Hello everybody! Thank you all for sticking with this story, it means a lot. Enjoy! xxx
Robin vaguely remembered once reading that the longest someone had ever lasted without sleep was eleven days and twenty-five minutes. He was nowhere near breaking or even matching that feat, but he felt as if he were.
He had been unable to turn off his brain last night, his worries and the painful squeeze in his chest preventing him from getting the hours of sleep he desperately needed – and craved, if he were honest with himself. He longed for some form of escape, even if it took the shape of only a few hours of oblivion.
He was back in his front row seat in Town Hall, and he hadn't been able to talk to Regina. His repeated phone calls had not been answered, and he had given up after his fifth text message. He certainly wanted to apologise, but he wasn't going to smother her either. Neither was he going to appear desperate.
At any rate, he knew that these kind of misunderstandings were better off discussed face to face, and he had swung by the sheriff's station early with the intention of talking things out. To his dismay, he had found only Emma there. She told him that Regina and Henry had spent the night at the manor, and that they would meet up behind Town Hall before going through the necessary charade of parading Regina in handcuffs. From what he had gathered, the lad was now allowed to sit at the back of the courtroom to follow the trial. However, whenever either Regina or Emma decided that the subjects addressed by the court were unsuitable, he was to leave, no questions asked. Robin wasn't sure that was going to work, but the sheriff mentioned a gameboy and a prison cell, so he supposed she had the situation under control.
He was heartened to see Regina appear in a cloud of purple smoke with her arm thrown around her son's shoulders. More than anything else, it was Henry's acceptance of her use of magic that demonstrated that something had shifted in their relationship. Robin longed to know the details of what had happened, but Regina had simply nodded at him before following Emma to the front of the building. He still felt the sting of her rejection, sitting there looking at her, once again seeming very much alone with her hands folded on the table before her.
He looked down at his watch. Archie would call the court to order in a few minutes, and he wasn't sure what direction the trial would take. In his opinion, he didn't believe that the second charge had been fully addressed. The question of why Regina had wanted to get rid of Snow White had not been truly answered, and although he understood why Regina had not wanted to talk about Daniel, he also knew that by not mentioning him, she was shutting the door on a lot of sympathy – sympathy that had the potential of changing the verdict. He was afraid that, if the prosecution decided to move on to the third charge, Regina would do nothing to stop them. He didn't trust Snow White to insist they divulge that particular part of the story, and he had the dreadful premonition that he would have to be the one to raise the topic. He highly doubted that Regina would thank him for it, not seeing it for the attempt at protecting her that it was.
Too bad, he thought, I won't let her stubbornness be the cause of her death. Frustrated, he glanced at his watch again and frowned. It was gone nine o'clock, but Archie hadn't struck his gavel. Looking over his shoulder, he observed that the crowd around him was starting to get restless, people turning their heads and whispering, trying to decipher what was going on. Robin soon noticed the problem: one of the six seats allocated to the jurors was conspicuously empty. At that moment, David stepped onto the stage and addressed the audience, which immediately fell silent.
"Good morning, everybody. I'm sorry for the delay, but we seem to have misplaced one of our jurors." A few people chuckled appreciatively. "Has anybody seen Doctor Whale this morning? We've tried to call him but…"
A loud thump cut him off. Everybody turned in their seats, looking at the large double door opposite the stage Regina, Archie, and David stood on. A few people, Robin included, stood up as they all heard someone, or something, ineffectively fumble with the handle before managing to open the door and falling face first onto the floor. The people sitting in the back rows jumped up, several expletives and panic-filled shrieks invading the room. Unable to see exactly who had stumbled into the court room, Robin stepped into the alley between the rows of chairs. What struck him first was the copious amounts of red already smeared upon the floor – blood, he realised with a jolt –, before identifying the sprawled out figure as the missing doctor.
A man, braver than the rest, moved forward gingerly to have a closer look.
"By gods, he's lost his arm!"
Another wave of horror and fear rippled through the audience. Springing into action, Robin had barely taken a step forward in order to attend to the gushing wound before the doctor urgently rasped out, "He's coming. Get back, get back…"
Everyone heard a loud crash echo in the hall outside the court room before a shadow, unsteady on its feet, appeared and stumbled through the doorway. Robin, feeling his eyes go wide, realised it was a man, tall and broad shouldered, whose white tunic was soaked with blood. His eyes were unfocused but his teeth were bared, and Robin couldn't help but shudder when he saw the manic look upon his face.
