A response to a prompt over on tumblr for a missing year/Regina's birthday fic. This is what happened.

She'd never really celebrated her birthday - not until Henry.

When she was younger, her father would wake her with a smile and a kiss and a 'Happy Birthday, Regina', but then Cora would frown, tell him 'it just means she is another year older' before dispelling any sentiment and beginning her lessons for the day.

There was one year with Daniel, one glorious birthday, and she can still remember the smell of warm hay, the sight of it glowing golden in the sun, pieces fluttering off of her riding coat the moment she raced out of the stables, him following behind, huge grins painting both of their faces.

But that was only one year, and then Daniel was gone, and she was left to celebrate her birthday with a king who'd never cared to ask the date and a stepdaughter who'd never thought to. In the end she was glad for it, would have despised spending her birthday wearing a mask of contentment at a ball thrown in her honor. A party where she would go unseen, where she would be nothing. She could do that without a ball.

The years passed, so many years, and then there was Henry.

She doted on him each and every birthday, lavished him with gifts of all sorts, and when he turned four he'd asked her, just after blowing out his candles, "Mommy, when do we have your party?"

After that she'd celebrated. Not very much, never with a party, but she'd wake up to Henry beside her bed, homemade card in hand, and each year she'd let him have a cupcake, and he'd whine until she'd indulge in one herself, but not before plopping a candle in the frosting and making her wish.

Of course, that had come to an end; like all good things always do.

It was when he'd found out he'd been adopted. A couple months before her birthday that year, a day that came and went without a card, without so much as a word from her son. His birthday came and went the same way with the exception of her wish of 'happy birthday' that had fallen on deaf ears and the gifts that remained unopened, cluttering the dining room table until she'd finally thrown them in the closet one rainy afternoon a week later.

After that, well, things went to hell after that, and between Neverland and New York there really hadn't been much time to celebrate.

Now all she has is time. An endless abyss of seconds and hours and days spent alone in a castle bustling with people. Some days everything feels oh so very much like it used to. Trapped between these cold walls, suffocated by glaring eyes and sparkling corsets day in and day out.

But not today. Today she won't let the confines of the castle fold over her until she is churning with anxiety. Today she won't let the people stare daggers her way or pass by like she's as invisible as she'd always felt in this place. No, today she'll remain in her courtyard, a place others know not to trespass, or so she had thought..

The brightness of the day is slowly fading to evening when she learns otherwise.

"I thought perhaps a flying beast had made off with you." His voice is irksome, as always, more so today, and why must he be so adept at finding her, at seeking her out when it's the last thing she wants.

She doesn't respond, just breathes out a deep sigh through her nose, letting her eyes fall shut before schooling her features, turning to send him a pointed glare where he stands only a few paces behind her. He isn't worth the effort it takes, doesn't deserve her gaze at all, so rather than waiting for him to recoil and scamper away (he never will, never does) she turns back to her view, watches the trees dance with the wind, leaves fluttering and waving.

Not even a minute passes before she can hear his boots against the ground, and just like she knew he would he moves closer, stands right in her periphery before coming to a halt. Her whole body tenses at the invasion, muscles taut and coiled in a way they haven't been all day, not today, not all alone, but he had to come invade her bubble, had to turn her already glum mood uneasy as well. She always feels apprehensive with him.

"Roland was asking after you at dinner." She nearly turns his way at that, because although she holds little regard for the thief, his son holds her highest esteem, and she hates the thought that the boy be needlessly concerned for her.

"I'm fine," she does settle her eyes on him then, a distasteful stare she hopes will send him walking once she finishes with, "as you can see."

His body shifts, no longer facing the distant horizon, but instead turning inward, turning toward her, clearly inviting a conversation she has no intention of providing. "I do see, Your Majesty."

She turns back to her view, drops her shoulders, lifts her chin, the very picture of regality. Unapproachable, that's what she's going for - intimidating. Why doesn't it ever work with him?

"I see that you have most likely been here all day, alone. That you have missed every meal, that you chose to be absent from the council meeting, but I can also see, Your Majesty, quite clearly, that you are not fine."

Her eyes narrow accusingly in response to his assessment, and she doesn't know what it is that finally breaks her resolve. If it's his words, or the glint of concern in his blue eyes, the empathetic crinkle of his brow, but it doesn't really matter. Whatever it is, whatever has her spine relaxing, her mouth opening, in this moment she is grateful for it, grateful for the relief of it.

Regardless of how unsolicited it comes.

"It's my birthday today." She says it with a melancholy smile, soft and dimming the moment it began, and for a moment she waits, pauses for his response, but he remains silent beside her.

"Henry used to wake me," her eyes flutter back to him, and she finally turns her body, finally accepts this for what it is (whatever that may be), "and I remember feeling so whole in those moments; with his innocent eyes smiling at me. I felt...worthy." She inhales deeply, swallows thickly, and blinks back the moisture gathering like a film across her vision. "But I was never really whole, not even with him." Her gaze leaves him, finds an errant leaf floating through the sky, carried away and away with the cool breeze into the orange horizon, and she briefly wonders when it got so late.

"We can't rely on another person to make us feel complete, Regina." She knows that, knows that now anyway, and she thinks anyone else speaking those words would ruffle her enough to end this uncharacteristic exchange, but she can tell he is speaking from experience, from a nostalgic place that has his eyes momentarily unfocused when she turns back his way.

"Do you think that maybe some people are born incomplete?" The edge of curiosity in her voice surprises even her, has her tilting her head and dropping her gaze to the crease in his cheek before continuing. "That some are destined to spend life searching for that missing piece to finally fill a void, only to find that there is no such piece, that the emptiness is actually a flaw in the very fabric of their being?" How morose she thinks, and maybe she shouldn't have let the day pass away without eating a crumb. The dip in her blood sugar seems to turn her even more despondent than normal. Quite a feat.

"Like a seam that went unstitched?" He steps closer to her, close enough to have her shoulder bump his chest if she were to turn back to the view of her courtyard. "You know what I say to that? You weren't born missing a stitch, Regina. You lost your way. You can find it again." Part of her thinks he sounds like Snow - hopelessly hopeful - but there's an awareness in his gaze, understanding, insight.

She closes her eyes, lids pulling down slowly over brown, and sucks in her lower lip. When she opens them again there is an unwelcome wetness clinging to her lashes, and Robin is still there, watching, waiting.

"I miss my son." She hates the fact that the words leave her mouth in a near choked sob, hates how weak she feels, how irrationally torn open she is for this man. His eyes never leave hers, not when his hands lift, one feathering fingers through what's down of her hair, settling at the base of her skull, and the other wrapping around to the small of her back until there is no longer that space between them, their bodies pressing together.

It feels alien at first, and she wonders how long it's been since she's felt the warm embrace of another. She thinks it was Henry, and her eyes squeeze shut at the recollection.

They stay like that until the orange hues in the sky are replaced by the twinkling of stars, and his shoulder is damp with silent tears, but he doesn't complain, doesn't say a word even as she ultimately steps back.

She grits her teeth at the loss of contact, the warmth she so fragiley accepted and he so freely offered. For a moment she thinks of shifting, melting back into the facade of evil regality, but she doesn't. Instead she finds herself offering him an earnest smile, bites back the thank you that nearly leaves her tongue, and bids him a goodnight before turning toward the castle.

"Regina," she halts her steps, straightens her spine while facing away from Robin - no, the thief, the irritating thief - and when she opens her lips, prepares to correct him on the usage of her name, his next words bury the retort in her throat,

"Happy Birthday."