The moment that Emma slammed the front door of the mansion shut behind her, she regretted doing so. Over the last year she had fought continuously against reverting back to the person that she was before coming to Storybrooke. Regina had upset her greatly, but it was no excuse for regressing into the person that always left when things got difficult.
Emma hadn’t really thought through what she was actually going to do once she stormed out of the mansion, but she just felt the overwhelming need to get away and clear her head. If she tried to go back in there now, she’d probably just fuck everything up more. Giving herself some time to cool off was a much better idea.
Not knowing or caring what her destination would be, Emma began driving around the outskirts of Storybrooke. She rolled down the windows so that she could feel the cool fall air rush past her face and blasted music through the radio so loud it would probably wake everyone in town if she wasn’t so far from civilization. Feeling herself retreating into survival mode, she was trying to do whatever she could do to jolt herself back to reality – to fight the instinctual urge to flee.
After driving around mindlessly for about an hour, Emma was beginning to fade. She could blast all of the metal she wanted, but soon she was going to need to sleep. After making her way back to town, she pulled over in front of Granny’s and turned off the ignition. She contemplated calling Ruby and getting a room for the night but she didn’t want Granny or anyone else to know that something had gone down between her and Regina. No one trusted Regina right now and any signs of conflict would only cause them both more trouble.
Reclining the driver’s seat, Emma decided it was probably best to just sleep in the cruiser. If anyone found her there, she could claim she was on patrol and hopefully no one would think anything of it.
It only took her moments after shutting her eyes to drift off to sleep.
Emma awoke suddenly to a knuckle tapping on her driver’s window. She hastily wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand and blinked her eyes several times to focus on whoever was intent on waking her up at what could only have been the ass crack of dawn.
She rolled down the window to greet Ruby who held two piping hot styrofoam cups of coffee.
“Hey there, Sherriff. Late night?” Ruby asked playfully.
Emma rubbed her eyes and cleared her throat.
“You could say that.” she responded vaguely, forcing a smile and squinting against the sun that was shining through the windshield into her sleepy eyes.
“Wanna stretch those legs, Em?” Ruby suggested, knowing full well that it wasn’t the blonde’s night to patrol and that something had to have happened for her to have slept out in the cruiser all night.
Letting out a big yawn, Emma stretched out her arms, cracked her neck and nodded at the brunette.
Ruby stepped back to give Emma room to exit the vehicle. The blonde was wearing the same clothing she had worn the previous day, further cementing her suspicions. Something had happened with Regina last night but she knew better than to pry. Emma wasn’t much of a talker but always came around when she was ready. Make Emma feel comfortable and she will come to you – confront her directly and you may spook her.
Ruby handed Emma her cup of coffee and they began walking down silently the sidewalk towards the park. Emma couldn’t get her mind off of the fact that she physically ran out on Regina the previous night. After everything they’d been through together and after all of the promises she made, she was ashamed to have left her like that. She didn’t agree with Regina about using magic, but she shouldn’t have ran….Regina deserved more than that.
Everything that happened over the last 5 days had all just been insanely overwhelming. Time and time again Emma had been tested physically and emotionally and she’s at the point where she doesn’t know if she can take any more surprises, arguments, or fights to the death.
Deep down, Emma was afraid that Regina was right about everything. Being the Savior won’t always be enough – she was afraid of failing her family - of failing Regina and Henry. What if she couldn’t protect them? How could she possibly live with herself? She didn’t want to turn to magic but perhaps she didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Most importantly of all, she had to figure out how to apologize and make it up to Regina.
After walking for several minutes in silence, each woman sipping occasionally on their coffee, Ruby could see that Emma was lost in deep thought. If the way her forehead was scrunching was any indication of what was going on inside her head, Ruby knew it couldn’t be anything good. Even when the blonde was troubled she usually still had time for mundane conversation and friendly banter. The brunette reasoned that perhaps some gentle prompting may be warranted…just this once.
“So, I know it wasn’t your night to patrol, Em. What’s going on?” Ruby asked gently while settling onto a park bench and waiting for Emma to come sit beside her.