He instinctively lifted his hand, as if to grab an arrow from his quiver, a chill running through him when he found only air. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that both Emma and David had drawn their weapons and were moving towards the new foe as the crowd surged back, chairs scraping the floor and falling over as everyone tried to get away from the man at the door. His eyes found Regina. She was still sitting on the stage, as still as a statue, her eyes wide and fixed upon the danger. A collective gasp prevented him from going to her. His head whipped round to look at the door. He saw that the man had lurched forward, ignoring Whale's crumpled form. Robin's heart missed a beat when he realised that his eyes had lost their bleariness, and were now intently focused on the stage. He readied himself to bodily tackled the monster, sensing the sheriff and her father take their position on his left.
"Stop," David shouted, "or we shoot."
"No!" Regina screamed. Robin barely had the time to glance back at her before he was thrown to the side, his thigh violently knocking into a chair. Catching his balance before he could fall, he looked at Regina incredulously. She was standing up now, both arms stretched out in front of her. Purple shimmered in front on him, forming a thin wall of magic that trapped both sides of the crowd and prevented them from moving into the alley between the chairs, effectively blocking them off from the man in the middle.
The man in question didn't seem phased as he continued to moved forward towards the stage. Several voices erupted from the audience, angering and frightening Robin in equal measure.
"She has magic!"
"She's a liar!"
"She's trying to kill us!"
"Regina!" Robin cried, banging his fists against the barrier that prevented him from reaching her. "Regina!" he yelled again, as he watched her jump from the stage and stand still a mere foot away from the man who had also stopped moving. He couldn't understand what she was doing, why her face looked as it did, shocked and happy and sad and desperate all at once. She was acting completely mad, and he was going mad alongside her as he continued to ineffectively try to break down the bloody wall in front of him.
Puzzlement gradually forced the rest of the crowd into silence, until only the sound of his struggle could be heard as the two figures before the stage continued to stare at each other. Robin abruptly stopped moving when Regina tentatively lifted her hand as if to touch the man's cheek. He lunged before she could make contact, his left hand wrapping itself around her throat and backing her into the raised platform of the stage.
"No!" It felt as if the shout ripped his throat apart. Robin threw his whole weight against the barrier. "Let her go, let her go!" He watched, going out of his mind, as she weakly grasped the hand that was slowly choking the life out of her. "Fight, Regina, fight, ! #$%^&* it!" He didn't understand why she didn't use magic to defend herself, why she was still holding the walls up. What the hell was going on?
Tears streamed down his cheeks as he watched her look at her soon to be murderer with pain-filled eyes.
"I… love… you", she rasped out.
The effect was instantaneous. The man let her go as if burnt by the touch of her skin. Regina fell to her knees, gasping for breath. Robin sagged in relief against the barrier, his head reeling.
"Regina?" the man said, sounding dazed.
Robin saw her look up, her face appearing so young and open it felt like a punch to his gut. He knew what name was going to fall from her lips before she said it.
"Daniel," she breathed as they rushed into each other's arms. Town Hall was eerily quiet as they embraced, swaying on the spot until Robin could see both of their faces, Regina's pressed into the crook of the other man's neck. They eventually allowed a sliver of space between them, her hands immediately reaching up to cradle Daniel's face. Robin could see his eyes, now clear and blue, take in Regina's features.
"I can't believe it's really you," she said quietly, as though speaking to herself. Daniel smiled, but a grimace of pain suddenly twisted his face. He staggered back, his hand clutching his chest above his heart.
"Daniel? What is it?"
"The pain," he groaned. "Make it stop."
Regina grabbed his shoulders. "How?" she asked urgently, unveiled fear colouring her voice. Robin saw the other man look at her with eyes that were desperately sorry and resolute.
"You need to let me go."
"What? No!" She shook her head like a child unwilling to accept the truth. "I won't lose you again." She brought his forehead against hers, the agony on her face mirrored in his as both squeezed their eyes shut. "I can't."
"And I…" he moaned again, breathing hard. "I can't come back."
