A/N: Alright, so this fic is an idea I had awhile ago. This is basically an explanation of why Tinkerbell was there to catch Regina when she fell from her balcony in 3x03. Mostly, it carries themes of empathy and unrequited love. That's basically the ship in this: Regina/Tink/Unrequited love. I don't even really ship then together, but this just made sense for me. Little snippet of outlaw queen at the end. Rated T for very brief allusions to rape. Please R&R.

. . .

It wasn't a coincidence that you flew by the palace that night. It wasn't fate that made sure you saw the young queen standing at her balcony, slamming against the railing until it broke and she fell down, down, down.

Actually, you've been spending quite a bit of time hanging around the castle. With Blue's constant criticism and the other faeries always looking down their noses at you, you'd been searching for a place to go, somewhere peaceful to get away from it all. One day you'd been flying aimlessly, still angry from a fight with Blue (you'll need to adjust the attitude, Green and a proper fairy is to come when called, not fly about looking for trouble and you'll do as I tell you, Green) when you find yourself in a magnificent garden, overlooked by an equally beautiful castle. It's not the typical structure-it's all hard lines, sweeping arches, metal and stone, silver and black. No turrets, no towers, no gatehouse and no banners waving on the wind. It's different, and you love it immediately, because maybe it reminds you of yourself.

The garden is your favorite place. There's hardly ever anyone there, just a dozen or so men who come every day in the afternoons to tend and to water, but it's quiet for the most part. You come back everyday for two weeks, sneaking off after your morning lessons with the other faeries. You come to know this place. There are roses so big and beautiful that you couldn't even fit them in your palm if you were shifted to your larger size. There are plants that are uglier than trolls, but that smell divine, and large shrubs cut into the shape of animals. You're favorite is the fawn; you sit on its leafy head and you can see the whole garden. This is bliss, your paradise, a place to breath and to find peace. Being told that you're wrong, you'll never be good at this, don't say that, don't do this, no, no, no day after day can start to wear on your heart, but here, in your secret hideaway, it doesn't feel as cloying.

You're sitting under the azaleas one day when the gardeners come, toting their buckets and shears and shovels.

One man says, "Should we bring some of this to the apple tree?"

"I'm not touching that tree," another voice says, "you heard what the King said."

"I know, but I never see her tend to it. How can she? I doubt she's got the time. T'would be a shame for it to die after it was brought all the way here. We should at least water-,"

"Do not touch that damn tree, boy," the man grumbles, and then the voices move away.

Apple tree? You've never seen one in the garden before, especially one that causes so much arguing.

It doesn't take you long to find. You follows the path around to the other side of the palace, and there it is. It's away from the main part of the gardens, and it looks rather out of place. It's right in the middle of a large patio, and it looks like the stone had to be cut through so the roots of the tree could grow into the soil. Nevertheless, it's a lovely tree, and the crisp smell of the fruit sweetens the air.

A few nights later, you're sitting on an elegant archway among the creeping vines of ivy. Blue had been particularly nasty today and the others had laughed as she scolded you. Your eyes are still puffy and red from the tears, but the moon is high and the garden seems to glow tonight.

You hear the sound of a door opening and closing, then there is movement in the darkness. A hooded figure passes by the ferns, the hydrangeas, the lilies-then rounds the corner towards…

Towards the apple tree.

You follow, and you hide behind a stone pillar, your wings straining as you arch your body for a better look.

It's a woman, that's all you can tell. She sweeps away dead leaves and trims the branches. She pulls a small basket out from under her cloak and begins filling it with apples. She picks the fruit carefully, checking it over before plucking it, and soon the basket is full.

The woman sets the apples aside, then lowers the hood of her cloak. The dark waves of her hair shine in the moonlight, but you still can't see her face. You fly behind another pillar as discreetly as you can. Now you can see her, and she is beautiful.

The glow from the moon makes her look ethereal as she stares up at the tree. She has dark, thoughtful eyes and her pink lips twist in a way that looks both happy and sad. She's young, not that much younger than you, and she looks like a beautiful painting-the fairest of them all.

Something in you shifts when you see her. You are curious. You had heard whispers of Leopold's new queen, no real information, only that she is quite young and possesses striking beauty. You see now that both are true. You watch her until she goes back inside, fingering the leaves of her tree before she walks away, but you don't see the tears that slide from her eyes as she moves back into the darkness.

. . .

You still go to the garden, but more often than not you find yourself watching the Queen. You watch from behind tapestries, tops of cabinets and ledges of windows, slowly learning about her.

You don't know her name for a week. She is only addressed as "Your Majesty" and "My Queen" by the castle servants. You note that the King and his daughter are nowhere to be found; the Queen dines alone, reads alone, plays the piano alone, rides her horse alone. She does everything alone. Then suddenly, there will be times where she is around quite a lot of people. She is dressed by handmaids, given meals by a flurry of servants and escorted through the palace by guards. Then, once she is dressed, or fed, or brought to her destination, the crowds are gone and she is left in silence.

Only one man calls her by her name. He is old and tired looking. His voice is kind, but it sounds as deflated as he looks. One night, the Queen is crying, her head laid upon her arms as she sits at her vanity.

"Regina," he calls, and he walks over and rubs a hand over her back.

"I can't do this anymore, Daddy," she cries. "I can't."

