The Christmas Wish
A/N: Here's my offering for Christmas this year! It's a non-magical AU, though maybe that's a bit of a stretch. There may be some magic at play throughout the story. I hope everyone enjoys it!
Dedicated to GlindaLovesShoes and Rachael728once, who both got to ready this in advance and whose comments helped me as well as encouraged me to keep going. Thank you both so, so much.
An additional thank you to GlindaLovesShoes, who also made the cover art for this story!
Chapter 1: A Wish for Santa
Christmas was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
As a single mother, Regina Mills did her best to make sure it was for her darling son, Henry. They decorated their house the day after Thanksgiving when the weather was still agreeable, allowing the two to hang multicolored lights around their windows as well as the columns and railings on their deck. Regina also swallowed down her fear of heights to climb up a ladder and place a lit-up Santa in his sleigh as it was pulled by his reindeer, including Rudolph and his blinking red nose, on her roof. Illuminated snowmen and blow up scenes were set out on the lawn, making sure they never missed their house throughout the month of December.
It still didn't hold a candle to how bright Henry's smile was and that alone made it all worth it.
Two weekends later always found them out in the forest around their little town of Storybrooke, Maine, where the best Douglas firs grew. She bundled Henry up in his warmest coat, a festive hat and scarf as well as his thickest gloves before donning similar apparel herself. Hand-in-hand they walked through rows of trees, searching for the right one to live in their living room until the New Year. Regina was willing to pay any cost for the best tree and drove their pick carefully home. They then spent the rest of the night decorating it with ornaments Regina had collected over the years and ones Henry had made since starting school. Beautiful glass orbs hung with handprint Santas and clothespin reindeer. All with a star on top, ready to shine down on the mount of presents Regina made sure he had to open every Christmas morning.
Getting that mound of presents, though, meant fighting crowds at the mall every year, which disrupted the tight schedules she created to help juggle mommyhood and her career. Yet she still managed to get Henry up, dressed, fed with a healthy breakfast and off to school with an equally healthy lunch each morning. Then she went off to either her office or court, depending on her cases as an assistant district attorney.
After a day spent arguing both in court and out of it, she picked up Henry from the school's aftercare program. Tuesdays were for soccer practice while Thursdays were his scout meetings before a home-cooked meal and homework. Henry knew he was to take a bath and then he curled up next to her on the couch for an hour of reading. Once he was tucked in for the night, she returned to the couch for some good television and a glass of wine.
Their weekends were spent together, doing every fun thing Regina could think of. Day trips, movie marathons, games and the like filled those days and nights. Saturday nights were also bath nights for her, a chance for her to unwind from the week once Henry was asleep. Regina loved her weekends.
It was a schedule that worked throughout the rest of the year and that Christmas screwed up. There were many trips to the mall either after work or on the weekends so she could find all the gifts she needed for Henry and her family. Because of this, there were more dinners spent at restaurants or fast food places than she would like. However, it was easier than trying to cook after being pushed and jostled by less than merry shoppers.
Yet the piece de resistance was the visit to Santa so Henry could tell him what he wanted.
Henry pulled her through the crowded mall, knowing the way to Santaland by heart as it was always set up in the dead center of the mall. "Come on, Mom," he said. "We don't want to miss Santa!"
"Slow down, Henry! Santa is not scheduled to return to the North Pole until seven o'clock," Regina said, trying to rein in her son as she dug in her heels.
It didn't appease her son. He only tugged her hand harder. "Come on, Mom. We're going to be late."
"Henry Daniel, I told you Santa's not leaving for several hours. We won't be late for him."
"I'm not talking about Santa! We'll be late meeting Roland!" Henry explained, looking exasperated. He looked like her, to be honest, even though they shared not a lick of DNA.
Regina knew she had a similar look on her face as they finally stopped. She blew out the side of the mouth, trying to get a loose tendril of dark hair out of her eye as she took stock of her situation. Her son had made plans with his best friend and forgot to tell her about them. Typical Henry.
Then again, he was only seven years old.
"Roland can wait a few minutes," she said, "so we can walk slowly to Santaland. Okay?"
Henry frowned at her. "We want to see Santa together. And his dad has work."
Of course. There was only one thing that could make a trip to the mall at Christmas time worse-Robin Locksley, Roland's infuriating single father. He owned the local sporting goods shop, which did a good business thanks to contracts with the schools of Storybrooke that Regina had to begrudgingly respect him for securing. Since he owned a shop right on Main Street, he was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and very active in Storybrooke, forcing Regina to have to deal with him more often than she would like. Which included on the board of the PTA since they both sat on it. There, he seemed gung-ho about two things: making sure the kids got plenty of exercise and besting her.
So Robin Locksley was the last person she wanted to spend any amount of time with but like she always did, she would grit her teeth and put up with him for Henry's sake.
"Are you mad?" Henry asked, concerned. His hazel eyes teared up and his lower lip quivered.
She blew her anger out, shaking her head. "I just wish you had told me earlier. We could've made appropriate plans so we didn't have to rush."
"Sorry, Mom." He hung his head.
"It's okay," she said, taking his hand. "Now, where are we meeting Roland?"