Emma sighed and sat down onto the bench beside Ruby. Normally she wouldn’t share this kind of information with anyone, especially when it has to do with Regina, but she desperately needed someone to talk to. Ruby was really the only person in the whole town she would be able to trust when it came to Regina.
Emma stared intently into the swirls of steam rising from the mug as she spoke.
“Regina and I had a disagreement last night, and like the idiot that I am, I ran out instead of dealing with it.”
Emma frowned and looked up at her friend as she continued.
“Everything that’s been going on is really getting the better of me, Rubes. I don’t know how much more I can take.”
Ruby exhaled softly and offered Emma a sympathetic look. She placed her hand over Emma’s thigh in a comforting gesture.
“I can’t possibly imagine what you’re going through – all of this probably seems insane to you…but you don’t have to do it all alone, you know. You have the support of everyone in this town. We’ll all get through this together.”
Emma turned and covered her friend’s hand with her own and forced a small but appreciative smile.
“I know I’m not dealing with any of this well and I was an epic ass to Regina last night. Bolting was probably the worst thing I could do to her and I don’t really know how to go about fixing it.” Emma explained grimly.
Ruby was beginning to realize that her instincts with Emma and Regina were spot on. Emma was more upset about having it out with Regina than the crisis in Storybrooke at the moment. The flirtations between the women had definitely escalated into something more as that was the only reasonable explanation for the blonde’s behavior. Emma would reveal the whole story when she was ready, so Ruby decided that it was best to remain patient and approach her advice and questioning objectively and cautiously.
“Talk to her just like you’re talking to me now Em. I know she can push your buttons, but just remember what you’re saying now. You want to make things better with her…just focus on that, and you’ll be fine.”
Emma took a sip of her coffee and frowned, giving Ruby the saddest puppy eyes she’d ever seen, and that’s a big deal coming from a wolf.
“What if she’s too furious with me? What if I’ve already fucked it up by running out on her?”
Ruby reassuringly squeezed Emma’s hand and stared intently into her eyes to show the sincerity behind her words.
“I’ve seen the way she looks at you, Em. Regina cares about you and I think a genuine apology will go a long way. You may have to deal with a little bit of a verbal beating first, but I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”
“I hope so.” Emma muttered weakly in response.
Emma really hoped that Ruby was right. She was just starting to adjust to living with Regina and Henry, and they were really settling in together - just like a family. For the first time in her life she got a taste of what happiness could be like, and she just had to go and screw it all up. Signature Emma Swan move.
Ruby got up from her seat on the bench and tossed her empty coffee cup into a nearby trashcan.
“Well, I have to go get ready for my shift at Granny’s, and you look like you need a change of clothes. So I’ll see you later?”
Emma smiled and wondered how she got so lucky as to have such a genuine and supportive friend.
“Yeah, I’ll see you later Rubes, and thanks.”
Ruby winked at Emma and then started making her way back towards Granny’s. Emma leaned back on the bench and closed her eyes, trying to soak up as much sun and breathe in as much fresh air as possible, hoping that it would calm her nerves for when she had to inevitably face Regina. She figured she could relax a bit before she got too cold and would be forced to make her back home to face the repercussions her actions.
“It appears that a valuable opportunity has presented itself to us.” Cora said confidently with a devious grin as she observed the interaction between Emma and Ruby from the other side of the park, concealed by magic.
“And what opportunity would that be, your majesty?” Hook inquired impatiently, but tried his best to not anger Cora. He was growing tired of lurking in the shadows and waiting around while he all he could think about was skinning his crocodile. It was painful for him to be so close, yet so far from the object of his vengeance.
“My daughter has obviously grown attached to her life and this town. It’s time we show her that she has no future here living among these peasants.” Cora added smugly, while watching as Ruby departed from the park leaving Emma alone on the wooden bench.
A cool breeze cut through the park causing Hook to shudder involuntarily.
“What is to be done, my Queen?” Hook asked, as Cora’s explanation was quite cryptic.
