This council meeting is hell.
He sits, staring at his wife, noting how she subtly moves in her seat, attempting to stretch her lower back as her other hand settles over the small yet distinct roundness of her belly. She's flushed, whether from anger or those mysterious hormones she continually curses he can't be certain. But as her eyes narrow in Leroy's direction, Robin thanks his lucky stars that he's not the one on the other end of that glare. Grown men could wither up and curl into a ball under less frightening circumstances.
"That is the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard," Regina states, her lips pressed together into a fine line. "What good will a patrol of munchkins do against the Wicked Witch of the West?"
"Dwarves, sister," Leroy growls, his nostrils flaring as Regina rolls her eyes. "And we're the best choice for sneaking into her castle through underground tunnels-we're used to the mines."
"You have no magic," Regina argues. "And highly questionable reasoning and fighting skills."
"We were skilled enough to keep Snow alive and away from you," Leroy throws back. "If we can handle the Evil Queen, then her big, bad, green sister should be a piece of cake."
"And they are-" Snow stops herself mid-sentence, turning herself in her chair in an obvious attempt to make herself more comfortable, the advanced state of her pregnancy making it difficult for her to do so. "The right height for the tunnels."
The chamber falls completely silent.
"Did you just call me short?"
Robin grins at Leroy's indignation as Regina lets out a bark of laughter, inciting the dwarf's agitation even further.
"If the size fits," Snow utters, Granny's outright chuckle too loud to be missed.
"I expect low blows from her majesty over there," the dwarf says. "But from you, Snow?"
"She's tired," David cuts in, moving to stand behind his wife and rub her shoulders. His words have the opposite effect than he intended as Snow turns on him with a quickness one wouldn't expect from a woman in her stage of pregnancy.
"I don't need you to make excuses for me, David," the princess states just before returning her focus to the other members of the council. "I simply made an observation. If Grumpy wants to interpret it as an insult, that's his problem."
Regina's brows quirk in her step-daughter's direction, and Robin sees the beginnings of a smirk on his wife's lips.
"Well said, Snow," Regina acknowledges, earning herself a half-smile from her step-daughter. Both women are cradling their unborn, Robin notices, each resting a hand on the life growing inside of them as if protecting their children from the very real dangers of life in the Enchanted Forest.
"This council has become a baby ward," Leroy grumbles, rising to his feet and kicking his chair. "All these emotions are screwing everything up."
"Oddly enough, neither the queen nor the princess is the one standing and spouting off nonsense," Robin interrupts, his fists clinched, his tone dangerously low. His eyes laser in on Leroy, and it's only then that he realizes he has risen to his feet, as well. He swallows as Regina's hand closes over his own, and he's startled by how cool her fingers feel against the heat of his own skin. "I believe an apology is in order to both women. Wouldn't you agree, David?"
He regrets the words the minute they slide over his lips, hates how Charming's gaze moves from him to Regina, how his eyes hover over the growing bulge of her stomach before coming back to rest on Snow.
"I do," David states. Snow relaxes somewhat at his words, her own eyes honing in on Leroy who is turning a rather dangerous shade of purple. "Pregnant or not, Snow and Regina's thoughts should never be dismissed or brushed aside."
Nails press into to Robin's arm, just enough to let him know that Regina wants no more unwelcome scrutiny from the Charming side of the table, so he sits and clears his throat as he raises a brow in Leroy's direction. The shorter man's expression tightens into thunderous proportions, and Robin swears he spots steam coming out of the dwarf's ears as he turns and storms out of the room, a muttered I'm outta here lingering over the table where he'd just been standing.
"Let him go," Snow insists as David makes a move to go after him. "Leroy's a hot-head, but he has a good heart. He'll apologize when he's ready."
Every muscle in Robin's body is primed to follow the dwarf and shake an apology out of the man, but a slight moan from his wife deflates his anger instantaneously.
"Are you alright, Regina?"
It's David who asks, much to Robin's chagrin, but when he turns to look at his wife, it is to find her rubbing her temples and looking a shade too pale for comfort.
"It's just a headache," Regina utters, but that's enough for Robin, so he stands again and moves to her chair, scooting it away from the table as she rises to her feet. He marvels at how she deliberately straightens her spine and fixes her gaze, how she refuses to show any sign of weakness, even if she's not feeling well. "But I'm sick of this bickering back and forth. We can continue this discussion when the rest of you have come to your senses and not before."
"Emma's our only option, Regina. You and I both know it."
Snow's words freeze her in her tracks, and Robin watches as Regina's palm cups her stomach and out and out fear flickers across her expression.
"Zelena wants one of our babies, and we can't let her have them-either of them."
"I know," Regina utters, her face settling into a trembling semblance of confidence. "And we won't."
Robin settles his palm in the small of her back, and they take measured steps towards the exit, halted by words that make his stomach knot itself together.
