Actions

Work Header

amazing grace

Work Text:

amazing grace

 

 

Blue or green.  She can’t decide, and the longer she looks, the less certain she becomes.

Like all of her clothes, the lingerie appeared in the dresser and, like all of her clothing, it’s perfect: delicate lace, high-quality satin with tiny embellishments, light as air and incredibly luxe.  Fit for a queen, Regina thinks, and probably the only good think to come of this curse (despite the abilities of a corset to accentuate certain attributes, she can’t say that she’s fond of the monstrosities). 

Today, she can’t decide between blue or green.  The green set is dark emerald, embroidered with creeping vines on a neutral background that makes her think of her more elaborate clothing left behind in the Enchanted Forest, but the blue is an ice-blue, lacy and fierce.  She rolls hers shoulders, cocks her head to the left.

She’s feeling a bit nostalgic today.

Green it is.

There’s something about the feeling of something as sensual as this against her skin, a hidden secret under her clothes, which makes Regina feel good. Powerful, in this land where she is not the queen.  She runs her hands over her breasts as she adjusts the bra, and down her stomach and over her hips.

She looks damn good.

It’s only as she dresses, slipping into a skirt and buttoning up her shirt, that she realizes that no one will see how good she looks.  It’s a ridiculous thought, she realizes as she fluffs out her hair and tucks a strand behind her ear, but it’s a thought nonetheless and as she heads grabs her heels in her hand and heads downstairs to make some coffee, it’s one that lingers.

Regina doesn’t remember anything that  happened in the year that was stolen from her, but there’s a weird sort of feeling that lingers in the back of her mind, like something did happen and it might have been really good, which is probably why she doesn’t remember.  Good things don’t happen to villains; they don’t get a happy ending, and Regina can hardly find fault with that.  She’s done enough bad that the thought of any sort of happiness is incredibly far-fetched.

 (Lord, she is maudlin before coffee.)

She slips into her shoes as she starts the coffeemaker, runs her hand down her hips to smooth her skirt.  She thinks about the lingerie, and the lack of anybody to see it, and she decides that maybe it’s not as bad it could be.  At least she knows she looks good.  At least she cares.

And that’s something, no matter how minuscule.

She stops at Granny’s for lunch, which she eats alone.  Everyone is apprehensive of the new curse, and Regina’s actually surprised that Granny served her (though she half-expects her to have spit in the food).  She picks at her salad for some time before finally giving up. 

This curse is not her own; she doesn’t know who cast it any more than the rest of them do, and that she wishes that they would believe her.

But that is wishful thinking.   Regina has wronged too many of them to be taken seriously.

She tucks a few bills under her plate – more than enough to cover her meal and to provide a generous tip – and slips out of the booth.  She grabs her coat on and is about to leave the diner when she spots the little boy by the gumball machine.  He’s struggling with turning the knob and no wonder – he’s a tiny thing, maybe no more than five if even, and Regina remembers all too well Henry’s aborted efforts when he was that age.

That is what moves her feet towards the boy, makes her crouch down beside him.

“What’s your favorite color gumball?” she asks.   The little boy has the biggest eyes she’s ever seen, like a little puppy, and her lips twitch upwards in a smile at his adorableness.  He shrugs his shoulders, and she realizes she’s never seen him before, which means that he was caught up in the newest curse.  She glances at the machine and notices he didn’t put a quarter in, so she reaches into her purse and pulls out her wallet.

“Let me show you a trick,” she says softly, keeping the smile on her face.  She takes a quarter and sticks it in the slot, and then turns the knob half-way.

“What color do you think you’d like?” she asks.  The little boy’s eyes grow wide and he points to the blue gumball.  Regina laughs, turns the knob the entire way.  “Put your hands here,” she motions with her other hand, encouraging him to spread his palms open beneath the slot.  When she hears the click, she lets go and lifts the metal flap.

A blue gumball falls into his outstretched hands and his face lights up into the widest, brightest smile that Regina has seen.

 “And what do you tell the queen, Roland?” a voice says behind her, and she glances up to see a man approaching.  He lifts Roland effortlessly and she quickly stands, brushing down her skirt.

“Thank you,” Roland says, holding up the gumball to his mouth.  He smiles at her shyly before rubbing his head against the man (who must be his father).

“You’re very welcome,” Regina tells Roland, flashing him a smile before looking at the man and then away.  “My son used to have trouble with the machine when he was Roland’s age.”

“Still, it was very kind of you.”  The man smiles at her softly.  He shifts Roland in his arms and extends a hand towards her.  “Robin.”

“Regina.” She takes his hand and shakes it.  “Be careful – that’s not candy – it’s gum so it’s meant to be chewed.  My son used to try to fit all of it in his mouth and that never ended well.” 

Her memories of Henry are so fresh and come to her mind so easily that it takes Regina a moment to realize that she will never see him again, that he is lost to her, and her smile must slip because Robin’s own flattens for a moment.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he tells her sincerely, and she nods. Her throat feels like it’s closing up, she can’t breathe, all she can think about is Henry.

“It was nice meeting both of you,” she says.  She smiles once more at Roland, feeling all the weight of her memories pressing down on her shoulders.  “Enjoy your candy.”

She slips away from them and out the door, gulping for air.  She takes a few steps, stops, then collects herself as pedestrians stare at her.

The Evil Queen isn’t supposed to be so broken.  The Evil Queen isn’t supposed to feel.

She wishes she ignored that idiot Snow and buried her heart back in the Enchanted Forest.

The next day, Henry returns.

It is the longest day of Regina’s life.

Between attempts at finding the witch and returning their memories, it culminates in the moment where she stood in Snow’s loft, Emma at her side, and shook hands with her son.   In that moment, it does not matter that Hook found Emma and brought her back here (of course it would be the pirate, he would never leave Emma’s side) nor that there is a wicked witch and flying monkeys.  All that matters is that her son is here once more, and he has no memory of her.

And it is all her fault.

This is her punishment.

Her arms ache to hold him as she leaves the loft, and her thoughts are most definitely not on the witch or the flying monkeys that apparently terrorize the town.  A witch can be vanquished, like any sorceress, and Regina knows her magical skills are better than most (even if the witch did get past her blood lock – there are any number of reasons that could happen, and Regina will have to consider it further).  It is Henry that her thoughts linger on, and her heart – the one she wishes desperately she didn’t have anymore – feels so broken that she seriously considers drowning her sorrows away in booze.  Her feet almost take her to the Rabbit Hole, but she pauses for some reason in front of Granny’s, and decides to go in.

She does not want to be alone right now.

It is late, but she orders hot chocolate (with cinnamon, just like Henry always ordered) and she pretends not to notice the look that Ruby gives her when she drops it off at the table.   She sips it slowly, plays with the whipped cream with her spoon, and it is only when someone slides into the booth across from her that she stops thinking about how grown-up Henry looks and how she missed it.

“I’m not in the mood,” she says, thinking that it’s Emma or one of the other idiots, but her words are met with a masculine chuckle and her eyes flick upwards, surprised to see Robin is the one on the other side of the booth. 

“Clearly,” he says, leaning forwards on his elbows.  “I’ve been watching you play with your drink for at least ten minutes until I decided that I needed to come over here and make sure your behavior wasn’t an indicator that you’re turning into a monkey.”

