Title: Come Into Being
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Characters: Regina Mills, Emma Swan, Henry Mills, Prince Charming, Snow White
Category: Fluff, Angst, Season 3 Fix-It Fic
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 33,608 (Total)
Summary: Regina Mills wakes up alone on one of the most important - and terrifying - days of her life. But it isn't all bad. Not until things take a turn for the worse. It was a long journey to get to where she and Emma Swan are now. Will it all have been for naught?
Spoilers/Timeline: Post Season 3/ 10 years down the road
Author’s Note: Aw, man. Writing's been something I haven't done much if any of the past few years. So how did I dive back in? With the Swan Queen Big Bang: Banging All Summer, of course. And it was a total blast. Many thank yous to the organizers. They did a wonderful job.
Many, many thanks to ohthesefeelingz for betaing this monstrosity for me, and to ludivinelaurel for her encouragement and support throughout writing this thing. I was feeling pretty jammed with this fic when I got her note cheering me on.
Warnings: Non-graphic mention and reference to the non consensual nature of Leopold's relationship with Regina.


i.




iv.


They had talked about marriage before. Emma had once jokingly proposed, her head lying on Regina's abdomen looking up at her with contented, shining green eyes full of adoration. Her hand stroked the outside of Regina's thigh, not meant to arouse or tease. They were both sated - for the moment. But Emma always liked to touch her after. At first, Regina had thought she would find it annoying. She had braced herself for it, prepared to snap at the lingering caresses. To her surprise, she had found them relaxing and comforting, not clingy. Emma was never that, more apt to run than hold too hard. Her touches most often fleeting, left Regina wanting more. It was a promise that Emma had rarely failed to deliver on.



But that night, when whatever crass phrase had occurred to Emma - Regina can’t remember (Lies, lies, lies. She remembered perfectly. A simple, “marry me.”) - popped out of her mouth, every muscle in Regina’s body had tensed. There had been no hesitation.



“No.”



The silence had echoed in the room, loud enough that Regina could hear every tick of the clock, whir of the fan blade and beat of her heart. After a long moment, Emma had pushed herself up to a sitting position and slipped off the bed. There was no lingering caress of her fingers tracing from Regina’s thigh, brushing across her knee, glancing her ankle and setting Regina tingling from head to toe. Emma walked to the bathroom and shut the door. Regina had pulled her knees up to her chest, locked her arms around her knees and refused to shiver. She had waited what had seemed like an eternity for Emma to come out, to leave. It was inevitable. The only thing that remained to be seen was how. Would it be with yelling and demands to know why the hell Regina wouldn’t marry her? Or cold silence as Emma walked away without another word?



When Emma had at long last come out of the bathroom, it had been with silence. Regina hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until her lungs began to burn. Without a word, Emma had turned out the lamp beside the bed and slipped in beside Regina.



It had been hours before Regina had relaxed enough to slide down beside her and she hadn’t slept at all that night. If Emma was waiting for her to sleep before she walked out, well, Regina wanted to see it coming. She had pressed her hand against cool soft sheets and reached across the distance between them, wanting to close it. The warmth of Emma’s skin was tantalizing. It pulled to Regina like a magnet, but she couldn't regret her response. Her fingers clenched into a fist and she hadn’t reached for Emma again that night.



It had taken them months to get back to where they had been before, but Emma hadn’t left and she had never asked again. Part of Regina was grateful. It had taken almost that long - and several visits to Archie - visits that even Emma didn't know about- for her heart to stop trying to beat its way out of her chest in panic at the thought of what Emma had done.



That had been years ago, almost seven now. Since then she and Emma had settled into a mostly comfortable domesticity that Regina would have once thought impossible. Marriage hadn’t seemed necessary and Regina thought her feelings on the matter hadn’t changed. She had gotten her happy ending, after all. She didn’t need anything more than Emma and Henry and her previous marriage had done nothing to recommend the state. It was a reminder of the worst time in Regina’s life. The trapped feeling of utter desolation and desperation that had led her to convince Sydney to slip Agraban vipers into her husband’s bed was not one she wanted to visit, never with Emma. It was best avoided.



The day Regina had changed her mind hadn’t been a memorable one, just another grey, rainy day in Maine in the fall. Regina had been strolling down the streets of Storybrooke with her arm linked through Henry’s. Her son had been unusually jittery, bouncing from one conversational topic to the next, sounding more like his other mother than Regina was often prepared to admit.