She opened her eyes, her gaze impossibly dark. "I love you," she said again. Robin saw the smallest of smiles on Daniel's face.
"And I you." He used his thumb to wipe a tear on her cheek. "Love again," he urged before stumbling backwards, once more clutching his chest. When he looked up, the soul that had given his features such gentleness was gone. He lurched forward, hand stretched out to grab her once more.
But this time she stopped him, her hand meeting his and freezing him where he stood. No one spoke as they saw Regina crumble, the only thing seemingly keeping her standing being the tenuous hold she still had on Daniel's hand. Jaw clenched, limbs shaking, she slowly let magic dissolve the body in front of her, the barriers melting away as the last purple particle disappeared.
Nobody moved. Robin couldn't tear his eyes away from Regina's face. Her jaw was locked tight but her lips trembled. Her features couldn't settle on an expression, and she suddenly swayed on her feet. He rushed forward and caught her before she fell to her knees. As if liberated by his touch, the scream she had been holding in was ripped from her throat and reverberated around the room, a sickening echo of pain ringing in everybody's ears.
Regina panted against his chest like an injured animal. She's too shocked to cry, he thought, knowing that he needed to get her out of there as quickly as possible. Slipping a hand under her knees, he picked her up. She pressed her head under his chin, her arms encircling his neck tightly. No one said a word as they watched him carry her out of Town Hall.
He didn't know how long he walked nor which path he took, but by the time he reached the outskirts of the forest his back was aching and his shoulders burned. Regina had begun to sob a while ago, her tears wetting his skin. He staggered to a tree and slid down its trunk, still cradling her body in his lap. Closing his eyes, he leaned back and let her spend her grief, concentrating on her small gasps and the sensation of her heartbeat against his chest.
Eventually, she grew calm. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice rough from crying.
Surprised, Robin looked down at her. "Whatever for?" he asked.
Her red rimmed eyes were incredulous. "You've just heard me tell another man that I loved him, and I've been crying over him in your arms. Don't pretend that's easy for you."
"Ah." He hadn't really considered that. He thought for a moment, absentmindedly observing the play of the sun on the leaves.
"I still love Marian", he said eventually. He looked at Regina again. Her face was unreadable. "I fell in love with her when I was just a lad, and she is the mother of my child. We had so many adventures together… She's integral to the person that I am, and I miss her every day." He gently touched her cheek. "That doesn't mean I love you any less." His lips twitched. "Maybe I love you even more because of your loyalty and fierce emotions. Daniel is a part of who you are, and I will never begrudge you your memories or your feelings." He let out a sad sigh. "I just wish you didn't have to relive the pain of his death all over again."
Fresh tears began to roll down Regina's cheeks. Suddenly, she surged forward, her lips pressing against his. The kiss was short but one both needed – a reminder of what they were to each other. She embraced him.
He hugged her tighter.
Throughout her life, Regina had often been stared at. When she had arrived at the royal court for her wedding, she had seen the way people had looked at her, admiring her beauty and commenting on her youth. As a queen in her own right, she had drawn the eye of men and women alike, first because of her outfits, secondly because everyone knows not to turn their backs on the most dangerous creature in the room. Even as mayor people had looked, although then they had quickly turned their heads if she had happened to stare back.
However, she was wrong to assume that she had encountered every possible stare. Up on the stage again, she struggled to appear impassive under the gaze of every single person in the audience. There was something in their eyes that she had never seen before: a genuine interrogation. They were waiting for her explanation, and for the first time they seemed willing to listen before casting judgement.
"To answer your question, your Honour, the man that came into court this morning," the man that I killed, "was my fiancé."
She was expecting the whispers, and didn't pay them any attention.
"Why has no one seen him around Storybrooke before?" Granny asked above the commotion.
"Because he was murdered years ago in the Enchanted Forest. And, before anyone can ask, I can only assume that Doctor Whale decided to bring him back to life to use him as a bargaining chip against me." Her eyes found Gold's. He was sitting impassively at the back of the audience. "Even though I was tricked once into believing that reviving him couldn't be done."
She could sense the confusion of the crowd – she had to admit that the story was hard to follow when one didn't have all the facts in hand. She was tired, however, simply at the thought of having to recount the tale once more and wished, rather childishly, that she could just close her eyes and make everything go away. But it was not be.
