Since it's been a while since the last update, here's a brief summary.

When we last left Regina and Robin, they'd just settled down after their big fight (and Regina throwing a fireball a his intangible form), but even though they've come to an understanding, they both know there's still a lot to learn about Robin's condition.


When news of Robin's reappearance reaches the Enchanted Forest, rust-colored leaves swirl about the opaque morning mist and the Merry Men's shallow breaths can be seen in front of them as they lug firewood back from the forest. Regina travels to their realm alone, finding their modest encampment in the woods in the exact same place she left it. The Merry Men welcome her arrival with surprised smiles — she was not expected for another month — warm hugs, and a bowl of whatever mixture Friar Tuck's been cooking over the fire. She prefers not to ponder the contents of the dish she swallows with difficulty, its taste — something with apples — thankfully better than its texture.

John is the first one to ask about Robyn. She usually brings the little girl with her when she visits and Roland's been looking forward to seeing his sister again. He'll be disappointed to know she stayed behind.

With the exact workings of the spell they cast still a mystery, Regina hadn't wanted to risk bringing her niece or her father along on this trip. What if travelling through the portal severed the connection between them, ripped the thread tying Robin to their world and made him disappear? She hates being away from them, out of reach, unable to help should something go wrong, but knowing them (relatively) safe from magical interference in Storybrooke appeases the curl of trepidation in her stomach. She can only try her best to protect them.

Her answer has every awake eye in the camp turn to her. Conversations stop. Bowls clatter to the ground. In the distance, birds whistle, fleeing the cooler temperatures about to settle on the region.

Robin — some version of him — is back.

The men around her can hardly believe it. Sometimes, she hardly believes it herself, expects to wake up and find her soulmate gone, all of this a beautifully cruel dream meant to hurt her.

Few things compare to the strain Robin's death had put on the Merry Men. The band of thieves may be living together still, but they had years ago stopped living up to the legacy of their name. Believing in the ideals they long fought for hadn't been enough. It soon became clear Robin was the one keeping them together. Their leader, their friend, their rock. They'd drifted without him, away and apart.

Their answer to this bit of good news is immediate. For the next few days, there's an anxious sense of excitement in the air as they get ready to move back to Storybrooke.

While Little John and Friar Tuck gather their small amount of possessions, Alan leaves on horseback to bring the news to old members of the band who have moved on with their lives. Everyone is curious to see whom Robin's return will bring back, Regina included. She'd been sad to realize how unhappy the Merry Men had become in the years following his sacrifice. By the time things had finally calmed down enough in Storybrooke for her to pay them a visit, Will had already gone, seeking adventure and a second chance in places that did not remind him of what he'd lost. More had followed his example, month after month, leaving to help the rebuilding efforts in different parts of the kingdom, to marry into another, less broken family, or to go on thrilling quests, looking for stimulation amongst long lost artefacts. Some waited until her next visit to bid her farewell; others simply left notes with John, explaining their fresh start could not await her next visit.

For the longest time, Regina thought the group would not survive at all. John had aged ten years in three, bearing the weight of his failure to keep Robin's men together. Guilt had eaten at Alan until it devoured him whole and he nearly took his own life a few months after Robin's passing. Robin had saved him when he was just a young man, John had told her when she visited a few weeks after the fact, and his failure to repay the favour when Robin's time came haunted him. It was John who had found him, and brought him to a healer just in time. As for Tuck, he had gone back to old habits, finding solace at the bottom of a bottle.

Regina had protected them as best as she could, helped when and where they let her, but in the end it's the little man currently picking out mushrooms at the edge of camp who'd saved them from self-destruction. Roland has grown to be an eloquent ten-year-old despite the company he keeps, something that is somewhat of a mystery to Regina. She guesses the boy has more of his mother in him, a thirst of knowledge that rivals only Henry's, devouring novels and books faster than Regina can bring him new ones. Robin will be proud when he sees him again. The boy has made John smile, gave Alan a new purpose, and stopped Tuck form carrying a flask in the inside pocket of his cape. He's brought happiness to this ragtag group of people and allowed them to call each other family again.

