Well, my friends, this is it. The last chapter. There is an epilogue-ish thing still to come. I haven't decided whether to post it with this, or separately.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me, for your follows and favorites and reviews and feedback, and here's to an excellent and OQ-filled season 4.
Many thanks to ninzied/nonsequiturvy for her wonderful beta-ing.
Storybrooke, Four Months Later
Regina smirks at Henry's story of how the baby attempted to drag himself up the stairs last night as she passes Snow the last dirty plate from the dinner table. The Charmings have made it a tradition, every time Henry switches between staying with Emma and Regina, to invite Regina over for dinner. Emma has sworn, again and again, that she's looking for a place of her own, though Regina is inclined to believe she's not really trying that hard at this point. But then, she might be the same about leaving behind little Neal if she lived there, so she can't quite find it in herself to blame the woman. Tonight is Friday, time for Henry to go back to Regina's for the weekend and week, and, as she has for most of these dinners, she has brought Robin with her.
They have all found seats in the living room, Regina on a couch beside Robin. At Henry's request, Snow hands out mugs of hot chocolate. Regina refuses her own, then chuckles as Robin sniffs his suspiciously.
"Henry isn't trying to poison you," Regina promises, arching an eyebrow at him. She lifts the small spoon out of his steaming mug and nabs a bit of his cinnamon-covered whipped cream, smiling as the familiar taste hits her tongue. (And maybe a little at Robin's teasing gasp as he edges the drink out of her reach, even though he'd been eyeing it dubiously seconds before.)
"You like cinnamon, too?" Emma wonders, considering her, this new Regina sitting in Snow White's living room and stealing food from her boyfriend.
Regina turns to Emma. "Where do you suppose Snow and Henry got the habit?" she asks.
"It's true," Snow agrees, smiling thoughtfully at her, "we used to share cocoa with cinnamon at bedtime."
A witty answer gets caught on Regina's throat, the thought of that period of her life still a little raw, even now. Henry saves her from the silence, pipes up, "So did we."
"Well," Regina tells them both, finally landing upon the right way to elbow Snow a little and acknowledge the memories, "at least Henry spilled it on fewer of my ball gowns." She's getting better at this, now, focusing on the good things from the past, being honest even when she can't resist a little quip.
Robin hums beside her, and when she looks he's taken a tentative sip, then a bigger gulp. "Henry I may have just found my favorite food from this land."
"Well, no surprise there," David adds. (And Regina wants to think it's because hot cocoa is inherently likable, but she knows this man and she's pretty certain he means to make a little comment about Robin being part of this weird cinnamon-cocoa drinking clan. At least he didn't say anything more explicit. The last thing she needs is a conversation with the two idiots about "welcoming Robin into the family". Even though they kind of have.)
Robin's hand slides onto her thigh, his thumb rubbing over her knee, the contact pleasant and simple. She's not perfect at enjoying all of this yet, the people around her, the closeness choking sometimes, the openness terrifying, but it's moments like this when she can appreciate what's right in front of her, when she can catch Robin's hand, laugh at the stories her family tells, find something like peace with the way her life has turned out.
When baby Neal lets out a healthy cry, Regina takes the opportunity to wave Snow and David back into their chairs and retrieve the boy herself. Her stepdaughter's son and her son's uncle all at once.
And hell if this family tree isn't a little fucked up. But it's still a family.
Robin, Regina, and Henry meander home together, Regina's arm slung across her son's shoulders, Robin on her other side, their gloved hands joined. Robin has basically moved in, save for a few of the days when he has Roland and she has Henry, but the boys always request seeing each other anyway, and Roland is as eager to share every new thing with her and her son as Henry is for another archery lesson. Regina hasn't ever exactly complained. She's grown quite used to the sound of Robin's heartbeat under her ear as she falls asleep, and the way she has to drag him out of bed if they want to do anything before noon on weekends. (Unless, that is, the boys aren't around, and she wakes him with heady kisses and wandering hands. On those days, he needs very little convincing.)
Robin's things have migrated to Regina's house, a few every day. At this point there's nothing much left in the forest with the Merry Men. Henry had given her an ecstatic hug upon finding out about her and Robin, and then Robin an amusingly protective glare and handshake. He still seems quite happy with the idea.
"Are you even tired after all that sugar?" she teases Henry, running a hand through his hair.
"Mom," Henry whines, rolling his eyes, probably more at the question than the hair ruffling, though she can't rule out both.
"I'm so glad you're back," Regina says, chuckling, kissing his forehead, "I've missed you." Even when it's just a few days—five this time—she always, always misses having him around.
"Missed you too, Mom." She squeezes his shoulders, smiling. These nights when he comes back and she can look forward to a weekend of spending time with him are some of her favorites.
Robin busies himself with hanging their coats in the foyer and untying his boots as they walk ahead.
"Do you want to go do something with me tomorrow? It's Saturday," Regina offers.
"Do I get to watch morning comics first?" Henry bargains. Regina chuckles. Pity the poor soul who tries to separate Henry from his Saturday morning routines.
"How about Saturday brunch at Granny's, just like old times?"
"Sounds perfect." They used to go every Saturday or Sunday, just the two of them, for a breakfast of pancakes or a lunch of sandwiches. She has missed those days a lot in the past few years, when he was no longer just hers, but she finds she doesn't so much anymore. Still, it's nice he remembers them as fondly as she does, and wants to keep the tradition going.
"Awesome," Henry agrees, nodding until the action wears to a halt, the way he does when he's gearing up for a question. "Is Robin staying tonight?"
