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All About Timing

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“What’ll it be today, hon?” The barista with long brown hair and red streaks asks.

Regina looks up from her phone, sliding it into the back pocket of her dark wash denim jeans and gives her friend a smile. “Hey, Ruby. I’ll have a white mocha with a double shot of espresso for now.”

“Coming right up!”

She makes her way to the end of the counter, scouring the coffee shop, Granny’s Brew, for a place to sit. It’s not too crowded; it is Valentine’s Day after all, and most students are off campus celebrating the day of love with their significant others. She doesn’t like the hard, high top chairs, though, so she looks for one of the more comfortable seats available. She’s planning on being here all day to study for her big economics exam coming up, so comfort is key. And if she happens to scan the room in hopes of seeing him too, well, who can blame her?

Regina grabs a napkin from the dispenser and heads toward the closest chair, tightening her grip on her cross body bag as she goes. She plops down into the green paisley printed armchair, one of her favorites in the shop, and takes out her laptop, setting it up on the dark, wooden table in front of her. She loves this spot. It has a perfect view of campus out of the window to her left and a direct view of the coffee counter where she can catch glimpses of her friend, Robin, in all his handsome, dimpled face glory.

She’s a regular here, and is friends with him and Ruby, so she knows Robin works every day of the week and sometimes Saturdays. Not that she’s totally concerned with that. Shouldn’t be anyway. They’re friends after all, best friends; he’s not some stranger she checks out when he’s not looking. Not that she ever checks him out, she reminds herself. It’s simply nothing more than observing where her friend is. That's all.

She’d just gotten out of a two year relationship eight months ago, right as her junior year at Stanford University was ending. It’d been heart crushing, felt as if the literal organ itself was being squeezed in the palm of Daniel’s hand. She’s a senior now, though, so she’s hoping to leave her relationship with him, and the way he up and left her for her friend, Zelena, in the past.

On to bigger and better things.

“Order up!” Ruby shouts, sending a pointed look in Regina’s direction, letting her know the steaming cup belongs to her.

She stands, checking to make sure her laptop’s charger is plugged into the wall beside her chair, and makes her way to pick up the large cup of caffeine.

Ruby has already moved on to the next customer, so Regina smiles and nods in the brunette’s direction before heading back to settle in to her spot for the day.

She sits criss cross, pulling the table a little closer to her body. Opening her laptop, she checks her email first and sees she has one waiting. It’s from a professor confirming her appointment to meet with Regina and go over some notes she took in class. It’s a bit overzealous; Regina takes very detailed and colorful notes, always color coordinating everything she writes down, but this is her last economics class before she graduates and hopefully works in the local mayor’s office with his campaign team, so she wants to make sure she understands everything to the fullest extent.

She hits send on the email before glancing back up, roaming her eyes from side to side, wondering where Robin could be today. She hasn’t seen much of him lately with school getting harder and both of them focusing more on exams and graduating, and she finds that she misses him. Misses their friendly dinners and how easy it is talking to him.

Regina assumes he has a date today and that’s why he’s not working. He’d broken up with that bitch Marian last year when she’d cheated on him, so she’s not sure who he’d be taking out tonight. Hasn’t heard him talk about anyone new since he took a girl from one of his classes, Jasmine, out on a date over the summer that ended in a terribly awkward goodbye kiss and empty promises to call each other again but never did.

Sighing, she looks back at her papers and laptop. She spends the next thirty minutes studying her notes and researching government institutions before she looks up again. She makes eye contact with Ruby this time, who sends her a knowing smirk, before she buries her face into her notes once more.

She picks up her phone, telling herself she’ll reward those thirty minutes of non-stop studying with a social media break. Opening her Instagram, everything stops. It feels as if she has cotton stuffed in her ears and the only sound she can make out is her heartbeat.

There, staring back at her, is a selfie Zelena has taken of her and Daniel together with the caption “With my love at Lake Nostros.” Daniel’s arm is wrapped around Zelena’s shoulder as she laughs and he presses a kiss to her cheek. It’d be a precious picture, really, if it wasn’t of her ex-boyfriend canoodling with her ex-friend and roommate.

She knows exactly where they are spending their Valentine’s Day. Had, in fact, found the cabin herself one night and shown Daniel back when they were together. He vowed to take her there on a romantic weekend getaway for Valentine’s Day, but clearly those plans changed. Fuck. She should never have opened her phone.

Regina feels the all too familiar sting of tears in her eyes as she hits the block button on Zelena’s profile. She sets her phone down on the table with more force than necessary and looks around to make sure she hasn’t caught the unwanted attention from any of the other patrons. Luckily, most people have headphones in and are lost in their own little worlds while the rest mingle and talk amongst themselves. Perfect.

She’s over Daniel, truly; she wouldn’t want to spend her time with a man who chooses that witch of a woman over her anyway. Especially when said choice was made behind Regina’s back while he was still dating her and sleeping in her bed. She just didn’t realize Zelena was also sleeping in her bed. But it’s hard, seeing the picture proof of his betrayal even after all this time. She thinks it might always make her feel a bout of bitterness.

Huffing out a breath, she swipes a hand over her face and focuses back on her school work. She fans out her notes again and takes another sip of her coffee. By this point it’s luke warm at best, but she figures she needs to finish this one off before stopping again to get up and order a new one. She’s going to need all the caffeine she can get today to get all this studying done anyway.

After another solid forty minutes of cramming as much information into her brain as possible, Regina leans to the side, stretching her back muscles as best as possible while still sitting in the chair. She takes one last swig of her (now cold) coffee and grimaces, standing and making her way back to the counter.

“Ready for another?” Ruby asks, always so understanding of Regina’s need for caffeine.

She smiles gratefully at her friend, saying, “Yes, please. I’m going to be here awhile. And make it just a regular coffee this time.”

The café has cleared out a bit, the late morning rush now gone. It’s nearing lunchtime, so Regina figures she should order something to eat as well. “Actually, add on a ham and cheese croissant, please.”

“Sure thing.”

While Ruby prepares her food and drink, Regina looks around the shop. It’s covered in mostly floor to ceiling windows, and the view today is gorgeous. It’s February, so most people are just hurrying from one class to another while bundled in their jackets, but she has a nice view of a few people milling around campus and talking with their friends while the sun shines through the trees planted near the walkways.

She’s always loved nature. It’s one of the first things that she bonded with Robin over during one of their study groups freshman year. He’d mentioned growing up and practically living in the forest near his home in England. He took archery lessons out there and would hide from his brother in the trees with his friends. When he moved to America in high school, he found himself wandering through the trees near his parent’s home, sometimes using the seclusion of the woods to sneak away with girls, but mostly being alone and discovering plants and animals he’d never witnessed up close before. It’s part of the reason he went on to major in forestry conservation and resource management.

Eyebrows furrowing, she shakes her head, wondering where the impetuous thoughts of Robin came from all of a sudden.

Ruby walks back over to her, placing her coffee on the counter and telling her the sandwich will be done in a second.

“It’s no problem,” she says, adding a bit of hazelnut creamer to the dark liquid. “Thanks, Rubes.”

They make small talk while the sandwich finishes toasting, Ruby going on and on about her new girlfriend and how they’re going to the movies tonight after going to dinner.

“That sounds lovely. How long have you two been together?” she asks, knowing it can’t be long because she and Ruby talk on a regular basis and she’s barely heard of her. She knows her name is Mulan but nothing else, really.

Ruby’s eyes light up, making Regina wish for a second that she had someone in her life who made her eyes light up like that, as she tells her they’ve been friends for years but just recently decided to give themselves a shot as a couple. Tonight will only be their third date.

Telling her that’s wonderful , she takes a sip of her coffee. Ruby turns around at the sound of the toaster oven buzzing and pulls Regina’s sandwich out, sliding it onto a plate before turning around to hand it to Regina.

“Thanks,” she tells her, pausing for a second before she heads back to her table. “Hey, is Robin woking today?”

Ruby smiles, that all too knowing smile that always makes Regina’s eyes narrow in wonder, curious as to what goes through Ruby’s mind when she brings up Robin. “Yeah, he’ll be working today. Should be in any minute now.”

Nodding her head, Regina lifts her plate up and tips it a bit toward the barista in thanks before walking back to her table to settle in and study a bit more.

{***********************}

He comes out from the breakroom, box full of to-go coffee cups in hand, and stops dead in his tracks. He’d been wondering if he was going to see her today, wasn’t sure since it’s a holiday centered around love, and he’s positive beyond the shadow of a doubt that she has someone special wanting to take her out for Valentine’s Day. How could she not?

He watches her for a second, mesmerized by everything she does. She’s situating herself into her chair, fanning out her papers with one hand while taking a sip of her coffee with the other.

She’s beautiful.

Robin has been enamored with Regina Mills for almost a year now, probably longer than that if he’s honest with himself. They’d known each other since freshman year when they met in their first economics class. They had bonded over their passion for the subject, though both wanting to pursue different careers from each other in the end. They’d started as just friends, her finding out he had taken a job as a barista at Granny’s Brew and him insisting she needed to come try their cinnamon apple latte, but over the years, and especially in the most recent months, he’s found himself wanting to be more than friends with her.

She’d began dating Daniel the summer before their sophomore year, and he’d truly been happy for her. Him and Marian were going well, and they were able to go on group dates, their best mates, Neal and Tink, included. Their whole group was finally seeming to settle down, and he thought for certain all their relationships would last.

His, however, had only lasted another year, breaking things off with Marian in the beginning of their junior year when he found out she not only wanted different things than he did, but she’d found those things in everyone else’s bed but their own. She wanted to party and play, sleeping with whomever wanted her, and never settle down, while Robin dreamed of the day he’d find someone to fall madly in love with and marry. He knows it’s silly; most men want the opposite, but he’d grown up with great parents who always showed him how finding that great love , finding the person your soul felt connected to, was better than any life as a single man.

“Hey, lover boy,” Ruby taunts, throwing a dish towel in his direction, “Get to work.”

He smiles sheepishly then, carrying the box of cups to the counter to unload its contents. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

Ruby laughs, assuring him it’s fine. She teases him constantly over his crush on Regina, though by now it’s less of a crush and more of an I’ll alway be interested but we’ll never actually be together type situation.

Her breakup with Daniel had been hard, he knows, so he never wants to push. Empathizes with her since they’ve both been through a breakup due to a cheating significant other. They haven’t hung out as much lately, ever since Neal and Tink ran off and got married back over Christmas break, a spur of the moment elopement made one weekend. He’d chuckled at his friends, shaking his head and telling them he didn’t expect anything less from the two of them. They’d always been a spontaneous couple, always up for any and all challenges. But now that they’re all so laser focused on finishing senior year, everyone seems to have drifted into their own headspace for a little bit. It’s been weeks actually since he spent time with Regina outside of this coffee shop.