Henry looked up again, smiling. "By the Polar Express so we can ride it before going to see Santa."
She took his hand in hers, swinging their arms as they approached the center of the mall, where several escalators crisscrossed as people rode them between floors. Set right in the middle was the North Pole-fake snow covering a red carpet and fake trees as a small train wrapped around it. The centerpiece was a fake log cabin labeled "Santa's workshop" over a giant gold throne flanked by human-sized plastic candy canes.
They approached the booth set up at the entrance so parents could purchase tickets for the Polar Express. She frowned as she saw no sign of the Locksleys.
"There they are!" Henry pointed past the booth, toward the entrance to the East Wing of the mall.
Roland Locksley tugged at his father's hand, pulling him along like Henry had done to her earlier. Though he almost tripped a few times, Robin's amused smile never faltered.
Father and son could not look more different. Roland had dark curly hair and coffee brown eyes. His skin was olive-toned which was made darker by the time he spent outdoors with his father. Regina believed Roland favored his late mother, though she never met Marian Locksley. Her death had brought Robin and Roland to Storybrooke as Robin had some friends here who had offered to help him with his young son. All of this had been conveyed to Regina by some well-meaning matriarchs, who no doubt thought to set up the young, successful and beautiful single mother with the young, successful and handsome single father.
If pressed and her life were on the line, Regina would admit that Robin Locksley was handsome. His skin was also sun kissed from his time outside. Paired with his thick blond hair and bright blue eyes, he could almost be considered an Adonis. Not even the gray hairs she spotted at his temples could detract from it nor did the scruff he refused to shave, despite his overall professional appearance. She sometimes hated herself for having flutters when she saw him. Once they were in the middle of a fight, though, those flutters were gone and she didn't feel so bad anymore.
All the busybodies of Storybrooke could put their wedding hats away. Regina Mills was never marrying Robin Locksley.
The Locksleys reached them and Roland high-fived Henry. He then smiled up at Regina, revealing the adorable dimples he inherited from his father. "Hello, Ms. Regina," he said.
"Hello, Roland," she replied, crouching down to look him in his chocolate brown eyes. "Excited to see Santa?"
He nodded. "Henry and I both know what we want for Christmas."
"I'm sure you do," she said, thinking of the list she had Henry write out every year.
Robin smiled. "Shall we put these two in line to see Santa?"
"I think they wanted to ride the Polar Express first," she said, wrapping her arm around a smiling Henry. "We should probably buy a ticket."
He nodded, pulling out his wallet as she did the same. They bought their sons tickets for the train and brought them to the entrance. A familiar elf greeted them, wearing a dark green velvet dress with matching pointy-toed shoes. Blonde curls peeked out from under her hat and glitter covered her face to give her a whimsical appearance. She crouched down to look Henry and Roland in the eyes, winking at them. "You two ready to take the train to Santa?"
They cheered and she straightened out to address Robin and Regina. "They'll be put on line once they get off. You two can go wait over by the exit," she instructed, pointing to a trellis painted gold with a velvet rope across another bored elf would unlatch to let excited children reunite with their parents.
Regina crouched down to be eye level with her son. "Mr. Robin and I will be at the exit. You and Roland behave yourselves, okay?"
"We will, Mom," Henry assured her, hugging her. "I promise we won't give Tink any problems."
Tink, the elf who was usually her faithful babysitter, nodded as she took their hands. "They're good kids, Regina."
Straightening up, Regina and Robin watched their sons board the Polar Express and waved as the little train rolled away. Regina could see the line for Santa and was relieved that there weren't many children on it. Maybe she would be done shopping early as well.
"Would you like to grab something to eat with us after this?" Robin asked as they walked over to the exit.
Regina hesitated. The idea of spending more time with Robin Locksley was not appealing in the slightest. Yet Henry loved spending time with Roland and she never denied him that just because she couldn't stand Robin. "We'll see," she replied.
He nodded, though she could tell by how he pressed his lips together that he knew she would find some way out of it. But why would he care? He disliked her as much as she disliked him. The only reason she could think of was that it would disappoint Roland and Henry's disappointment was the only reason she was seriously considering his offer in the first place, so she understood that.
The exit was just close enough for them to watch their sons once they got to Santa and jump in if needed but far enough away for the boys to feel like they had privacy with the jolly old elf. Both stood there in silence for several minutes, waving again to their boys as the Polar Express passed them.
"Roland wants a real bow and real arrows," Robin said, breaking the silence.
She frowned. "A weapon. Charming."
"It's not a weapon in my family," he replied, defensively. She even felt him bristle beside her. "We don't hunt. We compete."
"Compete? How good are you?" she asked, finding herself actually curious about Robin Locksley.
"I almost made it to the Olympics. Still probably could make it but Roland comes first." He smiled at his boy, who was climbing off the train and getting on line to see Santa with Henry.
For all of Robin's many faults, she had to admit he was a good and loving father. It may have been his only positive attribute. "So will there be a bow and some arrows under the Locksley tree come Christmas morning?"
"There will be," he confirmed. "And what will Santa be bringing Henry?"
