A/N: Hello all! Hope you enjoy this chapter. I can hear the wedding bells...please review and make my day.
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The morning of the wedding went exactly according to plan. As promised, Robin's father covered a hefty portion of the expenses. In the end, it had been decided that a simple, private ceremony was best. Just had to make it official after all, and the sooner the better.
Last year, before she died, Robin's mother had forced him to be fitted for formal attire. It was this outfit he would be wearing today.
"I want to see what my son will look like on his important days," she had said. He had no reason to begrudge the request. Robin can still remember standing in the mirror, the tailor making adjustments to the heavy, silver cloak, grief clogging his throat as he watched his mother sit weakly in the background.
"You look so handsome, Robin."
She had died the month after, peacefully in her sleep. It had been a long time coming. She had been suffering from a long list of ailments ever since he was a teen and in the end they overwhelmed her. His mother had been a petite, kind woman, with a boisterous laughter and a passion for reading. She had taught him how to ride horses and how to navigate the woods alone. When she saw her friends, they always played cards, and his mother won more often than not. His parent's marriage had been arranged, but they seemed to make each other happy. She seemed to tease a softness out of his father than no one else could ever quite manage, not even his son. Robin never knew how she knew these things. It had not occurred to him to ask. A thousand questions about his mother plague him daily, silly things always. What kind of jam did she like on her toast? Had she preferred lakes or the ocean? Which book in the library had she read the most, and which was her favorite? While he prepared for the wedding, as he washed and dressed, this usually cacophony had narrowed to one question in particular, one which he found he knew the answer to immediately.
He wondered, would his mother have liked Regina? He heard a voice in his mind, a feeling that resonated so deep in his belly he would have bet his life on it.
Yes. She would have loved her.
With that voice in his mind and the clothes his mother had chosen for him on his back, he walked into the castle chapel to marry Regina with an excitement and calm he couldn't have possibly imagined a few days ago. Golden, mid afternoon light filtered in through the stained glass windows. Fragments of colored light flickered across his boots as he walked down the aisle. Flowers adorned the front-most pews, where members of the Royal Council and some other people he had never met sat chatting quietly. Snow was already there when he arrived. When she saw him, she beamed and ran over to him. Her dress was yellow, adorned with so many ribbons and frills that she looked like an elaborate dessert.
"How are you feeling, Robin?!" She said, taking him by the hand. "You look wonderful. I can't wait for you to see Regina. She looks so beautiful."
Robin smiled. "I'm sure she does."
"I helped her get ready all morning," the girl said, shifting her body so the bottom of her dress twirled against the ground. "I know she does."
His father came up behind them then. "Snow, dear, you look lovely. Why don't you run along, the ceremony will be starting soon."
Snow looked at his father shyly and nodded, then smiled at Robin again before bounding back towards the altar.
His father took his hand and gave it a firm squeeze. "You look great, son. A beautiful day for a wedding."
"Thank you, father. For everything."
"You're welcome, Robin. Just think, tomorrow you'll be king."
A jolt of nerves tugged at Robin's gut. That part of the arrangement he had not yet grown accustomed to. "I know."
"Remember what I told you about that girl."
Robin's brow furrowed. "What? You mean Regina?"
His father tightened his grip on Robin's hand and pulled him close, his voice dropping low. "The moment your king, you can do whatever you want with her. I'm sure the people would be happier for it. They'd finally have a little piece of mind, and then maybe everything will settle down."
"By Gods, father, were you this cynical when you married mother? Were you going to throw her in a tower if she didn't satisfy you?"
His father's face flushed with anger. "Your mother didn't have such violence surrounding her at all times. Your mother didn't need to be saved. There weren't these accusations."
"What, about how she killed Leopold? I know she didn't. She wouldn't."
"Those aren't the only rumors I've heard, Robin. Regina is dangerous."
"Have you spoken to her at all? She's kind and beautiful and…" She understands me, Robin wanted to finish. She knows what it's like to feel trapped, to be forced onto a path you don't want, to be at the mercy of other people's plans. Instead, he drifted into silence. His father pounced on it.
"There are plenty of kind, beautiful women, Robin. Your safety and success are my first priority."
"My success or yours, father? Do not speak ill of my bride again," Robin said, surprising even himself with how threatening he sounded. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll get married."
He took a quick, steadying breath before turning back to the altar, where he knew Snow would be waiting for him. The guests at his wedding, most of them strangers to him, all watched in awe as he ascended the steps to stand with the priest. Lord Grey sat front and center, along with the rest of the Royal Council. They all seemed content, but Robin was sure that was because they didn't have to pay for any of this.
