(A/N-Special thanks to Bekki boo for beta reading this. Also to those who read, review, follow and fav.)
"We're still running tests, Mr. Locksley, but we're optimistic."
Robin sagged in relief against the white concrete wall of the medical clinic. "Thank God."
"We'll keep you updated." The doctor looked at him with concern. "But you should get some rest, before we have to check you in as well."
The doctor clapped him on the shoulder encouragingly. "Don't worry. She's young and strong. Her chances are excellent for a full recovery."
After he'd left, Robin closed his eyes, feeling the fresh drizzle of rain on his face. His cousin was safe. Marian was now receiving the best medical care possible. For the first time in a year, he did not have that driving fear inside him, the fear that he might fail her, the fear that she might die after he'd promised to always look out for her. His aunt had told him before she had died that he had a half sister, his father had only found out about her weeks before his death. The woman who had given birth to her, had been an ex girlfriend of his father's and had never told him that she was pregnant and had given the baby up for adoption.
He should have been overcome with relief and joy. And yet he found himself still hunched over with grief. He looked up to see a brunette woman coming out of the mist in the parking lot.
"Regina," he whispered, his heart in his throat. Had she read the letter? Had she changed her mind?
Then she saw her embrace another man, a male nurse who'd just come out of the clinic. Looking at her more closely, Robin realized the woman looked nothing like Regina. His vision was playing tricks on him.
She'd told him she loved him. And for his answer, he'd traded her. He'd given her into Blanchard's hands.
Had she read the letter yet? Would she keep her promise?
His hands clenched into fists as he rubbed his stinging eyes. All he wanted was to have Regina in his arms, to share his joy about his cousin's prognosis. For Christ's sake, to even tell her that Marian was his cousin!
Instead, he's made a promise he never wanted to keep. He was powerless to pursue her. And now he was a prisoner of his own word.
Maybe it was for the best, he told himself wearily. God knew Regina deserved better than a man like him. She deserved a husband with an open, loving heart, an equal partner who would share everything with her, not a closed off, vengeful man with a scarred heart like Robin's.
But I can change, his heart cried. I already have changed, because of her.
All he wanted was for her to be happy. And the last time he'd seen her, her face had been so wan and pale, her eyes so sad, as she driven past him in the Ferrari with Blanchard at her side. Leopold had looked smug and satisfied.
And something more.
Robin blinked. What had been in the man's eyes? He'd been too distracted by worry and grief to pay much attention to Blanchard at the time, but now there'd been something in the man's expression. He'd dismissed Leopold as a weakling. But even a weakling could be vicious when cornered.
Trying to tell himself he had nothing to worry about, Robin reached for his cell phone. His hands shook as he dialed the number of her mother's house an hour to the south.
But when Cora answered on the third ring, she sounded surprised by his question. "Regina? No, we haven't seen her. No, she hasn't called. Why? What's wrong? We thought she was with you!"
"I'll explain later," Robin replied, but when he hung up his whole body was cold with sweat.
Regina would not have willingly run off with Leopold. She detested the man's lack of morals, his selfish cruelty. She would have wanted to go straight home to her family. She wouldn't have detoured for a cozy chat with Leopold, at least not willingly.
Robin raked his hair back with his hand. How could he have been so arrogant as to assume that Leopold was no threat, and he would meekly accept Regina's refusal? How could he have believed the man would relinquish her, and her new fortune, without a fight?
The man's weakness, his cowardice were exactly what made him dangerous. And now Robin could do nothing to save her. Sucking in his breath, he punched the concrete wall of the clinic, causing little pieces of rock to crumble and scatter. Blood oozed from his knuckles as he covered his face with his hands. He was helpless to find the woman he loved.
Or wasn't he?
Slowly, he lowered his hands.
All his life, he'd considered his promise to be his worth as a man. But in this moment, he realized that there was something even more sacred than a man's word.
It was honor beyond any promise; a man had to protect those that he loved.