"Only if that's all right with you." Henry comes first, always, and Roland comes first for Robin. They agreed early on they could only spend the night if it was all right with the kids. Henry doesn't ask about it much, but Regina means it—Robin would be back in his cot in the forest if it made her son the least bit uncomfortable.
He narrows his eyes at her with a half-grin, and Regina recognizes that expression, because he learned it from her. "Duh, Mom. It's not like it's new or anything."
She chuckles warmly, wonders why he asked.
"He should come to brunch!" Henry says brightly. Ah. So maybe she doesn't need to check with him when Robin's around at bedtime anymore.
"He has Roland tomorrow," she tells him.
"You sure it's all right with you that it's not just the two of us?"
"It's a good thing, Mom," he insists, throwing his arms around her stomach. She barely has time to return the hug before he's hopping up the stairs, his backpack slung over his shoulder. Most of his stuff stays here, in his bedroom, only the necessary clothes and books go with him. Something that makes her a little smug, though she tries not to act it around Emma. For Henry's sake, of course.
"G'night, Mom," Henry calls, adding, "Night, Robin," over his shoulder, loud enough for Robin to hear as he reaches the bottom of the stairs from the foyer.
"Goodnight," they both answer.
Robin slides his arms around her waist, bringing her close enough for a kiss. "Your son is a matchmaker," he informs her, his hands moving up and down her back.
She scoffs. Says the father of Daddy, give Regina a kiss goodbye. "So is yours."
She curls her fingers into his shirt. "Mmm," she agrees, dragging his lips back over hers. They kiss for a couple of minutes, slow and easy.
"I figured it out," he mumbles, his hand skating up her back and into her hair.
"Cinnamon," he adds.
She tilts her head to look at him, breaking the kiss reluctantly to decipher this comment. "What?"
"You taste like cinnamon in the mornings," he lifts an eyebrow, "And now." Ugh, such a sappy flirt, and she was doing just fine with the kissing.
"I put some in my coffee sometimes. Now, do shut up, thief," she orders, covering his mouth with hers again.
"Yes, Milady," he teases, as she moves her lips to his jaw. His words would sound a little more teasing if he wasn't breathless from the way her hand is working its way under his shirt, her nails biting at his skin.
When she finds it regretfully necessary to extricate herself from the embrace so that they can walk up the stairs (because, unlike yesterday, the hallway is off limits for the removal of clothes while Henry is here), she stops for a moment to stare at him. She can read everything in those warm blue eyes, the openness and desire and affection. Her teeth dig into her bottom lip, her mouth curving into a soft smile, her eyes wide and bright. Henry's upstairs, probably reading before bed. She'll fall asleep with one of Robin's arms slung around her waist, wake up for a few hours of peace before the boys join her, and then brunch with all three of them.
Happiness. That's what this is.
Regina twists her mascara into its tube and drops it into her makeup drawer, snatching a red lipstick and heading back into the bedroom from her en suite bathroom.
She reaches behind her back, stretching to finish closing the zipper on her red suit dress. Her flingers keep slipping, absolutely aggravating.
"Regina," Robin calls to her, chuckling. Her head whips towards him. She's surprised to find him awake at barely past nine when it's his habit on weekends to sleep until ten or later.
"Are you laughing at me, because if you are you can go back to sleep."
"Offering you help, love. Come here."
She narrows her eyes at him, then caves, as she always does, pads over to the bed.
He curls a hand around her hip, turning her around as he stands, and finishes closing the zipper and the clasp at the top. Well, he stops to drop a kiss to her shoulder blade, but that was to be expected.
"What happened to the other red dress?" he asks, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind, breathing in against her hair. Her smile falters against him, where their cheeks press together. Sore subject. And then she's thinking about that grey-black dress she'd picked to wear for their fireside picnic, one of her favorites, and comfy enough for sitting on the ground, and she's thinking about the sight of it crumpled on the rug and the way he zipped it up for her, and then the sight of it crumpled on her bathroom floor a few hours later and the flames she used to destroy it.
"What?" He's rubbing his palms up and down her arm, like he does when he wants her to calm down, and it's then she realizes her heart's begun to race a little.
"I—" she skims a hand down his forearm, and turns around in his arms to face him, tries to clamp down the panic fluttering in her stomach. "I got rid of it. Well," she confesses with a set jaw, "I set it on fire."
She extricates herself from their embrace. "I don't want to talk about it right now, Robin. It doesn't matter."
"It does matter."
She forces a smile, shoves the memory away harshly, reminds him. "We're bringing Henry to brunch at Granny's, and you have to pick up Roland. We have to leave soon; it's nearly ten." She drops a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "You need to get ready, all right?"
"Regina—" (He hates it when she changes the subject like that. She can see it in his tightened jaw and pleading eyes. As if he doesn't already know why she destroyed that dress.)
He pushes her hair behind her ear, and she melts a little at the contact, at the way he's always touching her so freely. She's still getting used to someone being around to do that. The only other person who might have wanted to couldn't without the risk of exposing a stable boy's secret relationship with the daughter of the house.
"I love you," he reminds her.
She smiles, more genuine this time; it reaches her eyes, and she whispers. "I love you, too."
Robin usually goes alone to get Roland. Not because he's ashamed to have Regina or Henry with him before her, but he's hurt Marian enough, and he'll do anything he can to make things a little easier for her. Especially because he never wants Roland to pick up on any tension. Neither of them deserves that, and nor do Regina and her boy. He hasn't regretted this, not for a moment, being with the woman he's in love with and not the one he loves for who she has been to him, but it's a pang every time to know that Marian would be with him, the old him, anyway, if she could. She looks well some weeks, not so much on others.
