The Queen didn't appear for breakfast and Robin hoped that sleep had come for her at some point. He caught sight of her in the gardens as he watched Roland play and as seemed to happen more and more he found her. Children and horses were excellent judges of character Marian always told him and he couldn't help but smile as his little boy turned this terrifyingly powerful witch into someone playful and light.
"Not quite what you expected."
Robin turned and saw Snow White walking up beside him. "What do you mean?"
"Regina. She's not what you expected."
He laughed, "No. You don't quite match your legend either."
She shrugged, "Legends are something no one can live up to. And besides, if you don't understand Regina you'd never understand me. There is a little of Regina in everything I do."
"You'd have to have been shaped by your history with her," Robin acknowledged.
"Yes, but not the way you think." She nodded down to the garden where Regina was holding Roland up to pick apples for her from the battered tree that had traveled between realms. "That's the woman I know. The fire and the rage and the hurt were ..."
"A mask?" He asked.
She nodded. "Regina is, under all those layers of magic and coldness a woman with an extraordinary heart. She loves deeply and with every bit of her soul and people took a beautiful young woman hurt her so badly that she needed to make sure no one could ever hurt her again."
He nodded, "Hurt people hurt people, my wife used to say." The princess nodded. "You can't possibly blame yourself for what she became?"
Snow smiled, "I wasn't guilty of the crimes she hunted me for. But I also wasn't quite the innocent. I loved her fiercely but not unselfishly. I wanted to be the one that saved her..."
"But that was her son?"
Snow smiled wider, in memory of the boy they all seemed to mourn without death, "Henry loved with the heart of the truest believer. He saved her." She sighed and turned to look at him, "If you think you're going to play some game with her heart I want you to know that I will hunt you down and kill you."
The transition from fond memory to threat was so smooth he wasn't quite sure he heard her correctly, but the intensity of her look now told him he did. "I ... wasn't aware that the Queen's heart was at risk."
"It isn't." She folded her arms, "Because whatever is going on in your head you are going to make sure you are careful with her. She may be a powerful sorceress but I am the best tracker in the realm and I will find you."
He smiled and held up his hands, "I yield, m'lady. I promise I have no ill intentions towards the terrifying despot." Snow gave him a look. "Alright, we're not joking today."
"I just got her back. I won't lose her again."
He tilted his head at her, "She's that important to you?"
"She's my family."
He just nodded.
The Queen brought Roland to the dining hall at lunch time. These days with the castle full of so many it was loud and boisterous. Robin stood up as she approached, "Sir Roland was hungry after a morning's hard work protecting me in the garden."
She didn't meet Robin's eyes. Which given all the other reactions he imagined from her after the kiss the night before was actually one of the better ones.
"Will you eat with us?" Roland looked up at the Queen who seemed momentarily stunned. She looked around at the Merry Men sitting around the table and Robin quickly gave them each a look which said 'best behavior'.
The Queen herself didn't seem to know how to say no to a child though and so she sat down on the bench next to Little John looking as incongruous as anything he'd seen in ages. Still she handled Roland with the hand of a woman who knew five year old boys and even Little John seemed to relax as she helped him cut his meat and asked him questions about his school work.
Robin didn't even manage to eat half his own lunch for watching them and after Friar Tuck took Roland off for afternoon lessons and Regina began to leave Robin inhaled and chased after her, "Regina."
"I prefer Your Majesty," she said coolly as she turned, "Don't mistake my fondness for Roland for any for yourself thief."
He smiled a little, "I actually thought the kiss last night was more evidence of that."
"If you ever mention that again in my presence I will rip out your own intestines and string you a new bow with them."
He blinked, "That's a charming offer but I rather like my current bow string."
She grunted annoyed and turned to walk away trailing her ridiculous cape behind her and Robin couldn't help but smile.