He had to keep Regina safe.
Opening his cell phone, he dialed his chief bodyguard, his top private investigator, his connections in San Francisco, even the sheriff in Regina's hometown. No car accidents had been reported. As he waited for news, Robin paced back and forth in the parking lot of the medical clinic. He no longer felt the cold drizzle of the rain against his face. His muscles ached to jump into his car and drive to find her, but where? Which direction should he go?
Leopold wouldn't take her to a motel. He wouldn't take her anywhere she might be seen. And he no longer had the money to charter a plane, unless he married Regina. Robin had thought it was such a tidy way to get revenge on Leopold, to use the man's arrogance and greed against him, to get Marian to safety while allowing Regina to make her own choice about her life. He raked his hair back again. He'd been a fool!
The phone rang in his hands and he answered it on the first ring, "Yes?"
"A red Ferrari was seen on the I-50, heading east," the investigator told him. "No license plate information, but a car like that stands out."
Heading east? Why east? There was nothing in that direction, nothing but the wild mountains and eventually Lake Tahoe, which in February would still be thick with snow and frozen rain. When would anyone be insane enough to drive a low slung race car in that direction? Where was the man going?
Then Robin knew.
Closing his phone with an intake of breath, he ran for his SUV.
"Get in there!"
Cursing, Leopold shoved her into the old cabin before he slammed the door behind them. Regina backed away, still glaring at him, rubbing her half frozen wrists that he'd bruised with his grip.
They'd had to walk most of the way up to the cabin in the freezing rain. Her feet were like ice, and she'd almost forgotten what it was like to be warm. She didn't know if she'd ever feel warm again.
But still, when Regina had seen the cabin in the clearing, she'd tried to run away. She'd turned blindly back towards the woods to take her chances in the frozen mountains. But Leopold had had other ideas. He was now blocking the door behind him.
"What is this place?" Regina asked.
"A cabin Marian's father had once," Leopold answered, "Locksley came here last year. He nearly found Marian. I barely had time to pull her into the woods with the nurse to hide. After he left, I started leaving false trails around the world, hiring look-alikes to distract him."
She thought of all the anguished energy that Robin had spent trying to find her. "How can you be so cruel?"
He shrugged, "It was easier to keep him on a hopeless wild goose chase. I thought the car accident was fate finally rewarding me as I deserved. I never thought she would live for a whole year."
Regina stared at him, her eyes wide, her hand covering her mouth, "You're truly a monster. You tried to kill your own wife!"
"She should have died. I deserve her money more than she ever did. She married me. I earned it." He looked at her. "Just as I deserve you."
With an intake of breath at the hard hunger in his eyes, Regina took a step back.
Leopold must have seen the fear in her expression, because he turned back to the fireplace in a posture of confidence. Leaning forward to open the fire, he placed a single log inside and lit a match. He pressed the flame up against the wood.
Without any tinder, the log wouldn't light. As Regina watched, he lit four matches all to the same result, and with every failure his anger grew. Finally with a curse, he blew out the fifth match and tossed it to the floor. He glared at Regina.
His scowl changed to a sensual, threatening smile.
"I'll start the fire later," he purred. "In the meantime, I'll just have to warm myself with you."
He lunged toward her. With a yelp, she tried to run away, but he was too fast for her. Grabbing her, he pushed her against the kitchen table. She fought him with a scream. When she bit the hand he placed over her mouth, he roughly turned her over on her belly.
"This will only hurt at first," he said, panting. "Then you will realize you love it."
"No!" she screamed, thrashing.
"Stop fighting!" he yelled. Brutally, he grabbed her by her hair then banged her head against the hard wooden table. She went limp, dazed as she saw stars.
"Once you're pregnant with my child," he panted. "you will accept me as your husband." Unzipping his fly, he started to lift her dress. "You will-"
His voice ended with a choke as he dropped her.
Weakly, Regina turned around against the table and she saw a miracle, Robin had him by the throat.