It's with many of their missing friends that, a week later, they come back to Storybrooke.

When the portal opens, Robin is waiting for them on Main Street, flanked on each side by Henry and Robyn, standing near the archway leading to the entrance of Granny's Diner.

Behind them, a crowd worthy of their grandest celebrations has assembled on the terrace, prying eyes peeking over the fence at the people coming through the portal. Regina, Roland and John step out of the vortex first, followed by Tuck and Alan, Will and Anastasia, Arthur, Much, Mulan and others Alan had found in the last few days, everyone of them eager to see Robin again.

The volume of chatter amongst those assembled in front of Granny's raises and exclamations of pure joy erupt as friends spot each other across the street, but one sound surpasses every other voice in attendance: Roland's yell of Papa!,which has everyone's heart melting and a roaring applause starting.

Happy endings — this town does love them.

Before she lets the boy run off to his dad, Regina crouches next to him and cradles his hand in her palm. His short legs can barely hold in place, but he gives Regina his full attention. "Remember what I explained," she says, a somber expression casting a shadow upon her face. "You can't touch him."

Roland nods, so grown up and understanding, "I know, Regina," and she nods back, nudging him forward with her hand.

Not needing to be told twice, the boy sprints towards Henry and Robyn before Regina has even stood up. They both welcome him with wide open arms, crushing their brother into an embrace while Robin bends down to be of equal height with his son. Roland has grown so much since he's last seen him; Regina can see the bittersweet mix of pride, joy and regret, succeeding each other rapidly on his face. Blinking away one emotion to leave room for the next one, until it's all a blur.

She watches the scene from a distance, giving them a moment to be. Robin takes a good look at his son, separated from him by only a foot. His trembling hand hovers close to Roland's face, never touching him like Regina knows he longs to, but as close as he possibly can be. She wipes her lower eyelid with the back of her hand, catching her tears before they give her away.

"He's a strong boy," she hears John say beside her. His hand finds the small of her back, offering a touch of silent support.

Regina leans back into his hand, taking in some of the strength he's offering. "He is," she echoes, not bothering to hide her sniffles now that everyone but them has joined the crowd by the diner's entrance.

She'd come to have a lot of respect for John over over the last few years. He'd opened his camp to her despite his previous misgivings about her character and had never questioned the depth of her feelings for his best friend or the scars she carried everywhere with her. Robin's death had brought them closer, had allowed them to understand each other in a way they never did before, and Little John had rapidly become a protective, sometime overbearing big brother the former Evil Queen could always count on, and vice versa — who would have thought?

She glances briefly at him now, before turning her head back towards Robin and Roland, the latter excitedly chatting his father about all sorts of thing. "You know, he owes that strength to you." She tilts her chin back towards him. "You've done a great job with him."

A pair of inquisitive eyes are on her as soon as she finishes speaking. "Why, Your Majesty, was that a compliment?" he teases, knowing very well she won't let him get away with more than that.

She pins her lips together and pulls her gaze away. "Don't get used to it," she warns, stalking away from him, though not without letting him catch a glimpse of her smirk.

::

Granny's is so full, one can barely walk without bumping elbows with someone. Snow has outdone herself gathering everyone Robin loves in one place and providing some of the best food the Land Without Magic has to offer. Roland stuffs himself on Granny's lasagna, beer flows amongst his men, and she sees Robin be overcome with emotion more than once, pausing to survey the room with his gaze, taking in every single person he cares about, everyone reunited for him.

There's a shadow in his eyes, however, a dark cloud hanging over his head.

They don't know how long this will last.

She finds him in the back hallway, where once they exchanged kisses that left her giddy and breathless. A little over five years that was; a lifetime ago, it seems. Even at the beginning of their relationship, Robin wouldn't let her leave him without a smile on her face. He'd told her he dreamt of her smile; she wonders if he still does.