"A magic wand and Hogwarts robes," she replied, "and the fifth Harry Potter book. He just finished the fourth book to make sure he'd be able to start reading it on Christmas."
He nodded. "Sound nice. They can get the boring but essential stuff from us. I don't mind being the bad guy as long as Roland has clean underwear."
"And socks. Henry loses those the most," she said. It was strange to be getting along with Robin Locksley.
Pigs were no doubt flying.
"You two ready to see Santa?" the elf standing with Santa asked.
Henry and Roland nodded, following her to where Santa sat. Leaning over, he asked Roland: "Do you remember the plan?"
"Do you think he'll be able to do it?" Roland asked.
"Of course," Henry replied, confident. "He's Santa. He can do anything if you believe hard enough. Tink said so and she works with him."
Roland nodded as they climbed onto Santa's lap. He had the long white beard, round stomach and the red velvet suit just like he should. Blue eyes sparkled behind his gold glasses as he studied the boys. "Ho, ho, ho! Who do we have here?"
"I'm Roland Locksley and this is Henry Mills. We're best friends," Roland said, smiling brightly.
"You are? I almost thought you were brothers," Santa replied.
Henry and Roland exchanged confused looks, knowing they didn't bear much of a resemblance to each other. Roland's hair was almost black where Henry's was brown and he had hazel eyes where Roland had brown ones. However…
"We want to be brothers," Henry said.
Roland nodded. "And we want it for Christmas."
Santa raised his eyebrow. "What do your parents have to say about that?"
"I just have a mom," Henry said, "but I would like a dad."
Roland nodded. "And while my dad is great, I'd like a mom again."
"I see." Santa glanced over, motioning toward the exit. "Is that them over there?"
Henry followed his hand to see his mother standing next to Mr. Robin and nodded. "That's them."
Santa studied them, stroking his beard. "I see."
"So can you do it?" Roland asked, concerned. "Can you make us brothers?"
"I'll see what I can do," Santa replied. He grinned at them. "Do you still want your bow and arrow? Or your magic wand and Hogwarts uniform? How about that fifth Harry Potter book? Didn't you just finish the fourth one?"
Joy flooded Henry-Santa really did know what they wanted without them having to tell him. He could see them at all times. And he would give up his wand and uniform now if it meant he'd get his other wish. There was always his birthday, after all.
"I'd rather be Roland's brother," he said.
"And I'd rather be Henry's," Roland agreed.
"Then I'll see what I can do," Santa promised. He pointed to the camera. "Now smile and say 'Candy cane!'"
Another elf with bleached blonde hair and wide blue eyes bounded up to Robin and Regina. "The pictures will be ready in a few minutes. Are you together or separate?"
"Separate," Regina said, pulling her wallet from her purse.
Robin nodded as he pulled out his wallet as well. "How much?"
"How about a cup of coffee and we'll call it even, handsome?" The elf fluttered her eyes as she gave him a coy smile.
He smiled back. "That sounds lovely, but I'm sure your bosses won't like it."
She sighed before pouting. "True."
"But maybe we can have that coffee anyway?" he asked, leaning against the railing in what Regina assumed he considered a "sexy" pose.
It was laughable.
Regina rolled her eyes as she paid for her set of pictures with a third elf, watching Robin from the corner of her eyes. The man clearly had no shame, openly flirting like that if he were at a bar and not taking his son to see Santa.
The flirty elf handed Robin his pictures and stuck a piece of paper in the bag, batting her eyes. "My number, handsome. I look forward to that coffee."
"Me too." He winked, smiling as he turned away from her.
Robin's smile fell away and he scowled when he saw Regina. "What?"
"Hitting on women while taking your son to see Santa," she said, shaking her head. "Nice."
"She came onto me!"
"You didn't have to flirt back! She's like half your age! Probably just out of high school."
He crossed his arms. "She was older than that. Besides, I'm single and you know what? I am looking for companionship and another chance at love. Maybe coffee will just be coffee, maybe it will be more. You don't get a say in my love life."
Part of Regina knew he was right-she didn't get a say. She was just his son's best friend's mother. But her blood boiled and her ire was raised, meaning she was going to fight this to the bitter end.
It was what made her a good lawyer but a rather poor girlfriend, she learned.
"Of course you want a younger model," she spat. "God forbid you find someone closer to your own age."
He rolled his eyes. "Why are you so hung upon her age? And I would like to find someone my own age but my options in this town are limited to pretty much you. And since you're not taking that stick out of your ass anytime soon…"
Robin caught himself, his eyes going wide. In seconds, he went from righteous indignation to contrition. "Regina, no...I didn't mean that."
"I think you did." She backed away, grabbing Henry's hand once he was past the red velvet rope. "We won't be joining you to eat. Have a good afternoon, Roland."
She turned on her heels, marching Henry away from the insufferable jackass known as Robin Locksley. He called after her but she kept her focus straight ahead, pretending she hadn't heard him.
She also pretended there weren't tears in her eyes either.
A/N: Here's the first chapter! Looks like Robin and Regina might be in for a big surprise Christmas morning…
See everyone tomorrow for Chapter 2!