"It's going to be alright, Regina," he says. "You're the Queen. It's going to be fine." That's all he says. It doesn't seem to help very much. Regina doesn't stop weeping, but she reaches for her father's hand and doesn't let it go.

A few weeks later, the King returns to the palace. Your first visit to the garden was months ago, and as far as you know, he hasn't been in the castle. You wonder how he could leave his wife for such a long time, so young and lonely. You never actually see the man, but he hosts a ball to celebrate his return. It's a wonderful affair, singing and dancing, foods you've never even seen before, and wine is poured all night. It seems like a joyous event, filled with light and laughter, but Regina sits by herself, the throne next to her empty. She looks lovely, dressed in a blue satin gown. People stare at her, but no one speaks to her and no one asks her to dance. She wears a looks of kindness and polite interest all evening. Later that night you are perched on an arch on the ceiling of Regina's room. The sun has long since set, and she has been in her bedclothes for a while now, and yet she does not sleep. She is wide awake, just sitting in bed, staring blankly at the opposite wall. She would look like a statue if not for the way she's wringing her hands.

Eventually, there is a knock at the door.

"Come in," she calls. Her voice is even, but tense, like it pains her to say the words.

A guard enters. "The King is ready for you, Your Majesty."

She never even looks at him. "I'll be out in a moment."

The man leaves, and you look to Regina. You think you know what's going on but you hope you're wrong. Regina's face is a mask, but then she looks towards the door, and just for a moment, her face crumbles. Her eyes are filled with misery, her lips pressed together against her agonized whimper. Then she stands, and the mask is back. Regina's brown eyes are empty when she walks out of the room.

The King leaves again a few days later, and you breathe a sigh of relief. Regina's life slips back into a pattern. Some days you sit in the garden, but most of the time you are watching her. She has become your new safe place. You find comfort in the way she moves, the words that she speaks, the gentle caress of her hand when she picks an apple. She is your new garden.

You have never seen the Queen smile. You wish she could find something to smile about.

Then, you screw up big time. You give an enchanted mushroom-toadstool? Does it matter?-to who you think is a beggar, but is actually a witch in disguise and Blue rips you a new one. She puts you under her direct supervision, and she makes sure you are by her side from the time you wake until the time you go to sleep. You don't see Regina for over a month, and you know it's strange to miss someone you've never spoken to, but you miss her anyway.

Finally, Blue let's up. You fly to the castle. Regina is eating dinner, alone at first, like usual, but then there is a man there. He doesn't look like a normal man, and you know he has magic from the way he just appeared out of thin air. His skin glints in the candlelight, and you can tell. You've heard enough stories to know who The Dark One is.

"I thought you were dead," he says, startling her. "When you didn't show up for your lessons today, I assumed you went toes up," he finishes with a flourish. He points to something at the table, says something about a swan, and then-

"I'm not sure about these lessons anymore," Regina says. "I don't want a future that looks like…"

"Like what?"

"Like you," the dark haired woman sneers. Lesson? You know about The Dark One, and there's no other option. Regina's been learning magic.

She speaks of the King and his daughter, of how she feels like a prisoner, of how intolerable it all is, and there's an anger in her voice that's never been there before. "I need freedom," the young queen says. "I need options."

"Ah, can't be done," the man says, his tone completely uncaring. "You see, this is how it is: you think you are the diner at the feast, tasting the offerings. A little love, a little darkness. What you don't realize is-you are the feast. And the darkness has tasted you!"

Regina yells at him, tells him to leave, but he continues, almost gleefully. "The darkness like the way you taste, dearie! And now that it's started the meal, it's going to finish it." He points back to the bird on the table. "You can no more escape your fate than can that swan."

Regina's eyes lower, dejected, as the man tells her he'll see her tomorrow. "Oh!" He says, "And bring that simmering rage! It's all you have."

And then he's gone.

The Queen stands for a moment, unmoving, and then she stalks from the room. You don't know why, but tonight you think it would be best not to follow. You fly through the window and out into the night. Maybe you'll go sit in the gardens instead, but then you hear it-noise coming from Regina's balcony.

Her body is tense and she's teary eyed as she pushes against the railing. Once, twice, and the third time the metal gives a loud groan, and then Regina is pitching forward.

She falls, and you catch her. Your magic shimmers around her as you raise her back into her room.

"What are you doing?" She asks, her voice shaking.

"Giving you a second chance."

. . .

You steal the pixie dust without hesitation. It doesn't matter what Blue says, or that Regina's mother is the woman who rips out hearts, that she's Rumplestiltskin's student. None of it matters if you can help her.

You have never seen the Queen smile, but now she smiles because of you. Now she has hope.

Regina seems nervous for you, and maybe she should be. You've broken a lot of rules in your day, but none as big as this. Pixie dust is the most value thing a fairy can possess, and your stomach churns with the weight of it in your hand.

"Don't worry about me," you say, "this is about you."

You lift her into the air alongside you, and there is a moment before you scatter the dust where you hope that it will point to you. You want to love her, and you want her to love you back. You can escape together. But then the dust spreads out in a trail before you, and if your heart breaks, you don't feel it. Regina is your friend now. That's something you've never had, and this friend of yours has suffered. She deserves to be happy, and you promised to help her. If you can't pull her from the darkness, maybe her soulmate can.

You take one last look at her as she stands at the tavern door. She's staring in at the man with a lion tattoo, and your heart jumps at the sight of her. What a lucky man, you think, and then you walk away.