Soon enough, the music began. It was the harp, filling the air with something light and pretty. Regina turned the corner and started walking down the aisle, her father at her side. She was stunning. She wore a dress that was, from her own account, far less grand and imposing than the dress she had married Leopold in. That dress had been made by twenty seamstresses and had a train that took up the entire aisle. This gown was made of white lace with long-sleeves, and it hugged her figure to her hips where the skirt fanned out around her legs. Her raven hair was partially pinned up, the rest of it falling in thick waves down her back. She carried no bouquet; it had been deemed superfluous. Still, Snow had been right. She was stunning. Regina met his eyes from the end of the aisle and she smiled. Robin couldn't keep his eyes off of her.
It didn't matter whether or not this marriage had been arranged, he thought that he could be happy with Regina if they just had a chance to try. Their honeymoon would be some some desperately needed time away from this palace and every dreadful soul who thinks her to be a killer. The coronation was to be held the next day, after which a carriage was waiting to take the newlyweds to The Summer Palace. Finally, Robin would have a chance to breathe. A week to relax and get to know his new bride, where they wouldn't have any chaperones or people shepherding them to meetings. He could hardly wait.
When she reached the altar, her father kissed her on the cheek and passed her hand to Robin. The older man gave him a soft smile. The priest began talking but Robin couldn't be bothered to listen. He had become entranced with the feel of Regina's skin under his, the feeling of their hands entwined. She was about to become his wife, and with her permission, he would be happy to hold her and stand at her side for as long as she'd let him. Robin heard the priest ask him to say things and he did, listening and repeating and watching Regina's lips as she did the same. Finally, he heard:
"You may now kiss the bride."
The silence ringing in Robin's ears was deafening. He could now kiss the bride. He hesitated.
Regina was staring up at him with big brown eyes, her hand still in his. She squeezed his fingers, running her thumb over the skin of his wrist. He squeezed back, then released her hand. He cupped her face in his hands, his fingertips sliding over the softness of her hair, the end of his index finger stroking over her cheek as he pulled her face to his. He watched her eyes flutter close a second before his did, and then he was kissing her. It was a soft, tentative press of her lips to his. Her mouth was full and warm under his. He stroked her hair and shifted her head, deepening the kiss, and he felt her relax into his embrace. Robin could feel her breath across his cheek, her hands lifting to clutch at the front of his tunic. He was loathe to let go, but they did have an audience. With one final buss of his lips against hers, he pulled away. Everyone in the church cheered, Snow being the loudest.
. . .
The reception was lovely and quiet. A feast was served in the Grand Hall, with roasted game, rows of pies, tarts, and stews, plates piled high with delicacies that made Robin's mouth water, and enough wine to wash it all down. Besides listening to those who offered long-winded toasts wishing the happy couple good fortune, Regina and Robin sat together at the high table eating and talking and laughing. It was the longest uninterrupted conversation they had ever had.
"Did you feel today went alright?" He asked. He felt warm, the wine swimming pleasantly in his veins. He looked down and upon seeing her hands resting in her lap, he had the urge to hold one. Robin reached out, grazing the skin of her palm. Her hand opened like a bloom and wrapped around his.
"I do," she said. "Tomorrow is going to be even longer. Are you nervous?"
He nodded. "I am. I'm just trying to remind myself that once tomorrow is over, we have a week all to ourselves."
Regina smiled. "That will be nice. I've never been to The Summer Palace, I just know we have it. Snow talks about it all the time. It sounds lovely. It will be fun to explore, I think, if you'd like that."
"Sounds wonderful," he said, taking another sip of wine. "Regina, what was your coronation like?"
She looked surprised at the question. "It was, uh, a very grand affair. Snow's mother died many years ago and Leopold had been without a queen for a while. Many thought he would never remarry, he had been so in love with the first queen. That's what people tell me anyway. Everyone in the kingdom was there, it seemed. It was more about Leopold than it was about me."
She sighed and paused, her brow furrowing. "Leopold liked to show how generous he was, even if he couldn't afford it. His subjects loved him and he knew that. He loved being adored. Snow loves it, too, although she's not as insatiable as he was. My coronation was just another reminder to people how wonderful their King was. He found a mother for his daughter, a pretty Queen to have on his arm, and he threw a party to celebrate. Next to them, I faded into the background."
"I can't imagine that."
"Listen, I never met the man. I can't claim to know him, but you were his queen. You deserved to be celebrated that day, not him. I don't care how much people loved him, he should have worked harder for you. Being lovable and being loving are two very different things."
Regina nodded, looking pensive. "He was very loving towards Snow."
"And what about to you?"
She flinched, like he had pinched her. When she finally spoke, her voice was laced with anger. "I was nothing more than his pet, like a bird in a cage. He showed me off, sometimes he asked me to watch Snow, but other than that I was of no use to him."