“I’m not,” Regina answers with a tight smile, “but thank you for your concern.”  She tries to think about as to why he would know about the monkeys and she remembers Emma mentioning Robin’s name -

“I’m sorry about your friend,” she adds, as an afterthought.  His expression changes at her words – softens, with surprise probably because the Evil Queen doesn’t express sympathy or remorse.

“Thank you,” Robin tells her.  “But I am curious – if you’re not ill, then – “

“Shouldn’t you be at home with your son?” Regina places the spoon down on the table top, folding her hands in her lap.   Her tone of voice should make it perfectly clear that any further lines of questioning  have been cut off, but she can just feel like this guy doesn’t know how to take a hint.

“The beauty of being the leader of the Merry Men is that there is always someone to watch Roland when I need to take care of other matters.”  Robin glances down at the table, where his hands are folded.  “Roland is safe.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”  Regina takes a moment to process the feeling of relief.  The child is adorable – it is no wonder that she is glad that he is safe (and she is still a mother, even if she isn’t officially one right now).  She studies the hot chocolate in front of her while silence lingers between them before reaching for her purse.  “I better go.”

“I’ll walk you home,” he says, standing up when she does and insisting to help her with her coat.  She considers is a polite courtesy, and as they leave Granny’s, she tries not to think too much about the man walking beside her.

However, things slip out of her mouth, because for whatever reason Robin has decided to listen, and Regina isn’t used to that.  Besides, he doesn’t know Henry, but he is a father, and to be honest Regina just wants to tell someone her troubles instead of keeping then bottled up inside herself. 

“My son...when the curse was recast, I had to let him go,” Regina tells him.  “He was… I adopted him when he was an infant.  His birth mother was the one he left with – Emma.” She stops, feeling ridiculous about her incoherent rambling.  “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this.”

“Perhaps because you know I will listen,” Robin responds.  Regina turns to face him, emotions struggling within her.  She pushes them down and away, schools her features into haughty indifference.

“You barely know me, or if you do, it’s as the Evil Queen,” she points out.  “I’m hardly someone who deserves to be listened to.”

“You’re also a mother,” Robin says.  “How you were with Roland yesterday – how you are today, when you speak of your son.” He takes a step closer.  “I don’t think you’re entirely as evil as the stories say you are.”

“Then what do you think I am?” Regina asks.   Robin shrugs, shoves his hands in his pockets.

“Sad,” he says.  “Maybe a bit broken.  But we all are, at times.”

They start walking again, and Regina finally says, “You don’t seem so broken to me.”

“Maybe I was broken long before I met you, and maybe I’ve done a better job of picking up the pieces,” Robin says.  They walk in silence for some time before he admits, “My wife died, when Roland was still a babe.  He has been my life ever since, and I can’t imagine if I lost him.”

Regina does not know what to say, but thankfully they have arrived at her (empty) house.  She turns to Robin. 

“Thank you for walking me home,” she says, and Robin smiles.

“Of course, your majesty,” he says with a slight bow, and as Regina turns away to open her front door, she can’t help the small smile that appears, unbidden, as she enters the house.  Talking to someone made her feel good.  Talking to someone who understands made her feel better.

And being seen as not just the Evil Queen was probably the best part of all, even if she knows she will never escape the moniker.  There are too many people here who know her as such, too many people she has harmed, and she will always carry it with her – much like she carries Henry’s lack of recognition, and the loss of his love.

She rests her back against the closed door, feeling all of the emotions of today churn inside of her, and if she cries in the privacy of her own home, it is her secret.

(It is fitting, she thinks as she undresses, that she is dressed head to toe in dark colors considering the sadness that lingers in her veins and drags her down.)

When Regina wakes the next day, it is with the knowledge that she will see Henry again, and even if he only thinks of her as the mayor, she will at least spend time with him. 

When she goes to sleep that night, she feels like a junkie wanting her next fix: hours spent with him is not enough, not when she must come home to this empty house and see his clothing still in the closet, his book still on the bed.   He is not here, and his absence is a hole in her heart, in her soul. 

(She contemplates pulling her heart out and putting it in the vault, but there are too many contingencies: the witch can access her office, so she could always access the vault; if Henry gets his memory returned, what if she is cold and callous when they are reunited?; what if she needs compassion in the end?)

She stands before the mirror, fixing her hair, clad in varying shades of white lace.  She doesn’t feel innocent, but the Regina that exists in Storybrooke feels different from the Regina of the Enchanted Forest (possibly, but she thinks there’s a reason she’s being drawn to airy, light pieces of lingerie, not the harshly beautiful structured pieces she would have been before she lost a year of her life).

Things progress slowly with the witch: despite their best efforts, they learn little.  Regina is impressed by the efforts of Emma and her pirate.  There is a connection between them that has existed since Neverland – maybe before, she didn’t pay much attention to Hook when he wasn’t useful to her – and whatever that connection is, it is makes her pause.  It makes her jealous, too, to think that Emma has someone who loves her as fiercely as the pirate does.

There is no one in this realm or the next that would risk life and limb to save Regina, and that knowledge is just another cruel truth.

They need to know more about the witch, and so she volunteers to go see the witch’s house, to see if there is anything thing to be found.  That is where she runs into Robin, and while it seems a coincidence at first, a random happening, as charming and flirtatious as he is, he suggests whiskey and that is when she sees his tattoo.

Her heart (wretched thing that it is) pounds in her chest and the very air leaves the room, making it seem twice as small and twice as confining.  It is him, the man with the lion tattoo, the man that she should have found all those years ago.  It is him, and he is here in Storybrooke.

She runs.  She runs out of the house, and doesn’t stop until she reaches the woods, when she rests against a tree.

He is here.

Finally, a small part of her adds, because she knows he did not travel here during the first curse and that his being here is purely related to the fact that they must have been near each other when the second was cast.  The thought that the missing year of her life may very well be full of him and his son in whatever capacity makes her angry that it’s been stolen from her, and only more dedicated to finding this green bitch and getting her life back.  She needs to know what may have happened in the Enchanted Forest so she can figure out what’s happening right now, because people aren’t nice to Regina and people never ask and they never listen, not like he does, and when they look at her the way that Robin looks at her, it’s usually because they want something (and whatever Robin wants may be very different than what those other fools got in the end).

She takes her time, wandering through the edge of the forest until she stumbles upon him, with his men, and his son, and watching the two of them together, running and playing, and her heart pounds in her chest, wretched thing that it is.

He sees her, Roland in his arms, and he turns.

“I was wondering about you running off like that.” He looks away, and down.  “Perhaps I had been  - “

“No, no,” she says, shoving her hands in her coat pockets.  “I’m sorry, I just…was distracted.  I apologize.”

The words sound strange coming from her lips, but there is a magnetic pull that can’t keep her – that draws her to him, and as much as she doesn’t trust fairies and their shady magic…she can’t ignore this even if she tries.

He found her not once but twice, and even Snow and Charming found each other over and over again in spite of all of her machinations (she does regret them, in retrospect).

Her heart hammers in her chest when he draws closer, Roland smiling when he sees her and recognizes her, and she finds his tiny smile to be the balm for her soul.   The next idea comes unbidden and surprises her as she suggests it (but she is lonely and yet still a mother and it is natural to say what she says).