It’s with that thought that he looks around, seeing the shop isn’t too terribly busy, and makes his way over to her table.

Stacking the last cup onto the counter, he ties his apron around his waist, tucking his hunter green tee under it as well, as he comes closer. Running a hand through his hair, he reaches down and swipes her coffee from where it rests next to her hands, which are furiously typing away on her keyboard.

Taking a sip, he hears her gasp. “Thief!”

Smirking, he lowers the cup, saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. Was this yours?”

“Jackass,” she mumbles, a grin she’s failing miserably at concealing covering her face.

He laughs, setting the cup back down and joining her at the table. She looks good today, as always. She’s in a maroon shirt with a black cardigan pulled over it. Simple, but so very Regina on her casual days. Though, he’ll admit to only himself (and Neal) that he really does love the days she dresses up in those tight pencils skirts or dresses. Just a friend or not, Regina is a goddess of a woman, and he enjoys getting to see her body in those outfits.

“How’ve you been, Regina?”

She sits back deeper into her chair, breathing out a contented sigh. She looks into his eyes, her chocolate ones always seeming to convince him that he was born to gaze into her eyes forever. They’re the window to her soul, showcasing every emotion that flares up inside her, and he’s continually entranced trying to figure out what exactly she’s feeling in any given moment. “I’ve been good. Busy, but,” she shrugs, tilting her head side to side and pursing her lips, then smiling as she adds a, “good. How about you?”

They sit there for a few minutes, catching up with one another and both shaking their heads in disbelief that it’s been an entire month since they saw each other outside of this building. Luckily she comes in regularly enough that he doesn’t have the chance to miss her, but he finds himself longing for those times outside of Granny’s that they’ve always shared. Misses their almost weekly dinners and hangouts, phone calls, and going out on the weekends with their friends.

“Senior year is nuts ,” she tells him, ironically echoing his inner thoughts and popping the last bite of her sandwich into her mouth.

He agrees, saying he can’t believe it’s already February, adding, “Graduation will be here before we know it.”

She smiles around her final bite, eyes crinkling just so and swallowing her food before saying she can’t wait. She asks if he’s applied to any jobs yet, to which he says he has. He’s been offered a position at Merry Men Incorporated, the local forestry department that specializes in conserving the parks and forests around California. It’s run by John Littleton and Tuck Friar, two men who are a few years older than them, but had been very interested in getting Robin to work for them ever since he met them on an on site visit two years ago. It’s been Robin’s dream ever since to work for their company and maybe even run the whole place one day when John and Tuck are ready to give it up.

“That’s amazing, Robin!” she gushes, making his heart swell with pride as she pushes her raven locks to one side.

It’s longer now, she’s been growing it out since last year. It’s thick and brown and always looks so soft; he finds himself often wondering what it would feel like to run his hands through those silky strands, but, no, he knows he can’t let himself think like that. This is Regina. And they’re just friends.

“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity,” he says, glancing over his shoulder to see if anyone has come in to order a drink yet. Seeing that no one has and that Ruby is cleaning some tables on the other side of the café, he asks, “What about you? Applied to be mayor yet?”

She chuckles, rolling her eyes and telling him no . “I did apply to the mayor’s office , though. They need someone to work with their office’s statistics and see how campaigns are running with the general constituents of the town.”

He assures her that’s a step in the right direction. Knows she’s always dreamt of becoming mayor, ever since she was little and they held mock elections in her fifth grade class.

“Yeah,” she agrees, smiling widely. “I’m hoping I can get that and work my way up to running for office one day.”

He has no doubt in his mind that she’ll be a fantastic mayor in the future. Hell, she could even go on to be president if she really wanted to. Regina has always been interested in politics, having a better understand of how the government runs than most governors or mayors he’s ever seen. She’s head strong and confident in herself, something he’s always admired about her.

“Well you have my vote, Mayor Mills ,” he chuckles, standing and taking her empty plate in hand.

“I better!” she jokes, pointing her finger in his direction. She tosses her napkin in his direction, landing it directly onto her plate that he holds.

He looks at her, impressed at her shooting abilities as she just shrugs her shoulder like it was no big deal, and he wonders where that good aim came from since she’s never played basketball a day in her life. Maybe it was just pure luck.

“Well,” he scoffs out and laughs, saying, “a simple thank you would suffice!”

She giggles, assuring him she’ll forever be indebted to him for his support in any election she may run in.

He grins at that, telling her, “I better get back to work for a bit. You sticking around?”

She nods, leaning back in her seat a bit. She pulls her legs up to sit criss cross in the chair again and tells him, “I’ll be here all day.”

He smiles. Good.

{***********************}

Mayor Mills . Holy. Shit. That should not have sounded as sexy as it did coming from one of her best friend’s mouths but, damn, it did. Hearing him call her that, as jokingly as he might have meant it, sent a tingle down her spine and to other, more sensitive, areas.

Shaking her head, she laughs at herself and focuses back on her school work now that Robin is gone, back behind the counter working again.

She finds herself distracted though, has already read as much as she can about convexity and trade-off, and finds her mind thinking back to any other time Robin had made her feel as sexy and empowered as his words did just a few minutes ago.

Sure, they’d flirted in the past, but for the majority of their friendship, they’d been in relationships with other people, only sharing one or two innocent kisses before.

“I’d just had enough,” he tells her, sipping his beer and finding purchase on the spot next to her on his leather couch. “I couldn’t take her cheating anymore, so I ended things.”

“Good for you,” she cheers, clinking her bottle’s neck against his. She smiles, turning to her side to look at him. She places her elbow on the back of the couch and rests her head in the palm of her hand. “You deserve better than her. I never liked her.”

“Oh, really?” he says, smirk firmly in place on his face. He turns to face her, his arm mirroring her action on the back of the couch as his leg bends and rests lightly against her knee. “And why’s that?”

She narrows her eyes at him, wondering if she should tell him the truth. Fact of the matter is, she never liked Marian. The girl had always seemed fake and like she didn’t want the same things Robin did. She never really seemed to like her, and she certainly didn’t mesh well with the rest of their group. “I could just tell she wasn’t right for you.”

He leans closer, his bent leg straightening so their thighs are pressed together, as he reaches around her to grab the remote. He’d leaned so close, she was convinced for a split second that he was going to kiss her. Her breath caught in her throat for a beat before she realized what he was actually doing and released it.

Clicking the power button and turning to face the television, he says, “Well, you’re right. She wasn’t.”

She smiles over at him, placing her half empty bottle on the coffee table in front of them and leans in, cuddling into his side. His arm comes up to wrap around her as he places a kiss to the top of her head. “I’ll find the right person one day.”

Regina chuckles, mumbling how he’s such a “cheesy sap,” causing him to laugh.

“What can I say? I blame my parents.”

“You’re supposed to only blame your parents for the bad things in your life,” she giggles, those beers they’ve been sipping on all night going to her head a bit.

He chuckles lowly, beginning to rub a path up and down her spine. It’s lulling her to sleep and no, that’s not what she needs. She’s supposed to be comforting her friend after his break up.

She looks up then, meeting his gaze. “I know you say you’re not upset, but for what it’s worth, I’m really sorry, Robin.”

His breath seems to pause for a moment before he breathes out a, “Thank you,” into the small space between their faces. They’re close enough now that she can feel his breath on her chin, warming a small patch of her skin.

She’s with Daniel, knows that, despite their fight earlier and how he’d ditched her to go hang out with his friends tonight, but in this moment there’s a sensation running through her body that she’s never experienced before while being with Robin. She’s… turned on? No, that can’t be it. She’s… comfortable. Things are just easy with Robin, always have been; it’s why they’re such good friends.

“And I’m sorry Daniel was such an arsehole to you yesterday. You have every right to be pissed at him.”

She and Daniel had been discussing their future plans, dreaming of what life would be like in a few years when they graduated. She’d told Daniel how she wanted to become mayor and instead of supporting her, like Robin has always done, he’d laughed. Laughed . In her face. Told her that she couldn’t be serious and she must know that there’s never been a woman to hold the position of mayor in Storybrooke, the town just near Stanford that she’s always looked at moving to. It’s like a little gem - peaceful, perfect for children; it’s like a fairy tale plopped into the middle of their chaotic world. It’s a tad smaller than her current town, but she likes the people there. They have a good mix of quiet days and exciting nightlife, and the way their local government is run has always interested her.

“Thanks,” she says, laying her head back down on his chest. He’s warm and she’s convinced if she let herself, she could sleep there by his side all night long. Away from boyfriends who say hurtful, idiotic things, but with someone who believes in her fully instead.

“Look at me,” he breathes, cupping her chin to tilt her head in his direction once again. When their eyes lock, he tells her, “You’re going to make an incredible mayor one day.”

She doesn’t know why, but hearing those words bring tears to her eyes that she quickly tries to blink away.

Nothing gets by Robin Locksley, though, and he smiles that understanding smile of his and kisses her temple. She looks up at him and leans in, motioning for him to bring his lips closer. He looks puzzled for a moment but quickly recovers, covering her mouth with his in the gentlest kiss she’s ever had. It’s not heated, not attempting to push them into having anything more, but it’s nice. Soft and comforting.

She breathes into the kiss, moving her lips over his before pulling away and smiling sheepishly at him, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She’s not sure why she’d initiated that kiss; it just seemed like the right thing to do. It’s the first time they’ve ever kissed on the lips, and there’s a voice in the back of her mind, that she tries desperately to push away, telling her it shouldn’t be the last either. His lips, as friendly and comforting as they were being, felt perfect against her own.

She knows it can’t happen again though, guilt instantly rising in her mind as she realizes what she’s just done. She has a boyfriend. She can’t go around kissing other guys, no matter how chaste and platonic the kiss was.

Regina’s mind wants to spend time feeling guilty, and it probably will later when she’s home, but Robin interupts her self-deprecating thoughts when he says, “And who knows,” biting his bottom lip. He’s trying to hide his grin but is failing comically at it.  “Maybe one day I can say I kissed the mayor of Storybrooke.”

Rolling her eyes, she sits up, muttering a ‘shut up’ before they both break into chortles.

She leaves soon after that, thoughts of the way Robin’s lips felt on hers imprinted in her mind forever.

She brings a hand up to her mouth, rubbing lightly over her lips as the memory of his kiss washes over her.

Regina smiles into her hand, rolling her eyes at herself and glancing in Robin’s direction. His eyes are already locked on hers but dart away quickly, and she wonders just how much of that he’d seen. Wonders if he’d been thinking of the same moment in time somehow.

She grins, situating herself more comfortably in the plush chair to study just a bit more.

After another half hour of studying, her contacts feeling dry in her eyes from how hard she’s been staring at her notes and computer screen, she scoots back. She closes her eyes for a second and rolls her neck. A massage is definitely going to be scheduled after this study day.