For now, Roland spends every other weekend with her, and has dinner with her twice a week besides. They'd both agreed that during school it would make more sense for him to be in one place during the week, and Robin lets him visit Mama whenever the boy asks for her.
Today is an odd day—Roland had spent a Friday night with her to make up for a missed day while she finally set up the new furniture in her apartment. It's one of the days when she's looking somewhere in between—not quite well, but not completely upset either.
"Papa!" Roland calls when Marian opens the door to him.
"Hello, Roland!" Robin greets, sweeping the boy into his arms and onto his hip. "How was your night?"
"We made a blanket fort!" Roland exclaims, grinning back at his mother. "It was huge! And then we got to eat dinner in our fort and read stories with a flashlight."
"Sounds like fun!" He glances at Marian, who's smiling gently at the story.
"What did you do, Daddy?"
"I had dinner at Snow White and David's house."
"With Henry?" Henry, as a near-teenager, has reached near hero-status with his boy, something which Robin and Regina both find endlessly amusing.
"Yes, with Henry, and Killian, and Regina, and Emma, and their baby."
Marian's face stays neutral. She must have grown used to the idea, at least, of Robin and Regina together, but Robin doesn't imagine it's any easy thing to be constantly reminded of just yet. Her bravery about it in front of Roland is admirable, though he knows it's also for her, that even if it hurts, she knows everyone's where they're supposed to be.
"Here's his bag." She hands him the few things Roland brought over for the night. "I'll see you for dinner on Tuesday, Sweetheart," she kisses Roland's forehead. "Call me sometime this weekend to say hello, all right?"
"We definitely will," Robin agrees, setting his son back on the ground. "How's the furniture? Do you need any help with it?"
"It's all done. Thank you."
"You know I'd be happy to help if there's anything—"
"I know," she agrees.
He lets her leave it at that. After all, it's really not his right to push the matter. "Have a nice weekend, Marian."
When they enter the diner, a man Robin doesn't recognize glares at the sight of his and Regina's joint hands, their boys rushing through the doorway ahead of them. (Or, the sight of Regina holding hands with anyone, really. Robin may be hopeful, but he's not blind.) Regina is slowly losing her compunction about being with Robin in public, but idiots like this don't help.
He moves to slide that hand across her back and around her waist, not possessive, not even protective, really, but reassuring, loving, kisses her temple and sends the men a stern glare. Regina follows his line of sight, and when she realizes that those men have been talking about her and laughing at Robin for it, she backs away from him a little, out of his embrace, scoops his hand up in one of hers and takes it from her body. "It's fine," she tells him.
He doesn't give her a kiss on the mouth, not here, as if for show, but he cradles her face and lets his lips rest on her cheek for a moment, lifting and dropping his shoulders in an attempt to let go of his anger. "It's really not." He doesn't miss her grateful smile struggling to peek through. And that adds a fresh wave of guilt as he thinks of how she had held his hand and kissed him outside these doors so freely those many months ago, ready to share a booth with him and Roland, unafraid of what everyone would think, or at least, more concerned with the happiness it brought her than the fear she always has to fight. The way she's acting now as though she would rather hide their relationship within the safe walls of her house, the safe covers of her bed, where the world can't take him away again, it's at least partly because of him. He promises himself that he'll make sure she gets used to the idea that she needn't be shy about her own happiness.
"Hey, Mom," Henry requests around a mouthful of food as he practically inhales the last few fries on his plate, "I was telling Roland about my storybook. Do you remember where it is, so I can show it to him?"
"I'm not sure? I haven't seen it since the warehouse. Your grandparents might have it," Regina answers. That part was a bit of a blur, honestly, what with Henry remembering her and Robin remembering them and Snow going into labor.
"Can we go check?"
"Yeah, can we!" Roland adds, grinning that dimpled grin that makes Regina's insides melt a little.
"After we finish our food," Robin interjects, nodding towards Regina's plate.
"Well, I don't mind taking him," Henry offers. "If that's okay? You guys can catch up with us."
Robin and Regina look at each other, still a little uncertain of the boundaries with each other's children, and then they nod at each other, and at the boys. Henry and Roland scamper off.
"Aren't you hungry?" he asks her, nabbing a fry off her plate. She has eaten almost nothing.
She turns the pickle slice on her plate over. "Being at the diner is—"
"Mixed memories?" he guesses.
"Regina, you know I don't give a damn what other people think about—"
Snow's frantic voice interrupts them, "Regina! Robin!" She bursts through the doors, breathless. "There's something wrong on Main Street."
Regina's out of the booth by the time Snow finishes speaking, a fireball springing to life in her palm as she runs, and Robin follows at her heels. "The boys, Regina. That's where they'll—"
"I know," she grits out, never halting.
When they get outside, Roland and Henry are both standing behind David. Regina breathes a sigh of relief. They're safe.
"Well if it isn't the Evil Queen. And look she's got herself a new pet. What'd you pay this one?" The disembodied voice sounds vaguely familiar, coming from the center of an eight-foot high tornado in the middle of the street that's starting to spin. But Regina can't place it. She shoves Robin's hand off her back the moment it lands there. She needs concentration, and magic, and he needs to get out of the way.
"Have David take the boys out of here!" she grits out. "Now!" Robin jogs away for a moment, and then David's moving the boys back and into the diner.