"You like to hurt women you claim to love," Robin said in cold, deadly fury. "You deserve to die."
"No, please," Leopold cried.
Mercilessly, Robin punched him in the face, knocking him to the rough wooden floor. Leopold dropped like a stone.
"Robin," Regina whimpered.
With an intake of breath, Robin went to her, gathering her up tenderly in his arms.
"Regina," he breathed, holding her. "Did he hurt you? My God, tell me I was in time!"
"He didn't hurt me. You came," she whispered, touching his face in wonder. "Robin, somehow you came."
"Regina, I have to tell you something. I..."
Leopold got up behind them, then with a last shouted curse he stumbled for the door. Flinging it open, he ran out of the cabin, heading for the snowy forest.
Robin started to chase him, but Regina grabbed his hand.
"No, please," she whispered. Her cold fingers curled around his. "Please stay with me."
"Yes." He instantly turned back to her. The woman he loved needed him, that trumped his need to go after that bastard. "You're so cold," he murmured in a worried voice. He pulled her against his chest, wrapping his coat around her. "I have to get you warm."
Regina looked at him. Cold? She wasn't cold any longer. Dawning joy was slowly thawing her heart from within. "You broke your promise," she said in shock. "You came for me."
"I came." He drew back, looking down at her with troubled dark eyes. "Forgive me."
"Forgive you?" She laughed even as tears streaked down her face. "For saving my life? All right. Just this time, I will."
But his eyes were serious. "I always prided myself on keeping my word above all else. But today I realized honor means nothing without love. Without you."
Robin gently stroked her face, tilting her chin upward.
"I love you, Regina," he said in a low voice, searching her eyes intently. "Tell me it's not too late. Tell me I have a second chance to win you back. I love you. I love you so much."
Her heart ached at the word she'd waited a lifetime to hear, from a man she'd waited a lifetime to find. The strong, honorable, man she could love for the rest of her life.
Reaching her hand up against his rough cheek, she felt warmth and joy overwhelming her heart. "I never stopped loving you," she whispered. "I will love you forever."
"I guess I have a new title," Robin said as Regina looked at his with a question in her eyes. "A thief, who stole something from you. Your heart."
"You can't steal something that's been given to you," Regina said.
Looking down at her, his blue eyes were suspiciously wet. "Marry me, Regina."
In answer, she nodded as tears of happiness streaked her face.
He sucked in his breath. As he lowered his mouth to hers, he whispered. "You are my family. My wife. My love. You...you are my promise."
In the not to distant future...
"Henry! Roland! I need you to set the table!" Regina called out to her two sons.
"Ah, Mom. Can't Hope do it?" Henry asked.
"Hope set the table last time," Regina reminded them.
"Come on, Roland, let's go set the table so we can eat some of Mom's lasagna," Henry said as the two boys ran off.
"Wait! Where's your sister?" Regina called out as they headed towards the kitchen.
"She was heading up into the attic, something about looking for Papa's bow and arrow," Roland called back to his mother.
Regina headed upstairs to check on her little girl, she shook her head as she thought of how like her father she was. While most girls her age were playing with dolls, Hope took after her father and was a tomboy in every sense of the word.
She saw that the attic door was open and she made her way upstairs, "Hope?"
"Over here, Mommy," Hope said as Regina saw her daughter holding a satchel.
"What are you doing up here? Your father will be home soon," Regina said as Hope walked over to her mother, and Regina picked her up, settling her on her hip
"I was exploring," Hope said.
"Oh you were," Regina said as Hope smiled, and those famous Locksley dimples were exposed as clear as day. Hope continued to look at her, and Regina asked, "Why are you staring, Hope?"
"I look just like you when you were little," Hope said.
"Why, yes you do," Regina said, thinking Hope must have come across some old photos of her when she was little to look at.
"The drawing is really good," Hope said.
"What drawing?" Regina asked.
"The one in Daddy's satchel," Hope answered.