Needing a break from all the economics and business being fed to her brain, she pulls her favorite book, PS I Love You , out of her bag and settles back into the chair to read for a while. It’s such a typically cliché book, nothing like what she’s normally in to, but she loves it and reads it any chance she gets.

She brings her knees up to rest against the arm of the chair as Robin brings over her third coffee of the day.

Looking up from her book, she smiles, thanking him. He winks back in reply and says, “Enjoy the book.”

Chuckling she tells him she just needed a break from all that studying, and he assures her he completely understands.

“I know you’re a sucker for these cliché romance stories, so I’m sure you have a copy on your bookshelf at home, too,” she jokes, showing the cover of the book to him.

He laughs then, the sound of it sending a jolt to her stomach for some reason, and she suddenly has the urge to make him laugh every day as he says, “I haven’t gone quiet that far into my romantic side.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she quips with a playful curve to her lips. “I’ll be checking next time I’m there.”

He shakes his head, vowing to go comb through his book collection later and text her the proof that he does not own said romance novel.

She snickers into the rim of her cup, taking a sip while it’s still hot. Probably too hot for most people, but she’s convinced she’d burned enough taste buds by now that they are numb to the pain. “Thanks for the coffee.”

He smiles at her, dimples flashing in her direction, as he takes her old, empty cup and returns back to work.

It’s been another twenty or so minutes of her reading, and trying her best to reel in her emotions as Holly reads through another one of her deceased husband’s letters, when Robin comes back over.

“How was the coffee?”

She looks up, wiping under her eye in case one of her traitorous tears has escaped, and tells him, “It was delicious. What did you add to it?”

“Just a bit of that apple flavoring you like so much,” he says, pulling out the chair across from her and sitting down. “I know how much you like the stuff.”

She smiles, thanking him.

The apple flavoring had certainly been his doing years ago. She’s always loved apples, but never thought to try it until he’d lured her into Granny’s for the first time with the assurance that if she didn’t like the apple latte, then her next week’s worth of coffee were on him. Little did he know back then that she could easily guzzle down three to four coffees a day. Poor guy would’ve gone broke if she’d happened to dislike the java he was tempting her with.

Luckily for him, she’d loved the apple flavor and he always seems to remember to add it for her even when she forgets, providing a delightful surprise some mornings on her way to her first class.

“So, why the tears?” he asks concerned.

She looks confused, then laughs out an oh , adding, “Nothing. Just this book.”

Regina closes it fully and slides it across the small table. His hand catches it and he flips it over, scanning the synopsis even though he already knows what book it is and what it is about. She had, in fact, forced him to watch the movie version of it with her one weekend when she was at home sick with a cold. Tink was away for the weekend with a group of friends from her psychology class, so she’d begged Robin to come spend time with her. Though, she notes, she didn’t have to urge him too much; one phone call from her saying she needed a friend to hang out with, and he was there, knocking on her door with a pizza, beer for him, and cold medicine for her in his hands.

He’d cuddled her on the couch as she cried, but then laughed at her when, by the end of the movie, she was throwing used tissues at the television screen claiming the movie was nothing like the book and she was outraged.

He chuckles, pulling her from her memory, and says, “Speaking of tears, how much did Tink cry when she told you they’d eloped?”

“God,” she laughs out, thinking back to the night her best friend came over to inform her that she was now a married woman, waving her newly adorned ring finger in the air as her blonde curls bounced around her face. “So much!”

He joins in her laughter, saying Neal was even emotional when they got back. The pair had gone to Vegas on a trip with Neal’s business, and when they had come back, they told their friends separately that they were now married.

“I’ve never seen the man, in all our years of friendship, tear up quite so much.”

“It’s sweet,” she tells him, taking a sip of her brew. “I’m so happy for them.”

She’s known Tink since high school. They’d ventured to college together at the age of eighteen and been roommates their freshman year before both moving off campus the next, though the blonde girl spent most nights at Neal’s apartment instead of their dorm the moment she started dating him. Tink had moved in with Neal the following school year while Regina moved in with Zelena. What a mistake that had been.

Her friend had always talked about marriage and having babies one day, ever the hopeless romantic, and Regina just knew when Tink started dating Neal that it was the real deal. So, when the blonde showed up on Regina’s door step a few days after Christmas saying they’d eloped, Regina can’t say she was surprised at all. Thrilled, and excited beyond belief for this new step in her friend’s life, but not surprised.

He agrees, saying, “They definitely are made for each other. Neal’s never been happier.”

She smiles, telling him Tink is already wanting babies but, “I convinced her to try and at least wait until they both have jobs outside of their campus ones.”

“Good idea,” he chuckles. Tells her Neal had that interview last week at the investment bank he’d told them about and that he’d admitted it seemed to go well, so hopefully that’ll work out for him.

Neal has always been good with numbers and money, always the one they’d go to for help with filing taxes or budgeting their bank accounts while cursing the education system for not teaching them these skills in high school. He’d once talked about going off and exploring the world, trying to escape his crazed father, but he’d told Regina a while back that that dream ended the moment he realized he had feelings for Tink.

He’s worked at the treasurer's office on campus all during college, and they’d given him a glowing recommendation to take with him to his interview, so she’s hoping that pays off. He deserves this.

“I can’t wait for marriage, honestly,” she says quietly. She’s always been the least romantic out of their group of friends, Robin taking the lead in that department, but she’d be lying to herself if she said she didn’t want to get married one day. “It’ll be so nice to just be comfortable with someone like they are with each other.”

“Yeah,” he breathes out, looking into her eyes and reaching for her hand that rests on the table, lightly caressing over it with the pad of his thumb in a friendly matter. “It will.”

She feels a light blush creep up her neck, not truly understanding why. The way he is looking into her eyes, his blue orbs lighting a fire within her soul, and the feel of his hand on hers is doing things to her body and mind that she can’t quite seem to comprehend. She’s never felt this much attraction toward Robin in the past; what is so different now?

You’re both single her mind whispers, stunning her for a second. This is the first time they’ve spent any significant amount of time alone together since they’ve both been single, usually they’re with their friends, but this is... nice. Easy, like it always is with Robin.

The chemistry they share, which was always simmering just beneath the surface, is harder to ignore now that they aren’t confined to other relationships.

{***********************}

Disentangling his hand from hers, he stands, immediately missing the contact and saying, “I better get back to work before Ruby gets pissed.”

She smiles softly, clearing her throat and nodding, saying she needs to start studying again anyway.

He walks away, rounding the counter as Ruby shoots him a knowing glance. Her smirks grows even wider when he asks, “What?”

She’s wiping down the same spot on the counter that she’d been cleaning moments ago when he left to go talk to Regina. It doesn’t escape his notice that the spot she stands in provides her with a perfectly clear view of Regina’s table.

“Oh, nothing,” Ruby mocks in a sing song voice, finally putting a stop to her incessant cleaning of the counter and flipping the towel over her shoulder. She turns to look at him, putting her hand on one hip and leaning the other into the countertop. “I am just so glad your wish came true.”

Her sarcasm isn’t lost on him, and he rolls his eyes. “And what wish would that be?”

“To spend Valentine’s Day with Regina,” she states bluntly, snorting out a bit of laughter as his eyes widen.

He’d never said anything, of course, but he’d be lying to himself if he said the realization that they were both finally single for the first time on Valentine’s Day hadn’t occurred to him once or twice within the last few weeks.

“I never made such a wish,” he defends, turning to wipe down the counter himself before taking the order of the blonde man walking in.

As he makes the man’s cappuccino, he can hear Ruby’s laughter radiating throughout the café. She walks to the other register, taking the order of the next patron as Robin hands the cappuccino to the man.

Thanking him for his business, Robin turns to face Ruby. He smiles at Ruby’s customer politely before adding under his breath, “Not out loud anyway.”

Ruby’s bark of laughter is enough to get the attention of the customers nearby, who all seem to look confused but smile at the two employees having fun.

Robin glances over to Regina, who had just looked up from her laptop, sending him a smile and questioning gaze. He shifts his eyes to Ruby, then back to Regina, rolling his eyes at her in good nature while pointing his thumb in Ruby’s direction.

Regina laughs, taking a sip of her coffee and turning back to her studies.

Once Ruby’s customer has collected their drink and gone to find a seat, Ruby turns to face him. “You didn’t have to say it out loud. I know you, Robin.”

He rolls his eyes, turning to restack the to-go cups in an effort to avoid this conversation. Again. Ruby is always pressing him to ask Regina out. Has been ever since he let it slip months ago that Regina had broken up with Daniel.

Hell, even before that Ruby was pestering him to go after Regina. She claims she always saw the attraction between the two of them, even when they were both dating other people, despite Robin’s attempts to assure her they were just two friends whom were very comfortable with each other. As soon as he’d dumped Marian, Ruby had been there the next day at work, asking when he was going to go after Regina. Being blind to his own feelings still at that point, he’d simply rolled his eyes and moved on with his day.

Once he’d made the mistake of letting her know Regina was single all those months ago, it’d been an almost daily occurrence of Ruby bringing up Regina somehow in conversation. She says she’s like their fairy godmother, even though, as she claims, she doesn’t have that wide eyed, pixie dust loving look like Tink does.

Ruby and Tink had become fast friends once Regina finally dragged her into the coffee shop near the end of their freshman year, and Robin can’t help but overanalyze all the times the two girls would whisper and giggle while watching him and Regina. Maybe they’d seen something all along that he’d just started to notice in the last year.

“We both know you like her, so why not just ask her out?”

Here we go, Robin thinks. He gives her the same reason each and every time, yet his friend doesn’t seem to listen. “Because we’re friends. Best friends.”

“So?” Ruby questions. “Mulan and I were friends for three years before we finally started dating. And sure,” she shrugs, “it may only be our third date tonight, but so far it’s great dating my best friend.”

She tells him how it’s made dates so much easier because they already know so much about each other, already know the little things that make them tick, the things that annoy them, their favorite foods, so you can focus on the bigger things. You can spend more time getting to know each other on a deeper level.

Robin hums in thought, running a hand over his face. “I just don’t know, Ruby. She just got out of a long relationship.”

Eight months ago,” Ruby emphasizes. “Pretty sure she’s more than ready to move on.”

She has a point. Regina has been single for eight months and has mentioned before that she’s ready to date again, to put herself out there, has done so already, in fact, with a few guys. But would she really want to put herself out there with him?

“I’ll think about it,” Robin finally says, turning to say goodbye to the group of customers that are leaving.

Rolling her eyes, Ruby huffs out an exasperated breath. “Well, don’t wait too long. She’s hot. Someone else will scoop her up if you don’t.”

Shit. Maybe she has a point.

Regina is a gorgeous woman, and not only that, she’s genuine and caring and has all the aspects he looks for in a woman. She’s fun and carefree when she wants to be, she can hold an intelligent conversation, and she knows what she wants in life. She’s passionate and just… stunning, in every way.

