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. ii. iii. iii. ii. iv.



i.


The raspy scrape of Emma's shovel on the sidewalk was loud in the stillness of the early morning air. Mifflin Street was quiet, even by the standards of residential Storybrooke, but the rhythmic thunk and scrape of Emma's shovel as she cleared Regina's walk was somehow soothing. The cadence of it seeped into her bones, and instead of the snow growing heavier with each shovelful, it seemed to get lighter. Her arms felt strong and her heart light. Maybe today would be the day. Before long, Emma was nearing the steps and wide semi-circle porch. Dawn was almost there and soon it would be time to leave before Regina woke. Henry was still asleep back at the apartment this morning, not up in his bedroom overlooking the front lawn. There would be plenty of time to get back and fix him breakfast before he woke up.



A bead of sweat clung to the tip of Emma's nose and she swiped at it with the back of her hand, before she jogged back to her car. It was parked well down the street from 108 Miflin and it wasn't for lack of free parking spaces. Making an effort to be quiet, Emma stowed her snow shovel and reached in for the well-protected vase. It was small and delicate but Emma hoped it was staying warm enough now that they wouldn't freeze before Regina came out to get the paper.



The several month long winter that they'd been having in the middle of a fine Maine summer was gone now thanks to reaching an agreement with Elsa. She really wasn't such a bad kid, when she wasn't, you know, with the ice and the frozen hearts. In a few more days, there wouldn't even be a need to shovel Regina's walk anymore, Emma thought as she jogged back up the path and took the steps in one leap. Her boot skidded on the slick porch and Emma's arms pinwheeled wildly before she managed to catch herself. Breathing out a sigh of relief, Emma shrugged her jacket back up on her shoulders and took two long strides to the door. She bent to place the small vase, containing four crocus flowers - each a burst of brilliant yellow in the midst of deep purple petals - on the doormat. Not too close, where Regina would knock them over, but far enough away that she would see them as soon as she opened it. Emma reached over to snag it from where the delivery kid's lazy throw had sent it and placed it neatly next to the vase. There was no excuse for laziness. Maybe now that things had seemed to thaw, both literally and figuratively between Robin, Marian and Regina during the final conflict with Elsa, Regina might be ready to consider forgiving Emma for what she had done. Maybe.



Emma was just about to stand up when the door creaked. It was a useless gesture, but Emma froze in place anyway. She was standing squarely in front of the door that Regina had just opened. There was no way that Regina could miss her.



"Miss Swan." Regina's voice had more of a cold bite than the winter air. "What are you doing on my porch at this hour of the morning?"



Emma braced herself and straightened. "Oh, hey, Regina, I was just..." She made a gesture over her shoulder with her thumb.



"Yes, but why are you here at all?" Regina demanded. Worry flooded her features as she pulled her robe a little bit tighter and took a half-step out onto the porch. "Is Henry-"



"No!" Emma said, cutting Regina off before she could even finish that thought. "No, no. The kid is fine. He's still asleep back at the apartment. I'm gonna fix him a big breakfast, omelettes, waffles, bacon, the works, just as soon as I get home."



"So I ask again, why are you here and not at your own home, caring for our son?" The porch must have been freezing beneath Regina's slippered feet, because she took a step back into the warmth of the house. That must be the reason. She wouldn't back away from Emma for anything else.



"I just, well I," Emma stuttered and bent over to retrieve the small vase from the doormat and held it out to Regina. "I brought these." Regina didn't take them from her and Emma was conscious of how awkward she looked and felt holding them out with no one to take them. She didn't want to lower her hand, but Regina wasn't going to take them. "They're for you," Emma added. "Crocuses - one of the first signs of spring. Sometimes they even come up through the snow. I thought you might like them." Emma shrugged and gave in, lowering the vase back to her side. "I thought they might bring some cheerfulness to your day."



"Yes, dear, because I'm the first person one thinks of when one thinks of joy and cheer," Regina said. "How appropriate. You give gifts with as much skill and forethought as you do everything else."