"Show me," Regina said, thinking that Robin must have drawn Hope and not her instead. Regina sat Hope down, and watched as her little girl went to Robin's satchel and opened it to pull out a piece of paper.
"Here, Mommy," Hope said as she held the piece of paper in her hand.
Regina took it from her daughter and looked at it. It did indeed look like her when she was little. But it couldn't be, this had to be Hope instead. She was about to inform Hope that it was her that her father had drawn and not herself when she was little.
"It can't be," Regina muttered as she saw the date on the February 1, 1990, signed by R. Locksley.
"What is it, Mommy?" Hope asked.
"Regina?" Robin's voice called from behind her.
"Daddy!" Hope yelled as she ran to her father, who went to his knees and picked her up in his arms.
"And what are my two favorite women doing upstairs?" Robin asked as he walked closer to Regina, Hope still in his arms.
"I was showing Mommy your drawing," Hope said.
"Robin? How...how did you draw this picture of me when I was little?" Regina asked as she showed him the drawing. "I never met you when I was little."
"I have forgotten about this drawing," Robin said, "I was twelve and my father had just died that year, we had almost lost everything. I was so desperate that I took my drawing pad and pencils and went to the streets of London to try to earn any money that I could. I had just about given up totally, when this little girl walked out of a toy store and gave me a twenty dollar coin."
"Why did she do that, Daddy?" Hope asked.
"I asked her the same thing, Hope. I asked her if she wanted me to draw her picture, and she told me, no, that she didn't," Robin said.
"Why not, Daddy?" Hope asked.
"You see, Hope, she told me it was-"
"Her birthday," Regina finished for him.
Robin looked at Regina in shock, "How did you know it was her birthday?"
"Because, that little girl was me," Regina answered, "Look at it, Robin. It looks just like Hope."
Robin looked at the old drawing, one he hadn't looked at since he was little. It did look just like Hope. Regina was that little girl, who had given him that coin.
"It was you!" Robin said as he couldn't believe how fate had put them together as children, only to throw them again later in their lives. "I wanted to thank you so much, you can't imagine what your deed that day inspired me. I think I have something that belongs to you, if you'll take Hope for a second."
Regina took her daughter from Robin, while he dug more into his old satchel. He pulled out a small bad, which held two very important items. He opened it up, and pulled out the first item.
"Remember this?" Robin asked as he held the precious gold coin in his fingers.
"You kept it? Why didn't you use it?" Regina asked.
"I was going to, I ran home to tell my mother, when my Aunt Lillian was at the shelter and she was taking my mother and me to her house in the country," Robin answered. "So I never used the coin. We were able to live at her home and I worked hard and swore to myself to make sure I was never put into that situation ever again."
"I can't believe that coin still exists," Regina said, "My father gave it to me, told me to spend it however I wanted to."
"And you gave it to a lonely little boy," Robin said.
"What else is in the bag, Daddy?" Hope asked, causing the other two adults to chuckle at their daughter's impatience.
"Well, this item is very precious as well," Robin said as he started to bring out the other item, "this is something that your Mommy lost that day."
Regina gasped as Robin held the little red ribbon that her dear father had put in her hair that long ago day on her birthday. "My ribbon!" Regina grabbed it, and held it carefully as she closed her eyes and could picture in her head her father, tying it in her hair.
"Daddy, why is Mommy crying?" Hope asked.
"Because, she is very happy right now, Hope," Robin answered.
"So you cry when you're happy, Daddy?" Hope asked, clearly confused.
"In some cases, yes. I've seen your Mommy cry when she was happy like this before," Robin said as he leaned over and wiped a tear from Regina's cheek.
"When?" Hope asked as she mimicked her father and wiped a tear from her mother's other cheek.
"Well, when we I proposed to your mother, when I married your mother. And of course, when we brought your brother Henry home for good. Also when your brother Roland was born, and of course when you were born, Hope," Robin answered.