It’s with that thought swimming around in his head that a metaphorical light bulb goes off. Perhaps he will finally work up the courage to ask her out after all. Maybe.

This is Regina they are talking about. Could he really risk their entire friendship, four wonderful years on the line, just for the possibility of a date?

Ruby smacks him on his chest, pulling him from his thoughts as Regina makes her way to the counter, and he realizes that yes, perhaps he is willing to risk it all for a date with her . His dad always told him if he ever found someone he was willing to risk everything for, then it would always be worth it.

“Hey guys,” she smiles, tossing her empty coffee cup in the trash can nearby. “Can I get a water?”

“Sure thing,” Ruby says, jumping into action before Robin can say anything.

They stand there for an awkward beat, alone this time, before Robin comments, “No more coffee?”

She grins, running a hand through her hair. “I’ve had three cups already and it’s only two o’clock!”

He laughs, letting out a fair enough as she tells him she needs to flush some of the caffeine coursing through her veins out of her system.

“Plus I’ve already had that massive sandwich. Between that and all the sugar from those drinks, my waistline will not be thanking me later.”

“Well your waistline looks fine from here,” he says without thought, his smooth voice sounding far more sultry than he’s ever used on her before, and lifting his chin to look her over head to toe on the other side of the counter.

She blushes at his words, biting down on her bottom lip in what looks like an adorable attempt to squash a smile from blooming on her face. “Robin,” she breathes out in a giggle, pushing her hair behind her shoulders.

Shrugging, he says, “I only speak the truth,” before biting on his own bottom lip.

The air is dense, like there’s so much both of them want to say in this moment. She looks at him, almost studying him, before going to say something. Regina sucks in a heavy breath, chest rising with the motion. Her full red lips part, but before she can speak, Ruby interrupts with a, “Here we go!”

Breaking the eye contact, Regina glances over at Ruby and let’s out the deep breath she’d just sucked in. “Thanks,” she smiles, looking back to Robin. She tilts her head back toward her seat, her skin still a bit flushed when she says, “I should get back to studying.”

Watching her walk away, Robin lets out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. That’s the boldest he’s been in his flirtation with Regina, and he isn’t sure how she’s taking it. Her reaction had seemed that of someone who enjoyed the attention and flirtation, though, which piqued his interests. He’s positive she’s over there not studying right now but over analyzing every second of their latest interaction.

“What was that all about?” Ruby asks, saying she could cut the tension with the knife when she walked up.

“Nothing,” Robin mumbles, sparing another glance in Regina’s direction, who seems to be smiling to herself, before walking to the breakroom, telling Ruby he was going to grab some more napkins for the dispensers before taking his half hour break.

{***********************}

Taking a calming breath, Regina chances another glimpse at the counter. Robin is nowhere to be found, and she wonders for a second if he regrets what he said.

He’s flirted before, but this was more… weighted, more direct, than any other time in the past. Not that she’s complaining. She shouldn’t like the feeling of butterflies swarming around in her belly when he says things like that to her, but, well, she does. She is human after all and has eyes.

Robin is an attractive man. His crystal blue eyes always piercing through her soul, his dimples that pop out any time she tells a joke, and the way he bites that bottom lip of his when he thinks he’s being cute (he usually is) or he’s trying to hide his smirk. It’s sexy. He’s kind and caring, always wanting everyone around him to feel welcome and safe. It’s an endearing quality, really, and she’s always loved that about him. He’s passionate and knows what he wants in life, has never been afraid to go after those things either. She admires that about him.

She looks back to her computer screen again, though, stuffing her earbuds in and telling herself to focus on the episode of Outlander she’s currently watching.

A few minutes later, however, a shadow looms over her. Looking up, she smiles at Robin and removes her earbuds.

“What’s up?”

He shrugs, pulling out the chair across from her once again and making himself comfortable. “It’s my break time.”

She ahhs and closes her laptop, looking over to him.

“You seem very busy over there studying ,” he smirks, taking a sip from his water bottle.

As she watches his Adam’s apple bob for a second, she shakes her head and laughs. “I’ve been studying almost all day, I needed a break.”

“Understandable,” he chuckles, asking if she wants another water.

She shakes her head, lifting her bottle and assuring him she has a little bit more left to drink. “Thanks, though.”

They sit and chat for a few moments, Regina having a hard time concentrating. Her mind seems to be focusing on all the little details of Robin’s face today - his scruff that he’s yet to shave, though she doesn’t really want him to, the way he worries his lip beneath his teeth while thinking, and the way his forehead scrunches in confusion at her. Confusion… why does he look confused?

“Regina?”

Shit. She jumps a little, sitting up straight and coughing out. “Sorry,” she says, realizing she’d been staring at him for longer than necessary. “What’d you say?”

He smiles widely, dimples on full display. Smug bastard. “I asked why you’re here studying and watching Outlander instead of out with someone special today.”

Flashes of curly red hair blowing in the lake’s breeze as Daniel nuzzles into Zelena’s cheek flash in her mind’s eye.

Regina sucks in her cheeks, eyes seeming to go cold as Robin sits back a little, looking worried. “You alright?”

“Fine,” she huffs, pulling out her phone and opening up her Instagram account. “Truth is, I didn’t have any plans. I haven’t really seen anyone since David,” she shrugs nonchalantly, images of David and Graham, the two guys she’s attempted to date in the last eight months coming to her mind. “I just saw this earlier, and it pissed me off.”

She hands him the phone, showing him the picture that Daniel has now posted as well. She’d blocked Zelena earlier in a moment of strength, and anger, but hadn’t thought to block Daniel as well. Now their romantic weekend was not only on all of her social media accounts but his as well. Lovely.

Robin shakes his head, breathing out a, “Fuck, I’m sorry.”

“It’s really okay,” she says, taking her phone from his hand and placing it back down. “It’s been eight months; I’m over it.”

He nods as she tells him it just hurt seeing that picture because she was the one who found that cabin and requested they go together. Had, in fact, planned out every little detail, down to having the jacuzzi on the secluded porch, the restaurants they could walk to each night and the annual festival that would take place every year around Valentine’s Day near the lake that they could go to. She’s always been a planner, but it seems this time it all came back to bite her in the ass.

“Damn,” Robin breaths, leaning into the table. He takes her hand that still rests next to her phone and intertwines their fingers, sending a sensation through her body. It’s almost as if a jolt of electricity just ran through her, and she’s not sure where it came from or if he felt it, too.

“Yeah,” she dryly chuckles, trying her hardest to fight back tears. She shakes her head and blinks her eyes a few times. “It is what it is, though.”

He agrees, stroking her hand in comfort. He tells her he doesn’t have any plans today, either, if it makes her feel any better. Knowing he’s by himself today too actually does bring her an amount of joy. Probably shouldn’t, she shouldn’t want her friend to be alone, but she can’t help but to briefly imagine them spending the evening together (as friends, of course), maybe going to dinner and then walking around downtown. It’s always so quaint and beautiful at night, fairy lights lining the streets in between street lanterns.

Not wanting to keep his break time weighed down by seriousness, she asks, “You didn’t want to take Jasmine out again?” with a coy grin playing on her face.

Robin laughs out loud at that, tilting his head back. “God, no.”

She joins his laughter, saying she couldn’t have been that bad. She’s met Jasmine; she seems nice enough.

“She’s definitely nice,” he tells her, “We just had absolutely nothing in common.”

“I understand,” Regina says, tampering down a chuckle. “Sounds like when I went out with David a few months ago.”

David had been nice, he was a good distraction from being pissed at Daniel. He and Zelena had just announced their relationship on Facebook, and she had been trying her hardest to avoid everyone’s sympathetic messages and texts. David, though, instead of feeling sorry for her, had taken it as his opportunity to ask her out.

She’d agreed; he was good looking with that short blonde hair and bright blue eyes, so she figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. They’d hung out a few times with friends before, so she knew he was friendly and everyone seemed to like him. The date had been fine, dinner and a nice walk around the park. They’d made out a little bit before he dropped her off at home. She’d invited him in one night a few weeks later, which led to some very mind blowing sex, but she realized she had nothing in common with him other than a physical attraction. She’d given him a few more weeks to prove her wrong, but in the end, she had to give up those earth shattering orgasms in the pursuit of finding someone who truly made her happy.

Robin sighs and agrees, saying, “We’ll find the right people one day.”

She rolls her eyes good naturedly at him but ultimately admits he’s right.

They sit there in comfortable silence for a beat, his hand continuing the rub soothing circles on the top of her hand. He’s always been the touchy feely type, always showing his love for his friends through physical touch like lingering hand caresses or hugs that make you want to melt into his embrace. She likes it, finds herself being more open to touches from him than anyone else lately.

“How much more studying do you have to do?” he questions, turning her notebook that’s sitting next to her laptop around to look at her notes.

“Not much,” she sighs. She rubs her eyes, picking at a tiny piece of matter that has hardened in the corner of one. She’s clearly been overworking her eyes today. “To be honest, I am probably ready for the exam, but you know how I am.”

He chuckles out a yeah, I do before pointing to her notes. “These are the most colorful and intricate notes I’ve ever seen.”

She laughs, looking down to her multi-colored notes page. She claims it helps her stay focused to highlight things in her pink and lime green colors and draw giant arrows all over the paper to connect her thoughts.

“Yeah, yeah,” he taunts in his sarcastic tone, standing and grabbing their now empty water bottles. “I just type mine on my laptop.”

“Look, it gives me something to do, okay?” she jokes, pointing her finger in his direction.

He holds up his hands in surrender, thumbs wrapped around the neck of both bottles, and murmurs an alright, alright before going to throw the trash into the recycle bin.

He makes his way back behind the counter, and despite how quickly he changed the subject, she can’t help but still feel the burn of being reminded of how alone she is today.

{***********************}

His break is over and he feels like a complete and utter wanker for asking her about her Valentine's Day plans. As soon as he’d seen the picture of Daniel and Zelena, he’d cursed himself mentally for even bringing it up. Sure, she’s over Daniel, has told him that several times over the last few months, but he knows seeing them together at the cabin she picked out, no less, has to hurt. It would feel like dirt being rubbed in anyone’s wound. Hell, even after being over for a year and a half now, when he sees pictures of Marian happily settled into a relationship with a man, Keith, she met a few months ago, it still feels a bit like peroxide being dabbed onto a scraped knee. He figures she grew out of her wild party stage quicker than they all thought she would; it took the right person to help her settle down, and he clearly wasn’t it.

That’s life though. They weren’t right for each other, nor were Regina and Daniel, so life goes on. He just hopes Regina doesn’t let her bitterness consume her. She’s done a great job so far of not letting it. Seeing your ex cheat on you with your friend surely hurts more than cheating with a stranger, he’d imagine, so he’s proud of the way she’s handled everything the last eight months.