"What, you don't recognize my voice?" the male voice taunts, "Well how about a little story. Hope that lover of yours isn't the jealous type. Once upon a time, there was an evil queen who invited young, beautiful guards to share her bed. Even ones whose mothers she had murdered. And then she cursed their land, twice, and so one of those guards, not so young anymore, got his hands on a little spell. Now she must decide—the cyclone can eat the town she worked so hard to create, or just her black, disgusting heart."
She scoffs. "I'd like to see you try." As if some idiot with a bit of borrowed magic could level Storybrooke. She brings magic around the cyclone, burning purple, fuels it easily with her hatred of this man, and pushes and pushes it down. Nothing. She lets the rage fill her, tries again. Nothing, still.
"You bore me!" the voice calls from within the growing cyclone, which has begun to break large branches off a nearby tree with its force. She whips around at a choking sound. No. No! Robin's suspended a few inches from the ground, tugging at invisible ropes around his neck.
"What's it going to be?"
Regina throws her magic at him again, at everything, fireballs and force, electricity, searches for someone to choke or something to throw, but nothing's working, and Robin's face has turned red, his eyes drooping.
The cyclone widens, throwing Emma and Snow to the ground.
"Leave them out of this!" Regina orders. Panic surges in her stomach, they have had months of blissful peace, but she's hurt far too many for it to last, there are thousands of people like this. A chunk of cement could break out of the gale at any moment and injure any one of them.
She poofs Robin back a hundred feet down the street, sees with relief that he's fallen to the ground, breathing again. "Your issue is with me," she cries into the dark cloud.
She takes a step forward anyway, reckless as she always is, as she can't resist in a fight.
Regina hears it before she feels it, the thunk as a ragged chunk of roadway slams into her shoulder, and then it's burning in pain, a jagged cut, her arm growing wet with blood.
A scream behind her, sobs, and then another voice, "Light magic!" from Snow.
Regina flexes her hand, startled, and then she lets white power fill her hand, Henry stuffing fries in his mouth and Roland giggling over the smiley face Ruby made with his mustard, Robin's grin this morning and the way she woke up with his arms around her waist and his nose buried in her hair. She pushes the magic away from her, and after a few shoves the cyclone collapses, leaving at it's center a pale man with a broken glass vial at his feet.
The man from the diner who'd just been staring at them.
She throws binds around him, and then she's vaguely aware of Emma helping Snow off the ground and saying they'll have to cart him off to jail before she's stumbling, falling back.
Strong arms circle her waist to halt her fall.
"Are you insane?" Robin gasps, still panting from his minutes short on oxygen, and from running to reach her.
She winces at the pain, sinking into him. "Tired from the magic, "she pants.
Her magic's been finicky, ever since he woke her from Elsa's curse. The white magic wears them both out, as though it draws from him as well. He wonders if it does now, since it spent three days sharing his soul.
"The things he said, they were—" she begins through clenched teeth.
"You can tell me later, Regina," he orders, sinking to the ground with her on his lap, his hands pressing into the wound to stem the flow of blood.
The blonde leaves Snow and a few of the dwarves who had joined them on the street to take care of the man, and runs over.
"You got it."
"Not necessary," Regina argues.
"Absolutely necessary," he disagrees.
Emma's gotten faster at this, Robin notes, impressed. Regina's shoulder looks absolutely normal in minutes, her red dress stitched back together without a trace of the darker red blood that had stained it.
He tugs her to sit, and he holds onto her for a minute while he catches his breath, his arms around her stomach.
Another thrilling day in Storybrooke.
Robin tells himself everything is fine, but he sleeps poorly that night.
Not half an hour after he finally falls into fitful sleep, he jolts awake with a start, his heart pounding. He shoves his palms against the mattress to sit up, and the sudden change in position adds to his dizziness. The mattress bounces, little ricochets of movements, but when he glances over, Regina sleeps on, one of her hands splayed on her pillow beside her head, fingers resting on top of her hair. The nightmare that woke him flashes back, not a nightmare really, a memory of Regina in David's arms, ashen and unmoving, dark hair tumbling to the ground, and of her falling to the ground this afternoon, blood rushing down her arm. His heart cannot help but pound a little faster, irrationally, he's well aware, but somehow in the middle of the night those thoughts carry less weight, and he does not breathe easily again until he has shoved several pillows out of his way and pressed a few fingers to her wrist. A strong and even pulse there stems the flow of adrenaline through his veins, and then he's grabbing at the duvet to cover them both again, easing his head onto her pillow as quietly and gently as possible, clasping that hand between his. At this distance, most of her face blurs, but he'll gladly trade that for the closeness, especially when she mumbles and turns towards him. He takes the opportunity to slide a palm down her back and shift her closer to him, his forehead nestling into hers, her lungs filling and her heart beating against his. Eventually, it lulls him back to sleep.
The next time Robin opens his eyes, Regina is awake as well, leaning against the headboard and staring at nothing. Wondering how she could have thought that this happy little world would continue when dangers forever lurk in her past.
"Hey." He interrupts her thoughts, brushes his hand down her arm. "Can't sleep?"
She turns her head to throw her hair over her shoulder, grits out, "Does it look like I've slept?", regrets it at the way his touch falters, but he seems ultimately unfazed. How is it possible?—but she seems unable to throw this man, at least permanently. A blessing and a curse. Terrifying that someone can look at her and see all of the things she's tried so hard to hide.
"Come on," he finds her hand and lifts it towards him, "I'll make us both some tea."
Regina stands at the edge of the kitchen while Robin makes tea, and then follows him into the living room and joins him on the sofa. He seems unexpectedly tense, his jaw set, his hands turning white as he grasps the mug.