Does he dream? He doesn't sleep.

Flying monkeys, Wicked Witches and lost memories seem easy compared to their current challenge. Their young love knew nothing of what fate reserved for them, but as Robin lifts her head to meet her gaze, Regina leaning against the archway, she finds herself thinking she'd do it all over again. Without hesitation, she'd relive every heartache this relationship has ever caused her if it meant being loved by the man in front of her.

The thought surprises even herself, for there was a time, not so long ago, she'd have preferred never knowing that kind of devotion to someone. It's scary, sometimes, how far she's come.

"How do you feel?" she asks, turning the corner and putting more distance between her and the noise of the main room. Loud conversations turn to whispers as she walks towards Robin.

His shoulders hang low and he sighs. "I hate that I can't cry."

They'd discovered some of the limits of his existence since he first appeared. Though his body can move about their world in much the same way theirs can; his reality is one without life. While he has thoughts and feelings of his own, he is merely an image, a shell of himself. From Regina's understanding, the realm of imaginary friends seems akin to the Underworld, exactly like their own, but with a few differences. The spell had allowed him to cross over to their realm, but only partially, and the rules of existence and this type of magic are still very much confusing.

"We can't have all that we want," she tells him, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

It's a sad truth she's laying out before him. She too wishes he was real — or realer. She wants to touch him and feel him, more than she can adequately put into words.

He looks at her as though she's just punched him in the gut, but she's only telling the truth. They'd promised each other no more hidden feelings, no more lies. The only way this was going to work was if they were honest with one another, and the truth is she wishes she could do more than just stare at him. He isn't the only one hurting.

"I know," he replies, eyes dragging down to stare at his feet.

It seems it's all they have to say and she leaves him to compose himself, heading back towards the dining area when he says her name and she pauses.

"Thank you," he adds when she turns around, his voice sincere, his heart in the right place, just like it always is. This situation is hard for him, for her — for both of them. They can only acknowledge it and do their best to navigate it.

She nods, offers him a small smile — they're okay, she means — and passes through the threshold, disappearing into the crowd.

::

The bedroom is drowned in the faint, warm glow of her bedside lamp, the only light in the room as Regina pulls on her duvet, ready to slip in for the night. Raucous laughter erupts downstairs, the too many guests she'd agreed to host for the night having a hard time being quiet. She wonders how Roland got any sleep in that camp.

"I'm sorry for the crowd." His voice, coming from the doorway, doesn't surprise her like it used to. Despite being unable to hear the padded steps of his coming and going, she can sense him, somehow. It's not a feeling she can explain, but she's stopped trying to. All of this is inexplicable. Magic is involved in a way they can't fully understand, and she's decided to let it be.

Robin steps further into the room as she walks around to close the door behind him. "It was inevitable," she states, facing his unnecessary apologetic eyes. She smiles and shrugs. "They missed you. I can't have you all to myself all the time."

She can't have him at all, in fact. He's a ghost. A ghost she sees, hears, talks to, but is unable to touch.

He doesn't let her linger on that particularly sad train of thought. "Roland and Robyn are out for the night," he informs her, effectively pulling her away from the ledge of misery she was teetering over. "I thought we could turn in too."

Another fit of laughter reaches their ears. "Are you sure you'd rather not join them?" Regina asks, walking over to her side of the bed.

"Trying to get rid of me?" Robin teases, but quickly drops his playful air when he sees the look on her face.

The mattress dips under Regina's weight as she sits on her bed. Her hand traces the folds in the soft egyptian cotton, twirling in the fabric. "I just want you to do what you want." She won't meet his gaze. "We don't know how long this spell will last."

Silently, Robin climbs onto the bed, too, though the mattress does not give into his weight. He leans in, doesn't move an inch of his body until she's turned her head in his direction.

Up close like this, she can see every detail of his face: eyelashes, the swirl of magic in the blue of his eyes, wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, that damn lopsided grin. "My soulmate gave me a second chance at saying goodbye to everyone I care about," he says, unblinking. "She reunited my family under her roof and asked for nothing in return." His hand drifts to rest an inch away from hers. "I'd quite like to spend time with her."

