A/N: Well, here we are at the end of the story. I've been going back and forth about whether to continue it, but I've decided it's best to stop here. Regina is really the heart of the story to me, and her arc has come to an end.
Thanks for reading, reviewing, following, and faveing. Special thanks to ouatevilregal8 for keeping me on track, and the kinkmeme anon who gave me the initial prompt for "Leaving."
Four years later
Regina ran into the garden at the first cry, panic on her features as she rushed towards the little girl who had tripped and fallen. She crouched down to help Anaya up, pulling the small body close to hers. "It's okay, darling. I'm here."
Anaya blubbered something about her knee and Regina looked to see a minor scrape. It would be so easy to heal with magic, even after years without practice, but Regina couldn't break the promise she'd made back when her daughter was still an infant. She would never use magic on her child unless the girl's life was in danger. She would never use magic at all. She remembered how frightened she'd always been of Cora's powers, and she never wanted Anaya to feel that way. So although she desperately wished she could put a stop to the tears and take away the pain, she scooped Anaya into her arms and carried her inside.
"All better?" she asked after she'd washed and bandaged the scrape, and also pressed a kiss to the wrapping.
Anaya nodded, tears still in her eyes.
Regina ran a hand over her daughter's dark curls, smiling despite the fact that every tear Anaya shed felt like a wound to her heart. "How much do I love you?" The girl's face brightened at that, and she flung her arms wide. "Bigger than that," Regina said, taking advantage of Anaya's position to tickle her sides. The girl giggled, trying to squirm away until her mother stopped and picked her up again. "More than the moon."
The girl wrapped her arms around Regina's neck as they walked through the palace. The royal family had moved into the opposite wing of the palace after Leopold's death, Snow and Regina wanting to be far away from the rooms in which the former King had hurt them. Snow kept her chambers on the second floor so that she could easily get to the throne room if needed. Regina and Anaya lived a floor above, the daughter's nursery connected to the mother's room.
"I love you too," Anaya said as Regina stopped on the second floor and made her way down the hall.
Regina kissed the girl's cheek and then knocked on the door before her. "Who else do you love, princess?"
Snow opened the door and Anaya squealed in delight, always happy to see her beloved sister. "Snowy!" she said, running into the room as soon as Regina put her down.
Snow was in the midst of preparing for a wedding that evening, but she was happy to let Anaya play with her gloves and shoes while a maid attended to her hair. Regina sat back and watched them, her smile never fading or faltering. "Doesn't Snow look pretty?" she asked Anaya when Snow stood up with her hair pulled back off her face, radiant in an elegant lavender dress.
"She's always pretty," Anaya said with a firm nod, pulling off the gloves that were too long for her arms and attempting to help Snow put them on.
Snow lifted the child up to see herself in the mirror. "So are you," she said, punctuating her statement with a kiss to Anaya's cheek before letting her down again.
"And Mama," the girl added, and Regina came forward to join them with a smile.
"Thank you, my darling." She turned her attention to Snow, taking in her stepdaughter's flawless appearance. "You really do look something special tonight. Is your pen pal going to be there?"
Snow went just pink enough to answer Regina's question. "Well, he has known Red longer than anyone, and he's the whole reason she met Belle in the first place, so I can't imagine he'd miss it."
"Can I go?" Anaya asked hopefully. Regina had let her come along to part of the last ball Snow had thrown, and she'd been mesmerized by the gowns and the dancing.
"It's past your bedtime." Regina sank down onto her knees to put herself at eye level with her daughter. "But maybe after supper we can put on fancy dresses and have a little ball of our own, just you and me."
Anaya's eyes lit up, and she ran into Snow's closet, to the back corner where Snow kept the best of her childhood dresses. Snow offered a hand to Regina as she got up again. "You make her so happy," the Queen said, giving Regina's hand a squeeze before she let go. "I hope that when I'm a mother I'm like you."
"Starting a family so soon?" Regina teased, and Snow went redder than before.
"Not anytime soon, I promise." Snow studied her reflection, tucking a strand of hair that had come loose back behind her ear. "I haven't seen David in years. Who knows what will happen?"
Regina stepped between Snow and the mirror to meet her eyes. "You just find your happiness, Snow. That's the only thing I want for you."
"And what about your happiness?" Over the past few years, the court had seen almost as many suitors for the former Queen as the current one, but Regina had never shown any interest in remarrying.
Anaya came back into the room with a pink dress in tow, and Regina smiled at her and then at Snow, pressing a hand over her heart. "I already have it," she said, reaching down to touch her child's dark curls. "More happiness than I ever thought possible."