag with the jeweler's emblem.

Sean's eyes lit up and he opened the bag pulling out a small velvet box. "It's an engagement ring for Ashley." He opened the box and showed John the ring. It was a white gold band with a brilliant sapphire in the center and two small diamonds on either side of it. "I've been saving to get her one; I wanted to give it to her for Christmas. What do you think?"

The older man had to grin at his friend's enthusiasm and could not deny that the ring was perfect for his friend's fiancée. "She'll love it." The gem flashed in the sunlight.

They were resting for a moment during training.

Thomas reached into his satchel and pulled out a small, velvet bag and showed him the ring inside. The sapphire winked in the sunlight. "I commissioned the dwarves for an engagement ring for Ella. What do you think?" He handed it to him.

He grinned as he inspected the ring. "She'll love it." He handed the ring back to Thomas, his own wedding band glinting in the sun.


He snapped out of whatever that was so see his friend resting a hand on his shoulder and looking at him with concern.

"You ok?"

For a moment things blurred again and the "Thomas" from a moment ago overlapped Sean. John rubbed his eyes. "Yeah." When he opened them again things were as they had always been. Had they always been that way? He tried to ignore that insidious little voice in the corner of his mind. "I'm fine."

"Ok," His friend said, not sounding entirely convinced, but he pulled back. "As far as gifts, have you tried Mr. Gold's?" He gestured to the pawn shop down the street.

The older man looked in the direction indicated; the small shop was the last one in that direction and rather isolated from the rest. "No, I hadn't really noticed it."

His friend shrugged. "Well, his collection is pretty varied; you might be able to find something there."


"And you're going to Mary and Emma's for Christmas, right?"

"Yeah," he nodded.

Sean grinned. "Great, we're planning on coming for the afternoon at least. We'll see you there!"

"See you then," John returned.

The younger man moved down the sidewalk, stuffing the jeweler's bag into his jacket pocket.

John headed toward the pawn shop; the sign was flipped to "open" so he pushed open the door, glancing around the dim interior. Not seeing anyone he called, "Hello?" No answer.

He began to wander around, looking at the eclectic collection of objects that seemed to have little rhyme or reason. He turned and came face to face with an old, decrepit yard windmill.

Something niggled at the back of his mind, something urging him to reach out his hand to the arms, which he was doing in almost a dreamlike manner.


The thought rang through his head almost painfully; he winced, pulling his hand back to rub the scar on his chin where a spike of pain originated. Where ever that thought came from was screaming at him that he didn't want whatever that windmill had to offer.

"See something you like?"

He spun around at the voice that suddenly manifested itself from behind him. A short man stood behind him on the other side of the counter. Mr. Gold, John assumed.

He looked back at the windmill for a moment. "Not sure yet."

"Are you interested in that old thing?" His tone was a little scornful of the decrepit object. "That's been gathering dust for…forever."

John shook his head turning his back on the windmill and going back to perusing the shop. "No. I don't want that."

He was inspecting an old oil lamp on a counter so he didn't see one corner of the proprietor's lips quirk up.

"Doing some Christmas shopping?" Mr. Gold inquired neutrally.

"Yeah," John said distractedly. There was quite a collection of things in here and in rather quick order he found gifts for both Emma and Henry. Now he was just running into issues with Mary.

He was moving down a counter when he nearly ran into the dangling glass figurines. He turned to look at it and went still.

It was a child's mobile, small unicorns of blue and clear glass hung, gently tinkling against each other. It was so beautiful, delicate; each of the figurines perfectly formed. He reached out and delicately grasped one of the unicorns.

Snow turned to him, eyes alight with joy. "It's beautiful!" Her fingers brushed against the unicorn figurines, sending them gently swinging above the lovingly crafted crib. Her left hand then drifted down to rest on her belly, where there was a just barely perceptible swell. The green gem on her engagement ring glittered in the sunlight.

Love, pride and joy gripped him at the sight of his wife, pregnant with their child.


He was dragged from the vision by the voice, though something about that word resounded deeply in him. He blinked rapidly before turning to the proprietor. "I'm sorry?"

"The mobile. Isn't it charming?" Mr. Gold was admiring the object; John looked back at it as well. "Exquisitely designed, masterfully crafted. I could get it down if you like to take a closer look." He turned back to his customer.

John was still looking at the mobile; he reached out and touched one of the figurines again. He wanted to say yes. He wanted to purchase it, but it was not exactly something a man in the middle of a divorce bought. Mary would love it. The thought drifted through his head and he was oh-so tempted to buy it for her, but it wasn't something a man bought for the woman he was hoping to court – did he really just use the word "court"? – it was the kind of gift a husband gave a wife, probably upon discovering the coming of their first child. The part of him that had cried out against the windmill wanted so badly to pursue the mobile, but it seemed to settle back, quiet and, for the moment, content.

"No," John finally answered the other man. "Not yet," he added a little more quietly.

The man gave him a smile that unsettled him. "Maybe another time then." He gestured to his right side saying, "Perhaps this might interest you?"

John's eyebrows rose, he approached the indicated item; something in him knew it would be perfect.

I hope that was good! I'm almost done with part 2 and it will be up at the latest by Christmas day! Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate, to all! :D

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