The corner of Regina's lips pull upward, the hushed reassurances that she's worth his time, dead or alive, bringing some peace to her restless mind.

Her hand shifts then, accidentally colliding with his intangible form. His hand flickers upon contact. Ripples travel up his arm, through his body, as a wave on water, receding once it hits the shore.

"Sorry!" She cradle her hand to her chest, as far from him as she can.

Robin shakes his head. "No harm done."

"Don't lie to me." Worry laces her voice. "You wavered."

"I did." He holds up his hand for her to look at, before passing it through his stomach in a straight line. His image fluctuates in front of her eyes, like a TV with bad reception. "Like I told you a few weeks ago, it doesn't hurt. Please don't feel bad every time it happens." He waits, stares at her to make sure his words sink in. "It's bound to happen again seeing as I can't keep away from you."

It's a mutual feeling, one that appeases her worries, though doesn't fully remove the lump in her throat. "Noted," she agrees, her gaze travelling up and down his body one last time to make sure he's really all right.

Robin smirks.

"I should sleep," she tells him when she's convinced he won't disappear the moment she closes her eyes. He looks disappointed. "I still have to deal with your men in the morning."

She reaches for the switch on her bedside lamp, plunging the room in darkness. Scooting down underneath the covers, she listens to the rumble of the drunken Merry Men, to the sound of her breathing, and to the silence that has fallen upon her bedroom. In another life, this is the result of too much fun during a family gathering, in which Snow White makes fun of her for falling in love with a thief. Said thief steals her away from their guests to make out with her in the hallway, only to be walked in on by her son, all three of them blushing a deep shade of red. There is no way any of their friends are driving home in their state, so they pile up in Regina's spare rooms and couches, taking all the extra space she didn't need for so long.

It's everything her life could have been, but isn't, as fate has seen it fit to rip her soulmate, his friends, her friends, and their possible future life away from her too soon.

The bedsheets shuffle as she turns, trying in vain to find a comfortable position. She reaches blindly for the light switch, turns it back on.

"Can't sleep?" comes his knowing voice from beside her. He hasn't moved an inch, is still looking at her as though her gaze holds the answers to the universe. Once, it was enough to make her believe she did.

She wishes it was true, then maybe she could fix him. If there is anything to fix.

Propping her pillow against the headboard, Regina sits up, mimicking Robin's position. The bottom of her spine twists at an awkward angle, but no matter how many times she shifts her position, straightens her back, or crosses then uncrosses her legs, she can't seem to relieve the tension. She sighs and abandons the very thought of having a restful and pleasant night. It seems her body won't have it —

"Why does Robyn call you Regina?"

— and neither will Robin.

Her entire self suddenly becomes very still. Her eyes dart to the other end of the room, as far away from his as they possibly can. Her eyelids fall shut and she breathes, willing her heartbeat to slow as his loaded question sinks in.

When she looks at him again, it's with a deflective quizzical look and her usual snark. "That's my name," she answers with a mask of confidence she prays will not let her fears peek through. She'd forgotten how blunt Robin could be, putting her on the spot when she least expects it, asking questions no one else dares to address. Even with her past actions well behind them, the people in this town prefer to leave a matter untouched rather than risk igniting her anger. Not Robin. How many times had they engaged in verbal sparring during their all-too-brief courtship? How often had she run away to the solitude of her tower to avoid answering questions just like this one? Dragging her heavy gown behind her, trying to hide how much his words had affected her, lodging into her heart like a well-aimed arrow.

She has no tower to hide in this time. They're in her home, in her bed, which were almost his, too. He's seen her at her most vulnerable and he knows his aim is true.

His head inclines to one side, eyebrows raised in an unimpressed arch. "You know what I mean."

She does. She hoped she was wrong.

"How long have you been wanting to ask me this question?" If she's going to answer it, he may as well be completely honest with her.