“What’s with the face?” Ruby asks, putting the latest customer’s cash in the drawer.

“Nothing,” he mumbles, “Just said something stupid to Regina.”

The brunette smacks a hand to her forehead, asking, “What did you do?”

He huffs out in her direction, telling her how he’d unintentionaly brought up her ex.

“Oh, Jesus,” she says, running a hand through her dark hair. “Well, you didn’t know. It’s alright.”

He breathes out yeah before saying he just wants to make it up to her.

Robin turns with that, picking up a handful of coffee stirs and places them in the container next to the register.

“She looks fine to me,” Ruby says smugly, smiling over in Regina’s direction. “Can’t seem to take her eyes off of you, that’s for sure.”

Robin looks up from his task, glancing over Regina’s way, and catching her chocolate brown eyes in his. He smiles then, nodding his head up once.

She smiles sheepishly at him, a smile so small and quickly dissolved that had he not been looking, he would’ve missed before she turned back to face her notebook. He notes, though, that her smile didn’t reach her eyes. Damn it.

Robin spends some time washing out the ceramic coffee cups people have used today, nodding his head to the beat of the music playing over the café’s speakers while Ruby takes the next few orders.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so the campus radio station has played nothing but love songs all day, some cheesier than others. And he’s loved every single one of them. There’s something about cliché love songs that he thinks makes everyone feel happy, no matter how much they deny it.

“God, I love this song,” Ruby mumbles, handing her customer their to-go order as Kiss plays in the background.

“Yeah,” Robin laughs. “It’s pretty catchy!”

Ruby laughs, dancing around him and softly singing the song under her breath as he dries the cups.

He shakes his head, an idea coming to him in that moment. Looking around, he sees that Regina is one of the only two customers still left in the building. A small pout is still firmly in place on her face, and he’s not sure if it’s her studies making her look so upset or his words from a few minutes ago. Either way, he’s determined to get that elusive smile to show again.

The afternoons are always much slower, and he knows it won’t pick back up for another hour or so when people are getting out of classes. With that thought, he walks back to the break room and turns up the shop’s stereo system a tad bit more, the high pitched and staccato sounds of Prince coming through just a bit clearer.

Walking back out, Ruby gives him a questioning look.

He shrugs, saying, “Just making up for being a right git earlier,” before picking up a long neck bottle of vanilla flavoring and clearing his throat.

Ruby seems to catch on to his plan, rolling her eyes and letting out an oh no before turning to finish cleaning the dishes, shaking her head in amused disbelief.

Robin clears his throat again, this time a bit louder and more obvious to get Regina’s attention.

She looks up at the sound, turning a puzzled gaze in his direction.

He points in her direction and rolls his upper body to the beat of the song, causing her to turn in her chair and chuckle.

She shakes her head, speaking loudly enough for him to hear and says, “What are you doing?”

He sings the words ‘I just want your extra time and your’ and moves around behind the bar, turning in a circle before raising his hand up in the air dramatically, making the repeated kiss noise and bringing it back down with a clenched fist before pushing out the word Kiss !

The other customer in the establishment has come from around the corner where she was nestled away to watch the free show, catching Regina’s eyes and mouthing something to her that looks like Do you know him? to which she rolls her eyes playfully and nods her head.

He does another spin, doing his take on the Carlton dance, as he sings ‘ You just leave it all up to me, my love could be your food’ and clenches the bottle of vanilla tightly, fiercely pointing toward Regina, summoning her with the repeated roll of his finger.

She laughs, holding up her hands and shaking her head vehemently.

Robin laughs as he turns around, taking Ruby by the hand instead and spinning her in a circle before dipping her.

Ruby laughs, swatting him on the chest when he raises her back up before going to start a new vat of coffee.

He turns again, looking at Regina and giving her a wink as he and Prince finish singing.

When the song ends, Regina and the other customer being clapping as Regina bellows out a belly laugh, saying, “That was amazing!”

Robin smiles, trying to catch his breath after his performance, glad he was able to make her laugh.

“Wow,” Ruby says, placing a new jug of milk in the small fridge behind the counter. “What a show.”

Robin laughs, taking a sip of water. He’s surprisingly more out of breath than he would’ve thought after putting on that impromptu performance. That reminds him that he needs to get back up to the indoor hockey rink down the street from campus and work on his game a little bit. He’s been slacking lately with exams and everything coming up. “Thank you.”

He sees Ruby look over to Regina before turning back to him swiftly. Her eyes go serious for a second, and his brows furrow. “What is it?”

“You need to go talk to her. She likes you, Robin,” his brunette friend urges. She places her hands on her hips defiantly and looks at him with more conviction than he’s ever witnessed her use before. “You’d be an idiot not to notice that.”

“She doesn’t like me, Rubes,” he protests, refilling the sugars behind the counter. “We’re just friends. That’s all you’re seeing.”

Ruby shakes her head, huffing out a whatever before telling him she’ll hold down the shop if he wants to take another break. He doesn’t have another break during his shift, so he’s not entirely sure why she’s suggesting it. He supposes when your grandma is the literal Granny of Granny’s Brew, you can allot small breaks to your friends. She adds a, “You could always take Regina to the fountain for a few minutes,” with a wink.

Ah, he thinks. Now he sees why she wants him to press pause on his work. He smiles to himself. That girl will go to any lengths to see her friends happy, and he loves that about her.

Sighing, he looks over to Regina. She’s turned back to her notebook now, but he can’t help but be more than pleased with himself at the smile that still lingers on her lips.

Maybe a break is a good idea after all.

{***********************}

His performance had been wonderful. And perfect. And hilarious. Just like Robin.

His voice is beautiful, she’s always known he could sing, but hearing it today filling every square inch of the coffee house all for her made her insides feel like jelly.

Regina looks up a few minutes later and notices Robin making his way over to her, undoing his apron in the process.

“Boss gave me another thirty,” he says, teasingly pointing back to Ruby and taking her hand, pulling her up from the chair. “Perhaps I can take you for a walk in the sunlight.”

She smiles, and evasively says, “Perhaps,” before locking her fingers with his. A walk outside actually sounds amazing. She glances at the clock on the wall and sees she’s already been here for majority of the day. Some sunlight and a walk to stretch her legs might do her some good, so she looks back at him and adds a mumbled, “That sounds lovely.”

He walks her out, never letting go of her hand, and she’s suddenly hyper aware of just how easily her hand fits in his, how they seem to perfectly mold to one another’s. Assuring her Ruby will keep an eye on her belongings, they make their way out the building and down the paved walkway.

They walk a few feet to the center of campus where a large fountain sits. Luckily, it’s not too cold, so the water is still able to run and not freeze on the spot.

He’d grabbed their jackets before leaving, but she knows if they stay out here long enough, they’ll have to remove them. It’s a breezy day, causing the temperature to feel cooler than it is, but the direct sunlight will warm her up in no time.

Sitting down on the wooden bench facing the fountain, he pats the spot next to him.

She joins him there, sides pressed together as he wraps an arm around her and she snuggles into him.

“You’re warm,” she tells him, nuzzling her cold nose into his neck before sitting back and breathing out a contented sigh.

He chuckles warmly, tightening his grip around her. “If you’re too cold, we can go inside somewhere. Maybe walk around the science observatory,” he says, pointing to the closest building to them.

Sighing, she tells him she’s fine. “It feels nice. This,” she rubs her hand along his forearm that’s around her shoulders, “feels nice.”

She’s not sure why she just said that; it slipped out before she could really think about it, but he doesn’t seem too affected if the hum from the back of his throat is anything to go by.

“It does.”

They sit there a few moments, watching the water splash into the small pool beneath it. It’s soothing, hearing the water cascading into its stone basin, and she thinks she would sit here all day if she could.

“Have you heard from Neal or Tink lately?” she asks, knowing she’s been so busy with studying that she’s been a terrible friend to all of them over the last few weeks.

He twists his lips up in thought for a second, saying, “I talked to him last week, maybe. We’ve all been so busy studying.”

“I know,” she sighs. “I haven’t talked to Tink in probably two weeks. I’ve really sucked as a friend lately.”

He shakes his head at that, letting out a comforting No, you haven’t . “We’re all busy, Regina. We have graduation impending upon us,” he chuckles. “I think we’ve all been a little lax on the communication as of late.”

“Well that makes me feel better.” She smiles, laying her head on his shoulder.

He runs his hand up and down her bicep in a slow motion, causing goosebumps to rise on her skin.

She hums before adding, “We should all get together for dinner one night soon and catch up.”

Robin agrees, saying, “I can call Neal tomorrow and ask when they’re free.”

She nods at that, burrowing just a bit deeper into his warm embrace.

They watch as a couple walks up to the fountain, taking a selfie in front of it before they both giggle at the phone screen and take another one. This time the girl kisses the guy on the cheek. The girl laughs then at something the boy says and leans up to press a kiss to his lips. It’s not passionate, not anything to make onlookers feel uncomfortable, but it’s cute and sends a pang of longing to Regina’s stomach.

As the younger couple walks away, Robin leans in and presses a kiss to the top of her head. She breathes out and laces their fingers together once more as his nose buries itself in her hair. Regina can feel him take a small whiff of her hair, and she smiles into his chest.

“You know,” he says, effectively breaking the peaceful silence around them. “Legend says that Saint Cupid watches over all fountains on Valentine’s Day, waiting to see who will make a wish.”

Oh, boy, she thinks bemusedly, here he goes with his romantic notions he’s always rambling on about.

“Oh, really?” she questions, sitting up more to remove her jacket from around her shoulders.

Hmm he says, adding, “They say that whomever tosses a penny into a fountain on Valentine’s Day while making a wish will be granted love by the person that picks their penny out of the water.”

He tells her that the legend started back when coins were first invented. People thought that if you tossed a coin into the water, it was wishing for good health and prosperity to them and their families. It evolved eventually, some people making their own legends up as they went. He reminds her of the legend of the Trevi Fountain in Rome they’d learned about one summer after Tink returned from a study abroad trip. Legend states if you toss a penny in the fountain, it symbolizes that you’ll come back to Rome some other time in your lifetime.

She smiles warmly, sitting up and stretching out her hand toward him. “I assume you brought two pennies with you, Romeo.”

He laughs, bringing his arm from where it was resting on the back of the bench to reach into his pocket. “As a matter of fact,” he grins, “I do happen to have some.”

Regina shakes her head teasingly at him, grabbing a penny from his palm and grumbling out a, “You’re such a hopeless romantic.”

She walks over to the fountain, Robin close behind, and closes her eyes. Sighing, and thinking how ridiculous this is, she tosses the copper coin into the water, Robin’s coin dropping in beside hers.

Opening her eyes, she looks over to Robin, who is staring at her intently. She sometimes feels like when he looks at her, he believes she holds the sun. Not that she can complain. “Did you make a wish?”