"They were supposed to be part of my apology," Emma muttered, clenching her teeth and trying not to lose her temper. She had been doing little - and not so little things like this - for Regina for months now. Each time, every gesture had been rejected out of hand and without consideration. At first, Emma had understood it. She and Regina had always communicated best through argument and conflict, but this time Emma wasn't fighting back. Regina didn’t even seem to notice. It had hurt more than Emma had expected, but she knew she deserved it for being responsible for ruining Regina's life again - even if it was unintentional. It always was with Regina and somehow that made it worse. Emma was determined to stick it out though. As much as it went against her grain, she would do whatever it took to make this up to Regina, to apologize for ruining the happiness that Regina had found with Robin.



Regina stared at Emma, her face a blank mask. "What apology?"



"You know, for me bringing Marian back, for messing things up for you with Robin," Emma said, her cheeks growing hot with embarrassment. Regina didn't even know she was trying to make amends. How could she not get it?



Regina gripped the doorframe so hard that Emma was honestly surprised that the wood didn't split beneath her fingers. "Miss Swan," Regina said, drawing herself up. "You need to leave and you need to stop this." Regina stepped back, about to sweep the door closed in front of her, without her flowers or even the morning paper.



"Wait!" Emma said quickly. "Does this mean you accept my apology?" She gave Regina her best pleading look, the one that had worked on two out of four of even the shittiest of foster moms.



"Apology," Regina repeated Emma's words as if she couldn't quite comprehend them. "What apology, Miss Swan? Flowers and shoveling my walk, leaving without a word. Making certain there's a cup of coffee waiting for me at my office in the morning. Sweets from Granny's twice a week. Changing the porch light. All done without my knowledge or request. Tell me, Sheriff. In your professional opinion, does that sound more like an apology or harassment?"



"I...Regina..." Emma stammered. "I never meant to make you feel uncomfortable. I thought if I did something nice-"



"I might overlook your complete lack of forethought and caring for anyone other than yourself and your precious conscience and forget what you did, so that you would no longer be uncomfortable. You thought wrong, Miss Swan. I have no intention of assuaging your guilt with a few meaningless words so that you can sleep easier at night. You should fret and toss and turn about what you have done." Regina turned on her heel, but paused before she could shut the door in Emma's face. "You never even said the words."



It took Emma a moment to process what Regina had said, so stunned by her quiet, vulnerable admission, and another moment to realize that Regina was right. She never had actually said it, willing her actions to speak for her. "I am sorry, Regina," Emma said, stepping forward and praying Regina to turn around. If she could just get a glimpse of her eyes and know what Regina was thinking, she might have a chance to make this okay. "I am so sorry for ruining what you had with Robin. The last thing I wanted was to mess up your chance at happiness. You deserve-"



The door shut in Emma's face.



*** *** ***



"Sheriff Swan," Regina's secretary seemed nervous, nervous enough that Emma was certain she had seen his hands shaking. "I'm afraid the Mayor won't be able to see you today. You don't have an appointment."



"I just need five minutes," Emma said, resisting the urge to fidget. "That's all I'm asking for." She started to push past him, but he stepped in front of her.



"Please, Sheriff Swan, I'm going to have to ask that you respect the Mayor's wishes or I'll be forced to call the deputy. I've been authorized to do that." His words hit Emma like a blow. Regina didn't want to see her so much that she was willing to call David and get Emma's own father to throw her out of Regina's office. She wanted it enough that she would ask Charming for something? Emma raised her hands and stumbled back before she turned and fled.



There wasn't a destination in Emma's mind. She just needed to be away. She needed time to think, to figure how this was all going so wrong. She had thought she had a chance of getting Regina to forgive her that morning and it had all gone so wrong. Emma wasn't even sure how it had happened. One moment she'd been about to pull off the perfect gesture to show Regina what she felt and the next second it lay in ashes at her feet.



Emma Swan, the great fuck up. No one could do it better than her. Emma resisted the urge to slam her fist into the side of the Bug. It wouldn't do anything but give her a sore hand, maybe break a few knuckles at the rate her day was going. She opened her door and pressed her forehead against the frame, letting her eyes fall shut. Turmoil raged inside her. Emma sucked in ragged breath. She shouldn't be this upset over Regina, but the woman had been getting under her skin since she had first come to town. This was no exception. Emma stayed there until the cold metal began to burn against her skin. It felt good. Emma didn’t move until she couldn't stand it anymore and then jerked back, getting into the car and slamming the door behind her.