"What is it?" she demands. "You're the one who wants to talk." If he intends to make them share their customary tea, he can start.
"I think you know," he returns, glancing at her.
"That man," she begins, scooting back from him a little, unsurprised that he wants the story from her. It's not going to be the redemptive retelling he wants. "He was one of my guards. What he said was true—I mean, I didn't force them but—they were on my payroll. It was understood that if I wanted one of them—and his mother lived in one of the villages that sheltered Snow White. Before I killed all of them." Will he run yet, she wonders? Some part of her knows they've been through this, and he won't, but that part of her is pretty quiet after a day spent using her magic and listening to taunts from her past. He may have heard stories but—what disgusting things to find out, and in person as well.
His hand lifts her chin, his blue eyes trained on hers. "That isn't what I meant."
She circles his wrist with both hands, to push him away, ends up holding him there instead.
"I'm still here," he promises, sliding his hand to cup her jaw. "I'm not going anywhere."
She scoffs, and then the laugh goes a little teary-eyed, her hands tightening around his forearm. "You'll have to tell me what's bothering you, if it's not that I murdered that guard's family."
A second hand joins the first on her face. "You put yourself in danger today."
"We all did." As it should not have been—the threat was her burden to bear.
"No." He shakes his head vehemently, his fingers digging into her face. "You listened to that man, and you went closer to the danger."
She turns her face out of his hands, backs away. Her heart pounds a little faster. She thinks of Tinkerbell and the balcony, of the sleeping potion, burying her heart in the woods. "I had to."
"Regina, you've done it before, been careless with your safety when—"
"No! I'm tired of this blame. What would you have suggested instead? Were you going to shoot a man in the middle of a cyclone with an imaginary bow and arrow while choking?"
His hand lands on her knee, rubbing circles there. He's always touching her, and it gives her pause, has her shoulders sagging just a little. But this part of her that he's poking and prodding—he isn't going to like what he finds. She hasn't. Go ahead, kill me, she remembers telling Tinkerbell, and Greg. And I fell when she shoved a little too hard at the balcony railings. Her panic rises.
"Don't do that," he pleads.
"What?" she asks flatly.
"Don't shut me out like I don't care when you're hurting."
She scoffs, unexpected anger bubbling in her chest, more frustration than anything. "Have we not had this conversation already?" This close to her pain, Regina fears too much might break it all open, have her crying and blubbering, and even if he wouldn't mind, she does. This man is an open book, to her at least, and there's something else bothering him. Frustration seeps into her tense muscles—why is he tiptoeing around things?
"We had this conversation the last time you tried to—why did you not tell me the true price of that portal?"
There it is—what's really bothering him. That frustration blossoms into anger. "For the same reason I sent you down the street yesterday, and didn't tell you who that sleeping curse was for in my castle," she grits out, yanking her leg out of the way of his touch. "You would've been foolish and tried to stop me." (Like all the fools who have, Tinkerbell and Snow. She destroyed them for it. Not forever a tiny part of her reminds her. She ignores it.)
"You tried to kill yourself, Regina," he argues, "Do you have any idea what it's like to watch that happen to someone you—" he breaks off on a sob. "If I had had any idea that you were even thinking about that, that night when you found me outside Granny's and tried to pretend that we were nothing, I—"
"What? You what, Robin?" She's properly fuming now. "You would've been a little more careful about taking out your anger on me? You would've stopped me from saving Marian's life?" As if he would have. And yet he has the gall to argue with her for it.
"I would've stopped you from ending your own!" He growls, voice low, his breath rushing across her face.
"You all say that, right after I've saved the day. Never before."
He cradles her face, his hands gentle despite the desperate anger in his eyes. "Being loved by you, Regina, is one of the best things I've ever felt. You cannot possibly believe that any of us would be better off without you. Please, I—"
"Robin," she sighs, "it was the only choice."
"It was the only choice that you thought hurt you and nobody else, just like your attempt to put yourself under a sleeping curse, and you sending me several yards down the road this morning, where I had no chance of helping you. I want you to stop making those choices alone. I want you to share those burdens with me."
"I don't think you have any right to comment, seeing as you were the one who left me." Push him away before he hurts her again. Her heart races with her words, works at her limbs to make them break into a run as the panic from that moment seeps through to the present. She sees him kiss his wife's forehead, his face crumpled up in joint pain and relief, hears Henry calling for her. He doesn't deserve that, and she doesn't believe it, but that instinct hasn't gone anywhere, to stab back with her own pain.
"You know that isn't fair!"
(She does, and doesn't want to hear it.) "I need some space." She'll start crying if she doesn't get out of here, and she isn't willing to do that any more than she had been when they walked into the diner and everything fell apart. He's made his way past most of the walls she's built around herself, but she still has that. Not crying. She turns and hurries back to their bedroom.
When she comes down in the morning for much-needed coffee, her eyes a little red from not sleeping, Robin's asleep on the couch under a throw blanket. So he didn't leave.
She doesn't know whether to be frustrated or grateful.
(Grateful. She's helplessly, incredibly grateful.)
And so, of course, she doesn't let him anywhere near her for the rest of the day.
The boys seem vaguely aware of the tension when they wake, Henry more than Roland.
Robin refuses to leave, though. Refuses to do exactly what she's expecting him to, makes his bed on the couch that night.
The Enchanted Forest, One Week Into the Missing Year
David jogs to catch up with Robin on the way to the hall for a cold supper. It's their party's first night in the castle, and scraps are all they've managed to find. David catches him with a hand on his arm.