“Maybe.” Regina smiles, biting on her bottom lip.

He breathes out a chuckle, telling her, “Well, as long as you tried.”

She takes his smooth hand inside hers, leading him back over to the bench. They settle into each other’s embrace as she asks, “How much longer do we have?”

He looks at his watch and sighs. “About ten more minutes.”

She nods, cuddling into his side.

They sit there for a beat of silence before Robin speaks up, asking, “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?”

She sits up, turning to look at him more fully. She thinks for a minute before telling him she’d wish for exactly what she’s working toward. “I’d want to work in a government position and work my way up to running for mayor, just like I plan to do.”

Sure, there’s plenty more she could wish for - a long life for her pet cat, to graduate, to have magical abilities to summon all the Chinese food she could ever need to her apartment at any time of day - but the main thing she strives for in life is to achieve her goals. She’s grown up learning from her mother that no one would get you things you want in life except yourself, so she has always worked hard and been completely driven to get the things that she wants.

“You’ve always been so set in your ideas. Always have known what you want to do in life.” He smiles warmly at her. “I love that about you.”

Her breath hitches in her throat. They’ve said things like this before, but after the way she’s been feeling today, all conflicting emotions swirling around in her mind about how she truly feels about him, his words have a different effect on her.

“What about you?” she asks, trying to take the attention off of her. “What would you wish for?”

“Well,” he sits up, straightening a bit. “I already know I’m going to love my career, so I’d wish for some type of new adventure.”

She scrunches her nose then, asking, “Like what?”

“Don’t know,” he laughs. “Maybe to travel back to Europe and visit countries I haven’t been to since I was younger. It’d be neat to see places now as an adult and actually remember them.”

She hums, saying that sounds like a fun trip.

“What about you? What adventure would you go on?” he asks, going back to rubbing lines on her bicep again.

Regina thinks for a moment before smirking and saying, “Traveling would be fun. I could go with you to Europe.”

He smiles, pressing a kiss to her temple and assuring her he would love to have her travel with him. “My mum would be ecstatic to finally meet you.”

She laughs, nodding her head. She’s seen Robin’s parents through Skype plenty of times, but she’d love to meet them in person someday. They’ve always seemed so nice and loving. They’d moved back to England a month into their freshman year of college, his mom claiming she missed the scenery back home, so by time she became friends with Robin that September, his parents were already gone.  “I can’t wait to meet your mom!”

He smiles before checking his watch. He sighs, saying they need to head back.

She shouldn’t be keeping him the full thirty anyway, to be honest. It’s not like this was an actual break; Ruby just let him go for some reason.

She stands, turning to grab her jacket from the back of the bench. When she turns back around, Robin is not by the bench. She looks toward the fountain, spotting him wiping off his wet hand and stuffing something into his pocket.

She narrows her eyes at him, saying, “What are you doing?”

Robin looks to her guiltily, rubbing the back of his neck. “Campus police would fine me if they caught us throwing coins into the fountain.”

She lets out a bark of laughter, saying she wondered why there weren’t any other coins in the water.

“Yeah,” he chuckles, “It’s actually against campus laws to ‘pollute the water,’ whatever that means.”

She hums, looking at him suspiciously. “You sure you didn’t just want to steal my wish?”

He smiles at her, biting on his bottom lip in that way that she’s come to realize drives her mad with desire. She thinks, for some reason, in this moment all she wants to do is kiss this coin bandit into oblivion.

“No,” he says, coming to join her and head back toward Granny’s again. He wraps an arm around her shoulders and adds, “I made up that whole legend anyway.”

Looking at him in astonishment, she smacks him on the chest, letting out a howled, “You liar!” as he laughs, his bellows echoing off the stone walkways and empty building corridors. He wraps his arm tighter around her and leads them away from the fountain.

{***********************}

Walking back into the coffee shop, his arm still around her shoulders and her arm around his waist, he can’t help but notice Ruby’s pleased expression.

They hang their coats up, and he heads back behind the counter, grabbing his apron to tie around his waist, while Regina goes back to her chair to study.

“You two looked cozy,” Ruby notes, nodding her head in the direction they just came.

He’ll admit to only himself that they did seem a bit cozier today than in the past. He assures himself, however, that it’s just the fact that they are both so comfortable with each other after four years of friendship. Plus, it was chilly outside, she was just keeping warm under his tight embrace. Surely that’s all it was, couldn’t be anything more. Regina didn’t like him the same way he fancied her.

“We were just having a bit of fun,” he tells her, straightening the coffee sleeves near the register and smiling at the next customer who just walked in.

Ruby grunts in disapproval before going to start on the customer’s drink order.

Once the customer’s order has been filled and they’ve walked away, finding a cozy corner to enjoy their joe, Ruby turns to face Robin again.

“I’ve seen the way she’s been looking at you today,” she tells him, adding a sassy murmur of and everyday the last few months that he would’ve missed had he been busy doing something else. “She wants you to ask her out. I can just feel it in my bones.”

Robin chuckles in disbelief then, asking if her magic eight ball told her this, too.

“No, smartass,” she retorts sarcasically. “But I’m a woman, and I date women, I know the signs.”

She goes on, telling him how the two of them have been friends longer than Ruby has known them. She explains that they never worked out before because they were always with other people. “But you’re both single now, have been for months, and it’s time you did something about it.”

Robin pauses, hand reaching into his pocket and rubbing the pennies from earlier. Ruby has a point. He has been interested in Regina for a solid year now, and she seems ready, so what is holding him back?

There’s the fear that she could reject him and could ruin the friendship they’ve worked so hard to build. But, for some reason, that doesn’t seem to be as scary of a thought as it’d been just a few hours ago. Sure, the demise of their friendship would shatter their worlds, but he feels this connection to Regina, feels this deep pull to her that he can’t even explain to himself. He realizes that he doesn’t think she’d turn him down, and even if she did, he knows it wouldn’t ruin their friendship. Their bond is too strong to let one thing crumble it all to the ground.

He finds he’s much more confident than he gave himself credit for. He’s doing this. He’s going to ask Regina out on a date.

Straightening up and puffing his chest out a bit in certainty, Robin puts his hands on his hips and looks at Ruby. “You’re right.”

Ruby claps her hands together once in glee, looking at him with excitement in her eyes and letting out a small squeal of approval.

“Go get ‘em, Tiger!” she chants, playfully swatting his rear as he turns to walk from behind the counter.

He’s nervous despite his newly discovered boldness, would probably sweat through his t-shirt if the building was any warmer.

Those fears from earlier, the ones he’s been battling with for months on end start creeping back inside the more he sets his sights on where she sits. Regina is his best friend. What if she doesn’t want to date him? What if she turns him down? He’ll be mortified. Yes, he knows their friendship would survive, but he’d probably go into hiding until after graduation before he could assuredly face her again.

A traitorous voice whispers in his mind that he’ll never know until he tries, and what if she says yes ?

Sighing and rubbing a hand over his face, he musters up all the confidence he’d found within himself just moments ago and walks over to her table.

“Hey,” she says, smiling up at him and closing her laptop. “I think I’ve finally finished going through all of my notes.”

He matches her smile, saying, “That’s great. Now you can go enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Her face falls a bit at the mention of tonight, and he mentally kicks himself. Idiot.

“Yeah,” she says quietly, moving to pack up her things. “My Chinese take out while I watch Notting Hill and snuggle with Fergus will be so exciting.”

He thinks for a second of just inviting himself over to enjoy Mr. Chang’s Chinese, the best Chinese place in town, but no. Regina deserves more than to watch her favorite movie while her gray kitten stretches along her feet on this special night.

He doesn’t have plans either; he was, in fact, going to do the same thing. He’d planned the pick up Chang’s on the way home and eat while he got some studying done.

He smiles empathetically at her and reaches down, picking up her laptop and placing it into her bag for her.

“Thanks.” She smiles, standing from the chair and placing her hand on his bicep when they’re finally face to face. “You wouldn’t wanna come over and share some Chang’s with me, would you? We could watch something else, so I don’t torture you with my love for Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.”

He chuckles softly at her, reminding himself not to agree. This is it, though. She’s unintentionally opened the door for him to ask her out. He should do it now before she leaves, and he loses all his semi-confidence.

“No,” he mumbles out without thinking.

Her face falls, and he sees a look of hurt flash across her face.

Shit, fuck, shit. That is not what he should have said. Wanker.

“What I mean is,” he says, running a hand over his scruff and blowing out a breath, unable to finish his thought.

His nerves must be showing on the outside because she looks at him questioningly. “Robin? You alright?”

He smiles at her then, hoping it’s a comforting smile, and takes her hand in his.

“Regina,” he sighs out, almost as if her name is a prayer falling from his lips. He looks deep into her eyes, making sure that her brown orbs are locked into his blue ones. “Today has been great, spending all this time with you again.”

She smiles back at him, thank God, and gives his hand a gentle squeeze.

“Yeah,” she breathes out, the scent of the apple flavoring from her latest coffee filling the space between them. “It really has.”

“And our talk of going on a new adventure…” he trails off, untangling his hand to rub the back of his neck apprehensively. “It got me thinking and, well...” he stumbles, returning his freed hand back to hers and rubbing his thumb along the back of her hand. Fuck it. Man up, he tells himself. This is Regina. Gorgeous, wonderful, loves everything he knows about her Regina. “Will you be my valentine?”

“What?” she giggles at him, eyebrows moving up toward her hairline quickly before scrunching to look at him in confusion.

“Well, I mean,” he breathes out a chuckle more to himself than to anyone, “I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight? Not Mr. Chang’s.”

Her eyes widen slightly, immediately making him regret having the courage to do this.

“Like... on a date?” she inquires slowly, head tilting to the side. He thinks he sees a ghost of a smile playing on her lips, but he isn’t quite certain.

“Yeah.” He nods, giving her hand a light squeeze. “Yeah, I want to take you on a date.”

He realizes how ridiculous they must look. Both standing beside the chair in the middle of a coffee shop, her bag in his free hand while her free one twiddles with a strand of hair.

She bites her lip then in that way that always drives him crazy, teeth sinking into the plump flesh before releasing that captured lip and saying, “Yeah, I’d like that.”

Regina smiles brightly at him with that, pushing out a single chuckle of air.

“Great,” he breathes, releasing the tensioned air he’d been harboring in his lungs. “How about I pick you up at,” he glances at his watch, seeing that it’s already five o’clock, “seven?”

“That sounds lovely,” she tells him, saying that gives her just enough time to run to her apartment and get ready.

She asks him what time he gets off work, wanting to make sure he’ll have enough time to get ready. She knows he lives about fifteen minutes from campus like she does (they live just down the road from one another), and she doesn’t want him to feel rushed.