"Since the car accident."

It takes Regina a moment to recall the event he's referring to: a quiet summer day, the sun high in the sky. Tires, screeching. Robyn so proud of herself for catching a butterfly, having no clue of the emotional turmoil in which she'd put the dwarf driving the car, the witnesses and, most of all, her aunt.

Look, Regina, I caught it!

She'd called her Regina. Not for the first time, but probably for the first time in Robin's presence.

"And now is the moment you choose to bring it up?"

He shrugs. "We're alone and not sleeping. Seems as good a time as any."

Regina shakes her head. "I was really hoping we'd never have this conversation," she confesses, eyes drifting down to the sheets. Hands joining on her lap, she fiddles with her own fingers.

"Well, we're having it."

There's the bluntness again. Served straight up, just like always.

For a few seconds, she's brought back to her castle and the overpowering need to get away from him seeps into her every bone. She pushes away the covers, flings her legs to the side and stands up, although her steps only bring her as far as the foot of the bed. With everyone sleeping at her house tonight, there isn't anywhere to hide. The mansion may be big, but it's no palace.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she spies Robin walking slowly towards her and smiles despite herself. She'd said no space and he's listening to her, not giving her an inch, but respectfully waiting her out when she needs time to process like she does now.

She thinks about raising Robyn, her soulmate's daughter — her sister's daughter. The little girl is too young to remember her biological mother. Slight preferences like apples and ice cream aside, she spent the last two and a half years in a home with her aunt and Henry, who treats her like a sibling, who loves her despite the heartache her conception had brought his mother. She, herself, sees Robyn as her own child when it comes to important decisions like school and teaching her the values love and family that will serve her throughout her life.

But does that give her the right to be called any other name than her own?

By the time Zelena sacrificed herself, Regina had forgiven her sister, as much as one could given the circumstances. While the Charmings were family, they also had each other when she wasn't around and Regina selfishly wanted a family of her own. Forgiving Zelena seemed like the easiest way to achieve her goal.

The two years they had together were filled with love and laughter, despite the destruction that had brought them there.

And Robyn, she knows nothing of her origins. She has a huge heart, is lovable and precious and a gem to everyone's eyes, especially Regina's. Perhaps when she's older, Regina will tell her about her story. It seems only fair to prepare her to fate's prejudiced treatment of their family, seeing as she has Mills blood running through her veins.

Sometimes, it feels as if a curse is following their bloodline, though Zelena seems to have escaped the brunt of it.

"I'm not her mother," she finally tells Robin because it's as simple as that — she needs it to be this simple.

He moves forward into her line of vision, his entire body poised to disagree with her. "Regina, our future may have been stolen, but not hers." His hands fist and he shakes his head. "I want you to take your rightful place in her life."

She immediately peers up at him, ready to protest. "But Zelena–"

"Screw biology!" He's angry, neck tense, shoulders and back rigid. "I know in the end she died for the right reasons, but that doesn't change the fact that I still hold her responsible for what happened." His gaze is hard, unforgiving, and if she didn't know about the goodness of his heart, she may have been scared by the look in his eyes. He seems to realize he's lost control, blinking away his frustration, and his tone is much kinder when he continues. "You may have forgiven her — that's all right. That's you. It's who you are. You have a big and beautiful heart, capable of so much more love than any I've seen before."

"I held a grudge against Snow White for forty years," she sasses back because what he's saying can't be true. Her heart is black, black and dark and cursed.

Robin's eyebrow shoots up. "Need I remind you you also failed to actually kill her at every opportunity you had during those forty years? If you had truly wanted her out of your life, she would not be a part of your family right now," he points out, daring her to say otherwise.

She hates when he's right.