"I won't let anything happen to these children," David states, his hand on Snow's shoulder, his gaze fixed on Regina. "I'll give my life to protect both of them-and their mothers."
Hot ire shoots up Robin's spinal column, making him stand absolutely erect on trembling legs. He's being unreasonable, he knows this, but he can't stand here and let Charming go on about protecting his child, his wife, even if he would do the same for Snow and the babe that she carries.
"Neither will I," Robin returns, his fingers fisting into Regina's dress. "By the gods, I'll destroy anyone who tries to bring harm to my family."
The men's eyes lock from across the room, something unspoken and primal hovering between them. It's only when Regina touches his bicep that Robin realizes his arms are actually shaking. The room feels hot, so he wipes his brow and steadies himself as she stares at him hard, her meaning painfully clear and sharp enough to slice through the white noise in his head.
Not here. Not now. Not this.
She doesn't relax until they're back in their chambers, until his heart rate has slowed, until he's settled her in bed and handed her a glass of water, until he's slipped off her shoes and begins to rub her feet, a gesture as calming for him as it is for her.
"I'm fine," she states again, her eyes closing in what he hopes is pleasure as he hones in on her left arch. "You, on the other hand…"
"You're not fine," he states, quirking a brow back at the one she tosses him. "I'm just angry at men who don't know how or when to listen. And you're a terrible liar, you know."
She sighs as she allows herself to settle back into the pillows and stretch her spine.
"I'm actually a brilliant liar," she insists. "When I want to be. And men are terrible listeners by definition."
"Did you say something?" he quips, watching her open her mouth and shut it as he pulls a reluctant grin out of her. He releases her foot long enough to slide close enough to kiss her, close enough to see the distinct lines of worry creasing in the corners of her eyes.
"She's not getting our baby, Regina," he says, languidly stroking her forehead with his thumb, convincing himself in the process of comforting her. "I give you my word."
"We can't stop her, Robin," she returns, her tone bordering on desperation. "At least not yet. I can't beat her, and she's eventually going to break through every protection spell I've conjured. And it's not just our baby in danger, its Snow's, as well."
He grins then, he can't help it, even though he knows that his timing is terrible, and she frowns back at him.
"What in God's name are you smiling about?" she questions.
"You called the baby ours," he breathes, something fluttering inside his chest as her fingers trail across his cheek into his beard. Her eyes widen as the reality of what she said takes root, and she nods wordlessly, her mouth hanging open in a way that makes her look downright adorable. Somehow the shift has happened-she's gone from thinking of this baby as David's to his, and it thrills him, makes him feel protective, unstoppable, as if he could take out Zelena and her entire legion of insipid monkeys single-handedly. His palm settles on the swell of her stomach, and he kisses where the child grows, hearing her sigh into his touch.
"You must be growing on me, thief," she mutters, and he chuckles into her stomach, allowing this newfound strand of happiness to slide over nerve and bone. She sits bolt upright then, her eyes rounding as her hand moves to her stomach.
"Is anything wrong?" he asks, watching as a smile breaks across her face. She shakes her head and guides his hand to the upper left corner of her belly, pressing it in as she holds her breath. It's then he feels it, a sensation so light it could almost be missed, but the utter amazement on his wife's face lets him know that what he feels is true.
"Did you feel that?"
He nods, words lost to him as he keeps his hand in place and sits upright beside her. There it is again, a whisper of a touch, a fleeting hello, the unmistakable signs of life dancing just below their touch.
There are tears in her eyes, and he leans over to kiss her cheek, to draw her into his chest as they rest against the headboard and stare at the hidden child they've yet to meet.
"It's really happening, isn't it?"
Her words are so soft they barely caress him, but he clasps them to his chest and nods again, pressing his lips to the pulse point just below her ear. All of his animosity towards Leroy, his unease about Charming, his fear over Zelena, they all melt away as something golden flitters against their fingers, a part of the life growing inside of her, the life he's chosen to claim and raise as his own.
That's when it hits him. Something has shifted inside of him, too.
This is his baby, not David's, he thinks, regardless of who fathered him or her months ago. He'll be the one cradling and soothing this child, singing lullabies and wiping a dirty bum. It will he this child will call Papa, he who will bandage bloodied knees and elbows and will attempt to piece together a heart broken into for the first time.
This baby is his just as assuredly as Roland is his, and he nearly laughs at the simplicity of it, his chest full to the point of bursting with both fatherly pride and joy. Parenting by choice is just as powerful as parenting by birth, and he wonders what has taken him so long to completely embrace this conclusion, even when his mouth had spoken these very words when he'd first held her on that cold stone floor. His child. His family. His wife. He believes it with every fiber of his being.
May the gods help anyone who dares to say otherwise.
"It is," he breathes, holding her as close as he can, his sense of awe over what is taking place inside her womb momentarily blocking out all that waits for them outside their chamber walls. "We're really having a baby, Regina. Together."