“My son – Henry – he had a swing set in the back yard. Even if he remembered who he was, he’d be too old for it but if Roland would like to come over and play sometime, I can assure you that he’d be protected.”  She does not look at him while she says this, but when she does look up and meets his eyes, there is a wry smile on his lips and the way that he looks at her makes her stomach swoop and goose bumps break out across her body.  She feels hot then cold, so very cold, but not in a way that she equates with danger (or, if this is danger, then it is a very different kind).

“I think we would both like that very much,” Robin says in agreement.  “Thank you, Regina.”

“You’re welcome,” she replies.  The words sound foreign to her tongue, and it’s then that she realizes no one has thanked her for anything in some time.  The Evil Queen is not someone who is regularly thanked for her deeds.  Perhaps this is a step towards something better for herself. 

Perhaps this is her chance for redemption.

Things progress in Storybrooke.   She works with Emma, her pirate, the two idiots, and Robin and his men to find the witch, but it’s two steps forward and one step back constantly to the point where everyone is becoming more and more agitated.  Coupled with the townspeople, who are angry and lost, and Henry, who is always there but still so far away, so lost to her with his false memories, suffice to say the pressure is starting to grow.

Regina wonders if this is the witch’s intention – to keep them here, trapped in a powder keg.

Agitation and fear are not the only things growing in town.

Under the circumstances, Regina finds herself growing closer to Robin.  Emma always goes off with Hook, and Charming follows like a lost puppy, which leaves Robin with her (his dedication to finding the person who cursed his best friend is admirable).  At first she is self-conscious, aware of the fact that the pirate will never leave Emma’s side and wondering if Robin feels some sort of responsibility towards her like Hook and Charming do Emma (why, she doesn’t know, he owes her nothing).  But it soon occurs to her that he doesn’t mind it, and when he peppers their conversation with questions about her that have nothing to do with her life as a mother, she realizes that he might be as interested in her as she is in him.

Because it’s not hard to be interested in him.  He’s actually quite bright, which she didn’t expect from an outlaw, and he’s intriguing.  She vaguely remembers why she wanted his head on a platter, and it may have had something to do with Snow, but there is something in the way that he likes to flirt with her (because that’s what he’s doing, in between questions about her life and other things, she’s sure of it) that makes her flirt back.  He’s not unattractive – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Everything about him draws her in like a moth to a flame, and she finds herself paying careful attention to certain things about him, like the fit of his pants or the laugh lines on his face.

They trade stories from the Enchanted Forest – Regina of her childhood, Robin of his time with his Merry Men.  They dance around the topic of her black guards until she finally apologizes for them.

“But you stole from me,” she points out.  He shrugs his shoulders.

“I needed to survive,” he responds.  Regina shakes her head.

“You’re incorrigible,” she tells him, and he laughs (she likes hearing him laugh – it always seems sincere, not like he’s poking fun at her, and she likes that about him).

“You’ve yet to see me at my worst, your majesty.”  His smile is something she likes too (her stomach has stopped feeling like it’s trying to take flight but now it’s her heart instead, trying to break free from her chest whenever he is near, traitorous thing that it is).

“Really now?” she asks.  She is teetering on the edge of flirtation, but with him, she’s always walking that fine line (and if she crosses over more often than not, well, that’s deliberate).

“Really,” he tells her with a wink and a grin, and she can feel the warmth spread throughout her body and pool between her legs.

It is not an unwelcome feeling at all.

Regina dresses with care now.  She still wears dark colors, blacks and grays and reds like she always has, but now there are lingerie sets in royal purple and vibrant blue, corsets and bustiers, garters and lace and ribbons that she ties just so - even if there is no one to untie them (it is the thought that there might be coupled with the fear that there is that makes her keep dressing as such).

Her heart is a divided place, her mind in constant turmoil because as much as she wants this – wants to be redeemed, wants someone to want her with the pureness that can only be found through true love – she doesn’t think she deserves it.

She hasn’t suffered enough.

When she looks in the mirror, checks the garters and clips the hose, she wonders if all of this is for nothing.  She is the Evil Queen and villains don’t get happy endings.  But she also watched Snow and the prince find each other in spite of the odds – in spite of her curse – and so she knows all too well the power of True Love.

Whether she believes Robin is hers is another story entirely.  The woman he was meant for no longer exists, subsumed and lost in the throes of regret and revenge.  The woman he was meant for may be standing here in shape and form, but her heart was not as dark and her love far more pure.

And that is why she cannot hope too strongly, even if it does linger in the back of her mind as she slips into her skirt, buttons up her shirt, hiding the lingerie from sight. 

“Regina!” Roland shouts as he runs towards the front door, and she can’t help but smile at his enthusiasm.  He is so small and so precious and so trusting of her that it takes her breath away more so than the smile his father gives her as he follows his son up the walk.

“This trip was his reward for eating all of his vegetables at lunch,” Robin says, picking up his son and swinging him around, and Regina can’t help but be moved at the way the father and son interact.  Henry never had a father, only had her, and she wonders what if had been different if he had others like Robin and Roland in his life (she tries not to remember the sad look on Henry’s face as they lowered Neal’s casket into the ground because no matter how much it pained her, she could not reach out to him and comfort him).

“Well,” she says, opening the door wider, “I did make cookies…”

Robin groans as Roland giggles in his arms.  “You know how to charm a man, don’t you, your highness?”

She feels like she’s run a marathon, the way that her heart pounds and her adrenaline rushes through her veins.  These are strange and new feelings, and even if there is a part of her that cautions her that this may very well not work out, she cannot ignore the way she feels around him: Robin catches her off-guard with his kindness and his attention, not to mention his flirtatious behavior, and he doesn’t even know half of what she does.  Furthermore, he does not seem at all intimidated by her title or her power, which makes him a rarity in this town.

“Can we eat the cookies, Regina?” Roland asks as Robin puts him down, and Regina’s smile grows wider.

“That sounds like a good plan,” she tells him, leading them both into the kitchen.  The cookies are on the counter, and so Robin places his son on a stool.  They both watch as Roland shyly reaches towards the chocolate chip cookies, and his enthusiastic grin when he bites into one.  Soon there is chocolate smeared on his face, and when Regina grabs a towel to wipe it off unconsciously, so used to doing this with Henry when he was younger, she catches a look in Robin’s eyes that makes her self-conscious.  She finishes the task at hand before looking down and away, uncertain of her actions.

“You’re quite the mother,” he says, his voice low, as he takes a bite from his own cookie.  There is emotion in his voice that catches her attention, and she can’t help but feel confused.

Roland jumps off the stool and heads out towards the backyard, making a beeline for the swing set.  Regina folds the towel, not looking at Robin.

“Little boys are all the same,” she says with a smile, finally meeting his eyes.  “Henry loved these cookies.”

“Have you spent much time with him, now that he’s back in town?” Robin asks.   Regina shakes her head.

“His father just died,” she reminds him, because even if Henry’s memories are lacking the time he spent with his father, the funeral kept everyone busy and she is just a family friend – just the mayor of the town.  The grief she felt over not being able to comfort him at all over his father’s death has been threatening to overwhelm her since yesterday afternoon and so she doesn’t think about it.  It’s better that way. 

She shakes her head to clear her thoughts, and moves towards the windows that overlook the backyard.