“You haven’t forgotten why I was called the ‘Queen of Hearts’, now have you?” Cora asked, chuckling maniacally at the naïveté of the pirate.
Hook instantly paled when he put together what Cora was implying. He wanted revenge for what the crocodile did to Milah, but that was simply retaliation - an eye for an eye. Cora sought to manipulate and inflict pain upon others - even her own daughter - for her own pleasure. He hoped dearly that he wouldn’t have to dirty his hands too much before being freed of their agreement.
“Come. We have work to do.” Cora commanded as she departed in the direction Ruby had gone only moments earlier.
Normally Regina only treated herself to one or two cups of coffee a day, but even though it was still early, she was already pouring her third.
After Emma had run out on her last night, Regina cried quietly in her study for what felt like hours. Despite the fact that they had shouted at each other, Henry had either not been woken up, or he was courteous enough to pretend he hadn’t heard them argue and remained in his room. She had hoped desperately she wouldn’t have to explain to her son what she couldn’t adequately explain to herself.
Even though Emma hadn’t been sleeping with her long, she found it impossible to fall asleep without her now. She tossed and turned all night long in a fit of restlessness and failed to get even a wink of sleep. Eventually she stopped trying and that’s when she decided to head down to the kitchen to brew herself a pot of coffee.
Emotionally and physically exhausted, Regina wasn’t sure how she’d be able to face Henry once he awoke - and being that it was nearing 7:00AM, she knew she was running out of time.
It didn’t escape Regina that she handled the argument with Emma poorly and that it was her fault that Emma felt as though she had to leave. She shouldn’t have said the hurtful things that she said, even though she may have been right about Emma needing to learn to harness her magic. Emma had only been introduced to the world of magic mere days ago – it was silly of her to think that the blonde would take to it so easily and so soon.
It was clear that their argument stemmed from a complete lack of understanding of each other and the cumulative stress of the day’s events. Regina resolved that if Emma didn’t come home today that she would find her and make things right. She hoped that a little time to cool off would be enough for the blonde to realize that she didn’t want to leave them.
Regina took a long sip of her coffee when she heard Henry padding down the stairs and into the kitchen. She turned to her son and gave him the best and brightest smile that she could conjure.
“Good morning, Henry. What would you like for breakfast, dear?” Regina asked while running a gentle hand through his unkempt hair, smoothing it out and placing her coffee mug back on the counter by the sink.
The frown that formed across Henry’s face only served to affirm Regina’s fears.
“What happened between you and Emma last night, Mom?” Henry asked, intentionally avoiding his mother’s attempt at making idle conversation to distract him from what occurred.
Henry felt Regina’s hand stiffen as it stopped stroking it through his hair. He could see the sadness in his brunette mother’s eyes despite her best attempt at keeping herself neutral and composed.
“Emma and I had a disagreement, but everything is fine, you needn’t worry. Now what would you like for breakfast?” Regina deflected, trying to hide her true concern about her argument with Emma and attempting once again to put the issue to bed.
Henry pulled away from his mother’s touch, frustrated with how she always tried to handle him.
“Mom, stop it! I know when you’re trying to change the subject and it won’t work. I’m not a kid anymore. I deserve the truth.”
Regina sighed and withdrew her hand to her side, closing it into a fist. She took a sharp intake of breath through her nose before speaking.
“I’m not lying to you, Henry. Emma and I did have a disagreement last night and we are just giving each other a little space to cool down. That’s what adults do when they argue.”
“So she’s coming back?” Henry asked, recognizing his birthmother’s pre-Storybrooke track record of leaving and never returning.
That was the question that Regina feared the most, and the one she truly did not have an answer to. She couldn’t lie to Henry because when the curse broke, she promised never to lie to him again. However, expressing too much doubt in Emma’s return would also cause him a great deal of distress. She had to choose her words carefully.
Regina took Henry’s hand and led him over to sit down on his usual stool in the kitchen. She took a deep breath and then fixed her gaze with Henry’s hazel eyes that were all too much like his birth mother’s in that moment.