"So what exactly happened in here?" he asks of Robin's journey to the castle with Regina.
Robin swallows, sparing a brief glance at David as he stops walking. "I don't think that's for me to divulge."
David frowns, not one to be put off so easily, and bluntly declares, "She left my wife a suicide note."
Robin frowns back, unsurprised.
David scrutinizes him, this outlaw who once graced the Evil Queen's wanted list beside Snow and yet followed her into danger a few nights ago to help. Does he not understand that he's trying to make sure of her safety? "And—?"
Robin gives him a brief, tight-lipped smile. "I don't think she's going anywhere anytime soon."
This man knows, understands something, that much is clear. David opens his mouth to press further for an explanation, for more information, anything—but he can see in this man's eyes that he would not be easily convinced, that he has not come to this conclusion lightly. "You're certain?"
"Yes. For better or worse, she'll be around as long as she has an enemy to defeat."
David nods, sounds like Regina, and his wife would probably press for more, but he trusts in Robin's understanding, and makes the decision to further trust his judgment. "You'll tell me, if that changes?"
David clasps his shoulder for a second. "Thank you for bringing her back."
Robin shakes, his brow still knit together, something like guilt in his features. "She did that herself."
"I've known Regina a long time. I'm sure that's not the whole story."
When they enter the hall, neither of them misses Regina's badly veiled anxiety as she notes them walking in together. She still looks miserable to Robin, without the maddened brightness in her eyes at the discovery of an enemy to fight, she looks beaten down, weary, wearing her pain the way an ill person might a fever.
He approaches her as everyone else begins to retrieve their suppers, leans on the wall beside her for a moment to say, "I do not share things I have been told in confidence unless it is absolutely necessary."
She stares straight ahead. "I do not know to what you are referring, thief."
"An honorable thief," he reminds her.
"Very well," she says, nearly dismissive. But her voice shakes.
Robin bites his lip, nods, knows better than to press the matter any further, hopes he's given her an ounce of peace. Feels her eyes on his back as she walks away.
She sends him gold-tipped arrows later in the week—her thanks. Not for his help breaking into her castle—he knows better than that—but for keeping the pieces of herself that she'd shared with him safe, and he will only ever part with them in order to keep her safe.
He's running, sprinting through the forest, branches cracking against his arms, leaves crunching beneath his feet, bow in hand as he comes upon a clearing. A green hand comes before him, reaches out to him.
"Well, well, well. Look who's joined us!" Zelena taunts, flexing her hand inside his chest, around his heart.
He grunts, his fists clenching at the pain.
It stops suddenly, and he hears a gasp, a squelching sound, realizes someone has jumped in front of him and put their heart at risk in place of his own.
"No!" his rescuer screams. Regina.
"Regina don't!" he cries, "she can't have your heart!" He goes to shove her away, to safety. She gestures towards him, magic flowing from her fingertips.
His legs won't move, and she's just out of his reach.
Zelena yanks her hand out of Regina's chest, a red-black heart pounding quickly in her palm.
"Give her heart back, Zelena," he orders, training his bow on her. His arms, blessedly, are free.
"Or what?" she taunts, pressing her thumb into the center of the organ.
Regina gasps beside him, crumpling in pain, a hand pressed against her chest.
He takes advantage of the way Zelena glances at her sister at her next moan, lets his arrow loose.
Zelena's hand flies out. The arrow turns on him like a boomerang, hovering in the air, and Roland's voice reaches him."Daddy, help! Daddy!" He has a moment where he knows it's coming, an arrow to his chest that will certainly kill him, for it never misses its mark.
He tenses, and with a dull Thwak! it's embedded.
He screams her name at the sight of the arrow protruding out of her back, blood pooling wet and dark on her dark clothes. And on the shiny, gold tip of the arrow. She whips her head around to look at him, dark eyes trained on him as she crumples to the ground. He cannot catch her, cannot reach her. His arms won't move.
Her fall to the ground bends the arrow sickeningly, blood trailing out of her mouth, the color of her lips, her hair a tangled mess beneath her.
"Regina!" he screams, he has to help her, heal her. Her heart is safe, isn't it, not in her chest, perhaps that will save her, or he could—but he cannot move, his legs are rooted to the spot, and he's fighting, fighting, gasping for breath as she does, his heart clenching in his chest. She's bleeding out, one of her arms bent at the wrong angle, his arrow broken on her skin, the gold tip darkened with her blood. "Regina!" he's sobbing, over and over, "no, no please, no," and nothing's working, he can't breathe, he's reaching his arms out for her, and then they won't move either, and he hears Roland's voice, crying "Papa! Papa!" and he's searching blindly for his son, crying "Roland!" to no avail, and then they're fading away, and he's frozen in place, unable to run…
Robin gasps as he wakes, his palms pressed into his eyes. He sits up against the armrests, trying to breathe slowly enough for his head to clear, kicks his feet just to prove that he can, that nothing's restraining him. Panic clutches at his heart as it pounds away in his chest, refusing to slow.
He has had nightmares before, of Regina lying in her crypt and never waking, of Regina shaking in fear from that nightmare of her own, of the horror in her eyes that night at the diner, of Marian's grief-stricken features, of his son being carried off by winged monkeys, but this has him shaking, terrified, Regina in danger and him unable to stop it.