"Who murdered him?" Granny inquired. "And why?"
Regina did close her eyes then. "My mother killed him because an immature princess told her I loved him."
Painstakingly, the truth was dragged out of her. She kept as many details to herself as she could, but the whole town discovered that her mother had been the cruel Queen of Hearts, that she was forbidden to love a stable boy, and that Snow White's inability to hold her tongue had caused Daniel's death.
"Is…is this true, your Majesty?" Archie asked, sounding as stunned as the rest of the audience looked, staring at their trusted leader. Snow was living up to her name, her face as white as a sheet. Regina could see her wringing her hands on her lap.
"It's true," she said softly. A collective gasp escaped the crowd, and Regina resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Their reactions were worse than a badly scripted play. "In my defence, I was very young, and I had no idea what kind of a person Cora was. I thought I was helping Regina be with her True Love."
"All your help has ever brought me is pain." The words were out of her mouth before she could think them through. She tensed, waiting for a backlash from the audience which never came. Instead, she could see people looking at with something akin to sympathy.
"That's why you tried to hurt Snow White for so many years, isn't it?" Granny said gently. "Because of love."
There was too much understanding on the old woman's face, and Regina briefly wondered how many loved ones she had lost unfairly. She nodded, unable to speak past the unexpected lump in her throat.
Granny nodded back gravely, and then turned to Archie. "I think we've heard enough for today."
Regina saw him startle slightly in his seat. "Y-yes, you're right. We'll reconvene tomorrow morning at nine thirty." He struck his gavel and chairs scraped the floor as people stood up. A voice rose above the din.
"Hang on! What about the Evil Queen? Have y'all forgotten she has magic?"
Moe French was looking around him incredulously, as if unable to understand the obliviousness of the others to the threat she posed. Gods, what an idiotic oaf, Regina thought tiredly. She saw several citizens already looking at her uneasily, suddenly remembering the display of power she had shown that very morning. It obviously didn't matter that she had used her magic to protect, and not harm, them.
"Oh please, use your brains," Robin exclaimed. Regina looked at him, surprised. He was rarely, if ever, so openly disdainful of others. His face was thunderous. "Regina's agreed to this trial and has promised to accept its judgement when she could easily walk away or annihilate the lot of you. Stop being absurd and show some respect for the woman's fortitude."
He then stormed out of the room, the door banging in his wake. Still shocked by his uncharacteristic show of temper, Regina didn't notice Emma approaching her until she was right at her elbow.
"Come on," the sheriff said quietly. "Let's get you out of here."
Nobody stopped them as they walked out of Town Hall.
The door to the cell closed with its usual clank, but instead of stepping into her office, Emma stood there, awkwardly chewing her bottom lip as her fingers drummed an irregular rhythm on her thighs. Regina sighed.
"Is there anything you wanted, Miss Swan?"
She could see the other woman considering whether to speak or not.
"I know what it's like to…you know…." Emma glanced at her, her eyes quickly flitting around the room again. "To have your whole world come crashing down around you."
Regina did not welcome the strong and sudden regret that came over her. She thought back on what she had learnt about the sheriff's life, only this time she wasn't looking for weaknesses to exploit. She remembered the story of a young girl ferried from one group home to the next before she disappeared for a few years, only to reappear pregnant with a criminal record. The broken look in Emma's eyes, apparent in the photographs from her arrest, flashed through Regina's mind. It was suddenly very clear that there was far more to the story behind her sentencing then she had initial realised.
"I'm sorry," she blurted out, startling the other woman. "As you can tell from today, you are the collateral victim of something that precedes your birth by many years. I hope..." she swallowed nervously, the urgency she felt to convince Emma of her earnestness an unfamiliar feeling. "I hope you know that I truly regret that."
They stared at each other, Regina sensing that Emma was weighing her apology carefully.
"Funnily enough," she murmured eventually, "I believe you." A wave of relief washed over Regina, and they smiled faintly at each other. "Who would have thought, eh?" Emma added with a self-deprecating shrug of her shoulders.
"Indeed," Regina replied, contemplating the rather unusual route her relationship with the other woman had taken. She never would have guessed that, a year after that atrocious yellow eyesore of a car had begun defiling the streets of her town, she would come to trust the other woman and consider her a friend – the latter being a concept she hadn't considered in decades.