"And your heart — your heart is what I fell in love with. That someone so… someone who has been through so much could find it in themselves to care about another person the way you did for your son was captivating. You were not at all what I expected — you are not at all what I expected. I can't begrudge you forgiving your sister, or wanting to move on and share your life with her — she's your sister, and you're a good person — but I haven't. I'm not that good of a man. As far as I'm concerned, you may not have changed Robyn's diapers, but you held her when she cried, you taught her to count and to spell, and you love her as though she was your own, even when you have every reason not to. You're her mother, Regina, in all the ways that matter." Though crying is not an option for him at the moment, he sniffles and his voice is heavy with emotion. "In exactly the way I wanted you to be… for the however brief moment I had to think about it."

Regina gives up on not crying halfway through his speech. Tears spill out on her cheeks around the time he calls her Robyn's mother, and it's not long before her shoulders are shaking, sobs wracking her entire body. She cants her head upward, looking at him through water-filled eyes. "What if I can't?" she whispers, thinking of her mother, Zelena and herself and how many bad choices they'd made over the years. Motherhood isn't a gift the Mills women have inherited. She raised Henry, but his lineage of that of a hero. He will never be seen as anything other than what he is, whereas Robyn will be forced to carry the burden of a family she didn't ask for. "Look at how the woman in my family turned out." Look at me.

His hand reach upward, a force of habit, before he lets it fall back to his side in defeat with a frustrated sigh.

"I know," she echoes. This is torture, seeing but being unable to touch, having him right there, within arms reach, yet a whole universe apart.

She hates this — hates talking, despises it. Ingrained in her are the lessons she's been raised with, the reiterated mantra to not ever let her weaknesses show. It hasn't occurred to her before the past couple of weeks how often Robin and her had used touch over words to convey feelings. When she first allowed herself to be vulnerable with him, words were secondary to his presence by her side. She never had to tell him how she felt; he just understood. He still does, except now he can't reach for her hand to offer reassurances, can't cradle her into his arms when she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, and can't make promises of forever through soft presses of his lips.

"If Robyn turns out to be half the woman you are," she opens her eyes when she speaks — hadn't realized they'd drifted shut — and, true to himself, he's read right in-between the lines of her fears. "I'll be the happiest and proudest father there is."

She steps tentatively closer to him, close enough she has to bring her chin up to see his face. Since he came back, this is the closest they've been and she notices little things she's forgotten: the lines at the corner of his eyes when he smiles, the various shades of blue in his irises, the specks of grey in his hair. It's enough to make her believe this uncorporeal form is truly him. An image almost as real as she is, as Robyn is, only out of touch, out of reach.

A defeated tear escapes her eye.

"What is it?" Concern laces his voice. Kind. Always too kind.

She wishes she could stomp on the floor, yell or throw a fit like Robyn does when things don't go her way, but she's an adult, reduced to clenching fists, nails digging painful crescents into her palms to let out her rage. When she speaks, it's as though her voice doesn't belong to her. She doesn't know who that woman is, begging for things she knows to be impossible, yet she's saying them, cracking open for Robin once more, telling him truths she'd normally keep to herself. "I really wish I could kiss you right now."

Instead of the defeated look he'd had earlier, a new resolve settles on his face. He presses his lips together, gets this pensive air about him, and asks, "Do you trust me?"

It's a stupid question, she thinks, but the intensity of his gaze robs her of speech, and she can only nod, not trusting her voice.

"Close your eyes." She does so, a curl of trepidation settling in her stomach. "Don't move."

At first, nothing happens. She doesn't know what she expects will happen. They can't kiss. He knows it as well as she. But then, he's talking, his voice gone soft and warm, and her spine straightens at his words. "My arm wraps around your waist. My hand splays at the small of your back, and I bring you in closer, cradling the left side your jaw in my palm." Does she imagine it or does her skin really prickle where he says his hand is? "My thumb swipes back and forth on the apple of your cheek." Is he…? She barely has time to formulate a thought on what's happening that he's interrupting her with more. "The pads of my fingers are a little rough against your skin — sorry I was out shooting all day."