A pile of unsaid things lingers between them, and even though that doesn't make him doubt them, he doesn't want that between them, the hurt they swallow for each other's benefit. Their relationship shouldn't be that—Robin ignoring the way it hurts when she shuts him out, and Regina pretending everything's okay even when she's upset. The sight of her still and cold, as she would've been in the Enchanted Forest had Zelena not given her a reason to fight, as she was a few weeks ago, as she might've been yesterday except for sheer luck of where that cement block landed, won't leave him. He doesn't think he'd survive it if she ever thought of doing that again, if she ever made another speech about nobody existing who would miss her.
Panic is pulling him under.
This ends now.
When he stands to go to her room, he notices a figure sleeping in one of the large chairs. Regina.
He walks over to her, lets the pads of his fingers skim across her forehead, down her cheek to her jaw. She wakes easily. His nightmare must've been silent.
"Robin?" Regina asks as her eyes blink open. Her brow furrows as she recognizes the room—not their bedroom, but the living room, and then she remembers coming down here an hour ago when she couldn't sleep, not quite brave enough to join him on the couch where he slept, but also not quite brave enough to stay away. Knowing he hadn't left had been enough, at least for the moment.
Robin!" she gasps, now fully conscious. He's shivering, eyes blown wide, teeth clenched together. Something's wrong.
He bites his lip, glances down. Regina reaches for him, lifting his jaw as tears gather in his eyes. Dread sinks into her stomach.
"Robin, what's going on?" She drags him onto the chair with her, snug for the two of them. None of it matters, not the fact that they argued or the things they'd argued about—none of it matters more than this.
He shudders, and then her arms are around him, and he's shivering, his face buried in her neck. "I—I was—nightmare," he stumbles over the words. "You died."
"Robin," she gasps as he clings to her. "I'm okay." She digs a hand into his back and kisses his forehead. "I'm okay," she repeats, "I'm fine."
He shakes his head, "Roland—Roland was there, he—"
"Roland's perfectly fine, Robin, he's asleep upstairs having a much nicer dream." She kisses his hair, her arms wound around his neck, her hands rubbing his back.
"I'm sorry." Deep breaths fill his lungs, the panic falling out of his voice slowly with each word. "I'm sorry we argued earlier."
She kisses the side of his head. "I know. I'm sorry, too." And she is, hates the way fights scare her with the threat of abandonment once again, knows it's ridiculous, and yet doesn't always believe that it is.
They breathe for a few minutes.
He pulls back to look at her, his hand stroking her hair. She shivers with the intensity. "I was scared. I was frozen in the dream. I couldn't move, just like yesterday, and when you stopped me in your castle, and the night you…died." He chokes on the word a little. "I don't know what else could have been done but what you did, but I'm still terrified you'll do that again, and Ill just be standing there, frozen and screaming. I've never felt so helpless in my life. I've watched Marian and Roland in grave danger, but at least then I had someone to turn to or somewhere to run. All I could do was scream."
Tears burn at the back of Regina's eyes, and guilt. "I heard you. Both times."
He moves his hands to cradle her face, presses their foreheads together. "I didn't mean to push you earlier. I just want you to understand."
She thinks she might understand it, because she's watched Daniel and Henry and Robin each gasping for breath, and she knows helplessness.
His thumbs stroke up and down her cheekbones. "And I don't want you to feel like you have to hide from me."
"I don't—" she reaches for an explanation. "I'm not afraid of you," she explains, settling her head in the crook of his neck, feels the rise and fall of his lungs as he breathes. Both eerily reminiscent of another night spent in this room together, another nightmare, and blessedly different. "I'm afraid of what happens when I let people in. I'm not used to—having someone."
"I know." His hand rubs up and down her arm, his words slow and quiet. "But you do. You have lots of us, and I'm going to do ridiculously sappy things that make you blush and follow you into every fight with old demons and wake you from every nightmare and stay even when we fight, and someday, you won't always worry about that anymore," he promises. "Try sharing your burdens with me, even the ones you think are small, like burning that dress. That's what having someone means."
She nestles into him, and, just for a minute, she can see all of that. She smiles into his skin.
"You've already gotten quite good at sharing the happy things, but you don't need to keep me away from everything else."
The pads of her fingers circle the mark on his wrist. "I won't—freeze you with magic anymore, if it's going to put you in such a state," she relents.
He chuckles, holds her closer.
She's just beginning to truly understand how traumatic this has been for him as well. It's new, aside from Henry's concern for her, completely new to have an adult need comfort from her, to know that someone ran to help her first yesterday. To know that she can be honest with him about her past, about her darkest hatred—of herself—and he still won't run. She tangles her ankles with his. She'll get used to it. She will.
Regina leans forward for a kiss, a gentle contact, lips meeting lips.
"I love you," she says, and with the wonder in his voice as he returns the words, she realizes she hadn't yet been the first one to say them. Sharing with someone—that's a start.
And then he's kissing her again. He hums when she separates their lips and she trails her hand from his forehead down to his temple, then cheek, then scruff and jaw. When he turns his head to kiss her palm, she smirks, and then she's surging forward for a kiss, her mouth open against his as she presses him into the chair, and he's gasping into her mouth, his hand pressing against her back to bring her closer, his heart beating fast for a much more pleasant reason.
His hands move under her robe and onto her silk pajamas, warm and comforting as she climbs the rest of the way into his lap.
He raises an eyebrow at her, his teeth digging into his bottom lip on top of a tentative grin, and without warning he's standing, lifting her with both hands on her thighs and moving them to the nearby couch where they have a little more room, both of them chuckling at the awkward way her elbow digs into his shoulder and her knee presses against his stomach before she resettles. Normally, she'd fight to flip him over, rarely lets him take control so easily. But she'll let him get away with it tonight, she thinks as he leaves kisses in a path down her neck and his hands work their way under her shirt. She can feel in the desperation of his kiss and his touch that he needs this, to reassure himself that she's well and whole. She needs the same from him, and that burden they can share.