“I get off at six,” he tells her, finally handing her the leather satchel he’s been holding on to. “I’ll have plenty of time.”

She smiles, letting out a sounds good before taking her bag from his hand and slinging it across her body.

“See you at seven then.” She winks, as best she can anyway, she’s always been a shit winker, always comes out as more of a blink, and unlaces their fingers, making her way out of the coffee shop.

Holy fuck. She’d actually agreed.

His face lights up, turning to face the counter where Ruby stands, a smile lighting up her face.

“So…?” she asks when he walks back to the register. “I take her smile just then as a yes?”

He breathes out a yeah before turning to make one last vat of coffee for the day. “She did.”

He’s trying to play it cool and not jump for joy in the middle of the coffee shop, but on the inside his heart is racing from all the adrenaline. Beating faster than it did that time his brother, Will, almost took off his head with an arrow during archery practice as a kid.

“I knew it!” Ruby exclaims, clamping a hand over her mouth so as not to disturb the patrons that have multiplied since before he went to ask Regina out.

He laughs at her excitement, thanking her for all her encouragement. He tells her she’s always been the one pushing him to go after her, not just today, and it looks like it finally paid off.

Ruby looks at the clock, sighing and says, “Just one more hour of work and then you’ll be free!”

One more hour. He can make it.

{***********************}

Have dinner with me tonight?

His words radiate in her mind as she drives home and as she rushes into her apartment to ready herself for tonight.

She doesn’t think she has stopped smiling since he asked her out. Robin is her best friend, and she can’t believe it’s taken her this long to realize they might be something more.

They’ve always flirted, but it was so innocent that she never put any stock into it.

Going into her bathroom, she turns on the shower and lets it warm up while she clicks on her Pandora playlist on her phone.

She takes off her clothes and ties her hair up before sending Tink a simple text that says, “ Robin asked me out on a date tonight. I said yes. Call later with details,” accompanied by a kissy face emoji.

Once she hits send, she hops in the shower, singing along to her 80’s Rock’ N Roll station all the while.

When she gets out, she has a text waiting from Tink. It’s a shocked face emoji and a WHAT!? followed by a baby throwing up praise hands in a gif. Regina snorts at her phone, locking it and going to prepare herself for the date.

She dresses in yoga pants and a t-shirt long enough to do a full face of makeup, making sure to color her lips in a deep red to match her dress. She blow dries her hair and straightens it before stepping into her closet.

Regina knows Robin likes the color red on her. Had told her once a while ago that she looked amazing in the color. So she wants to wear a red dress, but for Regina Mills, that still leaves plenty of options. Scanning through her section of red dresses, one in every shade of the color it would seem, she finally settles on one that she thinks Robin will love.

It’s her absolute favorite. It’s a bright, classic, cherry red and form fitted, but still allows her room to breathe. It sits a little below her knees and has short sleeves with a tiny collar, but her favorite part is the peephole at the top of the dress which flashes just enough skin when she moves her arms.

She looks at herself in the mirror after she slides into the garment, turning from side to side to make sure she definitely wants to wear it. Deciding she does, she smiles at her reflection and goes to slip on a pair of black pumps when the doorbell rings.

Slipping her shoes on quickly, she gives her hair one last fluff and heads to the front of her apartment.

Opening the door, her jaw almost drops. Robin is wearing a black suit with a pale blue shirt underneath and a black tie. He looks good, more than good; he looks handsome and sexy and suddenly those butterflies from earlier are released from their cage, flying and flipping all around her belly.

“Hey,” she breathes, opening the door a bit wider.

His eyes roam over her body, his Adam’s apple clearly bobbing in his throat. “Hey yourself. You look stunning.”

She blushes at his words, not used to Robin so openly appreciating her body. “Thank you.”

“Are you ready?”

She tells him she is, turning to grab her purse from the hook by the door.

They walk arm in arm to his black Audi before heading to the restaurant.

When they arrive, they are seated quickly. She’s surprised, seeing as it’s a holiday where almost everyone eats out, but when she makes a comment about it, he smiles and says, “A friend of mine’s dad owns the place. I called in a favor after work.”

She looks around, smiling to herself. All the tables have been adorned with red and pale pink tablecloths. There is a chandelier hanging above the main part of the room, while other, smaller lights illuminate the rest of the space. There are pink balloons tied to some of the booth’s sides, giving the place a festive look. It’s not overly cheesy, still somewhat tasteful, as tasteful as you can get on a holiday centered around being in love. She notices the windows that overlook a large lake are lined with white fairy lights, and a few of the them have a giant red heart drawn on them.

Bringing her eyes to their table, she spots two candles giving off a soft glow around their faces, and she can’t help but think how mesmerizing he looks in this setting. There’s also small pieces of red, pink, and purple heart shaped confetti sitting around the candles that make her giggle. They really went all out decorating this place for tonight.

Smiling, she thanks him for calling his friend, telling him the place is beautiful. “I’ve never been here.”

“Neither have I,” he tells her, reaching for her hand that sits on the table. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, or the fact that she’s actually on a date with Robin, but even just the simplest touch of his hand against hers, which she’s felt plenty of times before, sends a jolt of electricity through her body just like earlier today at Granny’s. She wonders again if he feels it, too.

The waiter comes over, placing two waters in front of them and asking if they’d like anything else to drink.

Robin looks to her for confirmation and after she nods, he orders a bottle of Pinot Blanc.

It’s fancy, and she knows Robin isn’t rich by any means. They’re still in college, after all, and working at a coffee shop on campus for four year provides him with enough to pay his rent and bills, but he’s never been one to splurge on big things. She finds it sweet, though, that he wants to spoil her with the best of the best.

The waiter walks away, leaving them in silence. She finds herself not knowing exactly what to talk about. She already knows everything about him. She knows his answers to the typical first date questions - his favorite color, favorite food, places he’s traveled to. It seems strange now that she’s here. What are they supposed to talk about?

She looks around the restaurant once more before bringing her eyes to look at him. He hasn’t said anything either, and she’s suddenly afraid this will turn out to be a terrible date. She gives him a soft smile, and he caresses the top of her hand as he smiles warmly back in her direction. Silence engulfs their table for longer than need be. They’re looking at each other, then away, taking sips of their water and listening to the music that is being played.

It feels… awkward. Maybe not awkward, but something is off. Sitting in a companionable silence with Robin is nothing new, it’s not like they’ve spent the last four years talking non-stop, but this is just odd. Their usual comfort level seems to have left them, and she’s not sure why.

“So…” she says, taking another sip of her water.

“Yeah,” he adds, looking around at the scenery of the restaurant. There’s a live band softly playing love songs up on a small stage, and he bobs his head to the beat, not saying anything else.

After their silence continues another minute, Robin looks at her, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence. “This is totally awkward, right?”

“Oh, thank god,” she breathes, closing her eyes and chuckling. “I thought it was just me.”

“Definitely not,” he laughs, giving her hand a comforting squeeze. “I think I was putting too much pressure on trying to make this perfect for you.”

Well, that’s just… sweet, and romantic, and so typically Robin that her heart starts to beat a bit faster.

Her heart melts a little as she smiles sweetly at him. “You don’t have to make anything perfect for me, let’s just enjoy the night.”

He agrees, nodding his head and rubbing soft patterns over the top of her hand before intertwining their fingers.

She’s decided after today that she loves the way his fingers feel around hers. They’re softer than she’d imagine. He plays hockey and practices his archery skills pretty often, so she’d expect them to be more calloused. She wonders for a second if maybe he gets manicures and has never told her before. The thought brings a smile to her face that she tries to tamp down before he notices.

The waiter comes back, allowing them to taste their wine before they both agree that it’s the one they want.

Looking over the menu, Regina is conscious of the fact that she doesn’t want Robin to empty his bank account for one date. The wine alone would have put her close to her eating out budget for the month.

“What are you thinking of getting?” he asks, looking over his own menu.

“I’m not sure,” she says, scanning the options again. There’s all the typical choices - steaks, chicken and fish dishes, and the classic hamburger. Her stomach rumbles inside upon looking at the burger pictured in the menu. “I was honestly thinking of just getting this barbeque burger.”

She leans into the table a little, scanning her eyes on his menu before locating the burger’s photograph. She points to it, showing him exactly which one she’s planning to get.

He laughs lightly, saying, “You do love your burgers. A burger with wine, though? Doesn’t seem like the right combination for such an occasion.”

She chuckles at that, eventually agreeing with him. She hums, looking over the menu again and asking what he’s going to get. He points out the heartiest steak on the menu, assuring her he wants them to go all out tonight for this.

Smiling over at him under her long, dark lashes, she looks back at her menu and spies a delicious sounding shrimp scampi. “Does shrimp work better with your preferred wine, sir?” she taunts.

“Yes,” he laughs, picking up his glass and taking a sip. “It does indeed.”

She hums in delight and sits back, taking a sip of her wine. It’s delicious and taste better than any she’s ever picked up for their numerous get togethers with friends over the years.

Robin takes another sip of his wine, placing it down and picking up her hand again. He smiles at her, which she returns with one of her own, before asking her if she’s been reading any new books lately.

It’s been a while since they’ve hung out, so she relaxes, glad they have something to catch up on. They sit there, discussing the newest literature they’ve been delving into during their free time, and Robin tells her about the latest video game he and Neal picked up to play. It apparently has a feature where they can communicate with each other from their own living rooms. Regina rolls her eyes and tells him, “Oh, I’m sure Tink just loves that.”

He chuckles, saying Tink has gotten in on the action a few times, too, which makes her smile at the thought of her best friend trying to keep up with the boys in their game.

After ordering their meals, they sit and listen to the music for a moment.

“They’re really good,” she tells him, pointing her head toward the band.

There’s two guys playing guitars, a girl on drums, and a guy playing the bass guitar. They’re accompanied by two singers, a man and a woman, who both have beautifully calming voices. There is something familiar about them that Regina can’t quite place.

“Mm,” Robin says, adding a, “I think they’re the group that performed at Neal and Tink’s party last summer.”

“Oh yeah,” she exclaims, thinking back to the Fourth of July party their friends threw last summer. “I knew they looked familiar. I should’ve recognized that guy right away.” She juts her chin in the general direction of the band, thinking back to when they performed for their friends and one of the guitarist had a bit too much to drink.

“Why’s that?” he asks, looking over at her suspiciously.

She rolls her eyes and says, “He tried to feel me up near the bathrooms at the party.”

“Which one?” Robin asks incredulously, turning to look more fully at the men to his right. “Point him to me, I’ll be happy to have more than a conversation with him.”

She giggles, saying it wasn’t a big deal. She pushed him away, and he ran off like a wounded puppy.

“Probably afraid of the Evil Queen, I suppose,” he jokes, sending a smirk her way.

She squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head, saying, “I’m never going to live that costume down, am I?”