The drive to Granny's was short enough. The woman in question even had a mug of hot cocoa with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon sitting on the counter waiting for Emma by the time she made her way inside. "Thanks, Granny," Emma said, digging in her pocket for enough to cover it.



"You look a bit frazzled, girl," Granny said, with typical bluntness. "Something the rest of us should be worried about?"



Emma wrapped her hands around the mug, letting its warmth sink into her hands. Instead of the calm a nice cup of cocoa usually brought her, Emma felt irritated. She squashed the urge to snatch her hands back and push the mug away. "Just a shitty day," she muttered.



"Ah, well," Granny said. "Give it time and it will right itself."



Emma laughed. She couldn't help it. "Yeah, I'm sure it..." Emma couldn't even make herself finish that sentence. It was a ridiculous thought. From the looks of things, it was going to be a long time before Regina forgave her, if she ever did. "No." Emma said, admitting it out loud. "No, it won't, and I don't know how to fix it."



Granny eyed her for a long moment and then leaned forward, looking so much like Ruby in that instant. "What did you screw up?"



"I-" Emma bit her tongue before anything more than that could slip out and slumped into her seat. "I can't say." If she went blabbing around town, that would only make Regina more pissed off and rightly so.



"Sounds serious," Granny noted. "And if it's not for the town to be worried about, it must be personal." Granny crossed her arms over her chest. "Can't see your parents staying angry with you for long - not that they'd notice with that boy teething. So it must be-"



Emma held up a hand quickly. "Please don't." She winced. "I don't want to make it worse."



"Smart," Granny said, with a nod. "But what are you going to do about it?"



Emma shrugged and wished there was something stronger in her mug than cocoa. Much stronger. "I don't know. I've already tried apologizing and it didn't work."



Granny began to wipe at the counter with a rag, but it was clear that it was more for something to do than to clean up any spills. It was spotless before she had begun. After several long moments of watching Granny clean, Emma began to shift in her seat. Granny's silence was deafening.



"What?" Emma demanded, admitting defeat.



"Did you really apologize? Or was it some half-assed effort that you young people think is good enough these days? You have to really mean an apology if you want it to be taken seriously and know what you’re apologizing for," Granny said, not holding Emma in suspense. It was clear that she had been waiting for Emma to ask.



"I did mean it," Emma protested. "I meant every bit of it. I just," Emma squirmed. "I wasn't completely wrong, damn it, Granny. It wasn't my fault. I did the right thing."



Granny looked up from her cleaning and pinned Emma with a fierce gaze. "Then why are you sitting at my counter whining about it? If you weren't wrong, then get on with your day and let the rest sort itself out."



For that, Emma had no answer, except for the dull, nagging ache in her heart.



*** *** ***



A week passed before Emma took any further action. Not because Emma needed the time to figure out what she wanted to do. The sinking feeling in her stomach as she had left Granny's had made it clear, but Emma needed to decide how to go about it. She had to get it right this time. She would be lucky to get this chance. There wouldn't be another one granted her.



Emma's first and only call was to the Mayor's office. She made an appointment to see Regina, specifying that she would need an hour of the Mayor's time at her convenience. Part of Emma had expected to be refused point blank. She had been careful to avoid any hint that this was about official Sheriff or town business. She wanted to do this as appropriately as possible. When she got the appointment, Emma couldn't resist jumping up in the air and the fist pump that followed, hissing out an excited "Yes!" until she realized David was still sitting at the desk across from her and was now giving her a quizzical look.



The morning of her appointment, Emma took extra care with how she dressed. It didn't matter much to Emma how she looked, but appropriate was important to Regina. Emma wanted to show her that the things that were important to Regina were important to her, as well. She cared.