"And for what it's worth, I'm sorry for what my… for what you went through, back in your world. It wasn't right."
"No. But then, things rarely are."
"Mmm, I guess not." She appeared to think for a few seconds, and then snorted loudly. Regina raised an eyebrow. Mischief danced in Emma's eyes as she replied. "You've had a crappy life, no arguments there. It does make for pretty compelling mitigating circumstances, though."
Regina blinked, taken aback, and then chuckled. "Who would have thought it could be useful? I simply hope revealing so much of my life wasn't in vain", she added, her laughter dying as abruptly as it had started.
"If the jurors have half a brain it won't be."
"In that case it's hopeless."
"C'mon, there's always hope."
Regina groaned. "If you start saying things like that, it means you're spending far too much time with your mother."
Emma shifted from one foot to the other, her hands fidgeting with the hem of her jeans again. "Yeah, maybe…" She sighed deeply as she ruffled her hair. "It's been difficult, you know? She and David always want us to spend time together. They keep trying to be parents, but they're my age and…It's all really messed up."
Regina resisted the urge to apologise again. "Do you all live together in the loft?" she inquired.
Emma snorted. "Yeah. Trust me, I've seen enough parental flesh to last me several lifetimes."
"Thank you for those truly charming mental pictures, dear," Regina snipped back with disgust. "What could help your situation is finding a place of your own. After living as independently as you have, suddenly sharing a small apartment with your newly found parents is bound to make you feel stifled."
"No ! #$%^&*, Sherlock," Emma mumbled. Regina decided to ignore her vulgarity and settled on giving her a pointed look.
"It's not like I haven't thought about it. I mean, moving out would ease a lot of the pressure, but I… I don't want to hurt them."
In a flash, Regina understood. The compulsion to please a parent to get the smallest of praise, the fear of disappointing them, the terror at the slightest sign of rejection… she knew these feelings better than the back of her hand. She observed the blonde, the lip biting and constant fidgeting betraying her unease.
"Emma," she said softly, waiting for vulnerable green eyes to look at her before continuing. "Your parents have a lot of faults, and I would gladly list them all for you. However, lack of love is not one of them. Yes, they want to be close to you, but most of all they want you to be happy. Just talk to them."
Emma considered her with a small grin. "Since when are you such an expert on family relations?"
Regina's responding smile was bittersweet. "I've encountered enough in my life to recognise true care and affection when I see it."
Emma's face turned grave. "I can imagine." They looked at each other for a few seconds. The sheriff cleared her throat loudly. "Right then. I'll go to my office now, I have some paperwork to fill in."
Regina arched an eyebrow. "Paperwork?" she repeated. "Have you knocked your head lately, dear?"
"Ha. Ha. Ha. You're hilarious, you know that?"
"I try, dear, I try."
Night had fallen when Robin stepped into the sheriff's station. He had walked for a long time in the forest, trying to clear his head and settle the emotional turmoil churning in his stomach. Eventually, he had sat down on a log and had begun to draw frantically. He'd filled several pages, sketching Regina as she was being strangled, or desperately embracing Daniel. He had snapped the notebook shut as soon as he had finished the last drawing, unable to look any longer at Regina's desolate eyes as her fiancé dissolved into oblivion.
He'd felt able to breathe again, and he had walked back home, glad to spend time with Roland. The little boy's constant babble had been a welcome distraction, and he basked in the warmth of his son's steadfast and straightforward love. Robin had put him to bed and entrusted him to Little John before leaving, compelled to talk to Regina.
She was lying on her bed, but she sat up when she heard him walk up to the cell. A lamp, lit in the sheriff's office, illuminated the premises faintly, but Emma was nowhere to be seen. They stared at each other, shadows playing across their features. Slowly, Robin pushed the cell door open. Wordlessly, Regina reached out and took his hand, leading him to the bed. They sat down, and she gently maneuvered him so that they lay in each other's arms, her head resting against his chest as she listened to the slow beat of his heart.
"I'm sorry," he said eventually, not quite sure if he was apologising for his outburst in Town Hall, or the misunderstanding about Henry.
She hugged him tighter. "Sshhh," she murmured. "Sleep."