“I can’t say for sure what Emma will do, but I know she’s not the same person she was before she came to Storybrooke. Back then she was an orphan, but here in Storybrooke she has her whole family. I don’t believe that family is something that Emma would give up so easily after spending 28 years tirelessly searching for it.”
Henry searched his mother’s eyes for any sign of deception and found no reason to doubt her words. He squeezed the hand that was still wrapped around his own and formed a warm smile.
“Thank you for telling me the truth, Mom. I think you’re right about Emma. She’ll be back. Do you think we can make a special dinner for her tonight? She’d love that.”
Regina was immediately relieved by how maturely Henry handled her explanation. It was in that moment that she realized that her boy was growing up and she was immensely proud. She recognized that it was unfair of her to continue to try and conceal things from him and resolved to refrain from doing so in the future.
Regina smiled brightly. “That sounds like a great idea, what do you think we should make?”
Henry’s face scrunched up for a moment while he pondered the question. “I think we should try to make pizza. It’s one of Emma’s favorites!”
“Pizza it is – but for now, I need to make you breakfast and get you off to school.” Regina said, turning back towards the stove and turning on the burner. “I don’t think we have enough time for pancakes, but how about scrambled eggs and bacon?”
“Sounds great.” Henry replied with a smile.
As Emma took each painstakingly heavy step down the brick walkway towards the mansion, she was reminded of the last time that her walk down this very path was just as difficult.
Before Henry ate the turnover and before the curse broke, Emma went to see Regina because she had decided to leave Storybrooke and return to Boston. She was going to leave because she thought it was what was best for Henry. The irony of her second journey down this literal path did not fail to escape her. This time, she wasn’t here to see Regina to propose a compromise that involved her leaving for good – instead, she hoped to reach a compromise with Regina so that she could stay.
With her last few strides up the steps, Emma could hear her heartbeat echoing in her ears and she could feel her breathing become increasingly shallow.
Growing up in the foster system lent itself to continuous rejection and disappointments, rendering Emma numb and distant over time. She had no longer feared the rejection because her expectations of people had been reduced to almost nothing. She never let herself have faith or hope in anything for fear of being hurt. If she kept people at a distance, never let anyone in, and never gave up an ounce control, she’d always be safe.
Yet there she was, the seemingly fearless Emma Swan, standing in front of Regina’s front door for…she didn’t even know how long anymore. Her hand felt heavy, her palms were sweaty, her throat was dry and she was unable to shake an overwhelming feeling of dread. For the first time in her life, Emma had opened herself up to someone, and she wasn’t sure if she would be able to survive the rejection.
Emma thought about knocking but realized that gesture alone would start the conversation with Regina off on the wrong foot. Knocking on the door would be taking a step back in their relationship…or whatever it was - but using the key would be an act of emotional maturity that Emma struggled to maintain but knew that she needed to show right now.
She reached into her pocket for the key that Regina gave her and ran her fingers down the ridges and contours, appreciating its weight before pushing it into the lock and giving it a turn. To her surprise, the door had been left unlocked. Regina never overlooked important details such as locking up the house, so it was clear that the brunette had expected her to return, and welcomed it.
Letting out a long drawn breath, Emma removed the key, turned the knob and pushed the door open, stepping into the foyer.
After Emma closed the door behind her she turned the deadbolt to lock it. The metallic clack of the bolt being moved into place echoed uncomfortably off of plastered walls and wooden floors.
Something didn’t feel right.
“Regina?” Emma called out tentatively, hoping the brunette would answer her.
Several painstaking moments passed with no response.
Emma’s heart began to race as she began moving frantically from room to room searching for any sign of Regina. With each empty room she came across, the concerned for Regina’s well-being she became.
Maybe the person who came to Storybrooke was really after Regina. What if they already took her? Emma wouldn’t even know where to start looking for her and she didn’t know how to stop them. She was a complete idiot for questioning Regina about learning magic, and she was an even bigger idiot for leaving her and Henry here unprotected with some sort of magical psychopath out on the loose in Storybrooke.