“What is going on, dear?” Regina had asked him, when she couldn’t take it anymore.



“I need to get something.” Henry hedged. It was unlike him and if his strange behavior hadn’t clued her in already, it would have been enough to tell Regina just how nervous and uncertain he was feeling about it.



“And...you needed my help with it?” Regina suggested, trying to summon up some insight into her son’s thought process.



“Yes.” Henry hesitated. “It’s really important, Mom. I can’t screw it up. Will you help me?”



“Of course, Henry. You know I’d do anything for you,” Regina had said, more than a little puzzled about what was so urgent.



“Great,” Henry said, almost bouncing up and down with his excitement. “We’re here.”



Regina looked up. “Here” was a medium sized shop that Regina had only had rare occasion to visit. After all, the curse had supplied her with all the jewelry Regina Mills could possibly need when it had brought them to Maine. As the Queen, she had enjoyed jewels and finery, of course. It was fitting that she should have her due and that everyone should see the symbols of her status and power and bow before it. In Storybrooke, it hadn’t seemed so important. She had been in control of everything and when Henry had come into her life none of it had mattered anymore.



Regina stopped and turned to face him. “Henry Mills,” she said, arching her brows at him and pinning him with a far steadier and more unnerving gaze than she normally did. “Why are we here?” He had a girlfriend - Evelyn - of just over six months, and if her son - her baby boy - was thinking of proposing to a girl he had known for that short of a period of time, before he had even graduated, he could think again.



“I need something for Evie?” he tried.



“Such as?” Regina prompted, still focusing intently on breathing and holding back the magic that pushed at her fingers to get out whenever she was upset or frightened.



“The best anniversary present ever. I kind of screwed up, Mom.”



“I doubt that, dear.” Regina forced the words out past the lump in her throat, one of pure relief. She wasn’t ready for her son to be such a grown up yet. She knew they were, for all intents and purposes, living together at college, but Evelyn still retained her own apartment across town from him and Regina clung hard to that fact. She was proud of Henry, but he was still her baby, her little prince. She wasn’t prepared for him to grow up and move on, move past her. Not yet. “Tell me about it and we shall see if we can find something that will suit your needs.”



“You’re the best, Mom,” Henry had muttered, looking relieved to escape further interrogation and squeezed her into a sideways hug before he pulled her into the shop.



Regina had wandered around the store with Henry for several minutes, pointing out lovely pieces until Henry sauntered off toward some of the more avant-garde pieces. Some of it might have been to her taste in her days as the Evil Queen, but no longer. She was content to browse, happy to spend time with Henry in whatever form it took. He was home often now that he had finished college, but it was never often enough for her.



The glint of green caught her eye. There was nothing else about the plain gold band that would have. It was slender and rather plain, more matte than brilliant and decidedly not to Regina's taste. The chips of green stone embedded in the band were the exact color of Emma's eyes, green fading into a center of rich, warm brown, almost golden. The chips were laid out in an asymmetrical pattern across the band, forming a shape that hinted at the sinuous curve of the back of a great bird in flight - perhaps a swan.



Regina was reaching for it before she could think. Her fingers hit the glass of the display case and stroked over the smooth cool surface. She glanced up at the attendant and raised one finger in a gesture that had the young woman scurrying over.



"Yes, Maje- ma'am?" For a moment Regina tried to recall the girl's name - if she'd ever known it - but nothing was ringing a bell for her. No matter.



"I'd like to see that one."



"Of course." It took the girl a moment to open the case. Her hands were shaking and she fumbled with key several times before she managed to slide it into the lock. There was a moment where it looked as if she had chosen the wrong key and the lock wouldn't turn. Irritation surged within Regina. She hadn't been the Evil Queen for likely half this girl's life. It was ridiculous. The desire to make the ring reappear in her hand with a flick of her fingers was almost impossible to resist. Regina clenched her hand into a fist, willing her impatience down. It wouldn't do to ruin this.



"This one?" The girl asked, producing it at last.



"Yes." Regina snatched it from the girl's hand a little bit too quickly but she ignored the girl's gasp. Really, if she was so sensitive about customers and their former positions in life, her manager should find someone better suited for the position.