Seeing Henry each day – so grown up and handsome, so ignorant of her existence – is breaking her into pieces, and even though she feels like they will never find who cursed them, she almost thanks them for putting her through this.  Perhaps this is the sentence she deserves for all the death and all the pain she is responsible for - all the harm she’s done.

“I put up a protective spell so that Roland can play without any winged monkeys breaching it,” Regina tells Robin, changing the topic.  “You’re welcome to bring him over whenever you’d like.”

“You mean when we’re not all chasing monkeys or looking for witches?” Robin asks.  “I think I might take you up on that, but not just for Roland’s sake.”

Regina frowns.  “Oh?”

“Perhaps I enjoy the company,” he says.  “And you tolerate Roland well.”

“How can someone not tolerate him? He’s precious.”

“That he is,” Robin says.  “I’m very lucky.” 

There is a pregnant pause as they exit the kitchen and head into the backyard. 

“I know why you invited us over, Regina,” Robin tells her, and she looks up quickly, surprised. “You could protect Roland from any point in town but you invited us here and you made us cookies.”

Regina looks away suddenly, feeling embarrassed, and anger burns within her.  She turns and fixes him with a cold glare.

“And what is that exactly?” she asks, trying to clamp down on her anger at being called out – at being mocked in her pain.

“You miss your son,” Robin tells her, eyes looking at her with a softness she’s coming to expect from him.  “This is a very large house for one woman.”

There is a moment where Regina has to choose between two options.  The first is to shout at him for exposing her weakness.  The second is to admit that he is right, that he can read her easily, that he is growing to know her.   The queen would choose the first option.

Regina picks the second.

“You’re right,” she says, staring him headon.  “I miss my son.  I don’t like being alone.  And can you blame me for wanting to see that precious child of yours playing in my backyard?”

“Not to mention my company…” Robin adds.

“You’re ridiculous,” she scoffs, but his bravado breaks the harsh mood and she cracks a smile.

Roland scampers around the swing set, gesturing to Robin to come and push him.   Robin turns to Regina.

“Shall we?” he asks, and Regina frowns. 

“Shall we what?”

“Well, your majesty, you can hardly expect to invite a young boy over and not play with him,” Robin says.  He holds out his hand for her.  

Regina hesitates.  She wants to grab it – wants to take his hand and follow him, but a part of her is scared.  But his eyes are so blue and it’s like they see her – see right through her, right into her soul, past all of the parts that are rotten and into the parts that are good.

The parts Henry saved.

She takes a deep breath and puts her hand in his, allowing him to pull her towards the swing set and Roland.

They play all afternoon, and Regina’s stomach hurts from how hard she laughs.  Roland makes her happy, and so does his father, who makes jokes with her as they play and who looks at her with a kindness she’s not sure she deserves (she likes both sides of him, the one that flirts with her and the one that is fiercely in love with his son).  When Roland is finally exhausted, and Robin leaves, he stops in the doorway.  Roland sleeps in his arms, tiny cheek pressed against his father’s shoulder.

“Thank you for inviting us,” he tells her.  Regina smiles.

“My pleasure,” she replies. There is another moment where neither of them knows what to say, and there is a tension in the air, and she wonders if this is the norm with them – fiery words and looks when they are alone, something else entirely different – almost familiar – when they are with his son. 

It’s almost like a family.  Almost, but not entirely, because Regina’s never had that, and so this is so strange and new. 

They’ve grown close over the past few days, but she’s not sure what to do.  It is so much easier to think about him in relation to his son than any anything else because when she does think about him, she knows she wants him – desperately, for all that he is.  He’s handsome and kind and everything about him down to his hands do strange things to her when he holds his son or when he holds a glass of whiskey or even a bow and arrow and she dresses in expensive lingerie underneath the armor of her mayoral clothes in the vain hope that he might tear the shirt off of her (buttons scattering across the floor in a desperate attempt to -)

She takes a deep breath, meets his eyes and prays he doesn’t read minds.

“Perhaps we can do this another time, though maybe without Roland and with that whiskey that I wasted at the witch’s house.”  Robin’s blue eyes fix on her, and Regina feels like he can see right through her, with the intensity of his stare.   She ducks her head, feeling hot all over.

“I think we could arrange that.”  The words come suddenly and she’s almost surprised that she says it but she’s not.  She wants it.  She wants to see where it could go.  She wants to see just what this true love mess is about.

(She wants him to whisper sweet platitudes in her ear, to rip off her expensive panties with his teeth, to fuck her senseless.  She wants all of him, father and friend and lover, and that thought makes her adrenaline rush through her.)

“Have a good night, Regina,” he says. 

“Goodnight, Robin,” she responds. 

She closes the door and presses her forehead against the cool wood.   Robin makes her feel things that she hasn’t felt since Daniel, and it’s new and exciting and scary at once – new and exciting that someone would look at her and talk to her the way that Robin does, and scary that he is so willing to look past who she is.

She doesn’t want to think about the day that she’ll have to remind him that villains don’t get happy endings.

There are bitches, and there are bitches and that witch is definitely one of the later.

There is a tornado that rips through the middle of town, creating a ton of damage that Regina will have to clean up later, and nearly everyone has been hit with debris. Regina’s not hurting that much, but she arrives as the hospital with the crowd anyway because she can feel the cuts on her face and she’d like them not to scar, thank you very much (magic comes with a price, and using it for small things like this always costs more than it’s worth). 

When she enters the hospital, Robin sees her and crosses the room, leaving his Merry Men behind him.  He frowns.

“You’re hurt,” Robin tells her, and Regina shrugs.

“That’s why I’m here – hoping that maybe I can get cleaned up and sent on my way.”

Robin looks behind them at all the other people who are waiting, and then disappears for a moment before returning with a first-aid kit. 

“Let’s find a quiet place and I can take care of that cut,” he says.  She raises her eyebrows.

“When did you become a nurse?” she asks, and he laughs as he guides her into an empty exam room.

“When you live in the forest and spend your days running from the Queen’s black guard, you learn various and sundry skills,” he points out.  He pats the examining table, and Regina shimmies onto it, very aware of his proximity.  He puts the first aid kit next to her and begins to pull out medical supplies.

“It doesn’t look too bad,” he tells her, wiping the cut on her forehead with rubbing alcohol.  It stings, and when she hisses, he chuckles under his breath.

“I can take care of myself,” she points out, but he shakes his head.

“Oh, I don’t doubt that, but perhaps I want to do this,” Robin says.  “Perhaps tending to your injuries will make me feel better.”

“I’m not sure of that,” Regina says without thinking, but Robin merely smiles.

“Humor me,” he tells her.  “And how are you feeling?”

Regina tries not to pay close attention as Robin’s fingers touch her face, angle it upwards so he can clean the blood off her temple.  “I’ve had worse,” she says, even though she’s not sure if it’s true.  Her ribs hurt from where she was thrown by the witch, but it’s not the worst fight she’s been in.  At least she’s still conscious.

“You’re strong, Regina,” he tells her, throwing the cotton swab away and reaching for something else, “but it’s all right to not be strong.”  He pauses, takes a deep breath.  “At least, you can be with me.”

“Will you keep my secret?” she teases, and Robin steps back, smiling at her. 