Just as she had almost given up hope, she realized that there was one last place she didn’t check. Emma darted over to the nearest window overlooking the yard and saw Regina outside tending to her garden.
Breathing out a huge sigh of relief she rolled her eyes at herself for being so paranoid and jumping the gun.
“Way to overreact, Swan.” she muttered to herself as she made her way outside to see Regina.
Regina was kneeling over a flower bed, methodically pruning when Emma approached silent-footed behind her. Emma stopped momentarily to appreciate the sight before making Regina aware of her presence.
When Regina was doing something that she truly found joy in, she seemed like a completely different person. At times like this, Emma felt as though she could see the real Regina. The Regina untainted by fear, anger, hurt and betrayal. She hoped that one day, when this entire mess was far behind them, that this would be the only version of Regina that remained.
“You do know that it’s impolite to stare, dear.” Regina said in a husky voice, startling Emma. Regina stood up and turned around, patting the dirt from her gloves and delicately removing them.
The blonde cleared her throat awkwardly. “Yeah. Sorry. I forgot you could always tell when I was staring at your ass.” she joked, offering a chuckle.
“I imagine it would be quite difficult to avoid in this instance as I was bent over.” Regina conceded with a soft smile.
Emma returned the smile and took a couple of steps over to observe Regina’s work in her garden. The flower bed was as pristine as her home. Everything was carefully pruned and it appeared as if it were straight out of some Better Homes and Gardens catalog.
Emma had always assumed Regina had hired some help to tend to the grounds around the mansion, but it was now obvious to Emma that this was something Regina went to great care to do herself. She found that the brunette was a mystery to her, one that she was eager to uncover little by little.
“I’m pretty impressed. You don’t really strike me as the bush pruning type, Regina.” Emma said, barely able to finish her statement without snorting with laughter at her own lewd joke.
Regina rolled her eyes and shook her head simultaneously at Emma.
“You really are the epitome of maturity, Miss Swan.” she replied with affectionate sarcasm, earning a grin and a wink from the blonde.
Regina’s demeanor dimmed slightly as she continued. “Tending to this garden has been a hobby of mine since I came to Storybrooke. I find that it calms me in times of great stress.”
Emma felt terribly that she was the one causing the brunette enough stress to come out here and mindlessly pluck weeds. A cool breeze shot a chill through her body and she folded her arms tightly across her chest to maintain whatever warmth her thin leather jacket provided.
“Why don’t we head inside? It’s getting a little cold out here and I’d really like to talk to you about last night.” Emma suggested, gesturing towards the house.
“I imagine we should.” Regina nodded and began towards the house.
Both women silently made their way into the kitchen. Emma settled onto her stool and Regina leaned back against the counter by the sink with her arms folded.
“Have you eaten?” Regina asked, breaking the silence and taking Emma surprise by the deviation in topic.
It was clear to Emma that Regina wanted to get past their argument but she was still holding on to some of whatever she felt last night. It made Emma feel guilty and she didn’t want Regina to think that she had anything to apologize for.
“No, but you don’t have to make anything for me right now. I have something I really need to say and I’d like your full attention.” Emma explained.
Regina sighed and then met Emma’s gaze. “You have my attention.”
Emma exhaled deeply and just went for it. It was now or never, she thought to herself, hoping that she wouldn’t totally fuck up what she wanted to say.
“I want to start out by saying I was completely wrong about how I handled everything last night. I should never have ran out on you. It was a gut reaction, one from my past, but I want to make it clear that my intention wasn’t, isn’t and won’t ever be to leave you or Henry.”
Emma waited for a response from Regina, but never broke from her gaze. She could see the pain in the brunette’s eyes and the slight glint that gave away that tiny tears were beginning to form.
Regina appreciated how genuine, heartfelt and thought out the apology from Emma appeared to be. She felt that Emma truly believed what she was telling her, but she had some doubts as to whether or not Emma could deny her baser instincts to run when things got tough.