"So she's very happy now?" Hope asked.
"Yes, I am, Hope," Regina spoke up as she kissed her daughter's forehead.
Hope looked over at her father and he winked at her, "I told you." He whispered as he walked up and put his arms around the two most important women in his life, his wife and their daughter.
"Mom! Dad!" Henry called from downstairs.
"We better go," Regina said as she put Hope down.
"Hope, why don't you go see how your brothers are doing?" Robin asked.
"Okay, Daddy," Hope said who headed downstairs to see about her brothers.
"It was you, really you," Regina said as she went into her husband's arms.
"And you," Robin said.
"I guessed this means that we were meant to be," Regina said.
"We didn't meet by accident, we were meant to cross paths for a reason," Robin said.
"Soul mates," Regina said.
"What's a soul mate?" Hope said as Robin and Regina turned to see their daughter in the doorway of the attic.
"I thought you were downstairs, Hope," Robin said.
"They are still setting the table," Hope said as she asked again, "What's a soul mate, Daddy?"
"Well, it's like a best friend, but more. It's the one person in the world that knows you better than anyone else. It's someone who makes you a better person. Actually, they don't make you a better person, you do that yourself because they inspire you. A soul mate is someone who you carry with you forever. It's the one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did or when no one else would. And no matter what happens, you'll always love her. Nothing can ever change that. Make sense?" Robin asked.
"I think so," Hope said.
"Good, now let's go downstairs and get some dinner," Robin said as they all headed downstairs for dinner. The food was delicious and the children watched a movie, when eight o'clock came around it was time for Hope's bath and bed time. Once Robin had finished giving her a bath, he then put her in some pajamas, just like her mother's silky grey ones.
"I love you, Hope," Robin said as he kissed her forehead.
"I love you too, Daddy," Hope said. "Daddy?"
"Yes, princess?" Robin asked.
"Can I have that coin that Mommy gave you?" Hope asked.
"Why would you want it, princess?" Robin asked, thinking maybe she wanted to buy something.
"Because, I want to find my soul mate like you found, Mommy," Hope said.
Robin chuckled and put her stuffed animal beside her, "When you're older, perhaps."
"How old, Daddy?" Hope asked.
"Thirty, at least," Robin answered.
After he left his daughter's room, he checked on the boys who were both asleep in their bunk beds. He then made sure all the doors were locked and headed to the main bedroom, Regina was lying on her side. He quickly undressed down to his boxers and slid quietly into bed behind her. He put his arms around her form, and lightly kissed the side of her face exposed.
"Thirty?" Regina asked as she smiled.
"Maybe, forty," Robin answered, he chuckled as he pulled her close into his arms.
"You're horrible, you know that," Regina said, jokingly.
"I can't help that I dread the day, my little girl has her first crush, date, heartbreak," Robin said.
"Well, you can look at it this way then," Regina said, "You might only have to go through those stages twice."
"Why twice?" Robin asked.
"Because if this," Regina took Robin's hand in hers and placed it low on her belly, "is a little girl, then you'll be an expert by then, hopefully."
"Regina? You're pregnant?" Robin asked.
"Indeed," Regina said one of Robin's favorite words to use.
"When?" Robin asked, wanting to know when their next child would be born.
"That weekend we flew to Vancouver, eight weeks ago," Regina said.
Robin smiled as he was reminded of that weekend they had gotten away, "So seven months from now."
"Yes, and if it's a little girl, I'm going to take a small piece of the red ribbon and put it in her hair," Regina said.
"You'll need to make one for Hope as well," Robin said as he thought of what a fortunate man he truly was, he had two young sons, a beautiful little girl who had stolen his heart the moment he held her. And he had a stunning wife, who loved him more than anything. One, he had met when they were both children, crossing each other's lives, her coming into his when he had almost given up all hope.
"I wouldn't dream of not doing it," Regina said as Robin kissed her and together the Locksleys all drifted off to sleep, all SIX of them.