Regina opens her eyes without warning, needing to see for herself that he's doing what she thinks he's doing. She finds his blue eyes a few inches away from hers, staring intently at her slightly parted lips. His arms and hands are exactly where he's described them, hovering over the places he'd normally hold her, as close he can without having them going through her. One false move on her part and the illusion shatters. "Robin—" she nearly chokes on his name, emotion looping around her throat.

"Close your eyes, love, please." Desperate eyes implore her to trust him, to let him try this, and while she has little faith this is going to work, she does have faith in one thing: him.

Nodding almost imperceptibly so as not to disturb the precarious line between their realities, Regina lets her eyelids fall shut again, relaxing her shoulders and clearing her thoughts. As she imagines him holding her, letting his words fill her mind and body the way his presence would when he was alive, her doubt drifts away, leaving room in her mind for only one thing: him and her.

Robin is silent for a few seconds, lets the moment grow heavier, and she thinks this is just like him, promising to sweep her off her feet and letting things drag on and on and on. She keeps her eyes closed, but can't help but flirt, "If you're going to kiss me, you better do it today," arching one challenging brow.

It breaks the tension, just as she wanted, and she smiles as he chuckles, the sound even warmer than she remembers for she can't see his face, has to rely on her other senses and imagination to paint the picture of the moment: the flash of his dimples when he grins, teeth digging into his lower lip as he contemplates her face, the way his eyes will not leave hers. Eagerness chases away the last of her apprehension, lips parting as she exhales.

"I'm brushing a thumb over your upper lip, from left to right, stopping over the scar you don't like, but which makes you all the more attractive to my eyes. Your story is etched onto your face, Regina, and you're beautiful not in spite of it, but because of it." She thought she'd cried every tear in her body, but a new one slips between her eyelashes. Damn him. "I'm leaning in closer, pressing my lips over the soft dent in your skin, lingering for a few seconds to make sure it sinks into that beautiful, stubborn brain of yours," his words draw up a corner of her mouth, "that you're the most courageous, brilliant and amazing woman I've ever set eyes on." Regina resists the urge to open her eyes, wants to move forward and capture his lips badly, but she can't — they can't. Still, despite how frustrating he's making this moment, her mouth curves upward, cheeks flushing with his compliments. "There, that's more like it," Robin says, and she knows a satisfied smirk to be anchored to his lips as he says it. "I'm going to wipe the trail of that tear and kiss you until you forget how to breathe. Can you feel it?" She can feel him, almost. "I'm hovering, just an inch above your mouth, and closing the distance, capturing those magnificent lips of yours in a slow, languid kiss. Your head inclines to the left," Regina does just what he says, completely lost in this world he's created, "as mine goes right, and I pull you even closer. My fingers thread through your hair, pushing it behind your ear as we delve in deeper—"

"Robin?" She's breathless when she says his name, but keeps her eyes firmly shut.

"Yeah?" she hears him say, panting, too.

"Shut up."

He does as he's asked, but she doesn't move, moaning in the back of her throat at all the sensations his kiss has stirred inside her body, and she revels in that, revels in him, in his words. The air between their mouth tickles. She can almost feel him, his lips unmoving above hers, on hers, giving and taking, his mouth pliant against her own.

When she opens her eyes, he's still impossibly close to her, deep blue eyes staring right into her soul. "I love you," she breathes against his mouth, her body refusing to move an inch, for fear of losing this brief connection they've established, but the clock is ticking, and they're running out of time. Soon, they'll have to part, to return to their respective realities, together yet apart.

"I love you too," he whispers.

It occurs to her that this is the first time they've said the words out loud. Yet another thing that they'd communicated without words, letting their actions speak for themselves, believing they had eternity to get around to telling each other how they felt.

"This is unfair." Her voice breaks. Water rushes to her eyes. "You should have been a part of her life."

Robin shakes his head. "I am a part of her life — of your lives. I'll always live on in your hearts."

Regina can feel her resolve shaking, breaking down and crumbling to her feet. She trembles in her want of impossible things, murmurs a barely audible wish for his ears only: "I want to make love to you."


As you can probably guess, rating will go up in the next chapter.