“To the grave, m’lady.”  He bows formally, and Regina rolls her eyes.

“Simpering fool,” she mutters under her breath, making to move off the table but Robin stops her with a hand on her arm. 

“Just wait here for a moment,” he tells her, stepping out of the room.  Regina enjoys the silence, because it gives her a chance to process just how much she actually enjoys how he’s looking after her, and how she really doesn’t feel the need to be strong right now.  It’s a strange feeling, and a frightening one, but having Robin take care of her and treat her in such a way is just…nice.  And it’s been a long time since Regina had nice in her life.

Robin returns with a wide grin on his face, and Regina tries once more to exit.

“And where do you think you’re going?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest.  Regina rolls her eyes and fixes him with a stern glare.    

“Home.  Where I can rest.”

“Dr. Whale released you to my care,” he tells her, “and I can assure you that the last place you will be going is to your home.”

Regina feels a cold chill run down her spine and she wonders if he is really not here – if he is one of the witch’s monkeys in disguise (no wonder he was so kind, no wonder he was so thoughtful, no one is ever kind and thoughtful to Regina - )

“And why not my house?” she asks, trying to think of some sort of way to get herself out of here. 

“Only one entrance and exit,” he tells her, “a poor strategic location.  You’ll stay with me and my Merry Men in the woods.  That way I can make sure there are multiple sets of eyes on you – after all, you are fighting with a wicked witch.”

His excuse is flimsy at best – he could bring those men to her house – but she thinks back on what he first said when he started treating her wounds.

Perhaps tending to your injuries will make me feel better.

Regina takes a shaky breath. Perhaps this is for him – knowing that he can control the forest, knowing that he will be keeping her safe on his turf.  She’s never had anyone do that for her, and the thought is overwhelming.  She nods her head, because she can’t speak, too moved by the gesture.

He helps her down from the examining table.   His fingers linger on her hips, and she finds the feeling to be quite pleasant (it’s been a long time since someone touched her this way, and she finds it to be both exciting and terrifying all at once).

The walk to Robin’s camp in the woods happens in companionable silence, and Regina finds that once they arrive, the men are not as uneasy around her as she might have feared.   They are already making dinner – something cooked over an open fire – and Roland runs out to greet them.   He must have been warned not to call her name, because he crashes into her legs before he whispers, “Regina!” and she can’t help but smile.

“We have to be careful, Regina is not feeling well,” Robin says as he scoops his son up, and they heads towards the fire where people make room for her.  She sits down on a log uneasily, but soon Roland is beside her doing his best to explain what they are eating (chili, she finally determines) with his father’s help.  When they finish, Roland climbs into her lap.

“Tell me a story, Regina,” he says to her, and when Robin warns him, “Roland,” he adds, “Please, Regina?” and she can’t help it – they are a team, the two of them, winning her heart with their sincerity and their smiles.

She pulls him closer onto her lap, remembering when Henry was this little and trying to think of a story to tell him.  She never told him stories from her realm but she remembers one about a very hungry caterpillar, and so she tells it the best that she can.  As she speaks, she feels Roland curls into her, the soft puffs of his breath on her neck, and she glances up to see Robin looking at her with a feeling of extreme fondness. 

“He’s asleep,” she whispers, and Robin nods.  He stands and Regina follows, shifting Roland’s warm weight in her arms.   Robin leads her to a small tent – it must be the one he shares with his son, and she enters, placing the sleeping boy in his tiny bedroll.  She tucks him in, and takes a moment to brush a kiss against his head.  She can’t help it – he may not be her son, but neither is Henry (not right now) and she can’t help it.   Even if most people don’t see it, she’s still a mother in her heart.

“Thank you,” Robin tells her when she exits.  “You did not need to do that.”

“I wanted to.”  And it’s true – her moments with Roland, and in fact her moments here, have been some of the better moments of her life, curse or no curse. She purses her lips, decides she needs a bit more clarification on why she’s out here and not in her bed.

“So did you want a protective spell over the camp?” she asks.

Robin’s been staring at her, so it takes a moment for him to process her words.  He frowns. 

“Why would I want that?”

“Because you already have men keeping their eyes on me…or is there another reason for  me roughing it for the night?”

Robin lets out a shaky laugh, crosses his hands over his chest. “So you figured me out, didn’t you?”

“Not sure why you’re so protective of me, but it wasn’t that hard to see, ”  Regina tells him with a smug smile.

“You’re truly a remarkable woman.”  Robin takes a step closer, and she feels her heart begin to race.

Regina scoffs at his statement, deflecting the compliment.  “Maybe you’re the one that’s injured – are you sure that you didn’t get whacked in the head by the witch?”

“Regina,” he says, “why is it so difficult for you to believe that anyone could possibly find you irresistible?”

“Because I’m a lot of things but irresistible hasn’t been on that list,” Regina says. “Infuriating maybe.  Irritating.  But never irresistible, which is quite different from remarkable.”

“Maybe to you it is,” Robin tells her.  He takes a step towards her, reaches out his hand, cups her face.   She can feel her pulse race, and her stomach drops.

“Maybe,” she tells him, voice trailing off, and as she says this, he leans forward and brushes his lips against hers.

It is gentle, just the movement of their lips against each other, but there is more than just that.  Her entire body feels alive and aware in a way she hasn’t felt before, and when she takes a step back and he smiles at her, she ducks her head and tucks her hair behind her ear.

“You can sleep in the tent with Roland,” Robin tells her. 

She nods her head, unable to say anything (there must be the stupidest grin ever on her face right now…) “I’ll keep him safe.”

Robin glances down at her lips, then back up towards her eyes, then makes a move like he would step forward and kiss her again, but he doesn’t.  At that moment, there is a burst of chatter from the fire, and so he steps back, and away from her, and the space between them feels like a chasm.

“Good night,” she tells him, ducking into the tent quickly.

She settles onto the sleeping bag that smells like him (the longer she knows him, the more she likes how he smells of forest and freedom and something else uniquely him) and stare up.  Shadows created by the camp fire flicker across the inside of the tent, and Roland sleeps beside her, soft inhales and exhales lulling her to sleep.

It is the best sleep she has in years and when she wakes up to Roland’s smile, and his father’s shy glances and the nervous hand he places on the small of her back as he escorts her to the campfire, she feels happier than she’s felt in a long time.

The Witch hunt intensifies now that Zelena is out in the open and always, consistently, two steps ahead of them.  It’s frustrating, and leads to many late night planning sessions.  Regina sees Henry more often, but she sees Robin even more, and unfortunately it’s when they’re in a room full of other people.  They haven’t really spoken alone since he escorted her home from the woods, and since he kissed her again at her front door, and so Regina feels restless and frustrated.

And guilty, because she knows that this might be true love and she should tell him – it would be the right thing to do.  But she’s so terrified that he might throw it back in her face like they all do here whenever she tries to do something right that the words catch in the back of her throat and she says nothing.  

And some days, when he looks at her over the table of Snow’s loft, soft smile on his face, she wonders if it really matters if he knows, not when he’s looking at her like that.

They are planning again, talking in circles and not coming up with anything, and Regina rises to clear the empty tea mugs.  Snow is somewhere being pregnant, and Emma and Hook are huddled, talking in low voices to Charming.   She grabs as many as she can and takes them to the sink, dumping tea bags in the trash and rinsing the mugs out.