Emma's hands were shaking when she walked into Regina's office at ten 'til one and took a seat in one of the straight backed wooden chairs in the outer office. She had made it a point to show up early. She and the secretary exchanged pleasantries and then Emma was left staring at her hands. It seemed like the longest ten minutes of her life, but Emma suppressed the urge to fidget. This would take the time it would take and she wouldn't let her nerves get the better of her. If Regina was going to give her this chance, she would take it and say what she had to say, then leave. Or whatever Regina wanted.



"She's ready for you now," the secretary said.



Emma shot out of her chair so quickly that it skidded backwards, thudding into the wall. Emma flushed. "Uh, sorry," she muttered, flushing as she stepped past the bemused man and into Regina's office.



Regina looked as regal as ever, standing behind her desk, her hands splayed as she leaned on her desk, every line of her body radiating power and intimidation, in a sleek, black pantsuit. Emma could picture her standing there in a form fitting dress and high collar just as well. Both sights were equally intimidating. "Sheriff Swan." Regina straightened enough to tip her hand forward in a welcoming gesture. "Have a seat."



"Thanks. Uh, thank you." Emma corrected herself, trying to focus on anything but the way her palms were sweating and her heart was racing. She sat and tried not to notice the way Regina still towered over her.



"You wished to speak with me about something?" Regina said, the cold chill in her tone inviting Emma to say it and get out. There would be no pleasantries.



"I came to apologize," Emma blurted out.



Regina's expression darkened. "Sheriff Swan-"



"No, please, hear me out," Emma said, sitting forward in her seat. "Just give me a chance. I know it's a lot to ask, but please." Regina sniffed and turned half-away from Emma. Emma supposed it was the closest thing she was going to get to a go-ahead. "I know what I did last time was shitty and… and cowardly. I should have told you with words, not just actions. I should have taken responsibility for what I did, but I didn’t, I half-assed it." Emma took a deep breath. "I'm so sorry, Regina. So, so sorry. I can't even put it into words. I don't mean..." Emma shook her head. "That's not your problem. What I wanted to say is, I get it. I shouldn't have brought Marian back." The words settled heavily between them. "I wanted to think what I was doing was the right thing because leaving her there to die would have been so damn hard, but I didn't stop for one second to think what I could have done to the timeline. People could have gotten hurt. They could have died. You did get hurt. I wish I could change what I did." Emma wanted to shut her eyes. She didn't want to have to see Regina's face for this next part, but she couldn't flinch now. If she did, she would know it. They both would and things would never be the same between them again. This time it was the hard way or not at all. "And I'm sorry for threatening to take Henry back to New York after the curse was broken." Her voice cracked over the words. It wasn't until Emma had started thinking about how to properly apologize for what she had done with Marian that it had occurred to her that she had more than that to apologize for. "It was wrong and you didn't deserve that. What you did for us - for him," Emma corrected herself. "It's the bravest thing I've ever seen and threatening to take him away again just because I was scared and hurt wasn't worthy of that. God, I'm so sorry." There was a tear threatening to slip down her cheek and Emma bit her lip hard to keep it back. This was about Regina, not her. She wouldn't do anything to make Regina feel as if she needed comforting. Emma wasn't her problem.



"Is that all, Sherriff?" Regina asked, her expression never changing.



"I, no, there's just one more thing," Emma said, trying to pull it together. She had known she would need to plan what she wanted to say in advance if she had any hope of getting it out right, but standing here looking at Regina it was all slipping away from her in the face of what she had done. "When I was in the Enchanted Forest with Hook, when we were in the past, I realized a lot of things, but most importantly, that I finally had some place to miss. People to miss. You were a big part of that. A big part of what I think of as home." Emma gave a one-sided shrug. "I wanted to be that for you too. I hated having you hate me again, but I get it now. I get that it's not about me and what I want. So I'm promising you that I'll leave you alone. There won't be any more gifts or gestures or trying to get you to accept my apology. You want to be left alone. I should have respected that from the beginning, and I'm sorry about that too. I will from now on."



Emma hesitated for a second, then gave a jerky nod in Regina's direction and fled. She made it around the corner to the Bug, parked safely out of sight of prying eyes, before she let the deep, shuddering sobs come.



