A/N: Hey everyone! Things are really not going my way at the moment but at least my laptop is fixed. That's why you're getting a nice little Missing Year fic andI'll continue writing Roses Are Red to take my mind off things.
I hope you enjoy! Thanks to waterbaby for betaing
The winged beasts were attacking them from all sides, screeching in their high pitched voices, making the small group of fighters want to rip their ears off. Robin grabbed for another arrow, realizing shockingly it was his last one. His breath came out in quick stressed huffs and it was almost impossible to calm himself down. He'd fought many battles in his life before he'd become an outlaw, had killed dozens of ogres with one clean shot into their eye, remembered the times the Merry Men had been on the run from the Sheriff of Nottingham vividly but not once had he been forced to put up with monsters like this, who sidestepped his men's arrows like they were nothing more than irritating sticks. A small grin formed on his face when he remembered the Queen referring to his favorite weapon as sticks. It was a good thing he never missed, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to escape the monkeys' sharp claws more than a few times in the past few minutes.
Robin couched his last arrow to the string of the bow, breathed, aimed and released. It hit the monkey's heart so the beast dropped down on the ground like a stone. He didn't have the time to dwell on his perfect shot. A human scream reached his ears, making him jump around realizing in horror one of the monkeys had grabbed Roland and was now dragging his son up into the air.
"Papa!" Roland yelled terrified, trying to wriggle out of the beast's tight grip.
"Roland!" he shouted at the same time as another familiar voice. His eyes flew over to the Queen who threw a fireball at an attacking monkey, which burned to dust on impact. She raised her hands, a cloud of purple smoke engulfing her. The moment it lifted, Robin could see a small green bundle of kicking green fabric on the floor, which suddenly stilled and looked up, confused.
"Roland!" the outlaw breathed, relieved, before he ran over to his son who looked at him with tear filled eyes.
"Papa! Majesty!" Robin wrapped him into a tight hug, but Roland shook at him. "Papa! Majesty is gone."
"What?" He looked up to his son, then to the sky where high up he could see Regina fighting with the winged beast which had taken Roland only moments before. His eyes widened in horror.
"Papa! Majesty is gone. Papa!"
"Regina!" Robin shot up from his dream, lightly sweating. Oh god, how he hated those dreams. Wasn't it enough he had to deal with the monsters on a daily basis, did they have to haunt his dreams, too?!
"Papa, Majesty!" Only now he realized the small hands on his right arm, which were shaking him.
"Roland?" he asked confused. The candle on his rustic night table had already burned down; only the light of the full moon was shining through the window, bathing the room into a mystic light. Why wasn't his boy sleeping soundly next to him? What was he doing awake?
"Papa you have to get up, Majesty is leaving!" his boy whispered agitated.
Even though Robin's mind felt like it was still half asleep, he processed his son's words quickly. Regina was leaving? Why? What happened? "How do you know, Roland?"
"I couldn't sleep, so I watched the moon, Papa. It's so big and round and yellow like a pancake!" Pancake? Ah, yes, he remembered the sweet round thingies Granny kept on making for breakfast every other day, a specialty they often eat in the Land Without Magic. Grumpy swore on chocolate pancakes, but chocolate was hard to come by in this realm so he had to take what he could get.
"If Uncle John would see it he might try and eat it," Roland giggled but grew serious very quickly. "Papa will you go and get Majesty back?" Regina, right.
"Roland, how do you know the Queen is leaving? I thought you watched the moon."
"I did, Papa!" Roland explained exasperated, "But I saw her heading to the stables! I don't want her to leave, Papa."
Robin sighed. He knew his son was quite fond of the Queen, a feeling that seemed to be mutual in the way she talked to him and enjoyed his company. Sometimes Robin felt she spent so much time with Roland because she missed her own son, Henry, who was something like a forbidden topic in the castle. He'd heard some snippets here and there and of course remembered the moment when she'd almost taken the sleeping curse because she missed Henry so much. In the end, he was glad she hadn't of course, even though most times he was tired of her never ending bad moods she only seemed to forget when she spent time with Roland. It seemed as much as she enjoyed Roland's company, the more she despised his own, a fact Roland was quite oblivious of. Despite the fact Regina had told his son to call her Regina multiple times, Roland had declared her to be his Majesty after she'd promoted him to become her special knight - a job he took more than seriously at his almost five years.