They fall back asleep eventually, and when they wake it is to the sunlight filtering into the room through the french doors. Chest to chest, Robin's head nestled in the crook of Regina's neck, legs tangled, her fingers curled around his arm, both of them naked and warm beneath a throw blanket. No nightmares.
When they wake, they stay silent for a few moments, Regina tracing fingers over his face, across his forehead and cheekbones, down his nose.
Robin shifts on the cushion they've used as a pillow, watching her. "Regina, that nightmare you had, of me—do you still have it?"
She tilts her head back a little to kiss the underside of his jaw. "Not anymore."
His thumb rubs against her shoulder. "But you had it before. Before that night, I mean?"
She sighs heavily. "A few times." Four or five of those nightmares before the night when he woke her.
"Did I start them? When I came to your office and said—"
His lips press into her hair. "What did? Sorry, you don't have to—"
"They started the night after she came back." He clutches her tighter. She presses an elbow into the back of the chair to sit up a little, kisses his brow. "They went away after you stayed with me."
"You know I could never hurt you, right?" He lifts one of her hands to kiss her palm.
"I know." She speaks before she can lose the nerve to bring it up. "This…mess of the past few months," she begins, "I don't want it to be something we can't discuss, but I think we should promise each other not to bring it up out of anger."
He hooks his ankle more firmly around hers to keep her with him. "I would never—" use the fact that you locked up my wife to fight with you, he's about to say, perhaps phrased more delicately but that's the point. She knows.
"I did, though."
"All right," he sighs, her hands shifting to his neck as she cranes to kiss his nose, then his forehead.
He brushes his thumb under her eye at the sight of tears caught there. "What is it?"
She shakes her head, goes back to skimming fingers over his face, his stubble. "I'm—" so defenseless with you she wants to say, but the words won't come, so she just snuggles impossibly closer and hopes he'll understand.
Storybrooke, One Week Later
They have the Charmings over for dinner when Neal turns six months old, to give you a break Regina had told Snow, and so Snow, David, baby Neal, Emma, Hook, Henry, Roland, Tinkerbell, Robin, and Regina gather around the dining table that's seen almost no previous use in the mayor's mansion.
After the guests leave, Henry gives the news to Roland—that the three of them have a surprise for him. He looks up at his father and Regina, bouncing with excitement, and they lead him upstairs to the guest room that's been designated as his. While he was away with Marian for the past few nights, the three of them had transformed it, from a neat taupe affair to Roland's home. The walls are deep green, the ceiling draped with heavy cream fabric that mimics the top of a tent, a lantern-encased fixture hanging from the center. His mattress sits low to the ground. "It looks like home, Papa!" he tells Robin excitedly, flitting around to inspect it. "Thank you!"
He gives his Papa, Regina, and Henry each a hug. Regina's chest swells. She's moved them both from the place they've always known, and she'd wanted to give Roland one place that really feels like his. "Papa we have to show Mama! She'll think it's really cool."
"We can definitely do that," Regina agrees. Marian has seen them together now, and they've all struggled through the awkward firsts and into a sort of calm. Regina knows the sadness in the woman's eyes, but she's also seen how they light up with Roland, and knows also that Marian will be all right.
Roland nods eagerly, then dives into his bed to stare at the ceiling.
"Are you excited to go to bed for once, my boy?" Robin teases, dropping to his knees beside the bed to give Roland a kiss goodnight. "Do you want to hear a story?"
Roland cranes his head around his father to look at Henry. "Henry?" he asks.
"I'll read you a story, if you want," Henry agrees.
"Yay!" Roland scoots over and pats the empty space beside him. "No grown-ups," he declares, "this is the kids' tent tonight."
Robin chuckles. "All right. Good night, Roland. Sleep well."
Regina steps forward, kisses Roland's forehead and then Henry's, ignoring the very teenager-y way that her son's face crumples up in protest at the gesture.
Henry hops up for a second with the promise of getting the storybook for them to read, and though Regina's immediate reaction is to tense up at the idea of Roland hearing her story, she realizes there is no one better than Henry to trust with it. (She does not know it yet, but Henry has been hard at work these past few weeks on new pages, about a mother and her little boy, and a father and his.)
"How does a fire in the fireplace sound?" Robin offers, weaving a few fingers through her hair.
It's been so long since someone touched her so freely, and though it throws her sometimes, she revels in it now. "Perfect."
"I'm glad Roland liked his present."
"Liked? Regina, I don't think he's going to be talking about much else for a month at least."
She chuckles as on of his hands reaches to play with her hair, the other stroking from just above her knee to her ankle and back, the fire warm at her back.
She's not perfect at this yet, having people around her and being happy. She probably never will be. But she is getting better, and she's proud of that. Proud that maybe she's begun to believe in all of it again, in love and happiness and second chances. In herself.
"Your smile is irresistible," he sighs, tracing it with his fingers, and then his lips. Her hands curl into his shirt as she kisses back languidly for a moment, then tilts her forehead onto his, smiling still.
She does not have to banish the darkness or hide from it if she lets the light exist there, too, in Roland's excited smile and Henry's half-hearted groan of embarrassment and Robin's touch. She does not have to fight it alone. And she does not have to live happily ever after, the way princes and princesses do in Henry's book.
She has to live.