My attempt at the scene for 3x21-3x22, which will in all probability be nothing like this when it airs. Spoilers for 3x18 and several preceding episodes.
"There's one thing I still don't understand," Robin confesses, smiling as Roland runs on ahead of them with his new toy car, making engine noises as he goes. He twists his fingers into hers together more firmly as they continue to walk. "When he came and took it, how did Rumpelstiltskin know it was I who was guarding your heart?"
The phrase makes Regina's lips quirk into a grin at the double entendre. A private joke, at least for now. She turns her eyes away from his son and down to their joint hands. He's wearing a heavy jacket, but she knows that barely a few layers beneath her hand is the mark of their supposedly destined relationship.
"Because I've thought it through," he continues, "and if he could just track where it to where it was hidden, why not do so earlier? Why not steal it while you fought with Zelena in the town square?"
She takes a deep breath and looks away. "Word must have gotten out where I'd hidden it."
He shakes his head, and meets her eyes. "That's not possible. I told no one what we were protecting. Not Roland, not any of my men."
Regina lets her eyes fall shut and turns her head away from him.
She laughs, broken out of her moment of indecision. "Robin you really can call me Regina."
He lifts the hand he's holding to his lips and kisses it. "Yes M'lady." She sees out of the corner of her eye that he's also laughing, and grins. They keep walking.
She pulls their hands back between them and turns his so that his palm faces up. Somehow, the tattoo, which has always (and which just now) caused her to run from the truth, frightens her less now. In fact, it's welcome, desired. A reminder that for once she actually likes what fate has thrown in her way.
"Rumpelstiltskin knew where I'd keep my heart because he knew something about me that you do not," she says at last.
"And what's that?"
She sighs, takes a deep breath, and halts their walk so that she can face him. She glances ahead of them to check, and Roland is stopped just ahead, happily playing. Regina pulls his wrist toward her, and rolls back the sleeves of his jacket, sweater, and shirt until his skin and the lion tattoo are revealed. She runs her fingers over the mark, still looking at his arm, and not his face. "He knew about this."
Robin lets out a confused laugh. "What does my tattoo have to do with your heart?"
She flinches at his phrasing, and briefly meets his gaze. It's time he knew.
"Because, a very long time ago, before..." she shrugs her shoulders to gesture to the town around them, still trailing her fingers across the ink, "the curse, Storybrooke, Henry...before all of it, a fairy named Tinkerbell tried to give me a second chance at happiness that I didn't take. She cast a spell to find the person who would help me be happy, another love, a..." her eyes drift to the side as she realizes the words she must use to explain. "A soul mate." A surge of bravery rushes through her veins, and her newly replaced heart, and she looks straight into his eyes, her hand still grasping his wrist. "The Man with the Lion Tattoo."
He looks less surprised than she'd expected, or perhaps more accurately, barely surprised at all. She loves that about him, that he's both too much and not enough of a sap to let such a confession change anything for him. She'll never need to be traipsing around the Enchanted Forest whispering "I found you!" into his lips to know the prophesy was right.
Instead, she lifts his arm to her lips and presses a kiss to the center of the crest. He slides his palm around her cheek.
"I ran away from you, that first time," she confesses, a single tear shining in her eyes. "And again, at the cabin, when I saw...It's what I do. Running away. Zelena was right about that."
"But you came back," he says. "And that's what counts."
She looks skeptical. "Regina, I wouldn't have dared, and you kissed me." His eyes burn into hers for an infinite moment.
Regina wants to explain to him that it wasn't the lion tattoo that scared her. It was the fact that, moments before she knew he had it, she had actually liked him, had secretly melted at his refusal to call her Evil when all everyone else could do was lament how her life turned out. She wants to confess that she had been flirting with him, that she had been a hair's breadth away from pressing her lips to his. She wants to explain that if all this was true, then, more than thirty years ago, she had certainly had a chance at happiness, one from which she had fled that day in Storybrooke because she had no longer believed she deserved it.
She wants to explain that when she had kissed him that first time, only the absence of her heart from her chest had kept its rapid pounding from forcing her to run in fear, that when their lips met she could hardly breathe for the fear filling her chest and the hope rising on top of it, that she had pulled away to catch her breath, terrified and exhilarated, and realized that it wasn't air she needed, but him. That she never registered what he said, and yet all she'd needed to grasp his jacket and pull him to her was the look in his eyes. She wants him to know how brave it made her when he grabbed her waist and dove back in, how easy it was then to kiss him back.
But there will be time to tell him all of that, and anyway, she does not need to dwell on the past now that she is finally looking forward to the future.
Roland yells "Daddy!" then, and jumps into his father's waiting arms. "Did you see? Did you see? I'm making the car go!"
"I did see!" Robin says, bouncing the boy on his hip. "It was going very fast!"
"Regina, do you wanna come see?" Roland asks, shooting her a dimpled grin that the most evil of Evil Queens couldn't resist.
"Of course I do!" Regina grins at him. "I'll be there in just a moment."
Robin sets his son back on the ground, and the boy runs ahead, back to his game.
He takes her hand again and thinks back to when she first handed him her heart to protect, I don't always realize what I have right in front of me, to Tinkerbell's eagerness to meet him, to her surprised smirk when he'd said she would have burnt him to a crisp if she'd wanted. "Your words, Regina, some of them make more sense now," he tells her, tenderly placing their joint hands against her chest, where her heart beats again for the first time in weeks. The steady pulse reassures him, and rises as he steps closer to her. "But the feelings, they were always there."
This time, they meet in the middle. He slides one hand into her hair, the other around her waist, and they kiss. Their lips meet again and again and the space between them disappears until he can hear her heartbeat as well as he does his own. His eyes flutter open for just a moment, and he sees how her brow is furrowed, her cheeks flushed, as though kissing him requires her whole body, her complete attention, her entire soul. She presses back hard enough to make him stumble, and he gasps and chuckles, as her hands come to his chest to steady him. Just as he lets out a soft moan, she backs away as quickly as she came, smirking at the dazed expression on his face.
"I promised Roland," she explains, giving him one last kiss, fast and strong, like lightning.
He catches her hand as she turns away.
"Regina," he breathes.
"You must always remember that if I am your soul mate, then," he smiles at her, gently, finally having found what he wants her to know, "you are also mine."
"Yes," she whispers. "I suppose I am."
"Come on!" he tells her, grabbing her hand and starting towards Roland. He knows better than to draw the moment out. "We must keep our promise."