"Papa you must go and find Majesty. Please!" His little man was staring at him with such pleading eyes Robin left out a huff and swung his legs over the bed.
"How do you know it was Regina anyway, Roland? It's dark outside. It could have been Belle, or Red..." Thinking about the full moon, this would actually make sense than the Queen leaving for the stables in the middle of the night.
"I know it was My Majesty, Papa! I saw her colors!" The colors. Right. Ever since the group of people from the Land Without Magic had been back, Roland had been speaking of colors when it came to Regina. The outlaw sighed heavily before he pulled on his trousers and shirt and slipped into his boots. He grabbed his bow and gold tipped arrows the Queen had given him as a thank you a while ago, knowing in times like these one could never be too careful.
"Alright, Roland, I'll go and check on her, but you have to promise me to stay here, okay? Little knights need to be well rested to protect their Queen."
Roland seemed to think about his father's condition before he nodded and crawled back into bed. "Good boy." With a smack he kissed his son's forehead and grabbed his long green cape before he left the room heading for the stables.
He had just left the castle and entered the court when he heard the soft patter of hooves leaving for the gate. Rider and horse were both black as the night if it hadn't been for the moon, which served as a natural light source tonight. Robin could hear soft mumbling coming from the gates before they were reluctantly pulled open so horse and rider could pass through. Frowning, Robin made his way over to the gates, surprised to see the soldier who was supposed to keep the wake sound asleep leaning against the stone wall. The man on the horse on the other side of the gate seemed to be suffering from the same problem.
A smirk crawled up on his face. No one was supposed to leave the castle at night, not even the Queen - an order from the Prince and Princess themselves - so obviously the Queen had helped herself with magic. A quick look to the solider on the horse told him the man was asleep but the animal wasn't, which came in handy for him. He pulled the solider down with some effort - the armor made him quite heavy and difficult to move - and rested him against the wall here he would sleep off whatever spell the Queen had set him under. Then he mounted the horse to dash after the Queen.
Robin had lived long enough in the woods to become an expert at tracking people and animals down during day and night so it was no effort at all to follow the Queen's tracks, keeping his distance. Who knew what the Queen was up to at this time of the night? If she really was leaving the castle and them behind what use was it to follow her? She'd never listen to him telling her to come back, to not abandon them. They needed her - Regina was the only one apart from the fairies with magical abilities. It sounded cruel but without her and her protection spells, they wouldn't be able to stand a chance against the Wicked Witch's next attack, a reason why even those who hated the Queen from the bottom of their hearts had agreed to move into the castle. Not that Regina cared. She knew most of the people apart from a few like Snow, Charming and Granny - even though she'd never admit it - only tolerated her because she protected them. Robin had found Regina to be a very complex character, always keeping up the mask and letting no one look behind it apart from Roland maybe. His son had told him the Queen was sad often and apparently she'd told him he made her smile - a reason Roland wanted to spend as much time as possible with her since he couldn't see his Majesty sad.
The journey through the forest continued and Robin found himself in a part of the forest he hadn't entered before - could that even be possible? Nevertheless, he followed the Queen's trail through the woods and came to a halt after one more hour. The moon seemed to have reached its full size by now, the usually black forest now shimmering in a white silvery light. Regina's black stallion was standing calmly next to a tree; its reins were bound to a branch. Robin got off his horse and parked his horse next to hers. Slowly he made his way around the animals, watching how the woods cleared to a wide glade filled with perfect white flowers. At a closer look they turned out to be lilies - lilies everywhere - and in the middle, Regina.
She was clad in a tight black leather riding outfit with a wide velvet cape slung around her shoulders. Her thick hair was falling in soft waves over her shoulders and back, covering parts of her face when she leaned down to pick up one of the brightest lily blossoms Robin had ever seen. It was almost as if the flower was shining itself.
Robin, star struck by the incredible view in front of him, stepped forward to get a better look at what she was doing. A brittle branch cracked under his weight, startling both the horses who let out a loud snort and Regina who jumped up while dropping the basket she was carrying.
"Who's there?! Show yourself you winged freak!"