“But you did leave, Emma. I didn’t know what to expect from you. I was afraid that you wouldn’t come back – that I would have to explain to our son why you didn’t want to be here. He would have blamed me. I have always been the villain and no matter what you do, you will always be the infallible hero in his eyes.”
Emma’s heart sank. She knew she fucked up but she didn’t realize that she hurt Regina this badly. Emma hopped off her stool and immediately closed the gap between them. She rested a gentle hand on one of Regina’s tensed forearms and looked into Regina’s deep expressive eyes. Despite the brunette’s attempt at remaining stoic, her pain was obvious. That was Regina’s tell – no matter how hard she tried to hide it, her eyes always revealed everything that she felt.
“Henry would never think that. He loves you and supports you. I know for a fact that he would be angry at me for leaving you - not the other way around.”
Seeing the pain that she had caused, Emma became increasingly frustrated with herself and broke away from Regina. She spun around and buried her face in both hands, groaning audibly before turning back to face the brunette.
“I was an idiot, Regina! The second I slammed that door behind me I wanted to run back in and apologize over and over again until you forgave me for being such a fool! I don’t know what else to say or how else I can say it but just because I left this house in anger last night, doesn’t mean I will ever abandon you and Henry. The thought is just - too fucking painful.”
The words flew out of Emma’s mouth before she had any opportunity to filter any of it. She just stood there, breathing heavily with her knuckles whitening from squeezing her hands so tight - waiting desperately for any sign of forgiveness. In this moment, Emma felt more exposed and more vulnerable than she ever felt in her entire life. For the first time she was truly honest and open with someone and it scared the crap out of her. She was scared to death that it wasn’t going to be enough – that she was never going to be enough.
Regina was completely taken aback by the blonde’s raw outpouring of emotions. No one had ever begged for her forgiveness like this. As the Evil Queen she became accustomed to being the object of whatever blame that was being passed around. For Emma to stand up and profess that it was her fault when it was clear that there was fault on both sides was unfathomable. And here she was, apologizing continuously for it without expecting any sort of apology in return.
Despite the fact that Emma was saying all of the right things, Regina still had her reservations. If she was going to continue to be open with the blonde, she had to set the record straight.
“If you truly mean everything you just said, then you can’t ever do that to me again. If we argue, you stay - if you need space, you tell me and I’ll give it to you – but don’t you dare run out on me again.” Regina replied sternly, trying her best to mask the pain behind her words.
While it was clear that Regina was still angry with her, Emma felt a rush of relief wash over her. Even though Regina hadn’t outwardly said that Emma was forgiven for running out on her, the brunette was clearly giving her a second chance - she hadn’t been rejected after all.
Emma took couple of tentative steps towards Regina and raised a gentle hand to cup her cheek.
“I won’t.” she assured her in almost a whisper, staring deeply into Regina’s eyes.
Returning an accepting glance, Regina leaned in to capture Emma’s lips in a passionate kiss.
Any time they kissed had always been nothing short of mind-blowing, but this kiss meant something more to both of them. It was because this time, it wasn’t just about sex or power, need or want. It was about understanding and compassion and raw emotion being exchanged between two people.
Their kiss seemed to extend on for what felt like ages, as neither woman wanted it to end. Regina finally pulled away first as she felt as though she hadn’t adequately apologized when Emma had poured her heart out to her for forgiveness.
“Emma, I’m sorry. I never should have said such hurtful things to you. I should have understood that the idea of magic may not be as palatable to someone who didn’t grow up in a land surrounded by it. I should have been more patient and I should never have snapped at you like that.”
Emma tilted her head and gave Regina a soft understanding smile.
“It’s okay. It upset me at the time but I know you didn’t mean it. What do you say we have some breakfast before I head out for my shift and we’ll save the talk about magic for tonight?”
“Of course, dear. We can’t have our Sheriff out patrolling on an empty stomach now, can we?” Regina replied with a smirk and turned away to begin gathering what she needed to prepare breakfast.
Emma smiled warmly and assumed her usual position on what was officially ‘her’ stool, content to just watch the beautiful creature that was Regina Mills, in her element.