She notices Robin assisting her out of the corner of his eye, so when he puts the remaining mugs on the counter, she doesn’t take much notice. 

It is not until he brushes his hand against her hip, and whispers, “You still owe me a drink, your majesty,” that she notices.

A surge of electricity seems to go through her and she turns off the faucet, dries her hands.

“Is that so, outlaw?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.  Robin just smiles, and leans against the counter.  His hand is still on her hip.

“There’s nothing more we can do tonight,” he says. “And after a full night of planning, I could use a libation.”

“Agreed.”  She glances over to the group.  She’s not entirely sure how she should excuse herself until Robin speaks up and says, “I’m going to escort the queen home.”

Emma glances up from the table, nods.  “Okay.  If you see anything, give us a call.” She returns to her work, and Regina swears that the pirate shoots Robin a loaded look, but he doesn’t appear to notice.  He helps her into her coat and if his fingers linger too long on her hips or her back, she pretends not to notice (though she does, enjoy the way that his finger seem to stroke across her clothing and saying silent thanks for the fact that she’s wearing something exceedingly lacy underneath it all).

The air outside the loft is cool, and she feels overheated, hot and bothered by Robin’s presence.  As they walk to her house, they make some small talk but mostly she focuses on the way that his arm brushes against hers, the way that his gaze lingers on hers when she looks up at him, the way that she can feel a need building deep inside of her.

She opens her door with shaky fingers, ashamed that she feels so moved by his presence but it’s been so long and she wants him so badly by now that she does it quickly, shucking her purse and coat on the bannister, allowing him to follow her into the kitchen.  Regina finds the whiskey, pours them each two fingers, and slides his across the counter.

“To beating this bitch,” she says, raising her glass.

“Be careful – I thought she was your sister,” he points out.

“Half-sister,” Regina corrects him, “and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.”

“Cheers,” Robin says, tapping his glass against hers, and they both take a sip.  The whiskey burns deliciously on the way down, and she takes another sip when she sees Robin watching her.

“I hope you approve of my choice of beverage,” she teases him, and he smiles, taking another sip himself.

“I approve of much of what you do here in Storybrooke actually,” he tells her.  “The love that you show to your son, for one, even if he doesn’t remember you – not to mention how you help those around you.”

“Please – you’re far more the good Samaritan than I am,” Regina points out, eager to turn the discussion away from Henry, and he shakes his head.

“I may not know what a good Samaritan is, but I  , but I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.  You’ve thrown your heart and soul into this mission.”

Regina shrugs.  “I don’t like people coming into my town and messing with my things,” she says, and it’s the truth.  Everything about Zelena, from her anger to her being here, sets Regina’s teeth on edge.  Not to mention that Zelena threatens everyone here, including Henry.

And Robin and his son, which Regina wants so badly to lump into the category of ‘her things’.

“The Queen is territorial,” Robin says, leaning back against the counter. 

Evil queen,” Regina corrects, but he shakes his head. There is a look in his eyes that is…flirtatious to the extreme, verging on predatory, and Regina feels excitement building inside of her.  Perhaps this evening isn’t a total waste after all.

“You’re hardly evil,” he tells her.  “I’m not really sure how you got the reputation, to be honest.”

“You’re the only one, then,” Regina says, finishing off her whiskey. “No one here sees me as anything other than what I was.” She runs her fingers along the rim of the glass.

“That’s not entirely true – Emma and the others trust you,” Robin points out, “and I like you very much.”

“Do you now?” Regina asks, watching as Robin finishes his whiskey as well. He puts the glass on the counter and the sauntering that he does to close the space between them could very much be described as a lion on the prowl.

Heat spreads through her body when he is close enough that she can feel the warmth of her body (she is very sure that between the two of them, they will catch into flame) and she opens her mouth, licks her lips as she looks up into his eyes.   “Well aren’t you special then?” she says, surprised at how low and thick her voice sounds, and Robin takes a moment, closes his eyes.

“Regina,” he says (her name sounds like a prayer on his lips).

She closes the distance between them, reaching for him just as he reaches for her.

This kiss is not like their first – it is hungrier, full of something Regina hasn’t felt in a long time, and the realization that she’s not been kissed like this since –

-          Since Graham.

Her stomach drops and she gasps, and Robin misinterprets her because he threads his fingers through his hair and angles her head, while the other hand drops to her waist and pulls her closer.  His tongue brushes against hers and she pushes all the thoughts away,  pushes away every thought except him, here, with her, his hand trailing up her sides in a delicate way that conflicts with the urgency of his kiss.

They make quick work of her shirt and pants, and he guides her – gently, his hands are so gentle as they lift her up and place her on the counter.  He looks at her openly and with longing, eyes lingering on her lingerie (“so this is what women wear in this realm,” he mutters under his breath, and he lets out a groan when he takes all of her in, down the matching lace panties”) and there is a moment when Regina wants to cover herself but instead she watches as Robin takes a finger, traces the strap of her bra.  It is the icy blue one that she hasn’t worn before but which always catches her eyes, and she is so grateful that she wore it today. 

“I like this color on you,” he tells her.  “You always wear such harsh colors but this,” his finger trace across the cup of the bra, his hand brushes against her and she bites back a moan, so aware of everything that he is doing, “there’s something about this color on you that is fitting, and it’s driving me mad.” 

He leans forwards and presses a kiss to the swell of her breasts and she cannot help it – she cards her fingers through his hair, gripes at his head when he sucks at her nipple through the thin lace, his  hand coming up to tease her other breast.  “Do you always wear these?” he asks, voice harsh, breathing heavily.

“The lingerie?” she asks, breathlessly, and he nods his head.  “Yes, I have several drawers – “

He groans at that statement and troubles her nipple with his teeth, pulling her close, and once again the frantic movement of his mouth as he makes his way from one breast to the other, stopping to press open mouth kisses on her décolletage, is at odds with the way that his softly strokes her back with his hands.

Regina moans when he licks up her neck, sucks below her earlobe, body arching up into his ministrations.  Her hands scramble and she grabs onto his shoulders, pulling at the collar of his shirt to bring him back in for a rough kiss, all tongues and zero finesse, just desperate hunger.

His mouth leaves her body and she sighs, frustration causing her to snap her head upward and watch as he throws off his scarf, unbuttons his shirt, so that she can see his bare chest, the muscular arms and his very powerful carriage and she reaches for him, pulling him back against her.  The desperate kisses continue until she feels his hands on the waist, urging her to move her hips and soon she is on the freezing-cold counter of her house, in her lingerie, and Robin’s hands are traveling all over her body, pressing kisses onto her shoulder, tongue tracing the shell of her ear before sucking her earlobe.

She whimpers.

“Regina,” he whispers, pulling her close to him so that his hips are between her legs and she can feel him and how much he wants her.

How much he wants this.

And all the while, his hands are trailing up and down her back, down her thighs, drifting inside to her secret place, and he whispers her name again and she freezes.

It suddenly becomes real – like she’s waking up from a lust-induced haze, hands already traveling down his side to reach for him but she stops.