Robin let out a deep sigh before he stepped forward, his hand raised. "Apologies Milady, I didn't mean to startle you."
"You," she growled annoyed and even though he couldn't see her face clearly, he could feel her roll her eyes at him. "Who invited you to the party?"
Robin took this as an invitation to step closer to her, taking his hands down. He was sure she'd have burned him to a crisp by now if he'd interrupted something secret. "My son, Roland, was worried for you when he saw you leaving the castle. He asked me to make sure you're all right and more importantly, that you come back."
The scowl on her face immediately softened into a small smile when he spoke of Roland.
"That's... sweet." Robin heard her soft hum before she bent down to pick up the basket and the lily blossoms, which had fallen out when she'd dropped it. Since she didn't seem to mind, the outlaw made his way over to her, careful not to step or damage one of the precious flowers and bent down to help her.
"Would you mind me asking what you're doing out here in the middle of the night without protection?"
"I think I'm most capable of defending myself, thief. And if you must know - I was collecting moon lilies." She pointed to the bright lighting lily blossoms in her basket.
"I've never seen lilies like these," Robin admitted - and he was sure he knew a great deal of the flowers and other plants of the woods in this realm. Friar Tuck had taught him a lot about healing plants and the symbolism of others. He'd never even heard of moon lilies though which must mean they were very special.
"This is because they only blossom once every five years in a spring night when the super moon is at its brightest - like tonight. They're hard to come by and a very valuable ingredient so I wanted to stock up on them."
Robin frowned at her. "Ingredient? For what? Please tell me you're not about to make another sleeping curse for yourself."
The concern in his voice made her look up and chuckle. "No, I'm not. They're mostly used for memory potions - don't worry I'm not planning on using one of these any time soon either. Wouldn't want to risk unleashing the Evil Queen while a Wicked Witch is running around." She chuckled once again even though Robin couldn't find the joke here.
Regina bent down to pick another lily up. The moonlight dipped her features into a soft white light, giving her a somewhat elfin look. She looked so innocent, so young that it made Robin's heart ache to know with how much pain this woman was filled.
"They're beautiful, aren't they?" Regina asked quietly while picking up another blossom, which glowed especially bright.
"Stunning... in every way," Robin answered, his voice hoarse. He wasn't looking at the flowers, he was looking at her. Regina, the Queen, was a fascinating creature - on the one hand she could be hard, cold and cruel, but on the other hand, when she was like this... the way she looked at the flower in her hand did things to him, stirred up feelings he thought he never could feel again after, well...
Regina caught him staring at her completely star struck. Nervously she flipped her hair back, clearing her throat before she dared to speak to him. "So... Roland sent you after me?" Yeah, the boy was a safe topic... right?
Robin blinked. "Yeah, he... he watched you heading for the stables and woke me."
"How has he been able to see me? It was so dark in the court it could have been anyone," she asked frowning.
"He saw your... colors."
"My...? Oh. So I was right." Regina picked up another blossom before she turned to a very confused Robin.
"Right with what, Milady? Is my son alright?" The outlaw started to feel uncomfortable. What was the Queen talking about? Did she know anything about the colors Roland was seeing?
"You didn't know."
"What do I not know? Your Majesty..." He started to sound desperate.
"Roland can see magic."
Regina sighed, looping the basket into the crook of her arm. "Roland can see when people have magical abilities. I don't know why - you must know this ability is very rare. If you're magic, your aura has a special set of colors usually nobody can see, not even yourself. It's different depending on what magic you carry inside. He told me he can see Red's and Granny's, too because they're werewolves, then there are the fairies, but they're always glowing. Roland can see mine, too, that's how he knew it was me down in the court."
"Is it dangerous?" Robin asked nervously which made Regina laugh. He looked at her in surprise - it was the first time ever he'd heard the Queen laugh.
"No, it's not dangerous... at the moment. However you should talk to him and tell him to keep his secret to himself because if the wrong people get to know about this, they could try and use Roland for their schemes... Don't worry, as long as he's with us, I won't let any harm come to him," she tried to calm Robin down.
He let out a sigh, knowing he'd need some time to deal with this news. There was a faint idea about how Roland had obtained these abilities. It couldn't be genetic since neither he nor Marian had any magical connections in their family.