The box the ring was held in was made of some tawdry material. It felt cheap and disposable in her hand but all Regina cared about was the ring. The moment it was in her hand, she relaxed. The cool metal warmed quickly in her palm and she had the strange urge to brush the stones against her lips to feel their smoothness. Her hand shut tightly around it, the chips of stone biting into her palm.



"I'll take it." The words were uttered without a conscious decision. She wasn't going to let it go again.



"You're buying something, Mom?" Henry asked, surprise in his voice as he appeared just over her shoulder.



She held the ring tighter. "Yes, dear." She tried to make it sound light and breezy but her tone was all wrong.



Out of the corner of her eye, Regina saw Henry glance at the empty box on the counter and then the display case beneath.



"Whoa, Mom. Who's that for?"



"Your mother." Her throat was tight with anxiety and the words came out strangled but she knew Henry understood her well enough by the way his eyes widened.



“You’re not talking about yourself in the third person?” His brows shot up, nothing like her signature look of mockery or challenge, but in pure surprise.



Regina pinned him with a glance that told him he knew better than that.



“Right. Wow.” Henry laughed. “I didn't know that was something you'd been thinking about."



Regina swallowed and tried to ignore the way her heart was pounding in her chest. She didn't need to glance around the store to know that people were staring at them, at her. No matter how much people had come to accept her presence in town over time, the wariness and gossip persisted. "I think I'd prefer not to have this conversation here."



A muscle in Henry's jaw tightened as he took a quick glance around. He noted the woman in the corner, not peering at the jewels in the case before her, the saleswoman ducking her head as soon as she saw Henry watching and another customer with his head cocked in their direction clearly trying to eavesdrop.



"You'd think they would have found something better to do by now," Henry growled loud enough to be heard by everyone and sounding every bit like Emma.



"You would think they would have realized I no longer have any desire to subjugate the masses by this point," Regina noted, bemused rather than angered by their treatment. There were only a few people whose opinion mattered to her and these nosy gossips were not among them.



Henry snorted. "Probably not helping, Mom."



She shrugged carelessly.



"Do you want to put it back in the box, ma'am?" Their saleswoman asked, reappearing at last with a bag and the necessary papers.



Regina didn't want to let it out of her hand, much less her sight but holding on to it would look ridiculous. "Of course." She handed it over and fetched her credit card, passing it over without another word. It wasn't until the transaction had been finished and they were back out on the street that some of Regina's tension began to become bearable again.



The ring box was a solid, reassuring weight against her thigh in the pocket of her trench coat as she once again slipped her arm through Henry's. Together they walked in companionable silence for a few moments before she was ready to answer him. Henry kept throwing her little glances and then looking away again as he struggled to contain himself and be patient.



"I haven't," Regina said, at last. "Been thinking about it. I never intended to again. Emma asked me once."



"I know."



Regina froze and looked over at him in surprise. "I didn't think you did."



Henry shrugged. "I'm pretty sure you two didn't speak for at least a week. It was really weird so I asked her about it. I thought she'd done something, you know? To make you mad."



That Henry hadn't thought it was her then, hadn't assumed she was the one who messed up was beyond words. Her chest was tight and warm. She couldn't breathe with the emotion of it all. Or maybe it was just the remembered fear. She had come so close to losing Emma to her inability to say yes.



"Henry..." How to explain to him... He knew of her marriage to Leopold in theory but he didn't understand. He couldn't know and she would never, ever tell him. Even if she was certain Emma suspected. "What did she say?"



"That she had asked, and she hadn't realized how much she meant it until you said no," Henry told her gently, as if wanting to spare her this blow.



Regina sighed and laid her head against his shoulder for the briefest moment. "I have no idea why she stayed."



Henry smiled and Regina's heart melted. "She loves you." He said it as if that explained everything, and maybe it did.



Regina straightened and swallowed, not daring to look over at Henry as they walked. "If I asked, do you think she would say yes?" The question had been nagging at her since she had first held the ring, knowing whose finger she wanted to see it on, with a matching ring on her own hand.



Henry shot her a look. "Mom. I'm the truest believer. She's going to say yes."



Regina snorted. "Life isn't a fairytale, dear. Your mother and I certainly aren't."



Henry stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, turning to face her, taking his hand in both of hers and holding her gaze. "She'll say yes, Mom."



Regina looked down and nodded, taking a deep breath. "I hope you're right."