She has never known this; her only experience with coupling was with her much-older husband, who clearly saw it as a duty and who has never touched her so deliberately or delicately(it was a marriage of convenience or honor or whatever you wanted to call it, because Leopold got a mother –albeit a poor one – for his daughter and Cora got a crown for hers), and with Graham and that was not by his choice. 

Regina closes her eyes tightly, tears trapped between her lashes. 

She doesn’t deserve this - doesn’t deserve Robin’s careful attentiveness and grace, let alone his love (if that is what it is).

“Regina.”

She doesn’t open her eyes.

“Is everything all right?”

She takes a shuddering breath before she turns her head away from him.  When she opens her eyes, she is not looking at him.

“I don’t deserve this,” she says softly.  “Monsters don’t deserve men like you.  You should put your clothes back on and leave.”

Regina doesn’t touch him, but waits until he takes a step back before she pushes herself off the counter, picking up her clothes with shaky hands.  She puts her shirt on, slips into her pants, doesn’t turn around to watch him.   She hears him take a step forward.

“Regi – “

“Just leave,” she says, “before I make you leave.”

They both know her threat is not an idle one, that she would be more than happy to remove him from her house and put him somewhere else.

He doesn’t say anything else, thankfully, but when she hears the front door slams, that’s when the sobs come.

She bites her knuckles to keep them at bay but she can’t, and they tumble out of her mouth as she presses her hand against the counter to hold herself up, to stop her body from falling down. 

She is not meant for kindness, for gentleness.  She has done too much wrong to be allowed a moment of grace.

Regina wakes to the dulcet tones of her cell phone.  She grabs it, answers frantically when she sees that it is Emma who is calling her.

“Is it Henry?” she asks.  “Is everything all right?”

There is silence on the line, and then Emma says in a small, sad voice, “Something’s happened to Killian.”

It takes her a moment to register who Killian is and then Regina feels relief and dread in an instant – relief that it is not her son, and dread because Emma’s magic is powerful and untapped, hovering beneath the surface and the pirate has been her anchor, keeping her present.   She knows that Emma doesn’t acknowledge her feelings for the pirate even if his own feelings are worn on his sleeve.   But this –

“Where are you?” she asks.  “I’ll be right there.”

She turns on the bathroom light, studies her face in the mirror – the streaked mascara, the puffy eyes, the disheveled and pale appearance. She is only in her lingerie, the ridiculous ice blue set that Robin had commented on, the one he liked so much, and she strips it off, throws it on the floor.

She is not the pale creature to be handled with care.

She is the Evil Queen.  She will always be the Evil Queen.

She dresses quickly in dark, non-descript clothes and the reddest, most structured lingerie she has, feeling every bit of her regal self again.  She washes her face, reapplies her make-up, making sure her lipstick is as red as blood. 

Regina may not do well with love, but she can definitely handle a wicked witch who decides to fuck with her town.

When she arrives at the hospital, she finds Charming pacing outside the ICU, Robin waiting beside the door.  Inside is Emma, sitting by a hospital bed which holds the pirate.

Regina feels a chill in the pit of her stomach, and when she enters the room and sees his comatose form fully, and the unshed tears in Emma’s eyes, she knows.  She knows without a doubt what needs to be done, even if Emma doesn’t want to acknowledge it because if she did, they wouldn’t be here still.

“He took it,” Emma says, voice ragged and thick with emotion.  “The sleeping curse.  Zelena threatened Henry and…he took it.  For him.  He took it for him.”

“You know how it is broken, Emma,” Regina says, glancing at the sleeping pirate.  “You know what you need to do.”

Emma looks at her, and then back at Hook, and her expression softens only slightly.   Regina takes a moment to reach out for Emma’s hand.  They’ve been here before, this very room, this very bed, this very situation.  Regina’s not sure if Emma admitting that she loved Henry was easier or harder than what she’ll have to do now.

Love never is easy, she realizes as she glances quickly at Robin, hovering outside, looking hopelessly at her.  She can’t ignore the way she feels when he looks at her – like she can be better than she ever thought, like there is redemption to be found in him if she would only take it.

“Good luck,” she tells Emma when the other woman takes her hand.  She squeezes it gently before squaring her shoulders and heading to the waiting area.

“It’s a sleeping curse,” Regina tells him.  “Emma knows what to do.  Robin, may we talk privately?”

She leaves Charming to stare at his daughter and the pirate who holds her heart and that is fine, because all they can do is wait for Emma now.  But Regina has her own problems she must tackle, and as she starts down the empty hallway she can hear Robin follow her.

“Regina,” he says, and she holds up her hand.

“I need to tell you something,” she says.  Robin grows quiet, and Regina takes a deep breath, steadies herself.  She can do this.  She is the queen, after all.

“Back in the Enchanted Forest, before I became truly the Evil Queen, I was just a young girl in love with my parents’ stable boy.  And that relationship took a tragic turn, and soon I was a young queen trapped in a loveless marriage I didn’t want to a man much older than me and with a young daughter that he doted on.  I was alone, with no one, and one evening a fairy saved me from intentionally plunging to my death.”  She takes another deep breath, feeling her heart pounding in her chest because his eyes are so very blue right now and she has to look away. “That fairy promised that I would find true love again.  She even used fairy dust to find the man that I would love.  He was in a tavern, drinking with his friends. He had a lion tattoo.”

Robin opens his mouth, closes it.  “Fairy dust?”

“It was you,” she says.  “I should have met you years ago, but I didn’t, because I never went into that tavern.  I was too scared to take a leap of faith.”

Robin furrows his brow. “So we were fated to meet?”

Regina shakes her head.  “I don’t know – all I know is that the girl you should have met, all those years ago – she’s long since gone, corrupted by evil and hatred and anger.  And I’m sorry I can’t be that girl for you, sorry that I can’t be the one that you love – “

“Regina.” Robin’s voice cuts through her soliloquy and she grows silent, fearful.  “Who said I didn’t love you?”

“I –“ she starts to say, but there is a bright light and a surge of magic that floods through them both at the same time (Emma has done it, she thinks) and then –

The Enchanted Forest, Roland and a flying monkey, the Wicked Witch, the castle, Robin, always there, Roland following her and tugging on her skirts, Robin fighting and flirting and arguing and kissing her, kissing her like he –

She gasps, falls back against the wall as the force of her memories flood through her and she cannot breath, cannot think because all that she does think is he found me he found me he found me.

“Just like the two idiots,” she mutters under her breath.

“Regina.”

Fear surges through her, fear and anticipation because she knows that he remembers too, that the curse is broken and their memories have been returned.  She looks up at him, and he is –

Robin is smiling at her.

“We found each other regardless of the curse,” he tells her, giving voice to her exact thoughts. “Regina, I know who you are – I’ve always known.”

His hands reach for hers and she takes his, allowing him to pull her close, Emma and Hook and the curse be damned.  She wants nothing more than to be here, in his arms, looking at his ridiculous blue eyes and that ridiculous smile and feeling loved.

“You’re more than they think you are,” he tells her softly.  “You’re more than you think you are, too.”

“So I guess you’re the one to remind me of that,” Regina replies (her heartbeat is so loud that it’s pounding in her ears). 

“For as long as I need to.”  Robin smiles.  “As long as you’ll have me – both here, and in the Enchanted Forest.  I’ll stay by your side forever.”

The words are slippery and elusive, and she has trouble grasping onto them, struggling to say them but when she does get a hold on them, they come out in a whisper.