"Could it... could it be because of the Black Fairy's wand?"
Regina's eyes shot up. "What on earth would you use the Black Fairy's wand on your son?"
"I didn't! I didn't use it on him, at least not on purpose," he explained defensively. "When Marian was pregnant with Roland she became very sick, so I broke into the Dark One's castle to steal the wand and heal her. It was the one and only time I ever relied on magic. I don't regret it!"
"I'm not saying you should," the Queen answered, "This turn of events is just... interesting. I would like to find out how far Roland's abilities reach. It won't hurt him, it'll just give me an idea what we have to deal with - only if you allow, of course."
"I'll have to think about it," Robin mumbled, not fond of the thought of Roland becoming Regina's guinea pig.
"Of course. It's nothing which would hurt him, I would never let anything hurt him, Robin." It was the first time she'd solemnly referred to him with his given name and not something like bandit or thief. He stepped closer, invading her personal space. She didn't shy away from him.
"I know you wouldn't, Milady. He cares a great deal for you." So does his father, Robin thought but left these words unspoken since he figured neither of them was ready for this, at least not yet. Still, his hand rose to wipe one of the loose strands out of her face behind her ear.
She sucked in a sharp breath however her smile watered at the thought of the little boy with the mop of brown curls who'd become her shadow in the castle, her little knight. Regina looked at Robin's examining gaze and for a second she wondered if the thief must do so too when he'd gotten up in the middle of the night by the request of his son to follow her here instead of going back to bed. His hand was still ghosting over her cheek, his thumb brushing her soft alabaster skin, from her cheek to her nose then down to her lips.
They stared at each other, unspoken words hanging in the air between them. When Robin started to come closer, leaning down to her, it was Regina who brought up the courage to turn away, hiding her blush from him and breaking the mood. "I should go back to picking my flowers otherwise the super moon lessens and they lose their power."
Robin cleared his throat. "I can help..."
Within moments her basket was filled with the bright shining moon lilies, which lightened up the glade. They went over to their horses, ready to ride back to the castle. Neither of them spoke a word; neither of them knew what to say. Once they arrived, Robin was amused to see the soldiers were still lying fast asleep on the ground.
"You knocked them out pretty well."
"Poppies' powder. Quite effective. A small portion can knock out a giant for hours. These two will wake up with the dawn, don't worry."
They stopped at the stables and Robin got off his horse before he held out a hand to take the basket with the lilies from Regina who thanked him with a smile before she got off the black stallion herself.
"I'll see to the horses, Milady. Go and take care of your lilies."
"I will. Nobody must know of this, you understand?" Robin nodded. Regina headed for the exit, before she stopped, turned around, her hands wrapped tightly around the basket. "Robin?"
"Yes, Milady?" he asked surprised to see she'd once again addressed him with his name.
"Would you... thank Roland for me?" She didn't meet his eyes.
"I will, however I think he'll want to see you returned safely first thing in the morning. I can stall him with John if you'd like to rest...?"
"Oh no, that's all right, he can come. Thank you." It came out soft, quiet, so quiet he almost hadn't heard it and he knew it wasn't a thank you for him offer to stall Roland. It was a thank you because tonight he showed her he cared; tonight the mood had changed between them.
"Good night, Your Majesty."
"It's Regina," she said quickly before she changed her mind, something she'd probably hate herself for come morning, but right now she didn't care. "But only when we're alone." Yes, she felt the need to add that otherwise she'd never hear the end of it from Snow and Tinkerbell.
Robin raised an eyebrow: "I'm looking forward to spending some alone time with you then, Regina."
She blushed, actually blushed and was glad it was still so dark the outlaw probably couldn't see it. "Don't get your hopes up, Thief," she snarled back in her most authorial voice, which only drew a laugh from Robin.
"I wouldn't dare."
Regina turned around with a huff and headed for her chambers. Robin watched her leave, her cape swaying while she walked regally out of the stables. Only then did he see the small bright white shining moon lily blossom where she'd stopped. He walked over smiling and picked it up, the thought striking that if he'd ever had to compare the Queen to a flower, it would be a moon lily.
"Good night, Regina," he whispered.