"That's truly a shame. I can't imagine being used like that. What a missed opportunity."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Regina, that besides being lovely and kind and funny, I find you incredibly knowledgeable about what the kingdom needs. From what the Royal Council has told me, Leopold would have eventually run the treasury to bankruptcy. This kingdom needs someone smart making decisions right now. People probably wouldn't have loved him once they were starving or being taxed within an inch of their lives."
"Be careful, Robin," Regina said. "You don't want anyone hearing you talk about the 'Beloved King' this way. It's almost as dangerous as being around me these days."
When she said 'Beloved King', it was with obvious distain, and Robin couldn't say he blamed her.
"What can I say," he said with a grin, hoping to lighten the mood. "I like an adventure."
She laughed, told him he was being silly, and it was then Robin noticed a lady's maid waiting quietly behind them.
"Your Majesty?" The girl called.
Regina turned and once she saw the girl, her face fell. "Oh," she said softly. "I have to go. I'll see you soon."
She stood and slipped her hand from his before he could say another word. He wanted to kiss her, but he didn't. He had one more cup of wine and left the Grand Hall soon after, exchanging words of gratitude with the guests that remained. Snow ran over to hug him before he went, her hands and mouth dusted with powdered sugar from dessert.
"I hope you're happy," she told him. "I'm so glad for you two."
He studied her a moment. She was such a sweet little girl, even with both of her parents dead. He wondered if she would be the leader this kingdom needed when the time came. Then, with a rush of anxiety, he realized that it would be his job to show her what that ruler looked like. Another responsibility to add to the weight of the crown that would be laid on his head tomorrow.
When he returned to his room Robin undressed, exhausted and a little drunk, ready to fall into bed and sleep. He pulled on a pair of sleeping trousers, barely managing to tie the laces as he stumbled to his bedroom. Once he pushed open the door, the first thing he noticed was the light. The entire room was bathed in soft candlelight, a fire roaring in the hearth. To his astonishment, Regina was laying in his bed, dressed in something sheer and pale that left nothing to the imagination. She looked ethereal, the inky locks of her hair falling over her chest as she stared at him. He blinked and took a step closer to her, sure this was a dream. When she said she would see him soon, he hadn't imagined it would be quite this prompt.
"Regina," he said. "What are you doing here? I thought you went to bed."
"We have to consummate the marriage."
She sat up, the light dancing across her bare skin. He had never seen so much of her and he could feel desire churning in his blood. Her gaze traced the muscles of his bare torso, then drew her eyes to his. She had an eagerness on her face, but it wasn't lust. It was a nervousness, an impatience. She wanted to get this over with. Perhaps he was being naive, but he didn't want to lay with Regina for the first time unless they both had the choice. He would touch her when she wanted him to and not a moment before. Regina deserved to be treated as the queen she was. His mother would be aghast at anything less.
"Regina, I can't do this."
She pulled her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around her knees, covering herself.
"You don't want me?"
"No," Robin said firmly. "I promise you Regina, I'm very attracted to you. May I sit?"
She nodded and he lowered himself to the edge of his mattress. Gods, she was a vision. Her lips had been painting a delightful shade of pink that made him want to kiss her until it was gone. The smooth expanse of her skin entranced him and he wondered what it would feel like under his hands, under his mouth. He shook those thoughts from his head. Now was not the time.
"I never thought I would be King someday, Regina. It was never a possibility for me. This is all very new to me, as I'm sure it was for you a few months ago. Would I...would I be wrong to say Leopold didn't make you happy?"
"You're right," she whispered. "He didn't."
Robin nodded. "I want to try my best to make you happy, Regina. I want to be a good King, but I want to be a good husband, too. I just don't think that starting off our marriage by forcing something we aren't ready for is a good idea. I know the marriage must be consumated, but I want us to do it on our terms. Is that alright with you?"
There was a moment where they stared at each other, blue boring into brown, where she seemed to be studying him. He couldn't tell what she was thinking. Then, she reached out to his face in her hands and she kissed him. This wasn't the tentative kiss they had shared on the altar. This was a wild torrent of passion that swept him up like a tidal wave. Regina's lips met his over and over, her teeth gently biting at his bottom lip. He couldn't help but groan, his hands winding into her hair to clutch at the soft mane of it. Before he knew it, she was slowing down, pressing her mouth to his in long, languid embraces. All too soon, she pulled away, and he missed her warmth immediately.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said. He offered her a robe to cover herself with, draping it over the excuse for a nightgown she had on. She kissed him one final time, a slow, unforgiving kiss that only proved to remind him how utterly smitten he already was with her. With that, she left him to sleep.
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