“Forever works for me,” she says, and she can’t help the smile that breaks out over her face because she feels light inside, happier than she’s ever felt because it’s true – she loves him, and he found her.

“Regina!” she hears Charming call, and with regret she slips from Robin’s arms and turns to face the prince, but Robin entwines his fingers with hers, follows her back down the hallway.

In the ICU, Hook is struggling to stand and the look on Emma’s face – full of concern, full of love – speaks volumes, but the words that come out of her mouth are something else entirely.

“I’m going to stop that witch once and for all,” she says angrily, fear and frustrating pouring off of her with her magic in waves.  Regina feels adrenaline surge through her at the thought of ending Zelena and stopping this horror.

“I won’t stand in your way – in fact, I’ll join you,” Regina tells her.  She turns to Charming and Robin.  “Make sure everyone is safe – we’ve got a witch to take out.”

“And after this, we’ll talk,” she adds to Robin, who just smirks at her in response because they both know that talking is only part of what they’ll do (she’d say the same for Emma and her gallant pirate, who steadfastly refuses to leave her side.)

They leave the hospital, going in different directions, and Regina feels a swell of hope.  Maybe if the curse is broken then maybe Henry remembers her.   Maybe she can have both of her true loves. 

Maybe she can be redeemed after all.

When Zelena is a smoldering pile of black robes and angst, that is when Regina feel the energy drain from her and she is so very very tired.  It has taken a tremendous amount of magic to defeat the other woman, and she can tell by the strain in Emma’s eyes and the look of exhaustion that she is feeling the same way.

Somehow they, and Hook (Killian, Emma calls him Killian and so Regina will learn) drag themselves up the stairs to the  loft, when the door bursts open and a body comes straight at her.

“Mom!” Henry shouts, and Regina can barely believe it.

“Henry,” she sighs, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him close, kissing his forehead and his hair. She has not been allowed to do this for so long that the feeling of him in her arms is sheer bliss – her son, her grown son, so handsome and strong and she blinks back tears of gratitude that it is all so very much over.

When she enters the loft she finds Robin and Roland, who is looking at Henry with curious eyes but who lights up when he sees her and oh, he remember her too, remembers trailing behind her in the castle, remembers hours spent as a small, slightly awkward family, even if Regina’s memories of the Enchanted Forest do not contain a love declaration from Robin like she received here (no, there’s many more hidden moments between them, kissing when no one else was around, and she smiles when she thinks about them, catches Robin’s eyes and knows he remembers them too).

“Regina, you look exhausted,” Snow says, stepping into the room with a bowl of popcorn.  “Henry and Roland, why don’t you stay here tonight? We can watch a movie.”

Roland is easily distracted but Henry is slightly reluctant until Regina kisses his forehead, promises him breakfast tomorrow at Granny’s.  He moves on to Emma then, and Regina turns her attention to Robin.

“Walk me home?” she asks, and he bows.

“Of course, my queen,” he tells her, but once they’re in the stairwell he takes her hand in his and the walk to her house feels like hours instead of mere minutes, not because of his presence but because she is so very tired.

“Let’s get you upstairs,” Robin urges her when they arrive, and he lifts her effortlessly and carries her upstairs, uncertain as to where her bedroom is until she tells him, softly, thoughts drifting from how wonderful her bed will feel to how it will feel even better with him beside her in it.

He sets her upright when they reach her room, turning on the lights as she stumbles when she reaches down to take off her heels.  He is by her side immediately, hands on her hips, encouraging her to sit down on the bed.  From there, he kneels beside her and slips her shoes off.  He looks at her, nervously, and Regina reaches for him, cups his face, leaning forward to place a gentle kiss upon his lips.

It is all the permission he needs before he eases her out of her clothes.  He comments on the red lingerie (“you are a vixen, Regina, a reckless one at that”) but he does not remove it, easing her under the covers where sleep soon claims her and the only thing she can register before it does is the feeling of his arms around her, holding her tight.

Regina wakes in the early morning hours to find fingers of dawn reaching across her bedroom ceiling, and Robin’s arms still around her. He is warm and comfortable, and she turns, faces him, fingers tracing the frown lines on his face (she’s caused some of them, she knows, far fewer than the creases around his eyes he gets when he smiles).  He opens his eyes then, smiles at her, and she vows to be the reason for the later and never the former.

There are no words between them as he leans forward, captures her mouth, fingers drifting across her skin.  She melts into him, and it is soft and gentle as they kiss, whispered words as the layers of her silk and lace armor are removed and she is bare before him and it is just Regina over and over in a hundred of kisses on her skin, layered over her heart.

When he enters her, it is like nothing she’s ever known, because it is colored with love, and the way that he is both gentle and demanding, mouth and hands taking her body and soul.  The movement of their bodies together as one are more than she can bear,  so graceful and so real, and so she arches into him, he mirrors her movements, taking him harder and higher and when they fall, it is gentle and together, as one.

They lay, sated, limbs heavy and Regina feels sleep calling once more, but when Robin remarks on the color and cut of her undergarments (“Regina, you will be the death of me”) she presses kisses against his brow.

“You have no idea what you’re in for,” she promises him, because he doesn’t, but then again, neither does she, and so they’ll figure it out together.

(She certainly has enough variety in her lingerie drawers to keep things interesting.)

Regina hears the door slam, and then Robin’s voice echoes up from below. 

“Regina?”

“Upstairs,” she calls back, adjusting the straps of her bra.  She reaches for the robe, slips it on before she adds, “You’re alone, right?”

“Most definitely.”  She can hear his feet on the stairs, and says a silent thank you to Emma and Killian for being willing to watch Roland and Henry this afternoon.  She gets the feeling that there are going to be many of these arrangements in the future – in fact, they’ve already schedule something tomorrow night and it’s not like minds at all.  

She likes the little family that she’s acquired (and there is a part of her that really loves the idea of secret afternoon trysts, of sexy lingerie and hurried lovemaking, though today is not a hurried day – she’s going to take her time and enjoy it, because she can).

(Because this is true love.)

Robin appears in the bedroom door just as Regina turns, and the look on his face is amazing as he takes in the red and black demi-bra, the matching briefs, the garters that attach to black stockings, the black heels – not to mention the sheer black robe that flutters behind her as she approaches him.   He looks awestruck (fuckstruck, maybe, but that’s how he’ll definitely end the afternoon, she knows that) and she is surprised when he suddenly kneels before her.

“I didn’t expect to have you on your knees so quickly,” she teases him, smiling down at him.   “What are you doing?”

“Pledging my fealty to the queen,” Robin tells her, reaching for her hand and placing it over his heart.  “I swear, if you had dressed like this in the Enchanted Forest – “

“Don’t even start,” she says, but there is no anger in her tone, just softness because it is him and he loves her, warts and all.  Robin presses a kiss to the back of her hand, just above her knuckles.

“Queen of my heart,” he tells her before turning his attention to her legs.  He runs his hands up the sides of her thighs to wear the stocking are held in place before looking up at her.  There is truth and love and lust in those eyes, and Regina can’t help but run her fingers through his hair while his own brush against the lace trim of the stocking.

“I think we’ll leave these on for the time being,” he says with a wicked look, and Regina smiles wider in response.