*** *** ***



Two Months Later



The door to the Sheriff's office blew open, clattering into the wall, and bouncing back on its hinges. Emma shot out of her chair, tensing as she realized it was Regina. She put her most professional smile on her face as Regina swept into the room, taking things in with an imperious glance around the office. Emma didn't have to ask to know how many things Regina would find lacking. It had been some time since she had seen Regina more than in passing. They had spoken on occasion - always briefly - about Henry, but Emma did her best to make herself scarce during pick-ups and drop-offs. She had told Regina she would respect her wishes and she meant it, even if it meant ducking out of a lunch date with Hook to avoid Granny's if Regina happened to already be there. Hook hadn't appreciated it but Emma hadn't really cared. Their relationship hadn't lasted much longer anyway, not because of that but for a myriad of other reasons.



"Madame Mayor," Emma said. "What can the Sheriff's office do for you today?"



Regina ignored the question, continuing to survey her surroundings. "You've been sending your deputy over with any paperwork that my office requires."



"Yeah," Emma said. She wasn't really sure what she was supposed to say to that. "I thought it would be best."



"It's unprofessional," Regina snapped. "You are the Sheriff. You should fill the duties you were hired to do."



"Okay," Emma said, struggling not to sound like she was as lost as she felt. "I thought..." Emma clamped her mouth shut. "Sorry. I'll bring the papers over myself from now on."



"Okay," Regina said, finally deigning to look at Emma. It was the first time they had made eye contact since that day in Regina's office. Emma gasped; she couldn't help it. Regina was looking at her, really looking at her for the first time since she had brought Marian back. There was something in her eyes that was almost soft. It stood in direct contrast with the way her arm was held close to her body, wrapping around her waist, wary and protective. Emma couldn't blame her for that, but at the moment she couldn't breathe, couldn’t move. She didn't dare. Unless she was wrong, Regina was here offering...something and Emma would do everything in her power not to ruin it.



Regina set a disposable mug from Granny's on the desk in front of Emma, nudging a slanting stack of papers aside enough to make room for it on the crowded surface. "Henry forgot his cocoa this morning when he got on the bus. There is no reason for it to go to waste."



Emma swallowed hard and reached to take it. "Thank you," she said, clutching the cup to her chest, like it was something far more precious than cocoa. Which it was. "Regina-"



The Mayor held up a hand and Emma bit off what she had been about to say. "My gutters are clogged."



The subject change almost gave Emma whiplash. "Okay." It wasn't the right answer, but what was eluded her.



"There is no way I will allow our son up on a ladder to clean them out," Regina continued. "It would be grossly irresponsible."



"I'm sure Storybrooke has lots of services that would be willing to do it for you," Emma said, still lost. They never had been good at small talk.



Regina sighed. "I'm sure there is." She turned and started to walk away, then stopped with her back still to Emma. "If you wanted to come and help me this afternoon."



The lightbulb came on. "I'll be there," Emma blurted out. "What time?"



Regina seemed startled, turning back toward Emma. "Two? I have one last meeting after lunch." She glanced around the office. "If you can't make it, Sheriff..."



"I'll be there," Emma repeated, swearing to herself, right then and there, that no matter what happened she would be at Regina's at that time, early even.



Regina nodded, eyeing Emma as intently as she had the office moments before. She hesitated for so long that Emma thought she might leave without another word. She would stand here as long as Regina was willing though, drinking in Regina's presence, the lines of her face, the faint hint of her perfume, the sharpness of her gaze and the way she made Emma's heart race with just one look.



"Henry was not the only one that I missed when we were trapped in the Enchanted Forest."



The words echoed in Emma's mind for a moment and then exploded like the grand finale at a Fourth of July celebration. Regina had missed her too. Emma couldn't help the grin that nearly split her face at those words. She tempered it immediately, knowing how big of an admission that was for Regina, but she couldn't help the giddiness that was welling up within her. Her heart pounded for joy in her chest. The corner of Regina's mouth lifted in the tiniest of answering smiles and Emma thought maybe, just maybe, things would be okay if she could manage not to fuck it up this time.





- the end
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