Henry laughed. "I'm always right. So," he drew the word out obnoxiously, letting go of her hand and strolling away again. "How are you gonna ask her? It has to be something spectacular, right?"



Regina's heart sank. Henry was right. It would be expected. She had a reputation to maintain after all.



--- --- ---



Regina would never admit it, but she had spent many of the intervening hours strategizing, determining the best way to propose to Emma. She had considered and discarded a myriad of romantic gestures. It wasn’t the way that she and Emma operated. Any gestures on their part were most often spontaneous and more genuine and heartfelt because of it. She didn’t want this to become some grand plan that became more about the plan than the question she wanted an answer too. It would feel all wrong.



That was the worst of it. Now that the ring was in her pocket and the question waited to be asked, Regina desperately wanted to know what Emma would say. Despite Henry’s attempt at reassurance, she was uncertain that it would be yes. Emma had as many doubts and uncertainties as she did and after refusing her once years ago…



The mayoral mansion was deserted except for Regina this evening. Henry had returned to his apartment that evening to do more shopping for “the best anniversary gift ever” on the internet. Regina suspected that less time would be spent on the shopping, and rather more on hanging out with Evie just as soon as Henry’s girlfriend was finished with work, but she had said nothing. She needed time to think herself. Unfortunately, her thoughts had yet to yield anything useful.



The sound of the front door slamming followed by a muffled curse brought a smile to Regina’s face. That would be Emma returning home at last. Regina could allow her to curse, fumble, and fight her way up the stairs, or mercifully, go downstairs and make certain that her sheriff had something to eat. There was pot roast keeping warm for her in the oven, and Emma had probably skipped lunch again. Someone had to make sure she ate.



"Hello, dear." Regina greeted Emma as she did every other day, but tonight the words sounded odd in her own ears. She was surprised that Emma didn't notice.



"Hey, babe," Emma called back, rooting through the refrigerator. Regina winced at the nickname. No matter how many times Emma used it, she couldn’t become used to it or less annoyed by it. "Sorry I didn't make it home in time for dinner. Dopey had this thing." Regina didn't have to see her face to visualize Emma's exasperated eye roll. "Was Henry here?"



Regina shook her head and then realized Emma couldn't see her replying, "No, he decided to have dinner with his grandparents. He wanted to spend time with them before he has to head back to school. He and I went shopping this afternoon."



That made Emma stop digging through the refrigerator where a six-pack of beer awaited her and turn to face Regina. "You dragged him shopping?"



"No, dear. The opposite this time. He wanted help picking out a gift for Evelyn." It reminded her discomfortingly of what she had purchased and was still in her pocket. "Would you like dinner? I saved you some roast."



Emma mock-swooned, turning back to Regina as she tossed the lid of her beer into the garbage and stepped into Regina's space. She wrapped her arms around Regina's waist and pressed her lips against the soft skin at the crook of Regina's neck. "You're the best. I would starve without you."



"Yes, I know," Regina acknowledged dryly. "You only love me because I feed you."



Emma laughed. "Not just that." She let her hands slide down from Regina's hips to brush over the swell of her ass as Regina turned away to get a plate from the cabinet. "There are other things."



"I see." There was no bite in Regina's tone, only amusement, and if it was a little forced, Emma didn't seem to notice. When the plate was filled and silverware gathered, Regina moved around to put it in front of Emma. The domesticity of the moment wasn’t odd. It hadn’t been in many years. Emma didn’t look panicked at the prospect of a family meal, and telling Regina about her day was just what happened, not something strange and awkward.



Regina’s hand brushed over Emma’s shoulder before she sat down with her. Emma looked up from her food long enough to flash her an acknowledging smile. When Emma had eaten enough that her hunger was slacked she paused between bites long enough to question Regina further. “So the kid must have been pretty worried about the gift for Evie if he dragged you away from work?”



“I suppose,” Regina allowed.



“Do you think he screwed up?” Emma wondered.



“Henry? Hardly.” Regina dismissed the suggestion, with a wave of her hand only to find herself staring at Emma’s bemused expression. “I raised him to be a gentleman,” Regina countered Emma’s silent challenge.



“You did.” Emma shrugged. “But he’s also got my genes.”



Regina smirked. “I like your jeans.”



It was enough to make Emma laugh. “Finally you admit it. Just how long have you been staring at my ass, Madame Mayor?”