“You mean the fact that you showed up to my first Halloween party of college decked in a full Evil Queen costume when it wasn’t even a costume party?” He asks, letting out a deep chortle. “No, no you will not.”

She laughs, defending herself with a, “I still stand by what I said back then. Any party hosted on Halloween is, by default, a costume party.”

It had been humiliating, showing up and quickly realizing no one else was dressed up. The stares she received haunted her for the next few weeks. Luckily, Tink and Robin ushered her to his bedroom soon after arriving and were able to find her something to wear. He’d saved her back then by giving her one of his t-shirts to go along with the pair of yoga pants Tink had brought with her. Neal and Robin were living together while Neal’s apartment was being renovated, so Tink was planning to spend the night, and thank god for that, otherwise she would’ve had to walk around in a pair of Robin’s baggy sweatpants. She wasn’t the most stylish party goer that night, but it was better than walking around with a cape and staff in hand and a black crow sewn to her shoulder.

They share a laugh at the memory, Robin assuring her that she was the most gorgeous and villainous looking Evil Queen he’d ever seen, no matter how out of place she was that night.

Calming their laughter, he turns to face her fully at the table, taking her hand again and telling her he’s glad they came out tonight.

“Me, too,” she says, being bold and running her foot along his calf before crossing her legs, which causes Robin’s eyes to widen in surprise. “This is nice.”

The two of them sit there, hands grazing against each others and feet playing a slow, lazy game of footsie under the table. They can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other, and Regina finds she wants to feel more of him pressed against her than just his hand in hers.

Their food arrives, and they eat in a peaceful companionship.

“You going to let me be a thief and steal a bite of that scampi?” he asks, spying the golden noodles on her plate with a longing look.

She scoops a spoonful onto his plate, smiling at him and quips, “You can’t steal something that’s been given to you.”

He chuckles out a fair enough and takes a bite, closing his eyes to enjoy the creamy goodness. He thanks her for the bite and asks if she wants to taste his baked potato.

Shaking her head, she tells him she’s okay for now.

After a few bites of their food, he sneaks a few pieces of her shrimp away when she glances at the band again.

Turning her eyes toward him, she spies the buttery sauce being licked from his lips. “I knew you were a thief!”

He laughs, apologizing and offering her a bite of his steak in return. She narrows her eyes playfully, stating that she’s fine without his steak and says, “Just don’t let it happen again.”

“Oh,” he scoffs out, smirking so hard his dimples are on full display and placing a hand mockingly over his heart while raising the other one. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Regina shakes her head, smiling at his antics, and swipes a piece of potato off his plate, raising her eyebrows in challenge. He smirks back, biting his bottom lip and taking another bite of his sirloin.

They finish their meals without anymore stealing and sip on their wine. The date so far has been amazing, and she finds herself feeling more comfortable than she ever even knew was possible with Robin.

Once they finish their food and their plates have been cleared away, the waiter brings the bill. Robin instantly reaches for it, opening up his wallet and placing his card inside.

It’s strange, letting Robin pay for dinner, but she reminds herself that this isn’t just dinner with Robin, this is a date with Robin. So, she’ll let him… this time.

She smiles contentedly, looking around the restaurant at the other couples dining together and listening to the band play. It’s nice and relaxing.

They talk for a few minutes, finishing their waters and waiting for the receipt to be brought back, anticipation building inside of her for what’s to come when they leave the restaurant. She isn’t sure what they’ll do, but as long as she’s with Robin, she knows she’ll enjoy it, even if they just go back to her apartment and watch a movie together.

Once the waiter returns with his card and receipt, Robin reaches for the pen, filling out the form.

“You ready?” Robin asks, closing the receipt booklet and placing the pen on top.

She grabs her purse, saying she is. He takes her hand in his as they stand, making their way to his car.

He opens the car door for her, but before she can get in, he gently grabs her by the waist, spinning her to look into her eyes. God, she could look into those blue eyes of his forever.

She smiles at him, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. He takes her hand then, bringing it to rest in between their chests that are now pressed almost completely together. His other hand finds its place on her hip while her free hand raises to grip his bicep as he leans in tentatively.

She tilts her head up, parting her lips to meet his. He presses his lips to hers more fully then, breathing into the space between their faces. It’s the most gentle kiss she’s ever had, yet it sends a tingling sensation down to her core. Their lips break apart for a split second, long enough to take in a small breath, before she presses them back to his for another soft kiss.

Pulling back, he smiles, then presses one, two, three more pecks to her lips before breaking apart.

She lets out a content sigh, licking her lips and opening her eyes. Their bodies are still pressed together and she realizes they’ve moved back a touch so her back is pressed against the side of the car.

“You’re quite a good kisser,” he says, causing her to let out a breathy, almost disbelieving, chuckle.

Regina smiles up at him, removing their entangled hands to place it on his stubbled cheek while his hand grips her waist on the other side, too. She leans in, placing another lingering kiss to his lips before releasing his lips with a wet pop. She twitches her eyebrows up and flirts back with a, “You’re not so bad yourself.”

They smile at each other, reluctantly pulling their bodies apart from the others. He places his hand on the opened car door and tilts his head, signaling for her to slide in.

On the ride to her place, the air is thick with an intoxicating tension. They’d had a good time, had flirted and touched more than she can ever consciously remember doing in the past in one sitting, and she’s interested to see where this night takes them.

Her hands roam while he drives, running a hand along his thigh and giving his knee a squeeze. He takes her hands in his, kissing the back of her knuckles and interlocking their fingers. At the next red light, he turns to her, leaning in for a quick kiss while they wait. That quick kiss, however, turns into more of what Robin would call a snog, and it’s not until the car behind them blows their horn that either of them realizes the light is green.

He breathes out an oops, which makes her laugh. She leans back into her seat and lets him rub his thumb along the back of her hand until they finally reach their destination.

They make it back to her apartment, and she can’t help but think that this has been the best date she’s ever gone on, and she’s so glad it was with Robin.

Not only are they comfortable with each other, they know so much about each other. That had been awkward at first, stifling their conversation, but now she sees the pros to that. They’re able to relate to each other better, and don’t have to explain all the little details of their stories they tell because they already know the finer details of each other’s experiences.

When they get to her door, they stand there for a moment, staring into each other’s eyes. She’s lost in his blue gaze until his lips come closer to hers.

Her tongue darts out quickly to wet her lips before his gently press on to hers. Softly at first, but once her lips meet his, he deepens the kiss, lips locked together more fervently.

Their lips seem to mold together perfectly, just like all the kisses they’ve shared already tonight, wrapping Regina in a warmth she’s never experienced before. They’ve kissed before, once or twice, but their kisses were always just innocent, friendly ones. This, this feels like so much more. She can feel a lifetime in this kiss.

Regina deepens the kiss even more, her tongue tracing the seams of his lips.

He moans from the back of his throat, opening his mouth and letting her in to explore. This kiss seems more heated than even the one at the red light, and Regina thinks she could stand here all night exploring every crevice of his mouth.

Their tongues meet and mold together before they both pull back, the need for air too overwhelming.

He’s breathing deeply, and good, because so is she.

Robin looks into her eyes then so reverently that she believes she could slaughter entire villages and he’d still forgive her.

“Wow,” she says, pecking his lips once again. His stubble scratches her lips as she pulls away, and she scrunches her nose at the sensation. It’s not a bad feeling, just different than any other man she’s kissed. None of them sported facial hair, and she finds that she likes it. Wonders what that stubble would feel like on other parts of her body. “That was…”

“Incredible,” he finishes for her. He leans in again now that they’ve caught their breath and presses his lips to hers again, this time softly, like he’s trying to memorize every trace of her lips against his.

“A part of me thought this would be weird, going out with you and… kissing you,” she says, grinning as her hands run up and down his biceps, giving them a soft squeeze when she reaches the top. “But I was very wrong.”

She smiles devilishly, leaning in for another heated makeout session. They’re still standing in front of her door, her keys lay forgotten in her purse still, but she doesn’t want to stop kissing him even long enough to fish them out just yet.

He pulls back, saying, “I know,” and presses a short kiss to the scar above her lip, causing her to smile. He’s always loved the story of her being scarred by the piece of glass that Tink sent flying her way in high school when she dropped an entire glass bowl of pancake batter on Regina’s kitchen floor for some reason. They’d finally told the boys that story late one night their first year of friendship with them, and all they could do was laugh. “We’ve been friends for years, and we were always dating other people, but... we’re here now, and this is true. It’s wonderful.”

“Yeah,” she agrees, humming and leaning up to press a kiss to his cheek. “It really is. After Daniel, I just… I never thought I’d have this.”

Sure, she’s dated other people since Daniel left, but being with Robin feels different, even after just one date, than it ever did with David or Graham. She just knows this is going to turn out to be something spectacular; she can feel it in the depths of her soul.

“Well,” he grins, leaning in to peck her lips. “Maybe sometimes it’s all about timing.”

“Maybe is it,” she smiles, pulling back to look into his eyes. His arms are wrapped around her waist now, hands resting on the top of her rear and their bodies pressed completely against one another’s, so she has to lean back to see his face. “Perhaps this is that new adventure you talked about earlier.”

He smiles, pressing his lips to hers again, fully and deeply. She moans into his lips before he pulls away and says, “Maybe it is.”

“Tink will never believe this,” she laughs, bringing some light heartedness into the moment. “She’s been pestering me to go out with you for ages. Even before my breakup.” She glances down at his lips once more before saying, “I know she’ll want to hear from us tomorrow.”

Robin laughs at that, saying that can be arranged. He tells her Neal has been persuading him to ask her out for months now, too. “Seems our friends know what they’re talking about after all.”

She smiles, leaning up closer to him and kissing him again. She can’t seem to get enough of his kisses or the feel of him pressed so closely to her. Her eyebrows twitch up a second before she finally disentangles from his grasp and finds her keys in her purse. Opening her door, she turns to him, and in her sexiest voice she can muster in this moment, says, “Did you want to come in?”

Leaning into her so her back is pressed against the door, he lets his lips linger for a second on hers. Pulling back slightly, he moves his lips closer to her ear and mumbles out a low Oh, most definitely, that brings a giddy smile to her face.

She reaches behind her back, twisting the door knob and letting the door swing open.

They make their way to the couch, hands roaming and lips searching all that way, until they make it to their destination. Once they eventually pull away for air, she grins and reaches over, clicking her remote to power on the television. Notting Hill is already waiting on her screen.

Robin chuckles, taking the remote and pressing play. She smiles into his kiss when he leans in for another one, leaning back and giving him room to hover above her.

They spend the rest of the evening snuggled together while their hands and lips never stop discovering the other’s. Their bodies are pressed closer than she even thought was possible, effectively not paying attention to the movie, and she never wants it to end.

She never thought going for coffee this morning would lead to this, but she’s damn sure glad it did.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day has lead to a new adventure after all.