“Wouldn’t you like to know, dear.” Regina’s fingers drifted down to cover Emma’s hand where it was splayed out on the table in a very unmannerly fashion. Really the woman’s table manners were atrocious. The ring was still digging into her hip. She had thought Emma might notice it earlier, but Emma had said nothing. “I bought something today.”



“Oh?” The comment was more rhetorical than anything else, the majority of Emma’s attention still fixed on her food. “When you were shopping with Henry?”



Regina found she could do nothing but nod. Why had she said that? She hadn’t intended to. This wasn’t the way she wanted to… Not that she knew how yet, but she needed something more...worthy of Emma before she could ask her. Lying was out of the question though. Emma would know if she did, and even if she didn’t press Regina about why, the knowledge would nag at Emma. That wasn’t what Regina had wanted at all.



“So not lingerie then?” Emma teased her with a mock-disappointed frown.



Regina sniffed. Some responses came automatically, managing to override the frantic way her heart was beating. “Don’t be ridiculous. Not with our son present.”



“Right,” Emma agreed. “Are you going to tell me or make me play twenty questions?”



“Does anything I do ever come easily?”



Emma laughed, turning her hand over to twine her fingers with Regina’s. “Only when I do that thing with my tongue.”



“Miss Swan!” Regina protested, sitting up and tugging at their joined hands as was expected of her. She wasn’t disappointed when Emma refused to let go.



“Yeah, sorry.” Emma said, not looking the least bit repentant.



Silence slipped back in for a moment, easy and comfortable between them. Regina’s thumb stroked the side of Emma’s hand. “Perhaps I should just show you.”



Emma glanced up, her eyes bright and glittering with mischief. Before she could make another comment about lingerie, Regina shifted forward enough to slip the ring box out of her pocket and laid it on the table between them. She didn’t let go of Emma’s other hand as she flipped it open and left it there, waiting for some response from Emma.



“Regina?” Emma’s voice was high-pitched and cracked mid-word.



“Yes, dear?” Regina replied, proud in a distant way of how she’d managed to keep her voice from quavering. It was the way her hands trembled that gave her away.



“What is that?”



“A ring.”



“Yeah, I got that.” Emma bit her lip, her gaze flicking back and forth between Regina and the ring. “You know I don’t wear much jewelry.”



Regina swallowed again, before reaching for Emma’s beer and drinking. She was parched. “I was hoping you might consent to wear this one, dear.”



“I might,” Emma allowed. “Where should I wear it?” She looked up at Regina with a hopeful, terrified expression.



Regina couldn’t blame Emma for being wary after her previous refusal. Regina raised their joined hands - Emma’s left - in her own and lifted it to her lips, kissing the back of her hand lightly before stroking Emma’s ring finger with her thumb. “I was hoping you would wear it here. Indefinitely.”



Emma’s eyes were boring into Regina’s, blazing with something bright and intense. “Put it on?”



Regina nodded, her fingers scrabbling a little as she reached for the ring, unwilling to look away from Emma’s gaze. She had to once she had the ring in her hand to slip it onto Emma’s finger. There was no way that Emma could miss the way she was trembling now, when her hands were visibly shaking as she did so. The cool ring settled into place and Regina glanced back up at Emma.



Emma opened her mouth to say something and then stopped with a shake of her head. She cupped Regina’s face with her hand, fingers sinking into Regina’s hair and pulled her forward until their lips met and Emma was kissing her like she would never have the chance again. Regina kissed her back just as fiercely. Her relief was almost overwhelming but stood as nothing against the way Emma tasted and the softness of her lips. They were both panting when the kiss began to ease an Emma drew away only far enough to rest her forehead against Regina’s.



“Are you serious? You really want to marry me? I thought-”



“I know. I’m sorry. When you asked…” It was Regina’s turn to shake her head. “I was terrified. All I could remember was the feeling of being trapped. It was something I never wanted to experience again and certainly not with you. But today, when I saw that ring, all I could think of was you. Not…”



“Him.” Emma said flatly. There was no need to clarify which him she meant.



“Yes. It didn’t feel like being trapped; it felt like...the most terrifying thing I’d ever done honestly. But it was my decision. I wanted it, if you do?”



Emma nodded emphatically. “Oh yeah.” She pushed her plate away and shifted in her seat so that she could tug Regina closer. Regina came willingly, letting Emma draw her down onto her lap. “Let me show you just how much.”
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